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FAA Official: Small Drone Rule to Be Released by End of Year

by Press • 8 November 2014

By Yasmin Tadjdeh


After years of waiting, a Federal Aviation Administration official said the agency was close to releasing a ruling that would give commercial entities greater access to fly small unmanned aerial system in the domestic airspace.

The proposed ruling, which the agency has been working on over the past year, is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s UAS integration office, said on Nov. 5.

“We’re taking great strides to authorize commercial operations in the U.S., and the small unmanned aircraft systems rule that we’ve all been waiting on so long is getting really close to being done. We hope that it will be published before the end of this year,” Williams said during the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual program review.

Williams said he could not discuss specifics, but that the ruling “will open the door to a lot of commercial operations that aren’t authorized today.”

Under the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, Congress mandated that the agency integrate small UAS — defined as systems less than 55 pounds — into the domestic airspace by September 2015.

Recreational drone users already enjoy flying their craft within line of sight, away from airports and under 400 feet. Commercial entities, on the other hand, are barred from flying drones until the FAA releases the much-anticipated small UAS ruling.

In late September, commercial users saw a glimmer of hope when the FAA announced it had granted six movie production companies regulatory exemptions to fly small UAS at controlled sets. Shortly after, a seventh company was exempted. Williams said the first filming would start this week.

The exemptions are permitted under section 333 of the modernization act, which gives the FAA more flexibility in allowing some commercial entities to fly small UAS safely, he said.

Williams said the agency had received 117 exemption requests as of Nov. 5, and the number increases every day. The FAA hopes to answer them within 120 days of their submission.


Many companies have expressed disappointment and frustration with the FAA because of what they perceive as delays in fulfilling its congressional mandate. AUVSI, for example, has been publicly vocal about the need for the FAA to speed up the small UAS ruling.

Eric Hudson, a senior analyst at the Government Accountability Office, said the GAO has been researching integration since 2008. While progress has been made within the FAA, more must be done. Specifically, it is imperative that the agency release the small UAS ruling.

“It’s critically important … because there continues to be additional users out in the airspace,” Hudson said. “It has kind of become a little bit out of a wild west out there. Obviously Congress isn’t interested in an accident happening, [and] the FAA’s not interested in an accident happening.”

While the Section 333 exemptions are a good step forward, the FAA must go further, he noted.

“There’s more and more requests each day for those exemptions and there’s no way those individual exemptions can keep up with demand,” Hudson said.

Despite criticism, Williams said the FAA is on its way to meeting its September 2015 deadline, though that doesn’t mean full integration will be completed.

“If you go look carefully at what the legislation actually says for the 2015 deadline, it says we have to have a comprehensive plan that describes what safe integration looks like by 2015, which we have, and we’ve got milestones along the way. We’re going to show progress by 2015 toward that safe integration, but the bottom line is Congress wanted us to be safe,” Williams said.

Last year, the FAA released a roadmap that detailed its plan for integration. Additionally, the organization in 2014 opened six UAS test sites throughout the country to research how to safely integrate the technology into the national airspace.

This is “an incremental process,” Williams said. “Yes, there are things we’ll have done by 2015 … [that] we’ll be very proud of. There’s a lot more work to be done that won’t be done by 2015 as well.”

As for when there would be full integration, Williams said he couldn’t answer that.



Pillars of US nuclear arsenal showing cracks


Nov. 10, 2014 3:34 AM EST


WASHINGTON (AP) — The foundation of America’s nuclear arsenal is fractured.

The cracks appear not just in the military forces equipped with nuclear weapons but also in the civilian bureaucracy that controls them, justifies their cost and purpose and plans their future.

It’s not clear that the government recognizes the full scope of the problem, which has wormed its way to the core of the nuclear weapons business without disturbing bureaucracies fixated on defending their own turf. Nor has it aroused the public, which may think nuclear weapons are relics of the past, if it thinks about them at all.

This is not mainly about the safety of today’s weapons, although the Air Force’s nuclear missile corps has suffered failures in discipline, training, morale and leadership over the past two years. Just last week the Air Force fired senior officers at two of its three nuclear missile bases for misconduct and disciplined a third commander.

Rather, this is about a broader problem: The erosion of the government’s ability to manage and sustain its nuclear “enterprise,” the intricate network of machines, brains and organizations that enables America to call itself a nuclear superpower.

The slippage is in certain key building blocks — technical expertise, modern facilities and executive oversight on the civilian side, and discipline, morale and accountability on the military side.

The shortfalls are compounded by tight budgets and uneven political support. In the absence of a headline-grabbing nuclear accident in recent decades and receding fears of nuclear war, these problems have generally gone unnoticed.

The White House and Congress have paid little attention, allowing the responsible government agencies to “muddle through,” according to a congressional advisory panel. This is the case despite the fact that the U.S. still has thousands of nuclear weapons — more than it says it needs — and is approaching decision points on investing enormous sums to keep the arsenal viable for future generations.

“This lack of attention has resulted in public confusion, congressional distrust and a serious erosion of advocacy, expertise and proficiency in the sustainment” of the nation’s nuclear weapons capabilities, the panel on “Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise” said in a report in April that is expected to be updated soon.

The panel was led by retired Adm. Richard Mies, a former commander of U.S. Strategic Command, in charge of all U.S. nuclear forces, and Norman Augustine, a retired chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp.

Nuclear weapons, the panel said, have been “orphaned” by Washington. Although today’s weapons are technologically sound, “there is no affordable, executable (government) vision, plan or program for the future of nuclear weapons capabilities.”

Paul Bracken, a Yale professor of management and political science, goes further. He says the neglect is deliberate and began two decades ago in response to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the communist threat.

“Nuclear forces were left to rot, technologically and intellectually,” he wrote in his 2012 book, “The Second Nuclear Age.”

The atrophy gets little public notice because it’s largely hidden.

Some aspects of the problem will emerge with the expected release, possibly this week, of an in-depth study of “gaps or deficiencies” in the nuclear force that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered in February. He also asked for immediate and long-term solutions after declaring in January that “something is wrong” in the nuclear force.

Hagel acted in response to a series of Associated Press stories detailing failed nuclear security inspections, leadership lapses, training gaps and morale problems in the nuclear Air Force. The Navy has since disclosed that a cheating ring operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site and that at least 34 sailors were being kicked out.

But the problem goes beyond the military and Hagel’s responsibility for nuclear weapons. It extends to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This office within the Energy Department is in charge of ensuring that nuclear warheads attached to Navy and Air Force missiles and bombs — as well as those in storage — are safe and work properly. It also administers a network of nuclear weapons plants and nuclear laboratories.

The government splits nuclear management responsibilities between agencies. The Energy Department, through the NNSA, develops, produces and maintains nuclear weapons as well as dismantles and disposes of those that are retired. The Defense Department sets weapons requirements and operates them in the field.

Augustine told Congress last April that the NNSA “is on a trajectory toward crisis,” is suffering from numerous “systemic disorders,” and has “lost credibility and the trust of the national leadership (and the Pentagon) that it can deliver needed weapons and nuclear facilities on schedule and on budget.”

Frank Klotz, the NNSA administrator and a former commander of the nuclear Air Force, says his agency is taking numerous steps to fix its shortcomings. He believes its management of the nuclear weapons stockpile is a “phenomenal achievement,” considering it has not conducted an underground nuclear test for more than 20 years.

In an interview with reporters Oct. 29, Klotz did not dispute that the government has allowed cracks to form in the civilian and military underpinnings of its nuclear weapons complex.

“My generation came of age in the Cold War, when nuclear deterrence and the nuclear deterrent force were center stage,” he said. “At the end of the Cold War it was almost as if we had all heaved a sigh of collective relief and said, ‘Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that anymore.’ … Quite frankly, we lost focus.”

Congress is supposed to oversee both the military and civilian sides of the nuclear enterprise, but it has shown limited interest in addressing the problems. The most vocal lawmakers on nuclear weapons issues are usually those seeking to protect home-state interests — nuclear missile bases, nuclear weapons labs and the like.

Those who see nuclear weapons as a necessary deterrent to attack from other nuclear-armed countries worry about the looming obsolescence of the current Cold War-era arsenal and about the jaw-dropping cost, of up to $1 trillion, of replacing it with a new generation of weapons and their support systems.

“Unaffordable,” is the blunt conclusion by a panel of defense experts who reviewed the Pentagon latest defense plan.

John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former deputy defense secretary, says post-Cold War decisions that downgraded nuclear weapons as a national priority may come back to haunt the U.S., in light of efforts by several countries to expand or begin building nuclear arsenals.

“It was always the backdrop of the competition with the Soviet Union that undergirded the nuclear enterprise. Now the Russians are coming back, the Chinese are expanding their inventory, and we are on the rim of a potential cascade of nuclear weapon states,” Hamre said. “But the American establishment is in serious decline.”


McCain & McCaskill At SASC: A McNightmare Scenario For Pentagon?

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on November 10, 2014 at 5:06 PM


WASHINGTON: Every election sets off a round of musical chairs on Capitol Hill. This year’s GOP sweep will shake up the Senate in particular, and there’s one plausible scenario that should make the Pentagon and contractors especially nervous, because it would put two champion attack dogs of oversight at the helm of the Senate Armed Services Committee: John McCain and Claire McCaskill.

My colleague Colin Clark has already written about McCain’s now-nigh-certain return to the SASC chairmanship, but the mention of McCaskill threw me. Several sources, though, say it’s pretty plausible. I first heard the scenario Friday during a panel discussion hosted by the Professional Services Council (PSC), a government contractors’ group.

“The conventional expectation that we would have the ranking member [be] Jack Reed,” said Alan Chvotkin, the PSC’s executive vice-president and counsel. “[But] he’s also eligible to be the ranking member on the Banking Committee” — finance being a major industry in Reed’s homestate, Rhode Island. So far the Senator has stayed studiously silent on his choice.

If Reed goes for Banking, Chvotkin continued, the next Democrat in line on SASC would be Florida’s Bill Nelson — “but Sen. Nelson also is in position to be the next ranking member on the Senate Commerce committee, which has NASA, [and] he’s a former astronaut heavily engaged in those kinds of Commerce Committee issues.” (Of course, Florida has plenty of military bases as well as the “Space Coast” around NASA’s Cape Canaveral, so the SASC chair may prove more powerful a lure than space sentiment for Nelson)

“If neither Mr. Reed nor Mr. Nelson, then Sen. McCaskill is third in line,” Chvotkin concluded. That means a McCain-McCaskill committee, he said. “Cue groans from all of us on the panel.”

PSC represents not just any federal contractors, but specifically service contractors, the ones in most direct competition with federal employees, so they’re used to be being bashed in hearings and take a dim view of what one panelist called “shoot-first oversight.” That said, as a former sex-crimes prosecutor and government auditor, McCaskill has hammered the Pentagon hard on classic “waste, fraud, and abuse” issues and on sexual assault in the ranks, helping drive major and often controversial reforms in how the military justice system handles such cases.

A McCaskill-McCain SASC would be a furious dynamo of oversight. McCain is famous — or infamous, depending on your perspective — for his acid tongue about everything from earmarks to aircraft carriers. But softer-spoken counterparts like Levin, Reed, or Nelson could take the edge off: McCaskill would sharpen it.


China Plans To Export J-31 Stealth Fighter

Nov. 10, 2014 – 03:45AM | By WENDELL MINNICK | Comments


ZHUHAI, CHINA — China plans to export its stealthy twin-engine J-31 fighter, which would become the first aircraft of its kind available to global customers who cannot afford the Lockheed Martin F-35. The fighter is similar in configuration to the single-engine F-35 stealth fighter.

The J-31 export revelation occurred in the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) Exhibition Hall after personnel unwrapped its 1:2 model of the aircraft Nov. 10 during a preshow tour of this week’s Airshow China in Zhuhai. The placard for the model states: “FC-31 4th Generation Multi-Purpose Medium Fighter.”

Chinese fighters are designated with a “J” for fighter and “FC” for export,” and this is the first time the J-31 has been referred to as the FC-31.

Though overcast, a J-31 performed a demonstration flight during the preshow tour, as did the Russian Su-35 multirole fighter. China and Russia are expected to sign a deal for export of the Su-35 sometime later this month.


The 10th biennial China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) has been an outlet for defense companies to market new products for export and for China’s military to show off sophisticated weapon systems. The Nov. 11-16 airshow has become the biggest commercial and defense airshow in Asia with over 700 companies exhibiting. ■



Pentagon seeks aircraft-based drones for future missions

Ray Locker, USA TODAY 7:02 a.m. EST November 10, 2014


The Pentagon is looking for ways to base multiple unmanned drones aboard larger aircraft, from which the drones will depart and return after they fly intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in hard-to-reach areas, according to a new request from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The request for information released over the weekend seeks drones that would be based on larger aircraft, such as B-52 or B-1 bombers or C-130 transport planes, to cite a few examples. The smaller drones would then fly from the larger planes, conduct their missions and return to the aircraft, which would then be able to fly away from potentially contested airspace.

“The agency envisions a large aircraft that, with minimal modification, could launch and recover multiple small unmanned systems from a standoff distance,” the request for information says.

Drones are continuing to play a larger role in U.S. military and intelligence operations, including flights over Africa and the Middle East in search of terrorist groups.

DARPA’s latest request is part of a series of research programs aimed at developing aircraft and weapons that will enable U.S. forces to cover large distances to get to coastal and other regions that are often protected by rival forces.

Earlier this year, DARPA released requests for long-range, anti-ship missiles that would break down the defenses of potential rivals as China and Iran, as well as underwater drones that would be based aboard larger submarines. Another DARPA plan would enable multiple drones to communicate with each other autonomously without a central station on the ground.



Google to Lease NASA’s Moffett Field for $1.2 Billion

by Press • 11 November 2014

By Brian Womack


Google Inc. (GOOGL:US) has agreed to a $1.2 billion lease of NASA’s Moffett Field airfield in California for 60 years, as the company invests in new technologies such as robotics and aviation.


As part of the deal, Google subsidiary Planetary Ventures LLC will invest more than $200 million in improvements at the site, which is near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, according to a NASA statement. The facility is slated for research, assembly and testing in the areas of robotics, space exploration, aviation and other technologies, it said.

Google is committing more resources to cutting-edge technologies as it looks for new ventures beyond its core online search services. The Internet search provider has acquired several companies in a robotics effort that was led by Android co-founder Andy Rubin. Last month, Google said Rubin was stepping down and that James Kuffner, a research scientist, would take his position. Other research efforts have included wind power, driverless cars, drones and computerized eyewear.


Editorial: Don’t Count on More Funding

Nov. 10, 2014 – 02:40PM | | Comments


Now that Republicans are set to take over the Senate and have increased their lead in the House, some in Washington predict a defense spending boom.

That’s wishful thinking.

Republicans campaigned on defense, but now talk more about the Keystone pipeline, Obamacare and immigration than raising DoD’s budget or lifting sequestration.

Despite an improving economy, debt reduction and tax cuts are top Republican priorities as another borrowing limit battle looms. More for DoD means cuts elsewhere, and Democrats will shield social programs and the president still has veto power.

Remember, the Obama administration each year asks for more Pentagon funding than Congress approves — with Republicans opposing more defense money to cut government spending.

Even the conservative Wall Street Journal last week said defense cuts could pay for highway improvements.

Both President Barack Obama and the next Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, say they want to work together.

And they must.

Obama’s legacy is at stake and Republicans must show there’s more to them than saying no, threatening debt default and shutting down government as they position for 2016.

Cooperation will be difficult. Republicans blame Obama for all the nation’s ills and won by running against him. Obama, meanwhile, resents McConnell’s strategy of blocking him at every turn.

They must work together to lift sequestration, reform entitlements and taxes. But it’s simply too early to count on more defense money.


White House Details New $5.6B War Request, Billions for O&M

Nov. 11, 2014 – 03:45AM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments


WASHINGTON — The White House’s new $5.6 billion request for additional funding to fight the military advances of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria contains specific provisions that begin to detail the scope of the missions launched so far and how expensive it will be to station US ground troops in Iraq in the coming months.

The request comes along with the Obama administration’s Friday announcement that it is sending an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq to bolster the 1,600 already authorized to help train, advise and assist the beleaguered Iraqi security forces.

The breakdown of the new request includes $1.6 billion to establish the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, which would pay for training both Iraqi and Kurdish forces, plus a hefty new operations and maintenance (O&M) request for the services to operate fixed- and rotary-wing assets in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve and to transport troops and equipment throughout the region.

The US Air Force would also receive $931 million for O&M activities, while the Army would get $779 million, the Navy $122 million and the DoD overall would receive another $464 million.

But when it comes to replacing actual equipment and munitions used so far, a clearer picture is emerging of what has been expended.

The two biggest requests are $55 million to buy “small tactical” drones and $54 million for “tactical missiles for the Navy such as the Tomahawk and laser guided Maverick missiles that were expended” in operations. Both the Tomahawk and Maverick are produced by Raytheon.

The Pentagon has also decided that it needs $49 million more to procure joint direct attack munition (JDAM) conversion kits that can turn unguided “dumb” bombs into satellite-guided munitions, and $21 million to allow the Air Force to replace the Lockheed Martin-made Hellfire missiles used so far and the small diameter bombs, made by Boeing.

American and allied aircraft have flown over 8,000 reconnaissance and combat missions over Iraq and Syria since Aug. 8, and have expended 2,178 munitions against ground targets, the US Central Command has said.

In total, the overseas contingency operations (OCO) request for 2015 had been increased to $63.6 billion for the DoD and $7.8 billion for the State Department, resulting in a $71.4 billion fiscal 2015 request, although this is still $14 billion less than the OCO placeholder submitted in the original 2015 request in June.

The overall cost of operations in Iraq and Syria is largely unknown, but given the numbers that the Pentagon has so far released, it is at least $795 million, and likely over $1 billion, according to Defense News’ estimates.

Various Pentagon officials have confirmed that the cost of air operations for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria has been $8.3 million a day from the start of the bombing campaign on Aug. 8. But the government refuses to offer an estimate from June 16 — when US advisers first began flowing into Iraq — to the start of the bombing.

Previously, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, has estimated that the mission cost $7.5 million a day from June 16 onward so using that number, operations from June 16 to Aug. 7 would have run approximately $397 million, adding up to $1.1 billion overall.


Why Veterans Make Good Cyberwarriors

By Jack Moore

November 11, 2014


It’s no secret the ranks of the federal cybersecurity workforce are notably thin.

Think tank studies and media reports put the shortage of federal cyber professionals at anywhere from 30,000 to more than 10 times that in the broader labor force.

It’s a matter of supply and demand, federal officials attest: a glut of open positions for protecting the dot-gov domain and a lack of qualified personnel to fill them.

The federal government faces the exact inverse supply-demand imbalance when it comes to another signature initiative: reducing veteran unemployment and expanding work opportunities for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The good news is that cybersecurity is the great shiny object right now,” Tim Polk, assistant director for cybersecurity in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told members of a science advisory board last month. “One of the ways that we’re going to make progress in the cybersecurity workforce is by capitalizing on our connection to other administration priorities … things like getting returning veterans back into the workforce.”

For many, putting returning warfighters back to work as cyberdefenders makes sense.

“It should be a pretty good win-win, as we like to say, on marrying up the [workforce] shortage that we have and tapping into a pool of potential applicants that really could transition pretty effectively into the cyber workforce,” said Dan Waddell, director of government affairs at (ISC)2, a nonprofit focused on cyber education and certification.

Waddell’s group recently announced the second round of winners for its U.S. Cyber Warrior Scholarship program.

A partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, the program provides returning veterans with training, textbooks and study materials and covers the cost for one of six (ISC)2 certifications, including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional test.

Applicants who’ve applied so far have typically had an IT background, but are still looking to crack into entry-level cyber positions.

“Being a veteran, they’ve already been exposed to some sort of IT training,” he told Nextgov. “So, it’s not necessarily a very broad leap that they have to take in order to kind of get to that next level.”

Plus, veterans typically already have a security clearance, much sought-after in government IT contracting, Waddell said.

“It’s a great way for them to continue to serve their country,” Waddell said. “They may not be necessarily wearing the uniform anymore, but as a cyberwarrior you can still serve that mission.”

The group is now accepting applications through January for a third round of applications.

A federal program dating to 2009 called “Vets to Feds,” which aims to ease the career pathway for veterans entering federal service, will focus especially on science, technology, engineering and math jobs in the coming year.

Last summer, the Department of Homeland Security launched a special hiring initiative specifically targeting veterans for cyber careers at the department to help fill gaps in its workforce that include cyberincident response, vulnerability detection and digital forensics.




Chinese hack U.S. weather systems, satellite network

By Mary Pat Flaherty, Jason Samenow and Lisa Rein November 12 at 12:20 PM 


Hackers from China breached the federal weather network recently, forcing cybersecurity teams to seal off data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses, officials said.

The intrusion occurred in late September but officials gave no indication that they had a problem until Oct. 20, according to three people familiar with the hack and the subsequent reaction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service. Even then, NOAA did not say its systems were compromised.

Officials also said that the agency did not notify the proper authorities when it learned of the attack.

NOAA officials declined to discuss the suspected source of the attack, whether it affected classified data and the delay in notification. NOAA said publicly in October that it was doing “unscheduled maintenance” on its network, without saying a computer hack made that necessary.

NOAA’s satellites provide the bulk of the information for generating weather models, advisories and warnings to the nation and world. Maintaining the operations and data acquisition from these satellites is a 24/7 process.

In a statement released Wednesday, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen acknowledged the hacks and said “incident response began immediately.” He said all systems were working again and that forecasts were accurately delivered to the public. Smullen declined to answer questions beyond his statement, citing an investigation into the attack.

But the agency confirmed to U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) that China was behind the attack, the congressman said. Wolf has a long-standing interest in cybersecurity and asked NOAA about the incident after an inquiry from The Washington Post.

“NOAA told me it was a hack and it was China,” said Wolf, who also scolded the agency for not disclosing the attack “and deliberately misleading the American public in its replies.”

“They had an obligation to tell the truth,” Wolf said. “They covered it up.”



DJI Opens World’s Leading Quadcopter Platform to Software Innovation

by Press • 13 November 2014


Software Development Kit allows Programmers to Create Apps for Phantom Vision Series


  • Developers can access several levels of control over the Phantom Vision camera and flight
  • controllers
  • Apps developed using the SDK open up tailored solutions for capturing images and information from the sky
  • SDK supports both iOS and Android development


DJI, the market leader in flying camera technology, today released a software development kit (SDK) for its Phantom 2 Vision series quadcopters.


Access to the SDK will allow developers and programmers the ability to create apps on either iOS or Android that open new levels of control over the Phantom’s key functions.

“The SDK creates opportunities for customization of the Phantom that is only limited by programmer’s imagination,” said Eric Cheng, DJI’s Director of Aerial Imaging. “New apps for the Phantom will allow for more creativity using the DJI Phantom Vision series and simplify the workflow for aerial creators.”


DJI – Software Development Kit from DJI on Vimeo.


Some of the key functions of the Phantom that developers can access using the SDK include –


  • Camera – Video transmission, full camera position, changing camera settings, image storage
  • Live Telemetry – Latitude and longitude information, flight speed, distance travelled, battery strength
  • Flight Control* – Setting way points, adjusting flight characteristics

* Access to the flight controller and waypoints will be available selectively upon application to DJI


Already DJI is working with some of the leading developers across multiple industries to deliver apps that open the possibilities of the Phantom. Developers including Pix4D, Drone Deploy, Bright Sky Labs, Pixie Path, Field of View and have already begun creating apps that help Phantom pilots edit and share videos on their mobile devices, create 3D maps, ensure flights comply with regulations and better manage multiple flights.

“DJI’s SDK allowed us to put years of research and industry experience on image acquisition into the Pix4Dmapper App so that Phantom users can now create maps and 3D models in a fully automatic way,” said Dr. Christoph Strecha, CEO and Founder, Pix4D. “This benefits the civil UAS industry in general as it allows to add new adopters and increase their confidence in applications such as UAS based mapping.”

Developers can learn more about the SDK at


Hagel Directs Leadership Changes, New Funding for Nuclear Community

Nov. 14, 2014 – 12:02PM | By BRIAN EVERSTINE | Comments


US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has directed the Air Force to elevate its top nuclear missile leadership, and authorized the Defense Department to request a 10 percent increase in funding for its nuclear enterprise every year for the next five years to address systematic issues across the nuclear triad.

The announcements came as Hagel outlined the results of two reviews of the missile enterprise, which found systematic problems in funding, career advancement, leadership and inspections in both the Air Force and Navy nuclear communities. The reviews have produced about 100 recommendations, including the increase in funding. Hagel approved an Air Force request to raise the billet for its commander of Air Force Global Strike Command from a three-star to to be a four-star, and the head of the service’s nuclear integration, currently a two-star, to become a three-star billet.

“Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in ensuring us national security and it is DOD’s highest priority mission,” Hagel told reporters today. “No other capability we have is more important.”

An internal review of the nuclear communities found a series of problems that needed to be addressed, including a blurring of the line of accountability and perfection in the Air Force, inadequate facilities, a rapidly aging civilian workforce in Navy shipyards, a lack of promotion opportunities, stress on submarine crews in the Navy, and an “unduly burdensome, overly technical and excessively risk-averse” implementation of the personnel reliability program for nuclear crews.

“The root cause has been a lack of a sustained focus, attention and resources, resulting in a pervasive sense that a career in the nuclear enterprise offers few opportunities for growth and advancement,” Hagel said.

The review found excessive inspections, especially in the Air Force, led to a demand for perfection and the lack of a meaningful self-assessment program. A survey of the enterprise found the infrastructure is aging, meaning sustainment is becoming more difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

To address these issues, the Defense Department will increase the amount of funding it requests for its nuclear community, even in the face of strict budget restrictions. Over the next five fiscal years, the department is looking at a 10 percent increase in each year beginning with the fiscal 2016 budget request, Hagel said. The department currently spends about $15 billion on the nuclear enterprise.

Additional funding will also focus on people, as well as infrastructure. The Air Force has exempted 4,000 airmen in the nuclear community from manpower reductions, while adding more than 1,100 billets to Global Strike Command for maintenance, operations and security. The Navy has reduced “administrative distractions” and will hire more than 2,500 workers to address infrastructure issues at shipyards and in training facilities.

Hagel has directed Jamie Morin, the director of the department’s cost evaluation and program assessment, to lead a review team to meet every five weeks to follow up on how the recommendations are being implemented.

In addition to the internal review, an external review led by former Air Force Chief of Staff retired Gen. Larry Welch and retired Navy Admiral John Harvey Jr. found similar infrastructure and morale issues across the service.

“Among the most serious problems encountered were a series of significant disconnects, including those between what the DOD and service leadership expected and what the leadership did to empower the forces to meet those expectations; what leadership says and presumably believes and what the sailors, airmen and Marines who must execute the mission actually experience,” the report states.

The 60-page report outlined deep infrastructure issues at missile bases, and a lack of tools needed for those on the ground. For example, the report found that a single tool required to tighten the warhead on a Minuteman III missile had to be shared among crews at the Air Force’s three missile bases. Crews would FedEx the tool to each base as needed.

“It’s indicative of the depth and width of what has happened over the last few years,” Hagel said. “A lack of focus, and little attention to some of these specific areas. It wasn’t just resources, partly it’s cultural.”

Crews had to be creative to make it work, Hagel said. Now, the service plans two of these tool sets for each base.

The review took an in-depth look at recent cheating incidents that have shaken the nuclear communities in both the Navy and the Air Force.

In August, the Navy announced that 34 sailors were being kicked out for their involvement in a cheating ring that went on for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site at Charleston, South Carolina. The review found that although this exam was just one part of an advanced qualification, success on it had far-reaching consequences, including advancement to chief petty officer in the nuclear forces and completion is a motivation for sailors seeking prototype training duty.

“They move their families and some buy homes in Charleston,” the review stated. “They see their professional and personal lives as hinging on success in this qualification, and thus this exam.”

Going forward, the review recommended that the secretary of the Navy and the chief of naval operations insure that the director of naval reactors provide an in-depth report on actions to address the broader organizational, cultural and institutional leadership issues contributing to the cheating incident.

The Air Force’s cheating scandal, which focused on almost 100 missile officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, early this year served as a catalyst for the nuclear reviews. The service has found that an overemphasis on inspections and exams led to a culture where perfection was required, and missileers cheated to get the best possible scores on their exams. The service has already changed its tests to a pass/fail system to address this, and the review urged the chief of staff of the Air Force to join the chief of naval operations to ensure that training and skill testing is focused on measuring whether the airman’s or sailor’s knowledge is necessary and sufficient for the mission, instead of testing devolving into a counterproductive demand for high grades.

The independent review panel visited all the military’s nuclear bases, but called Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, a “special case.”

“Conditions at Minot magnify many of the challenges discussed in this report,” the review states.

The base is the service’s most remote of the missile sites, and puts intense demands on its airmen because of the weather and the nuclear mission. Airmen face more demanding travel to and from dispersed ICBM facilities. Limits on hours of the base’s commissary and daycare impact morale. Personnel policies at the base have limited how airmen advance, such as senior noncommissioned officers often retiring rather than accepting assignments at the base. There’s a lack of training to qualify 3-level arrivals for missile, bomber and warhead maintenance, and the time and energy of 5- and 7-level technicians is solely focused on keeping ICBMs and bombers on alert, rather than training other aircrews.

“Minot and the Minot mission was the toughest in the Air Force,” Welch told reporters today. “There was a sense of pride that went with being from Minot. In (the former) Strategic Air Command, if you had not served at Minot, you were not a real (nuclear officer).


“Over the years, that gradually disappeared, as the nuclear mission moved from MAJCOM to MAJCOM in the Air Force. The northern tier did not get the kind of emphasis that was demanded in the kind of environment you exist in in the northern tier.”

The review recommends that Air Force leadership direct a special priority for mission support and support for families at Minot, along with initiating controlled tours at the northern tier missile bases — Minot, Malmstrom and F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.

Following today’s announcement of the recommendations, Hagel and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James left the Pentagon to visit with airmen at Minot and discuss the coming changes to the community.


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Obamacare is back in the news, for better or worse.

The U.S. Supreme Court has opted to hear another legal challenge of the health care law, while the Obama administration hopes the glitches in the federal exchange website have been fixed in time for this weekend’s open health insurance enrollment. Meanwhile, several videos have surfaced showing one of the law’s chief architects saying it was deliberately written in a confusing manner so “stupid” voters wouldn’t realize how much the law could end up costing them.

A lot of Americans may soon find out, though. The New York Times reports that the cost of health insurance could go up as much as 20 percent next year for many policyholders, thanks to the health care law.

Forty-six percent (46%) of voters are confident that the problems experienced by the exchange website since its debut in October 2013 will be fixed when open enrollment begins again this weekend. But just as many (47%) also think the health care law should be put on hold until all the legal challenges against it have been resolved.  

Voters by a 50% to 44% margin still have a more unfavorable than favorable view of Obamacare. But that’s the lowest level of dislike in over a year. While voters are clearly getting used to the law, the favorables and unfavorables have moved very little since its passage in 2010. It will be interesting to see if the expected jump in policy costs impacts these numbers.

The case for the law isn’t being helped by newly discovered videos of MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber bragging that it was written in a way to fool voters. But just one-out-of-three voters agree that Americans are too stupid to comprehend the health care law.

Obamacare was front and center in most major political races this year, and half of voters say last week’s Republican takeover of Congress was a repudiation of President Obama’s party rather than an endorsement of the GOP. Democrats don’t disagree.

Voters question whether the president set the right tone in his first press conference after Election Day, and most aren’t optimistic about his working relationship with the new Republican congressional majority.

The current Congress is expected to return this week for a final lame duck session, but most voters consider such sessions a waste of time. They’re almost evenly divided over whether any of the president’s nominations should be handled by this Congress or put off until the next one.

In a survey taken the week they won full control of the U.S. Congress, Republicans hold a one-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

Whether it’s sympathy or Democrats rallying to his side, the president’s daily job approval rating has improved slightly in the last few days.

Most voters still want across-the-board federal spending cuts but think they are unlikely anytime soon. Support for spending cuts drops dramatically, however, if the defense budget or entitlements are taken off the table. But Americans also show more willingness to spend when given specifics.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters, for example, say the United States doesn’t spend enough on defense, and a sympathetic Republican Congress is likely to agree.

Just over half (52%) of Americans think the federal government should support more mass transit projects – unless the projects lose money. The irony is that most rarely use mass transit at all.

The president began the week with a strong endorsement of so-called “net neutrality” rules which would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to regulate the Internet like it does radio and TV. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Americans oppose government regulation of the Internet.

Americans are confident in the privacy of their own Internet communications, but 44% think it’s likely the government has monitored their Internet activity or the activity of someone in their family.

Obama began the year with a State of the Union address that focused on income inequality, but as the year draws to a close, voters still give the president mediocre marks for the job he’s doing in the area of economic fairness.

Going into the holiday shopping season, consumer confidence at week’s end was at its highest level since September

Still, only 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction, basically unchanged for months.

In other surveys last week:

— Americans don’t think it’s great for the country that the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden has identified himself to the public, but they also don’t believe the government should be able to shut him up.

— Voters give a lukewarm endorsement to the president’s proposal that Iran join in the fight against the radical Islamic group ISIS, but they don’t expect it to improve relations between the two countries anytime soon.

— Most voters continue to believe that development of shale oil reserves will likely end U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but they are not as convinced that the United States has enough reserves to become the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas.

When it’s time for Happy Hour, most Americans order a beer or wine.

— Americans don’t particularly like the increased use of cosmetic surgery and procedures, although one-in-five would at least consider going under the knife.

— Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans planned to do something special this past Tuesday to honor Veterans Day.


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