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November 22 2014

November 24, 2014


22 November 2014

Newswire

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Sinclair pushes ahead with UAS facilities, plans new flying pavilion downtown

Nov 14, 2014, 3:20pm EST

http://www.bizjournals.com/dayton/blog/uas-dayton/2014/11/sinclair-pushes-ahead-with-uas-facilities-plans.html?ana=e_du_pub&s=article_du&ed=2014-11-17&u=TPdNotJ4elX4kTrzOjz9Sg074b4f25&t=1416255653&page=all

Tristan Navera

Staff Reporter

Dayton Business Journal

 

Sinclair Community College is pushing ahead with plans for a new testing center for drones downtown.

The school’s board of trustees approved this week $1 million to support the National UAS Training and Certification Center, a proposed refit of Building 13 into a 28,000-square-foot facility for the school’s unmanned aerial systems and aviation programs.

Another $4 million for that center is expected to come from Ohio, through the state controlling board.

“With this move we’re able to start making the center a reality,” said Deb Norris, vice president of workforce development at Sinclair.

The school will next select an architect and begin design work on the new UAS center.

New to the idea, the school will construct a 3,200 square foot flying pavilion onto Building 13, with 40-feet-high ceilings where students will be able to test fly unmanned aircraft outside of weather concerns and in compliance with the tight regulations placed on unmanned aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration, said Andrew Shepherd, director for unmanned aerial systems at Sinclair.

Sinclair’s UAS center will also include an indoor flying tunnel where students will be able to test craft and parts that are 3-D printed. It’s received about $914,500 in donations and equipment to support the center, including major industrial equipment, Norris said. The $5 million going into the UAS center will also pay for the moving of other equipment in Building 13 to other parts of campus.

It’s another boost to Sinclair’s UAS program, which has got six active permissions from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly aircraft at Wilmington Air Park and Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport. But the new indoor range will allow for UAV testing and training on-campus.

It’s also a boost to the efforts of the Dayton region, where leaders have been hoping to draw more business and research around the emerging industry.

Sinclair has been growing its own set of UAS, now with more than 50 vehicles from 21 different manufacturers.

The school also has designated its 35,000-square-foot fieldhouse, which is located in the basement of Building 8, as an indoor flying range for the community and school purposes.

“It’s another benefit to the range of flying options we have now,” Shepherd said. “Now we will be able to fly the unmanned aerial systems in several different ways.”

 

 

House GOP Approps Chair Lobbies for Omnibus, Warns Against Govt. Shutdown

Nov. 17, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments

http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141117/CONGRESSWATCH/311170018/House-GOP-Approps-Chair-Lobbies-Omnibus-Warns-Against-Govt-Shutdown

 

WASHINGTON — US House Republicans’ top appropriator has a message for any member who might favor a government shutdown next month: The American people “want action.”

Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., penned a Monday op-ed in Roll Call preaching “elections have consequences” as some in his Republican caucus are pushing to shut down the federal government should President Barack Obama issue an executive order that alters the federal immigration system.

“I believe a major consequence of this election is a loud and clear mandate from the American people for Washington to stop the gridlock, work together across ideological lines and start producing real accomplishments on their behalf,” Rogers writes.

“The bottom line from the election is this: The American people want a government that works for them. They want action on the issues that are meaningful and important to the country and to their daily lives,” writes Rogers, an ally of House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is trying to find a way to pass an omnibus spending bill with a full 2015 defense appropriations while also placating the most conservative wing of his caucus.

Rogers made a case for ending the “circular and corrosive politicking that has infected our system and that is designed for quick cable TV news bites and little else.” And in a veiled message to his GOP mates, he said, the American people will not “tolerate [it] any longer.”

The message from Boehner’s camp is clear: Shutting down the government weeks after capturing control of both chambers of Congress would be a political loser for the GOP.

Rogers and others aligned with the speaker believes, as he writes, “this means ‘regular order’ for appropriations bills — enacting funding bills on time, and in a responsible, transparent and pragmatic way, without the specter of government shutdowns or the lurching, wasteful and unproductive budgeting caused by temporary stopgap measures.”

Rogers noted that “there will be an extraordinary amount of work to do when the new Congress convenes in January.

“But there simply won’t be the necessary political bandwidth available to address these pressing issues if Congress is bogged down in old battles and protracted to-do lists,” Rogers writes. “That is why it is critical that we pass an omnibus appropriations bill before the end of the year that will close the books on fiscal 2015, responsibly fund the government and allow the next Congress to get off to a running start.”

Veteran federal budget analyst Stan Collender writes in a Monday blog post that a GOP-on-GOP “war” is underway, and the budget is a major front.

“Make no mistake about it, the sides have already been drawn and the battle — no, the war — among congressional Republicans on the federal budget is well underway,” Collender writes.

Settle in, he advises, because the “war” has only just begun.

“What’s most important about the GOP budget war is that it won’t be resolved anytime soon,” Collender writes, “no matter what is decided between now and Dec. 11.”

The Pentagon and defense industry are pressing congressional leaders to pass an omnibus, rather than another, or multiple, continuing resolutions. That’s because the Defense Department, under a CR, cannot take actions such as start new programs or increase production rates. ■

 

SOCOM wants to probe mobile devices

http://www.c4isrnet.com/article/20141117/C4ISRNET04/311170003/SOCOM-wants-probe-mobile-devices

Nov. 17, 2014 |

Written by MICHAEL PECK

 

Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is looking for technology that can extract data from computers, tablets and smartphones.

The request for information (read it here) calls for a device that within 15 minutes, under austere field conditions, can:

■Survey digital media and physical properties associated with memory drives and devices.

■Extract files for a specified search.

■Identify file properties such as filenames and hash numbers, and compare them to a watch list.

■Detect and extract personal identifying information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and chat room nicknames, and compare them to a watch list.

 

At a forward operating base or Special Operations safehouse, the device should also be able to:

■Create a forensically sound image.

■Examine user-configuration settings.

■Extract user and file metadata.

■Find keywords in specified languages.

■Examine default and alternate file storage locations to see what files are stored there.

■Recover unallocated files.

 

 

NTSB: Gov’t aircraft regulations apply to drones

Updated: 12:21 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 | Posted: 12:21 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014

http://www.daytondailynews.com/ap/ap/entertainment/ntsb-govt-aircraft-regulations-apply-to-drones/nh9SD/

By JOAN LOWY

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON —

The government has the power to hold drone operators accountable when they operate the remote-control aircraft recklessly, a federal safety board ruled Tuesday in a setback to small drone operators chafing under Federal Aviation Administration restrictions.

The National Transportation safety Board, which hears appeals of Federal Aviation Administration enforcement actions, ruled that small drones are a type of aircraft and fall under existing FAA rules.

The FAA had fined Raphael Pirker, an aerial photographer, $10,000 for operating his Ritewing Zephyr in a reckless manner on the University of Virginia campus in 2011. Pirker allegedly flew the drone at low altitudes — at times, just 10 feet off the ground — and directly at people, causing them to duck out of the way.

Pirker appealed the fine, saying his aircraft was effectively no different than a model aircraft and therefore not subject to regulations that apply to manned aircraft. An NTSB administrative law judge sided with him in March, saying the FAA hasn’t issued any regulations specifically for drones and therefore can’t determine their use.

The FAA appealed the decision to the four-member safety board, which said Tuesday that the definition of an aircraft is very broad.

“An ‘aircraft’ is any ‘device’ ‘used for flight in the air.’ This definition includes any aircraft, manned or unmanned, large or small,” the board said. The board sent the case back to the judge to decide if Pirker’s drone was operated recklessly.

FAA officials had no immediate comment.

The decision strengthens the FAA’s position as the agency tries to cope with a surge in use of unmanned aircraft, some weighing no more than a few pounds and available for purchase on the Internet and in hobby shops for as little as a few hundred dollars.

More than a million small drone aircraft have been sold worldwide in the past few years, and a growing number of them are turning up in U.S. skies near airports and airliners, posing a risk of collision. Reports of drone sightings near other planes, helicopters and airfields are reaching the government almost daily — a sharp increase from just two years ago when such reports were still unusual.

“It’s a huge win for the FAA, and signals it’s not going to be the Wild West for drones, but a careful, orderly, safe introduction of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system,” said Kenneth Quinn, a former FAA general counsel.

But Pirker’s attorney, Brendan Schulman, said the NTSB ruling “is narrowly limited to whether unmanned aircraft systems are subject to a single aviation safety regulation concerning reckless operation.”

“The more significant question of whether the safe operation of drones for business purposes is prohibited by any law was not addressed in the decision,” he said. Several cases challenging the FAA’s ban on commercial drone operations are pending in federal district court in Washington.

The FAA has barred commercial operators from using drones, with the exception of two oil companies operating in Alaska and seven aerial photography companies associated with the movie and television industry. Even those exceptions have come with extensive restrictions, including that a requirement that the operators of the remote control aircraft have an FAA-issued pilot’s license the same as manned aircraft pilots.

A wide array of industries as varied as real estate agents, farmers and major league sport teams are clamoring to use small drones. Congress directed the FAA to safely integrate drones of all sizes into U.S. skies by the fall of 2015, but it is clear the agency won’t meet that deadline.

Congress also directed the FAA to first issue regulations permitting widespread commercial use of small drones, usually defined as weighing less than 55 pounds. Agency officials have indicated they expect to propose regulations for small drones before the end of the year. However, it may be months to years before those rules are made final.

Meanwhile, the agency is poised to issue a series of special permits to a wide array of for companies that applied for exemptions to the commercial ban similar to the exemptions granted to the film industry. More than 120 companies have applied for special permits.

Among those close to being granted are permits to monitor and spray crops, inspect smokestacks and natural gas flares, and to inspect pipelines and power lines.

 

NTSB Remands Administrator v. Pirker Case Back to ALJ for Further Review

by Press • 18 November 2014

http://www.suasnews.com/2014/11/32778/ntsb-remands-administrator-v-pirker-case-back-to-alj-for-further-review/?utm_source=sUAS+News+Daily&utm_campaign=037c63760e-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b3c0776dde-037c63760e-303662705

 

WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board announced today that it has served the FAA and respondent Raphael Pirker with its opinion and order regarding Mr. Pirker’s appeal in case CP-217, regarding the regulation of unmanned aircraft. In the opinion, the Board remanded the case to the administrative law judge to collect evidence and issue a finding concerning whether Pirker’s operation of his unmanned aircraft over the campus of the University of Virginia in 2011 was careless or reckless.

The FAA appealed an NTSB administrative law judge’s decision after the judge dismissed the FAA’s order requiring Pirker to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 for allegedly operating an unmanned aircraft in a careless or reckless manner. In his decision, the judge compared Pirker’s unmanned aircraft to a model aircraft, and found the FAA had not enacted an enforceable regulation regarding such aircraft.

In reaching its decision, the Board determined the FAA may apply the regulation that prohibits operation of an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner to unmanned aircraft. To determine whether Pirker violated this regulation, however, the Board stated an administrative law judge would need to review evidence showing the operation was careless or reckless.

The public may view the opinion and order on the NTSB website, athttp://www.ntsb.gov/legal/pirker/5730.pdf

 

 

CybAero invests in Swedish advanced test facility

by Press • 18 November 2014

http://www.suasnews.com/2014/11/32770/cybaero-invests-in-advanced-test-facility/?utm_source=sUAS+News+Daily&utm_campaign=037c63760e-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b3c0776dde-037c63760e-303662705

 

First North-listed CybAero, which develops and markets unmanned helicopters, has decided to build a test center which will contain the industry’s most sophisticated equipment. Construction commenced on November 1st, and the test center is scheduled to be ready for occupancy by April 2015.

“Our testing represents a large and important part of our commitment to offer customized solutions. Our goal is to become the leading supplier in the market based on customer satisfaction,” says Mikael Hult, CybAero’s CEO.

The test center will occupy 300 square meters and will be located only minutes away from CybAero’s head office in the Mjärdevi Science Park in Linköping, Sweden. The company is currently recruiting test engineers who will be responsible for the test center where tests will be carried out 24 hours a day.

“At the test center, we will be able to test components, customer-specific solutions and, together with clients, perform complete factory tests, including functionality and performance prior to delivery,” Mikael Hult explains.

The advanced test center will provide CybAero with significantly better capacity than the company previously had access to. A number of necessary tests had been conducted by CybAero’s suppliers, but now we will have the ability to test components, subsystems and complete systems all under one roof.

“We will also be able to hold our customer training in the new location,” adds Mikael Hult.

“The large orders we received during the past year and our progress in refining our products and systems are now complemented by a new, advanced test facility,” Hult concludes.

For more information:

Mikael Hult, CEO, CybAero AB, tel. 46 (0)70 5642545 e-mail: mikael.hult@cybaero.se

 

Offset 3.0, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Commercial Technology Offset 3.0, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Commercial Technology

http://warontherocks.com/2014/11/offset-3-0-or-how-i-learned-to-stop-worrying-and-love-commercial-technology/#_

Adam Jay Harrison    

November 17, 2014 · in Beyond Offset

 

Editor’s note: This article is part of the Beyond Offset series, a collaborative project between War on the Rocks and the Center for a New American Security that aims to build a community-of-interest that will address the challenges of maintaining America’s competitive edge in military technology and advance solutions.

 

America loves technology. As a nation, our cultural predilection for technical ingenuity has created the conditions for economic prosperity, scientific discovery, and military superiority. However, the worldwide proliferation of American free market ideas and liberalism (not to mention technology) has led to the emergence of an increasingly competitive global innovation landscape. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the U.S. represented just 26% of world total patents in 2012, down from 40% in 1999. During the same period, the number of patents filed in China increased by some 3,200 percent, growing to roughly 10% of world total patents today.

 

In a related trend, the technological state of the art is shifting from the advanced militaries of the world to the commercial marketplace. An October 2014 update by the Defense Business Board makes the startling claim that “commercial technology…is more advanced in most areas critical to military capabilities.” To the extent that the commercial marketplace is predicated (more or less) on the free flow of goods and ideas, it is not hard to imagine a world where America’s peer competitors and non-state adversaries achieve technological parity with the U.S. military in many important areas.

During the Cold War, the U.S. relied on qualitatively superior weapons systems to “offset” Soviet military mass. This imperative led to the emergence of a captive industry servicing the U.S. military’s warfighting needs. The migration from a dual-use defense industrial base in World War II to a defense-specific industrial base created a dependency between public financing and military-relevant technologies. This connection has been an important factor in ensuring America’s military-technology edge; however, there are forces at work that threaten to undermine such a model. The “democratization” and proliferation of advanced technology, the shift in research and development spending to the private sector, and the convergence of commercial, consumer, and defense applications allow nations, organizations, and individuals alike to capitalize on military-grade technologies more quickly and cost effectively than ever before.

As the Pentagon is set to deploy a new offset strategy focusing on the development of “revolutionary” defense technologies, the Center for New American Security – War on the Rocks “Beyond Offset” series is exploring the key factors relevant to ensuring America’s military competitiveness. In this context, it is worth considering how the contemporary technology environment should inform the new offset strategy. In a world where advanced technology has entered the public domain, can the U.S. reasonably expect to command a decisive, full spectrum technological lead? With innovation cycles accelerating at faster and faster rates, should DOD make “big bets” on a small number of technologies? Does it make sense to aspire to overwhelming technological superiority at the expense of greater numbers of commercially derived capabilities? These are some of the key questions that DOD must answer.

The technology-first mindset punctuates Department of Defense (DOD) decision-making from top to bottom. The U.S. government has at times found it difficult to supply basic equipment required for large scale military operations but has consistently risen to the occasion when it comes to the development of advanced capabilities. In an interview for this article, Major General (R) Buford C. Blount, former commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, noted that approximately 600 sets of Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plates (i.e., body armor) were supplied to his 19,000 soldiers at the launch of the ground invasion during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Similarly, it took years for the Army and Marine Corps to furnish sufficient handheld radios to meet the needs of ground forces in Iraq. This state of affairs is easily contrasted with the massive development efforts that accompanied the emergence of the IED threat in Iraq. From Counter Radio Frequency IED Electronic Warfare systems to Mine Resistant Ambush Protect vehicles, DOD leaned-in to the IED threat with a massive technology campaign reminiscent of the ambitious industrial-scale research and development efforts of prior generations. Today, technology bias can be seen at work behind closed doors in the Pentagon, where personnel training and readiness accounts stand to assume a disproportionate share of shrinking defense budgets.

Technology as strategy stems at least in part from the perception that American military technology played the decisive role in the post-World War II conflict arena. In support of this contention, strategists point to the causal relationship between the United States’ qualitative military-technology superiority in the Cold War and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. To its proponents, the culminating milestone of the techno-centric strategy was Operation Desert Storm, the overwhelmingly one-sided conflict that pitted advanced American military capabilities against conventional mass and signaled the birth of the Revolution in Military Affairs – the abortive antecedent to the Pentagon’s current offset campaign.

Taking for granted that a certain level of technological capacity is required to ensure U.S. military interests, the question is whether the pursuit of a strategy emphasizing the development and employment of “exquisite platforms” trumps strategies equally predicated on technology scalability (i.e. affordable systems). While these two approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the manner in which DOD has pursued the former certainly leaves little room for the latter. As a case in point, the cost trajectory of contemporary American fighter aircraft programs such as the F-22 and F-35 is unnervingly consistent with the somewhat tongue-in-cheek predictions of former Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO, Norm Augustine. In his excellent collection of missives on the defense industry entitled Augustine’s Laws, he posits that while the defense budget grows linearly, the cost of new military aircraft grows exponentially. In Law 16, he concludes in reductio ad absurdum fashion.

In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one tactical aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and the Navy three and a half days per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.

The Democratization of Technology. During the Cold War, the capital requirements associated with advanced military research and development favored nations with the economic muscle to make such investments and the talent to exploit these investments. This combination of factors were major contributors to the United States’ military-technology edge. Current trends, however, are eroding this historical advantage.

Through the mid-1980’s, the U.S. government was responsible for the preponderance of global research and development spending. Today, by contrast, the U.S. government accounts for less than 5% – a dramatic shift that is primarily attributable to the explosion of private sector investment accompanying the high tech boom. Throughout much of the 1990’s and 2000’s, venture capital favored opportunities with low technology risk, many of which focused on the exploitation of technologies substantially underwritten by public financing. During this period, corporate research and development spending produced a wide spectrum of component-level innovations that the military sector has, to a greater or lesser extent, successfully internalized in the development of advanced capabilities. More recently, however, the investment trend has shifted towards system-level innovations with potentially disruptive relevance for military applications.

Robotics, space systems, computation, networking and communications, and transportation are all areas where the commercial marketplace has taken an increased interest or assumed an outright lead over the traditional defense industrial base. The rapidly expanding global technology commons constitutes an unprecedented transnational ecosystem operating outside the control of individual nations yet with the power to directly influence the military-strategic landscape. Market-based proliferation of capabilities and systems once exclusively reserved for the advanced militaries of the world makes it less and less likely that any one nation can build and sustain a decisive, broad-based military-technology advantage.

The Acceleration Factor. The democratization of military grade technologies is also linked to the emergence of low cost prototyping and manufacturing equipment most prominently associated with the nascent “maker” movement. The availability of 3-D printers and scanners, software-based design tools, and network-enabled marketplaces offering an endless assortment of commodity and bespoke components is mitigating cost and time as a barrier to advanced research and development. Leveraging the Internet, start-ups, sub- and transnational organizations, and super-empowered “creatives” are able to access and share rich information resources enabling new forms of distributed, social-scale technology development. The decentralization of research and development beyond the confines of government labs and corporate research centers is a trend that foretells exponentially accelerating rates of technology innovation over time or what technology futurist Ray Kurzweil has dubbed the Law of Accelerating returns.

 

Low capital costs, open innovation approaches that distribute technical and financial risk, and agile development methodologies are also changing the overall R&D economic value proposition. The significant investments and lead times associated with traditional research and development impose a long technology half-life (i.e., employment timeframe) in order to recover sunk costs. As the forces governing the contemporary technology landscape are driving faster and faster innovation cycles, the rate of technology obsolescence (i.e. the period of time before a technology is overtaken by new innovations) also increases. Ultimately, this dynamic stands in opposition to the “big bet,” revolutionary technology mindset at the heart of the Pentagon’s new offset strategy.

The Quantity Question. Perhaps an even more fundamental question is whether, in the current fiscal and technological environments, it is advisable to pursue qualitative military-technology superiority at the expense of numbers. During World War I, English mathematician and father of the field of operations research, Frederick William Lanchester, devised a set of differential equations to describe the power relationships between opposing military forces. Dubbed Lanchester’s Laws, the equations predict that the power of a force in “modern” military engagements is proportional to the squared number of individual warfighting units. Writing as he was at the beginning of the twentieth century, Lanchester did not make specific allowances for the force multiplier effect of advanced technologies, to include everything from nuclear weapons to guided munitions. He, therefore, concludes that a force will require an N-squared increase in technology quality to compensate for an adversary’s N-fold increase in quantity (i.e., quantity trumps quality).

Even if we assume a more conservative model, where the impact of technological quality is proportional to quantity, Lanchester’s Laws have stark implications for a techno-centric offset strategy that imposes trade-offs between quantity and quality. In the case of the F-22, the world’s premier air superiority platform, a single aircraft can carry up to eight air-to-air missiles and simultaneously engage up to four targets. Regardless of its awesome capabilities, however, one cannot help but wonder how the F-22 would perform in a battle of attrition against swarms of relatively low cost, ultra-maneuverable Unmanned Combat Aerial Systems like the Kratos UCAS-167A – an aircraft derived in part from a U.S. built, high performance target drone. What happens, for instance, when the F-22’s limited missile complement is expended on waves of “good enough” opposing aircraft? Moreover, every loss due to maintenance or operator error would disproportionately impact the qualitatively superior, but numerically inferior force – an asymmetry that could spell disaster in a protracted campaign.

Not Your Father’s Offset. Notwithstanding the above, it should go without saying that technology is an important part of American military strategy. In an era where market forces have both catalyzed and metastasized advanced research and development, however, the way we think about technology as an element of military power should evolve. DOD’s historical bias toward qualitative technological superiority must be balanced by cost, quantity, and obsolescence considerations in order to sustain a force that is both numerically sufficient and operationally relevant for a full spectrum of military contingencies. As technology continues to evolve at faster and faster rates outside the confines of the traditional military-industrial complex, lower financial and organizational barriers to adoption favor nimble, emerging powers. Within this context, long-lifetime, high cost, “exquisite” weapon systems represent a potential strategic vulnerability increasingly at risk of innovation-fueled disruption.

Once upon a time, the combination of American defense and American industry was an unstoppable force that won two world wars. Today, however, a highly specialized and financially dependent defense industrial base has replaced the manufacture of high quality military capabilities substantially underwritten by dual-use infrastructure and know-how. The efficacy of the current model is predicated on DOD maintaining a virtual monopoly on advanced military-grade technologies – a state of affairs that no longer exists. With the unconstrained proliferation and acceleration of R&D, individual technologies are no longer sustainable differentiators. In this environment, DOD needs an offset strategy that’s less concerned with finding the next “golden BB” and instead enables the U.S. military to become the world leader in rapidly, systematically, and sustainably internalizing (and complementing) the high tech outputs of America’s most sustainable competitive advantage – the commercial high tech marketplace.

 

The USPS hit by hackers; 800,000 records stolen as foreign entities map US federal systems

This article was posted on 11/11/2014

http://www.electronicproducts.com/Computer_Systems/Servers/The_USPS_hit_by_hackers_800_000_records_stolen_as_foreign_entities_map_US_federal_systems.aspx

 

Cyber warfare is a very real and ongoing thing, taking place across multiple fronts on the international theater. To that extent, it’s of no surprise that every month there’s a seemingly different company or organization that comes into the spotlight as the latest victim in the battle. November’s latest high-profile target ─ that we’re aware of ─ is our very own United States Postal Service.

According to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, the big hancho overseeing the agency, 800,000 employees’ personal data, including social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and dates of employment, have been stolen. Stolen information may also include the phone numbers and home addresses of customers who’ve contacted USPS customer service. On the plus side ─ if there can even be one once your Social Security number is taken ─ credit information from post offices or online purchases at USPS.com was untouched.

“It’s an unfortunate fact of life these days that every organization connected to the internet is a constant target for cyber intrusion activity,” Donahoe wrote in a statement. “The United States Postal Service is no different. Fortunately, we have seen no evidence of malicious use of the compromised data.”

Interestingly enough, USPS had learned about the data breach as far back as September, but concealed the issue from its employees until Nov. 10, 2014, stating that it did not want to inform employees until the problem could be resolved. “We notified employees as soon as we were able to without jeopardizing the remediation efforts. Earlier notification could have resulted in additional files being compromised,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo.

Although the FBI is currently investigating the hack, it is unclear who is actually responsible for it. In an interview with The Washington Post, James A. Lewis, a cyber-policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, alleged that it makes sense for China to be target a federal agency such as a post office. That’s because China may be under the assumption that the U.S. postal service holds a vast array of personal information on its citizens, much like the majority of state-owned postal services. This data can potential analyzed for previously unseen patterns.

“They’re just looking for big pots of data on government employees,” says Lewis. “For the Chinese, this is probably a way of building their inventory on U.S. persons for counterintelligence and recruitment purposes.”

The New York Times offers a different explanation: rather than collecting personal information, the objective may have been to conduct reconnaissance and form an understanding as to how federal systems operate and link together.

As far as the public is concerned, it’s unclear who is actually responsible for the hacking; the Chinese government repeatedly denies accusations of engaging in cyber-theft, citing the actions are prohibited by Chinese law. Nevertheless, the incident is worrisome because it shows that foreign entities are making progress in plotting how U.S. infrastructure operates.

At least we can rest assured that whoever hacked the USPS has just gotten on the hit list of the most humorless and retributive U.S. agency. Also ─ the USPS is offering a year of free credit monitoring to employees and customers who may be at risk.

Source: USPS

 

 

Air Force ISR mission grows with threats from Islamic State

http://www.airforcetimes.com/story/military/2014/11/18/carlisle-air-force-isr-langley/19202115/

By Oriana Pawlyk

Staff writer

5:01 p.m. EST November 18, 2014

 

Langley Air Force Base, Virginia — The demand for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions has increased across combatant commands from a tolerable level in the last few years to more frequent and in-depth requirements in recent months.

The Air Force is leading intelligence gathering missions over Iraq and Syria, as well as Afghanistan and the Pacific, said Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, in a briefing Monday. But no matter how much the missions gather — the Air Force is supplying more than 80 percent of joint-force ISR — commanders still want more.

“We have more mission than money, manpower or time today,” Carlisle told reporters in his first public remarks since becoming ACC commander on Nov. 4. “The real question is how do we prioritize this capability and that capacity to meet the highest demand. What the COCOMs and the national command authorities need to tell us, or what I need to tell … these guys is, ‘I need you to do the next most important thing for the nation, not the next thing that shows up in your mailbox.'”

Balancing the ISR demand and combatant commanders’ needs will be one of the challenges Carlisle said he will address with commanders in his new post.

In the fight against Islamic State militants, the Air Force’s ISR role is impeded because there are no supporting troops on the ground in hostile areas between Syria and Iraq. One problem in particular, Carlisle said, is identifying activities on the ground.

“If you’re looking at the ground and watching folks moving on the ground, to tell a Shia from a Sunni, it’s pretty hard to do,” Carlisle said. “Unless ISIS is actually flying a flag that says ISIS across the top if it … these guys are trying to determine with everything that we have available given the restrictions that are placed on us ,… how do we positively identify where we’re going or who we’re going to hit?” he said.

But airmen are committed to the fight, Carlisle said. Compared to 10 years ago, today’s ISR teams have greater resources, and are more educated and trained in their career fields and on the systems they work with.

Airmen working on the Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS weapon system, the Air Force’s primary ISR collection system, produce intelligence information from the data collected in the skies in just minutes.

“The ability to provide the warfighter the ability to transfer capability depending on where the greatest need is — whether it’s a nuke going off in North Korea or it’s ISIS or it’s Afghanistan or it’s the Horn of Africa — the agility of this system is amazing,” Carlisle said.

 

While the information “doesn’t really mean a whole lot unless you do something with it,” he said, “what [these airmen] do and the way they produce a product that is so incredibly good, it just means the demand continues to go up.”

 

 

GA-ASI Advances SAA Capability With Two New Flight Tests

by Press • 21 November 2014

http://www.suasnews.com/2014/11/32849/ga-asi-advances-saa-capability-with-two-new-flight-tests/?utm_source=sUAS+News+Daily&utm_campaign=7a0aae49fa-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b3c0776dde-7a0aae49fa-303662705

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GAASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, today announced two key technological advances related to its ongoing Sense and Avoid (SAA) system development efforts.

In collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Honeywell, GA-ASI tested a proof-of-concept SAA system, marking the first successful test of the FAA’s Airborne Collision Avoidance System for Unmanned Aircraft (ACAS XU). The company also performed the first flight tests of a pre-production air-to-air radar for SAA, called the Due Regard Radar (DRR), making it the first radar of its kind designed for a RPA.

“Our latest Sense and Avoid test represents a major step forward for integrating RPA safely into domestic and international airspace,” said Frank Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “Our proof-of-concept SAA system is now functional and ready for extensive flight testing with the FAA, NASA, and our industry partners.”

A functional flight test of GA-ASI’s SAA system—which includes automatic collision avoidance and a sensor fusion capability designed to provide the pilot on the ground with a clear picture of the traffic around the aircraft—occurred September 4, 5, and 10 at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. onboard a Predator B RPA. During the test, Predator B proved the functionality of ACAS XU during collision avoidance maneuvers against ADS-B and transponder-equipped aircraft executed automatically onboard the RPA with the pilot ready to override the system.

Automatically executing collision avoidance maneuvers will enable Predator B to maintain safety in the National Airspace System in the unlikely event of a loss of the command and control data link. ACAS XU is specifically designed to be interoperable and backwards compatible with Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) II, which is the worldwide collision avoidance system used on most commercial transport aircraft.

GA-ASI is currently working with NASA to integrate the proof-of-concept SAA system aboard NASA’s Predator B, called Ikhana. Ikhana will serve as the primary test aircraft in a SAA flight test scheduled to take place this month and next at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The flight test campaign will evaluate the SAA system in a wide variety of both collision avoidance and self-separation encounters and will include a sensor fusion algorithm being developed by Honeywell.

Meanwhile, DRR testing has been occurring at various locations across Southern California this year onboard a Beechcraft King Air in an attempt to detect and track multiple test aircraft across the full Field-of-Regard, including General Aviation aircraft beyond ten miles. The tests are the first in an extensive flight test campaign designed to develop the Engineering Development Model (EDM) DRR fully and make it ready for flight testing on Predator B.

The ultimate goal of GA-ASI’s SAA program is to enable “due regard” operations in international airspace and routine access in non-segregated civilian airspace in the U.S. and around the world. The company’s pioneering efforts commenced in 2011 and have included the successful demonstration and follow-on integration of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) onboard the Guardian RPA, the flight test of a SAA architecture and self-separation functionality on Predator B, and testing of a prototype DRR on a Twin Otter aircraft and Predator B.

 

Virgin Atlantic jet’s ‘close call’ with radio-controlled drone

by Press • 20 November 2014

http://www.suasnews.com/2014/11/32843/virgin-atlantic-jets-close-call-with-radio-controlled-drone/?utm_source=sUAS+News+Daily&utm_campaign=8015c582be-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_b3c0776dde-8015c582be-303662705

DAVID USBORNE

 

A Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet from London to New York had a close call with a radio-controlled drone as it made its final approach to John F. Kennedy Airport last Sunday evening, it has emerged. The pilots told investigators they saw the machine clearly while on final approach.

Experts were warning that a direct hit by a drone could have catastrophic consequences rather like a bird strike, particular if they were to be sucked into an engine at either landing or take-off.

The crew of the Boeing 747, Virgin Atlantic Flight 9, spotted what they said looked like the kind of drone that can be bought by any enthusiast for just a few hundred pounds, flying at an altitude of about 3,000 feet. “The object was moving at a slow rate of speed and was like a quad copter drone,” they told investigators. The jetliner was flying over heavily populated areas of Nassau County at the time.

The incident with the Virgin plane was one of three to have occurred in the vicinity of JFK in the space of as many days. A few minutes later, a Delta 737 coming in to the airport from San Diego, California, also spotted the drone. In their case “it came within several feet of the left wing,” a police official said.

A similar sighting by the crew of a Jet Blue aircraft early on Wednesday afternoon also on approach to JFK had by last night prompted a formal investigation into all three incidents being led by the Federal Aviation Authority, FAA, and the FBI.

The moment when the Jet Blue plane came close to a drone was captured on a recording of the pilot expressing his alarm to the control tower at the airport. “About two miles out on the final, maybe 4 to 300 feet, looks like one of those unmanned drones is flying right on the final,” he said.

County police later said they had sent up a helicopter to look for the drone in the wake of the Jet Blue sighting but that nothing had been found.

The moment the Delta crew spotted the same danger was also recorded. “We just had something fly over us,” the pilot said. “I don’t know if it was a drone or a balloon, it just came real quick.”

The three cases are certain to cast a spotlight on growing concern about the proliferation of drones as private toys and the menace they represent to civil aviation as well as to privacy. The FAA has said that it expects about 10,000 drones to be in operation in about five years.

Aviation experts are especially concerned that rules put in place by federal regulators in the US banning drones from airspace close to airports have not been respected or enforced. While most of the drones, also known as UAVs, are small some are more substantial and carry cameras.

“These planes are all being approached [by drones] while the planes are landing, so they’re close to the ground, which means the pilot doesn’t have a whole lot of room for manuevering,” Ken Honig, formerly a senior official with the Port Authority that operates all the New York area airports, commented. “If the unmanned aerial vehicle gets too close to a plane, it could get sucked into a jet engine. The kind of damage done by a bird could be amplified by the metal parts in a UAV.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/virgin-atlantic-jets-close-call-with-radiocontrolled-drone-9871756.html

 

The Pentagon’s Budget Dilemma

BY Kate Brannen    

NOVEMBER 19, 2014


http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2014/11/19/the_pentagon_s_budget_dilemma

 

The Pentagon has shared with Congress new details about its plan to train and equip vetted members of the Syrian opposition to fight the Islamic State in hopes of finally securing funding for the effort.

With an initial tranche of $225 million, the Defense Department aims to train the first classes of Syrian rebels, each of which will have 300 fighters, according to a reprogramming request signed by the Pentagon’s chief financial officer, Mike McCord.

The document, dated Nov. 10, was sent to Capitol Hill last week. It represents the final hoop the Pentagon must jump through before it can start using the money the way it wants. Because Congress has already granted the Defense Department authority to launch a “train-and-equip” program for Syrian rebels, the four congressional defense committees are expected to approve this latest request before adjourning in December.

The Pentagon aims to begin training in the second quarter of fiscal year 2015, meaning anytime between January and March. The plan calls for moving a total of 5,400 trainees through two sites, the document states, without mentioning where the training will happen. However, both Saudi Arabia and Turkey have offered to host training.

“The funds will be used for infrastructure and facilities work, leasing cost, construction of firing ranges, force protection, training and support, stipends, transportation, base operations, and life support,” according to the reprogramming document, a copy of which was obtained by Foreign Policy.

Lawmakers have criticized Barack Obama’s administration for not ramping up the training-and-arming program faster

Lawmakers have criticized Barack Obama’s administration for not ramping up the training-and-arming program faster — but the Pentagon’s hands are somewhat tied until Congress officially OKs the money to do so, McCord explained in an interview. In September, Congress signed off on the program but didn’t fund it, he said.

Instead, Congress asked the Pentagon to send what’s called a reprogramming request — used whenever the Defense Department wants to shift large amounts of money from lower-priority programs to higher-priority ones — to outline the training plan.

For McCord, this is just one example of how the Pentagon’s ability to respond to rapidly developing crises is hampered by a legislative and budget-planning system that isn’t designed to move quickly.

“These things take a while — and ISIL doesn’t wait on us,” he said, using one of the Islamic State’s acronyms.

Neither does Ebola.

As death rates in Western Africa climbed higher and higher in early September, aid groups working there made a rare call for global military intervention. Soon after, the Pentagon said it would send a 25-bed hospital to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. That initial offer seemed paltry given the scale of the epidemic and the massive need for help in the hardest-hit countries.

But the Defense Department was also busy crafting much bigger response plans. McCord’s office was charged with figuring out how much it would cost and how to pay for it. There is a big difference between Ebola and other humanitarian disasters, McCord said. With something like an earthquake or hurricane, there is an early understanding of the extent of the destruction and the numbers of lives lost. With that information, the U.S. military can plan its contribution to the relief effort.

“With Ebola, the problem continues to spread and evolve at rates you can’t predict,” which requires flexible budgeting, McCord said.

Reprogramming requests are one way the Pentagon can respond to unforeseen conflicts or disasters. These were used in new, and some would say innovative, ways this summer, and they reflected the uncertainty about how big these crises were going to get.

For example, in one such request, the Pentagon asked to reassign $500 million to help fight Ebola and respond to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq caused by the Islamic State. However, it did not delineate amounts, meaning the U.S. military technically could spend $1 on Ebola and $499,999,999 on Iraq — or vice versa.

“We were trying to build in hedges for things that were not precisely defined,” McCord explained. “We’re trying to use all of the flexibility that we do have in the system. The world moves so fast right now, and our system was not built to move fast, and it’s really in conflict with how the world works.”

In total, the Pentagon eventually asked to shift $1 billion to counter Ebola in Liberia.

“We’ve never put that kind of money into our humanitarian assistance account,” McCord said.

The Pentagon’s normal spending on disasters around the world is roughly $100 million a year, he said: “[Ebola] would have eaten our whole budget for the year in a month.” Therefore, he was not surprised that Congress had lots of questions.

“We were, I think it’s fair to say, pushing the envelope in terms of a lot of big reprogrammings,” McCord said, adding that there was also a hefty classified request associated with the operations against the Islamic State.

Timing also made McCord’s job harder. Late in any fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, few dollars are left to move around. Also, the United States was ramping up two huge efforts — fighting Ebola and terrorists in Iraq and Syria — well after the Pentagon finished its budgeting for fiscal year 2015, which started Oct. 1, forcing McCord and his staff to amend the plan already sent to Capitol Hill.

Just last week, the Pentagon asked Congress for another $5 billion to fight the Islamic State.

Just last week, the Pentagon asked Congress for another $5 billion to fight the Islamic State. This is on top of the $59 billion it seeks to fund war operations around the globe. The Pentagon already told Congress how much it wants allocated to its overseas contingency operations account much later than usual because of the long, drawn-out dispute over the Afghan presidential election, McCord said. Without a clear winner, Washington was unsure about the fate of the bilateral security agreement, without which it couldn’t keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan past December. Whether troops remained in Afghanistan would dramatically alter how big an appropriation the war account would need.

 

Included in the $5 billion request for fighting the Islamic State is $1.6 billion for a new train-and-equip program for 12 brigades of Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga. On Nov. 7, the Pentagon said it is sending another 1,500 troops to Iraq. Of them, 870 will be assigned to the training mission at sites in northern, western, and southern Iraq.

Although the Pentagon has deployment authority, once in Iraq, the troops cannot conduct the training mission without specific approval from Congress. That’s because the training of foreign militaries — or in the case of Syria, foreign rebel groups — requires Congress to sign off on the plans and the funding.

“We have almost no authority to conduct that train-and-equipping operation until Congress approves something that gives the authority to do so,” McCord said. “There are little things that we can do, but nothing like the kind of scope that we think that we need to do.”

Now the issue is all wrapped up in the messy end-of-year budget battle playing out on Capitol Hill with a lame-duck Congress.

In September, lawmakers passed a temporary spending measure to avoid a government shutdown. Included in that legislation was legal authority for the Pentagon to start the program for Syrian rebels, but not the money for it.

The short-term spending measure — called a continuing resolution (CR) — expires on Dec. 11, as does that legal authority. To keep the government running, Congress will need to pass an omnibus spending bill for 2015, or at the very least extend the CR into January.

If Congress extends the CR, McCord said he thinks the authority to train and equip the Syrian rebels would extend with it. But the Pentagon still wouldn’t have the authority it needs to launch a handful of other high-priority endeavors, including the Iraqi train-and-equip program, he said.

The Pentagon is also waiting for congressional authority to launch a $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative and a new $5 billion fund to fight terrorism, including $500 million to train Syrian rebels.

“You could argue that those can wait, but I would argue they shouldn’t,” he said. “Around the world, whether it’s in Europe or the Middle East or in Africa, I think there’s real good we could be doing with these authorities,” McCord said.

That doesn’t mean the training programs will be up and running the day after Congress signs off, he said. “But the longer we wait, we can’t do anything other than planning.”

 

Adversaries Will Copy ‘Offset Strategy’ Quickly: Bob Work


By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on November 19, 2014 at 5:59 PM

http://breakingdefense.com/2014/11/adversaries-will-copy-offset-strategy-quickly-bob-work/

 

WASHINGTON: The “third offset strategy” is officially just four days old, but the man in charge is already lowering expectations for what it will produce.

Yes, the Pentagon is absolutely seeking “the key technologies we think will give us a particular operational advantage,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work. Yes, the quest is inspired by Eisenhower’s nuclear “New Look” in the 1950s and the “Offset Strategy” of smart bombs, sensors, stealth, and networks in the 1970s. But no one should expect the Pentagon to find another technological advantage that endures for decades, as they did.Bob Work deputy defense secretary

 

“What’s different about this third offset strategy [from] the last two offset strategies is they were relatively hard to duplicate,” Work told the Defense One conference this afternoon. Today, however, “we have potential competitors who are very, very good in this business and can duplicate — not only steal our IP — but can duplicate things very fast.” (Consider the Chinese J-31 fighter, which looks suspiciously similar to the Pentagon’s most expensive program ever, the F-35).

“So one of the things we’re asking ourselves is, what are the temporal aspects of this competition? It’s going to be much, much different than the last one,” Work said. “The last offset strategy lasted us for four decades. It is unlikely that next one will last that long.”

Much of the new strategy, in fact, depends on upgrades and integrating new technologies and software (such as automation) with existing weapons to create new capabilities, a senior official who took part in many of the meetings that crafted the new strategy said last week. One of the examples to watch may be the Long Range Strike Bomber program, which will comprise a system of systems – a bomber may well be paired with other aircraft, if vague comments over the last year by senior Air Force officials are any indication.

“When we invested in technology” in the past, DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar said at the conference, “we could do that investment with the confidence that we’d have 10, 20, maybe 30 years of technological advantage over any other party. That is not the world that we live in today.”

“In fact, it is really good news for human beings that that’s not the world we live in anymore,” Prabhakar continued. Rather than tech trickling slowly down from the US to other countries, rapid globalization of technology “has raised living standards and improved lives around the planet,” she said. “[But] it creates some really different problems for those of us who worry about national security.”

It’s easy to make America’s dominant position post-World War II your baseline, look at the world today, and “wring your hands,” Prabhakar said. In historical terms, however, such dominance by any one nation is an anomaly.

Indeed, until World War I, civilian inventions drove military technology: the telegraph and railroad shaped the bloody stalemate of the Civil War; the radio, the airplane, the internal combustion engine, and even tank tracks began as civilian tools before they were used on the battlefield. Now the world’s returning to the state where the private sector, not governments, leads the way to new technologies — which places different nations on a much more equal competitive footing.

That’s why changing how the Pentagon procures new technology is as important as what new technology it procures. The acquisition and requirements system has to move faster to get advanced technology in the hands of troops before the adversary catches up. Said Work, “we are going to have to do rapid prototyping and rapid fielding or we will continually lose ground.”

 

Congress Must Act on War Authority

Military Action in Syria Requires a New A.U.M.F.

NY Times

THE EDITORIAL BOARD

NOV. 18, 2014

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/19/opinion/military-action-in-syria-requires-a-new-aumf.html?_r=1

The United States is fighting a new and costly war in Iraq and Syria. Yet, for months, members of Congress have ducked their constitutional responsibility for warmaking. They have neither initiated a meaningful debate on the use of American force against the Islamic State, which is known as ISIS, nor shown any inclination to vote on whether to endorse or modify the mission.

With the midterm elections over, we had hoped this would change. But, increasingly, it seems as if the current lame-duck Congress will leave the issue to the next one.

Republicans will control both the Senate and the House come January. There are signs that some want a broad war authorization that could be exploited to justify military action against terrorist groups geographically beyond Iraq and Syria, just as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, or A.U.M.F., against Al Qaeda was used by the Bush and Obama administrations to expand operations against other “associated forces.”

Some Democrats, including Senate leader Harry Reid, seem oddly passive, saying they are open to an authorization vote but doing little to advance it now. At the start of the campaign against ISIS in September, Mr. Obama insisted he had all the legal authority he needed to attack. After Election Day, he said he would ask Congress to authorize the military campaign specifically against ISIS.

Yet now it seems clear that he has no problem waiting until next year for Congress to act. The vacillation is not reassuring. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that has jurisdiction over a use-of-force resolution, has called for quick action, along with a few other Democrats like Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Representative Adam Schiff of California.

What Mr. Menendez needs to put forward is a resolution that focuses on the war on ISIS, not on any far-flung terrorist group, and limits the fighting to Iraq and Syria.

A bill filed by Mr. Schiff would have this authorization expire 18 months after being enacted; Mr. Kaine’s bill limits the period to one year. Mr. Obama, however, has said that the campaign against ISIS would take years. The important point is that presidents should be required to go back to Congress to explain why a military conflict deserves continued support.

Although Mr. Obama has said he will not put American ground forces in Iraq or Syria, Mr. Schiff’s bill creates a loophole that would allow trainers, advisers, intelligence officers and special operations forces to be there. Mr. Kaine’s bill would allow ground forces to rescue American personnel or attack high-value targets.

While it is important for Congress to repeal the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War and terminate the 2001 authorization against Al Qaeda, the priority in the lame-duck session should be to pass a new and separate authorization for the war against ISIS.

If the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is unable to get such an authorization approved, Mr. Kaine and others should try to attach it as an amendment to other related legislation. It’s past time for Congress to exhibit some courage and take a stand.

 

Sources: Top Appropriators Focusing Solely on Omnibus, Have Had No CR Talks

Nov. 20, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


http://www.defensenews.com/article/20141120/CONGRESSWATCH/311200036/Sources-Top-Appropriators-Focusing-Solely-Omnibus-Had-No-CR-Talks

 

WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill’s top appropriators have yet to discuss another short-term measure to keep the government running, focusing solely on a longer-term bill they hope to drop in early December.

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, respectively, are cobbling together an omnibus spending bill that would fund the Pentagon and other federal agencies through Sept. 30.

A stopgap government-funding measure expires Dec. 11, and House conservatives’ desire to use repeated threats of government shutdowns to influence the White House’s pending action on immigration has House GOP leaders searching for options.

 

As leaders look for a way to avoid a government shutdown, which they believe would damage the party, Rogers and Mikulski are in talks to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, congressional sources say.

“I can tell you … that all of leadership is working towards an omnibus and the chair think[s] we will have a deal in place by early Dec.,” a House aide wrote in a Thursday email, referring to Rogers.

Neither House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said when they intend to move a government-funding bill next month.

But a Senate aide said the appropriations leaders intend to have their omnibus on the floor the week of Dec. 8. (The House Republican leadership this week altered the lower chamber’s schedule to be in session that day.)

“We are making significant progress on a full-year, 12-bill omnibus,” the Senate aide said. “We expect to have it ready for the floor by the week of Dec. 8.”

Among the dozen appropriations bill that will comprise the omnibus, is a full 2015 defense spending bill with a war funding section.

 

McCain Emerges as Pentagon’s Last Hope to Avert Sequester

By Sandra I. Erwin

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=1678

 

Pentagon pleas for relief from drastic spending cuts are getting scant attention as the lame-duck Congress becomes enmeshed in partisan fighting over immigration reform and the threat of a government shutdown.

 

But there is still fresh hope for defense in the new Congress when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., takes the gavel as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“With McCain, you have a very, very vigorous opponent to sequestration,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA, told a gathering of defense industry executives this week.

Kaine, who has served with McCain on Armed Services, also firmly opposes the automatic spending cuts, or sequester. He urged defense executives to join forces with McCain. “He fundamentally believes that sequestration is harming our nation’s defense,” Kaine said.

Although McCain has frequently hammered defense contractors for mismanaging military programs and overspending, the industry now needs to view him as a partner, Kaine added. “Having a Republican chairman who is vigorously passionate against sequestration is very important,” he said. “McCain will be a good ally.”

Defense CEOs have had an uneasy relationship with McCain. As the ranking Republican on Armed Services over the past eight years, he has called for the termination of big-ticket military programs such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the USS Ford aircraft carrier and the Littoral Combat Ship. He also has chastised the Pentagon for poor stewardship of procurement dollars.

Once a program reaches a certain point and has enough constituencies around the country, you can’t stop it,” McCain said in 2012. “Some of these programs need to be stopped.” And he has condemned corrupt business practices in the defense sector. “We have a revolving door between the Pentagon and industry. … There is an environment where overruns are not a major concern.”

Despite such disapproval, defense industry officials are encouraged by the prospect that McCain might be able to sway votes against sequester in fiscal year 2016.

“Sen. McCain has crossover with the Foreign Relations Committee and will be extremely active on national security policy,” said retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, chairman of the board of the National Defense Industrial Association.

Punaro said the industry is optimistic about the new GOP leadership in both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. McCain and incoming HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, are highly experienced on defense issues, with a combined 52 years on the authorizing committees.

“They have dealt with increases and decreases in budgets, previous drawdowns, base closures, numerous conflicts and wars, five different administrations, 10 secretaries of defense and 10 Joint Chiefs of Staff chairs,” said Punaro. “Both have had to cooperate and confront when necessary.” Of note to defense industry, he said, is that while McCain and Thornberry have different leadership styles, they share common goals to repeal sequester, improve acquisition, increase oversight, and ensure the relevance and timeliness of authorizers.

Pentagon officials have not spoken publicly about the new leadership on Capitol Hill, but have ramped up the rhetoric against sequester and have called on the lame-duck Congress to replace the continuing resolution that funds the government through Dec. 11 with a full-year appropriation. It now appears unlikely that Congress will pass an “omnibus” appropriations bill in December to replace the CR.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said the military badly needs more money and funding stability as national security crises escalate. “We need additional top line for emerging and additional requirements,” he said Nov. 19 at the Defense One summit in Washington, D.C.

Dempsey said military leaders have to “convince members of Congress not only that the Defense Department needs more money, but that it must begin to operate under a new set of rules than the current budgetary deadlock allows.”

 

The Obama administration’s defense budget request for 2016-2020 exceeds the congressionally mandated spending limits by $110 billion. If Congress rejects that request and enforces the caps set by law, military budgets would go up by $43 billion over the next five years. The Pentagon has insisted that even that increase would put the military in a bind because it does not cover the rate of inflation.

Punaro noted that in the 114th Congress, the Republican House and Senate will have more conservative conferences, which means any budget decisions will have to be deficit neutral. “There is not as much leverage to force policy changes or block changes through the debt ceiling, reconciliation or appropriations process as either side seems to think.”

Even if the Pentagon gets more money next year, higher appropriations alone do not remove the sequester caps. That would require a bipartisan deal.

The incoming GOP senators ran campaigns of “no compromise,” Punaro said. “They replace Democrats who were punished for their perceived support of the president. Will these Republicans senators now say, ‘Let’s compromise with the president?'”

In his remarks to industry CEOs, Kaine lamented how profoundly dysfunctional the legislative process has become, to the point of undermining the United States’ standing in the world. “A Congress that does nothing,” Kaine said, “sends a message of national decline.”

 

Rasmussen Reports

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

http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/weekly_updates/what_they_told_us_reviewing_last_week_s_key_polls2

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Did someone miss the message on Election Day? Actions this week by President Obama and in the Senate suggest that we can look forward to another two years of hyper-intense partisanship.

The president on Thursday announced his long-anticipated plan – without congressional approval – that will allow nearly five million illegal immigrants to remain in this country legally and apply for jobs. Republican leaders, scheduled to take control of the full Congress in January, had asked Obama to delay the decision, saying it would poison their future relations. Most voters oppose the amnesty plan and think the government is not aggressive enough in deporting illegal immigrants.

Most voters also have said in regular surveys for years that gaining control of the border to prevent future illegal immigration is more important than legalizing the status of the illegals living in the United States.  But 56% think the current policies and practices of the federal government encourage people to enter the United States illegally. 

Even though voters across the partisan spectrum are clear that the economy remains their number one concern, a bill approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was shot down by liberal Democrats in the Senate early this week. Voters continue to favor the oil pipeline’s construction from Canada to Texas and feel it will help the economy. Opponents claim it will contribute to global warming. 

Incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu was desperately pushing passage of the bill in hopes that it would help her bid for reelection in Louisiana. But our surveying indicates it wouldn’t have made much of a difference: Landrieu’s Republican challenger Bill Cassidy looks comfortably on his way to joining the new GOP Senate majority. Louisiana voters will decide on December 6.

Senate Republicans in turn this week stopped a legislative effort to put the brakes on National Security Agency domestic spying. Voters still don’t approve of the NSA’s activities, but at a time when more than ever see a terrorist attack as the biggest threat to the nation, 57% believe protecting the country from a possible terrorist attack is more important than protecting the privacy of most Americans.

Major technology companies like Google, Apple and Facebook were pushing for the restrictions, but voters tend to think they spy on individuals more than the government does.

Voters are now evenly divided when it comes to Obamacare’s requirement that every American buy or otherwise obtain health insurance. Repeal of the unpopular health care law appears unlikely, but congressional Republicans are expected to make major changes in it next year if they can. 

The president also has come out strongly for so-called “net neutrality” rules that would allow the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet like TV and radio. But Americans have a message for the government: Leave my Internet alone.

For the second time this year, the number of voters who rate Obama’s leadership positively has reached a three-year low of 38%. But the president’s daily job approval ratings have improved slightly since the election.

Opinions of the current Congress haven’t changed much. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are Congress’ two least-liked leaders, but John Boehner’s close behind them. Republicans and Democrats are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

The president began the year with a State of the Union address that focused on the issue of economic fairness. While voters rate policies that encourage economic fairness and economic growth as both important, they continue to feel that economic growth is the more important of the two.

The housing market remains a rare bright spot. Forty percent (40%) of homeowners now expect their home’s value to increase in the next year. That’s the highest level of optimism since the housing bubble burst several years ago.

More homeowners than ever think that their home’s worth more than when they bought it. Thirty-seven percent (37%) think now is a good time for someone in their area to be selling a home.  Two years ago, only 16% felt that way. 

Consumer confidence continues to muddle along, but investors are more upbeat these days.

Americans are in a more generous mood this holiday season, but they’re off to a slower start when it comes to shopping.

In other surveys last week:

— Americans don’t expect the white police officer who killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to be charged with murder and oppose the U.S. Justice Department trying to prosecute him after that.

– For the third consecutive week, 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

— Just over half of Americans remain confident in the nation’s banks, well below the level of confidence measured before the 2008 financial meltdown.

— While most Americans say their interest rates haven’t changed over the past year, roughly half still expect them to go up over the next 12 months.

— Most adults continue to be concerned about inflation but show slightly more confidence in the Federal Reserve to keep inflation under control and interest rates down

— Eighty percent (80%) think Christmas is over-commercialized.

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