Skip to content

November 29 2014

December 1, 2014

29 November 2014


Also on a blog at



Despite Contracting Reforms, Pentagon Seen As Unfriendly to Business

By Sandra I. Erwin



Pentagon officials have been emphatic about “lowering the barriers” to potential vendors — especially those on the cutting edge of technology — in order to spur competition in a market dominated by big conglomerates.

But the private sector is skeptical. Industry executives say they appreciate the Pentagon’s initiatives but so far see them as empty rhetoric.

Defense procurement chief Frank Kendall launched in September a new contracting reform campaign that specifically calls for the Pentagon to attract new businesses into the military market. He also is seeking congressional support to lighten the regulatory burden, as red tape is the most often cited reason why commercial companies shun the defense business.

But executives contend that Kendall’s initiative is not enough to counter a deeply entrenched bureaucratic resistance to doing business differently. They argue that Pentagon buyers are rewarded for squeezing profits out of contractors and make unreasonable demands for companies’ intellectual property. Unless conditions change, executives say, the Pentagon will continue to have trouble wooing high-tech vendors that could far more easily sell their products in mainstream commercial markets.

A new white paper by the Lexington Institute, an industry-funded think tank, lays out a litany of reasons why the Pentagon has become an unfriendly customer. They include a reluctance to use commercial contracting methods that are faster and less burdensome on suppliers, and a lack of understanding of how the private sector works even though the Defense Department buys as much as $400 billion of goods and services per year from the defense industry.

“DoD has a strong initiative to increase competition but they do not understand it well,” observed the paper’s author Scott E. Chandler, an associate fellow at Lexington and a long-time commercial and military aviation executive.

The Pentagon mistakenly believes that new policies by themselves can increase competition, Chandler said. “But they forget that competition fundamentally requires attracting at least two companies willing to do business with you. However, DoD strategy does not seem geared to policy that is designed to be an appealing buyer.”

The issue sparked a lively debate last week at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, Calif. During a panel discussion, Kendall reaffirmed his stance that Pentagon is not targeting industry’s profits and respects companies’ rights to their intellectual property.

Other panelists disagreed. Former Pentagon comptroller during the George W. Bush administration Dov Zakheim accused the Defense Department of being antagonistic toward industry profits. “This country was built on profit,” he proclaimed.

Kendall pushed back. “We get it that [profit] is a necessity for business. We respect that,” he said. “At the same time, we use profit as a tool to incentivize. … We need to strike the right balance.”

Zakheim fired off a list of complaints. It’s not just profits, he said, it’s IP (intellectual property) concerns. “Industry invests in its own R&D,” Zakheim said, and companies expect to get a return on that investment. “Then the government tells you that you can’t make more than 8 or 9 percent profit margin, and they want your IP. Why in God’s name would Google hand over their IP to a bunch of civil servants who haven’t taken a [technology] course in over 25 years?”

Companies such as Google that are pushing the technology revolution in areas where the Pentagon has fallen behind say “No, thank you,” Zakheim added. “Their major market is the entire world.”

The Pentagon has contracting rules in place that allow it to buy technology from the commercial market with minimum red tape, but that method typically is used to buy commodities like food and clothing. Purchases of advanced technology usually are done under the traditional procurement process, with the government calling the shots. With commercial contracting, the government simply buys what it needs from open market. “You can get all kinds of innovation, it’s quicker, less restrictive, more attractive to industry,” Zakheim said. He noted that even though senior leaders such as Kendall have endorsed this approach, the contracting workforce in mid-level management prefers to not use commercial contracting because it restricts government access to corporate IP and cost data.

Kendall defended the Pentagon’s buying methods. “We do a fair amount of business with commercial companies,” he said. “Some come in as part of the supply chain. We have to be careful about the security of the supply chain.” But he recognized that the Defense Department has to change its ways if it hopes to capture private-sector innovation, especially from small businesses. Changes is needed in “how we do accounting, contracting in general,” said Kendall. “We are working this hard.”

He said commercial contracting can be tricky for Pentagon buyers. “The IP issue is complex,” he said. “We respect people’s right to their IP. We cannot compel anybody to share IP.” On the other hand, “industry uses IP as a weapon to gain competitive advantage,” Kendall said. “In the government, there is frustration about not having competition because someone has secured a position [in the market] based on their IP rights.”

Over the past several years, he said, the Pentagon has started to require procurement officials to learn how to price and negotiate IP. “We have to be very good at this because it’s a complicated thing to do.”

The Lexington paper notes that the U.S. government goes to great lengths to provide patents, copyrights and licenses to protect proprietary data, trademarks and industrial secrets. The Pentagon, meanwhile, seeks to dismantle these protections as part of its strategy to spur competition, Chandler argued. He blames the Pentagon for creating an increasingly uncongenial market where vendors are seen as enemies and not as business partners. “It is true that individual companies or contractors misstep from time to time, but the snipe hunt for rampant fraud, waste and abuse is largely unwarranted,” he said.

The U.S. government wields enormous power but sometimes that power can undermine its own goals, Chandler contends. The Defense Department can “cancel contracts for convenience; change requirements, purchase quantities, or schedules at will; demands proprietary information even for commercial products for distribution to competitors; and, dictates contract terms and controls margins.” Conversely, a “fundamental objective of business is to seek and grow competitive advantage, while the objective of the government policy and practice is to erase it, artificially if necessary.”


China’s Anti-Stealth Radar Comes to Fruition

Nov. 22, 2014 – 03:45AM | By WENDELL MINNICK | Comments


TAIPEI — The one great testament to China’s anti-access/area denial efforts were weapon and sensor systems on display at the recent China Airshow in Zhuhai.

One of the most noticeable was the road-mobile JY-26 “Skywatch-U” 3-D long-range air surveillance radar. China had plenty of road-mobile radars on display, but this one claimed a unique capability — “stealth target detection.” This towering radar is a clear symbol of China’s continued desire to locate and destroy stealth aircraft like the B-2 bomber and F-22 and F-35 fighters.

According to a brochure by the East China Research Institute of Electronic Engineering (ECRIEE), this radar “boasts double stealth target detection virtues thanks to operation in UHF [ultra high frequency] band and owning of large power-aperture product” for both air breathing targets and tactical missiles. The range of the UHF radar is not cited on the brochure, but other details are, including electronic counter-countermeasures and a complex digital active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar capable of tracking 500 targets.

An unusual feature is the bubble surface of the radar, which looks similar to Lockheed Martin’s offering in the Three Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) competition, which Raytheon won. The surface of both radars is analogous to bubble wrap used to ship breakable items in the mail. These bubbles are transmit receive modules (TRM), but the JY-26 has fewer TRMs then the Lockheed 3DELRR, said Richard Fisher, senior fellow on Asian military affairs, International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Press reports of an alleged Chinese cyber espionage strike against Lockheed surfaced in April 2009, Fisher said. “Barring further US and Lockheed disclosures, we cannot know whether China stole critical radar information in addition to other programs like the F-35 stealth fighter.”

However, John Wise, a UK-based radar specialist, said the Lockheed 3DELRR is a “G-band (5.4GHz) radar and has nothing whatsoever in common with the JY-26, other than shape.” If JY-26 has true anti-stealth aircraft detection and tracking capability, it would need to operate down the bottom end of the UHF band (250-350MHz), he said.

“The elements [TMR] might be so shaped because they may offer circular polarization, which could have benefits for an air detection radar, and guesstimate the elements are half wavelength in dimension,” he said.

In 2011, an image of a larger version of the JY-26 appeared on Chinese-language military blogs that had twice the number of TMRs than the Lockheed radar, but the JY-26 variant on display at Zhuhai had fewer, which suggests the JY-26 at Zhuhai is either a lower-cost model or its developer has improved its software to allow for fewer TRMs, Fisher said.

“Nevertheless, the JY-26 poses a real threat to US and allied air forces and also demonstrates China’s capacity for developing electronic warfare systems that are competitive with the latest US systems,” Fisher said.


The timing of China’s cyber espionage and the appearance of the JY-26 suggest a painful question, Fisher said.

“Did China successfully steal data from Lockheed Martin’s radar shop that is now going to be used to better prosecute Lockheed’s F-35 fighter?”

Other experts, such as Wise, caution that common radar configurations are not necessarily evidence of espionage because similar engineering objectives could lead to similar solutions. Fisher said he believes the Lockheed radar was compromised by Chinese espionage and the evidence is the eerie similarity between two radars that use unique TMRs.

According to a Nov. 10 China-based article in the Global Times, a Shandong Province-based JY-26 recently monitored an F-22 flying to South Korea. Separated by the Yellow Sea, Shandong’s coastline is 400 kilometers from Kunsan Air Base and Osan Air Base, South Korea.

Who would be in the market for the JY-26? For one, Pakistan has to contend with India’s stealth fighter program with Russia, and Iran must deal with Israel’s planned procurement of the F-35 fighter.

Then there is the continuing threat many nations face from US B-2 bombers, F-22 fighters and eventually the F-35. ■


Hagel rallies chairmen around defense budget

By Kristina Wong – 11/21/14 09:33 AM EST


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met quietly with congressional leaders of three defense committees on Thursday as lawmakers prepare the Pentagon’s budget for next year.

Hagel spoke with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the incoming leaders of the Armed Services committees, and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who was reappointed as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.

The chair of the Senate’s Appropriations subcommittee on Defense has yet to be announced.

“He wanted to reach out to these leaders to discuss a wide range of issues of importance to the Defense Department, to include our budget pressures,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Lawmakers are putting together an omnibus 2015 spending bill, which would fund the Defense Department through next September. However, before recessing on Dec. 12, they could instead simply extend a temporary funding measure known as a continuing resolution (CR).

A news report said Hagel was on Capitol Hill to argue against a CR, which would hold the Pentagon to 2014 funding levels and restrict spending on new programs and projects. Frelinghuysen is the current chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, and would be involved in any such process.

Hagel spoke out against a CR on Wednesday during a PBS interview.

“You can’t run any institution by the uncertainty of maybe you’ll get funding in six months, maybe you won’t, maybe it will be the same, maybe it won’t,” he said. “Especially you can’t run national security … on the basis of hope of a continuing resolution.”

He also urged lawmakers to overturn Defense budget caps under sequestration.

“We won’t have the resources. We won’t have the readiness. We won’t have the capability. We won’t have the long-term investments that this institution requires to stay ahead of everybody else as we have since World War II with a technological edge, with the ability to continue to recruit, retain the best people,” Hagel said.


The Defense Department will submit its 2016 defense budget request to Congress in March, which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey suggested Wednesday would be higher than caps.

McCain and Thornberry would oversee the process of authorizing that budget, and Frelinghuysen would oversee House Appropriations of that budget.

Lawmakers partially lifted caps for 2014 and 2015, and experts say they are likely to do so again in 2016 and 2017.

“We the Defense Department are being called upon to do more everywhere,” Hagel said. “And our budget continues to be cut. Something doesn’t connect here and that’s going to have to change.”



Leaders monitor burnout among intel analysts

Oriana Pawlyk, Staff writer 12:10 p.m. EST November 22, 2014


JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Virginia – They stay up all night and chug too many energy drinks. They have psychiatrists and chaplains on call, and a therapy dog named Lily.

Secluded in a dimly lit, cavernous maze of computer screens, they collect and analyze mission data that is transmitted from an aerial, unblinking eye — drones — flying anywhere in the world.

The airmen who walk the halls of the 480th Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Wing headquarters here are among the 6,000 airmen around the globe committed to fighting a new type of war where the margin between victory and defeat lies in massive amounts of information.

They work at such a rapid rate that leaders are putting forth efforts to stop these airmen from burning out. The wing’s leadership has molded the Comprehensive Fitness Model — an attempt to help airmen balance their busy lives through targeted programs, activities and resiliency skills — to cater to airmen involved in these operations.

“In each one of our groups, we have now resourced to have a doctor, a medical tech, a psychologist, a psych tech, a chaplain and a chaplain’s assistant available and on our operations floors,” said Col. Timothy Haugh, the wing’s commander.

Haugh said the wing is constantly working to best posture these airmen to sustain the mission and motivate them during their careers.

“These are our enlisted airmen, predominantly, [using] the general weapons system that produces thousands of intelligence reports every day” Haugh said Nov 17. “For us, the investment in the brain matter of all of these very talented airmen is what makes the difference.”


Intel overload

At any given time in the Middle East, there are more than 160 Air Force fighter, bomber, ISR, airlift, air refueling and other types of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft that support Air Forces Central Command operations in partnership with sister services and allied nations, according to an Air Force official. In the fight against the Islamic State group, Air Force warplanes through Nov. 17 have conducted almost two-thirds of the 956 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, Air Force figures show.

The analysts at Langley continue to watch these events, processing the intelligence through the Distributed Common Ground System, or the DCGS. They monitor video feeds coming from a Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk or U-2 unmanned aerial vehicle, sift through lines of chat conversations with pilots, and watch as strikes dissolve the area below.

In 2013, such information translated into 460,000 hours of full-motion video, 2.6 million images and 1.7 million signals intelligence reports, according to officials.

Intel airmen can begin working a new mission in a day’s time, unlike airmen in other career fields who get two weeks’ notice for a new deployment cycle. And these airmen — most between the ages of 19 and 25 — sit side-by-side regardless of their active-duty or reservist capacity.

“The team that exists at this site, they’re my fusion lead for things that are going on in the Central Command [area of responsibility] and fuse it … or make sense of it for the supporting commander,” Haugh said.


Occupational hazard

Haugh and his team’s mission, aside from identifying adversaries and threats, is to constantly monitor the occupational health for these airmen working 12-hour shifts, for three to four days at a time.

One surprising area of concern: dental hygiene.

“Our biggest problem is dental,” said Lt. Col. Cameron Thurman, the 480th’s surgeon. “They’re staring at computer screens for 12 straight hours and you can’t miss a guy running across the screen with an AK-47 … or good guys are gonna die … so a lot of things that they do is sit there and chug Monsters and energy drinks left and right to stay vigilant.”

Thurman said the need for more sugar has led to intel analysts having the worst cavity rate in the Air Force. But “the fact that we know that is a significant step forward,” Haugh said.

If airmen must drink high-end sugary drinks, Thurman has a few tips.

“The worst way is the way most of us do it, which is to sip on it over a long period of time throughout the day,” Thurman told Air Force Times. “You [are] continuously bathing your teeth in that sugar-acid mixture all day. So if you’re going to do it … you should drink some water afterward to wash it off as best you can off of your teeth.”

While energy drinks are becoming an Air Force-wide problem, Thurman said, he hasn’t seen overwhelming evidence that shows airmen are plagued with other risks such as heart palpitations or agitation. But some leaders didn’t take a chance — a few years before Thurman arrived, one group commander mandated that all energy drinks needed to be removed from his facility’s vending machines.

While Haugh isn’t looking to do the same, he has put another practice in place. Thurman said the wing provides education on the effects of sugar intake, fatigue management and mild exercise during breaks, some of it coming from the newly created “Wingman Tactics Process.”

The program aims to collect and review best wingman practices already in place throughout the wing, and then share those ideas with the remaining wing members. It starts at the bottom — if there is a local solution to a problem affecting a small group of airmen, the successful solution gets passed on and grows to the next level.

The Wingman Tactics Process is modeled off the Air Force’s weapons and tactics processes, but Haugh has fashioned it to be more proactive for the airmen.


Some examples: techniques to optimize the new Airman Comprehensive Assessment Form; resiliency team tactics; a ‘What if tragedy occurs’ exercise; and developing a Heritage Hall for airmen.

“If our wing members have a tactic that enhances the way we care for our Airmen, or accomplish the mission, let’s share it,” Haugh said in a release in October.

Airmen also have the four pillars — spiritual, social, mental and physical — of the Comprehensive Assessment Form to turn to in order to build core strength. A struggle, thus far, has been the social aspect for these airmen stuck in a room for hours on end.


Overcoming isolation

While a multitude of programs are available under the CAF’s four pillars, Thurman sees intel members investing in their spiritual and mental well-being most.

“Most of these airmen are in between the ages of 18 and 25, and most people in [that age group] do not have physical medical problems,” Thurman, in the Air Force eight years, said. But having an extremely stressful job at that age is what makes having someone to talk to extremely important, he said.

The wing is trying to keep the airmen interacting in as many social ways as they can because they are isolated in more ways than one.

Intel airmen aren’t always interacting with other members of the Air Force because of their out-of-sync schedules, Thurman said. A second issue is secrecy. “They may have the best day of their military career … and they can’t tell anybody about it,” he said. Some intel airmen working on Army bases or in remote locations are geographically isolated as well.

Working in shifts for these airmen will probably not change — Thurman said the airmen have their own family life and schedules that, for now, work for them.

With 2,000 people at DCGS-1, the Langley intel platform, “it’s impossible to override a schedule that makes all 2,000 people happy,” Thurman said. Wing leaders have done a good job in giving the airmen leeway to deal with their personal issues before they step into the pod that makes up their daily activity, he said.

But the wing has managed to create a social network among the DCGS airmen.

“Last month we closed DCGS-1 for eight hours and moved the mission over to another DCGS … and got everybody together for a ‘warrior day,’ ” Thurman said. The competitive nature and the camaraderie of the day promoted stress relief.

For now, these airmen will be working together, socializing together and keeping Air Force dentists busy, too.



When Hagel leaves, new SecDef faces big questions about the military’s future

By Andrew Tilghman, Staff writer 5:13 p.m. EST November 24, 2014


President Obama’s new pick to run the Pentagon will face a dizzying set of challenges affecting the Defense Department’s mission, budget and culture.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s resignation Monday comes at a time when the military advance of the Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria is prompting some fundamental reassessments of defense policy and the use of the military.

“The hardest question before the new secretary — and it’s a question the American people are also grappling with — is exactly how much responsibility does the United States have to take for all the problems in a chaotic world?” said Mieke Eoyang, director of the national security program at Third Way, a think tank in Washington.

“I think the resurgence of ISIS over the fall is what is leading the White House to reevaluate that,” she said referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

It remains unclear who Obama will pick to serve as his fourth Defense Secretary. Hagel has agreed to remain in office until his successor is confirmed by the Senate, which will likely be early next year. The front runner is Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy. If selected, she would be the first woman to lead the Defense Department.

The new secretary will be drawn into an intense debate inside the military and the White House about operations in Iraq and Syria. There’s disagreement about the number of U.S. troops and type of operations needed to defeat the Islamic State. Top officials are also debating the nature of the aid the U.S. should provide to the Iraqis and whether money and weapons should be supplied only through the Iraqi government or directly to the Kurdish forces or the Sunni tribal militias.

“There’s a lot of policy to resolve,” said one former military official.

Politically, Obama’s pick may face a bruising battle in the Senate, which in January will be under Republican control for the first time in eight years. The head of the Armed Services Committee will likely be Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a fierce critic of the Obama administration who would use the confirmation process to pressure the White House on foreign policy.

After confirmation, the new secretary will be immediately thrust into another budget crisis. The 2016 budget — due for release early next year — will reignite fears about the budget caps known as sequestration. The two-year deal that temporarily eased the impact of sequestration will expire next year.

A new secretary may come to appreciate the newly empowered GOP, which could give the Pentagon more money, potentially lifting one of Hagel’s biggest constraints.

“The irony is that the Republicans are taking over Congress and may repeal sequestration. And that would make it easier for his successor to deal with things,” said Larry Korb, a defense expert at the Center for American Progress.

A new secretary will also be coming into the Pentagon at a critical moment in the debate about military compensation. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission will issue a massive report about troops pay and benefits, along with proposed legislation, in February.

The commission was created by Congress to help jump-start reform on the controversial topic and the new secretary’s public position on proposed changes will help shape the debate on Capitol Hill.

The new secretary will also likely oversee a critical transition regarding the integration of women into combat units. The services will complete that transition next year or, if service leaders want to keep some jobs or units off limits to women, service leaders will have to provide the secretary with a detailed request an exemption to the new policy.


Chuck Hagel’s resignation underscores defense rifts

Obama and his inner circle didn’t hide their concerns about the defense secretary.

By Philip Ewing and Jennifer Epstein

| 11/24/14 9:33 AM EST

| Updated 11/24/14 8:32 PM EST


As President Barack Obama searches for his fourth defense secretary in six years, Chuck Hagel’s resignation Monday only confirms the perception of how tightly the White House controls the most important national security decision making.

Hagel’s departure follows a drumbeat of complaints by his predecessors, former officials and members of Congress that the National Security Council has assumed nearly all the authority for foreign conflicts, counterterrorism and other vital issues — leaving ever-less involvement for the Defense Department and other agencies.

“I know that Chuck was frustrated with aspects of the administration’s national security policy and decision-making process,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “His predecessors have spoken about the excessive micro-management they faced from the White House and how that made it more difficult to do their jobs successfully. Chuck’s situation was no different.”

Specifically, Hagel had grown frustrated with Obama’s unwillingness to mount a serious push on behalf of defense spending, one Senate aide said, as well as other priorities for the Pentagon.

“Hagel has been pushing back on the administration in regards to the defense budget and some of the defense policy, and that’s kind of what led to this,” the aide said. “He started to no longer be a yes-man.”

Hagel formally notified Obama on Monday that he would step down as soon as the Senate confirms his successor — a process that could take months. In a ceremony at the White House, Obama thanked Hagel for his candor.

“When it’s mattered most, behind closed doors in the Oval Office, you’ve always given it to me straight,” the president said. “For that, I will always be grateful.”

The president’s reference to his and Hagel’s behind-the-scenes discussions was the only allusion to the friction that appears to have led Hagel to quit.

Hagel’s departure was “a mutual decision,” a senior defense official said, reached after “several weeks” of discussions about the outlook for the remainder of the administration.

While a senior administration official on Monday praised Hagel’s “steady hand” during his 22 months on the job, Obama and his inner circle never fully integrated Hagel into the decision-making process and did not hide their concerns about him.

Unlike firings in previous administrations, however, Hagel’s departure will not likely mark a new direction in policy, as President George W. Bush wanted when he relieved then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2006.

“The risk now is making him a scapegoat, when the problems that have most bedeviled us in the Middle East were obviously not his making,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.

A senior defense official acknowledged to POLITICO that there had been policy differences between Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice but said no single disagreement had prompted Hagel’s departure.

“Did he and Rice agree on everything? No — but that’s normal, that’s healthy. This is not about him vs. Susan Rice,” the official said. “The secretary is not resigning in protest.”

The White House said that Hagel initiated conversations about his role in October “given the natural post-midterms transition time.” He finally decided to resign last week.

Hagel told troops in a message on Monday that he didn’t make his decision “lightly” and urged them to keep their attention on deployments around the world and the work of running the vast Defense Department.

“That work will continue,” he wrote. “It must continue. The world is still too dangerous, the threats too numerous, for us to lose focus. And even as I promised the president my full support going forward, so, too, do I promise that I will work hard to support you right up until my last day in office. I owe you that.”

The president said he intends to move quickly to name a successor, though no firm timetable has been suggested. The Republicans take control of the Senate in January.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told CNN on Monday he was “flabbergasted” to hear from Hagel that he was quitting — and warned that whoever Obama picks to replace him can expect “to have a very tough time” in the Senate.

Hagel’s resignation was not publicly expected and rattled the Washington defense establishment.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby had said after the Nov. 4 midterm elections that Hagel had committed to remaining in the administration for its final two years. At a defense conference in California earlier this month, Hagel delivered a speech about acquisition reform as usual and gave no sign that he was planning to leave.

“I don’t get up in the morning and worry about my job,” Hagel told Charlie Rose in an interview televised last week.

All the same, Hagel’s tenure has more often been an anchor for Obama than a help. He endured a long and painful confirmation process that included a widely panned hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee and several weeks of limbo as a Republican filibuster kept him on ice.

More recently he has battled behind the scenes with Rice, even sending her a memo sharply critical of the administration’s strategy for Syria. Senior defense officials have complained in reports by several news organizations, including POLITICO Magazine, about the National Security Council’s micromanagement of national security and the growing centralization of decision making by the White House.

Both of Hagel’s predecessors in the Obama administration, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, have written books complaining about the president’s national security policy process, and other critics seized on Hagel’s departure on Monday.

Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey have sought to preserve maneuvering room for U.S. commanders to send troops to Iraq to help Iraqis in their battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Now, Obama must gear up for a major new confirmation battle in the Senate, depending on how quickly he can find a replacement.

Potential successors could include Michèle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense who now runs the Center for a New American Security; Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work; or another administration alumnus such as Ash Carter, who stepped down as Hagel’s first deputy secretary.

Hagel’s tenure at the Pentagon has mostly been reactive. He launched major studies or reviews following the 2013 Washington Navy Yard shooting, scandals at military hospitals and revelations about cheating and decay within the Air Force’s nuclear weapons units.

He also has taken on Panetta’s initiative to integrate more women into combat units, but that work has been slow in the Marine officer corps and in the special operations forces.


The Army has just begun an initial effort to send women to its elite Ranger School; completing that work will be among the challenges waiting for Hagel’s successor.

House Speaker John Boehner said Washington must use the transition as an opportunity to re-examine Obama’s strategy for fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

“This personnel change must be part of a larger rethinking of our strategy to confront the threats we face abroad, especially the threat posed by the rise of ISIL,” he said. “We cannot defeat this enemy without a broad, coordinated, well-thought-out effort that has the strong support of the American people. Thus far, this administration has fallen well short.”

Read more:


US: Commercial Farming, Other Industries React to Forthcoming FAA Drone Rules

by Press • 25 November 2014



News about forthcoming rules from the Federal Aviation Administration for the operation of drones was met with mixed reaction by those experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles. At least one person expressed concern that the rules may inhibit adoption by farmers, while others saw any potential movement by the FAA as a good sign that the industry might move forward.

Federal rules on commercial drones are expected to require operators to have a license and limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls, the Journal’s Jack Nicas and Andy Pasztor reported Monday. The FAA is still in the process of drafting the rules, so it can’t comment on them, an FAA spokesman told CIO Journal.

The line of sight rule may be an issue for commercial farming because of the huge acreages involved, said Phil Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Oregon State University. For the past two summers, the university has used unmanned aerial vehicles to photograph potato crops for monitoring purposes. This work was done under a permit for research testing from the FAA.

“You want to be able to pre-program these vehicles to fly your fields and return home,” he told CIO Journal. While farmers may have someone guiding them from a central place, a line of sight rule means that you can only fly one circle of 125 acres, he added.

And, while Oregon State has used licensed pilots to operate its unmanned aerial vehicles, Mr. Hamm told CIO Journal that the requirement may not be necessary for all types of drones, particularly the smallest ones.

Still, some in the industry welcomed any sign that the FAA might be moving forward with rules. “The forthcoming FAA rulemaking is a critical milestone in the unmanned aircraft systems integration process, and one that is long overdue,” said Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, in an email. “After continued delays in the rulemaking process, the release of the proposed rule will bring us one step closer to realizing the many societal and economic benefits of UAS technology,” he added.


Mr. Toscano said he hadn’t yet seen the draft rule and could not comment on specifics. “As an industry, we believe it’s important that the forthcoming rule enables the many civil and commercial uses for UAS technology in a safe and responsible manner without being unnecessarily restrictive,” he said.

The agriculture industry should appreciate the decision as it will drive manufacturers and operators to improve their equipment and operations to match safety and standards that have made our national airspace a safe and effective means for commerce, said Brian Whiteside, president of VDOS Global LLC, which wants to use its drones to perform inspections in the Gulf of Mexico for a major energy producer. “While this may have some short-term negative effects, long term this is what is needed to bring the technology forward,” he added.

Currently, FAA regulations effectively prohibit the use of commercial drones unless an exemption has been granted. On September 25, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the FAA had granted the first exemptions for the commercial use of drones to some aerial photo and video production companies for use in Hollywood. The FAA has not yet granted exemptions for the commercial use of drones in the agricultural industry, but companies say they hope the agency might do so by the end of the year.


New Zealand:- New civil aviation rule proposed for unmanned aircraft

by Press • 25 November 2014


Industry and the public will soon get an opportunity to have their say on a proposed Civil Aviation Rule for unmanned aircraft operations.

Commonly known as UAVs, drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), most unmanned aircraft operations are currently regulated by a rule designed for model aircraft.

Steve Moore, CAA General Manager – General Aviation, says most unmanned aircraft can fly much faster, further, and higher than traditional model aircraft.

The advanced performance characteristics of unmanned aircraft mean they can be used for a much wider range of applications including scientific research, film and video production and agriculture.

“This can mean greater safety risks for airspace users, and for people and property. It’s important we update the rules in recognition of those risks.

“Ultimately, users will need to abide by the new rule, so it is important they get the chance to have input into its development,” he says.

Recent advances in technology have led to significant growth in the number of unmanned aircraft operations, particularly RPAS, world-wide.

The proposed rule is part of the CAA’s strategy to integrate unmanned aircraft into the aviation system.

“It is important that we put in place a comprehensive regulatory framework that is flexible enough to accommodate further growth over the long-term.”

The proposed rule focuses on the safety risks associated with high performance unmanned aircraft, with operators of high risk unmanned aircraft likely to require CAA certification. Initial consultation in developing the rule has involved users, including industry group UAVNZ, and Callaghan Innovation.

“We are aware that these operations are opening up significant business opportunities in areas like real estate, film and television and scientific research.

“We want to make sure the new rule does not impose an undue regulatory burden on operators and will seek feedback on this and other aspects during the consultation period,” says Steve Moore.

“We want to make sure that recreational users can still operate in a low-risk environment, and will modify the existing rules so they can continue to do this where appropriate,” he says.

Unmanned aircraft can be purchased from retail outlets and also online for a few hundred dollars. In some cases users may not be aware they are subject to Civil Aviation Rules, he says.

“The CAA encourages anyone who wants to operate an unmanned aircraft to find out what their safety obligations are before they fly.”

The CAA’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making will be issued on 4 December 2014. Members of the public and industry can give feedback until 30 January 2015 through the CAA web site:



UK: Drones might be the must-have Christmas present, but owners could be breaking the law

by Press • 25 November 2014

By Chris Pyke


Drones might be flying off the shelves in the lead up to Christmas but you could easily fall foul of the law when operating one

The many people unwrapping a drone on Christmas Day morning may not realise that by the afternoon they could be breaking the law.

With the price of drones for the amateur starting from as little as £35 – with more sophisticated models costing up to £300 and even higher-spec devices costing into the thousands – the flying devices have found their way to the top of a lot of Christmas present lists.

But an intended fun gift could mean the new proud owner may be unwittingly breaking the law when they take-off with their new toy.

The unmanned aircraft are used for aerial photograph or video, capturing anything from coastal paths to castles to the humble back garden.

Unmanned aircraft have often been used by model aircraft enthusiasts for recreational purposes. Unlike manned aircraft or model aircraft used for pleasure there are no established operating guidelines so operators may not be aware of the potential dangers – or indeed the responsibility they have towards not endangering the public.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) does have specific rules on flying drones, or unmanned aircraft, that limit where the owner can fly the craft.


Drones cannot be flown over or within 150m of any congested area, over or within 150m of an organised open-air crowd of more than 1,000 people, within 50m of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft or within 50m of any person except during take-off.

The person in charge of the aircraft must also maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the device in order to monitor its flight-path and avoid possible collisions with other aircraft as well as people and buildings.

Huw Evans, owner of Huw Evans Picture Agency, pointed out that anyone using a drone for commercial purposes must have training and pass exams before using them.

And he said he was concerned about safety with untrained people operating the drones, pointing out an incident at an event in Virginia in the United States when an unmanned aircraft crashed into the crowd and left five people hurt.

This was also a worry for Beverley Richards, operations director at SkyCam Wales, who said: “Professional commercial ‘drone’ operators must obtain permission for aerial work (PFAW) from the CAA.

“This involves a ground school, written exams, production of an operational manual, flight exam and airworthiness tests. Only upon completion of all this is it possible to get public liability insurance.

“Skycam Wales uses professional ‘drones’ and camera equipment but the regulations are the same for hobbyists using small quadcopters with tiny cameras. The only difference is receiving payment or reward thus necessitating a PFAW.”

Mr Evans added: “A 14-year-old could buy one and they are not going to read the CAA regs. You are only going to come under the CAA radar when images are being sold commercially.”

The CAA have produced leaflets to explain the rules and dangers of flying a drone but they are not included in the packaging of devices as yet.

“You do need to follow these rules,” said a CAA spokesman, who added that they were looking to do more to raise awareness and had produced a leaflet for new drone operators.

The leaflet has eight points for the new owners, such as it being illegal to fly over congested areas and that you are legally responsible for each flight.

Resource Group Training Solutions, in Cwmbran, runs courses in unmanned aircraft, which provided the licence for Mr Evans to operate a drone,

“UK Aviation legislation is focused on the safe operation of manned aircraft,” said Craig Palmer at Resource Group Unmanned Aviation Services.

“Remote pilots must work within the same regulatory framework. Remote pilots must be aware that when operating they have a legal responsibility for the safe conduct of each flight. Failure to comply could lead to a criminal prosecution.

“Resource Group is a UK CAA national qualified entity and we pride ourselves on our professional and thorough approach to air safety within our remote pilot qualification programme.

“We work closely with many manufacturers and distributors to ensure that the safety message remains paramount to all involved within the industry.

“The students we train come to us to gain the experience and knowledge, both theoretical and practical, needed to operate safely. We require them to prove a high level of skill before we sign them off as competent remote pilots capable of working safely in UK airspace.


“We believe that safe operation, whether for commercial or recreational flying, needs to be at the forefront of any remote pilot’s mind. The message for us is clear: ‘Fly safe, fly legal or don’t fly and if in doubt ask’.”


Drone Flights Face FAA Hit

Looming Rule Proposal Would Restrict Commercial Uses, Require Pilot License


The Wall Street Journal

By Jack Nicas and Andy Pasztor

Updated Nov. 24, 2014 11:14 a.m. ET


Highly anticipated federal rules on commercial drones are expected to require operators to have a license and limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls, according to people familiar with the rule-making process.

The drone industry has awaited commercial rules for about six years, hoping the rules would pave the way for widespread drone use in industries such as farming, filmmaking and construction. Current FAA policy allows recreational drone flights in the U.S. but essentially bars drones from commercial use.

While the FAA wants to open the skies to unmanned commercial flights, the expected rules are more restrictive than drone supporters sought and wouldn’t address privacy concerns over the use of drones, people familiar with the matter said.

The agency also plans to group all drones weighing less than 55 pounds under one set of rules. That would dash hopes for looser rules on the smallest drones, such as the 2.8-pound Phantom line of camera-equipped, four-rotor helicopters made by China’s SZ DJI Technology Co. Similar-sized devices are seen as the most commercially viable drones and have surged in popularity in the last two years.

Drone sightings this week by airline pilots flying into New York’s JFK International Airport pose high aviation risks. WSJ’s Andrew Tangel and Simon Constable discuss. Photo: Getty

Small-drone supporters say such models are less risky to people and structures than heavier drones like Boeing Co. ‘s ScanEagle, a gas-powered, 40-pound aircraft with a 10-foot wingspan that can stay aloft for more than 24 hours. ConocoPhillips Co. uses the ScanEagle to gather data on Arctic ice pack and whale migrations.

In addition, pilot certifications likely to be proposed by the FAA would typically require dozens of hours flying manned aircraft, according to people familiar with the rule-making discussions. Drone proponents have resisted requiring traditional pilot training for drone operators.

FAA officials expect to announce proposed rules by year-end. The proposal will kick off a public comment period that is likely to flood the agency with feedback. It could take one or two years to issue final rules.


Recent milestones in commercial-drone use in the U.S.


On Sept. 25, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration authorizes six filmmaking companies to use unmanned aircraft for their work. Above, a drone on the set of the 2012 James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ in Istanbul.

Commercial drone use is on the rise in big industry, including filmmaking, farming and construction. The rush to the skies comes despite the fact that commercial drone use is mostly banned in the U.S. The Federal Aviation Administration is considering loosening the rules. But the regulator is moving carefully because the technology is potentially dangerous and raises privacy concerns.

One of the first milestones in the U.S. for commercial drones was the co-founding of 3D Robotics Inc. in 2009 by the former editor of Wired magazine Chris Anderson. The firm is now one of the leading makers of consumer drones and flight-control systems that customers use to build their own drones. Mr. Anderson is also the founder of, a popular forum for drone enthusiasts.

In 2010, Parrot SA debuts its AR.Drone, a quadcopter that is controlled by a user’s smartphone priced at $300. It becomes a starter drone for many enthusiasts.

Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co. in January 2013 releases the DJI Phantom, an easy-to-fly quadcopter priced under $1,000 that can carry a GoPro camera. The device becomes popular for capturing aerial footage. DJI has sold thousands of units in the U.S. and abroad. Inc. in December 2013 unveils its plan to deliver packages via drone, a service it dubs Amazon Prime Air. The company showcases a prototype on ’60 Minutes’ and says its drones would eventually be able to deliver small packages in less than 30 minutes. Drones take a big step in the public consciousness from machines of war to commercial gadgets.

In June 2014, BP PLC signs a five-year contract to use drones made by AeroVironment Inc. at its oil operations in Alaska, the first large-scale, government-approved commercial use of unmanned aircraft in the U.S. The FAA has approved one other drone for commercial use, the 40-pound ScanEagle made by a Boeing Co. subsidiary ConocoPhillips used in test flights.<br>

On Aug. 28, 2014, Google Inc. says it is developing drones to deliver goods. Google unveils a 5-foot-wide single-wing prototype that has carried supplies to two farmers in Queensland, Australia. Google says it began working on drones in 2011 and dubs the plans Project Wing.

On Sept. 25, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration authorizes six filmmaking companies to use unmanned aircraft for their work. Above, a drone on the set of the 2012 James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ in Istanbul.

Commercial drone use is on the rise in big industry, including filmmaking, farming and construction. The rush to the skies comes despite the fact that commercial drone use is mostly banned in the U.S. The Federal Aviation Administration is considering loosening the rules. But the regulator is moving carefully because the technology is potentially dangerous and raises privacy concerns.

One of the first milestones in the U.S. for commercial drones was the co-founding of 3D Robotics Inc. in 2009 by the former editor of Wired magazine Chris Anderson. The firm is now one of the leading makers of consumer drones and flight-control systems that customers use to build their own drones. Mr. Anderson is also the founder of, a popular forum for drone enthusiasts. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

In 2010, Parrot SA debuts its AR.Drone, a quadcopter that is controlled by a user’s smartphone priced at $300. It becomes a starter drone for many enthusiasts. Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co. in January 2013 releases the DJI Phantom, an easy-to-fly quadcopter priced under $1,000 that can carry a GoPro camera. The device becomes popular for capturing aerial footage. DJI has sold thousands of units in the U.S. and abroad. DJI North America/Associated Press Inc. in December 2013 unveils its plan to deliver packages via drone, a service it dubs Amazon Prime Air. The company showcases a prototype on ’60 Minutes’ and says its drones would eventually be able to deliver small packages in less than 30 minutes. Drones take a big step in the public consciousness from machines of war to commercial gadgets. Amazon

In June 2014, BP PLC signs a five-year contract to use drones made by AeroVironment Inc. at its oil operations in Alaska, the first large-scale, government-approved commercial use of unmanned aircraft in the U.S. The FAA has approved one other drone for commercial use, the 40-pound ScanEagle made by a Boeing Co. subsidiary ConocoPhillips used in test flights.

On Aug. 28, 2014, Google Inc. says it is developing drones to deliver goods. Google unveils a 5-foot-wide single-wing prototype that has carried supplies to two farmers in Queensland, Australia. Google says it began working on drones in 2011 and dubs the plans Project Wing. Google/Associated Press

On Sept. 25, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration authorizes six filmmaking companies to use unmanned aircraft for their work. Above, a drone on the set of the 2012 James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ in Istanbul. Flying-Cam

In a statement, the FAA said it is working to “integrate unmanned aircraft into the busiest, most complex airspace system in the world—and to do so while we maintain our mission—protecting the safety of the American people in the air and on the ground. That is why we are taking a staged approach to the integration of these new airspace users.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the current FAA proposal and seeking comments from other parts of the government, including the Pentagon and law-enforcement agencies. Last-minute objections could change some specifics and delay release of the proposed rules.

The agency has said it is moving carefully on drone rules out of concern for potential collisions with other aircraft and injury to people and structures on the ground.

Airline pilots and aircraft owners have supported the cautious approach. But some drone-industry officials predict a loud backlash to the proposal.

“I feel like there’s a colossal mess coming,” said Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, an advocacy group for drone makers and innovators, including Google Inc. and Inc. The rule is going to be “so divorced from the technology and the aspirations of this industry…that we’re going to see a loud rejection.”

Unmanned aircraft have proliferated in U.S. skies as technology makes them smaller, cheaper, more powerful and easier to fly. While the FAA has helped build unparalleled safety into passenger air-travel with strict manufacturing and operating rules, the system didn’t foresee thousands of small aircraft buzzing around at low altitude.

The FAA’s current policy allows commercial drone flights only with case-by-case approval. Officials have authorized just a handful of companies so far.

Still, thousands of entrepreneurs are believed to be flying the devices without FAA clearance, making it hard for those operators to get insurance.

Some government and aviation-industry officials are worried about surging use without meaningful oversight. Pilots are increasingly reporting midair drone sightings, including three near John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York last week.

Drone proponents say the U.S.’s regulatory approach is less accommodating than in other countries. This month, Canada plans to issue blanket approval for all commercial operations that use drones weighing less than 4.4 pounds as long as they comply with certain safety standards, such as altitude limits and no-fly zones around airports.

The FAA must “properly balance regulatory restrictions and the safety risks posed by” various sizes of unmanned aircraft, said Ted Ellett, a former FAA chief counsel who now is a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells US LLP. Mr. Ellett said a “one-size-fits-all” approach “will create yet another unnecessary and costly impediment.”

The FAA plans to group all drones weighing less than 55 pounds under one set of rules. Gretchen West, former executive vice president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the nation’s biggest drone-lobbying group, said large, powerful drones like those used by the military got more attention when the FAA began working on the rules.

Since then, much of the growth has shifted to smaller drones. The expected rules are “going to be very restrictive for small systems,” she added.

Jesse Kallman, head of regulatory affairs for drone-software firm Airware, said requiring commercial drone pilots to have cockpit training “will end up excluding someone who has hundreds of hours of experience on an unmanned aircraft in favor of a pilot who understands how to operate a Cessna but not an unmanned aircraft.”

In exemptions granted to six filmmaking companies to use drones on film sets earlier this year, the FAA required operators to have private-pilot licenses.

The FAA’s draft rule is expected to require lower-level pilot certifications requiring fewer flight hours, according to people familiar with the matter.

But with roughly 150 exemption requests pending, some experts predict the agency may end up establishing important legal precedents long before the formal regulatory effort ends. The FAA “is now embarking on an unprecedented use of rule-making by exemption, yet Congress invited it and everyone knows the final rule is over a year away,” said Kenneth Quinn, another former FAA chief counsel who heads the aviation and unmanned aircraft practice at the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in Washington.

One former FAA official said the agency is concerned that statutes bar it from authorizing commercial aircraft operations that don’t have a certified pilot.

The agency is drafting language asking Congress for greater flexibility, this person said.

The planned 400-foot flying limit within the operator’s sight largely follows the FAA’s current rules for recreational uses of drones. Those rules are based partly on voluntary guidelines for model aircraft published by the agency in 1981.

Drone proponents say the FAA is relying on decades-old regulations that don’t account for advancements in technology. Many drone pilots use “first-person view” technology allowing them to rely on real-time footage from a drone’s camera broadcast to their controller or headwear that resembles virtual-reality visors. Users can add infrared and other sensors for night or low-visibility missions.

The FAA’s expected requirement for daylight flights within the operator’s sight would essentially prohibit many commercial applications, such as pipeline inspections and crop monitoring on large farms.

The FAA is awaiting data from a number of test sites before proposing regulations affecting drones that weigh more than 55 pounds. That process is expected to take at least several years. Until then, many states and local governments are likely to establish their own standards.

Write to Jack Nicas at and Andy Pasztor at


White House Needs Strategic Thinker at Pentagon, and Quickly, Former Official Says

Nov. 24, 2014 – 03:45AM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments


WASHINGTON — Eyebrows were raised earlier this month when an unannounced but widely anticipated trip by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to Asia in early December was abruptly called off.

When reporters in the Pentagon’s press room began to push for answers and speculate over the fate of the secretary, they were quickly assuaged by a host of officials who brushed away such concerns, pointing to upcoming Congressional testimony as the cause for what they insisted was merely a postponement of the trip.

Now we know that — according to the official accounts, at least — Hagel had for weeks been in discussions with the White House about his future, and it was clear that he wasn’t long for the top job in the Pentagon.

But when the announcement came on Monday, with no successor named to be chewed over during the lame duck session of the 113th Congress, a litany of familiar names cropped up as Hagel’s potential replacement.

At the top of the list — as she has been before — sits Michele Flournoy, a longtime defense expert who has spent a career moving in and out of government service, academia and the think tank world.

Former deputy defense secretary Ash Carter is also on the short list, and it is widely held that either one is more than qualified to take the Pentagon’s top job.

But some there is a real question of how much it will ultimately matter who gets to sit in the big seat at the five-sided building across the river, given the White House’s penchant for controlling national security matters tightly, along with a powerful National Security Council that has the president’s trust and clashed not only with Hagel, but his predecessors Leon Panetta and Bob Gates.

One defense analyst, Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners, asked “why would [Flournoy or Carter] really want to do this for what could be a very short period of time?” The Obama administration’s clock runs out in January 2017.

For anybody considering this position now, especially those thought to be friendly to a democratic administration, Callan thinks the answer might be “thanks but no thanks, I’ll wait until 2016” and see what their chances are under the next administration, particularly if Hillary Clinton emerges as a frontrunner.

But not everyone sees such reluctance once a call from the White House comes.

“The reality is you just can’t count on that call from the White House ever coming, and I think it’s extremely compelling when the president of the United States asks you to take on a cabinet level position” said one former high-ranking Pentagon official who asked not to be named.

The official pointed out that Bob Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld with only two years left in the Bush administration, and managed to not only be a driver of change, but extended his stay into the Obama administration.

Underlining Hagel’s imminent departure is a stark reminder of how much things have changed since his taking the job in February 2013, and how much the White House’s expectations have shifted of what is needed in a secretary of defense.

When Hagel was first nominated, the White House “probably thought this was about drawing down and keeping the budget in check and shifting focus to Asia, but none of that is today true” the former official said. “The bigger global strategic issues have come back to the forefront, so the administration would likely look for someone who has the background to think through those problems.”

While the big strategic issues of the Islamic State group, Iraq, Syria, Russia, and China are still being grappled with both at the White House and in the Pentagon, the management of the Pentagon itself is going through a time of disruptive change, and with it a management restructure — even if relatively modest — will likely be one of the results of sequestration.

And here, Michele Flournoy appears well placed to take the reigns. After vacating the undersecretary of defense for policy job which she held from 2009 to 2012, Flournoy headed for the Boston Consulting Group, where she wrote several op-eds outlining ways to cut defense spending. One defense consultant has also said that while there, Flournoy delivered a series of private talks to clients about how critical it was to reform management processes in the Pentagon.

It’s this insider perspective that the White House is likely looking for.

During his Monday press briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that whoever is nominated to take over at the Pentagon will be “somebody who knows the inner workings of the department well” and has the “leadership skills and management skills that are necessary” to manage such a large organization “in a time of crisis.”

Adding to the sense of crisis is the fact that any new secretary will face questioning from a Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee.

Outgoing Republican head of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon told CNN on Monday that the president is “gonna have a very tough time getting any nomination through [Congress] so we may have Secretary Hagel there for a while.”

But several sources don’t see either Flournoy or Carter has having much difficulty in getting through the confirmation process, McKeon’s comments aside.


And there’s not a lot of time.

Given the dwindling amount of time left in the Obama administration, and having already been burned in Hagel’s confirmation hearings which exposed holes in his knowledge of administration policies, the White House will most assuredly “want someone who can hit the ground running” the former defense official said. “So that limits your pool of people under consideration because you don’t have 6 months” to spool up.

Speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center on Oct. 22, Flournoy nicely laid out a series of views that are very much in line with the message that has come out of the White House and Pentagon over the last several years, though perhaps more eloquently stated than Hagel has often managed to express.

“There’s a huge disconnect between where we see the world going, the demands that are going to be placed on the US military and what our policy is with regard to defense spending,” she said.

“Congress has got to give the Pentagon the authorities to reform, to be able to spend its money smarter and more efficiently and arrest cost growth in certain areas. Even with that you can’t expect to defend the nation under sequestration. The risks are real and they are accumulating…you’ve got to invest more in defense over time, particularly regaining readiness in the near term and investing in the capabilities we’re going to need for the future.”


In keeping with the Better Buying Power and Offset initiatives being pushed by deputy secretary of defense Bob Work and chief weapons buyer Frank Kendall, Flournoy also insisted on the importance of “letting the department come into the 21st century as far as its business practices.”

Writing in The National Interest magazine in August with Richard Fontaine, president of CNAS, the duo argued for “a sustainable brand of American internationalism” which would “reverse the harmful effects of sequestration and address the issues of skyrocketing military benefits and gross inefficiencies in the Department of Defense in order to reinvest in defense preparedness and future combat capabilities” which also emphasizing “the long-term American relationship with Iraq and Afghanistan in order to protect U.S. interests there.”

Fine words, but the fact remains that the Obama has developed a bad reputation when it comes to secretaries of defense, as seen by the fact that it has burned through a secretary every two years.

At the Reagan National Defense Forum in California earlier this month, former secretary Panetta lamented that “because of that centralization of authority at the White House, there are too few voices that are being heard in terms of the ability to make decisions.”

Sitting on the same panel, Bob Gates added that “it’s in the increasing interest of the White House to control and manage every aspect of military affairs. When a president wants highly centralized control of the White House at every degree of micromanagement that I’m describing, that’s not bureaucratic, that’s political.” ■


New DoD cloud policy delayed to early December

Nov. 25, 2014 |

Written by AARON BOYD


The Department of Defense’s new cloud procurement policy — expected to drop last week — is now slated to be released in early December, according to a spokesperson from the DoD Office of the Chief Information Officer.

In an effort to speed the department’s move to cloud computing, the new policy will divest authority from the Defense Information System Agency to the contracting officers at each branch and agency within DoD. Before issuing the policy, a memo has been circulating among the component agencies for review, a process that is still ongoing.

Despite minor delays, the policy should be signed and released in early December, sooner than later, according to the DoD representative.

Stakeholders eagerly awaiting the new policy are curious about the ultimate role of DISA and the DoD OCIO, both of which will have some authority to review cloud purchases for security and interoperability, though their specific functions have yet to be defined publicly.

Acting director of strategic planning and information at DISA, Alfred Rivera, gave some indication of what to expect from the new policy.

“DISA is going to be moving away from participation as cloud broker and in cloud services, with more focus on providing security guidelines to include security reference models, the basis in determining costs and the types of applications that are candidates for cloud services,” Rivera said, quoted in an earlier article. “I think we’re going to continue to play a very big role from the cloud broker perspective in that respect as cloud server provider, [and] also be a vehicle for network access to cloud service providers [that are] available, secure and reliable. Those two elements are still going to be germane to DISA’s responsibility.”


Near-collisions between drones, airliners surge, new FAA reports show

By Craig Whitlock November 26 at 1:06 PM 


Pilots around the United States have reported a surge in near-collisions and other dangerous encounters with small drones in the past six months at a time when the Federal Aviation Administration is gradually opening the nation’s skies to remotely controlled aircraft, according to FAA records.

Since June 1, commercial airlines, private pilots and air-traffic controllers have alerted the FAA about at least 25 episodes in which small drones came within a few seconds or a few feet of crashing into much larger aircraft, the records show. Many of the close calls occurred during takeoffs and landings at the nation’s busiest airports, presenting a new threat to aviation safety after decades of steady improvement in air travel.

Many of the previously unreported incident reports — released Wednesday by the FAA in response to long-standing public-records requests from The Washington Post and other news organizations — occurred near New York and Washington.

The FAA data indicates that drones are posing a much greater hazard to air traffic than previously recognized.

Until Wednesday, the FAA had publicly disclosed only one other near-midair collision between a drone and a passenger aircraft — a March 22 encounter between a US Airways plane near Tallahassee, Fla., and what the pilot described as a small, remotely piloted aircraft at an altitude of 2,300 feet.

On Sept. 30, air-traffic controllers at LaGuardia airport in New York reported that Republic Airways Flight 6230 was “almost hit” by a brightly colored small drone at an altitude of 4,000 feet as the passenger plane was descending to land. On Sept. 8 at LaGuardia, three different regional airliners — ExpressJet, Pinnacle and Chautauqua — reported “very close calls” with a drone within minutes of each other at a height of about 2,000 feet as they were preparing to land.

On July 29, a US Airways shuttle flight that had departed from Reagan National Airport reported an extraordinarily narrow encounter with a yellow drone with a four-foot wingspan that suddenly passed within 50 feet of the aircraft while it was approaching LaGuardia.

In Washington, Porter Airlines Flight 725 from Toronto was descending to Dulles International Airport at an altitude of 2,800 feet on June 29 when it reported that a black-and-silver drone zipped past, just 50 feet away. On June 1, a United Airlines flight originating from Rome alerted the control tower at Dulles that a four-engine helicopter drone interfered with its descent and passed just 100 feet underneath the Boeing 767.

The 25 near-midair collisions were among more than 175 incidents in which pilots and air-traffic controllers have reported seeing drones near airports or in restricted airspace. Pilots described most of the rogue drones as small camera-equipped models that have become increasingly popular with hobbyists and photographers.


Although such drones often measure only a few feet in diameter and weigh less than 10 pounds, aviation safety experts say they could easily trigger an accident by striking another plane’s propeller or getting sucked into a jet engine.

“The potential for catastrophic damage is certainly there,” said Fred Roggero, a retired Air Force major general who was in charge of aviation safety investigations for the service and now serves as a consultant to companies seeking to fly drones commercially.

The reported increase in unsafe encounters comes as the FAA is facing heavy pressure from federal lawmakers and drone manufacturers to move more quickly to open the skies to remotely controlled aircraft.

Under a 2012 law, Congress ordered the FAA to legalize drones and safely integrate them into the national airspace. The FAA is still developing regulations to make that happen, a process that is expected to take years.

Under FAA guidelines, it is legal for hobbyists to fly small drones for recreational purposes, as long as they keep them under 400 feet and five miles away from airports. Flying drones for commercial purposes is largely prohibited, although the FAA has begun to issue special permits to filmmakers and other industries to operate drones on a case-by-case basis.

The agency, however, is facing a monumental task to enforce its rules. It lacks the manpower to police airports or effectively track down offenders.

In a statement, the FAA acknowledged that it is now receiving about 25 reports a month from pilots who have seen drones operating in close vicinity.

“In partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the FAA has identified unsafe and unauthorized [drone] operations and contacted the individual operators to educate them about how they can operate safely under current regulations and laws,” the agency said. The FAA has also issued fines to rogue drone operators on a handful of occasions.

Many of the close calls have been reported to the FAA by pilots of helicopters and small planes.

“All it’s going to take is for one to come through a windshield to hurt some people or kill someone,” said Kyle Fortune, who was flying a four-seat Cirrus SR-22 near Medford, Ore., on Sept. 22 when he said a drone about four feet in diameter suddenly appeared 100 feet underneath his plane. He was flying at an altitude of 4,000 feet — about 10 times higher than the FAA’s height restrictions for small drones.

“It was some idiot out there with a drone. I have no idea what he was doing up there, taking pictures or whatnot,” Fortune said in an interview. “If it had come through the cockpit it wouldn’t have been a good day.”

Several other near-midair collisions have been reported by pilots of rescue helicopters used to transport patients needing emergency medical attention.

A Life Flight helicopter in Pottsville, Pa., reported Nov. 19 that it was descending at 2,400 feet when a flight nurse in the co-pilot seat suddenly yelled: “Watch out!” A small drone was flying straight toward the rescue helicopter “at a high rate of closure,” according to a report that the crew said it filed with the FAA.

The pilot was forced to make a sharp banking turn to the right to avoid a collision, according to the report. The crew estimated that the drone passed by with about 50 to 100 feet of separation.

Greg Lynskey, government relations manager for the Association of Air Medical Services, said small drones were becoming a major concern for rescue helicopter crews around the country. He said the FAA guidelines that allow hobbyists to fly drones as long as they stay five miles away from airports are too lax and do little to protect helicopters that fly near hospitals or pick up patients at accident scenes on the ground.

“I’m hoping this can get worked out before we have a catastrophic incident,” he said. “It wouldn’t take much to bring down a helicopter. If a drone hits the tail rotor, that’d pretty much be it.”



Here’s What the Rewrite of DOD’s Cloud Strategy Will Look Like

By Frank Konkel

November 25, 2014


An update to the Defense Department’s cloud computing strategy aims to decentralize the process for purchasing commercial cloud solutions away from the Defense Information Systems Agency and toward individual agencies, according to a draft document of the retooled cloud strategy obtained by Nextgov.

The 46-page draft document has not been released publicly and is subject to change, according to a DOD spokeswoman. DOD acting Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen alluded to its pending release in a recent speech.

The new strategy, “DOD Cloud Way Forward,” describes a “cradle-to-grave process” that service providers and customers can follow to get DOD computing to the cloud.

Perhaps the biggest shift spelled out in the document will be DISA’s more limited role.

Under DOD’s current cloud strategy, DISA has acted as a cloud broker for the whole agency, handling both security assessments of potential cloud offerings and contracting duties. The new strategy would enable individual agencies to pursue approved cloud services through their own contract offices.

While several cloud pilots are ongoing within DOD, DISA’s all-encompassing role became a bottleneck between cloud service providers and DOD customers.

DISA will, however, still play a significant role in ensuring security, according to the draft strategy and recent remarks from Halvorsen.

“DISA will have a role in looking to make sure that as we go more commercial, we have met the security requirements,” Halvorsen said in a Nov. 6 speech. “We’ve spent a lot of time over the past 90 days really figuring out what do we have to have from a security standpoint for what levels of data.”


Cloud Security Levels Get a Rewrite

The draft document makes several important proposed revisions to its cloud security model, including modified security levels that distinguish between national security systems and DOD computing systems that are not national security systems.

The proposed change reduces the number of security controls required for non-national security systems – an important distinction given that much of DOD’s workload is not within national security systems. It would also “change the specific categorization levels (Low, Moderate, High) for the cloud security impact levels (1-6),” according to the draft document.


The system of impact levels are the result of DISA’s attempt to categorize data depending on a broad, three-tier risk scale — low, moderate or high — based on the type, confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data.

DOD policymakers want to change impact levels in a few different ways, according to the draft document.

For example, impact levels 1 and 2 would be more aligned with Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program’s “moderate” designation. That means cloud service providers that go through the civilian government’s standardized cloud security assessment can get their skin in the game for DOD’s public-facing, lowest-risk data.

Currently, cloud providers have to adhere to additional requirements on top of FedRAMP’s baseline standards.

Impact levels 3 and 4 would also be modified to accommodate non-national security systems’ controlled unclassified information — another example of DOD shifting away from treating all its systems as national security systems.

In addition, one proposed change is to allow non-DOD federal government tenants access to cloud services vetted at impact levels 3-6.

The document alludes to legal challenges inherent in DOD storing controlled unclassified data in a public cloud. Opening impact levels 3-6 to other federal agencies could circumvent that legal issue, the document stated.

Other potential changes include amending the security control baselines for impact levels 5 and 6 from “High-High to Moderate-Moderate.” That comes after feedback from the 45-day report suggested the “High-High” baseline for impact levels 5 and 6 “exceeds the requirements of the vast majority of fielded DOD systems.”

Specific DOD customers would, however, have the option to negotiate additional security controls directly with cloud service providers.


An Evolving Effort, But Questions Remain

DOD’s move to cloud computing has been much slower than that of its counterparts across the rest of government.

While civilian agencies and even the intelligence community have found ways to bring innovative, daring solutions to government, DOD has lagged behind mostly because of security concerns.

IDC Government Insights concluded in a September report the federal government spent more than $3 billion on cloud computing in fiscal 2014, but the Pentagon’s cloud spend accounts for only a fraction of that total.

A revamped cloud security model may help expedite DOD’s cloud migration, but assuming few changes to the draft document before its public release, some questions still remain.

The draft document does not thoroughly delineate how DOD will handle creating cloud access points between a cloud service providers and the NIPRNet, the nonclassified IP router network, used by DOD to exchange sensitive but unclassified information.

Workloads at impact levels 3 and up will require a connection to the NIPRNet, but there’s been little guidance from DOD to industry on that front, according to multiple industry sources.

If the draft holds, another interesting point sure to raise eyebrows is that workloads at impact levels 3-5 cannot be hosted in a public cloud environment.


The draft guidance states that virtually separating tenants “is allowed if all tenants are federal government cloud customers. Otherwise, the DOD will require the cloud infrastructure to be physically separated from non-DOD/federal government tenants.”

In other words, the draft language indicates only cloud providers with government-only enclaves will be able to host data at impact levels 3 and above. Data at impact level 6, which includes classified information, can only be hosted in an environment physically separated from anything other than other DOD entities hosting impact level 6 information.

The DOD spokeswoman declined to discuss the draft with Nextgov.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 29, 2014


  Did Thanksgiving come just in time? After outrage over the expected yet controversial grand jury decision in Ferguson and contention over the president’s executive action on immigration, perhaps Americans needed a day to step back and reflect.

On Monday, the St. Louis County Grand Jury decided not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown back in August. Prior to the decision, most Americans didn’t expect Wilson to be charged with murder, and half said the U.S. Justice Department should not try to charge him for federal crimes related to the Brown shooting.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Americans expected violent protests if Wilson is not charged with murder, but only 28% believed them to be the result of legitimate outrage over the case.  Fifty percent (50%) thought it would be mostly criminals taking advantage of the situation. 

Fifty percent (50%) of voters oppose the president’s new plan that will allow nearly five million illegal immigrants to remain in this country legally and apply for jobs, while 40% are in favor of it.
But that’s slightly less opposition than voters expressed prior to the announcement. 
Half also think the plan will be bad for the economy, and a majority believes the new plan will attract more illegal immigrants.

Americans put a great deal of importance on being a U.S. citizen, but nearly one-in-three think it’s too easy to become one.

Open enrollment for 2015 started earlier this month for insurance under the new national health care law, but 35% now say Obamacare has hurt them personally. That’s the highest finding in over a year.

But it’s not just the president who is taking heat. Voters continue to give Congress dismal reviews and the majority still believes members get reelected because the system is rigged.

Two weeks after they won full control of Congress, Republicans now lead Democrats by four points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

In other news this week, just 28% of voters favor President Obama’s newly disclosed plan to expand the U.S. military’s fighting role against the Taliban in Afghanistan after this year. Thirty percent (30%) now believe it is possible for the United States to win the war in Afghanistan, but that’s up from 23% earlier this year.

Of course, the week ended with Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and Americans put much more importance on the former than the latter. An overwhelming majority of Americans have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and 49% consider it one of the nation’s most important holidays. Forty-four percent (44%) planned to have Thanksgiving dinner at home, while nearly as many (42%) visited the home of a relative.

One-in-four Americans planned to be out of town this Thanksgiving weekend.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of Americans said they were at least somewhat likely to go shopping yesterday to take advantage of Black Friday sales deals. But only nine percent (9%)  said they are more likely to shop at a store that opens on Thanksgiving Day to get a jump on Black Friday deals. Forty-four percent (44%) say they are less likely to shop at a store that is open on Thanksgiving. Find out more about What America Thinks about Black Friday.

Forty-three percent (43%) of American Credit Card Holders plan to pay for most of their holiday gifts this year with a credit card. But 51% do not intend to pay that way.

Speaking of plastic, most Americans think they have their own credit card use under control but say most other people need to cut back on how much they use their cards. They admit, however, that credit cards tempt people to buy things that can’t afford.

In other surveys last week:

Hillary Clinton remains the heavy favorite for her party’s presidential nomination in 2016, but the Republican race is still in flux less than two years before the election.

– Though nearly half of Americans think it’s likely the recent sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby are true, they still think television networks should hold off on pulling his shows until he is officially charged with a crime.

Just 36% of Americans think the Founding Fathers would consider the United States a success. But a plurality (46%) believes the Founders – a group that generally includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among others – would view the nation as a failure instead.

– Just 26% think the United States is heading in the right direction.


From → Uncategorized

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: