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January 31 2015

February 9, 2015

31 January 2015


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DJI Phantom Crashes on White House Lawn


January 27, 2015


The person operating the quadcopter that crashed on the White House grounds called the U.S. Secret Service Monday morning to “self-report” their involvement in the incident.

The individual was interviewed by Secret Service agents and has been fully cooperative, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said in a statement Monday afternoon. The Secret Service locked down the White House shortly after 3 a.m. after an officer on the south grounds of the White House spotted the drone, described as a two-foot wide “quad copter,” flying above the White House grounds before crashing on the southeast side of the complex. The officer saw the drone flying at a very low altitude.

“Initial indications are that this incident occurred as a result of recreational use of the device,” Leary said.

The Secret Service will continue to investigate the incident through “corroborative interviews, forensic examinations and reviews of all other investigative leads,” Leary said.

A Secret Service official said the owner of the drone called in after seeing reports of the drone on the news.

The Secret Service was sweeping the White House grounds on Monday morning looking for anything else that might be on the ground.

President Barack Obama and the first lady are both away, traveling in India.

The executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, Michael Drobac, called the news of the drone crashing at the White House a “terrible incident” for the drone industry because it sends a message that drone users aren’t using the technology responsibly.

But the vast majority of the at least half-million drone users in the U.S. are, Drobac said, citing a conservative estimate. The problem is “bad actors,” he said, and the industry is working with the FAA to educate new users about the rules for operating drones.

And the industry is developing new technologies to prevent users from operating drones in unauthorized spaces. Some of the newest models of recreational drones won’t turn on in unauthorized areas, like within 5 miles of an airport, Drobac said.

“Technology is going to help solve the problem and is already doing it. I trust technology over rogue operators,” he said.

Flying drones is illegal in the District of Columbia, but that hasn’t always kept them out of the capital’s skies.

The Secret Service previously detained an individual operating a quadcopter drone on July 3 in President’s Park, just a block from the South Lawn of the White House, according to a report filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Another person was detained by the U.S. Capitol Police for flying a drone on the Capitol Hill grounds. And in October, a drone was spotted above D.C.’s Bolling Air Force Base.

A surge in interest in drones and how they should be regulated even brought one to Capitol Hill — inside a committee room, no less.

Source: CNN


Did the White House Use Drone Killing Technology?

Patrick Tucker January 26, 2015

At about 3 a.m. on Monday morning, a small quadcopter drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, crashed on the White House lawn. White House officials said that the drone, by itself, was unarmed and didn’t represent a threat. Authorities quickly located the owner, a government employee, who has managed (so far at least) to convince the Secret Service that he made an innocent mistake flying his drone outside of the White House in the wee hours of the morning.

The White House won’t comment on whether or not they took any special steps to bring down the small UAV. But the White House may have employed the same anti-drone technology that the military is trying to perfect to protect ships and planes from future drone swarms. There are plenty of ways to knock a drone out of the sky, everything from surface to air missiles to hunter-killer robots to, yes, lasers. But for a cheap off-the-shelf drones operating off a simple radio or Wi-Fi signal, the best method is simple jamming.

For the military, signal jamming is an increasingly important component of electromagnetic warfare, or EW. It’s an area of growing concern as the electromagnetic spectrum, an area where the United States once enjoyed sole dominance, is becoming increasingly crowded.

What might the White House have used to jam the signal? Defense contractor Raytheon markets a wide variety of electronic anti-drone jammers. That includes the enormous “next generation jammer” that comes in at $10 billion as well as some that actually fly, such as the miniature air-launched decoy (with jamming kit) or MALD-J.

But drone jamming doesn’t have to come in at billions of dollars. For instance, a device called the Cyborg Unplug promises to make your living area drone free for around $66.

Here’s how the manufactures describe it on their website. “Cyborg Unplug hits wireless surveillance devices where it hurts: network connectivity. ‘Plug to unplug’, it sniffs the air for wireless signatures from devices you don’t want around, sending an alert to your phone when detected. Should the target device connect to a network you’ve chosen to defend, Cyborg Unplug will immediately disconnect them, stopping them from streaming video, audio and data to the Internet… Detected wireless devices currently include: wearable ‘spy’ cameras and microphones, Google Glass and Dropcam, small drones/copters and a variety of popular spy devices disguised as familiar objects.”

You can also make your own jammer with easily obtainable components, as researcher Ahmad Jisrawi points out.

There’s just one problem, cell phone, Wi-Fi and signal jamming in the United States is illegal. So use your home jammer at your own peril.  If you just want to detect a drone and then down it via some more conventional means, outfits like or Domestic Drone Counter Measures have all that you need, off mesh network components that can pick up and report a drone’s signal nearby.

Reports suggest that the drone seems to have crashed on its own, begging the question, is the White House equipped with an off-the-shelf drone jamming kit? If not, why not?

It’s an issue that won’t be going away. In fact, drones have been crashing all over Washington lately. On Jan. 21, a representative from 3D Robotics attended a hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and demonstrated how to pilot a small $500 Parrot Bebop UAV from his iPhone. The meeting broke history, marking the first time that an unmanned aircraft was flown—and crashed—inside a congressional hearing.

“Oh my gosh. And that’s your worst-case scenario! Drone crash. Drone crash!” Colin Guinn, 3D Robotics chief revenue office, said to committee members.

The other key takeaway from the event, the Federal Aviation Administration has no current strategy for integrating UAVs into commercial airspace, even though they are required to do it by Sept. 15 of this year, according to Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. What does that mean? Drones will be regulated by the current regime and, as demonstrated Monday, poorly policed even around targets of national security interest.

What’s the current FAA strategy regarding drones? If you want to fly a robot plane beyond your line of site, or one over 55 pounds, within 400 feet of an airport, or for any sort of commercial purpose at all, you need a special exemption from the FAA, of which they have granted 16 out of some 295 requests.

James Williams, the manager for the FAA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Office told the House committee: “We’re in the process of building a tracking system…similar to laser systems…On the research side…we’ve started an initiative to assess the risk of an unmanned aircraft to a manned aircraft.” Williams added: “We’re accelerating that thanks to congressional funding this year.”

Monday’s event may accelerate that research further.  



DJI Announces Mandatory Firmware Update

by Gary Mortimer • 28 January 2015


DJI will release a mandatory firmware update for the Phantom 2, Phantom 2 Vision, and Phantom 2 Vision+ to help users comply with the FAA’s Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) 0/8326, which restricts unmanned flight around the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

The updated firmware (V3.10) will be released in coming days and adds a No-Fly Zone centered on downtown Washington,

The restriction is part of a planned extension of DJI’s No Fly Zone system that prohibits flight near airports and other locations where flight is restricted by local authorities. These extended no fly zones will include over 10,000 airports registered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and will expand no fly zones to ensure they cover the runways at major international airports. DC and extends for a 25 kilometer (15.5 mile) radius in all directions. Phantom pilots in this area will not be able to take off from or fly into this airspace.

DJI is also continuing to update its no fly zone list in compliance with local regulations to include additional sensitive locations and to prevent flight across national borders.

These new safety features will be released across DJI’s flying platforms in the near future.

“With the unmanned aerial systems community growing on a daily basis, we feel it is important to provide pilots additional tools to help them fly safely and responsibly,” said Michael Perry, DJI’s company spokesperson. “We will continue cooperating with regulators and lawmakers to ensure the skies stay safe and open for innovation.”


DoD Business Panel Proposes $125B in Savings

By Paul McLeary 10:58 a.m. EST January 25, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s Defense Business Board (DBB) issued a series of recommendations on Jan. 22 calling on the Defense Department to slash $125 billion in spending over the next five years by reducing services from contractors, implementing early retirements, reworking contracts and reducing administrative costs.

The report comes at the direction of Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, whose October 2014 memo to the civilian panel instructed it to form a Task Group “to review and recommend changes to the Department’s current plans for enterprise modernization.”

Specifically, Work wanted advice on how private sector organizations consolidate their information technology (IT) services and to “recommend ways to best reconfigure all or part of DoD’s supporting business process and their associated IT.”

He also wanted the board to recommend an approach to quantify “the economic value of modernization on a productivity basis,” and how modernizing department business practices would help it gain further efficiencies.

The DBB released its findings just a week before the fiscal 2016 defense budget is due to be unveiled.

The task group identified more than 1 million people working in the DoD’s human resources, health care, financial, logistics, acquisition and property management fields. It claimed that by renegotiating contracts with vendors, offering early retirements and retraining employees to be more efficient, the building could save about $125 billion between fiscal 2016 and 2020, or about $25 billion a year.

Those savings could then be pumped back into the force, the board claims, and would equal the funding it takes to field 50 Army brigades, 10 Navy carrier strike groups or 83 Air Force F-35 fighter wings.

The three biggest cost saving initiatives identified between 2016 and 2020 are $49 billion to $89 billion through “more rigorous vendor negotiations” for contracted goods and services; another $23 billion to $53 billion through retirement and attrition of defense civilians and contractors, also reducing redundancy; and $5 billion to $9 billion in its IT processes though data center consolidation, cloud migration and automating some functions.

Work’s Oct. 15 memo said the DoD spends about $100 billion annually on “core business processes,” which he identified as human resources and healthcare management, financial management, logistics and supply, and property management.

“My goal is to modernize our business processes and supporting systems and create an agile enterprise shared services organization in order to reduce costs, maximize return on investment, and improve performance,” he wrote.

The study also includes deep looks at the business processes of Lockheed Martin, Pepsi Co.,Hewlett Packard, and IBM.

The inclusion of such large commercial firms has raised some eyebrows, however.

“Commercial businesses tolerate risk because the worst that can happen to their business is that they lose some money” said Steven Grundman, Lund Fellow for Emerging Defense Challenges at the Atlantic Council.

“The military organizes and costs for risk because there are far more consequential interests that they are guarding than money, and mitigating risk is expensive and one reason the analog between business and the military is imperfect at best.”

The DBB also looked at several Pentagon programs to gain some insight on how procurement practices can be streamlined. They studied the Army Logistics Support Agency’s successful outsourcing its data center, the 10-year, $1 billion failure of the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, which was canceled in 2010, and the Air Force’s $1.1 billion Expeditionary Combat Support System failure.


SpaceX, US Air Force Settle Lawsuit

By Aaron Mehta 7:03 p.m. EST January 23, 2015


WASHINGTON — SpaceX has reached an agreement with the US Air Force and will drop its lawsuit against the service, the company and Pentagon announced in a joint statement Friday evening.

The two parties have “reached agreement on a path forward for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program that improves the competitive landscape and achieves mission assurance for national security space launches,” the statement reads.

“The Air Force also has expanded the number of competitive opportunities for launch services under the EELV program while honoring existing contractual obligations,” the statement continued. “Going forward, the Air Force will conduct competitions consistent with the emergence of multiple certified providers. Per the settlement, SpaceX will dismiss its claims relating to the EELV block buy contract pending in the United States Court of Federal Claims.”

The lawsuit dates back to April 25, when Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, announced his company was filing a protest against the Air Force for its decision to award a block-buy contract for 36 launches to the United Launch Alliance (ULA), the only company currently certified to launch under the EELV program.


With Lawsuits and Mergers, US Space Market Primed for Changes

Musk decried the sole-source deal as wasteful for taxpayers and, over the past eight months, has publicly slammed the Air Force as being too close to the legacy launch company.

Friday’s statement indicates that ULA’s block buy contract will remain. Given how forceful SpaceX had been that the block buy was unfair, that qualifies as a win for both the legacy launch provider and the Air Force.

At the same time, the mention of “expanded” competitive opportunities and the statement that the Air Force will conduct future competitions “consistent with the emergence of multiple certified providers,” it becomes clear that SpaceX got its message across: ULA can no longer count on having a monopoly on the EELV program.

The statement also said SpaceX will “work collaboratively” with a new panel, set up by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, that will review the certification process and look for ways to improve it.

In a follow-on statement, James said she was “extremely pleased” at the agreement.

“I have always been a huge proponent of competition and believe this is an important step in that direction,” James said. “The Air Force is dedicated to ensuring we have the world’s finest national security space architecture and a robust launch capability is at the heart of making that possible.”

A spokesman for SpaceX referred queries to the joint statement. Reached for comment, a ULA spokeswoman did the same.

SpaceX expected certification to be complete before the end of 2014, but that now appears more likely to happen by midyear. James has expressed confidence the company will eventually be certified, which would allow them to launch sensitive military equipment into orbit.

Musk recently announced that his company will begin producing satellites.



SpaceX Enters Satellite Business

By Aaron Mehta 3:28 p.m. EST January 23, 2015


WASHINGTON — SpaceX, the upstart company led by Elon Musk, has already upended the space launch market. Now the company has its eyes turned toward the creation of a massive new satellite constellation, one that would have major repercussions for the commercial and military communications market.

A recording posted on YouTube of a Jan. 16 event announcing the opening of SpaceX’s Seattle facilities shows Musk claiming the company has submitted paperwork to international regulators, the first step in securing the bandwidth frequencies on which his network could operate.

The system would be “about” the 1,100-kilometer level in space, solidly in the low-Earth orbit range. The weight of the satellites would be in the “few hundred kilogram” range, and the overall network would eventually include 4,000 or so systems, almost doubling the number of active systems currently in space. Musk envisions the system going online in five years providing coverage for most of the globe, a timeframe he admitted is ambitious.

Following a series of regular updates, full capacity of the system would go online within 12-15 years, with an estimated price tag of $10-$15 billion. Musk indicated he is looking to hire about 500 people for the Seattle-based program to get the initial version of the system ready to go.

“The focus is going to be on creating a global communications system,” Musk told the audience. “This is quite an ambitious effort — we’re really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the Internet in space.”

At no point in the speech did Musk mention whether the future constellation would be used for military purposes, and a SpaceX spokesperson declined to offer further comment on the satellite program.

However, if Musk can make the system work, it could have serious benefit for the Pentagon, which has struggled to provide enough bandwidth for communications across the globe.

Marco Cáceres, an analyst with the Teal Group, pointed to the way the Pentagon leases bandwidth from Iridium as a potential path forward.

“I would imagine [Musk would] be interested in getting the military on board as a customer, much in the same way Iridium has,” Cáceres said. “It gives the Pentagon another system if they need more bandwidth, more coverage. I would imagine that they would probably enter into a similar arrangement with Iridium, where they just lease capacity.”

Brian Weeden, technical adviser to the Secure World Foundation, added that security will be a deciding factor in whether the Pentagon looks to SpaceX.

“A lot depends on the security of the service, and whether it can meet the Pentagon’s requirements for encryption,” Weeden said. “If it can, then I think the Pentagon could be a customer, like they are with Iridium.”

However, the Pentagon is already the largest single customer for Iridium, and that company’s updated network will likely meet department needs for the next few years. With that in mind, Cáceres doesn’t see the Pentagon signing contracts until Musk’s network is up and running.

“SpaceX will have to prove itself, which will take at least a few years,” Cáceres said. “So I don’t think you’ll see the military jumping on board anytime in the next few years.”

Iridium spokeswoman Diane Hockenberry indicated the company does not see SpaceX, nor a similar system proposed by OneWeb Ltd., as direct competitors in the near future.

There are “many differences and advantages when compared to the two proposed systems, including our unique mesh architecture of cross-linked satellites that provides truly global coverage with no compromises,” Hockenberry said. “Because we operate in L-band, which provides superior mobile voice service as compared to the higher spectrums these projects plan to use, we do not anticipate any risk to our existing business model, or competition for our voice, aviation safety services, or Department of Defense services.”

As to the cost, Cáceres warned that satellite constellations tend to increase in price as reality intrudes on planning. However, he pointed out that a big chunk of the cost is tied into launch — something SpaceX would be able to do in-house with its Falcon system of launch vehicles.

Iridium, ironically, was one of the first commercial operators to select SpaceX for its satellite launch missions.


Clogging Space?

Musk acknowledged “similarities” between his proposed system and Iridium, but emphasized that the number of satellites in his system should lead to less risk. “If a satellite didn’t work you’d just take it out of the constellation and deorbit it,” he pointed out in his speech.

One question with SpaceX’s plan is whether throwing 4,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit would create traffic issues. Space, after all, is growing more congested as new countries begin launching systems into orbit.

Musk waved away concerns about that in his speech, noting that at the 1,100-kilometer level “there’s just not a lot up there.”

Weeden agreed that there is space for the proposed constellation at that altitude. However, he warned that SpaceX needs to focus on not creating further space debris with its system.


“That means managing the constellation so they don’t run into each other, and then properly disposing of their satellites when they reach end of life,” Weeden explained.

Musk acknowledged the potential issue of space junk and said it would be a big focus for planners.

While the sheer number of satellites could pose a problem, it also may make the system attractive to the Pentagon, which has been exploring the idea of “disaggregation,” or breaking the very expensive, gold-plated satellite systems into smaller, cheaper constellations, for the last few years.


US Space Officials Push Smaller Platforms

While that push began under former Space Command head Gen. William Shelton, his successor, Gen. John Hyten, pledged to continue to look at moving toward disaggregation in a December speech.

“That architecture has to fundamentally change, and it is going to fundamentally change,” Hyten said.

Regardless of Pentagon interest, Musk plans to go ahead with the system, with an eye on using profits to fund his true passion — the development of a city on Mars.

“This is intended to be a significant amount of revenue and help fund a city on Mars,” Musk said. “Looking in the long term, and saying, what’s needed to create a city on Mars? Well, one thing’s for sure — a lot of money. So we need things that will generate a lot of money.”

He added that SpaceX is unlikely to go public until there are “regular” flights to Mars.



Google Fiber Expands to 18 Cities in American Southeast

The search giant’s gigabit broadband service is making its biggest expansion yet.

by News Staff / January 27, 2015 1


Google Fiber is making its biggest expansion to date. On Jan. 27, the company announced 18 new cities that will become part of its growing gigabit broadband service. The new Fiber cities are in the metropolitan regions of Nashville, Tenn.; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

In February 2014, Google named 34 prospective Fiber cities, beginning an evaluation process that involved gauging the public’s interest in those areas and the cooperation of local governments. Those regions still in the “prospective” category include Portland, Ore.; San Jose, Calif.; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; and San Antonio.

In blog post chronicling Fiber’s progress, Google notes that the availability of gigabit Internet access has connected students to underwater microscopes that allow them to study the Pacific Ocean, it’s assisted the work of a geneticist looking to help newborns in intensive care, and facilitated programming courses in Kansas City.

Fiber has also stimulated the broadband market in the regions it has entered. Anecdotes of increased competition is driving market choice around the nation. CenturyLink recently began offering gigabit broadband in some areas of Seattle, leading incumbent provider Comcast to begin doubling service speeds in those areas.

Google noted that Fiber is a long-term investment that aligns with infrastructure needed to build a future like the one alluded to by the president in his recent State of the Union address.



New Malware Can Bring Down Drones Mid-Flight


January 29, 2015


Maldrone bills itself as the “first backdoor for drones.” Developed by security researcher Rahul Sasi, this malware tricks a drone’s autonomous decision-making unit into handing over control to a hacker. Once the drone has been infected, that hacker can do anything from flying the drone to the destination of their choice to making the drone just drop out of the sky.

Sasi demonstrated Maldrone’s ability in a demo and outlined the specifics of the malware on a hacker forum.

This isn’t the first time someone’s developed malware for UAVs—it really isn’t—but it is unique for a few reasons. First of all, as Sasi himself points out, past malware targets the drone’s API, whereas Maldrone goes straight for the brain—the autonomous decision-making unit.

And unlike past hacks that were specific to a particular make and model of drone, Maldrone is designed to work with any drone software. The demo shows the malware taking over a Parrot AR drone, but Sasi says he’s also implementing the malware on a DJI Phantom.



SECDEF Hagel Farewell Ceremony

01/29/2015 08:45 AM CST

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Mr. President, thank you.

I’m very grateful to you for many reasons. But first, thank you for being here today. I know the kind of schedule that you have been on, and the length of the trip, the intensity of those visits…and to make this effort today means an awful lot. Thank you.

I want to also thank you for giving me the honor of serving you and the American people as the Secretary of Defense. I will always be grateful, always grateful for that opportunity.

And Mr. President, thank you for your strong leadership at a very difficult time: a difficult time in our world that requires wise, steady, careful leadership. You have and you are providing that leadership, and I have been very proud to serve with you in the Senate and in particular, over the last two years as your Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Biden, thank you as well for being here today. I have not forgotten some of the stories that you told. I recall very well us calling my mother on that trip through the mountains of Iraq, and I remember you wanted to speak with her.

And hours and hours later…

… She never forgot that, Mr. Vice President, and was so proud of that phone conversation. And so I thank you for your generous reaching out to my mother at a very difficult time for her. Because she she was gone about a month later. So, thank you.

One of my greatest joys during my time here in Washington has been development of our friendship. And as you have noted, and as the president has noted, our time together, the three of us, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Secretary Kerry is here today, who knows a little something about this business, and to you Secretary Kerry, thank you. I include you in those days.

Our former chairman, Chairman Lugar, is here as well. And to Dick Lugar, thank you. As you have noted, there are special people in our lives that we benefit from, and certainly Dick Lugar is one of those I think we all have benefited a great deal from.

And Vice President Biden, thank you for your years of service to this country as well.

Chairman Dempsey, it has been a great privilege for this old sergeant to have worked side by side with a general of your character and your courage. I’ve been very fortunate to have you as my partner in this job, especially during those self-help and educational opportunities called congressional hearings.

I was always reassured in each of those hearings, as we would drive to the Hill in the morning, knowing that Marty Dempsey was next to me. And for what you have meant to our military, Marty, and what you continue to do for this country, thank you very much.

I see another great icon of the United States Senate with us today: Senator John Warner, who we all worked closely with and benefited from. And to our distinguished colleagues, Senators Warner and Lugar, welcome and thank you for what you have done for this country, as so many of you here today. And I am grateful that you would take the time to visit us on this on this occasion.

To the chiefs of the services, our senior civilian leaders, and the combatant commanders, thank you. Thank you for your unflagging service and your leadership and your commitment to this country.

I want to particularly acknowledge Bob Work Bob Work, our Deputy Secretary of Defense. I thank him for his leadership and our strong partnership over the last year. And my appreciation as well to Ash Carter: for Ash’s service and his partnership during my first year at the Pentagon, and for his continued commitment to public service.

And my heartfelt thanks to my security and advance staff. Each of you played critically important roles for which my family and I will always be grateful. To my personal staff and those in the office of the secretary, you’ve been indispensable, indispensable in helping me carry out my responsibilities, and I thank you.

And to the men and women who serve our country and their families, whose service and sacrifice is unequaled, you have my deepest gratitude. We salute your high purpose in defense of our freedoms and our values. Every day, you wake up, and you go to work knowing that this department this department alone is charged with one fundamental mission: the security of this nation. It’s been my absolute privilege to have been on your team.

Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed the courage and dignity of America’s servicemen and women all over the world. I’ve seen young enlisted and young officers do their jobs realizing that how how they do their jobs is just as important as the job itself.

I’ve seen senior officers and senior enlisted realizing that they are role models. Maybe their highest responsibility of all. And I’ve seen the enduring devotion and commitment of their families: the mothers, the fathers, husbands, wives, children, and the sacrifices that they willingly willingly make for our country.

Their individual commitment to the greater good and strength of the institution has been a complete inspiration to me in every way. They understand that it’s people, people who build and strengthen institutions and make the world a better place.

These are the reasons why America’s military is the most admired and most trusted institution in our country. We must always protect that confidence and trust by our conduct and our performance continuing to hold ourselves and each other to the highest standards of professionalism and personal behavior.

As I will soon leave this job that I have cherished for the last two years, I want you all to know that the things that I have most respected and most admired are your dignity, your courage, and your dedication.

The opportunity to have been part of all this is something I could not have imagined when I joined the Army 48 years ago. No high office with responsibility is easy, as everyone in this room knows.

But with each difficult challenge comes the satisfaction of knowing knowing that you are like Teddy Roosevelt’s man in the arena, slugging it out, doing what you believe, doing what you like, and doing it your way. And recognizing that it’s not the critics who count or change the world or make the world better, but rather it’s those who are willing to work, work very hard toward building a better world.

We live in a complicated and defining time. The men and women who have devoted their lives to America’s security are the architects of this new, 21st century world. They’re building onto the great legacies and foundations that have been laid by those who have gone before them.

We’ve made mistakes. We will make more mistakes. But we hold tightly to one of America’s greatest strengths: the capacity and the constitutional structure that allows us to self-correct. We can change systems, right wrongs, solve problems, and start over. But we must get the big things right.

We must recognize that there is not an immediate answer to every problem. Some problems require evolving solutions that give us the time and the space to adjust, and the patience to seek higher ground and lasting results.

Our world, captive to immediacy, uncertainty, and complexity, is not moving toward less complicated problems, but rather, toward more global challenges rooted in historic injustices and conflicts.

In this dynamic environment, we need to prioritize and focus on how on how to build greater partnership capacity around the world with our partners, to help solve problems through coalitions of common interests that help build opportunities and create hope for all people.

These are difficult and complicated tasks, but we have no choice. It will require steady, wise, and judicious use of American power, prestige, and influence. We must never fail to always ask the most important question when making decisions in policy: what happens next.

With all the world’s travails and problems, it is still a hopeful world. This I believe.

I want to thank my wife, Lilibet, with whom I’ve shared this remarkable 30-year journey. I could never have done this job without her by my side. And I’m especially proud of her work on behalf of military families and other important issues to the men and women of the military. I valued all of her many contributions to this institution, and I thank her deeply for helping me be a better Secretary of Defense.

I want to also thank my daughter Allyn, my son Ziller, for their constant support, encouragement, and always good advice…and helping me with the internet…and recognizing and allowing me to take inventory in that recognition that I am not near as smart as I thought I was. Those are the humbling experiences of parenthood. Those of us who’ve had the opportunity to know those days and have that experience and be blessed with that experience know so well.

And to my brothers, Tom and Mike, who have truly been with me since this train left the station in Nebraska many years ago, thank you.

And one last point: Of all the opportunities my life has given me and I have been blessed with so many I am most proud of having once been a soldier.

The lessons from my time in uniform about trust, responsibility, duty, judgment, and loyalty to your fellow soldier these I have carried with me throughout my life.

May God bless and keep each of you. Thank you.



New Budget Will Feature 6th Gen Fighter

By Paul McLeary 3:57 p.m. EST January 28, 2015

WASHINGTON — More pieces of next Monday’s fiscal 2016 defense budget request are beginning to fall into place.

The Pentagon’s future years funding projection to be released with each annual budget request will include more money than planned, the Pentagon’s second in command said on Wednesday.

The fiscal 2016 future years defense program (FYDP) slated to be released on Feb. 2 “reverses the decline in defense spending over the past five years and works to address the under-investment in new weapons by making targeted investments in those areas we deem to be the highest priority,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said.

Earlier in the day, Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall told a Senate panel that there is money in the next budget for the Air Force to begin work on its 6th generation fighter

“It will be a program that will be initially led by DARPA,” Kendall said, “but it will involve the Navy and the Air Force as well. And the intent is to develop prototypes for the next generation of air dominance platforms, X-Plane programs, if you will.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on a series of studies on 6th generation fighter technologies for the past several years, and Air Force officials have said they expect to begin flying the next-generation jets by as early as the 2030s. Industry teams are also known to have started internal research and development projects on potential 6th generation technologies.

The DARPA 6th generation fighter program has been dubbed the Air Dominance Initiative.

In keeping with the push by Kendall and Work to increase competition for programs and get the department the best deal — and the best technology possible — he added that in order to be competitive, “the Navy and the Air Force will each have variants focused on their mission requirements. There’ll be a technology period leading up to development of the prototypes.”

Kendall confirmed that “this will be in our budget” in 2016.

The initiative will be a key component of the Better Buying Power 3.0 plan that Kendall has championed, which seeks to find efficiencies in the technology development phase of new programs, while tapping allies to share some of the cost of prototyping and development.

The work will eventually “lead to the systems that will ultimately come after the F-35,” he said, adding that “part of the program is an airframe-oriented program with those X- plane prototypes.” Another is a jet engine development program “for the next generation, also competitive prototypes for the next generation propulsion.”

Speaking at a Center for a New American Security event, Work added that in the upcoming budgets, his team is programming funding lines to invest “in promising new technologies and capabilities, including unmanned undersea vehicles; sea mining; high speed strike weapons; an advanced new jet engine; rail gun technology; and high energy lasers.”


The Pentagon’s new fiscal cliff

“Everyone is still with the happy talk that somehow sequestration is going to go away.”

By Jeremy Herb

1/28/15 6:54 PM EST


President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans say they want to boost Pentagon spending by tens of billions of dollars next year — but that’s just budget theater.

The administration and the new Republican-controlled Congress are creating another budgetary cliff on defense spending, forcing the military to face across-the-board cuts if Pentagon spending busts the caps that are already law.

The sequestration cap for Pentagon spending is about $499 billion, but the Obama administration is set to propose a $534 billion base defense budget, according to budget documents. And many analysts expect congressional Republicans propose a similar, if not higher, topline.

The first delivered Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental jet taxies into position before taking off from Paine Field following delivery to an undisclosed customer Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, in Everett, Wash. The new 747-8 Intercontinental is expected to deliver double-digit gains in fuel efficiency over the 747-400 and provide VIP customers and passenger airlines, such as Lufthansa, with the lowest operating costs and best economics of any airplane in its class. Lufthansa is scheduled to take delivery of its first 747-8 Intercontinental early this year. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

If the the final Pentagon spending measure exceeds the budget cap without changing the sequestration law, the Pentagon would get hit with across-the-board cuts back down to $499 billion.

Leaders of the Armed Services committees continually preach about the devastation of the cuts — summoning military leaders to Capitol Hill to detail how the cuts would wreak havoc — but so far there’s little talk of another budget resolution like the Ryan-Murray deal in December 2013, which provided some sequestration relief, let alone a “grand bargain” involving taxes and entitlements to stave off sequestration once and for all.

“Everyone is still with the happy talk that somehow sequestration is going to go away and they’re somehow going to have a higher number,” Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told POLITICO.

Across the Capitol, many, if not most, Democrats and Republicans alike oppose defense sequestration, set up by the 2011 Budget Control Act that raised the debt ceiling. But defense spending has been tied up for years over the larger budget debate about taxes and entitlements that has stymied Congress and President Barack Obama from striking a major budget agreement.

That disconnect is likely to play out once again in this year’s budget proposals. The administration’s budget, to be released Monday, is likely to boost both defense and domestic spending — expected to be paid for in part with tax increases unacceptable to Republicans.

Past Republican budgets have also proposed a higher defense spending topline, but they’ve done so through cuts to domestic agencies and entitlement reforms that are non-starters with Democrats.

Defense hawks, however, say there’s still plenty of time to gin up support for a budget deal that can give the military — and possibly domestic agencies — relief from the budget crunch.

“Endgame? We aren’t even at kickoff yet,” one House GOP aide said when asked about a sequestration fix.

Armed Services members argue that the dynamic in Washington has shifted with the new U.S. war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the military’s fight against Ebola in Africa, which can convince wayward lawmakers the defense shortfall must be addressed.

And they say that the effects of sequestration will hit the military much harder than it did initially in 2013 because the services have already cut to the bone to grapple with reductions after the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has made repealing sequestration his top committee priority this year, is trying to force his colleagues to listen to the military’s dire warnings. He held a hearing Wednesday with the service chiefs so they could lay out the damage the cuts would cause, from losing capabilities for intelligence-gathering drone flights to more casualties due to a hollow and untrained military force.

“I will say candidly that it is deeply frustrating that a hearing of this kind is still necessary,” McCain said. “And yet, here we go again: If we in Congress do not act, sequestration will return in full in fiscal year 2016, setting our military on a far more dangerous course.”

In past years, the budget battles have pit the Republican House against the Democratic Senate and Obama. This year, though, GOP defense hawks will be squaring off primarily with deficit hawks in their own party.

The Budget Committee chairmen will play a key role, and defense analysts say they don’t know yet how the new chairmen, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), will tackle defense spending amid a desire to cut the deficit. Both chairmen held hearings on the budget outlook this week, where they talked plenty about balancing the budget and curbing spending. But neither mentioned defense spending or sequestration in his opening statements.

Congressional leaders have also said little about sequestration in outlining their priorities for the new Congress.

“Right now, the signals are not encouraging, and by that I mean lack of signals by Speaker [John] Boehner, Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell, and chairs and ranking members of the Budget Committees in both chambers,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. “Only when it becomes a crisis, when we are confronting sole sequestration close to the deadline, will there be real movement — if there is movement on a budget deal.”

Asked whether his budget would put Pentagon spending above the sequester cap, Enzi declined to say. “I’m a long way from starting to comment on every item in the budget,” he said.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who has been a vocal Democrat on averting sequestration, said that some informal discussions are underway among members of the Budget and Armed Services committees. And he noted he was one of a half-dozen senators on both committees.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and other defense hawks say their role is to highlight the dangers of not stopping sequestration, rather than proposing an ultimate solution that involves taxes, spending and entitlements.

But there have been some signs that GOP defense hawks may be more willing to compromise with the president on a budget deal. Thornberry, for instance, did not rule out tax increases as part of a sequestration solution, something his predecessor did not support.

“I’m pretty much open to any solution that would fix sequestration,” Thornberry said in an interview.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), McCain’s right-hand man on defense issues, has said repeatedly he’s willing to support new revenues in exchange for entitlement reforms, as well as pursuing a fix addressing both defense and domestic spending.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Graham slammed Obama and Congress, criticizing both sides for creating sequestration and not doing anything about it.

“We don’t have a plan,” Graham said. “But Sen. McCain, to his credit, is challenging some of us on the committee to find a plan. Mr. President, help us, because we can’t do this by ourselves.”

The 2013 budget agreement between the then-Budget Committee chairs, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) proved there can be some appetite for a budget deal, but that agreement only reversed a small chunk of sequestration — and it used up many of the “easy” spending cuts.

“It’s clear that all of the low-hanging fruit has been picked, which means a deal is that much harder,” said Eaglen, a former Senate staffer.

The defense industry, which has vowed to help fight sequestration, is gearing up for a year’s worth of uncertainty with the sequestration cliff looming. And on Wednesday, the investment firm Guggenheim Partners issued a memo to investors warning “there will not be quick resolution” on the defense budget.

“The key wildcard remains whether the GOP Congress and White House can reach an agreement on lifting the FY16 cap on defense,” wrote Guggenheim analyst Roman Schweizer. “This deal may not come together until the very end of the fiscal year.”

Gordon Adams, a defense budget official in the Clinton administration who now teaches at American University, said there was a key fail safe for the Pentagon if sequestration can’t be thwarted: the war budget, which does not count against the caps.

“OCO is a safety valve,” Adams said, referring to the formal name for the war budget, Overseas Contingency Operations.

But war funding could still get hit with an across-the-board cut, according to Todd Harrison, a budget guru at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, because funding for Afghanistan and ISIL operations does not count against the spending caps, Harrison said, but is subject to the across-the-board cuts if Congress breaks the caps, due to a quirk in the 2011 law.



USAF Vice Chief to Scientists: ‘Help Us’

By Aaron Mehta 3:12 p.m. EST January 28, 2015


WASHINGTON — If the US Air Force is going to simultaneously keep ahead of the technology curve while fighting a war, it needs innovative thinking from all corners, the service’s vice chief told scientific advisers on Tuesday.

Speaking at an annual conference of the USAF Scientific Advisory Board, Gen. Larry Spencer implored the group of independent advisers to help the service break out of its traditional mold.

“We need your help to help us break through that, because we are so tied to the way we’ve always done it and we are so encumbered by what ‘we cannot do’ and ‘what won’t work,’ ” Spencer told the audience.

The service is never at a loss for potential new technologies it can exploit. The challenge, Spencer said, is to take those ideas and turn them into something actionable.

“What we need help with, at least from this group is, at some point, we need to leap off the paper into something we can use,” he said. “The dilemma we’re having is balancing the demands of today with the demands we know are in the future, and being able to afford them both at the same time.”

Spencer said it’s worth exploring technology allowing the service to track femtoseconds — tiny fractions of a second that could give more accuracy to a variety of technologies; heads up displays that can be fed into contact lenses; improvements in quantum systems; and ways to cut the hours needed to operate an unmanned system.

He also said the service will put a premium on innovation in its fiscal 2016 budget request, which will be unveiled Monday.

Spencer’s comments came at a kickoff event for this year’s trio of studies being run by the Scientific Advisory Board, a federal advisory committee formed in 1944 to provide an independent voice to the service on technology and science.

The three topics being looked at this year are the use of quantum systems, cyber vulnerabilities in embedded systems on air and space systems, and how to enhance the utility of unmanned vehicles in contested environments.

One major topic of discussion raised by audience members is how the service will keep up with technology growth from near-peer competitors such as China, at a time of tightening budgets.

Spencer acknowledged that balance is difficult, but said the service cannot allow itself to fall behind other nations.

“We should not, in my view, put ourselves in a position where we are reacting. We should have people reacting to us,” Spencer said. “That is obviously more difficult in an environment of shrinking budgets, particularly when your budget is shrinking and your threats are certainly not going down.”

Spencer also argued that the traditional drawdown after a military conflict is not applicable to modern day situations. After World War II, Korea or the Persian Gulf War, hostilities ended, and so a drawdown made sense, Spencer said. In comparison, the conflicts of today are unending.

“People would typically think after Afghanistan or Iraq the budget comes down,” he said. “The problem is, back then we had defeated someone and that adversary’s capability had gone down. The type of war we have been fighting is not against a state actor that we had traditionally fought in the past.

“If anything you can argue our peer competition is on the rise,” Spencer continued. “So how do you take that down after Afghanistan and Iraq, budget reduction, and at the same time stay on top of the curve? And that’s what we’re trying to convince the American people of.”


The FAA should strike the right balance on drone regulation

By Editorial Board January 28 at 6:45 PM


SOME PEOPLE intend to be national security threats. Others are just drunk. In the case of Monday’s drone crash on the southeast corner of the White House grounds, the immediate problem seems to have been an inebriated pilot. But the underlying issue is that the federal government poorly regulates the booming drone industry. The right response is not overreaction but rather tightening rules and procedures in some ways — and loosening them in others.

The White House has seen a handful of eye-raising security breaches in recent years, including one in September in which a man armed with a knife hopped the perimeter fence and ran into the building. In response, security continues to tighten. Among the most visible changes are unsightly waist-high fences around the building. Following the latest breach, the Secret Service says it won’t install golf netting around the White House grounds. That’s good: Washington has already become a city of concrete bollards and security cordons; official buildings shouldn’t be wholly removed from the public.

Federal authorities can and should enhance security against drones and other threats in smarter, less obtrusive ways. Technologies in the pipeline could detect small incoming aircraft. The trick will be intercepting or jamming drones on their way toward the West Wing without harming bystanders.

Rather than shooting errant drones out of the sky, it would be better to ensure that they never get near sensitive areas. At the moment, the Federal Aviation Administration requires that amateur drone pilots keep their devices at least five miles away from airports and below 400 feet. But several recent near-miss episodes between descending jetliners and drones demonstrate that these rules are far from perfectly applied. The responsibility is mostly in operators’ hands. The FAA should look into requiring that safety protocols be written into drone firmware, which would automatically prevent operation in unauthorized airspace, no matter how inebriated operators are.

Until the agency does that, high-profile enforcement in cases of serious rule-breaking might help. The government hasn’t released the name of the man who flew his 2-foot-by-2-foot unmanned aerial vehicle into restricted White House airspace Monday. Whoever he is, he should be punished publicly, showing other amateur drone pilots that responsibly operating their drones isn’t optional.

In other ways, the government should loosen up. The FAA generally doesn’t allow drone flights for commercial purposes even as amateurs take to the sky freely. The agency is developing rules that would allow more commercial drone flying — but might also require commercial operators to carry full pilot’s licenses, which would be another form of regulatory overkill. The aim should be to prevent midair collisions and cordon off restricted airspace. Licensing makes sense, but requiring hours of cockpit time does not. The benefits of using drones in commerce — from delivering packages to dusting crops — are too great to continue repressing the industry. (One potentially interested party is Amazon, whose chief executive is Jeffrey P. Bezos, the owner of The Post.)

Drone use should be safe. At the moment, though, it’s both under- and over-regulated. We hope the latest incident jolts the system into a better balance.



Russian Chirok Strike UAS Prepares for Test Flights

January 30, 2014


The first full-size model of the Chirok (Teal) reconnaissance and strike drone is preparing for test flights. It was introduced last year at the Innoprom Expo on a 1:5 scale in Yekaterinburg. Now the full-size model is ready, sporting a wingspan of 10 meters. The Chirok is getting ready for flight tests, according to reports TASS received from the United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation, which developed the drone.

The official presentation of the full-size Chirok model will be held at MAKS this year. United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation CEO Alexander Yakunin believes serial production of the drone will begin in 2016.

The Chirok is a dual-purpose aircraft, developed by the Moscow Radio Engineering Research Institute. It is designed for monitoring the ground or water surface, and for cargo transport. As expected, the military will be able to use the UAV for reconnaissance and as an unmanned combat aircraft.

The Chirok combines the latest achievements of engineering from different areas: electronics, aerospace, and the chemical industry. The technologies employed allow for building a truly modern aircraft. It is lightweight and durable, and has high performance marks, despite its impressive dimensions. The Chirok has a 10 m wingspan, with a maximum take-off mass not exceeding 700 kg. The device has an all-composite (carbon) body. The membrane of the air cushion is made of super-modern material, which was developed by Russian specialists. The technology behind the production of this material is based on Russian know-how.

The maximum take-off weight of the Chirok is up to 700 kg, and the maximum weight of its payload is up to 300 kg. On board it will be able to use opto-electronic devices for various types of monitoring. The UAV is also capable of carrying precision-guided weapons. It can also ascend to a height of 6,000 meters, with a range of up to 2,500 km. Currently, UIMC experts are working on further improvements for the technical specifications of the Chirok UAV.

Another feature of the design is that the arms can be positioned within the aircraft’s housing. For previous models, arms were mounted on the external suspension. Such a solution reduces the visibility of the UAV and improves its aerodynamic properties.


“This type of machine is designed for use in harsh environments: in regions where there are no runways. The machine will help to solve this problem across a large swath of our great country,” said Yakunin. “Our project will be offered to customers on both civil and military markets. I think it will generate a lot of interest in the energy sector and with the Ministry of Defense,” said Yakunin.

The United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation, a Russian state-backed corporation, was created in 2014, as part of the Rostec state-backed corporation, to develop the high-tech manufacturing of competitive products in the field of technology and communications systems, automated control systems, and electronic security and robotic systems for the Russian Armed Forces and other special groups, as well as competitive products for civil and dual-purpose. It brings together 55 enterprises and research institutions in the Russian electronic industry.

Source: Kalasihnikov Group



Dutch Interceptor Project Combats Unlawful UAV Use

Januray 30, 2014


European UAV manufacturer Aerialtronics has been working with the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) to develop the Interceptor, a system aimed at protecting the public from potential threats resulting from the unlawful use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The move comes as the government recognises that inexpensive remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), more commonly referred to as drones, can be misused by rogue operators to threaten public order and perform a host of illegal activities such as smuggling. Only this week, a small consumer drone crashed into a tree on the South Lawn as it flew undetected into the grounds of the White House in Washington, USA. This incident could have had catastrophic consequences, raising questions about whether small UAS can be effectively detected and brought down in case of risk.

To combat this, the Dutch National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism — NCTb (Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding) — in cooperation with the police, has started the Interceptor development programme and invited companies to submit proposals. The Interceptor system — intelligent and efficient RPAS concept and product against unwanted RPAS — will use drones to perform the interceptor role against other drones creating a potential hazard for public security.


The system will be equipped with means to:

◾Pursue a menacing drone;

◾Bring it to the ground in a controlled way;

◾Render it harmless (while still in the air).


The Interceptor system is likely to be deployed as a mobile as well as fixed system. The mobile deployment is an essential move, given the current market development in the drones sector.


Thanks to the built-in scalability of its countermeasures, the Interceptor will be able to tailor its response according to the situation and threat levels. The first phase of this project will consist of a feasibility study aimed at drafting the requirements and characteristics of the desired system.


About Aerialtronics

Aerialtronics is an international manufacturer of state of the art, high quality unmanned aircraft systems for civilian purposes. The company provides full aerial data solutions to a variety of applications worldwide. Aerialtronics’ systems are designed and developed in-house according to aviation grade quality standards.



FCC seeks broadband speeds with wow factor; telecom firms say, ‘Whoa’

FCC seeks broadband speeds with wow factor; telecom firms say, ‘Whoa’

David Lazarus

Los Angeles Times

January 29, 2015, 3:21 PM

Broadband Internet in this country just got a whole lot faster..

Actually the definition of broadband Internet just got faster — and the cable and phone industries are none too pleased about it.

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to change the standard for U.S. broadband to a download speed of 25 megabits a second, more than six times zippier than the old standard of 4 megabits.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in calling for the change this month, said raising America’s broadband bar is “table stakes” for playing in a 21st century global digital economy.

The U.S. currently ranks 14th worldwide for broadband speed, according to the networking company Akamai Technologies. The average speed here is 11.4 megs a second.

South Korea is way out in front, with an average broadband speed of 24.6 megs a second. The rest of the top 10: Hong Kong, Switzerland, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Latvia, Ireland, the Czech Republic and Romania.

Yeah, Romania.

The previous U.S. broadband standard of 4 megabits a second wasn’t exactly lightning-fast when you consider that some South Korean Internet users are on the verge of receiving a speed of 10 gigabits a second, or enough digital muscle to download a high-definition movie in seven seconds.

With a 4-meg connection, U.S. Internet users would have to wait hours to download the same film.

You’d think the American telecom industry would be cool with meeting higher broadband expectations. We invented the Internet, after all. The rest of the world should be eating our digital dust.

But guess what? The cable and phone industries think a faster broadband standard is unnecessary and impractical.

We just don’t need that much speed, they argue.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. filed an opinion with the FCC last week declaring that the calls for a 25-megabit standard “dramatically exaggerate the amount of bandwidth needed by the typical broadband user.”

“Some are suggesting that NCTA is against this definitional change because the cable industry doesn’t want to deliver consumers faster speeds or improved infrastructure,” the group said in a related blog post. “This is laughable.”

Telecom companies are already offering speeds well above 25 megs a second, it said. AT&T and Verizon Communications made similar arguments in their own recent FCC filings.

So what’s the problem?

It’s this: Federal law requires that the FCC make sure broadband is being deployed nationwide in a reasonable and timely fashion. If the definition of broadband is changed, many current — read: slower — services would no longer qualify.

That would empower the FCC to exert pressure on telecom companies to step up their game.

And these guys would rather spend millions of dollars lobbying regulators and lawmakers than spending money to keep pace with the rest of the developed world in meeting demand for faster broadband.

Thursday’s FCC vote was 3 to 2, with the panel’s two conservative commissioners siding with telecom companies.

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai said that 70 million households could buy faster Internet speeds if they wanted, but “choose not to.”

Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, a libertarian-leaning think tank, said the FCC’s action represented “a new low in cynical, elitist politics,” paving the way for “a reckless, ideologically driven regulatory agenda.”

But Kate Forscey, an Internet rights fellow with the advocacy group Public Knowledge, said it’s bizarre that cable and phone companies would even defend a broadband standard of 4 megs a second.

“Those same companies spend an awful lot of time every single day telling consumers that the kind of speeds they want and need far surpass” this level, she said.

Time Warner Cable, for example, tells Los Angeles customers that its 50-megabit-a-second service is “ideal for downloading music, streaming videos and more.”

Its 3-megabit service, the closest Time Warner plan to a 4-megabit broadband standard, is “a good choice for checking email and doing a light amount of web surfing.”

Golly, doesn’t that sound like fun?

The FCC’s broadband vote followed a crackdown this week on businesses blocking people’s personal Wi-Fi hot spots.

The Marriott hotel chain caught regulators’ attention after announcing it would jam people’s wireless devices and prevent them from syncing a laptop or tablet to a cellphone’s Internet connection — though the hotel would be happy to provide its own Internet access for a price.

“Consumers must get what they pay for,” Wheeler declared. “Protecting consumers from this kind of interference is a priority area for the FCC Enforcement Bureau.”

That raises some interesting questions. If making sure consumers get what they pay for is a “priority area” for federal regulators, does that mean officials will play a more active role in net neutrality issues, ensuring that no Internet content receives special treatment from network providers?

Does it also work the other way, with the FCC protecting consumers from having to pay for things they don’t want, such as pay-TV packages with hundreds of unwatched channels?

Clearly the FCC believes U.S. consumers deserve a higher standard of Internet service. Phone and cable companies should embrace that challenge, rather than whine about regulatory kibitzing.

It’s all about giving consumers what they pay for. We’re paying for a top-quality online experience.

Is the telecom industry really saying that’s too much for it to deliver?



North Carolina Not Waiting on FAA to Explore Commercial Drone Use

The state-funded NextGen Air Transportation office at N.C. State University plans to apply for special FAA permission to start drone experiments for the state Department of Transportation.

by Jay Price, The News & Observer / January 29, 2015 0


(TNS) — The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue long-awaited draft regulations for operating small commercial drones this year, something that’s expected to open the skies to a multibillion-dollar industry.

President Barack Obama called for drone regulations this week after one landed, apparently by accident, on the White House lawn.

But with experts saying new rules for civilian use are still probably months or even years away, North Carolina’s nascent drone industry and state government agencies that are eager to use the aircraft aren’t waiting.

In coming days, the state-funded NextGen Air Transportation office at N.C. State University plans to apply for special FAA permission to start drone experiments for the state Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, one of the state’s largest drone companies, Raleigh-based PrecisionHawk, is expecting its own FAA exemption in the next few weeks so that it can begin commercial operations across the United States.

NGAT, which has been investigating various aspects of drone use at several sites around the state, will demonstrate its newest aircraft Thursday for state officials and members of the media at an N.C. State University farm off Lake Wheeler Road. That particular aircraft is mainly aimed at agricultural use, said the office’s director, Kyle Snyder.

By late spring, NGAT expects to receive the aircraft it will use for the DOT experiments, Snyder said.

The highway department is keen to evaluate several jobs it thinks drones could do well, said Bobby Walston, aviation director for DOT. Among those are investigating routes for new roads and inspecting bridges, construction sites and rock slides.

Other state agencies will be keeping a close eye on the work, too, Snyder said, including the Division of Emergency Management, which could use drones for evaluating damage in disasters and for search and rescue.

A bigger question is probably which state agency, if any, would not have a proper use for a drone, said state Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican who helped craft a state drone law approved last year that addressed privacy issues among other things.

“We can all understand the potential for law enforcement, and we could really save taxpayer dollars with bridge inspection,” said Torbett, who will attend the demonstration flight Thursday. “I doubt that there is a state agency – except maybe treasurer – that won’t have an opportunity to apply the technology and do it in a very cost-effective way.”


Given that it’s impossible to even guess at the range of applications for drones, the economic potential they represent here, both for drone users and companies that are involved in creating them, is unknowable but huge, Torbett said.

PrecisionHawk is already doing business in Canada, Great Britain, Australia and Latin America. It’s beginning to do more work on applications across a range of industries, including oil and gas, insurance, geology and mining and search and rescue, but its main focus has been agriculture.

PrecisionHawk sells its basic aircraft for about $16,000, but it essentially considers itself a data company, said spokeswoman Lia Reich.

That’s probably not surprising, given that the company has close ties to more traditional tech outfits. PrecisionHawk got a $10 million influx of cash this fall from a group of investors that included Bob Young, co-founder of the Red Hat software company, who sits on its board of directors.

The drone – which has a fuselage crafted from circuit boards rather than aerospace material – uploads the data it gathers to the cloud, where software developed by PrecisionHawk analyzes it and delivers the results to, say, a farmer’s laptop.

The buzzphrase is “precision agriculture.” Depending on which sensors a drone is configured with, the data it picks up when flying slowly over the farm can determine things such as how much nitrogen should be added to which part of a field or where weeds or disease are popping up, Reich said.

By helping farmers apply only as much nitrogen as a field needs, PrecisionHawk not only saves them money but helps reduce nitrogen runoff into streams and waterways.

Data from the drone also can help boost crop productivity. Just how much is something the company plans to gather more data on this year while working on several North Carolina farms in partnership with NGAT, Reich said.



Will Our Smart Gadgets Become Trusted or Oppressive Companions?

As we turn more of our decision-making over to devices, experts say, our reliance on these interconnected tools will far surpass today’s dependence on smartphones.

by Steve Johnson, San Jose Mercury News / January 28, 2015 0


(TNS) — Like legions of hyperactive butlers, many of the brainy gadgets being developed for the Internet of Things will anticipate our needs and make choices for us — without being told what to do — marking a momentous transformation in our relationship with machines.

As we turn more of our decision-making over to the devices, they will evolve into our personal confidants and counselors, determining everything from the time we wake up and clothes we wear to the music we listen to and route we take to work. In the process, experts say, our reliance on these interconnected tools will far surpass today’s dependence on smartphones.





These autonomous assistants are widely expected to help us stay healthier, take better care of our loved ones, live more comfortably, become more environmentally responsible, and boost our productivity by freeing us from an endless array of mundane, everyday tasks so we can concentrate on the most important ones.

But social scientists and others worry these computerized devices might make decisions that are seriously flawed or that we otherwise dislike, leaving us feeling less in control of our lives. More troublingly, their ceaseless surveillance could result in an excessively conformist society, some experts fear — especially with government and other entities exploring the use of these intelligent machines to identify and deter “abnormal behavior.”

“When we’re not being tracked, we’re more free to experiment, to be our authentic selves, to read new things, to be different kinds of people,” said Neil Richards, a law professor and privacy specialist at Washington University in St. Louis. But such omnipresent monitoring, he believes, “menaces our society’s foundational commitments to intellectual diversity and eccentric individuality.”

Stanford University researchers believe society may be profoundly impacted by Internet-of-Things machines endowed with “artificial intelligence,” generally defined as humanlike capabilities. So in December they began a centurylong study of the technology — with findings to be published every five years — in part to assess the implications “of systems that can make inferences about the goals, intentions, identity, location, health, beliefs, preferences, habits, weaknesses, and future actions and activities of people.”


Understanding such effects is crucial, experts say, because the technology is rapidly being adopted. About 13 percent of consumers already have outfitted their homes with a smart thermostat, security camera or other device, according to an Internet-of-Things study in August by consulting firm Accenture. Within five years, it added, that figure will likely hit 69 percent.

Instead of just doing what we command, many of the devices are being empowered with sophisticated software and microelectronics to act on their own initiative as our personal advisers.

Seattle’s Pith makes a smart furniture fabric called BackTracker, which the company says “nags” people to correct the way they sit if their poor posture might cause them back pain. A computerized fork from Hapilabs in Hong Kong admonishes users with lights and vibrations when they eat too fast. And Atlanta-based Monsieur claims its “intelligent bartender” not only remembers which alcoholic drinks its owner prefers, but “knows when you’ve had a long day at work and offers a double instead of a single.”

That’s just for starters, according to this prediction from Santa Clara chipmaker Intel about the technology that’s coming:

“Your bed knows when you wake up. It tells the radio to switch on so you can listen to the traffic and weather report or music it knows you enjoy. It tells the coffee machine to make a fresh pot. When you prepare for the day, your toothbrush notifies you that it’s time to see the dentist and it schedules an appointment based on your availability. Your shower adjusts its temperature based on your preference and when you go to the bathroom mirror, it reminds you to take your vitamins. As you get dressed, your closet mirror helps you choose an outfit based on the weather and what activities you have planned. As you leave the house, a display on the way lets you know you forgot your wallet.”


Mary Czerwinski, a Microsoft research manager and cognitive psychologist, said it’s conceivable some machines might function for their owners as a kind of psychotherapist, noting that people will get so close to their devices, they’ll think, “What would I ever do without this?” not unlike the relationship depicted in the movie “Her.”

To heighten such emotional attachments, some consumer robots are being given lifelike human features, and researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, in England, are developing versions “capable of expressing anger, fear, sadness, happiness, excitement and pride.”

Yet machines making decisions for people stirs mixed emotions.

Consider the self-driving cars being developed by Google and many automakers. Of more than 15,000 vehicle owners surveyed this year by market researcher J.D. Power, only about 1 in 4 expressed interest in having their next car chauffeur them about. Among those looking forward to that is 61-year-old Deryl Stanley, vice president of a club whose members customize classic cars.

“One day I’ll be 90 years old and need to go to the doctor, pick up some groceries and drop off some laundry,” he said. “It sure would be nice to go out to the garage, punch in where I want to go, and let it take me there.” Besides, he added, the autonomous vehicles “could virtually eliminate all the problems associated with driving under the influence.”

But fellow club member Joe Wilder, a 72-year-old retired drug-company salesman who has lovingly restored a 1956 Crown Victoria, is less enthusiastic.

“Self-driving cars may be safer, but I don’t think the drive will be as enjoyable as when I have the ability to speed up, slow down, wander here and there, and feel the car in my control,” he said. “Technology has taken a lot of living life away from us.”

One concern that could influence how we feel about the Internet of Things is that the technology might prove prone to malfunctions, as some experts fear.

That might not be a big problem if a smart refrigerator gets confused and orders too much milk, said Jörg Denzinger, a University of Calgary computer science professor. But in a computerized transportation system, where cars automatically relay braking alerts to each other in emergencies, a glitch could cause multiple crashes, he said, adding that designers of the technology “need to be careful.”

Although experts say smart devices generally won’t make decisions for people without at least initially seeking their consent, anybody hoping to approve every action their gadgets take would quickly suffer what researchers call “consent fatigue.” As a result, it’s widely expected that people will give their devices the power to act independently much, if not most, of the time.

However, that could produce an unhealthy “techno-dependency” in people, resulting in them losing self-reliance and suffering “a lack of depth and breadth of understanding about how the world works,” according to a Microsoft forecast on the impact of smart devices in coming years. “If we are not careful, undermining these values may make the world of 2020 a much less rewarding world to live in.”

Others worry that human and machine goals may conflict, particularly if individual and societal interests clash.

You may want your smart car to drive the quickest route, but for environmental reasons it might be programmed to choose slower roads that minimize fuel consumption, Israeli researchers have speculated. And if you’re hospitalized with an illness, they added, it’s conceivable your doctor’s smart software might oppose giving you an effective new antibiotic, to limit the general population’s risk of becoming resistant to the drug.

Such clashes could “get creepy” — and perhaps insulting — noted Martin Reynolds, a fellow with the research firm Gartner, who speculated during an Internet-of-Things conference that you might be dying for Kentucky Fried Chicken one day, but your smart car — knowing you’re overweight — “directs you to someplace to get a salad.”

Having your consumer gadgets scrutinize and record everything you do also could get disconcerting.

To test that, researchers at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology installed video cameras, microphones and other monitoring gear in 10 Finnish households in what was billed as a groundbreaking study, despite its limited size, to learn how devices might affect people. While most of the subjects got used to being incessantly observed, some grew so annoyed they hid their activities by blocking the cameras’ view or turning them off.

For some of the subjects, “the surveillance system proved to be a cause of annoyance, concern, anxiety and even rage,” the study concluded, noting that the snoopy gadgets deprived the participants “of the solitude and isolation they expected at home.”

Aside from worrying about who will see the personal information these gadgets gather on their users and spew across the Internet, privacy advocates fear the technology might turn everyone into timid sheep.

Because the data smart devices gather will likely result in the government and others creating profiles on everyone, “behaving normal will eventually become the ultimate practice in the Internet of Things,” warns Paul De Hert, a criminal law expert at the Institute for European Studies in Brussels.


“It limits creativity, it inhibits individuality, social change, progress,” added Bruce Schneier, a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “You get conformity and stagnation. These are really big issues.”

Heightening that concern, government officials in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere are studying the use of smart video-surveillance systems to spot “abnormal behavior.”

One example is BRS Labs’ “behavior recognition system” that Amtrak has deployed in some of its Bay Area train stations and that San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency plans to use. After several weeks of videotaping a location, BRS Labs’ technology learns to recognize usual patterns of activity and alerts its human operators if it spots anything out of the ordinary, said the company’s chief scientist, Wesley Cobb, adding, “this is stuff that 10 years ago everybody would have said, ‘Nah, that’s science fiction.’ ”

Two European Internet-of-Things technologists have even proposed sending people warnings through their smart devices if the gadgets detect “behavior violating regulations of a society.” Moreover, “to prevent antisocial behavior from re-occurring,” they suggest “automatic publication of such incidents on the web,” a strategy they term “name-and-shame.”

Many experts believe the benefits of the Internet of Things will far outweigh any problems it causes. Besides, Elizabeth Charnock, CEO of Half Moon Bay software company Chenope, said it’s common for new innovations to trigger temporary hand-wringing.

“People start off screaming about privacy,” she said, and then “people just stop thinking about it.”


DARPA to leverage open architectures, enabling UAS to fly as collaborative units

John McHale, Editorial Director, OpenSystems Media



DARPA officials announced that the agency’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program is offering the opportunity to participate in discussions to enable development of “groundbreaking” software that will allow unmanned aircraft to work together with minimal supervision.

According to a DARPA release most current ISR systems for unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) require constant control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operator plus a large number of analysts, all via telemetry. These control requirements severely constrain the scalability and cost-effectiveness of UAS operations and create operational challenges in dynamic, long-distance encounters with highly mobile targets in contested electromagnetic environments. (Photo courtesy of DARPA)

This DARPA program looks to overcome these challenges by designing algorithms and software that can extend the mission capabilities of existing unmanned aircraft well past the current state-of-the-art, with the goal of improving U.S. military ability to conduct operations in denied or contested airspace. CODE researchers are seeking to create a modular software architecture that will be resilient to bandwidth limitations and communications disruptions, while compatible with existing standards and capable of affordable retrofit into existing platforms.

DARPA officials released a Special Notice ( inviting any interested parties to identify their interest in participation in select Phase 1 CODE meetings. DARPA is particularly interested in participants that have capabilities, methodologies, and approaches related to CODE research and focused on revolutionary approaches to UASs, autonomy, and collaborative operations. Responses to the Special Notice will then be used to select the participants and should not contain intellectual, confidential, proprietary, or other privileged information.

Two meetings are planned at the moment — an Open Architecture Meeting and a Technology Interchange Meeting. The Open Architecture Meeting will cover the requirements and approaches for making the CODE open architecture compatible with communication-constrained, distributed, highly autonomous collaborative systems. During the Technology Interchange Meeting, invited participants will present technologies that have potential for incorporation into the demonstration planned for Phases 2 and 3 of the program and ensure that CODE leverages the best available technologies from all possible sources.

The meetings are scheduled for the first week of March in the Arlington, Va., area. To be considered for attendance to the meetings, interested parties can submit a one-page response to DARPA by 4:00 PM Eastern Time on February 4, 2015. More information can be found at . All technical and administrative correspondence, including one-page responses and questions regarding this announcement, should be sent to

CODE focuses on developing and demonstrating enhancements in collaborative autonomy: the capability for groups of UASs to work together under a single human commander’s supervision. The unmanned vehicles would then continuously evaluate themselves and their environment to present recommendations for UAV team actions to the mission supervisor who would approve, disapprove, or direct the team to collect more data. Using collaborative autonomy, CODE-enabled unmanned aircraft could find targets and engage them as appropriate under established rules of engagement, leverage nearby CODE-equipped systems with little supervision, and then adapt to dynamic situations such as attrition of friendly forces or the emergence of unanticipated threats.

CODE’s improvements would essentially enable UAS control systems to go from multiple human operators for each UAS to one person who is able to command and control six or more unmanned vehicles simultaneously.


“Just as wolves hunt in coordinated packs with minimal communication, multiple CODE-enabled unmanned aircraft would collaborate to find, track, identify and engage targets, all under the command of a single human mission supervisor,” says Jean-Charles Ledé, DARPA program manager. “Further, CODE aims to decrease the reliance of these systems on high-bandwidth communication and deep crew bench while expanding the potential spectrum of missions through combinations of assets—all at lower overall costs of operation. These capabilities would greatly enhance survivability and effectiveness of existing air platforms in denied environments.”



The FCC has set a new, faster definition for broadband

By Brian Fung January 29 at 1:12 PM 


Federal regulators have set a new definition for broadband that establishes 25 megabits per second as the baseline for high-speed downloads, up from 4 Mbps previously.

With this standard, the Federal Communications Commission will be able to argue for much stronger action on Internet providers — a point that’s rankling Republicans on the commission as the agency moves to promote the adoption of fast, cheap and reliable Internet in America.

It’s a simple accounting change that will have major ramifications. As a result of the decision — which also sets the minimum speed for uploads at 3 Mbps — millions of people who subscribe to slower plans will effectively lose their broadband status. Combine those with the substantial share of Americans who have never had broadband, and as many as 17 percent of America, or 55 million people, will lack access to high-speed broadband under the new measure, according to the FCC.

Conservatives are decrying the move as a case of government overreach, calling the 25/3 Mbps standard an “arbitrary” threshold and arguing that most consumers seem to think the old one — 10 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up — works just fine.

“Seventy-one percent of consumers who can purchase fixed 25 Mbps service — over 70 million households — choose not to,” said Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.

For an agency whose mission is to remove barriers to broadband, the FCC is its own worst enemy, Pai added, saying the FCC is intentionally finding that the industry has failed just so that it can “regulate it back to health.”

But Democrats on the commission say the new standard establishes a forward-looking, aspirational target. Those who lack access to speeds that are “table stakes” for the rest of the country don’t deserve to be left behind, they argue. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pointed out that subscriptions to 25/3 service have quadrupled in the last three years. And Wheeler said that Internet providers’ claims that there isn’t enough demand for 25 Mbps broadband isn’t borne out by their marketing campaigns, which treat customers like voracious data consumers.

“Someone is telling us one thing and telling consumers another,” Wheeler said. “Our challenge is not to hide behind self-serving lobbying statements, but to recognize reality. And our challenge is to help make that reality available to all.”

As the FCC prepares to intervene next month against state laws that make it harder for cities to build their own, public alternatives to traditional Internet providers — and as it plans to release its latest draft rules to prevent discrimination against Internet traffic — the standard for broadband will become a key political tool in defending the FCC’s actions. So will the underlying law that recognizes the FCC’s authority to promote broadband, Section 706 of the Communications Act. A Republican-backed bill in Congress is already seeking to strip the FCC of that power.


Ramussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, January 31, 2015


A more optimistic America plans to take a Super Bowl break tomorrow, but why isn’t President Obama getting more credit for our improving national disposition?

We’ll tell you tomorrow morning whether Super Bowl fans think the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks will come out on top. One thing’s already certain, though: Americans aren’t buying the Patriots’ story in the “Deflategate” controversy.  

The Super Bowl may be the biggest sporting event of the year, but a sizable number of viewers are more interested in the big budget commercials and the halftime show by pop star Katy Perry.

Going into the Super Bowl weekend, Mitt Romney was the big newsmaker with his announcement that he is not running for president again. In announcing his decision, Romney said he hoped Republicans would pick a fresh face to be their 2016 presidential nominee, and GOP voters strongly agree with him. 

Romney knew, too, that a big potential problem for his candidacy is that Republican voters are a pretty conservative bunch. Democratic voters have their complaints with Washington, D.C., but they remain more content with their party’s political representation than GOP voters are.

The best-known fresh face among Democrats is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, but Hillary Clinton trounces her in a head-to-head matchup for their party’s 2016 presidential nomination.
The race to be the next Democratic nominee is still Clinton’s to lose.

Consumer and investor confidence remain at or near their highest levels in several years, and now 35% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. That may not sound great, but it’s the highest level of optimism in nearly two years.

Homeowners are more confident than they have been since the housing bubble burst that their homes will be worth more in one year and in five years’ time

More than half of voters believe the country can end its toxic dependence on foreign oil as prices at the pump continue to trend down.

The president’s daily job approval ratings  rose to their highest levels in nearly two years just after his State of the Union address last week but have since settled back. Yes, the president’s daily ratings have improved slightly since Election Day, but unchanged are the mediocre marks he earns for his handling of economic and national security issues.

Democrats have a three-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. It will be interesting to see whether the Generic Ballot and right direction findings signal a trend or just spiked temporarily after the State of the Union speech like Obama’s job approval.

The president’s poor national security marks are perhaps no surprise given that belief the United States is winning the War on Terror has fallen to yet another low.

Voters also think the president is getting more confrontational with his political opponents, despite the belief by 82% that it is more important for Obama and the Republican-led Congress to work together than to stand for what they believe in.

Voters are ever-so-slightly happier with the new Congress, although that’s not saying much.

Speaking of confrontational, most voters don’t want Loretta Lynch to be like the person the president has nominated her to replace, Attorney General Eric Holder.

In other surveys last week:

Americans support women in the pulpit and in senior leadership positions within the church. But they are more hesitant when it comes to supporting openly gay and lesbian religious leaders.

— As Kentucky, Illinois and several other states consider adopting right-to-work laws, voters aren’t as convinced that such laws which ban compulsory union dues have a positive impact on state economies. However, those who currently live in right-to-work states paint a rosier picture.

Few voters think Saudi Arabia will become a more liberated society following the passing of King Abdullah and the quick succession of his half-brother, King Salman.

— Is lifting the trade embargo on Cuba long overdue? What does America think?

— Americans don’t feel as strongly as they used to that movies send a bad social message, especially when it comes to violence.

Americans are eating out more but still enjoying it less than a good meal at home. Half of Americans say they rarely eat fast food, but for those who do, it’s not necessarily because they like it.

Subscribers to Rasmussen Reports receive more than 20 exclusive stories each week for less than a dollar a week. Please sign up now. Visit the Rasmussen Reports home page for the latest current polling coverage of events in the news. The page is updated several times each day.

Remember, if it’s in the news, it’s in our polls.



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