Skip to content

April 4 2015

April 6, 2015

4 April 2015


Blog URL



Fast-Paced Technologies Passing by Military’s Acquisition Culture


By Michael Hoffman | Friday, March 27th, 2015 8:07 pm


U.S. military leadership has known the Pentagon is falling quickly behind the technological curve and opening itself to new and developing threats, but military brass still don’t know how to fix it.

Fingers are often pointed at the military’s acquisition system that has failed to adapt to the increasingly fast pace of innovation and business development. Multiple attempts by military leaders and Congress have failed to make the system more agile or efficient.

In fact, company officials in important fields such as cyber security and robotics told Military​.com they have no interest in working with the Pentagon because it would limit their opportunities in the commercial market.

Google took advantage of missed Defense Department opportunities last year when the search engine giant bought promising robotics companies working with the Pentagon. Boston Dynamics is one that had developed drone prototypes designed to help troops carry equipment on patrol and see inside suspicious buildings.

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel outlined many of these shortcomings in an initiative unveiled last November called the Pentagon’s “Offset Strategy.” Hagel wrote that the U.S. “dominance in key warfighting domains is eroding” in the memorandum announcing the strategy.

“We need to continue to further examine our business practices and find ways to be more efficient and effective through external benchmarking and focused internal reviews,” Hagel wrote.

On Wednesday, the chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee introduced a bill called the Agile Acquisition to Retain Technological Edge Act. The legislation seeks to improve the defense acquisition work force, offer more flexibility for defense contracts, and reduce weapons cancellation risks

“I hope that by streamlining the process, improving accountability, and eliminating outdated regulations, we can start to get some of that edge back. While this bill won’t fix all that is broken, it is a start,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, the HASC chairman.

Along with Congress, groups inside and outside the military are trying to tackle the problem.

Christopher Zember, director of the Defense Department’s Information Analysis Center (IAC), wants to use his organization as a test bed for a program that could have major implications on changes to the way the Pentagon buys weapons.


Pentagon loses its edge

The military along with the defense industrial complex has fallen behind the pace of innovation in Silicon Valley and the greater global research and development marketplace, Zember said. He warned that technology proliferation and rapid development cycles allow U.S. enemies to gain high-tech weapons for much less investment than previously required.

The Pentagon relied on large capital investments, lengthy development cycles and strategic forecasting to gain a technological edge after World War II, Zember wrote with Adam Jay Harrison and Jawad Rachami in a piece for the Georgetown Security Studies Review.

Now, firms such as Google, Apple and Microsoft grossly outspend defense companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing on research and development programs. In 2013, the five largest U.S. defense industrial companies combined spent $4.1 billion on R&D projects. In that same year, Google spent $8 billion and Microsoft spent $10.4 billion, according to data collected by Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners.

Zember said he recognizes the need for the Pentagon to better tap into the technology that has been yielded by those investments. He started a program at IAC called Technology Domain Awareness that he said could have ramifications, if successful, for the entire Pentagon.

One of the program’s initiatives, called Project Vulcan, matches special operators and Pentagon acquisition officials with counterparts in the commercial and academic world, including researchers, venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. Project Vulcan is being overseen by officials in the U.S. Special Operations Research, Development and Acquisition Center (SORDAC) and the National Defense University.

The goal is to offer a window into the challenges the special operations community faces to commercial partners, followed by a discussion of possible solutions. Zember said a major challenge he sees in the Defense Department’s attempt to build weapons is the sharing of information about problems and solutions across services.

“We want to wind back the clock and engage people from the problem level,” he said.

Problems are the currency of the technology development and start-up communities, said retired Army Col. Peter Newell, who served as the head of one of the Army’s most agile acquisition arms, the Rapid Equipping Force, from 2010 and 2013. Newell is now a managing partner at BMNT Partners, a consultant firm in Silicon Valley, and is working with Zember and the IAC to improve DoD acquisition.

Newell saw firsthand many of the struggles the military has when developing the right technology for troops. He said the key to improving the military acquisition of technology is eliminating space between users and developers.

Under his leadership, the Army deployed mobile labs with engineers and 3-D printers to Afghanistan, where soldiers would describe the problems they faced in the field and engineers would develop solutions on site.

Newell said Pentagon officials need to travel to Silicon Valley to get a better grasp of the community’s culture if the military wants to take advantage of the innovation occurring in the region. Posting opportunities on government acquisition sites such as FedBizOpps​.gov and hoping for those developers to reach out to the Pentagon will not work, he said.


Mike Geertsen worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency for four years after spending 12 years at Microsoft. He agreed with Newell, although he said there is the potential to build a larger technology development community in the D.C. region.

Many business leaders and developers in fields such as autonomy, robotics and advanced engineering hardly know about opportunities working with the military, Geertsen said. For the few who do, working with the Pentagon rarely makes sense financially, he said.

Funding comes too slowly for start-ups and tech firms, causing the military to risk missing market opportunities waiting for the government to process the legally mandated acquisition steps, Geertsen explained.

The founders of Drone Shield, a company that built a system that provides alerts for incoming aerial drones, said working under a Pentagon contract is unattractive for the reasons Geertsen laid out. The system could be useful to military units stationed at combat outposts; however, Brian Hearing, a co-founder of DroneShield, said his company would miss out on too many commercial opportunities if it pursued an Army contract.


Culture and Contracting

Geertsen boiled the Pentagon’s problem down to two main issues: culture and contracting.

He explained that the culture gap goes beyond the alphabet soup of abbreviations that troops and Pentagon officials use in their daily lexicon. He said he had to get used to the different pace of operations working with the government and the mindset of obligating funding versus shipping a product.

The military needs to find ambassadors to shrink the chasm between those two cultures, Geertsen said. The ambassadors would come from commercial industry, and recruit or help tech firms and innovators work within the Pentagon’s acquisition system.

One such ambassador could be TandemNSI.

Jonathan Aberman launched TandemNSI last year and has hosted numerous events in the D.C. region that bring together entrepreneurs and commercial technology development leaders with national security officials. Aberman also serves as the managing director of a venture capital fund, Amplifier Ventures.

Geertsen is assisting TandemNSI on putting together a concept where the organization would serve as a talent scout for the Pentagon. TandemNSI would help find the tech companies developing solutions that would fit with DoD innovation requirements and and work with existing agile contract models to make working with the DOD more engaging for nontraditional sources.

Entrepreneurs and start-ups cluster around each other, Aberman said. The military needs people from this world recruiting these innovators to work on Pentagon challenges. Until it does, some of the most innovative companies will continue to ignore the military and the opportunities, Aberman said.

“If national security agencies want to attract non-traditional innovators, if has to become non-traditional in how they attract them,” Aberman said.

He cited the Cyber Fast Track Program as an example where the Pentagon made progress. The temporary program allowed DARPA to work with a large group of cyber innovators over a short period of time with a relatively small amount of money, Aberman said.

Zember and Aberman agreed the Pentagon must work with Congress to develop a more business-friendly contracting system.


“There’s clearly a need for contract reform and a willingness to use some existing methods in new ways,” Aberman said.

Zember said federal acquisition regulations have some flexibility built in to allow program managers to create opportunities for smaller businesses. However, for the most part, it’s a “cookie-cutter approach” that makes it difficult to adapt to the fast moving pace of technology fields.

Aberman said the Pentagon needs to figure out a way to get money to companies faster, or the most innovative groups will take their products elsewhere.

“We believe that growing this bottoms-up approach that deals tangibly with the last-mile issues of culture and contracts is essential for the DoD to achieve its offset strategy and innovation base objectives,” Aberman said.


AF secretary: Budget cut would hit ‘every part’ of Air Force, furloughs could return

By Barrie Barber

Springfield News-Sun, Ohio (Tribune News Service)

Published: March 27, 2015


The return of sequestration would impact “every part” of the Air Force while the service branch has called for an end to downsizing the number of airmen in ranks and pushes to restore readiness and modernize an aging fleet, the service branch’s top civilian leader said.

In an exclusive interview Thursday with the Dayton Daily News, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said sequester-imposed spending caps may cut $10 billion from the budget the Air Force wants.

The secretary toured Wright-Patterson on Thursday and addressed more than 200 Air Force Institute of Technology master’s degree and doctoral graduates and more than 1,000 others gathered at a ceremony at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

“Ten billion is a big chunk of money and it would mean every part of our Air Force would be touched in some way,” she said in an interview. “It’s impossible to predict what that means for Wright-Patterson,” but it could strike programs like advanced engine research and raise the potential for a return of furloughs, she said.

In 2013, thousands of civil service workers were sent home for days at Wright-Patterson because of furloughs officials blamed on sequestration. Without action from Washington, sequestration is due to return in October, the start of the 2016 fiscal year.

“I certainly will be a strong vote that (furloughs) will not remain on the table, but of course this is now in the hands of Congress,” she said. “We’re working with Congress actively to try and get our point across. But I think those furloughs were very devastating, disturbing, really had a bad impact on morale of our civilian workforce and I think we should not return to that.”

In her speech to AFIT graduates, James said they will confront the challenge of fiscal austerity and defense cutbacks, new global adversaries like the Islamic State, a resurgent Russia in Ukraine, a rising China in the Asia-Pacific region and uncertainty in the geopolitical world.

“Confronting and overcoming challenges is our collective responsibility,” she said.

In an interview with this newspaper, James called for an end to the downsizing of the number of airmen in the Air Force, now the smallest since its inception in 1947 at around 310,000 active-duty uniform personnel. The service branch has proposed a “slight increase” in the number of active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard airmen.

“We should go no lower and enough is enough when it comes to downsizing,” she said.

The Air Force has prioritized modernizing aircraft and nuclear forces, and investing in cyber and space operations, science and technology development, and training and readiness, she said.

She emphasized a priority of “making every dollar count” while budgets get tighter.

On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released a letter addressed to James that criticized the Air Force for not meeting a Defense Department directive that called on each service branch to reduce spending at headquarters by 20 percent and to strive for a goal of a 20 percent reduction in government civilian staff.

The Arizona Republican senator said the Air Force had “pursued a shell game” that moved money to fund the same positions that relocated elsewhere in the Air Force, such as re-designating the Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency the 25th Air Force and setting up a new Installation and Mission Support Center. He urged the service branch to reduce headquarters staff.

James said Thursday the Air Force had achieved a 20 percent spending reduction on headquarters in one year rather than five, as the directive allowed. “And the key word there is spending because of course, with our debt, our deficit, what we’re all trying to do is become more efficient and save money,” she said. “The way we did that was a combination of things.”

Those measures impacted both civilian employees and contractors and reassigned some military personnel from administrative tasks to other military missions, she said.

“There were a series of actions that we took in order to achieve these savings,” she said. “So what we’re going to do is offer some additional briefings to try to clarify this on Capitol Hill.”

The secretary backed a new round of Base Realignment and Closure to cut excess infrastructure. One Air Force official recently said in testimony to Congress the Air Force had 30 percent more infrastructure than it needed.

“We do have excess capacity and the fact that we are paying money to maintain that capacity means that money can’t be spent on people, and readiness and modernization so we would prefer to free up those dollars and put them toward more important uses,” James said.

James said the Air Force will rely more on the Reserve and Air National Guard in the future. It has sent more F-15C Eagle fighters to the Air National Guard, more cyber operations in the Reserve and moved more space-oriented missions to both sister branches, she said.

“We’re big believers, we’re total force people, so I think you’re going to see more of that in the future,” she said.



Amazon Is Going To Let Your Gadgets Order Groceries Automatically

David Pierce Gear



The doorbell rings. Which is odd, because I didn’t order anything, and no one’s supposed to come over. I’m snapped out of my confusion by a second ring, and I bound down the two flights of stairs to answer the door. It’s the FedEx guy. He hands me a brown package with black tape advertising the Fire Phone, hikes up his shorts, and walks away. I definitely didn’t order anything, but it does have my name on it… so I open it up.

Four light bulbs, 60 watts.

What the hell? What kind of weird troll is it to send someone four light bulbs? I start to filter through the box to find a receipt with a billing address—and suddenly, the lamp by my desk flickers out.

Apparently I ordered new light bulbs. More specifically, my lamp ordered them. When it discovered the current bulb had just 48 hours of life, it said its goodbyes, moved on, and quickly logged into Amazon and bought me another one.

This is the future according to Amazon. It’s also the whole goal of the Dash platform: keep your stuff in stock. The company is announcing today the the Dash Button, a one-touch way to re-order common things in your home, along with the Dash Replenishment Service, a wildly futuristic program that’s designed to automatically and intelligently keep you from ever running out of things again.

The original Dash was launched in limited capacity almost exactly a year ago—it’s the most unremarkable magic wand ever made. You can scan the barcode on your empty milk carton, or tap a button and say “milk” into the device, and Amazon will automatically ship you a new carton of milk with free two-day delivery.

One thing Amazon learned from the Dash is that most people re-order the same couple of things over and over, and that they have a tendency to forget to do so when they’re not near their Dash. Of course, when you’re not shopping, you’re not useful to Amazon, which is where the Dash Button comes in. It’s a sticky oval about as long as your pinky finger, designed to be placed on a cabinet, a refrigerator, or a bathroom sink wall. Anyone with a Prime membership can get one.

Each button is linked to a brand—Amazons launching in partnership with Gillette, Cottonelle, Gatorade, Kraft, Olay, Tide, and a handful of others, but soon anyone can join the program—and you decide which specific product you want when you first set up the free button. Let’s say you set yours up to order 24 blue Gatorades: Every time you hit that button, it blinks white and then green, and in two days you’ll get 24 blue Gatorades. (Amazon will only fulfill one order at a time, so you won’t be penalized for forgetting you hit the button as easily as you used to forget to order the Gatorade.) And every time something gets ordered, you get a notification on your phone through the Amazon app, so you can cancel it if you’ve decided to kick the blue Gatorade habit once and for all.

The Dash Button is a sticky oval about as long as your pinky finger, designed to be placed on a cabinet, a refrigerator, or a bathroom sink wall. Anyone with a Prime membership can get one.

Handy, right? Everyone has a couple of things they buy frequently, the same thing every time. (Me: coffee, seltzer, laundry detergent.) Amazon’s standard subscription service is sort of a brute-force solution, assuming you never take a break from Gatorade or go on vacation. It’s much smarter to just make it really easy to order more Gatorades when you notice there’s only one left in the fridge—plus, it almost certainly means you’ll drink more Gatorade over time. You win again, Amazon.

Where Dash gets really crazy is in the Dash Replenishment Service (which Amazon calls DRS), which aims to remove you from the process entirely. It’s a simple cloud service that enables anything with an Internet connection to automatically re-order something for you. What if your printer knew when it was almost out of ink, and could buy you more? Brother is one of the first DRS partners, and aims to do just that. Oddball inventor’s laboratory Quirky is building a connected coffeepot and an infant formula machine, both of which can order their own refills and replacement equipment. Your Whirlpool washing machine could know the size of detergent bottle you buy and how much of it you’ve used, deducing when it’s time to order more. You know that Brita filter you haven’t replaced in three years? (I’m nodding my head.) It’ll automatically get another one shipped out as soon as it’s needed.

It’s an amazing, futuristic, surprisingly logical idea. It’s also totally terrifying. I have no idea when my Brita filter needs replacing; it’s nice to have the filter tell me, but what’s to stop Brita from ordering a replacement 25 percent sooner than it needs to? I’ll never know it’s conning me, and it’ll suddenly cost me 25 percent more. If Kraft sends me just a little more mac ‘n’ cheese than I really need, it’s just going to invisibly drive up the cost. And, yeah, there’s something a little creepy about Amazon knowing the exact pace with which I go through toilet paper. You Might Like: Prune Juice, Fiber One cereal.

Amazon’s fairly candid about the fact that it has a lot to think through, and says that’s why it’s opening this up slowly. There will be a beta, and a much wider launch this fall. At that point, though, Amazon VP Peter Larsen says any device with internet access can use DRS with just ten lines of code.

Larsen says this is the future, that it’s not a matter of if but when. And as much as I’m terrified, and worried about Amazon’s capitalistic impulses and the vast amounts of deeply personal data it will collect about me, I keep coming back to that burned-out light bulb. What if the internet of things can fix itself, or at least get you the parts you need? (Amazon’s already working on being able to call the guy to come fix it, too.) That’s a pretty amazing step toward removing frustrating friction from our lives. And look, let’s be honest: I really need to change my Brita filter.



After GPS: The future of navigation

Rutrell Yasin, Contributing Writer 3:22 p.m. EDT March 31, 2015


The military has become increasingly dependent on Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for accurate and precise positioning, navigation and timing (PNT) in a wide variety of operational environments — from tactical vehicles to GPS-guided missiles.

However, as military operations are increasingly carried out in areas where GPS is denied, unreliable or not accessible, military use of GPS has evolved from being a strategic advantage to a vulnerability. Many environments in which the military operates — such as buildings, urban canyons, under dense foliage, underwater and underground — have limited or no GPS access. Moreover, adversaries can easily block GPS access by jamming, spoofing and other GPS-denial threats.


As a result, alternative sources of PNT are required. The Army is exploring the potential of atomic clocks, platform distribution PNT and inertial navigation systems as alternative technologies under the Assured PNT program.


“Threats to military GPS have evolved and improved at a rapid pace — from a proliferation of small-scale commercial jamming devices that can readily be purchased on eBay to large-scale military anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities,” said MAJ Christopher Brown, assistant program manager Dismounted PNT within the Assured PNT program.


Currently, GPS is the predominant technology the Army relies upon for positioning, navigation and timing. The Army has integrated GPS receivers into most technology-based systems used in the battlefield, such as Stryker, Nett Warrior, Rifleman Radio, the M777 howitzer and many others. These systems depend on PNT to varying degrees for some aspect of their functionality. The challenge is developing a resilient PNT capability the Army can confidently rely on as technological threats continue to increase, which is the intent of Assured PNT, according to Kevin Coggins, the product director for PNT in the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors.

“The goal of Assured PNT is not to be ‘independent of GPS.’ In the Army, we think of PNT as a capability and GPS as one of many material solutions that provide a capability,” MAJ Brown said.

“Assured PNT is a robust capability that provides a level of assured access and trust — a level that must be defined, measurable, and testable. GPS will be one of the tools we use to achieve this, along with non-GPS augmentation,” MAJ Brown said.

The Assured PNT approach doesn’t just involve material solutions such as hardware and software, but also requires that the Army’s architecture, training, testing and operational concepts evolve, Brown said.

The initiative stems from a series of joint analyses that outline the gaps of “access to” and “integrity of” PNT information, with the realization that the (GPS) alone is not sufficient for all situations. The Army has been designated the lead service to address the Assured PNT challenge.


A system of systems architecture for PNT

A meaningful milestone in the move toward a resilient PNT is the initiation of the Army PNT System of Systems Architecture (SoSA). The Army has spent billions of dollars over the past 12 years at war developing, procuring, integrating and sustaining GPS receivers without a guiding architecture. The PNT SoSA “is an open systems architecture that is flexible enough to accommodate additional capabilities without incurring expensive system or platform integration and certification costs — a framework that enables a pathway for future innovation,” Coggins wrote in a recent paper.

The framework will include the PNT Hub, under development within the Assured PNT program, which “will enable the integration of innovative technologies such as the Chip Scale Atomic Clock, which harnesses the stable oscillations of the cesium atom to preserve precise time, even in the absence of GPS,” according to Coggins. Engineers with innovative approaches to determine positioning and timing will have an affordable pathway to insert this technology into a PNT SoSA-compliant product.

The Assured PNT program and the Defense Advanced GPS Receiver (DAGR) Distributed Device (D3) program incorporate the PNT SoSA. The D3 is the functional replacement for the DAGR, replacing up to eight GPS devices on a platform and is upgradable to Military Code (M-code), a new signal that is designed to improve both the security and anti-jamming properties of military navigation using GPS. PNT SoSA is also designed to provide an affordable migration path to M-code.


DARPA research moves beyond GPS

Meanwhile, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is exploring novel approaches to PNT such as penny-sized inertial sensors, pulsed lasers and tracked lightning strikes to provide precise location-based insights in GPS-denied areas. In fact, early investments by DARPA to miniaturize GPS technology has made GPS so ubiquitous today, integrated in technologies as wide-ranging as smartphones to precision munitions.

“Position, navigation, and timing are as essential as oxygen for our military operators,” DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar said. “Now we are putting new physics, new devices, and new algorithms on the job so our people and our systems can break free of their reliance on GPS.”

DARPA’s current PNT portfolio includes five programs, focused wholly or in part on PNT-related technology:

Adaptable Navigation Systems (ANS) is developing new algorithms and architectures for rapid plug-and-play integration of PNT sensors across multiple platforms. DARPA’s goal is to reduce development costs and shrink deployment time from months to days. ANS aims to create better inertial measurement devices by using cold-atom interferometry, which measure the relative acceleration and rotation of a cloud of atoms stored within a sensor. By leveraging quantum physical properties, researchers hope to create extremely accurate inertial measurement devices that can operate for long periods without needing external data to determine time and position.

Additionally, ANS explores the use of non-navigational electromagnetic signals — including commercial satellite, radio and television signals and even lightning strikes — to provide additional points of reference for PNT. In combination, these various sources are much more abundant and have stronger signals than GPS, and so could provide position information in both GPS-denied and GPS-degraded environments, according to DARPA.

ASPN is currently in Phase 2 of development going through subsystem field demonstrations on a variety of platforms. An end-to-end system demonstration of GPS-independent PNT is planned for FY15.

Microtechnology for Positioning, Navigation and Timing (Micro-PNT) applies extreme miniaturization technology made possible by DARPA-developed micro-electromechanical systems technology. Micro-PNT comprises a portfolio of diverse efforts collectively devoted to developing highly stable and precise chip-scale gyroscopes, clocks and complete integrated timing and inertial measurement devices. Currently, DARPA researchers have fabricated a prototype with three gyroscopes, three accelerometers and a highly accurate master clock on a chip that fits easily on the face of a penny.

Quantum-Assisted Sensing and Readout (QuASAR) intends to make the world’s most accurate atomic clocks — which currently reside in laboratories — both robust and portable. QuASAR researchers have developed optical atomic clocks in laboratories with a timing error of less than one second in 5 billion years. Making clocks this precise portable could improve upon existing military systems such as GPS, and potentially enable entirely new radar, LIDAR and metrology applications.

The Program in Ultrafast Laser Science and Engineering (PULSE) applies the latest in pulsed laser technology to significantly improve the precision and size of atomic clocks and microwave sources, enabling more accurate time and frequency synchronization over large distances.

The Spatial, Temporal and Orientation Information in Contested Environments (STOIC) program aims to develop PNT systems that provide GPS-independent PNT with GPS-level timing in a contested environment. STOIC comprises three primary elements that, when integrated, have the potential to provide global PNT independent of GPS: long-range robust reference signals, ultra-stable tactical clocks and multifunctional systems that provide PNT information between mulitple users.

Additionally, DARPA recently announced a new program related to PNT called “Precise Robust Inertial Guidance for Munitions: Navigation-Grade Inertial Measurement Unit.”

This PRIGM program addresses the challenge of providing precise PNT for low-cost, -size, -weight and -power consumption platforms, such as smart bombs and guided munitions, in GPS-denied environments.

Raytheon Missile Systems has worked with DARPA on various projects related to precision navigation and, as a result, always takes a keen interest in the research agency’s projects, said Chris Sprinkle, senior program manager for the company’s Tomahawk cruise missile.

The Tomahawk is a highly accurate, GPS-enabled precision weapon that has been used over 2,000 times in combat, and flight tested more than 500 times. Although the Tomahawk uses GPS, it is a weapon system that predates GPS, Sprinkle said. The Tomahawk Block III was the first to employ GPS to strike targets more precisely. The Block IV, released in 2004, is GPS-enabled, but also uses Raytheon’s anti-jamming GPS receiver AGER IV. Raytheon’s systems incorporate satellite navigation, laser guidance, high-definition radars, advanced seekers and other technologies.

“We still have maintained our ability to navigate in the absence or degradation of GPS. We take advantage of GPS,” Sprinkle said. “But if it were gone, we have the ability to hit targets with extreme precision even without GPS.”



Air Force: We Must Invent the Future

March 31, 2015 By Gen. Larry Spencer

Gen. Larry Spencer is vice chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force


During his remarks at a U.S. Air Force Academy commencement in June 1963, President John F. Kennedy said, “For some of you will travel where no man has ever traveled before. Some of you will fly the fastest planes that have ever been built, reach the highest altitudes that man has ever gone to, and lift the heaviest payloads of any aviator in history. Some of you will hold in your hands the most awesome destructive power which any nation or any man has conceived.”

Who knew back in 1963 just how quickly the president’s words would ring true. Since the inception of the Air Force, it has been vitally important that we recruit, retain and develop a diverse group of innovative and committed airmen. During my career, I have seen innovation change the Air Force in ways few of us could have imagined. When I began my career, our computers were Royale typewriters; we did not have global positioning systems, or GPS, in space; and what we know today as battlefield intelligence was an F-4 fighter flying low in Vietnam, literally snapping photographs one frame at a time.

Fast forward to today. Our front-line 5th-generation fighters, the F-22 and F-35, both have more computing power than any of the NASA spacecraft that landed on the moon. Instead of single-frame photographs, we have built an unprecedented intelligence network that allows the United States to see events happening in real time, essentially anywhere on earth, and to send that intelligence to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines immediately. During the early days of my career, we were lucky if that F-4 flying over the battlefield could provide photos of a single place that same day.

Over the past few decades, we’ve moved from microsecond technology to femtosecond technology, where a femtosecond is one millionth of a nanosecond or 10-15 second. This means that the ability now exists to calculate and measure things quicker and more precisely than ever before. There are a lot of fresh, paradigm-shifting ideas associated with this new technology. One of these is femtosecond lasers, which have the potential to allow the transport of data quicker and more securely than ever before.

Another emerging technology is hypersonic speed. This is the ability to fly faster than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. Hypersonic technology offers the potential for dramatic increases in speed, altitude and range for our aircraft. The simplest class of hypersonic vehicle could travel as fast as Mach 8. This technology has the potential to advance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and improve the execution of any Air Force mission around the world. Although technical hurdles remain, it is not difficult to imagine the value that such speed could bring in a future fight with advanced enemies or in our efforts to strike remote terrorist hideouts on extremely short notice. As the pioneering computer scientist Alan Kay once said, “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”

In an era of declining defense budgets and increasingly smaller military forces, it is essential that the United States maintain technological superiority if we are to remain guardians of global security – in essence, we must wisely invent the future. We’ve done it before. In the first Gulf War, we continuously dropped precision-guided munitions that were so accurate they flew through the windows of the intended targets. However, these smart bombs had difficulty acquiring and sustaining a lock on a target in bad weather. Around 2000, the Air Force developed and fielded a laser-guided smart bomb known as JDAM. JDAMs, which allowed all-weather targeting, transformed the B-52 Stratofortress from a single-role strategic bomber to a multi-use platform that can conduct close air support.

What is the next game-changing technology? Will it be Mach-8 flight or femtosecond lasers or something else? You can rest assured we are going to find out.



How Cheap Oil Is Reshaping Global Hotspots

March 31, 2015

By Moisés Naim

The Atlantic

From Russia to your local gas station, the consequences of low fuel prices are clear. But the second and third order effects are only beginning to become apparent.


What do Russia, Exxon Mobil, and ISIS have in common? Not much, except that they’re all grappling with an inconvenient but incontrovertible truth: a sudden, significant, and prolonged shift in the price of oil changes the world.

That truth was on display in 1974, and it’s on display again now. Over the course of just a few months in 1973-1974, the price of oil surged from $3 to $12 per barrel. The new price created new global economic powers: oil-producing countries primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. It also dealt a severe blow to the economies of the United States, Europe, Japan, and other oil importers. The oil shock altered power relations between the world’s main geopolitical players and created new ones. Higher oil prices had many unexpected consequences—from breeding oil wars to fueling theinternational spread of Islamic fundamentalism thanks to funding from newly super-rich countries like Saudi Arabia. Today’s drop in crude-oil prices, which began in the summer of 2014, may be as disruptive as the quadrupling of oil prices that created the oil shock of 1974.

Some of the effects of this decline in oil prices have been clear and immediate; picture happy Americans at gas stations and frantic government officials in oil-exporting countries forced to cut public budgets and consequently risk social and political turmoil.

In Russia, for instance, the ruble has suffered a steep devaluation, stock-market prices have fallen, the Central Bank’s reserves are shrinking, capital is fleeing the country, export revenues are down, and foreign investment has practically dried up. Russia’s sovereign bonds have been downgraded to junk status by credit-rating agencies. All of this largely stems from contracting oil and gas revenues (which account for 68 percent of Russia’s total export revenues and 50 percent of its federal-budget revenues) and economic sanctions imposed by the United States and Europe as a result of the Kremlin’s behavior toward Ukraine. Some fear that a belligerent Vladimir Putin could stir trouble abroad to distract from the deteriorating economic situation at home.

In Venezuela, the economy was already in shambles when oil was at $120 per barrel, and it’s now spinning out of control as a result of rampant corruption, woeful management, and lower oil prices. President Nicolas Maduro has responded by blaming the dire situation on a U.S.-led international conspiracy and ramping up repression of critics and opposition politicians.

But these direct consequences are having consequences of their own, and these second-order effects are only beginning to become apparent. In December, Chevron canceled a $10billion shale-gas exploration project in Ukraine, which the Ukrainian government was counting on to help stimulate its troubled economy and, eventually, lower its dependence on Russian gas. It’s just one example of a broader, industry-wide trend: scrapping or postponing energy projects that have suddenly become too risky or not economically viable at a lower oil-price level. According to Goldman Sachs, $1 trillion worth of investments in energy projects could now be at risk. In the long run, this may mean less oil production and higher energy prices. But in the short run, the abrupt disappearance of this enormous investment flow is bound to hurt energy companies—and especially their equipment suppliers and the construction and engineering firms that were planning to execute these projects. It will also hurt the cities and regions, from Texas to Lagos, where these companies operate.

Not all of the second-order consequences of lower oil prices are negative. Consider this comment from a recent International Monetary Fund report on Malaysia’s economy:

After raising electricity tariffs in early 2014, [the government] took advantage of lower energy prices in the second half of 2014 to reduce and ultimately remove remaining gasoline and diesel subsidies. … [Subsidy reform should] help broaden the base of [the] federal revenue system and diversify it away from volatile oil and gas revenues. A strengthening of Malaysia’s social safety net is an integral part of the authorities’ fiscal strategy. The removal of subsidies freed up resources that can be redirected to better support poorer households through better targeted cash transfers.

Countries from Oman to Indonesia have undertaken similar campaigns to scale back or eliminate fuel subsidies. In India, the Modi government cut costly public subsidies of diesel fuel, which were long understood to be counterproductive but were nevertheless politically unpopular to shed. Energy subsidies, which amount to more than $540 billion per year worldwide, are as common as they are damaging to economies, the poor, and the environment, since they stimulate consumption and undermine efforts to save energy and use it more efficiently. According to the World Bank, these subsidies are highly regressive: As much as 60 or even 80 percent of what governments in the Middle East and North Africa spend to subsidize energy benefits the richest 20 percent of the population, with the poor receiving less than 10 percent of these public funds.

Lower oil prices could also reduce incentives to produce the kind of extra-heavy, extra-polluting oil that is found at some of the world’s largest oil reserves, including those in Venezuela’s Orinoco river region. Due to the high production and upgrading costs associated with heavy oil, the development of these reserves is likely to be postponed. The problem is that low oil prices are eroding the economic viability of cleaner energy sources like solar and wind. Optimists hope that plummeting oil-and-gas prices will encourage producers of renewable-energy sources to improve their technologies and production methods, making these sources cheaper and more economically viable. This, in turn, could make renewable energy more commercially attractive once the price of oil rebounds.

Financial markets, too, are being reshaped by the cost of crude. Falling prices can harm the balance sheets of energy companies by driving down the volume of proven reserves that these corporations can count as marketable assets—reserves, mind you, that are one of the main drivers of the market value of these companies. As oil prices drop, the increasing production costs of some oil reservoirs will make these reserves commercially unviable. Such reservoirs will become a new kind of “stranded asset,” a term coined to describe fossil fuels that will not be used as climate-change concerns lead governments to stimulate alternative-energy sources and make the consumption of hydrocarbons more expensive. Upheaval in corporate valuations could lead to a wave of mergers and acquisitions among energy companies, transforming the structure of the industry.

Meanwhile, some of the world’s largest sovereign-wealth funds—or state-owned investment vehicles—belong to oil-and-gas producing countries. The Norwegian fund, for example, owns about 1.3 percent of all global securities. A prolonged depression in oil prices might force Norway to finance its fiscal shortfall with resources from its sovereign fund. This would entail the liquidation of sizable investments, and thus exert downward pressure on global equity markets. In fact, Norway’s $840-billion fund has already set up an expert group to evaluate whether it should stop investing in fossil-fuel companies, in anticipation of hydrocarbon assets losing significant value.

In the geopolitical realm, the relationship between Russia and Europe has already been disrupted, both by low oil prices and the conflict over Ukraine; the cancellation of Gazprom’s South Stream pipeline across the Black Sea and Southeastern Europe is just one manifestation of the evolving energy equation in the region. Russia’s relationship with China is also in flux. Matt Ferchen of Beijing’s Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy envisions closer economic cooperation between the two large nations: “China’s calculations in terms of energy deals hinge on a more advantageous bargaining position over the price of oil. … Russia, now under fire from sanctions and a drop in commodity prices, therefore needs a partner.”

In Latin America and the Caribbean, Venezuela’s political influence is waning as a result of many factors, paramount among them that the Bolivarian government no longer has the flush oil revenues that allowed Hugo Chavez to gain enormous influence by subsidizing oil supplies to friends and denying those supplies to foes. Countries that have been dependent on its largesse will have to look for alternatives, which might require engagement with other political forces in the hemisphere. The collapsing price of oil played a role in the recent rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. Venezuela’s economic crisis heightened the risk that Havana would no longer be able to count on the enormous subsidy it has enjoyed for more than a decade from Caracas. The Cuban regime was thus eager to find another source of economic support. It found one in America.

Nowhere are the second-order consequences of cratering oil prices more varied, important, and unpredictable than in the Middle East. In a Financial Times article in February titled “ISIS struggles to balance books as finances are squeezed,” reporter Erika Solomon wrote, “The world’s richest jihadi group is not as flush as it once was. It has cut spending on fuel and bread subsidies, while increasingly shaking down locals for cash. Fighters themselves may be feeling the squeeze, too.” Analyst Torbjorn Soltvedt estimated that the militant group’s revenue from selling oil had dropped to $300,000 per day, down from between $1 million and $2 million a day in 2014. “I don’t think [the oil-revenue decline] will lead to [the Islamic State’s] collapse. … But it might accelerate their implosion,” Soltvedt told Solomon. Iran, meanwhile, has entered into negotiations with world powers over its nuclear program for a variety of reasons. But the fact that Iran is one of the world’s hardest-hit oil producers is surely one of them.

All of these outcomes—both the direct and immediate, and the indirect and distant—hinge on two questions: How low will oil prices drop? And how long will this period of low prices last? Venturing answers is risky business; virtually no expert, corporation, or government anticipated the revolutionary drop in prices that began in the summer of 2014. But there are signs that the new normal could remain normal for some time. As Rex Tillerson, the CEO of Exxon Mobil, put it, “The world should ‘settle in’ for a period of relatively weak oil prices. U.S. shale production is more resilient than many people had expected and demand growth in China and elsewhere has slowed. Those conditions could persist.”



EPIC asks court for FAA drone privacy rules

by Press • 1 April 2015


The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) asked an appeals court on Tuesday to force the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to come up with privacy rules concerning drones.

It’s not all positive, however: Security issues and problems with some existing products leave room for

Many are worried that small, cheap, camera-equipped devices could soon be zipping around their neighborhoods, peering into gardens, through windows and into other areas that are generally considered private.

EPIC, a Washington, D.C., based non-profit, and 34 other groups had previously petitioned the FAA to start a public procedure that would lead to drone privacy regulations, but the FAA rejected the request. Tuesday’s filing at the D.C. Court of Appeals seeks to reverse that.

The current rules concerning drone use are geared solely towards safety. Private flight is covered by guidelines similar to those for model aircraft, while companies are generally prohibited from commercial flight, although the FAA has begun issuing issue stop-gap licenses that allow restricted flight until formal rules are developed.

That rule making process began in February and has attracted close to 2,000 comments. Some call on the agency to consider privacy, but the FAA argues that its primary concern is aviation safety

“We have determined that the issue you gave raised is not an immediate safety concern,” the FAA said in November 2014 when it rejected EPIC’s original request. The FAA went on to say it would consider EPIC’s request as part of its commercial drone flight rules, but when they were published in February they included no mention of privacy.

Instead, on the same day the FAA announced its proposed rules, the White House said it had asked the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to explore the issue of drones and privacy.

Some don’t think specific privacy regulations are needed. Speaking at a recent senate hearing, John Villasenor, a nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Intuition, warned against a rush to new rules.

He said the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution already addresses any privacy implications from government use of drones, while ample trespass laws exist to protect individuals from privately-operated drones.

The issue is one of several expected to be strongly debated between now and 2017, when the FAA regulations are expected to come into force.



New malware used to attack energy companies

By Lucian Constantin

IDG News Service | Mar 31, 2015 11:49 AM PT


A new malware program is being used to do reconnaissance for targeted attacks against companies in the energy sector.

The program, dubbed Trojan.Laziok by researchers from antivirus vendor Symantec, was used in spear-phishing attacks earlier this year against companies from the petroleum, gas and helium industries.

The attacks targeted companies from many countries in the Middle East, but also from the U.S., India, the U.K., and others, according to malware researchers from Symantec.

The Trojan is spread via emails with malicious documents that exploit a Microsoft Office vulnerability for which a patch has existed since April 2012.

“If the user opens the email attachment, which is typically an Excel file, then the exploit code is executed,” the Symantec researchers said Monday in a blog post. “If the exploit succeeds, it drops Trojan.Laziok, kicking off the infection process.”

Trojan.Laziok is mainly used to determine if a compromised system is worth further attention from the attackers. It collects information like the computer’s name, RAM size, hard disk size, GPU and CPU type, as well as a list of installed software, including running antivirus programs.

The information is sent back to the attackers, who then decide if they want to deploy additional malware that can provide them with remote access to the infected system. For this second stage of attack they use customized versions of Backdoor.Cyberat and Trojan.Zbot, two well known malware threats.

“The group behind the attack does not seem to be particularly advanced, as they exploited an old vulnerability and used their attack to distribute well-known threats that are available in the underground market,” the Symantec researchers said. “However, many people still fail to apply patches for vulnerabilities that are several years old, leaving themselves open to attacks of this kind.”

In a report released earlier this month, the U.S. Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team (ICS-CERT) said that almost 80 percent of the 245 cyber incidents it handled last year involved companies from the energy sector.

“Of the total number of incidents reported to ICS-CERT, roughly 55 percent involved advanced persistent threats (APT) or sophisticated actors,” the organization said. “Other actor types included hacktivists, insider threats, and criminals.”


Obama puts ‘malicious cyber actors’ on notice


A new executive order lets the US Attorney General and the Secretaries of Treasury and State go after cyberattackers “where it really hurts — at their bottom line.”

by Don Reisinger

April 1, 2015 7:05 AM PDT

  • President Barack Obama is taking aim at “malicious cyber actors” who attempt to profit from digital attacks on US interests.

    An executive order announced Wednesday authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State and Attorney General to impose sanctions on cyberattackers hacking into the networks of US companies or government agencies.

    “Effective incident response requires the ability to increase the costs and reduce the economic benefits from malicious cyber activity,” Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, wrote in a statement. “And this means, in addition to our existing tools, we need a capability to deter and impose costs on those responsible for significant harmful cyber activity where it really hurts — at their bottom line.”

    The White House aims to make it hard for hackers to profit from stolen information. After identifying the people behind a cyberattack — which could be an individual, company or even a country — the US could impose sanctions that would prevent US companies from doing business with them. Individuals would also be banned from traveling to the United States.

    “This new executive order is specifically designed to be used to go after the most significant malicious cyber actors we face,” Monaco wrote. “It is not a tool that we will use every day.”

    The executive order comes in the wake of massive attacks that targeted dozens of companies and millions of people across the US. Major hacks reported over the last year include those on retail giant Target — in which hackers stole credit card data for more than 110 million customers — as well as on department store Neiman Marcus, restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s, crafts-supplies chain Michaels Stores, hardware chain Home Depot, office-supplies chain Staples and insurance provider Anthem.

    One of the most notable breaches was last November’s incursion at Sony Pictures, which revealed private e-mails among Sony executives and inside details on upcoming films. The hack is believed to have been politically motivated in reaction to the impending release of “The Interview,” a comedy that featured an assassination plot on North Korea leader Kim Jong-un. The FBI has said that North Korea was behind the attack, but the country has denied any involvement.

    There were more than 1,500 data breaches worldwide last year, up nearly 50 percent from 2013.

    Dmitri Alperovitch, co-founder of cybersecurity company Crowdstrike, hailed Wednesday’s executive order. He also noted the order would allow the Secretary of State and Attorney General to put the bad actors, including companies or individuals, on the US government’s Specially Designated Nationals List, alerting US companies that they are not allowed to do business with them.

    “The administration deserves tremendous credit for taking this extraordinary bold step,” he wrote in a blog post. “Today the individuals listed on the SDN include terrorists, WMD proliferators and narcotics traffickers. In the not too distant future, cyber criminals, companies that benefit from commercial espionage, and operatives of foreign intelligence services may very well find themselves added to such dubious company. Welcome to the Brave New World!”

    A push from the White House on cybersecurity

    President Obama has made cybersecurity a priority in 2015. During his State of the Union address earlier this year, the president proposed adding $14 billion to the 2016 budget to help improve protection of government and corporate computer systems.

    In February, the president signed a separate executive order to establish a framework for US government and companies in the private sector to more easily share information on cybersecurity threats. He signed that order at a special cybersecurity summit the White House hosted at Stanford University, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

    But information-sharing and threats of sanctions are just part of the battle against cyberthreats. Actually prosecuting the hackers has proved extremely difficult — in part because hackers often reside in countries, like Russia and China, that do not have extradition treaties with the US.

    Last month, The New York Times reported federal investigators were closing in on the hackers behind the JPMorgan Chase attack that stole the contact information for 76 million households and 7 million small businesses. An arrest would be the first since the US apprehended Albert Gonzalez, who in 2010 was sentenced to 20 years in jail for a hack on retailer TJ Maxx and other companies



    U.S. targets overseas cyber attackers with sanctions programme

    WASHINGTON | By Jeff Mason and Andrea Shalal

    Thu Apr 2, 2015 9:00am BST


    (Reuters) – President Barack Obama launched a sanctions programme on Wednesday to target individuals and groups outside the United States that use cyber attacks to threaten U.S. foreign policy, national security or economic stability.

    In an executive order, Obama declared such activities a “national emergency” and allowed the U.S. Treasury Department to freeze assets and bar other financial transactions of entities engaged in destructive cyber attacks.

    The executive order gave the administration the same sanctions tools it deploys to address other threats, including crises in the Middle East and Russia’s aggression in Ukraine. Those tools are now available for a growing epidemic of cyber threats aimed at U.S. computer networks.

    “The Obama administration is really getting serious now. This order brings to bear the economic might of the United States against people who are robbing us blind and putting us in danger,” said Joel Brenner, who headed U.S. counterintelligence during President George W. Bush’s second term.

    The effort to toughen the response to hacking follows indictments of five Chinese military officers and the decision to “name and shame” North Korea for a high-profile attack on Sony. Officials said they hoped U.S. allies would follow suit.

    China, which routinely denies accusations by U.S. investigators that hackers backed by the Chinese government have been behind attacks on U.S. companies, said cyber attacks were generally cross-border incidents with origins hard to track.

    “China consistently does not approve of any one country using its domestic law to implement sanctions at every turn against the people or entities in another country,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.

    Senior U.S. administration officials said the new programme was focussed on activities rather than countries or regions.

    U.S. lawmakers and security and legal experts welcomed the move as an encouraging step after a steady stream of cyber attacks aimed at Target, Home Depot and other retailers, as well as military networks.


    But they said the executive order was surprisingly broad, which could result in a compliance nightmare for companies, and warned that it remained difficult to definitively “attribute” hacking attacks and identify those responsible.

    Obama said in a statement that harming critical infrastructure, misappropriating funds, using trade secrets for competitive advantage and disrupting computer networks would trigger the penalties.

    Companies that knowingly use stolen trade secrets to undermine the U.S. economy would also be targeted.

    “From now on, we have the power to freeze their assets, make it harder for them to do business with U.S. companies, and limit their ability to profit from their misdeeds,” Obama said.

    The programme was designed as a deterrent and punishment, filling a gap in U.S. cyber security efforts where diplomatic or law enforcement means were insufficient, Michael Daniel, Obama’s cyber security adviser, told reporters. He said there was no timeline for determining an initial round of targets.

    Under the programme, cyber attackers or those who conduct commercial espionage in cyberspace can be listed on the official sanctions list of specially designated nationals, a deterrent long sought by the cyber community.

    “This sends a signal that the days of free-range hacking are over,” said James Lewis, a cyber expert with the Centre for Strategic and International Studies.

    But Lewis said it would take time for the system of penalties to take hold. “People keep looking for a ‘Big Bang’ moment, but this will take years,” he said.

    John Reed Stark, a former head of Internet enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission, expressed scepticism, citing the high number of state-sponsored cyber attacks and the difficulty of identifying hackers.

    Mark Rasch, a former Justice Department trial attorney and former executive with defence contractor SAIC, said the breadth of the order gave the executive branch vast new powers to respond to even routine criminal hacking.

    Even denial-of-service attacks that knock websites offline with meaningless traffic, which can be orchestrated over the Internet for a few hundred dollars, could officially qualify for sanctions, he said.

    If used widely, he said, the order could spell “a compliance nightmare for companies.”

    Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said many questions remained about the administration’s overall strategy, and what underlying definitions would be used to govern implementation of sanctions.

    Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer of Crowdstrike, a cyber security firm, said the order could have a “momentous” effect by preventing cyber criminals from spending the proceeds of their attacks, and closing off companies based in China and elsewhere from the U.S. financial market.

    “If ABC Corp has had intellectual property stolen and then it’s showing up in products of So and So Co of Shenzhen, you can tell them that it’s been misappropriated and that their property in the U.S. is now subject to seizure,” Brenner said.

    Obama has moved cyber security towards the top of his 2015 agenda after recent breaches. Last month, the Central Intelligence Agency announced a major overhaul aimed in part at sharpening its focus on cyber operations.



    More than 2,000 comments offered on proposed drone regulations

    by Press • 3 April 2015

    By Martyn Williams IDG News Service


    The Federal Aviation Administration has received over 2,000 comments on its proposed rules for commercial drone flights in the U.S.

    The 2,000th comment was received Wednesday and hundreds more are likely to be filed before the deadline on April 24.

    Some of the comments assail the FAA for allowing companies to fly drones, saying it will lead to noiser and more dangerous skies. Others ask the agency why it took so long for it to get this far.

    The FAA proposed a broad set of rules that would allow companies to fly drones as long as they stick to several basic conditions: no higher than 500 feet, no faster than 100 miles per hour, and only during daylight.

    Drones would have to be flown by a licensed operator — a newly created certification — and kept within visual line-of-sight. Drones would always have to give way to other air traffic and could not fly over people who aren’t involved in their operation.

    Announcing the proposed rules in February, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx called it “an exciting day for aviation,” although the feedback so far suggests that isn’t a universally held view.

    The FAA has to do more to ensure these gadgets don’t pose noise, health and welfare risks to all citizens, rather than cater to the whims of hobbyists and commercial interests, wrote James Devlin of San Diego.

    Many of the comments are from members of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which prepared a template for its members to use. Those comments focus not so much on drones but on the effect the regulations would have on model aircraft enthusiasts.

    A common theme from other commenters is privacy, although the FAA’s proposal doesn’t address that issue.

    I believe everyone is entitled to their ‘privacy’ to an extent, but with a micro UAS [unmanned aircraft system], every citizen in the United States might feel there is a camera on them at all times, wrote Keith Imberger.

    The White House has tasked the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to come up drone privacy rules, but earlier this week the Electronic Privacy Information Center asked an appeals court to force the FAA to formulate its own rules.

    EPIC argues that congress mandated the FAA in 2012 to come up with a comprehensive plan for integration of drones into the national airspace.

    “We are trying to hold the FAA responsible for that plan,” said Jeramie Scott [cq], EIPC’s National Security Counsel, on Thursday.

    The proposed regulations can be found on the FAA website and public comments can be submitted through



    Rasmussen Reports

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

    Bottom of Form

    Saturday, April 04, 2015


    This Easter weekend marks the close of a bad week for those wishing to practice their religious faith without interference from the government.

    Republican governors in Indiana and Arkansas backtracked on religious freedom laws, already common in a number of other states, in the face of widespread business and special interest criticism. The laws were seen by supporters as protecting the religious rights of individuals but were characterized by critics as anti-gay.

    The debate over religious freedom laws continues. But voters send mixed signals: On one hand, they oppose a religious freedom law in their state, worried that it will discriminate against gays, but at the same time they believe more strongly that a Christian photographer should be able to turn down a same-sex marriage job for religious reasons, the very freedom that such a law protects.

    Just over half of voters believe anti-gay discrimination is a problem in America, but many also still feel the government is oversensitive to the concerns of racial, ethnic, religious and social minorities.

    America remains a solidly Christian nation. Two-out-of-three adults in this country still believe the central tenets of Christianity, that Jesus Christ was the son of God who was resurrected on Easter Day.  

    Yet while Easter remains one of the most important Christian holidays, attendance at religious services is likely to be down this year.

    Fifty-three percent (53%) of Americans think this country would be a better place if most people attended religious services on a regular basis.

    For now, though, just 29% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

    With the threat of radical Islamic terrorism continuing to dominate the news, Americans definitely do not feel safer at home.

    Maybe this is a reflection of the changing demographics in the country, but 
    Democrats by a 10-point margin now see Mexico as a better ally than Israel.

    Five years after its passage by Congress, attitudes about Obamacare remain largely unchanged: Voters expect it to increase health care costs and hurt the quality of care.

    Speaking of out-of-pocket costs, Americans are more supportive these days of everyone paying the same percentage of their income in taxes. 

    Congress continues to earn slightly better marks than it has in quite awhile, perhaps because voters are a bit more likely to think they see eye-to-eye with their local representative.

    Republicans have jumped out to a four-point lead on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

    Bill Clinton made news when he declared nearly 20 years ago that the era of big government is over. Voters still prefer smaller, cheaper government but clearly recognize that Barack Obama, the next Democrat after Clinton to be in the White House, has reversed that trend.

    President Obama earned a monthly job approval of 48% in March, unchanged from February.  
    His daily job approval rating remains similarly unchanged. 

    In other surveys last week:

    The University of Kentucky Wildcats are trying to achieve something no team has since 1976, but do March Madness followers think they can do it?

    — Just over half of voters still disagree with the Obama administration’s decision last year to swap several Taliban prisoners for POW Bowe Bergdahl in Afghanistan.  The Army recently charged Bergdahl with desertion.

    — Looking back on the sex scandal that led to President Clinton’s impeachment, do Americans consider then-White House intern Monica Lewinsky a victim or a willing accomplice?


From → Uncategorized

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: