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August 1 2015

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1 August 2015


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Drones boom ‘puts insurers at risk of multi-million bill’

by Press • 27 July 2015


The rise of drone technology could leave manufacturers and operators of the unmanned aerial vehicles facing multi-million pound claims, insurance experts have warned.

The number of drones flying in British airspace has soared in recent years with police forces, defence contractors and media firms among those authorised to operate them.

Earlier this year, Amazon’s founder Jeff Bezos unveiled plans for Amazon Prime Air, which could see the internet giant use drones to deliver small packages.

“Within the next 10 to 15 years, drones could replace cranes on construction sites and monitor traffic jams on public highways, which means new risks for aviation underwriters,” said Thomas Kriesmann, a senior underwriter at AGCS.

“We see the potential for multimillion-pound claims. We get the impression that the majority of manufacturers are not covered in the way we think they should be and we see complex liability scenarios that could involve manufacturers and service providers.”

Last week, the Civil Aviation Authority said it had recorded seven incidents between May 2014 and March 2015 at airports around the UK in which drones almost collided with planes. The CAA has launched a “dronecode” to alert users to the danger of collisions and accidents. Last week a drone flew within 100 metres of a Lufthansa flight approaching Warsaw airport.

Kieran Walshe, a partner at the law firm DWF, said: “Drones are becoming one of the biggest risks for insurers, but also one of the most significant product development areas due to the rapidly expanding usage by companies, as well as the public. The laws and liabilities involved range from aviation to privacy issues, but also trespass, harassment and data protection, with many drones carrying digital cameras. Criminal prosecutions can and will increase.

“At present, both insurers and drone operators are in uncharted waters. Amazon recently announced that it sells 10,000 drones a month, and the industry is worth over $1bn in manufacturing terms – it’s obvious that the technology is going to expand.”

With the use of commercial drones booming, the European Union is working on new regulations for them, due in the autumn.



Anonymous hacks Census Bureau, exposing more feds’ data

Aaron Boyd, Federal Times 11:16 a.m. EDT July 27, 2015


Hackers claiming to be affiliated with Anonymous broke into a Census Bureau network and exfiltrated information on users and administrators for a non-confidential bureau database last week.

Information was stolen from Census’ Federal Audit Clearinghouse, which maintains and disseminates single audits used to assess whether organizations qualify for federal assistance funding and if they are abiding by all the regulations that accompany that funding.

The hackers pulled down information on thousands of users, including emails, phone numbers, addresses, usernames and password hashes. The data includes information on Census and other federal employees, as well as members of organizations with user accounts for submitting audits to the site.

The four files were then posted on paste sites openly available on the web.

Census Bureau Director John Thompson noted that while the information was taken illegally and is considered a breach of a federal network, the compromised database did not contain any confidential data or personally identifiable information.

“While our IT forensics investigation continues, I want to assure you that at this time every indication is that the breach was limited to this database,” Thompson said Friday. “The Clearinghouse site does not store any confidential household or business data collected by the Census Bureau. That information remains safe, secure and on an internal network segmented apart from the external site and the affected database.”

Census security officials discovered the breach on July 22, at which point they took the site offline to investigate. The site was still down as of Monday morning.

Early investigations suggest the Clearinghouse was the only database compromised in the intrusion, with no evidence hackers were able to gain access to the Bureau’s internal networks, according to Thompson.

“American taxpayers and businesses entrust the U.S. Census Bureau with their information … we do not take this trust lightly and have a good record of keeping confidential information safe,” he said. “The IT security office is continuing its investigation and they will further strengthen our security systems based on what they learn.”

According to the hackers that posted the files on the paste sites, Anonymous attacked the Census Bureau in protest of the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership between the U.S. and European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership with countries from North America and the Pacific Rim.



Drones rapidly becoming a nuisance

by Press • 28 July 2015

By Kevin Smith, San Gabriel Valley Tribune


Drones are getting a lot of attention in Southern California these days, but for all the wrong reasons.

Last week firefighters were battling the North Fire along the 15 Freeway when their efforts were hampered by five drones. Yep, you read that right, FIVE of ’em were being flown in the area.

Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that flying a drone in a mountainous area where people are laboring to keep a brush fire under control might not be the best idea.

In fact, it might just be the worst idea.

Here’s the problem: These remote-controlled contraptions are extremely nimble, but they could easily collide with the rotor of a water-dropping helicopter or the engine of a fixed-wing aircraft. That’s all it would take to bring an aircraft down. This is the last thing firefighters need to be worrying about when they’re trying to corral a 3,500-acre blaze — in rough terrain, no less.

And the thing that’s especially irritating about all of this is that it’s not a one-time occurrence. It keeps on happening.

The Lake Fire in the San Bernardino Mountains was interrupted on its first day by a drone. That forced air tanker pilots to ditch about 2,000 gallons of fire retardant at a cost of $15,000.

Firefighting efforts at the Sterling Fire in late June were likewise interrupted when two drones were seen flying in the area, although one was later determined to be flying legally.

And lastly, the battle to contain a recent 54-acre fire in the Yucaipa Ridge area had to be halted when a private drone was spotted in the area.

So we have a definite pattern going here, and I think it could be boiled down to a couple simple equations: Brush fire + firefighters = good. Brush fire + drones = bad.

On a bigger scale, these incidents will likely slow the momentum to expand the use of drones for commercial purposes.

Amazon already has plans to use drones for package deliveries and the Federal Aviation Administration is also considering whether PrecisionHawk, a North Carolina-based company, should be allowed to use drones to survey crops in rural areas beyond the visual range of their operators.

Those kinds of uses make sense, although I’m not sure I would ever be desperate enough to have a pair of pants or a smart phone flown directly to my neighborhood via a drone.

The thing we have to watch out for are the crazies, the people who insist on flying these things when and where they want. Issues of privacy are obvious, but I’m also predicting that the more drones we see in the sky, the more accidents we’ll have.

And when you get right down to it, I’m not looking forward to seeing a bunch of tiny unmanned planes and helicopters up there. We Southern Californians already live in a world of traffic congestion, long lines and noise. And there are plenty of commercial and private aircraft already in flight. Do we really want to add clusters of small drones to the mix?

I don’t think so.

And we don’t need hobbyists flying them around when firefighters are battling brush fires.

I could drone on … but that’s about it.



New Zealand:- New drone rules ‘criminalise a hobby’

by Press • 28 July 2015



As a young boy in the 1960s I spent many hours down at the local park or schoolyard, flying my carefully hand-built model aircraft.

It was such a buzz to see them take to the air – even if they usually did crash just moments later.

Over the 50 years or so since those halcyon days of my childhood, I have continued to enjoy a hobby that exercises the body and the mind. Far better to be outdoors enjoying the sunshine and summer breezes than spending hours in front of the dim glow of a computer screen – as so many of today’s kids are given to doing.

In my entire 55 years of flying model aircraft, I have never once injured anyone nor damaged anyone else’s property – and that’s despite being a very active participant of the hobby. Most of the time I was flying the only rule was ‘use common sense’ – and obviously this has worked pretty well for me and the thousands of other Kiwis that have enjoyed this innocent pastime. I have searched high and low but can not find any records of anyone dying or harming another in New Zealand as a result of this hobby and it seems that the only injuries sustained seem to be related to the operator’s own body and small propellers – sometimes painful but not fatal.

So it was with great sadness, that I read through the CAA’s new regulations for the operation of radio controlled flying models and drones – now collectively called “remotely-piloted aircraft”. How tragic it is that in one fell swoop of the regulator’s pen, those who fly these craft for pleasure and relaxation are now treated like criminals and have effectively been stripped of the rights they’ve enjoyed for so long – despite the fact that this hobby has an outstanding safety record?

No longer can a father and his young boy just walk down to the local schoolyard or park to fly the cheap toy model purchased online from China or carefully hand-crafted over a long series of winter evenings. Although these craft may weigh just a few tens of grams, the new regulations consider them to be every bit as menacing, risky and dangerous as the much larger professional drones used by commercial operators.

If you or your children fly their tiny toys anywhere, without first obtaining the permission of the property owner over which they will briefly soar, then a $5000 fine is in the offing.

What’s more, even if the local council sets aside a small park or reserve in which you have permission to fly, you must also seek the permission of anyone else who is using that area or who enters that area – lest you face another possible $5000 fine.

This leaves me asking – what has gone wrong with this country?

Why are we treating children and responsible adults like enemies of the state, threatening them with huge fines for doing nothing more than that which they’ve been doing for decades, in complete safety and in harmony with the world around them.

The ironies are abundant and quite worrying.

I can walk across any piece of land in New Zealand without fear of being fined or imprisoned – at worst I’ll be asked to leave and possibly trespassed. If I have a full-sized aircraft, I can fly it across almost any piece of land in New Zealand with impunity. However, if my child flies his 20-gram toy over the same land without gaining the expressed prior permission of the landowner, he has committed an offence under CAA’s new regulations; an offence of such magnitude that it warrants a $5,000 fine. How does that work exactly?

CAA tell us that these new regulations are risk-based and that the more risky the operation, the tougher the regulations and penalties. So please explain to me how it is somehow less risky for a commercial operator to fly his very large, very heavy, potentially lethal drone over my head without my permission – than it is for my child to do the same with his feather-weight 20 gramme toy?

It would appear that CAA’s definition of risk is significantly different from my own, or that of anyone else I have spoken with.

Clearly CAA failed to consult with credible independent experts before conjuring up these new regulations. For example – they stand to have a decidedly negative impact on our tourism industry.

In most countries around the world, it is legal to fly recreational drones in public places – so long as you adhere to a few commonsense rules. Sadly for us, it is now illegal for anyone to fly a drone in a public place without prior consent. In the case of most of NZ’s landscape, obtaining that consent will likely be nigh on impossible for someone who’s only in the country for a few weeks. Already I have heard from a number of regular tourists to New Zealand who have said they will be striking this country from their list of preferred destinations.


Why is this?

Well these are the early-adopters who love NZ’s adventure-tourism attractions. These are the people who have already replaced their 35mm camera and camcorders with a flying camera in the form of a drone. They aren’t satisfied with 8×5 glossy snapshots of their holiday, they want high definition video of all the places they visit – taken from an aerial vantage point. They want to use their drone to get incredible external footage of them whizzing down our ski slopes.

Whilst such things are totally legal in most other countries – try it in New Zealand after August 1st and you could cop one of those $5,000 fines for your troubles.

CAA’s new regulations have clearly made NZ a much less desirable destination for the young, affluent tourist who has money to burn and a yearning for the latest gadgets. What’s more, as drone-based cameras become more commonplace, a greater percentage of our tourist market will opt for more “drone-friendly” countries than NZ.

Does our tourism industry even realise what they’re about to lose? Were they even consulted? I strongly suspect the answer to both questions is a resounding “no”.

So congratulations CAA – you have criminalised a hobby and are twisting a knife in the belly of our adventure tourism industry through your poorly conceived regulations.

Of course if you want to sidestep many of these restrictions, you can simply pay CAA a large fistful of dollars and then have the right to fly pretty much anywhere you want – regardless of the concerns of those below your craft. Yes, somehow, the payment of money is a sure-fire way to reduce risk – or so it would seem.

All I can deduce from this is that we have yet another case where the rights of New Zealanders are being erased and replaced by “privileges” that must be purchased from the appropriate government agency.


August 1st, 2015. A sad day for children and a sad day for the freedoms and rights of Kiwis.




The Scientists and Technologists Who Want To Keep AI Out of Weapons

July 27, 2015 By Mike Murphy Quartz


Maybe we should take the warnings of RoboCop more seriously. Famous scientists, engineers, and businessmen are banding together to call for a ban on autonomous weapons development.

In an open letter published today by the Future of Life Institute—a research group concerned with making sure humanity stays in charge of our technological future—Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and Steve Wozniak, along with hundreds of other researchers, signed on to the idea that “starting a military AI arms race is a bad idea.”

The letter questions the idea of researching technology that can be used to remotely kill humans without anyone telling the weapon to do so. While we have aerial technology today that lets us kill someone in the Middle East from a shipping container outside of Las Vegas, this is not what the Institute is concerning itself with. The letter says its focus is not on “cruise missiles or remotely piloted drones for which humans make all targeting decisions.”

Rather, the institute is worried about easily replicable technology that could search and kill humans based on “pre-defined criteria.”

“Unlike nuclear weapons, [autonomous weapons] require no costly or hard-to-obtain raw materials, so they will become ubiquitous and cheap for all significant military powers to mass-produce. It will only be a matter of time until they appear on the black market and in the hands of terrorists, dictators wishing to better control their populace, warlords wishing to perpetrate ethnic cleansing, etc. Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group.”

While current autonomous technologies are struggling to stand on their own two feet and learn defensive driving techniques, the institute says military technology that could lead to robots killing humans could be “feasible within years, not decades.”

The three famous engineers also signed a broader open letter from the institute in January about making sure research into AI is rigidly structured to safeguard against the creation of Terminators. The new letter comes ahead of the 2015 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, which begins today in Buenos Aires.

Hawking is also answering questions on Reddit this week, with the guiding topic of “making the future of technology more human.” Reddit users can submit questions now, and Hawking will start answering them tomorrow. Undoubtedly, some of the questions will likely hinge on the role robots and AI have in our future.


Obama’s Unnecessary and Risky Foreign Policy Gamble

July 27, 2015

By Leon Wieseltier

The Atlantic


The President’s supporters say he’s taking America ‘out of the rut of history’ with Iran, but he’s actually making a generational mistake.

“The president said many times he’s willing to step out of the rut of history.” In this way Ben Rhodes of the White House, who over the years has broken new ground in the grandiosity of presidential apologetics, described the courage of Barack Obama in concluding the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the Islamic Republic of Iran, otherwise known as the Iran deal. Once again Rhodes has, perhaps inadvertently, exposed the president’s premises more clearly than the president likes to do. The rut of history: It is a phrase worth pondering. It expresses a deep scorn for the past, a zeal for newness and rupture, an arrogance about old struggles and old accomplishments, a hastiness with inherited precedents and circumstances, a superstition about the magical powers of the present. It expresses also a generational view of history, which, like the view of history in terms of decades and centuries, is one of the shallowest views of all.

This is nothing other than the mentality of disruption applied to foreign policy. In the realm of technology, innovation justifies itself; but in the realm of diplomacy and security, innovation must be justified, and it cannot be justified merely by an appetite for change. Tedium does not count against a principled alliance or a grand strategy. Indeed, a continuity of policy may in some cases—the Korean peninsula, for example: a rut if ever there was one—represent a significant achievement. But for the president, it appears, the tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. Certainly it did in the case of Cuba, where the feeling that it was time to move on (that great euphemism for American impatience and inconstancy) eclipsed any scruple about political liberty as a condition for movement; and it did with Iran, where, as Rhodes admits, the president was tired of things staying the same, and was enduring history as a rut. And in the 21st century, when all human affairs are to begin again!

Obama’s restlessness about American policy toward Iran was apparent long before the question of Iran’s nuclear capability focused the mind of the world. In his first inaugural address, he famously offered an extended hand in exchange for an unclenched fist. Obama seems to believe that the United States owes Iran some sort of expiation. As he explained to Thomas Friedman the day after the nuclear agreement was reached, “we had some involvement with overthrowing a democratically elected regime in Iran” in 1953. Six years ago, when the streets of Iran exploded in a democratic rebellion and the White House stood by as it was put down by the government with savage force against ordinary citizens, memories of Mohammad Mosaddegh were in the air around the administration, as if to explain that the United States was morally disqualified by a prior sin of intervention from intervening in any way in support of the dissidents. The guilt of 1953 trumped the duty of 2009. The Iranian fist, in the event, stayed clenched. Or to put it in Rhodes-spin, our Iran policy remained in a rut.

But it is important to recognize that the rut—or the persistence of the adversarial relationship between Iran and the United States—was not a blind fate, or an accident of historical inertia, or a failure of diplomatic imagination. It was a choice. On the Iranian side, the choice was based upon a worldview that was founded in large measure on a fiery, theological anti-Americanism, an officially sanctioned and officially disseminated view of Americanism as satanism. On the American side, the choice was based upon an opposition to the tyranny and the terror that the Islamic Republic represented and proliferated. It is true that in the years prior to the Khomeini revolution the United States tolerated vicious abuses of human rights in Iran; but then our enmity toward the ayatollahs’ autocracy may be regarded as a moral correction. (A correction is an admirable kind of hypocrisy.) The adversarial relationship between America and the regime in Tehran has been based on the fact that we are proper adversaries. We should be adversaries. What democrat, what pluralist, what liberal, what conservative, what believer, what non-believer, would want this Iran for a friend?

When one speaks about an unfree country, one may refer either to its people or to its regime. One cannot refer at once to both, because they are not on the same side. Obama likes to think, when he speaks of Iran, that he speaks of its people, but in practice he has extended his hand to its regime. With his talk about reintegrating Iran into the international community, about the Islamic Republic becoming “a very successful regional power” and so on, he has legitimated a regime that was more and more lacking in legitimacy. (There was something grotesque about the chumminess, the jolly camaraderie, of the American negotiators and the Iranian negotiators. Why is Mohammad Javad Zarif laughing?) The text of the agreement states that the signatories will submit a resolution to the UN Security Council “expressing its desire to build a new relationship with Iran.” Not a relationship with a new Iran, but a new relationship with this Iran, as it is presently—that is to say, theocratically, oppressively, xenophobically, aggressively, anti-Semitically, misogynistically, homophobically—constituted. When the president speaks about the people of Iran, he reveals a bizarre refusal to recognize the character of life in a dictatorship. In his recent Nowruz message, for example, he exhorted the “people of Iran … to speak up for the future [they] seek.” To speak up! Does he think Iran is Iowa? The last time the people of Iran spoke up to their government, they left their blood on the streets. “Whether the Iranian people have sufficient influence to shift how their leaders think about these issues,” Obama told Friedman, “time will tell.” There he is again, the most powerful man in the world, backing off and bearing witness.

If I could believe that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action marked the end of Iran’s quest for a nuclear weapon—that it is, in the president’s unambiguous declaration, “the most definitive path by which Iran will not get a nuclear weapon” because “every pathway to a nuclear weapon is cut off”—I would support it. I do not support it because it is none of those things. It is only a deferral and a delay. Every pathway is not cut off, not at all. The accord provides for a respite of 15 years, but 15 years is just a young person’s idea of a long time. Time, to borrow the president’s words, will tell. Even though the text of the agreement twice states that “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop, or acquire any nuclear weapons,” there is no evidence that the Iranian regime has made a strategic decision to turn away from the possibility of the militarization of nuclear power. Its strategic objective has been, rather, to escape the sanctions and their economic and social severities. In this, it has succeeded. If even a fraction of the returned revenues are allocated to Iran’s vile adventures beyond its borders, the United States will have subsidized an expansion of its own nightmares.

But what is the alternative? This is the question that is supposed to silence all objections. It is, for a start, a demagogic question. This agreement was designed to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. If it does not prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons—and it seems uncontroversial to suggest that it does not guarantee such an outcome—then it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve. And if it does not solve the problem that it was designed to solve, then it is itself not an alternative, is it? The status is still quo. Or should we prefer the sweetness of illusion to the nastiness of reality? For as long as Iran does not agree to retire its infrastructure so that the manufacture of a nuclear weapon becomes not improbable but impossible, the United States will not have transformed the reality that worries it. We will only have mitigated it and prettified it. We will have found relief from the crisis, but not a resolution of it.

The administration’s apocalyptic rhetoric about the deal is absurd: The temporary diminishments of Iran’s enrichment activities are not what stand between the Islamic Republic and a bomb. The same people who assure us that Iran has admirably renounced its aspiration to a nuclear arsenal now warn direly that a failure to ratify the accord will send Iranian centrifuges spinning madly again. They ridicule the call for more stringent sanctions against Iran because the sanctions already in place are “leaky” and crumbling, and then they promise us that these same failing measures can be speedily and reliably reconstituted in a nifty mechanism called “snapback.” And how self-fulfilling was the administration’s belief that no better deal was possible? On what grounds was its limited sense of possibility determined? Surely there is nothing utopian about the demand for a larger degree of confidence in this matter: The stakes are unimaginably high. It is worth noting also that the greater certainty demanded by the skeptics does not involve, as the president says, “eliminating the presence of knowledge inside of Iran,” which cannot be done. Many countries possess the science but do not pose the threat. The Iranian will, not the Iranian mind, is the issue.

The period of negotiations that has just come to a close was a twisted moment in American foreign policy. We were inhibited by the talks and they were not. The United States was reluctant to offend its interlocutors by offering any decisive challenge to their many aggressions in the region and beyond; we chose instead to inhibit ourselves. This has been an activist era in Iranian foreign policy and a passivist era in American foreign policy. (Even our refusal to offer significant assistance to Ukraine in its genuinely noble struggle against Russian intimidation and invasion was owed in part to our solicitude for the Russian standpoint on Iran.) I expect that the administration will prevail, alas, over the opposition to the Iran deal. The can will be kicked down the road, which is Obama’s characteristic method of arranging his “legacy” in foreign affairs. Our dread of an Iranian bomb will not have been dispelled; we will still need to keep “all options on the table”; we will continue to ponder anxiously the question of whether a military response to an Iranian breakout will ever be required; we will again be living by our nerves. All this does not constitute a diplomatic triumph. As a consequence of the accord, moreover, the mullahs in Tehran, and the fascist Revolutionary Guards that enforce their rule and profit wildly from it, will certainly not loosen their grip on their society or open it up. This “linkage” is a tired fiction. The sanctions were not what cast Iran into its political darkness.

This accord will strengthen a contemptible regime. And so I propose—futilely, I know—that now, in the aftermath of the accord, America proceed to weaken it. The conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action should be accompanied by a resumption of our hostility to the Iranian regime and its various forces. Diplomats like to say that you talk with your enemies. They are right. And we have talked with them. But they are still our enemies. This is the hour not for a fresh start but for a renovation of principle. We need to restore democratization to its pride of place among the priorities of our foreign policy and oppress the theocrats in Tehran everywhere with expressions, in word and in deed, of our implacable hostility to their war on their own people. We need to support the dissidents in any way we can, not least so that they do not feel abandoned and alone, and tiresomely demand the release of Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi from the house arrest in which they have been sealed since the crackdown in 2009. (And how in good conscience could we have proceeded with the negotiations while the American journalist Jason Rezaian was a captive in an Iranian jail? Many years ago, when I studied the Dreyfus affair, I learned that there are times when an injustice to only one man deserves to bring things to a halt.) We need to despise the regime loudly and regularly, and damage its international position as fiercely and imaginatively as we can, for its desire to exterminate Israel. We need to arm the enemies of Iran in Syria and Iraq, and for many reasons. (In Syria, we have so far prepared 60 fighters: America is back!) We need to explore, with diplomatic daring, an American-sponsored alliance between Israel and the Sunni states, which are now experiencing an unprecedented convergence of interests.

But we will do none of this. We will instead persist in letting the fire spread and letting time tell, which we call realism. Wanting not to fight wars, we refuse to join struggles. Sometimes, I guess, history really is a rut.

Leon Wieseltier is a contributing editor at The Atlantic and the author of Kaddish. From 1983 to 2014, he was the literary editor of The New Republic.



Insurers Warned to ‘Think Before You Snap’ as Florida Drone Privacy Law Takes Flight

by Press • 29 July 2015

By Amy O’ Connor


The new Florida drone privacy law could have some unintended consequences for insurers looking to use or insure unmanned aircraft systems (UAM) technology.

The Freedom from Unwarranted Surveillance Act (FUSA), which took effect in Florida July 1, prohibits a person, state agency or political subdivision from using a drone to capture an image of privately owned property or those on the property – including an owner, occupant or invitee – with the intent to conduct surveillance.

The law, signed by Gov. Rick Scott in May, further requires that those using drone technology in such a manner must have written consent from the people on the property under surveillance if a reasonable expectation of privacy exists.

The law applies to law enforcement and private individuals and was intended to go along with Florida’s 2013 law that requires police to obtain a warrant to use drones to collect evidence, according to the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC).

The new FUSA law does allow exceptions for the use of a drone by a person or entity engaged in a business or profession licensed by the state in certain circumstances. However, this exception does not apply to a profession in which the authorized scope of practice includes obtaining information about the identity, habits, conduct, movements, whereabouts, affiliations, associations, transactions, reputation, or character of any society, person or group of persons.

One of the most important stipulations of the law is that individuals who feel their privacy has been violated under the terms of the law may now sue for civil damages and injunctive relief and be awarded attorneys’ fees if they are successful.

That could end up being costly, says Matt Grosack, a Miami-based attorney with DLA Piper.

“There are a lot of litigators out there that predict this could inspire a new wave of litigation,” he says.

But even where privacy laws like Florida’s are in place, insurance companies are interested in using drone technology. Major insurers including State Farm, AIG, Liberty Mutual and USAA have received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to test the use of drones for their businesses.

Insurers aren’t the only interested parties. A Munich Re survey of risk managers estimated that almost 40 percent of businesses could be using drones in fewer than five years. Insurers do not want to miss the opportunity and are developing insurance products for drone operators even though the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not issued final government regulations and is not expected to do so until next spring.

The FAA has eased its permit process and is now approving an average of 250 permits a month for commercial drone experiments, according to Bloomberg News.

ISO has come out with coverage and exclusion options for insurers to use in developing insurance programs for businesses that may use drones. ProSight Specialty Insurance has developed an insurance product for drone operations in filming, rental, events, agriculture and non-flight related exposures. AIG offers coverage that includes physical damage and liability. Brokers and agencies specializing in the risk include Transport Risk Management Services, Costello Insurance, and Unmanned Risk Management.

“The application of drone use in the insurance industry is a real boon for the industry as a whole, assuming they follow the proper FAA guidelines,” said Grosack.

State Farm spokesperson for Florida, Michal Brower, says the company believes its FAA approval to use drones for roof inspections and research and development purposes (including catastrophe response) is in compliance with Florida’s new privacy law.

“We believe these uses are consistent with what is allowed under the Florida law. State Farm considers customer privacy one of our top priorities, and our use of this technology will adhere to all applicable laws and regulations to ensure consumer privacy protections are in place,” she wrote in an e-mail to Insurance Journal.

Some in the industry are concerned that regulators may become too restrictive rather than see the potential benefits of drone technology.

“We are hopeful lawmakers [in Florida] will see the value in how drones, when used properly, can improve safety by not sending people into very hazardous environments and assist insurers in meeting consumer needs by quickly assessing damage after a significant weather event, especially in hurricane prone states such as Florida,” Property Casualty Insurers’ (PCI) Director of Personal Lines Policy Chris Hackett said in an e-mail statement to Insurance Journal.

State Farm acknowledges the benefit on the business side as well.

“The use of this technology in the insurance industry is in its infancy, but we believe it has the promise of improving customer experience in several applications – from remote roof inspections to surveying damage after a catastrophe,” said Brower.


Industry Hurdles, Opportunities

The insurance industry is approaching the drone market with caution.

The companies that offer insurance policies for drone use currently exclude privacy claims, according to Grosack, and he expects insurers will need more data before that changes and policies become broader.

“Right now, we are looking at an immature market,” he says. “I think the insurance industry needs data to see exposure and determine if they want to insure it. But on the whole insurance companies think this could be a huge market in the future.”

However, in the development of products and in their own usage of drones, insurers will face the potential of violating state laws such as Florida’s. Nearly all states have considered some kind of drone legislation at this point and several others have enacted privacy-related laws, including Idaho, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin, according to The Washington Post.

The U.S. Congress has also introduced the Drone Aircraft Privacy & Transparency Act, which if eventually passed could trump any state privacy laws.

“The insurance industry is all about managing risk and the moral of the story is think before you snap that picture – be very mindful of what picture you are taking because it could inadvertently be a liability,” Grosack said. “Instead, identify the use of drone technology in the insurance policy and let the insured know they may be filmed during the adjustment process.”

Florida’s FUSA doesn’t differentiate if a drone is used for commercial or personal purposes.

“It’s just the use of a drone – so does it fall under personal policy, commercial policy? Are insurance companies excluding these intentional acts? I think right now yes, they are,” said Grosack. “Whether that changes in the future I am not sure.”

Case law in regards to drones will be especially important to the insurance industry, Grosack added. It still remains to be seen how Florida courts will interpret FUSA as no litigation has come up, yet.

“As with any new law that comes out, we are operating in a vacuum right now. When you are looking at [legislation] from a litigation perspective, you are looking at it through the lens of ‘how will the court see this?’ But we don’t know that yet because there aren’t any cases,” he said.

In the meantime, those in the industry hope Florida regulators won’t completely shut the door on drone technology.

“We look forward to continuing the dialogue with Florida policymakers to develop regulations that will ensure privacy concerns are addressed while enabling insurers to benefit consumers by using the latest technological developments,” PCI’s Hackett said.



Hillview man arrested for shooting down drone; cites right to privacy

by Press • 29 July 2015

By Travis Kircher


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — A Hillview man has been arrested after he shot down a drone flying over his property — but he’s not making any apologies for it.

It happened Sunday night at a home on Earlywood Way, just south of the intersection between Smith Lane and Mud Lane in Bullitt County, according to an arrest report.

Hillview Police say they were called to the home of 47-year-old William H. Merideth after someone complained about a firearm.

When they arrived, police say Merideth told them he had shot down a drone that was flying over his house. The drone was hit in mid-air and crashed in a field near Merideth’s home.

Police say the owner of the drone claimed he was flying it to get pictures of a friend’s house — and that the cost of the drone was over $1,800.

Merideth was arrested and charged with first degree criminal mischief and first degree wanton endangerment. He was booked into the Bullitt County Detention Center, and released on Monday.

WDRB News spoke with Merideth Tuesday afternoon, and he gave his side of the story.

“Sunday afternoon, the kids – my girls – were out on the back deck, and the neighbors were out in their yard,” Merideth said. “And they come in and said, ‘Dad, there’s a drone out here, flying over everybody’s yard.'”

Merideth said he had to go see for himself.

“Well, I came out and it was down by the neighbor’s house, about 10 feet off the ground, looking under their canopy that they’ve got under their back yard,” Merideth said. “I went and got my shotgun and I said, ‘I’m not going to do anything unless it’s directly over my property.'”

That moment soon arrived, he said.

“Within a minute or so, here it came,” he said. “It was hovering over top of my property, and I shot it out of the sky.”

It wasn’t long before the drone’s owners appeared.

“Four guys came over to confront me about it, and I happened to be armed, so that changed their minds,” Merideth said.

A short time later, Merideth said the police arrived.

“There were some words exchanged there about my weapon, and I was open carry – it was completely legal,” he said. “Long story short, after that, they took me to jail for wanton endangerment first degree and criminal mischief…because I fired the shotgun into the air.”

Merideth said he was disappointed with the police response.

“They didn’t confiscate the drone. They gave the drone back to the individuals,” he said. “They didn’t take the SIM card out of it…but we’ve got…five houses here that everyone saw it – they saw what happened, including the neighbors that were sitting in their patio when he flew down low enough to see under the patio.”

Hillview Police declined to comment on the case, noting that it was still under investigation.

Merideth said he’s offering no apologies for what he did.

“He didn’t just fly over,” he said. “If he had been moving and just kept moving, that would have been one thing — but when he come directly over our heads, and just hovered there, I felt like I had the right.”

“You know, when you’re in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy,” he said. “We don’t know if he was looking at the girls. We don’t know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing.”

For now, Merideth says he’s planning on pursuing legal action against the owners of the drone.

“We’re not going to let it go,” he said. “I believe there are rules that need to be put into place and the situation needs to be addressed because everyone I’ve spoke to, including police, have said they would have done the same thing.”


F-35 Lightning II – last of the manned fighters?

Gareth Jennings, London – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

27 July 2015


With the US Marine Corps set to declare initial operating capability for its Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) before the end of July, many are again asking if there will ever be another manned fighter, or if the JSF truly is the last of its kind.

The history of military aviation is littered with false predictions pertaining to the demise of the traditional notion of the fighter aircraft. In the United States the Vought F-8 Crusader developed in the mid-1950s was nicknamed ‘the last gunslinger’ in the mistaken belief that all fighters to follow would carry missiles only.

The United Kingdom went one step further in 1957 when its Defence White Paper boldly stated that manned fighters would be replaced completely in the coming years by surface-to-air missiles; an erroneous projection that ultimately proved disastrous for the UK’s defence aerospace sector.

Most recently, in April of this year US Navy (USN) secretary Ray Mabus was daring enough to state that the F-35 “should be, and almost certainly will be, the last manned strike fighter aircraft the Department of the Navy will ever buy or fly”.

Whereas previously the end of manned fighters had been based on developments in the fields of air-to-air and surface-to-air missiles, today it is the rise of unmanned technologies that threaten to herald the extinction of the fighter pilot.

Whatever you want to call them – be it unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), unmanned aircraft systems, remotely piloted aircraft, remotely piloted aircraft systems, or even the ubiquitous ‘drones’ – unmanned aircraft have proliferated exponentially since they first appeared over the battlefield in the early 1980s.

Pioneered by the Israel Defense Force as a means of neutralising enemy air defence systems (the idea being that the surface-to-air missiles would engage the UAV, exposing their positions to the manned fighters following), they have over recent years gone on to carve something of a niche for themselves as the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) platform of choice over the skies of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and beyond. In addition to their ISR role, UAVs of all classes have taken on offensive capabilities with the integration of adapted and purpose-built munitions, and look set to take on more roles as their capabilities are expanded and their performance improved.

For their proponents, unmanned aircraft offer the prospect of zero casualties (on the side that is operating them, at least), as well as reduced development, acquisition, operating, and support costs when compared with manned fighters.

However, while it is certainly true that relocating the pilot from the cockpit to the ground does remove him or her from harm’s way, it is certainly not a victimless endeavour on the part of the operators. UAV pilots have reported high levels of psychological illness following long periods of exposure to ‘remote-control’ warfare, in which they actively participate in the killing of combatants during their working day, returning to normal family life at the end of their shift. While fighter pilots are certainly exposed to more physical danger when conducting combat operations, being deployed with their peers and comrades provides a support structure not available to their unmanned counterparts.

Also, having a pilot in the cockpit exposed to the dangers of warfare might actually be preferable from a political standpoint. The use of UAVs has proven to be highly controversial, with one of the main reasons being that the lack of any danger to the operating nation lowers the threshold for their use. It is of no consequence to those protesting their use that unmanned aircraft are subject to the same rules of engagement (RoE) as manned aircraft (this is certainly true for air forces, although the RoE of secret security organisations such as the CIA are not known), the fact that they are unmanned somehow makes their use ‘unfair’ and therefore immoral. A manned aircraft performing the same mission is unimpacted by such philosophical considerations.

In terms of comparing the development, acquisition, operating, and support costs of manned and unmanned aircraft, it is unfortunate for the former that the rise in UAVs has coincided with the birth of the F-35; a project that in the popular consciousness has become something of a byword for profligacy and waste in the defence industry.

When set against the USD1.5 trillion being spent on the F-35 (the most expensive defence programme in history), it is not hard to point to UAVs being a cheaper and more cost effective solution all-round. However, such a comparison would be erroneous, as it would not be comparing like-for-like.

While the F-35 has been built for full-spectrum warfare in denied environments, current UAVs are suited only for ISR and light strike operations in relatively permissive environments – any air threat will all but nullify the use of unmanned aircraft over any battlefield today. Certainly, efforts have already been initiated to develop and build the next-generation of unmanned aircraft that will be able to operate in denied environments, such as the United States’ Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) programme, the Franco-British Future Combat Air System (FCAS) and the pan-European nEUROn, but such vehicles are still likely to face the same political challenges to their use as do today’s generation of UAVs.

Also, the term ‘unmanned’ is something of a misnomer, in that the pilot has not been removed from the equation but only relocated to the ground. Paradoxically, today’s unmanned aircraft actually require at least as many (and often more) personnel to operate and sustain than do manned fighters. A manned Gripen fighter, say, has one pilot to fly the mission, whereas an unmanned Reaper UAV has a two-man team to launch the aircraft in theatre, this team then hands over the mission portion of the flight to a two/three-man team in the United States, before taking control again for recovery – up to five crew in all. Both platforms require comparable levels of infrastructure and manned support, and so it is hard to see where the manpower and fiscal savings promised by UAVs might actually come from, at least in the near to medium term.

Setting aside Mabus’ comments on the F-35 being the last manned fighter that the navy will fly, the Pentagon has actually already begun the process of developing the JSF’s replacement and it is not (necessarily) unmanned.

The US Air Force and USN have kick-started what they term to be 6th Generation fighter programmes (referencing the F-35’s 5th Generation tag) in the Next Generation Tactical Aircraft (Next Gen TACAIR) programme. Launched in early 2013, Next Gen TACAIR is a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency-led effort that is at the next generation of air dominance systems and platforms.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman have each indicated their plans to develop aircraft and compete any future 6th Generation requirement, with the first two releasing conceptual drawings of what their respective aircraft might look like; both of which feature cockpits. While these potential offerings are still very much in their conceptual stages, they are said to feature many of the stealth characteristics synonymous with 5th Generation fighters, but also futuristic enhancements in the fields of propulsion, structures, and avionics. Of perhaps more relevance to the issue as to whether the F-35 will be the last manned fighter, these 6th Generation platforms will likely be optionally manned rather than unmanned.

The concept of an optionally manned platform has a number of advantages over purely manned and unmanned solutions that would strongly suggest that this is the way forward for future fighter designers. Optionally manned provides the best of both worlds, in balancing the reduced risk to aircrews of unmanned with the unparalleled flexibility and capability afforded by a human pilot.

Indeed, the capability request for information for Next Gen TACAIR specifically called for the development of an optionally manned aircraft, serving to underline the direction in which future fighter design is progressing. With Next Gen TACAIR setting out an initial operational capability of approximately 2030, the resulting aircraft would likely serve alongside the F-35 for a number of years before eventually replacing it, amply demonstrating that the death of the fighter pilot is not quite yet nigh.


Top General Admits Disagreements With White House Over Iran Deal

By Paul McLeary

July 29, 2015 – 2:47 pm


In a break with the White House, outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey said Wednesday he advised against lifting sanctions on weapons and ballistic missile shipments to Iran as part of the new nuclear deal with Tehran.

Asked directly by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) if he voiced opposition on that part of the pact, Dempsey said: “Yes … and I used the phrase ‘as long as possible,’ and then that was the point at which the negotiation continued.”

“But, yes, that was my military advice,” Dempsey, who is retiring in September, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. The hearing was the administration’s latest attempt to sell Congress on the historic deal, which limits Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for easing harsh economic sanctions against the country.

The sanctions prohibiting the shipment of parts for ballistic missiles to Iran are due to expire in eight years, according to the agreement that was struck July 14. Economic penalties for shipping conventional arms will be lifted in five years.

Dempsey also rejected President Barack Obama’s July 15 statement that, “Without a deal, we risk even more war in the Middle East.” Dempsey flatly told Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) that “at no time did that come up in our conversation, nor did I make that comment.”

He added: “I can tell you that we have a range of options and I always present them.”

On a trip this month to Iraq and Afghanistan, Dempsey expressed other reservations with the accord. He said “there is every reason to believe” Iran will use increased revenues from the lifting of sanctions to fund the country’s “malign activities,” including its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and funding Hezbollah. “Time and Iranian behavior will determine whether this agreement has achieved the purposes we intended it to achieve,” he said.

Testifying at the same hearing, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Iran has an estimated $50 to $60 billion in banks worldwide that it may begin accessing in coming years.

On the military front, both Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Dempsey noted the increased training and partnering activities between U.S. troops and allied forces in the Middle East that have been designed to help contain Iran, including new sales of missile defense capabilities to the region.

“We are doing a great deal in the Gulf,” Carter said. “We have to, and are, doing a lot to strengthen our posture.”

Dempsey also said the U.S. is working with Gulf allies to bolster ballistic missile defenses, partnering and training with local special operations forces, along with working on counterterrorism and cyber defense. Just before the hearing began, in fact, the State Department announced a pending deal with Saudi Arabia for 600 new PAC-3 Patriot missile interceptors for $5.4 billion.

The massive deal follows an April agreement with Riyadh for $2 billion worth of Patriots, and another $1.5 billion sale, announced this month, for Patriot interceptors in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia. Defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon will produce the missiles.

Meanwhile, Israel is buying new ballistic missile systems and is preparing for upcoming deliveries of the F-35 fighter jet, Dempsey said. He also noted U.S. efforts to help Israeli counterterrorism activities and counter-tunneling work, in a reference to tunnels used to smuggle arms and fighters from the Sinai into Gaza.


Data in Clinton’s ‘secret’ emails came from 5 intelligence agencies

By Marisa Taylor, Greg Gordon and Anita Kumar

July 30, 2015

McClatchy Washington Bureau


The classified emails stored on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s private server contained information from five U.S. intelligence agencies and included material related to the fatal 2012 Benghazi attacks, McClatchy has learned.

Of the five classified emails, the one known to be connected to Benghazi was among 296 emails made public in May by the State Department. Intelligence community officials have determined it was improperly released.

Revelations about the emails have put Clinton in the crosshairs of a broadening inquiry into whether she or her aides mishandled classified information when she used a private server set up at her New York home to conduct official State Department business.

While campaigning for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton has repeatedly denied she ever sent or received classified information. Two inspectors general have indicated that five emails they have reviewed were not marked classified at the time they were stored on her private server but that the contents were in fact “secret.”

The email issue, however, has distracted from Clinton’s campaign for days and already has hurt her in public opinion polls. Besieged with questions, she has found herself caught in a murky dispute between State Department and intelligence officials over whether emails on her server were classified.

“Even if Secretary Clinton or her aides didn’t run afoul of any criminal provisions, the fact that classified information was identified within the emails is exactly why use of private emails . . . is not supposed to be allowed,” said Bradley Moss, a Washington attorney who specializes in national security matters. “Both she and her team made a serious management mistake that no one should ever repeat.”

McClatchy also has determined some details of the five emails that the intelligence community’s inspector general has described as classified and improperly handled.

Intelligence officials who reviewed the five classified emails determined that they included information from five separate intelligence agencies, said a congressional official with knowledge of the matter.

The Benghazi email made public contained information from the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, a spy agency that maps and tracks satellite imagery, according to the official, who asked to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity of the matter.

The other four classified emails contained information from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA, the official said.

The Office of the Intelligence Community Inspector General did not respond to questions about the matter. The five agencies either referred questions about it to the inspector general’s office or declined to comment.

The intelligence community inspector general only looked at a sample of 40 emails, even though a total of 30,000 emails were turned over to the State Department by Clinton.

“Failure to observe any of the requirements for marking or safeguarding (classified information) would be in a category known as a security violation.

John Fitzpatrick, director of the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives

In documents that were publicly released, Intelligence Community Inspector General I. Charles McCullough III said State Department officials had warned that there were “potentially hundreds of classified emails” on Clinton’s private server.

Clinton’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment. Clinton has maintained she used a personal email account as a “matter of convenience” and has denied she emailed any classified material.

“The facts are pretty clear,” Clinton said at a campaign stop Saturday in Iowa. “I did not send nor receive anything that was classified at the time.”

Clinton said she had “no idea” which emails the inspector general had singled out.

The State Department so far has not given the intelligence community inspector general a copy of the entire batch of emails, according to Andrea Williams, a spokeswoman for the inspector general’s office.

State Department spokesman Alec Gerlach pointed out that the department has allowed access to the emails.

“At the invitation of the State Department, a team of IC FOIA reviewers are reviewing emails and identifying those that might contain IC equities,” he said, meaning information that pertains to the intelligence community. “About a dozen members of the intelligence community are reviewing emails to identify their equities so that emails can be referred to their agencies.”

Gerlach said the intelligence community inspector general can also obtain emails from the organizations for which it has oversight responsibility.

The IC inspector general has authority to audit and investigate matters related to 17 intelligence community agencies, including a State Department intelligence unit.

On June 25, McCullough notified members of Congress that he understood that Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, possessed the more than 30,000 Clinton emails on a computer thumb drive.

In a July 24 letter to FBI Director James Comey, Republican Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa expressed concern about “a compromise of national security information” because of Kendall’s possession of the thumb drive. He called on Comey to explain what steps the FBI had taken to secure the information.

“This raises very serious questions and concerns if a private citizen is somehow retaining classified information,” wrote Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee.

Kendall did not respond to phone and email messages. The FBI and the Justice Department declined to say whether security officials had recovered the device or had arranged for its secure storage.

John Fitzpatrick, the official responsible for overseeing the government’s security classification system, told McClatchy that during the review of four years of Clinton’s State Department emails it became clear that intelligence agencies were concerned State Department officials were not appropriately protecting classified information in screening documents for public release.

State Department officials routinely gather and report diplomatic information that “in an intelligence context could be read very differently,” said Fitzpatrick, the director of the Information Security Oversight Office at the National Archives.


Government employees with access to classified information are trained to identify classified information, Fitzpatrick said.

“The requirement to mark is so that you know it when you see it,” he said. “Failure to observe any of the requirements for marking or safeguarding would be in a category known as a security violation.”

Failing to properly mark information as classified would not necessarily result in criminal charges, he said.

“But there can be consequences for holders of security clearances,” Fitzpatrick said. “If they fail to safeguard the information, once or as part of a pattern, they can be administratively reprimanded” or retrained.

According to a congressional official, the classified emails contained information from the National Security Agency, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the CIA.

Secretary of State John Kerry and State Department Inspector General Steve Linick will meet this week to talk about the issue, White House spokesman Eric Schultz said Wednesday.

“Secretary Kerry wants to get to the bottom of this, hear what the concerns are and then figure out if they need to take any action,” Schultz said. “So, I think that’s the right step and we support him doing so.”

The White House has not said that Clinton did not follow rules, but it has repeatedly said that “very specific guidance has been given to agencies all across the government, which is specifically that employees in the Obama administration should use their official email accounts when they’re conducting official government business.”

The House Select Committee on Benghazi subpoenaed the emails while asking Clinton to voluntarily turn over her personal email server to a “neutral, detached and independent” third party for “immediate inspection and review,” perhaps the State Department’s inspector general.

Clinton’s attorney told the committee that Clinton permanently deleted all the emails from the server – apparently after she was asked by the State Department to turn them over. Clinton has refused to hand over the server.

The State Department has begun to release her emails in response to a public records lawsuit, though four of the emails containing classified information were among those that have not yet been released. The next batch is due to be released Friday. Clinton has agreed to testify about her email arrangements on Oct. 22 before the committee investigating Benghazi.

Jonathan S. Landay of the Washington Bureau contributed

Read more here:


Air Force must be more agile, general says

Tech edge seen as key to future success.

Updated: 4:18 p.m. Thursday, July 30, 2015


By Barrie Barber – Staff Writer


The Air Force will likely have fewer aircraft and less money in the future and will rely on a technological edge and “cross-domain solutions” in air, space and cyberspace to face demands in global hot spots, a top-ranking Wright-Patterson four-star general said Thursday.

In an interview with this newspaper, Air Force Materiel Command commander Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, also said AFMC will target boosting its “agility” in a world of changing threats.

“What it means is being able to respond to a very dynamic world environment,” she said. “An ISIL threat one day, a Russian invasion of Ukraine the next day.”

Headquartered at Wright-Patterson, AFMC develops, buys and maintains virtually all of the Air Force’s aircraft and weapon systems with a $60 billion budget. The command has a global workforce of 80,000 personnel, 13,400 of whom work at the Miami Valley base.

With the possible return of sequestration with a new budget year on Oct. 1, Pawlikowski said AFMC does not want to furlough civil service employees if the automatic spending cuts return.

Sequestration, and later a temporary government shutdown, caused the furlough of thousands of civil service workers at Wright-Patterson in 2013. Spending cuts could return unless Congress approves a defense bill before Oct. 1 to avoid them. Wright-Patterson is the largest single site employer in Ohio with more than 26,000 employees.

“I know that we have worked very, very hard to ensure we don’t face having to do furloughs in terms of how we have approached our priorities,” Pawlikowski said. “That was not something that we wanted to do, and at this point I can speculate as much as you can in terms of about what the Congress will decide to do. … Furloughing our workforce is not something that we want to do.”


The future force

Demands for Air Force intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, global mobility and new weapon systems that reach further and penetrate the next generation of air defenses will be major drivers of what AFMC buys and fields in the future, the general said.

“What I think has been the focus, at least for many of the years I’ve been in the Air Force, is to be able to leverage advances in technology to make the actual weapon system itself more capable than the previous one,” she said.

“That helps to offset the numbers,” she said.”Now, you can’t completely offset numbers, but when you look at the F-35 (Joint Strike Fighter) and what we’ve been able to do with the integration of data and improving the situational awareness far more capable than its predecessor which allows us to be able to accomplish the mission with smaller numbers.”

The Air Force is in the midst of a study to determine what mix of manned and unmanned aircraft it will need in 2030. The general envisions manned aircraft working in teams with unmanned vehicles.

“I think that allows us to get to get to larger numbers without the costs associated with what we put on some of our manned aircraft,” she said.

In the near term, AFMC will focus on developing and fielding the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, KC-46 aerial refueling tanker and awarding a contract this fall to build a next generation Long Range Strike Bomber.

Longer term, AFMC will prepare for the recapitalization of the E-8 Joint Stars airborne radar system that tracks ground troops movements, and a replacement jet trainer, she said.

“The F-35 is going to be a major, major focus of this command as we field that system and we start to be supporting it and maturing it and creating adaptability in it that allows us to be agile,” she said.


‘The F-35 is going to deliver’

The Joint Strike Fighter is most expensive U.S. weapons program in history with an estimated price tag of about $400 billion. Lockheed-Martin is the prime contract. Versions have been built for the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allies.

She defended the need for the stealthy jet despite criticism of its costs and claims a flight test showed it didn’t dogfight as well as the F-16. Some critics also have contended the F-35 is not as effective a ground attack jet as the A-10, two aging aircraft the F-35 is meant to replace.

“I can tell you that I don’t believe that the folks that are working on the operational testing and are just now understanding the capabilities of that aircraft have major concerns about that,” she said, emphasizing the jet’s multirole capabilities. “… I believe that the F-35 is going to deliver the capability our Air Force needs.”

The Air Force plans to buy 179 KC-46s, with initial deliveries in 2017, to replace aging KC-135 tankers. The contract has fixed costs to control government spending on the program.


Pawlikowski said Boeing, which manufactures the KC-46, “is in reasonable shape to meet their commitments.”

“They’ve had some challenges, but I don’t see any major show stoppers in that program,” she said.


Acquisition reform

Congress has pitched acquisition reforms this year to curb costs and years of development to test and field weapon systems.

The acquisition process is a balance of what capabilities the Air Force can afford to buy with the money it has and executing programs on cost and on schedule, she said.

“It’s a matter of getting it right to start with, then executing your plan,” the AFMC commander said. “If we do those two things well, then we can deliver in an affordable manner because no program that I’ve ever seen is cheaper if it takes longer.”


Rasmussen Reports


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Is America declaring war on its past?

Despite major problems here and abroad, it seems the Confederate battle flag, a relic of a war that ended 150 years ago, is to some the most pressing issue that faces us.

Similarly, some have suggested changing the U.S. flag and getting rid of monuments such as the Jefferson Memorial and the carving on Stone Mountain in Georgia because they honor a country and individuals who practiced or defended slavery. Just this week, following complaints from the local NAACP, the Connecticut Democratic Party dropped Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson from the name of its annual dinner.

After the recent mass shooting at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, most voters agree with that state’s decision to stop flying the Confederate battle flag over its statehouse, but they’re closely divided over the meaning of the flag. When asked what the Confederate flag symbolizes, 43% say Southern heritage, while 39% believe it symbolizes hatred.

But voters overwhelmingly reject efforts to get rid of the U.S. flag and other symbols of the nation’s past that offend some Americans.

Part of the problem may be that many Americans just don’t know much about their own country. Most adults in this country think their fellow Americans should be proud of our nation’s history, but 60% doubt that they actually know much about it.

It doesn’t help that only 21% of voters think most school textbooks are concerned about accurately providing information to students. Most (62%) think the books are more concerned with presenting information in a politically correct manner.

Also, Americans increasingly see things through a racial prism.

Just 19% of blacks, for example, think the U.S. justice system is fair to blacks and Hispanics, compared to 50% of whites and 44% of other minority voters.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of black voters think most black Americans receive unfair treatment from the police. White voters by a 56% to 30% margin don’t believe that’s true. Other minority voters are evenly divided.

Even on an issue like the sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby, blacks differ noticeably in their opinions from whites and other minority adults.

Some have charged that criticism of President Obama’s policies is driven by racism. Seventy percent (70%) of black voters agree. Seventy-one percent (71%) of white voters and other minority voters by a 50% to 42% margin think that the critics genuinely believe Obama’s policies are bad.

The president’s daily job approval ratings, meanwhile, remain in the negative mid-teens where they have been for much of his presidency.

More than six years into Obama’s presidency, though, voters still tend to blame George W. Bush more than the current occupant of the White House for the state the U.S. economy is in.

The president told comedian Jon Stewart this week that the Internal Revenue Service’s documented targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups never really happened, and if anything did happen, it’s Congress’ fault anyway for underfunding the tax agency. But voters still think something criminal was going on and are even more suspicious of what the president knew about it.

The United Nations Security Council earlier this week endorsed the agreement the Obama administration has negotiated with Iran to slow the Iranian nuclear development program. But most U.S. voters aren’t impressed by the U.N. action.

Sixty-five percent (65%) believe any agreement with Iran needs to be approved by Congress before it takes effect, despite the president’s threat to veto any congressional attempt to block the deal.

Voters disagree with the president on a lot of things, but they care even less for Congress. So who should have the final say when major issues face the nation?

The House of Representatives on Thursday passed legislation stripping some funding from sanctuary cities that protect illegal immigrants from deportation. Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters think that’s a good idea.
The action follows the murder of a young woman in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant who went there because the city doesn’t enforce immigration laws.

Billionaire developer Donald Trump who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination helped put the national focus on the serious crimes done by illegal immigrants with highly-publicized comments he made earlier this month. More recently, he responded to criticism from Senator John McCain by criticizing McCain’s credentials as a Vietnam war hero, prompting cries of outrage from many senior Republicans.

So, of course, we had to ask: What do Republican voters think of Trump these days compared to McCain?

Who? That seems to be Ohio Governor John Kasich’s biggest problem as perhaps the last major entrant in the race for next year’s Republican presidential nomination.

Speaking of campaigns, do voters really consider big campaign contributions the deciding factor?

The House is also debating whether to cut funding for Planned Parenthood after a recently released video showed an official from that organization discussing the harvesting and sale of body organs from aborted babies to medical laboratories. Most voters still approve of the pro-choice group but don’t care much for its sales of fetal body organs.

In other surveys last week:

— For the third week in a row, just over 30% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

Praise and criticism of the U.S. Supreme Court are inching down after last month’s major rulings on Obamacare and gay marriage, and voters are more likely now to think the court’s ideology skews liberal.

— The Pentagon recently announced  that transgender individuals will be allowed to serve openly in the U.S. military, but for voters it’s a close call.


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