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September 19 2015

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19 September 2015


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EDA: Aging Workforce, Spending Cuts Threaten Industry

By Martin Banks 1:28 p.m. EDT September 13, 2015


BRUSSELS — The European Defence Agency (EDA) says Europe’s defense industry faces a ticking time bomb with an aging workforce, a decline in spending and paucity of new major programs.

The Brussels-based agency says the sector will have to “diversify” its activities to adapt to a “changing environment” or risk a “divorce” between Europe and its defense industry.

The pessimistic scenario comes in an in-depth analysis by the EDA of trends affecting Europe’s defense technological and industrial base (EDTIB).

The findings coincide with what the agency calls “new threats” on the international stage, including Islamic terrorism, and at a time when European armed forces are increasingly being called upon to contribute to the defense of European borders, such as with the current migrant crisis.

Fabio Liberti, a project officer with the EDA who is in charge of defense and industry analysis, said the agency’s assessment shows that “dedicated actions must be taken” to strengthen the EDTIB.

The agency says Europe’s defense sector is extremely competent and competitive but that “not everything can be read and analyzed through rose-colored glasses.”

Liberti cautions that “several negative trends” are affecting the industry, forcing European defense industries to operate in a “very difficult environment.”

The EDA, which is an agency of the European Union with an annual budget of €30.5 million (US $34.2 million), states that defense investment spending is constantly decreasing.

In real terms, total defense expenditure has fallen by 15 percent since 2006 while increasing elsewhere in the world, such as with the so-called BRIC countries — Brazil, Russia, India and China, it says.

“Secondly, there are no new major defense programs in the pipeline, a situation that will potentially affect Europe’s ability to design and manufacture complex weapon systems in the future,” said Liberti.

In its analysis, the agency cautions that without new programs, it will be “increasingly complicated” to retain in Europe the “key skills and industrial capacities” needed to manufacture and maintain defense systems.

“Also,” it goes on, “around one third of the European defence industrial workforce is aged over 50, with the industry facing the risk for a substantial loss of expertise when these individuals reach retirement age.”

The agency, established in 2004 and which reports to EU member states, also says that without new programs, “there is a very serious risk” that the defense industry will lose most of its attractiveness for young engineers, “who might want to choose a career in the commercial sector.”

“Meanwhile,” it adds, “American companies are becoming more and more competitive on the global stage.”

The defense industry develops equipment tailored to the needs of Europe’s armed forces, but the agency says that “without a strong defence industrial sector, the freedom of action of EU countries can be seriously compromised.”

Liberti said, “There also seems to be a growing tendency to see military activities as a problem for a company rather than an opportunity.”

The EDA says that in order to adapt to a “changing environment,” European defense firms will have to “diversify their activities,” increasing the share of their turnover generated from the civilian market.

Eventually, in a sector historically characterized by strong ties between governments and defense contractors, a “loosening” of these ties is happening.

EU countries affected by the economic downturn have tried to preserve jobs at home and European defense industries are getting “more national and more international, but not more European.”

The risk, says Liberti, is a “divorce” between Europe and its defense industry, with a consequent serious impact in terms of security of supply.

Reaction to the analysis was swift, with senior UK Conservative MEP Geoffrey Van Orden, a member of the European Parliament’s Security and Defence Committee and a former brigadier in the British Army, saying, “Many of our defense industries have been under pressure since the so-called ‘peace dividend’ after the collapse of communism.”

He added, “While the demand for major weapons platforms has reduced, new technologies to deal with cyber conflict and the need for precision and remote targeting have enabled some sectors to prosper. I would like to see British-based defense industries being well supported by the British government and be more ambitious in seizing overseas market opportunities, not least in countries of traditional British influence.”

Further comment came from MEP Mike Hookem, defense spokesman for the UK Independence Party, who said, “The risk of a divorce between the EU and its defense industry is now a major threat, and both the UK and Europe must be very careful not to allow a ‘brain drain’ of defense manufacturers, designers, engineers and defense manufacturing jobs to nations like the US and China, who are still investing in the research and development of new defense technologies.”



Budget fix would fall below spending caps for 2016

By Andrew Tilghman and Leo Shane III, Staff writers 12:01 a.m. EDT September 14, 2015

The ongoing political fight over how to fully fund the defense budget could end up forcing the Pentagon’s available funds even lower than the fiscal 2016 spending caps lawmakers wanted to avoid.

But the unexpectedly low “base budget” that is part of the emerging fix could be padded with the temporary war funds that are at the heart of the political stalemate, softening the blow of those lost funds and allowing the Defense Department to carry on with most of its current plans for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1.

The fiscal 2015 budget cycle ends Sept. 30. Congress must adopt a budget for fiscal 2016 by then or approve a “continuing resolution” to extend this year’s spending levels into October and avoid a government shutdown.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said he sees a short-term resolution — one that would extend the federal budget into November or December — as the likely outcome in the weeks ahead, with a full annual budget plan to come later in the fiscal year.

“I hope there are enough people in both parties who want to fund the essential parts of government and find a way forward,” Thornberry told reporters. “I really don’t think it’s that hard.”

But so far, it has been. Senate Democrats have vowed to stall any federal spending bills that do not undo budget caps for fiscal 2016. Republican plans have hinged on getting around the caps for specifically for the Pentagon by using overseas contingency funds, while leaving caps in place for other federal departments and agencies.

For service members, a continuing resolution would ensure there is no threat of a government shutdown and no risk of a major disruption to military pay and benefits.

But the so-called “CR” would set the Pentagon’s base budget for the start of fiscal 2016 at about $496 billion, roughly $3 billion shy of the sequestration-level cap of $499 billion for 2016.

In the short term, at least, that not only would deprive many defense program managers of the annual funding boosts they had hoped for, but they actually would have to make do with even less than the minimum they had anticipated.

Not unexpectedly, the Pentagon is unhappy about that.

“It’s important that if we have to have a short continuing resolution to start with, that there are serious negotiations to get a budget deal that gets the government, including the Defense Department, to the right place as soon as possible,” said Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, a Pentagon spokesman.

“The longer we operate under a continuing resolution, the more harm will be done,” Urban said.

The legal mechanics of a CR can limit the Defense Department’s flexibility by technically requiring it to carry over the same spending priorities from the previous years. In other words, new programs can’t start, and existing programs can’t expand or adapt.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Senate Armed Services Committee chairman called the probability of a CR both upsetting and troublesome.

“It’s just not in the normal procedure that’s necessary to operate effectively,” McCain said. “It all worries me a great deal. We should be able to get things to normal order, as we promised.”

For years, the Pentagon’s top brass and many lawmakers on Capitol Hill have decried the defense spending caps — mandated by Congress as a deficit reduction move in 2011 — as potentially devastating to military readiness.

Congress’ backroom deal in late 2013 delayed the primary impact of those spending caps for two years, but that temporary agreement ends Oct. 1. Defense Secretary Ash Carter repeatedly has pleaded with lawmakers to reach a similar compromise to permanently abolish the spending caps, but no credible bipartisan deal has yet emerged.

Lawmakers have begun publicly discussing a full-year CR for the Pentagon if such a budget breakthrough can’t be reached. Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, called such a move unprecedented — and potentially worse than the budget caps both sides are desperate to avoid.

In that scenario, the saving grace for DoD could be a different workaround using its temporary war funds.

The military received about $64 billion outside its base budget to cover overseas contingency operations in fiscal 2015, meant primarily to pay for the costs of maintaining roughly 10,000 troops in Afghanistan.

For next year, the Pentagon requested far less, about $51 billion, in part because the force level in Afghanistan is expected to drop significantly.

But if Congress includes an extension of the contingency funds in its continuing resolutions — not a guarantee, Harrison said, but a move that has happened in the past — the fiscal 2015 war funding level from this year will carry over into next year.

That would give the Pentagon almost $13 billion extra that, in theory, could be shifted to cover a broad array of costs across the military.

Details of exactly what a CR might and might not cover will not be settled until the waning days of the fiscal year. In the meantime, negotiators on Capitol Hill are trying to remain hopeful that the whole problem can be avoided, and a new, full-year budget compromise can be found soon.

“A full-year CR is a bad idea,” Thornberry said. “It’s just wasteful and not a good idea



Office 2016 adopts branches, update-or-else strategy of Windows 10

By Gregg Keizer

Computerworld | Sep 11, 2015 8:48 AM PT


Microsoft yesterday said it will launch Office 2016 for Windows on Sept. 22, and detailed how it will deliver updates and upgrades with a cadence and rules set similar to Windows 10’s.

Office 2016 will be “broadly available” starting Sept. 22, said Julie White, general manager of Office 365 technical product management, in a Thursday post on the team’s blog. Organizations with volume license agreements, including those with Software Assurance, will be able to download the new bits beginning Oct. 1.

Week after next, subscribers to Office 365 Home and Personal — the consumer-grade “rent-not-own” plans that cost $70 and $100 yearly — may manually trigger the Office 2016 for Windows download at In October, Office 2016 will automatically download to those subscribers’ devices. The applications will be updated monthly after that, with vulnerability patches, non-security bug fixes and new features and functionality.

Consumers are locked into that monthly tempo, and like those running Windows 10 Home, must take the updates as they automatically arrive.

But for Office 2016 in businesses, Microsoft plans to reuse the update-and-upgrade release pace pioneered by Windows 10. Office 365 will offer both a “Current Branch” and a “Current Branch for Business,” just as does Windows 10.

Current Branch (CB) will update monthly and potentially include new or improved features, security patches and non-security bug fixes. Current Branch for Business (CBB), on the other hand, will issue updates every four months, with the same potential content. In the months that Microsoft does not deliver a CBB update, it will issue only security fixes to customers who adopt the branch.

Failure to deploy the next CB update means customers won’t receive future security updates. For CBB, businesses may defer deployment of the next update — four months later — but must adopt the one after that, or face a patch stoppage.

Office 365 CBB users, in other words, can retain the feature set of Office 2016 no longer than eight months (two updates). If CBB 1 appears, as Microsoft has pledged, in February 2016, then customers may skip the June 2016 CBB 2 but must deploy October 2016’s CCB 3 or be severed from security updates.

Those rules and the CBB tempo are also identical — although not necessarily on the same calendar schedule — as Windows 10’s.

Some Office 365 customers will be able to use only the CB: Those include organizations that have subscribed to Office 365 Business and Office 365 Business Professional, plans that currently cost $8.25 and $12.50 per user per month.

Firms that subscribe to the pricier Office 365 ProPlus, Office 365 Enterprise E3 or Office 365 Enterprise E4 plans may opt for the CBB track. Those plans run from $12 to $22 per user per month.

That, too, is identical to Windows 10, in that the operating system offers leisurely update cadences only to those running the more expensive Windows 10 Pro and Windows 10 Enterprise.

There will be no analog to Windows 10’s “Long-term Servicing Branch,” or LTSB, the track that eschews all but security patches for extremely long stretches.

Microsoft may not have spelled it out, but the existence of CB and CBB tracks also plays to its new strategy of passing testing responsibilities to customers, another characteristic of Windows 10. Those running the CB will, in effect, serve as guinea pigs as changes roll out to them monthly; their feedback and complaints will be used by Microsoft to tweak or fix problems before the code reaches customers running the CBB.

Although Microsoft has burdened Office 365 and the locally-installed Office 2016 apps that compose the core of a subscription with a slew of new terms and rules, the changes are in some ways more clarification than procedural, argued Wes Miller, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft.

“Before, we didn’t know when these [Office 365] updates were coming,” said Miller. “Now, they’re giving us the classifications of what updates will come when.”

The similarities of the Windows 10 and Office 365 release rhythms; the lexicon, including CB and CBB; and the patch stick brandished to motivate customers to update, are all intentional, Miller added. “Microsoft’s giving relatively similar nomenclature for its two major desktop endpoints, Windows and Office,” he said.

But Miller contrasted how Office 365 — which currently is based on the Office 2013 application suite — is managed by organizations with the methods outlined for Office 2016 within the subscription plans.


Now, once a business adopts Office 365, it points workers to the Office 2013 downloads. They install the applications locally on their devices, and from that point, Microsoft, not the organization, “owns” the maintenance via updates.

“If an IT team wanted to own Office maintenance, it had to download the transformation tools [the Office Customization Tool, or OCT], take the installer from Microsoft and modify it,” said Miller. The IT-derived installer would then be offered to employees. “From that point, the organization owns the updating,” Miller continued. He called the process “a little burdensome” — an oft-heard complaint from business subscribers and their supporting IT staffs.

Under Office 2016, shops that subscribe to Office 365 will be able to more easily “own” the updating process by selecting the appropriate branch for each employee or groups of employees. While IT will still rely on the OCT to craft custom installers, the revised tool — not yet available — will support branch selection, Microsoft said in a support document.

The multiple update tracks Microsoft has outlined will only apply to Office 2016 within an Office 365 subscription, Miller said. Traditional licenses, dubbed “perpetual” in that once paid for they can be used for as long as desired, will not be able to adopt the CB or CBB. That’s in keeping with Microsoft’s long-running scheme to make Office 365 more attractive than perpetual licenses, whether purchased by consumers one at a time or by businesses in bulk, by virtue of its accelerated release schedule.

Office 2016’s debut later this month will also start a clock on Office 2013 for Office 365 enterprise subscribers.

“You can continue to use and receive security updates for the Office 2013 version of Office 365 ProPlus for the twelve months after the release of Office 2016,” Microsoft told users. “After 12 months, no additional security updates will be made available for the Office 2013 version. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you update to the Office 2016 version within the first twelve months that it’s available.”

The first CB of Office 2016 will be released Sept. 22, and the first CBB update will appear some time in February 2016. Microsoft has not yet set the price of individual perpetual licenses sold at retail, or even said whether those would go on sale this month: The company did not reply to questions about retail availability.

More information about the changes to Office’s updating can be found on Microsoft’s TechNet website.



20 Technologies That Will Keep the U.S. Air Force Flying High


“The Air Force Future Operating Concept envisions a far different kind of future warfare in the air, out in space, and within cyberspace.”


Mackenzie Eaglen,Rick Berger

September 16, 2015


A common refrain in the halls of the Pentagon as the defense drawdown continues in its fifth year is that the Defense Department has run out of money, and now it’s time to think. Recently, the services have done just that—with the latest being the U.S. Air Force’s release of a future operating concept.

Set in 2035, Air Force pilots are flying afterburning “D” model Joint Strike Fighters alongside drone bombers and a fleet of stealthy unmanned aerial refuelers. In this conflict of the future, manned cargo planes lead packs of cargo drones and new hybrid airships for low-cost shipping to low-threat areas.

Space control—or at least denial of enemy space dominance—is achieved through maneuvering satellites like the secretive X-37B, decoy spacecraft, and the rapid launch of microsatellites from fighter or other aircraft to preserve communications or set up a new, localized network. Uninhabited “missile trucks” have replaced the A-10 and F-35 in the close-air support mission based on attack variant of the forthcoming T-X trainer.

While there is much more to the Air Force’s new operating concept than sexy technologies, the focus of the vision is to change how they are employed by cross-domain trained, highly-competent and technical airmen.

The Air Force Future Operating Concept envisions a far different kind of future warfare in the air, out in space, and within cyberspace. Though the concept explains new ways of thinking about personnel, its most striking feature is its wholesale change in Air Force acquisition priorities. Instead of purchasing exquisite aircraft and using cheap payloads, the Air Force plans to invert the relationship and acquire a balanced high-low mix of capabilities.

The concept contains dozens of technologies that the Air Force wants to buy, the most prominent of which are featured below as if submitted by the Air Force in a forthcoming budget request, complete with planned operational dates. Another striking feature is that most of these technologies are already in development by the Air Force, DARPA, or another U.S. military service. With the exception of reliable hypersonic weapons, the Air Force could conceivably acquire most of these new systems by the early- to mid-2020s.

Given the smart and innovative ideas within the Air Force’s new operating concept, we hope they do just that.



President’s Budget (or PB), Fiscal Year 2020

United States Air Force Budget Submission for Fiscal Years Defense Program 2020-2025


Airborne launch assist space access (ALASA); PB20

ALASA is a current DARPA program in development on the F-15 aircraft that straps a mini launch rocket with its payload to the fighter jet. Because the air near Earth is so much denser, a fighter jet can fly to high altitude and launch a smaller rocket capable of completing the trip to space and deploying microsatellites. In the future, the Air Force views the afterburning F-35D as a candidate to rapidly launch microsatellite clusters into orbit to provide resiliency and modularity to the military satellite constellation.


Space control capability suite (SCCS); PB22


The Air Force desires a set of kinetic and nonkinetic options to contribute to the space control mission. Though some options might involve air-launched kinetic kill vehicles or space-based “repair” satellites, most options will involve nonkinetic space-based electronic warfare or directed-energy platforms cued by space-based space surveillance (SBSS) satellites.


X-37B Follow-on; PB20

Since 2011, a joint Boeing/Air Force/DARPA X-37B space plane has spent years slightly below low earth orbit. The X-37B is a reusable mini-Space Shuttle with a payload bay about the size of a car. A follow-on program would carry advanced satellite maintenance and space-based awareness capabilities, and might even contribute to the SCCS mentioned above.



F-35D Lightning II Interceptor; PB22

The F-35D model, presumably a derivative of the conventional Air Force F-35A. The service also envisions this model as being optionally manned and capable of advanced command and control for other uninhabited systems including the optionally manned LRS-B, uninhabited cargo and aerial refueler, and unmanned missile trucks (19). The Air Force is already exploring an up-engined variant of the F-35 in its ADVENT (adaptive versatile engine technology) program.


Uninhabited cargo and refueling tanker (UCART); PB20

The UCART is an optionally manned family of systems primarily composed of a low-observable long-range aerial refueling tanker and a long-endurance modular cargo aircraft—and some versions of each. The stealthy tanker might credibly be based on the Navy’s X-47B, which has already completed aerial refueling missions. The unmanned cargo craft might look something like Lockheed’s proposed Hybrid Wing Body airlifter.


U-2 Follow-on; PB18

The U-2 successor program envisions a low-observable, high-altitude ISR aircraft capable of collecting multiple forms of intelligence in denied and high-threat areas as a counterpart to the RQ-4 Global Hawk and its unmanned tactical counterparts. In concert with DARPA, Lockheed has already been conducting initial research on both an exquisite SR-72 hypersonic ISR aircraft and a lower-cost uninhabited U-2 follow-on.


MMLR Flying Missile Truck (Multi-mission long-range aircraft); PB20

Capable of autonomous and semiautonomous operation, the MMLR is a low-cost aircraft meant to ferry weapons into the battlespace to expand the usable payload of the F-35.


EHALE Battlefield Awareness Node; PB20

The Air Force plans to develop a high-atmospheric long-endurance aircraft, likely uninhabited, to backstop the satellite communications network and line-of-sight communications. Such an aircraft, perhaps modeled on the liquid hydrogen-fueled Boeing Phantom Eye, would remain at high altitude for as long as two weeks to provide a core communications suite to the Air Force’s redundant Joint Aerial Layer Network vision.


Expendable autonomous cargo vehicle (EAV) PB20, (28)

The Air Force needs a low-cost, expendable, autonomous cargo drone to carry out resupply in contested airspace. Though the 3-ton payload Lockheed/Kaman K-MAX autonomous cargo helicopter is too high-end, the U.S. Marine Corps has operationally demonstrated the concept’s reliability in Afghanistan since 2011. Yet something like the SOCOM/MMIST CQ-10A/B Snowgoose costs less than $1m and is capable of carrying 600 pounds of cargo 200 kilometers.


Heavy-haul hybrid airship (HHHA); PB18 (28)

To complement swarming cargo drones in contested airspace, the Air Force is looking for a hybrid airship to carry heavy lows at low cost in permissive airspace, freeing the fixed-wing Air Mobility Command fleet for time-sensitive, higher-threat missions. Such a program could easily modify commercial, off-the-shelf options such as Lockheed’s LMH-1 airship, which can carry 20 tons of cargo over 2600 kilometers.


Long-range strike bomber; PB18

Though already well along in its development, the long-range strike bomber features prominently in several future Air Force missions. Stealthy, optionally manned, and capable of launching kinetic and electronic payloads, the LRS-B is a critical component of holding defended enemy assets at risk. While the current program calls for 80-100 aircraft, the Air Force’s embrace of the LRS-B in the Future Operating Concept supports analyses showing that the Air Force needs more like 170 aircraft.



MALD-J Family of Systems Follow-on; PB18

The MALD-J (miniature air-launched decoy jammer) is a Raytheon small air-launched cruise missile currently in production, primarily used to spoof friendly aircraft signatures and jam adversary radars. Expansion of the program would see new low-cost variants or a modular platform (currently in testing by Raytheon) capable of carrying an electromagnetic payload, sensor payload, decoy payload, or basic munitions.


Hypersonic air-launched weapon kit (HAWK); PB22

The Air Force desires an air-launched hypersonic weapon capable of employment from several platforms including fighters, bombers, and possibly the MMLR missile truck and high-altitude platforms. While the employment on the F-35 or F-22 would require specialized construction, a common launching kit could be employed on nonstealthy aircraft to maximize the numbers of airborne weapons available given the reduced relevance of distance. The Air Force and DARPA have a number of programs pursuing hypersonic vehicles such as the Raytheon Tactical Boost-Glide vehicle slated for flight demonstration prior to 2020, the follow-on to the Boeing X-51 Waverider scramjet-powered vehicle, and the Lockheed High Speed Strike Weapon, slated for 2018 flight testing.


CHARM (Cyber HARM); PB20

Beyond the concept of the Navy AGM-88E AARGM (Advanced anti-radiation guided missile) and the Air Force CHAMP (Counterelectronic, high-powered microwave advanced missile project), the Air Force looks to employ a loitering, platform-neutral cyberweapon capable of insertion through network operations, directed-energy weapons, cruise missiles, or within other munitions.


Avenger airborne aircraft carrier; PB20

The AAAC envisions the refitting of current and future Air Force cargo aircraft with the capability to drop or launch a full range of nonlethal payloads. Like the WC-130J, this program will allow cargo aircraft to carry everything from mid-sized UAVs to the MALD-J Family of Systems. DARPA already operates the Gremlins program for initial research in this area.


Airborne anti-cruise missile laser; PB22

Building on the current Air Force Research Laboratory HEL (High-energy laser) program, the ACML and several derivative programs aim to test a 50-100kW self-defense laser by 2022.



Autonomous manned-unmanned teaming (AUTO-MUT); PB20

Underpinning the bevy of autonomous aircraft and munitions envisioned by the Air Force, F-35 and LRS-B pilots must be able to control several aircraft at once. Building on the flight control systems of the RQ-4 Global Hawk, Navy experience with the X-47B and swarming Common Unmanned Surface Vehicle, and Army experience with Apache/Grey Eagle teaming, the Air Force should be able to developed advanced command-and-control systems for the next generation of pilots.


Automated sensor advanced processing (ASAP); PB22 (23)

To provide for more accurate ISR provision and resilience against satellite communications jamming, the Air Force desires integration of advancing processing algorithms onto its airborne collection platforms like the RQ-4, MQ-9, U-2, F-35, JSTARS, and AWACS aircraft. Already employed stateside for pre-analyst processing, advanced algorithms would be introduced to existing and future aircraft in software upgrades and processing power improvements.


Common 3D printer operations (C-3PO); PB20

To support austere expeditionary airbases and air resupply of forward-deployed Special Operations Forces, the Air Force plans to acquire a common, air-droppable 3D printer and supporting network for secure engineering design delivery. The U.S. military has already conducted a great deal of operational research with additive manufacturing at fixed sites and has even deployed 3D printers on amphibious warships.


Autonomous loading/unloading program (ALUP); PB22

To enable rapid loading/unloading of cargo aircraft, particularly on time-sensitive missions, in contested airspace, or at austere expeditionary airbases, the Air Force desires an automated cargo movement system. Large, dedicated cargo robots are scheduled to go online at Yokota Air Base soon and nearly triple storage capacity and cut moving time from 4.5 hours to 1 hour with fewer personnel. The challenge for the Air Force will be miniaturizing these machines and providing enough power for operations in austere conditions.


Combat information cloud; PB20

The underappreciated product of the F-35’s sensor fusion systems, the combat information cloud aims to give all U.S. military personnel in the combat zone the right information at the right time. But the combat cloud is far more than just the F-35, even though that’s the largest part. It involves joint networking, making each warfighter both participant and consumer of the ISR mission. The combat cloud—a constantly evolving endeavor—will eventually give commanders at all levels unprecedented amounts of tailored information to aid decisionmaking.

Mackenzie Eaglen is a resident fellow in the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, where she works on defense issues. Rick Berger is a research assistant at the American Enterprise Institute.




Avoiding Space War Needs a New Approach

By Brian Chow

September 16, 2015


The United States has long recognized the importance of satellites in support of its economy and national security, especially global commitments beyond the horizon where satellites can still see and communicate. Its strategy to deter space war has essentially been unchanged since Russia developed a ground-launched anti-satellite weapon (ASAT) in the 1960s.

The current US strategy for “preventing and deterring aggression against space infrastructure” including satellites, as stated in the National Security Space Strategy, has five elements:

■”Support diplomatic efforts to promote norms of responsible behavior in space.”

■”Pursue international partnerships that encourage potential adversary restraint.”

■”Improve our ability to attribute attacks.”

■”Strengthen the resilience of our architectures to deny the benefits of an attack.”

■”Retain the right to respond, should deterrence fail.”


Even when China successfully conducted a ground-launched ASAT in 2007, the US strategy remained adequate. A ground-launched ASAT would take more than an hour to reach the geostationary orbit where many important US satellites fly.

One might be concerned that a ground-launched ASAT could reach and kill a critical satellite in low-Earth orbit within tens of seconds. Fortunately, killing more might have to wait for hours, because a low-Earth-orbit satellite will only fly over a given launch site twice a day and a ground-launched ASAT needs the target to be in view.

Since this threat has existed for half a century and the US strategy has not changed, the United States must have considered the inherent time delay in ground-launched attacks long enough to defend against follow-on, if not the first, attacks.

On the contrary, the recent, little-publicized Chinese close proximity operations in space are a game changer, and avoiding a space war, which can spread to Earth, needs a new approach.

In its “Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China 2012,” the Department of Defense states that: “Over the past two years, China has also conducted increasingly complex close proximity operations between satellites while offering little in the way of transparency or explanation.”

The annual reports for 2013, 2014 and 2015 repeat an identical warning that People’s Liberation Army writings emphasize the necessity of destroying, damaging and interfering with the enemy’s critical satellites.

Close proximity operations can be used for peaceful missions, such as repairing or resupplying satellites and space stations, or military missions, such as seizing and destroying satellites. This dual-use characteristic can provide a cover for developing and placing these ASATs in orbit during peacetime.

If China tried to seize Taiwan, or engaged in other conflicts in East Asia, these prepositioned space objects could be maneuvered to essentially tailgate US satellites. China could use such a configuration to deter US intervention by demonstrating that its space stalkers could practically simultaneously attack several critical satellites from such a close proximity that the US would not have time to protect them.

Under such a threat, the US might be forced to preemptively destroy China’s space stalkers.

The fifth element of US strategy is to “retain the right to respond, should deterrence fail.” Unfortunately, after the attacks, US response would be too late to save the target satellite capabilities that it needs.

For the last five decades, the US has been silent about whether it would exercise self defense pre-emptively. The US needs to let the world know in peacetime, not at the eve of pre-emption, why pre-emption might be necessary under this close-proximity threat. Otherwise, even US allies might condemn the US for firing the shot that started a space war.

The direct solution is to ban space-based ASATs but this requires a distinction between space-based ASATs and satellites — a distinction that cannot reliably be made once they are in orbit. Even a garden-variety satellite can be maneuvered to hit another satellite, thus, banning space-based ASATs would mean banning satellites as well.

Yet, China and Russia have been gaining support for their proposed “Treaty on Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space,” which is founded on this unreliable distinction. A resolution urging work on the proposed treaty was overwhelmingly approved in the UN General Assembly in December. The US needs to take three proactive steps.

First, declare publicly that the aggressor is the one displaying such a tailgating configuration and that the party making the first move, including pre-emption, is acting in self-defense.

Second, convince friendly nations to declare their support of this position.

Third, propose to add the prohibition of multiple space stalkers into UN outer space transparency and confidence-building measures. This would prohibit the positioning of more than an innocuous threshold number of space objects, perhaps two, three or four, to tailgate (or closely lead) another country’s satellites. That number is high enough so no country would accidentally breach it conducting peaceful space activities, but also low enough so that destroying the same number of US satellites would not significantly impair US capabilities. This proposed measure based on threatening configurations is observable and verifiable.

This approach has been designed especially through the first two steps to speak out so that friendly nations would understand and support US action to conduct preemptive self defense under this specific threat.

Once a potential adversary recognizes that the one posing a threatening tailgating configuration would be treated as the aggressor and that the configuration would be defeated, the adversary would have no incentive to pose the threat in the first place. A space war would, thus, be avoided.

Brian Chow retired from the Rand Corp. in February after serving as a senior physical scientist for 25 years. He can be reached at


Air Force Delays Decision on Whether to Let Enlisted Airmen Fly Drones Sep 17, 2015 | by Bryant Jordan


The U.S. Air Force has delayed until possibly next year a decision on whether to let enlisted airmen fly drones.

A decision on the matter was expected in November, but will probably be pushed back until January, officials said this week at the Air and Space Conference near Washington, D.C. No explanation was immediately available.

“We’ll be making a decision,” Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force James Cody told some 200 mostly enlisted airmen Wednesday at the conference organized by the Air Force Association.


“It’s not a decision about if we think enlisted airmen can fly RPAs,” he added, referring to remotely piloted aircraft. “It’s a decision about the right thing for our organization, for our Air Force.”

His comments came a day after Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said they thought enlisted personnel could do the job.

“With the right training and the right preparation, I just can’t imagine that they couldn’t do an excellent job of being an RPA pilot,” James said, according to an article by the Air Force Times.

Welsh reportedly said, “I have no doubt they can do the job. The question is, should we go that way?”

The Air Force, which flies such unmanned systems as the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper made by General Atomics, is struggling to meet surging demand for drone operators both in the U.S. and abroad, as more and more pilots and trainers leave the service due to stress.

Indeed, enough RPA operators have left that Air Force officials cut the number of combat air patrols by armed surveillance drones to 60 a day by October, down from a peak of 65 a day.

The service has about 1,000 active-duty pilots for Predators and Reapers, though at least 200 more are needed to meet requirements for current missions. The service trains about 180 such pilots a year, but loses about 240 due to attrition. General Atomics has even opened a drone training academy to help alleviate the bottleneck.

Drone pilots typically fly between 900 and 1,100 hours a year, while fighter pilots generally fly about a quarter as much. Exacerbating the problem is a cultural divide within the service related to the ongoing stigmatization of unmanned aircraft operators, who are still judged by some of their peers as not being “real” pilots.

During a question-and-answer session with airmen, Cody pushed back against reports that senior chiefs disagreed over whether enlisted airmen should be flying drones. In the Air Force — unlike the other services — the mission of piloting RPAs has been reserved for officers since the technology was adopted.

Cody said comments made the day before by top NCOs for Air Force Special Operations and Air Mobility commands were taken out of context and misunderstood. While AMC Chief Master Sgt. Victoria Gamble said the Air Force needs enlisted pilots now, AFSOC’s Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Caruso said he did not believe the service was ready.

“They weren’t in disagreement with each other,” Cody said. “He wasn’t saying we shouldn’t do it. He was saying we’re not doing it right now — meaning we’re not ready today to do it. We’re absolutely looking at it right now and considering it.”

Cody said the debate is not about whether enlisted airmen can pilot remotely controlled aircraft; it’s about whether the change would fit into the organizational structure and benefit the service.


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

Rasmussen Reports

Bottom of Form

Saturday, September 19, 2015


Is there movement at last in the race for the Republican presidential nomination?

Republicans have lowered Donald Trump’s chances for the nomination – for the second week in a row – in Rasmussen Reports’ latest Trump Change survey

Following Wednesday night’s GOP debate, Jeb Bush is treading water, but Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina appear to have dramatically improved their chances for the nomination in 2016. Carson is now in a virtual tie with Trump.

There were two major storylines going into this week’s debate at the Reagan Presidential Library in California: Bush’s showdown with Trump in hopes of reclaiming the lead and Fiorina’s ascension to the A-debate stage. Bush seems to have come up short, while Fiorina clearly benefited.

But was the latest meeting of all the candidates a debate or an endurance test? 

Eighty-nine percent (89%) of Likely Republican Voters told us earlier this week that they were likely to watch or follow news reports about the debate

Trump has proposed tax hikes on the country’s wealthiest households in response to what he feels are vastly overpaid CEOs and Wall Street hedge fund managers. Most Americans agree that these individuals get paid too much.

Democrats won’t hold their first official debate until next month, but right now 59% of all voters – and 37% of Democrats – think it’s likely Hillary Clinton broke the law by sending and receiving e-mails containing classified information through a private e-mail server while serving as secretary of State.

As far as voters are concerned, the law is the law, even if you’re the president.

Democrats nervous about the problems surrounding Clinton have been talking up Joe Biden’s candidacy. Are Democrats ready for the vice president to jump into the race for their party’s presidential nomination?

Support for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders among Democrats has surged over the summer, but do voters in his party think Sanders is any more likely to win the nomination next year?

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of all voters think Clinton and Obama hold similar views on most major policy issues. The president’s daily job approval ratings worsened a bit this week. 

Since labor unions have overwhelmingly supported Democratic candidates over Republicans for decades, it’s not surprising that 71% of GOP voters think unions have too much political influence, but only 28% of Democrats agree.

The Federal Reserve Board decided on Thursday not to raise interest rates, but most Americans expect to pay higher interest rates a year from now

In other surveys last week:

Twenty-nine percent (29%) of voters believe the United States is headed in the right direction.

— Despite the health risks of tobacco smoking, Americans still don’t want to ban it altogether.

— Americans believe 18 is old enough to elect a president and fight for your country but not to buy tobacco and alcohol.

Pope Francis is coming to America next week.

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