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October 3, 2015

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3 October 2015


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Bomber Paves Way for USAF Acquisition Shift

By Lara Seligman 11:18 a.m. EDT September 27, 2015


WASHINGTON — Faced with rapid advances by potential enemies like Russia and China, the US Air Force is launching an effort to speed up delivery of weapons to troops.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James outlined the initiative, dubbed “should schedule,” during the Air Force Association’s annual air and space exposition earlier this month. The pilot program will offer incentives to weapon makers to beat milestones and deliver programs ahead of schedule. The service will start small, with low-dollar programs, and ramp up after proving the approach works.

“Unfortunately, today it takes too long to develop and field our systems,” James said. “If we can collectively beat the historical developmental schedules and reward the behavior in government and industry that speeds things up, we have a real chance to make a difference.”

But long before the Air Force officially rolled out “should schedule,” leadership was already experimenting with ways to streamline the clunky acquisition process.

The Air Force recently revealed that the effort to procure a next-generation Long Range Strike Bomber is unusually mature for a program at such an early stage of development. Although the Air Force has not yet awarded a contract to one of two competitors — Northrop Grumman and a Lockheed Martin-Boeing team — the service already has two robust designs in hand and has completed much of the necessary risk reduction.

“What we’ve focused on with LRS-B is trying to make sure the technology is more mature than we’ve ever started a program [with],” Lt. Gen. Arnie Bunch, the Air Force’s deputy assistant secretary for acquisition, said during an event hosted by AFA. “Based on where we are at and what industry partners have done, we are confident this is going to be more mature, technology-wise, than any new development program we’ve ever started.”

The Air Force has revealed very little about the mysterious effort to replace its aging B-1 and B-52 bombers. What is known is that the Air Force plans to buy 80-100 bombers at a startlingly low unit cost of $550 million in fiscal 2010 dollars. The service expects to announce the winner of the contract in the next few weeks.

As new details about LRS-B emerge, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Air Force is using the program as a sort of test bed for best practices in acquisition.


“Is [LRS-B] a model for the new initiatives that we are trying to go forward with? I think there are lessons learned that we’re going to get out of this that we’re going to port over into other things,” Bunch said.

Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, head of Air Force Materiel Command, also indicated in an interview with Defense News that the Air Force is using lessons learned from the LRS-B effort to drive efficiency into other programs.

The Air Force is starting to put a much stronger focus on development planning, Pawlikowski said. As part of this effort, the service is increasingly working with industry to better define requirements around what is needed, what technology is available and how fast goals can be reached.

“I love to steal good ideas and make them work,” Pawlikowski said, adding that the effort to incorporate more modeling and simulation upfront “is directly applying some of the lessons we learned in terms of formulating LRS-B.”

The Air Force is also beginning to re-evaluate its goals regularly throughout the acquisition cycle, she emphasized.

“You get to the point where some of the technology now becomes not just models and simulations, but experimentation,” Pawlikowski said. For example, “maybe once a year we cycle back and look at our planning, and you say, ‘this really works and the technology is pretty mature, and we could probably put this on the F-35 in 2025 — we do not need to wait until 2030.'”

This is similar to what the Air Force has been doing with LRS-B, she said.

In the same vein, the Air Force last year stood up an Office of Transformational Innovation, headed by Camron Gorguinpour, whose mandate is to think about acquisition outside the box. Gorguinpour’s office attempts to engage industry early in the process, in effect enabling industry to help shape a program’s requirements.

Gorguinpour has four pilot projects: the T-X trainer replacement; the Long Range Standoff Weapon; a follow-on to the Space-Based Infrared Radar System; and the Multi-Domain Adaptable Processing System, which connects fourth- and fifth-generation fighter jets.

“The idea of the office is to try to [do] ‘swing for the fences’-type of acquisition changes, things that go beyond sort of the traditional things we think about with acquisition reform,” Gorguinpour told reporters during a presentation at the recent AFA symposium, calling the office “Skunk Works for bureaucrats.”

T-X is a perfect example of how the Air Force is tweaking its approach to acquisition. The Air Force released the requirements for T-X 10 months earlier than is normal, and has held multiple meetings with the companies proposing designs. Another new initiative in the T-X program: Whenever an industry team asks for clarification on a certain point, the Air Force releases the answer publicly.

“From the beginning, we’ve been very open and transparent on this T-X program with industry to let them know why we need this new generation trainer, what the requirements are and to talk to them specifically about what we are trying to achieve,” Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, commander of Air Education and Training Command, said during a presentation at AFA.

In order to further tighten timelines, the Air Force is also focused on owning the technical baseline for major programs and requiring that new projects incorporate open mission systems, Bunch said.

But most important to the Air Force’s efforts to reduce costs and speed up delivery time is transparency and dialogue with industry, Bunch emphasized.

“We are trying to get feedback from industry on what we are trying to do to see if what we are doing is made out of unobtanium, or if there are things that we really are trying to achieve that we just aren’t approaching the right way,” Bunch said.


Small Defense Firms, the Pentagon Can Help You Fight Off Hacks — Just Ask

September 26, 2015

By Aliya Sternstein



A GAO report says the Pentagon’s program to protect small contractors against data theft has been underused.

Hackers pummel small companies because they are easy targets, with poor security hygiene and network access to big business partners, say security specialists. That logic applies to small military contractors, too.

But the Pentagon’s Office of Small Business Programs has resources to help protect the little defense businesses – it just didn’t know it. That was the finding of a Government Accountability Office audit released Thursday. 

The office “had not identified or disseminated cybersecurity resources to defense small businesses that the businesses could use to understand cybersecurity and cyberthreats,” Joseph Kirschbaum, GAO director for defense capabilities and management, said in the report. Office employees “were not aware of existing cybersecurity resources such as those we identified when we met with them in June 2015.”

Even as the Pentagon was imposing data breach regulations on the $55.5 billion sector, the office essentially had other priorities than advocating information security awareness.

“There had been leadership turnover within the office, and the office had been focused on one of its key initiatives — developing the training curriculum for DOD professionals who work with small businesses,” Kirschbaum found.

The absence of guidance for small businesses on how to secure military data comes at a time when those firms are being held accountable for breaches more than ever.  

In August, the Pentagon issued an interim rule for reporting data breaches. It stipulates that contractors, including lower-tier vendors, have to safeguard a larger amount of content than in the past. The policy covers confidential military technological and scientific data, known as “unclassified controlled technical information,” as well as all other unclassified “protected” data, such as export-controlled information.

Simultaneously, 71 percent of security breaches hit small businesses, according to research from IDC. 

The new audit includes a list of 15 websites where small defense firms can read about digital risks and countermeasures, including the Pentagon’s “Cybersecurity e-Learning Courses,” the Small Business Administration’s “Learning Center: Cybersecurity for Small Business” and the Federal Communications Commission’s “Small Biz Cyber Planner 2.0.” 

Auditors cautioned the list, which only encompasses federally funded materials, might not be exhaustive and the quality of the selected webpages sites was not assessed. 

The small business office said it was not required to educate small businesses on information security, but understood the importance of data protection. 

After auditors presented the office with the array of online materials, officials said they would tie cybersecurity into existing tutorials. 

Future outreach by the office “will increase awareness of cybersecurity education and training resources to defense small businesses,” said Kenyata Wesley, acting director of the Defense Office of Small Business Programs, in a Sept. 11 written response to a draft report. The office also will publicize the materials to Pentagon small business personnel through events “and by issuing guidance to the military departments and defense agencies.”


Obama, Xi Reach Agreement Over Chinese Data Thefts

September 25, 2015

By Nora Kelly Clare Foran

National Journal


The two leaders agreed that neither government would conduct or knowingly support web enabled theft of intellectual property.

The U.S. and China found com­mon ground on cy­ber­se­cur­ity on Fri­day, an agree­ment an­nounced in re­marks de­livered jointly by Chinese Pres­id­ent Xi Jin­ping and Pres­id­ent Obama from the South Lawn of the White House.

“The United States wel­comes the rise of a China that is peace­ful, stable, pros­per­ous, and a re­spons­ible play­er in glob­al af­fairs, and I’m com­mit­ted to ex­pand­ing our co­oper­a­tion even as we ad­dress dis­agree­ments can­didly and con­struct­ively. That’s what Pres­id­ent Xi and I have done on this vis­it,” Obama said.

“I raised once again our very ser­i­ous con­cerns about grow­ing cy­ber­threats to Amer­ic­an com­pan­ies and Amer­ic­an cit­izens. I in­dic­ated that it has to stop,” Obama said. “The United States gov­ern­ment does not en­gage in cy­ber eco­nom­ic es­pi­on­age for com­mer­cial gain, and today I can an­nounce that our two coun­tries have reached a com­mon un­der­stand­ing on the way for­ward. We have agreed that neither the U.S. nor the Chinese gov­ern­ment will con­duct or know­ingly sup­port cy­ber-en­abled theft of in­tel­lec­tu­al prop­erty, in­clud­ing trade secrets or oth­er con­fid­en­tial busi­ness in­form­a­tion for com­mer­cial ad­vant­age.”

Obama ad­ded that the United States and China would work to­geth­er with oth­er coun­tries world­wide to es­tab­lish stand­ards of “ap­pro­pri­ate con­duct in cy­ber­space.” Obama char­ac­ter­ized the moves as “pro­gress,” even as he noted there is more work to be done.

Pres­id­ents Xi and Obama also jointly an­nounced the cre­ation of a cap-and-trade pro­gram in China, a move de­signed to build mo­mentum for a strong agree­ment to con­front glob­al warm­ing when world lead­ers meet in Par­is later this year for United Na­tions cli­mate talks. It’s slated to launch in 2017.

China has long been seen as a lag­gard in tack­ling the threat of glob­al warm­ing, but the U.S. and China—two of the world’s largest con­trib­ut­ors to the green­house gases driv­ing glob­al warm­ing—now ap­pear ready to use their out­sized in­flu­ence to con­front cli­mate change world­wide. The White House has been work­ing hard to ex­tract cli­mate com­mit­ments from China. Last Novem­ber, China and the U.S. agreed to a his­tor­ic pledge to curb green­house-gas emis­sions driv­ing dan­ger­ous glob­al warm­ing.

Obama men­tioned China’s eco­nom­ic status dur­ing his re­marks Fri­day. He said that even though parts of China still re­quire de­vel­op­ment, it can no longer be treated “as if it’s still a very poor and de­vel­op­ing coun­try.” Rather, he said, it’s now a “power­house” that has “re­spons­ib­il­it­ies.”

Asked by a Chinese re­port­er if China’s growth ad­versely af­fects Amer­ica, Xi noted that the United States has “in­com­par­able ad­vant­ages and strengths.” But he said the world must move bey­ond view­ing glob­al eco­nom­ics as a “zero-sum game.” China’s de­vel­op­ment be­ne­fits the U.S. and the en­tire world, Xi said, as U.S. growth be­ne­fits China and oth­er na­tions.

The two pres­id­ents’ press con­fer­ence comes just hours after news that House Speak­er John Boehner will resign from his po­s­i­tion ef­fect­ive Oct. 30. Obama said that the news took him by sur­prise and that he had called Boehner just be­fore the press con­fer­ence. The pres­id­ent praised the speak­er as “a good man” and “a pat­ri­ot.” Obama de­clined to “pre­judge who the next speak­er will be.” He said he hopes there is “a re­cog­ni­tion on the part of the next speak­er … that we can have sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­ences on is­sues but that doesn’t mean you shut down the gov­ern­ment.”

Obama and Boehner aren’t ex­actly buds: The speak­er de­fied the White House earli­er this year when he ar­ranged a vis­it from Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Net­an­yahu to ad­dress a joint meet­ing of Con­gress. He’s also routinely clashed with the ad­min­is­tra­tion on Obama­care and budget con­cerns, in­clud­ing with law­suits. But Boehner faced cri­ti­cism from mem­bers of his own caucus for en­ga­ging in talks with the pres­id­ent as they tried to ham­mer out a “Grand Bar­gain” on the na­tion’s debt back in 2011.

“When you have di­vided gov­ern­ment, when you have a demo­cracy, com­prom­ise is ne­ces­sary,” Obama said Fri­day. “And I think Speak­er Boehner some­times had dif­fi­culty per­suad­ing mem­bers of his caucus [of] that.”

Speak­ing about the chal­lenges that Boehner faced, Obama said: “You don’t get what you want 100 per­cent of the time. Some­times you take half a loaf, some­times you take a quarter loaf. That’s cer­tainly something that I’ve learned here in this of­fice.”


Dur­ing Fri­day’s press con­fer­ence, Obama noted that cy­ber­se­cur­ity has been a mat­ter of “ser­i­ous dis­cus­sion” between him­self and Xi for more than two years, since their bi­lat­er­al meet­ing at Sunny­lands in Cali­for­nia. Though he be­lieves they’ve made “sig­ni­fic­ant pro­gress” in fig­ur­ing out how U.S. and Chinese law en­force­ment will work to­geth­er to fight cy­ber­crime, “the ques­tion now is, are words fol­lowed by ac­tions?” The pres­id­ent said his ad­min­is­tra­tion will be “watch­ing care­fully” to de­term­ine the an­swer to that query.

Obama said Xi told him he can­not “guar­an­tee” the good be­ha­vi­or of all of his cit­izens, just as Obama can’t prom­ise good be­ha­vi­or from all Amer­ic­ans.

“What I can guar­an­tee, though, and what I’m hop­ing Pres­id­ent Xi will show me,” Obama said, “is that we are not spon­sor­ing these acts and that when it comes to our at­ten­tion that non­gov­ern­ment­al en­tit­ies or in­di­vidu­als are en­gaged in this stuff, that we take this ser­i­ously and we’re co­oper­at­ing to en­force the law.”

Obama’s planned meet­ings with Xi have proved con­tro­ver­sial since the state vis­it was an­nounced months ago, and they’ve been a hot top­ic in the 2016 GOP field. Sen. Marco Ru­bio and Carly Fior­ina have cri­ti­cized the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion for ar­ran­ging a form­al state din­ner dur­ing Xi’s vis­it, planned for Fri­day night. Both think Xi’s trip should have been re­framed as a work­ing vis­it. Re­cent cam­paign dro­pout Scott Walk­er, on the oth­er hand, ad­voc­ated for the trip to be can­celed in its en­tirety. The can­did­ates have cited China’s role in cy­ber­at­tacks on the United States, its cur­rency ma­nip­u­la­tion, and its hu­man-rights re­cord as reas­ons to can­cel or shift gears.

Obama didn’t ig­nore hu­man-rights con­cerns dur­ing his re­marks Fri­day af­ter­noon. He shif­ted from an­noun­cing a part­ner­ship on glob­al de­vel­op­ment with China—fo­cus­ing on hu­man­it­ari­an as­sist­ance and glob­al health, among oth­er sub­jects—to that coun­try’s hu­man rights re­cord. Obama said he “af­firmed” Amer­ic­an sup­port for in­di­vidu­al rights, free press, and the free move­ment of civil-so­ci­ety groups in China in talks with Xi, and “we ex­pect that we’re go­ing to con­tin­ue to con­sult in these areas” in the fu­ture.

Xi ad­dressed an­oth­er ele­phant in the room: his coun­try’s ac­tions in the South China Sea. He as­ser­ted that the is­lands in the South China Sea are his na­tion’s “prop­erty” and he en­cour­aged “coun­tries dir­ectly in­volved” in dis­putes over ter­rit­ory to ad­dress their is­sues through mu­tu­al dia­logue.


What’s next for drones? Swarming, lasers, and wingmen, military leaders say

By Phillip Swarts, Staff writer 10:15 a.m. EDT September 27, 2015


The next generation of remotely piloted aircraft could swarm enemy defenses, serve as wingmen for pilots, attack targets with lasers, or work as mobile weather radar.

Aerospace experts say that the technology is becoming advanced enough that drones can now take on a host of missions far beyond their normal reconnaissance and ground-strike roles.

“We’re just at the very early stages of what robotics and autonomous systems might do,” said Paul Scharre, a retired Army Ranger who helped craft some of the Pentagon’s drone policies while at the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

During discussions on the future of drones at the Sept. 14-16 Air Force Association national convention, Scharre compared the state of RPAs with aircraft after World War I: Everyone knew they were changing warfare, but no one was certain how to use them or what the extent of their capabilities would be.

“We’ve used these systems but in fairly limited ways; the technology’s still somewhat constrained; what they do is sometimes not clear yet,” said Scharre, now a senior fellow at the Washington, D.C., think tank the Center for a New American Security. “I would argue down the road they could have some pretty significant changes in terms of how militaries fight.”


Autonomous wingmen

The Air Force is even looking at developing drones that could serve as wingman for pilots flying fighters.

In order to increase magazine size for missions, RPAs could carry extra munitions that would be controlled by a pilot in a fighter. The pilot would select a target and fire the weapon. But rather than the missile firing from the plane itself, it would fire from the drone.

Unmanned aerial systems could also carry other mission-critical equipment like advanced radar or sensors, without worrying about the weight slowing down the pilot’s plane.

“Imagine a small UAS system operating in conjunction off the wing of fourth- and fifth-generation platforms, providing specific enhancing capabilities to achieve strategic effects,” said Maj. Jason Willey, branch chief for the MQ-9 Reaper in the Capabilities Division of the Pentagon’s Intelligence Directorate.

Some of the same abilities desired by the Air Force could also be deployed on the ground. Marine Corps Times reported Sept. 22 that a pocket-size drone is in development that could accompany teams and be used to scout enemy movements or approach suspicious objects.

Experts have noted that drones could be an extra “eye in the sky” for pilots, able to close with and survey enemy aircraft or air defenses at ranges that would be unsafe for airmen.

Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, leader of Air Force Special Operations Command, said he wants a small unmanned aerial vehicle to accompany AC-130s on missions.

“I don’t want to put an AC-130 over a threat that can touch me,” he said. “Well, drop the tactical off-board sensor, have it fly, set out, tell me ahead of time what I’m seeing and launch a standoff weapon from a long way away. It’s like a search and destroy. A kind of killer scout concept here with a small UAV out of the aircraft.”



But RPAs could also be used not just to spot incoming threats, but also take them out. The Air Force is looking to deploy high-powered microwaves or lasers that could disable electronics, damage enemy vehicles, or destroy AA emplacements.

General Atomics, maker of the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, has been testing a laser system that could be mounted on an RPA. The company announced in April that initial tests had been successful, and that the laser could be mounted on one of its drones in 2017, with a military version ready the following year.

But the Air Force is also looking for improvements to existing RPAs. The Predator is set to be retired in 2018, with the Reaper taking over its missions.

To that end, “the Air Force is currently developing and testing an MQ-9 with extended range tanks that increase range and loiter capability,” Willey said, and looking to add missions for maritime surface warfare and combat search and rescue.


Small drones

The advancements, however, aren’t just for larger drones. The Air Force is also starting to develop military versions of their smaller cousins as well.

In 2016, the service plans to release a “UAS flight plan” to open the roles available to smaller drones, Willey said.

“We envision that ready, or nearly ready technology — enhancements in size, weight and power — will enable the small UASs to provide the persistence and range capabilities on par with their larger RPA peers,” he said.

The military is defining these drones as anything less than 1,320 pounds, Willey said — basically “anything smaller than a Predator.”

Scharre said small drones could also provide military strategists with a new tactic: expendable troops.

Rather than sending fighters that risk human lives, or current RPAs that cost millions of dollars, cheap small drones could be sent to achieve an objective, with pilots rarely concerned about how many they might lose.

“If they get the job done and take some losses then that’s acceptable,” Scharre said. “We tend not to think about our forces that way partly because we have lives on the line and partly because as things become more expensive it just doesn’t seem to work anymore.”

Large numbers of small drones could also be used to swarm enemy positions, he added.

“There’s many more of them that the adversary has to go after,” Scharre said. “You could saturate enemy defenses, simply overwhelming them. When you have things that are cooperative, they could come from multiple different angles attacking at the exact same time to overwhelm defenses, or perhaps in cooperation with jamming or other assets.”

Overall, he said masses of drones could help the U.S. address one major concern: a high operations tempo that’s taking its toll on an aging fleet.

“Aircraft are better [than previous generations], but quantities also matter to a certain extent,” Scharre said. “You have to be able to put iron up in the sky.”


Airmen first

Regardless of advancements in drone technology, it’s the people at the controls who will always be most important, Scharre said.

“Robots are not fighting wars. People fight wars,” he said, adding that drones are just another advancement of battlefield technology, like moving from using spears to using missiles.

Willey said drones are meant to be an addition to the Air Force, not a replacement.

“These technologies will not replace airmen, but will enhance their ability to carry out their mission,” he said. “Regardless of the developments boosting RPA capabilities, airmen will continue to serve as the strength behind the employment of all air power.”



Pentagon Might Learn More About Innovation From General Motors Than Silicon Valley


Sep 25, 2015 @ 10:55 AM 3,183 views


The Pentagon has spun up an initiative to try to learn about innovation from Silicon Valley. Defense secretary Ashton Carter visited Facebook FB -3.37% headquarters in April, and since then several of his key subordinates have made the trek west to talk with various tech gurus about how the military can speed up its lagging efforts to innovate. A military liaison office has been set up in Silicon Valley to tap into the energy of the digital revolution at ground zero.

Little is likely to come of this latest installment in Pentagon outreach. Federal contractors aren’t allowed to generate the kind of operating margins that tech entrepreneurs expect (over 40% at Intel INTC +3.45%, for instance) and the cultural divide between companies like Google GOOGL -1.11% and the military acquisition system couldn’t be any broader. Besides, it isn’t so clear that the companies driving the digital revolution today will even be around in 20 years. Facebook was launched in 2004, YouTube in 2005, Twitter TWTR +0.00% in 2006. Who knows how long their business models will work?

If Pentagon leaders want to learn about innovation from the commercial world, they need to do something more imaginative than just chase the latest trending topics in popular culture. To obtain genuinely useful insights, they need to find a tech company that looks similar to the enterprise they are running — one that has innovated across multiple generations and has demonstrated some resilience in the face of repeated market upheavals.

I vote for General Motors

That’s right, the same company that got bailed out by Washington during the nation’s recent near-depression. Why? Because with annual revenues of $155 billion, it is comparable in size to one of the Pentagon’s military departments, and over a hundred years of history it has proven to be an innovator with staying power rather than some flash-in-the-pan startup. The first electric starter. The first automatic transmission. The first turbo-charged engine. The first anti-lock braking system. The first airbag. The first catalytic converter.

You don’t get seven category awards from J.D. Power, tying Toyota, unless you are on the cutting edge. Ironically, the biggest dependability issue in all U.S. vehicles that were ranked was defects in digital technology, such as Bluetooth connectivity (take that, Silicon Valley). But by any reasonable measure, General Motors is a technology leader in the world’s biggest industrial sector. Like other tech leaders with extended longevity such as Boeing and United Technologies, GM has suffered severe setbacks over the course of a hundred-year history, but it has survived to dominate its domain.

One of the most important lessons General Motors learned early on about managing a diverse technology enterprise — a lesson the Pentagon would benefit from today — is the value of decentralization. From its earliest days, GM sought to devolve as much authority as possible to its operating divisions based on the belief they understood their engineering, manufacturing and marketing needs better than the corporate parent. Alfred P. Sloan, the legendary head of GM who beat Henry Ford at his own game, describes in his memoir how giving maximum authority to division chiefs prevented engineering missteps from becoming fatal to the enterprise.

Of course, each operating unit had a clearly defined identity and mission, and there needed to be committees in which division activities could be coordinated, but in general the corporate staff did not dictate decisions to units that were functioning smoothly. Congress has recently identified excessive centralization in decision-making as a key flaw in the defense acquisition system, and moved to shift more authority to the individual military services for developing combat systems.

There are numerous other lessons that Pentagon managers could learn from GM’s experience, because the company resembles the defense department in a way no Bay-area tech enterprise ever will, or ever could. GM and DoD both develop long-cycle, signature platforms integrating many subsystems. It is no coincidence that Dwight Eisenhower, arguably the nation’s most competent postwar president, turned to former General Motors head Charles Wilson to run his fractious Department of Defense. Like John Kennedy and several of his other successors, Eisenhower saw that the automobile sector was a good cultural fit for the management environment in which the military innovates.

There’s nothing wrong with turning to Silicon Valley for ideas. GM executives travel there all the time looking for insights on how to improve their cars, pursuing innovations like high-density energy storage and sense-and-avoid navigation technology. But if you think America’s military can learn to behave like Silicon Valley tech entrepreneurs, you’re probably an academic rather than a business person. The only way that’s going to happen, as industry analyst Byron Callan has observed, is if the military can manufacture its products in China the way Apple does.


Enlisted drone pilots? Decision expected early next year

By Stephen Losey, Staff writer 4:21 p.m. EDT September 28, 2015


For years, the Air Force has had an officer at the stick when one of its remotely piloted aircraft takes off.

Next year, all that could change. The Air Force is taking a serious look at whether to allow enlisted airmen — who until now have been limited to crew roles such as sensor operators — to fly its drones.

But is the Air Force ready for the massive cultural change that enlisted drone pilots could present?

“I have no doubt they can do the job,” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said Sept. 15 at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference. “The question is, should we go that way?”

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and many other observers inside and out of the Air Force agree enlisted airmen are capable of flying drones, given the proper training. Having enlisted airmen at the controls would also open up a new source of potentially talented pilots, filling the Air Force’s ravenous need for more intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capability and helping ease the burden on undermanned, overworked commissioned officers flying RPAs like the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. The Army allows enlisted soldiers to fly its drones. It could also save money by having lower-paid enlisted airmen doing jobs officers do today.

“There’s no question in my mind that we need the extra help, because this is a field that has been under strain and it’s one where we have more demands from our combatant commanders around the world,” James said in a Sept. 16 interview at AFA. She said the Air Force will finish studying the issue between November and the end of the year and she will make a decision around the beginning of 2016.

Welsh also opened the door to the idea of enlisted airplane pilots. “It’s time to look at how we use this talent pool in a different way,” Welsh said in May. “And one of the ways we could use it is not just in the RPA force. RPA would just be the first piece, we have to look at the pilot force in general.”

When asked about enlisted airmen flying manned aircraft, James said, “One step at a time.”

Authorizing enlisted drone pilots could potentially have ramifications in several areas. The Air Force is concerned that the pay differential between enlisted airmen and better-paid officers doing the same job could lead to disgruntlement. There could be conflicts regarding supervision.

And — in what could be the biggest stumbling block — having enlisted drone pilots release weapons in a combat zone could potentially present legal issues that have to be worked through.


Filling a need

The Air Force is struggling to keep up with the demand for drone pilots. Part of the problem is overwork. Fighter pilots fly an average of 250 hours per year, the Air Force said earlier this year, but drone pilots fly about 900 hours per year.

“The RPA community has been operating at surge capacity for eight years,” Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Karns said in July.

And the Air Force isn’t churning out enough drone pilots to keep up with the demand. At the AFA conference, Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson, commander of Air Education and Training Command, said the Air Force trains 192 RPA pilots per year, and he pledged to double that to 384 in 2016. He lauded Defense Secretary Ash Carter’s April decision to drop the number of RPA combat air patrols flown from 65 per day to 60, which allowed AETC to have more experienced pilots train new ones.

There is also a stigma among some in the pilot community that flying RPAs somehow makes them lesser pilots than those who are actually in a cockpit. This makes some reluctant to move to drones.

So in July, the Air Force announced plans to offer some Predator and Reaper drone pilots retention bonuses worth up to $135,000 beginning in fiscal 2016. And it said it would start steering 80 undergraduate pilot training graduates away from traditional manned aircraft and directly into drone squadrons for one tour, typically three years long, before giving them the opportunity to move to a manned aircraft.

Retired Gen. Billy Boles, who ran AETC until he retired in 1997, wholeheartedly supports enlisted drone pilots. Tapping them to fill that role would mean fewer manned aircraft pilots would have to be moved to drones against their will, he said. And that could help the Air Force retain those pilots whom it is driving out because they don’t want to fly drones, he said.

“Why would we take a fighter [or mobility or bomber] pilot who doesn’t want to get out of the cockpit, and send him off to do that for two or three years?” Boles said. “We take these young men and women who we would like to have make a career in the Air Force, and we put them off in assignments that other people can do, and then we get surprised when they get out. We have a shortage of pilots, and part of that is a retention issue.”

Some enlisted airmen are eager to take the controls of RPAs, and think it could provide a new way to serve their country — and also advance their careers, both in the military and civilian world.

“I think it would be fun, kind of exciting, and challenging, and at the same time rewarding,” said Staff Sgt. Brian Baker, a jet engine mechanic at the 823rd Maintenance Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. “I have a personal interest in flying, and that would be a really cool way to continue military service and be a pilot. You’re filling a combat role every day whenever you’re a drone pilot.”

Baker said he would relish the opportunity to directly help troops in harm’s way by flying drones.

“The stuff they do, they’re spotting out for ground troops, you’re helping out people on the ground that are in a sticky situation — if you can help them out, that’s kind of awesome,” Baker said.

And Chief Master Sgt. Victoria Gamble, the command chief of Air Mobility Command, said at a Sept. 14 panel discussion at the AFA conference that the Air Force should renew its use of enlisted pilots.

“We’ve been down this [path] before,” Gamble said. “We need enlisted pilots when we have a need for it, and I would say, we have a need for it. I can’t wait to see it come around again.”


Legal issues

But not everybody in the Air Force thinks it’s time just yet to take that leap.

“I don’t think the Air Force is ready for enlisted pilots right now,” Chief Master Sgt. Matthew Caruso, the command chief of Air Force Special Operations Command, said at AFA. “It is being looked at hard, very much so, particularly in the RPA realm. But we haven’t spelled out what it really means. I don’t think we’re ready just now.”

Caruso highlighted the implications of having enlisted release weapons from drones as an issue that needs to be worked through.

The Air Force did not respond to an Air Force Times inquiry by press time asking for more clarification on those legal issues.

One experienced RPA pilot, who asked for his name not to be printed, said that having enlisted drone pilots will never work, because the law always requires a commissioned officer to oversee the use of force by enlisted service members.

“Somebody has to be able to be held accountable [for the use of force], and that somebody is always a commissioned officer,” the pilot said. “Even when the enlisted guy holds a rifle, there is a platoon commander in the Army. Even when a security forces airman has to discharge a weapon to protect the base, there is a security forces operations officer he works for. That is a pretty awesome responsibility.”

Bringing in a mission director or operations supervisor to provide officer authority would present its own problems, he said. First, it would slow down the “kill chain” in a life-and-death situation, he said.

And a complex battlefield situation involving multiple enlisted pilots, each flying a drone in a different area, would stretch such an officer’s attention in multiple directions, he said — with potentially dangerous results.

“There is no known training in the world by which we can teach a human being to make those kinds of high-level decisions about five simultaneous battlefields,” he said.

The pilot sketched out a hypothetical scenario where an officer oversaw noncommissioned officer drone pilots firing missiles at Islamic State militants in Syria, in five different locations about 20 miles apart — each with tactical problems to sort out.

“There’s no way one guy can watch all five lines,” he said. “This one’s really close to civilians, we’re going to have to watch the angle at which we shoot at something, if we shoot. This one’s more in the open, I’m less worried about that, but it’s really close to the border, so I got to watch airspace.”

And with an officer’s attention divided in so many places, he said, an accident could easily happen.

“Even if you did the most amazing job in aviation history, juggling all five lines, and I was talking to Line No. 2 and correcting that NCO pilot on his shot geometry before he pulls the trigger, and I don’t see that the fifth line has taken the shot, and he’s off parameters,” he said. “And the missile goes flying and he actually hits friendlies because the trajectory was wrong. If it’s your son that was killed along with his buddies, because my NCO took the shot on the wrong parameters, are you not going to still hold me accountable? Is it enough that an NCO takes the fall for that? And the answer in our society is no.”

Having one officer to oversee each NCO pilot could solve that problem, he said, but at that point it would be more efficient to have the officer fly the drone himself.

James said the Air Force has a “tiger team” looking at barriers such as that, as well as other issues such as pay and supervision.

“We entrust our enlisted force all the time with a variety of lethal weapons,” James said. “This would be another form of a lethal weapon, but to me, that’s not in and of itself a showstopper.”

Boles said that when the Air Force first started looking at drone pilots in the mid-1990s, he wanted to have enlisted pilots fly them, but was overruled by other generals because of the deadly force issue.

“I said, I thought we had enlisted pilots during World War II, but I knew that was not a place to fall on my sword,” Boles said.

The drone pilot said that simply because the Air Force used to use enlisted pilots isn’t enough of a reason to do it today. Most of the WWII pilots who started as enlisted — including legendary aviator Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager — went on to earn their commissions, he said.

Welsh said that issues such as pay and supervision caused the Air Force to scrap its enlisted flying force decades ago. For that reason, the Air Force is considering holding a beta test to do “due diligence.”



If the Air Force allows enlisted to fly RPAs, the drone pilot said, it sets a precedent for allowing them to also fly manned aircraft — especially since the service has argued for years that RPA pilots are just as much aviators as manned pilots.

“This is Pandora’s box,” he said. “If you say, why can’t they be on RPAs, a guy with stripes, why does it matter? Well, OK, why can’t they be the pilot of a U-28? How about an MC-12? How about an F-16? F-22? Your prize of all things, F-35?”

“Given the level of tactical sophistication between what an F-16 dude does, and what the MQ-9 crews are actually doing behind the scenes, you would have better luck making an enlisted guy an F-16 wingman than you would of making him an MQ-9 aircraft commander,” he continued. “It’s literally that level of responsibility different. It is an actual warplane. It is not a toy.”


Lawmakers’ Defense Spending Agreement Ignores Obama on War Fund, Guantanamo

September 29, 2015 By Molly O’Toole


The defense spending bill that House and Senate members agreed to Tuesday evening may solve several partisan disagreements, but unless the president backs down on his veto threat, it’s as good as dead on arrival at his desk.

Members said their compromise bill includes reforms on military retirement, personnel costs, and Pentagon acquisition; strikes the right balance on controversial policy points like U.S. reliance on Russian rocket technology and Guantanamo; and provides avenues for direct lethal assistance to Ukraine and the Kurds. It even bans torture.

In the bill, members authorize $515 billion in spending for national defense and an added $89.2 billion for the Pentagon’s war chest, known as the Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO, account, for a total of $604.2 billion, according to the NDAA conference report released Tuesday evening.

“It has to be considered in the backdrop of the world today….It’s a right step in the right direction,” Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., said. “There’s one thing we didn’t do: we didn’t solve sequestration.”

“We are committed to repealing sequestration before it does further damage to our ability to serve this nation,” he said.

McCain said that he doesn’t agree with using OCO, which isn’t beholden to the budget caps, to boost Pentagon funding: “The right place to have that fight, though, is in the appropriations bill, not the authorization bill.”

While war funding has become a perennial fight, what’s new this year was Obama and McCain pledging to work together to close Guantanamo. But instead of moving toward closing the controversial facility, the bill returns to a stricter standard that would freeze the remaining population at Guantanamo for at least the next year, according to House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash. McCain said the White House gave him no choice after failing to come forward with a plan to close Guantanamo, which he required and they promised months ago.

“We acted as we had to, without any plan or blueprint from the administration,” said McCain, who supports closing Guantanamo. “If the administration complains about the provisions on Guantanamo, it’s their fault because they never came forward with a plan, that we probably could’ve supported, to get rid of this issue.”

White House officials did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday evening.

The Senate is expected to vote Wednesday on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded into December and avert an immediate shutdown. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, introduced the defense authorization bill in the House Tuesday evening. A vote is expected Thursday afternoon. That means the behemoth bill could be on Obama’s desk some three months earlier than the nail-biting, late passage of recent years.

Thornberry noted the conference report sets the same total funding levels for defense as Obama requested — $619 billion in discretionary base funding and the OCO war chest, save for some $7.7 billion outside the committee’s jurisdiction. But it’s how those total funds are divvied up that the White House is fighting. Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget request intentionally busted the spending caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 in order to force a fix. Obama has threatened to veto the defense authorization bill if lawmakers continue to use the OCO account to skirt the caps — a mechanism administration officials call a “gimmick” and Defense Secretary Ash Carter calls a “road to nowhere.”

Lawmakers also are using the bill to push Obama into directly funding and arming foreign forces fighting the Islamic State, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Russian forces in Eastern Europe. The bill authorizes $715 million for security assistance to Iraqi security forces but requires at least 25 percent of the funds be given directly to Kurdish peshmerga and Sunni fighters. Additionally, lawmakers offer lethal aid to Ukraine and $200 million in military training and assistance. The administration has been weighing that decision for months. “We provide defensive weapons to Ukraine right now, and they have nothing to counter Russian separatist tanks,” McCain said. “We authorize [direct lethal assistance] and encourage it by the administration.”

The members also would authorize $600 million to continue the embattled U.S. program to train and equip moderate Syrian opposition fighters. The lawmakers zeroed out funds for the administration’s Counterterrorism Partnership Fund, or CTPF.None of the funds authorized for that proposal this year have been executed.

Still, the Armed Services Committee leaders all touted the bill as codifying “the most sweeping reforms in years and years,” in McCain’s words. Some of the proposed acquisition reforms have been a point of some tension with the Pentagon.

“A dysfunctional acquisition system, top-heavy headquarters staffs, and imbalances in civilian and military workforces have combined to rob our Armed Forces of their agility to quickly adjust to emerging threats and maintain our technological edge in the face of rapid change just when they need it most,” says the summary of the report.

“In the past, no one has been held accountable for cost overruns. Now the signature of the service chiefs will be on a piece of paper,” McCain said.

Yet, the broader dispute over defense spending and the right way forward on Guantanamo split the conference, according to aides.

“They ought to pick a place, put a plan on table,” Smith said, noting administration officials told him the Guantanamo closure blueprint is imminent. “But the bill locks in place another year in which there’s no possibility whatsoever of closing Guantanamo…There’s no reason on earth we can’t hold them here.”

More than that, the bill would rescind Obama’s unilateral authority to transfer detainees and require Defense Secretary Ash Carter, to certify any moves would be in the interest of U.S. national security. The bill specifically bars prisoner transfers to Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Syria.

Knowing it’s a direct challenge to Obama’s veto threats, Thornberry implored the president to accept the bill as is. “We need to show our troops and we need to show our world that our institutions function,” he said. “I don’t think we can wait until December…so I hope we can pass this bill and the president can agree to it.”


DARPA is testing implanting chips in soldiers’ brains

by Kristen V. Brown

September 27, 2015 3 p.m.


UPDATE: DARPA responded to a request from Fusion that “brain-neural interfaces” have not yet been implanted in soldiers, though test devices have been implanted in the brains of volunteers already undergoing brain surgery. We’ve changed the headline to reflect that implantation of chips in soldiers’ brains has not happened yet.


For decades, DARPA, the secretive research arm of the Department of Defense, has dreamed of turning soldiers into cyborgs. And now it’s finally happening. The agency has funded projects that involve implanting chips into soldiers’ brains that could one day enhance performance on the battlefield and repair traumatized brains once the fog of war has lifted.

“Of the 2.5 million Americans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, 300,000 of them came home with traumatic brain injury,” journalist Annie Jacobsen told NPR. “DARPA initiated a series of programs to help cognitive functioning, to repair some of this damage. And those programs center around putting brain chips inside the tissue of the brain.”

In her new book about the history of DARPA, “The Pentagon’s Brain,” Jacobsen writes about DARPA’s “classified brain programs.” Scientists, she says, are already testing “implantable wireless ‘neuroprosthetics'” to help soldiers with brain injuries. “[S]oldiers allow the tiny machines, or chips, to be implanted in their brain,” Jacobsen writes in the book. “Despite multiple appeals through the Office of the Secretary of Defense, DARPA declined to grant me an interview with any of these brain-wounded warriors.”

A DARPA spokesperson told Fusion that “brain-neural interfaces” have not been implanted in soldiers, though researchers have already begun testing such devices by temporarily implanting electrical arrays into the brains of volunteers undergoing surgery for other neurological issues. Defense One, an online magazine that covers the military, reported last year on DARPA’s work on brain chips to treat PTSD, and said that DARPA was not yet in the testing phase. When DARPA launched its RAM (Restoring Active Memory) program last year, it projected it would be about four years until researchers were implanting permanent chips in humans.

Creating super soldiers isn’t the only thing that DARPA is trying to do, Jacobsen says. According to her new book, published by Little, Brown, government scientists hope that implanting chips in soldiers will unlock the secrets of artificial intelligence, and allow us to give machines the kind of higher-level reasoning that humans can do.

“When you see all of these brain mapping programs going on, many scientists wonder whether this will [be what it takes] to break that long-sought barrier of AI,” said Jacobsen in a phone interview.

For Jacobsen, who has spent her career chronicling war, weapons and U.S. government secrets, digging through DARPA documents provided a glimpse at the future of war, but also raised questions about whether that future is one we really want.

“Are hunter-killer robots right around the bend?” she writes in the book..

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has poured resources into far-out research, from solving infectious disease to transforming humans for the theater of war. The agency is pioneering Iron Man-like exoskeletons to help protect soldiers from fire and the elements so they can keep fighting for longer. And under initiatives like the Brain-Machine Interface, defense scientists have studied how brain implants could eventually enhance a soldier’s cognition.

The brain emits electrical signals and an implanted chip can tap into those signals to read them. Outside of the government, scientists at places like Berkeley’s Brain-Machine Interface Systems Laboratory are experimenting with how to use such implants to translate thoughts into action for people with neurological impairments, eventually hoping to, for example, help a paralyzed person move.

At DARPA, programs like RAM and REMIND (Restorative Encoding Memory Integration Neural Device) have explored how brain implants might help soldiers returning from war with traumatic brain injuries impacting memory. Other DARPA programs have envisioned allowing soldiers at battle to communicate by thought alone.

“Imagine a time when the human brain has its own wireless modem so that instead of acting on thoughts, warfighters have thoughts that act,” Jacobsen recounts DARPA’s Eric Eisenstadt telling a crowd at a technology conference in 2002.

But Jacobsen’s warning is that while helping soldiers suffering in the aftermath of war may seem inherently benign, we must not forget that DARPA is in the business of defense. The question that should punctuate everything DARPA does, Jacobsen suggests, is “How can this be weaponized?”

DARPA’s spokesperson told Fusion that the main goal of its brain-related work is not offensive military applications, but to develop therapeutic devices for soldiers and veterans.

“Suggesting that we aim to develop ‘super soldiers’ or that our brain-related research is being conducted to ‘unlock the secrets of artificial intelligence’ is patently false,'” he said.


Understanding the human brain is as important to achieving artificial intelligence as understanding computers. “The Pentagon is clearly very confident that they’re moving toward autonomous weapons,” Jacobsen told me. “The question is where is that confidence coming from?”

*We’ve updated the headline to make it clearer to reflect comments from DARPA. The story is based on an interview with journalist Annie Jacobsen, who wrote a new book on the history of DARPA, but who does not name sources when reporting on chips implanted in soldiers’ brains. After publication, we added quotes from DARPA saying that it will be several years before chips are ready to be permanently implanted in soldiers.


Capitol Hill testimonies paint a grim cyber picture

Amber Corrin, Senior Staff Writer 4:38 p.m. EDT September 29, 2015


In a pair of congressional hearings held Sept. 29 examining the current state of U.S. cybersecurity, top Defense Department and intelligence officials, as well as industry experts, all acknowledged what the Office of Personnel Management breach exposed: America is behind on cybersecurity.

The pessimistic views shared particularly by the government officials came just days after the U.S. and China announced a “common understanding” not to hack each other’s economic interests.

“I think we will have to watch what their behavior is, and it’ll be incumbent on the intelligence community, I think, to depict [and] portray to policymakers what behavioral changes — if any — result from this agreement,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

When asked by committee chair Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) if he was optimistic about a cyber deal with China, Clapper gave an emphatic “no.”

Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of U.S. Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency, told the committee he believes China to be the biggest perpetrator of the volumes of attacks barraging U.S. networks, and the military is struggling to keep up, even as the services train up their forces to fight in cyberspace.

“The demand for our cyber forces far outstrip the supply,” Rogers said.

On the other side of the Hill, in a House Armed Services Committee hearing, a panel of industry experts weighed in with their perspectives on how the Defense Department is doing in cyberspace. In general, they agreed with Clapper and Rogers, particularly when it comes to the pervasive theft of intellectual property.

With cyberattacks being an inevitability, DoD leaders need to determine first how much risk they can tolerate, according to Richard Bejtlich, chief security strategist at FireEye.

“What is acceptable level of loss for this country? [For example], every store accepts a certain amount of theft…we accept in geopolitics a certain level of instability,” Bejtlich said, noting the U.S. currently tolerates a lot now, including intellectual property theft. “Do we want to push back on that? That to me is the central question — what is the acceptable level of loss and what’s the definition of that loss?”

In his written testimony, Clapper agreed, but noted that the government has to approach risk tolerance differently from the private sector.

“The cyber threat cannot be eliminated; rather, cyber risk must be managed,” he said. “Moreover, the risk calculus employed by some private-sector entities does not adequately account for foreign cyber threats or the systemic interdependencies between different critical infrastructure sectors.”

The New America Foundation’s Ian Wallace noted that the U.S. may need to look at its other core strengths if it’s losing the battle in cyberspace — and the technological edge.

Those other strengths could be “the ability to build alliances, the quality of our people,” Wallace said. “But that doesn’t happen by accident…that requires investment.”

Back on the Senate side, McCain underscored what turned out to be a theme for both hearings, and likely those to follow on Sept. 30.

“Make no mistake, we are not winning the fight in cyberspace,” McCain said.



For Years, the Pentagon Hooked Everything To The Internet. Now It’s a ‘Big, Big Problem’

September 29, 2015 By Patrick Tucker


The Internet of Things is supposed to make life easier. For the Pentagon, the quintessential early adopter, it has made life much harder.

Once upon a time, very smart people in the Pentagon believed that connecting sensitive networks, expensive equipment, and powerful weapons to the open Internet was a swell idea. This ubiquitous connectivity among devices and objects — what we now call the Internet of Things — would allow them to collect performance data to help design new weapons, monitor equipment remotely, and realize myriad other benefits. The risks were less assiduously catalogued.

That strategy has spread huge vulnerabilities across the Defense Department, its networks, and much of what the defense industry has spent the last several decades creating.

“We are trying to overcome decades of a thought process…where we assumed that the development of our weapon systems that external interfaces, if you will, with the outside world were not something to be overly concerned with,” Adm. Michael Rogers, the commander of Cyber Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. “They represented opportunity for us to remotely monitor activity, to generate data as to how aircraft, for example, or ships’ hulls were doing in different sea states around the world. [These are] all positives if you’re trying to develop the next generation of cruiser [or] destroyer for the Navy.”

But in a world where such public interfaces are points of vulnerability, Rogers said, adversaries develop strategies based on stealing Pentagon data, and then fashion copycat weapons like China’s J-31 fighter, which many call a cheaper cousin to the F-35.

“That’s where we find ourselves now. So one of the things I try to remind people is: it took us decades to get here. We are not going to fix this set of problems in a few years,” Rogers told the senators. “We have to prioritize it, figure out where is the greatest vulnerability.”

The 2014 National Defense Authorization Act requires the services to discover and report to the Senate about the cyber vulnerabilities of their weapons and communications systems. That report is overdue, according to Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala.

At the hearing, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work said that Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, is going through virtually the entire U.S. arsenal to understand how hackable is each weapon.

“I expect this work to be done very soon,” Work said.

Such vulnerabilities constitute “a big, big problem,” for Work. He added “Most of the weapons systems that we have today were not built to withstand a concerted cyber threat.”

The Defense Department has only recently begun to attack its problems in this area, but it is making an honest effort. Cybersecurity is now listed as a key performance parameter, along with survivability, for every new weapon. Work also described efforts to reduce the number of exploitable attack surfaces within the military — in other words, to shrink the Internet of Things just a bit.

“We’re going from 15,000 enclaves to less than 500,” he said, referring to smaller computing networks governed by a central authority. “We’re going from 1,000 defendable firewalls to less than 200, somewhere between 50 and 200.”

Considering that more than 50 billion interconnected devices will populate the world by the year 2020, by most estimates, the Pentagon’s limited, early-adopter experience of the Internet of Things is enough to give even the most optimistic futurist some serious pause.



The Number of Drones Expected to Sell During the Holidays Is Scaring the Government

Michal Addady / Fortune

Sept. 29, 2015


The skies could be filled with 1 million more drones by Christmas

As many as one million drones could be sold during this year’s holiday season, FAA official Rich Swayze has told ATW Online.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have proven to be dangerous in the past — pilots have reported drones flying too close to their aircrafts, and some have even impeded firefighting efforts. Officials are understandably concerned about what a million drone sales will mean for the safety of both their operators and the public, and they want to inform people about the risks.

The FAA will send a representative to Walmart to educate its salespeople about UAVs, and how to pass that information along to customers. This might not be all that helpful if people purchase them online. Walmart currently offers 19 drones on its website, the cheapest one going for just $19.99.

Mark Dunkerley, Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO, commented on the expected drone sales and imminent safety issues:

From an operating perspective, [small UAVs are] a very serious issue and there’s considerable concern that it’s going to end in tears … It’s not just in and around airports where drones present a danger to the traveling public. There are many areas outside of five miles of an airport where a drone conflict could occur.

It has been difficult for government agencies to implement regulations regarding UAVs because there are so many different aspects to attend to. Swayze mentioned that in the 15 years he has been working on policy in Washington, D.C., he has “never seen so many divergent interests driving one topic.”



World’s first 8K TV will hit the market next month for $133K

September 18, 2015

A high resolution 8K TV is so clear you can stand right next to it without seeing the pixels.


Sharp, Japanese electronics company, will release the world’s first commercially available 8K television on October 30, 2015 (next month) for 16 million yen ($133,000).

The 8K TV measures 85-inches and features a 7680 pixel by 4320 pixel resolution, delivering 16 times more pixel density than 1080p, and four times more than 4K, creating images so clear and detailed that they appear almost 3D.

Despite being on sale to the general public next month, Tech consultant Chris Green believes the TV will attract mainly professionals looking to test the broadcast capabilities of the format.

“The attraction will be for commercial applications — video walls and things like that,” Green said. “8K screens could offer a very interesting video alternative to today’s shop window and billboard displays — which show static advertising — because their extreme clarity means they can show lots of text and would be as readable as a poster.”

As Japan has relatively small homes, residents may not be interested in purchasing the 8K TV either. “Japan’s a region in which the average size of TVs sold tends to be smaller, and we think the minimum size 8K TVs would be sold at would be 65in,” said Abhi Mallick, from IHS Technology.

Due to the 8K wall’s technical restraints, users of the TV will have to use workarounds to take advantage of its full capabilities. Its built-in TV tuner cannot actually receive broadcasts in 8K; rather, video has to be fed in via four separate HDMI cables, which are needed to handle the quantities of data involved.

The resulting image delivers 104 pixels per inch, which is about a fifth of the density of smartphone displays, but is more than enough to allow people to read small text or details when standing close to the screen.

While 8K content is such a rare commodity, the product may ultimately be used in hospitals to provide keyhole surgeons with better imagery.

Source: BBC



President Obama Will Veto Defense Policy Bill

Staff Report 5:15 p.m. EDT September 30, 2015


WASHINGTON — In a dispute with Republicans over how defense would be funded, President Obama plans to veto the 2016 defense policy bill due for a vote in the House on Thursday, a White House spokesman told reporters Wednesday.

All but one conference committee Democrat refused to sign the conference report, which reflects a compromise months in the making between House and Senate armed services committees conferees over differences between their two versions of the bill.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, with the ranking Democrats of each committee — Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash. — announced the report was finalized at a cordial Capitol Hill press conference late Tuesday afternoon. Reed and Smith collaborated with Republicans on the measure, but said they could not support it.

Republicans have sought to meet Obama’s military budget request through the use of the wartime overseas contingency operations (OCO) account, which is exempt from sequestration budget caps, and which is part of the bill. Smith said this creates a disincentive to reach a deal on the federal budget that removes the caps.

“The lingering problem … is the OCO funding,” said Smith. “The budget caps are still in place. I agree that this is an appropriations issue, but it’s in our bill.”

The bill does not appropriate funding, but sets policy, creating authorization to spend money on a wide range of acquisition programs across the services. The bill also contains measures meant to provide lethal aid to Ukraine, ban torture, keep open the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, reform troop pay and benefits and overhaul acquisition rules.

After White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Wednesday Obama would veto the bill, Thornberry and McCain released statements blasting the president.

“It is unbelievable to me that an American president would threaten to veto a defense bill that supports our troops and gives him additional tools to use against aggressors, especially at a time when the world situation is spiraling out of control from Eastern Europe to the Middle East and South Asia,” Thornberry said. “This is a time to stand together for our nation’s security, rather than play cheap political games.”

McCain accused the White House of putting “politics ahead of process,” and as in the past, said the veto was ill-conceived. “It does not spend a dollar, and it certainly cannot raise the budget caps or deliver an agreement to fund the government,” McCain said in the statement. “It is absurd to veto the NDAA for something that the NDAA cannot do.”

Defense Secretary Ash Carter recommended the president veto the bill and he reiterated his objection to the bill over its “attempts to evade responsibility with the so-called OCO gimmick” during a Pentagon press conference on Wednesday.

Should the president veto the bill, what will happen to its substance is unclear. Senior aides for the House and Senate armed services committees acknowledged there were no plans at the staff level on how to deal with a veto.

In the event of a budget agreement that raises the top line, on the other hand, the bill contains language that would allow OCO funding to be moved into the base.

The conference report authorizes $515 billion in base funding, including $496 billion for the Department of Defense and $19 billion for national security programs outside the Pentagon’s purview. In line with the Senate budget resolution, the agreement authorizes $89 billion in OCO funding, $38 billion of which is made up of operations and maintenance funds that support readiness and troop training.


Air Force

For the Air Force, lawmakers reduced cash for F-35 joint strike fighter procurement by nearly $100 million over concerns surrounding combat capability. Lawmakers limited funds to buy the service’s F-35As to $4.3 billion until the secretary of defense can certify to congressional defense committees that the 13 planes planned in fiscal 18 will have full combat capability, including the latest Block 3F hardware, software and weapons carriage.

Responding to the controversy surrounding the Air Force’s plan to transition its A-10 close-air support aircraft to backup flying status, lawmakers prohibited the service from moving more than 18 A-10s from the active component. The bill’s language also bans the Air Force from using funds to retire any A-10s, EC-130H Compass Call aircraft, Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System planes or KC-10 tankers.

Also notable, lawmakers slashed funding for the Air Force’s Long Range Strike Bomber program by $460 million due to an over six-month delay in the contract award. The bill also decreases funds for the beleaguered KC-46 tanker recapitalization program by $200 million.


Navy/Marine Corps

Perhaps the most significant plus-up for the Navy is the addition of unrequested 12 F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet strike fighters, plus another six F-35B joint strike fighters for the Marines. The additional Super Hornets mean the Boeing/Northrop Grumman production line is likely to remain open another year.

Authorizers approved the full shipbuilding request and also provided the authority to purchase an additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer.

The conference agreement also prevents the Navy from retiring any more cruisers or amphibious ships, only allowing the ships to be taken out of service for modernization or upgrades.

The agreement also supports the National Sea-Based Deterrence Fund (NSBDF), an account set up by authorizers to pay for the ballistic missile submarine Ohio Replacement Program. According to Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., primary sponsor of the fund, additional authorities are being provided to the fund that would authorize incremental funding authority, economic order quantity, contract authority, advance construction authority and the transfer of unobligated funds into the account.

The conference report supports development of an unmanned carrier-based aircraft “able to perform a broad range of missions in non-permissive environments,” providing further support for an aircraft capable of long-range strike.



The NDAA conference negotiators plussed-up the Army’s Stryker combat vehicle funding $411 million above the president’s budget request for lethality upgrades. While the House version of the bill would have increased Stryker funding by $79.5 million, conferees aligned with a Senate amendment that further increased the funding.

The conferees’ decision to upgrade 81 Stryker vehicles is based on a request from US Army Europe to field upgraded Strykers to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment as security concerns rise due to Russia’s continued incursions in Ukraine. The conferees, however, expressed concern over the unit cost of the upgrades and urged the service to find ways to reduce that cost.


The negotiators also fully funded procurement of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program and increased funding for AH-64 Apache attack helicopter survivability against new threats. The NDAA authorizes $26 million in additional funding for Common Missile Warning System enhancements for the helicopters as well as an additional $24 million to develop its future Common Infrared Countermeasure system. Another $60 million would fund Apache survivability development. The Army had designated the enhancements as unfunded requirements.

The negotiators settled on House bill language that would limit the transfer of certain Apache helicopters from the Army National Guard to the active component until June 30, 2016.

Both the House and Senate agreed in their versions of the bill that the Army should not be allowed to transfer Apaches beyond the 48 authorized in fiscal 2015 until after the National Commission on the Future of the Army issues its report by Feb. 1 next year.

The National Guard has fought to keep its Apaches since the Army first proposed the move as part of a larger plan to restructure its aviation assets. The Senate originally wanted to halt further transfers until six months after the commission’s report is sent to Congress.



The bill also contains $300 million over two years in aid for Ukraine under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, $50 million of which is specifically designated for “lethal aid.” The NDAA authorizes “lethal assistance of a defensive nature” by the US.

“The Conferees remain concerned that the President has not done enough to provide military training and assistance to Ukraine to allow it to defend itself and increase the costs to Russia for engaging in such aggressive behavior,” the conference summary states.

According to McCain, that aid could include anti-tank weapons, such as the shoulder-fired Javelin guided missile produced by a Raytheon and Lockheed Martin joint venture.


Kendall Seeks Congressional Action Against Prime Mergers

By Aaron Mehta and Andrew Clevenger 5:10 p.m. EDT September 30, 2015


WASHINGTON — In what appears to be the first shot in a potentially groundbreaking change to defense mergers and acquisitions, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, said the Department of Defense plans to ask Congress to create rules that could hinder mergers between prime contractors.

The drive behind the move, Kendall told reporters, is concern that such mergers limit the number of defense firms and give too much power to individual companies — power that will end up hurting both the department and the American taxpayer.

“If the trend to smaller and smaller numbers of weapon system prime contractors continues, one can foresee a future in which the department has at most two or three very large suppliers for all the major weapon systems that we acquire,” Kendall said. “The department would not consider this to be a positive development and the American public should not either.”

“With size comes power, and the department’s experience with large defense contractors is that they are not hesitant to use this power for corporate advantage.”

Kendall’s announcement comes against the backdrop of the Department of Justice clearing the purchase by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense company, of Sikorsky, the largest producer of military helicopters in the US. That deal was obviously very much on his mind, as it was held up as an example of how the number of major defense firms are shrinking.

“Mergers such as this, combined with significant financial resources of the largest defense companies, strategically position the acquiring companies to dominate large parts of the defense industry,” Kendall said of the Lockheed-Sikorsky deal.

In order to address the situation, Kendall said, the department plans to work with Congress to “explore additional legal tools and policy to preserve the diversity and spirit of innovation that have been central to the health and strength of our unique, strategic defense industrial base, particularly at the prime contractor level.”

Asked specifically what those options are, Kendall said the Pentagon hasn’t had much chance to talk with Congress yet and expects to do that over “the next few months.”

“One obvious [option] would be a provision that took national security considerations into account, but it’s very early,” he said. “We need to explore the possibilities with the Congress.”

Asked about Kendall’s plan shortly after the conference call ended, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said this was his “first opportunity” to hear about Kendall’s recommendation. However, he indicated a willingness to listen to Kendall’s concerns.

“I have known the secretary for many, many, many years, and I have great respect for his abilities, so anything he would suggest, I would take very seriously,” Reed said. “But I would have to look carefully and I have not had the change to look at it in detail.”


“Again, having known Secretary Kendall, respecting his opinion, if he is suggesting there is a problem, it has to be taken seriously,” Reed added.

The statement is an unusually strong one from the Pentagon, an indicator of how seriously Kendall’s office is taking the question of mergers at the highest level of the defense industry.

However, Kendall was quick to say this message was not aimed at any specific pending merger.

“It’s not pointed at any specific expectation of any other deals. It’s more about the general situation,” he said. “I think we have to look at each case on its merits, but in general I think the trend toward smaller numbers of larger defense primes is not a positive one.”

Earlier this month, Lockheed indicated in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it received approval from US regulators for its $9 billion acquisition of Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. Without a second request for information from US regulators, the deal appears to be on track to close in the fourth quarter of 2015 or the first quarter of 2016, as Lockheed had hoped when the defense giant announced the deal July 20.

“While the Lockheed Sikorsky transaction does not trigger anti-trust concerns of having a negative impact on competition and we understand and agree with the basis upon which the Department of Justice (DOJ) decided not to issue a request for additional information about the transaction, we believe that these types of acquisitions still give rise to significant policy concerns,” Kendall said in his statement.

The deal does not violate the Pentagon’s ban on mergers between prime contractors, but it does make Lockheed, the world’s biggest defense contract, even bigger.

“The trend toward fewer and larger prime contractors has the potential to affect innovation, limit the supply base, pose entry barriers to small, medium and large businesses, and ultimately reduce competition — resulting in higher prices to be paid by the American taxpayer in order to support our war fighters,” Kendall said in the statement.

Although Kendall’s tone on the conference call indicated a certain level of frustration that the Lockheed-Sikorsky deal was not given another round of review by the Department of Justice, Kendall also made it clear that he was not seeking to block the agreement.

“The Lockheed-Sikorsky deal was not taken into another round of inquiry by DoJ,” he said. “So as far as the Department of Justice is concerned, there is nothing further to investigate. I’m really looking forward. I’m not looking backward to Lockheed-Sikorsky.”

Speaking before Kendall’s remarks, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter declined to comment on the Sikorsky-Lockheed deal, but acknowledged a past statement he had made about the dangers of too much consolidation.

“What I said then, and still believe, is that it was important to avoid excessive consolidation in the defense industry,” Carter said, “to the point where we did not have multiple vendors which could compete with one another on many programs, and to the point where we had so-called vertical integration in companies to the extent that made competition among subcontractors for work on prime less competitive.”

“I think that now and at the time I indicated that I, in that time, but I feel the same way now, didn’t welcome further consolidation among the very large prime contractors,” he said. “I didn’t think it was good for our defense marketplace and therefore for the taxpayer and our warfighter in the long run.”

Jeff Bialos, a partner at Sutherland Asbill & Brennan who specializes in aerospace and defense M&A and previously served as the Pentagon’s deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial policy, said Kendall is concerned that the current law doesn’t give the Pentagon ample discretion to address certain implications of mergers for competition in defense markets

Size alone is not anti-competitive under anti-trust laws, Bialos said. But it’s not hard to envision a scenario in which a company becomes so big, and involved in so many sectors of the defense business, that smaller firms are afraid to team with one of the large firm’s rivals for fear of angering the giant and being frozen out of future business.

“That’s the issue that I think that one might argue that current law doesn’t sufficiently address,” he said.

Current anti-trust law is not a hugely detailed statute, but largely governed by common law, said Bialos.

“There have been periods when the laws were interpreted differently than they are now,” he said, “and perhaps the Pentagon could work with the Justice Department to address these concerns under current law. Or Congress could give the DoD legal standing to weigh in on M&A in the defense sector.”

“If there was a law that gave them a national security direct seat at the table, it would be an easier discussion,” he said.

However, he said, it is hard to anticipate how Congress will respond to the issues raised by Kendall, given the general anti-regulation environment on Capitol Hill right now.


Long Range Strike Bomber Delays Impose Heavy Costs On Contractors

Sep 30, 2015 Bill Sweetman

Aerospace Daily & Defense Report


Pentagon delays in picking a winner in the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) contest are imposing heavy costs on contractors.

Industry sources close to both the Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin/Boeing teams tell Aviation Week that the competitors have had large teams working on their designs, and those teams have been company-supported since final proposals were submitted earlier in the year. Both face the choice between the cost of keeping their LRS-B workforces intact and the risk of losing expertise.

The decision was at one point expected in early summer, but in Sept. 29 testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, U.S. Air Force military deputy for acquisition Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch said he “hoped for” a decision “in a couple of months.” Budgetary debates and the threat of an extended “continuing resolution” budget have further complicated the issue.

Bunch and Rapid Capabilities Office director Randall Warden (RCO is running the LRS-B program) disclosed to the committee that LRS-B has passed through preliminary design review (PDR) and manufacturing readiness review (MRR) stages, and the Joint Requirements Oversight Committee (JROC) approved the requirements in May 2013.

The fact that PDR has already taken place is a pointer to the size of the engineering teams that the competitors have assembled. In earlier major programs, the PDR has been part of the main development contract and has not taken place until 12-24 months after source selection. It is intended to confirm that a weapon system is ready to proceed into detailed design — the development of build-to drawings, software code to documentation and other tasks — with acceptable risk.


DoD explores automating cybersecurity

Fast-changing cyber threats require rethinking network security, including where automation can replace human operators.

John Edwards and Eve Keiser, Contributing Writers


Automation is emerging as a key component in the Department of Defense’s future network protection strategy. As the agency moves its network operations ever deeper into the cloud, it is discovering that automating network security processes create multiple benefits. Most importantly, once human network operators are pulled out of the loop and replaced with automated processes, networks become much more responsive to incipient attacks.

“The DoD is at a crossroads of wanting a button to push that will solve all of their [network security] problems, but also wanting a powerful, easy-to-use solution. It can be hard to find both,” Joel Dolisy, chief information officer and chief technology officer of network management and discovery tools developer SolarWinds, said.

Today’s fast-changing IT environment requires organizations to rethink network security. Threat vectors continue to grow in complexity and scale while the networks swell with connected devices, remote workers and the “things” of the Internet of Things. The technologies and practices are moving beyond a human’s ability to respond to threats manually.

With attacks multiplying, network security now requires confidence that responses will be based on both knowledge of a threat’s existence as well as its potential impact.

“Automation requires a high level of certainty that the intended outcome of a threat mitigation is both desired and relevant to the threat,” Allan Thomson, CTO of threat intelligence technology provider LookingGlass Cyber Solutions, said.

Accurate and effective network security automation relies on large amounts of high-quality data. “In order for automated systems to support IT analysts in truly meaningful ways, systems must embrace statistical and behavioral analyses and include predictive analytics,” Webster Mudge, senior director of technology solutions at data analytics software provider Cloudera, said.

Through the use of big data and analytics, network operators and analysts can discover unknown emerging threats and establish more comprehensive and adaptive network security automation.

“Any agency looking toward automation as the answer to its cybersecurity challenges should be sure it has tools like a strong, secure data hub to generate and provide the right kind of signals, inputs and context necessary to enhance network security systems,” Mudge said.


Automating multiple use cases

Network security automation becomes particularly relevant when an organization wants to apply and chain security functions in order to support new missions, applications and tenants dynamically with varying degrees of requirements, according to Kapil Bakshi, a distinguished architect at Cisco Systems.

“The provision ability of network function is also an important use case, as we witness large shifts from physical to virtual and upcoming containerized workloads,” he said.

Another automation use case is security remediation and response. “A corollary to this automation use case can be security event correlation, which in turn can produce appropriate remediation decisions,” Bakshi said. A remediation decision can be automated in many ways, including making user-authorization privilege revisions, placing systems and users into protected zones or redirecting network flows. “Remediation could also trigger the feedback loop from a software-defined network controller which enforces the network security policy defined by the mission or application requirements,” Bakshi said.

Analytics-based security automation is another important use case. “Automation systems can extract insights from device logs and NetFlow data sets in real time and batch to improve situational awareness, work plans for remediation or forensics analysis,” Bakshi said.

Network monitoring and compliance management also can benefit. “In a very dynamic environment, when the configuration of applications, networking and network security is changing, continuous monitoring and required compliance actions can be automated,” Bakshi said.

Network security automation can also help network managers gain a stronger upper hand on user access. As networks become larger and more complex, a growing number of people obtain credentials and access. This creates additional opportunities for malicious or accidental insider breaches. “Configurations and change management can be a key area for automation,” SolarWinds’ Dolisy said. “Being able to automatically track changes, ensure that configurations are up to date and rollback [changes] at any time not only saves time and effort on the part of IT but also adds another layer of checks to the security posture.”


Increasing network visibility

Automating network security is becoming easier, due in no small part to more powerful and sophisticated management tools.

“There’s now a single-pane-of-glass view into every component of the network, with easy-to-understand metrics, alerts and reports,” Dolisy said. “By continuously monitoring connections and devices on the network, and by maintaining logs and data of user activity, you can assess where on the network a certain activity took place, when it occurred, what assets were on the network and who was logged into those assets.” All of this information can help in reactive situations, but also ultimately turn security automation into a proactive tool, he added.

The next big advances in security automation will likely be in security analytics, machine learning and the widespread adoption of user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) technology.

“Instead of humans monitoring a few sensors focused on just network traffic, applications and systems will collect all kinds of security-related data and then use machine learning to look for anomalies in minutes,” Susie Adams, CTO at Microsoft Federal’s Civilian business, said.


“UEBA technology, coupled with machine learning and advance analytics, will give agencies the ability to detect advance attacks by automatically learning and predicting user and entity behaviors.”


The immediate benefits

“[Network security automation] provides instantaneous information that can be leveraged for security management of both devices and users, as well as a great tool to understand if users are following internal processes and doing their part to ensure that the organization is in a proper security posture,” Dolisy said. “Also, in a world where security breaches continue to get more sophisticated and more damaging … automating network security can help to quickly pinpoint a breach, identify the root cause and often help to resolve the issue quicker than manually checking every endpoint and connection.”

The new security technology is arriving at the same time when DoD missions are becoming increasingly autonomous, characterized by constantly changing threat profiles and requirements.

“Automation brings a new level of agility to managing the mission,” Bakshi said. Automation also is a key method for managing the quickly growing complexity and scale of network security functions. “This, in turn, makes room for focusing on the mission and objectives while automating processes that make sense,” Bakshi said.

He said that automated situation awareness is also a necessity for effectively countering the rapidly changing profiles of adversaries. “Automation provides the DoD with the ability to develop and deploy new capabilities for missions and operations that were too complex in the traditional model,” Bakshi said.

Security response automation also promises to significantly improve the DoD’s ability to react to many easily identifiable threats that fit into well-defined patterns. “Automation allows experts to focus on where they are required, which is understanding the more advanced threats and leveraging threat intelligence to respond to those advanced threats in a more meaningful manner,” LookingGlass’ Thomson said.

Many network traditional security tools are cryptic and hard to use, understandable to only a few IT staff members who have undergone special training. Network security automation doesn’t allow this luxury.

“To be beneficial, network security automation tools have to be easy to use at all levels of IT,” Dolisy said. “A CIO must be able to get a high-level report and the IT security professionals who work with the tool every day must be able to get the detailed information they need, or it will fail.”


The demands and challenges of implementation

While network security automation delivers multiple benefits, it also creates some fresh demands on both systems and managers. The technology is most suitable for organizations that are already committed to the use of advanced networking technologies.

“There has to be an inherent capability in security functions to enable automation, which implies [the use of] capabilities like open interfaces, programmability and best practices,” Bakshi said.

Network security automation also requires organizations to assess and perhaps modify their current network models. “Current operational models are based on traditional network security constructs, hence the operational model will need to be revisited as automation is embedded in mission operations,” Bakshi said.


Deploying an automated security environment also requires a fresh look at existing compliance and information assurance functions. Bakshi noted that mission and enterprise architectures may also need to be revisited with an eye toward addressing the new, automated nature of cybersecurity.

As it relentlessly moves toward network security automation, the DoD also needs to consider the impact on end users, particularly individuals who are positioned on the tactical edge. “Security capabilities should add value by protecting data and systems but not inhibit a user’s ability to do the job as long as the devices they are using are secure, patched and following agency security policy,” Adams said.

Network security automation begins a long-term commitment to a new way of safeguarding the network. “When you achieve this capability, don’t assume that it is static or that it’s perfect and will stay that way forever,” Adam Firestone, president and general manager of cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Government Security Solutions, said. “Probably the biggest issue to understand is that to remain effective, network security automation requires continual care and feeding.”

Although security automation is a powerful technology with many benefits, it’s certainly not a simple fix to perhaps the most important network challenge facing the DoD. “Many people think that network security automation is the answer to all of their problems; they are looking for a magic fix without understanding the capabilities — and limitations — of the tools that they are utilizing,” Dolisy said. He noted that the technology is best viewed as one of several key tools and approaches that, when combined, create a comprehensive network security umbrella.

As Firestone observed, “Nothing that is complex is a ‘one and done.



Defense Officials Tell Congress Rules of Cyber Warfare Far From Settled

By: John Grady

September 30, 2015 2:48 PM


The United States’ adversaries see cyber warfare as a potential American vulnerability in a military engagement, the Pentagon’s number two civilian told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday.

Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said, “In terms of deterrence we are not where we need to be” as a nation or a department. In answer to a question, he said many DOD “systems were not built” to meet today’s threat. The same holds true for installations, Terry Halvorsen, acting DOD chief of information, testified.

Adm. Michael Rogers, commander of Cyber Command, added, “We are being challenged as never before.” In cyber, he identified Russia as a peer competitor with the United States and China and other nations, such as Iran and North Korea, actively developing a broad range of cyber capabilities.

He said his command “is trying to overcome decades of investment” decisions to build up resiliency and redundancy in DOD capabilities.

Rogers said in answer to a question that his greatest concerns were cyber being used to seriously damage or destroy critical infrastructure, shifting intrusions from stealing of information to manipulating data, and terrorist groups using the Internet as an offensive weapon.

At a Senate hearing on Tuesday, James Clapper, director of national intelligence, said, “What we could expect next is data manipulation, which then calls into question the integrity of the data [from financial transactions to the power grid, etc.], which in many ways is more insidious than the attacks we’ve suffered thus far.”

For Work and Rogers, this was the second day of Capitol Hill hearings, having testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. Clapper did not testify at the House hearing.

Attribution of where a cyber attack comes from, conducted by whom on whose command remains a challenge.

The command is “improving its ability to identify who did it,” Rogers said. Several times during the hearings, he and Work cited the success in identifying North Korea as the instigator of the attack on Sony Entertainment last year and Iran as the source of several attacks since 2012 on the financial sector.

While the number of intrusions is rising overall, Rogers said incidents involving Pyongyang and Tehran have dropped off because of the American response.

But as to what constitutes a cyber act of war, he said Tuesday, “We’re still working our way through it.”

Work and Rogers said at both hearings that each attack or intrusion would be looked at individually to evaluate damage and possible response—from criminal indictments to economic sanctions to military action.

For deterrence to be effective, “we have to clearly articulate what is acceptable and what is not acceptable,” Rogers said Tuesday.

At the Senate hearing, Clapper said, “We’re sort of in the Wild West here with cyber, where there are no limits.” He said he was “somewhat of a skeptic” when it comes to China living up to its agreement with the United States that neither country would engage in corporate espionage. “We’re in a trust but verify mode.”

Work termed the agreement as “a confidence-building measure.”

On the cyber-theft of more than 20 million files from the Office of Personnel Management, Clapper said, “We, too, practice cyber espionage.” He added, “Think about the old saw of people who live in glass houses.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) responded, “So it’s OK for them [the Chinese] to steal our secrets that are most important because we live in a glass house.”

Clapper said that was not what he meant. “I’m just saying that both nations engage in this.”

Cooperation between the Pentagon and the private sector, especially in improving security in financial matters, and contractors has improved, Work and Rogers told the committees. Even with increased sharing, Rogers told the Senate panel when it comes to cyber security with contractors “we’re clearly not where we want to be.”

But when asked about a private company launching “a hack back” attack against a suspected intruder, Rogers warned that corporations and the government needed to be “very careful about going down this road.” Work said any “hack back” could bring on “second, third and fourth order of [unanticipated] effects.”

Work said Tuesday, “I think we were caught by surprise” on the agreement among Russia, Syria, Iran and Iraq to share intelligence on fighting the Islamic State. On Wednesday, Russian military jets struck targets in Syria. News reports said the United States was given an hour’s notice before the attack.

To counter the Islamic State’s success in recruiting foreign fighters, now estimated to be about 30,000, Rogers said, “We’ve got to be willing to fight them in that [social media] domain.”


Defense Chief Says Treatment of Civilians Is ‘Appalling’

By Eric Katz

September 17, 2015


The Defense Department’s civilian personnel system is so broken it’s a wonder anyone sticks around to work there, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference just outside Washington, Carter promoted the department’s Force of the Future initiative, which he said would bring long overdue change for its 800,000 civilian employees. A proposal in the plan to move most of those workers out of the civil service system that governs most of the federal workforce has come under fire. But Carter said it represents just one option he is considering.

“We’re thinking many ideas through, and we need time to get the best ideas and advice, especially from the armed services,” Carter said. “The people of the U.S. armed forces are the best and always will be the best, and how we manage them should be too.”

He noted the military has a “fantastic system” to manage its people. The civilian system, he said, is another story.

“I can’t really claim we have a good system for managing civilians,” Carter said. “I actually think it’s appalling and we don’t treat them very well. And I sometimes ask myself why do they stick with us.”

He quickly answered his own question: “But I know why they stick with us . . . and this is why we have the finest people in service as well . . . because of the mission.”

Going forward, Carter added, the Pentagon should not rely on their commitment to mission alone to make the department an attractive place to work.

“They want to make a difference. They want to keep the country safe and they want to leave better future for our children, and they put up with all the crap we deal because they’re committed to that mission. And that is very admirable,” he said. “But you know, I don’t think we should take that for granted. So I think we do need to think about what kinds of things the next generation of people will find attractive in service, try to provide that in a way that in whatever ways are consistent with the profession of arms.”

Brad Carson, acting Defense personnel and readiness chief, has said he hopes whatever specific reforms are chosen will be implemented by the end of the Obama administration.



Pentagon Hires Investigators to Find Hacked Feds

By Aliya Sternstein

September 28, 2015



Individuals who suspect their background investigations records were compromised in the sweeping Office of Personnel Management hack but do not receive notifications next month should be able to troubleshoot online, rather than deal with call centers, contracting documents reveal.

The Defense Information Systems Agency on Sept. 24 quietly awarded a rush $1.8 million deal to the technology firm Advanced Onion for mail address-locating services. The Pentagon is in charge of alerting the 21.5 million individuals whose personal information was snared by what is believed to be an act of Chinese government espionage targeting the federal government.

The military is out of compliance with breach notification deadlines and needs the support by Sept. 28, Defense officials acknowledged in a justification for tapping the firm without holding an open competition.

Advanced Onion is the only vendor that meets facility security requirements and is familiar enough with the Defense Manpower Data Center to step in immediately, officials said. A tool for determining why mail has been returned must be running by Oct. 9 and a website for individuals to check if they’re affected by the breach must be running by Nov. 17.

The 4.2 million victims of a smaller, related breach who were notified in June complained of waiting on the phone 90 minutes for customer support, legitimate alerts that looked like spam mail and notifications that failed to arrive.

Under the new contract, “individuals who believe they may have been affected by the breach, but have not received notification” will be able to fill out a form to learn whether they are affected, the contract notice states. Individuals can go online and “securely provide” identifying personal information to “investigate their eligibility without calling a government call center.”

Also, when undeliverable notifications come back to the government, the contractors will, by hand, scan the codes on each envelope to log the reason why, according to contracting documents.

The government in early July announced the extent of the larger hack that compromised background investigation files.

A Defense Privacy Program directive requires that, in situations such as this one, victims should be alerted “as soon as possible, but not later than 10 working days after” the breach is detected and the “identities of the individuals ascertained.”

As of Sept. 28, members of the affected population had not received a letter or email.

“DOD and OPM will continue to be in noncompliance” with the privacy directive, if Advanced Onion is not retained now, officials said in the contracting documents.

On Sept. 1, officials said the government would begin individually alerting victims “later this month.”

Discoveries about the scope of the attack continue to unfold.

Estimates of the number of federal personnel whose fingerprint data were stolen in the hack jumped from about 1.1 million people to 5.6 million, OPM officials announced Wednesday.

Earlier this month, U.S. officials tapped counterfraud firm, I.D. Experts, to offer the 21.5 million notified individuals three years of credit monitoring, ID theft monitoring, ID theft insurance and ID restoration services.

The hacked forms are filed by contractors and government employees applying for a security clearance to handle classified secrets. Among other things, they catalog foreign contacts, biographical information and delicate personal issues, such as drug use.


Feds short insurers $2.5 billion on exchange plan losses

By Bob Herman | October 1, 2015


Health insurers that sold plans and lost money on the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges in 2014 will only receive a portion of their promised safety-valve payments, according to government data released Thursday.

The $2.5 billion still owed to insurers could be covered in 2015 and 2016. But if that doesn’t happen, the agency will have to work with a Congress led by Republican members who remain hostile to the ACA to cover those remaining funds. Some smaller companies could experience “solvency and liquidity challenges” as a result, although the CMS said those would be isolated cases.

The healthcare reform law established three “market stabilization” programs to help insurers weather the first few years of covering a new population with unpredictable healthcare needs. At issue is the risk corridors program. The government had planned on releasing risk corridors data in August but waited until Thursday due to discrepancies in the data.

The risk corridors program, which expires after 2016, essentially limits how much money an insurer can lose or gain on its exchange plans. For example, if a health plan’s actual medical claims exceeded expectations by more than 3%, the government will reimburse half of those losses. If claims surpassed expectations by more than 8%, CMS will pay 80% of the losses.

It also works the other way. Health plans that recorded medical claims that were 3% less than expected will have to pay half of the profits back to the government.

In 2014, insurers paid $362 million into the program, but they also requested $2.87 billion in payments to cover their losses. The CMS will only reimburse 12.6% of the payment requests, meaning insurers will still be owed more than $2.5 billion. Names of companies that paid and are owed money were not released.

The remaining risk corridors payments will be paid out of the 2015 and, if necessary, 2016 collections, senior CMS officials said. If there is still a shortfall after the third year, then HHS will “explore other sources of funding” and potentially work with Congress to make insurers whole, officials said.

Congress may be unwilling to help the Obama administration. Republicans have railed against the risk corridors, calling them “massive bailouts” for health insurance companies. Industry experts, though, have said the risk corridors are necessary to help balance the premium risk of the new marketplace enrollees.

A handful of co-ops, created by loans authorized by the ACA, have folded this year in large part due to financial instability and a sicker-than-average patient population. CoOportunity Health, which sold plans in Iowa and Nebraska, was the first to shut down operations. The co-op predicted it would not receive $60 million in risk corridors payments.

The ACA’s other two risk programs are reinsurance and risk adjustment. The temporary reinsurance program paid insurers $7.9 billion for 2014 claims. The permanent risk-adjustment program pooled $4.6 billion among companies. Both of those programs are revenue-neutral and will not affect the federal budget.


House passes defense bill compromise, despite veto threat

By Leo Shane III, Staff writer 2:21 p.m. EDT October 1, 2015


House Republicans passed a compromise $612 billion defense authorization bill on Thursday, the first day of the new fiscal year, which includes a pay raise for troops and an overhaul of the military retirement system, over objections from the White House that the measure uses budget gimmicks to avoid fully funding military needs.

President Obama has promised to veto the measure if it is approved by the Senate, which could happen as early as next week.

Pentagon leaders have backed that move, arguing that Republican lawmakers’ plans to use temporary war funds to get around government-wide spending caps that Congress itself imposed would undermine national security.

In passing the measure, House Republicans rejected that claim, arguing that the authorization bill fully funds military requests and mistakenly shifts what should be appropriations fights to the policy-focused authorization bill.

“This bill is good for the troops, it’s good for the country, and that ought to override everything else,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

The committee’s personnel panel chairman, Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., accused Obama of “using our military men and women as political pawns to get more money for non-defense spending.”

But Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the committee’s ranking Democrat, said the budget issues mar an otherwise laudable bill.

The final 270-156 vote saw 36 Democrats support the legislation, putting the final tally 20 votes short of what would be needed to override a presidential veto.

The bill includes a host of military pay and benefits authorizations, and would allow Obama to set the 2016 military pay raise at 1.3 percent. It also includes an overhaul of the military retirement system that would replace the current 20-year, all-or-nothing model with a “blended” compensation system featuring 401(k)-style investment account  for all troops.

At the request of Pentagon officials, the authorization bill would slow growth in the Basic Allowance for Housing, reducing it to cover only 95 percent of troops’ average off-base housing costs over the next few years.

Another provision of the bill would increase Tricare co-pays next year for individuals filling prescriptions at off-base pharmacies.

The measure also includes language prohibiting the Defense Department from closing down detention facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba; provisions to supply defensive weapons to Ukrainian fighters engaged with Russian separatists; and new Pentagon acquisition reforms.

The bill would prohibit defense officials from starting a new round of base closures, and includes new protections for sexual assault victims in the ranks.

Lawmakers also added language allowing commanders to develop local policies for both personal and military firearms on base for self-defense. Those policies would not override state or municipal laws, but would allow different defense facilities to adopt differing weapons policies.

The annual defense authorization bill has been signed into law for more than 50 consecutive years, a point of pride even amid the current bitter partisan divides in Congress.

Aides said the measure has been vetoed four times over that stretch, but each time a compromise with the president was reached.


The CIA unveils a radically new org chart

By Greg Miller
October 1 at 5:52 PM

The CIA unveiled a radically altered org chart on Thursday, formally unveiling the first new directorate in 50 years, completing a sweeping realignment of its ranks of spies and analysts, and unleashing an avalanche of new acronyms.

The changes are part of a reorganization that CIA Director John Brennan began mapping last year, one that will largely replicate the structure of the agency’s Counterterrorism Center across other categories of espionage and analysis.

But Thursday marked the formal launch date of more than a dozen new—or at least newly named—entities, all outlined on the CIA’s Twitter feed and Facebook page in social media posts that reflect the cultural forces reshaping the once-secret spy service.

Perhaps the most ambitious addition is the Directorate of Digital Innovation, which is responsible for helping the CIA adapt to evolving technologies and is the first new directorate at the agency since 1963. The unit is led by a career analyst, Andrew Hallman, who previously served as a briefer to President George W. Bush.

In an interview with the DefenseOne news site, Hallman said that virtually every aspect of the CIA’s mission is under digital assault. “We have to come up with new ways to operate in a much more connected environment and still be clandestine,” he said. He also cited the surging importance of social media as a source of intelligence, saying that the Islamic State’s massive presence online “is a rich source of info for us.”

The CIA also identified 10 new “mission centers,” which will combine analysts and operators in hybrid units focused on specific parts of the world or security threats. Most track longstanding CIA alignments, with centers devoted to weapons proliferation, for example, and the Near East.

The centers are largely modeled on what for years had been known as the CTC, the counter-terrorism unit that mushroomed in size after the Sept. 11 attacks and became a paramilitary entity with its own fleet of armed drones.

But even that center has faced changes. Its chain-smoking chief was replaced and given a lower-profile assignment evaluating CIA programs for Brennan. And the CTC name is giving way to the more cumbersome “Mission Center for Counterterrorism.”

The proliferation of such clunky acronyms, and the agency’s expenditures on management consultants during the reorganization  , have drawn fire from CIA veterans otherwise supportive of the changes. One bridled at the jargon employed in Thursday’s announcement, with references to the agency’s “Modernization journey” and “cycles of digital innovation.”

“They need another directorate to teach them how to write in English,” the former CIA official said.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, October 03, 2015

There’ve been some big surprises here and abroad in recent days, with John Boehner resigning as speaker of the House and Russia pitching in to defeat the radical Islamic group ISIS in Syria.

Or is that what Vladimir Putin really has in mind? After he and President Obama gave dueling speeches about Syria on Monday at the United Nations, Putin threw Russia’s military might into that country’s ongoing civil war to help his ally, embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and to fight ISIS. Obama doesn’t welcome the help since he wants to get rid of Assad in addition to defeating ISIS.

Just 11% of U.S. voters think Russia is our ally in the fight against the Islamic terrorist group, while 24% view the former Soviet Union as an enemy instead.

But few voters are very happy with Obama’s decision to transplant up to 100,000 Middle Eastern refugees to the United States by 2017 to help alleviate the refugee crisis in Europe linked to the civil war in Syria.  Much of the opposition is likely driven by national security concerns. After all, Americans are already nervous about the threat of Islamic terrorism here at home.

Increased media attention on the Syrian migrant crisis has undoubtedly raised new concerns about the global impact of that country’s ongoing civil war, and U.S. voters are listening. But does that mean the United States should take a more active role in stemming the violence in Syria?

Meanwhile, it looks like America’s longest-running war is going to keep on running. The Pentagon announced this week that it may choose to leave troops in Afghanistan beyond the previously-announced 2016 withdrawal date. So what does America think about the war in Afghanistan these days?

On the home front, Republicans feel pretty good about Boehner’s decision to resign as speaker of the House of Representatives. The key question for House Republicans now is whether they want a speaker who will fight more or one who like Boehner hopes periodic strategic wins will put the party in a better place come the next election.

Are GOP voters ready for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to go, too? Interestingly, Democrats are more opposed to the departure of Boehner and McConnell than Republicans are.

Speaking of Democrats, they’re pretty convinced that it’s only a matter of time before Joe Biden enters the race for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016. Biden is narrowing the gap with Hillary Clinton among likely Democratic voters.

As for the presidential contest on the GOP side, the future is now for Donald Trump and Jeb Bush.

Trump added some substance to his campaign this week with the release of a major tax cut plan and has reversed his declining fortunes in Rasmussen Reports’ latest Trump Change survey.

Trump’s tax plan would lower the rates on nearly everyone and eliminate federal taxes for millions. That’s sweet music to most Americans since they have long called for tax cuts. After all, 53% think that compared to people who make more or less than they do, they pay more than their fair share of taxes.

Presidential hopefuls from both parties are making the rounds on the late-night talk show circuit in record numbers and appear to be having more success reaching younger voters through the increasingly popular medium.

Obama earned a monthly job approval of 47% in September, up a point from August’s low for the year but in line with much of his presidency. His daily job approval rating remains in the negative mid-teens.

Obamacare still hasn’t won over most voters who continue to say the health care law doesn’t offer them enough choices when it comes to health insurance.  But will the law impact how voters choose their candidates next year?

In other surveys last week:

Twenty-six percent (26%) of voters say the country is headed in the right direction.

— Voters are a bit more sympathetic to multiculturalism but still strongly feel that English should be the official language of the United States.

Is more government regulation the solution to rising prescription drug costs?

— “Let the government handle it” is a common sentiment, but how do Americans feel about the federal government these days?


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