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October 24, 2015

October 27, 2015




24 October 2015


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In defense bill battle, military pay and benefits are casualties

By Leo Shane III, Staff writer 10:14 a.m. EDT October 17, 2015


Military advocates lost on almost every big benefits fight they waged in the legislative run-up to the fiscal 2016 defense authorization bill.

The legislation is still in limbo, awaiting a presidential veto that could end up scuttling nine months of Capitol Hill work on the annual military policy measure. But in the lobbying arena, Pentagon penny pinchers who pushed for trims in military personnel spending accounts already can declare victory, having swayed lawmakers to their side.

If the measure becomes law, troops would see growth in the Basic Allowance for Housing steadily shrink in coming years, to cover only 95 percent of average off-base housing costs. Tricare co-pays would rise on a host of prescriptions obtained through off-base retail pharmacies.

Troops are in line for a 1.3 percent pay raise in January, a full percentage point below expected growth this year in average private-sector wages — the third consecutive year that the military pay raise would fall below civilian levels.

Lawmakers also want defense officials to offer a plan in coming months to completely wean the military commissary and exchange systems off taxpayer funding, potentially leading to fewer discounts or offerings at the stores.

“Over the last 10 years, the (military) community has fought hard to increase benefits to catch troops up to the private sector,” said Bill Rausch, political director for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. “Now, after all the battles we’ve won, we’re starting to see retreats. That’s concerning to us.”

House lawmakers had pushed against nearly all of those changes in their early draft of the authorization bill this spring, agreeing with advocates who argued that the compensation trims combined would drastically reduce military families’ purchasing power.

But Pentagon planners argued that the savings are needed to rein in personnel costs, and that troops would be able to accept reductions in some anticipated pays and benefits in exchange for better training and equipment support.


Senate negotiators — who had backed military officials in that stance in their early draft of the defense bill — held firm on the benefits trims during this summer’s conference committee with their House counterparts.

“The signal that sends is disappointing,” said Norb Ryan, president of the Military Officers Association of America.

“We’re on a trajectory here that could send the all volunteer force into a ditch,” Ryan said, noting that lawmakers “have argued that each of these cuts in isolation wouldn’t be overwhelming, but we’re looking at three years of lower pay (raises) now. We had hoped to see the Senate align with the House, not the other way around.”

Those trims won’t become reality if President Obama follows through with a promised veto of the bill over an unrelated budget fight.

The White House has 10 days to veto the legislation once Congress finalizes the bill. Staffers are expected to send the measure across town early next week, starting that clock. If lawmakers can’t muster enough votes to override a veto, they would need to restart the authorization bill work all over again — possibly with different compensation changes.

But MOAA and other military advocacy groups have argued against a presidential veto, calling the legislation a critical policy measure that cannot be delayed. The measure has been signed into law in each of the last 53 years, and includes a host of other specialty pay and bonus reauthorizations.

“The fact is that we are still a nation at war, and this legislation is vital to fulfilling wartime requirements,” MOAA officials said in a statement. “There comes a time when this year’s legislative business must be completed, and remaining disagreements left to be addressed next year.”


Obama Vetoes His Own Military

A dubious distinction: The first president ever to stop a defense authorization bill as leverage to further his domestic spending agenda.

By John McCain And Mac Thornberry

Oct. 22, 2015 7:12 p.m. ET


President Obama is playing politics with national defense, and in the process he is taking down the military’s welfare. In an act of partisan gamesmanship, the president on Thursday vetoed the National Defense Authorization Act, a bill that a bipartisan majority of Congress passed and that delivers the resources needed by troops to defend the nation.

For more than 50 years, Congress has fulfilled its highest constitutional duty to provide for the common defense by passing the National Defense Authorization Act, and year after year the NDAA has enjoyed broad, bipartisan support. Before Thursday, such bills had been vetoed by only four past presidents—in 1978, 1988, 1995 and 2007. In each case, the president objected to an actual provision in the bill, and each time Congress’s Armed Services committees were able to find a compromise that earned the presidential signature.

In vetoing this legislation, President Obama has made history, but for all the wrong reasons. He has become the first commander in chief willing to sacrifice national security by vetoing a bill that authorizes pay, benefits and training for U.S. troops, simply because he seeks leverage to pursue his domestic political agenda.


The president didn’t veto the bill because of any of its policies, which make some of the most significant reforms to the Pentagon in more than 30 years, while giving troops the vital capabilities necessary to combat today’s mounting threats.

Instead, President Obama’s veto was about broader spending issues that have absolutely nothing to do with defense. By vowing recently that he “will not fix defense without fixing nondefense spending,” the president is holding the military hostage to increase funding for Washington bureaucracies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Internal Revenue Service.

Let’s be clear: This bill authorizes every dollar of the $612 billion that President Obama requested for national defense. His objection is over an obscure mechanism using the Overseas Contingency Operations, or OCO account, to lift defense spending above the harmful caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011. If there is more money for U.S. troops, he demands more money for the EPA. It’s that simple.

But the president’s complaint misses a crucial point: The defense authorization bill cannot solve the spending fight happening in Washington, and it can’t stop budget sequestration. Believe us, if the NDAA were capable of ending sequestration and stopping the dangerous trend of cutting an estimated $1 trillion over 10 years with no military rationale whatsoever, we would have done everything in our power to make it happen.

Only a comprehensive agreement between the White House and Congress can stop budget sequestration, and the White House is unwilling to come to the table. The NDAA is a policy bill that doesn’t spend a dime. Congress can only adjust spending through the appropriations process—not a defense policy bill.

In vetoing this bill, the president imposes more harm and uncertainty on the military at a time when America faces dangerous and complex threats from around the world. He has prevented critical policies from taking effect that would immediately improve the lives of service members and military families while addressing needs of wounded, ill or injured service members. For example, President Obama has rejected measures that open service members’ access to medical care; enhance protections for military sexual-assault victims; extend retirement benefits to more than 80% of service members; make significant, long-overdue reforms to the defense acquisition system; and authorize hundreds of other measures that are critical to national security.

Perhaps most disturbingly, the president’s veto has sent a message to America’s enemies and allies alike that he is more concerned about funding broken Washington bureaucracies than he is about maintaining the nation’s distinction for being defended by the world’s greatest fighting force.

That is the wrong message to send when America faces an array of crises that demand a strong national defense, including war in Afghanistan, China’s illegal activities in the South China Sea, Islamic State’s terrorist reign across Iraq and Syria, Bashar Assad’s bombing campaign—now backed by Russia and Iran—against his own people in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea and dismemberment of Ukraine, and Iran’s malign activities propping up terrorist proxies destabilizing the Middle East.

These and other threats make it clear that the U.S. faces more national-security threats than at any time since the end of World War II. It is reckless, cynical and downright dangerous for the president to veto the NDAA, denying the American military the authorizations it desperately needs.

We have spoken personally with many of the men and women, here and abroad, who are training to fight terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. They couldn’t care less which governmental spending account their support comes from. They simply want to know that their missions are resourced, their families are taken care of, and their country is behind them.

President Obama is picking the wrong fight when it comes to the defense budget, and he is using Americans who are willing to serve in harm’s way as bargaining chips in a battle he cannot win. On behalf of these men and women in the nation’s military, we urge Congress to do what the president did not: Put the best interests of U.S. troops and national security ahead of politics—and override the veto.

Mr. McCain, a Republican, is a U.S. senator from Arizona. Mr. Thornberry, a Republican, is a U.S. representative from Texas.



Companies irked by how Socom awards contracts

By Howard Altman | Tribune Staff Howard Altman on Google+

Published: October 18, 2015 | Updated: October 18, 2015 at 09:44 AM


TAMPA — A series of protests and lawsuits has bogged down a $1.5 billion U.S. Special Operations Command program designed to maximize competition and improve performance of contracts for a broad array of services, training and support.

Even before decisions were made about which companies could try to win contracts under the program, administered at Socom headquarters on MacDill Air Force Base, protests had been filed with the Government Accounting Office from bidders unhappy with the process. Additional protests were lodged in August after Socom announced who won the right to bid on work through the new Socom-Wide Mission Support program, or SWMS.




Socom’s response, essentially, was to blow up the bulk of the program and start from scratch, drawing a lawsuit that claims Socom engaged in arbitrary, capricious and unlawful practices. The command’s responses also have raised concerns that small businesses wasted time and money bidding on contracts they might otherwise have avoided.

Socom officials said they cannot comment on the lawsuit, but they do say decisions were made to ensure fairness, competitiveness and the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars.

It is all part of what one local contractor calls the “new norm” for doing business with the military in a climate where companies are in an increasingly desperate fight for diminishing defense dollars.

According to a recently released Pentagon study, mandatory cuts left less money for contracts, including those issued by Socom. Across the military, spending on contracts dropped from $320 billion in fiscal 2012 to $287 billion in fiscal 2014. Further cuts are expected over the next decade.

“This is the new norm as so many companies are vying for a finite amount of dollars that has been cut and cut and cut,” says Tim Jones, president and CEO of Cybrix Group, a Tampa information technology services and support firm that was just added to a list of small businesses eligible to bid on work under the SWMS program.

“If a company has spent $25,000 or $100,000 or $1 million on biding for a contract and lost, there is a minimal cost to filing a protest with a potentially huge upside.”

The number of bid protests against the Department of Defense closed out by the GAO each year rose steadily between 2001 and 2013, more than doubling from about 600 to about 1,400 before dropping back to about 1,200 in 2014, according to a recently released CRS report on bid protests.

This new norm has frustrated both Socom, which is responsible for training and equipping the nation’s commandos, and contractors, who have invested millions just to qualify for preparing the complex bid proposals. Some say they now are being forced to cut pay, trim jobs and consider going out of business.

A 308-word announcement in the Pentagon’s Oct. 13 daily roundup of contract awards was the latest flashpoint in the SWMS controversy.

It was an update showing that the number of small businesses eligible to bid on contracts under SWMS had quadrupled from eight to 32.

SWMS is planned as a replacement for the Global Battlestaff and Program Support, which went on line in 2010.

Small businesses make up one of three categories in the SWMS program, which sets aside portions of Socom’s $4 billion annual acquisition and sustainment funding to buy services quicker and cheaper. Interested companies submitted proposals laying out their capabilities and cost estimates, and the command selected winners to compete against each other for all future contracts, known as task orders.

The top tier, known as Group A, initially consisted of four large companies that would compete on up to $900 million in contracts over the next five years to provide services such as intelligence analysis, testing and evaluation, program management and engineering support, said Lt. Cmdr. Matt Allen, a Socom spokesman.

The second tier, known as Group B, selected small companies to compete for as much as $450 million over five years to provide education, training and management services, Allen said.

A third tier, known as Group C, is a single contract worth up to $150 million over five years that will go to a business owned by a service-disabled veteran. The contract will be for services including budget, system requirements and procurement support, Allen said.

Protests were filed against the command in all three tiers. The Group A protest is in court, a Group C protest was denied Friday by the GAO and Group B was rendered moot when Socom increased the number of eligible companies.



The command says it opted to expand the list of Group B awardees to address problems raised in a protest. According to a copy of the protest obtained by the Tribune, ITility, of Herndon, Virginia, complained that Socom did not properly take into account the cost of paying high-quality, well-trained personnel to maintain continuity of services.

That move came after a decision last month to rebid Group A and rescind task order awards, in the wake of protests filed by three unsuccessful bidders.

“When USSOCOM views concerns expressed in protests from our industry partners as valid, we will take corrective action in advance of waiting for the decision from an external review,” Allen says, speaking of the expansion of Group B. “These decisions are always made to ensure strict adherence to the letter and intent of our solicitation and ensure equitable evaluation of all offeror proposals.”

Socom “agreed with one offeror’s concern that we had inadequately reviewed their proposal and took corrective action,” Allen says.

But a consultant representing dozens of mostly small companies who do business or are seeking to do business with Socom has a different take.

“Clearly, they screwed it up and we are paying the price,” says Leslie Leaver, who used to work for a company doing business with Socom and who now runs Strategic Business Solutions.

On Aug. 18, Leaver hosted a meeting between Socom and representatives of the defense industry to see how industry and government can work to curb the trend of bid protests.

“My clients spent hundreds of thousands of dollars each bidding on this program,” she says. “When a protest is filed, it delays procurement, delays the opportunity to earn back that money you’ve spent to bid the thing.”

The businesses came away from that meeting feeling good about the future, “only to be followed up with Socom’s decision to respond to the protest by adding 24 more companies,” Leaver says.

Quadrupling the number of companies eligible to bid reduces the chances any one competitor can obtain work from Socom, making it harder, and in many cases impossible, to recoup the cost of making a bid. Many companies, she adds, would have opted not to go through the time and expense of bidding on the SWMS program had they known there would be so many other awardees.

This is especially true given that the government had told industry all along there would only be four to six awardees.

At least one company, she says, is considering shutting down.

Six of the eight companies on the original Group B list are from the Tampa area.

Jones, who runs Cybrix Group, agrees that more is not necessarily merrier.

“It helps us, in that we were not one of original eight,” says Jones, whose company is one of six in the Tampa area to be added to the list. “At least we get the opportunity to bid. But it is watered down now that 32 companies have to bid these tasks.”

The bottom line, says Jones, is that in an effort to trim overhead to make more attractive bids, companies are going to be cutting costs.

“There will be reductions in pay and benefits across the board,” says Jones, estimating the range at 5 to 25 percent.

From Socom’s perspective, there is no dilution of value by having more companies eligible to bid. Nor were there any set limits on the number of companies that could take part.



“Each awardee has the same opportunity to compete on specific task order requirements,” Allen says. “When Socom sent out the solicitation, we did not limit ourselves to the number of awardees we would ultimately seek. No set awardee number was part of the solicitation process. Instead, the goal was always to ensure competitiveness, efficient use of our limited taxpayer dollars and to get the best services for our operators.”

The additions were made, Allen says, after a protest was filed.

“After we announced the initial group of awardees and reviewed the valid concerns in an agency level protest of one offeror, we determined a number of contracts offered value to the government,” he says.


On July 30, Socom announced it was awarding the right to bid on $900 million worth of task orders to the largest part of SWMS, Group A — to Booz Allen Hamilton, CACI, Raytheon Blackbird Technologies and MacAulay-Brown. That same day, the command awarded two task orders to Booz Allen Hamilton and one to MacAulay-Brown.

A little more than two weeks later, the protests started rolling in from Academi Training Center, Fulcrum IT Services and Jacobs Technologies, according to documents filed in a lawsuit over the SWMS Group A contract award. Jacobs had been a prime contractor on the program SWMS was replacing.

The three companies had several claims, but all stated that Raytheon, which recently purchased Blackbird, had “an impermissible conflict” which should have rendered it ineligible to bid on SWMS.

On Sept. 3, Socom told GAO it was going to take “corrective action” because it did not “properly evaluate” discussions of organizational conflict of interest plans.

Saying that its failure to do so was “inconsistent with the terms of the solicitation,” Socom threw out the four awards given under SWMS Group A and rescinded the task orders, according to legal documents.

With so much money at stake, and its bid information turned over to the companies protesting the Group A award, MacAulay-Brown filed a protest lawsuit in U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington D.C., alleging that by forcing the rebid of Group A, Socom engaged in arbitrary, capricious and unlawful practices.

The company argued unless the court intercedes, it will “suffer irreparable harm … and require MacAulay-Brown to expend significant resources to compete for the same award again, this time at a competitive disadvantage because its price has been exposed to its competitors.”

Because the matter is now in court, Socom officials offered only a limited response.

Once a decision is rendered, Socom “will continue to follow all federal acquisition regulations and ensure we work with our industry partners in a way that ensures fairness, competitiveness and the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars,” Allen says.

Neither MacAulay-Brown officials nor their attorney have responded to requests for comment.


Jones, CEO of Cybrix Group and a Navy veteran, says the entire Defense Department “is in a very tough situation” when it comes to the procurement process.

“You can’t put it on the local acquisition people,” he says. “They work very hard to get the biggest amount of work and services and products for finite dollars. They are trying to be the best stewards of the taxpayer they can. It’s a really tough position.”

Leaver, representing contractors, says Socom has brought these problems on itself.

By reworking both Groups A and B, she says, the command “set a precedent that will take years and years to overcome.”

Socom, she says, “just told industry that if you don’t like our award decision, just protest it and we will give it to everybody.”

That makes no sense, says Leaver, given the chances a protest will ever be sustained.

GAO statistics show that since 2008, less than 4 percent of protests against the Department of Defense have been sustained by GAO, according to CRS.

“That tells you if just stand up to protests, they would most likely get dismissed,” Leaver says. “Then you can move forward with actually awarding and executing work.”

Socom doesn’t use how seldom a protesting bidder wins as a metric for determining how to take action.

“That is not our measure of success,” says Allen. “Effective teaming with our industry partners in support of our mission is.”



Boehner to sign defense bill, sparking showdown with Obama

By Kristina Wong – 10/19/15 05:27 PM EDT

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced on Monday that he will sign the 2016 defense policy bill on Tuesday, setting into motion the 10 days that President Obama will have to follow through on a promised veto.

Boehner’s signing will be attended by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Senate and House Armed Services Committee Chairmen John McCain (Ariz.) and Mac Thornberry (Texas) and other lawmakers in a bit of theater meant to underline the importance of the legislation.

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill, which authorizes Pentagon funding and programs for 2016, because of a larger spending fight with Republicans. GOP leaders want to make the veto as public and painful for the president as possible.

“The bipartisan legislation will provide the resources for a strong national defense in a fiscally responsible way,” the GOP said in a release announcing the signing.

After the bill is signed by Boehner and is delivered to the White House, Obama will have 10 days — not including Sunday — to veto the bill while Congress is in session, or else it goes into effect.

Alternatively, if the president does not sign the bill and cannot return it to Congress because it is out of session before the 10 days is up, then the bill will not become law, in what is known as a “pocket veto.”

Republican defense hawks argue the president’s veto is misplaced, since the legislation does not actually appropriate funding. Furthermore, they argue that the bill authorizes an amount the White House is asking for, at $612 billion.

However, Republicans would also leave spending caps in place on defense and non-defense spending, but put extra money into a war fund that’s not subject to the caps. That would reach the desired $612 billion-level, but the administration objects to the method.

Defense officials say if a new defense policy bill is not passed, it will rely on the 2015 bill, as long as there is funding.

However, if there is no funding for 2016 by Dec. 11, they say the Pentagon will have to furlough at least 400,000 of its approximately 700,000 civilian workers, and hundreds of thousands of civilian contractors.

Troops would still have to report for duty, but would not get paid until funding is approved.

If a budget compromise is reached, the National Defense Authorization Act could be passed shortly after, according to lawmakers.

It is not clear what could happen if a current short-term emergency spending measure, known as a continuing resolution, is extended for a full year, extending 2015 levels into 2016.

In that case, even if a 2016 NDAA was passed, programs would be funded at 2015 levels — about $41 billion less than requested for the new year.


DoD’s cloud strategy hung up by budget, contract limitations

By Scott Maucione | @smaucioneWFED October 19, 2015 3:50 pm


As the Defense Information Systems Agency named John Hale its new cloud czar, a recent report from the Defense Department chief information officer states that Hale may face some hefty challenges going forward.

Hale tweeted Oct. 19 that he would be assuming the position. He previously served as DISA’s chief of enterprise applications.

The new position was created by DISA to bring all cloud related activities into a single portfolio, said Russell Goemaere, a DISA spokesman, in an email to Federal News Radio.

Hale “will work with each cloud effort to ensure they are resourced properly, that they are in-line with overall DoD objectives and meet the needs of our mission partners,” Goemaere said.

The move may be part of DISA’s reorganization prompted by former director Lt. Gen. Ronnie Hawkins. One of the main pillars of the reorganization’s categorization of the agency’s responsibilities is cloud services.

While DISA is reorganizing, however, a report received by Congress in September stated DoD may have trouble figuring out how much contracted cloud services will cost.

As DoD continues to further adopt and integrate the cloud as a means of storing data, the utility billing model on which cloud services are based may cause trouble for department financial teams.

In utility billing models the customer pays each month for the resources used during the monthly billing cycle.

For DoD, however, unpredictable events during the cycle may drive a rapid increase in computing resources and a corresponding increase in unanticipated costs to the department, the report stated.

This causes even more of a problem because DoD cannot authorize payments without a legal obligation of funds.

“Programs need to allocate additional funds beyond those they anticipate using in order to cover any unanticipated use of cloud service,” the report states. “As they get closer to the end of the fiscal year, programs will need to reprogram any unused funding or risk losing those resources.”

Another problem facing cloud adoption is predicting which account to use when paying for the cloud services. IT infrastructure is usually purchased with procurement funding, but since cloud services will be leased from private companies, programs will need to use operations and maintenance funds.

“A program’s mix of O&M and procurement funding may be set years in advance of the need to execute those funds. Under this period of transition from traditional IT to cloud services, it can be a challenge for programs to accurately predict the appropriate mix of O&M and procurement,” the report stated.

DoD also may have a problem establishing contract vehicles that let the department take advantage of ongoing price reductions and the “rapid elasticity” of commercial cloud.

As cloud services become more common, technology becomes cheaper and companies battle for market share, cloud prices have fluctuated. The report stated cloud  services contracts need to find and implement mechanisms that let service rates adjust over the life of the program.

Terry Halvorsen, the DoD CIO, is investigating several approaches to solve the problems. One option is to use firm fixed price contracts with economic price adjustments to let DoD take advantage of changing prices.

DoD is considering the use of “not to exceed” limits in contracts to prevent using unallocated funds in the case of a rapid rise in resource usage. The contracts would have alert notifications to warn the department when the bill was nearing its limits.

DoD also is exploring using a working capital fund or revolving fund to pay for cloud services on a monthly basis.

So far, the Pentagon is using at least eight different companies to provide cloud services. Google provides the cloud for the Defense Education Agency’s Learning Management System and Amazon provides services for DISA’s Information Assurance Support Environment.

In recent years, the military has made an effort to host less of its material on its own drives and contract more private companies to provide cloud services.

The goal is to spend less money providing for hardware and constantly upgrading drives. Private companies can procure the best available technology faster than DoD, which needs congressional appropriations.

Halvorsen gave the military services and department components the ability to procure their own cloud services independent of the department last year.

Since then DoD has released a security guide, which aligns DoD cloud security requirements with the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP), the standard for federal government cybersecurity for cloud services.

The department assigns more security requirements to companies that want to handle data that requires higher levels of assurance.DoD as cleared 36 companies to provide cloud services for documents at the lowest sensitivity level.

Amazon is the only company currently approved for more sensitive documents.


Your chance to comment on DOT RPA registration.

by Gary Mortimer


October 21, 2015

If you have an opinion on mandatory RPA registration this might be the time to get it down in writing. Be quick though. Probably best not to be too rude or they will drop the comment. Also put it in writing as well, much harder for them to delete that.

If enough people write to them at least they will know they are being watched.

[Docket No. FAA-2015-4378]

Clarification of the Applicability of Aircraft Registration Requirements for Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and Request for Information Regarding Electronic Registration for UAS

AGENCY: Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration.

ACTION: Clarification and request for information.

SUMMARY: This document clarifies the applicability of the statutory requirements regarding aircraft registration to UAS, including those operating as model aircraft. In addition, the DOT announces the formation of a UAS registration task force to explore and develop recommendations to streamline the registration process for UAS to ease the burden associated with the existing aircraft registration process.

This document requests information and recommendations regarding what information and registration platform would be appropriate for UAS registration and ways to minimize the burden to the regulated community.

In addition, we request comment on which UAS, based on their weight or performance capabilities, warrant a continued exercise of discretion with respect to requiring registration because of the negligible risk they pose to the national airspace system (NAS).

DATES: This clarification goes into effect [INSERT DATE OF PUBLICATION IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER]. To assist the task force in developing its recommendations, the

Department requests that comments in response to the request for information be submitted to


The docket will remain open after this time and the Department will consider all comments received in developing a registration process.

ADDRESSES: You may submit comments by any of the following methods:

• Federal Rulemaking Portal: Follow the instructions for submitting comments.

• Fax: 202-493-2251.

• Mail: Dockets Management System; U.S. Department of Transportation, Dockets Operations, M-30, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Washington, DC 20590-0001.

• Hand Delivery: To U.S. Department of Transportation, Dockets Operations, M-30, Ground Floor, Room W12-140, 1200 New Jersey Avenue, S.E., Washington, DC, 20590-0001, between 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except Federal holidays.

Instructions: Include the agency name and docket number FAA-2015-4378 for this document at the beginning of your comment. Note that all comments received will be posted without change to including any personal information provided. If sent by mail, comments must be submitted in duplicate. Persons wishing to receive confirmation of receipt of their comments must include a self-addressed stamped postcard.

Privacy Act: Anyone is able to search the electronic form of any written communications and comments received into any of our dockets by the name of the individual submitting the document (or signing the document, if submitted on behalf of an association, business, labor union, etc.). You may review DOT’s complete Privacy Act Statement at

Docket: You may view the public docket through the Internet at or in person at the Docket Operations office at the above address (See ADDRESSES).

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Questions regarding this document may be directed to Earl Lawrence, Director, FAA UAS Integration Office, 800 Independence Ave. SW, Washington DC, 20591; phone: (202) 267-6556; email:



In the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Pub. L. 112-95) (the Act), Congress mandated that the DOT, in consultation with other government partners and industry stakeholders, develop a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil UAS in the NAS.

Since 2012, the Department has made progress in enabling UAS operations, through issuing exemptions under section 333 of the Act to permit commercial operations; creating a UAS test site program to encourage further research and testing of UAS operations in real-world environments; issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking, Operation and Certification of Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (RIN 2120-AJ60) (small UAS NPRM), that sets forth a framework for integrating small UAS operations in the NAS; and developing a Pathfinder program to encourage research and innovation that will enable advanced UAS operations.

A foundational statutory and regulatory requirement that the Department has employed for each of these integration programs is aircraft registration and marking. In order to operate in the NAS, the Department must ensure that operators are not only aware of the system in which they are operating, but that we also have a means to identify and track the UAS to its operator. One means to accomplish this is through aircraft registration and marking. To date, UAS operators that the Department has authorized have been required to register their UAS through the FAA’s existing paper-based registration process under 14 CFR part 47. As an exercise of discretion, historically we have not required model aircraft to be registered under this system.


UAS hold enormous promise for our economy and for the aviation industry. But for the industry to develop to its full potential, we have to ensure that it develops safely. Over the past several months, we have received increasing reports of unauthorized and unsafe use of small UAS. Pilot reports of UAS sightings in 2015 are double the rate of 2014. Pilots have reported seeing drones at altitudes up to 10,000 feet, or as close as half-a-mile from the approach end of a runway. In recent weeks, the presence of multiple UAS in the vicinity of wild fires in the western part of the country prompted firefighters to ground their aircraft on several occasions.

These UAS operations are unsafe and illegal. However, only a small percentage of these incidents have resulted in enforcement actions against individuals for unsafe or unauthorized UAS operation because identifying an individual or entity responsible for the dangerous operation of UAS is very difficult. This situation is troubling to the unmanned aircraft industry, to responsible model aircraft users, and to users of the NAS, all of whom always put safety first.

The risk of unsafe operations will only increase as more UAS enter the NAS. Some retailers have projected huge holiday sales. We are committed to ensuring that the U.S. continues to lead the world in the development and implementation of aviation technology, and in doing so, that we create a space for the creativity, innovation and exploration that will drive this industry forward in the years and decades ahead. At the same time, we must create a culture of accountability and responsibility among all UAS operators. To maintain safety in the NAS, the Department has reconsidered its past practice of exercising discretion with respect to requiring UAS to be registered, consistent with statutory requirements of 49 U.S.C. 44101-44103, and has determined that registration of all UAS is necessary to enforce personal accountability while operating an aircraft in our skies.

Federal law requires that a person may only operate an aircraft when it is registered with the FAA. 49 U.S.C. 44101(a).1 “Aircraft” is defined as “any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate, or fly in, the air.”2 49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(6). In 2012, Congress confirmed that UAS, including those used for recreation or hobby purposes, are aircraft consistent with the statutory definition set forth in 49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(6). See Pub. L. 112-95, sec. 331(8), 336 (defining an unmanned aircraft as “an aircraft that is that is operated without the possibility of direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft,” and model aircraft as “an unmanned aircraft that is capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere, flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft, and flown for hobby or recreational purposes”); see also Administrator v. Pirker, NTSB Order No. EA-5730, at 12 (Nov. 17, 2014) (affirming that the statutory definition of aircraft is clear and unambiguous and “includes any air aircraft, manned or unmanned, large or small.”). Because UAS, including model aircraft, are aircraft, they are subject to FAA regulation, including the statutory requirements regarding registration set forth in 49 U.S.C. 44101(a), and further prescribed in regulation at 14 CFR part 47.

Historically, the FAA, through the exercise of its discretion, has not enforced the statutory requirements for aircraft registration in 49 U.S.C. 44101 for model aircraft. As evidenced by the recent reports of unsafe UAS operations, the lack of awareness of operators regarding what must be done to operate UAS safely in the NAS, and the lack of identification of UAS and their operators pose significant challenges in ensuring accountability for responsible use. Without increased awareness and knowledge of the statutory and regulatory requirements for safe operation, the risk of unsafe UAS operations will only rise. Aircraft identification and marking will assist the Department in identifying owners of UAS that are operated in an unsafe manner, so we may continue to educate these users, and when appropriate, take enforcement action.


Requiring registration of all UAS, including those operated for hobby or recreation, embraces and applies the Academy of Model Aeronautics’ (AMA)’s policy of identification to UAS operators who may not be modelers registered with the AMA. Additionally, it would ensure consistency with other UAS operations currently required to be registered, such as public aircraft, those operated under exemptions, and certificated aircraft, as well as those operations contemplated in the small UAS NPRM.

Based on the Department’s experience in registering small UAS authorized by exemptions granted under the authority of section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, and the comments received on the proposed registration requirements in the small UAS NPRM, it is apparent that the current paper-based system for aircraft registration is too burdensome for small UAS, to include model aircraft. To facilitate compliance with the statutory obligation for registration, the DOT is currently evaluating options for a streamlined, electronic-based registration system for small UAS.

The Department has convened a UAS registration task force, under the FAA’s authority in 49 U.S.C. 106(p)(5) to designate aviation rulemaking committees. This task force will provide recommendations on the type of registration platform needed to accommodate small UAS, as well as the information that will need to be provided to register these aircraft. The UAS registration task force also will explore and provide recommendations on whether it is appropriate for the FAA to continue to exercise discretion with respect to requiring registration of certain UAS based on their weight and performance capabilities. The task force will meet and provide its recommendations to the Department by November 20, 2015. To facilitate the task force’s work, we are requesting information and data from the public in the following areas:

1. What methods are available for identifying individual products? Does every UAS sold have an individual serial number? Is there another method for identifying individual products sold without serial numbers or those built from kits?

2. At what point should registration occur (e.g. point-of-sale or prior-to-operation)? How should transfers of ownership be addressed in registration?

3. If registration occurs at point-of-sale, who should be responsible for submission of the data? What burdens would be placed on vendors of UAS if DOT required registration to occur at point-of-sale? What are the advantages of a point-of-sale approach relative to a prior-to-operation approach?

4. Consistent with past practice of discretion, should certain UAS be excluded from registration based on performance capabilities or other characteristics that could be associated with safety risk, such as weight, speed, altitude operating limitations, duration of flight? If so, please submit information or data to help support the suggestions, and whether any other criteria should be considered.

5. How should a registration process be designed to minimize burdens and best protect innovation and encourage growth in the UAS industry?

6. Should the registration be electronic or web-based? Are there existing tools that could support an electronic registration process?

7. What type of information should be collected during the registration process to positively identify the aircraft owner and aircraft?

8. How should the registration data be stored? Who should have access to the registration data? How should the data be used?

9. Should a registration fee be collected and if so, how will the registration fee be collected if registration occurs at point-of-sale? Are there payment services that can be leveraged to assist (e.g. PayPal)?

10. Are there additional means beyond aircraft registration to encourage accountability and responsible use of UAS?

Comments received by [INSERT DATE 15 DAYS AFTER DATE OF PUBLICATION IN THE FEDERAL REGISTER] would be most helpful in assisting the UAS registration task force in developing its recommendations. The comment period will remain open after this period and the Department will consider the comments received, in addition to the UAS registration task force’s recommendations, in developing a stream-lined registration process for small UAS, including model aircraft.

Issued in Washington, DC on October 19, 2015.

Anthony R. Foxx,

Secretary of Transportation.

Michael P. Huerta,

Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.!documentDetail;D=FAA-2015-4378-0001


Liberal Win in Canada Dims Prospects for F-35 Buy


By David Pugliese 8:04 p.m. EDT October 20, 2015

VICTORIA, British Columbia — Canada will see a major shift in defense policy with the election of a new Liberal Party government and its planned withdrawal from the Iraq coalition air campaign and the US-led F-35 program.

Prime Minister-designate Justin Trudeau promised both during the election campaign leading up to Monday’s vote. Trudeau won a surprise landslide victory, forcing the ruling Conservative Party government into the opposition ranks of the House of Commons.

Trudeau said Tuesday he talked to US President Obama about Canada’s changing role in Iraq and the battle against the Islamic State militant group.

“I committed that we would continue to engage in a responsible way that understands how Canada has a role to play in the fight against ISIL,” Trudeau told journalists in a televised news conference from Ottawa, using an alternative acronym for the Islamic State group, also known as IS. “But (President Obama) understands the commitments I’ve made around ending the combat mission.”

In October 2014, Canada’s Conservative Party government committed a force of 600 Canadian military personnel, fighter jets, refueling tankers and surveillance aircraft to the air campaign against IS. It also sent 69 special forces to train Kurdish troops in northern Iraq.

In April, the Conservative government expanded Canada’s role in the bombing campaign to IS targets in Syria.

Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper said if he was re-elected, he would approve a long-term commitment to the Iraq and Syrian wars.

Although Trudeau intends to end Canada’s role in the bombing campaign in Iraq and Syria, he has promised to boost the number of soldiers available to train Iraqi troops.

Trudeau has not yet provided details on how many trainers he would authorize or where that training would be done. However, he has said that Canada’s training role would be similar to the one it had in Afghanistan.

Trudeau reiterated Tuesday that Canada remains “a strong member of the coalition against ISIL.” However, the prime minister-designate has questioned the value of the bombing campaign.

Asked when he would bring aircrews back to Canada, Trudeau said it would be “done in an orderly fashion.”

Canada also would increase humanitarian aid to the region, Trudeau said .

Trudeau said he would name his new cabinet on Nov. 4., including his choices for key positions such as defense and foreign affairs ministers.

Trudeau also has promised to move quickly on replacing Canada’s aging fleet of CF-18 fighter aircraft and to pull out of the F-35 program. He said Canada does not need a stealth fighter for its defense needs and that the F-35 is too expensive.

The Liberal Party released its 88-page election platform Oct. 5, which included some details about how it would proceed with replacing the CF-18s. “The primary mission of our fighter aircraft should remain the defence of North America, not stealth first-strike capability,” the platform said. “We will make investing in the Royal Canadian Navy a top priority. By purchasing more affordable alternatives to the F-35s, we will be able to invest in strengthening our Navy.”

The Pentagon’s press secretary, Peter Cook, said the US looks forward to maintaining a strong relationship with Canada, a NATO ally and NORAD partner. “We look forward to continuing the strong defense relationship we have with Canada going forward,” he said. “It would be inappropriate to me to speculate on how that might change going forward.”

The F-35 Joint Program Office issued a statement saying: “Canada remains a partner in the F-35 program. It is inappropriate to speculate on program impacts as a result of Canada’s recent election.”

Lockheed Martin spokesman Mark Johnson said the firm has not received any formal notification from the Canadian government that its status has changed concerning the F-35 program.

“They are a valued partner, and we will continue to support them through their decision process to replace their ageing CF-18 fleet,” Johnson said.

Canada is the first country to withdraw from the air coalition against the Islamic State group.

It would also be the first to leave the F-35 program.

Alan Williams, who signed the original memorandum that brought Canada into the F-35 program in 1997, said the planned withdrawal from the fighter jet project would be embarrassing for the US.

But he said that Canada has to base its decisions on its own defense needs, and not only on the security and industrial concerns of its allies.

“It will be up to the government to decide how the roles it wants to see its fighter aircraft used and what would best meet those requirements,” said Williams, who is the former Assistant Deputy Minister for Materiel at Canada’s Department of National Defence.

The other potential contenders to replace Canada’s CF-18s are the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Dassault Rafale, Boeing’s Super Hornet and Saab’s Gripen.

Williams said holding an open competition for a CF-18 replacement would ensure Canadian aerospace firms have the best chance at obtaining work on such a project.

Trudeau has suggested that the F-35 would not be considered in any competition.

Williams said the new prime minister could not prevent Lockheed Martin from bidding in a completion but the requirements of the acquisition might prevent the aircraft from winning. “If you decide that you don’t need stealth or certain other attributes that are the hallmark of the F-35, then its chances are greatly diminished,” he said.

Thirty-three Canadian firms have active contracts on the F-35 program totaling US$637 million.


Don’t Be Shocked the CIA Head Was Hacked

October 20, 2015 By Patrick Tucker

The Defense Department will spend more than $5 billion this year to keep digital information from Iran, Russia, and China. But can it withstand the wily intelligence-gathering jujitsu of a stoned American teenager who goes by the name “Cracka”? That remains to be seen. The teen in question, who may have broken into the personal AOL account of CIA director John Brennan, today threatened to do the same to Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work: to “Jack his account, leak his call logs, and, if there’s an email connected to it, we’ll just jack that, too,” the New York Post reports.

The Pentagon’s response: Worry not for Mr. Work. “At this time, nothing has been found that substantiates [the] claims,” said Lt. Cmdr. Courtney Hillson from Bob Work’s office, “We will monitor the networks for signs of suspicious activity and continue to mitigate any identified risks as we continue to work with law enforcement.”

The CIA has deferred the matter to the FBI. Cracka’s Twitter account, at the time of this writing, has been disabled.

For the rest of us, the question becomes how is it possible that, in 2015, a random teenager can break into the private email account of the director of the CIA? For the short answer, check out Wired has a play-by-play of what happened.

Cracka allegedly pulled it off without bypassing a single firewall. Rather, he and his associates simply got in contact with Brennan’s phone company, Verizon, misrepresented themselves as Verizon employees and wheedled personal information related to the spy chief’s credit card. He then contacted Brennan’s email service provider, AOL, and misrepresented himself as John Brennan in order to have the password reset. Making fun of AOL is easy. But it has surprising endurance among the national security community; a former deputy director of the NSA and a former DARPA director both have AOL email accounts, two people you could assume, like Brennan, would know better.

Finding a critical vulnerability in a firewall is just one way to steal data. A more reliable, inexpensive, and generally effective method is to exploit the human tendency to trust information provided as accurate. In other words, the way you get to the CIA director’s email is to convince a Verizon employee to give you John Brennan’s personal information just because you may be a Verizon employee.

In accomplishing this feat, Cracka has demonstrated excellent spy work and intelligence gathering. He’s also probably committed a prosecutable act of fraud — specifically, aggravated identity theft under Section 1028A of 18 U.S.C. The minimum sentencing guidelines suggest Cracka could be going away for two years or longer, a mandatory minimum sentence that “occurs when an individual knowingly possesses, uses, or transfers the means of identification of another person, without lawful authority to do so,” according to a recent report from the Congressional Research Service. Prosecutors could prosecute the fraud as aggravated identity theft with the intent to commit terrorism, in which case, Cracka would receive a sentence of at least five years.

Whatever it is, it doesn’t rise to the level of a nation-state hack. “There’s a difference between hacking and taking over an account like what is reported to have happened with DCIA and simply having rival intel services reading private emails. The issue of spear phishing and social engineering is way more prevalent now than just a few years ago,” Patrick Skinner, a former CIA operative, told Defense One in an email.

How can intelligence agencies prevent this kind of this in the future? For starters, they could require all intelligence personnel to use only email service providers that feature two-factor authentication. Other than that, you can hire only spies who don’t create any personal digital information at all. But in a day and age where the average American produces more than 5,000 megabytes of data every 24 hours, the equivalent of nine CD-ROMs a day, the guy who isn’t making digital information is the outlier. Consider Dan Geer, the head of In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the CIA — a man widely considered one of today’s leading minds on intelligence and technology — who doesn’t own a cellphone.

The way Skinner sees it, the CIA is probably not to blame for the hacking of its director. “I think the agency probably does a decent job with instilling some baseline cyber security for officers’ home life. The trick is that they spend so much time being alert to nefarious activity at work where no one cuts corners, the private non-work stuff might slip under the radar,” he said.

He did add that simple cyber hygiene wasn’t the sort of thing stressed by the CIA as an institution. “I don’t recall much concern over hacking private emails of officers, mostly because we assumed, at least overseas, that private email was in no way private,” he said.

Clearly, that would have been a healthy assumption for Mr. Brennan.


DJI Selected as Member of FAA Drone Registration Task Force

by Press


DJI, the world’s leading manufacturer of professional and consumer drones, is pleased to announce the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration has invited it to participate in its Unmanned Aircraft Systems Registration Task Force. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx announced the formation of the task force Monday.

DJI takes safety very seriously and has led the civilian drone industry on many technology-based safety features, including geospatial information (sometimes called “geofencing”), altitude limitation and automatic return-to-home and auto-land fail-safes. DJI has previously collaborated with regulators in other countries to create safe-flying guidelines for consumer drone pilots. It is pleased to offer its expertise to the FAA as it considers many of the technical and legal considerations relating to a proposed registration system.

Brendan Schulman, DJI’s vice president of policy & legal affairs, is DJI’s designee for the task force.

“While I am concerned about the short schedule and limited opportunity for public comment, we support regulatory approaches that strike an appropriate balance between risk, benefit and the burden of compliance,” said Schulman. “DJI intends to represent the interests of its customers as this process moves forward.”

Schulman said DJI is encouraging customers to file comments during the short, 15-day public comment period now open at! documentDetail;D=FAA-2015-4378-0001.

For customers unable to comment through that channel, DJI plans to make a mechanism available to send concerns and suggestions directly to the company so that customer views may be considered in DJI’s work on the Task Force.


Meet the Secretive Team Shaping The Air Force’s New Bomber

By Marcus Weisgerber

October 23, 2015


The 80-person group operates outside of the typical chain of command, which senior officials say will keep the stealth aircraft program on track.

The bomber team works inside the Air Force’s Rapid Capabilities Office, a unit that specializes in “delivering eye-watering capabilities,” William LaPlante, the service’s acquisition chief, told reporters Wednesday at the Pentagon.

The team is made up of experienced officers working the project’s requirements, maintainers who have worked on these types of planes, and acquisition professionals.

“It’s got our best people there,” LaPlante said. “They love their jobs.”

This is the first time the military has built a bomber since the 1980s, when the stealthy B-2 Spirit was built in secret to preserve its ability to penetrate Soviet air defenses. The current effort, dubbed the Long Range Strike-Bomber or LRS-B, has been wrapped in nearly as much secrecy, and to the same general end: giving American forces a long-term edge.

In an attempt to keep the program from spiraling into the kinds of cost and schedule overruns that severely truncated the B-2 program, the new bomber will be built using mature or existing technologies, Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the Air Force’s military deputy for acquisition, said Wednesday. But that doesn’t mean the plane won’t have a big edge on the battlefield.

“Just because they’re existing and mature doesn’t mean that they’re in the open,” LaPlante said. “It doesn’t mean that any of you even know about them.”

Created in 2003, the Rapid Capabilities Office is built for speed — specifically, for producing battle-ready arms in a fraction of the time it takes the Pentagon’s regular acquisition process. Its mission is to “rapidly develop new capabilities to counter the increasing pace of threat evolution,” according to a 2008 briefing given by Randall Walden, who now runs the RCO.

Specializing in prototyping and unafraid to use commercial equipment, the RCO is a “streamlined acquisition shop that does some of our most sensitive and important work,” LaPlante said.

Among that work is the X-37B, a space drone that the Air Force barely acknowledges exists, and won’t say what it’s been doing on its several orbital missions. The elite group also built a special beacon that aims red and green lights at planes that fly into the restricted airspace around Washington. And it developed and fielded — in just nine months — a surface-to-air missile system to shoot down a hijacked aircraft aimed at government buildings in the area.

But they work on other stuff too, classified projects that are not discussed. And the projects are not “one-off things,” LaPlante said. “I’m talking about things that go into production.”

The RCO operates outside of the Defense Department bureaucracy, reporting directly to LaPlante, Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, and Gen. Mark Welsh, the Air Force chief of staff. Almost every week the group talks with senior Pentagon leaders, such as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The group “was chosen for a deliberate reason,” LaPlante said.

The Air Force is imminently expected to announce which contractor will build the program’s 100 aircraft: Northrop Grumman or a team of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. Some cost estimates will be released with the contract award, Air Force officials said, but the program’s overall cost will remain classified.



Eyes on Iran and North Korea: Air Force to activate five squadrons for nuclear monitoring

By Phillip Swarts, Staff writer 10:27 a.m. EDT October 22, 2015


Lt. Col. Ehren Carl delivers his first remarks Oct. 15 after assuming command of the Technical Surveillance Squadron at Air Force Technical Applications Center, Patrick AFB, Fla., as AFTAC commander Col. Jennifer P. Sovada (seated) looks on.(Photo: Matthew Jurgens/Air Force)

The Air Force is activating five squadrons to bolster its nuclear monitoring capabilities, the first time since 1980 that five squadrons will undertake the task.

The squadrons will likely be monitoring possible nuclear tests in North Korea and Iran. Both nations have built underground facilities for nuclear work, and North Korea has previously conducted underground detonations in 2006, 2009 and 2013.

The South Korean government has reported it believes North Korea is gearing up for a fourth test.

Five technical operations squadrons were initially launched in 1959 as the 1035th Field Activities Group to tackle specific portions of monitoring compliance with nuclear arms treaties. The squads were deactivated in 1980 when the unit was renamed the Air Force Technical Applications Center, service records show.

AFTAC, based at Patrick Air Force Base, Florida, is “the sole organization in the federal government whose mission is to detect and report technical data from foreign nuclear explosions,” according to the center’s website.

Now the Air Force is relaunching and redesignating the five squadrons, a move started in August 2014 when AFTAC became a wing-equivalent part of the 25th Air Force.

“As an organization, AFTAC is changing rapidly and we must embrace these changes to ensure our continued success,” Col. Jennifer P. Sovada, AFTAC commander, said in a statement. “All of our officers taking command have the responsibility to lead and take care of their Airmen while still executing the mission. I have full confidence in their abilities to do just that and to carry on with the rich legacy of excellence at AFTAC.”

On Oct. 16, the service announced the leaders and duties of each squadron:

  • Technical Surveillance Squadron, under Lt. Col. Ehren Carl, is charged with detecting, identifying and locating nuclear explosions that occur underground, underwater, in the air or in space.
  • Technical Operations Squadron, under Lt. Col. Robert Light, conducts reconnaissance missions and aerial sampling to provide technical data on possible nuclear tests by foreign nations.
  • Technical Support Squadron, under Lt. Col. Dennis Uyechi, supports command, intelligence and operations missions, and oversees training and standards.
  • Technical Sustainment Squadron, under Maj. Patrick Carpizo, is in charge of logistics and maintaining the U.S. Atomic Energy Detection System.
  • Cyber Capabilities Squadron, under Lt. Col. Brian Hippel, is designed to handle cyber capabilities for the nuclear detection mission, including cybersecurity defense.

Since treaties signed in 1963, 1974 and 1976, the U.S., Russia and some of their allies have prohibited nuclear testing anywhere except underground — and have restricted underground tests to less than 150 kilotons.


Rebuild Range or Face Irrelevance

GovMedia 11:34 a.m. EDT October 22, 2015


Over the past 20 years, US naval aviation has undergone a dramatic change in focus and capabilities, and not for the better.

Its historical and traditional focus on long-range capabilities and the deep-strike mission has been overtaken by a concentration on lower maintenance costs and higher aircraft sortie-generation rates. American power and permissive environments were assumed following the end of the Cold War, but the rise of new powers, including China and its pursuit of anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) strategies and capabilities, including the carrier-killing 1,000-nautical-mile-range Dong Feng-21 anti-ship ballistic missile, now threaten to push the Navy back beyond the range of its carrier air wings.

This push-back would limit the service’s ability to project power and thus undermine US credibility and the effectiveness of the global international system of governance that it, in conjunction with its allies and partners, has labored to build for 70 years.

That system was built upon the blood and sacrifices of an entire generation of Americans who won World War II. One of the chief lessons learned from that war was that the nation needed to be able to project massive power against enemy capitals across vast distances. The Pacific war had been conducted through a series of oceanic and island battles, slowly bringing the enemy decisionmakers within range of American power.

Kamikaze attackers, a brutal early form of A2/AD, inflicted massive blows against the American Navy, whose shorter-range aircraft forced it to operate in close proximity to enemy bases. Naval aviation commanders, in the face of these attacks and the loss of several carriers, decided during the war to pursue development of larger aircraft that could carry more bombs and fly longer distances. They then designed and developed larger aircraft carriers to carry these aircraft in numbers sufficient to mass decisively against enemy centers of gravity.

These aircraft and their carriers joined the fleet during the 1950s, providing the Navy with the capability to mass deep strike missions 1,800 nautical miles from its carrier bases.

Through the decades that followed, from Vietnam to Desert Storm, the Navy perfected its ability to go deep against enemy capitals, with the goal of bringing conflicts to a swift, decisive end. Large air wings of 80 or more aircraft characterized by long-range, high-payload capacities, and the ability to mass on targets, came to epitomize the American way of war.

Along the way, the characteristics of low observability and persistence were added to the repertoire of the carrier’s air wing to great effect. The US Navy, with its fleet of supercarriers and accompanying escort vessels, became the gold standard of modern seapower, but beginning in the 1990s the Navy suddenly drifted off course.

The end of the Cold War, followed by the decision to cancel the replacement aircraft for the A-6 Intruder, the A-12 Avenger II, began a precipitous retreat from range and the deep-strike mission that had long characterized the carrier air wing.

The rapid successive retirements of the A-6 Intruder, F-14 Tomcat and S-3 Viking that followed, and the decision to replace these aircraft with variants of the F/A-18 Hornet — originally designed as a replacement for the short-ranged fighters and light attack aircraft — shrank the average range of the carrier air wing from over 800 nautical miles in 1996 to less than 500 by 2006. This occurred just as competitor nations, led by China, began to field A2/AD systems with ranges of 1,000 miles or more.

Today the Navy faces a future in which its increasingly expensive carriers have been rendered ineffective by defensive systems being developed, fielded and exported by our competitors, but there are paths back to relevance if the Navy makes the right investments.

New capabilities in the areas of unmanned systems, stealth, directed energy and hypersonics could be combined to provide the range required to perform deep-strike missions. Experimentation, such as that seen with the X-47B demonstration unmanned combat aerial vehicle, as well as the lessons learned from operating unmanned platforms such as the MQ-9 Reaper over the past decade of conflict, provide an opportunity for the Navy and the nation to move forward with an innovative and revitalized approach to seapower and power projection.

Cost curves can be bent, and the combination of mass, range, payload capacity, low observability and persistence — capabilities that emerged as critical during decades of naval air operations — can once again characterize the carrier air wing of the future, ensuring the carrier’s relevance for decades to come.


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, October 24, 2015


Ronald Reagan famously declared in the 1980s that it was “morning in America,” and Americans believed. Not anymore.

Belief among voters that America’s best days are still to come now hovers near its lowest level this year. Only 24% think the country is heading in the right direction, tying the lowest level in over a year.

Fifty-five percent (55%) still consider American society fair and decent, but that’s down from the low to mid-60s prior to 2013.

Will new leadership make a difference? Rasmussen Reports’ latest Trump Change survey finds that more Republican voters than ever think Donald Trump is likely to be their party’s presidential nominee next year.

Trump’s jump coincides with a good week-and-a-half by Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton who triumphed in her party’s first presidential race debate last week. Our latest Hillary Meter finds that Democrats – and voters in general – are more convinced that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee following that debate.

Clinton caught a break when Vice President Joe Biden announced Wednesday that he will not challenge her for next year’s Democratic presidential nomination. Earlier this month, Biden was gaining on Clinton and trailed her only 48% to 34% among Likely Democratic Voters in a hypothetical matchup.  But many predicted her strong debate performance would cool Biden’s interest in the race.

The former secretary of State also emerged unscathed from a lengthy appearance Thursday before the congressional committee investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya in 2012. Prior to the hearing, most voters said Clinton has not been telling the truth about what happened in Benghazi, according to a new Full Measure-Rasmussen Reports national survey.

Clinton has said the president’s plan to exempt up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation doesn’t go far enough, but most voters still oppose Obama’s plan. Trump says he will crack down strongly on illegal immigration and deport those who are here illegally.

In a hypothetical matchup, Trump and Clinton are in a near tie, but a sizable 22% prefer some other candidate.

The last thing a struggling Jeb Bush needs to do is have his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination focus on defending an unpopular president of recent memory, even if is his brother.

President George W. Bush launched the war in Afghanistan in October 2001 in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks a month earlier. Afghanistan is now America’s longest-running war. Looking back, just 36% believe the United States should have gotten involved in Afghanistan in the first place.

Voters don’t think much of how the Obama administration is handling the war there, but just over half support the president’s decision to leave U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2016.

Obama’s daily job approval ratings remain unchanged, hovering the negative mid-teens as they have for most of his presidency.

Two Republican debates and the first Democratic debate are behind us, but there are many more to come, including perhaps most importantly the ones during the general election campaign between the two major party nominees. But do debates ultimately make any difference?

Congress came back this week, and the struggle to find a new House speaker began again in earnest. Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan appears the likely winner. What do his fellow Republicans think of their 2012 vice presidential nominee these days?

In other surveys last week:

 — California has passed what may be the toughest Fair Pay Act in the country, determining that men and women who do “substantially similar” work receive equal pay, regardless of whether they hold the same job title or work in the same location. Critics complain that the imprecise language of the new law will make it more of a benefit to lawyers than to employees suffering from pay discrimination, but Americans strongly support California’s new equal pay law.

One-in-four Americans (26%) have lost a close friend or relative to breast cancer.

— Secretary of State John Kerry is meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas about the recent escalation of violence between Israelis and Palestinians, but most voters here don’t want to see more U.S. involvement in the situation.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of Americans still view Israel as an ally of the United States, but that’s down noticeably from previous years.  Democrats now view Mexico as a more reliable ally than Israel.


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