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November 7 2015

November 9, 2015



7 November 2015


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Oversight leaders want answers on runaway blimp

By Rebecca Kheel – 10/30/15 04:28 PM EDT


The chairman and ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform want proof the Army blimp that broke free from its mooring this week is worth the money spent on it.

“This event raises serious questions about the value and reliability of JLENS,” Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote in letters to the Defense and Transportation secretaries, using an acronym for the research program the blimp is part of, the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System.

On Wednesday, the blimp caused a social media sensation when it traveled 200 miles north to Pennsylvania while being chased by two F-16 fighter jets before being shot down in the woods.

The Pentagon said Thursday it was investigating why the blimp broke free.

The blimp, formally known as an aerostat, was part of a three-year research project for JLENS.

The system, developed by Raytheon, cost an estimated $2.8 billion.

Chaffetz and Cummings asked Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx for all contracts associated with JLENS, all documents about JLENS’s deployment timeline, documents about the deployment timeline of other systems meant to mitigate aerial threats and documents on the reliability of JLENS.

They want the documents to “understand whether JLENS is a worthwhile investment of taxpayer dollars,” they wrote.

They asked for the documents by Nov. 12 and also asked committee staff to be briefed by Thursday.



Pentagon suspends troubled missile defense system at center of ‘runaway blimp’

A 2012 report by the Pentagon’s operational testing office faulted the airborne radar system in four “critical performance areas” and rated its reliability as “poor.”




David WillmanBy David Willman

Contact Reporter

November 3, 2015, 8:08 PM


The Pentagon has suspended indefinitely a trial run of the troubled missile defense system called JLENS, whose giant, radar-carrying blimps were intended to help safeguard the skies over Washington.

The three-year “operational exercise” has been a financial lifeline for JLENS, arranged by supporters of the program after Army leaders tried to kill it.

Any decision whether to resume the exercise will wait until after the Army has completed an investigation into how one of the pilotless blimps broke away from its mooring station in Maryland last week and flew uncontrolled over parts of two mid-Atlantic states, military officials said Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a complete and thorough investigation, and it takes time,” Army spokesman Dov Schwartz said.

The mishap Wednesday provoked fresh questions about the worth of JLENS, which has cost taxpayers more than $2.7 billion. The runaway blimp soared over Maryland and Pennsylvania, dragging a 6,700-foot-long mooring cable behind it. The cable clipped power lines, leaving thousands of people without electricity and disrupting civil aviation, before the blimp came to rest outside rural Moreland Township, Pa.

Army Maj. Beth R. Smith, speaking for the North American Aerospace Defense Command, said: “Future actions regarding the JLENS exercise will be made following the conclusion of the investigation.”

As lawmakers of both parties seek to trim $5 billion from President Obama’s proposed $612-billion defense budget, senior Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee are, for the first time, openly assailing any further spending on JLENS.

The system is designed to provide early detection of cruise missiles, drones and other low-flying threats, but it has struggled to track flying objects, to distinguish friendly from threatening aircraft and to communicate with the nation’s air defense networks.

“What we need is an unbiased investigation into JLENS incompetence,” Rep. Jim Cooper of Tennessee, one of the committee’s most senior Democrats, said in a statement to the Los Angeles Times. “We should defend the U.S. from low-flying threats, but this seems a stupid way to do it.”

When Cooper questioned House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) about JLENS in a private meeting of members and staff Monday, Thornberry made clear that Republicans still back the system, according to Democratic aides who attended. A spokesman for Thornberry confirmed the exchange.

Bay Area Democrat Jackie Speier, another committee member, said in a statement: “As we cut $5 billion from the defense budget this week, JLENS should be the first thing to go, but inexplicably Republicans decided it wasn’t worth eliminating. Now is the perfect time to get rid of a ‘zombie program’ that doesn’t provide an advantage over aircraft that we’ve already bought.”


Speier, referring to disclosures in a Los Angeles Times article published in September, pointed to the pivotal role played by the nation’s then-No. 2 military officer in saving JLENS after senior Army officials tried to kill the program in 2010.

Marine Corps Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright, then vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, argued that JLENS held promise for enhancing the nation’s air defenses. At his prodding, money was found in 2011 for the three-year operational exercise above Washington, The Times reported.

Cartwright retired the same year. Five months later, he joined the board of Raytheon Co., the prime contractor for JLENS. As of the end of 2014, Raytheon had paid him more than $828,000 in cash and stock for serving as a director, Securities and Exchange Commission records show.

Speier called Cartwright’s prompt transition “an egregious example of the corrupting nature of the revolving door for military generals who then go on to serve on defense contractor boards.”

The operational exercise, which is costing taxpayers about $50 million a year, involved two JLENS blimps floating up to 10,000 feet high. It was to begin in January. But problems, notably with computer software, delayed the launch of a required second blimp until mid-August.

JLENS is short for Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System. The 242-foot-long blimps operate in pairs. One searches widely for threats. The other is supposed to transmit “fire control” data on the location, speed and trajectory of threatening objects so U.S. fighter jets or ground-based rockets can shoot them down.

A 2012 report by the Pentagon’s Operational Test and Evaluation office faulted the system in four “critical performance areas” and rated its reliability as “poor.” A year later, in its most recent assessment, the agency again cited serious deficiencies and said JLENS had “low system reliability.”


Thornberry: $5B Cut Spells ‘Pain’ for DoD Acquisitions

By Joe Gould 4:36 p.m. EST November 2, 2015


WASHINGTON — The $5 billion defense cut dictated by the budget deal between Congress and the White House will be painful for as-yet-unnamed programs, a powerful lawmaker on defense said Monday.

“There will be real programs that are cut, and that’s what we’re trying to finalize today with the appropriators and the Senate,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas. “We are looking at them all and trying to do the least damage, but nobody should be under the illusion that you can do this in a non-painful way. There’s going to be pain.”

The House and Senate Armed Services Committees are nearly done identifying the source of the $5 billion they must cut as part of a two-year budget deal that gives the Pentagon nearly everything it wanted. Under the plan, fiscal 2016 defense spending would be raised to $607 billion, $5 billion less than the top-line figure authorizers budgeted to before the deal.

The cuts could be finalized as soon as Monday afternoon, though Thornberry refused to say what programs are vulnerable and which are safe. He did say some savings could come from “adjustments” to budget lines where less money was spent than projected — particularly for fuel, whose cost was less than expected — to limited effect.

“There are real programs that have to be cut to get to $5 billion, fewer things we can buy, things we have to slow down,” Thornberry said. “There are these little adjustments, but there will be a substantial amount that is cut.”

Thornberry rejected the thought of spreading the cut across many accounts to achieve the least amount of pain, calling it “a really bad way to make decisions: to cut everything a little bit.”

“There’s not enough fat that you can take an inch off the top here and avoid getting into the meat,” he said. “You get into the meat.”

It is unclear whether the vetoed 2016 National Defense Authorization Act will be resurrected through an override — an option on Congress’ calendar for Thursday — or by reintroducing the bill, amended only to reflect the $5 billion cut. Thornberry and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., have said they expect to see the policy provisions in the bill move forward unaltered.

Both chairmen have said they expect the newly elected House Speaker Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, to chart the path, whether through a veto override or as new legislation. Thornberry said the House was “within the ballpark” of votes needed to override the veto. He has been in discussions with Democrats willing to override and he believes that most of the Republicans who initially voted for the bill will vote to override.

Even after an override, Congress would still have to pass a bill that reflects the $5 billion cut. A fresh bill might be easier to support, but that approach, Thornberry said, would require fending off amendments.

“We will be ready for both options this week,” Thornberry said.

It is up to appropriators to conference and pass their spending bills before Dec. 11 to avoid a government shutdown. Thornberry said he presumed the bills would pass with bipartisan support, but quipped that it would be up to the new House speaker.

“That’s Paul’s problem,” he said.

The budget deal, reached in quiet negotiations among the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans, will increase federal spending by $80 billion over the next two years and provide an additional $32 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations funds for the Pentagon.

The budget deal’s two years of stability for defense was worth the $5 billion cut, Thornberry said. Still, factoring for inflation, defense was cut 21 percent from 2010 to 2014, Thornberry said, and “a modest increase does not repair that damage.”



Budget Deal Leaves Pentagon $14 Billion Gap for FY 2017, Work Says

By Aaron Mehta 6:16 p.m. EST November 2, 2015


WASHINGTON — The budget deal reached by Congress sets up a $14 billion gap in fiscal year 2017 that the Pentagon will need to adjust for, according to Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work.

On Monday, Work said the budget deal leaves the Pentagon with a “reasonable target” for fiscal 2016, but said the situation becomes more complicated the following year.

“We calculate it will be about a $14 billion delta in that given year than what we had planned,” Work said at a Defense One conference. “That’s going to be a harder target to hit, and we’re working through that right now.”

Conversely, Work said, “If ’16 had been a big, big delta in what we had been planning that would have been extremely, extremely disruptive. We’re happy to say it’s within reach. So we don’t expect ’16 to be a huge, major disruption.”

The good news, as Work sees it, is stability.

“The big thing is we no longer have to worry about fighting for ’16 and worrying about ’17,” Work said.

“We know both ’16 and ’17 we will be able to say, ‘Here are the decisions we have to make,’ and we can get on with our lives.”

The budget deal, reached in quiet negotiations among the White House and congressional Democrats and Republicans, will increase federal spending by $80 billion over the next two years and provide an additional $32 billion in overseas contingency operations funds for the Pentagon.

Under the budget plan, fiscal 2016 defense spending would be raised to $607 billion, $5 billion less than the top-line figure that authorizers budgeted before the deal.

Work added that because he does not expect the budget deal to be signed before Dec. 11, it effectively means the funding for FY16 really only covers nine months, rather than a full fiscal year.

The government is operating under a continuing resolution, with funding locked in at fiscal 2015 levels; top Pentagon officials have said operating under the CR for the first quarter of the year is minimally damaging to the planning process.

Work later said that details of the so-called “Third Offset” technology development push, a signature effort for both Work and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, will become more clear when the FY 2017 budget request drops in February.


The Pentagon’s Massive IT Overhaul Is ‘Redefining’ Intelligence Collection

November 3, 2015

By Frank Konkel Nextgov

It isn’t uncommon for U.S. intelligence analysts to ping several hundred or more databases separately to collect information. That may soon change.

The chief technology officer of the Air Force said the plan to provide a consistent IT framework across the entire Pentagon “has been picking up steam,” as budgeted dollars have decreased and tech budgets in general have come under more scrutiny.

“We can’t afford any longer to not have development standards for applications,” Air Force CTO Frank Konieczny said Monday at theDefense One Summit in Washington, D.C.

The Joint Information Environment, or JIE, is a nebulous term that often “means different things to different people, depending on the mission,” according to Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall, chief information officer of the Marine Corps.

Yet, it’s clear JIE is becoming more important to the Pentagon and military branches as they deal with constricted budgets and a top-down push to share data, applications and services that formerly would have been siloed away by each department.

At the Air Force, Konieczny has gotten ahead of the JIE curve, promoting “as-a-service” methodologies, consolidated IT centers and more agile approaches to IT development, he said. When available, the Air Force is reaching out to commercial providers for tech needs, instead of building them in-house.

“We want our airmen to be fighting battles; we don’t want them doing IT work,” Konieczny said.

For now, military CIOs are caught in a balancing act.

“JIE is going to promote cost savings, and it’s not hard to argue with reducing threat surfaces,” Crall said. “But the biggest challenges are… how do you enforce standardization and balance customization?”

Crall said the Marines, because of their mission, operate “a little bit differently” than counterparts like the Air Force, Army and Navy. Many Marine programs and applications “require some customization,” Crall said, so uniform standardization is an important goal, but not the end-all, be-all policy.

IC-ITE Offers ‘Unimaginable’ Opportunity for Intelligence Community

The Pentagon isn’t the only agency working on a massive rethink of its IT framework.

The Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (known as IC-ITE, pronounced “eye-sight”) plan offers the 17 agencies within the IC the opportunity to “fundamentally re-imagine our world,” according to Cathy Johnston, director for IC-ITE and digital transformation at the Defense Intelligence Agency.

From an analytic perspective, IC-ITE can “redefine the relationship” between all-source intelligence analysts, signals intelligence analysts and multi-intelligence analysts, she said.

“What IC-ITE allows us to do is interact with each other and our insights constantly,” Johnston added.

Unifying 16 disparate networks under various governance policies is a major challenge, Johnston said, as is the cultural challenge of “breaking out of data ownership.” But the potential payoff is huge.

Consider, she said, that it isn’t uncommon for analysts within the IC to be forced to query several hundred or more databases separately as they collect information. IC-ITE allows for a “data ocean” of pooled intelligence from various intelligence agencies, improving an analyst’s efficiency by some 70 to 80 percent. Instead of querying many databases, analysts only have to check one.

IC-ITE should also improve the IC’s cybersecurity posture, Johnston said. Improved intelligence sharing means both improved national security insights and increased sharing of threat vectors. Improved information sharing, she said, allows the IC as a whole to to put more of the pieces of intelligence collection together.

In addition, Johnston added that the joint cloud computing model the IC incorporates — led by the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency — allows users to only view data “they are authorized to see,” thereby mitigating Edward Snowden-esque insider threats.


As more devices go online, hackers hunt for vulnerabilities

By Ian Duncan

Contact Reporter

The Baltimore Sun

October 24, 2015, 5:24 PM


The hack was simple. Terry Dunlap tapped out a few commands on his laptop and within seconds a message popped on the screen: “Done!” With a few more keystrokes, he could see what the security camera could see and swivel it at will.

The demonstration by Columbia-based Tactical Network Solutions illustrates an increasingly widespread problem: A growing number of devices, from security cameras to cars to weapons systems, are designed to connect to computer networks — the so-called “Internet of things.”

But as researchers find ways to compromise the machines, regulators, lawmakers and military leaders are scrambling to safeguard them from hacking. Dunlap’s company specializes in providing “offensive cyber capabilities.”

Billions of devices can connect to the Internet, affording cyberattackers a wide range of opportunity, said Chris Inglis, a former deputy director of the National Security Agency.

Now a teacher at the Naval Academy, Inglis said the military is preparing the next generation of leaders to be ready. All midshipmen are required to take cybersecurity classes, and some have explored how to defend against hacking of machines.

“We believe that everyone, no matter what they do, is going to have a dependence on network systems,” he said.

The headline-grabbing hacks of 2014 and 2015 — the raids on Sony Pictures Entertainment, the federal government’s personnel office and several big retailers — involved attackers cracking into databases. While such assaults are serious problems for the targets, the fallout for individual victims is mostly handled by their employers, financial firms or credit-monitoring agencies.

But attacks on connected devices could bring the issue of cybersecurity into America’s homes and cars.

In a dramatic display this year, two hackers were able to commandeer a Jeep, wirelessly taking control of the steering, transmission and brakes. That hack into Chrysler’s Uconnect dashboard system prompted the company to recall 1.4 million vehicles, the first recall to deal with a computer security problem.

Other researchers have shown that some popular baby monitors contain security flaws that could allow hackers access to the video stream.

“A compromise of a connected device is much more visceral to the average consumer because it’s in some sense tangible,” said Ted Harrington, a partner at the Baltimore consulting firm Independent Security Evaluators. “If someone is compromising the video stream of their baby monitor, that feels much more catastrophic.”

In some cases, the weaknesses have prompted lawmakers to propose legislation. A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee held a hearing this month on a proposed car safety bill that would impose hefty penalties against anyone who hacks into a vehicle’s systems.

Regulators also have issued security guidance to companies that make Internet-connected devices.

“Companies should test products before they launch them, as opposed to launching the products first and seeing about problems later,” Federal Trade Commission official Maneesha Mithal told lawmakers at the hearing.

“It’s something we call ‘security by design.'”

While cyberattacks on intelligence and defense agencies might not be revealed to the public, Pentagon officials acknowledge they are exploring the implications of hacking into machines and controlling them.

The military is in the midst of evaluating its weapons systems — some of them developed before anyone contemplated the risks of connecting to the Internet — while also exploring new kinds of attacks it can launch.

Earlier this year, tests conducted by the Defense Department identified cybersecurity vulnerabilities in Apache helicopters, drones, Army radios and Navy ships.

Officials have declined to describe how they would undertake cyberattacks on machines.

“It is a big problem,” Deputy Defense Secretary Robert O. Work told a congressional panel last month. “Many of the weapons systems that we have now were not built to withstand a concerted cyber threat.”

In the Tactical Network Solutions demo, Dunlap and his team analyzed the code that controls the camera and wrote their own code to launch an attack to retrieve the password. Dunlap, managing partner at the company, estimated it took his team about five hours.

He said a search on a website that seeks out devices connected to the Internet revealed thousands of cameras around the globe that likely had similar vulnerabilities.

The security camera that Dunlap attacked was an older model made by TRENDnet. The company said the camera has been discontinued and that it has updated code for existing cameras to improve security.

“Our security team tests all our products for possible vulnerabilities before they reach the market,” Sonny Su, the company’s technical director, said in a statement. “We use TRENDnet products in our own homes, so we especially understand the importance of providing secure products to our customers.”

Harrington and his colleagues have long been interested in security weaknesses in devices connected to the Internet. Frustrated by what they saw as a lack of attention to the problem, they gathered people from across the country this summer at Defcon, one of the nation’s top hacker conventions, to demonstrate how dire things had become.

In all, the hackers identified 66 security vulnerabilities at the four-day event. The weaknesses were an especially potent kind known as zero-days, so called because the devices’ manufacturers are unaware of the problem and therefore have no time to devise a fix. Security cameras, drones, door locks and a home automation system were found to have vulnerabilities.

Harrington’s conclusion: “Security issues in connected devices are systemic.”

The researchers’ findings show what’s possible, said Richard Bejtlich, a Washington-based analyst at security firm FireEye. Consumers, however, don’t have much reason to worry. He doesn’t foresee an attack on millions of devices in people’s homes, he said, because most hackers are after bigger-impact targets.

The more likely targets are computers that control factory machinery and water or electric plants, he said.

“There’s has been intense interest by the U.S. military in industrial control systems of foreign countries for at least 10 years,” said Bejtlich, a former Air Force intelligence officer.

Attacks on computers that control enemy aircraft, defenses or other systems offer the military opportunities. A small team at West Point is trying to show Army commanders what can be achieved with just a few hundred dollars and a weekend of tinkering.


Their showpiece? A cyber rifle.

Capt. Brent Chapman said the idea is to show soldiers at all levels the potential of cyber weapons. His team chose a rifle as the starting point because every soldier is familiar with it.

“You don’t need a secret computer in a secret room somewhere to do these things,” he said.

The rifle has four key components: a long antenna, a radio, a small computer called a Raspberry Pi, and the frame itself. The parts cost about $150, and the rifle capable of hacking was assembled in about 10 hours.

At the Association of the U.S. Army convention in Washington this month, Chapman and his colleagues showed how the rifle could be used to knock down a small drone flying in front of them in the convention hall.


The drone, made by a company called Parrot, has a widely known flaw that allows others to gain control of its systems. With a tap on the Raspberry Pi’s touchscreen, the rifle executes a code that turns the drone’s power off, sending it tumbling to the ground. Chapman called the attack almost “cheesy” because it’s so simple.

Parrot did not respond to a request for comment about the security weakness.

Chapman used similar technology in the hills around West Point and was able to connect to a wireless network he set up almost a mile away — farther than he could see. In another demonstration, Chapman has used the rifle to open a computer-controlled door on a model of a bunker. In the future, he imagines infantry units calling up teams that can develop cyberattacks.

“It’s less about the technology, and much more about enabling our own forces to create on-the-fly solutions by allowing them room to experiment,” Chapman said



Work: ‘The Age of Everything Is the Era of Grand Strategy’

November 2, 2015

By Bradley Peniston


“The era of everything is the era of grand strategy,” Work said, suggesting that the United States must carefully marshal and deploy its great yet limited resources. “We will look back on 2001 to 2015 and say, ‘Wow, what a change.'”

At the turn of the century, the deputy secretary said, “We worried about three canonical contingencies: resurgence of Iraq, Chinese invasion of Taiwan, and a North Korean invasion of the south.” Today, the Defense Department is concerned about Iran, China, Russia, and “a global counterterrorism campaign increasingly defined by the fight against ISIS….On top of that, we worry about global pandemics, as witnessed last year, when the president ordered the military to be the leading edge on the fight against ebola” and about the destabilizing effects of climate change, Work said. “So we went from three contingencies to four-plus-one.”

In the meantime, “the capabilities and capacities of our allies began to decline” while those of the nation’s potential adversaries began to rise, he said.

Today, “almost all our combat power” is in the United States itself, and “we think about swinging forces quickly from theater to theater.” This means that “if an adversary wants to attack, they will be able to pick the time and place, and have an initial advantage in forces.” Moreover, their technology has caught up with the U.S. in important areas; for example, they can throw guided munitions as far and in as many numbers as the U.S. military can.

“The third thing that’s different,” Work said: “You now have to assume that you’re going to be under intense cyber attack even before you move….The distinction between home and away games is beginning to blur” because as we move our forces, our adversaries will reach out to try to slow our approach.”

That means, among other things, improving the U.S. cyber strategy. The Defense Department efforts are proceeding along three lines: improving DOD networks (for example, reducing the thousand-plus exposed firewalls to fewer than 200); hardening national infrastructure against network attack; and developing offensive cyber capabilities that can deter attack.

Work welcomed the recently announced budget deal between Congress and the White House, saying the previous uncertainty had prevented DoD from performing planning that is sustainable. “But we’re not done yet. This is the seventh continuing resolution,” he said, which means the Pentagon must work with a nine-month fiscal year that is “totally unsatisfactory. It cannot continue.”

Defense planners addressing fiscal 2016 felt they had enough funding “as a reasonable target to hit,” Work said, but for fiscal 2017 there is a $14 billion “delta” that they must address in preparing next February’s budget.

To achieve the needed balance between the national security mission and available resources, Work said, he hoped there would be a “serious debate in the 2017 presidential election about ends and means.”




Oct 29 2015


The Real Story Behind the Undersea Cable Caper

by Stephen Bryen


When the latest Russian ocean surveillance ship, the Yantar (Amber) sailed off the coast of Florida, US Navy senior officials sounded an alarm. The Russian ship, they said, carried deep surveillance underwater vehicles which could be used to cut the fiber optic cables that connected the United States to the rest of the world. Speaking strictly on background they opined that the Russians were mapping the cables’ locations, either so they could cut them and knock out US communications in future, or they could be planning to attach listening devices to the cables, something the US and UK have been doing for years.

The Navy alarm came about because American sensors located near the cables had detected the Russian ship’s activity.

There is no evidence that any deep submersible vehicle was deployed, but among the published stories was news that the surveillance ship activity meshed with significantly increased Russian submarine activity. Presumably the Russian submarines were picked up by these buried sensors.

This is not the first alarm bell on Russian underwater activity growing, perhaps approximating Cold War levels of activity. For example, the Norwegians recently complained about the same thing. Where did the Norwegians get the ability to detect Russian underwater activity? Either from information shared by the US and based on similar sensors off the Norwegian coast, or perhaps from sensors put in the water by the Norwegians themselves.

But the real story is not the underwater cables. There is no real incentive for the Russians to cut the cables because these cables can supply Russia with plenty of valuable intelligence so long as they are functioning. And the US military has many alternatives to underwater cables for vital strategic communications, including satellites, frequency hopping secure radios, microwave transmissions, as well as other classified means (which could include cables but not where the Russians were looking).

The actual Russian interest is the underwater sensors. Indeed, the very fact that Navy officials actually referenced the presence of the sensors is unusual.

Underwater sensors are a means of tracking submarines. Every submarine has an acoustic signature which is made up of the cavitation sound of the submarine’s propellers, the noise created by machinery operating in the vessel, and the sound of the submarine actually cutting through sea water. The underwater sensors can pick up this noise if they are properly located, and over time can distinguish one submarine from another.

One significant Russian victory in the 1980’s was to obtain advanced multi-axis profiling machines from Japan capable of manufacturing “silent” propellers which lowered the acoustic signature of Russian subs dramatically. It became much more difficult for US subs to actively track the Russians. When a Russian submarine knows it has been detected and under active tracking, it can drop its speed, deploy acoustic decoys, and escape.

But underwater acoustic sensors are passive. They sit quietly and if they pick up a track they transfer that information over an underwater cable to a command center. If the Russians are able to identify the location of such sensors, they could either shut them down or put noise generators in the water that would make it hard for them to function.

In order to launch any attack on underwater sensors, you need a means to get to them. The best way is an underwater vehicle, preferably one that has sophisticated manipulator arms that can disable the sensors in situ.

In the 1980’s the Soviet Union’s Academy of Sciences made a deal with the Finnish firm Rauma-Repola’s Oceanics subsidiary for a deep sea submersible vehicle. The Shirshov Institute of Oceanology teamed with Oceanics to build the Mir Deep Submergence vehicle. The vessel can reach depths of 6,000 meters, giving the Mir a capability shared by the US submersibles Alvin, Sea Cliff and Deepstar 20000, Japan’s Shinkai and France’s Nautile. The Mir is built from a unique maraging steel alloy that contains nickel, chrome, and titanium. A key technology is syntactic foam, a special composite material vital to the underwater vehicle. The US company 3-M refused to sell any foam to Finland, but a Finish company (Exel Oyj) was able to develop a local version of the highly specialized foam. It is critical to the buoyancy of the submersible.

The depth of 6,000 meters means that the submersible could function over 98 percent of the ocean floor meaning that all the underwater sensors, if they could be located, would be exposed to Russian surveillance ships.

A key technology that appears on the Mir and Rus submersible are sophisticated underwater manipulator arms. Without them, it would be far more difficult to destroy US Navy listening devices. Manipulator arms can be used to pick items up from the ocean floor, cut cables, disable underwater mines, and for other commercial and military tasks.

The Yantar carries two submersible vehicles. Each of them is equipped with a variety of sensors, cameras, and lighting and each carries a three man crew. Thus, Russia’s latest operation off the coast of Florida is not any accident: it has a strategic purpose. The transfer of vital technology has helped enable Russia’s revolution in military affairs and is once again a threat to the United States and America’s allies.



Reuters:- Google aims to begin drone package deliveries in 2017



Internet giant Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O), the new holding company for Google, expects to begin delivering packages to consumers via drones sometime in 2017, the executive in charge of its drone effort said on Monday.

David Vos, the leader for Alphabet’s Project Wing, said his company is in talks with the Federal Aviation Administration and other stakeholders about setting up an air traffic control system for drones that would use cellular and Internet technology to coordinate unmanned aerial vehicle flights at altitudes under 500 feet (152 meters).

“Our goal is to have commercial business up and running in 2017,” he told an audience at an air traffic control convention near Washington.

Alphabet and Inc (AMZN.O) are among a growing number of companies that intend to make package delivery by drone a reality. But drone deliveries are not expected to take flight until after the FAA publishes final rules for commercial drone operations, which are expected early next year.

Two years after initial research began, Project Wing was announced in August 2014 with a YouTube video showing a field test of its most viable prototype in Australia.

The prototype flown in Australia, 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide and 0.8 meters (2.6 feet) tall, shares the same four-propeller quad copter design as popular consumer drones, but the company said consumers can expect to see new vehicle types and shapes as the project unfolds.

Inside the United States, Project Wing has conducted testing with NASA.

Vos, who is co-chair of an FAA task force charged with coming up with a drone registry, said a system for identifying drone operators and keeping UAV away from other aircraft could be set up within 12 months.

“We’re pretty much on a campaign here, working with the FAA, working with the small UAV community and the aviation community at large, to move things along,” he said.

Vos said a drone registry, which the Obama administration hopes to set in place by Dec. 20, would be a first step toward a system that could use wireless telecommunications and Internet technology including cellphone applications to identify drones and keep UAV clear of other aircraft and controlled airspace.

He said Google would like to see low altitude “Class G” airspace carved out for drones, saying it would keep UAV away from most manned aircraft aside from low-flying helicopters, while enabling drones to fly over highly populated areas.




Budget Deal Trims Bomber, Destroyer, Missile and Drone Programs

By Brendan McGarry | Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 8:06 pm


U.S. lawmakers wasted little time in identifying which programs to trim as part of a bipartisan budget deal that required cutting $5 billion from the 2016 defense budget.

Leaders of congressional defense committees — including Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry, R-Texas who heads the counterpart panel int he House, on Tuesday released a list of 98 programs that were targeted for $4.99 billion in reductions, from the controversial effort to train and equip moderate Syrian forces to the Navy Fleet Band’s national tours.

The single biggest area of savings — more than $1 billion — came from adjusted estimates for fuel costs, which are lower than expected. Other top areas identified for reductions include line items for the Pentagon headquarters, Army civilian workforce, Army readiness and counter-terrorism partnership fund, according to a ranking compiled by Military​.com.

On the modernization front, the biggest acquisition programs in the list include the Air Force’s new Long Range Strike Bomber, or LRS-B, recently won by Northrop Grumman Corp. (with $230 million in reductions); the Navy’s DDG-51 destroyer effort led by General Dynamics Corp. and Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc. ($150 million); the Army’s PAC-3 missile segment enhancement developed by Lockheed Martin Corp. ($100 million); the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper made by General Atomics ($80 million); and the Missile Defense Agency’s Terminal High Altitude Area Defense built by Lockheed ($50 million).

The reduction to the new program to develop a fleet of next-generation bombers was because the Air Force delayed awarding a contract by several months from the spring to the fall, so the additional money wasn’t needed. It wasn’t immediately clear why the other efforts were targeted.

The adjustments are included in an updated version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 2016, which has been introduced in the House.

The full list of the programs, sorted by rank of biggest reduction, is below:



Fuel rate adjustments –1,082,000

FY16 Share of Planned DOD Headquarters Streamling/Attrition –453,000

Overestimation Of Army Civilian Full Time Equivalent Targets –262,500

Army Readiness increase –250,000

Counterterrorism Partnership Fund –250,000

Long Range Strike Bomber change to align with contract award delay –230,000

ANG Readiness increase –192,600

Adds National Guard & Reserve Equipment Account adjustment to House increase (remains $250M above PB) –170,000

Adds Unexecutable increase in Air Force End Strength –150,200

DDG51 –150,000

Syria Train & Equip program change –125,000

Afghan Security Forces Fund fuel savings –110,000

Classified Program Adjustment –102,600

Technology Offset Initiative (New Program) –100,000

PAC3 Missile Segment Enhancement –100,000

Coalition Support Funds –100,000

Unjustified program growth for Defense Information System Network (DISN) activities –90,800

MQ9 Quantity increase –80,000

Airlift Readiness Account (from OMAF Mobility Operations) –77,000

Unexecutable Navy Civilian Full Time Equivalent Growth for management functions –66,281

Reduce THAAD purchase –50,000

Joint Enabling Capabilities Command efficiency –41,000

Reduce SM3 1B purchase –30,000

Ship Outfitting –28,907

Basic research program increase Navy –27,500

Counterfire Radars –25,000

Basic research program increase Air Force –22,500

Long Range Standoff Weapon contract delay –20,500

Basic research program increase Army –20,000

Common Avionics Changes –20,000

Excess Air Force carryover Spares and Repair Parts –20,000

Restructure AF Integrated Personnel and Pay System –19,000

HARM Improvement –18,544

Logistics Operations –17,000

CARB Combating Antibiot Resistant Bacteria –16,540

Increases to NDAA Reductions Air Force unjustified contract increase –16,100

Logistics Support Activities –16,000

C5 Airlift Squadrons (IF) Communications Equipment/Radar Mods –15,000

Mentor Protégé Program –15,000

Common Ground Equipment –15,000

Unexecutable USAF Full Time Equivalent Increase in Combat Enhancement Forces –14,000

Joint Capability Technology Demostration –13,000

Delayed deployment of Defense Enterprise Accounting and Management System –12,700

DCMA Information Technology Development –12,500

Small Diameter Bomb (SDB) contract delay –12,358

Surface Combatant Combat System Engineering –12,300

Logistics Information Technology –12,176

Automated Data Processing Equip –12,000


JIEDDO Attack The Network –10,536

STARBASE –10,000

Family Of Beyond LineOfSight Terminals –10,000

Distributed Common Ground SystemArmy –10,000

F–18 Modifications –10,000

Joint AirSurface Standoff Missile unit cost efficiencies –10,000

Reduce AF Acquisition Training duplication of effort –10,000

Trident II MODS program growth –10,000

Tactical Wheeled Vehicle Modifications –10,000

Maneuver Control System –10,000

Excess Navy carryover Spares and Repair Parts –10,000

F15 Modiciations –10,000

HC130J unit cost growth –9,500

Defense University Research Instrumentation Program increase –9,000

Increase in Public Affairs at Local Installations –8,500

USMC Ground Combat/Supporting Arms project delay –8,100

Joint AirtoGround Missile (JAGM) contract delays –8,088

Advanced Hawkeye Development –8,000

Next Gen Jammer Development contract delay –8,000

Common Computer Resources –7,000

MC130J program efficiencies –6,700

Joint Electronic Advanced Technology –6,500

Advanced EHF program growth –6,000

Fleet satellite comm followon: excess storage costs –5,700

DLA Uniform Research new start –5,360

Quick Reaction Special Projects –5,000

Weather System Follow On –5,000

Transportable Tactical Command Communications –5,000

Navy Fleet Band National Tours –5,000

H–1 Upgrades –5,000

Excess carryover Spacelift Range System Space –5,000

Unexecutable USAF Full Time Equivalent Increase in Security Programs –4,900

E4 Modification program delay –4,000

Increase in Space and Missile Center (SMC) Civilian Workforce –3,578

Unexecutable USAF Full Time Equivalent Increase in Tactical Intel and Other Special Activities –3,200

Advanced Civil Schooling Civilian Graduate School –3,000

National Guard State Partnership Program –2,700

Joint Warfighting Program –2,126

Unexecutable USAF Full Time Equivalent Increase in Primary Combat Forces –2,100

Global Positioning (Space) program growth –2,000

Air Force Satellite Control Network system engineering –2,000

AMRAAM unit cost variance –1,700

Global Combat Support System AF Family of Systems –1,500

Civil Air Patrol –1,150

Air Force Civilian Graduate Education Program –930

MidTier Networking Vehicular Radio (MNVR) –894

Eliminate National Guard Heritage Paintings initiative –510

Naval Sea Cadet Corps –500

C130 Modifications –51

TOTAL –4,991,429



House plans a new defense authorization bill this week

By Leo Shane III 2:23 p.m. EST November 3, 2015


House lawmakers are preparing to vote this week on a new draft of the annual defense authorization bill, which would trim spending totals by about $5 billion but leave intact an overhaul of the military retirement system and the renewal of a host of specialty pays.

On Tuesday, House Republican leaders announced they will drop plans for a veto override vote on their earlier authorization bill, passed last month before the administration and Congress settled on a new overarching two-year budget deal.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., told reporters that he expects the new authorization bill to be voted on this week.

“There is a strong bill that’s going to be coming forward that not only provides troops with pay raises, provides our troops with the tools and resources that they need and deserve, but also helps our allies, helps give resources to the Ukrainians, who want to fight against Russian aggression, helps our Middle East allies, who want to fight ISIS,” he said.

House Armed Services Committee staffers are still working to finalize the new measure, which will match the $607 billion spending cap outlined in the new two-year budget deal.

That’s well above the original cap mandated under the 2011 Budget Control Act, but still $5 billion below what the Pentagon and Congress had hoped to spend this year.

To close that gap, negotiators made a $1 billion adjustment to fuel cost accounts for fiscal 2016, anticipating lower-than-projected oil prices. About another $450 million will come from already scheduled cuts to Defense Department headquarters staffs, and $250 million more from reductions in the national counterterrorism partnership fund.

Several programs will also see funding trims. The Air Force long-range bomber program will see a $230 million reduction from the original fiscal 2016 authorization measure and the Navy’s DDG-51 Destroyer program will get a $150 million cut.

Army and National Guard readiness accounts will see almost another $450 million in reductions.

But reform proposals included in the original authorization bill will not be changed. They include sweeping acquisition reforms proposed by lawmakers and the retirement overhaul, which would dump the traditional all-or-nothing 20-year system for a blended plan featuring 401(k)-style investments and a reduced pension.

The authorization bill also includes a host of pay and bonus renewals, moves that defense advocates lamented would have been jeopardized if the president’s veto became the final word on the bill.

President Obama had praised much of the original authorization measure but vetoed it over ongoing budget fights with Hill Republicans. The legislation has been passed into law for 53 consecutive years, a rare bipartisan accomplishment for the often divided legislative branch.

No timeline has been set for Senate consideration, though Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., has said he expects quick passage of the measure.



The US Still Doesn’t Know Who’s In Charge if Massive Cyber Attack Strikes Nation

November 3, 2015 By Patrick Tucker

Cyber physical attacks on infrastructure may be an unlikely sneak attack, but if it happens, the chain of command is far from clear.


The threat of a massive cyber attack on civilian infrastructure, leading to loss of life and perhaps billions in damages, has kept lawmakers on edge since before former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of it back in 2012 (or the fourth Die Hard movie in 2007). Many experts believe that a sneak attack would be highly unlikely. But if one were to occur today, DHS and the Defense Department wouldn’t exactly know who is in charge.

The Department of Homeland Security has the lead in responding to most cyber attacks. But the Department of Defense Cyber Strategy, published in April, carves out a clear role for the military and Cyber Command in responding to any sort of cyber attack of “significant consequence.”

Specifically, the strategy tasks the 13 different National Mission Force teams, cyber teams specifically set up to defend the the United States and its interests from attacks of significant consequence, with carrying out exercises with other agencies and setting up emergency procedures. It’s the third strategic goal in the strategy. It’s also “probably the one that’s the least developed at this – at this point,” Lt. Gen. James K. McLaughlin, the deputy commander of U.S. Cyber Command, said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event last month.

He went on to describe the role that the military would play in such an event as “building the quick reaction forces and the capacity to defend the broader United States against an attack.” It’s something that the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI and other agency partners all train for together in events like the Cyber Guard exercises, the most recent of which took place in July. The Defense Department, DHS and others worked through a series of scenarios related to a major attack on infrastructure.

McLaughlin described it as helpful in clarifying the difficult legal and policy issues that rear up when U.S. troops are brought in to perform some military operation on U.S. soil. But that doesn’t mean that all the kinks were ironed out.

“I think we feel comfortable that if one of those events happened today you’d see the right discussion about the sort of the political leadership, you know, has this reached that threshold? To be honest, it will never be black and white, have a perfect recipe … we have a structure within the government to have that discussion, and the ability for a request to come forward where U.S. Cyber Command forces would go.”

A structure to have a discussion is a bit different than a clear sense of who is in charge of what when the power goes out.

Army Brig. Gen. Karen H. Gibson, deputy commanding general of Joint Force Headquarters-Cyber at United States Army Cyber Command, essentially reiterated that point when Defense One caught up with her at the AUSA conference last month. When asked if there existed a specific doctrine that spelled out the leadership roles for the Defense Department and for DHS in event of an attack of significant consequence, she said “There are a number of exercises to work through those very issues and how do we leverage the National Guard to help? It is a high priority and they are working it but I don’t think there’s a ‘Hey, here’s the solution,’ yet. It’s just a high priority.”

One of the various legal considerations muddying the prospect of a clear strategy could be laws related to posse comitatus, which forbid anyone to use “any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws,” except “under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress.”

This kind of attack is a perennial boogeyman, but the actual likelihood of a digital sneak attack that rises to the level of “significant consequence” is harder to pin down. In his novel Ghost Fleet, a fictional account of World War II, strategist Peter Singer makes a convincing argument that a cyber-physical attack is most likely to occur as part of hostilities already underway, not as a first strike.

Keith Alexander, retired Cyber Command commander, struck a more Panetta-ish tone in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee Tuesday and painted an attack as imminent.

“We have to expand our outlook on what cyber can do to our country…Practically speaking, an adversary is going to go after our civilian infrastructure first,’ he said. “When you talk about total war, taking the will of the people out to fight, we’re seeing some of the things going on today. Take down the power grid and financial sector and we are isolated… It’s a new way of thinking about warfare where our nation is at risk. In the past we could easily separate out the military to overseas… in this area you can’t do that because the first thing they’re going to go after is our civilian infrastructure…And it’s going to escalate orders of magnitude faster than anything we’ve ever seen.”

However unlikely, were such an attack to occur today, the question of who is in charge remains open.


Commentary: Science and Technology, a Lesson in Strategic Thinking

By Raymond DuBois 8:32 p.m. EST November 3, 2015


Our nation faces a looming crisis — a dearth of intellectual capacity to understand or even anticipate the strategically relevant security implications of the ongoing science and technology (S&T) revolution.

Therefore, we must improve our structures and processes to recruit and, then, develop tomorrow’s leaders of the joint force and the national security team. We then need to apply those insights to the art and science of preparing for and fighting war, and maintaining and enforcing the peace.

While increasing the depth and breadth of S&T offerings at the senior professional military-education institutions (the professional military education’s war colleges) and their links to policy and strategy is important, the problem and its challenges are more comprehensive. We need to look at an integrated package of education and human-resource policies and approaches across a set of disciplines perhaps more appropriately focused on “strategic innovation.”

Moreover, at all levels of military education, we need to develop an ever-unanimous “scientific competency,” with an array of integrated and reinforcing studies throughout the life of a student, which complement and build on each other.

The specific national requirement is to recruit, develop and retain a cadre as part of the national security team who can think strategically about potentially “game-changing” disruptive technologies, and to employ that force as part of national strategy. These technologies are truly transformational, exponential force multipliers that would change the very way we think about war and peace. Possible examples include hypervelocity weapons, like the railgun, laser weapons and cognitive computing.

All will need some knowledge of this potential, and a much smaller subset will need to know this world intimately. There is another important aspect of this educational effort: teaching future leaders to be able to focus on what S&T developments would best support the national security strategy. It is a two-way street: Decision-makers need to be able to recognize emerging technologies that can alter strategies, while simultaneously advancing technologies that enable strategies.

If, as some defense analysts have said, our military technology is inferior to that of other major powers in areas such as air and missile defense, long-range conventional strike, electronic warfare, cyber and indirect fires on land, then it behooves us to invest in the brain power to make smart, timely decisions in S&T.

Are we losing our advantage in military technology because of diminished resources, because we make uninformed decisions about what technologies to invest in, or both?

Former US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel posited in 2014 that “our military could arrive in a future combat theater facing an arsenal of advanced, disruptive technologies that thwart our technological advantages, limit our freedom of maneuver, and put American lives at risk.”

Through his Defense Innovation Initiative, he sought to deny that possibility — and to advance or, at a minimum, sustain our technological superiority. This is doubly difficult in a world in which the US government may have lost its advantages to the private sector or foreign sources.

Known to some as the “third offset,” this initiative must include an aggressive effort to identify early and then mature individuals within the national security team who can think strategically, understand the intersections between and among technologies and policies, anticipate changes over the horizon, develop associated operating concepts for the future capabilities, and build and control the narrative that explains and garners support for this emerging reality.

Without such a national commitment to invest in our future by overhauling our education and human-resource systems, we will inevitably face the prospect of a nation unprepared for the next set of conflicts. Even worse, this new way of war may be “won” so quickly that we will not have the luxury of a mobilization phase. We must take steps now to address these shortfalls.

DuBois is a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of a forthcoming CSIS report, “Science, Technology, and the US National Security Strategy: The Role of the War Colleges.”



FAA Administrator Michael Huerta Opens UAS Registration Meeting

by Press


Good morning, everyone. Thank you for taking the time to be here.

Unmanned aircraft use has increased dramatically in recent years. With this surge in popularity has come growing concerns about their safe operation in our nation’s airspace.

In recent months, we’ve seen an increase in reports of UAS coming too close to manned aircraft and airports. Some have interfered with wildfire fighting in California, and one crashed into a stadium during a U.S. Open tennis match.

These incidents make it clear: we must work harder to ensure a strong culture of safety and responsibility among unmanned aircraft enthusiasts.

There’s no single solution for how we do this. The integration of unmanned aircraft is multi-faceted, and our approach must be as nimble as the technology itself.

One tool we’re going to use is registration – and that’s why we’re here today.

Unmanned aircraft have countless potential uses – from package delivery to tasks that are dangerous for people or manned aircraft to perform. No one wants to see this promising technology overshadowed by an incident or accident that could easily be avoided with proper training and awareness of the safety principles that are now second nature in manned aviation.

We invited you to assist us on this task force because each of you brings extensive knowledge about unmanned aircraft, technology, public policy and the aviation industry. You represent a wide range of viewpoints. And you are all united by a common goal: the safe integration of unmanned aircraft.

We’re hopeful this task force can provide the FAA guidance on some important questions as to how we determine the best way to register aircraft under 55 pounds:

•How do we make registration as easy as possible for consumers while providing accountability?

•What products should we exclude from registration based on weight, speed, altitude and flying time?

•What information should we collect during the registration process, and what should we do with the data?

•Should every unmanned aircraft sold have its own serial number, or how to tie particular aircraft to a particular user?

•Should the process include a formal education component before an aircraft can be registered?

•Should registration be retroactive and apply to unmanned aircraft that are now in the system?

•Should there be an age requirement for registration?


Ultimately, we want to make registration as easy as possible for consumers, to relieve them of the complexity associated with registering larger, manned aircraft.

Your recommendations will be invaluable as the FAA moves quickly to stand up this new system.

We’re working on a tight timetable – Secretary Foxx set a deadline of November 20th for the task force to complete its recommendations. This reflects the urgency of the task at hand.

The holidays are weeks away, and unmanned aircraft are going to be a popular gift item. By some estimates, 700,000 new aircraft could be in the homes of consumers by the end of the year. This means unmanned aircraft could soon far outnumber manned aircraft operating in our nation’s airspace.

Many of these new aircraft are bringing new users to aviation – most with little or no experience with aviation regulations.

Registration will give us an opportunity to educate new operators about airspace rules so they can use their unmanned aircraft safely. It will also help us more easily identify and take enforcement action against people who intentionally violate the rules or operate unsafely. A perfect example of this occurred last week, when a drone carrying mobile phones, drugs and hacksaw blades crashed into a prison yard in Oklahoma. Perhaps registration would have helped authorities quickly identify the owner.

We realize that most people want to use their aircraft safely for enjoyment. Registration benefits users and the government alike because it encourages education while providing a mechanism for helping the FAA fulfill its mission of keeping the nation’s skies safe.

I recently announced the FAA’s new Compliance Philosophy, which uses education and training to ensure we have safe operators.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean we’re going to go easy on enforcement.

But in cases where we find simple mistakes or a lack of understanding, we’ll use tools like training and education to ensure compliance with the regulation and compliance with the standard.

This starts with giving operators the tools and knowledge they need to fly safely. Toward this end, we released the beta version of a new smartphone application called “B4UFLY,” which alerts UAS operators to restrictions or requirements in effect at their current or planned flight location.

The FAA and its government and industry partners are also conducting outreach through the Know Before You Fly and No Drone Zone campaigns, most notably during the recent visit by the pope.

But for those who don’t follow the rules, we need to continue our enforcement efforts.

Last month, the FAA proposed a $1.9 million civil penalty against a company that we allege knowingly conducted dozens of unauthorized flights over Chicago and New York. This sends a clear message to others who might pose a safety risk: Operate within the law or we will take action.

As registration, education and enforcement focus on enhancing safety around recreational use, we’re also working to put a commercial regulatory framework in place.


Earlier this year, we proposed a rule that would routinely allow small unmanned aircraft operations we know to be safe, and we plan to finalize it by late spring.

Meanwhile, we’re approving requests for commercial operations on a case-by-by-case basis. To date, we’ve approved more than 2,200 authorizations that allow unmanned aircraft to be used for a wide variety of different purposes.

Under our Pathfinder program, we’re working with industry to determine how to safely expand unmanned aircraft operations beyond the parameters of our proposed rule. BNSF Railway recently used an unmanned aircraft to inspect miles of its tracks in New Mexico, demonstrating beyond visual-line of sight capabilities. The flight marked the first of what we hope will be many successful Pathfinder tests and flights.

Integrating unmanned aircraft into our nation’s airspace is a big job, and it’s one the FAA is determined to get right. We know that we need to work closely with our partners in government and the private sector for this to succeed. This task force is a sign of our commitment to that partnership and we thank you for your work.

Please think big, and think outside the box. Take the interests of all stakeholders, of everyone who will be affected by registration, into consideration, and you need to factor that into your conversations and deliberations. And please – do not worry about achieving perfection. Your ideas will enable us to lay the groundwork for registration, but by no means is it the last word on registration.

You have a lot to accomplish in the next three days. I have no doubt this group will be able to meet the challenge, and I look forward to your recommendations. Given the urgency of this issue, the DOT and the FAA will move quickly to consider your suggestions as we create a registration system that works for the FAA, consumers, and the safety of our nation’s airspace.

Thank you again for dedicating the time to this important undertaking.



Air Force eyes use of commercial aircraft

Nov 5, 2015, 7:33am EST

Joe Cogliano

Senior Reporter

Dayton Business Journal


The U.S. Air Force may begin buying commercial aircraft and adapting them for military use.

Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, began market research on the subject last week.

A request for information posted at says the plan, if approved by the Department of Defense, calls for delivery of 10 commercial aircraft at a rate of one per year starting in fiscal year 2018. Those aircraft would be transformed by an aircraft mission integrator.

That likely means the addition of systems like ISR — which stands for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance — or stations to control unmanned aircraft. The center will be hosting an industry day later this month at Langley Air Force Base.

Officials at Wright-Patt said they are prohibited from mentioning any Air Force mission, or aircraft, that could be associated with the plan.

“(This) is absolutely not a solicitation and merely represents market research. The information received could be used on several programs or none at all,” the base said in a statement.

The timing of this announcement is interesting, as it came about the same time the Air Force chose Northrop Grumman Corp. to build the U.S. military’s next Long-Range Strike Bomber. That program is expected to top $80 billion.

Perhaps buying commercial plans off-the-shelf and equipping them for special uses will become a new contracting strategy to save money.

Specifications of the commercial aircraft sought by the Air Force include:

▪Minimum available cabin volume: 664 cubic feet

▪Weight: Capacity to carry two aircrew (pilot and co-pilot), a minimum of five additional mission crew members, PME and mission workstations totaling 13,000 pounds

▪Altitude: The aircraft must be capable of performing on-station loiter for a minimum of 3.5 hours at a minimum of 41,000 feet



House Votes To Approve 2016 Defense Policy Bill

By Joe Gould 12:46 p.m. EST November 5, 2015



WASHINGTON — The US House voted overwhelmingly Thursday to approve the 2016 defense policy bill that complies with the terms of the overarching budget deal between the president and congressional leadership, teeing up a vote in the Senate next week.

This is the second time around for this 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, whose provisions authorize spending on a wide range of acquisition programs across the services, overhaul the military retirement system and reauthorize a host of military pays and benefits. The bill also includes significant provisions aimed at reforming acquisitions.

Thursday’s House vote tallied 370-58 – netting significantly more Democrats than the last time. Many Democrats voted against the previous version, and President Obama vetoed it because it inflated Pentagon funding via the overseas contingency operations (OCO) wartime account to skirt budget caps but refused to include an equal increase domestic spending.

House Armed Services Chairman Rep. William “Mac” Thornberry and Republicans speaking in support of the measure invoked the upcoming Veteran’s Day holiday and called on colleagues of both parties to send a signal of support to US service members around the globe, as well as allies and adversaries. Many of the Republicans who spoke in favor of the bill on the floor were veterans.

“The rest of the world also needs to see that sort of support because there are an increasing number of questions about whether the United States is in retreat, about whether we are willing to continue to engage in world leadership,” Thornberry said. “One of the ways we can demonstrate to adversaries, to friends, to neutrals that we are committed to ourselves and our allies is pass this bill for the 54th straight year.”

The new bill preserves the last version’s policy provisions but was reduced by $5 billion to $607 billion to comply with the budget deal negotiated between congressional leaders and the president. The larger budget pact would raise caps on defense spending by about $25 billion for each of the next two fiscal years, to $548 billion in fiscal 2016 and $551 billion in fiscal 2017.

Crucially for Democrats — who sought a budget deal with Republicans that increases non-defense and defense spending equally — non-defense spending caps would be upped by $25 billion in fiscal 2016 and $15 billion in 2016, and another nearly $15 billion would be added in non-military costs to the temporary war-funding accounts each of the next two years.

HASC’s ranking member, Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said before voting for the bill that the rejection of the earlier version — which did not address budget caps — was actually supportive of defense. Smith said the maneuvering was meant to deliver a bill that makes for less turbulence for the Defense Department.

“Until we finally get rid of the budget caps and get a more predictable at least five if not 10 years, national security will be at risk,” Smith said. “Now its great that we’ve got two years, it’s great that we’ve got this one bill, but as many in the Department of Defense have mentioned … the last five years have been terrible for defense – unpredictability, threatened shutdowns, actual shutdowns, budget caps.”

House Republican leaders had announced Tuesday they would drop plans for a veto override vote.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., has said he expects quick passage of the measure in the Senate.


The Secret Pentagon Push for Lethal Cyber Weapons

November 5, 2015 By Aliya Sternstein Nextgov

With nearly $500 million allotted, military contractors are competing for funds to develop the next big thing: computer code capable of killing.


Under a forthcoming nearly half-billion-dollar military contract, computer code capable of killing adversaries is expected to be developed and deployed if necessary, according to contractors vying for the work and former Pentagon officials.

U.S. troops would have the power to launch logic bombs, instead of traditional explosive projectiles, which essentially would direct an enemy’s critical infrastructure to self-destruct.

Lethal cyber weapons have arrived.

As previously reported, an upcoming $460 million U.S. Cyber Command project will outsource to industry all command mission support activities, including “cyber fires” planning, as well as “cyberspace joint munitions” assessments.

Unlike traditional espionage malware or even the Stuxnet virus that sabotaged Iranian nuclear centrifuges, cyber fires would impact human life, according to former Defense officials and a recently released Defense Department “Law of War Manual.”

The visceral response to the word “war” for anyone in uniform is that it’s ugly and people get killed, said Bill Leigher, a recently retired Navy admiral with decades of warfighting experience who now runs Raytheon’s government cyber solutions division.

“When I use ‘cyberwar,’ I’m thinking of it, in a sense of war,” he said. “So, yes, war is violence.”

Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are among the major defense firms expected to compete for the CYBERCOM contract.


Pentagon Doctrine OKs Digital Arms

Going on the offensive in cyberspace, essentially means “defeating the interaction between a processor and its software” to serve a mission, Leigher said.

“Combatant commanders choose weapons that they know will further their course of action,” he said.

If the commander needs to fly an aircraft over an occupied area, and wants to use malware or another cyber capability to help accomplish that goal, the officer must have confidence the cyberattack will work as expected.

“I trust it. I know how it’s going to be used, and I believe that it is the best option to execute and it doesn’t create more risk for the 27-year-old Air Force pilot who is flying over a defended target,” Leigher described the decision-making process.

In this case, maybe the bull’s-eye would be a maintenance facility on an airfield. By launching a cyberattack, a commander could, for example, shut down the power grid of the facility, and then “you’ve degraded the enemy’s ability to repair aircraft,” Leigher said.

Digital arms designed to kill are sanctioned under Pentagon doctrine.

There is a chapter titled “Cyber Operations” in DOD’s first-ever “Law of War Manual,” published in June. The section reflects the department’s’ growing transparency surrounding cyberwarfare, national security legal experts say. Less than three years ago, most activities beyond defensive maneuvers were classified.

The manual lays out three sample actions the Pentagon deems uses of force in cyberspace: “trigger a nuclear plant meltdown; open a dam above a populated area, causing destruction; or disable air traffic control services, resulting in airplane crashes.”


Same Rules for Traditional Bombs or Bullets

The Pentagon’s stated role in cyberspace is to block foreign hackers targeting domestic systems, assist U.S. combat troops overseas and defend military networks.

The U.S. armed forces “are developing tools and capabilities” necessary to carry out all three of those missions, Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Rojas told Nextgov in an email. “We do this consistent with U.S. and international law.”

The law is clear that cyber operations might also kill civilians, the experts say.

Cyber strikes are allowed even if “it is certain that civilians would be killed or injured — so long as the reasonably anticipated collateral damage isn’t excessive in relation to what you expect to gain militarily,” said retired Maj. Gen. Charles J. Dunlap, executive director of Duke University’s Center on Law, Ethics and National Security. “These are essentially the same rules as for attacks employing traditional bombs or bullets.”

Because nearly all military forces depend on the same networks as civilians, it is not hard to imagine a situation where a cyberattack takes innocent lives, Dunlap said.

“A piece of malware, for example, might destroy a military industrial-control system of some sort, but if not designed to self-neutralize, it might go on to do the same to a civilian system of similar design, possibly with fatal consequences to civilians,” Dunlap said.

Destructive cyberattacks also risk the possibility of nonviolent collateral damage. Microsoft, as of March, was still dealing with the fallout from the spread of the Stuxnet virus. Microsoft had to issue a patch for a software flaw the U.S. and Israel allegedly used to take over the specific system running Iran’s nuclear equipment. To date, there have been no reports of other infected machines reacting the same way.


Will Adversaries Follow Same Rules?

The use of lethal software aligns with 2010 comments by then-Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn published in Foreign Affairs, stating, “As a doctrinal matter, the Pentagon has formally recognized cyberspace as a new domain of warfare.”

“What we see right now is essentially the implementation of the decision,” said Tim Maurer, a cyber policy researcher at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In elaborating on the term “cyber joint munitions,” CYBERCOM spokeswoman Kara Soules told Nextgov in an email that understanding the success rate of the weapon is critical.

“‘Cyber joint munitions effectiveness’ describes that a particular cyber capability has been evaluated and its effectiveness is known against a particular target,” she said. The target is a person, place or object a commander is eyeing to neutralize, according to the associated Joint Chiefs of Staff policy.

“Cyber fires” has a broader meaning and “can be used for offensive or defensive objectives, and can be designed to create effects in and through cyberspace,” she said.

Outside the United states, other governments are hiring nongovernment organizations to build cyber munitions, too, Maurer noted. Some of them operate underground. For instance, there are hackers who sell “zero day” exploits capable of attacking systems containing undetected security vulnerabilities known only to the seller.

Black hat hackers who can sell cyber munitions to governments as well as extremist groups like ISIS thrust the world into unknown territory.

“I’m fairly confident that U.S. cyber capabilities can be very precise and targeted and tailored,” Maurer said. The question, though, is whether it is possible for “less-sophisticated actors to be similarly targeted and tailored in the tools that they use.”

The discussion surrounding the firing of cyber arms hearkens back to before the days of Manhattan Project, some former military leaders say.

“It reminds me of the run-up to the strategic bombing campaigns of World War II,” said Cedric Leighton, a retired National Security Agency and Air Force intelligence director. “Just like then, the consequences of an attack using cyber munitions will not be completely foreseeable.”

CYBERCOM should be examining code warfare today, if only to be prepared: “Our military could be confronted by a tough cyber adversary at any moment,” he added.


How The Russian Crash Investigation Could Alter the War On Encryption

November 5, 2015

By Patrick Tucker


If intercepted communications prove an ISIS bomb caused the crash in Egypt, it could be just the boost surveillance state advocates need.

When U.S. intelligence officials said “intercepted communications” are a basis for the early assessment that a bomb planted by the Islamic State may have doomed a Russian passenger jet over Egypt, they also may have given a huge boost to efforts to expand government-led surveillance in the name of counterterrorism.

“I think there is a possibility that there was a bomb on board,” President Barack Obama said Thursday, lending the commander in chief’s credibility to the theory. It’s the president’s first characterization of the disaster since British Prime Minister David Cameron said it was “more likely than not” that a bomb destroyed the airliner.

Egyptian officials continue to push back on the bomb theory, yet British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Thursday, “Of course this will have a huge negative impact for Egypt. But with respect to [Egypt Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Abouzeid,] he hasn’t seen all the information that we have.”

Consider that statement in the context of Cameron’s almost year-long crusade to strengthen the U.K. government’s surveillance capabilities and effectively shut down secure end-to-end user encryption both in the United Kingdom and beyond.

End-to-end user encryption refers to the ability of one person to share communications with another person over a digital interface, and only with that intended recipient. The message, whether an email, text or other communication, is “encrypted” by the sender and “decrypted” by the receiver using software. That means that the intermediary communications service provider, such as Apple, Google, Yahoo, or Facebook, can not decrypt the message, even under threat of incarceration or under pressure from a court. End-to-end user encryption, correctly implemented, is encryption without secret defects that allow someone to intercept those supposedly secure message. And it’s growing in popularity among users. In 2014, Apple and Google announced that iPhones and Android phones would begin to encrypt users’ data.

Just hours before the British government suspended flights over the Sinai, the U.K. government introduced a new law to weaken the type of end-to-end user encryption that would keep companies and law enforcement from being able to intercept messages. The so-called Investigatory Powers Bill also mandates that Internet companies retain detailed logs of their users’ Internet browsing activity for a year.

The bill claims to clarify a 2000 law and would require private companies to provide data and help authorities intercept communications, with a warrant, in addition to maintaining the ability to intercept and decrypt messages.

A U.K. government official explained it this way: “The Government is clear we need to find a way to work with industry as technology develops to ensure that, with clear oversight and a robust legal framework, the police and intelligence agencies can access the content of communications of terrorists and criminals in order to resolve police investigations and prevent criminal acts. That means ensuring that companies themselves can access the content of communications on their networks when presented with a warrant.'”

That matters in terms of the day’s headlines. The FBI and Cameron have accused the Islamic State of using popular encrypted-based apps to hide secret messages.

But human rights activists, journalists, and other security conscious individuals also use encryption to protect against data theft. Many computer science experts such as Bruce Schneier have argued for decades that wider access to encryption methods (without backdoors or built-in defects of the type the British government is seeking) would actually make the Internet far safer, including for people in countries like Iran and Syria who themselves are looking to reach out to U.S. intelligence agencies. Wider use of encryption also likely would mean fewer instances of identify theft, missing data, and so-called phishing attacks that use personal information.

This week’s events could conceivably alter how millions of people use very popular communications services.


The Atlantic

Can the U.S. Military Halt Its Brain Drain?

November 5, 2016

David Barno and Nora Bensahel

The Pentagon worries its rigid personnel system is driving away the officers it will need for the conflicts of the 21st century.


When Defense Secretary Ash Carter took the reins of the Pentagon in February, he inherited a Pentagon coming out of two prolonged land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, navigating a budgetary drawdown threatened by sequestration, and wrestling with how to remain the dominant military in a fast-changing world. As one of his predecessors Robert Gates noted, since Vietnam, “our record has been perfect” about predicting future wars: “We have never once gotten it right.”

His first speech was expected to signal his new priorities as secretary of defense. Some expected a talk in Silicon Valley, or at one of the service academies to showcase his message. Yet for his inaugural speech, Carter chose to return his alma mater, Abingdon Senior High School in Philadelphia, to speak to teenage students. Billed as a talk about the “Force of the Future,” many expected it to be about new technology, the Pentagon’s “Third Offset Strategy,” or the importance of cyber warfare.

Surprisingly, it was all about people—how to find, get, and keep the best military and civilian talent in the Department of Defense.

Despite his strong background in the world of technology and defense policy, Carter unequivocally emphasized that his top priority would be to recruit and retain talented young Americans into the Defense Department. In his Abingdon speech, he clearly stated, “I will drive change to build what I call the force of the future: the military and the broader Defense Department that we need to serve and defend our country in the years to come.”

His surprising logic is that winning the unpredictable next war will be less about advanced war machines and silicon chips than about out-thinking the enemy, and having a force chock-full of bright, adaptive leaders who can quickly navigate complex problems under the intense time pressures of modern combat. To Carter, winning the next war is all about talent.


* * *

Tyler Jost had wanted to be in the military ever since his kindergarten teacher read a children’s book about the Gettysburg Address to her young class. Although not from a military family, Jost attended a military high school in a Chicago suburb where he was an exceptional student. When it came time to choose a college, he applied to both the Naval Academy and West Point, and happily enrolled at West Point after receiving his acceptance letter.

Jost arrived at West Point during the summer of 2004, nearly three years after the 9/11 attacks. The nation and the Army were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Jost took Chinese language classes to fulfill his single year of required language at the academy, and a summer program in China cemented his love of the Chinese language and culture. According to Jost, he gave up his vacation time nearly every summer to study in China, and graduated with a double major in Chinese and International Relations.

Jost excelled in his studies. He was academically ranked seventh out of 972 cadets in his graduating class, and was commissioned as a military intelligence officer. He won a Rotary scholarship for a graduate degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London. He became proficient in Mandarin, and earned a master’s degree in Chinese studies after a year of intense study. Now it was time to join the Army and use his education.

It would be the last time Jost used his Chinese until leaving the service five years later.


Losing Talent

The military services today are losing talent. Bright, capable young men and women—almost all combat veterans—are leaving the services in sizable numbers, shifting their lives from khaki and camouflage to chinos and corporate attire. They are entirely of the Millennial generation, those Americans born after 1980, and since 2001 they have only known a military at war. While the ebb and flow of young people into and out of the military is always a steady tide, the ongoing drain of experienced and bright young officers departing service today after five to 15 years in uniform is a concern. A 2010 survey of Army officers found that only 6 percent of those asked agreed with the statement, “The current military personnel system does a good job retaining the best leaders.” The military must always shed leaders since there is only so much room to move up. But it is essential to shed the right people—and not to lose too many of those with the brightest prospects or the most innovative minds. The military needs to know just who is going out the door, and why.

No one expects the U.S. military to redesign itself for its Millennials—to become a camouflaged version of Google or Facebook, or adopt a Silicon Valley start-up culture where Pentagon staff officers ride scooters down the hallways clad in shorts and T-shirts. The U.S. armed forces are instruments of conflict prevention in peacetime, and controlled violence in war. Their culture must reflect the unique demands this places on their members. Few businesses call on their employees to give up their lives if required to get the job done. Partly as a result, military service is often viewed as a calling, not simply as a job or even a career. Only a select few can be expected to answer that call for a career or a lifetime.

But they need to be the right few.

Only 6 percent of Army officers agreed that “the current military personnel system does a good job retaining the best leaders.”

The U.S. military is in a competition for talent. The best and brightest graduates from American universities are in high demand. According to the Department of Defense, only a half of 1 percent of officers entering the military last year hailed from the top 20 U.S. colleges and universities—a percentage that is half that of just 20 years ago. Moreover, a recent study determined that 40 percent of today’s Marine officers would fail to meet the standards for Marine officer selection in World War II.

Warfare is a highly complex business, and the side that intends to prevail must bring every advantage into what could become an existential fight. Brainpower and talent matter. Which citizens the military attracts, what cognitive and leadership qualities they possess, and how many of them stay for a career are issues of strategic importance to the nation’s security. But the man who heads the Defense Department’s personnel and readiness office has described the military personnel system as “a Polaroid in the age of digital cameras, once the cutting edge, but now superseded.”

We have both spent our careers working on U.S. national-security issues. One of us is a retired Army officer with over 30 years of experience, including overall command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan; the other is a scholar who has spent her career at various Washington think tanks, working with and writing about the military. Our current projects examine how to best prepare the U.S. military for the many challenges of an uncertain future. Our research and our own experiences have left us both gravely concerned that the military is losing too much talent—that the rigid and anachronistic personnel system is driving too many bright, innovative, and creative officers out of the military. That could have disastrous long-term effects on the nation’s ability to fight and win future wars—or craft strategies to prevent them from erupting.

* * *

No one in Katelyn van Dam’s family had ever graduated from college, though many had served as policemen and firemen. But in fourth grade, van Dam discovered a coffee table book on the Naval Academy in a doctor’s office, and decided, “I want to go there some day.” When she was in high school, finding out that Navy had a Division I women’s volleyball team sealed the deal.

Van Dam excelled in all-things military at Annapolis, and held her own academically, majoring in political science at a school dedicated to engineering. She has said that she was most animated by the intense military and athletic programs in which every midshipmen participated, and was deeply impressed by the U.S. Marines on the staff and faculty—models to her of military precision and unwavering professionalism. She knew she wanted to be a Marine.

Most women entering the Marine Corps as officers—women comprise only 4 percent of its officer corps—gravitate toward intelligence, logistics, or communications. Van Dam wanted to be a Marine infantry officer—but the military’s rules excluding women from ground-combat positions precluded that choice. Instead she won a slot to flight school, and studied hard enough to get her dream billet as an attack-helicopter pilot flying AH-1W Super Cobras. She became one of only a handful of women flying attack helicopters in the Corps. Her call sign was “Talent.”

For van Dam, flying Cobras in support of ground troops in Afghanistan was the best way she could contribute to the fight, since many Marine specialties were then closed to women (and many remain so today). Flying combat missions from her Cobra in support of those Marines slugging it out on the ground was the closest she could come to direct combat. Rolling in with rockets and cannon fire to relieve a Marine unit pinned down under enemy fire became the ultimate high. She quickly became a highly respected combat flier, sought after to lead missions, and occasionally bailed out peers in trouble during combat. After two operational tours, she was selected to train male and female Marines in the Corps’s intense junior officer course, The Basic School. Married to a Marine recon commander, she was experiencing the best jobs the Corps had to offer a promising young officer.

Today, neither van Dam nor her husband are active-duty Marines. She is attending graduate school while he works as a civilian for the Department of the Army.


Today’s Military Personnel System

The current military personnel system was designed decades ago in large measure to provide interchangeable human parts to fit the diverse requirements of each service. This flexibility was an important virtue in growing the force from several-hundred thousand to 16 million in World War II. That war also provided the impetus for today’s “up or out” promotion system, after hundreds of aging officers had to be quickly removed at the war’s beginning to bring in energetic younger replacements who could meet the challenges of a global war.

Despite a world that has vastly changed since 1945, many elements of that wartime system remain in place today. The most significant prior reform occurred in 1980, when the Defense Officer Personnel Management Act (DOPMA) was signed into law. But even then, large elements of the previous system remained. According to a 1993 RAND report, the 1980 Act “…replaced an existing patchwork of rules and regulations governing the management of military officers… While breaking new ground (permanent grade tables, single promotion system, augmentation of reserve officers into regular status), DOPMA was basically evolutionary, extending the existing paradigm (grade controls, promotion opportunity and timing objectives, up-or-out, and uniformity across the services) that was established after World War II.”

This legacy system is woefully archaic in the 21st century—and far removed from the best talent-management practices of the private sector. It may well be the last untransformed segment of an otherwise modern, flexible, and adaptable U.S. military. Yet the personnel system touches every single person in the military every single day of their career—and determines how much they are paid, where they live, what kind of jobs they perform, and how often they move or get promoted. Neither officers nor enlisted troops have any substantial input in how they fit into this system—nor how to maximize their talents for the greater good.

The U.S. military is largely a closed-loop system for talent. Lateral entry is nearly nonexistent outside of unique specialties such as medicine. The four-star generals and admirals who will be the chairman and members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) in 2035 are serving in uniform today as majors or lieutenant commanders with somewhere between 10 and 16 years of service. Even the members of the JCS in 2045 are already serving in uniform, just starting out as ensigns and lieutenants, most with fewer than four years of service. Losing talented, experienced, and innovative leaders in the first 10 years of their military careers means that those leaders will not be available to serve in ever-more senior military leadership positions during the next the 20 or 30 years. This problem deserves rapt attention because getting the quality of the force wrong—unknowingly keeping in less capable leaders while losing the best and brightest talent—could have debilitating effects on fighting and winning the complex wars of the future.

The generals who led the war in Iraq in 2003 cannot be measured against their missing alter egos who might have left the service as majors in 1975.

Unlike its private-industry counterparts, the U.S. military does not track the levels of quality among those who are leaving the force, nor does it have any insight on why they are choosing to leave. There are no exit interviews for departing leaders, no accumulation of data on who is staying or going, no statistical rundowns provided the service chiefs on the percent of each performance quintile by rank (or IQ, or any other measure) who are choosing to leave or stay. The military does not even gather such information.

Yet few senior military leaders acknowledge there is a problem today. They often argue they have always had plenty of great people, and that the current personnel system has served the United States well. Of course, these same leaders are products of the system that they are convinced is highly effective. It is rare to hear them admit that they could be anything less than the very best and the brightest—or that the military was at all hurt by the loss of many of their young contemporaries during the previous years and decades. The generals who led the war in Iraq in 2003 cannot be measured against their missing alter egos who might have left the service as majors in 1975.

There are no objective metrics by which to determine whether the military leadership is succeeding—or failing, needing replacement. In the U.S. military, there are no quarterly earning statements, no public stock prices, no annual profit and loss numbers. However the military performs, it seems simply good enough. During the darkest days of the war in Iraq, from 2004 to 2006, there was little thought given to replacing military leaders, even when the combat effort was clearly failing. Even losing a war—or nearly doing so—seems to be an insufficient impetus to objectively assess military performance and hold leaders accountable. It only becomes worse in peacetime where little can seemingly be measured as related to what the nation wants from its military during a war. The abject lack of metrics on the performance and skills of those departing the force compared to those remaining reflects a culture that insists the current system works well.

* * *

Tyler Jost found his two tours in the tumultuous combat zone of Afghanistan his most rewarding time in uniform. “On my first day, my battalion commander came up to me. He shook my hand and said, ‘Welcome to a combat zone.'” Jost was 24 years old. “That was an awakening. It may sound dramatic, but combat operations were much different than I anticipated. I don’t think I fully appreciated what the Army was about until I arrived in Afghanistan.”

During his first year-long deployment, he served as a young lieutenant in eastern Afghanistan with duties as an assistant intelligence officer in a deployed battalion. “I felt part of the fight—part of something larger than myself,” he said. “From your first day in theater, you assume tremendous responsibilities—to help protect the lives of your teammates, to play a small but direct role in national security. You feel as though you are part of something meaningful, important, and significant early in your career.” Jost worked up to 18 hours a day, slept in a wooden “B-Hut,” and worked most of the time in a windowless command center—and loved his job. Serving in Afghanistan was everything he had hoped for about being in the Army. Time flew by.

He was ambivalent about returning to stateside duty after his tour in a combat zone. But after 12 months deployed, Jost rotated home with his unit to Fort Campbell, Kentucky—a place he had only spent a few weeks before shipping out a year earlier. Lacking the daily rewards of supporting troops in combat, he was immediately bored. Army garrison routines and home-station bureaucracy of rules and regulations only made it worse.

Within weeks, he was ready to go back to Afghanistan—or anywhere else overseas with a real-world mission. Waiving his guaranteed “dwell time”—the typical one-year period at home before being eligible to deploy again—Jost volunteered to return to Afghanistan as the aide to a Navy admiral working strategic-level policy issues.

A staff job in Kabul was a far cry from his first job as a tactical-intelligence officer, but he quickly secured the position, and returned to Afghanistan less than four months after coming back from his first deployment. The new job at the senior NATO headquarters in Kabul exposed him to the world of strategy and policy. It would become one of the most eye-opening and broadening opportunities of his career.

But Jost said that he also realized that many of the State Department civilians working alongside him in this area were his age or only slightly older—and that if he stayed in the military, he wouldn’t be able to do what they were doing for at least another 10 years, or more. Over time, the rigid boundaries of the military rank and seniority system felt more and more restrictive. Jost loved his job, loved being deployed, but could see the writing on the wall. His future path as an intelligence officer was clearly laid out for him, and largely out of his control.

He began to think about getting out.


Millennials in the Military and Beyond

The young men and women coming into the military today share two characteristics in common—all have joined since the attacks of 9/11, and know they are signing on for a military at war, even if at diminished levels. Astonishingly, almost three-quarters of Americans from age 17 to 25 are disqualified from serving in uniform due to obesity, education, criminal records, or medical reasons. But all who do are part of the Millennial generation, those men and women born between 1980 and 2000. Ten years from now, 98 percent of the military will be comprised of Millennials. By definition, the remaining 2 percent will be the senior-most enlisted and officers by age and rank—and these leaders of the force will come from Generation X or even the tail end of the Baby Boomers.

Today’s military personnel system may alienate the very segment of the population from which the military must draw upon to fill its ranks.

Civilian studies have found that the Millennials share a number of characteristics in common. And although military members may reflect some very different attributes given that they are self-selected from less than 1 percent of society, they inevitably will have some traits in common with their civilian generational peers. Millennials value personal life and family above paychecks. They value diverse work experiences and the ability to change jobs often. They want a bigger say in their career paths and their future, and value higher education. They see themselves as likely to leave jobs, companies, and career fields at a much higher rate than their predecessors. They believe in merit-driven upward mobility, and are convinced they should be able to compete for any job in their reach. They dislike hierarchy, bureaucracy, and inflexibility in the workplace and private life. But they are also far more interested in public service, in all its forms, than many generations that came before them.

While all of these are broad characterizations of an entire generation, they strongly suggest that much about today’s military personnel system may alienate the very segment of the population from which the military must draw upon to fill its ranks. In particular, military officers have many options outside of the military, since their service and leadership experience is often prized in the private sector. Getting the best of this group of junior officers to decide to remain in uniform for a career thus poses significant challenges—and few current uniformed military leaders seem to be paying attention to those challenges.

* * *

For many months, Katey van Dam chafed at the prospect her squadron was missing the war. Even though she had previously done a “pump”—a six-month cruise aboard Navy amphibious ships—supporting counter-piracy missions in the Arabian Sea, combat had eluded her unit. Van Dam volunteered for a Marine Female Engagement Team, women Marines who operated on the ground with the infantry, interacting with Afghan women in ways men could not. Her squadron XO, the second-in-command, turned her down. According to van Dam, he told her, “Slow your roll,” perhaps knowing the squadron was about to get orders for Afghanistan.

Van Dam’s squadron finally got the word: They would deploy for seven months to southern Afghanistan, supporting Marines fighting in some of the toughest Taliban strongholds. She may not have been allowed to fight on the ground because she was a woman, but by flying a Super Cobra attack helicopter, she could lash the enemy with rockets and cannon from less than 50 feet altitude. She was in the fight—and loved it. Van Dam racked up over 330 flying hours in her Cobra gunship during her deployment. It was the most rewarding assignment she ever had.

After returning home, van Dam began to negotiate her next job with her assignment managers. Her husband David had returned from his deployment a few months earlier, and was now stationed on the East Coast—3,000 miles from van Dam, who was now stationed in southern California. She wanted her next Marine job to be on the East Coast, and to involve working closely with troops.

A job at Quantico teaching young men and women who were “boot” Marine lieutenants in The Basic School (TBS) seemed like a good fit. After a year of classroom teaching, she was selected to be a Platoon Commander in TBS. She was finally allowed to go to the field and live in the dirt for days on end—as close to infantry conditions as she would ever reach under today’s rules.

As she was near her husband for the first time in many months, the idea of starting a family became more and more part of their conversations. Van Dam also yearned to be back in an academic environment—her job at TBS was highly rewarding, but a long way from her goal of eventually getting an advanced degree. But she soon discovered that Marine officers cannot even compete for slots to attend graduate school until after completing battalion-level command, probably at age 40 or older—meaning that she would have to wait nearly 10 more years. And David, now promoted to major, was now getting closer to making his own decision about leaving the Marines.


Challenges With the Current System

Military career paths are governed by a set of highly structured processes that rarely allow any deviations. Promotions, for example, are governed by DOPMA’s immutable statutory rules: There are no 35-year-old generals or admirals, no military options to mirror Silicon Valley’s penchant for bright young CEOs. Navy destroyers, Marine-helicopter squadrons, Army-infantry battalions, and F-16 fighter squadrons are all commanded by officers with about 16 to 18 years of service. There are no exceptions for the bright light with only six years in; you must wait for 16 to 18 years regardless to even have a chance to compete for command at that level. And if you don’t command at that level, your prospects for further advancement are highly constrained. Generals and admirals, with few exceptions, come out of the “command track.” There are virtually no three- or four-star admirals or generals who have not commanded ships or squadrons, battalions or brigades—and then gone on to command again at senior levels of the organization. Specialists—cyber gurus, foreign-area experts, human-resources types—who do not command often have far fewer promotion opportunities, especially to wear stars.

The military promotion system is also based on the principle of “up or out.” Unlike the vast majority of workers in the private sector, military personnel are not permitted to stay in the same job or rank year after year—even if the position may be one for which they are perfectly suited, by skill or disposition. They must continually compete for promotion, and be selected for advancement in order to stay in the military. The military’s best F-16 pilot cannot stay in the cockpit her whole career. After approximately eight to 10 years of flying, she must go to broadening schools, be promoted to major and then lieutenant colonel, and serve on staffs and maybe even in the Pentagon. If she fails to do so, she will fail to be promoted—and multiple failures to be promoted almost always results in a pink slip forcing separation from the military.

The combination of “everyone must command” with “up or out” creates a military of incessant turbulence, with moves between jobs and bases a constant feature of uniformed service. On average, military families move 10 times as often their civilian counterparts. Officers typically change jobs every one to two years, and often move from base to base every two or three years, although the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have somewhat slowed that pace (since families often stayed while their service members deployed). This fast-moving treadmill of jobs and locations sacrifices much hard-won expertise among officers in order to ensure as many officers as possible get through all the “gates” needed to be eligible for command or promotion to the next rank. Multiple jobs and a diversity of locations (rather than “homesteading,” or staying in one spot year after year) continue to be valued by promotion boards as evidence of a well-rounded officer.


The combination of “everyone must command” with “up or out” creates a military of incessant turbulence.

This constant job shifting also creates a military where every officer is expected to perform across multiple, often unrelated skill sets—even though the skills of an effective Pentagon staff officer have next to nothing in common with those of an Apache attack-helicopter pilot or an infantry-battalion commander. Officers don’t get to find their niche and stay in it; they are constantly on the move. This facet of military careers can be immensely frustrating to officers who know what they love to do—and who recognize no matter what it is, the military will eventually force them to do something very different, often at a time and place not of their choosing.

Perhaps the most damaging effect of this incessant turbulence is a continuous loss of continuity and expertise in key jobs. Even at the most senior ranks of general and admirals, jobs are often held for two years or less. It is viewed simply as the cost of doing business in a military still wedded to a Cold War personnel system of interchangeable parts. Spouses of military personnel, especially officers, now often have careers of their own, and the military’s moving turbulence often makes such normal two career pursuits utterly unsustainable. Uncounted numbers of junior officers leave the military because they simply see a career pipeline that will force them down a path where they do not want to go—or force their spouse to give up a valued job or even a career in order to move. Even those who want to command and move to the top of the force are confronted with the unalterable long climb through years of unrelated assignments with little prospect for accelerated promotions, no matter how talented.

Lack of access to advanced civilian education also causes many young officers to leave the military. Masters and Ph.D. programs throughout the nation’s top schools are chock full of former military officers who were simply unable to find any venue to pursue civilian graduate education inside the military—and who, thanks to the generous benefits of the post-9/11 GI Bill, can afford to attend these programs if they leave the military. In the Army alone, the annual number of fully funded civilian graduate-school slots for officers dropped from as many as 7,000 in the 1980s to approximately 600 to 700 today.

Many of the best and brightest know this, and they want the challenge of going to a top-rated graduate school with others who have survived the rigorous admissions processes. Once they are admitted, they often find that the military personnel system will not accommodate their desire to attend, even though, in many cases, the military wouldn’t have to pay for it. But the “up or out” system, combined with the need for most to command in order to advance, means that the service’s personnel offices do not support this. As a result, many of the best and brightest must leave the military in order to receive the best graduate education that this country has to offer.

Decisions surrounding starting a family also play a major role in military-career choices, especially for women. This choice is a difficult one for individuals or couples in any setting, but starting a family in the military is fraught with even greater challenges than most civilians face. Timing pregnancy and childbirth around operational deployments, the accessibility of both parents, who may be geographically separated for child-rearing, and life-and-death risks in training and in combat all factor into the equation. Both men and women in uniform have increasingly sought means of scheduling pregnancies around the demands of their careers. Egg and sperm freezing are not yet commonplace, but increasingly in demand even though not covered by military health benefits. The exigencies of wartime, including fertility risks of debilitating or fatal injuries, have placed an even sharper point on this option.

Having a family while one or both parents are in the military—especially mothers—is a Rubik’s Cube of complex orchestration.

Dual-career military couples face the most complex minuet of planning and juggling deployments, other separations, fertility cycles, and the often highly physical demands of military jobs for both parents. Combine the occupational uncertainties of military life with the often unpredictable prospects of conceiving on a set schedule, and having a family while one or both parents are in the military—especially mothers—is a Rubik’s Cube of complex orchestration, sometimes with disappointing results. And the military’s policies on leave and return to duty after childbirth for both mothers and fathers are less than generous—after six to eight weeks, mothers are expected to be back at work and doing physical training with their units.

In sum, the military faces a growing cohort of young men and women within its ranks who have much different expectations from their Baby Boomer seniors who now run the services. Cosmetic changes to the current system—a few pilot programs for sabbaticals, or a handful more funded graduate programs—are unlikely to meet the lifetime goals that many of these young leaders share with their civilian peers. They expect their lives to have a modicum of stability, protected from constant moves and job changes. Many of them seek broader opportunities for advanced civil schooling, and nearly all want to be able to both serve in uniform and raise a family in a reasonable American lifestyle. They hope to have far greater input to tailor their career paths more closely to their skills and interests.

Yet when asked, these same people are fully willing to risk their lives in combat or dangerous peacetime training—again and again. They fully understand the unlimited-liability contract under which they serve. They “get it,” as much as any generation in uniform that has come before them—and many of them have deployed and fought time and time again. They simply want some degree of control over their life and career when not fighting the nation’s wars overseas—not an unreasonable outlook.

* * *

Jost returned from his second tour in Afghanistan and ran directly into the unbending demands of the Army’s officer personnel system. During his tour in Kabul, he sought career advice from both his Navy admiral and an Army general on the NATO staff. He said that they were thoughtful, candid, and willing to help him assess options in and out of uniform. But his assignment manager back home gave him only one option, insisting that he must go to his captain’s career course and return to being a staff-intelligence officer in a garrison in order to continue to serve. Jost mentioned that he was considering leaving the military after his next assignment, when his service obligation would be complete. He remembers being told in essence, “If you’re getting out [of the Army], you’re getting the bottom of the barrel picks for your next assignment. You need to think seriously about this.”

Anxious to avoid a garrison assignment, Jost attempted to waive his dwell time again and volunteered to deploy with a special-operations unit looking for an intelligence officer. He flew to Georgia for the job interview, and was accepted. But the lieutenant colonel in charge of personnel for his branch killed that option. He was going to the career course, or else.

Resigned, Jost spent six months at the Army’s Intelligence School in Arizona, and began to negotiate for his next job. Since he had already served as a staff intelligence officer while deployed, he requested assignment as a company commander. But his assignments officer was reluctant to accept even such a minor deviation from the approved career path. Frustrated by the system, Jost sought help from a network of alumni from the Department of Social Sciences at West Point. After an in-person intervention by his future boss, he finally landed a job commanding a cyber-warfare unit at Fort Meade, Maryland, where the military’s top cyber warriors are located. Although far from his areas of previous expertise and deployed experience, Jost enjoyed the opportunity.

But he knew he was nearing the time to make a major life decision: stay in the military and continue the uphill battle of obtaining permission from personnel officers at every career juncture, or find a different path.


Building the Force of the Future

In late April, work on Carter’s initiative to find, get, and keep the best talent in the military, the Force of the Future, began in earnest. At its helm was Brad Carson, who became the Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness just three days after Carter’s speech. A softspoken Rhodes scholar and lawyer from Oklahoma in his late 40s who wears cowboy boots with his suits, Carson honed his political skills as a member of Congress from 2001 to 2005. He later served as the chief executive officer of Cherokee Nation Businesses, and as a professor of business law at the University of Tulsa. He also served on active duty in Iraq for most of 2009, in an extremely unusual position for a U.S. Navy intelligence officer—embedded with a U.S. Army explosive ordnance unit, responsible for identifying and dismantling the homemade bombs that were killing so many U.S. military personnel and Iraqi civilians.

Carson returned to Washington in 2012, serving as the Army’s top lawyer and then as the Undersecretary of the Army before assuming his current office. He is the ninth person to hold his job in the past six and a half years, a rate of turnover that has diminished its effectiveness. But unlike any of his predecessors, Carson possessed a clear mandate for change from the defense secretary himself.

He soon turned full-time to the all-consuming initiative. His small staff worked around the clock from a cramped office space on the Pentagon’s E-Ring. By early summer, inflatable air mattresses started appearing under many of their desks.

From the earliest stages, Carson tried to build consensus. He recognized that every service would ultimately have to buy into the final proposal—or at least not violently object. Otherwise, any prospects of its eventual implementation, even if signed out by the defense secretary, would be grim. A thick report gathering dust on the shelves of bored Pentagon staff officers would be the definition of mission failure—an outcome he wanted to avoid.

Carson reached out far beyond the service staffs and their personnel specialists. He met repeatedly with the uniformed-service chiefs and their principal deputies, journeyed to Capitol Hill to meet with staff and members, and made the rounds of think tanks across Washington. Carson’s team examined best practices from the private sector on everything from family leave to incentives, and from flexible workplace environments to advanced education and professional development. His speeches on the subject emphasized the need for change—and the cost of doing nothing. He convened senior-level working groups with representatives of all the services to look at options and propose new ideas, unconstrained by conventional thinking. At Carter’s direction, Carson’s team examined the civilian personnel system within the Department of Defense as well as the military personnel system. Scores of meetings unfolded over the following months.

Although the final recommendations have not been made public yet, an earlier draft of the report was obtained by several media outlets. According to press reports, the report is likely to include the following reforms:

•Replacing “up or out” with performance criteria. Officers would no longer be held to rigid promotion timelines and forced to compete with other officers who happened to join the military the same year that they did. Instead, they would compete for promotion after meeting established performance standards. Not only would this enable officers far more flexibility in managing their careers, but it would also restore the original purpose of the rank system—to provide capable individuals with the authority necessary to execute their responsibilities.

•Increasing “permeability.” Policy changes here would make it far easier for military personnel to shift between the active and reserve components of each service, or to choose to work as a DOD civilian. Officers would also be able to step out of DOD entirely—into the private sector or other parts of the government—while retaining an option to return to the military at a later time. Such moves in and out of uniform would be considered normal and seen as a routine career-development step. This would not only help retain some people that would otherwise leave, but DOD and the services would also benefit from having more officers with a broader set of skills and experiences as they face an increasingly diverse and interconnected world.

•Establishing a technical, or enterprise, career track. Requiring all officers to command at ever-higher levels in order to remain competitive for promotion wastes a great deal of human talent—especially since most generals and admirals serve in institutional and staff leadership positions rather than in operational-command positions. Officers would be separated into two parallel career tracks: a command track, whose milestones and performance criteria would remain similar to the current system, and an enterprise track that would enable officers to develop continuity and expertise in specialized areas throughout their careers. Officers choosing the enterprise track might forfeit the opportunity to command troops, but in exchange they would have viable promotion paths up to the most senior levels in their areas of expertise. Of equal value, many of these officers could stay on for much longer duration in positions of senior institutional management for which they have been expressly prepared.

•Expanding civilian schooling. Although the number of officers with advanced degrees continues to grow, the vast majority of those degrees are now being granted by military institutions. Those programs are often less rigorous than their civilian counterparts, and do not provide the broadening intellectual experience that comes from sitting in a classroom with students from truly diverse backgrounds. (This also deprives civilian students from having a military perspective in their classrooms, which only exacerbates the increasing civil-military divide.) DOD could change this balance by requiring that degrees from civilian institutions constitute a set percentage of all advanced degrees earned by personnel within each service.

•Improving parental leave and other family policies. In July, Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced that maternity leave for women in the Navy and the Marine Corps would triple, from six to 18 weeks—a number deliberately chosen to match what Google offers. The report will probably recommend making that the new standard across all of the services, and may also increase the amount of leave available to other new parents (regardless of gender). It could also address some of the other challenges facing military parents, such as the fact that many military day-care centers are closed during the early morning and later evening hours when some service members are required to work.


Turning the Force of the Future Into Reality

The Force of the Future initiative faces a long uphill battle to adoption and implementation, even though Carter has made this issue one of his highest priorities. Many recommendations have already encountered some stiff bureaucratic and cultural resistance as they work their way through the Pentagon. Some of the most important reform ideas will require congressional action (such as revising the “up or out” promotion system enshrined in DOPMA). But these are also some of the most controversial, which means that parts of this battle will play out in the public square.

Other actions fall within Carter’s purview, and require changes he can make unilaterally to policy or regulations. His personnel and readiness office, led by Carson, could be charged to enact and follow up on a sizable number of the initiatives that it drafted. The military services also hold great authority to enact sweeping personnel changes. The service secretaries, in concert with their uniformed service chiefs, can readily adjust personnel practices unique to the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force populations.

Yet perhaps the greatest challenge facing the Force of the Future is that its proposals will fundamentally confront a deep-rooted culture where “one size fits all”—an approach that the bureaucratic guardians of the half-century-old military personnel system have long seen as adequate to any demand. Many of these entrenched personnel bureaucrats have served for decades, combining time in uniform with subsequent careers as civilian officials in the services’ Pentagon personnel offices. They have great pride of ownership in today’s structure: For years, they have adjusted the current system with literally tens of thousands of ad hoc modifications. And to be fair, the current system has survived the greatest test to date of the all-volunteer-force: nearly 15 years fighting two sizable, prolonged wars overseas.

These civilian skeptics are quietly joined by some in the senior ranks of each service who are very comfortable with the system that groomed and selected them for positions of high rank. Implicitly, they are satisfied with the quality of the officer corps because they are that quality. Lesser men and women fell by the wayside. Those that left the military either didn’t have the “right stuff” to gut out the hard years and stay for the long haul, or the system deliberately and effectively eliminated them. The military, in this line of reasoning, has always had enough great people, and no exodus of this generation’s bright young men and women will change that.

Overcoming the bureaucratic resistance from those unable to imagine the military of tomorrow remains Carter’s toughest fight.

Many people in the Pentagon and beyond are skeptical about the Force of the Future. They note that the current system has been tested in war and peace, and delivered a professional and dedicated military leadership that remains the envy of militaries around the globe. The system put in place after World War II and subsequently modified, has largely kept the officer corps young and vibrant, and weeded out those staying beyond their ability to perform. “Up or out” has done just that—removed those incapable of performing at the next level while promoting those who can excel. Critics also argue that the military ultimately only needs to select a few hundred generals and admirals from among a very competitive bench of thousands of strong performers who have proven themselves over decades of experience. Nothing in the current system, in their view, suggests that this process is failing.

The skeptics also correctly argue that an effective military can never be overly focused on meeting the needs of the individual in a world where the performance of the organization—the team—matters most. The military personnel system must be designed first and foremost to meet the needs of the service, not those of the individual member. “Selfless service” is a value widely revered throughout the military. Those concerned about the proposed changes to the current system are also wary of upending decades of predictability in promotions, pay, and the well-known “gates” that must be met in order to advance through a well-defined process. They argue that disrupting these proven incentives could have entirely unforeseen second-order effects on performance, retention, and quality of leaders navigating a largely new and unproven system.

Yet simply surviving the challenges of yesterday or even those of today with the current system is no longer enough. In a world of exponential change, leap-ahead technologies, and a generation entering the military comfortable with both, a World War II-based personnel system at some point will simply be unable to provide a military force that is prepared to deal with the challenges of the future. But overcoming the bureaucratic resistance from those unable to imagine the military of tomorrow remains Carter and Carson’s toughest fight. Military leaders are famously conservative, rightfully protective of the values, history, and traditions of the services they manage. But the current and future security environments demand flexibility and agility in attracting and retaining top-notch people just as much as they do in conducting effective military operations.

* * *

Tyler Jost couldn’t make it work. He was going to get out of the Army.

While in company command at Fort Meade, Jost had applied and been accepted to Harvard’s Ph.D. program in government, where he could return to his studies of China and foreign policy that he had started at West Point. He was unconvinced that the Army would be willing or able to support his long-term goals—to use his language skills, interests, and experience—while remaining competitive for promotion.




His nascent military career was over. After company command in a cyber unit, a graduate degree from London’s School of Advanced Oriental Studies, two tours in Afghanistan, and more than a passing fluency in Mandarin, Jost was getting out. To help design his own career. To find a way contribute in some unique ways—and in ways that many civilians his age were already doing.

Jost is keen to dispel the notion that he is somehow special, or that the Army owed him or his peers some special considerations. He sees himself as no more talented or skilled than a wide range of his peers. And he knows that the Army has many positions to fill—some desirable and others less so. But he remains unsettled by the indifference that both he and many of his friends now out of the Army encountered in dealing with a personnel system that lacks sufficient focus on individuals. He said that among those who have already left the Army, “I know perhaps 10 to 15 peers I felt would have made tremendous general officers. I don’t want to speak for them, but across the board there was deep-seated frustration with the bureaucracy of the assignments process, the way the Army mismanages talent.”

* * *

Katey van Dam did not want to leave the Marine Corps.

Many of her mentors tried to talk her out of it. Van Dam said that her commanding officer at The Basic School, a leader she respected deeply, “sat me down on more than one occasion and said, ‘Don’t leave the Marine Corps.’ To have somebody that I respect so much say that, it certainly made me think twice about it—probably more than twice.”

But there was simply no way for her to grow further, have diverse job experiences, and advance her education at the same time if she didn’t leave. The Marine career path for aviators was far too rigid; she would have to get back into the cockpit soon, or not be competitive for promotion.

Grad school was a distant and far from assured prospect many years down the road—and even then not until after command as a lieutenant colonel if she made it through all the wickets to get to that pinnacle. And her clock to start a family with her husband David—now a civilian—was also ticking.

By now, van Dam could see the direction her future was headed. She said, “Since I first decided I wanted to be a Marine, I wanted to be on the ground and it was limited by my sex.” She was barred from Marine ground combat positions, even as a forward air controller (FAC) supporting the infantry—a job she thought would be “the coolest thing in the world.” But her options were flying jobs alternating with staff assignments, indefinitely. “I just saw my experiences repeating themselves over the next 10, 15, 20 years. But there are lots of opportunities as a civilian to do something high speed. I wasn’t going to be able to do that in the Marine Corps. I want to do everything and couldn’t do that being a pilot.”

If the best military in the world doesn’t care whether it will be led by the best people in the world, something is fundamentally wrong.

After months of agonizing, van Dam decided to leave the active-duty Marine Corps and pursue graduate school and seek other more flexible career options. She remains in the Marine Corps reserve—ironically, now as a civil-affairs officer rather than a pilot. It was a very tough decision. She worried about disappointing her many mentors and bosses—all men—and she knew she would no longer be a role model for younger female Marines. She said, “That’s a huge weight I have to carry getting out of the Marine Corps. That I won’t be that for somebody.” But a career as a Marine Corps pilot with so many continuing constraints was just too limiting.


Stanching the Bleeding

Unfortunately, proving a counter-factual is impossible. There is no way to prove that the loss of the Tyler Josts and Katey van Dams of the world, or even hundreds of officers like them, will have measurable effects that may harm the military of the future. The military does not even attempt to measure the “quality”—by any definition—of those that are leaving, or have already gone. That alone should be deeply unsettling to American taxpayers who are spending substantial tax dollars to produce what is advertised rightly as “the best military in the world.” If the best military in the world doesn’t care whether it will be led by the best people in the world, something is fundamentally wrong.

For the first time in nearly five decades, the U.S. military may fundamentally alter the way it recruits, trains, and retains its talent. Getting this right may be the most important legacy not just for Carter, but for every service chief embarking on his four-year tenure. Leadership and people are the real advantages that the U.S. military will bring to the future battlefield—superior technology can be stolen or neutralized, brilliant operating concepts outflanked, and unexpected surprises at hand around every corner of the next conflict. The margin of victory for the United States will often be decided by whether it has the smartest, most capable, most dedicated people the nation has to offer on the battlefield.

The stakes here are enormous: They involve nothing less than the ability of the military to prevail in future conflicts. The military has long acknowledged that people are its most valuable resource, far more than weapons and technology. And the unpredictable and complex nature of future warfare make that truer than ever.

The stories of Jost and van Dam represent a dangerous trend for the U.S. military. It cannot afford to continue bleeding promising talent like theirs without putting its future in jeopardy.



Beware: New Android malware is ‘nearly impossible’ to remove.

By Andrea Peterson

November 6 at 12:21 PM 


New strains of Android malware are masquerading as popular apps like “Candy Crush” and Snapchat, but once installed dig themselves so deeply into smartphones they are “nearly impossible” to remove,and could force people to replace their devices, according to cybersecurity firm Lookout.

The company says it observed over 20,000 samples of this type of adware in the digital wild. Some of the malicious apps functioned like their real counterparts, but they all also quietly gain “root access” to a device and install themselves as system applications. That means they have practically unlimited access to files on the device — a big security and privacy risk. That’s why it is so difficult to totally remove the apps.

But, luckily, there is a pretty easy way to avoid them: Only install apps from Google’s official Play Store.

“Malicious actors behind these families repackage and inject malicious code into thousands of popular applications found in Google Play, and then later publish them to third-party app stores,” Lookout noted in a blog post about the malware. That means the victims here were people who went outside of Google’s official channels to install the imposter apps.

Some users turn to such markets to take advantage of offers of free or discounted apps, or find apps that don’t make the cut in official market places — sometimes because they rely on pirated material or are hyper-localized to a specific geographic market.

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story, but the company has long tried to limit suspicious apps in the Google Play store by scanning the market for signs of malware. It hasn’t always been 100 percent successful in those efforts, nor has Apple, its main competitor in the mobile operating systems market.

But security experts generally agree that consumers are much safer sticking to the official market places rather than downloading apps from third-party alternatives — where these new strains appear to have lurked.


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 07, 2015

No matter what some elected officials tell them, Americans just aren’t buying the need for a lot more gun control.

It doesn’t help that 77% of voters believe most politicians raise gun issues just to get elected rather than to address real problems. Democrats are just as dubious of these politicians as Republicans are.

Voters are also more supportive these days of their constitutional right to own a gun.

By a 48% to 43% margin, voters see no need for stricter gun control.
Far more (61%) believe the United States needs stricter enforcement of the gun control laws that are already on the books.

Support for the current federal system of background checks on gun purchasers remains high, even though voters question their effectiveness in reducing crime.

Most voters have said in surveys since the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, nearly three years ago that the best way to prevent incidents like this is to focus more on the mentally ill rather than on increased gun control.

A big problem for supporters of more gun control is that 62% of Americans don’t trust the federal government to fairly enforce gun control laws.

Ironically, those in Congress who are most supportive of stricter gun control are less supportive of imprisoning illegal immigrants who commit major felonies in this country. Senate Democrats have blocked passage of “Kate’s Law,” but 56% of voters support legislation imposing mandatory prison terms on illegal immigrants convicted of major felonies who have been deported but have again entered the United States illegally. The law is named after Kate Steinle, the young woman murdered in San Francisco this summer by an illegal immigrant who had been deported several times and come back.

Republican presidential hopeful Donald Trump has taken a lot of criticism from Democrats and other GOP contenders over his candid remarks about the criminality of many illegal immigrants, but most voters agree with Trump that illegal immigration increases the level of serious crime.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters also believe the federal government should cut off funds to cities that provide sanctuary for illegal immigrants, but Senate Democrats also have successfully prevented a cutoff of these funds.

Is it any wonder that 74% of Americans believe politicians’ unwillingness to reduce government spending is more to blame for the size of the federal deficit than taxpayers’ unwillingness to pay more in taxes? After all, Americans have been calling for across-the-board cuts in government spending for years.

Speaking of Trump, nearly two-out-of-three Republican voters think he is likely to be the GOP presidential nominee. The Republican presidential candidates debate again next Tuesday.

Is America going to war in another undeclared war?

Following President Obama’s decision to send a small number of special operations troops to Syria, voters strongly suspect that more troops will soon follow.

Most voters have called for building the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada to west Texas in surveys since 2011, saying it will be good for the economy.
Because the pipeline runs across the U.S.-Canada border, Obama gets to decide its fate, and after years of delays prompted by opposition from environmental groups, he announced Friday that he is not allowing the project to go ahead despite this voter support.

The president’s monthly job approval rating for October is unchanged from September.
His daily job approval rating remains in the negative teens.

In other surveys last week:

— It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas – at least as far as consumer spending is concerned.

It looks like Americans have a case of the blues. Why so glum? We decided to find out what America thinks.

— Ohio voters on Tuesday rejected a ballot initiative that would have legalized both medical and recreational marijuana, but mixing the two into one vote may have been supporters’ biggest mistake.

— The U.S. Department of Education on Monday criticized a suburban Chicago school district for not allowing transgender students access to girls’ locker rooms and restrooms, but voters in Houston a day later repealed a law barring discrimination against transgender individuals in large part because of concerns that the law would allow men claiming to be women to use women’s bathrooms. Just 21% of Americans favor allowing transgender people to use the bathrooms and locker rooms of the opposite sex.

— Forty-five percent (45%) of Americans think heroin abuse is a bigger problem in their community than it was five years ago.

— Only 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.


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