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November 14 2015

November 16, 2015



14 November 2015


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Failure suspected in runaway blimp’s emergency-landing system

Posted: 11-04-2015


The Army surveillance blimp that broke free from its tether north of Baltimore last week made its way all the way to northeast Pennsylvania because of the likely failure of safety features designed to ground the craft quickly, Inside Defense has learned.

Problems with an “emergency flight termination system” were reported just hours after the football-field sized aerostat, known as the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System, broke free from its mooring station around noon on Oct. 28 at Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, internal Army assessments show. One such feature was supposed to cause “rapid deflation” of the blimp, aided by what a source said was a mechanism to “blow a large hole” into the hull to hasten the escape of helium and air.

While the system activated 20 seconds after the tether broke, “initial indications” are that it failed to work properly, the report states.

Sources said the blimp’s tether snapped when personnel were in the process of bringing it down because of high winds. Sensors monitoring pressure on the tether had indicated that the weather’s pull was too strong. While lowering the craft, which usually flies at 10,000 feet, the connection broke when the blimp was at 6,000 feet, sources said.

According to a Northern Command statement early that afternoon, the blimp proceeded to soar to 16,000 feet and was accompanied by fighter airplanes during its escape. Dragging its still-attached tether across the ground, the aerostat knocked out power for tens out thousands of people in its path before coming to a halt near Moreland Township, PA.

The service has said it would not answer questions about the episode pending the conclusion of a “thorough and complete investigation,” according to Army spokesman Dov Schwartz. Since the accident, contractor Raytheon has referred questions about it to the military. A company spokeswoman did not return a reporter’s phone call seeking comment on any failure of emergency-safety mechanisms.

Program officials have previously said the JLENS tether is virtually unbreakable, and safety features were in place to deal with the highly unlikely scenario of a loose blimp.

The Army investigation will determine how to proceed with a two-year demonstration of the system, sponsored by U.S. Northern Command, that was supposed to last until 2017. The blimps are equipped with sensors that can scan a radius of hundreds of miles for incoming cruise missiles.

“Out of an abundance of caution, the remaining JLENS aerostat has been lowered and secured,” command spokeswoman Maj. Beth Smith wrote in a statement for this article. “Future actions regarding the JLENS exercise will be made following the conclusion of the investigation.

Military officials began flying the first of two blimps comprising one JLENS orbit last December. Winter weather at that time allowed far fewer test flights than officials had anticipated, Inside the Army reported in March. Cold weather also delayed the construction of a ground pad for the second aerostat.

The accident last week has the Army miffed because it happened as part of a program that the service had planned to kill years ago. Officials are privately complaining that the system now is being portrayed as a fielded program of record when it amounted to little more than a prototype kept alive by various interest groups in the military and in Congress.

“Most of the testing wasn’t done,” said one source, referring to a regimen of mandatory tests that acquisition programs normally must undergo. Software for the system also wasn’t completed, the source said.

Options for the Army following the JLENS episode range from reconstituting the orbit with one of two JLENS blimps still in storage to canceling the project and demilitarizing the components. Lawmakers will have a chance to intervene when they craft a defense spending bill for fiscal year 2016 in the weeks ahead.


Federal Standards Keep Young Pilots from Manning Drones

Associated Press | Nov 09, 2015 | by Dave Kolpack



GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Megan Halek could be the best unmanned aircraft pilot coming out of the University of North Dakota’s highly regarded aviation program this year: She’s aced a training program and has enough air experience to fly private jets worldwide.

That won’t be enough to land her dream job, flying the Predator drone for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Though she would enthusiastically take on a job that currently falls to federal pilots who’d mostly rather be up in the air, she’s more than 1,300 hours short of the federal agency’s required actual flight time and doesn’t have the proper flying certificate.

“The CBP has their standards, and rightly so. They’re looking for qualified people,” said UND aviation professor John Bridewell, who is Halek’s faculty adviser. “But at some point you have to question if there’s a tradeoff between someone who simply has hours and this particular certificate versus someone who has capabilities and wants to be there.”

Officials said they are looking at changing their hiring practices — especially since the majority of its pilot workforce is made up of baby-boomer federal agents that must retire at 57 — but could not discuss specifics. Other agencies that fly drones, like some branches of the military, have less strict guidelines. Loosening the rules also could give students a stable, well-paying job out of college, rather than flying with regional airlines.

Updating hiring practices is a debate worth having, given the many job openings on the horizon among its 1,200-strong staff, according to Max Raterman, who directs the CBP’s Air and Marine Operations in Grand Forks.

“I would say the agency is aware of the concerns of not being able to hire enough pilots,” he said. “It’s what to do about it.”

Steve Bodin, a civilian pilot who had about 3,500 flying hours when he was hired with CBP in 2009, said he’d rather be flying a plane than operating a drone.

“You’re going out and getting somewhere,” the 32-year-old said. “The unmanned is cutting-edge stuff and we’re at the front line of it so this is interesting. But it’s not flying.”

The Predator drone — a $13 million piece of equipment — is the most difficult plane, manned or unmanned, that Bodin said he has to land. It’s harder to feel connected to a drone, he said.

“When you are flying a real airplane you can feel that kinetic sense, you have a peripheral view. You can sense the ground coming up, stuff like that,” he said. “With the unmanned, there’s no sound, there’s no feeling, there’s no rumbling or anything in there.

“It’s all what you perceive out of a video monitor. It’s a 2D plane and it’s all pretty much reactive.”

Halek decided from the first day of college that she wanted to major in unmanned aircraft.

“I am a pilot. I love being in the sky,” said the 22-year-old who’s set to graduate next month. “But this is something new and a platform I had my eye on since day one. I want to be in a program that is up and coming.”

Raterman acknowledged that many college pilots have the technological savvy and the interest in flying unmanned aircraft.

“I think that will be helpful, but is that enough?” he asked. “As an emerging technology and platform, I do think it’s going to sort itself out. I think we’re all going to look back one day and say we were there back in the day when we were deciding this (hiring) model.”



Senate Armed Services Committee tackles interservice rivalries — finally–finally/2015/11/09/a87530c8-8635-11e5-9a07-453018f9a0ec_story.html

By Walter Pincus November 9 at 4:46 PM 


Is Congress finally taking a serious look at the interservice rivalries that for years have led to duplication of weapons purchased, overlapping military capabilities and closed-door fights over defense dollars?

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, on Thursday held the first of a series of hearings on what he described as “who should be responsible for what military missions.” Much more than that is involved, as another hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, will show.

The last time this subject was formally tackled was in 1948, when James Forrestal, the first defense secretary, gathered the service chiefs together for four days in Key West, Fla., to settle confusion and infighting that emerged in the aftermath of World War II.

“To be sure, interservice rivalry did not end at Key West,” McCain said, adding that subsequent efforts to bring about change “have come to naught.”

The result, McCain said, has been “duplication of effort, inadequate responses to increasingly important missions, programs of record that continue along despite changes in the strategic environment, and interservice fights over resources that get papered over in the belief that everyone can do everything with roughly equal shares of the pie.”

McCain last week questioned who does what when the services fight as a joint force with missions that include various elements of warfare.

He used as an example long-range precision strikes where, he said, “aircraft carriers, long-range bombers, and ground-based missiles and rockets all have roles to play.” With tight budgets, McCain asked what is the most efficient allocation of roles “when a carrier now costs $13 billion, one bomber costs half a billion dollars, and individual missiles cost millions of dollars each?”

One “unintended consequence” of the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act, which set up combatant commanders to carry out missions using joint forces, was described to the committee by Robert Martinage, a former deputy undersecretary of the Navy and currently senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

He said that Goldwater-Nichols created “acceptance of what is often referred to as ‘Little League rules,’ meaning that every [military] service is entitled to a role in planning and conducting nearly all military operations across the spectrum of conflict regardless of whether or not it makes the most sense operationally or is the best use of available resources.”

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David A. Deptula, dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, told the panel, “A dollar spent on duplicative capability comes at the expense of essential capacity or capability elsewhere.”

Deptula asked, “Why are services procuring weapons to achieve effects already possessed by another service?” His example was the current overlap where the services all are developing and producing medium- and high-altitude drones.

Switching to another area, McCain pointed out that World War II was fought with two geographical commands: Europe, headed by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the Pacific with command shared by Adm. Chester W. Nimitz and Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

Now, McCain said, there is a proliferation of geographical military commands that has created added positions for admirals and generals with “everyone having large staffs.”

It is clear that McCain and other committee members will look at cutting back the number of geographic combatant commands because of current budgetary demands.

The panel was told by Bryan McGrath — a former Navy commander and now managing director of the FerryBridge Group, a defense consulting firm — that since the Vietnam War, 20 percent of the defense budget has gone to Defense Department agencies while the remaining 80 percent has been split by the services.

The fiscal 2016 Defense Authorization Act before Congress has a 7.5 percent across-the-board cut in Defense agencies, including the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff, McCain said. He joined others in saying it ought to go to 20 percent.

Of the services’ 80 percent, McGrath said in his prepared statement, the Navy generally was allocated “the largest share (it contains two armed services), the Department of the Air Force next and the Department of the Army the least.”

McGrath said, “Key West and Goldwater-Nichols have created an atmosphere in which comity and consensus are the coin of the realm, and that consensus is ‘purchased’ with defense spending that ensures each of the services generally get much of what they want and rarely get all of it.”

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) added that the roughly $70 billion being spent annually on intelligence also ought to be reviewed for overlapping activities among the 16 members of the intelligence community.

McCain, other senators and panel members also discussed missions such as special operations, cyber, space and strategic communications that didn’t exist 20 years ago but are central to national security.

“There are serious questions about how to properly prioritize new and untraditional missions. We cannot afford for these vital functions to be orphaned within services that will undercut and underfund them in favor of parochial priorities,” McCain said. He even went so far as saying for “those new domains of warfare, such as space and cyber, should we even consider creating new services, much as the Air Force was created seven decades ago in recognition of the vital role of air power?”

He is right, but let’s see whether this Congress or the next does more than just hold hearings. The legislators ought to act on updating Goldwater-Nichols with input from the Pentagon.

Otherwise, as McCain pointed out, “The defense bureaucracy and the services have a healthy track record of reverting back to their original forms and functions once their overseers of the moment move on.”


Marco Rubio’s Plan to Rebuild and Modernize the Military is the Right One

Bryan McGrath

November 10, 2015


Last Thursday in New Hampshire, Republican presidential candidate and Florida Senator Marco Rubio unveiled his plan to rebuild and modernize the nation’s military. By way of disclosure, I am a Rubio supporter and fundraiser, and so my interest in writing about his plan should not in any way be considered detached or unbiased. That said, this is an excellent plan that balances necessary force structure enhancements with a clear understanding of the growing readiness crisis and the need to incorporate new technologies in a more streamlined and efficient manner.

The campaign fact sheet outlining the plan can be found here. Although I certainly urge you to read it and form your own judgments, I invite your attention to six particular aspects of the plan:

1. Rubio’s plan is a broad-based approach to increasing the nation’s defense posture, stressing capacity, capability, modernization, technology, readiness, and posture. It appears that Senator Rubio recognizes that a new era of Great Power contention is upon us, an era that the Obama administration has not (and likely will not) awakened to.

2. Under a “President Rubio,” it appears that the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia” will cease to be the central operational thrust of U.S. military strategy. Not that it will be reversed, as he envisions a second aircraft carrier in the theater (and more escorts and amphibious forces), along with additional land-based air power and increased Army mobility there. What is different is that U.S. military commands in Europe and the Middle East will no longer be considered the force providers to prop up America’s interests in the Pacific. Rubio is advocating a true “three region” approach to posturing U.S. military power, with land, sea, and air forces returning to Europe to counter Russian aggression, along with a bolstered air and naval presence in the Middle East as a counter to Iran, flush with cash to fund its mischief as a result of the recent nuclear deal (which he has promised elsewhere to repudiate “on day one.”)

3. In another recognition of a new age of Great Power contention, Rubio pledges to build the Navy’s ballistic missile submarine (SSBN(X)), and the Air Force LRS-B, while modernizing the U.S. nuclear arsenal across the board and arresting further decline in its size. An effective triad is the “table stakes” for strategic deterrence in a future where current nuclear counter-proliferation regimes seem increasingly unlikely to contain what is essentially seven-decade-old technology.

4. As a navalist, I am heartened not only by his plans for the Navy and the Marine Corps, but by his plan’s emphasis on force structure and capability increases. I am especially happy to see the priority he is placing on undersea warfare and electronic warfare, two enablers of naval power that must continue to receive emphasis if the U.S. Navy is to continue its primacy. I realize this does not necessarily convey priority, but with Speaker Paul Ryan’s pronouncement on the size of the Navy last week, a larger Navy is fast becoming Republican dogma. Personally, I would like to see an even larger Navy, but his plan for a 323-ship fleet by 2024 is eight ships larger than the current administration’s plan for the same year (although the current plan is underfunded by some $5 billion annually across its breadth when compared to historical levels of spending on shipbuilding). The use of the phrase “at least” gives me hope.

5. The alarming decline in ground forces planned by the current administration is also reversed in this plan, with the Army and Marine Corps returning to pre-9/11 levels, again, in recognition of the continuing importance of Europe and the Middle East.

6. One area in the plan that I was happy to see — but which I believe deserves even greater emphasis — is its section on posturing the force “…for the Cyber Era.” Rubio is clearly positioning himself as the candidate of the future, and the future — not only of warfare, but of everyday economic security — is one of nearly constant cyber monitoring, intrusion, and attack. Put another way, cyber is a cross-cutting issue that should be more prominently discussed in this campaign, by all candidates. In my view, we need to consider building up a Cold War-like “civil defense” program that raises the cyber awareness of our entire citizenry in a manner that promotes local responses and education beginning at the elementary school level. As one friend put it, cyber is “the ultimate STEM issue.”

Rubio’s plan also calls for reform to both acquisition policy and personnel and benefits programs, and both are in need of great reform. I look forward to the sure-to-arise stories of how expensive this plan is and how it lets our allies off the hook for their own defense. These will be stories written by those yet to grasp the new security environment, the serious threats we face, and the strong response necessary to position us to contend with them. This plan is a great start in that direction, and I look forward to reading the detailed plans of the other candidates, Democrat and Republican alike, in order to assess the extent of their seriousness.

Bryan McGrath is the Managing Director of The FerryBridge Group LLC and the Assistant Director of the Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower.


Experts: Fix Top-Heavy Pentagon

By Joe Gould 6:15 p.m. EST November 10, 2015


WASHINGTON — According to expert testimony on Tuesday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Defense Department is straining under a lumbering, outmoded and top-heavy command structure in dire need of an overhaul to compete with faster-moving adversaries and eliminate government waste.

Partially to blame is the committee’s last major overhaul of the Defense Department, the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act.

Two former staffers who midwifed Goldwater-Nichols, now leading thinkers on national security, urged lawmakers to address some of the law’s problematic results: James Locher, a Joint Special Operations University senior fellow, and John Hamre, CEO of the Center For Strategic And International Studies and chairman of the Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee — plus Jim Thomas, of the Center For Strategic And Budgetary Assessments.

“No organizational blueprint lasts forever,” Locher said at a SASC committee hearing review the 30-year-old law.

In the name of curbing inter-service rivalries, Goldwater-Nichols strengthened joint regional combatant commands and made joint duty assignments important to an officer’s career. The law also elevated combatant commands to report to the defense secretary and chairman of the Joint Chiefs to become the president’s military adviser, while service chiefs became focused as force and resource providers.

But the law also unintentionally fueled personnel bloat within joint organizations, as billets were created to provide officers with joint experience. Combatant commands, envisioned as war-fighting headquarters when they were enlarged by the law, now largely play a support role as the Pentagon uses ad hoc task forces to run combat operations.

While Goldwater-Nichols improved the ability of the services to operate together more effectively in combat, it altered the Pentagon’s internal balance of power between the secretary, the chairman and the service chiefs to become too interdependent, Locher said. None of main actors can decide anything alone, which drives a Byzantine process of coordination and concurrences between them.

SASC Chairman Sen. John McCain and his House counterpart, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, have made acquisition reform a top priority and a central piece of the 2016 defense policy bill, but it remains to be seen whether their efforts will yield a holistic organizational overhaul for the Pentagon.

McCain said the effort’s principles include providing for a more efficient defense management; strengthening the all-volunteer joint force; enhancing innovation and accountability in defense acquisition; supporting current and future troops; improving the development of policy, strategy and plans, and increasing the effectiveness of military operations.

The experts said tough and lengthy work awaits reformers, with some opportunities for incremental fixes — particularly in cooperation with the reform-minded Defense Secretary Ash Carter. Goldwater-Nichols drew its urgency from military failures in Vietnam, Iran and Grenada, and succeeded because it grew out of bipartisan consensus and overcame strong opposition from the Defense Department.

On Tuesday, McCain seemed to link acquisition reform and other Pentagon inefficiency, saying flab on the military’s support side is untenable as its fighting end gets leaner. He lamented that defense spending since 1986 has been near constant while combat brigades, ships and combat air squadrons have fallen in size.

“More and more of our people and money are in overhead functions, not operating forces,” said McCain, R-Ariz. “And all too often, we see instances where our senior leaders feel compelled to work around the system, not through it, in order to be successful — whether it is field and critical and urgently needed new weapons, establishing ad hoc joint task forces to fight wars, or formulating a new strategy when we were losing the war in Iraq.”

The Defense Department could look to the commercial sector for more agile, efficient organizational models. A commercial satellite firm’s headquarters, Hamre said, might have 10 people filling a role that would take more than 500 in a military equivalent. Hamre, among other ideas, suggested combining the warehousing Defense Logistics Agency with US Transportation Command.

“There are more people in the Army today with their fingers on a keyboard than a trigger,” Hamre said. “We can live with the money you’ve given us if we can make real changes.”

Opinions on the panel varied subtly about how to restructure unified combatant commands. Hamre suggested they fill a vital role in building relationships with foreign militaries, but could continue with less of their “beefy” staffs, while Locher said they should be at least consolidated. Thomas suggested splitting the war-fighting and engagement roles.

Locher said the Joint Chiefs chairman needs to be given directive authority on behalf of the defense secretary and greater authority to decide between the competing demands of the regional commands to develop global strategy. Otherwise the panel discussed the possibility of a high command staff made up of top strategists.

“No military leader in our current system is empowered to prioritize efforts across regions and produce something analogous to the very simple but highly effective strategy Gen. George Marshall articulated for dealing with Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan upon US entry into World War II: Win in Europe, hold in the Pacific,” Locher said.


Chinese Scientists Unveil New Stealth Material Breakthrough

November 11, 2015 By Patrick Tucker

Planes and warships just got a lot harder to see with microwave radar.


A group of scientists from China may have created a stealth material that could make future fighter jets very difficult to detect by some of today’s most cutting-edge anti-stealth radar.

The researchers developed a new material they say can defeat microwave radar at ultrahigh frequencies, or UHF. Such material is usually too thick to be applied to aircraft like fighter jets, but this new material is thin enough for military aircraft, ships, and other equipment.

Today’s synthetic aperture radar use arrays of antennas directing microwave energy to essentially see through clouds and fog and provide an approximate sense of the object’s size, the so-called radar cross section. With radar absorbent material not all of the signal bounces back to the receiver. A plane can look like a bird.

“Our proposed absorber is almost ten times thinner than conventional ones,” said Wenhua Xu, one of the team members from China’s Huazhong University of Science and Technology, in a statement.

In their paper, published today in the Journal of Applied Physics, the team describes a material composed of semi-conducting diodes (varactors) and capacitors that have been soldered onto a printed circuit board. That layer is sitting under a layer of copper resistors and capacitors just .04 mm thick, which they called an “active frequency selective surface material” or AFSS. The AFSS layer can effectively be stretched to provide a lot of absorption but is thin enough to go onto an aircraft. The next layer is a thin metal honeycomb and final is a metal slab.

The good news: the material isn’t locked away in a lab but published openly, so it’s not going to surprise anyone.

Stealth is considered by many to be one of the key technologies that enabled U.S. military dominance throughout the last century, effectively neutralizing, or offsetting, technological gains made by rival nations and the Soviet empire.

“In the 1970s, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown, working closely with Undersecretary – and future Defense Secretary – Bill Perry, shepherded their own offset strategy, establishing the Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program that helped develop and field revolutionary new systems, such as extended-range precision-guided munitions, stealth aircraft, and new intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance platforms,” former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said at a November 2014 event outlining the Pentagon’s newest technological push.

The F-35’s stealth capabilities are often touted as the jet’s most valuable feature. But in 2009, China was reportedly able to steal design and electronics data related to the program. China’s J-31 fighter resembles the F-35 to an uncanny degree, leaving many to wonder if the electronics on the inside are a match as well.

The publication today won’t answer that question but does speak to a growing Chinese capability in stealth technology, an area where the United States once had clear dominance.



Congress Demands $200 Million Antivirus Scan of Connected Weapons

By Aliya Sternstein

November 11, 2015



President Barack Obama is set to sign a defense bill ordering the Pentagon to probe every major weapon system for hacker entryways. Among many passages dedicated to cybersecurity in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act is a section on evaluating cyber vulnerabilities in weaponry.

The Defense Department must update lawmakers on progress during quarterly cyber operations briefings, according to the bill, which cleared the Senate on Tuesday. A full assessment of the military’s artillery systems is due by the end of 2019.

An inspection last year of almost the entire Pentagon weapons program revealed “significant vulnerabilities” in cybersecurity throughout in every system, according to Defense’s annual operational test and evaluation report released in January. For the most part, the U.S. military never fathomed its weapons would be considered “connected devices” one day, right along with refrigerators, cars and other data-driven machines in the Internet of Things.

Within six months after the bill is enacted, Defense must draw up a list with the names of each system and the project cost of conducting the probe.

The machines will go under the microscope in an order based on “criticality,” as determined by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, factoring in “an assessment of employment of forces and threats,” the legislation states.

Exceptions will be made if the Pentagon can certify all known weaknesses have “minimal consequences for the capability of the weapon system” to operate, the measure states.

Lawmakers specified the broad sweep should not duplicate tests for information security weaknesses already underway, such as those conducted by the Navy’s Task Force Cyber Awakening and the Air Force’s Task Force Cyber Secure, the lawmakers specified.

As weaknesses surface during the course of the investigation, the Pentagon is expected to create strategies for minimizing their risks.

The authorized spending cap on the initiative is $200 million for 2016.

The raft of cyber vulnerabilities pinpointed in 2014 centered on unnecessary network functions; misconfigured, unpatched, or outdated software; and weak passwords, head weapons tester Michael Gilmore said in the January report.

While the military has been working to close holes identified in previous years, new weaknesses were discovered, he added.

Penetration testers were able to find the threats with merely “novice- and intermediate-level” techniques, Gilmore said. No advanced hacking skills were needed to find system vulnerabilities.

Assessments performed on the Littoral Combat Ship 3 uncovered significant vulnerabilities in the vessel’s ability “to protect the security of information and prevent malicious intrusion,” he said.

In May, the Navy launched its own analysis of the cyber threats confronting its drones, sensors and missiles, among other arms systems. A key goal of the project will be shrinking the branch’s attack surface, partly by designing security controls before systems are manufactured.


McAfee forecasts growing cyber threats for the next five years

For hackers, a more pervasive Internet means more targets and a larger attack surface, the company warns.

By Grayson Ullman

November 12, 2015 4:58 PM


Driven by the online earthquake that is the explosive growth of Internet of Things, a tsunami of cybercrime and other hacking is heading our way, warns McAfee Labs in its 2016 Threat Predictions report.

In light of the mounting threat posed by hackers in an era of unprecedented connected technology, McAfee in August issued an initial report which peeked five years into the past, comparing anticipated cyber threats then to the attacks encountered today.

The final report, issued this week, forges into the future, mapping the turbulence consumers and organizations alike can expect to encounter as they navigate cyberspace in the next five years.

The findings, broadly, are not surprising: McAfee predicts a massive surge in digital devices — according to the Business Insider’s “The Connected-Car Report,” it points out, there will be 220 million connected cars on the road by 2020 — and a subsequent spike in hacking attempts across the board, from simple phishing and ransomware crime to hacktivists and nation state actors.

The largest changes, the report predicts, will be in the means by which hackers target victims. For example, hardware and critical infrastructure strikes along the lines of the stuxnet virus that crippled Iranian nuclear facilities in 2010, are expected to skyrocket.

“As new or different criminal actors and nation-states start to exercise their cyber threats, we may see more hardware-based attacks as a means to create chaos or deny service to an organization,” said Steven Grobman, chief technology officer of Intel Security.

McAfee, the company named after eccentric founder John McAfee, is being rebranded as Intel Security following its acquisition by Intel.

Security experts anticipate that hackers will enhance and conglomerate current techniques into more comprehensive attack structures, such as compiling stolen credit card, social security and other personally identifiable information to fabricate entire entities, instead of using traditionally simple fraud methods that are easily foiled. The report predicts that ransomware users will begin to warehouse stolen data, turning huge profits by selling information to the highest bidder instead of merely holding it hostage. It also discusses potential exploitation of wearables in order to track individual targets’ movements, providing an easy means to authenticate spear phishing attempts.

Despite an increase in the quantity and quality of cyber threats, however, McAfee remains confident that the new wave of hacking can be deflected through vigilance and, critically, the sharing of threat intelligence.

“Shared threat intelligence and collaboration is instrumental in rapidly combating the adversaries’ aggressive drive, whether they are targeting critical infrastructure, a company’s intellectual property, or an individual’s personal information,” Jeanette Jarvis, director of product management at Intel Security, said in the report. “…In 2016, metrics for success will begin to emerge so that customers and governments will have a better understanding about how much these cooperatives can enhance protection.”



The 7 big things on President Obama’s to-do list, with one year to go

By Amber Phillips November 12 at 12:32 PM 


With less than a year before his successor is elected and he officially becomes a lame-duck president, time is running short. Obama has moved the ball forward on a number of legacy items already this year. Some have solidified; others remain in limbo.

His 2010 health care reform law will already be mentioned at the top of the 44th president’s Wikipedia page. But the Obama White House is moving quickly on a number of issues that could be listed in the first few paragraphs, too.

“You do get a sense they are aware of the legacy, and there is a kind of a presidential scorecard being filled out,” says Gil Troy, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution.

Obama’s ambitions are high. They start with one last shot at the seemingly impossible task of closing the prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and cover everything from signing an international climate change deal to finalizing one of the world’s largest free-trade agreements in a generation.

It’s notable that most of Obama’s goals are abroad; that’s because a Republican-controlled Congress has less authority to intervene. But that doesn’t mean crossing things off his final to-do list is going to be easy. The scope of what he wants to do means finishing it will take a lot of late nights for Obama and his staff in their final year, said Jacob Stokes, an associate fellow at the bipartisan Center for a New American Security.

But if the stars align for the president — as they seem to have done this summer — Stokes thinks Obama can get most of them done. “The president and the administration have a relatively large amount of agency to get these things done,” he said. “If they really focus on it.”

Here are seven things on Obama’s final to-do list.


1. Finally close Guantanamo

White House: U.S. can still close Guantanamo before Obama leaves

Shuttering Guantanamo is less of a legacy issue and more of a moral one for the president, Stokes said. Since the first days of his presidency, Obama has maintained the prison, where men can be held indefinitely, is a propaganda tool for terrorists. But congressional Republicans say closing it will create more risk than it’s worth, and they — and the realities of what to do with existing prisoners there — have successfully blocked the president for six years from doing anything about it.

The clock’s ticking for Obama to fulfill one of his oldest campaign promises.

He’s planning a final standoff with Congress, by dropping a plan as soon as this week to close Guantanamo without Congress’s help. (On Tuesday, Congress passed its annual defense spending bill that, per usual, restricts the president from transferring detainees to the United States.)

But Obama must decide how badly he wants Guantanamo closed. Trying to transfer the remaining 112 prisoners by himself could start a much broader fight with Republicans over the president’s constitutional power. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is threatening to sue the president if he acts over Congress’s wishes.


2. Get the TPP through Congress

Obama already scored a major legislative victory this summer when he persuaded enough congressional Democrats — yes, he was working against much of his own party on this one — to give him authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership without congressional say-so on every little detail.

His job is only half done, though. After the United States and 11 other nations came to an agreement on the deal in October, Obama now needs to sway enough lawmakers on both sides to approve the whole package.

Lawmakers will soon review the sprawling deal and could vote on it this spring at the earliest. Getting it passed is going to be an uphill battle for Obama, reports The Washington Post’s David Nakamura. Liberal Democrats are concerned about the trade deal’s environmental impacts and potential drag on U.S. manufacturing jobs, while some Republicans worry the deal isn’t strong enough.

The stakes are also higher for Obama than simply completing the biggest free-trade deal in modern history. This trade agreement is a major economic cornerstone of Obama’s pivot to Asia, Stokes said. Without TPP, he’ll lose one of his most concrete examples of a shift to Asia that has struggled to take shape.

3. Ink an international climate change deal

President Obama announced that his administration is rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline, as Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Biden looked on. (AP)

Here’s one place Obama might not need to do battle with Congress. Whatever comes out of a major United Nations summit on climate change held in Paris at the end of this month will likely not have to ratified by the Senate.

That’s a good thing, because Obama didn’t make any friends on Capitol Hill on Friday when he announced he won’t approve an extension to the Keystone XL oil pipeline from Canada. In bucking a Republican priority and taking the environmentalists’ side, Obama indicated he’s ready to make some serious changes to U.S. pollution levels, which rank among the top in the world.

Rejecting Keystone demonstrates to the rest of the world that Obama is “willing to pull out all the stops on climate change,” writes The Washington Post’s Chris Mooney.

Plus, a 2009 climate change meeting of world leaders in Copenhagen was kind of a bust, so Paris could be Obama’s last chance to effect any meaningful change on the world stage.

“If they miss putting something together in Paris, it’s going to be very tough to do anything beyond that,” Stokes said.

4. Find some sort of political agreement in Syria

The White House said President Obama plans to deploy a small number of special operations forces to Syria to advise rebels Washington deems moderate. When asked about the number of troops, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “The less than 50 number is accurate.” (Reuters)

Obama is leaning in on Syria in his final months in office. In addition to stepping up airstrikes on the Islamic State there, he announced in October he’s putting 50 Special Ops forces on the ground, appearing to go back on his past statements he wouldn’t commit ground troops to Syria.

This is happening as Russia jumped into the Syrian conflict, aiming to help Syrian President Bashar al-Assad keep control of his crumbling country. That’s a major problem for the White House, which is facing an already no-win situation in an increasingly violent Middle East.

But Russia’s sudden prioritization of the region could be just the crisis the world and Obama need to find a solution, Stokes said. Already, it forced diplomats with stakes in the region to a hastily organized conference in Vienna last week to talk about what to do, he noted.

“I think there’s a sense that a political agreement is not imminent by any stretch of the imagination,” Stokes said, “but that in the next year you may get parties into a region where they can start thinking more broadly.”

Either way, Obama would really like to leave office without a civil war in Syria — something which is fueling the Islamic State’s movement — still raging.

5. Implement the Iran nuclear deal

Yes, Obama announced a historic nuclear agreement with Iran in June, and yes, he managed to avoid a reluctant Congress from blocking it in September.

But the deal is still mostly on-paper, which means several GOP presidential candidates’ campaign promises to “rip it to shreds” — as Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) likes to say — are legitimate threats.

That is, unless Obama can spend the next year or so setting key elements of the deal in motion. That would make it much tougher for another president to come along and undo one of his biggest foreign policy achievements, Stokes said.

6. Sign a criminal justice reform bill into law

These days, Obama and Republicans celebrate when they can agree on a budget just to keep the government running. So there’s little hope they’ll come to an agreement on the president’s other major domestic policy goals, like immigration reform.

One bright spot is criminal justice reform. A bipartisan bill to change federal sentencing mandates is moving quickly in the Senate and has the potential for bipartisan support in the House of Representatives, too.

Obama has made reforming sentencing laws a priority recently. In 2014, then-Attorney General Eric Holder announced the department would stop charging nonviolent drug offenders with crimes that require judges to enact so-called mandatory minimum sentences. And the Justice Department recently released 6,000 federal prisoners, the largest one-time release ever, who were sentenced for non-violent drug crimes.

7. Win a court case over his immigration actions

Not just any court case, mind you. After 26 states challenged his executive actions on immigration, Obama is betting it all on the Supreme Court.

A federal court upheld the states’ challenge on Monday, and by Tuesday, the White House confirmed it would ask the Supreme Court to rule next year on whether he stayed within his constitutionally limited powers by deferring deportations for millions of young immigrants and some of their parents.

If the Supreme Court takes up the case, it could rule by June, leaving just months for the administration to start enrolling immigrants and create a buffer for whoever comes into the White House next — and whatever vision of Obama’s they might try to undo.



Why federal tax credit expiration would hit Midwest solar the hardest

Written By Kari Lydersen

November 13, 2015


Solar advocates nationwide are holding their breath as Congress debates extending the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for solar, a crucial tool for financing residential and commercial installations.

Legislators who support solar are pushing to include the ITC in a broader tax extenders bill making its way through Congress.

Midwestern renewable energy developers and advocates say this region may have the most at stake with the ITC’s fate. Midwestern states typically lack strong state-level policies to support the nascent but promising solar industry, they say, and low electricity prices mean the payback time for solar is longer than in other regions.

The ITC offers credits on federal income taxes for individuals and businesses equal to 30 percent of the cost spent on solar installations. Without the extension, the commercial break will drop to 10 percent and the residential support will be eliminated when the credit expires at the end of 2016.

Without the credit, many installations would simply not be built, developers and advocates say.

“It’s crucial…it truly is a main factor for the majority of projects we win,” said Ray Davis, president of OGW Energy Resources, an Ohio-based developer that does commercial, industrial and residential solar across the Midwest. “As we are primarily a coal region, our grid kilowatt-hour costs are relatively low as compared to other regions. Therefore the ITC truly is the part of the puzzle that makes solar fiscally feasible in the Midwest.

“It’s an integral part of the decision-making,” for clients, he continued. “If we’re dealing with a business we eventually get to a CFO or controller who has a fiduciary responsibility to protect their employees and shareholders. If the system doesn’t make sense financially, they’re not going to do it.”


Legislators negotiating

The tax extenders bill passed by the Senate Finance Committee in July currently includes a two-year extension of the Production Tax Credit for wind and other renewables, which expired at the end of 2014. But the bill does not include the solar ITC.


The version of the tax extenders bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee does not include either clean energy incentive.

Legislators have reportedly proposed an addition to the bill that would allow solar projects to collect the ITC as long as they are started, not completed, by the expiration date. There is reportedly bi-partisan support for this measure, including from Republican Sens. Dean Heller (NV) and Rob Portman (OH), and Democratic Rep. Ron Wyden (OR).

During the hearing on the bill in the Senate Finance Committee last summer, Heller said, “I’m disappointed that we can’t reach consensus on language that would truly give parity for an industry that is not only important for my home state of Nevada, but frankly, helps to diversify our nation’s energy portfolio.”

‘Seeing the ITC drop off a cliff would have a devastating impact on Midwest installers.’

The offices of Portman and other Midwestern legislators – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R- Ill.) – did not return calls and emails for this story.

Meanwhile solar energy advocates are pushing for a five-year extension of the credit, through 2021, in addition to the deadline policy revision.

“Seeing the ITC drop off a cliff would have a devastating impact on Midwest installers,” said Amy Heart, senior manager of public policy for the solar developer Sunrun Inc. “Because state-level policies in the Midwest have come and gone, installers in the Midwest have really benefited from and rely on that federal solar ITC. That’s kept this market going and allowed people to keep planning for the future.”


A drastic difference

An analysis by Bloomberg News Energy Finance (BNEF), commissioned by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), found that a failure to pass the ITC extension could mean significant declines in installed solar energy in the Midwest.

For the states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio, BNEF predicted a cumulative 3,428 MW of solar installed by 2022 with an extension, and 2,331 MW without one. Currently, there are close to 500 MW installed in these states.

Nationwide, BNEF estimated, cumulative installed solar in 2022 would be 95 GW nationwide with an ITC extension and just 73GW without one. Utility solar installations would make up the biggest sector of that amount. On the residential front, BNEF forecast that in 2021, more than 4 GW would be built with an ITC extension, compared to 2.5GW without it.

“With the ITC expiration, we expect solar companies to downsize and retrench to their strongest states, those where they’re already established and sound state policies are already in place,” said SEIA spokesman Dan Whitten.

“This obviously leaves many consumers in Midwestern states waiting to take advantage of the benefits that solar currently provides to customers in states like California, New York and Massachusetts. This would be a major setback to the Midwest both economically and environmentally, as solar creates more jobs per megawatt than any other technology, creates zero carbon emissions and can be deployed cost-effectively and quickly.”


Hitting a cliff

Heart said that not only is an extension needed, but Congress needs to pass it quickly.

“Acting on it this fall is really important,” she said. “It expires at the end of 2016, but if we don’t have it [passed soon], sales stop in March – because [qualifying projects] have to be operational by the end of 2016.”

She added that distributors of solar equipment and solar developers are “already in crisis mode” trying to get projects completed by the end of 2016. So smaller Midwestern installations are at a competitive disadvantage compared to larger planned arrays in California or other states with well-developed solar markets.


Heart said solar advocates only want a “level playing field” with other energy sources that have long enjoyed government subsidies. And, she said, developers expect the Midwestern market could eventually reach a level where it can thrive without supports.

“As the market builds, that incentive or tax credit fades away – it’s a ramp-down, not a cliff,” she said. “An extension of a few years with a planned ramp-down – that’s absolutely up for conversation. But [the 2016 expiration would mean] the damage of 10 years of support and investment, then just when we’re getting our feet under us in the Midwest, we hit a cliff. That’s never good economic design.”


The bigger picture

Davis said the constant battle to extend the ITC for a year or two at a time “drives me crazy.”

‘If there were no subsidies associated with energy, solar would be competitive in and of itself.’

“If renewables are to be part of our country’s economic and energy future, the ITC should not be extended for a year or two, it needs to be a 10-year proposition or longer,” he said. “I really despise the kick-the-can-down-the-road mentality. If it makes sense then make it permanent, or very long-term.”

Jason Edens is co-founder of the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL), a Minnesota-based non-profit organization that specializes in making solar accessible to lower-income customers. He notes that the ITC, like all tax credits, is a benefit mainly for more affluent companies and individuals who have income tax liabilities large enough to benefit from credits. If someone does not owe much in income taxes, they can’t really collect the 30 percent credit for a solar installation.

This is among the reasons he and others say that ultimately, a truly “level playing field” is the way to shift to a cleaner energy future.

“In an ideal world energy wouldn’t be subsidized, period,” Edens said. “If there were no subsidies associated with energy, solar would be competitive in and of itself. Coal and electric generation in general has been highly subsidized since World War II. Solar needs tools such as the ITC in order to prosper given the disparity. But if we move beyond incentives and truly internalize the environmental costs of different types of energy, it will be a slam dunk for clean energy.”




Why Many States Are Panicked by the Federal Clean Power Plan

November 13, 2015

By Sophie Quinton


Smoke rises from the coal-fired power plants in Colstrip. Like other coal-producing states, Montana worries that new federal power plant regulations could devastate the coal industry and the tax revenue it generates.

The four huge power plants that stand smoking in Colstrip, Montana, don’t just employ hundreds of workers. They pay property taxes that allow the city of some 2,000 people to afford services other remote, rural communities lack, such as a parks and recreation department.

The electricity-generating plants consume almost all the coal mined at the Rosebud Mine, the second largest coal mine in Montana. When the mine removes—or “severs”—coal from the earth, the mining company pays the state a severance tax on the value of the coal. Some of the money is invested into state trust funds, and some goes to support statewide services, such as public schools.

But new federal regulations for power plants threaten to put cities like Colstrip out of business. Puget Sound Energy, a part-owner of the Colstrip plants, already wants to close two of them. That would have a fiscal impact on the entire state. A 2010 University of Montana study found that the Colstrip operations contributed 4.5 percent of all state tax revenue and $104 million in state and local taxes.

Many states with significant reserves of coal, oil and natural gas depend on revenue from severance taxes on natural resources. In 2013, Montana’s tax revenue from severance taxes was nearly 12 percent. In West Virginia it was 13 percent and in Wyoming it was 39 percent, according a Stateline analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

No wonder those states are so upset about federal Clean Power Plan regulations, President Obama’s bid to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases affecting the Earth’s climate. The regulations, which take effect in December, will require states to reduce emissions from power plants. Coal emits more greenhouse gases than other energy sources, so one way for states to meet the federal goal is to shut down coal-fired plants.

State Rep. Duane Ankney, a Republican who represents Colstrip, said the federal rule would cost Montana dearly: “We’re talking a $700 million to $800 million fiscal impact to the state, county and local governments.”

Montana is one of 26 states suing to stop implementation of the regulations. But regardless of the outcome of the lawsuits, some communities that have depended on coal jobs and tax revenue may have to learn to live without them.


The Coming Energy Transition?

The energy industry is prone to boom-and-bust cycles, and right now, the coal and oil industries are going through a bust. A growing number of coal companies have declared bankruptcy in the past year. State budgets have tightened as the industry slides.

Last month, West Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced a 4-percent, across-the-board budget cut to compensate for a deficit driven by a $190 million drop in severance tax collections. Wyoming’s Republican Gov. Matt Mead announced $200 million in budget cuts, citing falling energy prices.

A boom in natural gas has created a cheaper, cleaner alternative to coal, while federal regulation has made coal-fired power plants more expensive. A 2012 mercury and toxic pollution rule, for example, has led operators to shut down plants or install new equipment.

States like California, New York and Washington, the home state of Puget Sound Energy, have made big, public commitments to fighting climate change by shifting their energy consumption to cleaner fuels. Washington’s commitment is one reason why Puget Sound Energy wants to stop getting electricity from Colstrip.

“Coal reductions are happening in all 50 states,” said Bruce Nilles of the Sierra Club, which along with its partners has helped to convince states and municipalities to shut down 206 power plants since 2010.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration expects coal-fired power plants to continue to shut down and for very few new coal-fired plants to replace them, even without the Clean Power Plan. That’s a big deal, because more than 90 percent of the coal mined in the United States is burned to produce electricity, according to the EIA.

Analysts say the economic woes felt in some parts of coal country, such as southeastern West Virginia, are part of a long-term trend.


“This one’s not cyclical. This is a permanent shift,” said Evan Hansen, principal at Downstream Strategies, a West Virginia environmental consulting firm.

Hansen said Central Appalachia faces an additional challenge: digging for coal is more expensive there than in other regions of the country, partly because of federal mining regulations.

The Clean Power Plan gives each state a different emissions reduction target, depending on the mix of energy used in that state. California is well on its way to meeting its target; Montana may struggle.

“There is no wiggle room for Montana in this Clean Power Plan,” Ankney said.

Montana has to reduce its carbon emissions by 47 percent of 2012 levels by 2030. Over half Montana’s electricity is produced by burning coal, according to the EIA. Most likely, Ankney said, complying would mean shutting down eight small coal plants.


Easing the Burden

Ankney is trying to keep the Colstrip plants running. Last month, he traveled to Washington state to plead with legislators there who have to approve Puget Sound Energy’s planned changes. As many as 400 jobs are at stake.

Ankney said there just aren’t that many other good jobs in eastern Montana, a sparsely populated, rural part of the state. Colstrip is 30 miles from the nearest highway. The closest large city is Billings, a 120 mile drive away.

It’s always tough for a small, isolated economy to lose its dominant industry. Consider steel mill and factory closures in the Rust Belt in the 1970s and ’80s, or military base closures in the 1990s.

The coal industry has left Colstrip before, when trains switched from coal to diesel fuel in the mid-20th century. “Colstrip became pretty much a ghost town. There was no longer any reason for it to exist, other than that the school was here,” said John Williams, Colstrip’s mayor.

Some utilities and states that are moving away from coal have agreed to spend money to help workers transition, Nilles said. The Obama administration has set aside up to $35 million to help develop local economies and proposed additional funding for job training that Congress has yet to approve.

In states that rely on severance taxes, a struggling coal industry could have a bigger impact on tax revenue than on statewide employment levels, said Mark Haggerty, an analyst at Headwaters Economics, a research company based in Bozeman, Montana.

In Montana and Wyoming, coal mining raises a disproportionate amount of revenue. In Wyoming, coal mining employed about 1.8 percent of all workers, according to a University of Wyoming study in 2012, but generated about 11.2 percent of all government revenue.

The study’s co-author, Robert Godby, hasn’t had the chance to analyze the final Clean Power Plan rule yet. But in looking at the draft, he anticipated that Wyoming’s combined natural gas and coal revenue could fall as much as 46 percent by 2030.

Severance tax money has allowed many energy-producing states to keep other taxes low. Wyoming, has neither a personal nor a corporate income tax.

The Clean Power Plan pushes states to invest in renewable energy sources, which could create a new source of revenue. Wyoming started taxing wind power in 2012, for instance. But wind power isn’t much of a moneymaker. Wind is free, so all a state can do is impose sales and property taxes on wind farms, Godby said.

Coal-producing states could be forced to raise other taxes if severance taxes keep falling. Montana state Sen. Roger Webb, a Republican, raised the possibility last year in a newspaper column criticizing the Clean Power Plan—and not because he supported the idea.

“The president’s carbon regulations create a giant, gaping hole in our state’s budget picture,” he wrote. “The most likely outcome of all this is going to be a huge property tax hike on Montana homeowners and small businesses to fill the gap.”

Ankney doesn’t expect lawmakers to seriously consider increasing taxes. Raising taxes, after all, is anathema to the state’s conservative-leaning Legislature. Instead, he said, “It will be cuts rather than raising taxes.”


VT researchers study jet engines ingesting drones


by Press • 13 November 2015


In all of 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration recorded 238 possible drone sightings and near-misses by aircraft. Between Jan. 1 and Aug. 20 of 2015, the agency reported 678.

Many in the aviation industry have expressed concern about unmanned aerial vehicles — including drones — impacting aircraft. New research from members of Virginia Tech’s Department of Mechanical Engineering shows how a drone getting sucked into a turbofan jet engine can lead to catastrophic engine damage. Now, Tech researchers are looking into how to lessen the danger to aircraft.

The research began with Javid Bayandor, associate professor of mechanical engineering and director of VT’s Crashworthiness for Aerospace Structures and Hybrids Laboratory. He had previously led research into modeling the ingestion of birds into jet engines, a scenario the FAA already requires engine manufacturers to prepare for. As part of this research, his team developed a complex computer model of an advanced turbofan jet engine that could simulate damage caused by foreign objects entering the engine.

But in the last few years, numerous news reports have surfaced of pilots spotting drones flying dangerously close to airports. These reports inspired Bayandor and his team to change the direction of their research.
“We’ve done all of this work and we’re comfortable with calculating the progressive failure effects of any other type of foreign object,” Bayandor said. “We said, why don’t we just try to model a drone?”

Bayandor is working with Walter O’Brien, the J. Bernard Jones professor of mechanical engineering. The research team also includes mechanical engineering doctoral students and CRASH Lab members Kevin Schroeder and Yangkun Song.

The results of their research were striking.

In one simulation, researchers modeled an eight-pound quadcopter impacting a turbofan engine. The drone breaks one blade of the turbofan at the intake of the engine immediately on impact. The resulting debris and vibrations destroy many of the fan blades in the rapidly spinning engine in milliseconds. Debris from the drone and fan blades, traveling as fast as 715 miles per hour, wreaks havoc on the rest of the engine.

The resulting damage could lead to catastrophic engine failure or, in extreme circumstances, jeopardize the structural integrity of the engine.

“Because (I’ve) only invested … $200 in a drone, I might not really care what’s happening. But the implications are absolutely drastic,” Bayandor said. “The drone will be sucked in if it’s anywhere near the effective intake area of the engine.”

Now, Bayandor and his team are turning their attention to how to lessen the danger posed by drones.

“The research question is, can we do research that will reduce the possibility of this happening?” O’Brien said. “Can we categorize the kind of damage that small and large drones would produce? And I suppose ultimately, can we define how engines could be resistant to this sort of thing?”

VT researchers are not alone in looking at this problem. The FAA is working on new comprehensive regulations to govern the use of UAVs. In October, the FAA announced that it will require all UAV owners to register their devices.
“I think the most important step was what the FAA has taken,” Bayandor said. “This was something that we had suggested, that the anonymity of drone users can cause a lot of problems because they can do anything without any responsibility.”

Engine manufacturers are trying to develop solutions as well. According to a statement provided to the Collegiate Times by GE Aviation, a manufacturer of jet engines, the company has started several initiatives to work on this problem. It has launched an internal program to categorize UAVs and their components to help identify specific threats to engines. The company has also partnered with the FAA and several universities to establish a process for evaluating the threats that different UAVs pose.
However, it appears likely that some of the responsibility will fall on drone operators.

“The burden is going to be on the unmanned aircraft to see and avoid the other airplanes because the pilot is not going to see the drone until it’s too late,” said Craig Woolsey, professor of aerospace and ocean engineering. “Even if he or she did, they may not be able to maneuver quickly enough to avoid it.”

Bayandor hopes that the results of this research and the attention it has received from media outlets such as WSLS and Aerospace America will help. According to him, more awareness of the rules and dangers will keep well-intentioned drone operators from causing problems.

“We try to, by studies like this, bring a little bit of public awareness. (Operators) know that, in their right conscience, they shouldn’t do this,” Bayandor said. “Hopefully, with public awareness, (impacts) become less and less likely.”


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Democratic presidential hopefuls face off again this weekend, but their debate isn’t likely to impact the race anymore than the latest Republican one did.

Rasmussen Reports will release new numbers on the Democratic race early next week, but front-runner Hillary Clinton is expected to remain far ahead.

The outsiders – Donald Trump and Dr. Ben Carson – are still leading the pack in our latest look at the Republican presidential primary race following Tuesday night’s debate.

Most Republican voters still see Trump as their party’s likely presidential nominee in our weekly Trump Change survey, but there seems to be less feeling of certainty about it.

This week’s debate highlighted strong differences of opinion among the top Republicans on national security and illegal immigration.

Active duty military and veterans tend to favor increased U.S. combat involvement against the radical Islamic group ISIS more than the public at large does.

Voters in general continue to believe the federal government is not interested in stopping illegal immigration, and support for state rather than federal enforcement of immigration laws is now at its highest level in several years.

A federal appeals court this week ruled against President Obama’s plan to exempt up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation. Twenty-six states have challenged the legality of the president’s action, and most voters have opposed the amnesty plan since he first announced it last year.  Democrats are much more supportive of the president’s plan than Republicans are, though.

Another big area of partisan disagreement is global warming. 
Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Democrats now think the government should prosecute groups and businesses who don’t believe in global warming.

The president’s daily job approval ratings remain in the negative mid-teens. 

Even as the presidential candidates for both major parties lay out their agendas for the next four years, voters continue to question whether either side really knows where it’s going.

There’s some positive economic news this week: 
Americans are more convinced that their local housing market is good for sellers, although homeowners’ expectations for their own home values have stayed about the same.

Still, just 27%  of voters say again this week that the country is headed in the right direction.

A boycott by the University of Missouri football team prompted the resignation of the school’s top officials this past week and has paved the way for growing protests at campuses around the country. Most Americans still think college sports programs are too powerful and a bad influence on institutions of higher learning

Local crime remains a problem for most Americans who also feel that their cops aren’t aggressive enough in dealing with it.

What’s the biggest problem with the prison system these days? Is it too many non-violent offenders filling up prisons, too many innocent people getting arrested or too many criminals set free?

Americans still firmly believe the war on drugs has been a failure, and few think more money will make a difference.

In other surveys last week:

— A new RallyPoint/Rasmussen Reports survey explores what are the biggest challenges military personnel face as they return to civilian society.

— Following the murder of five unarmed military personnel in Chattanooga, Tennessee this summer, 81% of active and retired military personnel think members of the armed services with qualified concealed carry licenses should be allowed to carry weapons on domestic bases.

— We already know most voters support allowing military women to be in combat, but how do those who have actually served in the military feel about this issue?

Subscribers to Rasmussen Reports receive exclusive stories each week for less than a dollar a week. Please sign up now. Visit the Rasmussen Reports home page for the latest current polling coverage of events in the news. The page is updated several times each day.

Remember, if it’s in the news, it’s in our polls.


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