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November 21 2015

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21 November 2015


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Space Command general making changes to prep for possibility of space war

By: Tom Roeder

Updated: November 16, 2015 at 5:52 am


But the boss of Air Force Space Command said he’s preparing to defend America’s assets in orbit if battle comes to the high ground. Hyten is readying for war with a string of training changes and a plan to simplify how America controls its constellation of military satellites. He also wants troops to bone up on old measures to combat enemy battlefield jamming of satellite signals that are crucial to guide bombs and communication.

“I never want conflict to extend into space,” said Hyten, who’s a year into his tenure at the command. “But we have to be able to defend ourselves.”

Unlike previous approaches, Hyten’s plan to defend the navigation, communication and surveillance satellites operated by the command is relatively cheap and doesn’t rely on high-tech spacecraft.

Instead, the Harvard graduate said he’s focused on getting more experienced airmen running satellites on a daily basis and looking to add more contractors to the mix for flying Air Force birds.

A big part of Hyten’s work is centered on getting the rest of the military prepared to deal with challenges in space, especially jamming – an inexpensive technique to take away America’s military advantage in communications and navigation that can leave U.S. units unable to communicate.

A few nations, notably Russia, North Korea China and Iran, are gaining the ability to take out American satellites. A more likely scenario, though, would use spurious ground-based radio signals to drown out signals coming from orbit.

Countering the jamming, Hyten said, means training troops in an environment that includes it. At the Air Force’s annual Red Flag war games in Nevada, Space Command teaches pilots how to fly and flight when enemies attack America’s space advantages.

By the third mission, Hyten said, pilots learn enough to do battle against the jamming.

Space Command has a set of tools to overcome jamming attacks.

For GPS, Hyten said, the military has a special coded signal, called an M-code, that’s hard to spoof or jam. But the military has been slow to adopt equipment that uses it.


“We have to make sure we get that M-code equipment out across the world,” Hyten said.

For communications signals, ground units must train to “change the channel” if the enemy starts jamming satellites, Hyten said.

Space Command has plenty of work to do in Colorado Springs. Hyten said the way the Air Force has traditionally staffed space units must change to counter the threats. Now, the command’s youngest airmen are on satellite control crews, while their more-experienced comrades hold jobs that aren’t tied to direct satellite control.

Now, all airmen in space squadrons will rotate through satellite control jobs, with six months on control crews followed by six months of intensive training that may be harder than the work.

“They will be doing real-world training with a simulated threat environment so they can see those threats,” Hyten said.

A new unit at Schriever Air Force Base will help the military and intelligence agencies better understand those threats and ways to counter them.

The Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center will bring together the military and intelligence agencies for war games. Hyten said that will help all parties figure out how to react if space is threatened.

The need for the center is driven by how intelligence agencies and the military built up their space operations after the Cold War. Satellites and ground systems were bought individually with little thought given to how they would integrate together.

“Since the Berlin Wall fell we’ve operated in a benign environment,” Hyten said. “You can build stovepipes and it really doesn’t matter.”

The center will figure out how to deconstruct the stovepipes and build a plan to allow intelligence agencies and the military to share information on space threats and work together to counter them.

Hyten said the war gaming at the center is also designed to deliver high fidelity that leaders can count on.

“We need real empirical data,” he said.

Eventually, Hyten sees big changes on the ground for space command. His goal is to build a common ground system that can control any military satellite. Now, each satellite has its own system, which isn’t connected to the others.

The first step in that move could come next year. The Air Force’s Wideband Global Satcom System satellites could move to a commercial ground system for controlling some functions of the satellite. But the part of the satellite that sends information through space, called the payload, will remain in the hands of airmen.

But all the changes, Hyten says, don’t mean his command is looking for a fight. But, with Russia and China on the rise in space, readiness is vital.

“They are developing capabilities that concern us,” he said.


Ex-Employees of Bankrupt Security Clearance Firm Aim to Resolve Some Unfinished Business

By Charles S. Clark

November 13, 2015


Former staffers of one of the government’s most prominent defunct contractors continue to battle for a share of a shrinking pie.

As many as 2,000 jobless former employees of U.S. Investigative Services (USIS) are proceeding with a class-action suit against the firm’s ex-directors and officers, seeking redress under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act, which requires 60 days advance notification of mass layoffs.

USIS — spun off from the Office of Personnel Management in 1996 as an efficiency measure — enjoyed lucrative agency background-check work and field support contracts in its earlier years, and has alumni at competing contractors industrywide.

But more recently USIS also earned some black marks: the Justice Department filed a $1 billion suit against the Falls Church, Va.-based firm for “dumping” as many as 665,000 incomplete background checks on OPM to meet deadlines, while postmortems on the Edward Snowden domestic surveillance leaks and the 2013 Aaron Alexis Navy Yard shootings showed that USIS had conducted their background checks (though agency officials approved the clearances). Lawmakers became angry that the troubled USIS’ parent company awarded its executives bonuses.

In September 2014, OPM terminated USIS’ contracts following a security breach of its Homeland Security Department personnel files, and USIS’ parent company in February filed for bankruptcy protection. USIS employees were not given adequate warning that they would lose their jobs, according to the class action lawsuit.

“The employees were given notice in August 2014 that they were to stop working,” Jack Raisner, an attorney with Outten & Golden LLP in New York who represents the class, told Government Executive. The employees, nearly all of whom had been performing background checks for the government, “were put in a limbo status, cut off from computers, and had to wait and see what their status going to be.” Without collecting pay, “they learned at the end of that September they were not going back to work.”

Though the suit began a year ago in federal district court in Pennsylvania, it was cut short, Raisner said, when USIS’ parent Altegrity Inc. declared bankruptcy. “The direction of the bankruptcy forestayed any litigation against the entity, and virtually all of the assets were liened up and belonged to the secured lenders,” he said. “The nature of the restructuring gave stock to those lenders in a new ongoing company” composed of the subsidiaries Hire Right, which performs background checks, and Kroll, a risk and management services firm. “That didn’t leave much free to pay creditors of the liquidated entity, the employees of USIS,” he said. The suit has now moved to bankruptcy court in Delaware.

Altegrity filed to protect its 37 affiliates, all of which continue except for USIS, which accounted for nearly 40 percent of revenues, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The parent firm argues that it needed to preserve assets for the two remaining companies, which left little to the unsecured creditors of USIS, Raisner said. Hence the employees—grouped into a class for the lawsuit this June— lodged a claim against the directors and officers of the liquidated entity as a resource for recovery of funds. “Basically the creditors are standing in the shoes of companies seeking to recoup transfers of money that belong to the estate under the bankruptcy code and losses caused by breaches of fiduciary duty,” Raisner said.

The timing of the case is hard to predict, Raisner added, because full information on the data breach of Homeland Security files at USIS “has yet to emerge.” Many of the former USIS employees could be hired by firms now performing background checks for OPM, such as KeyPoint Government Solutions.

Asked for comment, an OPM spokeswoman said there are no restrictions on the hiring of former USIS employees except those directly involved in the past “dumping” of incomplete background checks. “OPM currently has contracts with KeyPoint and CACI to conduct fieldwork for our investigations and a contract with NT Concepts to perform support services for investigations,” she said.

“As a matter of policy, OPM sets general requirements for the training and credentials needed for personnel working on our contracts, but we cannot and do not interfere with the hiring of particular individuals at a private company,” she added. “We are comfortable with other firms that OPM does business with bringing on former USIS employees and contractors who they deem are qualified for a number of reasons. It should be noted that any USIS personnel that were identified as being involved in the dumping that took place were no longer with USIS when OPM’s contractual relationship with the company ended.”

The corporate world once inhabited by USIS has many overlapping parts. A month before the bankruptcy announcement, USIS last January sold its Global Security and Solutions business unit to Arlington, Va.,-based PAE, which has major contracts with Homeland Security and the Justice Department to perform mission support services, not background checks, a spokeswoman said.

PAE this August learned that the Government Accountability Office had upheld a bid protest of a contract that PAE/USIS Professional Services Division had won to provide field office support services for the Homeland Security Department. PAE said most likely new requirements led the agency to cancel the original procurement and issue a new request for proposal.

The bid protester was FCI Federal of Leesburg, Va. FCI Federal’s chief administrative officer is Susan Kirton, who spent 16 years at USIS.



ULA Drops Out of Pentagon Rocket Contest

Space Exploration Technologies is now sole entrant when bids close Monday for launch of new satellite

By Doug Cameron

Nov. 16, 2015 6:00 p.m. ET


The U.S. Air Force’s first space-launch competition in a decade threatens to turn into a dud, as the United Launch Alliance joint venture that has dominated sensitive satellite work said it had pulled out because it can’t buy enough Russian-made engines.

The decision by ULA, a joint venture between Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. , leaves Space Exploration Technologies Corp. as the sole entrant when bids close Monday for the launch of a new satellite for the Air Force-run GPS in 2016.

A final contract award is expected in March 2016, unless ULA supporters in Congress manage to postpone a deal until there is more than one bidder.

The GPS-3 satellite is the first of nine that the Pentagon has selected for competitive bidding after relying on multiyear deals with ULA to send sensitive military and intelligence equipment into orbit.

The Pentagon started competitions this year in an effort to lower average launch costs of more than $200 million for sensitive missions. It was spurred by a lawsuit from SpaceX that aimed to break ULA’s long-standing monopoly on such deals, arguing that the firm owned by entrepreneur Elon Musk was a cheaper option.

The suit was settled in January. In May, the Pentagon cleared SpaceX to compete for its business, only to have one of the company’s Falcon 9 rockets explode during a launch in June.

SpaceX plans to return the rocket model to service in late November or December.

ULA said in October that it wouldn’t be able to compete for some upcoming Pentagon launches unless the Defense Department granted a waiver to circumvent Congress and buy more Russian-made RD-180 engines.

The Pentagon declined to grant an exemption, and lawmakers have limited ULA’s purchase of the Russian engines and want to phase out their use completely by 2019, a response to Russia’s actions in Ukraine.

“I’m very disappointed that we’re not able to participate,” said ULA Chief Executive Tory Bruno in an interview Monday.

Pentagon officials said in October that ULA could redirect engines destined for nonmilitary use or wait for pending congressional relief from the existing ban, which would allow it to buy five more engines, enough to compete in the nine upcoming launch contests.

Mr. Bruno said ULA’s board hadn’t signed off on acquiring additional rocket engines because of the uncertainty over the congressional ban, while ULA’s existing motors had already been modified for commercial customers.

Mr. Bruno said two other elements of the GPS contest made it tough for the joint venture to compete. ULA was unable to separate funding it receives from the Air Force to operate launch facilities from its bid, as the contract requires.

The contract stipulated that the GPS deal be selected using a Pentagon system called the “lowest price, technically acceptable” bid, he said. SpaceX would undercut ULA on price, but ULA said its unblemished record of successfully launching sensitive satellites should be taken into account.

Separately, ULA and SpaceX are also pursuing Pentagon funding for a U.S.-made rocket engine to replace the RD-180, with the Defense Department expected to select two or more projects by the end of the year. ULA is teamed with two of the entrants– founder Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin LLC and Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings Inc., with Orbital ATK Inc. also offering its own new rocket design.



Panel: DoD Needs To Evolve Its Approach to Innovation

By Andrew Clevenger 3:44 p.m. EST November 16, 2015


WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense needs better tools to analyze and react to trends in the defense industrial base and to be more agile in its approach to innovation, a top Pentagon official said Monday.

These considerations come into play both in the DoD’s response to consolidation spurred by mergers and acquisitions within the industrial base, and to how the Pentagon develops and incorporates technological innovation from the commercial sector, said Andre Gudger, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for manufacturing and industrial base policy.

“We have to have a very dynamic market with very dynamic rules that continue to evolve as fast as the technology evolves,” he said. “Right now we just don’t have those tools available to us under the law to go and do that and view transactions on a broader basis.”

Gudger’s remarks came during a panel discussion on consolidation in the defense industrial base, part of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Global Security Forum in Washington.

He noted that the DoD can’t single-handedly shape the industrial base but can create policies that incentivize contractors to incorporate and provide innovation faster to their DoD customer.

“We have to put tools in place that allow for competition and competitive forces,” he said, noting that he has open-ended discussions with company executives and members of the appropriate congressional committees on Capitol Hill.

Denis Bovin, a senior adviser at Evercore Partners, said that in many ways, the DoD’s goals for the industrial base are not closely aligned with the base’s own goals.

The DoD wants great products, innovation and advanced technologies, all at low costs, he said, while a company’s main goal is to satisfy its shareholders. In general, the base is healthy, with many companies’ stocks trading at or near 52-week highs, he said, but the combined size and value of defense firms is smaller than Apple, Google or ExxonMobile individually.

For example, Google has $65 billion in cash on its balance sheet, which is roughly the value of Lockheed Martin’s entire business, Bovin said.

“Profit margins and return on assets in the defense industrial base are much, much less than they are in lots of other industries. The market generally believes that the defense industrial base is largely composed of companies that are mature, low-growth and cyclical,” he said. “They are viewed as selling a tiny volume of products to a unique and frankly somewhat difficult customer. That’s not very attractive.”

Consequently, defense companies are using dividends and share buybacks to appease investors, Bovin said.

Defense firms are reorienting to include more commercial business, he said. As examples, he cited Raytheon’s acquisition of cyber firm WebSense and Lockheed Martin’s decision to divest its government IT business while acquiring Sikorsky Aircraft, which has both government and commercial sales.

“I predict you will see more of those kind of things happen,” Bovin said.

William Lynn, former deputy secretary of defense and CEO of Finmeccanica North America and DRS Technologies, said much of the recent consolidation has been among platform makers, while electronics, communications and cyber businesses have not undergone similar compression.

The DoD used to be a net exporter of innovation but now needs to reduce the barriers between commercially developed innovation and the Pentagon, he said.

“DoD needs to pull commercial developments inside the defense industrial base and operationalize those for security needs,” Lynn said. “The challenge for DoD is how do you do that.”

Additionally, the Pentagon needs to move beyond its Cold War supply structure and its underlying bias against foreign products, which could cost the US access to top technology, he said.

“Gone are the days when DoD could rely on homegrown products to equip our forces,” Lynn said.

Defense News Editor Vago Muradian, who served as a panelist, noted that merger and acquisition activity in 2015 is expected to approach $60 billion, roughly twice the total for 1999.

That goes against “this notion that we’re waiting for the M&A wave to arrive. The wave has already arrived,” he said.



World’s richest nations agree hacking for commercial benefit is off-limits

Ellen Nakashima November 16 


The leaders of the world’s richest and most powerful nations on Monday pledged for the first time not to conduct cyber economic espionage, a move that could one day greatly reduce the theft of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of commercial secrets by foreign governments to benefit their countries’ own industries.

The agreement reached at the Group of 20 conference in Antalya, Turkey, marks the first major, high-level international consensus aimed at reducing tensions in cyberspace. Last year, the Justice Department announced indictments against five Chinese military hackers for allegedly stealing secrets from solar-power firms and steelmakers.

The agreement follows a pledge by Chinese President Xi Jinping at his summit meeting with President Obama in September that his country would refrain from such activity.

Xi’s vow was noteworthy because Beijing until that point had made no distinction between commercial cybertheft to profit a nation’s industries and espionage for traditional political and military purposes.

But the expansion of that agreement to include Russia and France — two other major countries that U.S. intelligence analysts say conduct cyber economic espionage — as well as a majority of the world’s major economic powers is important, officials and analysts say.

Christopher Painter, State Department coordinator for cyber issues, called the group’s action “very significant” in establishing global rules of responsible behavior in cyberspace.

The United States, which spies on economic targets but not, officials say, to benefit U.S. firms, has long sought international consensus on establishing such a norm. The G-20 leaders agreed that “no country should conduct or support [cyber]-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information, with the intent of providing competitive advantages to companies or commercial sectors.”

“Words have an effect, and people have now committed not to do this,” said James A. Lewis, a cyber-policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. If a country is caught violating the pledge, he said, “you respond.” It could be through economic sanctions, which the United States was preparing this summer to impose on Chinese firms, or indictments. Or it could be through other measures.

The leaders also affirmed that international law applies to cyberspace, among several other norms. That means a commitment to following rules of proportionality and discrimination in cyber-operations, such as not intentionally targeting systems that can harm civilians during an armed conflict. Earlier this year, a smaller group of nations’ “governmental experts” on cybertechnology endorsed that view at the United Nations.

The G-20 agreement “elevates and broadens the affirmation” by the U.N. experts, Painter said. Together, he said, he hoped the norms “will lead to greater stability in cyberspace



DJI Introduces New Geofencing System for its Drones

by Press • 18 November 2015


DJI, the world leader in drone technology, Tuesday announced a new geofencing system featuring continually updated airspace information.

Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) will provide DJI drone users with up-to-date guidance on locations where flight may be restricted by regulation or raise safety concerns. For the first time, drone operators will have, at the time of flight, access to live information on temporary flight restrictions due to forest fires, major stadium events, VIP travel, and other changing circumstances. The GEO system will also include for the first time restrictions around locations such as prisons, power plants and other sensitive areas where drone operations raise non-aviation security concerns.

The drone will by default not fly into or take off in, locations that raise safety or security concerns. However, in order to accommodate the vast variety of authorized applications, the new system will also allow users who have verified DJI accounts to temporarily unlock or self-authorize flights in some of those locations. The unlock function will not be available for sensitive national-security locations such as Washington, D.C. or other prohibited areas.

Unlocking will require a DJI user account verified with a credit card, debit card or mobile phone number. DJI will neither collect nor store this information, and the service will be free. The verified account, required only if and when a user chooses to fly in a location that might raise an aviation safety or security concern, provides a measure of accountability in the event that the flight is later investigated by authorities.

“DJI invented geofencing over two years ago and now continues its industry leadership by balancing enhanced safety with the flexibility of accountable self-authorization,” said Brendan Schulman, DJI’s Vice President of Policy and Legal Affairs who led the development of the new system. “We believe this major upgrade to our geofencing system will do even more to help operators understand their local flight environment, and to make smart, educated decisions about when and where to fly their drones.”

“Our years of actual user experience have shown that in most instances, strict geofencing is the wrong approach for this technology, and instead we are helping operators make informed, accountable decisions,” Schulman added.

This new system will launch first in North America and Europe. Other regions will receive an update to airport data, but will continue to use the existing “No Fly Zone” geofencing system the company pioneered in 2013 until the new system is launched in each region.

GEO is powered by geospatial data from Santa Monica, California-based AirMap.

The new mapping system will become available in December via an update of the DJI Go app and drone firmware.

DJI Geospatial Environment Online (GEO) Information System

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is the DJI GEO Information System?

The GEO system is a best-in-class geospatial information system that provides drone operators with information that will help them make smart decisions about where and when to fly. It combines up-to-date airspace information, a warning and flight-restriction system, a mechanism for unlocking (self-authorizing) drone flights in locations where flight is permitted under certain conditions, and a minimally-invasive accountability system for those decisions. This is an implementation of what is commonly referred to as “geofencing” and replaces our first-generation “No Fly Zone” geofencing system that DJI invented and implemented in its drones in 2013.


Q: With what drones will DJI GEO work?

For now, since the system will be available through an upgrade of our DJI Go app and drone firmware, the new geofencing system will work with our Phantom 3 and Inspire 1 drones and, we expect, our future generations of drones.


Q: How will live updates work?

The latest information on temporary flight restrictions in the location of a planned flight will be sent to DJI drone operators via the DJI GO app.


Q: How will DJI designate different locations?

Some areas will be designated as Warning locations to make operators aware of potential concerns that are not primarily safety-related (for example, a protected wildlife area). Other areas, such as those surrounding airports, will be Authorization zones, where the drone can’t be flown without taking additional steps to “unlock” the zone using a verified account. The remaining category will be Restricted zones where the drone will not operate and no unlocking is possible for security reasons, such as Washington, D.C.


Q: What types of locations will be included?

Our primary focus is on aviation safety and national security. DJI will include airports, prohibited and restricted airspace, national security sites, prisons, and power plants, among other locations. Additionally, when a user is connected to the internet, GEO will provide live guidance on temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) to inform users and help prevent inadvertent flight, including TFRs relating to forest fires, major league sporting events, and other changing conditions.


Q: So DJI will tell me what the aviation regulations are?

No. The GEO system is advisory only. Each operator is responsible for checking official sources and determining what laws or regulations might apply to his or her flight. In some instances, DJI has selected widely-recommended general parameters (such as a five-mile radius at airports) without making any determination of whether this guidance matches regulations that may apply specifically to you. Also, to the extent understanding the applicable regulations involves interpreting statutory or regulatory language, operators must make their own interpretation, or seek guidance from regulators or an attorney. We expect to continue to work collaboratively with aviation authorities around the world to determine what kind of guidance to drone operators would be most effective at promoting safe and responsible flying.


Q: I am authorized to fly closer than five miles from an airport. How will this work?

In Authorization zones such as the one you mention, an operator simply needs a verified DJI account and uses the DJI GO application to unlock the area. Making sure that you are authorized is your responsibility.


Q: How do I verify my DJI account?

By providing a credit card, debit card, or mobile phone number. DJI will not collect or store this information. We may add other verification methods in the future.


Q: I’m a commercial operator. Does this apply to me?

The GEO system will provide the same information to every operator. We understand that regulations may vary depending on whether your operation is commercial, recreational, educational, humanitarian, or governmental. DJI drones are, by far, the most popular brand in all categories, which is why our system will allow for flexible unlocking based on operator judgment. Also, a drone used on Sunday for recreation might be used on Wednesday for business. Because the main functionality of geofencing is to provide information and assist in preventing unintended operations in areas that raise concerns, the system generally has been designed with newcomer recreational operators in mind. Commercial operators are generally expected to research and know about restrictions and conditions that may apply to their operations. The unlocking mechanism allows each user to make an appropriate individual operational decision independent of the guidance that is provided by DJI.


Q: Will GEO prevent me from flying in places where I can fly today?

We are expanding the number and types of areas that are included, but also providing a self-authorizing unlock feature. That means, by simply using a verified account, you will actually be able to fly in more locations than you can today under our current system, including indoor locations that happen to be near airports. You may need to complete a few additional steps, but we think that extra work helps increase awareness of safety concerns. If you aren’t able to unlock an area, it may be because your location is particularly sensitive (such as the area near Washington, D.C.), or because the regulations have changed.


Q: Where is DJI getting its airspace data from?

We have partnered with Airmap, the leading digital airspace information company, to provide up-to-date airspace information, including airport locations and TFRs. Airmap works with aviation authorities and other governmental agencies around the world to collect and organize airspace and geospatial information for use by drone manufacturers and operators. In some cases, for precautionary or technical reasons, DJI’s implementation of this data in its GEO system may differ from the original data Airmap has on file.


Q: What if I find an error?

DJI will create an error-reporting system. We want our new system to be as accurate and helpful as possible. The unlocking mechanism should allow you to fly in these locations, based on your own judgment, while DJI and AirMap evaluate your error report.


Q: Will this cost me anything?

No. There will be no charge to upgrade to the new GEO system, assuming your DJI equipment is compatible with the upgrade. Verifying your account with a credit card will not result in a charge. The credit card is used only as a credential to verify the account. Your carrier’s standard text message rates apply to verification that uses SMS or text messaging communications.


Q: I usually fly without an Internet-connected device. How will I use the system?

We are working on an approach for our customers who do not have Internet service at the flight location.


Q: Where is GEO being implemented?

Initially, we are starting with North America and Europe. We expect to add other regions in the near future, and will make announcements. Also, airport locations in the existing system will be updated elsewhere worldwide, even in locations where GEO is not implemented at first.


Q: Is this related to the FAA UAS registration initiative?

No. This is an unrelated industry-led approach to operator education, responsibility, and accountability, and has been under development since the summer. DJI will not require governmental registration in order to use GEO. If and when a drone registration system is implemented, we will evaluate whether it may be used to enhance the functionality of GEO. We do not feel that disclosure of the personal identification of drone users is required in order to create a framework for safe drone operations.


Q: Are you going to turn over my information to the government?

In general, not unless there is a specific reason to. In the event of an aviation safety or law enforcement investigation that compels us to disclose information, our verification partner may provide information about the credit card or mobile phone number used to verify the DJI account that unlocked an Authorization zone at the location, date, and time in question. This creates a path to accountability in the event of an incident without requiring burdensome up-front collection of personal information, and we feel strikes the right balance at this time. Our observation is that the vast, vast majority of drone operators are responsible community citizens who follow the rules as well as common sense, and therefore it is only necessary to create an accountability mechanism when the operation occurs in a location that raises an aviation safety or security concern. We think our customers deserve the benefit of the doubt, and an accountability system that is minimally invasive.


Q: Should geofencing be legally mandated?

Based on years of actual customer user experience, we strongly feel the answer is “no.” This technology is being used by a wide variety of operators, who have differing types of authorization that can also vary by date and time. In virtually every area that might be a good candidate for a geofence, we have encountered authorized operators worldwide already engaged in compelling applications. Restricting the use of drone technology based on geographic location alone is not a good solution to the concerns that have recently been raised, and will hobble the beneficial future uses of a technology that is still in its infancy




The U.S. Is Using A Secret Program To Vet Refugees

An internal administration document obtained by BuzzFeed News says the secret Controlled Application Review and Resolution Program, or CARRP, is being used to screen incoming refugees, including Syrians.

Nov. 18, 2015,

Ali Watkins

BuzzFeed World News Correspondent



WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is using a secret national security screening program to vet certain incoming refugees, including those from Syria, according to an administration document obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The program, the Controlled Application Review and Resolution Process, or CARRP, was known to be used by the U.S. Customs and Immigrations Service to vet prospective American citizens. The secret agency operation is a rigorous process used to screen immigrants who for a broad variety of reasons are deemed potential national security threats. In 2013, the American Civil Liberties Union accused the program of disproportionately targeting immigrants from Muslim-majority countries. According to an internal U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services document provided to Congress by the White House and obtained by BuzzFeed, the administration is also using that program to vet refugees coming into the country.

The White House has been forced to defend its refugee screening processes in the days following last week’s devastating terror attack in Paris, which took the lives of 129 people. The attack, for which ISIS has claimed credit, has led the governors of 31 states to say they would suspend resettlement of Syrian refugees, following concern that ISIS-trained terrorists could sneak in among them. The administration has laid out its security processes in recent days, but has not mentioned CARRP.

“The CARRP program is a little bit of a dark shadow,” said Betsy Fisher, deputy policy advisor and staff attorney for the International Refugee Assistance Project. “We’re told that sometimes when [a refugee case is] on hold, it’s for a CARRP check.”

Incoming refugees are already subject to rigorous background and security checks. The screenings involve multiple interagency screenings from several different databases, pulling information from every agency from Interpol to the Treasury Department. If during any of these security checks an individual is found to pose a potential national security threat, their case is then routed through the separate CARRP vetting channel.

“If any of the above security and background checks, or any background check performed at any time during the adjudication of any benefit to include testimony gleaned during the interview, reveal associated national security (NS) concerns, then the case undergoes a focused national security CARRP review,” the document says, referring to the previous three pages of security check information.

The CARRP program began as a covert agency operation in 2008. An extensive report by the American Civil Liberties Union revealed that the CARRP process disproportionately targeted citizenship applicants from Muslim-majority countries, including the Middle East and North Africa regions.

CARRP defines a national security threat “an individual or organization [that] has been determined to have an articulable link to prior, current, or planned involvement in, or association with, an activity, individual or organization described in [the security and terrorism sections]35 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.”

The criteria that can render an applicant subject to the CARRP process, though, is fairly broad, and critics, including the ACLU, have said it can hamstring the naturalization process for those stuck in its separate track.

CARRP’s categories of national security threats, the ACLU wrote in its 2013 report, “cast extremely wide nets, rely on discriminatory profiling, and yield imprecise, inaccurate, and often absurd results that disproportionately impact [Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian] applicants.”

News of CARRP’s use in refugee screenings comes as debate over U.S. resettlement policy reaches a fever pitch. Several governors and lawmakers have questioned whether the U.S. has the resources to properly vet and screen refugees from that region.

CARRP’s use in the vetting process adds one more security screening measure to a process already laden with background and security screenings. The policy document obtained by BuzzFeed details the extensive databases used to screen prospective refugees. Among other things, they include checks against FBI fingerprint databases, Defense Department databases on conflict zones and State Department systems.

“Our view of the security process is that it’s good to have rigorous checks and different kinds of checks as long as they’re not redundant and don’t affect the humanitarian nature of the program,” Fisher said.



Army, Air Force Acquisition Chiefs to Step Down

November 18, 2015 By Marcus Weisgerber

The departures of William LaPlante and Heidi Shyu will likely leave the Air Force and Army without permanent procurement leaders until 2017.


The top acquisition officials from the Air Force and Army announced they will step down in coming weeks, becoming the latest top Pentagon leaders to depart as President Obama begins his final year in the White House.

William LaPlante, the Air Force acquisition head, announced his departure in an email to staff on Wednesday. He will leave at the end of November, defense officials said. Heidi Shyu, the Army acquisition head, will retire at the end of January, according to an email she sent to her staff Monday evening.

Wrote LaPlante: “My departure decision and timing is based upon family considerations and our family long term plans (college!) and I am confident the AQ leadership team of Lt. General Bunch and Rich Lombardi will continue to keep us progressing forward in improving our acquisition outcomes without skipping a beat.” LaPlante said he needs “to honor a long planned commitment I made to my family before I entered government service,” in a statement posted on the Air Force’s website.

Both LaPlante and Shyu will depart in the wake of major Pentagon contract announcements — a new stealth bomber for the Air Force and a new Army truck to replace tens of thousands of Humvees. Both contracts, valued at more than $110 billion over several decades, are being contested by the losing bidders and are consequently being reviewed by the Government Accountability Office.

Defense officials say the departures have nothing to do with those protests — nor with the sweeping acquisition reforms put forth by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

“I take great pride in what we’ve been able to accomplish together as one team and one family,” Shyu wrote. “We have worked to streamline the acquisition process, although there is more to be done to ensure that our systems and programs can keep pace with technological progress.”

LaPlante came to the Pentagon in 2013 as the Air Force’s No. 2 arms buyer. He was promoted to the top billet in 2014. He was promoted to the top acquisition slot in 2014. He will return to MITRE Corp. where he worked before coming to the Pentagon.


Shyu, who was an executive at Raytheon before joining the Defense Department in 2010, became the top acquisition official the following year. Her departure was first reported by

Both LaPlante and Shyu join the list of political appointees to depart the Pentagon as President Obama enters his final year in the White House. Evelyn Farkas, the Pentagon’s top policy official for Russia and Ukraine, stepped down from her post late last month. Other recent departures include Army Secretary John McHugh and Defense undersecretary for intelligence Michael Vickers

With only 13 months left for this administration, sources say it will be difficult to fill many of these posts because they require Senate confirmation. That means people will likely serve in these positions on an acting basis.

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for acquisition, has said he plans to stay in his post until the end of the Obama administration.


The US Military Is Developing Brain Implants to Boost Memory and Heal PTSD

November 17, 2015 By Mike Murphy Quartz

One of DARPA’s many brain-improvement projects centers on implantable, wireless devices intended to aid troops’ cognitive abilities both during and after wars.

He definitely remembers putting the keys by the front door when he got home last night. But they’re not there. So where could they be? He presses a button and all of the sudden he can see it clear as day—he never took them out of his jacket pocket, so they must be upstairs.

If work being backed by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) goes according to plan, we one day will be able to implant chips into our brains that will make sure we never forget anything. And although this sounds like science fiction—perhaps a movie starring Keanu Reeves from the 90s—it’s quickly becoming a reality. Scientists have already tested out implants in people suffering from brain injuries to improve their memory, the defense agency announced at a conference in September.

DARPA has multiple brain-improvement projects in the works, but its Restoring Active Memory project (or RAM, an apparent play on the acronym for a type of computer memory) has a goal of restoring the memory functions of US soldiers returning from the battlefield with traumatic brain injuries. According to the Atlantic‘s Annie Jacobsen, 300,000 soldiers came home from Iraq and Afghanistan with brain injuries. DARPA’s program aims to develop an implantable, wireless device that could aid those soldiers’ cognitive abilities both during and after wars.

To start, DARPA is working to figure out how neurons in the human brain actually encode memories—a daunting task in and of itself. Once those processes have been mapped out, scientists would then work to create computer models to mimic how the brain functions, with the end goal of being able to implant devices that could trigger those processes if neurons, or the connections between neurons, get damaged.

At the September conference, DARPA said it had implanted temporary sensors into patients undergoing brain surgery, according to Popular Science. Scientists were able to detect signals in the patients’ brains during the process of forming and recalling memories. In the future, DARPA wants to develop permanent, “closed loop” systems that can actually help with memory recall.

“As the technology of these fully implantable devices improves, and as we learn more about how to stimulate the brain ever more precisely to achieve the most therapeutic effects,” Justin Sanchez, DARPA’s biological technologies program manager, told Popular Science at the conference. “I believe we are going to gain a critical capacity to help our wounded warriors and others who today suffer from intractable neurological problems.”

The RAM project was first unveiled by President Obama in 2014, as part of the funding for DARPA’s wider brain initiative. At that time, the agency, working with the Veterans Affairs department and the Pentagon, announced it will spend the next five years—and nearly $80 million—developing “minimally invasive neurotechnologies that will increase the ability of the body and brain to induce healing,” according to The Washington Post. As part of the funding, DARPA is also researching building robotic limbs that humans can control with their minds, and ways for the human body to heal itself with remote controls.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 21, 2015

President Obama is at odds with the American people again this week.

The president is still insisting on bringing 10,000 Syrian refugees to the United States next year even though more than two-dozen governors, citing the links between those refugees and the terrorist killers in Paris last weekend, are asking that the Syrians not be settled in their states. Reflecting these national security concerns, the House on Thursday passed a bipartisan measure “pausing” Obama’s plan, with enough Democratic votes to override his threatened veto.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters oppose the president’s plan to bring the Syrians here, and 60% don’t want them settled in the state they live in. But the president is adamant, and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid has vowed to prevent the “pause” measure from passing in his chamber.

But then Reid, Obama, Hillary Clinton and other senior Democrats also refuse to say America is at war with “radical Islamic terrorism” for fear of insulting all Muslims. Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. voters, on the other hand, say the United States is at war with radical Islamic terrorism, and 73% view that terrorism as a Very Serious threat to the United States.

Donald Trump and the other Republican presidential hopefuls argue that if America doesn’t identify radical Islamic terrorism as the enemy, it can’t begin to win the War on Terror

Even before the attacks in Paris, voters were less confident in their safety here at home than they have ever been.  

Of course, it’s hardly a novelty that the president is at odds with the voting public. The Justice Department yesterday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a federal appeals court ruling stopping Obama’s amnesty plan for illegal immigrants. Most voters have long opposed the president’s plan to exempt up to five million illegals from deportation. 

The same goes for Obamacare. Most voters still have an unfavorable opinion of the health care law and have felt that way in regular surveying since its passage by Congress in March 2010. Just 13% think Congress and the president should leave the health care law as is, but the president refuses to consider any changes.

Both the amnesty plan and the health care law are the subject of legal challenges by over 25 states, and if the president goes ahead with his plans for bringing the Syrians here, it’s likely that will be a third measure challenged in court by more than half of the states in the union.

The president’s daily job approval rating fell to the -20 range late in the week. We’ll be watching to see if this is a trend in the making.

Our latest monthly Hillary Meter finds that Democratic voters are more convinced than they have been in months that Clinton will be their nominee. But the former first lady and secretary of State isn’t exciting younger voters in her party.

Clinton also has few fans in the military.

Our weekly Trump Change survey suggests that Trump’s tough response to the massacres in Paris has helped him regain some lost ground in the Republican presidential contest.

In last week’s Republican debate, Senator Rand Paul criticized fellow Senator Marco Rubio for his calls to substantially increase defense spending when the United States already spends more on its military than the next 10 countries combined. Turns out just half of U.S. voters are aware of how much this country spends on defense compared to the rest of the world, and a plurality wants the figure to increase.

Black Lives Matter or all lives matter is an ongoing political debate, but a New York Daily News/Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters aren’t convinced that the Black Lives Matter movement is interested in justice for all.

In other surveys last week:

— Just 28% of voters think the United States is headed in the right direction.

— Thanksgiving and Black Friday are just around the corner, meaning Rasmussen Reports will begin rolling out its annual holiday shopping polling in the coming weeks. Are consumers ready to spend?

— More than three-quarters of Americans who are now in the military or have previously served have little doubt that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a major problem for veterans, according to a new RallyPoint/Rasmussen Reports survey.

— The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development has proposed banning smoking in all of the nation’s 1.2 million public housing units. Voters like the idea but seriously doubt that it will work. 

Americans agree on the importance of sleep, but a sizable number say they don’t get enough of it.


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