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December 5 2015

December 7, 2015




5 December 2015


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Drone registration? We’ve been doing it for years…because we had to

by Terry Miller • 23 November 2015


Without a serial number and without a registration number, how on earth were we supposed to insure these things? How could we know that the aircraft we were insuring even existed? Or ever existed for that matter?

That’s a big problem when it comes to insuring something.

When Transport Risk Management began insuring drones five years ago, we immediately discovered a problem that had to be resolved before we could even attempt submitting a drone risk to underwriters for insurance consideration.  These drones had no serial numbers and they were not registered. Not only did they not have serial numbers, but their builders, owners and operators were doing it purposely in order to maintain anonymity.

In 2010, we were approached by a professional unmanned aerial photography group seeking an insurance program for their members. Being one of the largest providers of aerial film production (owned, and non-owned) insurance in the United States, Transport Risk Management clearly had a great deal of interest in finding an insurance solution for the unmanned aerial film industry therefore we decided take on the challenge of building an insurance program for unmanned aerial filming.

Our first major challenge arose when we were advised that the types of aircraft that this group primarily used, Freefly CineStars, were home-built and did not have serial numbers.  The lack of serial numbers presented a serious issue for us and our insurers.

If we cannot identify the aircraft, then we cannot determine ownership, we cannot determine insurable interest and most importantly, cannot determine if the aircraft involved in a loss was even the aircraft insured under the policy.

Without that, how could we pay a claim?

Then there was the problem of hull physical damage coverage. Without any way to identify the aircraft or ownership, how could we verify that there was no lien and that the Insured maintained clear title and ownership?

As a group, we discussed designing a numbering system and how to physically apply the number to the aircraft. No one could agree. We discussed verification of ownership and insurable interest. We discussed how to identify build components, how to maintain the database and who would do it. Then we were presented with another stark reality. Even if someone chose to take the project on, most of the aircraft owners wanted nothing to do with numbering their aircraft or participating in a system that would identify them as the owners.  It turned out they were purposely maintaining anonymity.

In the end, nobody associated with the group was willing to design a solution or build a system and very few of the aircraft owners wanted to number their aircraft. It was then that we realized if we wanted to insure unmanned aerial systems or UAS, we were going to have to design a numbering system ourselves, from scratch, and find a different group of owners willing to participate.

Transport Risk Management then went to work designing a data plate and numbering system that would correlate with documentation provided by the Insured and would be maintained in the Insured’s policy files.  The documentation must verify existence of the aircraft, ownership and insurable interest in the aircraft and prove that the aircraft involved in a loss was actually the aircraft insured under the policy. The documentation also had to confirm clear title and ownership. The data plate had to fit on the aircraft and it had to provide for other major components such as gimbals, ground stations and transmitters.  After all, we were insuring an unmanned aerial SYSTEM, not just an unmanned aerial VEHICLE. Oh, and it could not interfere with the sensitive electronic systems of the aircraft and it could not be transferable.

Next, Transport Risk Management had to present the data plate design and documentation to all of our insurers in order to obtain approval along with their agreement to recognize the TRM XXX data plate number as an approved identification number for the purpose of identifying and insuring the aircraft.

Then the big question, would our Insured’s agree to provide the documentation and to put the data plate on their aircraft?  Without that, it was useless.  In the end, we decided that if we agreed to provide insurance coverage to them and their operations, our Insured’s would have to agree to provide the required documentation and place the data plate on their aircraft and components.

Today, we have more than 4,000 TRM XXX data plates issued and in use worldwide with complete documentation on file along with agreement from all of those owners, builders and operators.

When a Transport Risk Management aircraft is involved in a loss or needs to be identified, a single call to the phone number on the data plate along with the data plate number will tell us who owns it, who operates it, who the pilot is, what type it is, what it’s used for, the owners contact information and if it’s insured. That’s a lot more than any FAA registration or manufacturer serial number will ever provide.

The TRM XXX data plate is on the SwissPost Matternet One Aircraft which can be seen on the inside upper right of the frame in this picture:  Swiss Post Matternet One

The TRM XXX data plate has flown in some of the most remote regions of the world for humanitarian purposes. And continues to fly on a multitude of new aircraft being tested globally for industrial and humanitarian purposes.

The TRM XXX data plates are being used as Serial Numbers for FAA “N” number registrations as can be seen here for N147BW.

And we have developed custom numbering systems and innovative policy structures for large fleets and manufacturers such as Kespry. The Transport Risk Management “KSY” data plate can be seen on the Kespry drone in the home page picture.

We can assure the FAA and the industry as whole that most aircraft in testing and R&D do not have a serial number or any way to verify ownership.

Without a number, new aircraft cannot be insured and all test sites require insurance.

Without a number, new aircraft cannot even be registered with the FAA. That’s why we see so many DJI Inspires and Phantoms on 333 Petitions.

Transport Risk Management, Inc. foresaw this registration problem years ago and was forced to solve the problem then. We took it on and we solved it. Innovated you might say.

Innovation from a crusty and dusty old industry like insurance lead the way and solved a problem before most even knew the problem existed. Not just the numbering issue but more problems unforeseen by the industry that will soon emerge as well.



Press Release – Statement from FAA Administrator Michael Huerta on UAS Registration Task Force Report


November 21, 2015

Contact: Laura J. Brown



At the direction of the Secretary, the FAA announced the formation of a task force to develop a process for owners of small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) to register their aircraft. This group of experts embraced the challenge with the energy and creativity we expected and delivered its report to me today as scheduled. We thank them for their excellent and expeditious work. I will work with my team at the FAA to review their recommendations, as well as public comments we received, as we present the recommendations to Secretary Foxx. We will work quickly and flexibly to move toward the next steps for registration.


Task Force Wants Even Smaller Drones Registered

Nov 23 2015

by Joan Lowy, Associated Press


An aviation industry task force is recommending that operators be required to register drones weighing as little as a half a pound, a threshold that could include some remote-controlled toys, industry officials said.

Federal Aviation Administration officials who convened the 25-member task force on drone registration have said they want to avoid requiring the registration of toys. But the consensus of the task force is that the weight threshold that triggers registration should be set at 250 grams or above, which is about a half-pound, said people familiar with its deliberations.

The threshold is based on the potential impact a drone that size would have if it fell from the sky and struck a person or if it collided with a helicopter or plane, they said.

The recommendations were expected to be submitted to the FAA by Saturday. The FAA then can modify them, and hopes to issue the rules before Christmas to begin registering some of the thousands of drones expected to be purchased over the holidays. One industry official said the target date is Dec. 21.

Four people familiar with the advisory group’s deliberations described the conclusions to The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because the FAA asked that the discussions be kept private.

The registration requirement would apply to drone operators rather than individual drones to avoid requiring operators who own multiple drones to register more than once. The operator would receive a single registration number, which would then be affixed to the body of each drone.

People who already own drones weighing more than a half-pound would have to register them.

Registration could be done through an FAA website where an operator can provide name, address, phone number and other contact information and receive a registration number.

The Consumer Technology Association estimates 700,000 drones will be sold in the U.S. this year, including 400,000 in the last quarter.

FAA officials said when they announced the formation of the task force last month that they hoped registration will help create a “culture of accountability” among drone operators and allow owners to be tracked down in the event of an accident.

The FAA now receives about 100 reports a month from pilots who say they’ve seen drones flying near planes and airports, up dramatically from last year. So far there’ve been no accidents, but agency officials have said they’re concerned that even a small drone might cause serious damage if it is sucked into an engine, smashes into an airliner’s windshield or collides with a helicopter’s rotors.

Helicopters are the greatest concern because they frequently fly below 500 feet in the same airspace as small drones, said Jim Williams, the FAA’s former top drone official now at an international law firm with drone-industry clients.

There are no studies on how much damage drones of different weight might cause to a helicopter or aircraft engine, he said. “I am not a fan of the weight limit because there’s no science behind it,” Williams said.

The weight threshold for drone registration in Europe is about 2 pounds, while Canadian officials are leaning toward a threshold of about 1 pound, industry officials said.

Williams said he hopes the FAA will add other requirements to the half-pound threshold that would eliminate most toys from the registration requirement.

For example, many drones can navigate independently rather than relying on the operator to be constantly steering, Williams said. Operators can preset waypoints to fly a drone beyond their line of sight. If the waypoints are incorrectly set for an altitude or location where manned aircraft fly, “that’s where the risk really comes from,” he said.

Williams said drones that can download real-time video are also a concern, because the operator becomes engrossed in the picture and is distracted.



AMA reacts to DOT task force recommendations on UAS registration


by Press • 24 November 2015


MUNCIE, Ind. – Dave Mathewson, executive director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA) which is the world’s largest community-based organization, today made the following statement on the recommendations released by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Task Force on UAS registration:


“As a member of the task force, AMA agrees that registration of UAS makes sense at some level and for flyers operating outside the guidance of a community-based organization or flying for commercial purposes. Unfortunately, as written, these recommendations would make the registration process an unnecessary and unjustified burden to our 185,000 members, who have operated harmoniously within the aviation community for decades and who register and provide their personal contact information when joining the AMA. For this reason, AMA wanted to include dissenting comments in the final task force report, but was prevented from doing so.


“Adding an additional requirement for AMA members to register at the federal level is contrary to the intent of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. Public Law clearly states that the FAA is prohibited from promulgating any new rules for recreational users operating within the safety guidelines of a community-based organization. Congress by no means intended to grant a free pass for individuals who operate model aircraft. Instead, it clearly intended to leave risk mitigation and the development of appropriate safety guidelines for the operation of these devices by the members of the AMA to the nationwide community-based organization.


“More importantly, there is no finding or indication that any AMA member was involved in the incidents and sightings that lead to the decision to require UAS registration. In fact the AMA has proactively partnered with the FAA and other industry stakeholders in an effort to educate the new unmanned aircraft (“drone”) enthusiasts through the “Know Before You Fly” campaign. AMA members have been flying safely for decades, and our members are not the problem. Safety has been the cornerstone of our organization for over 80 years and, with our stellar safety record, AMA’s members strive to be a part of the solution. However, the solution should not involve our members bearing the burden of new regulations.


“Unfortunately the task force recommendations may ultimately prove untenable by requiring the registration of smaller devices that are essentially toys and do not represent safety concerns. Based on its years of experience the AMA cautioned against unnecessarily encumbering the toy industry and urged the task force to consider several factors when determining the threshold at which UAS technology should be registered – including weight, capability and other safety-related characteristics. But, the recommendations do not reflect this comprehensive approach. The task force only considered weight, requiring any device up to 250 grams (0.55 pounds) to register. We believe weight should be only one of several factors considered when determining where the threshold should be for UAS registration.”



Global microsatellite marked to reach $2.5B

Michael Peck, Contributing Writer 11:33 a.m. EST November 25, 2015

The global nanosatellite and microsatellite market will reach $2.5 billion by 2020, according to a forecast by market research firm Research and Markets. This reflects a compound annual growth rate of 23.2 percent from $889.8 million in 2015.

The strongest growth will be in Earth observation and remote sensing. North America will be the largest market.

Demand will also be driven by the “low cost of design, increasing demand for miniature satellites, and huge investment from Silicon Valley,” the report said.



US Air Force Hires Civilian Pilots for Combat Patrols

UAS Vision

November 30 2015

The US Air Force has hired civilian defence contractors to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones to help track suspected militants and other targets in global hot spots, a previously undisclosed expansion in the privatization of once-exclusively military functions. For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls “combat air patrols,” daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence.

Contractors control two Reaper patrols a day, but the Air Force plans to expand that to 10 a day by 2019. Each patrol involves up to four drones. Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command. “There are limitations on it,” he said. The contractors “are not combatants.” Nonetheless, the contracts have generated controversy within the military. Critics, including some military lawyers, contend that civilians are now part of what the Air Force calls the “kill chain,” a process that starts with surveillance and ends with a missile launch. That could violate laws barring civilians from taking part in armed conflict. The use of contractors reflects in part the Pentagon’s growing problem in recruiting, training and retaining military drone pilots for the intensifying air war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. It is several hundred short of its goal of 1,281 pilots.

The contractors are Aviation Unmanned, a small, 3-year-old company based in Addison, Texas, and General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., a far-larger firm based in Poway, outside San Diego, that is the only supplier of armed drones to the Pentagon. A redacted Air Force document approving the classified contract with Aviation Unmanned notes that the “lack of appropriately cleared and currently qualified MQ-9 pilots is a major concern.” The five-page document, dated Aug. 24, says the company will provide pilots and sensor operators for government-owned Reapers to help respond to “recent increased terrorist activities.”

A similar document, dated April 15, approved a classified contract to lease a General Atomics-owned Reaper and ground control station for a year and to hire the pilots, sensor operators and other crew members needed to fly and maintain it. The Reaper “is needed immediately” for surveillance and reconnaissance, the document states. Both documents black out the cost, as well as most details of the missions and sensors involved. The Reaper is a larger, heavier and more powerful version of the better-known Predator. Both are made by General Atomics.

The Pentagon requires the Air Force to fly 60 combat air patrols with Predators and Reapers each day. They plan to ramp up to 90 patrols a day by 2019. Most are controlled from ground stations at Creech Air Force Base, near Las Vegas, command hub for Pentagon drone operations in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere around the globe. An Air Force spokesman denied that the use of contractor pilots blurs traditional lines of military responsibility in a combat zone. “Planning and execution of these missions will be carried out under the same oversight currently provided for military aircrews, and the resulting sensor information will be collected, analyzed, transmitted and stored as appropriate by the same military intelligence units,” the spokesman, Benjamin Newell, wrote in an email.

General Atomics employees also provide logistics support, software maintenance, flight operations support, aircraft repair, ground control and other work on most Air Force drones. The company was paid more than $700 million over the last two years for those services, according to Air Force records. A General Atomics spokeswoman, Kimberly Kasitz, said the privately owned company had no comment for this article. Aviation Unmanned executives did not respond to repeated phone messages and emails over the last week. The little-known Aviation Unmanned was founded by a former Reaper pilot and instructor, and it provides aircraft, training and operations in support of commercial and government contracts, according to its website.

The Pentagon’s reliance on contractors is a relatively recent phenomenon. In 1991, the vast U.S.-led force that pushed Iraq’s troops out of neighboring Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War was nearly 100% military personnel. That changed dramatically as the Pentagon cut its force, and weapons systems became more sophisticated. By 2010, the number of contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan had surpassed the number of U.S. military personnel and federal civilian employees, records show. The use of drones began in 1995 when the Pentagon used a Predator to gather intelligence during the Balkan wars. Their success persuaded Air Force commanders and intelligence officials to embrace the new technology.

Today, nearly every airstrike or special forces ground raid in Iraq and Syria relies on live video or data from electro-optical infrared cameras, wide-area radars and other high-tech sensors on drones. How fully civilians should participate is a matter of intense debate in the Air Force. A lengthy article in the 2013 Air Force Law Review, a publication of the judge advocate general’s office, contended that over-reliance on contractors in a combat zone risks violating international law that prohibits direct civilian participation in hostilities. It cites a Predator missile attack that killed 15 civilians in central Afghanistan in February 2010. Although the military piloted and operated the drone, the decision to fire a Hellfire missile “was largely based upon intelligence analysis conducted and reported by a civilian contractor.” “It is imperative that Defense Department contractors not get too close to the tip of the spear,” the author, Maj. Keric D. Clanahan, warned.

The combat air patrols flown by drones involve six steps in the kill chain: Find the target, map the location, track its movements, aim a laser to pinpoint it, fire the missile and assess the damage. “The more closely related an activity is to the kill chain, the greater the likelihood the activity should be barred from contractor performance,” he wrote. The article urged the Pentagon to “only allow military personnel to serve as aircraft pilots and … sensor operators.” In an interview, retired Air Force Gen. David A. Deptula, who was deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, said he did not believe contractors are in danger of crossing the line into a combatant’s role. “Weapons deployment only involves less than 2%” of drone missions,” he said.

Most flights provide aerial surveillance or intercept and analyze electronic emissions from the ground. But William D. Hartung, director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy, a left-leaning think tank in Washington, warned that there is a thin line between tracking an individual or vehicle and firing a deadly missile. “The best way to avoid this slippery slope is to prohibit any use of contractors to fly any mission involving drones,” he said. “Military aircraft should be flown by military personnel, period.” Mary Ellen O’Connell, a professor of international law at the University of Notre Dame, also expressed alarm at the growing civilian role. Military drones should be flown only by those who “wear a uniform [and] are trained in the law of armed conflict,” she said. Source: LA Times – See more at:


Neuroscience in Crosshair of Weapons Training

By Tim Mahon 10:31 a.m. EST November 29, 2015


LONDON — Trainees using one of the leading brands of engagement skills trainers (EST) could soon add headbands to the equipment they use to learn personal weapon skills: headbands that read brainwaves.

Intific Inc., which is located in Peckville, Pennsylvania, is a subsidiary of Cubic Defense, which is located in San Diego. Intific specializes in the application of neuroscience technology for a wide variety of applications, including training. Amy Kruse, the company’s vice president of innovation, explains that the real challenge in the military training application is to ensure relevance and currency while focusing on the human being.

“The question is — or should be — how do we engage the human?” she asked.

The concept is both simple and complex: simple in that it is a technological extension of the simplest of training paradigms — the transfer of knowledge from expert to neophyte; complex in that the technology involved is new and coupled with advances from the fields of biology and psychology.

The premise revolves around the working of the human brain and the manner in which individuals learn patterns and modes of behavior.

“If we can analyze what makes a marksman a marksman and replicate the environment in which his or her unique expertise develops and operates, the chances are good that an individual can learn more effectively and in a more structured manner, leading to significant improvements in training efficiency,” Kruse said.

One of the issues that military trainers have been struggling with in the last two decades has been the recognition of, and the necessity to make provision for, human evolution. If that sounds fanciful, it isn’t. One senior officer responsible for training coordination at the national level of his armed forces explained why.

“This generation of recruits acts differently and reacts differently from my generation and my father’s generation. It’s not just a cultural issue or a discipline issue — it’s rather more fundamental. We have to accept that with the background of computers and communications technology, what the average 18 year old today has grown up with makes him or her think differently. And if they think differently and we can identify how and leverage that difference through technology, well I pretty much don’t care what it’s called, but I want it. And I want it now,” he said.

That’s what Intific and Cubic are seeking to deliver. Kruse’s previous experience as program manager for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Accelerated Learning Program obviously provided a springboard, but the Intific developers have taken a seemingly off-the-wall idea and accelerated it to well beyond proof of concept.

Using electro-encephalographic (EEG) techniques drawn from the medical diagnosis community, the Intific Neuro-EST solution identifies the patterns of brainwaves of expert marksmen as they shoot.


Analysis provides a brainwave model that can then be transferred to an individual at a lower level of expertise using auditory and haptic techniques that effectively teach that individual to think differently — just about weapons training, of course: There is as good a prospect of changing the entire thought process of an individual as there was of any medieval alchemist actually finding the Philosopher’s Stone.

The brain process is something becoming better understood and this type of exploitation could become the bellwether of future advances. One thing is certain: The process is one of the fundamental components that researchers have identified as the most important in changing learning behavior.

Kruse accepts that the physical components of learning weapons skills can be taught almost by rote. Breathing control, trigger pressure, sight picture; all these are tangible and controllable skills that can be taught.

“But this technology allows the trainee to reach back into their core mental processes and find capability, once they have understood the need to do so,” she said.

The Intific Neuro-EST combines neuroscience with Cubic’s proven technologies in engagement skills trainers.

“Correlating behavior and thinking patterns to the success of expert marksmen has resulted in proven performance improvement of over 100 percent in trials in some cases,” Kruse said.

Other companies prominent in the military training world also are working on the issues of cognitive behavior and neural feedback loops. And companies that are traditionally more at the hardware end of the market than the software or middleware segments, like Saab, recognize the benefits of leveraging advances in neuroscience to enhance current solutions.

Claes-Peter Cederlof, head of Saab’s UK market unit, recently observed that the company’s extensive research and development program includes consideration as to how deeper analysis of generic and individual thinking patterns can benefit Saab’s traditional force-on-force training solutions.

“We can never stand still, since circumstances continually force us to provide better, more effective solutions to our customers. And exploiting this sort of technology — leveraging the human dimension — is one of the keys for future success,” he said.



Pentagon’s FY’17 Budget Proposal Almost Ready for Prime Time

November 24, 2015


Defense officials are putting the final touches on the department’s fiscal 2017 budget proposal, with all programmatic decisions having been completed, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work.

“We hope to have the whole thing locked by the 18th of December,” Work told reporters. After going to the Pentagon Comptroller’s Office, the request is due at the Office of Management and Budget on Jan. 5, reported Politico. The Obama administration is scheduled to submit the federal budget to Congress on Feb. 1.

One major challenge of crafting the new budget was finding about $17 billion in savings from the department’s draft FY 2017 budget released this past February.

“That’s the $14 billion between the president’s budget request in [FY 2016] and what the budget deal was, and then the president’s decision to keep more troops in Afghanistan will cost money. So it’s about a $17 billion kind of swing,” Work said.

While officials already have made major decisions about weapons programs, they still must consider military compensation. “What is going to be the size of the pay raise? What are we going to do in terms of health care?” Work said.

And officials still need to decide how much more funding should be allocated in FY 2017 to counterterrorism and the European Reassurance Initiative, according to the story. Those questions are expected to be answered shortly.


Obama signs defense authorizations bill, finalizing military retirement overhaul

By Leo Shane III, Staff writer

5:32 p.m. EST November 25, 2015


After an extra month wait, the annual defense authorization bill is finally law.

President Obama signed the budget and policy bill on Wednesday, marking the 54th consecutive year the measure has survived Washington political fights to become law.

The most significant result for troops is the renewal of dozens of specialty pay and bonus authorities, and a massive overhaul of the military retirement system.

Starting in 2018, newly enlisted troops will no longer have the traditional 20-year, all-or-nothing retirement plan. Under the changes, it will be replaced with a blended pension and investment system, featuring automatic contributions to troops’ Thrift Savings Plans and an opportunity for government matches to personal contributions.

The new system is expected to give roughly four in five service members some sort of retirement benefit when they leave the military, as opposed to the current system which benefits only one in five.

Military retirement overhaul: Congress is on board — so what comes next?

The $607 billion authorization bill also includes comprehensive defense acquisition reform and language designed to stop Obama from closing the detention facilities at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

White House officials had objected to that language and hinted at a possible veto. But similar language in the measure each of the last six years didn’t stop the president from signing past authorization measures into law.

Obama did veto an earlier draft of this fiscal 2016 authorization bill, but over broader fiscal fights that were resolved last month when lawmakers approved a new two-year spending plan that goes around mandatory budget caps for both defense and nondefense programs.

The legislation is only half the annual budget process for Congress. Lawmakers still need to pass a defense appropriations bill for fiscal 2016 to start new programs and acquisition plans. Congressional leaders are hopeful that can be done before Dec. 11, when a short-term budget extension expires.

But finalizing the annual defense authorization bill is a significant step forward in that larger process, and gives Pentagon planners a host of other policy updates as well:

Allowing personal firearms on stateside bases — Lawmakers are requiring Defense Secretary Ash Carter to develop a plan by the end of this year that would allow stateside base commanders to decide whether to allow their service members to carry personal firearms on duty, or in areas where that is currently restricted by the military. Any such plan would not supercede local laws.

A pay freeze for general and flag officers — Troops will see a 1.3 percent pay increase in January, lower than the rate of expected private-sector wage growth but more than their senior officers will get. General and flag officer pay will stay at fiscal 2015 levels.

Another ban on a new BRAC round — Like in past years, the measure includes a prohibition on defense officials starting another base closing round. But lawmakers did include language allowing military officials to conduct studies on how much excess capacity exists in their stateside footprint, which could ease the path to such a move in the future.

A ban on “paid patriotism” with sports leagues — The bill includes language that would prohibit the department from entering into contracts “making payments for honoring members of the Armed Forces at sporting events,” in response to congressional reports that several professional sports teams were given tens of thousands of dollars to conduct on-field military appreciation events.

Easier rules for military animal adoption — The measure changes the rules on adopting military dogs and other animals to make it easier for former handlers and families of injured handlers to adopt them following their military service.

Developing “gender-neutral” standards for military jobs — In response to a push to open more military specialties to female troops, lawmakers want Pentagon leaders to craft “gender-neutral occupational standards” that would allow “decisions on assignments (to) be based on objective analysis.”



All combat jobs open to women in the military

By Andrew Tilghman, Staff writer 5:03 p.m. EST December 3, 2015


The Defense Department will lift all gender-based restrictions on military service starting in January, Defense Secretary Ash Carter announced Thursday.

The historic change will clear the way for women to serve alongside men in combat arms units.

Carter’s decision comes as a rebuke to an internal recommendation from the Marine Corps that sought to keep some jobs closed to women. In contrast, the Army leaders recommended opening all combat arms jobs to women.

“While the Marine Corps asked for a partial exception in some areas such as infantry, machine gunner, fire support reconnaissance and others, we are a joint force, and I have decided to make a decision which applies to the entire force,” Carter said at a Pentagon press briefing Thursday.

“The important factor in making my decision was to have access to every American who could add strength to the joint force,” he said.

In effect, Carter’s decision will open to women about 220,000 jobs in all, or about 10 percent of the entire active and reserve force. Most of those jobs are in Army and Marine Corps infantry and armor units.

At its core, the decision means that as of Jan. 2, female service members — both current and incoming recruits — will be allowed to serve in any military job for which they meet the gender-neutral performance standards and other requirements.

“They’ll be allowed to drive tanks, fire mortars, and lead infantry soldiers into combat. They’ll be able to serve as Army Rangers and Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Marine Corps infantry, Air Force parajumpers and everything else that was previously open only to men,” Carter said.

“And even more importantly, our military will be better able to harness the skills and perspectives that talented women have to offer.”

Carter made the announcement at a Pentagon press briefing. Absent from the briefing was Marine Corps Gen. Joseph Dunford, the relatively new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was serving as commandant of the Marine Corps earlier this year when the Corps made its pitch to keep some gender restrictions in place.

Dunford was in the Washington area Thursday attending a series of meetings, officials said. His absence raised questions about his support for Carter’s decision. The top general issued a statement Thursday that stopped short of agreeing with the decision.

“I have had the opportunity to provide my advice on the issue of full integration of women into the armed forces. In the wake of the Secretary’s decision, my responsibility is to ensure his decision is properly implemented,” Dunford said in the brief statement.

Earlier this year, the Marine Corps outlined a justification for that stance by publicly releasing some results of a yearlong study that concluded male-only units performed better overall than gender-integrated units.

Specifically, that Marine Corps-sponsored study found that male-only infantry units shot more accurately, could carry more weight and move more quickly through some tactical maneuvers. The study also found higher injury rates for women than for men.

Carter acknowledged that the Marine Corps’ recommendation was based on a conclusion that allowing women to serve in combat units would jeopardize readiness and combat effectiveness, but said he disagreed with that assessment.

“I believe that we could, in the implementation process, address the issues that were raised,” Carter said.

The Army, in contrast, has shown strong support for opening all military occupational specialties to women. So far this year, three female soldiers completed the prestigious Army Ranger School and earned the Ranger tab. In November, the Ranger School’s first fully integrated class got underway at Fort Benning, Georgia.

For the Navy, the impact will be felt mainly in to the SEAL community, which was historically limited to men. The Navy integrated its fighter pilot career fields in the 1990s and began allowing women to serve on submarines several years ago.

For the Air Force, the change will affect six occupational specialties that had been closed to women: special tactics officer and combat rescue officer, and the enlisted fields of special operations weather, combat control, pararescue and tactical air control party. Those gender restrictions affected roughly 4,000 positions.

The contentious issue revealed a rare public disagreement between the Marine Corps leadership and the Department of the Navy, which technically oversees the Marines. ​

Navy Secretary Ray Mabus voiced strong public support for lifting all gender restrictions, including those for Navy SEALs, yet Dunford, commandant of the Marine Corps at the time, disagreed.

The Corps’ nine-month study compared all-male units to mixed-gender units and included battlefield simulations examining the impacts of integrating women into combat roles. The Corps released only parts of the study’s final report, which highlighted unit cohesion problems and increased rates of injuries for women.

Critics said the Corps’ study was flawed because it failed to take into account that many of the male Marines, unlike the females, had prior training in the combat arms, and also because it focused on average results rather than individual results.

Thursday’s announcement was greeted with some skepticism on Capitol Hill. The leaders of the House and Senate armed services committees, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, issued a joint statement vowing to take a close look at the issue during Congress’s 30-day review period.

“The Senate and House Armed Services committees intend to carefully and thoroughly review all relevant documentation related to today’s decision, including the 1,000-page Marine Integrated Task Force report. We expect the department to send over its implementation plans as quickly as possible to ensure our Committees have all the information necessary to conduct proper and rigorous oversight,” the statement said.

The Pentagon does not need direct approval from Capitol Hill to move forward on Carter’s decision, but strong opposition from Congress could pose problems in implementing related policies.

The Pentagon leadership’s final decision on lifting all gender restrictions has been influenced by a pending lawsuit from several former female service members who claim the combat exclusion rules violate their constitutional rights.

The change was also driven in part by support from the White House and President Obama’s interest in expanding opportunities for all Americans to serve in the military. In 2011, Congress passed, and Obama signed, a law to end the prohibition on open military service by gays and lesbians.

And the change also was fueled by claims from women that the restrictions limited their ability to ascend to the military’s highest level of leadership, which is often filled with officers who served in the combat arms.

It also comes after 15 years of counterinsurgency operations that made rules referencing “ground combat” seem out of step with missions targeting a shadowy enemy that used nontraditional, asymmetrical tactics.

During a decade’s worth of conflict, more than about 300,000 women were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 9,000 female troops have earned Combat Action Badges. More than 800 female service members have been wounded and at least 161 have died from combat- and noncombat-related incidents, according to Defense Department data.



Air Force reorganizing to integrate cyber

Amber Corrin, Senior Staff Writer 2:56 p.m. EST December 3, 2015


The Air Force is making some big changes to its internal mission and personnel structures in order to better protect assets and interests from cyber threats, according to top Air Force officials.

The service is in the process of creating cyber squadrons that will be part of operational groups at various wings across the Air Force – many have not yet been specified, as it’s being done essentially on a pilot-program basis.

Air Force leaders also want to empower a cybersecurity role that would oversee the integration of information security into the service’s networks and systems.

“We’re in process of strengthening the senior information systems security official in the Air Force and making that something of an entity that can actually drive change and prioritize fixes for major weapons systems platforms,” Peter Kim, deputy director of Air Force cyber operations, said Dec. 2 at AFCEA’s Air Force IT Day in Vienna, Virginia. “We’re looking at an internal Air Force structure that starts at the base. So at [the annual Corona Top meeting of Air Force chiefs], the four-stars [made] the decision that we would establish cyber squadrons. The cyber squadrons will be in the operations group. The cyber squadrons in the operations group would be responsible for the mission assurance for that wing.”

Some of the cyber squadron reorganization already is under way. Kim pointed to the 92nd information operations squadron, which is under the 688th Cyberspace Wing at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, as a potential trailblazer for how the Air Force will implement cyber squadrons more broadly. At Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, the 835th Cyberspace Operations Squadron and the 837th Cyberspace Squadron were activated in a Dec. 2 ceremony, according to the Associated Press.

The move at Scott Air Force Base is a bid to boost cybersecurity efforts as well as entice the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which is considering an adjacent area of land for its western headquarters.

The cyber squadrons are just one piece of sweeping Air Force cyber-focused initiatives directed in a March memo from Air Force Chief of Staff Gen Mark Welsh. The security of existing and legacy weapons systems are a particular area of concern about vulnerability to threats to information and network security.

“We need someone at the base level who can answer that question, does the F-22 mission still have integrity, confidentiality, is it assured, can it still fight missions? Someone needs to answer that question, like no kidding answer that question,” Kim said. “We have pilot programs, projects [and] experiments at multiple bases on what the cyber squadron will look like – how many people, what toolsets they’ll use, what is the process they’ll go to when they work day-to-day in this mission-assurance mission.”

Kim also said to expect changes in personnel makeup and training as the Air Force shifts toward the Defense Department’s push toward enterprise IT.

“There are changes within the organizational structure we are going to have to wrestle with” because of the Joint Information Environment, the launch of cyber-specific organizations, the move to joint regional security stacks and changes in how the Air Force conducts defensive cyber operations in a joint environment, he said.



Nearly 370M IE users have just 6 weeks to upgrade

Computerworld | Dec 1, 2015 4:51 AM PT

Gregg Keizer


In August 2014, Microsoft took Internet Explorer (IE) users by surprise when it announced that most had to be running IE11 by Jan. 12, six weeks from today. After that date, Microsoft will support IE9 only on the barely used Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008, and IE10 only on Windows Server 2012. All others, including those with devices powered by Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, must run IE11 or Edge.

The retired browsers will continue working, but Microsoft will halt technical support and stop serving security updates for the banned versions.

According to data released by measurement vendor Net Applications, 44.8% of all IE users ran a soon-to-be-outdated edition of the browser.

That portion of the IE user base represented about 368 million users when Microsoft’s often-stated number of 1.5 billion Windows devices worldwide was used in the calculation.

The biggest chunk of affected IE users — an estimated 172 million — were those still running IE8, the six-year-old browser originally bundled with Windows 7 but which also ran on the now-retired Windows XP.

IE9 was also a favorite of those who had not yet upgraded. Approximately 108 million users ran IE9 in November, but because Windows Vista, the only edition that will be allowed to fire up IE9 and still receive browser security patches after Jan. 12, was on about 26 million machines last month, at least 82 million people must upgrade in the next six weeks.

IE10, the 2012 edition that shipped with Windows 8 and was ported to Windows 7, was the browser-of-record for an estimated 72 million users in November. They, too, must upgrade.

Or they must dump IE and choose an alternate browser like Google’s Chrome, Mozilla’s Firefox or Opera Software’s Opera.

That’s just the decision many appear to have made in the 15 months since Microsoft’s announcement. By demanding that users switch from, say, IE8 to IE11, Microsoft opened the door to deserters. Because users were told they had to change browsers in any case, they have been more likely to select Chrome than to update to a newer version of IE.

That’s proved disastrous for IE’s user share, which has plummeted more than nine percentage points so far this year. IE ended November with 50% of the browser market by Net Applications’ measurement, a low it hasn’t seen in decades. Meanwhile, Chrome’s user share has jumped 8.8 points thus far in 2015, and now accounts for 31.4% of all browsers.

Companies that require older editions of IE to run Web apps or services can upgrade to IE11, then rely on that browser’s Enterprise Mode to mimic the older versions’ rendering engines. Last week, Microsoft announced some enhancements to Enterprise Mode, including support for HTTP ports, and issued a kit that walks IT administrators through the chore of configuring Enterprise Mode. That kit can be downloaded from here.

Another option for laggards who need backward compatibility with aged apps and services is to upgrade to IE11 but deploy Browsium Ion, an add-on that lets IT administrators enable legacy IE-dependent apps in IE11. In a recent interview, Gary Schare, president of Browsium, admitted that Microsoft’s IE11-or-else edict had been good for business.

“We’ve seen an uptick,” Schare said. “Most of our business is in IE11 migration. Companies are attempting to beat the deadline, and they come to us when they have a number of legacy apps and they’ve run out of alternatives.”

Consumers with a version of IE on the hit list and able to run IE11 on their PCs can download the browser from Microsoft’s website.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, December 05, 2015


When is terrorism not terrorism?

Some have charged that the Black Friday shooting incident at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado was politically motivated and a domestic terror act. But some of those same folks are having a harder time concluding that Wednesday’s mass killing in San Bernardino, California was indeed the act of terrorists, despite the shooters’ ties to radical Islam. Both incidents prompted President Obama and other senior Democrats to call for more gun control.

Most Americans say no, the incident in Colorado was not terrorism. Rasmussen Reports will tell you early next week whether voters view the San Bernardino shootings as more indicative of a gun control problem or a terrorist problem.

Here’s how voters felt about radical Islamic terrorism and gun control before the horrific events in California.

Ironically, Black Friday was the biggest sales day ever for guns in this country.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump acknowledged yesterday that the terrorist incident in California is likely to make his poll numbers go up. Our latest Trump Change survey suggests there is some truth to that, with his perceived chances for the GOP presidential nomination up for the second straight survey among both Republicans and all likely voters.

But voters are evenly divided when asked which presidential front-runner – Trump or Hillary Clinton – would best keep this country safer from terrorism.

Are our individual freedoms at risk? With increasing reports that terrorists regularly use the Internet to coordinate their actions, Americans think preventing potential criminal activity online is more important than maintaining complete Internet freedom

Voters aren’t happy with Obama’s response to the recent massacres in Paris by radical Islamic terrorists but feel even more strongly that prominent Muslims need to speak out against these atrocities. Seventy-one percent (71%) think Islamic religious leaders need to do more to emphasize the peaceful beliefs of their faith

The president, however, says global warming is a greater long-term threat to the United States than terrorism, a comment Trump has characterized as “one of the dumbest statements I’ve ever heard in politics.” Does that mean Obama thinks his fellow Americans are a greater long-term threat to the country than terrorists are? 

The president was is in Paris this week leading the charge for an international agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions which he says are warming the planet. But Congress has passed measures to prevent the president from reducing those emissions, arguing that his plan will severely damage an already weak U.S. economy. Most voters here continue to believe that Obama needs the okay of Congress before taking any action against global warming.

When given a choice, 63% of voters say creating jobs is more important than taking steps to try to stop global warming

The Senate late in the week voted to repeal the national health care law, but the president is expected to veto it. Voters tend to think a piecemeal approach to fixing Obamacare is better than scrapping it altogether. Just 11%, however, want to leave the law as it is.

Obama’s monthly job approval rating fell to its low for the year in November. His daily job approval ratings remain in the negative mid-teens.

In other surveys last week:

— Twenty-eight percent (28%) of Likely U.S. Voters now think the country is heading in the right direction

— Soldiers may not rank post-traumatic stress as the biggest challenge they face when transitioning back to civilian life, but an alarming number of them know someone who suffers from the disorder or are afflicted with it themselves.

The number of Americans who say they have begun their seasonal shopping has jumped to a record level following last week’s Black Friday sales.

— Not surprisingly, in the midst of the holiday shopping frenzy, consumers are already saying they’re ready to give their credit cards and bank accounts a break next month, according to our latest Rasmussen Reports Consumer Spending Report.

— One thing’s for sure: Few voters will be putting Congress on their gift list this year

— Are you expecting a drone from Santa Claus this year? 



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