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February 13 2016

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13 February 2016


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Navy, Air Force lag behind in professionalism, top Pentagon official says

By Andrew Tilghman, Military Times 10:40 a.m. EST February 7, 2016


Early on Klein found that the Army and Marine Corps created “centers of excellence” for commanders’ professional development, but the Navy and Air Force had not. These organizations develop training programs for current and future leaders that focus on the intangible virtues of leadership as well as more mundane matters like travel regulations, restrictions on accepting gifts and using official vehicles — issues that can cause headaches for some leaders and their staffs.

Rear Adm. Margaret Klein discusses how the Pentagon’s Office of the Senior Adviser for Military Professionalism has sought to strengthen ethics across the services. Video by Lars Schwetje and Andrew Tilghman

During the past two years, Klein and her seven-member staff have helped the Navy and Air Force set up their own centers: the Navy Leadership and Ethics Center at the Naval War College in Rhode Island and the Air Force’s Profession of Arms Center of Excellence at Joint Base San Antonio.

“Those two organizations are helping airmen and sailors to understand the importance of trust, humility, integrity, empathy. They are helping them understand those very important virtues of command,” Klein said.

“Collectively, over time, the cultures will grow to adapt to that, from being very technical to balancing out the need for technical and virtuous leadership.”

Klein singled out the Marine Corps for its distinctive culture, saying “their messaging internal to the Marine Corps and their marketing external to the Marine Corps is really tight. The way they communicate inside the Marine Corps is much different than the way any of the other services communicate.”

She highlighted the Marines concise command climate survey, which was recently distilled to 37 questions, asking rank-and-file Marines to agree or disagree with straight-forward statements such as “Alcohol abuse is a problem in my unit” or “Leaders/supervisors in my unit have set a command climate wherein sexual harassment is not tolerated.”

To encourage “cross pollination” among the services, this month Klein is gathering dozens of professional development experts from across the force for a first-of-its-kind “Professionalism Summit” at the Air Force Academy in Colorado to exchange best practices.

Klein’s office, initially created as a two-year project, is slated to stand down in March. She has asked Defense Secretary Ash Carter to extend its life through January 2017. “A little bit more time is a really inexpensive investment in getting traction in these ideas that we’re trying to institutionalize,” she said.

The slew of scandals that emerged a few years ago made for stunning headlines. A Navy corruption scandal. An Air Force major general who oversaw nuclear missiles was fired after his drunken bender on a visit to Moscow offended both his Russian hosts and his own staff. An Army four-star general was reprimanded for spending lavishly on official trips.

But Klein said those are anecdotal and she’s found no systemic or deeply rooted cultural problem. “We’re seeing numbers within historic norms,” she said. “We always want to be shooting for a target that decreases the incident rate.”

“We think the right answer is a little different for each service based on their heritage.”



What Agreement? Congress Drawing Battle Lines in ’17 Defense Budget Fight

By Joe Gould, Defense News 10:53 a.m. EST February 7, 2016


WASHINGTON — The Senate’s No. 2 Democrat says if House Republicans follow through on threats to raise defense spending through the wartime account known as OCO, they can expect resistance from Democrats.

Assistant Minority Leader Dick Durbin, D-Ill., pushed back against House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Mac Thornberry’s assertion that $59 billion allocated for the overseas contingency operations account (OCO), was considered a floor and not a ceiling by the two-year bipartisan budget deal reached late last year. Thornberry has said in recent weeks that last year’s budget deal clearly set the amount as a minimum to be raised based on current threats.

“I viewed it as a ceiling, not a floor, but I would like to hear his explanation,” Durbin said of Thornberry on Thursday. “There is one abiding concern: fifty-fifty, defense and non-defense.”

A key principal for Democrats during last year’s budget negotiations was that any increase for the defense side of the budget be matched equally on the non-defense side. Asked if Democrats would stick to that principal, should the GOP seek an OCO plus-up, Durbin told Defense News: “I will.”

As Capitol Hill awaits the president’s 2017 budget proposal Feb. 9, familiar lines are being drawn in a battle that threatens to undo the carefully crafted Bipartisan Budget Agreement of 2015 (BBA), a two-year deal that was supposed to provide stability to a budgeting process that has been irregular for most of President Barack Obama’s administration.

Defense hawks in Congress looking to increase the defense budget appear to face a four-way fight — with congressional Democrats, President Obama and fiscal hawks in their own party.

The House’s fiscally conservative Freedom Caucus wants to spawn a politically explosive budget proposal that would restore Budget Control Act spending caps, eased by $30 billion for fiscal 2017 as part of the budget deal. Its members argue the country is on a fiscally unsustainable path and must make steep entitlement cuts to reduce rising deficits.


House Speaker Paul Ryan is already working to unify his caucus and avert a budget impasse split among House Republicans. Rep. Tom Cole, a member of the budget and appropriations committees who has served as a Republican budget negotiator, said his party’s disunity on the budget threatens to sink Congress back into the recurring nightmare of threatened government shut-downs and stop-gap funding measures.

“We certainly at this point don’t have 218 Republican votes for a budget,” Cole, R-Okla., said Thursday. “On the other hand, that deal was made, and I don’t see how you break your word. … We’ve tried to give everybody in government, and certainly the military, a little bit more stability; the bleeding needs to stop and they need to have some budget certainty. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.”

Last year’s budget fight ultimately yielded a deal that safeguarded the essential operations of the Treasury and the Pentagon but led to House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation over fights against the Freedom Caucus.

This year, Speaker Paul Ryan will have to find his own way to deal with the group that bedeviled his predecessor. In remarks at the Heritage Action Conservative Policy Summit on Tuesday, Ryan suggested ambitions of his colleagues be scaled back as long as President Obama wields the veto, and he invoked the movie “Braveheart,” saying “we have to unite the clans.”

“When voices in the conservative movement demand things that they know we can’t achieve with a Democrat in the White House, all that does is depress our base and in turn help Democrats stay in the White House,” Ryan said. “We can’t do that anymore.”

Members don’t appear to have budged. Rep. Dave Brat, a member of the Freedom Caucus on the House Budget Committee, said Thursday he hoped Budget Committee chairman Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga.would produce a budget proposal that complies with BCA caps, and that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would signal his support early — calling the whole thing “easy.”

“I won’t support anything that busted the original caps,” said Brat, R-Va. “There’s an easy win-win, and that’s to make a trade between the new, higher caps and a bold move on entitlement, mandatory, automatic spending. That’s the easy move.”

The other looming fight is Thornberry’s stand to increase OCO if the Obama administration’s budget sets it at $59 billion, as expected.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter, in a preview of the administration’s $582 billion defense budget request, said the administration will request $59 billion for OCO, in line with the budget deal, but signaled he is also open to spending more, telling reporters during a trip to Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, that, “OCO is by definition a variable fund that depends upon what you do in the course of a year.”

The 2016 defense policy bill avoided breaking the cap on base budget spending by shifting roughly $38 billion of the total requested for the defense base budget into the OCO account, which — while exempt from the budget caps — is intended to provide emergency funding for pop-up missions. The president, who objected to lifting the spending cap on defense without providing equal relief for non-defense discretionary spending, vetoed the policy bill in protest.

To resolve the impasse, the budget deal raised the discretionary spending caps for both defense and non-defense programs by $80 billion over two years, ultimately tucking around $8 billion for base budget activities into the OCO account.

Republicans initially included language in the budget agreement that set $59 billion as the floor for OCO, but the language did not make it into the final draft, according to Mackenzie Eaglen, a former staffer both on Capitol Hill and in the Pentagon. She says the Hill’s intent in the agreement is clear nonetheless.

“The iterations of [budget agreement] basically were, before the final version, that it was a floor,” she said. “You could argue that since it was taken out you can interpret it in black and white, but it’s clear that is what was meant by Hill Republicans always, was that it was a floor.”

Thornberry is not alone. Also on the side of raising defense spending are two staunch defense hawks in Senate Armed Services Committee, its chairman John McCain and Lindsey Graham, a military veteran and member of the SASC. McCain has proposed lifting the budget caps for defense alone, while Graham said Thursday he will press colleagues to boost the Pentagon’s budget.

At the suggestion fiscal conservatives who want to lower budget caps might be an obstacle to those efforts, Graham offered a fiery rebuke.

“They’re not very conservative, don’t use the word conservative when you’re talking about cutting the military,” Graham, R-S.C., told reporters. “I don’t want to hear one person say they’re conservative if they want to go back to BCA numbers, regarding the military. What they are is extremists who have their heads in the sand and don’t understand the world. If you think the BCA numbers are good for the Department of Defense, you are absolutely a fool.”

Invoking the Islamic State group-inspired attack in San Bernardino, McCain, R-Ariz., warned Democrats off seeking equivalent spending on the non-defense side, should Republicans seek a defense hike.

“Even with an attack on the United States of America, they can’t change,” McCain said of Democrats. “National security is the number one or number two concern of the American people, and it’s going to play out to their deep embarrassment if they block it. It’s absolutely disgraceful. How many Americans have to die?”

McCain said he planned to coordinate with Thornberry on a response to the president’s budget.

GOP Defense hawks in the House are already lining up to push for more funding, expressing agreement with Thornberry’s assertion that OCO should be raised to reflect current threats.

Ahead of the president’s budget release, the GOP game plan for an OCO fight is not set, according to the chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J. However, Frelinghuysen said Thornberry has his support.

“We need an account with as much flexibility in it as possible, and that’s something the commander-in-chief will need more of, rather than less,” Frelinghuysen said Thursday. “I won’t go to the numbers, but its a very important part of keeping us safe here at home and allowing us to address what I consider to be the cancer spreading across the Middle East and North Africa, represented by the Islamic State.”

Assistant Majority Whip Rep. Joe Wilson, who serves as chairman of the HASC’s emerging threats subcommittee, said Thornberry would likely receive Ryan’s blessing and analytical support from House leadership’s budget advisers.

“I will certainly be backing up the chairman to maintain what the agreement was, and the good news is we have a chairman who fully understood the agreement,” Wilson, R-S.C., said Thursday “We always have to go to the speaker, but key budget advisers of the speaker have indicated that indeed Chairman Thornberry is correct.”

Tactical Air and Land Subcommittee Chairman Mike Turner, who led efforts to plus-up the 2016 defense budget, was already rallying House Republicans to the battle lines on Wednesday, asserting the Obama administration “appears to be breaking from the agreement included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.”

“The administration’s disregard for the agreement jeopardizes our national security and deprives our military of the resources necessary to defeat evolving threats,” Turner said in a statement to Defense News. “As the House prepares to consider a budget resolution for fiscal year 2017, members must remain committed to providing a robust national defense and advocate on behalf of our warfighters.”


Leidos-Lockheed merger changes the face of federal IT

Amber Corrin, Federal Times 4:39 p.m. EST February 5, 2016


The recently announced merger between Leidos and Lockheed Martin’s Information Systems and Global Solutions has those in the federal IT community, particularly defense IT, maintaining a close eye on what happens next. Those watching got a better idea after Leidos CEO Roger Krone spoke about the deal at a New York investors conference Feb. 4.

The deal swells Leidos into a $10 billion leader in government IT, and shifts its traditionally military-heavy portfolio to one with a large footprint in civil and commercial business. The newly diversified company “reaches critical mass in essentially four new markets” in the merger, including transportation, infrastructure and logistics, health IT and mission IT, Krone said.

It also better positions the company, which spun off from SAIC in 2013, for the future, he noted.

The merger “fits well in the direction we established for Leidos going forward. This was about developing a company that uses information to solve really important societal problems in three market areas: defense, critical infrastructure and engineering, and healthcare,” Krone said.

The $5 billion deal came as Lockheed Martin sought to rebalance after buying Sikorsky Aircraft for $9 billion last summer. After a series of strategic reviews, the company determined it would sell off IS&GS, which handles a significant amount of federal IT services.

The merger makes Leidos one of the biggest federal IT service providers in the market, and also makes it the seventh-largest contract by fiscal 2015 unclassified obligations, according to Jesse Holler, quantitative analyst with Bloomberg Government.

“They’re a huge player in the market,” Holler said, pointing to Leidos’ contract award of the $4.3 billion Defense Healthcare Management Systems Modernization contract last year, as well as IS&GS’s $4.6 billion contract with the Defense Department to secure its Global Information Grid under the GSM-O contract awarded in 2012. That contract is Lockheed’s second-largest, worth more than $300 million in fiscal 2015 alone. The merger additionally brings Leidos back onto the General Services Administration’s Alliant contract vehicle, which went to SAIC when the company split.

With Leidos cutting such a large swath into the federal IT market, expect to see industry-wide impact, Holler said.

“For service competitors, the IT services arena will have to consolidate more…you will see the mid-tier companies consolidating more. That’s really a play for scale,” Holler said, noting that the mid-tier companies likely either will merge on their own or get bought up and merged by private equity firms.

As for the financial details of the merger, Lockheed shareholders get 50.5 percent, while Leidos gets the remaining 49.5 percent. In addition to the shares, the deal involved a $1.8 billion cash dividend. The deal doubles the size of Leidos, which despite the arrangement of shares largely will be in charge and continue to operate under the Leidos name and likely in the existing Leidos headquarters.


“I feel confident that we have a platform now in Leidos – a team, a strategy, a business model, an asset-deployment philosophy, a capital-redeployment philosophy – that fits in what we call the solutions and services businesses, and it couldn’t be a better match for the type of company we are and the type of company we want to be in the future,” Krone said.



New military retirement law creates big decisions for many troops

By Andrew Tilghman, Military Times 10:53 a.m. EST February 7, 2016


Hundreds of thousands of service members face a critical decision during the next year that could have a huge impact on their future financial security: Whether to opt into the new military retirement system or stick with the traditional one.

Signed into law in November, the new retirement benefit will mean smaller pension checks but include cash contributions to the individual investment accounts of all troops.

It’s the biggest change in decades for military compensation. For the first time, the military will offer some limited retirement benefit, similar to 401(k) contributions, to troops who separate before reaching 20 years of service. Historically those non-career service members — more than 80 percent of the force — received no retirement benefit.

Officially the new retirement system takes effect Jan. 1, 2018. After that, all troops coming out of boot camp will be automatically enrolled in the new benefit as the traditional pension plan is phased out.

Yet for today’s troops, and anyone who joins during the next two years, the new law includes a grandfather clause that will allow them to choose to remain under the traditional all-or-nothing retirement system.

The Defense Department plans to roll out a forcewide education program later this year to give troops the details on the new benefits and also provide financial literacy training to help them make key decisions like how much personal basic pay to allocate to retirement savings accounts and where to invest it.

Despite years of skepticism, the new benefit looks like a potentially good deal for many of today’s younger troops and the Pentagon expects thousands of service members to voluntarily waive their right to stick with the traditional system.

There’s an immediate incentive: Troops who opt in will begin receiving matching contributions — ranging from 1 percent to 5 percent of monthly basic pay — into their portable individual investment account that they own outright after just two years of service.

The new system caps years of heated debate over the future of military retirement. And the final outcome is vastly different from the initial proposals that would have eliminated the fixed-income pension entirely and gutted the real value of the benefit. Those proposals sparked outrage and were ultimately rejected by the Pentagon as a major risk to retention and readiness.

Troops who entered military service before 2006 are not eligible for opting into the new system.


In fact, the new system does not really save much money for the Defense Department. Most of the reduced spending on smaller pensions will be offset by the cash contributions for the vast majority of the rank-and-file force.

“It’s an incredibly generous deal,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a military personnel expert at the American Enterprise Institute. “By and large this is the establishment of a generous new benefit for a wide swath of people who were never going to get it in the past,” she said.

Offering a side-by-side comparison of the two retirement systems is difficult because it hinges on big variables, such as future stock market returns and the extent to which individual service members contribute their own pre-tax money to their retirement account and are in turn able to draw on the matching government contributions.

Troops who entered military service before 2006 are not eligible for opting into the new system and, generally speaking, for those troops who have already clocked many years in uniform and are well on their way to reaching the 20-year retirement threshold, the new system is not very attractive because they have far fewer years to accrue monthly cash contributions and let those grow over time.

Yet for troops who are early in their careers, especially the several hundred thousand who are first-term enlistees or junior officers, the question is more complex, experts say.

“This decision likely will depend on service members’ answers to several questions. First, and most importantly, what is the likelihood that the service member will make the military a career and stay at least 20 years?” said Jim Grefer, a military personnel expert at the Center for Naval Analyses.

“Service members who are unlikely to stay to 20 years of service clearly would be better off under the new system,” he said.

For individuals who strongly believe they will remain in uniform for 20-plus years, exercising the grandfather clause and staying with the traditional benefit package might make more sense, he said.

They should focus on several key questions:

“Are they willing to sacrifice current spendable income by making contributions to their TSPs from their own pockets? And are they willing to accept the market risk inherent in TSP-type retirement accounts?” Grefer said

“If the answers are no, then they likely should stay in the current retirement system,” he said.

Here are the details:

Under the new retirement system, military pensions will shrink by 20 percent, but otherwise will function the same as the current system, with the pension earned after 20 years of active-duty service and checks payable immediately upon separation.

Troops will receive a “continuation pay” upon reaching 12 years of service if they agree to a new four-year service agreement. Continuation pay will vary by career field but will be at minimum equal to 2.5 months of basic pay. These funds will be paid as cash, so service members can spend it — or invest it — as they wish.

The Defense Department will create an individual investment account, known as a Thrift Savings Plan, for all recruits showing up at boot camp. Troops will automatically receive monthly deposits equal to 1 percent of their basic pay. They can select an investment fund and hope to accumulate market gains and interest over time as financial markets grow.

Ownership of the TSP accounts will be handed off to the individual troops after reaching two years of service. Troops will be given incentives to contribute their own money to the retirement account. Specifically, the Defense Department will offer a dollar-for-dollar match to individual contributions up to an additional 3 percent of pre-tax basic pay.

For troops opting to contribute 3 percent of basic pay, the Pentagon will contribute 4 percent, which would be the initial 1 percent automatic contribution plus a 3 percent match. That means troops contributing 3 percent would sock away monthly pre-tax contributions equal to 7 percent of basic pay.

Additionally he Defense Department will match at 50 cents on the dollar troop contributions beyond 3 percent, up to 5 percent. So to receive the maximum possible retirement benefit, troops should contribute 5 percent of their own basic pay and receive a 5 percent matching contribution from the government.

Troops are permitted to contribute more of their own money, but the government match is capped at 5 percent.

For those contributing to a TSP, there is the added benefit of reducing their taxable income. However, because the TSP offers investment funds, not specific stocks, standard maintenance fees apply, and they will vary from fund to fund.

Money deposited into a TSP is generally subject to a 10 percent penalty if withdrawn before the owner reaches age 59½. Taxes are deferred on contributions, payable upon withdrawal of funds.



It all kicks off Jan. 1, 2018. That’s when the Defense Department will begin distributing monthly retirement account contributions to recruits arriving at boot camp as well as to troops already in the ranks who opt into the new system.

Opting in will require signing some basic paperwork. Those troops who joined the military before January 2018 will automatically remain under the current system unless they seek the authorization forms for opting in.

Current plans call for giving current troops a 12-month window for opting in, so the last chance to sign up to participate in the new benefit will be late December 2018.


Old bonuses

The law that fundamentally changes the retirement benefit is intended to dovetail with the longstanding system of special and incentive pays.

Re-enlistment bonuses for specific career fields, combat pays and special incentives for high-demand skills such as proficiency in foreign languages or medical specialties will continue to be a key device for the services to retain talent and shape the force.

“The new system isn’t meant to dislodge the existing ‘S & I’ pays,” said James Hosek, a military personnel expert with the Rand Corp. whose research contributed to the development of the new retirement system.

Despite the pension’s reduction, its total value will continue to serve as an incentive for midcareer service members to stay in uniform. “The retirement benefit at 20 years of service is still substantial. It’s still a major draw,” Hosek said.


Lump sum

Among the biggest changes to the retirement benefit is a new option for troops leaving after 20 years of service to receive part of their pension benefit in the form of a “lump sum” cash payout.


Retiring service members will have the option of receiving their retirement benefit in the traditional form of monthly pension checks. Or, they can opt to receive 25 percent or 50 percent of that benefit in a cash payout upon separation in exchange for future years of reduced pension payments. (The lump-sum option reduces monthly pension checks only through the traditional retirement age, typically age 67, at which time all retirees will receive the full monthly pension benefit).

The lump-sum option in some ways will resemble today’s “Redux” retirement option, in which troops can receive a $30,000 cash payment in exchange for reduced lifetime pensions. In most cases, the lump-sum payout will, after taxes, be worth less than $100,000.

Yet the precise amount of the lump-sum payments remains unclear. They won’t be calculated by simply adding up the face value of pension payments. Rather, the calculations can rest upon a “discount rate,” a device that financial professionals use to measure the current value of future payments.

Discount rates assume money today is more valuable than money tomorrow — akin to reverse interest rates, shaving money from the current value of a future benefit. The higher the discount rate applied, the lower the value of the lump sum payment today.

The law Congress passed leaves the details up to the Pentagon, which will face a big decision to make in setting that discount rate, one that will add or cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from individual troops’ lump-sum options.

“That is going to be the largest point of contention. It’s rife with missteps,” said one defense official.

A key question is whether different service members will be offered different rates. Studies show enlisted troops are more eager to get money up front and therefore will accept a much bigger hit from the discount rate. But does that mean the DoD will take advantage of that and offer a better discount rate to officers?

If, hypothetically, studies show that the “grunts” in the combat arms career fields are willing to take the lump sum with a higher discount rate, will the Pentagon use that to craft the formal retirement benefits program and offer those troops smaller lump-sum retirement payouts?

“Do you split it by age? By pay grade By MOS?” the official said.

For troops who don’t plan to make the military their

For troops who don’t plan to make the military their career, the new retirement system would allow them to leave the service with money in a retirement account. (Photo: MC2 Liam Kennedy/Navy)

Critics of the lump-sum payout plan compare it to “pay-day lenders” and say it exploits individuals’ desire to have cash now at the expense of long-term financial benefit.

An independent panel on military compensation initially floated the idea in a report to Congress in January 2015. The panel suggested it was a good option for retiring troops who want to buy a home, start a business or help send a child to college.

Last year the Defense Department officially opposed the idea of a lump-sum cash payout, saying it was not a good deal for troops in most scenarios. The idea was first floated by the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission in a report to Congress last year.

Defense Department officials can kick that can down the road for a few years because it’s unlikely that anyone will be completing their career and actually retiring under the new system for at least another 10 years.

Some defense officials are quietly hoping that Congress will revisit the new retirement law and eliminate that piece of the benefit package before any troops have an opportunity to exercise it.

“If we can get rid of it at some point it would be ideal,” the defense official said.


Troops who opt into the new retirement system will face an array of new variables and decisions. What are the best investment fund options for a TSP account? How will financial markets impact the growth of retirement accounts? How much will the 12-year continuation pay actually be? Is the lump-sum option worth considering?

“It can be very complicated. But it can also come down to some very simple decisions, like contributions,” said Beth Asch, a personnel expert with RAND.

“There are certain rules of thumb,” she said. “Like if there is a match, do.



US Senators Offer Bill To Speed Electronic Warfare Development

By Joe Gould, Defense News 4:41 p.m. EST February 8, 2016

The bill would also require the Pentagon to supply Congress with a strategic plan for enhancing its electronic warfare capabilities


WASHINGTON — Two senators have introduced new bipartisan legislation aimed at boosting the Pentagon’s electronic warfare efforts.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, D-N.Y., is meant to speed up the acquisition cycle for electronic warfare programs, which generally have to do with using electromagnetic energy to jam, spoof or eavesdrop on enemy signals.

“It is critical that the United States military dominates the offensive and defensive ends of electronic warfare,” Kirk, a former Navy Reserve intelligence officer, said in a statement. “This bill will give DoD and industry leaders the tools to quickly develop critical electronic warfare technology for the warfighter, the importance of which I have seen firsthand.”

The bill, called the Electronic Warfare Enhancement Act, comes a year after the Pentagon announced a group focused on innovations and strategies in electronic warfare across the entire Defense Department, called the Electronic Warfare Executive Committee. The bill would require the committee to supply Congress with a strategic plan for enhancing its electronic warfare capabilities, through cross-service cooperation, streamlining acquisitions, and improving training and advancing offensive capabilities.

The bill’s text warns of a “deficiency in electronic warfare that if left unfilled is likely to result in critical mission failure, the loss of life, property destruction, or economic effects.”

Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, the Army’s most senior commander in Europe, said last March that Russian-backed forces used jammers to interfere with drones intended to monitor compliance of a cease-fire agreement, and that Ukraine’s ground defense systems are being jammed, creating what was essentially a no-fly zone. “The quality and sophistication of their electronic warfare is eye watering,” Hodges said at the time.

According to Kirk, it can take a decade to field electronic warfare technology, and by then it is outdated. The bill would provide acquisition program managers authority to waive certain rules and regulations, in line with the department’s Rapid Acquisition Authority Program.

Kirk touted the legislation Feb. 5 on a visit to Northrop Grumman’s facility in Rolling Meadows, Ill., home to the company’s Land & Avionics C4ISR division. The facility, which employs more than 2,100 people, also oversees the company’s electronic warfare work.


“This bill cuts through the red tape at the Department of Defense so Northrop Grumman can advance technology for the warfighter and equip our US military faster,” Kirk said in a statement.

Northrop announced in January that it won a $91.7 million engineering, manufacturing and development contract from the Navy to further mature system designs for the AN/SLQ-32(V)7 electronic warfare system. The upgrades are meant to add new technologies and capabilities for early detection, signal analysis, threat warning and protection from anti-ship missiles.



National Security Agency merging offensive, defensive hacking operations

WASHINGTON | By Dustin Volz

Mon Feb 8, 2016 4:29pm EST

The U.S. National Security Agency on Monday outlined a reorganization that will consolidate its spying and domestic cyber-security operations, despite recommendations by a presidential panel that the agency focus solely on espionage.

The NSA said the reorganization, known as “NSA21,” or NSA in the 21st century, will take two years to complete, well into the first term of whoever is elected president in November.

A review board appointed by President Barack Obama recommended in December 2013 that the NSA concentrate solely on foreign intelligence gathering. The board’s recommendations came as the United States was reeling from disclosures from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden about the collection of vast amounts of domestic and international communications data.

Under the board’s plan, a separate agency would have been housed within the Department of Defense with responsibility for enhancing the security of government networks and assisting corporate computer systems.

Ignoring that recommendation, the Obama administration will replace its separate spying and cyber-defense directorates with a unified organization responsible for both espionage and helping defend U.S. computer networks.

The “new structure will enable us to consolidate capabilities and talents to ensure that we’re using all of our resources to maximum effect to accomplish our mission,” NSA Director Mike Rogers said in a workforce address made publicly available on Monday.

Some technology specialists and privacy advocates have said the government agency responsible for building and exploiting flaws in computer software for spying purposes should not be the same one entrusted to warn companies about detected software weaknesses.

The presidential panel cited concerns about “potential conflicts of interest” between the NSA’s offensive and defensive objectives, in addition to the need to restore confidence with the U.S. technology industry to induce better cyber-security collaboration.

“I hope the NSA will explain its strategy for continuing to rebuild trust with the private sector,” Peter Swire, a professor of law at the Georgia Institute of Technology, who served on the five-member review group, said on Monday.

In November, the NSA told Reuters it informed U.S. technology firms more than 90 percent of the time about serious software flaws it found. The spy agency did not say how quickly it alerted those firms, leaving open the possibility it exploits software vulnerabilities before sharing details about them.



FAA: Drone registration eclipses that of regular planes

Bart Jansen, USA TODAY 10:26 p.m. EST February 8, 2016


WASHINGTON – The number of drones potentially flying in U.S. skies has eclipsed the number of piloted aircraft — from Cessnas to Dreamliners, the Federal Aviation Administration said Monday.

More than 325,000 people registered their drones as of Friday, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said. That surpasses the 320,000 piloted aircraft registered with the agency. And the numbers could actually be higher, Huerta said, because one registration covers all the drones a person owns. The average operator has 1.5 drones, he said.

The registration numbers show the surging popularity of remote-controlled aircraft, which are flooding airspace already packed with passenger planes and leading to concerns over midair collisions. About 7,000 planes fly in U.S. skies any time during the day, according to the FAA, along with an untold number of drones.

The FAA began the registration program Dec. 21 to address these safety concerns. All drones owned before then must be registered by Feb. 19. New ones must be registered before the first flight. The rules apply to nearly all owners of remote-controlled aircraft weighing at least 9 ounces.

The FAA receives about 100 reports per month from aircraft pilots who say they spotted drones flying near them, but the remote-controlled aircraft can be difficult to trace.

With registration, the FAA can track down operators flying dangerously or after a crash. The agency has opened 24 investigations into unsafe or illegal drone operations, Huerta said.

“We won’t hesitate to take strong enforcement actions against anyone who flies unmanned aircraft in an unsafe or illegal manner,” Huerta said.

Chesley Sullenberger, the retired US Airways captain who landed a jet on the Hudson River after geese knocked out both of the plane’s engines, has warned about the need to prevent drones from colliding with airliners.

“The sheer numbers concern me, as they increase the risk of a collision and it is likely that the actual number of drones is much greater than the number registered,” Sullenberger said.

The Academy of Model Aeronautics, which represents 180,000 hobbyists, argued the registry is burdensome and unnecessary since the group’s members already identify their aircraft.

FAA registrants provide their name, physical address and email address. The credit-card transaction and $5 fee help confirm the person’s identity, although the fee was refunded during the first month.

“We’re very encouraged by the registration numbers we’ve seen so far,” Huerta said. ” We need to bring the unmanned aircraft enthusiasts into the culture that has characterized aviation throughout its history – that is a culture of safety and a culture of responsibility.”


The Army Has Made a Robot Cockroach

February 8, 2016 By Patrick Tucker

Defense One


Why does the military need roboroaches? Put aside your feelings of revulsion toward periplaneta americana and consider for a moment the design miracle that is the American cockroach. Ever seen a cockroach scurry from the light into an incredibly tight crevice? The American cockroach is about stands 12.52 mm tall but can squeeze itself down to as small as 3 mm in height, about two stacked pennies, when it has to find cover. That shape change doesn’t even slow the bug down when it runs.

The Berkeley creation is larger, about palm-sized, but still possess this unique, shape-shifting trait. “Like the animal, the robot successfully locomotes in vertically confined spaces by compressing its body in half (54%; 75–35 mm) and benefits from possessing a low friction shell,” the authors write in their paper, which appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science today. “We have been able to make our palm-sized, confined-space crawling robot completely autonomous in power and control, while weighing just 46 g including onboard electronics and battery.”

CRAM it isn’t the military’s first foray into robotic or semi-robotic insects. The robot fly funded by Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, in the video below weighs just 60 milligrams and stands at 3 centimeters tall. But steering remains a real issue.

The military has also funded robo-insect projects of a more Frankensteinian flavor, attaching small computers to real bugs to create semi-robotic monsters. Back in 2006, DARPA announced a program to “develop technology to create insect cyborgs.” The program produced more than a few interesting breakthroughs. In the video below, researchers Hirotaka Sato, Michel Maharbiz and others demonstrate a system for steering a beetle via direct nerve and muscle stimulation.

The Berkeley team’s CRAM robot has clear applications in disaster response, in which it might carry a data collection device into the debris of a fallen building to hunt for survivors. But MAST isn’t just in the first-responder business. The $6.4 million program exists primarily to fund and develop autonomous (in this case, self-steering) robots for collecting intelligence and situational awareness in small spaces for soldiers.

The CRAM robot isn’t outfitted with cameras or live video feed to do roach reconnaissance, but Kaushik Jayaram, one of the paper’s lead authors is reportedly working on that at Harvard.



H.R. 4489 – FAA Leadership In Groundbreaking High-Tech Research and Development Act

by Rob Thompson • 9 February 2016    

This “Groundbreaking High Tech Research & Development Act” slated to be marked up this Thursday will impact the research and development of drones for many years. To quickly highlight the areas that will impact the industry, future uses and rules we find 5 major titles in areas of research to include, general provisions, FAA R&D, Unmanned Aircraft Systems, Cyber security and FAA R&D development activities.

Title I – Definitions and Authorization

Title II – FAA R&D

Associate Administrator for R&D

Research Advisory Committee

Plan to determine research and development responsibility


Title III – UAS

UAS research and development roadmap

Probabilistic metrics for exemptions – (presumably 333 exemptions).

Probabilistic assessment of risks

UAV-manned aircraft collision research.


Title IV – Cyber Security

Cyber Testbed

(Manned) Cabin communications, entertainment security vulnerabilities

Threat modeling

NIST standards

Research coordination

Research and development


Title V – Research and Development Activities

Research plan for the certification of new technologies in to the NAS

(Manned) Aviation fuel research

Air traffic surveillance over oceans

(Manned) Single piloted commercial cargo

A research committee and associate administrator for R&D will be sought to find risks and solutions to the NAS. For the first time we are hearing about risk assessment and the dangers of drones through the use of science. This will include ballistic and impact studies on how drones will impact and aircraft in flight. The plan would include responsibilities distributed to principal investigators and research components that will work with the FAA and NASA.

Cyber security seems to be aimed at manned aircraft with problems in security with communication and entertainment on board aircraft.

The last title includes a research plan on integration to the NAS, including equipment, certification and provisions for UAS airworthiness, which is, mentioned as continued airworthiness four times in the document. We can only speculate what this is, but if you understand the FAA and aircraft certification process you can guarantee they will adopt this aviation standard as a process to certify drones. This means all the equipment such as electronics must meet airworthiness standards, currently none of the Chinese based manufactured drones meets these standards. A typical certification process for an aircraft part can cost several millions of dollars and take 18-36 months through paper work and testing to get approved. If this is the case all unmanned aircraft that do not meet aircraft airworthiness standards when the final rule is approved will need to meet this standard for commercial work once the research is completed.

Link to document:


Intelligence officials: ISIL determined to strike U.S. this year

Oren Dorell, USA TODAY 7:11 p.m. EST February 9, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Islamic State militant group will “almost certainly” remain a threat to the U.S. homeland and seek to launch or inspire attacks on American soil in 2016, a top U.S. intelligence official warned Tuesday.

Attacks in the United States by the group, also known as ISIL, “will probably continue to involve those who draw inspiration from the group’s highly sophisticated media without direct guidance from ISIL leadership,” James Clapper, director of national intelligence, testified in a rare public hearing on Capitol Hill about intelligence threats facing the nation.

Testifying with Clapper were the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Marine Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart; CIA Director John Brennan; FBI Director James Comey; and Navy Adm. Michael Rogers, who heads the National Security Agency.

Clapper called the Islamic State the “pre-eminent terrorist threat.” It can “direct and inspire attacks against a wide range of targets around the world.” In a world where violent extremists are active in 40 countries, “ISIL is using the collapse of government authority to expand,” he said.

The July attack against military facilities in Chattanooga, Tenn., and the San Bernardino, Calif., terror attack in December “demonstrate the threat that homegrown violent extremists also pose to the homeland,” he said.

Stewart said the Islamic State will probably conduct additional attacks in Europe and then attempt the same in the U.S. He said U.S. intelligence agencies believe ISIL leaders will be “increasingly involved in directing attacks rather than just encouraging lone attackers,” according to the Associated Press.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, center, and Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Vincent Stewart, arrive on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016, for a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on worldwide threats. (Photo: Evan Vucci, AP)

The leaders also listed other threats facing the nation.

Al-Qaeda, which spawned the Islamic State, remains an enemy. The United States will face disparate threats from conflicts spurred by fights over scarce resources caused by climate change and global warming, and drug traffickers selling lethal heroin produced largely in China.

In addition, the nation’s cyber infrastructure remains vulnerable to attack by terrorists such as ISIL, as well as by states such as Russia, China, Iran and North Korea, Clapper said.

North Korea has expanded a uranium enrichment facility and restarted a plutonium reactor that could begin recovering material for nuclear weapons in weeks or months, Clapper said.

Clapper said Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile capable of posing a direct threat to the United States, “although the system has not been flight-tested.”

The nuclear deal reached last summer between world powers and Iran, known as the JCPOA, is likely to limit Iran’s nuclear program as intended, but those benefits could be temporary, Clapper said.

“Iran will probably use the JCPOA to remove sanctions while preserving some of its nuclear capability, as well as the option to eventually expand its nuclear infrastructure,” he said. “We do not know whether Iran will eventually decide to build nuclear weapons.”

Meanwhile, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards, which is conducting military operations against U.S.-supported forces in Syria and Yemen, have not changed its behavior since the deal was signed, and Iran’s ballistic missile launches in October and November are “a message they intend to continue to develop their missile program,” he said.

In general, the United States is facing a more violent world with a greater variety of threats than it has in 50 years, Clapper said.

“From the Middle East to South Asia, there are probably more cross border conflicts than since the early 1970s,” he said.

On the cyber threat, Clapper said U.S. information systems controlled by the U.S. government and American industry are vulnerable to cyberattacks from Russia and China.

Russia, the world’s greatest nuclear power along with the United States, has also re-emerged as a possible adversary, Clapper said.

He said Moscow’s incursion in Ukraine and other “aggressive” moves around the globe are being taken in part to demonstrate that it is a superpower equal to the United States. He said he’s unsure of Russia’s end game but is concerned “we could be into another Cold War like-spiral.”



‘We don’t have the gear’: How the Pentagon is struggling with electronic warfare

By Thomas Gibbons-Neff

February 9


In the future, many of the most effective weapons used against the U.S. military are likely to be unseen: electromagnetic waves that disrupt radios or jam global positioning systems, paralyzing units.

This realm of fighting is called electronic warfare, and since the 9/11 attacks it’s been relegated to a lower priority than fighting insurgent groups with precision guided munitions and drones. Now, defense officials say they’re worried that the U.S. military’s ability to counter and wage electronic warfare has atrophied and is lagging behind countries such as Russia and China.

“We don’t have the gear,” Col. Jeffrey Church, the head of the Army’s electronic warfare division, said in a recent interview. “We’re working on getting it, [but] we’re talking years down the road, when our adversaries are doing this right now.”

One place where the United States’ adversaries have displayed their proficiency in electronic warfare is in eastern Ukraine, where the Pentagon has watched Russian forces with a wary eye, gleaning what they can from the country’s reinvigorated military.

“The Russians have worked hard in recent years” in electronic warfare, Gen. Ben Hodges, the commanding general for the Army’s forces in Europe, said during a recent interview. “What they’ve done in east Ukraine and in Crimea has allowed us to study the challenge.”

One Ukrainian special-forces colonel fighting outside of the war-torn city of Donetsk said his men were targeted by an artillery strike after Russian-backed forces located his troops solely by his radio transmissions. The colonel, who for security reasons would identify himself only by his first name, Andrei, said in a recent interview that the radio they had was an American-brand Harris radio. The radio was capable of encrypted communication, but since its output was so much more powerful than the smaller handheld radios the regular Ukrainian troops often carry, the Russian-backed separatists were able to locate the American radio and attack its broadcast site with artillery.

The U.S. Army has a potential tool that would counter the Russians’ techniques, according to Church. Called the Integrated Electronic Warfare system, the three-piece program is meant to be a sort of one-stop shop for the Army’s electronic warfare division. The system is essentially a collection of software, sensors and devices that can be mounted to ground vehicles and drones and carried in troops’ rucksacks and will be able to jam, detect and identify enemy interference. The catch? It isn’t completely funded and has no set year when it will be ready, though one component of the system is slotted to be fielded by the end of 2016, with another due in 2023.

“We’ve been talking about this since 2005,” Church said, referring to one component of the Integrated Electronic Warfare system that was supposed to be ready in 2009 but won’t be in the field until later this year. “There’s these guys that have been looking at really neat pictures of really neat capabilities for years and we still don’t have it.”

During the Cold War, with the Soviet Union as the United States’ biggest threat, Army units trained knowing that their enemy would attack them with some element of electronic warfare. But once the Cold War ended, the Army shuttered its units that focused solely on electronic combat.

The Army and Marine Corps renewed their interest in the area around 2005, when they needed something to combat remote-controlled roadside bombs, which were killing and wounding troops by the dozens. Even then, however, U.S. forces had almost no concern about adversaries jamming their navigation equipment or radios and focused solely on countering the threat at hand.

Now, Church is fighting for funding and the prioritization of the Army’s electronic warfare in the Pentagon’s upcoming budget. To do this, he has to lobby the Pentagon’s new electronic warfare committee.

“What I haven’t been able to just drive home is something I can’t demonstrate,” Church said. “We can see an artillery round explode. . . . We can see the effect that those combat arms guys have. . . . I can’t see any of that in the electromagnetic spectrum.”

“It’s hard to prove this stuff works,” he added.

Church says the Pentagon brass has acknowledged to him that ideally there would be 3,200 electronic-warfare soldiers spread throughout the Army. Instead, he has 800.

“The joke in the field is that EW [electronic warfare] stands for extra workers,” Church said. “Because they have no gear, we have hardly any equipment to do our job.”

In the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, conventional electronic warfare has been mostly relegated to certain aircraft with the purpose of jamming and defeating enemy air defenses and radar along with gathering signals intelligence. The Navy has the EA-18G Growler, while the Marines last year retired their aging EA-6B Prowler, a jet specifically designed for electronic warfare. With the Prowler gone, the Marines, in the past two years, have been using a system of pods that can be mounted to various aircraft and will soon be able to be attached to ground vehicles and carried by individual Marines — the same capability the Army is seeking.

“This is significant for the Marine Corps, and we’ve moved out in front of everyone else,” said Col. Gregory Breazile, director of the Marines’ Cyber and Electronic Warfare Integration Division.

Yet, despite various advancements by certain branches, the U.S. military is at a critical point in determining which priorities to fund and how it will wage its future wars.

“The battle of the electromagnetic spectrum could very well determine a win or loss in a future war,” said Peter Singer, a Senior Fellow and Strategist at New America who focuses on future conflicts. “The worry for the United States in electronic warfare is that we’re seeing nations like Russia and China invest deeply in the hope that it will nullify our advantages in other realms.”

With the rollout of the 2017 defense budget Tuesday, it is unclear how many resources will be devoted to electronic warfare, though Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter stressed its importance in an address to the Economic Club in Washington during an early preview of the upcoming request last week.

Two days later, Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) introduced a bill that would allow the Pentagon to fund electronic warfare programs more quickly, in hopes of keeping pace with advancing technology and the United States’ adversaries.

“It is critical our military dominate the offensive and defensive ends of electronic warfare,” Kirk, a former naval intelligence officer, said in a statement. “The need for enhanced electronic capabilities is even more pronounced on today’s battlefield.”


Pentagon budget targets futuristic capabilities

Amber Corrin, C4ISR & Networks 6:14 p.m. EST February 9, 2016


Seeking to strike a balance between current operations, fiscal uncertainty and next-generation weapons and systems, the Defense Department is aiming for a “healthy” science and technology program in its fiscal 2017 budget to develop future technologies.

Pentagon officials are routing $12.5 billion to science and technology investments, part of a broader $72 billion research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) portfolio; the RDT&E request is nearly $3 billion more than the amount enacted in fiscal 2016.

According to the budget documents released Feb. 9, key RDT&E initiatives center on space and space-based systems, missile defense programs, cyber operations, and science and technology.

Command, control, communications, computers and intelligence systems are set for a $7.4 billion investment, an uptick from last year’s $7.1 billion. Missile defense programs slipped by some $600 million to $8.5 billion, and despite Pentagon officials’ verbal emphasis on science and technology, those accounts across the board went down, from $13 billion to $12.5 billion.

“The Department’s S&T program’s mission is to invest in and develop capabilities that advance the technical superiority of the U.S. military to counter new and emerging threats. The overall 2017 base budget S&T funding request for the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Defense Agencies is approximately $12.5 billion, which is 2.4 percent of the Department’s $523.9 billion base budget,” the documents note. “The 2017 request is slightly lower than the 2016 enacted level of $13 billion for continued S&T focus on the rebalance of forces from Iraq and Afghanistan to the Asia Pacific region, and towards promising technologies to counter other nations’ development of anti-access/area-denial capabilities.”

Space programs would receive about $7 billion to fund a range of platforms and systems, including the GPS III satellite and research into an alternative architecture for satellite communications (SATCOM) and Overhead Persistent Infrared (OPIR).

“The 2017 budget request also sustains the existing SATCOM and OPIR systems through the transition,” the documents state. “The budget allows the United States to maintain supremacy in space and provides communications, navigation, missile warning, space situational awareness and environmental monitoring capabilities.”

The Missile Defense Agency receives the lion’s share of missile-related funding with a $7.5 billion budget, in which key programs include increasing to 44 the number of ground-based interceptors, funding for Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) concept development and U.S. contributions to the Iron Dome.

Cyber funding is a bright spot in the proposed budget, jumping by nearly $1 billion over last year’s levels. Overarching targets for cyber investments include activities that:

  • Organize the 133 team Cyber Mission Force, which is expected to be fully operational by the end of fiscal 2018.
  • Outfit the new Joint Operations Center for U.S. Cyber Command at Fort Meade, Maryland; occupancy is scheduled for 2018.
  • Support cyberspace operational Science and Technology programs and other research and technology projects to develop the tools required by the Cyber Mission Force to accomplish its mission.
  • Develop innovative approaches to provide a virtual environment for the Cyber Mission Force to consistently train and mission rehearse across a wide range of threat environments.
  • Support defensive cyberspace operations by providing information assurance and cyber security to the Department’s networks at all levels, and via ongoing investments in the Department’s larger Information Technology budget to implement Joint Regional Security Stacks across the DoD enterprise.
  • Support combatant commanders and offensive cyber operations by providing integrated cyber capabilities to support military operations and contingencies.

Both S&T and RDT&E areas are part of DoD’s $112 billion procurement portfolio.



The End of U.S. Space Supremacy

February 9, 2016 | Luke Penn-Hall

Space may be infinite, but it’s starting to get crowded around Earth. As more nations have gained the ability to send assets into orbit, a new space race has started to emerge. But rather than focus on merely reaching space, the goal now is to leverage dominance in space into a material advantage on the ground – in terms of both commerce and military force.

There is a growing commercial space industry, and the number of satellites launched into orbit is increasing. The world economy is dependent, at least in part, upon the telecommunications and navigation capabilities that these satellites provide. Although there has been a distinct military component to space since the Cold War, space is now similar to the sea during the age of exploration – it is critical for commerce, but it is also being militarized very rapidly.

For the United States, space assets have become an essential aspect of projecting force abroad. Since the First Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. has focused heavily on developing and expanding its ability to utilize precision-guided munitions (PGM), which require GPS to work. By using satellites to guide munitions to their targets, the U.S. has managed to create a way of waging war that is extremely precise and minimizes both collateral damage and civilian deaths. Satellite based communications have allowed the U.S. to create very nuanced command and control capabilities. And, as The Cipher Brief has reported, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency has made great use of space assets to contribute to intelligence collection efforts.

However, the dominance that the U.S. has enjoyed in space since the end of the Cold War appears to be ending. James Lewis from the Center for Strategic and International Studies says adversaries “are investing tens of millions of dollars in a range of technologies intended to degrade or destroy satellites and space capabilities.”

China in particular has become very active in this area. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Chinese satellite launches increased dramatically between 2003 and 2012. These new satellites have served a number of different purposes, from enhancing communications to the creation of China’s own regional GPS constellation.

The most worrying aspect of the Chinese space program has been their anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons demonstrations. The first of these occurred in 2007, when China shot down one of its own satellites. There have been reports of other ASAT tests in 2010 and2013, although the Chinese government disputes these reports. Bruce MacDonald, a former Special Advisor of the Nonproliferation and Arms Control Project with the Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, expects these trends to continue. He says that China wants to pursue capabilities that include “its own complete GPS-like satellite constellation, more satellites for both military and civilian long distance communications, more advanced intelligence satellites, and more advanced ASAT systems.”

The competition between the two countries for supremacy in space could be complicated by the fact that, while China has been expanding its space program, the U.S. has allowed some of its capabilities to fall by the wayside. In 2011, NASA was forced to end its Space Shuttle program, which allowed the U.S. to send manned missions into space, due to growing budgetary pressures. Currently, American astronauts need to go through the Russian Federation Space Agency in order to get to space. Given the degree to which relations between the U.S. and Russia are deteriorating, this could eventually pose a problem for NASA. China is under no such constraint and has been able to send manned missions into space since 2003. However, private companies in the U.S. – such as SpaceX and Virgin Galactic – have demonstrated that they may be able to reliably send manned missions into space sometime in the near future.

The United States has made it clear to the world at large that dominance in space translates into an advantage on the ground, and so its rivals are now seeking to catch up. The final outcome of this contest is difficult to determine, with options ranging from the current state of peaceful expansion to outright space war – although the later is highly unlikely.

The space race during the Cold War resulted in a great deal of technological innovation that is still yielding benefits today. There is also room for cooperation between the rising space powers. Cleaning up the large amount of debris currently in orbit is one task that would benefit enormously from a multinational approach. Regardless of the final outcome of the race, one thing is certain – the U.S. can no longer count on having supremacy in space.

Luke Penn-Hall is the Cyber and Technology Producer at The Cipher Brief.


Chinese Cyberspies Pivot To Russia In Wake Of Obama-Xi Pact

Kaspersky Lab has identified a massive uptick in cyber espionage in Russia by ‘Chinese-speaking’ APTs.


Kelly Jackson Higgins

TENERIFE, SPAIN – Kaspersky Security Analyst Summit 2016 – Cyber espionage attacks by Chinese advanced persistent threat groups against Russian targets have increased by 300 percent in the past two months, according to a top security expert with Kaspersky Lab.

Costin Raiu, director of the global research and analysis team at Kaspersky Lab, says his firm’s researchers witnessed a dramatic drop in Chinese-speaking APTs going after US and UK organizations’ intellectual property in September after President Obama and Chinese president Xi Jinping came to a historic agreement not to conduct cyber spying attacks for economic gain. Kaspersky Lab refrains from confirming the actual actors behind advanced groups such as nation-states, so it refers to these attackers as “Chinese-speaking” cyber espionage groups.

“Immediately after the signing of the agreement, there was silence” in attacks against the US, Raiu said in an interview with Dark Reading. “Then there were some small bits and pieces of random noise … but after that, they [Chinese-speaking APTs] completely went silent in the US and UK,” Raiu said, referring to Xi’s similar no-hack deal in October with Prime Minister Cameron in the UK.

Raiu said the cyber espionage groups appear to have shifted their focus to Russia and other former Soviet countries as new sources of intellectual property for economic gain in the wake of the Obama-Xi pact.

While the Obama-Xi agreement was applauded by the security and IT industries as a good first step, critics had expected China ultimately not to fully comply with the agreement. Those concerns appeared to come to fruition in October, when CrowdStrike reported spotting multiple Chinese APT groups attempting to steal business secrets from seven US companies in the technology and pharmaceutical industries the day after the Obama-Xi agreement. The Obama-Xi pact stops short of banning traditional espionage via hacking.

Kaspersky’s Raiu said his company has seen activity from Mirage, a Chinese-speaking APT group that traditionally has targeted ministries of foreign affairs, waging attacks in Russia. “Now they are super-active in Russia,” he said, with interests in military espionage, for example. But there have been “several” APT groups seen targeting Russian victims, he said.

Kurt Baumgartner, principal security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, says the increased activity targets “a geopolitical profile.”

Industries that support those geopolitical interests and structure are also under attack, he said.

CrowdStrike also has seen more Chinese attacks on Russia — from a specific Chinese APT group called Hammer Panda against Russian Federation nations. But it’s also still seeing China-based attacks on US companies.

“We have definitely observed an increase in Hammer Panda targeting of the Russian Federation. In the [CrowdStrike] Global Threat Report … we observe that following an agreement between China and Russia in May 2015 to abolish any type of hacking between the two states, we observed an almost immediate violation of the agreement by China,” said Adam Meyers, vice president of intelligence at CrowdStrike. “We have continued to observe China-based intrusion groups targeting US companies.”


White House Wants to Give Agencies New Pot of Money to Upgrade Legacy IT

By Jack Moore

February 9, 2016 3 Comments

The White House is seeking Congress’ help to establish a multibillion-dollar fund that federal agencies could use to upgrade aging computer networks prone to cyberattacks and system failures.

As part of a planned Cybersecurity National Action Plan announced today, the Obama administration wants permission to establish a $3.1 billion revolving fund that will help agencies transition away from so-called legacy IT toward more modern options, such as cloud computing.

“We have a broad surface area of old, outdated technology that’s hard to secure, expensive to operate and, on top of all that, the skill sets needed to maintain those systems are disappearing rather rapidly,” Federal Chief Information Tony Scott said in a conference call with reporters Monday evening.

About three-quarters of the $80 billion in annual federal IT spending is slated for operations and maintenance of existing systems — some of them years out of date. A soon-to-be-released report from the Government Accountability Office on legacy systems in government has tallied up 28 systems at least 25 years old. Another nearly dozen information systems date back to 1980 or earlier.

Scott has likened the lopsided spending on older, harder-to-secure systems to “a crisis that’s bigger than Y2K,” at a White House meeting in November with business executives.

In a Feb. 9 Wall Street Journal op-ed on the new cybersecurity action plan, President Barack Obama wrote: “It is no secret that too often government IT is like an Atari game in an Xbox world. The Social Security Administration uses systems and code from the 1960s. No successful business could operate this way. Going forward, we will require agencies to increase protections for their most valued information and make it easier for them to update their networks.”

The modernization fund, which the White House plans to situate at the General Services Administration, requires congressional approval.

The fund would target applications that:

  • Have documented cybersecurity challenges;
  • Can easily shift to shared services, the cloud or other “more modern architectures”; and
  • Eat up a lot of costs just to maintain.


Agencies would receive funding in installments “rather than the big blob of money that is typical in the federal government” to encourage incremental development, Scott said.

Agencies that receive funding will also be required to pay back into the fund over time.

All told, the administration expects the modernization fund to support between $12 billion to $15 billion in new application development over several years.

Federal officials have long maintained the arcane federal budgeting and appropriations process makes IT modernization difficult.

“This world where annually we decide what we’re going to spend money on is not conducive to building a secure infrastructure,” Scott said at a government acquisition conference in October, adding, “We don’t have a regular plan for replacement or upgrade.”

Michael Daniel, special adviser to the president for cybersecurity and the White House “cyber czar,” said officials plan to work “closely with our colleagues up on the Hill” to secure support for the IT fund.

Draft bipartisan legislation circulating on Capitol Hill — called the Cloud IT Act — has already floated the possibility of a working capital fund to help agencies make upfront investments in order to modernize legacy IT systems. However, that legislation, introduced by Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Tom Udall, D-N.M., has yet to be introduced.

Also, as part of the new cyber action plan, the White House requested a 35 percent funding bump for government wide cybersecurity initiatives — for a total of $19 billion — and announced plans to hire a federal chief information security officer to oversee cybersecurity planning across the civilian federal government.

The Aerospace Corporation Demos Counter-Drone Technology for Security Organizations

by Press • 11 February 2016


El Segundo, Calif. (Feb. 11, 2016) – The Aerospace Corporation recently gave a demonstration of counter-drone technology for a group of organizations that control critical infrastructure.

The demonstration was held at a meeting of the Los Angeles Regional Unmanned and Autonomous Systems Working Group, which is a Los Angeles regional group co-hosted by Aerospace and the Department of Homeland Security. Group members include several federal, state, and local public safety officials and critical infrastructure owners and operators, among others. The goal of the group is to collaborate to address the threat from drones, and to also support the development of drone applications that can aid security. It provides a forum to discuss the latest drone incidents, investigate new drone applications, and form partnerships to conduct joint tests and pilot programs.

This video provides a summary of the counter-drone technology that Aerospace demonstrated at the meeting. The working group meets bi-monthly to collaborate on different drone technologies and security topics.

The Aerospace Corporation is a California nonprofit corporation that operates a federally funded research and development center and has approximately 3,600 employees. It provides guidance and advice to military, civil and commercial customers to ensure the success of complex, technology-based programs. The Aerospace Corporation is headquartered in El Segundo, Calif., with multiple locations across the United States.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 13, 2016

New Hampshire’s fading in the rear view mirror, and now all eyes are on the Nevada caucus and the South Carolina primary. Will Donald Trump keep winning? Will Hillary Clinton start winning?

What a difference a big win in the New Hampshire primary makes. After a one-week drop following Trump’s second-place finish in the Iowa caucus, expectations that the New York businessman will be the Republican presidential nominee have jumped back to their highest levels in Rasmussen Reports’ latest Trump Change survey. 

Many in the conservative-leaning GOP establishment complain that Trump is not a conservative. Most Republican voters agree, but it doesn’t seem to bother them.

At the same time, with the primary process finally underway, both Republicans and Democrats are more confident that the ideological leanings of their party’s eventual presidential nominee will match theirs.

Trump’s campaign has become a crusade of sorts for those angry with the powers that be. Criticized at a recent debate for his abrasive campaign rhetoric, he said he gladly welcomed “the mantle of anger.” Considering that 87% of Republicans – and 67% of all voters – are angry at the current policies of the federal government, that seems to be shaping up as pretty good campaign strategy. 

Many pundits are claiming Clinton won her latest debate with Bernie Sanders Thursday night after being smashed earlier in the week in the New Hampshire primary. Forget New Hampshire: The November election is still shaping up as Clinton vs. Trump.

Most Democrats like the idea of a third term for Obama, though.

But voters in general don’t see Obama or the Republican-controlled Congress as an asset to their respective party’s presidential candidate. The president’s daily job approval ratings remain in the negative teens.

Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Republican turned independent, says he is interested in a third-party run for the presidency, but all he does at this point is break the national tie between Trump and Clinton and put Trump in the White House

Some have suggested, however, that Bloomberg is just letting major Democratic donors know that he is available if Clinton’s campaign stumbles against Sanders or if she is indicted for trafficking in classified material over a private e-mail server while secretary of State.

Two senior Republican senators have called for the Justice Department to step aide and choose an independent special prosecutor to decide whether Clinton should be prosecuted for mishandling classified information. Most voters think that’s the way to go to avoid any possible conflict of interest.

Prominent female supporters of Clinton declared last weekend that women voters have an obligation to vote for a woman candidate, but women overwhelmingly reject that notion.

Men like that idea of women registering for the military draft, but most women don’t.

The number of voters who believe terrorists are winning against the United States and its allies remains near its all-time high, but voters also worry that the U.S. military is already overstretched. 

The U.S. Supreme Court this week put the brakes on the president’s new regulations on emissions from coal-burning power plants which he believes contribute to global warming. Twenty-nine states have challenged Obama’s action in court. When it comes to global warming, most voters think the government should only do what the president and Congress agree on. 

In other surveys last week:

Just 28% of voters think America is heading in the right direction.

Most Americans still know someone searching for a job, but that figure is at its lowest level since the 2008 Wall Street meltdown.

Who has quit looking for work? 


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