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March 26 2016

March 28, 2016




26 March 2016


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These are the new U.S. military bases near the South China Sea. China isn’t impressed.

By Dan Lamothe March 21 at 3:00 PM



The disputed South China Sea will soon see increased U.S. military activity from five Philippine bases, following the signing of a deal between Manila and Washington that will allow the Pentagon to deploy conventional forces to the Philippines for the first time in decades.


The deal — called an Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement — was reached Friday between State Department officials and the government of the Philippines, and will allow the Pentagon to use parts of five military installations: Antonio Bautista Air Base, Basa Air Base, Fort Magsaysay, Lumbia Air Base, and Mactan-Benito Ebuen Air Base. It comes at a time when the United States and its allies in the region have expressed concern about China increasingly deploying military assets to man-made islands in the South China Sea.


China has laid claim to a number of islands in the South China Sea, building airbases on tiny spits of land while installing powerful radar and missile launchers. Here’s why. (Jason Aldag,Julie Vitkovskaya/The Washington Post)


State Department spokesman John Kirby, a retired two-star Navy admiral, said that the United States has “made absolutely no bones about the fact that we take the rebalance to the Asia Pacific region very seriously.” But he added that there is “nothing offensive or provocative” about any of the Pentagon’s deployment of troops to the region.


“It’s not about selling it to the Chinese or to anybody,” Kirby said, under questioning during a media briefing. “It’s about meeting our security commitments in a serious alliance with the Philippines. That’s what this is about.”


The map above shows where the bases are. Antonio Bautista Air Base, on the island of Palawan, is a few dozen miles east of the disputed Spratly Islands, where China’s military buildup is underway. Basa Air Base is also near the South China Sea, and is in a rural area outside Manila. Bautista Air Base is the closest installation the Philippines has to the Spratlys, according to Philippine air force. Other bases were considered, according to Philippine media reports, but ultimately not included in the agreement.


China raised questions about the plan Monday, saying that cooperation between the United States and the Philippines should not harm the sovereignty or security interests of any other country.


“The U.S. has talked about militarization in the South China Sea. But can it explain whether its own increased military deployment in the region is equivalent to militarization?” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said at a media briefing, according to Xinhua, a state-run news agency.


The United States had a conventional military presence in the Philippines for nearly a century until 1991, when the country ordered the U.S. military to leave its naval base in Subic Bay after the countries could not reach an agreement on the extension of a lease. A U.S. Special Operations task force was based in the Philippines for 13 years after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, but was phased out last year in favor of keeping a small amount of U.S. troops nearby to assist Philippine forces in their fight against Islamist militants


More Procurement Falloffs on the Horizon

April 2016

By Jon Harper



The Defense Department’s fiscal year 2017 budget request would reduce procurement relative to what was planned in the fiscal year 2016 request, and additional cuts are possible after the proposal makes its way through Congress, according to a recent report.


The Pentagon’s latest request calls for a $6.8 billion drop in procurement relative to what was enacted in 2016. That would represent a $9.6 billion reduction compared with previous plans for 2017, said the American Enterprise Institute report, “2017 Defense Budget: Offset promising but today’s procurement disproportionately pays the bills.”


It notes that some high-tech weapons programs — such as advanced munitions — will see larger investments in line with the Defense Department’s new “offset” strategy.


These “investments are paid for by procurement reductions not only in 2017, but also throughout the entire five-year future years defense plan,” the report said.


A number of programs took a hit, it notes.


“The budget’s bill payers are many. They include Navy and Army aviation programs, the new Air Force bomber and airlift, and many small reductions spread across hundreds of line items in the modernization accounts, including procurement and research, development, test and evaluation,” it said.


Procurement could take a further hit if anticipated savings in the budget proposal are not realized and topline spending is not increased by lawmakers, the report noted.


“Defense leaders made many rosy assumptions,” it said. “In total, the bean counters assumed $9.3 billion of tenuous savings in 2017 — money that will come out of already stripped procurement accounts if the savings do not materialize on time or are rejected by Congress.”


While the fiscal year 2016 budget saw a major increase in topline dollars relative to the previous year, that is not the case in the latest budget request, noted Andrew Hunter, director of the defense-industrial initiatives group at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


“The FY ’17 budget levels out again compared to FY ’16,” he said during a recent panel discussion. “If there’s a leveling of the topline, guess what? Modernization once again is in trouble.”


“The FY ’17 budget is down for modernization … mostly in the procurement accounts,” he said. “Almost all of that reduction is in aircraft.”


Hunter hopes lawmakers will reach an agreement to boost procurement.


“If there is not a larger budget deal, I am concerned that the increases of FY ’16 will be something of a false dawn for the acquisition system,” he said.





Trump questions need for NATO, outlines noninterventionist foreign policy


By Philip Rucker and Robert Costa March 21 at 4:30 PM



Donald Trump outlined an unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs Monday, telling The Washington Post’s editorial board that he questions the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has formed the backbone of Western security policies since the Cold War.


The meeting at The Post covered a range of issues, including media libel laws, violence at his rallies, climate change, NATO and the U.S. presence in Asia.



Speaking ahead of a major address on foreign policy later Monday in front of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, Trump said he advocates a light footprint in the world. In spite of unrest abroad, especially in the Middle East, Trump said the United States must look inward and steer its resources toward rebuilding domestic infrastructure.



Donald Trump speaks with Washington Post Publisher Fred Ryan, left, as he departs a meeting with the editorial board of The Washington Post. Editorial page editor Fred Hiatt is on the right. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)


“I do think it’s a different world today, and I don’t think we should be nation-building anymore,” Trump said. “I think it’s proven not to work, and we have a different country than we did then. We have $19 trillion in debt. We’re sitting, probably, on a bubble. And it’s a bubble that if it breaks, it’s going to be very nasty. I just think we have to rebuild our country.”


He added: “I watched as we built schools in Iraq and they’re blown up. We build another one, we get blown up. We rebuild it three times and yet we can’t build a school in Brooklyn. We have no money for education because we can’t build in our own country. At what point do you say, ‘Hey, we have to take care of ourselves?’ So, I know the outer world exists and I’ll be very cognizant of that. But at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially the inner cities.”


For the first time, Trump also listed members of a team chaired by Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) that is counseling him on foreign affairs and helping to shape his policies: Keith Kellogg, Carter Page, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares and Joseph E. Schmitz.


Trump praised George P. Shultz, who served as President Ronald Reagan’s top diplomat, and was harshly critical of current secretary of state John F. Kerry. He questioned the United States’ continued involvement in NATO and, on the subject of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, said America’s allies are “not doing anything.”


“Ukraine is a country that affects us far less than it affects other countries in NATO, and yet we’re doing all of the lifting,” Trump said. “They’re not doing anything. And I say: ‘Why is it that Germany’s not dealing with NATO on Ukraine? Why is it that other countries that are in the vicinity of Ukraine, why aren’t they dealing? Why are we always the one that’s leading, potentially the third world war with Russia.’ ”


Trump said that U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished in the coming years, breaking with nearly seven decades of consensus in Washington. “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” Trump said, adding later, “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”


Trump sounded a similar note in discussing the U.S. presence in the Pacific. He questioned the value of massive military investments in Asia and wondered aloud whether the United States still was capable of being an effective peacekeeping force there.


“South Korea is very rich, great industrial country, and yet we’re not reimbursed fairly for what we do,” Trump said. “We’re constantly sending our ships, sending our planes, doing our war games — we’re reimbursed a fraction of what this is all costing.”


Asked whether the United States benefits from its involvement in the region, Trump replied, “Personally, I don’t think so.” He added, “I think we were a very powerful, very wealthy country, and we are a poor country now. We’re a debtor nation.”


Trump cast China as a leading economic and geopolitical rival and said the United States should toughen its trade alliances to better compete.


“China has got unbelievable ambitions,” Trump said. “China feels very invincible. We have rebuilt China. They have drained so much money out of our country that they’ve rebuilt China. Without us, you wouldn’t see the airports and the roadways and the bridges. The George Washington Bridge [in New York], that’s like a trinket compared to the bridges that they build in China. We don’t build anymore. We had our day.”


Trump began the hour-long meeting by pulling out a list of some of his foreign policy advisers.


“Walid Phares, who you probably know. PhD, adviser to the House of Representatives. He’s a counterterrorism expert,” Trump said. “Carter Page, PhD. George Papadopoulos. He’s an oil and energy consultant. Excellent guy. The honorable Joe Schmitz, [was] inspector general at the Department of Defense. General Keith Kellogg. And I have quite a few more. But that’s a group of some of the people that we are dealing with. We have many other people in different aspects of what we do. But that’s a pretty representative group.”


Trump said he plans to share more names in the coming days.


Kellogg, a former Army lieutenant general, is an executive vice president at CACI International, a Virginia-based intelligence and information technology consulting firm with clients around the world. He has experience in national defense and homeland security issues and worked as chief operating officer for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad following the invasion of Iraq.


Schmitz served as inspector general at the Defense Department during the early years of President George W. Bush’s administration and has worked for Blackwater Worldwide. In a brief phone call Monday, Schmitz confirmed that he is working for the Trump campaign and said that he has been involved for the past month. He said he frequently confers with Sam Clovis, one of Trump’s top policy advisers, and that there has been a series of conference calls and briefings in recent weeks.


Papadopoulos directs an international energy center at the London Center of International Law Practice. He previously advised the presidential campaign of Ben Carson and worked as a research fellow at the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington.


Phares has an academic background, teaching at the National Defense University and Daniel Morgan Academy in Washington, and has advised members of Congress and appeared as a television analyst discussing terrorism and the Middle East.


Page, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and now the managing partner of Global Energy Capital, is a longtime energy industry executive who rose through the ranks at Merrill Lynch around the world before founding his current firm. He previously was a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, where he focused on the Caspian Sea region and the economic development in former Soviet states, according to his company biography and documents from his appearances at panels over the past decade.


Trump’s meeting with The Post was on the record. An audio recording was shared by the editorial board, and a full transcript will be posted later Monday. Trump was accompanied to the meeting, which took place at The Post’s new headquarters, by his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, and spokeswoman, Hope Hicks.




Obama, Castro Lay Bare Tensions on Embargo, Human Rights


By julie pace and michael weissenstein, associated press

HAVANA — Mar 21, 2016, 10:45 PM ET


Laying bare a half-century of tensions, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro prodded each other Monday over human rights and the longstanding U.S. economic embargo during an unprecedented joint news conference that stunned Cubans unaccustomed to their leaders being aggressively questioned.


The exchanges underscored deep divisions that still exist between the two countries despite rapidly improved relations in the 15 months since Obama and Castro surprised the world with an announcement to end their Cold War-era diplomatic freeze.


Obama, standing in Havana’s Palace of the Revolution on the second day of his historic visit to Cuba, repeatedly pushed Castro to take steps to address his country’s human rights record.


“We continue, as President Castro indicated, to have some very serious differences, including on democracy and human rights,” said Obama, who planned to meet with Cuban dissidents Tuesday. Still, Obama heralded a “new day” in the U.S.-Cuba relationship and said “part of normalizing relations means we discuss these differences directly.”


Castro was blistering in his criticism of the American embargo, which he called “the most important obstacle” to his country’s economic development. He also pressed Obama to return the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, which is on the island of Cuba, to his government.


“There are profound differences between our countries that will not go away,” Castro said plainly.


White House officials spent weeks pushing their Cuban counterparts to agree for the leaders to take questions from reporters after their private meeting, reaching agreement just hours before Obama and Castro appeared before cameras. It’s extremely rare for Castro to give a press conference, though he has sometimes taken questions from reporters spontaneously when the mood strikes.


While the issue of political prisoners is hugely important to Cuban-Americans and the international community, most people on the island are more concerned about the shortage of goods and their struggles with local bureaucracy.


Castro appeared agitated at times during the questioning, professing to not understand whether inquiries were directed to him.


But when an American reporter asked about political prisoners in Cuba, he pushed back aggressively, saying if the journalist could offer names of anyone improperly imprisoned, “they will be released before tonight ends.”


“What political prisoners? Give me a name or names,” Castro said.


Cuba has been criticized for briefly detaining demonstrators thousands of times a year but has drastically reduced its practice of handing down long prison sentences for crimes human rights groups consider to be political. Cuba released dozens of prisoners as part of its deal to normalize relations with the U.S., and in a recent report, Amnesty International did not name any current prisoners of conscience in Cuba. Lists compiled by Cuban and Cuban-American groups list between 47 and 80 political prisoners, although Cuban officials describe many as common criminals.


Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, said the U.S. regularly raises specific cases and some are resolved, but added Cuba typically insists they’re being held for other crimes. Rhodes said, “I’ve shared many lists with the Cuban government.”


Obama’s and Castro’s comments were broadcast live on state television, which is tightly controlled by the government and the Communist Party.


At an outdoor cafe in Havana, about a dozen Cubans and tourists watched in awed silence. One woman held her hand to her mouth in shock.


“It’s very significant to hear this from our president, for him to recognize that not all human rights are respected in Cuba,” said Raul Rios, a 47-year-old driver, who also expressed agreement with Castro’s defense that Cuba is good in some areas, no country is perfect and all should try to do better.


Ricardo Herrera, a 45-year-old street food vendor said, “It’s like a movie but based on real life.”


After responding to a handful of questions, Castro ended the news conference abruptly, declaring, “I think this is enough.”


Obama then appeared to lean in to pat Castro on the back. In an awkward moment, the Cuban leader instead grabbed Obama’s arm and lifted it up as the U.S. president’s wrist dangled, an image that immediately grabbed attention on social media.


White House officials said Obama did not plan to meet with Fidel Castro, the older brother of the Cuban president and his predecessor in office, hoping to keep the visit focused on the future of the island. Rhodes, the White House adviser, said there were also other considerations, including Castro’s “health issues.”


Obama, in an interview with ABC News, said he has no problem with such a meeting “just as a symbol of the end of this Cold War chapter.”


Obama’s visit to Cuba is a crowning moment in his and Raul Castro’s bid to normalize ties between two countries that sit just 90 miles apart. The U.S. leader traveled with his family and was taking in the sights in Old Havana and attending a baseball game between the beloved Cuban national team and the Tampa Bay Rays. Monday night, Castro honored the Americans with a state dinner at Havana’s Palace of the Revolution.


Several American business leaders joined Obama on the trip, many eager to gain a foothold on the island nation. Technology giant Google announced plans to open a cutting-edge online technology center offering free Internet at speeds nearly 70 times faster than those now available to the Cuban public. Obama said Google’s efforts in Cuba are part of a wider plan to improve access to the Internet across the island.


While Castro has welcomed increased economic ties, he insisted his country would still suffer as long as the American economic embargo was in place. Obama has called on Congress to lift the blockade, but lawmakers have not held a vote on the repeal.


Obama’s visit is being closely watched in the United States, where public opinion has shifted in support of normalized relations with Cuba. Still, many Republicans — including some hoping to succeed Obama as president — have vowed to roll back the diplomatic opening if elected.


Castro was asked by an American reporter whether he favored the election of Republican front-runner Donald Trump or likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.


Castro smiled and said simply, “I cannot vote in the United States.”



Congresswoman to Air Force: Put down the tuba, pick up a gun


Oriana Pawlyk, Air Force Times 4:43 p.m. EDT March 22, 2016



Rep. Martha McSally has this piece of advice for the Air Force: Ditch the bands and put musicians to work in jobs that boost U.S. national security.

McSally, R-Ariz., on Tuesday said that the service easily complains about its manning levels, and officials make it “their newest excuse” for prematurely retiring essential, close-air support aircraft like the A-10 Warthog, yet “we have hundreds of people playing the tuba and clarinet.”


“If we really had a manning crisis, from my perspective, we would really tell people to put down the tuba and pick up a wrench or a gun,” McSally said at a House Armed Services Committee hearing at which Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford testified. “But we’re not at that place, and I’m just concerned over these conflicting statements.”


The Air Force’s band programs have about 540 enlisted airmen, and almost 20 officers, according to the service. Officials and airmen have picked apart some of the service’s more unusual career fields — including amateur show band Tops in Blue — for using funds that could go for other platforms.


McSally, and other members of Congress who rally behind the A-10, have criticized the Air Force’s reasoning for putting the Warthog in the boneyard as early as 2018. The decision to retire the A-10 would require divesting two A-10 squadrons, or 49 planes, that year, 49 aircraft in fiscal 2019, 64 in fiscal 2020, and 96 in fiscal 2021, an Air Force spokeswoman told Defense News on March 17.







This at a time when the A-10 has been heavily used in the fight against the Islamic State group, throughout Europe and the Pacific.


“We’ve mothballed the equivalent of four A-10 squadrons since 2012, we have only nine remaining, and there are actually less airplanes in them than we used to have,” McSally, a former A-10 pilot, said.


“It’s not just a platform issue, it’s a training issue,” Dunford replied. “As the advocate for close-air support and joint capabilities, I absolutely believe we need a transition plan, and there needs to be a replacement for the A-10 before it goes away.”


Dunford said that the Joint Chiefs have met to discuss what capability gaps still exist between close-air support models like the A-10 and the F-35 joint strike fighter intended to replace the aircraft. But officials, including McSally, said the F-35 cannot match the A-10 as a single-mission, close-air support platform.


“We need a fifth-generation fighter, but when it comes to close-air support, the F-35 having shortfalls in loiter time, lethality, weapons load, the ability to take a direct hit, to fly close combat … and … needs evaluation,” she said.





Brussels Attacks Raise Questions on Readiness





Washington — A week after the attacks early last year in Paris against the magazine Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery, Belgian police officers were fired on as they executed a search warrant in the town of Verviers. Officials learned that the assailants were members of a terrorist cell that had been planning a significant attack on Belgian police officers or civilians.


The incident changed the way counterterrorism officials perceived the Islamic State threat in Europe and made clear that Belgium itself had a greater problem on its hands than it realized.


Before the plot was disrupted, the United States Department of Homeland Security would later explain, nearly all of about a dozen Islamic State plots and attacks in the West had involved lone assailants or small groups. But, the report presciently warned, “the involvement of a large number of operatives and group leaders based in multiple countries in future ISIL-linked plotting could create significant obstacles in the detection and disruption” of new plots.


Indeed, that is now the case, and as the investigation of the even more brutal November attacks in Paris showed, Belgium is a major source of the threat. The attacks on Tuesday in Brussels raised the most serious questions about how prepared the nation was for that threat.


Belgium has two intelligence agencies, a federal police department, many local police departments and a federal Coordination Unit for Threat Analysis. The federal police have begun an initiative that has trained nearly 18,000 police officers to recognize the signs of radicalization.


The federal police maintain a consolidated list of terrorism suspects focused on some 670 people who have gone to fight in Syria and Iraq (and, more recently, Libya), those who have returned from fighting abroad, those who seem inclined to become foreign terrorist fighters and those who radicalize and support them. Another list, focused on about 100 purely criminal cases, may be combined with that because of the increasing overlap between the two. Belgium intensified efforts to prevent young people from becoming radicalized over the last 18 months, with federal security agencies coordinating with district task forces to share information.


And yet the system is still a work in progress. There aren’t enough police officers in Molenbeek, the Muslim-majority municipality in Brussels that has been linked to most Belgian terrorist cases and where Salah Abdeslam, the lone surviving suspect in the November attacks in Paris, grew up and was captured in a police raid last week. After the November attacks, 50 more officers were assigned to Molenbeek, but since the local department had 185 empty slots, this still left a huge deficit. Just eight officers are in the community policing group there.


To its credit, the Belgian government quickly instituted 12 new counterterrorism measures after the Verviers raids. Eighteen more were put in place after the Paris attacks. But what is needed are not new programs but full staffing of the existing intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and removal of the walls between intelligence services.


Belgium is not unique in its need to improve. The European Union counterterrorism coordinator recently reported that several member states still have no electronic connection to Interpol on all their border crossings. More to the point, the coordinator bluntly concluded that “information sharing still does not reflect the threat.” For example, European databases record only 2,786 verified foreign terrorist fighters despite “well-founded estimates that around 5,000 E.U. citizens have traveled to Syria and Iraq to join ISIL and other extremist groups,” the report said. Worse still, over 90 percent of the reports of verified foreign terrorist fighters came from just five member states.


Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, notes that the Islamic State has developed an “external action command” to train operatives in carrying out sophisticated attacks in the West. Our adversaries are disciplined and coordinated. We need to be much more so to fight them.




DISA rolling out new JIE phases


Amber Corrin, C4ISR & Networks 4:39 p.m. EDT March 24, 2016


The Joint Information Environment might be making fewer appearances in PowerPoint conference talking points, but that doesn’t mean it’s disappeared from Defense Department IT priorities. The Defense Information Systems Agency, which is carrying out the plan to unify DoD network operations and IT, is making steady progress on building out the effort that has no end in sight.


DISA’s been at work on improving on the existing joint regional security stacks that underpin JIE connectivity, even as construction continues on new JRSS facilities in the Pacific. JRSS 1.5, as it’s known, involves enhancements to the Joint Management System, according to Col. Scott Jackson, DISA chief of JIE solutions.


“JMS is the control system to provide the interfaces to each individual appliance in the security stack,” Jackson said in written comments to C4ISR & Networks. “You can think of JMS [as] similar [to] the overarching operating system on a home computer that allows you to then launch individual applications. JMS is our overarching control system that allows an operator to control the various aspects of the JRSS, including multiple vendor devices, from a single interface.”


As DISA and the services, in particular the Army, build out and enhance JRSS, they’re also decommissioning legacy security stacks, Jackson said. And DoD officials are gearing up for more buildout on JIE — including work orders in forthcoming awards under the Encore III contract, for which proposals were due April 4.


Encore III comes later than planned and with a hefty price tag — worth some $17.5 billion — and military officials have high expectations for what the contract vehicle will do for JIE.


“DoD is transitioning from a collection of stovepipe systems and architectures to an integrated and interoperable environment,” stated the Encore III request for proposals, released March 2. JIE “will enhance combat effectiveness through greatly increased battlespace awareness, improved ability to employ weapons beyond line-of-sight, employment of massed effects instead of massed forces and reduced decision cycles. It will also contribute to the success of non-combat military operations.”


At the top of the to-do list after JRSS: Working on security architecture and further developing the pieces that will put the actual jointness in JIE: the Joint Management Network, the Mission Partner Environment and Cross-Domain Gateways, Jackson noted.


“As a natural evolution of the JMS…the JMN is that out-of-band management network that will be able to touch all things on the [DoD Information Network]. The protections and telemetry will then enhance the situational awareness and cut the reaction time to cyber issues dramatically,” he said. “Beyond that secure and management part of JIE, we will continue to mature the Mission Partner Environment (MPE) and Cross-Domain Gateways and other capability that enhances our warfighting capabilities, both within cyberspace and the conventional domains.”


So JIE is evolving, to be sure, but the process isn’t without its continued bumps along the way — which have yielded important lessons, according to DoD officials. That’s something Jackson confirmed is especially true when it comes to the nitty-gritty technical work of transitioning network operations, hardware, software and all the other moving pieces on the back end of defense IT.


“We definitely learned that slow is fast when it comes to network discovery and methodical migration from one security enclave to another. Meaning that the first impression was stand up a new security stack and swing over the users and circuits,” Jackson said. “However, we found that we need to have a much more deliberate process of network discovery to fully understand the customers’ individual situation so we didn’t break anything as we migrated. We have now streamlined that process and believe that the next wave of migrations will take about half as much time now that we have enough lessons learned and examples of settings to watch for.”


Of course, there’s more than just the technology. Considering there’s never been an effort like it before, it’s taking time to determine the path forward — and then to get everyone to take that path.


Addressing the culture change involved in moving multiple services and agencies to the same physical appliance, and ultimately to an enterprise IT environment is “both a challenge and a success story,” Jackson said.


“Although each JRSS customer has separate security domains, the way they used to do business is changing in some cases. Our partners on the operations side of DISA have done a spectacular job hosting working groups with all the services to document use cases and procedures to minimize any negative impacts to anyone’s mission,” he said.


Those use cases will form a baseline for testing at the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC), which will validate JRSS operations under stressed conditions with multiple agencies making changes at the same time, Jackson said.


“Ultimately, DISA Global located at Scott Air Force Base (Illinois) has full visibility and control over the entire JRSS constellation, but allowing services and agencies to control their portion of the domain to meet their individual needs is a key to making sure we have not negatively impacted our customers with this effort,” he said.


As for the pool of customers, that’s about to grow. So far JIE has mostly centered on transitioning Army network and facilities to JRSS, but the other services have been closely monitoring progress and determining if, when and how they will get onboard.


The Air Force is preparing to transition its internal AFNET from Air Force gateways to JRSS, with DISA currently setting up lab-based testing, rehearsals and exercises “to get their operators the confidence they need” to make the transition, Jackson said. In collaboration with JITC helping with testing and validation, officials expect the Air Force to begin migrating to JRSS by the end of fiscal 2016.


The Navy has identified a several networks for DISA to begin the network discovery process and schedule the migration activities, but “we are still working out the logistics to set an actual date of their first move to JRSS,” Jackson said.


The Marines remain a question mark, given that they tend to “operate a little differently,” but they are considering making some sort of moves, Marine Corps CIO Brig. Gen. Dennis Crall said at an event in Washington last fall.


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


For now, DISA officials are focused on “doing our best to migrate as many bases [and] agencies as we can so they can achieve savings by turning off the legacy security stack they currently have,” Jackson said. Additionally, “in the short term, our focus is to continue building out the sites to the same level of maturity as the four stacks in the Southeast and Southwest.


Looking further out, security will be the name of the game. Optimization is a rising priority – including the optimization of network flow and of the tools that secure the network by blocking, alerting or capturing malicious behavior, Jackson said.


Another long-term security goal centers on analytics and an unprecedented ability to act on the vast amount of data JRSS collects on every network transaction. That includes pushing that information to a fortified out-of-band network that “cannot be physically manipulated, even by the most privileged user or administrator,” Jackson said.


“We have consulted our own DOD experts and they have confirmed this is the most challenging issue for someone attacking a network; if we use passive network taps to dump data to an out-of-band network and then run signatures and analytics on that data, no one is able to spoof their movements or clean up behind themselves,” he said. “The fact that they even try to delete logs or remove packets serve as an even bigger spotlight that they have done something they should not have. Traditionally, an advanced user or someone who gains advanced authentication can clean up behind themselves, alter or delete logs and make things appear normal. Passive data taps that dump data to an out-of-band network, that then runs analytics, will eliminate this threat.”




Iranians indicted on cyberattack charges


Aaron Boyd3:12 p.m. EDT March 24, 2016



The Justice Department indicted seven Iranian nationals on several charges of hacking American critical infrastructure, including attacking U.S. financial systems and gaining illegal access to the networks of a dam in upstate New York.


The indictment unsealed Thursday brings charges against Ahmad Fathi, 37; Hamid Firoozi, 34; Amin Shokohi, 25; Sadegh Ahmadzadegan, a.k.a. Nitrojen26, 23; Omid Ghaffarinia, a.k.a. PLuS, 25; Sina Keissar, 25; and Nader Saedi, a.k.a. Turk Server, 26.


The seven men worked for two Iranian cybersecurity companies — ITSecTeam (ITSEC) and Mersad Company (MERSAD) — that served as contractors for the Iranian government. All seven men allegedly have ties to the government and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, according to Attorney General Loretta Lynch.


“A federal grand jury in Manhattan found that these seven individuals conspired together, and with others, to conduct a series of cyberattacks against civilian targets in the United States financial industry that, in all, cost victims tens of millions of dollars,” Lynch said Thursday.


The hackers perpetrated a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack on at least 46 U.S. networks between 2011 and 2013, most of which targeted financial institutions.


The teams at ITSEC and MERSAD created malware to enslave computers around the world and constructed botnets to carry out the DDoS attacks. Those attacks overwhelmed bank websites and systems, locking out users and bank employees, alike.


At the height of the campaign, institutions were getting hit with upwards of 140 gigabits every second.


FBI investigators said they have been able to nullify and remediate the effects of 95 percent of the botnet networks related to these attacks.


The indictment also charges Firoozi with hacking into the Bowman Avenue Dam in Rye Brook, New York in 2013.


Luckily, while Firoozi was able to gain access to the dam’s restricted network, the controls for the sluice gate were not connected to the system at that time, preventing him from causing any damage in the physical world.


However, remediation efforts cost upwards of $30,000.


“The infiltration of the Bowman Avenue Dam represents a frightening new frontier in cybercrime,” said Preet Bharara, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. “These were no ordinary crimes, but calculated attacks by groups with ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard and designed specifically to harm America and its people. We now live in a world where devastating attacks on our financial system, our infrastructure and our way of life can be launched from anywhere in the world, with a click of a mouse.”


Bharara added that responsibility for defending against these sorts of attacks goes beyond just law enforcement to the institutions themselves.


“The charges announced today should serve as a wake-up call for everyone responsible for the security of our financial markets and for guarding our infrastructure,” he said. “Our future security depends on heeding this call.”


The indictments unsealed Thursday are meant as a warning to others considering taking similar actions against the U.S.


“An important part of our cybersecurity practice is to identify the actors and attributed them publicly when we can,” Lynch said. “We do this so they know they cannot hide.”


“The FBI will find those behind cyber intrusions and hold them accountable — wherever they are, and whoever they are,” FBI Director James Comey added. “By calling out the individuals and nations who use cyberattacks to threaten American enterprise, as we have done in this indictment, we will change behavior.”


The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each man, if convicted. Firoozi also faces an additional five years for his role in the Bowman Avenue Dam hack.


However, bringing charges is not the same as being able to prosecute, as these men are a world away and extradition is unlikely. But DOJ is playing the long game.


“Fugitives don’t remain that way forever,” Lynch said.


Why the Military Can’t Go After Iran for Hacking Your Dam


March 24, 2016 By Patrick Tucker


Seven Iranians have been charged with cyber crimes in a case that reveals the limits of U.S. power.


On Thursday, the Justice Department unsealed an indictment against Hamid Faroozi, a man affiliated with an Iranian company with ties to the Iranian government, for infrastructure hacking and other cybercrimes. Faroozi is accused of breaching the control system of a dam in Rye New York. On multiple occasions, he obtained access to the dam’s supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, system, which would have allowed him to open the sluice gate if the gate hadn’t been manually disconnected from the network for maintenance. The indictment doesn’t say whether the Justice Department believes the intrusion was simple reconnaissance or, more darkly, part of a dramatic cyber-physical attack that didn’t go off as planned.


That ambiguity is common in cases involving hacks by groups connected to states like Iran. Figuring out who ordered the probe and what the attack’s actual objective would be key to any military response. Here’s why not to expect one.


First, some background: Iran has some experience on the receiving end of infrastructure hacking. In 2010, it became the victim of the first cyber-physical attack: the infamous Stuxnet worm, which caused a serious of malfunctions at Iran’s nuclear enrichment site at Natanz. A good amount of evidence points to American and Israeli security researchers as the culprits.


Iran responded with a similarly unprecedented attack on the networks of Saudi oil giant Aramco, wiping the data from 35,000 computers and cause enormous disruption across the entire oil sector. Still, they didn’t actually manipulate dangerous equipment directly via remote access.


The ability to penetrate a SCADA system represents not so much a leap in capability, so much as a willingness to exploit known vulnerabilities.


“An entity can purchase all the security products in the world and acquire the best staff available but if the network has gaping holes in the perimeter, or DMZ machines have unfettered access to the secure side of the network, it is only a matter of time before an attack succeeds. A network needs to first be a defendable position with clear defined borders on which layers of security are built upon. It is imperative that companies examine their networks from the outside to see what is exposed and what ‘windows’ are left open,” said Lamar Bailey, Senior Director of Security R&D for Tripwire in an email to Defense One.


“Utility infrastructure entities have become prime targets for hacktivists and terrorist so administrators must be even more diligent in securing theses locations. They are softer targets due to the antiquated insecure nature in how internal systems communicate so once the other shell is broken it can be trivial to cause havoc within the network,” he said.


For utility companies, there is at least one simple lesson from the attempt on the dam at Rye: the operator was lucky. If you can’t take a few steps to better secure your SCADA systems, don’t hook your sluice gate up to your outside network.


In all, seven Iranians were named in the indictment, most of which focuses on not-particularly-threatening distributed-denial-of-service attacks against financial firms, essentially, temporarily blocking public-facing bank websites.


But the indictment also shows that U.S. cyber security and deterrence policy must catch up the sorts of threats that the country actually faces. A criminal charge against individuals seems like an insufficient deterrent against hostile, possibly deadly, information-based attacks from adversarial nation-states. Where are the big guns?


Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of U.S. Cyber Command, has said that any U.S. government retaliation against a nation-state or other entity for a big information-based attack would comport with the laws of armed conflict and be “proportional.” So the United States is ready to commit attacks in retaliation for dam hacking. But it’s not that simple. The difference between a possible act of war and a simple hack lies in how much evidence there is linking Firoozi, not just to Iranian leadership but to a specific order.


Firoozi and his co-defendants worked for two companies called ITSecTeam (ITSEC) and the Mersad Company (MERSAD), based in Iran. The Justice Department alleges that those companies performed work on behalf of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. It’s a bit stronger link than exists between many pro-Russian hacker groups and the Kremlin, but, on its face, that’s not yet enough to call the hack a state-sponsored act of terror, or even reconnaissance, at least not by the standards that the Pentagon currently uses.


The Justice Department’s evidence against Iran is thin, at least as spelled out in the indictment, which simply reads: “Mersad was founded in or about early 2011 by members of Iran-based computer hacking groups Sun Army and Ashiyane Digital Security Team (‘ADST’) … Sun Army and ADST have publicly claimed responsibility for performing network attacks on computer servers of the United States Government, and ADST has publicly claimed to perform computer hacking work on behalf of Iran.”


At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in September, committee chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz, wondered what sort of repercussions await state actors who perpetrate big cyber attacks. The specific context was China’s (somehow, still) alleged involvement in the OPM hack.


Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work discussed the attribution problem from the perspective of the military. “First, you have to identify the geographic location of where the attack. Then you have to identify the actor. Then you have to identify whether the government of that geographic space was in control,” of that action.


The response could not have been more frustrating for McCain, who responded, “We have identified the PLA, [People’s Liberation Army] the building in which they operate.”


Many in Washington, simply accept that China was behind the OPM hack. But in terms of justifying a military response, the evidence remains too circumstantial. The threshold of proof is higher for the military launching an information-based retaliation than for the Justice Department to issue an indictment.


Even in instances where a hacker who is aligned with a glorified Iranian defense contractor is caught red-handed doing reconnaissance on an American dam, the United States has few options other than an indictment.


The first Justice Department indictment against a foreign state employee for information-based crimes occurred in 2014, a charge against five Chinese army officers for data theft.


The indictments went nowhere.





The U.S. Air Force and Stealth: Stuck on Denial Part I


Mike Pietrucha

March 24, 2016


Note: This article is the first of a series addressing the challenges facing the Air Force’s combat aviation capabilities in the future. The series, titled “Stuck on Denial,” addresses the root of the Air Force’s combat aircraft procurement problem — that the service remains stuck in the denial phase of the grieving process over the vision of an exquisite, all-stealth force. It examines the path that led to the Air Force’s over commitment to stealth, unravels the assumptions that led to that commitment, and offers alternatives that are more broadly applicable to tomorrow’s airpower challenges while remaining affordable and technologically feasible.



In the early morning of January 17, 1991, 10 F-117 Nighthawks slipped through the air over Iraq. The aircraft, designed for a Soviet threat in Europe, were perfectly suited for penetrating Iraqi airspace, which relied almost entirely on Soviet air defense systems. The F-117 was designed to be as stealthy as possible: Its faceted shape reflected radar waves away, the exhaust was baffled and mixed with cool air, and the aircraft was painted a non-reflective black. No betraying emission slipped free, as the aircraft had no radar, no radar altimeter, and no datalink, and the pilots retracted the radio antennas and turned the radios off. It was too quiet to easily hear from the ground. Undetected by alert air defenses, the F-117s were able to deliver laser-guided bombs that arrived with no warning. By the time Operation Desert Storm ended, the Air Force had a new favorite technology. Stealth was in, and it was forever the answer to the challenges of penetrating defended airspace. An undetectable aircraft was an airpower theorist’s dream.


Twenty-five years later, the Air Force remains latched on a concept it is loath to let go of, regardless of the cost. But the air defense environment has changed since 1991, and not in ways that favor American airpower. While the Air Force is constantly attempting to technologically outmaneuver our adversaries, it is unwilling to accept that we can also be technologically outmaneuvered — and that we have been. The Air Force should be dealing with the reality that no military advantage lasts forever, and instead we are stuck on denial.



The Air Force’s unwavering commitment to an all-stealth force is based on a mindset from Desert Storm — America’s last unambiguous military victory. Even then, the majority of targets were struck by non-stealthy aircraft spread throughout a multirole force. The coalition could not have delivered the same results had we possessed an all-F-117 force; a diversified force is a requirement for the kind of air campaign we executed. Stealth aircraft have their place. All other things being equal, signature reduction always works to some extent. Nevertheless, the design tradeoffs and expense associated with stealth aircraft make them less flexible and arguably less useful than their true multirole ancestors. In an uncertain defense environment, the Joint Force is deeply in need of a flexible force and not a niche force designed for the least likely of conflicts.


Understanding Stealth


In order to understand the Air Force’s commitment to low observability (LO, or more popularly, stealth) we have to consider the history. Radar low observability is not particularly complicated or arcane, but the its application on specific weapons systems is a closely held secret, rarely discussed openly and as a result poorly understood. In this article, I draw exclusively from sources in the public domain for explanations of the basic scientific principles behind stealth.


Radar works by beaming radiofrequency (RF) energy at an object. The result of this is that the energy is scattered. Energy that scatters back towards the observer (called “backscatter”) creates a radar return, or echo. As radar was emerging during World War II, radar designers realized that some aircraft were less detectable than others. The Royal Air Force’s Mosquito fighter-bomber, made of fabric-covered plywood, was notoriously difficult to detect on radar, despite its radar reflective engines. In the 1950s, Western and Soviet designers developed methods to measure an aircraft’s radar signature by building scale models and making measurements in the laboratory.



William F. Bahret (quoted extensively here) at Wright Field’s Avionics Lab was a pioneer in “radar camouflage” and is sometimes called “the father of stealth”. Bahret’s team developed techniques to measure the impact of both shape and materials on radar signature (then called “echo size”). More importantly, he developed the capability to calculate radar signature without having to build a scale model.


Bahret needed to determine which design features mattered. Metal reflected. Curved features mattered a lot — they were guaranteed to scatter some radar energy back at the receiver. Inlets, cockpits and exhausts were very effective reflectors. Spinning jet turbines were like holding up a disco ball in a spotlight. Antennas were worse because they were intended to propagate RF energy in the first place and do that job well regardless of where the energy comes from. By the 1960s, Bahret’s design theories were being applied — the Hound Dog missiles were among the first recipients of a signature reduction effort. His work placed the United States decades in front of Soviet scientists researching the same thing. Ironically, Soviet physicist Peter Ufimtsev was allowed to publish a foundational book on low observability in 1962 because it had no military value — a translation came into the hands of U.S. Air Force scientists in 1971 and helped justify early stealthy aircraft demonstrations.


U.S. aircraft designers could “build” an aircraft on paper and evaluate its signatures with a computer. One major challenge was the intersection of radar science with aeronautical engineering — it was much easier to build a stealthy shape than it was to build one that could fly. The majority of radar camouflage has to do with the shape of the object — shaping counts for 90 percent of the signature reduction. This meant that properly shaped metal could still be used for construction. Flat surfaces reflected energy in predictable directions away from the radar receiver, but you couldn’t build an aircraft out of flat surfaces. An aircraft faceted like a gemstone couldn’t fly, because the pilot could not control it. Soviet designers concluded that a stealthy aircraft could not be built. The design challenge was summarized by William Bahret in a 2006 interview:



[T]he most powerful technique of all is shaping. And that’s where flight dynamics people and the propulsion people and everybody else get in the act because if you shape the thing properly, oh man, are you way ahead of the game. Again, F-117 is the case in point. And that twists the aerodynamics guys, the structures guys and other people out of their normal routine because it’s back to the drawing boards now. We’ve got to start over with some new stupid looking shape and make that fly. And that’s sometimes more difficult [than] it appears.


At Lockheed’s Skunk Works in Palmdale, Ben Rich argued that a faceted, stealthy aircraft could fly, even an aircraft with stealth as its primary requirement. Sure, it wouldn’t carry much, would not be high performance, and would be aerodynamically unstable, but with NASA’s new computer-controlled fly-by-wire systems, it could be controlled. Lockheed built two demonstrators codenamed HAVE BLUE, using a quadruply-redundant fly-by-wire system from the YF-16. First flown at Groom Lake in 1978, the aircraft performed as expected — short on lift, unstable in pitch, prone to excessive sink rates — and very, very difficult to see on fire control radar. Both were lost in crashes, but they led directly to SENIOR TREND, which would first fly in 1981 as the F-117A.


Reducing the radar signature of a fighter-sized target was a major achievement. Perversely, it is easier to reduce the RF signature of a large object than a small one, because of the way radio waves scatter. Even a perfectly radar-absorbent sphere scatters energy if the radar wavelength is greater than the sphere diameter, a phenomenon known as Rayleigh scattering. Fire control radars, which operate in higher frequencies, are more greatly affected by signature reduction than radars in the VHF band (30 to 300 MHz). At the time, The Soviets used VHF extensively, but it was imprecise and used only for early warning.


As William Bahret explains:


What this means in simple terms is that at what are called “microwave frequencies” — those above 2000 megahertz (mhz) — a normal aircrafts’ echo derives from a set of individual sources, while at much lower frequencies, the increasing tendency is for the entire aircraft to act like one big source — with only the general shape being a factor. At extremely low frequencies, even the shape loses influence and only the volume matters.


The Stealth “Fighter”


The F-117A looked like HAVE BLUE — a flat bottom, canted tails, faceted shape and high-mounted engine intakes covered with gratings. Operational in 1983, it was not publicly revealed until April 1990, a scant few months before Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Until 1988, the Air Force publicly denied its existence. It was not a fighter, but a light bomber without a scintilla of air-to-air capability, capable of carrying two 2000-lb. weapons. The aircraft was designed to fly at medium altitude under the control of a digital autopilot, pass directly over a target, and drop laser-guided bombs on an unsuspecting adversary. Its radar cross section approximated a marble. To Soviet early warning radars of the time, such as BAR LOCK, BACK NET and LONG TRACK, the aircraft might as well have been invisible. Only the VHF-band SPOON REST and TALL KING radars would have had a chance at detection and only in the hands of a skilled and alert operator.


Designed for penetrating a Soviet air defenses, the F-117’s stealthy characteristics depended as much on what it didn’t do as what it did. It flew only at night, attacking fixed targets acquired on infrared. The laser used to guide weapons is invisible. It lacked afterburners, a bubble canopy, external stores, a radar altimeter, datalink or self-protection jammers. With only retractable radio antennas, it was virtually aperture free. As William Bahret recounted in 2006:



[T]he things that cause big echoes are not surfaces, but they are what we call apertures. Apertures are anything — garbage pail, antenna, an inlet — that captures energy, and it runs in and around and everything and comes back out somehow.


On the first night of Desert Storm, F-117s flew into Baghdad ahead of jamming from the EF-111 or anti-radiation missiles from the F-4G. The Iraqi Kari system was a French command-and-control system that linked Soviet-designed interceptors, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) and radar-directed antiaircraft artillery (AAA). The backbone of Iraq’s early warning network was Soviet-supplied P-35/37 BAR LOCK radars, which could expect to detect a 1 meter squared target at about 100 nautical miles. Detecting a flying marble was something else entirely. Further stacking the deck in favor of the F-117’s was the massive coalition air force, which contained standoff jammers and defense suppression aircraft, giving radar operators plenty to look at while F-117s approached unobserved. No F-117s were so much as scratched by Iraqi defenses.



After the opening minutes, F-117s didn’t actually go anywhere that conventional aircraft didn’t go, and didn’t hit any targets that other aircraft did not also hit. They also flew only interdiction sorties against fixed targets, making very good use of their specialized capabilities. Strategically, the effectiveness of the F-117 came as a very unpleasant surprise to the Iraqi defenders and to their suppliers. But once the Russians realized what had been done, they realized how. After all, their scientists knew the theory as well as anyone, they just didn’t believe that theory could be put into practice. The United States proved them wrong. This instigated a massive and sustained revolution in foreign radar design to diminish the threat. The success of the F-117 sparked major investments to ensure that its success could not be repeated against Russia or China.


No military advantage lasts forever, and now the cat was out of the bag. The secrecy surrounding the F-117 paid big dividends, but even minor powers were paying close attention and studying methods to counter it. In 1999, Col. Zoltan Dani of Serbia’s 3/250th missile brigade bagged an F-117. No accident this; Col. Dani’s battery also shot down an F-16C, making him the only successful air defense commander of the entire conflict. The radar he used to track the F-117 was the P-18 SPOON REST D, a 1970 upgrade of a 1956-vintage VHF early warning radar that was the lowest-frequency mobile radar produced by the Soviet Union. The F-117 was shot down by an SA-3 LOW BLOW, first fielded in 1961. A mere eight years after Desert Storm, air defenses had shot down an F-117 using equipment in Iraq’s inventory almost a decade before.



The Stealth Penalty


The penalty paid by the F-117 for its stealth was substantial in terms of payload, sensors, and performance. This effect of designing for RF stealth is common to fighter designs. Internal weapons bays limit munition sizes and numbers, and the lack of external fuel tanks limit range. The F-22 is heavier than the F-15E, but the F-15E’s typical fuel load is 70 percent greater than the newer aircraft and its loadout (bombs and fuel) dwarf’s the F-22’s by a factor of six or more. The expense of maintaining the stealth fighters is also higher than any of the legacy jets; USAF data from 2012 showed the F-22’s flying hour cost almost double the F-15E.



There is a further penalty associated with the maturing of the aircraft. With a traditional jet, additional capabilities can be added or modified with little regard to signature. The F-4 was a prime example of this, with ten major front-line variants (and three subvariants) in U.S. service alone, most of them serving at the same time. The F-15 and F-16 are not far behind, especially when international versions are considered. But the F-22A remains externally the same more than a decade after it reached initial operating capability (IOC). In order to stay stealthy, the aircraft’s outer mold line must remain unaltered, limiting the nature of possible upgrades.


For any weapons system, a long public timeline ensures that the adversary is researching counter-technologies while the weapon is being developed. When the F-117A was first publicly displayed it had already been used in combat the year before in Panama and the public still didn’t know what it looked like. It was flown at night from a secret base in the middle of nowhere. The adversary didn’t know what it looked like until the public did. The lack of knowledge about the F-117 not only obscured its shape, but its role and the effort that had been put into low observability. Adversary scientists could not develop counters for an aircraft that possessed an unknown set of attributes.


Contrast this with later stealth fighters, which had no such security. High-resolution photos taken from multiple angles were available to adversaries for years. As a result, Russian and Chinese designers have had some time to consider counters to aircraft they have been allowed to see coming for many years. The YF-22 was rolled out in 1989, more than a quarter century ago, 16 years before the F-22A became operational and before the F-117 was revealed.


After the Gulf War, foreign designers had two revealed shapes to analyze, and detection was made easier by the supersonic stealth fighters, which have radars, datalink, and afterburning engines. New designs departed from the F-117s philosophy of minimizing signatures across the board. One fact sheet advertises “supercruise,” as if aerodynamic heating didn’t exist and supersonic shockwaves were undetectable. Another highlights an engine capable of delivering 43,000 pounds of thrust, failing to note that it is also the hottest jet engine ever mounted in a U.S. fighter. In 1990, the only operational VHF early warning radars were the Soviet-designed TALL KING and SPOON REST (and Chinese copies), but newer systems have both advanced and proliferated outside China and Russia. The air defense environment has advanced very far very quickly, and the comparative overmatch of the F-117 in 1991 is long past.




The primary reason for not putting all of the airpower eggs in the stealth basket is flexibility of airpower in general, particularly the flexibility lost with a stealth design. It isn’t that stealth aircraft are expensive, although they are. It isn’t that the expense to fly them is so high that it limits the flying hours for the aircrews, although this is also true. It’s that the attributes we often need in a combat aircraft are range and payload, which are not deliverable with our stealthy fighter designs. It’s that aircraft designed for certain roles, such as close air support, have fundamentally different design requirements from a stealthy penetrator.


There is value in having stealthy aircraft — 49 F-117s and 20 B-2s have done stellar work in several conflicts. However, there is less value in having an all-stealthy force, precisely because the aircraft are so limited for the majority of applications that the United States uses its airpower for. We have not had to penetrate air defenses en masse since Allied Force in 1999; the majority of airpower application since then has prioritized endurance, weapons loadout and adaptability. Had we fielded the stealth fighters earlier and had them available in 2001, the Air Force would have ruined the entire fighter / attack enterprise trying to execute the year upon year missions required in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, or Africa — and been unable to deliver the same airpower effects as the legacy force. In the Pacific, range and payload are the key airpower attributes and the reason why we relied so heavily on the B-29 in World War II — or the B-52 in Vietnam. In Europe, the ability to operate under the weather has always been highly prized. Over friendly troops in contact, endurance and firepower are highly prized — and the reason why soldiers and Marines exhibit a preference for the A-10C and AC-130. It is notable that none of the characteristics for which the stealthy aircraft have been optimized has been useful in combat for the past seventeen years. In the meantime, we have been technologically outmaneuvered by both Chinese and Russian air defense designers, as we double down on a technology that gave us a decisive advantage a quarter century ago. We are building the combat air force for the wrong attributes, and we are unlikely to reconsider this path as long as the Air Force remains stuck in denial.




Col. Mike “Starbaby” Pietrucha was an instructor electronic warfare officer in the F-4G Wild Weasel and the F-15E Strike Eagle, amassing 156 combat missions and taking part in 2.5 SAM kills over 10 combat deployments. As an irregular warfare operations officer, Colonel Pietrucha has two additional combat deployments in the company of US Army infantry, combat engineer, and military police units in Iraq and Afghanistan. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Air Force or the U.S. government.



Rasmussen Reports

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


Bottom of Form

Saturday, March 26, 2016

For many Americans this year, Easter offers a time for faith and reflection amidst a sea of troubles.

While it’s not the most important holiday of the year for the majority of Americans, most plan on attending a church service to honor the day Christians believe marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ

Christmas, the holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus, remains the top holiday of the year for most.

After all, America remains a strongly Christian nation: 77% of Americans believe Jesus Christ was the son of God sent to Earth to die for our sins, and 75% believe Christ rose from the dead.

Most voters (62%) in this country also continue to believe that Christians living in the Islamic world are treated unfairly because of their religion. Just half as many (31%) think Muslims living in this country are treated unfairly because of their religion and ethnicity.

Fifty percent (50%) worry that the U.S. government does not focus enough on the threat of domestic Islamic terrorism, the highest finding in five years of surveying, and this survey was taken before the terrorist carnage in Brussels early this week.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of Americans now believe a terrorist attack similar to the one in Brussels is likely in the United States within the next year.

Many pundits and politicians think support for Donald Trump’s tough-talking candidacy will grow following the Brussels terror attacks. Despite Jeb Bush’s endorsement of Trump’s last serious rival Ted Cruz this week, Republicans continue to believe overwhelmingly that “The Donald” is the GOP’s next likely presidential nominee.

Trump already has benefited from the anger many Republicans feel toward their current elected leaders. Seventy-six percent (76%) of GOP voters now believe Republicans in Congress have lost touch with the party’s base nationwide, the highest-ever level of disapproval in regular surveying on this question since 2008.

But all voters continue to give Congress dismal marks for its performance after a glimmer of hope last year when Republicans took control of both the House and the Senate.

When you look at what voters want and what they expect,
it’s easy to see why they’re unhappy.

Consider, for example, that 61% believe Americans are overtaxed, but only 18% think it’s even somewhat likely that taxes will be significantly reduced over the next few years.

Just 26% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction, the lowest level of optimism so far this year.

The president’s daily job approval ratings, however, have noticeably improved over the past month. While we’re not in the business of offering definitive explanations as to what factors are driving polling numbers this way or that, it is worth mentioning some recent developments and trends that may be impacting voter approval of Obama’s performance.

As part of his initiative to restore U.S.-Cuba relations, Obama is only the second sitting president to visit the island nation off the coast of Florida. Most voters support the president’s effort to reestablish ties with Cuba.

In other surveys last week:

— Television still reigns supreme when it comes to where voters turn for their political news, but the media get mixed reviews for their coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign so far. 

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Slurpee, the frozen carbonated beverage sold at 7-Eleven convenience stores worldwide, and Americans have fond feelings toward the sugary, icy drink. 

Last Sunday was the first official day of spring, leaving behind Americans’ least favorite season and putting most in a better mood.


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