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April 30 2016

May 4, 2016




30 April 2016


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A Cyber JSOC Could Help the US Strike Harder and Faster

April 25, 2016 By Frank Cilluffo Sharon L. Cardash


A network-attack analogue to the manhunting Joint Special Operations Command would allow cyber warriors to decide, deconflict, and execute more effectively.

As top defense leaders contemplate elevating U.S. Cyber Command to a full-fledged unified command, they should also think about creating a cyber equivalent of the Joint Special Operations Command. The JSOC model would help execute CYBERCOM’s new anti-ISIS mission — and the many other joint operations that lie ahead.

Best known for its manhunting operations, JSOC synchronizes and integrates military and intelligence components to learn and strike quickly. In Iraq, JSOC’s special operators skillfully executed a “decapitation strategy” against al Qaeda’s leaders, key facilitators, and senior operatives. In Afghanistan, they wielded “an array of ‘enablers'” such as drones and attack helicopters to accomplish their tasks.

In essence, the JSOC way is to plan and exercise, meticulously and realistically; to resource the mission appropriately, with a range of tools and equipment at the ready; and to refresh and inject intelligence continuously, placing it in the hands of operators on the ground. The decision-making process is nimble yet expansive. It incorporates the inputs and players who bring real insights into a goal and how to achieve it, as well as representatives of enough organizations to minimize the risk of damage to others’ areas of responsibility. Of course, process must be backed up by capability. By underwriting its missions with both military and intelligence assets, and by reconciling the authorities and U.S. Code sections governing the military and intelligence community — Titles 10 (Armed Forces) and 50 (War and National Defense) — JSOC pairs a superior process with high-end capacity.


This concept and construct should now be applied to the cyber domain. As computer network exploitation blurs into computer network attack, the U.S. needs to be better and quicker at detecting and responding to its adversaries’ online actions, especially when they target critical infrastructure. A cyber JSOC would help realize that goal, as well as the intent of Cyber Command’s new mission of identifying, undermining, and destroying ISIS online as part of a combined-arms operation that includes kinetic efforts in the physical world. In general, as the offensive dimension looms larger in U.S. cyber planning and execution, the need for a cyber JSOC becomes more urgent.


Bringing JSOC’s methods to the cyber realm would help transform the prevailing decision-making process, which is slow, under-inclusive, and skewed against taking action. (When action is taken, it tends to be in the form of baby steps, even if more robust maneuvers are warranted.) A Cyber JSOC, by contrast, would gather the crucial players, then weigh their inputs and whatever competing interests and concerns may be in play. Just as JSOC draws upon CIA assets and input for kinetic purposes, so Cyber JSOC would use NSA assets and input to achieve U.S. cyber ends and goals. Moving swiftly, it would deconflict and harmonize everything from collection efforts to target selection, then marshal and mobilize the capabilities to enact the chosen outcomes.

This new ability to handle complex multi-variable decisions would allow the U.S. to act more decisively in the cyber domain while avoiding counterproductive moves. For example, the Defense Department will need to balance the value of taking down extremist websites with the intelligence benefits of watching their operators and visitors. As well, a cyber action intended to affect one geographic location may have effects across many others. Stepping into or onto another’s area of responsibility, even unintentionally, could compromise sources and methods or otherwise place lives at risk. For this reason, it is important for decision-makers to bear in mind the big picture, encompassing other operations underway globally. It may also be necessary to lash up CYBERCOM with one or more of the regional commands (e.g., CENTCOM, etc.) Fortunately, by their nature, cyber operations, including their intersections with kinetic campaigns, would be particularly conducive to a virtual dashboard.

As Cyber JSOC evolves and matures, it could ultimately constitute a critical component of our broader cyber deterrence strategy and policy. Since the initiative remains with the first-mover, the United States should ensure that it develops unparalleled offensive capabilities — a cyber equivalent of the Navy SEALs, Delta Force, and Air Force Special Operations — and a framework for putting them to use. Investing in people as well as developing a structure, via JSOC, made all the difference at the tip of the spear. We need the same for cyber.



Is the Pentagon’s Innovation Unit Too Cozy with Silicon Valley?

By Jack Moore

April 22, 2016 2 Comments



House lawmakers are worried the Defense Department’s new innovation unit is too Silicon Valley centric.

The Defense Innovation Unit Experimental, or DIUx, is a “helpful step” in bridging the worlds of traditional Defense procurement and small, innovative companies, according to the latest version of the annual Defense Authorization Act currently circulating on Capitol Hill.

But lawmakers on the Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee are “concerned by the pinpoint focus on one geographic region,” according to the markup of the bill, which was approved April 21 by the subcommittee.

The bill even goes so far as to limit funding for unit until lawmakers’ concerns are addressed.

In the fiscal 2017 budget, the Pentagon requested $45 million for the innovation unit, which is headquartered in Silicon Valley.

The current version of the bill would keep a lid on about $9 million of that, until Defense officials provide Congress with concrete staffing plans; metrics for measuring the unit’s effectiveness; and how DOD plans to make sure the tech unit doesn’t conflict or overlap with similar projects undertaken by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or In-Q-Tel, the intelligence community’s technology investment arm.

Lawmakers also suggested the focus on building the elite tech unit is giving short shrift to a broader examination of systemic problems that keep small and innovative companies out of contention for DOD contracts.

“The committee is concerned that outreach is proceeding without sufficient attention being paid to breaking down the barriers that have traditionally prevented nontraditional contractors from supporting defense needs, like lengthy contracting processes and the inability to transition technologies,” lawmakers wrote in the bill.

The Pentagon set up the Silicon Valley outpost a year ago to build better relationships — damaged by the disclosures of National Security Agency surveillance — with U.S. startups and to identify “game-changing” emerging technology.

The skepticism from Congress comes as the DIUx unit has seen success, at least anecdotally.

At five recent business outreach events, attendance reached standing-room-only capacity, said the head of the unit’s National Guard liaison effort.

“We have not had one company out there shut the door,” Col. Steven Butlow is quoted in Nextgov’s sister publication, Defense One.

Meanwhile, prevailing wisdom in the Valley is the Pentagon hasn’t done enough to smooth the way for nontraditional companies.

A slate of CEOs — including the head of a company that manufactured the first “wave- and solar-propelled unmanned ocean robot” — said this week it was still too hard doing business with Defense and were selling their gear to foreign militaries.


Pentagon Hard Pressed to Absorb Next Round of Acquisition Reforms

By Sandra I. Erwin


The Defense Department’s contracting bureaucracy has struggled to stay ahead of an avalanche of new dictums that have come down from Congress and the White House over the course of the Obama presidency.

Yet another round of sweeping reforms looms later this year as the House Armed Services Committee’s “Acquisition Agility Act” makes its way through the legislative process. HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, says he fully understands the burdens of compliance and implementation of new measures, but he is convinced that these are necessary changes that will help the Pentagon move technology faster to troops in the battlefield.

Thornberry unveiled a draft bill last month and is expected to release an updated version next week in the chairman’s mark of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act before the full committee takes it up.

The Pentagon will be given a 2019 deadline to carry out the new reforms, although Thornberry recognizes that some rules could take longer to flow into the procurement system.

“We asked DoD to tell us how they plan to implement the changes,” Thornberry told reporters April 21. “I tried to be sensitive to the fact that some changes do take time.”

Thornberry said he has made some revisions to the language in the initial draft — in response to objections raised by Pentagon officials and industry groups. But the centerpieces of the bill will remain in place. He wants the Pentagon to start acquiring cutting-edge components to update existing weapon systems. He is directing the Defense Department to buy “open systems architectures” as much as possible so they can be updated frequently, and to get into the habit of “prototyping” and “experimenting” with technologies before the government commits to long-term contracts. He also wants the Pentagon to create a more inviting business environment for small businesses, startups and other innovators that typically shy away from government work.

“We need to get top technology to the war fighter faster,” said Thornberry.

Defense officials and contractors agree with the spirit of the new legislation, but worry that the procurement system is still playing catch-up and will be hard pressed to absorb a fresh load of directives.

The Pentagon is still putting into action measures from the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act of 2009, past NDAAs, the defense secretary’s “Better Buying Power” initiative and other executive branch actions and regulations that are issued to implement legislation.

The Thornberry bill has thrown into sharp relief the difficulties of mandating changes across a huge procurement bureaucracy like the Pentagon’s. Rules have to be drafted, sent out for comment and revised. “This takes a lot of time,” said Roger Jordan, vice president of government relations for the Professional Services Council. There is also a cultural change associated with procurement reforms, he said during a conference call hosted by Bloomberg Government. The workforce needs to be trained on changes and incentive structures. This being an election year, implementation will be delayed further than it normally would.

Bloomberg analyst Cameron Leuthy said the basic tenets of defense procurement — how to buy faster, smarter, cheaper — won’t change, but he predicts DoD will “struggle with competing goals.” It has to keep prices low but still foster competition. It must increase procurement of commercial goods and services while ensuring prices are fair. And it must simplify the acquisition process while reducing risk to the government.

The Pentagon is now up against the “snowball effect” of years of reforms, said David Berteau, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council. There is widespread confusion among contracting officers who “can only deal with the guidance they have” but also are aware of the expectations that they have to comply with new laws.

In the case of the Thornberry bill, “it will be years before you see the results in place” as rules trickle down into solicitations and the contracting process. Last year’s NDAA had more than 50 provisions on defense procurement. “At some point we’re going to have to stop and catch our breath,” said Berteau. For now, “they’re moving ahead.”

Jordan credited Thornberry for being “willing to take criticism to get to a better product.” But he cautioned that regulatory burdens and “compliance stuff” are significant and “cut both ways” because they could drive some businesses out of the market. Contractors also have had to cope with a litany of White House executive orders in recent years that have increased the cost of doing business with the federal government, Jordan said. “Without taking significant steps to look back and not add new things, it’s only going to get worse.”

Berteau said the Acquisition Agility Act would pose new requirements both on the Pentagon and on contractors. “We’ve seen little to reduce the burden on industry.”

Thornberry anticipates more pushback on his bill and will consider making further revisions over time. “We are going to have to keep working on acquisition reform constantly,” he said. “I do not pretend that we are solving [everything] with this bill.” The procurement of contractor services is one area that has yet to be dug into. “There’s a whole list of things I want to get into,” he said. “I realize some of the changes are going to take time because they [contracting officers] have to do their job every day while these changes are taking place.” Extending the implementation deadline until 2019, he added, “gives us a chance to make adjustments.”

Former HASC general counsel and deputy staff director Roger Zakheim, now a government affairs attorney at Covington & Burling, said Thornberry is prepared to fight this battle for the long haul, as he is poised to stay at the helm of the armed services committee for six years. “Thornberry knows that when it comes to defense acquisition, he can’t legislate out of the problem. Legislation is just one tool he has,” Zakheim said April 20 at a National Defense Industrial Association forum. “He knows he has to keep pressing the DoD leadership.”



Bye Bye QDR; Hello Stand-Alone Cyber Command: HASC Markup

By Colin Clark and Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on April 22, 2016 at 4:28 PM


CAPITOL HILL: The Quadrennial Defense Review is dead. Long live a unified combatant command known as Cyber Command.

Ok, it doesn’t quite ring like Long Live The Queen, but you get the idea. House Armed Service Committee staffers briefed reporters on some of the more important bits of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. Top of the list in the mind of this scribe are the demise of the QDR and the elevation of Cyber Command.

I’ve covered every QDR and have to say I loved them. As a reporter they gave us unparalleled access to fundamental debates about the strategy, policies and politics of the Pentagon and its constituents, which was one of the goals of Congress in creating them. But the QDR also became famous for the unfortunate process that came to be known as salami slicing. Instead of doing what the founding legislation said it should do — make hard and rational choices based on America’s interests and our strategy for achieving them — the QDR often became a proxy for Pentagon budget wars. That, in the end, is why QDRs lost the respect of those who had supported them.

Combined with the creation of what one HASC staffer referred to the armies of staff and consultants built to prosecute each QDR, they became disruptive and, ultimately, self-serving. Of course, we still have to see if the Senate Armed Services Committee shares the House goal of scrapping the QDR.

With an eye to better preserving some of the better goals of the QDR, the HASC will create a one-time “independent commission on national defense strategy for the united states,” comprised of seven “greybeards” appointed by HASC and the Senate Armed Services Committee, similar to the National Defense Panel that was supposed to critique and analyze the QDR.

The bill will also create a biennial product to be known as the “Defense Strategic Guidance.” It’s designed to ensure there is “top-down” civilian guidance from the highest levels giving written policy guidance to the force on global roles and missions, force planning and resource allocation.

The other action the HASC is taking is to place a “cap” on the number of staff in the National Security Council. Bloated at more than 400 under the Obama administration and often functioning as the leadership of the government departments it is supposed to coordinate, the NSC would be limited to a certain number which the HASC staffers were not willing to disclose.

In the long run, the elevation of Cyber Command may be more important than the demise of the QDR, but we’ll have to see how these new approaches drive the Pentagon’s decision-making. After all, strategy is more important in the long run than operations. In addition to the elevation of Cyber Command so that it can function directly without Strategic Command being involved, the staffer said that they would require a study investigating whether and how to separate the leader of Cyber Command from the director of the National Security Agency. Today, those positions are held by the same person.

As the staff member noted, StratCom’s primary responsibility is nuclear warfare, which requires very clear, direct and unambiguous command and control. As the comments below indicate, CyberCom’s requirements are very different.

CyberCom commander Adm. Mike Rogers’ deputy, Air Force Lt. Gen. James McLaughlin, made clear this morning that Cyber Com is not interested in empire-building. “The notion that this boils down to which organization has OPCON [operational control] is, in my mind, not the issue anymore,” McLaughlin told an AFCEA conference. “The goal is how we make this less about control….This is about bringing the power of the enterprise to solve problems.”

That said, “we have a level of centralized control right now and it’s relatively new,” McLaughlin acknowledged. Cyber Command “has central control to direct operations across the DoD Information Network [DoDIN] — defensive operations — [but] that doesn’t mean all the forces associated with doing that are US Cyber Command forces.”

The other combatant commands have and should retain their own cyber defense asset, McLaughlin said. “They have forces that are responsible to them,” he said. “They know their terrain, they know their mission, and they understand what’s unique about their mission” — vital nuances that a centralized mega-headquarters might miss.

Traditional models of command and control, with strict chains of command and divisions of labor, just don’t translate to the fast-moving, fluid world of cyberspace, said Rear Adm. Dwight Shepherd, director of cyberspace operations for Northern Command and NORAD.

“We’ve got to throw out the old paradigms,” Shepherd told Sydney after the AFCEA panel. “It doesn’t work in cyber.” In traditional NORAD-style homeland defense, for example, you can see enemy aircraft or missiles coming miles away, and they have to come from known approaches: not so a virus or a denial of service attack.

“With cyber you don’t have those sort of boundaries, you don’t have those sort of approaches,” Shepherd said. “It’s 360 degrees and it’s moving at the speed of light.”

“That’s why you’re seeing this evolution,” Shepherd told Sydney. “As [the new] JFHQ DoDIN comes online and CYBERCOM comes online with more authorities and more responsibilities, we just have to figure how we get that C2 structure right.”

So if traditional centralized control won’t work, what will? “We need a global synchronizer, because right now we’ve got a supply and demand problem [with] cyber forces,” Shepherd told the AFCEA conference. “[That’s not] central control of the defensive forces. I’m not sure how that would work, because each combatant command has its own unique priorities, it has own unique mission requirements.”

That’s being thrashed out at this moment, said McLaughlin, with attention from the Joint Chiefs of Staff themselves. “We are now working specifically…. to clarify how we actually [work with] the combatant commands and how our command integrates directly into those commands,” McLaughlin said. “Those are still hard issues, but I think they pale in comparison with the issues we have resolved” already.



GAO: Agencies need to collaborate to prevent EMP threat

Carten Cordell, Federal Times 11:56 a.m. EDT April 26, 2016


A new report claims federal agencies need to better collaborate to prevent the impact of electromagnetic pulse attacks on the nation’s power grid.

The Government Accountability Office report looked at how the departments of Homeland Security and Energy, and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, work jointly to address the threats that EMP poses to the country’s critical infrastructure.

EMP — whether caused by a solar storm or explosive device — could cause a significant disruption to the nation’s power grid, so much so that the Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from Electromagnetic Pulse Attack issued a 2008 report with 90 recommendations on how to address and recover from such an attack.

The GAO report, released on April 25, found that policies laid down by both DHS and DOE align with many of the recommendations made in the 2008 study, but neither agency has fully identified its risk assessments when it comes to a possible attack.

Among the problems, GAO said DHS had yet to determine its roles and responsibilities within the agency if an EMP attack were to occur.

“DHS officials did not identify any DHS representatives or offices as having broader designated responsibility for performing key oversight or coordination roles regarding electromagnetic risks within DHS’s overall infrastructure protection efforts, including activities intended to help address risks to the electrical grid,” the report said.

“Furthermore, industry representatives and other federal officials told us it is not clear who within DHS is responsible for addressing electromagnetic risks.

Neither agency has identified key infrastructure assets that could be at risk of an attack. While DHS components had independently sought to assess the EMP risk, the department has not yet developed a comprehensive evaluation.

The report also claimed that the agencies have yet to coordinate their risk management procedures in case of an EMP incident.

The GAO called for greater collaboration between the agencies on identifying EMP risk and working to mitigate it. The report also recommended the following:

•That the Secretary of Homeland Security designate roles within DHS for assessing EMP risk and sharing the information with federal partners.

•That the secretaries of Homeland Security and Energy collaborate to review FERC’s electrical infrastructure analysis and determine is more risk assessment is needed to identify critical infrastructure assets.

•That the Under Secretary for the National Protection and Programs Directorate and the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Infrastructure Protection work with federal partners to “analyze key inputs on threat, vulnerability and consequence related to electromagnetic risks.”

•That the secretaries of Homeland Security and Energy identify research and development priorities related to EMP protections.


Officials at both DHS and DOE concurred with the recommendations and said they were implementing actions to address them.



Four-star officers on chopping block in House budget bill

Leo Shane III, Military Times 10:12 p.m. EDT April 25, 2016


House lawmakers want more troops in the ranks but fewer four-stars to lead them.

The proposal is part of sweeping personnel reforms included in the House Armed Services Committee draft of the annual defense authorization bill, unveiled Monday. It’s also a rebuke of what some congressional leaders see as “top-heavy command headquarters” with more support staff than they need.

To solve that, the bill includes a requirement to dump at least five of the 38 four-star posts across the armed services in coming years — the Coast Guard commandant would not be included in the list — and ensure that subordinate commanders within combatant commands serve at a grade no higher than three stars.

The move appears specifically aimed at situations like the Defense Department’s Pacific Command, which in addition Adm. Harry Harris Jr., the unified command’s leader, boasts three other four-star officers who fill service-specific posts.

“The committee remains concerned that a top-heavy chain of command within the combatant commands adds unnecessary headquarters staff, adds distance and layers between commanders and warfighters, and slows decision making and agility of command,” the authorization bill’s report states.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has already suggested culling the total number of top-rank officers, but without proposals as specific as the House committee now has laid out.

The legislation does not outline a deadline for when the reductions need to occur, only that Pentagon leaders must submit a report on how they plan to make the cuts to ensure command stability.

The committee has already outlined plans to add about 27,000 troops above the White House’s end strength request in next year’s defense budget, a plan that defense officials warn will add billions in personnel costs in coming years.

The four-star cuts also come alongside a proposal by House lawmakers to elevate the military’s Cyber Command to a unified command “with the primary function to prepare cyber operations forces to carry out assigned missions.”

Carter has suggested the same move, and Pentagon officials confirmed this weekend that they are upping the offensive work carried out by Cyber Command as part of the broader fight against the Islamic State group.

The committee also wants drastic cuts to the National Security Council staff — it currently totals about 400 individuals now — and greater Congressional oversight over its operations.

Senate lawmakers have voiced similar concerns about the size of military support staffs and the importance of cyber missions, but have not signed off on the specific House plans.

The House committee is scheduled to amend its draft of the budget policy legislation on Wednesday. Both chambers hope to have their respective drafts finalized by the start of the summer, to begin conference committee negotiations on the final measure



QDR Dead in 2017 Defense Policy Bill

Joe Gould, Defense News 10:01 a.m. EDT April 26, 2016


WASHINGTON — House Armed Services Committee chairman Mac Thornberry introduced legislation Monday to scrap the Pentagon’s main public policy document, the beleaguered Quadrennial Defense Review, and replace it with two major strategy documents from Pentagon leadership.

The proposal, included in the HASC’s massive 2017 defense policy bill, would establish an advisory commission on national defense strategy and mandate regular, top-down policy guidance. The move answers criticism that the QDR — in spite of its value as a public window into major Defense Department policy decisions — was a watered-down, consensus-driven product that required its own bureaucracy to produce.

These are just a few of the far-reaching proposals Congress is pursuing in its 2017 defense policy bills under the umbrella of Goldwater-Nichols reform — a moniker that invokes the 30-year-old law that delineated roles and responsibilities across the Defense Department and established the geographic combatant commands. The discussions in Congress have been aimed at revamping the Pentagon to be more agile and innovative in the face of today’s complex threats.

The National Defense Authorization Act is only at its nascent stages. The HASC is expected to mark it up its version and vote later this week before it sends the bill to the House floor. From there, it must be reconciled in conference with the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version and survive votes in both chambers before it can be signed by the president.


Replacing the QDR

If the language on defense policy and strategy development endures, Congress would establish a classified National Military Strategy, produced by the Joint Chiefs chairman — a document that could have a real impact for the defense industry. The bill calls the strategy a framework for the development of war plans that would also guide joint capability development and resource investments by the services.

Also, the defense secretary would create Defense Strategic Guidance to direct the size and shape the force, the development and sustainment of capabilities and how the Pentagon should respond to shifting global threats. Separately, it would create guidance for force development and contingency plans.

This is to simplify the strategy and policy guidance required of the Pentagon while avoiding the “standing bureaucracies” dedicated to assembling them, the bill says.

“It’s all about being a top-down driven product to get at prioritization, force size and shape and resources,” a HASC staffer said.

The bill does not say explicitly whether the defense secretary’s guidance would be publicly available, but it makes clear that the congressional defense committees would have access to it, classified or not.

The bill also calls for a “Commission on National Defense Strategy for the United States” to examine and make recommendations to the president, defense secretary and relevant congressional committees. The aim is to reach a bipartisan consensus on national security — and although the bill does not spell it out, it would be made up of seven “gray-beards” appointed by members of the HASC and SASC, according to a HASC staffer. he new commission would issue one report and would only be continued beyond one year if Congress and the president decided to do so.

Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy, a veteran of multiple QDRs, was a staunch advocate for overhauling Pentagon strategy development. She offered blistering criticism of the QDR in congressional testimony in December, saying the process is guided by “parochial interests … ahead of national security interests.”

“Over the years, the QDR has become a routinized, bottom-up staff exercise that includes hundreds of participants and consumes many thousands of man-hours, rather than a top-down leadership exercise that sets clear priorities, makes hard choices and allocates risk,” said Flournoy, now with the Center for a New American Security. “In addition, the requirement to produce an unclassified QDR report tends to make the final product more of a glossy coffee table brochure written primarily for outside audiences, including the press, allies and partners, defense industry, and the Hill.”

On the Senate side, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., indicated at the December hearing that he was underwhelmed by the Pentagon’s process for developing strategy. Citing a 2010 congressional analysis of the QDR, he said QDRs have become “explanations and justifications, often with marginal changes, of established decisions and plans.”

“The development of policy, strategy, and plans in the DOD has become paralyzed by an excessive pursuit of concurrence or consensus,” McCain said. “Innovative ideas that challenge the status quo rarely seem to survive the staffing process as they make their long journey to senior civilian and military leaders. Instead, what results too often seems to be watered-down, lowest common denominator thinking that is acceptable to all relevant stakeholders precisely because it is threatening to none of them.”


Beefed Up Joint Chiefs Chairman

The bill extends the Joint Chiefs chairman’s term of office from two years to four, staggers the term outside of the four-year presidential election cycle, and reinforces the role to provide independent military advice to the president and defense secretary. The chairman would also be vested with advisory responsibility over operations and the transfer of forces among combatant commands.

That language echoes a recommendation from Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Joint Chiefs chairman, who said his job just be to cross the boundaries of the US geographic combatant commands and provide a “a common operational picture and a common intelligence picture,” versus multiple pictures from the nine unified combatant commands.

Earlier this month, Dunford said DoD is also developing a classified national military strategy due for release by the end of next year, with drafting sessions underway since March 28.


Streamlining Combatant Commands

The bill would cap the rank of combatant command chiefs at three stars or below and cap the number of four-star officers to five. Both moves are aimed at lawmakers concerns the chain of command has grown top-heavy, and that “distance and layers between commanders and warfighters, and slows decision making and agility of command,” according a summary of the bill.


“A four-star brings a certain magnitude of staff with them, so we would direct that it be bumped down to a three-star,” said one HASC staffer. “It will have a ripple effect throughout the COCOMS, but also through the services. You are basically going to direct a reduction in the number of flag officers.”

In her congressional testimony, Flournoy blasted the inefficiency and effectiveness of the Pentagon’s “bloated” headquarters staffs. According to her figures, the Office of the Secretary of Defense has more than 5,000 people, the Joint Staff has nearly 4,000, and the combatant command staffs have almost 38,000.

“In the private sector, bloated headquarters staffs have been documented to slow decision-making, push too many decisions to higher levels, incentivize risk averse behaviors, undermine organizational performance and compromise agility,” Flournoy said. “The same is certainly true in government. What’s more, in the DoD context oversized staffs consume precious resources that could otherwise be invested in strengthening our warfighting capabilities.”



Thornberry Markup Promotes Prototyping, Experimentation

Aaron Mehta, Defense News 1:33 p.m. EDT April 25, 2016


WASHINGTON — House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry is proposing giving each service the ability to develop new technologies under a flexible budget scheme, as part of a larger push for molecularity in Pentagon systems.

The language, included in section 1702 of Thornberry’s markup of the NDAA, would allow the services to have budget flexibility to “experiment with, prototype, and rapidly deploy weapon system components and other technologies” without requiring those programs be tied to an existing major program.

In essence, each service would have a pool of money which would be saved specifically to experiment and develop prototypes of technologies that would benefit multiple systems, rather than having it tied to a single development program.

“The services would allocate some advanced component development and prototyping funds within the research, development, test, and evaluation budget into capability, weapon system component, or technology portfolios, rather than specifying all funding for individual projects or acquisition programs of record,” the language reads. “The services would then be able to select and fund prototyping projects during the year of execution without waiting the 2-3 years required for the typical budget process or initiation of a new program of record.”

The idea of flexibility for prototypes was previewed by Thornberry in March. Each program would come with a cap of $50 million per project, but the language does not specify how much each service should be putting overall toward such an effort.

William LaPlante, who until recently was the top acquisition official for the US Air Force, said it was “very encouraging” when appraised of the language by Defense News, calling it a “very well-intentioned attempt to institutionalize prototyping and experimentation is a way that will survive the budget process.”

In theory, the services have money for this kind of work under the 6.4 research funding line. But, LaPlante noted, those funds are often the first to get raided when times get fiscally tight.

“One of the reasons in the past it has been very hard to find that money [for prototyping] is, typically since all the money is identified with a specific program, that money is all accounted for,” LaPlante said following an event at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It was always very hard to find the resources you needed.”

The language specifies that this funding goes toward components and not toward major systems. Because of that, the system would only work if the technology being developed and experimented with will be applicable on multiple systems.

That is why the prototyping flexibility goes hand in hand with Thornberry’s goal of having all major defense acquisition programs launched after Jan. 1, 2019, to require modular systems, said Andrew Hunter, a former Pentagon official now with CSIS.

Key to that push is “separating tech development from weapons acquisition, and then in order to make that make sense you need modular designs,” Hunter said. “So this all fits together.”

The Thornberry language also comes with oversight requirements to make sure the prototype and experimentation money is being used correctly, something LaPlante indicated was a smart inclusion to the bill.

Each service will have to “establish or identify a board to oversee this flexible funding, comprising senior officials with expertise in requirements, research and development, and acquisition,” according to the language.

Those boards would be required to produce strategic plans every three years, as well as produce annual recommendations on specific prototype projects to meet high priority war-fighter needs and emerging technological requirements. The makeup of those boards is not specified in the language, aside from requiring the officials have relevant expertise.


House panel advances $610 billion spending plan with bigger pay raise, more end strength

Leo Shane III, Military Times 9:08 a.m. EDT April 28, 2016


House Armed Services Committee members advanced a $610 billion defense policy bill early Thursday that supporters say will fully fund the military’s needs and critics blasted as another budgeting gimmick that creates more problems than it solves.

The annual defense authorization bill draft passed the panel by a 60-2 vote after a 16-plus-hour marathon markup session involving dozens of defense priority and regulation amendments. It includes a 2.1 percent pay raise for troops next year, 27,000 more troops than the White House requested and a massive overhaul of the defense medical care system.

It also includes $18 billion more in funding for things like additional F-18s, F-35s, littoral combat ships and Army Tactical Missile Systems. It dramatically boosts ship and aircraft depot maintenance and adds 900 Javelin missiles to the Pentagon’s formal request.

Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Calif., said the additions are needed to supply the armed forces with the resources they need to keep the nation secure.

“The bottom line for me this year is that it is fundamentally wrong to send service members out on missions for which they are not fully prepared or fully supported,” he said.

“For that reason, it is essential that we begin to correct the funding shortfalls that have led to a lack of readiness and to a heightened level of risk that we have heard about … and seen for ourselves.”


But Democrats and administration officials have already offered strong objections to how the authorization bill — and the larger House Republican budget plan — pays for those additions.

While the measure’s total cost is in line with spending deals agreed upon by Congress and the White House last fall, it shifts $18 billion from temporary war funds to the base budget. The result leaves only enough money for overseas operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to about halfway through fiscal 2017.

Thornberry said he hopes the next president will fill the shortfall with a supplemental budget request early next year. On Wednesday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter called that “gambling” with troops’ missions and lives.

“It buys force structure without the money to sustain it and keep it ready, effectively creating a hollow force structure, and working against our efforts to restore readiness,” he said in an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith, D-Wash., echoed those concerns but ultimately backed the bill, calling it an important step forward in the process.

The authorization bill has been approved by Congress for 54 consecutive years, despite several presidential vetoes and even more veto threats. President Obama has threatened to veto every one of the House-passed defense authorization measures during his presidency, but followed through last year for the first time, over a similar funding fight.


Pay raise

The 2.1 percent pay raise recommendation matches the expected jump in private sector wages for 2017, and surpasses the White House’s call for a 1.6 percent pay hike. Lawmakers included language preventing the president from overriding that plan later this year.

Senate lawmakers have not signed on to the higher raise yet. If it stays at 1.6 percent, the 2017 pay raise would still be the highest for troops since 2013, but would continue a six-year streak of military pay hikes below 2 percent.

Defense Department officials have said the lower-than-expected raise will save more than $300 million in fiscal 2017, and more than $2.2 billion over the next five years.

They have also emphasized that even at a lower level, troops will see bigger salaries starting next January. A 1.6 percent pay increase amounts to a $400 yearly pay boost for most junior enlisted troops and up to $1,500 more in annual pay for midcareer officers.

But for an E-4 with three years of service, the gap between the two pay raise plans totals about $136 a year. For an E-7 with 10 years, it’s almost $228.

Among officers, the lower pay raise plan would drop the annual earnings of an O-2 with two years of service by roughly $234 in 2017. An O-4 with 12 years would lose about $425.


Troop levels

The authorization bill funds at 9,800 troops in Afghanistan through fiscal 2017, despite long-discussed White House plans to dramatically draw down the force by the end of the year.

It also would add 25,000 more soldiers to the Army National Guard and the Army Reserve than service leadership has requested. Thornberry billed the move as keeping the force at a steady level, instead of drawing it down.

Under the plan, the Army’s active-duty force would rise from 475,000 to 480,000 soldiers, instead of dropping to 460,000 under planned Pentagon cuts. The Marine Corps would grow by 1,000 troops under the House plan, instead of shrinking from 184,000 to 182,000 under White House proposals.

Air Force personnel would grow by 285 instead of shrinking by almost 4,000, to 317,000. The Navy would still drop from 329,200 sailors by this fall to 322,900 by fall 2017.


Health care reform

The health care overhaul would include reorganizing multiple Tricare programs into two options: the existing Tricare Prime program and Tricare Preferred, a new network care option similar to Tricare Standard and Extra.

The current fee structure would remain in place but could change in 2020 if the Defense Department meets certain standards for patient access and care.

Under the plan, all personnel now serving or who will retire before 2018 will stay in current Tricare fee structures, with enrollment fees adjusted to the cost of living. Anyone enlisting after Jan. 1, 2018, would pay an annual fee for services.

Lawmakers would also require military health facilities to operate past normal business hours to improve patient access and to maintain urgent care facilities that are open until 11 p.m., or have an alternative equivalent option. It would place military health facilities under the administration of the Defense Health Agency.


Other provisions

Committee members included in the policy bill another prohibition on conducting a base closure round, despite repeated requests by Pentagon officials to pursue the cost-saving measure.

But the legislation does include language allowing the department to better study how much excess capacity the services have stateside, the first step toward a new base closing round that Congress has allowed in more than a decade.

The legislation also continues restrictions on the president’s attempts to close the detention facility at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It includes $150 million in authorization for the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, to train and equip the Ukrainian military, and increases similar assistance funds for Iraqi security by $50 million over the White House request.

Lawmakers also voted to require women to register for the draft, in light of new Defense Department rules allowing women to serve in all military jobs.

The full House is expected to vote on the proposal in mid-May. Senate Armed Services Committee officials are expected to offer their own draft of the authorization bill — with a different funding plan — the week of May 9.

Officials from both chambers are hopeful a final compromise bill can be reached before the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, but the measure typically isn’t passed by Congress until after Thanksgiving.



How DoD is re-writing the rules of space

Amber Corrin, C4ISR & Networks 10:17 a.m. EDT April 28, 2016


The Defense Department is overhauling the way it handles space operations, from the way decision-makers buy satellite communications equipment to the guidelines for maneuvering against potential adversaries, according to one top official.

“We have to start thinking differently about how we design, develop and, in cooperation with industry, operate these systems to exist and survive in a potentially contested environment,” said Winston Beauchamp, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space. “We’re going to have to identify the fact that we need to know what’s going on; we need to be able to observe the space environment and identify potentially malicious actors.”

Beauchamp spoke April 27 at the C4ISR & Networks Assured Communications breakfast in Arlington, Virginia.

To take on the modern-day space domain, DoD is tapping into the extensive network of sensors that have been assembled over the years, which Beauchamp said the department relies on to keep an eye on what’s going on in the space environment. At the center of all those sensors is the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, where operators use the sensor network to calculate potential run-ins as space continues to get more congested, Beauchamp said.

“To avoid a catastrophic outcome, the JSPOC provides conjunction warnings so operators can maneuver their systems to avoid collision,” he said. “We do this for everybody, not out of pure altruism but because a collision is a debris-creating event, which makes the environment more dangerous for everybody.”

As an example, Beauchamp noted a 2007 incident in which the Chinese tested out an anti-satellite missile and shot down one of their own weather satellites — the debris of which continues to orbit the Earth and pose hazards to space assets today and in decades to come.

Going forward the goal is to not only avoid those kinds of issues but also collaborate between countries to operate in space, including through promoting international standards.

“We believe that having norms and standards identified for how operators should interact with each other is important,” Beauchamp said. “So we have the equivalent of maritime rules of the sea about encounters and how to deal with them, as well as some amount of transparency into what is occurring in the environment.”

DoD officials also are tapping the Joint Interagency Combined Space Operations Center, which is gaining momentum since it launched last year. Currently JICSPOC officials are finishing the first phase of test-run activities that Beauchamp said are aimed at further defining how to best operate in space.

“We are working to develop tactics, techniques and procedures in order to respond to potential threats, and the JICSPOC is an activity to do just that — work through a series of scenarios, vignettes, of what a potential threat might look like, modeled on what we see in real life today, and how we respond,” Beauchamp said. “It’s structured to help us learn how to execute the command and control function in a contested environment…our hope is we will be able to use the information learned from those experiments to inform what our battle management command and control capability needs to look like in the future.”



ISIS is assembling a cyber army

By Chris Smith on Apr 28, 2016 at 4:02 PM


Following the deadly assaults on Europe in late 2015 and early 2016, reports emerged suggesting that ISIS has an army of organized hackers who can provide consistent, round the clock support to foot soldiers. However, new information on the matter seems to suggest that ISIS’s remaining hacking arm is nothing more than a propaganda machine capable of dealing minor hits, if any, to enemies. But ISIS is showing more interest in expanding its hacking capabilities.

The news comes at a time when the U.S. government has declared cyber war on the Islamic paramilitary organization.

A report from Flashpoint called Hacking for ISIS: The Emergent Cyber Threat Landscape, first seen by Ars Technica, says that ISIS in April merged four independent pro-ISIS cyber teams into a single group called the United Cyber Caliphate. The group is made of the Sons Caliphate Army, the Caliphate Cyber Army, the Ghost Caliphate Section and Kalashnikov E-Security Team.

These sound like rather scary organizations, but Flashpoint says they can’t do that much harm as they lack the expertise to conduct sophisticated digital assaults.

“Until recently, our analysis of the group’s overall capabilities indicated that they were neither advanced nor did they demonstrate sophisticated targeting,” Flashpoint co-founder and Director of Research & Analysis for the Middle East and North Africa Laith Alkhouri said. “With the latest unification of multiple pro-ISIS cyber groups under one umbrella, there now appears to be a higher interest and willingness amongst ISIS supporters in coordinating and elevating cyber attacks against governments and companies.”

The report reveals that British citizen Junaid Hussain, who was killed in a raid in August 2015, was the leader of ISIS’s former Cyber Caliphate Army. Known as TriCK and part of a well-known black hat hackers group called TeaMp0isoN, Hussain joined ISIS in the summer of 2014. Since then, he has tried to recruit other colleagues into his team, but he hasn’t been very successful.

ISIS was able to take over social media accounts, defame websites (including CENTCOM and Newsweek), and attack the sites of certain cities, although it hasn’t accomplished any major hack.

Rather than coming up with its own hacks, the unified UCC group – not to be confused with the US Cyber Command fighting ISIS hackers – is likely going to employ “malware as a service” exploit sites and other tools that can be purchased off hacker forums. The UCC would still be able to conduct propaganda operations and cause damage to “soft” targets. So their capabilities, while limited, shouldn’t be completely ignored



SpaceX’s GPS bid beat Air Force estimate by 40 percent

James Dean, FLORIDA TODAY 5:38 p.m. EDT April 28, 2016

SpaceX has slashed the going rate for launches of Global Positioning Systems satellites, highlighting the challenge United Launch Alliance faces as it is forced to compete for some national security missions.

SpaceX’s winning bid of $82.7 million for a GPS III launch, announced Wednesday, was 40 percent below what the Air Force had estimated the mission might cost, a senior Air Force official said Thursday.

The deal emerged from the first contract opened to competition by the Air Force in more than a decade, a period during which only ULA was certified to perform such launches.



But apparently unable to approach SpaceX’s price, ULA chose not to bid for the GPS III mission last fall, scuttling the promised competition.

Despite that outcome, Lt. Gen. Samuel Greaves, commander of the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, which is responsible for buying launches under the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, said competition was achieving its goal.

“Having multiple launch service providers allows the government to ultimately save taxpayer dollars while increasing assured access to space and maintaining our unwavering focus on mission assurance,” Greaves told reporters Thursday.

Greaves said SpaceX won the GPS III contract in a competitive environment even though it was the only bidder.

“The fact that ULA did not bid on the first procurement, that was a ULA business decision,” he said. “This was a very successful, competitive solicitation process, because we followed the process.”

The next opportunity for the two companies to compete head-to-head comes as soon as May or June, when the Air Force opens another GPS III launch for bids.

Greaves said the Air Force was reviewing lessons learned from the recent competition before committing to the same “best value” acquisition strategy for the next mission.

He said some missions might place less emphasis on cost and more on technical ability, a shift that presumably would benefit ULA, which has launched more than 100 missions without a major failure during the nearly 10 years since it was formed as a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

“It will depend on the mission,” said Greaves.

Greaves said the Air Force’s estimated cost for the GPS III launch — roughly $140 million — was based on prices paid in the past and available published prices.

The recently awarded mission was the first of nine the Air Force will open to competition through 2017, a process intended to phase in competition gradually. Five of those are GPS III missions like the one announced this week.

ULA already has won a slate of missions running through the same time period thanks to a 36-mission block buy the Air Force announced in 2013.

Meanwhile, ULA has begun a major transformation to make itself more competitive by the end of the decade.

The company plans to cut its work force by roughly 800 employees this year and next. It is in the early stages of designing a new rocket, the Vulcan, to replace its current fleet of Atlas V and Delta IV rockets, with a first Vulcan launch possible in 2019



Could Connectivity Failure Ground F-35? It’s Complicated

Lara Seligman, Defense News 4:01 a.m. EDT April 29, 2016

WASHINGTON — The F-35 joint program office and a top government watchdog are butting heads about a key question for the joint strike fighter: whether or not the fifth-generation plane can fly if disconnected from a key logistics system.


At the center of the debate is the Autonomics Logistics and Information System (ALIS), an internal diagnostic system that tracks the health of each part of each plane worldwide. ALIS is no stranger to controversy, with top program officials identifying it as the last hurdle to declaring the US Air Force jets operational on time this year.

Now a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identifies a new ALIS-related concern — that if a single ALIS server were to go down, whether from loss of electricity or sabotage, it could cripple the entire F-35 fleet.

“Users are concerned that ALIS’ current design results in all F-35 data produced across the fleet to be routed up to the Central Point of Entry and then to the Autonomic Logistics Operating Unit, with no backup system or redundancy,” according to the April GAO report. “If either of these fail, it could take the entire F-35 fleet offline.”

But JPO chief Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan disagrees, telling reporters last week after testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee there is “absolutely” no truth to the claim that a failure to connect to ALIS could ground the fleet.

The differing views of the program office and the GAO over ALIS reflect the ongoing challenges of the F-35 program, and the fleet’s logistics system in particular. ALIS is by far the most integrated and complex fleet management system in the US military today, but advances in technology often give rise to new challenges — and without a clear precedent from previous systems, both sides have legitimate arguments to fall back on.

ALIS, often called the backbone of the F-35 fleet, is an information technology hub that is used to plan missions, track aircraft status, order spare parts, and manage sustainment of the plane. By contrast, legacy aircraft use several standalone systems to perform these daily functions. ALIS is the first system of its kind to manage daily squadron operations, track sustainment trends and protect sovereign information — all in one hub, according to Dave Scott, vice president of training and logistics solution business development for Lockheed Martin Mission Systems and Training.

All ALIS servers connect through encrypted land or satellite military networks, rather than the “internet” we usually think of, Scott noted.

There is only one global ALIS server, called the Autonomic Logistics Operating Unit (ALOU), where spare parts are ordered and reliability trends are analyzed, Scott said. Each partner nation has its own server, called the Central Point of Entry (CPE), which stores sovereign data and transmits that information to the ALOU, Scott explained.

Individual squadrons operate locally with a server called the Standard Operating Unit (SOU), which communicates with that nation’s CPE. Squadrons can operate independently and store data for about 30 days without connecting to the partner nation’s CPE, Scott said. Then, when a connection is re-established, the SOU uploads the stored data to the CPE.


Differing Opinions

The fact that the F-35 enterprise has so few servers, and just one main hub for the entire globe, is at the core of concerns ALIS could easily be taken down.

The GAO report warned that ALIS has no backup system to ensure operations if any of the servers — the ALOU, a nation’s CPE or a squadron’s SOU — were to fail. Specifically, squadron leaders at two sites visited by the GAO expressed concern that a loss of electricity, particularly during deployments to remote locations, “could adversely affect fleet operations.”

The program office, for its part, says it is working to build in more redundancy to the ALIS infrastructure. Program officials are also working to procure two additional ALOUs for backup, and possibly relocating the US CPE to another F-35 site, according to the GAO report.


But in the near-term, the Pentagon feels it can manage even if ALIS were to go down. In fact, the overall F-35 fleet should be able to operate without connection for up to 30 days with maintainers tracking the work off-line, the Pentagon told GAO.

Losing connectivity to ALIS would be a pain, but hardly fatal, the JPO contends. If jets are unable to use ALIS — a ground-based system that provides sustainment and support, but not combat capabilities for the jet — the F-35 is still a usable plane. In fact, the worst case scenario would be that operators would have to track maintenance and manage daily squadron operations manually, just as older jets do.

The best description of the problem came from Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, chief of Air Force Materiel Command, who compared ALIS to a laptop computer.

“You can turn on your laptop, you can use it, you can turn it off and never be on the internet,” Pawlikowski said April 28 during a Defense Writers Group event. “But eventually there is stuff you want to send out by email, eventually there are things you may want to put on your Google drive.”

Yes, the F-35 can take off and land without connecting to ALIS; yes, operators can make repairs without the logistics system, Pawlikowski said. But at some point users need to feed that information up to the central ALIS hub, she stressed.

“I don’t need ALIS to put fuel in the plane and fly it, [I can] take a part and replace it if I have the spares there,” Pawlikowski said. “But somewhere along the line I’ve got to tell ALIS that I did it so that the supply chain will now know that that part has got to be replaced.”

For his part, Bogdan believes there were “no surprises” in the GAO report.

“All of the issues mentioned are well known to the JPO, the U.S. Services, International Partners and our Industry team,” Bogdan said in a written response to the GAO report April 14. “Overall, the F-35 program is executing well across the entire spectrum of acquisition, to include development and design, flight test, production, fielding and base stand-up, training, sustainment of fielded aircraft, and building a global sustainment enterprise.”

As debate rages in Washington over ALIS’ viability, the operators who use the system on a regular basis say they are satisfied so far.

A group of four Marine maintainers from Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina, the training hub for the F-35B for both the Corps and the United Kingdom, told reporters during an April 14 visit that ALIS has made their life easier.

The Marine Corps declared IOC with its F-35Bs last summer, and conducted its first-ever expeditionary test in December. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 deployed eight jets to Twentynine Palms, California, for Exercise Steel Knight, where they practiced short takeoffs and vertical landings. The Marines are preparing to deploy to Iwakuni, Japan, next year.

“I am more than satisfied with it and seeing it grow and seeing it change,” a Marine said. “There’s not as much troubleshooting anymore so maintenance times are definitely up.”

Overall, maintenance on the F-35 is “10 times easier” than on a Navy F-18, said one maintainer. Despite initial challenges, another Marine stressed that the system is constantly improving.

“Compared to how it was originally, it’s night and day,” said the Marine when asked about updates to the system. “The transition has been good. Every upgrade they do is easy to get ahold of, get your head around. It’s been pretty consistent as far as maintainability.”




Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, April 30, 2016

#NeverTrump forces are still counting on Indiana’s Republican primary on Tuesday to derail Donald Trump’s nomination by forcing a brokered convention. But for most voters, a Trump-Hillary Clinton contest this fall is all but inevitable.

Following Trump’s sweep of the five state primaries on Tuesday, belief that he is the likely Republican presidential nominee has soared to its highest level ever and matches perceptions that Clinton will be the Democratic standard-bearer in the fall. 

Ninety-one percent (91%) of Democrats – and 84% of all likely voters – see Clinton as the likely Democratic nominee.

Clinton sealed the deal for the Democratic nomination with her four primary wins on Tuesday, and now Trump is encouraging Bernie Sanders to run as an independent. Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Democrats said last month that they are likely to vote for Sanders if he runs as a third-party candidate.

Here’s our latest delegate count following the primaries Tuesday in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island.

Trump and Clinton are tied in a head-to-head matchup. But there’s a wild card: 16%  say they will vote for some other candidate if they are the two major party candidates, while six percent (6%) plan to stay home.

After Trump’s big win on Tuesday, #NeverTrump Republicans have to decide – Trump or Clinton?

Anti-Trump protestors turned violent at a campaign event Thursday night in California. After similar incidents at Trump rallies last month, 52% of voters blamed the candidate’s positions rather than his political opponents, but 83% still felt it is more important for political candidates to tell voters what they really think rather than make sure no one is offended by what they say.

In a major foreign policy address on Wednesday, Trump vowed to build up the U.S. military. Voters tend to believe Obama has weakened the U.S. military, but that doesn’t mean they’re willing to pay more in taxes to turn the situation around. 

These findings are comparable to those measured when Rasmussen Reports asks voters how much more they are willing to pay annually to combat global warming  or to generate a cleaner environment.

As recently as mid-February, voters were evenly divided when asked which major candidate – Clinton or Trump – they trusted more to handle national security issues

The president continues to get better-than-usual daily job approval ratings. He earned a monthly job approval of 50% in April, up one point from March and the highest finding since April 2013.

Since 2013, the president’s monthly job approval rating has typically improved slightly at the beginning of each year and then fallen back. That hasn’t been the case in the final year of his presidency with his numbers steadily improving since January

Still, just 26% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

Congress is debating bipartisan legislation to open 28 pages of classified information about the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks to the public, but the Obama administration is opposing the move for foreign policy reasons. Nevertheless, 74% of Americans believe the U.S. government should make public all information related to the 9/11 attacks with the exception of anything that endangers national security.

The Obama White House is also concerned about a related bill that would allow families victimized by the 9/11 attacks to sue the Saudi Arabian government in U.S. courts if it can be shown to have ties to the killers. Most Americans support the families right to sue.

One result of those attacks is the war in Afghanistan where 9,800 U.S. troops still serve in harm’s way nearly 15 years later. Less than half of voters now support keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan for another year.

In other surveys last week:

Parental opposition to standardized testing in schools remains high, even as the latest cycle of tests is beginning in many states. Most parents now say there’s no need for any such tests at all.

Most voters continue to have a generally favorable view of the first lady of the United States, but there remain wide political and racial differences of opinion.

— Michelle Obama started the “Let’s Move” campaign to encourage healthy lifestyle habits in children, pushing exercise, healthy eating and better school nutrition standards. But most Americans believe it’s not the federal government’s job to decide what school kids eat.

Twenty-one percent (21%) of Americans consider the death of the popular musician Prince to be a bigger loss to the nation than the passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Most say that is certainly the way the media has treated the two deaths.


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