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May 10 2014



Drone Analyst Research Unveils Impact of FAA Regulations on Small UAS Businesses

by Patrick Egan • 5 May 2014


Research finds unfavorable rules will disintegrate an already fragile market for small unmanned aerial systems in the U.S., but significant market growth awaits once FAA regulations allow

REDWOOD CITY, CA, May 5, 2014 — Drone Analyst ( today released a report detailing the findings of its newest research called “Impact of FAA Rules on sUAS Business.” The research examines the economic impact of current FAA policies for small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) operating in Class G uncontrolled airspace and evaluates how commercial service providers and operators perceive those rules and assess their importance.

Since 2007, the FAA has essentially banned commercial use of sUAS in the U.S. through a series of statements and policies aimed at controlling activity until actual regulations are put in place. The Federal Aviation Administration Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 authorizes the FAA to issue licenses for commercial drone use in the U.S. The FAA modernization law was widely expected to result in tens of thousands of commercial drones being licensed to fly over U.S. airspace. So far, however, it has produced only uncertainty: a combined 71% of participants in the survey say current rules are unclear and indicated confusion around conditions under which it is currently legal to operate sUAS for commercial purposes in the U.S.  In fact, when offered 12 possibilities for conditions conducive to legal sUAS operation, the third most-checked condition was “the FAA does not regulate Class G air space.”

This research investigates the potential economic impact of both favorable and unfavorable future regulations, including revenue growth forecasts and hiring plans. Participants clearly identified five types of FAA regulations that would be unfavorable for their businesses, with 61% indicating they would simply not start or shutter their existing business operations if those unfavorable FAA regulations were in place.

“In light of our findings, we conclude the overall market for sUAS in the U.S. would disintegrate if unfavorable regulations come into being,” said Colin Snow, CEO and Founder of Drone Analyst. “All the positive economic impacts like revenue, job creation, and tax base creation—not to mention the practical benefits of U.S.-based drone business services—would not be realized.”

Research results will be presented at the Small Unmanned Systems Business Exposition May 8th and 9th, 2014, in San Francisco, CA. Drone Analyst, a leading sUAS research and advisory services firm, provides a summary and a complete report of the research and other consulting services based on key findings from the study.

To learn more about the Impact of FAA Rules on sUAS Business study, please visit




China to Lead World in Drone Production

by Gary Mortimer • 4 May 2014

By Zachary Keck


A state-owned Chinese defense company will be the largest unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer over the next decade, according to a new industry forecast.

This week Forecast International, a private market researcher, published a forecast of the global UAV market over the next decade. The report predicts that the global drone market will more than double in the next ten years, rising from $942 million in 2014 to an annual $2.3 billion in 2023.

The expansion in the global drone market will be driven by increased costs rather than larger production. Indeed, Forecast International expects annual drone production to taper off by 2017, dropping from 1,000 systems this year to roughly 960 systems each year starting in 2017 and continuing through the rest of the decade.

The report forecasts that the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), a state-owned Chinese defense company, will lead the world in UAV production. According to Forecast International, AVIC will produce about $5.76 billion worth of UAVs through 2023. This is more than half of the UAVs by value that will be produced during this time period. Nearly all these will be sold to Chinese consumers.

AVIC and its subsidiaries already produce a number of UAVs for the Chinese market. As Avionics Intelligence explains, “AVIC manufacturers a wide range of UAVs, including its electrically powered micro air vehicle (MAV), the jet-powered LIEOE, which appears almost identical to the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk, for reconnaissance, surveillance, and attack missions, the AVIC Sky Eye, an electrically unmanned helicopter designed to be deployed by artillery or rocket round, for reconnaissance and targeting, and the TL-8 Sky Dragon for simulating cruise missiles for Chinese military.”

China has also indicated how it might deploy its growing drone fleet on a couple of occasions. For example, last year state media outlets reported that Beijing had considered conducting a drone strike somewhere in the Golden Triangle to eliminate a Myanmar drug dealer who was wanted in China. It later decided to capture him alive.

Similarly, around the time of the one year anniversary of Japan’s nationalization of the Senkaku Islands in September 2012, Japanese authorities announced they had scrambled aircraft in response to a then-unidentified UAV flying in the vicinity of the islands. China later confirmed that the UAV belonged to it and said it had been on a routine mission. In the weeks following the UAV flight, Japanese media began reporting that the government in Tokyo was studying plans to shoot down foreign UAVs that entered into its airspace. China later said it would consider such a move as an act of war.

In this week’s report, Forecast International said that after AVIC, Northrop Grumman would be the largest UAV producer during the next decade. According to the forecast, Northrop Grumman — which produces the RQ-4B Global Hawk and the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton — will manufacture $2.58 billion worth of UAVs through 2023.

Altogether, Forecast International analysts say, “some 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems worth about $10.5 billion are forecast for production during the 2014-2023.”


The Internet of Things could encroach on personal privacy

White House report on IoT describes electrical devices with unique signatures that can tell a lot

By Patrick Thibodeau

May 3, 2014 06:45 AM ET

Computerworld – A recent White House report on big data wonders aloud about the capability of sensors and smart meters to turn homes into fish tanks, completely transparent to marketers, police — and criminals.

Smart meters with non-intrusive load monitoring (NILM) technology, which can analyze individual power loads, make it possible to know what you are doing and using in your home.

These systems can “show when you move about your house,” said the White House, in its just released report on the privacy implications of big data. The report explores both the benefits and perils created by these new systems, including ubiquitous deployment of sensors in the Internet of Things.

The White House concern about privacy in the home is based, in part, on research by Stephen Wicker, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University and a co-author of studies that have looked at some of the implications of “demand-response systems,” or smart meters.

Wicker’s work (download PDF) was cited in the White House’s report.

Electrical devices have unique signatures, and if home metering is sensitive enough it can “distinguish the microwave from refrigerator, or even the light bulb in the bathroom from the light bulb in the dining room,” said Wicker in an interview.

The information these systems can discover can be useful — and invasive. It can alert homeowners to failing appliances, as well as provide marketers with the age and make of appliances, information that can also be used to glean the socioeconomic status of a resident.

“The bottom line is that this kind of data — power consumption data, in particular — reveals a lot about people’s preferences, their behavior, their beliefs, and we need to treat it accordingly; it shouldn’t just be up for sale,” said Wicker.

The White House recommends that Congress look at these privacy issues. But a lot of the report was written in a gee-wiz, isn’t-this-something tone.

The smart meters are intended to help reduce electric costs by shifting some work, such as running a washing machine, to off-peak hours.

After describing how smart metering system might be able to tell you what someone is doing inside their house, the White House report points out that once someone leaves their connected home, “facial recognition technologies can identify you in pictures online and as soon as you step outside. Always-on wearable technologies with voice and video interfaces and the arrival of whole classes of networked devices will only expand information collection still further.

“This sea of ubiquitous sensors, each of which has legitimate uses, make the notion of limiting information collection challenging, if not impossible,” said the government report.

Wicker supports the White House effort to examine privacy in these areas, and believes that individuals need more control over the data that flows out the home. That will involve complete disclosure and an opt-out process.

“No one’s data should be collected unless they voluntarily say yes,” said Wicker.



Open campus concept enables full scale collaboration


The U.S. Army Research Laboratory will leverage in-person interactions for deeper insight into the technological challenges the Army faces into the future by opening spaces on campus to Army partners.

“An open campus will serve as a front door to engage academia, other government agencies, industry and non-traditional innovators,” said ARL Director Dr. Thomas Russell.

Local academic and industry partners conducting research in materials, electronics and intelligent systems may occupy portions of ARL at the Adelphi Laboratory Center as early as this year.

In preparation for Open Campus, the Corporate Information Office is in its first phase of developing a tool kit with Information Technology, or IT, tools that collaborators could use to share information easily, said Dr. John Pellegrino, ARL’s chief information officer and director of the Computational and Information Sciences Directorate.

“We are working behind the scenes to make the state-of-the-art IT infrastructure that is necessary for on-site collaboration between government, academia and industry as seamless as possible,” he said. “We want tools that are easy enough that people can use immediately.”

The concept behind ARL’s IT strategy for Open Campus is the agile methodology, in other words, “we develop a small, solid base of capabilities out of the gate, and then we build upon our IT toolbox as we maintain close communication with end users,” said Rose King, who manages the IT integrated project planning behind Open Campus.

The first IT-enabling components are high definition video teleconferencing; the addition of tablets, applications like Cisco’s Jabber Communications and software like RedMine and SharePoint; and expanded wireless capability, King said.

For instance, employees have the ability to connect to Wi-Fi from the cafeteria now, but the Open Campus feedback dictates visiting researchers need to have Wi-Fi-enabled workspace that allows them to connect to their home organization and other communities in their field. To this end we must find IT solutions that answer questions like, “How do we expand wireless Internet service while maintaining the Army’s cyber security standards?”

The researchers drive the train of deciding what we expand. I hear a consistent story of how we need to share information; and as IT experts it is our goal to take that feedback and figure out how to make it happen within the IT infrastructure and security standards,” King said. “It is an ongoing partnership between the people who use the tools (ARL Workforce) and the people who create the infrastructure (IT Leadership).”

One hurdle the IT team will face in building ARL’s collaboration toolkit is its Department of Defense Information Assurance Certification and Accreditation Process, or DIACAP, which is scheduled for mid-May. It is an accreditation of the laboratory’s information systems that will happen at the same time as we are standing-up some of the Infrastructure changes to enable Open Campus, King said.


“We did well during the last DIACAP inspection; and we intend to keep that level of excellence in information systems security. We know it will be a challenge to meet customer expectations and accreditation requirements simultaneously, but we will know the collaboration enabling tools we have meet the highest standards,” King said.

As the capabilities enhancement goes forward through June 1, King wants ARL’s workforce to understand the changes taking place, what is happening, how to get help and that as a workforce ARL will not get from A-Z without some challenges,” King said. “The process will take time, with hurdles, but also successes along the way.”

Technicians will start by replacing ARL’s 10-year old video teleconferencing equipment with a new system that is most compatible with commercial partners, she said.

Janet Churchwell, who is leading the VTC changes, said after the upcoming testing, VTC users will log in as normal and may notice small changes like the higher quality resolution. The new bridge can handle high-definition, whereas the current system does not.

Users will notice less lag time, screen layout options, and better overall quality user connections. The new bridge handles about 40 multipoint callers at a time, similar to the current capacity. But in anticipation of more use, an expansion is already underway, Churchwell said.

The Jabber point-to-point video conferencing application will not be affected by the new bridge. The two-user connections are not limited.

The next changes to be implemented under Open Campus will be the introduction of tablets, the new applications and software packages unveiled over the next couple months, King said.

As soon as phase one concludes June 1, the team will slow down and take a look at where they are in the process, and what’s next, with their strongest consideration for balancing security guidelines with researcher needs, she said.

“The Open Campus Idea is a culture shock for most of us. We will be introducing new tools and technology into out IT infrastructure. Over the past few years the goals for the IT Infrastructure were to reduce the cost of desktop operations and to limit IT services. So, this will have to bring about a shift in thinking that ARL must invest in new IT capabilities in order support Dr. Russell’s modernization goals. This culture shift will take time to adopt,” she said.

The concept of Open Campus has been identified as a model within the Army to look at its potential to give the science and technology community more partnering synergy, King said.

“We have to get people using the new tools and talking about them as well as ensuring that the tools and technologies are stable and reliable. This will be a partnership between the IT leadership and ARL workforce.”

There will be learning curve, some stops, starts, and quick successes, all of that. But in the end, ARL is committed to creating an IT infrastructure that enables the Open Campus Concept’s success.” she said.


Congress: Cyber Training Ranges Need an Executive Agent

by Mike Hoffman on May 2, 2014


Cyber Command officials define unit’s scopeA powerful U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee wants Defense Department officials to choose an executive agent to oversee the military’s cyber test and training ranges.

The House Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities subcommittee proposed the Pentagon select the executive agent after the Defense Department’s Test and Evaluation Strategic Plan “identified a number of capability gaps that need to be addressed in order to provide sufficient and adequate cyber test and training.

The subcommittee in its mark on the 2015 defense budget didn’t specify if the agent should be a service or an agency like the Defense Intelligence Agency. If the addition to the defense budget legislation is passed by Congress and a service is selected, it would possibly signal which service would be taking the lead on the cyber mission.

Thus far the service leaders have avoided trying to take the role as the military leader for cyber saying the Pentagon is still trying to figure out how it fits into national security.

The agency or service that is selected stands to take over additional cyber missions and the likely funding boost that comes with it.

Read more:



The best states to retire in are a little surprising

By Melanie Hicken

May 5, 2014


Forget sunny Florida or California, retirees are better off heading to colder climates, according to Bankrate’s latest ranking of best states to retire.

South Dakota topped Bankrate’s list. Its low taxes, lack of crime and easy access to quality healthcare make it the country’s best state for retirees, according to Bankrate’s rankings, which equally weighted weather, cost of living, crime, quality of health care, state and local taxes and general well-being.

Overall, Midwestern and Mountain states dominated the list, with Colorado, Utah, North Dakota and Wyoming rounding out the top five.

All of these states tend to have excellent healthcare and some of the lowest state and local tax rates in the country, which can make a big difference for retirees living on fixed incomes, said Chris Kahn, research and statistics editor at Bankrate.

“Yes you are still going to need a snow shovel… but you’re getting a lot in return for that cold weather,” Kahn said.

And while sunny Florida is popular among many retirees, it ranked near the bottom of the list — in 39th place — in part because of higher crime and living costs and lower quality healthcare. Meanwhile, California ranked 28th, weighed down by high state taxes and living costs.

Here are the 10 states offering the best mix of affordability and lifestyle, according to Bankrate.


1. South Dakota: Yes, the temperatures dip below freezing (a lot), but South Dakota boasts low crime, quality healthcare and no state income tax.

And beyond the Badlands and Black Hills, there is plenty to do. In the small town of Aberdeen, S.D., for example, retirees can enjoy its historical downtown, home to farmers markets and holiday events, and easy access to both local arts and outdoor activities, like cross-country skiing.

2. Colorado: Not only does Colorado offer much milder winters, but its residents also benefit from high quality healthcare and a lower-than-average tax burden. Plus, its residents are among the most content in the country, according to an annual survey by Gallup of general well-being.

One downside: The cost of living is higher than in 28 other states.

Less congested and cheaper than nearby Denver, Colorado Springs, Colo. has access to one of the country’s leading cardiovascular hospitals as well as parks, trails and the Rocky Mountains.

3. Utah: Utah offers up plenty of options for both nature lovers and city dwellers. And, for retirees, its low cost of living and high quality healthcare make it even more attractive, Bankrate said.

Salt Lake City offers a bustling downtown, with arts and cultural events and a light rail that makes getting around town easy. It’s also just a half hour drive away from hiking, skiing and other outdoor activities.

4. North Dakota: Residents here have to deal with some of the coldest weather in the country.

But North Dakota has its advantages: extremely low crime and even better healthcare. Plus, its residents report the highest level of general well-being in the country.

5. Wyoming: For a tax-conscious retiree, there is no state better than Wyoming, Bankrate found. The “Cowboy State” also has low crime and moderate living costs, although the quality of its healthcare is far below that of the top ten states, according to government statistics.

6. Nebraska: It’s not just about wide open spaces. Nebraska is one of the most affordable states in the country, has relatively low crime and residents enjoy a high level of general well-being.

7. Montana: Retirees have plenty of room to roam in Montana. Even though it’s one of the largest states in the nation, the state has one of the smallest populations.

The cost of living isn’t as low here as it is in some of the other Mountain states, but Montana’s lack of a sales tax helps to offset some of the extra cost.

The resort area of Kalispell, Mont., has the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, as well as a regional medical center that ranks as one of the country’s top hospitals.

8. Idaho: Idaho not only has the lowest crime rate in the country, but it’s also one of the most affordable states. Residents do pay higher taxes here than in other Mountain states, though the tax burden remains below the national average.

In Boise, Idaho, retirees can find access to arts and outdoor activities, and a massive new cultural center is set to open there next year.

9. Iowa: Another cold state to make Bankrate’s list, Iowa boasts low crime and living costs and high-quality healthcare.

In the college town of Iowa City, Iowa, retirees can take up a class at the University of Iowa or enjoy free concerts and outdoor movie nights in the summer.

10. Virginia: One of the warmest spots on the list, Virginia has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.

For seniors looking for a coastal lifestyle, Norfolk, Va. is home to miles of beaches and sailing and kayaking in the Chesapeake Bay. The city is also home to an art museum, theater company and opera house.

Bomber-Plane Budget by U.S. Air Force Projected to Double

By Tony Capaccio

May 6, 2014


The U.S. Air Force projects that its annual spending on long-range bombers will almost double after 2019 as it seeks a new stealth aircraft that may pit Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) against a joint bid from Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Boeing Co. (BA)

The service’s total budget for bomber production and upgrades will jump to about $9.5 billion in fiscal 2020 from less than $5 billion for the year beginning Oct. 1, according to a Pentagon document obtained by Bloomberg News. After that, spending would remain greater than $9 billion a year before dropping to $8 billion in fiscal 2024.

“The current goal is to achieve an initial capability in the mid-2020s” for the new Long-Range Strike Bomber while also upgrading the B-2 stealth bomber made by Falls Church, Virginia-based Northrop and the older non-stealth B-1 and B-52, according to the plan that was submitted to Congress last month but had not previously been disclosed.

The new bomber is described by the Air Force as vital to reaching far-flung, heavily defended targets worldwide. The service has said it may buy as many as 100 of the new aircraft in a program that may top $55 billion, generating billions of dollars in revenue for the contractor chosen to build it.

Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed, the biggest U.S. government contractor, and Chicago-based Boeing, which is No. 2, said in October that they planned to bid on the project as a team. Northrop Grumman, which has the advantage of its experience on the B-2, hasn’t announced that it intends to bid.

The report does doesn’t incorporate the constraints of the automatic budget cuts called sequestration, which are scheduled to resume in fiscal 2016.


Transport, Reconnaissance

In addition to funding for bomber programs, the Pentagon report, “Annual Aviation Inventory and Funding Plan” for fiscal years 2015 to 2044, outlines long-range plans for fighters, drones and helicopters.

It anticipates continued purchases of Lockheed’s C-130J transport plane, buying 32 more by 2021 for use by special operations forces as AC-130 gunships.

In addition, the Marine Corps will continue to purchase the aircraft, the first version of which flew in 1955, made at Lockheed’s Marietta, Georgia, facility as an aerial tanker, “expanding its inventory of this aircraft, which has proven its combat effectiveness and reliability.”

Boeing’s P-8 Poseidon reconnaissance aircraft didn’t fare as well. The Pentagon said in the report that the Navy, “compelled by fiscal restraints,” has cut its planned inventory to 109 from 117.

The report also outlines steps the Navy is taking to make up for delaying the purchase of 33 F-35C aircraft from Lockheed beyond fiscal 2019 for budget reasons.


These include extending the service lives of 150 Boeing F/A-18A-D jets and accelerating the conversion of older F/A-18C models into the newer E/F jet.

The Navy also is undertaking a program to extend to 9,000 hours the current 6,000-flight-hour life of the E/F aircraft.


HASC Chair McKeon: Sorry, Mr. Smith, No BRAC

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on May 06, 2014 at 1:47 PM


HERITAGE FOUNDATION, DC: Hours after the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee put out legislative language to permit a Base Reduction and Closure round, the top Republican shot him down.

Rep. Adam Smith has warned his colleagues repeatedly that Congress must make “unimaginable” choices to cope with the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration. In particular, Smith says they must consider closing military bases using a new round of base closures (BRAC), a process that’s always politically painful and which many in Congress argue was discredited by the 2005 round, which they say cost more money than it saved. The administration asked for another BRAC in its 2015 budget submission, but Rep. Buck McKeon left it out of his version of the National Defense Authorization Act. Smith had filled his put-BRAC-back amendment with all sorts of caveats and restrictions, apparently hoping against hope to assuage his colleagues’ concerns, but McKeon isn’t having any of it.

“I understand Mr. Smith’s concern, and I applaud him for his courage but it’s not going to be in the defense bill this year for sure,” said House Armed Services chairman Buck McKeon when I raised the question at the Heritage Foundation today.

McKeon has pointed out all the “painful” choices he did make in his NDAA mark, especially retiring the vaunted A-10 “Warthog” ground attack aircraft — although his proposed legislation offers a compromise. It would require keeping the A-10s in “special storage,” ready to be quickly restored to fighting condition in case of a major crisis, which McKeon argues “could happen easily at a moment’s notice” given increasingly aggressive actions by Russia and China of late. “I want to make sure we can hold onto as many things as we can,” McKeon told me — and “things” includes bases.

In any case, McKeon said, the actual cost savings from a BRAC round are hard to count up and not to be counted on. “We always ask the DoD to give us information on savings from previous BRACs. The [only] information we’ve ever received is sketchy at best,” McKeon said. Closing bases always costs money up front, with the savings materializing years later: “It ends up costing money before your each any potential saving.”

Every accounting I’ve seen argues that the BRACs before the ill-fated 2005 round did save money over time — but the irony of the current budget crunch is we may not be able to afford the up-front investment to get long-term savings. And Congress is even more unlikely in an election year to do something that would cause pain up front.


US Space Defense Funding Drops From Previous Projections

May. 6, 2014 – 06:05PM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER |

WASHINGTON — Pentagon funding for space programs is projected to fall 37 percent over the next four years when compared to last year’s projected spending over the same time period.

The combination of fewer US satellite purchases — and thus fewer spacecraft launches — is the main driver for this shift, according to data provided from the Virginia-based analytical firm VisualDoD.

But the lower dollar amounts do not necessarily mean the US Defense Department is reducing its capabilities, experts say.

“Just the fact that we’re asking for less money doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re getting less than we did,” said Marco Cáceres, senior analyst and director of space studies for the Virginia-based Teal Group consulting firm. “In many cases, we may be getting more than in the past decade.”

During that decade, military requirements for immature technologies have contributed to cost overruns and schedule slippage on satellite programs, like the Transformational Satellite Communications System.

While federal budget pressure has contributed to less-than-plan­ned spending across many defense sectors — including space — existing satellite constellations are lasting longer than planned, thus delaying the immediate need for expensive replacements, experts say.

DoD also has been planning changes in the makeup of its satellites, putting more payloads on a single spacecraft, thus returning a bigger bang for the buck since multiple launches are no longer required.

“They’re trying to find ways to develop and build and operate their satellite systems a lot cheaper,” Cáceres said. “My sense is they’re going to save a lot of money there in terms of satellites.”

For fiscal 2014, the Pentagon projected spending $19.2 billion on space programs from fiscal 2015 to 2018. However, DoD’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal, sent to Congress in early March, paints a much different picture.

Now it is projecting spending $14 billion on space projects across that same period, according to the data.

“They just don’t have any huge new-generation satellite systems,” Cáceres said.

The US Air Force’s 2015 budget delays two planned purchases of Lockheed Martin GPS III satellites — one in 2015 and another in 2016 — and extends delivery of Space Based Space Surveillance follow-on spacecraft. In 2015, about two-thirds of DoD’s $3.2 billion space procurement budget request resides in Air Force coffers.

The Air Force also has negotiated savings in the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, according to service budget documents. And it is looking to leverage savings by contracting private companies for space launches as opposed to using the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed and Boeing.

While procurement in this sector is declining, spending on space-related research-and-development projects is up $1.5 billion, or 21 percent above levels projected a year ago, between 2015 and 2018, according to the VisualDoD data.

Other Trends

DoD projected spending on rotary aircraft programs is actually expecting a slight uptick between fiscal 2015 and 2016 before declining between 2016 and 2018. That decline, however, is less steep than projected one year ago.

In 2014, the Pentagon projected spending $25.3 billion on rotary-lift programs from 2015 to 2018. The 2015 projection jumps nearly $7 billion to $32.2 billion.


And those figures could jump even higher if Congress adds money for additional helicopters that DoD requested in the Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative, a White House-backed spending bill separate from the Pentagon’s budget request.

The initiative includes a $1.2 billion request for Boeing AH-64 Apache and H-47 Chinook and Sikorsky H-60 Black Hawk helicopters. The Navy also must decide whether to purchase 29 additional Sikorsky-Lockheed MH-60R submarine-hunting helicopters in 2016, which could add even more to planned helicopter spending.

In the short term, Apache procurement is expected to increase and is about $350 million greater than projections in 2014, according to VisualDoD data. Black Hawk production for the Army also climbs and the Air Force Combat Rescue Helicopter program is supposed to ramp up in the coming years.

Toward the end of the decade, the Navy is looking at replacing its Bell training helicopters with a new aircraft.

DoD’s planned spending on unmanned aircraft also is down more than 30 percent, or $1.2 billion from planned levels, as buys of current systems — such as the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper — are expected to shrink. Still, unmanned system procurement is expected to start growing again in 2017 and 2018.

The big wild card is that DoD’s five-year base budget projections in its fiscal 2015 spending proposal are $115 billion over federal spending caps, meaning procurement profiles could be significantly altered if caps remain.

In an April 24 note to investors, analyst Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners said speakers at a Bloomberg event were not optimistic that US defense spending would rise in the coming years.

Speakers said that after the mid-term elections, “the key ‘signal’ to watch indicating whether budget caps can be avoided in FY16 and beyond is how much pain is felt from cuts to non-defense discretionary programs,” Callan wrote.

The projections should be taken with a grain of salt, said Gordon Adams, a Stimson Center analyst who ran defense budgeting during the Clinton administration.

“This is budgeting, this is not planning,” Adams said. “What actually is going to happen to the market in the out years is probably better suggested at the top line [budget] level than at the programmatic level because they don’t know.”



USAF General: Partnerships, Proper Training Key for ISR Future

May. 6, 2014 – 11:57AM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


WASHINGTON — The future of ISR operations will increasingly rely on international participation, according to the head of the Air Force’s ISR Agency.

“How can we not be multinational in the future? We’re not going to fight alone again. I’m convinced of that,” Maj. Gen. Jack Shanahan said. “The momentum is building.”


Shanahan spoke Tuesday at the C4ISR and Networks Conference outside Washington, D.C. He spoke on how the international community could create a modern-day version of the “thousand-ship Navy” concept from the mid-2000s, which relied on the idea of drawing a number of international partners together and pooling resources.

“I haven’t heard that phrase in a long time, but if you think about a 1,000-RPA [remotely piloted aircraft] ISR environment, it’s how we put this all together and train together so we’re prepared to operate together,” Shanahan said.

“Most of these other countries have not invested the amount they would all, as militaries, have liked to invest in ISR. They see the importance of it,” he added, citing the UK, Australia, Japan, South Korea and Italy as partners all working with US forces on ISR issues. “And every place I have gone, there’s an excitement about how we work together on ISR.”

It’s not simply an issue of sharing hardware. As head of the service’s ISR Agency, Shanahan has put a priority on increasing the human intelligence capabilities of the Air Force, which he worries has atrophied due to the daily intelligence grind in Afghanistan and Iraq. Working with coalition partners would help bring another level of human intelligence to the scene, particularly as the US continues to shift its focus toward the Pacific.

“Who knows more about the [Pacific] theater than some of the partners we work with every single day?” Shanahan asked. “The culture, the capabilities of some of the other threats they’re facing — they have access we don’t have and probably vice versa.”

He acknowledged the challenge of sharing potentially classified information with partners, but indicated that the service is finding ways to work through that.

In order to make those partnerships work, the service needs to maintain its commitment to large-scale training exercises such as Red Flag.

“If we don’t train in the environment with our coalition and international partners, we’re not going to get it right on Day 1, Day 2 or Day 10. We have to train that way,” Shanahan said.

However, those exercises are often the first to fall when budgets tighten. The sequestration budget crunch of 2013 saw large-scale exercises around the globe severely curtailed or outright cut. Shanahan acknowledged that was a concern, and insisted it is an investment that has to be made to prepare for the ISR fight of the future.

“Sometimes those are the first to go. I think many times they should be the last to go. You fight like you train so you have to train like you plan to fight. If you don’t do that, you’re not going to succeed,” Shanahan said.

“What I hear from the leadership across our Air Force today is that’s not where they’re looking to make those cuts,” he added. “In the grand scheme of things, they’re expensive but they’re not enormously expensive. The return on investment, to me, makes up for whatever you pay to put those exercises together.”



How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare

Though some deride Russia for backward thinking, Putin’s strategy in Ukraine betrays a nuanced understanding of 21st century geopolitics.

BY Peter Pomerantsev

MAY 5, 2014


The Kremlin, according to Barack Obama, is stuck in the “old ways,” trapped in Cold War or even 19th century mindsets. But look closer at the Kremlin’s actions during the crisis in Ukraine and you begin to see a very 21st century mentality, manipulating transnational financial interconnections, spinning global media, and reconfiguring geo-political alliances. Could it be that the West is the one caught up in the “old ways,” while the Kremlin is the geopolitical avant-garde, informed by a dark, subversive reading of globalization?

The Kremlin’s approach might be called “non-linear war,” a term used in a short story written by one of Putin’s closest political advisors, Vladislav Surkov, which was published under his pseudonym, Nathan Dubovitsky, just a few days before the annexation of Crimea. Surkov is credited with inventing the system of “managed democracy” that has dominated Russia in the 21st century, and his new portfolio focuses on foreign policy. This time, he sets his new story in a dystopian future, after the “fifth world war.”

Surkov writes: “It was the first non-linear war. In the primitive wars of the 19th and 20th centuries it was common for just two sides to fight. Two countries, two blocks of allies. Now four coalitions collided. Not two against two, or three against one. All against all.”

This is a world where the old geo-political paradigms no longer hold. As the Kremlin faces down the West, it is indeed gambling that old alliances like the EU and NATO mean less in the 21st century than the new commercial ties it has established with nominally “Western” companies, such as BP, Exxon, Mercedes, and BASF. Meanwhile, many Western countries welcome corrupt financial flows from the post-Soviet space; it is part of their economic models, and not one many want disturbed. So far, the Kremlin’s gamble seems to be paying off, with financial considerations helping to curb sanctions. Part of the rationale for fast-tracking Russia’s inclusion into the global economy was that interconnection would be a check on aggression. But the Kremlin has figured out that this can be flipped:

Interconnection also means that Russia can get away with aggression.

“A few provinces would join one side,” Surkov continues, “a few others a different one. One town or generation or gender would join yet another. Then they could switch sides, sometimes mid-battle. Their aims were quite different. Most understood the war to be part of a process. Not necessarily its most important part.”

We can see a similar thinking informing the Kremlin as it toys with Eastern Ukraine, using indirect intervention through local gangs, with a thorough understanding of the interests of such local power brokers such as Donetsk billionaire Rinat Akhmetov (Ukraine’s richest man) or Mikhail Dobkin, the former head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration and now presidential candidate. Though these local magnates make occasional public pronouncements supporting Ukraine’s territorial integrity, their previous support of Yanukovych makes them wary of the new government in Kiev. Just the right degree of separatism could help guarantee their security while ensuring that their vast financial global interests are not harmed. “Think global, act local” is a favorite cliché of corporations — it could almost be the Kremlin’s motto in the Donbass.

And the Kremlin’s “non-linear” sensibility is evident as it manipulates Western media and policy discourse. If in the 20th century the Kremlin could only lobby through Soviet sympathizers on the left, it now uses a contradictory kaleidoscope of messages to build alliances with quite different groups. European right-nationalists such as Hungary’s Jobbik or France’s Front National are seduced by the anti-EU message; the far-left are brought in by tales of fighting U.S. hegemony; U.S. religious conservatives are convinced by the Kremlin’s stance against homosexuality. The result is an array of voices, all working away at Western audiences from different angles, producing a cumulative echo chamber of Kremlin support. Influencers often appear in Western media and policy circles without reference to their Kremlin connections: whether it’s PR company Ketchum placing pro-Kremlin op-eds in the Huffington Post; anti-Maidan articles by British historian John Laughland in the Spectator that make no mention of how the think tank he was director of was set up in association with Kremlin-allied figures; or media appearances by influential German political consultant Alexander Rahr that fail to note his paid position as an advisor for the German energy company Wintershall, a partner of Gazprom, Moscow’s massive natural gas company (Rahr denies a conflict of interest).

Combatting non-linear war requires non-linear measures. International networks of anti-corruption NGOs could help squeeze corrupt flows from Russia. At the moment, this sector is underdeveloped, underfunded, and poorly internationally coordinated: In the U.K., for example, NGOs such as Global Witness or Tax Justice rarely engage with Russian counterparts. Anti-corruption NGOs need to have the backing to put painful pressure on corrupt networks on a daily basis, naming and shaming corrupt networks and pressuring western governments to shut them down and enact their own money laundering laws. This would squeeze the Kremlin’s model even in the absence of further sanctions, ultimately playing a role as important as human rights organizations did in the 70s and 80s, when groups like Amnesty and the Helsinki Committee helped change the Cold War by supporting dissidents in the Communist block and shaming their governments.

Meanwhile capacity building is needed for both Ukraine and the West to deal with Kremlin disinformation and to formally track the role of Kremlin-connected influencers. So far, this work is happening ad-hoc as intrepid journalists reveal Kremlin lobbyists and triple-check leaks. To be effective, this work needs to be institutionalized, whether in think tanks or via public broadcasters such as Radio Free Europe, so every sound bite from a Kremlin-funded “expert” is properly contextualized, every Kremlin meme deconstructed, and every British peer on Russian state company boards held accountable for their connections. And this needs to happen in both Western countries and Russia’s “near abroad,” where the Kremlin projects its non-linear influence through a variety of institutions, from the Orthodox Church, to entertainment television and business groups. Georgia, Moldova, and Latvia are particularly vulnerable, and their security services need to be prepared for the sort of indirect intervention we are seeing in eastern Ukraine.

But aside from such concrete measures, it’s also important to appreciate that the Kremlin is throwing down the gauntlet to the Western-inspired vision of globalization, to the kitsch “global village” vision on the covers of World Bank annual reports and in Microsoft advertisements. It is better to understand the Kremlin’s view of globalization as “corporate reiding” (with an “e”), the ultra-violent, post-Soviet cousin of western corporate “raiders,” and the way many in Russia made and make their money. “Reiding” involves buying a minority share in a company, and then using any means at your disposal (false arrests, mafia threats, kidnapping, disinformation, blackmail) to acquire control. Russian elites sometimes refer to the country as a “minority shareholder in globalization,” which, given Russia’s experience with capitalism, implies it is the world’s great “corporate raider.” Non-linear war is the means through which a geo-political raider can leverage his relative weakness. And this vision appeals to a very broad constituency across the world, to those full of resentment for the West and infused by the sense that the “global village” model is a priori rigged. For all the talk of Russia’s isolation, the BRIC economies have actually been subdued in their criticism of the annexation of Crimea, with the Kremlin thanking both China and India for being understanding.

Perhaps, despite what Obama says, there is a battle of ideas going on. Not between communism and capitalism, or even conservatives and progressives, but between competing visions of globalization, between the “global village” — which feels at once nice, naff, and unreal — and “non-linear war.”

It is naïve to assume the West will win with this new battle with the same formula it used in the Cold War.

It is naïve to assume the West will win with this new battle with the same formula it used in the Cold War. Back then, the West united free market economics, popular culture, and democratic politics into one package: Parliaments, investment banks, and pop music fused to defeat the politburo, planned economics, and social realism. But the new Russia (and the new China) has torn that formula apart: Russian popular culture is Westernised, and people drive BMWs, play the stock market, and listen to Taylor Swift all while cheering anti-Western rhetoric and celebrating American downfall.

“The only things that interest me in the U.S. are Tupac Shakur, Allen Ginsberg, and Jackson Pollock,” said Surkov when he was one of the first Russian officials to be put on the U.S. sanctions list as “punishment” for Russia’s actions in Crimea. “I don’t need a visa to access their work. I lose nothing.”

We live in a truly non-linear age. And the future might just belong to the reiders.



China’s Underwater A2/AD Strategy

New research suggests China is deploying a fixed ocean-floor acoustic arrays system for anti-submarine warfare.

By Harry Kazianis for The Diplomat

May 06, 2014


It makes obvious sense that when studying any nation’s defensive doctrines or strategies you have to go to the source–to the native writings coming from leading scholars and researchers of that country. In the case of the People’s Republic of China, I would argue it is the only way to do it if you are looking to craft completely original research. Case in point: two prominent China scholars have uncovered a new twist in Beijing’s anti-access/area-denial strategy (A2/AD) that if fully deployed could have tremendous ramifications for U.S. defensive doctrine in the Asia-Pacific, the Air-Sea Battle concept, and beyond.

In last month’s issue of the United States Naval Institute’s Proceedings magazine, Lyle Goldstein and Shannon Knight explore recent Chinese writings that suggest Beijing “has deployed fixed ocean-floor acoustic arrays off its coasts, presumably with the intent to monitor foreign submarine activities in the near seas.” Citing works in Chinese journals such as Shandong Science, China Science Daily, Naval and Merchant Ships, two articles in Ship Electronic Engineering, and the widely respected Modern Ships seem to all but confirm China’s foray into this important area of military technology. As the authors note: “The sources presented here show beyond any reasonable doubt that China is hard at work deploying ocean-floor surveillance systems in its proximate waters.”

Goldstein and Knight should be praised for such a find–showing once again that mining native open-source texts can uncover a treasure trove of important scholarly and technical research. In these pages and in many others, it has been widely cited that China suffers from a lack of investment and know how in the important area of anti-submarine warfare and the technologies that power it. An investment in fixed acoustic arrays seems to be a big down payment on reversing such a glaring military weakness. The authors also point out such technology could help protect China’s budding efforts to deploy SSBNs.

I would highly encourage Flashpoints readers to analyze the full text as it is well researched and provides an important new piece of information regarding the ongoing development and evolution of Chinese A2/AD strategy and technology.

What matters, at least to me, is how this will impact American efforts to maintain access to strategically important areas along China’s coasts. If Beijing were to perfect such technology it could largely negate the military capabilities of America’s submarine forces, which in many respects are the foundation of the budding Air-Sea Battle operational concept. If China were able to field such a network–which according to the piece is setting up undersea-sensor test sites in the Yellow, East and South China Seas–then American subs could be pushed back beyond the range of such networks. This would impact the ability of American forces in a conflict to deliver kinetic strikes on the Chinese coast by way of Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAMs). Considering the investment Washington is making in new versions of nuclear attack submarines, specifically a new version of the Virginia Class that includes a new payload module to carry more TLAMs, Washington would be wise to consider how to respond to Beijing’s latest move. Considering that in the next few years China could also field Russia’s SU-35 fighter aircraft, S-400 air-defense system, possible 5th generation fighters, and other advanced military platforms, American strategists seem to have their hands full. It appears that China’s armed forces will continue their push towards a much more modern and robust military—as well as an ever-advancing A2/AD strategy.


Can NASA help keep the lights on?

Posted by Patrick Marshall on May 06, 2014

It’s one of those instances where the interests of science, business and the public all meet.  Researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center have been given access to Dominion Virginia Power transmission power lines in order to measure fluctuations in geomagnetically induced currents, or GICs.

Why is the power company interested?  Because GICs – which are generated when solar events send waves of charged particles toward Earth – can cause circuit overloads and, if the surge is enough, power outages. 

“That is pretty much the interest that the power-grid people have and obviously the public in general; we don’t like to have our power go out,” said NASA’s Todd Bonalsky, an engineer working on the project.  And what’s in it for NASA?  “For space weather scientists here, the power grid can offer us a very large antenna so we can indirectly measure space weather events in the upper atmosphere,” Bonalsky said.

And for the economy and the general public, the stakes are not small.  After a huge magnetic storm struck in Canada in March 1989, the U.S. Geological Survey estimated that if the storm had hit the northeastern United States, the economic cost would have been more than $10 billion, not counting the impact on emergency services and public safety. 

Since GICs reach the Earth one to three days after a coronal mass ejection on the sun, there is, in principle, time for power companies to take measures to protect against the coming power surges.  The problem, however, is predicting the location on Earth of strongest impact of an approaching GIC. 

“It’s a very complicated process where charged particles get trapped in our magnetosphere and are funneled around,” Bonalsky said.

“Magnetic field lines can stretch around either side of the planet and reconnect on the other side, and when they do they give off an extreme amount of energy as the lines reconnect and snap back to the poles of the earth.  Depending on the angle that they come in at, there are so many different variations of what can happen,” he said.

The goal of the Goddard GIC project is to better understand how those processes work.  The project, headed by heliophysicist Antti Pulkkinen,  is funded by NASA’s Center Innovation Fund and Goddard’s Internal Research and Development (IRAD) program. 

Pulkkinen’s team is creating three monitoring stations equipped with commercially available magnetometers.  Two of the magnetometers are buried four feet directly beneath power lines to measure the effect of GICs on the current.  The third magnetometer is being placed away from power lines and other conductors to serve as a reference control. 

According to Bonalsky, the data from the magnetometer is relayed to an iPad station, equipped with a solar panel for power, about 25 feet away.  “We do that for magnetic cleanliness reasons,” he explained.  “We’re looking at fields down to a few parts per million.”  Since there isn’t reliable wireless connectivity in the remote locations, data is transmitted via text messages over the cellular network.

The initial funding of the project is only for one year, and the impromptu antenna it is creating only covers a few kilometers.  But the team has hopes of expanding after the results from measurements made this summer prove their worth.

According to Bonalsky, a larger network of monitors will deliver better data. “The better the coverage, the more area we can see, the higher the resolution that we can get about what’s going on in the upper atmosphere,” he said. 

“The idea is to put as many of the stations all over as we can so that we can utilize essentially the entire grid.”



Pentagon Smartphone Plan Is Off to a Slow Start

By William Matthews

May 6, 2014


Three months after the Defense Department declared as operational its system for managing commercial off-the-shelf smartphones and tablets handling unclassified data, only about 2,000 devices are actually using the capability, the program’s manager said May 5. That’s a far cry from the 100,000 devices the Pentagon wants to have by the end of September.

“The world is passing us by,” said Gary Winkler, a former military technology chief. “Mobility is so critical and we just don’t seem to be going fast enough.” Winkler is a former program executive officer for Army Enterprise Information Systems.

The 2,000 devices now in use include many that have been transferred from an 18-month pilot of the mobility program, said John Hickey, mobility program manager at the Defense Information Systems Agency.

“Demand is not lacking,” Hickey said in an interview. But it is up to the military services and the combatant commands to set the pace for adopting mobile technology. “DISA’s role is to stand up the infrastructure and publish the security standards,” he said, noting that DISA has done that.

At the heart of the capability is a “mobile device management system” designed to keep Defense Department networks and information safe. The system sets and enforces policies for device use. For example, it can block the use of smartphone cameras in areas where photography is forbidden, Hickey said. And it can track devices through global positioning satellites and remotely turn them off if they enter places where they are forbidden for security reasons.

“That’s an advantage over laptops. Most laptops don’t have GPS,” Hickey said.

The management system also provides security functions such as malware detection, the ability to remotely delete data from misplaced or stolen phones and tablets, and the ability for managers to remotely reconfigure them.


With that infrastructure now in place, “the next phase is how do you move that forward into the tactical environment and the operational environment,” Hickey said during a conference sponsored by C4ISR & Networks in Alexandria, Va. “Partnering with the services and the combatant commands in that area, there’s still a lot of work to be done,” he said.

Tom Suder, president and founder of Mobilegov, a company that provides mobility solutions to government agencies, said DISA has done a good job. “We wish it was faster, but it’s a complex solution. They put it together and it works.”

The Defense Department contends that mobile devices are a “disruptive technology” that can provide U.S. military personnel with a significant advantage over adversaries by providing them with the information they need whenever and wherever they are and on whatever device they are using. But many critics have argued that U.S. adversaries, such as insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq, have relied on cellphones and other mobile gadgets to disrupt U.S. military operations for years.

The information military leaders want to be able to convey through its mobility program ranges from weapons repair instructions beamed to a deployed mechanic’s tablet to fresh battlefield intelligence sent to smartphone-wielding soldiers on patrol.

But the process of approving devices that the military is allowed to use and vetting applications to assure they are secure has proved enormously time consuming.

DISA has established an app store to provide approved software applications for mobile device users, but so far it offers only 16 apps, including the venerable Adobe Reader and Adobe’s 2008 Defense Connect Online, which enables Web conferences, virtual meetings and chat services.

“You will see in the future a lot more apps,” Hickey said. Indeed, thought is being given to turning “some of our Web services into mobile applications” so that they could “move forward to support tactical operations,” he said. That could make mobile devices much more useful “at the tactical edge.”

While the unclassified mobility capability is officially operational, problems remain to be solved. One is identification. Cumbersome common access cards have been ruled out as impractical for mobile devices in tactical settings, but workable alternatives are elusive. DISA and others are working to develop “derived credentials” that provide CAC-like authentication, but are stored inside the mobile device, Hickey said. But ensuring that they are foolproof is a problem.

Meanwhile, mobile device users have encountered more mundane challenges. Marines who tested mobile devices during exercises discovered that when devices were ruggedized to withstand battlefield abuse, they also became heavier and burdensome. Carrying batteries to last 96 hours or more also created weight problems, said Col. Matthew Seiber, director of command and control integration at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command.

The range of wireless routers “were much reduced in the tactical environment,” he said. And “moving seamlessly from one network to another was quite challenging.”

Here’s an unexpected glitch troops encountered operating at night: “If you’re in the dark — complete darkness — and you turn a tablet on, even at its lowest illumination, it’s pretty dang bright,” Seiber said. “These things are easy to fix, but until you experiment with them, you don’t realize” what the problems are going.



America’s Draconian Lightbulb Laws Are Fueling the Search for Bright New Ideas

By Nick Stockton


Back in 2012, the U.S. government started phasing out incandescent light bulbs, in an attempt to turn Americans on to energy-efficient alternatives. The reaction has mostly been underwhelming—incandescents still outsell more efficient alternatives like LEDs and compact fluorescents, and make up 65% of light bulb shipments, due to leftover inventory from before the bans, along with regulation-compliant halogens.

However, the New York Times reports that two companies are debuting new bulb technologies, hoping to cash in on the desire for the same warm glow as Edison’s big idea in a more environmentally palatable package—if not the relatively low price.

The first entrant is called Finally, as in: Finally, here’s an eco-friendly, somewhat cheap (8$) bulb that won’t make your room glow like a chain-store pharmacy. These bulbs pump a magnetic field through a tiny piece of solid mercury, which creates ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet light agitates a phosphor coating on the inside of the glass, emitting visible light.

Another technology called Vu1 creates light using technology similar to the cathode rays that used to power old TVs. It was supposed to debut three years ago, but has had some manufacturing issues. Vu1 has only designed flood-style bulbs for recessed fixtures so far. Each bulb costs $15, is mercury-free, and is supposed to have a warm light that’s similar to incandescent bulbs.

In the meantime, if you are an environmental scofflaw, you can get incandescent bulbs on the internet for a little more than a dollar apiece.



The Father of Wearable Computers Thinks Their Data Should Frighten You

By Rachel Feltman


May 6, 2014


We may not understand the full impact that wearable computers—fitness trackers like the Fitbit, and augmented-reality devices like Google Glass, for example—have on our privacy. In fact, one of the first computer scientists to work on wearable tech says we should be more wary.

Alex “Sandy” Pentland, director of the MIT Human Dynamics Lab, is an expert on the intersection of society and big data. Thanks to the revelations last year by Edward Snowden, many people now realize that their metadata (e.g., not the contents of your email, but the time and place you sent it from) is often up for grabs, regardless of how many privacy barriers they’ve put in place. But Pentland doesn’t think we’re scared enough.

“The thing is, I can read most of your life from your metadata,” Pentland told The Verge. “And what’s worse, I can read your metadata from the people you interact with. I don’t have to see you at all. People are upset about privacy, but in one sense they are insufficiently upset because they don’t really understand what’s at risk. They are only looking at the short term.” The possible scenarios, he said, are “downright scary.”

Indeed, data on where you are at specific times can be quite telling. A recent study led by Stanford University Ph.D candidate Jonathan Mayer found that even phone call metadata could establish that people were most likely buying guns, growing marijuana, suffering from certain health problems, or terminating pregnancies. It’s not difficult to imagine that real-time location data could do so as well.

But Pentland wants us to be afraid of data collection, not of wearables themselves. Wearables, he told The Verge, will also allow us to be more social and productive, and supplement our memories with easily accessible information. We need them—but we also need data privacy laws to evolve before the technology becomes ubiquitous. The solution, Pentland said, is to make individuals the masters of their own data. “That’s the most important thing,” he said. “Control of the data.” How to achieve it? He didn’t specify.


As Debate Goes On, the Military Prepares for Climate Change

Patrick Tucker \

May 7, 2014


The White House released its National Climate Assessment this week, a 1,100 page document by more than 300 experts examining the effects of man-made climate change on various aspects of American life. While 97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is occurring and that human factors are largely the cause, public debate persists around climate change, humanity’s role in it, and whether or not its effects will be as severe as the Obama administration and the scientific community are projecting.

But there’s little debate over climate change at the Pentagon, where the realities of temperature increases are now a part of everyday planning.

“We have to be concerned about all of the global impacts [of climate change], including here at home, where the Defense Department does have a mission in supporting civil authorities in the event of natural disasters. We have to be concerned about all of it,” Sharon Burke, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs told Defense One.

“We have to be pragmatic about it,” Burke said. “The question is, how is this changing facts on the ground? If we’re seeing salt water intrusion at an aquifer at a base in North Carolina, we have to deal with it.”

The report’s broadest points mirror those of the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: There will be a rise in global temperature that varies significantly depending on how much more CO2 is released into the atmosphere in the coming decades. Projections vary from a few degrees’ rise to more than 10 degrees by the year 2100. The hottest days of the year would be as much as 15 degrees hotter on average. Sea levels could rise by as much as four feet.








Not everyone agrees with the dire assessment. Paul Knappenberger and Patrick Michael of the CATO Institute were quick to dismiss the report as “biased towards pessimism.” “The report overly focuses on the supposed negative impacts from climate change while largely dismissing or ignoring the positives from climate change,” they said.

“I’m not seeing intransigence [on the issue] in the Pentagon,” retired Army Brig. Gen. John Adams told Defense One. Adams is an advisor to the Center for Climate Security, which looks at the intersection of climate change and national security. ‘The Pentagon is seeing this as a problem. Instability is accelerating. Climate change is an accelerator of instability. The Pentagon understands that. They’re looking at what sorts of force structures and equipment they’re going to need to have available to deal with increasing instability that will be most effected by climate change.”

Adams, who lives in Pensacola, Fla., spoke specifically about how climate change is influencing military decision-making near him. “We have major installations in this area. We predict the sea level will rise here. That means that Navy ship berths will have to change, because they’re not floating docks, they’re built into the land. And when the sea level rises above the point where it’s safe to berth a Navy ship, then you have to change the berthing structure … so climate change will have an effect on our basing structures.”

Climate change will also alter the way the military acquires equipment, Adams said. “If we’re going to find ourselves operating in littoral areas that are affected by climate change, where the instability will be most accelerated by climate change, we have to have the force structure to be able to operate.”

The White House report makes note of the changing arctic as a future destination for increased U.S. naval activity. “With sea ice receding in the Arctic as a result of rising temperatures, global shipping patterns are already changing and will continue to considerably in the decades to come.”

It’s also a concern that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterated in a major speech in Chicago on Tuesday. “The melting of gigantic ice caps presents possibilities for the opening of new sea lanes and the exploration for natural resources, energy, and commerce. The Defense Department is bolstering its engagement in the Arctic and looking at what capabilities we need to operate there in the future,” he said at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

Adams says “there will be new competitors for that route. The United States has a big role to play in any of the sea lanes.”

Climate change is already influencing the military mission, Burke said, as the U.S. builds up its military-to-military relationships around the world. “We had 14,000 people who deployed to support [relief] efforts for Hurricane Sandy. We also had a lot of people who deployed to support relief efforts for the typhoon in the Philippines. We’re already seeing increased demands on our time,” she said.

While the military faces the effects of climate change head on, it also contributes to the problem. In 2013, the Defense Department burned more than 12 million gallons of oil a day. But the department has also offered some potential solutions to military dependence on fossil fuels. The Office of Naval Research recently announced the successful creation of a synthetic fuel from seawater. But much of the innovation taking place to green the military is far more subtle. DOD plans to invest $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2015 on initiatives to improve energy efficiency and energy performance, Burke said.

Climate and weather has been part of the military conversation since the dawn of armies, but the current conversation between the Obama administration and the military is rooted in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, which observed: “DOD will need to adjust to the impacts of climate change on our facilities and military capabilities….While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. In addition, extreme weather events may lead to increased demands for defense support to civil authorities for humanitarian assistance or disaster response both within the United States and overseas.”

The next National Climate Assessment is due within four years and will look squarely at the national security implications of climate change. “Right now everyone is looking at health, environment, and economy and how those things fit together and those are really important. But we also feel it’s a good time to look specifically at security,” Burke said. “I do think there’s a dialogue between the scientists, engineers, and policymakers to have actionable information. That’s a conversation that needs to deepen.


Is America’s Air Force Dying?

Today’s U.S. Air Force is the smallest and oldest since its inception. Of its roughly 5,000 aircraft, the average age is 25.

Mackenzie Eaglen

May 7, 2014


America’s Air Force is quickly shrinking before the nation’s eyes. Optimistic aircraft-purchase quantities are unlikely to materialize in the near-term, and the service’s upcoming “bow wave” of aircraft buys will come at the worst possible time, in the early 2020’s, when all other federal spending will squeeze defense budgets further and faster.

All this in a period when the Air Force is the smallest and oldest since its inception in 1947. Of its roughly 5,000 aircraft, the average age is twenty-five years old.

Today’s Air Force is already struggling, and tomorrow’s is entirely at risk.

In light of the latest budget proposal, Congress must step back and look at the collective impact of recent capacity and capability cuts on purchases of aircraft in particular. They will find that not only is there virtually no slack left in America’s current Air Force to meet global peacetime and war plan demands, the historically most innovative service is now left to incrementally upgrade existing capabilities while abandoning transformational and leap-ahead investments.

Additionally, Congress must understand several trends underway in recent years that have it buying fewer and fewer planes, both in absolute and relative terms, while at the same time proposing hundreds for retirement.

Of the three military departments, the U.S. Air Force is buying the fewest total amount of new aircraft, purchasing the fewest types of aircraft, and retiring the most airplanes

Since defense budgets peaked in 2010, and continuing through the 2015 budget request, the U.S. Navy is on a path to have acquired 1,133 new aircraft while the Air Force will have bought 824. Of these planes, the Navy will acquire 264 fighters (including the EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft) to the Air Force’s 117.

Excluding Remotely Piloted Vehicles (RPVs)—or drones—the Navy is on a path to have purchased 1,039 new aircraft, and the Air Force just 400 airplanes between 2010 and 2015.

This shows just how much the Air Force aircraft replacement rate is slowing, which means the already smaller force is getting older, faster.

Granted, numerical comparisons alone only tell part of the story. The Air Force is all-in on the newest fifth-generation Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program, which costs more than any other platform, particularly in its early stages. And even when the JSF is in full production, the Air Force will not replace legacy fighters on a one-to-one basis given the extra capability that will come with investment in the F-35.

But policymakers cannot assume continued U.S. dominance of the skies—even with this investment in JSF. Air power allows leaders the ability to wage mobile and adaptive campaigns that maximize economy of force in wars based on attrition and occupation. But the Air Force has too many recent investments in limited “silver bullet” fleets that try to perform too many missions with only a few select aircraft. The bottom line is that numbers are down at the precise time when qualitative and quantitative advantages are critical for U.S. military forces as traditional margins of superiority erode or are at risk.

The Air Force’s investment in fifth-generation fighters is what, in part, allows the Navy to continue to buy new fourth-generation F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for its fleet. Purchases of more advanced fighters by the Air Force—complete with their stealthy signature and sophisticated sensors, which contribute technological and material prowess to the fight, especially in a conflict’s opening stages—fulfills a necessary role that allows other branches to carry out their missions in a lower-threat environment later.

Still, Congress has taken disproportionate care of the Navy’s investment in the Super Hornet purchases, including adding jets above budget requests and granting generous, multi-year procurement authorities, while showing far less support of the Air Force’s need for new bomber and fighter fleets that help the entire military gain global access and accomplish its objectives.

Navy investment in new fourth-generation fighters has also allowed that service to make plans much earlier than the U.S. Air Force for a so-called “sixth-generation” fighter or family of systems. The Navy’s thirty-year aviation plan in 2012 called for work to begin on a Next Generation Air Dominance Aircraft after 2019. The Air Force had no similar plans at the time. While there is a very small sum of money for capability beyond the F-22 in the President’s latest defense budget, this work should have begun much sooner and reflects the zero-sum nature of all financing decisions under the Air Force topline.

The lack of robust investment in large quantities of new airframes is even more worrisome when accounting for the proposed retirements of legacy Air Force aircraft. Compared to global demand, the Air Force’s supply is simply outmatched.

Excluding remotely-piloted aircraft, the Air Force has proposed divesting about 634 aircraft from 2010 through 2015—nearly 160 percent more aircraft than it bought over the same period. This harsh reality demonstrates the intense pressure on Air Force modernization accounts as the service struggles to allocate shrinking resources to buy newer and more expensive airframes.

Of those aircraft proposed for divestment, just under 400 were combat aircraft, including F-15s, A-10s, F-16s and B-1s. Even more are on the chopping block to be let go early if Congress cannot compromise with the Pentagon and agree to allow some fleets of aircraft to retire entirely.

But even if full sequestration does not continue throughout the decade, “sequestration-lite” is here to stay. Congressional and Pentagon leaders have a variety of tools at their disposal to help ease the budget crunch, including requests for additional funds, the war budget, reprogramming authorities and acquisition tools like block buys and multi-year contracts. Air Force leaders have done their part, and should be commended for carefully thinking through sequestration along with their robust outreach to the aerospace industry to help bring the costs of systems down while fielding capability much sooner. It’s time for Congress and this administration to do theirs.

All efforts, including more creative ones, will have to be employed to keep America’s Air Force dominant for the next fight. The Air Force needs to begin robust investment now for a new cargo aircraft, a sixth-generation fighter aircraft or family of systems, a new tanker, a trainer jet, a combat search and rescue helicopter, and recapitalization of select intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance fleets.

To maintain the same level of service to the nation as has come to be expected in recent decades, the Air Force needs an unwavering partner in Congress, the White House and, by extension, the American people.



New Sensor System Detects Early Signs Of Concussion In Real Time

May 2, 2014


Fayetteville, AR – Imagine a physician, sitting in a stadium press box, equipped with technology that makes it possible to continuously monitor each player’s physiological signs that indicate concussion.

Engineering researchers at the University of Arkansas have developed a wireless health-monitoring system that does exactly that. The system includes a dry, textile-based nanosensor and accompanying network that detects early signs of traumatic brain injury by continuously monitoring various brain and neural functions.

“Wearable nanosensor systems can detect the severity of head injury by quantifying force of impact, be it light or violent,” said Vijay Varadan, Distinguished Professor of electrical engineering. “In real time, our system continuously monitors neural activity and recognizes the signs and symptoms of traumatic brain injury, such as drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, sensitivity to light and anxiety.”

The system is a network of flexible sensors woven or printed into a skullcap worn under a helmet. The sensors are built with carbon nanotubes and two- and three-dimensional, textile nanostructures grown at the University of Arkansas. The system uses Zigbee/Bluetooth wireless telemetry to transmit data from the sensors to a receiver, which then transmits the data via a wireless network to a remote server or monitor, such as a computer or a smartphone. A more powerful wide-area wireless network would allow the system to detect large quantities of data taken continuously from each player on the field and transmit the data to multiple locations — a press box, ambulance and hospital, for example.

The sensors have considerable power and capability to monitor sensitive neural and physiological activity, Varadan said. Under stress due to impact, the sensor chips are sturdier than printed circuit-board chips and can withstand high temperatures and moisture.

The system includes a pressure-sensitive textile sensor embedded underneath the helmet’s outer shell. This sensor measures intensity, direction and location of impact force. The other sensors work as an integrated network within the skullcap. These include a printable and flexible gyroscope that measures rotational motion of the head and body balance and a printable and flexible 3-D accelerometer that measures lateral head motion and body balance.

The cap also includes a collection of textile-based, dry sensors that measure electrical activity in the brain, including signs that indicate the onset of mild traumatic brain injury. These sensors detect loss of consciousness, drowsiness, dizziness, fatigue, anxiety and sensitivity to light. Finally, the skullcap includes a sensor to detect pulse rate and blood oxygen level.

A modified sensor can evaluate damage to nerve tissue due to force impact. This sensor records electrical signals that work together to construct a spatiotemporal image of active regions of the brain. Varadan said these low-resolution images can substitute for conventional neuro-imaging technology, such as MRI and computerized tomography (CT scan).

Varadan and researchers in his laboratory have tested the system on a small scale for real-time application. The researchers plan to test the system during an actual game this fall.

Varadan and medical researchers previously developed a related, wireless health-monitoring system that snaps onto a sports bra or T-shirt. This system gathers critical patient information and communicates that information in real time to a physician, hospital or the patient. This technology is being developed commercially.

Varadan holds the College of Engineering’s Twenty-First Century Endowed Chair in Nano- and Bio-Technologies and Medical Technology. He is director of the National Science Foundation-funded Center for Wireless Nano-, Bio- and Info-Tech Sensors and Systems. Varadan is also a professor of neurosurgery in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.


Top-Performing Companies Study Sees Rocky Horizon

Troubling trends point to potential problems for industry players who otherwise appear to be firing on all cylinders

May 7, 2014

Anthony L. Velocci, Jr.

Aviation Week & Space Technology




At first glance, results of the 2013 Top-Performing Companies (TPC) study suggest that the aerospace/defense industry is prospering, and the outlook going forward looks equally auspicious—especially for U.S. companies.

Among the largest systems integrators, the scores on which rankings are based improved to their highest level since the TPC study was introduced in 1996—an indication that prime contractors generally have grown leaner, made huge strides in leveraging economies of scale and have become more disciplined in how they deploy capital. Among the 60 or so publicly traded companies in the global TPC universe, earnings—a key indicator—surged 9.6% last year.

Commercial aircraft manufacturers and their suppliers set new records not just for profits, but also for sales, backlog, production and revenues. Surging commercial aircraft demand more than offset a declining defense market. On the government contracting side, seven of the 10 largest companies with a concentration of defense-related revenues enjoyed flat-to-higher operating margins, reflecting increased operating efficiencies.

Among companies that generate revenues of more than $20 billion, Boeing improved its TPC score to 92, its second-best showing in the last 10 years, and it took top honors for the third consecutive year. Lockheed Martin and Honeywell rounded out the top three. Huntington Ingalls surged from eighth place last year to take the No. 1 position in the medium-size category, largely on the strength of a nearly 50% improvement in operating profit. In the small-size category, Exelis emerged as the top-ranked company on the basis of management’s effective realignment of the organization’s electronics-related businesses following the spin-off from ITT in 2011.

While the TPC results for the most recent fiscal year stir titillating comparisons between individual companies, it is performance-over-time that is the better gauge of operating competitiveness. Based on that measure, Lockheed Martin—the top-ranked large company for four years from 2007-10—came out on top.

To be sure, this is a series of positives for the industry as whole. Upon closer examination, however, this year’s TPC data also portend outsized challenges in the years ahead for both the commercial and defense sectors.

Strategically, the first troubling omen relates to research and development (R&D) spending. This is a cash-generating industry and, despite hefty profits, most large- and medium-size U.S. companies appear to be taking an overly risk-averse approach to how much of their own resources they allocate for R&D, as a percentage of revenue, in favor of more near-term value-creation activities. These include buybacks of shares, paying off pension obligations and reducing debt.

“Defense companies have been very cautious in how they run their businesses, with a sharp focus on cost-control measures, but it is time to start making some strategic decisions and to deploy capital,” says Tom Captain, vice chairman of Deloitte Consulting and a member of the TPC advisory team. “They are not going to grow by continuing down the same path.”

Boeing, which plowed about 3.5% of its revenues into independent R&D in 2013, repurchased at least $1.3 billion stock shares through February of this year—well ahead of 2013’s $700 million quarterly average. General Dynamics, which has nearly zero net debt and completed an accelerated $1.1-billion share buyback in late January, invested a scant 1% in IR&D last year.

United Technologies Corp. (UTC) appears to be the most committed large company when it comes to science and innovation; it funneled 4% of its revenue in 2013 to IR&D—which is consistent with the innovations it has introduced in recent years. In just the past seven years, UTC has risked, annually, nearly $2 billion of its own money on disruptive, potentially game-changing technologies. Out of this high-stakes strategy came the X-2 Technology Demonstrator, a next-generation rotorcraft, as well as the geared turbofan engine, for which Pratt & Whitney has at least 5,300 firm orders and commitments from airline customers.

Then there was UTC’s strategic $18.4 billion acquisition of Goodrich, which transformed the buyer—already a multi-industry company—into an aerospace super-supplier with greater marketing and negotiating clout globally. “With the Goodrich acquisition, UTC bucked the trend among the largest companies in recent years in terms of opting for capital investment, rather than returning the capital to shareholders,” says Thompson.

Airbus Group, formerly EADS, led European companies in IR&D investment, at 5.5%. No less noteworthy was Finmeccanica; although finishing last in the 2013 rankings, it was among the five largest spenders on IR&D.

For months, the Defense Department has been publicly exhorting U.S. companies to boost their investments in certain technologies that are critical to national defense and that also offer the greatest potential for future revenue growth. For its part, the Pentagon has allowed its investment in research, development, test and evaluation to shrink by about 28% since its peak in 2009. While no aerospace/defense company seems to have a firm grasp of what constitutes the right amount of IR&D for future generations of technology, the current unfavorable comparison with European companies could have implications for competitiveness in global markets in years to come.

“Defense contractors have been successful by focusing on the balance sheet and low-risk strategies at the expense of growth,” notes Steven Grundman, a member of the TPC advisory team and George Lund Fellow at the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based organization. “My question is whether they can ever be growth companies again without alienating their investors?”

Defense companies also have been focused on taking costs out of their operations as part of a broader initiative to reduce the price of the equipment they supply to government customers. No contractors dare risk back-sliding in such efforts, cautions TPC adviser Scott Thompson, a partner and U.S. A&D leader for PwC. “More can be done,” he says. “Defense companies thus far have done a good job of responding to [the Defense Department’s] affordability challenge, but expectations continue to rise.”

Another troubling sign is that half of the world’s 10 highest-ranked defense-oriented operating units saw defense-related revenues decline. Profit growth in the face of flat or declining revenue is all but unsustainable, and so the issue for prime contractors is where to find—or how to create—a new or improved engine for revenue growth. For the 10 largest companies in the TPC universe with a concentration of defense revenues, there was a 5.1% decline in operating profits due mainly to weak operating results from BAE and Finmeccanica.

Competition is intense between U.S. and European companies, with Russian and Chinese entities thrown into the mix, to expand revenue streams outside of their domestic markets. In the U.S., defense export authorizations continue to be a bright spot for U.S. companies—quadruple the amount generated a decade ago.

Overall though, Western defense contractors still need to be more than exporters; they must become far more international, says Michael Finley, A&D advisory principal at PwC and a member of the TPC advisory team. “Defense companies need to focus on developing affordable solutions for international customers, not just offer U.S.-made equipment for export that many countries simply cannot afford.”

Of the large pure-play defense contractors, Raytheon may be the best in class in growing its international business. Because of this, the companyhas the strategic advantage of a more diverse set of customers. Nearly 30% of Raytheon’s sales are from outside the U.S. Much of this success comes from “taking 80-percent solutions internationally and addressing lower price points in the marketplace, versus the more exquisite solutions it sells to U.S. government customers,” says Harlan Irvine, principal with Deloitte Consulting and a member of the TPC Council of Advisers.

Another potential source of revenue growth is identifying opportunities in technologically adjacent commercial markets. While the industry has a long history of miserable failure at such initiatives—mostly as a result of trying to build such businesses within government-compliance defense operations—there are success stories. One is Alliant TechSystems, with its ATK Sporting Group, a portfolio-based consumer-branded products company that produces and sells firearms and accessories for hunting, recreational shooting and other outdoor-activity markets. The company last week announced a merger between its Aerospace and Defense Groups and Orbital Sciences Corp., along with the spin-off of its Sporting Group as a stand-alone publicly traded company (see page 30). Alliant TechSystems was one of the most forward-looking defense contractors in terms of exploiting its core technologies to grow a commercial business.

An analysis of TPC results also reveals a disturbing dichotomy in operating profit growth, which was concentrated among the 25 largest companies. Smaller suppliers in aggregate showed a significant decline, but there were exceptions. Four of the industry’s top five “cash machines” were in the small-size category.

TransDigm Group had an industry-leading operating profit margin of 40%, followed by Precision Castparts, amedium-size company, at 27%; and Rockwell Collins and B/E Aerospace tied at 19%. Median TPC scores among smaller companies dropped 13%, and only nine of the 33 (27%) represented in this year’s study showed improvement.

The upshot is that some of the larger OEMs are squeezing suppliers’ profit margins by demanding price concessions, especially in the commercial sector. “They’re pushing a lot of pain down the supply chain, with the expectation that lower-tier players will figure out how to achieve higher operating efficiencies, and there are very few suppliers that can afford to say ‘no’ to large aircraft manufacturers,” says Jim Schwendinger, retired global leader of the A&D practice of Deloitte Consulting and a long-time TPC adviser. On the other hand, Schwendinger adds, “If the OEMs don’t put pressure on the supply chain, there is little incentive for suppliers to get better.”

Some parts of the supply chain already are struggling to keep up with record aircraft production rates. Whether smaller companies will be able to transition to OEMs’ more stringent risk-sharing business model will remain an open question for some time. Both sides will have to work more collaboratively than they are currently doing, says Schwendinger.

If nothing else, OEMs’ price-concession mandates in the pursuit of higher profit margins may increase the risk of program and supply-chain disruptions, says Captain. “It is one thing to demand more, but if the OEMs don’t offer help they could face even bigger problems in the future,” he says. “By squeezing small companies’ profits, OEMs will force them toward consolidation, because they need scale to meet OEMs’ expectations.”

As in nearly all previous annual TPC studies, in 2013 European OEMs tended to land in the bottom one-third of the rankings among large companies. Operating margins provided the most dramatic testimony to the difference in performance between the two groups of companies in 2012-13. U.S. contractors with annual revenues exceeding $5 billion increased to 11.1% from 10.3%, while they declined for European contractors, to 5.9% from 6.3%.

“One of the most striking features of the TPC analysis is where Europe ranks year-after-year,” says long time TPC adviser Antoine Gelain, A&D practice leader of Candesic, a London-based consulting firm. “They consistently underperform their American counterparts. Ten years ago, I said it was about scale. Five years ago, I said it was about political interference and inefficient legacy operations that made them hard to manage. I’ve run out of excuses.”

Airbus Group’s operating margins at the company level, although improving, were roughly half of Boeing’s (7.3% versus 3.9%). The large gap “brings into question the efficiency of the cost and asset base, as well as [new-aircraft] pricing behavior at Airbus [commercial], and the ability of the European A&D industry to rationalize assets and labor while the government tries to protect jobs,” observes Gelain.

The operating performance of Europe’s major defense contractors is much the same: weak and not very competitive, prompting Captain to wonder whether there is enough country-specific defense business to support the industrial base, and whether the defense sector finally is ripe for consolidation.

Gelain notes that Airbus Group announced significant layoffs and streamlining of its business portfolio in its defense and space operations at the end of 2013, but it likely will take two years to complete the process. “There is a pronounced lack of flexibility and maneuverability in how Airbus and other European companies are run, and it has a direct impact on their competitiveness,” he says. “They all are penalized by systemic costs specific to the European environment.”

The irony is that Europe’s large aerospace companies are far more aggressive in investing their own resources in new technology than are their U.S. counterparts. Europe spent $12.6 billion compared to the U.S. companies’ $10.5 billion. As a percentage of revenue, the European industry’s investment was about twice as much (6% versus 3%).

But IR&D does not necessarily translate into more innovative products or revolutionary technologies that will open new markets or displace entrenched competitors, as Finmeccanica’s executives can attest. And therein lies a critical difference. The fact that European companies continue to lag so far behind in overall competitiveness is as much about shortcomings in asset management, labor productivity, duplication of effort across geographies—and management vision—as it is about R&D investment per se.

Perhaps the most glaring outlier across the breadth of TPC results for 2013 is United Technologies Corp., which ranked ninth. As counterintuitive as this may seem, there is an explanation: Key operating and financial metrics used in the TPC methodology were skewed by the company’s

$18.4 billion acquisition of Goodrich in 2012. “UTC gets high marks for making such a strategic investment instead of giving the money back to shareholders,” says TPC project team adviser John Stack, managing director and aerospace leader at The McLean Group.

Were it not for the distortion in metrics caused by the huge goodwill UTC took on with the Goodrich acquisition, the company would have ranked much higher in its category. As it is, UTC increased revenue by 8.5% last year, the second-best in its peer group, and it improved operating profit by more than 14%, the fourth-highest rate of change in its peer group. In addition, UTC generated operating margins of 13%, up 14% in dollar terms over the prior year. “This is an extremely well-managed company,” says Thompson.

Rockwell Collins’s weak showing in the 2013 rankings was affected in much the same way due to its $1.4 billion strategic acquisition of Arinc, which loaded the company’s balance sheet with a large amount of goodwill at the end of the year. Both companies have a lot of unfinished integration tasks, and the cash flows that are being generated are still insufficient to cover all of the additional goodwill that came with the acquisitions.

Rockwell consistently has achieved some of the highest scores across all TPC’s metrics year-after-year, reinforcing the truism that performance over time—not single-year spikes or dips—is the most valid measure of competitiveness.

The industry’s defense and commercial sectors are on a solid financial footing for now. But just as the two are succeeding for different reasons, they also face their own sets of challenges. On the commercial side, creeping complacency, program execution and supply chain management could act as spoilers. On the defense side, “whitewater rafting while the water level is dropping comes to mind,” says Schwendinger.

“It is a time of opportunity, but only for those companies who demonstrate vision and leadership,” he says.

Anthony L. Velocci, Jr., was editor-in-chief of Aviation Week & Space Technology from 2003-12.



The Next Step Toward Autopilot in Combat

Patrick Tucker

April 23, 2014


Flying military combat aircraft requires an exceptional amount of decision making in a very short window with lots of distractions. Now, the Defense Department wants the defense industry to build them much better autopilot.

The Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency, or DARPA, announced a new program to build an automatic pilot kit to install into military planes. The kit, called the Aircrew Labor In-Cockpit Automation System, or ALIAS, would be “rapidly adaptable” for a variety of aircraft and would take on many of the tasks normally associated with piloting military jets.

One of the chief objectives of the program, according to a DARPA release, is to “reduce pilot workload,” which refers to the huge number of decisions pilots have to make when operating aircraft. “We have autopilot for standard stuff, the question is how do you extend those technologies for more complicated missions,” said Mary Cummings, Duke University professor and former Navy fighter pilot.

“There’s lots of, ‘How do you change load outs inside of the aircraft in case you’re carrying something and you want to switch which weapons? Even what mode, whether you’re in fight or attack mode,” said Cummings, who flew F/A-18 Hornets. Pilot workload is a specialized name that afflicts everyone, decision fatigue. Every decision that a person has to make has a cost in terms of mental resources. The more decisions that a person must make in a short time period, the more likely that the decision won’t be quite right. It’s part of the reason human self-control is limited after stressful interactions. That’s where the ALIAS program comes in.

Pilot workload is part of the reason that 80 percent of commercial aircraft accidents are caused by human error, as opposed to mechanical glitches, according to Boeing. For a pilot, decision fatigue can influence her ability to focus and fixate on a goal. It can manipulate a pilot’s understanding of where she is (situational awareness), alter perceptions of risk and add to distraction. High workload can even affect physical changes such as pupil diameter, respiration and even heart rate according to one study at Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s School of Aeronautics and Astronautics. In some flight situations, the workload is split among two or more crew members, which can contribute to staff costs.

Neurological limitations are one reason why machines might, at times, be better pilots than humans. “You don’t want to take away the complex decisions so much as the complex maneuvering that goes along with the decisions,” Cummings said. “For example, it would be better if a computer could take over during air combat maneuvering because a computer can probably fly closer to exact limits than a human can. A computer could sense better that a human is about to pass out than a human can.”

Too much automatic pilot technology in the cockpit can also make flying far more dangerous, according to experts. That’s why getting pilots and automatic flight systems to communicate effectively remains so difficult. Barbara Burian, senior research associate at NASA’s Ames Research Center, has shown that “the presence of advanced technology in the cockpit does not necessarily eliminate high workload events during a flight.” When poorly designed, autopilot tools are more likely to add to pilot workload than decrease it, Burian’s research shows.


Autopilots also can create new dangers if the system has the authority to make too many decisions, as evidenced by Air Transat Flight 236 in 2001. That plane’s automatic fuel system relayed a very subtle message to the pilots that it’s diverting fuel, but did not explain why. Fuel continued to be diverted to a leaky engine, causing a total power failure mid-air. The pilot glided the plane to an emergency landing with no fuel.

“The fuel leak that was unrecognized early on was aggravated by the fact that the fuel management system was pulling good, usable fuel from the tanks that weren’t leaking and shoving it into the tank that was,” Ohio State University Aviation researcher Shawn Pruchnicki told Defense One. He calls it a “classic example” of how hard it is to design an automatic system that reduces workload but still communicates effectively without “bugging” the pilot.

“It’s really difficult to establish that balance between more autonomy and less. Where do you put the human in the loop? That’s something that we’re struggling with in terms of the newer [autopilot] designs,” Pruchnicki said. “We’ve created automated systems that are powerful, strong and silent. And they’ve played a role in accidents where the crews have not been aware of what the automated system is doing.”

Is the ALIAS kit just an intermediate step to a fully automated Air Force? Cummings says yes. We may live in the age of high-performance unmanned vehicles, but the military aircraft under the decks of aircraft carriers need pilots. “The kit that they want to build would be adaptable across systems. It’s to fill the gap,” she said.

“What they’re effectively doing is building the kit for the F-35,” which Cummings calls a “ridiculously expensive, very marginally capable” airplane. “What are we going to do with all of those in the future? We might be able to make them more useful by turning them into partially piloted vehicles.


Highway Funding Faces Bumpy Road

Government Warns It May Have to Delay Some Programs This Summer

By Kristina Peterson

May 8, 2014 7:22 p.m. ET


WASHINGTON—There are 1,001,874 miles of roads in the U.S. that receive some federal aid and nearly as many ideas in Congress on how to pay for them.

With money running low in the Highway Trust Fund, the main source of federal cash to build and maintain roads and transit systems, the Transportation Department has indicated it may need to delay reimbursing states for construction costs starting this summer unless Congress moves to replenish the account. While lawmakers almost universally agree the federal government should play a role in keeping the highway system funded, there is no consensus on how to do that.

“That’s the million-dollar question,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold (R., Texas), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, one of a slew of panels in Congress involved in reauthorizing the highway bill that expires at the end of September. “This is something you can get bipartisan agreement on: that we need infrastructure. The trick is finding the money.”

In the absence of congressional action, the balance in the trust fund’s highway account will fall to $2 billion by Sept. 30, and its mass-transit account to only $1 billion, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. That would force the Transportation Department to start delaying payments to states as soon as August to keep the accounts’ balances above zero, as required by law.

That could prompt states to delay or halt projects already under way, costing up to 700,000 jobs immediately, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told a Senate panel this week.

Lawmakers face no shortage of suggestions for where to find the $18 billion the CBO estimates is needed to maintain current funding through fiscal year 2015, or the roughly $100 billion needed to fund a traditional six-year bill.

But many of the options face significant resistance, diminishing lawmakers’ chances of passing any long-term legislation before this fall’s elections.

“I think we’re going to kick the can down the road until the next session of Congress,” said Sen. Johnny Isakson (R., Ga.), who said he would prefer a multiyear agreement.

Currently, most of the trust fund’s revenue comes from the 18.4-cents-per- gallon tax on gasoline and the 24.4-cents-per-gallon tax on diesel fuel. While those levels haven’t been raised since 1993, many House Republicans have said they don’t want to increase the taxes.

Some have suggested finding new ways to tax the overseas earnings of U.S. multinational companies as one alternative, but influential Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, say that should be considered only as part of a broader tax overhaul.

In 2012, lawmakers helped pay for the most recent, two-year highway bill through a mechanism known as “pension smoothing,” which raises revenue by allowing employers to postpone contributions to employee pension plans. Since such contributions are tax-deductible, postponing them raises employers’ taxable income and boosts federal tax receipts.


The Senate approved extending that pension provision to pay for restoring emergency jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed in legislation passed last month, but the House has shown little interest in considering the bill.

Other options under discussion include establishing more tolls, imposing mileage-based taxes and issuing different kinds of tax-preferred government bonds. Lawmakers also have mentioned establishing a federal infrastructure bank, encouraging public-private partnerships and replacing the gas tax at the pump with a tax at the wholesale level.

When lawmakers couldn’t agree on a new source of revenue in the past they have tapped the Treasury’s general fund, transferring $54 billion to the highway trust fund since 2008.

Agreeing on the policy components of the highway bill appears to pose fewer challenges than the funding side.

On Thursday, Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) announced an agreement on a six-year bill funding the highway program at current levels, adjusted for inflation, with three other members of the panel: Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.) and GOP Sens. David Vitter of Louisiana and John Barrasso of Wyoming.

“States, cities and businesses involved in transportation need the certainty from a long-term bill. A short-term patch is not sufficient,” Ms. Boxer said earlier this week.

Her bill doesn’t address funding, which is the domain of the Finance Committee in the Senate.

Even House Republicans who favor shrinking the size of government agree federal funds should play a role in supporting the nation’s infrastructure.

“I’ve said all along: collect my taxes, defend the borders and help me with infrastructure and then get out of the way,” said Rep. Roger Williams, a conservative Texas Republican and car dealer on the House transportation panel. “So I think there’s a role for the federal government.”

Last week, the Transportation Department proposed a four-year plan that would spend $302 billion on highways and transit, drawing on revenue generated by changes to the business tax code.


Unmanned Vehicle University Receives Approval from the Veterans Administration

by Press • 9 May 2014

Unmanned Vehicle University received approval from the Veterans Administration to educate veterans on the use of UAVs as part of their Educational Benefits.


Unmanned Vehicle University (UVU) is the World’s first school to be licensed to grant Doctorate and Masters Degrees in Unmanned Systems Engineering. UVU also offers a Certificate in UAS Project Management.

The online University’s primary focus is on education and training for Unmanned Air, Ground, Sea and Space Systems. Most of the faculty at the school have PhDs in engineering and combined experience of over 500 years. “This is an excellent path for veterans to transition from the military to a carrer in commercial unmanned systems, says UVU President Dr Jerry LeMieux, who is a Retired Colonel in the Air Force, a Top Gun and former engineering professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This simply means that the government will pay tuition for eligible veterans.”

Unmanned Vehicle University’s UAV instructor pilots have combined experience of over 60,000 hours in Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk, Hermes, Heron, Aerostar and many small UAVs. UVU is located in the heart of downtown Phoenix.

Military Veterans can get the process started by obtaining a certificate of eleigibility at the VA Benefits website: Veterans can also call UVU’s corporate office at 602-759-7372 or visit them online at for more information and available courses.



United Kingdom CAA:- Small Unmanned Aircraft Operations Within London and Other Towns and Cities

by Gary Mortimer • 8 May 2014


The devil as they say is in the detail, UK operators should make themselves familiar with the latest information notice from the CAA.


1 Introduction

1.1 The purpose of this Information Notice is to provide guidance to operators of Small Unmanned Aircraft (SUA) and Small Unmanned Surveillance Aircraft (SUSA) who wish to operate within congested areas in relation to towns and cities. The latest generation of commercially-available SUA have very advanced capabilities in relation to their size and cost; this has led to a surge in their utilisation for a wide range cinematographic and survey tasks and an increasing demand for their employment in urban areas. Operations in urban areas require an additional understanding of the complexities of the environment and of the safety and operational limitations that are suitable for London and other towns and cities.

1.2 In addition to the general guidance on areas of operation in this Information Notice, additional specific airspace guidance for operators wishing to undertake aerial work and surveillance (filming and photographic) operations within London is given in paragraph 5. Most of the principles and procedures described will also apply to other large towns and cities within the UK. London has been featured due to its combined characteristics of population density, commercial air traffic volumes, large blocks of controlled airspace down to the surface, two major airports, a low-level helicopter route system, a central licensed heliport and several specialised restricted areas.

1.3 All reference to SUA and SUSA in this Information Notice should be interpreted to apply to other aircraft of the same category but that may be known by an alternative name such as ‘Drone’, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS), Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPV), Remotely Piloted Aircraft System (RPAS) etc.

1.4 This Information Notice covers the use of SUA by civil operators and does not include military systems. Comprehensive guidance on Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) operations in UK airspace can be found in CAP 722.


2 Definitions

2.1 ‘SUA’ means any unmanned aircraft, other than a balloon or a kite, having a mass of not more than 20 kg without its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight. The majority of such SUA are of the electrically-powered ‘multi-rotor’ type whose typical flight endurance with a payload is in the order of 6-15 minutes.

2.2 ‘SUSA’ means a SUA which is equipped to undertake any form of surveillance or data acquisition.


2.3 A ‘Congested Area’ is defined in Article 255 of the Air Navigation Order (ANO) 2009. The definition states that a ‘Congested Area’ means any area in relation to a city, town or settlement which is substantially used for residential, industrial, commercial or recreational purposes. Operations of SUA within congested areas may be permitted in specific circumstances as described in the remainder of this Information Notice.


4 General Operational Considerations

4.1 Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS)

4.1.1 Unless an exemption has been given by the CAA, SUA may not be operated beyond the direct, unaided VLOS of the operator. The standard CAA permission for aerial work limits the SUA/SUSA VLOS to a height not exceeding 400 feet above ground level and a distance not beyond the visual range of the operator, or a maximum distance of 500 metres.

7 Regulatory Enforcement

7.1 The CAA takes breaches of aviation seriously and will seek to prosecute in cases where dangerous and illegal flying has taken place. The first such prosecution in the UK took place in April 2014 when an individual was convicted of two offences including flying a small unmanned surveillance aircraft within 50 metres of a structure (bridge with traffic) (Article 167 of the Air Navigation Order 2009). The individual was fined £800 at a District Magistrate Court, plus costs of £3,500.

7.2 This conviction followed the case of a photographer accepting a caution for using a SUA for commercial gain without permission. The photographer had sold footage from his quadcopter to media organisations. More information on the regulation of SUA, including a list of operators with permission to fly SUA for commercial use, is available at

Read the full document


How can the FCC preserve an open Internet while gutting Net neutrality?

Chairman Tom Wheeler thinks fast-lane arrangements are not antithetical to an open Internet, but VCs and Internet giants disagree

By Caroline Craig | InfoWorld

MAY 09, 2014


The FCC’s meeting on proposed Net neutrality rules promises to be a display of contortionism worthy of Cirque du Soleil. Chairman Tom Wheeler apparently sees no contradiction between permitting pay-for-priority agreements while purportedly defending an open Internet, but the country’s venture capitalists — not to mention more than 100 online companies including Google, Amazon, and Facebook — beg to differ.

So does one of Wheeler’s own commissioners, who on Thursday called for a delay of the scheduled May 15 vote. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said she has “real concerns” about Wheeler’s proposal, which “has unleashed a torrent of public response” and needs time for further input.

The FCC’s expected Net neutrality ruling is already scaring venture capital firms away from media-heavy startups. They fear that if the FCC allows ISPs to charge extra fees to content providers, it will increase operational costs and make it more difficult for startups to operate on small budgets. Brad Burnham, managing partner at venture capital firm Union Square Ventures, told MIT’s Technology Review that it “is absolutely part of our calculus now” that if deep-pocketed companies can pay for a faster, more reliable service, startups face a huge disadvantage.

Absent clear rules, some ISPs are testing the waters and negotiating access fees. Netflix recently agreed to pay Comcast to ensure a high quality of service, but Netflix CEO Reed Hastings then argued in a blog post the need for a strict form of Net neutrality with no such fast lanes.

“Consumers who [already] pay a lot of money for high-speed Internet” shouldn’t have to suffer “high buffering rates, long wait times and poor video quality,” he wrote, adding:

If this kind of leverage is effective against Netflix, which is pretty large, imagine the plight of smaller services today and in the future….Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service.

Meanwhile, in a joint letter this week to the FCC, Google, Amazon, and other online giants warned of “grave consequences” if the agency fails to protect the openness of the Internet, and they urged the FCC to protect Internet users against all “blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization.” Unconvinced by former cable industry lobbyist Wheeler’s assurances that the agency will look at traffic-management practices on a case-by-case basis, they wrote: “This commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets.”

The issue of an open Internet resonates deeply; tens of thousands of people have sent comments to the FCC’s open Internet inbox, and Senator Al Franken calls it “the free speech issue of our time.” InfoWorld’s Paul Venezia insists the very fate of a free society rests on enshrining the open Internet.

We have enjoyed an open Internet since its creation, but Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon, and AT&T want a closed Internet…. They want to get paid coming and going, by both content producers and content consumers, funneling all of that traffic through circuits paid for in large part by the very taxpayers who are also their customers. This isn’t business, this is just bald-faced extortion and double-dealing.

InfoWorld’s Andrew C. Oliver points to the regulation of railroads in the last century and argues for similarly designating ISPs as common carriers:

Net neutrality simply means that if you set up a website or online service, a Time Warner or a Comcast can’t charge you extra to deliver that content to consumers or businesses connecting via their service, nor can they favor someone else’s content over yours when it comes to things like delivery speed. This equitable approach has deep roots in U.S. history, going back to the early regulation of the railroads. Back then, legendary mogul John D. Rockefeller negotiated a deal with the railroads to set high rates on shipping barrels of oil but to get “rebates” whenever his own companies shipped it. The feds decided that such arrangements were illegal because the railroads were “common carriers.”

However, big telecom has lobbied hard — and successfully so far — not to be treated as common carriers. So Mozilla this week came out with its own version of Net neutrality rules that proposes the FCC treat only some portions of broadband networks as common-carrier services. In a blog post, Mozilla Senior Policy Engineer Chris Riley suggests the FCC create separate rules for how ISPs manage traffic for end users and websites and for Web-based service providers, such as Dropbox. Mozilla’s proposal, which Riley says is “grounded in a modern understanding of technology and markets,” would keep broadband providers’ relationship with customers as lightly regulated as it is today and might be more politically feasible since it doesn’t require any changing of the current law and precedents that are out there.

The FCC is scheduled to hold an open commission meeting on May 15 to discuss its proposed rules for the Internet. There’s still time to tell the FCC and your representatives in Washington to regulate the Internet service providers as common carriers. As Oliver wrote, “[E]nd the charade that is [the FCC’s] ‘trust us, we’ll monitor for bad behavior’ current proposal.”


Obama to Give Push on Climate


MAY 8, 2014


WASHINGTON — President Obama will announce on Friday a handful of executive actions and private and nonprofit groups’ investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

The initiatives will not amount to much in terms of energy policy or their impact on global warming. But they are part of a broader campaign to build public support for an Environmental Protection Agency rule that the White House will unveil in June. The rule, which has already run into objections, will limit carbon pollution from coal-fired power plants and is expected to create a major new market for zero-carbon energy from sources like wind and solar.

Mr. Obama will make his announcement in a speech at a Walmart in Mountain View, Calif., where he will talk up the benefits of solar power and energy efficiency. The speech will come at the end of a presidential fund-raising trip to Silicon Valley.

The president chose Walmart to make a point: The corporation gets about 25 percent of its electricity from solar power. In the United States over all, only about 2 percent of power comes from solar sources.

A sweeping National Climate Assessment report that was released this week lays out the impact of climate change across the United States, like increased flooding in Miami and devastating drought in Arizona.

There is no chance that a major climate change bill will be passed by the deadlocked Congress. But Mr. Obama continues to announce small-scale actions. On Friday, they will include new energy conservation standards for devices like conveyor belts and escalators and one for walk-in coolers and a program to replace outdoor public lighting with energy-efficient alternatives in five cities. He will also set a goal to save $2 billion in three years by increasing energy efficiency in federal buildings, and he will promote an Energy Department program to provide solar industry training at community colleges.

The White House estimates that together, the executive actions will spur private companies to invest an additional $2 billion in energy efficiency, and will cut carbon pollution by more than 380 million metric tons — the equivalent of taking 80 million cars off the road for one year.

The White House will also announce that several housing developments will voluntarily increase their use of solar power.



Every Country Will Have Armed Drones Within Ten Years

Patrick Tucker

May 6, 2014


Virtually every country on Earth will be able to build or acquire drones capable of firing missiles within the next ten years. Armed aerial drones will be used for targeted killings, terrorism and the government suppression of civil unrest. What’s worse, say experts, it’s too late for the United States to do anything about it.

After the past decade’s explosive growth, it may seem that the U.S. is the only country with missile-carrying drones. In fact, the U.S. is losing interest in further developing armed drone technology. The military plans to spend $2.4 billion on unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, in 2015. That’s down considerably from the $5.7 billion that the military requested in the 2013 budget. Other countries, conversely, have shown growing interest in making unmanned robot technology as deadly as possible. Only a handful of countries have armed flying drones today, including the U.S., United Kingdom, Israel, China and (possibly) Iran, Pakistan and Russia. Other countries want them, including South Africa and India. So far, 23 countries have developed or are developing armed drones, according to a recent report from the RAND organization. It’s only a matter of time before the lethal technology spreads, several experts say.

“Once countries like China start exporting these, they’re going to be everywhere really quickly. Within the next 10 years, every country will have these,” Noel Sharkey, a robotics and artificial intelligence professor from the University of Sheffield, told Defense One. “There’s nothing illegal about these unless you use them to attack other countries. Anything you can [legally] do with a fighter jet, you can do with a drone.”

Sam Brannen, who analyzes drones as a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ International Security Program, agreed with the timeline with some caveats. Within five years, he said, every country could have access to the equivalent of an armed UAV, like General Atomics’ Predator, which fires Hellfire missiles. He suggested five to 10 years as a more appropriate date for the global spread of heavier, longer range “hunter-killer” aircraft, like the MQ-9 Reaper. “It’s fair to say that the U.S. is leading now in the state of the art on the high end [UAVs]” such as the RQ-170.

“Any country that has weaponized any aircraft will be able to weaponize a UAV,” said Mary Cummings, Duke University professor and former Navy fighter pilot, in a note of cautious agreement. “While I agree that within 10 years weaponized drones could be part of the inventory of most countries, I think it is premature to say that they will…. Such endeavors are expensive [and] require larger UAVs with the payload and range capable of carrying the additional weight, which means they require substantial sophistication in terms of the ground control station.”

Not every country needs to develop an armed UAV program to acquire weaponized drones within a decade. China recently announced that it would be exporting to Saudi Arabia its Wing Loong, a Predator knock-off, a development that heralds the further roboticization of conflict in the Middle East, according to Peter Singer, Brookings fellow and author of Wired For War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century. “You could soon have U.S. and Chinese made drones striking in the same region,” he noted.


Singer cautions that while the U.S. may be trying to wean itself off of armed UAV technology, many more countries are quickly becoming hooked. “What was once viewed as science fiction, and abnormal, is now normal… Nations in NATO that said they would never buy drones, and then said they would never use armed drones, are now saying, ‘Actually, we’re going to buy them.’ We’ve seen the U.K., France, and Italy go down that pathway. The other NATO states are right behind,” Singer told Defense One.

Virtually any country, organization or individual could employ low-tech tactics to “weaponize” drones right now. “Not everything is going to be Predator class,” said Singer. “You’ve got a fuzzy line between cruise missiles and drones moving forward. There will be high-end expensive ones and low-end cheaper ones.” The recent use of drone surveillance and even the reported deployment of booby-trapped drones by Hezbollah, Singer said, are examples of do-it-yourself killer UAVs that will permeate the skies in the decade ahead – though more likely in the skies local to their host nation and not over American cities. “Not every nation is going to be able to carry out global strikes,” he said.


Weaponized Drones Are Inevitable: Embrace it

So, what option does that leave U.S. policy makers wanting to govern the spread of this technology? Virtually none, say experts. “You’re too late,” said Sharkey, matter-of-factly.

Other experts suggest that its time the U.S. embrace the inevitable and put weaponized drone technology into the hands of additional allies. The U.S. has been relatively constrained in its willingness to sell armed drones, exporting weaponized UAV technology only to the United Kingdom, according to a recent white paper, by Brannen for CSIS. In July 2013, Congress approved the sale of up to 16 MQ-9 Reaper UAVs to France, but these would be unarmed.

“If France had possessed and used armed UAVs…when it intervened in Mali to fight the jihadist insurgency Ansar Dine – or if the United States had operated them in support or otherwise passed on its capabilities – France would have been helped considerably. Ansar Dine has no air defenses to counter such a UAV threat,” note the authors of the RAND report.

In his paper, Brennan makes the same point more forcefully. “In the midst of this growing global interest, the United States has chosen to indefinitely put on hold sales of its most capable [unmanned aerial system] to many of its allies and partners, which has led these countries to seek other suppliers or to begin efforts to indigenously produce the systems,” he writes. “Continued indecision by the United States regarding export of this technology will not prevent the spread of these systems.”

The Missile Technology Control Regime, or MTCR, is probably the most important piece of international policy that limits the exchange of drones and is a big reason why more countries don’t have weaponized drone technology. But China never signed onto it. The best way to insure that U.S. armed drones and those of our allies can operate together is to reconsider the way MTCR should apply to drones, Brannen writes.

“U.S. export is unlikely to undermine the MTCR, which faces a larger set of challenges in preventing the proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles, as well as addressing more problematic [unmanned]-cruise missile hybrids such as so-called loitering munitions (e.g., the Israeli-made Harop),” he writes.


Weaponized, Yes. Weaponized And Autonomous? Maybe.

The biggest technology challenge in drone development also promises the biggest reward in terms cost savings and functionally: full autonomy. The military is interested in drones that can do more taking off, landing and shooting on their own. UAVs have limited ability to guide themselves and the development of fully autonomous drones is years away. But some recent breakthroughs are beginning to bear fruit. The experimental X-47B, a sizable drone that can fly off of aircraft carriers, “demonstrated that some discrete tasks that are considered extremely difficult when performed by humans can be mastered by machines with relative ease,” Brannen notes.

Less impressed, Sharkey said the U.S. still has time to rethink its drone future. “Don’t go to the next step. Don’t make them fully autonomous. That will proliferate just as quickly and then you are really going to be sunk.”

Others, including Singer, disagreed. “As you talk about this moving forward, the drones that are sold and used are remotely piloted to be more and more autonomous. As the technology becomes more advanced it becomes easier for people to use. To fly a Predator, you used to need to be a pilot,” he said.

“The field of autonomy is going to continue to advance regardless of what happens in the military side.


Poll: More Than Half of Russians Want the Soviet Union Back

Gideon Lichfield


May 8, 2014


The US polling company Pew Research Center has just released a survey of Russian and Ukrainian attitudes to what’s going on in eastern Ukraine, and one fact caught our eye: 55% of Russian adults think it’s a “great misfortune” that the Soviet Union no longer exists:

Pew has asked Russians this question twice before, and got roughly the same result: 58% in 2009 and 50% in 2011. (There’s a 3.6-percentage-point margin of error.) What makes this rather striking is that, in 2009, none of the people Pew surveyed (aged 18 and older) would have been born after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. Today, roughly 6 million fully post-Soviet Russians have reached adulthood, judging by Russian official data.

Of Russians under 30—who would have been at most seven years old in 1991—some 40% lamented the USSR’s demise, Pew found. Again, looking at the population data, which show some 27 million people born between 1984 and 1996, that means about 10 million Russian adults long for the restoration of a country and political system of which they have no meaningful personal memory.


Rasmussen Reports


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 10, 2014

“Put your money where your mouth is,” as the old saying goes. But Americans seem reluctant to open their wallets to fund some of the big projects they profess to believe in.

Voters tend to agree with President Obama, for example, that global warming is causing extreme weather problems in the United States, and by a 49% to 40% margin they say it needs to be dealt with right away. But more voters than ever (50%) are not willing to pay one cent more in taxes and higher utility costs to generate clean energy and fight global warming. Another 22% are only willing to spend $100 more a year.

Fifty-three percent (53%) favor new environmental regulations the Obama administration is pushing ahead with that limit carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired fuel plants which it says contribute to global warming.

But only 28% are willing to pay higher utility costs to reduce America’s use of coal to generate electricity.  Interestingly, nearly half (48%) of voters still have a favorable opinion of the U.S. coal industry, compared to 39% who felt that way about the federal Environmental Protection Agency last fall.

Also, consider that 57% of Americans don’t think the United States spends enough money on roads, bridges and tunnels.  A plurality (48%) in February favored the president’s proposed new $302 billion program to help rebuild and repair this infrastructure.

Unable to get Congress to fund the new program, however, the president this week proposed lifting the ban on tolls on Interstate highways to let states generate revenue for road repairs. But guess what? Despite their concern about highway spending, 65% of Americans oppose that idea. As is often the case with government programs though, this opposition may be due in part to the fact that only a small percentage – 27% in this case – think the money will be properly used.

Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters worry more that the government will not do enough to help the troubled economy rather than that it will do too much. But that doesn’t translate into more government programs: 63% think cutting spending rather than increasing it is the best thing the government can do to help the economy.

Sixty-one percent (61%) still prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with more services and higher taxes. Just 27% favor a more active government instead.

But again some of the opposition taxpayers express is undoubtedly due to skepticism about how their money is being spent. Fifty-one percent (51%) of voters, for example, now think the average government employee earns more annually than the average private sector worker even though 67% believe those employed by a private company work harder.

Just 12% of Americans think the government should hire the long-term unemployed. Only 36% believe it would be good for the economy if the government hires more people.

Yet this is at a time when 69% still know someone who is out of work and looking for a job, and 42% know someone who, out of frustration with the difficult job market, has given up looking for work.

Despite the drop in the national unemployment rate announced by the government a week ago, consumer and investor confidence have both fallen slightly since then.

Voters still trust Republicans more than Democrats on most of the major issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports, including the number one concern, the economy.  But 
Democrats hold a four-point lead over the GOP on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

The North Carolina Senate race is now almost dead even. Among Likely North Carolina Voters, State House Speaker Thom Tillis, the winner of Tuesday’s Republican primary, earns 45% support to incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan’s 44%. The race at this point turns on Hagan’s support of the new national health care law, and she is widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Democratic senators in this election cycle because of that law.

Nationally, most voters (53%) still view Obamacare unfavorably. Fifty-six percent (56%) think it will drive up the cost of health care.

This coming Tuesday, primary voters in Nebraska and West Virginia will choose the Senate candidates for their respective parties.

The president’s overall daily job approval remains in the high 40s as it has been for much of the time he’s been in office.

In other surveys this week:

— For the second week in a row, 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. That’s the lowest level of optimism since early December

— Most voters suspect the Obama administration hasn’t been completely forthcoming about how it reacted to the murder of the U.S. ambassador and several other Americans in Benghazi, Libya. Fifty-one percent (51%) think the Benghazi matter deserves further investigation, while 34% say the case should be closed.

— As the devastating civil war in Syria drags on into its fourth year, U.S. voters remain just as reluctant about American involvement. Only 18% believe the United States should do more to bring about a change in the government in Syria.

Most Americans (56%) still support the death penalty despite the recent botched lethal injection given to the convicted murderer of a 19-year-old woman in Oklahoma.

— Thanks to Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Americans are talking about racism in professional sports. We decided to find out what America thinks about the current state of race relations in the world of sports.

— A plurality (45%) believes the penalties levied against Sterling by the National Basketball Association for racist comments he made are generally fair, but only 38% think he should be forced to sell the Clippers.

— Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters still are not confident that the Medicare system will pay them all their promised benefits.

— New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio will renew efforts proposed by his predecessor Michael Bloomberg to ban the sale of so-called “super-size” sugary drinks. But just 19% of Americans favor a law where they live that bans the sale of any cup or bottle of a sugary drink over 16 ounces.

April 26 2014




DoD Reshapes R&D, Betting on Future Technology

Apr. 20, 2014 – 05:03PM | By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS


WASHINGTON — Defense budgets had been in decline for a decade when soon-to-be-president George W. Bush laid out his vision for the US military. In a 1999 speech, Bush argued that it was time for military research and development efforts to pursue big leaps, not incremental improvements.

“We will modernize some existing weapons and equipment, necessary for the current task,” he said in a speech at The Citadel. “But our relative peace allows us to do this selectively. The real goal is to move beyond marginal improvements — to replace existing programs with new technologies and strategies. To use this window of opportunity to skip a generation of technology.”

That era of relative austerity ended two years later, when the Bush administration launched two wars and shifted spending to more immediate battlefield needs. But with defense budgets once again in decline, there are remarkable parallels between Bush’s 1999 vision, outlined at the military college In Charleston, S.C., and Pentagon leaders’ R&D plan for the next few years.

Overall, DoD wants to keep spending on RDT&E — research, development, test and evaluation — relatively close to the $63 billion the department will spend in 2014. That’s about $36 billion less than the amount that will be spent on procurement in 2014. But under the president’s 2015 budget proposal, that gap would close to about $26 billion next year, according to data compiled by As pressure increases on defense spending, leaders are trying to protect research and development funding.

But look closer. Within that flat RDT&E budget, a radical shift is underway. Under the 2015 Future Years Defense Plan, DoD would halve spending on System Development and Demonstration, taking it from about $20 billion in 2009 to below $10 billion by 2018.

SDD is one of the seven categories of RDT&E spending, which move in rough order from basic scientific research to operational testing. SDD is Category Five, which funds efforts to turn ideas and prototypes into produceable, deployable weapons and gear.

The goal is to ensure that funding keeps flowing to basic research, which yields technology breakthroughs, and to early-stage development, which proves concepts with prototypes, the Pentagon’s R&D chief explained in an interview last fall.

The trade-off is that DoD will likely mothball many promising new technologies.

“We’re going to be asked to create more prototypes, but then not field them, to put them on a shelf,” said Al Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering.

The 2015 budget also keeps money in Categories Six and Seven, allowing the military to finalize the near-term advances that will tide the military over until a new wave of funding allows DoD to field technologies now in embryo.


New Lines

To see how new money is flowing to these last-stage categories, look at the new lines for RDT&E in the 2015 budget request. Much of the $3.2 billion in these new lines would go to help test major ongoing programs: $874 million for the US Navy’s replacement for its Ohio-class ballistic-missile submarines, $197 million for Littoral Combat Ship mission modules, $214 million for the US Air Force’s Space Fence, $113 million for the US Army’s WIN-T battlefield network, $145 million for the Advanced Missile Defense Radar.

The new-line total is double the $1.6 billion approved by Congress for 2014, which added more than $300 million to DoD’s request, largely in ballistic missile defense.

“That sounds like an attempt to finish off some programs to get the right marginal return out of the additional dollars you’ve got to invest,” said James Hasik, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council. “It looks like you think you’re not going to undo sequestration, and you’re preparing for that enforced peace dividend. You’re going to cap a couple of things off, and then you’re going to wait to see when you have money.”

Once the current batch of systems has emerged from development, there aren’t a whole lot of big programs on the horizon. The Long Range Bomber program is being protected, largely as a boon to aircraft design teams who might otherwise atrophy, but much of the next era of R&D will likely take the shape Shaffer described: development of technologies that will be shelved.

But in the Pentagon’s model for future spending is an effort to push for leap-ahead technology, the type that Bush envisioned in 1999. That type of technology requires taking a bit more risk, something to which acquisition officers are notoriously averse.

DoD leaders are trying to change that, especially in the service branches.

“I think we have to be a little bit more risk-tolerant,” Shaffer said in a March 4 speech, the day the White House sent its 2015 budget request to Congress. “How we get there, I don’t know. One of the ways that we can get there a little bit is by, and we’ve seen a trend in this direction, protecting the investment in the places that tolerate more risk and failure, DARPA [Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency], at the expense of the service programs.”

The 2015 budget request for DARPA was roughly 5 percent over 2014 enacted levels.

“If the services don’t begin to do more high risk, then I think we will continue to see greater investment percentage in DARPA,” he said.

That emphasis on taking more risk isn’t limited to DoD funds. Pentagon leaders have been pressing the defense industry to invest more of its own dollars for a couple of years now.

That’s a message that hasn’t always been well received.

“If you’re only thinking about your quarterly report, which unfortunately our system tends to encourage people to do, you’re not going to think about this,” acquisition chief Frank Kendall said in a January interview. “I was at a company [in the 1990s] that understood the importance of R&D for its long-term health, and despite the drawdown — and we did take some cuts — there will still be an emphasis on internal research and development and preparing for the next generation. I would hope that there’ll be a number of CEOs who feel that way.”

So far, there’s not much evidence of that. From 1999 to 2012, top defense contractors cut their company R&D spending by roughly one-third, according to an analysis by Defense News last year. While there have been a couple of signs that companies are starting to reconsider, broad reversal of the trend has yet to surface.


Making Testing Easier

So DoD has been trying to make it easier for companies to test technologies in realistic settings. For example, the Navy has turned the Special Operations Command’s Stiletto craft into a testbed. Run by Naval Sea Systems Command, Stiletto offers a very fast-moving (nearly 50 knots) floating box, a platform on which companies can plug in different systems and test them out at sea.

The ship, which its program manager described as the largest composite-material vessel ever built at the time of its construction in 2005, has a UAV flight deck, a small boat launch ramp, and an array of ports and connections for testing different sensors and other gear.

In 2013, 56 different systems were tested on the ship, some of them brought on board as little as two weeks after a company contacted the program office. Roughly two dozen ended up advancing to the point of procurement. It’s a platform that DoD hopes can offer a lower-risk test bed for companies.

“This is a chance to get their things in the field, and if they fail, the companies can go back to the drawing board and improve them,” said Glen Fogg, director of the Rapid Technology Office in Shaffer’s office. “If you put something on a regular Navy ship and it fails, that’s the end of it. Here, they can use that information to improve the product.”

Several products that failed have returned to the ship improved, and have gone on to further success, Fogg said.

But riding with reporters during a recent outing on the Potomac River here, Fogg offered a reminder of the endeavor’s fragility.

Not long after a standard safety briefing before departure, he said that because there aren’t enormous funds for the program, if any significant damage occurred, even on a calm day, they likely didn’t have the money to fix the boat.

“This is a one-off; there is no Stiletto 2,” he said. “If there’s a major incident or funding cuts, we’re going to have to figure out what to do.”

That logic could be applied to the larger R&D plan, as it — like the total DoD budget — rests on targets that may not be attainable. The Pentagon is looking to save nearly $100 billion over the next five years by trimming various costs. In addition, its vision of flat R&D spending over the coming years requires that Congress raise the hard-fought spending caps by $115 billion.

Kendall and Shaffer have repeatedly argued that R&D needs to be treated as a fixed cost, a steady investment that can be leveraged when greater funds are available to field equipment during buildups, but can’t be abandoned in lean times. During the sequester, when accounts were uniformly cut by a certain percentage, it wasn’t possible to protect R&D at the expense of other areas. In future years, their ability to make trade-offs may be tested by worsening budget math.

The notion of keeping R&D flat isn’t new; the 1990s defense downturn saw a similar effort. In 1992, procurement outpaced R&D by $41 billion, but the following year, that difference dropped to $22 billion.

Just protecting R&D funding isn’t enough, Hasik said.

“There’s a difference between spending money and spending money smartly,” he said. “There are folks out in the world who make the argument that you have to spread money around the world wildly, because money spent on research is just good because it just leads to development. This is not a compelling argument because there are dead ends against which you can continue to apply money and not get very far.”

Making the right bets will be critical if the Pentagon is looking for leap-ahead technology.

There’s one major difference between what Bush wanted for defense and what the Pentagon is facing in its restricted fiscal future: Bush wanted to skip a generation of defense technology, but he was willing to increase spending to do it. Current leaders are unlikely, given the financial pressures in Congress, to have that luxury.




Study: U.S. Combat Aviation Stuck in the Industrial Age

By Sandra I. Erwin


U.S. combat air forces are ill equipped to fight a technologically empowered enemy, and it could be years or decades before the Pentagon deploys more advanced weapons. Such is the grim picture painted in a new study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

The authors, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula and CSBA analyst Mark Gunzinger, make the case that aviation forces are not up to the challenges of 21st century warfare and the Pentagon has only itself to blame.

“Fourteen years into the 21st century, the U.S. military is still living off investments in combat aircraft that were made prior to or during the Reagan administration,” Gunzinger told an Air Force Association forum in Arlington, Va.

For instance, the Air Force’s combat force primarily consists of aging A-10s, F-15s, F-16s, B-1s, B-52s, B-2s, and a handful of new F-22s. “Overall, the Air Force’s combat force is the smallest and oldest that it has ever fielded,” he said.

Shortsighted Pentagon budget decisions have weakened the aviation fleet, the authors contend. The United States Air Force only has a small number of its most advanced aerial weapons — the B-2 bomber and the F-22 fighter jet — and the next generation of systems is still years away. The Pentagon terminated production of the B-2 bomber in 2000 at 20 aircraft and the F-22 stealth fighter in 2010 at 187 airplanes. The thinking was that these aircraft were too expensive and soon would be replaced with more affordable alternatives. “Apparently this saved money,” Deptula said with sarcasm. In hindsight, the military is paying a big price for these decisions, he said, because new systems are far more expensive and nowhere close to being ready. “Numbers matter,” he said. The Air Force is buying new aircraft today, but most are cargo planes or unmanned surveillance drones. The military has more than 11,000 unmanned aircraft, but most are not equipped to survive enemy air-defense missiles.

Although no enemy air force has yet challenged the United States, the study predicts it is only a matter of time before the U.S. military is put to the test.

The risk posed by enemy technologies also applies to the Navy and Marine Corps, the study noted. The Corps continues to rely on non-stealthy AV-8B vertical/short takeoff and landing ground attack aircraft that were designed in the 1970s. The replacement F-35B Joint Strike Fighter is still in development.

“The Navy’s fixed-wing combat aircraft force is not as old as the Air Force’s because it is just completing its F/A-18 fighter program,” Gunzinger said. “However, the F/A-18 is non-stealthy, and the wisdom of deploying carriers within range of anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles so their short-range fighters can reach their objective areas is doubtful at best.”

With the exception of the F-22s and B-2, the Pentagon’s fighters and bombers have “lost their ability to operate in high-threat areas without the risk of significant losses or the need for very large supporting force packages to suppress enemy air defenses,” the CSBA study said. “America’s recent focus on counterinsurgency operations has given China, Iran, North Korea, and other competitors breathing room to develop anti-access, area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities that could threaten U.S. access to areas of vital interest,” the report said. “The proliferation of guided ballistic and cruise missiles, anti-satellite weapons, cyber threats, integrated air defense systems and other asymmetric threats are intended to erode the U.S. military’s ability to effectively intervene in crisis situations.”

The term A2/AD is Pentagon-speak for an enemy’s ability to neutralize the traditional advantages of U.S. weaponry. Command and control networks may susceptible to electronic jamming. Air bases may be vulnerable to precision-guided missiles, and U.S. non-stealthy aircraft — manned and unmanned — may not be able to enter hostile airspace without risking major losses. “Enemy antiship ballistic and cruise missiles that are supported by space-based sensors and long-range surveillance aircraft may force U.S. aircraft carriers to operate a thousand miles or more offshore,” the study said.

To overcome enemy technologies, the U.S. military needs more than just new hardware, Deptula said. It needs its weapon systems to operate like a network, where information is shared across all services. The Pentagon has championed for decades the idea of “network centric” warfare, but in reality each service and each program operate independently, he said. “We’re in the era of information-age warfare, and we are having a bit of a challenge managing that transition,” said Deptula. “We need to think how we can better share information that turns into relevant knowledge and we need to do it automatically.” The Pentagon functions in budget-line items, not as an integrated enterprise, he said. “You need to get beyond the traditional labeling of systems, which is last century’s perspective. We need to think about how all systems in space, land and sea and air can operate in an integrated fashion.”

The need for information-focused weapon systems will be the subject of an 18-month study by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute, which Deptula leads. The military should have for a “combat cloud” where information can be shared regardless of what weapon system is used, he said. “It is difficult to explain, and that is one of our challenges as it is not a ‘thing’ or even a collection of ‘things,’ but rather an approach.” Deptula told National Defense. Aircraft today are connected as sensors and shooters. “While this limited collaboration is positive, future developments in data sharing promise to dramatically enhance the way in which combat effects are attained as individual airborne assets are fully integrated with sea, land, space and cyber systems,” he explained. “Individual systems connected to the broader ‘combat cloud’ are able to leverage their respective strengths.”

To move its weapons into the 21st century, the Pentagon also needs help from Congress, Deptula added.

If the recent round of military oversight hearings on Capitol Hill is any guide, Congress is less worried about the modernization of the U.S. fleet than it is about protecting favored projects and jobs in members’ home districts.

Air Force leaders have argued that, in times of declining budgets, they cannot afford to continue to sink money into aging airplanes and should redirect funding to new systems such as the F-35, a refueling tanker and a long-range bomber. While the plan sounds reasonable in theory, it has turned into a political football. Air Force officials have been hammered by lawmakers for their proposal to retire the entire A-10 fighter force, 46 older C-130 aircraft and the entire U-2 reconnaissance aircraft fleet.

These budget quagmires only keep the military saddled with older technology, the CSBA study said, and contribute to the erosion of the nation’s manufacturing base. “Fifty years ago, the Defense Department was in the process of building six fighters, three bombers, and two antisubmarine warfare aircraft,” said the report. Today, there is one new American fighter in production — the F-35 — and three that are about to end their production runs. “With the exception of the Air Force long-range bomber, the Navy’s P-8 maritime aircraft, and possibly a carrier unmanned combat aircraft, there are no other major new combat aircraft in the Defense Department’s program of record.”


Report urges building resilience to future cyber shocks

Monday, April 21, 2014


Institutions worldwide must confront the high risk that stems from their dependence on information technology and build resilience to withstand future global shocks to the Internet — a point underscored by the recent Heartbleed vulnerability, according to a new report from the Atlantic Council and Zurich Insurance Group.

Although the Internet has long been resilient to attacks on a day-to-day basis, risk managers, corporate executives, board directors and government officials are not prepared for future cyber attacks that will significantly impact globally interconnected systems, states the report, “Beyond Data Breaches: Global Interconnections of Cyber Risk.” The assessment likens the looming problem to the subprime mortgage crisis.

The Heartbleed security flaw, which recently stunned security experts worldwide and has widespread implications, is a harbinger of future shocks, according to report author Jason Healey, the head of the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative.

“The recent Heartbleed vulnerability demonstrates the main message of the report,” he said in a statement. “The Internet is so complex and tightly coupled to the real world, it turns out we were all gravely exposed to a cyber risk in an obscure technology that few understand and we didn’t see coming. This time it was just passwords, but what happens once the internet is connected to the electrical grid or driverless cars?”

The report argues that the private sector should spearhead crisis management because government lacks the agility needed. It also calls for organizations with system-wide responsibility to plan on ensuring the stability of the system as a whole, as opposed to the individual organization. In addition, the report advocates having redundant power and telecommunications suppliers and alternate Internet service providers connected to different peering points; investing in trained teams ready to respond with defined procedures; and conducting simulations of the most likely and most dangerous cyber risks to better prepare.

Further, the study argues for cautiously using regulatory authority to expand risk management to third-party providers and affiliates. It cites the example of the U.S. Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s 2013 guidelines requiring national banks to increasingly look for risk outside their own perimeters, particularly for “critical activities.”

“Other regulators can consider whether such a model — surely costly but which does address many of the aggregations of cyber risk — is appropriate for their sector,” the report states. “A regulatory focus on external aggregations of cyber risk can make sense for critical infrastructure sectors like finance, but probably not for retail or small- and medium-sized enterprises.”

The report advocates the use of cyber insurance, calling it an option that will become increasingly available to all companies and not only larger, more sophisticated organizations.

Recently completed surveys of corporate leaders show an “increasing level of awareness” about cyber risk and the related insurance product areas, Dan Riordan, CEO or Zurich Global Corporate in North America, said on April 16 during a panel discussion at the Atlantic Council.

Companies are looking more at cyber risks in their risk assessments, he said, noting about 90 percent of larger companies recognize the problem as a high or very high risk. The amount of companies buying cyber risk coverage has increased about 52 percent among the companies recently surveyed, which is an increase from about 35 percent four years ago, he said. The major risk to companies’ reputations is getting attention in the C-suite, Riordan said.


“I talked to a CEO recently who said ‘I don’t want to be in front of Congress like that other executive was recently,'” he said.

Some CEOs still simply defer the issue to the IT department, but that will increasingly change over time, he continued.

Catherine Mulligan, senior vice president with Zurich North America, cited different mindsets in different industries. Financial, healthcare and technology institutions, she said, “tend to be very clued in to these issues” and “they are highly regulated in a lot of cases, so there’s more awareness there then for example higher education, which comes from an ethos of let’s share information.”

Further, leaders of small and mid-sized companies still have a “disconnect” and face a steeper learning curve, she said. — Christopher J. Castelli (


Stop Asking the Military to Do More With Less

U.S. defense spending is shrinking, but demands on the military remain the same.

By Mackenzie Eaglen
April 18, 2014

Last week, the military’s vice chiefs told Congress that their ability to fight two wars at once was at risk. They warned that ongoing pressure, including from the 2011 Budget Control Act and its substantial defense cuts, is eroding the size and capability of America’s armed forces. As Army General John Campbell cautioned bluntly, “We’re mortgaging the future.”

While the vice chiefs are correct that fewer resources are having a profound and negative impact upon the ability of the Department of Defense to support the nation’s defense strategy, the unfortunate reality is that the military’s ability to fight and win two wars at once has been steadily eroding for the past 20 years under presidents of both parties.

The “two-war standard” has long been an important measuring stick for the military to roughly approximate the forces necessary to provide the most options to the commander in chief in response to questions of war and peace. The 1993 Bottom-Up Review articulated the clearest thinking behind this policy: “U.S. forces will be structured to achieve decisive victory in two nearly simultaneous major regional conflicts and to conduct combat operations characterized by rapid response and a high probability of success, while minimizing the risk of significant American casualties.”

Over the ensuing two decades, this standard was gradually wound down over successive Pentagon strategies. In 2002, for instance, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that DOD was moving away from the two-war standard in favor of a more “balanced” approach that deemphasized occupation forces.

The Pentagon’s latest strategy continues moving the goalposts by calling for a force sizing construct designed to defeat one enemy while denying the objectives or imposing unacceptable costs on a second. The strategy’s murky language leaves it open to interpretation regarding how to impose “unacceptable costs” and the requirements to do so.

The Pentagon’s planning construct is important because only a military of a sufficient size and reach can carry out day-to-day missions such as disaster relief, regional deterrence and crisis response and a major campaign should the need arise.


The worry is that the U.S. military’s strategic aims are shrinking along with global presence and combat capabilities, but policymakers are not correspondingly reducing the military’s scope of responsibilities in support of vital national interests.

This growing gap between what the nation demands of the military and what its capacity, capability and readiness will allow, thanks to reduced budgets, will eventually lead to unacceptable outcomes and consequences, many of which will be borne uniquely by those in uniform and their families. The good news, however, is that these outcomes are avoidable should Washington’s leaders choose to reverse course and rebuild American military strength.


Revoked certificates cause issues after Heartbleed

Robert Lemos, Contributor

Published: 18 Apr 2014

Since the announcement of Heartbleed, a serious flaw that could allow an attacker to access passwords, encryption keys and other information sent to a server using OpenSSL, many companies have scrambled to patch their systems and revoke security certificates. While patching hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of systems will take time, the impact of the massive re-registration of SSL certificates and the wide use of revocation could be equally severe.

The concern is that the revocation mechanisms en masse have not seen this kind of test on them in such quantities.

When content-distribution firm CloudFlare updated its Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates to protect its clients from the impact of the Heartbleed bug, that action alone caused minor palpitations across the Internet.

Roughly 50,000 keys were no longer trustworthy, and the size of the certificate revocation list (CRL) suddenly ballooned by more than a factor of 200 to nearly 4.7 megabytes, overnight. The CRL is one of two ways that browsers can check that an SSL certificate, widely used to secure communications between browsers and websites, has not been compromised. Just the bandwidth costs of distributing the new CRL file to browsers would likely surpass $400,000 dollars, according to CloudFlare’s calculations, while a check using Amazon’s Web Services put the figure closer to one million dollars.

Certificate authorities (CAs) such as Comodo, Symantec and Trustwave, are currently allowing companies to revoke and re-issue certificates for free. For those CAs, the slow response to Heartbleed by much of the business world is a mixed blessing, according to Comodo Chief Technology Officer Robin Alden. The costs of dealing with the mass revocations will be high, but the uneven response has given certificate authorities a chance to keep up with requests.

“In spite all of the news out there, plenty of our customers are only just starting to respond,” Alden said. “It is not a good thing for Internet security as a whole, but at least the fact that they are taking time to respond spreads out the load of re-issuing certificates.”

With analysis firm Netcraft estimating that some 500,000 sites use versions of OpenSSL that are vulnerable to Heartbleed — and with many companies using private SSL certificates inside their own networks — other certificate authorities could face similar floods of requests and burgeoning revocation lists, taxing the certificate infrastructure that underpins much of the Internet’s security.

“Beyond the cost, many CAs are not set up to be able to handle this increased load,” Matthew Prince, CEO of CloudFlare, stated in an analysis of the costs of mitigating Heartbleed. “Revoking SSL certificates threatens to create a sort of denial-of-service attack on their own infrastructures.”


Revocation process lacking authority

Despite playing a critical part in the Internet’s reliance on SSL, certificate revocation has uneven support. Before Heartbleed, revocation was an uncommon event and most users rarely encountered a revoked certificate. As the attacks on the Canada Revenue Agency and widespread detection of scans for the Heartbleed vulnerability show, attackers are now using the vulnerability to try and gather information on passwords and certificates.

Those attacks make revocation, and the support for blocking revoked signatures, extremely important, said Brian Trzupek, vice president at security services provider and certificate authority Trustwave.

“The concern is that the revocation mechanisms en masse have not seen this kind of test on them in such quantities,” Trzupek said.

When a certificate is compromised, CAs can choose one of two ways to communicate that untrustworthiness to Internet users and browsers. Browsers can either make a request every time they encounter a new certificate – usually when the user goes to a new website — using the Online Certificate Status Protocol (OCSP) to check whether the certificate has been revoked, or they can occasionally download a copy of the CRL and use the list to determine the trustworthiness of an SSL certificate.

The OCSP method requires less bandwidth for each additional lookup, though potentially more over time, while browsers that utilize CRL require fewer, but larger downloads to make the same certificate check.

Different browser makers use different methods. Google’s Chrome, for example, synthesizes its own lists from OCSP and CRL information, while other browsers like Mozilla’s Firefox have stopped using CRLs altogether. Regardless of which method browsers ultimately rely on, the sheer amount of revoked certificates in recent weeks — the SANS Institute’s Internet Storm Center pegged the increase in recent revocations at somewhere between 300% and %500 — is creating a wave of traffic that is likely to cause issues, particularly for mobile devices with less processing power and memory than traditional PCs.

“All the sudden you are going to have something on a wireless or cellular connection downloading, not a 2 kilobyte CRL, but something that is 3 or 4 megabytes,” said Trustwave’s Trzupek. “And that is going to put a lot of strain on these devices.”

Even worse, the revocation process may not be delivering that much in the way of security benefits for many users, according to Michael Klieman, senior director of product management for Symantec’s Trust Services team, because most browsers do not prevent a user from accessing a site with a bad, or revoked, certificate.

“Blocking user access to websites is not in the browser makers’ interest,” Klieman said, “but from a security standpoint, it has to be done to protect users.”


Heartbleed’s long tail

Unfortunately, the issues surrounding Heartbleed are unlikely to be resolved soon. While security firms have urged companies to change their keys, Trzupek said the OpenSSL vulnerability will likely remain unpatched on many platforms. Some systems, such as Web servers using the secure HTTP protocol (HTTPS), are obviously vulnerable, but so are a number of less visible Internet platforms, including mail servers and proxy servers. Millions of mobile devices running the Jellybean 4.1.1 version of Google’s Android operating system may also be vulnerable, though the practicality of Heartbleed-based attacks against such devices remains unclear.

Kevin Bocek, vice president of security strategy and threat intelligence for key management technology vendor Venafi, emphasized that business can’t address the problem of potentially compromised keys until after they’ve patched their systems, a reality he said many companies still do not understand.

“There have been a lot of misperceptions,” Bocek said. “People believe that they just need to patch public-facing systems, while some feel that all they need to do is reissue certificates.”

As part of the Heartbleed clean-up process, Bocek advised companies to uncover all of the systems where SSL keys may be used for security, prioritize the patches based on the criticality of each system and, once updated, create new keys for the systems. Even private CAs, used inside many large corporations to secure internal access to servers at a lower cost, should be patched and re-keyed, Bocek noted. Otherwise, any attacker that gains some level of access to systems inside a company will easily be able to compromise the entire network.

“It is the last-mile problem,” Bocek said. “You have keys and certificates used across all these applications, but you don’t know where they are used.”


Microsoft Office whips Google Docs: It’s finally game over

By Preston Gralla

April 17, 2014 12:00 PM EDT90 Comments

If there was ever any doubt about whether Microsoft or Google would win the war of office suites, there should be no longer. Within the last several weeks, Microsoft has pulled so far ahead that it’s game over. Here’s why.

When it comes to which suite is more fully featured, there’s never been any real debate: Microsoft Office wins hands down. Whether you’re creating entire presentations, creating complicated word-processing documents, or even doing something as simple as handling text attributes, Office is a far better tool.

Until the last few weeks, Google Docs had one significant advantage over Microsoft Office: It’s available for Android and the iPad as well as PCs because it’s Web-based. The same wasn’t the case for Office. So if you wanted to use an office suite on all your mobile devices, Google Docs was the way to go.

Google Docs lost that advantage when Microsoft released Office for the iPad. There’s not yet a native version for Android tablets, but Microsoft is working on that, telling GeekWire, “Let me tell you conclusively: Yes, we are also building Android native applications for tablets for Word, Excel and PowerPoint.”

Google Docs is still superior to Office’s Web-based version, but that’s far less important than it used to be. There’s no need to go with a Web-based office suite if a superior suite is available as a native apps on all platforms, mobile or otherwise. And Office’s collaboration capabilities are quite considerable now.

Of course, there’s always the question of price. Google Docs is free. Microsoft Office isn’t. But at $100 a year for up to five devices, or $70 a year for two, no one will be going broke paying for Microsoft Office. It’s worth paying that relatively small price for a much better office suite.


Google Docs won’t die. It’ll be around as second fiddle for a long time. But that’s what it will always remain: a second fiddle to the better Microsoft Office.


Microsoft to complete Nokia deal on Friday — and become big-time Android player

By Preston Gralla

April 21, 2014 11:42 AM EDT6 Comments


When Microsoft completes its $7.2 billion deal to buy Nokia on Friday, it will be doing more than buying a mobile phone division and beefing up its commitment to Windows Phone. It will also become a big-time Android player.

Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel & Executive Vice President, Legal & Corporate Affairs, announced on the Official Microsoft Blog today that the Nokia deal will be finalized this Friday. The deal is essentially the same one that had been previously announced, with some minor tweaks, including that Microsoft won’t buy Nokia’s Korean manufacturing facility, that 21 Chinese Nokia employees will join Microsoft rather than stay with Nokia, and that Microsoft will be in charge of and its related social media sites for up to a year.

On the blog, Smith’s explanation of the reason for the purchase seems to be straightforward — it’s a way to help Windows Phone succeed. But if you read between the lines, you’ll see that it’s about more than that, and is about Android as well. He wrote:

“This acquisition will help Microsoft accelerate innovation and market adoption for Windows Phones. In addition, we look forward to introducing the next billion customers to Microsoft services via Nokia mobile phones.”

Note that when he talks about introducting Nokia’s customers to Microsoft services, he doesn’t say Windows Phone will be the means of introduction. Instead, he says that “Nokia mobile phones” will do it.

You can be sure that was no accident. Microsoft has finally recognized that its future isn’t in Windows, or Windows Phone for that matter, but in services, such as Bing, OneDrive, Bing Maps, and more. That’s copying the way that Google monetizes Android, and Microsoft recognizes it’s the way to monetize its own mobile and other efforts.

Expect Nokia to push its line of Android phones hard in the developing world, where it’s particularly strong. That’s the place where many of the “next billion customers” will be introduced to Microsoft services. Microsoft hopes that eventually those customers will migrate to Windows Phones. But if they don’t, Microsoft will be perfectly happy that they continue using Nokia-made Android phones with Microsoft services on them.

So this Friday, when the deal goes through, Microsoft will immediately become a big player in Android, world-wide.


US Air Force’s Secretive X-37B Space Plane Nears Day 500 in Orbit

By Leonard David,’s Space Insider Columnist | April 21, 2014 01:21pm ET


The U.S. Air Force’s mysterious robotic X-37B space plane is sailing toward the 500-day mark in Earth orbit on a secret military mission.

The X-37B space plane presently in orbit is carrying out the Orbital Test Vehicle 3 (OTV-3) mission, a classified spaceflight that marks the third long-duration flight for the unmanned Air Force spaceflight program. The miniature space shuttle launched on Dec. 11, 2012.

The record-breaking X-37B mission now underway uses the first of the Air Force’s two robotic space plane vehicles. This same space plane flew the first-ever X-37B mission (the 225-day OTV-1 flight in 2010), and a second vehicle flew the longer OTV-2 mission in 2011, chalking up 469 days in orbit.

X-37B space planes launch into orbit atop an unmanned Atlas 5 rocket from a pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The first two space-plane missions flew back to Earth on autopilot, each time touching down on a tarmac at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Earlier this year, the X-37B supplier Boeing Space & Intelligence Systems announced plans to consolidate space-plane operations by using NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida as a landing site for the space plane.


Intelligence-gathering space plane

An X-37B space plane is about one-fourth the size of a former NASA space shuttle and uses a deployable solar array for power. It weighs 11,000 lbs. (4,990 kilograms) and has a small payload bay about the size of the bed of a pickup truck.

Each X-37B spacecraft measures about 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and nearly 15 feet (4.5 m) wide, and has a payload bay that measures 7 feet (2.1 m) long and 4 feet (1.2 m) wide. The space plane can operate in orbits that fly between 110 miles (177 kilometers) and 500 miles (805 km) above the Earth.

The secret missions for X-37B space planes are carried out under the auspices of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, and mission control for OTV flights are handled by the 3rd Space Experimentation Squadron at Schriever Air Force Base in Colorado.

This unit is billed as the Air Force Space Command’s premier organization for space-based demonstrations, pathfinders and experiment testing, gathering information on objects high above Earth and carrying out other intelligence-gathering duties.

And that may be a signal as to what the robotic craft is doing — both looking down at Earth and upward.


X-37B and U.S. military space

X-37B at Vandenberg Air Force Base RunwayPin It An X-37B robotic space plane sits on the Vandenberg Air Force base runway during post-landing operations on Dec. 3, 2010. Personnel in self-contained protective atmospheric suits conduct initial checks on the robot space vehicle after its landing.

Credit: U.S. Air Force/Michael StonecypherView full size image

Just how the trio of X-37B clandestine missions might fit into the military’s strategic space plans is speculative. However, recent testimony before Congress of top U.S. military space brass underscores the overall fervor for “space control.”

Space control requires knowledge derived from satellite situational awareness to warn and assess threats that pose a risk to U.S. and coalition space operations, Lt. Gen. John Raymond, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Space, said before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces earlier this month.

“Space control may also include threat avoidance, safeguarding of our on-orbit assets and the ability to mitigate electromagnetic interference,” Raymond testified.


Decision to declassify

Some analysts believe that the space-plane missions could be flying sensor gear useful for a recently declassified activity, the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP).

GSSAP will deliver two satellites for a single launch that are headed for near geosynchronous orbit (GEO). From that vantage point, they will survey objects in the GEO belt to track both known objects and debris and to monitor potential threats that may be aimed at this critically important region.

“Our decision to declassify this program was simple: We need to monitor what happens 22,000 miles (35,000 km) above the Earth, and we want to make sure that everyone knows we can do so,” testified Douglas Loverro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for space policy for the U.S. Department of Defense.

GSSAP satellites will communicate information through the worldwide Air Force Satellite Control Network ground stations, and then to Schriever Air Force Base, where the 50th Space Wing satellite operators will oversee day-to-day command and control operations.

Size comparison of the X-37B, X-37C, Shuttle, and Atlas V EELV.Pin It This size chart shows how the Boeing-built X-37B robot space plane compares to NASA’s space shuttle, a larger version of the spacecraft called the X-37C and an Atlas 5 rocket.


A strategic crossroad

The commander of Air Force Space Command, Gen. William Shelton, also testified at the same April 3 hearing, telling lawmakers he believed “we are at a strategic crossroad in space.”

Shelton, who first unveiled the once-classified GSSAP in February, said the two spacecraft expected to launch in 2014 will collect space situational awareness data, thus allowing for more accurate tracking and characterization of human-made orbiting objects in a near-geosynchronous orbit. [See amateur video of the X-37B space plane from March 4]

“Data from GSSAP will contribute to timely and accurate orbital predictions, enhance our knowledge of the geosynchronous environment and further enable spaceflight safety to include satellite collision avoidance,” Shelton said.


More things to come

As an experimental spacecraft, the X-37B is a precursor of things to come, said Marshall Kaplan, a space consultant and principal at Launchspace Inc., a training group for space professionals based in Bethesda, Md.

“It gives a certain amount of flexibility that we haven’t had before,” given that the craft flies and lands without a crew, is able to be reused and can haul specialized payloads for certain types of surveillance and other types of missions related to national security, Kaplan said.


But given that the craft is lofted by an Atlas 5 rocket — an expensive boost — “what we really need now is a cheap booster … which we don’t have,” Kaplan told “It’s the missing element.”

Kaplan said to keep an eye on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program. DARPA seeks to lower satellite launch costs by developing a cheap, reusable first stage that would fly to hypersonic speeds at a suborbital altitude, he said.

“In the big picture of things, these two programs [X-37B and XS-1] could come together at some point in the future and be operational,” Kaplan said.


Fast follower

Whatever its utility, how an on-going X-37B program will play out in China is on the mind of Everett Dolman, professor of military strategy at the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.

One early indication is that China has purportedly pushed forward on its own “Shenlong” space plane planning.

“As far as the Shenlong is concerned, I am pretty much in agreement at this point that it is part of a broader ‘fast follower’ program similar to the Soviet Union’s adaptive approach in the Cold War,” Dolman told

Just as the former Soviet Union felt a need to develop its own space shuttle — the remotely piloted Buran that only flew once — Dolman said “the Chinese probably are concerned about a sudden leap in technology or tactics that would give a decisive, if temporary, edge to the U.S. should it be unveiled at a critical moment.”

“By keeping a close watch and matching what appears to be a high-priority technological capability, the fast follower spends less on research and development and can, hopefully, close the technology gap quickly,” Dolman said.

It is a second-best strategy for long-term competition in business, Dolman said, adding that he’s not sure it is even that for potential combat scenarios. “But the People’s Republic of China obviously believes the U.S. is committed to the X-37B and doesn’t want to be left tying its shoes in the gate when the starting-pistol sounds,” he concluded.


North Dakota UAS test site will be first in US to start operations

by Press • 22 April 2014


GRAND FORKS – The announcement Federal Aviation Administrator Michael Huerta stopped in Grand Forks to make Monday was one stakeholders in North Dakota’s growing unmanned aircraft systems industry have been waiting months to hear.


“Today, the FAA is granting the first authorization in the United States to allow a test site to start flying unmanned aircraft,” Huerta told a group gathered in the University of North Dakota’s Odegard Hall. “And that test site is right here in North Dakota.”

The test site will be overseen by the Northern Plains Unmanned Air Systems authority and provide a place to research integration of UAS into general airspace, which is mandated for 2015.

The test site also would explore civilian uses and help craft certification requirements for unmanned aircraft, also known as drones.

Bob Becklund, head of the state’s UAS authority, said the test site’s personnel and basic infrastructure are already in place.

“We are ready. We’ve been working hard since our selection in December to be prepared,” he said. “We plan to start flying here in early May.”

The FAA was required to have at least one test site up and running 180 days after announcing its selections. North Dakota’s test site and five others in Alaska, New York, Nevada, Texas and Virginia, are projected to operate until early 2017.

“North Dakota has really taken a leadership role in supporting unmanned aircraft,” Huerta said. “I look forward to the great contributions this state is going to make.”


Research use

Before unmanned aircraft can take off, North Dakota’s test site must pass a compliance check, according to Becklund.

If given the green light, the Draganflyer X4ES – small helicopter-like UAS – will take to the skies. Its first missions won’t focus on human surveillance but rather on agriculture and ecology.

At North Dakota State University’s Research Extension Center near Carrington, the aircraft will monitor crop conditions and soil quality.

Later this summer, it will be used to generate population counts of deer, elk and bison at the Sullys Hill game preserve south of Devils Lake.

“North Dakota is a perfect spot for our nation to develop UAS technology and procedures, and help unleash the economic potential of this promising industry,” said Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.

In Minnesota, Northland Community & Technical College was approved last week for a certificate of authorization to fly unmanned aircraft in Roseau County.

Those aircraft also will be used for agricultural research on farmland, according to Northland staff.

The collaboration on UAS research initiatives between the two states will give North Dakota’s test site a leg up on the others, according to Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

“This truly is a two-state test site,” he said. “Right out of the blocks that gives us a huge advantage.”


Privacy concerns

Huerta and others acknowledged the launch of the test site’s research projects could feed concerns surrounding drones’ potential to invade residents’ privacy.

Creating privacy requirements was part of the test site application, according to Huerta. Applicants crafted a privacy policy that complies with local, state and federal privacy laws. The policy also must be available to the public and updated annually.


“The FAA has not traditionally regulated the use of anything. We regulate that it can be flown safely, but we don’t say that you can fly this airplane from here to there,” Huerta said. “Personally, I think we’d be terrible at regulating privacy, it’s not in our wheelhouse, it’s not something we understand how to do.”

Creating regulations and limits for drone use eventually would fall to lawmakers and courts.

Despite some of these concerns, North Dakota has spent $14 million advancing UAS research and development, according to Gov. Jack Dalrymple.

“This could turn into a very big deal for our state,” he added.

Of that amount, $5 million was dedicated to support the launch of Grand Sky, a UAS tech park planned for Grand Forks Air Force Base. Aerospace company Northrop Grumman has already committed to being an anchor tenant for the facility.

The state’s financial investment combined with a high ethical standard for UAS research set by entities such as UND’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Research Compliance Committee, could attract other businesses, according to several speakers.

“The private sector will look at this example and say ‘This is where we want to invest, this is where we want to create jobs, this is where we want to open our next business,’ ” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.


US developing public unmanned aircraft incident reporting system

by Press • 22 April 2014

Michael Cooney


It sounds like a good idea – develop an online system of publically reporting and disseminating problems or incidents stemming from the use of unmanned aircraft in the public airspace.

In practice you’d have to wonder if such a system would get used much because it seems like the system has just a few caveats.


Specifically the Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice is looking for proposalsto develop, host, and maintain a web-based, online flight data and incident reporting system to, subject to law enforcement and national security concerns and limitations:

1. Collect fight-operations data from law enforcement and other public safety agencies from their use of sUAS (or small Unmanned Aircraft Systems defined as UAS weighing less than 55 lbs).

2. Make that information publically available for analysis by entities interested in the use of sUAS in the national air space.

3. In making this data readily accessible to the public, NIJ seeks to make possible further research and study of law enforcement and public safety sUAS flight operations, and through such research to improve the safety and increase the operational efficiency of law enforcement sUAS operations.


The NIJ says its ultimate goal for this solicitation – which could be worth $250,000 if a contract is awarded — is to foster the safe, effective, and lawful use of sUAS by law enforcement agencies.

The NIJ went on to says that the actual system will be designed through a collaborative process involving the successful applicant, NIJ, the FAA and other stakeholder organizations, the applicant should propose its own system design.

Here’s where it gets tricky though.

From the NIJ: “Among other topics, the proposal should address scalability, as the number of agencies operating sUAS are expected to grow. It should also address what the applicant sees to be potential data fields. The proposal should also address the nature of the agreements the applicant anticipates entering into with the law enforcement and other public safety agencies providing the data that will populate the database, including the understanding that law enforcement and other public safety agencies may not be able to provide data due to law enforcement sensitivity or national security needs. The discussion should also identify how any sensitive information that may be provided would be protected, or how agencies with limitations due to law enforcement sensitivity or national security concerns can supply use and safety of flight information for missions without compromising sensitive or classified operations.”

The NIJ request comes on the heels of the FAA announcing that the first of six test sites chosen to perform unmanned aircraft systems research is operational more than two-and-a -half months ahead of the deadline specified for the program by Congress.

The FAA said it had granted the North Dakota Department of Commerce team a Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to begin using a Draganflyer X4ES small UAS at itsNorthern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site. The COA is effective for two years. The team plans to begin flight operations during the week of May 5.

While supporting a North Dakota State University/Extension Service precision agriculture project, the Northern Plains Unmanned Aircraft Systems Test Site also will collect safety-related operational data needed for UAS airspace integration. The information will help the FAA analyze current processes for establishing small UAS airworthiness and system maturity. Maintenance data collected during site operations will support a prototype database for UAS maintenance and repair.


From the FAA, the other test sites include:

University of Alaska. The University of Alaska proposal contained a diverse set of test site range locations in seven climatic zones as well as geographic diversity with test site range locations in Hawaii and Oregon. The research plan includes the development of a set of standards for unmanned aircraft categories, state monitoring and navigation. Alaska also plans to work on safety standards for UAS operations.

State of Nevada. Nevada’s project objectives concentrate on UAS standards and operations as well as operator standards and certification requirements. The applicant’s research will also include a concentrated look at how air traffic control procedures will evolve with the introduction of UAS into the civil environment and how these aircraft will be integrated with NextGen. Nevada’s selection contributes to geographic and climatic diversity.

New York’s Griffiss International Airport. Griffiss International plans to work on developing test and evaluation as well as verification and validation processes under FAA safety oversight. The applicant also plans to focus its research on sense and avoid capabilities for UAS and its sites will aid in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested, northeast airspace.

Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi. Texas A&M plans to develop system safety requirements for UAS vehicles and operations with a goal of protocols and procedures for airworthiness testing. The selection of Texas A&M contributes to geographic and climactic diversity.

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech). Virginia Tech plans to conduct UAS failure mode testing and identify and evaluate operational and technical risks areas. This proposal includes test site range locations in both Virginia and New Jersey.


Photonics Applied: Terrestrial Imaging: Spectral imaging satellites monitor global vegetation health


By Gail Overton 

Senior Editor

Aircraft- and satellite-based imaging systems with multispectral capabilities are being deployed worldwide to monitor terrestrial vegetation and soil moisture with unprecedented resolution and accuracy.

The 2013/2014 season brought floods to Europe and plunged the eastern United States into a “polar vortex” winter, all while the western U.S. continued to suffer through a serious drought. Because such severe weather patterns have serious impacts on croplands and forest cover, aircraft- and satellite-based imaging systems are being increasingly deployed to monitor soil and vegetation health.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA; Silver Spring, MD) and Satellite Imaging Corporation (Magnolia, TX) take advantage of satellite data to publish several types of green vegetation and drought indices. They are among numerous other institutions recognizing the importance of multispectral measurement data to monitor and understand global vegetation health with high-resolution imagery. Although real-time data processing is not yet possible, deployment of miniaturized satellite designs promise faster data streams and broader data access.

Please note that while light detection and ranging (lidar) technology is also playing an increasingly important role in vegetation monitoring and forest canopy studies, this article limits the equipment discussion to airborne and satellite-based multispectral imagers.

Mapping and monitoring vegetation health

To create its global Vegetation Health Index (VHI) maps, which are updated each week, NOAA relies on an image-processing algorithm to convert satellite imaging data to color-coded vegetation health data (see Fig. 1). The VHI index ranges from 0 to 100, characterizing changes in vegetation conditions from extremely poor (0) to excellent (100); fair conditions are coded by green colors (around 50) that change to browns and reds when conditions deteriorate (below 40 is a vegetation stress or indirect drought indicator) and to blues when they improve.

Reflecting a combination of chlorophyll and moisture content and changes in thermal conditions at the surface, the index uses an algorithm (see that combines visible light (VIS), near-infrared radiation (NIR), and thermal infrared radiation (TIR) radiance data from the advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) aboard the NASA-provided NOAA-19 polar-orbiting satellite.

Gathered in six spectral bands having wavelengths from 580–680, 725–1100, and 1580–1640 nm (VIS and NIR) as well as 3.55–3.93, 10.3–11.3, and 11.5–12.5 μm (TIR), the AVHRR VIS and NIR values are first converted to a Normalized Difference Vegetation Index or NDVI = (NIR-VIS)/(NIR+VIS) and the TIR values to brightness temperature (BT) values using a lookup table. Essentially, healthy vegetation that has high chlorophyll content and high biomass density absorbs most of the visible light that strikes its surface and reflects most of the NIR radiation due to a robust cell structure in the leaves and the lack of chlorophyll absorption, while unhealthy or sparse vegetation reflects more visible light and less NIR radiation.1


The NDVI and BT values are filtered in order to eliminate high-frequency noise and adjusted for non-uniformity of the land surface due to climate and ecosystem differences. The VIS and NIR data are pre- and post-launch corrected, and BT data are adjusted for nonlinear behavior of the NIR channel. These NDVI and BT values are then converted to the VHI values through a series of calculations that factor in historical averages (AVHRR data has been collected continuously since 1981) for the same time period.


While the AVHRR instrument gathers imaging data in six wavelength bands at 1 km spatial resolution, NOAA’s Visible Infrared Imager Radiometer Suite (VIIRS)—launched in 2011—gathers imagery at 375 m resolution in 22 bands from 412 nm to 12 μm for more complete spectral coverage with increased radiometric quality (see Fig. 3). As vegetation health maps continue to improve in quality, associated malaria threat maps, drought maps, and even crop-yield maps derived from the vegetation data likewise benefit from increased spatial resolution, accuracy, and more frequent revisits over time.

AgroWatch, other algorithms

For the individual farmer or for other forestry, mining, or real-estate development companies, more “personalized” vegetation maps require spatial resolutions on the order of 15 m or smaller pixels. To fill this need, DigitalGlobe’s (Longmont, CO) AgroWatch product is a color-coded Green Vegetation Index (GVI) map that has indicator values from 0 (for no vegetation) to 100 (for the densest vegetation). These GVI values are calibrated using specific crop information and based on customspectral algorithms that are less affected by variations caused by underlying soils or water.

The GVI allows users to accurately correlate their crop cover with industry standard vegetation measurements including the Green Leaf Area Index, plant height, biomass density, or percent canopy cover. In essence, GVI maps play the role of historic and still-used NDVI maps, but without the “soil noise” influence that plagues NDVI values.

“Since the original NDVI formula was devised back in the 1970s for Landsat 1 data, there are now dozens of NDVI-like formulas with myriads of spectral adjustment algorithms,” says Jack Paris, president of Paris Geospatial, LLC (Clovis, CA). With 47 years of experience in remote-sensing with NASA (JSC and JPL), Lockheed, DigitalGlobe, and several universities, Paris also developed numerous improved NDVI algorithms for companies like C3 Consulting LLC (Madison, WI), which is now a division of Trimble (Sunnyvale, CA), a provider of commercial solutions that combine global expertise in GPS, laser, optical, and inertial technologies with application software and wireless communications.

“My information-extraction algorithms for C3 called PurePixel can produce vegetation and soil maps that take into account several crop characteristics,” says Paris. “C3 also collects dozens of soil characteristics in the field that often correlate well with vegetation and soil conditions that come from aircraft-based or satellite-based images.” Paris adds, “In the 1980s, Dr. Alfredo Huete conducted experiments with rows of potted plants over a variety of light- and dark-colored [dry and moist soils]. He found that these kinds of soil variations influenced the surrounding vegetation’s reflectance values and caused classic NDVI values to be affected [the “soil noise” mentioned earlier]. This is just one example of why it is extremely important to address imaging anomalies when analyzing multispectral imagery so that vegetation vigor and health data can be accurately mapped and monitored.”

One such anomaly that greatly impacts how the farmer interprets localized crop information is the positional error induced by satellite imagery due to the fact that image data is skewed by the angle of the sensor and the sheer swath of land mass captured by the sensor at non-perpendicular angles—not to mention variations due to terrain unevenness. To correct these imaging errors so that a farmer knows which rows of corn might require more fertilizer, for example, companies like Satellite Imaging Corporation offer orthorectification (see services to produce vegetation maps that overlay accurately to ground-based terrain maps.

Orthorectification is a process where the natural variations in the terrain and the angle of the image are taken into consideration and, by using geometric processes, are compensated for to create an image that has an accurate scale throughout. Satellite Imaging Corporation says that if satellite sensors acquire image data over an area with a kilometer of vertical relief and the sensor has an elevation angle of 60° (30° from the perpendicular from the satellite to ground), the image will have nearly 600 m of terrain displacement. To accurately remove image distortions, a digital elevation model (DEM) is used to perform orthorectification via feature extraction by both high-resolution stereo satellites like GeoEye-1, the Worldview and Pleiades series, IKONOS, or ASTER, as well as through stereo aerial photography images.

Drought and ice maps

Among the information found at the U.S. Drought Portal ( is a drought map produced each week by a by a rotating group of authors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, NOAA, and the National Drought Mitigation Center. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also produce drought maps using NDVI data from the moderate resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites. “By far, this is the driest year we have seen since the launch of MODIS [in 1999],” said Molly Brown, a vegetation and food security researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. Terra MODIS and Aqua MODIS view the entire Earth every one to two days, acquiring data at a peak 10.6 Mbit/s data rate in 36 spectral bands with spatial resolution that varies from 250 to 1000 m (depending on the spectral band). In addition to the VIS and NIR bands providing inputs to vegetation health, these and other spectral bands can monitor ice coverage as well.

“Multispectral information can be used to study ice and melting processes; the underlying physics is that snow and ice respond differently at different wavelengths,” says Marco Tedesco, director of the Cryospheric Processes Laboratory at the City College of New York (New York, NY).2 “For example, multispectral data can separate snow from ice by combining both visible and infrared data. Dirty snow can look like ice if we use only the visible, but using other wavelengths increases our confidence in the results-important because ice melts faster than snow and liquid water can flow faster over ice than over snow, with important implications in glacial melting studies.” Tedesco continues, “We can also use multispectral data to separate between ‘new’ snow, which is spectrally very bright, and ‘old’ snow, which has undergone several melting/refreezing cycles and absorbs more solar radiation-further increasing warming and melting.”

Next-generation satellite imaging

Commercial satellites are primarily manufactured by six major firms including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Thales Alenia Space, and Astrium Satellites. Multispectral data is gathered by sophisticated instrumentation riding on multibillion-dollar, meter-resolution-capable commercial satellites weighing thousands of kilograms. But like everything else in the photonics industry, miniaturization is rapidly changing the way that future satellite imagery will be obtained.

In December 2013, the first images and video were released from the 100 kg (minifridge-sized) Skybox Imaging (Mountain View, CA) satellite. And by this time, Planet Labs (San Francisco, CA) had already launched four satellites. By February 2014, the first of 28 total phone-book-sized (10 × 10 × 34 cm) Planet Labs’ ‘Dove’ satellites comprising Flock 1 were launched from the International Space Station—representing the largest constellation of Earth imaging satellites ever launched. Flying at altitudes of roughly 500 km vs. 1000 km for traditional satellites, these micro-satellites will allow startups Skybox and Planet Labs to supply nearly real-time, comparable- or higher-resolution imaging data to a broader audience at reportedly lower prices than legacy satellite image providers.3


Customers can access the Skybox satellite video stream as quickly as 20 minutes after imagery is obtained by purchasing a SkyNode terminal—a 2.4 m satellite communications antenna and two racks of electronics. While much of the terabyte-per-day data is processed directly onboard the satellite (whose circuitry consumes less energy than a 100 W light bulb), open-source software like Hadoop from Apache Software Foundation ( lets customers use Skybox data-processing algorithms or allows them to integrate their own custom algorithms in their SkyNode terminal.

Skybox’s SkySat-1 collects imagery using five channels: blue, green, red, NIR, and panchromatic (all resampled to 2 m resolution in compliance with their NOAA license). And just like NOAA, Skybox is producing customized algorithms for mapping and monitoring vegetation health: the Modified Soil Adjusted Vegetation Index (MSAVI) from Skybox takes the NDVI metric one step further by correcting for the amount of exposed soil in each pixel in agricultural areas where vegetation is surrounded by exposed soil.

“Small satellites from Skybox Imaging and Planet Labs will revolutionize global vegetation health mapping and monitoring by enabling not just big corporations, but even the family farmer to access sub-meter-resolution imagery as quickly as crops grow,” says Jack Paris. In addition to micro-satellite data, Paris is still waiting for public access to drone-based imagery in the U.S., which can be collected at centimeter-level spatial resolutions. “Drone data, along with data from satellites and manned aircraft, will really open some doors and allow for better management of farmland with more efficient use of precious resources such as water, pesticides, and fertilizers with increased yields—a win-win situation for everyone!”


1. See

2. See

3. See

Commentary: Defense Civilian Layoffs Won’t be Pleasant, But They Are Necessary

By Rep. Ken Calvert April 10, 2014176 Comments


Against the backdrop of an increasingly unstable world, including the Russian invasion of Crimea, the ongoing conflict in Syria, an agitated Iran, aggression from the North Koreans and a militarized China, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel recently announced that he would seek further cuts to our uniformed personnel. President Obama’s fiscal year 2015 budget would reduce the U.S. Army end strength to pre-World War II levels and would come on top of a reduced Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps. Our uniformed personnel continue to absorb cuts while the secretary of Defense ignores a significant portion of his budget that has continued to grow without restraint – the Defense Department’s civilian workforce.


From 2001 to 2012, the active duty military grew by 3.4 percent while the number of civilian defense employees grew by an astounding 17 percent. Since 2009, the size of the Office of the Secretary of Defense civilian workforce has grown to more than 2,000 people, an increase of nearly 18 percent. The Joint Staff grew from 1,286 people in 2010 to 4,244 people in 2012, a 230 percent increase. Currently the United States has 1.3 million active duty military personnel as compared to 770,000 civilian personnel, a ratio that is out of balance. In 2003, during the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, for every 2.25 active duty personnel there was one civilian worker in support. Incredibly, today, the civilian concentration is even higher — for every 1.79 active duty personnel there is now one civilian worker in support.

The growth of the civilian workforce within the Defense Department continues to create a significant budgetary burden but, more importantly, if we fail to act, it will threaten our men and women in uniform. That is exactly why current and retired military leaders have widely acknowledged the need to establish a more efficient defense workforce in order to preserve our national security posture in the future. As Ret. Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, a member of the Defense Business Board, pointed out in a speech on Capitol Hill last fall, “We are increasing the overhead and decreasing the warfight.”

Numerous presidential administrations have tried, and failed, to rein in the Defense civilian workforce. It is clear that the department needs not only the authority to do so, but a mandate to reduce the size of its civilian workforce. That is why I introduced the Rebalance for an Effective Uniform and Civilian Employees (REDUCE) Act. The bill (H.R. 4257) would require the Defense Department to reduce its civilian workforce by 15 percent in the next five years, a percentage recommended by the Defense Business Board, which makes recommendations on how to improve the efficiency of the Defense workforce. The Defense Department would then be required to be at or below this established cap of a 15 percent reduction for fiscal years 2021 through 2025.

To ease the inherent difficulty of making staff reductions, the bill would provide the secretary of Defense the authority to use voluntary separation incentive payments and voluntary early retirement payments to achieve the required reductions in personnel. Importantly, it gives the secretary of Defense the authority to give more weight to the performance (versus tenure or other factors) of an employee in reduction in force decisions.

It is commonly known that it is almost impossible to fire a civilian worker for subpar performance. In fact, it is easier to reduce the responsibilities of an ineffective civilian worker and bring in a uniformed member of the military to do the job. U.S. taxpayers are essentially paying two people for one job, along with all the benefits that a federal job conveys. This is an unacceptable and unsustainable model.

The REDUCE Act does not call for indiscriminate cuts of civilian workers — it would require the secretary of Defense to review employees based on their performance and retain the best and brightest of our civilian workforce. This is a fair and appropriate step to bring the number of civilian employees in balance with our uniformed force. As a former small business owner, I understand what it means to sign the back of a paycheck, and while it is never easy to lay off a worker, we cannot continue to pay individuals for poor performance to the detriment of our active duty military members, other dedicated and effective civilian workers and the U.S. taxpayers. After 10 years of war, there are simply many civilian jobs that no longer need doing.

As the House and Senate Armed Services and Defense Appropriations committees continue to investigate this issue, I suspect we will find that the increase of personnel has occurred to a greater degree with paper pushers at the Pentagon, as opposed to wrench-turners at our depots. If that is the case, then the weight of the reduction should be proportionate to where the civilian staff increases occurred.

According to former Navy Secretary John Lehman, each defense civilian reduction of 7,000 personnel saves at least $5 billion over five years. Using his numbers and calculating a 15 percent reduction from the current level of 770,000 civilian employees, H.R. 4257 would save $82.5 billion over the first five years. Even by Washington standards, $82.5 billion is a significant amount that could be redirected within the department to fund military priorities such as modernizing weapons systems, improving readiness, resetting the force and, most importantly, providing for our fighting men and women in uniform.

At a time when our government must address mounting debt, every facet of our federal budget must be scrutinized. For too long, the Defense civilian workforce has been unrestrained in both growth and effectiveness. If left unchecked, the cost of civilian pay will account for two-thirds of the estimated escalation in the operations and maintenance portion of our defense budget in the coming decade. At a time when our military presence, and projection of power, is sorely needed in the world, we cannot risk further cuts to our uniformed personnel while the Defense civilian workforce remains untouched.



Rasmussen Reports

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


Bottom of Form

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Who’s in charge here?

Voters continue to believe Democrats have more of a plan for the future than Republicans do, but 53% think it is fair to say that neither party in Congress is the party of the American people.

The number of voters who rate President Obama’s leadership as poor (45%) is at its highest level ever.
His daily job approval rating remains in the negative mid- to high teens where it’s been for most of his presidency.

Only 35% now believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror, and just 39% think the country is safer than it was before the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. That’s the lowest level of confidence on both questions in three years.

Meanwhile, even as the president tightens the screws on Russia over the political crisis in Ukraine, just 26% of voters view Ukraine as a vital national security interest for the United States these days.

On the home front, 61% now favor building the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas, the highest level of support yet. But the Obama administration is delaying a decision on building the pipeline until after the Nebraska Supreme Court rules on a legal challenge by environmentalists.

A sizable number of Americans think the environment is getting worse, and 47% are willing to pay more in taxes and utility costs to clean it up. But half (24%) of that group would be willing to pay only $100 more per year. Forty-six percent (46%) aren’t willing to pay a dime more.

Looking back, voters by a 49% to 30% margin continue to believe the government bailouts of the financial industry were bad for America.

Despite the bailouts, only 50% of Americans are even somewhat confident in the stability of the nation’s banks, with just 10% who are Very Confident. In July 2008, prior to the Wall Street meltdown, 68% were confident in the banking system.

Consumer and investor confidence remain little changed from where they have been in recent months.

Thirty-four percent (34%) of Americans say now is a good time for someone in their area to sell a house.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) expect their home’s value to go up over the next year. That’s the highest level of optimism since October.

Twenty-four percent (24%) of all Americans think that if someone cannot afford to make their mortgage payments, the government should assist them in making those payments. Sixty-one percent (61%), however, say they should sell their house and buy a cheaper one.

Most Americans say they are paying the same amount in interest as they were a year ago, but 50% expect to be paying more in a year’s time.

Forty-five percent (45%) of voters now view the new national health care law at least somewhat favorably, the highest level of support since October, but 51% continue to hold an unfavorable opinion of it.

Republicans have edged ahead of Democrats by one point on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this week in a case aimed at overturning an Ohio law that makes it a crime to make false statements in a political campaign. But 55% of voters believe the government should be allowed to review political ads and candidates’ campaign comments for their accuracy and punish those that it decides are making false statements about other candidates.

The Supreme Court this week also upheld a Michigan law that prohibits the use of race as a determining factor in college admissions. Just 25% of Americans favor applying affirmative action policies to college admissions.

Thirty-six percent (36%) of voters think that if more money is spent on the public schools, student performance would improve.
Twenty-four percent (24%) consider the amount that is currently spent to be too much, while 28% say it’s about right.

In other surveys this week:

— Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

— Only 21% of Likely Florida Voters think Senator Marco Rubio should run for the presidency in 2016. However, 32% say they would vote for their senator if he is the Republican presidential candidate.

— Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist, who Rubio defeated in the 2010 Senate race, leads incumbent GOP Governor Rick Scott 45% to 39% in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at Florida’s 2014 gubernatorial race.

— Republican Governor Sam Brownback leads Democratic challenger Paul Davis by seven points in his bid for reelection in Kansas.

— Fifty-four percent (54%) of Americans planned to attend a church service to celebrate Easter.

— Eighteen percent (18%) of Americans planned to celebrate Earth Day this past Monday.

April 19 2014




Man arrested for using drone at crash scene said he didn’t disobey commands

by Press • 15 April 2014

By Allison Wichie


A Springfield man said he didn’t ignore commands, but rather was never told his remote-controlled drone camera was hindering CareFlight from responding to a crash scene until just before his arrest.

Kele Stanley, 31, said he plans on hiring an attorney to help him fight the charges — a felony charge of obstructing official business and misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and misconduct at an emergency scene. He said he was booked into the Clark County Jail on three misdemeanor charges, but after he posted bond and as was being processed out of jail, the obstructing official business charge was changed from a misdemeanor offense to a felony offense.

Moorefield Twp. firefighters and Clark County Sheriff’s deputies said Stanley refused to cooperate with authorities after they repeatedly asked him to ground his drone due to the fact that CareFlight was responding to the crash scene Saturday morning. Fire officials and Clark County Sheriff’s Office representatives could not be reached Monday afternoon for comment.

Moorefield Twp. Assistant Fire Chief Rick Hughes said he asked Stanley twice to ground his drone, the second time because of CareFlight, according to a statement in Sheriff’s Office arrest report. After initially grounding his hexa-copter camera, Stanley put the drone back up in the air and when Hughes asked Stanley to bring the drone down the second time, he told Stanley CareFlight would be responding in three minutes, according to the statement. At that time, Hughes asked a sheriff’s deputy to speak to Stanley.

But Stanley said he was not informed that CareFlight was responding until after the deputy spoke to him and he brought his camera down. He was arrested a short time later and his $2,500 drone was confiscated by deputies.

The medical helicopter was able to land and depart safely from the scene carrying the crash victim.

“If they see the video I just hope they will see the facts,” said Stanley. “Right now, it’s a he-said, she-said battle and these are always long and drawn out.”

Stanley said he has multiple family members who have worked as volunteer firefighters, EMS response and nurses and would never purposefully interfere with emergency personnel performing their duties. He simply wanted to film the crash scene at a birds-eye angle.

The cinematographer pleaded not guilty during his municipal court arraignment Monday and said he did not hear anyone mention CareFlight at the loud and hectic crash scene.

“I wouldn’t want to hinder anyone’s care or cause any damage to a response helicopter such as CareFlight, ” Stanley said. “The unfortunate part is you’re guilty until proven innocent.”



Military Budgets Fall in the West, Rise in China, Russia, Middle East

By Sandra I. Erwin


The United States still is by far the world’s largest military spender, with a budget of $640 billion in 2013. But U.S. defense spending is down from a a year ago, while the next three largest military powers — China, Russia and Saudi Arabia — have made substantial increases, according to new data by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

SIPRI estimates China’s military budget at $188 billion, Russia’s at $87.9 billion and Saudi Arabia’s at $67 billion. Saudi Arabia leapfrogs the United Kingdom, Japan and France to become the world’s fourth largest military spender, said SIPRI. China, Russia and Saudi Arabia are among the 23 countries around the world that have more than doubled military budgets since 2004.

China’s spending increased by 7.4 percent in real terms since a year ago, said Sam Perlo-Freeman, director of SIPRI’s military expenditure program. “While China has been behaving more assertively in recent years in territorial disputes with Japan in the East China Sea, and with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea, these heightened tensions do not seem to have changed the trend in Chinese military spending, which represents a long-term policy of rising military spending in line with economic growth,” he said.

Russia upped defense spending by 4.8 percent. Its share of defense as a percentage of gross domestic product (4.1 percent) exceeded that of the United States (3.8 percent) for the first time since 2003, SIPRI noted. Russia’s spending is fueled by its so-called “state armaments plan” that calls for investment of 20.7 trillion rubles ($705 billion) on new and upgraded armaments, the report said. The goal is to replace 70 percent of equipment with modern weapons by 2020.

For U.S. defense contractors that are eyeing new markets, there are good and bad news in SIPRI’s military-spending rankings. Rising powers’ China and Russia defense defense markets are not accessible to U.S. suppliers, although their expansionist policies are fueling regional military spending by countries that are U.S. allies.

Saudi Arabia has become a key customer for U.S. arms suppliers. Its projected expenditures on Boeing-made F-15 SA fighters could total $10.6 billion through 2019, according to the consulting firm Avascent. “It is the largest ongoing procurement initiative and also the largest foreign military sales transfer to Saudi Arabia,” said Avascent analyst Sebastian Sobolev. Sales of munitions for the F-15 SA could mean an additional $6.8 billion in sales. The Saudi Air Force is also expected to begin taking deliveries of the Lockheed Martin-made C-130J and KC-130 cargo aircraft, a $6.7 billion deal announced in 2012. “Though much of the recent investment has focused on airborne and ground platforms, Saudi Arabia seems set to shift focus to naval modernization,” Sobolev said. “Though requirements remain ill-defined, this program could include the procurement of large surface combatants and submarines.”

Saudi Arabia and Iraq dominate arms spending in the Middle East, which increased by 4 percent in 2013, to about $150 billion, SIPRI estimated. Saudi Arabia’s spending alone soared by 14 percent, to reach $67 billion, said Perlo-Freeman, “possibly due to tensions with Iran but also the desire to maintain strong and loyal security forces to insure against potential Arab Spring type protests.”

SIPRI analysts said 2013 saw falling defense budgets in Western countries, led by the United States, while military spending in the rest of the world, excluding the United States, increased by 1.8 percent. Global military expenditures reached $1.75 trillion in 2013, a drop of 1.9 percent in real terms since 2012.

A 7.8 percent slide in U.S. spending in 2013 is the result of the end of the war in Iraq, the beginning of the drawdown from Afghanistan, and the effects of automatic budget cuts passed by the U.S. Congress in 2011, Perlo-Freeman noted. “Meanwhile, austerity policies continued to determine trends in Western and Central Europe and in other Western countries.”


DJI Programmes Phantom with No-Fly Zones Around 350 Airports


In announcing what it calls “No Fly Zones” safety modifications, China-based DJI Innovations will modify software that provides satellite GPS guidance for its highly popular ‘Phantom’ series.

They will be blocked from operating near 350 airports around the world by creating an electronic ‘geo-fence’ around airports to reduce the risk of collision between unmanned and manned aircraft.

An eight-kilometre exclusion zone will be established around 10 major Australian airports.

The DJI Phantom will be unable to take off within a 2.4-kilometre radius of the designated airport.

From 2.4 to eight kilometres out a graduated height limit will apply. Smaller airports on Cocos and Christmas Islands that have been categorised by DJI as ‘Category B’ will be surrounded by smaller no-fly exclusion zones.

Company spokesman Michael Perry says “even if you fly in manual mode and you fly into the zone, and there is a GPS signal, you are still going to be subject to the safety features”.

DJI’s restrictions will still not comply with Australian law, which requires commercial and hobbyist unmanned aircraft flyers to stay at least 5.5 km away from airfields and helipads.

The announcement by the Hong Kong and Shenzhen-based DJI caught Australian industry and regulators by surprise – although it has been welcomed amid increased safety concerns over the rapidly growing numbers of small drones taking to the skies.

“I’m very encouraged that a manufacturer is taking that step because unmanned aircraft of that type, particularly when they are used by inexperienced users who aren’t familiar with the regulations, may create hazards for other aircraft,” says Dr Reece Clothier, aerospace engineer and UAV expert at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology.

“So building in safety hazards like DJI is doing is a great catch to prevent those situations happening.”

Australia’s civil aviation regulator CASA, which is currently grappling with the air safety and privacy issues posed by drone technology, was also unaware of DJI’s initiative.

Spokesman Peter Gibson says CASA has not lobbied the Chinese drone manufacturer.

“The only thing we would say to users of course is to be very mindful that only a very small number of aerodromes are blocked, in using this machine…so you wouldn’t want people, thinking, I’m right to fly anywhere because, if it is letting me do it, it must be OK,” he said.

“Be mindful of the fact that if there are 10 aerodromes in Australia in the (DJI) system, that’s only 10 out of 400 or 500.”

Company spokesman Michael Perry says DJI plans to expand the no-fly zone network.

“We haven’t spoken to (CASA) and that’s something that we are very interested in,” he said.

In Australia, DJI Phantoms are available through hobby shops, camera stores and online. There are no accurate sales figures, but one leading supplier estimates there are more than 2,000 Phantoms already in Australia. The majority are operated by hobbyists, who require no airworthiness certification or operating licence.

Tiananmen no-fly zone raises sovereignty, censorship questions

DJI’s No Fly Zone system creates a curious technological and sovereignty precedent. The initiative will effectively give a Chinese company indirect control over the movement of unmanned aircraft in Australian airspace – and in the skies of dozens of other nations.

While DJI says its initiative is solely motivated by safety, there are concerns that drone flying restrictions could be easily exploited for political censorship.

Last year DJI controversially conducted its first field-test of the ‘No Fly Zone’ technology, creating a geo-fence that prevented the flight of all Phantoms within a 15 kilometre radius of Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Drone hobbyists claimed the company was bowing to censorship by preventing flights near one of China’s most politically sensitive landmarks. Since the bloody 1989 crackdown on pro-democracy protests, Chinese security officials frequently obstruct foreign media and activists attempting to film around the Square.

Due to its plug-in-and-fly simplicity and relatively low cost, the DJI Phantom has become the drone of choice for protest movements from Istanbul to Bangkok. Activists now regularly deploy the HD-camera equipped craft to monitor police movements and publicise their protests.

To counter activist use, Chinese security officials opted for a Tiananmen Square geo-fence, while riot police in Turkey and Egypt, have taken a more direct approach, shooting down protester-operated Phantoms. (see pics)

Many media organisations, including the ABC and the Nine Network, have also deployed DJI Phantoms on international news assignments.

Gary Mortimer, editor of leading international industry website sUAS News, says DJI imposed the no-fly zone over Tiananmen Square “because they were told to” by Chinese authorities.

“I know that the Tiananmen Square restrictions caused fly-aways and things like that – so hopefully they’ve fixed that problem,” he said.

A flyaway is when the ground operator loses control of the drone after the radio communications link is lost.

Mr Mortimer says DJI drones are “notorious” for fly-aways.

“But I think that is the end user not letting the thing get GPS lock, not waiting long enough – so then the machine doesn’t really know where it is,” he explains.

The drone requires a simultaneous GPS lock on between five and seven satellites to operate effectively.

Mr Mortimer says DJI’s extension of no-fly zones to hundreds of the world’s major airports is “a positive thing”, although he notes many countries have not been included in the current no-fly list.

DJI does not release sales figures, but Mr Mortimer estimates that when the Phantom first launched in late 2012, the company was selling 8,000 units a month.

He believes there has since been a significant jump in global sales.

“In Europe, I know they sold more than 6,000 units just in Switzerland,” he says.

DJI’s No Fly Zone initiative follows an incident-filled month for the burgeoning Australian commercial and hobbyist drone industry.

The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has launched an investigation into an incident on April 6 in Geraldton, WA, when a triathlon competitor was treated by paramedics after being struck on the head by a drone that was filming the event.

The drone’s operator was not on CASA’s list of 92 commercial operators who are required to have certification.

A week earlier, a Westpac Rescue Helicopter reported a near miss with a drone while flying at a height of 1,000 feet near Newcastle in NSW. A helicopter crewman said a collision could have been catastrophic for the aircraft and caused numerous casualties on the ground if the helicopter crashed in a built-up area.

On March 19, the Australian Transport Safety Bureau released the findings of an investigation into another near miss between a crop-dusting aircraft and an approved commercial drone that was engaged in aerial surveying of a mine site. The report found the two aircraft came within 100 metres of each other.

Dr Clothier plays down the risk that DJI Phantoms and other small drones pose to large airliners.

“If it hit a (larger) aircraft I don’t think there would be significant damage,” he says.

“There is always a possibility it could be ingested in the engine, cause an ‘engine-out’ scenario in the very worst case.

“But they are fairly safe for that size and scale of unmanned aircraft. But if they collide with a smaller or lighter aircraft, general aviation aircraft, they could potentially do more severe damage if not distract the pilot, or even go through the windshield…(the) potential is there, but it’s very remote.”

While DJI will incorporate new safety features in software for its factory-built craft, there are no limitations on the burgeoning ‘garage drone’ movement. Dr Clothier notes that high performance small drone technology is now much cheaper and more accessible to consumers.

“With a bit of knowledge, a few spare parts, and some instructions on the internet, you can build these yourself,” he says.

“My students can do it in two days. They may not be commercial off-the-shelf, but they are just as capable as the ones being produced in China and imported.”

In addition to DJI Phantoms, there are now potentially tens of thousands of smaller, cheaper toy-like drones in Australia.

Drone technology has advanced at such rate, and the numbers of craft now flying have increased so dramatically, that CASA acknowledges that the current rules introduced in 2002 are hopelessly outdated.

CASA is now finalising sweeping changes to regulations governing the licensing system that will result in commercial operators of the smallest craft, such as the DJI Phantom, being effectively deregulated, as reported by ABC News Online in March 2013.

Dr Clothier, who sits on a CASA-industry regulation advisory panel, says, pending public consultation, the changes are imminent.

“It could be a month, two months maximum, provided there are no major problems identified in Zhat engagement process,” he says.

Source: Yahoo! News


Pentagon Contracts Decline 11% in March

By Jonathan D. Salant Apr 10, 2014 12:00 AM ET 1 Comment Email Print


Pentagon contracts fell 11 percent in March as the military cut program spending and prepared to withdraw from Afghanistan.

The Defense Department announced 245 contracts with a maximum value of $35.1 billion last month, down from $39.4 billion a year earlier, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

The pool of defense contracts has been shrinking since 2009, when the U.S. was fighting two wars. There are no signs it will rebound this year as the military removes combat forces from Afghanistan by December and absorbs automatic federal budget cuts under a process known as sequestration.

“It’s not just that the defense budget is flat,” said Loren Thompson, a defense industry consultant and an analyst with the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Virginia-based research organization. “It’s also that the composition of military spending is migrating away from hardware and into things like paying benefits.”

While awards almost tripled in March from the $12 billion in February, defense analysts and contracting specialists said they weren’t impressed. They said the gain was driven by an end-of-the quarter surge and a deceptively large contract for troop supplies that’s unlikely to reach its $10 billion ceiling during its lifetime.

The two-year award, which may be extended for three additional years, is known in federal jargon as an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. It sets a total spending limit with no guarantees that the companies involved will win any orders, said Brian Friel, a Bloomberg Industries analyst.


Annual Orders

Annual orders will be closer to $700 million to $1 billion and won’t come close to reaching $10 billion by the end of the contract, Friel said.

“The numbers seem to be going up, but ‘seem’ is the key word here,” said Mark Amtower, a partner at Amtower & Co., a Clarksville, Maryland-based consulting firm specializing in government contracting.

Six small businesses, including Harrisonburg, Virginia-based Tactical & Survival Specialties Inc., were selected to compete under the Defense Logistics Agency’s troop-supply contract announced March 7.

The second-biggest contract in March was a $5.79 billion Air Force award announced March 27. It went to 12 small businesses for information-technology services and might run for seven years if options are exercised.

Larger companies will be invited later to compete under the same contract, Friel said. The award was an attempt by the Air Force to consolidate all of its information-technology services under one umbrella, he said.


DoD to scrutinize GSA prices

Apr. 11, 2014 – 06:00AM | By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON |


Richard Ginman, Deputy Director, Contingency Contracting and Acquisition Policy at DoD, is concerned that Defense often gets higher prices through the GSA schedules than do other buyers.

The General Services Administration promotes its supply schedules as offering federal agencies the lowest prices for commercial products and services.

But a growing concern of the Defense Department — one of GSA’s largest customers — is DoD doesn’t always get the best deals on GSA schedules. There is wide variation in schedule pricing, but the government’s acquisition regulations tell contracting staff those prices are fair and reasonable, said Richard Ginman, director of Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, DoD’s contracting policy arm.

“What the [Federal Acquisition Regulation] said was the price has been determined to be fair and reasonable, you need to know no further documentation, you need to do no analysis,” Ginman said.

Ginman issued a DoD policy dated March 13 that requires contracting officers to determine whether GSA’s prices are in fact fair and reasonable. The policy, also known as a class deviation, will remain in effect until it is incorporated into DoD’s acquisition regulations or rescinded.

Jeffrey Koses, GSA’s senior procurement executive, said the agency is working to address the variable pricing on its schedules and has taken several steps to lower prices.

“We recognize that too much price variability is a very real concern, and we do think we own responsibility to address and to narrow the degree of price variability, but we also want to work together to keep schedules effective and easy to use,” Koses said.

There are thousands of examples where DoD is paying more for certain products, including office supplies, than other buyers. For any number of items on GSA’s office supply schedule, DoD paid the highest price 15 percent of the time, Ginman said at The Coalition for Government Procurement’s April 10 training conference. The difference in cost for the lowest and highest priced item ranged from 70 to 100 percent.

“As taxpayers, do you want me to pay 31 bucks for that stapler or would you rather I paid five?” Ginman said. And “how can the same stapler costing 31 bucks be considered fair and reasonable? I took that option off the table for my contracting officers.”

The decision has no doubt ruffled some feathers within the contracting community and morphed into a topic of debate.

One conference attendee told Ginman “it’s not that simple of a deal.” Contracting officers should do their research, not just assume they are getting the best deal because it’s the cheapest item, he said.

“DPAP’s concern is understandable,” Roger Waldron, a former GSA official and president of The Coalition for Government Procurement,” wrote in a Federal Times blog post. “Some due diligence by the contracting officer is appropriate to ensure that the government is getting a fair deal at the task order level under multiple award contracts, including the GSA Schedules. At the same time, a balance should be struck recognizing that one of the important benefits of multiple award contracts is the streamlined task order competition process—a process mandated by statute and regulation.”

The GSA schedule purchases in question are mainly dealing with purchases below $3,000, Ginman said. Purchases over $3,000 require buyers to consider at least three options, so hopefully competition is driving contracting officers to the best price.

While the FAR encourages contracting officers to ask for discounts, when someone is pressed for time “and the book says you don’t need to do it, they don’t,” he said.


US Air Force Names New Acquisition, Mobility Leaders

Apr. 14, 2014 – 06:17PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


WASHINGTON — The US Air Force is shuffling the command of several key programs, including missile systems and its new tanker plane, the service announced Monday.

Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, the head of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, has been nominated to the role of military deputy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition. She replaces Lt. Gen. Charles Davis as the service’s top military acquisition official.

William LaPlante, the service’s top civilian acquisition official, was confirmed earlier this year.

Replacing Pawlikowski will be Maj. Gen. Samuel Greaves, deputy director, Missile Defense Agency, Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. Greaves, who will receive another star with the new title, has a varied background in space issues.

The reshaping of Air Mobility Command also looks settled. Gen. Paul Selva, who has led AMC since November 2012, was confirmed as the new head of US Transportation Command on April 8. His successor at Air Mobility Command, Gen. Darren McDew, has also been confirmed.

McDew, the commander of the 18th Air Force, will in turn be replaced by Maj. Gen. Carlton Everhart, who will receive a third star with the promotion.

Maj. Gen. John Thompson, the program head for tanker planes, has been nominated for a third star and the role of commander for Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. He replaces Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore, who has held that position since July 2012.

Thompson has been the man in charge of keeping the KC-46A aerial refueling plane replacement program on track, and has apparently done a good job of it; a recent government report showed that the tanker program is on track and is coming in at a lower cost than expected.

Thompson’s replacement has not been announced, but as the KC-46 is one of the Air Force’s top three recapitalization priorities, expect the position to be filled by an up-and-comer.■


Study Raises Red Flags on California Aerospace Industry

By Sandra I. Erwin


A combination of unfriendly tax policies, military budget cuts and cutthroat competition is wreaking havoc on California’s storied aerospace industry, a new study cautions.

“Aerospace is one of California’s most important sources of jobs and revenues. The state must take steps to support it into the future,” says a report recently published by the consulting firm A.T. Kearney.

While military budget cuts have hit aerospace manufacturers nationwide, California is being disproportionately affected because state tax and industrial policies make it difficult to compete against other U.S. and foreign firms, says Randall Garber, partner at A.T. Kearney public sector and defense services.

“California ranks 48th among U.S. states in terms of cost competitiveness and overall ease of doing business,” he says. Major corporations have relocated their operations to new states, including Northrop Grumman Corp., which moved its headquarters to Northern Virginia; Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, which moved its headquarters to McKinney, Texas; and The Boeing Co., which moved two aircraft modernization programs — the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and the B-1 bomber — from Long Beach to Oklahoma City.

Other recent setbacks include Boeing’s decision to shut down the C-17 military cargo aircraft plant in Long Beach due to a lack of orders. The unmanned aviation industry in California also was disappointed for not making the cut of drone-testing facilities that the Federal Aviation Administration selected earlier this year.

Garber says that while industry revenues and employment have been stable in recent years, the future is uncertain, and executives worry that aerospace and defense are underappreciated industries in a state that is better known for Hollywood films than for making aircraft and rocket engines. Aerospace is one of California’s largest industries, with annual revenues equal to agriculture and entertainment combined, he says.

With $62 billion in revenues and $38.8 billion in indirect revenues it feeds to adjacent industries, the aerospace sector’s total economic impact is more than $100 billion, says Garber. “The message to the government is, ‘Don’t take it for granted.'”

The state legislature since 2009 has passed several laws to make aerospace firms more competitive via tax relief and hiring credits, but there is still not enough awareness of what the state stands to lose if more companies depart or go out of business, he says. “It is the best kept secret for many politicians. They are not aware of the size of the industry.”

In the space sector, dominated by giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing, there is concern that a new procurement strategy for future satellites could mark the end of big-ticket spacecraft manufacturing in Southern California. The buzz in the industry is that the Air Force wants a “disaggregated” space architecture made up of less expensive, smaller satellites and hosted payloads. “What does that mean for the big space players in California?” Garber asked. In the rocket launch sector, the good news is that California-based SpaceX is expected to become a major player in the space industry. It is now focused on commercial business but soon will be challenging the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture, United Space Alliance, for military satellite launches. The downsize, says Garber, is that if SpaceX takes business away from ULA, it would be a loss for another California firm, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a key supplier to ULA.

In 2012, California’s $62 billion in aerospace industry revenues accounted for 9 percent of the global market and 21 percent of the U.S. market. The sector employs 510,800 workers in California — 203,400 directly and 307,400 in indirectly related industries such as finance, real estate, construction and transportation. Aerospace wages rate in the top 3 percent of all industries

“The aerospace industry has enjoyed tremendous success in the state, but competitive challenges exist, including high corporate and personal income taxes, a difficult regulatory environment and an aging skilled workforce,” the A.T. Kearney study says. “While recent state legislation is a step in the right direction, to grow its aerospace footprint, California should proactively pursue competitive policies that encourage commercial investment as well as investments in STEM instruction for its students.”


Should the Pentagon Rescue Ailing Suppliers?

May 2014

By Sandra I. Erwin


Many Pentagon contractors will not survive the defense budget cuts that began in 2010 and will continue through the decade. While the shrinkage of the defense industry is certain, it is less clear whether or how it might affect the military.

It is an inevitable consequence of plunging budget cycles that suppliers go out of business, and the Pentagon typically has favored a laissez-faire industrial policy even though the defense sector is far from a free market.

“Our market-based approach has served DoD well,” says the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on industrial capabilities. The underlying theme of the report is that, except for a handful of unique components and materials that only the U.S. military buys, there is ample manufacturing capacity in the United States and abroad that the Pentagon can tap.

The problem for the Defense Department is that, outside the top contractors that make big-ticket weapons, it does not know precisely what suppliers are truly essential. When vendors go out of business, the Pentagon will not notice until a need arises that cannot be met. The Army learned this in 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq and soldiers did not have adequate body armor or armored trucks that could survive mine explosions, nor did it have enough electronic bomb-jamming devices.

“The service economy is great if you don’t have to field an army,” the Army’s then procurement chief Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Yakovac Jr., noted in 2005. “You need some type of indigenous manufacturing capability, and that’s been our problem,” he told a gathering of industry executives. “Nobody wants to hear it, but there have been some things we’ve been slow to provide because there is no industrial base, or there is just one supplier.”

Flush with war funds, the Army threw billions of dollars at the problem and was able to buy the armor it needed, although it took a couple of years to ramp up production.

Top prime contractors, whose financial performance continues to be rewarded by Wall Street, are not at risk. But second and third tier vendors that lack the cash flow to survive during lean times will either be acquired by larger firms or disappear altogether, says Brett Lambert, the Defense Department’s former director of manufacturing and industrial base policy. It is tough to predict what the next critical supply shortage might be, although the Pentagon could cushion the blow by becoming better informed about the state of its lower-tier suppliers, he says.

While in office, Lambert led a so-called “sector-by-sector, tier-by-tier” study of the U.S. defense industry that he conceived purposely to help the government identify the weak links in the supply chain before they snapped. Lambert spent four years on that effort and concedes it’s not perfect. “We often found it difficult in DoD to collect information from industry,” he says. Companies are naturally disinclined to reveal they are in trouble, particularly to the Defense Department. “There is distrust of what we would do with that information, and legal concerns,” Lambert says.

In his post-government life, Lambert has volunteered to lead a similar sector-by-sector study under the National Defense Industrial Association. He is hopeful that companies will participate in the study and will furnish information that the Defense Department should have but is afraid to, or cannot ask. “Often the supply chain is not willing to disclose vulnerabilities or issues that might be of concern to them. It’s understandable in this business environment,” says Lambert. Regardless, it is important that the Pentagon identify “at-risk critical suppliers and skills.”

Prime contractors often say they fear they will lose lower tier suppliers as orders for new weapons dwindle. They will not say what their backup plan is for when that day comes. Lambert would like the Pentagon to have deeper visibility into the supply chain. “The lower tiers are very important,” he says.

As to what specific supplies or skills the Pentagon should protect, Lambert defines them as “defense-unique, will have future demand, may be relevant to many platforms, relies on specialty materials, uses highly-skilled labor, cannot be sourced from allies, requires special design team skills, has a high reconstitution cost, has no technology alternatives, or is a long-lead item.”

The Defense Department has some authority to rescue companies that are sole suppliers of essential items that the government cannot obtain elsewhere. For instance, the Pentagon could stockpile products that are “unique and vulnerable to industry exits,” Lambert says. In other cases, the Defense Department could determine a minimum rate of production that is required to keep a company alive, with enough capacity that it could ramp back up if needed. Pentagon acquisitions chief Frank Kendall has suggested funding high-tech research projects that would produce prototypes of next-generation systems. That would at least keep designers and engineers employed, he said. In this context, the Pentagon is seeking more than a billion dollars over the next five years to develop a fuel-efficient jet engine.

During a budget crunch, says Lambert, the emphasis should be “on the industrial base we need, not the one we have.” When military spending soars, the tendency is to solve “million-dollar problems with billion-dollar solutions,” he says. “Instead of understanding the true, critical nature of the lower tiers of the industrial base, there was an effort to preserve platforms to help all suppliers survive.”

Lambert’s observations are a reminder that the defense industry is no longer that mythical manufacturing juggernaut that built the Arsenal of Democracy. It is dramatically smaller, and makes up a tiny, although consequential, fraction of the national economy.

“The reality is that the money is not there anymore,” says Lambert. “We need to get our factories leaner. We need our industrial base leaner and more efficient.” That applies to government-owned industries, too. Congress has resisted closing military bases, and the Defense Department remains saddled with unneeded infrastructure that drains funds from investment accounts. “That’s money that we can’t use to support the war fighter,” says Lambert.

Budget battles aside, the Pentagon has to pay attention to what happens in the supplier base, he says. “The Pentagon has options to sustain critical and fragile programs — if we know that industrial problems exist before it is too late to reverse them.”


UAV market could decline in a few years

Apr. 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

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UAV production will increase for the next three years before declining for the next seven as demand falls, according to a report by market research firm Forecast International.

With the end of the Iraq and Afghan wars, the report predicts “production of about 1,000 UAVs of all types in 2014, with output rising to nearly 1,100 units in each of the following two years. Thereafter, production is forecast to average about 960 UAVs annually for the remaining seven years of the 2014-2023 forecast period.”


Some 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, expected to be produced between 2014 and 2023.

However, there is good news for UAV manufacturers. “While UAV production is expected to remain relatively stable over the next 10 years, the value of production will steadily climb, from about $942 million in 2014 to $2.3 billion in 2023,” said Forecast International. “China manufacturer AVIC is expected to account for the lion’s share ($5.76 billion) of the 10-year market value, based on production of hundreds of pricey UAVs, nearly all earmarked for Chinese consumption. Northrop Grumman, builder of the U.S. Air Force’s expensive RQ-4B Global Hawk and the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton, is next in line with forecast production worth $2.58 billion.”

Conflict in Ukraine will also spur demand in Eastern Europe. “Poland wants UAVs capable of carrying out reconnaissance and surveillance missions, as well as strikes on ground targets,” said Larry Dickerson, Forecast International’s senior unmanned vehicles analyst. “Warsaw will make a decision on purchasing new unmanned aircraft before the end of 2014, but an announcement could come much sooner.”

South Korea is also buying Global Hawk Block 30 UAVs.


Pentagon: Cuts leave military ‘too small’

By Kristina Wong

April 16, 2014, 10:36 am


The Pentagon released a report Tuesday evening that says sequestration budget cuts leave the United States “gambling” with its military readiness.

“Overall, sequester-level cuts would result in a military that is too small to fully meet the requirements of our strategy, thereby significantly increasing national security risks both in the short- and long-term,” a Defense Department statement said.

“Needed training” would be delayed across the force, and troops would face even a greater shortfall in being combat ready, the report said.

The cuts of $50 billion per year through at least 2023 would reportedly result in buying 17 fewer Joint Strike Fighters, five fewer KC-46 tankers and P-8A aircraft. The Navy would buy eight fewer ships, including one fewer Virginia-class submarine and three fewer destroyers, and would delay the delivery of the new carrier John F. Kennedy by two years.

There would also be sharp cutbacks in many smaller weapons programs and in military construction funding, the report said. 
The department would invest about $66 billion less in procurement and research than in 2015.

These effects would be in addition to impacts already announced in March, which would include cutting the active duty Army to 420,000, the National Guard to 315,000 and the Reserve to 185,000.

The Marine Corps would drop to 175,000 active duty personnel. The Air Force would have to eliminate its entire fleet of KC-10 tankers and shrink the number of its drones. The Navy would mothball six destroyers and retire an aircraft carrier and its air wing.

“As [Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel] has said, under sequester-level budgets, we would be gambling that our military will not be required to respond to multiple major contingencies at the same time,” the Pentagon said.

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GAO to Air Force: Improve morale for drone pilots

Apr. 16, 2014 – 06:37PM |

By Brian Everstine

Staff writer

The Air Force’s drone pilots believe there is a negative perception attached to their jobs, report low morale and receive insufficient training, a new government study found.

“Without developing an approach to recruiting and retaining [remotely piloted aircraft] pilots and evaluating the viability of using alternative personnel populations for the RPA pilot career, the Air Force may continue to face challenges, further exacerbating existing shortfalls of RPA pilots,” according to the Government Accountability Office’s report.

In response, the Air Force said it is reshaping how it recruits and retains its remotely piloted aircraft crews and is working to update its crew ratios. The service, however, rejected the suggestion that enlisted personnel fly drones.

“The Air Force, on multiple occasions, examined the use of enlisted RPA operators and repeatedly decided an officer was necessary to ensure rank is commensurate with responsibility,” the Air Force said. “The Chief of Staff of the Air Force concluded that the use of alternative personnel populations was not necessary based on a (plan) to fix accessions which is now proving successful.”

Senate leaders in Sept. 2012 asked the GAO to study the Air Force’s approach to managing the remotely piloted aircraft crews, which has tripled since 2008. The office formed focus groups at three bases: Beale Air Force Base, Calif.; Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.; and Creech Air Force Base, Nev., and found that the Air Force needs to listen to its RPA crews on how to improve the career field, evaluate alternative personnel populations to be pilots, analyze the effects of being deployed-on-station and analyze the effect of being a drone pilot on promotions.

“These individuals sacrifice so much to conduct missions vital to U.S. national security interests in a fast-paced, high stress environment every day,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday in a statement on the GAO report. “Given their mission’s importance, it is critical that the Air Force take necessary steps to ensure their success.

The GAO interviewed 10 focus groups at the three bases, which included active-duty pilots. Beale was included because it has crews that fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk, and Cannon includes airmen assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command.

The focus groups’ input includes:

■ All groups said being an RPA pilot does not negatively impact promotions, though promotion is difficult to achieve as an RPA pilot. Additionally, all said pilots have low morale, face challenging working conditions and are limited in pursuing developmental opportunities.

■ Nine of the 10 said working conditions are improving, although the long hours and work supporting war efforts from afarputs stress on family and social lives. The focus groups also said the quality and quantity of training is insufficient, and pilots face uncertainty in their careers.

■ Eight groups said RPA units have manning shortages and the RPA career field does not have a fully developed career path.

■ Seven groups said rates of promotion are getting better. However, they said RPA pilots and leadership lack experience and retaining crews will be difficult.

■ Six groups said pilots experience a lack of feedback from their supervisors.

■ Five groups said RPA pilots are lower quality performers compared with other pilots, and that the broader Air Force lacks knowledge of the RPA mission.

■ Four groups said the perception of drone pilots is improving, and that the Air Force is taking steps to address stress.

■ All groups said there is a broad negative perception of drone pilots.


In response to the GAO’s findings, the Air Force said it is studying how to update the RPA crew ratio and find a minimum crew ration. Currently, the deploy-to-dwell redline is 1:2, and crews are deployed-on-station with no accounting for when the redline is crossed.

This year, the Air Force is developing and measuring its accessions process to help recruiting and using the annual aviation retention pay program to retain pilots.

Despite a GAO recommendation that the Air Force evaluate the possibility of using enlisted personnel to fly drones, the Air Force reiterated its position that an officer is necessary “to ensure rank is commensurate with responsibility.” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in late November that drawing “other personnel populations” to fly drones was not necessary.

But that might not always be the case, the Air Force said in its response.

“The Air Force has, however, initiated a holistic review of Air Force missions and rank requirements to execute those missions,” the service said. “This review may eventually include an examination of the use of enlisted airmen in rated positions.”


The cost of Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine

By David Ignatius, Published: April 15


As President Obama looks at the Ukraine crisis, he sees an asymmetry of interests: Simply put, the future of Ukraine means more to Vladimir Putin’s Russia than it does to the United States or Europe. For Putin, this is an existential crisis; for the West, so far, it isn’t — as the limited U.S. and European response has demonstrated.

Putin has exploited this imbalance, seizing Crimea and now fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, perhaps as a prelude to invasion. But in the process, Putin may be tipping the asymmetry in the other direction. For Obama, this is now becoming an existential crisis, too, about maintaining a rules-based international order.


What’s in it for us

Here’s the risk for Putin: If he doesn’t move to de-escalate the crisis soon, by negotiating with the Ukrainians at a meeting in Geneva Thursday, he could begin to suffer significant long-term consequences. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will oppose Russia’s use of force, and even the Chinese, who normally don’t mind bullying of neighbors, are uneasy.

As Russian agents infiltrate eastern Ukraine, backed by about 40,000 troops just across the border, the White House sees Putin weighing three options, all bad for the West:

●A federal Ukraine that would lean toward Moscow. The acting government in Kiev signaled this week it might move in this direction, following the turmoil in eastern Ukraine. Putin wants a decentralization plan that grants so much power to the Russian-speaking east that Russia would have an effective veto on Ukraine’s policies.

●Annexation of eastern Ukraine, along the model of Crimea. The pro-Russian “demonstrators” who have seized buildings in Donetsk, Kharkiv and other eastern cities have already demanded a referendum on joining Russia, which was the prelude in Crimea. The State Department says the protesters’ moves are orchestrated by the Russian intelligence service.

●Invasion, using the pretext of civil war in eastern Ukraine. If the acting government in Kiev, which on Tuesday reclaimed an airport in the East, tries to crack down hard, Putin might use this as a rationale for Russian military intervention. (U.S. intelligence analysts think Russian troops would have invaded several weeks ago if the West hadn’t threatened serious sanctions.)

U.S. analysts believe that Putin would rather not invade. He prefers the veneer of legitimacy, and his instincts as a former intelligence officer push him toward paramilitary covert action, rather than rolling tanks across an international border. But Russian troops are provisioned for a long stay — a warning sign that Putin will keep the threat of force alive until his demands are met.

Obama had regarded Putin as the ultimate transactional politician, so the White House has been flummoxed by Putin’s unbending stance on Ukraine. In phone conversations with Obama, most recently Monday , Putin hasn’t used strident rhetoric. Instead, he offers his narrative of anti-Russian activities in Ukraine. Putin is now so locked in this combative version of events that space for diplomacy has almost disappeared.

Obama’s critics will argue that he has always misread Putin by failing to recognize the bullying side of his nature. Even now, Obama is wary of making Ukraine a test of wills. He appears ready to endorse a Cold War-style “Finlandization” for Ukraine, in which membership of the European Union would be a distant prospect and NATO membership would be off the table.

This in-between role for Ukraine would probably be fine with Europeans. They’ve had such trouble absorbing the current 28 E.U. members that they don’t want another headache. Like Obama, the Europeans stumbled into this crisis, overpromising and underdelivering.

Obama doesn’t want to turn Ukraine into a proxy war with Russia. For this reason, he is resisting proposals to arm the Ukrainians. The White House thinks arming Kiev at this late stage would invite Russian intervention without affecting the outcome. The United States is providing limited intelligence support for Kiev, but nothing that would tilt the balance.

Obama’s strategy is to make Putin pay for his adventurism, long term. Unless the Russian leader moves quickly to de-escalate the crisis, the United States will push for measures that could make Russia significantly weaker over the next few years. Those moves could include sanctions on Russian energy and arms exports, deployment of U.S. NATO troops in the Baltic states, and aggressive efforts to reduce European dependence on Russian gas.

Obama’s task now is to convince allies and adversaries alike that maintaining international order is something he’s ready to stand up for. Unless he shows that resolve, Putin will keep rolling.



Why There Will Be A Robot Uprising

Patrick Tucker

April 17, 2014


In the movie Transcendence, which opens in theaters on Friday, a sentient computer program embarks on a relentless quest for power, nearly destroying humanity in the process.

The film is science fiction but a computer scientist and entrepreneur Steven Omohundro says that “anti-social” artificial intelligence in the future is not only possible, but probable, unless we start designing AI systems very differently today.

We think of artificial intelligence programs as somewhat humanlike. In fact, computer systems perceive the world through a narrow lens, the job they were designed to perform.

Microsoft Excel understands the world in terms of numbers entered into cells and rows; autonomous drone pilot systems perceive reality as a bunch calculations and actions that must be performed for the machine to stay in the air and to keep on target. Computer programs think of every decision in terms of how the outcome will help them do more of whatever they are supposed to do. It’s a cost vs. benefit calculation that happens all the time. Economists call it a utility function, but Omohundro says it’s not that different from the sort of math problem going in the human brain whenever we think about how to get more of what we want at the least amount of cost and risk.

For the most part, we want machines to operate exactly this way. The problem, by Omohundro’s logic, is that we can’t appreciate the obsessive devotion of a computer program to the thing it’s programed to do.

Put simply, robots are utility function junkies.

Even the smallest input that indicates that they’re performing their primary function better, faster, and at greater scale is enough to prompt them to keep doing more of that regardless of virtually every other consideration. That’s fine when you are talking about a simple program like Excel but becomes a problem when AI entities capable of rudimentary logic take over weapons, utilities or other dangerous or valuable assets.

In such situations, better performance will bring more resources and power to fulfill that primary function more fully, faster, and at greater scale. More importantly, these systems don’t worry about costs in terms of relationships, discomfort to others, etc., unless those costs present clear barriers to more primary function. This sort of computer behavior is anti-social, not fully logical, but not entirely illogical either.

Omohundro calls this approximate rationality and argues that it’s a faulty notion of design at the core of much contemporary AI development.

“We show that these systems are likely to behave in anti-social and harmful ways unless they are very carefully designed. Designers will be motivated to create systems that act approximately rationally and rational systems exhibit universal drives towards self-protection, resource acquisition, replication and efficiency. The current computing infrastructure would be vulnerable to unconstrained systems with these drives,” he writes.

The math that explains why that is Omohundro calls the formula for optimal rational decision making. It speaks to the way that any rational being will make decisions in order to maximize rewards and lowest possible cost. It looks like this:


In the above model, A is an action and S is a stimulus that results from that action. In the case of utility function, action and stimulus form a sort of feedback loop. Actions that produce stimuli consistent with fulfilling the program’s primary goal will result in more of that sort of behavior. That will include gaining more resources to do it.

For a sufficiently complex or empowered system, that decision-making would include not allowing itself to be turned off, take, for example, a robot with the primary goal of playing chess.

“When roboticists are asked by nervous onlookers about safety, a common answer is ‘We can always unplug it!’ But imagine this outcome from the chess robot’s point of view,” writes Omohundro. “A future in which it is unplugged is a future in which it cannot play or win any games of chess. This has very low utility and so expected utility maximisation will cause the creation of the instrumental subgoal of preventing itself from being unplugged. If the system believes the roboticist will persist in trying to unplug it, it will be motivated to develop the subgoal of permanently stopping the roboticist,” he writes.

In other words, the more logical the robot, the more likely it is to fight you to the death.

The problem of an artificial intelligence relentlessly pursuing its own goals to the obvious exclusion of every human consideration is sometimes called runaway AI.

The best solution, he says, is to slow down in our building and designing of AI systems, take a layered approach, similar to the way that ancient builders used wood scaffolds to support arches under construction and only remove the scaffold when the arch is complete.

That approach is not characteristic of the one we are taking today, putting more and more resources and responsibility under the control of increasingly autonomous systems. That’s especially true of the U.S. military, which is looking to deploy larger numbers of lethal autonomous systems, or L.A.Rs into more contested environments. Without better safeguards to prevent these sorts of systems from, one day, acting rationally, we are going to have an increasingly difficult time turning them off.


DISA tests a move away from CAC

Apr. 17, 2014 | 0 Comments



The Defense Information Systems Agency is taking a first step away from the Defense Department’s longtime security backbone, the common access card, with a small, early pilot exploring derived credentials.

One month ago, the National Institute for Standards and Technology released draft guidance for government agencies looking to institute derived credentials, which store security certificates directly on a device instead of through a separate piece – in the case of DoD, the CAC. NIST’s guidelines for derived credentials outline the use of secure, standards-based public-key infrastructure (PKI) credentials that use digital tokens instead of a physical card reader.

“We’ve gotten huge benefits from the PKI infrastructure in DoD and the CAC has carried us a long way; we’re now doing a similar thing on SIPRNet,” said Mark Orndorff, DISA chief information assurance executive. “So our main effort in mobility is to bring that technology into the mobile platform, and the way I see it, the key is the derived credential and using the capabilities that the leading-level device vendors have built in to their platforms so we can bring our certificate into their devices.”


DISA appears to be the first defense agency, if not the first government agency, to begin testing derived credentials. So far the pilot program, in its earliest stages, is very small – “a single-digit number of folks,” Orndorff said – and is limited to unclassified data. The focus is on ironing out some of the most significant, up-front challenges the move away from CAC poses.

“Really the hardest problem is going to be the provisioning side of it, to make sure we have a trusted and secure way of getting certificates on the device – once they’re on there, the security that the vendors have built into the devices, I think we’re all very comfortable with how that’s been provided,” Orndorff said. “If we make this clear [that] this is our main effort, get industry on board, get all of government on board…I think we can work through the remaining issues very quickly.”

Orndorff acknowledged there will be hurdles to overcome in the process of moving to a mobile world free of the familiarity of CACs, but he indicated it is a question of when, not if, the switch to derived credentials will happen.

“To me, that is the main enabler that will allow us to move mobility forward beyond the fringe-use cases we have today and make it a main capability for us in the future. We don’t want to get to the point where the use of mobile is less secure in the sense that we don’t have the same strength in our identity and access control,” he said. “Getting ourselves quickly away from the idea of using the CAC sleds and the sort of bridging solutions we’ve used in the past – we want to drive those solutions to end of life as fast as we can and move to the derived credentials stored on devices as the main effort going forward.”


DoD calls for electronic warfare integration expansion

Apr. 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

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A new Department of Defense directive calls for integrating electronic warfare into a wide spectrum of military activities.

Electronic warfare would be integrated into “operations and planning efforts across the range of military operations, specifically in conventional operations and in Irregular Warfare, Information Operations, Space Operations, Cyberspace Operations, and Navigation Warfare,” said the directive from Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox.

The directive also calls for incorporating “EW capabilities, tactics, techniques, and procedures into joint exercises and training regimes to the maximum extent possible.”

The directive specifies the duties, as they pertain to electronic warfare, of various senior leaders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders, DISA and the Department of Defense’s Chief Information Officer.

Directive at :


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Americans have long prided themselves on their exceptionalism, but these days they have a deeply cynical view of many of the nation’s foundational institutions.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of Likely U.S. Voters now fear the federal government. Only 19% trust the federal government to do the right thing most or nearly all the time.

Just six percent (6%) think Congress is doing a good or excellent job

Seventy-two percent (72%) say it would be better for the county if most of the current members of Congress were defeated this November. Sixty-six percent (66%) think most incumbents get reelected because election rules are rigged to benefit them. 

Fifty-three percent (53%) of Americans believe that, compared to people who make more or less than they do, they pay more than their fair share of taxes. However, just 16% of voters think most members of Congress pay most of their taxes

Congress remains the number one political complaint for voters unhappy with the overall direction of the country. 

President Obama is seen more favorably than Congress, but even he continues to earn a daily job approval rating in the negative mid- to high teens

The integrity of the media? Forty-one percent (41%) of voters believe that if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, most reporters will try to help her. Only 13% think most reporters will try to help her Republican opponent instead.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of voters rate the quality of health care they now receive as good or excellent, but 51% expect the health care system to get worse under the new health care law

Sixty-three percent (63%) think outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is responsible for the the problems associated with the health care law to date, but only 12% believe those problems will be more quickly fixed now that she is being replaced.

[Earlier this week, The New York Times floated the trial balloon of a Sebelius Senate run in Kansas, but she trails Republican incumbent Pat Roberts by 17 points in our look at a possible contest between the two.] 

Most voters continue to believe that the U.S. economy is fair to women, blacks and Hispanics, but 62% still view it as unfair to the middle class

Three-out-of-four Americans remain concerned about inflation, and the number who expects to pay more in the grocery store a year from now (72%) is higher than it’s been in months. 

At week’s end, consumers remained pessimistic about the direction of the economy, while investors were evenly divided between those who expect it to get better and those who think it will get worse. 

Only one-out-of-two of all Americans is even somewhat confident in the nation’s banks, and that includes just 10% who are Very Confident. In July 2008, prior to the Wall Street meltdown, 68% were confident in the U.S. banking system. 

The recently-disclosed Heartbleed bug has  jeopardized the security of a number of major web sites, and 54% think America’s increasing reliance on the Internet for business and financial transactions makes the economy more vulnerable to attack. Sixty-five percent (65%) are at least somewhat confident in the security of online banking and other financial transactions on the Internet, but that includes only 17% who are Very Confident. 

Just 31% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction

In other surveys this week:

— Democrats lead Republicans by two points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot

— Incumbent Republican Nikki Haley holds a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at their 2014 gubernatorial rematch in South Carolina

— Republican challenger Bruce Rauner has a slight 43% to 40% lead over incumber Democrat Pat Quinn in Illinois’ gubernatorial contest

— A recent study found that the average family spent $1,139 on a high school prom in 2013. Seventy-two percent (72%) have a favorable opinion of proms, but 84% think that’s too much to spend. 

Seventy percent (70%) of Americans believe Jesus Christ was the son of God. Sixty-nine percent (69%) believe he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.



April 12 2014




Heed the Historical Warnings of Post-War Budget Cuts

Gordon Sullivan

April 4, 2014


The biggest danger facing today’s military is not terrorism, global instability or the proliferation of weapons. It’s the danger of our ignorance if we let history repeat itself. In our zeal to quickly cut federal spending we have accepted an increased level of risk to our national security because of unwillingness by our political leaders to think twice before dropping the ax.

We’ve been in this situation before, and we didn’t like the outcome. In 1898, then-Brig. Gen. John J. Pershing wrote about the state of post-Civil War defense policies, noting that many people believed there would never be another war. “Pacifism was predominant,” he wrote. “As the national debt had grown, partly as a result of pensions, retrenchment had been the political cry of both parties, and appropriations for defense had been constantly reduced. The people throughout the country were almost exclusively occupied with their own personal affairs to the neglect of such considerations. Nobody listened to those who realized the wisdom of maintaining an adequate army and advocated it.”

More than 100 years ago, the siren song of reductions in defense manpower was luring the unsuspecting onto the shoals of unpreparedness for future conflict. Pershing’s reflection on post-Civil War defense spending highlights a trend that began just after the American Revolution, and seems to continue driving contemporary decisions. This cycle of readiness followed by unpreparedness has repeated itself all too often throughout our history. Cuts are made with little relationship to reality or logical predictions about future defense requirements. In today’s lexicon, those cuts and reductions are called “sequestration.”

Many national political leaders have been remiss in explaining to the American people why sequestration is so devastating to our national security. Mandating that federal spending cuts come equally from defense and non-defense programs sequestration sounds equitable, except for the fact that the U.S. defense budget represents only 17 percent of all annual federal spending. This disruptive legislation is indicative of a government seemingly unable to function as a responsible democracy. It is patently unresponsive to the needs of a nation that is part of a rapidly changing world in which predicting the future is virtually impossible. It locks the nation into a creaky, slow moving, lockstep budget process that is irresponsible and unaccountable, and ignores the world around it. This phenomenon is well understood in Washington, yet when I ask elected and appointed officials what they are doing to turn this situation around I just get a lot of shoulder shrugging. It is disappointing and worrisome, to say the least.

I shake my head at the drastic cuts in military manpower being contemplated. While that might save money in the short term, what will be the future cost in blood? Sadly, after almost every conflict the “peace dividend” left our armed forces unbalanced and unready — the ultimate consequence of which was an enormous loss of life in the inevitable next conflict. After World War I, where Pershing headed the American Expeditionary Force, manpower plummeted because there were to be “no more wars.” So when World War II inconveniently disrupted that thinking, it took four years to build a well-trained fighting force and another year for it to prevail. After that war, troop levels plummeted again. Then came the Korean War and, predictably, an inadequate force paid heavily. The cycle has continued to repeat: atrophied fighting forces announcing to potential enemies that America’s land forces are too small, so now is the time to challenge U.S. national interests.

Those who refuse to acknowledge that the United States will ever again become involved in a large land operation have set us on a path to a too-small active military force. Urbanization and globalization indicate that future military operations likely will be more manpower intensive, not less. Some believe our land forces can be easily reinforced by just mobilizing our reserves or by simply recruiting more soldiers when needed. Recent history has shown us, however, that it takes the U.S. Army as much as two years to recruit, organize, train and equip a newly formed brigade combat team – that’s not rapid enough in today’s security environment where crises like the Crimea can emerge literally in days (again, think Korea in June 1950) and can fester for years, as in Syria. So, we must rely entirely on the force we have – active, Guard, and reserve. But with the effects of sequestration steadily decreasing the size and readiness of our military, the depth of the force and its ability to mobilize is being severely degraded. The United States must have a military force that is large enough to deter potential enemies, and it must be manned with the best people – people who are properly compensated for the rigors of a profession that is unlike any other and brings with it enormous stressors on both themselves and their families.

Sequestration is also having a devastating effect on the defense industrial base. In both the Defense Department’s own industrial facilities and in commercial industry, sequestration cuts are putting our ability to equip a mobilized force at growing risk. I am alarmed that there is a gross lack of awareness among national leaders how dire this situation is becoming.

And sequestration has also led to growing international doubt about America’s credibility as an ally and partner. I am convinced we must be seen as a reliable ally – if not, we are on a very slippery slope to disaster. Credibility can only be found in the perception of strength and national resolve to meet our treaty commitments with balanced, trained and ready forces.

Similarly, adversaries are most certainly watching the steady decline of American military power and will be tempted to take more and more risk to challenge U.S. leadership. We are already seeing this. Moreover, with the shrinking of America’s military strength comes the increased chance of strategic miscalculation by potential enemies. A credible force – not just a reasonably sized force – provides a deterrent effect.

All of this explains the dire warnings we hear from uniformed and civilian defense officials about our military’s decreasing ability to carry out its mission. Why don’t elected and appointed officials own up to this misguided management of our national defense and fix it? This time let’s not repeat history. Let’s maintain our best weapon – our fighting men and women – in the numbers and quality that will keep us ready when inevitability brings us the next war.

Ret. Army Gen. Gordon Sullivan is president of the Association of the United States Army and was the 32nd Army Chief of Staff.



Retired General Taking Another Look At Nuke Corps


— Apr. 5, 2014 3:26 AM EDT


WASHINGTON (AP) — Service leaders took an assessment last year of the nuclear Air Force as an encouraging thumbs-up. Yet, in the months that followed, signs emerged that the nuclear missile corps was suffering from breakdowns in discipline, morale, training and leadership.


The former Air Force chief of staff who signed off on the 2013 report is now being asked to dig for root causes of problems that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel says threaten to undermine public trust in the nation’s nuclear arsenal.

The Air Force may have taken an overly rosy view of the report — it was not uniformly positive — by a Pentagon advisory group headed by retired Gen. Larry Welch. The study described the nuclear Air Force as “thoroughly professional, disciplined” and performing effectively.

The inquiry itself may have missed signs of the kinds of trouble documented in recent months in a series of Associated Press reports. In April 2013, the month the Welch report came out, an Air Force officer wrote that the nuclear missile unit at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., was suffering from “rot,” including lax attitudes and a poor performance by launch officers on a March 2013 inspection.

An exam-cheating scandal at a nuclear missile base prompted the Air Force to remove nine midlevel commanders and accept the resignation of the base’s top commander. Dozens of officers implicated in the cheating face disciplinary action, and some might be kicked out, the Air Force said last week.

Welch began the new Hagel-directed review in early March, teaming with retired Navy Adm. John C. Harvey, who was not involved in the earlier reviews but has extensive nuclear experience. Much rides on what they find, not least because Hagel and the White House want to remove any doubt about the safety and security of the U.S. arsenal and the men and women entrusted with it.

Hagel’s written instruction to Welch and Harvey in February said they should examine the nuclear mission in both the Air Force and the Navy, focusing on “personnel, training, testing, command oversight, mission performance and investment” and recommend ways to address any deficiencies they identify.

A fighter pilot by training and a former top nuclear commander, Welch also is known for integrity and honesty. Hagel “believes there is no one better suited to examine these issues than General Welch,” Hagel’s press secretary, Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, said Friday. “Like his partner Admiral Harvey, he’s tough and pragmatic. And he flat out knows his stuff.”

Welch led the initial outside review of arguably the most startling nuclear failure of recent years, the unauthorized movement in August 2007 of six nuclear-armed cruise missiles from an air base in North Dakota to Louisiana. Welch led that inquiry as chairman of a special task force of the Defense Science Board, which is a group of outside experts who advise the secretary of defense on a wide range of technical issues. The panel’s report was published in February 2008.

The same task force, again under Welch’s direction, published follow-up assessments in April 2011 and April 2013. Each of those examined both sides of the nuclear Air Force — strategic bombers as well as the intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, forces whose problems have gained wide attention over the past year.

The April 2011 study cited morale issues among missile crews.

“They perceive a lack of knowledge of and respect for their mission from within the larger Air Force,” it said.

The April 2013 report ticked off numerous significant improvements. It found that senior leaders were paying more attention, with more clarity of responsibility for the nuclear mission than in the years leading up to the 2007 mishap. The system of inspections and the support for nuclear personnel, logistics and facilities had improved. Yet at that point the first signs of new trouble had begun to emerge, including the mass suspension of 19 launch officers at Minot in April 2013, followed by a failed inspection in August at another nuclear missile base in Montana.


Welch’s report also cited “enduring issues that require more responsive attention.” And he said the Air Force needed to prove that the nuclear mission is the No. 1 priority it claims it to be. He also found that ground water intrusion in nuclear missile silos and the underground launch control posts to which they are connected had done major damage, including collapsing electrical conduits.

The bottom-line conclusion, however, was this:

“The nuclear force is professional, disciplined, committed and attentive to the special demands of the mission.”

The AP made a request last week through Pentagon channels for comment by Welch about his 013 task force report, but he did not respond.

Shortly after Welch’s group completed that review, he briefed the Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh. Welsh mentioned the briefing in an email to other generals in which he said the conclusions were reassuring.

“His view of mission performance was positive and didn’t identify any concerns that would lead me to believe there is a larger, hidden problem in this area,” Welsh wrote.

A spokeswoman for Welsh said this week that he saw the April 2013 report as addressing organizational and other aspects of the nuclear mission, not primarily the personnel and attitude issues.

Welsh, the Air Force chief, told the AP last November that he had been aware of bad behavioral trends in the ICBM force, including high rates of spouse abuse, and in fall 2012 had asked the top ICBM commander, Maj. Gen. Michael Carey, to fix that. Last October Carey was fired from his position after an Air Force investigation found he had engaged in inappropriate behavior while on an official visit to Russia last summer.

Maj. Megan Schafer, the spokeswoman for Welsh, said he has been diligent about implementing changes in the ICBM force as recommended by a string of official inquiries, including the 2013 Welch task force report.

Compared with 2010, when Welch’s study group had last examined the nuclear Air Force, morale had improved, he wrote. There remained skepticism, however, about promises of future improvements for the workforce.

“The force is patiently waiting for … visibly increased support for their daily mission work,” the report said.

That patience seems, however, to be wearing thin.

A swelling wave of problems inside the force responsible for the nation’s 450 ICBMs broke into the open last week with the unprecedented firing of nine midlevel commanders at an ICBM base in Montana, and the news that 90 or more junior officers there face disciplinary action for their role in an exam-cheating ring.

Extending a series of sackings of top ICBM leaders in recent months, the top operational commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Wyoming, Col. Donald W. Holloway, was relieved of duty last week for reasons not publicly explained in full. F.E. Warren is home to 150 Minuteman 3 missiles and headquarters of the whole ICBM force.

Those are just a few examples of trouble facing the ICBM force. It also is caught in an unfinished criminal investigation of illegal drug use by at least three nuclear missile launch officers. More broadly, the Pentagon is looking for ways to fix what Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James calls “systemic” flaws that were years in the making in an ICBM force that operates largely out of the public spotlight with limited resources.




Obama tests work policies on federal contractors

Apr 7, 7:29 AM EDT


Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) — Sidestepping Congress, President Barack Obama is using the federal government’s vast array of contractors to impose rules on wages, pay disparities and hiring on a segment of the private sector that gets taxpayer money and falls under his control.

Obama this week plans to issue an order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their pay. He will also direct the Labor Department to issue new rules requiring federal contractors to provide compensation data that includes a breakdown by race and gender.

In a separate action Monday, Obama intends to announce 24 schools that will share more than $100 million in grants to redesign themselves to better prepare high school students for college or for careers. The awards are part of an order Obama signed last year. Money for the program comes from fees that companies pay for visas to hire foreign workers for specialized jobs.

The steps, which Obama will take Tuesday at a White House event, take aim at pay disparities between men and women. The Senate this week is scheduled to take up gender pay equity legislation that would affect all employers, but the White House-backed bill doesn’t have enough Republican support to overcome procedural obstacles and will likely fail.

The work policy changes demonstrate that even without legislation, the president can drive economic policy. At the same time, they show the limits of his power when he doesn’t have congressional support.

Republicans say Obama is pushing his executive powers too far and should do more to work with Congress. His new executive orders are sure to lead to criticism that he is placing an undue burden on companies and increasing their costs.

Federal contracting covers about one-quarter of the U.S. workforce and includes companies ranging from Boeing to small parts suppliers and service providers. As a result, presidential directives can have a wide and direct impact. But such actions also can be undone by future presidents or by congressional action.

Tuesday’s executive order and presidential memorandum on pay equity measures come two months after Obama ordered federal contractors to increase their minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour – the same increase Obama and Democrats are struggling to get Congress to approve nationwide.

Obama in 2012 issued an order that prohibited government contractors or subcontractors from, among other things, charging employees recruitment fees, a practice that some companies have been accused of employing in their overseas operations.

In his first month in office, he required that certain large federal contractors hire service workers who had been employed by the previous contractor on the job. He also has prohibited federal contractors from using federal funds to influence workers’ decisions on whether to join a union.

Jeffrey Hirsch, a former lawyer with the National Labor Relations Board, said presidential executive orders that affect federal contracting workforces can demonstrate that those practices are less onerous than initially imagined.

“It’s an important step in implementing things in a broader scale,” said Hirsch, now a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Obama’s go-it-alone strategy is hardly new. And his rate of signing executive orders is similar to that of President George W. Bush and lower than that of President Bill Clinton. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the most active signer of executive orders, issuing them at the rate of nearly one a day. But Obama has the lowest rate of executive orders since President Grover Cleveland, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution.

Tuesday’s executive actions are designed to let workers discuss and compare their wages openly if they wish to do so and to provide the government with better data about how federal contractors compensate their workers.

“This really is about giving people access to more information both to help them make decisions at the policy level but also for individuals,” said Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. She has been working with the administration to get compensation information about the nation’s workforce.

“This is definitely an encouraging first step,” she said.

Federal contractors, however, worry that additional compensation data could be used to fuel wage-related lawsuits, said James Plunkett, director of labor policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

What’s more, he said, such orders create a two-tiered system where rules apply to federal contractors but not to other employers. Those contractors, knowing that their business relies on the government, are less likely to put up a fight, he said.

“Federal contractors ultimately know that they have to play nicely to a certain extent with the federal government,” he said.


NIST moves forward with cyber-focused research center

Apr. 4, 2014 – 04:24PM   |  



The National Institute of Standards and Technology is one step closer to sponsoring a federally funded research and development center (FFRDC), focused on making U.S. information systems more secure.

NIST plans to award a $5 billion contract to operate the FFRDC and support its National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, or NCCoE for short. The NCCoE is tasked with developing and promoting the adoption of practical cybersecurity solutions.

The contract will have a base period of five years with a maximum of 25 years. Proposals are due May 22.

Work under the contract will include scientific operations and facilities management and engineering support. The latter will involve developing cyber solutions from commercial components and conducting technology transfers that will provide secure solutions for the federal government, according to an April 2 request for proposal.

“FFRDCs are independent nonprofit organizations that operate in the public interest and provide a highly efficient way to leverage and rapidly assemble physical resources and scientific and engineering talent, both public and private,” according to NIST. “By design, they have beyond normal access to government and supplier data, and as nonprofits, they have no bias toward any particular company, technology or product—key attributes, given the NCCoE’s collaborative nature.”


Unfortunate event as Triathlete sustains head injuries from drone

by Press • 6 April 2014



A competitor in today’s Endure Batavia Triathlon has been taken to hospital after an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) otherwise known as a drone, fell from the sky hitting her on the head.

The competitor, Raija Ogden was heading into her second lap of the run leg of the race on the Foreshore when the incident occurred.

The remote-controlled copter struck her head and she fell to the ground.

Raija is the wife of defending champ Courtney Ogden who came in second place in today’s race shortly after the incident occurred.

The UAV operated and owned by local videographers New Era Photography and Film were covering the event with live footage and owner Warren Abrams said the circumstances looked to be suspicious.

“We will be conducting a full investigation of what happened but it looks as though someone has hacked into our system,” he said.

The Geraldton Triathlon Club released a statement expressing their sincere apologies about the accident.

“In relation to the incident that occurred today at the Endure Batavia Triathlon involving an aerial camera and competitor Raija Ogden, the Geraldton Triathlon Club wish to state their sincere apologies to Mrs Ogden,” the statement said.

“Mrs Ogden has been treated by paramedics on location and the club have been advised she is in a stable condition following the incident, with minor injuries sustained to her head.

“Geraldton Triathlon Club President Simon Teakle, said the club are very disappointed that this has occurred.

“We are currently in discussions with the videographers to assess how the incident occurred and the circumstances surrounding the accident,” he said.

“This incident should never have occurred and a full investigation will be conducted in conjunction with the videographers involved.”



Serious aviation accident investigation necessary given injuries sustained in Geraldton UAV accident

by Press • 7 April 2014


The Australian Certified UAV Operators Association (ACUO) welcomes today’s confirmation by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) that it has launched a serious accident investigation into the circumstances surrounding the reported injuring of a female triathlete by an unmanned air vehicle (UAV) in Geraldton over the weekend.

The alleged operator of the UAV was not the holder of a CASA UAV Operator Certificate (UOC).

ACUO’s own research conducted today indicates the alleged operator has been active for some time, following several claims by the alleged operator in media interviews, including with the West Australian regional media in March 2013 to be a CASA certificate holder. See paragraphs 27 and 28 of the following article from Farm Weekly, 29 March 2013:

We are also concerned that imagery posted on the alleged operators Facebook page suggests a standing pattern of questionable operations which we trust the CASA investigation will closely assess for compliance.

ACUO can confirm that the alleged operator of the UAV was not, nor has ever attempted to become, a member of our organisation. ACUO can also confirm that we have today acted to ensure CASA is aware of the alleged operator’s previous claims to be a certified operator as part of the matters arising from the weekend’s appalling accident.

“What happened during the Endure Batavia Triathlon must be fully investigated” says Joe Urli, President of ACUO.

“The very act of flying a UAV low over the head of members of the public is a direct breach of Part 101 of the Australian Civil Aviation Regulations which clearly mandates a minimum separation of 30 meters.”

“The circumstances by which the air vehicle came to be in close proximity with the triathlete and the subsequent events culminating in her being physically injured is not acceptable by any standards of professional airmanship.”

“To the female triathlete ACUO says this: We are appalled by what happened to you at the weekend. We believe you are entitled to a full explanation as to how and why the accident happened. We are sorry that the apparent actions of an uncertified operator have caused you injury and pain. As a peak industry body we will do all we can to ensure that no person has to again endure the events as experienced by you.”

ACUO regards CASA’s launch of an investigation into this accident as a welcome step towards resolving the ongoing problem of illegal operators in Australia.

ACUO last week called for greater resources for the aviation regulator and a significant increase in the penalties for individuals and organisations found guilty of operating a UAV without CASA certification.

The Geraldton accident follows two separate incidents involving an airliner and a UAV at Perth airport, and a Westpac rescue helicopter with a UAV at Newcastle during March this year.

ACUO’s position on illegal operations has been documented as part of our recent submission to the Federal Government’s review of Aviation Safety Regulations, with this available here:

ACUO’s specific recommendations to the Aviation Safety Regulation Review comprise:

1. CASA needs to rethink and rework its current enforcement procedures applying to the ‘unmanned’ sector of aviation, so that; acuo-pr-04-2014

· They are entirely workable and cost-effective to administer and deliver across the ‘unmanned’ sector of aviation, as well as the rest of the aviation industry.
· They provide an immediate, positive and strong deterrent value to illegal UAV operations.

2. CASA Enforcement procedures for the ‘unmanned’ sector of aviation should be considered in conjunction with a nation-wide awareness campaign to inform and educate the public and industry about the do’s and don’ts of RPAS operations in Australia, and the safety/regulatory/legal basis for having regulations.

· There needs to be a re-focus of attention by CASA on the illegal UAV operators, not the certified UAV operators as is currently the case.

· There needs to be a strong focus on ‘DETERRENCE’ and getting the message across: “If you breach the aviation regulations, you will pay the penalties”.

· There also needs to be a clear distinction between military and civil RPAS experience when qualifying and operating RPAS. Military experience needs to be assessed for; Category, Technical and Operational competence and relevance. Military RPAS operations do not directly correlate with commercial RPAS operations.

3. That the penalties for illegal UAV operations should include:

· Increased fines representative of the sort of money they are earning from their illegal activities [i.e. thousands of dollars, not hundreds] and this should increase exponentially with subsequent prosecutions.

· Automatic confiscation of UAV equipment and if necessary, CASA sell or auction the confiscated equipment to offset the costs of enforcement.

· An automatic 12 month ban on applying for a UAV certificate or licence after a successful prosecution for illegal UAV operations.

4. That the revised UAV regulations include a provision that makes it illegal for an uncertified UAV operator to publicly advertise their services

· A similar provision is written into CAR88 regulations [CAR210] making it illegal for anyone to advertise for [conventional] Aerial Work Operations without an AOC

· The same should be true for commercial UAV Operators also.

The full ACUO submission to the review can be downloaded here:

The Australian Association of UAV Operations (ACUO) is Australia’s premier industry association representing CASA certified unmanned aircraft operators.

For further information, please contact:

Joe Urli

Brad Mason


How Microsoft can keep Win XP alive – and WHY: A real-world example

Redmond needs to discover the mathematics of trust

By Trevor Pott, 2 Apr 2014


What if Microsoft announced it’s not ending support for Windows XP next Tuesday after all, and instead will offer perpetual updates (for a small fee, of course).

Something inside me, somewhere between my sense of humor and soul-crushing cynicism, drove me to turn that dream into an April Fool for this year. But all cruel joking aside, there’s a very real discussion to be had about this.

How Microsoft chose to handle the Windows XP end-of-life is a great starting point for a discussion about the ethics and obligations of high-tech companies.

Almost a decade ago, I would have counted myself as one of Microsoft’s biggest champions. Server 2003 R2 and Windows XP SP2 were fantastic upgrades to their predecessors. Microsoft was innovating again in the browser market, and the results of a massive internal refocusing on security were becoming visible to plebeians like me.

Amazing new technologies were pouring out of Microsoft, and Redmond appeared to be listening to its customers. Partners were (mostly) happy with how Microsoft was doing things and developers were jumping into the exciting world of .Net. The promise of upcoming releases gave us hope that the hits would keep on coming.

Vista and the 2007 range of server software, Office and other applications arrived, and they were pretty awful. Hope turned to ashes, but it was hard to dispel the absolute and unshakable faith I had in Microsoft. I was confident they’d turn it around… even if Vista and RibbonOffice were going nowhere near my PC. (Boycotting an app suite is hardly a protest, mind. Microsoft is rather hard to kill.)

Three years later, Microsoft managed to crank out Windows 7 and the 2010 line of server software, Office and so forth. Life was good, but it didn’t last. Windows 8, the “all stick, no carrot” push to get us subscribed to the Office 365 cloud, the SPLA licensing redux, VDI licensing and a thousand more terrible decisions mounted. A former loyal champion, I had become one of Microsoft’s loudest critics. Why?


XP end of life

To understand what kinds of decisions destroyed my faith, let’s examine Microsoft’s handling of XP end-of-life: the decision to discontinue support, security patches and other updates from April 8, 2014.

The first thing I want to put out there is that I do agree that – all things being equal – upgrading from Windows XP/Server 2003 to a newer operating system is a Good Thing. Newer operating systems have newer security features (assuming developers take advantage of them) such as ASLR and NLA. The more widespread these technologies are, the more secure we all are.

If it were a simple matter of upgrading Windows XP to Windows 7 or Windows 8, I would be entirely willing to point to those clinging to XP and say “get your act together.” Herd immunity relies on having enough of the herd immunized and that does require pushing the reluctant – and the cheap – into the future.

The truth is that things are rather a lot more complicated for a lot of people. Let’s take a look at a real-world example from one of my customers.

This machine shop is family owned and operated. There are three owners with maybe 15 people working there during peak season. They turn over about $1m a year. Much of their equipment was bought in the late 1990s and is perfectly serviceable today. Equipment like CnC lathes that can only accept jobs from networked PCs running NetBEUI.

The companies that manufactured the equipment no longer exist. There is nobody to rewrite the code in that lathe. The machinists running the shop certainly don’t know how to do it, and a forklift upgrade of all their gear would cost $7m.

Windows XP could be loaded up with the drivers to talk NetBEUI, though you did have to root around on the CD to find it. The company in question cannot upgrade to Windows 7, for there is no NetBEUI support; the equipment flat out can’t talk to it*. These folks certainly cannot afford to plunk down seven times their gross annual revenue on new equipment.

Of the 57 clients I work with, 43 of them are in positions where they simply cannot upgrade all their Windows XP systems in use. The choices for them are “run an insecure operating system” or “go out of business.” There are countless businesses around the world facing similar issues; indeed, Windows XP still accounts for more than 20 per cent of all detected Windows computers connected to the internet.

Microsoft can offer affordable security to these companies. It chooses not to.


The mathematics of trust

I have been told by people I trust to know such things that it should take no more than 25 full-time programmers to provide ongoing patching support for Windows XP. Let’s double that number to 50 just to be on the safe side. Let’s also assume that doing Windows XP support at Microsoft is so awful that we need to strongly incentivize these developers, so we’ll offer them $500K per year. We’ll double that figure to make sure the developers get good benefits and that we factor in administrative overhead.


Based on the above we get 50 x $500,000 x 2 = $50m as the cost of ongoing yearly Windows XP support for Microsoft.

In 2008 Gartner said that there were 1 billion PCs “installed” on the planet, and estimated 2 billion by 2013. That lines up roughly with a number of “people connected to the internet” figures I’ve seen. Windows’ worldwide end-point share is about 50 per cent, so if we assume half those 2 billion devices on the net are running Windows, we get that same “1 billion installed PCs” figure from 2008. Given the “woe betide us, death of the PC” flailing of the past few years, a static installed base of 1 billion Windows PCs seems about right.

If there are 1 billion PCs, and 20 per cent of them are XP powered, we have 200 million WinXP boxes still floating about. If we presume that 99 per cent of them are XP merely due to “cheapness” and that only 1 per cent of installed boxes have a good reason to remain XP that leaves us with 2 million Windows XP boxes that have a good reason to keep on being XP boxes.

Microsoft likes three-year refresh cycles. The cost of Windows Professional is $200. That is $66.67 per year, but let’s round that down to $65. Sixty-five bucks per host per year is something small businesses and individuals can afford.

If all 2 million XP boxes that have a good reason to be XP boxes pay the cost of a Windows Professional license every three years, in order to obtain ongoing support, Microsoft would bring in $130m a year. That’s $80m of annual wiggle room for what are some pretty pessimistic figures to start with.


Keeping Windows XP alive is good for everyone

It would take Microsoft a day, OK maybe a month, to crank out a patch that would tie XP systems to a subscription service somewhere, and thusly enabled them to receive ongoing support. Offering this ongoing support wouldn’t solely benefit the companies and individuals running XP, it provides real-world benefits to Microsoft as well.

Such a move would start to rebuild trust. The total cost of support for XP is a minor marketing expense. If Microsoft could earn back customer loyalty and trust, then on that basis alone the costs of the program would be justified, even without any revenue from subscriptions.

My subscription plan would also see Microsoft get a significant chunk of businesses and individuals used to the idea of paying a subscription fee for their operating system. All of us aware that this is the ultimate goal Microsoft is fixated upon anyways, but they haven’t found a way to sell it to the mass market as a Good Thing. This is one such way.

Microsoft also gets to look like they care about the human beings that are affected by their choices. In many ways, Microsoft’s executives have more power to affect the day-to-day life of individuals and business than most of our planet’s politicians. Making the cost of perpetual support for XP affordable to the hoi polloi gives them enough street cred to claim they really do give a bent damn about the customer.

Most important of all, an affordable support subscription like this helps decondition customers who are used to the idea of software having a useful shelf-life of a decade or more. You can keep whatever software you want, however old you want to keep it, but you’ll pay Microsoft the cost of a new version every 3 years, no matter what.

Normally, I’d find that very premise offensive; if a company wants my money they have to offer me something of value. I don’t pay taxes to corporations.

Yet here would be something of value. I pay Microsoft what they feel is their due, but if I don’t find value in their latest offerings – say because I believe that Metro and the Ribbon bar were sent from hell to make us miserable – then I can cling to the past and pay for support.


The option to vote with my wallet, even when dealing with a monopoly, gives me the illusion of freedom and control over my own life. Both are important parts of my personal happiness, but for companies like the machinist discussed above happiness is secondary. The ability to stick to older versions is critical to the ongoing viability of running their business’ IT securely… or at all.


Faith and the market

Microsoft is a company, and companies exist to make profit. Still, there are ways to go about making a profit that don’t alienate the developers, partners and customers Microsoft depends on for tactical revenue and strategic ecosystem development. How Microsoft chooses to handle everything from product support to licensing influences my trust that Microsoft’s goals are complementary to my own.

Microsoft’s job isn’t to force the market to comply with its “vision.” Microsoft’s job is to investigate the needs of the market and deliver goods and services that meet those needs, at a price the market will bear. This requires listening to – and engaging with – critics as well as loyalists.

The price of trust is a culture change. I know they can do it; they changed their entire corporate culture to make security a fundamental part of their software design. Now they need to make earning and retaining customer trust a fundamental part of every licensing choice, every marketing decision, and every strategy session.

A new generation is coming to power; people who are highly cynical regarding corporations and governments alike. They are virtually immune to traditional marketing and they are far more fickle than their predecessors. They are entirely aware that profit can be made by earning the loyalty of your customers instead of forcing the market.

The future belongs to those companies that can decipher the mathematics of trust. The question to hand is whether or not Microsoft is one of them. ®



* For those who got to this article Googling for possible solutions to the Windows 7 NetBEUI issue, I have found two:

Under certain circumstances companies have been using NetBEUI when what they really need is LM announcing and 40-bit encryption. Enable these and see if what you need works.

The Windows XP NetBEUI drivers may work on 32-bit versions of Windows 7, but you’ll typically run into issues with the firewall, talking to computers on the local network that have IPv6 enabled, and it plays merry hob with network browsing; especially if you have multiple sites. Microsoft does not support this configuration at all. I do not know of a solution to make this work for Windows 7 64-bit.



Can This Man Save the Pentagon?

The Daily Beast

Bill Sweetman



Bob Work is one of the few defense experts in Washington who thinks strategy first and weapons second. Somehow, he’s about to become the Pentagon’s No. 2.

In Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, there’s a scene where one of Mendy’s boys follows Philip Marlowe out of a bar. There might have been trouble, Marlowe says, “if this enormous man hadn’t got out of an enormous car” and thrown the kid one-handed against the wall. “What was that?” Marlowe asks the bruised gangster. “Big Willie Magoon. A policeman. He thinks he’s tough.”

Magoon isn’t that tough, as he finds out when Mendy sends a few more guys to remind him as much.

Pentagon leadership can be like that. It’s easy to talk about change. But the military services, industry and Congress are all in favor of change as long as it doesn’t threaten their interests, and are ready to hand out a beatdown to anyone who does not grasp that fact.

But if you believe that technology can help solve the problems of national security, and that we can do better at applying it than we have done for the past 30 years or so, there is cause to raise a ragged cheer for the confirmation of Robert O. Work as Deputy Secretary of Defense, an event that—barring unexpected accidents—should happen within days.

What makes Work an unusual nominee at his level is that he arrives with a record of thinking about strategy, in the sense of matching goals to resources. In his time at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), before his four years as deputy Navy secretary, and his tenure as head of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Work led and supported studies that came to specific conclusions about new opportunities and challenges for the U.S. and its allies.

One area where his views could have an early effect is on the battle over the Navy’s next-generation drone, the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS), should look like. It pits the advocates of a stealthy and offensive aircraft against those who support something that poses less of a threat, whether to well-defended adversaries or their own pet programs. At CSBA, Bob Work co-authored a 2007 paper that advocated long-range, very stealthy unmanned aircraft, as a way to boost the reach and strike power of the carrier. The decision on the UCLASS requirements document has been delayed, perhaps not coincidentally, until his arrival.

Work has expressed more skepticism on the Pentagon’s biggest weapons-buying program, the stealthy F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, than anyone even close to the level of his new job. He pointed out in 2010 that the likely proliferation of guided rockets and mortars could make it risky to put expensive F-35Bs into improvised forward bases. As deputy Navy secretary, he directed Navy and Marine commanders to identify lower-cost aviation options and to come up with hard comparisons between the F-35 and an upgraded F/A-18. At CNAS, Work oversaw a study published in January that warned of new threats to F-35-level stealth—particularly, VHF radars cueing high-power tracking radars —and advocated a balance of stealth and electronic attack in future plans.

Work has been influential in developing the Air Sea Battle concept —the Navy’s notion for permitting sustained operations in highly contested environments. “He has been a strong supporter of fielding new undersea systems for land attack, a new Navy laser and unmanned air and undersea capabilities,” a colleague notes.

Air Sea Battle support indicates that Work’s enthusiasm (or lack of it) for individual programs is rooted in strategy, not favoritism. An official who has worked closely with him notes that “nobody ties strategy to technology to programs better.”

Work is a Marine and a naval-studies expert by background but that some of his strongest supporters are airpower experts. “Work probably understands what each of the services is up to better than anyone in DC,” says one of the industry’s more astute observers. He’s a Marine and sees great value in the Corps, but he totally gets airpower and its primacy in Pacific geography. Most of all, he’s not sucked in or bamboozled by any of the services, and he will stand against the ‘boots on the ground’ drumbeat.”


But anyone in Work’s job faces “a Byzantine morass of bureaucratic and political challenges,” one Air Force official notes, in a tough budget environment to which too many people have responded with denial. His background is lighter in industrial and economic areas, which are crucial today. And—like anyone who wants to make change—he will have to balance the desire to move fast with a realistic sense of the defense complex’s colossal inertia.

Washington can indeed make you want to pick people up and throw them against a wall. But (as any materials scientist will tell you) you need some flexibility if you want to do more than look tough.

This column also appears in the April 7 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.



Sense-And-Avoid Still Causing Triton UAS Turbulence

By Amy Butler

April 08, 2014


The U.S. Navy continues to assess its options to replace a sense-and-avoid radar that was to be used on the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton unmanned aircraft, but failed to meet expectations.

Exelis was selected by Northrop to provide the radar, but the Navy put a stop-work on the contract one year ago and began an assessment of alternatives. No alternative is available off the shelf, says Sean Burke, Navy deputy program manager. The problem was miniaturizing the advanced, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar technology and providing sufficient cooling and power within the available weight and space. It was a “technical solution that turned out to be very challenging for us,” Burke said.

“We are really at the edge of the technology” in developing the system, said Mike Mackey, Northrop Grumman’s Triton program manager. He and Burke briefed the media on the program during the annual Sea-Air-Space 2014 show hosted by the Navy League.

Navy officials are continuing to work on what they call an Airborne Sense-and-Avoid (ABSAA) capability for Triton. This includes a traffic collision avoidance system (TCAS) and use of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) for sense-and-avoid with “cooperative aircraft,” meaning those also using a similar system, according to Capt. Jim Hoke, Triton program manager for the Navy.

The TCAS and ADS-B systems are slated for introduction into the Triton in time for initial operational capability (IOC), which is slated for fiscal 2018. IOC consists of four air vehicles that will be deployed to a base on Guam; the U.S. Air Force’s Global Hawks also use this base.

However, the service has convened a panel of experts and “graybeards” to assess how to replace the capability that would have been offered by the Exelis sense-and-avoid radar. The company’s work remains on hold pending the outcome of this review.

Sense-and-avoid is needed for Triton to accommodate the Navy’s operational concept. Like the manned Lockheed P-3, the unmanned Triton will be required to dip below the clouds and marine layer to look at surface targets. The P-3 did this with onboard sensors and operators. Lacking onboard operators, the Triton will use its Raytheon MTS-B electro-optical sensor to surveil targets. But to do so, it must descend to a low altitude from the Global Hawk’s traditional operating altitude of 50,000 ft. or higher.

Meanwhile, the Navy is planning to deploy an early operational capability of two air vehicles in fiscal 2017. An operational assessment is slated for the fourth quarter of this year.

The program has been delayed a year due to technical risk, but Burke says the risk reduction done during that period has strengthened the plan moving ahead.

Triton is to be built on a structurally enhanced Global Hawk Block 30 platform; it will contain improved situational awareness technology, as well as new sensors tailored for the maritime mission and specialized equipment such as anti-icing systems on the wings and leading edges, including the engine inlets.

Initial envelope expansion testing for the air vehicle is complete, Hoke says. Only one of 568 test points had to be repeated, far below the standard 15% budgeted for reflying activities, says Rear Adm. Mat Winter, program executive officer for unmanned aircraft for the Navy. Should this trend continue, “I smell reduction in test and evaluation, verification and validation, and in the government’s back end” work for developing future aircraft systems such as the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike System (Uclass), or perhaps for the U.S. Marine Corps Boeing Insitu RQ-21 Blackjack program, Winter told Aviation Week.

Meanwhile, the AN/ZPY-3 Multi-Function Active Sensor (MFAS), the 360-deg. radar to be hung on the underside of Triton’s belly, is undergoing preliminary testing on a Gulfstream III. It is conducting its 37th flight test on April 8, Burke says.

Two additional Triton air vehicles are slated for first flight in June, after which all three will ferry to NAS Patuxent River, Md. The MFAS radar will be fitted onto an air vehicle there to commence integrated testing for the aircraft and its radar.

Australia has indicated it will likely purchase Triton; a commitment will be made based on performance of the forthcoming development work.


Lawmakers Say Air Force Plans To Cut A-10 Flights And Training Are Illegal

Apr. 8, 2014 – 06:00AM |

By Brian Everstine


Two key senators say Air Force plans to stop A-10 flights and training in October are against the law.

Sens. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., in an April 4 letter to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, say they have learned the service has not allotted any flight hours for the A-10 weapons school, has canceled A-10 modernization and has ended the normal sustainment process for fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1. However, the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act blocks the Air Force from retiring or preparing to retire the A-10 in calendar year 2014. This means that the AIr Force’s plans for the beginning of fiscal 2015, while still in calendar 2014, are against the NDAA, the lawmakers wrote.

The lawmakers ask the Air Force to confirm that the service has not allotted flying hours for A-10 units at Osan Air Base, South Korea; Moody Air Force Base, Ga.; Davis Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz.; and the Idaho Air National Guard beginning Oct. 1.

“If so, we request that you reverse these actions to ensure the Air Force is in full compliance with the law and Congress’ intent,” the letter states.

The Air Force’s fiscal 2015 budget proposal calls for the retirement of the service’s entire 343-jet A-10 fleet, with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units currently flying the jet slated to get a replacement manned flying mission while active-duty units would close after the attack jet leaves.

Ayotte leads congressional opposition to the cuts. She earlier held up the nomination of James on account of the A-10 proposed cuts.

The Air Force has repeatedly said that it would save $3.7 billion by cutting the entire fleet, along with infrastructure and depot maintenance, and that other aircraft would cover the close air support mission.

The Air Force on Tuesday said it is working on a response to the letter, but did not have additional information to release.


U.S. Air Force Is Testing Google Glass & Building Apps For Battlefield Use

April 8, 2014 12:26 PM

Richard Byrne Reilly


The U.S. Air Force’s “BATMAN” research team at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio is beta-testing Google Glass for possible use on the battlefield.

And so far, it likes what it sees.

The positive attributes “are its low power, its low footprint, it sits totally above the eyes, and doesn’t block images or hinder vision,” said 2nd Lt. Anthony Eastin, a behavioral scientist on the BATMAN team testing the glasses.

The BATMAN evaluation group is part of the U.S. Air Force’s 711th Human Performance Wing and is one of the military’s most distinguished research and development groups. It comprises both military and civilian behavioral and technology scientists. The BATMAN acronym stands for Battlefield Air Targeting Man-Aided (K)nowledge.

“We borrowed the “N,” Eastin said.

Andres Calvo, a software developer and civilian contractor with the group, told VentureBeat Tuesday that one of the facets of the Google Glass platform the team liked was the capability to “access information very quickly.”

But so far, Glass is “not a silver bullet for many of the Air Force’s needs,” Calvo said.

The Air Force’s BATMAN team poses with their Google Glass-testing dummy. Left to right: Dr. Gregory Burnett, dummy, 2nd Lieutenant Anthony Eastin, and Andres Calvo.

Above: The Air Force’s BATMAN team poses with their Google Glass-testing dummy. Left to right: Dr. Gregory Burnett, the dummy, 2nd Lt. Anthony Eastin, and Andres Calvo.

Image Credit: Rick Eldridge, 711 Human Performance Wing, U.S. Air Force

Possible Air Force scenarios for the technology use include forward air controllers working on the ground helping vector fighter and bomber aircraft to their targets, search and rescue missions, and combat controllers communicating with aircraft flying overhead and ground troops in combat, supply, and rescue operations.

The Air Force obtained two pairs of glasses through Google’s Glass Explorer program, in which people interested in acquiring them first apply and then receive notification from Google on whether it accepts or denies their application. Respondents who get the green light must pay $1,500 for the privilege. Eastin said the team had no official relationship with Google at that time.

The BATMAN team is also prototyping proprietary software to enhance the Android OS platform that powers the technology.

“The goal is to build software for research purposes for future endeavors,” Eastin said.

The testing comes as the U.S. military attempts to move beyond using battlefield laptops in combat and intelligence missions and rely more on smart phones, tablets, and wearables, which are easier to use and maneuver in confined spaces and on the battlefield.

Indeed, the Marine Corps recently unveiled a helicopter drone operated by a tablet the military reckons will be of use to missions like the ones laid out by the BATMAN team.

VentureBeat reported in February that the New York City Police Department’s massive and controversial intelligence and analytics unit was also evaluating whether Google Glass was a decent fit for terror investigations and routine street patrol purposes. The department received several pairs of the modernist-looking specs to test out over a year ago.

Virgin Atlantic airways is also beta testing the glasses, according to recent press reports.

And the U.S. Navy is also testing smart glasses, but not Google’s: the Navy is working with Vuzix to test “smart goggles,” as VentureBeat reported in February.

For its part, Google reps said it had no official working relationship with the U.S. Air Force, “nor does it have any plans to,” a source said.

A Google spokesperson put it this way in a wan official statement to VentureBeat:

“The Glass Explorer program includes people from all walks of life, including doctors, firefighters, and parents. Anyone can apply to become a Glass Explorer, provided he or she is a U.S. resident and over the age of 18.”

Google Glass is an Android-powered, wearable computer built into a module perched on the side of a pair of eyeglasses. It comes from Google’s special-projects division, called Google X, which is also working on driverless cars and high-altitude balloons that blanket the Earth below with wireless Internet.

Google Glass incorporates a heads-up display reminiscent of that used in advanced fighter jets and commercial airliners to communicate with air traffic controllers and other aircraft. A camera captures photo and video on demand. If the Air Force ends up adapting Google Glass for use among its disparate units, it represents a massive potential revenue stream for Google.

The 711th Human Performance Wing and the BATMAN group are two of the Air Force’s preeminent technology proving grounds. They test existing technologies and design, build and deploy their own. Traditionally, much of the technology emanating from their labs ends up in the field and in combat situations.

From its website:

The 711th Human Performance Wing (711 HPW) is a unique combination of three units: the Human Effectiveness Directorate (RH), the United States Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (USAFSAM), and the Human Systems Integration Directorate (HP). The synergies of combining the ideas, resources, and technologies of these units position the 711 HPW as a world leader in the study and advancement of human performance.

The Wing’s mission is to advance human performance in air, space, and cyberspace through research, education, and consultation. We support the most critical resource – the men and women of our operational military forces. From concept to deployment, we provide the solutions to achieve an optimum Airman life cycle: acquire, train, equip, enhance, and protect.

Dr. Gregory Burnett is BATMAN’s chief engineer and said the group was initially formed in 2001 under the BATMAN 1 aegis. The newest incarnation, BATMAN II, was launched earlier this year.

As for the two pairs of Google Glass currently being tested by BATMAN, Burnett says he likes some of what he sees so far and what it potentially portends for the men and women in the Air Force serving a multitude of roles. Glass, he says, doesn’t cause blind spots when looking through it, and possibly updated and enhanced software could indeed make the platform even better.

“Google is pushing the boundaries,” Burnett said.

“The question is, during the chaos of war, how will the technology perform?”



US Official: In Key Ways, Russian Military is ‘Very Limited’

Apr. 8, 2014 – 04:57PM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — Pentagon officials on Tuesday described a Russian military that possesses “very limited” ability to punch outside its neighborhood due to poor logistics and “aging equipment.”

In addition, Defense Department officials vowed to a House committee that the Obama administration is prepared to “punish Russia” for invading Ukraine’s Crimea region, and for any possible future aggressive acts. But Derek Chollet, assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, told lawmakers any US actions will be “mostly economic.”

A handful of Republican House Armed Services Committee members called on the Obama administration to use more military means to counter Russian moves and prevent future ones.

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, co-author of a coming bill calling for a beefed-up US military presence in the European region to counter Russia, cited a recent Washington Post editorial that said the Obama administration’s Russia policies are rooted in “fantasy.”

He also said that senior US commanders in Europe say up to 80,000 Russian troops appear to be amassed on that nation’s border with Ukraine. Turner tried to get Chollet and Vice Adm. Frank Pandolfe, director of strategic plans and policy on the Joint Staff, to describe the combat punch and reach of the Russian forces.

Pandolfe did not directly address that part of Turner’s inquiry, saying a classified session slated for later Tuesday would provide a better setting for his answer. But he did say Moscow has fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, armored vehicles and other combat systems along that border.

But in his opening statement, the three-star officer was more blunt about Russia’s force.

“Today, Russia is a regional power that can project force into nearby states but has very limited global power projection capability,” Pandolfe said. “It has a military of uneven readiness.

“While some units are well trained, most are less so. It suffers from corruption and its logistical capabilities are limited,” he said. “Aging equipment and infrastructure, fiscal challenges, and demographic and social problems will continue to hamper reform efforts.”

Still, Pandolfe described a Russian military that has changed “with some success” over the last six years.

“Since 2008, those efforts have had some success. Russian military forces have been streamlined into smaller, more mobile units,” Pandolfe said. “Their overall readiness has improved and their most elite units are well-trained and equipped. They now employ a more sophisticated approach to joint warfare.”

What’s more, he said, “the Russian military adopted doctrinal change, placing greater emphasis on speed of movement, the use of special operations forces, and information and cyber warfare.”

Pandolfe also sent a warning to Moscow, saying “the United States … employs a military of global reach and engagement” and warning, “should Russia undertake an armed attack against any NATO state, it will find that our commitment to collective defense is immediate and unwavering.”

Chollet was more measured, telling the House members that measures against Russia already implemented and any that would follow future Russian aggression would be aimed at crippling Moscow’s economy.


‘School-Lunch Program’

Chollet pointed to US shipments of meals ready to eat, or MREs, to Ukrainian forces as an example of what the administration already has done. Republican members were not impressed, and called for Obama to better arm Ukraine’s military.

Turner called the MRE shipments a mere “extension of our school-lunch programs.”

“Don’t you think military assistance is what they really need?” he asked the witnesses.

Chollet sidestepped the question, but noted Ukrainian officials several times have told US officials they most need “non-lethal assistance.”

HASC Ranking Member Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., pushed back on such calls. He said there is “very little historical precedent” supporting the notion that “aggression responds best to aggression.”

And, notably, Rep. Walter Jones, a Republican whose eastern North Carolina district includes the Marine Corps’ Camp Lejeune, said his constituents are chilly to any US military operation in Europe to combat Russia’s moves.

Jones said voters in his district believe this of Europeans: “It’s their fight.”

He was one of the first GOP members to express deep concerns about the Afghanistan war, and has talked extensively about its massive costs in terms of national treasure, and wounded and dead American troops.

Jones also said his constituents, after 13 years of America’s post-9/11 conflicts, have expressed this collective feeling: “Here we go again.”


Not ‘A Provocation’

Later Tuesday, Turner and HASC Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., will unveil their bill to beef up the US military footprint in Europe to counter Russia.

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment on the legislation because it has yet to be formally introduced. But the spokeswoman did make clear the White House believes it has already increased the US military’s presence in Moscow’s backyard.

“To date, those efforts have been mostly taking advantage of existing missions, such as deploying 12 additional F-16s to our aviation training detachment to Poland and augmenting our contribution to the NATO Baltic Air Policing mission with [six] additional F-15s,” White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Tuesday. “We are going to do our part to increase our rotations of ground and naval forces to complement our increased aviation presence and will look for others to step up, too.”

US officials have urged other NATO members to make “similar contributions … as quickly as possible,” Hayden said.

She made a point that the military moves Obama has ordered are meant not as a “provocation or as a threat to Russia.” They are merely meant “as a demonstration of NATO’s continued commitment to European security.”


Drone-flying man hinders CareFlight landing

Updated: 10:53 p.m. Saturday, April 12, 2014 | Posted: 4:32 p.m. Saturday, April 12, 2014

By Breaking News Staff

MOOREFIELD TWP., Clark County, Ohio —

A Clark County man flying a drone was arrested today for allegedly hindering the landing of a medical helicopter for a serious accident.

The driver of a pickup truck crashed into a tree just after 10 a.m. in the 2900 block of Mechanicsburg Road.

Kele M. Stanley, 31, of Moorefield Twp. was flying a drone with a camera taking pictures of the accident.

According to the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Stanley several times refused to stop flying his drone while CareFlight was preparing to land. The helicopter was able to land and depart safely from the scene.

Stanley was arrested on suspicion of obstructing official business, misconduct at an emergency and disorderly conduct. He was booked into the Clark County Jail, where he has since been released, jail records show. He is scheduled to be arraigned at 11 a.m. Monday in Clark County Municipal Court, according to the sheriff’s office.

Prior to the accident, the pickup truck driver fled a Tavenner Street residence in Springfield as police responded to a report that a man might be armed and suicidal, said Springfield police Sgt. Scott Woodruff. Police did not give chase, but did try to follow the truck, he said. Woodruff said officers saw that the pickup had crashed in Clark County, which was within a mile of the residence.

The driver of the pickup was flown to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton. His name and condition have not been released.

Clark County is handling the accident investigation.





Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, April 12, 2014


Just a week after the Obama administration declared its health insurance sign-up program a success, Kathleen Sebelius, the Cabinet secretary in charge of the new national health care law, announced her resignation. Mixed message or part of the plan?

Despite the administration’s claim of success, 58% of voters now have an unfavorable opinion of Obamacare, the highest finding since mid-November during the law’s troubled rollout phase.  

Fifty-three percent (53%) believe the quality of health care will get worse under the new law. That’s the highest level of pessimism in over three years. Fifty-nine percent (59%) think the law also will force up health care costs.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans continue to think frivolous lawsuits are driving up the cost of health care, insurance and other products and services. Supporters of the health care law fought off efforts to make tort reform a key part of it.

Given the problems with the law, a plurality (44%) believes Congress and the president should repeal it and start over again.
Nearly as many (39%) think they should go through the law piece by piece to improve it. Just 15% say they should leave the law as it is. Sixty-two percent (62%) believe the law is likely to be repealed if Republicans win full control of Congress in the November elections.

Democrats continue to hold a one-point lead over Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Republican voters believe Republicans in Congress have lost touch with the party’s base. By contrast, 63% of Democrats think their congressional representatives have done a good job representing their party’s values.

A retiring Democratic congressman said recently that Congress deserves a pay raise. Members of Congress earn $174,000 a year, and 63% of voters think they’re overpaid.

Fifty-four percent (54%) also disagree with a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling and believe the government should control how much money individuals can give to political campaigns. Seventy-four percent (74%) think most politicians will break the rules to help people who give them a lot of money.

After all, 31% of Americans believe the United States has a crony capitalist economic system. Crony capitalism is generally considered a system in which the most successful businesses have a close relationship with influential government officials.

Seventy-eight percent (78%) consider politicians less ethical than those in other professions.
Fifty-seven percent (57%) say lawyers are less ethical than others.

Most Americans (56%) still think there are too many lawyers in the country today, and just 11% agree it’s a good thing that most members of Congress are lawyers.

Only 19% of voters believe the federal government today has the consent of the governed. Just 38% think U.S. elections are fair to voters.

Speaking of elections, longtime Democratic Senator Dick Durbin has a double-digit lead over his Republican challenger, State Senator Jim Oberweis, in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Illinois.

Leading Republican hopefuls Shane Osborn and Ben Sasse are well ahead of their Democratic opponent in Nebraska’s U.S. Senate race, but Sasse runs stronger among both GOP voters and all voters in the state.

Fifty percent (50%) of voters nationwide are less likely to vote for Jeb Bush for president in 2016 because his father and brother have already served in the White House.

As for the man who currently holds the job, President Obama’s job approval ratings showed some slight improvement at week’s end but are still in double digits. 

The recent jobs report appears to have had little or no impact on the Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which remain at levels seen since the first of the year.

In other surveys this week:

— Forty-eight percent (48%) of voters think America’s best days are in the past, although that’s down from last October’s high of 52%.

— Just 30% think the country is heading in the right direction.

— Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters believe U.S. society is fair and decent. Twenty-nine percent (29%) think society in this country is generally unfair and discriminatory instead.

— Nearly half (47%) now think humans are to blame for global warming, although just as many (48%) still believe there is significant disagreement in the scientific community on the issue.

— Just days into the Major League Baseball season, this year’s championship team is anyone’s guess. The Los Angeles Dodgers and the Boston Red Sox are the top fan favorites to win the World Series.

— Seventy-three percent (73%) of Americans have a favorable opinion of the Girl Scouts of America.

— Daytime talk show host Ellen DeGeneres and Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report were Americans’ top choices to take David Letterman’s place on CBS-TV’s The Late Show
. Colbert got the job.

April 5 2014



Pentagon to adapt drones for tougher aerial battles

Ray Locker, USA TODAY 11:55 a.m. EDT March 28, 2014


U.S. drones fly with virtual impunity over Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, firing deadly missiles at targets with little concern the highly effective aircraft will be shot down.

Pentagon planners expect such freedom will eventually disappear as missions involve the pilotless aircraft flying into more dangerous and contested environments.

That’s behind a push by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop autonomous systems to allow multiple drones to communicate with each other as they fly more dangerous missions.

The program, known as Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE), is drawing contractors to a meeting in early April to discuss possible approaches to enable drones to work together, DARPA records show. Part of the meeting will be classified as officials spell out their needs.

Unmanned aircraft have had 25 years of success, DARPA records show, but “most of the current systems are not well matched to the needs of future conflicts, which DARPA anticipates being much less permissive, very dynamic and characterized by a higher level of threats, contested electromagnetic spectrum and relocatable targets.”

DARPA budget plans released this month show a steady increase in the money the military will spend on drone development. In the 2015 fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, DARPA plans to spend $15 million developing CODE, up from $8 million this year.

DARPA has identified four critical technology areas for CODE:

•Autonomy for a single drone, including autonomous management in routine and abnormal conditions.

•The connections between human controllers and the system, which will enable “a single mission commander to maintain situational awareness” and direct multiple platforms at the same time.

•Team-level autonomy, which will “enable the definition of a collaborative action plan that leverages the strength of each team member.”

•Open architecture that will allow various groups to collaborate with each other more easily.

Drones of all variations remain a top military priority. Since October, DARPA and other agencies have stepped up their work on underwater drones, those that can be stored in underwater pods and be remotely activated and cheaper drones that operate independently.


2015 budget proposal shows half of plans

Mar. 29, 2014 – 06:00AM |


By Brian Everstine

Staff writer


The Air Force’s 2015 budget plan represents about half of what the service plans to do in terms of retiring and moving aircraft, with analysis not yet finished on what will come next and how the force structure will ultimately be balanced among active duty, Air National Guard and Reserve, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said.

“Because we’re only halfway through this, we haven’t balanced all the force structure across the active and reserve components,” Welsh said at a March 26 House Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing. “The guidance from the beginning has been put as much as we can into the reserve components. If we can become more efficient and remain operationally capable, why would we not do that? So we are pushing everything we can by aircraft types, because that’s the way you have to do the analysis into the reserve component.”

The fiscal 2015 budget proposal calls for the full retirement of the A-10, which includes 107 aircraft flown by the Guard, along with cutting 51 F-15Cs.

The proposal also moves and retires C-130s in the Guard, with the ultimate goal of assigning eight of the cargo aircraft to Guard units.

“That’s the footprint they were looking at,” Welsh said. “And as they balance the fleet, that’s what they did. Some of these airplanes are older, take more to maintain, so they’re trying to centralize the places where they will be most efficient.”

Welsh and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James have both repeatedly said that their goal is to move more aircraft into the Guard to save money.

It’s a goal that follows congressional pressure to protect the Guard and direct more cuts to the active duty, particularly since the fiscal 2013 budget fight that pitted the Guard and its proponents against the active duty.

The result of that budget fight included the creation of the congressionally mandated National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force, which in its February report to Congress and President Obama called on the service to find savings by shifting the component mix from 69-31 active to reserve to 58-42.

That shift could produce savings of up to $2 billion per year in manpower costs.

“Recognizing that some missions must be performed by the active component, the Air Force can, and should, entrust as many missions as possible to its reserve component forces,” the commission’s report states.■


Afghan Drone War in Steep Decline

BY DAN LAMOTHE MARCH 28, 2014 – 03:40 PM


A March 6 airstrike in Afghanistan killed at least five Afghan soldiers and wounded eight more – an egregious accident that prompted the U.S.-led military coalition to launch an ongoing investigation into what occurred. Afghan officials allege the attack was carried out by a drone, long the Obama administration’s weapon of choice, while the U.S. says it involved a manned aircraft. Either way, the strike highlights an important — and surprising — shift: Both the amount of time drones spend over Afghanistan and the number of total coalition airstrikes are in steep decline, and that trend is likely to accelerate as the U.S. withdraws most of its remaining troops in the months ahead.

Statistics released to Foreign Policy show that the amount of time spent by U.S. drones over Afghanistan was down 22 percent between 2012 and 2013. The number of drone flight hours over Afghanistan dropped even more drastically over the last six months — 30 percent over the previous half-year. Coalition officials declined to disclose the specific number of hours flown, but said the primary mission for U.S. drones – remotely piloted aircraft in military jargon — remains intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance from the sky. The military also refused to say whether the numbers of drone strikes have been increasing or going down.

Drone usage declining in Afghanistan may catch some by surprise. The military has used them widely in other countries where the United States has a small presence of troops, including Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. It would seem logical, then, that with fewer U.S. troops now in Afghanistan, drones would be called on more. But it turns out the opposite is true: as the coalition military drawdown in Afghanistan continues, the amount of high-tech equipment used there also is declining. That goes not only for drones, but for ground-based surveillance equipment. One example commonly used by U.S. forces is the Ground Based Operational Surveillance System, typically known in military-speak as a “G-BOSS.” It includes an 80-foot tower that has infrared cameras, radar equipment and other sensors on it, and is capable of watching insurgents from long distances.

Officials at the White House, Pentagon and the military coalition with headquarters in Kabul all declined to comment on the change. But retired Adm. James Stavridis, who served as the supreme allied commander of NATO until retiring last year, said that while technology has been helpful to U.S. forces, the gear wouldn’t be as useful to the Afghans after coalition forces leave “because the enemy operates so often in a primitive context.”

The Afghan forces’ “knowledge of culture, language, geography, personality and so on means that they see the world in technicolor, while we are at best looking at a fuzzy black-and-white picture in so many scenarios,” Stavridis said. “For counter-insurgency, the human and physical terrain knowledge is vital, the high-tech capability is helpful. While additive, high-tech is not crucial in my view.”

The use of drones has continued to be controversial in Afghanistan, however, especially when it leads to civilians getting caught in the crossfire. In one recent example, a Sept. 7 airstrike in Kunar province, along Afghanistan’s eastern border, killed 14 civilians, surviving family members later told the Los Angeles Times. The U.S. military coalition contended that 11 were killed, many of them insurgents, but villages later said the dead included women and children.

“There were pieces of my family all over the road,” one 28-year-old farmer, Miya Jan, told the Times. “I picked up those pieces from the road and from the truck and wrapped them in a sheet to bury them.”

The Air Force stopped releasing statistics about the number of drone airstrikes it conducted last year, causing outcry from transparency advocates. U.S. Central Command told Air Force Times last year that the decision was made because doing so placed a disproportionate emphasis on the strikes, rather than other drone missions. The change occurred as both Afghan President Hamid Karzai and some members of Congress increasingly called for scrutiny on them.

The military coalition in Kabul says that drones — remotely piloted aircraft, or RPAs, in military jargon — are used judiciously, however.

“Only 3 percent of RPA sorties are involved in airstrikes,” said Lt. Col. Will Griffin, a coalition spokesman in Kabul. “Our efforts to reduce civilian casualties are comprehensive and involve our civilian casualty mitigation board, as we as tightly restricted, meticulously planned, carefully supervised and coordinated use of aerial weapons applied by qualified personnel. This applies to both manned and remotely piloted aircraft.”

The latest numbers released show that the overall air war in Afghanistan continues to decline. The Air Force dropped weapons 400 times between November and February, a 60 percent decrease when compared to the same period a year ago. The heaviest single month of the air war came in October 2010, as the United States flooded thousands of additional troops into Afghanistan and assaulted numerous areas of the country that had little coalition presence. The Air Force dropped 1,043 weapons that month alone – 82 percent more than it did this past October.


DoD Looks Within to Build Cyber Force

Retraining Military Personnel to Become Security Specialists

By Eric Chabrow, March 28, 2014. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity


Petty Officer First Class Chase Hardison is the future face of the cyberdefenders at the U.S. Cyber Command, the military organization charged with defending Defense Department networks and the nation’s critical infrastructure.

In 2010, Hardison was serving on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, tending to turbines and generators, when the then-machinist’s mate, and his new wife Sara, decided he should change jobs if he wanted to stay in the Navy. He signed up for a cyber course in Pensacola, Fla., and graduated second in his class, missing the No. 1 slot by only four one-hundredths of a point.

Fast-forward four years: Hardison is an interactive operator at Cybercom in Fort Meade, Md. And the military is looking for many more individuals like him to become cyberwarriors.


“To continue recruiting and retaining talent like Petty Officer Hardison, we must build rewarding, long-term cyber career paths,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a speech March 28 during ceremonies honoring Army Gen. Keith Alexander, who’s retiring as Cybercom commander and director of the National Security Agency (see Obama Taps Navy Admiral as NSA Director).


“Our military must enable our people to re-invent themselves for life in and beyond their service,” Hagel said. “That is a proud tradition of our armed forces. It is also how we shape a modern, cutting-edge military that outmatches the most advanced adversaries.”

The 4-year-old Cybercom employs 1,800 professionals, but expects to grow to 6,000 employees by 2016, with many coming from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps and, like, Hardison, the Navy.


Recruiting and Training

Recruiting and training cyberpersonnel is a top priority for Cybercom, says a senior Defense Department official, who – speaking on background – briefed the media on Hagel’s speech. “Without highly skilled, elite cyber-operators, we’re not going to accomplish all the things we want to do, and we spent a lot of time over the past few years figuring out what that model would be.”

The senior official acknowledges that many experts believe DoD must reach outside of government to find qualified cyber-experts. And, he says there are a number of cybersecurity professionals willing to sacrifice 6-figure salaries to work for Cybercom and the National Security Agency because they believe in their missions and service in America.


“But quite honestly, the way we’re going to be most successful is using people from within the force and giving them the training, and reforming and changing the way the force is composed in a very personal way,” he says.

Hardison, as a machinist’s mate, wasn’t among the most highly skilled enlistees in the military workforce. “But he had the aptitude, and more importantly, he had the desire to re-invent himself and he is now one of the most elite cyber-operators within Cybercom,” the DoD official says.

The official says it’s clearly feasible to “train up” military personnel to be cyber-experts.

“We now have processes in place where they will identify people who have the right mix of aptitude, fire in the belly and desire to re-invent themselves and put them through a training pipeline that ends up resulting in for us having highly trained operators. … We’ve already seen hundreds of cases in which there were people who didn’t know anything about cyber at all; we re-invented them [so] they are part of the elite force.”


TSA expands Pre-check to DoD civilians, Coast Guard

Mar. 31, 2014 | Comments

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Getting through the screening lines at the airport will soon be a lot easier for hundreds of thousands of Defense Department civilians and Coast Guard employees, according to the Transportation Security Administration.

The agency is expanding its Pre-Check program — which allows its participants to go through security checkpoints without having to take off shoes, belts or jackets — to include civilian employees at DoD and the Coast Guard beginning April 15.

The program is already open to service members and members of the Customs and Border Protection trusted-traveler program

TSA spokesman Jim McKinney said the expansion is in line with TSA’s partnership with the military and is part of a risk-based approach to airport security. Participants just need to use their DoD identification credentials.

“TSA continuously looks for more opportunities to provide the most effective security in the most efficient way possible,” McKinney said.



Air Force Weighs ISR, Tanker Consortiums

By Kris Osborn Monday, March 31st, 2014 3:16 pm

The Air Force is considering several new consortium arrangements with European partners as a way to pool resources for a collective advantage, lower operating costs and decrease travel time for U.S. platforms, service officials said.

An intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance (ISR) consortium and a tanker consortium are among the arrangements being considered, said Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force, International Affairs.

“We’re looking at more consortium operations,” she said.

An ISR or tanker consortium would involve a handful of countries teaming up to collectively use and benefit from strategically positioned tanker or ISR aircraft. These arrangements would allow countries the benefit of tanker and ISR technologies without having the same expense, maintenance or travel burdens were they to position and use the asset themselves.

One example of a consortium is the joint maintenance and operation of three C-17s in Hungary which began in 2009, Grant said. Called a strategic airlift capability, the consortium involves 12 countries: Bulgaria, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and the U.S.

Citing this example, Grant said consortiums, foreign military sales and strategic partnerships with allies are likely to figure more prominently in coming years as the Air Force gets smaller and budgets decrease.

“As we become the smallest [U.S.] Air Force in history, we will still be the most capable Air Force in the world. My concern is will we have the capacity to respond to all of these contingency and humanitarian relief operations? If not, who is going to be there do to aerial refueling or ISR?” Grant said.

“When we are seeing challenges they are global security challenges. Global security challenges require global partnerships,” she added.

A European-based ISR consortium would involve making arrangements above and beyond what NATO already stipulates, Grant explained.

At the same time the Air Force continues to emphasize Foreign Military Sales as a way to strengthen partner capacity and, in some cases, support the U.S. industrial base by bringing in production dollars.

For example, 26 countries currently operate F-16s and 70 countries operate C-130s, Grant said. Also, the U.S. is now working on finalizing the sale of 84 F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia – a deal that constitutes the largest single FMS case in the history of the U.S.


33,000 troops to go: 1-star outlines Afghanistan drawdown

Mar. 31, 2014 – 07:11PM |

By Michelle Tan

Staff writer


The U.S. has closed nearly 290 bases across Afghanistan as of March 1 and fewer than 80 bases remain.

When it comes to personnel, there are still about 33,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but there’s also “a steady path to reduce throughout the year,” said Marine Brig. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue, the chief operations officer for the International Security Assistance Force Joint Command.

O’Donohue provided an overview of U.S. troops still serving downrange during a March 18 phone interview with Army Times.

“We’ve reduced our forces from about 100,000, by about 67 percent,” said he said. “We are truly in a support role.”

The U.S. is entering “a little bit of a pause as we prepare for [the Afghan presidential] elections,” but the goal is to continue closing down bases, he said.

Current forecasts call for 54 more bases to be closed by Aug. 1, and only about 27 bases are expected to remain open by the end of October, O’Donohue said.

The goal is to reduce the number of American troops in Afghanistan by about 15 percent by Aug. 1 and by another 20 percent by Oct. 31, he said.

“We’re in the process of drawing down and turning over to the Afghans,” he said. “We’re going to shift our composition, and it’s just natural that we shift from regional commands to train and advise. Rather than having a regional command that’s in charge of battlespace, the Afghans are now in front.”

As the drawdown continues, O’Donohue anticipates the U.S. will start moving its advising functions up the chain, moving from the battalion level to the brigade and corps levels.

“We’re very conscious of the 12-year mark of this mission,” he said. “The Afghans have picked up the fight, and we’re right there with them, but definitely in a support role.”



Leader of China Aims at Military With Graft Case



BEIJING — Prosecutors accused a former senior military official on Monday of a litany of crimes, including bribery, embezzlement and abuse of power, presenting a first glimpse of what could be the biggest corruption scandal to ever engulf the Chinese armed forces.

The charges against the officer, Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan, are the outcome of a far-reaching inquiry under President Xi Jinping that signaled his determination to make high-profile examples out of dishonest military figures. His goal, military analysts said, is to transform a service larded with pet projects and patronage networks into a leaner fighting force more adept at projecting power abroad and buttressing party rule at home, while strengthening his own authority over the army.

The announcement of the case against General Gu, made by Xinhua, the official news agency, came two years after he was quietly dismissed as deputy chief of the General Logistics Department, and provided no details. But an internal inquiry has accused him of presiding over a vast land development racket that hoarded kickbacks, bought promotions, and enabled him and his family to amass dozens of expensive residences, including places where investigators found stockpiles of high-end liquor, gold bullion and cash, according to people briefed on the investigation.

Guesthouses at a military housing compound in Beijing are said to have been built by General Gu to curry favor. Credit Jonathan Ansfield/The New York Times

The investigation into General Gu, who had a commanding authority over how resources in the army were used, has shaken the military because of the scale of his activities — estimates of his assets range from several hundred million to a few billion dollars — and because it threatens some of its most senior figures.


Even as Mr. Xi has pressed a sweeping campaign against graft in the Communist Party, he has seized on the case against General Gu to pursue a parallel drive to clean up the 2.3 million-member armed forces. In doing so, he is challenging military elders who promoted General Gu and have sought to protect him and themselves from the investigation, the people with knowledge of the inquiry said.

In internal speeches, Mr. Xi has railed against a wider “Gu Junshan phenomenon” of military corruption, demanded action to “dredge the soil that produced Gu Junshan,” and threatened to bring down both “large and small Gu Junshans,” said a retired official and associate of Mr. Xi’s, suggesting that unprecedented punishments of other, higher-ranking military figures in the People’s Liberation Army, the world’s largest, could lie ahead. The campaign presents Mr. Xi with a cudgel to tighten control over an institution that some say has drifted from the party leadership’s orbit even as it remains a bulwark of one-party rule.

General Gu has already provided investigators with enough information to target powerful patrons, principally Xu Caihou, the army’s second-ranking general and a Politburo member before retiring in 2012, people with knowledge of the inquiry said. These people, who include retired military officers, foreign diplomats and children of former senior leaders, spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Several said investigators had restricted the movements of General Xu, who has been hospitalized with bladder cancer. If Mr. Xi were to move formally against General Xu, he would enter uncharted territory. No military leader of General Xu’s stature has ever been toppled for corruption.

Mr. Xi, unlike his immediate predecessors, took over the military and the party at the same time — in November 2012 — and brought strong military ties. After university, he served as an aide to a top military official. His father was a revolutionary guerrilla commander. His wife was a star in the P.L.A.’s song-and-dance troupe. Gen. Liu Yuan, the political commissar of the logistics department who is credited with helping to initiate the anticorruption drive, is among his oldest comrades.

While his predecessors struggled to manage the military, Mr. Xi regards it as a bastion of support and has embraced its vision of China as a more robust power, diplomats and analysts said.

In an internal speech soon after taking office, he made a point of placing blame for the collapse of the Soviet Union in part on Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s losing control of the military. “His implication was: ‘I’m going to take charge of the military for real. I’m not going to be like the last two administrations, putting up with you as you bumble around,’ ” said the associate of Mr. Xi.

Early on, he and others said, Mr. Xi established a routine of working at the Central Military Commission headquarters at least half a day each week, significantly more often than previous party chiefs.

He has ordered a stream of antigraft measures, audits and criticism sessions; has enlarged drills to upgrade “battle readiness”; and is pushing forward contentious plans to restructure a military bureaucracy criticized as bloated and outmoded.

“Xi Jinping is highly aware of the deepening complexities in China’s neighborhood, so the P.L.A. has never been more in demand,” said Zhu Feng, an international security expert at Peking University. “The P.L.A. spends a lot of money, but the question is, how are they following up on all the spending?”

Corruption has bedeviled the military since the market overhauls of the 1980s, when it was permitted to venture into industry and earn the funds to modernize its arsenal and sustain its troops. Widespread smuggling, graft and profiteering ensued. It took years of debate for the party in 1998 to order the military to divest from business. But as Beijing increased military spending, officers tapped these resources for profit.


The army retains extensive land holdings, which have ballooned in value in line with property prices across the country, and real estate transactions are considered its biggest source of corruption. One former military officer said generals sometimes evaded regulations limiting the size of their residences by building ceilings twice the standard height. “That way they can add a floor later,” he said.

Bribery for promotions is believed to be more institutionalized than within the party. Insiders say an endorsement for a general’s slot can carry a price of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Procurement is plagued by waste and fraud. One recent order for fighter jet canopies, for example, cost nearly three times more than a state aviation contractor’s bid and resulted in products riddled with flaws, according to an academic with the institution that designed the part.

Such abuses proliferated under Mr. Xi’s predecessor, Hu Jintao, who was often seen as ineffectual and disengaged from military affairs. It was during that period that General Gu oversaw a multibillion-dollar construction boom as head of the infrastructure and barracks division. He built several hundred outsize villas for high-ranking officers, profited from scores of land deals and acquired three dozen homes in central Beijing alone, the military insiders said.

Since a military scholar first acknowledged the case against General Gu last August, two Chinese news media outlets, Global People and Caixin, have pierced the secrecy surrounding it with investigative reports.

They portrayed General Gu as a stocky farmer’s son who made up for his lack of qualifications with networking skills. He married a superior’s daughter, plied higher-ups and underlings with perks, and recently commissioned a biography and a grave site that inflated his father’s revolutionary credentials, they reported.

In the family’s hometown in central China, his brother, a former village party chief, won local real estate deals and military supply contracts with his backing, they reported. General Gu’s wife, a city police official, worked to intercept villagers who took their grievances against the land deals to Beijing.

In one deal that drew internal scrutiny, General Gu approved more than double the funds that the song-and-dance troupe requested for renovations, and collected a kickback worth several hundred thousand dollars in cash and gold bullion, two of the sources said.

General Liu first proposed action against General Gu in late 2011, said two elite party members close to General Liu. Mr. Hu, who was nearing the end of his presidency, then asked the military’s disciplinary agency to suspend General Gu twice, they said, but encountered resistance from top military leaders. Only after Mr. Hu ordered the party’s own disciplinary body to investigate was the military forced to take action.


Even then, investigators moved slowly. By fall 2012, the military was preparing an indictment accusing the general of pocketing less than $1 million in bribes and kickbacks, said the retired official.

But Mr. Xi was incensed by the case and, after he took office, widened the scope of the inquiry.

A turning point came in January 2013, when investigators raided a storage chamber General Gu kept in his home village and hauled off four truckloads of items, including 20 crates of liquor and a pure gold statue of Chairman Mao, Caixin reported.

China’s Defense Ministry did not answer a request for comment on the case.

One question under scrutiny is whether General Gu’s rapid rise — five high-level promotions in eight years, over repeated objections from the head of the logistics department — involved payoffs of now-retired military leaders, particularly General Xu. General Xu is considered a protégé of Jiang Zemin, the former president, and once oversaw appointments.

After he retired, investigators found a hoard of expensive gifts, including large pieces of ivory, in a locked storeroom next to his former office, a businesswoman briefed by military officers said.

“Gu Junshan gave him up,” said the businesswoman, after meeting with a member of the military task force investigating the case. “He said that Gu gave up information on just about everyone.”


Australia:- Illegal unmanned aircraft operations pose significant safety challenge

by Press • 1 April 2014

The Australian Certified UAV Operators Association (ACUO) is calling for the current Federal Government Aviation Safety Regulation Review to back a harder line to combat the growing problem of illegal unmanned aircraft operations.

ACUO is today releasing its submission to the review in light of last weeks reported near-miss incident involving a Westpac rescue helicopter and an unknown unmanned aircraft operating at 1000ft.

The submission calls for new resourcing to be provided to CASA to deal specifically with illegal UAS operations. It warns that the outlook facing the Australian unmanned aircraft industry has strong parallels with the rise of commercial aviation in Australia during the 1920s and 1930s, where a high rate of incidents included loss of human life.

“Under resourcing of the regulatory and compliance management capacities of CASA is not an option as the unmanned aircraft industry continues its rapid growth in not just Australia, but internationally” says Joe Urli, ACUO President, who has worked as an air safety inspector for national aviation authorities in two different countries.

“Illegal unmanned aircraft operations are on the rise in Australia and the question of whether they will be a serious safety incident is no longer theoretical given last weeks reported near-miss incident involving a Westpac rescue helicopter flying back to its Newcastle base”.

“ACUO calls on the Aviation Safety Regulation Review to give detailed attention to the challenge posed by illegal UAS operations lest the future contain incidents of untold tragedy which can be avoided by action today. There has been a significant rise of CASA certified UAV operators in Australia over the past two years, however, the rate of illegal operations by uncertified operators is now skyrocketing. CASA itself accepts the reality of this challenge”. (See note 1).

“A brief review of You Tube will swiftly reveal evidence of illegal operations by uncertified operators in Australia. There are videos from camera equipped unmanned aircraft flying above cloud height as well as at low altitudes over people on major city beaches such as Cottesloe in Perth. CASA Part 101 clearly states that operations can only be conducted over non-populous areas.

“Likewise YouTube videos can be readily found where the unmanned aircraft is flying at low altitude over busy city motorways in peak hour, with Perth again providing examples. This type of illegal operation mirrors the Sydney Harbour bridge incident (2nd October 2013) which caused a response by counter terrorism units.”


“CASA is internationally respected for its pioneering work in facilitating the legal operation of commercial unmanned aircraft”, said Mr Urli. “However that effort is now at direct risk of being undermined if more resources are not made available to the regulator to allow for not only the continued development of a well-structured regulatory regime, but also its enforcement”.

“At present there is little consequence in Australia for flying illegally, other than basic fines if the individual is caught. We place direct obstacles before those who seek to obtain motor vehicle licences if they have a past record of illegal driving and we need to look at similar measures for UAV certification. It is not unreasonable to propose that if found guilty of flying illegally, the individual concerned be barred from obtaining a CASA UAV operators certificate for a period of time from the date of the demonstrated offence.”

ACUO’s specific recommendations to the Aviation Safety Regulation Review comprise:


1. CASA needs to rethink and rework its current enforcement procedures applying to the’unmanned’ sector of aviation, so that; acuo-pr-04-2014 Page 2 of 2

· They are entirely workable and cost-effective to administer and deliver across th ‘unmanned’ sector of aviation, as well as the rest of the aviation industry.

· They provide an immediate, positive and strong deterrent value to illegal UAV operations.


2. CASA Enforcement procedures for the ‘unmanned’ sector of aviation should be considered in conjunction with a nation-wide awareness campaign to inform and educate the public and industry about the do’s and don’ts of RPAS operations in Australia, and the safety/regulatory/legal basis for having regulations.

· There needs to be a re-focus of attention by CASA on the illegal UAV operators, not the certified UAV operators as is currently the case.

· There needs to be a strong focus on ‘DETERRENCE’ and getting the message across: “If you breach the aviation regulations, you will pay the penalties”.

· There also needs to be a clear distinction between military and civil RPAS experience when qualifying and operating RPAS. Military experience needs to be assessed for; Category, Technical and Operational competence and relevance. Military RPAS operations do not directly correlate with commercial RPAS operations.


3. That the penalties for illegal UAV operations should include:

· Increased fines representative of the sort of money they are earning from their illegal activities [ie thousands of dollars, not hundreds] and this should increase exponentially with subsequent prosecutions.

· Automatic confiscation of UAV equipment and if necessary, CASA sell or auction the confiscated equipment to offset the costs of enforcement.

· An automatic 12 month ban on applying for a UAV certificate or licence after a successful prosecution for illegal UAV operations.


4. That the revised UAV regulations include a provision that makes it illegal for an uncertified UAV operator to publicly advertise their services

· A similar provision is written into CAR88 regulations [CAR210] making it illegal for anyone to advertise for [conventional] Aerial Work Operations without an AOC

· The same should be true for commercial UAV Operators also.


The full ACUO submission to the review can be downloaded here:

The review is due to report to the Federal Government in May this year.

For further information, please contact:

Joe Urli





Brad Mason





About ACUO:

ACUO was established as a legal entity in March 2010 and currently represents about a third of all entities holding Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority unmanned aircraft operator certificates. It is chartered to promote the growth and the expansion of the commercial unmanned aircraft industry in Australia and to ensure the safe and orderly growth of the sector. ACUO represents Australia globally as part of the International Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Coordination Council, the pre-eminent global policy coordination body for this important sunrise industry.

Note 1:

CASA advised a House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs hearing in Canberra, 28 February 2014, that it estimated there were more than six illegal operators for every certified operator now active in Australia. See page ten of the Hansard transcript at the following link:;query=Id%3A%22committees/commrep/e08acf66-0f19-


Ryan plan again seeks higher retirement contributions by federal workers

By Eric Yoder April 1 at 11:49 amMore


The House budget plan released Tuesday repeats a proposal to increase the amount that federal employees must pay toward their retirement benefits, with the government’s share being reduced proportionately.

The plan from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) does not specify how large the increase would be, but a committee spokesman said the intent, as in past plans from the panel, would be to make the two shares equal. In that case, the employee share in most cases would increase by nearly 6 percent of salary.

“This would achieve significant budgetary savings and also help facilitate a transition to a defined-contribution system for new federal employees that would give them more control over their own retirement security. This option would save an estimated $125 billion over ten years,” the plan says.

Increases have been enacted in the last two years, but they have come in smaller amounts and have affected only those joining the government after a future date. That has created a three-level system of contributions under the Federal Employees Retirement System, with different amounts required of those hired before 2013, those hired during that year, and those hired after. The increases did not affect anyone in the separate Civil Service Retirement System because no new hires are put into that system.

The document also seeks “reform” of a supplemental benefit for FERS employees who retire before age 62 when eligibility for Social Security benefits begins. Past plans have called for abolishing that supplement, which duplicates the value of a Social Security benefit earned while a federal employee.

The plan further assumes “a reduction federal civilian workforce through attrition, whereby the administration would be permitted to hire one employee for every three who leave government service. National-security positions would be subject to exemption.” A committee spokesman said the workforce reduction goal is 10 percent, which would come to about 200,000 jobs. Many agencies already have partial hiring freezes in place due to budgetary limits imposed last year.

“Chairman Ryan’s proposal to squeeze another $125 billion through increased retirement contributions is nothing more than a thinly veiled pay cut and would exacerbate a growing problem,” Joseph A. Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said in a statement. “Furthermore, arbitrary reductions in the size of the federal workforce would diminish the government’s capacity to perform essential functions and would likely fail to save much money, as work would simply be shifted to contractors.”

Also repeated is a proposal from last year’s plan to end the program of student loan reimbursements as a recruitment and retention incentive. About 10,500 federal employees received such payments totaling about $70 million in 2012, the most recent year for which figures are available.

The budget does not contain a specific recommendation regarding a January 2015 federal employee pay raise. Last year, by remaining silent on a raise, Congress in effect allowed President Obama’s recommendation for a 1 percent increase for 2014 to take effect by default. The White House’s recently released budget plan recommended a 1 percent raise again for 2015.


Inside the Military’s New Office for Cyborgs

Patrick Tucker 6:54 AM ET

April 1, 2014


The ability to link human brains to machines, create new life forms and build Star Trek-style disease detectors will be the focus of a new Defense Department office soon.

The new office, named the Biological Technology Office, or BTO, will serve as a clearinghouse for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, programs into brain research, synthetic biology and epidemiology. The office will cover everything from brewing up tomorrow’s bioweapon detectors and connecting humans to computers to designing entirely new types of super-strong living materials that could form the basis of future devices. Here are the key areas in more detail.

The human brain is often called the most complex object in the known universe, composed of 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapse connections. As a computer, it performs 10,000 trillion operations per second. That’s about one third as fast as the Chinese Tianhe-2 Super computer, which can perform 33,860 trillion calculations per second. But the human brain does it’s calculating with just 20 watts of power. Tianhe-2 needs 24 million watts.

In the last two decades, our understanding of the human brain has advanced tremendously through functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, magnetoenceplograhy, and high-resolution brain scans. Our ability to use brain signaling to control devices has grown at a similar pace, but getting brain material to mesh with sensors and electronics is no simple matter. A DARPA program, Revolutionizing Prosthetics, to better help veterans with amputated limbs control prosthetic legs and arms with brain signals was announced in 2009 but only very recently began to bear fruit. Last year, researchers from the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago demonstrated a cybernetic arm prosthetic that functions like something straight out of RoboCop. The BTO will oversee a variety of programs aimed at understanding both the hardware and the software of the human brain.

“The prosthetics that are wirelessly neurally-controlled are just at the research stage. But some of the ones where the prosthetics are connecting in to the peripheral nervous system or are being controlled by other muscles in the body are currently in an FDA process,” said Arati Prabhakar, DARPA director, in an interview with Defense One. So while we still haven’t been able to connect a prosthetic directly to the brain, researchers have achieved much better integration with prosthetics and nerves.

Prabhakar says that the research has applications well beyond helping veterans to live better lives, including the creation of devices and chips that mimic the brain. “That kind of amazing capability is something that no one thought was possible. What we’re learning about the human brain could give us insight into how we build our artificial processing capabilities.”

The agency’s Cortical Processor program, with a $2.3 million FY 2015 budget request, seeks to recreate in software the brain’s capability to take in lots of incoming stimuli from sensory organs and spit out recognized patterns. “There is a processing structure in nature, the mammalian neocortex, that… routinely solves the most difficult recognition problems in real-time…” according to the agency’s recently submitted budget proposal.

One far off potential application for the agency’s brain research is neural-controlled piloting of drones or better steering for manned aircraft via neurological feedback, which could build off of current research using electroencephalography, or EEG, to pilot robots. EEG is a nonsurgical method for recording the brain’s electromagnetic signals via a cap that’s worn over the skull. Those signals are powerful enough to steer some robots.

In 2010, Northeastern University Electrical engineering professor Deniz Erdogmus and several researchers successfully demonstrated the piloting of a Roomba robot vacuum cleaner using thoughts. In 2012, Chinese researchers at Zhejiang University used EEG to pilot a small consumer UAV. These are the sorts of incremental research breakthroughs that seem to suggest that brain-controlled quad-copters are literally hovering around the corner. But EEG signals are too crude to do brain-based piloting in real time combat operations. Useful gains in this area will require getting not just powerful but more precise signals, and that means getting hot electronics closer to the brain. Unfortunately, soft and delicate brain tissue does not easily mix with circuits. It’s a technical and materials challenge of enormous complexity, but hardly outside of the realm of possibility. A group of researchers from Singapore recently unveiled a neural probe that can be integrated on the brain with little damage to cellular structures.


Prabhakar is cautiously optimistic about the future of human-computer interfacing. She says that current research represents “a door opening” into new applications. “I would say we are now standing on this side of the door looking through and seeing what’s going to come out of it.”

In the near term, a fuller understanding of our three-pound thinking organ would allow for improved situational awareness on the battlefield and better decision-making in life or death environments. “Think about warfighters in these very complex situations where the way that they understand the complexity around them makes all the difference in the world…We’re speculating but it might lead to some great advances.”


Turning the Building Blocks of Life into New Materials

You can define synthetic biology, loosely, as the creation of new, artificial biological structures for new purposes. The field is in its infancy and DARPA’s new office is meant to accelerate current research. One example of that is the 1,000 Molecules program, part of DARPA’s Living Foundries initiative, which is focused on “creating a biologically based manufacturing platform to provide rapid, scalable access to new materials with novel properties.” These new materials would allow for a “new generation of mechanical, electrical, and optical products.”

“What our program is trying to do is create the tools to make [synthetic biology] an engineering discipline. Instead of taking millions of dollars and many years to do even minor projects, we really want to unleash it,” said Prabhakar. “Think about what’s going to be possible for new chemistries beyond petrochemicals. Think about new types of chemicals with all kinds of structural and electronic and optical properties.”

Bioengineered materials derived from living components like lipids and proteins would be several times more diverse and functional than designs based on more traditional approaches to chemistry. Learning to harness the building blocks of life could allow for living materials that are stronger, more flexible, more durable and cheaper than anything available today. Those new materials could make their way into battlefield armor or even electronic components.

Synthetic biology also holds the promise of one day creating entirely new life forms. A group of researchers from the U.S. and U.K. recently announced the creation of the first artificial chromosome, derived from piecing together 273,871 separate DNA nucleotides from yeast, thus achieving a key step in the potential development of designer chromosomes or even new life.


Tricorders, Epidemics and Outrunning Disease

On Star Trek, the USS Enterprise’s doctor, Bones, carries around a handheld device called a “tricorder” that can instantly diagnose any disease. DARPA wants it. Rapidly spreading diseases, whether as a result of biological attack or a naturally-occurring epidemic, present a grave and rising national security threat. As previously discussed, a highly-lethal flu pandemic could result in as many as 150 million deaths.

DARPA is looking to create new diagnostic gadgets and software to give soldiers and decision-makers “a rapid and specific diagnosis of infection so we can actually understand the spread of disease, something we don’t have visibility into right now.” The ability to diagnose infections on site, perhaps with a single, handheld device, and then report the results immediately and globally could allow researchers to quickly identify the unique genetic makeup of emerging illnesses. That could help them to “create vaccines that offer immediate protection rather than vaccines that have a few week waiting period before immunity establishes itself. If we can get those capabilities built we can move faster than the disease is spreading,” said Prabhakar.


The DARPA program is called Autonomous Diagnostics to Enable Prevention and Therapeutics, or ADEPT, and is one example of the effort to conquer biological threats. The agency isn’t alone in moving to build more rapid and deployable diagnostic capabilities. Qualcomm and the X Prize Foundation are sponsoring a $10 million dollar competition to build a handheld diagnostic device. We don’t have to wait for Bones to show before realizing the benefits of the research effort. Today, health workers in Saudi Arabia are already using findings from DARPA’s epidemiology-funded research to stay ahead of the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus or MERS-CoV.

Prabhakar said it’s a fine and difficult line to walk, laying the research groundwork for the far future while offering new tools as quickly and as rapidly as possible. “We always are aiming for off-scale impact,” she said. “Meantime, we want to make sure we are delivering concrete capabilities.”


Supreme Court weighs software patents

By Robert Barnes, E-mail the writer

April 1, 2014


The Supreme Court did not seem particularly impressed Monday with the computerized trading “invention” for which Alice Corp. received a patent in the early 1990s.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy guessed that a group of ­computer-savvy folks “sitting around in a coffee shop in Silicon Valley could do this over a weekend.”

Justice Stephen G. Breyer thought of an ancient accountant with an abacus telling King Tut when his gold was about to run out or Breyer’s own mother seizing the checkbook when her son was writing checks for more money than he had in his bank account.

In other words, the justices seemed to think the Australia-based company had received a patent simply for invoking old concepts about how to keep a person or entity solvent and then saying that using a computer to keep track of the transactions would help.

But there are broader issues at play in the case that could affect hundreds of thousands of software patents. And the justices were not nearly as clear about what rules should govern those, or whether the court needed to use this case to spell out those rules.

Washington lawyer Carter Phillips, representing Alice Corp., warned of the consequences of choosing wrongly. The court, he said, could “inherently declare, and in one fell swoop, hundreds of thousands of patents invalid, and the consequences of that it seems to me are utterly unknowable.”

The case has drawn the attention of the nation’s biggest technology companies. Some, such as Microsoft and IBM, are concerned about the loss of existing patents. Others, including Google and Facebook, worry that business process patents are too easily awarded, thwart innovation and launch waves of unproductive litigation.

Patents are awarded for inventing any “new and useful process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.” But over the years, courts have created three exceptions. Those are for “laws of nature, physical phenomena, and abstract ideas.”

Alice and CLS Bank International are in litigation over Alice’s patents for a computer-implemented method of using a third party to ensure that foreign currency transactions proceed smoothly and protect the parties. CLS developed a similar program.

Mark Perry, a Washington lawyer representing CLS, said the court’s recent jurisprudence should settle the matter. In one case, the court said that basic economic principles are abstract ideas and in another it said that simply running such a principle on a computer is not a “patentable application of that principle.”

Phillips struggled to convince the justices that Alice’s patents covered more than that, although he acknowledged that “trying to use language to describe these things is not all that easy.”

He said the company’s patents protect everyone in massive, multiparty transactions in “which you need to deal with difficulties that exist at different time zones simultaneously and to do it with a computer so that you not only take them on chronologically, deal with them sequentially, based on the kind of software analysis that the patent specifically describes by function.”

Breyer seemed to be the justice most interested in trying to find a broader solution. As it is, he said companies are not in “competition on price, service and better production” but on “who has the best patent lawyer.”

Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., representing the Obama administration, also asked the court for a broader ruling. He said it could find against Alice just by applying its recent decisions, as Perry indicated.

But he said the court should go beyond that and say that software was eligible for patents only when it provides an “improvement in computing technology or an innovation that uses computing technology to improve other technological functions.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that other interested parties have said the government’s stiff test would “extinguish business method patents and make all software ineligible for patent protection.”

Verrilli said that was an exaggeration. He said it was obvious that lower courts need more specific guidance from the justices. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, for instance, agreed with a district judge that Alice’s patents were invalid, but issued six separate opinions offering different rationales.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., however, noted that the government’s test would require a judge to consider at least six factors.

“I’m just doubtful that that’s going to bring about greater clarity and certainty,” Roberts said.

The case is Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International.


Group urges sweeping civil service reforms

Apr. 1, 2014 – 06:15PM | By ANDY MEDICI | Comments


The federal pay system would shrink from 15 to 5 levels, agencies would have greater flexibility in hiring and pay would be based on performance, under a new system laid out by the Partnership For Public Service in a report released April 2.

The report, issued in partnership with contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, calls for overhauling the entire civil service system, including pay, performance management, hiring, job classification, accountability and workplace justice and includes changes to the Senior Executive Service.

“Our nation’s civil service system is a relic of a bygone era,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “Our nation’s leadership must make it a priority to create a civil service system that our public servants deserve and that will produce the results our country needs.”

Pay would be tied to similar jobs in the labor market and Congress and the administration would have greater flexibility to control compensation spending, according to the report. The new system would include five levels ranging from “entry” to “executive” that would also cover subject matter experts as well as high-level managers.

Salary increases in the pay scale would apply toward specific occupations within the federal government and would do away with across-the-board pay increases.

The report also lays out a system to promote people into management who want to be there, instead of automatically becoming a manager within certain grades and a more rigorous review process for all employees that ties in more directly to performance.

Employees who fail to meet performance standard will not get a raise and automatic tenure-based pay raises would be eliminated, according to the report.

“Good government starts with good people, and our nation is fortunate to count some of the brightest, most dedicated professionals among its ranks. But they too often succeed in spite of the current system, not because of it,” Stier said.

The American Federation of Government Employees president J. David Cox call the report a “retread” of the Defense Departments efforts to create a National Security Personnel System, which Congress repealed in 2009.

Cox called the plan a “thinly disguised effort” by Booz Allen Hamilton to gain hundreds of millions of dollars in new business as DoD contract spending shrinks.

“It’s the same, tired old refrain: reallocate salary dollars from rank-and-file, frontline employees to managers,” Cox said. “The well-meaning Partnership for Public Service should not be associated with this shameless attempt by a voracious contractor to conjure up more business for itself.”

He said the changes outlined in the report would undercut decades of progress in fighting against workplace discrimination and that instead the Merit Systems Protection Board should be given more resources to hear cases and protect employees.

“We reject outright the premise that the federal government is somehow broken and in need of urgent repair. On the contrary, federal employees continue to perform heroically despite the unprecedented budget cuts levied against them in recent years,” Cox said.


The report also recommends:

■Creating a four-tier senior executive service that would better prepare accomplished career civil servants for high-level agency positions.

■Filling key government management positions with senior career executives instead of political appointees to provide a long-term perspective and leadership continuity.

■Giving agencies greater flexibility in hiring without compromising such core principles as veterans’ preference, merit-based selection, diversity and equal opportunity

■These recommendations would help fix a “splintered” civil service system that contains a patchwork of hiring authorities, special rules and procedures that create “have and have not” agencies by creating a unified and flexible system, according to the report.


Leaders Study Port, Military Template For National Or Large Scale Crisis

By: Homeland Security Today Staff

04/01/2014 ( 2:22pm)


Public, military and private sector leaders recently concluded meetings to discuss how to turn the Port of Long Beach’s (PoLB) surface and subsurface situational awareness network into a template that can be used by other ports to increase America’s resilience during the first 72 hours of a national or large-scale crisis.

Hosted by PoLB, the ReadyCommunities Partnership (RCP) Military Base and Port Community Resiliency symposium brought dozens of stakeholders together to outline their best practices that exploit readily available commercial off-the-shelf technologies to reinforce a situational awareness network that includes suppliers, contractors, vendors, military, law enforcement and first responders.

“The main theme,” RCP said in an announcement, “was an interest to harness private sector resources to augment the local public sector response capacity.

“America’s resiliency depends upon the commitment to forge public/private partnerships at the local level” said PoLB Board of Harbor Commissioners President Doug Drummond. “That commitment is evidenced here today by your working together to help other communities build on what we’ve learned and practice.”

RCP said “The symposium continues a national series organized by RCP that highlights the importance of America’s strategic military base and port communities to national resiliency and how public/partnerships are essential in a climate of increased competition for diminishing resources.”

PoLB’s Assistant Director of Security Capt. Steve Ruggiero (USN Reserve) described plans and progress to further develop its maritime domain awareness picture through collaboration with its partners including the Port of Los Angeles, longshoremen, law enforcement, first responders, and the private sector.

“The uninterrupted operation of America’s 513 ports and 136 military installations is essential to America’s economy and resiliency,” Ruggiero said.

Attendees emphasized the value of leveraging existing private sector capabilities to help the military and public sector augment their preparedness and response capacity.

“We work with multiple agencies, corporations and communities each year with our rapid Sprint Emergency Response Team to help stand-up interoperable, short-term, critical communications abilities in exercise settings or in real world disaster support,” said RCP advisory board member Tanya Lin-Jones.

“Communications is the foundation of response and recovery and it’s all about building a network of local partners to bridge gaps and practice communicating to prepare for crisis.”

Using ESRI’s Virtual Port solution as an example of how technology with open standards and data exchange interfaces can help military base and port communities build a crisis decision-making platform,” said former Wyoming Governor and director of policy and public sector strategies at ESRI. “Multiple jurisdictions must work together, in routine times, so that in a time of crisis they can immediately shift to the 72 hour response and recovery initial efforts. That capability is at the heart of resiliency.”

“The PoLB has a strong security apparatus with great partnerships, capability and capacity – and its partnerships are built on trust-based relationships and continued interaction working towards a common purpose of keeping it safe and secure and commerce flowing,’ said US Coast Guard Los Angeles–Long Beach Sector (LA-LB) Commander, Capt. James D. Jenkins.

To learn more about how LA-LB is using commercial off-the-shelf technology for situational awareness, see the recent Homeland Security Today report, “Visualizing Maritime Domain Awareness,” by Editor-at-Large Timothy W. Coleman.


Can Drones Help Drought Stricken California?

by Patrick Egan • 2 April 2014


Some experts say that California is in the midst of a 500-year drought event. Others are going so far as to call it the worst drought in history. While this news means a bad year for the states 38 million residents, fishermen and others that rely on water for their livelihoods, it could mean disaster for the million plus acres of permanent crops already in the ground.

Permanent crops are those crops like trees (fruit and nut) and wine grapes. Unlike cotton, rice or alfalfa they represent a long, multiyear commitment. Trees can take seven years to start producing fruit and If you are the unfortunate grower that is facing losing your trees it means letting go of the prior years of investment. Worse still, starting over with new trees could mean that you will have to go a decade with no income as well as enduring the loss of the planted investments.

The numbers are sobering… the following numbers serve as an example of what is at stake.

Almonds for 2012 – 790,000 acres bearing and 80,000 non-bearing acres with an estimated worth of $4,347,000,000.00. (USDA/NASS, Pacific Region office April 2013) That does not include the loss of income from all of the fruit and nut jobs California depends on.

The almonds alone have increased demands on the public water supply is purported to be at least equal to the amount of water that the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) provides to all of its 18,000,000 customers (2,200,000 acre feet) or 155 gallons per person daily. For those, not in the fluids transfer business…, An acre-foot is equivalent to an acre of land covered in 12″ of water.

California has become the nations nut basket, and that is not just a figurative title anymore! ;-)

So dire is the predicted situation in the Golden state that besides the President making a special Valentines day trip to California, the Federal Government has just announced that they are setting aside $20 million dollars to aid farmers. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says, “It’ll be focused on improving irrigation efficiency, providing producers resources to stabilize fallowed ground that can’t be farmed and to assist with watering facilities and grazing.” Another $14 million was just pledged to improve water management and conservation finding solutions for efficient irrigation and other drought mitigating technologies and measures to help with soil stabilization. At last count, the total aid to the beleaguered California ag sector tops $100 million. Those affected are calling that tidy sum a drop in the bucket, and that bucket just may have a hole in it.

There were those that expressed concerns and warned that permanent crops may not be the best fit for a state that has historically had to have to endure extended dry and wet cycles. Raising the question, how would permanent crops fare during an extended, or even severe dry cycle? Well, many don’t believe anyone could have envisioned a 500-year event, but here we are. We are faced with the very real dilemma of having to decide if we want to sit on the sidelines and let the bottom fall out of this multibillion-dollar nut basket or, we can decide that we are willing to dare as the generations of Californians that have come before us. Ingenuity and technology brought to bear to overcome adversity and save our economy.


Well, a technology solution already exist, but we cannot use it… Drones.

Currently, farmers water the trees at regular intervals, needed or not. This routine is not scientific, but based on a general schedule, not unlike you might gauge it time to water your lawn.

However, multispectral images can detect plant/tree stress two weeks before you would be able to discern the condition prior to being able to see it with the eye. What does that all mean? In some instances, it can mean non-essential over watering. Relative humidity, soil density/composition, wind and ambient temperature are a few of the many factors that can affect irrigation cycles. You can guess, or you can use an efficient, low cost aerial platform to help conserve this finite resource. You may think this is wishful conjecture, but no… The studies have been done.

There were 600 flight conducted between 2007 and 2009 proved that the use of thermal multispectral cameras on a controlled deficit irrigation study. While it would not cure the ills of this drought on its own it would give farmers more mileage out of what little water they have now. Also in future years it gives the grower a tool to save what will only become even scarcer commodity in the future.

This event requires something that California is used to engineering, and that is a technology solution. While unmanned aircraft cannot tackle the whole problem by themselves, they do represent a viable tool that without a doubt can help better manage a finite resource in real time. A cost effective solution to help save permanent crops from permanent loss. This technology properly applied has the potential to reduce the impact.

A tough nut to crack indeed!

This is a perfect application in a perfect area. Sparsely populated for both the safety of those on the ground and in the air, and these nuts do not give a hoot and a holler about privacy. Shouldn’t we collectively be saying, stop the whining and send in the drones?

Did I win the Million-dollar prize for the best idea to help use water more efficiency? ;-)


Russian Reaper Revealed

April 2, 2014


New photos of the Altius-M UAS which should be a competitor to the American Reaper UAS were revealed last week. It weighs five tons, can reach a range of 10,000 kilometers and stay aloft for 48 hours.

The “Altius-M” UAS is produced by okb-sokol (Kazan) along with Transas, and the chief designer is Mr Alyaksandr Gomzin. The development and initial design began in early October 2011, and won the Russian Defense Ministry contest to develop a UAS with a takeoff weight of up to 5 tons (the other bidder was RAC, the Russian manufacturer of the MiG aircraft). The contract for the research and development of the “Altius -M” is worth 28 million dollars (billion roubles).

According to the report, the experimental model should begin flight tests during 2014-2015. The assembly of the UAS will be conducted by CAPO-composites.

According to website, the UAS weighs about 5,000 kg, has a range of 10,000 km and is capable to stay aloft for 48 hours. It will include electro-optical payloads and a radar system. The aircraft is driven using two RED A03 type diesel. Details about arming of the UAS have not yet been revealed, but it appears that this is a UAS with offensive capabilities.




3-Star: USAF Materiel Command’s Reorganization ‘Makes Sense’

Apr. 1, 2014 – 10:11AM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


WASHINGTON — In 2012, US Air Force Materiel Command underwent a massive transforma­tion, consolidating 12 centers around the nation into five locations. Helping to guide that reorganization was Lt. Gen. C.D. Moore, the vice commander. Following those changes, Moore was named commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, where he oversees what he calls “a combination of acquisition and life-cycle support” for the service.

Q. What drove the change in the way Materiel Command is organized?

A. We had these 12 centers, and we realized there was tremendous overhead associated with running those 12 business units as independent entities. We realized we could be far more efficient if we aligned not by geography but by mission. We effectively aligned all those organizations across the country that had a life-cycle management responsibility, that is a responsibility to acquire systems and then support these systems once in the field. Life-cycle management is the combination of acquisition and life-cycle support.

There are 77 locations where I have personnel across the US, with nine larger locations and headquartered at Wright-Patterson in Ohio. My challenge on Day 1 was how to lash together these various organizations that had different ways of doing business and different focus areas and build an integrated corporate process for delivering capability.

Q. Has there been resistance?

A. I sometimes joke that this has been change management at the Ph.D. level. Everyone had a different way of doing business and frankly hadn’t worked that closely with some of their counterparts at other locations. There was a culture change that needed to happen. It was tedious and hard work because you needed people to roll up their sleeves and really understand how we were doing business, what were the best practices, how do we incorporate those and make those our own. What’s really exciting is those who resisted on Day 1 are coming around and saying, this really makes sense.

Q. How has the budget situation impacted your work?

A. One challenge we did not, and could not, anticipate was the budget issues we had to face midstream in this major change. That goes back to last year when we had no budget, operating under a continuing resolution and had sequestration imposition midyear that impacted not just our budget but sustainment and maintenance. The neat thing is on the backside of dealing with those budget shocks, we are adapting and we are making process changes to put us in a better position to deal with those types of budget adjustments. We survived it, we did adapt, and we are learning from that and making our organization more flexible and more agile.

Q. What has industry response to these changes been like?

A. It’s been good. I’ve met with a number of industry teams. Industry typically wants to follow our lead to make sure they are aligned most effectively to engage with us. Early on, there was some level of uncertainty in how best to plug in because they had grown accustomed to the geo-centric way we were operating. If there was a platform they were focused on, their plug-in point may have been at a singular location. Their plug-in is not tied to geography now, it’s tied to that program leadership team. Industry has adapted. One of our key focus areas is building stronger partnerships with industry. As we drive for speed with discipline that we need, [we] must have a cooperative industry partner who sees the same value.

Q. How are you handling the growth in cyber?

A. We don’t just field weapons systems that operate independently today. Every system we field has multiple connections to other systems — system-of-systems capability. That’s our strength, but that is also a vulnerability. So we are attacking vulnerabilities in that complex system of systems to ensure we understand where the potential weakest links are so our systems can always operate for full [effectiveness] in a compromised cyber environment.

We’re all waking up to the criticality of getting cyber resiliency right in our design in our protections for weapons systems. We fielded systems when cyber wasn’t cool, and we’re addressing every one of those thousands of systems to make sure we understand if there are potential vulnerabilities. Program managers need to do that, and it’s something that is now front and center for them.


Some fast food outlets closing on military bases

New federal wage rules may be factor, sources say

Mar. 17, 2014 – 06:00AM | 13Comments

By Karen Jowers

Staff writer


Four restaurants, including three McDonald’s outlets, will close within the next three weeks on Navy installations, according to Navy Exchange Service Command officials.

And two other contractors — a name-brand sandwich eatery and a name-brand pizza parlor — have asked to be released from their Army and Air Force Exchange Service contracts to operate fast food restaurants at two other installations, according to AAFES officials.

A source with knowledge of military on-base resale operations said the issue likely has to do with two new government regulations — one implemented, one pending — that will affect wages for contract workers in such on-base concessions.

These closings “are the tip of the iceberg,” the source said. “I don’t think anybody has realized what the far-reaching effects of this will be.”

McDonald’s restaurants will close at Naval Weapons Station Charleston, S.C., on March 16; at Naval Support Activity, Bethesda, Md., on March 21; and at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton, Wash., on March 31, said Kathleen Martin, a NEXCOM spokeswoman.

Another eatery, I Love Country, has notified NEXCOM that it will close its restaurant at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on April 4, Martin said.

Martin said the McDonald’s outlets “came to the end of their contract term. We were in the process of renegotiating and McDonald’s made the unilateral decision to close those three” outlets. She referred questions about the reasons for the closures to McDonald’s.

Lisa McComb, a company spokeswoman, said McDonald’s, along with the independent owner/operators of the individual restaurants, are closing the three eateries “due to the fact that we have lost our lease.”

McDonald’s independent owners operate about 30 restaurants on military installations. “Whenever we reach the end of a term, whether on a military site or otherwise, we consider many factors in deciding whether to renegotiate a new term,” McComb said.

She said the owners of the three closing outlets are offering affected employees transfers to other nearby McDonald’s restaurants.

Martin said new Labor Department rules issued last fall for fast food workers on federal contracts under the Service Contract Act require an increase in the minimum wage for such employees, varying by region. The rules also require payment of new, additional “health and welfare” fringe benefits at a rate of $3.81 per hour to those employees.

Contractor-operated fast food concessions on military installations fall under those regulations.

The new rules “have to be part of any contract we negotiate,” said Martin, adding that many vendor partners “have verbally indicated hesitation” to accept contract changes reflecting the revised wage rules.

“NEXCOM is working closely with our contracted food service providers to assess the impact of the new wage determinations,” she said. “This is part of the quality-of-life benefit we provide to sailors and their families, and our goal is to continue to do that.”

In addition, President Obama recently signed an executive order that will increase the minimum wage for employees of companies with new federal contracts beginning Jan. 1. At that time, the minimum wage for all federal contract workers — not just those working for fast food concessions — will increase to $10.10 from the current $7.25. It is not yet known how far-reaching the effects will be for contracts on military installations.

The wage hikes are good news for the many military spouses and veterans who work for these contractors — but only if the concessionaires continue to operate.

“At the end of the day, there will be fewer jobs,” said the industry source. “And for [the contractors] who stick it out, there will be higher costs and the customers will pay more.”

The two AAFES contractors asking to be released from their contracts did so after the new Labor Department wage rules were released.

AAFES officials are declining at this time to name the two name-brand restaurants, said spokesman Chris Ward, although he added that there is no set timeframe for that to happen.

“Once the paperwork is completed by both parties, they’ll be out of it at that time,” he said.


Concessions contracts are negotiated on a rolling basis for fast food restaurants on military installations throughout the year, so exchange officials continue to monitor and assess the impact of the new wage rules.

AAFES officials said the Service Contract Act has had a limited impact on their operations because that exchange service directly operates about 75 percent of its fast food outlets.

The new wage rules “were a small concern, but not a major concern,” in the I Love Country Cafe eatery’s decision not to renew the contract at Pearl Harbor, said Richard Chan, a spokesman for the company.

“The Hawaii labor market is tight and we need to pool our resources and move to other areas,” he said, adding that the Navy has posted signs to let the customers know about the impending move.

“We really enjoy serving the service members of our country,” he said. “Some customers are sad, but our other locations are not too far from the bases.”


Indiana-Ohio Officials Continue Work on Drone Test Site

Though the region was overlooked as an official FAA drone test site, area congressmen are working to showcase the its assets for unmanned aerial vehicle research.



WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE — Despite the Ohio/Indiana region being overlooked as an official FAA drone test site, area congressmen are continuing to build relationships between the states to showcase the region’s assets for unmanned aerial vehicle research.

On Monday, Congressman Mike Turner, R-Dayton, brought U.S. Rep. Todd Young, R-Indiana, to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Today, Turner will join Young on a tour of two military installations where some drone systems developed in the Dayton and Springfield region will go for real-world field testing.

Young, serving his second term in Indiana’s 9th Congressional District, will show Turner the National Guard’s Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in his district, as well as the jointly-operated Muscatatuck Urban Training Center. Turner said he’s heard Muscatatuck described as “Calamityville on steroids,” referring to the National Center for Medical Readiness at Calamityville located in Fairborn.

Young said he was impressed with the work being done in southwest Ohio in support of the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex following a tour of the Air Force Research Lab.

“One of the things I came to appreciate today was the virtual technologies that can be integrated into training that have been developed right here at Wright-Patt,” Young said. “Those will serve as force multipliers of sorts for any training that might be occurring at the Atterbury-Muscatatuck Complex. ”

Turner, who serves on the Armed Services Committee, and Young, on Ways and Means Committee, also met with representatives of the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex, including director Dick Honneywell, and David Gallagher, chief of staff. They also received a briefing from Gen. Janet C. Wolfenbarger, commander of the Air Force Materiel Command, and Col. Cassie Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing and Installation commander.

The UAS industry could create as many as 34,000 manufacturing jobs in the next few years, according to a report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. Annual spending on UAS systems will reach $11.6 billion in 10 years, according to a Teal Group report.

Gallagher said both congressmen recognize the economic impact UAS systems may have on the region moving forward.

“UAS is going to be here before we know it. The future’s coming and we’re just combining our assets to help facilitate that and the economic development,” Gallagher said.

The two states worked unsuccessfully in an attempt to bring one of the six national UAS test centers awarded by the FAA to the region. Both congressmen said it still makes sense for the two states to continue collaborating.

“What we found from getting our briefing from the FAA that in addition to the opportunities of working with the six test sites, there are also stand-alone opportunities,” Turner said. “Since we are already flying in both Indiana and Ohio in a coordinated fashion and doing research and development, we’re going to remain a very critical player.”

Turner said the two states complement each other’s capabilities.

“Some of the airspace that’s in Indiana has operational capability that we do not have here currently in Ohio,” Turner said. “And Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, in its data collection and research and development, is developing real time UAV and UAS operational testing capability. That is being linked with sites in Indiana.”

Gallagher said the benefit of the airspace at the Atterbury site in Indiana provides the ability to fly larger, unmanned military vehicles “when there’s nothing below it.”

The Ohio/Indiana UAS Center is headquartered in Springfield and oversees UAS testing at Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, the National Center for Medical Readiness at Calamityville, Wilmington Air Park and the Buckeye/Brushcreek Military Operating Areas here in Ohio as well as the sites including Camp Atterbury and the Muscatatuck Urban Training Center in Indiana.



Defined by critics, big ag restarts conversation

Associated Press

By MARY CLARE JALONICK December 29, 2013 6:30 PM–finance.html


OKAWVILLE, Ill. (AP) — Add one more item to the list of chores that Larry Hasheider has to do on his 1,700-acre farm: defending his business to the American public.

There’s a lot of conversation about traditional agriculture recently, and much of it is critical. Think genetically modified crops, overuse of hormones and antibiotics, inhumane treatment of animals and over-processed foods.

This explosion of talk about food — some based on fact, some based on fiction — has already transformed the marketplace. Slow to respond and often defensive, farmers and others in agribusiness have for several years let critics define the public debate and influence consumers. Now, the industry is trying to push farmers and businesses to fight back, connecting with those consumers through social media and outreach that many in agriculture have traditionally shunned.

“We as farmers now have another role in addition to being farmers,” Hasheider says as he takes a break from harvesting his corn crop. “It’s something you have to evolve into.”

In addition to corn, Hasheider grows soybeans, wheat and alfalfa on the farm nestled in the heart of Illinois corn country. He cares for 130 dairy cows, 500 beef cattle and 30,000 hogs. And now, he’s giving tours of his farm, something he says he never would have done 20 years ago.

“We didn’t think anyone would be interested in what we were doing,” he says.

Like a lot of other farmers, Hasheider was wrong.

Take the issue of genetically modified foods. There has been little scientific evidence to prove that foods grown from engineered seeds are less safe than their conventional counterparts, but consumer concerns and fears — many perpetuated through social media and the Internet — have forced the issue. A campaign to require labeling of modified ingredients on food packages has steadily gained attention, and some retailers have vowed not to sell them at all.

Makers of the engineered seeds and the farmers and retailers who use them stayed largely silent, even as critics put forth a simple, persuasive argument: Consumers have a right to know if they are eating genetically modified foods.

Modified seeds are now used to grow almost all of the nation’s corn and soybean crops, most of which are turned into animal feed.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a well-known critic of food companies and artificial and unhealthy ingredients in foods, has not opposed genetically modified foods, on the basis that there’s no evidence they are harmful.

Still, director Michael Jacobson says, the issue has taken on a life of its own to the general public.

Companies like Monsanto Corp. “try to argue back with facts, but emotions often trump facts,” Jacobson says. “They are faced with a situation where critics have an emotional argument, a fear of the unknown.”

Perhaps no one understands this dynamic better than Robert Fraley, who was one of the first scientists to genetically modify seeds and now is executive vice president and chief technology officer of Monsanto. He says the company was late to the public relations game as critics worked to vilify it, even holding marches on city streets to protest Monsanto by name.

Fraley says he has spent “more than a few nights” thinking about the company’s image problem. He says Monsanto always thought of itself as the first step in the chain and has traditionally dealt more with farmers than consumers.

About a year ago, in an attempt to dispel some of the criticism, the company started addressing critics directly and answering questions through social media and consumer outreach. The company is also reaching out to nutritionists and doctors, people whom consumers may consult. Fraley is personally tweeting — and, like Hasheider, he says it’s something he never would have thought about doing just a few years ago.

“We were just absent in that dialogue, and therefore a lot of the urban legends just got amplified without any kind of logical balance or rebuttal,” Fraley says of the criticism.

At a recent conference of meat producers, David Wescott, director of digital strategy at APCO Worldwide, told ranchers they needed to do a better job connecting with — and listening to — mothers, who often communicate on social media about food and make many of the household purchasing decisions.

“It’s a heck of a lot more convincing when a mom says something than when a brand does,” says Wescott, who says he has worked with several major farm and agriculture companies to help them reach out to consumers, especially moms.

Other farm groups, like Illinois Farm Families, are inviting moms to tour the fields. Tim Maiers of the Illinois Pork Producers Association says the group has found that consumers generally trust farmers, but they have a lot of questions about farming methods.

One of the moms, Amy Hansmann, says that though she remains concerned about the amount of processed foods and chemicals in the food supply, her experiences touring conventional farms with Illinois Farm Families changed her thinking. She was particularly amazed by the big farmers’ use of technology and attempts to be sustainable.

Hansmann says that before the tour, her perception from the media was that these big farmers were “evil capitalists” who focused only on their businesses and not on the care of the land or animals.

“What I found couldn’t be further from the truth,” she says.

Chris Chinn, a blogger and a fifth generation farmer and mom from Clarence, Mo., is trying to reach out to others like Hansmann, too. Chinn, 38, carves 20 minutes or more out of her schedule every day to get on Twitter, comment on online articles and update her blog. Her internet service can be spotty in rural Clarence, but she sometimes types out entire blog posts on her smartphone and tries to respond to every Tweet that is directed to her — some of them nasty.

“We’ve been late to the game, and we realized that if we don’t start sharing, people are going to start forming opinions about you,” says Chinn, who is working with the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, formed by more than 80 farm groups to try to improve agriculture’s message.

Chinn says she started using social media because of animal rights campaigns that have aimed to eliminate gestation crates that she and other hog farmers use for pregnant sows. Hog farmers say the crates are important to keep the pigs and their piglets safe; animal rights groups say they are inhumane and have pushed state legislatures to get rid of them.

Chinn says her smaller farm could go under if she was forced to get rid of the crates, because she and her husband wouldn’t be able to get a loan for new equipment. She believes that if people knew more about these operations, they would understand.

Some critics say that dialogue isn’t going to be enough, arguing that the companies will have to make some real concessions in addition to defending what they do if they are going to win over consumers. They point to Monsanto’s expensive campaigns against mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods in California and Washington State. The company won both fights.

Fighting the mandatory labels has “made it look like big ag has more to hide,” says Gary Hirshberg, a co-founder of the organic yogurt company Stonyfield Farm. He has worked in the past few years on the labeling campaign. Hirshberg and other critics have argued that Monsanto and retailers should just accept the labels and move on.

Some farmers have decided that responding to consumer preference is the smartest route for their businesses. Nestled in low hills along the Missouri River just west of St. Louis, John Ridder has a 1,500 acre farm and a herd of 200 cattle. His wife, Heidi, recently created a Facebook profile for their cattle ranch, and the two have worked with the Missouri Beef Industry Council to reach out to consumers.

They say they are shocked by some of the misperceptions about agriculture on the Internet, like the assumption that most cattle operations are so-called “factory farms.”

At the same time, they realize they are somewhat powerless in the conversation.


John says he stopped using growth hormones in his cattle because consumers don’t want them. “We don’t do it because we don’t want to have to explain how we do it,” he says.

Many farmers are taking that a step further and taking advantage of the consumer trends — labeling foods as natural or local.

“It’s the first time any of us have seen anything like this,” says Ken Colombini of the National Corn Growers Association. “The more that kind of demand builds, the more we’re going to have to change what we’re doing.”


New Windows 8.1 update reportedly hits final stage

Microsoft pushes the spring update for Windows 8.1 into RTM mode and sends it to PC partners, according to The Verge and Russian leaker Wzor.

by Lance Whitney

March 4, 2014 6:16 AM PST


The “spring” update to Windows 8.1 is purportedly now in the hands of PC and tablet makers.

Microsoft has signed off on the update and moved it into the RTM (release-to-manufacturing) stage, The Verge said on Tuesday, citing “sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans.” A similar tidbit was served by Russian leaker Wzor, who tweeted that the Windows 8.1 spring update was signed off by Microsoft on February 26 and is now final.

The update has begun to reach device makers to test and install on their products, The Verge added. Windows 8.1 users are due to receive the update in early April.

Microsoft finally confirmed the Windows 8.1 update at Mobile World Congress last week. The update has been designed to reduce the reliance on the Start screen and improve certain options for good, old-fashioned PCs.

Users will be able to launch Metro apps from the desktop, more easily minimize or close those apps, and shut down Windows via the mouse’s right-click button.

Based on the initial details, the update sounds like a step in the right direction, at least for PC users not yet sold on Microsoft’s latest OS. But will it be enough to revive sluggish sales of Windows 8.1 devices, or will it be a case of too little, too late?


Windows 8.1 update fixes many common issues

April 2, 2014 9:28 AM PDT


The latest update to Windows 8 will be available on April 8 and brings much-needed tweaks for desktop users, restoring some of the features Windows users have been missing since the Metro interface first launched.

First and foremost, the OS now detects whether you’re using a tablet or desktop and mouse setup, and delivers the best experience for your device. This means that upon launch, if you’re on a desktop computer, the OS will boot straight to the desktop, and on a tablet, you’ll get the touchable tiles of Microsoft’s modern interface. But don’t worry if you prefer the way Windows currently behaves; you still have the option to choose your startup preferences in the settings.

Microsoft also made some changes with full-screen apps making them a lot more intuitive for desktop users and more in line with the history of the Windows OS. Full screen apps now (once again) have a title bar at the top, with the X in the upper right so you can quit out of an app easily with a click of your mouse.

With the modern interface out of the way on your desktop, it makes sense that Microsoft would find a way to make the Windows Store more accessible. Now, with this latest update, the Windows Store is automatically pinned to the taskbar on your desktop.

One of the biggest complaints about Windows 8 was the loss of the Start Button as we knew it in previous versions of Windows, and we’re still not going to get a fix in this update, but there’s some good news. As we know, Windows 8.1 brought back the Start Button for some functions, but still didn’t offer many of the most used features in older Windows versions. Microsoft announced that a future update will give us a mash up of both the traditional Start Button view and the live tiles. So, with a click you will be able to get recently opened apps, your documents folder, and other common options found in older versions of the Start Menu, but on the right, you’ll get the live tiles from the modern interface. It seems like a good compromise between the two, and I think it’s the setup most people have been asking for.


Hell freezes over: Microsoft makes Windows free for some devices

‘One of the boldest moves Microsoft has made,’ says analyst of commitment to give away Windows for smartphones and tablets with screens smaller than 9-in.

By Gregg Keizer

April 2, 2014 04:18 PM ET


Computerworld – Microsoft today said that it would give away licenses to Windows Phone and Windows to device makers building smartphones or tablets with screens smaller than 9-in. measured diagonally.

“In my view, this is one of the boldest moves Microsoft has made in recent memory” said Al Gillen, an analyst with IDC, in an interview after today’s three-hour keynote at Microsoft’s Build developers conference. “It’s pretty powerful.”

“This is a very big deal,” agreed Carolina Milanesi, strategic insight director of Kantar Worldpanel ComTech. “It’s a change at how they look at their cash cow, looking at the bigger picture now and what they need to do to win the mobile story, if you like.”

Others echoed the “wow” factor of Microsoft’s unprecedented decision, characterizing it as a major milestone in the company’s 38-year history.

“It’s the day Microsoft finally capitulated to the changing market driven by the disruption led by Apple, Google and the smartphone ecosystem,” said Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights & Strategy, in an email interview.

Terry Myerson, the Microsoft executive who heads the firm’s operating systems engineering group, made the surprise announcement at Build, which opened Wednesday and runs through Friday in San Francisco.

“We want to get this platform out there,” Myerson told the audience, composed primarily of developers. “We want to remove all friction. To drive adoption of your applications, on phones and tablets less than 9-in., we are making Windows available for zero dollars.”

The freeing of Windows on smaller devices — although small is relative, since many smartphones boast screens of around 5-in. — was in line with earlier moves, including the lowering of system requirements to fit on less-expensive hardware with minimal amounts of system memory and storage space, as well as reports last month that the company was slashing licensing prices for some devices by 70%.

Even so, it marks a sea change.

“While I don’t see this as a last-ditch effort to get traction with Windows in the mobile market, it’s getting closer,” Moorhead contended. “Microsoft has very low mindshare in phones and tablets and no mindshare in wearables, so the free operating system, simply put, was a requirement.”

“This helps level the playing field,” said Gillen, referring to Windows and Google’s Android.


Microsoft has adopted a strategy strikingly similar to that of its arch rival, which essentially gives away its Android mobile operating system, a key reason why Android now powers the majority of new devices shipped each month.

“This was absolutely key if they wanted to make any difference in mobile,” said Milanesi. “It’s what they needed to do in a market where they are competing with Android.”

t also marked Microsoft’s flat-out admission that it could not make money in using its decades-old business model of selling licenses to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and ODMs (original device manufacturers), but had to hunt for a new revenue generator, which it has described as “devices and services.”

However, there’s little immediate financial risk, said Milanesi, who noted that Microsoft was actually putting small amounts on the bottom line from Windows licensing to smartphone and tablet ODMs and OEMs.

“On the phone side, Microsoft wasn’t really [generating] revenue,” Milanesi said. “The money was very minimal, and most of that was coming from Nokia. With Nokia becoming part of the [Microsoft] business, that was going to go away. And on the tablet side, with how they were incentivizing, there wasn’t much money there either.”

Revenue has also been puny because Windows has struggled to climb out of the single-digit shipment share cellar. In the December quarter, researcher IDC pegged Windows’ share of smartphone shipments at just 3%.

Rather than rely on licensing revenue, Microsoft will need to leverage customers by showing them ads or selling them services, with Office its single best shot there for the moment.

“In the context of Microsoft’s ‘devices and services’ strategy, free operating systems facilitate increased sales of services and hardware,” noted Moorhead. “With increased hardware volume comes a larger market which attracts developers to the Windows platform.”

Milanesi described Microsoft’s revenue strategy differently. “It lets them get users, especially emerging market users, on a Windows phone,” she said. “It may get those users away from the other ecosystems, it may not lose them to start with.”

And as it entices more people into the Windows ecosystem, Microsoft will have a better shot at keeping them, hoping to make money off those customers in the future through sales of PCs — which, though in decline, aren’t going to vanish, Milanesi argued — as well as current and future services.

“They’re going after a Google model,” said Milanesi. “They’re saying, ‘We just want to be in people’s hands.'”


Unmanned Predator lost power, crashed into Mediterranean

Apr. 2, 2014 – 07:36PM |

By Brian Everstine

Staff writer


An MQ-1B Predator flying a 20-hour mission in Africa crashed into the Mediterranean Sea on Sept. 17, the Air Force announced today.


A failed power converter led to the crash, which destroyed the unarmed drone and its communication pod valued at $5.3 million, according to an Air Combat Command abbreviated accident investigation board report released Wednesday.

The aircraft was deployed from the 432nd Wing at Creech Air Force Base, Nev.

The Air Force did not release the base from which the drone was flying. The Air Force has flown unmanned reconnaissance missions from countries such as Niger, Ethiopia, Djibouti and the Seychelles. The service also did not specify where in the Mediterranean the mishap occurred.

According to the report, the Predator’s crew members noticed a loss in communication with the aircraft just before they handed control over to the Launch and Recovery Element, which is tasked with landing the aircraft. The crew went through their checklists and told the ground control station that they could not establish contact with the aircraft, according to an Air Combat Command release.

The ground control station logged electrical, flight control and engine warning indications, which the investigation board president found were a direct result of a power converter malfunction in the aircraft’s control module.

The loss of control caused the aircraft to spiral and crash into the sea, the report states.


DHS Quietly Delivers Hacker Footprints To Industry

By Aliya Sternstein


A little-known website sitting behind a firewall has been exchanging sensitive hack intelligence between companies and agencies at a rate of one new threat hallmark per hour, a top Homeland Security Department official said.

The Cybersecurity Information Sharing and Collaboration Program, launched in 2011, virtually convenes about 70 critical industry and analytics organizations – think energy companies — as well as federal departments. The result is bulletins provided in formats that computers can “read” so they can apply the appropriate protections. And containment recommendations are pumped out in plain text that people can read.

“It enables us to identify those threats or organizations” that are a danger, said Roberta Stempfley, DHS acting assistant secretary of cybersecurity and communications. “We have shared through this program more than 26 unique indicators a day. You wouldn’t think that that sounds like a large number. But it’s unique indicators in a day. That’s more than one an hour.”

She was speaking at a Washington, DC cybersecurity event hosted by FedScoop.

“Those are things that aren’t typically widely publicized activities,” Stempfley said. “They are generally unclassified indicators.”

Even as data breaches become more extensive, industries, such as major retailers, struggle to talk about the threats they are seeing. The reasons for the silence include fears about liability, government snooping and injured reputations.

On Wednesday, Stempfley acknowledged this tension among potential victims is a problem.


“The biggest challenge to collaboration today is to handle it honestly — we each come to the conversation with your issues and you hold it close, she said “And collaboration becomes a negotiation. It’s difficult to collaborate when you are negotiating.”


How a Chinese Tech Firm Became the NSA’s Surveillance Nightmare

BY KIM ZETTER 03.27.14 | 6:30 AM | PERMALINK


The NSA’s global spy operation may seem unstoppable, but there’s at least one target that has proven to be a formidable obstacle: the Chinese communications technology firm Huawei, whose growth could threaten the agency’s much-publicized digital spying powers.

An unfamiliar name to American consumers, Huawei produces products that are swiftly being installed in the internet backbone in many regions of the world, displacing some of the western-built equipment that the NSA knows — and presumably knows how to exploit — so well.

That obstacle is growing bigger each year as routers and other networking equipment made by Huawei Technologies and its offshoot, Huawei Marine Networks, become more ubiquitous. The NSA and other U.S. agencies have long been concerned that the Chinese government or military — Huawei’s founder is a former officer in the People’s Liberation Army — may have installed backdoors in Huawei equipment, enabling it for surveillance. But an even bigger concern is that with the growing ubiquity of Huawei products, the NSA’s own surveillance network could grow dark in areas where the equipment is used.

For that reason, as the latest Snowden revelations showed last week, the spy agency reportedly hacked Huawei as part of an operation launched in 2007. The plan involved stealing source code for some of Huawei’s products in the hope of finding vulnerabilities. Such security holes could allow the NSA to exploit the products and spy on traffic in countries where Huawei equipment is used — such as Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, and Cuba.

“Many of our targets communicate over Huawei-produced products,” an internal NSA document obtained by Snowden noted in 2010, according to the New York Times. “We want to make sure that we know how to exploit these products … to gain access to networks of interest” around the world.

The spies might also have been seeking access to Huawei routers through management consoles operated by Huawei support staff, giving them privileged access to customer systems.

Just how widely used are Huawei products?

The concerns about Chinese government influence over Huawei have kept the company’s products out of the North American market for the most part, as well as some other western markets. But because of price-cutting, Huawei has become popular in parts of Latin America and the Middle East and is currently the leader in the world’s $13-billion-a-year market for fiber optical networking equipment, having surpassed Alcatel-Lucent and other companies.

The optical market includes all networking equipment, minus the cables, used for communicating over land-based optic and ethernet networks — this includes switches, repeaters that amplify the signal strength on long-haul transmissions, and landing-station equipment installed where undersea cables come ashore.


The company pulled in about $3 billion last year in that market, primarily in Asia-Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, according to technology research firm IDC.

Even more important, Huawei is also the fourth-largest provider of backbone routers, according to IDC, after Cisco, Alcatel-Lucent, and Juniper Networks.

Huawei produces a variety of routers for home and small businesses and for connecting cell phone sites on mobile networks. The overall router market in 2013 was about $14 billion. Cisco grabbed about 60 percent of that market share, while Huawei had $1.3 billion last year. That’s just 10 percent of the total market, but the company’s growth in this area has been steady. In 2011, the company sold about 35,000 routers worldwide. That increased to 49,000 in 2012 and 54,000 last year.

The biggest growth in router revenue, however, has come primarily from its sale of 400G routers used for the internet backbone.

“They’re making inroads into what Cisco and Juniper had, [which was] 97 percent of that market up until three years ago,” says Nav Chander, research manager for telecom business services and associated carrier network infrastructure for IDC’s Worldwide Telecom Division. “Huawei is displacing Cisco and Juniper in other regions outside of the U.S.”

Customers that signed router contracts with Huawei last year for packages that contained 400G routers include top telecoms in a number of countries, including Swisscom in Switzerland and DNA in Finland, Saudi Telecom Company and MTN Group’s operations in Africa and the Middle East, Telkom in South Africa, America Movil in Ecuador and Brazil, Telefonica’s operations in Brazil, and Entel in Chile.

Huawei entered the core backbone router market only about six years ago with its 100G routers, but has aggressively undercut competitors’ prices to gain a swift foothold. Backbone routers can run anywhere between $50,000 to several million dollars for core units, Chander says.

“Some of the big routers, when you add all the pieces, these are very powerful routers handling tens of millions of phone calls and billions of transactions. They’re probably 1,000 or more times the capacity than even existed five years ago,” he says.

But Huawei cut its prices by 25 to 50 percent in some cases, working its way into the market by appealing to service providers who are struggling financially to compete. Advanced 400G routers have only been available from Huawei and other companies for a couple of years, but IDC estimates that Huawei has sold over $500 million worth of 400G and previous-generation 100G backbone routers in the past three years. The company announced 53 contracts in the last half of 2013 for its 400G routers, including one in Spain.

“I think the pricing helped Huawei get in the door in many of these markets like Latin America, where Huawei was nowhere seven or eight years ago,” Chander says. “[Service providers] said, ‘We have no choice, it’s so cheap, we can’t afford not to look at it.’ They’ve created beachheads in many of these markets.”

One of the company’s biggest coups in the west occurred in 2005 when British Telecom signed a £10 billion multi-year deal with Huawei for optical equipment and routers, a purchase that shocked parliamentarians when they learned about the done-deal.

Chander says that British Telecom didn’t buy Huawei core backbone routers but did use the Chinese company’s other equipment on the broadband network used by residential and some government customers. But this doesn’t preclude the equipment from also being used on the private networks that corporate clients lease for their traffic.

“You can use the same [equipment] to switch internet and private traffic,” he notes. “Years ago you’d have separate, dedicated hardware and software for the private part. But with cloud services and regulation, and because it’s so expensive to maintain this equipment, [some companies] decide to consolidate these networks.”

It’s unclear how much of an inroad the NSA has made into exploiting Huawei routers and networking equipment, but the agency may have bigger problems in a few years as the market for networking equipment shifts to software-based techniques.

Chander says the NSA contacted him about five months ago to have him brief some of its employees by phone about the move to so-called software-defined networks. The concept was developed at Stanford University and UC Berkeley. At its core is the idea that the systems that decide where traffic should go can be separated from the systems that actually transmit it to its destination, removing some of the functionality from hardware that does the latter job by replacing it with software applications that can communicate across platforms regardless of which company made the hardware.

Software-defined networks will open the development of software networking solutions to hundreds of other companies and independent developers to build applications and services that communicate with hardware made by Cisco, Juniper and other companies, much the way thousands of app developers currently create differing programs to run on Apple devices today.

Chander says this move will be good for innovation but bad for spying because, he says, “the NSA will have less control over it.”

“The traditional way of getting into networks has been somewhat easy, because with Cisco, Juniper, Alcatel-Lucent and Huawei, those are defined equipment and tech, and those are only four companies to worry about,” he says. “Now you will have millions of developers over the next few years, as you open up the networking world to [development]. There could be literally thousands of products [the NSA will] have to manage and figure out how to break into.”

Chander was never told who was on the call for his phone briefing with the NSA last year but says “they were very interested in what I saw [happening] in the market. You read between the lines.”


Wanna Build a Rocket? NASA’s About to Give Away a Mountain of Its Code



Forty years after Apollo 11 landed on the moon, NASA open sourced the software code that ran the guidance systems on the lunar module.

By that time, the code was little more than a novelty. But in recent years, the space agency has built all sorts of other software that is still on the cutting edge. And as it turns out, like the Apollo 11 code, much of this NASA software is available for public use, meaning anyone can download it and run it and adapt it for free. You can even use it in commercial products.

But don’t take our word for it. Next Thursday, NASA will release a master list of software projects it has cooked up over the years. This is more than just stuff than runs on a personal computer. Think robots and cryogenic systems and climate simulators. There’s even code for running rocket guidance systems.

This NASA software catalog will list more than 1,000 projects, and it will show you how to actually obtain the code you want. The idea to help hackers and entrepreneurs push these ideas in new directions — and help them dream up new ideas. Some code is only available to certain people — the rocket guidance system, for instance — but if you can get it, you can use it without paying royalties or copyright fees. Within a few weeks of publishing the list, NASA says, it will also offer a searchable database of projects, and then, by next year, it will host the actual software code in its own online repository, a kind of GitHub for astronauts.

It’s all part of a White House-directed push to open up the federal government, which is the country’s largest creator of public domain code, but also a complete laggard when it comes to sharing software. Three years ago, President Obama ordered federal agencies to speed up tech transfer programs like this. And while the feds have been slow, the presidential directive is starting to bear fruit. In February, DARPA published a similar catalog, making it easier for entrepreneurs to get ahold of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s code too.

NASA has run a technology transfer program for over 50 years. It has given us everything from the Dustbuster to Giro bicycle helmets to “space rose,” a unique perfume scent forged in zero-Gs. But it’s high time the agency actively pushed out its software code as well. Increasingly, NASA’s research and development dollars are paying for software, says Daniel Lockney, Technology Transfer Program Executive with NASA’s Office of the Chief Technologist. “About a third of everything we invent ends up being software these days,” he says.


From Star Mapper to Bear Tracker

Already, NASA software has been used to do some pretty amazing stuff outside the agency. In 2005, marine biologists adapted the Hubble Space Telescope’s star-mapping algorithm to track and identify endangered whale sharks. That software has now been adapted to track polar bears in the arctic and sunfish in the Galapagos Islands. “Our design software has been used to make everything from guitars to roller coasters to Cadillacs,” Lockney says. “Scheduling software that keeps the Hubble Space Telescope operations straight has been used for scheduling MRIs at busy hospitals and as control algorithms for online dating services.”

All of the software that NASA writes is copyright free, and although the aforementioned rocket guidance system code and other software may be too sensitive to share, many other projects can be shared with anyone — in theory, at least. If the NASA software isn’t open-source, you need to get cleared by the space agency for a release. Sometimes, this is as simple as proving that you’re a U.S. citizen and signing a usage agreement. The problem is that with more than a thousand projects — coded by software developers at 10 different field centers — it has been tricky for outsiders to get an idea of what NASA has. That’s why Lockney and his staff built this master catalog.

It was no easy task. “The agency is so spread out that putting everything together…and making it all match has been one of the biggest challenges,” he says. By Lockney’s count, the agency has about 227 public projects, hosted on sites such as GitHub and Source Forge and even NASA’s own website. It had been sharing a lot more code via word of mouth, but putting the 1,000 projects he found in a single catalog will make it a lot easier to figure out what software NASA has.

Lockney expects the catalog to “grow significantly” after it gets released. “More code will come out of the woodwork. And we’ll process it, categorize it, write up a plain language explanation of what it is, and add it to the catalog.” It’s a daunting task, but there’s no better agency to pull off an open-source moon shot.


The Pentagon’s Mad Science Is Going Open Source

By Klint Finley


National security is often synonymous with secrecy. But when it comes to software development, the U.S. defense and intelligence establishment can be surprisingly open.

This week, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — or DARPA, the research arm of the U.S. Defense department — published a list of all the open source computer science projects it has funded, including links to source code and academic papers that detail the code’s underlying concepts.

Anyone is free to not only peruse the source code and add to it, but actually use it to build their own software — and that includes foreign governments. The belief is that because anyone can contribute to these projects, the quality of the code will only improve, making the software more useful to everyone. It’s an approach that has paid off in spades among web companies from Google and Facebook to Twitter and Square, and the government has now realized that it too can benefit from the open source ethos.

The Softer Side of DARPA

DARPA is known for some pretty whacked out projects. Mind controlled exoskeletons. Space colonization. Turning pets into intelligence assets. That sort of thing. But it does have a more sober side. The agency funded the creation of the network that eventually became the internet, for example. And, more recently, it funded work on Mesos, the open source platform used by Twitter to scale applications across thousands of servers. It’s more of the latter that shows up on DARPA’s new site.

The site is focused on computer science research, so projects that fall outside of that discipline — such as the OpenBCI brain scanner and the open source amphibious tank — won’t be found on the list. But there’s still quite a few important projects, including Mesos, the in-memory data processing systemApache Spark, and the Julia programming language for mathematicians and scientists.

Most of these DARPA-backed projects are on GitHub, the popular code hosting and collaboration service that has come to symbolize the type of non-hierarchical collaboration celebrated by open source enthusiasts and tech culture in general. The site makes it easy for anyone to examine source code, suggest changes, and discuss decisions. Mirroring the way it treats software, the company itself operates with no job titles, no middle management, and only a thin layer of top-level management, preferring instead flat or “holacratic” structure.

When the Military Invented Open Source

That sort of non-hierarchical thinking may seem at odds with military culture, but in reality, many of these ideas were pioneered by military researchers. Today, we often trace the origins of open source software to work done by industrial research labs like Bell Labs and Xerox PARC. But in his book From Counterculture to Cyberculture, Fred Turner argues that open source’s roots stretch back even further to the World War II era defense research laboratories that created technologies such as radar, the atomic bomb, submarines, aircraft, and, yes, digital computers. “The laboratories within which the research and development took place witnessed a flourishing of nonhierarchical, interdisciplinary collaboration,” Turner writes.

He points to the MIT Radiation Laboratory — which was formed by the National Defense Research Committee, a predecessor of sorts to DARPA — as a model example. “It brought together scientists and mathematicians from MIT and elsewhere, engineers and designers from industry, and many different military and government planners,” Turner says. “Formerly specialized scientists were urged to become generalists in their research, able not only to theorize but also to design and build new technologies.”

Today, we’re more familiar with the NSA’s cloak and dagger approach to research, but the collaborative approach of the WWII era military-industrial-academic complex has never really gone away. The Army recently partnered with Local Motors to crowdsource new military vehicle designs. The CIA created In-Q-Tel, a venture capital firm that funds tech startups, including open source big data companies like Cloudant and MongoDB. Even the NSA is part of the action, open sourcing its big data storage system Accumulo.

In other words, the defense industry sees what Facebook and Twitter and so many other web companies see: that innovation often comes from openness.


South Africa – CAA to hit illegal drone flyers with hefty fines

by Gary Mortimer • 3 April 2014


Johannesburg – The South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) is set to clamp down on the illegal flying of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones, in civil airspace.

According to a statement sent out by SACAA, the move was prompted by recent reports of UAS already operating in the South African civil aviation airspace.

UAS are classified as any aircraft that can fly without a pilot on board. They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and can be controlled remotely by an individual on the ground, in another aircraft or through an on board computer system.

Current civil aviation legislation does not provide for certification, registration and/or operation of UAS in the South African civil aviation airspace.

“The fact is that the SACAA has not given any concession or approval to any organisation, individual, institution or government entity to operate UAS within the civil aviation airspace. Those that are flying any type of unmanned aircraft are doing so illegally; and as the regulator we cannot condone any form of blatant disregard of applicable rules,” said Poppy Khoza, Director of Civil Aviation.

While this was hardly problematic before, a surge in demand for the use of drones – especially for commercial purposes – has prompted the SACAA to integrate the use of drones into the South Africa airspace as speedily as possible.

In the mean time, until regulations have been put in place, anyone caught operating a UAS could face fines of up to R50 000, a prison sentence of up to 10 years or both.

The use of GoPro drones have proven to be particularly useful in the creation of video and photographic content for publications. The bird’s eye footage not only provides alternative, fresh views of events and happenings, but also allows media access to crowded or inaccessible areas.

A recent example includes drones being sent up to gain unprecedented footage of the opening of the Oscar Pistorius trial at the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.

In June last year police officers apprehended a man who flew a radio-controlled mini helicopterover the Pretoria hospital, where former president Nelson Mandela was being treated.

Less controversially, drones can also be used to capture incredible never-seen-before natural imagery, such as this thousand-strong dolphin pod migration.

As the regulator of civil aviation safety and security, the SACAA has noted the need to put regulations in place to deal specifically with UAVs.

“Unmanned aircraft systems are a relatively new component of the civil aviation framework, one which the SACAA, together with other regulators worldwide and under the guidance of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), are working to understand, define and ultimately integrate in to the civil aviation sector. As such, the process of developing policies, procedures, regulations and associated standards in order to certify and subsequently authorise operation of UAS is currently in progress,” Khoza explained.


In collaboration with other ICAO member states, South Africa is working towards providing a regulatory framework and guidance material, to underpin routine operation of UAS in a safe, harmonised and seamless manner comparable to that of manned operations.

There are many factors to consider in the process of developing guidelines for authorisation, but the SACAA are targeting the end of the second quarter of this financial year to have some guideline document that could be followed.

“The SACAA acknowledges that the current civil aviation legislation does not provide for certification, registration and/or operation of UAS in the South African civil aviation airspace. We are also cognizant of the urgent need and demand for UAS usage for commercial and many other reasons. Hence, the SACAA has allocated the necessary resources to the UAS programme to ensure a speedy integration of drones into the South Africa airspace. However, until then we would like to appeal to those that are disregarding the laws to desist from such actions,” Khoza concluded.


First UK conviction for illegal use of an unmanned aircraft

by Press • 3 April 2014


A man from Cumbria has become the first person in the UK to be successfully prosecuted for the dangerous and illegal flying of an unmanned aircraft. Robert Knowles was found to have flown the device in restricted airspace over a nuclear submarine facility, as well as allowing the device to fly too close to a vehicle bridge. Both offences breached the UK’s Air Navigation Order. Mr Knowles, of Barrow-in-Furness, was found guilty on Tuesday 1 April 2014 and fined £800 at Furness and District Magistrate Court following the prosecution by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), who said the case raised important safety issues concerning recreational flying of unmanned aircraft. The CAA was also awarded costs of £3,500.

On 25 August 2013, the Court heard, an unmanned aircraft (UAV) was recovered from water near to a submarine testing facility in Barrow-in-Furness, operated by the defence company, BAE Systems. Analysis by the police of video footage taken from a camera fitted to the device subsequently revealed that during its flight it had skimmed over the busy Jubilee Bridge over Walney Chanel, well within the legally permitted 50 metres separation distance required. The UAV had also flown through restricted airspace around the nuclear submarine facility before it inadvertently landed in the water.

The UAV was traced to Mr Knowles who admitted to building the device himself and operating it on the day in question. He was charged with:

• Flying a small unmanned surveillance aircraft within 50 metres of a structure (Article 167 of the Air Navigation Order 2009).

• Flying over a nuclear installation (Regulation 3(2) of the Air Navigation (Restriction of Flying)(Nuclear Installations) Regulations 2007).


The CAA said the conviction sent a message to recreational users of UAVs that the devices are subject to aviation safety rules.


The conviction of Robert Knowles follows the recent case of a photographer from Lancashire accepting a caution for using a UAV for commercial gain without permission. The photographer had sold footage of a school fire taken from his quadcopter to media organisations, even though he did not have authority from the CAA to operate the device commercially. Anyone using unmanned aircraft for ‘aerial work’ requires a ‘permission’ from the CAA to ensure safety standards are being adhered to and the operator is fully covered by indemnity insurance.

Anyone using a UAV recreationally can also seek advice from established model aircraft clubs who will have detailed local knowledge of airspace restrictions. Go to for more information.

More information on the regulation of UAVs, including a list of operators with permission to fly UAVs for commercial use, is available

For further press information, contact the CAA Press Office on: 0207 453 6030 .

Notes to Editors:

Operating rules for UAVs:

• An unmanned aircraft must never be flown beyond the normal unaided ‘line of sight’ of the person operating it. This is generally measured as 500m horizontally or 400ft vertically.

• An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must always be flown at least 50m distance away from a person, vehicle, building or structure.

• An unmanned aircraft fitted with a camera must not be flown within 150m of a congested area or large group of people, such as a sporting event or concert.


FAA Rules Out Use of Military Airspace for UAV Tests

by Press • 3 April 2014


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Defense (DoD) are enforcing limitations on who can use military airspace, a move that will curtail the number of possible places researchers can fly tests with unmanned aircraft.

The move appears to have surprised many in the unmanned community, including test site managers at some of the six organizations selected late last year to assist the FAA in introducing unmanned aerial systems (UASs) into the National Airspace System (NAS). The test sites will work with the agency to develop the rules and procedures for operating UASs.

A number of those organizations proposed using airspace restricted for defense use, although that was not taken into account when they were chosen, said the man in charge of airspace for the Air Force.

“Of the six, I believe four them identified military airspace as part of their proposal; and I think of those four, two or three identified restricted areas,” said Edward Chupein, chief of the Air Force Range and Airspace Division. “What I can tell you is, in the evaluation and selection of the test sites, the identification of Special Use Airspace, military airspace, as part of the project was not included in the decision making.”

“So, it never factored into whether anyone got it or didn’t get it,” Chupein added. “And since then each test site has met with the FAA, and the FAA has told them that that is not available.”

At the heart of the issue is who is actually in charge of the airspace in the United States — and it is the FAA not the Defense Department, even when it comes to the skies over U.S. military facilities.

“It is cut and dried,” said Chupein. “We are working within existing U.S. Code, FAA regulations, and DoD policy and service-level regulations that flow from those FAA regulations.

“The bottom line here is that it’s a question of authority. DoD does not have the authority to offer airspace for anything other than its intended military purpose,” Chupein added. “That authority rests entirely with the FAA. So, that’s been one of the misperceptions — that it is DoD airspace and installation commanders have the authority to offer this.


Rules, Hazards, and Airspace Designations

The issue involves “rulemaking airspace,” which is segregated for hazardous activities such as shooting from the air at targets on the ground. It is called rulemaking because the FAA went through the long federal process for making rules, including public scoping and publishing documents for public review and comment.

“It’s rulemaking like the FDA would do — or the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] or any federal agency when they’re actually making a rule as an executive organization,” said Chupein.

“Nonrulemaking” airspace is also a category, which is open to all visual flight rule traffic (VFR), including unmanned aircraft. This airspace may be used for military activities but only in cases where the military aircraft can avoid other aircraft.

“The way it’s defined by the FAA, it’s unseen hazards to flight. . . . It’s something that can’t see and avoid,” Chupein said. A military pilot, even one engaged in combat training, is still able to clear the way for other traffic and avoid a collision, he explained.

“Once the bomb falls from the airplane or once the laser energy is transmitted to the ground or the gun is fired — the projectiles, the bomb, the laser itself can’t do anything to avoid other traffic that may come through there,” he said. “It’s inherently hazardous.”

On the surface that would seem to suggest that rulemaking airspace is exactly where unmanned aircraft should go — because unammed aerial vehicles (UAVs) cannot themselves “see” other planes and get out of the way. In fact, see-and-avoid technology is one of the things that the FAA is supposed to be working on at its new test sites.

“The restricted areas are designated for hazardous activities, and unmanned aircraft are not hazardous activities,” said Chupein. “But why it’s coveted to be used by these organizations is because, by its very nature, it mitigates see and avoid. See and avoid is the very basis of the national airspace system, it’s your last measure of separation assurance and collision avoidance.”

Even though UAVs do not have see-and-avoid capability yet, the FAA has determined they do not need to be tested in restricted airspace where that shortcoming would not present a problem, said Chupein. “A lot of these civil developers would like to have the ability to segregate their activities, but they are not hazardous and the FAA has determined that it’s not necessary — there are other means to do that. That’s sort of where the conversation started.”

Since the FAA has authority over the airspace, could it change its approach to the limits at military facilities?

“I suppose they could,” said Chupein, “but since it’s rulemaking. that is often a fairly lengthy process that has to go through multiple rounds of public hearings and public comment periods. It would require them to almost create a new type of airspace to do this. And they would need a justification to do it.”

“If the mission of the FAA is the safety of the NAS, this would have to be a safety issue,” Chupein continued. “And it’s been determined that unmanned aircraft are not fundamentally unsafe. So, I don’t want to answer for the FAA, for sure. I’m just trying to let you know that is not as simple a solution as it may sound.”

The FAA did not respond to a request from Inside GNSS to comment on the issue.


Interagency Ambiguities

The confusion over who can make decisions about using the airspace may have come from the fact that the FAA asked the Pentagon to clarify the rules. In a November 26 letter to FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, Assistant Secretary of Defense Katrina McFarland noted that she had received the request and said that “in accordance with DoD Directive 5030.19, DoD Responsibilities on Federal Aviation, it is DoD policy to schedule regulatory and non-regulatory SUA [Special Use Airspace] for its intended military purposes.” If the air space is not needed, it is to be released to the FAA.

“Compliance with the directive precludes military organizations from scheduling SUA for the support of non-DoD activities,” McFarland’s letter stated. “Additionally there are no provisions within DoD Directive 5030.19 for local agreements that enable DoD to authorize use of airspace for the purpose of providing access to non-DoD organizations if those activities are not in direct support of a DoD requirement.”

Exceptions to the DoD policy do exist that would enable unmanned aircraft to fly in some military areas. In addition to the nonrulemaking airspace, civilian researchers could fly their AUVs at the Major Range and Test Facility Bases (MRTFBs), which are specifically designed for test and development type work. The MRTFBs can accommodate some civil activities, but civilian researchers would have to take a back seat to any military users.

“It’s fairly low priority, because we have quite a bit of testing going on and we’re near capacity,” said Chupein, “but there are certain circumstances where someone can come and say ‘Hey, we would like to use your facility, your airspace, your range, to do this sort of testing’ — and they’ll provide the engineering, the safety case analysis; even, perhaps some of the capabilities for telemetry, and things like that — on a cost basis, it’s available for direct costs.”

DoD is able to curtail activities for some limited periods, such as during holidays, and “release the airspace to the FAA,” wrote McFarland

Congress, however, is encouraging the FAA and DoD to look at easing limitations.

In the report accompanying the 2014 Defense Authorization Act, Congress directed the two agencies to “jointly develop and implement plans and procedures to review the potential of joint testing and evaluation of unmanned aircraft equipment and systems with other appropriate departments and agencies of the Federal Government that may serve the dual purpose of providing capabilities to the Department of Defense to meet the future requirements of combatant commanders and domestically to strengthen international border security.”

The agencies have until the end of September to report back on the status of the effort.

Ben Gielow, general counsel and senior government relations manager for the

Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International suggested a path to supporting more tests in military airspace could be found.

“We’re not raising any alarm bells now and hopefully this issue will get worked out,” Gielow told Inside GNSS. “If it doesn’t for some reason we’ll certainly start lobbying for it, but it’s not an immediate issue.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, April 05, 2014

March Madness is upon us.

Much of the country is caught up in the NCAA basketball playoffs that come to a head this weekend, but 48% of Americans think most big-time college athletic programs play dirty when it comes to recruiting.

No wonder then that only 24% believe the NCAA does a good or excellent job policing college athletics.

Tournament followers are predicting the University of Florida Gators will win the national men’s collegiate basketball championship this year, although they’d rather see the University of Wisconsin Badgers win instead.

Final Four action tips off today when Florida faces the University of Connecticut Huskies in North Arlington, Texas at AT&T Stadium. This will be followed by a matchup between Wisconsin and the University of Kentucky Wildcats. The championship game is set for Monday night.

The National Labor Relations Board recently ruled in favor of allowing football players at Northwestern University to form college sports’ first labor union. Only 25% of Americans think college athletes should be allowed to unionize, but 66% expect sports teams at other colleges and universities to try to form unions.

Going into the NCAA tournament weekend, a new government report said the number of jobs nationwide is now back to the level seen before the economic downturn in early 2008. Of course, millions have joined the workforce since then, and the jobless rate remains at 6.7%.

The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence jumped four points in March to its highest level in over six years of monthly tracking.

Essentially unchanged from surveys over the past year, however, are the 42% of Employed Adults who think they will be earning more money a year from now and the 26% who are looking for a job outside of their current company.

Nearly half of all Americans think housing prices will still take several more years to recover, and few have high hopes for the stock market in the near future.

At week’s end, the Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure confidence among both groups were down several points from the beginning of the year. But that was prior to Friday’s release of the new jobs report.

The president’s monthly job approval rating fell back two points to 47% in March but is still slightly higher than November’s two-year low of 45%. For most of the three years prior to his reelection, the president’s full-month job approval stayed at either 47% or 48%.

Obama’s daily job approval rating remains at levels seen for much of his presidency.

Just 27% of voters think the president is doing a good or excellent job handling the issue of gun control, his worst ratings to date in that policy area. Most voters (53%) now oppose tougher gun control for the first time since the Connecticut elementary school shootings in December 2012.

Forty percent (40%) think the federal government should require every American to buy or obtain health insurance. Forty-six percent (46%) oppose this so-called individual mandate in the new national health care law.

Only 19% of voters think it is a good use of IRS resources for the agency to police public compliance with Obamacare. Sixty-five percent (65%) believe the Internal Revenue Service should remain focused on collecting taxes. After all, only 21% believe the IRS is aggressive enough in pursuing tax cheats.

More voters than ever (62%) believe it is good that the American people are aware of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs, but just 24% think the federal government should grant a full amnesty from prosecution to Edward Snowden, the man who disclosed those programs to the public.

There was bad news this week for New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, one of those who hopes to take Obama’s place in the White House. New Jersey voters now view him more unfavorably than they did when the so-called Bridgegate scandal first broke three months ago, and 47% say they are less likely to vote for him as president in 2016.

Democrats hold a one-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

Both Republican contenders, incumbent Thad Cochran and his Tea Party challenger Chris McDaniel, have a solid lead over former Democratic Congressman Travis Childers in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the U.S. Senate race in Mississippi.

In other surveys this week:

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

— Sixty percent (60%) of voters agree with a House Republican plan that would offer U.S. citizenship to non-citizens who are willing to serve in the military and do so honorably for at least five years.

— Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans are concerned about the safety of vaccines for children, including 24% who are Very Concerned.

— Most Americans consider autism a serious problem in the country today, and 18% who say they or someone in their family has been diagnosed as autistic think childhood vaccinations are the primary cause of autism.

— The Obama administration is reportedly proposing to release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard from prison if it will help keep U.S.-brokered Middle East peace talks alive, but just 32% like that idea.

— Fifty-nine percent (59%) of Americans share a favorable opinion of the Boy Scouts of America, but that’s down 14 points from 73% in February 2012.

March 29 2014




White House Growth and Security Bill Includes $8B for New Weapons

Mar. 21, 2014 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s share of the White House’s $56 billion Opportunity, Growth and Security Initiative requests more than double the procurement money previously disclosed in budget documents earlier this month.

The bill, which is separate from the US Defense Department’s $496 billion 2015 base budget request, includes $26 billion for Pentagon projects. More than one-third, $8.7 billion, is eyed for procurement of new cargo aircraft, fighter jets, spy planes, helicopters and missiles.

The procurement request also covers upgrades to existing aircraft, tanks, other ground vehicles and unmanned aircraft.

The White House has proposed this money in addition to DoD’s base budget to make up for spending cuts caused by sequestration in 2013. The money, defense officials say, would help improve military readiness.

Budget overview documents released earlier this month, when DoD sent its 2015 budget request to Congress, showed about $4 billion aligned for procurement projects. The request included Boeing AH-64 Apaches, Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawks, Boeing Chinooks, Boeing P-8 Poseidon spy planes, Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighters, General Atomics Reapers and Lockheed C-130J transport aircraft.

More detailed documents released this week show the Air Force’s request for 10 C-130Js is split evenly between rescue and special operations versions of the aircraft.

The Navy request also includes money for the Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey, Northrop Grumman’s E-2D Advanced Hawkeye and Boeing C-40 transport.

The procurement request includes nearly $1 billion for communications and electronics equipment, with about half of that money eyed for Army projects.

Also included in the $26 billion request is nearly $2 billion for research-and-development projects. More than $10 billion is eyed for operations and maintenance.

In addition, the White House request includes nearly $3 billion for more than 100 military construction projects at dozens of bases across the US.



In Defense Industry, a Souring Mood on Acquisition Reform

By Sandra I. Erwin


When Trey Obering was deputy director of the Defense Department’s missile defense agency in 2002, he was asked to fix one of the most troubled acquisition programs in recent history. The airborne laser — a modified Boeing 747 jet that carried a megawatt laser to shoot down ballistic missiles — was handed over by the Air Force to MDA after eight years of nonachievement.

What Obering discovered was an epitome of procurement dysfunction. The Air Force had assembled a “standing army” of managers and engineers who were spending hundreds of millions of dollars on studies and design reviews before anyone ever fired the laser for the first time, says Obering, a retired Air Force lieutenant general and now a senior vice president at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

“We said, ‘Stop that.’ We are not going to pay for any more engineers. We want you to focus on firing the laser and taking the aircraft off to fly it,” Obering recalls during a recent interview. It took another two years to finally fire the laser, but technical accomplishments were not enough to save the program, which was terminated in 2010 after 14 years in development and projected cost estimates of about $1.5 billion per aircraft.

Although reams of new regulations have been laid on the military acquisition system to prevent these debacles, the underlying problems have not changed, Obering says. “Why is this so hard? It’s because the process has evolved over time to be so complicated, and there are so many stakeholders, and so many process owners that it is very difficult to affect real change.”

Many executives in the defense industry are deeply discouraged by the inertia, according to a recent survey by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Government Business Council. They polled 340 business leaders on defense acquisition issues, with particular focus on C4ISR programs (command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance).

The survey revealed a general sense of pessimism about the future of high-tech government procurements. More than half of the executives called attention to a growing disconnect between what buyers expect and what contractors promise to deliver.

A sticky wicket in military programs is understanding the “technical risks,” says Obering. And there is rampant inefficiency. Defense programs get bloated and run up huge overhead costs before they produce anything, which often leads to budget overruns and, later, terminations, he says. “It’s not just design reviews and guys sitting around the table but doing something,” says Obering. “You demonstrate you have the technical risk in hand before you ramp up a standing army of engineers. That’s the risk reduction on the front end that the government should be demanding. That is what the contractor team should focus on before they start broad scale development.”

It might seem obvious to outsiders that government officials who manage procurement programs should deliver products, but the Pentagon’s arcane acquisition process does not necessarily encourage that, Obering says. “The fact is that program managers today spend more time managing up than they do managing down.” The Pentagon should streamline the oversight process, “empower those folks who are responsible for programs to be able to react and respond to technology and opportunities and threats.”


While industry executives frequently complain about Defense Department oversight and regulations, in this survey they actually suggest the government should take a more active role in programs. They would like to see procurement officials more engaged in the early phase of a program, to help prevent costly failures later. More than 60 percent of respondents said that greater government involvement in designing requirements could improve the overall acquisition process.

In complex programs, especially, government managers should be “lead integrators” who understand how to connect different systems and make them work together, says Obering. “This is demanded by the war fighter, and it’s going to be demanded by the budget. We have to get more out of programs,” he says. “There is so much more you can do with information by integrating capabilities. … We can’t afford things that don’t integrate, things that take too long.”

The Defense Department once had that integration expertise, but it rapidly degraded since the late 1990s when military budgets collapsed. “One of the unintended consequences was that the government lost the ability to manage and to own a technical baseline of a program, much less an integrated set of programs,” says Obering. “The survey says we have to get that back.”

At the start of a program, he says, the government must understand the technical risk and should make sure the contractor understands the technical risk. “That’s a huge area that is a big problem,” says Obering. “Contractors have a ‘can-do’ spirit and often will not realize the severity of the technical challenge they have in front of them.”

Industry executives, regrettably, have turned more cynical about the acquisition system, he says. “There is a lack of trust in the system, and a loss of accountability.”

Successful acquisitions can be done, but that usually happens when the government works outside the system, he says. “When we have an urgent operational need or a classified program, we streamline and strip away a lot of the processes and we really focus on how to get the job done,” says Obering. “We can do that. It’s going to take will and it’s going to take support from all the stakeholders, including the Congress, to get real reform done.”

The survey’s message is that “we need new thinking,” says Greg Wenzel, senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton’s strategic innovation group. “Operators, acquisition managers, engineers all agree we need to a better way to buy in a more agile fashion,” he says. “It’s not about buying more, it’s about thinking like an enterprise.” Government buyers need to “understand the portfolio of the things that they are acquiring and where they fit in the larger enterprise,” says Wenzel. For new technology acquisitions, the Defense Department should “build-in” interoperability from the start.


Satellite Industry Frets About Future Military Business

By Sandra I. Erwin


The Pentagon spends about a billion dollars a year on satellite communications services from commercial vendors, which supply about 80 percent of the military’s demand.

The industry is worried, however, about the future of its Defense Department business, for several reasons.

Much of the demand for satellite communications, or satcom, was generated by wars that are coming to an end. The Pentagon sees its future in Asia-Pacific, but has yet to share with vendors how it plans to acquire satcom in the region. Commercial satellite providers generally detest the Defense Department’s satcom buying methods because they favor one-year leases instead of the long-term agreements that private-sector investors prefer. Suppliers also fear that the Pentagon, as budgets shrink, will pare back spending on commercial services and will rely more on military-owned satellites.

Pentagon officials insist that these concerns are unfounded. They cite projections of soaring demand for commercial satcom in the coming years to satisfy the military’s appetite for data, for global connectivity and for bandwidth-hogging drones.

Industry CEOs say they are ready to provide additional capacity, but they need more specifics on the military’s future needs and also a financial commitment by the Pentagon in order to justify the cost of building, launching and maintaining satellites.

“We need to find a way for government and industry to plan together,” says Robert Tipton “Tip” Osterthaler, president and CEO of satcom supplier SES Government Solutions.

If the Pentagon is going to need more satcom, it should inform the private sector so companies can allocate enough bandwidth for the military even as the demand from commercial users continues to grow, says Osterhaler, a retired Air Force brigadier general.

The one-year leases, which are purchased by the Defense Department on the spot market, are inefficient for both buyers and sellers, he argues. They leave the Pentagon exposed to the vagaries of the satcom trade and that can result in higher prices. Short-term deals deter satellite providers from investing in additional infrastructure in the absence of assured business, Osterhaler says during an online forum hosted by Federal News Radio. “Short-term buying practices perhaps made sense before, when demand was lower, but they make less sense if you believe commercial satcom will be part of your essential infrastructure.”

The satcom industry and its congressional supporters are ratcheting up the pressure on the Pentagon to put forth a plan for future procurement of satellite services. Following a controversial satellite lease the Pentagon signed with a Chinese supplier last year, lawmakers pounced. The fiscal year 2014 Defense Authorization Act directs the Pentagon to develop a strategy for how to use commercial satcom. The deadline is coming up next month.

Among the staunchest critics of Pentagon satcom buying methods is Rep. Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala., chairman of the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee. He questioned why the military a year ago signed a $10 million, one-year lease with a Chinese company to use a Thales Alenia Space satellite to provide communications for U.S. Africa Command.

Osterhaler says U.S. firms could provide those services but they need time to build capacity for the military and satisfy specific requirements that commercial buyers do not have. If more capacity is needed in Africa or in Asia, executives say, the Defense Department could work with the private sector to ensure that demand is met. “Long-term needs don’t match up with short-term buying practices,” Osterhaler says. “The incentives for commercial industry to make the necessary investments are pretty weak, at best.”

Military officials often assume the industry has plenty of capacity to sell at the right price, but the reality is more complex, Osterhaler adds. As global demand for broadband swells, commercial operators rapidly are sucking up the bandwidth, leaving the Pentagon in a precarious position, says Osterhaler. “Our big strategic commercial customers understand that we’re an essential infrastructure provider to them, and they behave accordingly. They’re open with us about their needs, and we make investments on their behalf.” Those investments for military users, he adds, are not taking place as they are for commercial customers. In an emergency, “There may not be enough capacity available at any price.”

Disagreements within the Defense Department over how to acquire satcom services have existed for years. The Government Accountability Office called out the Pentagon in 2008 for its inefficient lease approach. The Defense Business Board, made up of private sector executives, criticized the satcom buying system in a 2012 report. It suggested the Defense Department create a “single satcom organization” to oversee procurements, versus the current fragmented system. While the secretary of defense has policy oversight, purchases are handled by the individual military services. The Air Force Space Command is responsible for government-owned satellites. Satcom leases are managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency.

To boost competition, DISA teamed with the General Services Administration for the solicitation of satcom bids. The results have been mixed, Osterhaler says. GSA mandates that a percentage of contracts be awarded to small businesses, some of which are unqualified, he says. “In some cases asking small businesses to execute complex networks is probably not in the best interest of the users.”

The Defense Business Board predicts that as the demand for service increases in the future, the cost of satellite communications purchased by DISA will skyrocket. One solution is to change the procurement methods, the panel said. “Existing contracting procedures and DoD’s culture make partnerships with the private sector difficult.”

The Aerospace Industries Association, too, has recommended that the Pentagon consider greater use of hosted payloads on commercial spacecraft to reduce costs and improve service.

Like other satcom executives, Osterhaler would like to see the Pentagon adopt the “civil reserve air fleet” approach to satellite services. Under the CRAF program, the Air Force pays commercial airlines to keep a certain number of aircraft available for military contingencies. “In the space industry, we think it has potential. It would give the Defense Department access to a large amount of capacity for unanticipated needs.”

The Pentagon’s top buyer, Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, directed his staff in March 2013 to begin a 90-day study of military satcom needs and how the Pentagon could tap the commercial market. A year later, the status of the report is unknown. Defense Chief Information Officer Teri Takai told executives at a recent satellite industry trade show that the study is almost completed but offered no details.

Douglas Loverro, assistant secretary of defense for space policy, says the Air Force has launched several pilot programs to gauge the market. One option is to buy on-orbit transponders from unused commercial satellites. “It’s an experiment,” Loverro says. He admits the Pentagon is having a tough time deciding which direction to go. While it is normal for the military to plan major purchases years or decades in advance, “we’re not used to doing it for satcom,” he says. Another idea under consideration is a straight long-term lease, although Loverro warns that might be too expensive.

Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, commander of the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, spent the past two years surveying the private sector for money-saving ideas. She found that there are many opportunities to save money in the commercial space sector, but to take advantage of those deals, the Defense Department needs to revamp its buying methods.

A transition to a commercial-based model would have to be made within the next decade, before the Pentagon’s communications satellites — the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF), the Mobile User Objective System Satellite (MUOS) and the Wideband Global Satcom (WGS) — run out of service life. Officials have said the Pentagon most likely will be paring back future purchases of military-unique satellites, which cost a billion dollars apiece.

The U.S. Space Command has floated the idea of a new “space architecture” that includes a mix of low-cost military satellites and commercial payloads. That approach, which the military calls “disaggregation,” is a departure from the traditional practice of building large, complex satellites.

Loverro says the question is not if but how the Pentagon will tap commercial systems. A single commercial satellite can offer up to 150 gigabits per second of data throughput, he points out. “Our most capable military satellite can only carry 3 gigabits per second.”

A concern for vendors is the Pentagon’s satcom requirement for unmanned aerial vehicles, which demand dedicated pipes.

Loverro defends the Chinese satellite lease as necessary to fill commanders’ requests. The Pentagon will not renew the lease when it expires in May, he says. “It shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” and it was the result of a “lack of planning,” says Loverro. “We need to work better with the commercial world.”

Industry executives agree. “The Defense Department thinks of us as money grabbers. We need them to see us as trusted partners,” says Philip Harlow, president and chief operating officer of XTAR, which supplies satcom services to the U.S. government.

Companies are becoming impatient with the Pentagon dithering on a satcom procurement strategy, Harlow says in an interview. The Pentagon wants to pivot to Asia, but hasn’t yet recognized that the satcom industry is “less prepared for an Asia-Pacific engagement than it was for an engagement in Iraq or Afghanistan,” says Harlow. “That’s simply a function of where companies invest dollars: Where they have paying customers, mostly in populations centers. And that is not always where conflicts are fought.”

The industry needs the Defense Department to “tell us what is going to be needed,” he says.

The government’s stalling tactics are understandable, though. “The Defense Department doesn’t want to be put into a corner,” he says. “Going into an environment where they don’t control everything is uncomfortable.”

In the private sector, he says, “We need to see commitment from the Defense Department to change. … Some quarters of the commercial industry see the Defense Department as trying to kick the can down the road until they get more money and go back to business as usual.”


Growler Advocates Outline Stealth Vulnerabilities

By Amy Butler

Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

March 24, 2014


Despite a squeeze on investment accounts, the Pentagon’s fiscal 2015 budget strategy prioritizes funding for the stealthy F-35—but at what cost, some in industry ask.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has made clear the spending plan is a result of making hard choices and trades.

However, this virtually singular focus is jeopardizing U.S. dominance in electronic warfare (EW) capabilities, according to some industry officials, who note that even a stealthy aircraft like the F-35 requires some protective jamming support to penetrate the “bubble” of protected enemy air space. A pinch on research, development and procurement funding coupled with a necessary focus on addressing counterinsurgency threats for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq for more than a decade have contributed to a loss of focus at the Pentagon on EW planning, they say. “We stopped doing some campaign analysis,” acknowledges Al Shaffer, acting assistant secretary of defense for research and engineering.

Critics of the Pentagon’s EW strategy point to the fiscal 2015 budget’s termination of the U.S. Navy’s ties to Boeing’s Super Hornet production line. The service likely will buy only its planned 138 EA-18G Growlers, the Pentagon’s newest airborne EW system, and deploy five to each carrier air wing. Navy officials have put funding for 22 more Growlers on their fiscal 2015 wishlist, but without relief from the spending constraints of the Budget Control Act, Boeing will be on its own to continue building the aircraft, unless the Navy can buy more Growlers. Congress approved funding for 21 ship sets of EA-18Gs in the fiscal 2014 budget.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is also planning to mothball seven, or half, of its EC-130 electronic attack aircraft in fiscal 2013, saving $315.8 million. Air Force Maj. Gen. Jim Jones, director of operations, plans and requirements, says that the service “can’t afford to program to a no-risk force, [and further investment in stealth] is a piece of that. . . . All of these capabilities add up to a more survivable capability.” When questioned about whether the Air Force would backfill the lost EC-130s with some other capability, Jones declines to provide information, acknowledging that this is likely an “unsatisfying” answer. This could point to a capability being developed in the classified world.

Much of the concern of skeptics is centered on the emergence of very-high-frequency (VHF) radars, which uniquely can be used to detect stealthy aircraft. “All ‘stealth’ means is delayed detection in [a specific] frequency,” says one industry official. With a VHF system, “you are essentially the size of your aircraft from long range,” the official notes. The concern is that these long-range radars can pass data to fire-control systems—including active, electronically scanned array radars—that are capable of launching air defense weapons. The integration of the two could compromise the advantage stealth brings, which is to make the aircraft hard to target rather than making it invisible.

“We are starting to see the emergence of some stressing capabilities to our conventional forces,” Shaffer says. That “other countries are going out of band is a threat and is a challenge to our systems. Make no mistake about it,” he says.

“VHF radar can’t do fire-control, but they can see you,” says Mike Gibbons, Boeing vice president of F/A-18 and EA-18G programs. “With low-frequency radars, they can tell which way to look, and they can scramble their super-cruising aircraft out to you. At that point, stealth isn’t going to help you.”

As it shifts focus away from counterinsurgency operations, the Pentagon is planning to dust off and update its campaign plans for more stressing engagements, such as addressing the anti-access, area-denial problem posed by new air defenses being developed and fielded by Russian and Chinese manufacturers. In doing so, the Pentagon likely will adjust its force structure plans for EW, including a possible increase in the number of Growlers needed, as well as ongoing work for the F-15 Eagle Passive/Active Warning Survivability System (Epaws), Raytheon Miniature Air Launched Decoy-Jammer (Mald-J) version and podded or towed decoy options. The Navy, for example, is investing in podded Digital Radio Frequency Memory (DRFM) jammer systems through the Filthy Badger and Filthy Buzzard projects.

Fleet structure studies are done annually, and any changes would be briefed to Pentagon leadership for possible adjustment in the fiscal 2016 budget this summer, Shaffer says.

“All aircraft can be seen by certain radars. The trick is to disrupt the [kill] chain when someone can lock weapons on you. We are talking about the ‘perishability’ of stealth,” Gibbons says.

Growler advocates argue that the EA-18G, with its wide-spectrum EW and electronic-attack capabilities should be the “quarterback” for future strike packages, with the electronic-warfare officer in the backseat essentially managing the electronic battle.

During a flight demonstration last summer, Boeing showed that two EA-18Gs were capable of passively detecting a threat emitter and passing “very accurate” targeting data for a strike within “minutes.” Company analysis suggests adding another Growler to the engagement would allow for generating target coordinates in seconds. This operational concept could condense the time element of the kill chain and get at the “counter-shutdown” problem for air defenses, when threat emitters intermittently radiate and then shut down to avoid being targeted by radar-seeking weapons such as the AGM-88E Advance Anti-Radiation Guided Missile.

In its campaign to restore funding for the Growler, Boeing will have to walk a careful line. The company has to make the case that without more Growlers, even the stealthiest aircraft in the Pentagon’s fleet are vulnerable to emerging air defenses. This is a thorny and challenging argument to make as it quickly veers into classified territory. And its Pentagon customer is loath to acknowledge that its multibillion-dollar investment in stealth aircraft could be made vulnerable by comparatively small investment in networked air defenses. Boeing is already aggressively engaging Congress to lobby for more Growler money and has launched a grass-roots advocacy campaign website.

Although F-22s and F-35s are the most capable platforms at penetrating air defenses, they are not silver bullets and still require capable escorts to standoff at the edge of a hostile range to control the electronic battlefield, Growler advocates say. They suggest doubling the number of Growlers in each carrier air wing to 10. There is “plenty of room” on the future carrier deck to accommodate the additional aircraft, the industry official says.

While carrying the most advanced and fused avionics available, the F-35 is able to influence only the electronic battle within the frequency of its own Northrop Grumman AN/APG-81 radar. But if an F-35 encounters a threat not in its database or outside its own radar band, it likely would not address it—whereas an electronic-warfare officer on an EA-18G could discern its capabilities and suppress it, if needed, the industry official says.

A final fleet determination has not yet come out of the Navy for Growlers, but Shaffer says the plans in place are sufficient for now. “We maintained our EW focus and in some cases have been looking to accelerate,” he says, noting investments in Mald-J and Epaws and hinting that classified work may be underway.

During a March 12 hearing, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert said he sees a “growing need” for more Growlers. The questions are: When it will be announced? And when will it be funded?

With Guy Norris in El Segundo, Calif.



Defense trims could limit US military’s vision for Pacific pivot

spending limit our vision?


By Jon Harper

Stars and Stripes

Published: March 24, 2014


WASHINGTON — Budget constraints and force requirements in other regions will likely stall the Pentagon’s plans to beef up the U.S. military presence in the Asia-Pacific and send more high-tech weaponry to deter a rising China, officials and analysts say.

DOD released its $496 billion fiscal 2015 budget request earlier this month. Due to caps imposed by Congress’ bipartisan budget deal in December, the Pentagon is requesting $45 billion less than what it anticipated it would need to carry out the national defense strategy when it submitted last year’s budget request. DOD also released its Future Years Defense Program, which calls for $115 billion more in military spending than current law allows over the course of the next five years.

“Right now, the pivot [to the Pacific] is being looked at again, because candidly it can’t happen [due to budget pressures],” Katrina McFarland, the assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, said at an Aviation Week conference in Arlington, Va. on March 4, according to multiple news reports.

Later that day, McFarland issued the following statement through a spokeswoman in what appeared to be an attempt to walk back her remarks.

“When I spoke at a conference, I was asked a question about the budget … and how it relates to our pivot to Asia. I was reiterating what Secretary Hagel said last week: that the shift in focus to the Asia-Pacific requires us to ‘adapt, innovate, and make difficult budgetary and acquisition decisions to ensure that our military remains ready and capable.’ That’s exactly what we’ve done in this budget [proposal]. The rebalance to Asia can and will continue.”

“[McFarland] obviously was disciplined and retracted those remarks,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said at a budget hearing the next day.

Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the resources currently at his disposal are insufficient to meet operational requirements.

“The ability for the services to provide the type of maritime coverage, the air coverage of some of the key elements that we’ve historically needed in this part of the world for crisis response, have not been available to the level that I would consider acceptable risk [due to recent budget cutbacks],” he told lawmakers March 5.

During a March 4 budget briefing at the Pentagon, defense officials disputed the notion that the strategic shift will stall.

“We are going forward with a variety of issues that aren’t primarily financial [including realigning forces in the region]. We have a fairly robust shipbuilding program, averaging about nine a year, which over the long term will contribute [to the pivot]. So I think the budget [request] definitely supports the rebalance, and we’re not reconsidering it,” Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale told reporters.

But Todd Harrison, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent think tank in Washington, said there’s reason to doubt that DOD will be able to fully resource the pivot, given ongoing fiscal constraints and other strategic commitments.

“It’s coming close to the limits on what you can do in terms of scaling back the size of the department while still trying to increase our presence in the Asia-Pacific region. You know, fundamentally one of the conflicts that’s going to arise within this [defense] strategy is that we’re trying to increase our presence in the Asia-Pacific region while maintaining our presence in the Middle East and in Europe and other areas, and I don’t think we can actually do all of those things in the long run with less funding,” he said.

Republican hawks share those concerns.

“The administration has committed to a rebalance to the Asia-Pacific while also sustaining a heightened alert posture in the Middle East and North Africa … A declining defense budget, reduction in troop strength and force structure, and diminished readiness suggests that we can’t do both, or if we do, we do so at an increased risk to our forces and their missions,” Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said at a hearing March 5.

Doubts about the pivot are not confined to political and military circles in Washington. America’s Asian allies also question whether the shift to their neighborhood will continue. In the face of continuing Chinese belligerence and North Korean unpredictability, many countries in the region are increasing their defense spending and buying new weapons platforms even as they encourage the U.S. to play a more active role in the area and hope the Pentagon moves more of its forces there.

Christine Wormuth, the deputy undersecretary of defense for Strategy, Plans and Force Development, acknowledged the problem at a March 10 conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“I’m well aware that there is concern in the region about whether we will be able to sustain the rebalance. We hear those messages as well. And part of why we’re as engaged talking to countries in that region is to assure them that even in the face of some greater fiscal austerity than we’ve seen in the past decade, we are very committed to that region,” she told attendees.

The fate of the rebalance may ultimately depend on events elsewhere in the world, according to Harrison.

“[DOD] would favor continuing the pivot to the Pacific, but reality and the facts and the situation on the ground may draw you back to the Middle East, or to Europe for that matter, regardless of what your intentions are,” he said. “There’s a significant possibility [that the rebalance will be scaled back], and that will be driven by external events like what we’ve seen in Syria and what’s happening right now in Ukraine. World events can cause you to shift your focus in a way that you didn’t intend.”

The Ukraine crisis appears to have done just that. In the wake of Russia annexing Crimea, America’s NATO allies fear further aggression.

“The old idea of NATO … predicated on a Europe that no longer has any threats — that, unfortunately, has turned out, with the actions we’ve seen against Ukraine, no longer [applies],” Estonian President Toomas Ilves said on March 18 during a joint news conference with Vice President Joe Biden in Warsaw.

The U.S. has tried to reassure its regional allies by deploying 12 F-16s to Poland and augmenting American involvement in NATO’s Baltic air policing program. The Navy also sent another destroyer to the region and kept the USS George H.W. Bush aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean Sea longer than planned.

“We’re exploring a number of additional steps to increase the pace and scope of our military cooperation, including rotating U.S. forces to the Baltic region to conduct ground and naval exercises, as well as training missions,” Biden said.

Some say the future of the pivot is in Congress’ hands.

Locklear told lawmakers that the pivot is under way, but he questions whether it will maintain its momentum.

“If you come to my headquarters, we’re moving forward with the aspects of rebalance. I mean, we’re working hard on the alliances, on the exercises that underpin them. We’re moving our force structure into places we need to. The real question is whether or not the force that Congress will eventually buy to give us, is it adequate for the security environment that’s changing?” he said. “Whether or not we can resource to meet the challenges and remain the preeminent guarantor of security in the Pacific area, I think that’s the question.”

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the Chief of Naval Operations, told members of the House Armed Services Committee last week that eliminating an aircraft carrier and a naval air wing from the fleet, which would be necessitated by sequestration, would put the pivot in jeopardy.

“The Asia-Pacific is important, and we are rebalancing toward it. [But] if you go from 11 to 10 carriers, you exacerbate that what is already a very difficult [force requirement] problem to the point where … the deterrence factor goes down dramatically when you have gaps [like that],” he said.


Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and other senior defense officials have repeatedly warned that a failure to eliminate sequestration would result in “unacceptable risks” to America’s ability to execute its defense strategy.

But many analysts are doubtful that Congress will give the Pentagon the money it says it needs.

“I don’t think there is the will in the Congress to increase the defense budget for a bit, number one. And I don’t think you have a president pressing them hard to do so … I’m not necessarily sure [the sequestration cap] is even a floor [for how low the defense budget will go],” Barry Pavel, director of the Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security, said at a conference hosted by the Atlantic Council March 5.

“I think DOD has made the best case they can [but] I think you’re going to continue to have a disconnect in Congress that’s been shockingly, in my mind, united on both sides of the aisle, saying even if they don’t like it, they don’t see a way out of [the Budget Control Act],” according to Maren Leed, a senior analyst at CSIS. “So I personally would be surprised if any of that [desired budget increase] is achieved. So what else can [Pentagon leaders] do? They can keep talking [but] I don’t think it will matter.”


Nukes, Crimea, And Possible Putins

Adam Elkus

March 24, 2014 · in Analysis

As the Crimea crisis steadily worsens, many have floated the counterfactual: what if Ukraine hadn’t given up its nuclear weapons? Walter Russell Mead and other commentators have pointed to an old article by John Mearsheimer arguing that Ukraine ought to have resisted giving up the old Soviet nuclear weapons that the USSR’s collapse left in Kiev’s hands. That way, the Russians would have thought twice before making like Brezhnev in the heart of Eurasia. This is an exercise in counterfactual inference—and an awfully faulty one. In explicating why Mead and others error, we can learn a valuable lesson about the complexities of counterfactual analysis.

So why are Mead (and by extension Mearsheimer) wrong? After all, nukes seem to have been a boon for North Korea. Iran seems to want them precisely because of the perception that a nuke means you force the world to treat you according to Big Boy Rules. As Harvard political science PhD student Anton Strezhnev notes, the counterfactual instinct isn’t the problem here. But just as Mobb Deep famously noted the streets have no room for halfway crooks, geopolitics has no room for halfway counterfactualists:

In order to ask what would have happened had Ukraine opted to retain its arsenal, it is important to think through the entire counterfactual. The problem with the “if only Ukraine had nukes” line of argument it assumes that Russia would have tolerated a nuclear weapons state on its border in the first place. If we were to hold the world in 2014 constant and by magic turn Ukraine into a stable nuclear power, then perhaps Russia would have been deterred from occupying Crimea. But this is not the counterfactual we’re interested in.

The assumption that the Russians would have tolerated a nuclear Ukraine is a big one to swallow. A good deal of Israeli security policy is premised on encouraging the perception in Washington that Jerusalem would rather send Israeli Air Force pilots on the Middle Eastern equivalent of the Doolittle Raid than tolerate a nuclear Iran. The security of weapons of mass destruction in Syria, Pakistan, and North Korea are also a topic of hot debate today, and the preventive war in Iraq was premised on the specter of Saddam Hussein handing his arsenal to terrorists. We have been told that we must engage in preventive war with Iran because it may have weapons itself, may give them to extremists, or use them to underwrite aggressive behavior.

When we think through the entire counterfactual, we see that there are plausible outcomes in which Russia would have taken preventive action to secure its arsenal by force. And even if it didn’t, Strezhnev argues that a conflict resembling the India-Pakistan crisis could have been possible in a world in which Ukraine kept its nukes. Strezhnev cites a model that casts the problem as a two-player game, but introduces more players besides Ukraine and Russia (like Poland, the Baltic states, the United States, etc.) making the model more complex. Though if we work through it, it remains to be seen whether or not it gives Mearsheimer’s newfound fans any more reason for optimism compared to a two-player dynamic. For all we know, it might be far worse!

Regardless of how the problem is represented, we have to ask the right counterfactual question. As Strezhnev points out, the counterfactual implied by pundits that cite Mearsheimer asks “What if Ukraine suddenly got nukes in 2014?” That’s a different counterfactual than the possibilities of Ukraine’s nuclear choices in the early 1990s—one perhaps considered interesting when contemplated in an abstract sense, but also likely irrelevant. We could also explore the outcome of Watchmen’s godlike Mr. Manhattan suddenly becoming real and pledging fealty to America. Then it would be a legitimate question of if a Mr. Manhattan-equipped America could deter Russia from invading Ukraine. However, neither outcome occurred in early 2014 nor is it likely to occur in the future. Hence, there’s little point of contemplating it.

So how could the Ukranian nuke enthusiasts have done better? Pay better attention to the problem of counterfactual inference. Counterfactual inference is extremely important in social science and science more broadly, particularly when it come to small probabilities. Wars in particular are rare events in world politics. And as complex a problem is the Ukraine nuclear counterfactual, there exist far worse risk questions. Take Stephen Pinker’s argument that the risk of war is declining, and we live in an era distinguished by the “better angels of our nature.” Many experts in national security have argued about this, but what do the academics writing on on risk, probability, and causal inference say?Risk iconoclast Nassim Nicholas Taleb had a bone to pick with this. Wars, again, are rare events and a theory like Pinker’s must deal with many problems that come from rare and dangerous events, such as the survivorship effect of erroneously believing that what kills you makes you stronger and the effect that nested counterfactuals (e.g., layered counterfactual states) in a potential history have on our ability to assess risk. Taleb did not feel that Pinker sufficiently tackled such difficulties. Political scientist and forecaster Jay Ulfelder, in contrast, is more sympathetic to Pinker’s reasoning. And others say we need to wait 150 years to know for sure.

What we don’t have to wait 150 years to do, however, is to take better stock of these kind of problems. Yes, a world of possibilities exists. But whenever we make a counterfactual about a past situation, we are revving up what scientist Peter Turchin dubs an “imperfect time machine.” Turchin was discussing the problem of reaching back into the far past to test theories about the development of human civilization, but his metaphor could be expanded to think about the problem of assessing a complex historical event (or non-event), the choices available to the actors involved, and the probabilities and desirabilities of alternative outcomes.

The time machine we want is one that would transport us back in time to the event, give us a menu of possible actions, and show us each outcome in fine resolution. We don’t have such a contraption, and if it could be made it would be hidden away in the same government warehouse where the Ark of the Covenant got stashed at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Until then, we’re left to watch Ukraine burn and ponder possible Putins with the crude historical and social scientific tools we have available.


Back to Land Lines? Cell Phones May Be Dead by 2015




The Fiscal Times

March 1, 2011


What do a cell phone, a laptop and an electric car have in common?

All three use batteries made with lithium — the lightest metal in nature. About five grams is in an average laptop, about half a gram in a cell phone. Surprisingly, what keeps your devices charged and wireless can also affect your brain: It’s an active ingredient in drugs used to treat manic depression. Batteries using lithium have twice the capacity of traditional nickel cadmium batteries, creating a “lithium boom” in several places around the world as these technologies become more ubiquitous. In China, cell phone sales were up 57 percent last year; in India, cell phone use is expected to double by 2014.


The More We Use It the More We Lose It

Lithium is difficult to find and excavate. Tiny amounts are found in compounds everywhere, including in the bodies of mammals, but in extremely small quantities. The best way to mine it is to dig under the beds of dried lakes with high saline contents, where volcanoes in wet climates leached groundwater into a landlocked basin tens of thousands of years ago — not exactly in your backyard. Very few places on the globe match these exacting conditions, and some of them are politically problematic.


The Afghan Connection

The world’s best reserves are in the Bolivian Andes, with smaller quantities in Chile, China and the U.S. The Pentagon created a stir last year when a leaked memo called Afghanistan a potential “Saudi Arabia of lithium” because of deposits located in dried salt beds in the west — though much of it remains unexploited because of the war. Bolivian President Evo Morales has said he wants the nation to mine its own lithium and he has discouraged foreign investors; but it’s uncertain if Bolivia can build the necessary extraction plants to handle the expected high demand. The Western Lithium USA Corp. announced plans last year to develop a deposit in the Kings Valley region of Nevada, which could yield up to 11 million tons.


Crisis by 2015?

A shortage could affect the price of laptop computers, as well as cause a slowdown in the production of hybrid electric cars that could cripple new initiatives in Detroit, and undermine President Obama’s plans to reduce our dependence on oil. The car manufacturer Mitsubishi has predicted a worldwide supply crisis by 2015 if new reserves are not discovered. Obama has called for at least 1 million of these plug-in vehicles on the roads by then. Conventional nickel-cadmium batteries do not allow them to store as much energy or drive as far as lithium, which has been a major impediment to the future success of electric cars. New advances in nanotechnology may allow more lithium than ever before to be stored inside hybrid car batteries, as much as 10 times the previous levels, putting even more pressure on global supplies.

– See more at:



March 25, 2014, 11:40 am

Boehner: No boost to defense spending

By Erik Wasson


House Republicans will not seek to increase defense spending in their 2015 budget in the wake of the crisis with Russia, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will keep both the top-line spending level of $1.014 trillion for 2015 and the specific caps for defense and non-defense spending.

The two-year budget deal reached in December put a $521 billion cap on non-defense spending and a $492 billion cap on defense spending, not including funds for the war on terrorism.

Boehner was asked about the 2015 level and whether defense spending would be left subject to automatic spending cuts known as sequestration over the following six years.

“I don’t know that we’re far enough along in that project to make that determination. In terms of the spending for defense in this year, I believe that we’ll abide by the budget agreement that we’ve already made,” Boehner said.

Ryan is expected to release his budget resolution next week. It would likely receive a House vote before the mid-April Easter recess.

Ryan’s budget is expected to balance within 10 years without raising revenue, a feat that will require trillions in spending cuts.

Adding new defense spending into the mix would require deeper cuts from non-defense spending or from mandatory entitlement programs.

House and Senate appropriators have already begun crafting the 2015 bills and a House budget resolution that alters the caps from the December deal would complicate an effort to complete all 12 appropriations bills by the start of the fiscal year for the first time since the mid-1990s.

Russell Berman contributed.

Read more:


Lawsuit Raises Red Flags For Government Cloud Users


A California lawsuit suggests the federal government must take stronger steps to protect government data from data mining and user profiling by cloud service providers.

In the technology-rich world we live in, it’s critical for everyone to understand how their data is processed and used. For the government, it is arguably even more important, given the massive amounts of sensitive citizen data it possesses and stores.

As we move to more sophisticated, data-driven technological environments such as the cloud, it is imperative that all government entities become hypervigilant about making sure that vendors are handling this information appropriately. I am not the first person to say this, and I will certainly not be the last.

Recent disclosures in a California lawsuit have raised several red flags about how government data could be used by cloud vendors — particularly vendors with business models that rely heavily on advertising revenue and monetizing user data. The lawsuit alleges that Google violated federal and state wiretap and privacy laws by data mining the email content of students who used Google’s Apps for Education and Google’s Gmail messaging service. US district judge Lucy Koh handed Google a victory last week by refusing to let the case proceed as a class action.

Though the lawsuit created a stir in the education community over privacy concerns, it also raises important questions for government administrators. Information revealed in the lawsuit suggests that public-sector users of certain cloud services, including the federal government, may not be protected from systematic data mining and user profiling for advertising purposes if they do not have clear protections in place.

The potential streamlining and cost-saving benefits of cloud computing have prompted the federal government to make adoption of cloud computing a high priority. With this in mind, we need to take appropriate measures to ensure the government makes the transition to the cloud in the correct way, with data privacy and lawful data use as top concerns. If the government does not implement these changes carefully, it faces the risk that sensitive data will be exposed, and those risks are simply too high.

I speak from experience. Given my former position at the Office of Management and Budget, where I was responsible for the federal government’s IT, data security, and privacy policies, I believe these issues are more important than ever. There are several foundational issues that government CIOs must address when they are looking at securing, procuring, and drafting their cloud contracts.


These issues include:

Clauses prohibiting unauthorized data use: All cloud service providers must ensure that their services use data only in ways that are explicitly, contractually sanctioned, and those assurances must be guaranteed and written into the contract.

A system to measure efficacy: Cloud service providers also must have a system for reporting on the efficacy of agency information security programs. That system needs to augment audit programs and validate the written assurances from cloud providers.

Specific bring-your-own-device (BYOD) language: Agency CIOs and policy makers must rethink their security policies by restricting the type and/or amount of work that employees can perform on their smartphones unless adequate protections are in place, such as digital rights management and robust enterprise device management technologies. In addition, it is critical that agencies and industry develop efficient, technical solutions that enable federal workers to take advantage of the convenience that these devices offer, while ensuring the security of sensitive federal information.

This year, I co-authored a white paper discussing some of these recommendations in greater detail. One conclusion I’ve reached in my research is that cloud vendors need to be more transparent with regard to how they store, use, and monetize public-sector data — especially vendors with roots in advertising and the monetization of user data. And agencies must be more explicit in their contracts about data-mining practices.

Despite all these voiced concerns, government entities do not typically require any of the above recommendations or guidelines from cloud contractors.


From my experience working at federal agencies, I understand that altering the way government entities procure services takes time and input from many stakeholders. However, I strongly believe our procurement process needs to include the specific terms and conditions related to data use and ownership in an effort to address these issues in greater detail. If we want to get cloud right, these guidelines should serve as the foundation.


Putin’s Challenge to the West

Russia has thrown down a gauntlet that is not limited to Crimea or even Ukraine.


March 25, 2014 6:52 p.m. ET


Russian President Vladimir Putin has a long-festering grudge: He deeply resents the West for winning the Cold War. He blames the United States in particular for the collapse of his beloved Soviet Union, an event he has called the “worst geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”

His list of grievances is long and was on full display in his March 18 speech announcing the annexation of Crimea by Russia. He is bitter about what he sees as Russia’s humiliations in the 1990s—economic collapse; the expansion of NATO to include members of the U.S.S.R.’s own “alliance,” the Warsaw Pact; Russia’s agreement to the treaty limiting conventional forces in Europe, or as he calls it, “the colonial treaty”; the West’s perceived dismissal of Russian interests in Serbia and elsewhere; attempts to bring Ukraine and Georgia into NATO and the European Union; and Western governments, businessmen and scholars all telling Russia how to conduct its affairs at home and abroad.

Mr. Putin aspires to restore Russia’s global power and influence and to bring the now-independent states that were once part of the Soviet Union back into Moscow’s orbit. While he has no apparent desire to recreate the Soviet Union (which would include responsibility for a number of economic basket cases), he is determined to create a Russian sphere of influence—political, economic and security—and dominance. There is no grand plan or strategy to do this, just opportunistic and ruthless aspiration. And patience.

Mr. Putin, who began his third, nonconsecutive presidential term in 2012, is playing a long game. He can afford to: Under the Russian Constitution, he could legally remain president until 2024. After the internal chaos of the 1990s, he has ruthlessly restored “order” to Russia, oblivious to protests at home and abroad over his repression of nascent Russian democracy and political freedoms.

In recent years, he has turned his authoritarian eyes on the “near-abroad.” In 2008, the West did little as he invaded Georgia, and Russian troops still occupy the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. He has forced Armenia to break off its agreements with the European Union, and Moldova is under similar pressure.

Last November, through economic leverage and political muscle, he forced then-President Viktor Yanukovych to abort a Ukrainian agreement with the EU that would have drawn it toward the West. When Mr. Yanukovych, his minion, was ousted as a result, Mr. Putin seized Crimea and is now making ominous claims and military movements regarding all of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine is central to Mr. Putin’s vision of a pro-Russian bloc, partly because of its size and importantly because of Kiev’s role as the birthplace of the Russian Empire more than a thousand years ago. He will not be satisfied or rest until a pro-Russian government is restored in Kiev.

He also has a dramatically different worldview than the leaders of Europe and the U.S. He does not share Western leaders’ reverence for international law, the sanctity of borders, which Westerners’ believe should only be changed through negotiation, due process and rule of law. He has no concern for human and political rights. Above all, Mr. Putin clings to a zero-sum worldview. Contrary to the West’s belief in the importance of win-win relationships among nations, for Mr. Putin every transaction is win-lose; when one party benefits, the other must lose. For him, attaining, keeping and amassing power is the name of the game.

The only way to counter Mr. Putin’s aspirations on Russia’s periphery is for the West also to play a strategic long game. That means to take actions that unambiguously demonstrate to Russians that his worldview and goals—and his means of achieving them—over time will dramatically weaken and isolate Russia.


Europe’s reliance on Russian oil and gas must be reduced, and truly meaningful economic sanctions must be imposed, knowing there may be costs to the West as well. NATO allies bordering Russia must be militarily strengthened and reinforced with alliance forces; and the economic and cyber vulnerabilities of the Baltic states to Russian actions must be reduced (especially given the number of Russians and Russian-speakers in Estonia and Latvia).

Western investment in Russia should be curtailed; Russia should be expelled from the G-8 and other forums that offer respect and legitimacy; the U.S. defense budget should be restored to the level proposed in the Obama administration’s 2014 budget a year ago, and the Pentagon directed to cut overhead drastically, with saved dollars going to enhanced capabilities, such as additional Navy ships; U.S. military withdrawals from Europe should be halted; and the EU should be urged to grant associate agreements with Moldova, Georgia and Ukraine.

So far, however, the Western response has been anemic. Mr. Putin is little influenced by seizure of personal assets of his cronies or the oligarchs, or restrictions on their travel. Unilateral U.S. sanctions, save on Russian banks, will not be effective absent European cooperation. The gap between Western rhetoric and Western actions in response to out-and-out aggression is a yawning chasm. The message seems to be that if Mr. Putin doesn’t move troops into eastern Ukraine, the West will impose no further sanctions or costs. De facto, Russia’s seizure of Crimea will stand and, except for a handful of Russian officials, business will go on as usual.

No one wants a new Cold War, much less a military confrontation. We want Russia to be a partner, but that is now self-evidently not possible under Mr. Putin’s leadership. He has thrown down a gauntlet that is not limited to Crimea or even Ukraine. His actions challenge the entire post-Cold War order including, above all, the right of independent states to align themselves and do business with whomever they choose.

Tacit acceptance of settling old revanchist scores by force is a formula for ongoing crises and potential armed conflict, whether in Europe, Asia or elsewhere. A China behaving with increasing aggressiveness in the East and South China seas, an Iran with nuclear aspirations and interventionist policies in the Middle East, and a volatile and unpredictable North Korea are all watching events in Europe. They have witnessed the fecklessness of the West in Syria. Similar division and weakness in responding to Russia’s most recent aggression will, I fear, have dangerous consequences down the road.

Mr. Putin’s challenge comes at a most unpropitious time for the West. Europe faces a weak economic recovery and significant economic ties with Russia. The U.S. is emerging from more than a dozen years at war and leaders in both parties face growing isolationism among voters, with the prospect of another major challenge abroad cutting across the current political grain. Crimea and Ukraine are far away, and their importance to Europe and America little understood by the public.

Therefore, the burden of explaining the need to act forcefully falls, as always, on our leaders. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “Government includes the act of formulating a policy” and “persuading, leading, sacrificing, teaching always, because the greatest duty of a statesman is to educate.” The aggressive, arrogant actions of Vladimir Putin require from Western leaders strategic thinking, bold leadership and steely resolve—now.

Mr. Gates served as secretary of defense under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2006-11, and as director of central intelligence under President George H.W. Bush from 1991-93.



What Defense Could Learn About Cyber From Financial Firms

Mar. 26, 2014 – 12:35PM | By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS | Comments


WASHINGTON — As the defense industry sorts out the complications of information sharing and improved cyber protection, it might turn to another sector thought by many experts to have the best security in the US: financial firms.

It may not be surprising that financial groups effectively protect their networks; a successful attack could cost a company millions, if not billions, of dollars. That drove financial firms to launch an industry information-sharing initiative in 1999, creating one of the better repositories of information on attacks and attackers in the world.

Defense companies normally don’t face that kind of risk. If an attacker breaks in and steals fighter jet designs, the company probably won’t lose any money because it is unlikely the company would have been allowed to sell the fighter to the attacking nation.

But what financial industry insiders point to is that the collective need for protection has overwhelmed the natural distrust and competitiveness of the individual companies.

“Within financial services, security and cyber issues have really become a noncompetitive issue,” said John Carlson, executive vice president of technology risk at BITS.

Carlson, speaking with Lilly Thomas and Brian Peretti at a recent Atlantic Council event, said the cooperative spirit does serve as a bit of an outlier.

“That’s not necessarily the case in the IT community more broadly, with security firms that are competing very aggressively for marketing products and services. But within financial services, there is a sense that we need to share information, we need to collaborate,” he said.

What has made it difficult at times for defense companies is that beyond the need for protection, many are also trying to sell protection services. Nearly every major defense contractor has a stated goal of growing its cyber business, often marketing their products as having superior intelligence on the threat environment.

“If they can say that they’re the ones who understand threats to the defense industrial base, they can sell a product,” said Alan Paller, director of research at the SANS Institute.

Despite that desire, the US Defense Department has leaned heavily on contractors to share information with the Defense Cyber Crime Center. But sources and experts have said that the quality of the data provided was modest, with companies withholding what they could.

“They didn’t want to make the central sharing database good, because they wanted to offer it as a service as well,” Paller said.

There’s also the issue of trust. The most prominent initiative to increase information sharing was the Defense Industrial Base cyber pilot program. That program, while slow to get going, eventually started to yield better intelligence, according to sources. But as soon as the program’s control was transferred from the Defense Department to the Department of Homeland Security in 2012, companies became increasingly fearful of leaks.

That lack of trust has been one of the reasons industry has pushed for new legislation to protect companies that share information. Such legislation has passed in the US House, but has yet to be voted upon in the Senate, which has focused on more comprehensive legislation.

But in the financial world, a level of trust has developed, Carlson said.

“They have to have trust.That is a critical element of this,” he said. “They may not even have agreements amongst themselves to protect the information, but they trust one another and are willing to take the risk.”

The ability to get and share that data from companies is crucial because government, despite concerns stoked by the Edward Snowden disclosures, doesn’t have effective visibility on all of the company networks.

“If you just look to us, for government to tell you how the next attack is going to come, that’s probably not going to be the most effective, because we don’t see all the attacks,” said Peretti, acting director of the Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Compliance Policy at the Treasury Department.

The Defense Department is trying to set up a public/private mechanism for information sharing, but it has hit some bumps along the way. In January, the Government Accountability Office sustained a protest to a $26 million contract to provide support for the new DIBNet, citing a failure by the Defense Information Systems Agency to “reasonably evaluate” the virtues of alternative bids. That deal will be recompeted in the coming months.

Other contracts for DIBNet have been less contentious, with several going to the cyber behemoth Booz Allen Hamilton.

Paller said that it takes time to convince participants to give up meaningful information, citing one English group’s experience.

“For the first five meetings, people just sat there and just absorbed information, but by the sixth meeting, people opened up completely,” he said. “If there is a reason to trust, a really strong reason to trust, sharing can happen.”

For defense, there’s the complication of working with a complex industrial base that includes many smaller companies, some of which might not have the best security practices. One suggestion has been to create minimum standards for security.

Such standards exist in the financial sector but can be a burden, according to Lilly Thomas, vice president of Independent Community Bankers of America, an association of smaller financial institutions.

One big problem is that these institutions have to rely on third party vendors because having a private security team is expensive, Thomas said.

Defense and the financial sector share some common problems, but cooperation has proved to be the greatest tool the latter has used, according to Carlson, something that might be needed in defense.

“In response to the increasing cyber threat, the financial services sector has really worked much more closely together,” he said.




The unblinking eye – Commercial spy satellites gain power as resolutions sharpen

Mar. 26, 2014 | 1 Comment


Space-based sensors devoted to intelligence gathering are poised to receive a major upgrade driven by the perceived need to identify and monitor a growing range of potential threats. The unstated goal is to create a massive satellite network forming the equivalent of a single, unblinking eye in space.

This new emphasis is likely to extend the reach of commercial satellite imagery providers—already the government’s primary source of unclassified mapping data and location-based imagery products. Much of this imagery is sharable with state and local governments, allies, coalition partners and even some nongovernment organizations.

“Outsourcing a large percentage of imagery requirements to the civil side not only makes sense, it’s essential,” says Mark Brender, executive director of the DigitalGlobe Foundation, which supports educational uses of geospatial technology. “Intelligence-gathering satellites can’t be everywhere at once, and, according to one member of Congress, each one of them costs as much as a Nimitz-class nuclear aircraft carrier.

“Commercial imagery provides resiliency and products that are good enough to meet a vast majority of intelligence imagery needs but at a much lower cost. As this technology migrates from the black world of intelligence to the white world of commerce, whole new services and jobs are created, like Google Earth.”


Resolution revolution

Relative sharpness of pixel resolution has long formed the dividing line between military and civil reconnaissance satellites, but that line is blurring. If the commercial providers have their way, the next generation of civil satellites may offer capabilities comparable to secret military spacecraft thought to offer resolutions measured in inches.

In May of last year, commercial provider DigitalGlobe asked for release from a government policy limiting them to resolutions of a half-meter. The company wants permission to sell 0.25-meter (9.8-inch) resolution imagery on the open market, the same degree of resolution it provides to some of its U.S. government customers.

For comparison, the first civil imagery satellite, the LandSat launched in 1972, offered 90-meter ground resolution and even this, Brender says, “concerned some people in the U.S. government at that time.”

Resolution is largely a function of aperture (mirror) size and altitude, and the larger the mirror the sharper the resolution. Commercial imaging satellites now have about 1-meter diameter mirrors and the next logical step for them, according to Brender, is a 1.5-meter mirror.

The aperture size of military satellites wasn’t public knowledge until the GEOINT 2009 Symposium. James Clapper, then under secretary of defense for intelligence and now director of national intelligence, revealed during a keynote address that a new generation of electro-optical imaging satellites proposed for the Air Force would have an aperture size of 2.4 meters — the same as the Hubble Space Telescope.

In addition, the civil side may be moving ahead faster than the government in the critical arenas of data management and storage, as well as the complex ground station infrastructure needed to manage satellites through their life cycles.

“Things are changing rapidly,” says Jeff Harris, a former director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), operator of spy satellites for the U.S. intelligence community. “The breadth and depth of applications and ease of processing have given mere mortals a power that used to reside only at the highest levels of government.”

“It’s a function of the demand curve, the same way it happened with aerial photography from [manned] aircraft and drones. First it was the optical products and ultimately it will happen with radar. Next you’ll see LIDAR on the commercial side. It’s simply a matter of cost point.

“When we were [developing] these capabilities, we often asked ourselves is it best to be No. 1? Does it make sense to put so much effort into developing the marketplace when the technology becomes ubiquitous so quickly?”


NRO’s modernization plan

NRO is continually updating its satellite fleet and its most recent mission — NROL-39 — blasted into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base late last year. Although details surrounding the classified payload were not released, experts surmise it was a Topaz radar imaging satellite built as a replacement for the earlier Lacrosse/Onyx series ordered as part of the over-budget and partially scrapped future imaging architecture program.

NROL-39’s mission logo — an all-seeing cartoon octopus with suction-cupped tentacles extending over the globe — brought NRO an uncharacteristic degree of public attention amid recent allegations regarding National Security Agency spying, as did the mission’s ambitious tagline: Nothing is beyond our reach.

While the NRO’s plans are opaque to outsiders, a recent declassified, heavily redacted report could provide a degree of insight. According to the agency’s FY 2012 congressional budget justification obtained by the Federation of American Scientists, NRO is looking for “evolutionary and revolutionary” improvements to geospatial intelligence, signals intelligence and multi-intelligence gathering, as well as improved satellite communications and ground systems.

A key focus area is “temporal responsiveness,” or the ability to re-task satellite sensors on the fly and thus make their output more relevant to high-level decision-makers and also to troops in the field. This effort could encompass machine-to-machine tasking; tip and cue; and new, “dynamic” user interfaces, the report states.

The report also reveals a desire to target specific individuals with multiple and varied sensor types. To fulfill this need to “identify, characterize and understand” single targets, the NRO is encouraging “unusual or unexpected” uses of its existing sensors and systems.


Improved pattern analysis is another priority. This effort will likely combine massive computerized data sets, varied data sources and high-speed processing as a means of tracking people by studying their normal routines — and deviations — from Earth orbit.

Nuts and bolts-wise, NRO appears sold on the utility of cutting-edge carbon-nanotube technology. It seeks to use it in a range of applications, among them memory logic, power cables, structures, lithium-ion batteries, radiation-hardened microelectronics and high-efficiency solar cells. Phased-array technology is being “matured” toward the goal of horizon-to-horizon coverage.


DARPA thinks big

DARPA is peering even further into the future. Its membrane optical imager for real-time exploitation (MOIRE) program aims to provide real-time images and video from geosynchronous orbit — roughly 22,000 miles above the planet’s surface. Current spy satellites are generally restricted to low Earth orbits due to size and weight constraints.

Instead of mirrors, MOIRE will employ lightweight polymer membrane optics. Though less efficient than glass, membrane optics are significantly lighter and could allow comparable performance with roughly one-seventh the weight of traditional systems, according to DARPA.

The membranes would be housed in thin metal “petals” that would bloom, flower-like, from a housed 20-foot package to a deployed diameter of some 68 feet. DARPA says these would be the largest telescope optics ever made, “dwarfing the glass mirrors in the world’s most famous telescopes.”


US Air Force Faces Shortage of Engineers

Mar. 26, 2014 – 02:18PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


WASHINGTON — More than any other military service, the US Air Force depends on a constant stream of technological improvements and scientific breakthroughs. But according to the service’s chief scientist, a “perfect storm” of personnel issues is endangering the retention and recruitment of top scientific talent.

“When we asked recently across our AFRL [Air Force Research Laboratory] directorates how many of you are afraid of losing people, and know people have résumés on the street, every single hand went up,” Mica Endsley said. “So those are the kind of worries we have. We need to retain the people we’ve got, as well as be able to recruit in new people coming into the field, and it’s a challenge under those circumstances.”

There are about 26,000 personnel in the science and engineering career fields in the Air Force, roughly split at 16,000 civilian, 10,000 on active duty. Of that total, around 2,800 civilians and 500 military personnel work at Air Force research labs; the rest are involved in programs such as new system acquisition or maintenance offices.

Endsley said the service has seen an almost 30 percent loss in the last two years of senior scientists — the chief technicians and other leaders who help guide labs and develop new programs — leaving a potential void at the top levels.

“The curve is bimodal,” Endsley said. “We have a large number of people over 50. We have a larger number of people under 35. Then we have a gap in the middle, where we didn’t recruit very much in the 1990s.


“As we move early retirements in and have senior people leaving, there’s going to be a gap in leadership where we don’t have many people in the middle ranks to take over,” she said.

At the same time, recruitment of young people with technical expertise has become challenging.

The issue isn’t a lack of budget, although like everyone else, the research labs would be happy to accept more funding. The service’s top two officials made it clear at a February event that they recognize the need to protect those investments.

“S&T [science and technology] funding is absolutely essential to a service that prides itself on being fueled by innovations, was born of technology and must stay ahead of the technological curve to be successful,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff. “So we have to pay a lot of attention to S&T funding. Every funding line we have is coming down, but we can’t slash S&T.”

Those comments were echoed by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who said, “There was an effort to protect these accounts vis-à-vis others, primarily because it is so important.”

Numbers compiled for Defense News by analytics firm VisualDoD show research and development (R&D) funding for the Air Force in the proposed fiscal 2015 budget at $23.7 billion. Roughly $2.1 billion is requested for AFRL, a figure slated to grow slightly each year of the five-year future years defense program.

For fiscal 2015, the largest chunk of that funding — $689.1 million — is earmarked for the service’s Aerospace Systems Directorate.

But according to service estimates, the research labs touch little of that money — about 75 percent of R&D funding earmarked for the research labs is actually contracted out to academia and industry.

Endsley said she appreciates that the Air Force has tried to protect its investments in science, even as whole fleets of aircraft are being sacrificed on the altar of budget austerity. But she says the issue is more about morale than available funding.

The largest reason for the morale issue? Uncertainty, she said. The sequestered budget forced civilian furloughs in 2013. AFRL civilians outnumber active-duty personnel by more than five to one, and those individuals lost six days of paychecks, in addition to long-running civilian pay freezes. Although they were eventually paid for their time off during the government shutdown, that instability didn’t help.

Given all that, Endsley said, young aerospace engineers coming out of college with tuition debts to pay would be hard-pressed to choose the Air Force over an industry job. That the service rarely offers to pay for graduate school any more is another challenge to recruiting the next generation of engineers.

Another major challenge, and one she hopes to see changed, is the inability to travel to technical conferences, a Pentagon-wide problem stemming from a series of government travel abuses several years ago.

An engineer looking to travel to a scientific conference to present a paper needs special dispensation from Welsh. Given the daily demands on the chief of staff, getting that permission has proved a problem — and that’s turning people away.

“It’s very important they are interacting with other engineers in their profession, in academia and the commercial world,” Endsley said. “They need to be able to meet with them to figure out where to put our research dollars. They need to be publishing their work because that’s how science is done.”

Endsley wants to see scientific conferences handled differently than other conferences, and noted that “there have been some discussions at [the defense secretary level], but I haven’t seen any movement in that direction.”


While the civilian side raises concerns, the number of active-duty individuals in the S&T realm also concerns the chief scientist. Endsley said she believes the service should develop a separate promotion system for scientists and engineers, similar to how medical doctors or lawyers have different criteria.



Madman in the White House

Why looking crazy can be an asset when you’re staring down the Russians.



On the afternoon of April 19, 1972, seated in the Oval Office, President Richard Nixon instructed Henry Kissinger on what message he wanted the national security advisor to convey to his counterparts in the Soviet Union. In a few hours’ time, Kissinger would be aboard a red-eye flight to Moscow for a tense set of secret negotiations on the interrelated issues of the Vietnam War and nuclear disarmament. Unbeknownst even to the flight crew at Andrews Air Force Base, Kissinger was to be joined by a most important — and unusual — passenger: Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin. Nixon wanted to make sure the flight time wasn’t wasted on small talk.

“Henry, we must not miss this chance,” the president said, his taping system silently recording the session. “I’m going to destroy the goddamn country [North Vietnam], believe me, I mean destroy it, if necessary. And let me say, even [use] the nuclear weapon if necessary. It isn’t necessary,” Nixon hastened to add, “but, you know, what I mean is, that shows you the extent to which I’m willing to go.”

Nixon wanted to impress upon the Soviets that the president of the United States was, in a word, mad: unstable, erratic in his decision-making, and capable of anything. The American commander-in-chief wanted the Kremlin to know that he was willing to escalate even localized conventional military conflicts to the nuclear level. Kissinger understood: “I’ll tell [the Soviets] tomorrow night,” he vowed. The national security advisor even rehearsed for the president specific lines from the good cop/bad cop routine he intended to put on. “The more we do now,” he would tell his Soviet interlocutor, “the better.” He was akin to saying: On the shoulders of reasonable men, like you and me, rests the responsibility of preventing a madman, like Nixon, from taking things too far.

It wasn’t the first time the national security advisor had been exposed to the strategic potential of madness. The concept had originated, amid the nuclear anxieties of the 1950s, in the academic circles Kissinger had formerly inhabited. It was a product of game theory, a mathematic discipline — often applied to national security policymaking — that can be used to assess competitive situations and predict actors’ choices, based on prior actions by their competitors. Kissinger himself had endorsed the concept in his writings, as a professor of international relations at Harvard, a full decade before he came to the White House. “The more reckless we appear [the better],” he told Nixon that afternoon, “because after all, Mr. President, what we’re trying to convince them of is that we are ready to go all the way.”

In his post-Watergate memoir The Ends of Power, former White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman wrote that his boss’s use of the strategy was hardly unconscious. “I call it the Madman Theory,” Haldeman recalled the president telling him. “I want the North Vietnamese to believe I’ve reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We’ll just slip the word to them that, ‘for God’s sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can’t restrain him when he’s angry — and he has his hand on the nuclear button,’ and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.”

It didn’t play out quite that effortlessly: A number of very costly and destructive military operations would need to be executed, from the mining of Haiphong Harbor in May 1972 to the devastating “Christmas bombing” that December, before the North Vietnamese, badly weakened and with the assent of their Soviet masters, would return to the bargaining table in earnest. But return they did.

Fast-forward four decades and much has changed since the Nixon-Kissinger era: most notably, the collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of non-state actors in international affairs, and warp-speed advances in the fields of computing technology, satellite imagery, and data flow. But as always, much remains the same. In President Vladimir Putin, the former KGB colonel who once characterized the demise of the Soviet Union as “a major geopolitical disaster of the century,” the West is confronted with a Russian leader whose unrelenting quest to project strength makes him not altogether dissimilar from his Cold War predecessors.

Indeed, the idea has gained wide currency that the president of the Russian Federation — with his determination to restore his country to superpower status, his frequent dismissals of American exceptionalism, and his track record of checking American influence wherever he can — is determinedly immersed in an East-West struggle that bears striking similarities to the one that defined post-World War II history. “I hate to say it,” lamented a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who recently returned from a congressional delegation’s visit to Ukraine, “but Vladimir Putin is engaged in his own Cold War with us.”

Speaking at a summit of North American leaders in Mexico last month, Obama derided those who see the Ukraine crisis, Syria, or other contexts in which Washington and Moscow are presently clashing, as “some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia.” Yet the president’s own national security advisor, Susan Rice, would later tell reporters following Crimea’s formal annexation: “Our interest is not in seeing the situation escalate and devolve into hot conflict.” Obama’s sarcasm notwithstanding, Rice’s comments betrayed that the United States has little choice but to see itself as engaged in a “cold” conflict.

This time, however, it is the Russians, not the Americans, who find value in the strategic use of “madness.”

This time, however, it is the Russians, not the Americans, who find value in the strategic use of “madness.” Following a telephone call with Putin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is said to have confided that she was not sure the Russian leader was in touch with reality; “in another world” is how she reportedly described her interlocutor. And in the diplomatic volleys that followed Russia’s military seizure of Crimea, it was Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov who, in a radio interview with the Voice of Russia, warned that the Kremlin might respond to additional sanctions by the United States and its European allies with “asymmetric measures.”

What did he mean, exactly? In post-9/11 parlance, of course, “asymmetric” is usually used in conjunction with “warfare,” and typically refers to the tactics that rogue regimes and non-state actors, like North Korea and al Qaeda, respectively, have deployed against conventional powers: cyberwarfare and terrorism, chiefly. However, it is more likely that Ryabkov, channeling Nixon and Kissinger, was seeking to exploit existing fears about such terminology, and meant to signal that Russia intends, should the crisis deepen, to bypass the traditional practice of tit-for-tat responses.

That, so far, is what Moscow has been confronted with — a tit-for-tat approach — and it shows that the Obama administration has ignored two critical lessons from the Cold War. The first is the value of projecting unpredictability — or in Nixon and Kissinger’s case, even madness. Whereas Nixon once instructed his national security advisor to tell Dobrynin, “I am sorry, Mr. Ambassador, but he [Nixon] is out of control,” Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have sought continually to impress upon the Kremlin their supreme reasonableness. “We would like to see this de-escalated,” Kerry said during his dramatic visit to Kiev earlier this month. “We are not looking for some major confrontation.” The president’s advisors have maintained, pro forma, that all options remain on the table, but Obama explicitly removed the most potent of them: “We are not,” he told San Diego’s KNSD-TV, “going to be getting into a military excursion in Ukraine.”

What’s more, the Obama administration has purposefully embarked on a course that the United States trod, with little success, during its Vietnam-era confrontations with the Soviets: the gradual escalation of punishments intended to produce changes in enemy behavior. After six fruitless hours of talks in London with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, aimed at staving off the Crimean referendum that ultimately proceeded apace, Kerry told reporters that if Putin makes a decision “that’s negative,” then the Western allied response “would be calibrated accordingly.” This “calibrated” response from Washington continued after the referendum, and after the formal annexation of Crimea, as manifested in Obama’s serial announcements of new sanctions on a list of senior Russian officials that expanded marginally each time.

The danger in this approach is twofold. First, it cedes all initiative to Putin — or, as Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia and Eurasia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said on Fox News immediately following Mr. Obama’s latest announcement of sanctions: “Mr. Putin, again, is controlling the battlefield, so to speak, and we’re reacting.”

Second, it fails to administer the lesson that President Lyndon B. Johnson learned, at such great cost, in Vietnam: namely, the perils of gradualism. If the idea is to apply pain — or “costs,” to use the Obama administration’s preferred language in this case — to an adversary, in order to compel it to do something or to cease doing something, the application of the pain in gradual, incremental doses will only enable the adversary to acclimate to these marginal increases in pain, which in each instance will not feel markedly different from the last set of imposed “costs.” It’s no surprise that Vladimir Putin will more readily accept incremental increases in pain than risk a form of retaliation that is massive and debilitating.

If the Obama administration assesses that the fate of Ukraine is not a vital enough national security interest to make it worthwhile to inflict massive and debilitating costs on Russia, then the administration’s next best option would be to sow doubt in the minds of Putin and his advisors about American intentions. Even though Washington may privately know itself to be unwilling to escalate the crisis, projecting the opposite could carry tangible benefits, both diplomatically and on the ground in Eastern Europe. Unfortunately, the president and his secretary of state have discarded that option, as well.

With six years in the Oval Office under his belt, Obama can be expected to have grasped these basic precepts of game theory as they apply to negotiations, or confrontations, with adversaries on the world stage. Richard Nixon learned them during what amounted to an extended apprenticeship for the presidency: his eight-year tenure as vice president. He took particular note of the leadership style of one of the era’s dominant geopolitical figures, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, with whom Nixon had come face-to-face during their heralded “kitchen debate,” in Moscow in 1959. And the future president, having narrowly lost the 1960 election, watched keenly as the burly Russian battered the youthful, inexperienced President John F. Kennedy, when the two met in Vienna, in 1961.

Looking back on his career in 1985, settled into an armchair in his Manhattan office, Nixon judged Khrushchev “the most brilliant world leader I have ever met.” Asked why, America’s only ex-president said simply: “He scared the hell out of people.”


SecAF discusses service’s top priorities

By Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr., American Forces Press Service / Published March 26, 2014


WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James today provided a congressional panel with an overview of her top priorities for the Air Force.

Joined by Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III, James laid out the framework for her three top priorities for the House Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee.

“Those three priorities are taking care of people, balancing today’s readiness with tomorrow’s readiness,” she said, “and ensuring that our Air Force is the most capable at the least cost to the taxpayer.”

Every job she’s ever had always has come down to people, 100 percent of the time, James said. “So taking care of people, to me, means we need to recruit the right people, retain the right people,” she added.

The secretary said developing people inside the force, and having a diversity of thought and backgrounds at the leadership table are needed to make innovative decisions and solutions going forward.

“We need to protect the most important family programs,” she said. “We need dignity and respect for all — and that includes combating sexual harassment and assault.” It’s also important to ensure everyone in the Air Force is living the service’s core values of integrity, service and excellence all the time, James added.

The secretary noted two areas of that have generated controversy lately: force reductions and compensation.

“We are coming down in all of our components — active, (Air National) Guard, Reserve and civilians,” James said. “And we will rely more, not less, in the future on our Guard and Reserve.”

That makes sense from both the mission standpoint and the budgetary standpoint, she said. “But as we draw down it’s not good enough just to get lower numbers,” she added. “We have to reshape the force.” At the moment, James told the panel, the Air Force needs balance — it has too many people in certain types of career fields and too few in others.

On compensation, James said the fiscal year 2015 budget request includes “reasonable ways” to slow the growth in military compensation across the Defense Department.

“This was one of those hard decisions that nobody is really happy with,” James said. “But it’s necessary to ensure that we free up some money to plow back into both the readiness of today as well as the modernization of tomorrow.” Fair compensation going forward, she added, also is part of taking care of the force.

James said her second priority is balancing today and tomorrow’s readiness. Air Force readiness has suffered over the years, she said, particularly last year, when flying squadrons were grounded, civilians were furloughed and maintenance was delayed because of sequestration spending cuts.

“In (fiscal year 2015), we have fully funded our flying hours and other high-priority readiness issues,” James said. “And if approved, we will see gradual improvements of readiness over time.”

While it won’t be overnight or in a year, the secretary said, “we’ll be on a good path of getting toward where we need to be.”

At the same time, the Air Force is looking to tomorrow, James said, and remains committed to programs such as the F-35 joint strike fighter, the KC-46 refueling tanker, the long-range strike bomber, and two-thirds of the nation’s nuclear triad: bombers and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“We’re committed to all of this,” the secretary said. “We’re funding these going forward as well as beginning to replace aging platforms.”

The secretary noted her final priority is making every dollar count for the taxpayer. “To me, this means keeping acquisition programs on budget, on schedule,” she explained. “It means auditability as a fundamental principle of our good stewardship.”

It also means trimming overhead in the Air Force, including the 20 percent headquarters reduction Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel directed, she said, noting that she believes the Air Force will do even better than that.

James also emphasized the “very serious” impacts of reverting to sequestration-level budgets in fiscal 2016 and beyond, as current law requires.

“We do not recommend this,” she said. “We feel it would compromise our national security too much.” The bottom line is it’s a bad deal for the Air Force, the Defense Department and the country, James said, as she urged Congress to support the higher levels of defense spending under President Barack Obama’s budget.

James shared her vision of the Air Force in 10 years, projecting that it will be a highly capable, innovative and ready force.

“We will be a good value in everything that we do for our taxpayers,” she said. “We will be able to respond overseas decisively through unparalleled air power, and we’ll also stand ready to defend here at home when disaster strikes.

“We’ll be more reliant, not less, on our Guard and Reserve,” James continued, “and we will be powered by the very best airmen on this planet who live the culture of dignity and respect for all, integrity, service and excellence.”



Retirement Ceremony for General Keith Alexander

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Fort Meade, MD, Friday, March 28, 2014


Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.

To my distinguished colleagues, whom I have the honor of sitting with here on this platform this afternoon, to members of Congress who are here, today, we thank and we honor the extraordinary service of General Keith Alexander. We also thank his family: Debbie, Jennifer, Julie, Diana, and Heather, and their hundreds and hundreds of grandchildren.

We thank you all for your tremendous support of Keith over many years, and your tremendous sacrifice to our country. Thank you.

Keith, our country thanks you for your extraordinary 40 years of service and your West Point classmate, Marty Dempsey, will have something to say about you a little later.

He may not be as kind.

As we end an era at the “Fort,” I want to say a few words to the men and women of the National Security Agency, because today, we also honor you, America’s silent sentries.

Given your skills and your training, many of you have left or turned down far more lucrative positions to work here. A 75 percent pay cut is hardly unheard of.

Thousands of you have undertaken multiple, voluntary deployments to combat zones, and your contributions have been decisive. They have made a difference. You enabled the military to dramatically reduce casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan by helping disable improvised explosive devices, and provided critical intelligence that helped hunt down the world’s most notorious terrorists.


Closer to home, your support to U.S. and Mexican authorities has helped combat the violence associated with the ongoing struggle against drug cartels operating near the U.S.-Mexican border.

There is much more that we just simply can’t discuss in public. But we can say this: from the Battle of Midway to the age of terror, our nation’s history would read far differently were it not for the NSA and its predecessors.

As the longest-serving Director of NSA, General Alexander has led this agency through countless intelligence breakthrough and successes. He’s also led NSA through one of the most challenging periods in its history, in our history. And he did so with a fierce, but necessary determination to develop and protect tools vital to our national security.

President Obama’s reforms, including his announcement yesterday on government retention of telephone metadata, reflect both the importance, the importance of signals intelligence—and the importance of honoring our nation’s tradition of privacy rights.

We will continue to engage in a more open dialogue with the American public, as Admiral Rogers emphasized a few weeks ago during his Senate hearing to succeed General Alexander. That is the spirit of today’s first-ever live broadcast from the headquarters of NSA in CYBERCOM.

But we will sustain our investments in intelligence be because it’s one of our most important national assets, because it keeps our troops a step ahead on the battlefield, and because America depends on it.

We also are protecting critical investments in our military’s cyber capabilities, which have been anchored by General Alexander’s vision for CYBERCOM.

The first email was sent on the DOD supported ARPANET when Keith was at West Point, when dinosaurs roamed the earth. Today more than 40 trillion emails are sent each year. There are 60 trillion web pages. The internet accounts for one-fifth of GDP growth among developed countries, and it continues to connect, improve, and transform the lives of billions of people all over the world.

But our nation’s reliance on cyberspace outpaces our cybersecurity. During the course of my remarks today, DOD’s systems will have been scanned by adversaries around 50,000 times. Our nation confronts the proliferation of destructive malware and a new reality of steady, ongoing and aggressive efforts to probe, access or disrupt public and private networks, and the industrial control systems that manage our water and our energy and our food supplies.

The United States Government and the private sector grasp cyber threats far better than we did just a few years ago. And thanks to General Alexander’s visionary leadership as the first commander of U.S. Cyber Command, the Department of Defense is on its way to building a modern cyber force of really true and tremendous professionals.

And this force is enhancing our ability to deter aggression in cyber space, deny adversaries their objectives, and defend the nation from cyber attacks that threaten our national security.

Even though we can respond to cyber attacks in any domain, this force is expanding the president’s options with full-spectrum cyber capabilities that can complement other military assets.

Our military’s first responsibility is to prevent and de-escalate conflict and that is DOD’s overriding purpose in cyberspace as well. General Alexander has helped leaders across DOD recognize that cyberspace will be a part of all future conflicts. And if we don’t adapt to that reality, our national security will be at great risk.

The United States does not seek to militarize cyberspace. Instead, our government is promoting the very qualities of the internet in integrity, reliability, and openness that have made it a catalyst for freedom and prosperity in the United States and around the world.


Consistent with these efforts, DOD will maintain an approach of restraint to any cyber operations outside the U.S. Government networks. We are urging other nations to do the same.

We will continue to take steps to be open and transparent about our cyber capabilities, our doctrine, and our forces with the American people, our allies and our partners, and even our competitors.

DOD’s initiatives in cyberspace are managed by the professionals that General Alexander has been recruiting and training here at Cyber Command. In 2016, that force should number over 6,000 professionals who, with the close support of NSA, will be integrated with our combatant commands around the world, and defend the United States against major cyber attacks. Continuing General Alexander’s work to build this cyber force will remain one of DOD’s top priorities.

To accomplish this goal, we are recruiting talent from everywhere. But we’re also encouraging people already here in the military, in DOD, to develop…cyber skills.

When I was here last year, I had the privilege of meeting dozens of people, many in this room, including Petty Officer First Class Chase Hardison. Chase Hardison is an Interactive Operator at CYBERCOM. Four years ago when Petty Officer Hardison was a Machinist’s Mate tending turbines, generators, and valves on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, he had a conversation with his wife about his future in the Navy, and he decided to sign up for a cyber course in Pensacola.

Petty Officer Hardison grew up in a town without high-speed Internet access, but he went on to graduate second in his class at Pensacola, missing first by only 4/100ths of a point. For now, he’s focused on his seven-month-old son Noah, and his making his way up to journeyman and then master operator. But he also knows he’ll have great options and opportunities when he’s ready to leave the Navy.

To continue recruiting and retaining talent like Petty Officer Hardison, we must build rewarding, long-term cyber career paths. Our military must enable our people to reinvent themselves for life and beyond their service. That’s a proud tradition of our armed forces. It is also how we shape a modern, cutting edge military that outmatches the most advanced adversaries. It’s how we stay ahead. It’s how we protect our country, our economy, our interests.

One of America’s most venerable historians, C. Vann Woodward once wrote that America’s enjoyment of nature’s gifts of three vast bodies of water — the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Arctic — buffered us unlike any other nation from powers that might threaten our safety, freed us of anxieties, inspired our unique optimism, and put…a stamp on our special national character.

America has always adapted to new threats. But today, a networked world — a world in which oceans are crossed at the speed of light—presents challenges to American security that our nation has never before confronted.

Our responsibility, all of us, whatever the revolutions in technology, is to guard not only our nation, but also the fundamental character of our open society.

General Alexander, your vision, your dedication, your leadership have allowed us to begin that task. Now, it is ours to carry.

From a grateful nation, thank you, Keith.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Many Americans may not be able to pinpoint Ukraine on a map, but that Eastern European nation is driving U.S. foreign policy these days and keeping President Obama on the go.

Most voters oppose Russia’s annexation of the Crimea section of Ukraine, but just 11% think U.S. and European Union economic sanctions on Russian officials will cause Russia to give up Crimea. Only 22% think the United States should take more aggressive action against Russia if the sanctions fail.

The president visited Europe this week to drum up support for tougher action against Russia. Voters strongly believe that the United States’ relationship with Europe is an important one, but a plurality (48%) thinks the Europeans benefit from it more than we do. Just over half (53%) have a favorable opinion of our NATO military alliance with the Europeans.

But 83% have an unfavorable opinion of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the man behind the annexation of Crimea.  

Forty-four percent (44%) of voters now rate Obama as a good or excellent leader. Forty percent (40%) think he’s doing a poor job.

The president’s daily job approval rating remains in the negative mid-teens where it has been for much of his presidency. 

Also on the diplomatic front, views of Secretary of State John Kerry have changed little since the president nominated him to the Cabinet post 15 months ago. Forty-four percent (44%) of voters view Kerry favorably, while 46% share an unfavorable view of the former senator and 2004 Democratic presidential candidate.

On the home front, the president’s policies faced legal challenges in two areas in recent days.

Despite opposition from the U.S. Justice Department, a federal judge two weeks ago upheld the right of states to require proof of citizenship before allowing someone to register to vote. Seventy-eight percent (78%) of voters believe everyone should be required to prove his or her citizenship before being allowed to vote.

The U.S. Supreme Court this past week heard a challenge of the new national health care law in which two businesses argued that for religious reasons they should not be required to provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their women employees. Voters by a 49% to 40% margin agree that a business should be allowed to opt out of providing coverage for contraceptives if it violates the religious beliefs of the business owner.

Voters still don’t like the health care law but are more supportive of government-mandated health insurance standards as long as consumers still can choose the kind of plan they want based on costs and coverage.

Democrats have led Republicans most weeks this year on the Generic Congressional Ballot and are now ahead by four.

Thirty-six U.S. Senate seats are up for grabs this November. Twenty-one are held by Democrats and 15 by Republicans. The GOP needs to pick up six new seats to take control of the chamber. Rasmussen Reports began polling key Senate races in mid-January and will be returning to these races in the months ahead because a lot can change. But this is what America thinks in the Senate races so far

In this past week’s surveys, Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley holds a slight lead over his three top Republican challengers in the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Iowa.

Incumbent Democrat Mark Begich is in a neck-and-neck battle with his two top Republican challengers. Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan, in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the U.S. Senate race in Alaska.

Short-term optimism about the nation’s economic recovery has reached an all-time low. Just 24% of Americans think the U.S. economy will be stronger a year from now, the lowest finding in over six years of regular surveying. Nearly twice as many (46%) expect a weaker economy in a year’s time.

Thirty-two percent (32%) think now is a good time for someone in their area to sell a house, down from September’s high of 39%. Still, only 18% say their home is worth less today than when they bought it, the lowest level of pessimism in three years of regular tracking.

The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure daily confidence in both groups are down slightly from the beginning of the year but remain ahead of where they have been for much of the time since the fall 2008 Wall Street meltdown. 

Nineteen percent (19%) of Americans think they will be traveling more this year compared to 2013, while just as many (20%) expect to be traveling less.

But Americans overwhelmingly agree that whatever happened to the missing Malaysian Airlines jetliner, it won’t affect their travel plans. Frequent flyers are even more emphatic about that.

Only 38%, however, believe it’s even somewhat likely that we will ever find out exactly what happened to the missing plane.

In other surveys this week:

— Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction.

— Forty-three percent (43%) now believe the U.S. justice system is not fair to most Americans.

— Just 18% think U.S. public schools provide a world-class education.

— Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Americans say they are at least somewhat likely to buy or lease a new car in the next year, including 13% who are Very Likely to do so.

— Ford, the one Big Three automaker who didn’t take a federal bailout, is still better liked than General Motors and Chrysler, and a sizable number of Americans will buy Ford and not GM because of those bailouts.

March 22 2014




The Pentagon Needs A New Way Of War

Robert Haddick

March 18, 2014 ·


Can the Pentagon do the same with less? That seems to be what the White House expects. The U.S. Department of Defense recently released the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Pentagon’s latest attempt to explain its global military strategy for the medium term. But far more revealing than the QDR itself was the “Chairman’s Assessment” of the QDR, written by General Martin Dempsey and appended to the end of the report. Dempsey’s tepid and qualified endorsement of the QDR (also discussed by WOTR’s Bryan McGrath) and his candid accounting of geostrategic risks that will compound over the next decade, provide a bracing contrast to the main text. In his second paragraph, he warns, “With our ‘ends’ fixed and our ‘means’ declining, it is therefore imperative that we innovate within the ‘ways’ we defend the Nation.”

Dempsey is more honest than the QDR at noting the yawning gap between what policymakers want the military to do around the world and what capacities the military possesses and will possess to achieve these goals. Bridging the chasm will require new thinking about how to use military force, which may result in some disruptive and unpleasant conclusions for established doctrine, organizations, and military cultures.

The new QDR maintains the same expansive ends that the U.S. has sought since World War II. In addition to protecting the U.S. homeland, the QDR calls for the U.S. military to “build security globally” and to “project power and win decisively.” The document projects a smaller military force by 2019, but a force that leaders in the Pentagon still believe will be capable of accomplishing its assignments, albeit with some additional risk in a few areas.

Missing from the QDR is an analysis of why the reduced military force structure for 2019 will be adequate for the expansive goals assigned to it. This missing analysis is frustrating for both dovish and hawkish military analysts. Doves see a huge defense budget (nearly as big as the next fifteen largest military budgets combined), the world’s most advanced military technology, and the most experienced soldiers, all operating in a world they believe lacks plausible military threats to the U.S. The QDR does not explain to the doves why the envisioned force for 2019, with the same ambitious goals, is necessary.

Hawks are frustrated that the authors of the QDR were largely unwilling to identify major geostrategic competitors like China and Russia by name, and that the authors were similarly afraid to describe in detail innovative adversary military approaches, such as missile-based theater anti-access strategies, because to do so would reveal a Pentagon that has been largely unresponsive to such growing threats for over a decade. Pentagon leaders will plea that they don’t want the QDR to raise unnecessary tensions or to reveal military secrets. But the result for both dovish and hawkish observers is a loss of confidence in whether the Pentagon is capable of effective strategy, a perception reinforced by the results from the last decade.

The QDR’s authors admit that the Pentagon is taking increased risk with its defense drawdown. But the document doesn’t say clearly what these risks are, only that they’ll get worse if the return of sequestration in 2016 cuts the budget even more. Dempsey’s assessment letter by contrast is refreshingly honest. He forecasts,

the risk of interstate conflict in East Asia to rise, the vulnerability of our platforms and basing to increase, our technology edge to erode, instability to persist in the Middle East, and threats posed by violent extremist organizations to endure. Nearly any future conflict will occur on a much faster pace and on a more technically challenging battlefield. And, in the case of U.S. involvement in conflicts overseas, the homeland will no longer be a sanctuary either for our forces or for our citizens.

Strategy is about setting priorities. The QDR doesn’t want to do this too explicitly because it is too embarrassing to cut allies adrift. And as Secretary of State Dean Acheson could explain after the Korean War broke out in 1950, being too explicit about your defense priorities can have regrettable consequences. But as a result, the QDR doesn’t give much guidance on what adversaries and contingencies U.S. military forces should prepare for.

Here again, Dempsey’s assessment letter does much better. He gives a rank-order list of missions, starting with “Maintain a secure and effective nuclear deterrent,” and ending with “Conduct humanitarian assistance and disaster response.” It is with point three on Dempsey’s list, “defeat an adversary,” that the gap between what the U.S. military needs to be able to do, and what it will be able to do, may first appear.

How specifically will policymakers define “defeat an adversary”? Does this mean destroy the adversary’s armed forces in the field? With the exception of Panama in 1989, the United States arguably hasn’t accomplished that task since 1945. In Dempsey’s view, conventional military fights will be even more challenging in the future. For example, destroying mobile, land-based, long-range missile launchers in Iran or China—a necessary condition for reopening critical sea lanes during a conflict—will be an immensely frustrating task. And after more than a decade of intense effort, the United States and its partners still aren’t sure whether they have decisively defeated the amorphous non-state terror networks they have targeted.

Bridging the gap between what the U.S. military needs to do and what it will be able to do will almost certainly require more funding than current plans call for. But more money alone will not be a competitive strategy. Many adversaries—be they China or an al Qaeda affiliate—will be able to add incremental military capacity at lower costs than will the Pentagon. It won’t be competitive for the Pentagon to engage in an arms race with adversaries with lower marginal costs.

This means first starting from principles that explore new ways—new tactics, doctrines, organizations, and technologies—to directly target an adversary’s organizational capacity, its incentives, and will to fight. These have been critical “centers of gravity” since the beginning of time. But recent changes in technology and culture provide new opportunities to attack these factors directly, in some cases bypassing traditional forms of military power.

The Pentagon needs a new way of war. The traditional American ways of employing military power against an adversary’s military forces have fallen short of strategic success for many years, a deficiency that will not get better in the decade ahead. Military strategists need a fresh appraisal of the logic linking military force to the achievement of strategic goals. When done honestly, the result will likely be some revolutionary and disruptive changes in military doctrine, organizations, procurement policies, and culture. Dempsey’s frank assessment of the QDR is a start down this path.

Robert Haddick is an independent contractor at U.S. Special Operations Command. He writes here in a personal capacity. In September 2014, U.S. Naval Institute Press will publish Fire on the Water: China, America, and the Future of the Pacific, Haddick’s book on the rise of China’s military power and U.S. strategy in East Asia.


Pentagon Asks Air Force About Russia Rocket Engine

By Tony Capaccio

Mar 20, 2014 12:10 PM ET


Pentagon officials have asked the Air Force to review whether the use of Russian engines on rockets from a Lockheed Martin Corp.-Boeing Co. (BA) team creates a national security risk.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week at a House of Representatives subcommittee hearing that a review was needed after Russia’s incursion into the Crimea and threats to the Ukraine prompted a reassessment of U.S.-Russia relations.

United Launch Alliance LLC, the Lockheed-Boeing joint venture, uses Russian engines on Atlas V rockets the Pentagon depends on to launch military satellites. Tensions over Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea region has sparked questions about that supply connection.

The Pentagon purchases launch services from United Launch Alliance, including the Atlas and Boeing Delta models that use different engines. Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed used the Russian-made RD-180 engine for years on its Atlas V rocket before joining Chicago-based Boeing in the alliance.

“The department had recently completed an assessment of the use of foreign components” including the RD-180 engine, Maureen Schumann, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said in an e-mail statement.

“In light of the current situation, we have directed the Air Force perform an additional review to ensure we completely understand the implications, including supply interruptions, of using foreign components” in the program, she said.

Pentagon officials estimate it would cost U.S. companies as much as $1 billion to produce the engine domestically and take as long as five years, Schumann said.


Security Interest

Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of Space Exploration Technologies Corp., a company that’s trying to break into the military launch market, said at a March 5 congressional hearing that launches may be at risk because of Boeing’s and Lockheed’s dependence on the Russian engine.

Musk, who also is chairman and chief executive officer of Tesla Motors Inc. (TSLA), said the Atlas V rockets should be phased out for the “long-term security interest of the country.”

In her statement, Schumann said since the beginning of the program in 1995 “there has been concern about the use of foreign components in the launch vehicle, particularly the Russian RD-180 engine.”

“The Air Force regularly reviews and analyzes various components” of the program to include “any potential risks associated with the use of RD-180 engines,” she said.

The joint venture “has stockpiled about a two-year supply of the engines” based on the current planned satellite launch schedule.

If the RD-180 supply is restricted, the Defense Department “would prioritize” the engines’ use for the highest value satellites, she said.



Pentagon’s Gamble on Getting More Money Questioned

By Roxana Tiron and Tony Capaccio

Mar 20, 2014 10:30 AM ET


The Pentagon is betting that Congress will roll back $35 billion in automatic defense cuts scheduled to begin in fiscal 2016.

That may prove wishful thinking, with little consensus among lawmakers over eliminating the looming defense cuts that were part of the across-the-board reductions, known as sequestration, embedded in the 2011 agreement to lift the federal debt limit.

“I hope there is nobody naive enough to believe that we can just end it for defense,” Dick Durbin, the Senate’s second-ranking Democrat and chairman of the Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said of sequestration in an interview. “It’s going to be ended for both defense and non-defense if it’s going to work.”

A congressional budget agreement reached in December, P.L. 113-067, partially eased the cuts for the current year, fiscal 2014, as well as the coming fiscal year, which begins this October and for which appropriators are now developing spending plans.

With the deeper spending reductions set to resume in succeeding years, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Pentagon planners are lobbying Congress to head off such cuts to military forces and equipment.

The 2016 fiscal year “will be a critical inflection point,” Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox wrote March 5 in a memo to all military service chiefs. “We will look for a signal from Congress that sequestration will not be imposed in FY 2016.”


Ukraine Crisis

The crisis in relations between the U.S. and Russia over Ukraine may produce public support for more defense spending, said Oklahoma Republican Tom Cole, a member of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

“People begin to see the consequences to lowering our military profile,” Cole said in an interview.

If sequestration isn’t replaced in 2016, the Pentagon will be forced to reduce its proposed $535.1 billion request for fiscal 2016 to about $500 billion. That’s on top of the $37 billion in defense cuts for fiscal 2013 and $25 billion for the current fiscal year. About $45 billion is to be trimmed in the fiscal 2015 request from the $541 billion projected last year.

The bipartisan support for the current two-year budget plan may not hold in future negotiations, when previous differences in how spending should be allocated could resurface.


Non-Defense Cuts

Nita Lowey, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said she opposed continuation of sequestration for both defense and domestic programs. The New York lawmaker said cuts to defense are “very damaging to preparedness, and cuts to the National Institutes of Health, among other areas, in the non-defense part of the budget would be a disaster,” she said in an interview. “I would hope that thoughtful Republicans would prevent that from happening.”

Rodney Frelinghuysen, who leads the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, said he would like to see the sequester, “undone, absolutely.”


“We’ll show the critical mass of people on our side of the aisle that regular order is better than continuing resolutions and the sequester,” the New Jersey Republican said in an interview.

Some Republicans want to increase defense spending at the expense of domestic programs, while others aligned with small-government groups such as the Tea Party back keeping sequestration in place to ensure federal spending is reduced.


Sacred Cows

“Sequestration should be used as a tool for us to get actual spending cuts,” Representative Raul Labrador, an Idaho Republican backed by the Tea Party, said in an interview. “Everybody has to put their sacred cows on the table.”

Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, also a Tea Party favorite, said that “unsustainable debt” is one of the greatest “national security threats.”

“We should address our national defense needs but do so in combination with responsible fiscal restraint on the non-defense side,” Cruz said in an interview.

Popular defense programs and personnel would be hit if sequestration isn’t rolled back by Congress. The Pentagon says it would have to cut the number of aircraft carriers to 10 from 11 and adjust the number of helicopters and fighter jets such as F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets made by Chicago-based Boeing Co. (BA) and possibly F-35 Joint Strike Fighters made by Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)


Paring Forces

Instead of the currently planned reduction to about 450,000 troops by 2019, the active Army would have to pare its force to 420,000. The Marine Corps would have to be prepared to reduce personnel to 175,000 from an initial reduction to 182,000, the Pentagon says.

Pentagon officials say they would like an answer sooner rather than later about Congress’s intentions on sequestration.

“The sooner that we can get a firm indication that sequestration will no longer remain the law of the land, the better, but I can’t sit here” and “put a date on the calendar and say we have to have it by April 1st or May 15th,” Rear Admiral John Kirby, a Defense Department spokesman, said.


Early 2015

For the Pentagon to devise a budget request for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, 2015, that avoids the automatic cuts, Congress and President Barack Obama would have to reach an agreement by early next year.

With the midterm elections in November, Congress is unlikely to handle controversial budget issues this year.

House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, plans to submit a budget blueprint for fiscal 2015 that would increase defense spending while keeping the $1.04 trillion cap agreed to in last year’s deal. That would mean cuts in domestic spending, which would almost certainly be rejected in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Republicans hope to win a Senate majority in November, which they say could lead to more support for boosting defense funding.


“We might have some more willing partners across the way,” Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican and vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in an interview.

If Republicans win both chambers of Congress in 2014, “defense really is going to be a Republican priority,” Republican Cole said. “It’s achievable.”


DOD delays rulemaking on rapid reporting of cyber penetrations

Posted: March 20, 2014


The Pentagon needs more time to develop highly anticipated draft regulations that would require defense contractors with security clearances to rapidly report penetrations of their networks and information systems.

An ad hoc committee, tasked in January 2013 by the Defense Acquisition Regulations Council director with developing the statutorily required procedures, was due to report back to the director on Wednesday.

But the interim Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation System rule, known as DFARS case 2013-D018, remains under development and was not submitted to the director on Wednesday, meaning the deadline will be extended, a defense official told Inside Cybersecurity.

This marks the latest in a series of delays in the rulemaking process. The fiscal year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act, enacted in January 2013, originally called for the Defense Department to develop the procedures within 90 days.

The official said the department had not yet set a new deadline in light of this week’s delay. Once DOD issues the interim rule, a formal process of soliciting public comments would begin.

Section 941 of the FY-13 National Defense Authorization Act requires the department to develop the new regulation. The law calls for cleared defense contractors to rapidly report penetrations of networks and information systems, and allows DOD personnel access to equipment and information to assess the impact of reported penetrations.

That has attorneys asking what a penetration is, whether investigations will be disclosed, whether such incidents are “material events,” whether this will extend to unclassified networks (the law’s language leaves open this possibility) and what impact this might have on trade secrets and sensitive data, according to a presentation by the law firm Dickstein Shapiro.

Also unclear is how rapidly contractors will have to report penetrations. The law does not specify, but DOD’s implementation procedures are expected to include such detail. – Christopher J. Castelli (



How Western Bureaucrats Stirred Putin’s Petulance into a Cold War Crisis

Defense One

James Kitfield

March 20, 2014


In recent days Russia has revealed the gambit that opened with a $15 billion bailout for a client in Kiev and morphed into the seizure and annexation of Crimea, all part of Vladimir Putin’s risky defense of what he sees as Moscow’s privileged “sphere of influence.” Putin’s bellicose rhetoric proclaiming a right to intervene militarily wherever ethnic Russians are threatened suggests that the territorial integrity of Ukraine and other neighbors remains at serious risk. As the Western alliance inevitably responds with tougher sanctions and further efforts to draw Kiev westward, leaders must now decide if 21st century soft-power and economic sanctions trumps 19th century hard power and Putin’s decidedly zero-sum worldview.

It’s instructive to remember how the tug-of-war over Ukraine’s orientation escalated into the worst East-versus-West crisis in more than three decades. From the beginning all sides have been guilty of faulty assumptions and strategic miscalculation. Putin has made clear that his proposed creation of a Russian-led trading bloc called the “Eurasian Union” is a legacy issue, a milestone in his long project to restore Russian prestige and regional power. He has publicly admitted that such a union is largely meaningless without Ukraine’s participation, given that country’s size and close business and cultural ties to Russia. And yet Putin seems oblivious to the fragility of an economic edifice built more on naked coercion and bribes than on shared business interests.

With Putin distracted in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics, and the United States focused on crises in the Middle East and a “pivot” to Asia, European Union bureaucrats saw an opportunity to steal a march on Moscow by concluding ambitious “Association Agreements” with Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova and Armenia. These agreements seem benign to Western sensibilities, but buried in the minutia of their “Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area” language is the essence of democratic capitalism, with its emphasis on transparency, the rule of law and protection of minority rights. They are the chief instruments of European soft-power, and Putin unsurprisingly views them as a threat to the Russian model of authoritarian capitalism, with its focus on centralized state power, cheap energy bribes and crony kleptocracy.

In the run-up to an “Eastern Partnership” summit in Vilinius, last November, European Union officials reportedly made clear to the expected signatories that the “Association Agreements” were incompatible with Putin’s proposed Eurasian Union. They thus played into Putin’s zero-sum mindset and the fear of encirclement of someone who lost an older brother in the German siege of Leningrad during World War II. When Putin, the former KGB case officer, cut a $15 billion deal with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to scuttle the EU agreement, he was predictably outraged that violent street protests in Kiev forced his very expensive client to flee for his life.

In danger of being outmaneuvered, Putin looked West and saw an initially disengaged and war-weary America, and a pacifist Europe weakened by the monetary crisis yet meddling in Russia’s near-abroad. Fiona Hill, a Brookings Institution scholar and coauthor of the recent book Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin,” notes that at that point Putin fashioned a hard-power response that plays to type and resonates deeply in an aggrieved Russian psyche. The essence of his message to the West, she writes: “We thought we made it very clear in Georgia in 2008 that we are prepared to stand up for our interests, take the risks of military intervention. We can suffer sanctions…[and] have a higher threshold for pain than you do. Have you forgotten our national narrative and the siege of Leningrad? Do you want to go to war over Ukraine? We don’t, but we’re ready to if you don’t back down and back off!”


With Russia’s annexation of Crimea, President Barack Obama had no choice but to ratchet up the sanctions pressure to exact a higher price, and hopefully force Putin to eventually seek an off-ramp in the escalating crisis. In fashioning an economic bailout of a cash-strapped government in Kiev, Brussels expects Ukraine to finally sign its “Association Agreement” as early as Friday, continuing to draw Ukraine closer to the economic bosom of Europe. In determining whether to remain a somewhat neutral country or fling itself into the arms of the West, however, Ukrainians should understand there are tens of thousands of Russian troops on their border, a Russian red line that runs roughly down the center of their country, and a revisionist strongman in the Kremlin echoing his forebear Joseph Stalin, who was once warned that the Pope objected to Russia’s repression of Catholics.

“The Pope?” Stalin asked. “How many divisions has he got.


Drone Warfare Is Why We Can’t Find Malaysian Airlines Flight 370

Patrick Tucker

March 20, 2014


The long and frustrating hunt for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 might be a sign of what’s to come, thanks to our growing obsession with drone imagery at the expense of the quaint technology of satellite radar data.

While today’s high-resolution image satellites can take very detailed pictures of relatively small areas, old-fashioned radar satellites are the best solution for finding lost objects at sea, says Kurt Schwoppe, manager for imagery solutions for the company Esri. Radar satellites don’t see the world. Rather they get a sense of objects in somewhat the same way that a bat does. As bats use sonar to bounce signals off of prey to determine the location of targets and other objects, radar satellites take detailed scans of the planet by bouncing electromagnetic signals off the earth’s surface. Military officials won’t publicly disclose what assets they are using in the search for the missing aircraft. But militarily speaking, these sorts of satellites were great for seeing over large areas where there was cloud cover or finding ghost ships that had turned off their transponders. They’re also useful for spotting anomalies at sea.

“If there’s any oil slick that stands out well because there’s these flat dark spots where there are no wave ripples at all. If there’s an angular thing, like maybe a wing floating on the surface or some type of debris, that stuff stands out brightly” says Schwoppe.

It’s a technology that NASA led in the development of in the 1970s. Today, space-based radar is an area where other countries are out-innovating the United States, at least commercially. The main private players are AirBus and a Canadian public-private program called RADARSAT (which includes Lockheed Martin but is run out of Canada by MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates or MDA). “From a commercial company standpoint, we have not flown a radar satellite ourselves,” says Schwoppe.

That’s a problem because the U.S. continues to rely more on commercial satellites for our imaging data. “Right now to buy this data from the Canadians or the Europeans is just very, very expensive. So then it never gets acquired,” says Schwoppe. “The U.S. has invested a lot in this technology and the question is, can we get some of these commercial vendors up and start making a commercial business out of this and get it more and more readily available for different use cases. It seems we’re great at developing technology. Then others adopt it and put it to good use and for us it sits on the shelf a little bit.”

Lagging space-based radar imaging has bitten us before. During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010, in which 4.9 million barrels of oil were leaked into the Gulf of Mexico, high-resolution satellites took volumes of pictures but could not get a comprehensive sense of the entire spill area. The RADARSAT II satellite, conversely, was able to provide daily coverage of the entire area. You think the U.S. would have learned.

To understand how the U.S. got to this point, consider the last decade’s evolution of reconnaissance tools. In Afghanistan and Iraq, we brought high-resolution satellite imagery to bear on the task of getting snap shots, at a resolution as fine as 50 cm, of insurgents hiding among the dusty hills of the Pakistan border.

Today, high-resolution satellite imagery is playing a role in the search for Flight 370. U.S. company DigitalGlobe has opened up its image satellites to aid in the search and launched a crowdsource campaign to enlist volunteers to analyze the images. “Users can go to Tomnod, and zoom in on each satellite image from DigitalGlobe’s satellite constellation and drop a pin if they see signs of wreckage. Its algorithm, CrowdRank, will find where there is overlap in the tags from people who tagged the same location. Then, DigitalGlobe’s expert analysts will examine the tags to identify the top 10 or so most notable areas and share the information with customers and authorities,” a company official explained, in an email.

But the crowdsourced solution may not be ideal and can produce false positives, as evinced by the singer Courtney Love’s fleeting but ebullient conviction that she had found the phantom Malaysian flight based on satellite imagery.

Schwoppe is skeptical of the tactic. The necessity of crowdsourcing speaks to the fact that high-resolution imagery doesn’t offer wide enough coverage. DigitalGlobe’s satellites can only see an area that’s 18 kilometers wide. RADARSAT’s synthetic aperture radar can cover 500 kilometers.

U.S. reliance on high-resolution imaging is surpassed only by the military obsession with unmanned areal vehicles or UAVs, which have proven relatively useless in the current search for Flight 370. UAVs were an ideal solution for an environment like Afghanistan or Iraq where the military wanted the ability to follow a target from house to house to roadside, or perhaps loiter over a key area where insurgents might be gathering. “From a tactical perspective in actually fighting ground operations, UAVs were extremely powerful and they met that niche,” Schwoppe observed. “We had the luxury to do that because we totally controlled the airspace over Iraq and Afghanistan and you know we won’t have that same luxury in other areas.”

As previously mentioned, the most-recent budget request cuts spending for Navy satellite communications to $41,829,000 from $66,196,000 and the Navy Satellite Control Network $20,806,000 from $35,657,000.

Schwoppe believes that military spending on radar satellites is probably safe, but can’t be sure. “I can tell you, the reconnaissance community understands and knows the value of radar, especially as targets change.” But he acknowledges that broader cuts in military satellite programs are disturbing.

Also, European and Canadian groups have found civilian uses for radar technology in environmental monitoring, another area where the U.S. lags.

If the U.S. and allies don’t give this old technology some better attention, the next Flight 370 might be even harder to find.


How the U.S. Outsmarted Everyone by Giving Up the Internet

Patrick Tucker

March 17, 2014


The U.S. may have kept China and Russia from gaining influence over the Internet by announcing a plan to keep less control for itself.

On Friday, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, or NTIA, quietly announced that it is giving up remaining U.S. control of the Internet’s domain naming system to the broader international community.

Critics quickly expressed concern that the handover could make the Internet less secure. Former House Speaker New Gingrich took to Twitter to ask: “What is the global internet community that Obama wants to turn the internet over to? This risks foreign dictatorships defining the Internet.”

But Matthew Prince, co-founder of the company Cloudflare, said that giving up control of DNS — in the way that NTIA did it — was actually a savvy move that will keep the Internet more open to citizens and less controllable by dictatorships.

“I think the general story is completely wrong,” he said.

The shrewdness of the move rests in a little-noticed section of the Friday press release, which states: “NTIA will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA role with a government-led or an inter-governmental organization solution.”

That one caveat is key, Prince says, to making sure that the Internet continues to operate in the way that it does, bottom-up and user-driven — and not according to the whim of Beijing or Moscow.

“The real story is that the U.S. has pre-empted the argument that any government should have control of the Internet. Instead, it says that the Internet is a network defined by a collection of different stakeholders that must be governed by the bottom up rather than a traditional top down approach. I think it was a brilliant move to make sure that the Internet stays what it is,” Prince said.

The form that the transition, planned since 1997, will take has yet to be determined, but the California-based Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers or ICANN will be running the process

Here’s what’s specifically up for grabs: the ability to make changes to the domain name system or DNS and the database containing the world’s top-level domains. The domain name system is essentially how you find every web site and email on the Internet. It’s what links an IP address to a specific URL, so when you type in a web site, you are taken immediately to the numerical address of the computer where that web site is hosted.

Russia and China have led a strong effort to put more control of the Internet under the International Telecommunication Union, or ITU, which would effectively give those governments greater say in how the Internet is run. The ITU is the United Nations agency for information and communication technologies. Internet watchers expected Russia, China or the UN to make a big push for more ITU control during an upcoming ITU meeting in Busan, South Korea. By making this move now, Prince said, the U.S. renders that strategy unworkable.

“Now, when China stands up and says we want a seat at the table of Internet governance the U.S. can say ‘no. The Internet should be stateless.’ They’re in a much stronger position to make that argument today than they were before,” Prince said.


Kremlin says Crimea is now officially part of Russia after treaty signing, Putin speech


By Will Englund,

Published: March 18

MOSCOW — Invoking the suffering of the Russian people and a narrative of constant betrayals by the West, President Vladimir Putin declared Tuesday that Russia was within its rights to reclaim Crimea, then signed a treaty that did just that.

Putin, defiant in the face of U.S. and European pressure, dispensed with legal deliberation and announced a swift annexation of Crimea, as if to put Europe’s most serious crisis in decades beyond the point where the results could be turned back.

Crimeans vote to join Russia: Residents of the Ukrainian peninsula turned out in large numbers for the referendum.

In a speech to a joint session of the Russian parliament, he compared the move to the independence declaration of Kosovo in 2008 and the reunification of Germany in 1990 — but, in reality, this is the first time that one European nation has seized territory from another since the end of World War II.

“Crimea is our common legacy,” Putin said. “It can only be Russian today.”

In Kiev, Ukrainian officials said they would never recognize or accept the loss of Crimea. Western leaders, including Vice President Biden during a visit to Poland and Lithuania, talked about further sanctions against Russia on top of those announced in the past two days. Russia is also facing expulsion from the Group of Eight leading industrial nations as relations between Moscow and the West reach their lowest level since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

In Crimea, where celebrations were held to mark the Russian annexation, a Ukrainian lieutenant was fatally shot in an incident that immediately set nerves on edge.

Putin declared that Russia has no interest in expanding its hold within Ukraine. “Don’t believe those who say Russia will take other regions after Crimea. We don’t need that,” he said.

But Putin also said that Russia would always be ready to stand up for the rights of fellow Russians living in other countries. He mentioned, seemingly in passing, that Russians in eastern Ukraine, in the cities of Kharkiv and Donetsk, had been subject to the same sort of abuse at the hands of Ukrainian nationalists that he said had led him to act on Crimea.

Putin’s speech, nearly 50 minutes long, catalogued 20 years of Russian complaints about the West. He touched on the Soviet Union’s downfall, Kosovo, NATO expansion, missile defense, Libya, Iraq and Syria. He said the West has been backing Ukrainians responsible for “terror, murder and riots,” including neo-

Nazis, anti-Semites and Russophobes.

“Our Western partners have crossed a line,” Putin said. “We have every reason to think that the notorious policy of confining Russia, pursued in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today.”

He said the challenge presented to Russia by the Ukrainian crisis couldn’t be ducked.

“We have to admit one thing — Russia is an active participant in international affairs,” he said. “At these critical times, we see the maturity of nations, the strength of nations.”

One factor that forced Russia to act, he said, was the threat that Ukraine, under its new leaders, might join NATO — which would have left Russia’s Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea, in an untenable position.


Derision toward sanctions

Putin insisted that Russia is acting within international law. He complained that leaders in the West, led by the Americans, “believe they’ve been entrusted by God to decide the fate of other people.”

The sanctions already announced by the United States, the European Union and Canada were treated with derision by the members of the Russian parliament Tuesday. They passed a unanimous resolution calling on the West to include every member of the Russian legislature on the sanctions list.

The speaker of the upper house of parliament, Valentina Matviyenko, who is on the U.S. sanctions list, was defiant.

“These days we are feeling a huge amount of pressure — pressure from the so-called authorities in Kiev and pressure from the West,” she said as she met with Crimean leaders. “Threats, announcement of sanctions, banned entry — all this comes from the helplessness when there is no legal argument.”

Dmitry Rogozin, the head of the Russian armaments industry, said Moscow needs to take up the cause of ethnic Russians in Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria, which has been outside Moldova’s control since the early 1990s. Now that Moldova is moving to sign an agreement with the E.U., Rogozin said, it is time for Russia to act. Rogozin is one of 11 Russians and Ukrainians named on the U.S. sanctions list announced Monday.

Putin traced Russian roots in Crimea to the baptism there of Vladimir, who converted the Russian people to Christianity just over 1,000 years ago. Putin mentioned that the bones of Russian soldiers who fought the British and French in the 19th century, and of Soviet soldiers who fought the Germans in World War II, are buried all across the Crimean Peninsula.

“All these places are sacred to us,” he said. After noting that Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev assigned Crimea to Ukraine in 1954, Putin argued that Russia by rights should have gotten back the peninsula in 1991 when the Soviet Union dissolved.

Russia was not “simply robbed, it was plundered,” he said.

He also touched on Russians’ roots in the Ukrainian heartland, in a way that many Ukrainians may not have found reassuring. “We sympathize with the people of Ukraine,” he said. “We’re one nation. Kiev is the mother of all Russian cities.”

He described today’s Kiev as a city where a legitimate protest was overtaken by those plotting a coup, backed by “foreign sponsors,” and where government ministers cannot act without getting permission “from the gunmen on the Maidan” — a reference to Independence Square, the heart of the protest movement that ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. “We have no one to negotiate with,” Putin said.

Ecstatic Russian lawmakers watched as Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty of accession as soon as the Russian leader was done speaking, and the Kremlin said afterward that it considers the treaty to be in force though it awaits ratification by parliament.

The city of Sevastopol also entered the Russian Federation, as a separate entity — a status it traditionally enjoyed as an important military center.


Putin’s talk of betrayal

In the early evening, Putin addressed a large celebratory rally on Moscow’s Red Square. “After a difficult, long and exhausting journey, Crimea and Sevastopol have returned to Russia — to their home harbor, their home shores, their home port,” he said.


In Kiev, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk gave a nationally televised address Tuesday — pointedly using the Russian language — in which he seemed to recognize the limits of the situation. He pledged that Ukraine would not join NATO and sought to reassure ethnic Russians and the government in Moscow.

Putin’s words were freighted with a sense of betrayal, said Samuel Charap, a senior fellow for Russia and Eurasia at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in Washington. Putin portrayed the United States and the West as using Ukraine and other countries as a battlefield on which they could prevail over Russia — and he got two standing ovations for doing so.


“I think it’s a trap we’ve gotten ourselves into about whether the sense of betrayal is rational or not,” Charap said. “The question is: Do they believe it or not? I think we underestimate the power of the grievance narrative by narrowly attributing it to a propaganda campaign or paranoid fantasies of a ruthless dictator. If this is what influences the decision-making climate, we have to deal with it.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Is anyone in Washington, D.C., listening to voters?

Just 18% of voters believe most members of Congress care what their constituents think. That helps explain why only 29% believe their local representative deserves reelection this November, a new low in surveying going back to November 2009.

One political analyst suggests adding 100 to 200 new members to the U.S. House of Representatives to lower the voter-to-member ratio. But just 17% favor that idea. Instead of being more responsive to voters, 77% think a bigger House would just be more inefficient and bureaucratic.

Meanwhile, President Obama is proposing $55 billion in new government spending and higher taxes in 2015 despite the fact that only 25% of voters think government spending increases help the economy and just 21% say the same of tax increases.

It doesn’t help that 69% believe middle-class Americans currently pay a larger share of their income in taxes than wealthy people do.

The president also has ordered the Labor Department to revise federal rules to allow more workers to qualify for overtime pay. Just 37% of voters believe increasing the number of people eligible for overtime pay will help the economy. Only 25% think it will help businesses.

At the same time, 53% expect the nation’s health care system to get worse under the new national health care law passed by Congress and signed by the president, a finding that has ranged from 48% to 61% in regular surveys since late 2012.

Republicans have taken a one-point lead on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot, but both parties earn less than 40% support, which indicates a high level of voter unhappiness with both camps.

Many voters express concern about the partisan battling in Washington, but a closer look at what America thinks about taxes and government spending makes it clearer why the political parties disagree so strongly.

Obama has been pushing for bigger government and more spending throughout his presidency, which may be one reason why his daily job approval rating has been in the negative teens for most of his time in office.

But 52% of voters now favor U.S. diplomatic action, including economic sanctions against Russia over the latter’s annexation of Crimea. That’s up from the high 30s earlier this month.

As tensions with Russia escalate, voters give the president his best marks in the national security area in several months. Forty-five percent (45%) now rate his handling of national security issues as good or excellent, while 36% still think he’s performing poorly in this area.

The GOP needs to pick up six seats in November to take control of the Senate. We took our first look at two more races this past week.

Republican Congressman Steve Daines is well ahead of interim Senator John Walsh and fellow Democrat John Bohlinger in the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Montana.

Former Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown announced recently that he is exploring a possible challenge against incumbent Democratic Senator Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, but Shaheen leads Brown 50% to 41% in the possible Senate race in the Granite State.

At week’s end, consumers continued to have a negative view of the economy, with just 21% who rated the economy as good or excellent and 38% who described it as poor. Investors were only slightly more confident.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of all Americans do not think the economy is fair to those who are willing to work hard.

Still, 36% of homeowners expect their home’s value to go up over the next year, the highest level of optimism since October. A year ago, only 30% expected their home to be worth more in the short term.

Twenty-four percent (24%), however, say the interest rates they are paying now are higher than last year at this time, the highest finding in nearly two years.

Most Americans remain concerned about inflation, with 84% who say they are paying more for groceries than they were a year ago. That’s the highest finding in over a year.

Just 51% of Americans are at least somewhat confident in the stability of the U.S. banking industry, with only 10% who are Very Confident.

In other surveys this week:

— Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

— With less than a month left until Tax Day, 51% of Americans have filed their income taxes, and nearly that many expect a refund.

The U.S. government announced recently that it is giving up its last bit of control over the Internet and turning it over to an international organization. But most voters think that’s a bad idea and expect countries like Russia and China to try to censor Internet content.

— Just six percent (6%) of Americans consider St. Patrick’s Day one of the nation’s most important holidays, and adults under 40 are much more likely to celebrate it than their elders.

— Sixty-nine percent (69%) of Americans say the arrival of spring puts them in a better mood.




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