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August 30 2014



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Tax refunds may get hit due to health law credits

By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar


WASHINGTON — Taxes? Who wants to think about taxes around Labor Day?

But if you count on your tax refund and you’re one of the millions getting tax credits to help pay health insurance premiums under President Obama’s law, it’s not too early.

Here’s why: If your income for 2014 is going to be higher than you estimated when you applied for health insurance, then complex connections between the health law and taxes can reduce or even eliminate your tax refund next year.

Maybe you’re collecting more commissions in an improving economy. Or your spouse got a better job. It could trigger an unwelcome surprise.

The danger is that as your income grows, you don’t qualify for as much of a tax credit. Any difference will come out of your tax refund, unless you have promptly reported the changes.

Nearly 7 million households have gotten health insurance tax credits, and major tax preparation companies say most of those consumers appear to be unaware of the risk.

”More than a third of tax credit recipients will owe some money back, and [that] can lead to some pretty hefty repayment liabilities,” said George Brandes, vice president for health care programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.

Two basic statistics bracket the potential exposure: The average tax credit for subsidized coverage on the new health insurance exchanges is $264 a month, or $3,168 for a full 12 months. The average tax refund is about $2,690.

Having to pay back even as little as 10 percent of your tax credit can reduce your refund by several hundred dollars.

Tax giant H&R Block says consumers whose incomes grew as the year progressed should act now and contact or their state insurance exchange to update their accounts.

They will pay higher health insurance premiums for the rest of this year, but they can avoid financial pain come spring.

”As time goes on, the ability to make adjustments diminishes,” warned Mark Ciaramitaro, H&R Block’s vice president of health care services. ”Clients count on that refund as their biggest financial transaction of the year. When that refund goes down, it really has reverberations.”

The Obama administration says it’s constantly urging newly insured consumers to report changes that could affect their coverage. But those messages don’t drive home the point about tax refunds.

”What probably isn’t clear is that there may be consequences at tax time,” said Ciaramitaro.

Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the US Health and Human Services Department, said the administration plans to ”ramp up” its efforts.

Concern about the complex connection between the health law and taxes has increased recently, after the Internal Revenue Service released drafts of new forms to administer health insurance tax credits next filing season.

The forms set up a final accounting that ensures each household is getting the correct tax credit. Various factors are involved, including income, family size, where you live, and the premiums for a ”benchmark” plan in your community.

Even experts find the forms highly complicated, requiring month-by-month computations for some taxpayers.

Taxpayers accustomed to filing a simplified 1040EZ will not be able to do so if they received health tax credits this year.

Some highlights:

■ If your refund isn’t large enough to cover the tax credit repayment, you will have to write the IRS a check.

■ The repayment amount the IRS can collect is capped for most people.

■ There is no collection cap for households making more than four times the federal poverty level. Those income thresholds are $45,960 and above for an individual, $78,120 and above for a family of three, and $94,200 for a family of four.

■ If you overestimated your income and got too small a tax credit for health care, the IRS will increase your refund.



Lawsuits filed challenging stricter FAA rules for model aircraft, commercial drone operations


by Press • 23 August 2014


By JOAN LOWY, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — Model aircraft hobbyists, research universities and commercial drone interests filed lawsuits Friday challenging a government directive that they say imposes tough new limits on the use of model aircraft and broadens the agency’s ban on commercial drone flights.

The three lawsuits asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the validity of the directive, which the Federal Aviation Administration issued in June. The agency said the directive is an attempt to clarify what is a model aircraft and the limitations on their operation.

The FAA has been working on regulations that would permit commercial drone flights in U.S. skies for more than 10 years, but the agency is still at least months and possibly years away from issuing final rules to permit flights by small drones. Regulations for flights by larger drones are even farther away.

Part of the agency’s challenge is to distinguish between planes flown by hobbyists and those used for commercial applications, a distinction that’s become harder to draw as the technology for model planes has grown more sophisticated.

A law passed by Congress in 2012 directed the FAA to issue regulations permitting commercial drone flights by the fall of 2015, but prohibited the agency from imposing new regulations on model aircraft.

The FAA directive is a backdoor imposition of new regulations on model aircraft hobbyists and commercial drone operators without going through required federal procedures for creating new regulations, said Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney representing the groups that filed the lawsuits. Federal procedures require an opportunity for public comment on proposed regulations and an analysis of the potential costs of the regulations vs. the benefits.

“People who have been using these technologies for years in different ways are concerned that they are suddenly prohibited from doing so without having their voices heard, and without regard to the detrimental impact on the commercial drone industry,” he said. Schulman pointed out that hobbyists have been flying model aircraft nearly 100 years, but he knows of no instance in which a model aircraft has caused the crash of a manned plane or helicopter.

“In situations where there really is no safety issue there appears to be not just some restrictions, but an outright prohibition on activities that have been done for a long time very safely,” he said.

FAA officials had no immediate comment on the lawsuits.

The lawsuits were filed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which represents more than 170,000 model aircraft hobbyists; the Council on Governmental Relations, an association of 188 research universities; and several commercial drone and model aircraft interests. Among them are UAS America, a fund that invests in the commercial drone industry; SkyPan International Inc., an aerial photography company; FPV Manuals LLC, a company that sells video systems for unmanned aircraft operators and an association representing commercial drone operators. All argued that the FAA policy would impede their activities, from hobby use to research and innovation.




Boeing Tanker Problems Don’t Concern U.S. Air Force

The Pegasus Tanker Is One of Three Air Force Priority Programs

By Doug Cameron

Aug. 25, 2014 2:31 p.m. ET


A senior U.S. Air Force general said he was unconcerned with development problems on a new aerial refueling tanker being built by Boeing Co. BA -1.32% and even floated the possibility of a future unmanned version.


Chicago-based Boeing last month said it would take a $425 million pretax charge to fix wiring problems and other issues on the KC-46A Pegasus tanker, and has delayed the planned first flight of a test jet.

The Pegasus is one of three Air Force priority programs, part of a broader effort to replace hundreds of aging jets that refuel fighters, bombers and reconnaissance planes.

“I don’t see anything of great concern [about the Pegasus program],” said Gen. Darren McDew, who took over as Commander of Air Mobility Command earlier this year.

Gen. McDew said in an interview on Sunday at the National Guard Association of the U.S. that Boeing hadn’t missed any Air Force milestones on the initial contract to develop a tanker based on the company’s 767-200 passenger jet. The first plane is scheduled to be delivered to the Air Force in 2016.

“New airplanes always get the interest of a lot of people,” he said. “The milestones are the milestones.”

Boeing officials said in May that the Pegasus program was “challenging” and last month said it had identified the technical problems that triggered the charge.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said earlier this year that he expected the first test tanker to make its maiden flight in June, but Boeing has since pushed back the flight to the third quarter. Gen. McDew said June was an internal Boeing target that didn’t affect the contract. The first plane equipped with a refueling boom and other equipment is due to fly in the first quarter of 2015.

Boeing in 2011 ultimately won an aerial tanker contract valued by the Pentagon at up to $41 billion over its lifetime after a decadelong contest it initially lost to a team including Airbus Group EADSY -0.03% NV.

Pentagon officials in May forecast that building the initial four jets of the 179-plane deal may cost up to $5.85 billion compared with its initial estimate of between $4.4 billion and $4.9 billion. The fixed-price deal leaves Boeing liable for all overruns above $4.9 billion.

Boeing is also marketing the new tanker overseas, with upcoming competitions in South Korea and Japan.

The Air Force wants to replace the remainder of its fleet of more than 500 airborne refueling tankers in two further stages.

Gen. McDew said given likely changes in aerospace design in the next 30 years, the Air Force ought to consider unmanned tankers as well as manned versions. “We’re right to be thinking about that,” he added.

The U.S. military is engaged in a broader debate over the future of unmanned aircraft. The Navy is expected to launch a closely watched competition in September to build a large pilotless plane that can be launched from aircraft carriers.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin LMT -0.03% Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp. NOC +0.81% and closely held General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. all received development funding for the planned Navy drone and are expected to compete for a program valued by analysts at up to $6 billion.

The Navy deal us expected to set broader technology parameters for future unmanned military aircraft, such as as a version of the proposed long-range bomber that Boeing and partner Lockheed Martin is contesting with Northrop Grumman.

Write to Doug Cameron at




NOAA struggles to fix vulnerabilities in satellite program


Aug. 26, 2014 – 03:53PM |



A key satellite operations and data collection system at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has significant security flaws which leave the program open to attack, according to an inspector general report released Aug. 21.

The Joint Polar Satellite System’s (JPSS) ground system at NOAA—which gathers and routs data from several satellites to users around the world—had 23,868 high-risk vulnerability instances in the second quarter of fiscal 2014, much more than the 14,486 it had in fiscal 2012, according to the report.

While NOAA should remove any high-risk vulnerabilities within 30 days of identification it took the agency 11 to 14 months to remediate some of them, according to the report. Software updates that would remediate some of the problems only occurred once a year.

And while the agency promised to release two maintenance patches per year over the last two years it has only released one patch so far, according to the report.

“The remediation of high-risk vulnerabilities is critical to the continued success of the

JPSS mission and should have a high priority. The more high-risk vulnerabilities that exist in the system, the higher the probability is that an attacker could compromise it,” the report said.

The IG recommended that NOAA and the JPSS program should:

■ Review the types of vulnerabilities identified in the IG investigation and correct them as soon as possible.

■ Update system processes and patch high-risk areas in order of the most vulnerable.

■ Require that any new vulnerabilities be remediated within three months.


DoD plans overhead cuts

Aug. 26, 2014 – 11:33AM |



The Pentagon is gearing up a new effort to cut overhead and administrative costs. Specifically, the initiative will target the “Fourth Estate” — everything other than the military services and combatant commands, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work.


Targeted components for cuts include the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the 16 defense agencies, including the Tricare Management Agency and the Defense Logistics Agency. Those account for about 20 percent of the overall defense budget.

While the Pentagon has mounted efficiency reviews in the past, this one will be the first to directly involve private-sector experts from the Defense Business Board and the not-for-profit Business Executives for National Security, Work said in an interview.

Work, a retired Marine colonel who took over the Pentagon’s No. 2 position in May, said he understands why many service members are anxious about the future. As defense spending has begun to fall, training has slowed, falling force levels are making promotions harder and the entire compensation system is under review.

He said the darkest cloud hanging over DoD remains the spending caps known as sequestration. A deal on Capitol Hill last year offered a two-year fix, but with only about 13 months until that deal expires in fiscal 2016, the threat of sequestration remains.

At that point, the doomsday scenarios discussed — an urgent shrink of the Army and Marine Corps, aircraft carriers and fighter jets — may be back on the table.

“The members of the services are asking, ‘Can I continue to serve? Will I still have a job in the armed services?’ That’s the first level of uncertainty … and we’re unable to tell them exactly how far down we’ll go because we hope that sequestration will not be triggered.”

If the budget squeeze does tighten again in 2016, “that is going to be even more of a problem,” he said.

How likely is that to happen? Nobody knows because Congress is unpredictable. For now, the Pentagon is drawing up spending plans that exceed the sequestration budget caps. However, he added, military leaders need to have a Plan B in case Congress does nothing. “We have to prepare for the eventuality that” the sequestration law remains on the books.

CompensationWork said it’s unclear whether the Pentagon will propose further cuts to military compensation. The top brass wants to curb personnel cost growth because it could limit new investment in training, weapons systems and cutting-edge technology. W

In March of last year, when sequestration took effect, “readiness went to hell,” Work said bluntly.

The two-year fix that Congress approved last year has allowed the services to resume training and maintenance, for the most part.

Even so, Work said, “We are in a readiness trough, without question. We’re not as deep as we would have been … Congress’ help in that regard really prevented a crisis.”

For now, there is enough money to fully fund units preparing for deployment and those designated as first responders, like the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.

“Where we have a problem is in our surge forces,” Work said. “We are taking significant risk.”

Yet the deputy secretary avoids the term “tiered readiness,” which for many senior officers negatively evokes the post-Vietnam era and concerns of a “hollow force.”

“Instead of tiered readiness, I’d say ‘time-phased’ readiness, where we don’t have enough money to make sure everyone is C-1 or C-2 at any given time,” he said, referring to the internal readiness scale of “capability levels,” which ranges from C-1 for units fully ready for a wartime mission, to C-5 for units that are not trained or equipped properly for a deployment.

“Think of it as a conveyor belt. The guys at the top of the conveyor belt are the guys out on deployment,” he said.


Tension in Europe

Work said that if tensions between Russia and the West continue to mount, the Pentagon this fall may launch a far-reaching review of the U.S. force levels and military footprint in Europe.

Current efforts to ramp up readiness in Europe — which include deployments of some small U.S. units closer to the Russian border — are a temporary solution to what may be a long-term crisis.

A “program review” could come this fall as DoD prepares its annual budget request for submission early next year. Military leaders may consider fundamental questions about U.S. troop levels in Europe and how they should be positioned across the continent.

“Depending on how [the crisis] plays out, we would take a look in the [fiscal 2016 budget] and say … ‘Do we have to have more rotational forces in Europe than we have otherwise figured we were going to have? Should we station different types of forces in Europe?’ All those things would be on the table,” Work said.


Opinion: No Air Force? No Way!

Aug 25, 2014 By Charles A. Blanchard and Gen. (ret.) Norton A. Schwartz |

Aviation Week & Space Technology


A version of this article appears in the August 25 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.

In early 2001, pundits were challenging the continued relevance of ground forces in the 21st century. The incoming Bush administration was already discussing significant cuts in the size of the U.S. Army in an effort described as transformation. The pundits, of course, were proven wrong just a few months later.

History would repeat itself a decade later, when pundits were having difficulty seeing the relevance of airpower other than as a tool for close air support for ground troops. They argue that the Air Force’s independence was based on discredited theories of the decisive effect of airpower, that an independent Air Force results in an undue reliance on airpower as the solution to military problems and that an independent Air Force distorts procurement decisions by placing an undue emphasis on technology. Some even suggest folding the Air Force into the Army and the Navy to ensure more appropriate procurement decisions and create a more “combined” use of American airpower (AW&ST July 28, p. 50).

A common argument is that airpower alone is rarely decisive in modern warfare, and that there is thus no institutional need for an independent Air Force. This criticism largely rests on the view that airpower is only useful in support of naval and ground forces, for it is only if airpower’s value is in support of the Army and the Navy that folding the Air Force into the other services makes sense.

These views are fundamentally flawed. Most profoundly, they ignore sizable components of the Air Force—its mobility and space forces. Yet mobility and space assets offer some of our most significant advantages over potential adversaries.

But even focusing solely on combat airpower, the argument is flawed. It is true that early optimism about airpower as a panacea has at times proven misplaced, such as in the strategic bombing campaigns during World War II or the Vietnam War. But the unstated assumption that airpower can never be decisive apart from support for ground troops cannot be reconciled with history. Look no further than the NATO air offensive in Kosovo, when Serbia was forced to come to the negotiating table.

There are other, more recent examples. While the intensive bombing campaign against Iraq known as Operation Desert Fox in 1998 was at the time heavily criticized as ineffective, we have since learned that the operation was largely responsible for Saddam Hussein’s decision to end his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. U.S. military operations in Afghanistan in 2002 and Libya in 2011 were largely exercises in airpower. Simply put, airpower does not obviate the need for ground and naval forces—history has made that point abundantly clear—but in some circumstances, combat airpower is an indispensable tool of national power.

Blanchard is a partner in Arnold & Porter and was general counsel and chief ethics officer of the U.S. Air Force 2009-13.

Moreover, the notion that an “airpower can do it alone” culture pervades the Air Force, or that the Air Force is not committed to joint warfighting, doesn’t hold water. To the contrary, during the debates about intervention in Libya and Syria, the Air Force leaders we know were very careful to caution civilian leaders about the costs and limits of airpower. They take great pains to make sure those making force-structure decisions and war plans take full account of the uncertainties and accept that there will be losses and mistakes during conflict. The Air Force of today has a more nuanced and realistic view of airpower than in the past.

Perhaps the most critical combat mission for airpower in the 21st century has been air superiority. In Iraq and Libya, air superiority was achieved rather quickly and largely taken for granted. This allowed all forces—ground, naval and air—freedom of action without concern for attacks from above. Air superiority is something that must still be won and undoubtedly will be contested by conventional state adversaries. In the possible battlefields of the future—against potential adversaries such as China and Iran—achieving air superiority will be a hard-fought battle. Until that battle is won, neither littoral naval nor ground forces can be fully effective. It is this mission—which is becoming increasingly important as more nations develop fifth-generation aircraft and sophisticated integrated air and missile defense systems—that will need to be a continuing focus of the Air Force in the 21st century.

The case for the decisiveness of airpower may have been oversold in the 1940s, but the continued need for airpower of all types—combat, mobility, space and cyberspace—cannot be seriously disputed. Just as the pundits in the late 1990s were profoundly wrong to question the continued importance of ground forces, critics today are wrong to suggest that airpower and the Air Force are anachronisms awaiting a necessary demise.


Ohio UAS Conference: Day 1 shows a flurry of unmanned aircraft efforts in short term

by Press • 27 August 2014


Tristan Navera Staff Reporter

Dayton Business Journal


You only have to be in the Dayton Convention Center for a few minutes before someone spells it out; Unmanned aircraft aren’t going anywhere.

In fact, the sense on the expo floor as the Ohio UAS Conference kicks off is that the many programs and demands for unmanned systems are only growing — and quickly.


More than 700 people and 73 exhibitors from 27 U.S. states, Israel, Mexico and Australia are downtown this week for the Ohio UAS Conference, which has drawn industry, government, military and academia to a gathering intended to promote unmanned systems industry in Ohio, said Maurice “Mo” McDonald, executive vice president for Aerospace and Defense at the Dayton Development Coalition.

“This week is all about how we can build partnerships,” McDonald said, “The military has been using these systems for years, but on the private side we’re finding limitless uses for UAS. So you’re trying to take the systems into a new element, where there’s a wide range of uses for them.”

Commercial unmanned systems — commonly known as drones — have a potential to change a multitude of industries as they emerge as a mainstream technology. The average commercial drone would cost in the range of $55,000, but people use unmanned systems as inexpensive as a few hundred dollars for recreation and photography.

The question, then, is how the rest of the considerations — legal, financial and ethnical — will catch up to the technology t already available.

Either way, Dayton will play a big part in that, said Deb Norris, vice president of workforce development at Sinclair Community College. Sinclair has half a dozen permissions to fly unmanned aircraft locally, and 600 students have gone through its UAS-related training programs, including 157 who have applied for its coming two-year degree in UAS.


Ohio UAS Conference: Day 2 focuses on FAA regulations

Aug 27, 2014, 4:46pm EDT


Tristan Navera

Staff Reporter- Dayton Business Journal


When unmanned systems experts get together, there’s something of a jaded excitement to them.

“The breakthroughs are happening practically every day with this tech,” says David Fletcher, an officer with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as he talks about his groups’ use of the Predator-B drone to catch smugglers at the border. “For us, it doesn’t even make sense to invest in a platform that is built around one kind of sensor, because those change so fast.”

Experts Wednesday talked about the high-end technology that is going to transform UAS into something bigger — the sensors capabilities, advanced automation to help them think more for themselves. And the research on these subjects is making new discoveries all the time.

“The uses for this tech in civil aviation, in so many other spheres, is clear, but unmanned systems are just one piece of where the benefits will be,” said Eric Frew of University of Colorado at Boulder in a panel on autonomy technology. From advanced manufacturing to the world of safer autopilots and driving a car, automation technology will help UAS and other craft identify problems, compensate for human error, and communicate better.

The question with that tech, said Larrell Walters, head of University of Dayton Research Institute sensors division, is how it addresses major questions like how to get the systems to operate efficiently and how to get other operators to trust them — research being hampered by a lack of access to the airspace for field tests.

The Federal Aviation Administration controls drone operations tightly, with schools and industry having to submit individual requests to use aircraft, and only a few hundred active test sites across the country. But the industry has been pushing for it to build a more clear system of rules, which it’s expected to do over the next several years.

And from lighter materials to better batteries and more advanced sensors, the technology is getting better all the time. But the regulations have slowed down investment and prevented the market from launching, especially for drones under 5 pounds, where many see some of the largest commercial uses.

As Frank Beafore, executive director of SelectTech GeoSpatial AMF finished his panel on UAS manufacturing, one person in the audience raised his hand.

“Shouldn’t we get more involved in pushing the FAA on these rules, legally?” he said.

Beafore said the international marketplace has been an asset to the development of unmanned systems — some components like batteries and motors and engines can come from all over the world. But the price for the FAA’s regulation, he said, is that American companies are not pouring into the drone marketplace until they know the rules to play by, as other countries such as China, Germany, and Japan pull ahead in research, development, and manufacture of unmanned systems tech.

And the legal battle is heating up. Late Friday, The Council on Governmental Relations, a group representing 188 universities around the country, was one of three to file suit against the FAA for an order last month further restricting commercial use of unmanned aircraft.

“The Order poses a grave threat to science, research, education, and technological innovation across the United States by purporting to regulate, restrict, or even completely prohibit, use of model aircraft technology by universities, colleges, and research institutions, their faculty, and their students,” states the brief.

The FAA says the rules are for the good of the industry. Robert Pappas, UAS Special Rules Coordinator, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office for FAA, gave a keynote talk explaining the rules, and saying the FAA was making progress in processing the requests.

“We’ve made a lot of progress and there’s a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for some of these regulations,” he said.

But he also acknowledged the FAA realizes the red tape is choking an industry that drone experts content will blossom into an $82 billion-dollar business — once it has rules to play by.

“We are being very deliberate in how we’re processing these first permissions, but it’s because we need to get these first ones right,” he said, “But I think we’ve made some great progress in these rules and I think you’ll see results in the not-too-distant future.”

Ohio UAS Conference: Law remains murky around drone use

Aug 26, 2014, 3:23pm EDT Updated: Aug 26, 2014, 4:33pm EDT


Tristan NaveraStaff Reporter-

Dayton Business Journal


Drone technology has grown by leaps and bounds, especially in recent years, leaving the legal world running to catch up.

But legal experts say the regulations for UAS, while still muddled by concerns about a lack of concrete policies, may prove easier to regulate in the long run than the public fears.

A panel spoke at the Dayton Convention Center at the Ohio UAS Conference as drone operators wait for more regulations and laws to come forward while the public worries about privacy.

Colin Snow, CEO of Drone Analyst, said his company conducted a study of nearly 350 groups in the drone business. His study found 71 percent thought the current rules are unclear, while 47 percent of companies choose to operate anyway, and 30 percent didn’t believe the Federal Aviation Administration governs the airspace below 600 feet.

“The tech has advanced ferociously in the past few years,” Snow said. “But the law is lagging behind.”

Indeed, the FAA was tasked with coming up with rules in 2012 but has delayed those for several years. Rule making is expected to last through 2016 and in the meantime companies and industry are looking for permissions to use drones sooner for research and commercial use.

The industry is eager to see that happen. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has estimated once the rules are on the books an $82 billion industry that employs 100,000 will start to take shape.

Snow said his survey found 42 percent of companies would “hire two or more people” if those rules are favorable to business.

But the public perception of drones remains to be addressed. A recent Pew poll found, for example, that nearly two thirds of the nation views drones in public airspace as a bad thing.

“The public perception is something that we need to spend time and resources to address,” said Matthew Mishak, an Elyria attorney who works with Dronewerx LLC and the new Northern Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Association. “But the courts are dealing with more technology issues now, and we’re seeing some of these worries in court.”

Privacy remains in the heart of the public concern — but a number of recent court cases have addressed some of those fears. Among them a recent court case that found flying a manned helicopter around 400 feet above a private space was legal because at that level the field’s owner had “no reasonable expectation of privacy” and the contents of the field were visible to the naked eye.

U.S. aviation law also has established the space above 500 feet in the air as public space.


But the courts have placed strong controls on technology. They’ve recently ruled that police need a warrant in order to watch a building with thermal imaging because that’s not a common technology. They’ve also ruled a warrant was necessary to place a GPS tracker on a car or go through someone’s cell phone.

“The law gets more strict when dealing with homes and personal property,” Mishak said. “The privacy laws are well established so far, but the question will be if those cases apply to drones.”

Drone manufacturers also have to contend with exporting and importing regulations, said Brent Connor, senior counsel in the transportation practice group for Thompson Hine, so they have to check on which parties will receive the aircraft. Violators can face hefty fines.

Wayne Johnson, vice president of Dayton Aerospace Inc., said unmanned aircraft face many of the same concerns as manned aircraft as far as airworthiness — whether an aircraft is safe to fly — with propulsion and materials being much the same.

“Often in these cases, it’s a yes or a no question whether an aircraft is airworthy,” he said.

In the end Mishak said the legal discussion about UAS will continue — including after the integration of the aircraft into the public airspace. Companies looking at using a drone should follow it.

“There’s every reason for Ohio to be a major leader in the largest-growing sector of aerospace,” Mishak said.



Al Qaeda magazine suggests Air Force Academy as terror target

by Angela Case

Updated: 08.29.2014 at 9:00 AM


The U.S. Air Force Academy is on a list of suggested terror targets published in a new magazine distributed by Al Qaeda. reports the online magazine was put out by the media arm of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.

The magazine features a how-to article on making car bombs, and calls for people around the world to follow “the recipe” provided to set off the bombs in crowded places.

The magazine also includes a list of suggested targets for individually executed terror attacks. The list includes Times Square in New York, casinos and nightclubs in Las Vegas, oil tankers and trains, the Georgia Military College, General Atomics defense contractor in San Diego, and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

There is also a list of targets in Britian, including a military academy and the Marks and Spencers chain of department stores. The magazine calls for the stores to be hit on Friday during prayers, so that Muslims won’t be affected, reports. Globally, the magazine calls for the targeting of tourist resorts frequented by Israelis, Britons, and Americans.

The U.S. Air Force Academy declined an interview for this story, but public affairs officer John Van Winkle provided the following statement:

“We are aware that the Air Force Academy is mentioned in a recent online publication. We remain vigilant and maintain all the appropriate protocols of a military installation to include force protection and being cognizant of existing and emerging threats. Our primary concern is always the security and the safety of the cadets, our personnel and the thousands of visitors who come to USAFA every year.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, August 30, 2014

We’re off to the races. In nine weeks, America will elect a new Congress. Will it be more of the same, or will there be a new sheriff in town?

Republicans are highly unlikely to lose their control of the House of Representatives, and if the GOP makes a net gain of six seats, it will take charge of the Senate, too. Twenty-one of the 36 Senate seats up for grabs this November are held by Democrats, so President Obama’s party is clearly at greater risk.

Here’s where we stand right now in the Rasmussen Reports 2014 Senate Balance of Power rankings. Twenty of the 36 seats are out of play entirely, with 14 Safe Republican and six Safe Democrat. If these numbers hold through Election Day, the GOP is guaranteed to pick up three of the six it needs in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia.

Three states – Georgia, Kentucky and North Carolina – are leaning the Republicans’ way, but only North Carolina is now held by a Democratic senator. Two – Michigan and Minnesota – are leaning toward reelecting their Democratic incumbents.

Six states are Toss-Ups – Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas and Louisiana. All but Kansas are now held by Democrats.

New Hampshire is a wild card: We’re waiting for its September 9 GOP primary before measuring where that race stands.

In short, if the Republicans hold onto all their existing Senate seats and pick up the three states that appear to be safe, they need three more wins to control the entire Congress.

Thirty-six states are having governor’s races this year, and here’s where the Rasmussen Reports 2014 Gubernatorial Scorecard stands.

Nine governorships are Safe Republican, five Safe Democrat, with the only likely turnover being Pennsylvania going Democrat. We looked at three of those races this week – Alaska, South Carolina and Vermont.

Six governor’s races are leaning Republican, including two now held by Democrats, Connecticut and Illinois. Minnesota is leaning toward reelecting Democrat Mark Dayton.

Eight states are Toss-ups – Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico and Wisconsin.  All but Arkansas and Colorado are now held by Republicans.

We still have several governor’s races to poll after their September 9 primaries finalize the match-ups.

Republicans have edged ahead of Democrats again on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.  But the two parties have been separated by two points or less for most weeks this year.

House Speaker John Boehner remains Congress’ most unpopular leader, but House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, his predecessor as speaker, is right on his heels.

The president’s daily job approval rating has been hovering around -20 for much of the summer.

Just 23% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. Sixty-nine percent (69%) now think the country is headed down the wrong track.

Consumer and investor confidence are up from post-meltdown levels but haven’t moved much over the past couple years.

Some things haven’t changed in surveys for a long time. The national health care law, for one thing, remains unpopular, and the number of voters who say their insurance coverage has changed because of it is at its highest level in well over a year.

Most voters have told us for years that they favor spending cuts in every program of the federal government, but they now think it’s less likely than ever that government spending will be cut anytime soon.

The police shooting and subsequent events in Ferguson, Missouri also have raised concerns other than ones about race. Voters have long been skeptical of the federal government, but now most believe the nation’s chief law enforcer, the U.S. Department of Justice, is more interested in politics than in serving justice.

Americans also doubt that the media is playing it straight in its Ferguson coverage.

Voters see a pretty grim picture abroad, too. Five years ago this summer, the president gave a highly-publicized speech in Cairo, Egypt reaching out to Muslims, but 46% now believe our relations with the Islamic world are worse than they were at that time. Forty-four percent (44%) think U.S. policies are to blame.

But Americans also recognize that religious tolerance is a one-way street when it comes to the Muslim world.

They’re pretty angry, too, about the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley on a video posted online and strongly believe his killer should be brought to justice and sentenced to death.

In other surveys last week:

Americans overwhelmingly count on their local water supply, but they’re not nearly as confident that it’s well protected.

— Most voters continue to consider global warming a serious problem but remain unwilling to pay much to do anything about it.

— Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans expect higher interest rates next year. Americans also continue to wonder if the Federal Reserve Board has the ability to keep interest rates down and inflation under control.

— Many students around the country are already returning to school, but Americans still prefer waiting until after Labor Day before sending them back.

Most Americans like the idea of sales tax holidays especially just before school starts and say they are more likely to buy things during such periods.

— Americans think the “ice bucket challenge” has raised awareness and funds for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

— More Americans said they would take a vacation this summer, and it looks like they did.

Subscribers to Rasmussen Reports receive more than 20 exclusive stories each week for less than a dollar a week. Please sign up now. Visit the Rasmussen Reports home page for the latest current polling coverage of events in the news. The page is updated

August 23 2014



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DoD working on software bandwidth guidelines

Aug. 14, 2014 – 06:00AM |



The Defense Department’s move to software defined networks will bring with it a set of code-writing guidelines for contractors, acting chief information officer Terry Halvorsen said Aug. 13.

Speaking at the 2014 Federal Forum in Washington, D.C., Halvrosen said that the department was working on standards that includes an emphasis on keeping bandwidth requirements low, especially for operating in environments where it might be scarce.

“We are going to do that—to put some harsher standards that say if you are going to develop software for us you must develop it to require the minimum bandwidth possible to operate,” Halvorsen said.

He said while it wouldn’t be a “hard and fast rule” because low bandwidth use is not possible all the time, but it’s something he wants every developer to start thinking about.

Software using less bandwidth won’t just be a help in areas of the world with limited bandwidth capacity but will do well in the United States, where parts of the DoD network are already saturated with traffic, Halvorsen said.

“Any time I can get software that can reduce bandwidth use that’s a goodness for us,” Halvorsen said.



Federal agencies set job applicant limits,0,6907747.story

By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun

3:10 p.m. EDT, August 17, 2014


Paul Mincarelli has been trying for three years to get into international work for the federal government. He says he knows the odds are stacked against him.

Now the competition is likely to get more intense.

Some agencies have begun to limit the number of applications they accept per vacancy. Instead of setting a deadline for applications, some job announcements stay open only until the limit — in some cases as few as 25 resumes — is reached.

Mincarelli, 26, has a master’s degree in international affairs. He says he has applied for dozens of jobs at several agencies to no avail. He has not yet come across such limits on postings, he said, but expressed concern that his chances could become even more limited under a system that he believes shuts out qualified candidates unfairly.

“I understand they have to deal with a high volume,” he said. But “it makes it more frustrating.”

The Office of Personnel Management says demand is high for federal jobs.

“Overall, agencies are experiencing a significant increase in the number of applications, which may not necessarily produce more qualified candidates,” the agency said in a statement. It said some agencies are limiting the number of applications they will consider “depending on their need for qualified applicants and the number of job openings.”

Kathryn Troutman, president of Catonsville-based The Resume Place Inc., said she began seeing applicant limits this year. Troutman, whose firm offers federal job coaching and resume-writing services, reviewed the federal government’s online job portal and found applicant limits ranging from 15 to 300. Most fell in the 50-to-100 range.

Listings with limits instead of traditional closing dates appeared for jobs as varied as senior manager and student intern. They were posted by employers as diverse as the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Smithsonian Institution, the National Gallery of Art, the Department of Transportation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Treasury, the Department of Defense and the Social Security Administration.

Troutman says she has begun to see online postings disappear before the closing dates. She says one human resources department told her an ad was pulled after the agency received more than 1,700 applications.

“The [applicant] numbers are more and jobs are less, and HR has decided to put their foot down,” Troutman said. “I think we’re going to see it more and more.”

She says veterans and students and others want to work for the federal government.

“They’re just receiving too many resumes. They’re not hiring as many people, and there are still a lot of applicants.”

In June, the National Gallery of Art posted an opening for a staff assistant, set a limit of 100 applications and urged candidates to “apply as soon as possible.” The museum in Washington capped the number of applicants for an air-conditioning mechanic at 25.

The Department of the Interior’s Geological Survey in Baltimore cut off applications for a student trainee in information technology support at 25.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Veterans Affairs said the Office of Personnel Management has encouraged federal agencies to set resume limits for positions that draw a large number of applicants.

In the current climate, Troutman says, applicants for federal jobs need to apply quickly and not wait for closing dates. That means preparing resumes and cover letters ahead of time.

“My advice is to apply as quickly as you see the job announced,” she said, noting that she prepares the bulk of a client’s resume ahead of time, then tailors it to a particular job once an announcement appears. She also tries to steer clients away from jobs for which they likely won’t qualify.

“It’s more competitive now than ever,” she said. “The jobs are very technical, and requirements are specific and clear. It’s really technical writing … not like writing a resume.”

Cortez Elliott, 31, who has a degree in business and is in a graduate public administration program at the University of Baltimore, says he has applied to about 50 federal postings over the past five years, mostly for entry-level administrative jobs.

Elliott, a Baltimore man who runs his own entertainment marketing and consulting firm, says he has never received any feedback. He says he has shifted his focus from federal to state government openings and has been called in for interviews.

Elliott says limiting applications by number is unfair to those who apply by the cutoff date.

“I think it would be unfair to someone who is potentially qualified for a position,” he said. “They have a system in place that’s cutting them off because of quotas.”


Ohio lacking in business meeting destinations

Aug 18, 2014, 7:15am EDT Updated: Aug 18, 2014, 8:22am EDT

Ohio has plenty to offer, but business meeting destinations are not its strong suit. In fact, just one Ohio city ranks among the top 50 top U.S. meeting destinations.


Dayton Business Journal


Cvent Inc. — a McLean, Va.-based online business event management platform — evaluated more than 5,000 cities, basing its ranking on meeting and booking activity in its own supplier network, as well as each city’s number of meeting and event venues.

Columbus was the sole Ohio entry, coming it at No. 43 on the list, having 125 meeting hotels and 15,700 sleeping rooms.

The top-ranked city was Chicago, followed by Orlando and Las Vegas.


CVENT Top Meeting Locations


City Name 


Change Since
Last Year

Total Number of
Meeting Hotels

Total Number of
Sleeping Rooms

Sleeping Rooms
(in largest hotel)

Chicago, IL






Orlando, FL






Las Vegas, NV






Atlanta, GA






San Diego, CA






New York, NY






Dallas, TX






Washington, D.C.






New Orleans, LA






Nashville, TN






Phoenix, AZ






San Francisco, CA






Miami, FL






Denver, CO






San Antonio, TX






Scottsdale, AZ






Boston, MA






Houston, TX






Los Angeles, CA






Austin, TX






Philadelphia, PA






Grapevine, TX






Seattle, WA






Kissimmee, FL






Anaheim, CA






Indianapolis, IN






St. Louis, MO






Baltimore, MD






Fort Worth, TX






Tampa, FL






Minneapolis, MN






Fort Lauderdale, FL






Rosemont, IL






Charlotte, NC






National Harbor, MD






Arlington, VA






Irving, TX






Hollywood, FL






Portland, OR






Kansas City, MO






Coronado, CA






Carlsbad, CA






Columbus, OH






Long Beach, CA






Louisville, KY


New to List 




Alexandria, VA






San Jose, CA






Salt Lake City, UT






Newport Beach, CA






Chandler, AZ


New to List 




Bottom of Form 


The coming disintegration of Iraq

By Joel Rayburn

August 15

Army Col. Joel Rayburn, a senior research fellow at the National Defense University, is a historian who served as an adviser to Gen. David Petraeus in Iraq. He is the author of “Iraq After America: Strongmen, Sectarians, Resistance.” The views he expresses here are his own and do not necessarily represent those of the Department of Defense.


Nouri al-Maliki may have agreed to step down as prime minister of Iraq on Thursday, but the damage he has wrought will define his country for decades to come. The stunning collapse of the Iraqi state in its vast northern and western provinces may be Maliki’s most significant legacy. After nine decades as the capital of a unitary, centralized state, Baghdad no longer rules Kurdistan, nor Fallujah, nor Mosul, and might never rule them again.

To his likely successor, Haider al-Abadi, Maliki will bequeath an Iraqi state that has reverted to the authoritarian muscle memory it developed under Saddam Hussein. But it will be a state that effectively controls not much more than half the territory Hussein did. As Maliki and his loyalists succeeded in consolidating control of the government and pushing rivals out of power, they drove the constituencies of those they excluded — especially Sunni Arabs and Kurds — into political opposition or armed insurrection. Their drive for power alienated Iraqis across all communities from the central state whose wards and clients they had once been, leaving almost no provincial population trustful of the central government. Maliki has held sway in Baghdad, but whole swaths of Iraq have fallen out of his control: The tighter he grasped the state, the more the country slipped through his fingers.

The current crisis in Iraq goes far beyond the question of who will lead the next government in Baghdad. Iraqis have entered into a civil war whose logical conclusion is the breakup of the country. What we are witnessing in Iraq today is the beginning of a process that could become at least as destructive and bloody as the breakup of Yugoslavia. The longer it is allowed to unfold, the less likely it will be stopped, and the more likely it will spill over on a large scale to destabilize the surrounding region.

It is tempting to conclude that the U.S.-led regime change of 2003 inevitably led to sectarian violence and politics in Iraq by opening up the country’s preexisting fractures. But the deep sectarianism of the past decade was neither foreordained to follow Hussein’s fall nor completely natural in Iraqi society. It was instead a calculated objective of the powerful, mainly expatriate parties that arrived in Baghdad after April 2003, bringing with them sectarian agendas that had been decades in the making. These groups, which included Maliki and the Dawa party , as well as almost all of Iraq’s major Islamist and ethnic parties, have had independent but complementary interests in polarizing the country, turning a mixed-sect, multiethnic nation into one of homogeneous ethnic and sectarian political constituencies. The result has been a devastating civil war, and an Iraq more thoroughly sorted by sect and ethnicity than ever before.

As Iraq’s major parties have carved the nation into political empires, they have in many regions allowed the state to recede from the streets, creating power and security vacuums that militant and criminal groups have been quick to fill. The creeping takeover of Sunni neighborhoods by Islamic State fighters and their fellow travelers has been well documented, but in other areas Shiite Islamist militants have roamed freely for years, with the state absent or complicit. Away from the Islamic State’s atrocities in the far north, Shiite militant groups trained by Iran to fight U.S. troops until 2011 now seem poised to insulate Baghdad and the Shiite south from the Islamic State threat. They eventually may evict Sunnis from the region around Baghdad in the name of counterterrorism, with the assistance of the Iranian regime and Lebanese Hezbollah, and with the political blessing of the Shiite Islamist political parties that on Monday nominated Abadi as their premier.

For years now, some outsiders and some Iraqi factions have called for the partition of the country as a matter of policy — a solution to the intractable political disputes. Perhaps the best-known instance was in 2006, when then-Sen. Joe Biden and Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations called for the division of the country into three autonomous regions, based on sect, with a central government that would “control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues.” Invoking the example of Bosnia, Biden and Gelb offered their plan as a way to keep the country intact and prevent sectarian warfare from escalating.

But as we are likely to find out in the coming years, there is no way for Iraq to be divided into three homelands for Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis without experiencing exactly the massive human misery that Biden, Gelb and others hoped partition might forestall. No clean ethno-sectarian lines already exist in Iraq, meaning that the boundaries of the various statelets would have to be fought over. The populations of northern and central Iraq in particular are so intertwined that separating people into sectarian enclaves would immediately prompt violent sectarian cleansing on a scale sure to exceed that of Yugoslavia. At least a quarter of a million non-Sunnis would probably be forced to leave Sunni-majority territories, while more than half a million Sunnis would probably be expelled from the greater Baghdad region, with those Sunni Baghdadis that remain herded into ghettos in and around the city.

There would also be millions of Iraqis caught in limbo. What would become, for example, of the large minority population that is not Sunni, Shiite or Kurd? And what would become of Iraq’s more than 1 million Turkmen? What would become of the millions of Iraqis in intermarried families of Shiite and Sunni or Arab and Kurd? The fragmenting of the country into sectarian cantons would leave these millions with no clear place to go.

Nor is it likely that the fragmentation of Iraq, once begun, would stop at just three sections. The country would be far more likely to split effectively into four pieces or more. The Sunnis of Anbar and Mosul, who have a long-standing rivalry, would be unlikely to consent to living together in one Sunnistan, where one region might be dominated by the other. They would be more likely to live in competing Tigris and Euphrates regions or statelets. Nor is it clear that, once unmoored from Baghdad, the major Kurdish parties would live together in one region where one party could rule the others. Lastly, the shrunken Shiite-majority section would be a rump Iraq stretching from Samarra to the Persian Gulf, rich in oil but certain to fall into the Iranian regime’s orbit for the foreseeable future.

Nor would the creation of these sections be the end of the matter, as then-Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak, a Sunni, warned in a 2011 CNN interview: “Dividing the country isn’t going to be smooth, because dividing the country is going to be a war before that and a war after that.” The new states or quasi-states of the former Iraq would surely enter into a long series of wars that none would be strong enough to decisively win, with a death toll unlikely to be less than the roughly quarter-million killed in the Yugoslav wars and a total displacement of perhaps one-quarter of Iraq’s population.

If Iraq fragments in this manner, either formally or de facto, there will be no way to preserve a meaningful central structure in which the different sectarian enclaves together defend the country’s borders and share natural resources. In the north in particular, Sunni Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds are more likely to war over the oil-rich disputed territories, while the governments in Baghdad and Irbil will never share oil revenue with Sunni provinces that are at war with the Shiites and Kurds. And since there are no bodies of water or mountain ranges separating Iraq from its western and southern neighbors, these conflicts will not be physically contained as the Balkan wars were. They are sure to spill over, eventually drawing in every neighbor even more deeply than they are already.

Iraqi leader Nouri al-Maliki announced on Thursday that he is dropping his bid for a third term as prime minister and pledged support for his replacement, Haider al-Abadi. (Reuters)

Iraq’s prospects for political stability are dim, and the country faces fundamental questions that Maliki’s impending departure will do little to solve. Reintegrating the Sunni community and provinces back into the Iraqi state would be the necessary starting point for leaders who wish to preserve their country. But the political environment that Maliki will leave behind is largely devoid of the trust necessary for partnerships and power-sharing. One reason Maliki and his allies have mightily resisted leaving power is that after eight years of rough rule, no member of his group can be fully assured that a successor party will leave them to live in peace. Similarly, what Kurdish leader believes that Sunni Arabs, if ever back in power, would not immediately attempt to push the Kurds back into the mountains and crush Kurdish nationalism? And after a decade of attempting to make Sunnis a permanent minority underclass, what Shiite supremacist does not fear what Sunnis would do if they ever regained control of Baghdad?

The enduring dilemmas that have dogged modern Iraq — the relationship between the people and the state, the relationship between Kurdistan and Arab Iraq, the relationship between Sunnis and Shiites, the relationship between Baghdad and its 18 provinces — remain unsettled. It would take a leader or movement of extraordinary vision to settle them peacefully, and no such visionary is on the horizon. It is Iraq’s strongmen, sectarians and Islamist resistance who control the path to conflict resolution. The longer they hold sway, the smaller the chance that Iraq will hold together.

It is not too late for Iraq. But soon, it will be. The civil war of the past decade has been many things: a struggle between terrorists and the state, between religious extremes, between Maliki loyalists and their rivals, between regional proxies, between sects and ethnicities that have not relearned how to coexist. But it has most essentially been a war on Iraqi society itself, slowly draining the lifeblood of one of the world’s oldest countries, which after five millennia has begun to expire before our eyes.


Can Haider al-Abadi Unite a Divided Iraq?

Aug 18, 2014


General (Ret.) Mohammed Al-Samarae


Iraqi SoldiersDemocracy is still a new process for Iraqis after decades of autocratic rule and life under military occupation. Embracing it as a governing system is accompanied by new difficulties and headaches. After each round of elections, conflicts emerge between the leaders of the multiple political blocs when it comes time to form a new government. The most recent political crisis broke out after the electoral victory of Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Party, part of Iraq’s largest political coalition, the National Alliance. According to the constitution and a ruling by the Iraqi Federal Court, Maliki should be asked by the president to form a new government. The heads of several major political blocs, however, were strongly opposed to a third term for Maliki. They warned of a possible civil war and the division of Iraq if he were invited to form a government. Maliki’s government was certainly not worthy of a third term. Now, with the support of the Iranian government a decisive factor, Haider al-Abadi has been asked by the president to form a government as prime minister.

But those who stood up against Maliki also have dirty hands. They claimed they were ready to pay any price to stop his reappointment. Some even assisted the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS) now investing spans of northern Iraq and naively colluded with them. ISIS went on to occupy the Iraqi provinces of Nineveh and Salahaddin, declared an Islamic caliphate, and call itself the Islamic State (IS) in the area of its control in northern Iraq and parts of Syria. In the Iraqi city of Mosul, ISIS inaugurated Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as its Caliph. Shortly after, they began to commit unspeakable massacres of religious minorities in the region, the full toll of which is still unknown. Iraq is, once again, a serious issue for America and the world.

Iraq’s problems cannot all be solved by air strikes and aid drops. The current crisis is just one acute aspect of a deeper, systemic problem that will continue to cause trouble in Iraq–and America–for years to come.

Today’s Iraqi society is deeply divided into many factions, many of which are based on the political ideologies and agendas set by returned former-exiles from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and members of the former Iraqi opposition of the 1990s. The average Iraqi is part of a system in which there is no real engagement with or involvement of the people. It should, in some ways, sound somewhat familiar to many Americans, as our own system has faced and continues to face many of the same challenges.


The Political Class

This group of Iraqi society consists of supporters of political parties, members, and followers whose parents or family members were killed by Saddam Hussein’s regime. Though they only represent one-quarter of society, they make up about 80% of the civil servants in the ministries and have deep political influence in each ministry and department. Many of them do not have skills, experience or education to perform their jobs. Many of them have been known to present fake academic degrees. The chaos, disorder, mismanagement and corruption that seem to characterize Iraqi government are the consequence of these unqualified people being given significant positions through a system of political patronage that would make even Andrew Jackson cringe. Their aim is to perpetuate their own political control, with the effect that they are building an obsolete state with no chance of developing into a modern, well-educated society with freedom of speech and of opinion. This group does not want a divided Iraq of any kind, neither geographically nor administratively, because they would lose political influence and their monopoly on Iraq’s government resources. Nevertheless, they all support political and religious sectarianism in order to maintain their support and their own gains. They benefit from division.


The Moderates

These are the writers, professors, poets, lawyers, and other professionals who make up 10-15% of Iraqi society. Though highly educated, they have very little influence on the political process or ability to make changes to the system and have become disenchanted with the system. Earlier in Iraq’s transition, they participated in demonstrations and forums in an attempt to make politicians pay attention to their demands. The Iraqi political class does not support this group and tries to block their involvement because their voice in government and presence in the ministries would challenge or destroy their system of political patronage. Many of Iraq’s moderates have already fled the country, a professional “brain drain,” because of threats and violence carried out by militias associated with the political parties. This group is generally against political or religious sectarianism and believe a stronger central government with devolved political and economic powers for all Iraqi regions will bring stability. They believe the capital, Baghdad, should remain a modern and secular city.


The Sectarians

According to some American analysts and diplomats, Iraq has to be divided into two main sectarian groups– Sunni and Shia–in order to save it from disintegration and civil war. For now, both sects rule the country side by side. Militant Sunni sectarians still believe Iraq is theirs to rule as an inheritance from Saddam. As the only Arab Shia-majority state, Iraq is viewed with suspicion or as a rival among members the Sunni-majority Arab League. Because of this, Iraq can only achieve peace and stability among its neighbors in the Middle East region by finding a consensus with and providing more autonomy and independence for the Sunni regions—but keeping them a part of Iraq. But after revolts in the Sunni-majority region of Al Anbar and the massacre of Sunni demonstrators at Al Hawija by Maliki’s regime forces, there will not be any solution soon as negotiations have stalled. This is a split amongst Muslims that has existed for centuries and dividing Iraq would not solve the problem and could, in fact, increase tensions between Iraq and its neighbors as they vie for control of pieces of the former-Iraq.


The Tribes

Iraq’s tribes today enjoy more freedom than they have for several decades. Saddam used tribes and tribal leaders to legitimize his regime and forced tribal leaders to sign loyalty oaths to him in their own blood. The consequence of the return of tribalism is a loss for civil society and modernity in many regions. Many rural areas have turned away from what they see as westernized, modern thought, inspirations, and the Western way of life, exhibited in cities such as Baghdad or Basra. The political parties, both Sunni and Shia, claim to support the traditional lifestyle and tribal law in order to win support. If the trend continues, any traces of modernity could disappear from the countryside and the divide between rural areas and cities will increase. This trend also means that increasingly tribal law is coming to dominate the lives of many more Iraqis, as opposed to a uniform judicial system. Such thinking is also fertile ground for the extremist ideology of groups such as ISIS. Since 1958, almost all of Iraq’s leaders came from rural regions in which tribal leaders possess all the influence, land, money and weapons. These tribal leaders pick their candidates, and pressure elected officials to introduce legislation that does not serve the public, but only their own demands. The consequence is the subversion of civil and public law and the judiciary. The return of the tribes means less reach for the central government and its laws into rural areas of Iraq.


The Clerics

The disorder following the U.S. invasion has caused many Iraqis to turn back to religious inspiration and the search for God. Clerics have used this return to religion to expand their influence in society and to re-indoctrinate it with fully new views and, sometimes, extremist opinions. While Shias have Al-Sistani as the highest religious authority in Najaf, Sunnis lack any central religious leadership. This lack of a central leader has contributed to the difficulties and revolts seen in Sunni-dominated areas, like al-Anbar. Even with a leader, Shia have also had difficulty. While Al-Sistani always tries to scale the political situation in order to provide all Iraqis the same rights in self-determination, his initiatives are often rejected in Baghdad and, ironically, mainly from the Shia parties because his plan does not match their aims.

Modern clerics always seek to be close to the Iraqi people, in and outside Iraq, by consulting and supporting the youth and families. They try to influence the politicians on social issues such as poverty, illiteracy and demographic changes. Fanatic clerics also find many supporters in Iraqi society and they and their political followers try to convert civil society into a pure Islamic state; some of them want to copy the ‘Wilayat Al Faqih’ of Iran, some others have tried hard to eliminate civil law by introducing a so-called ‘Al Jaafari’ law. Fortunately, this law was not passed by the Iraqi parliament.


Iraqi Minorities

Throughout all the disputes and chaos, Iraq’s sectarian minorities are rarely able to live in peace and in freedom side by side with other sects and groups. In Iraqi history, there has never been any law or effective security or political system that could protect their lives or integrate them as an accepted part of Iraqi society. They will continue to struggle for their rights and seek protection from the international community as long as do not have enough representation in the Iraqi parliament. Minorities such as the Yazidis, Christians, and other ethnic and religious minorities are without a strong voice in parliament, the executive, or any of the ministries. So long as they lack any input into the Iraqi political system, they will continue to be oppressed and will be forced to look outside of Iraq for assistance.


Divide and Conquer Rule

Millions of Iraqis feel the situation is so bad that they have come to believe an American re-occupation of Iraq and the formation of a wholly new government would be a solution. But, as the recent air strikes show, America is very reluctant to return in any form to Iraq. And so Iraq’s problems will continue. The political class will continue to “divide and conquer” and reap the spoils of the government ministries. The sectarians and tribes will also divide the nation and roll back modern thinking and the rule of law. The moderates and professionals will continue to flee Iraq. The moderate clerics will continue to struggle to be heard, while the extremist clerics always have a captive audience. Amid the struggle, minorities will remain unrepresented and scapegoats of extremist violence. Iraq’s ministries and departments continue to be run by under-educated and unqualified patronage appointees with fake diplomas.

Iraq’s problems cannot all be solved by air strikes and aid drops. The current crisis is just one acute aspect of a deeper, systemic problem that will continue to sow mayhem in Iraq–and America–for years to come.

Gen MohammedGeneral (Ret.) Mohammed Al-Samarae was a career Iraqi army officer, serving in various command positions, culminating with command of the 6th Division of the Iraqi Army in 2006. A graduate of the First Military Academy (Baghdad) and the Iraq Joint Air Defense College, he has lectured at the U.S. Air Force War College and provided counterinsurgency training to U.S. military commanders at JRTC and NTC. He is a decorated veteran of the Iran-Iraq War, Gulf War, and Iraq War. He is now an American citizen living in Virginia where he runs his own consultancy, General’s Experience.


The ISIS cyber threat-a great unknown

Aug. 18, 2014   

Written by




Back in 2009, during his detention at Camp Bucca in Iraq, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader said, “I’ll see you guys in New York.”

This is extremely concerning given Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been called the most dangerous man in the world. ISIS has clearly demonstrated their ability to achieve their objectives in the physical world, but what about cyber? The cyber capabilities of ISIS are not really well understood due to lack of actual attacks that have been traced back to ISIS. However, one interesting indicator of their cyber interest and or capabilities can be found in their use of a custom Arabic language social networking app called The Dawn of Glad Tidings.

The app is said to be an official ISIS product. It is well promoted and used by hundreds, if not thousands, of followers. It is described as the best mechanism for their followers to stay informed with the group’s latest news and Jihad activities. Clearly ISIS is leveraging social media to publicize their successes and to recruit. One has to wonder if there are hidden messages embedded within these social networking posts. While the group’s overall cyber capabilities are a big unknown, ISIS is believed to be well financed and their financial status further improved after multiple reports surfaced about the group seizing $429 million from City’s Central Bank in Mosul. They are now very well financed and can buy the capabilities they want or need.

With their proven capabilities in the physical sense with extremely troubling level of ruthlessness and brutality, ISIS could launch cyber attacks (alone or in combination with physical attacks) in retaliation for the recent U.S. bombings in Iraq. The group has already talked about a cyber jihad. The concerns appear to be well-founded, given that an individual who had pledged his allegiance to ISIS was arrested at JFK on August 2. Clearly extra vigilance is required and a physical terrorist attack coupled with a cyber attack by this group is a distinct possibility.

INTEL: There are multiple public reports that Anonymous has initiated a cyber attack campaign they refer to as “Operation NO2ISIS.” That effort is said to use cyber attacks that target countries that Anonymous accuses of arming and assisting ISIS.



Are unmanned systems the next cyber target?

Aug. 4, 2014


Written by



By most accounts the use of unmanned systems within the United States is about to explode. If you examine the market projections, they tend to support that notion. Over the next decade between 10 percent and 15 percent of global spending on drones will be for non-military/government use. These systems are relatively inexpensive (a few hundred to a few thousand USD) and there are even reports that a fairly capable drone was created with the non-engine components being printed on a 3D printer. In another interesting development drone start-up Airware that is building a cloud based drone network recently received $25 million in funding. Some very well-known venture capitalists have also funded deals in the commercial drone space. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) projected that by 2020 there will be an estimated 30,000 drones in the US sky, or as one individual put it, targets of opportunity.

Securing these systems from cyber attacks has been given a minimal amount of attention. Could a cyber attacker take over control of the drone or jam the control communications? That is highly likely. Could a hacker penetrate the system and steal the information the drone is collecting, or worse, alter it? That is a distinct possibility. Don’t think this is that far off. Security researchers have already demonstrated a software application that was specifically designed to take control of a drone while it’s flying.

INTEL: DARPA has developed and even deployed their version of secure software that was “mathematically armored,” thus defending it against cyber attacks.

The proliferation of drones has security professionals concerned and they have expressed concerns to regulators. The word around the beltway is that regulators are planning a phased approach for commercial drone, and that is expected to begin next year. When was the last time anything in Washington moved that fast?



Boeing UAV prototype gets FAA approval

Aug. 19, 2014 |

Boeing’s Beechcraft King Air-based UAV has earned FAA approval.



A prototype Boeing surveillance aircraft has received FAA approval.

The Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System Risk Reduction Prototype was awarded a Supplemental Type Certification.

The aircraft, a modified Beechcraft King Air, is now cleared for global sales.

“ERRP’s FAA certification gives us another approved modification in Boeing’s growing family of ISR airplanes,” said John Rader, a Boeing vice president of electronic and sensor solutions. “ERRP is a high-end signals intelligence aircraft that delivers near-real-time SIGINT to the warfighter, a capability in high demand from militaries around the globe.”



Analyst: Best Congress Will Do Is Two Government-Wide Spending Bills

Aug. 19, 2014 – 06:10PM |



WASHINGTON — A prominent federal budget analyst is predicting the best Congress will do this year on spending bills is pass two massive government-wide measures.

With the Senate unable to move 2015 appropriations bills — and with only a dozen legislative days left before November’s midterm elections followed by a lame duck session — political and defense observers are trying to determine how lawmakers will handle a government shutdown threat.

Make that two government shutdown threats. And maybe three in the next seven months.

Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., told CongressWatch in July that he is betting both chambers will pass a continuing resolution (CR) in September to keep the Defense Department and other federal agencies operating while lawmakers campaign in October and early November.

That measure, Shelby and others predict, likely will fund the government “until the middle of November, when we come back,” he said.

What happens then — with the prospect of Democrats being in their final weeks of controlling the chamber — is anyone’s guess.

Some lawmakers and analysts predict the post-midterm session will yield an omnibus spending measure, possibly with a full-year DoD spending bill and maybe several others attached to another CR.

Others, like longtime federal budget watcher Stan Collender, said a second CR is the most the political environment will be able to produce. And he believes it won’t pass until December.

“Congress will return to Washington after Labor Day with little-to-no chance of enacting more than 1 or 2 (and even that’s a stretch) of the 12 regular 2015 appropriations by the time the fiscal year begins on October 1,” Collender writes in his latest column.

“That means it’s not just an overwhelming likelihood that a continuing resolution will be needed to keep federal agencies operating and prevent the government from shutting down, it’s a virtual certainty,” he writes.

Collender’s should be a familiar name for defense sector readers. For years, he has been one of the briefers at the annual Pentagon budget preview session of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a defense think tank.

His column likely won’t give the defense sector much hope for a full-year Pentagon appropriations bill, which Pentagon brass and industry executives say is necessary for programmatic stability.

That’s because “with the possible exception of three appropriations,” including the DoD bill, the national political environment incentivizes lawmakers to oppose yearly agency spending bills.

“It is still better politics to vote for a CR before the election and make promises during the campaign about what you’re going do in a lame duck session afterwards than to make final decisions in September on which you may be judged,” Collender writes.

Other reasons he sees that only two CRs may pass this year:


■ “Even if congressional Republicans and Democrats and the White House were working together — and they clearly won’t be doing that this fall — there won’t be enough time to get much done on appropriations after Congress gets back to Washington after Labor Day.”

■ “It’s not in the GOP’s political interest to make final appropriations decisions for fiscal 2015 before the election.”

Collender predicts the first CR taking effect on Oct. 1, the first day of fiscal 2015, and running into mid-December. The second, he says, likely would be passed in December; it would “last through about the middle of March if Republicans win control the Senate or possibly through the full year if they don’t.”

If that scenario plays out, it would test a thin Republican majority’s ability to pass another massive spending bill in the spring, or another short-term measure that would tee up a fourth shutdown threat. ■


After Months on Back Burner, Sequester Fears Return

Aug. 19, 2014 – 06:10PM |



HUNTSVILLE, ALA. — For the past three years, US military officials have frequently voiced opposition to defense budget caps that went into effect in 2013.

But for the past eight months, US defense officials have spoken less about sequestration and more about immediate plans for this year and next. After all, Congress agreed on a budget plan for 2014 and 2015 that boosted Defense Department spending by more than $30 billion above the levels mandated under the Budget Control Act.

But now as crunch time begins inside the Pentagon as the services’ craft their 2016 budget plans, sequestration fears have returned. And at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium here last week, numerous officials used speeches to warn of the looming defense budget caps.

“[20]16 scares the heck out of me,” Air Force Lt. Gen. John Hyten, then-vice commander of Air Force Space Command, told a small group of reporters after an Aug. 12 speech. Hyten pinned on his fourth star and became the head of Space Command on Aug. 15.

“Our [operations and maintenance funding] is very different in our command. It’s bad on the aviation side, but they can ground squadrons. We can’t.”

The problem, the general said, is that the entire military relies on satellites. The command’s GPS satellites are used by the military, commercial industry and civilians globally.

Many cuts offered up by the command when sequestration hit in 2013 were rejected because of the negative operational impact, Hyten said.

“Everything we put forth is critical to some military mission,” he said.

Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, head of US Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, said during an Aug. 13 speech that it is “virtually impossible right now to make a strategic decision” due to funding unpredictability.


“When you go to the Hill … old friends are not friendly on this subject and old enemies are still enemies,” he said. “It’s really a different world approaching Congress about the budget.”

While the military has been raising concerns about sequestration for years, Jacoby said others need to speak up.

“What we really need is other voices to join that because the voices in uniform are not carrying the day in [congressional] committees that they used to carry the day,” he said.

The general said Pentagon programs “won’t survive if sequestration returns.”

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, voiced his sequestration concerns, too.

“We’ve been looking at the numbers and wrestling with these numbers for some time. The thing that worries me the most … is the defense budget,” he said Aug. 13. “There are a lot of places that we can save money. We are already saving a lot of money in the Defense Department. But meeting our national security challenges does require money. It requires a significant investment and a substance, money, that we have too little of.”

Sessions said he is looking for places to save money and invest in defense. The senator said he will meet with Defense Department officials in the coming weeks about the issue.

“I’ll be spending more time in Washington in August than I ever have,” he said. Both the House and Senate are in recess throughout the month.

Giving DoD more time to prepare for the spending cuts might soften the blow, Sessions said, noting high global security threats could advise against defense spending cuts.

“It simply may be that the Defense Department cannot, under the current global environment we find ourselves in, meet these targets and we’re going to have to have more money,” he said. “That is a very distinct possibility.”



IT outages are an ongoing problem for the U.S government

The inability to access data 24/7 hurts federal workforce, survey shows

By Patrick Thibodeau

August 19, 2014 04:46 PM ET


Computerworld – When was launched last October, it gave millions of Americans direct experience with a government IT failure on a massive scale. But the overall reliability of federal IT operations is being called into question by a survey that finds outages aren’t uncommon in government.

Specifically, the survey found that 70% of federal agencies have experienced downtime of 30 minutes or more in a recent one-month period. Of that number, 42% of the outages were blamed on network or server problems and 29% on Internet connectivity loss.

This rate of outage isn’t anywhere near as severe or dramatic as what faced until it was fixed. But the report by MeriTalk, which provides a network for government IT professionals, suggest that downtime is a systemic issue. The research was sponsored by Symantec.


The report is interesting because it surveys two distinct government groups, 152 federal “field workers,” or people who work outside the office, and 150 IT professionals.

Because the field workers are outside the office, some of the outages may be result of local connectivity problems at either a hotel, home or other remote site. But, overall, the main reason for loss of access to data was a government outage.

When outages occur, 48% of the workers said they do what they can via telephone, while 33% use personal devices and another 24% try to find a workaround, such a Google Apps.

When asked to grade their IT department, only 15% of the field workers gave it an “A”; 49% gave it a “B”; and 27% gave it a “C.”

When asked what caused the most recent outages, the IT professionals said 45% were due to a network or server outage; 20% cited Internet connectivity loss; 13% blamed natural disaster; 7% said a specific application stopped working, and 6% pointed to human error.

Restoring service took more than 30 minutes for 53%, of respondents, the survey reported.


Hagel: Iraq Crisis May Require DoD To Rethink 2015 Budget

Aug. 21, 2014 – 03:45AM |



WASHINGTON — The Pentagon might have to retool its $555 billion 2015 budget proposal to account for the threats posed by and actions taken against the Islamic State, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

“[Y]ou’re constantly shaping a budget to assure that resources match the mission and the mission and the resources match the threat,” Hagel said during a briefing at the Pentagon.

“[Y]ou’re shifting [money] all the time on what you think is going to be required,” Hagel said. “We’ve had to move assets over the last couple of months…to accomplish what we accomplished in Iraq. That costs money, that takes certain monies out of certain funds. So it’s a constant, fluid process as you plan for these.”

Since Aug. 8, US forces have conducted 89 airstrikes against Islamic State militants, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at the briefing.

Dempsey said US forces have delivered 636 bundles of food, water and medical supplies to Iraqis. As well, manned and unmanned military aircraft are flying more than 60 intelligence missions each day.

“I think we’re fine for fiscal year ’14 and we’ll have to continue to gather the data and see what it does in ’15,” Dempsey said.

In March, the Defense Department asked Congress for $496 billion for 2015. Called the “base budget,” it covers normal operations, acquisition, personnel costs, etc. In late June, the Pentagon asked lawmakers for an additional $58.6 billion to cover overseas contingency operations (OCO).

The overall budget proposal includes a request for $5 billion — $4 billion in DoD’s OCO request and $1 billion in the State Department’s war budget — for a counterterrorism account that could be used for operations, such as the campaign against militants in Iraq, experts say.

“In the future, I would think this is exactly the kind of operation that should be funded out of the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund included in the FY15 OCO request,” Todd Harrison, an analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said this month.

The fiscal year ends on Sept. 30. If Congress does not pass a 2015 spending plan by then, the government would likely be funded through a continuing resolution, which would limit funding at 2014 levels. ■



Essay: The Legal and Moral Problems of Autonomous Strike Aircraft

By: Dave Majumdar

Published: August 21, 2014 4:55 PM


The U.S. Navy’s move toward developing a carried-based unmanned combat aircraft might eventually afford the service the ability to strike targets at long-range, but there are ethical and legal questions that linger should the Pentagon develop a fully autonomous system.

As currently envisioned, the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) will be autonomous, but it will have a “man-on-the-loop” according to Rear Adm. Mat Winter, the Naval Air Systems Command’s Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons. But the UCLASS is not going to be a penetrating strike aircraft such as many senior defense officials, academics and analysts had hoped. In fact, serious legal and ethical dilemmas might arise if the Pentagon were to pursue an unmanned penetrating strike aircraft.

There are many senior Pentagon officials—including Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work—who argue for a deep penetrating unmanned strike aircraft that would launch from a carrier if the United States were serious about its “pivot” to the Pacific. But potential adversaries, such as Russia and China, are not stupid, and are certain to attack the vulnerable data-links that control such an unmanned bomber via electronic and cyber attacks.

One recently retired Navy official acknowledged that giving such a warplane full autonomy—to include launching weapons without prior human consent—might be the only effective way for a long-range unmanned strike aircraft to operate in a theater where the United States faces off against a near-peer potential adversary, but the prospect of such a system raises legal and moral questions.


Anti-Access Area Denial

In the Western Pacific, China is building up its anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities—including communications jamming, cyber-warfare and anti-satellite weapons. In the event of a conflict, Chinese forces are likely to attack those vital communications links than enable U.S. forces to operate cohesively. In those communications degraded/communications denied environments, unless a system is manned, autonomy might be the only way to go.

For the Navy there is an added dimension, as was postulated by Jan van Tol, Mark Gunzinger, Andrew Krepinevich and Jim Thomas at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments: the service’s aircraft carriers no longer have a haven in coastal waters 200 nautical miles offshore. With the rising threats to the aircraft carrier in the form of antiship cruise and ballistic missiles, those ships may be forced to stand off a significant distance—more than 1,000 nautical miles—from the enemy shoreline.


Additionally, with the proliferation of advanced integrated air-defense networks and low-frequency radars that can detect and track low-observable targets, existing stealth aircraft may not have the range or the survivability to operate in those theaters.

In that case, the best option for the Navy might be to develop a long-range unmanned strike aircraft with wide-band all-aspect stealth technology that would be able to persist inside even the densest of enemy air defenses. By necessity, given that such an advanced adversary would be able to deny or degrade communications significantly, such an aircraft would have to be fully autonomous. In other words, the unmanned aircraft would have to be able to operate independently of prolonged communications with its human masters and it would also need to be able to make the decision to release weapons without phoning home for a human operator’s consent.

Moreover, the U.S. Air Force also faces basing challenges in the Western Pacific, as existing air bases such as Kadena and Misawa in Japan and Andersen Air Force Base in Guam are vulnerable to concerted air and missile attacks. A very stealthy long-range autonomous unmanned strike aircraft could be used to complement the service’s prospective Long Range Strike Bomber—going into places that are far too dangerous for a manned aircraft or to perform missions like stand-in jamming from inside hostile territory.


The Autonomous Cost Equation

While the initial cost of developing such an autonomous unmanned aircraft might be high, there might be significant savings longer-term. An autonomous unmanned aircraft only needs to be flown occasionally during peacetime to keep-up the proficiency of maintainers. Further, an autonomous aircraft has no need to fly training sorties or to practice—a computer can simply be programmed to do what needs to be done.

Additionally, such an autonomous unmanned aircraft would not need downtime between deployments—just the occasional depot-level maintenance overhaul. That means that the Navy—or the Air Force, if it bought some—would need only as many aircraft as required to fill the number of deployed carriers and account for attrition reserves and planes laid up in depot maintenance. There could also be significant personnel cost savings because a fully autonomous aircraft would not require pilots and the smaller fleet would require fewer maintainers.

The technology to develop and build such an aircraft mostly already exists. Most current unmanned aircraft like the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper are remotely controlled by a human operator. Others—like the Northrop Grumman MQ-4C Triton or RQ-4B Global Hawk—have far more autonomy but are not armed. Nonetheless, there are already a number of autonomous weapon systems that are either in service or that have reached the prototype stage that can engage hostile targets without human intervention.

Perhaps the two most obvious examples are cruise missiles and intercontinental ballistic missiles. Once those weapons are launched, they proceed autonomously to their preprogrammed targets without any human intervention.

If one were to imagine a U.S. Navy destroyer launching a Tomahawk cruise missile at a fixed target somewhere in the Western Pacific, there is a sequence of events that would be followed. The crew of the destroyer would receive orders to attack a particular target. The crew would then program that information into the missile. Once launched, the Tomahawk navigates its way to the target in a manner similar to a manned aircraft, but completely without human intervention.

Against a fixed target, for example a bunker or factory, a fully autonomous unmanned air vehicle would be very similar to a cruise missile. Like a Tomahawk cruise missile, the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) would receive a particular target location and instructions for how to engage that target with the correct weapons. Like the Tomahawk, the UAV would be able to navigate to that target completely autonomously. If the UAV were then to engage that fixed-target with a Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) or some other weapon, in practical terms, there is no real difference between an unmanned aircraft and a cruise missile. The effect would be identical. The only change would be that the UAV could make a second pass, fly onto another target, or fly home to be rearmed. And it could be argued with its jet engine and wings, a Tomahawk is really just a small UAV on a one-way trip.


Expecting the Unexpected

The more challenging scenario comes when there is an unexpected “pop-up” threat such an S-400 surface-to-air missile battery that might be encountered by an autonomous unmanned combat air vehicle (UCAV) during a wartime sortie. Human pilots are assumed to inherently have the judgment to decide whether or not to engage such a threat. But those human pilots are making their decisions based on sensor information that is being processed by the aircraft’s computer. In fact, the pilot is often entirely dependent upon the aircraft’s sensors and the avionics to perform a combat identification of a contact.

The Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter epitomize this concept—especially in the realm of beyond visual range air-to-air combat. Both the Raptor and the F-35 fuse data correlated from the aircraft’s radar, electronic support measures and other sensors into a track file that the computer identifies as hostile, friendly or an unknown. The pilot is entirely reliant upon the computer to determine a proper combat identification; it would be a very small technological step for the system to engage targets autonomously without human intervention.

The air-to-ground arena is somewhat more challenging due to target location errors that are inherent in sensors and navigation systems (and also environmental effects and enemy camouflage). But with a combination of electro-optical/infrared cameras, synthetic aperture radar, ground moving target indication radar or even hyperspectral sensors, a computer can ascertain a positive combat identification of ground targets—assuming that the data being gathered is geo-registered. Once the computer can determine a positive identification—either a manned or unmanned aircraft—can engage a target. But at the end of the day, the computer is still making the determination that a contact is hostile.

In fact autonomous systems capable of identifying and attacking targets at their own discretion have existed in the past. One example is the Northrop AGM-136 Tacit Rainbow anti-radiation cruise missile, which was canceled in 1991. It was designed to be pre-programmed for a designated target area, over which it would loiter. It would remain in that designated box until it detected emissions from hostile radar. Once the Tacit Rainbow detected and identified an enemy emitter, the missile would zero in for the kill—all without any human intervention.

A later example is the Lockheed Martin Low-Cost Autonomous Attack System. The now-defunct miniature loitering cruise missile demonstrator was guided by GPS/INS to a target box. It would then use laser radar to illuminate targets and match them with pre-loaded signatures. The weapon would then go after the highest priority target while at the same time selecting the appropriate mode for the warhead to best engage the target autonomously without human intervention.

Other prominent examples include the Aegis combat system, which in its full automatic mode can engage multiple aircraft or missiles simultaneously without human intervention. Similarly, the shipboard Close-in Weapons System or Phalanx has an autonomous engagement capability.


Moral And Legal Questions

What all of that means is that fully autonomous combat identification and engagement is technically feasible for unmanned aircraft—given sophisticated avionics and smart precision guided weapons. But while technically fully autonomous unmanned combat aircraft are feasible, what of the moral and legal implications?


The Pentagon has already preemptively issued policy guidance on the development and operational use of autonomous and semi-autonomous weapons in November 2012. DOD directive 3000.09 states: “Autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems shall be designed to allow commanders and operators to exercise appropriate levels of human judgment over the use of force.” But the policy does not expressly forbid the development of a fully autonomous lethal weapon systems, it merely states that senior Pentagon leadership would closely supervise any such development.

In order to prevent what the Defense Department calls an “unintended engagement”, those who authorize or direct the operation of autonomous and semi-autonomous weapon systems are required use “appropriate care and in accordance with the law of war, applicable treaties, weapon system safety rules and applicable rules of engagement,” the policy states.

Thus it would seem that the U.S. government views the use of autonomous weapon systems as legal under the laws of war–provided certain conditions are met. Indeed, a number of lawyers specializing in national security law have suggested that fully autonomous weapons are lawful. The responsibility for the use of such weapon would ultimately fall to the person who authorized its employment—which is similar to any other manned weapon.

But there are those who are adamantly opposed to any fully autonomous weapon systems—organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW). In a November 2012 report titled “Losing Humanity: The Case against Killer Robots,” HRW called for an international treaty that would preemptively ban all autonomous weapons. In fact it is likely that the DOD policy guidance on the development of autonomous weapons stems from the conclusions of the HRW report.

The HRW report makes three recommendations. The first: “Prohibit the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons through an international legally binding instrument. The second: “Adopt national laws and policies to prohibit the development, production and use of fully autonomous weapons.” The third: “Commence reviews of technologies and components that could lead to fully autonomous weapons. These reviews should take place at the very beginning of the development process and continue throughout the development and testing phases.”


HRW asserts that autonomous systems are unable to meet the standards set forth under international humanitarian law. “The rules of distinction, proportionality and military necessity are especially important tools for protecting civilians from the effects of war, and fully autonomous weapons would not be able to abide by those rules,” the report states.

But critics, such as legal scholar Benjamin Wittes at the Brookings Institution. have challenged such statements. Wittes has written that there are situations where machines can “distinguish military targets far better and more accurately than humans can.” Indeed, those familiar with unmanned technology, sensor hardware and software can attest that is indeed the case.

If a computer is given a certain set of parameters—for example a series of rules of engagement—it will follow those instructions precisely. If the autonomous weapon is designed and built to operate within the laws of war, then there should be no objection to their use. Under Article 36 of the 1977 Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions, weapons cannot be inherently indiscriminate and are prohibited from causing unnecessary suffering or superfluous injury. “The fact that an autonomous weapon system selects the target or undertakes the attack does not violate the rule,” Hoover Institution legal scholars Kenneth Anderson and Matthew Waxman wrote in a their paper “Law and Ethics For Autonomous Weapon Systems.”

Technology is continuously moving forward and while autonomous systems may not be able to operate under all circumstances, it may only be a matter of time before engineers find a technical solution. While under many circumstances—with the right sensors and algorithms—autonomous systems would have the ability to distinguish lawful targets from unlawful targets, but that is not currently the case under all circumstances. Thus there are some limitations inherent to autonomous weapon systems for the time being.

However, those limitations will not always be there as technology continues its march forward and engineers continue to make progress. As Wittes correctly points out, “To call for a per se ban on autonomous weapons is to insist as a matter of IHL [international humanitarian law] on preserving a minimum level of human error in targeting.” Machines are generally far more precise than human beings.


Proportional Actions

Along with being able to distinguish between targets, the law requires that combatants weigh the proportionality of their actions. “Any use of a weapon must also involve evaluation that sets the anticipated military advantage to be gained against the anticipated civilian harm,” Anderson and Waxman write. “The harm to civilians must not be excessive relative to the expected military gain.”

Though technically challenging, a completely autonomous weapon system would have to be required to address proportionality as well as distinction. But the difficulty is entirely dependent upon the specific operational scenario. For example, while an unmanned aircraft could identify and attack a hostile surface-to-air missile system deep behind enemy lines or an enemy warship at sea—where there is little chance of encountering civilians—targets inside a highly populated area are more difficult to prosecute.

Some of the most difficult scenarios—which would not necessarily be a factor in a high-end campaign against an A2/AD threats–would be challenging for a human pilot, let alone a machine. For example during counter-insurgency campaign, if there were two school buses driving side-by-side in a built-up area, but one of the vehicles was carrying nuns and the other carrying heavily-armed terrorists, it would be very difficult for a human pilot to determine which bus is the proper target until one of them commits a hostile act. The same would be true for an autonomous system—but in the near-term, it could be a technological challenge.

The human pilot would also have to determine what kind of weapon to use—judging the proportionality. Does he or she select a 2.000-pound JDAM or a smaller 250-pound small diameter bomb, or 20mm cannon, or do nothing since the risk of civilian casualties is too high? Likewise, an autonomous weapon system would need to be programmed to select an appropriate low collateral damage munition or to disengage if the danger of civilian casualties were too great once the target has been positively identified. But it would take time and investment before such an autonomous system could become a reality.


Baby Steps

Thus, for the near future, autonomous weapons would have to be developed incrementally starting with systems that could engage fixed targets and “obviously” military targets like surface-to-air missile sites or tank columns on the open battlefield during a conventional war. Likewise, in the maritime environment, where there are few civilians to speak of, autonomous systems could offer huge advantages with little in the way of any drawbacks.

Additionally, for the time being, autonomous weapons should not be utilized in complex scenarios—such as counter-insurgency–where there is significant possibility that it could cause inadvertent civilian casualties or unintended collateral damage. It may also be unwise to use a fully autonomous UCAV for missions like close air support—particularly during “danger close” type situations where friendly troops are in close contact with the enemy—until the technology has been proven operationally in other roles. Human pilots have a hard enough time with those types of missions.


While at present there are some technological limitations that do exist, those are not likely to remain to roadblocks forever. Autonomous technology is advancing rapidly and could one day be precise and reliable enough to not only distinguish correct targets but could also make proportionality judgments in complex scenarios based on parameters programmed into the machine. Those parameters would not be unlike rules of engagement given to human operators. Already, cameras and software exist that can identify individual human faces for example. Once a target is precisely identified, it would not be a huge leap then for an autonomous system to use a low-collateral damage weapons to eliminate hostile targets while minimizing any harm to civilians.

Much of the objection to fully autonomous weapons seems to stem from a sense of “fair play” rather than any real legal issues—most of which are likely to be overcome. But any time new weapons technology emerges, there is opposition from those who believe that the technology fundamentally unbalances war. Objections have been raised throughout history to new technologies—ranging from crossbows and longbows, to machine-guns and submarines—because the use of such weapons was considered to the “unfair” or “unsporting.” But ultimately, the use of such weapons became a fact of life. War is not a game, and as U.S. Air Force Col. Lawrence Spinetta, commander of the 69th Reconnaissance Group said: “Isn’t there a moral imperative on the part of a nation to minimize danger for its soldiers and airmen?”

Indeed there is no legal requirement for war to be fair—in fact throughout history war has been anything but. “The law, to be sure, makes no requirement that sides limit themselves to the weapons available to the other side; weapons superiority is perfectly lawful and indeed assumed as part of military necessity,” write Anderson and Waxman.

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Is America becoming an even more divided nation?

We ask voters last month if America is a more divided nation now than it was four years ago, and 67% said yes.

That was before racial tensions exploded following a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri. Blacks and whites have sharply different views on what happened in Ferguson and what should happen next. Most black Americans (57%) are already convinced that the police officer who shot a black teenager should be found guilty of murder, a view shared by just 17% of whites and 24% of other minority adults.

While many blacks consider the police a threat, most other Americans think they are a blessing instead.

Most also reject the idea that most policemen are racist and think the media would be less interested in the incident in Ferguson if a white teenager had been shot by a black police officer. But then, only 20% consider the media Very Trustworthy anyway. 

Then there’s the division between voters and the federal government. Case in point: A growing majority of voters believes gaining control of the border is the most important immigration reform needed, but most think the federal government is still encouraging illegal immigration instead.

Local school districts around the country are discovering that the Obama administration has secretly moved some of the latest illegal immigrants into their areas. But most voters don’t think those illegals should be allowed to attend their schools.

Voters also still strongly favor laws requiring all voters to prove their identity before being allowed to vote and don’t believe such laws are discriminatory. But the U.S. Justice Department continues to challenge them in court on discrimination grounds, even though 64% of blacks support voter ID laws.

After billions in federal bailouts for the U.S. financial industry, just over half of Americans express confidence in the nation’s banks. It’s been that way since the Wall Street meltdown. Just before that, in July 2008, 68% were confident in the banks.

Just 38% of voters now think the U.S. economy is fair.

No wonder only 24% think the country is headed in the right direction. That number has seldom risen above 30% in over a year of weekly tracking.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s job approval rating continues to hover in the high negative teens, while views of Congress remain at record lows.

Even though most voters disagree with much of what the government is doing, they have so little confidence that Congress is listening that not many are planning to tell their legislators what they really think at town hall meetings this month.

Voters have suspected for years that neither major political party truly represents them, and Democrats and Republicans are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot with just 39% support each. A year ago, they were tied at 38% each.  There are a lot of voters who don’t like either one.

But it’s a critical election year. Are things going to change? More importantly, is the balance of power going to change? Republicans need to pick up six new seats to take over the Senate, and West Virginia and Montana look like their likeliest gains.

GOP Senator Mike Enzi appears to be cruising to an easy reelection in Wyoming, while Democratic Senator Al Franken has an eight-point lead in Minnesota.

Check our latest video election update.

Most voters still don’t like the new national health care law, but an increasing number of Americans are buying insurance through the exchanges established under the law. That could pose a serious problem for Republican efforts to repeal or dramatically change Obamacare.

The housing market has been a rare bright spot in the economy in recent months. But homeowners are less confident this month than they’ve been in over a year that their home’s value will increase in the short-term. Confidence in their home’s current value has fallen back as well.

Confidence that now is a good time to sell a house is also down from the more optimistic levels seen earlier this year.

Most homeowners, however, have not been late on a mortgage payment recently and don’t expect to be anytime soon. For those who are struggling to make their payments, most Americans still don’t think the government should help. 

At week’s end, 23% of consumers had a positive view of the economy, while 35% rated it as poor. Similarly, 27% of investors rated the economy as good or excellent, while 30% considered it poor.

In other surveys last week:

— As tensions remain high with Russia and much of the Middle East, more voters than ever believe the United States is not putting enough money into national security.

— Americans favor the use of international courts for crimes against humanity but have more confidence in a verdict reached by courts in this country. The Palestinians hope to have Israel tried for such crimes at the International Criminal Court, but Americans tend to think that’s a bad idea.

The first numbers from the Connecticut governor’s race may come as a surprise.

— Incumbent Republican Terry Branstad has widened his lead over Democratic challenger Jack Hatch in Iowa’s gubernatorial race.

— Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton has an eight-point advantage in his bid for a second term as governor of Minnesota.

— Matt Mead turned back two challengers in this week’s Republican primary and looks well on his way to reelection as governor of Wyoming.

— The shocking suicide of comedian-actor Robin Williams has highlighted the dangers of clinical depression, and Americans strongly agree more needs to be done to identify and treat it.

August 16 2014




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Widespread Commercial Drone Flights ‘Years Away’

by Press • 11 August 2014

Andy Pasztor


WASHINGTON—Widespread use of commercial drones is likely to take significantly longer than many proponents of the budding industry anticipate, according to U.S. and Canadian aviation regulators.

That blunt message was delivered by high-ranking aviation safety officials from the U.S., Canada and the United Nations last week to an industry conference here.

At a time when champions of unmanned aircraft are escalating efforts to obtain federal approvals—with some U.S. lawmakers also demanding swift regulatory action—the latest comments highlight the extent of the hurdles that remain.

Last week’s session underscored the reluctance of regulators across North America and other regions to quickly give the green light to extensive drone flights, based on safety concerns. A representative of the International Civil Aviation Organization, an arm of the U.N., expressed similar sentiments during the panel sponsored by the Air Line Pilots Association, a major union.

Granting regulatory approval to operate remotely piloted vehicles among manned aircraft is “not going to be as soon as some people tend to think,” John Hickey, the No. 2 safety official at the Federal Aviation Administration, told the gathering.

“We’re still many years away from what you would see as safe integration in the very busiest airspace,” according to Mr. Hickey. “We will not allow [drones] to come into the system until we are completely sure they are safe.”

Congress has mandated that by the fall of 2015, the FAA institute a comprehensive plan to safely integrate manned and unmanned aircraft in U.S. skies.

Mr. Hickey’s comments reiterated that the FAA considers itself obligated to formulate a plan by that deadline, rather than start allowing widespread drone operations by then.

Initial U.S. rules covering the smallest unmanned aircraft aren’t likely to become final until late next year. Rules for larger, more-capable models are likely to come years later.

During the same conference session, Martin Ely, who heads civil aviation regulation for Transport Canada, the government’s regulatory department, said sweeping integration of drones into national and international airspace “is probably a long way away.”

Mr. Ely said Transport Canada last year approved nearly 1,000 permits authorizing drone operations in designated areas, segregated from common airspace.

That is three times the number approved a year earlier, he said.

But Mr. Ely said the industry hasn’t yet developed the technology drones need to see and avoid other aircraft—safety features considered essential before operations can be approved in normal airspace.

Mitchell Fox, head of ICAO’s flight operations office, predicted that international standards for certifying drones, pilots and widespread operations are at least four years away. And they won’t be binding on regulators or operators. “The incremental approach is essential,” Mr. Fox said.

To ease mounting pressure from drone advocates, the FAA is allowing case-by-case approvals for a modest number of specific uses of small, low-flying drones. Industry proponents, however, have been clamoring for expanded approvals.

In June, the U.S. Transportation Department’s inspector general issued a report concluding that “the magnitude of unresolved safety and privacy issues will prevent” the FAA from meeting the timetable imposed by Congress. The report said the FAA has so many challenges to resolve that it isn’t clear when remotely controlled aircraft can be safely integrated into U.S. airspace.

In addition to technical issues regarding navigation, systems reliability and emergency procedures if communication links go down, federal officials have been struggling with privacy considerations.

FAA officials remain leery of being responsible for regulating privacy, and the White House and other agencies are debating where in government such matters should be decided.

Last fall, when federal aviation regulators released their first overall plan to eventually integrate drones into U.S. airspace, they riled critics seeking greater attention to privacy protections.

At the time, the FAA laid out nearly 100 pages of specific technical and procedural principles intended to ensure safe design and operation of domestic drones—an early step toward what proponents project could be routine flights by tens of thousands of government and commercial drones by 2025.

But the plan was less encompassing and detailed regarding privacy issues.

The FAA acknowledged the agency wasn’t expert in that area, and largely reverted to existing state and federal laws for privacy safeguards when drones start flying at six test sites.

Recognizing that “there is substantial debate and difference of opinion” about whether the test sites will raise new privacy concerns, the FAA opted to require operators to collect written plans for each drone’s use and retention of data, among other rules.

Over the years, the FAA has approved many drone operations by law-enforcement and other public agencies, but all of those were and remain restricted to areas strictly cordoned off by regulations from all other air traffic. Commercial users, by contrast, are seeking to integrate drones into the broader national airspace.

In June, BP PLC signed a five-year contract to use drones at its oil operations in Alaska, the first large-scale, government-approved commercial use of unmanned aircraft in the U.S.



Air Force Space Command boss to step down

By Tom Roeder Updated: August 11, 2014 at 7:41 am •  6


One of the generals who redesigned the military’s approach to space is stepping down this week in a Peterson Air Force Base ceremony.


Air Force Space Command boss Gen. William Shelton guided Air Force Space command through unprecedented budget strife that saw it cut $1 billion in annual spending, but he is best known for his plan to increase on-orbit intelligence and pursue a future with smaller, cheaper satellites. He’s set to give way Friday to his deputy, Lt. Gen. John Hyten.

The new plan for space is driven by an increase in the number of space-faring nations and the fear that the first shots in the next war could be fired high above Earth.

“We’ve seen this coming for a long time in space,” Shelton said.

But the fix Shelton sought required asking hard questions about what America was sending into space and how it was being protected.

“How do we make ourselves survivable in light of what is a very challenging space domain going forward?” Shelton asked.

Until a few years ago, the United States and Russia had a lock on technology required to shoot down satellites. But China has a demonstrated anti-satellite missile, and nations including North Korea and Iran are thought to be on the brink of their counterspace programs.

Losing satellites could be crippling to any American war effort. Troops relay on satellites for weapons guidance, navigation, communications and intelligence.

Some new weapons systems, including drone aircraft, won’t function without satellites.

“We can no longer believe space is a peaceful sanctuary,” Shelton said.

The general sought to change the way the Air Force has been building satellites as a partial solution.The service has relied on relatively low numbers of technologically complex satellites to fulfill missions. In that system, if one satellite gets shot down there’s a dramatic drop in capabilities.

Now, Shelton says, America needs big numbers of smaller, less capable satellites, which in concert can do the job of their bigger, more complex cousins.

Because there would be a lot more of them, the smaller birds would form a self-healing network that would be able to weather the early stages of a space war.

Shelton said Pentagon leaders and satellite builders have agreed to the plan after years of arguing.

“There has been this national consensus,” he said.


The second part of Shelton’s plan is taking shape, too. In July, Space Command launched a satellite to spy on other satellites and watch for space attacks.


The recently declassified Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program uses those satellites to give Space Command bosses a better picture of what’s going on in orbit and could gather intelligence to warn of an attack or avert it.


That, combined with new ground-base sensors such as the Space Fence radar being built on a Pacific Ocean atoll, will serve as a security guard for American interests in a place where commandeers can’t send troops or planes.


The command is struggling with other issues in Shelton’s last days. Debate is raging over the use of Russian rocket motors used on the Atlas boosters used in some Air Force launches.


Space Command is considering plans for a new American motor or launches using other rockets until tensions with Russia wind down.

“I can tell you, there are lots of mitigation studies underway,” Shelton said.

The command also faces years of budget austerity, Shelton said.

Shelton said he’s happy to be leaving Space Command in the hands of a smart subordinate whose equipped to deal with the challenges ahead.

“Certainly, John Hyten comes to the job with a full understanding of the issues that come with the job.”

Shelton is leaving the command but won’t be far away. He’s retiring in Colorado Springs.



Background Check Firm Hit by Breach

Incident ‘Has Markings of a State-Sponsored Attack’

By Jeffrey Roman, August 7, 2014. Follow Jeffrey @gen_sec


U.S. Investigations Services, which conducts background checks for the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies, says it has identified a cyber-attack on its corporate network.

“Experts who have reviewed the facts gathered to-date believe it has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack,” the company says.

Upon learning of the incident, USIS immediately informed federal law enforcement, the Office of Personnel Management and other relevant federal agencies. “We are working closely with federal law enforcement authorities and have retained an independent computer forensics investigations firm to determine the precise nature and extent of any unlawful entry into our network,” USIS says.

The Office of Personnel Management says it’s working closely with US-CERT and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine the impact of the breach to OPM and its agency partners. “Out of abundance of caution, we are temporarily ceasing field investigative work with USIS,” Jackie Koszczuk, communications director at OPM, tells Information Security Media Group. “This pause will give USIS time to work with US-CERT and OPM to take the necessary steps to protect its systems.”

OPM says it hasn’t been notified of any loss of personally identifiable information so far. “We are vigorously working to learn the extent of the situation at USIS, and we are taking appropriate actions to protect the security and integrity of our systems and data,” Koszczuk says.

A Department of Homeland Security forensic analysis has concluded that some DHS personnel may have been affected by the breach, according to news reports.

USIS says it’s working collaboratively with OPM and DHS to resolve the matter. “[We] look forward to resuming service on all our contracts with them as soon as possible,” the company says. “Given the involvement of law enforcement and the active nature of this investigation, we cannot provide any additional information at this time.”

DHS did not immediately respond to a request for additional information.


Beefing Up Security

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., chairman of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, says the USIS breach calls attention to the need to beef up network security.

“The latest report of a cyber-attack on the major government contractor USIS is deeply troubling and underscores the scary reality of how much of a target our sensitive information has become in cyberspace,” he says. “While the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Personnel Management and other agencies have a number of tools and resources under existing authorities, it is critical that we modernize our outdated federal network security laws to prevent further attacks from happening.”



U.S. agencies halt background checks by contractor after cyberattack

U.S. Investigations Services claimed the incident has the markings of a state-sponsored attack

By Jeremy Kirk

August 7, 2014 06:26 AM ET


IDG News Service – Two U.S. federal agencies have halted background checks with a contractor that said Wednesday its networks had been breached in a cyberattack suspected to have been coordinated by an unnamed country.

US Investigations Services (USIS), based in Falls Church, Virginia, said federal law enforcement is investigating the incident, which it claimed “has all the markings of a state-sponsored attack,” according to a statement. It has hired a computer forensics firm to “determine the precise nature and extent of any unlawful entry into our network.”

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) temporarily suspended its contracts with the company, but USIS said it hoped to resume business soon.

USIS, which is now part of a group of companies including Kroll and HireRight owned by Altegrity, formed in 1996 after the OPM privatized its background-check functions, according to the company’s website. It does employee background investigations for the government as well as other security-related investigations, such as health care fraud.

USIS said it had invested heavily in security but that cyberattacks had become an epidemic. It said it could not provide further details because an active investigation is underway.

The cyberattack adds to the contractor’s difficulties of late. USIS performed the background check for former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked classified intelligence documents to several publishers last year. It has also been under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice for allegedly taking short cuts during background checks.


Russian bombers testing US defenses?

By Kristina Wong – 08/07/14 01:41 PM EDT


Russian strategic nuclear bombers entered U.S. airspace at least 16 times during the past 10 days, marking an unusually sharp increase of aerial incursions, The Washington Free Beacon reported.

The intrusions by Tu-95 Russian Bear H heavy bombers prompted the scrambling of U.S. fighter jets on several occasions. On one occasion, a Russian intelligence-gathering jet was detected along with the bombers near Alaska.

“Over the past week, NORAD has visually identified Russian aircraft operating in and around the U.S. air defense identification zones,” said Maj. Beth Smith, spokeswoman for U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command told the Beacon.

The encounters come during a time of heightened tensions between the U.S. and Russia over the Kremlin’s annexation of Crimea and its continuing military assistance to pro-Russia separatists in Ukraine.

The flights took place mostly along the Alaskan air defense identification zone — an area where foreign militaries must announce flights before entering. The zone covers the Aleutian Islands and Alaska.

The flights were a mix of the heavy bombers, Tu-142 Bear F maritime reconnaissance aircraft and one IL-20 intelligence collection aircraft.

News of the flights comes weeks after an incident during which a Russian aircraft encountered a U.S. spy plane in international airspace near Ukraine.

The Air Force RC-135 Rivet Joint flew into Swedish airspace to avoid being tracked. The Russians sent at least one fighter jet to intercept the aircraft, according to CNN.

On April 23, a Russian Su-27 Flanker fighter jet came within 100 feet of the nose of a U.S. Air Force RC-135U reconnaissance plane over the Sea of Okhotsk between Russia and Japan, a Defense Department official said.

In addition, two Bear bombers flew within 50 miles of the California coast on June 9, the closest the Russians have flown their nuclear-capable bombers since the days of the Cold War. A U.S. F-15 intercepted the bombers, the Beacon first reported.

A defense official said Russian strategic nuclear forces appear to be “trying to test our air defense reactions, or our command and control systems.”

“These are not just training missions,” the official told the Beacon.

Read more:


The U.S. Needs More Drones

Paul Scharre August 11, 2014


Al-Qaeda is morphing and metastasizing, spreading like a cancer in an arc of jihadism from the deserts of Northern Mali through Libya, Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, and Iraq. Islamic extremists continue to gain ground in Iraq, and President Barack Obama has authorized more than a dozen airstrikes as fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant threaten to take Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department is cutting one of the most vital tools against this threat: loitering unmanned aircraft, aka drones, to provide persistent surveillance of terrorist networks.

While DOD has had drones flying over Iraq for over a month, a drastic shortfall in global supply means that their presence in Iraq is at the expense of another vital mission elsewhere. And yet not only is DOD not moving to address this shortfall, it is taking steps to reduce its drone fleet, a dangerous move that will make it harder to keep tabs on a growing and changing terrorist threat.

In its recent Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon announced a 15 percent cut to its Predator and Reaper fleet, the bulk of the unmanned aircraft currently used to surveil terrorists around the globe. This isn’t because there is an excess of capacity. Demand for airborne surveillance for critical missions like countering terrorism far outstrips supply. It’s because the ugly disease of “next war-itis” that Defense Secretary Robert Gates repeatedly warned about during his tenure has flared up in the Pentagon yet again.

Despite guidance from the president that prioritizes fighting terrorism, Pentagon force planners have taken their eye off of today’s threats and are overly concentrating their budget dollars on potential future challenges at the expense of current threats. With U.S. troops on their way out of Afghanistan, DOD leaders have mistakenly assumed that demand for unmanned aircraft will abate. In reality, the threat from terrorism is changing in ways that will make intelligence collection all the more important.

The number of radicals is increasing and they are spread across a larger geographic area among a more diffuse array of groups. A recent report from the RAND Corporation revealed that from 2010 to 2013, the number of Salafi jihadist groups increased by more than 50 percent and the total number of fighters more than doubled. Not all of these groups pose direct threats to the United States, but understanding which ones are homeland threats and which ones have only local ambitions depends on good intelligence. Drones are vital intelligence collection tools and yet are precisely what DOD is choosing to cut.

Air Force officials have made no secret of their dissatisfaction with Predators and Reapers, citing their lack of survivability in contested airspace. A senior Air Force officer has gone so far as to call them “useless” in roles outside of tracking al-Qaeda. But penetrating the air defenses of a sophisticated nation isn’t the mission of these low-cost drones. What Predators and Reapers allow is persistent overhead surveillance at relatively low cost, a 24/7 unblinking eye watching terrorists, tracking their movements, and mapping their networks.

It is true that the way in which unmanned aircraft are used today is very personnel-intensive. While the air vehicles themselves are relatively cheap, there are a tremendous number of people behind each “orbit” flying the aircraft, managing the sensors, and processing the reams of intelligence they produce. A smarter way to go about reducing costs in today’s budget-conscious environment would be to invest in new technologies that can reduce the manpower burden for operating these aircraft and exploiting the intelligence. These include multi-aircraft control technology to reduce the number of pilots, wide area sensors that multiply the amount of information collected from each aircraft, and automated video processing to cut down on the number of intelligence analysts needed to manage the deluge of data. Together, these could dramatically reduce operational costs, conceivably even allowing a greater amount of intelligence to be collected at lower cost. Some of these manpower-reducing technologies are already fairly mature, and are explored in greater detail in the Center for a New American Security’s recent report, “Robotics on the Battlefield – Part I: Range, Persistence and Daring.”

But rather than invest in the necessary upgrades to make the current Predator and Reaper fleet more capable and more cost-effective, the Air Force is looking to simply reduce its investment in this mission. Meanwhile, the strategic need is increasing. The terrorist threat is changing and evolving, and DOD’s preoccupation with future threats at the expense of today is strategically flawed, inconsistent with the president’s guidance, and dangerous.

That this is occurring is no surprise. From mine resistant ambush protected vehicles (MRAPs) to countering improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to fielding intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft, the Pentagon’s normal bureaucratic processes have been unable to sufficiently address wartime needs when they have arisen in the most recent conflicts, instead requiring the creation of ad-hoc processes, in some cases reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense. If the United States is going to be prepared to keep tabs on an evolving terrorist threat and be poised to act when needed, whether in Iraq or elsewhere, urgent senior leader attention and involvement at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the White House, and Congress is needed.

Paul Scharre is a fellow and Director of the 20YY Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security. From 2008-2013 he worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense on unmanned systems and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities. He is a former reconnaissance team leader in the Army’s 3rd Ranger Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment and has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.


The climate change money machine

August 12, 2014, 06:30 am

By Benjamin Zycher, contributor


The period of atmospheric and surface warming that began in the late 1970s ended in the mid- to late 1990s, but the climate change industry is hot. Witness a new effort by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) to use unsupported assertions about the hugely adverse effects of greenhouse gas emissions purportedly now looming large to justify federal auctions of “carbon” permits, with the revenue inevitably used by the political class for purposes of redistribution to favored interest groups.

Van Hollen has introduced The Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2014, which would impose steadily declining limits on “carbon pollution” — a classic example of the political propaganda at which the climate change industry is so practiced — by auctioning permits to the “first sellers” of oil, coal and natural gas in the U.S. market. The goal would be an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions below 2005 levels by 2050.

Let us begin with the central congressional “finding” (that is, bland assertion) in the Van Hollen legislation: “The warming of our planet has led to more frequent, dangerous, and expensive extreme weather events, including heat waves, storms, fires, droughts, floods, and tornadoes.”

Wow. With respect to the explicit assumption about the “warming of our planet”: The most recent warming period ended 15 or more years ago. More generally, global temperatures increased roughly from the middle of the 19th century (the end of the Little Ice Age) through the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883, and then from about 1910 through about 1940. They were roughly constant through the late 1970s, increased until approximately 1998 (a year with a strong El Niño), and have exhibited no trend since then. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report summarizes the relevant data as follows: The total increase between the 1850-1900 average and the 2003-2012 period (in short, approximately a century) was 0.78 degrees Celsius. For the period 1951-2012, the increase was 0.12 C per decade, or about 1.2 C per century.

In short, it appears to be the case that the earth has been warming in fits and starts since the end of the Little Ice Age. That more-general observation in a sense is a bit tautological — the “end of the Little Ice Age” is defined as the beginning of a warming trend — but it does highlight the underlying reality that no one knows the degree to which this longer-term warming is anthropogenic. The climate models are of little help, in that they simply do not predict the recent temperature record, although some satellite observations of slight warming at higher latitudes in cold, dry air masses in the Northern Hemisphere, and some observations of slight cooling in the lower stratosphere, are consistent with standard global warming theory. Taken as a whole, this suggests that anthropogenic warming is real but small, and that assertions of imminent apocalypse are not to be taken seriously, as the IPCC does not.

The language of the Van Hollen bill goes downhill from there, particularly in terms of the “finding” of “extreme weather events” and associated effects. The past two years have set a record for the fewest tornadoes ever in a similar period, and there has been no trend in the frequency of strong (F3 to F5) tornadoes in the United States since 1950. The number of wildfires is in a long-term decline. It has been eight years since a Category 3 or higher hurricane landed on the U.S. coast; that long a period devoid of an intense hurricane landfall has not been observed since 1900. The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season was the least active in 40 years, with zero major hurricanes. There has been no trend in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, and global cyclone activity and energy are near their lowest levels since reliable measurements began by satellite in the 1970s. There is no long-term trend in sea-level increases. The record of changes in the size of the Arctic ice cover is far more ambiguous than often asserted, because the satellite measurements began at the outset of the warming period from roughly the late 1970s through the mid- to late 1990s. The Palmer Drought Severity Index shows no trend since 1895. Flooding in the United States over the last century has not been correlated with increases in GHG concentrations.

Van Hollen’s willingness to make unsupported assertions about temperatures and weather is in sharp contrast with his loud silence on the effect of the proposed 80 percent GHG emissions reduction in terms of future temperatures and “extreme weather events.” If we apply the climate model developed at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, used by both the Environmental Protection Agency and IPCC, the Van Hollen “carbon pollution” policy would reduce global temperatures in the year 2100 by about 0.14 degrees under the highest climate sensitivity assumption made by the IPCC. As the annual variability of our temperature measurements is about 0.11 degrees, this effect would be barely measurable, and not different from zero as a matter of statistical significance. Under the second-highest IPCC climate sensitivity assumption, the effect would be less than 0.11 degrees, and so not distinguishable from natural variability.

But the true low point of the Van Hollen argument is his assertion that the proposal will “boost the purchasing power of American consumers” by “returning the resulting (auction) revenue to everyone equally.” Wow, again. Put aside the reality that there is no reason to predict that the bargaining process in Congress would yield an outcome in which the revenue would be divided equally among all Americans. It is impossible that “purchasing power” — that is, the size of the aggregate economic pie — would increase, because the proposal would make energy artificially expensive, thus distorting resource use and so reducing “purchasing power” — that is, increasing the aggregate level of real prices — unambiguously. That is what it means to implement a system transferring revenue — real resources — to the government, and the choice among the alternative ways in which government distributes the revenue is irrelevant. Ordinary people will pay more for energy, for goods made with it, and for goods complementary to it. Moreover, because different economic sectors have varying energy (or “carbon”) intensities, relative prices would shift; the proposal would cause a resource reallocation process across industries and regions, the short-run effect of which would be recessionary. “Short-run” does not necessarily mean a short period of time.

Back to consumers: People are different, making decisions under vastly differing circumstances, and so consume very different baskets of goods and services. It is obvious, therefore, that some would be hurt more than others. Accordingly, it is no answer to say that the auction revenue would be returned “to everyone equally,” even if that were possible politically. And “consumers” are producers also; even Van Hollen would be too embarrassed to assert that producers would be affected “equally,” and so, again, the net outcome would be massive wealth redistribution, a smaller economy and net adverse effects for many or most. Van Hollen’s gambit of “returning the resulting revenue to everyone equally” is fraudulent.

Beware politicians promising gifts. By taking resources from one set of pockets and returning (some of) them to others, the federal government cannot improve aggregate economic performance. In the context of climate policy, it can have only the most trivial effect. But it can reward friends and punish adversaries, the inexorable result of disingenuous environmentalism run amok.

Zycher is the John G. Searle scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.



Air Force Has the Strategic Edge

A New Strategy Shows the Service’s Enduring Value

By Alex Ward

August 13, 2014


The U.S. Air Force recently released its newest strategy, “A Call to the Future,” and it is the best of its kind put out by a U.S. defense and security entity in a long time. The new concept—”strategic agility”—will allow the Air Force to employ new technologies, better deal with increasingly powerful state and non-state actors, and adapt operations to new environments over the next thirty years. The strategy is so comprehensive that other military branches—and even the State Department and White House—should incorporate these themes into their future strategies.

“Strategic agility” is based on the “four strategic trends of the emerging global environment.” First on the list is “rapidly emerging technological breakthroughs.” The Air Force rightly addresses this trend first, promoting it as the most important. There are myriad technologies – some already here and some on the horizon – that threaten to disrupt the status quo. Technologies like big data, automation and robotics, urban and green technologies, advanced manufacturing (3D and 4D printing), and quantum computing will lead to new methods of warfighting that could potentially be more effective and lethal.

Second, the Air Force accepts that we live in a perpetual era of “geopolitical instability.” We are in a Westphalian-Plus world, where non-state actors like ISIS threaten the security of traditional nation-states, creating new instability. Finding ways to effectively deal with these actors, while simultaneously counteracting revisionist state actors, will be one of the biggest challenges for military services and central governments alike.

Third, the Air Force grapples with a “wide range of operating environments.” There are many volatile regions around the world that may require U.S. action. The varying theaters and types of conflict require the Air Force to prepare for almost any contingency.

Lastly, the Air Force warns of the “increasing importance and vulnerability of the global commons.” Understanding that technological availability provides everyone more access to the commons, including cyberspace, is crucial. Finding ways and means to protect these spaces will be a big, but important, challenge for the service.

It’s hard to argue with the diagnosis and the prescription. Indeed, the U.S. government should fold some of the concepts into a new, sorely needed national strategy. For example, since it is now known that technologies will not only change the battlefield but also civilian life, the U.S. government needs to strengthen private-sector partnerships to anticipate, shape, and leverage technological change. The continued economic and military strength of the United States depends on our continued edge in developing and deploying groundbreaking new technologies. Similarly, understanding future technologies, and how they can ruin best laid American plans, will be just as vital to deter and defend against them.

Global instability will be a fact of life of the future global environment. Up until today, the United States rightfully focused on maintaining a stable post-World War II international order. Now, as state power is eroding and other forces rise, instability becomes the new normal. What will characterize an effective force—and a leading global power—will be the country that can marshal its resources to harness the instability for national advantage. Focusing on maintaining stability would be useless and futile. While global instability is not desirable, it need not be damaging if managed effectively.

While the Air Force’s strategy is cutting-edge, it still has its weaknesses. For one, a dogmatic focus on agility—getting smaller and sleeker—loses the quality of quantity. Having overwhelming firepower will be crucial for dealing with a high amount of contingencies. In addition, it is clear this strategy was developed under the correct assumption that the fiscal reality for defense spending will be dire. Transforming the Air Force in such a fundamental way will require a lot of money, so the Air Force must convince Congress that it is money well spent.

The Air Force seems to be thinking more strategically than other U.S. services and certainly more than the Defense Department as a whole, as evidenced by the underwhelming Quadrennial Defense Review. Other branches of the military and U.S. government must take note and begin to think more strategically for future shocks. If anything, the Air Force did a wonderful job of showing the “grounded” school that it remains a vital service for the United States.

Alex Ward is a program assistant in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security where he focuses on US defense policy and strategy. He tweets at @alexwardb.


USAF General: DoD Must Change How it Buys Satellites

Aug. 13, 2014 – 09:50AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER |


HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA — The Pentagon needs to fundamentally change the way it buys satellites in an effort to lower costs as US defense spending contracts, a top Air Force general said.

The military oftentimes spends between $3 billion and $5 billion to design, develop and test new satellites, Lt. Gen. John Hyten, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, said. Those so-called non-recurring engineering costs come before DoD buys an operational satellite.

“We should not have to spend billions of dollars in non-recurring engineering … to build these kinds of satellites,” Hyten said Tuesday while speaking at the annual Space and Missile Defense Symposium.

At the same time, Hyten — who is scheduled to pin on a fourth star on Friday when he becomes the commander of Space Command — said that although the Air Force and industry have effectively brought down the costs of new satellites, much of the architecture is dated and “the world has changed.”

“The industry … knows how to build those satellites today,” he said. “We have to define our requirements correctly.

“They should not push the envelope too much,” Hyten said. “Any place where we push the envelope, we have to retire that technology risk before we actually start the production program — so that when we start the production program, we know what it’s going to cost, and we’re going to pay that amount and we’re not going to pay anymore.”

Sequestration Fears

The general said that although the Pentagon does not face a threat of sequestration in 2015, looming budget caps in 2016 pose challenges for Space Command.

“[20]16 scares the heck out of me,” Hyten told a small group of reporters after his speech. “Our [operations and maintenance funding] is very different in our command. It’s bad on the aviation side, but they can ground squadrons. We can’t.”

The problem, the general said, is that the entire military relies on satellites routinely. The command’s GPS satellites are used by the military, commercial industry and civilians globally.

“Everything we put forth is critical to some military mission,” he said.

Many cuts offered up by the command when sequestration hit in 2013 were rejected because of the negative operational impact, Hyten said. Back then, the command made cuts to contractor support and weapon system sustainment.


Americans’ optimism is dying

By Dana Milbank Opinion writer August 12 at 5:41 PM 


It is the very essence of the American Dream: an irrepressible confidence that our children will live better than we do.

And now it is gone.

It has been slipping for some time, really, but a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll this month put an exclamation point on Americans’ lost optimism.

When asked if “life for our children’s generation will be better than it has been for us,” fully 76 percent said they do not have such confidence. Only 21 percent did. That was the worst ever recorded in the poll; in 2001, 49 percent were confident and 43 percent not.

When you look closer, things seem even worse, if that’s possible. I called Fred Yang, the Democratic pollster who conducted the survey along with Republican Bill McInturff, and he told me the pessimism was universal. The wealthy were as down as the poor (75 percent and 73 percent, respectively) and even those who felt that they were doing well personally didn’t think their children would do as well (61 percent). Women are as grim as men, and there’s little difference according to race (whites are slightly more pessimistic and Hispanics slightly less) or by region (Westerners are slightly less gloomy than the others).

The young are relatively less pessimistic than the old (64 percent to 86 percent) but still plenty discouraged in absolute terms. Republicans (88 percent) were more dour than Democrats (61 percent), just as Democrats were more dour than Republicans when the question was asked in 2006 (56 percent to 71 percent) during a similar stage in George W. Bush’s presidency.

In other words, the gloom goes beyond wealth, gender, race, region, age and ideology. This fractious nation is united by one thing: lost faith in the United States.

Certainly, some of the dark outlook has to do with the slow recovery. And there’s justification for the pessimism: Millennials are, by some measures, the first generation in U.S. history to see a decline in living standards. But now the economy is improving measurably, and optimism hasn’t followed. “I keep thinking, boy, these numbers are going to turn around, and they don’t turn around, they’re enduring,” said Andrew Kohut, founding director of the Pew Research Center.

Kohut attributes the phenomenon to structural problems such as income inequality, and he notes that people in other advanced countries have also been more pessimistic since the 2008 economic collapse. That’s true, but Americans were already plenty pessimistic about the next generation (65 percent to 27 percent) back in 2006, when the economy was strong.

Yang’s suspicion, which I share, is that something deeper is also at work: Americans are reacting, in part, to the breakdown of the political system, which leaves people quite rationally worried about American decline and the nation’s diminishing ability to weather crises. “One of the hallmarks of being an American is the optimism that your children will be better off,” Yang told me. The lost optimism, he said, “says a lot about how shaken we are by the inability of our political system to address seemingly easy issues, and it leaves us worried about the future.”

In a narrow sense, this is good news for President Obama because it means the problem is not of his making but the result of two decades of scorched-earth politics. That’s bad news for the rest of us, though, because the problem is larger than any leader’s ability to bring hope and change.

For much of U.S. history, optimism was a given. The Post’s polling analyst, Scott Clement, came up with a 1942 survey by Princeton University’s Office of Public Opinion Research that found U.S. parents, by 43 percent to 27 percent, expected their children to be better off in 20 years. A Roper poll in 1983 found that 54 percent thought it likely that children would have a better life than their parents, versus 44 percent who didn’t. In 1990, the WSJ/NBC poll found the optimists besting the pessimists, 50 percent to 45 percent.

Since then, various polling outfits have had different results, with some finding generally higher levels of optimism and others closer to the NBC/WSJ results. But virtually all polling shows a steep decline in optimism since the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Yang doesn’t see that improving much, even as the economy does. “The unsettledness of the public is what is normal now,” he said. “To me, this is less about economic reality than about our political system — our lack of confidence that our political leaders, regardless of party, are equipped to deal with the future.”


Rome, New York unmanned aircraft systems test site goes live

by Press • 13 August 2014


FAA announced the Griffiss International Airport unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site in Rome, New York—the fifth of six—is now operational.

FAA granted the Griffiss team a two-year Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) to use a PrecisionHawk Lancaster Platform UAS. The Lancaster Platform weighs approximately three pounds and has a wingspan of four feet.

The site’s specific UAS projects include detection of insects, weeds, diseases, crop characteristics, crop biomass and background soil characteristics in two farm fields. Flights will take place at or below 400 feet, and will last up to 60 minutes from takeoff to landing. Eventually, the site also will manage unmanned agricultural research flights from Joint Base Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

The Griffiss team also plans to work on developing test and evaluation processes under FAA safety oversight, and conduct research on sense and avoid capabilities to prevent collisions with other manned and unmanned aircraft.

“The data the Griffiss team plans to acquire and share will help the FAA in researching the complexities of integrating UAS into the congested Northeast airspace,” FAA administrator Michael Huerta said.

FAA said the research at the Griffiss test site will also evaluate methods for scouting agricultural fields using different types of sensors, including visual, thermal and multispectral equipment, which will benefit farmers regionally and nationally. The research will enhance current methods of monitoring crops and provide additional information for continuing field research efforts.

FAA selected six congressionally mandated test sites on Dec. 30, 2013. It said it is working with the test sites to guide their research programs to help the agency safely integrate UAS into the national airspace over the next several years.



Drone tests over NY farm near Batavia will start soon

by Press • 13 August 2014


David Riley,

Drones may soon be buzzing near Batavia.

An announcement last week that researchers will soon fly a lightweight, self-guided drone over a farm near Batavia revealed that a federally backed project to test unmanned aircraft could reach farther into western New York than originally expected.

The flight in Genesee County will be the first overseen by operators of a drone testing program based out of Griffiss International Airport in Rome, Oneida County. It’s one of only six sites in the U.S. where the Federal Aviation Administration said earlier this year it will allow tests to help regulators develop rules for pilotless aircraft to share the sky with traditional planes.

Two dozen states competed fiercely for those test sites, and local proponents had what seemed like a major advantage: Access to a huge swath of restricted airspace along most of the U.S. side of Lake Ontario, where the military already flies its own drones. Applicants even called that airspace the “crown jewel” of their proposal last year.

But test site operators now say that the FAA has discouraged them from using that territory and urged them instead to seek out research projects in regular airspace, as long as they can show that the flights can be done safely. Last week’s news that the initial test flight will be in Genesee County was the first clear signal that the FAA will allow drone tests well outside the airspace along the lakeshore.

“That kind of turned the whole model on its head,” said Larry Brinker, executive director and general counsel for the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance, or NUAIR, a coalition of organizations from New York and Massachusetts that runs the testing program. UAS is short for unmanned aerial systems — industry parlance for drones.

The FAA wants NUAIR to operate in regular airspace because the program is all about learning how UAS and piloted aircraft can fly safely together, Brinker said. “This project is about integration and not segregation,” he said.

The flight somewhere near Batavia — organizers wouldn’t say exactly where — may be the first of many in this region to explore how small drones equipped with sensors can help farmers.

Cornell Cooperative Extension, which worked with NUAIR to get federal permission for the flight in Genesee County, plans to apply for similar tests at farms in nine other counties, including Monroe, said Bill Verbeten, regional agronomist for the extension’s Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock and Field Crops team.

“Depending on the acres the farmers have committed to us, we’re looking at somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 acres,” he said. “We’re really trying to capture most of the types of farms we work with and to see what’s consistent across farms and what’s different.”

Beyond Monroe and Genesee, the extension hopes to fly at sites in Ontario, Wayne, Yates, Seneca, Livingston, Wyoming, Orleans and Niagara counties. Verbeten said he hopes to have drones flying at 12 to 15 farms by spring of next year.

Cornell Cooperative Extension and NUAIR would have to apply separately to the FAA for each site. Meanwhile, Brinker said NUAIR also has seven other applications with the FAA for projects with different partners, most of them in Griffiss’ airspace. One would explore technology for drones to detect and avoid obstacles.

The FAA document authorizing the test in Genesee County was not immediately available, but Verbeten said flights would occur only at one farm within a roughly 1-mile radius and less than 400 feet off the ground. Before that happens, an independent safety review board will go over the project and flight plan — a process that should take about two weeks, according to Brinker.

Researchers plan to work with a Lancaster Hawkeye Mk III made by PrecisionHawk. The fixed-wing plane weighs just 3 lbs. and has a 4-foot wingspan. The device can be launched by hand, flies according to a preprogrammed path and lands itself, according to the manufacturer.

Verbeten said Cornell Cooperative Extension wants to test three types of sensors on the drone. One might be used to count plants and estimate crop yields. Another could capture thermal images of crops and spot potential pests or diseases, which workers could then scout out on the ground. A third camera might be able to help farmers to apply fertilizer more precisely.

Farmers or agricultural consultants already have some similar tools at their disposal, but researchers want to see whether they can be used more efficiently and at a lower cost from the air.

“We’re trying to figure out what scans at what time of year are most relevant for making management decisions,” Verbeten said. “That’s going to be critical for the eventual commercial use of these drones — actually having something that a farmer can make a decision with and not just take a pretty picture.”

NUAIR also will collect data from the Genesee County project on drone safety and performance.

Cornell Cooperative Extension wants to test this equipment on farms across the region to see how it can be used to monitor various crops grown in different terrain, Verbeten said.

NUAIR said it expects the precision agriculture industry to be a major force in the market when commercial use of drones gets the FAA’s OK. When that may happen is unclear.

The FAA is supposed to release draft rules for the use of small drones weighing up to 55 lbs. by the end of the year. Congress gave the FAA a 2015 deadline to develop plans to integrate drones and commercial jets, but watchdogs have said the agency probably will miss that cutoff.

A legal battle also is playing out over whether the FAA has authority to regulate drones at all.

All that has some investors wary about putting money into drone testing, Brinker said.

“There’s some hesitancy on the parts of the people who have to make these investments to make them,” he said. “It’s going to happen. The timetable is hard to predict.”

What’s a drone?

The difference, if any, between drones and model aircraft that hobbyists have flown for years is a tricky subject for both owners and regulators. The term “drone” usually refers to unmanned aircraft that have become more sophisticated and cheaper in recent years. Some models of the popular DJI Phantom quadcopter, for example, sell for less than $1,000.

The FAA defines an unmanned aerial system (UAS) as a pilotless aircraft “and all of the associated support equipment, control station, data links, telemetry, communications and navigation equipment” needed to fly it. Some UAS can fly autonomously, without a remote control, and many are equipped with increasingly powerful cameras and sensors.

Drones also come in various shapes and sizes, from the military’s MQ-1 Predator with its 18-yard wing span to the Black Hornet, which can fit in the palm of a hand.



FAA drone ruling said to be setback for farmers, research

by Press • 13 August 2014

Paul Hollis | Southeast Farm Press

A recent Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ruling that governs the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) or so-called drones in commercial agriculture is a setback for farmers and those whose research directly benefits farmers, says an Auburn University Extension specialist.

“At this time, farmers are unable to fly over crop fields or pastureland to capture pictures or video of anything they plan to sell commercially,” says John Fulton, Auburn University Extension precision agriculture specialist.

“For a majority of use on the farm and research, this means development and understanding of this technology must cease until the FAA provides updated guidelines. However, one is still able to fly as a hobbyist over their property. They can also take pictures of non-commercial items,” says Fulton.

The ruling, issued on July 3 by the FAA, states, “Farmers, ranchers and all commercial operators are prohibited from using UASs until the FAA institutes regulations for the safe integration of UASs into National Airspace. The FAA was given a deadline by Congress to allow commercial drone flights by September 2015. The Office of Inspector General released an audit this week that doubts the FAA will meet this deadline.”

“Overall, the ruling sets U.S. agriculture back and will put us behind on using this type technology to enhance the production of food and fiber,” says Fulton. “For Auburn University, we will be unable to develop the needed sensor systems and processing algorithms to better manage crops and inputs for our Alabama farmers. Essentially, we are grounded from crop research with UAS’s until they allow COAs to be established at universities for crop research. Again, this represents a setback to us and the education we can provide farmers and the ag industry on the beneficial uses of UAS’s in agriculture.”

A UAS demonstration that had been scheduled in a central Alabama farmer’s field on July 8 was cancelled shortly after the FAA ruling.

“At this time, it is difficult to know when researchers and the agriculture industry might be able to again fly over commercial crops and further develop the needed systems to support agriculture,” says Fulton.

The announcement, he says, was a surprise since the wording provided in the release differed from original interpretations that the agriculture industry had understood over the past couple of years.

“The agriculture industry needs these types of new technologies to fine-tune the management of crops, pastures and animals. The public expects farmers to manage in a sustainable manner while being environmental stewards, and these types of technologies provide the capability to support that expectation,” says the Extension specialist.

The ruling is limiting the advancement of Alabama farmers, Fulton says. “It is a detriment to the entire ag sector. I respect the FAA and its responsibility, but agriculture is trying to use this technology in a beneficial way; not misuse it. The FAA needs to quickly provide guidelines or a new ruling. It is interesting that one has the inability to capture valuable information, at low altitudes, on private farmland.”



Nevada drone testing off to slow start

by Press • 13 August 2014



CARSON CITY — Testing of unmanned aerial vehicles in Nevada has gotten off to a slower start than expected, with the first test flight in April and about $300,000 in revenue from testing collected so far, a state economic development official said Tuesday.

The development of the program since Nevada was selected as a testing site for drones by the Federal Aviation Administration late last year, “has been slower than we hoped,” said Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

“At times the federal government doesn’t move quite as quickly as we would like,” he told the state Board of Examiners.

The main reason is because of safety concerns by the FAA, Hill said.

“So it has taken time just to get the test sites open,” he said. “We were one of the first to be opened.”

Hill said his office has identified about 300 companies with an interest in flying in Nevada. About a third have been contacted with 20 serious conversations underway.

“And that ranges from a one-time effort to test one specific topic that they want to what could be a multi-year testing process,” he said.

The company involved in the April test requested confidentiality so no information is available.

Two other flight tests were performed in May, but not at any of the four FAA-designated sites in Nevada. The flights, called Magpie and Arcturus, used Department of Defense airspace, according to a briefing paper provided in June to the economic development board. The Magpie is a Sensurion Aerospace product. Sensurion is based in Minneapolis and offers a wide range of UAS technologies. Arcturus is based in Rohnert Park, Calif., and is recognized for its rugged airframes produced from Kevlar, fiberglass, and carbon fiber.

But being open doesn’t mean financial self-sufficiency, Hill said. As a result, the agency asked the board to approve a request for nearly $1.25 million of a $4 million fund established by the 2013 Legislature to move the UAV program forward. The board, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, approved the request, which will now be considered by the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee.

Hill said the agency is looking for self-sufficiency by mid-2015.

Flight testing was originally seen as the primary source of revenue, but it won’t ramp up as quickly as first thought, he said.

So the state is looking for other revenue sources, including funding from Congress and the potential of research dollars if Nevada becomes part of the FAA’s planned Center of Excellence, Hill said.

The state is also looking at indoor testing areas which are not under FAA control, both for commercial applications and drone aficionados.

“We really see some big upside in that area,” he said.



I Fly, I Can Spy, and I Can Collide

By Joe Urli, Brad Mason and Peter La Franchi

August 14, 2014


Lightweight remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), already widely available as low cost commercial and hobbyist products, are posing new security challenges for Australian aviation and law enforcement policy makers. By Joe Urli, Brad Mason and Peter La Franchi The capacity of remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) to support domestic law enforcement and security applications is widely recognised as an important emerging focal point for capability planners in Australia as well as internationally. There is a darker side to that outlook however, the rising domestic security challenge of unregulated RPAS being fielded the specific intent to conduct illegal operations that range from outright acts of delinquency to criminality and terrorism. Lest the use of RPAS in such dark ways be considered speculative, consider this: There is already legislation in place in Queensland banning the use of RPAS and hobbyist radio control model aircraft in the designated security zones being established for the conduct of the Group of Twenty (G20) summit in Brisbane in mid-November this year. The basis for that ban is obvious if the parameters of RPAS technology are understood: a proficient operator fielding an $800, four-rotor multicopter with a video camera could track a given diplomatic official from his hotel to the conference venue with the imagery helping perfect an assassination attempt. Another proficient operator, using an $8,000, eight-rotor commercially available RPAS could carry a small improvised explosive device and fly it into a selected diplomat’s car even as it sped down a Brisbane motorway. Nor is the capacity to use commercially available UAS as a threat system restricted in any sense just to high profile diplomatic gatherings. These readily available commercial products are in fact already a very real problem from a variety of perspectives. At the end of June this year, security guards in Dublin, Ireland, discovered a crashed hobbyist-grade RPAS in a prison exercise yard; the user is believed to have been attempting to deliver contraband. Three months earlier, Victorian police arrested a man flying a hobbyist RPAS near the Melbourne metropolitan remand centre, with charges including possession of a drug of dependence. In October 2013 a visitor from the United Kingdom flew his hobbyist grade system, brought into the country in his suitcase, around the Sydney Harbour Bridge under the cover of darkness. The RPAS crashed onto the railway lines on the Western side of the bridge deck and briefly sparked a reaction from Sydney-based counter terrorism unit. The RPAS operator was later fined by the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), one of the few instances of prosecution that has occurred in Australia despite the regulator frequently acknowledging it does not have the resources to effectively monitor and oversee the breadth of this important and rapidly growing segment of aviation. CASA’s solution, made public in May this year in the form of a proposed change to Australian aviation regulations, is the complete removal of regulatory oversight of RPAS below 2kg in weight unless they are being used for commercial purposes. Such small systems, CASA argues, are unlikely to be capable of causing harm or incidents and should therefore be treated as an evolved form of model aircraft. The proposal has generated widespread concern within the Australian aviation community, linking organisations ranging from the Australian Certified UAV Operators Association, the Australian Airports Association and the Aerial Agricultural Association of Australia in a common position of opposition. Small Things, Big Impacts The need for effective and common security structures as part of ensuring the safety of the global air navigation has been an essential feature of national and international air law since the 1944 Chicago Convention. The place of all forms of RPAS in that global regulatory structure is still in a state of flux, however CASA’s proposed deregulation is unique in global terms. There is no other national aviation regulatory authority in the world seeking to remove an entire class of aircraft from its oversight and indeed, if the example of the United States is considered, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is seeking to expand and enhance its controls over the small RPAS segment at a broad level, even as it also moves to facilitate commercial applications. Can lightweight and hobbyist grade RPAS pose a specific and credible threat to aviation safety? In November 2013, a hobbyist flew a small RPAS over the final approach flight path into Vancouver International airport, filmed a commercial airliner flying just beneath it, and then posted the video to YouTube. In May this year a commercial airliner landing at Perth airport in Western Australia had to take evasive action at 3800ft altitude because an RPAS was flying in its path. On 30 June 2014, Canadian police launched an investigation of yet another incident involving yet another RPAS incursion at Vancouver International. In the United States, the FAA is investigating a series of critical incidents involving near misses near airports, the most recent being an American Airlines flight almost colliding with a RPAS on final approach in regional Florida. While the RPAS in each case were small, ingestion of the system into an aircraft engine at a critical phase of flight could cause a major crisis, and a $500 hobbyist RPAS can easily fly to altitudes of several thousand feet for tens of minutes. CASA itself released a study in early June 2014 which assessed the potential damage that a small RPAS could cause to an airliner, with this acknowledging significant damage could result in an engine ingestion scenario. The study also cautioned the regulator that more research, including trials looking at issues such as the likely consequences of a lightweight RPAS striking the windshield of a general aviation aircraft were required before any definitive safety decisions could be made. CASA has not actioned that recommendation despite its deregulation push. While these near airport safety incidents appear largely to be the result of hobbyists flying in ignorance of aviation regulations and with common sense set aside, they flag the possibility of a more significant problem, with security at its core. Consider a scenario where multiple small systems are intentionally placed in the flight path of an airliner. To bring down a passenger flight as it closes in to land at Brisbane International, imagine a swarm of 50 modified hobbyist-category RPAS, each no more than 2kg in weight and launched from multiple park and backyards under the primary south-southwest approach. Each RPAS is programmed to fly by different routes to arrive at the same time at a single waiting point directly inside that main flight path, perhaps 8-10km from the start of the runway. At this point a descending airliner is flying at speeds of around 170kt and is at an altitude of below 3000ft. The actual skills necessary to coordinate multiple systems to a single point in the sky is well within the grasp of most recreational RPAS flyers today. Optimising the timing for the launch of the swarm could be as simple as using a live flight tracking program from the internet, these using aircraft ADS-B transmissions to provide highly accurate positional data for individual commercial aircraft. Terminal phase precision aiming of the swarm could be achieved by using commercially available ‘First Person View (FPV) flying modes for designated ‘leader’ RPAS modified to act as a virtual homing beacon for other units. One leader RPAS is flown in FPV directly towards an airliner engine intake, and half the swarm follows in milliseconds. A second operator uses another leader RPAS to take out a second engine with the remainder of the swarm. Would such a strike be detectable in its critical convergence phase by extant sensors aboard an aircraft or by air traffic control radar? For a commercial airliner the answer is clearly no, nor would air traffic control likely detect the converging RPAS because of their small size as well as their separation during all but the final seconds of flight. For a military or modified state aircraft, nose mounted radar or an imaging sensor may provide some warning but only in the final seconds of swarm convergence, directly before the commencement of impacts. The total cost of equipment needed to mount such a terrorist action could be as low as $100,000 using nothing more than adapted existing commercial products. The lead time for a technically proficient, hostile actor to create and ready such a swarm can be reasonably estimated at less than tens of weeks. This is not an argument for outright banning of all forms of RPAS, which would be a retrograde and economically harmful step, but rather a clear pointer towards an intelligent regulatory structure of far greater sophistication than we see today. Blurred Lines The extant challenge of hobbyist RPAS operators flying near airports has already seen one major manufacturer, the Chinese-based Dajiang Innovation Technology (DJI) company, introduce firmware restrictions in the autopilots of its most popular product, the Phantom II. This firmware, rolled out in early 2014, creates GPS-defined ‘no fly zones’ around major airports on all continents if the RPAS is being flown in GPS navigation mode. Within 2.4km of an airport the feature prevents a Phantom II from being able to take off at all. At 2.5km from the airport the firmware allows the UAS to fly but to a maximum altitude of 35ft. As the user moves further from the airport, that height ceiling is progressively raised, to peak at 400ft at a distance of 8km. The firmware also restricts the default height ceiling to 1300ft and the maximum distance of the RPAS from the operator to 1.6km. DJI explained the new firmware to its user community, which is huge in both the USA and Australia, as a reaction to multiple air safety regulator warnings that hobbyist RPAS users could not be relied upon to demonstrate safe operational practices as defined by respective national aviation codes. The DJI solution can be considered partially workable for the closed architecture, consumer grade systems which the company produces, and can be anticipated to have a positive impact on compliance of non-expert hobbyists with air safety regulations as long as the feature is actually switched on. A Phantom II can also be flown in what is called ‘atti’ or wholly manual mode which disables the automatic no fly restrictions. However, the closed architecture of the Phantom II also means it is unlikely to be the RPAS of choice for any actor interested in stepping outside the bounds of aviation regulations. The global market is awash with open source autopilots, developer code and do-it-yourself RPAS kits and components. Even DJI offers pick and choose hardware elements which more technically adept users can draw upon to create their own tailor-made systems, many of which have further evolved to become commercial systems in their own right. DJI’s ‘no fly zone’ precedent, in this regard, is inherently limited as a functional technical solution. Australia’s existing regulations for RPAS, comprising Part 101 of the Civil Aviation Safety Regulations (CASR), seek to tightly bind operators, whether hobbyist or commercial. Part 101 seeks to distinguish RPAS from model aircraft in general, with this an important element of ensuring that hobbyists are not subject to unnecessary or onerous regulatory provisions. CASA has long regulated the Australian model aircraft sector via the delegation of administrative authority to the Model Aeronautical Association of Australia (MAAA). Common CASA and MAAA definitions holds that a model aircraft is one that is flown by remote control and solely for the purposes of sport of fun. Traditionally, model aircraft are flown by manual means, within visual line of sight of the pilot at all times. Standing MAAA guidance defines model aircraft as being without autopilots, INS, IMU or any form of flight control or flight navigation system and as such, command a fair degree of pilot proficiency to control them and fly them safely. The emergence of low cost autopilots however, has shifted the very nature of that definition, with even the most basic hobbyist RPAS now featuring quite sophisticated pilot automation capabilities that allow a complete novice to fly one well beyond visual sight. Some so-called hobbyist RPAS even feature waypoint based navigation using an Apple iPhone as the command display. All multicopter types require a flight control system if they are to fly and even if being operated purely for fun or sport, such systems no longer fit established definitions of a model aircraft. Commercial information technology developments have effectively shifted the parameters of the sector far beyond what extant regulations can reasonably handle, and that mixed status does little to help resolve the parameters of meaningful regulations as a whole. Taken wider, this blurring presents a significant challenge to security planners. So common is it becoming today, to see someone flying a recreational RPAS in a city or suburban environment, that the public would be hard pressed to distinguish the harmless model aircraft operator from the committed terrorist. That blurring, in the context of the Queensland Government G20 ban on RPAS and model aircraft, raises other challenges. The Queensland bill was enacted in October 2013 and came as a surprise to the Australian commercial RPAS sector and the wider model aircraft community. There was no prior consultation by the Queensland Government, nor has there been any subsequent attempt by any Queensland state entity to explain the parameters of the bill and how it will be enforced. There are hundreds of small RPAS like the Phantom II in the hands of hobbyists across the greater Brisbane area, and widespread knowledge of the G20 ban cannot be assumed by Queensland law enforcement authorities. On the other hand, there is widespread awareness of and support for the proposed deregulation of the sub-2kg class of RPAS amongst model aircraft enthusiasts. Encouraged by CASA’s proposals, the foreshore parklands of the Brisbane River as its flows through the city centre area are already a popular flight zone for lightweight RPAS, and the potential for ‘innocent incidents’ being met by disproportional reactions during the G20 must therefore be regarded as high. Finding Forward Directions Given that the fundamental parameters upon which CASR Part 101 have been superseded by technology, it is well time for an intelligent and well-structured review of Australia’s regulatory framework for all forms of RPAS as well as model aircraft. The spectrum of capabilities and applications which can be facilitated by this technology, and the policy and regulatory challenges they pose require the combined attention of not just CASA, model aircraft enthusiasts with the many commercial and emerging public sector users of RPAS, but also law enforcement and public safety agencies. RPAS are a technology of immense significance to Australia’s aviation future, and while the current regulatory structures have their limitations, they are allowing an important national industry to develop. The next iteration of those regulatory structures must be, like the original Part 101, far sighted and innovative. CASA has been right to launch a review of Part 101 in this regard, however its push for a rapid, across the board deregulation of systems which have clear capacity to pose new safety and security challenges is short sighted. That deregulation drive should now be set aside, and a more involved process of review initiated. More voices are needed at the table, coupled with more detailed safety and security analysis. The future regulatory structures need to be based on evidence, and with more than 100 certified commercial RPAS operators now approved by CASA, there is sufficient weight of capacity to generate the requisite underpinning data. Finally, noting that given CASA itself has only limited resources available to oversee its RPAS responsibilities, it would be appropriate for any more substantive process of review to proceed as combined initiative of the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development and the Federal Attorney Generals Department. On Terminology The terms ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicle’ (UAV), ‘Unmanned Aircraft System’ (UAS), ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft System’ (RPAS) and ‘Drone’ are, in the broad, all references to one and the same thing, this being: “An aircraft (or aircraft-system) that is flown from a remote location without a pilot located in the aircraft itself.” ‘UAV’ was the original term adopted for regulatory application by CASA in July 2002 and is still widely in use including much of CASA certification, licencing and guidance material. This term predominated at the time of the formation of the Australian Certified UAV Operators and its legal incorporation. ‘UAS’ is the more up-to-date internationally accepted term in use today, with this now recognised as the overarching ‘class’ terminology by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) as well as by CASA. ‘RPAS’ is defined by ICAO as a form of UAS which is non-autonomous in its capacities, the aircraft being subject to direct pilot control at all stages of flight despite operating ‘remotely’ from that pilot. CASA has recently shifted to use of the term RPAS as its primary day to day terminology. ‘Drone’ historically refers to a military UAS which exists to act as a target for live-fire air defence weapons training by armed forces with this remaining the correct terminological reference. Popular culture uses the term as a generic descriptor for all classes of unmanned or remotely piloted aircraft, but particularly in relation to military systems with weapons carriage capabilities. Drone has no status as a legal term in any CASA or ICAO regulatory document. Ironically, the Queensland G20 legislation referenced by this article uses the term ‘drone’ and in doing so has created a terminological discrepancy not supported by overarching national aviation regulations. Author notes: Joe Urli is the President of the Australian Association of Commercial UAV Operators (ACUO). He is a CASA certified commercial operator and heads the Brisbane-based UAV Systems company. Brad Mason is the Secretary of ACUO and was the first CASA certified commercial RPAS operator in Australia. Peter La Franchi is an internationally recognised unmanned systems business and policy analyst. – See more at:



The League of Landowners and Drone Operators (LLDO)

by Wendel Meier • 14 August 2014


The League of Landowners and Drone Operators (LLDO) was formed for the purpose of asserting the rights of the landowner to exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere over his/her property and promulgating guidelines for the safe operation of Drones within that airspace.

The Supreme Court in Causby v. The United States ruled, “We have said that the airspace is a public highway. Yet it is obvious that if the landowner is to have full enjoyment of the land, he must have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere. The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as the can occupy or use in connection with the land.” This is contrary to the FAA’s current policy that they control of all of the National Airspace System beginning from the surface of the earth.

The League seeks a collaborative, non-confrontational relationship with the FAA. However, the FAA seems unable to address this issue of airspace, specifically concerning the operation of drones over the landowners property. The league would like to help.

In 2007, the FAA made a policy, and said, “Everyone must stop commercial UAV operations until we [the FAA] can generate the applicable rules.” That was seven years ago, and the promised rules are nowhere to be seen. To date, only two civilian commercial UAV operations have been authorized; and those for flights over the arctic. Seven years, two authorizations, and those were commanded by Congress.

Historically, the land owner has owned the airspace above his/her property to the beginning of the universe; until 1958. Then, Congress declared the Navigable Airspace to be public domain, and charged the FAA with responsibility for managing it. The FAA now claims authority over the total National Airspace System (NAS) from the surface upward. The floor of the NAS has not been specified by the FAA with regard to the ceiling of the landowners airspace. This begs the question, who owns what airspace? What constitutes, “the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere?” Does FAA policy over-rule the Supreme Court decision in Causby v. United States? These questions need to be answered now.

Why is this so important now? Informed sources estimate that 70 percent of commercial UAVs will be used in agriculture. Let’s use that as an example.

No longer can farmers plant seeds from last years crop, pray for rain, and expect to feed the world. Things have changed, mostly for the better. My grandfather plowed with mules, killed weeds with a hoe, fertilized with manure, harvested by hand and produced about 60 bushels of corn per acre. About average for the time. Then came the age of mechanization. Farmers now plow with tractors, plant GMO seeds, kill weeds with herbicides, fertilize with liquid nitrogen, harvest with combines and produce about 150 bushels of corn per acre; more than double the previous yield. Informed sources estimate that farmers will have to double their yield again by 2050 to feed the world. That requires precision farming, and precision farming requires data. You can’t manage what you don’t understand, and you can’t understand what you can’t see.

That is why farmers need the UAVs to image the fields. Now they use satellites and manned aircraft; neither is efficient. Farmers need to image their fields often, and on their schedule, in order to manage irrigation and apply herbicides and pesticides to affected areas quickly before damage is done and the infestations spread. Only UAVs can provide this data in a timely and cost effective manner.

The FAA’s seven year moratorium on commercial UAV operations in the interest of safety has had unintended consequences. This doesn’t just affect farmers. Everyone I know eats food. Withholding UAV produced data from farmers reduces their ability to increase yields and subsequently increases food prices. This hurts everyone. Also, without timely data farmers have to use more herbicides and pesticides as infestations spread. In addition to the expense, this means greater contamination of the environment than would otherwise be necessary.

Farm yields have suffered from lack of data, and food prices are rising. The environment has suffered from over application of herbicides and pesticides due to lack of data. Businesses that were, or were planning to, provide this data have gone out of business, with subsequent loss of jobs and tax revenues. The technological lead of the U.S. in small UAVs has now gone to China and other countries. This has become a man made disaster as the result of indecision by the FAA, and it continues under the excuse of safety. How is it safe to fly the same aircraft, in the same airspace, taking the same picture, for a hobby, and not safe to do the same thing commercially. This FAA decision defies all logic.

The Supreme Court ruling under Causby v. United States proclaimed, “The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as the can occupy or use in connection with the land.” Therefore, the landowners, not the FAA, must take responsibility for operations in their airspace. It is the intent of the League to promulgate guidance for the safe and effective use of UAVs in that airspace, with or without input from the FAA.


Let us begin:



The lateral boundaries are easy, they are the surveyed boundaries of the landowners’ property. The flight must remain therein at all times. The vertical boundary is open to discussion. What constitutes, “at least as much of the space above the ground as he can occupy or use?” What constitutes, “the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere?” Until the FAA or the Courts render a decision, how about starting at 400 feet above ground level (AGL), the same as the recreational flyers? That sounds reasonable.

In most rural areas this will be uncontrolled airspace, well below the Navigable Airspace which the ATO controls. Why does this matter? Because Air Traffic Control does not provide separation between aircraft in uncontrolled airspace. “See and Avoid” is the rule for traffic separation. When the drone operator sees a manned aircraft he/she SHALL take action to avoid it. Simple, yes? Which brings us to:



There are no winners in a mid air collision, and they should be avoided at all costs. Since the ATO is not responsible for separating traffic in uncontrolled airspace, therefore, “See and Avoid” would apply.

Historically, right of way is given to the least maneuverable craft. That’s just common sense. Drones are difficult to see, especially by a pilot enclosed in a cockpit with limited visibility and heavy task loading. Therefore, collision avoidance is the responsibility of the Drone operators.

There must be two operators of the Drone, the Pilot Flying (PF) and the Pilot Monitoring (PM). That makes four eyes to spot conflicting traffic. However, usually the manned aircraft will be heard well before it can be seen, thus giving even greater opportunity to take evasive action. Naturally, the Drone shall ALWAYS give way to the manned aircraft. Typically, the Drone will have descended to a landing before the manned aircraft even knows one was flying in the area. This makes the “See and Avoid” safer between a Drone and a manned aircraft than between two manned aircraft. This definitely satisfies the equivalent level of safety issue.

Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS) must be maintained at all times, otherwise “See and Avoid” is — well, void.

The greatest number of manned aircraft using the rural airspace under the Navigable Airspace are the Aerial Applicators. Which brings us to:



Although aerial applicators share the same lateral airspace as the Drones, this is not a high risk situation. Crop dusters typically “ferry” (travel between the point of loading and spraying) at or above 300 feet AGL. This is to avoid being surprised by another crop duster pulling up out of a field in a “Duster Turn.” This is well above the normal height of the imaging swath of 60 to 120 feet for the Drone. In addition, the Drone operator SHALL descend to a hover, and land to deconflict any encounter with a manned aircraft. This is really necessary for the Drone pilot, as the wake turbulence from the larger manned aircraft flying overhead could upset the Drone with expensive results.

While manned aircraft use “see and avoid” for traffic separation, the Drone operators use “Hear, then See and Avoid” to provide and even greater level of safety.

Coordination with the aerial applicators operating in the area is not only neighborly, it can improve scheduling to prevent having to sit out a planned flight while a manned crop duster works an adjacent field and overflies the boundaries during turns. That leaves privacy issues:



Peeking drones are in the news lately, however this privacy issue is not germane to agricultural operations. There are two reasons for this. First, the agricultural Drones are operated in rural areas and only over the land owners property. Second, orthogonal photography is used for agricultural imaging, meaning the camera is pointing straight down at the crop. Not at the neighbors window.



Currently we are talking about an air vehicle weighing less than 55 pounds, flying at an altitude of less than 400 feet AGL, at an airspeed of approximately 10 meters per second (less than 30 miles per hour), with a flight duration of 15-25 minutes, all this only over the land owners property. Also, we are talking about professional agriculturists acting responsibly with a real need to have the data that can only be supplied by UAVs under their direct control. The UAVs they fly must be both safe and reliable to meet their requirements. These are not thrill seekers trying to capture outrageous video of spectacular events, and flying near and/or over people in public places. The FAA needs to be cognizant of the risk/reward factors in their decisions concerning authorization of commercial UAV operations.

Also, the rule-making process has too much inertia to keep up with this fast changing technology. In 2007 when the FAA began its moratorium on commercial UAV operations, multi-copter aircraft were in their early developmental stage. Today they are the fastest selling type of hobby aircraft, and they are everywhere. Yet, the FAA will not allow them to be used for commercial purposes. The league hopes to change that, at least in a focused way. The league will promulgate information and procedures for the safe operation of this technology. Hopefully the result will be as effective as the AMA effort. And, as with the AMA guidance, the information will need to be kept current with the advances in the technology.

But this is not recreation, this is business, and we need to begin now. The League believes the best course of action, for everyone, is for the FAA to honor the Supreme Court decision in Causby v. The United States and restore “exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere” to the land owner. We are only talking about 400 feet AGL above the landowners property. This would also transfer the risks involved with operating UAVs in that airspace to the landowner. This can then free up FAA resources for dealing with the exponentially expanding use of this technology in higher risk areas, such as flights over congested areas or near large gatherings of people. Also, this would allow the FAA to truthfully say to Congress that they had opened the airspace for, potentially, 70 percent of commercial sUAS operations.

If you wish to receive more information on rights of the landowners, or the safe operation of Drones over your property, contact the League at the

e-mail address below:

“Justice is the firm and continuous desire to render to everyone that which is his due.”

Daniel Webster


Army: DCGS Competition Planned for 2016

By Brendan McGarry Thursday, August 14th, 2014 10:20 am


The U.S. Army plans to hold a competition in fiscal 2016 to develop the next phase of its controversial battlefield intelligence system.

The service on Wednesday released the first of what is expected to be several requests for information, or RfIs, from companies for assessments on how to build the so-called Distributed Common Ground System Increment 2, according to a press release.

“This RFI — in conjunction with a series of planned industry days — will solicit vendor feedback on ways to improve and replace the software-based tools soldiers use to analyze and integrate data and visualize intelligence information,” it states. “Today’s announcement builds upon ongoing efforts to address well-publicized soldiers concerns regarding the existing DCGS-A system’s ‘ease of use’ in the field.”

Army units in Afghanistan have repeatedly complained that the multi-billion-dollar, military-wide system is complicated, unreliable and difficult to use, prompting many of them to rely on commercial software instead. Last year, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-California, and Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno debated the issue after the lawmaker asked why troops weren’t getting a commercial product called Palantir as requested.

During a presentation last year at Fort Belvoir, Va., Army officials said DCGS draws on more than 600 sources of information, from Global Hawk drones and GPS satellites to ground sensors and biometric scanners. It uses a mix of military and commercial software applications, including Google Earth made by Google Inc. and i2 Analyst’s Notebook made by IBM Corp.

But units in Afghanistan have said they only use a fraction of the system’s applications in part because soldiers in the field prefer other, more intuitive software for various missions.

For example, the 101st Air Assault Division in Regional Command — East relied mostly on ArcGIS, a mapping product made by Esri, and rarely touched such DCGS tools as QueryTree, Link Analysis and the Tactical Entity Database, or TED. The unit turned to Palantir for some of its intelligence needs because it was more intuitive and other soldiers were already using it for targeting purposes.

Meanwhile, Marines and Special Operations forces have also embraced the software made by Palo Alto, Calif.-based Palantir Technologies Inc. The company was founded in 2004 with seed money from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital arm of the Central Intelligence Agency.

The firm, which has done demonstrations for the Army but isn’t a contractor on the DCGS program, is expected to reply to the Army’s RfI and eventually compete to upgrade the system.

Across the military, the Distributed Common Ground System is estimated to cost at least $10.6 billion. More than half of that, or about $6 billion, has been spent, according to the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

Yet glitches in the technology persist.

The Army reportedly withdrew the system from a major network test this fall because of “continued significant software incident reports,” and “overall network operational readiness issues,” according to an Associated Press article that cited a July 15 memo signed by Gen. John Campbell, the Army vice chief of staff who will take over as the top commander in Afghanistan later this month.

The Army is considering a shift in acquisition strategy in which a contractor rather than the service acts as the prime integrator of the system’s components, according to the solicitation. A so-called industry day, in which the service discusses with potential bidders the planned competition in more detail, is planned for early next year.



Last two UAS test sites come online

Aug 14, 2014, 4:59pm EDT

​The final two test sites for unmanned aerial systems are online, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

Tristan NaveraStaff Reporter-

Dayton Business Journal


The final two test sites for unmanned aerial systems are online, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

FAA announced it has granted Virginia Tech certificates of authorization for a number of small UAS. Among them are the Smart Road Flyer, a low-cost UAS being developed to study transportation, as well as eSPAARO, Aeryon Sky Ranger, MANTRA2, Sig Rascal, and two AVID EDF-8 micro UASs.

This just days after it announced a test site in New York came online. Last week, Griffiss International Airport in Rome, N.Y. came online with a COA to use the PrecisionHawk Lancaster Platform UAS. It is studying ways UAS can monitor crops with sensors, including visual, thermal and multi spectral equipment.

The FAA tightly regulates the use of unmanned systems using the COAs, but with these permissions, testing can begin at each site.

Virginia Tech will conduct testing in Virginia, New Jersey, and Maryland, and study the use of UAS as agriculture equipment, developing operational procedures for agriculture surveys and more.

With the announcements, all six of the test sites around the country the FAA selected late last year as laboratories for UAS development are ready to test.

“We have undertaken the challenge of safely integrating a new and exciting technology into the busiest, most complex airspace in the world,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “The six test sites are going to play a key role in helping us meet that challenge.

Dayton had sought to be one of the test sites, but was passed over. Local officials have continued with UAS efforts, though, with the upcoming Ohio UAS Conference and several other initiatives aimed at drawing in research dollars and companies interested in developing drones.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Get out of my face: That’s the message most voters still have for the federal government six years into the presidency of the man who hoped to make us all believers in big government.

Sixty percent (60%) of Americans believe instead that the federal government plays too big a role in the lives of average Americans.  

Of course, it doesn’t help that voters by a two-to-one margin consider the federal government today a threat to individual liberty rather than a protector. Only 19% trust the feds to do the right thing most or nearly all the time.

Case in point: We’ve spent countless millions on the war on drugs over the past several decades, and an overwhelming majority of Americans still believe we’re losing.

Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with higher taxes. Support for smaller government has run in the low to mid-60s in most regular surveys since 2006. 

Attitudes toward the president’s chief legislative achievement, the law that makes the government the major player in health care, remain mostly negative.

Not that the government doesn’t keep trying. Officials who want to change habits they consider bad for the public often try to use the tax code as a way to discourage consumption, and now a proposal has been made to tax sugar to make us use less of it. Like most so-called “sin taxes,” this one doesn’t go down well with Americans.

On the other hand, what voters want is often ignored. For example, a sizable number of Americans know a second language and think it’s an important skill to have in today’s world, but they still don’t think it’s as important as encouraging immigrants in this country to speak English. Thirty-one states have made English their official language, and five more are hoping to join the club this year. But the federal government resists taking that step, even though Americans strongly believe English should be the nation’s officially recognized language.

Most Americans also have said for years that government workers don’t work as hard as those in the private sector but make more money

Americans also think they work harder than the president and the average member of Congress. 

No wonder the president’s job approval rating is stuck in the high negative teens, while voters remain strongly convinced that Congress is doing a lousy job.

Will the president and congressional Democrats pay a price at the polls this November for their efforts to transform America with their plans for bigger government? 

Or will an upswing in consumer and investor confidence be a more decisive factor? 

For the second week in a row, Republicans lead Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot after trailing for most of this year.

Make sure you check our new video election update every Friday to catch up on the week’s political polling.

To recap:

Will she or won’t she? The race to replace Iowa Democratic Senator Tom Harkin couldn’t be any closer. Republicans need this one to take control of the Senate.

Kansas may have a Senate race after all. Incumbent Republican Senator Pat Roberts has just a four-point lead over Democratic challenger Chad Taylor.

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander holds a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Gordon Ball in his bid for reelection in Tennessee.

Wisconsin’s may be the nation’s closest-watched governor’s race, and it remains dead even.

Republican Governor Sam Brownback is in a 10-point hole in his race for a second term in Kansas.

Incumbent Republican Bill Haslam is well ahead of his Democratic challenger Charles Brown in Tennessee’s gubernatorial contest.

In other surveys last week:

— Twenty-seven percent (27%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

Are women smarter than men?

— Most voters approve of U.S. military airstrikes but still think Iraq may already be lost to radical Islamic insurgents.

— Most also believe their fellow Americans stand behind Israel more than the Palestinians when it comes to the fighting in Gaza, but they aren’t as sure about the Obama administration or the media here and abroad.

— Twenty years after going into effect, most Americans are not sure if Megan’s Law has actually done anything to reduce the number of children attacked by sex offenders, although they remain strongly supportive of a public registry for these criminals.

Do Americans think they work harder than those in other countries? Do we take more vacation than they do?

— Americans are steadily dropping their newspaper subscriptions. Why, and where are they turning for news?

— No wonder Hollywood was planning a sequel to “Mrs. Doubtfire.” An overwhelming number of Americans say they have seen a film starring the late Robin Williams, and that film is their favorite. 

August 9 2014




Blurred Lines: Commercial, Defense Sectors Begin To Blend

Aug. 3, 2014 – 04:09PM |


WASHINGTON — As companies continue to turn their eyes toward the Middle East and Asia for new business, a trend has emerged: The lines between commercial and defense businesses are increasingly blurring.

All but one company in the top 10 of this year’s Defense News Top 100 — our annual ranking of the largest global defense firms — saw the percentage of their defense business decline or remain flat in 2013. Thales, at No. 9, was the only company in the top 10 that saw growth in the percentage of its business generated by defense.

Defense-heavy companies, such as US giant Lockheed Martin, which is once again at the top of the list, are diversifying their businesses. Lockheed is entering the commercial marketplace in areas such as air traffic management, aviation training and simulation, energy, and advanced manufacturing.

The Maryland-based company saw defense revenue fall more than $4.3 billion between 2012 and 2013, however the company’s overall revenue fell only $1.8 billion.

“[W]e moved into adjacent areas, near-adjacencies; they are commercial areas that are very much aligned with our core competencies,” said Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed’s chairman, president and CEO. “That is our strategy. Our strategy is to look at areas that we believe we can create diverse shareholders in, by taking the core competencies in what we have into new markets.”

Those who watch the industry agree: Change is coming, and companies that don’t react appropriately could get left behind.

“As a generalization, the defense industry and the defense industrial base would be well served by an industry whose structure had more exposure to commercial markets and commercial technologies than our mostly pure-play [defense] companies that comprise the top tier of the industrial structure today have,” said Steven Grundman, a former Pentagon industrial policy chief now with the Atlantic Council.

He warns that the days of pure defense firms are endangered.

“Being a pure-play defense company works great when the defense budget is growing at 6 to 8 percent a year, but the other side of that coin is that when growth stops, you’re fully exposed to a flat market,” Grundman said. “I don’t think there is as much room in the healthy defense industrial structure for pure-play defense companies as we have today.

“As a matter of corporate strategy … I think all the companies ought to be looking for smart ways of diversifying,” he said.

The clearest example of the growing link between the defense and commercial sides comes, perhaps unsurprisingly, from the largest US aerospace company.


Boeing, No. 2 on the list, has increasingly exploited its commercial division, a keystone of its business plan, and a look at its catalog makes it clear that will continue. Boeing saw its total company revenue climb nearly $5 billion from 2012 to 2013. But its defense business has fallen from 38.4 percent of total company revenue in 2012 to 36.9 percent in 2013.

“The commercial derivatives market is a real competitive differentiator for us,” Chris Chadwick, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space & Security, told reporters on a company-funded trip in June.

The company has two major Pentagon programs — the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft and KC-46A tanker — which are based on commercial versions of the Boeing 737 and 767 jetliners, respectively.

“[W]e’re trying to create this track record of success in this area where we bring to bear an improved ‘One Boeing’ approach to servicing our customers’ needs worldwide,” Chadwick said.

A future replacement for the US Air Force’s Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System command-and-control aircraft could come in the form of a 737 as well, he noted.

“It’s going to be very interesting to see how market dynamics play out over the next 10 years,” Chadwick said. “I can’t predict the future, but I think market pressures will dictate that the company who can provide more capability at less cost, adapt from an innovative perspective and bring capability onto current platforms in a very seamless way at the right price, will end up on top at the end of the day.”

Like Grundman, Chadwick expects change to take time — but he does expect to see changes in industry structure.

“It’s just such a dynamic environment right now in the defense side of the business,” Chadwick said in an interview at the Farnborough International Airshow last month. “You look at how the customers are changing. Their business models are changing. The conventional war-fighting apparatus is enduring yet it’s diversifying.”

Commercial companies are investing “tremendous amounts of money and starting to encroach the defense world” in areas including cyber, data analytics and drones, he said.

Chadwick, who has been the Boeing defense boss for a little more than seven months, will roll out vision and strategic business objectives in the coming weeks.

“That will drive organic investment and inorganic investment will be in [mergers and acquisitions], and it’s all got to be tied back to the strategy, and that’ll dictate who we talk to, how we think [and] what we acquire,” he said. “Organic always has the better track record, but the right inorganic connected with that can really help to differentiate us.”

As Lockheed looks to move more into a commercial market, it will center “around core competencies that we have today,” Hewson said.

The recent purchase of a company in the cyber infrastructure business serves as an example.

“It lines right up with the cybersecurity work we are doing,” Hewson said. “It just broadens our portfolio capabilities that we can provide. It opens up new markets for us.”

Companies have also been taking a commercial approach when developing new defense products in anticipation of less government funding for these types of efforts.

For example, Textron’s Bell Helicopter has been developing V-280 Valor, a tiltrotor it has pitched for the Army’s Black Hawk replacement program.

“If you are going to take a decade to develop something, you are going to spend a lot more money to develop,” Scott Donnelly chairman, president and CEO of Textron, said in an interview. “I think we can show that we can do things and get aircraft in the air in two years. We can take it to production at a fraction of the cost.”

Textron, which saw its defense revenue fall slightly from $4.29 billion to $4.24 billion in 2013 and is No. 17 on this year’s list, is looking at projects “in a more commercial sense and not go through long” engineering and development program, he said.

“Time is money,” Donnelly said. “I cannot afford those budgets. I do not think any of our customers are going to have the budgets to go through that process anyway.”

Hal Chrisman, vice president with services firm ICF International, expects firms to experiment with commercialization.

“Anybody who is playing in the defense market now with the budget situation as it is are looking at their opportunities, whatever it may be, to grow their revenues,” Chrisman said.

However, Grundman warns that most of the industry is “ambivalent” about commercializing — something that will change when companies have success stories.

“I don’t think it’s something that’s going to be given any particular impetus or spark within the next year,” Grundman said. “But within the next five years I think we’ll see more and more diversification.”


Preparing for the Future

In recent years, companies have been preparing for the decline in government defense spending, restructuring themselves though downsizing, facility consolidation and other overhead-cutting measures. This has softened the blow of the defense spending cuts, but “there’s probably not a whole lot more they could really do to significantly boost margins from here,” said Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners.

Boeing’s Chadwick said the company has cut $4 billion over the past three years with another $2 billion planned in the coming years.

“It’s difficult. It’s painful, but it’s a necessity, so that we can have that agile cost structure that we have to have to compete over the next decade,” he said.

While the split between defense and commercial business seems to be trending toward the latter, it does not mean commercial business has picked up, Callan noted.

“It may not necessarily be indicative of really successful commercial diversification strategies, it’s just that defense — because of the Budget Control Act and the war-related declines — has been shrinking at a faster pace than some of these commercial businesses,” Callan said.

While many company executives speak of diversifying, some might look to shrink to become more focused in core business areas.

“Some of the changes to individual companies may also be thinking ahead,” Callan said. “They may be shrinking in size, but they’re shrinking to get more focused on particular markets.”

On the military side, companies have looked to offset US cuts with international business, particularly in the Middle East and Asia.

L-3 Communications, No. 11 on the list, which saw its defense business revenue decline $502 million between 2012 and 2013, is in the midst of a commercial diversification itself.

L-3 has posted double-digit growth in its commercial and international business, Michael Strianese, the New York-based company’s chairman, president and CEO, said in an interview.

Strianese touted the company’s first sale of night-vision equipment to the United Arab Emirates last year. He also applauded the Defense and State departments’ progress with export control reform and reducing bureaucracy.


L-3 announced last week that it is investigating potential accounting misconduct in one of its business units. It acknowledged that it took an $84 million charge for a period beginning in 2011 through the first half of 2014. For 2013, the charge is $34 million, Ralph D’Ambrosio, the firm’s senior vice president and CFO, said in a July 31 earnings call.

Speaking about the international market, Chadwick said: “What you’re seeing is that we’ve got to move from [being] an exporter to [being] a global presence more than we have in the past. So, you’re seeing where we’re investing. We’re partnering.”

Decline in defense spending has created interesting bedfellows for the few major US defense programs on the horizon. Helicopter maker Sikorsky has teamed with Boeing for the Army’s Black Hawk helicopter replacement program and Boeing has teamed with Sweden-based Saab, No. 29 on the list, for the Air Force’s new jet trainer.

Increasing the number of military aircraft based on commercial ones could have a trickle down effect into the global maintenance and sustainment market as well, Chrisman said.

“You can look at commercial opportunities, you can look at vertical operations, or you can look at sustainment. The international sustainment opportunity for US companies, particularly US [original equipment manufacturers], is something they are considering and ought to be considering more.”

A plane based on commonly flown aircraft, like a 767, could make sustainment easier and cheaper, he said.

“If you’re using a 737 for the base airplane for a P-8, or a 767 for the tanker, you have a lot of people who have those capabilities.” There are companies around the world that could suddenly play a role in sustaining various military fleets, Chrisman noted. “So I think it opens up competition.”

While taking a commercial airliner and militarizing it may be the way forward for some companies, don’t expect much of the reverse.

“Taking a commercial aircraft and putting it into military service is a very effective and lucrative practice,” said Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group. “Taking a military aircraft and putting it into civil service almost always ends in tears.

Which doesn’t mean companies aren’t trying. Lockheed Martin just signed its first customer for the LM-100J, a commercial lift variant of the popular C-130J cargo plane. It is actually the second attempt at a commercial C-130 variant; the L-100 had some small success but ended production in 1992.

Even in small numbers, adding the LM-100J to the C-130J production line should lead to potential savings, said Orlando Carvalho, executive vice president of Lockheed’s Aeronautics division.

“As we continue to build out C-130J today, as we add in the orders we receive commercially for the LM-100J, they will get to take advantage of the same efficiencies of the production line,” Carvalho said. ■


Is US vulnerable to EMP attack? A doomsday warning, and its skeptics

Former CIA Director Woolsey tells Congress of a doomsday scenario in which a nuclear-blast-triggered electromagnetic pulse takes down the US power grid, leading to starvation and death. Some experts decry ‘hysteria’ over EMPs.


By Anna Mulrine, Staff writer August 1, 2014    


Washington — It is an unsettling doomsday scenario: A ballistic missile is launched from a freighter near America’s shores, setting off a nuclear explosion in the atmosphere. The blast generates electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) that could take out the nation’s electrical grid and bring civilization as we know it “to a cold, dark halt.”

This warning comes from the former director of the CIA, James Woolsey, in little-noticed testimony recently before the House Armed Services Committee.

A nuclear weapon would be detonated in orbit “in order to destroy much of the electric grid from above the US with a single explosion,” he told lawmakers last week. “Two thirds of the US population would likely perish from starvation, disease, and societal breakdown. Other experts estimate the likely loss to be closer to 90 percent.”

This dire forecast included warning of an “increasing likelihood that rogue nations such as North Korea (and before long, most likely, Iran) will soon match Russia and China in that they will have the primary ingredients for an EMP attack: simple ballistic missiles such as SCUDs that could be launched from a freighter near our shores.”

Mr. Woolsey sprinkled in a bit of intelligence as well. “In 2004,” he noted to lawmakers, “the Russians told us that their ‘brain drain’ had been helping the North Koreans develop EMP weapons.”

So, how plausible is this sort of scenario? A number of defense analysts take issue with the idea that an EMP attack on the US is imminent, or even particularly likely. They also suggested the outcome of the attack would not be so dire.

“I think the wild hysteria that’s greeted EMP attacks lately is wildly overstated,” says James Lewis, director of the Strategic Technologies Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“So if you’re North Korea, and you’ve got a nuclear weapon, and you detonate it over the United States, what’s going to happen next? The answer is hundreds of nukes will descend on you from the US,” he says. “So why would you waste the round? If they’re going to shoot a nuke at us, they’re not going to bother with this EMP stuff.”

What’s more, although Woolsey told lawmakers that “modern electronics are a million times more vulnerable to EMP than the electronics of the 1960s,” Mr. Lewis argues that radiation hardening has been built into many modern electronics, through chips that have become more sophisticated. “Before, there were vacuum tubes, and now you’re using a chip that can withstand a fair amount of radiation,” Lewis says.

So what’s the bottom line? If a country or terrorist group “were crazy enough to shoot a nuclear weapon up over Washington, D.C. [to try to create an EMP], you might be able to fry 30 percent of the electronics in the city,” Lewis says.

Solar flares can create EMPs as well, Woolsey noted, citing a 1989 solar-generated pulse that, he told lawmakers, “effectively destroyed Quebec’s electric grid.” According to an article on a NASA website that looked back at the event 10 years later, the power was out in Quebec for 12 hours.

While an EMP attack may not be likely, the possibility raises some interesting strategic questions, says Paul Scharre, project director for the 20YY Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security.

“If a nuclear-armed actor, instead of actually killing civilians with a nuclear weapon, lights it off at a high altitude,” he asks. “Does that cross the nuclear threshold? What’s the appropriate response? How would we respond? There’s not really a good answer for that.”



Behind Ohio drinking-water ban, a Lake Erie mystery

Unsafe levels of toxins in drinking water in northwest Ohio are linked to algae blooms in Lake Erie. The blooms are fed by agricultural runoff, but that’s not the full story.

By Mark Sappenfield, Staff writer August 3, 2014    


For the second consecutive day, residents in an area of northwestern Ohio that included the state’s fourth-largest city, Toledo, are being told that their tap water is not safe for cooking or drinking. The governor has declared a state of emergency and deployed the National Guard to help get water and food to the region. As of Sunday morning, there were no reports of anyone being sickened by tap water.

Toxins in the water have been linked to an algae bloom in Lake Erie, which is a primary source of drinking water for many Ohio communities. In recent decades, Lake Erie has seen large blooms of blue-green algae develop in its western basin. In 2011, the algae covered a record 1,930 square miles of Lake Erie – nearly 20 percent of the entire surface of the lake.

The blooms grow from an excess of phosphorus, which is a key ingredient in many fertilizers. Lake Erie is particularly prone to the blooms because rivers carry runoff from farmland into the shallow western basin of the lake.

Some 63 percent of Lake Erie’s watershed is used for agriculture, according to a February report by the International Joint Commission, which helps manage waters shared by the US and Canada. The report suggests that a 39 percent reduction of phosphorus in the Maumee River, which is Lake Erie’s single greatest source of phosphorus and empties into the western basin, would have a significant impact on the blooms.

But phosphorous levels don’t fully explain what scientists are seeing in Lake Erie. For example, phosphorous levels were higher in 2007 than in 2011, yet the 2011 bloom was larger. Scientists are investigating whether rising temperatures connected with climate change could be intensifying the blooms.

“It is the shallowest of the Great Lakes, the warmest and the most susceptible to … the effects of climate change,” states a 2013 report by the Lake Erie Ecosystem Priority, a task force of the International Joint Commission.

Climate change could also be bringing more intense spring rains, which would wash more agricultural runoff into Lake Erie, the report notes..

The water crisis in northwest Ohio comes as the US and Canada are making headway against pollution in Lake Erie. Layla Klamt of Liberty Voice reports:

Between 1972 and 1995, cleanup efforts for Lake Erie and all the Great Lakes saw excellent results. In 1969 the lake’s annual phosphorous load in metric tons was just under 30,000. By 1995, it was reduced by over three times. Additionally, the levels of mercury and other toxic chemicals that affect the edible fish in the lake reduced dramatically and have not increased since the 80s.

Larger algae blooms have actually been found in other Great Lakes, but their size, depth, and tides have meant that the algae could be dispersed more widely, Ms. Klamt writes.

The current situation marks the second time in two years that algae blooms have led to a drinking-water ban along Lake Erie. USA Today reports that a northwest Ohio township told its 2,000 residents not to drink the water last year. “That was believed to be the first time a city has banned residents from using the water because of toxins from algae in the lake,” USA Today’s Rick Jervis writes.



BAE wins contract for Map of the World

Aug. 1, 2014 |



BAE has been awarded a $335 million contract to support the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA)’s Map of the World project.

Under the five-year contract, BAE will revamp collection, maintenance and utilization of geospatial (GEOINT) intelligence, said a company announcement.

“Our GEOINT experts will be exploring new sources of data, including commodity data, open source intelligence, and NGA archive data to deliver new products in line with the agency’s changing mission focus,” said DeEtte Gray, president of BAE’s intelligence & security division.

NGA’s Map of the World is a massive effort to create a single backbone for all GEOINT data and imagery. (For more details, see our earlier coverage. )

BAE’s work on NGA’s GEOINT Data Services Program will be performed at company sites in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.


Machiavelli’s 27 Rules of War

Ryan Evans    

August 3, 2014


Niccolo Machiavelli is best known for The Prince, his guidebook on ruling an Italian city-state. But for a long time after his death, Machiavelli’s Art of War was better known and more influential (alongside his Discourses on Livy, both of which were written after The Prince but published before).

(As an aside, the more famous Art of War is Sun Tzu’s but that text was not actually called Art of War and may not have been written by Sun Tzu – another matter for another time.)

Machiavelli’s Art of War takes the form of Socratic dialogue between the warrior Lord Fabrizio Colonna and Florentine nobles. Fabrizio was a real person, but his character in this book has been interpreted as a stand-in for Machiavelli himself. In Art of War, the dialogue explains and predicts changes in European warfare and military affairs as a consequence of larger social, economic, and technological evolutions. The text is wide-ranging. At the end of the dialogue, in Book Seven, Machiavelli’s Fabrizio offers 27 “general rules” of war, which are listed here:

1.What benefits the enemy, harms you; and what benefits you, harm the enemy.

2.Whoever is more vigilant in observing the designs of the enemy in war, and endures much hardship in training his army, will incur fewer dangers, and can have greater hope for victory.

3.Never lead your soldiers into an engagement unless you are assured of their courage, know they are without fear, and are organized, and never make an attempt unless you see they hope for victory.

4.It is better to defeat the enemy by hunger than with steel; in such victory fortune counts more than virtu.

5.No proceeding is better than that which you have concealed from the enemy until the time you have executed it.

6.To know how to recognize an opportunity in war, and take it, benefits you more than anything else.

7.Nature creates few men brave, industry and training makes many.

8.Discipline in war counts more than fury.

9.If some on the side of the enemy desert to come to your service, if they be loyal, they will always make you a great acquisition; for the forces of the adversary diminish more with the loss of those who flee, than with those who are killed, even though the name of the fugitives is suspect to the new friends, and odious to the old.

10.It is better in organizing an engagement to reserve great aid behind the front line, than to spread out your soldiers to make a greater front.

11.He is overcome with difficulty, who knows how to recognize his forces and those of the enemy.

12.The virtu of the soldiers is worth more than a multitude, and the site is often of more benefit than virtu.

13.New and speedy things frighten armies, while the customary and slow things are esteemed little by them: you will therefore make your army experienced, and learn (the strength) of a new enemy by skirmishes, before you come to an engagement with him.

14.Whoever pursues a routed enemy in a disorganized manner, does nothing but become vanquished from having been a victor.

15.Whoever does not make provisions necessary to live (eat), is overcome without steel.

16.Whoever trusts more in cavalry than in infantry, or more in infantry than in cavalry, must settle for the location.

17.If you want to see whether any spy has come into the camp during the day, have no one go to his quarters.

18.Change your proceeding when you become aware that the enemy has foreseen it.

19.Counsel with many on the things you ought to do, and confer with few on what you do afterwards.

20.When soldiers are confined to their quarters, they are kept there by fear or punishment; then when they are led by war, (they are led) by hope and reward.

21.Good Captains never come to an engagement unless necessity compels them, or the opportunity calls them.

22.Act so your enemies do not know how you want to organize your army for battle, and in whatever way you organize them, arrange it so that the first line can be received by the second and by the third.

23.In a battle, never use a company for some other purpose than what you have assigned it to, unless you want to cause disorder.

24.Accidents are remedied with difficulty, unless you quickly take the facility of thinking.

25.Men, steel, money, and bread, are the sinews of war; but of these four, the first two are more necessary, for men and steel find money and bread, but money and bread do not find men and steel.

26.The unarmed rich man is the prize of the poor soldier.

27.Accustom your soldiers to despise delicate living and luxurious clothing.



Ag Drones — Future and Present

by Wendel Meier • 2 August 2014


No longer can farmers plant seeds from last years crop, pray for rain, and expect to feed the world. Things have changed, mostly for the better. My grandfather plowed with mules, killed weeds with a hoe, fertilized with manure, harvested by hand and produced about 60 bushels of corn per acre. About average for the time. Then came the age of mechanization. Farmers now plow with tractors, plant GMO seeds, kill weeds with herbicides, fertilize with liquid nitrogen, harvest with combines and produce about 150 bushels of corn per acre; more than double the previous yield. Informed sources estimate that farmers will have to double their yield again by 2050 to feed the world. That requires precision farming, and precision farming requires data. You can’t manage what you don’t understand, and you can’t understand what you can’t see.

That is why farmers need the UAVs to image their fields. Now they use satellites and manned aircraft; neither is efficient. Farmers need to image their fields often, and on their schedule, in order to manage fertilization, irrigation and apply herbicides and pesticides to affected areas quickly before damage is done or the infestations spread. Only UAVs can provide this data in a timely and cost effective manner.


Down on the Farm with Drones, the Vision.

After breakfast the future farmer strolls out to the garage, which replaces the barn of years past. In the garage, with the combine, automated liquids dispenser, and self steering tractor are six Scout Drones on the charging bench and two larger Spray Drones on the garage floor. The farmer ascertains that all the Scout Drone batteries have been fully charged before entering his air conditioned office.

The first order of business is to check todays weather. The automated weather monitor shows current weather as light and variable wind and no significant cloud cover. The computer forecasts show the same for the morning, however cloud buildup for the late afternoon with scattered evening showers. We can always use more rain.

Next, the farmer reviews the field maps of his crops on the large touch screen computer display. Three fields were previously showing slight heat stress and he decides to image them again in the 920 nm spectrum. He has been having problems with weed infestation on another field, especially in the corner near the stream. He programs the Drones accordingly and switches on the surface radar that will scan the surrounding lands for conflicting traffic. In the event of a conflict with a manned aircraft or another Drone, the computer will deconflict the situation, and if necessary recall all his Drones back to their assigned landing pads.

At the charging bench, the farmer moves the three IR imaging equipped drones out to their assigned landing pads. After each is preflighted and conducts a self check, they are sent on their way. The weed searcher Drone’s imaging device has to be changed and programmed for the crop it will be scanning. It will scan for any image not related to the programmed crop and provide density and location information on return. When finished, he takes the Drone to its assigned landing pad, preflights it and completes the self tests before releasing it for flight. Time for lunch.

After lunch, the farmer returns to the garage. The four Drones are on their respective landing pads and shut down. The farmer moves the Drones back onto the charging bench and begins the IR, and weed infestation data down load. In the office, he analyses the data, determines one field is doing OK, but adjusts the irrigation schedule for the other two. The weed mapping data confirms his suspicions that the infestation is migrating from the fallow land near the stream. He identifies the weed species, selects the recommended herbicide and potency and prepares a program card for the Spray Drone. He moves the Spray Drone to its assigned landing pad, mixes the herbicide and fills the hopper. He then starts the engine on the drone and allows it to warm up while the Drone performs its self tests. He then releases the Drone which goes to the designated area, identifies the individual weed plants and applies a squirt of herbicide to each plant before returning to the landing pad and shutting down. The farmer then washes down the Spray Drone blow dries it and returns it to the garage. In the office he completes the computer entries to document his accomplishments for the day. The job’s not done till the paperwork is finished. He turns off the radar and as he walks up to the house he thinks, “Maybe tomorrow I should take the ATV down by the stream to see if there is some way to stop the migration of weeds into that field.”


So ends, “Another day down on the farm with Drones.”

That was fantasy; or maybe not, in the not too distant future. Now let’s look at the present reality. In order to get to that future, AG Drone operators are going to have to prove they can operate safely and responsibly. Below are some thoughts on how to accomplish that goal.




To diminish the chance of a fly away, or other un-commanded maneuvers there must be redundancy in certain systems. The Aeroscout III can be used as an example. It is a commercial off the shelf (COTS) air-vehicle called the F 550, “Flamewheel Hexicopter” by DJI. The control system avionics (FMS) are the NAZA M v2 with GPS, making it a 12 DOF system. The HD camera video is recorded on board to an SD card, and combined with inputs from an OSD and transmitted to the ground station’s seven inch monitor to be used as a view finder by the pilot monitoring. The radio control link is a Spektrum DX 8 system with frequency diversity capability and a satellite receiver to provide both horizontal and vertical antenna orientation.



The Aeroscout III is primarily constructed of plastic and is frangible on impact. It is basically a small ( 550 centimeter diameter) plastic model hexacopter. Operational gross weight of the UAV is two kilos(4.4 lbs.) and max flight time is twelve minutes in this configuration. It can image a forty acre field in ten minutes, flying at ten meters per second (22 MPH). Optimum imaging height is between 20 and 30 meters. It has a stabile hovering capability which allows the imaging to be completed within the boundaries of the land owners property. Autonomous flight is not available. Visual waypoints (up to 28) are available as an aid to remaining over the imaged field.




In the unlikely event of a radio control link failure, the Aeroscout III will go into the failsafe mode. At loss of link, the Aeroscout III will come to a hover at its current altitude. It will then wait a ten seconds for link re-establishment. If that does not occur, the air-vehicle will climb in hover to 60 feet altitude or remain at its present altitude if that is higher than 60 feet. It will then proceed directly to the previously established “home point” and descend to a landing and motor shutdown.



If while flying the Aeroscout III under visual conditions (VLOS) the aircraft orientation is lost, simply release pressure on the right stick and push the throttle to full open. The air-vehicle will come to a hover, and climb to the preset altitude limit and remain stationary. The pilot then selects the “home lock” mode. Pulling the right stick (elevator) toward him (up elevator) causes the air-vehicle to fly toward the “home point” regardless of its orientation. If visual orientation is re-established the mission may continue.



Why a hexa-copter vs. a quad-copter? On a hexa-copter, if a motor, ESC, or propeller should fail in flight a similar procedure, as above, can recover the aircraft. The loss of power on one arm will cause the aircraft to rotate about its center of gravity, and possibly descend. Apply increased throttle as necessary to maintain altitude, and switch to “home lock” mode. The aircraft will continue to rotate, however, it may be flown to a safe landing area by using the right stick to move it toward or away from the “home point” and left and right relative to the course flown no matter what the aircraft orientation during the rotations. The same loss of thrust on one arm of a quad-copter will cause a loss of control, and a crash.



The Aeroscout III has a video down link, even though intentional FPV flight is never planned. The video link is normally used by the pilot monitoring as a view finder to ensure the photo coverage is optimum for each swath. However, if (VLOS) visual contact is lost for any reason the pilot monitoring can “talk” the pilot flying back to a point where visual contact is reacquired. The backup plan is to select “fail safe” mode on the transmitter and wait for the air-vehicle to land at the “home point.”



Fly-aways are also prevented by limits set in the Master Controller’s FMS via a PC computer and USB cable. The lateral limit is typically set at 1000 meters from the “home point” and the altitude limit is set at the planned height of the photo run, typically 20 to 40 meters AGL. The air-vehicle will not fly past these limits. The photo runs rarely exceed 402 Meters laterally from the “home point” as it is just too difficult to maintain accurate orientational awareness past that point even though the air-vehicle is still well in sight. (Also, 402 Meters equals one side of a square 40 acre field.)



Multi-copters do not auto-rotate or glide. Hexa copters and Octo copters can fly with a motor, ESC, or propeller failure, however, if they run out of power, they crash.

The battery voltage is overlaid on the OSD video transmitted to the ground station and monitored by the pilot monitoring. In addition, alarm points are set in the Master Controller for low battery voltage. Exceeding the first level causes the LED indicator on the rear of the air-vehicle to insert a red flash between the green flashes that indicate normal operation. This is to alert the pilot to return for a landing. The second level alert begins with a red flashing LED (no greens) followed by a slow descent, landing and motor shut down. However, that landing may not be at the preferred location. This would be the multi-copter equivalent of an auto-rotation.

This redundancy provides a robust operational platform for aerial photography. Simultaneous multiple failures would be required to cause a crash. Barring pilot error, the Aeroscout III is an exceptionally safe system.



There is a saying about Airbus aircraft that the computers fly the aircraft and the pilot merely makes suggestions to the computers. In the Aeroscout III this is very true; conventional pilot flying skills are not required. The Aeroscout III will hover without pilot input, however, pilot control input is required for the air-vehicle to change position in the airspace. Fully autonomous flight is not available. While conventional stick and rudder skills are not required, following established procedures and “mode awareness” is mandatory. This must be the emphasis of the training.

The Aeroscout III is unlike any certificated manned aircraft, and therefore no FAA category, class or type applies. The Hexicopter has no wings or rotors and is neither airplane nor rotorcraft. It has instead, six electric motors with fixed pitch propellers arranged symmetrically around the perimeter of the vehicle. Three motors turn clockwise and three counterclockwise. Control is by the Master Control FMS unit using inputs from three gyros, three accelerometers, three magnetometers, GPS position, and barometric altitude to vary the speed of each motor independently to maintain a stabile hover. Lateral and vertical excursions from this hover are controlled by a radio control link from an operator on the ground. No manned aircraft is so designed, and no existing FAA regulations for air worthiness or pilot operating skills can apply. This is new technology.

Pilot error will be avoided by following correct procedures, maintaining mode and situational awareness, and being familiar with the redundancy built into the system. Crew resource management, coordination between the pilot monitoring and the pilot flying, also greatly enhances the safety of the operation. In the event the pilot flying is temporarily confused, centering all control sticks will cause the air-vehicle to come to a stationary hover at its present altitude. (All except the throttle are spring loaded to the center position.) This allows time to determine the appropriate course of action and discuss it with the pilot monitoring before continuing.

Provided sufficient training emphasis is placed on using correct procedures, maintaining mode and situational awareness, employing crew resource management techniques and being familiar with the redundancy built into the system, I believe history will show this to be a very safe air-vehicle.


EQUIVALENT LEVEL OF SAFETY, Alternative Method Of Compliance (AMOC)

This is new technology and current FAA regulations for certification of aircraft and pilots cannot apply. Therefore, the FAA must accept an Alternative Method Of Compliance (AMOC).

Airspace allocations are one method of promoting safety, and collecting data for future rule making. Knowledgable sources predict that 70 percent of small UAVs will be used in agricultural operations, so that seems to be an appropriate venue to begin collecting data. Also, rural areas are typically in uncontrolled airspace. An acceptable airspace restriction would be to operate only in uncontrolled airspace and remain within the boundaries of the landowners property below 400 feet AGL. Legal presidents for allowing these operations exist. The drone is merely another farm implement, and historically most states do not require licensing of farm vehicles, or operators, as long as they are not operated on public roads. This should also apply to UAV farm vehicles operated in the airspace belonging to the farms. The Supreme Court agreed in its decision which states, “We have said that the airspace is a public highway. Yet it is obvious that if the landowner is to have full enjoyment of the land, he must have exclusive control of the immediate reaches of the enveloping atmosphere. The landowner owns at least as much of the space above the ground as the can occupy or use in connection with the land.”

The ATO is not responsible for separating traffic in uncontrolled airspace. Therefore, “see and avoid” would apply. An aircraft is a noisy environment with limited visibility and for a single pilot involves a high work load. This degrades the see and avoid capability of the manned aircraft.

The UAV requires two pilots, one pilot flying one pilot monitoring. While the pilot flying must keep his attention on the UAV, the pilot monitoring has the freedom to scan the entire sky for conflicting traffic. Since the UAV makes very little sound, both pilots will be able to hear a powered manned aircraft approaching; probably before they can see it. The manned aircraft has the right of wayALWAYS, and the UAV must take evasive action. Usually, the UAV will have landed before the pilot of the manned aircraft even knew one was operating in the area. This makes the “See and Avoid” safer between a UAV and a manned aircraft than between two manned aircraft. This definitely satisfies the equivalent level of safety.



Peeking drones are in the news lately, however this privacy issue is not germane to agricultural operations. There are two reasons for this. First, the agricultural UAVs are operated in rural areas and only over the land owners property. Second, only orthogonal photography is used for agricultural imaging, meaning the camera is pointing straight down at the crop. Not at the neighbors window.


Intentional Hacking and Signal Jamming

The radio control link for the Aeroscout III is the Spectrum, frequency hopping system. When turned on, the Transmitter and receiver are bound by a discrete digital code, and an unused pair of frequencies are selected. Should interference occur on one of the frequencies the radio automatically switches to an alternate frequency. This system has been in use by recreational pilots for quite a few years, during which loss of the radio control link is extremely rare and usually caused by something other than frequency jamming.

The GPS link for the Aeroscout III is primarily a convenience item, the loss of which will not cause the UAV to fly away. Since the primary control of the UAV is by visual line of sight (VLOS), loss of GPS signal or spoofing will be quickly noted by the pilot flying. Simply switching from “GPS/ATTI mode” to “ATTI Mode” removes the GPS inputs to the FMS. The FMS will still maintain level flight, and barometric altitude is not impacted by the loss of GPS. All that is lost is wind drift correction at hover, return to home, and home lock functions. The mission should be aborted however, and the UAV returned to a suitable area, landed, and shut down until the reason for the discrepancy can be determined and corrected.



Although aerial applicators share the same airspace as the UAVs, this is not a high risk situation. Crop dusters typically “ferry” (travel between the point of loading and spraying) at or above 300 feet AGL. This is to avoid being surprised by another crop duster pulling up out of a field in a “Duster Turn.” This is well above the normal height of the imaging swath of 60 to 120 feet for the UAV. In addition, the UAV operator SHALL descend to a hover and land to deconflict any encounter with a manned aircraft. This is really necessary for the UAV pilot, as the wake turbulence from the larger manned aircraft flying overhead could upset the UAV with expensive results. While the manned aircraft use “see and avoid” for traffic separation, the UAV operators use “hear, then see and avoid” to provide and even greater level of safety.

Coordination with the aerial applicators operating in the area is not only neighborly, it can improve scheduling to prevent having to sit out a planned flight while a manned crop duster works an adjacent field and overflies the boundaries during his duster turns.



This is a beginning, and who can predict all the wonderful things that Drones will accomplish in the future — as long as we act responsibly and fly safely now.

The technology is available now and the agricultural community is ready to begin using this technology. (Some already have.) Now, we the people are patiently waiting for the FAA to learn and understand this technology and act to implement its safe commercial use. With the total value of our nation’s crop estimated at $140 billion per year, even a modest improvement in yield would have a substantial aggregate economic impact.


I wish the FAA would hurry up.

Comments and questions welcome. Respond to:



Microsoft may do the unthinkable to make you dump XP, Vista and Windows 7

By Chris Smith

August 4, 2014


Windows is one of Microsoft’s main money makers, and the company is interested in seeing as many current Windows users move to its latest operating system as possible. However, no matter what the company does, there still are plenty of users who are on older Windows versions, including Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. ZDNet has learned that Microsoft may be working on a huge Windows 9 surprise to convince reluctant users to finally move to the latest Windows operating system available.

The company is reportedly considering offering some sort of Windows 9 upgrade deal to XP, Vista and Windows 7 users, with a completely free upgrade option also on the table. This isn’t the first time free Windows 9 upgrade rumors have hit the web, but previous reports suggested that Windows Threshold (Windows 9’s internal codename) might launch as a free download to Windows 8.1 Update, and Windows 7 Service Pack 1 owners.

Nothing has been confirmed about Windows 9 yet, but ZDNet says that all the major features Microsoft is working on will be packed in Threshold rather than a following Windows 8.1 Update.

Windows 8.1 Update 2 is still due on August 12th, this month’s Patch Tuesday, although the update is not mandatory, and it’s not expected to bring any major changes. The Start menu button, which was supposed to arrive with Update 2, will be included in Windows 9 alongside any other major features Microsoft may have readied for a Windows 8.1 update.

Other Windows 8.1 updates might be released later this year as well, although they’re also going to be minor compared with the massive changes coming with Windows 9.



Getting on Military Bases Is About to Involve FBI Background Checks

By Aliya Sternstein

August 4, 2014

Members of the defense community, starting this Friday, automatically will be screened against the FBI’s criminal database when they try enter military installations and pulled aside if the system shows an arrest, felony or outstanding warrant.

The new Defense Department tool is part of a larger, governmentwide effort to continuously vet people with access to secure facilities, following shootings at Fort Hood and the Navy Yard.

Identification smartcards issued to troops, veterans, relatives and other individuals permitted to enter military bases have long been checked against a DOD database before access is granted. But an instant FBI background check has never been part of the process.

Beginning this week, DOD’s information technology system will tap the FBI’s National Crime Information Center system, Nextgov has learned.

This linkage had been in the works for several years but took on renewed urgency after the Sept. 16, 2013, Navy Yard slaying. Gunman Aaron Alexis entered secure areas using a valid ID card, despite having an arrest record and a history of other infractions.

“This all comes back to the Washington Navy Yard process, which was a big deal — but the real change that happened was the physical security community and the IT guys talked to each other and said, ‘You know what, it’s not a physical security problem; it’s an identity problem,” said Michael Butler, deputy director for identity services at the Defense Manpower Data Center. “When you look at it that way, it completely changes the game.” He was speaking Thursday evening at a Smart Card Alliance event

Butler said the accuracy of a trial run of the system, called the Identity Management Capability Enterprise Services Application, has been “stunning.” He declined to disclose figures on matches.

“On Aug. 8, the Identity Matching Engine for Security and Analysis will be functional for any installation with the capability to scan persons entering the installation and have implemented the IMESA interface with Defense Manpower Data Center,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson said Friday in an email.

IMESA will be operational on Air Force, Army, Marine, and Defense Logistics Agency installations that day, she added.

The measured rollout has more to do with policy issues than technological challenges.

In April, Pentagon top brass released an official memorandum establishing the right for IMESA to check FBI records. It states system users only can conduct searches against the FBI databases for “maintaining law and order” and for “crime prevention.” IMESA will keep track of all users who query the database.

The tool will run an FBI background check regardless of “whether you are going to the commissary or to work,” Butler told Nextgov during an interview.

For example, he said, if a military employee is caught by police driving under the influence one night, that information will flow into the system, even if the employee fails to report it to DOD. The guard at the base will get a red flag, stop the employee from entering, and then law enforcement will study the situation further.

IMESA only has the ability to search FBI records right now, but the plan is to loop in law enforcement records from state and local jurisdictions eventually.

A November independent review of the Navy Yard incident recommended IMESA be deployed at all DOD facilities.

“The systems and processes for admitting cleared and uncleared personnel through the gates to DOD facilities are insufficient to ensure on-base security,” the report found. “Currently, each service is implementing its own automated system for its own facilities . . . We recommend the joint approach of the Identity Management Enterprise Services Architecture effort.”

An internal review conducted at the same time concluded the same. The Pentagon report advised officials “accelerate” development of IMESA “to enable DOD components to share access control information and continuously vet individuals against U.S. government authoritative databases.”



In supersecret cyberwar game, civilian-sector techies pummel active-duty cyberwarriors

Aug. 4, 2014 – 09:24AM |


When the military’s top cyberwarriors gathered last year inside a secretive compound at Fort Meade, Maryland, for a classified war game exercise, a team of active-duty troops faced off against several teams of reservists.

And the active-duty team apparently took a beating.

“They were pretty much obliterated,” said one Capitol Hill staffer who attended the exercise. “The active-duty team didn’t even know how they’d been attacked.”

The exercise highlights a sensitive question emerging inside the military’s cyberwarfare community about what future role reservists will play in the Pentagon’s overall cyber force.

At stake is a massive pot of money and thousands of military jobs for a critical mission that will be mostly shielded from budget cuts slamming nearly every other part of the force under sequestration.


Real-world experience

The cyberwarfare mission is unique, many experts say, in that reservists bring training and expertize from their work in the civilian sector that can be far more advanced than what’s found in the military itself.


While military missions like the infantry or submarine warfare have no direct civilian counterpart, some reservists are full-time cybersecurity experts on Wall Street or software programmers with top technology firms, especially those attached to National Guard units in high-tech hotspots like California’s Silicon Valley, Seattle and northern Virginia.

“The guys and gals who work day jobs in suits and ties — or tie dyes and blue jeans — a lot of them have real-world experience in cyber that is far and above the limited skills that … regular military people have,” said Matthew Aid, a technology and intelligence expert and author of “The Secret Sentry, the Definitive History of the National Security Agency.”

Yet many reservists fear that active-duty leaders at the Pentagon and U.S. Cyber Command are drawing up preliminary plans that do not specifically include reserve component units in the mission.

That debate will heat up later this year; Congress has ordered the Defense Department to prepare a report on its cyberwarfare plans with a special focus on “requirements for both active and reserve components,” as well as civilian assets, according to legislation enacted last year.


Reservists shut out?

CYBERCOM, which began operations in 2010, is developing a specialized joint force of about 6,000 cyberwarriors assigned to 133 teams that will train for a range of missions, from defending DoD networks to mounting offensive operations to disabling enemy systems.

A preliminary plan calling for a force mix of 80 percent active-duty troops and 20 percent civilians has sparked concern from reserve component leaders.

The Reserve Forces Policy Board is drawing up a recommendation for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to make sure the reserves are also represented.

“I don’t know the right mix, but I guarantee you it’s not 100 percent [active-duty] and zero [reserves],” said Arnold Punaro, chairman of the RFPB, a federal advisory group established by Congress.

“It defies common sense to think that industry, in particular our high-tech industries, are not moving at light speed compared to the way government works. We are urging the secretary of defense to take a hard look at going all active-duty,” Punaro said in an interview.

Army Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a DoD spokeswoman, said the active-reserve force mix for the cyber mission remains “under current analysis” as directed by Congress last year and noted that “no decisions have been finalized.”

“We are pursuing reasonable solutions from the perspective of all parties involved,” she said.

Henderson declined to comment on the outcome of the 2013 CyberGuard Exercise at Fort Meade, which remains classified.

Active and reserve cyberwarriors each have distinct skills and the optimal force mix will include both, said Army Col. Greg Conti, director of the Army Cyber Institute at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York.

“Think of it in terms of football — there is an offense and a defense and people who know the game can swap positions. But there are certainly differences,” Conti said in a recent interview. “I think the active military is probably stronger in the current military operations and how to integrate what they do with traditional kinetic military operations. And you need people who have current situational awareness of threat actors.”

For example, specific details of the Chinese navy’s communications networks or the operating systems underlying Iranian air defense systems are unfamiliar to most civilian tech professionals.


Yet reservists who come from the private sector “are probably able to focus more intensely on the discipline of the technology,” Conti said.

“I think they are very complimentary,” he said. “There is some natural mission areas that emerge, and each force has natural strengths.”


Specialists vs. generalists

Underlying the debate are concerns about the military’s ability to adapt quickly.

In addition to standing up operational cyberwarfare teams, the military services also need to develop specific guidance for recruiters targeting people with these skills; develop professional schools with a long-term curriculum; and create career paths and manpower management tools for the thousands of troops who will be pursuing careers in cyberwarfare.

That last mission may be the most challenging. Fostering a highly specialized cyber force may be at odds with the military’s tradition of cultivating generalists who change jobs frequently.

“The military unfortunately has a nasty habit of taking people who have expertise in a particular area … and using them as truck drivers or cooks,” Aid said.

And promoting the most highly skilled cyberwarriors may be difficult in a system based on rank and emphasizing time-in-grade.

“I’ve heard senior leaders say there is a skill inversion,” Conti said. “Some of the most talented people are at the lieutenant and captain level. We have our traditional hierarchical way of doing things. What we are looking at is a cultural shift for the military in how things are done.”

Military leaders want to make cyberwarfare a top priority, but major change does not come immediately, Aid said.

“The regular military wants in, but it’s going to take some time. You just can’t take an Arabic linguist who was in Afghanistan and cross-train him into cybersecurity overnight,” Aid said.

While infighting between the active and reserve components exists in other parts of the force — notably in the Army right now in a battle over the future of Apache attack helicopters — Punaro said he does not see prolonged tension over the force mix in the cyber community.

“I think it is just the normal reaction when the Defense Department is standing up something new; it’s a lot easier for them to just do it all active-duty,” he said.

In the end, Punaro said, DoD “will figure this out.”



US Army successfully tests electronic jamming capability for Gray Eagle UAS

Arun Sasidharan, Bangalore – IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly

03 August 2014


The US Army conducted flight testing of an unmanned airborne electronic attack capability known as Networked Electronic Warfare Remotely Operated (NERO) onboard the General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle.

The tests, which took place from 2 to 19 June but were only recently announced, were conducted at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah, and proved that it is technically and tactically feasible to field an effective jammer on an unmanned aerial platform. The NERO project has conducted these flight tests after two years of engineering analysis and aircraft alteration.

The NERO project has been funded by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), and is a collaboration between the US Army’s Unmanned Aerial System Program, the US Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indiana, Raytheon, and General Atomics.


China Developing Capability To Kill Satellites, Experts Say

Aug. 4, 2014 – 03:11PM | By WENDELL MINNICK | Comments


TAIPEI — US defense experts and the US State Department are describing China’s successful July 23 so-called “anti-missile test” as another anti-satellite test (ASAT). It is the third such kinetic strike ASAT launch by China and raises fears the US will be unable to protect its spy, navigation and communications satellites.

“This latest space interceptor test demonstrates a potential PLA [People’s Liberation Army] aspiration to restrict freedom of space flight over China,” said Mark Stokes, a China missile specialist at the Project 2049 Institute.

China’s first two anti-satellite tests, 2007 and 2010, involved the SC-19 (DF-21 ballistic missile variant) armed with a kinetic kill vehicle. Though the first two involved the SC-19, only the 2007 ASAT actually destroyed a space-based platform. The 2010 and July 23 test successfully struck a ballistic missile.

With the destruction of the weather satellite came international complaints that China was unnecessarily creating a debris field that would endanger other nations’ space platforms. This could explain the reason China chose to shoot down ballistic missiles rather than hitting orbiting platforms.

It is still too early to declare whether the third test used an SC-19 or a different missile system. Stokes said it was a “speculative guess,” but it could have been a test of a new solid motor being developed for a space intercept system, possibly designated as the Hongqi-26 (HQ-26). “Engineering research and development on the new solid motor seems to incorporate some interesting capabilities [that] began early last year.”

Richard Fisher, a China military specialist with the International Assessment and Strategy Center, said after the 2007 test the Army may be trying to mask its anti-satellite program by conveying the impression that it is also testing a lower altitude anti-missile capability. “It is also possible that the SC-19 has ASAT and ABM [anti-ballistic missile] capabilities.”

Not everyone is convinced China is developing an ABM system. Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project for the Federation of American Scientists, is one of them.

“The first [observation] is wondering why China is spending effort and money on developing an anti-ballistic missile defense system given the enormous challenges and expenses the United States and Russia have had to dedicate to their efforts over the years with only partial success to show for it?” He said it seems highly unlikely that Chinese engineers would suddenly be able to overcome those challenges and deploy an effective ABM system.


Kristensen said his second observation is that a Chinese decision to develop and deploy an ABM system seems contradictory to China’s well-known opposition to US missile defense plans in the Pacific. He does not believe that a Chinese missile defense system would be able to counter the advanced and large US and Russian nuclear missile forces. It would be a somewhat different matter with India.

“If Indian military planners concluded that a Chinese ABM system was capable enough to threaten the effectiveness of India’s small nuclear deterrent aimed at China, it could potentially cause Indian planners to increase the number of long-range missiles it plans to deploy to deter China, or, which would be a worrisome and destabilizing development, begin to develop and deploy MIRVed [multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle] warheads on Indian ballistic missiles to overwhelm a Chinese ABM system,” he said. “In that case, a Chinese ABM system would seem to undermine rather than enhance Chinese security.”

Fisher contends that China is working on anti-satellite and ABM programs at the same time. It is also possible that the SC-19 has both an ASAT and ABM capability, as demonstrated in the 2007 and 2010 tests. Fisher said the new HQ-19 and the HQ-26 could be similar in capability to the US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system. There are also reports out of China indicating Beijing is attempting to procure Russian S-400 low-altitude ABMs, he said.

China has plenty of money to spend and appears to have permission to work on a variety of high-tech and risky projects, Kristensen said. “The interesting question is whether China is working on ABM technology to deploy its own defenses or to better understand and overcome the missile defenses of its potential adversaries.”

Fisher said the larger issue could be that after nearly three decades of “scorching harangues” by China on the US missile defense program, China has all along been developing its own ballistic missile defense system.

“We now know that China’s second ABM and ASAT program started in the early 1990s. Aside from how all this undermines the credibility of any Chinese strategic nuclear related statements, Washington now has to face the reality that in the 2020s it will be facing a much larger and more capable Chinese nuclear missile force that will have an active missile defense component.” ■


2014 Marked by Array of New Cyber Threats, Cisco Report Says

By Stew Magnuson



A mid-year report on the state of cyber security warns of new, insidious ways hackers are gaining access to corporate and private computers.

The Cisco 2014 Midyear Security Report said of the 16 multinational corporations surveyed, some 90 percent of their computer systems were reaching out to corrupted IP hosts on the Internet.

Levi Gundert, senior expert on Cisco’s threat research, analysis and communications team, said there were 1,633 software vulnerabilities discovered in the first half of the year with 28 of them being actively exploited.

The pharmaceutical and chemical industries saw the biggest increase in activity, with publishing and media following. Both nation-state actors, as well as criminals, are behind these attacks, although it isn’t always clear what their motivation may be, he said. The agriculture industry in the Asia-Pacific region also saw an increase in cyber attacks.

“We rarely get to see the motivations behind these attacks, but we do see the immense numbers,” he said in an interview prior to the report’s release Aug. 5.

“Mal-vertising” is the new buzzword as hackers use popular advertising exchanges to plant malware on unsuspecting users’ computers. Companies such as Google or AdNexus place the ads in slots on popular websites.

“Bad guys insert advertisements that do nothing but redirect users to the exploit kit landing site,” he said. “The websites don’t control it. The advertising exchange controls it,” he said. A computer landing on such a site can be infected with malware without the user clicking on the ad, he said.

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs permanent subcommittee on investigations released a lengthy report about mal-vertising in May. Gundert said the major news organizations didn’t report much about it.

“These websites may be reluctant to report on this because it makes them look bad. And it’s nothing they can control other than severing their relationship with the advertising exchanges,” he said.

Just as an advertiser can target a specific demographic, hackers using mal-vertising can do the same.

“They will pay up front for the advertising, perhaps $2,000 or more per ad run, and instruct the companies to tell the ad exchanges to serve the ads as quickly as possible, leaving little time or no time for the ad content to be inspected,” the report said. Tracing the source later is next to impossible because the ad has vanished, it added.

Java continues to be the software favored by those searching for vulnerabilities, he said, with 93 percent of web exploits using it. Just updating Java isn’t always possible for companies, some of which base their enterprise applications on the software. Doing so could “break” their applications, he said.

“In some regards, it’s a little bit tricky to fix that. The bad guys love Java because there are a lot of holes,” Gundert said.

Unfortunately, there are a host of new toolkits that allow almost anyone with criminal intent to break into computers. Exploit kits are software packages hackers can purchase for as little as $1,500. They are designed to be easy to use. All it takes are basic computer skills to create and launch malware. Blackhole was the most popular kit until its creator was arrested last fall.

Since the arrest, “We have seen an overall decrease in the amount of traffic driven by exploit kits, but we have seen a proliferation of new families that are being branded,” he said.

New exploit kit creators are competing with each other on price and customer service. They have turned their enterprises into a “software as a service model.” Users can log into a control panel, see how many computers in which countries they have infected, and which applications are being exploited.

As for Chinese hackers, Cisco hasn’t seen any decrease in activity coming from that country, despite protests from the U.S. government and the recent indictments by the Department of Justice of five military officers for allegedly engaging in economic espionage.

“We haven’t seen any change or amount of traffic … it continues the way it has,” said Gundert.


Next-Generation Fighter, Directed Energy Weapons May Converge

Limited F-22, F-35 firepower magazine drives USAF investment plans

Aug 5, 2014 Amy Butler | Aviation Week & Space Technology


The high cost of the F-22 was driven by stealthy features, including a small weapons bay. Credit: U.S. Air Force

Eyeing emerging threats amid a constrained budget environment, and consumed by the Lockheed Martin F-35’s high cost, the U.S. Air Force is already studying what the “sixth-generation” of air dominance capability for the service should be.

Air Combat Command Chief Gen. Mike Hostage says he is agnostic on whether the next generation of Air Force combat capability should be manned, unmanned or even a fighter. “It isn’t necessarily another single-seat fighter,” he said July 29 at a breakfast in Washington. “If it is the enter button on the keyboard that makes all the adversaries fall to the ground, I’m okay with that.”

Because of the “torturous” nature of the acquisition process, “we are already behind the line to get something on the ramp,” he said. “I think it is existential that we build the future fleet.” Hostage says he is willing to accept risk in the interim by shifting money from upgrades to existing fighters to provide seed money for the so-called sixth-generation system. This includes scrapping plans for the Combat Avionics Programmed Extension Suite and structural work for the F-16s expected to remain in the fleet despite downsizing.

This “sixth-generation” system is so dubbed as a follow-on to the “fifth-generation” of stealth, speed and avionics/sensor fusion offered by the F-22 and F-35. It will have to operate with the forthcoming Long-Range Strike Bomber; the Air Force recently issued a request for proposals for 80-100 stealthy aircraft, according to Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh. This kicks off a long-awaited competition between a Boeing/Lockheed Martin team and Northrop Grumman, with a goal of a unit price at or under $550 million.

Still, the all fifth-generation fleet once envisioned by the Air Force remains elusive. Flight restrictions on the F-35 are “near-term,” and Hostage does not think the root cause of the excessive friction in the third stage integrally bladed rotor in the low-pressure turbine that led to a June 23 F-35A F135 engine fire will jeopardize achieving the Air Force’s initial operational capability for the single-engine stealthy jet, planned by August 2016.

The fire prompted a fleet-wide grounding for three weeks, followed by a limited flight envelope for all three variants of the aircraft. For two weeks they have been flying only in a limited envelope, hampering progress in flight testing, including the weapons releases required for the U.S. Marine Corps to declare initial operational capability in one year with the F-35B. Operational aircraft are limited to 0.9 Mach and -1 to 3g under normal acceleration. Flight-test jets are approved for a slightly more rigorous 1.6 Mach and -1 to 3.2g under recently relaxed guidelines.

Hostage acknowledges that the “magazine” for today’s fifth-generation fighters-—the F-22 and, eventually, the F-35—is shallow. Each can carry only a maximum of eight ground-attack Small-Diameter Bombs. Physics limits magazine options for these aircraft, as the stealthy design requires small internal weapons bays.

Hostage hinted, however, that the Pentagon is funding classified efforts to maximize firepower. At one point, the service pursued the so-called Joint Dual-Role Air Dominance Missile (JDRADM), meant to combine the air-to-air capabilities of the Amraam with the radar-killing air-to-ground attack capabilities of the HARM missile into one airframe. That project—later dubbed the Next-Generation Missile—fizzled; some sources suggest research may be continuing under a classified program.

And it is likely the service will pursue directed-energy options for the sixth-generation system. “Amazing developments in the [directed energy] arena” have been made and this technology “holds great promise,” Hostage said. He did not provide details on programmatics and added that it was not clear yet whether directed-energy capabilities would be mature enough to deploy on the sixth-generation system.

Directed energy is one of five areas highlighted by the Air Force as investment items for the future fleet; also included were unmanned aerial vehicles, nanotechnology, hypersonics and automation. These are included in a new paper, “America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future,” which outlines a strategic framework against which the service plans to budget for decades to come.


Philips Lighting VP: Light Bulbs Will Become Extinct

By Randy Leonard    

Posted at 4:57 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2014


Lighting as we know it will be completely revolutionized in coming years, according to an executive at the world’s largest lighting company.

“It won’t be long before lights will be embedded in the fixtures,” John Pouland, vice president of government affairs for Philips Lighting told attendees Thursday at an expo hosted by the Environmental and Energy Study Institute. “You won’t actually go buy a bulb – you will buy a lamp fixture,” he said.

The change will come from advancements in LED lighting, as the price for the elements, which can last 20 years, drops, Pouland said.

“The lights will outlast you,” he said. “It will last as long as the fixture.”

He said the change will have an environmental as well as economic impact. “There’s nothing faster, better and cheaper to get this country to reduce its carbon emissions,” he said.

He predicted that bulbs that are now below $10 will drop to a critical $5 price within three to five years, at which point they will saturate the market.

The Energy Department estimates that solid state technology has the potential to cut energy spent on lighting in half.


DARPA Humanoid Robot Plan Going Too Well, Apparently

By Tim Starks    

Posted at 2:11 p.m. on July 23, 2014


Apparently the DARPA competition to build a humanoid robot is going so swimmingly that the Defense Department’s advanced research wing is pushing back the schedule — not the usual reason for a missed deadline at the Pentagon.

The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s DARPA Robotic Challenge is focused on humanoid robots that could assist in disaster missions. Bryant Jordan helpfully writes, “If there is also a weaponized version a la The Terminator anywhere in the plan the Pentagon has not said so.”

Because some of the teams vetted so far are exceeding expectations, according to the agency, they’re giving them an extra six months during which DARPA will “raise the bar.” They’re also throwing another $1.5 million each at the firms.

“Goals for the upcoming competition include robots that are more robust, have better stability and more advanced autonomy,” per program manager Gil Pratt in National Defense Magazine.

One of the robots from the challenge was actually so successful it was pulled from the competition and will be developed commercially. Google also had all the money it needed, anyway. There’s already a humanoid robot who can run more than 5 mph, pour drinks, hop on one leg and do sign language. Go ASIMO! (Or maybe that should that be: “Go ASIMO?”)

There does not appear to be much of a focus in the DARPA challenge on bridging the “uncanny valley,” however. Humanoid robots are just the weirdest. Just try not to be creeped out by the video below, as entertainingly written up by Neda Semnani.


Malwarebytes Offers Morning-After Malware Attack Solution    

By: Amanda Vicinanzo, Contributing Editor

08/04/2014 (10:06am)

As the US government continues to report on malicious software attacks, including a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advisory against a virulent form of malware dubbed “Backoff,” organizations in the private and public sectors are searching for solutions to not only prevent, but also recover, from such attacks.

Hoping to address fears over a worse-case scenario in which malware defeats security barriers and becomes embedded in a computer system, independent anti-virus research firm AV-Test conducted a study to determine whether it’s possible to completely restore a Windows system to its previous condition in the aftermath of a virus infection.

According to the results, while most of the applications in the study showed solid performance, leading anti-malware provider Malwarebytes presented the only security package to fully clean and repair the system every time.

“Only Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free was able to clean 100 percent of all virus infection scenarios,” said Andreas Marx, CEO, AV-Test. “We tested these products very extensively over the 10 month period, so to achieve a perfect score is notable.”

AV-Test conducted the rigorous ten-month long study of seventeen software products between September 2013 and June 2014. Bitdefender, ESET, F-Secure, Kaspersky, Norton, Avast! Free Antivirus 9.0, AVG AntiVirus Free 2014 and Avira Free Antivirus were among the other security packages examined in the test.

Designed to simulate real-world experiences, the test was performed on real hardware to replicate the everyday user’s typical experience and was divided into two typical infection scenarios.In the first test, the protection software was installed on a system already infected with malware and the subsequent detection, clean-up and repair of the damage was logged. In the second test, the protection packages were briefly deactivated, the malware was loaded, and protection was reactivated. Here, the detection, clean-up and repair were logged again.

The results of the test were evaluated according to the following criteria: whether the malware was detected or not, whether the active components were completely removed, whether any harmless file remnants remained and whether the security and clean-up software completely removed and restored everything.

“Malwarebytes was tested against 30 different pieces of the latest malware in two separate situations, and asked to rip them off a Windows 7 machine. Not only did we do this every single time, we also completely disinfected each system, not even leaving harmless file remnants,” said Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes, in a blog post.

Of all the security packages, only Malwarebytes Anti-Malware Free left the system completely cleaned and repaired after 60 tests. However, Kaspersky and Bitdefender, as well as F-Secure, almost matched Malwarebytes with their near-perfect performance.

“The package from Bitdefender was able to do this 59 times, whereas the packages from F-Secure and Kaspersky were each successful 56 times. The two security solutions merely overlooked harmless registry entries. Otherwise they achieved an almost perfect performance,” stated the AV-Test results.

The results of the test demonstrate that a morning-after solution to a malware attack not only exists, but can be extremely successful, indicating that there are reliable rescue options for having a Windows system cleaned and repaired in the aftermath of an attack.

“It’s great to score 100 percent in a test with such a highly regarded lab.AV-Test’s rigorous analysis and understanding of the security landscape really sets it apart, we usually let our users do the talking, but this result is great validation of the product,” said Kleczynski.




New leaker disclosing U.S. secrets, government concludes

By Evan Perez, CNN

updated 8:00 AM EDT, Wed August 6, 2014


(CNN) — The federal government has concluded there’s a new leaker exposing national security documents in the aftermath of surveillance disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, U.S. officials tell CNN.

Proof of the newest leak comes from national security documents that formed the basis of a news story published Tuesday by the Intercept, the news site launched by Glenn Greenwald, who also published Snowden’s leaks.

The Intercept article focuses on the growth in U.S. government databases of known or suspected terrorist names during the Obama administration.

The article cites documents prepared by the National Counterterrorism Center dated August 2013, which is after Snowden left the United States to avoid criminal charges.

Greenwald has suggested there was another leaker. In July, he said on Twitter “it seems clear at this point” that there was another.

Government officials have been investigating to find out that identity.

In a February interview with CNN’s Reliable Sources, Greenwald said: “I definitely think it’s fair to say that there are people who have been inspired by Edward Snowden’s courage and by the great good and virtue that it has achieved.”

He added, “I have no doubt there will be other sources inside the government who see extreme wrongdoing who are inspired by Edward Snowden.”

It’s not yet clear how many documents the new leaker has shared and how much damage it may cause.

So far, the documents shared by the new leaker are labeled “Secret” and “NOFORN,” which means it isn’t to be shared with foreign government.

That’s a lower level of classification than most of the documents leaked by Snowden.

Government officials say he stole 1.7 million classified documents, many of which were labeled “Top Secret,” a higher classification for the government’s most important secrets.


Big databases

The biggest database, called the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, now has 1 million names, a U.S. official confirmed to CNN.

That’s boosted from half that many in the aftermath of the botched attempt by the so-called underwear bomber to blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner on Christmas Day in 2009.

The growth of TIDE, and other more specialized terrorist databases and watchlists, was a result of vulnerabilities exposed in the 2009 underwear plot, government officials said.


A year after Snowden

The underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmuttalab, was not on government watchlists that would have prevented him from being allowed to fly to the United States.

In 2012, the National Counterterrorism Center reported that the TIDE database contained 875,000 names. There were about 500,000 in 2009 before the underwear bomb plot.

The Intercept first reported the new TIDE database numbers, along with details of other databases.


The Intercept article

As of November, 2013, there were 700,000 people listed in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB), or the “Terrorist Watchlist, according to a U.S. official. Fewer than 1% are U.S. persons and fewer than 0.5% are U.S. citizens.

The list has grown somewhat since that time, but is nowhere near the 1.5 million figure cited in recent news reports. Current numbers for the TSDB cannot be released at this time.

The Intercept report said, citing the documents, that 40% on the “Terrorist Watchlist” aren’t affiliated with terror groups.

U.S. officials familiar with the matter say the claim is incorrect based on a misreading of the documents.


Americans on lists

The report said that as of August, 2013, 5,000 Americans were on the TSD watchlist. Another 15,800 were on the wider TIDE list.

A smaller subset, 16,000 names, including 1,200 belonging to Americans, are listed as “selectees” who are subject to more intensive screening at airports and border crossings.


According to the Intercept, citing the documents, the cities with the most names on the list are: New York, Dearborn, Michigan; Houston; San Diego; and Chicago. Dearborn is home to one the nation’s biggest concentrations of Arab and Muslim populations.

According to the documents cited by the Intercept, the government has also begun a new effort to collect information and biometric data on U.S. persons in the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings.

The data includes photos from driver’s licenses. That effort likely was spurred by the fact that FBI agents investigating the Boston bombings found existing databases lacking when they tried to match images of the two bombers isolated from surveillance video, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter.


Stored on Pentagon system

Documents classified as “Secret” are stored on a Pentagon-operated computer system called SIPRNet, which the Defense and State departments use to share classified information.

A recent Government Accountability Office study found that between 2006-2011 there were 3.2 million approved by the Pentagon to handle secret, top secret, SCI (sensitive compartmented) information.

SIPRnet is one of the computer systems that the former Army soldier now known as Chelsea Manning accessed to leak hundreds of thousands documents, including State Department cables.

The Manning leak was the largest U.S. intelligence leak until Snowden.


U.S. gov’t, military had role in experimental Ebola drug

Aug. 5, 2014 – 06:00AM |

By Marilynn Marchione

The Associated Press


Two American aid workers infected with Ebola are getting an experimental drug so novel it has never been tested for safety in humans and was only identified as a potential treatment earlier this year, thanks to a longstanding research program by the U.S. government and the military.

The workers, Nancy Writebol and Dr. Kent Brantly, are improving, although it’s impossible to know whether the treatment is the reason or they are recovering on their own, as others who have survived Ebola have done. Brantly is being treated at a special isolation unit at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital, and Writebol was expected to be flown there Tuesday in the same specially equipped plane that brought Brantly.

They were infected while working in Liberia, one of four West African nations dealing with the world’s largest Ebola outbreak. On Monday, the World Health Organization said the death toll had increased from 729 to 887 deaths in Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria, and that more than 1,600 people have been infected.

In a worrisome development, the Nigerian Health Minister said a doctor who had helped treat Patrick Sawyer, the Liberian-American man who died July 25 days after arriving in Nigeria, has been confirmed to have the deadly disease. Tests are pending for three other people who also treated Sawyer and are showing symptoms.


There is no vaccine or specific treatment for Ebola, but several are under development.

The experimental treatment the U.S. aid workers are getting is called ZMapp and is made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. of San Diego. It is aimed at boosting the immune system’s efforts to fight off Ebola and is made from antibodies produced by lab animals exposed to parts of the virus.

In a statement, the company said it was working with LeafBio of San Diego, Defyrus Inc. of Toronto, the U.S. government and the Public Health Agency of Canada on development of the drug, which was identified as a possible treatment in January.

The drug is made in tobacco plants at Kentucky BioProcessing, a subsidiary of Reynolds American Inc., in Owensboro, Kentucky, said spokesman David Howard. The plant “serves like a photocopier,” and the drug is extracted from the plant, he said.

Kentucky BioProcessing complied with a request from Emory and the international relief group Samaritan’s Purse to provide a limited amount of ZMapp to Emory, he said. Brantly works for the aid group.

The Kentucky company is working “to increase production of ZMapp but that process is going to take several months,” Howard said. The drug has been tested in animals and testing in humans is expected to begin later this year.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must grant permission to use experimental treatments in the United States, but the FDA does not have authority over the use of such a drug in other countries, and the aid workers were first treated in Liberia. An FDA spokeswoman said she could not confirm or deny FDA granting access to any experimental therapy for the aid workers while in the U.S.

Writebol, 59, has been in isolation at her home in Liberia since she was diagnosed last month. She’s now walking with assistance and has regained her appetite, said Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based group that she works for in Africa.

Writebol has received two doses of the experimental drug so far, but Johnson was hesitant to credit the treatment for her improvement.

“Ebola is a tricky virus and one day you can be up and the next day down. One day is not indicative of the outcome,” he said. But “we’re grateful this medicine was available.”

Brantly, 33, also was said to be improving. Besides the experimental dose he got in Liberia, he also received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy, an Ebola survivor, who had been under his care. That seems to be aimed at giving Brantly antibodies the boy may have made to the virus.

Samaritan’s Purse initiated the events that led to the two workers getting ZMapp, according to a statement Monday by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. The Boone, North Carolina-based group contacted U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials in Liberia to discuss various experimental treatments and were referred to an NIH scientist in Liberia familiar with those treatments.

The scientist answered some questions and referred them to the companies but was not officially representing the NIH and had no “official role in procuring, transporting, approving, or administering the experimental products,” the statement says.

In the meantime, dozens of African heads of state were in Washington for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, a three-day gathering hosted by President Barack Obama. U.S. health officials on Monday spoke with Guinean President Alpha Conde and senior officials from Liberia and Sierra Leone about the Ebola outbreak.

The Defense Department has long had a hand in researching infectious diseases, including Ebola. During much of the Cold War period this served two purposes: to keep abreast of diseases that could limit the effectiveness of troops deployed abroad and to be prepared if biological agents were used as weapons.

The U.S. military has no biological weapons program but continues to do research related to infectious diseases as a means of staying current on potential threats to the health of troops. It may also contribute medical expertise as part of interagency efforts in places like Africa where new infectious disease threats arise.

The hospital in Atlanta treating the aid workers has one of the nation’s most sophisticated infectious disease units. Patients are sealed off from anyone not in protective gear. Ebola is only spread through direct contact with an infected person’s blood or other bodily fluids, not through the air.

The CDC last week told U.S. doctors to ask about foreign travel by patients who come down with Ebola-like symptoms, including fever, headache, vomiting and diarrhea. A spokesman said three people have been tested so far in the U.S. — and all tested negative. Additionally, a New York City hospital on Monday said a man was being tested for Ebola but he likely didn’t have it.

Writebol and her husband, David, had been in Liberia since last August, sent there by SIM USA and sponsored by their home congregation at Calvary Church in Charlotte. At the clinic, Nancy Writebol’s duties included disinfecting staff entering or leaving the Ebola treatment area.

“Her husband, David, told me Sunday her appetite has improved and she requested one of her favorite dishes: Liberian potato soup — and coffee,” SIM’s Johnson said.


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, August 09, 2014

What do voters really think?

On the one hand, they strongly believe the major differences between President Obama and congressional Republicans are mostly about politics and not honest disagreement over the issues.

Attorney General Eric Holder even suggested recently that the differences are motivated by racism, although voters strongly reject that claim

On the other hand, a closer look at the major issues of the day finds clear differences of opinion between voters in the two major political parties, suggesting that the president and his congressional opponents are really just mirroring what their voters want.

Take health care. Voters in general still expect Obamacare to make health care worse and more expensive in America. But Democrats continue to champion the new health care law as they have from day one. Republicans and unaffiliated voters remain strongly opposed.

Most voters rate the federal government’s handling of illegal immigration as poor and think states should be able to act on their own to stop the problem. They also favor use of the National Guard in their own state to deal with illegal immigrants.

Just over half of voters now give the president poor marks for his handling of immigration issues, the highest level of criticism we’ve found to date. Fifty-four percent (54%) believe Obama wants most of the new illegal immigrants in the country to stay here despite majority support for their quick deportation.

But, again, a closer look shows that while Republicans and unaffiliated voters are strongly in favor of deporting these illegal newcomers, Democrats prefer to find ways to let most of them stay in this country.

In the latest major confrontation, the GOP-led House of Representatives voted to sue the president for exceeding his constitutional authority by making changes in the health care law after it had been passed by Congress. Most voters agree the president does not have the right to change laws without Congress’ approval, but they doubt a House lawsuit will stop him from acting on his own.   Democrats, of course, tend to think the president should be able to go it alone; Republicans and unaffiliateds strongly disagree.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of all voters say America is a more divided nation than it was four years ago. Democrats blame the congressional GOP for the division; Republicans blame the president, and unaffiliated voters think they’re both to blame. 

Among all voters, the president’s daily job approval rating remains in the high negative teens as it has been for much of his presidency.

At the same time, the number giving Congress good or excellent marks for its job performance has been in single digits most months since April 2011.

One thing we’ll be watching, though, especially with midterm elections coming this fall: Republicans have jumped out to a four-point lead over Democrats on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot after trailing for most weeks this year. Is this a hiccup or a major shift? You better believe both political parties will be watching.

Remember, too, that only 23% of all Likely U.S. Voters now think the country is heading in the right direction. But there are also some interesting changes in our economic indicators: Americans, for one thing, are more optimistic about their job prospects than they have been for most of the past five years.

Consumer and investor confidence remains at levels seen for much of this year and last but is still well ahead of post-2008 meltdown lows.

Speaking of elections, do Texas voters want Governor Rick Perry to run for president?

Things are looking up for Republicans in the North Carolina Senate race. The GOP is counting on a pick-up in North Carolina if it’s going to take control of the Senate.

After fending off Tea Party opposition in the state’s Republican primary, Texas Senator John Cornyn looks comfortably on the road to reelection.

The marquee governor’s race between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis in Texas is closer than it was earlier this year.

Look for our new video election update every Friday to catch up on the week’s polling.

At week’s end, the president announced that we are bombing selective targets in Iraq. We’ll let you know early in the week how voters feel about that.

With Libya descending further into political chaos, voters aren’t sure it was a good idea for the United States to help overthrow the longtime dictator there and definitely don’t want any further U.S. involvement in the troubled North African country.

Despite his increased involvement in foreign policy hotspots like Israel and Ukraine, Secretary of State John Kerry continues to draw decidedly mixed views from U.S. voters.

While senators argue over the level of detail the CIA is willing to release about its secret activities, a sizable number of voters continues to believe the intelligence agency tortured likely terrorists, but slightly more think the information obtained that way helped in the War on Terror.

In other surveys last week:

— What if the deadly Ebola disease enters the general population in this country?

— Voters remain strongly pro-choice when it comes to giving parents options on the kind of school they want their children to attend.

Charitable giving is up, but not when it comes to political parties or candidates.

— The Internet is becoming a destination for fundraising as “crowdfunding” websites like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and IndieGoGo are being used to fund everything from medical expenses to major motion pictures. Are Americans willing to give online?

— Most Americans still agree that finding new sources of energy is essential and think renewable sources are a better long-term investment than fossil fuels.

— It’s been seven months since Colorado began the public sale of recreational marijuana, and opposition to legalization of pot on the state level appears to be going down.

— Is there a driverless car in your future?

August 2 2014




First UAV Near Miss with Ag Aircraft Reported in Pacific Northwest

by Press • 25 July 2014


Earlier this week a pilot from Idaho was preparing to begin a spray run through a field. Barely visible ahead of him was a small stationary object. He decided it must be a kite since a bird would not remain motionless. As he neared the object, it rapidly shot straight up. The pilot took evasive action but it passed so close to the airplane that he was unsure if it had missed the aircraft and spray system. It was close enough for him to be able to identify the make and model of the quad-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). He did not see the vehicle again as he finished the field but he did see the suspected operator/pilot in a car near the field. When he went to the next field, the car followed him where he observed the car’s occupant taking pictures with a hand-held camera.

The pilot notified his operator of what had transpired and was told to see if he could identify the car. Through the assistance of the farmer and the crop consultant, they were able to narrow down the search for the individual. The pilot notified the county sheriff of the incident and deputies were able to locate the suspected operator of the UAV.

During an interview with the suspect, the sheriff told him the endangered pilot could press charges and he would have been held liable if any damage had occurred to the aircraft. The suspect was asked if his operation of the UAV was covered by insurance. The person was visibly shocked when he learned of the value of a turbine ag aircraft. His demeanor became extremely remorseful.

At the same time, strictly by chance, inspectors from the local FSDO happened to stop by the operator’s business on a courtesy call. They were immediately informed of the event and the follow-up. Although they did not know exactly how to handle the reporting of the incident, they knew the FAA needs to have reports of UAV incidents to aid in developing rules for the safe integration of UAVs into the airspace system.

The pilot and operator declined to press charges against the UAV’s operator because of his remorse and attitude upon realizing the safety implications of his actions. The possible financial liability alone was sufficient to get the message across.

NAAA reminds pilots and operators to report to their local FSDO and law enforcement agency any incidents involving near collisions or interference to their flying activities from UAVs. An actual report is the only way official documentation will be able to track the extent of the problem.



FAA grants comment extension at the request of AMA

by Press • 25 July 2014

Well done the AMA, now its time for folks to really get writing so far its been lackluster. I wonder if this will allow the FAA to delay the more important for our readers, small rule making NPRM??

At the request of the AMA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has granted a 60-day extension for the public comment period (Docket No. FAA-2014-0396) for FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft established by Congress as part of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The 60-day extension establishes the new deadline for comments as September 23, 2014.

In the United States Department of Transportation/FAA notice published in the Federal Register on July 25, 2014, the FAA noted the following:

“On July 16, 2014, the Academy of Model Aeronautics submitted a request to extend the comment period by 60 days, citing the need to “educate the aeromodeling community, clarify the issues, and respond to questions regarding the impact that the interpretive rule has on various aspects of the modeling activity.” The FAA agrees that additional time for the submission of comments would be helpful, and therefore has decided to extend the comment period until September 23, 2014. The FAA expects that the additional time for comments will allow the affected community to prepare meaningful comments which will help the FAA to determine what clarifications to the interpretation may be necessary.”

The Academy of Model Aeronautics will continue to encourage its membership, partnering organizations, and the aeromodeling media to comment on the interpretation. Several items outlined in the interpretation could significantly impact the entire aeromodeling community, and the AMA is resolutely committed to protecting the hobby.

At the request of its membership, AMA has developed a simplified explanation, and suggested comments to the Interpretive Rule. Additional information, as well as a video, can be found on the government relations section of

The Academy of Model Aeronautics has been the nation’s collective voice for approximately 165,000 modelers in 2,400 clubs in every state and U.S. territories since 1936. A nonprofit association, headquartered in Muncie IN, AMA sanctions more than 2,000 events and competitions each year under the auspices of the National Aeronautic Association.



Understanding the FAA’s Interpretation of the Rule and How to Comment.

On June 23, 2014, the FAA issued an Interpretive Rule that outlines its interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft that was included in the FAA Reauthorization and Modernization Act of 2012. As you should know from previous alerts AMA has significant concern about the FAA’s interpretation of many of the stipulations in the law. We’ve outlined some of those concerns and how the FAA’s interpretation of the law may effect aeromodelers:

1. Are you a model aircraft enthusiast?
As a model aircraft enthusiast you are now subject to all the rules and regulations of the National Airspace System, including those intended for full-scale aircraft. If you are a private pilot and are cited for a violation while flying a model aircraft, your full-scale license may be jeopardized.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation concludes with the statement that an unknown number of aviation regulations “may apply to model aircraft operations, depending on the particular circumstances of the operation.” I believe this sweeping statement is contrary to Congressional intent in the 2012 statute, in which Congress required the FAA to exempt recreational model aircraft from new aviation regulations and to continue to allow community-based organizations to self-govern the hobby instead. This interpretation negatively affects me because the FAA has not provided guidance on what kind of model aircraft use might now be subject to regulation and possible penalties. This seems unfair.

2. Do you enjoy flying First Person View?
Even operating under AMA’s guidelines and using a spotter, FPV flight using goggles is prohibited. This is despite that it could be argued that a spotter provides enhanced awareness of the airspace because a spotter scans the airspace while a pilot with visual line of site on the model is focused on the model. AMA also sees this an unprecedented attempt to prohibit one specific technology opening the door to threats to other modeling technologies that the FAA may not like.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation suggests that hobbyists who fly their models by “first person view” (FPV) might be doing something wrong if they are using video glasses or “goggles.” For the past decade, FPV has been inspiring students, engineers, robotics enthusiasts, and many others to take up the hobby or to expand their hobby activities. FPV control adds no danger to the hobby, especially when a spotter is present to monitor the airspace. The language of the 2012 statute concerning “within visual line of sight” indicates how far away a person should fly the model aircraft, not what method of control may be used for the recreational experience. [This part of the FAA’s interpretation impacts me because I enjoy flying FPV or plan to explore FPV in the near future.]

3. Are you a sponsored pilot, fly in competitive events, or enjoy watching companies demonstrate product?
In the strictest sense of the interpretation it could prohibit sponsored pilots, pilots who accept any compensation (even reimbursement of expenses) to put on demos at events, or pilots who receive prizes or cash awards at a competitive event if they represent a company. It could eliminate companies demonstrating their product at events. The rule specifically calls out as prohibited “Receiving money (compensation) for demonstrating aerobatics with a model aircraft.”

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft restricts people who are flying model aircraft from receiving any payments. For decades, people have been paid by hobby companies for promotional or product development purposes and have participated in contests and competitions that have cash prizes. These payments do not change the underlying recreational purpose of the overall activity or make the hobby any less safe. The FAA’s very narrow interpretation of “hobby,” dug out of dictionaries rather than an understanding of actual hobby in question, will change model aviation for the worse with no public benefit. [This part of the FAA’s interpretation will negatively impact me because I like to participate in and watch model airplane competitions, I work for a hobby company, I am sometimes paid for my time teaching people to fly model airplanes, or I have plans to do one or more of those things.]

4. Do you fly within 5 miles of one of the more than 17,000 airports in the US?
The interpretive rule requires that you have permission to fly within this 5-mile area. An airport authority, for no reason other than because he or she simply doesn’t like model aircraft could prohibit your ability to fly within the 5-mile radius, even if the club has been flying at a site for decades.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation appears to require any person with any size model aircraft to ask authorization from air traffic control before flying it, if within 5 miles of an airport. This is a new requirement for model aircraft, contrary to Congressional intent. The FAA has not offered any guidance as to what is considered an “airport” and whether that includes rarely used grass strips and helipads. If so, how do I reach the airport controller when no one is there? In another part of the interpretation, the FAA suggests that certain “classes” of airspace may govern what permission a model aircraft operator needs. This is confusing and unclear, and imposes many more obligations upon hobbyists than they ever had before, in contradiction to Congress’s intent. This interpretation impacts me because it does not clearly provide notice of what I am supposed to do. [My home, local park, or model aircraft club is within 5 miles of an airport and I am concerned that I need to ask permission of air traffic control just to use a toy in my backyard or local park.]

5. Does your club manage its own flying site in a safe and responsible manner?
In its strictest sense the interpretive rule comes close to giving the FAA the ability to dictate the layout of club flying sites. It has the potential to shut down park pilot flying sites in urban areas, and gives the FAA the ability to take enforcement action against a modeler who violates the statute.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation specifically implies that the FAA may take enforcement action against someone, even a model aviation enthusiast, for posing a risk to people or property on the ground. The interpretation also states that “operations may not be conducted closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.” AMA’s recommended guidelines for flying sites has worked well for decades. Imposing such stringent requirements as outlined in the interpretation would have a devastating impact on my flying site, my ability to enjoy model aviation in what I believe is already a safe and responsible manner, and potentially cause the demise of countless model aviation flying sites across the country.

6. Do you or your club fly in “controlled airspace”?
The interpretive rule defines a model aircraft as an aircraft. To enter Class B airspace, the operator of an aircraft would need to be licensed, establish two-way radio communication, and have a transponder (a device that help controllers better identify an aircraft). It’s impossible for a model aircraft to comply with the requirement, and in some cases controlled airspace begins at ground level. This could eliminate nearly 100 AMA chartered club flying sites that have flown safely in Class B airspace for years, and hundreds more that fly in other controlled airspace.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The Interpretive Rule establishes new restrictions and prohibitions to which model aircraft have never been subject to in the past by saying, “if an operator is unable to comply with the regulatory requirements for operating in a particular class of airspace, the operator would need authorization from air traffic control to operate in that area.” Nothing in the Public Law or FAA’s current guidance for model aircraft, AC 91-57, makes such a requirement. And, the application of this “interpretation” would effectively prohibit model aircraft from operating in airspace where there are requirements specifically intended for manned aircraft operations.

For example, under 14 CFR 91-131, “No person may operate an aircraft within a Class B airspace area (unless) the operator… receive(s) an ATC clearance. No person may… operate a civil aircraft within a Class B airspace area unless – the pilot in command holds a… pilot certificate.” These are requirements to which model aircraft operators cannot reasonable comply, and it is doubtful that any authorization and/or clearance will be forthcoming despite the Interpretive Rule’s suggestion that, “modelers… obtain authorization from air traffic control prior to operating” in such airspace.

7. Do you know every rule and regulation pertaining to the National Airspace System?
    The FAA may, at its discretion, subjectively apply any rule or regulation created to address full-scale operations to model aircraft. In the strictest sense this could even require licensing of model aircraft pilots. This might be unlikely, but this clearly opens the door to that possibility.

[AMA’s Viewpoint:]
The FAA’s interpretation concludes with the statement that an unknown number of aviation regulations “may apply to model aircraft operations, depending on the particular circumstances of the operation.” I believe this sweeping statement is contrary to Congressional intent in the 2012 statute, in which Congress required the FAA to exempt recreational model aircraft from new aviation regulations and to continue to allow community-based organizations to self-govern the hobby instead. This interpretation negatively affects me because the FAA has not provided guidance on what kind of model aircraft use might now be subject to regulation and possible penalties. This seems unfair.

8. What the rule is:
    It is an attempt to circumvent the protection Congress provided for aermodeling in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. The interpretive rule does this while clearly recognizing a section of the law which reads “Section 336 (of the act) also prohibits the FAA from promulgating) “any new rule or regulation regarding model aircraft, or an aircraft being developed as a model aircraft …” if certain requirements are met. There are several examples of the FAA creating new rule in the interpretation.

There are more examples of concern within the interpretive rule but these examples are the most egregious. As the FAA has interpreted the law, it could affect thousands or tens of thousands of model aviation enthusiasts and hundreds if not more than a thousand AMA chartered clubs.

9. What can I do to help?
    Add your voice to others who oppose the potential damaging effect the Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft will have on model aviation. Virtually every modeler faces the potential for some negative impact from the FAA’s interpretation of the law. Choose one or more of these issues that you believe may affect you and submit your comments. We’ve offered some viewpoints that you can draw from to help guide you in preparing your remarks. Your voice can help protect the hobby.

Emailing your comment is the fastest and most convenient method. All comments must include the docket number FAA-2014-0396. Go to Follow the online instructions for sending your comments electronically.


Educators express Special Rule for Model Aircraft concerns

by Gary Mortimer • 28 July 2014


The FAA must be starting to bounce emails from Lawyer Brendan Schulman from office to office hoping that somebody else will open and deal with them. This time several Universities make fair and valid points.

A month ago Peggy Gilligan, Associate Administrator for Aviation Safety at the Federal Aviation Administration, was awarded the L. Welch Pogue Award for Lifetime Achievement in Aviation. The award was given in recognition of Ms. Gilligan’s many contributions to advancing commercial aviation. I wonder who will be the first FAA official to pick up an award from the civil commercial unmanned community in the USA? An award from AUVSI of course, would not count.

I have a feeling Brendan is firmly at the head of the queue for awards at the minute.

To Whom It May Concern,

As educators and researchers, we write to express our collective concern about the Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft (hereafter the Interpretive Rule for Model Aircraft or Interpretive Rule) published in the Federal Register on June 25, 2014. The Interpretive Rule addresses the critical issues of model aircraft safety and protection of our national airspace system. Perhaps inadvertently, this novel interpretation could also haveserious and severely detrimental impacts on education and research in the United States,particularly in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Model aircraft have been safely used in education and research since the earliest days of flight. The Wright Brothers used models to test their designs before putting their own lives at risk. Radio-controlled model aircraft, identical in many respects to today’s devices, have been used in the United States since at least the 1930s. Some of our nation’s top scientists, engineers, pilots, and astronauts furthered their careers experimenting with model aircraft, a list that includes John Glenn, Paul MacCready, Burt Rutan, Neil Armstrong, Robert Gibson, Arthur Young, Samuel Langley, Thomas Edison, William Stout, and numerous others.


Model aircraft are ideal for developing and testing new designs that can improve the aerodynamic efficiency, flight dynamics, and safety of full-sized aircraft; with the availability of miniature cameras and other small sensors, these same models now make valuable contributions to environmental science, GIS mapping, filmmaking, archaeology, agricultural science, and many other fields. As educators in STEM fields, we believe that free and open access to this technology is absolutely essential to our nation’s continued leadership in aviation, to our future economy, and to our long-term security.


Perhaps surprisingly, model aircraft used in research and education have a safety record that appears to be unmatched by any other form of aviation. According to the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA), there have been six recorded fatalities involving model aircraft in our entire nation’s history. Nearly all of these incidents involved the operator or direct participants. No fatalities have ever been caused by small battery-powered models (e.g., “Park Flyer” models) and, to the best of our knowledge, no fatalities have resulted from academic research with model aircraft. It is difficult to identify any other high-value activity that occurs in the outdoor airspace and has such an extraordinary safety record. Even baseballs are statistically more deadly. Some of today’s model aircraft are so small and safe that they can even be flown indoors around people and furniture.


We understand and share the FAA’s concern about model aircraft being operated in places where they do not belong and creating a hazard to manned aircraft operations. Recent news reports suggest there have been model aircraft sightings by airline pilots in the vicinity of airports and in other highly objectionable locations. We firmly believe that our legal system should address these transgressions through both civil and criminal remedies as appropriate against anyone who maliciously or through wanton recklessness endangers the navigable airspace. Our long-standing use of model aircraft, however, bears no resemblance to the objectionable practices that have recently become such a concern. Overbroad regulatory interpretation, such as the one the FAA has issued, will serve only to chill and thwart responsible parties, such as our institutions, while doing little if anything to restrain those who actually could put the safety of the public at risk.


Read the full document here


Paul Voss, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Picker Engineering Program

Smith College

Joined in support by, listed alphabetically:


James G. Anderson, PhD.

Philip Weld Professor

Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences

Harvard University


Ella M. Atkins, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering Department

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Donald C. Baumer, Ph. D.

Professor, Department of Government

Smith College

Reid W. Bertone-Johnson, MLA

Manager, Ada and Archibald MacLeish Field Station

Smith College


Carol Cady, M.Sc.

GIS Specialist

St. Lawrence University


Jon Caris, M.Sc.

Director, Spatial Analysis Lab

Smith College


Patricia A. Cleary, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Chemistry

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire


Mary “Missy” Cummings, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science Department

Director, Humans and Autonomy Laboratory

Duke University


Philippe Cohen, Ph.D.

Executive Director, Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve

Stanford University


Elizabeth J. Carmichael, CPCU

Director of Compliance and Risk Management

Five Colleges Incorporated


Scott A. Drzyzga, PhD, GISP

Associate Professor, Department of Geography-Earth Science

President, PASSHE GIS Consortium & Affiliates, President

Shippensburg University


David R. Fitzjarrald, Ph.D.

Senior Research Associate

Atmospheric Sciences Research Center,

University at Albany, SUNY


David R. Foster, Ph.D.

Director, Harvard Forest

Harvard University


Mark Friedl, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Earth and Environment

Boston University


Josh M. Gray, Ph.D.

Research Assistant Professor, Department of Earth & Environment

Boston University


Andrew J. Guswa, Ph.D.

Director, Center for the Environment, Ecological Design, and Sustainability

Professor, Picker Engineering Program

Smith College


Benjamin W. Heumann, Ph.D

Assistant Professor, Geography

Director, Center for Geographic Information Science

Central Michigan University


Christina M. Hupy

Associate Professor, Geography Department

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire


Joseph P. Hupy, Ph. D.

Associate Professor, Geography Department

University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire


Barbara Kellum, Ph.D.

Professor of Art, Director of the Archaeology Minor

Smith College


Jack W. Langelaan, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Aerospace Engineering

Pennsylvania State University


Steven Moore, Ph. D.

Director of Spatial Studies

University of Redlands


Thomas Mueller, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Earth Science

California University of Pennsylvania


Robert M. Newton, Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Geosciences

Smith College


Eric E. Poehler, Ph. D.

Assistant Professor, Department of Classics

University of Massachusetts Amherst


Andrew Richardson, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Organismic & Evolutionary Biology

Harvard University


Chris Roosevelt, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Archaeology Department

Boston University


Peter D. Washabaugh, Ph.D.

Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Associate Professor, Aerospace Engineering Department

University of Michigan, Ann Arbor


Senate’s Top Republican Appropriator Doubts 2015 Defense Bill Reaches Floor

Jul. 25, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — Can the US Senate put aside a years-long procedural impasse and pass a Pentagon spending bill? The top Republican on the Appropriations Committee has his doubts.

“If [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid] wants it to come to the floor after recess and after the elections, it’ll come to the floor,” Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., the panel’s ranking member, told CongressWatch. “He has that prerogative.”

But what if the 27-year veteran had to bet on whether or not his committee’s $547.9 billion will get to the floor?

“If I had to guess, I’d say no,” Shelby said.

If the upper chamber again fails to pass its own version of a defense appropriations bill, Shelby and Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., could negotiate a compromise version with their House counterparts. The tactic, known as “pre-conferencing,” has been used in recent years to produce defense policy and spending legislation due to the Senate’s partisan procedural squabbling.

Shelby hinted that could again be the way a final 2015 Pentagon appropriations bill — which could be included in an omnibus government-wide funding bill — passes both chambers.

With a coy grin, he said, “The House has been tracking a lot of the stuff we’ve been doing.” ■




US, Iranian Drones Crowd Iraqi Air Space

Jul. 27, 2014 – 04:59PM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments

WASHINGTON — Despite a years-long history of intermittently sniping at one another’s drones in the skies over Iraq, Afghanistan and the Arabian Gulf, the United States and Iran have for the most part avoided each other in the air.

But with the US now flying about 50 missions a day over Iraq and a dedicated Iranian drone and signals intelligence presence having been established in Baghdad, the two rivals find themselves overtly sharing the same airspace, even while denying any coordination or contact.

Of course, Iraq is a big place, and the prospect of two aircraft bumping into one another is remote. But given the “shoot first, ask questions later” approach the two countries have taken toward one another’s unmanned aerial assets, the possibility for another volley exists in the long-running, if rather sleepy, drone war.


We can date the first shot in this conflict to February 2009, when an American F-16 downed an Iranian drone almost on top of a small US combat outpost in eastern Iraq.


In that mostly forgotten episode, the Iranian aircraft had been flying in Iraqi airspace for about 70 minutes trailed by two American aircraft before being shot out of the sky.

“This was not an accident on the part of the Iranians,” the Pentagon said in a March 2009 release. “The [drone] was in Iraqi airspace for nearly one hour and 10 minutes and well inside Iraqi territory before it was engaged.”

According to a US Army after action report obtained and published by Wikileaks, the wingspan of the drone was 20 feet; it was 4.5 feet high and 14 feet long, with “Garmin GPS beacons on tail. Motor is aero flash systems, Chicago, IL.”

On the other side of the ledger, in December 2011, Iran claimed to have shot down the secretive American RQ-170 Sentinel, which it said had strayed into Iranian airspace near the Afghan border. While American officials would only admit that operators had lost contact with the aircraft, the Iranians paraded a mockup of the aircraft for the global media, and claimed to have reverse-engineered parts of its mission package.

And in November 2012, two Iranian Su-25 fighters made repeated passes at a US Predator drone flying over the Arabian Gulf — with the drone’s cameras picking up the trails of bullets that flew past it — but were unable to bring it down.

“We are aware of the reports that Iran is flying unmanned aerial vehicles in Iraq,” Pentagon spokesperson CDR Elissa Smith said. “There are a variety of aircraft, manned and unmanned, flying with different flight parameters in the airspace over Iraq, and the Iraqi government is deconflicting the air space.”

Still, some analysts are skeptical that the Iraq mission will bring US-Iranian fireworks.

“I’d be surprised if an Iranian drone and a US drone had crossed paths” in Iraq, said Michael Knights, a specialist in the military capabilities of Iraq and Iran at the Washington Institute.

“Even in the pre-2011 period, Iranian drones were commonly working up to 50 kilometers west of the Iranian border,” he continued. “They went much deeper sometimes, typically to Camp Ashraf, the Mojaheddin-e Khalq [MeK, Iranian opposition] camp. In fact, pre-2003 the Iranians ran a lot of UAVs to Ashraf and other MeK camps to do [battle damage assessments] on air strikes and artillery strikes.”

In addition to American and Iranian drones, over the past year the US has also sold Iraq 48 Raven and 10 ScanEagle drones.

Even with American, Iranian and Iraqi platforms searching for Islamic State fighters, the Iraqi airspace “is not congested so much as it is confused,” said Christopher Harmer of the Institute for the Study of War.

The ability of Iraqi air traffic controllers to keep an eye on their airspace is extremely limited, as their equipment and training is still in its formative stages and there is little commercial air traffic over Iraq.

Baghdad International Airport is still only handling about 20 takeoffs and landings a day, for example, some of which are Iranian Ilyushin-76 cargo aircraft loaded with military gear headed to resupply the Assad regime in Damascus, Syria.

But the beefed-up American presence should be filling in some of the gaps, at least from an American perspective. “At any given time you’ve got at least two Aegis-class destroyers in the Persian Gulf, equipped with long-range, high-resolution, multiple frequency radars that can provide some air cover” for US aircraft, Harmer said.

The USS George H.W. Bush in the gulf is also likely launching E2 Hawkeyes orbiting at 30,000 feet to give those pilots extra situational awareness.

But that surveillance cuts both ways.

It has been reported that the Iranians have set up an operations center at Rasheed Air Base in Baghdad from which they are flying a small number of surveillance drones along with a signals intelligence unit.

The Ababil drone is one of the most likely candidates to fly over Iraq. It has been used by Hezbollah over Israel and Lebanon, and in 2012 Syrian rebels captured one that they claimed to have shot down. The Israelis also shot down an armed Ababil in 2006 near Haifa.

Despite this, Harmer said the presence of US radar and intelligence might force the Iranians to shy away from showing their most sophisticated assets for fear of them falling into US or Islamic State hands.

“I’m skeptical about their technological capabilities,” Harmer added. “The Iranians are trying to minimize the public knowledge of what they’re doing,” and they’re not talking to anybody.

But again, both sides are likely playing the same game. “The Iranians have put themselves into the perfect intelligence-gathering situation” in Iraq, he said, with intelligence assets working on the ground with the blessing of the Baghdad government, and most likely trying to pick up everything they can on not only the Islamic State, but US operations and platforms as well. ■


Philippines:- CAAP regulates the use of drones

by Press • 28 July 2014

— Elizabeth Marcelo/DVM, GMA News

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) recently issued a memorandum regulating the operation of unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones.

Under the CAAP’s Memorandum Circular No. 21 series of 2014 dated June 26, 2014, drone owners or operators are now required to register their equipment with the CAAP, and secure a certification to operate from the agency.

Under a memorandum provision, to be certified as a UAV controller, an applicant must:

•qualify for a radio operator’s certificate of proficiency,

•have been awarded a passed rating in an aviation license theory examination,

•have been awarded a passed rating in an instrument theory examination,

•completed a training course on the operation of the type of UAV that he/she posses to operate,

•have at least five hours experience operating UAVs outside controlled airspace.


The applicant must also first obtain at least one of these three certifications:

•a flight crew license with a command instrument training,

•a military qualification equivalent to a license,

•an air traffic control license.


The memorandum also requires the applicants to provide a detailed description of their UAV and their purpose for operating it.

“Any violation of the said memorandum will be dealt with accordingly as the aviation body imposes stiff penalties to regulate the operations of UAV specially on restricted areas like airports, crowded areas and ‘no fly zone,'” said CAAP-Assistant Director General Capt. Beda Badiola, who is also the head of the agency’s Flight Standard Inspectorate Service (FSIS).

Under the provisions of the Philippine Civil Aviation Regulations (PCAR), “any operators found violating rules will be fined between P300,000 to P500,000 per unauthorized flight depending on the grave of violations.”

In its memo, CAAP defined a UAV controller as a person who performed a function that would be, if the UAV were a manned aircraft, a function of its flight crew.

The CAAP also defined a Large UAV as an unmanned airship with an envelope capacity greater than 100 cubic meters; a Micro UAV means a UAV with a gross weight of 100 grams or less; and Small UAV means a UAV that is neither a large UAV nor a micro UAV.

The memorandum also prohibited the flying of UAVs over populated areas, restricted areas such as airports and no-fly zones such as military training camps, and over Malacañang Palace.

“You know the potential of a UAV, you can just load a small bomb into it, fly to an airport or over crowded people. You see, these are terrifying so to speak, that is why as much as possible, we would like to be able to register this,” said CAAP deputy director-general B/Gen. Rodante Joya in an interview aired on GMA News’ “State of the Nation with Jessica Soho”.

The report also said that while the memorandum was already in effect, some of its provisions would be refined and clarified as soon as the CAAP determines the approved areas where a UAV can be operated without a CAAP certification, and the limit on the altitude and range in which a UAV can be flown.



Drone enthusiast Jerry Cheng, meanwhile, said that while the intention of the memorandum was good, it made things difficult for drone flyers.

“Marami ang gumagamit niyan na frustrated pilot, na hindi afford kaya yan (drone) nalang. So mafo-force pa sila ngayon na kumuha ng pilot lessons, sobrang mahal yun. Sana gawing affordable yung pagkuha ng license (from CAAP),” Cheng said.

Cheng also pointed to the importance of drones in his photography business.

“Kapag professional photographer ka and you want aerial shots aakyat ka sa building, magrerent ka ng chopper, plane or aakyat ka sa puno. But right now, it’s (drone) easier to launch, it’s easier to control at instant siya, you don’t need human effort,” Cheng said.

Several photographers, researchers, geodetic survey firms and media entities are now using drones in obtaining aerial shots as it is more cost-efficient and easy to operate.


On Not-So-New Warfare: Political Warfare vs Hybrid Threats


Frank Hoffman

July 28, 2014 ·


The ongoing conflict in Ukraine challenges our traditional Western concepts of warfare. The current crisis, pitting the national government against separatists, Russian ultra-nationalists, proxy fighters and possibly Russian GRU personnel, does not fit neat Western categories of “war.” In one sense it’s a civil war, or perhaps a proxy war that pits Ukraine against Russia. Current doctrine tries to separate conflict into two boxes, irregular and conventional. General Barno, in this journal, recently referred to this crisis as an example of a shadow war, worthy of greater study. He correctly notes that war is morphing beyond our current conceptions. The evolving character of contemporary conflict has presented an intellectual challenge that has perplexed security analysts and forward thinking scholars for some time.

Lately, the term “political warfare” has been raised to describe ambiguous and nebulous conflicts that fall outside the neat intellectual box we have ascribed to “war.” Max Boot approvingly cited usage of the term political warfare from a State Department memo written by George Kennan at the dawn of the Cold War in 1948. Boot seeks to gain the “hearts and minds” of populations in the Middle East, and integrated covert actions targeting key foreign institutions. Other scholars including Dr. Michael Noonan of the Foreign Policy Research Institute have suggested that the concept of political warfare is worth exploring as a means of reducing our exposure and maximizing U.S. influence. In his words,

While the publics’ mood for involvement in further overseas adventures is less than sanguine, it still remains important for the United States to at least try to be able to shape events on the ground overseas with as little force as possible or else live with the consequences of outcomes that may call for the use of more force down the road.

Words have meaning (or should), and I find the term imprecise—if not redundant—in one important sense: if all wars are political in their purpose (as the famous Prussian soldier-scholar Carl von Clausewitz insisted), what is different about this phenomenon referred to by thinkers like Kennan, Boot, and Noonan? Second, “warfare” has been used by military scholars to address the physical conduct of war or the fighting and violent aspects of war. But there is no violence or lethal force in the kinds of political activity Kennan listed. His definition included “political alliances, economic measures (such as ERP—the Marshall Plan), and “white” propaganda to such covert operations as clandestine support of “friendly” foreign elements, “black” psychological warfare and even encouragement of underground resistance in hostile states.” There is no warfare as we know it in these political and economic activities, which is why the term is an oxymoron.

The provenance and formal definition of “political warfare” are also suspect. Kennan was hardly an expert in military theory, nor did he possess a sound foundation for theoretical matters in warfare (he did cite Clausewitz in his memo , but there is a poor correlation between citing the Prussian and understanding him). Still, it is no surprise that a serious student of Russian affairs found comfort in the term. Before the Cold War, during it, and well after, the Russians were facile with the admixture of political, economic and criminal activities. “Mr. X” knew their history and their tool kit.

However, the definition Kennan used, and which Boot and others seem to favor, is also problematic. Kennan defined political warfare, in his broadest definition, as “the employment of all the means at a nation’s command, short of war, to achieve its national objectives.” Here again, words should matter. The employment of “all means” extends the definition beyond the political or diplomatic component. Secondly, this mode of warfare is limited to contexts “short of war.” If it short of war, then it’s not warfare. Additionally, it is not clear to me that the activities Kennan listed are things one does only short of war. Moreover, many of the activities cited by Kennan (propaganda, sanctions, subversion, etc.) do not stop when a war officially begins. So both sides of this term are resistant to common understanding and the definition defies logic.


The immediate goal of Kennan’s memo was approval for a Directorate for Political Warfare inside the State Department. As such, the memo raised the issue of where to situate the government’s capacity in the U.S. security framework. We face the same question today. If political warfare warrants an American counter, where should it be located within our national security architecture? Where are the experts in this field, and how are they organized and structured? Boot, like Kennan, favors centering the effort inside the State Department, which I fear dooms the entire enterprise to memo writing.

Another term is for adversaries employing complex and violent combinations is hybrid threats, a construct developed by the Marine Corps a decade ago. The concept was derived from historical analyses and references in foreign literature regarding a deliberate blending and blurring of modes of warfare. The term was adopted in Service and DOD documents including the 2006 and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Reviews. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and leading military intellectuals like Lieutenant General H. R. McMaster used this term to describe the complex and evolving character of conflict. The term has been used in Marine planning documents, Navy strategies, Army doctrine, and British assessments of contemporary conflict. It also appears in the National Intelligence Council’s assessment of global trends. Senior military leaders have used the term, including the Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, who observed that his Service needs to come to grips with:

…one of the most costly lessons it has learned over the last decade: how to deal with the challenge of hybrid warfare. It will be increasingly common for the army to operate in environments with both regular military and irregular paramilitary or civilian adversaries, with the potential for terrorism, criminality and other complications.

My own definition of hybrid threats is very close to how General Odierno defined it. Hybrid threats are “Any adversary that simultaneously employs a tailored mix of conventional weapons, irregular tactics, terrorism, and criminal behavior in the same time and battlespace to obtain their political objectives.”

This captures both states and non-state actors, who employ four different modes of conflict within a theater or battlespace. However, other definitions exist that focus more on composite scenarios where multiple actors are operating.

This definition adequately represents what the Russians (and their Chechen mercenaries and Ossetian militias) did in Georgia in 2008, and it dovetails quite well with how the Russians are fighting in Ukraine. For this reason, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen accused Russia of conducting “hybrid warfare” in an interview recently. The criminal aspects of the Ukrainian situation are not as evident so far, but the catastrophic terrorism posed by the shooting down of MH17 is obvious (even if the incident is a gross accident). Anne Applebaum, a student of Russian affairs, recognized Putin’s purportedly new form of warfare as “masked warfare,” part of the KGB or GRU’s traditional bag of KGB “dirty tricks” demonstrated in Ukraine. Clearly, however, the Russians, like the Iranians and Hezbollah, are evolving and incorporating more violent and lethal conventional capabilities, blended with tactics we have associated with terrorists or irregular conflict. The categorization of these operations as Putin’s “new warfare” is partially correct, but perhaps better captured by hybrid rather than political or “new.”

The problem with the hybrid threats definition is that it focuses on combinations of tactics associated with violence and warfare (except for criminal acts) but completely fails to capture other non-violent actions. Thus, it does not address instruments including economic and financial acts, subversive political acts like creating or covertly exploiting trade unions and NGOs as fronts, or information operations using false websites and planted newspaper articles. It also fails to address what a pair of Chinese Army Colonels discussed in their book titled Unrestricted Warfare (really War without Borders) that was explicitly critical of Western and American conceptions of war. That concept included diplomatic and financial and information tools as part of a larger conception of warfare. More recently, Chinese explorations of three warfares build off the earlier Chinese military analysts. Where do “lawfare” and some forms of cyber espionage or warfare fit in?

What is provocatively refreshing about the term “political warfare” is that it makes one think. In this journal, David Maxwell, a retired Army Special Forces Colonel, has studied this issue, and cited Kennan’s memo. When such strategically-minded students of war find utility in this construct, it’s worth reconsidering. While I prefer “hybrid threats” to describe the opponent, I think that Maxwell’s “unconventional warfare,” with an updated definition that incorporates aspects of contemporary conflict, might be adapted to capture today’s evolution. Activities traditionally included within subversion and counter-subversion can be added to the definition to make it sufficiently robust. Perhaps “unconventional conflict” is a compromise that expands the concept beyond a narrow military vision of warfare.

This discussion leads to a set of crucial questions:

◦Who is studying this challenge today with any rigor and how well resourced is the effort?

◦Exactly which activities should be incorporated in the definition, and exactly which left out?

◦Is the term “unconventional conflict” or “operations” better than “warfare”?

◦Where should the loci of U.S. capability and conceptual/doctrinal development exist: Defense, State, Intelligence, or something uniquely joint/interagency?

◦Is the United States organized and prepared for these contingencies and tactics, and how important are they?


Surprisingly, despite hybrid examples like Hezbollah in 2006 and Georgia in 2008 (and 30 years against evolving Middle East terrorists), unconventional warfare or hybrid threats are not mentioned in key defense planning documents, including the Quadrennial Defense Review. I doubt the National Defense Panel will pick up the challenge either. We have retreated from gray area conflicts and Shadow Wars to chase the next big shiny thing, whether it’s the rise of robotic warfare or some imaginary, long shot disruptive threat. Unconventional warfare challenges should certainly be addressed in the next iteration of the National Security Strategy, but I would not hold my breath. General Barno and David Maxwell have identified a critical shortfall in our approach to this challenge. These threats are not new, but our vulnerability to them is more acute than we realize.

The shortfall is not just within the U.S. military’s conception of conflict: our entire national security community is chasing its tail on vague transnational challenges and climate change. We are too narrowly focused on more traditional but increasingly rare modes of warfare, and overlooking the unconventional approaches used by our Russian and Chinese competitors. They do not delude themselves with neat orthodoxies about categories and Clausewitzian models about how “real wars” are fought and won. Neither should we.

Frank Hoffman is a retired Reserve Marine officer and a Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Strategic Research at the National Defense University. These comments are his own and do not reflect the policy or position of the Department of Defense.


Israel Debuts Micro Robot in Anti-Tunnel Campaign

Jul. 28, 2014 – 03:45AM | By BARBARA OPALL-ROME | Comments


TEL AVIV — Israel debuted a locally developed micro robot in its ongoing onslaught against the labyrinth of tunnels and concealed shafts supporting subterranean arms depots, command posts and cross-border attacks from Gaza.

Built by Roboteam, the Micro Tactical Ground Robot (MTGR) is the latest tool to be fielded under fire by infantry and special units targeting Gaza’s elaborate and often explosives-rigged network of tunnels.

The Tel Aviv-based startup, a newcomer to the global robotic market, beat US and Israeli bidders in a rush tender for up to 110 shoulder-carried robots, defense and industry sources said.

Several systems are already operating with combat engineering units and specialized infantry against the dozens of tunnels and multiple access points concealed in homes and civilian structures throughout the Gaza Strip, sources here said.

Measuring 60 centimeters across, MTGR is similar to the width of soldiers tasked for the high-risk surveillance, mapping and explosive-ordnance-disposal missions.

It weighs less than 20 pounds, carries its weight in payload and is built to clear obstacles, climb 8-inch stairs and maneuver in tight, dangerous terrain.

Its five onboard cameras, internal microphone and infrared laser points generate intelligence and targeting data 360 degrees around the vehicle, while an encrypted radio streams secure voice and video to tactical operators and commanders.

The system is soldier-carried, travels at 2 miles per hour and has a line-of-sight operating range of some 1,600 feet.

Roboteam was informed of its winning bid during the second week of Operation Protective Edge, now in its 21st day, an Army procurement officer said on July 28.

Israel’s Ministry of Defense declined comment on the unannounced down-select, and Roboteam executives referred questions to the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

In an interview last October, Yosi Wolf, Roboteam co-founder and co-chief executive, highlighted smuggling tunnels and other underground threats as ideal missions for MTGR and another smaller, 2.5-pound system developed by the company.

Wolf cited Roboteam’s selection, less than four years after it launched operations, as priority provider to the Pentagon’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), the authority managing interagency programs for special operations and low-intensity conflict.

According to the CTTSO’s website, 100 MTGRs have been earmarked for “priority fielding” to special forces and explosive-ordnance-disposal units, while another 35 were destined for the US Homeland Security Department and other domestic users.

Since its 2009 founding by Wolf and Elad Levy, former junior commanders of an Israel Air Force special unit, Roboteam and a US subsidiary based in Bethesda, Maryland, operate parallel production lines supported by some 100 subcontractors in both countries.

In the previous interview, Wolf said the firm operated like an elite technology force, “with access to the IDF as our backyard for testing” and organized for rapid-response design and production tailored to customer needs.

“Our added value is the speed at which we can develop software and integrate technologies into ruggedized, reliable and very low-cost robots,” he said at the time.

When contacted July 27, he declined comment on Roboteam’s operational or contractual activities pertaining to the ongoing Gaza campaign. ■



Common sense from CASA

by Gary Mortimer • 30 July 2014


Australian aviation regulators have updated their drone page and what’s not to like. Plenty of useful links and information.

What are RPA?

The term RPA refers to remotely piloted aircraft, but these aircraft are also known as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The term unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) includes not only the aircraft, but all the ground support equipment and personnel.

The term drone can be seen in news stories about military operations in the Middle East using unmanned aircraft. The aircraft flying such missions are precision weapons systems. That is not what we’re talking about when we discuss unmanned aircraft operations in civil airspace. The operations CASA approves provide many safety benefits and serve the public good.

CASA (and the international aviation regulator ICAO) refers to these as remotely piloted aircraft (RPA). This term emphasises that there is a human ‘in the loop’, controlling and overseeing the aircraft, even if that person remains on the ground.

RPA come in all shapes and sizes, from those that are as big as a 737 to some that will fit in the palm of your hand. RPA can be used for such purposes as firefighting, search and rescue, disaster relief, border patrol, weather monitoring, hurricane tracking and law enforcement.


Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) have been around a long time. Pilotless balloons bombarded Venice during the first Italian War of Independence in 1849, and the first unmanned winged aircraft were developed as ‘aerial torpedoes’ during World War I. Radio-controlled aircraft were used as targets for training gunners in World War II, and in the 1950s Australia developed a jet-powered RPA, the Jindivik, which served as a target drone until 1997.

Remotely piloted craft are also central to space flight. The Voyager 1 space probe, has been remotely controlled continuously since 1977, and is now 19 billion km from earth and moving at 17 km per second. Other remotely controlled spacecraft have landed on Mars and Venus and flown past Mercury.

Recently, RPA have become popular, as several distinct technologies have matured.

These include:

  • The widespread civilian use of GPS (global positioning systems), following the US decision to end selective availability of the system in 2000
  • Powerful lithium-ion batteries have made small RPAs possible, particularly in conjunction with brushless electric motors
  • Development of microelectronics has made sophisticated flight control systems and lightweight sensors possible
  • Advances in robotics, which brought artificial intelligence and self-learning computer software.  Some RPAs can now analyse their previous flight paths and fly more accurately on their next pass
  • Development and commercialisation of strong lightweight materials, including carbon-fibre composites.

The result is that over a short time, an RPA industry has flourished, producing aircraft that range from helicopters a few grams in weight and centimetres across to autonomous military aircraft the size of a World War II medium bomber.

More than 650 applications for remotely piloted aircraft have been identified. Most of these can be categorised as ‘dull, dirty, dangerous and demanding,’ and are tasks that a remotely piloted aircraft can do best because it does not put its pilot at risk.

Remotely piloted aircraft are a technology whose time has come-they are a new element in aviation. The

RPA bring broader issues in their wake, such as the privacy implications of having camera-equipped aircraft roaming the skies and flying over places previously protected from view.challenge is to integrate them safely with existing aircraft and conventions.

These concerns are real, but CASA is not the body to address them. CASA’s task is to deal with safety.




Chinese and Russian Radars On Track To See Through U.S. Stealth

By: Dave Majumdar

Published: July 29, 2014 11:01 AM

Updated: July 30, 2014 1:05 PM


A growing trend in Russian and Chinese radar could make U.S. stealth fighters easier to see and — more importantly — easier to target for potential adversaries, a former senior U.S. Navy official told USNI News.

U.S. fighters — like the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) — are protected by stealth technology optimized for higher frequency targeting radars but not for lower frequency radars.

Until now a focus on higher frequencies have not been a problem because low frequency radars have traditionally been unable to generate “weapons quality tracks.”

JSF and the F-22 are protected from higher frequencies in the Ku, X, C and parts of the S bands. But both jets can be seen on enemy radars operating in the longer wavelengths like L, UHF and VHF.

In other words, Russian and Chinese radars can generally detect a stealth aircraft but not clearly enough to give an accurate location to a missile

But that is starting to change.

“Acquisition and fire control radars are starting to creep down the frequency spectrum,” a former senior U.S. Navy official told USNI News on Monday.

With improved computing power, low frequency radars are getting better and better at discerning targets more precisely.

“I don’t see how you long survive in the world of 2020 or 2030 when dealing with these systems if you don’t have the lower frequency coverage,” the former official said.

Further, new foreign rival warships are increasingly being built with both high and low frequency radars.

“Prospective adversaries are putting low frequency radars on their surface combatants along with the higher frequency systems,” the former official said.

Chinese warships like the Type 52C Luyang II and Type 52D Luyang III have both high and low frequency radars, the former official said.

“If you don’t have the signature appropriate to that [radar], you’re not going to be very survivable,” he said.

“The lower frequency radars can cue the higher frequency radars and now you’re going to get wacked.”

Nor will the Navy’s vaunted Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) do much to help the situation. Firstly, given the proliferation of low frequency radars, there are serious questions about the ability of the F-35C’s survivability against the toughest of air defenses, the former official said.

“All-aspect is highly desirable against this sort of networked [anti-air] environment,” he said.

Secondly, the Chinese and Russians are almost certain to use cyber and electronic attack capabilities to disrupt NIFC-CA, which is almost totally reliant on data links.


“I question how well all these data links are going to work in a heavily contested [radio frequency] environment where you have lots and lots of jamming going on,” the former official said.

Moreover, in certain parts of the world potential adversaries —China and Russia— are developing long-range anti-radiation missiles that could target the central node of the NIFC-CA network—the Northrop Grumman E-2D Advanced Hawkeye.

“I think the anti-radiation homing weapons that are passive and go long-range are very, very difficult for the NIFC-CA concept to contend with,” the former official said.

Fundamentally, the Navy’s lack of an all-aspect broadband stealth jet on the carrier flight deck is giving fuel to advocates of a high-end Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft that can tackle the toughest enemy air defenses.

Without such capability, the Navy’s carrier fleet will fade into irrelevance, the former official said.



Gaza’s Network Of Tunnels Is A Major Hole In Israel’s Defenses

by Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

July 30, 2014 5:14 PM ET


An Israeli army officer walks near the entrance of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border. A network of tunnels Palestinian militants have dug from Gaza to Israel is taking center stage in the latest war between Hamas and Israel.

Israeli officials say the country’s deadly ground offensive won’t end until its soldiers destroy a vast network of Hamas tunnels the militants use to try to attack Jewish communities outside the Gaza Strip.

Three more soldiers died Wednesday when explosives detonated as they uncovered one of those tunnels. That came hours after Hamas released a graphic video claiming to show another deadly tunnel-generated attack inside Israel earlier in the week.

Such incidents have many Israelis asking why their forces didn’t stop Hamas from building the elaborate tunnels in the first place. And in Israel, calls are mounting for an investigation into how authorities have handled the tunnel threat.

In the grainy video released by Hamas Wednesday, black-clad militants shove their weapons through a tunnel entrance, then climb out and run toward what looks like an army post inside Israel.

Five Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack Tuesday — which the video purportedly shows — as were a handful of Hamas fighters. Israeli officials say the militants’ aim was to kill and kidnap Israeli citizens.

Such revelations are rattling Israelis more than the 2,000-plus rockets Hamas has fired into their country since the war began earlier this month, says Smadar Perry, who writes about the tunnels for Israel’s largest daily newspaper, Yedioth Ahronoth.

“If we don’t finish the problem of the tunnels, people in the southern part of Israel along the border with Gaza may leave their houses and go look for a new address because nobody wants to go to sleep and wake up with the killers and terrorists in his bedroom,” says Perry, who is the paper’s Middle East editor.

But she and other journalists say Israeli authorities will likely have to answer for how Hamas was able to build enough tunnels to allow militants to infiltrate Israel six times since the Gaza offensive began three weeks ago.

An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour on July 25 of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border.

An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour on July 25 of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border.

An Israeli army officer gives journalists a tour on July 25 of a tunnel allegedly used by Palestinian militants for cross-border attacks, at the Israel-Gaza border.

An investigation by Israel’s state comptroller in 2005 found “continued failure” in dealing with the tunnel problem due to issues with technology and intelligence. The Israeli military only intensified its efforts to deal with the tunnel threat in December 2004 — after a number of major attacks — but it wasn’t enough, the state comptroller concluded.

At the time, the inquiry called for bringing in more international and Israeli experts to find better ways to detect tunnels.

At a briefing earlier this week, Yuval Steinitz, Israel’s intelligence minister, defended the way authorities have dealt with the tunnels. The military says 32 have been uncovered so far; half of those have been destroyed.

“You know it is not always the case that if we have threats we decide to immediately go to a big ground operation in order to neutralize it,” Steinitz said.

Perry, however, says she found few officials who were concerned about the tunnels before some of the newer, more sophisticated versions were accidentally uncovered earlier this year.

The journalist toured one of them with a senior Israeli officer.

“It was very strange,” Perry says. “I could feel or I could sense that the officer and the military feel helpless because these four tunnels were exposed by coincidence because of the heavy rains and not because of intelligence.”

Military officials deny they are negligent in tackling the tunnels and say they used both intelligence and technology to plot them.

But what they and their critics agree on is that previous encounters with the tunnels — most of which ran between the Gaza Strip and Egypt — were less worrying because they were mainly used for smuggling.

Israeli officials say it wasn’t until Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005 and Hamas took over the territory in 2007 that a labyrinth was created to send militants into Israel for large-scale attacks. Because Jewish settlements were gone, officials say, it made it more difficult to keep tabs on what Hamas was doing.

Israeli Reserve Brig. Gen. Shimon Daniel, who headed the combat engineering force between 2003 and 2007, says it wasn’t easy to uncover tunnels even back then, because they aren’t deep enough for ground penetration radar to locate.

He says Israel adapted foreign technology used to find oil and gas reserves to come up with a way to locate tunnels.

The newer tunnels are easier to find, Daniel adds, because they are far longer and heavily reinforced.

“Unlike what it was like during my time, they are put together with communications [capabilities], air, electricity, cement walls and other materials,” he says.


All of this means they show up better on radar.

But not so their entrances into Israel, because they are too close to the surface for radar to locate.

“It looks simple, but it’s complicated. It’s low-tech that high-tech doesn’t even know how to find,” he explains. “It borders on the abilities of what modern physics can do today.”

Nor can they be seen by the naked eye, Daniel adds, because they aren’t dug open until the actual attack.

He adds that as many as 11 tunnel entrances into Israel have been uncovered so far.


New US Air Force Strategy Emphasizes Closer Ties With Industry, Congress

Jul. 30, 2014 – 06:17PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


WASHINGTON — The US Air Force is calling for closer ties to industry, better relations with Congress, and increased flexibility for both airmen and acquisitions — all part of a 30-year strategy document unveiled Wednesday.

Titled “America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future,” the document is part of a broader strategic overview ordered by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh this year. Welsh announced his goal of taking a longer look into the future during February’s Air Force Association conference in Orlando, Florida.

The 22-page document is largely broad in its goals. Service officials indicated a 20-year “Strategic Master Plan” document, planned for completion before the end of 2014, will feature more concrete goals and targets.

Still, the 30-year document provides a roadmap of sorts for how Welsh and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James see the future of the service. The review is largely based on four trends:

■ “[R]apidly emerging technological breakthroughs,” such as the leap in technology for portable devices over the past decade, will continue to occur, which requires the service to stay flexible to maintain a technological edge;

■ Geopolitical instability will continue, meaning that “preparing for a threat based solely on current geopolitical realities will be insufficient;”

■ A “wide range of operating environments” that the Air Force will have to contend with, requiring equipment that can operate in contested and uncontested environments, as well as heavily degraded environments for humanitarian missions;

■ The need to ensure protection for the “global commons” of the air, cyber and space domains.


Handling these four trends relies on “strategic agility,” or making sure the service can be flexible and adaptable to deal with whatever threats could emerge.

“Embracing strategic agility will enable us to ‘jump the rails’ from our current path of 20th-century, industrial-era processes and paradigms,” the report reads.

That agility comes in a couple different ways. For airmen, it involves creating a way for them to leave the service, gather real-world experience, and then bring that back into the Air Force without being punished for it.

“Breaks in service — or transitions between full-time and part-time — need not be punitive in the advancement of our future airmen. Rather, the experience they gain during their time out of uniform should be recognized for the broader perspective it delivers,” the report reads. “Similarly, we must commit to a career development model that provides those in specialized career fields with incentives and promotion opportunities on par with those in more mainstream disciplines.”

The report also emphasizes “a character-based, diverse culture” inside the service, with the goal of blending the lines between the active, Guard and reserve components.

Technologically, that agility means working more closely with the science and technology (S&T) side to nurture and develop new technologies.

“A commitment to capitalize on the most promising S&T breakthroughs will expand the aperture when we consider future capabilities,” the authors wrote. “We must couple this commitment with a requirements process and acquisition system that accommodates more frequent ‘pivot points’ — opportunities to modify or abandon a program during its life cycle — and harnesses rapid prototyping to reduce resources required to bring a design idea into service.”

Looking to modular systems will help get technology into the field sooner and provide more options for forces operating around the globe, the report notes.

The rapid pace of development on new concepts and ideas also means making acquisitions easier and less cumbersome — and will require working more closely with industry.

“As we increasingly elevate affordability as a key attribute of future acquisitions, we should look to the commercial industry for insights. The profit motive that drives the private sector forces increased competition — along with innovative acquisition and development processes — into business models as a matter of survival.”

James previewed the strategic agility idea during a speech to American industry at the Farnborough International Airshow July 15.

We’re still too rigid in our processes and procedures … we still take too long too frequently to get things done,” James told the audience. “We have got to learn to talk to each other freely.”

Also important in the report is an emphasis on “partnerships” — strengthening ties with think tanks, industry and, notably, Congress.

Relations between the Hill and the Air Force have been rocky for years, something the report acknowledges and pledges to improve upon. Given the service’s goal of retiring platforms such as the A-10, which have been largely blocked by congressional action, those improved relations can’t come soon enough.


New Technologies

One area that goes into greater details than others is a focus on what “game-changing” technologies being developed now could be relevant for the future of the service.

The five areas highlighted are hypersonic weapons, nanotechnology, directed energy, unmanned systems and autonomous systems.

Those are all areas in development, and the report notes this is not an exhaustive list. However, the emphasis on these technologies provides a roadmap not just for Air Force researchers, but for industry leaders who want to get a jump on new investments.

Speaking on Tuesday, Gen. Mike Hostage, head of Air Force Air Combat Command, made it clear directed energy was one technology he would like to see focused on, particularly given magazine size challenges on newer jets such as the F-22 and F-35.

“I spent a lot of time over the past couple of weeks talking to the different labs that are working on directed energy,” Hostage said. “There are some amazing developments in that arena.”

Hostage also expanded on how he would like to see industry and the Air Force work more closely together to develop new technologies, noting that Air Combat Command hosts “innovation conferences” to bring research labs, operators and industry together.

“The idea is to spark interest on the part of our industry partners to grab a lab and say ‘hey, we would like to partner with you on that technology,’ ” Hostage said.

“Our industry partners have IRAD money that is their lifeblood,” Hostage continued, referring to internal research and development. “That’s how they produce things that will eventually produce profit. It’s IRAD that produces the stuff I actually need to go to war. So it’s really important to me that we spend the S&T to keep the labs producing technology, but also that industry takes that technology and produces real things with it.”


Modern Deterrence

The report also lays out the need for a modern deterrence strategy.

“In the 21st century, a credible nuclear deterrent is still absolutely necessary, but not always sufficient,” the report reads. “The future deterrence landscape is exceedingly more difficult.”

A dispersed threat, such as a terrorist group like al-Qaida, is not deterred by the threat of a nuclear strike — and realistically, nations such as Iran that would act against the United States would do so with a cyber attack, not a military intervention that could open the possibility of a nuclear response.

Instead, new deterrent methods are needed, ones that are based on technologies that are cheaper and more responsive. Cyber will play a role here, as will having highly capable ISR platforms.

“Instead of committing vast amounts of national treasure to overwhelm any and all potential adversaries, we will develop innovative, lower-cost options that demand high-cost responses,” the report concludes. “If it costs markedly less for us to defeat a missile than it does for the adversary to build and launch it, the strategic calculus changes significantly.” ■


Like Amazon, other firms want permission to fly drones

by Press • 31 July 2014


Martyn Williams

Amazon made headlines this month when it sought permission from the U.S. governmentto test its drone-based delivery service, but it’s far from the only company that’s applied for such approval.

In the past two months alone, at least 14 other companies have sought permission to fly drones for commercial purposes as diverse as shooting movies and inspecting oil rigs at sea, according to applications to the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration reviewed by IDG News Service.

The FAA allows drones to be flown under the existing model aircraft regulations, but only for “recreational or hobby purposes, and within the visual line of sight of the operator.” Commercial flight is specifically prohibited, and companies wanting to test drones for commercial use must obtain an exemption from the FAA.

Trimble Navigation is one such applicant. It’s best known for GPS navigation systems but also makes products for surveying land, such as construction sites. It wants permission to fly its UX5 drone, which takes high-quality images used to build contour maps of the area, among other things.

Yamaha Motor, best known for motorcycles and keyboards, wants permission to use itsRMAX remote-controlled helicopter for agricultural services, which include things like “precision crop-spraying.” The company says the RMAX is already in use in Japan, Australia and other countries.

“Yamaha seeks the exemptions to bring the commercial benefits of the RMAX to the United States,” it says.

VDOS Global, a company that deploys drones to collect sensor data in “hostile environments,” wants permission to use an Aeryon SkyRanger drone to inspect gas flares on Shell oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. In its application to the FAA, it said using a drone would be much safer than sending a worker for the inspections.

Making movies

Several other companies want permission to fly drones for TV or movie camera work, while still others didn’t specify the reason.

In its own application, Amazon said it had built a ninth-generation drone capable of flying at 50 miles per hour, but that it was limited to testing “indoors or in other countries” because of the FAA rules.

It hinted that it might take its work overseas if it can’t conduct research in the U.S. “Amazon would prefer to keep the focus, jobs, and investment of this important research and development initiative in the United States by conducting private research and development operations outdoors near Seattle,” it said.

The legal situation for commercial drone use is still foggy, and the FAA is accepting comments on what regulations should apply. A month long comment period was recently extended to late September and has already attracted close to 30,000 comments.

Last week, some university professors sent an open letter to the FAA, saying its drone rules could have “severely detrimental impacts on education and research in the United States.”

“We understand and share the FAA’s concern about model aircraft being operated in places where they do not belong and creating a hazard to manned aircraft operations,” the professors said. But “overbroad” regulations will “chill and thwart responsible parties” such as universities, while doing “little if anything to restrain those who actually could put the safety of the public at risk.”

The FAA has fined at least one drone operator for commercial operation, although an administrative judge dismissed the US$10,000 penalty earlier this year, saying the FAA exceeded its jurisdiction.

California drought: ‘May have to migrate people’

Mark Koba    | @MarkKobaCNBC

July 31, 2014


It’s going from worse to worst each week in California.

Suffering in its third year of drought, more than 58 percent of the state is currently in “exceptional drought” stage, according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor map. That marks a huge jump from just seven days ago, when about 36 percent of the state was categorized that way.

Exceptional drought, the most extreme category, indicates widespread crop and pasture losses and shortages of water in reservoirs, streams and wells.

If the state continues on this path, there may have to be thoughts about moving people out, said Lynn Wilson, academic chair at Kaplan University and who serves on the climate change delegation in the United Nations.

“Civilizations in the past have had to migrate out of areas of drought,” Wilson said. “We may have to migrate people out of California.”

Wilson added that before that would happen, every option such as importing water to the state would likely occur— but “migration can’t be taken off the table.”

The drought has nearly depleted the state’s surface water—which is seen being reduced by about one-third this year. Farmers in California have turned to groundwater to keep crops irrigated.

That has led to fears of depleted groundwater in the years ahead if that continues, according to a report released earlier this month.

“So far, groundwater has helped get crops to market and keep food prices in line,” said Jay Lund, director of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California, Davis, which released the report.

But the study said the drought in California will cost the state $2.2 billion and put some 17,000 agricultural workers out of a job this year.


Key findings form the report include:

•Direct costs to agriculture total $1.5 billion (revenue losses of $1 billion and $0.5 billion in additional pumping costs). This net revenue loss is about 3 percent of the state’s total agricultural value.

•The total statewide economic cost of the 2014 drought is $2.2 billion.

•The loss of 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs related to agriculture represents 3.8 percent of farm unemployment.

•428,000 acres, or 5 percent, of irrigated cropland is going out of production in the Central Valley, Central Coast and Southern California because of the drought.

•The Central Valley is hardest hit, particularly the Tulare Basin, with projected losses of $810 million, or 2.3 percent, in crop revenue; $203 million in dairy and livestock value; and $453 million in additional well-pumping costs.

•Agriculture on the central coast and in Southern California will be less affected by this year’s drought, with about 19,150 acres fallowed, $10 million in lost crop revenue and $6.3 million in additional pumping costs.

•Overdraft of groundwater is expected to cause additional wells in the Tulare Basin to run dry if the drought continues.


More drought ahead

To try and curtail the drought’s effects, California started implementing fines statewide this week of up to $500 for watering lawns and washing cars. But experts aren’t sure more conservation will work.

Wastershed’s Lund said that agriculture is by far the state’s greatest water user, accounting for 75 percent of consumption—while cities and suburbs use about 20 percent of the state’s water.

He added that California is always desperate for water and “hard to drought-proof.”

But the situation could get worse before it gets better. Predictions for the drought have it lasting through 2015.



First phase nearly done at Pendleton UAS range

by Press • 1 August 2014

Antonio Sierra / East Oregonian East Oregonian

As the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range is nearing the end of its first phase of construction, local officials are saying they may be close to phasing out local funding for the project.

According to economic development director Steve Chrisman, the UAS launch pads that comprise the first phase of the project could be completed in two weeks.

The 15 pads, which the city spent $120,000 to build, will serve an essential function for the future drone hub.

Chrisman said the Eastern Oregon Regional Airport will rent out those 50×50 foot spaces to provide electricity, high-speed Internet and water for the command center customers use to fly unmanned aerial vehicles.

Originally conceived as a four phase project, the final plans for the range continue to change.

With the first phase almost complete, Chrisman said the range could skip to its final phase of developing the northernmost area of the airport if UAS testing proves successful.

Chrisman wants to pursue federal funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, which would provide the money for a UAV industrial park to house drone companies interested in moving to Pendleton.

Phase two of the project, an area for hangars on the south side of the airport, could see funding from the customers themselves if the demand was great enough for a secure place to store their equipment.

Chrisman’s attempts to stem local funding comes at a time when opinions on the airport are mixed.


While the airport’s recent open house was considered successful, with range manager John Stevens estimating a total of 300 people in attendance, the city decided to reduce the amount of money dedicated toward the airport in a bond issue proposal because a phone poll showed strong opposition to it.

Chrisman said the poll was conducted before the range was selected as a test site by the Federal Aviation Administration, and the $120,000 the city spent on the launch pads was necessary for the project’s survival.

“I don’t know any scenario where you announce something and people come with wheelbarrows of money,” he said.

Despite potential customers “chomping at the bit” to come to the range, testing won’t occur until the FAA gives final approval, which is a date that hasn’t been announced.

FAA regulations keep UND unmanned aircraft grounded

by Press • 1 August 2014

By Mellaney Moore

Federal Aviation Administration regulations are keeping unmanned aircraft grounded at the University of North Dakota.

UND has one of only a handful of four-year unmanned aircraft pilot programs in the country.”This is the INSITU ScanEagle,” says UND Unmanned Aircraft Systems Student Jakee Stoltz, sitting next to the aircraft. “Technically, I’m a commercial, multi-engine rated pilot,” he says.

Stoltz is also a certified flight instructor while finishing school. UND has the only program in the country where students become a commercial pilot before graduating in Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Since the program started in 2009, interest has soared to 150 students, but due to FAA regulations, the program can’t actually fly unmanned aircraft.

“Right now we’re limited in that we can’t conduct live flight operations like we could in the manned world, so everything that we do in simulation,” says UND Unmanned Aircraft Systems Chief Pilot Mark Hastings.

According to him, student tuition means the FAA would consider those flights commercial, which is prohibited.

Valley News Live – KVLY/KXJB – Fargo/Grand Forks”Students pay per hour to fly an aircraft in training. It would be the same model in unmanned aircraft, except we can’t charge to fly, so that makes it impossible to recoup the costs,” he says.

So students learn about the rules and regulations of unmanned aircraft before coming to a simulation room and working with an instructor on mock missions. Instructors say the FAA is also concerned about safety and money. They say the simulation allows students to experience emergency situations without crashing a real aircraft.

“That simulator is used when they have operated this in the past and the operators that they have, they use the simulator to stay current,” Stoltz says.

Nonetheless, with their use expanding to agriculture, law enforcement and beyond, he says he’s excited to be a part of an industry just taking flight

Instructors say graduates can get a chance to fly the drones if they choose to participate in research projects with local agencies and farmers.


Aug 1, 2014, 11:12am EDT

Congress provides highway funds just in time, but it’s a short-term fix

Kent Hoover

Washington Bureau Chief

Federal funding for highway projects will continue to flow after the Senate accepted the House’s version of an $11 billion bill to replenish the Highway Trust Fund through May 2015.

The Senate passed the House bill on an 81-13 vote Thursday night. Without action, the Federal Highway Administration said it would have start rationing federal funds for highway, bridge and transit projects on Friday.

State transportation officials and construction companies were relieved by this last-minute fix to the shortfall in the Highway Trust Fund, but they note this bill is only a short-term solution.

“This isn’t a moment to celebrate,” said Brian McGuire, president and CEO of Associated Equipment Distributors, a trade association representing companies that sell and rent equipment for construction and other industries. “By waiting until the last minute to solve a problem we’ve known for years was coming, Congress brought the highway program and the construction industry to the brink of disaster. We hope this exercise has underscored to everyone on Capitol Hill that the Highway Trust Fund is in dire shape and needs additional revenues, be it from a gas tax increase or some other source.”

Congress wasn’t willing to raise federal gasoline taxes this time around — the $11 billion short-term fix was paid for by so-called “pension smoothing” — allowing employers to delay pension plan contributions, thereby raising their taxable income. It also increased customs fees and transferred money from a trust fund for leaking underground storage tanks into the Highway Trust Fund.

In the long run, higher gas taxes and adding tolls to existing interstate highways will be necessary to fund the nation’s transportation needs, contends the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association, which represents owners and operators of toll facilities.

“Rebuilding the interstate highways will cost hundreds of billions of dollars over the next several decades and current funding sources alone are not equal to the task,” said Patrick Jones, the association’s executive director and CEO. “States should have the flexibility to use tolling and other viable funding and financing options that make the most sense for them.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Twenty-four percent (24%) of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction. Think about that for a minute.

That’s the lowest finding this year but generally reflects the attitude of voters for months now. Admittedly Republicans and unaffiliated voters are a lot more pessimistic, but Democrats now are evenly divided. Just as many voters in President Obama’s party think the country is headed the wrong way as think it’s moving in the right direction.

Belief that the United States is winning the War on Terror has plummeted to its lowest level in over 10 years of regular tracking.

Dislike of the new national health care law is at its highest level in several months, with half or more of voters still predicting it will hurt the quality and cost of care.

Voters rate the latest immigration crisis as a bigger national security problem for this country than Russia and the renewed fighting between Israelis and Palestinians.

Most voters think the president is doing a poor job handling the flow of young illegal immigrants across the border and believe he wants to let most of them stay here despite majority support for their quick deportation. 

This potential flood of cheap labor comes at a time when more Americans than ever think it is no longer possible for just about anyone in this country to work their way out of poverty.

As for government assistance, most Americans continue to believe current government anti-poverty programs have no impact on poverty or actually increase it. A sizable number still think the large increase in food stamp recipients is just because the government has made food stamps easier to get.

In this environment, it’s no surprise that the president’s monthly job approval ratings have fallen to a low for the year
His daily job approval ratings show no sign of improvement either. And we know what voters think of Congress.

Yet Americans are resilient despite their pessimism. Yes, the Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence fell another point in July. But still it’s down only two points from the six-year high it reached in May.

Consumers and investors remain more upbeat than they have been in the previous years since the Wall Street meltdown in 2008.

More Americans than ever are optimistic that they will be earning more money a year from now.

The reality is that the polls that really count are the ones that open on the first Tuesday in November.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of American Adults believe most of their fellow citizens are not informed voters,
but most voters beg to differ. So what helps voters most to make up their minds – the issues or things like the candidate’s appearance, race and sex?

This week we looked at two Senate races – one close, one not so close.

Democratic Congressman Gary Peters has now taken the lead over Republican Terri Lynn Land in Michigan’s U.S. Senate race.

Unlike his cousin in Colorado, Democratic Senator Tom Udall is comfortably ahead of his Republican challenger in New Mexico

We surveyed four governor’s races that will be closely watched this fall.

Republican Governor Rick Scott and his predecessor Charlie Crist are now neck-and-neck in Florida’s 2014 gubernatorial race. GOP challenger Bruce Rauner has edged further ahead in his battle with Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn for the governorship of Illinois.

Republican Governor Nathan Deal has pulled even with Democratic challenger Jason Carter in his bid for reelection in Georgia. Republican Governor Rick Snyder runs only slightly ahead of Democratic challenger Mark Schauer in Michigan.

In other surveys last week:

— Democrats have taken the lead over Republicans again on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

— Voters have long expressed little enthusiasm for getting more involved in Middle East politics, but they are slightly less likely to think this involvement hurts both the region and the United States.

— When it comes to the renewed fighting in Gaza between the Israelis and Palestinians, however, America thinks we should stay out.

Most Americans still consider marriage important, and those who are married rate it even more important.

The number of voters who consider themselves fiscally conservative continues to climb, while one-in-three say they are social liberals.

July 26 2014



Texas Equusearch says it will resume drone operations after Federal Court Ruling

by Press • 21 July 2014


HOUSTON –Texas EquuSearch, a Houston-based group involved in searches for missing persons around the nation, said it will resume using drones in its work after a federal appeals court ruled on Friday that a warning the group received to stop using them didn’t have any legal consequences.

Texas EquuSearch had sued the Federal Aviation Administration, seeking to overturn what the group described as an order it had been sent in February by email prohibiting the nonprofit organization from using drones.

While a three-judge panel for a federal appeals court Washington, D.C., dismissed the lawsuit, Brendan Schulman, an attorney for Texas EquuSearch, said that was good for the group.

In its ruling, the appeals court said it can’t review the case because the email Texas EquuSearch had received didn’t represent the FAA’s final conclusion on the use of drones. Final rules on drone use are expected next year.

“The challenged email communication from a Federal Aviation Administration employee did not represent the consummation of the agency’s decision-making process, nor did it give rise to any legal consequences,” the panel with the U.S. Court of Appeals for District of Columbia Circuit wrote in its two-page order.

Schulman said while the ruling doesn’t resolve the legal issues related to drone use, it clarified there was no valid order from the FAA prohibiting Texas EquuSearch from using drones.

“Texas EquuSearch is free to resume its humanitarian use of drones,” he said.

The volunteer group is financed through private donations and has participated in such high-profile cases as the search for Natalee Holloway, the U.S. teenager who disappeared in 2005 in Aruba, and the search for 2-year-old Caylee Anthony in Florida.

“The court’s decision in favor of the FAA regarding the Texas EquuSearch matter has no bearing on the FAA’s authority to regulate” drones, the FAA said in a statement. “The FAA remains legally responsible for the safety of the national airspace system. This authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.”

The FAA said it may take enforcement action against anyone who operates a drone “in a way that endangers the safety of the national airspace system.”

Tim Miller, Texas EquuSearch’s founder, said he was pleased with the appeals court’s decision.

“I’m thrilled we can go and fly again,” Miller said by phone from Lake Travis in Central Texas, where his group was searching for a missing swimmer.

But Miller said he was also upset his group has had to turn down several requests for help because his group wasn’t able to use drones.

The organization is credited with returning 300 missing people alive to their loved ones. Miller has said they’ve also recovered the remains of nearly 180 people who had been reported missing. He credited 11 of those recoveries to drone use beginning in 2005.



FAA to ATC report model aircraft and drones

by Gary Mortimer • 21 July 2014







FAA Statement on Texas Equusearch UAS Court Decision

by Press • 20 July 2014


The court’s decision in favor of the FAA regarding the Texas Equusearch matter has no bearing on the FAA’s authority to regulate UAS. The FAA remains legally responsible for the safety of the national airspace system. This authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.

The agency approves emergency Certificates of Authorization (COAs) for natural disaster relief, search and rescue operations and other urgent circumstances, sometimes in a matter of hours. We are not aware that any government entity with an existing COA has applied for an emergency naming Texas EquuSearch as its contractor.


Background on UAS Regulation

The FAA authorizes UAS operations that are not for hobby or recreation on a case-by-case basis. While flying model aircraft for a hobby or recreation does not necessarily require FAA approval, all model aircraft operators must operate according to the law. The FAA promotes voluntary compliance by educating individual UAS operators about how they can operate safely under current regulations and laws.

The FAA also has a number of enforcement tools available to address unauthorized use of UAS, including warning notices, letters of correction, and civil penalties. The FAA may take enforcement action against anyone who operates a UAS in a way that endangers the safety of the national airspace system. This authority is designed to protect users of the airspace as well as people and property on the ground.

On June 23, the FAA issued a notice to provide clear guidance to model aircraft/UAS operators on the “do’s and don’ts” of flying safely in accordance with the 2012 FAA Reform and Modernization Act. In the notice, the FAA restates the law’s definition of “model aircraft,” including requirements that they not interfere with manned aircraft, be flown within sight of the operator and be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. The agency also explains that model aircraft operators flying within five miles of an airport must notify the airport operator and air traffic control tower. > See News Release

A flight that is not for hobby or recreation requires a certified aircraft, a licensed pilot and operating approval. To date, two operations have met these criteria, and authorization was limited to the Arctic. The FAA is continuing to review applications from UAS operators as they are received.


Background on the case

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit granted the FAA’s motion to dismiss Texas Equusearch’s case against the FAA. Texas Equusearch had filed a petition for review with the Court asserting that an FAA inspector had wrongly ordered it in an email correspondence for it to cease and desist search and rescue operations using its UASs. The Court found that the FAA’s inspector’s email to Texas Equusearch was “not a formal cease-and-desist letter representing the agency’s final conclusion … sufficient to constitute final agency action” for purposes of review in the courts of appeals. The Court found that “given the absence of any identified legal consequences flowing from the challenged email, this case falls within the usual rule that this court lacks authority to review a claim where an agency merely expresses its view of what the law requires of a party, even if that view is adverse to the party.”

Texas Eqqusearch and all UAS operators need to be aware that the FAA’s safety mandate under 49 U.S.C. § 40103 requires it to regulate aircraft operations conducted in the National Airspace System (NAS) to protect persons and property on the ground and to prevent collisions between aircraft and other aircraft or objects.

A UAS is an “aircraft” as defined in the FAA’s authorizing statutes and is therefore subject to regulation by the FAA. 49 U.S.C. § 40102(a)(6) defines an “aircraft” as “any contrivance invented, used, or designed to navigate or fly in the air.” The FAA’s regulations (14 C.F.R. § 1.1) similarly define an “aircraft” as “a device that is used or intended to be used for flight in the air.” Because an unmanned aircraft is a contrivance/device that is invented, used, and designed to fly in the air, it meets the definition of “aircraft.” The FAA has promulgated regulations that apply to the operation of all aircraft, whether manned or unmanned, and irrespective of the altitude at which the aircraft is operating. For example, 14 C.F.R. § 91.13 prohibits any person from operating an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

An important distinction for UAS operators to be aware of is whether the UAS is being operated for hobby or recreational purposes or for some other purpose. This distinction is important because there are specific requirements in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, Public Law 112-95, (the Act) that pertain to “Model Aircraft” operations, which are conducted solely for hobby or recreational purposes.


Model Aircraft Operations

Section 336(c) of the law defines “Model Aircraft” as “… an unmanned aircraft that is –

(1) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

(2) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

(3) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.


Each element of this definition must be met for a UAS to be considered a Model Aircraft under the Act. Under Section 336(a) of the Act the FAA is restricted from conducting further rulemaking specific to Model Aircraft as defined in section 336(c) so long as the Model Aircraft operations are conducted in accordance with the requirement of section 336(a). Section 336(a) requires that—

(1) the aircraft is flown strictly for hobby or recreational use;

(2) the aircraft is operated in accordance with a community based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization;

(3) the aircraft is limited to not more than 55 pounds unless otherwise certified through a design, construction, inspection, flight test, and operational safety program administered by a community-based organization;

(4) the aircraft is operated in a manner that does not interfere with and gives way to any manned aircraft; and

(5) when flown within 5 miles of an airport, the operator of the aircraft provides the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport) with prior notice of the operation (model aircraft operators flying from a permanent location within 5 miles of an airport should establish a mutually-agreed upon operating procedure with the airport operator and the airport air traffic control tower (when an air traffic facility is located at the airport)).


Section 336(b) of the law, however, makes clear that the FAA has the authority under its existing regulations to pursue legal enforcement action against persons operating Model Aircraft in accordance with section 336(a) and 336(c) when the operations endanger the safety of the NAS. Nothing in section 336 otherwise alters or restricts the FAA’s statutory authority to pursue enforcement action against any UAS operator, even those whose operations are conducted in accordance with sections 336(a) and (c) that endanger the safety of the NAS. So, for example, a Model Aircraft operation conducted in accordance with section 336(a) and (c) may be subject to an enforcement action for violation of 14 C.F.R. § 91.13 if the operation is conducted in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.


UAS Operations that are not Model Aircraft Operations

Operations of UASs that are not Model Aircraft operations as defined in section 336(c) of the law and conducted in accordance with section 336(a) of the law may only be operated with specific authorization from the FAA. The FAA currently authorizes UAS operations that are not for hobby or recreational purposes through one of two avenues: (1) the issuance of Certificates of Waiver or Authorization; and (2) the issuance of special airworthiness certificates. The FAA also has a third avenue with which to potentially authorize UAS operations through its exemption process when it determines that such operations are in the public interest.


1. Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA). In accordance with 14 C.F.R. § 91.903 the FAA grants Certificates of Waiver or Authorization to applicants waiving compliance with certain regulatory requirements listed in 14 C.F.R. § 91.905. The applicants must be able to show that they are able to safely conduct operations in the national airspace system. The COA contains terms with which the applicant must comply in order to conduct operations. The FAA generally has restricted the issuance of these certificates to government entities that operate UASs as it is implements the provisions in its “Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems in the National Airspace System Roadmap.” The entireRoadmap is available on our website. The FAA also issues COAs on an emergency basis when: 1) a situation exists in which there is distress or urgency and there is an extreme possibility of a loss of life; 2) the proponent has determined that manned flight operations cannot be conducted efficiently; and 3) the proposed UAS is operating under a current approved COA for a different purpose or location. The FAA is also using the COA process to expand the use of civil UASs in the arctic region as required under section 332 of the law.


2. Airworthiness Certification. For civil operators, you can apply for a special airworthiness certificate under 14 C.F.R. Part 21. See FAA Order 8130.34B–Airworthiness Certification of Unmanned Aircraft Systems and Optionally Piloted Aircraft. The full civil type certification process allows for production and commercial operation of UAS and is a lengthy process typically undertaken by aircraft manufacturers. UASs holding an airworthiness certificate will still need a COA in order to operate in the NAS.


3. Issuance of Exemptions. In accordance with 14 C.F.R. §§ 11.15 and 11.61-11.103 and the FAA’s authority in 49 U.S.C. § 44701(f), the FAA may grant exemptions from regulatory requirements. The exemption process allows for the submission of a petition to the FAA outlining why the granting of an exemption would be in the public interest, the need for the exemption, and the reasons why granting the petition would not adversely affect safety or would provide a level of safety equal to the rules from which the exemption is sought. The FAA has indicated its willingness to review petitions for exemption by civil UAS operators that want to operate for other than hobby or recreational purposes. Under section 333 of the Act, operators in appropriate circumstances can be exempted from airworthiness certification and other related regulatory provisions.


Finally, UAS operators must understand that all UAS operations that are not operated as Model Aircraft under section 336 of the Act are subject to current and future FAA regulation. At a minimum, any such flights are currently required under the FAA’s regulations to be operated with a certificated aircraft, with a certificated pilot, and with specific FAA authorization.



Ireland: Aviation body has issued 22 drone permits

by Press • 24 July 2014

Aine McMahon


The Irish Aviation Authority has issued permits to 22 operators to use drones or remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) in the Republic.

The RPAS sanctioned by the authority are used mainly for aerial survey, filming and photography.

The rapid advance in technology means the cost of civilian drones had dropped to a few hundred euro and can be purchased online. There are now 22 licensed here compared to 14 this time last year.

Aviation regulations governing drones in Ireland mean that operators are restricted to flying no higher than 150m and no farther than 500m from the control station.

A spokesman for the authority said it was reviewing its policy on making public the names of those with permissions to operate the aircraft systems.

“Each permission granted by the IAA contains the stated purpose(s) for which the operator is authorised to use the RPAS.

“At the present time we are unable to make these details public due to data protection legislation,” said the spokesman.

Last month a remote controlled helicopter carrying drugs crashed in Wheatfield Prison in Dublin. The small craft was not registered with the authority.

The European Aviation Safety Agency is in the process of introducing pan-European legislation to cover the operation of systems with a mass of 150kg or more. Drones below this weight are subject to national legislation.

The widespread use of drones in Europe is likely within the next few years if EU and US plans to create a new aerospace market come to pass.

A European Commission working paper published in September 2012 urges member states to develop an EU-wide plan to ensure drones are safely integrated into common aviation traffic by 2016. The paper, entitled Towards a European Strategy for the Development of Civil Applications of Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems, predicts many more applications and uses will emerge once the technology is widely disseminated. This is expected to support substantial economic growth, generating thousands of jobs.


Congress Eyes 5-Week Vacation While Urgent Issues Fester

By Eric Pianin,

The Fiscal Times

July 25, 2014


Only recently, lawmakers were outraged that dozens of veterans had died waiting for care at a VA health center in Phoenix, that thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America were pouring across our border, and that local governments were preparing to cancel highway and bridge construction projects because the highway trust fund was nearly bankrupt.

The notorious “do-nothing Congress” was for a time, anyway, fired up to shorten the VA waiting lists and beef up medical staffing, to address the humanitarian crisis posed by refugee children, and to heed warnings from the Department of Transportation that 700,000 construction industry jobs would be lost if the trust fund went belly up.

Yet with only a week to go before their five-week summer break, the GOP-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate seem deadlocked over VA funding and fixes for the immigration crisis along the U.S-Mexico border. They’re in slightly better shape for negotiating a temporary fix to avert a highway and infrastructure construction crisis.


Senate Agrees On $11B Highway Funding Measure


The Senate is moving toward passage of an $11 billion measure to temporarily fix a multibillion-dollar shortfall in federal highway and transit programs. The chamber reached…

Bill Hoagland, vice president of the Bipartisan Policy Center and former Senate Republican budget expert, recalled the high hopes after last December’s bipartisan budget deal that Congress would pass its annual spending bills. There were also pledges to swiftly reform the VA and address the border crisis.

“We had such good vibes we were going to actually get something done,” Hoagland said in an interview. “The disappointment just piles on when they’re leaving here with very little accomplished – in fact, things seem even more divided. It further lowers everybody’s respect for Congress and hope for getting anything done on really big issues like tax reform [and] immigration reform.

“It’s just a big letdown,” Hoagland added.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), a senior House leader, also said in an interview, “I have very little expectation that anything of any real consequence will get done.”

Michael Steel, meanwhile, a spokesperson for House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), said that regardless of the outcome of last-minute negotiations, House Republicans have moved swiftly to pass nearly half of the annual spending bills and to offer legislative solutions to the VA scandal and the immigration crisis.

“We continue to work on all of those issues . . . but the ball is pretty much in [the Democrats’] court on most of those issues,” Steel told The Fiscal Times.

The highway bill probably has the best chance of winning approval shortly. Without it, practically every congressional district will feel the pain of lost federal revenue this summer. The last thing lawmakers want to do during vacation is field complaints from state and local officials, the construction industry and labor groups about construction disruptions.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled a vote next week on a $10.8 billion bill approved by the House to keep federal dollars flowing to the states for at least another year. The money is vital to financing new highway, bridge and mass transit programs and repair operations. Whether a final agreement can be reached next week is uncertain.

Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Bob Corker (R-TN) and others favor a multi-year solution and insist Congress give no more than $8.1 billion in short-term funding through Dec. 19, according to The Wall Street Journal. Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) will also offer proposals for altering the funding mechanisms. If those Senate Democrats succeed in amending the House bill, it could force a showdown with Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI), who crafted the short-term solution approved by the House last week.


But those problems pale in comparison to differences between the two chambers and the two parties over overhauling the VA and immigration policies.

Tensions ran so high yesterday that Senate Veterans’ Affairs chairman Bernard Sanders (I-VT) boycotted a House-Senate conference committee meeting called by House VA Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL). The meeting was to consider Miller’s proposal for reforming the VA and hire more medical staff.

Congress had vowed strong action after the disclosure that dozens of veterans had died while waiting months to see doctors and that some VA officials had hidden the long waiting lists to protect their bonuses and promotions. VA Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned on May 30 at the height of the scandal.

On June 11, the Senate voted 93 to 3 to pass a measure to expand VA services and staffing at a cost of some $35 billion over the coming years. A key provision would allow veterans to see a private physician if they encountered lengthy waits for appointments at VA facilities. The House then passed a $44 billion version, leading some to complain about the overall cost.

Sanders later offered a counter proposal, which would cost less than $25 billion. Miller, in turn, presented a revised plan yesterday during a hastily called conference committee meeting that attracted House and Senate Republicans, but no Democrats.

Miller’s approach would require only about $10 billion of emergency spending, but with a pledge of future funding as part of the normal budgeting process, according to CQ Roll Call. His bill would keep most key provisions of the Senate-passed bill, including allowing some veterans to see private physicians.

Sanders told reporters he skipped the meeting after learning Miller intended to push through his latest plan on a “take it or leave it” basis. “This is a sad indication that the House leadership is not serious about negotiations,” Sanders said in a statement. “We don’t need more speeches and posturing. We need serious negotiations – 24/7, if necessary – to resolve our differences to pass critical legislation.”

Miller said he’s “never shut the door” to compromise with Sanders. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner issued a blistering statement attacking Democrats, according to the CQ Roll Call report.

“In the wake of the shocking scandal at the Veterans Administration, the House passed a bipartisan VA reform and accountability bill, and we’re ready to complete work on an agreement the president can sign,” Boehner said. “Unfortunately, Senate Democrats refused to even show up and discuss bipartisan solutions, preferring instead to talk behind closed doors. That is shameful. If President Obama cares about America’s veterans, he needs to pick up his phone out in California and tell Senate Democrats to get to work.”

Meanwhile, House Republicans have begun to rally around new proposals for counteracting the flood of illegal immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. It includes deploying National Guard troops and requiring the Obama administration “to more quickly process and deport young children and families who have entered the country in recent months,” The Washington Post reported.


It was unclear how soon the House would take up the issue and “whether House Republicans [can] reach agreement with Senate Democrats on a final plan before Congress adjourns Aug. 1 for a five-week recess,” The Post reported. The $1.5 billion proposal House Republicans unveiled on Wednesday would spend far less than Obama’s $3.7 billion proposal to beef up security and deportation operations

China Ascendent?

by Stephen D. Krasner

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When it comes to the international system, realists believe that changing distributions of power are dangerous. The territorial boundaries, spheres of influence, and international regimes of the old order may no longer be stable. A rising power may use its newfound military capability to change existing territorial boundaries or even to completely conquer and annex all of the territory of a neighboring state. Extant spheres of influence within which a dominant power is able to influence or dictate the important foreign policy choices of subordinate states, including their security alliances and trade policies, may crumble, if they are challenged by a rising power that can make credible threats with regard to military action and trade sanctions, or offer promises of greater security or prosperity. International regimes, whose rules, norms, principles, and decision-making procedures have been taken for granted or at least not actively challenged, may not be sustainable if a rising power refuses to adhere to them or offers some alternative principles and rules that might be more attractive for weaker states.

The classic example of the dangers presented by power transitions is the rise of Germany in Europe in the late nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. The following table shows the percentage of world capabilities for major countries from 1870 to 2007. These scores are based on the composite index of national capabilities (CINC), which is derived from six indicators (energy consumption, iron and steel production, military expenditure, military personnel, total population, and urban population). The table clearly shows the rise of German power from 1870 to 1939. Germany’s share of world power increased from 11 percent in 1870 when its still trailed Britain and France, to 16 percent on the eve of the first world war when it was the most powerful state in Europe but still trailed the United States, to 18 percent in 1939 when it was tied with the United States at the top.




















































































After uniting Germany in 1870 Bismarck attempted to assuage the anxiety of France by eschewing colonial expansion in Africa and to enhance Germany’s security by forming an alliance (the Dreikaiserbund) with the other two powers in Europe that were governed by conservative monarchical regimes, Austria-Hungary and Russia. This alliance collapsed after Wilhelm II dismissed Bismarck in 1890. France and Russia grew closer together. German naval construction threatened Britain. In 1914, balance of power logic drove alliance structures with France, Britain, Russia (and then the United States), opposing Germany and Austria-Hungary.

The Versailles agreement at the end of the first world war led to major territorial changes: Germany lost Alsace-Lorraine to France, the Austro-Hungarian Empire disappeared and was replaced by several smaller states (Austria, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and an enlarged Yugoslavia), and Poland reemerged as a state after disappearing from the map of Europe in the 1790s. Germany’s colonies in Africa were parceled out to other European states as mandates of the League of Nations. New international organizations, most notably the League of Nations and the International Labour Organization, were created. Large war reparations were imposed on Germany.

The Versailles settlement, however, strengthened rather than weakened Germany. Germany’s eastern and southern neighbors were now a set of weaker states including Poland, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. German resistance to the payment of wartime reparations led to a ruinous inflation in the early 1920s. The depression further weakened conventional political parties. After Hitler came to power he systematically dismantled the restrictions of Versailles, but always in the name of Versailles’s principles. The Rhineland was re-militarized. Limitations on German armaments were circumvented. Czechoslovakia was dismembered on the grounds that the Sudeten Germans should be allowed to be part of their German homeland. Austria was annexed, again justified by self-determination. Hitler signed a non-aggression pact with Stalin and invaded Poland and then, abrogating his agreement with Stalin, invaded the Soviet Union.

The two world wars in Europe killed tens of millions of people, destroyed domestic political orders across the continent, contributed to the Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia and Nazi control of Germany which led to the greatest humanitarian atrocity in the history of the modern world, the Holocaust. The systematic engagement of the United States in Europe and the dismembering of Germany finally contained German power in 1945. If the consequence of Germany’s rise in Europe is a model for what might happen as a result of China’s rising power, there is a very great deal to worry about.

There are, however, reasons to be guardedly optimistic. First, nuclear weapons have removed any ambiguity about the costs of war. In 1914 or 1939, Germany could imagine that it would conquer all of Europe and in the Second World War it almost did. In 2014, an all out war between nuclear states, such as the United States and China, would be catastrophically destructive. Nuclear weapons have made leaders much more cautious as evidenced by the fact that there has not been a direct war between major powers since 1945, the longest period of major power peace in the last several hundred years.

Second, territorial conquest has been much less attractive since 1945 for several reasons. Since 1945, South Vietnam is the only widely recognized sovereign entity that has disappeared from the map as the result of conquest, although other countries have broken up such as the USSR and Yugoslavia. In an era of globalization and open trade the benefits of conquest are less than they have been in the past. There are now many weak states, especially, but not only, in Africa, that could not defend their borders. Their political leaders would be very wary of any state that engaged in territorial conquest, and thereby eroded the international norm that has at least protected them from external conquest if not internal violence.

Nevertheless it is already obvious that the United States and China will not agree on spheres of influence or international regimes, and China has had border conflicts with many of its neighbors. China would like to push the United States out of the western Pacific. China’s prospects for success in this endeavor are not easy to calculate. China’s ambitious claims to an expansive Exclusive Economic Zone have already brought it into conflict with several neighboring states. Japan, the third or fourth most powerful country in the world, will balance against China so long as it is confident of its alliance with the United, and would probably balance even without such an alliance by developing nuclear weapons and a more formidable military.

South Korea, also an American ally and a significant economic actor, will be more conflicted. A pure balance of power logic would dictate maintaining the American alliance and balancing against China absent a much more asymmetric economic relationship than exists now. South Korea, however, faces an existential threat from the DPRK. An attack from North Korea, even one short of all out war, would be extremely costly for the South. The uncontrolled collapse of the North Korean regime would also pose huge challenges for the South. The country that is most able to help South Korea manage the North is China. How South Korea will balance the competing pressures to balance (with the US) or bandwagon (with China) will not be dictated by some pristine balance of power calculation.

The United States and China will contest each other for control over the western Pacific. The outcome of this contest is not foreordained. The most important thing that the United States could do would be to maintain a robust military presence in the region, one that would give China pause with regard to its expansive territorial claims in the South and East China Seas. The American response to date with regard to China’s probes has been anemic.

China and the United States will also disagree about the nature of international regimes. China’s peaceful rise was facilitated by American support for its entry into the international trading regime, especially its membership in the WTO. This does not, however, mean that China will necessarily support the regime’s basic principles and norms in the future. As a developing country China would, for instance, prefer weaker intellectual property rights protection; the United States would prefer stronger protections. The existing trade and investment regimes more or less assume that corporations are independent of the state; this assumption is comfortable for the United States. It is not so comfortable for China: a more powerful China might press for principles, norms, and rules that were more accepting of state direction of the economy. China’ internal divisions make it one of the strongest proponents of the sanctity of sovereigntist principles that totally reject external interference in the internal affairs of other states. The United States as a proponent of human rights, and as target for transnational terrorist, has a much weaker commitment to non-intervention.

While American military capability in the Pacific will be one important determinant of how China’s rise affects borders and spheres of influence the most important determinant of relations between the United States and China will be internal developments in China. There are at least three possible scenarios.

First, China might transition to a fully democratic market oriented regime. This is the path that modernization theory would predict. In the long term tensions between the United States and China would abate if not disappear. Domestic values would converge. Economic interests would be intertwined. National identities might weaken. The path, however, to this most optimistic outcome would not be smooth. China will not instantaneously be transformed into a larger version of Denmark. Uneven growth, growing income disparities, disaffected minorities would continue to present challenges to even a political elite that was committed to a democratic transition.

Second, the Communist Party of China could remain in power. Economic growth could falter or stall out. China might become an upper middle-income country but never a rich country. Nationalism would assume even more prominence as a legitimating ideology within China. Tensions with the United States would continue, but China’s influence in the region and its ability to challenge the United States militarily and ideologically would not increase.

The most perilous situation, although the least likely, would be continued rapid economic growth in China under an autocratic regime. If this were to happen, there would be a Chinese model that would challenge liberal democracy and a market economy; Taiwan’s future would be dictated by Beijing; China would push the United States out of the western Pacific; internal developments in South Korea, Japan, and the smaller states East Asian states would conform more closely to the Chinese than to the American model; and international regimes would be transformed. Stable nuclear deterrence would prevent all out war. But the world would be a very different place than it is now if an autocratic China became the indispensable nation.



Air Force launching satellites to spy on other satellites

By Jon Harper

Stars and Stripes

Published: July 22, 2014


WASHINGTON — The Air Force is about to put a new advanced satellite into space to spy on other countries’ satellites.

On Wednesday, a Delta IV rocket will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Station, Fla., and place two Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program satellites into orbit. They will be the first GSSAP satellites ever launched.

“This neighborhood watch twosome … will be on the lookout for nefarious capability other nations might try to place in that critical orbital regime,” Gen. William Shelton, the head of Air Force Space Command, told reporters at the Pentagon.

Because of its enhanced maneuvering capabilities, the GSSAP satellite can get the best possible vantage point for collecting images of other satellites, according to Shelton.

He said the imagery capabilities on the new satellites are “a big leap forward” compared with the ones the U.S. has been using to monitor objects circling the earth.


“Today the way we track threats in geosynchronous orbit is by basically points of light, and as we take a picture of the sky and dwell on that part of the sky, [we know] things that are moving are satellites, things that are stationary are stars … Through our points of light and various other means, we make inferences on what a particular [foreign] satellite can do,” Shelton explained.

But the GSSAP “gives us an ability … to look at literal images of objects in geosynchronous orbit … A picture is worth a thousand inferences because we can see literally what that [foreign] satellite looks like, and you can effectively reverse-engineer and understand what the capabilities are … to a much greater extent than you can today,” Shelton said.

The launch comes at a time when China is rapidly improving its space and anti-satellite capabilities. Pentagon planners worry that in a future conflict, Beijing might shoot down or disable American military satellites that are critical for communications, intelligence-gathering, and targeting.

“There are myriad counter-space threats that we are seeing on the near horizon,” Shelton said. “We’re going to have to adjust our spacecraft constellations to survive in a very different environment from what we’ve had in the past,” and we need “much better situational awareness of what’s going on; hence GSSAP.”

Shelton was asked specifically whether he was worried about space-based weapons or electromagnetic pulse weapons being used against U.S. military satellites.

“All of the above,” he replied.

Shelton declined to go into detail about what capabilities the Pentagon is developing to thwart enemy anti-satellite weapons.


Special Report: The top 5 best bases for airmen

Recreation, low-cost housing make these stations stand out

Jul. 21, 2014 – 06:00AM |


Methodology for ranking bases

To compile our ranking of 68 Air Force bases, we collected and analyzed hundreds of pieces of information.

Air Force Times evaluated statistics in a dozen categories: school quality, cost of living, housing costs, commissary size, base exchange size, size of on-base health care facilities, crime rates, commute times, pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes. We then assigned each category a score on a 10-point scale.

■ To come up with a school quality score, we used the website, a respected resource for ranking and comparing schools used by real estate agents and real estate websites such as Zillow and GreatSchools evaluates schools on a 10-point scale based on a combination of their standardized test scores, whether students are improving from year to year, and college readiness, defined as how well students take and score on SAT and ACT tests, and their graduation rates. We searched for all rated schools within a 10-mile radius of each base and averaged their scores to come up with an overall school score.

■ We pulled information on cost of living, housing, crime rates, commute times, pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes from the website Sperling’s Best Places, which compiles demographic and other data on communities around the country. We used formulas to convert the raw data from each category into a 10-point scale.’s crime statistics had low numbers for low crime rates and high numbers for high crime rates. We converted the statistics so lower crime rates would result in higher scores for bases.

■ Sperling’s Best Places also provided data it collected on the size and type of on-base commissaries, exchanges and health care facilities, and rankings on a 10-point scale.

Of course, not all categories are equally important to service members. We’d wager school quality, for example, is a greater concern than the sales tax rate. So we weighted each category. Scores for the most important categories — schools, cost of living, housing and commissaries — were tripled. The next most important categories — crime, health care facilities, commute times and exchanges — were doubled in value. And the last four categories — pollution levels, climate, unemployment rates and sales taxes — got no additional weighting.

Finally, we added up the scores and stacked the bases.

No matter the service, no matter the era, one of the favorite pastimes of troops has always been comparing duty stations — griping about the lousy ones and singing the praises of the good ones.

Air Force Times is weighing in on this argument with the best tool at our disposal: cold, hard stats. We’ve looked at 68 stateside Air Force bases and their surrounding communities, and pulled together data on a dozen factors — everything from school quality to the local economy, crime rates to traffic, and climate to on-base amenities, such as commissaries.

And when we tallied up the results, some surprising bases rose to the top of our list. Our top five bases may not get a lot of attention or be as glamorous a posting as, say, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. But they are diamonds in the rough and provide good places for airmen to raise families and entertain themselves, as they serve their country.


Here, based on Air Force Times research, are the Air Force’s best bases in the United States:

1. (tied) Scott Air Force Base, Illinois

One might not imagine that one of the two best bases in the Air Force can be found near the small town of Belleville, Illinois, a bucolic community of 44,000 in a St. Louis metro area of 2.8 million. But that’s exactly what Scott Air Force Base is.

“It’s kind of a hidden gem out there,” said Col. Kyle Kremer, commander of Scott’s 375th Air Mobility Wing. “You can pick and choose what works for you and your family. It’s unlike any other place I’ve been stationed.”

Airmen stationed at Scott, no matter whether they prefer city life or country life, can find a niche to make themselves at home, Kremer said.

“Depending on what lifestyle you prefer, you have the full spectrum,” Kremer said. “You can live to the east of the base, in the middle of corn fields. A number of people who work on base live in downtown St. Louis, particularly young couples without kids, [and] can go see the Cardinals, the Rams, Fox Theater [a performing arts center], all St. Louis has to offer. And then there’s the typical outstanding suburban life in the Fairview Heights area.”

Scott rose to the top of Air Force Times’ bases list due to several factors. Home prices there are some of the lowest in the country. Immediately surrounding Scott, the median home cost is $57,400, about one-third of the nationwide median home cost of $170,100, according to Sperling’s Best Places. In nearby Belleville, the median home cost is $76,300.

The monthly Basic Allowance for Housing at Scott runs from $855 for an airman basic without dependents, to $2,064 for a colonel with dependents. The monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in the St. Louis area will set you back $756, on average, according to


And boasting a 70-bed hospital, a large commissary, and a large exchange with a mini-mall and a shoppette, on-base amenities at Scott are among the best in the Air Force.

Crime rates also are low, with score of 7 out of 10 — derived by averaging its violent crime rate and property crime rate, with a higher score indicating less crime in each area. Nationwide, the average crime score for Air Force bases is 6, meaning Scott is above-average. Schools within a 10-mile radius of Scott are decent, if not outstanding, with an average ranking of 7 out of 10 possible points.

Scott also gets some special visitors from time to time. The St. Louis Rams came to scrimmage on Scott’s parade field in 2012 and 2013, and Kremer said they’re working on another scrimmage this year. Military members get in free to watch those scrimmages, Kremer said.

Kremer said Scott has typical on-base amenities — pools, a youth center, a golf course, restaurants and outdoor recreation facilities where airmen can rent campers, boats and bouncy castles for the kids. Belleville also sponsors military appreciation days.

“I really believe the people in the Midwest are fantastic,” Kremer said.

Capt. Angel Vargas, a group practice manager for the 375th Medical Group at Scott, agrees. Vargas, who is originally from the Chicago area and was previously stationed at Los Angeles Air Force Base, said his first time living in a relatively rural community near Scott was “culture shock” — in a good way.

“It’s a tight-knit community,” Vargas said. “I could trust my daughter with whoever I meet. You can’t do that in the city. There’s literally cornfields right across the street from my housing. I’m not used to that. I’m used to concrete traps.”

Vargas lives in off-base military housing, and said his paycheck stretches a lot further than it did in L.A. Airmen who live close to Scott can easily find affordable housing, he said, and some even get a few acres of land out in the country for their horses.

“I know a lot of people who have farms,” Vargas said. “One is PCSing and is packing up their horses. I don’t hear that in L.A.”

Want to check out St. Louis’ nightlife, but live on base and don’t have a car? Just catch St. Louis’ MetroLink rail at the Shiloh-Scott station, which borders the base. That’s what Airman 1st Class Sarah Haynes, an intelligence analyst at Scott’s 375th Operations Support Squadron who lives in an on-base dorm, does.

“I went to the Yankees-Cards game” one night recently, Haynes said. “It’s two bucks for train tickets, I saw the Yankees play, the MetroLink drops you off right outside the base. As a single female airman, it’s the safest way, I feel, for a night in the city. Once you get out there, there’s a ton to do. You don’t really have to go look for them, you just find them.”

Scott has a program called the Single Airmen’s Initiative, which provides free trips and events for airmen up to E-4. Haynes said she visited Memphis with this program; other trips have taken airmen to Chicago, hiking in the Ozark Mountains, and up in hot air balloons. Haynes, who is on her first assignment, said that the activities sponsored by Scott have a tremendous impact on young airmen like herself.

“I’ve got single friends at other bases that don’t have that [program], and they pretty much just sit in their dorm rooms and play video games all day,” Haynes said. “At the end of the day, knowing people want you to have high morale makes a big difference in doing your job.”

Airmen can go skiing at the Hidden Valley Ski Area in Wildwood, Missouri, about an hour’s drive from Scott. Indianapolis and Nashville are also a few hours’ drive from Scott, close enough to spend a long weekend in the city.


Vargas said he enjoys taking his daughter to the St. Louis Zoo — which is not only free, but was recently named the second-best zoo in the country by USA Today. He enjoys museums and watching sports downtown and motorcycling in the country.

Haynes grew up with a strong interest in art in her hometown in Cincinnati. When she moved to Scott, she was pleased to find not only a large number of museums, theaters and a science center in St. Louis, but a thriving arts community in nearby Belleville, which has an annual festival called Art on the Square.

“I think it’s really unique for Smalltown USA,” Haynes said. “I didn’t expect to find that at Scott. I thought it would be the middle of nowhere, but it’s not. It’s flourishing.”


1. (tied) Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio

Similarly to Scott, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio enjoys low housing costs, a large commissary, a huge 300-bed medical center, and a large exchange with a mall and a shoppette. An above-average crime score of 7 out of 10, and decent commute times — an average one-way trip of 14 minutes, much less than the nationwide average commute of more than 25 minutes — combined to help land Wright-Pat at the top of the list, tied with Scott.

Capt. Matthew Hawkins, an engineer with the AC 130J program office there, said he and his wife, Capt. Caroline Hawkins, have grown to love Wright-Pat during their three years there.

“Coming to Wright-Pat, you’re in the middle of everywhere,” Hawkins said. “We are so close to major, larger cities that offer so much more. We can go to Cincinnati, Columbus, Cleveland, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville — the list goes on and on of places accessible with a tank of gas.”

But Hawkins speaks most glowingly of nearby Dayton, and the close relationship its 143,000 residents have with the airmen stationed at Wright-Pat.

The Dayton Dragons minor league baseball team, for example, offer discounted tickets for service members, as does Dayton’s Schuster Performing Arts Center. The Hawkinses are associate board members at the local children’s science museum, the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery, which partners with Wright-Pat to get service members’ input.

“Several people, while we’re out and about, recognize us as military and shake our hands,” Hawkins said. “They love us.”

The Hawkinses enjoy spending time in the Greene Town Center in Dayton, which offers shopping and mid- to high-end restaurants, as well as free concerts on the weekends.

“Being kind of young, we do frequent brewpubs,” said Hawkins. Both he and his wife are 30. “Brewing beers is becoming a big local thing in the Miami Valley. There’s a lot of new gastropub restaurants popping up in Dayton — a lot of new places to try and eat out at.”

Capt. Drew Chaney, who was stationed at Wright-Pat from 2004 to 2009, said the base’s gym facilities, exchange and commissary are as good as or better than other bases he has visited or been assigned to. And he spoke highly of the base’s medical center, which he said had reasonable wait times and even fit him in for laser eye surgery, though he was a low priority.

Chaney said several of his former co-workers finished their master’s degrees while at Wright-Pat, attending the nearby University of Dayton or Wright State University.

Even the base library is pretty well-stocked, Chaney said.

The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom apartment in Dayton is $641, according to An airman basic without dependents would receive $864 in BAH each month, and a colonel with dependents would receive $1,950 a month.


Airmen who are interested in their service’s history can visit the National Museum of the United States Air Force for free. The museum in June broke ground on an expansion that will eventually house the former Air Force One aircraft aboard which President Johnson was sworn in after President Kennedy’s assassination, as well as a Titan IV space booster rocket, the Lockheed C-130E Hercules, and other aircraft.

Thousands of runners — both military and civilian — run the annual Air Force Marathon at Wright-Patterson each September. The start and finish lines of that race are located at the museum.

Hawkins is likely to spend at most another two years at Wright-Pat before his next assignment. But he expects his work in acquisition will eventually draw him and his wife back to Dayton — and they’ll eagerly anticipate their possible return.

“When we leave here, we’ll look forward to coming back,” Hawkins said.


3. Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland

The Texas heat may be brutal in the summer, but Joint Base San Antonio and the surrounding area have plenty else that landed the base in the top five.

Lackland’s medical facilities are among the best in the military — and are about to get better. A new 681,000- square-foot medical treatment facility, to be called the Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, is under construction and projected to be finished next year. The four-wing, three-story facility will serve more than 55,000 patients and house more than 25 outpatient clinics, and the old Wilford Hall will be demolished. Lackland is home to the 59th Medical Wing.

The base’s large commissary and large exchange — with a mall and shoppette — provide great shopping opportunities for airmen on base. And average commute times of about 12 minutes are some of the lowest nationwide.


Housing prices in parts of the San Antonio area are favorable at around $69,400, making it one of the most affordable places to live in the country.Monthly BAH for airmen there starts at $1,038 for airmen basic without dependents, to $2,091 for colonels with dependents. The monthly rent for two-bedroom apartments in San Antonio averages $828, according to

“When speaking to my NCOs, I’ve not heard anybody complaining that it’s so doggone expensive that they can’t find a place, or need to spend extra money beyond what they’re comfortable with,” Col. Bill Eger, former commander of the 502nd Installation Support Group, said in a July 10 interview. His final day at the 502nd before being transferred to the Defense Information Systems Agency was July 11.

Are you a fan of live music? One of the best music scenes in the country can be found in Austin, less than a two-hour drive from Lackland. A wide variety of artists — ranging from bluesmen Stevie Ray Vaughan and Gary Clark Jr. to indie rockers such as the band Spoon to country legends like Willie Nelson — have hung their hats there. And Austin’s annual South by Southwest festival and Austin City Limits Music Festival bring even more national acts to Lackland’s neck of the woods.

History buffs can visit the legendary Alamo and other Spanish missions. Sports fans can watch the San Antonio Spurs play— although scoring tickets may be tough now that they are the reigning National Basketball Association champions — as well as check out the minor league baseball team the San Antonio Missions. And multiple water parks can be found just a few miles away from Lackland, Eger said.


Airmen who want to enjoy the outdoors can bike or hike along the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trails System, which currently consists of 45 miles of trails winding along San Antonio’s creeks. Eger said San Antonio is opening up more sections of the San Antonio River to kayaking and canoeing.

“The city’s trying to become like Austin, and create a more healthy living lifestyle,” Eger said.


4. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska

One of the northernmost bases in the military is also in one of the most beautiful and unique parts of the country.

“Life in Alaska is a little different,” said Col. Brian Duffy, former commander of the 673rd Air Base Wing and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson near Anchorage. “You’re living amongst wildlife. You’ve got moose, bear, fox, lynx, coyote, eagles, ravens. It’s a lot different than the lower 48.”

Former Capt. Louise Fode, a meteorologist who was stationed at Elmendorf from 2000 to 2004, said many airmen see the base as a plum assignment.

“Elmendorf is definitely one of the most competitive places to get stationed,” said Fode, who still lives there. “A lot of military members are interested in the outdoor life that Anchorage and Alaska has to offer. [And] for a winter location, it’s really not that bad in terms of temperatures. We are much more moderate in temps than Fairbanks, or North Dakota, and we get a lot of snow to play in.”

Fairbanks, which is 26 miles northwest of Eielson Air Force Base, hits an average January low of 13 below zero, and Minot, North Dakota, hits 4.3 below in January. Elmendorf’s average January low of 5.7 degrees is also cold, but at least stays north of zero.

Elmendorf’s large commissary and exchange with a mall and shoppette provide plenty of affordable shopping opportunities for service members there, helping land it among the best bases in the Air Force.

And in a relatively remote place like Anchorage, those base shopping opportunities are crucial to offset Alaska’s higher cost of living.

“Having the commissary is a huge help because the food costs go down, and [service members] have greater access to food,” Duffy said. “Everything that comes into the state comes by water or air, driving the cost up. The road system isn’t like the [East Coast’s Interstate] 95 corridor. The Port of Anchorage is where most things come in.”

Alaska has no state income tax, and the Anchorage area has no sales tax, which helps airmen make ends meet.

Airmen who have lived in Alaska for a full calendar year and intend to put down roots can apply for the Permanent Fund Dividend. Eligible Alaskan residents each received $900 last year — their share of the revenues raised from oil drilling and other use of natural resources in the state.

But Duffy cautions that the Permanent Fund Dividend comes with strings. If an airman receiving the dividend is transferred away and does not return to Alaska after leaving the service, Alaska could recoup the payments made to him.

Fode said bars, clubs, restaurants, museums and other activities can be found in Anchorage, not far off base.

“It’s the cultural hub for Alaska — for what that’s worth,” Fode said.

Elmendorf also has an unusual on-base amenity: the Hillberg Ski Area. Duffy said it’s not a huge slope — perhaps a quarter-mile run with a drop of between 200 and 300 feet — but it’s a safe place for newly arrived airmen to strap on their first set of skis and learn.


“A lot of people who come from the lower 48 don’t know what snow looks like,” Duffy said.

The last two years, Duffy said, Elmendorf opened Hillberg to the entire base as the annual holiday party. And more advanced skiers can find faster slopes nearby.

Elmendorf rents fishing boats, which Duffy said is a popular activity.

“A lot of people are chewing their arms off to get out of the office and go fishing,” Duffy said.


5. Luke Air Force Base, Arizona

Rounding out the top five is Luke Air Force Base near Glendale, Arizona, which also enjoys low housing costs of about $71,900, as well as short 11-minute commute times and a solid commissary and exchange.

“From what I can tell, we’re in a buyer’s market,” said Chief Master Sgt. John Mazza, the 56th Fighter Wing Command Chief at Luke. “It’s not just one area — the whole community is pretty desirable. Peoria, Buckeye, Glendale, Goodyear — these are some of the best I’ve seen.”

Mazza said besides offering special deals to military service members, the local communities often ask what they can do for airmen, and how they can spend time with them and learn their stories.

“I’ve never seen such military support [from the community] in a long time,” Mazza said.

Airmen at Luke are within a few hours’ drive of the Grand Canyon, the Coconino National Forest near Sedona, Arizona, and Joshua Tree National Park in California.

And two hours from this desert environment, skiing enthusiasts can find slopes in the mountains of Flagstaff, Arizona.

“If you’re an outdoors person, you’re gonna love Luke Air Force Base,” Mazza said. “The landscapes change [as one drives throughout the state]. The cactus disappear, it turns into green, rolling hills. Most folks go up to [Flagstaff] to stay in a hotel and camp and beat the heat and play golf.”

Even a weekend getaway in Las Vegas is about four or five hours away, depending on the traffic.

Mazza said one of Luke’s biggest attractions is the proximity to every major professional sport. The Arizona Cardinals football team, Arizona Diamondbacks baseball team, Phoenix Suns men’s basketball team, Phoenix Mercury women’s basketball team and Arizona Coyotes hockey team are a quick drive from the gates of Luke.

Like Scott, Luke has a Single Airman Program that offers discounted activities. Senior Airman Jenna Sarvinski, who is on her first assignment at Luke, said she went skydiving through the program, which has also offered go-karting and trips to the Grand Canyon.

“It’s a chance for people who don’t have a significant other or a spouse to get to know other airmen,” Sarvinski said. “You get off base and relax and get away from work for a while, but you’re still meeting other airmen and enjoying yourselves.”


The full list:

Air Force Times’ ranking of the best bases in the Air Force:

1. (tied) Scott AFB, Illinois

1. (tied) Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

3. Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas

4. Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska

5. Luke AFB, Arizona

6. (tied) MacDill AFB, Florida

6. (tied) Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota

8. (tied) Eglin AFB, Florida

8. (tied) Offut AFB, Nebraska

10. Cannon AFB, New Mexico

11. (tied) Holloman AFB, New Mexico

11. (tied) Schriever AFB, Colorado

11. (tied) McGuire AFB, New Jersey

14. (tied) Patrick AFB, Florida

14. (tied) Nellis AFB, Nevada

14. (tied) Dover AFB, Delaware

17. (tied) Eielson AFB, Alaska

17. (tied) Tinker AFB, Oklahoma

17. (tied) Langley AFB, Virginia

17. (tied) Minot AFB, North Dakota

21. Beale AFB, California

22. (tied) Keesler AFB, Mississippi

22. (tied) Sheppard AFB, Texas

24. U.S. Air Force Academy, Colorado

25. (tied) Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona

25. (tied) Robins AFB, Georgia

25. (tied) Mountain Home AFB, Idaho

28. (tied) Peterson AFB, Colorado

28. (tied) Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station

30. (tied) Edwards AFB, California

30. (tied) Randolph AFB, Texas

32. (tied) Vandenburg Vandenberg AFB, California

32. (tied) Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia

34. Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota

35. (tied) Kirtland AFB, New Mexico

35. (tied) Fairchild AFB, Washington

35. (tied) Hill AFB, Utah

35. (tied) Whiteman AFB, Missouri

39. (tied) Little Rock AFB, Arkansas

39. (tied) Hurlburt Field, Florida

39. (tied) Joint Base Lewis-McChord

42. (tied) Altus AFB, Oklahoma

42. (tied) Charleston AFB, South Carolina

42. (tied) Maxwell-Gunter AFB, Alabama

45. (tied) Barksdale AFB, Louisiana

45. (tied) Goodfellow AFB, Texas

47. (tied) Vance AFB, Oklahoma

47. (tied) Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii

49. (tied) FE Warren AFB, Wyoming

49. (tied) Joint Base Andrews, Maryland

49. (tied) Dyess AFB, Texas

52. Pope AFB, North Carolina

53. (tied) Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina

53. (tied) Malmstrom AFB, Montana

55. (tied) Tyndall AFB, Florida

55. (tied) Moody AFB, Georgia

55. (tied) Arnold AFB, Tennessee

55. (tied) Shaw AFB, South Carolina

59. (tied) March Air Reserve Base, California

59. (tied) Laughlin AFB, Texas

61. (tied) Buckley AFB, Colorado

61. (tied) Selfridge Air National Guard Base, Michigan

63. Travis AFB, California

64. (tied) Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, DC

64. (tied) Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts

66. (tied) McConnell AFB, Kansas

66. (tied) Columbus AFB, Mississippi

68. Los Angeles Air Force Base


Air Force Times research




New Insight on the Nation’s Earthquake Hazards

2014 USGS National Seismic Hazard Map, displaying intensity of potential ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years (which is the typical lifetime of a building).

To help make the best decisions to protect communities from earthquakes, new USGS maps display how intense ground shaking could be across the nation.

The USGS recently updated their U.S. National Seismic Hazard Maps, which reflect the best and most current understanding of where future earthquakes will occur, how often they will occur, and how hard the ground will likely shake as a result.

42 States at Risk; 16 States at High Risk

While all states have some potential for earthquakes, 42 of the 50 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing damaging ground shaking from an earthquake in 50 years (the typical lifetime of a building). Scientists also conclude that 16 states have a relatively high likelihood of experiencing damaging ground shaking. These states have historically experienced earthquakes with a magnitude 6 or greater.

The hazard is especially high along the west coast, intermountain west, and in several active regions of the central and eastern U.S., such as near New Madrid, MO, and near Charleston, SC. The 16 states at highest risk are Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.

While these overarching conclusions of the national-level hazard are similar to those of the previous maps released in 2008, details and estimates differ for many cities and states. Several areas have been identified as being capable of having the potential for larger and more powerful earthquakes than previously thought due to more data and updated earthquake models. The most prominent changes are discussed below.

Informed Decisions Based on the Maps

With an understanding of potential ground shaking levels, various risk analyses can be calculated by considering factors like population levels, building exposure, and building construction practices. This is used for establishing building codes, and in the analysis of seismic risk for key structures. This can also help in determining insurance rates, emergency preparedness plans, and private property decisions such as re-evaluating one’s home and making it more resilient.

These maps are part of USGS contributions to the National Earthquake Hazards Reduction Program (NEHRP), which is a congressionally-established partnership of four federal agencies with the purpose of reducing risks to life and property in the U.S. that result from earthquakes. The contributing agencies are the USGS, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Institute of Standards and Technology, and National Science Foundation (NSF). As an example of the collaboration, the hazards identified in the USGS maps underlie FEMA-sponsored seismic design provisions that are incorporated into building codes adopted by states and localities. The maps also reflect investments in research by academic and other scientists supported by grants from the USGS and the NSF.

“The standards for seismic safety in building codes are directly based upon USGS assessments of potential ground shaking from earthquakes, and have been for years,” said Jim Harris, a member and former chair of the Provisions Update Committee of the Building Seismic Safety Council.

“The committees preparing those standards welcome this updated USGS information as a basis for making decisions and continuing to ensure the most stable and secure construction.”

Key Updates

East Coast

The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments. As one example, scientists learned a lot following the magnitude 5.8 earthquake that struck Virginia in 2011. It was among the largest earthquakes to occur along the east coast in the last century, and helped determine that even larger events are possible. Estimates of earthquake hazards near Charleston, SC, have also gone up due to the assessment of earthquakes in the state.

In New York City, the maps indicate a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought (but still a hazard nonetheless). Scientists estimated a lower likelihood for slow shaking from an earthquake near the city. Slow shaking is likely to cause more damage to tall structures in contrast, compared to fast shaking which is more likely to impact shorter structures.

Central U.S.

The New Madrid Seismic Zone has been identified to have a larger range of potential earthquake magnitudes and locations than previously identified. This is a result of a range of new research, part of which was recently compiled by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

West Coast

In California, earthquake hazard extends over a wider area than previously thought. Most notably, faults were recently discovered, raising earthquake hazard estimates for San Jose, Vallejo and San Diego. On the other hand, new insights on faults and rupture processes reduced earthquake hazard estimates for Irvine, Santa Barbara and Oakland. Hazard increased in some parts of the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles region and decreased in other parts. These updates were from the new Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast Model, which incorporates many more potential fault ruptures than did previous assessments. Recent earthquakes in Alaska, Mexico and New Zealand taught scientists more about complex ruptures and how faults can link together. This insight was applied to California for which approximately 250,000 potential complex ruptures were modeled.

New research on the Cascadia Subduction Zone resulted in increased estimates of earthquake magnitude up to magnitude 9.3. Deep-sea cores were collected that show evidence within the sea-floor sediments of large earthquake-generated mudflows. Earthquake shaking estimates were also increased following abundant data gathered from the magnitude 9.0 earthquake in Tohoku, Japan in 2011 and the magnitude 8.2 earthquake offshore of Chile in 2014, as those events ruptured along subduction zones similar to the Pacific Northwest zone.

In Washington, scientists incorporated new knowledge of the Tacoma Fault into the maps and identified changes to the geometry of the Whidbey Island fault in the northern Puget Sound. Earthquake hazard also increased for Las Vegas because of new science. In Utah, scientists dug trenches to study prehistoric earthquakes along the Wasatch Fault. While the overall seismic hazard didn’t change significantly, detailed changes were made to the fault models in this region and robust data were acquired to hone the assessments. This is valuable since approximately 75% of Utah’s population, including the residents of Salt Lake City, lives near this fault.

The magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Wenchuan, China in 2008 provided many new records of shaking that are very similar to anticipated future earthquakes in the western U.S., as the fault structures are similar. Previously, scientists did not have nearly as many shaking records from earthquakes of this size.

Induced Earthquakes … Research Underway

Some states have experienced increased seismicity in the past few years that may be associated with human activities such as the disposal of wastewater in deep wells.

One specific focus for the future is including an additional layer to these earthquake hazard maps to account for recent potentially triggered earthquakes that occur near some wastewater disposal wells. Injection-induced earthquakes are challenging to incorporate into hazard models because they may not behave like natural earthquakes and their rates change based on man-made activities.

You Can’t Plan If …

“USGS earthquake science is vital because you can’t plan for earthquakes if you don’t know what you are planning for,” said Mark Petersen, Chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project. “Our nation’s population and exposure to large earthquakes has grown tremendously in recent years. The cost of inaction in planning for future earthquakes and other natural disasters can be very high, as demonstrated by several recent damaging events across the globe. It is important to understand the threat you face from earthquakes at home and the hazards for the places you might visit. The USGS is dedicated to applying the best available science in developing reliable products useful for reducing the earthquake risk across the U.S.”

Start with USGS Science

The USGS is the only federal agency with responsibility for recording and reporting earthquake activity nationwide and providing a seismic hazard assessment. The USGS regularly updates the national seismic hazard models and maps, typically every 6 years, in sync with the building code updates. The 2014 update focuses on the conterminous U.S. Maps are also available for Alaska (last updated in 2007); Hawaii (1998); Puerto Rico (2003); Guam and Marianna Islands (2012); and American Samoa (2012).

View the maps online at: here

Rasmussen Reports


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Some of America’s attention has shifted overseas in recent days, but major problems persist on the homefront.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of voters now think the United States is a more divided nation than it was four years ago, and Republicans are the most eager to do something about it at the ballot box.

Voters continue to trust the GOP more than Democrats on the majority of issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports including the economy, government spending and immigration.

Voters still expect Republicans to repeal Obamacare if they take control of Congress in November. As new allegations of fraud surround the troubled rollout process for the law, nearly half of voters have a negative opinion of President Obama’s handling of health care issues.

Democrats have led Republicans for most weeks this year, but the two are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

Businessman David Perdue, coming off his Republican runoff win on Tuesday, holds a six-point lead over Democrat Michelle Nunn in Georgia’s closely-watched U.S. Senate race.

Longtime Republican Senator Jim Inhofe appears to be cruising comfortably toward reelection in Oklahoma.

But our first numbers out of the New Mexico governor’s race are quite a surprise.

Is this the new normal? Americans continue to hold a gloomy assessment of the economy’s chances for improvement in both the short- and long-term. Just 25% believe the U.S. economy will be stronger a year from now.

Consumer and investor confidence are down from this year’s highs but remain ahead of where they’ve been for much of the last five years.

Yet even as thousands of new illegal immigrants flood over the border, more Americans than ever say it’s no longer possible for just about anyone in this country to work their way out of poverty.

Voters still give the president mediocre reviews for his handling of both the economy and national security issues. His daily job approval rating remains in the high negative teens.

U.S. voters are overwhelmingly convinced that Russia had a hand in the recent shootdown of a Malaysia Airlines passenger jet over Ukraine, but they also strongly believe any punishment should be a multinational one and not come from just the United States.

Were the unsuspecting passengers and crew on board accidental casualties of war or deliberate targets? What does America think about the airline shootdown?
One thing’s for sure, Americans say the tragedy in Ukraine won’t discourage them from flying in the future.

Even though the president is reportedly sending U.S. military advisers to Ukraine, most voters don’t want the United States to provide military assistance to the government there to help fight pro-Russian rebels. Perhaps in part that’s because they feel more strongly than ever that the U.S.-Soviet Cold War is beginning to repeat itself.

Most voters also oppose more direct U.S. involvement to end the fighting between Israelis and Palestinians in Gaza and favor instead cutting some or all U.S. funding to the two sides to force a peace settlement.

In other surveys last week:

— Twenty-six percent (26%) of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

— Most Americans continue to believe crime is a serious problem in this country, and half think there aren’t enough police officers to stop it.

— Baltimore is just about to institute one of the strictest youth nighttime curfew laws in the country. Most Americans think the curfew is likely to help reduce youth crime and favor such a measure in their community.

— Most Americans don’t want the federal government in their grocery shopping carts.

On a list of some of the world’s best-known conspiracy theories, Americans are most likely to believe the one about JFK’s assassination. But President George W. Bush and President Obama don’t escape suspicion.

July 19 2014




U.S. Sees Risks in Assisting a Compromised Iraqi Force



WASHINGTON — A classified military assessment of Iraq’s security forces concludes that many units are so deeply infiltrated by either Sunni extremist informants or Shiite personnel backed by Iran that any Americans assigned to advise Baghdad’s forces could face risks to their safety, according to United States officials.

The report concludes that only about half of Iraq’s operational units are capable enough for American commandos to advise them if the White House decides to help roll back the advances made by Sunni militants in northern and western Iraq over the past month.

Adding to the administration’s dilemma is the assessment’s conclusion that Iraqi forces loyal to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki are now heavily dependent on Shiite militias — many of which were trained in Iran — as well as on advisers from Iran’s paramilitary Quds Force.

Usama al-Nujaifi, the former speaker of Iraq’s Parliament, spoke on Sunday in Baghdad about the delay to name a new speaker.

Shiite militias fought American troops after the United States invaded Iraq and might again present a danger to American advisers. But without an American-led effort to rebuild Iraq’s security forces, there may be no hope of reducing the Iraqi government’s dependence on those Iranian-backed militias, officials caution.

The findings underscore the challenges ahead for the Obama administration as it seeks to confront militants with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which has seized major cities in Iraq, all but erased the Syrian-Iraqi border and, on Sunday, staged a raid less than an hour’s drive from Baghdad.

At the center of the administration debate is whether to send more military advisers, weaponry and surveillance systems — and, if so, in what numbers, at what cost and at what levels of risk — to a country that American combat troops left in 2011, but that now teeters on the brink of collapse.

While sending American advisers to Iraq would expose them to risks and could embroil them again in conflict, waiting to act may also limit the administration’s ability to counter ISIS and encourage the formation of a more inclusive government in Baghdad.

“There’s risks to allowing things just to try to resolve themselves, particularly when there are interests that could affect our country,” Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Votel, the head of the military’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee last week when asked why the Americans should not let the warring factions in Iraq fight one another.

The Pentagon’s decision this month to rush 200 troops, plus six Apache helicopter gunships and Shadow surveillance drones, to the Baghdad airport was prompted by a classified intelligence assessment that the sprawling complex, the main hub for sending and withdrawing American troops and diplomats, was vulnerable to attack by ISIS fighters, American officials have now disclosed.

“It’s a mess,” said one senior Obama administration official who has been briefed on the draft assessment and who, like two other American officials briefed, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the continuing review and the delicate nature of the assessment.

The draft of about 120 pages is now being reviewed by Gen. Lloyd J. Austin III, the head of the military’s Central Command, which oversees operations in the Middle East. General Austin could make changes or request additional information from the assessment teams in Iraq, but a final version is expected to be sent to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other top Pentagon officials this week, officials said.

Rear Adm. John F. Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, declined on Sunday to comment on the draft assessment, saying in a statement, “Though the initial work of the assessment teams is largely complete, senior leaders have yet to formally receive or review it.”

The assessment does not contain specific recommendations. Those will be developed separately by the Central Command and the military’s Joint Staff once the final report is forwarded to the Pentagon and shared with President Obama and his top national security aides.

As ISIS advanced across northern and western Iraq, six teams of American Special Operations forces were rushed in to assess an Iraqi Army that was trained and equipped by the United States at a cost of more than $25 billion, but which experienced a drop-off in training after the American withdrawal and has been greatly handicapped by Mr. Maliki’s push to appoint commanders based more on political loyalty than military skill.

The assessment, which took two weeks to prepare under the guidance of Maj. Gen. Dana J. H. Pittard of the Army, graded the strengths and weaknesses of units down to the brigade level, examining their equipment, ammunition, sectarian makeup, morale, leadership and other indicators. Each unit’s overall capability was rendered in a blunt color-coded chart: green if capable; red if not.

One of the assessment’s conclusions was that Iraqi forces had the ability to defend Baghdad, but not necessary hold all of it, especially against a major attack. Already, the capital has been targeted by ISIS car bombs.

Several retired Army generals who oversaw the effort to build the Iraqi Army before the United States withdrawal said American advisers still could make an important contribution.

“We must not only commit the right number of advisers, but they must go to the right places — in the field with Iraqi security forces,” said Michael D. Barbero, a retired lieutenant general who was in charge of training the Iraqi forces from 2009 to 2011.


In Baghdad, middle-class Sunnis say they prefer militants to Maliki

By Abigail Hauslohner July 12 


BAGHDAD — The Sunni worshipers who visit the main mosque in this relatively affluent neighborhood of west Baghdad are a far cry from Islamist extremists.

“We are intellectuals,” the mosque’s imam, Aday Moussa, said of a group that includes doctors, professors — and, especially, former members of Saddam Hussein’s army and security services.

The worshipers and other Sunnis interviewed in Baghdad said they have little affinity for the al-Qaeda-inspired Islamic State that routed Iraqi forces last month and declared a “caliphate” across a vast swath of the country.

But as the militants take aim at Iraq’s Shiite-dominated government, these educated, professional Sunnis leave no doubt that their sympathies lie with the insurgents.

“It’s a revolution against oppression,” Moussa said. “We believe there will be a zero hour here in Baghdad soon. The Sunnis have nothing to lose.”

Iraqi Sunnis span a wide spectrum, including rural tribal sheiks, violent jihadists, urban intellectuals and whiskey-swilling adherents to the old ruling Baath party. They are deeply divided — a fact that Nouri al-Maliki and his fellow Shiite leaders hope to exploit at a moment of national crisis.

But the militants’ sweep to power in Sunni-dominated provinces has been fueled to a significant degree by support from these other Sunnis. It has been an unlikely alliance, born of a sense of disenchantment voiced in Baghdad by men such as Moussa and his neighbors — in terms that cast a long shadow over Iraq’s future.

In a divided capital where flags of the Shiite faith flutter above army checkpoints, members of both sects murmur about that zero hour — an imagined moment when Sunni militants from the north and west wreak havoc on Shiites and bring Baghdad under their control.

“We sympathize a lot with the revolutionaries,” said a 33-year-old government bureaucrat in the Sunni-majority neighborhood of Amiriyah in west Baghdad. “And at the same time, we’re afraid of the response by the government.”

The bureaucrat was among a dozen Sunni residents of Baghdad, including former military men, who spoke with surprising fervor in interviews over the past week about the fact that they prefer the Islamists to the Shiite-led government that has marginalized them.

Maliki and his allies are widely seen here as having systematically discriminated against Sunnis, targeting them for arrests, torture, recrimination and violence over the decade since a Shiite-led government rose to power after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

The Iraqi bureaucrat gave only his nickname, Abu Maryam, which means “Father of Maryam,” because he fears arrest by the Shiite militias and Shiite-dominated security forces who, he and his wife said, prowl the neighborhood at night, snatching young men and searching homes for weapons.


How the Islamic State is carving out a new country

Bodies have begun to turn up daily in Baghdad’s streets, in scenes reminiscent of the sectarian killings that ravaged the country in 2006 and 2007. Recently, militiamen seized two young men from a nearby mosque shortly before dawn, Abu Maryam’s wife said. No one knows what happened to them.

In recent days, the victims have included a middle-aged man, shot in the head in the Shiite neighborhood of Shabab; a younger man, shot in the head in the Sunni neighborhood of Ghazaliyah; and a woman and her son, fatally shot in their home in the predominantly Shiite New Baghdad area.

Some Sunnis interviewed made clear that they despise the Islamic State militants but that their feelings about the group’s territorial gains are more complicated.

“They are not Muslims,” said a Sunni heart surgeon in Yarmouk who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he said he feared reprisals. “Their solution — to cut and to kill people — that’s not Islam.”

But the surgeon said that he agrees with the militants that Maliki’s government should be defeated — although he said he would prefer that it be at the hands of the Sunni tribesmen fighting alongside the extremists.

Like other middle-class Sunnis and former military men interviewed, the surgeon said he has been underemployed and increasingly angry since U.S. forces invaded in 2003 to overthrow Saddam Hussein and his Sunni-dominated regime.


Fighting the extremists

In its effort to placate growing anger on all sides, Iraq’s parliament is expected to convene Sunday. It is under pressure to form a new government, possibly led by someone other than Maliki, in the hope that political change could help turn back the militants’ advance.

Some signs of intra-Sunni friction have emerged in areas controlled by the Islamic State, including sporadic fighting between militants and the more-secular former Baathists in Salahuddin province in central Iraq.

The United Nations has said that 13 Sunni clerics were executed last month in the northern city of Mosul for refusing to pledge allegiance to the militants. Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni who until recently was speaker of parliament, said further splits in Mosul have been ignited by the militants’ kidnapping of some former Iraqi military commanders in Mosul.

But Nujaifi and others say Iraq’s sectarian divisions run so deeply that it will take more than a new government to turn the tide.

Nabeal Younis, a political science professor at Baghdad University, said the Shiite-dominated government and its security forces must be restructured to allow more Sunnis — even those disillusioned with Maliki — to join Baghdad and fight the insurgents.

“When the people feel that the government is a national, patriotic one, working for all Iraqis rather than a few people, they’ll fight,” he said.

Seven years ago, U.S. forces in Iraq backed what was known as the Awakening movement by working with Sunni tribal leaders to fight the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to the Islamic State. After the U.S. military handed over administration of the program to the Iraqi government, the Awakening fell into disarray, a collapse that critics blame on Maliki’s government.

“They didn’t pay their salaries or arm them. On the contrary, they were arresting them, and charged them with being terrorists,” Nujaifi said. He and other Sunnis suggested that Iraq might have averted the current crisis if Maliki had chosen a different course.

Meanwhile, Baghdad is bracing for more bloodshed.

“If the different parties don’t work together as soon as possible, I think it’s going to be very dangerous,” Younis said. He likened the capital to a dormant volcano. “If there is an explosion, it will be hard to stop.”



Pentagon Delays Navy’s Carrier Drone Program

By Kris Osborn Friday, July 11th, 2014 3:45 pm


The Pentagon has delayed the carrier-launched drone program amid ongoing reviews of the program’s requirements and has considered drafting a new, joint capabilities document for the Navy aircraft, defense officials told Military​.com.

A planned competition among defense companies has been put on hold as the Pentagon examines plans for the drone and responds to criticism from lawmakers that the initial requirements have been too narrowly configured.

A formal Request For Proposal, or RFP, which had been planned for release by the Navy later this month, has been suspended due to concerns that the requirements do not fully allow for the development of stealth characteristics and other key attributes such as weaponry and payload.

“It appears that the release of the RFP will again be put on hold,” a high-level defense official said.

The Navy plans to deliver a carrier-based drone by 2020, called the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike, or UCLASS, system.

The decision emerged as the result of a preliminary Defense Acquisition Board, or DAB, which criticized the existing requirements for disproportionately favoring long-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions over stealth technologies and strike.

Criticism of the requirements has come, in large measure, from analysts, defense officials and lawmakers such as Rep. Randy Forbes, R-Va., chairman of the House’s Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee.

Discussion at the DAB centered on the need to create a new, joint Capabilities Development Document, or CDD, for the UCLASS program designed to ensure that the RFP addresses more expansive requirements including stealth, weaponry and electronic attack.

A new, joint CDD would likely include substantial input from other services, such as the Air Force, the defense source said.

Through the engineering of stealth platforms such as the B-2 bomber, the Air Force has extensive experience designing low-observable or stealth aircraft.

Analysts have questioned whether the platform can adapt over time or whether features like stealth and electronic attack need to be engineered into the original design at from the start.

In particular, low-observable or stealth specifications are needed to help the UCLASS evade increasingly sophisticated enemy air defenses and a broadly scoped payload or weapons delivery capability is needed to maximize its effectiveness for future engagements, lawmakers and Pentagon officials have said.

Furthermore, the UCLASS drone will need to overcome what the Pentagon refers to as anti-access/area-denial, or A2/AD threats, meaning adversaries with increasingly sophisticated long-range missiles and air defenses, among other things.

One source explained if the UCLASS is configured to carry the extra fuel needed for longer-endurance missions, then it will need to be built with a larger vertical signature and therefore have a less-stealthy design. For this reason, advocates for more expansive requirements have favored planning for more aerial refueling of the drone in order to ensure that it is engineered with a stealthy, low-observable design.

While not willing to comment publically on plans for stealth or low-observability for UCLASS, Navy program officials have maintained that the program’s requirements do call for a weaponized strike platform as well as an ISR vehicle. However, the weapons capability is something that is described as incremental, meaning it will be engineered into the platform over time, Navy officials explained.

Critics however, have questioned whether this is possible and favored building an original design at the beginning of the program with stealth and weaponry factored into the construction and engineering.

Last summer, the Navy awarded four contracts valued at $15 million for preliminary design review for the UCLASS to Boeing, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.


What Happened to America’s Most Important Arctic Ships?

The nation’s fleet of ice-cutting ships is getting older, and congressional action to modernize it isn’t moving at breakneck speed.

By Marina Koren

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July 11, 2014


The service’s fleet of icebreakers, ships designed to navigate and cut through ice-covered waters in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, is getting older. The vessels themselves are slowly deteriorating, and by 2020, naval experts say the country’s icebreaking capabilities will run out.

The powerful ships, which can break through ice up to 6 feet thick, monitor sea traffic, conduct scientific research, and carry out search-and-rescue missions for other nation’s ships at both ends of the world. Their presence alone allows the U.S. defend its national security, economic, and environmental interests in the Arctic region, whose vast natural resources have several countries vying for more control.

The Coast Guard currently has four polar icebreakers. The Polar Star, commissioned in 1976, was reactivated in late 2012, after spending eight years getting repairs for worn-out motors. The Polar Sea, commissioned in 1977, has been docked in Seattle since 2011, inoperative because of engine problems.

A third icebreaker, the 14-year-old Healy, has less ice-cutting capability; it mostly supports research. The nation’s fourth and final icebreaker is the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a small research vessel built for the National Science Foundation in 1992.

Because of their speed and strength, the polars Star and Sea are the most crucial vessels of the U.S. presence in the polar regions. But both are several years beyond their intended life service of 30 years, and Coast Guard officials are unsure how much life the Polar Star has left. A Coast Guard study in 2011 found that the military service needs at least three active, heavy-duty icebreakers to properly carry out its North Pole duties. For the next few years, if nothing changes, it will have only one.

The timeline for getting a brand new icebreaker appears to be less certain than ever. In its budget submission for fiscal 2013, the Homeland Security Department said it planned to award a construction contract for the ship within the next five years. In its submission for fiscal 2015, there’s no mention of a construction contract at all.

A January 2011 report from the DHS inspector general found that the Coast Guard “does not have the necessary budgetary control” over its polar icebreakers, “nor does it have a sufficient number of icebreakers to accomplish its missions in the polar regions.”

The budgetary control lies with Congress, which must determine how to modernize the Coast Guard’s icebreaker fleet: repair the ships, or build new ones? But the push to address the aging fleet isn’t exactly moving at breakneck speed. A House reauthorization bill for Coast Guard spending for the next two years passed in April. A Senate version, which includes funding for reactivating the Polar Sea, remains in committee. Late last month, Reps. Rick Larsen, D-Wash., and John Garamendi, D-Calif., wrote a letter to the Coast Guard, asking the service to reactivate the Polar Sea so the U.S. doesn’t fall behind in the Arctic.

Repairing and reactivating the Polar Sea for another seven to 10 years of service would take three years and cost about $100 million. A new icebreaker designed to last 30 years would cost $852 million. In its latest budget proposal, the Coast Guard requested $6 million for a preliminary plan to acquire a new icebreaker. Last year, it was granted just $2 million for the project.

In March, Adm. Robert Papp, then the commandant of the Coast Guard, told Congress, “It’s going to be tough to fit a billion-dollar icebreaker in our five-year plan without displacing other things.”

No country has yet laid full claim to the Arctic region, which is home to 15 percent of the world’s oil and a third of its undiscovered natural gas. But the U.S. is about to gain a lot more responsibility there, thanks to its turn as the chair of the Arctic Council, a forum of polar nations, next year. A young and capable fleet of icebreakers would certainly come in handy then.


By Sandra I. Erwin

The export of China’s armed drones illustrates how a country can succeed in the international arms market even when its technology is not the world’s best.
China’s drone exports are an example of availability trumping technology, says a new industry survey. Foreign nations’ ability to rush products to market and lax export controls are giving the U.S. defense industry a run for its money, according to a recent survey of 350 aerospace and defense executives conducted by Avascent and FleishmanHillard.
China’s unmanned aviation exports are a cautionary tale. The country has developed three armed drones, and their export is unhindered by treaties, such as the Missile Technology Control Regime, analysts Jon Barney and Matthew Breen write in a white paper.

China’s Yilong unmanned aircraft made by Aviation Industry Corp., not coincidentally, resembles a U.S. Air Force Predator. “Deploying what has been a signature U.S. battlefield advantage may be too much to resist,” the white paper says.
Saudi Arabia, a reliable buyer of U.S. weaponry, is reportedly interested in armed Chinese drones, which could displace or augment costlier systems such as attack helicopters. Barney and Breen estimate that from 2014 to 2017, spending on unmanned aircraft outside of the United States will grow by 16 percent per year, and procurement of combat drones will increase from $359 million in 2014 to $1.18 billion by 2019. Although the drone market is a small slice of the military aviation pie, analysts see it as a vivid example of what is happening in the defense market and of the “daunting long-term challenge” coming from China.
Sweden’s recent success with the Saab Gripen fighter also should be a warning sign for U.S. firms, the paper says. Saab updated its Gripen fighter with advanced electronically scanned radar and electronic warfare systems that are typically found on bigger, more expensive jets, and is offering it at bargain prices — including leasing arrangements — that put U.S. fighters at a competitive disadvantage, contends Barney. “The company’s double-barreled approach on price and capability gives it a disruptive presence as its deal with Brazil showed.” Brazil picked the Gripen over the Boeing F/A-18 and the Dassault Rafale last year after a lengthy marketing campaign.

With a military budget of $618 billion in 2013, the United States accounted for 37 percent of global military expenditures. But U.S. defense budgets are flattening out while spending in the rest of the world is expected to top $500 billion in 2016, up from just over $300 billion in 2008, says Barney. “The rising tide in global defense spending is creating a much more competitive market than is currently appreciated. Industry leaders forecasting easy wins are setting themselves, and investors, up to be disappointed.”

In the survey, 80 percent of executives said they believe they will face a tough competitive environment overseas, but only 6 percent of them are confident that their companies are well prepared to play in this field. Russia is a perennial rival, but other “aggressive new competitors have arrived, with China cited as the top challenger,” he says. Surveyed executives also cited Israel, India, Brazil, Canada, South Korea, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates as emerging rivals.

American firms also appear vulnerable in markets where the U.S. has long held leadership positions, the survey says, such as unmanned aerial platforms, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, missiles, and satellites. According to one executive, the competition for international defense deals  is “heating up to fever pitch due in part to lagging U.S. sales but also due to ITAR [International Traffic in Arms Regulations] throttling the market to such a narrow family of products, and fewer companies able to effectively navigate the international business culture.”



Air Force’s James aimed ‘deep’ at nuke corps ills


— Jul. 14, 2014 2:36 PM EDT


WASHINGTON (AP) — When Deborah Lee James became top boss of the Air Force seven months ago she had no inkling a nuclear crisis was brewing. But once it erupted in the form of exam-cheating by dozens of missile launch officers, she quickly announced conclusions that no Air Force leader before her had dared state publicly.

The nuclear missile corps’ problems run deep, she said, morale is “spotty” and forceful fixes are needed.

James reached those conclusions in January after a short visit to the three Air Force bases that operate intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. She met not only with commanders but with the rank-and-file, including enlisted airmen who keep the missiles running properly and junior officers trained to launch them.

“I walked away believing there was something systemic, cultural if you will, that went beyond cheating and (that’s) why I felt like we needed to not just address cheating — yes, we have to fix that — but we need to go farther than that,” she said in an Associated Press interview in her Pentagon office overlooking the Potomac River.

To her it seemed natural to acknowledge this publicly, although others in the Air Force had chosen not to.

“I hope and believe I am a straight talker,” she said. “I think it’s better to just say it. Don’t mince words. And so I thought it was important to just stand up publicly and say what seemed to be obvious to me.”

Her candor and crisis management have won praise from Republicans and Democrats alike.

“She has forged relationships with troops and listened to their inputs,” said Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, the California Republican who is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “She has identified shortfalls in ICBM leadership and made corrections. That is a sharp difference from the way Air Force leadership has handled these issues in the past.”

James, 55, is only the second woman to serve as Air Force secretary, the service’s top civilian official. She took office in December 2013 following months of Associated Press reports documenting problems inside the nuclear missile corps, starting with the sidelining in April 2013 of 19 launch officers at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota for what commanders called attitude and performance flaws. It was an unprecedented action and coincided with the AP’s publication of an internal email from an officer at Minot complaining of “rot” inside the ICBM force.

Senior Air Force officers at the time generally dismissed the reports, saying any problems were localized and limited.

“I don’t particularly agree that we have any compelling problems” in the ICBM force, Maj. Gen. Garrett Harencak, the top nuclear weapons staff officer at Air Force headquarters, said in June 2013. “The morale of our crews out there — I’ve been out there — is exceedingly, exceedingly, good.”

James took a look for herself in January 2014 and saw something different, worse than she had imagined. She traveled to each of the three ICBM bases after disclosing at a Pentagon news conference that 34 launch officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana had been implicated in a cheating scandal and a small number of those were also suspects in an illegal drug use investigation. (The number implicated in the cheating later rose to nearly 100.)

Before James hit the road she quickly gathered enough information about the dimensions of the cheating to satisfy herself that it did not amount to “a major problem that could be of catastrophic consequences.”

“But still, why did this happen and what is going on?” she asked herself.

What she found was a set of interconnected problems that went deeper than the cheating. She spotted morale issues, with airmen asking, in essence, why is it that the Air Force claims the nuclear mission is its No. 1 priority and yet missile facilities are in poor shape and spare parts are in short supply?

“Some of the things I saw had been of a longstanding nature,” she said. “So why had these things not gotten fixed before? It’s a good question, and I can’t really answer that.”

James, a native of Rumson, New Jersey, never served in the military but spent a decade — from 1983 to 1993 — as a professional staff member on the House Armed Services Committee, which has oversight responsibility for the Defense Department. From 2002-13 she was a senior executive at Science Applications International Corp. in McLean, Virginia.

John Hamre, who was on the professional staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee while she was a counterpart on the House side, said he was not surprised that she quickly sized up the nuclear problem and attacked it head on.

“She is wise enough to know that you cannot fudge your way through a political problem if you don’t solve it. It keeps coming back. The way she handled the ICBM problem was typical Debbie James,” said Hamre, who also worked closely with James from 1993-97 when he was the Pentagon’s budget chief and she was assistant secretary of defense for reserve affairs. Hamre, who later was deputy defense secretary, is now president and chief executive officer of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

James said she was surprised by the ICBM crisis, but not unprepared.

“Life comes at you fast and furious sometimes,” she said with a grin




‘Six Californias’ plan may make 2016 ballot

Laura Mandaro, USAToday 9:43 a.m. EDT July 15, 2014


SAN FRANCISCO — A plan backed by venture capitalist Tim Draper to split California into six states has gained enough signatures to make the November 2016 ballot, the plan’s backers say.

A Twitter account belonging to the nonprofit Six Californias tweeted on Monday that “#SixCalifornias will be submitting signatures in Sacramento tomorrow for placement on the November 2016 ballot. Stay tuned for coverage!”

Roger Salazar, a spokesman for the campaign, said it’s gathered more than the approximately 808,000 signatures needed to place the measure on the ballot, Reuters reported.

Draper is a founding member of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetsen, known for its investments in successful growth ventures such as Hotmail, Baidu, Tesla Motors and Skype. Recently, Draper won the federal government’s auction of bitcoins once owned by online drugs portal Silk Road. He’s championed the political break-up of the state for over a year, but it’s taken until recently for the plan to gain some momentum.

Draper and other supporters of the break-up argue that the state’s 38 million people would be better served by smaller governments and elected officials who would be able to work more closely with their constituents.

“If we have six Californias and we in effect dissolve the one we’ve got, those six allow us a new start,” Draper says in a video posted on the Six Californias website. Each state, which would have its own capital and legislature, would be able to write its own constitution.

The six carved out states would look like this:


•Jefferson: The northern part of the state, including Humboldt and Mendocino counties.

•North California: The wine country counties of Sonoma and Napa, as well as the Sierra Nevada region.

•Silicon Valley: Including San Francisco, San Jose and most of what’s considered the San Francisco Bay Area.

•Central California: The vast central valley farm region, including Tulare and Fresno counties.

•West California: Including Santa Barbara and Los Angeles.

•South California: Including what’s called the Inland Empire of San Bernadino and Riverside, plus San Diego.


The plan has met with resistance from California’s Democratic majority, and a Field Poll found 59% of Californians surveyed were against the plan, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio didn’t mince words criticizing the plan. He tweeted Monday:

But interest in the plan has been strong enough to send Draper and his campaigners to Sacramento — for now, the one and only capital of California. They’ll reveal the exact number of signatures they received on Tuesday in a news conference, according to the Chronicle.


Australia:- Inquiry into unmanned aircraft calls for new laws

by Press • 15 July 2014


An extensive inquiry into the into the operation and risks associated with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) has catalogued a raft of serious safety concerns, cautioning that new privacy laws could be needed to control intrusive surveillance enabled by airborne cameras.

A report issued on Monday into the use of so-called ‘drones’ by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Social Policy and Legal Affairs says that although the remotely-controlled devices are set to revolutionise farming, mining, policing, science and other industries, safety has now “become a prominent concern, with numerous injuries and near-misses reported across Australia.”

The House of Reps report comes as law enforcement and emergency agencies, commercial operators and hobbyists continue to buy what are officially termed ‘Remotely Piloted Aircraft’ (RPAS) in ever increasing numbers.


Now the trend is now forcing policy makers to weigh-up the risks and rewards of the technology.

Canberra’s ‘drone committee’ is now pushing the Abbott government to consider “legislating for a tort of privacy, as proposed in the discussion paper of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s Inquiry into Serious Invasions of Privacy in the Digital Era” because of the potential for intrusive abuse of the machines.

Part of the worry is that increasingly cheap flying machines coupled with ever more powerful cameras could create an airborne paparazzi surveillance state that would be nearly impossible to evade as they fly up and peer into bedroom windows.

However emergency services, transport operators and aviation regulators are just as concerned that the proliferation of RPAs in the hands of overenthusiastic amateurs could cost lives in the event of collisions or equipment failures.

In particular, the report cites evidence from aviation authorities who argue that while commercial and private aircraft are built, tested and certified to high levels of reliability based on globally recognised standards, cheap hobbyist devices are not built to anywhere near the same quality.

Regulators, like the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) are not holding back in terms of expressing their concerns.

“The difficulty with the proliferation of these [unmanned aerial systems] … is that they are not built to any standard,” CASA’s Director of Aviation Safety, John McCormick, is quoted in the report as telling the inquiry.

“There is no international standard at this stage. So their ability to maintain altitude, their ability to maintain heading, their ability to suffer equipment failure and then not crash, have not been established.”

Adding weight to those concerns is what now appears to be an inevitable increase in drone-related safety incidents both on the ground and in the air.

One now well-publicised incident involved a drone crashing into a pylon of Sydney Harbour Bridge and landing on the train line below. The report says that the operator of the drone had said that he had assumed the device had landed in the water, however footage posted to the internet from the device’s camera showed “Sydney transport workers retrieving the RPA.”

Another RPA incident involved a night time near miss for a rescue helicopter in Newcastle that was forced to take evasive action after the chopper crew realized airborne lights they had spotted at 1000 feet were not a larger aircraft at some distance away but a smaller object that was much closer.

“CASA regulations forbid recreational RPA users from sending their craft higher than 400 feet or from flying RPAs over populous areas. They also forbid RPA operators from flying them within five kilometres of an aerodrome,” the report said.

Despite the increase in safety and privacy problems, many organisations are urging caution that more stringent regulation of RPA’s should not ground a developing legitimate industry that offers governments and private clients substantial benefits that ranges from spotting bushfires to managing mining stockpiles or weeds.

The Australian Federal Police told the inquiry that it was using RPAs in situations that would ordinarily use a cherry picker to get a view. The unmanned aircraft were advantageous because they were ultimately more transportable.

Lindsay Pears from the Queensland Department of State Development, Industry and Planning told the Committee that there were concerns that recreational and uncertified commercial users could harm a fledgling industry.


“A lot of the professional operators in the industry are really concerned about that… it could totally disrupt the market at an embryonic stage of growth,” Mr Pears is cited as telling the inquiry.

The committee heard that professional RPA operators were keen to access and comply with regulations as they emerged.



USAF Secretary: New Groups Will Focus on Industry Cooperation

Jul. 15, 2014 – 11:07AM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


FARNBOROUGH, ENGLAND — The US Air Force is in the process of standing up two study groups to understand how to streamline the acquisition process, according to the service’s secretary.

Deborah Lee James told reporters at the Farnborough International Airshow here that she is seeking better relations with industry to understand how the service can become more nimble in its interactions with business.

“I also care about an industrial base and I’ve been trying to bring the message with me that we collectively are working to streamline processes and procedures,” James said. “Get away from as much rigidity as we’ve had in the past, think about doing our requirements a little differently and having a more open dialogue with industry to try and jointly work those problems.

“Exportability of our US products is important.”

Earlier, James addressed a crowd at the US international pavilion and discussed her plan for improving communications with industry.

“We’re still too rigid in our processes and procedures,” James told the crowd. “We still take too long too frequently to get things done.

“We have got to learn to talk to each other freely,” she added.

To make that happen, James said she has established two groups. The first is comprised of senior leaders from the Air Force and industry with the goal of figuring out what are the major roadblocks to speeding up business. Some good suggestions, such as improved communication about industry days, have already been floated, James said.

The second group is focused on IT and business systems, and is still being assembled.

“Many of you know we have had some programs that we’re not very proud of in the Department of Defense, IT types of systems that haven’t delivered,” she said. “We don’t want any repeats of that.”

James said the service will unveil a blueprint for the future of the Air Force in the next few weeks, one based around reviews of what the Air Force will look like in 10, 20 and 30 years, ordered by Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.


Europe In Focus

James also took note of how important Europe is, as both a strategic and industrial partner.

“Obviously, Europe is hugely important to us,” she said. “Everybody talks about the rebalancing to the Pacific, that’s important too, but never ever losing sight of the importance of Europe and NATO.”

But that importance had been obscured in recent years, with the service part of the very public “rebalance” toward the Pacific. And previously, the focus had been on Afghanistan and Iraq. Europe seemed to be a relatively stable and peaceful region, but that changed when Russia invaded Ukraine and the US rotated force structure to Europe in a clear show of force.

“Yes, by necessity,” Gen. Frank Gorenc, the commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa, said when asked if the Ukraine situation had changed the US posture toward Europe.

When Gorenc talked with Defense News in February, he defended the Air Force’s role in Europe despite a public perception that the Middle East and Pacific dominate the service’s focus. The need for US forces in the region no longer seems to be in doubt, but questions about what happens next remain.

While noting that he was “satisfied” with the US response to the Ukraine crisis, Gorenc did note the situation gave an “impetus for creating discussion” around the current relationship of American and European forces.


Predator XP makes first flight

Jul. 15, 2014 |



The Predator XP, an updated version of the ubiquitous Predator UAV, has made its first flight.

The flight occurred June 27 at Castle Dome Airfield, U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground Range Complex in Arizona, according to a General Atomics news release. “During the company-funded 35-minute flight, Predator XP demonstrated its ability to launch, climb to operational altitude, complete basic airworthiness maneuvers, and land without any discrepancies,” General Atomics said.

Upgrades to the XP include triple-redundant avionics, an Automatic Takeoff and Landing System (ATLS), a Lynx multi-mode radar with Maritime Wide Area Surveillance (MWAS), high-definition electro-optical video, an improved Claw sensor control and image analysis software system, an Automatic Identification System (AIS) for maritime vessel monitoring and tracking, and a more efficient propulsion system.

The next tests will verify the UAV’s design, including flight safety, automatic takeoff and landing, payload and communications testing, as well as beyond line-of-sight satellite communications control. Otherwise, the UAV’s specifications are similar to the original Predator. The General Atomics Web site lists the XP as having a maximum altitude of 25,000 feet and an endurance of 35 hours.

“This first flight represents a major milestone for GA-ASI’s newest product line designed and developed for our international allies worldwide,” said General Atomics president Frank Pace. “We are now positioned to restart the Predator production line and proceed directly to full production in anticipation of new customer orders.”



The Future of Warfare: Small, Many, Smart vs. Few & Exquisite?

T.X. Hammes    

July 16, 2014


In the 1970s, faced with the USSR’s overwhelming superiority in numbers, the Department of Defense decided to compensate by focusing on high technology platforms. This led to the highly successful F-15, F-16, F-18, Abrams tanks, and Bradley fighting vehicles. Since then, the United States has continued to pursue cutting edge technology that has resulted in the highly capable F-22 and, when the testing and software development is complete, perhaps a highly capable F-35. Unfortunately, cost has accelerated faster than capabilities. And thus numbers have declined precipitously. The U.S. Air Force initially planned to buy 750 F-22s, but the high cost led Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to cap the program at 187. Nor has the Air Force been alone in pursuing top end systems. The Navy attempted an entirely new concept with “Streetfighter.” Meant to be a low-cost, highly capable ship to replace the Navy’s frigates and minesweepers for operations in brown water, it evolved into the Littoral Combat Ship. High cost and poor performance led the Navy to cut their planned purchase from 55 to 32 with potentially more cuts in the future. Similarly, the Zumwalt class destroyer program was initially planned for 32 ships, but rising costs mean only three will be built. The result has been a pattern of fielding exquisite platforms in diminishing numbers at great cost.


While it was the right decision to pursue high end systems in the 1970s, dramatic improvements in the fields of robotics, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, biology, and nano-materials are changing the cost/effectiveness calculation in favor of the “many and simple” against the “few and complex.” The convergence of these technologies and the steady decrease in costs even as capabilities increase is rapidly expanding the destructive power, range, and precision of weapons that soon will be both widely available and relatively cheap. As Frank Hoffman has noted, we are putting ourselves on the wrong side of a self-imposed cost curve.

To illustrate how small, many, and smart are emerging as major shifts in warfare, this article will start by examining why it is now possible to create small, smart, and cheap platforms that have sufficient range and combat capability to fulfill the very challenging role of power projection. It will then examine the implications for U.S. defense.



The last decade has made the global public familiar with expensive high end drones. Yet, perhaps the most interesting developments have taken place at the low cost end of the spectrum. In 1998, an industry/university consortium flew a composite drone from Newfoundland to Scotland on two gallons of fuel.By 2003, a hobbyist launched a GPS-guided model airplane/drone that flew autonomously from Newfoundland to precisely the right landing point in Ireland. Built of balsa and plywood with a tiny gasoline engine that burned less than one gallon of fuel in the 26 hour flight, it was cheap enough that the hobbyist built 23 to ensure he could be the first hobbyist to fly across the Atlantic. He made it with the third launch. In the intervening 12 years, governments, hobbyists, and businesses have steadily increased the range and capability of these platforms. Hobbyists and businesses have made use of the rapid technological convergence to decrease the cost of long-range, autonomous systems at least an order of magnitude. Today they are routinely flying smart systems with intercontinental range — they lack only a payload to be a precision weapons system. Their composite construction and very low energy usage mean they will be very difficult to detect.

Of even greater concern, these small, inexpensive drones are designed specifically to be used by people with no particular skills and no in-house maintenance system. Most still require a remote human operator. But flying them has become so easy that realtors and wedding photographers are using quad-copters with stabilized camera mounts to film properties and events. Industry has already taken the next step and provided farmers with inexpensive autonomous drones to monitor their crops. As one article explained:

What “drones” means to Kunde and the growing number of farmers like him is simply a low-cost aerial camera platform: either miniature fixed-wing airplanes or, more commonly, quadcopters and other multibladed small helicopters. These aircraft are equipped with an autopilot using GPS and a standard point-and-shoot camera controlled by the autopilot; … Whereas a traditional radio-­controlled aircraft needs to be flown by a pilot on the ground, in Kunde’s drone the autopilot (made by my company, 3D Robotics) does all the flying, from auto takeoff to landing. Its software plans the flight path, aiming for maximum coverage of the vineyards, and controls the camera to optimize the images for later analysis. … At the heart of a drone, the autopilot runs specialized software—often open-source programs created by communities such as DIY Drones, which I founded, rather than costly code from the aerospace industry.

Since air is the simplest environment, it is not surprising that fully autonomous, cheap, and long-range drones emerged there first. They will be followed quickly by maritime and ground systems. In 2010, Rutgers University launched an underwater “glider” drone that crossed the Atlantic Ocean unrefueled. This year, the U.S. Navy has launched an underwater glider that harvests energy from the ocean thermocline and plans for it to operate for five years without refueling.

In short, small air and sea platforms have demonstrated the capability of achieving intercontinental range while producing very little in the way of radar or heat signatures.



While most of the public focus has been on high-end drones conducting anti-terror strikes, the Chinese have fielded the Harpy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV). Initially developed in the 1990s by Israel as an anti-radar system, the Chinese version has a range of 500 km and a 32kg warhead with multiple types of seeker heads. One Chinese configuration has 18 Harpies in box launchers mounted on a single truck bed (other configurations use 6 launchers per truck). Essentially, these are expendable drones capable of saturating defensive systems. Both China and Israel have displayed these weapons at trade shows in an effort to sell them to other nations. The system is currently operational with the Turkish, Korean, Chinese, and Indian Armies. Today, the Israeli version has an electro-optical sensor to attack non-emitting targets and an extended range of 1000 km. One can assume China has made similar improvements to its systems. This system represents a first step toward inexpensive swarms. Yet Harpy class UAVs, while expendable, are still relatively expensive and thus major deployments of weapons of this class require a well-funded state military.

The primary driver of how many systems are purchased is cost. But additive manufacturing is driving down the cost of many manufactured products. Today researchers in England have prototyped a printed drone that will cost roughly $9 a copy. And additive manufacturing is not only low end products.

Mark Valerio, vice president and general manager of military space for Lockheed, told Reuters, “In the next decade, we will completely change the way a satellite is designed and built. We will print a satellite,”

Valerio suggests such a satellite will cost 40% less than current models. These trends indicate that dramatic cost decreases will be the norm for these widely used and increasingly capable commercial drones.

We don’t have to wait for additive manufacturing, either. The U.S. Navy has announced it will repurpose the commercially produced Slocum Glider – a five foot long, autonomous underwater research vehicle. The glider can patrol for weeks following initial instructions, surfacing periodically to report and receive new instructions. Such drones are being used globally and cost about $100,000. Clearly such drones can be modified into long-range autonomous torpedoes or mine delivery vehicles. For the cost of one Virginia class submarine, a nation could purchase 17,500 such drones. Additive manufacturing can and likely will reduce the cost of these systems even more. And the skills needed to build and employ a glider are orders of magnitude less than those needed for a nuclear sub.

“Smart” sea mines should be a particular concern for the United States. Simple contact and influence mines have the distinction of being the only weapon that has defeated a U.S. amphibious assault – the landing at Wonson, Korea in 1950. While lanes were eventually cleared through the primitive minefields, forces attacking up the west coast of Korea had already seized the amphibious objectives before the first amphibious forces got ashore. Frustrated at cruising up and down the coast as the Navy tried to clear the mines, the Marines nicknamed the landing “Operation Yo-Yo.” Not much has changed. In February 1991, the U.S. Navy lost command of the northern Arabian Gulf to more than 1,300 mines that had been sown by Iraqi forces …” These were simple moored sea mines.

Since 1950, mines have become progressively smarter, more discriminating, and more difficult to find. They have sensors which can use acoustic, magnetic, and other signals to identify and attack a specific kind of ship, allowing – for example – commercial vehicles to pass unmolested. As early as 1979, the United States fielded CAPTOR mines. These are encapsulated torpedoes that are anchored to the ocean floor. When they detect the designated target, they launch the captured torpedo to destroy it out to a range of 8 KM. Today China possesses “self-navigating mines” and even rocket propelled mines. We are seeing early efforts to use unmanned underwater vehicles to deliver mines. Since commercially available drones are already crossing the ocean autonomously, pairing drones with mines will almost certainly make it possible to mine sea ports of debarkation and perhaps even sea ports of embarkation.

Ashore, mobile land mines/autonomous anti-vehicle weapons are also under development. The natural marriage of IEDs to inexpensive, autonomous drones is virtually inevitable. The obvious targets are parked aircraft, fuel dumps, ammo dumps, communication sites, and command centers. Non-state and state actors alike will rapidly transition to drones that can hunt even mobile targets.

Today’s inexpensive drone systems mean states and even non-state actors can afford large numbers of lethal air, sea, and ground drones. Within the decade, U.S. forces should expect to be attacked by these weapons on every combat deployment.



We can also expect the inexpensive autonomy seen in today’s agricultural drones. The autonomy has been made possible by impressive technological advances combining tiny sensors, GPS modules, microprocessors, and digital radios, all of which are dropping in price and are commercially available.

These same technologies can be applied cheaply to military systems. While the Pentagon faces the “Innovator’s Dilemma” and will be severely challenged to keep costs low, other nations, start-up companies, and non-state actors will not face the same bureaucratic hurdles and thus are likely to produce cheap, smart, and deadly drones using commercially available parts. They won’t be highly reliable or reusable. They won’t need to be. If only half of a swarm works correctly, it may be more than sufficient to overwhelm advanced defenses. John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt’s concept of swarming drones is on the verge of realization.


Don’t Look Back, They Are Not Behind Us

Unfortunately for the West, autonomous drones will initially favor the less technologically advanced actor because their targeting problem is simpler. For instance, a non-state actor may not own armored vehicles or aircraft, so its autonomous drones only have to find and attack any armored vehicle or parked aircraft. They do not have to discriminate but simply fly a pre-programmed route to a suspected target area and identify the target. Target areas for many locations in the world–to include most airfield flight lines–can be determined using Google Maps. Cheap optical recognition hardware and software that provides rough target discrimination is also becoming widely available. If the software of a farmer’s autonomous drone can point and shoot a camera, it can point and shoot an explosive device.

Clearly, these commercial products have demonstrated the ability of autonomous drones to reach a target area, but what weapon could it use? Commercially available quadcopters carry the 3 ounce GoPro camera and are achieving flight times of over 30 minutes. Against the thin skin of an aircraft, a simple point detonating 3 ounce warhead is sufficient. Against armor, the drone designer may choose the heavier and more complex explosively formed penetrator. This will obviously require larger drones but will also provide standoff distance. In 2009, the U.S. Army told CNN that such weapons can penetrate armor from 100 meters. This potential marriage of proven, cheap technology represents a direct threat to a wide range of potential targets.

The addition of cheap, persistent air and space based surveillance will provide the information necessary to use these cheap drones. Sky Box Imaging, which was recently purchased by Google, is deploying CubeSats. Their goal is to sell half-meter resolution imagery with a revisit rate of several times a day – to include interpretation of what the buyer is seeing. A buyer could track port, airfield, road, and rail system activity in near real time.


While the cheapest of these systems can carry only small payloads, the rapidly developing field of nano-energetics or nano-explosives will dramatically increase their destructive power. As early as 2002, nano-explosives demonstrated an explosive power twice that of conventional explosives. Since research in this field is classified, proprietary, or both, it is difficult to say what, if any progress has been made since that point. But even if double the power is as good as it gets, a 100% increase in destructive power for the same size weapon is a massive increase.

Western forces should not assume they will have the technological edge when deploying to a conflict zone. The higher standards for target discrimination will inhibit their fielding of autonomous lethal but cheap drones. In this field, they should expect to the non-state or less ethical state to be the first to field such systems. Implications

The convergence of technologies and techniques is already producing small, smart, cheap, and long-range drones capable of carrying significant payloads. Fuel gels and nano-explosives will increase the range and lethality of these commercially available systems. Additive manufacturing will dramatically reduce the costs. The Pentagon needs to rethink the exquisitely capable but extremely expensive weapons procurement programs it is pursuing. While these systems were a major factor in the tactical successes of the last 24 years, the United States needs to think hard about the shift from exquisite and very few to cheap and very many.

For instance, rather than insisting on building the next generation bomber, we need to examine how best to execute the mission of effective long range strike. Even if one accepts the mantra that “we must be able to hold at risk what they value,” this does not mean the United States needs a new bomber. We need to consider other approaches. For instance, what other strike platforms could we purchase for the same investment as the proposed Long Range Strike Bomber?

In 2012, Air Force Chief of Staff General Norman Schwartz projected a cost of $550 million per Long Range Strike Bomber. Tom Christie, the Pentagon’s Chief Weapons tester from 2001 until his retirement in 2005, is skeptical. He thinks $2 billion per aircraft is a more accurate estimate. Christie’s estimate aligns closely with the experience of building the B-2 bomber. A 1997 report from the Government Accountability Office showed that while initial estimates for the B-2 were $456 million in 1997 dollars, the actual cost was $2.1 billion per aircraft. While not usually included in the estimates the extremely high operating costs of stealth aircraft must also be included. According to U.S. Air Force data, the B-2 costs $164,000 per flight hour to operate. We should plan for similar or higher operating costs for the Long Range Strike Bomber.

The 2012 Pentagon budget shows Tactical Tomahawks costs $1.1 million per Tactical Tomahawk for a buy of only 196 missiles. This missile boasts a 1,000 pound warhead and “features a two-way satellite data link that allows the controller to switch target during flight to pre-programmed alternate targets or redirect it to a new target.”

According to the Naval Air Systems Command, the older Tomahawk Land Attack Missile cost $607,000 in FY-1999 dollars. Using the U.S. Navy Deflator figure for Procurement, the Tomahawk currently costs $785,000. Due to advances in additive manufacturing production techniques, the cost should drop to $470,000. This year, the University of Southern California’s School of Engineering revealed a method for 3D-printing multi-material objects in minutes instead of hours.

Even if you think we will get the next generation bomber for less than the current B-2, a single Long Range Strike Bomber would pay for 4000 Tomahawks. Given the historical record of bomber costs, it is more reasonable to assume that we will pay at least half again as much per aircraft for the new generation. Thus we could buy 6000 Tomahawks for the price of a single next generation Long Range Strike Bomber. And of course, every month the bomber fleet will consume tens of millions in operating costs – which otherwise could purchase even more Tomahawks. For the price of a single bomber, we could provide a full load out for all Tomahawk capable ships in the fleet.


Advances in additive manufacturing, composite materials, energy densities in gel fuels, and nano-explosives indicate we will be able to build longer range, more powerful, and stealthier cruise missiles for much less money than the loitering Tomahawk.


Historical precedents

Remembering the history of another era of rapid, broad technological change might help DoD decision makers put the problem in perspective. In the early 1900s, navies were making very rapid technological gains in metallurgy, ammunition, explosives, engines, and communications. The 1906 launch of Dreadnought ushered in thebattleship era, and within a decade, capital ships were powered by turbines, had main batteries of 14-inch guns, rudimentary wireless, and vastly improved armor. By the beginning of WWI, battleships were considered the decisive weapon for fleet engagements, and the size of the battleship fleet was seen as a reasonable proxy for a navy’s strength. The war’s single major fleet action, the Battle of Jutland, seemed to prove these ideas correct.

Accordingly, during the interwar period, battleships received the lion’s share of naval investments. Displacement more than doubled, from the 27,000 tons of the pre-WWI New York class to the 48,500 tons of the Iowa class. The main batteries shifted from 14-inch to 16-inch guns, secondary batteries were improved, radar was installed, speed increased from 21 to 33 knots, cruising range more than doubled, and armor improved. Yet none of these advances changed the fundamental capabilities of the battleship. This is typical of mature technology, for which it costs much more to improve performance than it does for immature technology.

In contrast, naval aviation was in its infancy in 1914. Aircraft were slow, short-legged, lightly armed, and primarily used for reconnaissance. Air combat was primitive; attempts to bring down opposing aircraft included pistols, rifles, and even a grappling hook. After the war, aviation remained an auxiliary and was funded accordingly. While the Navy built 18 new battleships during the interwar period, it built only eight carriers, a total that includes the conversion of a collier (USS Langley) and two cruisers. And yet by 1941, carrier aviation had developed to the point that it dominated the naval battles of WWII.

The Navy’s failure to understand where genuine technological advantage lay carried real opportunity costs. In the late 1930s, the Navy spent heavily on fast battleships, eventually commissioning 10 and starting construction on two more. These ships turned out to serve primarily as very expensive anti-aircraft escorts for the fleet carriers. (Most naval shore bombardment was done by older battleships that dated to the 1920s.) One has to wonder: if the Navy had dedicated even half of the battleship funds spent in the 1930s to naval aviation, how different would the opening year of the war been?



Investment in highly capable and expensive new weapons systems is predicated on specific assumptions about the future. Unfortunately, it is a truism that one can never predict the future with certainty. Thus a hedging approach is more functional than a predictive approach. With the widespread commercial shift to small, many, and smart systems as a substitute for a few, exquisite systems, it is time for the United States to rethink its equipment procurement approach.

The critical military functions will remain – but how we accomplish them will change. Rather than investing everything in a single type of fighter or a long range bomber, it makes more sense to limit our buys of these systems and augment them with systems that conform to small, smart, and many. For missions like reconnaissance, strike, jamming, communications relay, and others, the United States needs to explore relatively cheap and even disposable systems.


Obviously, this will not be a rapid shift. For instance, the United States is already heavily committed to the F-35. But rather than buying over 2400 F-35s and continuing to build Ford carriers, we should examine limiting the buy of F-35 to six or seven hundred. These aircraft, along with the current inventory of approximately 180 F-22s, this will provide sufficient numbers of aircraft for high end penetrating missions. For other missions, existing and upgraded F-15, F-16, and F-18s can carry the load – particularly when augmented with large numbers of inexpensive penetrating platforms. Rather than expensive manned Wild Weasel SAM suppression platforms, we could employ cheaper but more capable versions of the Harpy 2. Cheap platforms even reduce the need for air-to-air capability. Rather than destroying the aircraft in the air, swarms of cheap penetrators would strike at an opponent’s base.

In a similar ways, our current inventory of carriers will ensure that we have these ships available until the 2040s or later. We can continue to build Fords to ensure that carriers operate until the Navy’s goal of 2100 – or we can seriously investigate how the convergence of robotics, artificial intelligence, additive manufacturing, biology, and nano-materials is going to change the character of future conflict. Rather than decades-long, monolithic procurement programs, we can return to the process we used early in the days of aviation. This was a time of wide commercial innovation in a variety of fields – internal combustion engines, metallurgy, design, radios, ordnance. It was impossible to predict which designs would work best. The industry used a model of build, test, improve, test, improve; only afterward did the Navy or War Department actually field the systems. The cost was low enough that they could abandon an aircraft if it was not working. Despite investing a fraction of the money it spent on battleships during the interwar period, the Navy developed the carrier aviation team that dominated WWII naval warfare.

It is critical that we examine the few exquisite systems we are planning to buy – aircraft, ships, armor — and see if their missions could be accomplished by many, smart, cheap platforms. Given the inherent political advantages of large, complex systems, this will be a difficult step. The F-35 is a poster child for the difficultly of reconsidering a program of record. Built in 45 states at a cost of $399 B for 2,443 aircraft and with expected lifetime operating cost of $1 trillion, the F-35 has powerful Congressional support. Further, U.S. doctrine and powerful service constituencies heavily favor these exquisite systems. This is natural since doctrine and preferences are usually based on experience and current U.S. experience is based on exquisite systems. These two powerful factors will make it difficult to dispassionately examine other options. However, we must do so soon. Our experience with the F-35 shows that the decision to pursue a different path needs to be taken before the new system gains a powerful constituency that insists it be built regardless of its capability.

T. X. Hammes is a Distinguished Research Fellow at the U.S. National Defense University.  The views expressed here are solely his own and do not reflect the views of the U.S. government, Department of Defense, or the National Defense University



Senate Panel OKs Pentagon Spending Bill, But Its Fate Is Uncertain

Jul. 17, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — A US Senate panel on Thursday approved nearly $550 billion in military spending, while also proposing to keep alive weapon systems the Pentagon wanted to retire. But senior members made clear it may never see the Senate floor.


The chamber’s Appropriations Committee unanimously approved legislation that would give the Pentagon $489.6 billion in base spending and $58.3 billion in war funding. It would block a long list of weapon system retirement proposals, or Pentagon plans to not purchase systems next year to save money.

For the US defense sector, the proposed $547.9 billion total figure is another major victory — even amid warnings from sector executives that their firms will take big financial hits due to sequestration.

But the chamber for years has failed to pass agency spending bills due to an ever-intensifying Republicans vs. Democrats flap over amendments and process.

Sources for months have predicted the Senate likely will have to pass a short-term continuing resolution in late September to fund the government until after the November midterm elections and then provide a government-wide omnibus that might include a full defense bill, which would be pre-conferenced by House and Senate appropriators.

Senior Senate Appropriations Committee leaders, including a Senate Democratic leader, cast new doubt on the panel’s 2015 Pentagon spending bill’s fate.

Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said at the hearing’s start that she hopes the panel will eventually move legislation to keep the government funded and open. She never mentioned the defense bill getting to the floor.

About an hour later, Appropriation Defense subcommittee Chairman Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., the chamber’s No. 2 Democrat, said this of a conference process with the House: “I hope we get that far.”

Notably, the legislation, which will be marked up by the full committee on Thursday, would provide $848.7 million not requested by the White House to refuel the USS George Washington aircraft carrier.

The other three defense committees did the same, meaning America almost certainly will maintain 11 carrier battle groups.

The bill would block the Air Force’s plans to retire the A-10 attack plane fleet by shifting $338 million from lower-priority items.

Another protected priority was the Navy’s E/A-18G Growler electronic warfare fleet.

The measure floats the idea of reviving the F136 engine program, killed in 2011 after the Pentagon decided it was no longer worth continuing development of a second F-35 power plant.

It also would cut the Obama administration’s proposal to spend $5 billion on a new counterterrorism program by over $3 billion.

The panel approved two dozen pre-negotiated, non-controversial amendments in a single bloc. It also killed, by a 9-21 vote, an amendment that would have placed restrictions on using funds allocated by the bill to pay for US military operations in Syria.

During that debate, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, charged the Obama administration with asking for $500 million to train and equip vetted Syrian rebels. Other senators joined her, a further example of how the White House’s $58.6 billion overseas contingency operations request is hitting resistance on Capitol Hill.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, July 19, 2014

These are not happy times for President Obama and his party, although it’s far from clear if Republicans can capitalize on that.

One-in-three voters (32%) think the president should be impeached and removed from office. But most voters think electing an opposition Congress is the better way to halt or change his policies.

However, as Kyle Kondik points out in his commentary this week, that may be easier said than done, requiring Republicans to do something they haven’t done since 1980.

The GOP needs a net gain of six seats to take charge of the Senate, but more voters than ever think U.S. elections are rigged to favor incumbents.

Democrats have just a one-point edge on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot, but they’ve held a narrow lead on the ballot for most weeks this year.

On the plus side for the GOP, favorable views of the president’s new national health care law now tie their low for the year. Only 11% say they have been helped by Obamacare.

Then there’s the wave of young illegal immigrants that’s hit our southern border in recent weeks. Most voters want to send them home as quickly as possible, while the Obama administration searches for places to move these illegals all over the country.
But even Maryland’s liberal Governor Martin O’Malley who has his eye on the presidency has told Obama not to ship them to his state. That’s no surprise since 57% of voters nationwide oppose housing these illegal immigrants in their home state.

[O’Malley, by the way, still has a lot of convincing to do – even in his home state – if he’s going to run for the White House in 2016.]

Americans have some definite ideas, too, about how illegal immigration can be stopped.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a TV interview last weekend that opposition to the president’s agenda is due in part to race. But most voters don’t buy that racism plays a big part in opposition to Obama.

It doesn’t help the president that for the second week in a row, just 25% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest finding this year.

More Americans than ever say they owe more money than they did last year.

With inflation worries at recent highs, the number of Americans who are paying more for groceries also has risen to its highest level in over two years. There’s an increasing lack of confidence, too, that the Federal Reserve Board can keep inflation under control.

Fifty-one percent (51%) still say, looking back, that the bailouts of the financial industry were bad for the United States.
Despite those bailouts, just half (50%) of Americans are confident in the nation’s banking system, compared to the 68% who felt that way in July 1968 just before the Wall Street meltdown.

Half of voters continue to believe that there is a conflict between economic growth and fairness, and most still consider growth to be more important. However, the number who consider fairness more important continues to inch up, and those voters favor the president.

Perceptions of the housing market remain perhaps the best thing Obama has going for him these days. Homeowners are more confident about their home’s current value than they’ve been in several years. A record number of homeowners now say their home is worth more than what they still owe on it.

Fewer Americans believe this month that it’s a good time to sell a house in their area, but still the level of confidence in the local housing market is higher than it has been for several years.

The level of consumer and investor confidence also remains higher than it has been for much of the time since the meltdown.

And through it all, the president continues to earn the same daily job approval numbers he’s gotten for most of his time in office.

In other surveys this week:

— Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker have proposed bipartisan legislation to reform the U.S. criminal justice system, in part to reduce the U.S. prison population. But while most voters agree with restoring voting rights to non-violent felons, they are less enthusiastic about requiring all states to raise the minimum age someone can be tried as an adult.

— Appointed Republican Senator Tim Scott holds a big lead over Democrat Joyce Dickerson in his first election bid for a full Senate term in South Carolina.

— An increasing number (48%) of voters are voicing support for gay marriage.

— Republican Mary Fallin is in a surprisingly close contest for reelection in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the 2014 gubernatorial race in Oklahoma.

— Even as Detroiters vote on a bankruptcy plan that would make major cuts in retired public employee benefits, voters nationwide aren’t overly optimistic about the Motor City’s chances of recovery.

Americans still strongly prefer a traditional printed book to reading on an electronic device like a Kindle or a Nook.


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