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February 15 2014




IBM Lands DARPA Contract for Self-Destructing Chips


FEBRUARY 7, 2014 11:15AM

DARPA has awarded IBM a $3.45 million contract to develop self-destructing microchips.,2817,2430476,00.asp?mailingID=3243A6C702E461A79B039E45D3BD1EA5


Anyone who has watched a spy movie – from James Bond to Mission Impossible – is familiar with self-destructing messages and gadgets. But the technology might become a reality thanks to a project from DARPA and IBM.

Last year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) within the Defense Department put out the call for technology that “when triggered, [can] degrade partially or completely into their surroundings.”

Late last month, DARPA awarded IBM a $3.45 million contract to pursue the futuristic project, dubbed Vanishing Programmable Resources (VAPR) program, which will develop a “new class of electronics.”

“The commercial off-the-shelf, or COTS, electronics made for everyday purchases are durable and last nearly forever,” Alicia Jackson, DARPA program manager, said in announcing VAPR last year. “DARPA is looking for a way to make electronics that last precisely as long as they are needed. The breakdown of such devices could be triggered by a signal sent from command or any number of possible environmental conditions, such as temperature.”

Specifically, IBM will experiment with glass shattering techniques that can turn the silicon chips that power today’s gadgets into an unusable powder.

“A trigger, such as a fuse or a reactive metal layer will be used to initiate shattering, in at least one location, on the glass substrate,” DARPA said.

But don’t expect Apple or Samsung to reveal a self-destructing smartphone anytime soon. The idea is to protect secrets on the battlefield. Radios, remote sensors, and phones are all used by military personnel, but “it is almost impossible to track and recover every device,” DARPA said. “At the end of operations, these electronics are often found scattered across the battlefield and might be captured by the enemy and repurposed or studied to compromise DoD’s strategic technological advantage.”

For more, check out PCMag Live in the video below, which discusses IBM’s “Vanishing Programmable Resources.”


White House Pushes Budget Hike

Boost Would Start in FY16

Feb. 9, 2014 – 03:00PM | By DEFENSE NEWS STAFF | Comments


WASHINGTON — The White House and Pentagon, after weeks of back-and-forth debate, appear ready to expand the Defense Department’s budget starting in 2016.

Administration officials are contemplating a $535 billion DoD budget in 2016, one source said, which is about $36 billion over the sequester cap. The administration would offset the defense increase in other areas of the federal budget, sources said.

Senior White House officials are resisting some of the largest reductions proposed by the Pentagon, including the Navy’s plan to cut an aircraft carrier and slow manpower cuts, according to several sources close to the internal negotiations. It is not clear, however — especially inside the Pentagon — where the money would come from to pay for the items that would have been cut in 2015.

Sources said the new plan would include expanding options outside the formal budget request, including soliciting “wish lists” of unfunded priorities from each of the services, and an expanded war budget request.

White House officials were surprised by the level of the cuts proposed by the Pentagon in the fiscal 2015 submission, sources said. Asking to eliminate one of the Navy’s 11 aircraft carriers would be politically challenging in an election year.

While details continue to be nailed down, the White House will send a roughly $496 billion Defense Department base budget request for 2015 to Congress on March 4.

To make up shortfalls, the services are being directed to significantly enhance their “unfunded priorities list,” a heretofore congressionally-mandated annual requirement that Pentagon leadership severely reduced in recent years, to the point of not being produced at all in 2013. The new plan, however, sees a total of $26 billion in unfunded requirements for 2015 across the services.

Rear Adm. John Kirby, Pentagon press secretary, told Defense News on Feb. 7 that DoD’s fiscal 2015 budget submission will remain under the caps mandated by the budget deal constructed by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. That deal restored about $30 billion to Pentagon coffers in 2014 and 2015.

Kirby noted that DoD’s 2015 budget will still be about $42 billion less than previous plans and tough decisions lie ahead for the department.

However, the White House might allow the Pentagon to submit projections for 2016 to 2019 that are higher than the Budget Control Act caps that were put in place in 2011, according to sources.

“You have to come at all these things … from a holistic point of view,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said during a Feb. 7 briefing at the Pentagon.

“Readiness, modernization, capability: Those are priorities that we focus on,” he said. “As you assess your resources, and you match your resources to mission, those are three priorities that always must be in front of everything else.”

Still, Hagel noted there will be “across-the-board” cuts.

“You can’t do it any other way,” he said. “I think it’s a very good plan, [and] it’s an effective plan.”


Carrier Restored – or Not?

The Navy’s plan to eliminate the Japan-based carrier George Washington and one of the Navy’s 10 carrier air wings received major attention, with numerous lawmakers expressing their opposition to the plan after it was reported in Defense News on Jan. 27.

The GW — a relatively young ship after 22 years of service — is scheduled to begin a $3.9 billion, three-year refueling overhaul in 2016, work which will keep the ship running an additional 23 years or so.

While some money has already been appropriated for advanced procurement, the bulk of the funding is still to come.

The Navy zeroed in on the carrier and aircraft as a way to reduce spending while saving money for other ships, including submarines and amphibious ships.

The move would also eliminate more than 5,000 seagoing billets to allow for personnel reductions.

But no ships are more symbolic of American power, and in a political year, the White House has directed the Navy to rescind its request to decommission a carrier.

There’s just one problem: There is no funding for the ship, either to proceed with the reactor refueling overhaul, or to operate it when it’s returned to service.

“The narrative doesn’t match the dollars,” one Pentagon source said of the situation.

The plan now seems to be to proceed with the refueling overhaul, kicking the issue into the following year.

The Navy received $245 million in advanced procurement for the overhaul in the 2014 budget and is programmed to ask for $491 million in advanced procurement in 2015.

In 2016, $1.6 billion would be requested and again in 2017, to complete GW’s overhaul.

Several sources said those funds are not now in the budget. Among the Navy’s options, sources said, would be asking for less advanced procurement funding in 2015, sliding the whole project a year or more and putting off the need for a decision until next year.

The manpower issue is one that the services have struggled with coming after more than a decade at war — none more so than the Army.

Having reached a wartime high of 570,000 troops at the height of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the service has since slimmed to about 530,000 troops, on the way down to a goal of 490,000 by the end of 2015.

The rub for the Army is that reducing its end-strength to 490,000 won’t actually save any money. Force levels above that number are funded through supplemental wartime accounts — which will end in fiscal 2016 — so in order to reap any savings that could then be used to pad modernization accounts, it will have to go below that 490,000 threshold.

“The monies are laid out to give us a 420,000 Army by 2019,” Lt. Gen. James Barclay, the Army’s deputy chief of staff, G-8, said on Jan. 15. But he cautioned that this “doesn’t mean we’re set on going to 420. We’ve got some decision points built in, coming into the ’16-’17 timeframe, so we’re taking a hard look at what is the right set.”

One thing was clear Feb. 7 — hundreds of Pentagon budget specialists are trying to figure how to enact all these changes in line-item fashion in budget documents that are due to be submitted in less than a month.


Windows XP isn’t the only software getting the knife in 8 weeks

Microsoft will also end support for Office 2003 and Exchange 2003


By Gregg Keizer

February 11, 2014 04:13 PM ET


Computerworld – Microsoft will call it quits not only on Windows XP in less than two months, but will also pull the plug on Office 2003 the same day.

After April 8, Office 2003, which debuted on Oct. 21, 2003, will no longer receive security updates, no matter which flavor of Windows it’s running on.

Although Microsoft has made noise about ditching Windows XP, it has spoken infrequently about Office 2003’s deadline. One of the few places on its website where it has talked about the latter’s end-of-life, or EOL, is here.

“We’re seeing the same kind of pockets as with XP,” said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft, of Office 2003 users in business. “A lot of people were on holding patterns with XP and didn’t upgrade from Office 2003 to Office 2007.”

Michael Silver of Gartner agreed. “There’s a correlation between the success of Windows and the success of the Office that came out around it,” he said. “Because of Vista, because of the timing, because of the costs, a lot of organizations skipped Office 2007.”

When companies began migrating from XP to Windows 7 — a process that continues even as the former’s retirement deadline looms — they also migrated from Office 2003 to Office 2010, even though a newer version of the latter has been available for more than a year.

“You might say the same [about a correlation] about Windows 8 and Office 2013,” Silver said, adding that uptake for Office 2013 has been slow in enterprises. “It’s because so many organizations are still in the midst of their Windows 7 migration [that they’ve ignored Office 2103]. They didn’t want to change that Windows 7-Office 2010 plan, and decided to continue that.”

But Silver pegged the prevalence of Office 2003 as more than the pockets Miller portrayed. “It’s probably in the 30% to 40% range,” Silver said.

Office 2003’s successor, Office 2007, was bypassed for another reason: Some customers detested its new “Ribbon”-style interface, which was championed by Julie Larson-Green, then with the Office engineering group but subsequently an important executive in the Windows 7 and Windows 8 teams. She is now head of the company’s Devices and Studios, responsible for the Surface line of hardware.

The Ribbon-ized Office 2007, and its follow-ups, Office 2010 and Office 2013, have continued to earn scorn from some long-time users. But the initial criticism about the user interface (UI) change died down much more quickly than that aimed at Windows Vista, which launched around the same time as Office 2007, or the UI complaints aimed now at Windows 8.

With the end of public support, Microsoft will no longer provide security patches for Office 2003. And Microsoft has been aggressively patching Office 2003: In 2013, it released 10 security bulletins for the edition. It has shipped one so far this year.

“But folks don’t worry as much about support for Office as they do for an operating system,” said Silver. “There’s definitely a risk in running Office 2003 [after patches stop] but you can do a lot of things to reduce the risk significantly, such as turning macros off by default.”

The lack of security updates will present special problems to consumers and small business customers running Windows XP and Vista, as the newest editions of the suite, Office 2013 and Office 365, run only on Windows 7 or Windows 8/8.1.


(Large organizations with enterprise and Software Assurance agreements can upgrade from Office 2003 — if they are still running the 11-year-old suite — to any newer Office edition.)

Microsoft no longer sells Office 2007 or 2010, the latest versions that run on XP and Vista, either direct or to distributors, but online retailers still have the latter in stock. Newegg, for example, sells Office 2010 for between $100 and $480, depending on the SKU (stock keeping unit) and whether installation media is included.

Other alternatives include the free Apache OpenOffice and LibreOffice, both of which run on XP and Vista.

Miller pointed out that Office 2003 and Windows XP were not the only pieces of Microsoft’s portfolio to roll into retirement on April 8.

“It’s not just Office 2003, it’s not just the front end but it’s also the back end. Exchange [Server] 2003 also leaves support that day,” Miller said.

As happened to Windows XP and Office 2003, users hung on to Exchange Server 2003, skipping the next edition, Exchange Server 2007. Most enterprises migrated to Windows 7, Office 2010 and Exchange Server 2010 around the same time.

“We’re seeing more Exchange holdouts because [the software] was often installed on Windows Server 2003,” said Miller, referring to the server-side software that leaves support mid-July 2015. “This could end up being a big thing this year and next, because it’s a bigger transition. Some customers are still running Windows Server 2003 on 32-bit hardware, but since that version, it’s been all 64-bit. So they may not have the hardware.”

For Miller, the migration-from-Server 2003 story will be one to watch carefully.

Coincidentally, Microsoft will also stop serving patches to Office for Mac 2011 Service Pack 2 (SP2) on April 8, and require all users of the OS X edition to run Service Pack 3 to receive and install security updates.


The Pickup Truck Era Of Warfare

Jack Mulcaire

February 11, 2014 ·


Readers, let’s take a moment to salute a true workhorse. In the world of war machines, the expensive and high-tech items get all the attention and budget—drones, anti-ship ballistic missiles, cyber warfare, and the like. But, on the battlefields of the twenty-first century, a humble and under-rated weapon has quietly showed up these expensive attention-hogs: the pickup truck.

Today, primarily irregular, infantry-centric forces fight almost every conflict in the world. Pickup trucks are their mainstays. In Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Mexico, Syria, Libya, Mali and the Central African Republic, irregulars reach the battlefield more often than not in the cabs and beds of Toyota Hi-Luxes and Land Cruisers, Ford Rangers, and Mitsubishi L200s. When they arrive, the same pickups are often carrying the crew-served weapons that offer that allow a light force to pack a punch on the cheap. Pickup trucks are ideal for the wars of the twenty-first century: they’re readily available, cheap, fuel efficient, easy to operate and repair. And, they are more modular than the Littoral Combat Ship. They can operate off-road in the bush or in the downtown of a major metropolis. All of these characteristics make the pickup truck a war-winner for non-state or weak-state forces that can’t get their hands on purpose-built military vehicles, can’t afford extensive logistic chains, and need to quickly move through and between rough terrain and urban environments.


The “technical” (light truck mounted with weapons) was born in the Sahara and won its greatest glory there. The history of the technical goes back to the exploits of the Long Range Desert Group in the Second World War. But, the pickup-truck era of warfare really began on March 22, 1987, when 2,000 Chadian soldiers riding in technicals armed with heavy machine guns, AA guns, MILAN anti-tank missiles and recoilless rifles emerged from desert wadis in the depths of the Sahara and overran the massive Libyan air base at Wadi Doum, Chad in a surprise attack that killed thousands of Libyans, destroyed dozens of tanks and aircraft, and shattered Libyan air power. The Chadians would go on to repeat their success several months later with an attack against the Libyan airbase at Maaten al-Sara, in Libya itself. Again, thousands of fighters in armed pickups crossed the desert to hit with speed and surprise. Libya agreed to a cease-fire six days after Maaten al-Sara fell, bringing the “Toyota War” (so named because Chadian forces were mainly composed of Toyota trucks) to an end. The Chadians had defeated a larger and far better armed Libyan force, holding a well-fortified position, and they couldn’t have done it without their trucks.


The speedy all-terrain mobility of the Chadian technicals allowed them to cross the Sahara into Libya undetected, masking their approach by following wadis and dunes. The trucks could carry the heavy weapons necessary to destroy Libyan armor and suppress Libyan positions at long range, unlike infantry or camels. Chadian drivers even discovered that their trucks could drive over anti-tank mines without detonating them, as long as they drove faster than 100 km/h. The Chadians are still masters of technical warfare; convoys of Toyota Land Cruisers carrying Chadian mercenaries led the Seleka alliance’s charge into Bangui, pushed back a South African infantry company and overthrew President Francois Boizize last March in the Central African Republic.


No history of the pickup-truck era of warfare would be complete without mentioning the Somalis. The term “technical” originated in Somalia: international NGOs would use “technical assistance grants” to hire and equip local guards, and “technical” quickly became the shorthand term for their armed trucks. Somali politics are clan-dominated, and the strength of a Somali clan is measured in how much livestock they own and how many technicals they can field. Muhammad Farah Adid, perhaps the most powerful single warlord to rise and fall since the collapse of Somalia, and victor of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu against American Rangers, was carried to his grave in the back of one of his Toyota Land Cruiser pickups.


The wars of the Arab Spring have brought us into the golden age of the battle truck. Colonel Moammar Qaddafi probably thought that his truck problems had ended after his forces withdrew from Chad, but he would live to be tormented by Toyotas one final time. The Mad Max ingenuity of Libya’s rebel mechanics, born of desperation during the country’s 2011 civil war, surpassed anything that other pickup-warriors in Chad, Somalia, Lebanon and other hotspots had ever come up with. They quickly became the stuff of legend: the Chinese auto company that produced most of the rebellion’s trucks used Libyan technicals to advertise that their trucks were “stronger then war.” The Libyans weren’t the best soldiers, or the best tacticians, but they were the most innovative engineers. They attached armor plate-mated office chairs with ZPU AA guns, sawed off the roof to increase the arc of fire for the recoilless rifle in the bed. They produced hundreds of trucks armed with huge S-5 Soviet rocket pods, intended for aircraft. They even cut the turret off of a BMP-1 Soviet Armored Personnel Carrier and mounted it on the back of a Toyota.



Throughout the conflict, the revolutionary militias captured hundreds of tanks and APCs, but even in the war’s last battles, technical trucks provided the majority of rebel firepower and transport. The superior speed, mobility and fuel economy of the trucks more than compensated for their lack of armor and firepower compared to captured T-72 tanks and BMPs. The description of the rebellion’s final push from Zawiya into Tripoli in Irish-Libyan rebel Hussam Najjair’s memoir of the campaign highlights the unique assets of the pickups. The speed and fuel efficiency of the pickups let the rebel Tripoli Brigade cover ground so fast that disparate pro-Qaddafi units weren’t able to link up and support each other, and when the superior firepower of the government troops became too heavy, the pickups could quickly scatter off-road, duck down alleys, or make a speedy u-turn. At the moment, Libya’s militias are engaged in mopping up the last remnants of a simultaneous uprising and incursion over the border from Chad by former pro-Qaddafi fighters. Militiamen assembled in central Tripoli to make a show of strength before going south to put down the threat. What sort of vehicles were they parading in? You guessed it, Toyota Land Cruiser pickups.


The battle pickup continues to evolve. In Syria, rebel mechanics built this homemade tank with a remote-controlled machine gun operated by a PlayStation controller onto the frame of a truck. As long as great-power rivalries stay suppressed and large-scale conventional warfare is rare, the pickup-truck era of warfare will continue. The pickup-truck era is an era of small wars, often fought in marginal places by weak states or forces with no state to back them. Winning strategies and forces in the pickup-truck era of warfare should share the characteristics that have made the light truck a successful weapon. A winning strategy should involve a light resource footprint and it should be easy to implement with irregular, semi-professional light troops. It should be applicable to urban and rural areas because the forces of the pickup truck era freely cross the border between both. It’s easy to forget the strategic lessons that the pickup truck can teach us because they’re not very glamorous. But, for me, a convoy of swaggering militiamen speeding down the road in the bed of their modded Toyota Hi-Luxes is the modern version of a line of medieval knights charging at full gallop.


Jack Mulcaire is a contributor to War on the Rocks. During the 2011 Libyan Civil War, he helped lead a group of international volunteers that aided and consulted with local rebel councils and units. He has written for Small Wars Journal on the Syrian conflict and has aided New York Times writer Damien Spleeters in tracking arms shipments to Syria.


IAI Unveils Larger, More Powerful UAV at Singapore Airshow

Feb. 11, 2014 – 03:45AM | By ANDREW CHUTER | Comments


SINGAPORE — A heavy fuel version of Israel Aerospace Industry’s big-selling Heron UAV literally had the wraps taken off on the opening day of the Singapore Airshow Feb. 11.

Joseph Weiss, the president and CEO of the state-owned Israeli company, ordered a huge blue shroud to be removed from the Super Heron Heavy Fuel machine parked on the apron outside the company’s chalet in a ceremony here today to formally reveal the UAV.

With the shroud gone, the latest member of the Heron family was revealed as having slightly bigger dimensions than before and some minor redesign around the rear fuselage.


Visually, the main difference was the incorporation of upturned wingtips. But it’s under the engine covers where the main innovation can be found over earlier Heron versions.

IAI engineers have installed a 200-horsepower heavy fuel (diesel) engine instead of the 115 horsepower aviation fuel engine used by other Heron 1 variants.

Diesel fuel offers several benefits, including greater safety in transport and commonality with other engines used on today’s battlefield.

Weiss said the new generation medium-altitude high-endurance UAV will be faster and offer significant capability enhancements and improved rates of climb compared with previous Herons.

Air speed will exceed 150 knots compared with the present Heron figure of 115 knots; maximum takeoff weight has increased 200 kilograms to 1,450 kilograms. Payload weight is 450 kilograms, said the company in a statement.

The UAV made its first flight last October.

The machine is already being offered in export markets and Shepard Media reported that the Super Heron HF is competing with Elbit to supply the Swiss military with a heavy fuel-powered machine. A selection is expected later this year.


Levin: DoD Unlikely To Breach Spending Caps in 2015 Request

Feb. 11, 2014 – 05:22PM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — US Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin said Tuesday he doubts the Pentagon’s 2015 budget request will breach spending caps set by Congress.

Large numbers of Republicans and Democrats in both chambers voted for the 2011 Budget Control Act, which capped discretionary defense and domestic spending for 2014 and 2015. The bipartisan budget plan negotiated late last year by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., then extended them through 2021.

Lawmakers are so fond of the caps, in fact, that including them in the bipartisan budget plan enhanced the final vote tallies in both chambers.

In recent weeks, defense analysts and insiders had suggested the Pentagon would simply ignore those caps in its 2015 request. But that notion is being systematically extinguished.

Levin told reporters on Tuesday that he believes the coming DoD request, due on Capitol Hill in early March (a few weeks later than usual), will fit under the caps — even if just barely.

He expects Pentagon officials will use the “future years defense plan [FYDP],” which forecasts expected defense requests for four additional years, to “tell us that, unless we deal with the ’16 sequestration … what the impacts will be down the road.”

That meshes with comments made by Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby during an interview with Defense News last Friday.

Sources have told Defense News that the White House is considering allowing the Pentagon to show spending levels for 2016 through 2019 — which encompass the FYDP — that are higher than the spending caps.


If that scenario plays out, expect GOP fiscal hawks and anti-Pentagon liberals to cry foul. The former wants deep cuts across the federal budget and the latter will question why the White House is making exceptions only for a Defense Department that makes up such a massive percentage of total discretionary spending.


Banks push for tokenization standard to secure credit card payments

Tokenization addresses gaps in EMV smartcard standard, says indsutry group

By Jaikumar Vijayan

February 12, 2014 02:31 PM ET

Computerworld – A group representing 22 of the world’s largest banks is pushing for broad adoption in the U.S. of payment card technology called tokenization, citing shortcomings in the planned migration to the Europay MasterCard Visa (EMV) smartcard standard over the next two years.

The Clearing House Payments Company (TCH), whose owners include Bank of America, Citibank, Capital One and JP Morgan Chase, is working with member banks to see how tokenization can be applied to online and mobile payment environments to protect against fraud.

The effort stems from what the group says is the need to address gaps in the EMV standard involving mobile and online transactions.

“EMV has been out there for close to 20 years” and has served its purpose well, said Dave Fortney, senior vice president, product development and management for The Clearing House.


Data breaches

Banks push for tokenization standard to secure credit card payments

Debit and credit cards based on the EMV technology use an embedded microchip, instead of a magnetic stripe, to store data and are considered almost impossible to clone for fraudulent purposes. Though the rest of the world moved to the technology years ago, the U.S. has lagged behind for a variety of reasons.

However, after the recent Target breach that exposed data on 40 million debit and credit cards, calls to adopt the standard in the U.S. have become more strident. MasterCard and Visa have said they want merchants and banks to be ready to start accepting EMV cards by October 2015.

While the planned migration has its benefits, EMV is not quite the panacea that many assume it is, Fortney said. “The downside with EMV is that it was created when there was no Internet, no online commerce, no smartphones and no tablets.”

While EMV is great for securing card transactions at point-of-sale terminals, it is less useful for online payments and other card-not-present transactions. That is one of the major reasons why payment card fraud has migrated from point-of-sale systems to online channels in Europe and other places that have already adopted EMV.

Payment card tokenization is one way to address this gap, Fortney noted.

Tokenization is a method for protecting card data by substituting a card’s Primary Account Number (PAN) with a unique, randomly generated sequence of numbers, alphanumeric characters, or a combination of a truncated PAN and a random alphanumeric sequence.


The token is usually the same length and format as the original PAN, so it appears no different than a standard payment card number to back-end transaction processing systems, applications and storage.

The random sequence, or “token,” acts as a substitute value for the actual PAN while the data is at rest inside a retailer’s systems. The token can be reversed to its true associated PAN value at any time with the right decryption keys. Tokens can be either single use tokens or multi-use tokens.

Tokenization eliminates the need for merchants, e-commerce sites and operators of mobile wallets to store sensitive payment card data on their networks, said Fortney.

With tokenization, credit and debit card data is encrypted at the point where it is captured and sent to the merchant’s payment processor where the data is decrypted and the transaction is authorized. The processor then issues a token representing the entire transaction back to the retailer while the actual card number itself is securely stored in a virtual vault.

The retailer can use the token to keep track of the transaction and handle refunds, returns, exchanges and other transactions. The token itself would be of little value to data thieves because there would be no way to link the token back to the PAN without the decryption key.

Customers would do nothing different when paying for purchases using a credit or debit card. The card data is encrypted when the card is swiped through the payment terminal, sent to the processor where it is decrypted for transaction approval processes, and a token issued to the merchant all without the customer experiencing anything different.

Tokenization can also be implemented on-premise with the merchant itself hosting the server that does the decryption and token issuance.

Tokenization also offers a great way to secure emerging mobile payment applications, Fortney said. A mobile wallet operator like PayPal or Google could use the approach to store one-time use tokens in a consumer’s virtual wallet rather than actual credit and debit card numbers. Consumers could use the tokens to make purchases like they would with an actual payment card while merchants would be able to complete a transaction without touching or storing actual PAN data, he said.

One major advantage with tokenization is that it does not require merchants to make major changes to their current payment acceptance systems, like EMV does, Fortney said. Tokens are formatted in the same manner as card information so merchants have to make relatively minimal changes to their payment systems, he said.

The real heavy lifting would happen at the banks, or other entities that store PAN data, generate tokens and keep track of them through the entire transaction chain.

Tokenization is not new. The Payment Card Industry Security Council, which administers a set of security standards for payment systems, recommends it as an approach for reducing the work that companies have to do to become PCI compliant.

A growing number of retailers already use tokenization as a way to reduce PCI scope, and several vendors sell tokenization products and services.

The Clearing House effort is aimed at fostering standards that everyone in the payment industry can use to implement tokenization in a consistent manner, Fortney said. “Our desire is to have an open standard across the whole industry,” he said.

The Clearing House is not the only organization looking at tokenization.

Following the Target breach, EMVCo, an entity owned by American Express, MasterCard, Visa and three other credit card brands, also announced plans to develop a tokenization standard for securing credit and debit card payments made via mobile handsets, tablet computers and online channels.

EMVCo did not respond to multiple Computerworld requests for comment on their effort. But a press release from January said the new specification would complement the existing EMV smartcard specifications that all merchants and banks are required to migrate to by the end of next year.

EMVCo’s specification will describe a “consistent approach to identify and verify the valid use of a token during payment processing including authorization, capture, clearing and settlement,” the statement noted.

The biggest benefit with tokenization is that it helps merchants remove payment card numbers from systems that don’t need it, said Terrence Spies, chief technology officer at Voltage Security, a provider of encryption and other data masking technologies.

Since tokenization is done in a central way, only a small portion of the network knows how to generate and reverse a token. As a result, it is easier for banks and other third parties to protect that process, Spies said. He is also chairman of the cryptographic tools group at the X9 standards body responsible for developing cryptographic standards for the financial services industry.

Like EMVCo and The Clearing House, the X9 standards body is working on developing tokenization standards for the U.S. payment industry, Spies said. The X9 effort is focused on developing standard definitions for tokenization and for the processes for generating and validating tokens, he said. “There’s a lot of energy being putting into getting tokenization right,” Spies said.


Illegal Drones Dare FAA to Stop Filming ‘Wolf’ to Bulls

by Press • 14 February 2014

By Alan Levin


It came from the sky.

One moment, Eileen Peskoff was enjoying a hot dog after running with the bulls at a Petersburg, Virginia, racetrack. Then she was on her back, knocked down when a 4-foot drone filming the event in August lost control and dove into the grandstands where she was sitting.

“You sign up for something called running the bulls, you think the only thing you’ll get hurt by is a 1,200-pound bull, not a drone,” Peskoff said in an interview.

Drones flown for a business purpose, like the one that left Peskoff and two friends with bruises, are prohibited in the U.S. That hasn’t stopped an invasion of flights far beyond the policing ability of theFederal Aviation Administration, which since 2007 hasn’t permitted commercial drones in the U.S. while it labors to write rules to allow them.

Drones have nonetheless been used to film scenes in the Martin Scorsese-directed movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” and sporting events for Walt Disney Co. (DIS)’s ESPN. They’ve inspected oilfield equipment, mapped agricultural land and photographed homes and neighborhoods for real estate marketing, according to industry officials, company websites and videos on the Internet.

All such flights in the U.S. are outside the rules. While the FAA hasn’t ruled out granting commercial-use permits under limited circumstances, it has so far only allowed operations in the Arctic.


Ignorance, Avoidance

Some operators plead ignorance of the rules. Some say their flying is legal under exemptions for hobbyists. Using drones is so lucrative for Hollywood that they’re flown knowing they’re illegal, said one operator who declined to be identified.

The FAA is aware the number of flights is increasing and tells users to stop when it learns about them, it said in an e-mailed response to questions. The agency said it’s considering new guidance on what’s permitted.

For every time the FAA orders an operator to stand down — as it did after a Michigan florist did a test delivery by drone Feb. 8, and in January with Lakemaid Beer, which posted a video online proposing 12-pack deliveries to Minnesota ice fishermen – – untold others fly below the radar, said Patrick Egan, a Sacramento, California-based author and producer of an annual unmanned aircraft expo in San Francisco.

Small drones available on the Internet or at hobby stores for less than $1,000 — some equipped with high-definition cameras like those made by San Mateo, California-based GoPro Inc. — are flooding the U.S. and being used by tens of thousands of people, whether legal or not, Egan said.


Airliners, Drones

The Federal Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation on March 4 after pilots on an Alitalia SpA Boeing Co. (BA) 777 nearing New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport spotted a multirotor copter that came within about 200 feet (61 meters).

At least six other pilots, including a crew on another airliner, have reported close calls since September 2011 with what they believed were small unmanned aircraft like those favored by hobbyists, cinematographers and other businesses, according to NASA’s Aviation Safety Reporting System, which logs safety issues.

While the government needs to do more to control the growth in drones, it has been “swamped” by political cross-currents and budget cuts that have made it difficult to craft rules, Doug Davis, who ran the FAA’s unmanned aircraft office in the mid-2000s, said in an interview.


‘No Way’

As airline pilot unions call for strict standards on the qualifications of drone operators, industry advocates including Egan say the standards should be eased. Lawmakers such as SenatorDianne Feinstein, a California Democrat who said protesters flew toy drones outside her house last year, have pressed the FAA to add privacy requirements as it crafts safety rules.

“The FAA is going to have to step up the enforcement of people who use these things,” Sean Cassidy, national safety coordinator for the Air Line Pilots Association, said in an interview. ALPA is the largest pilots union in North America.

The FAA conducted 17 enforcement actions for illegal drone use in the 13 months that ended in July 2013, according to agency data that doesn’t include informal steps like phone calls. It has issued one fine, which is being contested.

The FAA, set up to enforce manned aviation, doesn’t have the resources to enforce existing rules on a new form of flying that isn’t tied to airports and requires so little training almost anyone can do it, Davis said.

“The reality is there is no way to patrol it,” Davis said. “There’s just no way.”


Scorsese’s ‘Wolf’

Some businesses flying drones make little attempt to hide what they’re doing.


Freefly Cinema, an aerial photography company in Los Angeles and Seattle, has photos on itswebsite of helicopter drones it says it flew to film scenes for “The Wolf of Wall Street” and a commercial for Honda Motor Co. (7267)

Tabb Firchau of Freefly declined to comment in an e-mail. Rebecca Cook at the public relations company 42West LLC, which represents Scorsese, didn’t respond to e-mails requesting a comment.

A Freefly drone shot footage for a documentary about the U.S. Civil War battle at Gettysburg,Pennsylvania, that aired on most Public Broadcasting Service stations in the U.S. in November, the filmmaker, Jake Boritt, said in an interview.

Boritt said he got permission to film from the U.S. National Park Service. “It’s not something that we did a whole lot of research into,” Boritt said.

The park service, which controls access to the Gettysburg site and not the airspace, didn’t check with FAA about aviation regulations, Katie Lawhon, a spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.


Worth It

While ESPN hasn’t used drones to film events, some independent production companies supplying video to the network have, Josh Krulewitz, a spokesman, said in an e-mail. ESPN is telling production companies it works with to comply with regulations, Krulewitz said. He didn’t specify events at which drones were used.

For Hollywood, the benefits of using drones are worth the miniscule risk of being caught, said an operator who films scenes for TV shows and commercials. He asked to be unidentified because the practice isn’t permitted.

An unmanned aircraft system costing a few thousand dollars or less can replace dollies, booms and stabilization equipment costing tens of thousands, this operator said.


Surf’s Up

Eric Sterman, of Haleiwa, Hawaii, on Oahu’s North Shore, created a stir this year in the surfing world with a series of drone-shot videos of some of the world’s best surfers.

Sterman’s videos show wave riding at Oahu’s Banzai Pipeline and Maui’s Pe’ahi Jaws, filmed by a remote-controlled copter that floats above the waves. In one, filmed this year, his drone hovered next to a piloted helicopter also filming.

Sterman said in an e-mail he didn’t go near the helicopter. “I’m just having fun filming as a hobby and sharing it with friends and followers,” he said. Sterman, who lists a professional photo agency on his page, said he wasn’t paid for any of his drone video work.

Flying model aircraft is permitted provided it’s for recreation only, the FAA said in a written response to questions. In a 1981 advisory, the FAA said these unmanned aircraft should be flown no higher than 400 feet and away from populated areas. It also said they shouldn’t be flown near planes and helicopters, and that operators can’t use the hobbyist exemption to fly commercially.


‘High Concern’

Flying a drone next to a helicopter violates safety protocols, Matthew Zuccaro, president of Helicopter Association International, an Alexandria, Virginia-based trade group, said in an interview.


“We have a very high concern that there are people operating unmanned vehicles without our knowledge and without communications,” Zuccaro said.

Asked by the Australian surfing publication about the regulations, Sterman said, “I know you can fly them as a hobby. But no, I really don’t know the rules at all,” according to a Jan. 15 story.

The drone that hit Eileen Peskoff and two friends, Brad Fillius and Patrick Lewis, on Aug. 24 is owned by Scott Hansen, a Virginia Beach filmmaker.

Hansen was hired to produce aerial views of the event for a promotional video, Rob Dickens, chief operating officer of The Great Bull Run LLC, said in an interview.

The drone was operated by an employee of a local hobby shop, according to the FAA. Hansen wasn’t at the event, Dickens said.


Quad-Copter, GoPro

Peskoff said Hansen told her some of the batteries died. He wrote her a check for her medical bills afterward, Peskoff said. Hansen didn’t return three phone messages left at his production company, Digital Thunderdome.

The FAA said it spoke with the operator and the hobby shop’s owner to explain the rules, and the owner agreed to provide training for customers who purchase model drones. Additional enforcement action is still being considered, the agency said in a statement.

“It was kind of lucky,” Peskoff said. “The place was filled with young people. It hit three adults instead of a child.”

Also filming that day was a drone being flown for ESPN’s Kenny Mayne’s Wider World of Sports show, Matt Doyle, executive producer and director of Big Brick Productions in Manchester, New Hampshire, said in an interview.

The production company has used drones to film commercials and feature shows for ESPN, and hasn’t looked into the legal restrictions, Doyle said.

“It seems like everyone and their mother has a quad-copter and a GoPro attached to it,” he said. “It’s not just a production company.”


Vague Rules

GoPro, which filed for a U.S. initial public offering last week, makes cameras that surfers, skiers and sky divers use to record their exploits. Katie Kilbride, a spokeswoman, said the company declined to comment on drone operations and safety.

Drone advocates like Egan and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, an Arlington, Virginia-based trade group, said the FAA’s drone standards are vague and helped lead to the explosion of users pushing the envelope.

“AUVSI is certainly concerned that the longer FAA takes to write the safety rules for small unmanned aircraft, the more difficult it will become to regulate this industry,” Ben Gielow, general counsel of the group, said in an interview.


‘Careless, Reckless’

The FAA had planned to propose rules by 2011 allowing commercial flights with drones weighing less than 55 pounds (25 kilograms). The agency now doesn’t expect to unveil the proposal until November.

The agency also isn’t expected to meet a Congress-imposed deadline to craft rules for safely integrating unmanned aircraft into the nation’s airspace by 2015, the Transportation Department’s inspector general said in a report Feb. 5.

Even without those regulations, the FAA says it has the authority to prohibit commercial unmanned aircraft operations and “careless or reckless” flights by drones, which it calls unmanned aerial systems or UAS.

On Feb. 12, for example, an FAA inspector called Wesley Berry, chief executive officer of Flower Delivery Express LLC in Commerce, Michigan, after the company posted a video showing a drone delivering flowers to a home, Berry said in an interview. The tests, which showed the technology wasn’t ready for routine deliveries, were shut down, Berry said.


‘Genie Out’

“We are concerned about any UAS operation that poses a hazard to other aircraft or to people and property on the ground,” the agency said in a statement.

After the agency fined a Swiss man $10,000 for flying a drone over a Virginia university in 2011, the only fine the FAA has issued, his lawyer argued there were no regulations that applied. An administrative law judge hasn’t ruled on the appeal.

The number of civilian unmanned aircraft will reach 175,000 by 2035, most of them smaller models, a report by the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Volpe National Transportation Systems Center found. Many such aircraft, such as the DJI Phantom 2, are already on the market.

“All of these people are out there flying trying to make a buck,” Egan said. “The genie is definitely out of the bottle.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Alan Levin in Washington at



Curbs shut US drone makers out of export markets

by Press • 13 February 2014

BY KELVIN CHAN AP Business Writer


SINGAPORE — Military brass shopping at Asia’s biggest defense expo this week have drones high on their to-buy list. But for U.S. manufacturers including General Atomics, which makes the Predator hunter-killer, there’s one problem: they can only sell to a few countries because of tight export restrictions.


The controls give rival drone makers from countries such as Israel and China a chance to win more business in the growing global market for unmanned aerial vehicles, which one group forecasts to more than double in the next decade.

U.S. arms makers have been lobbying the government for several years to loosen the restrictions so they can sell their systems to more countries. They fear their established market is shrinking as domestic defense spending is squeezed and the U.S. military withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan.

American aerospace companies are showing off the latest missiles, attack helicopters and fighter jets at the Singapore Airshow but they may find foreign rivals have the upper hand in cutting more deals for drones, also known as unmanned aerial vehicles.

“There are countries like Israel and China that have weapons-capable aircraft and they can sell, so it definitely hampers us with business not just in this region but around the world because we cannot compete,” said Billy Gililland, president of systems integration at General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.

The company’s Predator and Reaper are among the world’s most widely deployed drones. They can loiter in the air for long periods to give their operators more time to verify targets before firing precision-guided warheads.

Exports of drones are tightly controlled by an agreement signed by members of a group called the Missile Technology Control Regime, which includes the United States, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan. The group has since expanded to 34 countries but Israel and China aren’t members. The 1987 agreement was originally intended to curb the spread of ballistic missiles. Present day concern about spreading advanced weaponized drone technology to countries or groups hostile to the U.S. is a factor in keeping the American restrictions in place.

Officials at companies such as Northrop Grumman, which makes the high-altitude Global Hawk, argue the restrictions hurt competitiveness in a market that Teal Group Co. forecasts to expand to $11.6 billion in 2023 from $5.2 billion last year.

At the same time, human rights groups and some U.S. politicians have been increasingly critical of drone strikes for killing civilians.

Israeli drone makers including Elbit Systems Ltd. and Israel Aviation Industries Ltd., or IAI, had big displays at the Singapore Airshow.

IAI unveiled its Superheron drone, an upgraded version of its popular Heron. The company has sold drones to 20 countries including Brazil and Turkey.

Israel has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s largest exporter of unmanned aerial systems, selling $4.6 billion worth from 2005 to 2012, according to a report by consulting firm Frost & Sullivan. In the same period, U.S. overseas sales amounted to $2-$3 billion.

Asia is a growing market for IAI, said Sharly Ben Chetrit, its executive vice president of marketing, He said Israel also has its own restrictions on exports.

“I can assure you that we are adhering to the most strict licensing policy in Israel. I don’t think we have it easier,” he said.

China’s state-owned companies have developed dozens of drones, including the Wing Loong, or Pterodactyl, which bears a striking resemblance to the Predator. A scale-model was on display at the airshow’s Chinese booth, where a salesman said it could carry two air-to-ground missiles weighing a combined 100 kilograms.

“It not only has strike capability but can be used for reconnaissance. America also has this type of UAV,” he said. He declined to give his name or say how much it cost. Staff said no officials were available to be interviewed.


China’s rapidly maturing drone capabilities alarm experts.

“China is positioning itself so that any country on the planet that, for political or financial reasons, is restricted from purchasing American or allied drones will be able to go to Beijing and get a comparable platform,” said Ian Easton, a research fellow at the 2049 Project Institute security think tank. He co-authored a recent report on China’s drones.

China’s $139 billion defense budget last year was the world’s second biggest, accounting for about 9 percent of global military spending, according to a report last week by IHS Jane’s. It’s leading a broader rise in regional military spending, with Australia, India and South Korea also hiking budgets that’s widens opportunities for defense contractors.

To compete for export business, General Atomics launched a drone model last year called the Predator XP that can’t be armed. Gililland said his company has been pitching for business to countries “all over the Pacific Rim.” Only Britain, Holland and Italy have been allowed to buy the missile-ready version, the latter two only recently.

The XP has had a lukewarm reception because foreign militaries want the version that can carry out an airstrike.

The list price for a Predator XP system, including three aircraft, three ground stations and spare parts, is about $50-$60 million. So far only the United Arab Emirates has bought it. A Predator that can carry weapons is “substantially” more expensive, Gililland said, though he declined to give a figure.

On Tuesday, the airshow’s first day, Gililland met the chief of Saudi Arabia’s air force, who said because of the curbs the country would buy the Wing Loong made by a Chinese state-owned company. Chinese media reports say it has been exported to countries in the Middle East and Asia at a fraction of the Predator’s price.

Gililland said he hoped buyers would become more interested in the XP but the company would need to sell them on its surveillance capabilities.

“There’s a lot of ways that we can sell the XP but we have to get past everyone’s desire to have a U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army-style Predator that shoots Hellfire missiles.”

Read more here:


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia have provided plenty of drama for over a week now, but Washington, DC offered some excitement of its own this week.

Following a challenge from the Tea Party wing of the party, 12 Republican senators joined Democrats in voting to raise the federal debt ceiling through March 2015 without any additional spending cuts. While most U.S. voters agreed that not raising the debt ceiling would have been bad for the economy, they wanted a debt ceiling bill that included long-term spending cuts.

Another issue receiving a lot of attention in Washington is immigration reform, now that Republican leaders in Congress are expressing support for a measure that paves a way to citizenship for those here illegally after the border is completely secured. Voters aren’t confident the feds will actually secure the border, but an overwhelming majority have a favorable opinion of immigrants who work hard to pursue the American Dream.

The spending and immigration issues could impact some key Senate races this year, but many Republicans are hoping the health care law will help them capture the Senate. Voters are a bit more critical of the U.S. health care system four months into Obamacare, but most still have high praise for their health insurance coverage and the care they personally receive

Democrats have reclaimed their lead on this week’s Generic Congressional Ballot.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder this week called for lifting voting bans on millions of felons as part of the Obama administration’s efforts to address the U.S. justice system. Most voters believe someone convicted of a felony should regain the right to vote after serving their sentence problem-free.

Voters are only slightly less convinced that the Internal Revenue Service broke the law when it targeted Tea Party and other conservative groups, and they strongly oppose bonuses being awarded to IRS employees for their work last year.

On the economic front, the number of homeowners who say their home is worth more than what they owe on their mortgage has increased after a weak start to 2014. 35% Expect Their Home’s Value To Go Up Over Next Year Most homeowners continue to say they have not missed a mortgage payment in the last six months and fewer than ever expect to in the near future. 25% Believe Gov’t Should Assist Those Who Can’t Make Mortgage Payments.

CVS Caremark drugstores announced last week that they would stop selling all tobacco products in their stores “to help people on their path to better health,” and most Americans think it’s likely that other major retail chains will follow their example in the next few years.

Most voters continue to support an economic system that provides everyone a chance to succeed, and they generally believe it is fair and helpful for the economy to let those who are successful become very rich

Just 32% rate President Obama’s handling of economic issues as good or excellent, down two points from the previous week and the lowest positive ratings since early December

Finally, there was quite a bit of entertainment news this week, including one of the most celebrated events in modern music history. The Beatles made their U.S. television debut 50 years ago last Sunday and 63% say they have watched the iconic Ed Sullivan show

Late night comedian Jay Leno ended his 22-year run as the host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” last week, and Americans view him more favorably than his replacement, Jimmy Fallon. But more than half of adults say the switch from Leno to Fallon won’t impact their decision to watch the long-running show

Singer Clay Aiken, who got his start on the “American Idol” TV program, made headlines last week when he announced he is running for Congress in North Carolina, but very few consider a candidate’s celebrity a deciding factor to their vote.

In other surveys this week:

– Very few adults consider Valentine’s Day one of the nation’s most important holidays, but more than half neither look forward to nor dread the day 

Most adults aren’t planning to send or receive flowers this Valentine’s Day, which may be good, since most want something else anyway. Here’s more of what Americans think about the holiday

 – For the second week in a row, 29% of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, according to a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey for the week ending February 9.

– A majority of Americans have a favorable impression of the so-called Baby Boomer generation, but they are less enthusiastic about the generation’s impact on America. Here’s more of what America thinks about the baby boomers.

Most voters still have a favorable opinion of the Social Security system but also continue to doubt that they will receive all their benefits from the federal retirement system.

Most voters continue to believe Americans should be able to choose their own Social Security and Medicare retirement age and decide what they pay out of their paycheck for those benefits.

February 8 2014




Insurer Sued Over Data Breach

Expert Predicts Healthcare Breach Suits Will Be Common in 2014

By Marianne Kolbasuk McGee,

February 1, 2014


A class action lawsuit has been filed against insurer Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey in the wake of data breach late last year involving the theft of two unencrypted laptop computers that affected nearly 840,000 of its members.

Privacy and security attorney David Navetta of the Information Law Group, who is not involved in the case, says the Horizon lawsuit is likely the first of many breach-related suits in healthcare and other industries that will be filed this year.

“2014 is potentially the year of the data and privacy lawsuit,” he says. “Small wins” in lawsuits in other industries, such as retail, are fueling the filing of more cases in all sectors, Navetta says.

Dozens of lawsuits have already been filed in the wake of the Target breach, he notes. “There are little chinks in the armor, and it’s creating an atmosphere that didn’t exist in 2011, or 2012, and was starting in 2013,” he says.

The plaintiffs in the Horizon case, Karen Pekelney and Mark Meisel, are suing the insurer for failing to adequately secure and safeguard its members’ sensitive personally identifiable information, which includes names, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, addresses, medical histories, test and laboratory results, and insurance information.

Horizon notified almost 840,000 members about the incident when it occurred. Those members whose Social Security numbers may have been exposed are being offered free credit monitoring and identity theft protection for one year, the company said (see: Unencrypted Laptops Lead to Mega-Breach).

The plaintiffs allege Horizon acted negligently in safeguarding members’ information and violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. They are seeking unspecified damages.

A Horizon spokesman tells Information Security Media Group: “This lawsuit is without merit and Horizon BCBSNJ intends to vigorously defend itself.”


Floodgates Open?

Navetta notes that many breach-related lawsuits, including healthcare cases, have been dismissed early in the discovery phase, while others have been settled out of court. But for many plaintiffs in these breach cases, settlements can be substantial “wins,” Navetta says.

“There’s blood in the water, and the floodgates are open,” he says.

Navetta points to the 2011 court ruling in favor of payment card breach victims affected by a 2007 incident involving Hannaford, a northeastern U.S. grocery chain. A court decision partially overturned a district court ruling that dismissed 26 individual lawsuits against Hannaford (see Hannaford Breach Ruling: What it Means). The ruling meant victims of the Hannaford payment card breach can sue for damages resulting from the costs of card replacement, theft insurance and other “reasonable” mitigation efforts.

Litigation and government enforcement actions related to breaches are heating up in healthcare, he points out.

Breach cases like those targeting Horizon, as well as a recent complaint filed against medical testing firm LabMD by the Federal Trade Commission, are putting a spotlight on the importance of data protection and prompt breach notification, Navetta says. They also are calling attention to the need for cyber-insurance.

“These cases are very expensive for companies to fight, and these situations can potentially put smaller healthcare organizations out of business,” he says.

LabMD’s CEO Michael Daugherty announced on Jan 28. that his Atlanta-based medical testing laboratory would be winding down operations due to the cost of its battle with the FTC over the agency’s security breach case against the company (see: Lab Shutting Down in Wake of FTC Case).


RSA: Malware Impacts 45 Retailers

No Connection with Target, Neiman Marcus Breaches

By Jeffrey Roman, January 31, 2014. Follow Jeffrey @gen_sec


Security vendor RSA has uncovered a point-of-sale malware operation originating from the Ukraine that has stolen payment card and personal data from 45 small and midsize retailers. Some 50,000 cards were affected, RSA says.

The malware used in these attacks is less sophisticated than what was used in the breaches at Target Corp. and Neiman Marcus and has no connection to those attacks, an RSA spokesperson tells Information Security Media Group.

Beginning Oct. 25 and ending the last week of January, when the command-and-control server went offline, the malware scraped payments card data from infected POS systems, RSA says in a blog.

The company confirms to Information Security Media Group that 45 retailers were affected, but it declines to name those that were attacked.

Impacted companies are mostly based in the U.S., although malware infection activity has been detected in 10 other countries, RSA says.

RSA has notified the Federal Bureau of Investigation regarding the malware operation, and has been in communication with the victim companies, the blog says.


ChewBacca Malware

The company’s investigation has determined that the malware responsible for stealing payment card data is “ChewBacca,” which it describes as a relatively new, private Trojan that features simple keylogging and memory-scraping functionality.

The memory scanner incorporated in “ChewBacca” operates by dumping a copy of a process’ memory and searching it for card magnetic stripe data, RSA says. If a card number is found, the memory scraper extracts and logs it on the hackers’ command-and-control server.

The command-and-control server’s IP address is concealed. Also, traffic is encrypted and it avoids network-level detection, RSA says.

“The ChewBacca Trojan appears to be a simple piece of malware that, despite its lack of sophistication and defense mechanisms, succeeded in stealing payment card information from several dozen retailers around the world in a little more than two months,” RSA says in the blog.

RSA recommends retailers mitigate these types of threats by developing comprehensive monitoring and incident response capabilities. Retailers also should consider encrypting or tokenizing data at the point of capture and ensure that it’s not in plain text view on their networks, RSA says.


Keystone XL Review Sees Little Impact on Climate

Analysis Finds Project Wouldn’t Likely Change Amount of Oil From Canadian Oil Sands





Updated Jan. 31, 2014 6:59 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—An Obama administration analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline said it probably wouldn’t alter the amount of oil ultimately removed from Canadian oil sands, boosting the pipeline’s backers by suggesting it would have little impact on climate change.

An Obama administration analysis of the Keystone XL pipeline application shows the project wouldn’t likely change the amount of oil ultimately removed from Canadian oil sands. Alicia Mundy joins the News Hub.

The release of the long-awaited report is one of the last steps before the up-or-down decision by President Barack Obama, who must juggle conflicting demands from supporters heading into midterm elections.

The Keystone XL pipeline, which would carry oil from Canadian oil sands into the U.S. Midwest on the way to Gulf coast refineries, has become a potent symbol both for environmentalists who say it would accelerate global warming and for unions and business leaders who see it as a way to stoke North America’s development as an energy-producing superpower.

The environmental analysis released Friday by the State Department, which is responsible for assessing the project, weighed in at 11 volumes. It said that “approval or denial of any one crude-oil transport project, including the proposed project, is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands.”

The finding that the oil would be extracted and delivered anyway—possibly by rail if not pipeline—left environmentalists disappointed.

“I will not be satisfied with any analysis that does not accurately document what is really happening on the ground when it comes to the extraction, transport, refining and waste disposal of dirty, filthy, tar-sands oil,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), chairman of the Senate environment and public works committee and a White House ally.

The report isn’t the last word on the matter. Now begins a final State Department study to determine whether the pipeline project is in the nation’s broader interests. Eight separate agencies have up to three months to weigh in.

The report makes no recommendations on TransCanada Corp.’s TRP -0.02% permit request, leaving Secretary of State John Kerry and Mr. Obama the space to draw their own conclusions about whether the pipeline should get built.

They are free to reject the pipeline based on this more sweeping analysis, in which the environmental report is but one data point. In the next review, they will take into account a consideration that may affect the president’s legacy: He has sought to take a leading global role in the effort to combat climate change.

Under the executive order governing the permit review, Mr. Kerry is empowered to make the final call.

But presidential aides have said Mr. Obama has told them he will make the final decision on Keystone.

Addressing Keystone at his regular press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the report didn’t represent a decision “but rather another step in the process.”

Mr. Obama could wait until after the November elections, but he is under pressure from the Canadian government and a handful of pro-Keystone Democratic senators not to delay further. A few Democratic senators who are up for re-election this year have warned that they will push legislation forcing a decision if the review stretches much longer.

In a statement Friday, pro-Keystone Sen. Mary Landrieu (D., La.), said, “This new study underscores what has been said all along about the Keystone XL pipeline: It’s time to build. This single project will inject billions of dollars into Louisiana and national economies, and reduce our dependence on oil from hostile countries.”

Republicans have also grown impatient with the lengthy Keystone review process. Citing Mr. Obama’s pledge to use his executive authority—his “pen”—to boost the economy, GOP lawmakers have urged him to approve the pipeline now.

“Mr. President, no more stalling, no more excuses. Please pick up that pen you’ve been talking so much about and make this happen. Americans need these jobs,” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Friday.

Mr. Carney at the White House said that “there is a process that is in place, and that must be honored.”

Keystone has had a tangled history. TransCanada, which operates oil and natural-gas pipelines, first applied for a permit in 2008. In January 2012, the Obama administration rejected the application. At the time, Mr. Obama said a deadline that had been imposed by Congress didn’t allow enough time to determine the project’s environmental impact.

TransCanada reapplied in May 2012, after proposing to reroute the line to avoid an environmentally sensitive part of Nebraska, setting in motion the environmental report that was just released.

Mr. Obama isn’t the only leader with his legacy at stake. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is struggling in opinion polls, has aligned himself closely with Keystone. Mr. Harper’s natural-resources minister, Joe Oliver, said the report made him “more confident” the project will be approved.

“We’re very pleased with the release and being able to move to this next stage of the process. It’s been long in getting here,” said Russ Girling, TransCanada’s chief executive.

The pipeline has exposed divisions within the Democratic Party that could reverberate in the U.S. midterm elections in November.

Labor unions see the project as an engine for job creation. Environmentalists view it as a symbol of U.S. dependence on fossil fuels and worry that extraction of the oil from Canadian oil sands will release large amounts of carbon dioxide, exacerbating global warming. Both groups are pillars of the Democratic political coalition, which is aiming for a large turnout in November.

Dan Weiss of the liberal think tank Center for American Progress said the report released Friday “ignores evidence” that Keystone would spark greater production at Canadian oil sands.

“It’s like giving up on the interdiction of cocaine traffic into our country, because drugs are going to get in anyway,” Mr. Weiss said.

—Chester Dawson 
and Alistair MacDonald contributed to this article.



Obama Is Still Likely To Nix Keystone Pipeline, But That’s Not Bad For Oil Industry

Ken Silverstein, Contributor

2/02/2014 @ 8:03AM |14,519 views


The proposed Keystone XL Pipeline is coming to a pivotal point. Now that the Department of State has said that construction of the line that would transport Canadian tar sands to the U.S. would not wreak ecological havoc, President Obama must decide whether to proceed or not. What will he do?

It’s all speculation but using deductive logic, one can try and draw a conclusion. Despite the merits — or lack of them, depending on your viewpoint — Obama is unlikely to move forward. He has said that if construction of the 1,600 mile line would lead to greater greenhouse gas emissions than otherwise, he would deny the permit. And even though the State Department has written that this would not be the case, the president is indebted to the environmental movement, owing nothing politically to an oil industry that tried twice to defeat him.

That decision, in some measure, would be political. But it would also be environmental. That is, President Obama’s strongest and most confident statement during his State of the Union was about climate change — that it is man-made and that the science is settled, he said. With that, his Environmental Protection Agency has moved aggressively to curb carbon dioxide emissions from future coal plants, creating proposals that would require them to be as clean as combined cycle natural gas plants. A similar proposal is expected by summer for existing units.

For the president to appease his environmental base, he need not proclaim his official decision; on paper, he has 90 days to decide but the five-year history of this project suggest more delays are coming. He just needs to stay busy doing other, pressing things that heads-of-state do. And before it would get it to him, it must be given a thorough review by his Secretary of State John Kerry, who as a U.S. senator was vocal about curbing heat-trapping emissions.

None of this is necessarily bad news for the oil industry, which says that construction of the $12 billion Keystone XL Pipeline would create about 20,000 — temporary — jobs. The same State Department report that essentially blessed its construction says that if the network is not developed, the tar sands would then likely make their way into this country via the rail system.

“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States,” says the study, released Friday.

Beyond the economic impact, the oil industry points out that the roughly 900,000 barrels of crude that would flow from Canada would help ease imports from more distant sources like the Middle East. And, if TransCanada TRP -0.02%, the architect of the would-be line, were so inclined, it would pipe its fuel westward before having it shipped to Asia. That would create even more emissions that a direct link to the Lower 48.

Meantime, Canada is working behind the political scenes in the U.S. to placate the Obama administration’s fears. The respective energy cabinet minister and secretary have discussed how to achieve reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. As for the U.S., President Obama’s goal is to cut them by 17 percent by 2020, from  2005 levels — and the president has said that the nation is on target to get there.

Canada, meanwhile, has said it would agree to match those objectives. In a statement, its Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said that five exhaustive studies are enough and that the conclusions are apparent — that the line does not create any additional greenhouse gas emissions because the gooey tar sands would be developed regardless and that they would be exported, somewhere.

“The case for Keystone XL, in our view, both pre and post this report, is as strong as every,” adds TransCanada’s Chief Executive Russ Girling, in a conference call.

The conventional thought is that that the exploration and the transport of Canadian oil sands is about 20 percent dirtier than other petroleum forms. EPA’s assertion is that the tar sands are thicker than other non-refined products and that it takes more energy to create gasoline, diesel and solvents. The potential for corrosion and subsequent spills is also greater, it says, adding that they would be more difficult to clean up.

“I take Obama at his word,” says Pat Parenteau, law professor at the Vermont Law School and senior counsel at its Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic. “Saying no to Keystone would be the most powerful single thing that Obama could do to make good on his pledge, and carve his name in the history books.”

In President Obama’s world, those words will have resonance. He is not sold on the Keystone Pipeline — politically, environmentally or economically. With this recent milestone, a final decision is scheduled but it is not imperative. The line may get built, although not on Obama’s watch.



Battles Loom in Many States Over What to Do With Budget Surpluses


In a year when three dozen governors are up for election, unexpectedly robust revenues from taxes and other sources are filling most state coffers, creating surpluses not seen in years and prompting statehouse battles over what to do with the money.

After so many years of sluggish revenues, layoffs and draconian service cuts, governors and legislators are eager to use the newfound money to cut taxes, restore spending or, in some cases, pay down debts or replenish rainy-day funds for future recessions. But though revenues are improving, lawmakers are likely to find that there is not enough to pay for everything they want to do, experts say.

“The states are going to have what seems like extra money,” said Scott D. Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers. “Expectations will be high, but the money is not going to be enough to satisfy everyone’s expectations.”

While Republicans are tending to advocate more tax cuts and Democrats are more often pushing to restore spending on education and other programs, the differences between the two camps are not always so stark, with some governors outlining plans that appeal across party lines.

Joining Republican anti-tax stalwarts like Dave Heineman of Nebraska and Scott Walker of Wisconsin in calling for more tax cuts, for instance, is a Democrat, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York.

And while Democratic governors like Jay Nixon of Missouri and John W. Hickenlooper of Colorado are pushing for significantly more education spending, so are Republican governors in Kansas, Georgia and Idaho, among others.

In Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback, among the most conservative, is calling for full-day kindergarten for all students. In her State of the State address, Gov. Susana Martinez of New Mexico, a Republican, talked about increasing teacher salaries.

“Next to their parents, the adults children see most in their life are their teachers,” Governor Martinez said. “We should support our teachers with additional pay.”

Still, Ms. Martinez’s view was not shared by her fellow Republicans in Missouri, where Republican legislators sharply criticized Governor Nixon’s proposal to increase education spending by $493 million. “It is really unfortunate that this governor’s only solution is to throw money at problems,” said Tim Jones, the speaker of the Missouri House.

In some states where one party controls both the governor’s seat and the legislature, intraparty battles are looming over how to use the surpluses.

One example is in California, where Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, called in his State of the State address for more money to go into a rainy-day fund rather than into renewed spending — over the loud objections of some Democratic legislators who want to restore more of what had been trimmed in recent years.

“For a decade, budget instability was the order of the day,” Mr. Brown said. “A lethal combination of national recessions, improvident tax cuts and too much spending created a financial sinkhole that defied every effort to climb out.”

Darrell Steinberg, the Senate president pro tem and a fellow Democrat, shot back, saying that while putting some money into the rainy-day fund was laudable, the governor’s plan shortchanged crucial needs. “We must invest in the people of California, especially those living in the economic margins,” he said. “I’ve proposed and remain committed to a balanced framework of ‘a third, a third, a third,’ where we divide the surplus into reserves, repayment and reinvestment.”

Jostling among Republicans over how to spend the surpluses is also underway in Michigan, where Gov. Rick Snyder, a conservative Republican, announced a $791 million budget surplus and called for additional spending on education and infrastructure, as well as tax cuts. In response, the Republican-dominated Senate Finance Committee approved a bill that put specific numbers on the governor’s proposal, cutting the state’s income tax from 4.25 percent to 3.9 percent by 2017.


State of the States

States are seeing these surpluses because early projections by their budget officers are proving to have been too conservative. An overall strong year for the stock market and a general economic uptick are generating more income, property and sales tax revenues than expected. At the same time, a milestone is about to be reached: In the coming months, budget officials expect that state revenues will climb back to their pre-recession level, even accounting for inflation.

The result: Optimism about digging out of the recession is occurring at the same moment surpluses are landing. But many experts in state finances say governors and legislatures may be too eager to spend the new money rather than paying down debt, bolstering shaky pension systems or setting aside money for the next downturn.

States got a taste of improved revenues last year, when estimates of how many investors would sell holdings by the end of 2012 to avoid new tax regulations proved too low — leading to a sharp rise in state revenues, 5.7 percent nationwide.

Fearing that this had been an isolated bump, most states again were very conservative in their revenue estimates for the current fiscal year. Now that actual revenues are being collected, the projections are turning out to be low.

“It seems that the bump was not just a one-time bump,” said Eileen Norcross, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Virginia, who specializes in state and local finances. “The rate of growth in 2014 for revenues was slower than in 2013, but still significant.”

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas is seeking funding for full-day kindergarten for all students. Chris Neal/Topeka Capital-Journal, via Associated Press

With memories of recent deficit struggles still fresh in their minds, many governors are joining Mr. Brown in talking about putting at least some money into rainy-day funds, including governors in Michigan, Colorado and Hawaii, among others.

And while several governors, including Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, have called for more attention to state pension debt, few have yet to offer specifics. One exception was Gov. Sean Parnell of Alaska, a Republican, who wants to transfer $3 billion from state reserves for the state’s pension system.

There has also been ample talk in legislatures this month about infrastructure, much of it fairly vague but some aimed at specific projects. This is a sizable switch from recent years, when borrowing for large capital projects like bridges and highways had all but vanished amid budget shortfalls.

“With huge pressure to deal with some of these infrastructure issues, I think you will see that getting more attention in the coming months,” said Mr. Pattison of the budget officers association.

Still, state officials and analysts caution that trying to gauge the outcome of a legislative session by a governor’s opening address can be foolhardy. Political give-and-take, as usual, will shape the outcomes.

“I actually think most states, if they look pretty honestly at it, would have a hard time making a case for big new tax cuts or big new expenditures,” said Nicholas Johnson, vice president for state fiscal policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

“Managing ongoing services and undoing some of the worst things done during the recession will account for all or more than all of the revenue growth out there,” he said. “We are going up, but we are not free and clear yet.”



Posted: 5:36 p.m. Monday, Feb. 3, 2014

170 research jobs could move to Wright-Patt

Virginia lawmakers are fighting effort to move the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to Ohio.

By Barrie Barber

Staff Writer



A proposal to explore relocating the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and 170 jobs to Wright-Patterson from Virginia has stirred opposition among that state’s congressional delegation and led some scientists to cry foul.

Advocates say a move makes sense in part because Wright-Patterson is home to four directorates of the Air Force Research Laboratories and the Air Force Institute of Technology.

Opponents say the move would threaten the Air Force’s basic science research and severely restrict access to key federal research agencies, universities and defense contractors in the Washington, D.C., region.

Caroline C. Whitacre, Ohio State University vice president for research, said AFRL and Ohio State University, the University of Dayton, and Wright State University would all potentially benefit from a move. “It certainly brings jobs to Ohio,” she said. “I think this would have a huge impact on the research communities in the area.”

Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs, said in an email the potential move “could ensure better integration of basic research into the broader science and technology aims of the Air Force — which will ultimately lead to improved safety of our troops and more effective weapons systems.”

“Increasing the value of basic research to the Air Force is the best way of ensuring robust funding in the future,” he wrote.

Three Virginia congressional lawmakers sent a letter last month to Air Force Materiel Command leader Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger asking the Air Force to reject a move in part because the northern Virginia region is home to government agencies such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation, a litany of defense contractors and Virginia Tech and George Washington University. U.S. Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, and U.S. Rep. James P. Moran, all Democrats, signed the letter.

“We believe the research synergies achieved here cannot be replicated at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” the trio wrote. “We fear the impact that such a move would have on current and future research efforts, not just for the Air Force but for the wider academic and defense communities.”

With challenging budgetary times, AFMC and the Air Force are reviewing how best to use tax dollars, and are in the “very early stages of determining what, if any, changes might be made” at AFOSR, according to Ron Fry, an AFMC spokesman.

The American Physical Society, a scientific physics association, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc., have pushed back against a relocation.

Relocating the Office of Scientific Research would alter the agency’s culture with a shift in focus from basic to applied science and severely limit access to key federal basic research offices in and around Arlington, Va., APS President Malcolm R. Beasley wrote in a recent letter.

Most of the office’s staff would not move to Ohio and would likely be replaced by other AFRL employees, he wrote.

“The loss of institutional knowledge, combined with the shift from basic to applied research and the loss of AFOSR’s oversight of AFRL’s basic research program, would cripple the Air Force’s long term basic research program,” Beasley said in the letter.

The leader of the University of Dayton Research Institute dismissed the concerns.

“The thought that a move would eliminate basic research … makes no sense at all,” said Mickey McCabe, UDRI executive director and vice president of research. The Air Force would continue to fund basic research at universities nationwide, he said.

Even so, in an era of tight budgets, the Air Force needs assurances the money invested will lead to new aircraft and national security-oriented capabilities, he said.

“Being located next to four great directorates at AFRL, the interaction between those four directorates and AFOSR I think would be invaluable,” he said.

Adam Howard, chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said in an email the congressman “is working with the Ohio congressional delegation to address the Virginia delegation’s letter and ensure that politics doesn’t interfere with the important allocation of the Air Force’s mission.”



Travel spending drops 18 percent in 2013

Trends suggest 2014 totals will be even lower

Feb. 4, 2014 – 06:00AM | By ANDY MEDICI | Comments


Federal travel spending fell 18 percent from fiscal 2012 to 2013 — from $8.5 billion to about $6.9 billion — as measured by data from the General Services Administration’s SmartPay charge card program.

The 2014 number could be even lower, according to federal data and experts. The SmartPay program has more than 2.5 million card holders across the government. There are no comprehensive governmentwide travel spending numbers.


But travel spending in fiscal 2014 is already about 33 percent lower than at the same time last year at $890 million compared to $1.3 billion. GSA has canceled for the second year its annual Expo conference and has transitioned its SmartPay training forum into a virtual format, citing continued low levels of spending on travels and conferences.

Frank Benenati, spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget, said part of the drop can be attributed to agencies rethinking how and where to have conferences and by using technology to reduce the need for travel. “Agencies will continue to identify savings moving forward, while balancing the need for conferences and travel,” Benenati said.

Sequestration played a role as well, he acknowledged. However, the administration has taken steps to reduce unnecessary travel spending it is important to recognize the critical role that conferences and federal travel play in conducting federal business, he said.

“Moving forward, we are continuing to sharpen our understanding of the value of travel and conference attendance to mission critical departmental activities and the opportunities to reduce expenditures, as they are central to continued good stewardship of the taxpayer dollar,” he said.

In May 2012, OMB released a memo directing agencies to reduce travel spending by 30 percent compared with 2010 levels and to maintain those levels through 2016. Agencies also have to report annually on any conference spending in excess of $100,000, and employees must seek senior management approval for conference spending.

Government funding legislation passed in January codified the rules into law and required agencies to notify its inspector general of any conference that cost more than $20,000 and provide the IG with details of the conference.

The General Services Administration saw the biggest percentage drop of any agency, where travel spending fell 57 percent – from $14 million to $6.4 million in 2013 – partly because of strict new controls put in place in 2012.

The Defense Department saw travel spending fall by more than $1 billion from fiscal 2012 to 2013 – a drop of almost 19 percent – because of a combination of travel restrictions and expanded use of teleconferencing, according to the Defense Department.

Spokesman Nathan Christensen said DoD also increased its internal controls to review vouchers for valid travel spending and automated more of its training programs so that workplace education can be done on site.

He added employees will still be able to travel when required to obtain needed training or accomplish DoD objectives but that continued budget cuts will mean DoD will continue with strict oversight of travel expenditures.

Rick Singer, the executive director of the Society of Government Travel Professionals, said he was not surprised by the dip in fiscal 2014 spending caused by the government shutdown but that spending does appear to be leveling off.

He said increased reporting requirements may also serve as a continued drag on federal travel spending, which he expects to be flat

“Congress continues to require more transparency and accountability in regards to conference spending, which may cause agencies to restrict conference travel until they sort how to comply,” Singer said.

Scott Lamb, director of government sales for Hilton Hotels, said OMB travel restrictions and tight budgets will push federal officials to look very carefully at all travel spending in 2014 – keeping travel spending flat.

He said the hotel industry is looking at expanding into other areas to offset continued federal travel cuts as well as for ways to get as much of the remaining federal business as possible.

Hackers Tailored Malware to Retailers

Investigations Continue Into Neiman Marcus, Target Cyberattacks 3 Comments




Feb. 5, 2014 9:30 p.m. ET

Government investigators looking into the cyberattacks on Neiman Marcus Group andTarget Corp. TGT +1.42% believe the malicious software used in the heists was specifically tailored to exploit vulnerabilities in each retailer’s checkout systems.

The malware behind the two attacks is different, William Noonan, a top official in the Secret Service’s cyber operations division, said Wednesday at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing in Washington.

The Secret Service investigations into both breaches are ongoing, but the details of the software make clear retailers face an organized and persistent threat from hackers hoping to steal credit-card data.

To properly modify the software, hackers would have to develop intimate knowledge of the system and the security protocols in place. In the case of Neiman Marcus, the hackers appeared to have entered their system sometime in early 2013 to perform reconnaissance before implanting the malware that would carry out an attack that exposed data from up to 1.1 million cards, the retailer said.

The malware that compromised 40 million credit and debit cards at Target also appears to have been tailored to that retailer.

The hackers that attacked the discounter appear to have gotten in by using credentials stolen from a heating and air-conditioning contractor, a person familiar with the matter said. Target previously said the attackers gained entry with credentials stolen from a vendor, but didn’t say which kind. On Wednesday, the company declined to comment.

“This continues to be a very active and ongoing investigation,” Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder said.

Cybersecurity blogger Brian Krebs reported the identity of the vendor earlier Wednesday, saying it was Fazio Mechanical Services, a Pennsylvania-based provider of heating and air-conditioning systems. Fazio didn’t respond to a request for comment.

While Target and Neiman Marcus suffered the most visible recent attacks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service have warned that other retailers have been hit as well. Phillip Smith, a former Secret Service agent now with cybersecurity firm Trustwave Holdings, said a number of companies have been infiltrated and have software in their systems doing reconnaissance.

The reconnaissance involves getting into the point-of-sale system, watching how it processes transactions and figuring out how to best steal the data. The practice is leading to more sophisticated customization, Mr. Smith said.

“It’s not an off-the-shelf type of malware,” said Mr. Noonan, the Secret Service official. “The criminals are modifying and molding specific types of malware.”

Mr. Noonan described the gangs behind the attacks as being loosely affiliated but highly coordinated. He likened them to the heist movie “Ocean’s Eleven.” The groups have specialists in areas of infiltrating systems, designing malware, mapping networks and selling stolen data, and they employ them to work on different phases of the attack, he said.

The attacks on Target and Neiman Marcus appear to be unrelated, based on tactics and malware used, according to people familiar with the matter.

Assault on California Power Station Raises Alarm on Potential for Terrorism

April Sniper Attack Knocked Out Substation, Raises Concern for Country’s Power Grid



Feb. 4, 2014 10:30 p.m. ET

SAN JOSE, Calif.—The attack began just before 1 a.m. on April 16 last year, when someone slipped into an underground vault not far from a busy freeway and cut telephone cables.

Within half an hour, snipers opened fire on a nearby electrical substation. Shooting for 19 minutes, they surgically knocked out 17 giant transformers that funnel power to Silicon Valley. A minute before a police car arrived, the shooters disappeared into the night.

A sniper attack in April that knocked out an electrical substation near San Jose, Calif., has raised fears that the country’s power grid is vulnerable to terrorism. WSJ’s Rebecca Smith has the details. Photo: Talia Herman for The Wall Street Journal

With over 160,000 miles of transmission lines, the U.S. power grid is designed to handle natural and man-made disasters, as well as fluctuations in demand. How does the system work? WSJ’s Jason Bellini has #TheShortAnswer.

To avoid a blackout, electric-grid officials rerouted power around the site and asked power plants in Silicon Valley to produce more electricity. But it took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and bring the substation back to life.

Nobody has been arrested or charged in the attack at PG&E Corp.’s PCG +0.46%Metcalf transmission substation. It is an incident of which few Americans are aware. But one former federal regulator is calling it a terrorist act that, if it were widely replicated across the country, could take down the U.S. electric grid and black out much of the country.

The attack was “the most significant incident of domestic terrorism involving the grid that has ever occurred” in the U.S., said Jon Wellinghoff, who was chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission at the time.

The Wall Street Journal assembled a chronology of the Metcalf attack from filings PG&E made to state and federal regulators; from other documents including a video released by the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department; and from interviews, including with Mr. Wellinghoff.

The 64-year-old Nevadan, who was appointed to FERC in 2006 by PresidentGeorge W. Bush and stepped down in November, said he gave closed-door, high-level briefings to federal agencies, Congress and the White House last year. As months have passed without arrests, he said, he has grown increasingly concerned that an even larger attack could be in the works. He said he was going public about the incident out of concern that national security is at risk and critical electric-grid sites aren’t adequately protected.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t think a terrorist organization caused the Metcalf attack, said a spokesman for the FBI in San Francisco. Investigators are “continuing to sift through the evidence,” he said.

Some people in the utility industry share Mr. Wellinghoff’s concerns, including a former official at PG&E, Metcalf’s owner, who told an industry gathering in November he feared the incident could have been a dress rehearsal for a larger event.

“This wasn’t an incident where Billy-Bob and Joe decided, after a few brewskis, to come in and shoot up a substation,” Mark Johnson, retired vice president of transmission for PG&E, told the utility security conference, according to a video of his presentation. “This was an event that was well thought out, well planned and they targeted certain components.” When reached, Mr. Johnson declined to comment further.

A spokesman for PG&E said the company takes all incidents seriously but declined to discuss the Metcalf event in detail for fear of giving information to potential copycats. “We won’t speculate about the motives” of the attackers, added the spokesman, Brian Swanson. He said PG&E has increased security measures.

Utility executives and federal energy officials have long worried that the electric grid is vulnerable to sabotage. That is in part because the grid, which is really three systems serving different areas of the U.S., has failed when small problems such as trees hitting transmission lines created cascading blackouts. One in 2003 knocked out power to 50 million people in the Eastern U.S. and Canada for days.

Many of the system’s most important components sit out in the open, often in remote locations, protected by little more than cameras and chain-link fences.

Transmission substations are critical links in the grid. They make it possible for electricity to move long distances, and serve as hubs for intersecting power lines.

Within a substation, transformers raise the voltage of electricity so it can travel hundreds of miles on high-voltage lines, or reduce voltages when electricity approaches its destination. The Metcalf substation functions as an off-ramp from power lines for electricity heading to homes and businesses in Silicon Valley.

The country’s roughly 2,000 very large transformers are expensive to build, often costing millions of dollars each, and hard to replace. Each is custom made and weighs up to 500,000 pounds, and “I can only build 10 units a month,” said Dennis Blake, general manager of Pennsylvania Transformer in Pittsburgh, one of seven U.S. manufacturers. The utility industry keeps some spares on hand.

A 2009 Energy Department report said that “physical damage of certain system components (e.g. extra-high-voltage transformers) on a large scale…could result in prolonged outages, as procurement cycles for these components range from months to years.”

Mr. Wellinghoff said a FERC analysis found that if a surprisingly small number of U.S. substations were knocked out at once, that could destabilize the system enough to cause a blackout that could encompass most of the U.S.

Not everyone is so pessimistic. Gerry Cauley, chief executive of the North America Electric Reliability Corp., a standards-setting group that reports to FERC, said he thinks the grid is more resilient than Mr. Wellinghoff fears.

“I don’t want to downplay the scenario he describes,” Mr. Cauley said. “I’ll agree it’s possible from a technical assessment.” But he said that even if several substations went down, the vast majority of people would have their power back in a few hours.

The utility industry has been focused on Internet attacks, worrying that hackers could take down the grid by disabling communications and important pieces of equipment. Companies have reported 13 cyber incidents in the past three years, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of emergency reports utilities file with the federal government. There have been no reports of major outages linked to these events, although companies have generally declined to provide details.

“A lot of people in the electric industry have been distracted by cybersecurity threats,” said Stephen Berberich, chief executive of the California Independent System Operator, which runs much of the high-voltage transmission system for the utilities. He said that physical attacks pose a “big, if not bigger” menace.

There were 274 significant instances of vandalism or deliberate damage in the three years, and more than 700 weather-related problems, according to the Journal’s analysis.

Until the Metcalf incident, attacks on U.S. utility equipment were mostly linked to metal thieves, disgruntled employees or bored hunters, who sometimes took potshots at small transformers on utility poles to see what happens. (Answer: a small explosion followed by an outage.)

Last year, an Arkansas man was charged with multiple attacks on the power grid, including setting fire to a switching station. He has pleaded not guilty and is undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, according to federal court records.

Overseas, terrorist organizations were linked to 2,500 attacks on transmission lines or towers and at least 500 on substations from 1996 to 2006, according to a January report from the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry-funded research group, which cited State Department data.

To some, the Metcalf incident has lifted the discussion of serious U.S. grid attacks beyond the theoretical. “The breadth and depth of the attack was unprecedented” in the U.S., said Rich Lordan, senior technical executive for the Electric Power Research Institute. The motivation, he said, “appears to be preparation for an act of war.”

The attack lasted slightly less than an hour, according to the chronology assembled by the Journal.

At 12:58 a.m., AT&T fiber-optic telecommunications cables were cut—in a way that made them hard to repair—in an underground vault near the substation, not far from U.S. Highway 101 just outside south San Jose. It would have taken more than one person to lift the metal vault cover, said people who visited the site.

Nine minutes later, some customers of Level 3 CommunicationsLVLT +5.85% an Internet service provider, lost service. Cables in its vault near the Metcalf substation were also cut.

At 1:31 a.m., a surveillance camera pointed along a chain-link fence around the substation recorded a streak of light that investigators from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s office think was a signal from a waved flashlight. It was followed by the muzzle flash of rifles and sparks from bullets hitting the fence.

The substation’s cameras weren’t aimed outside its perimeter, where the attackers were. They shooters appear to have aimed at the transformers’ oil-filled cooling systems. These began to bleed oil, but didn’t explode, as the transformers probably would have done if hit in other areas.

About six minutes after the shooting started, PG&E confirms, it got an alarm from motion sensors at the substation, possibly from bullets grazing the fence, which is shown on video.

Four minutes later, at 1:41 a.m., the sheriff’s department received a 911 call about gunfire, sent by an engineer at a nearby power plant that still had phone service.

Riddled with bullet holes, the transformers leaked 52,000 gallons of oil, then overheated. The first bank of them crashed at 1:45 a.m., at which time PG&E’s control center about 90 miles north received an equipment-failure alarm.

Five minutes later, another apparent flashlight signal, caught on film, marked the end of the attack. More than 100 shell casings of the sort ejected by AK-47s were later found at the site.

At 1:51 a.m., law-enforcement officers arrived, but found everything quiet. Unable to get past the locked fence and seeing nothing suspicious, they left.

A PG&E worker, awakened by the utility’s control center at 2:03 a.m., arrived at 3:15 a.m. to survey the damage.

Grid officials routed some power around the substation to keep the system stable and asked customers in Silicon Valley to conserve electricity.

In a news release, PG&E said the substation had been hit by vandals. It has since confirmed 17 transformers were knocked out.

Mr. Wellinghoff, then chairman of FERC, said that after he heard about the scope of the attack, he flew to California, bringing with him experts from the U.S. Navy’s Dahlgren Surface Warfare Center in Virginia, which trains Navy SEALs. After walking the site with PG&E officials and FBI agents, Mr. Wellinghoff said, the military experts told him it looked like a professional job.

In addition to fingerprint-free shell casings, they pointed out small piles of rocks, which they said could have been left by an advance scout to tell the attackers where to get the best shots.

“They said it was a targeting package just like they would put together for an attack,” Mr. Wellinghoff said.

Mr. Wellinghoff, now a law partner at Stoel Rives LLP in San Francisco, said he arranged a series of meetings in the following weeks to let other federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, know what happened and to enlist their help. He held a closed-door meeting with utility executives in San Francisco in June and has distributed lists of things utilities should do to strengthen their defenses.

A spokesman for Homeland Security said it is up to utilities to protect the grid. The department’s role in an emergency is to connect federal agencies and local police and facilitate information sharing, the spokesman said.

As word of the attack spread through the utility industry, some companies moved swiftly to review their security efforts. “We’re looking at things differently now,” said Michelle Campanella, an FBI veteran who is director of security for Consolidated Edison Inc.ED +0.28% in New York. For example, she said, Con Ed changed the angles of some of its 1,200 security cameras “so we don’t have any blind spots.”

Some of the legislators Mr. Wellinghoff briefed are calling for action. Rep. Henry Waxman(D., Calif.) mentioned the incident at a FERC oversight hearing in December, saying he was concerned that no one in government can order utilities to improve grid protections or to take charge in an emergency.

As for Mr. Wellinghoff, he said he has made something of a hobby of visiting big substations to look over defenses and see whether he is questioned by security details or local police. He said he typically finds easy access to fence lines that are often close to important equipment.

“What keeps me awake at night is a physical attack that could take down the grid,” he said. “This is a huge problem.”

—Tom McGinty contributed to this article.



New surveillance technology can track everyone in an area for several hours at a time

By Craig Timberg, Published: February 5

DAYTON, Ohio — Shooter and victim were just a pair of pixels, dark specks on a gray streetscape. Hair color, bullet wounds, even the weapon were not visible in the series of pictures taken from an airplane flying two miles above.

But what the images revealed — to a degree impossible just a few years ago — was location, mapped over time. Second by second, they showed a gang assembling, blocking off access points, sending the shooter to meet his target and taking flight after the body hit the pavement. When the report reached police, it included a picture of the blue stucco building into which the killer ultimately retreated, at last beyond the view of the powerful camera overhead.

A surveillance system designed by a Dayton, Ohio-based company can track crimes in real time, as they occur. Click Here to View Full Graphic Story

A surveillance system designed by a Dayton, Ohio-based company can track crimes in real time, as they occur.

From 10,000 feet up, tracking an entire city at one glance: Ohio-based Persistent Surveillance Systems is trying to convince cities across the country that its surveillance technology can help reduce crime. Its new generation of camera technology is far more powerful than the police cameras to which America has grown accustomed. But these newer cameras have sparked some privacy concerns.

“I’ve witnessed 34 of these,” said Ross McNutt, the genial president of Persistent Surveillance Systems, which collected the images of the killing in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, from a specially outfitted Cessna. “It’s like opening up a murder mystery in the middle, and you need to figure out what happened before and after.”

As Americans have grown increasingly comfortable with traditional surveillance cameras, a new, far more powerful generation is being quietly deployed that can track every vehicle and person across an area the size of a small city, for several hours at a time. Although these cameras can’t read license plates or see faces, they provide such a wealth of data that police, businesses and even private individuals can use them to help identify people and track their movements.


Already, the cameras have been flown above major public events such as the Ohio political rally where Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) named Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, McNutt said. They’ve been flown above Baltimore; Philadelphia; Compton, Calif.; and Dayton in demonstrations for police. They’ve also been used for traffic impact studies, for security at NASCAR races and at the request of a Mexican politician, who commissioned the flights over Ciudad Juárez.

Defense contractors are developing similar technology for the military, but its potential for civilian use is raising novel civil liberties concerns. In Dayton, where Persistent Surveillance Systems is based, city officials balked last year when police considered paying for 200 hours of flights, in part because of privacy complaints.

“There are an infinite number of surveillance technologies that would help solve crimes . . . but there are reasons that we don’t do those things, or shouldn’t be doing those things,” said Joel Pruce, a University of Dayton postdoctoral fellow in human rights who opposed the plan. “You know where there’s a lot less crime? There’s a lot less crime in China.”

The Supreme Court generally has given wide latitude to police using aerial surveillance as long as the photography captures images visible to the naked eye.

McNutt, a retired Air Force officer who once helped design a similar system for the skies above Fallujah, a battleground city in Iraq, hopes to win over officials in Dayton and elsewhere by convincing them that cameras mounted on fixed-wing aircraft can provide far more useful intelligence than police helicopters do, for less money.

A single camera mounted atop the Washington Monument, McNutt boasts, could deter crime all around the Mall. He said regular flights over the most dangerous parts of Washington — combined with publicity about how much police could see — would make a significant dent in the number of burglaries, robberies and murders. His 192-megapixel cameras would spot as many as 50 crimes per six-hour flight, he estimated, providing police with a continuous stream of images covering more than a third of the city.

“We watch 25 square miles, so you see lots of crimes,” he said. “And by the way, after people commit crimes, they drive like idiots.”

What McNutt is trying to sell is not merely the latest techno-wizardry for police. He envisions such steep drops in crime that they will bring substantial side effects, including rising property values, better schools, increased development and, eventually, lower incarceration rates as the reality of long-term overhead surveillance deters those tempted to commit crimes.

Dayton Police Chief Richard Biehl, a supporter of McNutt’s efforts, has proposed inviting the public to visit the operations center to get a glimpse of the technology in action.

“I want them to be worried that we’re watching,” Biehl said. “I want them to be worried that they never know when we’re overhead.”


Technology in action

McNutt, a suburban father of four with a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is not deaf to concerns about his company’s ambitions. Unlike many of the giant defense contractors that are eagerly repurposing wartime surveillance technology for domestic use, he sought advice from the American Civil Liberties Union in writing a privacy policy.

It has rules on how long data can be kept, when images can be accessed and by whom. Police are supposed to begin looking at the pictures only after a crime has been reported. Fishing expeditions are prohibited.


The technology has inherent limitations as well. From the airborne cameras, each person appears as a single pixel indistinguishable from any other person. What people are doing — even whether they are clothed or not — is impossible to see. As technology improves the cameras, McNutt said he intends to increase their range, not the precision of the imagery, so that larger areas can be monitored.

The notion that McNutt and his roughly 40 employees are peeping Toms clearly rankles. The company made a PowerPoint presentation for the ACLU that includes pictures taken to assist the response to Hurricane Sandy and the severe Iowa floods last summer. The section is titled: “Good People Doing Good Things.”

“We get a little frustrated when people get so worried about us seeing them in their backyard,” McNutt said in his operation center, where the walls are adorned with 120-inch monitors, each showing a different grainy urban scene collected from above. “We can’t even see what they are doing in their backyard. And, by the way, we don’t care.”

Yet in a world of increasingly pervasive surveillance, location and identity are becoming all but inextricable. One quickly leads to the other for those with the right tools.

During one of the company’s demonstration flights over Dayton in 2012, police got reports of an attempted robbery at a bookstore and shots fired at a Subway sandwich shop. The cameras revealed a single car moving between the two locations.

By reviewing the images frame by frame, analysts were able to help police piece together a larger story: A man had left a residential neighborhood at midday and attempted to rob the bookstore, but fled when somebody hit an alarm. Then he drove to Subway, where the owner pulled a gun and chased him off. His next stop was a Family Dollar Store, where the man paused for several minutes. He soon returned home, after a short stop at a gas station where a video camera captured an image of his face.

A few hours later, after the surveillance flight ended, the Family Dollar Store was robbed. Police used the detailed map of the man’s movements, along with other evidence from the crime scenes, to arrest him for all three crimes.

On another occasion, Dayton police got a report of a burglary in progress. The aerial cameras spotted a white truck driving away from the scene. Police stopped the driver before he got home and found the stolen goods in the back of the truck. A witness identified him soon afterward.


Privacy concerns

In addition to normal cameras, the planes can carry infrared sensors that permit analysts to track people, vehicles or wildlife at night — even through foliage and into some structures, such as tents.

Courts have put stricter limits on technology that can see things not visible to the naked eye, ruling that they can amount to unconstitutional searches when conducted without a warrant. But the lines remain fuzzy as courts struggle to apply old precedents — from a single overflight carrying an officer equipped with nothing stronger than a telephoto lens, for example — to the rapidly advancing technology.

“If you turn your country into a totalitarian surveillance state, there’s always some wrongdoing you can prevent,” said Jay Stanley, a privacy expert with the American Civil Liberties Union. “The balance struck in our Constitution tilts toward liberty, and I think we should keep that value.”

Police and private businesses have invested heavily in video surveillance since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Although academics debate whether these cameras create significantly lower crime rates, an overwhelming majority of Americans support them. A Washington Post poll in November found that only 14 percent of those surveyed wanted fewer cameras in public spaces.


But the latest camera systems raise new issues because of their ability to watch vast areas for long periods of time — something even military-grade aerial cameras have struggled to do well.

The military’s most advanced experimental research lab is developing a system that uses hundreds of cellphone cameras to watch 36-square-mile areas. McNutt offers his system — which uses 12 commercially available Canon cameras mounted in an array — as an effective alternative that’s cheap enough for local police departments to afford. He typically charges between $1,500 and $2,000 per hour for his services, including flight time, operation of the command center and the time that analysts spend assisting investigations.

Dayton police were enticed by McNutt’s offer to fly 200 hours over the city for a home-town discount price of $120,000. The city, with about 140,000 people, saw its police force dwindle from more than 400 officers to about 350 in recent years, and there is little hope of reinforcements.

“We’re not going to get those officers back,” Biehl, the police chief, said. “We have had to use technology as force multipliers.”

Still, the proposed contract, coming during Dayton’s campaign season and amid a wave of revelations about National Security Agency surveillance, sparked resistance. Biehl is looking for a chance to revive the matter. But the new mayor, Nan Whaley, has reservations, both because of the cost and the potential loss of privacy.

“Since 2001, we haven’t had really healthy conversations about personal liberty. It’s starting to bloom about a decade too late,” Whaley said. “I think the conversation needs to continue.”

To that end, the mayor has another idea: She’s encouraging the businesses that own Dayton’s tallest buildings to mount rooftop surveillance cameras capable of continuously monitoring the downtown and nearby neighborhoods. Whaley hopes the businesses would provide the video feeds to the police.

McNutt, it turns out, has cameras for those situations, too, capable of spotting individual people from seven miles away.


Rasmussen Reports

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


Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Republicans are counting on a health care fix to help them capture the Senate, and in several key races, the early signs are favorable to the GOP.

Most voters continue to have an unfavorable opinion of the new national health care law, and 58% expect it to raise health care costs.

Sixty percent (60%) believe most of the current problems with the law are unlikely to be fixed within the next year. But voters remain evenly divided when asked whether they are more likely or less likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports the law.

In several Southern states, however, Obamacare is even more unpopular than it is nationally, and that may spell trouble for Democratic senators who supported the law.

Republican Congressman Tom Cotton holds a five-point lead over one of those senators, incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor, in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the 2014 race in Arkansas.

Pryor had no Republican opposition in 2008 and was reelected with 80% of the vote. But he, like fellow senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Kay Hagan of North Carolina, finds his job at risk this election cycle.

Across the aisle, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is in an unexpectedly tight race, running dead even with Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. Interestingly, McConnell’s GOP primary rival, Tea Party challenger Matt Bevin, leads Grimes by four points.

Republicans have taken the lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the first time this year.

House Speaker John Boenhner unexpectedly pulled the plug Thursday on a GOP immigration reform plan, saying President Obama can’t be trusted to enforce its border control provisions, among others. That plan, providing a pathway to citizenship for those here illegally after the border is completely secured, was causing outspoken division in Republican ranks.

The trust issue has dogged supporters of comprehensive immigration reform from the start. As we reported 48 hours before Boehner’s announcement, only 33% of voters think it’s even somewhat likely the federal government will actually secure the border if the reform plan is passed by Congress. That includes just seven percent (7%) who say it’s Very Likely. And yet most voters for years have put border control well ahead of legalizing the status of those here illegally.

Still, 80% of voters believe a child who is brought here illegally but later earns a college degree or serves honorably in the military should be given a chance to obtain U.S. citizenship. Sixty-five percent (65%) think the military should offer U.S. citizenship to non-citizens who are willing to serve and do so honorably for at least five years.

Speaking of the military, 53% continue to believe women should be allowed to fight on the front lines and perform all the combat roles that men do.

The president’s daily job approval ratings worsened somewhat a week’s end but remain at levels seen for most of the past five years.

Obama’s monthly job approval rating rose a point to 48% in January. That’s up from 45% in November, his lowest monthly approval in two years, but still down eight points from December 2012’s recent high of 56%.

Most Americans agree with the president that mandatory early childhood education is likely to improve student performance, but 60% are not willing to pay any more in taxes to fund nationwide pre-K schooling.

After all, 60% think the federal government should cut spending to help the economy.

Consumer and investor confidence ended the week well below their highs for the new year.

The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence rose less than half a point in January, just barely continuing the upward trend it began in November. That signaled the mediocre jobs report the federal government released on Friday.

But 42% of working Americans think they will be earning more money a year from today. That’s down just one point from the highest level of confidence in nearly four years.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) believe that they have a better opportunity for career advancement by staying within their current company.

The 2014 Winter Olympics began in Sochi, Russia this week. What do Americans think of the international competition, and how closely are they paying attention to it?

Sixty-nine percent (69%) are at least somewhat likely to watch some of the 2014 Winter Olympics coverage on television, including 39% who are Very Likely to watch.

Women will be watching figure skating more than any other sport at this year’s Winter Olympics, while men will divide their attention equally between hockey, skiing and figure skating.

In other surveys last week:

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

Most adults think American children need to spend more time in school, but they still oppose extending the school year to all 12 months.

— Fifty percent (50%) think it’s good for children to have a lengthy period off during the summer. Fifty-seven percent (57%) think students learn life lessons during summer vacation that couldn’t be learned in a classroom.

— Sixty-three percent (63%) think Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev should receive the death penalty if convicted, but just 49% believe the use of the death penalty is an effective way to fight terrorism.

— Democratic hopeful Mike Ross has a three-point edge on his best-known Republican opponent, Asa Hutchinson, in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the 2014 gubernatorial race in Arkansas.

— Forty-nine percent (49%) of Super Bowl viewers said they planned to watch the game intensely, but 43% admitted they would mostly be socializing.

February 1 2014




Defense contractors forecast 2014 as low point for some units

By Marjorie Censer, Published: January 26


For two of the largest defense contractors, 2013 proved to be a relatively stable year. Though sales declined, both General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin were able to preserve profits.

Still, executives from the contractors said they’re not out of the woods, indicating they expect 2014 could represent a low for sales in some of their businesses.

Phebe N. Novakovic, Falls Church-based General Dynamics’s chief executive, said last week that she expects the company’s information technology unit to see revenue drop close to 20 percent, making 2014 “the low water mark for revenue.”

Its combat systems unit, she said, is projecting a sales decline of about 4 percent, even though executives are counting on international sales to offset declining U.S. spending.

In that business unit, “we believe we’re almost there, and that the major slide is behind us,” Novakovic said. “I think we’re getting close to the bottom.”

Bruce L. Tanner, chief financial officer at Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin, said the contractor’s executives are optimistic “that 2014 is kind of the bottoming out,” he told reporters last week.

Roman Schweizer, an aerospace and defense policy analyst at Guggenheim Securities, agreed that the coming years will likely be a plateau for defense spending — but said not every company will fare the same. The Pentagon will likely make choices about whether to retain some of its key programs and which to prioritize, he added.

“There will be winners and losers,” Schweizer said. “There will still be meaningful events on a company-by-company basis that will alter the trajectory of some of these guys.”

In 2013, Lockheed saw sales decline about 3.9 percent to hit $45.4 billion. Profit grew 8.6 percent, reaching nearly $3 billion, or $9.13 a share, up from $2.7 billion, or $8.36 a share, the previous year.

Lockheed has been rapidly cutting costs to adapt to tightened government spending. In last week’s report, the company said it has recorded $171 million in severance charges in connection with recent job reductions, announced in November, to consolidate facilities and trim its workforce. The company also paid $30 million in severance to cut employees in its information systems and global solutions unit in 2013.

“We continue to have a mind-set toward sizing the business, getting our cost structure in line with the environment that we see in front of us,” Tanner said last week. “That is surely contributing to our ability to maintain our profitability.”

At General Dynamics, revenue hit $31.2 billion in 2013, a decline of less than 1 percent from the previous year. Profit for the year grew to $2.4 billion, or $6.67 per share, up from a $332 million loss, or 94 cents a share, in 2012 — mostly related to the company’s decision that year to devalue its information technology business by $2 billion amid falling government demand.

Novakovic said last week that only the combat systems unit — which specializes in military vehicles — was materially affected by sequestration and the shutdown. She said those events cut about $500 million in sales.



A Three-Horse Race Emerges for HASC Gavel

Thornberry Seen as Odds-On Favorite

Jan. 26, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT |

WASHINGTON — The race for the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) gavel is underway, and sources see the panel’s vice chairman as the odds-on favorite despite an expected challenge from an up-and-coming rival.

Sources expect the contest to succeed the retiring Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., to be a three-horse race, with HASC Vice Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, taking on panel members Mike Turner, R-Ohio, and Randy Forbes, R-Va.

Though nearly a year remains before the House Republican Steering Committee hears from each candidate and picks a new chairman, proponents of each member already are busy highlighting their candidate’s strengths.

Spokespersons for Thornberry, Turner and Forbes have made clear each is planning or at least seriously mulling a run.

The jockeying was set off Jan. 16, when McKeon announced he will not seek a 12th term. Even before the California Republican addressed reporters that morning, the handicapping of the field to secure the biggest chair on the HASC dais was underway.

The next chairman will inherit several major policy and budget matters that likely will remain unresolved when McKeon hangs up his member pin and voting card.

Those include what to do about the remaining seven years of sequestration cuts, a slew of troubled and expensive new-start weapon programs that will need close oversight, a potential US force of thousands in Afghanistan, an ever-changing al-Qaida threat and an emerging China. And the list does not stop there, also covering terrorist suspect detainee policy, the future of the armed drone program and more.

Conversations with several sources who have ties to the House Republican caucus and the House Armed Services Committee conjure up an image of the board above the betting window at Churchill Downs a few days before the Kentucky Derby.

Thornberry is the field’s Honor Code, the — very — early odds-on favorite to win the 2014 Derby at 6-1. “He’s lost to Buck by a single vote and has been right by Buck’s side for six years,” one GOP House aide said.

Turner is viewed as his top competitor, but even those impressed by the Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee head believe he is mostly interested in setting himself up to succeed Thornberry — meaning he most resembles a slew of Derby possibilities now slotted at 50-1 to 100-1. Then there is Forbes, the Seapower and Projection Forces subcommittee chairman and the early longshot, who sources say likely has 200-1 or worse odds.

Thornberry, with a year to go before the decision is made, has a pedigree and training that make him seem unbeatable to many handicappers.

His proponents say his one high-profile loss — to McKeon for the same gavel — made him better. Sources say Thornberry began raising more money for GOP members and candidates, which they claim was one of the main areas in which McKeon had an advantage.

“This really is Thornberry’s to lose. He’s the guy,” said one defense industry lobbyist with ties to House GOP caucus. “There’s no reason to skip him — and there’s got to be a reason. He’s so knowledgeable of the issues. He blew away the Steering Committee last time.”

A Thornberry aide said he “plans to make his case to the [House Republican] steering committee when the time comes.” The aide said Thornberry believes his “case … is very strong.”

So does McKeon, who has broken with precedent by endorsing Thornberry to take the gavel next January. Congressional and other sources said it is exceedingly rare for an outgoing committee chairman to publicly endorse another member to succeed him.

Count among them one Turner aide, who was quick to note his boss has been urged to run by folks from across the defense-industrial-congressional complex.

“Members from across the Republican spectrum — both junior and senior members — have come up to Mr. Turner and encouraged him to do this,” the Turner aide said. “It’s all gamut of people: it’s other members, it’s industry people, and it’s Pentagon people.”

The aide noted Turner often is among the most active panel members when HASC crafts its annual Pentagon policy bill, offering numerous amendments on a list of issues.

Several sources believe Turner’s strategy is a long-play that acknowledges Thornberry is well-positioned to take the gavel, meaning Turner is angling to succeed Thornberry when his potential chairmanship ends.

Some in Washington see Turner as a rising star inside the House GOP caucus, with several current and former aides saying he has become one of the party’s most articulate and forceful critics of the Obama administration.

The Turner aide did not directly address those predictions, but he did note “a lot of members don’t run for chairman just once — that’s the case on a lot of committees.”

Sources see Forbes as a long-shot. But because he is seen as a hard worker and knowledgeable about defense and national security issues, none ruled out the chance the dark horse might pull the upset.

The industry lobbyist said some Steering Committee members are annoyed Forbes is pushing the National Republican Congressional Committee, House GOP leaders and his fellow members to withhold campaign cash from gay candidates.

“Forbes is just taking himself out of the [HASC] race with this stuff,” the defense lobbyist said.

Still, a Forbes aide signaled he is considering jumping into the race.

“Congressman Forbes considers his work on the Armed Services Committee to be the most rewarding of his 12 years in Congress,” the Forbes aide said. “When the time is right to choose a new HASC chairman, [he] looks forward to discussing his record of bipartisan accomplishment with his House Republican colleagues. In the meantime, he continues to focus on his chairmanship of the Seapower subcommittee and his leadership of the bipartisan Asia-Pacific Security Series.”


Global Hawk Wins in 2015 Request, Sources Say

Jan. 26, 2014 – 03:45AM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments

Sources say funding for the Global Hawk Block 30 UAV will be restored in the US Air Force’s fiscal 2015 budget submission due in March.


WASHINGTON — The Global Hawk UAV looks to be a big winner in the US Air Force’s fiscal 2015 budget submission, an impressive turn of events for a program the service has spent years attempting to kill.

The Global Hawk Block 30 will be funded when President Barack Obama’s budget arrives March 4, said two sources with knowledge of budget discussions. The sources confirmed that funding will come at the expense of the U-2 spy plane, which the Air Force had promoted as a cheaper alternative to the unmanned system. The news was first reported by Aviation Week.

Things can still change, but one source called the Block 30 decision as secure as anything in the Pentagon’s budget. While funding is less secure for the Global Hawk Block 40 — a more advanced version of the UAV that includes an improved radar — sources indicate it will likely receive funding as well.

A high-altitude, long-range UAV, the Global Hawk is touted by manufacturer Northrop Grumman as the best platform for airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). It was funded heavily after the 9/11 terrorist attacks but fell out of favor with the Pentagon by the end of the last decade following a series of cost overruns.

When the Pentagon submitted its fiscal 2013 budget, it included a plan to kill off the Global Hawk. But Northrop activated its network of supporters on Capitol Hill, and ever since, Congress has protected the aircraft — much to the consternation of Air Force officials who insisted the U-2 can perform the same tasks at a much lower price. Northrop has delivered 17 Block 30s and nine Block 40s, company figures say.

The fiscal 2014 omnibus appropriations bill, signed into law by Obama on Jan. 17, contained $10 million to study whether the U-2’s sensors, particularly the SYERS-2A camera, can be installed on the Global Hawk. If that technology can be coupled, it would provide another talking point for doing away with the older, manned spy plane — although one source cautions not to read too much into operational justifications.

“History indicates that they will try to justify [moving away from the U-2] through an operational explanation, but the bottom line [is] there’s just not enough money to keep them both,” one source said, adding that this decision is driven in large part by the service’s wish to avoid another bruising fight with Congress.

“What we have long maintained is that the platforms are in many ways complementary, and if we could afford to keep both, we would,” Lt. Gen. Robert Otto, Air Force deputy chief of staff for ISR, said in a Jan. 23 interview. “I believe we are at the point where there are only hard choices, and we cannot afford to keep both platforms. And so this is another area where there is a robust debate over which platform should we keep as we go forward.”

Otto added that while the U-2’s defensive systems would allow it to survive longer in a contested environment, neither aircraft is ideal for ISR against an area with high-level anti-access/area-denial technologies.


Per service policy, an Air Force spokeswoman declined to comment on budget details prior to its submission to Congress. A Northrop spokeswoman added that the company looks “forward to continued operations in the foreseeable future.”

While the Global Hawk seems poised for a victory, other platforms are left fighting for a shrinking pot of money.

The KC-10 tanker and A-10 close-air support aircraft remain likely to receive cuts in the upcoming budget, despite massive congressional outcry in favor of the A-10. The Air Force has identified those planes as potential “vertical cuts” that could remove single-mission fleets from service as a cost-cutting measure.

One program still fighting for life, according to sources, is the Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH), the service’s replacement for the Sikorsky HH-60 Pave Hawk used for search and rescue. The service has said it would select an offering from the team of Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin, the sole bidder for the program, once funding becomes available. Service programmers have been looking for ways to fund the program in 2015, sources said.

As with Global Hawk, politics on the Hill could play a role in the Air Force’s decision.

Dozens of House members wrote a December letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel voicing support for the program. Congress also successfully put a rider into the fiscal 2014 budget bill protecting funds for CRH. Deborah Lee James, the new Air Force secretary, responded to the signatories on Jan. 17.

“This matter is pre-decisional, pending the outcome of the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget review process,” James wrote. ■

Marcus Weisgerber contributed to this report.


Drones Could Be Coming to American Skies Sooner Than You Think

by Press • 29 January 2014



On message boards and Facebook groups, he’s known as Trappy. Fellow drone hobbyists call him an “aerial anarchist” and marvel at the videos he’s taken with his five-pound foam aircraft of the Statue of Liberty, the French Alps and the Costa Concordia, the Italian cruise ship that ran aground in the Mediterranean in 2012.

“Ask anyone who the most daring pilot is,” says Trappy himself, never one for false modesty. “The answer is probably going to be unanimous.”

But ask officials at the Federal Aviation Administration, and they’ll tell you Trappy is a 29-year-old Swiss thorn in their side named Raphael Pirker, someone who flies recklessly, flaunts the agency’s rules and might even threaten its slow, careful plans for the safe integration of commercial drones into American skies.

In 2011, the FAA slapped Pirker with a $10,000 fine after he flew his Styrofoam drone around the University of Virginia while filming an ad for the university’s medical school. With that, the most famous pilot in the underground drone world became a test case for the FAA’s authority to prohibit people from making money off their hobby.


Pirker has asked a judge with the National Transportation Safety Board to throw out the fine, and a decision is expected any day now. In the meantime, the case exposes what would seem to be a rather large loophole in the law: The FAA has been saying since 2007 that commercial drone use is not allowed, but the agency never went through the official rule-making channels to make it illegal. I asked an FAA spokesman at least five times whether flying a drone for profit is illegal and, after several attempts to follow up, was told that the agency was not prepared to answer that question.

As a result, the case against Pirker hinges not on whether he was operating a drone for commercial purposes but instead on whether the FAA can prove that he was flying in a “reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.” In other words, the FAA needs to show that Pirker could have killed someone or seriously damaged a building with what is essentially a flying toy. If the agency fails and his fine is thrown out, the ruling could be taken as a sign to would-be commercial drone operators that the FAA lacks the authority to stop them—at least until it can issue an official rule, a process that typically takes more than a year. All of which could mean that the agency’s multi-year effort to plan for the gradual introduction of commercial drones—with safety controls and privacy protections to reassure those who worry about allowing small, flying cameras to operate with impunity—would fall by the wayside as the skies immediately open to a buzzing, whirring horde.

Whether the FAA is ready or not, the drone age could suddenly be upon us.

Read more:



Report calls for increased reliance on Guard, Reserves

Local impact unclear, but Springfield Air Guard base could benefit.

Posted: 9:43 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30, 2014

By Barrie Barber and Jessica Wehrman – Washington Bureau


The Air Force needs to use Reserve and Guard members more in order to remain prepared for action during an era of budget cuts, a congressionally-mandated commission says in a much-anticipated report released Thursday.

The 127-page report by the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force calls for the Air Force to add Guard and Reservist slots while making “prudent” cuts in active-duty airmen.

The report makes 42 recommendations, but none are geographic, meaning the direct impact on Ohio’s five Air Force installations — four Air National Guard, one active duty and two Reserve wings — is unclear. But it calls for an Air Force that increasingly uses Guard and Reservists alongside active-duty Air Force personnel.

“We know that will be difficult,” said Commission Chairman Dennis McCarthy, a former assistant secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. “We know it may be more difficult in some units than others. It’s going to be, we think, a progressive process, not a ‘throw the switch and everything becomes magically integrated.'”

The report also recommended closing or “warm basing” some facilities, but did not point to any specific bases. An assessment of Air Force roles in homeland security and disaster assistance was urged.

The commission visited Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and Springfield Air National Guard Base and had a hearing in Columbus last July on a nationwide tour of 13 military installations. Four of the bases were in Ohio. The report is the result of 19 days of hearings involving 154 witnesses.

In making its recommendations the commission had two objectives: Save money and maintain readiness for future conflicts.

But commissioners argued that their recommendations weren’t just aimed at saving money. They said Guard and Reservists were willing and capable of doing more. “These are things that should be done even if there wasn’t a fiscal requirement to do so,” McCarthy said.

The eight-member commission, comprised primarily of former military leadership, did not make any base-specific recommendations, but the vision they depicted seemed to be of an Air Force where Guard and Reservists increasingly worked side by side with active-duty military and where the Air Force leaned heavily on those part-time military.

“Going forward, there’s no doubt in my mind that our Air Force is going to rely more, not less, on our National Guard and Reserve forces,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James said in a statement to this newspaper. “This makes sense from not only a mission standpoint, but from an economic standpoint. I think there will be a great deal of symmetry between many of the recommendations from the commission and what the Air Force proposes for its way ahead.”

Michael Gessel, Dayton Development Coalition vice president of federal programs, said the impact of the report’s recommendations could mean good news for the Springfield Air National Guard Base, but how Wright-Patterson is affected isn’t clear.

“The report called for a smaller Air Force and an Air Force that had a broader sharing of authority among the three (reserve) components,” he said. “I think that the report, to a certain extent, endorsed the status quo. It did not call on major changes, though perhaps the recommendation that the Guard and Reserve have a more major role in headquarters operations suggests they would have more influence in Air Force decision-making.”

Russell Rumbaugh, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C., said the report was bold in some of its conclusions. In advocating for an increased reserve force, the report said that would save money initially unless or until those units are deployed. Rumbaugh called the proposal a “repudiation” of the Air Force’s 2012 plan to Congress that favored more cuts in the National Guard and Reserve than in active duty.

“That’s a really big deal compared to the original budget recommendation from the Air Force,” he said.

The report suggested eliminating the Air Force Reserve Command, but keeping its personnel and equipment and to integrate reserve airmen with active forces among a range of duties and units, such as space operations and ICBM operations, Rumbaugh said.

“The conclusions are very much move what you can,” he said.

Cyber defense and piloting unmanned aerial vehicles were key areas reserve forces could make a difference, said Mark Guzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C.

“Those are all things that airmen at their home stations might be able to pick up a greater share of the load without having to deploy abroad,” the former Air Force B-52 pilot said.

Locally, Air Guard and Reserve forces play an active role in real-world missions. The Ohio Air National Guard’s 178th Fighter Wing flies unmanned aerial vehicles overseas and piloted remotely from Springfield, and the Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson flies C-17 troop and cargo missions around the world.

Col. Jeffrey J. McGaillard, 445th Airlift Wing commander, said he was not surprised by the commission urging more capabilities in the Guard and Reserve. He said his unit, which had had a decrease in missions overseas, was ready to handle more when asked.

“There’s a lot of untapped capability in the Guard and Reserve,” he said. “By and large, we are super experienced.”

Congressional lawmakers made no definitive remarks about the report Thursday, but said they would consider its recommendations.

“Certainly, my subcommittee will be looking both to the Air Force and commission while we focus on the future mission of the Air Force,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton and chairman of the House Tactical Land Forces subcommittee said in an email.

In a statement, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said he was “encouraged that the commission focused on the strategic importance of the National Guard and Reserve, while also highlighting the important role that research and development programs have in our national defense.”

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said the commission “produced a number of valuable recommendations” that will be considered.

F. Whitten Peters, a commissioner who served as Air Force Secretary from 1999 through 2001, suggested that cutting aircraft at Guard and Reserve bases might endanger a skilled workforce desperately needed.

“We’ve got to make sure we keep talented people,” he said. “To me, the biggest disservice we make to our traditional Guard and Reserve is not telling them what their future is.”


Journalists await new drone regulations. And wait, and wait…

by Press • 30 January 2014

by Jeremy Barr

Across the U.S., journalists are sitting, watching, and waiting on the sidelines while the Federal Aviation Administration develops rules for the safe operation of small drones.

A few journalists have experimented with drone technology, using lightweight, remote-controlled craft to shoot aerial pictures and video footage. But under existing FAA guidelines, they’re prohibited from using drones as part of a broader ban on for-profit, commercial operation.

The announcement of new, Congressionally mandated regulations on the commercial use of small drones has already been delayed until November, and any such regulations will be followed by a comment period. Some say the process could take another year or more. Until then, only hobbyists — who are allowed to operate under a 1981 FAA agreement — can use the crafts. And that’s not sitting well with journalists.

“How is it that anyone can go down to a hobby store and fly this around, and me, with $30,000 worth of equipment, I can’t do this?” asked Matt Waite, a journalism professor at the University of Nebraska and founder of the school’sDrone Journalism Lab.

“A 15-year-old kid can walk down there with their birthday money and can be up in the air in an hour,” Waite, who occasionally contributes to Poynter, said by phone.

FAA spokeswoman Alison Duquette said hobbyists operate under “very restrictive” rules, and that her agency steps in to “address” instances of careless or reckless drone operation that are brought to its attention.

“I don’t know if the FAA is being consistent,” said Matthew Schroyer, founder of and the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, which counts 123 journalists in 21 countries as members.

“The FAA regulations are preventing a lot of good journalism from happening,” he said in a phone interview.

And the ambiguity surrounding the rules has led to some drone journalism of questionable legality.

On Jan. 3, I wrote about a photographer for The (Spokane, Wash.) Spokesman-Review who published aerial video of a community event taken by a camera ship.

Jesse Tinsley, who has a pilot’s license, argued that the video “occurred in a gray zone” because it was shot on his off-time, using his own equipment. But the FAA disagreed, saying there is “no gray area” when it comes to drone journalism.

“We are working on [new] rules, but in the interim we have to have rules that protect people on the ground and in the air,” Duquette said by phone, adding that the FAA feels the current process “protects safety.”

Tinsley has since “self-grounded” his craft, and he’s not the only professional journalist who has done so for fear of legal ramifications.

“We are really all waiting on the FAA to act,” Waite said. “And until that happens, everything is going to be kind of muddled.”

Eric Seals, a photo and video journalist for the Detroit Free Press, said he wants to talk to his newspaper’s lawyer before using his Phantom craft for any more published work.

Seals said in a phone interview that he was “very happy” with aerial footage he took last fall, including video for a story on Michigan’s annual wolf hunt. Such footage would normally require renting a helicopter and cost thousands of dollars but can now be collected in an afternoon using a camera ship that can be purchased online for only a few hundred dollars.

“I’m disappointed that I had to self-ground it,” Seals said of his craft. “Being able to take readers on a journey to show a different perspective is something I cherish, and to not be able to do that because of a ruling makes you throw your hands up in the air.”

Seals’s sentiment was shared by Matthew Jonas, a photojournalist for the Longmont (Colo.) Times-Call, who said he is “treading lightly” because of legal concerns.

Jonas has used his DJI Phantom 1.1.1 to take aerial stills and videos of flood damage, and like many others is eagerly awaiting the FAA’s small UAS guidelines. (The FAA will also be announcing regulations for larger drones that fly at higher altitudes and could potentially mingle with airplanes.)

But Jonas said he’s concerned about the possibility of regulatory overreach.

“You hope that the regulations are common-sense,” he said by phone, before asking: “If they restrict this too much, does that collide with the freedom of the press?”

He isn’t alone in worrying.

“There is a First Amendment right to photograph,” said Waite, adding that “drones in the hands of individuals do have some First Amendment protections.”


Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, delivered that message to a Senate committee in a Jan. 15 hearing on drones.

“Drone photography, like any other photography, should be treated as a protected expression under the First Amendment,” he said. “In no case should law single out newsgathering drones for special restrictions over and above those applicable to non-newsgathering operations.”

The small drone regulations will focus primarily on safety, as the FAA lacks the authority to enact privacy statutes, FAA administrator Michael Huerta said at the Senate hearing. State and federal privacy statutes are already on the books, though.

The FAA works closely with the Academy for Model Aeronautics, the hobbyist lobby, and on Jan. 12 inked a partnership that will help produce guidelines governing the use of small drones.

While the FAA isn’t aggressively pursuing journalists who are using drones in their work, Waite said that the agency has no choice but to act when drone journalism is out in the open – which it generally is.

“Journalists have a distinct disadvantage here in that if they do it, they make it public,” Waite said, adding that he knows of many people who are literally “flying under the radar.”

Drone journalists say they are paying the price for the reckless conduct of others.

In contrast to the cautious approach he said he’s taken, Seals said he’s seen hobbyists fly drones low and over crowds. In a much-cited example, the FAAfined Raphael Pirker $10,000 for operating a drone in a “careless and reckless manner” on the campus of the University of Virginia. Pirker is believed to be the only person who’s been assessed a monetary penalty. He’s being represented by New York-based attorney Brendan Schulman (@dronelaws on Twitter), whodenies that FAA regulations ban drone use at all.

Others say that journalists are struggling with the stigma of high-profile uses of drones — from large Predator drones used by the U.S. government to launch targeted strikes in remote regions of Pakistan to smaller crafts used by paparazzi to film celebs from the air.

“We cannot ignore the threat that [drones] pose to our personal privacy,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller IV, D-W.V., at the Senate drone hearing. And Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., recounted her surprise at seeing a pink “drone” appear outside her living-room (some have questioned her characterization).

But journalists reject the idea that there’s any connection between such voyeurism and what they do.

Jonas said a drone is “just another tool, like a lens, that I can use to tell stories. The negative connotation of ‘drone’ is not appropriate for what we do.”


DHL Uses Drone To Deliver Medicine In Germany

By Chris Morran December 9, 2013

The DHL Paketkopter made its first official landing outside the Deutsche Post office in Bonn, Germany, today. It carried some medicine from a pharmacist 1 km across the Rhine river.

The DHL Paketkopter made its first official landing outside the Deutsche Post office in Bonn, Germany, today. It carried some medicine from a pharmacist 1 km across the Rhine river.

We might as well start digging our underground rebel hideouts now and prepare for the inevitable Robot Wars of 2023, as DHL has made the first successful package delivery via flying drone.

Days after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos unveiled plans to someday unleash an army of self-guiding drones upon the skies, the folks at Deutsche Post DHL did a short proof-of-concept test on their own flying menace messenger.

The company’s Paketkopter flew a distance of about 1 kilometer (.62 miles) and hovered about 50 meters (164 feet) above the ground as it flew over the Rhine river from a pharmacist to the DHL office while carrying an unnamed medicine.

“We are at the beginning of the research project,” a DHL manager said of the test. “It is an exciting bit of technology.”

The DHL drone can carry up to 6.6 pounds. Unlike the Amazon thingamajig, which will use GPS to determine how to reach a destination, the Paketkopter (which I predict will soon become the name for a Krautrock revival act from Minnesota) relied on remote control operators for this flight. However, DHL says that a GPS-piloted version of the drone is possible.



Deutsche Post completes first drone flight

Published: 09 Dec 2013 14:48 GMT+01:00


Deutsche Post dubbed its yellow drone the Paketkopter and said it carried medicine from a pharmacist in Bonn across the Rhine to its own head office.

“We are at the beginning of the research project,” said DHL manager Ole Nordhoff. “It is an exciting bit of technology.”

This being Germany, there are also regulations to consider – Monday’s test flight required a special permit, while the legalities of using drones remain unclear.

The drone flew at a height of 50 metres for one kilometre and took two minutes to complete the journey.

It was flown by two men using a remote control but the technology also exists to direct the drones to their destination with GPS.

Online retailer Amazon announced last week it was working on a project to deliver packages with drones and hoped to have a service up and running within five years.

Deutsche Post then announced on Thursday it had a similar project, but Monday’s test was the first successful flight of a drone carrying a package.

Its project is focusing on delivering medicines.


Applanix Conducts Successful Test Flight of Professional Mapping UAS

by Press • 30 January 2014

Applanix Corporation and American Aerospace Advisors have completed a successful series of test flights of AAAI’s RS-16 platform equipped with Applanix’ DMS-UAV aerial photogrammetry payload. This is the first successful mission for a long-endurance UAS (unmanned aerial system) capable of producing professional-grade, directly georeferenced mapping imagery for civilian applications such as pipeline monitoring, power line and emergency response mapping.

Tests were conducted over restricted airspace in the state of New Jersey. A joint team from Applanix and AAAI planned and flew a sequence of missions to evaluate the capabilities of the UAS. These include, critically, the ability to provide highly accurate, directly georeferenced and orthorectified aerial imagery without the need for ground control points or aerial triangulation calculations. The system, consisting of the airframe, its avionics, mobile ground control station and the digital mapping payload, performed according to expectations and successfully produced high-quality imagery.

“Performing safe and successful missions with long endurance unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace are a challenge that goes far beyond selecting the right aircraft and payload,” said David Yoel, CEO of American Aerospace Advisors. “Working with Applanix, we have produced an integrated system that is designed from the ground up with civilian mapping operations in mind. We believe this system has the capability to transform the aerial mapping industry.”

The RS-16 DMS is a complete, operational system capable of conducting large area operations within the National Airspace System in the United States, and in other jurisdictions as local regulations allow. Within the USA, AAAI is engaged with several of the recently announced UAS research and test sites, which operate under the auspices of the FAA to develop the certification and operational requirements necessary to safely integrate UAS into the national airspace.

The GNSS-Inertial systems at the core of Applanix’ DMS-UAV aerial mapping payload uses commercial inertial technologies that are offered globally.

“The market for airborne imaging systems is in a state of rapid change,” said Joe Hutton, director of Inertial Technology and Airborne Products at Applanix. “Developments in imaging technology, in processing capability, and in the nature of inertial sensors, make a directly georeferenced UAS a reality today, where it would have been inconceivable even a few years ago. Our ability to take our established market-leading manned solutions, and integrate the technology successfully into an unmanned platform, speaks volumes for the engineering expertise of Applanix and AAAI.”


MasterCard Exec: It’s Time for EMV

Retail Breaches Signal Need to Migrate from Mag-Stripe

By Jeffrey Roman, January 30, 2014. Follow Jeffrey @gen_sec


In one of the first public statements by a major payment card company in the wake of the Target Corp. and Neiman Marcus breaches, an executive for MasterCard says it is now time for the U.S. to migrate from magnetic stripe card technology to the more secure Europay, MasterCard and Visa chip technology standard.

“This migration is about an upgrade that will drive both innovation and security for all parties, most importantly for consumers and cardholders,” says Chris McWilton, president of North American markets at MasterCard, in an opinion piece written for CNBC News.

“For too many years, different parties have relegated the EMV migration decision to a cost vs. benefits spreadsheet analysis,” McWilton says. “However, spreadsheets don’t consider the cost of losing the public trust, which is immeasurable.”

Chip cards using the EMV standard contain an embedded microprocessor that stores and processes encrypted information, making it difficult to copy or counterfeit.

McWilton acknowledges progress has been made on the EMV front, including a number of large U.S. retailers publicly indicating they’re installing new terminals at their stores to accept chip cards by October 2015. And many U.S. card-issuing banks have started providing cardholders with chip-enabled cards while planning for massive rollouts over the next two years.

But he also acknowledges the public finger-pointing and posturing seen in the wake of the breaches, as parties discuss who is responsible for fraud losses in the wake of these incidents – the merchant, the card-issuing bank or the card companies themselves.

“All involved – networks, merchants, issuers, acquirers and others – should focus their time, efforts and resources on continuing this migration and further enhancing the security of the U.S. payments system,” McWilton says. “The lesson of the recent [breaches] is clear – we should not delay the migration to this global standard any longer.”

On Dec. 19, 2013, Visa commented briefly on the Target breach on the Fox Business news website.

“Visa is aware that Target has disclosed unauthorized access to payment card data affecting all major card brands,” an e-mail message to the news site said. “When such incidents occur, Visa works with the breached entity to provide card issuers with the compromised accounts so they can take steps to protect consumers through fraud monitoring and, if needed, reissuing cards. Because of advanced fraud-monitoring capabilities, the incidence of fraud involving compromised accounts is actually rare, and Visa fraud rates remain near historic lows.”


Breach Details

The breach at Target Corp. compromised as many as 40 million payment card accounts, along with the personal information of about 70 million customers.

On Dec. 23, Target confirmed malware was to blame for an infection of its point-of-sale system that likely exposed the card details between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15.

The retailer reported on Jan. 30 that the breach was the result of hackers stealing electronic credentials from a vendor [see: Target Breach: Credentials Stolen].

Neiman Marcus, in a statement on Jan. 22, confirmed that between July 16 and Oct. 30 last year, more than 1 million credit and debit cards may have been breached. A network malware attack designed “to collect or scrape payment card data” had been identified by forensics investigators, CEO Karen Katz said in the statement.


Rasmussen Reports


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 01, 2014

It’s game time and blame time this week, with the Super Bowl tomorrow and President Obama vowing last Tuesday night in his State of the Union address to go around Congress if necessary.

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Americans plan to watch Super Bowl XLVIII this Sunday featuring the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks. 

Sixty-six percent (66%) of those who plan to watch believe the Broncos are the team most likely to win. Twenty-three percent (23%) think Seattle will emerge victorious.

But 34% find the commercials during the Super Bowl more interesting than the game itself.  

Down the road from the Northern New Jersey stadium where the Super Bowl will be played, another rivalry continues in Washington, D.C. The president delivered his State of the Union address to Congress and the nation, although just 28% of voters think the annual speeches are important for setting the nation’s agenda for the next year.  Sixty-two percent (62%) view them instead as mostly just for show, up nine points from 53% a year ago when the president delivered the first State of the Union speech following his reelection.

Obama made it clear in his latest State of the Union remarks that he is prepared to take independent executive action if he can’t get Congress to work with him on some major issues. But 69% think it is better for the president to work with Congress on things he considers important rather than go it alone.

Most voters agree with the president’s call for an increase in the minimum wage but oppose the extension for up to 47 weeks of federal unemployment benefits. Just 27%, however, agree with Obama’s statement that “after five years of grit and determined effort, the United States is better positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.”

For the second week in a row, in fact, only 30% think the United States is heading in the right direction.

While the president in his speech proposed several federal initiatives for what he sees as a growing national income inequality problem, 59% of voters think less government involvement in the economy will do more to close the income gap than more government action.

One reason why voters are suspicious of greater government involvement in the economy is that 63% believe most government contracts are awarded to the company with the most political connections rather than one that can provide the best service for the best price.

The economy and job creation are now most important to voters on the list of 15 major issues regularly tracked by Rasmussen Reports.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of economic issues. Forty-five percent (45%) still rate the president’s economic performance as poor.

The State of the Union speech had no impact on Obama’s daily job approval ratings which remain at levels seen for most of his presidency. 

Nearly one-out-of-three voters (32%) now say their health insurance coverage has changed because of the president’s new health care law, and most continue to view the law unfavorably.

Just 21% believe the federal government currently has the consent of the governed. 

Democrats hold a five-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

Thirty-six U.S. Senate seats are at stake this November, and Rasmussen Reports took a first look at two of the most hotly contested races this week. Incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu runs slightly behind Republican challenger Bill Cassidy – 44% to 40% – in Louisiana. Democratic Senator Kay Hagan trails her two leading Republican challengers, Thom Tillis and Dr. Greg Brannon, in North Carolina.

At week’s end, consumer and investor confidence were down nationally from a month ago. 

Optimism among homeowners jumped toward the end of 2013 but is also on the decline in the new year. 

In other surveys last week:

Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans under 40 use their cell phone at least once an hour, compared to 18% of middle-aged adults and just eight percent (8%) of those 65 and older.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) of all Americans think their fellow countrymen need to cut back on how much they use cell phones, but only 12% think that applies to them.

Sixty-two percent (62%) think winter has been worse in their area this year than it has been in recent years. One-in-four (25%) are currently planning or have already taken a vacation this winter.

— Even with the frigid temperatures and big snowstorms in many areas of the United States this year, 46% of Americans believe the media make the weather sound worse than it really is.

— Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast over eight years ago, but just 29% of Louisiana voters think their state has fully recovered.

January 18 2014




Farmers in Australia gear towards robots

by Press • 13 January 2014



WITHOUT question, the most notable advance in agricultural machinery in 2013, centred on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.

Linked to arguably world-breaking advances in software technology, the initial trial work, principally by the Mingenew Irwin Group (MIG), has set the stage for UAVs to play a pivotal role in broadacre farming throughout Australia.

MIG executive member Darrin Lee became the first farmer in Australia to adopt UAV technology for his cropping program, incorporating a new computer software program he describes as the next quantum step in precision agriculture.

According to Darrin, using UAVs, farmers will initially have a tool to employ to reveal real-time nutrient status of crops, weed and insect populations in paddocks, germination status and sub-soil moisture availability.

All the information will be GPS referenced which means, for example, telematics can be employed to transfer data from a UAV, flying as low as five metres (17ft), to a controller in a tractor or SP sprayer, so an operator effectively has a spot-sprayer at his disposal, with two centimetre (sub inch) accuracy.

Future models, already on the drawing boards, will carry chemical tanks for GPS-controlled spraying or a range of cameras and computer controllers for improved quality mapping or spectral subsoil imagery, alleviating the need for a ground sled to collect information.

Darrin already is well along the track in setting up his 6500ha property – on which he crops 4200ha while running 5000 sheep – having put his hand up as a guinea pig to employ UAV technology.

“I’m collecting and collating farm data back to 1998,” he said. “Along with ground-truthing data, it will be used in a new software program which will interface with the UAV data we collect.”

“The new program will provide me with a range of historical, real-time and pre-emptive information on which I can make more accurate and cost effective management decisions.

“The UAV’s potential uses on my farm are mind-blowing and it is self-evident that having a tool that can fly over your property to gather precise information takes my time management to a new level.

“That was probably the biggest incentive to get involved because it has freed up my time to be more analytical with the almost seamless and timely information at my fingertips.”

Another pleasing development for farmers in 2013 was the completion of so-called Tier 4 engine development to meet strict international emissions standards.

Manufacturers rolled out new tractors, combine harvesters and self-propelled sprayers, all boasting new engine technology designed to save fuel while providing more power – high horsepower 4WD tractors are now heading towards power ratings of 522kW (700hp), linked to step-less transmissions operated by sophisticated engine management systems.

Apart from engine advances, computer technology was employed to provide more real-time data collection for farmers to interface with machinery multiples, such as the ability of a lead header to “talk” with and steer following headers in a paddock.

This telematics technology is the pre-cursor to so-called robotic farming, with driverless vehicles.

European manufacturer CLAAS revealed part of its research and development program at the 2013 Agritechnica Show in Hanover, Germany where it picked up seven medals – one gold and six silver – for innovation in agricultural technology.

Its gold medal was awarded for the company’s driving simulator, which provides online training in the operation of the company’s advanced technology in harvesting, hay equipment and tractors.

This is seen as a critical component in the advance of technology as service providers struggle to provide adequate technical support to farmers.

Tracked harvesters were also flagged by manufacturers as the way of the future, particularly as Australian farmers adopt controlled traffic farming (CTF) systems.

The jury is still out in this country on the merits of tracks but manufacturers, in their wisdom, believe it’s the right pathway.

Controlled traffic is gaining more traction, excuse the pun, in WA.


MOU between the FAA and AMA

by Patrick Egan • 11 January 2014


Signed at the AMA Expo, Ontario California. DTV is there and will report back!

Memorandum of Understanding between Academy of Model Aeronautics and Federal Aviation Administration

Concerning Operation of Model Aircraft In the National Airspace System


This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a cooperative working relationship between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).


AMA is a nationally recognized, non-profit membership organization that was established in 1936. The organization has provided leadership for an expansive aero-modeling community throughout the United States and its territories. Over time, AMA has developed and maintained a National Model Aircraft Safety Code, which provides guidelines for the safe
operation of model aircraft.

Until 1981, there were no federal guidelines or directives for model aircraft operations. In June of that year, the FAA published an Advisory Circular (AC 91-57) titled “Model Aircraft Operating Standards.” Although not directive in nature, AC 91-57 provided general guidance for the operation of model aircraft.

On February 17, 2012, President Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) (Pub.L.112-95) into law. Within this Act, a special provision for model aircraft was enacted. Section 336 of the FMRA provides a definition of the term “model aircraft”, requirements for operating model aircraft, and reinforces the authority that the FAA possesses to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft in an unsafe manner. In addition, section 106 and 40103 of Title 49, United States Code provides the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration to prescribe aviation standards and regulate aviation operations in the National Airspace System (NAS).

In addition, in the FMRA, Congress acknowledged the efficacy of community-based safety programming, and specified that if a model aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization, the FAA may not promulgate any rule or regulation
regarding that model aircraft.

This MOU outlines the relationship that will be maintained between the FAA and the AMA.

The AMA and the FAA intend to work together by openly communicating any questions and needs as they arise. Technology and operating environments are always changing, and thus establishing an understanding of the nature of the cooperative working relationship between the two organizations is critical to meet the mission needs of the FAA and the AMA.


The Academy of Model Aeronautics agrees to:

· Develop, establish, and maintain a comprehensive safety program to educate and
direct its members in how to safely operate model aircraft in the NAS.

· Develop, maintain, and enact appropriate guidelines, procedures, and operating
standards for its members responsive to the minimum safety criteria established in PL
112-95 and implement the AMA Safety Program to include the PL 112-95 Enactment

· Maintain the AMA Safety Program by regularly reviewing relevant safety data and
updating the program to address any issues that are brought to light by the data.

· Continue to establish appropriate safety guidelines for emergent technologies and
novel facets of aero-modeling activity.

· Provide the FAA with an updated copy of the AMA Safety Program whenever
substantive changes are made, or upon request.

· Foster a positive and cooperative environment within the aero-modeling community
toward the FAA, its employees, and its regulatory structure.

· Serve as a conduit between the aero-modeling community at-large, the hobby
industry, and the FAA in order to provide relevant and time-critical aviation safety
information to all parties.

· Bring issues and questions to the FAA when matters arise related to model aircraft
that could impact the safety of the NAS.

· Maintain Safety Programming documentation on the public section of the AMA
website in order to promote safety throughout the entire aero-modeling community,
even among non-AMA members.

The Federal Aviation Administration agrees to:

· Review AMA’s Safety Program and advise the Academy on safety issues related to
aero-modeling operations within the NAS.

· Educate and inform appropriate FAA field personnel regarding the most current aeromodeling
policies, procedures, and operating standards.

· Address model aviation safety and operational issues through the Unmanned Aircraft
Systems Integration Office, AFS-80. This office will act as a conduit to other areas of
the FAA in order to resolve and address matters of mutual concern and interest.

· Foster a positive and cooperative environment towards model aviation within the
agency’s national, regional, district, and local offices.

· Maintain an open line of communication with the AMA to exchange information and
provide relevant and/or time critical notices regarding aviation safety and airspace

· Cooperate with the AMA in dealing with and resolving issues of concern to either or
both parties.

Effective Dates

It is understood and agreed by the undersigned that the intent of this MOU is to state shared goals and to establish and maintain cooperation toward meeting these shared goals. This MOU does not create any binding obligation on either party. Each party agrees to conduct its representative activities in a coordinated and mutually beneficial manner. The FAA and the
AMA will evaluate their respective participation with the terms of this agreement periodically and communicate any issues with the term as soon as they arise.

This MOU will be in effect at the time of the signing and may be terminated at any time by either of the signing authorities or their successors. One party or the other must serve the notice of the termination at least ninety (90) days prior to the effective date of that termination, or in the case of mutual consent, with no prior notice requirement.
______________________________ _______________
James Williams, Manager Date
UAS Integration Office
Federal Aviation Administration
______________________________ _______________
Bob Brown, President Date
Academy of Model Aeronautics


Expanded ND UAS research expected to grow regional training programs

by Press • 10 January 2014

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald


THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. — Last week’s announcement that the University of North Dakota and Grand Forks will be one of six test sites to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the nation’s airspace had officials high-flying not only in North Dakota, but in Minnesota as well.

Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls is a partner in UND’s aerospace program. And its technology-based programs are designed for education as well as development in the fast-growing UAS industry.

Besides its long-running aircraft maintenance training program, which expanded two years ago to include UAS aircraft, Northland now offers curriculum to train students to analyze data collected from drones, whether the aircraft is flying in airspace over hostile countries or hovering above buildings or farm fields in the United States.

The school’s one-year imagery analysis certificate is the first of its kind in the nation. It also offers a two-year associate degree in geospatial intelligence analysis.

The UND-Northland aviation partnership actually dates back to 1998, when UND instructors used UND airplanes to provide pilot training to students in Northland’s longstanding aviation maintenance training program.

The Northland UAS program has been developing since 2010, when Northland received a Department of Labor grant to expand into that field.

Since then, the school has been fostering a UAS partnership with UND and industry leaders by building curriculum and the technology to deliver it.

“Nothing we’ve done in the last 10 years has been done unintentionally,” said Curtis Zoller, Northland associate dean of aerospace programs. “We’re developing a classroom that’s going to redefine the student’s education experience.”

Classroom of future

Students will be introduced to some of that technology when they return to school Monday for the start of the spring semester.

Some classes will be held in interactive, audio-visual classrooms specially engineered at three campuses — the main campus in Thief River Falls, the East Grand Forks campus and at the school’s Aerospace Center at Thief River Falls Regional Airport.

The system, which cost a total of about $750,000 for all three locations, allows direct, two-way communication between an instructor at one location and students in all three classrooms. The sound-activated system automatically triggers cameras to focus on the student or teacher who is speaking, regardless of location.

Each classroom also was specifically designed to provide optimum light and sound quality, according to Zoller.

Northland President Anne Temte said the system provides a substantial improvement in quality, which makes for a richer classroom experience.

“I can see expressions on people’s faces. I can read body language,” she said, speaking from a classroom in East Grand Forks to an audience split between the Thief River Falls main campus and the aerospace center. “And sometimes when you have 12 people in a room showing up on a little, tiny television, you can’t do that. So, I do believe it’s going to enhance communication among our sites and among our personnel. Of course, our top priority is going to be instruction, but we’re all going to get used to this by using it for meetings as well.”

Programs and partners

The system could be expanded to other communities as well, but the cost likely would be $150,000 to $200,000 for each one, depending upon the amount of retrofitting that would be necessary.

“The goal, of course, would be to not only make it expand across the aerospace program and other programs, to expand across the East Grand Forks and the Thief River Falls barrier, but also to allow students to be able to (participate) from their own homes, using a laptop or an iPad or any other tablet device that would be capable of joining from there,” Zoller said.

Other schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system are considering similar technology. And some high schools are working with it, too.

“Throughout Minnesota, there have been some grants that have delivered this kind of equipment in high schools in really rural areas, where the students have not been able to come into a college for the post-secondary options program,” Temte said. “I’m thinking particularly of the Itasca area, where they are sharing some language instruction from colleges to high schools. So that’s another area where there may be some expansion in the future as more sites come on.”

Northland officials also have discussed expanding its interactive classroom concept and training possibilities with aerospace partners, such as Northrup Grumman Corp., the anchor tenant of the Grand Sky UAS Park planned at Grand Forks Air Force Base, according to Dan Klug, NCTC chief development officer.

“This would be a great asset to have as part of Grand Sky, to be used to help grow that aerospace education and training, whether it’s for a traditional Northland student or a customized training opportunity with a company like Northrup Grumman or their customers, whether it be domestic or international,” he said.


Ohio, Indiana push for place in drone industry

by Press • 14 January 2014



CINCINNATI — Ohio and Indiana will operate their own test ranges for unmanned aircraft and seek ways of promoting more research and development to attract drone-related businesses after losing in their joint bid for a coveted Federal Aviation Administration test site.

The states sought one of six FAA drone test sites being set up as the agency develops a plan for safely integrating commercial drones into U.S. airspace. An industry-commissioned study predicted unmanned aircraft could produce thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact after that integration, and Ohio and Indiana were among two dozen states hoping that a site could boost their prospects for sharing in any economic boom.

But the FAA last month selected Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.

“We were obviously hoping for an FAA designation, but with or without it, that doesn’t change our vision or strategy,” said Chris Ford, vice president of aerospace and defense for the Dayton Development Coalition, which is leading Ohio’s drone efforts.

Ohio and Indiana are moving ahead with their partnership that includes the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center & Test Complex set up last year in Springfield, Ohio, and still developing. It serves as a regional hub operating seven test drone ranges in both states, providing sites where businesses, universities and researchers sites can test unmanned aircraft.

“Companies and others will need places where they can test a little, design a little and then test more,” said Duane Embree, executive director of the Indiana Office of Defense Development, which is leading Indiana’s drone efforts. “We can essentially do everything we were going to do — just without the FAA designation.”

Both states also are counting on their involvement in a NASA competition this spring to increase their visibility among unmanned aircraft developers participating from around the country.

“Places that get recognized early are more likely to attract the businesses,” Embree said.

The center will host the challenge at the Camp Atterbury test range near Edinburgh, Ind., where it will test innovative “sense and avoid” technologies aimed at preventing drone collisions with other aircraft.

Commercial uses for drones are vast. The oil and gas industry can use them to monitor pipelines, farmers can dust crops or locate livestock with drones, and public safety officials can conduct surveillance or monitor damage from natural disasters.

The FAA has until the end of 2015 to present its integration plan, though officials acknowledge it may take longer.

Ohio and Indiana are not the only states continuing testing at existing sites.

“It’s business as usual for us, too,” said Eileen Shibley, director of the California Unmanned Aircraft Systems Portal at Inyokern Airport. But Shibley is concerned that some people mistakenly believe they have to travel to one of the FAA sites to test their aircraft.

Brendan Schulman leads the unmanned aircraft practice at New York-based Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel law firm and says public entities not selected by the FAA still have opportunities and can apply for certificates of waiver or authorization allowing drone operation at specific locations.

“But the regulatory processes can be slow and cumbersome, and the U.S. is trailing far behind several countries,” he said.


Sinclair director: Much UAS use will be agricultural

by Press • 13 January 2014

By Thomas Gnau


The director of Sinclair Community College’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) program believes many uses of remotely piloted airplanes in the next few years will be in the realm of agriculture.

Andrew Shepherd, Sinclair’s director for Unmanned Aerial Systems, presented an overview of the uses of UAS for Ohio’s agricultural future at the Ohio Farm and Food Leadership Forum in Columbus last month, Sinclair said.

Also Monday, Sinclair said its Workforce Development division has inked a teaming agreement with Columbus’ Asymmetric Technologies.

The agreement will allow Sinclair to collaborate on new UAS technologies with Asymmetric through the college’s extensive course curriculum and use of the necessary Certificates of Authorization (COA), needed to legally operate unmanned vehicles under current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.

“This agreement allows Sinclair to leverage our subject-matter expertise and access to our COA in a way that will bring new UAS technologies to market,” Deb Norris, vice president for Sinclair Workforce Development and Corporate Services, said in an announcement. “Creating these types of partnerships that have the potential to bring new technologies and jobs to the region is really at the heart of what we’re accomplishing with this program.”

A forecast at the Ohio Farm and Food Leadership Forum estimated that some 80 percent of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) usage in the United States will be related to “precision agriculture” over the next several years, Sinclair said in a statement.

“With nearly 90 percent of the approximately 75,000 farms in Ohio being individually owned, there is a growing need for the type of innovation that UAS can provide,” Sinclair said.

“The potential benefits for employing UAS technologies in precision agriculture is virtually limitless in a state like Ohio, which has an economy that is very reliant on the success of farming, with more than 110,000 people operating farms throughout the state,” Shepherd said in the college’s statement. “Everything from the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to examining irrigation effectiveness or pest infestation can be performed quickly and result in improved crop yields with less of an environmental impact.”

Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration did not select Ohio and Indiana as a region for testing the use of drones. Still, Dayton-area leaders have said the area, with its proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, will continue to be a leader in UAS development.

Sinclair offers a one-day course on precision agriculture using UAS. Sinclair has also developed what it says is Ohio’s only UAS short-term technical certificate program, which prepares students for entry-level positions in the industry.


Washington Post

Defense companies brace for a different kind of consolidation this time around

By Marjorie Censer, Published: January 12


Years before the company’s legendary merger with Lockheed, Martin Marietta executives were holding secret meetings in a basement, trying to imagine what the defense industry might look like in the years ahead.

Starting in the mid-1980s — a decade before the industry-altering deal — Norman R. Augustine, the chief executive of Martin Marietta, gathered three of his top executives together every Friday. The group snuck out to his basement, only a short trip from the office, where they convened over sodas with a rotating cast of specialists in areas such as policy and Wall Street interests.

The owners of Cause had hoped to turn a $100,000 profit — for charity — their first year. That didn’t happen.

Augustine and his most senior executives suspected that the landscape for defense companies was about to change significantly, following the Reagan-era build-up in military spending.

Expenditures at their current levels at the time seemed unsustainable, Augustine reasoned. “We didn’t know what the right answer was, but one thing we knew was you were going to need money to do it,” he recalled.

So Martin Marietta started stockpiling cash, he said, saving up enough to help it survive the most significant contraction in the history of the defense industry, and merge with California-based Lockheed in a deal that not only reshaped the industry, but also shifted its center to the D.C. area.

There are noticeable similarities to the 1990s in today’s market: A major build-up has come to a stop with the end of two wars, and the industry is seeing a spending slowdown.

But analysts and experts warn that 2013 is not 1990, and industry adaptation will look very different this time around.

Rather than the mass consolidation of the largest contractors that occurred two decades ago, these observers expect more rearranging of parts and consolidation at lower levels, particularly among the services companies that have proliferated over the past decade.

“Twenty years ago, defense consolidation was mainly about getting bigger,” said Loren Thompson, an industry consultant with ties to many of the largest contractors. “Now, it’s about getting more efficient, about getting more focused.”


Looking backward

The 1990s is a storied era in defense contracting, when companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing saw their prominence cemented through major acquisitions and mergers.

Simply put, Pentagon contractors went through a massive round of consolidation. By the calculation of John Dowdy, who leads McKinsey & Co.’s global aerospace and defense practice, the number of U.S.-based prime contractors dropped to six from 16.

The giants also consolidated their power; in 1991, the top 10 global defense companies made up less than 40 percent of the revenue of the top 100. By 2000, the top 10 companies controlled 60 percent of the market, according to Dowdy.

The changes were perhaps even more stark at lower levels. Of the top 100 companies in 1991, only 19 still exist today.

At the same time, the D.C. area became the center of the defense contracting industry. Even though the Lockheed Martin deal was described as a merger of equals, Martin Marietta got to its Bethesda headquarters.

“The vast majority of defense companies were located away from Washington, D.C., prior to the 1990s,” Thompson said. “The emergence of Lockheed Martin as the major company created pressure on all the competitors to be close to the customer.”

But the intensity of the consolidation that occurred two decades ago makes it hard for many to imagine a similarly robust round today.

“The industry is actually so consolidated … there’s very little room for prime-level combinations that won’t run into serious anti-competitive issues,” Dowdy said.

So far, the Pentagon has made clear that it welcomes acquisitions — but not among the biggest of the big. Even abroad, those deals have been unsuccessful. London-based BAE Systems and Paris-based European Aeronautic Defence and Space’s bid to merge in 2012 ended unsuccessfully because of the concerns of their foreign government owners.

The Defense Department already has a limited number of suppliers when it comes to some weapons systems; in combat vehicles, for instance, there are just two U.S. manufacturers.

Still, some see it as inevitable, given the rapidly declining Pentagon budget. Not only is defense procurement down, but there’s little certainty that new major programs — the combat vehicles, fighter jets and missile systems that spur billions in research and manufacturing — are moving forward.

The defense industry “only has one customer that matters,” Thompson said. The “opportunity for sustaining a broad-based industrial complex in a period of declining demand is not very good.”


Budget pressures loom

Despite the potential limitations on consolidation, there are growing signs that companies are bracing for change.

Falls Church-based Northrop Grumman made what was largely considered the last deal in the previous round of consolidation, picking up TRW in 2002 to cement its spot as one of the biggest of the big. The deal capped off years of major acquisitions, including Newport News Shipbuilding.

But less than a decade later, Northrop began taking apart the massive company, first selling off its advisory services unit Tasc in 2009 to address potential inner-company conflicts of interest, and then in 2011, spinning off its shipbuilding business, which is now known as Huntington Ingalls.

Northrop’s moves predated the more recent spinoffs and separations by government contractors. McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. last year split itself into two companies: a technology business focused in areas such as national security and health, and a government services business.

More recently, Exelis announced it is spinning off its government services unit into a public company, following in the steps of L-3 Communications, which spun its government services unit off into Chantilly-based Engility in 2012.

Dowdy said many companies are taking a hard look at businesses that didn’t require as much attention in the previous decade.

“We had 10 years of year-on-year defense budget increases,” he said. “When the budget just keeps going up, up, up … strong businesses do well, OK businesses do well and even poor businesses do well.”

These early deals are setting the stage for a defense industry reshaping. Many existing companies are simply too large and bulky to be bought, pushing them to spin off or sell units. Companies can shed divisions that are no longer profitable or fit with their portfolios and find complementary capabilities in another contractor’s unwanted units.

In particular, analysts say, the opportunity is greater for services companies, which have proliferated in the past decade as the government increasingly relied on contractors to provide federal labor.

It’s early to speculate on who might be bought, but Thompson pointed to Northrop, a leader in reshaping already, as a potential target. (Northrop declined to comment, noting that it does not participate in industry consolidation or acquisition stories).


Lessons learned

Even though reshaping this time around is likely to be quite different, there are lessons from the 1990s on how to come out on top.

Augustine, who made sure his company was a buyer, not a seller, credited preparation.

By the time it was clear to many companies consolidation was coming, “we already had a leg up because we had saved a bunch of money and we pretty well knew what we were going to do,” said Augustine, who went on to eventually serve as chief executive of Lockheed Martin.

When contractors approached the merged company about potential acquisitions, its executives already had a binder on each business with its financial data, products and leadership, he said.

“We were ready to make decisions,” Augustine said. “We could tell you tomorrow whether we were interested.”

Dowdy, too, said the aggressive movers are likely the ones who will survive a reshaped defense market.

“One of the very clear lessons is move early to win, and the opposite of that is hunker down … You can’t just say, ‘I’m just going to last this out,'” Dowdy said. The companies working “to push their margins up and start cleaning up their portfolio are, I would argue, the ones who are going to come out the other side.”

Thompson said that those who lead the merger wave “get to pick and choose.”

“You go later, you get the leftovers,” he said.

Even though a downturn appears bleak to many contractors, Augustine contends that it provides a real opportunity to put together a better company.

“In the good times, we never could have built Lockheed Martin,” he said. “None of these companies would have been for sale.”


Defense News

Pentagon Seeks To Protect R&D Funding in ’15 Budget



WASHINGTON — Senior Pentagon leaders are trying to protect vulnerable research and development (R&D) funding in the fiscal 2015 budget plan, despite desires within the military services to put money toward other near-term initiatives, according to Defense Department officials and sources.

While DoD’s 2015 budget plan is still in flux, the tension over R&D funding has arisen at different points through the arduous process of building the spending plan and has been on the radar of top DoD officials, these sources said.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — after reviewing budget proposals from the military services late last year — ordered each to go back and find about 15 percent more money for their R&D projects, according to several sources with knowledge of the decision.

The move is an early indicator the Pentagon leadership is backing up its tough talk about the need to protect R&D spending, much of which is used to develop new technologies for future weapons.

“Secretary Hagel has placed a high priority on research and development to ensure that the United States maintains its competitive edge for the future,” a senior defense official said. “Simply, losing our edge on capability particularly in the out years would make force planning all the more difficult and just put future forces at risk.”

While an emphasis on R&D funding may be good for industry, the impact will vary depending on where the funds are directed, said Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners.

“It really depends on what level that money is targeted,” Callan said. “If it’s going to basic research, that’s great for the labs and universities. If you’re just throwing more R&D money at things like the Ohio replacement program, or the JSF, that’s helpful to the industrial base.”

R&D spending accounts bore the greatest percentage of Pentagon’s sequestration cuts in 2013 since DoD leaders opted to shift money into operations and maintenance accounts. The upcoming fiscal year 2015 budget provides one of the first opportunities for Hagel to make strategic choices and build a budget that fits within the mandates of the $521 billion budget cap.

Sources said the 2015 budget proposals drafted by the services had included a high concentration of funds in the operations and maintenance accounts in an effort to reverse some of the damage done to military readiness from sequestration.

Hagel, in consultation with DoD’s acting R&D chief Al Shaffer, told the services to go back and boost R&D accounts 15 percent above the proposed levels, the sources said.


In 2012, the Army spent $8.7 billion on R&D, the Navy and Marine Corps spent $17.7 billion and the Air Force $26.3 billion. Those numbers were fairly flat in the president’s 2013 budget request, but dropped for 2014 to $8 billion, $16 billion and $25.7 billion respectively due to sequestration budget caps.

Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall has predicted R&D spending would continue to bear the brunt of defense budget cuts and expressed concern the continued pinch on R&D could threaten US tech superiority and harm the industrial base.

“I’m particularly worried about sustaining technological superiority over time and what deep cuts to R&D are going to do to that,” Kendall said.

The military services are aware of this issue, “but they have near-term, recurrent missions they have to perform at the same time that they’re trying to live within these budgets, so there’s tension about all of this, obviously in our planning,” Kendall said.

“I’ve spoken to the secretary about this and others in senior leadership, but at the same time, we have the constraints that we have and we’re trying to do the best we can to balance out all the different needs that we have.”

Over the past year, as Pentagon R&D funding has been pinched through sequestration, Kendall has strongly encouraged industry CEOs to protect company-funded development projects.

Callan said that an effort to bolster DoD R&D spending might be a sign that efforts to convince industry to increase investment aren’t working.

Even with the cuts, DoD is still investing more in R&D than almost every country in the world, said Gordon Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting during the Clinton administration and is now a professor at American University.

“We are at no long-term risk with respect to our technological capabilities,” he said.


Columnist argues for abolishing Air Force

Jan. 12, 2014 – 06:00AM |

Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft perform an aerial demonstration. A guest columnist for the Boston Globe has proposed abolishing the Air Force to save money.

By Jeff Schogol

Staff writer


The Air Force just cannot shoot down the idea that the government could save money by getting rid of the service.

During a speech in September, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh spoke passionately about how the roughly 143,000 service members who are part of the other services’ air arms cannot fulfill all of the missions carried out by 690,000 active-duty, Guard and Reserve airmen.

“I’m getting really frustrated with hearing over and over again this comment about ‘Why do we need an Air Force?’ ” Welsh said at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference. “You’ve got to be kidding me. We’re not past that yet?”

“There is one Air Force in America and you’re it,” he added. “So let’s shoot this one in the head.”

But a guest columnist for the Boston Globe has proposed doing precisely what Welsh says is anathema to national security: abolishing the Air Force.


“The wind-sock has shifted,” James Carroll wrote in a Jan. 6 column. “Instead of tinkering around the edges of a bloated, unaffordable, and often ineffective national security establishment, the time has come for a major reinvention — starting with the Air Force. Off it should go into the wild blue yonder.”

Carroll could not be reached by press time. His piece relies heavily on arguments made by Robert Farley, author of the upcoming book, “Grounded: The Case For Abolishing The United States Air Force.”

Farley told Air Force Times that he is arguing the Air Force should be merged with the Army and Navy, not firing all 690,000 airmen. This move would allow the military as a whole to shrink by eliminating redundancies among the services.

Farley, a professor at the University of Kentucky, thinks the military should go back to how it was structured before the Air Force became an independent service. Ultimately, such a move would curb how often the military would be used, he argues.

“As far back as the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, [civilian policymakers] have found air power too attractive because of the promise of relatively cheap, relatively efficient war,” Farley said in a Jan. 8 interview. “Putting the Air Force back into the Army creates more perspective with respect to what war really costs and what the prospects of war really are.”

However, retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, former commander of U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, said it is “foolish” to think the Air Force can be absorbed into the Army. “In terms of needing to have a separate air arm that focuses on air power, it’s proven to be extraordinarily effective,” said Barno, now part of the Center for a New American Security in Washington.

The Air Force declined to discuss this issue beyond what Welsh has said publicly.

In December, Welsh said at the American Enterprise Institute that the Air Force allows ground forces to attack — and protects ground forces from enemy air attacks. “Since the Korean War, this nation has deployed about 7 million men and women at arms to different contingencies around the world, and tens of thousands of them have died there,” Welsh said. “None of them have died as a result of enemy air attack. That doesn’t happen by accident.

“This requires an Air Force. The Army and the Marine Corps, the Navy cannot do this on their own, not for a theater-size event. They can do it over their organic units but not to support a theater commander. That’s why nations have air forces.”

Retired Gen. Charles Horner, who led the air war during Operation Desert Storm, said those who advocate getting rid of the Air Force do not understand that there are times when one service needs to take the lead in the fight.

“The Army is so parochial about the basic concept of what war is, they think war is where armed forces clash on the battlefield,” Horner said in a Jan. 9 interview. “War can take all kinds of forms and in some wars, like Desert Storm, the preferred way of resolving the issue is to avoid clashes on the battlefield because they induce large casualties.”

The other services don’t have the Air Force’s expertise to take over Air Force missions, said retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Wald.

“Would you hire a dentist to do brain surgery?” said Wald, former head of U.S. European Command.

The Air Force will never be eliminated because it is “the most indispensable of all the services,” said retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a senior scholar at the Air Force Academy, in a Jan. 9 email.


“The [column]exhibits no comprehension of joint doctrine; why each of the services are required because of the time dimension required to learn how to master control of the domains of land, sea, air, space, and cyber; or the potential of air operations to minimize casualties in achieving national security objectives,” he said.




Gates vs. Air Force Round Two

By Sandra I. Erwin


Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ much-talked about memoir includes a chapter in which he relives bitter clashes with Air Force officials over nuclear weapon screw-ups, drone deployments and funding for the F-22 fighter aircraft.

The showdown culminated in June 2008 with the firing of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley. In the memoir, titled, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Gates dubs the Air Force one of his “biggest headaches” during his time running the Pentagon.

Moseley, for his part, has not released any tell-all books, but did speak recently about the issues that sparked those notorious feuds with Gates. During a talk last month hosted by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute, the now retired general suggested that, in hindsight, Gates made poor equipment-buying decisions that are now coming back to haunt the U.S. military.

Speaking at the Mitchell forum, where Wynne also was in attendance, Moseley said the shutdown of the F-22 program “will prove to be one of the most strategically dislocated decisions made over the last 20-25 years.”

A decorated fighter pilot and an ardent advocate of high-performance aircraft, Moseley fought to keep the F-22 program alive but could not overcome the political headwinds. The Air Force in the mid-1990s envisioned it would buy more than 700 airplanes from manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp., but rising costs compelled the Pentagon in 2001 to reduce orders to 295. By fiscal year 2006, the budget proposed by the George W. Bush administration funded just 187. Congressional supporters kept the project going until 2009.

Gates, with the backing of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., led the Obama administration’s effort to stop funding the F-22 in fiscal year 2010. The last aircraft ultimately was delivered in 2012. In speeches and congressional hearings during his tenure, Gates consistently bashed the F-22 — estimated to cost nearly $200 million apiece — as a symbol of extravagant spending on weapons that were conceived to combat the Soviet enemy but were no longer relevant in the fights against Islamic extremists or guerilla warriors like Hezbollah. He pointed out that China would not be able to field an advanced fighter jet until 2025 and by then, the United States would have hundreds of next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in the inventory. Gates also blamed expensive weapons such as the F-22 for draining resources from wartime priorities, such as unmanned drones and armored trucks.

Moseley conceded the program initially was too large and expensive, but insisted that, had the production line stayed open, the price would have dropped considerably. “We didn’t, and still don’t need, a thousand of those things. But you need the right number.” Several of the United States’ closest allies would have bought F-22s and helped lower the cost, he said. “The last airplanes we took delivery of were $87 million,” said Moseley. “Had we been able to go to another multiyear [contract] there was an understanding that we would be able to get them for $85 million,” he added. “Find me an airplane out there right now that costs $85 million and has that capability.”

Tight budgets were not the real reason why Gates terminated the program, he said. “The money was there. … We spent $50 billion on MRAPs [mine resistant ambush protected] trucks. We spent a large amount on unmanned aerial vehicles for every private first class and corporal,” Moseley said, and immediately added, “I’m being a little facetious but not much.”

The money was available, but the determination to kill the F-22 was driven by other factors, said Moseley. “Knowing what I know now I would have been more aggressive in protecting that airplane and the building blocks of 5th generation systems into the future.”

Another contentious issue that deepened the rift between Gates and the Air Force was what the secretary characterized as “foot dragging” in buying and deploying UAVs to war zones. He was convinced that Air Force leaders were intentionally slowing down drone procurements to ensure that there was sufficient funding for their prized fighter jets.

During a question-and-answer session at the Mitchell forum, Moseley said there is no intentional bias against unmanned aircraft in the Air Force. There is a place for both manned and unmanned, he said. “Secretary Wynne got tired of hearing me say this when we were beaten up about not going all unmanned.” The reality is that there are few instances when the use of unmanned aviation is imperative. “One is when you believe the threat is so terrible that you’ll lose the human,” he said. “I believe the Air Force has never found that threat. We will penetrate any threat. We haven’t found a place we won’t go. So I don’t buy that one.”

The other is when human pilots are the limiting factor to the persistence of the machine. “I got that one,” said Moseley. “You leave the plane out there for 30 hours on a reconnaissance mission. That’s a valid one.”

According to an excerpt of Gates’ memoirs published by Military Times, what triggered the dismissal of Moseley and Wynne, more so than the F-22 and the drone flaps, were incidents of mishandling of nuclear warheads and sloppy procedures for overseeing such sensitive weapons.

“I took no pleasure from the dismissals,” Gates wrote. “I enjoyed working with both men, but I didn’t believe they really understood the magnitude of the problem. … There would later be allegations that I fired the two of them because of their foot-dragging on ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], or more commonly, because we disagreed on whether to build more F-22 combat aircraft, or on other modernization issues. But it was the Donald report that sealed their fate.” After the Air Force shipped four Minuteman III nose cones to Taiwan, Gates asked Adm. Kirkland H. Donald to investigate the incident. The so-called Donald Report in June 2008 led Gates to blame the problems on a lack of accountability and held the service’s top leaders responsible.


BYOD In Defense Department? Not In This Lifetime

Tim Larkins

January 14, 2014


Despite some moves toward securing mobile devices and applications, Defense Department officials do not embrace the bring-your-own-device trend.

Large bureaucracies, whether public or private, have a variety of ways to effectively avoid adopting a popular policy or practice. One way is to make that policy or practice a long-term goal while promising to keep evaluating it periodically.

That’s what the Defense Department has done with its BYOD — bring your own device — policy.

There’s no question that the department has made strides on mobility, enterprise mobile device management, and the use of commercial devices and even General Services Administration contracts. But BYOD?

Here’s what Defense CIO Teri Takai said about BYOD in a February 2013 memo on commercial mobile device (CMD) implementation:

“Despite the benefits, existing DOD policies, operational constructs, and security vulnerabilities currently prevent the adoption of devices that are unapproved and procured outside of official government acquisition.” The memo said that BYOD is a long-term objective and, “in conjunction with the Digital Government Strategy, DOD will continue to evaluate BYOD options.”

Based on public comments from the CIO’s office since then, it’s fair to say that the DOD’s position hasn’t changed. In other words, when it comes to BYOD, don’t hold your breath. Although the department officially holds out the possibility of a future BYOD policy, I don’t see it happening in reality, at least not in the foreseeable future.

Why? The risk of security breaches are simply too great and the consequences too dangerous.

Not a month after the DOD CIO’s office issued its implementation plan, the Defense Department’s inspector general released a tough report on security holes in the Army’s use of commercial mobile devices. Investigators visited West Point and Army Corps of Engineers locations and examined Android, iOS, and other commercial mobile devices in use.

The IG found they weren’t covered by mobile device management (MDM) software, and weren’t subject to remote wiping. Many devices were in use, yet the Army wasn’t even aware of them. Hundreds were purchased by users without authorization in a sort of self-created, unofficial BYOD program.

If the DOD is going slowly in adoption of mobility devices, it’s going more slowly still in BYOD. DOD IT planners realize, as everyone should, that mobility doesn’t equal BYOD. Mobile devices have special — and by now, widely understood — requirements for becoming secure. Two of the most important:


Mobile device management. The government has been rushing headlong into mobility ever since former federal CIO Vivek Kundra pushed for it back in 2009. Devices, applications, application stores, and associated pilot projects arrived at agencies before CIO shops even thought about comprehensively managing potentially thousands or tens of thousands of devices. Not until early 2013 did the GSA begin to look for government-wide contracts for MDM and mobile application management products. Without MDM in place, it’s nearly impossible to have strict configuration control, a security must-have. Now the government has gotten serious about MDM. This GSA site lists vendors with FIPS 140-2 MDM and MAM products.


Sandboxing of applications. This involves partitioning mobile devices in ways that create virtual machines on them, so that only approved apps can access certain data sources.

It’s not as if policies aren’t in place to help implement mobility in Defense Department components. The IG report mentions DOD instructions (5010.40) covering internal control programs. There’s also a memo that predates Takai’s memo, dating back to early 2011. It has comprehensive instructions on protecting commercial mobile devices.


Policy is fragmented

In spite of the best efforts of the DOD CIO’s office, I see the policies toward mobile devices varying widely from one defense branch to next.

DOD doesn’t lack for initiatives to unify policy and practice. The Defense Information Systems Agency has been designated to provide unified technology programs across the DOD and has made some headway. For example, DISA continues to strengthen its role in the Joint Information Environment (JIE), providing 1.4 million users secure access to DOD cloud email accounts. It also created an Army-Air Force enterprise license agreement for Microsoft products.

The JIE is presumably the right place to develop and manage mobility capabilities for individual defense branches and even DOD-wide. But to put it charitably, the JIE is very much a work in progress.

DOD managers can also avail themselves of mobility guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and even the Office of Management and Budget. Yet nothing in the accumulated policy and technology guidance makes a strong case for advancing BYOD as a subset of a military mobility framework, much less compels it.

Contractors seeking to work in the DOD market would be wise not to oversell the idea of enabling any and all mobile devices. Despite the promises of technology, BYOD simply won’t happen in the DOD, at least not in any meaningful numbers.

I know, I know. BYOD situations have broken out in a few civilian agencies. But they have different and often less dangerous security considerations. And let’s not forget about the Snowden effect that’s making every agency nervous about trusted people on its network.

More likely, DOD agencies will establish a choose-your-own-device plan. (Dare I coin a new term, “CYOD”?) Employees, uniformed and civilian, will select from a list of approved devices depending on the flavor each person prefers. But the devices will be government-furnished, delivered with the agency’s configuration and security controls already in place.

Tim Larkins is manager of market intelligence for immixGroup, which helps technology companies do business with the government. He can be reached at


AF acquisition chief nominee testifies

By Ed Gulick, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs / Published January 17, 2014


WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Dr. Bill LaPlante testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 16 during his nomination hearing to be the next assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.

“I’ve spent over 28 years around systems technologies, acquisition programs; touching all aspects of those programs for all services,” he said. “This experience along with my time on the Defense Science Board offers firsthand impressions of Defense acquisition.”

Many of those years were spent at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and eight more spent as the department head for the University’s Global Engagement Department before moving to MITRE as the Missile Defense Portfolio director.

“In all that time I’ve formed impressions and opinions on the challenges of acquisition,” LaPlante said. “I come from a community that desperately wants to make a difference; a community that wants to find the game changing technology needed by the warfighter and get it into production; a community that wants to invent a clever way to do contracting so that we finish a development contract on time — I come from a community that just wants to make a difference.”

During the hearing, LaPlante was questioned by committee members on the time it takes to develop and field weapon systems, the importance of science and technology investment and how to speed up cyber acquisition.

In his response on the importance of science and technology during a drawdown he highlighted how the U.S. military has used technological superiority as an advantage in all conflicts and that the military must continue research or risk losing the advantage.

On cyber acquisition, LaPlante stressed the service must learn what the vulnerabilities are in our weapon systems and work to reduce risks, a task that may sound simple but is actually very difficult. He said resiliency must be built into systems but the time required to design and acquire a weapons system makes that difficult.

“A problem two years ago is not a problem today, and what’s a problem today we couldn’t have imagined two years ago,” LaPlante said. “So, anything that will help us build resiliency and get the compliance part of the system to be much quicker would be very helpful.”

If confirmed, LaPlante will follow Sue Payton who left the position in April 2009. LaPlante currently serves as the principal deputy, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.


Health Care Turns to 3D Printing

Additive manufacturing gets personal with pre-surgical models — and gets a regulatory thumbs-up.

by Kenneth Wong | Published January 1, 2014

Sheku Kamara, director of the Rapid Prototyping Consortium at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, says he believes additive manufacturing (AM) — better known as 3D printing in mainstream discussions — is “made for the medical industry.”

Whereas traditional manufacturing methods are ideal for high-volume production of parts with standard geometric features, AM can produce one-of-a-kind models of complex organic shapes in low volume. The growing use of pre-surgical models — 3D-printed physical replicas of the cross-sections that must go under the knife — is a relatively new trend made possible by AM’s ability to speedily produce single units for one-time use, custom-built from the CT scans of target patients.

The Consortium’s rapid prototyping hardware setup includes iPro8000, SLA-3500 and Sinterstation 2500plus from 3D Systems; Fortus eT from Stratasys; and Spectrum Z510 from 3D Systems (previously a Z Corp brand, acquired by 3D Systems). Its members are industry-leading names in the medical sector: Johnson & Johnson, Baxter Healthcare, and Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal Health), to name but a few.

By Kamara’s conservative estimate, more than 50% of the Consortium members own and operate their own rapid-prototyping facilities, deploying inexpensive concept-model printers to high-end machines. But the interest, R&D activities and technology acquisitions only began to pick up in the last four or five years, he notes. The insiders aren’t publicizing what they’re doing with AM because, he says, “it’s a competitive advantage for them.”

Who Gets the Bill?

In automotive and aerospace sectors, manufacturers are increasingly relying on digital mockups and simulation software to circumvent the cost of building and crashing physical prototypes for safety tests. But in the medical sector, tangible 3D-printed models are giving surgeons and physicians an option they’d never had before: the ability to practice and plan computer-guided surgery on a mockup of their patient’s anatomy.

In October 2013, DePuy Synthes CMF (craniomaxillofacial), a division of Johnson & Johnson, launched a new offering called TRUMATCH CMF. It’s a pre-operation planning service for facial reconstruction, orthognathic surgery, distraction and cranial reconstruction. Much of it is powered by AM, according to the company. As the press release explains: “A digital file is translated into a physical object by a 3D printer to create patient-specific surgical guides and occlusal splints. This enables transfer of the pre-operative plan to the operating room, potentially reducing OR time and assisting in the placement of implants.”

Kamara observes that the ability to print out the target region for surgery, with all the nerves and blood vessels in color, and to see where the veins are connected is absolutely huge. “But how can that be quantified?” he asks. “That’s the challenge.” To put it bluntly, who would pay for the print job? At least for now, the question produces more debates than answers.

Bridging Engineering and Life Sciences

Jean Colombel, vice president of life sciences industry for Dassault Systemes, says he believes the medical device industry can benefit from greater collaboration between engineers and physicians, who often speak different languages and use different lingos. (For more on this, read “From Classical Mechanics to Biomechanics,” July 2013.)

“The knowledge about human beings and human bodies is still a partial knowledge,” he says. “How can we get the expertise of the physicians and the case histories of their patients added to the ideas of the engineers? It’s really about getting them to collaborate more, so they can create digital models for simulation.”

According to Colombel, Dassault’s SolidWorks 3D mechanical software is “a leading 3D design tool for the medical device industry.” He predicts that “leveraging 3D as part of medical community will improve communication between doctors and engineers.”

Even though Dassault is primarily a software powerhouse, the company keeps a mini-manufacturing center called FabLabs on its Paris campus. Among the hardware choices at the facility is a pair of Cubify 3D printers from 3D Systems. Priced at $1,299, they target home users and hobbyists with limited CAD software expertise.

The Missing Software

In aerospace, automotive and consumer goods manufacturing, the current crop of mechanical 3D modeling packages serve as concept modelers. But the range of geometry you can produce in them may prove inadequate to address the non-uniform, asymmetrical anatomical shapes medical professionals need to analyze.

“In my opinion, the software is lagging — not just in medical application, but even in consumer goods,” says the Consortium’s Kamara. “In 3D printing, I can print anything. Shape complexity is an advantage. But not so in most of CAD software.”

Detailed humanoid shapes are the domains of high-end character modeling and animation programs like Autodesk Maya, the standard tool for filmmakers and game developers. But the learning curve for such a program may prove too steep even for regular 3D software users. It would certainly be an unfair burden on medical professionals, whose primary job function is not 3D modeling.

At the Consortium, students use Mimics from Materialise and Freeform Plus from Geomagic (a subsidiary of the rapid prototyping machine maker 3D Systems). Both packages offer one crucial function for medical application: You can sculpt 3D models out of CT, MRI and ultrasound data.

From Prototype to Production

Most people consider AM to be a prototyping technology, suitable for creating test models and mockups, not for full production run. But RedEye, a division of Stratasys, defies this generally accepted belief. Medical device projects account for about 15% of RedEye’s business, according to Jeff Hanson, RedEye’s manager for business development.

“Typically, medical companies come to our portal [website] at the prototyping phase,” Hanson says. “Our job is to understand the story of the part: What’s the end use, the intended manufacturing material, the market? If we know those, we might be able to migrate the customer from prototyping to manufacturing.”

In medical device manufacturing, early digital concepts are likely to go through many iterations. Some are minor geometry adjustments; others are more drastic to improve the instrument’s performance. They’re often prompted by findings from lab tests, cadaver tests and clinical trials.

“If [the customer] comes to us during an early concept phase, everything is at risk for change,” notes Hanson. “Maybe the strain release doesn’t work right, a boss interferes with the device’s operation, or the skin doesn’t fit — these are typical design changes.”

For large-volume production of devices that measure bigger than the built chamber of a 3D printer, traditional manufacturing methods are still the better choice. But RedEye has found a niche in low-volume, quick-turnaround production runs, described by Hanson as “in the low thousands.” Often, on-demand 3D printing like RedEye’s services can be the best way to introduce a new product to the market without committing to costly machine and mold setups.

Work in Progress

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory bodies insist on compliance, not just with the medical devices manufactured, but also with the manufacturing processes themselves. To be certified for medical use, the way the machine cures print materials itself is subject to close examination.

3D printer makers have done an admirable job developing print materials that are acceptable for medical use. The Consortium’s Kamara points to the development of polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) polymer, a medical-grade material that can be used with 3D printing and is acceptable for implants, as an example.

Although complying with stringent regulatory requirements like ensuring a sterilized manufacturing environment for implants created in 3D printers is a work in progress, late-breaking news shows encouraging signs. In November, polymer-based cranial implants made with the AM process from EOS became the first of its kind to receive FDA’s 510K clearance.

Tom Weisel, president of medical device developer Arch Day Design, states that he and his team “print instruments and occasionally anatomical parts such as bone sections. It will be nice when the [3D-printing] materials represent bone more accurately.” That would allow them to print, for instance, “a bone with cancellous and cortical sections.”

How soon will Weisel’s wish become a reality? That may depend on how big a chunk of the AM market’s revenues the medical sector is hauling in. “We can’t put in the R&D effort on such materials until we know a return on the investment,” explains RedEye’s Hanson. “We usually wait until the market demand reaches a certain point.”

For the medical industry that has already discovered 3D printing, it’s difficult to ignore the advantages the technology offers. As the Consortium’s Kamara concludes, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures.”




Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, January 18, 2014

With Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s announcement this week that he will resign at the end of the current congressional session, 36 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are now up for grabs in November’s midterm congressional elections. Twenty-one are held by Democrats, 15 by Republicans.

Democrats currently have 53-to-45 majority over Republicans in the Senate, so the GOP needs to hold all its seats and win six more to gain control of the chamber.

Rasmussen Reports jumped into the Senate races this week with a look at the prospective Michigan contest where Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters are running neck-and-neck. Longtime Democratic Senator Carl Levin is not seeking reelection.

Look for our numbers in more Senate races next week and in the weeks to come. We’ll be tracking governors’ races soon as well.

Obamacare will be front and center in most of the Senate races this year. Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters now view the health care law unfavorably, with 42% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion of it.

Democrats have widened their lead over Republicans to four points – 41% to 37% – on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot

Voters continue to express unhappiness with the current Congress. A new report says that for the first time more than half the members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are millionaires, but 70% think it is bad for the country that most members of Congress are this wealthy. However, 65% believe most elected officials get a lot wealthier while in office.

Congress is currently considering a proposal to extend long-term unemployment benefits, but a plurality (47%) of Americans thinks long-term unemployment benefits hurt the economy. Forty-six percent (46%) believe long-term benefits actually increase the number of people who are unemployed.

Fifty-one percent (51%) oppose a plan passed by the Senate and awaiting action in the House that would triple the level of legal immigration over the next 10 years

Speaking of elections, 77% of voters think it is at least somewhat likely that a woman will be elected president in the next 10 years.

Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are seen by many political pundits as the 2016 Democratic and Republican presidential frontrunners respectively, but 48% say they would be less likely to vote for Christie if it is proven that his office retaliated against a local official who refused to support his reelection as governor. 

What does America think of the controversy that some are already dubbing “Bridgegate”? 

As for the current occupant of the White House, his daily job approval ratings have returned to levels seen for most of his presidency after dropping to record lows for several weeks after the disastrous rollout of the health care law. 

The president’s ratings are undoubtedly helped by the optimism Americans generally feel at the beginning of a new year. Consumer and investor confidence ended the week considerably higher that they were three months ago. 

Fifty-six percent (56%) are now confident in the stability of the U.S. banking industry. That’s the highest level of confidence since before the Wall Street meltdown in September 2008.

Still, only 39% of voters now give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of economic issues, while slightly more (41%) rate his performance in this area as poor.

Obama has declared income equality to be his number one issue this year, but 53% of voters consider economic growth to be more important than economic fairness. Thirty-eight percent (38%) rate economic fairness as the more important of the two.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) still consider the president at least somewhat liberal in political terms, including 44% who believe he is Very Liberal. 

Voters are evenly divided these days when asked if it’s better for the country if the best people take government jobs or if they go to work in the private sector instead. Democrats put more value on government work than other voters do.

Americans continue to believe that government workers earn more, work less and have more job security than those employed in the private sector.

In other surveys last week:

— For the second week in a row, 29% of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction. A year ago, 36% said the country was heading in the right direction.

Fifty-five percent (55%) still believe American society is fair and decent, but that’s the lowest level of confidence since August 2012.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Americans view North Korea as an enemy of the United States, putting it again at the top of the list of 18 countries periodically tracked by Rasmussen Reports.

Americans continue to view Canada and Great Britain as the nation’s best friends. 

Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans now have gone a full week without paying for anything with cash and coins. That’s up six points from 43% in April 2012.

— The U.S. Mint reports it costs 2.41 cents to produce one penny, but support for getting rid of the one-cent coin is at an all-time low of 29%.

January 25 2014




Security Expert: Business Owners Should Never Bank Online

By Karen Weise January 17, 2014


Security blogger Brian Krebs knows a thing or two about the risks of cybercrimes. The security blogger who broke the news of the Target (TGT) and Neiman Marcus data breaches spends his days investigating the cybercriminal underground and, as we reported in the recent issue of the magazine, has been the target of all sorts of digital, and at times physical, assaults. He’s got surveillance cameras around his home, keeps a shotgun in his office, and has thought through how best to protect his own bank accounts.

Krebs says he has no major qualms about doing his personal banking online—largely because there are so many protections for consumers. If a consumer’s bank account is hacked, the bank is generally responsible for covering the costs of the fraud. “If their account is emptied out, as long as the consumer notifies bank in a timely fashion, they don’t have to pay for that,” Krebs says.

According to the FTC (pdf), there are a few thresholds for what’s considered timely. (For those of you keeping track, this is mandated in Section 205.6 of Regulation E.) If consumers notify their bank within two days of learning about the loss or theft, the most they’ll have to pay is $50, no matter how much has been emptied from their checking account. (Consumers are also liable for only up to $50 of fraudulent credit card charges.) If they wait more than two days, but are still within 60 days after their account statement is sent to them, they could be responsible for up to $500.

Protections for business accounts are a whole other story: In general, banks aren’t on the hook in the event of a fraud. Krebs has spent years documenting the ways small businesses have been victimized by cyber attacks. The results can be devastating, at times forcing the business to close when thieves wipe out their payroll or checking accounts. Because of this, Krebs says he does none of his business banking online. He drives to his bank to deposit old-fashioned paper checks in person. Krebs says not enough people know about this distinction, including bank tellers. When he gives paid lectures, Krebs says he asks to travel in business class and often strikes up a conversation with his seatmates. When he mentions this business banking vulnerability, his seatmates are often dumbstruck. “OK,” Krebs says, “Let’s have a conversation about this.”



Insurance Coverage for Commercial Drones: Sky’s the Limit

by Press • 20 January 2014



Though the use of small, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—more familiarly known as “drones”—is in its infancy, commercial growth is predicted to significantly increase in the next 10 years as businesses such as Amazon and UPS explore using them for deliveries and enthusiasts adopt them for commercial and recreational purposes.

Drones will require insurance coverage, which can open the door to new business for agents and brokers. But insuring an unmanned aircraft system means considering a multitude of insurance liability and coverage issues, ranging from personal injury and invasion of privacy to aerial surveillance and data collection.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that by 2020, about 30,000 small, unmanned aircrafts will be used for all types of business purposes. Worldwide, total spending for these aircraft systems is expected to top $89 billion in the next decade, thanks to strong military and commercial demand, according to a 2012 market study by Teal Group, an aerospace industry analyst.

The FAA has allocated $63.4 billion to modernize the country’s air traffic control systems and expand airspace to accommodate the commercial use of these aircrafts. As regulatory constraints are modified to reflect the introduction of these new aircraft systems, commercial markets for their use will expand rapidly. The FAA estimates that roughly 7,500 commercial drones could be viable in five years.

This is quite a change; before the FAA approved two flying robotics models for commercial operations, the only way the commercial/private sector could fly an unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace was with an experimental airworthiness certification.

The FAA-approved drones each weigh less than 55 pounds and is about 4.5 feet long. They have no pilot on board but are controlled by an offsite operator using a sophisticated remote-control system and data link transmissions.

These flying systems can carry high-powered cameras, infrared sensors, facial-recognition technology and license plate readers.

Business uses are endless. Halstead Property, a real estate business in Darien, Conn., has been using aerial robotic cameras for almost four years to showcase home listings. The business recently demonstrated on the Today show how its drones capture footage of homes for sale, showcasing their interior and exterior features. The use of the technology has increased Halstead’s online listings views threefold, and clients are impressed by the company’s progressive marketing efforts and cutting-edge technology.

Congress has tasked the FAA with integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system by late 2015. This demand requires the FAA to quickly develop a comprehensive plan focused on the safety of UAS technology as well as operator certification. To meet these objectives, the FAA created a new UAS Integration office in March 2012 to tap the knowledge of specialists in aviation safety and air traffic control.

The FAA must develop effective policies and standards to address the increasing number of drones taking to the skies, balancing efficiency and predictability while enhancing safety; operating globally; creating a viable system for airspace use and protecting both safety and the environment.

And legal issues will also arise: Can a property owner claim a drone is “trespassing” on his land? How will stalking, harassment and other laws regulating criminal behavior be applied to drone use? Does airspace ownership apply to unmanned aircraft systems? What about claims of invasion of privacy and spying?

And how will federal aviation law conflict with state law on some of these issues? The government has already made a foray into this quagmire with the Drone Aircraft Privacy & Transparency Act of 2013, introduced to create a regulatory structure for the private use of drones, including privacy protection, data collection and enforcement.

In addition to many regulatory and legal challenges, a slew of complex liability and coverage issues related to insuring unmanned aircraft systems for commercial use is on the horizon too. New and serious problems are likely to arise over airspace procedures, types of accidents and inadvertent eavesdropping.

Fewer than two dozen insurers provide insurance to the aircraft industry—up from less than a dozen a few years ago—and this number is likely to grow once the FAA gives its OK. Although carriers are developing policies to cover insurance exposures relating to drones, they don’t have much data to guide them as they branch into this new territory.

To properly insure these aircrafts, insurers will need to know their function or intent, their takeoff and landing locations, whether they will be operating over populated areas, and their flying altitude. And because these systems can collect massive amounts of data, they can pose a threat to individual privacy and a significant challenge for insurers. In drafting policies, insurers must know how the owner of these aircraft systems will use the data it has gathered and what steps it will take to safeguard or destroy the information it has amassed.

Two areas have the potential to raise huge red flags for the insurance industry: personal injury and invasion of privacy.

Unmanned aircraft systems will have much the same insurance requirements as other aircrafts—only on a smaller scale given their size, flying range and price tag. Given the inherently conservative nature of the insurance industry, carriers might require even stricter guidelines than what the FAA may mandate. Expect to see these types of coverage for drones and their ancillary business activities: liability, personal injury, invasion of privacy, property, and workers’ compensation.

Liability coverage typically includes protection for personal injury, which also covers invasion of privacy. The scope of coverage will depend on what the aircraft is meant to do. If it’s meant to gather data rather than deliver packages, the coverage may need to be broader to provide additional protection.

Property coverage broadly applies to the production, assembly and wholesaling process, which not only protects the parts and the finished product in a warehouse, but also the machinery.

In addition, although whole coverage will be essential, aircraft underwriters have not yet decided how to write these policies. Drones are significantly smaller than standard aircraft, and at this stage, it’s difficult to predict what they will or will not do.

Workers’ compensation coverage is necessary to protect the people working for and in the facilities of UAS-related businesses.

Also, since many of the businesses that will spring up around the UAS industry are likely to be entrepreneurial startups funded by investors, insurers would be wise to offer protection against financial loss due to mismanagement. Exploring directors and officers liability insurance is a prudent option under the circumstances.

Brokers looking to get into the UAS industry must ask extensive questions and “go deep” as they gather information. For example, brokers should inquire about data collection, storage and usage policies as well as a drone’s particular purpose and other physical specifications. This information is essential to help the underwriter prepare a policy that takes all risks into account and provides the proper coverage.


Expect to see the capacity to underwrite drone policies increase as insurers become more familiar with the territory. But insurance is about the collective, so when insurers are hit with the first few claims alleging serious injury or death, they will inevitably start to pull back, resulting in less available coverage and higher prices.



Senators question FAA about faster drone regulation

by Press • 20 January 2014

Bart Jansen USA Today


WASHINGTON — Drone advocates urged the Federal Aviation Administration at a Senate hearing Wednesday to allow the aircraft into general airspace faster because countries such as Japan are friendlier to the innovative technology.

Some members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voiced concern about maintaining drone safety and protecting privacy as more drones fill the skies.

“Lives are at stake,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the panel chairman. “One of the most important problems the FAA and the industry are trying to solve is avoiding collisions between unmanned and piloted aircraft.”

There is a sense of urgency to the testing and development of regulations. Congress set a September 2015 deadline for the FAA to regulate sharing the skies between drones and commercial airliners.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency must set standards for safely operating drones, making sure they avoid other aircraft and ensuring they land safely if they lose connection with the remote pilot.

“There will be challenges to this integration,” Huerta said.

He released a road map for the industry in November and named six test groups in December. The FAA anticipates 7,500 drones in the skies within five years, if regulations allow. Huerta said regulations will be prioritized and phased in.

“We must meet these obligations in a thoughtful and careful manner,” Huerta said.

Missy Cummings, a former Navy fight pilot who is director of the humans and autonomy lab at Duke University, doubted the FAA would meet the 2015 deadline.

“While we are making some progress towards this goal, the United States is lagging, not leading, the commercial drone boom,” she said.


Manufacturers are impatient.

Yamaha Motor’s RMAX drone has been fertilizing crops in Japan for 20 years and more recently in Australia and South Korea, according to Henio Arcangeli, vice president for new business development. Drones fertilize a part of Japan equal in size to Delaware and Rhode Island combined, he said.

At 140 pounds and 9 feet long, the $100,000 remote-piloted helicopter is larger than hand-held hobbyist aircraft that could win earlier federal approval.

Trained pilots keep an eye on the drone during daylight hours, Arcangeli said. The drones can fertilize 11 acres of vineyards in Napa Valley in the time it takes a tractor to cover 1 acre, he said.

“There is no reason to delay all commercial (drone) use for the several years it will take the FAA to develop more comprehensive regulations,” Arcangeli said.

Rockefeller and Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, one of the six testing locations, asked why the FAA is 20 years behind other countries in developing drone regulations.

“Why are we not at the forefront of the world?” Heller asked.

Huerta said U.S. airspace is much more complicated than Japan’s because of many more general-aviation planes. Drone technology has grown quickly and unpredictably, he said.

“Even today, we don’t have a complete understanding of where this might go in the future,” Huerta said.



Bordeaux Classified Vineyards Invest in UAS Technology

by Press • 19 January 2014


Bernard Magrez is to roll out newly-developed vineyard UAS in his four classified Bordeaux estates – Pape Clement, La Tour Carnet, Fombrauge and Haut Peyraguay – before eventually extending them to his entire portfolio of Bordeaux properties, and those in the south of France.

The technology, which involves unmanned mini-helicopter UAS equipped with cameras and other sensors, can be used to fly over vineyards measuring plant damage, disease, hydric stress, grape ripeness and various other parameters, including soil specificities and land contours for drainage.

Chateau Luchey-Halde in AOC Pessac Léognan tested the Scancopter 450, from Fly-n-Sense, back in May 2011, while several estates in California and Oregon have begun using similar technology. Both Chateau Bouscaut and Chateau La Dauphine have also used UAS technology in recent months to create aerial marketing videos of their estates.

Jeanne Lacombe, technical director of all eleven Magrez Médoc estates, including La Tour Carnet and Les Grands Chenes, told that a single UAS has been ordered, at the cost of €50,000, and will begin work in April of this year.

‘We have done tests so far, and are very happy with the results. It can cover 1.5 ha of vines in four minutes, so we expect around one week for a property of the size of La Tour Carnet, which extends over 120 hectares.

‘We envisage using the UAS three or four weeks of the year at each property, moving between them as needed, and will buy others in the future if the experiment proves successful.’

Lacombe expects the drone to offer significant manpower reductions, and ensure that all Magrez estates can employ the same levels of plot-by-plot precision viticulture.

‘We expect to make significant reductions also in the use of fertilisers and any vineyard treatments, as the UAS measures requirements so precisely. It also means cutting down on use of tractors. We are training in using the technology right now, and will at first employ manual controls, but in the future the drone will be operated simply by programming from the computer’.

Magrez himself said being a precursor in the use of new technologies was a ‘point of pride’.


Global Hawk, U-2 Duel Resumes in ’15 Budget Fight

By Amy Butler

Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology

January 20, 2014 

My how times—and political winds—have changed for the beleaguered Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.

Less than two years after proposing termination and premature mothballing of the new Block 30 version—once eyed as a replacement for the venerable, high-flying U-2 reconnaissance aircraft—the Pentagon leadership is toying with a complete reversal on its position as it works through options for the fiscal 2015 budget proposal.

In a resourcing management decision—the mechanism by which the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) responds to the services’ annual spending plans—Pentagon budgeters gutted U-2 funding, shifting more than $3 billion into the Global Hawk Block 30 account. The decision is not yet final, and it remains to be seen whether the service will maintain its position from the fiscal 2013 budget. It favored halting Block 30 work and operations and focusing solely on the Lockheed Martin U-2 as the high-altitude, standoff intelligence collector for the next decade or more.

Officials in the OSD and the Air Force do not comment on funding decisions prior to their delivery to Congress. But there are a variety of reasons behind the possible reversal of course by the Pentagon’s leadership. These include politics and a shift in the cost estimate to operate the fleet.

The outcome of this debate could be a bellwether for other such squabbles down the road as the Pentagon proposes fleet terminations—including the A-10, Kiowa and TH-67—in the wake of sequestration and other fiscal pressures. Will the Pentagon and the service capitulate to parochial pressure from Capitol Hill to save a politically popular program? Or will they go to bat for the savings plans they have devised in light of dramatically declining investment budgets? Defense planners argue that if each fleet cut is adjusted, overall savings will be eroded, leaving the Pentagon with a “hollow force” of many platforms that it cannot afford to fly and keep current.

At issue for the Global Hawk is a dive in the cost per flying hour (CPFH) for the aircraft. In earlier fiscal years, CPFH was near that of the U-2 at roughly $33,000 per hr. Fiscal 2013 numbers, recently in from the field, point to a CPFH closer to $25,000, according to a program source.

The notable decrease is due to a substantial spike in the number of hours flown, a shift partly related to the fielding of the first Block 40s outfitted with active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for ground surveillance, an Air Force official says. The official did not provide a total number for the year, but a larger number of hours allows fixed costs to be more diluted in the calculation. Though the Air Force has not publicly proposed terminating the Block 40 in budget plans, last year senior leaders were eyeing it for a kill. It was likely saved owing to the then open debate on the fate of Block 30.

Even if this new CPFH holds true in coming years, one program official notes that for some regions—such as the Pacific—Global Hawk must fly more hours to have an equitable time on station as the U-2. While CPFH may be lower for the Global Hawk, the figure is not reflective of the total cost to gather the needed intelligence.

To give an example, the unmanned air system (UAS) would have to fly 54% more flight hours to collect intelligence on areas in North Korea, the Middle East and Iran.

Nor is CPFH reflective of mission success rates between the two platforms. Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection is in high demand, and aircraft downtime is extremely worrisome for combatant commanders. In the Pacific, 55% of Global Hawk’s missions were canceled in fiscal 2013; 96% of the U-2’s missions were achieved. The U-2 was also scheduled for nearly three times as many missions. Global Hawk lacks anti-icing equipment and is not able to operate in severe weather. An upgrade to remedy the shortcoming is being developed by the Navy for its Triton Global Hawk variant, but it would cost money and time to field.

The program source argues that CPFH is not an accurate metric on which to make a decision. He notes that Global Hawks based in Guam have to transit for hours just to reach North Korea, whereas the U-2, based at Osan air base, South Korea, has a shorter commute.

Additionally, the service originally opted to terminate the aircraft because of the lackluster performance by its Raytheon Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite—the camera used to collect visual, infrared, and radar images. Global Hawk also flies at a lower altitude—typically close to 50,000 ft.—making it more susceptible to some weather and offering less-than-optimal ranges for peering into an enemy’s territory. The U-2, by contrast, operates above 60,000 ft., and has nearly twice as much onboard power at the ready for collecting radar images. Forthcoming fielding of the secret, stealthy RQ-180 UAS (also developed by Northrop Grumman) probably contributed to the Air Force’s view that the Global Hawk is excessive (AW&ST Dec, 9, 2013, p. 20).

Northrop Grumman did not discuss the newest CPFH figures. “[We are] working closely with the Air Force to reduce Global Hawk costs and enhance the system’s outstanding performance. Global Hawk costs per flight hour have gone down significantly since 2010 and continue to decline as the system increases its operational tempo,” says Rene Freeland, a company spokeswoman.

The cost argument could, ultimately, be a cover for OSD simply succumbing to pressure from Capitol Hill, according to some program officials. Lawmakers have gone to bat for the system repeatedly, and Northrop Grumman has aggressively lobbied to keep Global Hawk alive.


Navy Helps Fund 3D Printing of Buildings



Partially funded by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation Countour Crafting is trying to develop 3D printed buildings using concrete. Company founder Behrokh Khoshnevis is a professor and director of Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Southern California.

Concrete printers would be able to build a 2,500-square-foot building within a single day, according to Khoshnevis.

For the military, that means soldiers deploying to a remote location with little or no infrastructure could be operating out of permanent structures pretty soon after a combat engineer unit arrived with printers and material aboard a C-17.

Essentially, building via printer would work just like any computer assisted manufacturing program. But instead of a robotic tap and die machine turning out parts according to a program, it would be an oversized printer following programmed schematics to lay down, layer by layer, a building, including outside and interior walls, spaces for doors and windows and all electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning conduits, according to Khoshnevis’ website.

In a video of a presentation he made last year Khoshnevis says the machines he is working with now are capable of printing out concrete walls able to bear a compressive stress of 10,000 pounds per square inch. According to the Portland Concrete Association, which represents concrete manufacturers nationwide, conventional concrete has a psi of 7,000 or less.

Anything above that, up to 14,500 psi, is considered high strength.

Building construction is about the only thing that is not automated today, Khoshnevis says. At the same time it kills about 10,000 people a year and injures about 400,000.

Given the history of U.S. military and related missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Khoshnevis observations on other aspects of conventional construction should also have meaning to the Pentagon.

“The [existing] process is pretty corruption prone,” he said. “It’s very costly and always over budget.”

Looking even further ahead, and farther away, Khoshnevis says 3D construction is likely the solution to be “one of the very few feasible approaches for building structures on the Moon and Mars, which are being targeted for human colonization before the end of the new century.”

Read more:



BlackBerrys Will Make Up 98% of Mobile Devices on New Defensewide System

By Aliya Sternstein

January 17, 2014


A Pentagon system intended to secure a mix of brand name smartphones for warfighters will primarily support BlackBerrys when the tool starts launching later this month, according to Defense Department officials.

About 80,000 BlackBerrys and 1,800 Defense-owned Apple and Android-based phones and tablets will begin being hooked up to the new management system on Jan. 31, officials announced on Friday.

A transition from tethered workstation computers to mobile information access that began in 2012 is contingent on this system functioning. The $16 million project aims to ensure users — potentially 300,000 of them – don’t compromise military data on their phones or corrupt defense networks when on-the-go.

Popular devices expected to go online include the iPad 3 and 4, iPhone 4S and 5, Samsung 10.1 tablets and Samsung 3S, and Motorola RAZR devices.

“The new year will bring new mobile capabilities to as many as 100,000 DoD users,” Pentagon officials said in a statement. “DoD will begin deploying version 1.0 of the unclassified mobility capability Jan. 31 and will build out capacity to support up to 100,000 users by the end of the fiscal year.”

At the end of the month, users of the mobile device management system will have access to an app store, support for Defense encryption keys, and several departmentwide services, including enterprise email and Defense Connect Online.

Around May, the Pentagon will add a business software package so that users can edit Word documents and other Microsoft Office files.

There currently are 16 apps available, and 90 programs under evaluation.

DISA did not test the system before awarding a contract for installation to DMI last year, according to Defense officials. Questions have been raised about the ability to deploy one part that protects email and Web browsing under an aggressive timeline without short-changing security.

Last year, some military members working off Apple and Android electronics had to revert to older model BlackBerrys because of the system changeover. At the time, Pentagon spokesman Damien Pickart said in an email. “We are delaying provisioning of those devices until the [mobile device management] environment is ready in Jan 2014. We will provision new devices as rapidly as possible starting in January 2014.”



Drone Hunting in Colorado

JANUARY 20, 2014

By Matt Pearce


Wearing a black duster and a black cowboy hat, Phil Steel walked to the front of the meeting room armed with a Nerf gun and a smile. The U.S. Army veteran was there to pitch his big idea: an ordinance that would legalize and regulate drone hunting inside Deer Trail city limits. If approved, residents could pay $25 to get a drone-hunting license; the town would pay a bounty for every drone bagged.

“Really?” someone asked sarcastically as the theme music to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” blared during Steel’s entrance. Laughter rippled through the room.

Steel had hammered out the 2,800-word ordinance in just four hours. Its key points:

When a drone flies into its airspace, Deer Trail will consider it an act of war.

You can only shoot at drones flying lower than 1,000 feet.

Unless your life is in danger, you can only fire up to three shots at a drone.

Some at the August meeting thought the drone-hunting ordinance might be a good idea. Others used words like “stupid” and “a joke” to describe a proposal that they worried might become an embarrassment.

To many, that’s exactly what it has become.

Out in the loping, golden plains about an hour’s drive east of Denver, this little town of lonesome homes and chain-link fences looks a lot like the other hubs that sit astride Interstate 70 as traffic streaks toward Kansas: Blink, and you miss it.

Then things in Deer Trail (population about 550) changed when the town’s trustees split 3 to 3 on the ordinance, automatically kicking the proposal to the residents for a vote. In doing so, the trustees managed to garner national media attention for Deer Trail at a time when drones are poised to become a part of everyday life.

Mention the word “drone” and locals hang their heads or throw up their hands. The idea is either a money-raiser for the town, a dangerous joke, or _ according to its creator _ a stand against the federal government, corporations and drug dealers.

“I have declared the sovereignty and the supremacy of the airspace of my town,” said Steel, 49. “This is an act of sedition, and I proudly state that.”

___ Just by the interstate, there used to be a big white sign sitting next to a pink tractor outside the mayor’s welding shop. “No drone zone,” it said, before somebody stole it in December.

The mayor said he’d put the sign up as a joke when the drone debate first started. But who’s laughing anymore?

“Nobody likes humor,” Frank Fields said recently of the town that he runs.

Before last year, the town was most famous for claiming to be the home of America’s first rodeo in 1869; now, it’s Steel’s contentious proposal.

Steel’s involvement in the drone ordinance has antagonized many of the town’s residents, including some of those who support the measure.

“I agree with the Fourth Amendment rights (argument), but I don’t like him,” said one resident waiting by the pump at the Deer Trail Phillips 66 gas station. She declined to give her name for fear of causing trouble.

The proposal to legalize drone hunting by selling licenses appealed to Fields purely as a source of income, the mayor said, because the town’s coffers are bare and residents can’t agree to pass a sales tax.

“A little bit of free money is going be good, we thought,” said Fields, 57. “Evidently, nobody wanted that either. … Now people are trying to oust me and the town clerk because we went kind of far.”

After a little prodding, Fields acknowledged that the town clerk is, yes, also his wife. That’s just the kind of place Deer Trail is.

___ There are no drones flying over Deer Trail, it should be mentioned. At midday, when everybody is at work, there is hardly even any traffic: All you might hear is the snort of a horse fenced in somebody’s yard, or the croak of a rooster.

“Across the board, very good people,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, who is retiring at the end of January. “I’m very proud to serve every one of them. There’s a bit of an independent streak out there, which I have no objection to.

“But,” the sheriff adds, “I obviously object to the ordinance.” Domestic drones are coming. The Federal Aviation Administration is working on plans to integrate drones into civilian airspace as soon as 2015. It has taken notice of Deer Trail’s proposal.

“A (drone) hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air,” the FAA said in a statement. “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane.”

But these arguments _ and especially Amazon’s recent announcement about considering drone package deliveries _ only bolstered Steel’s quest.

“You think they’re the only ones?” Steel said of the Amazon drones. “There will be millions of these. … Which drones are being flown by drug dealers? … Burglars who want to case neighborhoods? If you can also deliver a pizza, you can deliver a bomb, anywhere _ at a crowded football stadium, at the Boston Marathon.”

Even though the measure hasn’t been passed, Steel has sold drone-hunting licenses to buyers around the country for $25 a pop, raising suspicions around town that he’s just in it for the money. He had a spreadsheet detailing several hundred PayPal transactions from 41 states and two provinces in Canada.

Lonneke, Steel’s neighbor, bragged on Facebook about buying a license: “Today is the best day of my life I GOT MY DRONE HUNTING LICENSE TODAY!!!!!!”

The licenses are printed on vellum, and come with the warning that they “may not be recognized by tyrannical municipal, state or federal governments.” Even though the licenses have no legal value, Fields, the mayor, has abetted Steel’s private sales.

“I was all about it _ heck yeah! I signed it as sovereign mayor, and town clerk signed it as a witness,” Fields said, adding that he signed about 100 licenses personally before Steel got a stamp with Fields’ signature on it to print on the rest.

“We kind of stirred it up a little,” Fields said. “Once it’s all said, I don’t have regrets. It is what it is.”

Deer Trail, with its pretty, painted gazebos mixed in with rusted-out cars parked on lawns, still could be released from its notoriety _ and the occasional drone tourist _ should the measure fail at the ballot box in April.

If Deer Trail says no to drone hunting, fine, Steel said. There are lots of other little towns in Colorado.



Federal ban on drones doesn’t stop photography

by Press • 22 January 2014

By Peter Corbett


Valley real-estate photographers are using drones to shoot aerial shots of residential properties despite a federal ban on the use of unmanned aircraft.

Using lightweight radio-controlled helicopters to shoot photos and videos that show homes in context to neighbors, golf courses and other nearby landmarks, the photographers are finding ways to work around federal rules.

“Technically, I can’t charge for any of the flying,” said Luke Pierzina of Aerial Raiders. “I charge for editing.”

Commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, is expected to be an emerging line of business worth billions of dollars within a few years.

That includes low-flying aircraft of less than 10 pounds all the way up to planes as large as commercial airliners that can fly above 60,000 feet.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that more than 7,500 small UAVs will be flying in the national airspace in the next five years.

Pierzina, 40, of Aerial Raiders, said he has used his radio-controlled four-blade helicopter to shoot real-estate photographs, snowboarder video and even a wedding on a remote mesa near Sedona.

The 5-pound aircraft with 14-inch blades can fly on battery power for about six minutes with a camera or 25 minutes without, he said.

The FAA chose six U.S. test sites in December to review UAV technology and develop regulations for their use.

Arizona was not among the sites chosen for testing, but it hopes to remain involved in development of commercial UAV applications.

The FAA is scheduled to set rules for small UAVs this year with a review period to follow before implementation.

The agency claims jurisdiction of the entire U.S. airspace and relies on a 1981 advisory circular regulating model aircraft as the basis for standards for small UAV use.

The circular encourages voluntary compliance and advises model-aircraft fliers to keep their planes below 400 feet and to notify an airport operator if they are flying within 3 miles of the airport.


Commercial use banned

FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in a statement that an operator of radio-controlled aircraft can mount a camera on it and shoot video for his or her personal use.

“But if the same person flies the same aircraft and then tries to sell the video, or uses it to promote a business, or accepts payments from someone else to shoot the video, that would be a prohibited commercial operation,” said Gregor, who works out of the FAA’s Pacific Division office.

The FAA is not a prosecutorial agency, but it would send a UAV operator a cease-and-desist letter if it became aware of the unauthorized commercial use of a UAV, he added.

The FAA is in litigation with Raphael Pirker, an aerial photographer who in 2011 shot pictures with a UAV at the University of Virginia.

Pirker, who was assessed a $10,000 fine, is challenging the FAA’s jurisdiction.

UAV users, including real-estate photographers and journalists, are carefully watching the case.

Aerial Raiders and other Valley operators such as Greg Utton of Mesa have websites that advertise their photography services with UAVs.

Another local UAV operator declined to comment on the record because of fears of FAA enforcement.

Utton, 66, said that he thinks there are thousands of UAV photographers around the country and that the FAA cannot police them all.

He started doing real-estate photography three years ago and added the option of aerial images last year.

Flying radio-controlled aircraft has been a hobby since the mid-1970s.

Utton has three radio-controlled helicopters for photographs and a six-blade rotorcraft for video.

The lightweight copters can cost as much as $5,000, Utton said.

He assembles the aircraft and builds the rigging for his cameras, which include a small GoPro unit and a full-size digital camera.


Safety, privacy issues

For safety and privacy, Utton said he always keeps the copters in view and restricts flights to over the street and the property he is shooting.

He won’t fly near power lines, in high winds or if a site is too congested with people or cars.

“I’m not flying very high, maybe 100 feet,” he said. “You want to show the front of the house and the landscaping. When you get one of these expensive houses, that’s what you’re selling.”

Utton charges $150 for shooting with his small helicopter and $375 for the large UAV. But that is far less than hiring a full-size aircraft to do aerial photography.

Bruce Haffner, a pilot and TV reporter, said he charges $1,575 per hour to take HD video footage for commercial work in his full-size helicopter.

“We can go to higher altitudes and travel farther,” he said of the helicopter. “But the quadcopter has its place. There is a place for them once the FAA figures it out (on safety issues).”

Utton and others in the UAV industry have complained that the United States is falling behind other nations in using UAVs for commercial use while the FAA is taking years to set its policies.


“Why is it that I can’t do this here because I live in the United States?” said Utton, a Vietnam veteran who was an Army helicopter crew chief.

The federal government has not contacted him about his UAV use for real-estate photography, Utton said.

Real-estate photography is becoming an important part of marketing properties, especially high-end homes, because nine out of 10 buyers start home searches online, said Kevin Crosse of Arizona Imaging.

He started his company in 2001.

Some photographers use truck-mounted booms to get aerial shots, but the height is limited and access can be restricted, as well, he said.

Crosse does not have a UAV but has contracted with an operator for aerial shots. That operator declined to be identified for this story.

Rebecca Grossman, Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors president and CEO, said the association is aware that some of its members offer aerial videos.

“But we were not aware that they are violating FAA rules, and we have not received any complaints in that regard,” she said.

In January 2012, the California Association of Realtors warned its members that use of UAVs for video or photographs of high-end properties “may violate … the FAA policy on unmanned aircraft.”

Lexa Garrett, president of the Saguaro chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said the FAA has established a distinct line between hobbyists and commercial operators of UAVs.

Safety is the agency’s top priority, she said.

“The FAA doesn’t want things falling out of the sky” and landing on a neighbor’s property, said Garrett, a commercial-airline pilot from southern Arizona.




Drones for farms a challenge, but popular topic at Precision Ag Summit

by Press • 22 January 2014

By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek


JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Technology might be a limit in precision agriculture, but the biggest limitation is imagination.

Topics at this year’s Precision Ag Action Summit in Jamestown, N.D., ranged from Google Glass, a technology for putting a smartphone into eyeglass frames, to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), to the quality and ability to use data, which is becoming so voluminous that it has its own name — big data.

After two full days of hearing speakers at the summit, farmer Kerby Weets from Ashby, Minn., rose to ask how much the far-flung drone systems might actually cost a farmer. Answers varied.

“Our system is made to cover a lot of acres really fast, really quickly,” assured Zach Fiene, co-founder of DMZ Ariel, in Prairie Du Sac, Wis., a UAS panelist who said his systems would be at the low end of the cost spectrum for UAS machines, at $2,500 to $5,500.

More expensive systems do more and might cost $15,000, said supplier Ryan Jensen, CEO and co-founder of HoneyComb UAS. Jensen said his system is used in the potato industry in western states.

“We found that crop value and monitoring frequency are important,” Jensen said. “The other thing to consider is the processing that needs to be done.”


What will it cost?

Despite variability and complexity, the costs don’t seem daunting to some farmers.

“I think right now it’s a little pricey,” Weets said. “As we get more technology rolling out, I can see a lot of that stuff cheapening up. I think this is a big thing. We’re on the cutting edge of a lot of this stuff.”

Weets could think of ways to use the new systems on a farm he operates with a brother near Alexandria, Minn., or on the tiling business he co-owns, or in his other work as an agronomist for a local cooperative.

“A system like this could add a lot of value to what I do on a day-to-day basis,” he said. With the tiling system, he could use 1-inch accuracy instead of remote sensing imagery, which he said has a resolution of about 3 feet. He said he’s going to buy and learn to fly a hobby model airplane to practice with.

Some 340 people attended the event in the two-day period. Ryan Aasheim, event coordinator for the Red River Valley Research Corridor, one of the main sponsors, along with the North Dakota Farmers Union, said attendance increased by nearly 100 over last year.

Aasheim said more UAS content drove this year’s interest, but there was a cross-section of people, sampling different software applications and technologies. He said the event had increased some of the break times, adding to the networking.

The show expanded this year into livestock to attract speakers and attendees. Mark Watne, president of the NDFU, said the event fits well into his organization’s educational goals.

“It’s exposing people, letting them decide whether they want to get involved,” Aasheim said.


Landing on the moon

Dale Reimers, a 55-year-old Jamestown farmer, said technology is something farms and organizations need to focus on more. He likened the messages from the conference to the John F. Kennedy challenge to put a man on the moon.

“It’s huge,” he said. Some of the technology will be tested this summer on Reimers’ brother’s farm operation east of Casselton, N.D. The study involves North Dakota State University and is funded by the North Dakota Soybean Council.

The event’s most impressive drone demonstration may have been one by Eric Harnisch, an NDSU electrical engineering graduate who lives in the Minneapolis area and works with Pulsar Operational Boundaries, based in Duluth, Minn., and Minot, N.D.

“You need to figure out the minimum information you need to make a business decision,” Harnisch said, demonstrating the difference between 2.5 centimeters of resolution and 10 centimeters. He said farmers will decide on resolution that doesn’t simply “pile more gigabytes” of data. He said cutting the data needed can mean changing the camera angle, reducing the amount of acreage taken in.

Harnisch said things such as wind speed and direction affect how the vehicles are flown, or how many flights are needed to collect data, as well as the load on batteries. Changes in weather and sun will dictate whether the data needs to be adjusted for interpretation to help farmers and crop consultants decide whether crops have problems with insect, disease or weed pests, among other things.


Waiting on FAA approval

The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of changing regulations on drones. John Nowatzki, a North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer who works with the technology, said the FAA might change some of the rules that require levels of written pilot training to operate the devices, but he thinks it might take more time than some people expect.

Issues of safety and privacy are the most difficult. Some demonstrations of just the smaller versions of the drones have been called off because of liability issues. Farmers may be asked to keep the devices specific distances from airports or other sensitive places.

One attendee, Laney Faleide, president and CEO of North Dakota-based SatShot LLC, which works with bringing satellite imaging technology to farmers, said all of the technologies have their role. Satellite imagery has 10- to 15-foot resolution. He thinks the system will be complementary, with satellite imagery used to see larger problems and drones used to take a closer look. Faleide said more satellites are being launched to improve that system.

Studies have shown that if UASs are developed by 2025, it will be an $82 billion industry, with 80 percent of the benefits seen in agriculture, said Kevin Price, a professor of agronomy at Kansas State University.


Inviting competitors

“The longer the FAA continues to hold the commercialization up, the more revenue will be lost in the United States to foreign countries that will be moving much further ahead of us,” Price said. “An entire industry will be held up.”

He said one area that will need to be addressed is how large the fields are, and whether line-of-sight rules will persist for farm applications.

Kansas started early in the technology, with the military working with the Kansas State campus in Salina.

“When we wanted to start moving into agricultural applications, it was speeding our progress, because (the military) already knew how to get the certificates from the FAA.”

Nowatzki emphasized it is “pretty obvious” that NDSU needs to be working with the University of North Dakota, with the school of aerospace and UAS center, and is already doing so. Similarly, Paul Gunderson, director of the Dakota Precision Ag Center at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, N.D., said his organization moved into the study of the UASs early-on, but cautioned against seeing it as too simple and urged more research, as well as more collaborative research among institutions.


UND-NDSU collaboration

“These platforms are inherently unstable, even with gyroscope technology,” Gunderson said. He said his center puts a priority on “hang times” for the vehicles and for ruggedness. He said they must be able to withstand 35 mph winds or more, which are ordinary in the Dakotas.

“Because of that, there are variations in camera angles, shadows, variations from morning to evening time.” He said some problems can be overcome with technology, but it’s important to stay in the real world — not adding six hours of flight to save 33 seconds of data downloading.

“From my perspective, there has to be a practicality that has to infuse this entire arena,” he said. “That doesn’t, however, negate the importance of the technology.”


– See more at:


Trimble Adds Unmanned Aircraft System to its Agriculture Portfolio for Aerial Imaging and Mapping

by Press • 21 January 2014



Trimble (NASDAQ: TRMB) announced today the addition of its Trimble® UX5 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to its Agriculture product portfolio for aerial imaging and mapping. The Trimble UX5 system can enable Ag service providers to easily capture aerial images for scouting and monitoring crop health such as detecting pests, weeds and nitrogen deficiencies. The system can locate cattle and their available forage over large areas, measure crop height, and generate topographic maps and models for land leveling and drainage applications. As a result, the system provides farmers’ trusted advisors—such as agronomists, Trimble resellers, and other Ag service providers—with a powerful data collection tool that can aid with recommendations to improve farming operations.

The Trimble UX5 system flies at 80 kilometers/hour (50 mph) and is stable in significant crosswinds and even light rain. In a single 50-minute flight, the Trimble UX5 system can cover a two square kilometer (0.8 square mile) area at five centimeter (two inch) image resolution. It comes with a camera modified to capture the near-infrared spectrum, which helps in deducing vegetation indexes for crop health assessment. The Trimble UX5 system can capture a variety of images to be processed post flight. The output of a single flight provides geo-referenced precision images, a digital surface model (DSM) showing elevations as a color image, and a dense 3D point cloud that includes elevations.

“The addition of the Trimble UX5 system strengthens our agriculture product portfolio and enables us to provide a solution that benefits a broad range of customers including growers, ranchers, water management contractors, agronomists and other Ag service providers,” said Joe Denniston, vice president of Trimble’s Agriculture Division. “High-speed aerial imaging is a powerful tool that can quickly and easily locate problem areas to be addressed. The faster a problem area is discovered, the better the chance it can be evaluated and resolved before crop yield is impacted.”

Trimble provides training for system operators and their observers, which focuses on safety precautions and the application of the Trimble UX5 system for maximum success. The Trimble UX5 system is available from Authorized Agriculture Distribution Partners and is subject to regulations and restrictions defined by local civil aviation authorities. Unmanned aircraft systems are currently not allowed to be flown in some regions or for certain applications. For more information on the Trimble UX5 system, visit:



Neiman Marcus Reveals Breach Details

More Than 1 Million Cards Likely Exposed in Malware Attack

By Tracy Kitten, January 23, 2014. Follow Tracy @FraudBlogger


Neiman Marcus, the luxury retailer that in mid-January acknowledged its payments system may have been compromised, now says that between July 16 and Oct. 30 last year, more than 1 million credit and debit cards may have been breached.

In a statement issued Jan. 22, Neiman Marcus President and CEO Karen Katz says a network malware attack designed “to collect or scrape payment card data” had been identified by forensics investigators. The investigation is ongoing.

“To date, Visa, MasterCard and Discover have notified us that approximately 2,400 unique customer payment cards used at Neiman Marcus and Last Call stores were subsequently used fraudulently,” Katz says in the company’s statement. Last Call is a retail clearance center with 28 locations owned by Neiman Marcus.

No fraudulent activity has yet been linked to Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman payment cards, the statement notes. Bergdorf Goodman is a subsidiary of Neiman Marcus.

So far, the retailer says its investigation has revealed that personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth, was not compromised. The retailer also notes that online purchases and PINs were not adversely affected by the breach. “We do not use PIN pads in our stores,” Katz states in the Jan. 22 statement.

Like Target Corp., which announced its network breach Dec. 19, Neiman Marcus is stressing its zero liability for consumers adversely affected by fraudulent charges.

“The policies of the payment brands such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and the Neiman Marcus card provide that you have zero liability for any unauthorized charges if you report them in a timely manner,” the company says. “Please contact your card brand or issuing bank for more information about the policy that applies to you.”

Neiman Marcus also is offering free credit monitoring to all customers who conducted transactions at Neiman Marcus or Last Call from January 2013 to January 2014. “We are notifying all customers for whom we have addresses or e-mail,” the company says.

Additional information is available for consumers under the general questions section on Neiman Marcus’ website.


Internet of Things: Calamity in Making?

Imagining a Cyber 9/11

By Robert Bigman, January 23, 2014.


Imagine this: It’s 8:40 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, and eastbound trains speeding along the Long Island Railroad and New York City subway lines switch tracks, causing scores of fatal, head-on collisions. Though alerted by sensors, transit personnel monitoring rail traffic couldn’t override the track switching.

Two-hundred and fifty miles to the south, at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., the computer in the cockpit of a departing Boeing 757 flight bound for Los Angeles receives orders to switch to runway 1L/19R, unknown to traffic controllers, and begins its takeoff as a Boeing 767 from Zurich lands on the same runway.

Will America’s infatuation with the Internet of Things eventually result in momentous losses of life?

An hour later, President Obama appears on national TV, announcing that cyberterrorists caused the catastrophes in New York and northern Virginia, comparing the day to Sept. 11, 2001.

An unnerved public knows that the attacks nearly 12½ years ago were localized events carried out by terrorists who could be seen and heard. But the latest incidents were carried out by unseen and silent cyberterrorists who exploited the same Internet in which their own lives are connected.

Hysteria spreads quickly beyond New York and Washington as Americans refuse to fly or take mass transit. Media reports of blackouts, and unconfirmed Internet postings claiming that nation’s power grid will be taken down, cause citizens to hoard gasoline, food and home supplies. Banks experience runs on their ATMs. Cybersecurity experts, appearing on news programs, begin to discuss the death of the Internet of Things, a web of devices embedded with sensors.


Reality Setting In

What went wrong when everything seemed to be going so right? The White House and other senior government officials had loudly praised the implementation of cybersecurity framework a year-and-a-half earlier as a watershed moment in improving the security of industry-operated critical IT infrastructure. Indeed, the number of successful penetrations of private and public organizations had fallen as a few misinformed cyberpundits predicted “the decline of the easy hack.”

Then came 9/11/2015 and reality set in. While the security of traditional government and business IT systems improved, the infatuation with the Internet of Things soared. In fact, the appeal of the Internet of Things proved too much for some members of the nation’s transportation network critical infrastructure. In response to corporate demands on IT staffs to “do more with less,” these organizations exploited the Internet of Things to interconnect transportation monitoring and control systems to their corporate networks, which were connected to the Internet.

All these networks satisfied the recommendations in the cybersecurity framework, a set of IT security best practices developed by the government and business (slated to be released next month) that critical infrastructure operators can voluntarily adopt. All these networks secured their interfaces to the monitoring and control networks with sophisticated cybersecurity software protection measures and employed the latest cyber-intelligence services and products. All these networks, however, were “hacked” and accessible to cyberterrorists.


What went wrong?

First, the cybersecurity framework was only a high-level collection of risk management security suggestions, without mandatory standards.

Second, and more importantly, even before America’s infatuation with the Internet of Things, it was clear that we had not solved the underlying problem – that the computer systems, networks and applications that constitute the Internet are inherently insecure.


Infatuation with the Internet of Things

Today’s commercial and open source operating systems still cannot, for example, secure critical kernel processes. TCP/IP networks remain vulnerable to even fairly simple man-in-the-middle attacks. While no system can ever be 100 percent secure, these security risks have been with us since the introduction of the microcomputer.

Nearly two decades ago, the Internet exposed these operating system and network security frailties. Twenty years later, expanded connectivity of these very same insecure systems continues to result in significant financial losses. Will America’s infatuation with the Internet of Things eventually result in momentous losses of life?

Obviously, the catastrophic scenarios described above are presented for effect, and these transportation services may or may not be at risk. Yet, if we do not pursue truly purposeful security standards for our critical infrastructure and greatly enhance the security of our commercial and open source operating systems and networks, then leaping blindly into the Internet of Things could open the door to these types of disasters.

So far we haven’t learned this lesson. Reports surfaced earlier this month about a computer network at the fast breeder reactor in Monju, Japan, being infected with malware that originated out on the Internet. Hmmm.



A Case For Abolishing The Air Force

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


The U.S. Air Force was founded in 1947, right after the heroics of American flyers during World War II, and with the Cold War looming. But a new book argues the Air Force, as a separate branch of the military, should be abolished.

In “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force,” author Robert Farley says that while the U.S. still needs air power, that power shouldn’t be segregated — it should be part of the Navy or the Army.

Farley, who is also an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to make his case.

Read Farley’s op-ed in Foreign Affairs, “Ground the Air Force”


On the problem with a separate Air Force


“The creation of the Air Force, which started in 1947, erected unnecessary bureaucratic barriers between the missions the military most often does. Pretty much everything the military does on a daily basis requires some sort of conjunction between air power and sea power and land power. And we created the air force with the idea that air power could do a lot of the jobs by itself. And I think that idea was wrongheaded in 1947 and I think we have much more evidence that it’s wrongheaded today.”

“The capabilities that we’ve allocated to the Air Force we have largely allocated by choice, rather than by any chance of natural design. So for example the Army doesn’t have any capability — besides helicopters, doesn’t have any capability of medical rescue. But the reason it doesn’t have that capability is essentially because the Air Force took that responsibility away from it.”


On the timing of his proposal

“I think actually right now is ideal in terms of thinking about potential for military reform. We’re winding down the two wars we’re having right now and we are re-orientating toward an entirely different form of military preparedness, which is in terms of what we’ve heard about the Pacific pivot … and it seems to me that right now when we don’t actually see a lot of conflicts on the immediate horizon, it’s a great time to think about how we might reform our military services for the future.”

On the idea of the Air Force projecting power around the globe

“It’s an argument that people commonly make as to why we need the Air Force — that we need the global capability to strike anywhere in the world. But it’s interesting that when we look at how we’ve actually used that strike capability in the past, and how we’re using it right now, very often our global strike is through tomahawk missiles that are launched by U.S. surface ships and U.S. submarines. And so while this idea of having this 24-hour, anywhere in the world, 15-minute strike capability, sounds kind of awesome, it always runs into political difficulties and all sorts of political obstacles and we never seem to really take advantage of it.



Robert Farley, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and the author of “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.” He tweets @drfarls.



The image of the U.S. Air Force took a hit recently when more than two dozen officers responsible for launching nuclear weapons were pulled off the job because they were caught cheating on a proficiency exam or failed to report cheating. But should the entire Air Force go away and be folded into other branches of the military?

That’s the view of our next guest, Robert Farley. He’s an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy, and he’s author of “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.” He’s with us from WUKY in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. Farley, welcome.

ROBERT FARLEY: Oh, thanks for having me.

HOBSON: And we should say right at the top, you’re not arguing that the U.S. doesn’t need airpower.

FARLEY: That’s correct. I think that the United States does not need an independent air force and that the assets that we currently allocate to the Air Force should, in most cases, be shifted and amalgamated with the Army and the Navy.

HOBSON: Why is that? Why don’t we need an Air Force?

FARLEY: I think that the creation of the Air Force, which started in 1947, erected unnecessary bureaucratic barriers between the missions that the military most often does. Pretty much everything the military does on a day-to-day basis requires some sort of conjunction of airpower and sea power and land power. And we created an air force in the idea that airpower could do a lot of jobs by itself. And I think that idea was wrongheaded in 1947, and I think we have lots more evidence that it’s wrongheaded today.

HOBSON: Why is it wrongheaded today more than it was, in your view, in 1947?

FARLEY: Well, in 1947 there were a lot of people who were still sufficiently optimistic about the idea of airpower that it could win wars all on its own, that we could strike over the horizon, avoid enemy armies, tear apart the sinews of an enemy state. And I think that we found over the years that the information demands for that are just so awesome that we can never quite be able to defeat an adversary, especially a determined adversary, just with airpower. And that just about everything we do requires that ground and air forces cooperate with one another for the best effect.

HOBSON: You write that in Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of those conflicts required flashy strategic airpower.

FARLEY: That’s correct. I think that in both cases what we found was that the most fancy air power assets, the ones that have been designed to fight the Soviet Union, have been reduced to jobs such as killing groups of insurgents in the middle of the desert. This is something that we would never consider that the B-52 and the B-1 would have done but they’ve been pressed into in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. And I think that’s really, in a lot of ways, has been the reality of air power, and it’s likely to continue to be the future of air power.

HOBSON: Now, the air power that we have outside of the Air Force, in the Army, in the Navy, in the Marine Corps, even in the Coast Guard, I’ve been speaking to military experts who say that the Air Force has capacities and capabilities that those other branches do not have and that there would be massive disruption if you were to try to fold some of the capabilities of the Air Force into, say, the Army’s air power.

FARLEY: Well, I think that there are two responses to that. The first is that the capabilities that we’ve allocated the Air Force we have largely allocated by choice rather than by any sort of natural design. So for example, the Army doesn’t have any capability or doesn’t have – besides helicopters – any capability of medical rescue. But the reason it doesn’t have that capability is because the Air Force essentially took that responsibility away from it.

There’s a very similar story to be told about drones, that there was a big fight between the Army and the Air Force over who would control drones and that essentially came down to a bureaucratic decision. And the second response is that there are a lot of reforms that have short-term costs and that have long-term benefits.

And I don’t think there’s any question that in the short term folding the Air Force back into the other services would be extremely costly. For one, you would have to buy a lot of new uniforms for Air Force personnel. But in the long term, I think there are going to be a lot of benefits.

HOBSON: But could you afford that short-term cost? Could you afford a short-term disruption in the military like that?

FARLEY: I actually think right now is ideal in terms of thinking about potential for military reform. We’re winding down the two wars that we are having right now, and we are reorienting towards an entirely different form of military preparedness, which is what we’ve heard of in terms of the Pacific pivot.

And the Pacific pivot is going to require the Air Force and the Navy to work together very closely. And it seems to me that right now, when we don’t actually see a lot of conflicts on the immediate horizon, it’s a great time to think about how we might reform our military services for the future.

HOBSON: On the other hand, right now is not a time that Congress can agree on much, let alone getting rid of one of the main branches of the military.

FARLEY: That’s true. I can’t really tell you that I’m super-optimistic about this Congress or the next Congress passing a – really a tremendous bill for reform of the armed forces, but at the same time there seems to be some indication that there could be a growing coalition of Republicans and Democrats who are interested in significant military reform, who are worried about the direction that the national security state has taken and who might be interested in what amount to innovative proposals for rethinking how the United States uses its military force.

HOBSON: What about the idea of the Air Force as able to project the massive power of the United States, that you have to have these incredible assets of the Air Force to show the world the power of the U.S., especially with the rise of China?

FARLEY: I think it’s an argument that people commonly make about why we need the Air Force, that we need the global capability to strike anywhere in the world. But it’s interesting that when we look at how we’ve actually used that strike capability in the past, and how we’re using it right now, very often our global strike is through tomahawk missiles that are launched by U.S. surface ships and U.S. submarines.

Our global strike right now in places like Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia is carried out by aircraft that aren’t actually very sophisticated at all. They’re not very fast, they’re not very modern in terms of sort of hyper-modern fighter jets, But they’re Predator drones that we’re using for political reasons.

And so while this idea of having this 24-hour, anywhere in the world, 15-minute strike capability sounds kind of awesome, it always runs into all sorts of political difficulties and all sorts of political obstacles. And we never seem to be able to really take advantage of it, even when we have an Air Force. And so as a reason for keeping an Air Force, I don’t find it terribly compelling.

HOBSON: There are a lot of comments on the Foreign Affairs website after your story was published. And one of them says: Abolish the Air Force? Why not just go all the way and look at the Canadian model – combine all three services and establish a true joint force. What do you think of that?

FARLEY: The Canadian model has ended up – it created this unified structure, but it’s ended up deteriorating back into what amounts to an Army, an Air Force and a Navy. And what I’m hoping to achieve here is a genuine reprioritization of the military missions that we have. And so putting parts of the Air Force into the Army, in my view, will force the Army and the Air Force to be more collaborative with one another, in a way that they really haven’t since the 1940s.

And that’s part of the point. And similarly, putting parts of the Air Force into the Navy will force more collaboration there, whereas if you just created a unified three-structure system, it might not actually result in tighter cooperation than we have right now.

HOBSON: Ideally for you, 20 years from now, would you like to see the military much smaller than it is today?

FARLEY: I do think that our military forces right now – for the tasks that we have, the task that the United States requires – are a bit too large. I think it’s very difficult to project 20 years in the future. Twenty years in the future the Chinese military budget could be larger than the U.S., and there might be all sorts of different changes in the strategic landscape.

And so it’s hard to say that – or what the defense budget should look like. But I think we have allowed it to grow too large given the tasks that we face right now.

HOBSON: Robert Farley is assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy. He’s the author of “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.” Professor, thanks so much for joining us.

FARLEY: Thank you for having me.

HOBSON: And let us know what you think. Should the Air Force be abolished and folded into the other branches of the military? You can go to This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


Rasmussen Reports


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


Bottom of Form

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Voters are increasingly pessimistic about the War on Terror even as they continue to question the National Security Agency’s spying efforts to fight it.

Thirty percent (30%) now think the terrorists are winning the War on Terror, the highest level of pessimism in three years.

Most voters (53%) believe the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012 died in terrorist attacks. A recent bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report confirms this belief. Only 13% think they were killed in a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islamic video as the Obama administration and the New York Times claim is the case. Forty-six percent (46%) also now think former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations are likely to suffer because of the Benghazi affair.

Voters are wary of a new treaty to slow Iran’s nuclear program, but 24% think Iran should be part of the Syrian peace talks that began this week.

A rogue intelligence analyst last June exposed the NSA’s spying on the phone calls and e-mails of millions of ordinary Americans. Voters are conflicted about the program despite the government’s insistence that it is part of the fight against terrorism. President Obama has now announced tighter controls on the NSA’s domestic spying efforts, but two-out-of-three voters (68%) think spying on the phone calls of ordinary Americans will stay the same or increase.

Forty-two percent (42%) of voters rate the president’s handling of issues related to national security as good or excellent, while 34% believe he’s doing a poor job. These attitudes have changed little in recent months.

Obama’s daily job approval ratings remain at levels seen for much of his presidency.

Democrats have a six-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

In Rasmussen Reports’ only horse race survey of the week, incumbent Democrat Mark Warner holds a 14-point lead over Republican challenger Ed Gillespie among Likely Virginia Voters – 51% to 37% in our first look at the 2014 U.S. Senate race in that state.

Thirty percent (30%) of voters nationwide think the country is heading in the right direction. A year ago, 35% felt that way.

Just 34% think America’s best days are still to come.

Twenty-four percent (24%) now say their home is worth less than when they purchased it, a five-point increase from November and the highest level of pessimism since June.

Fifty-three percent (53%) still feel the value of their home is more than what they owe on their mortgage. But that’s down from 62% in December, the highest finding since Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking on this question in April 2009.

However, 35% of homeowners expect their home’s value to go up over the next year. That compares to 29% a year ago.

Fifty percent (50%) of Americans think interest rates will be higher in a year.
But 45% are at least somewhat confident that the Federal Reserve can keep inflation and interest rates down, although that includes just 10% who are Very Confident.

Consumer and investor confidence both remained high at week’s end.

The week began with the national holiday that celebrates the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
An overwhelming majority of Americans continue to hold a favorable opinion of King, but just 35% think we have reached the day of equal opportunity for all races that he envisioned.

Only 31% believe race relations in this country are getting better, and just as many (30%) say they are getting worse.

Here’s a closer look at what America thinks about race relations.

Most voters have opposed the new national health care law’s individual mandate in past surveys, but voters are now evenly divided when asked whether the federal government should force every American to have health insurance.

In other surveys last week:

— Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters oppose a House Republican plan that would allow food industry companies to bring 500,000 guest workers from foreign countries into the United States every year

— The price of a first-class postage stamp will rise from 46 cents to 49 cents tomorrow, and 30% of Americans say the stamp price hike is likely to reduce their use of the post office.

— Only 37% of voters think student performance would improve if more money is spent on funding for schools and education programs.

— New Jersey legalized online gambling late last year, and eight other states have pending legislation to do the same. Thirty-four percent (34%) of Americans favor legalized online gambling in their state. 

— Fifty-four percent (54%) of Michigan voters think bad government is primarily to blame for Detroit’s bankruptcy.

— Fifty-one percent (51%) of Virginia voters approve of the job new Governor Terry McAuliffe is doing.

January 11 2014




$1T spending bill nears unveiling

January 01, 2014, 12:00 pm

The Hill

By Erik Wasson


Congress is set to unveil a giant spending bill next week that staff for appropriators have been preparing on a near daily basis throughout the holiday break.

Aides say progress on the $1 trillion, 12-part omnibus legislation has been better than expected at the subcommittee level, and their goal remains to pass the bill through both chambers by Jan. 16 to prevent a government shutdown.

The secretive process has members anticipating rushed votes when they return next week, as congressional leaders race the clock.

It’s unclear whether top leaders of the House and Senate spending panels will return to Washington to negotiate final details of the deal before Monday. Aides say that decision depends on how much progress staff can make.

One House aide said some obstacles remain on both funding levels for specific projects and on some of the dozens of policy riders that have been proposed during the course of 2013.

Still, the aide struck an optimistic note, saying talks are “going better at this point than many predicted.”

The bill is being developed according to the $1.012 trillion top-line spending cap in the budget agreement forged by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and signed into law by President Obama last week.

Sixty-two House Republicans voted against the budget largely because it exceeded the $967 billion spending cap already on the books for fiscal 2014.

Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.), one of the “no” votes, told The Hill this week that he could be open to voting for the omnibus, if some policy provisions are included, such as limits on ObamaCare’s implementation.

But he acknowledged his impression from appropriators is they will not risk a new showdown over ObamaCare, which triggered a 16-day government shutdown in October.

To get his vote, Scalise argued at the very least, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) must score wins on energy, defense and homeland security spending provisions.

The House approved Energy and Water, Defense and Homeland Security appropriations bills this summer with numerous amendments, while the full Senate did not vote on companion bills.

“We passed a few appropriations bills, and we put some policy riders that reflect conservative principles,” Scalise said.

He said a final bill at a minimum should reflect GOP policy riders that scale back funding for wasteful green energy programs favored by the Obama administration. Examples of floor amendments include ending funding for green energy advertising and limiting federal agency procurement of alternative fuels.


Energy riders could have a good shot given Rogers’s keen interest in helping the coal industry.

Scalise said conservatives would push leaders to allow floor amendments on the omnibus, something that could make completing the bill in just over a week problematic.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who has made fiscal matters his signature issue, said he expected conservatives to offer an amendment to bring the top-line number down to $967 billion.

Another amendment, he said, would trim spending by 1 percent across the board. He said he would push for a House rule that would cover votes on those issues.

Mulvaney was less optimistic about getting policy riders on the omnibus.

He said GOP leaders appear ready to rely on Democrats to pass the omnibus, and as a result, wouldn’t feel the need to push policy riders.

“We were told in no uncertain terms that they would not be coming to us for votes,” he said. “Part of the deal with Democrats also included their support on appropriations.”

He said that “personally, it would be difficult to support” any omnibus at a spending level higher than $967 billion, regardless of policy riders.



5 Lessons for the Pentagon From 2013


December 31, 2013


“Do more with less” seems to be the message from lawmakers.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey asked Congress this year: “What do you want your military to do?”

The takeaway for defense leaders is that policymakers want to fund a defense budget that does less but a military that is just as engaged around the world, ready to act when needed and fully capable when ordered to fight and win.


1. Sequestration’s slow burn will continue, even with the recent budget deal

While the recent budget deal signed into law will soften the blow of sequestration’s steep cuts in fiscal year 2014, it does not do away with them altogether. As predicted, policymakers opted for defense cuts that decline in a graduated, staircase manner rather than off a cliff.

But the defense budget will still fall over the next decade. The budget simply gives Pentagon leaders more time to make judicious decisions about tradeoffs.

The “fix” to the military’s portion of sequestration’s bill in 2014 will surely cause many policymakers to pat themselves on the back for saving the Pentagon. But the additional infusion of cash as part of the deal should really highlight how steep the defense budget cuts were that the president proposed and Congress approved over the past four years, long before the ax of sequestration fell. These challenges are not going away.


2. Hagel offers only a glimpse of the grim choices ahead for the Pentagon

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel should be applauded for making public the results of his Strategic Choices and Management Review earlier this year. The effort examined in detail the impacts of sequestration on the Department of Defense.

But the review is just a start, because the Pentagon budget squeeze goes beyond sequestration to include unrealized efficiency initiative savings, a decline in war spending, using overseas contingency money to pay some readiness bills and a continuous rejection by Congress of proposals to shed excess infrastructure and modestly increase cost-sharing of some benefits.

Pentagon leaders will not only need a blueprint to enact many, if not most, of the review’s results, but even more must be done to reduce the size of the civilian workforce, close bases and reform compensation.


3. Policymakers will continue to punt on serious bureaucratic reform at the Defense Department

As the buying power of the defense dollar continues to decline, Congress has continued to resist efforts to rein in massive Pentagon overhead. This only exacerbates the defense budget squeeze as internal cost growth goes unchecked.

The Defense Department’s budget is not shrinking in the same ways as previous drawdowns. The surging costs of bureaucratic overhead, an over-burdened weapons buying process, excess bases, a growing civilian workforce and the compensation packages for DoD personnel are poised to “hollow out” the military from within as Clark Murdock at CSIS has argued.

Until Washington gets serious about reform at the Pentagon, unaddressed imbalances in the defense budget will continue to sacrifice much-needed combat power.

4. Loss of traditional defense coalition on Capitol Hill will continue to hurt

While the bipartisan pro-defense coalition has been dwindling for years in Congress, many defense leaders at the Pentagon are only just now waking up to this new and unfortunate reality. Worse, this reliable group of informed members of Congress — who took great interest in and care of national security — is not returning anytime soon.

This means more deals like the Budget Control Act that proposed sequestration fall disproportionately hardest on the U.S. military are possible going forward. These favored solutions to tap the defense budget for savings will continue to be attractive to politicians as America’s interest payments on the debt burden grow substantially in the coming years alongside unbridled growth in the major entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

Thankfully, bipartisanship is not completely dead in Washington. Leading think tanks have all joined together to urge policymakers to move quickly on difficult but long overdue reforms at the Defense Department.


5. Mission relief is not coming for the U.S. military as budgets fall

Defense policy is subordinate to America’s foreign policy. Yet even as U.S. forces exit Afghanistan and all troops have left Iraq, the demands upon those in uniform are not letting up.

That is because the substantial daily presence and peacetime requirements of the U.S. military are not going away. Indeed, they have been growing the past year alongside rising instability in key regions of the world. Navy ships are being prepped to assist with destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Troops have been sent to Jordan to bolster its military capacity as a check on Syrian volatility. Forces have been deployed to South Sudan, Mali and Libya in recent months for a variety of missions from evacuation to aerial refueling to capturing Joseph Kony. Fighters and bombers flew over the Korean peninsula in a show of force. Military personnel have assisted with numerous humanitarian disasters around the world, including the Philippines. Even the Coast Guard has picked up new missions in the Arctic and cyber operations.

Navy Admiral Thomas Moore said it best when highlighting the unrelenting demand on U.S. forces: “We have an eleven-carrier Navy for a world that needs fifteen.” This supply-demand disconnect applies across the armed forces. Policymakers want to cash in a “peace dividend” from a military operating in a world in which America’s “unipolar moment” is over, according to the Director of National Intelligence.

Washington’s appetite for hard power capabilities is not shrinking. “Do ever more with less” is, unfortunately, the only expectation the Joint Chiefs should harbor as they seek to manage a smaller force for the future.


Defend military pension cuts: Our view

The Editorial Board, USATODAY 6:28 p.m. EST January 1, 2014


System is not only extremely generous, it is also counterproductive.

After 20 years of service, regardless of age, a military retiree can expect a pension equal to 50% of final pay.

Proposed cuts come in the form of a reduction in cost-of-living adjustments by 1 percentage point each year until age 62.

40% of servicemembers have never seen a combat zone.


One of the best things Ronald Reagan did as president was to revamp federal pensions.

Reagan foresaw the problems that unaffordable public benefits would cause over time — the same problems now afflicting many cities and states — and was determined to act.

As a result, most federal workers hired after 1986 look forward to a very modest pension, one that is significantly reduced for people leaving before age 62.

But one big group was largely untouched by Reagan’s overhaul: members of the military. They are still on a plan so generous that it allows them to retire in their late 30s or early 40s and collect a pension, with cost-of-living increases, for the rest of their lives. This is accompanied by lifetime health coverage whose premium, $460 per year for a family policy, has not risen since 1995 even as costs for everyone else have skyrocketed.

In last month’s bipartisan budget deal, Congress made some wholely defensible trims in military pensions, prompting a howl of complaints from veterans groups.

They protest too much. Way too much. The military pension system is not only extremely generous, it is also counterproductive. It drains defense money from today’s troops and weapons. And while the system encourages some people to consider the military who otherwise might not, it also encourages them to leave early, taking their first-rate training to go double-dip by moving into a civilian government job. In any case, they can collect pensions — intended as old-age protection — in the prime of their working lives.

The deal, crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., would not alter those basics. After 20 years of service, regardless of age, a military retiree can expect a pension equal to 50% of final pay, with an additional 2.5 percentage points for each year of service beyond 20.

The “cuts” come in the form of a reduction in cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, by 1 percentage point each year until age 62. At 62, the full COLA would come back, and pensions would shoot up to where they would have been had the full COLA been in effect from the start.

For example, a first sergeant retiring now at 40 with 20 years of service would collect a pension of $24,828. By the time he or she reached 61, it would have risen to $39,507, and now would rise to $32,464. The following year, it would be $40,496 under both formulations, and would receive the full COLA thereafter.

This approach would save taxpayer money and help reach budget targets. It also would discourage people from leaving early after the government has invested so much in them.

The change would also make military pensions less wildly out of line with most Americans’ experience. Private-sector pensions, to the extent that they exist at all, are routinely scaled back or frozen in ways much more dramatic than these changes.

Certainly, protecting veterans impaired by their service is a different sort of issue. But the current system rewards all equally, including the 40% of servicemembers who have never seen a combat zone.

If Congress doesn’t have the fortitude to stand by even this small tweak in military pensions, it doesn’t bode well for the far bigger, tougher budget decisions that loom ahead.


Budget sequester leaves US de-‘fence’-less in space

by Daniel Weiss @weissdaniel January 2, 2014 6:00AM ET

Washington closes the military’s Space Fence, which protects against catastrophic debris collisions


Mike Coletta was sitting in the basement of his home outside Pueblo, Colo., on Aug. 31 listening to echoes of space objects. Every minute or so, a ping would sound in his headphones as a satellite or piece of orbital debris passed overhead and bounced back a signal from a series of radar transmitters known as the Space Fence. The International Space Station was set to arrive in a few minutes, but time passed and there was no sound.

“Maybe they did an orbit change or something, I thought, because there’s nothing and there should be something,” Coletta recalled. “I looked at the time and saw that it was right around 0:00:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on Sept. 1, and it hit me: Those sons of guns — I bet they turned it off.”

Coletta was right. The Space Fence — which, despite its name, consisted of operational facilities on the ground, across the southern United States — had been shut down. In more than 50 years of operation, it had played a key role in the Space Surveillance Network, set up by the U.S. military to track man-made debris, and help keep valuable satellites and spaceships from smashing into it.

According to the Air Force Space Command, which ran the network, the shutdown was made necessary by the 2013 budget sequester and will save $14 million per year in operating expenses. But some argue that the shutdown has reduced the capability of an already imperfect surveillance system, potentially increasing the risk of a costly collision.

The 1,000 or so currently active satellites provide essential infrastructure for the modern world. GPS, television transmission, weather prediction, scientific exploration, search-and-rescue and international financial transactions are key functions facilitated by satellites.


Functioning satellites are vastly outnumbered by orbital debris — a smorgasbord of defunct satellites, spent rockets, exploded satellite and rocket bits, paint flecks and liquid leaked from nuclear reactors that once powered Soviet spy satellites. The Space Surveillance Network maintains a catalog of more than 23,000 orbiting objects larger than a grapefruit, and there are estimated to be tens of millions of pieces of debris too small for the network to detect. Hurtling around Earth at up to 20,000 miles per hour, even a small piece of debris can rip through a satellite or spaceship.

In Alfonso Cuaron’s blockbuster film “Gravity,” a Russian missile blows up a satellite, whose shards collide with other satellites, producing a storm of debris that disables the space shuttle. “The movie was extremely realistic in the sense that this is what collisional cascading is all about,” said Donald Kessler, who was NASA’s senior scientist for orbital debris research before retiring in 1996. In 1978 he predicted that when the mass of orbital debris reached a certain point, a “collisional cascade” would begin, in which collisions would create more debris, in turn leading to more collisions. “It’s just that normally it wouldn’t be just a few hours between the cascades; it would be tens of years.”

The trigger for the “Gravity” cascade is based on a real event. In January 2007, China fired a missile at one of its satellites as part of an anti-satellite test, creating more than 3,000 trackable pieces of debris. Six months later, NASA had to move its Terra satellite, which is responsible for collecting massive quantities of weather, environmental and Earth-imaging data, to avoid a potential collision with one of these pieces. Then, in February 2009, an Iridium communications satellite and a defunct Russian spy satellite smashed into each other, creating another 2,000 pieces of trackable debris.

The ideal solution would involve removing debris from orbit. Scientists have proposed an array of removal technologies — space sweepers and tugs, fishing nets and harpoons, tethers, laser blasters — but no practical application has been developed. Even if one were available, using it could stoke international tensions, said Dave Baiocchi, a senior engineer at the RAND Corp. who worked on a military project that aimed to “figure out what the garbage truck of space should look like.”

“If we were to develop one, how do you convince other countries that it’s not an anti-satellite weapon?” Baiocchi asked. “How do you convince Russia that your garbage truck is truly a garbage truck and not out to disarm other countries’ satellites?”

Lacking a removal solution, the U.S. military tracks orbiting objects and takes steps to prevent collisions. Data collected by the Space Surveillance Network — which includes a range of radars and telescopes in addition to the Space Fence — is used by the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, to predict when a satellite or spaceship faces a collision risk. JSpOC then sends warnings to the satellite or spaceship operator, which decides whether to perform an evasive maneuver.

Even before the Space Fence was shut down, this system had serious shortcomings. To start with, it was blind to the vast number of pieces of debris too small for its sensors to detect. A planned new network of radar stations would greatly improve its sensitivity, but the first will not be online for several years at the earliest.

In the network, the Space Fence was the only sensor that performed “uncued” detection. The other sensors “are told, ‘OK, over the next day, we want you to go track these objects and collect observations and send them to us,'” said Brian Weeden, technical adviser for the Secure World Foundation. “That doesn’t happen to the fence, because it’s just there. Things fly through the fence; it collects observations and sends them off.”

To make up for the shutdown, the Air Force Space Command directed two other radars — in North Dakota and Florida — to pick up the slack. However, because these stations are each based in a single location rather than spread out across the country, they cover less of the sky than the Space Fence did. This reduced coverage has led to “a loss when it comes to detecting and characterizing events like breakups,” said Weeden. “You can’t predict when those kind of events are going to happen. It may be that we don’t have any major collisions over the next five years, and therefore it’s not a big deal. It may be that we have a bunch of them, and it’s going to be a really big deal.”

In just under five years, if all goes as planned, the first element in the new Space Fence will be operational. It will consist of a single radar station based in the Marshall Islands, midway between Australia and Hawaii, and use S-band radar with a much higher frequency than the old Space Fence. That would allow it to detect objects as small as a marble at altitudes up to 375 miles, where manned spaceships fly, and as small as a tennis ball up to 1,200 miles, covering the orbits most crowded with satellites and debris. This would increase the number of objects tracked by the system to more than 100,000. Like the old Space Fence, the new one will perform uncued detection, but it will also provide far more useful information on objects’ orbits.

Work on the S-band Space Fence has been delayed for a number of years, most recently by a Pentagon-wide review of potential budget cuts over the next decade. As of 2008, the plan was to build three S-band stations around the world, with at least one in operation by 2015. The current plan is to build a single station in the Marshall Islands at a cost of $1.3 billion that will be operational by late 2018.

Even if these expanded surveillance abilities become a reality, the system for preventing collisions is hobbled by data-sharing problems. JSpOC has the most accurate data on debris and military satellite orbits, but operators of other satellites have the most accurate data on their own orbits. As a result, when JSpOC warns an operator about a potential collision, an awkward two-step ensues, said Ronald Busch, vice president of network engineering for the satellite company Intelsat.

“When they provide us a warning, we go back and provide them our latest data, and they manually put that data in and rerun the analysis,” said Busch. This leads to “a cost of manpower, going back and forth and trying to find out is it a real issue or not, and then going back and forth trying to determine should we do a maneuver.”

If things don’t improve, Weeden sees a bleak future: “The worst-case scenario is that it gets a lot more risky and a lot more expensive to operate in some of the most important regions in space. Space is a critical infrastructure that can help in solving a lot of challenges we have on Earth. We need to be able to deal with the debris problem to ensure that space can continue to help us deal with those challenges.”

In the meantime, minor collisions keep piling up. Last January, a Russian satellite was knocked into a new orbit, apparently by a piece of untracked debris. Then, in May, an Ecuadorean satellite began to spin wildly and lost the ability to communicate, apparently after being struck by another piece of untracked debris. If improvements in the warning system don’t come soon, it may be just a matter of time before a catastrophic collision.


Study predicts 5 percent defense and aerospace growth

January 02, 2014, 01:54 pm

By Jeremy Herb


The aerospace and defense industry will grow 5 percent globally in 2014, despite the budget pressures to the defense sector, according to a new study from Deloitte.

Deloitte’s 2014 outlook says the defense industry will continue its downward trend over the past several years.

The report estimates that revenue will drop 2.5 percent in 2013 and will continue to decline with the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as cuts to the U.S. Defense budget under sequestration.

But the overall defense and aerospace industry will still grow in 2014, thanks to boosted revenue in the aerospace sector.

“It is likely that 2014 will bring high single to double-digit levels of growth in the commercial aerospace sub-sector, as experienced in 2012 and expected in 2013, given the dramatic production forecasts of the aircraft manufacturers,” Deloitte says.

The 2014 growth in the commercial aerospace industry is being driven by record-setting production levels, due to the accelerated replacement cycle of obsolete aircraft with newer fuel-efficient planes.

The report predicts that by 2023, annual production levels in the commercial aerospace industry will increase by 25 percent.

The Deloitte report also cites increases in passenger demand in places like the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

For the defense industry, the end of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has driven defense budgets lower. The report says that defense spending is increasing in several areas — the Middle East, China, India, Russia, South Korea, Brazil and Japan — but that isn’t counteracting declines elsewhere.

The U.S. defense budget has a major impact on the global trends, as the United States accounts for 39 percent of global defense spending.

The Pentagon had $37 billion cut from its 2013 budget under sequestration. While the budget deal reached last month provided the Pentagon with $31 billion in sequester relief over the next two years, the new Defense budget cap is still $30 billion lower than the Pentagon’s proposed 2014 budget.

“The government customers of global defense companies continue to be challenged with affordability and competing domestic priorities,” the report says. “Thus, global defense spending is expected to continue to decline.”



How the Defense Lobby Became Irrelevant

This was once the special-interest group to outplay all special-interest groups. Then lawmakers stopped cowering before it. Is its leverage gone?

By Sara Sorcher

January 1, 2014


The defense lobby was once both behemoth and bogeyman. It was the muscle behind the military-industrial complex, the puppeteer liberals blamed for moving money from food stamps to fighter jets. Above all, it was the Beltway powerhouse that made Congress cower.

Nobody is afraid of defense lobbyists now. Congress has defied them twice in two years, first by failing to undo the first round of defense cuts under sequestration, and again this week by floating a budget deal that would only partly pare back the next round. The fact that industry accepts this deal, a far cry from the grand bargain it demanded last year, shows just how far expectations have plummeted.

What laid low the once-mighty lobby? Hyperbole, and some hubris. In the waning days of 2012, the industry promised Armageddon unless Congress spared it from the sequester’s spending cuts. The Aerospace Industries Association doled out clocks that ticked off the days, hours, minutes, and seconds—a panic-inducing “countdown to disaster,” when more than a million defense jobs would be gouged. But when the lobbying blitz failed and the sequester guillotine fell, the industry was forced into an embarrassing position: It had cried wolf. Long after AIA’s ticking clocks ran down, employers had not sent the tens of thousands of layoff notices; major defense companies remained profitable; and the U.S. military—though far from unscathed—remained a global juggernaut.

Now, with another round of sequester cuts looming, the lobby is again sounding the alarm, but its past hyperbole has defanged its warning. “When they went full bore saying the sky is falling January 2, and then later on March 1, they were betting it would never actually come to pass—so no one would be able to say they were overhyping this or exaggerating the immediacy of the impact,” says Todd Harrison, a defense-budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “They miscalculated. Now the defense industry is left with its credibility damaged.”

The situation is all the more painful for defense lobbyists because this time around—perceptions aside—they would have had a much stronger case to make. If the proposed budget deal founders, the Pentagon could lose $52 billion from its 2014 request; if the deal passes, congressional appropriators must still find a way to cut $31 billion.

Last year, the Pentagon used a cushion of unobligated funds to pay down some losses, and it delayed weapons programs and testing to avoid cancellations. But this coming year, that cash has evaporated. More cuts mean the Pentagon can no longer mask the pain and must make tough decisions on weapons programs. Preserving pay and benefits for troops means further raiding funds for research and development.

Warning of disaster—while still lacking specific cuts to make a strong case—is a losing proposition. Even the lobbyists acknowledge the impotence of their message now. “All the screaming to high heavens” about how sequester would raise the unemployment rate came too soon, says one from a major company. “Whether it’s the voting public or elected officials, I think there is legitimate reason for them to question the industry’s estimations of significant job losses.” Still, lobbyists can point to some visible signs of military distress: The Army says that only two of its 43 active-duty brigades are fully ready for combat. The Navy canceled the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were furloughed, and the services say more long-term cuts will force them to downsize people and equipment.

But the signals are confusing. Despite warnings that sequestration would harm operations, the U.S. deployed warships for high-profile relief efforts in the Philippines, and President Obama floated the possibility of military action in Syria. And although some layoffs have come—Lockheed Martin cut about 4,000 jobs last month—major defense firms appear to be doing just fine: Defense giants, including Lockheed and Raytheon, reported third-quarter profit increases. “There have definitely been people who have accused us of crying wolf,” AIA spokesman Dan Stohr says. The group, he says, did not anticipate that the Pentagon could minimize the sequester’s pain. “We were taking our best shot at trying to estimate the effects, with the information we had at the time.” This year, AIA is no longer commissioning unemployment studies—”been there, done that,” Stohr says—but is focusing instead on “messages that resonate.” Perhaps in tacit acknowledgment that defense is not the center of the political universe right now, AIA this year partnered with domestic sectors, including education, to talk about the sequester’s broader effects on the nation’s workforce.

Complicating the picture is a schism in the Republican Party that had long held defense spending sacred. After the sequester, the gulf between defense hawks and deficit hawks widened. The defense industry has little influence with this latter group. One lobbyist described recent strategy sessions with major defense companies whose officials complained about failed (and acrimonious) meetings with young tea-party members, including Reps. Mick Mulvaney and Justin Amash. The lobbyist said they gave up on the meetings altogether, tired of “junior members of Congress who are lecturing us on how screwed up we are.”

Congress is clearly not listening to the defense lobby the way it would have during the Cold War or other periods of high threat, says Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a think tank. “This is the first time in my memory that Republicans aren’t lined up in a bloc behind robust weapons spending,” he says. “During the Reagan years, people were equating buying weapons with being safe. It’s like that connection has been broken.”

The Republican Party’s right wing has proven its willing to lose jobs at the district level and take national security risks to rein in big government. In the eyes of that faction, the Pentagon, despite lobbyists’ best efforts, is part of the problem.


Poll: Cyberwarfare Is Top Threat Facing US

Jan. 5, 2014 – 03:45AM | By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS | Comments


WASHINGTON — Cyberwarfare is the most serious threat facing the United States, according to almost half of US national security leaders who responded to the inaugural Defense News Leadership Poll, underwritten by United Technologies.

But while the leaders in national security policy, the military, congressional staffs and the defense industry are united in the seriousness of the cyber threat, agreement on the next greatest threat breaks down clearly along party lines. Terrorism is viewed as the next greatest threat by leaders who identified themselves as Republicans, while climate change was cited by those identifying as Democrats.

The poll sheds new insight into what is often seen as a monolithic and even nonpartisan national security community. More than 350 senior defense leaders responded to the poll in late November, answering two dozen questions across the gamut of defense issues.

Click here to read the full results


Respondents were far more likely to identify as Republicans than Democrats (38.5 percent vs. 13.5 percent). That’s radically different than the public at large, which typically tilts toward Democrats — 30 percent Democrat to 24 percent Republican in a December Gallup poll.That difference is even more dramatic among respondents who said they worked for the military, where Republicans outnumbered Democrats by seven to one (56.9 percent vs. 7.7 percent). Independents also made up a large percentage of respondents (34.2 percent).

On the cyber threat, 45.1 percent of respondents said Cyberwarfare is the greatest threat to the United States, with 42.4 percent of Democrats joining 36.3 percent of Republicans and a whopping 55 percent of independents agreeing.

That’s a sign that the stark warnings from military and civilian defense leaders have made their mark. It was little more than a year ago when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of the shock that might come from a concerted cyberattack.

“The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be a cyber Pearl Harbor, an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life,” Panetta said in a widely publicized policy speech. “In fact, it would paralyze and shock the nation and create a new, profound sense of vulnerability.”


The threat environment beyond cyber is where party differences show up:

■Republicans saw terrorism as an equal threat to cyberwarfare, with an identical 36.3 percent citing terrorism as the greatest threat facing the country.

■Democrats were less than half as likely pick terrorism (18.2 percent) as the leading threat. Instead, climate change took the No. 2 slot among Democrats, 21.2 percent. By contrast, not a single Republican respondent cited climate change as a threat.

■Independents were in line with Republicans, listing terrorism as second (20 percent) behind cyberwarfare. China (13 percent) and climate change (7 percent) followed.

Respondents identifying with different US political parties were much more closely aligned when asked about the threats facing US allies in Asia and the Middle East. Iran was named as the top threat in the Middle East (54 percent) followed by terrorism (43.3 percent). In Asia, China got a relative majority (47.6 percent) followed by North Korea (28.8 percent).

But party lines appeared again when the question switched to threats facing US allies in Europe. A majority of Republicans (54.8 percent) picked terrorism as the top threat, followed by cyberwarfare (30.7 percent) and Iran (10.5 percent). Democrats conveyed more concern about cyber (40.6 percent) than any other threat. And just as was true when asked about the United States, the second most popular pick for Democrats was climate change (28.1 percent) followed by terrorism (21.9 percent).

Independents agreed with Democrats on the top threat to European allies, with 41.8 percent selecting cyber. But climate change was in a distant tie for third most popular (9.2 percent) with independents instead making terrorism (35.7 percent) the second most popular choice.

Even in a community that runs on defense dollars, traditional party perspectives on the need for defense spending were also apparent. While a 37.2 percent plurality of respondents said Defense Department spending is too low — including 50.8 percent of Republicans — only 22.9 percent of Democrats think defense spending is too low. Indeed, nearly half of responding Democrats said it is too high (48.6 percent).

Those numbers mesh with traditional party caricatures of hawkish Republicans and social program-boosting Democrats. That standard, however, has proved unreliable in recent years, as many younger Republicans labeled as tea party supporters have focused more on cutting spending than propping up defense, partially leading to automatic budget cuts under sequestration.

That tea party constituency also has been vocal about privacy concerns following the disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of a variety of classified surveillance programs. The broader public has expressed increasing amounts of outrage, while most in the defense sphere have avoided speaking out against the collection of intelligence and many have been quietly supportive.

Still, when asked how the Snowden disclosures have affected the debate on surveillance, almost half — 47.2 percent — of all respondents said the disclosures have helped the debate.

Divided along party lines, the numbers become quite different. A majority of Democrats and independents, 68.8 percent and 58.2 percent respectively, said the disclosures helped debate. Yet 57.7 percent of Republicans said the disclosures hurt the debate, showing again few signs of tea party ideology.

“In a community where cyber is seen as the biggest threat, what Snowden did was helping debate? That’s fascinating,” said Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Stimson Center who ran national defense budgeting for the Clinton administration. “It reinforces my sense that I don’t think [Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.] or [Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.] are getting traction on this issue. Right now, it’s not winning, because whatever one thinks about Edward Snowden, his media strategy is incredibly brilliant. The drip-drip-drip is working.”

Those polled also support the one initial proposal for intelligence reform that has been completely rejected by the Obama administration: the separation of leadership responsibilities for the NSA and US Cyber Command. More than half — 56.7 percent of respondents — think leadership should be split, a number that was consistent across party lines.

In questions about how the state of US strength and the strength of potential American adversaries compares to five years ago, before the Obama presidency, party lines were also clear.

By roughly two-to-one, Democrats think the US is stronger than it was five years ago (21.2 percent vs 12.1 percent). Only 4.8 percent of Republicans, on the other hand, think the US is stronger, while the vast majority, 72.6 percent, said the US is weaker.

And Republicans, by and large, think potential US adversaries are stronger, with 58.5 percent saying Russia is stronger than it was five years ago, and 45.2 saying Iran is stronger. In each case, Democrats were roughly half as likely to deem the rival stronger.


United in Pessimism

Partisan politics are set aside and respondents were united by a pessimistic view of future defense spending, a dislike of automatic budget cuts called sequestration and frustration with a ponderous defense acquisition system.

Asked when they expect the defense budget to begin rising again, 32.8 percent said it would be 2019 or later than any of the intervening five years. Less than a quarter of respondents thought it would increase by 2016.

An overwhelming 79.4 percent of respondents disagreed with the notion that sequestration cuts were necessary to reduce defense spending; 65.3 said defense spending would have been cut anyway without the sequester.

But nowhere did respondents more heartily and universally agree than on their collective criticism of the US defense acquisition system. Some 83.6 percent of respondents disagree with the statement, “US acquisition policy is effective in bringing best value to the US taxpayer,” and nearly as many — 73.4 percent — disagreethat acquisition reforms have yielded “significant savings.”

Another 70.9 percent of respondents said acquisition regulations “stifle innovation.”

A.J. Clark, president of Thermopylae Sciences, which leverages commercial software for defense applications,said the numbers tell a story of a system so complex that innovators are scared off, partly because they have a hard time finding out about opportunities.

“I have 15 people watching Fed Biz Opps and other sites, and there are many things that they still don’t see,” said Clark, referring to the Federal Business Opportunities website.

Part of the problem is that so many layers of acquisition rules have been piled on over the years that sorting them out is an enormous burden on companies, said Christian Marrone, the Aerospace Industries Association’s vice president for national security and acquisition policy.

“The rules and regulations in general have become over burdensome,” he said. “None of these findings should surprise anyone, what may surprise me is that the numbers aren’t even higher given what we’ve seen.”

Marrone said the Defense Department is aware of the problem, and taking action to correct issues.

“I think the chief critic of the system is the owner of the system himself, Frank Kendall [undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics],” he said. “I think he’s been clear that the system needs to take more risks. It needs to be more innovative, more forward thinking, more outside of the box.”

Some of theObama administration’s more important policy efforts are facing skepticism or dissent, the poll also showed.

Asked if, given the budget constraints and ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, the planned rebalance of military assets to Asia would be affordable, 62 percent of respondents said no.

Despite some headwinds, there are ways of making that shift without spending a lot of money, Adams said.

“I think that we will be able to afford it because we’ll make tradeoffs,” he said. “Most of what we’re doing is shifting spending, not adding spending.”

But whether the military services will be willing to accept changes to their role, such as a likely reduction in the emphasis on Army ground capabilities, is unclear.

“That’s the $64 billion question,” Adams said.

Obama’s efforts to strike a deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program also face challenges in the defense community. While Secretary of State John Kerry has been careful to leave the door open to allowing Iran to enrich non-weapons-grade uranium, emphasizing to Congress that in a negotiation there has to be some compromise, most respondents did not agree. In the poll, 73 percent said Iran should not be allowed to have any capability to enrich uranium at all.

There is one thing the defense community is predicting to happen in 2014, a trend that defense executives have wanted for a long time: industry consolidation. More than half — 53.2 percent — of respondents expect significant consolidation beginning this year


Breaking Down the Data

The data contained in this report is derived from online results from 352 US-based Defense News subscribers selected by job category and seniority, representing 9 percent of those receiving invitations to participate in the survey.

Some 3,888 subscribers who identified themselves as senior military members or civilians in the US Defense Department, congressional and White House staffs, and defense industry received invitations to participate in the poll, which was open from Nov. 14-28. The results predated the announcement of a two-year budget deal on Capitol Hill brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that partially reduced the sequester announced at the end of 2013.

All questions were optional, and respondents skipped questions in varying numbers. The question asking respondents to describe their current jobs allowed for multiple selections, resulting in aggregate numbers exceeding the 352 total respondents.

Because the poll is not a sampling of a larger community, there is no calculable margin of error.

Respondents came from a wide range of jobs in the community: 125 identified themselves as working in the defense industry, 70 identified themselves as Defense Department civilians, and 65 identified themselves as in the military. Of those identifying with the military, 56.9 percent obtained the rank of brigadier general/rear admiral (lower half) or higher; 44.4 percent of those who reported working for industry listed themselves as corporate executives; and 14.3 percent of those listing themselves as Defense

Department civilians were in the Senior Executive Service, with another 51.4 percent identifying themselves as GS-13 to GS-15.


The Quiet Fury of Robert Gates

Bush and Obama’s secretary of defense had to wage war in Iraq, Afghanistan—and today’s Washington


Jan. 7, 2014 4:32 p.m. ET


All too often during my 4½ years as secretary of defense, when I found myself sitting yet again at that witness table at yet another congressional hearing, I was tempted to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot. The exit lines were on the tip of my tongue: I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else. It was, I am confident, a fantasy widely shared throughout the executive branch.

Much of my frustration came from the exceptional offense I took at the consistently adversarial, even inquisition-like treatment of executive-branch officials by too many members of Congress across the political spectrum—creating a kangaroo-court environment in hearings, especially when television cameras were present. But my frustration also came from the excruciating difficulty of serving as a wartime defense secretary in today’s Washington. Throughout my tenure at the Pentagon, under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, I was, in personal terms, treated better by the White House, Congress and the press for longer than almost anyone I could remember in a senior U.S. government job. So why did I feel I was constantly at war with everybody? Why was I so often so angry? Why did I so dislike being back in government and in Washington?

It was because, despite everyone being “nice” to me, getting anything consequential done was so damnably difficult—even in the midst of two wars. I did not just have to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq and against al Qaeda; I also had to battle the bureaucratic inertia of the Pentagon, surmount internal conflicts within both administrations, avoid the partisan abyss in Congress, evade the single-minded parochial self-interest of so many members of Congress and resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House, especially in the Obama administration, to bring everything under its control and micromanagement. Over time, the broad dysfunction of today’s Washington wore me down, especially as I tried to maintain a public posture of nonpartisan calm, reason and conciliation.

I was brought in to help salvage the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—both going badly when I replaced Donald Rumsfeld in December 2006. When I was sworn in, my goals for both wars were relatively modest, but they seemed nearly unattainable. In Iraq, I hoped we could stabilize the country so that when U.S. forces departed, the war wouldn’t be viewed as a strategic defeat for the U.S. or a failure with global consequences; in Afghanistan, I sought an Afghan government and army strong enough to prevent the Taliban from returning to power and al Qaeda from returning to use the country again as a launch pad for terror. Fortunately, I believe my minimalist goals were achieved in Iraq and remain within reach in Afghanistan.

President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.

For his part, President Obama simply wanted to end the “bad” war in Iraq and limit the U.S. role in the “good” war in Afghanistan. His fundamental problem in Afghanistan was that his political and philosophical preferences for winding down the U.S. role conflicted with his own pro-war public rhetoric (especially during the 2008 campaign), the nearly unanimous recommendations of his senior civilian and military advisers at the Departments of State and Defense, and the realities on the ground.

The continuing fight over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration led to a helpful, steady narrowing of our objectives and ambitions. Still, I witnessed a good deal of wishful thinking in the Obama administration about how much improvement we might see with enough dialogue with Pakistan and enough civilian assistance to the Afghan government and people. When real improvements in those areas failed to materialize, too many people—especially in the White House—concluded that the president’s entire strategy, including the military component, was a failure and became eager to reverse course.

But if I had learned one useful lesson from Iraq, it was that progress depended on security for much of the population. This was why I could not sign onto Vice President Biden’s preferred strategy of reducing our presence in Afghanistan to rely on counterterrorist strikes from afar: “Whac-A-Mole” hits on Taliban leaders weren’t a long-term strategy. That is why I continue to believe that the troop increase that Obama boldly approved in late 2009 was the right decision—providing sufficient forces to break the stalemate on the ground, rooting the Taliban out of their strongholds while training a much larger and more capable Afghan army.

It is difficult to imagine two more different men than George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Clearly, I had fewer issues with Bush. Partly that is because I worked for him in the last two years of his presidency, when, with the exception of the Iraq surge, nearly all the big national security decisions had been made. He had made his historical bed and would have to lie in it. I don’t recall Bush ever discussing domestic politics—apart from congressional opposition—as a consideration in decisions he made during my time with him (although, in fairness, his sharp-elbowed political gurus were nearly all gone by the time I arrived). By early 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney was the hawkish outlier on the team, with Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and me in broad agreement.

With Obama, however, I joined a new, inexperienced president determined to change course—and equally determined from day one to win re-election. Domestic political considerations would therefore be a factor, though I believe never a decisive one, in virtually every major national security problem we tackled. The White House staff—including Chiefs of Staff Rahm Emanuel and then Bill Daley as well as such core political advisers as Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs —would have a role in national security decision making that I had not previously experienced (but which, I’m sure, had precedents).

I never confronted Obama directly over what I (as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and others) saw as his determination that the White House tightly control every aspect of national security policy and even operations. His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost.

I had no problem with the White House driving policy; the bureaucracies at the State and Defense Departments rarely come up with big new ideas, so almost any meaningful change must be driven by the president and his National Security Staff (NSS), led during my tenure under Obama by Gen. James Jones, Thomas Donilon and Denis McDonough. But I believe the major reason the protracted, frustrating Afghanistan policy review held in the fall of 2009 created so much ill will was due to the fact it was forced on an otherwise controlling White House by the theater commander’s unexpected request for a large escalation of American involvement. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request surprised the White House (and me) and provoked a debate that the White House didn’t want, especially when it became public. I think Obama and his advisers were incensed that the Department of Defense—specifically the uniformed military—had taken control of the policy process from them and threatened to run away with it.

Most of my conflicts with the Obama administration during the first two years weren’t over policy initiatives from the White House but rather the NSS’s micromanagement and operational meddling, which I routinely resisted. For an NSS staff member to call a four-star combatant commander or field commander would have been unthinkable when I worked at the White House—and probably cause for dismissal. It became routine under Obama. I directed commanders to refer such calls to my office. The controlling nature of the Obama White House, and its determination to take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the career folks in the trenches who had actually done the work, offended Secretary Clinton as much as it did me.

Stylistically, Bush and Obama had much more in common than I expected. Both were most comfortable around a coterie of close aides and friends (like most presidents) and largely shunned the Washington social scene. Both, I believe, detested Congress and resented having to deal with it, including members of their own party. They both had the worst of both worlds on the Hill: They were neither particularly liked nor feared. Nor did either work much at establishing close personal relationships with other world leaders. Both presidents, in short, seemed aloof from two constituencies important to their success.

The relationship between senior military leaders and their civilian commander in chief is often tense, and that was certainly my experience under both Bush and Obama. Bush was willing to disagree with his senior military advisers, but he never (to my knowledge) questioned their motives or mistrusted them personally. Obama was respectful of senior officers and always heard them out, but he often disagreed with them and was deeply suspicious of their actions and recommendations. Bush seemed to enjoy the company of the senior military; I think Obama considered time spent with generals and admirals an obligation.

Such difficulties within the executive branch were nothing compared with the pain of dealing with Congress. Congress is best viewed from a distance—the farther the better—because up close, it is truly ugly. I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.

I was more or less continuously outraged by the parochial self-interest of all but a very few members of Congress. Any defense facility or contract in their district or state, no matter how superfluous or wasteful, was sacrosanct. I was constantly amazed and infuriated at the hypocrisy of those who most stridently attacked the Defense Department as inefficient and wasteful but fought tooth and nail to prevent any reduction in defense activities in their home state or district.

I also bristled at what’s become of congressional hearings, where rude, insulting, belittling, bullying and all too often highly personal attacks on witnesses by members of Congress violated nearly every norm of civil behavior. Members postured and acted as judge, jury and executioner. It was as though most members were in a permanent state of outrage or suffered from some sort of mental duress that warranted confinement or at least treatment for anger management.

I continue to worry about the incessant scorched-earth battling between Congress and the president (which I saw under both Bush and Obama) but even more about the weakening of the moderate center in Congress. Today, moderation is equated with lacking principles and compromise with “selling out.” Our political system has rarely been so polarized and unable to execute even the basic functions of government.

I found all of this dysfunction particularly troubling because of the enormity of the duties I shouldered. Until becoming secretary of defense, my exposure to war and those who fought it had come from antiseptic offices at the White House and CIA. Serving as secretary of defense made the abstract real, the antiseptic bloody and horrible. I saw up close the cost in lives ruined and lives lost.

Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents.

Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort. On the left, we hear about the “responsibility to protect” civilians to justify military intervention in Libya, Syria, Sudan and elsewhere. On the right, the failure to strike Syria or Iran is deemed an abdication of U.S. leadership. And so the rest of the world sees the U.S. as a militaristic country quick to launch planes, cruise missiles and drones deep into sovereign countries or ungoverned spaces. There are limits to what even the strongest and greatest nation on Earth can do—and not every outrage, act of aggression, oppression or crisis should elicit a U.S. military response.

This is particularly worth remembering as technology changes the face of war. A button is pushed in Nevada, and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Mosul. A bomb destroys the targeted house on the right and leaves the one on the left intact. For too many people—including defense “experts,” members of Congress, executive branch officials and ordinary citizens—war has become a kind of videogame or action movie: bloodless, painless and odorless. But my years at the Pentagon left me even more skeptical of systems analysis, computer models, game theories or doctrines that suggest that war is anything other than tragic, inefficient and uncertain.

The people who understand this best are our men and women in uniform. I will always have a special place in my heart for all who served on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan—most in their 20s, some in their teens. While I was sitting in a hotel restaurant before my confirmation hearings, the mother of two soldiers then in Iraq came up to me and, weeping, said, “For God’s sake, bring them back alive.” I never forgot that—not for one moment.

On each visit to the war zones, as I would go to joint security stations in Baghdad or forward operating bases and combat outposts in Afghanistan, I knew I wasn’t being exposed to the true grim reality of our troops’ lives. And I could only contrast their selfless service and sacrifice with so many self-serving elected and nonelected officials back home.

I came to believe that no one who had actually been in combat could walk away without scars, without some measure of post-traumatic stress. And while those I visited in the hospitals put on a brave front, in my mind’s eye, I could see them lying awake, alone, in the hours before dawn, confronting their pain, broken dreams and shattered lives. I would wake in the night, think back to a wounded soldier or Marine I had seen at Landstuhl, Bethesda or Walter Reed, and in my imagination, I would put myself in his hospital room, and I would hold him to my chest to comfort him. At home, in the night, I silently wept for him. So when a young soldier in Afghanistan asked me once what kept me awake at night, I answered honestly: He did.

—Dr. Gates was the 22nd secretary of defense. This essay is adapted from his latest book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” to be published next Tuesday by Knopf.



Huge Solar Flare Delays Private Rocket Launch to Space Station

by Tariq Malik, Managing Editor | January 08, 2014 08:10am ET


WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A huge solar unleashed by the sun has delayed plans to launch a private cargo ship to the International Space Station today (Jan. 8) due to worry over space weather radiation.

The first major solar flare of 2014 erupted from a massive sunspot seven times the size of Earth on Tuesday (Jan. 7) after a series of mid-level sun storms in recent days. The event occurred as the commercial spaceflight company Orbital Sciences was preparing to launch a landmark cargo delivery flight to the space station today with its Antares rocket and robotic Cygnus spacecraft.

“We are concerned about mission failure,” Orbital’s Chief Technical Officer Antonio Elias told reporters in a teleconference today. The company is evaluating the extent of Tuesday’s flare and the potential for solar radiation to interfere with critical systems like gyroscopes and avionics, he added.

Elias said Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft is designed to withstand space weather events like Tuesday’s flare during its weeks-long mission at the space station, so the vehicle isn’t vulnerable to the same radiation concerns as its Antares rocket.


Space weather delay

Orbital Sciences has been monitoring space weather since Sunday, when the company began tracking an uptick in solar activity. But it was Tuesday’s huge solar flare, which registered as an X1.2-class sun storm — the strongest class of solar flares the sun experiences — that led to today’s delay. It occurred just hours after an intense M7.2-class solar flare earlier in the day.


The Antares rocket was awaiting a 1:32 p.m. EST (1832 GMT) launch today from a pad here at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility when the decision to delay was made. It is the latest delay for the mission, which was initially delayed from a mid-December liftoff when astronauts on the station had to perform emergency cooling system repairs, and later postponed a day due to the sub-freezing temperatures affecting the United States this week. [Photos of Orbital’s Antares Rocket at the Launch Pad]

“Sometimes, you just don’t get off the ground when you want to,” Orbital Sciences executive vice president Frank Culbertson told reporters in a teleconference today. “This isn’t a failure in the system, it is a delay. But all we’re really delaying is the success that’s going to come when we execute this mission.”

Culbertson said Orbital Sciences officials hope to make a decision whether to attempt another launch try on Thursday by 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT) today. A launch attempt on Thursday would occur at 1:07 p.m. EST (1807 GMT), should Orbital decide to pursue it.

The solar flare currently poses no threat to the six astronauts and cosmonauts currently living on the International Space Station. The crew will not have to any measures to shelter themselves from the solar flare’s space radiation, NASA spokesman Rob Navias, of the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, told in an email.


Giant sunspot spouts solar flare

By coincidence, the Jan. 7 solar flare occurred at 1:32 p.m. EST — exactly 24 hours before today’s launch target times— from an active sunspot region known as AR1944. The sunspot facing Earth from the middle of the sun, as viewed from Earth, and is “one of the largest sunspots seen in the last 10 years,” NASA officials said in a statement Tuesday.

“The solar flux activity that occurred late yesterday afternoon resulted in an increasing level of radiation beyond what the Antares engineering team monitored earlier in the day,” NASA officials added in a separate statement today. “Overnight, Orbital’s engineers conducted an analysis of the radiation levels, but the Antares team decided to postpone the launch to further examine the potential effects of the space radiation on the rocket’s avionics. The Cygnus spacecraft would not be affected by the solar event.”

The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, began in 2008.

Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft had a 95-percent chance of good weather for today’s planned launch. That weather forecast deteriorates as the week progresses, with cloudy conditions dropping it to 75-percent chance of favorable weather on Thursday, and a 30-percent chance of good launch conditions on Friday. Rain is expected on Saturday, Culbertson said.


Orbital Sciences officials said they are closely monitoring the fallout from Tuesday’s solar flares.

“Orbital will continue to monitor the levels of space radiation with a goal of setting a new launch date as soon as possible,” company officials said.

Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to launch 40,000 lbs. of supplies to the International Space Station by 2016 using its Antares rockets and disposable Cygnus spacecraft. The first Antares and Cygnus test flights launched in 2013, with today’s launch expected to mark the first official cargo delivery for Orbital.


For the delivery flight, called Orb-1, the Cygnus spacecraft is carrying 2,780 pounds (1,260 kilograms) of gear for the International Space Station. That haul includes a space ant colony, 33 small cubesat satellites and 23 other experiments designed students from across the country.

The Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences is one of two companies with a NASA contract to delivery supplies to the space station. The other company is SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., which has launched two of 12 planned delivery missions for NASA under a $1.6 billion agreement. The third mission in SpaceX’s schedule is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 22.


Pentagon on watch for disruptive technology worldwide

Jan. 8, 2014 – 08:28PM |


WASHINGTON — Concerned about the surge of potentially disruptive technological advances in China and around the world, the Pentagon is creating a program to track and analyze patents and other signs of emerging technologies, military records and interviews show.

China has long been considered a threat to U.S. manufacturing because of its low wages and huge population, but now the nation is seeing a boom in innovation as well. Patents for new technologies in China have taken off, and a graph showing the rise in new patents looks like a “hockey stick,” said Patrick Thomas, a principal and director of analytics for 1790 Analytics.

In September 2012, China’s defense ministry reported that military-related patents there had increased by 35 percent a year over the previous decade. U.S. national security policy has shifted in recent years to a greater focus on Asia, and Pentagon policymakers have developed plans to counter China’s growing influence.

“The rapid rise of China … is focusing minds on the geopolitical power balance again and leading to a small revival of military-centered long-term strategic studies,” said a 2013 analysis of government “foresight” programs around the world by the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

The Pentagon has launched a new project called Technology Watch/Horizon Scanning, which aims to track developing technologies around the world that could either aid U.S. military efforts or seriously disrupt existing military plans. Thomas’ company — based in Haddonfield, N.J. — is one of the chief contractors for the project.

Brian Beachkofski, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Technical Intelligence, said the program is meant to keep the military ahead of technological developments 10 to 20 years ahead of time. “When you look at particular data,” he said, “it’s a long time before it becomes reality.”

That program, which follows similar efforts in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, focuses on two elements that can dictate future policies:

■ Technology Watch tracks key technology buzzwords to see where they are being used, Beachkofski said. “We look at them and find out what is being developed and whether there could be any future uses for the Department of Defense.”

■ Horizon Scanning was designed to look for ‘the emergence of new scientific concepts and technology applications with disruptive potential,” according to a 2011 Pentagon document outlining the program. A 2008 report for the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense defined horizon scanning as the ability to “identify technologies which have not previously been considered relevant, and to propose the possible value of developments that are being made for non-defense applications.”


Beachkofski said the program, which is still in development, can mine university and other research journals, as well as patent filings, to track new technologies “on the university level or in early stages of research and development at private companies.”

Analysts can then look deeper into each category to determine if there are so-called “emerging clusters” of technological development that need further examination, Thomas said. For example, researchers could find that China is developing new types of technology that could be used in missiles or other weapons that could affect U.S. policies.

New military technologies, expensive or otherwise, can force armed forces to radically shift their priorities.

The rise of the improvised explosive device in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed how a cheap weapon can eradicate the U.S. technological advantage on the battlefield. IEDs devastated the military’s flat-bottomed vehicles, like Humvees, forcing the Pentagon in 2007 to start what became a $50 billion program to develop the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, featuring a hull that is blast-resistant.

Pentagon budget documents released last April said the technology watch program “will develop insight into our relative position in science and technology around the world, as well as determine potential impacts on DoD capability and future threat environments.”

“One thing of interest is if you went to track technology and found the United States was absent from (that area of science), you’d want to do something about it,” Thomas said.


Electronic warfare market to hit $15B

Jan. 8, 2014

Written by



The global electronic warfare market will reach $15.6 billion by 2020, according to a new forecast by ASDReports. This reflects a compound annual growth rate of 4.5 percent from the $12.2 billion market in 2014.

Driving the increase will be the continuing exploitation of the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the study. Market growth will continue despite cuts in defense spending in the U.S. and Britain that will result in tighter budgets through at least 2016. The market will continue to see joint ventures between competitors seeking to win major contracts.

The current trend in the electronic warfare market is for faster and more efficient systems able to quickly detect frequency-hopping signals, said ASDReports.


Appropriators fight to beat clock

January 08, 2014, 05:02 pm

By Erik Wasson

Anne Wernikoff


Lawmakers scrambled Wednesday to maintain their momentum and complete writing an omnibus spending bill by Friday.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), however, acknowledged that some sort of short stopgap measure would now be likely to avoid a Jan. 16 shutdown.

“Because of the Senate procedures, we are probably going to have to do a couple of days [continuing resolution],” Rogers said. He added that such a measure could run through Jan. 17, when Congress departs for another weeklong recess.

Yet Rogers said negotiators are clearly making progress, with eight of the 12 parts of the omnibus done.

“We probably have eight or so that are absolutely done,” he said. “We’re reducing the number of items that are in disagreement.”

That represents progress from Tuesday when Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said six out of 12 were done.

Getting the bill written by Friday would allow Congress to vote next week on the $1 trillion measure containing hundreds of pages of funding details.

Sources said the Labor, Health and Education measure which involves ObamaCare and union-related provisions remained a problem on Wednesday. ObamaCare funding issues shut down the government for 16 days in October.

In a positive sign for the omnibus, the controversial Interior and Environment portion appeared to be close to final.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), who chairs the subcommittee in charge of Environmental Protection Agency funding said the level of EPA funding had been finalized.

Calvert also signaled that major policy riders were not going to be in the bill.

“There is nothing in there that’s a showstopper,” he said. He added that he believes the bill will be done by Friday.


Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member on the subcommittee, said he too thinks Calvert and Rogers will not push major EPA changes on the bill.

“I think Ken understands that an appropriations bill is not the appropriate place to be writing environmental and energy legislation,” Moran said.

The Defense portion of the bill was already in legislative language form, said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who chairs the Defense Appropriations subcommittee. He said he was being lobbied by other members for changes however.

“Things are never closed. I have quite a lot of things given to me in the last hour by people who think things are always open,” he said coming off the House floor during a vote.

He signaled that big program changes for contractors such as for the F-35 fighter or the Navy’s littoral combat ship would not be coming.

“We have a healthy respect for all the aforementioned items,” he said.

On cuts to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter he said, “it is important to have an aircraft that meets the needs of all of our services.”

Read more:


Cyberthreats for 2014: Not just the usual suspects

By William Jackson

Dec 11, 2013


January ushers in a new year, but the cybersecurity threats that come with it will for the most part look an awful lot like the ones agency IT managers already know. They will continue to morph, evolve and multiply to keep admins on their toes.

The research and analysis company Ovum predicts that 2014 will bring “more of the same,” just at higher volumes. The greater complexity of software, hardware and systems are putting a premium on automation — and on the need to protect data rather than systems, which are too dynamic to quickly defend. All of this puts a focus on the need for government to reform IT acquisition to enable a more flexible response to rapidly evolving threats.

The expanding need for threat intelligence and analytics to defend complex systems makes security as a service an increasingly attractive option. The recent award of a $6 billion blanket purchase agreement to 17 companies for security monitoring tools under the Homeland Security Department’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program is a step in this direction. But it has been hampered by uncertainty in the federal budget. “It’s critical that the program continue to move forward in a constructive way, and without budget interference,” said FireMon president Jody Brazil.

Here are some of the trends, issues and things to consider in in the coming year, most of them familiar, but with one wild card.

One thing that most observers agree on is that the convergence of mobile and cloud computing will present a new and unintended hybrid: bring your own cloud. End users with mobile devices will knowingly or unknowingly use consumer cloud services to store and access work data, moving it outside of the enterprise’s immediate control.

Jerry Irvine, CIO of Prescient Solutions, calls the convergence, “an issue that is bringing in security risks.” As consumer cloud services move data out of the enterprise, mobile devices also provide new routes into the enterprise.

This is another example of the disappearing perimeter, says Paul Christman, Dell Software’s VP for the public sector. He calls the convergence a profound shift that will require greater attention to the security and management of mobile devices in the workplace, whether government-issued or BYOD.

“It represents another vector by which valuable government data can be lost or stolen,” said Paul Royal, associate director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Information Security Center.

That vector also puts an emphasis on managing devices and protecting the data itself, no matter where it is stored. “The cost of doing this is coming down,” Christman said, but the technology is not fully mature. Manoj Nair, general manager of RSA, said open and extensible security features for mobile devices are needed and called for Apple to open its iPhone 5s biometric to developers.

To make the most of information in enhancing situational awareness it should be shared, but this proves surprisingly difficult. It is not so much a technical problem as a people problem, and a lot of people have been disturbed by recent revelations about National Security Agency’s freewheeling digital information gathering.

Bit9 CSO Nick Levay says that cooperation between the public and private sectors was strong in 2013 but that reports that NSA has been tapping fiber-optic cables as well as gathering data directly from carriers could sour relationships. Major online players have been embarrassed by news that makes it seem that they either are in bed with the NSA or are not doing enough to protect their networks and data.

Customers will demand greater transparency from their technology providers, says former White House advisor Howard Schmidt, now executive director of SAFECode. “Companies, individuals and governments reeling from the surveillance disclosures will increase and expand their use of encrypted products, keys and data flows to try to get a better handle on controlling their information.”

This is good security, but protection may well take a back seat to cooperation in the coming year.


Security on the Internet of Things: An afterthought?

The Internet of Things is more than a buzzword; it is becoming a reality.

“More and more devices will be connected to the Internet,” said Georgia Tech’s Paul Royal. Increasingly, they will be communicating with each other without going through their users or administrators. “We need to have a thoughtful understanding of what the security implications might be.”

As these interacting systems become more diverse and complex, the focus of security will have to shift from the systems to the data they house and use. Royal said he is afraid that security will be a secondary consideration in the process of wiring (and unwiring) the world, and will not be taken seriously until there is a crisis. “Same old, same old, I’m afraid.”


Critical infrastructure: An increasingly visible target

Threats to the critical infrastructure are closely related to the Internet of Things. The nation’s power grids, financial systems and utilities all are becoming networked, often linking control system software that was never intended to be exposed to the Internet. Research on vulnerabilities will lead to increased exploits of this critical infrastructure, says Schmidt.


Although malicious exploits so far have been few, breaches and compromises in critical systems have been reported. The financial services sector, which is heavily regulated, has the most mature security posture, but “all areas need to awaken to the problem,” says Bit9’s Levay.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is developing a cybersecurity framework for critical infrastructure under a presidential policy directive, but compliance will be voluntary. Control system software and device firmware need the same level of scrutiny as higher level software, Schmidt says.


The wild card: Wearable computers

The idea of wearable computers has been around for a while, but it is now moving from fiction to production. Samsung has its Galaxy Gear smart watch and Microsoft is prototyping its own smart watch, while Google is beta testing its Google Glass.

The concept is not yet fully baked, said Prescient’s Irvine. But half-baked or not, it looks as if it is here. “I am a new owner of Google Glass,” he said.

So far, attention to security in these devices appears to be minimal and the introduction of wearable technology can make the mere presence of an individual a cybersecurity risk. “This is not a risk that can be addressed by automation,” Irvine said. “It requires policy.”

RSA’s Nair predicts that “2014 looks to be the year when the wearable trend goes mainstream for government,” and other markets. “Vendors should be looking to build security into their wearable devices and applications now — and not view security as an afterthought. Otherwise, a trend for 2015 could be the stories of personal information being leaked from these devices.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The U.S. economy’s still not a pretty picture, but Americans seem to be going with the flow. The government at week’s end reported the weakest job growth in years in December. The unemployment rate fell, but that was largely due to Americans leaving the work force.

Seventy-two percent (72%) say they know someone who is out of work and looking for a job, the highest finding in a year. Forty-one percent (41%) know someone who, out of frustration with the difficult job market, has given up the search for work.

Twenty-seven percent (27%) think unemployment will be lower in a year’s time, but just as many (27%) think it will be higher by then.

Still, the Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence rose four points in December to its highest level since June. Slightly more workers continue to say their companies are hiring rather than laying off.

Forty-six percent (46%) of American favor a proposal now before Congress that would continue combined state and federal unemployment benefits for up to 73 weeks for those unable to find a job. Thirty-nine percent (39%) oppose this proposal now being pushed by Senate Democrats and President Obama.

Fifteen percent (15%) favor extending unemployment benefits indefinitely, but more than twice as many (34%) say the federal government should do nothing at all for the long-term unemployed.

Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters continue to feel the president is too hostile toward small business, consistent with regular findings for the past year. Twenty-nine percent (29%) think he is too hostile toward big business.

Case in point: Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly pushing hard for a new international global warming treaty, prompting speculation that this will further delay a government decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline from western Canada to Texas. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters favor building the Keystone pipeline, and 56% think it will be good for the economy. These views have changed little in over two years.

Consumer and investor confidence remain higher that they were from 2008 to 2012. At the same time, only 29% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction.

Just eight percent (8%) of voters think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Sixty-nine percent (69%) say no matter how bad things are, Congress can always find a way to make them worse, the highest level of cynicism in surveys for over three years.

Democrats have taken the lead over Republicans – 40% to 38% – on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the first time since late November.

If Democrats win control of Congress in this November’s elections, most voters (55%) believe there will be a noticeable change in the lives of most Americans. Slightly fewer voters (49%) think there will be a noticeable change in the lives of most Americans if Republicans win control of Congress.

One prominent Republican who reportedly has his eye on winning the White House ran into heavy traffic this past week. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Likely New Jersey Voters believe it’s likely Governor Chris Christie was aware that traffic lanes onto the George Washington Bridge were being closed as retaliation for the mayor of Fort Lee’s refusal to support the governor’s reelection. Fifty-six percent (56%) believe Christie should resign if it is proven that he approved of the retaliation. The lane closures caused four days of major traffic jams heading into New York City, and the incident has become a major national political story because of Christie’s potential presidential candidacy.

Al Qaeda-led terrorists have been making major gains in Iraq in recent days, recapturing places that U.S. troops liberated during the war there, but just 25% of voters favor U.S. military action against Iraq or Syria if either of those countries is taken over by al Qaeda or related terrorists.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have increased the threat of radical Islamic terrorism within the United States.

The president is counting on upcoming negotiations to bring the Syrian civil war to a peaceful conclusion despite increasing al Qaeda involvement there. Obama’s daily job approval ratings have returned to levels seen for much of his presidency after falling to unprecedented lows in the weeks following the disastrous rollout of the new health care law.

Voters continue to give their own health care high marks but remain critical of the overall health care system in this country. For the first time in nearly a year, however, fewer than 50% expect the health care system to get worse under Obamacare.

Coming off his reelection, Obama signaled that immigration reform and stricter gun control were two of his top agenda items, but none of his initiatives in these areas made it into law. Voters remain critical of the president’s handling of both issues.

In other surveys last week:

Most voters favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes but are a lot less enthusiastic about open recreational use.

— While most voters identify themselves as pro-choice, support for a mandatory waiting period prior to an abortion is at its highest level in over two years at 49%.

— The United States fought two major wars in the 20th Century and engaged in a lengthy Cold War for several decades. But most Americans now view U.S. relations with two of those former enemies, Germany and Japan, very positively, while they remain skeptical of Vietnam, Russia and China.

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of voters favor building more nuclear power plants in the United States. Thirty-seven (37%) are opposed.

— Just 18% of Americans believe it is the government’s job to tell people what kind of light bulb to use.

— That helps explain why 60% still oppose the ban on traditional bulbs that took effect on January 1.


Breach goes from bad to worse for Target and its customers

Company now says data on up to 110 million customers exposed — up from 40 million — and that hackers accessed more data than previously thought

Jaikumar Vijayan

January 10, 2014 (Computerworld)


Target’s acknowledgement Friday that personal data of 110 million people, not 40 million as previously thought, may have been exposed to hackers in a recent data breach raises new questions about the incident and how it could affect victims.

Target today said that an ongoing investigation of the data breach has revealed that “guest information” such as names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of customers may have been accessed by the same thieves who hacked into its systems last month.

Much of the exposed data is “partial in nature,” the company said in a statement this morning. In cases where a customer email address is available, Target said it would attempt to contact affected individuals.

“We know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken and we are sorry they are having to endure this,” said Target chairman and CEO Gregg Steinhafel in the statement.

Target in mid-December revealed that hackers had broke into its systems between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 and accessed data on up to 40 million debit and credit cards. At the time, Target said that hackers gained access to cardholder names, credit or debit card numbers, card expiration dates and CVV security codes.

Target now says that its subsequent investigation found that data from 30 million more people was exposed. “This theft is not a new breach, but was uncovered as part of the ongoing investigation,” the company said.

The update shows that the breach exposed data on about one third of the adult population of the United States, noted James Huguelet, and independent security consultant who specializes in retail security. “It now implies that consumers who shopped at Target outside of the approximately one month the breach was active have now become potentially affected by this breach,” he said. Target’s statement suggests that in some cases, only an individual’s e-mail address might have been compromised, while in others, the mailing address might have been exposed. Huguelet said the “partial” exposure implies “that multiple systems containing different types of information were compromised [though] that’s purely speculative at this point.”

Hackers using the stolen information can now target victims with highly sophisticated spear-phishing attacks Huguelet warned.

“I can see a criminal being able to create a very effective attack with each e-mail sent having been customized to include the target’s name, address, and phone number. This could very well lead to a massive wave of identity theft across the United States,” he said.

Huguelet suggested that all Target customers accept the retailer’s offer to provide free credit monitoring, though he added, “I’m surprised that Target is not making this available immediately.” Attacks could already be underway and the credit monitoring may come too late for some victims, he said.

Steve Ward, a spokesman for security vendor Invincea, said Target customers should already be on high alert for phishing attacks. The stolen data allows attackers to craft very convincing emails in attempts to pry loose sensitive data.

“Seventy million active email addresses is a treasure trove for cyber criminal. They now have emails they know are active and linked to Target,” he said. Where possible, he suggests that individuals with email addresses linked to Target deactivate them.

If the email address is too difficult to change, individuals have to be continually on the lookout for phishing attempts, not just for days, but for months and perhaps years as well, he said.

Credit and debit card information stolen from Target is already being used in new ways. Compromised cards are being marketed online with information on the state, city and ZIP code of the Target store where they were used.

Fraud experts suggest that the location information will likely allow buyers of the stolen data to use spoofed versions of cards issued to people in their immediate vicinity.

Local use of a card makes it more likely that crooks can use it for a longer period of time because fraud detection tools used by banks and other card issuers use locations and frequency of card use to determine potential criminal activity. Banks often decline transactions or require additional authentication only for card transactions that originate from new or unexpected locations.

The breach could be very costly for Target, especially considering the findings of its investigation. TJX and Heartland were hit with similar massive attacks have so far paid well over $100 million in breach-related costs, many in relation to outside investigations.


In the statement today, Target said it expects fourth-quarter sales and earnings to be substantially lower than the results expected before the breach was discovered.

The adjusted earning per share for the fourth quarter is now $1.20 to $1.30 compared to prior guidance of $1.50 to $1.60. Sales during the quarter are now expected to be nearly 2.5% lower than previously expected.

December 21 2013


Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Happy Holidays



Google Buys Pentagon’s Robotics Lab



Big DogGoogle has acquired the robotics company that the Pentagon typically leans on to develop next generation robots doing everything from carrying troops’ gear to searching for IEDs.

Google purchased Boston Dynamics as part of its larger strategy to invest in robotics development. The engineer in charge of developing Android for Google, Andy Rubin, will lead this initiative.

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — better known as DARPA — recognized the cutting edge work being done at Boston Dynamics early and has awarded multiple development contracts to the company. Boston Dynamics is working on high profile projects for the military such as the Big Dog, which is now officially named the Legged Squad Support System (LS3) by the Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is working with DARPA and Boston Dynamics engineers to develop the Big Dog to lighten the load for Marines and soldiers. The Big Dog is designed to traverse technical terrain while carrying 400 pounds of gear.

Google officials have said the company will still honor the remaining contracts that Boston Dynamics has with DARPA, but it seems evident that DARPA may have to find a new laboratory to develop their next robotics projects.

Of course, Google’s acquisition could be seen as a boon for military robotics based on the deep pockets Google has and the type of investments into development they plan to make.

Many of the robots that DARPA wants to develop are not specific military robots. The Big Dog is an example. If Google can develop legged robots quicker with more funding, then Marines and soldiers benefit faster potentially.

Notably, Google doesn’t have to worry about sequestration or Congressional budgets. It can use it’s large capital reserve to sink in the money necessary to advance robotics at a rapid pace.


Read more:


Pentagon Reorganizes Intel Office, Adds Cyber Post


The Pentagon’s top intelligence policy office is making staff changes to address new threats and meet expected budget cuts, including creating a director-level position to oversee cybersecurity and other “special programs.”

Marcel Lettre, the Pentagon’s newly confirmed principal deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, on Monday outlined a plan to cut the intelligence budget and staff. There are just under 200 people working for OUDI. Lettre said there will be cuts to both military and civilian personnel, including contractors, but didn’t say how many.

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered his staff to reduce their budgets by 20 percent over the next five years. In restructuring, the intel office run by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers will add a new “director for defense intelligence for technical collection & special programs” that will oversee cybersecurity and other programs – a move that illustrates the Pentagon’s attempt to protect important programs even in this new era of fiscal restraint.

Lettre told reporters that with the war in Iraq over and the war in Afghanistan winding down the office is facing “a different set of strategic challenges, many of which are enduring.”

OUDI’s plan to trim 20 percent from its budget includes some “modest structural changes,” including the consolidation of some counterintelligence and security experts to help combat insider threats, such as the shooting that happened at the Washington Navy Yard earlier this year.

The Pentagon’s ISR Taskforce, which had its hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan, will now be merged under the DDI’s Warfighter Support directorate.

Lettre said the changes are part of a move from a “heavy acquisition focus” to an “operational focus” and the Defense Department becomes “leaner and more agile.”


Meet Deborah Lee James, Confirmed as Air Force Secretary



WASHINGTON – Deborah Lee James will be installed as the new Air Force Secretary next Tuesday, following a Senate confirmation vote Friday.

Although Ms. James was not a controversial nominee — winning approval on a 79-6 vote Friday — her confirmation has been held up for months.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) had initially blocked a vote over questions about the Air Force’s plans to retire the A-10, an attack plane used to support troops in combat.

Ms. Ayotte released her hold in October, but Ms. James nomination became entangled in Senate politics as even noncontroversial nominees were held up while Democrats and Republicans debated Senate rules on filibustering presidential nominees.

Ms. James will be the second woman to lead the Air Force. She currently is a president at Science Applications International Corp., a major defense contractor.

She has previously served as the chief operating officer at Business Executives for National Security, a Washington based organization of business leaders who advocate on defense and security issues.

Air Force Undersecretary Eric Fanning had been serving as acting secretary for the last six months after Michael Donley stepped down from the job.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Ms. James Friday to congratulate her. Air Force leaders praised her at a news conference.

“There is much to celebrate in the Air Force today,” Mr. Fanning said of Ms. James’s confirmation, adding she and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welch “will be the strongest team I have seen and great advocates of the Air Force and airpower.”


Pentagon Seeks Low Cost in High Heavens

Push is on to develop new spaceship to put satellites into orbit


By Mark Thompson @MarkThompson_DC

Dec. 12, 2013





Sky’s The Limit: The Pentagon is wide open to what its new spaceplane might look like.

Getting to space costs too much.

That’s why the Defense Department wants a radical new airship designed to cut the cost of lobbing a satellite into orbit by 90%.

And the Pentagon is going very Star Wars: it doesn’t care whether it’s manned, winged, or even how it’s powered: “New or novel propellants are acceptable providing they can support the DARPA objective of 10 flights in 10 days,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said Thursday, “and the proposer can justify any risk associated with developing such propellants and rocket engines.”

The Experimental Spaceplane—XS-1 to insiders—would be reusable, although an upper stage might be used only once. “This reusable hypersonic X-Plane will demonstrate the potential for low-cost and high operations tempo military flight systems that can operate in the strategic threat environments of the 21st century, both for next-generation space launch and global reach aircraft,” the government says.

Orville and Wilbur—and Wernher, as well—call your office!

Bottom line: dangers to U.S. space operations are mounting, and the U.S. military doesn’t want to be caught with its rockets down. “Current space launch vehicles are very expensive, have no surge capability and must be contracted years in advance,” the Pentagon says. “In an era of declining budgets and proliferating foreign threats to U.S. air and space assets the need for responsive, affordable access to space is increasingly critical.”

Real bottom line: the Pentagon wants to be able to put a two-ton satellite into orbit 100 miles above the Earth for less than $5 million—”one-tenth the cost of today’s launch systems.” It is seeking a new kind of spaceship with “aircraft-like cost, operability and reliability” that can “break the cycle of escalating space system launch and high satellite costs.”

The Government Accountability Office said in September that the U.S. government plans on spending nearly $44 billion launching rockets between 2014 and 2018. “This funding represents a significant investment on the part of the government,” the GAO said.

“It just costs too doggone much,” General William Shelton, chief of U.S. Air Force Space Command, said in July. “We have got to get to the place where we can drive down the cost of space launch.”

Spaceship designers are encouraged to submit their ideas by Jan. 16, the initial November announcement said. The Pentagon plans on awarding multiple contracts for the best designs, and then review their prospects to see if any one warrants an additional investment of up to $140 million. First flight could take place in 2018, assuming someone comes up with a good idea, and the U.S. government can afford it. “Awards,” the cash-strapped Pentagon noted, “are subject to the availability of funds.”

Read more: Pentagon wants new and cheap super spaceship to launch its satellites |


New Cyber Framework Aimed at Small, Mid-Tier Defense Companies

January 2014

By Stew Magnuson,Mid-TierDefenseCompanies.aspx?PF=1


A National Institute of Standards and Technology framework intended to help companies and organizations bolster their cybersecurity may have a big impact for small- and mid-tier defense contractors, experts said.

The draft of the cybersecurity framework was released at the end of October, and NIST was gathering comments until Dec. 13. Its overarching goal is to set up voluntary information sharing regimes for each of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the Department of Homeland Security.

The framework is mostly directed at smaller companies and can help them implement standards and follow risk management principles and best practices, said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance. That is particularly true in the defense industrial base, where larger companies are seen as being ahead on cybersecrity.

“In general, these organizations do state-of-the-art cybersecurity. They have tremendous resources in scope and scale — among other things,” Clinton said.

However, further down in the supply chain, companies don’t have the same financial wherewithal and expertise, he noted.

The Presidential Executive Order — Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity released in February — called for NIST to create the framework. The executive order was a result of a recalcitrant Congress, which has had difficulty passing major bills such as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.

A lot can be accomplished under the framework and executive order without the need for further legislation, cybersecurity executives told National Defense.

The defense and the financial services sectors are seen as two industries that are at the forefront of cybersecurity. Concerned about reports of China-based hacking enterprises stealing vast amounts of intellectual property, the Defense Department initiated the defense industrial base cyber security and information assurance program in 2007.

It was designed to gather reports on network intrusions, scrub the data to ensure the company contributing the information remained anonymous, and then push out reports to other participants. The program, administered by the chief information office, has since expanded, and is now serving as a model for the framework.

The framework includes principles that will reach across all sectors such as risk management, said Tom Conway, director of network security firm McAfee Federal. Companies need to know what assets are most at risk, prioritize, and take action to protect them.

“That is something the DIB has been doing for a while,” he said.

Keith Rhodes, chief technology officer at QinetiQ North America, said perfect security is impossible.

“You have to take a posture of always being under attack. That is just the nature of the beast,” he said. Once a company accepts that fact, then it can move on to identifying its most critical assets and boosting security around them.

“It is about risk. Understanding your threats, the vulnerability and value of assets that may or may not be compromised,” he said.

He lauded the information-sharing regime the framework puts in place.

“We have to be able to tell others, and others have to be able to tell us, what they see, what they know, what’s happening,” Rhodes said. “Without that, you really can’t know what the threat is. You’re looking through your soda straw, but you don’t really have the broader purview.”

Clinton and the others interviewed praised the voluntary nature of the NIST framework, even though it is a result of there not being any legislation to mandate participation.

“A lot of the larger organizations are probably already doing — or are in some cases — doing more than what is in the framework. They will raise their hand,” Clinton said. “But we want those small- and mid-size firms to adopt the framework. They are perhaps the target audience.”

However, these smaller companies have to see that volunteering their time and resources is worth their while, he added.

“If you want the framework to be sustainable as a voluntary system, which is what the administration is committed to, then it has to be cost effective,” Clinton said.

“It is clearly unsustainable to expect smaller firms to be continually making uneconomic investments in security. They won’t do it. Nobody can do it,” he added.

Conway said there are potential cost savings to participating in information sharing when companies don’t have to build or buy redundant infrastructure. Plus, there is also a shortage of cybersecurity personnel. Smaller firms “can leverage somebody else’s smart person.”

There is also the question of incentives, which may assist some of these lower-tier companies in achieving their cybersecurity goals. Those may require legislation, though.


There could be accelerated depreciation for network security products, tax credits for companies that agree to put cybersensors in place, limits on liability and insurance reform, Conway said.

Rhodes said it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure these small companies have the incentives to participate in a voluntary system.

“That means there has to be a good carrot and stick, and right now, there seems to be neither,” he said.

Incentives for defense firms to strengthen their cybersecurity, especially on certain sensitive programs, can be built into contracts, Rhodes said. That is what they do after all — compete for Defense Department business. The government has to choose which parts of the standards apply to defense contracts and insert them into requests for proposals.

Those who write the RFPs should state: “Prove to all of us that you won this contract because you had the smartest approach to security based on the evaluation criteria that we put in,” Rhodes said.

That kind of “carrot” would not require additional legislation, he added.

Defense Department agencies can show they are “serious about this by putting specificity into the evaluation criteria and actually evaluating based on those criteria,” Rhodes said. “Then I have all the incentive in the world. Because that’s the business I’m in.”

Conway said, “‘Fast moving and fluid’ are usually not used to describe regulations.” A voluntary system builds in flexibility.

Prescriptive or regulatory based measures restrict progress, he said.

“Look at where the technology has gone over the past three years with all the iPads and Android equivalents,” he noted.

Since the draft framework was released, Clinton has been a vocal advocate of beta testing the information sharing system. The purpose would be to avoid a fiasco similar to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange website.

“We do what any large firm would do when launching a large product and service. We reach out directly into the target audience and conduct a systematized beta test,” he said.

All sorts of unexpected difficulties will come up, he said. “We know that because that’s what always happens.”

After the bugs are worked out, then there can be a systematized cost-benefit analysis, and some key questions can be answered for the small- and mid-sized firms that are worried about their bottom lines.

What is it going to cost a company to implement the framework? How beneficial is it? How much security do you get? A beta test with agreed upon metrics can determine what is cost effective and what isn’t, Clinton said.

The biggest threat to small businesses is uncertainty, he added.

“If you’re not sure what you’re going to get … firms tend not to make those kinds of investments,” Clinton said.

A beta test can go forward without legislation, he said. Afterwards, there needs to be an independent assessment carried out jointly by industry and government, he said.

“We don’t want somebody putting their thumb on the scale here making it seem more cost effective than it is for political purposes,” he said.


Clinton said the Department of Homeland Security, which will be charged with setting up the system, can get the ball rolling on the beta test soon after the final framework is released in February.

DHS has coordinating councils comprising government and industry members for all 16 sectors, so the organizations are already in place, he added.

It needs to be a true collaboration, with government as a partner, and not trying to manage the whole enterprise by sending out orders, Clinton said.

“We’ve got the structures in place to do this, and do it properly. It will cost a little money, but not a lot,” he added.

Rhodes agreed. “It’s a paper exercise if you don’t test,” he said.

That calls up the question of whether there will need to be costly cybersecurity centers for each of the sectors. The financial services sector and some state and local governments are already doing this. The Defense Department’s chief information office has located its DIB cyber security information sharing program in Arlington, Va., less than a mile from the Pentagon.

Conway said: “At the end of the day, I think it is beneficial to have people in the same location, eating bad pizza in the middle of the night, rolling up their sleeves to solve a problem. That is always going to be needed.”

But ultimately it should move to machine-to-machine communication, where networks can respond automatically to a threat similar to a body’s immune system. The network identifies a threat and takes action without people in the loop, he added.


Air Force to managers: Prepare for flat budgets

Dec. 15, 2013 – 06:00AM | By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON | Comments


With no long-term budget in place yet to fund defense programs through Oct. 1, the Air Force has directed all program managers to assume their top line budgets will remain flat.

For contractors, that will mean more intense competition for future programs, more scrutiny of whether costs are fair and reasonable and more dialogue up front about what the Air Force is willing to pay for certain capabilities.

Congress has yet to give final approval of a bipartisan budget deal announced last week by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. The deal, which passed the House Dec. 12, would provide agencies some relief from sequester budget cuts and cap the government’s discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion this fiscal year.

The deal would restore about $22.5 billion to the Defense Department’s 2014 budget and $9 billion in 2015. But “tough decisions will still be necessary going forward in order to achieve the right balance in military capacity, capabilities and readiness,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week about the deal.

If budgets were to increase, “we’re going to restore some readiness into the services, that means the investments will probably stay flat,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, the military deputy in the office of the secretary of the Air Force for acquisition. “If there is a budget deal reached, we’re probably not going to see as much as you think,” Davis said at an AFCEA Air Force IT Day in Virginia last week.

“We’ve asked all our program managers to tell us what that flat line means and tell us how you execute to that,” he said, adding that, “there are no longer budgets we have anywhere within our programs that do not have some level of sequestration applied to them.”

That means the Air Force will have to curb its requirements and appetite for capabilities that cannot be met with mature technologies and be very judicious about the technological capabilities it can afford, Davis said.

The Air Force has also been asked to take risks, the Pentagon euphemism for cutting, in systems that have limited, single-use missions or are more suited for an area where forces are not involved in contested operations, Davis said. Major programs, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Space Based Infrared System, will more or less be protected in future budgets. The Air Force is also working to protect investments in cybersecurity, IT networks and areas that provide healthy returns.

Davis said the Air Force traditionally loses about $600 million a year because programs may have been canceled or delayed and, subsequently, funding expired. Last year, the Air Force lost about $200 million because of poor execution.

One area in particular the service is clamping down on is what it spends on knowledge-based services. “What do we do with all these people, not only on the government side but on the industry side?” Davis said. “You need them around through the next program. You need some of the expertise that’s there.”


Congress Limits Russian Sat Nav Monitor Stations in U.S.

By Bob Brewin

December 17, 2013

Russia may not install satellite-monitoring ground stations in the United States unless construction, operation, and maintenance of those stations is managed by U.S. citizens, according to language in the 2014 Defense Authorization Act passed by the House last week and up for a Senate vote this week.

Russia in 2012 requested permission to install those stations to monitor the performance of its Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS; the State Department still has that request under consideration.

Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who helped author the GLONASS monitor station language, said last month he was concerned. “These ground monitor stations could be used to gather intelligence,” he said. “Even more troubling, these stations could actually improve the accuracy of foreign missiles targeted at the United States.”

The bill also mandates that the U.S. approve all gear installed in those stations, and “appropriate actions are taken to ensure that any such ground monitoring stations do not pose a cyber-espionage or other threat, including intelligence or counterintelligence, to the national security of the United States.”

Any data transmitted from those stations must be unencrypted, the bill said.



Keystone XL southern leg’s oil shipments to begin in January

Posted on December 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm

by Zain Shauk


HOUSTON — TransCanada expects to begin shipping oil on the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline on Jan. 22, the company said Tuesday.

The notices went out late Monday, TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said in an email.

“This is another important milestone for TransCanada, our shippers and the refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast who have been waiting for this product to arrive,” Howard said. “Providing this notice gives our customers time to ensure that they have the appropriate volumes of oil to move into our system when the pipeline is ready to go into full commercial operation.”

The Canadian pipeline owner currently is filling the new system with 3 million barrels of oil. Once it begins operation, the pipeline and associated storage units and pumping stations will be able to move up to 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. From there, it will be able to move through lines to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Keystone XL director: Mandate on Obama delayed pipeline

The southern leg of Keystone XL was built despite a regulatory hold up over the northern leg of the pipeline, which would extend into Alberta, Canada. That portion of Keystone XL, which would move crude from oil sands fields toward Gulf Coast refineries, requires presidential approval since it crosses an international border.

President Obama has once rejected a permit application for the northern leg of the pipeline because an environmental review of the project was not yet complete. A new review is nearing completion and will again present the project to the Obama administration for approval.


Congress Directs the Pentagon to Appoint a Cyber Czar

By Bob Brewin

December 17, 2013

In the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act passed by House lawmakers last week, Congress required the Defense Department appoint a high level Principal Cyber Advisor with a broad oversight portfolio that includes offensive and defensive cyber missions, resources, personnel, acquisition and technology. A Senate vote on the bill is expected this week.

The new cyber advisor will have “overall supervision” of all Defense cyber operations and will oversee a team that will integrate the cyber expertise of the four services, combatant commands and Defense agencies. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is to select the new cyber advisor from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced its intention to add a new high-level cyber post, Defense One reported yesterday. Nextgov and Defense One are both Atlantic Media publications.

Congress also directed the Pentagon to conduct a broad analysis of its cyber operations to include manpower requirements, education and training, the potential for offering bonuses for cyber personnel and the use of “virtual deployments” to support operations.

The mission analysis also should assess cyber forces’ current and future equipping needs as well as the department’s dependence on industry partners, foreign allies and other outside entities to perform cyber operations.

The bill calls for the services, in conjunction with Cyber Command, to determine whether cyber missions could be performed by National Guard and Reserve units and personnel, including domestic cyber missions.




UDRI sensors director sees soaring UAS possibilities

by Press • 18 December 2013

Tristan Navera Staff Reporter-Dayton Business Journal


A Federal Aviation Administration decision could bring unmanned aerial systems jobs and research to Dayton in coming years, but the University of Dayton Research Institute has been ahead of the curve.

Larrell Walters, head of UDRI sensors systems division and director of IDCast, has overseen an organization that is already hard at work developing sensor systems and technology for the emerging UAS industry, and he says the developments coming out of UDRI even now show real promise. Since 2009, when it received a $3 million grant to create the center for UAV exploitation , UDRI has worked to build the sensor technology into unmanned air vehicles.


Q: What kinds of sensor technology have you been working on since then?

A: If you think of an unmanned air system without a sensor, it’s basically just a target. You really can’t do anything with an unmanned air system without a sensor. There’s two functions the sensors play. One, the ability of the aircraft to see what it’s doing and make sure it’s flying level and sees trees and things, but also to complete the mission. It’s a different set of sensors to fly — the GPS and visual systems to help the pilot see what’s going on around it — compared to complete the mission, like finding disease in crops.


It does not concentrate on designing UAVs or engines or power, but it’s all about the payload integration. The payload on a UAV would be the sensors, the things to make those sensors communicate, and to power the sensors. It might change; if I have a 20-pound battery-powered UAV, and I change from a single photo camera to a movie camera with a gimbal that can pan and zoom, then I have to have different types of controls communicated to and from the UAV. Maybe the bandwidth being sent down is a lot greater, taking video. It might also hang out of the aircraft and create more aerodynamic drag, or affect its battery power. Figuring out the combination of all of these things is what payload integration is all about.


Q: What other kinds of UAV technology do you develop?


A: There’s the idea of a UAV perching on a power line and recharging its batteries while perched on the power line, and then continuing its mission. This would allow UAVs to extend their useful time on mission by being able to find places where they can recharge through induction.

We’ve done work in the area of compression technologies, when we take video and pictures, they’re big and it’s expensive to send data and video to the ground, so there’s a need to optimize the information to be as small as possible so you can get more down the data link. We’ve worked to maximize the utility of data links, and now we’re building chambers where we’ll explore the best way to verify and validate unmanned systems. If they lose their control and communication link, it’s flying without receiving signals. We also work on algorithms, what the pictures tell you, how you find the disease in the crop field, or the bad rails or spikes on a railroad track? Being able to automate the image processing to not only create the picture but to discern what it can tell you without people sitting there at each little picture marking it up.


Q: How would the UAS test center designation change business for UDRI?

A: At UDRI, we’re externally sponsored 100 percent, so we’re always writing proposals to do work for people, engineering and research and development. If more companies come to town looking for UAS-work, they’ll find UDRI, and Wright State and Sinclair, all to be organizations the companies can use to move along faster. When I worked for Goodrich, we were looking outside of the state for this expertise, and now it’s just 20 miles down the road. As companies come to Dayton they’ll see the capabilities … we’re one of several entities that those companies will be able to benefit from.


It’s Time to Sort Fact From Fiction on Drones

by Press • 18 December 2013

Philip Dunne


For too long, the term “drone” has been used to scandalise and smear the activities of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The most commonly propagated falsehood is that UAS are robots flying around the world indiscriminately firing on, often innocent, targets. It’s time to sort the fact from the fiction.

There is no doubt that UAS save lives. Not just those of our brave troops, but the lives of civilians in Afghanistan. Providing vital intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, Commanders are able to see whether roads are safe for our troops to drive down, whether there is a massing of munitions at a particular location, and the general pattern of life in a village or area to identify any change in behaviour that may pose a threat.

Yesterday, for the first time, the Ministry of Defence opened the doors of its Remotely Piloted Air Systems control centre at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. From this base, members of XIII Squadron remotely pilot the RAF’s Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan. Although physically unmanned, the Reaper aircraft, like all the UK’s UAS assets, are remotely operated at all times by highly trained members of the Armed Forces. Their pilots are subject to the same strict rules of engagement as the crew of traditional aircraft.

Of the six types of UAS that the UK operates, only Reaper carries weapons. Reaper has flown 54,000 hours and has fired 459 precision weapons. That is just one weapon deployed for every 120 hours of flying. Clearly, this dispels the myth that drones are laws unto themselves and drop bombs indiscriminately over Afghanistan.

In fact, one of the most common myths I want to debunk is that UAS are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan. Let me be clear, the majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan are caused by insurgents, not UAS. In over 50,000 Reaper flying hours, there has only been one single operation that resulted in the deaths of civilians. In March 2011, a significant quantity of explosives was destroyed in an attack on two pick-up trucks that killed two insurgents. Sadly, the destruction of the explosives also resulted in the deaths of four Afghan civilians. These are four deaths too many and are deeply regrettable. An independent investigation concluded that the RAF crew acted in full accordance with the rules of engagement that both they and pilots of manned aircraft adhere to.

I can understand that it might be difficult to fathom how complex Reaper operations in Afghanistan can be run from Lincolnshire. Questions such as ‘surely it cannot be safe’, and ‘the distance must desensitise pilots’ naturally arise. At the extreme, critics claim that UAS are too akin to video games for pilots to recognise the seriousness of the work they are undertaking. This could not be more untrue and ignores the extensive training and personal experience of the highly skilled personnel who have been chosen for this critical role.

The pilots and specially trained members of the Armed Forces who remotely operate UAS do not face the same level of direct danger as crews of manned aircraft. This allows them a greater amount of time in the air to assess the situation and exercise their judgement in a more measured way, free from concerns about their survival.

The use of UAS decreases, not increases, the likelihood of civilian casualties. UAS can monitor areas of interest for a considerable period of time, giving crews vital intelligence to conduct detailed assessments of potential targets and the wider environment. Crews use the invaluable intelligence to minimise the risk of civilian casualties or unnecessary damage to property. There is no doubt that the reconnaissance they provide reduces the risks to ground forces and civilians.

Looking ahead, the MoD has no plans to create weapons that operate without human control. It is imperative that trained members of the Armed Forces are always involved in the command and control of UAS.

In the past, the important role that UAS play in saving the lives of civilians and Armed Forces personnel has not been explained clearly enough. I hope this has gone some way to dispel many of the commonly held myths and misunderstandings around their capability and use. The work of our UAS crews, both here and in Afghanistan deserves the recognition and support of the public.



White House review group issues intelligence reform report

By Amber Corrin

Dec 18, 2013

The White House on Dec. 18 released the recommendations of an advisory group that call for the overhaul of national intelligence and surveillance activities, including eliminating the collection of Americans’ telephone records and the database maintaining them, as well as establishing new oversight processes.


The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, created by President Barack Obama in August after National Security Agency electronic surveillance activities were leaked, issued in a 300-page report with 46 recommendations that its members say will protect national security as well as privacy and civil liberties.

“Because our adversaries operate through the use of complex communications technologies, the National Security Agency, with its impressive capabilities and talented officers, is indispensable to keeping our country and our allies safe and secure,” the panel wrote in the report’s executive summary. “At the same time, the United States is deeply committed to the protection of privacy and civil liberties — fundamental values that can be and at times have been eroded by excessive intelligence collection.”

The panel recommended that the government not be allowed to collect and store mass personal data for the purpose of future queries, and that either private providers or a private third party, not the federal government, should store any bulk meta-data the government needs, accessible only when justified. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would face restrictions on compelling third parties, such as telephone or Internet service providers, to disclose private information to the government.

The report also calls for increased transparency to promote public trust, including legislation that would make information about surveillance programs and their activities public.

The group additionally calls for the creation of a new approval process for intelligence activities and for organizational reforms. Under the recommendations, the NSA director would become a Senate-confirmed position, possibly a civilian, and would not be the dual-hatted head of U.S. Cyber Command, as is the case now, with Gen. Keith Alexander.

A new oversight board and a public interest advocate to Congress also are among the provisions, along with reforms to the security clearance process for personnel and to government data security practices.

The report’s release came the same day that the president met with the review board, and White House press officials say work has begun to determine the way forward.

“Over the next several weeks, as we bring to a close the administration’s overall review of signals intelligence, the president will work with his national security team to study the Review Group’s report, and to determine which recommendations we should implement,” a statement from the White House said. “The President will also continue consulting with Congress as reform proposals are considered in each chamber.”



Cool War Rising

With Washington and Moscow caught in a deteriorating relationship, is conflict inevitable?



Rising tensions in the relationship between the United States and Russia are beginning to cause a “Cool War” — a sort of Cold War-lite — that threatens both Washington and the entire global geopolitical system. Without a functioning relationship between Washington and Moscow, the chances of solving major challenges — from Iran to Syria, the Arctic to Afghanistan — decreases dramatically. Rather than accept the arc of a deteriorating relationship, the United States should actively seek every possible zone of cooperation we can find with Russia, despite the frustrations and setbacks.

The list of key disagreements is long: One of the more nettlesome challenges is Syria, where the United States believes in an international solution with intervention as an option and the removal of Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad. Syria represents Russia’s strongest link to the region and access to the strategically important Eastern Mediterranean, as well as a market for arms and intelligence cooperation.

Likewise, the United States and Russia are at loggerheads about NATO missile defense systems being deployed to Eastern Europe, initially to Romania and Poland to defend against Iran’s growing ballistic missile capability. Russia believes the system is actually directed against their strategic intercontinental ballistic missile systems, despite repeated U.S. assurances to the contrary.

Additionally, disagreement continues over Russia’s continuing occupation of Georgia, following a short, sharp conflict between the two nations in 2008. At the same time, there is a tense dispute over continuing sanctuary afforded to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, as well as disagreements over Moscow’s bullying of Ukraine, Serbia, and Moldova concerning their potential for integration in the Euro-Atlantic world of the EU and NATO. Finally, recent large military exercises on the part of both Russia and NATO in Eastern Europe have not been helpful in terms of US-Russian tensions.

All of this occurs against two important and challenging backdrops.

The first is the declining state of Russian society in terms of demographics (population declining swiftly over the past decade); tragically high rates of alcoholism and drug abuse (heroin as easy to get as “a snickers bar” according to Russian counternarcotics chief Victor Ivanov); and the ongoing rise of a radical Islamic insurgency within Russia’s borders (especially in the war-torn province of Dagestan).

The second, of course, is President Vladimir Putin — who clearly holds long-standing antipathy toward the United States and recently wrote in the New York Times about the arrogance of American exceptionalism. To say that he tends to bring the animus of his long career in the KGB into the U.S.-Russian dialog understates the case — at times he seems to truly despise the United States.

Taken together, there is a sense of a Cool War mentality at work. On the positive side, however, it is a bit of a mixed picture, with some existing areas of cooperation.

First, and somewhat surprisingly, is Afghanistan. Despite their own failures in Afghanistan, Russia has been generally helpful to the United States and the NATO-led coalition there — sharing intelligence, cooperating on counternarcotics, selling rugged Russian-built helicopters, and donating small arms and ammunition to the Afghan security forces.

Russia has also been a good partner in counterpiracy operations off the east coast of Africa. They have provided several warships to the international effort, shared information, and even linked up via a command-and-control network with the Western forces in place. And, as a general proposition, there has been cooperation on counterterrorism and counternarcotics.

Another area of cooperation, at least to date, has been in the Arctic, the so-called “High North.” Russia has been an active and generally positive interlocutor with the United States through the mechanism of the Arctic Council. As the largest nation in terms of footprint in the Arctic, Russia wants to find ways to enhance cooperation in scientific research, search and rescue, environmental protection, and rationale exploitation of resources. While there is always potential for conflict up north, at this point it appears to be an area of cooperation opportunity.

There has also been progress on strategic arms control with the signing of the START II agreement, and some minimal discussion of possible follow-on strategic talks designed to further reduce the level of nuclear weapons — assuming the knotty issue of missile defense in Europe can be solved.

The key is to find new zones where there can be further cooperative activity to reduce the possibility of drifting further toward a Cool War scenario. Here are several to consider:

Cultivating top-level leadership meetings: In addition to the regular contact between newly installed Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, other top-level contacts should be a priority. With a new national security advisor, United Nations ambassador, supreme allied commander for operations at NATO, and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the United States has a relatively fresh cast of characters to engage with Russian counterparts.

Exploring track II engagement: Using non-governmental diplomatic forums to engage with Russia could be very promising. The work by Sen. Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative is a good example, but there are many academic and think-tank options that could be explored. One additional idea would be to have partnered think tanks sponsor “smart power” conversations with former senior policy makers and military commanders to create tactical recommendations for joint peacekeeping and disaster-relief operations.

Establishing joint data exchange centers: This has the possibility to help unclench the locked-up discussions involving missile defense in Europe by building physical locations, manned jointly, where monitoring of sites and radar information could occur, which in turn would help build confidence.

Looking for economic cooperation: Russia is a large, hydrocarbon-based economy, among the top 10 in the world. Yet we have very little relative economic cooperation for a variety of reasons, many of them political. Exploring opportunities for joint investment, perhaps in the Arctic, might be a means of finding a new zone of cooperation. This would require easing sanctions in the United States and better rule-of-law attitudes in Russia.

Sharing intelligence and information more fully: With the Winter Olympics around the corner, there are many situations globally where it is in both U.S. and Russian interests to share what we know. Sochi could be a test bed for some of this, which already occurs in certain scenarios but not broadly.

Syria and Iran: While not fully in synch in either scenario, there is both challenge and potential opportunity in terms of supporting international norms. In Syria, the work by the international community to remove the chemical weapons is a starting point of agreement, which might be built upon in a Geneva II round. On Iran, we need Russia’s support as we hammer out an agreement that at least freezes and hopefully eventually dismantles the Iranian nuclear weapons program. These will be difficult areas, to say the least, but are worth examining for opportunities as well.

All of this will be challenging, especially for some on both sides of the U.S.-Russian relationship who favor a hard line. It would be easy, frankly, to drift from the current “Cool War” back toward the dim twilight of the long Cold War. Ivan Turgenev, the iconic Russian writer, said, “Circumstances define us; they force us onto one road or another, and then they punish us for it.” We are not forced to walk either the path of endless tension or total cooperation. The trick for both the United States and Russia is to overcome the circumstances of our disagreements to find the path to better overall relations through specific zones of cooperation — recognizing there will always be areas where we will not see things in the same way.

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Air Force on lower end of best fed jobs




The Department of the Air Force ranks 14th among the 19 largest agencies in this year’s “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” list released today.

According to the agency list – indexed by scores that measure overall performance related to employee satisfaction and commitment – the Air Force’s ranking fell by 4.30 points and from 13th place in last year’s ranking.

The Navy took 10th place this year, and the Army tied for 17th with the Department of Labor; the Office of the Secretary of Defense ranked 15th.

The Department of Homeland Security ranked lowest once again, and NASA ranked first once again, jumping 1.20 additional points from last year’s score.

The “Best Places to Work” list is generated by the Partnership for Public Service from data collected in a questionnaire given to 376,000 federal employees. The list is calculated based on responses to three questions in the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

According to the partnership, the index is weighted according to the extent to which each question predicts employees’ “intent to remain.” Agencies are also scored in categories such as effective leadership, empowerment, fairness, employee skills, pay and more. And scores are further broken down by respondents’ race, gender and age.

The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., that works to transform the way government works. This is its 10th year generating the list.

Learn more about how the Air Force scored here.



Running the Pentagon Right

How to Get the Troops What They Need

Foreign Affairs

By Ashton B. Carter



War inevitably presents unexpected challenges. From Germany’s use of mustard gas during World War I to North Vietnam’s surprisingly effective use of its air defense system during the Vietnam War, the United States has always faced unanticipated threats in combat that have required agile responses. U.S. troops on the ground continually adjust to changing enemy tactics with the capabilities they have at hand. Yet the part of the Defense Department that trains and equips those troops has rarely been as flexible.

This is a paradox that would surprise most people outside its walls: the Pentagon is ill equipped to address urgent needs that arise during wartime. The Department of Defense has a fairly good track record of making smart and deliberate long-term acquisitions, as evidenced by the substantial qualitative advantage the United States holds over any potential adversary. Although the department still struggles to contain the costs of military systems, it has come a long way in providing better buying power for the taxpayer. The Pentagon has also, by sad necessity, pioneered advances in medical technology, particularly in such areas as prosthetic limbs and the treatment of traumatic brain injuries and posttraumatic stress disorder.

But the same system that excels at anticipating future needs has proved less capable of quickly providing technology and equipment to troops on the battlefield. I have spent much of the past five years, first as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics and then as deputy secretary of defense, trying to address this shortfall. With the Iraq war over and the war in Afghanistan coming to a close, it is important to understand what prevented the Pentagon from rapidly meeting immediate demands during those wars, what enduring lessons can be learned from its efforts to become more responsive, and how to put in place the right institutions to ensure success against future threats when agility is crucial.


In Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon saw little value in making acquisitions that would be irrelevant by the time they were ready.

Introducing a new capability on the battlefield involves three main steps: deciding what is needed and selecting what to acquire from various alternatives, coming up with the money to pay for it, and fielding the capability (which includes delivering it to the troops and training them in how to use it). Over the course of the last decade, attempts to fast-track each of these steps ran up against a number of obstacles, ultimately hindering the Pentagon’s responsiveness to the needs of American forces on the ground.

At the outset of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon made two fatal miscalculations. First, it believed these wars would be over in a matter of months. Accordingly, since it normally takes years to develop new capabilities, the Pentagon saw little value in making acquisitions unique to the environments of Afghanistan and Iraq that would be irrelevant by the time they were ready. Second, the Pentagon was prepared for traditional military-versus-military conflicts — a characterization that applied only to the early stages of the Iraq war. As a result, the military was not well positioned to fight an enemy without uniforms, command centers, or traditional organizational structures. The Pentagon initially failed to see the conflicts as requiring entirely new technologies and equipment, even as it became clear that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other makeshift tactics of an insurgency were more than nuisances — they were strategic threats to U.S. objectives.

The unexpected length and nature of the wars — particularly their evolution into protracted counterinsurgencies — demanded materiel solutions that the Pentagon had not planned for. The usual process of writing “requirements,” an exhaustive process to determine what the military needs based on an analysis of new technology and future threats, would not suffice in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is because the system known inside the Pentagon as “require then acquire” demands complete information: nothing can be purchased until everything is known.

Additionally, the division of labor between the military services and the combatant commands complicated the Pentagon’s ability to fund urgent needs. The services generally focus their investments on future capability requirements, force structure, and modernization, whereas the combatant commands are charged with fighting today’s wars with current equipment using funds primarily appropriated for operations, not for equipment development or procurement. There was essentially no structure within the department to bridge the gap between immediate and longer-term requirements.

Next came delays in funding. The Pentagon usually crafts its requests for funding as far as two years in advance. It must submit detailed budgets to Congress and then wait until the money has been authorized and appropriated before getting any program off the ground. This lengthy lag time makes it difficult to pay for urgent needs. Furthermore, the Pentagon has little flexibility to finance new needs that arise outside the budget cycle. Any significant movement of funds requires securing permission from Congress, which can take months. The process can also lead to an unproductive competition for resources within the Pentagon and around the country, where those whose money is transferred make their voices heard in protest.

The difficulties do not end as soon as Congress sets aside the money. To actually purchase anything, defense officials must navigate an intricate web of laws, regulations, and policies that are geared toward the acquisition of complex weapons systems and equipment in large quantities over years. The system was designed to foster fair competition among manufacturers and to maximize the buying power of taxpayers’ dollars — but not to move quickly. Moreover, the officials responsible for acquisitions are loath to take risks, since they can be held personally accountable if something goes wrong. So when balancing cost, performance, and schedule for major acquisition projects, the last is often the least risky variable to compromise. The problem is that if an acquisition is necessary for the battlefield, every day of delay can risk the lives and safety of the troops.

Finally, in order to quickly field new capabilities, the Pentagon needed rapid contracting to transport the equipment and all the supplies and personnel necessary to sustain it. In landlocked Afghanistan, with primitive roads and few railways, this was especially challenging. The troops also had to be trained to use the new equipment in the field, since it did not exist when they were preparing for deployment.


In 2004, the Pentagon, faced with dynamic enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, finally realized that it needed a better way of doing business. That year, Paul Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense, formed the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, a collaborative body that ascertained the needs of troops on the battlefield from information provided by U.S. Central Command, which oversees both Afghanistan and Iraq, and facilitated the responses of the military services. JRAC acted as the focal point within the Department of Defense for prioritizing among different requirements, identifying solutions, and enabling the funding and fielding of new equipment.

Wolfowitz also expedited the usually slow and deliberate system for determining needs and allocating resources. He established the Joint Urgent Operational Needs process to fill gaps in the troops’ capabilities across the services that, if left unaddressed, could threaten lives and combat missions. JRAC then helped identify funds and make sure the right equipment got to the battlefield by assigning a military service or agency as a sponsor. Nonetheless, as the wars ground on, it became clear that the normal system, even with JRAC facilitating a new requirements process, was neither responding fast enough to the needs of the combatant commands nor taking advantage of impressive new technologies. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates later said, “The troops are at war, but the Pentagon is not.”

In urgent situations, the Pentagon will have to settle for an imperfect solution that nonetheless fills a gap.

One of the first emerging threats in Afghanistan and Iraq to highlight this weakness was the IED, a kind of crude homemade bomb that insurgents often placed alongside roads to target troops when they were most vulnerable. IEDs have caused more than 60 percent of U.S. combat casualties in the two wars. What makes them such a formidable weapon is that they are easy to construct and can be assembled with readily available commercial materials, such as fertilizer. They are also difficult to detect and easily disguised in the surrounding terrain, such as in trash heaps or even animal carcasses. Long before these wars, IEDs had become the weapon of choice for guerillas and terrorists from Northern Ireland to Chechnya, and their use in asymmetric warfare had been extensively studied. But the widespread availability of new technologies, such as wireless transmitters, electronic triggers, and longer-lasting batteries for detonators, rapidly increased their efficiency and potency in Afghanistan and Iraq. The sheer scope of their use in those wars caught the Pentagon off-guard and posed a grave risk to both campaigns, particularly since the American public’s tolerance for casualties was tempered by expectations of short and easy wars.

In 2006, to better protect U.S. forces against this threat, then Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, building on efforts in the army, established the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), which reported directly to him. Congress endorsed the idea and appropriated over $22 billion to combat IEDs — one of the few pockets of relatively flexible funding that legislators provided for rapid-response projects. Since then, JIEDDO has saved lives with such solutions as sensors that detect IEDs in the ground and electronic jammers that prevent their detonation. The organization has also covered the cost of critical counter-IED training for service members and, what is perhaps most valuable, funded the analysis of the enemy networks responsible for IED attacks, allowing U.S. forces to go on the offensive against what previously seemed a faceless threat.

JIEDDO helped double the number of counter-IED systems fielded by the Pentagon and cut in half the average amount of time it takes to get them to the battlefield. These efforts have contributed to lowering the rate of IED attacks that result in casualties by as much as 500 percent. And JIEDDO has helped reduce the severity of those IED attacks that do occur. By funding new protective undergarments, for example, JIEDDO made possible the roughly 32 percent drop from 2010 to 2011 in the number of catastrophic genital injuries to U.S. soldiers who were the victims of IEDs. At the Walter Reed medical center, I met the father of one soldier who had been wearing the undergarments when he stepped on an IED. The father approached me in the hallway, gave me a hug, and said, “My son will always have to use prosthetics to walk, but at least I still have a chance of being a grandfather.”

Despite these significant successes, the increased attention and money provided by JIEDDO were not enough. Although the military deployed jammers and increased the armor on its Humvees, the insurgents found ways of building more effective IEDs, making U.S. vehicles and the troops inside them unacceptably vulnerable. Early on, field commanders had urged the creation of a new and more protective vehicle, but the perception within the Pentagon was that such a vehicle could not be funded and built before the wars ended and were thus unnecessary.

That skepticism was not limited to defense officials. In 2012, Vice President Joseph Biden recalled that when he was a senator, many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill opposed the development of an expensive counter-IED vehicle. He recounted one senator arguing that since the vehicles would not be needed once the wars were over, they were a total waste of money. Biden commented, “Can you imagine Franklin Roosevelt being told, ‘We need x number of landing craft on D-Day, but once we land, we’re not going to need them all again. So why build them?'”

It wasn’t until 2007 that Gates decided — at the urging of then Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq — to find a way to mitigate the threat to troops on the roads, regardless of the cost. Gates dubbed it “the highest-priority Department of Defense acquisition program” and immediately created a task force to accelerate the development and fielding of what became known as MRAPs: “mine-resistant, ambush-protected” vehicles. First led by John Young, who was undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and then by me when I served in that position, the MRAP Task Force was charged with taking “extraordinary steps” to cut through red tape, rally the defense industry, and deliver the vehicles.

With the support of Congress (including substantial flexible funding) and the attention of the most senior Pentagon officials, we decided to focus above all on getting MRAPs made quickly, accepting significant tradeoffs on less important parameters, such as the number of troops each could carry and their suitability for other kinds of conflicts. We considered only mature technology and chose manufacturers based on their ability to deliver the vehicles as soon as possible. The task force anticipated and helped alleviate potential industry bottlenecks that could have held up the process — for example, by paying to boost the production capacity of two tire-makers and by waiving regulations to allow the army to purchase specially hardened steel. The group also worked to standardize the vehicle’s parts, such as turrets, jammers, and communications systems, across the various military services in order to expedite the fielding while also building a flexible design that could accommodate upgrades and improvements.

As a result of these efforts, we were able to build and ship more than 11,500 MRAPs to Iraq in 27 months and to build more than 8,000 all-terrain MRAPs for Afghanistan in only 16 months. Ultimately, we sent more than 24,000 MRAPs to the two theaters of war — the largest defense procurement program since World War II to go from decision to full industrial production in less than a year. Not only did these vehicles save thousands of lives; they also showed just how much can be accomplished with the full backing of leaders in Congress and the administration.

Task forces became the model of choice to address needs that could be met only outside the traditional processes. Another example of their effective use was for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The Department of Defense had well-established procedures for managing and allocating the ISR capabilities it had already developed, but it had limited experience in rapidly developing and fielding new ISR capabilities, especially down to the tactical level. To do so required thinking of aerostats and unmanned aircraft as consumable goods, more like body armor than satellites — that is, seeing them as tools that could be fielded quickly and operated by units in the field rather than by the intelligence agencies. Gates thus established the ISR Task Force in 2008, which successfully helped identify emerging urgent needs and technological opportunities and then bypass the normal roadblocks to procuring and fielding the resulting ISR tools.

Task forces worked well for specific individual problems, but few problems in wartime are narrowly defined, since military conflicts erase the boundaries between previously separate issues. Gates thus became frustrated with the Pentagon’s inability to support the troops through the normal processes. Accordingly, in November 2009, he created the Counter-IED Senior Integration Group (SIG), which I headed alongside the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The group consisted of senior defense officials who met every three weeks to prioritize requirements and take stock of all counter-IED initiatives. Gates soon realized that this kind of high-level attention was needed for all urgent war-fighting requirements, not just counter-IED measures. So in June 2011, he converted the Counter-IED SIG into the Warfighter SIG, which became the Pentagon’s central body for senior officials to weigh solutions to battlefield problems, locate the necessary resources to pay for them, and make the right acquisitions.

Gates soon expanded the Warfighter SIG’s mandate further, to include what are called Joint Emergent Operational Needs. These are needs that arise in theaters where there are not ongoing wars but one could come at any moment, such as on the Korean Peninsula. We called the whole system of Joint Emergent Operational Needs and Joint Urgent Operational Needs “the fast lane.” Even when the precise cost and ultimate specifications of a fast-lane project couldn’t be fully known in advance, we got started anyway, standing the system on its head. In other words, instead of “require then acquire,” this was “acquire then require.”

According to a 2012 Government Accountability Office report, the heightened level of visibility within the Pentagon provided by the Warfighter SIG, together with the fast-lane process, decreased the median time needed to locate funding for projects from nine months to one month. The report found that initiatives that enjoyed attention from the top of the department were four times as likely to receive adequate funding as those that did not. The system is far from perfect, but it has injected some badly needed agility into the Pentagon’s notoriously slow bureaucracy.


The challenge for the Pentagon now is to lock in these gains and make sure that the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq are not forgotten. The clearest takeaway, as the Warfighter SIG has shown, is that wartime acquisition works best when senior leaders are paying attention. That’s because only top officials can assume the risks that come with sidestepping general procedures. In practice, this means that the upper echelons of the department cannot simply issue policy guidance; they need to focus on specific threats and capability gaps. They must be willing to do so even when the projects are small in size and scope compared with the issues they normally deal with, given that winning wars and saving lives are at stake.

Furthermore, there must be a structure to the way senior officials grant their time and attention to such projects. Methods that bypass the normal acquisition process cannot be sustained if they rely solely on the support of a particular individual. And even the best ideas will remain unrealized if there are not clear procedures for bringing them to fruition — especially in the Department of Defense, which thrives on order and discipline. At the very least, the department ought to retain the nascent institutions that ultimately proved successful in Afghanistan and Iraq, such as the Warfighter SIG and JRAC.

Of course, the Pentagon cannot acquire any equipment or technology without adequate funding. And the current budget process simply does not allow for the development and deployment of solutions to urgent problems on the battlefield. The Department of Defense has developed several mechanisms for addressing such needs, and it must keep all of them in place.

First, Congress should continue to approve funds in limited quantities for general overall goals, such as the funds that paid for the MRAPs and other counter-IED initiatives, a process that offers the military the necessary flexibility to get capabilities from the laboratory all the way to the battlefield. The authority for this approach currently exists but is set to expire in 2015.

The ability to rapidly move a small percentage of the defense budget — known in the Pentagon as “reprogramming” — has allowed the department to pay for many capabilities not covered by a specific fund. Reprogramming enables crucial projects to move forward in weeks and months, rather than years, while still preserving Congress’ role in approving funding. Another key tool that the Pentagon must retain is its congressionally authorized “rapid-acquisition authority,” which allows the secretary of defense to repurpose up to $200 million a year from the $500 billion defense budget for the most urgent needs. Congress could help bolster the Pentagon’s quick-reaction capabilities by expanding the scope of allowed acquisitions and increasing the funding available under this authority.

In this era of tight resources, some in Congress have legitimate concerns about giving the Department of Defense more budgetary discretion. However, the amount needed for an effective flexible fund is a tiny fraction of the department’s total budget — just enough to kick-start urgent initiatives while still taking the customary months to navigate the usual channels for the full funding of projects. The Pentagon’s successful management of previous flexible funds demonstrates its ability to responsibly manage this flexibility.

Even with flexible funds and the right structures in place, the Pentagon also needs to get better at identifying threats as early as possible. This does not mean war-gaming for five to ten years down the line — something the department currently does in its Quadrennial Defense Reviews. Rather, it means determining what troops in the field need at any given moment. Staff at the command or headquarters level are often slow to recognize when a new threat becomes truly dangerous. During a war, the Pentagon must continuously scan the tactical environment and analyze how new dynamics impact the campaign. Initiatives such as the Warfighter SIG create a real-time bridge between ground-level troops and the department’s senior leadership, allowing battlefield challenges to be quickly brought to the attention of the highest levels so that they can execute solutions accordingly. One example was the rapid processing of a Joint Urgent Operational Need to design and deploy a new type of body armor, based on insights from the ground, to correct for a battlefield vulnerability before insurgents were even aware of it. Another was the constant adjustment of MRAPs in response to feedback from troops. No detail, even the positioning of windows, was too small for the Warfighter SIG.

Moreover, the Pentagon must always have a watchful eye on the horizon, anticipating needs and gaps in capabilities before they become dire. These findings should drive rapid research and development, particularly experimentation with new or improved technologies and the building of prototypes. Investing in science and technology early on ensures that the Pentagon will have something on the shelf when it needs it, so that it does not have to start from scratch when it is too late. Technology that the Pentagon has already invested in has allowed it to respond rapidly through the Joint Emergent Operational Needs process to potential new threats in the Middle East and Asia. These technologies include improvements to weapons systems that allow them to operate in an electronically jammed environment, modified radars to improve detection and warning capabilities, and better methods of preventing electronic detection by enemies. Similarly, the department was able to quickly initiate the development of improvements to the Patriot missile defense system to keep pace with emerging threats in the Asia-Pacific region.

Once the Pentagon identifies emerging threats, its leaders need to approve responses to them, since those in the thick of combat cannot be expected to have all the insight needed to judge and prioritize requests. Time is of the essence at this stage; the need for the MRAP, for example, was identified by forces in the field soon after they started encountering roadside bombs, but leaders let the request linger for too long before acting on it. As soon as a need has been identified as urgent, the Pentagon must improve the way it assesses potential solutions. Normally, such evaluations require a series of time-consuming steps, such as conducting market surveys, hosting events at which the military can inform vendors of its needs, requesting bids, and conducting months-long selection processes. In normal times, this system allows the Pentagon to acquire the best technologies on the market at the best prices. In urgent situations, it will have to settle for something that is good enough — an imperfect solution that nonetheless fills a gap.


Afghanistan and Iraq provided much of the impetus for the Pentagon to sidestep its traditional ways of doing business. After all, it is difficult for anyone in Washington to deny funding or prevent initiatives when the men and women at war need them. But what happens when the last troops have left Afghanistan, and the slowness of the acquisition process no longer appears to be a life-and-death problem? Simply learning the lessons of the wars is not enough; the Pentagon must institutionalize those lessons so that it does not have to start anew the next time they are relevant. In fact, many of these changes need to happen immediately, as the country faces potential new threats.

In my final year at the Pentagon, under the leadership of Leon Panetta and then Chuck Hagel, we considered various models for how to build on the successful initiatives of the past decade. The first possibility we considered was to tweak, but largely leave in place, the way the Pentagon operated before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the military services remaining solely responsible for their own forces. That approach would allow the Pentagon to avoid creating any new permanent organizations, a significant plus during a time of austerity. Distributing responsibility across the services would also enable each of them to draw on their deep knowledge of land, air, and naval warfare. The downside is that the military services tend to prioritize investments in their own long-term modernization requirements — unlike the combatant commands, which are primarily concerned with immediate battlefield needs — and thus may not be best equipped to move quickly and take risks. Under this plan, there would still not be a clear mechanism for adjudicating conflicts between the services and the combatant commands. Spreading the responsibility for acquisitions across the military could also result in redundancies or gaps.

An alternative model would be to create an entirely new agency with rapid-acquisition and contracting authorities. Such a body would directly support the combatant commands by anticipating battlefield needs, determining the appropriate responses, and procuring the necessary technology and equipment. Although this approach would correct for many of the shortfalls of the first model, creating a brand new organization, with its own bureaucracy and overhead costs, would strain the Pentagon in an era of tight budgets. A new centralized agency might also find itself disconnected from the rich expertise of the military services.

We ultimately decided to pursue a hybrid approach that draws on the advantages of both models. The Warfighter SIG will continue to meet regularly, supported by JRAC, to ensure that the Pentagon’s senior leadership remains focused on responding quickly to battlefield needs. JIEDDO and the ISR Task Force will get smaller but will be retained to meet the Pentagon’s enduring requirement for fulfilling urgent needs. The comptroller’s office is also working to institutionalize funding mechanisms for both Joint Urgent Operational Needs and Joint Emergent Operational Needs. These mechanisms should allow department leaders to quickly reprogram funds and make use of the rapid-acquisition authority.

By making these structures more permanent, the Pentagon hopes to retain the ability to meet the urgent needs of the troops long after the end of operations in Afghanistan. It is already using the Joint Emergent Operational Needs process to upgrade munitions and targeting systems for operations over water, in order to respond to the potential use of speedboats by Iran to swarm U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf. The military has also developed and built prototypes for improvements to a penetrating bomb that would allow it to target hardened, deeply buried facilities. And last year, the Department of Defense decided to build the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, a transportable system that can destroy chemical weapons stockpiles wherever they are found. This system was developed as part of the Joint Emergent Operational Needs process months before the United States knew it would be discussing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. It is now ready for deployment whenever required — a capability that enabled the U.S. government to include this possibility in its recent UN negotiations.

Institutionalizing these practices will also allow them to be applied beyond Central Command, which has overseen most of the fighting during the past decade — a particularly relevant factor as the Obama administration continues its “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region and focuses more on threats from other parts of the world, such as Africa. For example, JIEDDO has already begun to support missions of U.S. Africa Command, and its expertise will help combat IED threats in such countries as Mali and Somalia.

When wars end, leaders are often eager to move on to the next challenge. That is why it is crucial to make permanent the institutional innovations resulting from the hard-earned lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, while the experiences are still fresh. Too many lives were lost in the early years of those wars because the Pentagon failed to keep up with a changing battlefield. Never again should it make the same mistake.



Now the Hard Part: 3 Weeks to Apportion $1 Trillion

By David Hawkings

Posted at 5:23 p.m. on Dec. 19


Appropriators from both parties and both sides of the Capitol have opened intentionally secretive negotiations on the mammoth and complex measure necessary to make good on the budgetary truce just called by Congress.

The four-dozen or so members involved have given themselves less than three weeks to agree on the several thousand line items in the bill, which will be written as non-amendable legislationdictating all of the government’s discretionary spending for the final 37 weeks of this budget year.

The enormity of the task and the extraordinarily tight time table would normally present significant obstacles to a smooth or successful outcome. But the lawmakers who have taken the assignment are betting that those challenges will be eased by several factors:

•    The fiscal deal the Senate cleared Thursday, which President Barack Obama will sign before leaving this weekend to spend the holidays in Hawaii, sets a grand total of $1.012 trillion for the package that both parties’ negotiators say they can live with. The figure is $45 billion, or 4.6 percent, more than would have been allowed if the sequester had remained fully on the books.

•    The vast majority of lawmakers, not to mention hundreds of lobbyists and advocates, will be away from Washington during the next two work weeks. That should afford the negotiators and their aides an opportunity to set their priorities and make their tradeoffs without the usual volume of importuning — a tiny silver lining, also, for having to work through Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

•    The leaders of the talks, Kentucky’s Harold Rogers for the Republican majority in the House and Maryland’s Barbara A. Mikulski for the Democratic majority in the Senate, have agreed to draft the bill as a take-it-or-leave it package deal. Their bet here is that substantial numbers from the rank and file in all four caucuses will be willing to set aside their reservations about the content and their annoyance about the process and vote “yes” — because they know defeating the measure would threaten another government shutdown as the first congressional action of the midterm election year.

The timetable for the next three weeks sketched by Rogers and Mikulski, the chairmen of the two Appropriations committees, begins with a deadline they have set for themselves for the end of the week: apportioning the spending grand total into a dozen slices — the so-called 302(b) spending caps for the subcommittees that are supposed to write 12 different spending bills every year.

This is an immensely important first step, because it means choosing winners and losers at a macro level. A relatively generous number for the subcommittees with jurisdiction over labor, health and education programs, for example, would provide some relief from social spending limits that Democrats would embrace. But that money would mean somewhat smaller top lines for subcommittees in charge of the domestic programs Republicans typically favor, which cover such things as water projects, law enforcement and homeland security.

There was word Thursday evening that they had come to an agreement. But, as an indication of the sensitivity of these initial decisions, Rogers and Mikulski have decided to break with longstanding practice by not making public the 302(b) allocations.

Instead, the top Democrats and Republicans on each House and Senate subcommittee will be told of their cap and then given until Jan. 2 to come up with as much of a plan as they can agree on for dividing that pot of money and altering any policies along the way.

The challenge will impose especially dicey political challenges on three senior Republicans: Thad Cochran of Mississippi, his party’s second-most-senior Senate appropriator, faces an intense primary challenge on his right next year, as does Mike Simpson of Idaho, a subcommittee chairman in the House. Jack Kingston, the third-most-senior House appropriator, is in a hot primary against several fiscal conservatives for Georgia’s open Senate seat. All will face pressure to use their work on the bill as a way to say they’re cutting excessive spending and otherwise tacking to the right.

As a starting point, the appropriators will all presumably use the bills they advanced to various stages of completion earlier this year. Eleven bills got through Senate Appropriations, but none was passed on the floor. The House passed four of its bills, but only five others won endorsement from the full Appropriations Committee.

Because of the way the sequester law works, measures related to national defense have their own limit, now $520 billion for this year — more than before this month’s deal to ease the across-the-board limits, but still about $30 billion less than what House and Senate appropriators wrote into their bills several months ago. The limit on all non-defense spending for fiscal 2014 is $492 billion — the “pie” over which the bulk of the haggling will take place.

In addition to spending totals, any compromise omnibus would have to resolve intense and partisan differences on the use of federal funds to implement an array of policies — starting with, but hardly limited to, the health care law, environmental regulations and the rules to carry out the Wall Street oversight law. Some appropriators may want to push for legislative riders to address matters that have cropped up since the regular spending process stalled out this summer — for example, by making sure all the revenue from the budget deal’s new airline ticket fee goes to aviation security.

Any programmatic totals or policy disagreements that still remain after the first weekend in the new year will be taken out of the hands of the subcommittees and turned over to the big four appropriators: Mikulski, Rogers, top Senate Appropriations Republican Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and top House Appropriations Democrat Nita M. Lowey of New York.

The quartet will convene early the week of Jan. 6, when Congress reconvenes for the new year, with a goal of finalizing the entire package quickly enough that it can be put before the House for an up-or-down vote by Friday, Jan. 10. (The parliamentary sleight-of-hand that will be deployed to move the package along without amendment has not yet been settled on.)

That would allow the Senate to begin debating the legislation Jan. 13 and – assuming no one insists on a filibuster-busting cloture vote — send it to Obama before the current stopgap continuing resolution lapses at midnight on Jan. 15.

For now, the lawmakers driving the process are refusing to countenance the notion that the schedule is too unforgiving, and that another CR might be needed to patch the budget for a while beyond the middle of January.

“We’re all up to the task,” Mikulski told reporters Wednesday. “Our problem is it’s a very tight timeline.”


Defense News

DoD to Submit 2015 Sequester Budget with Buybacks

Dec. 19, 2013 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is preparing to put forward a 2015 budget proposal that was built assuming billions of dollars in sequestration spending cuts, however it will use $30 billion in restored funding over the next two years to buy back readiness shortfalls and critical modernization programs.

US Defense Department officials had been preparing as many as four 2015 budget plans, ranging from one that built on the Obama administration’s 2014 budget plan to another than encompassed cuts of about $50 billion per year over a five-year period. The sequestration budget is called the Alt POM, which stands for alternative program objective memorandum. The House and Senate have passed — and the president is expected to sign — a two-year federal spending plan, that raises DoD’s 2014 budget cap by $21 billion and 2015 spending cap by nearly $10 billion.

“We know what the bottom looks like; the money that’s coming back, we’re buying it back,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a briefing at the Pentagon Thursday. “We’ll buy it up to the level we can buy it and there will still be a delta. The work is done.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with the chiefs of the military services on Wednesday where they discussing areas to use the money that is being restored in 2014 and 2015. Hagel said DoD will “work to minimize disruption to our most critical modernization efforts” in addition to readiness.

The Pentagon’s $527 billion fiscal 2014 budget proposal was $52 billion above federal spending caps. Under the compromise budget passed by Congress, DoD spending is capped at about $498 billion. DoD still faces full sequestration-level budget caps from 2016 into the next decade.

The budget deal gives DoD predictability for the next two years, Hagel noted. The secretary called the compromise budget — developed by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — “a step in the right direction,” but noted the Pentagon still “faces very difficult budget decisions,” particularly how to reduce its force structure and reform military compensation.

“As we head into 2014, I think we’re beginning to turn the page on a prolonged period of fiscal uncertainty,” he said at the same briefing. “The budget deal … provides some relief from DoD and the devastating cuts of sequestration in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.


USAF Looks to Boost Readiness

The Air Force hopes to use its extra cash on readiness, according to a service spokeswoman.

“Air Force leadership would recommend that additional funding first be used to restore flying hours and weapon system sustainment levels, allowing units to begin to recover from the readiness damage done by sequestration,” Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, wrote in an emailed statement. “Additionally, we would seek to protect our top three investment programs [the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter, Boeing KC-46 tanker replacement program, and new long-range strike bomber] and fund readiness enablers and critical installation requirements such as new mission beddowns, ranges, radars, airfields, taxiways and compliance deficiencies.”

Stefanek cautioned that “until an appropriation is signed, the Air Force does not know yet how much funding it will receive and the Congress will ultimately decide where those dollars are spent,” meaning plans could change. And even with the funds, the service still expects to feel “significant impacts” to investment programs.

Eric Fanning, Air Force Acting Secretary, said at a Nov. 18 event that the service would focus on readiness investments if it received any unexpected funds.

“What really suffers is readiness. That’s been a very hard thing to describe,” Fanning said. “We’re going to have a real hole in our readiness accounts the next five years if we stay under the sequestered numbers. So there’s a lot of risk there.”

Fanning added that he would also like to buy back delayed F-35 purchases.



Military Times

Senate approves defense policy bill

Dec. 20, 2013 – 08:23AM |

By Patricia Kime

Staff writer

The Senate voted overwhelmingly late Thursday night to approve the defense authorization act, an 84-15 vote that paves the way for troops to receive a 1 percent raise beginning Jan. 1.

The $632.8 billion bill bill extends a number of expiring special pays and bonuses that would otherwise have ended on New Year’s Day and also includes prohibitions against any fee increases for Tricare or new user fees for the military health program by more than 1.7 percent next October.

Among the bill’s key provisions are a restriction on the Defense Department from transferring to the U.S. anyone held as a suspected terrorist at the Navy detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as allowances for detainees to be transferred under some circumstances to foreign countries.

The bill also includes about 30 provisions related to sexual assault in the military, including removing the authority of commanders to dismiss a court-martial finding, eliminating the current five-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault and establishing minimum sentencing guidelines for sex crimes.

There also are several provisions aimed at protecting victims of rape and sexual assault, including allowing victims to apply for a transfer to a new unit or a new base and creating a specific criminal charge in the military justice system for retaliating against a victim who comes forward.

Other adds include a provision to overhaul the military’s Article 32 process of pretrial hearings to expand rights of sexual assault victims and to reduce consideration of the military record of the accused as a reason not to press charges.

The bill also gives 171,000 military retirees and family members forced from Tricare Prime on Oct. 1, the option to return to the program if they choose.

And it changes eligibility rules for selective early retirement boards so that officers passed over just one time for promotion to O-6 would be considered by selection boards for involuntary retirement.

Notably, the bill contains no provisions for a military pay raise, setting up enactment of a presidential order issued in August that decided troops would receive a 1 percent raise.

The absence of any specific pay raise language paves the way for execution of the executive order capping next year’s increase at 1 percent.

Under a federal pay formula that remains part of permanent law, service members would have been due a 1.8 percent pay increase, and the House had approved that percent raise as part of its version of the bill approved in June.

But the Senate Armed Services Committee backed the White House proposal, and the compromise — to remain silent on the issue in the compromise version — left the decision to the administration.

In a letter to Congress in August, President Obama said he is “strongly committed to supporting our uniformed service members, who have made such great contributions to our nation over the past decade of war.”

But, he noted, the U.S. is recovering “from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare” that require tough decisions to stay “on a sustainable fiscal course.”

The White House issued a statement Thursday before the Senate vote indicating it will support the bill as written. Singling out issues including the transfer of Guantanamo detainees and changes to military sexual assault prosecution and protection, administration officials said they were “pleased with the modifications and improvements” that addressed their objections to earlier iterations of the legislation.

“Although the bill includes a number of provisions that restrict or limit the Defense Department’s ability to align military capabilities and force structure with the President’s strategy and implement certain efficiencies … the Administration supports passage of the legislation,” the White House according to the White House statement.

The bill, H.R. 3304, provides $552.1 billion for the military budget and $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations.

It passed the House last week, 332-94.

Bill negotiator Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, described the bipartisan legislation as “good for national security” as well as for the men and women of the armed forces.

“This bill ensures that important pay and benefits, including combat pay, will continue; includes powerful and important new tools in our fight against military sexual assault; and makes progress toward the day we can close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay,” Levin said.


New DoD Acquisition Guidelines Emphasize Cost of Programs

Dec. 18, 2013 – 11:18AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments


WASHINGTON — A major update of the Pentagon’s acquisition bible makes cost control and cost management a higher priority during the procurement process.

The new guidance focuses heavily on setting realistic program goals by aligning weapons requirements with long-term spending realities.

The plan is to “get the programming community and the requirements community to sit down and figure out what kind of cost constraint they’re going to have to live in based on future budgets they can expect,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said during a Dec. 13 interview at the Pentagon.

Kendall recently completed a laborious two-year rewriting of a document know as DoD Instruction 5000.02, frequently called “Five-thousand two” by defense insiders.

In addition to the long-term spending emphasis, the new guidance formalizes Better Buying Power acquisition initiatives developed by Kendall and his predecessor Ashton Carter.

The 5000.02 update calls for locking in program requirements sooner by adding a new decision point earlier in the acquisition process, Kendall said. It also puts forth “much more specific guidance” about affordability analysis and spending caps.

“Basically it tells the services, and … the operational communities and the programming communities that they need to do long-term capital planning before they start down a program [and] that cost is a requirement, ” Kendall said. “We can’t afford to pay whatever people want in terms of capabilities. We have to limit our reach to stay within our grasp.”

Looking at costs over a 30-year period, Kendall feels, will force those developing requirements to exercise design restraint when developing new systems.

“I think that will help us avoid a lot of cancellations,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of program cancelations where we discovered after we got into development or early production, that the product wasn’t affordable.”

DoD has spent billions of dollars over the past decade on programs that never entered production. The most recent example of this is the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, an amphibious assault craft.

“Program managers have a fundamental responsibility to understand their cost and to act to try to control their costs to drive them down,” Kendall said. “That’s a cultural change that’s going to take a little time, but that’s something fundamental of what I’m trying to accomplish.”

The new guidance also tackles tailoring and alternative models for how structuring programs.

“I’m trying to make a very big point that there’s not just one size or one way to set up a program,” Kendall said. “There are some basic things that you have to do in almost every program, but beyond that you have to look at the nature of the product and determine based on the nature of the product and factors like the operational urgency … then lay out a program that makes sense for that product and those constraints that apply to that particular program.”

Much of the information in the new 5000.02 is already being used throughout DoD’s acquisition programs, however the new guidance formalized it.

“It’s a combination of a document that can be used by somebody who is new to this business to try to understand it more thoroughly,” Kendall said. “It’s also a document that somebody who is a serious, experienced professional can go back to as a reference to understand what the rules are that he’s going to have to follow and some of the fundamentals that he’s going to have to apply.”

Kendall’s revisions to 5000.02 have been implemented through an interim document, though he expects no major changes are expected in the finalized version. He is planning to get feedback on the changes during a program executive officer conference in January.

“All of this is a work in progress,” Kendall said. “I do expect that there will be changes in the future; there will be continuous improvement in this area as there is in other areas of acquisition.”



Rasmussen Reports

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


Saturday, December 21, 2013


Americans need a little holly jolly time as the year comes to an end.

Just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters now think the country is heading in the right direction. A year ago, 37% felt that way.

More voters than ever (66%) believe the economy is unfair to the middle class.

Fifty-eight percent (58%) now oppose the new national health care law’s requirement that every American must have health insurance. That’s the highest level of opposition to the individual mandate to date.

Positive reviews of President Obama’s leadership fell again this month and now stand at their lowest level in two years. Only 39% of voters give the president good or excellent marks for leadership, down 16 points from a year ago.

Obama’s daily job approval ratings appeared to be improving slightly after weeks at the lowest levels of his presidency but in the last few days have fallen lower again.


Despite his support of the new bipartisan budget deal, nearly half (49%) of voters now rate the president poorly on his efforts to reduce the deficit, and he only fares marginally better when it comes to policies related to economic fairness.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) now view the federal government unfavorably, a new high.

Sixty-one percent (61%) still prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a larger one with more services and higher taxes.

Sixty-one percent (61%) also favor a federal budget that cuts spending, although voters are more closely divided over the new budget deal that restores billions in across-the-board sequester spending cuts from earlier this year.

The budget deal includes no new taxes but does raise some user fees. Only 22% of voters believe additional tax hikes are needed to fund the federal government.

Just 15% of voters think the House of Representatives is doing a good or excellent job, while 13% say the same of the Senate. Still, that’s an improvement over the seven percent (7%) who rate the overall performance of Congress as good or excellent.

Republicans and Democrats are running even on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

But for the next few days, the unhappiness with the national political scene will take a backseat as 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas with their families. After all, for many, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Most Americans (53%) continue to have no problem getting into the holiday spirit, unchanged from last season. Still, while 45% consider the season joyous, just as many (43%) say it is generally stressful for them.

It probably doesn’t help that at the beginning of the week, just one-in-three had finished their holiday shopping. The level of gift-buying appears little changed from recent years, despite the lukewarm level of investor confidence.

An overwhelming majority of working Americans say they have time off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but 40% have to work at least some major holidays.

Twenty-four percent (24%) of all Americans plan on traveling away from home this holiday season, and 84% of those travelers will be visiting family and friends.

Forty-nine percent (49%), however, believe airline deregulation has made flying more expensive. But regular fliers are less critical of deregulation and more likely than non-fliers to think it has made air travel cheaper.

Thirty-three percent (33%) are still concerned about the safety of most toys being sold this holiday season, but that’s the lowest level of concern measured in yearly tracking since 2009.


In other surveys last week:

— While 2013 will be known for plenty of domestic matters, U.S. foreign policy was also in the spotlight for much of the year.

— Just 21% of voters think the federal government should grant NSA leaker Edward Snowden full amnesty from prosecution in exchange for the return of all classified information that he still possesses.

— The Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting the ban on in-flight cell phone use, but 65% of Americans don’t think people should be allowed to chat on their cell phones during a flight.


— The Chinese landed a lunar probe earlier this week, the first manned landing on the moon in nearly 40 years, but just 42% of voters believe the United States should resume manned space missions to the moon within the next decade. That’s unchanged from a year ago.

— Time magazine named Pope Francis its “Person of the Year” earlier this month, and nearly one-in-four Americans agree that the pope was the year’s most influential person. The president was a close second.


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