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Why Peak-Oil Predictions Haven’t Come True
More Experts Now Believe Technology Will Continue to Unlock New Sources
By Russell Gold
The Wall Street Journal
Updated Sept. 29, 2014 4:26 p.m. ET
Have we beaten “peak oil”?
For decades, it has been a doomsday scenario looming large in the popular imagination: The world’s oil production tops out and then starts an inexorable decline—sending costs soaring and forcing nations to lay down strict rationing programs and battle for shrinking reserves.
U.S. oil production did peak in the 1970s and sank for decades after, exactly as the theory predicted. But then it did something the theory didn’t predict: It started rising again in 2009, and hasn’t stopped, thanks to a leap forward in oil-field technology.
To the peak-oil adherents, this is just a respite, and decline is inevitable. But a growing tide of oil-industry experts argue that peak oil looks at the situation in the wrong way. The real constraints we face are technological and economic, they say. We’re limited not by the amount of oil in the ground, but by how inventive we are about reaching new sources of fuel and how much we’re willing to pay to get at it.
“Technology moves so quickly today that any looming resource constraint will be nothing more than a blip,” says petroleum economist Phil Verleger. “We adjust.”
Whether peak oil exists is more than just a point of intellectual debate—although it certainly has proved to be a heated and divisive one for decades. The question—and how we think about it—also has a big potential impact for governments, oil producers and ordinary people across the globe, all of whom depend on the vagaries of oil production and would be threatened by soaring costs and shortages.
The peak-oil boosters argue that instead of plowing money into new ways to find oil, we should be conserving what we have and investing in alternative energy sources so that we’re prepared when supplies run low and costs soar. Most of the naysayers agree that we shouldn’t stick with oil forever. But they think it’s wiser to invest in technology to keep expanding the available supply, until it gets too expensive to do so. At that point, they’re confident, we’ll be able to come up with an economical alternative.
The History of an Idea
Peak oil was most widely popularized by M. King Hubbert, a brilliant—and egotistic, by some accounts—geologist who worked for years at Shell Oil. In a 1956 paper, he predicted that U.S. oil production would peak, probably in the early 1970s, and then decline. It would resemble a bell curve.
Photos from left: Getty Images, Corbis, Statoil, Schlumberger
This came to be called Hubbert’s peak and later peak oil. The idea gained enormous popularity when U.S. oil output did in fact peak in the early 1970s. It took hold at a time when the nation was prepared to believe the worst: Drivers were waiting in long gas lines, and the nation felt it was groaning under the yoke of OPEC. Forecasters like Paul Ehrlich became celebrities with dire warnings of overpopulation and exhaustion of natural resources.
As the theory took hold, it helped justify increased investments in alternative energy, and informed some expert thinking about the future of energy. More recently, the theory saw a surge of interest a few years ago when oil prices were high and seemed stuck there.
“Welcome to the world beyond Hubbert’s peak,” wrote Kenneth Deffeyes, one of the adherents of peak oil, in 2008.
Then the data took a detour from the bell curve. In 2008, the U.S. produced five million barrels a day. In 2009, U.S. oil production began to rise—at first slowly, then quickly. It is still rising today. Through the first half of 2014, it averaged 8.3 million barrels a day.
What changed? An innovation in oil-field technology, which peak-oil theory didn’t anticipate. Energy companies combined hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling to wring oil out of super-tight rock formations in North America. The industry figured out that pumping chemically slickened water and sand into shales could create thousands of fractures, each one a tiny path for energy molecules to travel into a well.
At first, drillers targeted natural gas because they thought oil molecules were too big to be extracted. But fracking worked to make oil wells, also. Innovations allowed the industry to locate its frack jobs better and increase density. Now other countries are starting to apply the same techniques and may see the same kinds of gains.
A Different Take
With the recent boom have come arguments that peak oil underestimates the power of innovation. Indeed, many oil experts say, the industry has a history of turning up new supplies just when prospects look bleak.
A century ago, the energy industry found giant new oil fields in Texas and California just as fears spread that oil output had peaked. As production in the U.S. began to decline, other regions picked up the slack: the North Sea, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia. Technical innovations such as using sound waves to locate oil fields through thousands of feet of water and rock spurred a boom in deep-water drilling.
More broadly, peak-oil naysayers argue, the theory looks at the problem in the wrong way—focusing on the physical supply instead of our ingenuity in being able to reach it. “There has to be a finite limit” of oil and gas in buried reserves, says George King, a global technology consultant for Apache Corp. But the constraint on how much oil can be produced isn’t geological, he believes: “We face technical and economic limits more than anything else.”
And Mr. King is an optimist about our ability to overcome technical limits. “This is an inventive industry,” he says.
One of his responsibilities at Apache, a Houston-based oil and gas company, is to stay abreast of new technologies that could boost output in years ahead. For example, he is paying attention to new ways of squeezing more oil out of tight reservoirs. When rocks are fracked, a large amount of oil remains left behind. Fracking tends to free the lighter, smaller gas and oil molecules but leaves behind heavier and stickier molecules.
One idea calls for using carbon dioxide to flood into the tight rocks and push oil out ahead of it. Another is to use nanochemistry to reduce surface tension and lift oil molecules off rock, much like a detergent lifts stains. “Some companies have really neat ideas” along these lines, he says.
To be sure, the peak-oil naysayers don’t think we should wholly embrace oil for all time, just that we shouldn’t try to speed up any transition to alternatives in anticipation of short supplies. After all, misguided energy policy can have very bad outcomes. For instance, in the 1970s, the U.S. thought it was running out of natural gas, and Congress prohibited building any new power plants that used it. Instead, we built lots of coal plants—about half of the modern coal fleet—that burdened us with a legacy of dirty air in some cities. Not to mention that in the past few years, we have tapped an abundance of natural-gas supplies.
And naysayers agree that while they don’t believe supply limits loom, economic limits remain. When the oil industry overcomes an obstacle and boosts oil production, costs typically increase. That opens the door for a better and cheaper energy source that will eventually displace crude oil.
So at some point, the cost of getting more and more oil likely will get so high that buyers can’t—or won’t—pay.
This is an issue the late petroleum economist Morris Adelman wrestled with. “No mineral, including oil, will ever be exhausted. If and when the cost of finding and extraction goes above the price consumers are willing to pay, the industry will begin to disappear,” he wrote in “The Genie out of the Bottle: World Oil Since 1970,” a book published in 1995. Mr. Adelman, a professor emeritus of economics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, died earlier this year at 96.
Already, economics is bringing about some changes. Despite the abundance of oil that fracking has delivered, global oil prices remain high. This has kept the door wide open for alternative sources of energy and spending on energy efficiency. Natural gas has been grabbing market share from oil for years. A few decades ago, heating oil kept American homes snug; now it’s natural gas. And gas is making inroads in transportation—trucks and trains—as are electric cars.
What’s more, climate change has altered the calculus. More advocates are pushing for alternative, low-carbon fuels to slow the rising level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. They argue that the possibility of running out of oil isn’t the only reason to reduce its use; in fact, they worry that the expansion of supply is dangerous, hindering efforts to take action on the long-term threat of climate change.
“There will be peak oil, but it will be [because of] peak consumption,” says Michael Shellenberger, president of the Breakthrough Institute, an energy and climate think tank in Oakland, Calif. “What we all want is to move to better, cheaper and cleaner sources of energy.”
Mr. Shellenberger suspects that oil’s long dominance in transportation is weaker than most people suspect. When something better comes along, he says, oil’s days are numbered. “We will be leaving a lot of oil in the ground, in the same way we are leaving coal in the ground,” he says.
If M. King Hubbert were alive today—he died in 1989—would he admit defeat? Probably not, says Mason Inman, who has written a biography of Mr. Hubbert that will be released next year. He argues that the recent shale boom is just a temporary respite in a long march downward. U.S. oil production could be about to hit a second peak, and then return to its terminal decline.
The production boom “makes things better for a while, but it doesn’t change the long-term picture,” Mr. Inman says.
If Mr. Hubbert were around, he might be dumbstruck by what he sees, Mr. Inman says. Mr. Hubbert, he says, advocated turning to solar power and energy efficiency to break the dependency on oil.
As for the power of innovation to reach new oil reserves, Mr. Hubbert believed that technology would help extend the limits of oil production, but thought its impact was exaggerated, Mr. Inman says. He felt people would invoke technology as a kind of panacea—which it isn’t.
There will eventually be diminishing returns, Mr. Inman says, since oil is a finite resource, even though we don’t really know its limits. “He would probably say, ‘You guys are crazy to be drilling this so fast and using it up and pretending it’s a solution,’ ” says Mr. Inman.
Mr. Gold is a Wall Street Journal staff reporter in Austin, Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attack code for ‘unpatchable’ USB flaw
6 October 2014 Last updated at 11:29 ET
Computer code that can turn any almost any device that connects via USB into a cyber-attack platform has been shared online.
Computer security researchers wrote the code following the discovery of the USB flaw earlier this year.
The pair made the code public in an attempt to force electronics firms to improve defences against attack by USB.
One of the experts who found the flaw said the release was a “stark reminder” of its seriousness.
Details of the BadUSB flaw were released at the Black Hat computer security conference in August by Karsten Nohl and Jakob Lell.
Their work revealed how to exploit flaws in the software that helps devices connect to computers via USB. The biggest problem they discovered lurks in the onboard software, known as firmware, found on these devices.
Among other things the firmware tells a computer what kind of a device is being plugged into a USB socket but the two cybersecurity researchers found a way to subvert this and install attack code. At Black Hat, the BBC saw demonstrations using a smartphone and a USB stick that could steal data when plugged into target machines.
Mr Nohl said he and his colleague did not release code in order to give firms making USB-controlling firmware time to work out how to combat the problem.
Now researchers Adam Caudill and Brandon Wilson have done their own work on the USB flaw and produced code that can be used to exploit it. The pair unveiled their work at the DerbyCon hacker conference last week and have made their attack software freely available via code-sharing site Github.
“We’re releasing everything we’ve done here, nothing is being held back,” said Mr Wilson in a presentation at DerbyCon.
“We believe that this information should not be limited to a select few as others have treated it,” he added. “It needs to be available to the public.”
Mr Wilson said cybercrime groups definitely had the resources to replicate the work of Mr Nohl and Mr Lell to produce their own attack code so releasing a version to the security community was a way to redress that imbalance.
Responding to the release of the attack tools Mr Nohl told the BBC that such “full disclosure” can motivate companies to act and make products more secure.
“In the case of BadUSB, however, the problem is structural,” he said. “The standard itself is what enables the attack and no single vendor is in a position to change that.”
“It is unclear who would feel pressured to improve their products by the recent release,” he added. “The release is a stark reminder to defenders, though, that BadUSB is – and always has been – in reach of attackers.”
Australia About to Certify its 150th Unmanned Aircraft Operator
by Press • 6 October 2014
- A 50% growth rate in CASA certified operators has occurred in just five months, meaning unmanned aircraft
- system start-ups are now one of the fastest growing industry segments in Australia.
- The rapid growth rate is overwhelmingly dominated by micro and small businesses, which hold 123 out of the
- 146 already issued operator certificates at 1 October 2014.
- Four Australian Stock Exchange-listed firms now hold operator certificates.
- Traditional aerospace and defence firms hold just six certificates out of the total issued, strongly reinforcing the
- separate and commercially-orientated focus of this fast growing industry.
- The first Australian university has secured an operators certificate, marking the first time a part of the tertiary education and research sector has attained full compliance with CASA regulations for unmanned aircraft systems.
Brisbane: A major milestone is about to be recorded by the Australian unmanned aircraft industry with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) to certify its 150th certified unmanned aircraft system (UAS) operator this month. This milestone represents a 50% increase in the number of CASA certified UAS operators since May this year. If the current pace is sustained, the number of certified operators is now likely to pass 200 by as soon as March 2015.
This surge in certification “represents the true coming of age of the commercial unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) sector in this country” says Joe Urli, President of the Australian Certified UAV Operators Association. “It is now reasonable to talk of a national operator base in the order of 400-500 separate commercial entities within short years, with this reaching into virtually all segments of Australia’s dominant industry sectors. The impacts will be felt from the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) through to small communities in regional Australia, and small and micro businesses are at its forefront.
“The industry is growing at an exceptional rate, and is doing so on a trajectory completely separate to the traditional patterns seen in the Australian national aerospace and defence industry bases. The sheer numbers of new UAS operator certificates are matched by a corresponding boom in start-up companies established specifically to pursue new markets leveraging low-cost, off the shelf products.
“These firms have far more in common with IT sector start-ups than multinational defence manufacturing contractors” says Urli.
“Australian governments are failing to understand this reality and need to acutely realign their understanding of where the commercial UAS sector fits into the national industrial base if our true market potential is to be achieved.”
At 1 October 2014, CASA had issued a total of 146 UAS operator certificates. Analysis of CASA records commissioned by ACUO shows 100 certificates alone are held by micro businesses and another 23 by small businesses. Ten certificates are held by medium businesses, predominantly in the engineering and surveying sector, while six certificates are held by large enterprises.
Four ASX listed firms with operating entities now hold unmanned aircraft operator certificates, these being Cardno (Cardno Hard and Forester); AusNet Services (Select Solutions); Xtek and Worley Parsons.
“The emergence of ASX-listed firms as certified operators is an important indicator of the rate of maturation of the unmanned systems sector in Australia” says Urli. “This should be seen as a direct reflection of a more sophisticated view of technology as an investment option from within the finance sector, as well as a reflection of the inherent opportunities in an important emerging global industry.
“Australia is exceptionally well placed to exploit new opportunities associated with the linking of established industries such as civil engineering and infrastructure development with UAS technology.
Australia is already a world leader in using UAS as an integral element of open pit mining operations using contracted services-type business models.”
Five Australian public agencies currently hold certificates, these including the Australian Federal Police, which has been experimenting with UAS for several years, as well as the state police of South Australia and Queensland.
The national operator base now includes its first tertiary and research sector entity, with the University of New South Wales securing its CASA certification in August. “This is an important turning point given the number of universities with active UAS-focussed research programs in this country. CASA regulatory requirements for UAS have been in place for a decade and the lag now significantly contrasts with the race by universities and research agencies in the United States to secure interim and restricted approvals from the US Federal Aviation Administration for their own flight operations” says Urli.
“We see Australian universities achieving comprehensive compliance with CASA regulations for safe UAS operation as a national competitive advantage if progressed in the near term” says Urli.
“Both the United States and Europe are some three to four years away from a comprehensive UAS certification regime but once it comes into being, the baseline for all university UAS programs will change globally. Serious UAS research programs will be expected to hold certification as part of standard practice.
“Australian universities right now have the privileged position of being able to pursue first mover status with clear global market advantages. The research and tertiary education sectors of few countries ever get such opportunities laid before them.”
The national surge in operator certificates since May has seen Victoria remain the dominant state in overall numbers with 39 holders; however New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia are seeing the fastest rate of growth as a whole.
The impact of the emerging sector on regional Australia is likewise proving to be a sustained feature of the growth pattern, with an approximate 66:33 divide between operators located in capital cities and those in regional areas.
“This pattern first became clear in May of this year and it has remained a constant in the surge of the past five months” says Urli.
“Our analysis indicates this pattern is likely to be sustained given the already established links between the UAS operator community and the mining sector, but also as a reflection of growing interest in the technology by primary producers.”
CASA issued its first UAS operator certificate back in November 2002 to the Brisbane-based company Helimetrex. More than a decade later, in January 2013, there were still only 27 certificates holders in total, this again highlighting the dramatic scale of industry expansion over just the past two years.
“With such widespread interest in the UAS industry, the future looks very prosperous indeed for those with the foresight to legitimize their business model early” says Urli.
The full current list of CASA certificate holders can be viewed at:
The Australian rules for UAS required formal training to get operation certificates, controller certificates, requirements for liability insurance, and registration fees are at http://www.casa.gov.au/scripts/nc.dll?WCMS:STANDARD::pc=PC_101985
Panetta: ’30-year war’ and a leadership test for Obama
Susan Page, USA TODAY 1:54 p.m. EDT October 6, 2014
CARMEL VALLEY, Calif. — Americans should be braced for a long battle against the brutal terrorist group Islamic State that will test U.S. resolve — and the leadership of the commander in chief, says Leon Panetta, who headed the CIA and then the Pentagon as Al Qaeda was weakened and Osama bin Laden killed.
“I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war,” he says, one that will have to extend beyond Islamic State to include emerging threats in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.
In his first interview about his new book, Worthy Fights: A Memoir of Leadership in War and Peace, Panetta argues that decisions made by President Obama over the past three years have made that battle more difficult — an explosive assessment by a respected policymaker of the president he served.
Even before it’s published Tuesday by Penguin Press, the 512-page book has provoked rebukes at the State Department and by Vice President Biden. But Panetta says he was determined to write a book that was “honest,” including his high regard for the president on some fronts and his deep concern about his leadership on others.
Have ‘2nd-term blues’ hit the Secret Service?
In an interview at his home with Capital Download, USA TODAY’s video newsmaker series, Panetta says Obama erred:
• By not pushing the Iraqi government harder to allow a residual U.S. force to remain when troops withdrew in 2011, a deal he says could have been negotiated with more effort. That “created a vacuum in terms of the ability of that country to better protect itself, and it’s out of that vacuum that ISIS began to breed.” Islamic State also is known as ISIS and ISIL.
• By rejecting the advice of top aides — including Panetta and then-secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton — to begin arming Syrian rebels in 2012. If the U.S. had done so, “I do think we would be in a better position to kind of know whether or not there is some moderate element in the rebel forces that are confronting (Syrian President Bashar) Assad.”
• By warning Assad not to use chemical weapons against his own people, then failing to act when that “red line” was crossed in 2013. Before ordering airstrikes, Obama said he wanted to seek congressional authorization, which predictably didn’t happen.
The reversal cost the United States credibility then and is complicating efforts to enlist international allies now to join a coalition against the Islamic State, Panetta says. “There’s a little question mark to, is the United States going to stick this out? Is the United States going to be there when we need them?”
Showing leadership in the fight against ISIS is an opportunity “to repair the damage,” he says. He says it’s also a chance for Obama to get a fresh start after having “lost his way.”
On Friday, the terrorist group released a video that showed the beheading of a fourth Westerner, British aid worker Alan Henning, and threatened to execute American hostage Abdul-Rahman (formerly Peter) Kassig next.
Panetta’s behind-the-scenes account of events during Obama’s first term, including the internal debate over helping Syrian rebels, is consistent with those in memoirs published this year by Hillary Clinton and Robert Gates, whom Panetta succeeded as Defense secretary.
But Panetta’s portrait of Obama is more sharply drawn and explicitly critical.
He praises the president for “his intelligence, his convictions, and his determination to do what was best for the country.” He notes that Obama has faced bitter opposition, especially from congressional Republicans. He credits him with scoring significant progress in fighting terrorism and righting the economy.
In the book’s final chapter, however, he writes that Obama’s “most conspicuous weakness” is “a frustrating reticence to engage his opponents and rally support for his cause.” Too often, he “relies on the logic of a law professor rather than the passion of a leader.” On occasion, he “avoids the battle, complains, and misses opportunities.”
Panetta.Worth Fights jacket
2014 _ Leon Panetta’s book Worthy Fights. Written by Leon Panetta and Jim Newton. Handout via Penguin Press(Photo: Penguin Press)
In the interview, Panetta says he thinks Obama “gets so discouraged by the process” that he sometimes stops fighting.
An example: The budget deal that included automatic spending cuts known as sequestration. Even though nearly everyone agreed privately that they were bad policy, Panetta says he found himself a lonely figure actively opposing them by lobbying Congress and making speeches warning that the Pentagon cuts would harm national security.
The book was the target of a veiled rebuke Thursday by Biden. “I’m finding that former administration officials, as soon as they leave write books, which I think is inappropriate,” Biden told students at Harvard. “At least give the guy a chance to get out of office.”
The vice president disputed whether it would have made a difference if U.S. aid had been given earlier to Syrian rebels, and State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki denied that a deal to allow a residual force in Iraq could have been reached in the face of resistance by then-prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
It is surely no surprise to Panetta that his assessment is drawing White House ire. He provides fodder for the blistering partisan critiques of Obama’s leadership by Republicans, and he is considerably more candid about his misgivings than is typical in memoirs by former officials about the presidents they served, especially while they are still in office.
“Look, I’ve been a guy who’s always been honest,” Panetta says. “I’ve been honest in politics, honest with the people that I deal with. I’ve been a straight talker. Some people like it; some people don’t like it. But I wasn’t going to write a book that kind of didn’t express what I thought was the case.”
Panetta also argues that there is time for Obama to change tactics and recover — and that it is imperative he do so.
Congressional leaders, Democratic and Republican, share the blame for the dysfunctional state of affairs in Washington, he says, but he adds they might well respond to stronger and more engaged presidential leadership.
“He’s going to have to jump in the ring and fight it out for the next two years,” Panetta says. “My hope is that the president, recognizing that we are at a kind of critical point in his administration, will take the bit in his teeth and will say, ‘We have got to solve these problems.”
‘THE AMERICAN STORY’
Panetta’s résumé gives his words weight. He has held top jobs in Congress and the executive branch, dealing with both domestic and national security issues, and emerged with his reputation for competence and good humor intact.
“In many ways, my story is the American story,” he says when asked why he wrote the memoir. “I’m the son of Italian immigrants, and they really believed that by coming to this country they could give their children a better life, and the reality is, I kind of lived that life.”
At first a moderate Republican, he worked in the Nixon administration before being pushed out after aggressively enforcing civil rights laws. He changed parties, was elected to nine terms in the House from California as a Democrat and served as chairman of the House Budget Committee. Clinton appointed him Budget director, then moved him to White House chief of staff to impose order in what had been a chaotic operation. After the 2008 election, Obama tapped him as CIA director, then named him to head the Pentagon.
At the end of Obama’s first term, Panetta headed home to California, where he and his wife, Sylvia, have founded the Panetta Institute for Public Policy, based at California State University-Monterey Bay — an institution he helped establish in his congressional district when Fort Ord closed.
Now 76, he lives in the comfortable, casual house his father built in 1948, on a 12-acre ranch dotted with the walnut and elm trees planted then. In one corner of the living room is the Baldwin grand piano his parents gave him for his 12th birthday. (His musical prowess raised his mother’s hopes that he would become a concert pianist, though his father at one point advised dentistry as a career.) Framed family photos are everywhere.
His 12-year-old golden retriever, Bravo, trails him indoors and out.
Sitting in the living room, Panetta briefly assesses the legacies of the three presidents he has served.
For Richard Nixon, history will “probably be a little kinder to him later on,” given his achievements in opening relations with China, protecting the environment and other issues. “But the problem is that once a president resigns because of scandal, I think that’ll always darken his view in history.”
For Bill Clinton, history will remember that he “always kept fighting back” to get things done, even while battling impeachment. “Whether it was Democrats or Republicans, you know, he found a way to be able to do some things, to be able to accomplish some things that were important.”
He makes a similar observation about Hillary Clinton, saying she would be a “great” president. “One thing about the Clintons is, they want to get it done,” he says, in words that draw an implicit contrast with Obama. “When it comes to being president of the United States, it’s one thing to talk a good game. It’s another thing to deliver, to make things happen.”
And Barack Obama’s legacy?
“We are at a point where I think the jury is still out,” Panetta says. “For the first four years, and the time I spent there, I thought he was a strong leader on security issues. … But these last two years I think he kind of lost his way. You know, it’s been a mixed message, a little ambivalence in trying to approach these issues and try to clarify what the role of this country is all about.
“He may have found himself again with regards to this ISIS crisis. I hope that’s the case. And if he’s willing to roll up his sleeves and engage with Congress in taking on some of these other issues, as I said I think he can establish a very strong legacy as president. I think these next 2 1/2 years will tell us an awful lot about what history has to say about the Obama administration.”
Exelis Unveils Cognitive Electronic Warfare Technology
Oct 6, 2014 Bill Sweetman | AWIN First
Exelis is launching a new family of electronic warfare (EW) systems that it expects to offer better detection and jamming capability against emerging, more flexible radio-frequency (RF) threats.
Dubbed Disruptor SRx, the new products use “cognitive EW” technology, and are claimed to be able to respond in real time to previously unrecorded waveforms or operating modes. It is aimed at applications ranging from unmanned air vehicles to combat aircraft, has potential land and sea uses, and – according to Exelis – will work within a “system of systems” approach rather than being based on a single processor.
Disruptor SRx takes advantage of modern microprocessor and RF circuitry design to fit a digital receiver, digital radio-frequency memory (DRFM) and a digital signal processor in a single module. The module has a standalone capability to both identify signals against a threat library (as traditional systems do) and classify unknown signals and generate jamming signals if necessary, using high-speed processing and “machine learning” to respond on the fly.
Because the modules are self-contained, a system based on Disruptor SRx is not reliant on a centralized EW management computer to identify signals and generate countermeasures techniques. This cuts out system-wide connections and reduces latency, helping the system to react.
The modules will be delivered pre-configured to address different bands, and can cover from NATO A/B band (up to 500 MHz) to the millimeter-wave bands used by missile seekers. Exelis has designed the system to be “platform-agnostic” and to be installed behind existing antennas, and says that the individual modules are small enough to fit in spaces that were not designed to accommodate processing hardware.
Disruptor SRx is in the prototype stage, Exelis says, and applications are under study.
Gen. Hostage’s Warning
By John A. Tirpak
Mike Hostage laid out the Air Force’s past and future readiness problem in no uncertain terms.
Last year’s budget sequester so crippled the Air Force that a third of its fleet was grounded and only a handful of jet aircraft were ready in case of a new international crisis, according to the head of the combat air forces. That debacle drove USAF’s request to shrink even more, as the service desperately tried to save enough cash to keep a smaller force fully prepared for unexpected wars.
And without Congress’ help, the same sequestration-based disaster will surely play out again next year.
Last summer’s stand-down was as badly timed as could be imagined. It was preceded by years of here-and-now combat operations that shortchanged depth and left the Air Force in a fragile readiness state, according to Air Combat Command chief Gen. Gilmary Michael Hostage III.
And, as he said in a July speech at an Air Force Association-sponsored event, the damage is still reverberating.
“By the end of the grounding period—three months and a week—we had eight combat ready airplanes” in the continental US that weren’t either already forward deployed to a combat area or getting ready to go.
“In other words, I had no reservoir force, were a contingency to pop up—a Syria, Iran, North Korea. … That was how bad it got.” He said he spent this past summer on Capitol Hill trying to explain “the reality of what sequestration does to us. We have to stop this.”
Hostage said he’s reached the practical limits of asking his people to “do more with less” and won’t do it anymore.
He started his speech—attended by industry, media, foreign air attachés and USAF officials—by noting that “my successor’s been named,” so “I say what I want. I don’t care who hears me. I’m going to tell the truth … because at this point, there’s not much they can do to me.”
Hostage is expected to retire this fall, and Pacific Air Forces chief Gen. Herbert J. “Hawk” Carlisle is set to take over ACC.
The command faced “pressure” not to ground units because “that would look bad,” Hostage said, but he had little choice. There’s “no definition for flying below … basic military capability rate,” meaning that aircrew are safe to fly, and in bad weather, but aren’t combat ready.
Rather than take his whole force below BMC, he elected to keep some units ready while others he simply shut down. Such a “debacle” mustn’t happen again, and he’s made a commitment to his airmen, saying, “I will not send you into combat unless you are organized, trained, and equipped to do what we’re going to ask you to do. I will get fired before I send somebody who’s not ready to go.”
How did USAF get in this mess?
The Pentagon knew sequester was coming for the first half of last year, but until the law actually kicked in, spending wasn’t seriously constrained.
“We had already been overspending because of the Continuing Resolution. Then, oh, by the way, [Congress decided not to] … reimburse” war spending.
“We had to absorb all that in six months. When we did the math, that would mean … flying the aviators once or twice a month. So I said, that can’t happen. So we figured out who we could keep fully operational and who we had to stop.”
While he believed airmen would accept grounding as a one-time fix to fiscal problems, “I don’t think they can accept it if I go back to them, year after year, and say, … ‘This year, we’re going to ground you.’ I think we would run into a morale issue pretty quickly.”
It was only because of the Murray-Ryan bipartisan budget deal that there was relief from sequester in Fiscal 2014. ACC has “clawed [its] way back out of that hole” by getting its pilots and crews requalified, but “it was a long struggle,” Hostage related, and depot maintenance is still backlogged. The three months of grounding required six months of rebuilding proficiency. Then, there was a 10-day government shutdown, requiring a further three weeks “on the recovery.”
Before the budget deal, Hostage said, he was contemplating “several months” of keeping units at BMC in Fiscal 2014, then working them back up to combat mission readiness, to avoid grounding. However, he’s decided that just won’t work. In fact, he fully expects that sequestration will return, and “we’re going to hit the same spot at the bottom of the cliff.”
He sees no sign that the nation is confronting its fiscal problems, the sequester being simply a “by-product.”
“Based on that, I’m telling my force we have to be ready to deal with a sequestered budget for the duration of the law.” It expires in 2023.
The only reasonable path, he said, is to make “painful decisions” like the personnel cuts and aircraft retirements USAF has requested in its Fiscal 2015 budget. Those amount to some 27,000 people and hundreds more airplanes than the Air Force has already reduced over the last eight years.
What We Owe Young Airmen
As ACC commander, Hostage said his role is not to “whine” about what he doesn’t have, but to “produce as much combat power as I can possibly produce for whatever the nation allots to me to do that.” And the way to achieve that, he said, is for USAF to get smaller—”not able to go as many places at once” but with enough proper equipment and training that “wherever we go, we will dominate.”
To achieve that, USAF must have the flexibility to manage, he said, and politics “is not letting us make those hard choices.”
The “horrific” budget options include cutting A-10s, KC-10s, and U-2s, he noted.
“I have need for those capabilities. I just don’t have the resources,” he explained. Hostage would like to retain a force of 250 A-10s, but, he said, the funds won’t be there, and frankly, “it really pisses me off” when people say the Air Force wants to cut these airplanes.
“I’m only losing the U-2 because I was directed [by Congress] to buy the Global Hawk and the only way I could buy the Global Hawk is to get rid of U-2s. I can’t afford both.” In a “perfect world,” he’d have both, because “right now” the unmanned Global Hawk doesn’t have “the same awareness” of a U-2 pilot.
“So don’t tell me I cut the U-2. I didn’t. I’m sacrificing the U-2 to pay for something I’m told I ave to buy.”
The aircraft the Air Force is consolidating around, he said, will let ACC “produce combat power across the range of military options that we have to be prepared for.”
However, “I don’t think we’re going to be allowed” to make those hard choices.
The Air Force of 30 years ago was big enough to ride out political and economic “perturbations,” but it’s too small for that now, Hostage said.
“We don’t have the latitude anymore to hang onto the amount of force structure we have or the infrastructure.”
USAF has for years begged Congress to let the service close bases. It doesn’t have enough airplanes to spread around them all.
“I could close one in three bases across my command and still have plenty of infrastructure,” he asserted. This “baggage” is “having a serious impact on our ability to produce maximum combat power.”
Hostage now tells commanders he won’t ask them to try to do more with less. Instead, “I tell [them] … work to the maximum amount of combat capability you can produce. When you hit a limitation, tell me what that is.
Don’t push past it. … Don’t cut corners. Don’t do the things you’re tempted to do because you don’t want to report failure.”
Instead, Hostage wants commanders to “tell me what your limit is, stop at that point, and I will either fix that limit or we’ll deal with it until the time comes that we can remove [it].” He said, “We owe it to those young airmen” not to ask them to do more than they are trained and equipped to do.
The effects of the sequestration will linger for some time. One entire class of the USAF Weapons School was canceled, and “we can never recover from that because time moves on.” The potential future service leaders who missed that class “will not get the chance to go [back], and if they do, they’ll bump somebody else.” The result will be a years-long deficit in elite operational weapon experts that will only heal when that year group finally ages out of the Air Force.
The service has just 17 E-8 JSTARS aircraft used to track and target ground vehicles. USAF will be taking some of them out of service to free up funds to develop—”out of hide”— a replacement for the type. While an E-8 replacement isn’t in the “top three” of USAF buying priorities—the F-35, the KC-46 tanker, and the Long-Range Strike Bomber are—the JSTARS would be fourth, he said.
Having fewer E-8 JSTARS available involves taking some risk. Consequently Hostage told the industry representatives in the audience that “what’s critical about this program is speed. I need to put renewed capability on the ramp as soon as possible because I’m taking risk in the interim.”
ACC is uninterested in “new stuff,” but simply needs a sustainable replacement for the capability already in the JSTARS. (Air Force leaders have said they expect the solution to be a heavily tricked-out, off-the-shelf, business-class jet aircraft.)
ACC is also trying to work more closely with industry to identify the technologies that will make a real difference in preserving the nation’s military edge, he said. Independent research and development has two functions: to produce “the stuff I actually need to go to war” and to keep adversaries second-guessing.
“What I really want to do is make [adversaries] … spend whole bunches of money to defend themselves against something that I don’t spend very much on. … I want them to spend a million bucks to defend against my five-dollar weapon. I can’t afford to be on the opposite side of that.”
One of those asymetric imbalances he mentioned as being in the Air Force’s favor was directed energy, including both high-powered lasers and high-powered microwaves.
Not all of USAF’s troubles are due to shortages. In remotely piloted aircraft, the Air Force has too many.
ACC’s fleet of RPAs is “overweighted” with machines good “at fighting in a permissive environment,” he said. “I need to resize and reapportion that fleet.” It would be “foolish” to get rid of all the existing RPAs, as the MQ-9 Reapers “still have some applicability on the edges of a contested fight, but only on the edges,” Hostage observed. “I need the ability to produce [intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance] in a contested environment.”
The other services that depend on USAF for ISR have come to expect a “staring eye on the battlefield, 24/7” and that’s “not going to happen in a contested environment,” Hostage warned.
The answer isn’t a stealthy new RPA. “We’re working to build … the capability” to deliver that expected ISR product, though not necessarily with an aircraft,” he said. “There’s a love affair out there in the nonaviation world with the concept of the unmanned platform, but I really need the human tightly in that loop.” So-called “nontraditional ISR”—in the form of a fighter with sensors in the thick of the action—will still be essential.
“The day will come” when pilots flying an aircraft remotely will have all the “kinesthetic” awareness of what’s going around the airplane, and when that day comes, “I’m happy to stop flying manned airplanes. But that day is not here, yet.” While Hostage doesn’t think “we’ve seen the birth of the last human aviator,” he said, “I believe it will happen someday.”
Hostage said the effort to second-guess potential enemies and have the right mix of capabilities on hand for any contingency is an ongoing battle of wits, and it’s getting harder to think out loud about that particular cat-and-mouse game.
An Air Force “Red Team” looks constantly “at what potential adversaries are capable of, what their methodologies are. We look very carefully at what they think of us. We watch how they train, because how they train indicates what they think we’re capable of.” He said, “We think we know what our strengths and weaknesses are, and we look for disconnects” in the comparison.
Times have changed, though, and thinking openly about the challenges has become precarious.
Twenty-five years ago, “there was no possibility that all your secrets could disappear just because somebody plugged a thumb drive into your computer,” he said. “So we’re far more circumspect now about talking and writing and publishing and putting out there those kinds of thoughts.” Hostage said, “We live in a world where, when I tell you something, … the next day it’s known around the world,” and “some very smart people” decide, “ ’Let’s go steal what they’re doing.’ ”
Hostage pushed for the new bomber, explaining that “we have an ancient fleet of B-52s [and] a rapidly aging fleet of B-1s,” both “excluded” from operating in or near denied airspace, because they lack the stealth to survive. They can “get close” to contested space, with the help of fifth generation fighters, “but they can’t conduct deep strike in the way the B-2 can.” The stealthy B-2 fleet, at 20 airplanes, however, is “just way too small to be our sole capability” against heavily defended targets deep within an enemy’s territory. USAF must preserve the ability to deny “sanctuary” to any target, he asserted.
While Hostage is thrilled with the capability delivered by the fifth generation F-22 and F-35, they have a shared shortcoming: magazine depth. That’s why he’s hopeful that research into directed energy weapons will bear fruit and that lasers may even be “retrofittable” onto older generation fighters to keep them relevant.
He could not say whether directed energy will “define” a future sixth generation fighter and even conceded that air dominance after the F-22 may not even be an aerial platform. In the near-term, however, Hostage warned that the US must not be complacent about its ability to win air wars. The surface-to-air missile threat is large and proliferating and making it tough to engage even a medium-size nation such as Syria with good weapons.
“I could not send an A-10 into Syria right now,” he said. “They’d never come back. I would have to conduct three weeks of very significant [integrated air defense system] degradation before I could think about sending a fourth gen platform, and I sure as heck wouldn’t send an A-10 in because the rate of fire that would come in at low altitude would be unsustainable.”
Good as it has been, Hostage said, the A-10 no longer represents a survivable system in well-defended airspace.
When “I talk ‘contested/denied space,’ I’m talking about the South China Sea,” Hostage said, as well as “dozens” of other places where small, mobile, or shoulder-fired threats are proliferating to create contested airspace. Simply put, the environment USAF has to fight in is changing.
Hostage said people have to understand USAF is “no longer a requirements force [where] you tell me what the requirement is, I build the force.” The Air Force has become a capabilities force: “I’ve got this much capability, you’ve got this much requirement. You tell me where you want to use it, but when you use this much, we’re done,” he said.
Can Drones Help Us Clear ISIS-Controlled Cities?
Posted on October 6, 2014
As U.S. airpower returns to Iraq and spreads to Syria in the fight against ISIS, the utility of air assets in urban areas should be revisited. Despite the wealth of literature on the topic within U.S. military circles in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the lessons and technology developed during and since the Iraq War have been poorly covered with reference to this question. Consequently, the experience from engagements including Fallujah I and II (2004), Mosul (2004) and Sadr City (2008), and the Iraq War more broadly, as well as the developments surrounding this technology in the last ten years has been neglected. Despite becoming a flavor of the month in military circles because of their tactical capabilities and ethical implications, UAVs remain an understudied subject with regards to what can be achieved from the perspective of the challenging battlespace that is urban warfare.
Airpower in Urban Terrain
Historically, aircraft have faced numerous practical and resulting political issues in operating in dense urban landscapes. To name a few: Deploying munitions safely and effectively; delivering accurate and timely intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); being deployed safely with regards to aircrew; and airpower working as part of a joint force. These practical issues in turn create political issues from collateral damage – noncombatant and structural – as well as from the deaths of U.S. servicemen due to enemy and friendly fire. While the latter places pressure on the U.S. military from the public, the former creates local, domestic, and international pressure to restrict airpower’s rules of engagement so as to cease violations of the Law of Armed Conflict.
With regards to deploying munitions safely and effectively, the U.S. has historically faced issues in procuring and utilizing a suitable array of precision-guided munitions (PGMs) in dense urban landscapes. On the one hand, utilizing large bombs can create substantial levels of collateral damage for the urban landscape and its inhabitants; on the other, this may result in fratricide for the U.S. military, especially when opponents ‘hug’ U.S. troops. In Fallujah in 2004 for instance, one veteran noted that the skyline of the city resembled the setting of a Godzilla movie, such was the destruction from aircraft. Furthermore, due to the proximity of fighting in Mogadishu in 1993, Rangers were forced to expose themselves to enemy fire so as to mark their positions for strafing “Little Bird” helicopters.
It is difficult to affirm that UAVs such as the Predator, Reaper, or Gray Eagle carry highly accurate munitions for urban warfare, improving upon these practical and political issues. The Hellfire missile, for instance, has a blast radius of 20 meters and shrapnel can be propelled over a much greater distance. Whilst the “Romeo” Hellfire II missile has entered service over concerns of the Hellfire, doubts still remain regarding its accuracy, especially when the density of an urban metropolis, such as Baghdad or Fallujah, is taken into consideration. As Israel demonstrated this summer in Gaza, the truly “smart” bomb remains as elusive as the silver bullet. Even with accurate intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and precision-guided munitions, the likelihood of airpower causing collateral damage, let alone fratricide, remains relatively high.
Previously, a second major issue for airpower in urban warfare was in delivering accurate and timely ISR for commanders and troops on the ground. Insurgents defending urban landscapes were familiar with the area they are defending, unlike the assaulting forces. As a result, ISR is crucial to mitigate this disadvantage for U.S. forces. Infamously for the U.S. military in the Battle of Mogadishu, the Navy’s Orion surveillance plane was poorly integrated with the Army. As a result, when a Humvee convoy was sent to rescue the crew of the first downed Black Hawk helicopter in the center of Mogadishu, ISR from the Orion was too slow to effectively direct the convoy, prolonging the operation and endangering the lives of U.S. servicemen.
UAV technology has done much to reverse this crippling problem endemic in the fast-paced nature of urban warfare. In addition to general advances in ISR technology which have facilitated closer integration between ISR assets and troops and commanders, UAVs hold numerous advantages over manned aircraft from the perspective of ISR. Indeed, the ISR technology on the Predator and Reaper costs more than the actual UAVs themselves. Such ISR technology is so powerful that it can read a vehicle’s licence plate from two miles away. Furthermore, due to the relatively low-tech propeller design of these UAVs, they are able to hover above urban battle zones at high altitudes almost undetected, with long flight times and air-to-air refueling ensuring that UAVs can stalk a target almost indefinitely. Such technology was put to good use in Sadr City in 2008 when Shadow and Predator UAVs expertly stalked and eliminated Mahdi Army rocket teams which were harassing the diplomatic Green Zone of Baghdad. As a result, while unwanted casualties from munitions may forever be a problem, improved ISR from UAVs has aided in mitigating this urban warfare issue.
The third major issue for airpower in urban warfare has been the risk to aircrew in this environment. Despite attackers generally establishing control of the air in asymmetric urban warfare, in performing strafing missions, low-level ISR collection, med-evacs or other roles, aircraft expose themselves to weaponry such as small-arms, RPGs and MANPADS. This was vividly demonstrated in Mogadishu with the downing of two Black Hawk helicopters by RPGs, with the resulting effort to rescue the crews leading to the death and maiming of almost one hundred US servicemen. As a result of this costly tactical success, the US mission in Somalia was cut short by President Clinton. Especially in wars of choice, the need to avoid such casualties is vital for the US.
Clearly, UAVs by their very nature take this danger out of the equation for urban warfare. UAV controllers and ISR analysts sit hundreds, if not thousands of miles away in the safety of military compounds. Whilst the aircraft may still be in danger, the potential political repercussions from the death of U.S. servicemembers is no longer relevant. Even the aircraft itself is generally much more expendable. Whilst UAVs such as Global Hawk may carry a price tag similar to manned aircraft, UAVs such as Predator and Reaper are much cheaper. Indeed, the cost of one F-22 is roughly equivalent to the cost of eighty-five Predators.
The fourth issue is the role of airpower in joint forces conducting urban operations. Historic problems abound regarding the integration of different aspect of militaries in the confusing landscape of densely-populated cities. This was especially an issue for airpower in Russia’s disastrous 1994-5 Battle of Grozny, in which three different ministries had forces engaged in Grozny and coordinated appallingly. For example, a helicopter from one ministry accidentally attacked the headquarters of Internal Affairs. In another instance, aircraft destroyed the five lead vehicles of the 104th Russian Airborne Division. At the outset of the Iraq War, a similar friendly fire incident happened in An Nasiriyah, in which up to ten marines were killed by fire from two A-10s piloted by men of the Pennsylvania Air National Guard.
With the experience of Iraq, major concerns of “jointness” have largely faded away with regards to airpower in urban warfare. As the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, noted in a Foreign Affairs article last year, “The armed forces have made enormous strides towards true jointness” over the last decade. However, a more interesting and potentially troublesome issue regarding jointness is that the lack of a U.S. Air Force monopoly over UAVs has opened the door for the relative redundancy of joint forces in urban warfare. Obviously, necessity may always prelude working as a joint force. However, with the U.S. Army having its own Predator/Reaper-like technology in the Gray Eagle, as well as numerous smaller and unarmed UAVs, such as Shadow and the hand-launched Raven, all the bases of tactical and operational air support in urban warfare are covered, rendering joint forces potentially unnecessary in urban warfare.
As a result, it is evident that the proliferation of UAVs within the U.S. military has enabled airpower to play a much more dominant role in urban warfare. With such technology, however, comes new issues. As Peter Singer identified, the new ISR capabilities of UAVs has produced the modern “tactical general”, in that commanders dedicate too much time to managing tactical engagements, neglecting operational and strategic considerations. At the same time, a report by Bradley T. Hoagland for the Brookings Institution revealed how the standards of UAV operators are deficient, with recruits generally being taken with marks on their record or finishing in the bottom half of their class. UAVs are effectively seen as a dead-end career path. From the perspective of the complex and fast paced nature of urban warfare, both of these issues for airpower need addressing, having the potential to undo many of the advantages UAVs deliver.
Ultimately, UAVs are not a magic bullet. In real terms, however, there is simply no easy fix to the complex nature of urban warfare – it is a powder keg of practical and resulting political issues. This being said, it is clear that UAVs have enabled airpower to play a more active role in this environment. To differing degrees based upon political context, urban warfare will always require a ground element. This may clearly be seen in the battles of Fallujah in 2004, when US forces rooted out insurgents house-by-house. However, at the other end of the spectrum, Sadr City in 2008 proved how airpower – specifically UAVs – could take the lead in urban warfare if operational objectives stopped short of physically controlling the ground through an ISR-intensive approach.
In the air war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, control of urban centers such as Mosul and Tikrit will be a vital element. While airpower may still be a controversial asset to utilize in such battle zones due to the practical and political consequences of their utilization, it is clear that airpower can act more cleanly and effectively in urban warfare with developments in UAV technology over the previous decade.
Peter Storey is a graduate of the University of Sheffield and holds a Masters degree in Intelligence and Strategic Studies from Aberystwyth University, UK. He focuses on asymmetrical warfare, Afghanistan, and terrorism.
Do Drones Have a Future?
October 7, 2014 · in Analysis
Thirteen years ago today the Predator drone saw its first armed reconnaissance mission in Afghanistan. Since then, the U.S. military drone fleet has grown by leaps and bounds. The U.S. Air Force has scores of Predators and Reapers stationed around the globe 24/7, high-altitude drones like Global Hawk patrol the stratosphere, and the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have thousands of small hand-launched unmanned aircraft to support ground troops.
The future, though, looks less favorable.
Budget cuts and bureaucratic resistance are squeezing unmanned aircraft programs. “Next-gen” aircraft show no signs of making it off the drawing board. With this in mind, it’s worth taking stock of what the prospects look like for future unmanned aircraft in the U.S. military. Each military service has its unique needs and bureaucratic hurdles, so below is a service-by-service rundown of the most important needs and gaps. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of every Gray Eagle, Puma, Raven, Scan Eagle, Global Hawk, Triton, Fire Scout, and Sentinel out there, just a quick summary of the most important debates about where unmanned aircraft are going in the future.
The Air Force has embraced unmanned aircraft (or “remotely piloted aircraft,” as the Air Force prefers to call them) for reconnaissance and counterterrorism strikes. Other missions, less so. On paper, the vision is there. The Air Force’s new Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Vector released this spring is an outstanding vision for the future of unmanned aircraft. The problem is it isn’t funded. The document talks about “next-gen RPA,” but such a thing does not yet exist and the Air Force doesn’t seem to be making any progress in funding one. There are pilots inside the Air Force who have experience with unmanned aircraft and see their value, but that cadre of officers is still fighting an uphill battle against the larger bureaucracy that has a hard time envisioning a future without pilots in cockpits. As just one data point, the highest-ranking Air Force officer in charge of unmanned systems requirements, a full Colonel position, has been a terminal job for three out of the past four people who held it. The holder of that position has typically moved on to retirement, not promotion into higher-level jobs. In other words, working unmanned systems isn’t exactly a fast track to making general officer.
The Air Force is taking a look at small unmanned aircraft as part of a new “flight plan” they are developing. This has a great deal of potential to expand how the Air Force is thinking about unmanned aircraft if it includes the potential for swarms of low-cost expendable platforms. This could include air vehicles that don’t look like traditional aircraft, like the miniature air-launched decoy (MALD). These air vehicles could be recoverable or disposable. But it’s not clear if the new flight plan will include them. There are major conceptual hurdles within the Air Force to harnessing the full potential of unmanned systems. The idea of building large numbers of low-cost expendable platforms is quite a paradigm shift. Another big one is the idea of multi-aircraft control where one person controls multiple air vehicles at the same time. So far, there has been resistance in some quarters in the Air Force to multi-aircraft control, but it will be necessary if the Air Force is to harness the advantages of swarming.
The U.S. Navy’s next-generation unmanned aircraft program has been its Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) aircraft. There’s been an ongoing debate about the scope of the Navy’s program, with some significant scrutiny from the Hill. Some have accused the Navy of deliberately downscoping the requirements for UCLASS so as to not compete with the Navy’s next-generation manned fighter program, F/A-XX. Unfortunately, as a result the Navy’s current vision of UCLASS also isn’t very useful. What the Navy needs is a long-range penetrating aircraft, as threats to the carrier will push it increasingly further from shore, beyond the range of existing aircraft. UCLASS will also need to be highly stealthy to penetrate advanced air defenses. Yet the current specifications for UCLASS are for a modestly stealthy maritime surveillance aircraft that will not have the stealth and payload necessary to be truly relevant against more sophisticated adversaries. The Department of Defense (DoD) has put on hold releasing its final requirements to industry, so there is still hope that DoD senior leaders will overrule the Navy and put the UCLASS program back on a more sensible track. The fate of UCLASS is a canary-in-the-coal-mine for whether DoD is serious about addressing future threats, or is willing to sacrifice future relevance in order to preserve pilots’ jobs.
As Marines return to their core mission of expeditionary, amphibious operations, they also have the need for an upgraded unmanned aircraft. While they don’t need a stealthy combat drone like the Navy or Air Force, they do need a long-endurance surveillance aircraft, like today’s Predator or Reaper, to cover Marines when they go ashore. Right now, the U.S. military only has the ability to fly Predators and Reapers from land bases. This means, without a new system, the Marines may not have those capabilities in the future depending on where they are operating. The Marines have a very small sea-based drone, the RQ-21 Blackjack, but it is not remotely on the same scale as a Reaper-like aircraft. Without their own organic sea-based capability, the Corps will have to rely on the Air Force or Navy to provide persistent airborne surveillance to protect Marines on the ground. Historically, Marines have been reluctant to rely on the other Services, instead keeping all of the capabilities needed to support Marines within the Corps. The key challenge will be that there isn’t any excess space on Marine amphibious assault (LHA/LHD) ships, so any added unmanned aircraft will mean giving something else up. That’s a hurdle that the Navy hasn’t been able to overcome on its carriers, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Marine Corps ends up any differently. Ultimately, when the Corps looks to the future capability mix they’ll need to support Marines ashore, it’s hard to imagine that unmanned aircraft are not a necessary part of that mix, and that the Marines won’t want to own those aircraft themselves. Right now, though, those discussions about investing in a large unmanned aircraft for persistent surveillance don’t even seem to be happening.
Perhaps surprisingly, the Army is furthest ahead of all of the Services in terms of integrating unmanned aircraft into their aviation organization and doctrine. The Army has adopted a concept of “manned-unmanned teaming” for its aviation assets, pairing unmanned Gray Eagle and Shadow aircraft with manned Apache helicopters. While the Army has been talking about manned-unmanned teaming for several years, the concept really came to fruition when budget cuts forced the retirement of the Kiowa helicopter. In the future, a manned-unmanned team of Gray Eagles, Shadows, and Apaches will perform the Kiowa’s armed reconnaissance mission. This is more efficient and, as the Army fleshes out doctrine and tactics more completely, will also allow new concepts of operation as the unmanned aircraft can be sent forward for more dangerous missions. In a truly groundbreaking innovation, the Apache pilots will actually have the ability to task and control the unmanned aircraft directly from their helicopters.
Moving forward, the Army will need to evolve to a model of cooperative multi-aircraft control where one person controls several aircraft at the same time. In order to make this feasible without overloading the human operator, the aircraft will have to operate autonomously and cooperatively with the human overseeing the “swarm” as a whole. Swarms of self-cooperating unmanned aircraft could be used for a range of missions, including surveillance, communications relay, cargo resupply, electronic attack, and close air support. In order to get there, the Army needs to be doing experiments with swarming now to learn what is possible technologically, how to use a swarm, how to control it, and where technology needs to be further developed. While no one in the Army is opposed to such a concept, the funding isn’t there yet to develop the swarm.
A Future for Unmanned Aircraft?
In the future, unmanned aircraft will need to be more autonomous and more cooperative, allowing one person to control a swarm of vehicles. Some of them will need to be stealthy, but some may be low-cost systems for other missions that don’t need stealth. A concept that has not yet been fully explored is the idea of using swarms of low-cost, expendable systems to saturate and overwhelm an enemy’s defenses. Ideally, the Air Force’s small, unmanned aircraft plan that is under development will explore that idea. But even if it does so successfully, it won’t come to fruition without funding.
The obstacles to getting where each of the services needs to be go beyond a lack of funding, however. While unmanned aircraft have been embraced for niche roles like reconnaissance, parts of the military resist their incorporation into core mission areas. While the Air Force has had enough experience with unmanned aircraft to build up an advocacy group, they don’t have a critical mass yet, and funding a next-gen unmanned combat aircraft is quite clearly not high on the Air Force’s priority list as an institution. The Air Force is moving out this year with concepts for a sixth-gen fighter aircraft, the F-X, but next-gen unmanned aircraft keep ending up below the cut line during budget season. Within the Navy the situation is far worse, with no internal advocacy group for unmanned aircraft. While there are sailors who see the value in unmanned systems, there hasn’t been enough experience yet to build up a community like there is in the Air Force. The Marine Corps is in a similar position, where bringing an unmanned aircraft onto the deck of an amphibious assault ship will mean taking off a manned aircraft, and there is a strong constituency to resist such a move and none to push for it.
There is also cultural resistance in some circles to new, perhaps uncomfortable, concepts of operation like multi-aircraft control. The services have different cultures, and so react to some concepts differently. Piloting is central to Air Force culture and identity, and concepts like multi-aircraft control that would change the paradigm of one-pilot-to-one-aircraft meet headstrong resistance. The situation is very different in the Army, where piloting is not central to Army culture. The Army even refers to the people controlling its unmanned aircraft as “operators,” not pilots. To the Army, unmanned aircraft are merely another piece of equipment; nothing about them threatens the Army’s identity. (When unmanned systems encroach on core Army functions, it is another matter.)
These distinctions extend beyond just terminology and into choices about what technology is adopted. Army unmanned aircraft have a higher degree of automation than Air Force unmanned aircraft, including automated takeoff and landing, which Air Force Predators and Reapers don’t have. Automating takeoffs and landings would be safer and save money, since most accidents happen on takeoff and landing. But the Air Force isn’t investing in it. If you have the paradigm of a pilot as a person in direct physical control of an aircraft, then trusting that control to automation and having the pilot direct the aircraft at the mission-level might be uncomfortable. In the face of this discomfort, a “go slow” approach might be tempting.
That would be a mistake. As the saying goes, “the enemy gets a vote.”
Twenty-three nations either have or are developed armed unmanned aircraft. Many more will have access to cheap, off-the-shelf commercial drones that could be assembled into swarms to target U.S. ships and bases. While sophisticated stealthy aircraft will be available only to a few nations, some of those nations might be American competitors.
The unmanned revolution is barreling forward, with or without the U.S. military onboard. Much of the innovation in robotics is being driven by the commercial sector, meaning it will be widely available to everyone. The U.S. military is used to competing in a world where some of the most game-changing innovations – such as stealth, GPS, and precision-guided weapons – come from the U.S. defense sector. It is ill-prepared for a world where such technologies are widely available to all. Staying ahead will require coming up with the most innovative uses of new technology, and being able to rapidly incorporate commercial sector innovations. In order to make that happen, though, unmanned aircraft will need funding and advocates inside the bureaucracy.
While the United States currently has a lead in unmanned aircraft, that lead is fragile. Drones have a future, regardless of what the United States does. The only question is whether the United States will retain its edge, or cede the lead in unmanned aircraft to others.
Paul Scharre is a fellow and Director of the 20YY Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). From 2008-2013 he worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense on policies for unmanned and autonomous systems. He is a former infantryman in the 75th Ranger Regiment and has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Obama’s drone order could come ‘any day now,’ lobbyist says
by Press • 7 October 2014
By Megan R. Wilson
President Obama’s executive order on drone privacy could come “any day now,” according to a lobbyist for the industry.
Michael Drobac, a senior policy adviser at Akin Gump, last week launched a coalition for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that includes Amazon Prime Air, Google[x]’s Project Wing, GoPro and Parrot, among others.
Members of the Small UAV Coalition have been meeting behind the scenes with officials from the White House and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as they seek to integrate unmanned aircraft into American airspace, Drobac said.
The executive order from Obama reportedly would require federal agencies and departments to detail the size and scope of their domestic drone fleets and how they use any data they might collect.
The step, demanded by privacy advocates, could help the FAA as it seeks to issue guidelines for the commercial use of UAVs. The executive order would be ultimately implemented by other federal departments, including the Pentagon and the Department of Commerce.
Drobac, the coalition’s executive director, and other Akin Gump lobbyists have been lobbying on behalf of the Small UAV Coalition since August, according to disclosure records.
He said progress on the drone rules has been slow and that the coalition hopes to “work collaboratively” with the FAA to turn that around.
The FAA must come out with final drone rules by September 2015 and should be initiating proposals next month, but industry experts and a government audit have said it is falling behind those deadlines.
The agency has said it is making “significant progress” despite facing hurdles in the rule-making process.
While the FAA has designated six drone-testing sites nationwide, Drobac said some companies have had problems either getting approval or access to those locations, and that very few tests have actually taken place.
“It’s a vicious cycle,” Drobac said, because companies can’t prove they can operate the UAVs safely without the tests.
He said the foot-dragging by the government could spur companies to outsource their research and operations to avoid the burdensome approval process in the United States.
“Some take a view of this as being in the long-term future,” such as within the next 10 years, Drobac said. “The technology to do this safely is here now. How long do we go forward before we acknowledge that it’s here?”
EW Needs $2B More A Year; ‘Major Deficiencies’ Found By Defense Science Board
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
on October 08, 2014 at 2:30 PM
WASHINGTON: A classified Defense Science Board study, now on the desk of Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, recommends that the Pentagon invest an additional $2 billion a year in electronic warfare and create a high-level executive committee to oversee the four services’ EW spending.
“We need to dig ourselves out of a big hole, because we have seen a significant erosion of our electronic warfare capability over the last two decades,” said Paul Kaminski. It was Kaminski who proposed the study — tentatively titled 21st Century Military Operations in a Complex Electromagnetic Environment — some 18 months ago when he was chairman of the Defense Science Board. A legend in the defense acquisition world, Kaminiski was the Pentagon’s top procurement officer in the 1990s. It’s the current holder of that post, Under Secretary for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology Frank Kendall, who would co-chair the proposed executive committee alongside the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. James “Sandy” Winnefeld.
They’d have a big mess to clean up in electronic warfare, Kaminski made clear this morning at the annual conference of the EW group Association of Old Crows. (Click here for full coverage). In the DSB study, he said, “we found major deficiencies.”
The causes? The US took its eye off the EW ball after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, especially after 9/11, when it focused on relatively low-tech threats in Afghanistan and Iraq. Outside the war effort, stealth aircraft like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter sucked up the lion’s share of investment. Meanwhile, our better-funded adversaries — Russia, China, Iran, and others — exploited rapidly advancing technology that can jam, deceive, or hack the sensors, networks, and GPS signals on which our military relied. The increasingly complex environment requires not only renewed investment in traditional EW equipment but the creation of battle management systems to coordinate operations in an increasingly complex electromagnetic environment, he said.
“It’s actually pretty clear what we need to do in many areas, but I’d say the scale of the EW problem today and the years of neglect make the remedy expensive,” Kaminski said. “We also need something else besides money: We need senior level attention to the problem.”
I chased down Kaminski after his public remarks to get more detail. First, he made clear that the DSB concluded the Pentagon needs to add $2 billion more on top of the current level of investment in EW, whatever it actually is. “It is really hard to get a figure of what’s being spent on EW now,” Kaminski told me. “Do you want to count the platform?” — e.g. the full cost of a Navy EA-18G Growler — “[or] do you want to count the payload [only]?”– just the jammers and EW sensors on the plane. Overall, he said, “What we’re talking about here is about a $2 billion a year increase over that base.”
Even with that added money, he said, “it’s going to be a tradeoff: Do you buy a couple fewer platforms and spend some more money or not?”
To direct these investments — and force the hard choices when the services want to spend money on something else – is going to take an executive committee of top officials: Kendall, Winnefeld, representatives from the services and appropriate agencies. “What you want an EXCOM to do here is to oversee it,” he said, “because much of those budget increases will be in service budgets,” as well as at DARPA and other agencies.
What about the role of Strategic Command, officially the “advocate” for EW across the services but, as STRATCOM’s own director of operations lamented yesterday, lacking authorities and funding to make things happen?
“There is room for an enlarged role by STRATCOM — and also PACOM,” Kaminski told me. He wasn’t thinking about a governance role, it became clear, but of exercises to sharpen the forces’ EW edge and try out new tactics and technology, for which he held up Pacific Command’s “Northern Edge” wargames as a model.
“This is an area where we need some additional progress in modeling and simulation, testing and exercises,” Kaminski told me. In his public remarks, he’d said bluntly that “we’re pretty weak at the modeling and simulation at the campaign level” — that is, looking at the chaotic interplay of the whole electromagnetic battle, rather than at one system as a time — and only exercises in the real, physical world can verify or correct such complex models.
Inadequate training has contributed to “a very limited ability of our key decision-makers to understand the potential impact of electronic warfare,” Kaminski told the conference. And what EW efforts exist remain largely stovepiped by service, despite lip service to jointness and interoperability. “Unfortunately I still hear more talk than action,” he said. The Air Force and Navy-led Air-Sea Battle initiative is promising, but overall, he said, “this is being driven probably more by our unified and specified regional commands,” particularly PACOM, rather than by the services.
The problem goes beyond the services, though, he said. Fundamentally, our whole acquisition system — from the identification of new threats to the fielding of new technology — is much too slow for a world in which Moore’s Law doubles computing power every 18 months and software-defined systems can change their entire electromagnetic profile in mid-mission.
“This migration to a digital software-driven world and the availability of high-end electronics has to change our whole paradigm,” Kaminski said. During the Cold War, the US would identify a new piece of Soviet hardware, study it, officially certify it as “a documented and approved threat,” and then embark on a program to develop, test, and field a countermeasure. “10 or 12 years later we were fielding a capability to deal with that threat,” he said. That doesn’t work today. [It] has no chance of working today.”
Managing The Chaos Of Electronic
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
on October 08, 2014 at 4:00 AM
WASHINGTON: If you know both the enemy and yourself, you will not be defeated in a hundred….ducks?
“We’ve got twenty shotgun shells and a hundred ducks” in the electronic warfare world today, lamented Strategic Command’s Rear Adm. John R. Haley this morning. “There are so many devices out there and so many things being used.”
That proliferation of potential targets has major implications for how the American approach to EW has to change. Once upon a time, the “ducks” we had to keep track of were relatively few and well-defined: Soviet air-defense radars and headquarters radio transmitters, for example. But today there are more cellphone users in Afghanistan than people who know how to read, and some of them are Taliban, using those cheap, low-power, and widely available civilian systems to coordinate military operations. The electromagnetic spectrum — especially in cities — has become a buzzing, blooming confusion of signals emitted by everything from iPhones to advanced anti-aircraft missile batteries.
Historically, the military, the media, and Congress have focused on a small number of high-profile systems, Haley’s handful of shotgun shells: The Navy EA-18G Growler and the new Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) being developed to go on it; the Army’s CREW (Counter Radio Electronic Warfare) jammer to shut down roadside bombs; the Air Force’s EC-130H Compass Call. Those individual pieces of equipment remain important, Haley said, but as the electromagnetic battlefield becomes ever more complicated and confusing, “all these systems have to be enabled by something that wraps [then] up into an electromagnetic battle management system.”
EMBM — to use the truly appalling acronym — was the major focus of today’s panel of military officers at the Association of Old Crows (AOC) electronic warfare conference, where Haley was the senior speaker.
“We like the sexiness of effects, delivery, and battle damage assessment, [but] sometimes we pole vault over planning and management,” said Richard Wittstruck, the Army’s acting deputy program executive officer for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors (IEW&S). But if you want to “shoot a hundred ducks with twenty rounds,” he said, continuing Haley’s metaphor, you need some system to identify “which of those hundred ducks are important [in terms of] your military objectives and how do we prioritize them based on the intelligence we’ve received?”
The system “will have to be able to filter out those things that just don’t matter at that time for that particular warfighter,” said Air Force Col. Marcus “Shaka” Boyd of the 608th Air and Space Operations Center. “That’s where — again — battle management… is really going to come into play, to define what those filter algorithms will actually be.”
With ever more friendly, neutral, and enemy emissions on the battlefield, the optimal employment of our own electronic warfare systems “is going to change from day to day and in some cases from second to second,” Boyd said. (In fact, an article in the October Journal of Electronic Defense suggests only autonomous artificial intelligence can keep up).You may have great individual systems for electronic attack, protection, and support, Boyd said, but if you have inadequate battle management, you’ll get inferior results. In one case in Afghanistan, he recalled, a unit inadvertently jammed the data links being used by special operations. On the other hand, he said, if we get battle management right, it multiplies the effectiveness of all the individual systems.
So who’s getting it right?
The Army rolled out new doctrine for Cyber Electromagnetic Activities in February and will unveil a new “electronic warfare planning & management tool” (EWPMT) at next week’s Association of the US Army conference. “The Army is back in the EW business,” Wittstruck said.
Haley, however, said that “the Marine Corps is probably furthest down along the road. The Commandant has the Marine Corps working electromagnetic spectrum battle management in a system that is real today — software with computers — and actually working. It’s not operational yet but it’s a lot closer than what everybody else has.”
“We tend to look at this problem as overwhelming and I think it’s actually pretty manageable,” said Marine Col. Richard “Otter” Bew, the Commandant’s deputy legislative liaison. Yes, there are more and more transmitters — friendly, enemy, and civilian — in any given geographical area, he said. But different users tend to be on different wavelengths (otherwise they’d interfere with each other), and the US military has remarkable capability to sort them out.
That said, the Marine’s new electromagnetic battle management system is not yet a “program of record” officially enshrined in the budget Bew cautioned me and another reporter after the panel.
Nor is Bew sanguine that the Marines’ venerable EA-6B Prowler is going away with no replacement. “How do you maintain a cadre of expertise when there’s no platform?” he asked the other panelists. Unlike the Navy, “the Marine Corps is not going to buy the EA-18G [Growler],” Bew told me and the other journalist.
That doesn’t mean Marine strike fighters become more vulnerable, he said, because the Corps is replacing its old F-18 Hornets with the new F-35B, which has not only stealth but also some electronic warfare capabilities of its own. “If you take four F-18s that the Marine Corps flies supported by a Prowler, and you take four F-35s not supported by a Prowler… which package is more survivable?” he asked. “You would probably conclude that I haven’t given anything up in terms of strike package survivability.”
But the Marines are giving up the Prowler’s ability to provide electronic warfare support to the rest of the force, including ground troops and non-stealthy aircraft. “We still have an EW requirement,” he said. “Addressing that piece is something that the Deputy Commandant for Aviation, the Deputy Commandant for Capabilities Development and Integration, and the Commandant of the Marine Corps have been engaged in.”
Whatever answer they come up with, Bew said, “it’s going to be fundamentally different from how we do EW today.”
White House Shifts Its Cyber Legislative Strategy
Emphasis Will Be on Smaller, Not Comprehensive Legislation
By Eric Chabrow, October 9, 2014. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity
The Obama administration is shifting its strategy to get Congress to enact meaningful cybersecurity reform.
Speaking at a forum Oct. 9, sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel says the administration will abandon its efforts to seek passage of a comprehensive cybersecurity measure in favor of smaller, more tailored bills.
“I do think it will probably be easier for us to get smaller pieces of cyber-legislation rather than one, giant comprehensive bill,” says Daniel, a special assistant to the president. “So, a lot of our efforts are involved in getting whatever we can passed on whatever vehicle we can manage to get it attached to, as long as the policy and the legislation itself is acceptable. So, I think, that’s one thing I would say that we’re trying a different way of going about it.”
Daniel, at the forum, also addressed the White House reaction to recent bank breaches and law enforcement concerns over the hard-to-crack encryption in the new Apple iPhones.
Working with the Democratic-controlled Senate, the administration over the past few congresses has backed comprehensive cybersecurity legislation that has never come up for a floor vote. However, the Republican-led House of Representatives has passed a series of cybersecurity bills with bipartisan support, including measures to encourage cyberthreat information sharing between the government and business and reforming the Federal Information Security Management Act, the law that governs federal government IT security.
Lawmaking is a Challenge
Daniel says the White House is committed to getting cybersecurity legislation enacted before the current Congress adjourns at year’s end. “But obviously, getting anything passed on Capitol Hill right now is quite a challenge,” he says. “We try to be realistic, but it’s something that we still remain heavily engaged in.”
The Senate has not scheduled any votes on cybersecurity legislation, and many people who track cybersecurity legislation have expressed doubts that Congress will act this year (see Expectations Low for Cyber Legislation).
It is unclear whether compromise can be reached between the White House and the House over several key pieces of cybersecurity legislation. The administration has threatened a presidential veto of the House-passed cyberthreat information sharing bill, the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, because it believes the measure provides insufficient privacy safeguards and furnishes too broad liability protections to businesses that share cyberthreat data (see White House Threatens CISPA Veto, Again). Regarding FISMA reform, the White House has backed legislation to give the Department of Homeland Security sway over civilian agencies’ IT security activities, provisions the House bill lacks (see FISMA Reform Awaits Another Day).
Monitoring JPMorgan Chase Breach
During the forum, Daniel was asked, but didn’t provide much additional insight, about a report that the White House had been closely following suspected attacks on banks since the summer, as tensions between the U.S. and Russia continue to rise. The report also says President Obama and his top national security advisers have been asking about the motive behind the attack on JPMorgan Chase (see Chase Breach: Who Else Was Attacked?).
Daniel says he couldn’t provide details because of a continuing investigation by the FBI and Secret Service. “Part of our job on the National Security Council is to make sure the president and his senior advisers remain informed about a wide array of national security threats that confront the country,” he says. “That was the context we were treating this particular issue.
“It is something that we pay attention to in the sense that we are mindful of all the threats to our critical infrastructure, whether you’re talking about the financial sector, the electric sector, the telecommunications sector, so put into that broader context, anytime we see specific targeting or successful penetrations of those kinds of companies, it’s something we’re going to engage on.”
Encryption: Policy Tension
Responding to a question, Daniel sympathized with objections raised by Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey that Apple’s new iPhone and forthcoming Android mobile phones have data encryption so sophisticated that law enforcement with search warrants would not have access to the data. But the cybersecurity coordinator also noted the advantages of and need for industry to create stronger encryption (see Apple iOS 8 Reboots Privacy, Security).
“It’s not so much in encryption itself, it’s how is it that the government and our law-enforcement agencies [can] continue to gain access to information in the course of an investigation in a court approved process in a way that doesn’t put something completely beyond the reach of law enforcement?” Daniel asks. “Even things that are in safes and other places are reachable by search warrant, in many cases, and so we don’t want to have something that puts it utterly beyond the reach of law enforcement in appropriate circumstances.
“On the other hand, I think clearly we need to improve the use of encryption and how we employ it, and in many cases that would be very beneficial in protecting our intellectual property. This is a very hard area. We’ve had debates about encryption going back decades, probably as long as there has been encryption. … This is going to continue to be a policy tension that we’re going to have to try to navigate.”
This Drone Fits In Your Pocket
by Press • 10 October 2014
by SAMANTHA RAPHELSON
The narrative around drones is that they are killing machines. Unmanned tools of war that the government uses to avoid putting boots on the ground in conflict zones around the world.
But drones are actually much more than that. In September, the Federal Aviation Administration gave approval to six Hollywood production companies to use drones for filming. Independent photographers and filmmakers like to use them, too, to get thatperfect aerial shot.
And as NPR’s David Schaper reported:
“Industries want permission to use drones for everything from surveying crops and pipelines, to real estate and wedding photography, even delivering packages. At least 40 applications seeking drone-use approval are pending before the FAA.”
So what if there was a drone that fit in your pocket, that you could carry around 24/7?
That drone has arrived. The Anura from AeriCam is a quadcopter not much larger than an iPhone with propellers that fold in so you take it on the go.
The San Francisco-based drone company aims to put the product on Kickstarter this month, says Jason Lam, AeriCam’s founder. Lam says the company hopes to attract 500 backers in order to keep the Anura below $200.
The drone connects with Apple and Android smartphones over Wi-Fi and has a built-in microcamera that shows aerial views on the phone’s screen. The phone also serves as the drone’s remote control.
“I think being small and being at a much more reasonable price, a lot more people will be able to own one than realize it,” says Lam, who was a fashion photographer in New York City before founding AeriCam in 2009. “I think that also sparks a lot more interest in the drone industry, and you don’t know what that will lead to.”
Learning to fly the Anura is like playing a video game, Lam says. And even though the drone weighs less than 5 ounces, the Anura is durable.
“The big drones, one crash you usually have to repair it,” Lam says. “These guys are quite stable, especially if you fly them inside at home.”
Although it’s noted for its small size, the Anura isn’t the first personal drone out there.
The PlexiDrone, from Toronto-based robotics startup DreamQii, fits into a backpack when disassembled. The larger size comes with added features such as the ability to draw a flight path, obstacle detection and swappable parts. PlexiDrone doesn’t have a camera built in but is designed to easily attach one, like a GoPro.
Another drone can actually be worn like a bracelet. With the flick of your wrist, the Nixie flies away and films you while you’re climbing a mountain or riding the big wave. The creators plan to present the prototype at the Intel Make It Wearable Challenge Finale on Nov. 11 in San Francisco.
Lam says small, personal drones are changing the perception of how drones can be used — not just as machines of war.
Small drones like the Anura teach people “a little bit more about what the deal with drones is because it is a growing industry,” he says. The drone industry will have an estimated economic impact of more than $82 billion by 2025, according to a 2013 report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
But the implications of having commercial drones on the market are vast. The flying of small drones in the U.S. airspace is currently legal, an administrative law judge with the National Transportation Safety Board ruled in March.
The FAA appealed the decision, citing safety concerns. In 1981, the FAA issued voluntary guidelines for those flying model airplanes. The agency asked them not to fly above 400 feet and to stay away from airports.
Drones also raise privacy issues. Many worry about people using them for spying. Police in some states are prohibited from using drones for surveillance but can use them for search and rescue.
Lam recognizes these risks, but he also says the use of drones shouldn’t be restricted too much just because some people will use them maliciously.
“People out there who want to do something like that, you can’t really stop them,” he says. “You always have a few people that’s gonna try to do something.”
Lam says people have been interested in flight for centuries, and he wanted to make that dream more accessible to the masses.
“I wanted these to be able to be enjoyed anytime,” he says. “You don’t have to plan to go out and fly. It’s not an event that you have to create. This is like, ‘Oh, I just want to fly now.’ You have access to a real aircraft.”
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Fewer than 30% have been saying all year that the country is headed in the right direction, and voters have some pretty definite ideas on what needs to be done. But rather than discuss the issues, too often political candidates go negative.
Thirty-four percent (34%) of Americans think there are more negative ads this election cycle compared to past years. Most adults believe those ads backfire and make them less likely to vote for the candidate who puts them out. But clearly the politicians think the attack ads work because they keep producing them.
Fifty-six percent (56%) say it is possible for a candidate to win an election without criticizing his or her opponent. Of course, it doesn’t help that 63% believe the media reports more on negative campaigning than on issues raised by candidates.
No wonder fewer voters than ever think either major political party has a plan for the nation’s future, with most still convinced that neither represents the American people.
Democrats have a two-point lead on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot, but the weekly gap between the two parties has generally been two points or less most weeks this year.
Unlike many of those running for office, what most Americans continue to hold a negative view of is the federal government, and they want less of it in their lives.
We’ve found this trust deficit in other surveys. Sixty percent (60%) don’t trust the federal government to fairly enforce gun control laws, which doesn’t help those seeking stricter regulation of firearms.
Similarly, 57% of voters favor a comprehensive immigration reform plan that would give legal status to those who entered the country illegally but have otherwise obeyed the law – if the border is really secured to prevent future illegal immigration. The problem for immigration reformers is that only 33% think it’s even somewhat likely that the federal government will actually secure the border, with seven percent (7%) who say it’s Very Likely.
The Washington Post reports that police nationwide through a practice known as civil forfeiture have seized $2.5 billion in private property since 9/11 without a warrant or any crimes being formally charged by claiming nonetheless that the property was obtained through criminal activity. Much of that money the cops have kept for their own budgets. But 70% of Americans say a criminal conviction should be necessary before authorities seize someone’s property, and 42% think the main reason the police seize the property is because it’s a major revenue source for them.
Not exactly a vote of confidence.
Or take something like the growing Ebola epidemic. Most Americans want a temporary ban on flights from Ebola-infected countries in Africa, but the federal government refuses to go that far, opting instead for screenings at just five airports.
Then there’s the public school system, one of government’s chief responsibilities, but most voters think the majority of high school graduates today don’t have the skills for either college or the workforce.
Working Americans overwhelmingly (85%) still consider themselves middle class, including 19% who describe themselves as upper middle class. But more voters than ever (67%) say the U.S. economy is unfair to the middle class.
Consumer and investor confidence have not improved.
Fortunately for the country, Americans are a resilient people: Most still think their lives are good despite all this negativity.
In other surveys last week:
— Voters still aren’t sold on Obamacare’s individual insurance mandate.
— Most Americans say President Obama does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize he won in 2009. The president’s daily job approval ratings still linger around the -20 mark.
— Though the recent security lapses by the Secret Service have been highly publicized, many voters think they are just the tip of the iceberg.
— Despite ongoing pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong, voters don’t think the U.S. government should get involved. But most also agree that the United States overlooks many abuses by the Chinese government because of that country’s economic power.
— Flu season is back, and more Americans than ever (58%) plan to get a flu shot this year.
— Voters are slightly more accepting of women and gay and lesbian soldiers.
— Most Americans exercise at least once a week and believe it’s important for a healthy life.
Also on a blog at https://newswirefeed.wordpress.com/
Global warming: There’s no ‘Planet B’
Article by: EDITORIAL BOARD , Star Tribune
Updated: September 28, 2014 – 6:00 PM
It’s time for world to sacrifice short-term pain for planet’s future.
The climate change dilemma isn’t all that unfamiliar. Many of us carry an extra 20 or 30 pounds and still feel great, but the doctor pulls us aside to tell us that unless we change our habits our health will soon deteriorate.
Already, hypertension and other ailments have begun their insidious work, the doctor says, looking us straight in the eye. We smile and resolve to do better starting tomorrow, or maybe next year, or maybe never.
Dealing with climate change is a far more complicated, but the dynamics are similar. Short-term pain for long-term gain is difficult bargain to strike. Last week’s United Nations summit on the climate dilemma began impressively as a vast crowd that organizers estimated at more than 300,000 marched through the streets of Manhattan chanting and carrying signs demanding action. One said: “There is no Planet B.”
Then, two days later, came the cast of world leaders saying all the right things. “There will have to be a new pricing system for carbon,” said France’s Francois Hollande. “We need all hands on deck,” said the U.N.’s Ban Ki-moon. “Nobody gets a pass,” said President Obama.
But, in the end, the way forward seemed as elusive as ever. Brazil refused to stop clearing the Amazon rain forest. China insisted that developing nations (itself included) be allowed to continue releasing heat-trapping gases almost unabated. And the United States declined to join 73 other nations in a pledge to tax carbon. Even in the world’s foremost democracy, corporate money and political influence, it seems, speak louder than scientific evidence.
Indeed, the baby steps Obama has taken administratively to curb the emissions of coal-fired power plants may be erased if, as expected, Republicans control both houses of Congress next year. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has vowed repeatedly to use the Environmental Protection Agency budget and the threat of government shutdown to force Obama to back away from climate fixes.
If successful, the tactic would seriously undercut any negotiations with China on the issue. Obama was right this week to single out China and the United States as bearing “a special responsibility to lead” in solving the climate crisis. They are, after all, the world’s largest economies and polluters; without a Beijing-Washington agreement, there’s little chance that other countries would fall in line to forge a global climate treaty in 2015.
None of that changes the sobering fact that global emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise and now stand at record levels. European progress has been canceled out by increased emissions in the United States and more so by the continuing surge of coal burning in China and India, according to a new report by the Global Carbon Project.
Another report, released earlier this month by the World Meteorological Association, said that carbon dioxide in the air is now at a level 42 percent above preindustrial era levels. If carbon emissions continue unabated, average temperatures could rise as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit above the preindustrial level over the next century — a condition incompatible with human civilization in its current form, the report said.
The U.S. public may finally be catching on to the predicament. The latest New York Times/CBS poll showed 54 percent of Americans believing that human activity is the major factor in atmospheric heating. That was the highest number ever recorded by a national poll — and illustrates, perhaps, that shifts in public opinion hold the greatest promise for protecting future generations. Indeed, before national governments and global corporations find the courage to act, a bottom-up revolution of sorts may be required.
Already, the real momentum is coming from local political leaders, enlightened corporate executives and, frankly, people in the streets. Among the states, Minnesota has emerged as a leader thanks to the foresight of former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and others who, in 2007, committed the state to a timetable for reducing emissions. California and several northeastern states have gone further by forging cap-and-trade agreements that raise the cost of polluting. Meanwhile, the Rockefellers, a family that amassed a mega-fortune on oil, have joined a movement to disinvest in fossil fuels. And the Norwegian petroleum giant Statoil has courageously embraced the idea of a global carbon tax.
Those are just a few collective examples, but individuals, too, can exert leverage. After all, they make millions of choices every day. Buying a fuel-efficient car, supporting mass transit, choosing a smaller house or a shorter commute, buying local foods — each of those choices can influence markets and sow the seeds for the fundamental, planet-saving policy changes that must come quickly, whether we like them or not.
Are we confusing reducing pollution with global warming?
Upcoming Anniversary: October 1st Will Mark 18 Years of No Global Warming
September 24, 2014 – 5:21 PM
(CNSNews.com) – According to the datasets used last year, October 1st will mark the 18th year of “no significant warming trend in surface average temperature,” says Patrick Michaels, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for the Study of Science.
And even if the current 18-year trend were to end, it would still take nearly 25 years for average global temperature figures to reflect the change, said Michaels, who has a Ph.D. in ecological climatology and spent three decades as a research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia.
Sooner or later, even Al Gore and the numerous scientists, academics and politicians who agree with him that “Earth has a fever” will have to admit that their climate models predicting catastrophic global warming were off by a long shot, said Michaels, who was also a contributing editor to the United Nations’ second Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.
“It has to be admitted eventually that too much warming was forecast too fast. That just has to happen. You can’t go on and on and on,” he told CNSNews.com.
“If the surface temperature resumed the warming rate that we observed from, say 1977 through 1998, we would still go close to a quarter of a century without significant net warming because there’s such a long flat period built into the record now. ”
But there’s no indication that after 18 years, global warming will resume anytime soon.
Michaels pointed to record Antarctic ice, which “is at its highest extent measured by the current microwave satellite sounding system” since 1978, according to data from the University of Illinois’ Polar Ice Research Center.
“And if you take a close look at the Arctic data, it appears the decline stopped somewhere around 2005/2006, which means we’ve almost had ten years without any net loss in Arctic ice,” he told CNSNews.com.
“The much vaunted and predicted El Nino, which would [ordinarily] spike global temperature, is not going according to plan,” Michaels pointed out. “That’s the major known oscillation in global temperature, and we can’t even get that one right in the near term.”
In an El Nino, trade winds suppress the upwelling of cold water. “But that doesn’t mean the cold water isn’t still down there,” Michaels explained. “So what happens after an El Nino suppresses the cold upwelling, all that cold water that was sitting down there, which normally would have been dispersed into the tropical Pacific, comes up and so the temperature drops pretty substantially after a major El Nino.
“In fact, you can see that in 1999. We had a very large El Nino in 1998, maybe the biggest one in the 20th century, it’s not completely clear, but it was really, really big. And the next year, the temperatures were way down.
“And so what an El Nino will do is it will give you a one-year or perhaps two-year spike [in temperature]. But the net change is not very much. Now it turns out the lack of warming has gone on for so long that even throwing in a one or two-year spike into it is not going to induce a significant warming trend in that data,” Michaels noted.
Pointing to a Pew survey earlier this year in which Americans listed global warming 19th out of a list of 20 issues they considered as top priorities, Michaels responded to Secretary of State John Kerry’s recent statement that climate change is “the biggest challenge of all that we face right now.”
“I would say that his order of needs is a little bit out of whack,” Michaels told CNSNews.com.
“Given that a cogent political analysis indicates that the loss of control of the House of Representatives by the Democratic Party was the result of their passing the unpopular cap-and-trade bill in 2009 – in the 2010 election they lost 64 seats- you would think that this is kind of a political hot potato,” he continued.
“And in fact, our friends in Europe, who are certainly leftier and greenier than we tend to be as a country, are trying to back away from this issue,” he noted, adding that the major heads of state of China, India, Australia, Canada and Germany all declined to join President Obama at the United Nations’ Climate Summit held in New York this week.
“Angela Merkel, the German prime minister, wrote the Framework Convention on Climate Change
when she was an East German,” Michaels pointed out, but “Germany has resumed building coal-fired power plants because they can’t get enough electricity out of solar energy and windmills.
“We told you so,” he said with a laugh.
“I would also say that the administration’s pronouncement about three weeks ago that the climate agreement that the president would be seeking at the United Nations would not require a majority of two-thirds of the Senate for ratification is on very thin ice… If they are hellbent on going in this direction, they may be headed to legal hell.”
Global warming stalls — but not demands for cash
By Ezra Levant, QMI Agency
First posted: Saturday, September 27, 2014 06:00 PM EDT
Barack Obama attended last week’s United Nations climate change conference. It would be odd if he didn’t – it was hosted in New York this year.
But many world leaders didn’t bother. China, India, Germany, Russia – some of the world’s largest economies, and largest emitters of carbon dioxide – just couldn’t be bothered.
Instead, celebrity spokesmodels took their place, actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Mark Ruffalo. They’re probably more interesting to the media anyways.
But all the celebrities and PR men in the world can’t hide a fact that the United Nations itself acknowledges: there just hasn’t been any measurable global warming since 1998.
The UN has a $100 word for that — a “hiatus.” Like a recess, or vacation. As in, it hasn’t happened since the 1990s, but it will be back for sure. Any moment now.
Normally people, if they were campaigning to end something and it ended, would declare victory, have a celebration and move on.
But you don’t understand the UN. To declare victory against global warming would mean that they would have to find new jobs.
No more annual conventions in beautiful cities like New York, Bali, Marrakesh and Cancun. No more important meetings in five-star hotels. No more annual reunions with friends, paid for by taxpayers.
And, most importantly, no more cosmic excuses for tax increases and government regulations.
That’s why the UN – and their chorus in professional environmental groups and the mainstream media – have changed the terms. First it was global warming. Then climate change. Now it’s “climate disruption.” None of it is true – there are fewer tornadoes or hurricanes or sweltering days now than ever. Ice levels in the Arctic and Antarctic are firmly within normal bandwiths.
But it’s all about keeping the PR pressure on.
For what? What’s the plan from New York?
A position paper from China, leaked to Fox News, has some clues. China is now the world’s largest carbon user and emitter – twice as much as the United States does. Which makes sense – carbon is the stuff of life, and China is the country with the most lives in it. They all need electricity and transportation and industrialization. That’s why they’re building two coal-fired power plants a week.
There is no chance that China will reduce its carbon emissions. That would be tantamount to imperialism – the rich, industrialized West telling China that it can’t be rich and industrialized, too. Actually it’s more than that: China is the factory of the West. Look at everything in Walmart or Toys R Us – that pollution in China? That’s us outsourcing our emissions to them.
Ironically, China has far worse pollution problems than colourless, odourless, harmless carbon dioxide. Its air, land and water really are polluted. But you don’t have five-star celebrity reunions about that.
So if China will not tackle real pollution, and if it won’t tackle pretend pollution – namely carbon dioxide — what does its position paper call for?
That’s the scoop. They’re happy to reduce their carbon emissions – for a price. And that price is $100 billion a year, from the United States, Canada and Europe, paid into a UN fund to be redistributed to China and other beneficiaries.
One hundred billion dollars a year.
And that’s not all: Western countries must agree to give up intellectual property rights. As in patents. China is engaged in massive industrial sabotage, trying to steal the West’s commercial secrets on everything from cellphones to Hollywood. China – in the name of global warming – simply wants the West to give them that. For free.
In the name of “climate change,” you see.
Can you blame them?
Western politicians want to tax carbon, to save the planet. Taxing carbon won’t save the planet. It’s an excuse that low-information celebrities seem to buy, though.
So if Leonardo DiCaprio will go for that, maybe he’ll go for a $100 billion/year gift to China, too?
I mean, it couldn’t hurt to ask for, right?
Syria Strikes Raise Questions Over Future of OCO Funding
Sep. 28, 2014 – 03:45AM | By PAUL McLEARY and AARON MEHTA | Comments
WASHINGTON — As the price tag for operations in Iraq, Syria and West Africa continues to grow, Pentagon leadership insists that it is well prepared to pay for all of these previously unforeseen long-term operations.
Part of the reason is that the building has been able to shift money around within its overseas contingency operations (OCO) supplemental budget, and is already working with Congress to make sure that more funding is on the way.
“We’re going to require additional funding from Congress as we go forward,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Sept. 26. “We’re working now with the appropriate [congressional] committees on how we go forward with the funding.”
Two prominent Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sens. Carl Levin and Tim Kaine, have already said they expect to grant the Pentagon more money for the latest Middle East bombing campaigns.
But this willingness to fund operations comes as the US was supposed to be weaning itself from large supplemental wartime budgets, calling into question just how long the Pentagon will require extra-budgetary maneuvers to fund itself.
“I think there was a strong desire at the beginning of this administration to make the scrub of OCO more rigorous than it had been before,” said Kathleen Hicks, formerprincipal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy in the Obama administration.
“I think the reality is, you have to have it because you cannot always plan sufficiently to take into account operations,” she added, cautioning that “we’ve kicked to the right this question of when does OCO come to an end?”
Money for the Ebola response in West Africa and Iraq/Syria operations is being partially funded from about $5 billion taken from the Army’s operations and maintenance account in OCO, Hicks said.
President Barack Obama has pledged 3,000 US troops and $1 billion to fight the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa, while the daily cost of the airstrikes in Syria and Iraq — more than 240 since Aug. 8 — has been running $7.5 million to $10 million a day.
While the Pentagon has steadfastly refused to offer a hard number for the cost of the air campaign, a rough tally places the bill at about $540 million from June until the end of August.
“We don’t dispute that number, but that is not a number we put out,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban warned when asked about the overall price tag.
But even taking the lower estimate of $7.5 million — which was made before the start of operations in Syria — would add $232 million to the bill from late August to late September.
The Defense Department has been funding all of these operations out of the $85 billion OCO account for fiscal 2014, and leadership remains “confident that we will be able to continue to do that for this fiscal year,” Urban said.
But a major wrinkle remains the inability of Congress to push through budgets on time.
Fiscal 2014 ends on Sept. 30, and with a continuing resolution in place to fund the federal government through Dec. 11, the Pentagon would continue to be funded at 2014 levels — as opposed to being taken from the $59 billion requested for 2015.
Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, who helped the Air Force plan air operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, expressed hope that the Syrian situation will drive the Hill to reconsider shutting down the OCO account.
“When they said it would end in 2016, you didn’t have this operation ongoing,” he said. “That’s what it’s there for. That’s the purpose of those funds.”
But how to plan for those operations — and how to fund them — is something that should be up for debate, some experts say.
“There has to be a conversation among [the White House, Pentagon and Congress] about how we should think about OCO, and how we want to plan for the future,” said Hicks, director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“With the reduction of the DoD topline budget, we’re pushing things into those OCO accounts because it provides a politically easier release valve for the problems of sequestration,” Hicks said.
Opportunity for Industry
As industry monitors what the conflicts will do to US defense spending, they’ll most likely continue to pay attention to new export prospects brought on by the airstrikes.
The American-led operation in Syria was joined by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Jordan, countries that are largely flying US jets with US munitions. That interoperability will be important for future operations — and it’s not by chance.
In the past decade, the Bush and Obama administrations have used weapon sales to drive closer relations with Arabian Gulf allies, said Andrew Shapiro, a former senior State Department official who headed the bureau responsible for foreign military sales.
“It’s a means of cementing the relationship between these partners and the US in a time of great uncertainty,” Shapiro said. “Partners in the region continue to want US equipment, they continue to want close partnerships with the United States, and those sales, transfers and coordination are now paying off in these coalition attacks against [the Islamic State group].”
The conflict provides an opportunity for US industry to capitalize on those commercial ties, said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group.
“For many decades, the gulf states would buy lots of high end aircraft and park them. Now they’re buying them and using them. That, in and of itself, promises good things from a business standpoint,” Aboulafia said. “From a standpoint of US exports, this is very good.”
The obvious beneficiary from the US are the manufacturers of weapons such as joint direct attack munitions, which can be mounted on US planes and the F-15s and F-16s used by gulf allies.
“As most of the aircraft flown by Arab partners are US platforms, a coalition of regional partners would rely almost exclusively on US contractors,” noted a Sept. 25 report by the Royal United Services Institute, a UK think tank. “US stockpiles are substantial but have been reduced through the effects of sequestration.”
Aboulafia expects a small, but not particularly significant, bump in munitions. Similarly, he notes a potential increase in fighter orders as these air forces continue to engage in strikes, given the region’s fondness for buying fast jets.
But while recent gulf state procurement plans have largely been based around the threat from Iran, the Islamic State represents a different kind of threat — one that may open opportunities for largely neglected parts of the fleets.
That includes ISR aircraft, both manned and unmanned, along with key enablers such as tankers and cargo transports.
“The fight against [Islamic State] is more about information, range and then payload,” he said. “They are getting into a situation where it’s less about short-range defense and more about power projection.”
Shapiro, managing director at Beacon Global Strategies, expects the gulf nations to grow and learn from these operations, which could drive new requirements.
“I think this operation will identify gaps [in their inventory] as they learn by doing,” Shapiro said. “I think from the after-action reviews of these kinds of operations, you’ll hear what they need.”
Michael Blades, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan, expects a “notable” increase in the unmanned market for the region in a post-Islamic State world. But he notes that companies that provide weapons and sensors for unmanned systems could be the true beneficiary.
Smaller precision weapons such as MBDA’s Brimstone or Textron’s new G-CLAW, which can be mounted onto lighter unmanned systems, could benefit as gulf countries turn to armed drones for precision strikes against militant groups, Blades said.
“An MQ-9 with a Hellfire takes out a building. A Brimstone takes out a vehicle,” he said. “If you’re talking about no boots on the ground, but you want to be precise, that’s when you start using smaller tactical platforms and precise guided munitions. You’ll see some companies really start to salivate over this.”
Blades also noted that the commercial UAV market may benefit — but not in the way US allies will appreciate.
“Conflicts like this are also going to drive some of the little hobby stuff that the resistance will use, because it’s all they can afford,” he warned, highlighting how easy it would be for the Islamic State to buy small, commercial drones online and turn them into ISR aircraft for their own use.
Despite Signs of Disrepair, Berlin Is Hesitant to Boost Military Spending
Leaked Government Report Shows Much of Military’s Equipment Is Decrepit
By Anton Troianovski and @AntonWSJ
Sept. 28, 2014 7:59 p.m. ET
BERLIN—Germans learned in recent days that no more than seven of their navy’s 43 helicopters can fly, only one of their four submarines can operate, and one in three of their army’s weapons systems lack necessary equipment.
The revelations last week in a leaked parliamentary report and acknowledged by German defense officials have led to allegations of mismanagement and media criticism of Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen, the first woman to hold the post and a close ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel. But one response has been slow in coming: calls to increase military spending despite mounting evidence that the German military is falling into disrepair.
The disclosures and the ensuing debate show the limits of promises by German leaders this year—from Ms. von der Leyen to German President Joachim Gauck —that Europe’s economic champion will take on more responsibility in world affairs.
Germany has become a greater diplomatic power, particularly in the Ukraine crisis. But despite calls from Western allies that it should beef up its military capabilities, the government’s focus on delivering a balanced budget and voters’ longtime aversion to the use of force mean German leaders have little incentive to increase military spending.
“People look at all this, laugh a little bit, and say, ‘If we had no need for this stuff before, then we won’t need it in the future,'” Gero Neugebauer, a political scientist at Berlin’s Free University, said of the revelations about defective military equipment. “All this is a consequence of the lack of a discourse about what Germany’s increased role after reunification really means.”
From left to right, Germany’s political culture remains steeped in pacifism that originated from the horrors of World War II.
More than a third of Germans say the country should become more engaged in international crises, but only 13% support more international troop deployments, according to a Körber Foundation poll last spring.
Germany’s annual military spending, at just over $40 billion, represents only about 1.3% of its economic output, compared with 4.4% in the U.S. and 1.9% in France, according to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Like German voters, many politicians equate low military spending with a higher degree of civilization. One government minister lamented earlier this year that Russia’s intervention in Ukraine might force Western Europe to rearm.
Germany’s armed forces still rely on aging equipment such as the 1960s Transall troop carrier and Sea King helicopter. The military now faces woeful equipment shortfalls, according to a confidential nine-page government report to lawmakers last week. A defense ministry spokesman declined to comment on the report, which was seen by The Wall Street Journal.
The disclosures prompted the tabloid Bild to ask Ms. von der Leyen last week: “Is the German military nothing but junk?”
“No,” she responded. “The German military is prepared for action, which it proves daily around the world in 17 international missions.”
Ms. von der Leyen landed in Erbil, Iraq, on Thursday on a visit timed to coincide with the separate arrival of German military trainers and weapons intended for Kurdish soldiers fighting Islamic State militants. But because of equipment problems, the planes carrying the trainers and arms hadn’t yet made it to Iraq.
But in another interview published Sunday, Ms. von der Leyen said the short-term responses to the military’s problems were to improve inspections and maintenance and reduce manufacturing delays. But, she acknowledged, the military will need more money in the medium term to improve its equipment.
Getting it won’t be easy. It took weeks of intense public debate for Germany to agree to send weapons to Iraq, because a law prohibits the export of weapons to conflict zones under most circumstances. To calm public fears of Germany creeping toward war, Ms. Merkel repeatedly promised she wouldn’t send troops to Iraq. NATO members, including Germany, signed a nonbinding pledge earlier this month to boost military spending to 2% of gross domestic product. But few politicians here expect Ms. Merkel to follow through. Despite rising awareness of their military’s defects and of rising security risks from Iraq to Russia, Germans are showing little sign of supporting more investment in their armed forces.
“Jarring equipment problems in the military are coming to light, but the country is not exactly outraged,” a column on the website of the magazine Stern said on Friday. “Europe’s greatest economic power is paying for an army whose armaments are a joke.”
Leading members across the political spectrum of Ms. Merkel’s large governing coalition said the military had to be better managed and money spent more wisely.
“It’s not about more money, it’s about more efficiency,” said Hans-Peter Bartels, the Social Democrat lawmaker who heads the parliamentary committee on defense.
Germany’s Left Party said the revelations of equipment problems merely showed the country’s military should stop its international engagements.
“In the German context, it’s always popular to say let’s cut military spending because it’s an unproductive way of spending money instead of health and education or social projects,” said Tim Stuchtey, a security analyst at the Brandenburg Institute for Society and Security.
At Berlin’s central train station, Bärbel Teepp, a 47-year-old teacher from Münster, counted herself as one of them with that sentiment. “There are more urgent things to spend on [than defense], like education,” she said.
Marvin, a 25-year old technology student who declined to give his last name, said he opposed both weapons for the Kurds and higher spending on Germany’s defense sector.
“At some point it will come back to us,” he said of the prospect of more German military engagement in global conflicts. “I fear there could be a bomb attack in Berlin.”
FAA says Air Traffic Control isn’t Ready for UAS
September 30, 2014
The Federal Aviation Administration is facing significant problems with integrating UASinto US airspace. The AP reports that plans for modernizing air traffic control can’t cover the unique challenges posed by unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), given that they were made years before UAVs were used for more than military missions. “It’s becoming painfully apparent that in order to get [drones] in there, there is going to have to be a fair amount of accommodation, at least in the beginning,” National Air Traffic Controllers Association representative Chris Stephenson is quoted as saying.
That’s going to add yet another set of goals for NextGen, an FAA programme that promises to create a nationwide satellite-based location tracking system, provide better tools for sharing information, and update aging technology. Launched in 2004, NextGen has made progress on these projects, but it’s also been consistently over budget and behind schedule. And large drones — which are currently mostly used for surveillance but could also carry commercial cargo or even wireless internet signals — throw a wrench in its current plans. “We didn’t understand the magnitude to which [drones] would be an oncoming tidal wave, something that must be dealt with, and quickly,” says NextGen administrator Ed Bolton.
Congress passed legislation creating NextGen in 2003, and directed the agency to accommodate all types of aircraft, including drones.
The programme, which is not expected to be completed for at least another decade, is replacing radar and radio communications, technologies rooted in the early 20th century, with satellite-based navigation and digital communications.
The FAA has spent more than $5 billion on the complex programme and is nearly finished installing hardware and software for several key systems. But the further it progresses, the more difficult it becomes to make changes.
Government and industry officials have long maintained that drones must meet the same rules that apply to manned aircraft if they are to share the sky. That is changing, however, said Chris Stephenson, who represents the National Air Traffic Controllers Association on several U.S. and international unmanned aircraft committees.
“It’s becoming painfully apparent that in order to get (drones) in there, there is going to have to be a fair amount of accommodation, at least in the beginning,” he said.
Michael Whitaker, the FAA’s deputy administrator, acknowledged that drones “weren’t really part of the equation when you go back to the origin of NextGen.”
The NextGen plans for the next five years do not address how drones will fit into a system designed for planes with pilots on board, but the agency will have to consider whether to do that, Whitaker told a recent meeting of the NextGen Institute, a nonprofit association sponsored by the FAA so that industry can assist with research.
Most of the initial demand to fly unmanned aircraft came from the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, which wanted to test military drones or use them to monitor U.S. borders.
Later, interest began to build around potential uses for smaller drones, especially by police departments, but also for those wanting to spray crops, monitor pipelines and inspect offshore oil platforms. These drones can weigh anywhere from a few pounds to several hundred.
More recently, commercial demand has soared – from wedding videographers and real estate agents to Amazon and Google, eyeing potential package deliveries.
The FAA bans commercial drone operations with a few, limited exceptions. That ban, however, is undermined almost daily by frustrated small drone operators.
Bolton, also addressing the institute, said the NextGen office is working closely with a drone research team at the FAA’s technical center in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
FAA officials are under pressure from Congress and industry to loosen restrictions on smaller drones. The agency is expected to propose safety rules in November for businesses that want to operate them.
Smaller drones are less an issue for NextGen because the FAA is expected to limit their altitudes to less than 400 feet. Air traffic controllers generally don’t separate aircraft at such low altitudes, except near airports.
But there is also concern about potential traffic and collisions with low-flying smaller drones. NASA researchers are working with the FAA and industry to develop an air traffic control system for aircraft flying at 500 feet or lower. There is no such system today except around airports.
Medium to large drones that are eventually expected fly in “Class A” airspace – over 18,000 feet, where they must be able to avoid collisions with other aircraft – are more of a problem for NextGen.
They will be controlled by a ground pilot, who will be able to see where the drone is on a computer screen and can communicate with controllers. But there won’t be a pilot on board who can look out and adjust course to avoid a collision.
There are other differences as well.
Pilots who fly in Class A airspace file flight plans identifying their routes. But some larger drones are expected to stay aloft at high altitudes for days or weeks at a time, and their flight plans will be much more complex.
ERAM, a NextGen computer system that controllers use to guide high-altitude air traffic, won’t be able to handle such voluminous flight plans and will have to be adjusted, aviation experts said. ERAM is already over budget and years overdue.
A greater concern is that drones fly much slower than other planes in Class A airspace, Stephenson said.
Planes at high altitudes are supposed follow designated highways in the sky to avoid collisions. A typical airliner on that highway might fly at over 500 mph, while a drone at the same altitude might fly at only 175 mph, he said. The more drones, the worse the traffic jam.
“Some people think you won’t be able to see the sun anymore because of all the (drones) that are going to be up there,” Stephenson said. “Other people say, `No, it’s just going to be a few. It’s no big deal.’ ”
Sources: FAA Managers Association, Associated Press
Islamic State Fighting Strains Pentagon Budget
President, Congress Pressed to Join Forces to Reconsider Spending Caps
Sept. 30, 2014 9:10 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON—President Barack Obama’s expansion of airstrikes in the Middle East is creating new strains on Pentagon planners who thought the days of costly military operations in that region were over—at least for now.
The U.S. military campaign is expected to cost tens of billions of dollars in the short-term, creating new demands on a tightening Pentagon budget.
That volatile combination is certain to put renewed pressure on Mr. Obama and Congress to come together and reconsider spending caps on the U.S. defense budget that resulted from a bitter and protracted budget standoff in 2011.
But deep partisan divisions over the budget may resist even the widespread political support for taking on Islamic State militants controlling large chunks of territory in Iraq and Syria.
Instead, lawmakers are relying on an existing pool of extra wartime funding that the U.S. has used for more than a decade to pay for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“The debate is still locked in the trap that it’s been locked in for some time,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D., Wash.) “The Gordian Knot hasn’t changed.”
The Pentagon is spending up to $10 million a day on the growing military operations in Iraq and Syria, military officials said. Depending on the size and intensity of the U.S. airstrikes, they could end up costing between $2.4 billion and $6.8 billion a year, according to a new estimate from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think tank with close ties to the Pentagon.
Those estimates pale in comparison to other Pentagon priorities, such as the $85 billion the U.S. has allocated for military spending this fiscal year in Afghanistan.
But the spending in Iraq is expected to increase in the coming months as the Pentagon sends more forces and devotes more resources to the fight against Islamic State militants. That is sparking a new push from lawmakers and Pentagon leaders to make a deal to eliminate automatic spending caps that are reining in military spending.
“You can’t cut the military while we keep asking them to do more,” said Rep. Buck McKeon, (R., Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
The Pentagon isn’t only facing new threats in the Middle East; it also is confronting challenges from Russian forces in Ukraine, the Ebola crisis in West Africa, regional instability in North Africa, and continuing risks from North Korea.
Nonetheless, the current crises may prove incapable of moving the needle in the debate because lawmakers can continue to rely on budgetary maneuvers, such as supplemental wartime funding—the pool of extra money—to cover the costs, said Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.
“That is kind of the easy compromise solution,” he said. “You can fund these operations and you can fund even more, and you don’t have to change the budget caps.”
Last December, lawmakers and Mr. Obama agreed to a short-term deal to avoid the steepest cuts until 2016. But efforts to come up with a long-term agreement to eliminate spending caps have been thwarted by ideological divisions about how to fix the problem.
Many Democrats want to raise taxes or tap other sources of revenue to cushion the blow of cuts sought by Republicans to domestic programs. Many Republicans oppose raising taxes as part of any pact, but want to restore military spending.
Some lawmakers are arguing that relying on the supplemental budget, known in Washington as Overseas Contingency Operations funds, are at best a stopgap measure. “OCO is going to have to be increased to pay for those operations, but that does not heal the wounds of the cuts,” said Rep. Mac Thornberry (R., Texas), vice chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “Further cuts when your tempo of operations is going up are just foolish.”
Lawmakers from both parties said they don’t expect a real budget debate to begin until after November’s midterm elections, which could tip the balance of power in the Senate to Republicans, giving them full control of Congress. That would provide the GOP with more clout in negotiations, but they still aren’t likely to force through a compromise without help from Democratic lawmakers and support from Mr. Obama.
But some lawmakers say Congress can’t keep deferring the tough decisions, especially now that the U.S. is becoming more involved in the Middle East.
“We need to start rebuilding right now,” said Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This is a war—and you’ve got to win a war.”
Drone delivery: DHL ‘parcelcopter’ flies to German isle
BERLIN Wed Sep 24, 2014 3:55pm EDT
(Reuters) – Logistics firm DHL is using a drone to fly parcels to the German island of Juist, in what it says is the first time an unmanned aircraft has been authorized to deliver goods in Europe.
The company, owned by Germany’s Deutsche Post, joins the likes of Amazon.com and Google in testing the potential for drones to deliver parcels and packages.
Its drone – the “parcelcopter” – can fly at up to 65 km (40 miles) an hour. It will deliver medication and other urgently needed goods to the car-free island of Juist, off Germany’s northern coast, at times when other modes of transport such as flights or ferries are not operating.
If the trial is successful, the craft could be used to deliver such packages to other remote areas or in emergencies.
However, critics of delivery drones have raised concerns over privacy and whether the technology is safe, saying drones could hit other aircraft or even people.
For the Juist project, Deutsche Post has received permission from the German transport ministry and air traffic control authority for a restricted flight area that will be used only by its parcelcopter. The drone will also not fly over any houses, a spokeswoman for DHL Parcel told Reuters.
The craft has four rotors, weighs around 5 kg and can carry loads of up to 1.2 kg. Its flight is completely automated, although it will be monitored from the ground and, depending on weather conditions, the 12 km trip to Juist will take 15-30 minutes.
Flights to the North Sea island, home to around 1,700 people, will start from Friday, weather permitting, and will continue until the middle or end of October, the spokeswoman said.
What’s keeping America’s private drone industry grounded?
by Press • 1 October 2014
Colonel Robert Becklund knows the exhilaration of flying some of the world’s most powerful, fast and nimble aircraft. For 17 years he was a pilot with the 119th fighter wing of the North Dakota air national guard, and the F-16 Fighting Falcon was his plaything.
He would fly the supersonic jets at Mach-2 speeds, feeling the force of nine Gs bearing down on his chest. On formation flying days, he would hurl the plane almost vertically up into the skies, then roll it in dramatic displays beside other F-16s flying alongside him.
It is a paradox that a pilot who has such extensive experience sitting in the cockpit of one of the most advanced manned aircraft on earth should now find himself at the forefront of its nemesis: the push to take the pilot out of the plane and switch to unmanned aerial vehicles or UAVs, commonly known as drones. Becklund is executive director of the first official drone test site to function in the US, and as such he has made it his personal business to help find a way to introduce the devices into American civilian life.
As head of the Northern Plains unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) test site, based in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Becklund oversaw the very first federally approved test flight on 5 May. The launch of a Draganflyer X4ES drone – a small quadcopter designed to carry cameras for aerial photography – may have been a relatively small step for Becklund and his team, what with the flight lasting barely 20 minutes. But, given the nature of the test sites, it might one day come to be seen as a giant leap for aviation.
“We have the ability to shape a new age in aviation,” Becklund said. “I have no doubts about this – unmanned aircraft are absolutely going to change the civilian world. It’s already happening, all around us.”
But despite the excitement around drones as the next chapter in aviation history, there is also growing frustration about the ponderous speed at which the new automated technology is being integrated into the national airspace. Under current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, almost all commercial use of the unmanned planes is strictly prohibited.
On a two-day tour of the Northern Plains test site organised by the North Dakota department of commerce, the coordinator of the site, the Guardian heard aviation experts and UAS pioneers repeatedly express their frustration at the “glacial speeds” at which the FAA is moving towards integrating drones into America’s skies. Becklund said he was so concerned about the slow rate of progress that he feared that the US could jeopardize its technological and commercial leadership in unmanned aerial vehicles.
“I worry that the rest of the world is moving ahead faster than we are,” he said. “We have a lot of interest, the phone is ringing off the hook, companies want to fly their unmanned airplanes, but if a company comes to the test site and wants to know how it can go ahead and commercialise its aircraft, we can’t really tell them. There’s something not quite adding up.”
He added: “It’s going to be a frustratingly long wait for the industry in this country. We are going to have to push to maintain leadership in this area – it’s easy for people to go to Canada.”
Benjamin Trapnell, an expert in unmanned aeronautics at the University of North Dakota, which is a key partner in the UAS test site, said: “The FAA is just rolling its eyes over this – they want to see it all go away. But that’s not going to happen. We’ve got this huge increase in technology, and the question is: can we catch up with it under a bureaucratic system that moves with glacial speeds.”
Congress has set the FAA the task of coming up with rules and standards that would safely allow drone traffic through American skies by September 2015 at the latest. But at the rate things are going, few expect that deadline to be met.
The six drone test sites – the others are in Alaska, Nevada, New York, Texas and Virginia – were set up by the FAA as part of its mission to meet Congress’s mandate. They would act as research arms assisting the FAA to solve a maddeningly difficult riddle: how to unleash the extraordinary potential of drones in US society by allowing them to fly among passenger planes in America’s busy airways, without jeopardizing the country’s unsurpassed record for air safety.
The need for a solution to the riddle appears increasingly urgent with every day that passes, as has been vividly illustrated by a spate of recent incidents. Last week, a Dutch tourist was ordered by a federal judge to pay $3,200 after he crashed his drone into the Grand Prismatic Spring, a famous hot spring in Yellowstone national park, Wyoming. In May, a New York musician was fined for “reckless endangerment” after he crash-landed in a Manhattan sidewalk just feet away from a pedestrian.
As individuals and businesses increasingly embrace drones as they come down in size and cost, the FAA has tried to hold back the tide by sending out cease and desist letters to people caught using the planes without authorization. But such are the attractions of the devices for outlets such as real estate companies, wedding photographers and hobbyists flying drones through fireworks displays that increasingly people are going ahead and using the devices even without FAA approval.
Meanwhile, companies who have done everything they are supposed to do, and are abiding by FAA rules, are hurting because they cannot recoup the investment they have made.
That includes companies like Field of View, an innovative start-up in Grand Forks that has designed a drone package specially geared to the large-scale farmer. It uses state-of-the-art aerial photography to detect plant health, irrigation and development almost to the level of the individual leaf. That could help farmers save thousands of dollars in fertiliser, water and lost crops – as well as helping the environment.
Yet right now Field of View cannot exploit the potential of its product: farmers are not allowed to fly drones over their fields. At least, not in the US. So it does roaring trade instead with Canada, parts of South America, South Africa, the Czech Republic, France, and elsewhere. “A lot of other countries are marching ahead,” said chief executive David Dvorak.
Last week the FAA announced with much fanfare that it was permitting six Hollywood and TV production studios to forge ahead with drones for aerial filming. Though the announcement was warmly welcomed by the movie industry, which has long been chomping at the bit to use drones, the concession has no bearing on the bigger picture of how to integrate UAVs into the national airspace. The film production companies will only be allowed to fly in closed studio spaces where there is no risk of encountering any manned aircraft.
With companies and individuals pushing hard to be allowed to use the technology, and the FAA straining to hold them back, the North Dakota test site finds itself in the middle of the fray. The state was chosen by the FAA as one of the six test sites because it is perfectly suited to its task: it has one of the lowest population densities in the US; its Plains are pancake flat, perfect for take-off and landing; its unencumbered open skies afford maximum visibility; it has a world-class aviation research community at the University of North Dakota; and it also has major military drone installations at Grand Forks air force base.
These advantages combine to make North Dakota a veritable drone Nirvana. But still, the Northern Plains test site is struggling.
Part of the problem is the suffocating nature of FAA paperwork, which is paradoxically even more onerous for the testers than for other drone operators. Every unmanned aircraft that the site flies has to be approved in advance through an FAA-granted “certificate of authorization” that can take weeks or months to obtain, and there must be at least three people present at the exercise including an FAA-certified pilot.
Becklund is clearly deeply frustrated by the constraints put on his team. Asked by reporters whether the rules governing the test site were a little overboard, he replied: “You’re talking to an F-16 pilot – when I’m flying I’m using every finger, talking on two radios, operating weapons, flying in formation. So yes, there could be some changes there, we need to simplify this.”
Another hurdle is the lack of any federal funding, which forces the test site to rely on companies donating their time and equipment. “That’s one of the frustrations I have here: we are completely at the mercy of external sources of research funding that may or may not have any direct connection to actual airspace integration,” Becklund said.
In turn, that skews the type of research the test site can carry out. Instead of focusing on how to merge drones into the national airspace – for instance, by testing sense and avoid technology that stops drones crashing into other aircraft or objects – the researchers must focus on the priorities of its funders, like precision agriculture.
Even if it did have capacity to carry out tests more relevant to the issue of drone integration, North Dakota would be at a loss to know which experiments to concentrate on, as the FAA has so far given no guidance. “Right at this second the FAA hasn’t actually given us clear research areas to work on,” Becklund said. “They say that’s coming.”
In a statement, the FAA said it was working to speed up the process of securing drone flight permits, or COAs, and was “continuously looking for ways to streamline the overall process.” It added that it was also in discussions with all the official drone test sites “to discuss how the test site program is progressing and ways to work out any issues.”
An FAA spokesman stressed that the agency’s overwhelming priority was safety. “Integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace will be done incrementally,” he said.
Becklund’s fear that the US could be left behind in the global drone scramble was underlined this week by news that DHL has begun deliveries in Germany using a “parcelcopter”. The move leaves major US companies, who have all been intensively developing their strategies, standing and watching. Google, Amazon and Fedex are all looking to launch drone delivery services but are stymied under the FAA prohibition.
Brendan Schulman, a New York-based expert on drone law, said that in his view Becklund’s fear that America might lose its edge had already come to pass. “If you are a company with a promising product there’s no way to develop it – you need to take it to Canada or the UK, or Australia where the regulatory environment is not so unfriendly. There’s no way for America to remain competitive.”
FAA gets more applications for drone use exemptions
by Press • 2 October 2014
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Federal Aviation Administration has received nearly a dozen new applications to allow commercial use of unmanned aircraft over the past week, and it plans to publish draft rules to allow broader use by the end of the year, the top agency official for the program said on Wednesday.
The agency has received a total of 57 exemption applications and approved six for film and TV production companies last week, leaving 51 pending, Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s office of unmanned aircraft systems integration, said at an industry conference.
That’s up from 40 applications that the agency said were pending when it approved last week the first exemptions for commercial use in the continental U.S.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
Small UAV coalition launched to advance the commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
by Press • 2 October 2014
WASHINGTON, DC – Leading technology companies today formally announced the formation of the Small UAV Coalition to help pave the way for commercial, philanthropic, and civil use of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in the United States and abroad. Chief among the organization’s goals is to advance a regulatory environment that will support safe, reliable, and timely operation of small
Founding members of the Small UAV Coalition are (in alphabetical order): 3DR, Aerialtronics, Airware, Amazon Prime Air, DJI Innovations, Google[x]’s Project Wing, GoPro, and Parrot. The Coalition is supported by a team of experienced attorneys at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP.
“Small unmanned aerial vehicles will yield tremendous benefits to consumers in so many exciting and practical ways,” said Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition and senior advisor at Akin Gump. “Small UAVs can be utilized for stunning aerial photography, surveying and mapping, advances in precision agriculture, consumer delivery, disaster management, journalism, and to monitor flare stacks and gas pipelines. In addition, the Small UAV Coalition will continue to support safe recreational enjoyment of UAVs for hobbyists and enthusiasts.”
“The Small UAV Coalition believes safe commercial, philanthropic, and civil use of small UAVs will benefit the lives of consumers and promote U.S. competitiveness,” said Drobac. “We look forward to working with the FAA, FCC, the Administration and Congress to ensure this industry can flourish.”
Small UAVs weigh under 55 pounds and typically fly at an altitude of less than 400 feet AGL. These highly maneuverable, energy-efficient devices operate on rechargeable batteries and are equipped with the latest in safety features. They can be flown by a remote operator or an automated program in the UAV. For more information on the Small UAV Coalition, please visit
Manned UAVs Cost Half of UAS with No Restrictions
October 3, 2014
SkyIMD is a one-stop source for deploying an aerial surveillance system which usually involves multiple technologies and providers. The company is now promoting a new service using manned UAVs equipped with gyro stabilized gimbals and geomatic cameras pre-programmed to automatically follow GIS (Geographic Information System). The camera systems can be live controlled and viewed from the ground over an unlicensed microwave link. A 6 hour/500 mile duration is more than most drones, yet operational costs are less, and there are no flight restrictions (day/night, IFR/VFR, urban areas, altitudes).
Cessnas flown solo as manned UAVs are inherently less expensive than unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and are legal in all airspace. Equipped with the same unmanned aerial systems (UAS) sensors, the manned UAVs on large commercial missions will:
- Operate at a lower cost per mile, or per acre
- Have longer flight duration and better stability
- Provide faster and greater coverage beyond line-of-sight
- Use the same or less personnel resources, and are easier to use
- Offer more payload weight, electrical power, and sophisticated instruments
SkyIMD can provide up to three imaging pods per single engine Cessna. Manned UAV payloads include SkyFusion Pak camera system with EO/IR (Electro Optical/Infrared) superzoom, precision agriculture multi-spectral sensors, and extreme resolution photogrammetry geomatics cameras. They are FAA approved, and can be flown now unaffected by the new unmanned regulations.
Manned UAVs have two configurations:
1) Automated: Sensors automatically follow imported GIS (Geographic Information Systems) data, record imagery, and transmit video. The pre-programmed autopilot leaves the solo pilot to focus on traffic between takeoff and landing.
2) Ground operated: System video, command, and control is microwave-linked to the ground without noticeable delay. Over the internet, operators anywhere in the world can engage hands-off automatic tracking by clicking moving objects, visual scenes, or GIS (pipelines, shorelines, search grids, etc.). New pre-programmed course GIS can be uploaded real-time, and manual slewing camera controls work seamlessly together.
Both configurations duplicate all functions for interactive use in the cockpit, allowing airborne operation the old-fashioned way. This is a reliable safe backup to completing missions if UAV ground connectivity is lost. A split screen moving-map with video overlaid augmented reality is always visible. Preloaded background street maps provide instant situational awareness with topography (topos), aerial photos, imported GIS, and 3D visualization.
Mark Zaller, Chief Operating Officer of SkyIMD, says, “Cessnas are less expensive and easier to operate than most drones, and many times more effective. For more than two years, a Law Enforcement agency has flown a Skyhawk solo on scheduled patrols using SkyFusion Pak’s day and night sensors. Pilots receive only the mission coordinates for privacy reasons while deputies, at their office desks, provide fast incident response and birds-eye assistance to ground officers.”
Cessna factory installs SkyIMD’s SkyFusion Pak on 172 Skyhawks, 182 Skylanes, and 206 Stationaires. The new diesel Cessna 172JT-A and 182JT-A will provide even longer flight duration and lower operating costs. Existing aircraft can be installed with an FAA approved Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) directly from SkyIMD. Aircraft retain all types of commercial flight operations with or without the sensor pod present (pilot removable/installable in under 10 minutes).
Kirk Demuth, CEO of RoboFlight, says, “RoboFlight, a Precision Ag company, started with only UAVs, and now SkyIMD systems allow us to fly regular Cessnas over larger acreage for less cost. These readily available aircraft and systems will increase farmer efficiency, reduce environmental impacts from excess nutrient and chemical runoff, keep food costs to a minimum, and increase food supplies worldwide.”
Source: Press Release
About SkyIMD, Inc.
SkyIMD creates aerial imaging, mapping, and data communications solutions for commercial and government customers worldwide. The company integrates best of breed technologies into cost-effective, full-featured solutions for light airplanes, helicopters, and UAS. From installation to operation, it is plug-and-play easy for untrained workers to conduct sophisticated missions previously requiring elite training.
The SkyFusion Pak is a turnkey, lightweight, gyro stabilized, multi-sensor system that mounts on the wing strut or belly of single engine Cessna aircraft. It features high-zoom capability from any altitude, and the ability to send Google Earth photos and live streaming video to iPhones and Androids of ground personnel. FLIR infrared sensors are used to see at night and through smoky conditions. Low cost, quick to install FAA STCs are available for 64 different aircraft models.
Why Boeing Beat SpaceX in NASA’s Space-Taxi Contest
Boeing Received Higher Rankings Than SpaceX During NASA’s Multibillion-Dollar Competition
By Andy Pasztor
Oct. 1, 2014 7:44 p.m. ET
Boeing Co. received consistently higher rankings than Space Exploration Technologies Corp. during NASA’s recent multibillion-dollar competition to build “space taxis,” according to an internal agency document.
The memo—dated Sept. 15 and reviewed by The Wall Street Journal—provides an inside look at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s deliberations and reveals why agency officials rated Boeing’s bid better across the board than the one submitted by SpaceX, as the smaller company is called.
Chicago-based Boeing ended up with a contract worth up to $4.2 billion, versus $2.6 billion for Southern California-based SpaceX. The goal is to use company-owned and operated spacecraft to start transporting astronauts into orbit by 2017.
The rivalry was widely viewed as the closest head-to-head matchup yet between a big traditional aerospace contractor such as Boeing and a so-called new-space upstart represented by SpaceX.
But the 29-page document, signed by NASA’s associate administrator William Gerstenmaier the day before the awards were announced, depicts more of a one-sided contest. Boeing ranked above SpaceX in every major category, from technical maturity to management competence to likelihood of sticking to a timetable.
Boeing’s submission was considered “excellent” for “mission suitability,” whereas SpaceX got a “very good” ranking. The numerical scores for that category, according to one person familiar with the details, were separated by more than 60 points out of a possible 1,000. The document shows Boeing also garnered the highest ranking of “excellent” for technical approach and program management, compared with “very good” rankings for SpaceX.
Based on Boeing’s performance on a preliminary contract, NASA concluded it had “very high confidence” in that company’s likelihood of delivering what it promised—the highest ranking possible.
Despite SpaceX’s historic achievement of becoming the first commercial entity to put a capsule into orbit and ferry NASA cargo to and from the international space station, the agency had somewhat less assurance in the company’s ability to perform, also based on performance on its own preliminary contract. NASA determined it had “high confidence” in SpaceX’s pledges.
The document won’t become public until a protest by a third company, Sierra Nevada Corp., is resolved. Sierra Nevada, which didn’t receive any award but contends its rankings were comparable to the winners, has said the government could save $900 million by picking its proposal. Legal wrangling could drag on for months, potentially slowing down progress on the vehicles or putting work by Boeing or SpaceX on hold.
The September document, among other things, indicates that the bid by Sierra Nevada, based in Sparks, Nev., had “technical uncertainty and schedule risk” partly because “complex hardware and software development remained” to be done.
NASA, SpaceX and Sierra Nevada declined to comment on the document. A Boeing spokeswoman said the document “provides a clear indication of why Boeing was selected.” She said it also “shows our demonstrated technical ability” and ability to perform on schedule.
Neither Boeing nor SpaceX were deemed to have what NASA considered significant weaknesses in their proposals. But in explaining his final decision, Mr. Gerstenmaier pointed to what he saw as some uncertainties and shortcomings in SpaceX’s bid. They included reduced government insight into certain program details and SpaceX’s intention to install parts that haven’t been specially manufactured and tested to guard against negative impacts from radiation.
Using such “non-space radiation tolerant parts” is a critical design and “has big implications,” according to the document. Mr. Gerstenmaier, who heads NASA’s manned exploration efforts, said the approach “will take extra work and add both technical and schedule risk.”
The veteran NASA official said SpaceX’s “transition from cargo to crew” capsules is likely to be more complex than others inside NASA had projected, and he worried about SpaceX’s responsiveness to government requests or direction. In addition, Mr. Gerstenmaier expressed concerns about the company’s previous performance along with a “plan to develop its own docking system and space suit.”
Overall, according to Mr. Gerstenmaier’s analysis, “schedule planning was a recurring issue on SpaceX’s projects” over the years.
In sections of the memo focused on Boeing, Mr. Gerstenmaier concluded that the company’s team submitted “a very comprehensive, credible plan” amounting to a significant discriminator, and laid out “the most well-defined plan for addressing the specific issues” that surfaced in earlier work.
Citing Boeing for having “the best management approach,” the memo emphasized the company’s “effective organizational structure” and comprehensive efforts to keep track of myriad subcontractors. In summary, Mr. Gerstenmaier decided that “Boeing’s superior proposal, with regard to [the company’s] technical and management approach and its past performance,” was worth the higher price.
A NASA evaluation board, which submitted recommendations on the awards, identified Boeing’s strengths in program management, systems engineering and controlling lifecycle costs. Various Boeing subcontractors also had “excellent” or “very good performance” on relevant contracts, according to the memo.
The same panel determined that SpaceX had strong systems for quality management and resolving launch conflicts between customers.
Reflecting Boeing’s legacy working for NASA, Mr. Gerstenmaier said the company’s strong past performance should be valuable for success on the latest fixed-price contract. His memo, however, stressed that “I also recognized that most of this past effort was done under cost reimbursement contracts.”
House Intel Chief Wants To Increase Cyber Attacks Against Russia
Patrick Tucker October 2, 2014
The United States should be conducting more disruptive cyber attacks against nations like Russia, according to Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
“I don’t think we are using all of our cyber-capability to disrupt” actors in Russia targeting U.S. interests, he said at The Washington Post’s cybersecurity summit on Thursday.
Rogers cited attacks out of Russia on the U.S. financial sector, specifically against JP Morgan Chase in August, as an example of nation states targeting U.S. companies and financial interests. The FBI is currently investigating whether or not the attacks were a response to the financial sanctions that the United States placed on Russia in March.
He didn’t directly implicate Putin’s government in the attack on JP Morgan Chase, but he called the attempted breaches a “decision [made] on the basis of sanctions,” and asked whether the intent was “to monitor transactions or go in destroy enough data to cause harm to transactions?”
He called it enough of an alarm to prompt the committee to “ramp up our efforts” and said the U.S. needs an “understandable policy on what offensive operations look like and should be.”
The power to wage cyber attacks is discussed under a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Directive issued on June 21, 2013. And it’s alluded to in a March 5 Air Force instruction mandate titled “Command and Control (C2) for Cyberspace Operations” (10-1701), but is otherwise classified.
Adm. Michael Rogers, the head of NSA and Cyber Command, said the United States has authority to conduct limited cyberwar activities. “Geographic combatant commanders already have authority to direct and execute certain Defensive Cyberspace Operations (DCO) within their own networks,” he testified at a recent Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing.
But Rep. Rogers cautioned that the private sector networks, which comprise 85 percent of the networks in the United States, are “not prepared to handle” even present-day hacks from nation states, much less a coordinated retaliatory back and forth of extremely sophisticated attacks, the sort of volleying that might be characterized as cyber war.
“If your [chief information officer] says he’s ready for what’s coming, find a new CIO,” he said.
SBA Data Show Large Firms Are Nabbing Contracts Reserved for Small Businesses
By Charles S. Clark
October 2, 2014
Federal procurement data show that large companies, including leading defense contractors, last year received millions of dollars in contracts intended for small and disadvantaged businesses. The data was obtained last week by the American Small Business League, which fought a multi-year court battle to obtain the information from the Small Business Administration.
The group, based in Petaluma, Calif., and run by software entrepreneur Lloyd Chapman, has been a thorn in the side of SBA for years. It accuses the agency of catering to large companies that misrepresent themselves as small businesses to win government contracts.
Last week the league obtained from SBA an Excel file containing nearly 107,000 entries of vendors that received $83 billion in small business contracts in fiscal 2013. While SBA annually releases analytical information about small business contracting, it took a lawsuit from the league to force the agency to release its list of vendors who receive small business contracts.
The agency sought to protect its list from disclosure on the grounds that it is compiled from data it culls from a General Services Administration database. U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel found that reasoning flawed and in a 2008 ruling ordered the information released. This is the first year SBA has provided the information without a court battle, Chapman said.
Prepared by SBA’s Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, the list is drawn from the fiscal 2013 Federal Procurement Data System. The list does not include any information about the contracts themselves, only the names of vendors who received small business contracts and the amounts they were awarded. It includes entries for such contractors as Chevron U.S.A. Inc. ($8.5 million); Lockheed Martin Management Systems Designers, Inc. ($47 million); Northrop Grumman Systems Corp. ($455,636); Raytheon BBN Technology Corp. ($5 million); Raytheon Company ($418,766); and General Dynamics C4 Systems ($947,203).
“This list of companies is the biggest piece of evidence the American Small Business League has ever received from the SBA through a FOIA request,” said Chapman. In the past, attorneys for the SBA claimed the agency had no knowledge or information on the actual recipients of federal small business contracts, he said.
Chapman believes the administration is trying to dismantle the SBA “through policies that dramatically increase the federal definition of a small business, and we can’t let him do that,” he said.
The SBA inspector general last month substantiated the notion that the agency mischaracterizes companies in a damning report that found many agencies—while striving to reach the governmentwide goal of awarding 23 percent of contract collars to small businesses—were “overstating” the eligible firms. The watchdog identified more than $400 million in contract dollars that went to firms too large to qualify for the Section 8(a) set-asides for small businesses and those in poor communities.
The IG recommended that the SBA’s associate administrator for government contracting and business development strengthen controls between SBA databases on certification data of 8(a) and HUBZone firms to improve the accuracy of information reported to the Federal Procurement Data System. The SBA largely agreed.
A previous league study concluded that 75 percent of such awards were given to large firms.
On Wednesday, the small business league said the administration “has adopted a new strategy to close the agency with a series of policies that appear to be designed to dilute and dismantle federal small business programs,” a reference to a series of proposed rules SBA began releasing in that the league says “dramatically increased the federal definition of a small business in hundreds of categories.”
One proposed rule out in August would remove the Information Technology Value Added Resellers exception under North American Industry Classification System 541519. It also “proposes to increase employee-based small business size standards for 30 industries and three sub-industries.”
The league says that would mean that a small information technology firm “with annual sales in excess of $27.5 million will be considered a large business while contracts to firms like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon will continue to be counted as small business contracts.”
Asked to respond, an SBA spokeswoman did not address the question of why large companies may be receiving contracts meant for small business, but said the agency is “puzzled” by the assertion that its proposal to remove the Information Technology Value Added Resellers exception is a “clandestine” effort to hurt small businesses. “Instead, the agency feels the proposal will provide a clear level of transparency to contracting officers, small businesses and the public at large.”
SBA said the change “prevents the general public from being confused when firms are awarded contracts under the ITVAR exception, as contracting officers are not able to identify size standard exceptions” in the federal procurement database. The proposed rule also “eliminates ambiguity with respect to the classification of a contract,” whether, for example, the contract for which the exception may apply should be classified as a service contract or supply contract, she said.
In addition, SBA said, the rule will not be finalized until after Nov. 10, the deadline for public comments. “Even with the proposed elimination, the result will still have a very minimal impact on businesses,” the spokeswoman said. “An analysis of 2007 economic census data shows that more than 99 percent of the firms below the 150-employee level will continue to operate as small under a revenue-based size standard,” she said.
Justin Chiarodo, a law partner with Dickstein Shapiro, whose clients include small businesses, noted that the SBA is required to revise the business size standards under the 2010 Small Business jobs Act. But a key issue is “whether current regulations are adequately enforced and followed to make sure large companies aren’t capturing opportunities that are intended for small business,” he said.
“There’s a tremendous amount of enforcement now, but one challenge is that some aspects of the program rely on information provided by the contractors.” Once a company receives an 8(a) set-aside contract, there is a “fairly involved certification process,” he says, but in other cases there’s only a representation from the company, which can be “mistaken, misleading or fraudulent—the regulations are confusing,” he said. “Everybody favors supporting a small business base in federal procurement, and it will continue. The challenge is making sure people understand and follow the rules so we get an accurate picture of where contracting dollars actually going.”
Ex-NSA Director Touts Cybersecurity As A Service
Gen. Keith Alexander advocates a better way for companies, large and small, to deal with cyber threats.
Former US Cyber Command and National Security Agency (NSA) head Gen. Keith Alexander delivered sobering messages about managing cyber risks at an event Tuesday. The amount of information worldwide is increasing at a colossal rate. Technology is updating approximately every two years. The top 10 in-demand jobs in 2014 didn’t exist in 2004, so today’s students are preparing for jobs that don’t yet exist and will use technologies that haven’t yet been invented. Meanwhile, cyber threats are evolving and becoming more sophisticated.
Alexander, who now runs a firm called IronNet Cybersecurity, was the keynote speaker at the event hosted by PwC in New York City. In order to address the growing threats, Alexander said there needs to be cyber-security legislation, real-time or near-real-time situational awareness, and better training at the “defense” level.
“One of the biggest things I saw as the director of the NSA is we trained our offense at one level: these guys get world-class training and capabilities. Our defense [is] guys that are taught IT and how to bring networks up, but they aren’t taught how to go against the adversary,” said Alexander. “We’ve got to come up with a program that trains our defenders and those that operate the networks to understand exactly what’s coming at them.”
Alexander also argued that big companies with vast resources should work together with small and midsized companies to secure information within industries and across industries. One way to get small and midsized companies to opt in is to offer them cybersecurity as a service, he said.
“If the small and midsized companies are grouped together and they have this great cyber-security as a service capability, they’re not the downstream problem for the large companies. In fact, they become part of the sensing fabric that help protect the big industries — which they can’t do today. This capability would greatly improve our cyber hygiene,” said Alexander.
At the event, PwC also released its Global State of Information Security Survey 2015, which found that the number of detected security incidents in 2014 rose 48% over 2013’s study to 42.8 million — an equivalent of 117,339 attacks detected per day. Furthermore, the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of detected security incidents has increased 66% year-over-year since 2009.
According to the survey, as security incidents grow in frequency, the costs associated with managing and mitigating breaches also increase. The estimated reported average financial loss from worldwide cyber-security incidents was $2.7 million in 2014, which is a 34% increase over 2013. However, global information security budgets have decreased 4% when compared with 2013.
With increased incidents and heightened regulations, corporations and government agencies are scrambling to safeguard their data and networks. There needs to be a shift from security that focuses on prevention and controls to a risk-based approach that focuses on organizations’ most valuable assets and biggest threats, the survey found.
Additionally, the survey highlighted some efforts launched by the federal government to help organizations improve their cyber-security position on a voluntary basis. One example is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cyber-security framework, which stemmed from a 2013 Obama Administration executive order. The framework is labeled Version 1.0 and is being implemented by individual companies to assess and improve cyber security.
When it comes to regional governments, however, state chief information security officers (CISOs) feel that insufficient funding (75%), sophisticated threats (61%), and shortage of skilled talent (59%) all threaten security, according to a separate new study by Deloitte and the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO).
While the role of state CISOs continues to gain validity, they are concerned about the intensity, volume, and complexity of cyber threats, given that state information systems contain sensitive citizen data and are more susceptible to attacks. According to NASCIO chair Doug Robinson, a major challenge facing states is “how to both focus on the immediate need of securing their ecosystems against imminent threat, while maturing their cyber-security program that covers protection, early detection/containment, and ability to bounce back from incidents.”
Prisons to test security drones
Updated: 4:37 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014 | Posted: 10:03 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014
By Amanda Seitz
DDN Staff Writer
TURTLECREEK TWP. —
Local state prisons are believed to be the first in the country testing security drones in hopes of cutting down on illegal activity at the penitentiaries.
The Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections on Wednesday launched a $170,000 aerostat, also called a “tethered balloon,” to monitor security at the Lebanon and Warren Correctional Institutions.
The aerostat will have the capability to capture video of the prisons’ grounds during the day and night as well as use infrared sensors to detect unwelcome visitors staked near the facility’s fences.
Testing, which will also examine the aerostat’s unique day and night cameras, will last until Oct. 7, Ed Voorhies, the managing director of Ohio’s prisons, told this news outlet. The security balloon is 15 feet in diameter and about a quarter the size of a hot air balloon, he added.
“We believe these vehicles and sensors can be useful,” Voorhies said. “There’s no denying, we’re trying to find ways to attack and prevent that external threat, which is ever increasing, (in our prisons).”
Starting in November, the prisons will test a series of different drones, sensors and cameras at the Lebanon and Warren facilities in collaboration with the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center. The testing is expected to last at least 120 days, Voorhies said.
Three different types of unmanned aircrafts will be tested for roughly 30 days each starting in November. First, the aerostat, or tethered balloon, will get another trial. Then, prison officials will test out a helicopter system, which can take off both inside the prison facility and outside on the grounds. A fixed-wing aircraft will also be given a test run.
Different sensors and cameras will be used in each of the drones during the testing period.
Once testing is completed, prison officials will decide if they want to proceed with drone use on prison grounds and, if so, which drones they’d like to use to monitor the prisons.
“We’re generally going to be conducting a cost-benefit analysis to determine if and what type of security we’re going to use,” Voorhies said of the drones.
The aerostat was bought and paid for in May by the Ohio Department of Transportation, which is overseeing operations at Ohio’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Center. Prison officials were unable to provide cost estimates for the six-month drone testing project slated to begin in November because the transportation department is in the process of collecting cost and project proposals.
Drones could become of statewide interest for other government agencies in coming years, said Steve Faulkner, a spokesman for the transportation department.
“These devices can be used for a number of different type of things,” Faulkner said. “We shouldn’t rule out the possibility that during a national disaster such a device can be used to aid emergency personnel.”
Unmanned air crafts are currently banned from commercial use, but the Federal Aviation Administration permits government agencies to use the devices.
Prison workers will be tasked with surveying the aerostat’s cameras. The aerostat testing will also determine if the technology can watch both the Lebanon and Warren facilities at once and how far off prison grounds the device is capable of seeing.
The drone’s line of vision is a concern for the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio, Gary Daniels, a spokesman for the organization, said. Daniels said the ACLU isn’t against drone use, but the organization wants to see state legislation that will tell government agencies how they can use or store images of private properties, for example.
“We’re against government use of drones when that technology invades people’s privacy, which is very easy to do with drones,” Daniels said. “What we’re trying to prevent here is the widespread surveillance of people by the government.”
Voorhies said the prisons agency is working on a plan that will address how to store drone video of private property.
State union officials, who represent corrections officers, echoed concerns about neighborhood privacy and said they’re worried the state could consider cutting jobs in favor of surveillance technology.
“Technologies are never a replacement, in a prison system, for people,” Christopher Mabe, the president of the Ohio Civil Services Employee Association, said.
Drought Is Making California Shrink in Mass
By John Metcalfe
10:14 AM ET
To live in California is to be reminded every day about the dwindling water supply. With more than 80 percent of the state locked in extreme drought, it’s no wonder people are taking desperate measures like replacing their lawns with astroturf, snitching on neighbors who overuse their hoses, and eating off paper plates to avoid dish washing.
So much groundwater has disappeared—much of it from pumping to farms—that it’s causing the state to shrink in mass. We know that thanks to a pair of satellites that measure changes in the planet’s gravity. The GRACE mission, run by U.S. and German scientists, has tracked the decline in California’s water storage from 2002 (at left) to 2014 (right). The areas that have turned orange and red have lost enough water to make a significant imprint on the gravitational field.
Quantifying water loss can be tough in places like the (once-fertile) Central Valley due to poor monitoring efforts and lax water-use reporting. It’s likely governments will rely on this method in the future, as “groundwater reserves, the traditional backup for water supplies during extended periods of drought, are in decline globally,” according to a 2013 study in Science. But as for what’s happening in California, and what it bodes for the future, have a look at this assessment from scientists who used GRACE to track water loss in the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins from 2003 to 2010. They write inGeophysical Research Letters:
We find that the basins are losing water at a rate of 31.0 ± 2.7 mm yr−1 equivalent water height, equal to a volume of 30.9 km3 for the study period, or nearly the capacity of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States. We use additional observations and hydrological model information to determine that the majority of these losses are due to groundwater depletion in the Central Valley. Our results show that the Central Valley lost 20.4 ± 3.9 mm yr−1 of groundwater during the 78-month period, or 20.3 km3 in volume. Continued groundwater depletion at this rate may well be unsustainable, with potentially dire consequences for the economic and food security of the United States.
The Many, Many Ideas to Fix the Broken Security Clearance Process
By Eric Katz
September 29, 2014
In just a few months beginning mid-2013, the American people’s confidence in the federal government’s ability to administer security clearances was upended.
First, cleared contractor Edward Snowden leaked thousands of pages of classified data on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities. Then contractor Aaron Alexis fatally shot 12 people at one of the most protected government facilities in the country: the Washington Navy Yard. Alexis had a security clearance despite several potential red flags, including a history of mental health problems.
In the year since Alexis’ shooting rampage, lawmakers have been practically stepping on each other’s toes with proposals to fix the security clearance process. Bills have been unveiled, investigations launched, commissions formed, recommendations released and processes overhauled. Still, government leaders lack a uniform vision for reform, and the one common refrain from the president to law enforcement officials to members of Congress is that more work remains.
Obama has signed into law two proposals stemming from the post-Snowden, post-Alexis era.
The first was the fiscal 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, which established a task force to enhance coordination and cooperation among federal background checkers and state and local authorities. The task force issued recommendations to improve information sharing, but those recommendations have yet to be put into practice.
In February, Obama signed into law an act that allowed the Office of Personnel Management’s inspector general to use its revolving fund to investigate cases in which the integrity of a background check may have been compromised. That reform, which cleared both chambers of Congress unanimously, was designed to give OPM — the agency which since 2004 has maintained primary responsibility for doling out security clearances — more oversight authority over its own investigations.
Lawmakers viewed those changes as starting points, not solutions. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., who sponsored the OPM IG Act and has championed security clearance reform, continues to look for ways to attack the problem.
“For too long we’ve played fast and loose with the security clearance process,” Tester told Government Executive. “As a result, the process has lacked accountability, transparency and led to too many individuals having security clearances — even if they don’t need them to fulfill their jobs. I will continue to work to reform the process so we can protect our nation and our interests.”
Part of that work includes introducing the Security Clearance Accountability and Reform (SCARE) Act, which would prohibit federal employees found guilty of compromising the integrity of a background investigation from conducting future investigations, and would make the manipulation a fireable offense. The bill was introduced with bipartisan support, including from Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman, and cleared a committee, but has yet to receive a vote on the Senate floor.
Most parties identify over-classification of documents and overzealousness to give out security clearances as key barriers to a properly functioning security clearance process. The logic goes thus: too much classified information creates demand for too many individuals needing clearances, which puts pressure on investigators to emphasize quantity of background checks over quality. Currently, about 5.1 million individuals hold security clearances, about 40 percent of whom do not ever access classified information.
In total, the federal government spent about $11.6 billion on its security classification and clearance system in fiscal 2013.
“One of the solutions has to be [to reduce] the need for so many clearances in the first place,” said Neil Gordon of the Project on Government Oversight. He added that while OPM has cut the longstanding backlog of investigations, “quicker doesn’t necessarily mean better.”
Tester’s SCARE Act attempts to address that issue, as does the Clearance and Over-Classification Reform and Reduction (CORRECT) Act, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss. The bill would codify an Obama administration initiative to reduce the number of people with clearances by 10 percent within five years, and attempt to more closely tie the need for security clearances to positions that require access to classified information.
Federal agencies have already successfully reduced the number of individuals with clearances from its peak in the post-Sept. 11 era, as demonstrated by these statistics from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:
Building on Executive Actions
In the immediate aftermath of the Navy Yard shooting, Obama tasked the Office of Management and Budget, in conjunction with OPM; ODNI; the Homeland Security, Justice and Defense departments; and others with crafting a Suitability and Security Process Review. After 120 days, the panel came up with 13 recommendations, broken down into three main categories: increasing the availability of information to improve decision making, reducing the inherent risk in the current security clearance process and developing holistic, enterprise solutions to clearance operations.
Some of the concerns have been addressed, while lawmakers continue to seek solutions to others. Several recommendations attempt to improve the ongoing monitoring of cleared workers to ensure the proper alarms are sounded when, for example, a cleared employee checks himself into an emergency room for mental health issues.
A proposal from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would require OPM to reevaluate clearance holders at least twice every five years through an automated and random review of public records and databases. Currently, secret security clearance holders are reevaluated by a human investigator every 10 years, while top secret holders are reevaluated every five. The automated reviews would search typical databases such as court records, as well as previously uninvestigated tools such as consumer reports and individuals’ Facebook and Twitter pages.
Collins’ Enhanced Security Clearance Act, introduced with bipartisan support, has passed a Senate committee and Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., has introduced similar legislation in the House. The Obama administration has launched several pilots of its “continuous evaluation” program, which aims to evaluate clearance holders more frequently. The Pentagon has successfully implemented the program to some of its cleared workforce, and the White House expects the program to be fully implemented for the “most sensitive populations” in fiscal 2016.
The Wyden-Thompson CORRECT Act includes several provisions to address privacy concerns for employees subject to continuous evaluation programs.
Greg Rinckey, a managing partner at Tully Rinckey, a law firm specializing in security clearance issues, said the key to reform is two-pronged: reduce the number of people with clearances, then increase the number of reinvestigations.
“The more people holding security clearances the more the chances for a breach,” he said.
The OMB report also called for better oversight and metrics to review the investigations conducted by contractors. In February, the Obama administration moved to bring the previously outsourced final review of background checks in-house. More recently, the Office of Personnel Management decided not to extend a contract with USIS, the largest private-sector background investigator and the company responsible for both Snowden and Alexis’ clearances. But in a rebuttal of recent criticisms, USIS noted that its investigations of both Snowden and Alexis were complete.
Tester also introduced the Preventing Conflicts of Interest with Contractors Act, which passed the Senate earlier this month. The bill would prohibit a contractor from conducting a quality review of its own background checks.
While lawmakers’ plans are largely abstract, the White House has taken some concrete actions.
OMB recently said it will shift all individuals with clearances to a five-year schedule, regardless of level. To meet the 10 percent reduction goal, ODNI is requiring all agencies to “review and validate” whether each individual with a clearance actually needs it. OMB is coordinating a governmentwide, metrics-based evaluation of meeting security clearance objectives. While most of the information is classified or not yet available, the Performance.gov statistics show the government is, for better or worse, processing clearances more quickly.
The fastest 90 percent of investigations for secret clearances took an average of 46 days as of April 2014, while top secret took 109 days. The same category of investigations in aggregate took 265 days in 2005.
“We’ve made progress, but there is more work to be done,” acknowledged Beth Cobert, OMB’s deputy director for management, on the recent one-year anniversary of the Navy Yard shooting. “We will continue to work aggressively to ensure rigorous oversight and accountability mechanisms are in place throughout government, thereby ensuring the safety of federal workers and the protection of our nation’s most sensitive information.”
In addition to the proposals already put forward, government audits point to gaps in the security clearance process. A Government Accountability Office report issued earlier this month found inconsistencies in how agencies revoke the clearances, as well as in the punishment clearance-revoked employees receive. A July GAO report found 83,000 tax delinquent Defense employees and contractors owed the government $730 million.
Congress is recessed until the November elections, at which point it will face a limited schedule and an already full agenda. If lawmakers fail to take on a larger reform bill during the lame duck session, it will be back to the drawing board in 2015.
Dan Malessa, a spokesman for Tester, said the senator does not care whether the reforms come out of the Senate or from the Obama administration, but simply believes “the process still deserves increased scrutiny and improvement.”
Malessa added: “You can expect more attention on this issue from Sen. Tester.” Whether his colleagues show similar enthusiasm remains to be seen.
Marijuana Production: The Next Great Energy Hog?
By Evan Dashevsky
September 3, 2014
The new “green” industry is anything but. And it’s a completely avoidable problem.
Marijuana Production is an Electricity Hog and it’s All the Law’s Fault
As a growing number of states flirt with marijuana legalization, they must grapple with how best to bring a multi-billion dollar industry out from the shadows and into the light of the regulated, tax-paying world. While both sides of the legalization debate cherry pick the results of these experiments to support their particular point of view, the new reality on the ground has highlighted one facet that few are talking about: marijuana production is a huge power suck.
At least producing marijuana indoors is a big fat electricity hog, which is how the vast majority of legal growhouses still operate. This issue is destined to become more pronounced in Colorado next month when the state opens the doors for standalone production facilities. Previously, the state had an inefficient system in which production facilities had to be vertically integrated with retail outlets. This coming phase has prompted a run on warehouse spaces around the Centennial State, foretelling a rush of new electron-thirsty grow operations.
Indoor Legal Marijuana Production ColoradoTraditionally, marijuana production has been an indoor activity—for understandable reasons. But why is a now kinda-sorta-legal plant still grown the same way it was under total prohibition? There’s a number of contributing factors.
For one, there’s a certain amount of inertia from an industry that grew up indoors—right or wrong, there is a pervasive idea that indoor cultivation gives growers a control over their product that might not be achievable outside. Some is due to security concerns (it’s still a mostly cash business, though this will likely change with time). However, the biggest contributor might just be the evolving and conflicting patchwork of state and federal laws that make normal energy-efficient production process unfeasible. For now.
According to a 2012 report from sustainability researcher and consultant Evan Mills, Cannabis production (legally sanctioned and otherwise) accounted for 1 percent of all national electricity consumption. To put that number in context: marijuana growhouses used the same amount of electricity as 2 million homes and equaled the carbon output of 3 million cars. Energy costs for indoor production cost $6 billion a year—six times the power needs of the entire U.S. pharmaceutical industry. A single marijuana growhouse has the same power needs of a similarly sized, energy-greedy data center.
This power thirst has even led to additional illegal activity. For example, in western Canada—where recreational pot is a prohibited, but very popular pastime—illegal “grow ops” have been the prime forces behind a wave of “electricity theft,” to the tune of $100 million per year. This often takes the form of hacked meters. The regional energy utility, BC Hydro, has even created a team of electricity theft investigators tasked with cracking down on the activity.
So, how can tiny green plants be so energy-demanding? “Most of our power needs are from the lighting that we’re using,” explains Ellis Smith, the chief development officer with the American Cannabis Company, a consulting firm for the legal grow industry. “We’re using very high power lighting—up to 1000 watts. These create a lot of heat in a very small space, so you need to pump in a lot of air conditioning. Someone needs to come in and disrupt this. Someone could come in and do something major here—this is where all our power consumption comes from and the costs are just so high.”
All these indoor environmental controls not only add hefty costs to growhouse operators—where monthly energy bills have been reported to exceed $100,000—but they can cause a cavernous carbon footprint. And this is of particular concern as the localities that might be most amenable to the legal marijuana industry also tend to be most environmentally minded. For example, growhouses in oh-so-crunchy Boulder are required to purchase their energy from renewable sources, which has been estimated to drive costs up an additional 20 percent.
One alternative option for marijuana production is greenhouses. But this is far from an energy cure-all—at least not on the industrial scale. While the greenhouse model indeed cuts down on the need for some lighting (supplemental lights would still be necessary for cloudy days or when the days grow shorter), one still needs to account for other elements such as water, humidity, and supplemental CO2 (not to mention the construction of the actual greenhouse). And maintaining these factors takes energy and money.
The benefits of using greenhouses are truly felt when used in a climate that is already somewhat amenable to the plant in question all year round (i.e. not a Colorado winter; Cannabis tends to thrive in environment with lots of sun, 50 percent humidity, and a temperature around 78 degrees—give or take).
Marijuana Greenhouse”Traditionally and historically, plants grown outdoors or in greenhouses are grown regionally, [and are] dependent on the local climate and what growers want. The challenge with Cannabis cultivation is that it must be grown in the state where it’s legal,” explains Brandy Keen, a vice president with Surna, a Colorado-based marijuana consulting firm specializing in grow technology. “You can’t ship a Cannabis plant across state or international lines. So, what we’re left with is having to grow a Cannabis plant in an environment that is not conducive to its growth. ”
Many of these issues could be avoided if the crop were—like any other legal plant—grown outside. And while Cannabis can indeed be grown outdoors in Colorado, it could only be grown seasonally, thus limiting its scalability.
Should federal law eventually bend towards legalization’s gravitational pull and facilitate legal marijuana cultivation and distribution, the plant would be able to be grown on larger scales in friendlier climates throughout the sunnier parts of the country.
For the time being, producers are left to search out sustainable (not to mention, cheaper) growhouse methods including using renewable fuels and water recycling techniques. A simple Google search for “legal Cannabis consultant” provides a window on to the rise of a marijuana consultant boom in the fields of sustainability, agriculture, and engineering.
“The industry is really really young. It’s a baby industry, still” explains Keen. “People are just starting to realize the types of technologies that are available to them. There’s just now private investment on a large scale. And the people who were successful early on are making enough money to really invest in these facilities in a way that is sustainable.”
Cultivation will inevitably expand where and when the plant can grow and increase yields. Cannabis is indigenous to southern and central Asia—basically all along The Silk Road. So, somewhere in the plant’s genetic code lays the ability to grow and prosper in high-altitude Colorado or even overcast Washington state.
Irrespective of the plant’s inherent hardiness, humans have continually demonstrated the ability to make plants grow just about anywhere. For example, some of the best premium cigar wrappers are grown in Connecticut, far from the hot humid regions of the Caribbean where most cigar leaf originates. And this agricultural feat came about before the era of genetic engineering, which greatly expands what any organism can achieve. The takeaway: plants can—with some elbow grease and assistance from technology—be trained grow outside their comfort zone.
In the end, all the debates surrounding sustainable energy and indoor vs. greenhouse cultivation may just be the result of a stop-gap moment in history. The thrust of the American electorate—particularly the younger segment of the American electorate—is relentlessly moving towards legalization. Regardless of your position, this is where the law is inevitably headed. There will, of course be hold-outs, but just as mass acceptance for gay marriage swept the country, what was once politically unthinkable can swiftly become legal reality. In the not-crazy-distant future, we may live in a country where outdoor marijuana farms are part of the rural tapestry.
As society becomes more concerned with its impact on the environment, regulators and consumers will call for marijuana to be grown in an energy-efficient manner, just like any other legal crop. And as the costs become untenable, growers will begin to demand this transition as well. “I feel that indoor cultivation will be a thing of the past in the next 8 to 12 years,” says Smith. “It’s the evolution of our industry. Our power consumption simply can’t handle this.”
JP Morgan Chase: 76M households exposed in cyberbreach
Some 7 million small businesses were also compromised in the computer attack over the summer — far more than the 1 million customer accounts initially thought to have been breached.
by Michelle Meyers and Seth Rosenblatt
October 2, 2014 3:52 PM PDT
JPMorgan Chase revealed in a regulatory filing Thursday that contact information for 76 million households and 7 million small businesses was compromised in the data breach reported in late August.
That makes it a much bigger breach than initially thought. Early accounts had estimated that around 1 million customers had been affected by the hack. It also likely makes it one of the largest corporate hacks ever reported. JP Morgan is the largest bank in the US and the sixth-largest bank in the world.
In its filing with the Security and Exchange Commission, JP Morgan said the user contact information compromised included names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and internal customer data. There’s no evidence, however, that account numbers, passwords, user IDs, dates of birth or Social Security numbers were compromised.
And thus far, the firm hasn’t seen any fraud related to the breach. It reiterated that customers aren’t liable for any unauthorized transactions on their accounts.
The JP Morgan hack was originally discovered in July, a month after hackers were suspected of breaking in to the financial institution’s servers.
Many major financial institutions — including Wells Fargo, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and HSBC — were attacked earlier this year with denial-of-service attacks that interrupted their websites and Internet operations. US government officials believe that the attacks came from Iran.
Large-scale hacks affecting tens of millions of customers have occurred numerous times in the past 12 months. Word of the biggest single-company breach came in December as consumer retail goods titan Target said that hackers pilfered credit card data for more than 110 million customers. Other major hacks reported this year include department store Neiman Marcus, restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s, arts- and crafts-supplies chain Michaels Stores. Also making news were celebrity photos stolen through a vulnerability in Apple’s iCloud.
Although JP Morgan reported that no customer financial data was stolen, the company said that the hackers made off with knowledge of most if not all software installed on a standard JP Morgan computer.
This means that the hackers could track down known, unpatched vulnerabilities for those software programs to regain illegal access to JP Morgan’s computers.
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, October 04, 2014
What did Shakespeare’s Macbeth say of life? “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” He might just as well have been talking about politics in America today.
Remember the partial shutdown of the federal government last October and all the pronouncements of doom and gloom? The number of voters who said the country was heading in the right direction fell to a five-year low of 13%, and many in Congress feared for their political careers.
Confidence in the nation’s direction has returned to the mid- to upper 20s, although that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the nation’s leadership. And many pundits suggest Republicans, the villains in the shutdown saga, are on the brink of taking full control of the Congress.
Of course, it didn’t help that shortly after the shutdown ended, Obamacare made its public debut, taking the onus off the GOP for heartlessly closing down the federal government and shifting it to the Democrats for dumping the jerry-rigged national health care law on an unwilling public. Voters, by the way, still don’t care much for the health care law.
Plus it seems there’s a new crisis nearly every day now in Washington, D.C., and who knows where the Ebola problem is leading?
Just this past week, despite strong majority support for sending the latest wave of illegal immigrants home as quickly as possible, the Obama administration announced instead that it is spending $9 million in taxpayer dollars to provide lawyers for some of these illegals. But 68% of voters think these illegal immigrants should not have the same legal rights and protections that U.S. citizens have, and even more (71%) say they shouldn’t be eligible for government services and benefits.
But who cares what voters think, right? After all, most of them opposed Obamacare, too, and have been calling for government spending cuts for years. Only 21%, however, think it’s even somewhat likely that spending will be significantly reduced over the next few years no matter which political party is in power.
President Obama has a new attorney general to nominate, too, with Eric Holder’s announcement that he is stepping down after six years as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. Voters don’t think much of Holder and hope the president will pick an attorney general who is less interested in politics and more interested in administering justice fairly. Republicans want Obama to hold off on the nomination until early next year, hoping that there will be a GOP-led Senate in place to sign off on it.
It’s still too soon, though, to say whether a Republican Senate will be a reality come January. The GOP needs a net gain of six Senate seats to be the majority, and West Virginia remains one of its best chances for a pickup. Colorado, another seat now held by a Democrat, remains a dead heat.
Republican David Perdue still runs slightly ahead of Democrat Michelle Nunn in Georgia’s closely watched U.S. Senate race. That seat is now held by a retiring GOP senator and is one Republicans can’t afford to lose, especially with Kansas unexpectedly in play.
Minnesota continues to be a long-shot for the GOP, with Democratic Senator Al Franken holding an eight-point lead over his Republican challenger.
Republicans are expected to maintain control of the House of Representatives and perhaps even add to their existing majority. However, just 29% of voters think their representative in Congress deserves reelection.
Democrats have taken a one-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. The two parties have been separated by two points or less most weeks this year.
The president’s monthly job approval rating rose a point in September to 47%, but it’s been 47% to 48% for much of his presidency. His daily job approval rating has improved slightly in the last week or so, now running in the mid- to high negative teens.
Voters agree with the president’s decision to step up military action against the radical Islamic group ISIS in the Middle East and think involvement by Muslim nations increase the mission’s chances of success.
Obama took to the campaign trail late in the week to tout the improving economy, but he seems to be more optimistic than much of the public. The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence fell only slightly in September after reaching an all-time high in August, but consumer and investor confidence continue to track at some of their lowest levels in months.
There’s been some interesting developments in governor’s races around the country. In Colorado, Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper has pulled slightly ahead of Republican challenger Bob Beauprez in his bid to keep his job.
Still, one of this year’s most widely anticipated contests remains as anticlimactic as it has been for months: Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott has a double-digit lead over Democrat Wendy Davis in the race to be Texas’ first new governor in 14 years.
At least four deaths in this country have now been attributed to a new strain of the severe respiratory disease known as enterovirus, but most Americans are confident the U.S. public health system can control the virus.
We’ll let you know Monday morning how confident Americans are that the public healthy system can handle the deadly Ebola virus now that it’s arrived in this country.
In other surveys last week:
— Most adults think their fellow Americans should be proud of the nation’s history, but most also doubt that they actually know much about it.
— Most Americans still consider military service good for young people but know fewer people who have joined the military out of frustration with the job market.
— Americans say they have a better chance for career advancement by staying at their current job than going to work for someone else.
Also on a blog at https://newswirefeed.wordpress.com/
Obama’s top military adviser urges new federal cybersecurity rules
Posted: September 18, 2014
The federal government needs to impose carefully calibrated cybersecurity standards on the private sector but it might not happen until there is a crisis, according to Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
The United States is still working to understand how to reconcile values like the freedom of information, privacy and security in the context of cyberspace, Dempsey said in a recent speech on national security challenges at the University of Notre Dame, IN.
“Frankly, we’ve made modest progress but not nearly enough progress,” Dempsey said in the Sept. 6 speech. “I mean, it comes down to two things, frankly. One is security standards. There’s no standards, really.” The White House has pushed for critical infrastructure owners and operators to voluntarily adopt the federal framework of cybersecurity standards. But Dempsey argued officials must do more.
“Now there’s a huge debate about whether the central government should impose standards on cyber and if they do, won’t it in some way undermine the very nature of the – the wonder of the Internet, which is openness?” he said. “Yeah, probably, but we’ve got to figure out where that sweet spot is. You can’t leave it entirely exposed.”
Penetrations of defense industry networks can enable countries like China to steal secrets about major weapons, Dempsey said. “So I can protect my information and my technology until I go to a defense contractor and say, build me an F-22 fighter, and then his network is actually subject to attack, and he moves all that technology, and the next thing you know, the Chinese have an aircraft that, wow, looks just like the F-22,” he said.
Further, U.S. military bases depend on the nation’s electric grid for power, as Catherine Allen, a board member for El Paso Electric Company, noted earlier this year at a cybersecurity conference at the New York Stock Exchange. She said that small utilities are facing cyber threats from Iran and China and what keeps her up at night is the prospect of the grid going down due to cyber attacks.
“So we’ve got a problem in that . . . frankly, we’ve been debating it for a long time,” Dempsey said of the federal government’s cybersecurity role. “I fear it might take a crisis for us to be serious about it, and if that’s what happens, we’ll deal with it.”
Dempsey also bemoaned the need for better sharing of cyber threat data among the public and private sectors. Corporations have “no incentive” to participate in information sharing, he said.
“In fact, you’re disincentivized from sharing cyber attack information with us,” Dempsey said. He noted DOD is responsible for protecting military networks, not industry’s systems. “There are others protecting dot-gov and others protecting dot-org and others protecting, you know, dot-com,” he added. “But frankly, the collaboration among those security agencies is good. It is. But it’s also voluntary and episodic, and it needs to be standardized and mandatory – if they’re going to be protected.”
Earlier this week, White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel again touted the administration’s voluntary approach. “We continue to believe the framework should be implemented on a voluntary basis,” he said on Tuesday. Daniel, speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the 5th Annual Billington Cybersecurity Summit, said the administration’s goal is to “streamline” rather than expand regulations. He noted that President Obama has “invited independent regulatory agencies to align with the framework.” – Christopher J. Castelli ( email@example.com
Pentagon’s Weapons Push Faces Skeptics
Agency Encourages Industry to Boost Research Spending, but Firms Are Wary of Contract Procedures
By Doug Cameron
Sept. 22, 2014 6:38 p.m. ET
The Pentagon is trying to boost research spending by private firms. The agency also wants firms to develop more prototypes of weapons and systems.
The Pentagon is proposing significant changes to how it develops and buys new weapons, but some in the industry say the biggest hurdle to success could lie in the agency’s own staff.
Pentagon procurement chief Frank Kendall last week published a set of proposals aimed at encouraging military contractors to invest more of their own funds to develop new weapons to counter the more advanced arms being deployed by China, Russia and others.
Mr. Kendall wants to use more fixed-price contracts with a range of profit incentives to boost research spending by private companies and remove some of the complexity in the acquisition process that has discouraged firms from bidding on Pentagon work.
But industry executives have questioned how quickly the Pentagon’s 29,000 acquisition staffers can master the ability to choose the right kind of contract for each deal—rather than relying on what has been used before—which both industry and the Pentagon view as crucial to make the plan succeed.
“We are lock step in terms of his intentions, [but] the implementation [by Pentagon staff] is where the rubber hits the road,” said Chris Chadwick, president of the Defense, Space & Security arm of Boeing Co. , the Pentagon’s second-largest supplier after Lockheed Martin Corp.
Industry executives point to misfires in a previous overhaul, the push to spread the use of lowest-price contracts launched in 2010. The fixed-price deals—nicknamed “good enough” within the industry—involved setting requirements and choosing the cheapest bid.
Pentagon leaders including Mr. Kendall, the under secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, acknowledged that acquisition staff used this type of contract too widely. Costs crept up in some complex projects as winners found they had underbid, or potential competitors simply opted not to bid at all.
Mr. Kendall’s proposals last week also included plans to save money by buying more equipment and services—such as cloud-computing systems—off the shelf from commercial suppliers, rather customized items from contractors.
The proposals are the third version of the Better Buying Power initiative launched in 2010, which aims to improve affordability and boost the Pentagon work force’s ability to identify how much weapons systems and related services should cost, rather than just relying on contractors’ bids.
John Powers, head of the federal defense practice at consultant Deloitte LLP, said the initiative has made some headway.
“It has improved their tradecraft [and] enabled DoD to get a bigger bang for its buck,” he said. For example, the number of contracts that breach federal cost and performance caps has fallen since 2010.
However, he said the biggest challenge to Mr. Kendall’s latest push will be whether it is applied consistently by the Pentagon’s acquisition staff.
Mr. Kendall, a former defense-industry executive, said in an interview this year that the U.S. doesn’t need to follow the U.K. in privatizing some of its buying activity to secure access to more commercially-minded staff. But he has emphasized the need for more training for Pentagon staff in contracting procedures to build those skills internally.
Last week’s proposals, dubbed Better Buying Power 3.0, focus on encouraging contractors to boost investment in innovation as part of the Pentagon’s effort to counter what it views as the U.S.’s diminishing military advantage.
U.S. defense stocks have prospered despite the drop in military spending, up 19% so far this year after climbing more than 50% in 2013, buoyed by cost cuts that have propped up margins and expanding buybacks and dividends.
However, company-funded research and development in the sector has dropped to an average of 1.5% to 2% of sales from 3% to 4% in 2000, according to Wolfe Research LLC. The Pentagon’s R&D budget fell to $63 billion in fiscal 2015 from $80 billion in 2010.
“We’re trying to stimulate industry to innovate, and I’m trying to give them [more] business reasons to innovate,” Mr. Kendall said last week, acknowledging the Pentagon has to improve its system of incentives.
He wants companies to develop more prototypes of weapons and systems that could challenge potential adversaries rather than just wait for the military to outline their needs. One recent example is a suite of U.S. Army radios that Harris Corp. HRS +0.16% developed and sold to the Army before Pentagon-funded equipment was ready for service.
Boeing’s Mr. Chadwick said he is wary of the balance tipping too far toward speculative projects.
“Industry can’t survive on prototypes alone,” he said. “There has to be new production programs.”
New Army vice chief expects worse manpower conditions
Sep. 22, 2014 – 06:51PM |
By Michelle Tan
The Army’s new vice chief expects in 2016 that sequestration will once again rear its ugly head, and that means thousands more force-cuts in the service.
“The world is still a very dangerous place. It’s more complex and uncertain as ever,” said Gen. Daniel Allyn in a forum this month. “Yet our budget has declined and will get worse if sequestration returns in 2016 as planned. Unfortunately, I’m not optimistic that sequestration is going away, so we must brace ourselves once again for extreme fiscal constraint.”
Allyn made these comments while speaking at the Association of the United States Army’s Medical Hot Topic professional development forum, held just outside Washington, D.C.
His foreboding comments are some of his first public remarks since taking the Army vice chief job on Aug. 15.
The Army is already in the middle of cutting 10 brigade combat teams and 80,000 soldiers over two years. The Army drawdown is on schedule to reach 510,000 soldiers by the end of fiscal 2014 on Sept. 30, and it should reach an end-strength of 490,000 by the end of fiscal 2015. It’s set to drop to 450,000 in the years to follow.
If Congress triggers another round of across-the-board cuts, known as sequestration, again in 2016 it will mean the Army will have to drop to 420,000.
Senior Army leaders, including Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Allyn’s predecessor, Gen. John Campbell, have said an end-strength of 420,000 presents “unacceptable risk.”
For soldiers, it could mean more use of the Army’s involuntary separation policies that have thus far targeted officers, senior enlisted soldiers and over-strength military occupational specialties.
Amid these cuts, the Army also must look ahead, as “this is not about the past, but the Army’s future and preparing for Force 2025 and beyond,” he said.
Force 2025 is the Army’s push to determine what the Army will become by 2025, and it will establish an “enduring set of measures to guide senior leader decisions and long-term efforts,” Allyn said.
“We’re building a holistic modernization strategy to change the Army and deliver global land power capabilities to the joint force,” he said. “Force 2025 is not the end-state. It’s a waypoint for the future.”
China Hacks Expose Communications Flaw
Military, Contractors Construe Breach Reporting Rules Differently
By Eric Chabrow, September 24, 2014.Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity
What’s as disturbing as the news of the Chinese hacking U.S. defense contractors’ systems, revealed in a new Senate report, is that the contractors failed to notify the military of most of those intrusions. Why so? The military and contractors don’t interpret contract provisions dealing with breaches the same way.
Most of the publicity arising from the release of the Senate Armed Services Committee report focused on the Chinese hacking critical systems – so, what else is new? But a big takeaway from the study, Inquiry Into Cyber Intrusions Affecting U.S. Transportation Command Contractors, is the failure of military contractors to share cyberthreat information with the Transportation Command, known as Transcom, a unified combatant command that provides transportation and logistics services to the U.S. military.
Information sharing is a hot topic these days, but what good is information sharing if parties can’t agree on what information is to be shared?
Information sharing is a hot topic these days, but what good is information sharing if parties can’t agree on what information is to be shared? Sometimes, it seems that the contractors and government don’t speak the same language, interpreting specific provisions in contracts differently.
“The contract language is ambiguous and none of the contractors with whom the committee discussed the clause interpreted their reporting obligation in a manner consistent with Transcom’s intent,” the report says.
Source of Confusion
Here’s how Senate investigators determined the confusion occurred:
Transcom required its contractors to report intrusions that “affect DoD information.” To Transcom, that means contractors must report any intrusion that allows access to a system on which DoD information resides or is in transit. But none of the contractors the committee investigators interviewed interpreted the clause that way.
One contractor, a civilian airline that ferries troops and equipment during a crisis, told investigators that it interpreted the clause to require reporting of intrusions of their systems only if those attacks affected DoD data, for example, through data exfiltration or corruption. Another civilian airline said it interpreted the clause to mean intrusions that only affected nonpublic DoD information.
“Setting aside the lack of common understanding between the command and its contractors about the cyber-incident reporting clause, Transcom’s own view that reportable intrusions are limited to those that affect systems on which DoD information resides or transit leaves a critical gap,” the report says.
More Protection Needed
Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., says military divisions must improve the way they communicate cyber-vulnerabilities with other government agencies, including the FBI, as well as with their contractors. “Our findings are a warning that we must do much more to protect strategically significant systems from attack and to share information about intrusions when they do occur,” he says.
The panel blamed the lack of contractor cyber-incident reporting on common misunderstandings between contractors and Transcom about the scope of cyber-intrusions that must be reported. Transcom’s obliviousness to some intrusions was due to confusion about the rules governing how cyber-related information may be shared and a lack of common understanding between the command and other DoD components about what cyber-information Transcom needs to know.
“It is essential that we put into place a central clearinghouse that makes it easy for critical contractors, particular those that are small businesses, to report suspicious cyber activity without adding a burden to their mission support operations,” says Sen. Inhofe, R-Okla., the committee’s ranking member.
Committee investigators spent a year, ending in March, investigating the breaches and discovered that in a 12-month period beginning June 1, 2012, there were about 50 intrusions or other cyber-events into the computer networks of Transcom contractors. Investigators attributed at least 20 of those successful intrusions to an advanced persistent threat.
Assaults Originated in China
Investigators attributed the 20 APT intrusions to China. Among the investigation’s findings was evidence of:
• A Chinese military intrusion into a Transcom contractor between 2008 and 2010 that compromised e-mails, documents, user passwords and computer code.
• A 2010 intrusion by the Chinese military into the network of a air-carrier contractor in which documents, flight details, credentials and passwords for encrypted e-mail were stolen.
• A 2012 Chinese military intrusion into multiple systems onboard a commercial ship contracted by Transcom.
Investigators found significant gaps in sharing cyber-intrusion information, according to the committee report. For example, while the the FBI or DoD were aware of at least nine successful intrusions by China into Transcom contractors, Transcom was made aware of only two of them.
The senators inserted a provision in the bill that funds Defense Department operations, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2015, that directs the DoD to improve the way the department disseminates information about cyber-intrusions into the computer network of operationally critical contractors. Committee leaders hope that the proviso in the measure now before the full Senate will help resolve the communications gap that exists between agencies such as Transcom and military contractors.
As Inhofe says, “We must ensure that cyber-intrusions cannot disrupt our mission readiness.” Indeed.
Microsoft’s Kinect aids in ‘augmented reality sand’ mapping tool for Marines, Army
Sep. 23, 2014 – 09:02PM |
By Hope Hodge Seck
Video game technology has aided researchers in creating realistic 3-D battlespace maps using a simple sand box.
Called the Augmented Reality Sand Table, the concept is under development by the Army Research Laboratory and on display at this year’s Modern Day Marine on Marine Corps Base Quantico. The set-up is simple: a small sand box is rigged with a Microsoft Kinect video game motion sensor and an off-the-shelf projector. Using existing software, the sensor can detect features in the sand and project a realistic topographical map that corresponds to the layout — one that can change at a moment’s notice when observers move the sand around in the box.
And that’s just a start.
The set-up can also project real maps from Google Earth or similar technologies, enabling units to visualize the exact terrain they’ll be covering for exercises or operations. While the capability isn’t yet built in, the lab is working on developing visual cues, like arrows, that would appear to help troops shape the sandbox to match the topography of specified map.
All of these things save the warfighter time, said Charles Amburn, senior instructional systems specialist for the lab’s Simulation and Training Technology Center.
“With a traditional sand table, you’ve got to create the grid and then somebody’s got to go take that map and say, ‘in this grid, there’s a hole here,'” Amburn said. “By the time it’s done, you’ve spent an hour setting up for an exercise or a scenario.”
Down the road, the concept could allow troops from distant bases or even international partners to conduct joint training and operations via 3-D maps they can upload and project. And maps can be easily reset and scenarios “rewound” in a way that just isn’t possible on traditional static sand tables, Amburn said.
Amburn said the lab has also begun studying whether interacting with the 3-D sand table map improves cognition compared to typical 2-D maps.
Already, he said, it appears that the 3-D projections could help assist with language and communication barriers when Marines and soldiers train third-party nationals in their home countries.
“If you project the plan with the real map, everyone gets it,” Amburn said. “You look at a map of their village and you show it to them and they get it.”
Future possibilities include large-scale models that could project over a gymnasium floor for a battalion briefing, and a smartphone version that could use a pocket-sized projector to turn any patch of dirt into an operational 3-D map. The concept can be developed to allow users to move structures or map features in the projection with just a hand gesture, said Amburn. And the platform and map technology can also be customized to serve the spectrum of requirements, from tide tables for the Navy to firefighting models for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Amburn said West Point has asked for the system, and officials at The Basic School are evaluating the system to determine usefulness and pinpoint future requirements that the Office of Naval Research will then develop. Research on the system will continue for at least the next nine months, Amburn said, with new features rolled out every month or so.
FAA Issues Requirement for All UAS to Show Aircraft Registration Number
September 25, 2014
The FAA UAS Integration Office issued an email to the industry outlining the requirement for all commercial UAS to bear an aircraft registration number when applying for a COA:
UAS, other than those owned by the Armed Forces, intended to operate under a new COA must be registered and marked prior to COA application. The aircraft registration number (N-number) must be entered into the “Aircraft Registration” field, of the System Description section in COA on-line.
Additionally, UAS, other than those owned by the Armed Forces, currently operating under an existing COA must be registered and marked within 90 days of the date of this email. COA holders will confirm their aircraft have been registered by entering the registration number, (N-number) in the Monthly Operational Report, in the block labeled, “Describe any other Operational / Coordination Issued”. Failure to comply with the registration requirements within the prescribed timeframe may result in a suspension of the COA.
UAS must be marked with their U.S. nationality and registration marks (N-Number) in accordance with 14 CFR Part 45. The marks must be painted on the aircraft or affixed by any other means ensuring a similar degree of permanence (§45.21(c) (1), General).
Most full scale UAS are able to comply with the marking requirements, including size and location of the N-Number on the aircraft. Sub-scale or small UAS, or UAS of an un-conventional shape such as a multi-rotor (quad-copter, octo-copter, etc.) or ducted fan may not be able to comply with Part 45 or the guidance in AC 45-2D because of size or space limitations on the aircraft. In these cases, 14 CFR, §45.22(d) allows the UAS owner or operator to propose an alternative marking procedure to the FAA. Alternate marking approvals may be issued to public aircraft by FAA UAS Integration Office (AFS-80). If alternative markings were required, a copy of the Alternative Marking approval letter should be attached to application in the “Aircraft Registration” field.
Complete details for registering your UAS and reserving an N-number are provided online at http://www.faa.gov.
A formal letter from the FAA UAS Integration further outlining this requirement will follow this email correspondence.
– See more at: http://www.uasvision.com/2014/09/25/faa-issues-requirement-for-all-uas-to-show-aircraft-registration-number/?utm_source=Newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=a903c070e4-RSS_EMAIL_CAMPAIGN&utm_term=0_799756aeb7-a903c070e4-297557637#sthash.KaD8l8sA.dpuf
US officials concerned ‘tidal wave’ of drones will overwhelm air traffic system
by Press • 25 September 2014
Associated Press in Washington
Designers of the ambitious US air traffic control system of the future neglected to take drones into account, raising questions about whether it can handle the escalating demand for the unmanned aircraft and predicted congestion in the sky.
“We didn’t understand the magnitude to which [drones] would be an oncoming tidal wave, something that must be dealt with, and quickly,” said Ed Bolton, the Federal Aviation Administration’s assistant administrator for NextGen, as the program is called.
Congress passed legislation creating NextGen in 2003, and directed the agency to accommodate all types of aircraft, including drones.
The program, which is not expected to be completed for at least another decade, is replacing radar and radio communications, technologies rooted in the early 20th century, with satellite-based navigation and digital communications.
The FAA has spent more than $5bn on the complex program and is nearly finished installing hardware and software for several key systems. But the further it progresses, the more difficult it becomes to make changes.
Government and industry officials have long maintained that drones must meet the same rules that apply to manned aircraft if they are to share the sky. That is changing, however, said Chris Stephenson, who represents the National Air Traffic Controllers Association on several US and international unmanned aircraft committees.
“It’s becoming painfully apparent that in order to get [drones] in there, there is going to have to be a fair amount of accommodation, at least in the beginning,” he said.
Michael Whitaker, the FAA’s deputy administrator, acknowledged that drones “weren’t really part of the equation when you go back to the origin of NextGen”.
The NextGen plans for the next five years do not address how drones will fit into a system designed for planes with pilots on board, but the agency will have consider whether to do that, Whitaker told a recent meeting of the NextGen Institute, a nonprofit association sponsored by the FAA so that industry can assist with research.
Most of the initial demand to fly unmanned aircraft came from the departments of Defense and Homeland Security, which wanted to test military drones or use them to monitor US borders.
Later, interest began to build around potential uses for smaller drones, especially by police departments, but also for those wanting to spray crops, monitor pipelines and inspect offshore oil platforms. These drones can weigh anywhere from a few pounds to several hundred.
More recently, commercial demand has soared – from wedding videographers and real estate agents to Amazon and Google, eyeing potential package deliveries.
The FAA bans commercial drone operations with a few, limited exceptions. That ban, however, is undermined almost daily by frustrated small drone operators.
Bolton, also addressing the institute, said the NextGen office recently assembled a drone research team, he said.
FAA officials are under pressure from Congress and industry to loosen restrictions on smaller drones. The agency is expected to propose safety rules in November for businesses that want to operate them.
Smaller drones are less an issue for NextGen because the FAA is expected to limit their altitudes to less than 400ft. Air traffic controllers generally don’t separate aircraft at such low altitudes, except near airports.
But there is also concern about potential traffic and collisions with low-flying smaller drones. NASA researchers are working with the FAA and industry to develop an air traffic control system for aircraft flying at 500ft or lower. There is no such system today except around airports.
Medium to large drones that are eventually expected fly in “Class A” airspace – over 18,000ft, where they must be able to avoid collisions with other aircraft – are more of a problem for NextGen.
They will be controlled by a ground pilot, who will be able to see where the drone is on a computer screen and can communicate with controllers. But there won’t be a pilot on board who can look out and adjust course to avoid a collision.
There are other differences as well.
Pilots who fly in Class A airspace file flight plans identifying their routes. But some larger drones are expected to stay aloft at high altitudes for days or weeks at a time, and their flight plans will be much more complex.
ERAM, a NextGen computer system that controllers use to guide high-altitude air traffic, won’t be able to handle such voluminous flight plans and will have to be adjusted, aviation experts said. ERAM is already over budget and years overdue.
A greater concern is that drones fly much slower than other planes in Class A airspace, Stephenson said.
Planes at high altitudes are supposed follow designated highways in the sky to avoid collisions. A typical airliner on that highway might fly at over 500mph, while a drone at the same altitude might fly at only 175mph, he said. The more drones, the worse the traffic jam.
“Some people think you won’t be able to see the sun anymore because of all the (drones) that are going to be up there,” Stephenson said. “Other people say, ‘No, it’s just going to be a few. It’s no big deal.’ ”
Six Companies Can Now Fly Small UAS Following FAA-approved Safety Procedures
by Press • 25 September 2014
WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx today announced that the Federal Aviation Administration has granted regulatory exemptions to six aerial photo and video production companies, the first step to allowing the film and television industry the use of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System. Secretary Foxx made the announcement on a conference call with FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Chris Dodd, chairman and chief executive officer of the Motion Picture Association of America, Inc.
Secretary Anthony Foxx also determined that the UAS to be used in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness based on a finding they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security. Those findings are permitted under Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.
“Today’s announcement is a significant milestone in broadening commercial UAS use while ensuring we maintain our world-class safety record in all forms of flight,” said Secretary Foxx. “These companies are blazing a trail that others are already following, offering the promise of new advances in agriculture and utility safety and maintenance.”
The firms asked the agency to grant exemptions from regulations that address general flight rules, pilot certificate requirements, manuals, maintenance and equipment mandates. To receive the exemptions, the firms had to show their UAS operations would not adversely affect safety, or would provide at least an equal level of safety to the rules from which they seek the exemptions.
In their applications, the firms said the operators will hold private pilot certificates, keep the UAS within line of sight at all times and restrict flights to the “sterile area” on the set. In granting the exemption, FAA accepted these safety conditions, adding an inspection of the aircraft before each flight, and prohibiting operations at night. The agency also will issue Certificates of Waiver or Authorization (COAs) that mandate flight rules and timely reports of any accident or incidents.
“The applicants submitted UAS flight manuals with detailed safety procedures that were a key factor in our approval of their requests,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We are thoroughly satisfied these operations will not pose a hazard to other aircraft or to people and property on the ground.”
The Motion Picture Association of America facilitated the exemption requests on behalf of these six members: Astraeus Aerial, Aerial MOB, LLC, HeliVideo Productions, LLC, Pictorvision Inc, RC Pro Productions Consulting, LLC dba Vortex Aerial, and Snaproll Media, LLC. The FAA has asked for additional information from Flying-Cam, Inc., a seventh aerial video company that filed for exemptions with this group in June. The agency is working closely with the company to obtain the required information.
The FAA encourages other industry associations to work with interested parties to develop safety manuals and standard operating procedures that will help facilitate similar petitions.
As of today, the agency is considering 40 requests for exemptions from other commercial entities.
You can view the FAA’s exemption grants at http://www.faa.gov/uas/legislative_programs/section_333/
For more information on the FAA and UAS, go to http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/uas/
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, September 27, 2014
What if they gave an election and nobody came? Voters are pretty fed up with the cast of characters now on the national political stage.
Just 22% consider Barack Obama’s presidency a success. Even Democrats don’t think a campaign visit by the president to their state this fall is a good idea for their party’s candidates.
Not that that voters are convinced his 2012 Republican challenger would be doing much better. Forty-two percent (42%) think Mitt Romney would be doing a better job as president. But 37% say he’d be doing a worse one, while 12% feel he would be doing about the same.
The president’s daily job approval rating continues to hover around the -20 mark.
Interestingly, Hillary Clinton is seen by many to be a shoo-in as the next occupant of the White House, but most voters see her presidency as shaping up much like Obama’s: 52% think the two see eye-to-eye on most major issues.
Then there’s Congress: Most Democrats, Republicans and unaffiliated voters agree that it would be better for the country if most congressional incumbents were defeated. Only 53% of Democrats believe Democrats in Congress have done a good job representing their party’s values, but that’s a lot better than the 28% of Republicans who feel that way about GOP members of Congress.
Democrats and Republicans are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. The two parties have been separated by two points or less for most weeks this year, with a sizable number undecided.
After all, voters still don’t like the health care law that Congress and the president came up with and expect it to drive up costs and hurt the quality of health care in this country.
Most voters for years have supported across-the-board cuts in federal government spending and think such cuts would be a boost to the economy. But Congress and the president never deliver.
Meanwhile, the president was at a UN-sponsored global warming summit meeting this week, calling for an international agreement that only 25% of Americans think would help the U.S. economy.
But 35% of Americans believe the world is headed toward an irreversible catastrophe if the members of the UN fail to deal with global warming. Just as many (36%) disagree, however. Twenty-nine percent (29%) are not sure.
So how is the U.S. economy these days? Well, for one thing, 56% of Americans think the economy is unfair to those who are willing to work hard, the most negative assessment this year.
For the past two weeks, consumer confidence has tracked at some of its lowest levels this year.
Confidence in the U.S. banking system remains at the 50% level. In July 2008, prior to the Wall Street crisis and the subsequent federal bailouts of the financial system, 68% were confident in the banks.
Americans remain concerned about inflation and the vast majority feel they’ll be paying more for groceries a year from now. Twenty-nine percent (29%) say they owe more money than they did a year ago.
Will the upcoming elections change the dynamic? Republicans hope so if they can make a net gain of six seats in the Senate on Election Day.
Michigan is more of a long shot for Republicans, but the Senate contest there is back to a two-point race.
Republican Governor Rick Snyder now has a slightly wider lead over Democratic challenger Mark Schauer in his reelection bid in Michigan. Incumbent Republican Susana Martinez is back on track to be reelected governor of New Mexico.
In other surveys last week:
— Twenty-five percent (25%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.
— Americans continue to question whether colleges and universities do enough to protect their students, particularly when it comes to underage drinking.
— Voters remain concerned about the safety of nuclear power plants in the country but still don’t think the United States should phase them out.
— Only eight percent (8%) of Americans say they rarely or never watch TV.
— Sixty-eight percent (68%) think Americans watch too much television.
Also on a blog at https://newswirefeed.wordpress.com/
Recapitalizing the Future: Service Juggles Demands of 6 Foundational Programs
Sep. 14, 2014 – 02:25PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments
WASHINGTON — The US Air Force has six major aircraft recapitalization programs it must balance in the next five years during an era of budget reductions.
The top priorities are the “big three” — the F-35 joint strike fighter, KC-46A Pegasus tanker and new long-range strike bomber.
The service has largely protected those three programs from cuts so far and has indicated it would make big sacrifices to make sure they are safe.
“You have to decide what kind of technology do you need to be successful in the fight over time, and then you build your investment plan around that,” Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief of staff, told Defense News. “The top three acquisition programs we have did not just appear because they are cool or they cost a lot. The reason they are our top three is because if you use the logic I just described, they move to the top of the list.”
The second tier of recapitalization programs comprises the T-X trainer replacement program, the combat rescue helicopter (CRH) recapitalization, and a next-generation version of the joint surveillance target attack radar system (JSTARS) fleet.
“Is there any one of those six I’d worry more about pushing to the right? I don’t know that I’d say that,” William LaPlante, service undersecretary for acquisition, said. “I think each one has its own challenges.”
LaPlante and his team are relying on a new 20-year budget strategy to lay out a way forward and avoid the dreaded “bow wave,” when acquisition programs stack up just outside the future years defense plan.
Whether the new budget strategy will work remains to be seen, but in the meantime, these six programs will be fighting for funds for the rest of the decade.
◀ F-35 Joint Strike Fighter
Target IOC: Mid-to-late 2016 for Air Force F-35A model
FY 2015 PB Request: $33.3 billion over FYDP
Status: Low-rate initial production and test flight
The Air Force represents the largest F-35 customer, with a planned procurement of 1,763 of the Lockheed Martin-designed stealthy fighters. Because it represents such a major procurement for the service, leaders have been adamant that the F-35 buy be protected in the budget.
“Our older legacy fighters will not compete against generation 4.5 or 5 fighters, for all kinds of reasons,” Welsh said. “They cannot compete equally with them. So, we have got to have a new capability.”
Problems remain, however. Most of the F-35 fleet is operating under flight restrictions following an engine fire that heavily damaged an F-35A model in June. While program officials believe they have a fix for the engine problem, any delays in implementing it could in turn delay test dates, which, if not mitigated, could affect the Air Force’s IOC date.
▶ KC-46A Pegasus Tanker
Target initial operating capability (IOC) date: FY 2017
FY 2015 President’s Budget (PB) Request: $6.6 billion over FYDP
Status: Test plane under production
The KC-46A is the first in a three-step process to replace the Air Force’s tanker fleet. Boeing is locked into a taxpayer-friendly engineering and manufacturing development contract for the program that caps service costs at $4.9 billion; anything over that, the company is responsible for.
The program is largely on track, although there are warning signs of potential future problems. The company has had to move first flight of its test aircraft from a June date to sometime before the end of this year. First flight of an official KC-46A is scheduled for sometime in the first half of 2015; one source familiar with the program says April is the target date, but that may shift. Both Boeing and the Air Force note first flight dates are company-set milestones and are not contractual obligations.
“If [first flight of the test plane] slips into next year, I think everybody is going to start to be concerned,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said.
“I do not like to worry too early about things that have not happened yet. But, I think every time there is a slip in a major program, especially one that is due to deliver starting here in 2016, we want to make sure we stay on track,” Welsh added. “We are close to the first aircraft being delivered, and so anything that happens between now and then has an impact.”
▲ Long-Range Strike Bomber
Target IOC: Mid-2020s
FY 2015 PB Request: $11.4 billion over FYDP (Total black budget unknown)
Status: Request for proposals issued
The Air Force has been very cagey about the Long-Range Strike Bomber program. What is officially known: The service wants 80-100 of the planes, with a $550 million per-plane target cost. An award is expected in the first half of 2015, with Northrop Grumman going up against a team of Lockheed and Boeing for the right to produce it by its “mid-2020s” IOC target.
“No reasonable person would declare confidence in an IOC date 10 years from now,” Welsh said when asked if the plane will be on schedule. “So, we will see. I am confident with where we are today.”
“I can’t predict what they will be but we’ll have challenges there,” LaPlante said. “It’s a big program.”
Because so much of the program funding is in the “black” budget, it is unclear exactly what has been done so far on the bomber, but speculation abounds. J.J. Gertler, an analyst for the Congressional Research Service, penned a memo noting that the bomber’s budget profile looks more like a production than an research and development program, hinting that much of the technological development and testing has already happened behind the scenes.
The program may also produce a family of systems rather than a single plane. For instance, it could be a two-ship program — one gathering ISR and providing targets for a second plane to perform the actual strike. Expect more details as a selection is made.
▲ Combat Rescue Helicopter
Target IOC: FY 2021
FY 2015 PB Request: $1.08 billion over FYDP
Status: Contract awarded
The CRH program covers 112 new helicopters to replace the service’s aging Pave Hawk combat search-and-rescue machines, and could be worth as much as $7 billion over the life of the program.
The Air Force wanted a wide-open competition, but one-by-one, competitors dropped out, citing restrictions with the requirements. At the end, Sikorsky was the sole competitor to file a bid, and was awarded the contract in June.
Notably, the CRH was a last-minute budget addition for the Air Force. A general was told it had been added just before he briefed the press during a budget rollout. The Air Force has claimed the program could be endangered if it is not allowed to retire the A-10 attack plane, likely a political move given the strong support CRH has in Congress; analysts agree the new helicopter is likely safe because of protectors such as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
▲ T-X Trainer Replacement
Target IOC: FY 2023
FY 2015 PB Request: $503 million over FYDP
Status: Requirements Being Decided
The winner of the T-X competition will replace the service’s T-38 trainers with 350 new aircraft, a contract that has drawn significant competition.
“The challenge with T-X is, can we truly get a good trainer for a good price without doing development? That’s kind of our goal, not develop something new,” LaPlante said, noting one challenge is “making sure the requirements on that are reasonable enough that we can make sure there is a good, healthy competition for a non-development solution.”
Officials also have to decide if T-X should be a pure trainer, or if it should be a multirole plane that can perform ISR or light attack operations as well. An RFP is expected in 2017.
Three existing trainers are being offered for the T-X: The Hawk Advanced Jet Training System, a joint program led by BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman; Lockheed Martin’s offering of the Korean Aerospace Industries T-50; and the T-100, a collaboration between General Dynamics and Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi based on the latter’s M-346 design.
There are two newer designs competing as well. Boeing and Saab are teamed on a “clean-sheet” design, one the companies said will not be based on Saab’s Gripen fighter. In addition, Textron AirLand has announced its intention to compete a trainer variant of its Scorpion jet.
▲ JSTARS Replacement
Target IOC date: Q1 FY 2022
FY 2015 PB Request: $2.3 billion over FYDP
Status: Requirements being decided
The Air Force wants a commercial aircraft for its next-generation joint surveillance target attack radar system (JSTARS) command-and-control aircraft, but what that system will look like is unclear.
Boeing intends to offer a machine based on its 737-700 design, but the service may look for a smaller, business jet solution. In that case, companies such as Bombardier or Gulfstream would likely make a play.
Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group said that decision will be based in part on whether the Air Force believes it can have certain processing capabilities off-board or if it wants to keep everything on the physical platform.
LaPlante said the problem with the recap will be integration.
“The idea is to use a commercial jet so it’s not a new or developmental airplane, and to use proven technology for the sensor and proven battle management command-and-control software,” he said. ■
DoD rescinds DISA cloud-broker memo
Sep. 12, 2014 |
Written by AMBER CORRIN
The Defense Information Systems Agency is no longer the Pentagon’s officially designated cloud broker. Defense Department officials have apparently rescinded the 2012 memo, signed by then-DoD CIO Teri Takai, that designated DISA as the priority choice for defense agencies seeking cloud services. The move was part of a broader military cloud strategy.
The memo appears to have been rescinded in the past week, according to Lt. Gen. Mark Bowman, director, command, control, communications and computers/cyber and chief information officer at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
“People can do a business case analysis and decide where they want to go to get their cloud support, if someone can figure out the secret sauce on how to get it cheaper,” Bowman said Sept. 11 at AFCEA’s TechNet event in Augusta, Georgia, according to SIGNAL Magazine. “It has to be provided to the right security standards, and it will have to be checked.”
Bowman also seemed to indicate defense agencies in some cases may be able to opt out of DoD CIO calls to migrate to defense enterprise e-mail, which all of the Army has transitioned to as well as other agencies including the Joint Staff and parts of the Air Force.
“There are people who want to contract out unclassified email. The difference in cost-per-seat ranges from 100 bucks a seat down to $24 something a seat. Industry is telling us they can do it for 15 bucks a seat. I think you’ll see us trying some of that stuff,” he said. “Our problem in the Defense Department is that once we lock on something, we seem to lock on it and stay on it. My belief is that once you start something like enterprise email, and you’ve got a million plus users, you can’t just declare victory.”
Bowman’s announcement came just a day after DISA CIO Dave Bennett cautioned government decision-makers against moving too hastily to the cloud.
“Everybody’s looking at cloud as being the answer to all issues, but we need to understand what it means to start to leverage the cloud as we go forward,” Bennett said Sept. 10 at the MeriTalk cloud computing brainstorm in Washington. “Are we going to take everything to the cloud? My sense of the game is no, we won’t.”
Sources: Expect Next Year’s USAF Budget To Continue Push for Cuts
Sep. 14, 2014 – 02:56PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments
WASHINGTON — When the US Air Force rolled out its budget request in March, it was billed as a realistic look at the post-sequestration world, one filled with necessary tough choices but still maintaining current capabilities.
Air Force leaders’ intent to modernize the force quickly crashed against a brick wall in the shape of Congress, as both chambers made clear that cuts to the A-10 close air support plane, and to a lesser extent the U-2 surveillance aircraft, have little support.
With the Hill dug in, the Air Force seems prepared to stick to its guns on its FY 2016 proposal. Multiple sources tell Defense News that the service’s budget proposal hews closely to what was submitted in 2015, despite expected congressional pushback.
While “if at first you don’t succeed, try again” doesn’t always work in budget negotiations, service officials said they stand by their strategic decisions made for last year’s budget plan.
In an August interview, Gen. Mark Welsh, Air Force chief of staff, discussed the need to respect his service’s strategic analysis.
“If something is the right answer one year, it is probably the right answer the next year,” Welsh said. “If you try to change the right answer each year, all you do is run into a different group of resistance.
“The military view of this is pretty straightforward. The operational analysis is pretty clear and we have shared it with everybody, [and] we will continue to share it with everybody,” he added. “There is no question what the right military answer is. And, if we are not going to be allowed to do the right military answer, then tell us what the right answer is and we will move forward.”
Given the struggles the service has had with credibility among members of Congress — most notably during a fiscal 2013 budget fight where the service made what critics called disproportionate cuts to the reserve and Air National Guard components — it is important that service leaders hold fast to their recommendations, said Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute.
“If the Air Force kept flipping again and again, it would be a disaster,” Eaglen said, highlighting last year’s switch to support the Global Hawk unmanned system over the U-2 spy plane, after several years of arguing for the opposite.
“Air Force leadership is trying very hard to rebuild credibility on Capitol Hill for the substance of their decisions and the analytics behind them,” she said. “It makes sense they would continue to stand behind their decisions from last year.
“Politically speaking, the Air Force can never flip again.”
That doesn’t mean the budget will be a carbon copy of 2015, of course.
In April, DoD issued a memo defining what the Air Force would need to trim if the 2016 budget restrictions were not raised. That included small cuts to the number of F-35 joint strike fighters and KC-46A tankers being procured over the future years defense program.
Additionally, 39 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned systems would be cut between fiscal 2018 and 2019 and 10 MC-130J special operations aircraft would also not be procured over that same time period. A new-start, next-generation engine program would be dead on arrival.
Perhaps the most controversial cut would be removing the KC-10 tanker fleet from service. That keeps in line with the Air Force’s strategy of finding maximum savings by dropping entire fleets, a more efficient model than taking cuts from multiple fleets due to the logistics “tail” that goes into supporting a type of aircraft.
The House Armed Services Committee included language in its 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that prevents the Air Force from spending any funds to retire, or begin to retire, the A-10, U-2 and KC-10 aircraft. While the NDAA has yet to be voted on, Welsh pre-emptively warned that blocking cuts to any fleet will force the service to find cuts elsewhere.
“We have presented a whole list of things that we would have to do at the BCA [Budget Control Act] level. If we are not allowed to divest programs to get us to the BCA level, we are just going to have to walk down that list,” Welsh said. “The problem we have got is whatever next stop that we go to, there will be another group of people in Congress who do not think it should go.
“It is hard if you try and pay the bill, and everybody who gave you the bill tells you, no, you cannot pay it with that, eventually you get down to a discussion that there is no other place to take it,” Welsh added. “So, we are going to tell them our best military advice on where this ought to come from.
“Congress has the final decision authority here. I understand that, and we will adjust to what they give us,” Welsh acknowledged. “But there is only X amount of money in the budget. Somebody is going to have to prioritize. We will prioritize the way we think is right, and if Congress chooses to prioritize in a different way, they just need to tell us what that is.”
One senior source with knowledge of the budget discussions noted that unresolved issues from the 2015 budget fights — most notably Congress’ actions to protect the A-10 — have cast a pall over 2016.
“If Congress says the Air Force must sustain these weapon systems, then it will drive some turbulence and pain trying to find where those offsets will come from,” he said.
The ongoing efforts of the Total Force Continuum (TFC), a group set up by Welsh to help advise him on force structure among the active, reserve and Air National Guard components, is also affecting budget discussions.
Welsh has ordered that group to provide “high-velocity analysis” of every weapon system in the service, and several of those are still being looked at. TFC’s recommendations to move those systems around are expected to drive fiscal 2016 decisions, but may not be finalized until the end of this year.
Depending on how those force structures shake out, the service could shuffle significant portions of the legacy fleet over to the reserve component. In turn, that would give them the opportunity to use National Guard and Reserve Equipping Appropriation (NGREA) funds, which are appropriated by Congress each year to help maintain existing inventory, for these aircraft added to the non-active roster.
If the NGREA funds can be used for modernization and upkeep on planes such as the F-15, F-16 and C-130, it would free up money to focus on recapitalization priorities. The House has recommended $2 billion in NGREA funds for this year.
“We have a real opportunity here to focus NGREA on some of the legacy systems and take pressure off the budget of modernization,” the senior source said.
One area the service wants to protect remains the readiness accounts, something Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James stressed during an interview with sister publication Air Force Times.
“I’m estimating maybe 70 percent of our [fiscal 2015] plan will go forward, and of course that leaves about 30 percent, if I’m right, that won’t be agreed to,” James said. “The chief and I constantly are saying; please don’t take it out of readiness. Don’t pay for it out of readiness, because readiness is so crucial to us.
“So if I had to say, you know, my No. 1 concern, it would be what will Congress do with our readiness accounts in FY15. So that’s a challenge, and we continue to try to tell our message, because of course, Congress hasn’t completed its work yet.”
What else is there to cut?
The senior source predicted F-15 and F-16 fleets could face cuts, estimating that 350-400 planes would have to be cut in order to compensate for the lost A-10 savings, which the service claims comes with a $4.2 billion price tag. Service officials have also highlighted the B-1 as a fleet that could take losses.
Structurally, the service is copying last year’s program objective memorandum (POM) and Alt-POM planning method, which allowed Air Force budgeteers to plan for both a sequestered and non-sequestered funding stream.
The senior source indicated that the sequestered budget has been the true focus, as officials are working under the assumption that sequestration levels will not be changed for fiscal 2016.
“I see the budget being driven by sequestration,” he said. “I see a lot of verbiage about needing to rethink the budget because of rising threats, but we won’t know if that’s going to happen until Congress tells us and gives us some relief in FY16 on sequestration.”■
Senate has a secret book of rules
Donovan Slack and Paul Singer,
2:23 p.m. EDT September 14, 2014
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate has for years lived by a secret book of rules that governs everything from how many sheets of paper and potted plants each Senate office is allotted to when Senators can use taxpayer money to charter planes or boats.
The document has never been available to the public — until now.
USA TODAY has obtained and is making available on our website a copy of the 380-page U.S. Senate Handbook, which describes itself as “a compilation of the policies and regulations governing office administration, equipment and services, security and financial management.”
The handbook reads something like an employee manual, explaining how new senators and staff members can get ID cards and how many parking passes each senator will be issued. But it also contains detailed rules on how each senator can spend their official, multi-million-dollar, taxpayer-funded budget on things like meals and travel.
Yet, because it has not been released, it’s been impossible for the public to know whether a senator has violated the rules — for example by charging taxpayers for an improper charter flight.
The handbook is referenced in rules published by the Senate Ethics Committee, Congressional Research Service reports and history books. But the Rules Committee, which produces the handbook, does not release it. The Library of Congress does not even have a copy.
Asked for a copy by USA TODAY, the committee provided a book called the “Senate Manual,” which includes rules for legislating, a few historical documents and some Senate trivia like “Electoral Votes, President and Vice President, 1789-2013.” When pressed, Rules Committee spokesman Phillip Rumsey said the handbook is not public.
“In the past, the Senate handbook has not been made publicly available because it contains sensitive security information regarding Senate operations,” he said. “The handbook is currently undergoing significant revisions and updates, and when the new version is completed, the Senate Rules committee will consider making the handbook available to the public.”
The U.S. House of Representatives, on the other hand, has published its handbook online for years.
In light of the Senate’s security concerns, USA TODAY is not publishing the 10-page section of the handbook governing Senate security, which includes information about law enforcement operations and explains how to respond to a bomb threat.
The handbook lays out detailed rules for spending the approximately $3 million-$4 million each senator is allocated annually in taxpayer funds to operate their offices. The total for each senator is based on population of his or her state and the distance from Washington.
The Senate pays the actual bills from those accounts when senators submit expense reports, accompanied by receipts or other supporting documentation. Travel expenses are generally limited to those “essential to the transaction of official business.”
Senators are allowed to charter planes or boats if it would be “advantageous to the Senate.” USA TODAY has reported that senators took nearly $1 million worth of charter flights last year at taxpayer expense.
The U.S. Senate Handbook
Prohibited expenses include “personal services,” gifts, flowers and awards or certificates and entertainment, “such as alcohol or movies.” And senators cannot hire family members with official funds.
The handbook also offers some remarkable insights into the byzantine customs of the Senate. For example, office space is assigned by seniority, and if two senators took office on the same day, the one who is a former member of House will get preference over the one who is a former governor.
The architect of the Capitol can provide a compact refrigerator for a senator’s office and a piano for events. And “each Senator receives annual paper allowances for blank paper, letterhead paper and envelopes” based on population with a formula of “one and one-third sheets of blank paper per adult constituent.” Thus the Illinois senators each receive 11,605,333 sheets of blank paper; the West Virginia senators receive only 1,874,667.
Congressional watchdogs say it’s imperative that the Senate handbook be made public.
“If it’s describing Senate rules of procedure, and it’s not public information and even describes and offers guidance to senators as to how they’re supposed to use official resources and it’s not public, that is outrageous,” said Craig Holman, chief legislative affairs representative for nonpartisan watchdog Public Citizen.
“I mean that’s the type of guidance that the public should be able to see as well as senators and Senate staff so we can all monitor compliance with the rules.”
Two years ago, the ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington asked the Senate Rules Committee to release the handbook.
“Good government groups, journalists and the public-at-large should have access to the Handbook so they can evaluate senators’ conduct in light of its guidance,” CREW argued in a March 2012 letter to the committee. “Without access to the Handbook, no one even knows the standards to which senators and Senate employees and officers are held.”
The Rules Committee never responded to CREW’s request.
Russia Starts Building Military Bases in the Arctic
By Matthew Bodner, Alexey Eremenko
Sep. 08 2014 20:07
By the end of 2014, Russia will have moved military units to Kotelny Island, located north of the Sakha Republic in eastern Siberia, and a motorized rifle brigade to Alakurtii, a village in Murmansk oblast, to coincide with deployments to the Franz Josef Archipelago and Novaya Zemlya.
Set on restoring the once formidable Soviet military presence in the highly contested and resource-rich Arctic, the Russian military has begun building new military bases in the region, a Defense Ministry spokesperson said Monday.
“On Wrangel Island and Cape Schmidt, block-modules have been unloaded for the construction of military camps. The complex is being erected in the form of a star,” Colonel Alexander Gordeyev, a spokesperson for the Eastern Military District, was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
Russia has been talking about militarizing the Arctic for years as part of its greater strategy to explore and industrialize the pristine region, which is wealthy in oil and gas and offers a strategic trade route capable of rerouting the global trade flows.
The locations named by Gordeyev are deep into the Arctic circle in the Chukchi Sea, close to Alaska.
President Vladimir Putin in April stepped up his commitment to the region, calling for the creation of a unified command structure to coordinate military operations in the Arctic and create a new government entity to execute Russia’s policy in the region.
Putin sees control of the Arctic as a matter of serious strategic concern for Moscow. Below the Arctic lies vast stockpiles of largely untapped natural resource reserves; estimates vary, but the more optimistic ones put the undiscovered reserves of oil and gas in the Arctic at 13 and 30 percent of the world’s total, respectively.
Russia is vying for control of the region’s oil, gas and rare metals with the other “polar nations” — Canada, Denmark, Norway and the U.S. — leading many observers to point at the region as one of the world’s most volatile flashpoints.
The construction of the new Arctic bases, which will be the first new facilities established in the area since the Soviets abandoned their Arctic positions in the waning years of the Cold War, marks a milestone in Russia’s militarization of the region.
Wrangel Island is classified by the Russian government as a nature reserve and was never used by the Soviets as a military base. In late August, the Russian navy carried out an expedition to the island and planted a flag, which Pacific Fleet spokesperson Captain First Rank Roman Martov said “heralded the station of the first ever naval base on [Wrangel Island].”
Cape Schmidt, on the other hand, saw use during the Cold War as a base for long-range strategic bombers. The Soviet government established airbases throughout the Arctic for its bomber fleet, as this was the closest geographic point to the United States.
The two sets of 34 prefabricated modules being installed on Wrangel Island and Cape Schmidt will contribute to Putin’s aspirations by giving Russia’s Arctic forces a comfortable home in an unforgiving environment. The base will consist of residential, commercial, administrative and recreational units, RIA Novosti reported.
Roman Filimonov, director of the Defense Ministry’s department for state procurement of capital construction said in July that it intends to establish six such compounds in the Arctic “to further develop the stationing of ground forces in the Arctic … They will be contemporary military communities. We will call them ‘The North Star’ since the shape of the community resembles a star.”
Meanwhile, Russia’s Northern Fleet, which is based out of Murmansk, in the western part of Russia’s vast Arctic territory, is being reinforced with Russia’s newest nuclear attack submarines — the Yasen-class. The first Yasen, called the Severodvinsk, joined the Northern Fleet in June. With three additional vessels slated to follow her, the Yasen-type submarines will phase out the older Soviet-era Akula and Alfa-class attack submarines. This will leave Russia with a formidable underwater force to complement the already hard-hitting capabilities of the Northern Fleet.
Such developments have alarmed the other members of the so-called Arctic Council, a group of nations that share borders in the region. In late August, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird raised the alarm on Russia’s military buildup in the region, vowing that it would not hesitate to defend Canadian sovereignty in the Arctic.
By the end of 2014, Russia will have moved military units to Kotelny Island, located north of the Sakha Republic in eastern Siberia, and a motorized rifle brigade to Alakurtii, a village in Murmansk oblast, to coincide with deployments to the Franz Josef Archipelago and Novaya Zemlya.
By 2015, Russia hopes to restore the entirety of its former-Soviet defense infrastructure in the region, RIA Novosti said.
Russian state companies Gazprom and Rosneft, which have a monopoly on Arctic oil and gas exploration, have worked since 2011 to begin production in the region.
Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya offshore platform in the northern Pechora Sea shipped the first tanker with 70,000 tons of Arctic-grade oil in April.
But further exploration has come into question due to U.S. and EU sanctions that have curbed sales of equipment for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic to Russia as part of penalties imposed over Moscow’s alleged meddling in war-torn Ukraine.
Gazprom and Rosneft lack the technologies for offshore drilling in freezing seas, which led the former to partner with Royal Dutch Shell and the latter with ExxonMobil and Statoil on their Arctic projects.
Arctic oil exploration is vehemently contested by environmentalists, who say it is unprofitable — with production costs estimated at from $115 up to $700 per barrel — and hazardous for the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem, given the absence of technologies to efficiently clean oil in freezing seas.
Greenpeace stormed the Prirazlomnaya twice, in 2012 and 2013, to protest its operations. However, Russian security services detained the activists at gunpoint during the non-violent protest last year and charged them with piracy and later hooliganism, a criminal offense. They were released on amnesty after several months in prison in what Greenpeace called an intimidation campaign.
Adding insult to injury, Wrangel Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site, where any construction, let alone massive military deployment, is forbidden.
The Defense Ministry did not comment on the island’s protected status on Monday.
Fresh sanctions will freeze big foreign oil projects in Russia
By Olesya Astakhova, Katya Golubkova and Vladimir Soldatkin
MOSCOW Sun Sep 14, 2014 8:22am EDT
(Reuters) – Fresh U.S. and EU sanctions imposed on Moscow will bring an abrupt halt to exploration of Russia’s huge Arctic and shale oil reserves and complicate financing of existing Russian projects from the Caspian Sea to Iraq and Ghana.
On Friday, the United States imposed sanctions on Gazprom, Gazprom Neft, Lukoil, Surgutneftegas and Rosneft, banning Western firms from supporting their activities in exploration or production from deep water, Arctic offshore or shale projects.
The new measures, designed to put further pressure on President Vladimir Putin over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, are a major broadening of the previous sanctions, which only banned the export of high technology oil equipment into Russia.
Projects now in jeopardy include a landmark drilling program by U.S. giant Exxon Mobil in the Russian Arctic that started in August as part of a joint venture with the Kremlin’s oil champion Rosneft.
Now this and dozens of other projects that Rosneft and Gazprom Neft agreed with Exxon, Anglo-Dutch Royal Dutch Shell, Norway’s Statoil and Italian ENI will have to be put on hold.
“Cutting off U.S. and E.U. sources of technology and services and goods for those projects makes it impossible, or at least extraordinarily difficult for these projects to continue…There are not ready substitutes elsewhere,” a senior U.S. administration official told a briefing on Friday.
The companies will have 14 days to wind-down activities.
“There is no contract sanctity,” the U.S. official said.
Russia, the world’s second-largest oil exporter, is counting on its Arctic and “tight” shale oil reserves to sustain production at around 10.5 million barrels per day, amid declining output at old West Siberian fields.
Valery Nesterov from Russian state bank Sberbank, which was also sanctioned by the EU and the United States, foresaw serious complications.
“What is really worrying are sanctions on tight oil. Russian companies haven’t invested enough in research and technology. They were heavily relying on Western technologies and now it is simply too late,” he said.
BIGGER THAN SAUDI ARABIA
Key among Russian tight oil reserves are the Bazhenov formations, which are located beneath existing mature west Siberian fields.
They are estimated to contain as much as a trillion barrels of oil – four times the reserves of Saudi Arabia.
Rosneft and Gazprom Neft are working on Bazhenov with Exxon and Shell.
“When we learnt about the first sanctions we decided to speed up work on all fronts to minimize the damage to the company,” said a Rosneft source.
Rosneft’s chief Igor Sechin, a close ally of Putin, said earlier this month the company had approved a program to replace all Western technology in the medium-term.
Spokesman Mikhail Leontiyev said Rosneft’s lawyers were studying the sanctions and their implications for joint Arctic drilling with Exxon.
Rosneft has a total of 44 offshore deposits in the Arctic and the Black Sea, with estimated reserves of 300 billion barrels. It had planned to develop them with Exxon, ENI and Statoil.
A Lukoil source said the new sanctions were a shock.
“We were really not expecting to end up on the sanctions list,” said a source at Lukoil, Russia’s largest private oil company.
Lukoil is the most active Russian company overseas and has assets ranging from deep-water projects off Ghana to shallow-water Caspian Sea activities and giant onshore operations in Iraq. It was planning to drill for tight oil in Siberia with French oil major Total.
U.S. administration officials said on Friday the new measures were designed in such a way as to avoid affecting conventional production or foreign projects by Russian companies.
“Lukoil’s operations in the U.S., like for instance their filling stations, should not be affected,” the senior U.S. official said.
However, bankers and traders working with Lukoil said the sanctions will further complicate the company’s ability to raise funds, including for its foreign projects like deep-water Ghana.
Lukoil was the last Russian oil firm to raise a big Western loan – $1.5 billion including money from U.S. banks – but since July, when Western sanctions were expanded, all lending to Russian energy companies stopped.
“Once you are on the sanctions list, lending becomes close to impossible,” said a senior oil trader at a Western trading house, who works with Russian oil firms.
U.S. administration officials said on Friday the new sanctions will further hit the Russian economy on the brink of recession and facing a 13-percent weakening of the rouble and $100 billion in capital outflows so far this year.
If the energy companies turn to the central bank for financing, that will only draw down on the state’s resources, the U.S. officials said.
Vitaly Kruykov, director of Russian think-tank Small Lettres, said Russia – with forex reserves of $460 billion – had enough internal resources to last a maximum of two years under current sanctions.
“Then Russia will have to go to Asia for financing but God knows what the cost of borrowing will be there. Asian lenders will quickly raise rates,” said Kruykov.
Wright-Patt makes list of finalists for new center, 350 jobs
Sep 16, 2014, 9:05am EDT
Dayton Business Journal
The U.S. Air Force has announced the list of candidates for the Installation and Mission Support Center. This summer, the center was launched at an interim home at Joint Base Andrews, Md. to centralize the oversight of bases and mission support activities.
A permanent site for the center is expected to be named early next year.
The center reports to Air Force Materiel Command, which is based at Wright-Patt, so that already concentrates more power in the Dayton region. However, getting those 350 or so jobs to come here would be an even bigger victory.
“Wright-Patt clearly meets all the Air Force’s criteria for the IMSC headquarters,” said U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton. “I have spoken with the Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and General Janet Wolfenbarger multiple times about the viability of Wright-Patt as a location for the center.”
“On every occasion, I have continued to echo the value of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and urge its consideration in the IMSC strategic basing process,” Turner added.
The new jobs would also replace about the same number of jobs that were lost during the AFMC restructuring this summer.
The Air Force will use its standard strategic basing process over the next several months to evaluate potential locations and select a permanent site.
Other finalists include:
Barksdale Air Force Base, La.;
Ellsworth Air Force Base,, S.D.;
Hurlburt Field, Fla.
Andrews Air Force Base,, Md.
Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va.
Joint Base San Antonio, Texas;
Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.;
Scott Air Force Base, Ill.;
Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla.
Cyber Iron Dome: Reality or Dream?
By Eric Chabrow, September 17, 2014.Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity
“There’s an iron dome of cybersecurity that parallels the iron dome against the rockets and this allowed us the operating space to continue fighting and of course to continue with the daily life of Israel,” Netanyahu said in a speech delivered at the conference on Sept. 14.
Cyber-attacks from Israeli enemies increased dramatically during the Hamas conflict, but they proved to be more of a nuisance than damaging. Hamas loyalists, for instance, sent text messages to Israelis’ mobile phones, purportedly from Israeli security services, warning: “Rocket from Gaza hit petrochemical plant in Haifa, huge fire, possible chemical leak, advised to evacuate Haifa.” There was no attack or huge fire, but perhaps a few frayed nerves.
“The fact that the cyber-attacks did not affect Israel’s daily routine and economy and they certainly did not affect the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] efforts – those facts derive from the fact that we have the finest minds, literally, the finest minds in Israel’s security community and our cyber industry working to give us those defenses,” Netanyahu said.
But Netanyahu may be ahead of himself. Cyber-attacks during the Gaza war had a negligible impact on Israel’s military, government and society, but it wasn’t necessarily an iron-dome type defense that furnished the protection.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Iranian cyber-attacks.
On the same day that Netanyahu delivered his speech, the Israeli business newspaper Calcalist reported that Danny Gold, who’s credited with creating the iron dome missile shield as the then-head of Israeli military research and development, is behind a new initiative to establish a cyber iron dome that could be deployed within three years at a cost of hundreds of millions of shekels (100 million shekels equals nearly $27.6 million). Gold heads the National Cyber Committee at the National Council for Research and Development, a body consisting of leading scientists, engineers and industrialists that advises the government on science policy and priorities.
The cyber iron dome would repel attacks on various component of Israel’s computer networks, including systems operated by individuals, the government, military and the private sector, according to the news report. The system would operate in four main layers: identify threats, protect systems from the threats, mitigate threats that exists within the network and launch retaliatory attacks against cyber-assailants. Any counter-offensive attack under the system would be launched by the Israel Defense Forces cyber command.
Unlike the iron dome that identifies incoming missiles to destroy, a cyber version wouldn’t initially launch an attack on its target but would provide the IDF with “pinpoint” information on where the attacks originated, Gold said. “The objective of the cyberdefense network is to locate the threat beforehand and to prevent it from materializing,” he said. “Eventually, it will also be able to attack hackers who have tried to breach the network.”
The cyberdefense program would encourage Internet and technology companies, in Israel and abroad, to collaborate with the Israeli government and military on the initiative. Among the big companies Gold cited as possible partners are Google, IBM and Microsoft as well as two big Israeli defense companies that have cybersecurity units, Elbit Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries.
Getting large companies involved in the initiative would help the government shepherd the creation of a cyber iron dome. “There are some 200 start-up companies in the cyber field in Israel, but there is no body that integrates them,” Gold said. “A large company can decide that it is working with 10 small start-ups, each of which is developing a specific component in a system, and thus be able to provide a larger and more integrated system.” That’s a similar approach taken when Israel began to develop the kinetic iron dome, which the Israel Defense Forces contends had a success rate of 90 percent in the war with Hamas.
What would be impressive about this project is the international nature of it, nations and businesses facing common threats banding together to develop technology and processes to safeguard critical systems.
That Israel is moving ahead on such a collaborative initiative shouldn’t be surprising. Except for the United States, more cybersecurity enterprises are based in Israel than any other nation. Israel’s Chief Scientist office estimates that Israel is home to some 250 cyber companies as well as 15 cyber R&D centers operated by multinational corporations such as IBM, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft and Qualcomm.
The U.S. government will likely participate in this project. At the Tel Aviv cybersecurity conference, according to the Times of Israel, former U.S. National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander emphasized the need for diverse elements of society facing cyberthreats to cooperate in finding solutions.
It’s only through that type of cooperation that nations will be able to create systems like a cyber iron dome.
GAO: HealthCare.gov Has Security Flaws
HHS Disputes Audit Findings on Risks
By Eric Chabrow, September 17, 2014.
Federal government auditors have identified weaknesses in the technical controls protecting the security of the federally run Obamacare HealthCare.gov website and systems.
A Government Accountability Office report issued Sept. 16 says the Department of Health and Human Services unit that runs HealthCare.gov, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, has not always required or enforced strong password controls, adequately restricted access to the Internet, consistently implemented software patches and properly configured an administrative network.
“An important reason that all of these weaknesses occurred and some remain is that CMS did not and has not yet ensured a shared understanding of how security was implemented for the FFM among all entities involved in its development,” the audit says, referring to the federally facilitated marketplace, the part of Obamacare run by the federal government on behalf of 36 states.
“Until these weaknesses are fully addressed, increased and unnecessary risks remain of unauthorized access, disclosure or modification of the information collected and maintained by HealthCare.gov and related systems, and the disruption of service provided by the systems,” the report says.
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Sept. 18 will hold a hearing dubbed, “Examining ObamaCare’s Failures in Security, Accountability, and Transparency” at which the GAO report is expected to be discussed.
GAO says CMS has taken steps to protect the security and privacy of data processed and maintained by the complex set of systems and interconnections that support HealthCare.gov, yet weaknesses remain in the processes used for managing information security and privacy as well as the technical implementation of IT security controls. The report says CMS took many steps to protect security and privacy, including developing required security program policies and procedures, establishing interconnection security agreements with its federal and commercial partners, and instituting required privacy protections.
“However,” the audit says, “HealthCare.gov had weaknesses when it was first deployed, including incomplete security plans and privacy documentation, incomplete security tests, and the lack of an alternate processing site to avoid major service disruptions.”
HHS Disputes Findings
Jim Esquea, HHS assistant secretary for legislation, disputed some of GAO’s conclusions, contending that CMS developed HealthCare.gov consistent with federal statutes, guidelines and industry standards that help ensure the integrity of the systems data.
In a written response to GAO, Esquea says HHS does not concur with the audit findings that CMS accepted significant security risks when it granted the federally and state operated components of HealthCare.gov to operate last September and allowed states to connect to the data hub, which provides connectivity between the federally operated and state operated systems.
Besides the security controls examined by GAO, Esquea says CMS implemented other measures to protect personally identifiable information, including penetration testing that still continues. In addition, he says, CMS conducts continuous monitoring using a 24-by-7, multi-layer IT security team and a change management process that includes continuous testing and mitigation strategies in real time. “These layered controls help protect the privacy and security of PII related to the FFM,” Esquea says.
GAO offered six recommendations, including conducting a comprehensive security assessment of the federally operated part of HealthCare.gov. GAO also called on HHS to establish detailed security roles and responsibilities for contractors, including participation in security controls reviews, to better ensure that communications between individuals and entities with responsibility for the security of the federally operated part of HealthCare.gov and its supporting infrastructure are effective.
Obamacare Opponents React
The GAO report provided political fodder for opponents of Obamacare. “The president and his administration launched HealthCare.gov knowing that the personal information of Americans who bought insurance through the website was not safe,” says Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who’s the ranking member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Their personal information was not safe then, and it is not safe now. Someone should be held accountable for this kind of gross mismanagement, and security must be fixed immediately before a major hacking attack does massive damage.”
HHS disclosed on Sept. 4 that malware had been uploaded on a HealthCare.gov test server back in July. HHS officials say the malware was designed to launch a distributed-denial-of-service attack against other websites when activated and not designed to exfiltrate personally identifiable information.
No consumer data was exposed in the incident, HHS officials say.
The GAO report comes in response to multiple requests the watch-dog agency had received in recent months from several members of Congress asking for a review of HealthCare.gov information security. Those includes a request, made in a May 1 letter to the GAO, from Rep. Lamar Smith, R -Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Space, Science and Technology.
The requests for GAO to study the security and privacy and security safeguards of the Obamacare insurance exchange site and systems also follow a number of Congressional committee hearings last fall that considered the security risks of HealthCare.
USAF Lab Chief Expects To Test EW Missile in 2016
Sep. 16, 2014 – 04:14PM | By BRADLEY PENISTON | Comments
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. — On the convention center screen, an animated cruise missile flew over a shadowy cartoon city. A beam of high-power microwaves emitted from its nose — and the target building went dark. More significantly, the ones around it stayed lit up.
Developed over the past half decade under a program called Counter-electronics High-powered Microwave Advanced Missile Project (CHAMP), the technology for a steerable counter-electronics weapon will be “available” in 2016, said Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello, who commands the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).
“It can target electronics well enough to fly over a city and shut down electronics in a single building,” Masiello said Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference here.
Tests over the past few years have proved the concept; now the AFRL is working to get the technology into a test missile. By 2016, Masiello said, the lab plans to design, develop and test a multishot, multitarget, high-power microwave package aboard an AGM-86 conventional air-launched cruise missile.
Beyond that, Masiello said, AFRL’s roadmap for high-power microwave (HPM) weapons calls for integrating the technology onto “maybe, a JASSM-ER-type weapon” in the mid-2020s and aboard “small reusable platforms” such as the F-35 or advanced UAVs by the end of the decade.
It’s unclear whether such weapons will actually enter production; there’s no program of record yet, he said.
But his own opinion is clear; he talked about the HPM concept in “Game Changers,” a presentation that also included discussions of hypersonics and autonomous systems.
Last year’s test flight of the X-51 hypersonic test vehicle achieved Mach 4.8 and 200 seconds of ramjet power — far beyond the previous record of seven seconds.
“That really put hypersonics on the map,” Masiello said. “It really added a lot of momentum to the program.”
As for increasingly sophisticated autonomy, Masiello said, “This has the potential to dwarf everything.”
But he took pains to make clear: “It’s not about taking the airman out of the weapon system, it’s about making an effective team.” ■
AFRL Commander: ‘Digital Teammates’ Will Support a Shrinking Force
Sep. 16, 2014 – 04:14PM | By MARKIE HARWOOD
As the force gets smaller, the US Air Force may look increasingly to machines to make decisions in team with airmen.
“A digital teammate,” in the words of Maj. Gen. Thomas Masiello, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory. “An unmanned wingman,” he said.
While airmen will always be essential to the fight, “let machines do what they do best,” he said Tuesday at the Air Force Association Air and Space Conference outside Washington, D.C.
Among key technologies AFRL is researching are sensors. Imagine if a machine — sensors built into a shirt, for example — could monitor markers in sweat for signs of stress or distraction. The digital teammate provides better awareness, Masiello said.
Autonomy means “speed in decision-making,” he said.
AFRL is focused on both safety and efficiency in its autonomy research, Masiello said.
Ground collision avoidance systems and air collision avoidance systems for both manned and unmanned aircraft can improve safety. Technology to manage the huge amounts of intelligence data can improve efficiency, he said.
Air Force to Invest Heavily in Hypersonic Aircraft
By Yasmin Tadjdeh
The head of the Air Force Research Laboratory on Sept. 16 said the first test of a hypersonic aircraft could come within five years, and the technology could be applied to cruise missiles by the 2020s.
Maj. Gen. Tom Masiello, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, said hypersonics is one of the most promising technologies the lab is working on. It is currently testing the Boeing X-51 WaveRider unmanned hypersonic vehicle.
Hypersonic planes, lasers and unmanned aircraft are all considered major aviation game changers, he said.
“Hypersonic is the technology of the future,” Masiello said during the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference at National Harbor, Maryland. “I can’t overemphasize the significance of the X-51.”
Following a successful and historic test of the X-51 last year, momentum has been growing, Masiello said. During the test, the vehicle reached speeds of Mach 5.1 and traveled 230 nautical miles in about six minutes.
When operational, a hypersonic aircraft will give the military the ability to strike time-sensitive targets and could be used in an anti-access/area-denial environment, Masiello said. Survivability in A2/AD situations is critical as the nation focuses on the Asia-Pacific region, which has a higher threat of such attacks, he said.
“[From] a survivability stand point, it’s about altitude, it’s about speed. It’s just plain physics in terms of a missile being able to intercept a cruise missile going at Mach 5 plus, up at 50,000 [or] 60,000 feet,” Masiello said. “In any A2/AD environment, regardless of the Asia Pacific or anywhere else … that ability to survive in a highly contested environment is a huge attribute.”
The test was the fourth of its kind, and followed two previous failures. Previously, the aircraft’s supersonic combustion ramjet engine — also known as a scramjet — failed to light during the second test. A fin fell off of the aircraft during the third test.
Masiello said past failures were opportunities to better understand the technology, and a necessary part of the test-and-evaluation process.
“Within an S&T environment, we have to protect the opportunity to fail or else you’re not going to make any real progress,” Masiello said. “In early R&D and S&T, there are going to be failures.”
The success of the fourth test proved that this type of futuristic technology is real, Masiello said.
Demonstrations of an aircraft should happen within the next five years, he said. The X-51 resembles a missile and is launched from a B-52. By the 2020s, the Air Force wants to weaponize the technology to use it as a cruise missile, he added.
In the 2030s, the technology could be mature enough to be used for tactical strikes as well as for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance. At this stage, the aircraft will likely be reusable and may have a short lifecycle, he said. By the 2040s, it could be combat-ready for persistent reusable strike and ISR missions, he said.
Masiello said lasers were also part of the Air Force of the future. Directed energy weapons could one day be attached to fighter jets.
“Lasers are probably one area that have been overpromised and under-delivered forever,” Masiello said.
The Air Force wants to get a high-energy laser on a fighter-sized craft by the 2030s, he said. There are a number of challenges that the service is trying to work out, he said.
“You have air flow issues, vibration issues,” he said. “It’s really all about size, weight and power and thermal managing.”
Aircraft must be able to generate enough power to deploy the laser as well as dissipate the associated heat, he said.
Masiello also mentioned strides in autonomy and unmanned technology. He stressed that the future of unmanned aviation did not mean the end of manned aviation, but rather that the two would work hand in hand.
“This [technology] has the potential to dwarf everything,” Masiello said. “When you talk about autonomy, it’s not taking the airmen out of the weapon systems, it’s building an effective manned/human machine.”
Welsh on Aging Fleets: ‘Airplanes Are Falling Apart’
By Brendan McGarry Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 5:54 pm
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — Top U.S. Air Force officials said the service must protect funding to upgrade aging fleets of aircraft while investing in new technologies despite automatic budget cuts.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh was blunt in his warning about the condition of such aircraft as the F-16 fighter jet and the B-1 bomber, both of which have been flying for decades. The service recently grounded dozens of F-16D two-seater models made by Lockheed Martin Corp. after finding cracks between the front and rear pilot seats in a section called the canopy longeron sill, a strip of metal that affixes to the fuselage.
“Airplanes are falling apart,” he said during a presentation Tuesday at the Air Force Association’s annual conference. “I don’t care if it’s B-1 oil flanges that are breaking and starting fires or if it’s F-16 canopy longerons that are cracking. There’s just too many things happening because our fleets are too old. They’re just flat too old. We have to re-capitalize.”
Like other military services, the Air Force is grappling with how to properly fund such accounts as equipment, personnel and training amid an era of automatic budget cuts known as sequestration.
“Right now, the things we have in our plan we cannot afford,” Welsh warned. “Something has to change, whether it’s more money, support from outside the Air Force or re-prioritization from inside the Air Force.”
The service’s six acquisition priorities remain the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter; long-range strike bomber; the KC-46A refueling tanker; the combat rescue helicopter; joint surveillance target attack radar system replacement; and the T-X trainer, Welsh said.
After his speech, Welsh and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James sat down for a briefing with reporters. James said she envisions a smaller force with more modern equipment.
“As we look into the future, we see probably a smaller Air Force than we have today,” she said. “We see an Air Force that will continue to rely probably more on our National Guard and Reserve forces … We see a more modern Air Force … We see an Air Force that remains to be ready.”
Both officials highlighted the Air Force’s role in recent air strikes against Islamic militants in Iraq. The service has conducted about 80 percent of the air strikes, including about 500 intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance sorties and almost 1,000 refueling missions, they said.
James also said, “You’re all aware of the tough choices we’ve had to make as part of our FY15 budget submission. We basically traded off force structure and some of our aircraft of today and instead we are investing more heavily in readiness and in our modernization for tomorrow.” She urged Congress to support the service’s proposals to save money in part by curbing military compensation and consolidating military bases.
In the absence of approving a full budget, James urged lawmakers to adopt a stop-gap funding measure known as a continuing resolution, or CR, for fiscal 2015, which begins Oct. 1.”We need a CR. We need it promptly,” she said. “We don’t need a government shutdown. That’s a bad deal for everybody.”
New data center protects against solar storms and nuclear EMPs
Computerworld | Sep 15, 2014 4:11 AM PT
The company that built the facility isn’t disclosing exactly how the data center was constructed or what materials were used. But broadly, it did say that the structure has an inner skin and an outer skin that use a combination of thicknesses and metals to provide EMP protection.
There are other data centers that protect against electromagnetic pulses, which can be generated by solar storms or high-altitude nuclear blasts. Underground data centers, in particular, advertise this capability. And some vendors offer containers and cabinets that shield IT equipment from EMPs, which can fry circuits.
But there’s been little discussion, overall, about whether EMP protection should be a standard risk mitigation feature in data centers.
The two solar storms that began arriving Thursday night aren’t strong enough to hurt electronics on the ground, though they could disrupt GPS and radio communications. More than anything, they’re a reminder of a risk that is the subject of steady warnings but isn’t immediate enough to spur people to do much about it — though it is real enough to inspire visions of apocalyptic scenarios among Washington policy makers.
Betting against an EMP event is a gamble. On July 23, 2012, a solar super storm released a coronal mass ejection (CME) that passed through the Earth’s orbit but missed the Earth itself. It is believed to have been as powerful as the 1859 Carrington Event, a solar storm that disrupted and knocked out the most advanced electronic communications medium of the day, the telegraph.
The perfect solar storm would require a big sun spot cluster and a very rapid CME, and the magnetic field inside the solar storm would have to couple perfectly with the Earth’s magnetic field. If that happened, the consequences could be significant, William Murtagh, program coordinator at U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, said Thursday.
“We’re concerned that can happen,” he said about the prospect of a major solar storm hitting the Earth. The 2012 solar storm “was very powerful, and some have suggested it would have been on par with a Carrington-level event.” But that particular storm was not directed at the Earth, he said.
EMP protection can be built into a data center at very little additional cost, said Kris Domich, president of Cyber Innovation Labs – Professional Services (CIL). The company is the founding member of EMP Grid Services, a recently formed company responsible for the EMP-ready data center in Boyers, Pa. CIL provides infrastructure services.
Domich said the idea for the EMP-resistant data center came from a customer, an insurer, that wanted to protect its data from electromagnetic pulses.
An EMP can “irrevocably destroy” data, said Domich. The magnetic field on a disk that is used to set the data, if not maintained, or if it is abruptly or intensely changed, will wipe out the data, he said.
Lee Kirby, CTO of the Uptime Institute, a data center advisory and research group, said that EMP risks are not high on the list of things that data center managers worry about. But he said that may be more because of the newness of this industry.
“When you look at it from a business justification viewpoint, [EMP protection] gets pushed way down the line, just from a probability point of view,” Kirby said.
Nonetheless, he said, the threat of electromagnetic pulses could become a topic of much discussion for data center professionals.
There have been a number of government reports, as well as congressional hearings, detailing the threats posed by EMPs. The idea that an EMP could be generated by a terrorist-sponsored nuclear blast is getting more attention, particularly because of concerns about North Korea and Iran.
A nuclear blast 60 miles up in the atmosphere could expose about 1.5 million square miles of territory to EMP impacts that could, among other things, knock out SCADA systems that help run the infrastructure of electric and water utilities and oil and gas pipeline systems.
The loss of electric power over a substantial period of time is “likely to be catastrophic, and many people may ultimately die for lack of the basic elements necessary to sustain life in dense urban and suburban communities,” according to a 2008 U.S. government report that examined the effects of an EMP event.
Repairing the power grid could take four to 10 years, and the economic cost could exceed $2 trillion.
EMPs send out a pulse of energy that can short-circuit electronics in everything from cellphones and computers in cars to enterprise networks. EMP-generating devices are not necessarily nuclear, and they can be built with over-the-counter parts.
Congress has held repeated hearings over the years, particularly since the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and there have been a number of government reports that describe the consequences. But there is no action plan, and the need for EMP protection sits lower on the list of public-sector priorities than increasingly costly infrastructure projects, such as efforts to repair or replace aging bridges, roads and water lines.
The problem may that EMPs are not seen as an immediate threat. According to one government estimate, made by intelligence agencies, a crippling solar geomagnetic storm is unlikely to occur more than once in 100 years.
A U.S. House bill, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act (HR 3410), requires the government to give more attention to EMP disaster planning and to “proactively educate” the owners of critical infrastructure about the threat of electromagnetic pulses. But it has not advanced beyond a committee in this Congress.
SASC: China-Backed Hackers Penetrated TransCom Contractor Networks 20 Times
Sep. 17, 2014 – 05:59PM |
By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments
WASHINGTON — Chinese government-backed hackers accessed networks of private-sector firms with sensitive data about US military logistics nearly two dozen times in one year, says a US Senate committee.
In a report summarizing a lengthy investigation, the Senate Armed Services Committee determined senior brass at US Transportation Command, the military’s logistical hub, typically were unaware of the network violations.
Collectively, the 20 contractor network penetrations “show vulnerabilities in the military’s system to deploy troops and equipment in a crisis,” states a SASC summary of the investigation.
“These were not just commercial intrusions,” committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters Wednesday. “The point here is these [intrusions] have got security implications.”
Levin and SASC Ranking Member Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., warned their 12-month investigation reveals even more than previously known about Beijing’s involvement in hacking from its own soil.
“These peacetime intrusions into the networks of key defense contractors are more evidence of China’s aggressive actions in cyberspace,” Levin said. “Our findings are a warning that we must do more to protect strategically significant systems from attack and to share information about intrusions when they do occur.”
Inhofe said it is “essential that we put in place a central clearing house that makes it easy for critical contractors, particularly those that are small businesses, to report suspicious cyber activity without adding a burden to their mission-support operations.”
The committee’s 2015 Pentagon policy bill contains a provision that would establish an office within DoD to collect network-penetration information and ensure it gets to every level it needs to, Levin said.
The chairman said he “has confidence” the Chinese government “is continuing to do what it has been doing.”
“We must take steps to defend against that, and where we get info, we have to ensure it gets to the right people,” Levin said, warning that top TransCom officials in almost all of the contractor breach incidents were “in the dark.”
Among the panel’s findings:
■ “A Chinese military intrusion into a TransCom contractor between 2008 and 2010 that compromised emails, documents, user passwords and computer code.”
■ “A 2010 intrusion by the Chinese military into the network of a [civilian] contractor in which documents, flight details, credentials and passwords for encrypted email were stolen.”
■ “A 2012 Chinese military intrusion into multiple systems onboard a commercial ship contracted by TransCom.” ■
Boeing-Lockheed venture picks Bezos engine for future rockets
Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:50pm EDT
By Andrea Shalal
(Reuters) – United Launch Alliance (ULA), a Boeing Co and Lockheed Martin Corp joint venture, said on Wednesday it would invest heavily in a new rocket engine being developed by Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos and his company Blue Origin.
The new engine, called the BE-4, could be ready for use in four years, and would cost substantially less than the Russian-built RD-180 engine now used to power ULA’s heavy-lift Atlas 5 rockets, officials from both companies told reporters.
The U.S. government is grappling with how to reduce its reliance on the Russian-built engines, a matter of growing concern this year after Russia’ actions in Ukraine.
The announcement showed mounting pressure on ULA, the sole rocket launch provider for most U.S. military and spy satellites, to lower costs as it faces growing competition from another entrepreneur, Elon Musk, and his firm Space Exploration Technologies.
SpaceX is seeking Air Force certification of its Falcon 9 rocket, and plans to release its own heavy-lift rocket to compete with ULA’s Atlas 5 next year.
“It’s really time for our country to move toward an all-American launch vehicle, and I can’t think of a better way to get on that path,” said Tory Bruno, chief executive of ULA.
Bruno told reporters ULA had a two-year supply of Russian engines, with 11 more to be delivered later this year and next. He said he did not expect problems with those deliveries, despite the company’s decision to develop a U.S. alternative.
Bezos, a well-known technology entrepreneur, said he was excited to work on the project with ULA, which just carried out its 88th consecutive, successful launch.
He said the engine could pave the way toward a future in which “millions of people” lived and worked in space.
Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall said he had not been fully briefed on the initiative, but called it an example of the innovative and creative ideas the military was seeking on how to end dependence on Russian-built engines.
General John Hyten, head of Air Force Space Command, welcomed news that the effort was privately funded, but stressed that any new engine would have to pass a rigorous certification process, like the one SpaceX is undergoing, before it could be used to launch expensive and critical satellites into space.
“I’m not sure which way we’re (ultimately) going to go,” he said. “But…the more competition and the more ideas we have, the better off we are.”
Musk told Fox Business Network he viewed the ULA-Bezos agreement as a compliment. “If all your competitors are banding together to attack you, that’s like a good compliment.”
Bezos said ULA was making a significant investment in the development of the BE-4 engine, which would help accelerate the program, but gave no details. Bezos said only that it was possible to develop an engine for less than the standard estimate of seven years and $1 billion.
He said his company had been working for three years on the new liquid oxygen engine, which will deliver 550,000 pounds of thrust at sea level, and testing of various components was already under way at the company’s new facility in West Texas.
Bezos said the engine could eventually be reusable, although ULA did not plan to recover them initially. Blue Origin was continuing to work on plans for its own orbital vehicle, which would re-use the engines and should be ready later this decade.
ULA said it would use two BE-4 engines on each of its boosters, providing combined thrust of over 1 million pounds, more than the RD-180 engine now used on the Atlas 5 rocket.
The engine will use liquefied natural gas.
Bezos said Blue Origin was also part of the Boeing team that won a $4.2 billion contract from NASA on Tuesday to develop a space taxi. Boeing said its bid uses the Atlas 5 rocket and RD-180 engines, but leaves open the possibility of switching to a different engine or booster. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andre Grenon and Grant McCool)
LaPlante: Air Force Must Improve Relationship with Industry
By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Sep 17, 2014
The Air Force needs to improve its acquisition processes, which can be done by working more collaboratively with industry, said the service’s assistant secretary for acquisition Sept. 16.
“It’s always better when … you’re used to working together on common problems, so when a difficult challenge comes up you know each other and know how to work together,” said William LaPlante during a speech at the Air Force Association’s annual Air & Space Conference at National Harbor, Maryland.
The Air Force is currently working on its 20-year acquisition strategy plan, LaPlante said. One of the key priorities of the strategy is to foster better relationships with industry and become more transparent, he said.
Already the Air Force is working on a series of best practices, LaPlante said. Consulting with industry trade groups such as the National Defense Industrial Association — the publisher of National Defense — and the Aerospace Industries Association, the Air Force has come up with as many as 30 initiatives, he said.
One example is an effort to shorten the time needed to award a company a contract. It currently takes 17 months on average from the time a request for proposals is issued to when a company is awarded a contract, LaPlante said.
“There are a whole lot of things we can do together with industry to make this happen faster. It’s just unsatisfactory,” he said. “We’re going to try and bring that number down, maybe even in the single digits.”
The key is not to change the negotiation process, which should remain the same, but to arrive at that point more quickly, he said.
“We are about ready to issue a memo to all our PEOs and program managers with a lot of these best practices. We’re hoping to do the same thing with a lot of our industry counterparts with their companies so we can start to measure our progress against this,” LaPlante said.
Another priority in the 20-strategy will be to keep acquisition programs on track, he said. The service’s priorities include the F-35 joint strike fighter, the KC-46A tanker and the long-range strike bomber, he said.
The joint surveillance target attack radar system recapitalization program and the T-X trainer replacement effort are also important Air Force initiatives, he added.
Other goals mentioned included creating a long-term acquisition strategy and building upon Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall’s “Better Buying Power” procurement guidelines.
LaPlante did not say when the strategy would be released, but noted it is currently in the draft stage.
Air Force acquisition is currently the best it has been in the last five years, he said.
“We’re at full strength. We’re having time to put strategy together and align it with the Air Force strategy. We’re aligning it with the field of lifecycle sustainment and acquisition and it’s coming together,” LaPlante said. “[There are] a lot of good things going on, a lot of momentum. This is actually a great time in Air Force acquisition.”
Who really owns that government data?
Sep 16, 2014
By the end of the month, data collected on federal stimulus spending over the past five years will disappear from public view — not because the website, which always had an expiration date, will be gone, but because the government doesn’t own the data.
Dun & Bradstreet does.
The Recovery.gov website tracks federal spending under the 2009 economic stimulus law through the unique identifier system called DUNS. But that license expires at the end of the month, and the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, which monitors the spending, is not renewing it.
So come Sept. 30, Dun & Bradstreet is taking its data and going home.
And while this is a prominent example of what can happen when private companies own government data — the Washington Post highlighted the story last week — it’s hardly the only one. Critics say it points to a larger problem that is almost certain to happen again unless steps are taken to change the system.
We are a real-life example of what can happen when government uses proprietary data sets…. Since it’s come to light now, people may find different ways to do this in the future.
By May 9, 2015, the Office of Management and Budget and the Treasury must come up with government-wide standards for tracking federal spending data, under the Data Accountability and Transparency Act.
Establishing those standards will provide an opportunity to decide whether to continue using DUNS, some other outside system, or to bring control of the data in-house.
“It’s a much bigger question of where will data get housed and how will that work,” said Nancy DiPaolo, chief of congressional and intergovernmental affairs at the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board. “A website is a living thing and some of it involves licenses…. We have to ask ourselves as a contemporary society, how will modern government adapt?”
She also noted that with the way technology is evolving, government “needs to weigh the possible consequences of long term agreements or non-open sources as they make laws and decisions.”
“We are a real-life example of what can happen when government uses proprietary data sets,” DiPaolo said. “Since it’s come to light now, people may find different ways to do this in the future.”
Hudson Hollister, executive director of the Data Transparency Coalition and an early proponent of the DATA Act, said while sticking with the DUNS system may save time and headaches because employees won’t have to learn a new system, less expensive and more transparent alternatives exist.
“As long as there’s a proprietary identifier in place, it’s not truly open data,” Hollister said. “It’s crucial to democracy that we make that information available.”
Hollister suggested switching to a Legal Entity Identifier (LEI) system, which would cost less — Dun & Bradstreet’s eight-year contract is worth as much as $154 million — and provide a non-proprietary system that would keep the data available to the public.
And LEI is a universal and unique computer readable code planned for identifying every financial market participant. The Treasury Department’s Office of Financial Research is one of many government entities working to create a global LEI system that would not be controlled by a commercial vendor.
A 2012 Government Accountability Office report was critical of the DUNS contract, saying it “limits the purposes for which the government can use the data and hampers the ability to switch to a new numbering system.”
It is having specific, identifiable harm on the federal government’s ability to obtain the best value and most favorable terms with the taxpayer’s dollar.
The report also said that the General Services Administration believes that “Dun & Bradstreet effectively has a monopoly for government unique identifiers that has contributed to higher costs.”
The recovery board is not the only government organization that has data owned by a private company. In 2013, for example, the U.S. Forest Service was forced to effectively recreate its database of job descriptions when it switched vendors. And all data housed on the GSA’s Federal Procurement Data System is owned by Global Computer Enterprises. In 2003, GCE was awarded $24 million to build, implement and operate the General Service Administrations FDPS Next Generation system. GCE is still operating the system today, Hollister said.
Last week, Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote letters to GSA and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy urging them to remove specific references to DUNS numbers in acquisitions regulations so other potential vendors could be considered.
“In this case, it is clear that it is having specific, identifiable harm on the federal government’s ability to obtain the best value and most favorable terms with the taxpayer’s dollar,” the two leaders of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote.
The letters pointed out that the U.S. Postal Service, which is not subject to the acquisition regulation, saved $6.4 million annually after not renewing its contract with Dun & Bradstreet in 2008. The Postal Service chose Equifax as its new vendor.
In a statement, GSA said it surveyed the industry in 2012 “in an effort to identify other sources.” Ultimately it “received few responses” and the agency determined that Dun & Bradstreet was the “most suitable option due to the specialized services the company provides,” according to the Post.
Google wants to test drone wireless Internet in New Mexico
by Press • 18 September 2014
Google is planning to test Internet delivery by drone high above New Mexico, according to a government filing.
On Friday, the company asked the Federal Communications Commission for permission to use two blocks of frequencies for the tests, which are scheduled to last about six months and begin in October. They will be conducted above an area of more than 1,400 square kilometers in the center of New Mexico to the east of Albuquerque.
“Google recently acquired Titan Aerospace, a firm that specializes in developing solar and electric unmanned aerial systems for high altitude, long endurance flights,” Google said in its application. “These systems may eventually be used to provide Internet connections in remote areas or help monitor environmental damage, such as oil spills or deforestation.”
Google said its application for temporary permission to make the transmissions was needed “for demonstration and testing of [REDACTED] in a carefully controlled environment.”
The FCC allows companies to redact certain portions of their applications when they might provide too much information to competitors.
In the application, Google said it wants to use two blocks of frequencies, one between 910MHz and 927MHz and one between 2.4GHz and 2.414GHz. Both are so-called “industrial, scientific and medical” (ISM) bands typically used for unlicensed operations.
The application has not yet been approved.
It’s the latest in a series of moves by the company to trial Internet delivery from the skies.
The company unveiled its ambitious Project Loon last year, which uses a series of high-altitude balloons that float in winds at about 20 kilometers (65,000 feet) above the Earth. The first experiments with Loon involved using a transmission system based on WiFi, but earlier this year the company began experimenting with LTE cellular transmissions in a test site in Nevada.
Google acquired Titan Aerospace in April this year for an undisclosed price.
Google could not immediately be reached for comment.
First company authorized to fly unmanned aircraft out of Griffiss International Airport
by Press • 18 September 2014
Logos Technologies has received authorization from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to begin flight-testing of the unmanned Tactically Expandable Maritime Platform (TEMP) unmanned aerial system (UAS). Testing will be conducted at the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance (NUAIR) FAA UAS test site at the Oneida County Griffiss International Airport in Rome, NY.
Like all UAS, TEMP requires special permission to operate in domestic airspace. The FAA certificate of authorization (COA) lays the groundwork for TEMP to become the first UAS to be exclusively tested out of Griffiss, with oversight provided by NUAIR. Testing is expected to begin in October 2014.
The testing facility, located on the site of the former Griffiss Air Force Base, also hosts the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate (Rome Lab). Operating in close proximity to Rome Lab will greatly improve the speed and efficiency with which Logos Technologies can mature this technology for military and commercial applications.
“This news is a great development for the Griffiss community,” said Rep. Richard Hanna, U.S. Representative for New York’s 22nd Congressional District. “I look forward to continuing to work to facilitate the responsible development of innovative new technologies like those that Logos Technologies is known for, and demonstrating the great opportunities that the Mohawk Valley can provide to small businesses.”
Developed in partnership with Atair Aerospace, TEMP is a lightweight, powered and autonomous-flight-capable parafoil aircraft. Like other similar platforms under development by Logos Technologies, TEMP is designed for a range of missions, including precision cargo-delivery to remote and inaccessible areas to assist with emergency response and other situations.
“This is an important step for Logos Technologies in its development of powered parafoil platforms for both military and commercial applications,” said Dr. John Marion, president of Logos Technologies. “We’re grateful to Rep. Hanna and our partners at the NUAIR for their wholehearted support that sets a great precedent for the future of UAS technology in New York State.”
CyPhy Works to test new pocket-sized drones for U.S. Air Force
by Press • 17 September 2014
DANVERS, MA – CyPhy Works has been awarded a contract by the U. S. Air Force to help improve search and rescue operations. Funded under the Rapid Innovation Fund, Extreme Access Pocket Flyer will address an existing capability gap in the remote inspection of small passageways and tunnels that are often – blocked by debris and rubble. Under this new project, CyPhy Works will design and test Extreme Access Pocket Flyer, a compact, highly versatile drone that can be quickly deployed for remote inspection of collapsed structures. The current approach used by search and rescue operations relies on costly ground robots that can be limited by ground obstacles and steep terrain. Target users communities will include Pararescue, Special Forces and FEMA. Extreme Access Pocket Flyer will also be used as an airborne in-tunnel surveillance system.
“Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), frequently placed in tunnels and culverts, are the predominant threat to our military forces” said Matt England, LTC(R) and CyPhy Works Vice President of Government Systems. “Imagine not having to get out of the protection of your armored vehicle and being able to closely inspect suspicious areas in a fraction of the time it currently takes. That’s what Extreme Access Pocket Flyer will enable.”
Extreme Access Pocket Flyer makes use of CyPhy Work’s proprietary microfilament technology to solve the mission life and non-line-of-site telemetry issues. A free flying vehicle this size would last less than twenty minutes and would lose communications when entering a building. By contrast, the Extreme Access Pocket Flyer will stay aloft as long as power is supplied from the ground and its batteries will be hot swappable.
“Just like a camera, the best drone is the one you have with you,” said CyPhy Works CEO Helen Greiner. “The market potential is one for every soldier, marine, police officer, swat team member, and many other jobs that expose people to danger”.
About CyPhy Works
CyPhy Works is a leading robotics company developing aerial robots and UAVs for large industries such as defense, oil and gas, agriculture, entertainment, law enforcement, and mining. CyPhy Works combines UAV experts with product proven roboticists to create rugged and reliable aerial solutions. CyPhy (pronounced: Sci-Fi) is a contraction of Cyber and Physical both essential elements to a robot. Our mission statement describes our philosophy: Our community inspires; Our team creates; Our robots empower. For more information please visit http://www.cyphyworks.com and follow Helen Greiner on Twitter @HelenGreiner.
Manufacturer Plans 1,000 Riot Control UAS a Month
September 19, 2014
Specialist surveillance company Desert Wolf is seeking to establish manufacturing facilities that can build at least a thousand Skunk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) a month, in response to massive demand for the riot control vehicle, which is being developed into a whole family that can be used for a variety of duties, such as search and rescue, surveillance, LIDAR scanning and lifeguard.
The Skunk octocopter, armed with four paintball markers, cameras and a loudhailer, was unveiled at the IFSEC security exhibition in Johannesburg in May this year, where it generated a considerable amount of interest both locally and abroad. Hennie Kieser, Director of Desert Wolf, initially planned to produce several hundred a year at most but the market demand for the aircraft is over a thousand a month. The company is also re-designing the aircraft with various improvements and will offer it for a variety of duties – Kieser said that the riot control model was “just the beginning” in a planned series. Various mission envisioned for the Skunk include acting as a lifeguard that is able to drop a life raft to someone in trouble.
Another variant for disaster relief would be able to carry and drop 30 kg of supplies – the United Nations has expressed interest in such a variant. Other missions could include delivering medical supplies and one option could be to mount weapons, such as the Neopup low recoil 20 mm cannon. The new range will be marketed at the Africa Aerospace and Defence (AAD) 2014 exhibition this week. The new Skunk II is bigger and better and constructed with enclosed rotors with extended air time of up to six hours.
Desert Wolf is currently producing the Skunk II in South Africa with a maximum capacity of 50 units per month. Desert Wolf will only start selling the next generation Skunks as soon as it can establish production facilities. The original idea was to build the UAVs in South Africa at the rate of ten to thirty a month but because of the massive demand, a foreign partner had to be found. Desert Wolf is seeking capital investment of $200 million to produce thousands a month and is looking to establish a production facility in Malta, which will be set up for manufacture in March next year. Training UAV operators will also take place in Malta as Malta is encouraging such business development. Desert Wolf is not selling its UAVs in South Africa because of the SACAA ruling that UAVs are illegal and is doing demonstrations outside the country. The company is still exhibiting and marketing its products though. In South Africa, Desert Wolf has had enquiries from metro police for service delivery protests. Mining companies are also very interested – for example Lonmin wants to be the first customer once UAVs are legal again in South Africa. “There’s a huge demand just for the Skunk system in South Africa,” Kieser said. A customer in the United Arab Emirates if very interested and is looking to order an initial hundred, then four hundred then five hundred. Interest has come from places like Turkey (police), Europe, then North East Africa and the United Arab Emirates region. Algeria and Nigeria are serious about buying the drone, particularly due to unrest in Nigeria.
Climate Science Is Not Settled
We are very far from the knowledge needed to make good climate policy, writes leading scientist Steven E. Koonin
By Steven E. Koonin
Sept. 19, 2014 12:19 p.m. ET
The crucial scientific question for policy isn’t whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will. Mitch Dobrowner
The idea that “Climate science is settled” runs through today’s popular and policy discussions. Unfortunately, that claim is misguided. It has not only distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment. But it also has inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.
My training as a computational physicist—together with a 40-year career of scientific research, advising and management in academia, government and the private sector—has afforded me an extended, up-close perspective on climate science. Detailed technical discussions during the past year with leading climate scientists have given me an even better sense of what we know, and don’t know, about climate. I have come to appreciate the daunting scientific challenge of answering the questions that policy makers and the public are asking.
The crucial scientific question for policy isn’t whether the climate is changing. That is a settled matter: The climate has always changed and always will. Geological and historical records show the occurrence of major climate shifts, sometimes over only a few decades. We know, for instance, that during the 20th century the Earth’s global average surface temperature rose 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nor is the crucial question whether humans are influencing the climate. That is no hoax: There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. There is also little doubt that the carbon dioxide will persist in the atmosphere for several centuries. The impact today of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.
Rather, the crucial, unsettled scientific question for policy is, “How will the climate change over the next century under both natural and human influences?” Answers to that question at the global and regional levels, as well as to equally complex questions of how ecosystems and human activities will be affected, should inform our choices about energy and infrastructure.
But—here’s the catch—those questions are the hardest ones to answer. They challenge, in a fundamental way, what science can tell us about future climates.
Even though human influences could have serious consequences for the climate, they are physically small in relation to the climate system as a whole. For example, human additions to carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by the middle of the 21st century are expected to directly shift the atmosphere’s natural greenhouse effect by only 1% to 2%. Since the climate system is highly variable on its own, that smallness sets a very high bar for confidently projecting the consequences of human influences.
A second challenge to “knowing” future climate is today’s poor understanding of the oceans. The oceans, which change over decades and centuries, hold most of the climate’s heat and strongly influence the atmosphere. Unfortunately, precise, comprehensive observations of the oceans are available only for the past few decades; the reliable record is still far too short to adequately understand how the oceans will change and how that will affect climate.
A third fundamental challenge arises from feedbacks that can dramatically amplify or mute the climate’s response to human and natural influences. One important feedback, which is thought to approximately double the direct heating effect of carbon dioxide, involves water vapor, clouds and temperature.
But feedbacks are uncertain. They depend on the details of processes such as evaporation and the flow of radiation through clouds. They cannot be determined confidently from the basic laws of physics and chemistry, so they must be verified by precise, detailed observations that are, in many cases, not yet available.
Beyond these observational challenges are those posed by the complex computer models used to project future climate. These massive programs attempt to describe the dynamics and interactions of the various components of the Earth system—the atmosphere, the oceans, the land, the ice and the biosphere of living things. While some parts of the models rely on well-tested physical laws, other parts involve technically informed estimation. Computer modeling of complex systems is as much an art as a science.
For instance, global climate models describe the Earth on a grid that is currently limited by computer capabilities to a resolution of no finer than 60 miles. (The distance from New York City to Washington, D.C., is thus covered by only four grid cells.) But processes such as cloud formation, turbulence and rain all happen on much smaller scales. These critical processes then appear in the model only through adjustable assumptions that specify, for example, how the average cloud cover depends on a grid box’s average temperature and humidity. In a given model, dozens of such assumptions must be adjusted (“tuned,” in the jargon of modelers) to reproduce both current observations and imperfectly known historical records.
We often hear that there is a “scientific consensus” about climate change. But as far as the computer models go, there isn’t a useful consensus at the level of detail relevant to assessing human influences. Since 1990, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, has periodically surveyed the state of climate science. Each successive report from that endeavor, with contributions from thousands of scientists around the world, has come to be seen as the definitive assessment of climate science at the time of its issue.
There is little doubt in the scientific community that continually growing amounts of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, due largely to carbon-dioxide emissions from the conventional use of fossil fuels, are influencing the climate. Pictured, an estuary in Patgonia. Gallery Stock
For the latest IPCC report (September 2013), its Working Group I, which focuses on physical science, uses an ensemble of some 55 different models. Although most of these models are tuned to reproduce the gross features of the Earth’s climate, the marked differences in their details and projections reflect all of the limitations that I have described. For example:
• The models differ in their descriptions of the past century’s global average surface temperature by more than three times the entire warming recorded during that time. Such mismatches are also present in many other basic climate factors, including rainfall, which is fundamental to the atmosphere’s energy balance. As a result, the models give widely varying descriptions of the climate’s inner workings. Since they disagree so markedly, no more than one of them can be right.
• Although the Earth’s average surface temperature rose sharply by 0.9 degree Fahrenheit during the last quarter of the 20th century, it has increased much more slowly for the past 16 years, even as the human contribution to atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen by some 25%. This surprising fact demonstrates directly that natural influences and variability are powerful enough to counteract the present warming influence exerted by human activity.
Yet the models famously fail to capture this slowing in the temperature rise. Several dozen different explanations for this failure have been offered, with ocean variability most likely playing a major role. But the whole episode continues to highlight the limits of our modeling.
• The models roughly describe the shrinking extent of Arctic sea ice observed over the past two decades, but they fail to describe the comparable growth of Antarctic sea ice, which is now at a record high.
• The models predict that the lower atmosphere in the tropics will absorb much of the heat of the warming atmosphere. But that “hot spot” has not been confidently observed, casting doubt on our understanding of the crucial feedback of water vapor on temperature.
• Even though the human influence on climate was much smaller in the past, the models do not account for the fact that the rate of global sea-level rise 70 years ago was as large as what we observe today—about one foot per century.
• A crucial measure of our knowledge of feedbacks is climate sensitivity—that is, the warming induced by a hypothetical doubling of carbon-dioxide concentration. Today’s best estimate of the sensitivity (between 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit and 8.1 degrees Fahrenheit) is no different, and no more certain, than it was 30 years ago. And this is despite an heroic research effort costing billions of dollars.
These and many other open questions are in fact described in the IPCC research reports, although a detailed and knowledgeable reading is sometimes required to discern them. They are not “minor” issues to be “cleaned up” by further research. Rather, they are deficiencies that erode confidence in the computer projections. Work to resolve these shortcomings in climate models should be among the top priorities for climate research.
Yet a public official reading only the IPCC’s “Summary for Policy Makers” would gain little sense of the extent or implications of these deficiencies. These are fundamental challenges to our understanding of human impacts on the climate, and they should not be dismissed with the mantra that “climate science is settled.”
While the past two decades have seen progress in climate science, the field is not yet mature enough to usefully answer the difficult and important questions being asked of it. This decidedly unsettled state highlights what should be obvious: Understanding climate, at the level of detail relevant to human influences, is a very, very difficult problem.
We can and should take steps to make climate projections more useful over time. An international commitment to a sustained global climate observation system would generate an ever-lengthening record of more precise observations. And increasingly powerful computers can allow a better understanding of the uncertainties in our models, finer model grids and more sophisticated descriptions of the processes that occur within them. The science is urgent, since we could be caught flat-footed if our understanding does not improve more rapidly than the climate itself changes.
A transparent rigor would also be a welcome development, especially given the momentous political and policy decisions at stake. That could be supported by regular, independent, “red team” reviews to stress-test and challenge the projections by focusing on their deficiencies and uncertainties; that would certainly be the best practice of the scientific method. But because the natural climate changes over decades, it will take many years to get the data needed to confidently isolate and quantify the effects of human influences.
Policy makers and the public may wish for the comfort of certainty in their climate science. But I fear that rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is “settled” (or is a “hoax”) demeans and chills the scientific enterprise, retarding its progress in these important matters. Uncertainty is a prime mover and motivator of science and must be faced head-on. It should not be confined to hushed sidebar conversations at academic conferences.
Society’s choices in the years ahead will necessarily be based on uncertain knowledge of future climates. That uncertainty need not be an excuse for inaction. There is well-justified prudence in accelerating the development of low-emissions technologies and in cost-effective energy-efficiency measures.
But climate strategies beyond such “no regrets” efforts carry costs, risks and questions of effectiveness, so nonscientific factors inevitably enter the decision. These include our tolerance for risk and the priorities that we assign to economic development, poverty reduction, environmental quality, and intergenerational and geographical equity.
Individuals and countries can legitimately disagree about these matters, so the discussion should not be about “believing” or “denying” the science. Despite the statements of numerous scientific societies, the scientific community cannot claim any special expertise in addressing issues related to humanity’s deepest goals and values. The political and diplomatic spheres are best suited to debating and resolving such questions, and misrepresenting the current state of climate science does nothing to advance that effort.
Any serious discussion of the changing climate must begin by acknowledging not only the scientific certainties but also the uncertainties, especially in projecting the future. Recognizing those limits, rather than ignoring them, will lead to a more sober and ultimately more productive discussion of climate change and climate policies. To do otherwise is a great disservice to climate science itself.
Dr. Koonin was undersecretary for science in the Energy Department during President Barack Obama’s first term and is currently director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University. His previous positions include professor of theoretical physics and provost at Caltech, as well as chief scientist of BP, BP.LN +0.42% where his work focused on renewable and low-carbon energy technologies.
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, September 20, 2014
Do most Americans really know or care about the rest of the world?
Consider Scotland. The news media has been hyperventilating for several weeks now over whether the nation on the north end of the British Isles was going to vote for independence from the mother country. Scottish voters opted against independence from Great Britain in a vote this week, but, believe it or not, only 33% of Americans think most of their fellow countrymen can even find Scotland on a map.
Then there’s the growing Ebola epidemic in Africa that has killed more than 2,000 people in several countries. But Americans are less concerned now about the deadly disease coming to these shores than they were six weeks ago.
President Obama this week announced plans to send at least 3,000 troops to Africa and has committed several hundred million dollars to fighting the Ebola epidemic.
The president also recently announced his plans for fighting the radical group that calls itself the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Voters are all for expanded airstrikes against ISIS, but they are a lot less enthusiastic about putting boots back on the ground in Iraq.
Most voters believe the U.S. military already has too many missions these days, but they also think it’s likely that fighting in Iraq will soon be added to the list. A lot of voters would prefer to see the military on border patrol instead. Forty-two percent (42%) say fighting ISIS is a better use of the military than patrolling the southern border to stop illegal immigration or helping to fight the Ebola epidemic in Africa. Thirty-one percent (31%) see patrolling the border as a better use of the military, while just 17% say that of fighting Ebola.
Another war that gets a lot of headlines these days is the so-called “war on women.” That’s the phrase Democrats use to criticize certain Republican policies that they contend limit women’s rights in areas such as birth control, abortion and workplace discrimination. Most voters don’t consider the “war on women” a war at all but see it as just a political tactic.
Is it possible that Obamacare could take control of the Senate away from Democrats and give it to the GOP?
It’s been nearly a year since the national health care law officially took effect, and voter attitudes about its impact on the cost and quality of health care remain basically unchanged – and negative.
As for the president himself, his daily job approval rating has been hovering around the -20 mark all week.
Democrats have retaken the lead on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.
A possible election wild card?
Consumer confidence has been trending down in recent days and hit its lowest level since late January on Friday.
At the same time,
63% of homeowners think their home is worth more than when they bought it, the highest level of confidence in three years.
Most voters continue to believe as they have for years that the federal government should cut spending to boost the economy. But only 21% think it’s even somewhat likely that government spending will be significantly reduced over the next few years.
In other surveys last week:
— Twenty-eight percent (28%) of voters think the United States is headed in the right direction.
— Short- and long-term confidence in housing values are stable at levels seen since early last year but remain well ahead of whether they were for the four years prior to that.
— Americans continue to say buying a home is a family’s best investment, but they are closely divided over whether now is the opportune time for someone in their area to sell their house.
— The Senate held a hearing this week on whether Washington, D.C. should become our 51st state, but most voters still oppose D.C. statehood.
— Americans think highly of the hospitals in this country and say they are better than those in most other countries.
Also on a blog at https://newswirefeed.wordpress.com/
Commercial UAS Market Catches Up in Japan
Japan”Up until recently, people might have thought that drones were just for military use and had nothing to do with their daily lives,” but it’s likely that will change in the next decade, said Kenzo Nonami, a renowned drone engineer who is president of Chiba-based Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory Ltd.
Nonami, 65, said Japan is behind China, France and the United States in drone development and thinks the government, private sector and academia should collaborate to catch up.
“Japan may have been focused too much on humanoid robots and overlooked the drones,” while other countries were developing them for military purposes, he said.
Hobbyists can easily purchase drones online these days for under ¥100,000, but it is hard to find any Japanese makers in a market dominated by such companies as China-based DJI Innovations and France-based Parrot.Yet Japan is getting ready to play catch-up, he said.
About 80 Japanese firms set up the Mini Surveyor Consortium in 2012 to help the Japanese drone market grow and promote drones equipped with an autonomous control technology developed by Nonami, who is also a professor at the Graduate School of Engineering at Chiba University.
The consortium is gearing up to produce 100 to 200 drones for sale this fall in Japan.
Nonami emphasized that this is no time for Japanese players to be competing against each other, given Japan’s trailing position in the industry.
“(Promotion of Japanese drones) should not be left to just one company or one university. We must make an all-Japan effort,” he said.
Nonami said his technology allows drones to fly autonomously without the need for GPS data. This is achieved by giving drones a laser scanner so they can generate maps as they fly. These drones can thus fly accurately within tunnels or under bridges, where GPS signals don’t reach. This will give them a valuable capability at a time when the government is promoting the use of drones for infrastructure inspection.
Nonami’s Autonomous Control Systems Laboratory makes several types of copters, which range from 80 to 150 cm in length and weigh 2 to 3 kg.
While Japan is behind, there is plenty of time to catch up. The Association for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Systems International, the world’s largest nonprofit drone promotion organization, said the U.S. drone industry will create more than 100,000 jobs and create an economic impact worth $80 billion from 2015 to 2025.
Nonami said it will still take years for the drone market to really grow, saying onboard computers must be improved and made faster for the gadgets to master safe autonomous flight.
“It needs to have an artificial intelligence capable of ordering the vehicle to detect trouble and land safely by itself if something happens,” otherwise, it will be dangerous to fly over densely populated cities, said Nonami.
In addition, drones may face legal issues in Japan, too. Article 207 of the civil law states: “Ownership in land shall extend to above and below the surface of the land, subject to the restrictions prescribed by laws and regulations.”
As things stand, it’s illegal to use drones to make deliveries and fly around cities, not only because of Article 207, but also because the traffic law prohibits flying over roads without special permission, lawyer Masahiro Kobayashi said.
Thus, the law will have to be changed to achieve the future envisioned by the drone makers, he said.
If they can clear this legal hurdle, Nonami said, drones may once again change the landscape of the nation’s retail industry, just like Amazon showed in its video.
Using huge trucks to deliver packages under the current distribution system isn’t necessarily efficient, because “We have to use fuel to run vehicles that weigh many times more than the packages,” he said.
But battery-powered drones weighing just 2 to 3 kg can carry payloads of up to 10 kg, he said, adding they may soon be able to handle packages as heavy as 20 or 30 kg.
Nonami said aerial vehicles can also be used for surveillance purposes. For instance, if a homeowner is stranded at his or her place of work by a major earthquake, a smartphone could be used to launch a drone to see if the person’s house, family and neighbors are safe.
However, the same machines could also be used to peer into people’s bedrooms and backyards, or follow them around and attack them, raising issues of privacy and security.
Source: The Japan Times
Ohio college becoming leader in drone technology
Sep. 5, 2014 – 02:05PM |
DAYTON, OHIO — Officials with an Ohio community college say it has taken another step toward positioning itself as a national leader in drone technology research.
Sinclair Community College officials on Aug. 26 announced plans for the renovation of an existing downtown Dayton campus building into a $5 million training and certification center for unmanned aerial systems.
The school said the center will allow students to fly UAV quadcopters indoors, Deborah Norris, Sinclair vice president of workforce development and corporate services, told the Dayton Daily News.
“It will give us more classroom space focused on UAS…,” she said.
Sinclair has had more than 150 students seek a two-year degree in its UAS program, Norris told the paper.
Despite the region being passed over for an FAA drone testing site last year, Sinclair has moved full speed ahead on the development, teaching and application of the technology.
The growth in the technology was on display Tuesday during the first day of the three-day Ohio UAS Conference in Dayton, which has drawn more than 700 people and 70 exhibitors from across the United States, Israel, Mexico and Australia, according to the Dayton Daily News.
The attendance was a record for the 3-year-old event. It featured an indoor flying competition among three colleges that was organized by the Air Force, the Daily News reported.
The commercial market for unmanned aerial systems will “dwarf” sales to the military within a decade, said Michael Tosanco, president and CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
The revolutionary technology is on an evolutionary path much like computers or automobiles and will change the lives of nearly everyone when drones are integrated into civilian airspace in coming years, according to Tosanco.
“The state of the industry is more and more people want this,” he said.
Drones will increasingly take over jobs that are dirty, dull, difficult and dangerous and do them more effectively and efficiently, he said.
The Federal Aviation Administration is under a congressional mandate to integrate drones into civilian manned airspace by September 2015. The FAA chose seven locations across the nation last year, rejecting a combined bid from Ohio and Indiana. But officials say the region nevertheless has led the nation in research of the technology.
A study by AUVSI said the industry would create 100,000 jobs and an $82 billion market nationally by 2025.
Cargo hold smoke event involving a Boeing 737, DQ-FJH
by Press • 7 September 2014
From the Official Civil Aviation Safety Authority Australia accident report
On 26 April 2014, a passenger checked in four bags for a Fiji Airways flight from Melbourne, Victoria, to Nadi, Fiji, on a Boeing 737 aircraft, registered DQ-FJH. The passenger was a certified remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operator in Australia. The passenger stated during check-in that there were no batteries in the checked bags, but declared 8 lithium batteries being carried as hand luggage. The bags were screened in accordance with the Aviation Transport Security Regulations.
At about 2230 Eastern Standard Time (EST), the aircraft was at Gate D8 at Melbourne Airport and the passengers’ bags were being loaded. The cabin crew members were on board preparing the aircraft prior to boarding of passengers, and the first officer was in the cockpit conducting pre-flight checks. The captain was on the tarmac, conducting an external inspection of the aircraft. A ground engineer observed smoke emanating from the aft cargo hold, alerted the captain and notified the aerodrome rescue and firefighting (ARFF) service. The captain saw white heavy smoke billowing from the hold and immediately called the first officer to advise him. The first officer observed that the aft cargo fire warning light was illuminated. The captain directed the first officer to activate theaft cargo hold fire suppression system, shut down the auxiliary power unit and order an evacuation of the aircraft. The first officer advised air traffic control and declared ‘Mayday’.
The ARFF arrived and a smouldering hard-plastic case was removed to a safe location and cooled with a fine water spray. The passenger who had checked in the case was located and was asked whether any batteries were in it, to which the passenger responded there were none. The ARFF and Australian Federal Police inspected all four of the bags checked in by the passenger and found 19 batteries intact and additional 6-8 batteries that had been destroyed by fire.
An initial investigation revealed that several lithium-ion polymer batteries and an RPA controller were contained in the case. An electrical short circuit involving the batteries resulted in the initiation of a fire, destroying the contents and damaging the case (Figures 1, 2 and 3). An RPA controller containing other, similar, lithium-ion polymer batteries was found in one of the passenger’s other checked-in bags. The fire-damaged case had been screened through the oversized luggage point at Melbourne Airport.
Fiji Airways investigation
An analysis conducted by Fiji Airways found that the post-incident images indicated a Lithium-ion Polymer battery fire involving high capacity – high discharge batteries. The battery balancers, are used for charging heavy duty batteries.
As a result of this occurrence, Fiji Airways has issued an Airport Operations Standing Order:Lithium Metal & Lithium Ion Cells Batteries advising check-in staff to ask every passenger whether their baggage contains lithium batteries and to check batteries are carried in accordance with regulations. Any passenger carrying undeclared lithium batteries that are discovered prior to departure will be offloaded and refused carriage.
This incident highlights the hazards associated with transporting lithium-ion batteries. Batteries operate via a controlled chemical reaction that generates current and transmits power through the battery terminals. This process generates heat. Rapid increase in temperature and pressure in the battery cells may result in fire. Information regarding carriage of batteries and battery-powered equipment is provided by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Technical Instructions for the Safe Transport of Dangerous Goods by Air, Part 8, http://www.icao.int/safety/DangerousGoods/Pages/technical-instructions.aspx.
It is important for safety that all batteries be individually protected so as to prevent short circuits. This can be achieved by placement of the batteries in the original retail packaging or by otherwise insulating the terminals, wires or fittings, e.g. by taping over exposed terminals with an electrical insulating tape or placing each battery in a separate plastic bag or protective pouch. When batteries are contained in personal electronic devices, measures must be taken to prevent unintentional activation.
Information regarding carriage of batteries and battery-powered equipment may be requested from CASA by e-mail to: DG@casa.gov.au or from the CASA website:
Officials worry about ‘cyber Fort Hood’
By JOSEPH MARKS | 9/9/14 10:31 AM EDT
The most dangerous cybersecurity threat facing U.S. military and intelligence agencies might not be another Edward Snowden aiming to steal secrets, but rather a rogue IT administrator bent on destruction of critical infrastructure, a senior Intelligence official told POLITICO.
The official, who requested anonymity, described such an attack as a potential “Fort Hood in cyberspace,” recalling the 2009 shooting rampage by Islamic extremist Maj. Nidal Hassan at the Texas Army base. Given the right access and skills, a federal IT administrator or other computer worker who had turned against America would be able to shut down government computers, disable military navigation systems, or even destroy critical infrastructure like power plants or oil refineries causing extensive loss of life.
“The one thing I’d say is becoming increasingly a concern for me is the possibility of the insider threat: Someone who is ideologically motivated and, depending on the ideology that’s driving them, you might call them a self-radicalized insider,” the official said in a recent interview.
“We’re becoming increasingly dependent on IT,” the official continued. “You’ve got [system administrators] everywhere. You’ve got empowered users who could do something catastrophic to their organization and depending on how and why they did it — and, of course, they’re doing it for maximum effect and even maximum publicity — it’s likely to be labeled cyber terrorism. But it’s not coming from a discrete group that you can track and preempt.”
Law enforcement and intelligence officials have long been concerned about so-called home-grown, or lone-wolf Islamic extremists, who become radicalized on the Internet and who — because they are not in contact with known foreign terrorists or recruiters — generally cannot be identified as a threat before they act. Carlos Bledsoe, a Muslim convert who shot and killed a U.S. soldier outside an Army recruiting office in Little Rock, Ark., in 2009 is an example often cited by counter-terror analysts, though officials say the U.S. could face a similar threat from self-radicalized adherents to domestic militias or hate groups.
Private sector insider threat watchers echoed the intelligence official’s concerns but noted that the universe of people who could launch an insider cyberattack is much smaller than those that could launch a conventional insider attack, such as the Fort Hood or Little Rock shootings.
While thousands of people may work in a computer system every day, there are only a handful of system administrators and other highly skilled computer technicians who have both the access and technical knowhow to cause major damage.
“For a user to do something spectacular to a computer requires computing skills,” said Martin Libicki, a senior management scientist at the Rand Corporation, who focuses on cybersecurity. “Any fool can grab an AK-47, but not any fool can hack a computer with any degree of effectiveness.”
Nonetheless, intelligence officials are concerned, in part because digital monitoring systems designed to spot the next Snowden are ill-equipped to uncover this different, arguably more dangerous form of insider threat, the official said.
The latest employee and contractor monitoring systems in the defense and intelligence worlds are divided into two categories known as “continuous monitoring” and “continuous evaluation.”
Continuous monitoring, which is already operational in a large number of classified computer systems, audits what employees are doing on the network and watches for anomalous behavior. The system might alert, for example, if a China analyst is accessing Intelligence documents focused on Iran or if someone on the day shift is accessing documents at night.
Continuous evaluation, which will only cover about 5 percent of cleared intelligence personnel by the end of 2016, is designed as a supplement to employee re-clearance investigations that take place every five or 10 years. Continuous evaluation systems scan government and public documents looking for arrests, bankruptcies, divorces or other indicators of personal or financial distress.
The idea is the program will alert agencies when an employee is hiding things he or she should be disclosing to superiors, acting strangely or suffering from excessive stress. Intelligence officials have assured members of Congress the systems are only meant to alert agencies when an employee should be investigated further — they’re not designed to act as judge and jury on their own.
The problem is that a “self-radicalized insider” who’s become an adherent to a jihadi terrorist ideology may leave no digital trail for those systems to pick up. If they do leave signs, they would likely be postings to online chat rooms or visits to extremist Web sites on a personal computer. Those aren’t accessible by either monitoring system — and it would cause an uproar from privacy advocates if they were.
“Unless you buy into the idea that you’re going to have the government monitoring everybody’s social media interactions, if you have someone who self radicalizes they’re otherwise still not manifesting [danger] signs,” the official said.
The best way to protect against a cyber insider threat, the official said, is to design computer systems so that a single user couldn’t wreak too much havoc, for instance, by requiring two-person approval for some major actions.
“You’ve got to rely on the resilience of your cybersecurity enterprise to stop one person from being in a position of causing that much harm,” the official said.
Part of that resiliency involves spotting a cyber-insider threat before damage can be done. For example, continuous monitoring systems could spot anomalies as the insider investigates which systems might be vulnerable, makes a dry run of the attack or walks to the brink but steps back.
“Generally, this isn’t something where there’s an automatic trigger and someone goes from zero to 100,” said Mark Fallon, director of the Law enforcement consultancy ClubFed and a former deputy assistant director and special agent in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. “Generally, you’ll see an advance, some type of probing behaviors, some type of limit testing. There’s always some type of surveillance or casing before an attack.”
Just as likely, Fallon said, someone who’s adopted an extremist philosophy will exhibit behavior changes that might be noticed and reported by coworkers — especially if the coworkers have been trained to be observant for insider threats.
When that happens, Fallon said, there’s a chance to pull the insider back from the brink, limit his responsibilities or put him on leave.
“Experience tells me that if you’ve got a detection system, whether it’s through automated means or better awareness of behaviors that indicate someone might be on the path to more extreme types of actions,” he said, “at some point you need to introduce trained personnel to talk to that individual about it, to interdict or dissuade that person.”
Even a combination of training, awareness and monitoring, however, will not be capable of tracking every cyber insider threat, he said.
“There’s no failsafe system,” Fallon said. “To me, the key is identifying the signs early so it doesn’t get to be an active shooter scenario.”
Army activates its first cyber protection brigade
Sep. 9, 2014 – 06:00AM |
By Michelle Tan
The Army on Sept. 5 activated a new Cyber Protection Brigade — the first of its kind in the Army — at Fort Gordon, Georgia.
Col. Donald Bray took command of the brigade from Lt. Col. Philippe Persaud, who had been serving as the brigade’s interim commander while it was being stood up.
Persaud will stay on as the brigade’s deputy commander.
The brigade’s activation represents a deeper Army investment in its cyberspace capabilities, said Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, commanding general of Army Cyber Command, in a statement.
The Cyber Protection Brigade is made up of Cyber Protection Teams, manned by a mix of soldiers and civilians. The brigade will have 20 of these teams, each with about 39 personnel. The teams will conduct defensive cyberspace operations in support of joint and Army missions, according to information from Army Cyber Command.
All Cyber Protection Teams are trained to a common joint standard, according to the command.
The brigade is “aggressively” manning, training and equipping its teams to support the Army and U.S. Cyber Command, Army Cyber Command said. This push is part of an Army-wide effort to fill the ranks of a selective new military occupational specialty, “cyber network defender,” or 25D. There are more than 700 25D positions across the Army, and the MOS is open to experienced soldiers in the grades of staff sergeant to sergeant major.
The Office of the Chief of Signal accepts application packets from soldiers with backgrounds in information assurance and information technology — regardless of their MOS — mostly at the staff sergeant level. There are limited opportunities for sergeants first class and master sergeants.
Upon successful completion of training, members of the cyber protection teams will receive a cyber additional skill identifier of E4.
Study: Private drone use worries public
Sep 10, 2014, 3:31pm EDT
Dayton Business Journal
The American public is more curious about unmanned aircraft than ever — but they remain wary, a new study has found.
Warren, N.J.-based Chubb Group, a property and casualty insurance group of companies, commissioned a study of 1,000 adults that found nearly three-fourths of respondents are worried the craft will be a danger to their property or crash into their house. Another 55 percent are worried drones could cause injuries. About 50 percent said they were worried drones could hack into wireless networks.
And, of course, the privacy concerns were prevalent in the study, with 78 percent responding they think drones could “turn America into a surveillance state.” Another 60 percent fear drones could capture photos of family members or be used by peeping toms, and 34 percent are concerned drones could be used to steal their possessions.
“As drones continue to be developed and deployed, we expect that an increasing number of our customers will face some of the risks of this emerging technology,” said Christie Alderman, vice president of Chubb Personal Insurance. “Fortunately, if a drone were to damage or cause other loss to your property, there may be coverage under the dwelling or contents portion of your homeowners insurance policy.”
The concerns, according to the study, are focused entirely on private and business use of the craft — 67 percent don’t think private citizens should be able to operate the drones even if they hold a permit, and 64 percent don’t want businesses to use drones.
About 21 percent of respondents, though, said they’d be interested in buying a drone.
Still, the respondents showed more comfort with the craft if they were used by authority figures, with 86 percent comfortable when military is operating the craft, 80 percent support their use for delivery of emergency aid and other humanitarian purposes, and 66 percent comfortable with the use of drones by law enforcement.
The drone industry has massive potential for growth and the Dayton region has been positioning itself to play a key role in its development.
USIS contracts for federal background security checks won’t be renewed
By Christian Davenport September 9
The Office of Personnel Management will not renew any of its contracts with USIS, the major Falls Church, Va., contractor that provides the bulk of background checks for federal security clearances and was the victim of a recent cyberattack, officials confirmed Tuesday evening.
A spokeswoman for Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) said the OPM informed the senator’s office Tuesday afternoon that it would not renew the contracts when they expire Sept. 30.
“The news is a welcome sign that the federal government is finally beginning to hold contractors accountable for taking millions in federal money and then failing to get the job done for the taxpayer,” Tester, who has sponsored legislation to overhaul the security-clearance process, said in a statement. “As OPM shifts this workload to federal employees and other contractors, the agency must ensure high-quality and timely investigations. Our national security is too important not to.”
USIS said in a statement that it is “deeply disappointed with OPM’s decision, particularly given the excellent work our 3,000 employees have delivered on these contracts. While we disagree with the decision and are reviewing it, we intend to fulfill our obligations to ensure an orderly transition. The company continues to provide high quality service to its many other valued government customers.”
OPM officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The Associated Press first reported that the OPM would not renew the contracts.
The OPM and the Department of Homeland Security issued stop-work orders last month after the cyberattack, which potentially exposed the records of thousands of government employees.
Since then, the two agencies that suspended the work have been trying to shift the background investigations to other contractors or do them in-house, the OPM has said.
But USIS’s caseload was significant, averaging about 21,000 background checks a month. USIS, which conducted background clearances for National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis, has come under criticism for allegedly churning through investigations and cutting corners.
The company also faces a whistleblower lawsuit that was joined by the Justice Department and accuses the company of submitting 665,000 background checks that were incomplete.
In recent years, the OPM has scaled back its reliance on USIS, which was paid $417 million in fiscal 2010 and $320 million last year, according to the agency. During that time, more work went to two other contractors: KeyPoint Government Solutions and CACI. KeyPoint’s payments jumped from $85 million to $138 million; CACI’s rose from $17 million to $46 million.
USIS has had a long history of performing background checks for the government. The company was created when it was spun off by the OPM in an unprecedented privatization plan during the Clinton administration in the mid-1990s.
It has been performing the checks ever since.
The company also has come under fire from members of Congress who questioned why the Department of Homeland Security recently awarded it a contract, worth up to $190 million, to provide field support services related to the agency’s immigration system.
That contract is being protested by one of USIS’s competitors.
Is There Any Part of Government That Hasn’t Been Hacked Yet?
By Frank Konkel
September 10, 2014 3 Comments
Cybersecurity has been touted by the Obama administration as one of its top technology priorities over the past several years, but heightened visibility alone has done little to deter adversaries that include state-sponsored hackers, hackers for hire, cyber syndicates and terrorists.
Consider the testimony today from some of the nation’s top cybersecurity experts before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.
Suzanne Spaulding, undersecretary of the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate, told lawmakers DHS’ National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center – or NCCIC – has already responded to more than 600,000 cyber incidents this fiscal year.
In response to many of those incidents, NCCIC issued more than 10,000 actionable alerts to recipients to help protect their systems and in 78 instances deployed on-site teams to provide technical assistance.
High-profile cyber breaches – such as those affecting Target, Home Depot and even celebrities’ private photos – trickle out on a near daily basis. But it’s clear the vulnerabilities aren’t relegated to the commercial sector.
When committee members asked Robert Anderson, the executive assistant director for the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal, Cyber, Response and Services branch, how much of government hasn’t been hacked yet, he offered a stark reply.
Despite demurring that he probably couldn’t answer the question exactly “off the top of his head,” Anderson said any part of government that hasn’t been hacked yet probably has been hacked – and hasn’t realized it yet.
“The bottom line is, we’re losing a lot of data, money and innovation” to adversaries in cyberspace, he said.
Feds Cite ‘Unprecedented’ Collaboration with Industry
The only way to stay ahead of the evolving threats is to collaborate and share information with the private sector, officials testified.
“We’re engaging in an unprecedented level of collaboration” with industry, international law organizations and other bodies, Anderson said, and those partnerships will continue to expand.
For example, the FBI released 40 near real-time alerts on “current and emerging threat trends and technical indicators,” to the private sector – with 21 of those alerts sent to the financial industry.
The agency is now engaging in a more back-and-forth dialogue as opposed to the FBI listening and rarely sharing – which used to be the case.
Anderson also vowed harsher deterrents for malicious actors, referencing the recent indictments of Chinese citizens who were caught hacking the networks of American companies.
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., said he was pleased with FBI’s get-tough approach.
“I’m happy to see the FBI being aggressive on deterrence,” said Coburn, the committee’s ranking Republican. “For so long, we thought building a higher wall was [the way to protect], but people are going to climb over any war we have. We need prosecutorial deterrence. I’m thankful of that attitude from FBI both domestically and internationally.”
Yet, given that adversaries are gearing up with the same evolving, emerging technologies that government and private sector leaders are using – cloud computing, for example – a reactionary approach alone is no longer a viable approach to handling cybersecurity, experts testified.
“Information sharing is only one element of what is needed,” Spaulding, the DHS official said. “We also need to update laws guiding federal agency network security; give law enforcement the tools needed to fight crime in the digital age; create a national data breach reporting requirement; and promote the adoption of cybersecurity best practices within critical infrastructure.”
Meanwhile, Spaulding’s boss – DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson – has an idea of his own to add to the list: passing comprehensive cybersecurity legislation.
“All the bipartisan progress and hard work invested in cybersecurity legislation in this Congress should not go to waste,” Johnson wrote in an op-ed published Tuesday in The Hill.
The Scary Amount of Oil Money ISIS Makes Every Day
Kelsey Harkness / @kelseyjharkness / September 11, 2014 / 0 comments
President Obama, laying out his strategy last night to defeat the Islamist jihadists known as ISIS, stressed that “it will take time to eradicate a cancer” such as the terrorist group represents in the Middle East.
One hurdle in the way of Obama’s intention to work with allies to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIS (also known as ISIL and the Islamic State) is the brutal organization’s control of oil fields in Iraq and Syria.
ISIS uses that oil wealth to help finance its terror operations.
According to the Iraq Energy Institute, an independent, nonprofit policy organization focused on Iraq’s energy sector, the army of radical Islamists controls production of 30,000 barrels of oil a day in Iraq and 50,000 barrels in Syria.
By selling the oil on the black market at a discounted price of $40 per barrel (compared to about $93 per barrel in the free market), ISIS takes in $3.2 million a day.
Eric Bolling, a co-host of “The Five” on Fox News, cited these numbers on Tuesday’s show to explain “why we can’t wait” to counter ISIS.
The Daily Signal independently confirmed Bolling’s statistics with the Iraq Energy Institute.
James Phillips, veteran expert in Middle Eastern affairs at The Heritage Foundation, told The Daily Signal that the revenue gives ISIS a “solid economic base that sustains its continued expansion.”
The oil revenue, which amounts to nearly $100 million each month, allows ISIS to fund its military and terrorist attacks — and to attract more recruits from around the world, including America.
To be successful in counterterrorism efforts, Phillips said, the U.S. and its allies must “push the Islamic State out of the oil fields it has captured and disrupt its ability to smuggle the oil to foreign markets.”
Here’s how Phillips said the ISIS oil operation works:
ISIS sells oil to consumers in territory it controls, roughly the size of Maryland, inside Syria and Iraq. The terrorist group also sells oil to a network of smugglers that developed in the 1990s during Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s rule; that network smuggled oil out of Iraq into Turkey to avoid sanctions imposed by the United Nations.
ISIS also reportedly sells oil, through middlemen, to the Assad regime in Syria that is trying to quell rebellion there. When it comes to making a fast buck, the Middle East has no shortage of “strange bedfellows” willing to do business with each other.
In his speech last night, Obama promised to “redouble” efforts to cut off the Islamic State’s funding.
If the U.S. and its allies are to succeed on that front, Phillips said, they should focus “intently on cutting the oil revenues that make up a large portion of that funding.”
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, September 13, 2014
The focus has largely been on which party will control the U.S. Senate after Election Day. But 36 states are also electing governors this November, and quite a few of those races are unusually competitive.
Right now, the latest projections on the Rasmussen Reports 2014 Gubernatorial Scorecard show that 10 are Toss-Ups. Another six are leaners but still well within striking range for the other side. We have a handful of races left to check on.
This past week, we looked at six representative governor’s races across the country and out into the Pacific and found some interesting results:
— Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper remains locked in a near tie with Republican challenger Bob Beauprez in Colorado.
— GOP Governor Rick Scott and Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist are still running neck-and-neck in Florida.
— Democratic Congressman Mike Michaud now leads incumbent Republican Paul LePage by four points in Maine’s hard-nosed gubernatorial race, with Independent Eliot Cutler a distant third.
— Troubled Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald has now fallen 20 points behind Republican Governor John Kasich in Ohio.
— Democrat John Kitzhaber has a 10-point lead over Republican challenger Dennis Richardson in his bid for a fourth term as governor of Oregon.
— The race to be the next governor of the Aloha State is nearly dead even.
We reported on just two Senate races this past week. One is no surprise: Longtime Republican Senator Susan Collins holds a near two-to-one lead over Democrat Shenna Bellows in her bid for reelection in Maine. This one’s definitely Safe Republican.
But Kay Hagan’s “war on women” strategy may be beginning to pay off in North Carolina. The embattled incumbent Democrat has now moved ahead of Republican challenger Thom Tillis in a race that’s critical to GOP hopes for winning the Senate.
Tillis, like many Republican hopefuls, is counting on the continuing unpopularity of Obamacare to make a difference on Election Day. The health care law definitely isn’t winning any new friends: 56% of voters have an unfavorable opinion of it again this month.
However, Republicans hoping to knock off incumbents who voted for the law may be as surprised as we were to find out that nearly one-out-of-three (31%) voters still don’t know how their congressional representative voted on Obamacare.
Slightly more are not even aware which political party controls the House of Representatives and which has a majority in the Senate – less than two months before an election that may put one party in charge of both. It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of representative democracy.
Check our latest video election update.
Republicans continue to lead Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot. After trailing for much of this year, Republicans have now led five out of the past six weeks, although the two parties have been separated by two points or less.
Democrats are more likely than Republicans and unaffiliated voters to vote early if they can.
President Obama’s daily job approval ratings continue to hover in the negative high teens.
One likely reason is that voters continue to believe cutting taxes and government spending will help the economy, but many still expect the Obama administration to do just the opposite.
We asked again just before the anniversary date this past week: Do Americans still remember September 11, 2001?
Worry that another 9/11 could happen in the next 10 years is at its highest level since 2010, and Americans still fear a domestic terror attack more than one from outside the country.
Speaking of domestic terror, most Americans think Ray Rice should be banned from the NFL.
Just before the video of Rice knocking out his fiancée with a punch became public, half of American Football Fans approved of the National Football League’s new crackdown against players guilty of domestic violence. Rice has since been fired by the Baltimore Ravens and suspended indefinitely from playing.
A sizable number of both women and men say they have been victims of domestic violence and question whether legal authorities are taking the problem seriously enough.
Just 24% of Americans think professional athletes are good role models for young children.
Still, an overwhelming number of Americans consider sports important in childhood development, although most parents think winning is more important than just participating on a team. Americans also believe free play is better than organized sports activities.
Seventy-nine percent (79%) think children today do not get enough exercise.
In other surveys last week:
— Twenty-six percent (26%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.
— Americans still think a government job pays better and requires less work than one with a private company.
— Voters say sanctions against Russia haven’t done much to ease tensions in Ukraine, but they favor stepping up that pressure if fighting in Ukraine resumes.
— Bullying remains a serious issue for Americans, but now more are saying it’s a problem for the schools, not parents, to handle.
— School’s back in session, but what do Americans think of what kids are being taught and how much it costs?
Also on a blog at https://newswirefeed.wordpress.com/
A Call for a Low-Carb Diet
By ANAHAD O’CONNORSEPT. 1, 2014
People who avoid carbohydrates and eat more fat, even saturated fat, lose more body fat and have fewer cardiovascular risks than people who follow the low-fat diet that health authorities have favored for decades, a major new study shows.
The findings are unlikely to be the final salvo in what has been a long and often contentious debate about what foods are best to eat for weight loss and overall health. The notion that dietary fat is harmful, particularly saturated fat, arose decades ago from comparisons of disease rates among large national populations.
But more recent clinical studies in which individuals and their diets were assessed over time have produced a more complex picture. Some have provided strong evidence that people can sharply reduce their heart disease risk by eating fewer carbohydrates and more dietary fat, with the exception of trans fats. The new findings suggest that this strategy more effectively reduces body fat and also lowers overall weight.
The new study was financed by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. It included a racially diverse group of 150 men and women — a rarity in clinical nutrition studies — who were assigned to follow diets for one year that limited either the amount of carbs or fat that they could eat, but not overall calories.
“To my knowledge, this is one of the first long-term trials that’s given these diets without calorie restrictions,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who was not involved in the new study. “It shows that in a free-living setting, cutting your carbs helps you lose weight without focusing on calories. And that’s really important because someone can change what they eat more easily than trying to cut down on their calories.”
Diets low in carbohydrates and higher in fat and protein have been commonly used for weight loss since Dr. Robert Atkins popularized the approach in the 1970s. Among the longstanding criticisms is that these diets cause people to lose weight in the form of water instead of body fat, and that cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors climb because dieters invariably raise their intake of saturated fat by eating more meat and dairy.
Many nutritionists and health authorities have “actively advised against” low-carbohydrate diets, said the lead author of the new study, Dr. Lydia A. Bazzano of the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. “It’s been thought that your saturated fat is, of course, going to increase, and then your cholesterol is going to go up,” she said. “And then bad things will happen in general.”
The new study showed that was not the case.
By the end of the yearlong trial, people in the low-carbohydrate group had lost about eight pounds more on average than those in the low-fat group. They had significantly greater reductions in body fat than the low-fat group, and improvements in lean muscle mass — even though neither group changed their levels of physical activity.
While the low-fat group did lose weight, they appeared to lose more muscle than fat.
“They actually lost lean muscle mass, which is a bad thing,” Dr. Mozaffarian said. “Your balance of lean mass versus fat mass is much more important than weight. And that’s a very important finding that shows why the low-carb, high-fat group did so metabolically well.”
The high-fat group followed something of a modified Atkins diet. They were told to eat mostly protein and fat, and to choose foods with primarily unsaturated fats, like fish, olive oil and nuts. But they were allowed to eat foods higher in saturated fat as well, including cheese and red meat.
A typical day’s diet was not onerous: It might consist of eggs for breakfast, tuna salad for lunch, and some kind of protein for dinner — like red meat, chicken, fish, pork or tofu — along with vegetables. Low-carb participants were encouraged to cook with olive and canola oils, but butter was allowed, too.
Over all, they took in a little more than 13 percent of their daily calories from saturated fat, more than double the 5 to 6 percent limit recommended by the American Heart Association. The majority of their fat intake, however, was unsaturated fats.
The low-fat group included more grains, cereals and starches in their diet. They reduced their total fat intake to less than 30 percent of their daily calories, which is in line with the federal government’s dietary guidelines. The other group increased their total fat intake to more than 40 percent of daily calories.
Both groups were encouraged to eat vegetables, and the low-carbohydrate group was told that eating some beans and fresh fruit was fine as well.
In the end, people in the low-carbohydrate group saw markers of inflammation and triglycerides — a type of fat that circulates in the blood — plunge. Their HDL, the so-called good cholesterol, rose more sharply than it did for people in the low-fat group.
Nonetheless, those on the low-carbohydrate diet ultimately did so well that they managed to lower their Framingham risk scores, which calculate the likelihood of a heart attack within the next 10 years. The low-fat group on average had no improvement in their scores.
The decrease in risk on the low-carbohydrate diet “should translate into a substantial benefit,” said Dr. Allan Sniderman, a professor of cardiology at McGill University in Montreal.
One important predictor of heart disease that the study did not assess, Dr. Sniderman said, was the relative size and number of LDL particles in the bloodstream. Two people can have the same overall LDL concentration, but very different levels of risk depending on whether they have a lot of small, dense LDL particles or a small number of large and fluffy particles.
Eating refined carbohydrates tends to raise the overall number of LDL particles and shift them toward the small, dense variety, which contributes to atherosclerosis. Saturated fat tends to make LDL particles larger, more buoyant and less likely to clog arteries, at least when carbohydrate intake is not high, said Dr. Ronald M. Krauss, the former chairman of the American Heart Association’s dietary guidelines committee.
Small, dense LDL is the kind typically found in heart patients and in people who have high triglycerides, central obesity and other aspects of the so-called metabolic syndrome, said Dr. Krauss, who is also the director of atherosclerosis research at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute.
“I’ve been a strong advocate of moving saturated fat down the list of priorities in dietary recommendations for one reason: because of the increasing importance of metabolic syndrome and the role that carbohydrates play,” Dr. Krauss said.
Dr. Mozaffarian said the research suggested that health authorities should pivot away from fat restrictions and encourage people to eat fewer processed foods, particularly those with refined carbohydrates.
The average person may not pay much attention to the federal dietary guidelines, but their influence can be seen, for example, in school lunch programs, which is why many schools forbid whole milk but serve their students fat-free chocolate milk loaded with sugar, Dr. Mozaffarian said.
FAA Deploys New Air Traffic Control System Despite Flaws
By: Amanda Vicinanzo, Contributing Editor
08/28/2014 ( 8:30am)
Numerous red flags regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) new air traffic control system — the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) – were raised in a recent Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (OIG) memo.
Designed to modernize the automation systems that controllers rely on to manage traffic, FAA began implementing STARS to support the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), a 20-year initiative developed to usher in a new generation of aviation by switching to technologies and procedures that enhance the FAA’s ability to track aircraft safely, securely and efficiently.
The OIG expressed concerns that the failure of STARS could affect the success of NextGen, stating that, “Because STARS is on the critical path to introducing NextGen capabilities, these risks also impact the long-term viability of NextGen.”
After receiving a “hotline complaint” about STARS deployment at the Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility, the OIG took a deeper look into the agency’s progress in implementing the system.
The Inspector General’s office discovered that the FAA continued its inaugural deployment of STARS at DFW/ TRACON despite warnings that the software suffers from unstable requirements. FAA is also currently working to install STARS at ten other large terminal facilities, which will each require their own unique software requirements and modifications.
According to the memo, the OIG conducted a review of STARS in May 2013 and discovered a number of significant problems, concluding “that the system could ultimately fall short of providing promised capabilities for controlling takeoffs and landings — the most critical phases of flight.”
Despite recommendations the OIG made in the 2013 report, the FAA has yet to stabilize STARS software requirements. The memo stated that, “Specifically, FAA’s risk mitigation tests of STARS software indicates that as of February 2014, 114 requirements are now needed — including the 46 that FAA identified during initial deployment.”
Consequently, the OIG concluded that “The STARS deployment incorporates fewer capabilities than the system it aims to replace.” Although the FAA planned to stabilize software requirements at all eleven sites by June 2014, the deadline has now been extended to September 2014.
The OIG also questioned the adequacy of FAA’s training and certification of technical operations specialists. While the FAA asserted that site familiarization training is not a required part of the STARS training program, the OIG noted that “site familiarization training is important because DFW TRACON and the other remaining sites have unique characteristics that impact the use of the STARS system to help controllers manage air traffic.”
The memo notes that the uncertainty at DFW TRACON will have “a cascading effect” on the other ten sites, which could put STARS at significant risk for cost overruns and schedule delays.
“Through fiscal year 2013, FAA spent nearly $338 million of the $438 million approved baseline to implement STARS deployments at all 11 TRACONs. However, if FAA receives its budget request for fiscal year 2015 for STARS deployments at the 11 TRACONs, it will exceed its baseline by $19 million,” the memo said.
The OIG’s memo arrived on the heels of a mounting debate over the potential merits of privatizing air traffic control. Earlier this year, Transportation Secretary Anthony Fox said the government may be open to privatization of air traffic control if industry stakeholders agree.
“I’ve heard from a variety of stakeholders and so I know there’s a lot of frustration that the political underpinning for our aviation system may be frayed and folks are looking for some alternatives. My feeling is that we should engage with all of the stakeholders and keep our ears and minds open to new and different ways of doing things,” Fox said after delivering the keynote speech at an Aero Club of Washington luncheon in February.
The FAA’s failure to modernize the US air traffic control system, coupled with budget restraints and system inefficiencies, may become the catalyst for further consideration of privatization. Fox stressed, however, the importance of industry stakeholders and government leaders working together to continue to modernize and improve efficiency of the FAA.
“I’m not here to ‘spike the football’ on NextGen,” Fox said. “There’s a lot of work that still needs to be done. We have to continue working to develop tangible outcomes that we can measure in the short term, the medium term and the long term.”
Drone Developers Consider Obstacles That Cannot Be Flown Around
By CONOR DOUGHERTY
SEPT. 1, 2014
SAN FRANCISCO — The tech industry’s enthusiasm for building small delivery drones may be getting ahead of figuring out what to do with them.
On Thursday, with much fanfare, Google revealed Project Wing, an experimental program out of the company’s long-term projects division, called Google X. In a video, Google showed a buzzing aircraft — half plane, half helicopter — using a 200-foot fishing line to drop dog treats to a farmer in Queensland, Australia.
But for all the Tomorrowland wonder of a potential delivery-by-drone service, plenty of issues will be tricky to solve. Drone technology has not been thoroughly tested in populated areas, and commercial use of drones is not allowed in the United States. Even if it were, it is not clear that companies could make a profit using advanced, helicopterlike vehicles to deliver dog food, toothpaste or whatever else a modern family might need.
One of Google’s delivery drones carrying a package during a test run in Queensland, Australia.
Still, dozens of companies have experimented with using drones for tasks like crop dusting and monitoring breaks in railroad tracks and oil pipelines. Late last year, Amazon revealed its own experimental delivery service, Prime Air, which it says could one day deliver packages to customers within a half-hour.
An experimental Google delivery drone in Queensland, Australia. Legal, social and financial hurdles for drone use remain. Credit Google
And researchers at NASA Ames are working on ways to manage that menagerie of low-flying aircraft. At NASA’s Moffett Field, about four miles from Google’s headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., the agency has been developing a drone traffic management program that would in effect be a separate air traffic control system for things that fly low to the ground — around 400 to 500 feet for most drones.
Much like the air traffic control system for conventional aircraft, the program would monitor the skies for weather and traffic. Wind is a particular hazard, because drones weigh so little compared with regular planes.
The system would also make sure the drones do not run into buildings, news helicopters or other lower-flying objects — a more challenging task than for an airplane flying at 30,000 feet. There would also be no-fly zones, such as anywhere near a major airport.
“One at a time you can make them work and keep them safe,” said Parimal H. Kopardekar, a NASA principal investigator who is developing and managing that program. “But when you have a number of them in operation in the same airspace, there is no infrastructure to support it.”
Unlike the typical image of an air traffic control center — a dark room full of people wearing headphones and staring at radar screens — NASA’s system, like the drones themselves, would dispense with the people and use computers and algorithms to figure out where they can and cannot fly.
The commercial viability of delivery drones would depend heavily on two things: how many people live in the area and how much people are willing to pay for the service.
Dr. Kopardekar said he expected the first commercial applications to be in agriculture and “asset monitoring,” like keeping an eye on crops or remote oil pipelines.
“In agriculture, I’m hoping we will see some action inside of the next year,” he said.
Over time — perhaps within five years — Dr. Kopardekar said he expected drones to make deliveries to sparsely populated areas, like rural Australia, where Google spent part of August delivering things like cattle vaccines and candy bars to a farmer.
Of course, the Federal Aviation Administration controls the skies in the United States, and it would have to sign off on any kind of drone management system. An F.A.A. spokesman said the agency expected to publish a proposed rule for small unmanned aircraft (less than 55 pounds) this year.
The F.A.A. prohibition on commercial drone use has not stopped photographers. Indeed, a video of the damage created by the recent earthquake in Napa, Calif., shot by a camera attached to a drone, was widely circulated over the Internet last week. And hobbyists do not need F.A.A. permission, so long as they don’t endanger other “aircraft or people or property.”
Google plans to spend the next year improving its drone’s ability to navigate between two points, as well as its “detect and avoid” system, the network of sensors that keeps it from running into things, according to a spokeswoman. The company expects it to be “a few years but less than a decade” before people can realistically use it.
But for drones to make it into cities, the technology of delivery could end up taking a back seat to everything else.
“There is the technology piece and then there is the public acceptance piece, and both have to evolve,” Dr. Kopardekar said. “If they are taken over by some rogue elements, how do you manage them? How do you have them safely land and take off in the presence of a grandma doing landscaping and kids playing soccer?”
This may explain why Domino’s Pizza, based in Ann Arbor, Mich., sees a long future for human delivery drivers. Last year, after one of the pizza chain’s British franchisees published a heavily shared video that showed a drone delivering pizza, there was much excitement about the prospect of pizza by drone. Sadly, that was a one-time publicity stunt.
“We did not and are not testing drone delivery,” a Domino’s spokesman, Tim McIntyre, wrote in an email. “Given the fact that these things have spinning blades, could be stolen, shot at or batted like piñatas, we didn’t think the idea would ‘fly’ here in the U.S.”
Pentagon Says Website Improves Communication Between DoD, Industry
Sep. 2, 2014 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER |
WASHINGTON — A US Defense Department website has helped DoD gain better insight into industry’s research-and-development projects and improved face-to-face meetings between contractors and their military counterparts, Pentagon officials say.
Called the Defense Innovation Marketplace, the website allows the Pentagon to post what types of technology it is seeking and companies can post the types of research they’re conducting. The information is stored securely, so only certain people within DoD can access it. The information is not shared between companies.
Each of the military services is using the website, but the Air Force has used it to replace industry days. The services still hold industry days, just fewer.
“It’s all about increasing the dialog, but being smart dialog in making it more efficient,” said Jack Blackhurst, director of plans and programs at the Air Force Research Laboratory.
For instance, the Pentagon is currently seeking more information through the website about autonomy research being conducted in industry.
“We’re trying to take a basic system that was designed to communicate between a couple of different entities and we’re bringing a lot of other different technologies to the table because we think the value of it is really tremendous in terms of the ability of many people to get access to information as well as many people to receive information,” Blackhurst said.
In the future, Blackhurst said he sees DoD relying more on the website leading to even more productive meetings in government
Clean CR, Sequestration Hopes: Fall Hill Predictions
By Colin Clark
on September 02, 2014 at 7:01 PM
WASHINGTON: Summer is done. Elections loom. Senators and representatives spent August wining and dining donors and kissing babies in pursuit of a job.
In the next few days most of Capitol Hill’s workforce will return from the summer recess and most efforts will be focused on winning reelection and ensuring the primacy of whichever tribe one favors.
I spent a few hours last week chatting with lobbyists and the few Hill staff I could reach to get some read on what is the likely course of events through Christmas. (Remember, there are those elections coming in November.) The basics: a clean Continuing Resolution is probable (meaning that the government will be funded through at least the elections and no partisan policy riders will be attached by either side); hope appears to be rising among both defense Democrats and Republicans that some fix can be found to avert sequestration, which returns in force in fiscal 2016; the National Defense Authorization Act (the defense policy bill) probably isn’t going to get done in September, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in late July that he thinks he can get it to the floor this month.
“We’ve heard that from the Senate before,” a skeptical House Republican said of Reid’s suggestion — which is all it can be in the proud Senate, where everyone has a veto. “I think the chairman (Rep. Buck McKeon) would welcome the Senate addressing it in September and then have a conference with passage later in the fall. But he’s prepared to look at other paths to passage… like we did last year.” Those who dig through every utterance and printed page related to the NDAA will remember that the bill was rushed out through a pretty unique process last year, where the chairmen and ranking members of the two committees sat down, negotiated a compromise bill and pretty much handed it to members, saying: it’s good, please pass it. And they did.
With an election facing them, neither Democrats nor Republicans want to be blamed for failing to pass a defense policy bill for the first time in 54 years while the world seems to get hotter with each passing week, so the bill will probably pass.
A GOP lobbyist is optimistic the Senate can start work on the bill in September, “…but I’m not sure they can get the NDAA done by then.” Given that Congress has about two weeks in which to do their work before scampering home to get reelected (or reminded of their essential fungibility) getting anything done will be tough — especially with the crises in Ukraine and the Middle East raising their very ugly heads at the same time.
The GOP lobbyist believes passing the CR and reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank will be the top goals of Congress, so that increases pressure on the NDAA even more.
As to the hope for a fix of sequestration, the GOP aide points to a “shift” in conservative media and some lawmakers over the last two months in favor of scrapping sequestration instead of their heedless rush to mangle any pretense at rational budgetary planning.
Sen. Carl Levin, outgoing chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke of rising hopes for a deal of some sort. “I’m hoping it will happen during September or during the lame-duck” session in November and December, he told CongressWatch. Levin, wise and wily man that he is, has long been optimistic about some sort of a deal because, in part, that’s how you pressure the other side. But it’s also because he is an optimist who believes his colleagues usually do the right thing — in the end.
The GOP lobbyist, echoing several others who wouldn’t speak for quotation, was skeptical of any break in the logjam. It certainly seems the GOP is less mad than it has been the last few years — the lobbyist said “it would be madness for us to try and shut down the government again” — but the press of business on the Hill and the pressures of the election mean “it’s not going to be addressed before the election.”
Then we must endure the post-electoral show. If the GOP wins the Senate — unlikely, but possible — there may actually be a better chance to fix sequestration, I think. Remember Nixon and China. Political cover is always helpful when trying to do something controversial.
An Air Force Strategy Stuck in the Future
USAF Misses Daunting Problems of the Present (Like the F-35)
September 2, 2014
By Robert Farley
Alex Ward of the Atlantic Council thinks the world of the Air Force’s new strategic white paper, A Call to the Future, suggesting that the document is the best of its kind. Contra Ward, I think that the white paper concentrates so much on the future that it ignores the present problems that will inevitably structure how the organization moves forward.
Addressed to “Airmen and Airpower Advocates,” America’s Air Force: A Call to the Future sounds a lot of familiar notes. It hypes the concept of “strategic agility,” a worthy contribution, but ends up defining the service’s contribution in reactive terms. A Call to the Future tackles procurement failures and speaks to the need for partnerships, but fails to contribute seriously to the most gripping procurement problem the Air Force currently faces – the F-35 – or to provide a framework for thinking about the failure of airpower partnerships in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Service strategic papers often amount to boring “bumper sticker” accounts of what an organization does, intended to sell the current leadership line to the members and to the wider public. But the process writing these bumper stickers can be brutal, upending careers and setting the terms for how an organization’s leadership views the future.
A Call to the Future sees technological change and instability as the drivers of changes in the Air Force’s mission in the future. Strategic agility (defined as flexibility, adaptability, and responsiveness) provides an answer to the problem of rapid, unexpected change, which has become the hallmark of the post-War on Terror world. Technological innovation and the geopolitical instability drive this change. According to the document, air power makes a unique, irreplaceable contribution to strategic agility.
Fundamentally, however, the document indicates an organization focused on response and reaction, rather than on shaping. There’s an unusual humility to this, in that it grants limitations to the ability of the United States to structure the international environment, but it does suggest a limitation to the Air Force’s vision, especially with respect to the management of the commons.
By contrast, the Navy’s 2007 Cooperative Strategy saw much more of a “shaping” role, arguing that certain approaches to the commons (sea, air, space, and cyberspace) could help shift national attitudes, interests, and motivations. The Air Force has long struggled with the idea of the “commons” as a special international space, rather than as an avenue for commerce and force projection.
The white paper talks about a few new technologies, including hypersonics, unmanned aircraft, autonomous systems, and directed energy weapons. It also works through some of the problems with the existing procurement process, calling on the Air Force to increase the number of “pivot points” at which it can dispose of expensive or unworkable tech.
Many (perhaps most) readers will see that as an implicit indictment of the F-35 program. What we don’t see is an effort to deal with the damage that the F-35 has already done. Given that A Call to the Future identifies procurement policy as a problem, it makes sense to think that this problem has had negative effects. We’re left to guess at what these effects are, and how the Air Force plans to solve them, which is a problem given that the service is struggling with what amounts to its biggest ever fighter acquisition.
A Call to the Future also has a partnership problem. The document talks a lot about partnerships, including those with industry and Congress (although it’s not really appropriate to describe this relationship as a “partnership”), and with foreign organizations. The Air Force has come under criticism, some deserved and some not, for its work with the Afghan and Iraqi air forces. Many of the problems with those partnerships lay outside of the Air Force’s control, but the complete failure of the Iraqi Air Force to accomplish anything useful in the war against ISIS has weighed against the USAF’s partnership potential.
In this context, you might expect A Call to the Future to have a more complete vision of how to handle partnerships. You’d be wrong. A Call to the Future briefly discusses relationships with foreign air forces, but doesn’t talk much about how to develop partner capabilities. The Air Force’s vision of partnership with foreign orgs seems highly transactional, rather than permanent or constitutive on either side. This again stands in contrast with the Navy’s 2007 white paper, which focuses strongly on developing cooperative relationships with foreign organizations.
Like a lot of government documents, the language of A Call to the Future can evoke groans (“our current capability development paradigm is inadequate”). Also, no document can answer every criticism, or provide a pathway to solving every problem. However, A Call to the Future seems so defiantly focused on the future that it doesn’t pay enough attention to the problems we’ve identified today with how the Air Force does business. This document is worth reading, but it suggests an organization that’s still struggling to figure out the way from present to future.
This article is a response to the following from August 13: “Air Force Has the Strategic Edge.”
Robert Farley is an assistant professor at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. He is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force. Follow him on Twitter at @drfarls.
DoD To Expand Use of Prototyping as Acquisition Budgets Tighten
Sep. 3, 2014 – 03:42PM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments
NEWPORT, R.I. — The Pentagon will expand its use of prototyping as the US Defense Department’s budget tightens, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday.
The use of increased prototyping is directed in Better Buying Power 3.0, the Pentagon’s latest update to its acquisition improvement initiatives designed to get DoD more bang for its buck.
“In times of reduced budgets, prototyping furthers technical advances in [research and development], it helps keep us ahead of the threat and reduces risk by lowering lead times in the event we go forward with production,” Hagel said Wednesday at a conference sponsored by the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance.
“Importantly, [prototyping] also allows us to preserve design teams during any long periods between new product development programs,” he said. “This will be vital to preserving a robust, capable defense industrial base.”
Better Buying Power 3.0 will focus on “innovation and accelerating the flow of technology to our people,” Hagel said.
New acquisition improvement initiatives also include:
■ More use of modular and open systems architectures.
■ Providing industry with draft requirements earlier.
■ Removing obstacles to procuring commercial items.
■ Improving our technology search and outreach in global markets.
“We must be innovative not only in developing the technologies we buy, but also how we buy them, and how we use them in order to achieve our operational and strategic objectives,” Hagel said.
In addition, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon acquisition chief, will convene a Long-Range Research & Development Planning Program “aimed at assuring our technological edge through the next several decades,” Hagel said.
At the same time, Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work is leading an effort to determine what types of new technologies could help the US military outperform adversaries of the future.
“Given the current budget environment, innovation will be critical,” Hagel said.
Hagel also touted “groundbreaking technological change” in the commercial sector, in the areas of robotics, advanced computing, miniaturization and 3D printing.
“DoD must be able to assess which commercial innovations have military potential, rapidly adopt them, adapt them, and then test and refine them, including through war-gaming and demonstrations,” he said.
Throughout his speech, Hagel challenged companies to innovate by developing new technologies, operational concepts and procurement methods. It was the most extensive speech given by Hagel on the subject since becoming defense secretary in February 2013.
“We must take this challenge seriously, and do everything necessary to sustain and renew our military superiority,” Hagel said. “This will not only require active investment by both government and industry, it will require us to once again embrace a spirit of innovation and adaptability across our defense enterprise.”
US dominance in the air, sea, space and cyberspace can no longer be taken for granted, Hagel said.
“[W]hile the United States continues to maintain a decisive military and technological edge over any other potential adversary, our continued superiority is not a given,” he said.
Much of Hagel’s language echoes that of Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics. For nearly a year, Kendall has been sounding the alarm that US technological superiority is at risk.
Hagel has been supportive of Kendall’s comments privately inside the Pentagon, sources say.
The secretary stopped in Newport on his way Wales where he will attend the much-anticipated NATO summit. ■
‘Not Much Drama’: McConnell Predicts Passage of Bill To Avert Govt. Shutdown
Sep. 3, 2014 – 07:42PM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments
WASHINGTON — The US Senate’s embattled top Republican is predicting Congress will pass a funding measure that the president would not veto.
The government will run out of operational funding on Sept. 30. The House and Senate could be long gone by then for another lengthy break, this one to campaign for November’s midterm elections.
Since they are not due back in session until the second week of November, both chambers this month need to pass something Obama will sign to avoid another government shutdown.
Analyst say neither Republicans nor Democrats are eager to head home and face voters amid a closed federal government, especially with the Senate hanging in the balance. That’s especially true of McConnell, who is locked in a tight re-election fight in the Bluegrass State.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled Wednesday that lawmakers almost surely will this month pass a shutdown-averting bill that Obama will sign.
“The only people talking about a government shutdown are the Democrats and nobody has any interest in doing that. So I think we’ll pass a clean CR [continuing resolution] that would operate the government probably into December,” McConnell said during a Fox Business Channel interview. “And that will be the height of the drama. Not much drama on that issue.”
A CR would merely fund all department and agencies at past-year levels, and prevent the Pentagon and other entities from actions such as starting new acquisition programs, firing up new production lines and negotiating multiyear contracts.
By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
on September 03, 2014 at 3:49 PM
NATIONAL PRESS CLUB: “We have lost the electromagnetic spectrum,” said Alan Shaffer, the Pentagon’s research and engineering chief, this morning. “That’s a huge deal when you think about fielding advanced systems that can be [countered] by a very, very cheap digital jammer.”
We’ve heard senior Pentagon officials fret about electronic warfare before, most prominently the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Jonathan Greenert, but this is the bluntest and most alarming statement yet.
“We have got to, in my opinion, regain some dominance in the electromagnetic spectrum, or at least parity, so things that we buy continue to operate as we intended them to,” Shaffer said. For example, the Pentagon’s biggest program ever, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, has much-touted information technology built-in, but, he told reporters cryptically after his public remarks, “if we don’t really pay attention to the EM spectrum, it is not a good news story for the F-35.”
So what the hell happened? “There is no single answer,” Shaffer said when I asked him at the annual Common Defense (ComDef) conference here. Part of the problem is that the US government has sold off many of radio frequencies it used to own, “for good economic reasons,” he told the audience.
But by far the bigger factor is the global shift from analog to digital technologies, with a proliferation of high-powered, low-cost, commercially available equipment driven by Moore’s Law. The kind of electronic eavesdropping and jamming that used to require a nation-state’s resources are now available to small countries and even guerrillas (as well as to innovators inside the Defense Department). “People are able to create very agile, capable systems for very little money, and those agile, capable systems — if we don’t develop counters — can impact the performance of some of our high-end platforms,” Shaffer said.
What Shaffer didn’t say is that the US military neglected electronic warfare for at least the decade after the Soviet Union fell. After 9/11, radio-detonated roadside bombs triggered a rush to get EW gear to ground troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, but outside that narrow area, investments still lagged. While the Air Force has high hopes for the F-35, it has only a handful of dedication electronic warfare aircraft left, the EC-130H Compass Calls. The Navy has spent heavily to replace the geriatric EA-6B Prowler with the sleek EA-18G Growler — but to date it’s putting a lot of old electronics in that new airplane: A new Next-Generation Jammer (NGJ) to go on the Growler is still in development.
Nor has the military take full advantage of new sensor and communications technology. “We have stayed largely in our standard radar and communication bands,” such as X-band radar, Shaffer said, “while the rest of the world has moved to higher and lower frequency….They’ve gone to broader bandwidth and more agile systems.”
As a result, we have cases where Iraqi insurgents could watch video feeds from Predator drones because no one bothered to encrypt the signal. While the guerrillas seem not to have made much of the jittery, out-of-context images, a more sophisticated opponent could have mined them for intelligence, jammed the link between the drones and their human operators, or even hacked into the US network.
A leading independent expert on future warfare agreed with this grim picture.
“Shaffer is absolutely correct,” said Ben Fitzgerald of the Center for a New American Security when I showed him a transcript of the remarks. “Many of the technologies the U.S. uses, GPS for example, don’t use especially strong signals and are susceptible to denial from other systems that are increasingly affordable.”
GPS is arguably the most glaring single vulnerability. While civilians worldwide have come to take the Global Positioning System for granted as part of daily life, the US Air Force still runs GPS, and all branches of the military depend on it for everything from foot patrols in Afghanistan to smart-bomb strikes in Iraq. But GPS jammers are getting cheaper.
“I’d love to give GPS to the Department of Transportation and do precision navigation and timing [PNT] terrestrially,” i.e. without using satellites. “I can’t do that yet,” Shaffer told reporters after his formal remarks, “[but] we’re getting pretty close.” DARPA is leading research on using atomic clocks and other technologies to let military units know exactly where and when they are without having to depend on a satellite signal.
DARPA is doing “good work,” said CNAS’s Fitzgerald, but the technology is not yet mature, let alone ready to affordably retrofit to a host of existing systems.
So, as the civilian world relies ever more on networks and mobile devices, the military is now wrestling with how to keep fighting if the enemy pulls the plug.
FBI Probes Possible Russian Cyberattack on Major US Banks
By: Amanda Vicinanzo, Contributing Editor
09/03/2014 ( 9:21am)
The FBI and US Secret Service are investigating a significant breach of corporate computer security at J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., the largest bank by assets in the United States, and several other unnamed financial institutions. The attack possibly was carried out by hackers with ties to Russia.
“We are working with the United States Secret Service to determine the scope of recently reported cyber-attacks against several American financial institutions,” FBI spokesman Joshua Campbell said in a statement.
Although the extent of the attack remains unknown, highly skilled hackers allegedly infiltrated the bank and compromised gigabytes of data after slowly siphoning customer data from the company’s corporate network over the course of a three month period. The hackers used layer upon layer of malware custom-built for J.P. Morgan’s website.
One source indicated the hackers appear to have originally breached J.P. Morgan’s network via an employee’s personal computer, which used virtual private network software to work remotely.
“Companies of our size unfortunately experience cyberattacks nearly every day,” said Trish Wexler, a J.P. Morgan spokeswoman and senior vice president of corporate communications. “We have multiple layers of defense to counteract any threats and constantly monitor fraud levels.”
IT security company KnowBe4 indicated that news of this data breach came just days after J.P. Morgan customers were targeted by a large wave of phishing emails trying to get their banking username and password. Cybersecurity firm Proofpoint who discovered the campaign — dubbed “Smash and Grab” — said that victims were lead to a fake login portal, which delivered banking malware made to look like a Java update after their username and password are entered into the form.
“It looks like they sent it out to lots of people in hopes that some of them might be JPMorgan Chase customers,” Wexler said.
As Bloomberg News first reported, cybersecurity experts believe the timing, style and sophistication of the attack points to possible Russian retaliation for Western-imposed sanctions on the country over its involvement in the Ukraine military conflict.
Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence who had been briefed on the attacks, described them to USA Today as very sophisticated.
“Clearly, either they were aided by or conducted by a state sponsor,” Rogers said.
The cyberattack on J.P. Morgan is one in a long string of recent data breaches connected to Russia. Earlier this month, a Russian cybercrime ring dubbed “CyberVor” stole 1.2 billion internet user names and passwords, amassing what is now the largest known collection of stolen credentials in history.
Homeland Security Today reported last month that Department of Homeland Security (DHS) also recently alerted critical infrastructure operators to the Russian hacking group known as “Energetic Bear,” or “Dragonfly,” behind an ongoing malware campaign primarily targeting the energy sector in the United States and Europe with the capability to sabotage the power supply of attacked countries.
After the attack on Target last year, which compromised the personal information of millions of consumers, companies and government agencies need to consider new ways to up their cybersecurity game. The attack on J.P. Morgan calls into question the financial sector’s preparedness in meeting the grave threat of sophisticated nation-state cyberattacks.
Jamie Dimon, chairman and chief executive of J.P. Morgan, acknowledged the rising threat of sophisticated cyberattacks in his annual shareholder’s letter in April, saying, “Cyberattacks are growing every day in strength and velocity across the globe,” he wrote. “It is going to be a continual and likely never-ending battle to stay ahead of it — and, unfortunately, not every battle will be won.”
He wrote that the bank will spend more than $250 million annually and have about 1,000 people focused on cybersecurity by the end of 2014. J.P. Morgan also plans to create three state-of-the-art Cybersecurity Operations Centers in its regional headquarters to coordinate incoming information, identify threats, create response procedures and coordinate security of its buildings world-wide.
Despite these precautions, Dimon acknowledged that “Unfortunately, not every battle will be won.” As the latest victim of a major cyberattack, however, J.P. Morgan lost an important battle. KnowBe4 indicates that this particular battle was lost by ignoring the weakest link in IT security: the human.
According to Stu Sjouwerman, CEO of KnowBe4, “The weak link in this case is an employee, as their personal computer got infected with malware, and we can guess how that happened. They clicked on a link or were social engineered to open up an attachment that carried a malicious payload. The human is the weak link in IT security, and this latest data breach again shows how true this is. The employee probably fell for a spear-phishing attack and clicked on something they should not have.”
Although J.P. Morgan spends more than $250 million a year and has about 1,000 people focused on cybersecurity, those resources are wasted if the company does not also consider the human factor. According to Sjouwerman, when hackers broke into Target last year, they originally infiltrated the retailer by stealing a ventilation contractor’s password.
“All that time and money is wasted unless you also pay attention to the ‘human firewall’ something companies need to create first and foremost. That can be accomplished with effective security awareness training for all employees that have a PC and have access to the Internet,” Sjouwerman said.
What Does Alleged iCloud Hack Mean For Federal Agencies?
By Aliya Sternstein
September 2, 2014 2 Comments
Most federal agency employees with iPhones probably don’t have to worry about hackers ogling naked photos of them saved in Apple’s iCloud backup system.
But they might have cause for concern about attackers targeting the cloud service to peer at sensitive government information, cybersecurity experts warn.
The problem, experts say, is a lack of awareness. iCloud, by default, automatically backs up a user’s device over Wi-Fi every day, according to Apple’s website.
Federal employees could be uploading sensitive information when they work on their personally owned iPhones — unless agencies take action. And it is not clear that they are.
“Most people have no concept that the data goes out to different places,” said Kevin Johnson, CEO of Secure Ideas, a company that tests federal systems for security holes.
The concerns, however, appear to be largely limited to employees’ personal devices. The federal agencies contacted by Nextgov said they blocked access to iCloud on government-owned devices — and even some personal devices — as a matter of agency policy.
Concerns Not Limited to Apple
Over the weekend, cybercrooks allegedly snatched explicit photos from the iCloud accounts of dozens of female celebrities, including Oscar winner Jennifer Lawrence, and dumped some of them online. Whether this was done through a bug in Apple’s infrastructure, surveillance software, cracking each celeb’s password or a combination of the above is unclear.
But if federal employees don’t know to disable the service, iCloud could potentially save the GPS coordinates of undisclosed federal facilities, wireless device configurations, work documents an employee wants to work on at home and office photos, among other things.
Those worries aren’t limited to Apple.
“Some Android phones automatically sync to [cloud storage site] Dropbox, which is even more of a concern because Dropbox is designed to be used for any file type, whereas iCloud is for specific types,” Johnson said.
Jerry Irvine, a member of the National Cyber Security Partnership, a public-private organization, said personal devices synced to iCloud or any other uncontrolled third-party cloud certainly present a threat to the government.
The “phone itself is connected to the agency’s network and the iCloud,” he said. “If a federal employee or a consultant is allowed to bring their personal iPhone into the work environment, that is a potential risk.”
Irvine, who consults for state and local agencies, added: “They could send emails. They could see emails. All of that could be saved to the cloud without knowledge of the federal government.”
It’s unclear what role, if any, the Department of Homeland Security, which supervises federalwide cybersecurity, plays in regulating agencies bring-your-own device, or BYOD, policies. DHS declined to comment.
The most recent BYOD guidance from the White House is two years old and does not address cloud access.
Agency-Owned Devices More Likely to be Protected
Unlike individually purchased smartphones, government-owned iPhones are more likely to be protected, security professionals and agencies say.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement, for example, deactivates iCloud on each iPhone the agency issues to employees, ICE officials told Nextgov.
“Restrictions are enforced using device policy settings installed on every iPhone ICE provides employees,” agency spokesman Brandon Montgomery said in an email. iCloud is not sanctioned for storing agency data, ICE officials said.
At the General Services Administration, software that centrally manages personnel’s smartphone use, called MaaS360, disables iCloud on both BYOD phones and GSA-owned phones, agency officials told Nextgov.
“GSA does not allow document-sync to iCloud,” agency spokeswoman Jackeline Stewart said in an email.
NASA spokesman Allard Beutel told Nextgov “iCloud is not approved” for storing and processing NASA data, regardless of whether it’s used on a NASA-owned or a BYOD device. Space agency officials were unable to immediately comment on how they enforce the ban.
As news of the hack surfaced, security researchers described a method for exploiting an iCloud weakness — nicknamed iBrute, for “brute force” — that allowed infiltrators to test tons of password attempts without locking the account. Apple released a patch for the vulnerability shortly afterward.
On Monday, Apple denied the security of the iCloud system was responsible for the breach. An investigation into the incident is still ongoing.
“We have discovered that certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords and security questions,” the company said in a statement. “None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud.”
Why One West Virginia Town Has Banned Cell Phones
By Laura Ryan
September 2, 2014
Only four hours west of Washington, there is a town where cell phones and wireless Internet are outlawed. Commercial radios are banned, and microwaves aren’t welcome either.
Green Bank might sound like a Luddite’s dreamscape, but the West Virginia hamlet’s self-imposed blackout is being done all in the name of science: Green Bank is home to the world’s largest radio telescope, a 100-meters-in-diameter dish that is the crown jewel of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory.
By measuring radio waves emitted from objects in space, the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope can go where optical telescopes can’t. It lets scientists “see” parts of the universe that are invisible to the human eye, giving them the power to study far-off galaxies and the lives of stars and discover new planets.
But to do its job, the telescope needs complete radio silence—a tall order in the digital age, even in a town with only about 150 residents.
And so, within a 10-mile radius of the observatory, Wi-Fi, cell phones, and radios are flat-out banned. And the zone extends further into a 13,000-square-mile area in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia where the use of airwaves is heavily restricted. The restrictions are part of Congress’s 1958 decision to build the National Radio Quiet Zone to protect the NRAO.
A cell phone can throw off the world’s largest telescope because of the latter’s extraordinary sensitivity—a necessity to measure radio frequencies emitted by objects in space. To put this in perspective, a typical cell phone emits two to three watts when it is turned on but not being used. The radio telescope measures 0.00000000000000000000000000000001 watts, or approximately the same amount of energy given off by a single snowflake when it hits the ground. (At that scale, output is measured in a unit called the jansky, named after Karl Jansky, the founder of radio astronomy.)
A ring of mountains gives the area one layer of natural protection from the outside world, but the topography is far from enough to maintain the blackout the telescope needs to operate. And the challenge to keep a radio-free zone radio-free is getting harder, with 90 percent of Americans now owning cell phones and 87 percent of Americans relying on the Internet, according to a recent Pew study.
The task falls on Mike Holstine, whose official title is general manager of the NRAO. But “Defender of the Airwaves” is a more suitable description. Holstine has been at the observatory for 23 years, a span that coincides neatly with the rise of the Internet and cell phones.
In the early days, patrolling the radio blackout was a fairly simple task. Malfunctioning electronics in the community caused most interference, so Holstine could personally knock on the door, explain the problem, and fix it. “We’d try to replace the faulty part or we would fix their appliance or fix their fence,” Holstine said.
But the wireless revolution changed things. Interference has become a daily occurrence, as objects that most Americans take for granted—such as remote controls and microwaves—are airwave mischief-makers. “Most people don’t think about these kinds of things, but we have to think about them all the time,” Holstien said. “Basically anything you have that is electronic is a source of radio-frequency radiation.”
Policing interference requires constant vigilance, cooperation, and creativity.
The NRAO monitors airwave activity 24/7. When Holstine or a member of his crew sees a spike in activity, they hop in a diesel truck equipped with antennas to track down the culprit. If the problem is fixable, they’ll fix it. If not, they’ll ask the owner to stop using it.
This requires close cooperation with the residents of Green Bank and the nearby Snowshoe ski resort. The Federal Communications Commission is the ultimate enforcer of the quiet zone, but Holstine says the observatory rarely turns to the FCC to settle disputes. “We generally have the great support of the community,” Holstine said. “We really wouldn’t be able to do the science we do without their support.”
Instead, Holstine and his team look for engineering solutions that allow the town’s residents and thousands of visitors to enjoy some of the conveniences of the digital age.
As a result, Snowshoe got its first taste of cell reception last year with the help of miniature networks called microcells. But coverage is limited to the the ski village, so resort employees still rely on walkie-talkies to run day-to-day operations of a ski mountain.
George Murphy, chief technology officer for Snowshoe Mountain Resort, says many first-time visitors don’t realize what they are getting themselves into and are “absolutely horrified” when they find themselves without text messaging or Netflix to entertain their kids.
But some problems are impossible to eradicate—such as automobiles. Not only do gasoline engines create interference, but a 2007 federal law requiring new cars to be equipped with a tire pressure monitor essentially puts tiny radio transmitters in every tire.
To fix this, Green Bank lined the roads with evergreen trees. Pine needles are sponges for radio signals, effectively mitigating much of the interference produced by cars.
A few countries, including Australia and Chile, are trying to build radio quiet zones, but Holstine doubts that it would be possible to recreate one in the U.S. today. Technological dependence is so pervasive in American culture, he says, that it would be difficult to “basically tell people what they have they can’t have any longer.”
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, September 06, 2014
Republicans hope they can ride voter unhappiness with Obamacare all the way to control of Congress, but how big a problem is the health care law for Democrats really?
There’s no question that most voters still don’t like the law, as they’ve expressed in regular surveying since its passage by Congress in March 2010. At the same time, the number of Americans who are buying health insurance through the newly established health care exchanges is steadily growing.
Voter sentiment is shifting away from complete repeal. As recently as last December, 50% wanted to repeal the health care law, while 31% thought Congress should review the law piece by piece and improve it. Now those numbers are reversed: Nearly half of voters think Congress should fine tune the law rather than repeal it entirely, although most still feel repeal is likely if Republicans take charge.
We’ve been asking voters regularly for months whether they are more likely or less likely to vote for a congressman who voted for Obamacare. They remain closely divided. But incredibly, one-in-three don’t know if their representative voted for the health care law or not. [Remember, though, only nine percent (9%) think most Americans are informed voters.]
As we poll state by state, the potential impact of Obamacare becomes clearer. In Colorado and Louisiana, for example, the law is even more unpopular than it is nationally, so for incumbent Democratic Senators Mark Udall and Mary Landrieu, it’s a problem.
Obamacare’s unpopularity in Kentucky is good news for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who’s fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes.
In safely Republican Oklahoma, the law is highly disliked, and GOP Congressman James Lankford has a two-to-one lead in the special Senate race there.
In Oregon, on the other hand, the health care law is viewed more favorably. Although the Republican challenger who is a doctor has been pounding away at the law, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley has taken an even wider lead than the last time we checked.
Check our latest video election update for these numbers and more.
President Obama isn’t much help in some states either. Just this week, North Carolina Democrat Kay Hagan, one of the Senate’s most endangered incumbents, passed up a chance to be seen publicly with the president in her state.
Democrats running for reelection this year also are asking the president to delay his reported plan to grant amnesty to several million illegal immigrants without the approval of Congress. Most voters oppose that amnesty plan and think Congress should challenge Obama in court if he goes ahead with it.
The president’s daily job approval rating remains in the negative high teens. His monthly job approval rating held steady at 46% in August for the second month in a row and remains his lowest rating this year.
Republicans have just a one-point lead over Democrats on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. The two parties have been separated by two points or less for most weeks this year.
The economy continues to send mixed signals, so it’s unclear what impact, if any, it will have on the elections. The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence reached a new all-time high in August after falling for two months in a row. But then Friday’s jobs report was a disappointment, signaling a slowdown in growth.
Americans are a bit more optimistic about the current job picture and their future job prospects, but still just 29% think the unemployment rate will be lower in a year’s time.
Coming out of the Labor Day weekend, the Rasmussen Investor Index which measures daily confidence among investors hit its highest level in seven years but then fell back.
Burger King’s planned merger with a Canadian company that will lower its corporate taxes has the Obama administration and others crying foul and looking for ways to stop it. But Americans don’t think the feds should be able to stop a company from moving to another country to reduce its tax load.
Nearly half of Americans recognize that the United States has higher corporate taxes than most other industrialized nations and think higher taxes on corporations hurt the economy.
Taking the focus off the upcoming elections, voters regard the radical Islamic terrorist group ISIS as a major threat to the United States and are very worried that the president doesn’t have a strategy for dealing with the problem.
That concern was further heightened this week with the second public beheading of a U.S. journalist by an ISIS terrorist. Nearly half of voters now support sending U.S. combat troops to Iraq to fight ISIS as part of an international coalition, but voters remain less enthusiastic about U.S. troops fighting alone.
Children nationwide are returning to school. Are parents ready? Taxpayers spend $11,000 per student per year in America, and very few think they’re getting their money’s worth.
Support for the new national Common Core education standards has rebounded among parents of school-age children, but they still question whether it will improve academic performance. Common Core and other government-driven education efforts set universal excellence as their goal, but Americans overwhelmingly agree that no set of standards can ensure that all students reach the top.
In other surveys last week:
— Twenty-five percent (25%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.
— The race to be Arizona’s next governor is a dead heat.
— Believe it or not, most Americans take pleasure in mowing their lawns.
— Labor Day was originally established as a federal holiday in 1894 to honor working Americans, especially those in labor unions. But for most Americans, Labor Day means summer’s over instead.
Also on a blog at https://newswirefeed.wordpress.com/
Tax refunds may get hit due to health law credits
By Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar
WASHINGTON — Taxes? Who wants to think about taxes around Labor Day?
But if you count on your tax refund and you’re one of the millions getting tax credits to help pay health insurance premiums under President Obama’s law, it’s not too early.
Here’s why: If your income for 2014 is going to be higher than you estimated when you applied for health insurance, then complex connections between the health law and taxes can reduce or even eliminate your tax refund next year.
Maybe you’re collecting more commissions in an improving economy. Or your spouse got a better job. It could trigger an unwelcome surprise.
The danger is that as your income grows, you don’t qualify for as much of a tax credit. Any difference will come out of your tax refund, unless you have promptly reported the changes.
Nearly 7 million households have gotten health insurance tax credits, and major tax preparation companies say most of those consumers appear to be unaware of the risk.
”More than a third of tax credit recipients will owe some money back, and [that] can lead to some pretty hefty repayment liabilities,” said George Brandes, vice president for health care programs at Jackson Hewitt Tax Service.
Two basic statistics bracket the potential exposure: The average tax credit for subsidized coverage on the new health insurance exchanges is $264 a month, or $3,168 for a full 12 months. The average tax refund is about $2,690.
Having to pay back even as little as 10 percent of your tax credit can reduce your refund by several hundred dollars.
Tax giant H&R Block says consumers whose incomes grew as the year progressed should act now and contact HealthCare.gov or their state insurance exchange to update their accounts.
They will pay higher health insurance premiums for the rest of this year, but they can avoid financial pain come spring.
”As time goes on, the ability to make adjustments diminishes,” warned Mark Ciaramitaro, H&R Block’s vice president of health care services. ”Clients count on that refund as their biggest financial transaction of the year. When that refund goes down, it really has reverberations.”
The Obama administration says it’s constantly urging newly insured consumers to report changes that could affect their coverage. But those messages don’t drive home the point about tax refunds.
”What probably isn’t clear is that there may be consequences at tax time,” said Ciaramitaro.
Aaron Albright, a spokesman for the US Health and Human Services Department, said the administration plans to ”ramp up” its efforts.
Concern about the complex connection between the health law and taxes has increased recently, after the Internal Revenue Service released drafts of new forms to administer health insurance tax credits next filing season.
The forms set up a final accounting that ensures each household is getting the correct tax credit. Various factors are involved, including income, family size, where you live, and the premiums for a ”benchmark” plan in your community.
Even experts find the forms highly complicated, requiring month-by-month computations for some taxpayers.
Taxpayers accustomed to filing a simplified 1040EZ will not be able to do so if they received health tax credits this year.
■ If your refund isn’t large enough to cover the tax credit repayment, you will have to write the IRS a check.
■ The repayment amount the IRS can collect is capped for most people.
■ There is no collection cap for households making more than four times the federal poverty level. Those income thresholds are $45,960 and above for an individual, $78,120 and above for a family of three, and $94,200 for a family of four.
■ If you overestimated your income and got too small a tax credit for health care, the IRS will increase your refund.
Lawsuits filed challenging stricter FAA rules for model aircraft, commercial drone operations
by Press • 23 August 2014
By JOAN LOWY, Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Model aircraft hobbyists, research universities and commercial drone interests filed lawsuits Friday challenging a government directive that they say imposes tough new limits on the use of model aircraft and broadens the agency’s ban on commercial drone flights.
The three lawsuits asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review the validity of the directive, which the Federal Aviation Administration issued in June. The agency said the directive is an attempt to clarify what is a model aircraft and the limitations on their operation.
The FAA has been working on regulations that would permit commercial drone flights in U.S. skies for more than 10 years, but the agency is still at least months and possibly years away from issuing final rules to permit flights by small drones. Regulations for flights by larger drones are even farther away.
Part of the agency’s challenge is to distinguish between planes flown by hobbyists and those used for commercial applications, a distinction that’s become harder to draw as the technology for model planes has grown more sophisticated.
A law passed by Congress in 2012 directed the FAA to issue regulations permitting commercial drone flights by the fall of 2015, but prohibited the agency from imposing new regulations on model aircraft.
The FAA directive is a backdoor imposition of new regulations on model aircraft hobbyists and commercial drone operators without going through required federal procedures for creating new regulations, said Brendan Schulman, a New York attorney representing the groups that filed the lawsuits. Federal procedures require an opportunity for public comment on proposed regulations and an analysis of the potential costs of the regulations vs. the benefits.
“People who have been using these technologies for years in different ways are concerned that they are suddenly prohibited from doing so without having their voices heard, and without regard to the detrimental impact on the commercial drone industry,” he said. Schulman pointed out that hobbyists have been flying model aircraft nearly 100 years, but he knows of no instance in which a model aircraft has caused the crash of a manned plane or helicopter.
“In situations where there really is no safety issue there appears to be not just some restrictions, but an outright prohibition on activities that have been done for a long time very safely,” he said.
FAA officials had no immediate comment on the lawsuits.
The lawsuits were filed by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, which represents more than 170,000 model aircraft hobbyists; the Council on Governmental Relations, an association of 188 research universities; and several commercial drone and model aircraft interests. Among them are UAS America, a fund that invests in the commercial drone industry; SkyPan International Inc., an aerial photography company; FPV Manuals LLC, a company that sells video systems for unmanned aircraft operators and an association representing commercial drone operators. All argued that the FAA policy would impede their activities, from hobby use to research and innovation.
Boeing Tanker Problems Don’t Concern U.S. Air Force
The Pegasus Tanker Is One of Three Air Force Priority Programs
By Doug Cameron
Aug. 25, 2014 2:31 p.m. ET
A senior U.S. Air Force general said he was unconcerned with development problems on a new aerial refueling tanker being built by Boeing Co. BA -1.32% and even floated the possibility of a future unmanned version.
Chicago-based Boeing last month said it would take a $425 million pretax charge to fix wiring problems and other issues on the KC-46A Pegasus tanker, and has delayed the planned first flight of a test jet.
The Pegasus is one of three Air Force priority programs, part of a broader effort to replace hundreds of aging jets that refuel fighters, bombers and reconnaissance planes.
“I don’t see anything of great concern [about the Pegasus program],” said Gen. Darren McDew, who took over as Commander of Air Mobility Command earlier this year.
Gen. McDew said in an interview on Sunday at the National Guard Association of the U.S. that Boeing hadn’t missed any Air Force milestones on the initial contract to develop a tanker based on the company’s 767-200 passenger jet. The first plane is scheduled to be delivered to the Air Force in 2016.
“New airplanes always get the interest of a lot of people,” he said. “The milestones are the milestones.”
Boeing officials said in May that the Pegasus program was “challenging” and last month said it had identified the technical problems that triggered the charge.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said earlier this year that he expected the first test tanker to make its maiden flight in June, but Boeing has since pushed back the flight to the third quarter. Gen. McDew said June was an internal Boeing target that didn’t affect the contract. The first plane equipped with a refueling boom and other equipment is due to fly in the first quarter of 2015.
Boeing in 2011 ultimately won an aerial tanker contract valued by the Pentagon at up to $41 billion over its lifetime after a decadelong contest it initially lost to a team including Airbus Group EADSY -0.03% NV.
Pentagon officials in May forecast that building the initial four jets of the 179-plane deal may cost up to $5.85 billion compared with its initial estimate of between $4.4 billion and $4.9 billion. The fixed-price deal leaves Boeing liable for all overruns above $4.9 billion.
Boeing is also marketing the new tanker overseas, with upcoming competitions in South Korea and Japan.
The Air Force wants to replace the remainder of its fleet of more than 500 airborne refueling tankers in two further stages.
Gen. McDew said given likely changes in aerospace design in the next 30 years, the Air Force ought to consider unmanned tankers as well as manned versions. “We’re right to be thinking about that,” he added.
The U.S. military is engaged in a broader debate over the future of unmanned aircraft. The Navy is expected to launch a closely watched competition in September to build a large pilotless plane that can be launched from aircraft carriers.
Boeing, Lockheed Martin LMT -0.03% Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp. NOC +0.81% and closely held General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc. all received development funding for the planned Navy drone and are expected to compete for a program valued by analysts at up to $6 billion.
The Navy deal us expected to set broader technology parameters for future unmanned military aircraft, such as as a version of the proposed long-range bomber that Boeing and partner Lockheed Martin is contesting with Northrop Grumman.
Write to Doug Cameron at firstname.lastname@example.org
NOAA struggles to fix vulnerabilities in satellite program
Aug. 26, 2014 – 03:53PM |
By ANDY MEDICI |
A key satellite operations and data collection system at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has significant security flaws which leave the program open to attack, according to an inspector general report released Aug. 21.
The Joint Polar Satellite System’s (JPSS) ground system at NOAA—which gathers and routs data from several satellites to users around the world—had 23,868 high-risk vulnerability instances in the second quarter of fiscal 2014, much more than the 14,486 it had in fiscal 2012, according to the report.
While NOAA should remove any high-risk vulnerabilities within 30 days of identification it took the agency 11 to 14 months to remediate some of them, according to the report. Software updates that would remediate some of the problems only occurred once a year.
And while the agency promised to release two maintenance patches per year over the last two years it has only released one patch so far, according to the report.
“The remediation of high-risk vulnerabilities is critical to the continued success of the
JPSS mission and should have a high priority. The more high-risk vulnerabilities that exist in the system, the higher the probability is that an attacker could compromise it,” the report said.
The IG recommended that NOAA and the JPSS program should:
■ Review the types of vulnerabilities identified in the IG investigation and correct them as soon as possible.
■ Update system processes and patch high-risk areas in order of the most vulnerable.
■ Require that any new vulnerabilities be remediated within three months.
DoD plans overhead cuts
Aug. 26, 2014 – 11:33AM |
By ANDREW TILGHMAN |
The Pentagon is gearing up a new effort to cut overhead and administrative costs. Specifically, the initiative will target the “Fourth Estate” — everything other than the military services and combatant commands, according to Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work.
Targeted components for cuts include the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the 16 defense agencies, including the Tricare Management Agency and the Defense Logistics Agency. Those account for about 20 percent of the overall defense budget.
While the Pentagon has mounted efficiency reviews in the past, this one will be the first to directly involve private-sector experts from the Defense Business Board and the not-for-profit Business Executives for National Security, Work said in an interview.
Work, a retired Marine colonel who took over the Pentagon’s No. 2 position in May, said he understands why many service members are anxious about the future. As defense spending has begun to fall, training has slowed, falling force levels are making promotions harder and the entire compensation system is under review.
He said the darkest cloud hanging over DoD remains the spending caps known as sequestration. A deal on Capitol Hill last year offered a two-year fix, but with only about 13 months until that deal expires in fiscal 2016, the threat of sequestration remains.
At that point, the doomsday scenarios discussed — an urgent shrink of the Army and Marine Corps, aircraft carriers and fighter jets — may be back on the table.
“The members of the services are asking, ‘Can I continue to serve? Will I still have a job in the armed services?’ That’s the first level of uncertainty … and we’re unable to tell them exactly how far down we’ll go because we hope that sequestration will not be triggered.”
If the budget squeeze does tighten again in 2016, “that is going to be even more of a problem,” he said.
How likely is that to happen? Nobody knows because Congress is unpredictable. For now, the Pentagon is drawing up spending plans that exceed the sequestration budget caps. However, he added, military leaders need to have a Plan B in case Congress does nothing. “We have to prepare for the eventuality that” the sequestration law remains on the books.
CompensationWork said it’s unclear whether the Pentagon will propose further cuts to military compensation. The top brass wants to curb personnel cost growth because it could limit new investment in training, weapons systems and cutting-edge technology. W
In March of last year, when sequestration took effect, “readiness went to hell,” Work said bluntly.
The two-year fix that Congress approved last year has allowed the services to resume training and maintenance, for the most part.
Even so, Work said, “We are in a readiness trough, without question. We’re not as deep as we would have been … Congress’ help in that regard really prevented a crisis.”
For now, there is enough money to fully fund units preparing for deployment and those designated as first responders, like the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division.
“Where we have a problem is in our surge forces,” Work said. “We are taking significant risk.”
Yet the deputy secretary avoids the term “tiered readiness,” which for many senior officers negatively evokes the post-Vietnam era and concerns of a “hollow force.”
“Instead of tiered readiness, I’d say ‘time-phased’ readiness, where we don’t have enough money to make sure everyone is C-1 or C-2 at any given time,” he said, referring to the internal readiness scale of “capability levels,” which ranges from C-1 for units fully ready for a wartime mission, to C-5 for units that are not trained or equipped properly for a deployment.
“Think of it as a conveyor belt. The guys at the top of the conveyor belt are the guys out on deployment,” he said.
Tension in Europe
Work said that if tensions between Russia and the West continue to mount, the Pentagon this fall may launch a far-reaching review of the U.S. force levels and military footprint in Europe.
Current efforts to ramp up readiness in Europe — which include deployments of some small U.S. units closer to the Russian border — are a temporary solution to what may be a long-term crisis.
A “program review” could come this fall as DoD prepares its annual budget request for submission early next year. Military leaders may consider fundamental questions about U.S. troop levels in Europe and how they should be positioned across the continent.
“Depending on how [the crisis] plays out, we would take a look in the [fiscal 2016 budget] and say … ‘Do we have to have more rotational forces in Europe than we have otherwise figured we were going to have? Should we station different types of forces in Europe?’ All those things would be on the table,” Work said.
Opinion: No Air Force? No Way!
Aug 25, 2014 By Charles A. Blanchard and Gen. (ret.) Norton A. Schwartz |
Aviation Week & Space Technology
A version of this article appears in the August 25 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.
In early 2001, pundits were challenging the continued relevance of ground forces in the 21st century. The incoming Bush administration was already discussing significant cuts in the size of the U.S. Army in an effort described as transformation. The pundits, of course, were proven wrong just a few months later.
History would repeat itself a decade later, when pundits were having difficulty seeing the relevance of airpower other than as a tool for close air support for ground troops. They argue that the Air Force’s independence was based on discredited theories of the decisive effect of airpower, that an independent Air Force results in an undue reliance on airpower as the solution to military problems and that an independent Air Force distorts procurement decisions by placing an undue emphasis on technology. Some even suggest folding the Air Force into the Army and the Navy to ensure more appropriate procurement decisions and create a more “combined” use of American airpower (AW&ST July 28, p. 50).
A common argument is that airpower alone is rarely decisive in modern warfare, and that there is thus no institutional need for an independent Air Force. This criticism largely rests on the view that airpower is only useful in support of naval and ground forces, for it is only if airpower’s value is in support of the Army and the Navy that folding the Air Force into the other services makes sense.
These views are fundamentally flawed. Most profoundly, they ignore sizable components of the Air Force—its mobility and space forces. Yet mobility and space assets offer some of our most significant advantages over potential adversaries.
But even focusing solely on combat airpower, the argument is flawed. It is true that early optimism about airpower as a panacea has at times proven misplaced, such as in the strategic bombing campaigns during World War II or the Vietnam War. But the unstated assumption that airpower can never be decisive apart from support for ground troops cannot be reconciled with history. Look no further than the NATO air offensive in Kosovo, when Serbia was forced to come to the negotiating table.
There are other, more recent examples. While the intensive bombing campaign against Iraq known as Operation Desert Fox in 1998 was at the time heavily criticized as ineffective, we have since learned that the operation was largely responsible for Saddam Hussein’s decision to end his efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. U.S. military operations in Afghanistan in 2002 and Libya in 2011 were largely exercises in airpower. Simply put, airpower does not obviate the need for ground and naval forces—history has made that point abundantly clear—but in some circumstances, combat airpower is an indispensable tool of national power.
Blanchard is a partner in Arnold & Porter and was general counsel and chief ethics officer of the U.S. Air Force 2009-13.
Moreover, the notion that an “airpower can do it alone” culture pervades the Air Force, or that the Air Force is not committed to joint warfighting, doesn’t hold water. To the contrary, during the debates about intervention in Libya and Syria, the Air Force leaders we know were very careful to caution civilian leaders about the costs and limits of airpower. They take great pains to make sure those making force-structure decisions and war plans take full account of the uncertainties and accept that there will be losses and mistakes during conflict. The Air Force of today has a more nuanced and realistic view of airpower than in the past.
Perhaps the most critical combat mission for airpower in the 21st century has been air superiority. In Iraq and Libya, air superiority was achieved rather quickly and largely taken for granted. This allowed all forces—ground, naval and air—freedom of action without concern for attacks from above. Air superiority is something that must still be won and undoubtedly will be contested by conventional state adversaries. In the possible battlefields of the future—against potential adversaries such as China and Iran—achieving air superiority will be a hard-fought battle. Until that battle is won, neither littoral naval nor ground forces can be fully effective. It is this mission—which is becoming increasingly important as more nations develop fifth-generation aircraft and sophisticated integrated air and missile defense systems—that will need to be a continuing focus of the Air Force in the 21st century.
The case for the decisiveness of airpower may have been oversold in the 1940s, but the continued need for airpower of all types—combat, mobility, space and cyberspace—cannot be seriously disputed. Just as the pundits in the late 1990s were profoundly wrong to question the continued importance of ground forces, critics today are wrong to suggest that airpower and the Air Force are anachronisms awaiting a necessary demise.
Ohio UAS Conference: Day 1 shows a flurry of unmanned aircraft efforts in short term
by Press • 27 August 2014
Tristan Navera Staff Reporter
Dayton Business Journal
You only have to be in the Dayton Convention Center for a few minutes before someone spells it out; Unmanned aircraft aren’t going anywhere.
In fact, the sense on the expo floor as the Ohio UAS Conference kicks off is that the many programs and demands for unmanned systems are only growing — and quickly.
More than 700 people and 73 exhibitors from 27 U.S. states, Israel, Mexico and Australia are downtown this week for the Ohio UAS Conference, which has drawn industry, government, military and academia to a gathering intended to promote unmanned systems industry in Ohio, said Maurice “Mo” McDonald, executive vice president for Aerospace and Defense at the Dayton Development Coalition.
“This week is all about how we can build partnerships,” McDonald said, “The military has been using these systems for years, but on the private side we’re finding limitless uses for UAS. So you’re trying to take the systems into a new element, where there’s a wide range of uses for them.”
Commercial unmanned systems — commonly known as drones — have a potential to change a multitude of industries as they emerge as a mainstream technology. The average commercial drone would cost in the range of $55,000, but people use unmanned systems as inexpensive as a few hundred dollars for recreation and photography.
The question, then, is how the rest of the considerations — legal, financial and ethnical — will catch up to the technology t already available.
Either way, Dayton will play a big part in that, said Deb Norris, vice president of workforce development at Sinclair Community College. Sinclair has half a dozen permissions to fly unmanned aircraft locally, and 600 students have gone through its UAS-related training programs, including 157 who have applied for its coming two-year degree in UAS.
Ohio UAS Conference: Day 2 focuses on FAA regulations
Aug 27, 2014, 4:46pm EDT
Staff Reporter- Dayton Business Journal
When unmanned systems experts get together, there’s something of a jaded excitement to them.
“The breakthroughs are happening practically every day with this tech,” says David Fletcher, an officer with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as he talks about his groups’ use of the Predator-B drone to catch smugglers at the border. “For us, it doesn’t even make sense to invest in a platform that is built around one kind of sensor, because those change so fast.”
Experts Wednesday talked about the high-end technology that is going to transform UAS into something bigger — the sensors capabilities, advanced automation to help them think more for themselves. And the research on these subjects is making new discoveries all the time.
“The uses for this tech in civil aviation, in so many other spheres, is clear, but unmanned systems are just one piece of where the benefits will be,” said Eric Frew of University of Colorado at Boulder in a panel on autonomy technology. From advanced manufacturing to the world of safer autopilots and driving a car, automation technology will help UAS and other craft identify problems, compensate for human error, and communicate better.
The question with that tech, said Larrell Walters, head of University of Dayton Research Institute sensors division, is how it addresses major questions like how to get the systems to operate efficiently and how to get other operators to trust them — research being hampered by a lack of access to the airspace for field tests.
The Federal Aviation Administration controls drone operations tightly, with schools and industry having to submit individual requests to use aircraft, and only a few hundred active test sites across the country. But the industry has been pushing for it to build a more clear system of rules, which it’s expected to do over the next several years.
And from lighter materials to better batteries and more advanced sensors, the technology is getting better all the time. But the regulations have slowed down investment and prevented the market from launching, especially for drones under 5 pounds, where many see some of the largest commercial uses.
“Shouldn’t we get more involved in pushing the FAA on these rules, legally?” he said.
Beafore said the international marketplace has been an asset to the development of unmanned systems — some components like batteries and motors and engines can come from all over the world. But the price for the FAA’s regulation, he said, is that American companies are not pouring into the drone marketplace until they know the rules to play by, as other countries such as China, Germany, and Japan pull ahead in research, development, and manufacture of unmanned systems tech.
And the legal battle is heating up. Late Friday, The Council on Governmental Relations, a group representing 188 universities around the country, was one of three to file suit against the FAA for an order last month further restricting commercial use of unmanned aircraft.
“The Order poses a grave threat to science, research, education, and technological innovation across the United States by purporting to regulate, restrict, or even completely prohibit, use of model aircraft technology by universities, colleges, and research institutions, their faculty, and their students,” states the brief.
The FAA says the rules are for the good of the industry. Robert Pappas, UAS Special Rules Coordinator, Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office for FAA, gave a keynote talk explaining the rules, and saying the FAA was making progress in processing the requests.
“We’ve made a lot of progress and there’s a lot of light at the end of the tunnel for some of these regulations,” he said.
But he also acknowledged the FAA realizes the red tape is choking an industry that drone experts content will blossom into an $82 billion-dollar business — once it has rules to play by.
“We are being very deliberate in how we’re processing these first permissions, but it’s because we need to get these first ones right,” he said, “But I think we’ve made some great progress in these rules and I think you’ll see results in the not-too-distant future.”
Ohio UAS Conference: Law remains murky around drone use
Aug 26, 2014, 3:23pm EDT Updated: Aug 26, 2014, 4:33pm EDT
Tristan NaveraStaff Reporter-
Dayton Business Journal
Drone technology has grown by leaps and bounds, especially in recent years, leaving the legal world running to catch up.
But legal experts say the regulations for UAS, while still muddled by concerns about a lack of concrete policies, may prove easier to regulate in the long run than the public fears.
A panel spoke at the Dayton Convention Center at the Ohio UAS Conference as drone operators wait for more regulations and laws to come forward while the public worries about privacy.
Colin Snow, CEO of Drone Analyst, said his company conducted a study of nearly 350 groups in the drone business. His study found 71 percent thought the current rules are unclear, while 47 percent of companies choose to operate anyway, and 30 percent didn’t believe the Federal Aviation Administration governs the airspace below 600 feet.
“The tech has advanced ferociously in the past few years,” Snow said. “But the law is lagging behind.”
Indeed, the FAA was tasked with coming up with rules in 2012 but has delayed those for several years. Rule making is expected to last through 2016 and in the meantime companies and industry are looking for permissions to use drones sooner for research and commercial use.
The industry is eager to see that happen. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International has estimated once the rules are on the books an $82 billion industry that employs 100,000 will start to take shape.
Snow said his survey found 42 percent of companies would “hire two or more people” if those rules are favorable to business.
But the public perception of drones remains to be addressed. A recent Pew poll found, for example, that nearly two thirds of the nation views drones in public airspace as a bad thing.
“The public perception is something that we need to spend time and resources to address,” said Matthew Mishak, an Elyria attorney who works with Dronewerx LLC and the new Northern Ohio Unmanned Aircraft Systems Association. “But the courts are dealing with more technology issues now, and we’re seeing some of these worries in court.”
Privacy remains in the heart of the public concern — but a number of recent court cases have addressed some of those fears. Among them a recent court case that found flying a manned helicopter around 400 feet above a private space was legal because at that level the field’s owner had “no reasonable expectation of privacy” and the contents of the field were visible to the naked eye.
U.S. aviation law also has established the space above 500 feet in the air as public space.
But the courts have placed strong controls on technology. They’ve recently ruled that police need a warrant in order to watch a building with thermal imaging because that’s not a common technology. They’ve also ruled a warrant was necessary to place a GPS tracker on a car or go through someone’s cell phone.
“The law gets more strict when dealing with homes and personal property,” Mishak said. “The privacy laws are well established so far, but the question will be if those cases apply to drones.”
Drone manufacturers also have to contend with exporting and importing regulations, said Brent Connor, senior counsel in the transportation practice group for Thompson Hine, so they have to check on which parties will receive the aircraft. Violators can face hefty fines.
Wayne Johnson, vice president of Dayton Aerospace Inc., said unmanned aircraft face many of the same concerns as manned aircraft as far as airworthiness — whether an aircraft is safe to fly — with propulsion and materials being much the same.
“Often in these cases, it’s a yes or a no question whether an aircraft is airworthy,” he said.
In the end Mishak said the legal discussion about UAS will continue — including after the integration of the aircraft into the public airspace. Companies looking at using a drone should follow it.
“There’s every reason for Ohio to be a major leader in the largest-growing sector of aerospace,” Mishak said.
Al Qaeda magazine suggests Air Force Academy as terror target
by Angela Case
Updated: 08.29.2014 at 9:00 AM
The U.S. Air Force Academy is on a list of suggested terror targets published in a new magazine distributed by Al Qaeda.
FOXNews.com reports the online magazine was put out by the media arm of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP.
The magazine features a how-to article on making car bombs, and calls for people around the world to follow “the recipe” provided to set off the bombs in crowded places.
The magazine also includes a list of suggested targets for individually executed terror attacks. The list includes Times Square in New York, casinos and nightclubs in Las Vegas, oil tankers and trains, the Georgia Military College, General Atomics defense contractor in San Diego, and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.
There is also a list of targets in Britian, including a military academy and the Marks and Spencers chain of department stores. The magazine calls for the stores to be hit on Friday during prayers, so that Muslims won’t be affected, FOXNews.com reports. Globally, the magazine calls for the targeting of tourist resorts frequented by Israelis, Britons, and Americans.
The U.S. Air Force Academy declined an interview for this story, but public affairs officer John Van Winkle provided the following statement:
“We are aware that the Air Force Academy is mentioned in a recent online publication. We remain vigilant and maintain all the appropriate protocols of a military installation to include force protection and being cognizant of existing and emerging threats. Our primary concern is always the security and the safety of the cadets, our personnel and the thousands of visitors who come to USAFA every year.”
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, August 30, 2014
We’re off to the races. In nine weeks, America will elect a new Congress. Will it be more of the same, or will there be a new sheriff in town?
Republicans are highly unlikely to lose their control of the House of Representatives, and if the GOP makes a net gain of six seats, it will take charge of the Senate, too. Twenty-one of the 36 Senate seats up for grabs this November are held by Democrats, so President Obama’s party is clearly at greater risk.
Here’s where we stand right now in the Rasmussen Reports 2014 Senate Balance of Power rankings. Twenty of the 36 seats are out of play entirely, with 14 Safe Republican and six Safe Democrat. If these numbers hold through Election Day, the GOP is guaranteed to pick up three of the six it needs in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia.
Three states – Georgia, Kentucky and North Carolina – are leaning the Republicans’ way, but only North Carolina is now held by a Democratic senator. Two – Michigan and Minnesota – are leaning toward reelecting their Democratic incumbents.
New Hampshire is a wild card: We’re waiting for its September 9 GOP primary before measuring where that race stands.
In short, if the Republicans hold onto all their existing Senate seats and pick up the three states that appear to be safe, they need three more wins to control the entire Congress.
Thirty-six states are having governor’s races this year, and here’s where the Rasmussen Reports 2014 Gubernatorial Scorecard stands.
Nine governorships are Safe Republican, five Safe Democrat, with the only likely turnover being Pennsylvania going Democrat. We looked at three of those races this week – Alaska, South Carolina and Vermont.
We still have several governor’s races to poll after their September 9 primaries finalize the match-ups.
Republicans have edged ahead of Democrats again on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. But the two parties have been separated by two points or less for most weeks this year.
House Speaker John Boehner remains Congress’ most unpopular leader, but House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, his predecessor as speaker, is right on his heels.
The president’s daily job approval rating has been hovering around -20 for much of the summer.
Just 23% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. Sixty-nine percent (69%) now think the country is headed down the wrong track.
Consumer and investor confidence are up from post-meltdown levels but haven’t moved much over the past couple years.
Some things haven’t changed in surveys for a long time. The national health care law, for one thing, remains unpopular, and the number of voters who say their insurance coverage has changed because of it is at its highest level in well over a year.
Most voters have told us for years that they favor spending cuts in every program of the federal government, but they now think it’s less likely than ever that government spending will be cut anytime soon.
The police shooting and subsequent events in Ferguson, Missouri also have raised concerns other than ones about race. Voters have long been skeptical of the federal government, but now most believe the nation’s chief law enforcer, the U.S. Department of Justice, is more interested in politics than in serving justice.
Voters see a pretty grim picture abroad, too. Five years ago this summer, the president gave a highly-publicized speech in Cairo, Egypt reaching out to Muslims, but 46% now believe our relations with the Islamic world are worse than they were at that time. Forty-four percent (44%) think U.S. policies are to blame.
But Americans also recognize that religious tolerance is a one-way street when it comes to the Muslim world.
They’re pretty angry, too, about the beheading of U.S. journalist James Foley on a video posted online and strongly believe his killer should be brought to justice and sentenced to death.
In other surveys last week:
— Americans overwhelmingly count on their local water supply, but they’re not nearly as confident that it’s well protected.
— Most voters continue to consider global warming a serious problem but remain unwilling to pay much to do anything about it.
— Fifty-one percent (51%) of Americans expect higher interest rates next year. Americans also continue to wonder if the Federal Reserve Board has the ability to keep interest rates down and inflation under control.
— Many students around the country are already returning to school, but Americans still prefer waiting until after Labor Day before sending them back.
— Most Americans like the idea of sales tax holidays especially just before school starts and say they are more likely to buy things during such periods.
— Americans think the “ice bucket challenge” has raised awareness and funds for Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
— More Americans said they would take a vacation this summer, and it looks like they did.
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