Farmers in Australia gear towards robots
by Press • 13 January 2014
WITHOUT question, the most notable advance in agricultural machinery in 2013, centred on unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.
Linked to arguably world-breaking advances in software technology, the initial trial work, principally by the Mingenew Irwin Group (MIG), has set the stage for UAVs to play a pivotal role in broadacre farming throughout Australia.
MIG executive member Darrin Lee became the first farmer in Australia to adopt UAV technology for his cropping program, incorporating a new computer software program he describes as the next quantum step in precision agriculture.
According to Darrin, using UAVs, farmers will initially have a tool to employ to reveal real-time nutrient status of crops, weed and insect populations in paddocks, germination status and sub-soil moisture availability.
All the information will be GPS referenced which means, for example, telematics can be employed to transfer data from a UAV, flying as low as five metres (17ft), to a controller in a tractor or SP sprayer, so an operator effectively has a spot-sprayer at his disposal, with two centimetre (sub inch) accuracy.
Future models, already on the drawing boards, will carry chemical tanks for GPS-controlled spraying or a range of cameras and computer controllers for improved quality mapping or spectral subsoil imagery, alleviating the need for a ground sled to collect information.
Darrin already is well along the track in setting up his 6500ha property – on which he crops 4200ha while running 5000 sheep – having put his hand up as a guinea pig to employ UAV technology.
“I’m collecting and collating farm data back to 1998,” he said. “Along with ground-truthing data, it will be used in a new software program which will interface with the UAV data we collect.”
“The new program will provide me with a range of historical, real-time and pre-emptive information on which I can make more accurate and cost effective management decisions.
“The UAV’s potential uses on my farm are mind-blowing and it is self-evident that having a tool that can fly over your property to gather precise information takes my time management to a new level.
“That was probably the biggest incentive to get involved because it has freed up my time to be more analytical with the almost seamless and timely information at my fingertips.”
Another pleasing development for farmers in 2013 was the completion of so-called Tier 4 engine development to meet strict international emissions standards.
Manufacturers rolled out new tractors, combine harvesters and self-propelled sprayers, all boasting new engine technology designed to save fuel while providing more power – high horsepower 4WD tractors are now heading towards power ratings of 522kW (700hp), linked to step-less transmissions operated by sophisticated engine management systems.
Apart from engine advances, computer technology was employed to provide more real-time data collection for farmers to interface with machinery multiples, such as the ability of a lead header to “talk” with and steer following headers in a paddock.
This telematics technology is the pre-cursor to so-called robotic farming, with driverless vehicles.
European manufacturer CLAAS revealed part of its research and development program at the 2013 Agritechnica Show in Hanover, Germany where it picked up seven medals – one gold and six silver – for innovation in agricultural technology.
Its gold medal was awarded for the company’s driving simulator, which provides online training in the operation of the company’s advanced technology in harvesting, hay equipment and tractors.
This is seen as a critical component in the advance of technology as service providers struggle to provide adequate technical support to farmers.
Tracked harvesters were also flagged by manufacturers as the way of the future, particularly as Australian farmers adopt controlled traffic farming (CTF) systems.
The jury is still out in this country on the merits of tracks but manufacturers, in their wisdom, believe it’s the right pathway.
Controlled traffic is gaining more traction, excuse the pun, in WA.
MOU between the FAA and AMA
by Patrick Egan • 11 January 2014
Signed at the AMA Expo, Ontario California. DTV is there and will report back!
Memorandum of Understanding between Academy of Model Aeronautics and Federal Aviation Administration
Concerning Operation of Model Aircraft In the National Airspace System
This Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) establishes a cooperative working relationship between the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA).
AMA is a nationally recognized, non-profit membership organization that was established in 1936. The organization has provided leadership for an expansive aero-modeling community throughout the United States and its territories. Over time, AMA has developed and maintained a National Model Aircraft Safety Code, which provides guidelines for the safe
operation of model aircraft.
Until 1981, there were no federal guidelines or directives for model aircraft operations. In June of that year, the FAA published an Advisory Circular (AC 91-57) titled “Model Aircraft Operating Standards.” Although not directive in nature, AC 91-57 provided general guidance for the operation of model aircraft.
On February 17, 2012, President Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (FMRA) (Pub.L.112-95) into law. Within this Act, a special provision for model aircraft was enacted. Section 336 of the FMRA provides a definition of the term “model aircraft”, requirements for operating model aircraft, and reinforces the authority that the FAA possesses to pursue enforcement action against persons operating model aircraft in an unsafe manner. In addition, section 106 and 40103 of Title 49, United States Code provides the authority of the Federal Aviation Administration to prescribe aviation standards and regulate aviation operations in the National Airspace System (NAS).
In addition, in the FMRA, Congress acknowledged the efficacy of community-based safety programming, and specified that if a model aircraft is operated in accordance with a community-based set of safety guidelines and within the programming of a nationwide community-based organization, the FAA may not promulgate any rule or regulation
regarding that model aircraft.
This MOU outlines the relationship that will be maintained between the FAA and the AMA.
The AMA and the FAA intend to work together by openly communicating any questions and needs as they arise. Technology and operating environments are always changing, and thus establishing an understanding of the nature of the cooperative working relationship between the two organizations is critical to meet the mission needs of the FAA and the AMA.
The Academy of Model Aeronautics agrees to:
· Develop, establish, and maintain a comprehensive safety program to educate and
direct its members in how to safely operate model aircraft in the NAS.
· Develop, maintain, and enact appropriate guidelines, procedures, and operating
standards for its members responsive to the minimum safety criteria established in PL
112-95 and implement the AMA Safety Program to include the PL 112-95 Enactment
· Maintain the AMA Safety Program by regularly reviewing relevant safety data and
updating the program to address any issues that are brought to light by the data.
· Continue to establish appropriate safety guidelines for emergent technologies and
novel facets of aero-modeling activity.
· Provide the FAA with an updated copy of the AMA Safety Program whenever
substantive changes are made, or upon request.
· Foster a positive and cooperative environment within the aero-modeling community
toward the FAA, its employees, and its regulatory structure.
· Serve as a conduit between the aero-modeling community at-large, the hobby
industry, and the FAA in order to provide relevant and time-critical aviation safety
information to all parties.
· Bring issues and questions to the FAA when matters arise related to model aircraft
that could impact the safety of the NAS.
· Maintain Safety Programming documentation on the public section of the AMA
website in order to promote safety throughout the entire aero-modeling community,
even among non-AMA members.
The Federal Aviation Administration agrees to:
· Review AMA’s Safety Program and advise the Academy on safety issues related to
aero-modeling operations within the NAS.
· Educate and inform appropriate FAA field personnel regarding the most current aeromodeling
policies, procedures, and operating standards.
· Address model aviation safety and operational issues through the Unmanned Aircraft
Systems Integration Office, AFS-80. This office will act as a conduit to other areas of
the FAA in order to resolve and address matters of mutual concern and interest.
· Foster a positive and cooperative environment towards model aviation within the
agency’s national, regional, district, and local offices.
· Maintain an open line of communication with the AMA to exchange information and
provide relevant and/or time critical notices regarding aviation safety and airspace
· Cooperate with the AMA in dealing with and resolving issues of concern to either or
It is understood and agreed by the undersigned that the intent of this MOU is to state shared goals and to establish and maintain cooperation toward meeting these shared goals. This MOU does not create any binding obligation on either party. Each party agrees to conduct its representative activities in a coordinated and mutually beneficial manner. The FAA and the
AMA will evaluate their respective participation with the terms of this agreement periodically and communicate any issues with the term as soon as they arise.
This MOU will be in effect at the time of the signing and may be terminated at any time by either of the signing authorities or their successors. One party or the other must serve the notice of the termination at least ninety (90) days prior to the effective date of that termination, or in the case of mutual consent, with no prior notice requirement.
James Williams, Manager Date
UAS Integration Office
Federal Aviation Administration
Bob Brown, President Date
Academy of Model Aeronautics
Expanded ND UAS research expected to grow regional training programs
by Press • 10 January 2014
By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald
THIEF RIVER FALLS, Minn. — Last week’s announcement that the University of North Dakota and Grand Forks will be one of six test sites to integrate unmanned aerial systems into the nation’s airspace had officials high-flying not only in North Dakota, but in Minnesota as well.
Northland Community and Technical College in Thief River Falls is a partner in UND’s aerospace program. And its technology-based programs are designed for education as well as development in the fast-growing UAS industry.
Besides its long-running aircraft maintenance training program, which expanded two years ago to include UAS aircraft, Northland now offers curriculum to train students to analyze data collected from drones, whether the aircraft is flying in airspace over hostile countries or hovering above buildings or farm fields in the United States.
The school’s one-year imagery analysis certificate is the first of its kind in the nation. It also offers a two-year associate degree in geospatial intelligence analysis.
The UND-Northland aviation partnership actually dates back to 1998, when UND instructors used UND airplanes to provide pilot training to students in Northland’s longstanding aviation maintenance training program.
The Northland UAS program has been developing since 2010, when Northland received a Department of Labor grant to expand into that field.
Since then, the school has been fostering a UAS partnership with UND and industry leaders by building curriculum and the technology to deliver it.
“Nothing we’ve done in the last 10 years has been done unintentionally,” said Curtis Zoller, Northland associate dean of aerospace programs. “We’re developing a classroom that’s going to redefine the student’s education experience.”
Classroom of future
Students will be introduced to some of that technology when they return to school Monday for the start of the spring semester.
Some classes will be held in interactive, audio-visual classrooms specially engineered at three campuses — the main campus in Thief River Falls, the East Grand Forks campus and at the school’s Aerospace Center at Thief River Falls Regional Airport.
The system, which cost a total of about $750,000 for all three locations, allows direct, two-way communication between an instructor at one location and students in all three classrooms. The sound-activated system automatically triggers cameras to focus on the student or teacher who is speaking, regardless of location.
Each classroom also was specifically designed to provide optimum light and sound quality, according to Zoller.
Northland President Anne Temte said the system provides a substantial improvement in quality, which makes for a richer classroom experience.
“I can see expressions on people’s faces. I can read body language,” she said, speaking from a classroom in East Grand Forks to an audience split between the Thief River Falls main campus and the aerospace center. “And sometimes when you have 12 people in a room showing up on a little, tiny television, you can’t do that. So, I do believe it’s going to enhance communication among our sites and among our personnel. Of course, our top priority is going to be instruction, but we’re all going to get used to this by using it for meetings as well.”
Programs and partners
The system could be expanded to other communities as well, but the cost likely would be $150,000 to $200,000 for each one, depending upon the amount of retrofitting that would be necessary.
“The goal, of course, would be to not only make it expand across the aerospace program and other programs, to expand across the East Grand Forks and the Thief River Falls barrier, but also to allow students to be able to (participate) from their own homes, using a laptop or an iPad or any other tablet device that would be capable of joining from there,” Zoller said.
Other schools in the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system are considering similar technology. And some high schools are working with it, too.
“Throughout Minnesota, there have been some grants that have delivered this kind of equipment in high schools in really rural areas, where the students have not been able to come into a college for the post-secondary options program,” Temte said. “I’m thinking particularly of the Itasca area, where they are sharing some language instruction from colleges to high schools. So that’s another area where there may be some expansion in the future as more sites come on.”
Northland officials also have discussed expanding its interactive classroom concept and training possibilities with aerospace partners, such as Northrup Grumman Corp., the anchor tenant of the Grand Sky UAS Park planned at Grand Forks Air Force Base, according to Dan Klug, NCTC chief development officer.
“This would be a great asset to have as part of Grand Sky, to be used to help grow that aerospace education and training, whether it’s for a traditional Northland student or a customized training opportunity with a company like Northrup Grumman or their customers, whether it be domestic or international,” he said.
Ohio, Indiana push for place in drone industry
by Press • 14 January 2014
By LISA CORNWELL
CINCINNATI — Ohio and Indiana will operate their own test ranges for unmanned aircraft and seek ways of promoting more research and development to attract drone-related businesses after losing in their joint bid for a coveted Federal Aviation Administration test site.
The states sought one of six FAA drone test sites being set up as the agency develops a plan for safely integrating commercial drones into U.S. airspace. An industry-commissioned study predicted unmanned aircraft could produce thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact after that integration, and Ohio and Indiana were among two dozen states hoping that a site could boost their prospects for sharing in any economic boom.
But the FAA last month selected Alaska, Nevada, New York, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia.
“We were obviously hoping for an FAA designation, but with or without it, that doesn’t change our vision or strategy,” said Chris Ford, vice president of aerospace and defense for the Dayton Development Coalition, which is leading Ohio’s drone efforts.
Ohio and Indiana are moving ahead with their partnership that includes the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center & Test Complex set up last year in Springfield, Ohio, and still developing. It serves as a regional hub operating seven test drone ranges in both states, providing sites where businesses, universities and researchers sites can test unmanned aircraft.
“Companies and others will need places where they can test a little, design a little and then test more,” said Duane Embree, executive director of the Indiana Office of Defense Development, which is leading Indiana’s drone efforts. “We can essentially do everything we were going to do — just without the FAA designation.”
Both states also are counting on their involvement in a NASA competition this spring to increase their visibility among unmanned aircraft developers participating from around the country.
“Places that get recognized early are more likely to attract the businesses,” Embree said.
The center will host the challenge at the Camp Atterbury test range near Edinburgh, Ind., where it will test innovative “sense and avoid” technologies aimed at preventing drone collisions with other aircraft.
Commercial uses for drones are vast. The oil and gas industry can use them to monitor pipelines, farmers can dust crops or locate livestock with drones, and public safety officials can conduct surveillance or monitor damage from natural disasters.
The FAA has until the end of 2015 to present its integration plan, though officials acknowledge it may take longer.
Ohio and Indiana are not the only states continuing testing at existing sites.
“It’s business as usual for us, too,” said Eileen Shibley, director of the California Unmanned Aircraft Systems Portal at Inyokern Airport. But Shibley is concerned that some people mistakenly believe they have to travel to one of the FAA sites to test their aircraft.
Brendan Schulman leads the unmanned aircraft practice at New York-based Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel law firm and says public entities not selected by the FAA still have opportunities and can apply for certificates of waiver or authorization allowing drone operation at specific locations.
“But the regulatory processes can be slow and cumbersome, and the U.S. is trailing far behind several countries,” he said.
Sinclair director: Much UAS use will be agricultural
by Press • 13 January 2014
By Thomas Gnau
The director of Sinclair Community College’s Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) program believes many uses of remotely piloted airplanes in the next few years will be in the realm of agriculture.
Andrew Shepherd, Sinclair’s director for Unmanned Aerial Systems, presented an overview of the uses of UAS for Ohio’s agricultural future at the Ohio Farm and Food Leadership Forum in Columbus last month, Sinclair said.
Also Monday, Sinclair said its Workforce Development division has inked a teaming agreement with Columbus’ Asymmetric Technologies.
The agreement will allow Sinclair to collaborate on new UAS technologies with Asymmetric through the college’s extensive course curriculum and use of the necessary Certificates of Authorization (COA), needed to legally operate unmanned vehicles under current Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations.
“This agreement allows Sinclair to leverage our subject-matter expertise and access to our COA in a way that will bring new UAS technologies to market,” Deb Norris, vice president for Sinclair Workforce Development and Corporate Services, said in an announcement. “Creating these types of partnerships that have the potential to bring new technologies and jobs to the region is really at the heart of what we’re accomplishing with this program.”
A forecast at the Ohio Farm and Food Leadership Forum estimated that some 80 percent of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) usage in the United States will be related to “precision agriculture” over the next several years, Sinclair said in a statement.
“With nearly 90 percent of the approximately 75,000 farms in Ohio being individually owned, there is a growing need for the type of innovation that UAS can provide,” Sinclair said.
“The potential benefits for employing UAS technologies in precision agriculture is virtually limitless in a state like Ohio, which has an economy that is very reliant on the success of farming, with more than 110,000 people operating farms throughout the state,” Shepherd said in the college’s statement. “Everything from the application of chemical fertilizers and pesticides to examining irrigation effectiveness or pest infestation can be performed quickly and result in improved crop yields with less of an environmental impact.”
Last month, the Federal Aviation Administration did not select Ohio and Indiana as a region for testing the use of drones. Still, Dayton-area leaders have said the area, with its proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, will continue to be a leader in UAS development.
Sinclair offers a one-day course on precision agriculture using UAS. Sinclair has also developed what it says is Ohio’s only UAS short-term technical certificate program, which prepares students for entry-level positions in the industry.
Defense companies brace for a different kind of consolidation this time around
By Marjorie Censer, Published: January 12
Years before the company’s legendary merger with Lockheed, Martin Marietta executives were holding secret meetings in a basement, trying to imagine what the defense industry might look like in the years ahead.
Starting in the mid-1980s — a decade before the industry-altering deal — Norman R. Augustine, the chief executive of Martin Marietta, gathered three of his top executives together every Friday. The group snuck out to his basement, only a short trip from the office, where they convened over sodas with a rotating cast of specialists in areas such as policy and Wall Street interests.
The owners of Cause had hoped to turn a $100,000 profit — for charity — their first year. That didn’t happen.
Augustine and his most senior executives suspected that the landscape for defense companies was about to change significantly, following the Reagan-era build-up in military spending.
Expenditures at their current levels at the time seemed unsustainable, Augustine reasoned. “We didn’t know what the right answer was, but one thing we knew was you were going to need money to do it,” he recalled.
So Martin Marietta started stockpiling cash, he said, saving up enough to help it survive the most significant contraction in the history of the defense industry, and merge with California-based Lockheed in a deal that not only reshaped the industry, but also shifted its center to the D.C. area.
There are noticeable similarities to the 1990s in today’s market: A major build-up has come to a stop with the end of two wars, and the industry is seeing a spending slowdown.
But analysts and experts warn that 2013 is not 1990, and industry adaptation will look very different this time around.
Rather than the mass consolidation of the largest contractors that occurred two decades ago, these observers expect more rearranging of parts and consolidation at lower levels, particularly among the services companies that have proliferated over the past decade.
“Twenty years ago, defense consolidation was mainly about getting bigger,” said Loren Thompson, an industry consultant with ties to many of the largest contractors. “Now, it’s about getting more efficient, about getting more focused.”
The 1990s is a storied era in defense contracting, when companies such as Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing saw their prominence cemented through major acquisitions and mergers.
Simply put, Pentagon contractors went through a massive round of consolidation. By the calculation of John Dowdy, who leads McKinsey & Co.’s global aerospace and defense practice, the number of U.S.-based prime contractors dropped to six from 16.
The giants also consolidated their power; in 1991, the top 10 global defense companies made up less than 40 percent of the revenue of the top 100. By 2000, the top 10 companies controlled 60 percent of the market, according to Dowdy.
The changes were perhaps even more stark at lower levels. Of the top 100 companies in 1991, only 19 still exist today.
At the same time, the D.C. area became the center of the defense contracting industry. Even though the Lockheed Martin deal was described as a merger of equals, Martin Marietta got to its Bethesda headquarters.
“The vast majority of defense companies were located away from Washington, D.C., prior to the 1990s,” Thompson said. “The emergence of Lockheed Martin as the major company created pressure on all the competitors to be close to the customer.”
But the intensity of the consolidation that occurred two decades ago makes it hard for many to imagine a similarly robust round today.
“The industry is actually so consolidated … there’s very little room for prime-level combinations that won’t run into serious anti-competitive issues,” Dowdy said.
So far, the Pentagon has made clear that it welcomes acquisitions — but not among the biggest of the big. Even abroad, those deals have been unsuccessful. London-based BAE Systems and Paris-based European Aeronautic Defence and Space’s bid to merge in 2012 ended unsuccessfully because of the concerns of their foreign government owners.
The Defense Department already has a limited number of suppliers when it comes to some weapons systems; in combat vehicles, for instance, there are just two U.S. manufacturers.
Still, some see it as inevitable, given the rapidly declining Pentagon budget. Not only is defense procurement down, but there’s little certainty that new major programs — the combat vehicles, fighter jets and missile systems that spur billions in research and manufacturing — are moving forward.
The defense industry “only has one customer that matters,” Thompson said. The “opportunity for sustaining a broad-based industrial complex in a period of declining demand is not very good.”
Budget pressures loom
Despite the potential limitations on consolidation, there are growing signs that companies are bracing for change.
Falls Church-based Northrop Grumman made what was largely considered the last deal in the previous round of consolidation, picking up TRW in 2002 to cement its spot as one of the biggest of the big. The deal capped off years of major acquisitions, including Newport News Shipbuilding.
But less than a decade later, Northrop began taking apart the massive company, first selling off its advisory services unit Tasc in 2009 to address potential inner-company conflicts of interest, and then in 2011, spinning off its shipbuilding business, which is now known as Huntington Ingalls.
Northrop’s moves predated the more recent spinoffs and separations by government contractors. McLean-based Science Applications International Corp. last year split itself into two companies: a technology business focused in areas such as national security and health, and a government services business.
More recently, Exelis announced it is spinning off its government services unit into a public company, following in the steps of L-3 Communications, which spun its government services unit off into Chantilly-based Engility in 2012.
Dowdy said many companies are taking a hard look at businesses that didn’t require as much attention in the previous decade.
“We had 10 years of year-on-year defense budget increases,” he said. “When the budget just keeps going up, up, up … strong businesses do well, OK businesses do well and even poor businesses do well.”
These early deals are setting the stage for a defense industry reshaping. Many existing companies are simply too large and bulky to be bought, pushing them to spin off or sell units. Companies can shed divisions that are no longer profitable or fit with their portfolios and find complementary capabilities in another contractor’s unwanted units.
In particular, analysts say, the opportunity is greater for services companies, which have proliferated in the past decade as the government increasingly relied on contractors to provide federal labor.
It’s early to speculate on who might be bought, but Thompson pointed to Northrop, a leader in reshaping already, as a potential target. (Northrop declined to comment, noting that it does not participate in industry consolidation or acquisition stories).
Even though reshaping this time around is likely to be quite different, there are lessons from the 1990s on how to come out on top.
Augustine, who made sure his company was a buyer, not a seller, credited preparation.
By the time it was clear to many companies consolidation was coming, “we already had a leg up because we had saved a bunch of money and we pretty well knew what we were going to do,” said Augustine, who went on to eventually serve as chief executive of Lockheed Martin.
When contractors approached the merged company about potential acquisitions, its executives already had a binder on each business with its financial data, products and leadership, he said.
“We were ready to make decisions,” Augustine said. “We could tell you tomorrow whether we were interested.”
Dowdy, too, said the aggressive movers are likely the ones who will survive a reshaped defense market.
“One of the very clear lessons is move early to win, and the opposite of that is hunker down … You can’t just say, ‘I’m just going to last this out,'” Dowdy said. The companies working “to push their margins up and start cleaning up their portfolio are, I would argue, the ones who are going to come out the other side.”
Thompson said that those who lead the merger wave “get to pick and choose.”
“You go later, you get the leftovers,” he said.
Even though a downturn appears bleak to many contractors, Augustine contends that it provides a real opportunity to put together a better company.
“In the good times, we never could have built Lockheed Martin,” he said. “None of these companies would have been for sale.”
Pentagon Seeks To Protect R&D Funding in ’15 Budget
Jan. 11, 2014 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER and ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS |
WASHINGTON — Senior Pentagon leaders are trying to protect vulnerable research and development (R&D) funding in the fiscal 2015 budget plan, despite desires within the military services to put money toward other near-term initiatives, according to Defense Department officials and sources.
While DoD’s 2015 budget plan is still in flux, the tension over R&D funding has arisen at different points through the arduous process of building the spending plan and has been on the radar of top DoD officials, these sources said.
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — after reviewing budget proposals from the military services late last year — ordered each to go back and find about 15 percent more money for their R&D projects, according to several sources with knowledge of the decision.
The move is an early indicator the Pentagon leadership is backing up its tough talk about the need to protect R&D spending, much of which is used to develop new technologies for future weapons.
“Secretary Hagel has placed a high priority on research and development to ensure that the United States maintains its competitive edge for the future,” a senior defense official said. “Simply, losing our edge on capability particularly in the out years would make force planning all the more difficult and just put future forces at risk.”
While an emphasis on R&D funding may be good for industry, the impact will vary depending on where the funds are directed, said Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners.
“It really depends on what level that money is targeted,” Callan said. “If it’s going to basic research, that’s great for the labs and universities. If you’re just throwing more R&D money at things like the Ohio replacement program, or the JSF, that’s helpful to the industrial base.”
R&D spending accounts bore the greatest percentage of Pentagon’s sequestration cuts in 2013 since DoD leaders opted to shift money into operations and maintenance accounts. The upcoming fiscal year 2015 budget provides one of the first opportunities for Hagel to make strategic choices and build a budget that fits within the mandates of the $521 billion budget cap.
Sources said the 2015 budget proposals drafted by the services had included a high concentration of funds in the operations and maintenance accounts in an effort to reverse some of the damage done to military readiness from sequestration.
Hagel, in consultation with DoD’s acting R&D chief Al Shaffer, told the services to go back and boost R&D accounts 15 percent above the proposed levels, the sources said.
In 2012, the Army spent $8.7 billion on R&D, the Navy and Marine Corps spent $17.7 billion and the Air Force $26.3 billion. Those numbers were fairly flat in the president’s 2013 budget request, but dropped for 2014 to $8 billion, $16 billion and $25.7 billion respectively due to sequestration budget caps.
Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall has predicted R&D spending would continue to bear the brunt of defense budget cuts and expressed concern the continued pinch on R&D could threaten US tech superiority and harm the industrial base.
“I’m particularly worried about sustaining technological superiority over time and what deep cuts to R&D are going to do to that,” Kendall said.
The military services are aware of this issue, “but they have near-term, recurrent missions they have to perform at the same time that they’re trying to live within these budgets, so there’s tension about all of this, obviously in our planning,” Kendall said.
“I’ve spoken to the secretary about this and others in senior leadership, but at the same time, we have the constraints that we have and we’re trying to do the best we can to balance out all the different needs that we have.”
Over the past year, as Pentagon R&D funding has been pinched through sequestration, Kendall has strongly encouraged industry CEOs to protect company-funded development projects.
Callan said that an effort to bolster DoD R&D spending might be a sign that efforts to convince industry to increase investment aren’t working.
Even with the cuts, DoD is still investing more in R&D than almost every country in the world, said Gordon Adams, who oversaw defense budgeting during the Clinton administration and is now a professor at American University.
“We are at no long-term risk with respect to our technological capabilities,” he said.
Columnist argues for abolishing Air Force
Jan. 12, 2014 – 06:00AM |
Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft perform an aerial demonstration. A guest columnist for the Boston Globe has proposed abolishing the Air Force to save money.
By Jeff Schogol
The Air Force just cannot shoot down the idea that the government could save money by getting rid of the service.
During a speech in September, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh spoke passionately about how the roughly 143,000 service members who are part of the other services’ air arms cannot fulfill all of the missions carried out by 690,000 active-duty, Guard and Reserve airmen.
“I’m getting really frustrated with hearing over and over again this comment about ‘Why do we need an Air Force?’ ” Welsh said at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference. “You’ve got to be kidding me. We’re not past that yet?”
“There is one Air Force in America and you’re it,” he added. “So let’s shoot this one in the head.”
But a guest columnist for the Boston Globe has proposed doing precisely what Welsh says is anathema to national security: abolishing the Air Force.
“The wind-sock has shifted,” James Carroll wrote in a Jan. 6 column. “Instead of tinkering around the edges of a bloated, unaffordable, and often ineffective national security establishment, the time has come for a major reinvention — starting with the Air Force. Off it should go into the wild blue yonder.”
Carroll could not be reached by press time. His piece relies heavily on arguments made by Robert Farley, author of the upcoming book, “Grounded: The Case For Abolishing The United States Air Force.”
Farley told Air Force Times that he is arguing the Air Force should be merged with the Army and Navy, not firing all 690,000 airmen. This move would allow the military as a whole to shrink by eliminating redundancies among the services.
Farley, a professor at the University of Kentucky, thinks the military should go back to how it was structured before the Air Force became an independent service. Ultimately, such a move would curb how often the military would be used, he argues.
“As far back as the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, [civilian policymakers] have found air power too attractive because of the promise of relatively cheap, relatively efficient war,” Farley said in a Jan. 8 interview. “Putting the Air Force back into the Army creates more perspective with respect to what war really costs and what the prospects of war really are.”
However, retired Army Lt. Gen. David Barno, former commander of U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, said it is “foolish” to think the Air Force can be absorbed into the Army. “In terms of needing to have a separate air arm that focuses on air power, it’s proven to be extraordinarily effective,” said Barno, now part of the Center for a New American Security in Washington.
The Air Force declined to discuss this issue beyond what Welsh has said publicly.
In December, Welsh said at the American Enterprise Institute that the Air Force allows ground forces to attack — and protects ground forces from enemy air attacks. “Since the Korean War, this nation has deployed about 7 million men and women at arms to different contingencies around the world, and tens of thousands of them have died there,” Welsh said. “None of them have died as a result of enemy air attack. That doesn’t happen by accident.
“This requires an Air Force. The Army and the Marine Corps, the Navy cannot do this on their own, not for a theater-size event. They can do it over their organic units but not to support a theater commander. That’s why nations have air forces.”
Retired Gen. Charles Horner, who led the air war during Operation Desert Storm, said those who advocate getting rid of the Air Force do not understand that there are times when one service needs to take the lead in the fight.
“The Army is so parochial about the basic concept of what war is, they think war is where armed forces clash on the battlefield,” Horner said in a Jan. 9 interview. “War can take all kinds of forms and in some wars, like Desert Storm, the preferred way of resolving the issue is to avoid clashes on the battlefield because they induce large casualties.”
The other services don’t have the Air Force’s expertise to take over Air Force missions, said retired Air Force Gen. Chuck Wald.
“Would you hire a dentist to do brain surgery?” said Wald, former head of U.S. European Command.
The Air Force will never be eliminated because it is “the most indispensable of all the services,” said retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, a senior scholar at the Air Force Academy, in a Jan. 9 email.
“The [column]exhibits no comprehension of joint doctrine; why each of the services are required because of the time dimension required to learn how to master control of the domains of land, sea, air, space, and cyber; or the potential of air operations to minimize casualties in achieving national security objectives,” he said.
Gates vs. Air Force Round Two
By Sandra I. Erwin
Former Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates’ much-talked about memoir includes a chapter in which he relives bitter clashes with Air Force officials over nuclear weapon screw-ups, drone deployments and funding for the F-22 fighter aircraft.
The showdown culminated in June 2008 with the firing of Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley. In the memoir, titled, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” Gates dubs the Air Force one of his “biggest headaches” during his time running the Pentagon.
Moseley, for his part, has not released any tell-all books, but did speak recently about the issues that sparked those notorious feuds with Gates. During a talk last month hosted by the Air Force Association’s Mitchell Institute, the now retired general suggested that, in hindsight, Gates made poor equipment-buying decisions that are now coming back to haunt the U.S. military.
Speaking at the Mitchell forum, where Wynne also was in attendance, Moseley said the shutdown of the F-22 program “will prove to be one of the most strategically dislocated decisions made over the last 20-25 years.”
A decorated fighter pilot and an ardent advocate of high-performance aircraft, Moseley fought to keep the F-22 program alive but could not overcome the political headwinds. The Air Force in the mid-1990s envisioned it would buy more than 700 airplanes from manufacturer Lockheed Martin Corp., but rising costs compelled the Pentagon in 2001 to reduce orders to 295. By fiscal year 2006, the budget proposed by the George W. Bush administration funded just 187. Congressional supporters kept the project going until 2009.
Gates, with the backing of Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., led the Obama administration’s effort to stop funding the F-22 in fiscal year 2010. The last aircraft ultimately was delivered in 2012. In speeches and congressional hearings during his tenure, Gates consistently bashed the F-22 — estimated to cost nearly $200 million apiece — as a symbol of extravagant spending on weapons that were conceived to combat the Soviet enemy but were no longer relevant in the fights against Islamic extremists or guerilla warriors like Hezbollah. He pointed out that China would not be able to field an advanced fighter jet until 2025 and by then, the United States would have hundreds of next-generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in the inventory. Gates also blamed expensive weapons such as the F-22 for draining resources from wartime priorities, such as unmanned drones and armored trucks.
Moseley conceded the program initially was too large and expensive, but insisted that, had the production line stayed open, the price would have dropped considerably. “We didn’t, and still don’t need, a thousand of those things. But you need the right number.” Several of the United States’ closest allies would have bought F-22s and helped lower the cost, he said. “The last airplanes we took delivery of were $87 million,” said Moseley. “Had we been able to go to another multiyear [contract] there was an understanding that we would be able to get them for $85 million,” he added. “Find me an airplane out there right now that costs $85 million and has that capability.”
Tight budgets were not the real reason why Gates terminated the program, he said. “The money was there. … We spent $50 billion on MRAPs [mine resistant ambush protected] trucks. We spent a large amount on unmanned aerial vehicles for every private first class and corporal,” Moseley said, and immediately added, “I’m being a little facetious but not much.”
The money was available, but the determination to kill the F-22 was driven by other factors, said Moseley. “Knowing what I know now I would have been more aggressive in protecting that airplane and the building blocks of 5th generation systems into the future.”
Another contentious issue that deepened the rift between Gates and the Air Force was what the secretary characterized as “foot dragging” in buying and deploying UAVs to war zones. He was convinced that Air Force leaders were intentionally slowing down drone procurements to ensure that there was sufficient funding for their prized fighter jets.
During a question-and-answer session at the Mitchell forum, Moseley said there is no intentional bias against unmanned aircraft in the Air Force. There is a place for both manned and unmanned, he said. “Secretary Wynne got tired of hearing me say this when we were beaten up about not going all unmanned.” The reality is that there are few instances when the use of unmanned aviation is imperative. “One is when you believe the threat is so terrible that you’ll lose the human,” he said. “I believe the Air Force has never found that threat. We will penetrate any threat. We haven’t found a place we won’t go. So I don’t buy that one.”
The other is when human pilots are the limiting factor to the persistence of the machine. “I got that one,” said Moseley. “You leave the plane out there for 30 hours on a reconnaissance mission. That’s a valid one.”
According to an excerpt of Gates’ memoirs published by Military Times, what triggered the dismissal of Moseley and Wynne, more so than the F-22 and the drone flaps, were incidents of mishandling of nuclear warheads and sloppy procedures for overseeing such sensitive weapons.
“I took no pleasure from the dismissals,” Gates wrote. “I enjoyed working with both men, but I didn’t believe they really understood the magnitude of the problem. … There would later be allegations that I fired the two of them because of their foot-dragging on ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], or more commonly, because we disagreed on whether to build more F-22 combat aircraft, or on other modernization issues. But it was the Donald report that sealed their fate.” After the Air Force shipped four Minuteman III nose cones to Taiwan, Gates asked Adm. Kirkland H. Donald to investigate the incident. The so-called Donald Report in June 2008 led Gates to blame the problems on a lack of accountability and held the service’s top leaders responsible.
BYOD In Defense Department? Not In This Lifetime
January 14, 2014
Despite some moves toward securing mobile devices and applications, Defense Department officials do not embrace the bring-your-own-device trend.
Large bureaucracies, whether public or private, have a variety of ways to effectively avoid adopting a popular policy or practice. One way is to make that policy or practice a long-term goal while promising to keep evaluating it periodically.
That’s what the Defense Department has done with its BYOD — bring your own device — policy.
There’s no question that the department has made strides on mobility, enterprise mobile device management, and the use of commercial devices and even General Services Administration contracts. But BYOD?
Here’s what Defense CIO Teri Takai said about BYOD in a February 2013 memo on commercial mobile device (CMD) implementation:
“Despite the benefits, existing DOD policies, operational constructs, and security vulnerabilities currently prevent the adoption of devices that are unapproved and procured outside of official government acquisition.” The memo said that BYOD is a long-term objective and, “in conjunction with the Digital Government Strategy, DOD will continue to evaluate BYOD options.”
Based on public comments from the CIO’s office since then, it’s fair to say that the DOD’s position hasn’t changed. In other words, when it comes to BYOD, don’t hold your breath. Although the department officially holds out the possibility of a future BYOD policy, I don’t see it happening in reality, at least not in the foreseeable future.
Why? The risk of security breaches are simply too great and the consequences too dangerous.
Not a month after the DOD CIO’s office issued its implementation plan, the Defense Department’s inspector general released a tough report on security holes in the Army’s use of commercial mobile devices. Investigators visited West Point and Army Corps of Engineers locations and examined Android, iOS, and other commercial mobile devices in use.
The IG found they weren’t covered by mobile device management (MDM) software, and weren’t subject to remote wiping. Many devices were in use, yet the Army wasn’t even aware of them. Hundreds were purchased by users without authorization in a sort of self-created, unofficial BYOD program.
If the DOD is going slowly in adoption of mobility devices, it’s going more slowly still in BYOD. DOD IT planners realize, as everyone should, that mobility doesn’t equal BYOD. Mobile devices have special — and by now, widely understood — requirements for becoming secure. Two of the most important:
Mobile device management. The government has been rushing headlong into mobility ever since former federal CIO Vivek Kundra pushed for it back in 2009. Devices, applications, application stores, and associated pilot projects arrived at agencies before CIO shops even thought about comprehensively managing potentially thousands or tens of thousands of devices. Not until early 2013 did the GSA begin to look for government-wide contracts for MDM and mobile application management products. Without MDM in place, it’s nearly impossible to have strict configuration control, a security must-have. Now the government has gotten serious about MDM. This GSA site lists vendors with FIPS 140-2 MDM and MAM products.
Sandboxing of applications. This involves partitioning mobile devices in ways that create virtual machines on them, so that only approved apps can access certain data sources.
It’s not as if policies aren’t in place to help implement mobility in Defense Department components. The IG report mentions DOD instructions (5010.40) covering internal control programs. There’s also a memo that predates Takai’s memo, dating back to early 2011. It has comprehensive instructions on protecting commercial mobile devices.
Policy is fragmented
In spite of the best efforts of the DOD CIO’s office, I see the policies toward mobile devices varying widely from one defense branch to next.
DOD doesn’t lack for initiatives to unify policy and practice. The Defense Information Systems Agency has been designated to provide unified technology programs across the DOD and has made some headway. For example, DISA continues to strengthen its role in the Joint Information Environment (JIE), providing 1.4 million users secure access to DOD cloud email accounts. It also created an Army-Air Force enterprise license agreement for Microsoft products.
The JIE is presumably the right place to develop and manage mobility capabilities for individual defense branches and even DOD-wide. But to put it charitably, the JIE is very much a work in progress.
DOD managers can also avail themselves of mobility guidance from the National Institute of Standards and Technology and even the Office of Management and Budget. Yet nothing in the accumulated policy and technology guidance makes a strong case for advancing BYOD as a subset of a military mobility framework, much less compels it.
Contractors seeking to work in the DOD market would be wise not to oversell the idea of enabling any and all mobile devices. Despite the promises of technology, BYOD simply won’t happen in the DOD, at least not in any meaningful numbers.
I know, I know. BYOD situations have broken out in a few civilian agencies. But they have different and often less dangerous security considerations. And let’s not forget about the Snowden effect that’s making every agency nervous about trusted people on its network.
More likely, DOD agencies will establish a choose-your-own-device plan. (Dare I coin a new term, “CYOD”?) Employees, uniformed and civilian, will select from a list of approved devices depending on the flavor each person prefers. But the devices will be government-furnished, delivered with the agency’s configuration and security controls already in place.
Tim Larkins is manager of market intelligence for immixGroup, which helps technology companies do business with the government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AF acquisition chief nominee testifies
By Ed Gulick, Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs / Published January 17, 2014
WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Dr. Bill LaPlante testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee Jan. 16 during his nomination hearing to be the next assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.
“I’ve spent over 28 years around systems technologies, acquisition programs; touching all aspects of those programs for all services,” he said. “This experience along with my time on the Defense Science Board offers firsthand impressions of Defense acquisition.”
Many of those years were spent at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md., and eight more spent as the department head for the University’s Global Engagement Department before moving to MITRE as the Missile Defense Portfolio director.
“In all that time I’ve formed impressions and opinions on the challenges of acquisition,” LaPlante said. “I come from a community that desperately wants to make a difference; a community that wants to find the game changing technology needed by the warfighter and get it into production; a community that wants to invent a clever way to do contracting so that we finish a development contract on time — I come from a community that just wants to make a difference.”
During the hearing, LaPlante was questioned by committee members on the time it takes to develop and field weapon systems, the importance of science and technology investment and how to speed up cyber acquisition.
In his response on the importance of science and technology during a drawdown he highlighted how the U.S. military has used technological superiority as an advantage in all conflicts and that the military must continue research or risk losing the advantage.
On cyber acquisition, LaPlante stressed the service must learn what the vulnerabilities are in our weapon systems and work to reduce risks, a task that may sound simple but is actually very difficult. He said resiliency must be built into systems but the time required to design and acquire a weapons system makes that difficult.
“A problem two years ago is not a problem today, and what’s a problem today we couldn’t have imagined two years ago,” LaPlante said. “So, anything that will help us build resiliency and get the compliance part of the system to be much quicker would be very helpful.”
If confirmed, LaPlante will follow Sue Payton who left the position in April 2009. LaPlante currently serves as the principal deputy, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition.
Health Care Turns to 3D Printing
Sheku Kamara, director of the Rapid Prototyping Consortium at the Milwaukee School of Engineering, says he believes additive manufacturing (AM) — better known as 3D printing in mainstream discussions — is “made for the medical industry.”
Whereas traditional manufacturing methods are ideal for high-volume production of parts with standard geometric features, AM can produce one-of-a-kind models of complex organic shapes in low volume. The growing use of pre-surgical models — 3D-printed physical replicas of the cross-sections that must go under the knife — is a relatively new trend made possible by AM’s ability to speedily produce single units for one-time use, custom-built from the CT scans of target patients.
The Consortium’s rapid prototyping hardware setup includes iPro8000, SLA-3500 and Sinterstation 2500plus from 3D Systems; Fortus eT from Stratasys; and Spectrum Z510 from 3D Systems (previously a Z Corp brand, acquired by 3D Systems). Its members are industry-leading names in the medical sector: Johnson & Johnson, Baxter Healthcare, and Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal Health), to name but a few.
By Kamara’s conservative estimate, more than 50% of the Consortium members own and operate their own rapid-prototyping facilities, deploying inexpensive concept-model printers to high-end machines. But the interest, R&D activities and technology acquisitions only began to pick up in the last four or five years, he notes. The insiders aren’t publicizing what they’re doing with AM because, he says, “it’s a competitive advantage for them.”
Who Gets the Bill?
In automotive and aerospace sectors, manufacturers are increasingly relying on digital mockups and simulation software to circumvent the cost of building and crashing physical prototypes for safety tests. But in the medical sector, tangible 3D-printed models are giving surgeons and physicians an option they’d never had before: the ability to practice and plan computer-guided surgery on a mockup of their patient’s anatomy.
In October 2013, DePuy Synthes CMF (craniomaxillofacial), a division of Johnson & Johnson, launched a new offering called TRUMATCH CMF. It’s a pre-operation planning service for facial reconstruction, orthognathic surgery, distraction and cranial reconstruction. Much of it is powered by AM, according to the company. As the press release explains: “A digital file is translated into a physical object by a 3D printer to create patient-specific surgical guides and occlusal splints. This enables transfer of the pre-operative plan to the operating room, potentially reducing OR time and assisting in the placement of implants.”
Kamara observes that the ability to print out the target region for surgery, with all the nerves and blood vessels in color, and to see where the veins are connected is absolutely huge. “But how can that be quantified?” he asks. “That’s the challenge.” To put it bluntly, who would pay for the print job? At least for now, the question produces more debates than answers.
Bridging Engineering and Life Sciences
Jean Colombel, vice president of life sciences industry for Dassault Systemes, says he believes the medical device industry can benefit from greater collaboration between engineers and physicians, who often speak different languages and use different lingos. (For more on this, read “From Classical Mechanics to Biomechanics,” July 2013.)
“The knowledge about human beings and human bodies is still a partial knowledge,” he says. “How can we get the expertise of the physicians and the case histories of their patients added to the ideas of the engineers? It’s really about getting them to collaborate more, so they can create digital models for simulation.”
According to Colombel, Dassault’s SolidWorks 3D mechanical software is “a leading 3D design tool for the medical device industry.” He predicts that “leveraging 3D as part of medical community will improve communication between doctors and engineers.”
Even though Dassault is primarily a software powerhouse, the company keeps a mini-manufacturing center called FabLabs on its Paris campus. Among the hardware choices at the facility is a pair of Cubify 3D printers from 3D Systems. Priced at $1,299, they target home users and hobbyists with limited CAD software expertise.
The Missing Software
In aerospace, automotive and consumer goods manufacturing, the current crop of mechanical 3D modeling packages serve as concept modelers. But the range of geometry you can produce in them may prove inadequate to address the non-uniform, asymmetrical anatomical shapes medical professionals need to analyze.
“In my opinion, the software is lagging — not just in medical application, but even in consumer goods,” says the Consortium’s Kamara. “In 3D printing, I can print anything. Shape complexity is an advantage. But not so in most of CAD software.”
Detailed humanoid shapes are the domains of high-end character modeling and animation programs like Autodesk Maya, the standard tool for filmmakers and game developers. But the learning curve for such a program may prove too steep even for regular 3D software users. It would certainly be an unfair burden on medical professionals, whose primary job function is not 3D modeling.
At the Consortium, students use Mimics from Materialise and Freeform Plus from Geomagic (a subsidiary of the rapid prototyping machine maker 3D Systems). Both packages offer one crucial function for medical application: You can sculpt 3D models out of CT, MRI and ultrasound data.
From Prototype to Production
Most people consider AM to be a prototyping technology, suitable for creating test models and mockups, not for full production run. But RedEye, a division of Stratasys, defies this generally accepted belief. Medical device projects account for about 15% of RedEye’s business, according to Jeff Hanson, RedEye’s manager for business development.
“Typically, medical companies come to our portal [website] at the prototyping phase,” Hanson says. “Our job is to understand the story of the part: What’s the end use, the intended manufacturing material, the market? If we know those, we might be able to migrate the customer from prototyping to manufacturing.”
In medical device manufacturing, early digital concepts are likely to go through many iterations. Some are minor geometry adjustments; others are more drastic to improve the instrument’s performance. They’re often prompted by findings from lab tests, cadaver tests and clinical trials.
“If [the customer] comes to us during an early concept phase, everything is at risk for change,” notes Hanson. “Maybe the strain release doesn’t work right, a boss interferes with the device’s operation, or the skin doesn’t fit — these are typical design changes.”
For large-volume production of devices that measure bigger than the built chamber of a 3D printer, traditional manufacturing methods are still the better choice. But RedEye has found a niche in low-volume, quick-turnaround production runs, described by Hanson as “in the low thousands.” Often, on-demand 3D printing like RedEye’s services can be the best way to introduce a new product to the market without committing to costly machine and mold setups.
Work in Progress
The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and other regulatory bodies insist on compliance, not just with the medical devices manufactured, but also with the manufacturing processes themselves. To be certified for medical use, the way the machine cures print materials itself is subject to close examination.
3D printer makers have done an admirable job developing print materials that are acceptable for medical use. The Consortium’s Kamara points to the development of polyetherketoneketone (PEKK) polymer, a medical-grade material that can be used with 3D printing and is acceptable for implants, as an example.
Although complying with stringent regulatory requirements like ensuring a sterilized manufacturing environment for implants created in 3D printers is a work in progress, late-breaking news shows encouraging signs. In November, polymer-based cranial implants made with the AM process from EOS became the first of its kind to receive FDA’s 510K clearance.
Tom Weisel, president of medical device developer Arch Day Design, states that he and his team “print instruments and occasionally anatomical parts such as bone sections. It will be nice when the [3D-printing] materials represent bone more accurately.” That would allow them to print, for instance, “a bone with cancellous and cortical sections.”
How soon will Weisel’s wish become a reality? That may depend on how big a chunk of the AM market’s revenues the medical sector is hauling in. “We can’t put in the R&D effort on such materials until we know a return on the investment,” explains RedEye’s Hanson. “We usually wait until the market demand reaches a certain point.”
For the medical industry that has already discovered 3D printing, it’s difficult to ignore the advantages the technology offers. As the Consortium’s Kamara concludes, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures.”
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, January 18, 2014
With Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn’s announcement this week that he will resign at the end of the current congressional session, 36 of the 100 U.S. Senate seats are now up for grabs in November’s midterm congressional elections. Twenty-one are held by Democrats, 15 by Republicans.
Democrats currently have 53-to-45 majority over Republicans in the Senate, so the GOP needs to hold all its seats and win six more to gain control of the chamber.
Rasmussen Reports jumped into the Senate races this week with a look at the prospective Michigan contest where Republican Terri Lynn Land and Democrat Gary Peters are running neck-and-neck. Longtime Democratic Senator Carl Levin is not seeking reelection.
Look for our numbers in more Senate races next week and in the weeks to come. We’ll be tracking governors’ races soon as well.
Obamacare will be front and center in most of the Senate races this year. Fifty-six percent (56%) of voters now view the health care law unfavorably, with 42% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion of it.
Democrats have widened their lead over Republicans to four points – 41% to 37% – on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.
Voters continue to express unhappiness with the current Congress. A new report says that for the first time more than half the members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives are millionaires, but 70% think it is bad for the country that most members of Congress are this wealthy. However, 65% believe most elected officials get a lot wealthier while in office.
Congress is currently considering a proposal to extend long-term unemployment benefits, but a plurality (47%) of Americans thinks long-term unemployment benefits hurt the economy. Forty-six percent (46%) believe long-term benefits actually increase the number of people who are unemployed.
Hillary Clinton and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are seen by many political pundits as the 2016 Democratic and Republican presidential frontrunners respectively, but 48% say they would be less likely to vote for Christie if it is proven that his office retaliated against a local official who refused to support his reelection as governor.
As for the current occupant of the White House, his daily job approval ratings have returned to levels seen for most of his presidency after dropping to record lows for several weeks after the disastrous rollout of the health care law.
The president’s ratings are undoubtedly helped by the optimism Americans generally feel at the beginning of a new year. Consumer and investor confidence ended the week considerably higher that they were three months ago.
Fifty-six percent (56%) are now confident in the stability of the U.S. banking industry. That’s the highest level of confidence since before the Wall Street meltdown in September 2008.
Still, only 39% of voters now give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of economic issues, while slightly more (41%) rate his performance in this area as poor.
Obama has declared income equality to be his number one issue this year, but 53% of voters consider economic growth to be more important than economic fairness. Thirty-eight percent (38%) rate economic fairness as the more important of the two.
Sixty-eight percent (68%) still consider the president at least somewhat liberal in political terms, including 44% who believe he is Very Liberal.
Voters are evenly divided these days when asked if it’s better for the country if the best people take government jobs or if they go to work in the private sector instead. Democrats put more value on government work than other voters do.
Americans continue to believe that government workers earn more, work less and have more job security than those employed in the private sector.
In other surveys last week:
— For the second week in a row, 29% of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction. A year ago, 36% said the country was heading in the right direction.
— Fifty-five percent (55%) still believe American society is fair and decent, but that’s the lowest level of confidence since August 2012.
— Eighty-one percent (81%) of Americans view North Korea as an enemy of the United States, putting it again at the top of the list of 18 countries periodically tracked by Rasmussen Reports.
— Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans now have gone a full week without paying for anything with cash and coins. That’s up six points from 43% in April 2012.
— The U.S. Mint reports it costs 2.41 cents to produce one penny, but support for getting rid of the one-cent coin is at an all-time low of 29%.
Security Expert: Business Owners Should Never Bank Online
By Karen Weise January 17, 2014
Security blogger Brian Krebs knows a thing or two about the risks of cybercrimes. The security blogger who broke the news of the Target (TGT) and Neiman Marcus data breaches spends his days investigating the cybercriminal underground and, as we reported in the recent issue of the magazine, has been the target of all sorts of digital, and at times physical, assaults. He’s got surveillance cameras around his home, keeps a shotgun in his office, and has thought through how best to protect his own bank accounts.
Krebs says he has no major qualms about doing his personal banking online—largely because there are so many protections for consumers. If a consumer’s bank account is hacked, the bank is generally responsible for covering the costs of the fraud. “If their account is emptied out, as long as the consumer notifies bank in a timely fashion, they don’t have to pay for that,” Krebs says.
According to the FTC (pdf), there are a few thresholds for what’s considered timely. (For those of you keeping track, this is mandated in Section 205.6 of Regulation E.) If consumers notify their bank within two days of learning about the loss or theft, the most they’ll have to pay is $50, no matter how much has been emptied from their checking account. (Consumers are also liable for only up to $50 of fraudulent credit card charges.) If they wait more than two days, but are still within 60 days after their account statement is sent to them, they could be responsible for up to $500.
Protections for business accounts are a whole other story: In general, banks aren’t on the hook in the event of a fraud. Krebs has spent years documenting the ways small businesses have been victimized by cyber attacks. The results can be devastating, at times forcing the business to close when thieves wipe out their payroll or checking accounts. Because of this, Krebs says he does none of his business banking online. He drives to his bank to deposit old-fashioned paper checks in person. Krebs says not enough people know about this distinction, including bank tellers. When he gives paid lectures, Krebs says he asks to travel in business class and often strikes up a conversation with his seatmates. When he mentions this business banking vulnerability, his seatmates are often dumbstruck. “OK,” Krebs says, “Let’s have a conversation about this.”
Insurance Coverage for Commercial Drones: Sky’s the Limit
by Press • 20 January 2014
BY VIKKI STONE
Though the use of small, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)—more familiarly known as “drones”—is in its infancy, commercial growth is predicted to significantly increase in the next 10 years as businesses such as Amazon and UPS explore using them for deliveries and enthusiasts adopt them for commercial and recreational purposes.
Drones will require insurance coverage, which can open the door to new business for agents and brokers. But insuring an unmanned aircraft system means considering a multitude of insurance liability and coverage issues, ranging from personal injury and invasion of privacy to aerial surveillance and data collection.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that by 2020, about 30,000 small, unmanned aircrafts will be used for all types of business purposes. Worldwide, total spending for these aircraft systems is expected to top $89 billion in the next decade, thanks to strong military and commercial demand, according to a 2012 market study by Teal Group, an aerospace industry analyst.
The FAA has allocated $63.4 billion to modernize the country’s air traffic control systems and expand airspace to accommodate the commercial use of these aircrafts. As regulatory constraints are modified to reflect the introduction of these new aircraft systems, commercial markets for their use will expand rapidly. The FAA estimates that roughly 7,500 commercial drones could be viable in five years.
This is quite a change; before the FAA approved two flying robotics models for commercial operations, the only way the commercial/private sector could fly an unmanned aircraft in U.S. airspace was with an experimental airworthiness certification.
The FAA-approved drones each weigh less than 55 pounds and is about 4.5 feet long. They have no pilot on board but are controlled by an offsite operator using a sophisticated remote-control system and data link transmissions.
These flying systems can carry high-powered cameras, infrared sensors, facial-recognition technology and license plate readers.
Business uses are endless. Halstead Property, a real estate business in Darien, Conn., has been using aerial robotic cameras for almost four years to showcase home listings. The business recently demonstrated on the Today show how its drones capture footage of homes for sale, showcasing their interior and exterior features. The use of the technology has increased Halstead’s online listings views threefold, and clients are impressed by the company’s progressive marketing efforts and cutting-edge technology.
Congress has tasked the FAA with integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system by late 2015. This demand requires the FAA to quickly develop a comprehensive plan focused on the safety of UAS technology as well as operator certification. To meet these objectives, the FAA created a new UAS Integration office in March 2012 to tap the knowledge of specialists in aviation safety and air traffic control.
The FAA must develop effective policies and standards to address the increasing number of drones taking to the skies, balancing efficiency and predictability while enhancing safety; operating globally; creating a viable system for airspace use and protecting both safety and the environment.
And legal issues will also arise: Can a property owner claim a drone is “trespassing” on his land? How will stalking, harassment and other laws regulating criminal behavior be applied to drone use? Does airspace ownership apply to unmanned aircraft systems? What about claims of invasion of privacy and spying?
And how will federal aviation law conflict with state law on some of these issues? The government has already made a foray into this quagmire with the Drone Aircraft Privacy & Transparency Act of 2013, introduced to create a regulatory structure for the private use of drones, including privacy protection, data collection and enforcement.
In addition to many regulatory and legal challenges, a slew of complex liability and coverage issues related to insuring unmanned aircraft systems for commercial use is on the horizon too. New and serious problems are likely to arise over airspace procedures, types of accidents and inadvertent eavesdropping.
Fewer than two dozen insurers provide insurance to the aircraft industry—up from less than a dozen a few years ago—and this number is likely to grow once the FAA gives its OK. Although carriers are developing policies to cover insurance exposures relating to drones, they don’t have much data to guide them as they branch into this new territory.
To properly insure these aircrafts, insurers will need to know their function or intent, their takeoff and landing locations, whether they will be operating over populated areas, and their flying altitude. And because these systems can collect massive amounts of data, they can pose a threat to individual privacy and a significant challenge for insurers. In drafting policies, insurers must know how the owner of these aircraft systems will use the data it has gathered and what steps it will take to safeguard or destroy the information it has amassed.
Two areas have the potential to raise huge red flags for the insurance industry: personal injury and invasion of privacy.
Unmanned aircraft systems will have much the same insurance requirements as other aircrafts—only on a smaller scale given their size, flying range and price tag. Given the inherently conservative nature of the insurance industry, carriers might require even stricter guidelines than what the FAA may mandate. Expect to see these types of coverage for drones and their ancillary business activities: liability, personal injury, invasion of privacy, property, and workers’ compensation.
Liability coverage typically includes protection for personal injury, which also covers invasion of privacy. The scope of coverage will depend on what the aircraft is meant to do. If it’s meant to gather data rather than deliver packages, the coverage may need to be broader to provide additional protection.
Property coverage broadly applies to the production, assembly and wholesaling process, which not only protects the parts and the finished product in a warehouse, but also the machinery.
In addition, although whole coverage will be essential, aircraft underwriters have not yet decided how to write these policies. Drones are significantly smaller than standard aircraft, and at this stage, it’s difficult to predict what they will or will not do.
Workers’ compensation coverage is necessary to protect the people working for and in the facilities of UAS-related businesses.
Also, since many of the businesses that will spring up around the UAS industry are likely to be entrepreneurial startups funded by investors, insurers would be wise to offer protection against financial loss due to mismanagement. Exploring directors and officers liability insurance is a prudent option under the circumstances.
Brokers looking to get into the UAS industry must ask extensive questions and “go deep” as they gather information. For example, brokers should inquire about data collection, storage and usage policies as well as a drone’s particular purpose and other physical specifications. This information is essential to help the underwriter prepare a policy that takes all risks into account and provides the proper coverage.
Expect to see the capacity to underwrite drone policies increase as insurers become more familiar with the territory. But insurance is about the collective, so when insurers are hit with the first few claims alleging serious injury or death, they will inevitably start to pull back, resulting in less available coverage and higher prices.
Senators question FAA about faster drone regulation
by Press • 20 January 2014
Bart Jansen USA Today
WASHINGTON — Drone advocates urged the Federal Aviation Administration at a Senate hearing Wednesday to allow the aircraft into general airspace faster because countries such as Japan are friendlier to the innovative technology.
Some members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voiced concern about maintaining drone safety and protecting privacy as more drones fill the skies.
“Lives are at stake,” said Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., the panel chairman. “One of the most important problems the FAA and the industry are trying to solve is avoiding collisions between unmanned and piloted aircraft.”
There is a sense of urgency to the testing and development of regulations. Congress set a September 2015 deadline for the FAA to regulate sharing the skies between drones and commercial airliners.
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said the agency must set standards for safely operating drones, making sure they avoid other aircraft and ensuring they land safely if they lose connection with the remote pilot.
“There will be challenges to this integration,” Huerta said.
He released a road map for the industry in November and named six test groups in December. The FAA anticipates 7,500 drones in the skies within five years, if regulations allow. Huerta said regulations will be prioritized and phased in.
“We must meet these obligations in a thoughtful and careful manner,” Huerta said.
Missy Cummings, a former Navy fight pilot who is director of the humans and autonomy lab at Duke University, doubted the FAA would meet the 2015 deadline.
“While we are making some progress towards this goal, the United States is lagging, not leading, the commercial drone boom,” she said.
Manufacturers are impatient.
Yamaha Motor’s RMAX drone has been fertilizing crops in Japan for 20 years and more recently in Australia and South Korea, according to Henio Arcangeli, vice president for new business development. Drones fertilize a part of Japan equal in size to Delaware and Rhode Island combined, he said.
At 140 pounds and 9 feet long, the $100,000 remote-piloted helicopter is larger than hand-held hobbyist aircraft that could win earlier federal approval.
Trained pilots keep an eye on the drone during daylight hours, Arcangeli said. The drones can fertilize 11 acres of vineyards in Napa Valley in the time it takes a tractor to cover 1 acre, he said.
“There is no reason to delay all commercial (drone) use for the several years it will take the FAA to develop more comprehensive regulations,” Arcangeli said.
Rockefeller and Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada, one of the six testing locations, asked why the FAA is 20 years behind other countries in developing drone regulations.
“Why are we not at the forefront of the world?” Heller asked.
Huerta said U.S. airspace is much more complicated than Japan’s because of many more general-aviation planes. Drone technology has grown quickly and unpredictably, he said.
“Even today, we don’t have a complete understanding of where this might go in the future,” Huerta said.
Bordeaux Classified Vineyards Invest in UAS Technology
by Press • 19 January 2014
Bernard Magrez is to roll out newly-developed vineyard UAS in his four classified Bordeaux estates – Pape Clement, La Tour Carnet, Fombrauge and Haut Peyraguay – before eventually extending them to his entire portfolio of Bordeaux properties, and those in the south of France.
The technology, which involves unmanned mini-helicopter UAS equipped with cameras and other sensors, can be used to fly over vineyards measuring plant damage, disease, hydric stress, grape ripeness and various other parameters, including soil specificities and land contours for drainage.
Chateau Luchey-Halde in AOC Pessac Léognan tested the Scancopter 450, from Fly-n-Sense, back in May 2011, while several estates in California and Oregon have begun using similar technology. Both Chateau Bouscaut and Chateau La Dauphine have also used UAS technology in recent months to create aerial marketing videos of their estates.
Jeanne Lacombe, technical director of all eleven Magrez Médoc estates, including La Tour Carnet and Les Grands Chenes, told decanter.com that a single UAS has been ordered, at the cost of €50,000, and will begin work in April of this year.
‘We have done tests so far, and are very happy with the results. It can cover 1.5 ha of vines in four minutes, so we expect around one week for a property of the size of La Tour Carnet, which extends over 120 hectares.
‘We envisage using the UAS three or four weeks of the year at each property, moving between them as needed, and will buy others in the future if the experiment proves successful.’
Lacombe expects the drone to offer significant manpower reductions, and ensure that all Magrez estates can employ the same levels of plot-by-plot precision viticulture.
‘We expect to make significant reductions also in the use of fertilisers and any vineyard treatments, as the UAS measures requirements so precisely. It also means cutting down on use of tractors. We are training in using the technology right now, and will at first employ manual controls, but in the future the drone will be operated simply by programming from the computer’.
Magrez himself said being a precursor in the use of new technologies was a ‘point of pride’.
By Amy Butler
Source: Aviation Week & Space Technology
January 20, 2014
My how times—and political winds—have changed for the beleaguered Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft.
Less than two years after proposing termination and premature mothballing of the new Block 30 version—once eyed as a replacement for the venerable, high-flying U-2 reconnaissance aircraft—the Pentagon leadership is toying with a complete reversal on its position as it works through options for the fiscal 2015 budget proposal.
In a resourcing management decision—the mechanism by which the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) responds to the services’ annual spending plans—Pentagon budgeters gutted U-2 funding, shifting more than $3 billion into the Global Hawk Block 30 account. The decision is not yet final, and it remains to be seen whether the service will maintain its position from the fiscal 2013 budget. It favored halting Block 30 work and operations and focusing solely on the Lockheed Martin U-2 as the high-altitude, standoff intelligence collector for the next decade or more.
Officials in the OSD and the Air Force do not comment on funding decisions prior to their delivery to Congress. But there are a variety of reasons behind the possible reversal of course by the Pentagon’s leadership. These include politics and a shift in the cost estimate to operate the fleet.
The outcome of this debate could be a bellwether for other such squabbles down the road as the Pentagon proposes fleet terminations—including the A-10, Kiowa and TH-67—in the wake of sequestration and other fiscal pressures. Will the Pentagon and the service capitulate to parochial pressure from Capitol Hill to save a politically popular program? Or will they go to bat for the savings plans they have devised in light of dramatically declining investment budgets? Defense planners argue that if each fleet cut is adjusted, overall savings will be eroded, leaving the Pentagon with a “hollow force” of many platforms that it cannot afford to fly and keep current.
At issue for the Global Hawk is a dive in the cost per flying hour (CPFH) for the aircraft. In earlier fiscal years, CPFH was near that of the U-2 at roughly $33,000 per hr. Fiscal 2013 numbers, recently in from the field, point to a CPFH closer to $25,000, according to a program source.
The notable decrease is due to a substantial spike in the number of hours flown, a shift partly related to the fielding of the first Block 40s outfitted with active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for ground surveillance, an Air Force official says. The official did not provide a total number for the year, but a larger number of hours allows fixed costs to be more diluted in the calculation. Though the Air Force has not publicly proposed terminating the Block 40 in budget plans, last year senior leaders were eyeing it for a kill. It was likely saved owing to the then open debate on the fate of Block 30.
Even if this new CPFH holds true in coming years, one program official notes that for some regions—such as the Pacific—Global Hawk must fly more hours to have an equitable time on station as the U-2. While CPFH may be lower for the Global Hawk, the figure is not reflective of the total cost to gather the needed intelligence.
To give an example, the unmanned air system (UAS) would have to fly 54% more flight hours to collect intelligence on areas in North Korea, the Middle East and Iran.
Nor is CPFH reflective of mission success rates between the two platforms. Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance collection is in high demand, and aircraft downtime is extremely worrisome for combatant commanders. In the Pacific, 55% of Global Hawk’s missions were canceled in fiscal 2013; 96% of the U-2’s missions were achieved. The U-2 was also scheduled for nearly three times as many missions. Global Hawk lacks anti-icing equipment and is not able to operate in severe weather. An upgrade to remedy the shortcoming is being developed by the Navy for its Triton Global Hawk variant, but it would cost money and time to field.
The program source argues that CPFH is not an accurate metric on which to make a decision. He notes that Global Hawks based in Guam have to transit for hours just to reach North Korea, whereas the U-2, based at Osan air base, South Korea, has a shorter commute.
Additionally, the service originally opted to terminate the aircraft because of the lackluster performance by its Raytheon Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suite—the camera used to collect visual, infrared, and radar images. Global Hawk also flies at a lower altitude—typically close to 50,000 ft.—making it more susceptible to some weather and offering less-than-optimal ranges for peering into an enemy’s territory. The U-2, by contrast, operates above 60,000 ft., and has nearly twice as much onboard power at the ready for collecting radar images. Forthcoming fielding of the secret, stealthy RQ-180 UAS (also developed by Northrop Grumman) probably contributed to the Air Force’s view that the Global Hawk is excessive (AW&ST Dec, 9, 2013, p. 20).
Northrop Grumman did not discuss the newest CPFH figures. “[We are] working closely with the Air Force to reduce Global Hawk costs and enhance the system’s outstanding performance. Global Hawk costs per flight hour have gone down significantly since 2010 and continue to decline as the system increases its operational tempo,” says Rene Freeland, a company spokeswoman.
The cost argument could, ultimately, be a cover for OSD simply succumbing to pressure from Capitol Hill, according to some program officials. Lawmakers have gone to bat for the system repeatedly, and Northrop Grumman has aggressively lobbied to keep Global Hawk alive.
Navy Helps Fund 3D Printing of Buildings
by BRYANT JORDAN on JANUARY 20, 2014
Partially funded by the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation Countour Crafting is trying to develop 3D printed buildings using concrete. Company founder Behrokh Khoshnevis is a professor and director of Manufacturing Engineering Graduate Program at the University of Southern California.
Concrete printers would be able to build a 2,500-square-foot building within a single day, according to Khoshnevis.
For the military, that means soldiers deploying to a remote location with little or no infrastructure could be operating out of permanent structures pretty soon after a combat engineer unit arrived with printers and material aboard a C-17.
Essentially, building via printer would work just like any computer assisted manufacturing program. But instead of a robotic tap and die machine turning out parts according to a program, it would be an oversized printer following programmed schematics to lay down, layer by layer, a building, including outside and interior walls, spaces for doors and windows and all electrical, plumbing and air-conditioning conduits, according to Khoshnevis’ website.
In a video of a presentation he made last year Khoshnevis says the machines he is working with now are capable of printing out concrete walls able to bear a compressive stress of 10,000 pounds per square inch. According to the Portland Concrete Association, which represents concrete manufacturers nationwide, conventional concrete has a psi of 7,000 or less.
Anything above that, up to 14,500 psi, is considered high strength.
Building construction is about the only thing that is not automated today, Khoshnevis says. At the same time it kills about 10,000 people a year and injures about 400,000.
Given the history of U.S. military and related missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, Khoshnevis observations on other aspects of conventional construction should also have meaning to the Pentagon.
“The [existing] process is pretty corruption prone,” he said. “It’s very costly and always over budget.”
Looking even further ahead, and farther away, Khoshnevis says 3D construction is likely the solution to be “one of the very few feasible approaches for building structures on the Moon and Mars, which are being targeted for human colonization before the end of the new century.”
BlackBerrys Will Make Up 98% of Mobile Devices on New Defensewide System
By Aliya Sternstein
January 17, 2014
A Pentagon system intended to secure a mix of brand name smartphones for warfighters will primarily support BlackBerrys when the tool starts launching later this month, according to Defense Department officials.
About 80,000 BlackBerrys and 1,800 Defense-owned Apple and Android-based phones and tablets will begin being hooked up to the new management system on Jan. 31, officials announced on Friday.
A transition from tethered workstation computers to mobile information access that began in 2012 is contingent on this system functioning. The $16 million project aims to ensure users — potentially 300,000 of them – don’t compromise military data on their phones or corrupt defense networks when on-the-go.
Popular devices expected to go online include the iPad 3 and 4, iPhone 4S and 5, Samsung 10.1 tablets and Samsung 3S, and Motorola RAZR devices.
“The new year will bring new mobile capabilities to as many as 100,000 DoD users,” Pentagon officials said in a statement. “DoD will begin deploying version 1.0 of the unclassified mobility capability Jan. 31 and will build out capacity to support up to 100,000 users by the end of the fiscal year.”
At the end of the month, users of the mobile device management system will have access to an app store, support for Defense encryption keys, and several departmentwide services, including enterprise email and Defense Connect Online.
Around May, the Pentagon will add a business software package so that users can edit Word documents and other Microsoft Office files.
There currently are 16 apps available, and 90 programs under evaluation.
DISA did not test the system before awarding a contract for installation to DMI last year, according to Defense officials. Questions have been raised about the ability to deploy one part that protects email and Web browsing under an aggressive timeline without short-changing security.
Last year, some military members working off Apple and Android electronics had to revert to older model BlackBerrys because of the system changeover. At the time, Pentagon spokesman Damien Pickart said in an email. “We are delaying provisioning of those devices until the [mobile device management] environment is ready in Jan 2014. We will provision new devices as rapidly as possible starting in January 2014.”
Drone Hunting in Colorado
JANUARY 20, 2014
By Matt Pearce
Wearing a black duster and a black cowboy hat, Phil Steel walked to the front of the meeting room armed with a Nerf gun and a smile. The U.S. Army veteran was there to pitch his big idea: an ordinance that would legalize and regulate drone hunting inside Deer Trail city limits. If approved, residents could pay $25 to get a drone-hunting license; the town would pay a bounty for every drone bagged.
“Really?” someone asked sarcastically as the theme music to “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” blared during Steel’s entrance. Laughter rippled through the room.
Steel had hammered out the 2,800-word ordinance in just four hours. Its key points:
When a drone flies into its airspace, Deer Trail will consider it an act of war.
You can only shoot at drones flying lower than 1,000 feet.
Unless your life is in danger, you can only fire up to three shots at a drone.
Some at the August meeting thought the drone-hunting ordinance might be a good idea. Others used words like “stupid” and “a joke” to describe a proposal that they worried might become an embarrassment.
To many, that’s exactly what it has become.
Out in the loping, golden plains about an hour’s drive east of Denver, this little town of lonesome homes and chain-link fences looks a lot like the other hubs that sit astride Interstate 70 as traffic streaks toward Kansas: Blink, and you miss it.
Then things in Deer Trail (population about 550) changed when the town’s trustees split 3 to 3 on the ordinance, automatically kicking the proposal to the residents for a vote. In doing so, the trustees managed to garner national media attention for Deer Trail at a time when drones are poised to become a part of everyday life.
Mention the word “drone” and locals hang their heads or throw up their hands. The idea is either a money-raiser for the town, a dangerous joke, or _ according to its creator _ a stand against the federal government, corporations and drug dealers.
“I have declared the sovereignty and the supremacy of the airspace of my town,” said Steel, 49. “This is an act of sedition, and I proudly state that.”
___ Just by the interstate, there used to be a big white sign sitting next to a pink tractor outside the mayor’s welding shop. “No drone zone,” it said, before somebody stole it in December.
The mayor said he’d put the sign up as a joke when the drone debate first started. But who’s laughing anymore?
“Nobody likes humor,” Frank Fields said recently of the town that he runs.
Before last year, the town was most famous for claiming to be the home of America’s first rodeo in 1869; now, it’s Steel’s contentious proposal.
Steel’s involvement in the drone ordinance has antagonized many of the town’s residents, including some of those who support the measure.
“I agree with the Fourth Amendment rights (argument), but I don’t like him,” said one resident waiting by the pump at the Deer Trail Phillips 66 gas station. She declined to give her name for fear of causing trouble.
The proposal to legalize drone hunting by selling licenses appealed to Fields purely as a source of income, the mayor said, because the town’s coffers are bare and residents can’t agree to pass a sales tax.
“A little bit of free money is going be good, we thought,” said Fields, 57. “Evidently, nobody wanted that either. … Now people are trying to oust me and the town clerk because we went kind of far.”
After a little prodding, Fields acknowledged that the town clerk is, yes, also his wife. That’s just the kind of place Deer Trail is.
___ There are no drones flying over Deer Trail, it should be mentioned. At midday, when everybody is at work, there is hardly even any traffic: All you might hear is the snort of a horse fenced in somebody’s yard, or the croak of a rooster.
“Across the board, very good people,” said Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson, who is retiring at the end of January. “I’m very proud to serve every one of them. There’s a bit of an independent streak out there, which I have no objection to.
“But,” the sheriff adds, “I obviously object to the ordinance.” Domestic drones are coming. The Federal Aviation Administration is working on plans to integrate drones into civilian airspace as soon as 2015. It has taken notice of Deer Trail’s proposal.
“A (drone) hit by gunfire could crash, causing damage to persons or property on the ground, or it could collide with other objects in the air,” the FAA said in a statement. “Shooting at an unmanned aircraft could result in criminal or civil liability, just as would firing at a manned airplane.”
But these arguments _ and especially Amazon’s recent announcement about considering drone package deliveries _ only bolstered Steel’s quest.
“You think they’re the only ones?” Steel said of the Amazon drones. “There will be millions of these. … Which drones are being flown by drug dealers? … Burglars who want to case neighborhoods? If you can also deliver a pizza, you can deliver a bomb, anywhere _ at a crowded football stadium, at the Boston Marathon.”
Even though the measure hasn’t been passed, Steel has sold drone-hunting licenses to buyers around the country for $25 a pop, raising suspicions around town that he’s just in it for the money. He had a spreadsheet detailing several hundred PayPal transactions from 41 states and two provinces in Canada.
Lonneke, Steel’s neighbor, bragged on Facebook about buying a license: “Today is the best day of my life I GOT MY DRONE HUNTING LICENSE TODAY!!!!!!”
The licenses are printed on vellum, and come with the warning that they “may not be recognized by tyrannical municipal, state or federal governments.” Even though the licenses have no legal value, Fields, the mayor, has abetted Steel’s private sales.
“I was all about it _ heck yeah! I signed it as sovereign mayor, and town clerk signed it as a witness,” Fields said, adding that he signed about 100 licenses personally before Steel got a stamp with Fields’ signature on it to print on the rest.
“We kind of stirred it up a little,” Fields said. “Once it’s all said, I don’t have regrets. It is what it is.”
Deer Trail, with its pretty, painted gazebos mixed in with rusted-out cars parked on lawns, still could be released from its notoriety _ and the occasional drone tourist _ should the measure fail at the ballot box in April.
If Deer Trail says no to drone hunting, fine, Steel said. There are lots of other little towns in Colorado.
Federal ban on drones doesn’t stop photography
by Press • 22 January 2014
By Peter Corbett
Valley real-estate photographers are using drones to shoot aerial shots of residential properties despite a federal ban on the use of unmanned aircraft.
Using lightweight radio-controlled helicopters to shoot photos and videos that show homes in context to neighbors, golf courses and other nearby landmarks, the photographers are finding ways to work around federal rules.
“Technically, I can’t charge for any of the flying,” said Luke Pierzina of Aerial Raiders. “I charge for editing.”
Commercial use of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, is expected to be an emerging line of business worth billions of dollars within a few years.
That includes low-flying aircraft of less than 10 pounds all the way up to planes as large as commercial airliners that can fly above 60,000 feet.
The Federal Aviation Administration estimates that more than 7,500 small UAVs will be flying in the national airspace in the next five years.
Pierzina, 40, of Aerial Raiders, said he has used his radio-controlled four-blade helicopter to shoot real-estate photographs, snowboarder video and even a wedding on a remote mesa near Sedona.
The 5-pound aircraft with 14-inch blades can fly on battery power for about six minutes with a camera or 25 minutes without, he said.
The FAA chose six U.S. test sites in December to review UAV technology and develop regulations for their use.
Arizona was not among the sites chosen for testing, but it hopes to remain involved in development of commercial UAV applications.
The FAA is scheduled to set rules for small UAVs this year with a review period to follow before implementation.
The agency claims jurisdiction of the entire U.S. airspace and relies on a 1981 advisory circular regulating model aircraft as the basis for standards for small UAV use.
The circular encourages voluntary compliance and advises model-aircraft fliers to keep their planes below 400 feet and to notify an airport operator if they are flying within 3 miles of the airport.
Commercial use banned
FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said in a statement that an operator of radio-controlled aircraft can mount a camera on it and shoot video for his or her personal use.
“But if the same person flies the same aircraft and then tries to sell the video, or uses it to promote a business, or accepts payments from someone else to shoot the video, that would be a prohibited commercial operation,” said Gregor, who works out of the FAA’s Pacific Division office.
The FAA is not a prosecutorial agency, but it would send a UAV operator a cease-and-desist letter if it became aware of the unauthorized commercial use of a UAV, he added.
The FAA is in litigation with Raphael Pirker, an aerial photographer who in 2011 shot pictures with a UAV at the University of Virginia.
Pirker, who was assessed a $10,000 fine, is challenging the FAA’s jurisdiction.
UAV users, including real-estate photographers and journalists, are carefully watching the case.
Aerial Raiders and other Valley operators such as Greg Utton of Mesa have websites that advertise their photography services with UAVs.
Another local UAV operator declined to comment on the record because of fears of FAA enforcement.
Utton, 66, said that he thinks there are thousands of UAV photographers around the country and that the FAA cannot police them all.
He started doing real-estate photography three years ago and added the option of aerial images last year.
Flying radio-controlled aircraft has been a hobby since the mid-1970s.
Utton has three radio-controlled helicopters for photographs and a six-blade rotorcraft for video.
The lightweight copters can cost as much as $5,000, Utton said.
He assembles the aircraft and builds the rigging for his cameras, which include a small GoPro unit and a full-size digital camera.
Safety, privacy issues
For safety and privacy, Utton said he always keeps the copters in view and restricts flights to over the street and the property he is shooting.
He won’t fly near power lines, in high winds or if a site is too congested with people or cars.
“I’m not flying very high, maybe 100 feet,” he said. “You want to show the front of the house and the landscaping. When you get one of these expensive houses, that’s what you’re selling.”
Utton charges $150 for shooting with his small helicopter and $375 for the large UAV. But that is far less than hiring a full-size aircraft to do aerial photography.
Bruce Haffner, a pilot and TV reporter, said he charges $1,575 per hour to take HD video footage for commercial work in his full-size helicopter.
“We can go to higher altitudes and travel farther,” he said of the helicopter. “But the quadcopter has its place. There is a place for them once the FAA figures it out (on safety issues).”
Utton and others in the UAV industry have complained that the United States is falling behind other nations in using UAVs for commercial use while the FAA is taking years to set its policies.
“Why is it that I can’t do this here because I live in the United States?” said Utton, a Vietnam veteran who was an Army helicopter crew chief.
The federal government has not contacted him about his UAV use for real-estate photography, Utton said.
Real-estate photography is becoming an important part of marketing properties, especially high-end homes, because nine out of 10 buyers start home searches online, said Kevin Crosse of Arizona Imaging.
He started his company in 2001.
Some photographers use truck-mounted booms to get aerial shots, but the height is limited and access can be restricted, as well, he said.
Crosse does not have a UAV but has contracted with an operator for aerial shots. That operator declined to be identified for this story.
Rebecca Grossman, Scottsdale Area Association of Realtors president and CEO, said the association is aware that some of its members offer aerial videos.
“But we were not aware that they are violating FAA rules, and we have not received any complaints in that regard,” she said.
In January 2012, the California Association of Realtors warned its members that use of UAVs for video or photographs of high-end properties “may violate … the FAA policy on unmanned aircraft.”
Lexa Garrett, president of the Saguaro chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, said the FAA has established a distinct line between hobbyists and commercial operators of UAVs.
Safety is the agency’s top priority, she said.
“The FAA doesn’t want things falling out of the sky” and landing on a neighbor’s property, said Garrett, a commercial-airline pilot from southern Arizona.
Drones for farms a challenge, but popular topic at Precision Ag Summit
by Press • 22 January 2014
By: Mikkel Pates, Agweek
JAMESTOWN, N.D. — Technology might be a limit in precision agriculture, but the biggest limitation is imagination.
Topics at this year’s Precision Ag Action Summit in Jamestown, N.D., ranged from Google Glass, a technology for putting a smartphone into eyeglass frames, to unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), to the quality and ability to use data, which is becoming so voluminous that it has its own name — big data.
After two full days of hearing speakers at the summit, farmer Kerby Weets from Ashby, Minn., rose to ask how much the far-flung drone systems might actually cost a farmer. Answers varied.
“Our system is made to cover a lot of acres really fast, really quickly,” assured Zach Fiene, co-founder of DMZ Ariel, in Prairie Du Sac, Wis., a UAS panelist who said his systems would be at the low end of the cost spectrum for UAS machines, at $2,500 to $5,500.
More expensive systems do more and might cost $15,000, said supplier Ryan Jensen, CEO and co-founder of HoneyComb UAS. Jensen said his system is used in the potato industry in western states.
“We found that crop value and monitoring frequency are important,” Jensen said. “The other thing to consider is the processing that needs to be done.”
What will it cost?
Despite variability and complexity, the costs don’t seem daunting to some farmers.
“I think right now it’s a little pricey,” Weets said. “As we get more technology rolling out, I can see a lot of that stuff cheapening up. I think this is a big thing. We’re on the cutting edge of a lot of this stuff.”
Weets could think of ways to use the new systems on a farm he operates with a brother near Alexandria, Minn., or on the tiling business he co-owns, or in his other work as an agronomist for a local cooperative.
“A system like this could add a lot of value to what I do on a day-to-day basis,” he said. With the tiling system, he could use 1-inch accuracy instead of remote sensing imagery, which he said has a resolution of about 3 feet. He said he’s going to buy and learn to fly a hobby model airplane to practice with.
Some 340 people attended the event in the two-day period. Ryan Aasheim, event coordinator for the Red River Valley Research Corridor, one of the main sponsors, along with the North Dakota Farmers Union, said attendance increased by nearly 100 over last year.
Aasheim said more UAS content drove this year’s interest, but there was a cross-section of people, sampling different software applications and technologies. He said the event had increased some of the break times, adding to the networking.
The show expanded this year into livestock to attract speakers and attendees. Mark Watne, president of the NDFU, said the event fits well into his organization’s educational goals.
“It’s exposing people, letting them decide whether they want to get involved,” Aasheim said.
Landing on the moon
Dale Reimers, a 55-year-old Jamestown farmer, said technology is something farms and organizations need to focus on more. He likened the messages from the conference to the John F. Kennedy challenge to put a man on the moon.
“It’s huge,” he said. Some of the technology will be tested this summer on Reimers’ brother’s farm operation east of Casselton, N.D. The study involves North Dakota State University and is funded by the North Dakota Soybean Council.
The event’s most impressive drone demonstration may have been one by Eric Harnisch, an NDSU electrical engineering graduate who lives in the Minneapolis area and works with Pulsar Operational Boundaries, based in Duluth, Minn., and Minot, N.D.
“You need to figure out the minimum information you need to make a business decision,” Harnisch said, demonstrating the difference between 2.5 centimeters of resolution and 10 centimeters. He said farmers will decide on resolution that doesn’t simply “pile more gigabytes” of data. He said cutting the data needed can mean changing the camera angle, reducing the amount of acreage taken in.
Harnisch said things such as wind speed and direction affect how the vehicles are flown, or how many flights are needed to collect data, as well as the load on batteries. Changes in weather and sun will dictate whether the data needs to be adjusted for interpretation to help farmers and crop consultants decide whether crops have problems with insect, disease or weed pests, among other things.
Waiting on FAA approval
The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of changing regulations on drones. John Nowatzki, a North Dakota State University Extension Service agricultural engineer who works with the technology, said the FAA might change some of the rules that require levels of written pilot training to operate the devices, but he thinks it might take more time than some people expect.
Issues of safety and privacy are the most difficult. Some demonstrations of just the smaller versions of the drones have been called off because of liability issues. Farmers may be asked to keep the devices specific distances from airports or other sensitive places.
One attendee, Laney Faleide, president and CEO of North Dakota-based SatShot LLC, which works with bringing satellite imaging technology to farmers, said all of the technologies have their role. Satellite imagery has 10- to 15-foot resolution. He thinks the system will be complementary, with satellite imagery used to see larger problems and drones used to take a closer look. Faleide said more satellites are being launched to improve that system.
Studies have shown that if UASs are developed by 2025, it will be an $82 billion industry, with 80 percent of the benefits seen in agriculture, said Kevin Price, a professor of agronomy at Kansas State University.
“The longer the FAA continues to hold the commercialization up, the more revenue will be lost in the United States to foreign countries that will be moving much further ahead of us,” Price said. “An entire industry will be held up.”
He said one area that will need to be addressed is how large the fields are, and whether line-of-sight rules will persist for farm applications.
Kansas started early in the technology, with the military working with the Kansas State campus in Salina.
“When we wanted to start moving into agricultural applications, it was speeding our progress, because (the military) already knew how to get the certificates from the FAA.”
Nowatzki emphasized it is “pretty obvious” that NDSU needs to be working with the University of North Dakota, with the school of aerospace and UAS center, and is already doing so. Similarly, Paul Gunderson, director of the Dakota Precision Ag Center at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, N.D., said his organization moved into the study of the UASs early-on, but cautioned against seeing it as too simple and urged more research, as well as more collaborative research among institutions.
“These platforms are inherently unstable, even with gyroscope technology,” Gunderson said. He said his center puts a priority on “hang times” for the vehicles and for ruggedness. He said they must be able to withstand 35 mph winds or more, which are ordinary in the Dakotas.
“Because of that, there are variations in camera angles, shadows, variations from morning to evening time.” He said some problems can be overcome with technology, but it’s important to stay in the real world — not adding six hours of flight to save 33 seconds of data downloading.
“From my perspective, there has to be a practicality that has to infuse this entire arena,” he said. “That doesn’t, however, negate the importance of the technology.”
Trimble Adds Unmanned Aircraft System to its Agriculture Portfolio for Aerial Imaging and Mapping
by Press • 21 January 2014
Trimble (NASDAQ: TRMB) announced today the addition of its Trimble® UX5 unmanned aircraft system (UAS) to its Agriculture product portfolio for aerial imaging and mapping. The Trimble UX5 system can enable Ag service providers to easily capture aerial images for scouting and monitoring crop health such as detecting pests, weeds and nitrogen deficiencies. The system can locate cattle and their available forage over large areas, measure crop height, and generate topographic maps and models for land leveling and drainage applications. As a result, the system provides farmers’ trusted advisors—such as agronomists, Trimble resellers, and other Ag service providers—with a powerful data collection tool that can aid with recommendations to improve farming operations.
The Trimble UX5 system flies at 80 kilometers/hour (50 mph) and is stable in significant crosswinds and even light rain. In a single 50-minute flight, the Trimble UX5 system can cover a two square kilometer (0.8 square mile) area at five centimeter (two inch) image resolution. It comes with a camera modified to capture the near-infrared spectrum, which helps in deducing vegetation indexes for crop health assessment. The Trimble UX5 system can capture a variety of images to be processed post flight. The output of a single flight provides geo-referenced precision images, a digital surface model (DSM) showing elevations as a color image, and a dense 3D point cloud that includes elevations.
“The addition of the Trimble UX5 system strengthens our agriculture product portfolio and enables us to provide a solution that benefits a broad range of customers including growers, ranchers, water management contractors, agronomists and other Ag service providers,” said Joe Denniston, vice president of Trimble’s Agriculture Division. “High-speed aerial imaging is a powerful tool that can quickly and easily locate problem areas to be addressed. The faster a problem area is discovered, the better the chance it can be evaluated and resolved before crop yield is impacted.”
Trimble provides training for system operators and their observers, which focuses on safety precautions and the application of the Trimble UX5 system for maximum success. The Trimble UX5 system is available from Authorized Agriculture Distribution Partners and is subject to regulations and restrictions defined by local civil aviation authorities. Unmanned aircraft systems are currently not allowed to be flown in some regions or for certain applications. For more information on the Trimble UX5 system, visit:
Neiman Marcus Reveals Breach Details
More Than 1 Million Cards Likely Exposed in Malware Attack
By Tracy Kitten, January 23, 2014. Follow Tracy @FraudBlogger
Neiman Marcus, the luxury retailer that in mid-January acknowledged its payments system may have been compromised, now says that between July 16 and Oct. 30 last year, more than 1 million credit and debit cards may have been breached.
In a statement issued Jan. 22, Neiman Marcus President and CEO Karen Katz says a network malware attack designed “to collect or scrape payment card data” had been identified by forensics investigators. The investigation is ongoing.
“To date, Visa, MasterCard and Discover have notified us that approximately 2,400 unique customer payment cards used at Neiman Marcus and Last Call stores were subsequently used fraudulently,” Katz says in the company’s statement. Last Call is a retail clearance center with 28 locations owned by Neiman Marcus.
No fraudulent activity has yet been linked to Neiman Marcus or Bergdorf Goodman payment cards, the statement notes. Bergdorf Goodman is a subsidiary of Neiman Marcus.
So far, the retailer says its investigation has revealed that personally identifiable information, such as Social Security numbers and dates of birth, was not compromised. The retailer also notes that online purchases and PINs were not adversely affected by the breach. “We do not use PIN pads in our stores,” Katz states in the Jan. 22 statement.
Like Target Corp., which announced its network breach Dec. 19, Neiman Marcus is stressing its zero liability for consumers adversely affected by fraudulent charges.
“The policies of the payment brands such as Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover and the Neiman Marcus card provide that you have zero liability for any unauthorized charges if you report them in a timely manner,” the company says. “Please contact your card brand or issuing bank for more information about the policy that applies to you.”
Neiman Marcus also is offering free credit monitoring to all customers who conducted transactions at Neiman Marcus or Last Call from January 2013 to January 2014. “We are notifying all customers for whom we have addresses or e-mail,” the company says.
Additional information is available for consumers under the general questions section on Neiman Marcus’ website.
Internet of Things: Calamity in Making?
Imagining a Cyber 9/11
By Robert Bigman, January 23, 2014.
Imagine this: It’s 8:40 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 11, 2015, and eastbound trains speeding along the Long Island Railroad and New York City subway lines switch tracks, causing scores of fatal, head-on collisions. Though alerted by sensors, transit personnel monitoring rail traffic couldn’t override the track switching.
Two-hundred and fifty miles to the south, at Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., the computer in the cockpit of a departing Boeing 757 flight bound for Los Angeles receives orders to switch to runway 1L/19R, unknown to traffic controllers, and begins its takeoff as a Boeing 767 from Zurich lands on the same runway.
Will America’s infatuation with the Internet of Things eventually result in momentous losses of life?
An hour later, President Obama appears on national TV, announcing that cyberterrorists caused the catastrophes in New York and northern Virginia, comparing the day to Sept. 11, 2001.
An unnerved public knows that the attacks nearly 12½ years ago were localized events carried out by terrorists who could be seen and heard. But the latest incidents were carried out by unseen and silent cyberterrorists who exploited the same Internet in which their own lives are connected.
Hysteria spreads quickly beyond New York and Washington as Americans refuse to fly or take mass transit. Media reports of blackouts, and unconfirmed Internet postings claiming that nation’s power grid will be taken down, cause citizens to hoard gasoline, food and home supplies. Banks experience runs on their ATMs. Cybersecurity experts, appearing on news programs, begin to discuss the death of the Internet of Things, a web of devices embedded with sensors.
Reality Setting In
What went wrong when everything seemed to be going so right? The White House and other senior government officials had loudly praised the implementation of cybersecurity framework a year-and-a-half earlier as a watershed moment in improving the security of industry-operated critical IT infrastructure. Indeed, the number of successful penetrations of private and public organizations had fallen as a few misinformed cyberpundits predicted “the decline of the easy hack.”
Then came 9/11/2015 and reality set in. While the security of traditional government and business IT systems improved, the infatuation with the Internet of Things soared. In fact, the appeal of the Internet of Things proved too much for some members of the nation’s transportation network critical infrastructure. In response to corporate demands on IT staffs to “do more with less,” these organizations exploited the Internet of Things to interconnect transportation monitoring and control systems to their corporate networks, which were connected to the Internet.
All these networks satisfied the recommendations in the cybersecurity framework, a set of IT security best practices developed by the government and business (slated to be released next month) that critical infrastructure operators can voluntarily adopt. All these networks secured their interfaces to the monitoring and control networks with sophisticated cybersecurity software protection measures and employed the latest cyber-intelligence services and products. All these networks, however, were “hacked” and accessible to cyberterrorists.
What went wrong?
First, the cybersecurity framework was only a high-level collection of risk management security suggestions, without mandatory standards.
Second, and more importantly, even before America’s infatuation with the Internet of Things, it was clear that we had not solved the underlying problem – that the computer systems, networks and applications that constitute the Internet are inherently insecure.
Infatuation with the Internet of Things
Today’s commercial and open source operating systems still cannot, for example, secure critical kernel processes. TCP/IP networks remain vulnerable to even fairly simple man-in-the-middle attacks. While no system can ever be 100 percent secure, these security risks have been with us since the introduction of the microcomputer.
Nearly two decades ago, the Internet exposed these operating system and network security frailties. Twenty years later, expanded connectivity of these very same insecure systems continues to result in significant financial losses. Will America’s infatuation with the Internet of Things eventually result in momentous losses of life?
Obviously, the catastrophic scenarios described above are presented for effect, and these transportation services may or may not be at risk. Yet, if we do not pursue truly purposeful security standards for our critical infrastructure and greatly enhance the security of our commercial and open source operating systems and networks, then leaping blindly into the Internet of Things could open the door to these types of disasters.
So far we haven’t learned this lesson. Reports surfaced earlier this month about a computer network at the fast breeder reactor in Monju, Japan, being infected with malware that originated out on the Internet. Hmmm.
A Case For Abolishing The Air Force
Tuesday, January 21, 2014
The U.S. Air Force was founded in 1947, right after the heroics of American flyers during World War II, and with the Cold War looming. But a new book argues the Air Force, as a separate branch of the military, should be abolished.
In “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force,” author Robert Farley says that while the U.S. still needs air power, that power shouldn’t be segregated — it should be part of the Navy or the Army.
Farley, who is also an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy, joins Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson to make his case.
Read Farley’s op-ed in Foreign Affairs, “Ground the Air Force”
On the problem with a separate Air Force
“The creation of the Air Force, which started in 1947, erected unnecessary bureaucratic barriers between the missions the military most often does. Pretty much everything the military does on a daily basis requires some sort of conjunction between air power and sea power and land power. And we created the air force with the idea that air power could do a lot of the jobs by itself. And I think that idea was wrongheaded in 1947 and I think we have much more evidence that it’s wrongheaded today.”
“The capabilities that we’ve allocated to the Air Force we have largely allocated by choice, rather than by any chance of natural design. So for example the Army doesn’t have any capability — besides helicopters, doesn’t have any capability of medical rescue. But the reason it doesn’t have that capability is essentially because the Air Force took that responsibility away from it.”
On the timing of his proposal
“I think actually right now is ideal in terms of thinking about potential for military reform. We’re winding down the two wars we’re having right now and we are re-orientating toward an entirely different form of military preparedness, which is in terms of what we’ve heard about the Pacific pivot … and it seems to me that right now when we don’t actually see a lot of conflicts on the immediate horizon, it’s a great time to think about how we might reform our military services for the future.”
On the idea of the Air Force projecting power around the globe
“It’s an argument that people commonly make as to why we need the Air Force — that we need the global capability to strike anywhere in the world. But it’s interesting that when we look at how we’ve actually used that strike capability in the past, and how we’re using it right now, very often our global strike is through tomahawk missiles that are launched by U.S. surface ships and U.S. submarines. And so while this idea of having this 24-hour, anywhere in the world, 15-minute strike capability, sounds kind of awesome, it always runs into political difficulties and all sorts of political obstacles and we never seem to really take advantage of it.
Robert Farley, assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and the author of “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.” He tweets @drfarls.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
The image of the U.S. Air Force took a hit recently when more than two dozen officers responsible for launching nuclear weapons were pulled off the job because they were caught cheating on a proficiency exam or failed to report cheating. But should the entire Air Force go away and be folded into other branches of the military?
That’s the view of our next guest, Robert Farley. He’s an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy, and he’s author of “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.” He’s with us from WUKY in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. Farley, welcome.
ROBERT FARLEY: Oh, thanks for having me.
HOBSON: And we should say right at the top, you’re not arguing that the U.S. doesn’t need airpower.
FARLEY: That’s correct. I think that the United States does not need an independent air force and that the assets that we currently allocate to the Air Force should, in most cases, be shifted and amalgamated with the Army and the Navy.
HOBSON: Why is that? Why don’t we need an Air Force?
FARLEY: I think that the creation of the Air Force, which started in 1947, erected unnecessary bureaucratic barriers between the missions that the military most often does. Pretty much everything the military does on a day-to-day basis requires some sort of conjunction of airpower and sea power and land power. And we created an air force in the idea that airpower could do a lot of jobs by itself. And I think that idea was wrongheaded in 1947, and I think we have lots more evidence that it’s wrongheaded today.
HOBSON: Why is it wrongheaded today more than it was, in your view, in 1947?
FARLEY: Well, in 1947 there were a lot of people who were still sufficiently optimistic about the idea of airpower that it could win wars all on its own, that we could strike over the horizon, avoid enemy armies, tear apart the sinews of an enemy state. And I think that we found over the years that the information demands for that are just so awesome that we can never quite be able to defeat an adversary, especially a determined adversary, just with airpower. And that just about everything we do requires that ground and air forces cooperate with one another for the best effect.
HOBSON: You write that in Afghanistan and Iraq, neither of those conflicts required flashy strategic airpower.
FARLEY: That’s correct. I think that in both cases what we found was that the most fancy air power assets, the ones that have been designed to fight the Soviet Union, have been reduced to jobs such as killing groups of insurgents in the middle of the desert. This is something that we would never consider that the B-52 and the B-1 would have done but they’ve been pressed into in the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. And I think that’s really, in a lot of ways, has been the reality of air power, and it’s likely to continue to be the future of air power.
HOBSON: Now, the air power that we have outside of the Air Force, in the Army, in the Navy, in the Marine Corps, even in the Coast Guard, I’ve been speaking to military experts who say that the Air Force has capacities and capabilities that those other branches do not have and that there would be massive disruption if you were to try to fold some of the capabilities of the Air Force into, say, the Army’s air power.
FARLEY: Well, I think that there are two responses to that. The first is that the capabilities that we’ve allocated the Air Force we have largely allocated by choice rather than by any sort of natural design. So for example, the Army doesn’t have any capability or doesn’t have – besides helicopters – any capability of medical rescue. But the reason it doesn’t have that capability is because the Air Force essentially took that responsibility away from it.
There’s a very similar story to be told about drones, that there was a big fight between the Army and the Air Force over who would control drones and that essentially came down to a bureaucratic decision. And the second response is that there are a lot of reforms that have short-term costs and that have long-term benefits.
And I don’t think there’s any question that in the short term folding the Air Force back into the other services would be extremely costly. For one, you would have to buy a lot of new uniforms for Air Force personnel. But in the long term, I think there are going to be a lot of benefits.
HOBSON: But could you afford that short-term cost? Could you afford a short-term disruption in the military like that?
FARLEY: I actually think right now is ideal in terms of thinking about potential for military reform. We’re winding down the two wars that we are having right now, and we are reorienting towards an entirely different form of military preparedness, which is what we’ve heard of in terms of the Pacific pivot.
And the Pacific pivot is going to require the Air Force and the Navy to work together very closely. And it seems to me that right now, when we don’t actually see a lot of conflicts on the immediate horizon, it’s a great time to think about how we might reform our military services for the future.
HOBSON: On the other hand, right now is not a time that Congress can agree on much, let alone getting rid of one of the main branches of the military.
FARLEY: That’s true. I can’t really tell you that I’m super-optimistic about this Congress or the next Congress passing a – really a tremendous bill for reform of the armed forces, but at the same time there seems to be some indication that there could be a growing coalition of Republicans and Democrats who are interested in significant military reform, who are worried about the direction that the national security state has taken and who might be interested in what amount to innovative proposals for rethinking how the United States uses its military force.
HOBSON: What about the idea of the Air Force as able to project the massive power of the United States, that you have to have these incredible assets of the Air Force to show the world the power of the U.S., especially with the rise of China?
FARLEY: I think it’s an argument that people commonly make about why we need the Air Force, that we need the global capability to strike anywhere in the world. But it’s interesting that when we look at how we’ve actually used that strike capability in the past, and how we’re using it right now, very often our global strike is through tomahawk missiles that are launched by U.S. surface ships and U.S. submarines.
Our global strike right now in places like Pakistan and Yemen and Somalia is carried out by aircraft that aren’t actually very sophisticated at all. They’re not very fast, they’re not very modern in terms of sort of hyper-modern fighter jets, But they’re Predator drones that we’re using for political reasons.
And so while this idea of having this 24-hour, anywhere in the world, 15-minute strike capability sounds kind of awesome, it always runs into all sorts of political difficulties and all sorts of political obstacles. And we never seem to be able to really take advantage of it, even when we have an Air Force. And so as a reason for keeping an Air Force, I don’t find it terribly compelling.
HOBSON: There are a lot of comments on the Foreign Affairs website after your story was published. And one of them says: Abolish the Air Force? Why not just go all the way and look at the Canadian model – combine all three services and establish a true joint force. What do you think of that?
FARLEY: The Canadian model has ended up – it created this unified structure, but it’s ended up deteriorating back into what amounts to an Army, an Air Force and a Navy. And what I’m hoping to achieve here is a genuine reprioritization of the military missions that we have. And so putting parts of the Air Force into the Army, in my view, will force the Army and the Air Force to be more collaborative with one another, in a way that they really haven’t since the 1940s.
And that’s part of the point. And similarly, putting parts of the Air Force into the Navy will force more collaboration there, whereas if you just created a unified three-structure system, it might not actually result in tighter cooperation than we have right now.
HOBSON: Ideally for you, 20 years from now, would you like to see the military much smaller than it is today?
FARLEY: I do think that our military forces right now – for the tasks that we have, the task that the United States requires – are a bit too large. I think it’s very difficult to project 20 years in the future. Twenty years in the future the Chinese military budget could be larger than the U.S., and there might be all sorts of different changes in the strategic landscape.
And so it’s hard to say that – or what the defense budget should look like. But I think we have allowed it to grow too large given the tasks that we face right now.
HOBSON: Robert Farley is assistant professor at the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy. He’s the author of “Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force.” Professor, thanks so much for joining us.
FARLEY: Thank you for having me.
HOBSON: And let us know what you think. Should the Air Force be abolished and folded into the other branches of the military? You can go to hereandnow.org. This is HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, January 25, 2014
Voters are increasingly pessimistic about the War on Terror even as they continue to question the National Security Agency’s spying efforts to fight it.
Thirty percent (30%) now think the terrorists are winning the War on Terror, the highest level of pessimism in three years.
Most voters (53%) believe the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans killed in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012 died in terrorist attacks. A recent bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee report confirms this belief. Only 13% think they were killed in a spontaneous reaction to an anti-Islamic video as the Obama administration and the New York Times claim is the case. Forty-six percent (46%) also now think former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential aspirations are likely to suffer because of the Benghazi affair.
Voters are wary of a new treaty to slow Iran’s nuclear program, but 24% think Iran should be part of the Syrian peace talks that began this week.
A rogue intelligence analyst last June exposed the NSA’s spying on the phone calls and e-mails of millions of ordinary Americans. Voters are conflicted about the program despite the government’s insistence that it is part of the fight against terrorism. President Obama has now announced tighter controls on the NSA’s domestic spying efforts, but two-out-of-three voters (68%) think spying on the phone calls of ordinary Americans will stay the same or increase.
Forty-two percent (42%) of voters rate the president’s handling of issues related to national security as good or excellent, while 34% believe he’s doing a poor job. These attitudes have changed little in recent months.
Obama’s daily job approval ratings remain at levels seen for much of his presidency.
Democrats have a six-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.
In Rasmussen Reports’ only horse race survey of the week, incumbent Democrat Mark Warner holds a 14-point lead over Republican challenger Ed Gillespie among Likely Virginia Voters – 51% to 37% – in our first look at the 2014 U.S. Senate race in that state.
Thirty percent (30%) of voters nationwide think the country is heading in the right direction. A year ago, 35% felt that way.
Twenty-four percent (24%) now say their home is worth less than when they purchased it, a five-point increase from November and the highest level of pessimism since June.
Fifty-three percent (53%) still feel the value of their home is more than what they owe on their mortgage. But that’s down from 62% in December, the highest finding since Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking on this question in April 2009.
However, 35% of homeowners expect their home’s value to go up over the next year. That compares to 29% a year ago.
Fifty percent (50%) of Americans think interest rates will be higher in a year.
But 45% are at least somewhat confident that the Federal Reserve can keep inflation and interest rates down, although that includes just 10% who are Very Confident.
Consumer and investor confidence both remained high at week’s end.
The week began with the national holiday that celebrates the birth of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.
An overwhelming majority of Americans continue to hold a favorable opinion of King, but just 35% think we have reached the day of equal opportunity for all races that he envisioned.
Only 31% believe race relations in this country are getting better, and just as many (30%) say they are getting worse.
Here’s a closer look at what America thinks about race relations.
Most voters have opposed the new national health care law’s individual mandate in past surveys, but voters are now evenly divided when asked whether the federal government should force every American to have health insurance.
In other surveys last week:
— Fifty-eight percent (58%) of voters oppose a House Republican plan that would allow food industry companies to bring 500,000 guest workers from foreign countries into the United States every year.
— The price of a first-class postage stamp will rise from 46 cents to 49 cents tomorrow, and 30% of Americans say the stamp price hike is likely to reduce their use of the post office.
— New Jersey legalized online gambling late last year, and eight other states have pending legislation to do the same. Thirty-four percent (34%) of Americans favor legalized online gambling in their state.
— Fifty-four percent (54%) of Michigan voters think bad government is primarily to blame for Detroit’s bankruptcy.
— Fifty-one percent (51%) of Virginia voters approve of the job new Governor Terry McAuliffe is doing.
$1T spending bill nears unveiling
January 01, 2014, 12:00 pm
By Erik Wasson
Congress is set to unveil a giant spending bill next week that staff for appropriators have been preparing on a near daily basis throughout the holiday break.
Aides say progress on the $1 trillion, 12-part omnibus legislation has been better than expected at the subcommittee level, and their goal remains to pass the bill through both chambers by Jan. 16 to prevent a government shutdown.
The secretive process has members anticipating rushed votes when they return next week, as congressional leaders race the clock.
It’s unclear whether top leaders of the House and Senate spending panels will return to Washington to negotiate final details of the deal before Monday. Aides say that decision depends on how much progress staff can make.
One House aide said some obstacles remain on both funding levels for specific projects and on some of the dozens of policy riders that have been proposed during the course of 2013.
Still, the aide struck an optimistic note, saying talks are “going better at this point than many predicted.”
The bill is being developed according to the $1.012 trillion top-line spending cap in the budget agreement forged by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and signed into law by President Obama last week.
Sixty-two House Republicans voted against the budget largely because it exceeded the $967 billion spending cap already on the books for fiscal 2014.
Republican Study Committee Chairman Steve Scalise (R-La.), one of the “no” votes, told The Hill this week that he could be open to voting for the omnibus, if some policy provisions are included, such as limits on ObamaCare’s implementation.
But he acknowledged his impression from appropriators is they will not risk a new showdown over ObamaCare, which triggered a 16-day government shutdown in October.
To get his vote, Scalise argued at the very least, Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) must score wins on energy, defense and homeland security spending provisions.
The House approved Energy and Water, Defense and Homeland Security appropriations bills this summer with numerous amendments, while the full Senate did not vote on companion bills.
“We passed a few appropriations bills, and we put some policy riders that reflect conservative principles,” Scalise said.
He said a final bill at a minimum should reflect GOP policy riders that scale back funding for wasteful green energy programs favored by the Obama administration. Examples of floor amendments include ending funding for green energy advertising and limiting federal agency procurement of alternative fuels.
Energy riders could have a good shot given Rogers’s keen interest in helping the coal industry.
Scalise said conservatives would push leaders to allow floor amendments on the omnibus, something that could make completing the bill in just over a week problematic.
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), who has made fiscal matters his signature issue, said he expected conservatives to offer an amendment to bring the top-line number down to $967 billion.
Another amendment, he said, would trim spending by 1 percent across the board. He said he would push for a House rule that would cover votes on those issues.
Mulvaney was less optimistic about getting policy riders on the omnibus.
He said GOP leaders appear ready to rely on Democrats to pass the omnibus, and as a result, wouldn’t feel the need to push policy riders.
“We were told in no uncertain terms that they would not be coming to us for votes,” he said. “Part of the deal with Democrats also included their support on appropriations.”
He said that “personally, it would be difficult to support” any omnibus at a spending level higher than $967 billion, regardless of policy riders.
5 Lessons for the Pentagon From 2013
By MACKENZIE EAGLEN
December 31, 2013
“Do more with less” seems to be the message from lawmakers.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey asked Congress this year: “What do you want your military to do?”
The takeaway for defense leaders is that policymakers want to fund a defense budget that does less but a military that is just as engaged around the world, ready to act when needed and fully capable when ordered to fight and win.
1. Sequestration’s slow burn will continue, even with the recent budget deal
While the recent budget deal signed into law will soften the blow of sequestration’s steep cuts in fiscal year 2014, it does not do away with them altogether. As predicted, policymakers opted for defense cuts that decline in a graduated, staircase manner rather than off a cliff.
But the defense budget will still fall over the next decade. The budget simply gives Pentagon leaders more time to make judicious decisions about tradeoffs.
The “fix” to the military’s portion of sequestration’s bill in 2014 will surely cause many policymakers to pat themselves on the back for saving the Pentagon. But the additional infusion of cash as part of the deal should really highlight how steep the defense budget cuts were that the president proposed and Congress approved over the past four years, long before the ax of sequestration fell. These challenges are not going away.
2. Hagel offers only a glimpse of the grim choices ahead for the Pentagon
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel should be applauded for making public the results of his Strategic Choices and Management Review earlier this year. The effort examined in detail the impacts of sequestration on the Department of Defense.
But the review is just a start, because the Pentagon budget squeeze goes beyond sequestration to include unrealized efficiency initiative savings, a decline in war spending, using overseas contingency money to pay some readiness bills and a continuous rejection by Congress of proposals to shed excess infrastructure and modestly increase cost-sharing of some benefits.
Pentagon leaders will not only need a blueprint to enact many, if not most, of the review’s results, but even more must be done to reduce the size of the civilian workforce, close bases and reform compensation.
3. Policymakers will continue to punt on serious bureaucratic reform at the Defense Department
As the buying power of the defense dollar continues to decline, Congress has continued to resist efforts to rein in massive Pentagon overhead. This only exacerbates the defense budget squeeze as internal cost growth goes unchecked.
The Defense Department’s budget is not shrinking in the same ways as previous drawdowns. The surging costs of bureaucratic overhead, an over-burdened weapons buying process, excess bases, a growing civilian workforce and the compensation packages for DoD personnel are poised to “hollow out” the military from within as Clark Murdock at CSIS has argued.
Until Washington gets serious about reform at the Pentagon, unaddressed imbalances in the defense budget will continue to sacrifice much-needed combat power.
4. Loss of traditional defense coalition on Capitol Hill will continue to hurt
While the bipartisan pro-defense coalition has been dwindling for years in Congress, many defense leaders at the Pentagon are only just now waking up to this new and unfortunate reality. Worse, this reliable group of informed members of Congress — who took great interest in and care of national security — is not returning anytime soon.
This means more deals like the Budget Control Act that proposed sequestration fall disproportionately hardest on the U.S. military are possible going forward. These favored solutions to tap the defense budget for savings will continue to be attractive to politicians as America’s interest payments on the debt burden grow substantially in the coming years alongside unbridled growth in the major entitlement programs of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Thankfully, bipartisanship is not completely dead in Washington. Leading think tanks have all joined together to urge policymakers to move quickly on difficult but long overdue reforms at the Defense Department.
5. Mission relief is not coming for the U.S. military as budgets fall
Defense policy is subordinate to America’s foreign policy. Yet even as U.S. forces exit Afghanistan and all troops have left Iraq, the demands upon those in uniform are not letting up.
That is because the substantial daily presence and peacetime requirements of the U.S. military are not going away. Indeed, they have been growing the past year alongside rising instability in key regions of the world. Navy ships are being prepped to assist with destroying Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles. Troops have been sent to Jordan to bolster its military capacity as a check on Syrian volatility. Forces have been deployed to South Sudan, Mali and Libya in recent months for a variety of missions from evacuation to aerial refueling to capturing Joseph Kony. Fighters and bombers flew over the Korean peninsula in a show of force. Military personnel have assisted with numerous humanitarian disasters around the world, including the Philippines. Even the Coast Guard has picked up new missions in the Arctic and cyber operations.
Navy Admiral Thomas Moore said it best when highlighting the unrelenting demand on U.S. forces: “We have an eleven-carrier Navy for a world that needs fifteen.” This supply-demand disconnect applies across the armed forces. Policymakers want to cash in a “peace dividend” from a military operating in a world in which America’s “unipolar moment” is over, according to the Director of National Intelligence.
Washington’s appetite for hard power capabilities is not shrinking. “Do ever more with less” is, unfortunately, the only expectation the Joint Chiefs should harbor as they seek to manage a smaller force for the future.
Defend military pension cuts: Our view
The Editorial Board, USATODAY 6:28 p.m. EST January 1, 2014
System is not only extremely generous, it is also counterproductive.
After 20 years of service, regardless of age, a military retiree can expect a pension equal to 50% of final pay.
Proposed cuts come in the form of a reduction in cost-of-living adjustments by 1 percentage point each year until age 62.
40% of servicemembers have never seen a combat zone.
One of the best things Ronald Reagan did as president was to revamp federal pensions.
Reagan foresaw the problems that unaffordable public benefits would cause over time — the same problems now afflicting many cities and states — and was determined to act.
As a result, most federal workers hired after 1986 look forward to a very modest pension, one that is significantly reduced for people leaving before age 62.
But one big group was largely untouched by Reagan’s overhaul: members of the military. They are still on a plan so generous that it allows them to retire in their late 30s or early 40s and collect a pension, with cost-of-living increases, for the rest of their lives. This is accompanied by lifetime health coverage whose premium, $460 per year for a family policy, has not risen since 1995 even as costs for everyone else have skyrocketed.
In last month’s bipartisan budget deal, Congress made some wholely defensible trims in military pensions, prompting a howl of complaints from veterans groups.
They protest too much. Way too much. The military pension system is not only extremely generous, it is also counterproductive. It drains defense money from today’s troops and weapons. And while the system encourages some people to consider the military who otherwise might not, it also encourages them to leave early, taking their first-rate training to go double-dip by moving into a civilian government job. In any case, they can collect pensions — intended as old-age protection — in the prime of their working lives.
The deal, crafted by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., would not alter those basics. After 20 years of service, regardless of age, a military retiree can expect a pension equal to 50% of final pay, with an additional 2.5 percentage points for each year of service beyond 20.
The “cuts” come in the form of a reduction in cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, by 1 percentage point each year until age 62. At 62, the full COLA would come back, and pensions would shoot up to where they would have been had the full COLA been in effect from the start.
For example, a first sergeant retiring now at 40 with 20 years of service would collect a pension of $24,828. By the time he or she reached 61, it would have risen to $39,507, and now would rise to $32,464. The following year, it would be $40,496 under both formulations, and would receive the full COLA thereafter.
This approach would save taxpayer money and help reach budget targets. It also would discourage people from leaving early after the government has invested so much in them.
The change would also make military pensions less wildly out of line with most Americans’ experience. Private-sector pensions, to the extent that they exist at all, are routinely scaled back or frozen in ways much more dramatic than these changes.
Certainly, protecting veterans impaired by their service is a different sort of issue. But the current system rewards all equally, including the 40% of servicemembers who have never seen a combat zone.
If Congress doesn’t have the fortitude to stand by even this small tweak in military pensions, it doesn’t bode well for the far bigger, tougher budget decisions that loom ahead.
Budget sequester leaves US de-‘fence’-less in space
by Daniel Weiss @weissdaniel January 2, 2014 6:00AM ET
Washington closes the military’s Space Fence, which protects against catastrophic debris collisions
Mike Coletta was sitting in the basement of his home outside Pueblo, Colo., on Aug. 31 listening to echoes of space objects. Every minute or so, a ping would sound in his headphones as a satellite or piece of orbital debris passed overhead and bounced back a signal from a series of radar transmitters known as the Space Fence. The International Space Station was set to arrive in a few minutes, but time passed and there was no sound.
“Maybe they did an orbit change or something, I thought, because there’s nothing and there should be something,” Coletta recalled. “I looked at the time and saw that it was right around 0:00:00 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) on Sept. 1, and it hit me: Those sons of guns — I bet they turned it off.”
Coletta was right. The Space Fence — which, despite its name, consisted of operational facilities on the ground, across the southern United States — had been shut down. In more than 50 years of operation, it had played a key role in the Space Surveillance Network, set up by the U.S. military to track man-made debris, and help keep valuable satellites and spaceships from smashing into it.
According to the Air Force Space Command, which ran the network, the shutdown was made necessary by the 2013 budget sequester and will save $14 million per year in operating expenses. But some argue that the shutdown has reduced the capability of an already imperfect surveillance system, potentially increasing the risk of a costly collision.
The 1,000 or so currently active satellites provide essential infrastructure for the modern world. GPS, television transmission, weather prediction, scientific exploration, search-and-rescue and international financial transactions are key functions facilitated by satellites.
Functioning satellites are vastly outnumbered by orbital debris — a smorgasbord of defunct satellites, spent rockets, exploded satellite and rocket bits, paint flecks and liquid leaked from nuclear reactors that once powered Soviet spy satellites. The Space Surveillance Network maintains a catalog of more than 23,000 orbiting objects larger than a grapefruit, and there are estimated to be tens of millions of pieces of debris too small for the network to detect. Hurtling around Earth at up to 20,000 miles per hour, even a small piece of debris can rip through a satellite or spaceship.
In Alfonso Cuaron’s blockbuster film “Gravity,” a Russian missile blows up a satellite, whose shards collide with other satellites, producing a storm of debris that disables the space shuttle. “The movie was extremely realistic in the sense that this is what collisional cascading is all about,” said Donald Kessler, who was NASA’s senior scientist for orbital debris research before retiring in 1996. In 1978 he predicted that when the mass of orbital debris reached a certain point, a “collisional cascade” would begin, in which collisions would create more debris, in turn leading to more collisions. “It’s just that normally it wouldn’t be just a few hours between the cascades; it would be tens of years.”
The trigger for the “Gravity” cascade is based on a real event. In January 2007, China fired a missile at one of its satellites as part of an anti-satellite test, creating more than 3,000 trackable pieces of debris. Six months later, NASA had to move its Terra satellite, which is responsible for collecting massive quantities of weather, environmental and Earth-imaging data, to avoid a potential collision with one of these pieces. Then, in February 2009, an Iridium communications satellite and a defunct Russian spy satellite smashed into each other, creating another 2,000 pieces of trackable debris.
The ideal solution would involve removing debris from orbit. Scientists have proposed an array of removal technologies — space sweepers and tugs, fishing nets and harpoons, tethers, laser blasters — but no practical application has been developed. Even if one were available, using it could stoke international tensions, said Dave Baiocchi, a senior engineer at the RAND Corp. who worked on a military project that aimed to “figure out what the garbage truck of space should look like.”
“If we were to develop one, how do you convince other countries that it’s not an anti-satellite weapon?” Baiocchi asked. “How do you convince Russia that your garbage truck is truly a garbage truck and not out to disarm other countries’ satellites?”
Lacking a removal solution, the U.S. military tracks orbiting objects and takes steps to prevent collisions. Data collected by the Space Surveillance Network — which includes a range of radars and telescopes in addition to the Space Fence — is used by the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC), at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, to predict when a satellite or spaceship faces a collision risk. JSpOC then sends warnings to the satellite or spaceship operator, which decides whether to perform an evasive maneuver.
Even before the Space Fence was shut down, this system had serious shortcomings. To start with, it was blind to the vast number of pieces of debris too small for its sensors to detect. A planned new network of radar stations would greatly improve its sensitivity, but the first will not be online for several years at the earliest.
In the network, the Space Fence was the only sensor that performed “uncued” detection. The other sensors “are told, ‘OK, over the next day, we want you to go track these objects and collect observations and send them to us,'” said Brian Weeden, technical adviser for the Secure World Foundation. “That doesn’t happen to the fence, because it’s just there. Things fly through the fence; it collects observations and sends them off.”
To make up for the shutdown, the Air Force Space Command directed two other radars — in North Dakota and Florida — to pick up the slack. However, because these stations are each based in a single location rather than spread out across the country, they cover less of the sky than the Space Fence did. This reduced coverage has led to “a loss when it comes to detecting and characterizing events like breakups,” said Weeden. “You can’t predict when those kind of events are going to happen. It may be that we don’t have any major collisions over the next five years, and therefore it’s not a big deal. It may be that we have a bunch of them, and it’s going to be a really big deal.”
In just under five years, if all goes as planned, the first element in the new Space Fence will be operational. It will consist of a single radar station based in the Marshall Islands, midway between Australia and Hawaii, and use S-band radar with a much higher frequency than the old Space Fence. That would allow it to detect objects as small as a marble at altitudes up to 375 miles, where manned spaceships fly, and as small as a tennis ball up to 1,200 miles, covering the orbits most crowded with satellites and debris. This would increase the number of objects tracked by the system to more than 100,000. Like the old Space Fence, the new one will perform uncued detection, but it will also provide far more useful information on objects’ orbits.
Work on the S-band Space Fence has been delayed for a number of years, most recently by a Pentagon-wide review of potential budget cuts over the next decade. As of 2008, the plan was to build three S-band stations around the world, with at least one in operation by 2015. The current plan is to build a single station in the Marshall Islands at a cost of $1.3 billion that will be operational by late 2018.
Even if these expanded surveillance abilities become a reality, the system for preventing collisions is hobbled by data-sharing problems. JSpOC has the most accurate data on debris and military satellite orbits, but operators of other satellites have the most accurate data on their own orbits. As a result, when JSpOC warns an operator about a potential collision, an awkward two-step ensues, said Ronald Busch, vice president of network engineering for the satellite company Intelsat.
“When they provide us a warning, we go back and provide them our latest data, and they manually put that data in and rerun the analysis,” said Busch. This leads to “a cost of manpower, going back and forth and trying to find out is it a real issue or not, and then going back and forth trying to determine should we do a maneuver.”
If things don’t improve, Weeden sees a bleak future: “The worst-case scenario is that it gets a lot more risky and a lot more expensive to operate in some of the most important regions in space. Space is a critical infrastructure that can help in solving a lot of challenges we have on Earth. We need to be able to deal with the debris problem to ensure that space can continue to help us deal with those challenges.”
In the meantime, minor collisions keep piling up. Last January, a Russian satellite was knocked into a new orbit, apparently by a piece of untracked debris. Then, in May, an Ecuadorean satellite began to spin wildly and lost the ability to communicate, apparently after being struck by another piece of untracked debris. If improvements in the warning system don’t come soon, it may be just a matter of time before a catastrophic collision.
Study predicts 5 percent defense and aerospace growth
January 02, 2014, 01:54 pm
By Jeremy Herb
The aerospace and defense industry will grow 5 percent globally in 2014, despite the budget pressures to the defense sector, according to a new study from Deloitte.
Deloitte’s 2014 outlook says the defense industry will continue its downward trend over the past several years.
The report estimates that revenue will drop 2.5 percent in 2013 and will continue to decline with the end of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as cuts to the U.S. Defense budget under sequestration.
But the overall defense and aerospace industry will still grow in 2014, thanks to boosted revenue in the aerospace sector.
“It is likely that 2014 will bring high single to double-digit levels of growth in the commercial aerospace sub-sector, as experienced in 2012 and expected in 2013, given the dramatic production forecasts of the aircraft manufacturers,” Deloitte says.
The 2014 growth in the commercial aerospace industry is being driven by record-setting production levels, due to the accelerated replacement cycle of obsolete aircraft with newer fuel-efficient planes.
The report predicts that by 2023, annual production levels in the commercial aerospace industry will increase by 25 percent.
The Deloitte report also cites increases in passenger demand in places like the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.
For the defense industry, the end of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan has driven defense budgets lower. The report says that defense spending is increasing in several areas — the Middle East, China, India, Russia, South Korea, Brazil and Japan — but that isn’t counteracting declines elsewhere.
The U.S. defense budget has a major impact on the global trends, as the United States accounts for 39 percent of global defense spending.
The Pentagon had $37 billion cut from its 2013 budget under sequestration. While the budget deal reached last month provided the Pentagon with $31 billion in sequester relief over the next two years, the new Defense budget cap is still $30 billion lower than the Pentagon’s proposed 2014 budget.
“The government customers of global defense companies continue to be challenged with affordability and competing domestic priorities,” the report says. “Thus, global defense spending is expected to continue to decline.”
How the Defense Lobby Became Irrelevant
This was once the special-interest group to outplay all special-interest groups. Then lawmakers stopped cowering before it. Is its leverage gone?
By Sara Sorcher
January 1, 2014
The defense lobby was once both behemoth and bogeyman. It was the muscle behind the military-industrial complex, the puppeteer liberals blamed for moving money from food stamps to fighter jets. Above all, it was the Beltway powerhouse that made Congress cower.
Nobody is afraid of defense lobbyists now. Congress has defied them twice in two years, first by failing to undo the first round of defense cuts under sequestration, and again this week by floating a budget deal that would only partly pare back the next round. The fact that industry accepts this deal, a far cry from the grand bargain it demanded last year, shows just how far expectations have plummeted.
What laid low the once-mighty lobby? Hyperbole, and some hubris. In the waning days of 2012, the industry promised Armageddon unless Congress spared it from the sequester’s spending cuts. The Aerospace Industries Association doled out clocks that ticked off the days, hours, minutes, and seconds—a panic-inducing “countdown to disaster,” when more than a million defense jobs would be gouged. But when the lobbying blitz failed and the sequester guillotine fell, the industry was forced into an embarrassing position: It had cried wolf. Long after AIA’s ticking clocks ran down, employers had not sent the tens of thousands of layoff notices; major defense companies remained profitable; and the U.S. military—though far from unscathed—remained a global juggernaut.
Now, with another round of sequester cuts looming, the lobby is again sounding the alarm, but its past hyperbole has defanged its warning. “When they went full bore saying the sky is falling January 2, and then later on March 1, they were betting it would never actually come to pass—so no one would be able to say they were overhyping this or exaggerating the immediacy of the impact,” says Todd Harrison, a defense-budget analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “They miscalculated. Now the defense industry is left with its credibility damaged.”
The situation is all the more painful for defense lobbyists because this time around—perceptions aside—they would have had a much stronger case to make. If the proposed budget deal founders, the Pentagon could lose $52 billion from its 2014 request; if the deal passes, congressional appropriators must still find a way to cut $31 billion.
Last year, the Pentagon used a cushion of unobligated funds to pay down some losses, and it delayed weapons programs and testing to avoid cancellations. But this coming year, that cash has evaporated. More cuts mean the Pentagon can no longer mask the pain and must make tough decisions on weapons programs. Preserving pay and benefits for troops means further raiding funds for research and development.
Warning of disaster—while still lacking specific cuts to make a strong case—is a losing proposition. Even the lobbyists acknowledge the impotence of their message now. “All the screaming to high heavens” about how sequester would raise the unemployment rate came too soon, says one from a major company. “Whether it’s the voting public or elected officials, I think there is legitimate reason for them to question the industry’s estimations of significant job losses.” Still, lobbyists can point to some visible signs of military distress: The Army says that only two of its 43 active-duty brigades are fully ready for combat. The Navy canceled the deployment of an aircraft carrier to the Persian Gulf. Hundreds of thousands of civilians were furloughed, and the services say more long-term cuts will force them to downsize people and equipment.
But the signals are confusing. Despite warnings that sequestration would harm operations, the U.S. deployed warships for high-profile relief efforts in the Philippines, and President Obama floated the possibility of military action in Syria. And although some layoffs have come—Lockheed Martin cut about 4,000 jobs last month—major defense firms appear to be doing just fine: Defense giants, including Lockheed and Raytheon, reported third-quarter profit increases. “There have definitely been people who have accused us of crying wolf,” AIA spokesman Dan Stohr says. The group, he says, did not anticipate that the Pentagon could minimize the sequester’s pain. “We were taking our best shot at trying to estimate the effects, with the information we had at the time.” This year, AIA is no longer commissioning unemployment studies—”been there, done that,” Stohr says—but is focusing instead on “messages that resonate.” Perhaps in tacit acknowledgment that defense is not the center of the political universe right now, AIA this year partnered with domestic sectors, including education, to talk about the sequester’s broader effects on the nation’s workforce.
Complicating the picture is a schism in the Republican Party that had long held defense spending sacred. After the sequester, the gulf between defense hawks and deficit hawks widened. The defense industry has little influence with this latter group. One lobbyist described recent strategy sessions with major defense companies whose officials complained about failed (and acrimonious) meetings with young tea-party members, including Reps. Mick Mulvaney and Justin Amash. The lobbyist said they gave up on the meetings altogether, tired of “junior members of Congress who are lecturing us on how screwed up we are.”
Congress is clearly not listening to the defense lobby the way it would have during the Cold War or other periods of high threat, says Loren Thompson, chief operating officer of the Lexington Institute, a think tank. “This is the first time in my memory that Republicans aren’t lined up in a bloc behind robust weapons spending,” he says. “During the Reagan years, people were equating buying weapons with being safe. It’s like that connection has been broken.”
The Republican Party’s right wing has proven its willing to lose jobs at the district level and take national security risks to rein in big government. In the eyes of that faction, the Pentagon, despite lobbyists’ best efforts, is part of the problem.
Poll: Cyberwarfare Is Top Threat Facing US
Jan. 5, 2014 – 03:45AM | By ZACHARY FRYER-BIGGS | Comments
WASHINGTON — Cyberwarfare is the most serious threat facing the United States, according to almost half of US national security leaders who responded to the inaugural Defense News Leadership Poll, underwritten by United Technologies.
But while the leaders in national security policy, the military, congressional staffs and the defense industry are united in the seriousness of the cyber threat, agreement on the next greatest threat breaks down clearly along party lines. Terrorism is viewed as the next greatest threat by leaders who identified themselves as Republicans, while climate change was cited by those identifying as Democrats.
The poll sheds new insight into what is often seen as a monolithic and even nonpartisan national security community. More than 350 senior defense leaders responded to the poll in late November, answering two dozen questions across the gamut of defense issues.
Click here to read the full results
Respondents were far more likely to identify as Republicans than Democrats (38.5 percent vs. 13.5 percent). That’s radically different than the public at large, which typically tilts toward Democrats — 30 percent Democrat to 24 percent Republican in a December Gallup poll.That difference is even more dramatic among respondents who said they worked for the military, where Republicans outnumbered Democrats by seven to one (56.9 percent vs. 7.7 percent). Independents also made up a large percentage of respondents (34.2 percent).
On the cyber threat, 45.1 percent of respondents said Cyberwarfare is the greatest threat to the United States, with 42.4 percent of Democrats joining 36.3 percent of Republicans and a whopping 55 percent of independents agreeing.
That’s a sign that the stark warnings from military and civilian defense leaders have made their mark. It was little more than a year ago when then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of the shock that might come from a concerted cyberattack.
“The collective result of these kinds of attacks could be a cyber Pearl Harbor, an attack that would cause physical destruction and the loss of life,” Panetta said in a widely publicized policy speech. “In fact, it would paralyze and shock the nation and create a new, profound sense of vulnerability.”
The threat environment beyond cyber is where party differences show up:
■Republicans saw terrorism as an equal threat to cyberwarfare, with an identical 36.3 percent citing terrorism as the greatest threat facing the country.
■Democrats were less than half as likely pick terrorism (18.2 percent) as the leading threat. Instead, climate change took the No. 2 slot among Democrats, 21.2 percent. By contrast, not a single Republican respondent cited climate change as a threat.
■Independents were in line with Republicans, listing terrorism as second (20 percent) behind cyberwarfare. China (13 percent) and climate change (7 percent) followed.
Respondents identifying with different US political parties were much more closely aligned when asked about the threats facing US allies in Asia and the Middle East. Iran was named as the top threat in the Middle East (54 percent) followed by terrorism (43.3 percent). In Asia, China got a relative majority (47.6 percent) followed by North Korea (28.8 percent).
But party lines appeared again when the question switched to threats facing US allies in Europe. A majority of Republicans (54.8 percent) picked terrorism as the top threat, followed by cyberwarfare (30.7 percent) and Iran (10.5 percent). Democrats conveyed more concern about cyber (40.6 percent) than any other threat. And just as was true when asked about the United States, the second most popular pick for Democrats was climate change (28.1 percent) followed by terrorism (21.9 percent).
Independents agreed with Democrats on the top threat to European allies, with 41.8 percent selecting cyber. But climate change was in a distant tie for third most popular (9.2 percent) with independents instead making terrorism (35.7 percent) the second most popular choice.
Even in a community that runs on defense dollars, traditional party perspectives on the need for defense spending were also apparent. While a 37.2 percent plurality of respondents said Defense Department spending is too low — including 50.8 percent of Republicans — only 22.9 percent of Democrats think defense spending is too low. Indeed, nearly half of responding Democrats said it is too high (48.6 percent).
Those numbers mesh with traditional party caricatures of hawkish Republicans and social program-boosting Democrats. That standard, however, has proved unreliable in recent years, as many younger Republicans labeled as tea party supporters have focused more on cutting spending than propping up defense, partially leading to automatic budget cuts under sequestration.
That tea party constituency also has been vocal about privacy concerns following the disclosures by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of a variety of classified surveillance programs. The broader public has expressed increasing amounts of outrage, while most in the defense sphere have avoided speaking out against the collection of intelligence and many have been quietly supportive.
Still, when asked how the Snowden disclosures have affected the debate on surveillance, almost half — 47.2 percent — of all respondents said the disclosures have helped the debate.
Divided along party lines, the numbers become quite different. A majority of Democrats and independents, 68.8 percent and 58.2 percent respectively, said the disclosures helped debate. Yet 57.7 percent of Republicans said the disclosures hurt the debate, showing again few signs of tea party ideology.
“In a community where cyber is seen as the biggest threat, what Snowden did was helping debate? That’s fascinating,” said Gordon Adams, a fellow at the Stimson Center who ran national defense budgeting for the Clinton administration. “It reinforces my sense that I don’t think [Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.] or [Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.] are getting traction on this issue. Right now, it’s not winning, because whatever one thinks about Edward Snowden, his media strategy is incredibly brilliant. The drip-drip-drip is working.”
Those polled also support the one initial proposal for intelligence reform that has been completely rejected by the Obama administration: the separation of leadership responsibilities for the NSA and US Cyber Command. More than half — 56.7 percent of respondents — think leadership should be split, a number that was consistent across party lines.
In questions about how the state of US strength and the strength of potential American adversaries compares to five years ago, before the Obama presidency, party lines were also clear.
By roughly two-to-one, Democrats think the US is stronger than it was five years ago (21.2 percent vs 12.1 percent). Only 4.8 percent of Republicans, on the other hand, think the US is stronger, while the vast majority, 72.6 percent, said the US is weaker.
And Republicans, by and large, think potential US adversaries are stronger, with 58.5 percent saying Russia is stronger than it was five years ago, and 45.2 saying Iran is stronger. In each case, Democrats were roughly half as likely to deem the rival stronger.
United in Pessimism
Partisan politics are set aside and respondents were united by a pessimistic view of future defense spending, a dislike of automatic budget cuts called sequestration and frustration with a ponderous defense acquisition system.
Asked when they expect the defense budget to begin rising again, 32.8 percent said it would be 2019 or later than any of the intervening five years. Less than a quarter of respondents thought it would increase by 2016.
An overwhelming 79.4 percent of respondents disagreed with the notion that sequestration cuts were necessary to reduce defense spending; 65.3 said defense spending would have been cut anyway without the sequester.
But nowhere did respondents more heartily and universally agree than on their collective criticism of the US defense acquisition system. Some 83.6 percent of respondents disagree with the statement, “US acquisition policy is effective in bringing best value to the US taxpayer,” and nearly as many — 73.4 percent — disagreethat acquisition reforms have yielded “significant savings.”
Another 70.9 percent of respondents said acquisition regulations “stifle innovation.”
A.J. Clark, president of Thermopylae Sciences, which leverages commercial software for defense applications,said the numbers tell a story of a system so complex that innovators are scared off, partly because they have a hard time finding out about opportunities.
“I have 15 people watching Fed Biz Opps and other sites, and there are many things that they still don’t see,” said Clark, referring to the Federal Business Opportunities website.
Part of the problem is that so many layers of acquisition rules have been piled on over the years that sorting them out is an enormous burden on companies, said Christian Marrone, the Aerospace Industries Association’s vice president for national security and acquisition policy.
“The rules and regulations in general have become over burdensome,” he said. “None of these findings should surprise anyone, what may surprise me is that the numbers aren’t even higher given what we’ve seen.”
Marrone said the Defense Department is aware of the problem, and taking action to correct issues.
“I think the chief critic of the system is the owner of the system himself, Frank Kendall [undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics],” he said. “I think he’s been clear that the system needs to take more risks. It needs to be more innovative, more forward thinking, more outside of the box.”
Some of theObama administration’s more important policy efforts are facing skepticism or dissent, the poll also showed.
Asked if, given the budget constraints and ongoing turmoil in the Middle East, the planned rebalance of military assets to Asia would be affordable, 62 percent of respondents said no.
Despite some headwinds, there are ways of making that shift without spending a lot of money, Adams said.
“I think that we will be able to afford it because we’ll make tradeoffs,” he said. “Most of what we’re doing is shifting spending, not adding spending.”
But whether the military services will be willing to accept changes to their role, such as a likely reduction in the emphasis on Army ground capabilities, is unclear.
“That’s the $64 billion question,” Adams said.
Obama’s efforts to strike a deal to dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program also face challenges in the defense community. While Secretary of State John Kerry has been careful to leave the door open to allowing Iran to enrich non-weapons-grade uranium, emphasizing to Congress that in a negotiation there has to be some compromise, most respondents did not agree. In the poll, 73 percent said Iran should not be allowed to have any capability to enrich uranium at all.
There is one thing the defense community is predicting to happen in 2014, a trend that defense executives have wanted for a long time: industry consolidation. More than half — 53.2 percent — of respondents expect significant consolidation beginning this year
Breaking Down the Data
The data contained in this report is derived from online results from 352 US-based Defense News subscribers selected by job category and seniority, representing 9 percent of those receiving invitations to participate in the survey.
Some 3,888 subscribers who identified themselves as senior military members or civilians in the US Defense Department, congressional and White House staffs, and defense industry received invitations to participate in the poll, which was open from Nov. 14-28. The results predated the announcement of a two-year budget deal on Capitol Hill brokered by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., that partially reduced the sequester announced at the end of 2013.
All questions were optional, and respondents skipped questions in varying numbers. The question asking respondents to describe their current jobs allowed for multiple selections, resulting in aggregate numbers exceeding the 352 total respondents.
Because the poll is not a sampling of a larger community, there is no calculable margin of error.
Respondents came from a wide range of jobs in the community: 125 identified themselves as working in the defense industry, 70 identified themselves as Defense Department civilians, and 65 identified themselves as in the military. Of those identifying with the military, 56.9 percent obtained the rank of brigadier general/rear admiral (lower half) or higher; 44.4 percent of those who reported working for industry listed themselves as corporate executives; and 14.3 percent of those listing themselves as Defense
Department civilians were in the Senior Executive Service, with another 51.4 percent identifying themselves as GS-13 to GS-15.
The Quiet Fury of Robert Gates
Bush and Obama’s secretary of defense had to wage war in Iraq, Afghanistan—and today’s Washington
By ROBERT M. GATES
Jan. 7, 2014 4:32 p.m. ET
All too often during my 4½ years as secretary of defense, when I found myself sitting yet again at that witness table at yet another congressional hearing, I was tempted to stand up, slam the briefing book shut and quit on the spot. The exit lines were on the tip of my tongue: I may be the secretary of defense, but I am also an American citizen, and there is no son of a bitch in the world who can talk to me like that. I quit. Find somebody else. It was, I am confident, a fantasy widely shared throughout the executive branch.
Much of my frustration came from the exceptional offense I took at the consistently adversarial, even inquisition-like treatment of executive-branch officials by too many members of Congress across the political spectrum—creating a kangaroo-court environment in hearings, especially when television cameras were present. But my frustration also came from the excruciating difficulty of serving as a wartime defense secretary in today’s Washington. Throughout my tenure at the Pentagon, under both President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama, I was, in personal terms, treated better by the White House, Congress and the press for longer than almost anyone I could remember in a senior U.S. government job. So why did I feel I was constantly at war with everybody? Why was I so often so angry? Why did I so dislike being back in government and in Washington?
It was because, despite everyone being “nice” to me, getting anything consequential done was so damnably difficult—even in the midst of two wars. I did not just have to wage war in Afghanistan and Iraq and against al Qaeda; I also had to battle the bureaucratic inertia of the Pentagon, surmount internal conflicts within both administrations, avoid the partisan abyss in Congress, evade the single-minded parochial self-interest of so many members of Congress and resist the magnetic pull exercised by the White House, especially in the Obama administration, to bring everything under its control and micromanagement. Over time, the broad dysfunction of today’s Washington wore me down, especially as I tried to maintain a public posture of nonpartisan calm, reason and conciliation.
I was brought in to help salvage the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—both going badly when I replaced Donald Rumsfeld in December 2006. When I was sworn in, my goals for both wars were relatively modest, but they seemed nearly unattainable. In Iraq, I hoped we could stabilize the country so that when U.S. forces departed, the war wouldn’t be viewed as a strategic defeat for the U.S. or a failure with global consequences; in Afghanistan, I sought an Afghan government and army strong enough to prevent the Taliban from returning to power and al Qaeda from returning to use the country again as a launch pad for terror. Fortunately, I believe my minimalist goals were achieved in Iraq and remain within reach in Afghanistan.
President Bush always detested the notion, but our later challenges in Afghanistan—especially the return of the Taliban in force by the time I reported for duty—were, I believe, significantly compounded by the invasion of Iraq. Resources and senior-level attention were diverted from Afghanistan. U.S. goals in Afghanistan—a properly sized, competent Afghan national army and police, a working democracy with at least a minimally effective and less corrupt central government—were embarrassingly ambitious and historically naive compared with the meager human and financial resources committed to the task, at least before 2009.
For his part, President Obama simply wanted to end the “bad” war in Iraq and limit the U.S. role in the “good” war in Afghanistan. His fundamental problem in Afghanistan was that his political and philosophical preferences for winding down the U.S. role conflicted with his own pro-war public rhetoric (especially during the 2008 campaign), the nearly unanimous recommendations of his senior civilian and military advisers at the Departments of State and Defense, and the realities on the ground.
The continuing fight over Afghanistan strategy in the Obama administration led to a helpful, steady narrowing of our objectives and ambitions. Still, I witnessed a good deal of wishful thinking in the Obama administration about how much improvement we might see with enough dialogue with Pakistan and enough civilian assistance to the Afghan government and people. When real improvements in those areas failed to materialize, too many people—especially in the White House—concluded that the president’s entire strategy, including the military component, was a failure and became eager to reverse course.
But if I had learned one useful lesson from Iraq, it was that progress depended on security for much of the population. This was why I could not sign onto Vice President Biden’s preferred strategy of reducing our presence in Afghanistan to rely on counterterrorist strikes from afar: “Whac-A-Mole” hits on Taliban leaders weren’t a long-term strategy. That is why I continue to believe that the troop increase that Obama boldly approved in late 2009 was the right decision—providing sufficient forces to break the stalemate on the ground, rooting the Taliban out of their strongholds while training a much larger and more capable Afghan army.
It is difficult to imagine two more different men than George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Clearly, I had fewer issues with Bush. Partly that is because I worked for him in the last two years of his presidency, when, with the exception of the Iraq surge, nearly all the big national security decisions had been made. He had made his historical bed and would have to lie in it. I don’t recall Bush ever discussing domestic politics—apart from congressional opposition—as a consideration in decisions he made during my time with him (although, in fairness, his sharp-elbowed political gurus were nearly all gone by the time I arrived). By early 2007, Vice President Dick Cheney was the hawkish outlier on the team, with Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and me in broad agreement.
With Obama, however, I joined a new, inexperienced president determined to change course—and equally determined from day one to win re-election. Domestic political considerations would therefore be a factor, though I believe never a decisive one, in virtually every major national security problem we tackled. The White House staff—including Chiefs of Staff Rahm Emanuel and then Bill Daley as well as such core political advisers as Valerie Jarrett, David Axelrod and Robert Gibbs —would have a role in national security decision making that I had not previously experienced (but which, I’m sure, had precedents).
I never confronted Obama directly over what I (as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta and others) saw as his determination that the White House tightly control every aspect of national security policy and even operations. His White House was by far the most centralized and controlling in national security of any I had seen since Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ruled the roost.
I had no problem with the White House driving policy; the bureaucracies at the State and Defense Departments rarely come up with big new ideas, so almost any meaningful change must be driven by the president and his National Security Staff (NSS), led during my tenure under Obama by Gen. James Jones, Thomas Donilon and Denis McDonough. But I believe the major reason the protracted, frustrating Afghanistan policy review held in the fall of 2009 created so much ill will was due to the fact it was forced on an otherwise controlling White House by the theater commander’s unexpected request for a large escalation of American involvement. Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s request surprised the White House (and me) and provoked a debate that the White House didn’t want, especially when it became public. I think Obama and his advisers were incensed that the Department of Defense—specifically the uniformed military—had taken control of the policy process from them and threatened to run away with it.
Most of my conflicts with the Obama administration during the first two years weren’t over policy initiatives from the White House but rather the NSS’s micromanagement and operational meddling, which I routinely resisted. For an NSS staff member to call a four-star combatant commander or field commander would have been unthinkable when I worked at the White House—and probably cause for dismissal. It became routine under Obama. I directed commanders to refer such calls to my office. The controlling nature of the Obama White House, and its determination to take credit for every good thing that happened while giving none to the career folks in the trenches who had actually done the work, offended Secretary Clinton as much as it did me.
Stylistically, Bush and Obama had much more in common than I expected. Both were most comfortable around a coterie of close aides and friends (like most presidents) and largely shunned the Washington social scene. Both, I believe, detested Congress and resented having to deal with it, including members of their own party. They both had the worst of both worlds on the Hill: They were neither particularly liked nor feared. Nor did either work much at establishing close personal relationships with other world leaders. Both presidents, in short, seemed aloof from two constituencies important to their success.
The relationship between senior military leaders and their civilian commander in chief is often tense, and that was certainly my experience under both Bush and Obama. Bush was willing to disagree with his senior military advisers, but he never (to my knowledge) questioned their motives or mistrusted them personally. Obama was respectful of senior officers and always heard them out, but he often disagreed with them and was deeply suspicious of their actions and recommendations. Bush seemed to enjoy the company of the senior military; I think Obama considered time spent with generals and admirals an obligation.
Such difficulties within the executive branch were nothing compared with the pain of dealing with Congress. Congress is best viewed from a distance—the farther the better—because up close, it is truly ugly. I saw most of Congress as uncivil, incompetent at fulfilling their basic constitutional responsibilities (such as timely appropriations), micromanagerial, parochial, hypocritical, egotistical, thin-skinned and prone to put self (and re-election) before country.
I was more or less continuously outraged by the parochial self-interest of all but a very few members of Congress. Any defense facility or contract in their district or state, no matter how superfluous or wasteful, was sacrosanct. I was constantly amazed and infuriated at the hypocrisy of those who most stridently attacked the Defense Department as inefficient and wasteful but fought tooth and nail to prevent any reduction in defense activities in their home state or district.
I also bristled at what’s become of congressional hearings, where rude, insulting, belittling, bullying and all too often highly personal attacks on witnesses by members of Congress violated nearly every norm of civil behavior. Members postured and acted as judge, jury and executioner. It was as though most members were in a permanent state of outrage or suffered from some sort of mental duress that warranted confinement or at least treatment for anger management.
I continue to worry about the incessant scorched-earth battling between Congress and the president (which I saw under both Bush and Obama) but even more about the weakening of the moderate center in Congress. Today, moderation is equated with lacking principles and compromise with “selling out.” Our political system has rarely been so polarized and unable to execute even the basic functions of government.
I found all of this dysfunction particularly troubling because of the enormity of the duties I shouldered. Until becoming secretary of defense, my exposure to war and those who fought it had come from antiseptic offices at the White House and CIA. Serving as secretary of defense made the abstract real, the antiseptic bloody and horrible. I saw up close the cost in lives ruined and lives lost.
Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran’s nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents.
Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort. On the left, we hear about the “responsibility to protect” civilians to justify military intervention in Libya, Syria, Sudan and elsewhere. On the right, the failure to strike Syria or Iran is deemed an abdication of U.S. leadership. And so the rest of the world sees the U.S. as a militaristic country quick to launch planes, cruise missiles and drones deep into sovereign countries or ungoverned spaces. There are limits to what even the strongest and greatest nation on Earth can do—and not every outrage, act of aggression, oppression or crisis should elicit a U.S. military response.
This is particularly worth remembering as technology changes the face of war. A button is pushed in Nevada, and seconds later a pickup truck explodes in Mosul. A bomb destroys the targeted house on the right and leaves the one on the left intact. For too many people—including defense “experts,” members of Congress, executive branch officials and ordinary citizens—war has become a kind of videogame or action movie: bloodless, painless and odorless. But my years at the Pentagon left me even more skeptical of systems analysis, computer models, game theories or doctrines that suggest that war is anything other than tragic, inefficient and uncertain.
The people who understand this best are our men and women in uniform. I will always have a special place in my heart for all who served on the front lines in Iraq and Afghanistan—most in their 20s, some in their teens. While I was sitting in a hotel restaurant before my confirmation hearings, the mother of two soldiers then in Iraq came up to me and, weeping, said, “For God’s sake, bring them back alive.” I never forgot that—not for one moment.
On each visit to the war zones, as I would go to joint security stations in Baghdad or forward operating bases and combat outposts in Afghanistan, I knew I wasn’t being exposed to the true grim reality of our troops’ lives. And I could only contrast their selfless service and sacrifice with so many self-serving elected and nonelected officials back home.
I came to believe that no one who had actually been in combat could walk away without scars, without some measure of post-traumatic stress. And while those I visited in the hospitals put on a brave front, in my mind’s eye, I could see them lying awake, alone, in the hours before dawn, confronting their pain, broken dreams and shattered lives. I would wake in the night, think back to a wounded soldier or Marine I had seen at Landstuhl, Bethesda or Walter Reed, and in my imagination, I would put myself in his hospital room, and I would hold him to my chest to comfort him. At home, in the night, I silently wept for him. So when a young soldier in Afghanistan asked me once what kept me awake at night, I answered honestly: He did.
—Dr. Gates was the 22nd secretary of defense. This essay is adapted from his latest book, “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War,” to be published next Tuesday by Knopf.
Huge Solar Flare Delays Private Rocket Launch to Space Station
by Tariq Malik, Managing Editor | January 08, 2014 08:10am ET
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. — A huge solar unleashed by the sun has delayed plans to launch a private cargo ship to the International Space Station today (Jan. 8) due to worry over space weather radiation.
The first major solar flare of 2014 erupted from a massive sunspot seven times the size of Earth on Tuesday (Jan. 7) after a series of mid-level sun storms in recent days. The event occurred as the commercial spaceflight company Orbital Sciences was preparing to launch a landmark cargo delivery flight to the space station today with its Antares rocket and robotic Cygnus spacecraft.
“We are concerned about mission failure,” Orbital’s Chief Technical Officer Antonio Elias told reporters in a teleconference today. The company is evaluating the extent of Tuesday’s flare and the potential for solar radiation to interfere with critical systems like gyroscopes and avionics, he added.
Elias said Orbital’s Cygnus spacecraft is designed to withstand space weather events like Tuesday’s flare during its weeks-long mission at the space station, so the vehicle isn’t vulnerable to the same radiation concerns as its Antares rocket.
Space weather delay
Orbital Sciences has been monitoring space weather since Sunday, when the company began tracking an uptick in solar activity. But it was Tuesday’s huge solar flare, which registered as an X1.2-class sun storm — the strongest class of solar flares the sun experiences — that led to today’s delay. It occurred just hours after an intense M7.2-class solar flare earlier in the day.
The Antares rocket was awaiting a 1:32 p.m. EST (1832 GMT) launch today from a pad here at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility when the decision to delay was made. It is the latest delay for the mission, which was initially delayed from a mid-December liftoff when astronauts on the station had to perform emergency cooling system repairs, and later postponed a day due to the sub-freezing temperatures affecting the United States this week. [Photos of Orbital’s Antares Rocket at the Launch Pad]
“Sometimes, you just don’t get off the ground when you want to,” Orbital Sciences executive vice president Frank Culbertson told reporters in a teleconference today. “This isn’t a failure in the system, it is a delay. But all we’re really delaying is the success that’s going to come when we execute this mission.”
Culbertson said Orbital Sciences officials hope to make a decision whether to attempt another launch try on Thursday by 5 p.m. EST (2200 GMT) today. A launch attempt on Thursday would occur at 1:07 p.m. EST (1807 GMT), should Orbital decide to pursue it.
The solar flare currently poses no threat to the six astronauts and cosmonauts currently living on the International Space Station. The crew will not have to any measures to shelter themselves from the solar flare’s space radiation, NASA spokesman Rob Navias, of the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, told SPACE.com in an email.
Giant sunspot spouts solar flare
By coincidence, the Jan. 7 solar flare occurred at 1:32 p.m. EST — exactly 24 hours before today’s launch target times— from an active sunspot region known as AR1944. The sunspot facing Earth from the middle of the sun, as viewed from Earth, and is “one of the largest sunspots seen in the last 10 years,” NASA officials said in a statement Tuesday.
“The solar flux activity that occurred late yesterday afternoon resulted in an increasing level of radiation beyond what the Antares engineering team monitored earlier in the day,” NASA officials added in a separate statement today. “Overnight, Orbital’s engineers conducted an analysis of the radiation levels, but the Antares team decided to postpone the launch to further examine the potential effects of the space radiation on the rocket’s avionics. The Cygnus spacecraft would not be affected by the solar event.”
The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle. The current cycle, known as Solar Cycle 24, began in 2008.
Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft had a 95-percent chance of good weather for today’s planned launch. That weather forecast deteriorates as the week progresses, with cloudy conditions dropping it to 75-percent chance of favorable weather on Thursday, and a 30-percent chance of good launch conditions on Friday. Rain is expected on Saturday, Culbertson said.
Orbital Sciences officials said they are closely monitoring the fallout from Tuesday’s solar flares.
“Orbital will continue to monitor the levels of space radiation with a goal of setting a new launch date as soon as possible,” company officials said.
Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to launch 40,000 lbs. of supplies to the International Space Station by 2016 using its Antares rockets and disposable Cygnus spacecraft. The first Antares and Cygnus test flights launched in 2013, with today’s launch expected to mark the first official cargo delivery for Orbital.
For the delivery flight, called Orb-1, the Cygnus spacecraft is carrying 2,780 pounds (1,260 kilograms) of gear for the International Space Station. That haul includes a space ant colony, 33 small cubesat satellites and 23 other experiments designed students from across the country.
The Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences is one of two companies with a NASA contract to delivery supplies to the space station. The other company is SpaceX of Hawthorne, Calif., which has launched two of 12 planned delivery missions for NASA under a $1.6 billion agreement. The third mission in SpaceX’s schedule is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 22.
Pentagon on watch for disruptive technology worldwide
Jan. 8, 2014 – 08:28PM |
WASHINGTON — Concerned about the surge of potentially disruptive technological advances in China and around the world, the Pentagon is creating a program to track and analyze patents and other signs of emerging technologies, military records and interviews show.
China has long been considered a threat to U.S. manufacturing because of its low wages and huge population, but now the nation is seeing a boom in innovation as well. Patents for new technologies in China have taken off, and a graph showing the rise in new patents looks like a “hockey stick,” said Patrick Thomas, a principal and director of analytics for 1790 Analytics.
In September 2012, China’s defense ministry reported that military-related patents there had increased by 35 percent a year over the previous decade. U.S. national security policy has shifted in recent years to a greater focus on Asia, and Pentagon policymakers have developed plans to counter China’s growing influence.
“The rapid rise of China … is focusing minds on the geopolitical power balance again and leading to a small revival of military-centered long-term strategic studies,” said a 2013 analysis of government “foresight” programs around the world by the European Union Institute for Security Studies.
The Pentagon has launched a new project called Technology Watch/Horizon Scanning, which aims to track developing technologies around the world that could either aid U.S. military efforts or seriously disrupt existing military plans. Thomas’ company — based in Haddonfield, N.J. — is one of the chief contractors for the project.
Brian Beachkofski, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Technical Intelligence, said the program is meant to keep the military ahead of technological developments 10 to 20 years ahead of time. “When you look at particular data,” he said, “it’s a long time before it becomes reality.”
That program, which follows similar efforts in the United Kingdom and elsewhere, focuses on two elements that can dictate future policies:
■ Technology Watch tracks key technology buzzwords to see where they are being used, Beachkofski said. “We look at them and find out what is being developed and whether there could be any future uses for the Department of Defense.”
■ Horizon Scanning was designed to look for ‘the emergence of new scientific concepts and technology applications with disruptive potential,” according to a 2011 Pentagon document outlining the program. A 2008 report for the U.K.’s Ministry of Defense defined horizon scanning as the ability to “identify technologies which have not previously been considered relevant, and to propose the possible value of developments that are being made for non-defense applications.”
Beachkofski said the program, which is still in development, can mine university and other research journals, as well as patent filings, to track new technologies “on the university level or in early stages of research and development at private companies.”
Analysts can then look deeper into each category to determine if there are so-called “emerging clusters” of technological development that need further examination, Thomas said. For example, researchers could find that China is developing new types of technology that could be used in missiles or other weapons that could affect U.S. policies.
New military technologies, expensive or otherwise, can force armed forces to radically shift their priorities.
The rise of the improvised explosive device in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed how a cheap weapon can eradicate the U.S. technological advantage on the battlefield. IEDs devastated the military’s flat-bottomed vehicles, like Humvees, forcing the Pentagon in 2007 to start what became a $50 billion program to develop the Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, featuring a hull that is blast-resistant.
Pentagon budget documents released last April said the technology watch program “will develop insight into our relative position in science and technology around the world, as well as determine potential impacts on DoD capability and future threat environments.”
“One thing of interest is if you went to track technology and found the United States was absent from (that area of science), you’d want to do something about it,” Thomas said.
Electronic warfare market to hit $15B
Jan. 8, 2014
The global electronic warfare market will reach $15.6 billion by 2020, according to a new forecast by ASDReports. This reflects a compound annual growth rate of 4.5 percent from the $12.2 billion market in 2014.
Driving the increase will be the continuing exploitation of the electromagnetic spectrum, according to the study. Market growth will continue despite cuts in defense spending in the U.S. and Britain that will result in tighter budgets through at least 2016. The market will continue to see joint ventures between competitors seeking to win major contracts.
The current trend in the electronic warfare market is for faster and more efficient systems able to quickly detect frequency-hopping signals, said ASDReports.
Appropriators fight to beat clock
January 08, 2014, 05:02 pm
By Erik Wasson
Lawmakers scrambled Wednesday to maintain their momentum and complete writing an omnibus spending bill by Friday.
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), however, acknowledged that some sort of short stopgap measure would now be likely to avoid a Jan. 16 shutdown.
“Because of the Senate procedures, we are probably going to have to do a couple of days [continuing resolution],” Rogers said. He added that such a measure could run through Jan. 17, when Congress departs for another weeklong recess.
Yet Rogers said negotiators are clearly making progress, with eight of the 12 parts of the omnibus done.
“We probably have eight or so that are absolutely done,” he said. “We’re reducing the number of items that are in disagreement.”
That represents progress from Tuesday when Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) said six out of 12 were done.
Getting the bill written by Friday would allow Congress to vote next week on the $1 trillion measure containing hundreds of pages of funding details.
Sources said the Labor, Health and Education measure which involves ObamaCare and union-related provisions remained a problem on Wednesday. ObamaCare funding issues shut down the government for 16 days in October.
In a positive sign for the omnibus, the controversial Interior and Environment portion appeared to be close to final.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), who chairs the subcommittee in charge of Environmental Protection Agency funding said the level of EPA funding had been finalized.
Calvert also signaled that major policy riders were not going to be in the bill.
“There is nothing in there that’s a showstopper,” he said. He added that he believes the bill will be done by Friday.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), the ranking member on the subcommittee, said he too thinks Calvert and Rogers will not push major EPA changes on the bill.
“I think Ken understands that an appropriations bill is not the appropriate place to be writing environmental and energy legislation,” Moran said.
The Defense portion of the bill was already in legislative language form, said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who chairs the Defense Appropriations subcommittee. He said he was being lobbied by other members for changes however.
“Things are never closed. I have quite a lot of things given to me in the last hour by people who think things are always open,” he said coming off the House floor during a vote.
He signaled that big program changes for contractors such as for the F-35 fighter or the Navy’s littoral combat ship would not be coming.
“We have a healthy respect for all the aforementioned items,” he said.
On cuts to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter he said, “it is important to have an aircraft that meets the needs of all of our services.”
Cyberthreats for 2014: Not just the usual suspects
By William Jackson
Dec 11, 2013
January ushers in a new year, but the cybersecurity threats that come with it will for the most part look an awful lot like the ones agency IT managers already know. They will continue to morph, evolve and multiply to keep admins on their toes.
The research and analysis company Ovum predicts that 2014 will bring “more of the same,” just at higher volumes. The greater complexity of software, hardware and systems are putting a premium on automation — and on the need to protect data rather than systems, which are too dynamic to quickly defend. All of this puts a focus on the need for government to reform IT acquisition to enable a more flexible response to rapidly evolving threats.
The expanding need for threat intelligence and analytics to defend complex systems makes security as a service an increasingly attractive option. The recent award of a $6 billion blanket purchase agreement to 17 companies for security monitoring tools under the Homeland Security Department’s Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program is a step in this direction. But it has been hampered by uncertainty in the federal budget. “It’s critical that the program continue to move forward in a constructive way, and without budget interference,” said FireMon president Jody Brazil.
Here are some of the trends, issues and things to consider in in the coming year, most of them familiar, but with one wild card.
One thing that most observers agree on is that the convergence of mobile and cloud computing will present a new and unintended hybrid: bring your own cloud. End users with mobile devices will knowingly or unknowingly use consumer cloud services to store and access work data, moving it outside of the enterprise’s immediate control.
Jerry Irvine, CIO of Prescient Solutions, calls the convergence, “an issue that is bringing in security risks.” As consumer cloud services move data out of the enterprise, mobile devices also provide new routes into the enterprise.
This is another example of the disappearing perimeter, says Paul Christman, Dell Software’s VP for the public sector. He calls the convergence a profound shift that will require greater attention to the security and management of mobile devices in the workplace, whether government-issued or BYOD.
“It represents another vector by which valuable government data can be lost or stolen,” said Paul Royal, associate director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Information Security Center.
That vector also puts an emphasis on managing devices and protecting the data itself, no matter where it is stored. “The cost of doing this is coming down,” Christman said, but the technology is not fully mature. Manoj Nair, general manager of RSA, said open and extensible security features for mobile devices are needed and called for Apple to open its iPhone 5s biometric to developers.
To make the most of information in enhancing situational awareness it should be shared, but this proves surprisingly difficult. It is not so much a technical problem as a people problem, and a lot of people have been disturbed by recent revelations about National Security Agency’s freewheeling digital information gathering.
Bit9 CSO Nick Levay says that cooperation between the public and private sectors was strong in 2013 but that reports that NSA has been tapping fiber-optic cables as well as gathering data directly from carriers could sour relationships. Major online players have been embarrassed by news that makes it seem that they either are in bed with the NSA or are not doing enough to protect their networks and data.
Customers will demand greater transparency from their technology providers, says former White House advisor Howard Schmidt, now executive director of SAFECode. “Companies, individuals and governments reeling from the surveillance disclosures will increase and expand their use of encrypted products, keys and data flows to try to get a better handle on controlling their information.”
This is good security, but protection may well take a back seat to cooperation in the coming year.
Security on the Internet of Things: An afterthought?
The Internet of Things is more than a buzzword; it is becoming a reality.
“More and more devices will be connected to the Internet,” said Georgia Tech’s Paul Royal. Increasingly, they will be communicating with each other without going through their users or administrators. “We need to have a thoughtful understanding of what the security implications might be.”
As these interacting systems become more diverse and complex, the focus of security will have to shift from the systems to the data they house and use. Royal said he is afraid that security will be a secondary consideration in the process of wiring (and unwiring) the world, and will not be taken seriously until there is a crisis. “Same old, same old, I’m afraid.”
Critical infrastructure: An increasingly visible target
Threats to the critical infrastructure are closely related to the Internet of Things. The nation’s power grids, financial systems and utilities all are becoming networked, often linking control system software that was never intended to be exposed to the Internet. Research on vulnerabilities will lead to increased exploits of this critical infrastructure, says Schmidt.
Although malicious exploits so far have been few, breaches and compromises in critical systems have been reported. The financial services sector, which is heavily regulated, has the most mature security posture, but “all areas need to awaken to the problem,” says Bit9’s Levay.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is developing a cybersecurity framework for critical infrastructure under a presidential policy directive, but compliance will be voluntary. Control system software and device firmware need the same level of scrutiny as higher level software, Schmidt says.
The wild card: Wearable computers
The idea of wearable computers has been around for a while, but it is now moving from fiction to production. Samsung has its Galaxy Gear smart watch and Microsoft is prototyping its own smart watch, while Google is beta testing its Google Glass.
The concept is not yet fully baked, said Prescient’s Irvine. But half-baked or not, it looks as if it is here. “I am a new owner of Google Glass,” he said.
So far, attention to security in these devices appears to be minimal and the introduction of wearable technology can make the mere presence of an individual a cybersecurity risk. “This is not a risk that can be addressed by automation,” Irvine said. “It requires policy.”
RSA’s Nair predicts that “2014 looks to be the year when the wearable trend goes mainstream for government,” and other markets. “Vendors should be looking to build security into their wearable devices and applications now — and not view security as an afterthought. Otherwise, a trend for 2015 could be the stories of personal information being leaked from these devices.”
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, January 11, 2014
The U.S. economy’s still not a pretty picture, but Americans seem to be going with the flow. The government at week’s end reported the weakest job growth in years in December. The unemployment rate fell, but that was largely due to Americans leaving the work force.
Seventy-two percent (72%) say they know someone who is out of work and looking for a job, the highest finding in a year. Forty-one percent (41%) know someone who, out of frustration with the difficult job market, has given up the search for work.
Still, the Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence rose four points in December to its highest level since June. Slightly more workers continue to say their companies are hiring rather than laying off.
Forty-six percent (46%) of American favor a proposal now before Congress that would continue combined state and federal unemployment benefits for up to 73 weeks for those unable to find a job. Thirty-nine percent (39%) oppose this proposal now being pushed by Senate Democrats and President Obama.
Fifteen percent (15%) favor extending unemployment benefits indefinitely, but more than twice as many (34%) say the federal government should do nothing at all for the long-term unemployed.
Forty-seven percent (47%) of voters continue to feel the president is too hostile toward small business, consistent with regular findings for the past year. Twenty-nine percent (29%) think he is too hostile toward big business.
Case in point: Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly pushing hard for a new international global warming treaty, prompting speculation that this will further delay a government decision on the Keystone XL oil pipeline from western Canada to Texas. Fifty-seven percent (57%) of voters favor building the Keystone pipeline, and 56% think it will be good for the economy. These views have changed little in over two years.
Just eight percent (8%) of voters think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Sixty-nine percent (69%) say no matter how bad things are, Congress can always find a way to make them worse, the highest level of cynicism in surveys for over three years.
Democrats have taken the lead over Republicans – 40% to 38% – on the Generic Congressional Ballot for the first time since late November.
If Democrats win control of Congress in this November’s elections, most voters (55%) believe there will be a noticeable change in the lives of most Americans. Slightly fewer voters (49%) think there will be a noticeable change in the lives of most Americans if Republicans win control of Congress.
One prominent Republican who reportedly has his eye on winning the White House ran into heavy traffic this past week. Fifty-four percent (54%) of Likely New Jersey Voters believe it’s likely Governor Chris Christie was aware that traffic lanes onto the George Washington Bridge were being closed as retaliation for the mayor of Fort Lee’s refusal to support the governor’s reelection. Fifty-six percent (56%) believe Christie should resign if it is proven that he approved of the retaliation. The lane closures caused four days of major traffic jams heading into New York City, and the incident has become a major national political story because of Christie’s potential presidential candidacy.
Al Qaeda-led terrorists have been making major gains in Iraq in recent days, recapturing places that U.S. troops liberated during the war there, but just 25% of voters favor U.S. military action against Iraq or Syria if either of those countries is taken over by al Qaeda or related terrorists.
Thirty-nine percent (39%) think the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have increased the threat of radical Islamic terrorism within the United States.
The president is counting on upcoming negotiations to bring the Syrian civil war to a peaceful conclusion despite increasing al Qaeda involvement there. Obama’s daily job approval ratings have returned to levels seen for much of his presidency after falling to unprecedented lows in the weeks following the disastrous rollout of the new health care law.
Voters continue to give their own health care high marks but remain critical of the overall health care system in this country. For the first time in nearly a year, however, fewer than 50% expect the health care system to get worse under Obamacare.
Coming off his reelection, Obama signaled that immigration reform and stricter gun control were two of his top agenda items, but none of his initiatives in these areas made it into law. Voters remain critical of the president’s handling of both issues.
In other surveys last week:
— Most voters favor legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes but are a lot less enthusiastic about open recreational use.
— While most voters identify themselves as pro-choice, support for a mandatory waiting period prior to an abortion is at its highest level in over two years at 49%.
— The United States fought two major wars in the 20th Century and engaged in a lengthy Cold War for several decades. But most Americans now view U.S. relations with two of those former enemies, Germany and Japan, very positively, while they remain skeptical of Vietnam, Russia and China.
— Thirty-nine percent (39%) of voters favor building more nuclear power plants in the United States. Thirty-seven (37%) are opposed.
— Just 18% of Americans believe it is the government’s job to tell people what kind of light bulb to use.
— That helps explain why 60% still oppose the ban on traditional bulbs that took effect on January 1.
Breach goes from bad to worse for Target and its customers
Company now says data on up to 110 million customers exposed — up from 40 million — and that hackers accessed more data than previously thought
January 10, 2014 (Computerworld)
Target’s acknowledgement Friday that personal data of 110 million people, not 40 million as previously thought, may have been exposed to hackers in a recent data breach raises new questions about the incident and how it could affect victims.
Target today said that an ongoing investigation of the data breach has revealed that “guest information” such as names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of customers may have been accessed by the same thieves who hacked into its systems last month.
Much of the exposed data is “partial in nature,” the company said in a statement this morning. In cases where a customer email address is available, Target said it would attempt to contact affected individuals.
“We know that it is frustrating for our guests to learn that this information was taken and we are sorry they are having to endure this,” said Target chairman and CEO Gregg Steinhafel in the statement.
Target in mid-December revealed that hackers had broke into its systems between Nov. 27 and Dec. 15 and accessed data on up to 40 million debit and credit cards. At the time, Target said that hackers gained access to cardholder names, credit or debit card numbers, card expiration dates and CVV security codes.
Target now says that its subsequent investigation found that data from 30 million more people was exposed. “This theft is not a new breach, but was uncovered as part of the ongoing investigation,” the company said.
The update shows that the breach exposed data on about one third of the adult population of the United States, noted James Huguelet, and independent security consultant who specializes in retail security. “It now implies that consumers who shopped at Target outside of the approximately one month the breach was active have now become potentially affected by this breach,” he said. Target’s statement suggests that in some cases, only an individual’s e-mail address might have been compromised, while in others, the mailing address might have been exposed. Huguelet said the “partial” exposure implies “that multiple systems containing different types of information were compromised [though] that’s purely speculative at this point.”
Hackers using the stolen information can now target victims with highly sophisticated spear-phishing attacks Huguelet warned.
“I can see a criminal being able to create a very effective attack with each e-mail sent having been customized to include the target’s name, address, and phone number. This could very well lead to a massive wave of identity theft across the United States,” he said.
Huguelet suggested that all Target customers accept the retailer’s offer to provide free credit monitoring, though he added, “I’m surprised that Target is not making this available immediately.” Attacks could already be underway and the credit monitoring may come too late for some victims, he said.
Steve Ward, a spokesman for security vendor Invincea, said Target customers should already be on high alert for phishing attacks. The stolen data allows attackers to craft very convincing emails in attempts to pry loose sensitive data.
“Seventy million active email addresses is a treasure trove for cyber criminal. They now have emails they know are active and linked to Target,” he said. Where possible, he suggests that individuals with email addresses linked to Target deactivate them.
If the email address is too difficult to change, individuals have to be continually on the lookout for phishing attempts, not just for days, but for months and perhaps years as well, he said.
Credit and debit card information stolen from Target is already being used in new ways. Compromised cards are being marketed online with information on the state, city and ZIP code of the Target store where they were used.
Fraud experts suggest that the location information will likely allow buyers of the stolen data to use spoofed versions of cards issued to people in their immediate vicinity.
Local use of a card makes it more likely that crooks can use it for a longer period of time because fraud detection tools used by banks and other card issuers use locations and frequency of card use to determine potential criminal activity. Banks often decline transactions or require additional authentication only for card transactions that originate from new or unexpected locations.
The breach could be very costly for Target, especially considering the findings of its investigation. TJX and Heartland were hit with similar massive attacks have so far paid well over $100 million in breach-related costs, many in relation to outside investigations.
In the statement today, Target said it expects fourth-quarter sales and earnings to be substantially lower than the results expected before the breach was discovered.
The adjusted earning per share for the fourth quarter is now $1.20 to $1.30 compared to prior guidance of $1.50 to $1.60. Sales during the quarter are now expected to be nearly 2.5% lower than previously expected.
Merry Christmas & Happy New Year
Google Buys Pentagon’s Robotics Lab
by MIKE HOFFMAN on DECEMBER 16, 2013
Big DogGoogle has acquired the robotics company that the Pentagon typically leans on to develop next generation robots doing everything from carrying troops’ gear to searching for IEDs.
Google purchased Boston Dynamics as part of its larger strategy to invest in robotics development. The engineer in charge of developing Android for Google, Andy Rubin, will lead this initiative.
The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency — better known as DARPA — recognized the cutting edge work being done at Boston Dynamics early and has awarded multiple development contracts to the company. Boston Dynamics is working on high profile projects for the military such as the Big Dog, which is now officially named the Legged Squad Support System (LS3) by the Marine Corps.
The Marine Corps Warfighting Lab is working with DARPA and Boston Dynamics engineers to develop the Big Dog to lighten the load for Marines and soldiers. The Big Dog is designed to traverse technical terrain while carrying 400 pounds of gear.
Google officials have said the company will still honor the remaining contracts that Boston Dynamics has with DARPA, but it seems evident that DARPA may have to find a new laboratory to develop their next robotics projects.
Of course, Google’s acquisition could be seen as a boon for military robotics based on the deep pockets Google has and the type of investments into development they plan to make.
Many of the robots that DARPA wants to develop are not specific military robots. The Big Dog is an example. If Google can develop legged robots quicker with more funding, then Marines and soldiers benefit faster potentially.
Notably, Google doesn’t have to worry about sequestration or Congressional budgets. It can use it’s large capital reserve to sink in the money necessary to advance robotics at a rapid pace.
Pentagon Reorganizes Intel Office, Adds Cyber Post
The Pentagon’s top intelligence policy office is making staff changes to address new threats and meet expected budget cuts, including creating a director-level position to oversee cybersecurity and other “special programs.”
Marcel Lettre, the Pentagon’s newly confirmed principal deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence, on Monday outlined a plan to cut the intelligence budget and staff. There are just under 200 people working for OUDI. Lettre said there will be cuts to both military and civilian personnel, including contractors, but didn’t say how many.
Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered his staff to reduce their budgets by 20 percent over the next five years. In restructuring, the intel office run by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers will add a new “director for defense intelligence for technical collection & special programs” that will oversee cybersecurity and other programs – a move that illustrates the Pentagon’s attempt to protect important programs even in this new era of fiscal restraint.
Lettre told reporters that with the war in Iraq over and the war in Afghanistan winding down the office is facing “a different set of strategic challenges, many of which are enduring.”
OUDI’s plan to trim 20 percent from its budget includes some “modest structural changes,” including the consolidation of some counterintelligence and security experts to help combat insider threats, such as the shooting that happened at the Washington Navy Yard earlier this year.
The Pentagon’s ISR Taskforce, which had its hands full in Iraq and Afghanistan, will now be merged under the DDI’s Warfighter Support directorate.
Lettre said the changes are part of a move from a “heavy acquisition focus” to an “operational focus” and the Defense Department becomes “leaner and more agile.”
Meet Deborah Lee James, Confirmed as Air Force Secretary
By JULIAN E. BARNES
WASHINGTON – Deborah Lee James will be installed as the new Air Force Secretary next Tuesday, following a Senate confirmation vote Friday.
Although Ms. James was not a controversial nominee — winning approval on a 79-6 vote Friday — her confirmation has been held up for months.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R., N.H.) had initially blocked a vote over questions about the Air Force’s plans to retire the A-10, an attack plane used to support troops in combat.
Ms. Ayotte released her hold in October, but Ms. James nomination became entangled in Senate politics as even noncontroversial nominees were held up while Democrats and Republicans debated Senate rules on filibustering presidential nominees.
Ms. James will be the second woman to lead the Air Force. She currently is a president at Science Applications International Corp., a major defense contractor.
She has previously served as the chief operating officer at Business Executives for National Security, a Washington based organization of business leaders who advocate on defense and security issues.
Air Force Undersecretary Eric Fanning had been serving as acting secretary for the last six months after Michael Donley stepped down from the job.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel called Ms. James Friday to congratulate her. Air Force leaders praised her at a news conference.
“There is much to celebrate in the Air Force today,” Mr. Fanning said of Ms. James’s confirmation, adding she and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welch “will be the strongest team I have seen and great advocates of the Air Force and airpower.”
Pentagon Seeks Low Cost in High Heavens
Push is on to develop new spaceship to put satellites into orbit
Dec. 12, 2013
Sky’s The Limit: The Pentagon is wide open to what its new spaceplane might look like.
Getting to space costs too much.
That’s why the Defense Department wants a radical new airship designed to cut the cost of lobbing a satellite into orbit by 90%.
And the Pentagon is going very Star Wars: it doesn’t care whether it’s manned, winged, or even how it’s powered: “New or novel propellants are acceptable providing they can support the DARPA objective of 10 flights in 10 days,” the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said Thursday, “and the proposer can justify any risk associated with developing such propellants and rocket engines.”
The Experimental Spaceplane—XS-1 to insiders—would be reusable, although an upper stage might be used only once. “This reusable hypersonic X-Plane will demonstrate the potential for low-cost and high operations tempo military flight systems that can operate in the strategic threat environments of the 21st century, both for next-generation space launch and global reach aircraft,” the government says.
Orville and Wilbur—and Wernher, as well—call your office!
Bottom line: dangers to U.S. space operations are mounting, and the U.S. military doesn’t want to be caught with its rockets down. “Current space launch vehicles are very expensive, have no surge capability and must be contracted years in advance,” the Pentagon says. “In an era of declining budgets and proliferating foreign threats to U.S. air and space assets the need for responsive, affordable access to space is increasingly critical.”
Real bottom line: the Pentagon wants to be able to put a two-ton satellite into orbit 100 miles above the Earth for less than $5 million—”one-tenth the cost of today’s launch systems.” It is seeking a new kind of spaceship with “aircraft-like cost, operability and reliability” that can “break the cycle of escalating space system launch and high satellite costs.”
The Government Accountability Office said in September that the U.S. government plans on spending nearly $44 billion launching rockets between 2014 and 2018. “This funding represents a significant investment on the part of the government,” the GAO said.
“It just costs too doggone much,” General William Shelton, chief of U.S. Air Force Space Command, said in July. “We have got to get to the place where we can drive down the cost of space launch.”
Spaceship designers are encouraged to submit their ideas by Jan. 16, the initial November announcement said. The Pentagon plans on awarding multiple contracts for the best designs, and then review their prospects to see if any one warrants an additional investment of up to $140 million. First flight could take place in 2018, assuming someone comes up with a good idea, and the U.S. government can afford it. “Awards,” the cash-strapped Pentagon noted, “are subject to the availability of funds.”
New Cyber Framework Aimed at Small, Mid-Tier Defense Companies
By Stew Magnuson
A National Institute of Standards and Technology framework intended to help companies and organizations bolster their cybersecurity may have a big impact for small- and mid-tier defense contractors, experts said.
The draft of the cybersecurity framework was released at the end of October, and NIST was gathering comments until Dec. 13. Its overarching goal is to set up voluntary information sharing regimes for each of the 16 critical infrastructure sectors identified by the Department of Homeland Security.
The framework is mostly directed at smaller companies and can help them implement standards and follow risk management principles and best practices, said Larry Clinton, president of the Internet Security Alliance. That is particularly true in the defense industrial base, where larger companies are seen as being ahead on cybersecrity.
“In general, these organizations do state-of-the-art cybersecurity. They have tremendous resources in scope and scale — among other things,” Clinton said.
However, further down in the supply chain, companies don’t have the same financial wherewithal and expertise, he noted.
The Presidential Executive Order — Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity released in February — called for NIST to create the framework. The executive order was a result of a recalcitrant Congress, which has had difficulty passing major bills such as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act.
A lot can be accomplished under the framework and executive order without the need for further legislation, cybersecurity executives told National Defense.
The defense and the financial services sectors are seen as two industries that are at the forefront of cybersecurity. Concerned about reports of China-based hacking enterprises stealing vast amounts of intellectual property, the Defense Department initiated the defense industrial base cyber security and information assurance program in 2007.
It was designed to gather reports on network intrusions, scrub the data to ensure the company contributing the information remained anonymous, and then push out reports to other participants. The program, administered by the chief information office, has since expanded, and is now serving as a model for the framework.
The framework includes principles that will reach across all sectors such as risk management, said Tom Conway, director of network security firm McAfee Federal. Companies need to know what assets are most at risk, prioritize, and take action to protect them.
“That is something the DIB has been doing for a while,” he said.
Keith Rhodes, chief technology officer at QinetiQ North America, said perfect security is impossible.
“You have to take a posture of always being under attack. That is just the nature of the beast,” he said. Once a company accepts that fact, then it can move on to identifying its most critical assets and boosting security around them.
“It is about risk. Understanding your threats, the vulnerability and value of assets that may or may not be compromised,” he said.
He lauded the information-sharing regime the framework puts in place.
“We have to be able to tell others, and others have to be able to tell us, what they see, what they know, what’s happening,” Rhodes said. “Without that, you really can’t know what the threat is. You’re looking through your soda straw, but you don’t really have the broader purview.”
Clinton and the others interviewed praised the voluntary nature of the NIST framework, even though it is a result of there not being any legislation to mandate participation.
“A lot of the larger organizations are probably already doing — or are in some cases — doing more than what is in the framework. They will raise their hand,” Clinton said. “But we want those small- and mid-size firms to adopt the framework. They are perhaps the target audience.”
However, these smaller companies have to see that volunteering their time and resources is worth their while, he added.
“If you want the framework to be sustainable as a voluntary system, which is what the administration is committed to, then it has to be cost effective,” Clinton said.
“It is clearly unsustainable to expect smaller firms to be continually making uneconomic investments in security. They won’t do it. Nobody can do it,” he added.
Conway said there are potential cost savings to participating in information sharing when companies don’t have to build or buy redundant infrastructure. Plus, there is also a shortage of cybersecurity personnel. Smaller firms “can leverage somebody else’s smart person.”
There is also the question of incentives, which may assist some of these lower-tier companies in achieving their cybersecurity goals. Those may require legislation, though.
There could be accelerated depreciation for network security products, tax credits for companies that agree to put cybersensors in place, limits on liability and insurance reform, Conway said.
Rhodes said it’s the government’s responsibility to make sure these small companies have the incentives to participate in a voluntary system.
“That means there has to be a good carrot and stick, and right now, there seems to be neither,” he said.
Incentives for defense firms to strengthen their cybersecurity, especially on certain sensitive programs, can be built into contracts, Rhodes said. That is what they do after all — compete for Defense Department business. The government has to choose which parts of the standards apply to defense contracts and insert them into requests for proposals.
Those who write the RFPs should state: “Prove to all of us that you won this contract because you had the smartest approach to security based on the evaluation criteria that we put in,” Rhodes said.
That kind of “carrot” would not require additional legislation, he added.
Defense Department agencies can show they are “serious about this by putting specificity into the evaluation criteria and actually evaluating based on those criteria,” Rhodes said. “Then I have all the incentive in the world. Because that’s the business I’m in.”
Conway said, “‘Fast moving and fluid’ are usually not used to describe regulations.” A voluntary system builds in flexibility.
Prescriptive or regulatory based measures restrict progress, he said.
“Look at where the technology has gone over the past three years with all the iPads and Android equivalents,” he noted.
Since the draft framework was released, Clinton has been a vocal advocate of beta testing the information sharing system. The purpose would be to avoid a fiasco similar to the rollout of the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange website.
“We do what any large firm would do when launching a large product and service. We reach out directly into the target audience and conduct a systematized beta test,” he said.
All sorts of unexpected difficulties will come up, he said. “We know that because that’s what always happens.”
After the bugs are worked out, then there can be a systematized cost-benefit analysis, and some key questions can be answered for the small- and mid-sized firms that are worried about their bottom lines.
What is it going to cost a company to implement the framework? How beneficial is it? How much security do you get? A beta test with agreed upon metrics can determine what is cost effective and what isn’t, Clinton said.
The biggest threat to small businesses is uncertainty, he added.
“If you’re not sure what you’re going to get … firms tend not to make those kinds of investments,” Clinton said.
A beta test can go forward without legislation, he said. Afterwards, there needs to be an independent assessment carried out jointly by industry and government, he said.
“We don’t want somebody putting their thumb on the scale here making it seem more cost effective than it is for political purposes,” he said.
Clinton said the Department of Homeland Security, which will be charged with setting up the system, can get the ball rolling on the beta test soon after the final framework is released in February.
DHS has coordinating councils comprising government and industry members for all 16 sectors, so the organizations are already in place, he added.
It needs to be a true collaboration, with government as a partner, and not trying to manage the whole enterprise by sending out orders, Clinton said.
“We’ve got the structures in place to do this, and do it properly. It will cost a little money, but not a lot,” he added.
Rhodes agreed. “It’s a paper exercise if you don’t test,” he said.
That calls up the question of whether there will need to be costly cybersecurity centers for each of the sectors. The financial services sector and some state and local governments are already doing this. The Defense Department’s chief information office has located its DIB cyber security information sharing program in Arlington, Va., less than a mile from the Pentagon.
Conway said: “At the end of the day, I think it is beneficial to have people in the same location, eating bad pizza in the middle of the night, rolling up their sleeves to solve a problem. That is always going to be needed.”
But ultimately it should move to machine-to-machine communication, where networks can respond automatically to a threat similar to a body’s immune system. The network identifies a threat and takes action without people in the loop, he added.
Air Force to managers: Prepare for flat budgets
Dec. 15, 2013 – 06:00AM | By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON | Comments
With no long-term budget in place yet to fund defense programs through Oct. 1, the Air Force has directed all program managers to assume their top line budgets will remain flat.
For contractors, that will mean more intense competition for future programs, more scrutiny of whether costs are fair and reasonable and more dialogue up front about what the Air Force is willing to pay for certain capabilities.
Congress has yet to give final approval of a bipartisan budget deal announced last week by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. The deal, which passed the House Dec. 12, would provide agencies some relief from sequester budget cuts and cap the government’s discretionary spending at $1.012 trillion this fiscal year.
The deal would restore about $22.5 billion to the Defense Department’s 2014 budget and $9 billion in 2015. But “tough decisions will still be necessary going forward in order to achieve the right balance in military capacity, capabilities and readiness,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said last week about the deal.
If budgets were to increase, “we’re going to restore some readiness into the services, that means the investments will probably stay flat,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Davis, the military deputy in the office of the secretary of the Air Force for acquisition. “If there is a budget deal reached, we’re probably not going to see as much as you think,” Davis said at an AFCEA Air Force IT Day in Virginia last week.
“We’ve asked all our program managers to tell us what that flat line means and tell us how you execute to that,” he said, adding that, “there are no longer budgets we have anywhere within our programs that do not have some level of sequestration applied to them.”
That means the Air Force will have to curb its requirements and appetite for capabilities that cannot be met with mature technologies and be very judicious about the technological capabilities it can afford, Davis said.
The Air Force has also been asked to take risks, the Pentagon euphemism for cutting, in systems that have limited, single-use missions or are more suited for an area where forces are not involved in contested operations, Davis said. Major programs, including the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and Space Based Infrared System, will more or less be protected in future budgets. The Air Force is also working to protect investments in cybersecurity, IT networks and areas that provide healthy returns.
Davis said the Air Force traditionally loses about $600 million a year because programs may have been canceled or delayed and, subsequently, funding expired. Last year, the Air Force lost about $200 million because of poor execution.
One area in particular the service is clamping down on is what it spends on knowledge-based services. “What do we do with all these people, not only on the government side but on the industry side?” Davis said. “You need them around through the next program. You need some of the expertise that’s there.”
Congress Limits Russian Sat Nav Monitor Stations in U.S.
By Bob Brewin
December 17, 2013
Russia may not install satellite-monitoring ground stations in the United States unless construction, operation, and maintenance of those stations is managed by U.S. citizens, according to language in the 2014 Defense Authorization Act passed by the House last week and up for a Senate vote this week.
Russia in 2012 requested permission to install those stations to monitor the performance of its Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS; the State Department still has that request under consideration.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., who helped author the GLONASS monitor station language, said last month he was concerned. “These ground monitor stations could be used to gather intelligence,” he said. “Even more troubling, these stations could actually improve the accuracy of foreign missiles targeted at the United States.”
The bill also mandates that the U.S. approve all gear installed in those stations, and “appropriate actions are taken to ensure that any such ground monitoring stations do not pose a cyber-espionage or other threat, including intelligence or counterintelligence, to the national security of the United States.”
Any data transmitted from those stations must be unencrypted, the bill said.
Keystone XL southern leg’s oil shipments to begin in January
Posted on December 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm
by Zain Shauk
HOUSTON — TransCanada expects to begin shipping oil on the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline on Jan. 22, the company said Tuesday.
The notices went out late Monday, TransCanada spokesman Shawn Howard said in an email.
“This is another important milestone for TransCanada, our shippers and the refiners on the U.S. Gulf Coast who have been waiting for this product to arrive,” Howard said. “Providing this notice gives our customers time to ensure that they have the appropriate volumes of oil to move into our system when the pipeline is ready to go into full commercial operation.”
The Canadian pipeline owner currently is filling the new system with 3 million barrels of oil. Once it begins operation, the pipeline and associated storage units and pumping stations will be able to move up to 700,000 barrels of oil per day from Cushing, Oklahoma to Nederland, Texas. From there, it will be able to move through lines to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
Keystone XL director: Mandate on Obama delayed pipeline
The southern leg of Keystone XL was built despite a regulatory hold up over the northern leg of the pipeline, which would extend into Alberta, Canada. That portion of Keystone XL, which would move crude from oil sands fields toward Gulf Coast refineries, requires presidential approval since it crosses an international border.
President Obama has once rejected a permit application for the northern leg of the pipeline because an environmental review of the project was not yet complete. A new review is nearing completion and will again present the project to the Obama administration for approval.
Congress Directs the Pentagon to Appoint a Cyber Czar
By Bob Brewin
December 17, 2013
In the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act passed by House lawmakers last week, Congress required the Defense Department appoint a high level Principal Cyber Advisor with a broad oversight portfolio that includes offensive and defensive cyber missions, resources, personnel, acquisition and technology. A Senate vote on the bill is expected this week.
The new cyber advisor will have “overall supervision” of all Defense cyber operations and will oversee a team that will integrate the cyber expertise of the four services, combatant commands and Defense agencies. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is to select the new cyber advisor from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced its intention to add a new high-level cyber post, Defense One reported yesterday. Nextgov and Defense One are both Atlantic Media publications.
Congress also directed the Pentagon to conduct a broad analysis of its cyber operations to include manpower requirements, education and training, the potential for offering bonuses for cyber personnel and the use of “virtual deployments” to support operations.
The mission analysis also should assess cyber forces’ current and future equipping needs as well as the department’s dependence on industry partners, foreign allies and other outside entities to perform cyber operations.
The bill calls for the services, in conjunction with Cyber Command, to determine whether cyber missions could be performed by National Guard and Reserve units and personnel, including domestic cyber missions.
UDRI sensors director sees soaring UAS possibilities
by Press • 18 December 2013
Tristan Navera Staff Reporter-Dayton Business Journal
A Federal Aviation Administration decision could bring unmanned aerial systems jobs and research to Dayton in coming years, but the University of Dayton Research Institute has been ahead of the curve.
Larrell Walters, head of UDRI sensors systems division and director of IDCast, has overseen an organization that is already hard at work developing sensor systems and technology for the emerging UAS industry, and he says the developments coming out of UDRI even now show real promise. Since 2009, when it received a $3 million grant to create the center for UAV exploitation , UDRI has worked to build the sensor technology into unmanned air vehicles.
Q: What kinds of sensor technology have you been working on since then?
A: If you think of an unmanned air system without a sensor, it’s basically just a target. You really can’t do anything with an unmanned air system without a sensor. There’s two functions the sensors play. One, the ability of the aircraft to see what it’s doing and make sure it’s flying level and sees trees and things, but also to complete the mission. It’s a different set of sensors to fly — the GPS and visual systems to help the pilot see what’s going on around it — compared to complete the mission, like finding disease in crops.
It does not concentrate on designing UAVs or engines or power, but it’s all about the payload integration. The payload on a UAV would be the sensors, the things to make those sensors communicate, and to power the sensors. It might change; if I have a 20-pound battery-powered UAV, and I change from a single photo camera to a movie camera with a gimbal that can pan and zoom, then I have to have different types of controls communicated to and from the UAV. Maybe the bandwidth being sent down is a lot greater, taking video. It might also hang out of the aircraft and create more aerodynamic drag, or affect its battery power. Figuring out the combination of all of these things is what payload integration is all about.
Q: What other kinds of UAV technology do you develop?
A: There’s the idea of a UAV perching on a power line and recharging its batteries while perched on the power line, and then continuing its mission. This would allow UAVs to extend their useful time on mission by being able to find places where they can recharge through induction.
We’ve done work in the area of compression technologies, when we take video and pictures, they’re big and it’s expensive to send data and video to the ground, so there’s a need to optimize the information to be as small as possible so you can get more down the data link. We’ve worked to maximize the utility of data links, and now we’re building chambers where we’ll explore the best way to verify and validate unmanned systems. If they lose their control and communication link, it’s flying without receiving signals. We also work on algorithms, what the pictures tell you, how you find the disease in the crop field, or the bad rails or spikes on a railroad track? Being able to automate the image processing to not only create the picture but to discern what it can tell you without people sitting there at each little picture marking it up.
Q: How would the UAS test center designation change business for UDRI?
A: At UDRI, we’re externally sponsored 100 percent, so we’re always writing proposals to do work for people, engineering and research and development. If more companies come to town looking for UAS-work, they’ll find UDRI, and Wright State and Sinclair, all to be organizations the companies can use to move along faster. When I worked for Goodrich, we were looking outside of the state for this expertise, and now it’s just 20 miles down the road. As companies come to Dayton they’ll see the capabilities … we’re one of several entities that those companies will be able to benefit from.
It’s Time to Sort Fact From Fiction on Drones
by Press • 18 December 2013
For too long, the term “drone” has been used to scandalise and smear the activities of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). The most commonly propagated falsehood is that UAS are robots flying around the world indiscriminately firing on, often innocent, targets. It’s time to sort the fact from the fiction.
There is no doubt that UAS save lives. Not just those of our brave troops, but the lives of civilians in Afghanistan. Providing vital intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance, Commanders are able to see whether roads are safe for our troops to drive down, whether there is a massing of munitions at a particular location, and the general pattern of life in a village or area to identify any change in behaviour that may pose a threat.
Yesterday, for the first time, the Ministry of Defence opened the doors of its Remotely Piloted Air Systems control centre at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire. From this base, members of XIII Squadron remotely pilot the RAF’s Reaper aircraft in Afghanistan. Although physically unmanned, the Reaper aircraft, like all the UK’s UAS assets, are remotely operated at all times by highly trained members of the Armed Forces. Their pilots are subject to the same strict rules of engagement as the crew of traditional aircraft.
Of the six types of UAS that the UK operates, only Reaper carries weapons. Reaper has flown 54,000 hours and has fired 459 precision weapons. That is just one weapon deployed for every 120 hours of flying. Clearly, this dispels the myth that drones are laws unto themselves and drop bombs indiscriminately over Afghanistan.
In fact, one of the most common myths I want to debunk is that UAS are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan. Let me be clear, the majority of civilian deaths in Afghanistan are caused by insurgents, not UAS. In over 50,000 Reaper flying hours, there has only been one single operation that resulted in the deaths of civilians. In March 2011, a significant quantity of explosives was destroyed in an attack on two pick-up trucks that killed two insurgents. Sadly, the destruction of the explosives also resulted in the deaths of four Afghan civilians. These are four deaths too many and are deeply regrettable. An independent investigation concluded that the RAF crew acted in full accordance with the rules of engagement that both they and pilots of manned aircraft adhere to.
I can understand that it might be difficult to fathom how complex Reaper operations in Afghanistan can be run from Lincolnshire. Questions such as ‘surely it cannot be safe’, and ‘the distance must desensitise pilots’ naturally arise. At the extreme, critics claim that UAS are too akin to video games for pilots to recognise the seriousness of the work they are undertaking. This could not be more untrue and ignores the extensive training and personal experience of the highly skilled personnel who have been chosen for this critical role.
The pilots and specially trained members of the Armed Forces who remotely operate UAS do not face the same level of direct danger as crews of manned aircraft. This allows them a greater amount of time in the air to assess the situation and exercise their judgement in a more measured way, free from concerns about their survival.
The use of UAS decreases, not increases, the likelihood of civilian casualties. UAS can monitor areas of interest for a considerable period of time, giving crews vital intelligence to conduct detailed assessments of potential targets and the wider environment. Crews use the invaluable intelligence to minimise the risk of civilian casualties or unnecessary damage to property. There is no doubt that the reconnaissance they provide reduces the risks to ground forces and civilians.
Looking ahead, the MoD has no plans to create weapons that operate without human control. It is imperative that trained members of the Armed Forces are always involved in the command and control of UAS.
In the past, the important role that UAS play in saving the lives of civilians and Armed Forces personnel has not been explained clearly enough. I hope this has gone some way to dispel many of the commonly held myths and misunderstandings around their capability and use. The work of our UAS crews, both here and in Afghanistan deserves the recognition and support of the public.
White House review group issues intelligence reform report
By Amber Corrin
Dec 18, 2013
The White House on Dec. 18 released the recommendations of an advisory group that call for the overhaul of national intelligence and surveillance activities, including eliminating the collection of Americans’ telephone records and the database maintaining them, as well as establishing new oversight processes.
The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, created by President Barack Obama in August after National Security Agency electronic surveillance activities were leaked, issued in a 300-page report with 46 recommendations that its members say will protect national security as well as privacy and civil liberties.
“Because our adversaries operate through the use of complex communications technologies, the National Security Agency, with its impressive capabilities and talented officers, is indispensable to keeping our country and our allies safe and secure,” the panel wrote in the report’s executive summary. “At the same time, the United States is deeply committed to the protection of privacy and civil liberties — fundamental values that can be and at times have been eroded by excessive intelligence collection.”
The panel recommended that the government not be allowed to collect and store mass personal data for the purpose of future queries, and that either private providers or a private third party, not the federal government, should store any bulk meta-data the government needs, accessible only when justified. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court would face restrictions on compelling third parties, such as telephone or Internet service providers, to disclose private information to the government.
The report also calls for increased transparency to promote public trust, including legislation that would make information about surveillance programs and their activities public.
The group additionally calls for the creation of a new approval process for intelligence activities and for organizational reforms. Under the recommendations, the NSA director would become a Senate-confirmed position, possibly a civilian, and would not be the dual-hatted head of U.S. Cyber Command, as is the case now, with Gen. Keith Alexander.
A new oversight board and a public interest advocate to Congress also are among the provisions, along with reforms to the security clearance process for personnel and to government data security practices.
The report’s release came the same day that the president met with the review board, and White House press officials say work has begun to determine the way forward.
“Over the next several weeks, as we bring to a close the administration’s overall review of signals intelligence, the president will work with his national security team to study the Review Group’s report, and to determine which recommendations we should implement,” a statement from the White House said. “The President will also continue consulting with Congress as reform proposals are considered in each chamber.”
Cool War Rising
With Washington and Moscow caught in a deteriorating relationship, is conflict inevitable?
BY JAMES STAVRIDIS DECEMBER 16, 2013
Rising tensions in the relationship between the United States and Russia are beginning to cause a “Cool War” — a sort of Cold War-lite — that threatens both Washington and the entire global geopolitical system. Without a functioning relationship between Washington and Moscow, the chances of solving major challenges — from Iran to Syria, the Arctic to Afghanistan — decreases dramatically. Rather than accept the arc of a deteriorating relationship, the United States should actively seek every possible zone of cooperation we can find with Russia, despite the frustrations and setbacks.
The list of key disagreements is long: One of the more nettlesome challenges is Syria, where the United States believes in an international solution with intervention as an option and the removal of Russia’s ally Bashar al-Assad. Syria represents Russia’s strongest link to the region and access to the strategically important Eastern Mediterranean, as well as a market for arms and intelligence cooperation.
Likewise, the United States and Russia are at loggerheads about NATO missile defense systems being deployed to Eastern Europe, initially to Romania and Poland to defend against Iran’s growing ballistic missile capability. Russia believes the system is actually directed against their strategic intercontinental ballistic missile systems, despite repeated U.S. assurances to the contrary.
Additionally, disagreement continues over Russia’s continuing occupation of Georgia, following a short, sharp conflict between the two nations in 2008. At the same time, there is a tense dispute over continuing sanctuary afforded to NSA leaker Edward Snowden, as well as disagreements over Moscow’s bullying of Ukraine, Serbia, and Moldova concerning their potential for integration in the Euro-Atlantic world of the EU and NATO. Finally, recent large military exercises on the part of both Russia and NATO in Eastern Europe have not been helpful in terms of US-Russian tensions.
All of this occurs against two important and challenging backdrops.
The first is the declining state of Russian society in terms of demographics (population declining swiftly over the past decade); tragically high rates of alcoholism and drug abuse (heroin as easy to get as “a snickers bar” according to Russian counternarcotics chief Victor Ivanov); and the ongoing rise of a radical Islamic insurgency within Russia’s borders (especially in the war-torn province of Dagestan).
The second, of course, is President Vladimir Putin — who clearly holds long-standing antipathy toward the United States and recently wrote in the New York Times about the arrogance of American exceptionalism. To say that he tends to bring the animus of his long career in the KGB into the U.S.-Russian dialog understates the case — at times he seems to truly despise the United States.
Taken together, there is a sense of a Cool War mentality at work. On the positive side, however, it is a bit of a mixed picture, with some existing areas of cooperation.
First, and somewhat surprisingly, is Afghanistan. Despite their own failures in Afghanistan, Russia has been generally helpful to the United States and the NATO-led coalition there — sharing intelligence, cooperating on counternarcotics, selling rugged Russian-built helicopters, and donating small arms and ammunition to the Afghan security forces.
Russia has also been a good partner in counterpiracy operations off the east coast of Africa. They have provided several warships to the international effort, shared information, and even linked up via a command-and-control network with the Western forces in place. And, as a general proposition, there has been cooperation on counterterrorism and counternarcotics.
Another area of cooperation, at least to date, has been in the Arctic, the so-called “High North.” Russia has been an active and generally positive interlocutor with the United States through the mechanism of the Arctic Council. As the largest nation in terms of footprint in the Arctic, Russia wants to find ways to enhance cooperation in scientific research, search and rescue, environmental protection, and rationale exploitation of resources. While there is always potential for conflict up north, at this point it appears to be an area of cooperation opportunity.
There has also been progress on strategic arms control with the signing of the START II agreement, and some minimal discussion of possible follow-on strategic talks designed to further reduce the level of nuclear weapons — assuming the knotty issue of missile defense in Europe can be solved.
The key is to find new zones where there can be further cooperative activity to reduce the possibility of drifting further toward a Cool War scenario. Here are several to consider:
Cultivating top-level leadership meetings: In addition to the regular contact between newly installed Secretary of State John Kerry and his counterpart, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov, other top-level contacts should be a priority. With a new national security advisor, United Nations ambassador, supreme allied commander for operations at NATO, and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the United States has a relatively fresh cast of characters to engage with Russian counterparts.
Exploring track II engagement: Using non-governmental diplomatic forums to engage with Russia could be very promising. The work by Sen. Sam Nunn and the Nuclear Threat Initiative is a good example, but there are many academic and think-tank options that could be explored. One additional idea would be to have partnered think tanks sponsor “smart power” conversations with former senior policy makers and military commanders to create tactical recommendations for joint peacekeeping and disaster-relief operations.
Establishing joint data exchange centers: This has the possibility to help unclench the locked-up discussions involving missile defense in Europe by building physical locations, manned jointly, where monitoring of sites and radar information could occur, which in turn would help build confidence.
Looking for economic cooperation: Russia is a large, hydrocarbon-based economy, among the top 10 in the world. Yet we have very little relative economic cooperation for a variety of reasons, many of them political. Exploring opportunities for joint investment, perhaps in the Arctic, might be a means of finding a new zone of cooperation. This would require easing sanctions in the United States and better rule-of-law attitudes in Russia.
Sharing intelligence and information more fully: With the Winter Olympics around the corner, there are many situations globally where it is in both U.S. and Russian interests to share what we know. Sochi could be a test bed for some of this, which already occurs in certain scenarios but not broadly.
Syria and Iran: While not fully in synch in either scenario, there is both challenge and potential opportunity in terms of supporting international norms. In Syria, the work by the international community to remove the chemical weapons is a starting point of agreement, which might be built upon in a Geneva II round. On Iran, we need Russia’s support as we hammer out an agreement that at least freezes and hopefully eventually dismantles the Iranian nuclear weapons program. These will be difficult areas, to say the least, but are worth examining for opportunities as well.
All of this will be challenging, especially for some on both sides of the U.S.-Russian relationship who favor a hard line. It would be easy, frankly, to drift from the current “Cool War” back toward the dim twilight of the long Cold War. Ivan Turgenev, the iconic Russian writer, said, “Circumstances define us; they force us onto one road or another, and then they punish us for it.” We are not forced to walk either the path of endless tension or total cooperation. The trick for both the United States and Russia is to overcome the circumstances of our disagreements to find the path to better overall relations through specific zones of cooperation — recognizing there will always be areas where we will not see things in the same way.
Air Force on lower end of best fed jobs
DECEMBER 18TH, 2013
POSTED BY ORIANA PAWLYK
The Department of the Air Force ranks 14th among the 19 largest agencies in this year’s “Best Places to Work in the Federal Government” list released today.
According to the agency list – indexed by scores that measure overall performance related to employee satisfaction and commitment – the Air Force’s ranking fell by 4.30 points and from 13th place in last year’s ranking.
The Navy took 10th place this year, and the Army tied for 17th with the Department of Labor; the Office of the Secretary of Defense ranked 15th.
The Department of Homeland Security ranked lowest once again, and NASA ranked first once again, jumping 1.20 additional points from last year’s score.
The “Best Places to Work” list is generated by the Partnership for Public Service from data collected in a questionnaire given to 376,000 federal employees. The list is calculated based on responses to three questions in the Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.
According to the partnership, the index is weighted according to the extent to which each question predicts employees’ “intent to remain.” Agencies are also scored in categories such as effective leadership, empowerment, fairness, employee skills, pay and more. And scores are further broken down by respondents’ race, gender and age.
The Partnership for Public Service is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C., that works to transform the way government works. This is its 10th year generating the list.
Learn more about how the Air Force scored here.
Running the Pentagon Right
How to Get the Troops What They Need
By Ashton B. Carter
FROM OUR JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2014 ISSUE
War inevitably presents unexpected challenges. From Germany’s use of mustard gas during World War I to North Vietnam’s surprisingly effective use of its air defense system during the Vietnam War, the United States has always faced unanticipated threats in combat that have required agile responses. U.S. troops on the ground continually adjust to changing enemy tactics with the capabilities they have at hand. Yet the part of the Defense Department that trains and equips those troops has rarely been as flexible.
This is a paradox that would surprise most people outside its walls: the Pentagon is ill equipped to address urgent needs that arise during wartime. The Department of Defense has a fairly good track record of making smart and deliberate long-term acquisitions, as evidenced by the substantial qualitative advantage the United States holds over any potential adversary. Although the department still struggles to contain the costs of military systems, it has come a long way in providing better buying power for the taxpayer. The Pentagon has also, by sad necessity, pioneered advances in medical technology, particularly in such areas as prosthetic limbs and the treatment of traumatic brain injuries and posttraumatic stress disorder.
But the same system that excels at anticipating future needs has proved less capable of quickly providing technology and equipment to troops on the battlefield. I have spent much of the past five years, first as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics and then as deputy secretary of defense, trying to address this shortfall. With the Iraq war over and the war in Afghanistan coming to a close, it is important to understand what prevented the Pentagon from rapidly meeting immediate demands during those wars, what enduring lessons can be learned from its efforts to become more responsive, and how to put in place the right institutions to ensure success against future threats when agility is crucial.
In Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon saw little value in making acquisitions that would be irrelevant by the time they were ready.
Introducing a new capability on the battlefield involves three main steps: deciding what is needed and selecting what to acquire from various alternatives, coming up with the money to pay for it, and fielding the capability (which includes delivering it to the troops and training them in how to use it). Over the course of the last decade, attempts to fast-track each of these steps ran up against a number of obstacles, ultimately hindering the Pentagon’s responsiveness to the needs of American forces on the ground.
At the outset of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon made two fatal miscalculations. First, it believed these wars would be over in a matter of months. Accordingly, since it normally takes years to develop new capabilities, the Pentagon saw little value in making acquisitions unique to the environments of Afghanistan and Iraq that would be irrelevant by the time they were ready. Second, the Pentagon was prepared for traditional military-versus-military conflicts — a characterization that applied only to the early stages of the Iraq war. As a result, the military was not well positioned to fight an enemy without uniforms, command centers, or traditional organizational structures. The Pentagon initially failed to see the conflicts as requiring entirely new technologies and equipment, even as it became clear that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other makeshift tactics of an insurgency were more than nuisances — they were strategic threats to U.S. objectives.
The unexpected length and nature of the wars — particularly their evolution into protracted counterinsurgencies — demanded materiel solutions that the Pentagon had not planned for. The usual process of writing “requirements,” an exhaustive process to determine what the military needs based on an analysis of new technology and future threats, would not suffice in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is because the system known inside the Pentagon as “require then acquire” demands complete information: nothing can be purchased until everything is known.
Additionally, the division of labor between the military services and the combatant commands complicated the Pentagon’s ability to fund urgent needs. The services generally focus their investments on future capability requirements, force structure, and modernization, whereas the combatant commands are charged with fighting today’s wars with current equipment using funds primarily appropriated for operations, not for equipment development or procurement. There was essentially no structure within the department to bridge the gap between immediate and longer-term requirements.
Next came delays in funding. The Pentagon usually crafts its requests for funding as far as two years in advance. It must submit detailed budgets to Congress and then wait until the money has been authorized and appropriated before getting any program off the ground. This lengthy lag time makes it difficult to pay for urgent needs. Furthermore, the Pentagon has little flexibility to finance new needs that arise outside the budget cycle. Any significant movement of funds requires securing permission from Congress, which can take months. The process can also lead to an unproductive competition for resources within the Pentagon and around the country, where those whose money is transferred make their voices heard in protest.
The difficulties do not end as soon as Congress sets aside the money. To actually purchase anything, defense officials must navigate an intricate web of laws, regulations, and policies that are geared toward the acquisition of complex weapons systems and equipment in large quantities over years. The system was designed to foster fair competition among manufacturers and to maximize the buying power of taxpayers’ dollars — but not to move quickly. Moreover, the officials responsible for acquisitions are loath to take risks, since they can be held personally accountable if something goes wrong. So when balancing cost, performance, and schedule for major acquisition projects, the last is often the least risky variable to compromise. The problem is that if an acquisition is necessary for the battlefield, every day of delay can risk the lives and safety of the troops.
Finally, in order to quickly field new capabilities, the Pentagon needed rapid contracting to transport the equipment and all the supplies and personnel necessary to sustain it. In landlocked Afghanistan, with primitive roads and few railways, this was especially challenging. The troops also had to be trained to use the new equipment in the field, since it did not exist when they were preparing for deployment.
“THE TROOPS ARE AT WAR, BUT THE PENTAGON IS NOT”
In 2004, the Pentagon, faced with dynamic enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, finally realized that it needed a better way of doing business. That year, Paul Wolfowitz, then the deputy secretary of defense, formed the Joint Rapid Acquisition Cell, a collaborative body that ascertained the needs of troops on the battlefield from information provided by U.S. Central Command, which oversees both Afghanistan and Iraq, and facilitated the responses of the military services. JRAC acted as the focal point within the Department of Defense for prioritizing among different requirements, identifying solutions, and enabling the funding and fielding of new equipment.
Wolfowitz also expedited the usually slow and deliberate system for determining needs and allocating resources. He established the Joint Urgent Operational Needs process to fill gaps in the troops’ capabilities across the services that, if left unaddressed, could threaten lives and combat missions. JRAC then helped identify funds and make sure the right equipment got to the battlefield by assigning a military service or agency as a sponsor. Nonetheless, as the wars ground on, it became clear that the normal system, even with JRAC facilitating a new requirements process, was neither responding fast enough to the needs of the combatant commands nor taking advantage of impressive new technologies. As Secretary of Defense Robert Gates later said, “The troops are at war, but the Pentagon is not.”
In urgent situations, the Pentagon will have to settle for an imperfect solution that nonetheless fills a gap.
One of the first emerging threats in Afghanistan and Iraq to highlight this weakness was the IED, a kind of crude homemade bomb that insurgents often placed alongside roads to target troops when they were most vulnerable. IEDs have caused more than 60 percent of U.S. combat casualties in the two wars. What makes them such a formidable weapon is that they are easy to construct and can be assembled with readily available commercial materials, such as fertilizer. They are also difficult to detect and easily disguised in the surrounding terrain, such as in trash heaps or even animal carcasses. Long before these wars, IEDs had become the weapon of choice for guerillas and terrorists from Northern Ireland to Chechnya, and their use in asymmetric warfare had been extensively studied. But the widespread availability of new technologies, such as wireless transmitters, electronic triggers, and longer-lasting batteries for detonators, rapidly increased their efficiency and potency in Afghanistan and Iraq. The sheer scope of their use in those wars caught the Pentagon off-guard and posed a grave risk to both campaigns, particularly since the American public’s tolerance for casualties was tempered by expectations of short and easy wars.
In 2006, to better protect U.S. forces against this threat, then Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England, building on efforts in the army, established the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), which reported directly to him. Congress endorsed the idea and appropriated over $22 billion to combat IEDs — one of the few pockets of relatively flexible funding that legislators provided for rapid-response projects. Since then, JIEDDO has saved lives with such solutions as sensors that detect IEDs in the ground and electronic jammers that prevent their detonation. The organization has also covered the cost of critical counter-IED training for service members and, what is perhaps most valuable, funded the analysis of the enemy networks responsible for IED attacks, allowing U.S. forces to go on the offensive against what previously seemed a faceless threat.
JIEDDO helped double the number of counter-IED systems fielded by the Pentagon and cut in half the average amount of time it takes to get them to the battlefield. These efforts have contributed to lowering the rate of IED attacks that result in casualties by as much as 500 percent. And JIEDDO has helped reduce the severity of those IED attacks that do occur. By funding new protective undergarments, for example, JIEDDO made possible the roughly 32 percent drop from 2010 to 2011 in the number of catastrophic genital injuries to U.S. soldiers who were the victims of IEDs. At the Walter Reed medical center, I met the father of one soldier who had been wearing the undergarments when he stepped on an IED. The father approached me in the hallway, gave me a hug, and said, “My son will always have to use prosthetics to walk, but at least I still have a chance of being a grandfather.”
Despite these significant successes, the increased attention and money provided by JIEDDO were not enough. Although the military deployed jammers and increased the armor on its Humvees, the insurgents found ways of building more effective IEDs, making U.S. vehicles and the troops inside them unacceptably vulnerable. Early on, field commanders had urged the creation of a new and more protective vehicle, but the perception within the Pentagon was that such a vehicle could not be funded and built before the wars ended and were thus unnecessary.
That skepticism was not limited to defense officials. In 2012, Vice President Joseph Biden recalled that when he was a senator, many of his colleagues on Capitol Hill opposed the development of an expensive counter-IED vehicle. He recounted one senator arguing that since the vehicles would not be needed once the wars were over, they were a total waste of money. Biden commented, “Can you imagine Franklin Roosevelt being told, ‘We need x number of landing craft on D-Day, but once we land, we’re not going to need them all again. So why build them?'”
It wasn’t until 2007 that Gates decided — at the urging of then Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, commander of the Multinational Corps in Iraq — to find a way to mitigate the threat to troops on the roads, regardless of the cost. Gates dubbed it “the highest-priority Department of Defense acquisition program” and immediately created a task force to accelerate the development and fielding of what became known as MRAPs: “mine-resistant, ambush-protected” vehicles. First led by John Young, who was undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics, and then by me when I served in that position, the MRAP Task Force was charged with taking “extraordinary steps” to cut through red tape, rally the defense industry, and deliver the vehicles.
With the support of Congress (including substantial flexible funding) and the attention of the most senior Pentagon officials, we decided to focus above all on getting MRAPs made quickly, accepting significant tradeoffs on less important parameters, such as the number of troops each could carry and their suitability for other kinds of conflicts. We considered only mature technology and chose manufacturers based on their ability to deliver the vehicles as soon as possible. The task force anticipated and helped alleviate potential industry bottlenecks that could have held up the process — for example, by paying to boost the production capacity of two tire-makers and by waiving regulations to allow the army to purchase specially hardened steel. The group also worked to standardize the vehicle’s parts, such as turrets, jammers, and communications systems, across the various military services in order to expedite the fielding while also building a flexible design that could accommodate upgrades and improvements.
As a result of these efforts, we were able to build and ship more than 11,500 MRAPs to Iraq in 27 months and to build more than 8,000 all-terrain MRAPs for Afghanistan in only 16 months. Ultimately, we sent more than 24,000 MRAPs to the two theaters of war — the largest defense procurement program since World War II to go from decision to full industrial production in less than a year. Not only did these vehicles save thousands of lives; they also showed just how much can be accomplished with the full backing of leaders in Congress and the administration.
Task forces became the model of choice to address needs that could be met only outside the traditional processes. Another example of their effective use was for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. The Department of Defense had well-established procedures for managing and allocating the ISR capabilities it had already developed, but it had limited experience in rapidly developing and fielding new ISR capabilities, especially down to the tactical level. To do so required thinking of aerostats and unmanned aircraft as consumable goods, more like body armor than satellites — that is, seeing them as tools that could be fielded quickly and operated by units in the field rather than by the intelligence agencies. Gates thus established the ISR Task Force in 2008, which successfully helped identify emerging urgent needs and technological opportunities and then bypass the normal roadblocks to procuring and fielding the resulting ISR tools.
Task forces worked well for specific individual problems, but few problems in wartime are narrowly defined, since military conflicts erase the boundaries between previously separate issues. Gates thus became frustrated with the Pentagon’s inability to support the troops through the normal processes. Accordingly, in November 2009, he created the Counter-IED Senior Integration Group (SIG), which I headed alongside the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The group consisted of senior defense officials who met every three weeks to prioritize requirements and take stock of all counter-IED initiatives. Gates soon realized that this kind of high-level attention was needed for all urgent war-fighting requirements, not just counter-IED measures. So in June 2011, he converted the Counter-IED SIG into the Warfighter SIG, which became the Pentagon’s central body for senior officials to weigh solutions to battlefield problems, locate the necessary resources to pay for them, and make the right acquisitions.
Gates soon expanded the Warfighter SIG’s mandate further, to include what are called Joint Emergent Operational Needs. These are needs that arise in theaters where there are not ongoing wars but one could come at any moment, such as on the Korean Peninsula. We called the whole system of Joint Emergent Operational Needs and Joint Urgent Operational Needs “the fast lane.” Even when the precise cost and ultimate specifications of a fast-lane project couldn’t be fully known in advance, we got started anyway, standing the system on its head. In other words, instead of “require then acquire,” this was “acquire then require.”
According to a 2012 Government Accountability Office report, the heightened level of visibility within the Pentagon provided by the Warfighter SIG, together with the fast-lane process, decreased the median time needed to locate funding for projects from nine months to one month. The report found that initiatives that enjoyed attention from the top of the department were four times as likely to receive adequate funding as those that did not. The system is far from perfect, but it has injected some badly needed agility into the Pentagon’s notoriously slow bureaucracy.
THE NEED FOR FLEXIBILITY
The challenge for the Pentagon now is to lock in these gains and make sure that the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq are not forgotten. The clearest takeaway, as the Warfighter SIG has shown, is that wartime acquisition works best when senior leaders are paying attention. That’s because only top officials can assume the risks that come with sidestepping general procedures. In practice, this means that the upper echelons of the department cannot simply issue policy guidance; they need to focus on specific threats and capability gaps. They must be willing to do so even when the projects are small in size and scope compared with the issues they normally deal with, given that winning wars and saving lives are at stake.
Furthermore, there must be a structure to the way senior officials grant their time and attention to such projects. Methods that bypass the normal acquisition process cannot be sustained if they rely solely on the support of a particular individual. And even the best ideas will remain unrealized if there are not clear procedures for bringing them to fruition — especially in the Department of Defense, which thrives on order and discipline. At the very least, the department ought to retain the nascent institutions that ultimately proved successful in Afghanistan and Iraq, such as the Warfighter SIG and JRAC.
Of course, the Pentagon cannot acquire any equipment or technology without adequate funding. And the current budget process simply does not allow for the development and deployment of solutions to urgent problems on the battlefield. The Department of Defense has developed several mechanisms for addressing such needs, and it must keep all of them in place.
First, Congress should continue to approve funds in limited quantities for general overall goals, such as the funds that paid for the MRAPs and other counter-IED initiatives, a process that offers the military the necessary flexibility to get capabilities from the laboratory all the way to the battlefield. The authority for this approach currently exists but is set to expire in 2015.
The ability to rapidly move a small percentage of the defense budget — known in the Pentagon as “reprogramming” — has allowed the department to pay for many capabilities not covered by a specific fund. Reprogramming enables crucial projects to move forward in weeks and months, rather than years, while still preserving Congress’ role in approving funding. Another key tool that the Pentagon must retain is its congressionally authorized “rapid-acquisition authority,” which allows the secretary of defense to repurpose up to $200 million a year from the $500 billion defense budget for the most urgent needs. Congress could help bolster the Pentagon’s quick-reaction capabilities by expanding the scope of allowed acquisitions and increasing the funding available under this authority.
In this era of tight resources, some in Congress have legitimate concerns about giving the Department of Defense more budgetary discretion. However, the amount needed for an effective flexible fund is a tiny fraction of the department’s total budget — just enough to kick-start urgent initiatives while still taking the customary months to navigate the usual channels for the full funding of projects. The Pentagon’s successful management of previous flexible funds demonstrates its ability to responsibly manage this flexibility.
Even with flexible funds and the right structures in place, the Pentagon also needs to get better at identifying threats as early as possible. This does not mean war-gaming for five to ten years down the line — something the department currently does in its Quadrennial Defense Reviews. Rather, it means determining what troops in the field need at any given moment. Staff at the command or headquarters level are often slow to recognize when a new threat becomes truly dangerous. During a war, the Pentagon must continuously scan the tactical environment and analyze how new dynamics impact the campaign. Initiatives such as the Warfighter SIG create a real-time bridge between ground-level troops and the department’s senior leadership, allowing battlefield challenges to be quickly brought to the attention of the highest levels so that they can execute solutions accordingly. One example was the rapid processing of a Joint Urgent Operational Need to design and deploy a new type of body armor, based on insights from the ground, to correct for a battlefield vulnerability before insurgents were even aware of it. Another was the constant adjustment of MRAPs in response to feedback from troops. No detail, even the positioning of windows, was too small for the Warfighter SIG.
Moreover, the Pentagon must always have a watchful eye on the horizon, anticipating needs and gaps in capabilities before they become dire. These findings should drive rapid research and development, particularly experimentation with new or improved technologies and the building of prototypes. Investing in science and technology early on ensures that the Pentagon will have something on the shelf when it needs it, so that it does not have to start from scratch when it is too late. Technology that the Pentagon has already invested in has allowed it to respond rapidly through the Joint Emergent Operational Needs process to potential new threats in the Middle East and Asia. These technologies include improvements to weapons systems that allow them to operate in an electronically jammed environment, modified radars to improve detection and warning capabilities, and better methods of preventing electronic detection by enemies. Similarly, the department was able to quickly initiate the development of improvements to the Patriot missile defense system to keep pace with emerging threats in the Asia-Pacific region.
Once the Pentagon identifies emerging threats, its leaders need to approve responses to them, since those in the thick of combat cannot be expected to have all the insight needed to judge and prioritize requests. Time is of the essence at this stage; the need for the MRAP, for example, was identified by forces in the field soon after they started encountering roadside bombs, but leaders let the request linger for too long before acting on it. As soon as a need has been identified as urgent, the Pentagon must improve the way it assesses potential solutions. Normally, such evaluations require a series of time-consuming steps, such as conducting market surveys, hosting events at which the military can inform vendors of its needs, requesting bids, and conducting months-long selection processes. In normal times, this system allows the Pentagon to acquire the best technologies on the market at the best prices. In urgent situations, it will have to settle for something that is good enough — an imperfect solution that nonetheless fills a gap.
KEEPING UP WITH A CHANGING BATTLEFIELD
Afghanistan and Iraq provided much of the impetus for the Pentagon to sidestep its traditional ways of doing business. After all, it is difficult for anyone in Washington to deny funding or prevent initiatives when the men and women at war need them. But what happens when the last troops have left Afghanistan, and the slowness of the acquisition process no longer appears to be a life-and-death problem? Simply learning the lessons of the wars is not enough; the Pentagon must institutionalize those lessons so that it does not have to start anew the next time they are relevant. In fact, many of these changes need to happen immediately, as the country faces potential new threats.
In my final year at the Pentagon, under the leadership of Leon Panetta and then Chuck Hagel, we considered various models for how to build on the successful initiatives of the past decade. The first possibility we considered was to tweak, but largely leave in place, the way the Pentagon operated before the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the military services remaining solely responsible for their own forces. That approach would allow the Pentagon to avoid creating any new permanent organizations, a significant plus during a time of austerity. Distributing responsibility across the services would also enable each of them to draw on their deep knowledge of land, air, and naval warfare. The downside is that the military services tend to prioritize investments in their own long-term modernization requirements — unlike the combatant commands, which are primarily concerned with immediate battlefield needs — and thus may not be best equipped to move quickly and take risks. Under this plan, there would still not be a clear mechanism for adjudicating conflicts between the services and the combatant commands. Spreading the responsibility for acquisitions across the military could also result in redundancies or gaps.
An alternative model would be to create an entirely new agency with rapid-acquisition and contracting authorities. Such a body would directly support the combatant commands by anticipating battlefield needs, determining the appropriate responses, and procuring the necessary technology and equipment. Although this approach would correct for many of the shortfalls of the first model, creating a brand new organization, with its own bureaucracy and overhead costs, would strain the Pentagon in an era of tight budgets. A new centralized agency might also find itself disconnected from the rich expertise of the military services.
We ultimately decided to pursue a hybrid approach that draws on the advantages of both models. The Warfighter SIG will continue to meet regularly, supported by JRAC, to ensure that the Pentagon’s senior leadership remains focused on responding quickly to battlefield needs. JIEDDO and the ISR Task Force will get smaller but will be retained to meet the Pentagon’s enduring requirement for fulfilling urgent needs. The comptroller’s office is also working to institutionalize funding mechanisms for both Joint Urgent Operational Needs and Joint Emergent Operational Needs. These mechanisms should allow department leaders to quickly reprogram funds and make use of the rapid-acquisition authority.
By making these structures more permanent, the Pentagon hopes to retain the ability to meet the urgent needs of the troops long after the end of operations in Afghanistan. It is already using the Joint Emergent Operational Needs process to upgrade munitions and targeting systems for operations over water, in order to respond to the potential use of speedboats by Iran to swarm U.S. naval vessels in the Persian Gulf. The military has also developed and built prototypes for improvements to a penetrating bomb that would allow it to target hardened, deeply buried facilities. And last year, the Department of Defense decided to build the Field Deployable Hydrolysis System, a transportable system that can destroy chemical weapons stockpiles wherever they are found. This system was developed as part of the Joint Emergent Operational Needs process months before the United States knew it would be discussing the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons. It is now ready for deployment whenever required — a capability that enabled the U.S. government to include this possibility in its recent UN negotiations.
Institutionalizing these practices will also allow them to be applied beyond Central Command, which has overseen most of the fighting during the past decade — a particularly relevant factor as the Obama administration continues its “rebalance” to the Asia-Pacific region and focuses more on threats from other parts of the world, such as Africa. For example, JIEDDO has already begun to support missions of U.S. Africa Command, and its expertise will help combat IED threats in such countries as Mali and Somalia.
When wars end, leaders are often eager to move on to the next challenge. That is why it is crucial to make permanent the institutional innovations resulting from the hard-earned lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq, while the experiences are still fresh. Too many lives were lost in the early years of those wars because the Pentagon failed to keep up with a changing battlefield. Never again should it make the same mistake.
Now the Hard Part: 3 Weeks to Apportion $1 Trillion
By David Hawkings
Posted at 5:23 p.m. on Dec. 19
Appropriators from both parties and both sides of the Capitol have opened intentionally secretive negotiations on the mammoth and complex measure necessary to make good on the budgetary truce just called by Congress.
The four-dozen or so members involved have given themselves less than three weeks to agree on the several thousand line items in the bill, which will be written as non-amendable legislationdictating all of the government’s discretionary spending for the final 37 weeks of this budget year.
The enormity of the task and the extraordinarily tight time table would normally present significant obstacles to a smooth or successful outcome. But the lawmakers who have taken the assignment are betting that those challenges will be eased by several factors:
• The fiscal deal the Senate cleared Thursday, which President Barack Obama will sign before leaving this weekend to spend the holidays in Hawaii, sets a grand total of $1.012 trillion for the package that both parties’ negotiators say they can live with. The figure is $45 billion, or 4.6 percent, more than would have been allowed if the sequester had remained fully on the books.
• The vast majority of lawmakers, not to mention hundreds of lobbyists and advocates, will be away from Washington during the next two work weeks. That should afford the negotiators and their aides an opportunity to set their priorities and make their tradeoffs without the usual volume of importuning — a tiny silver lining, also, for having to work through Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
• The leaders of the talks, Kentucky’s Harold Rogers for the Republican majority in the House and Maryland’s Barbara A. Mikulski for the Democratic majority in the Senate, have agreed to draft the bill as a take-it-or-leave it package deal. Their bet here is that substantial numbers from the rank and file in all four caucuses will be willing to set aside their reservations about the content and their annoyance about the process and vote “yes” — because they know defeating the measure would threaten another government shutdown as the first congressional action of the midterm election year.
The timetable for the next three weeks sketched by Rogers and Mikulski, the chairmen of the two Appropriations committees, begins with a deadline they have set for themselves for the end of the week: apportioning the spending grand total into a dozen slices — the so-called 302(b) spending caps for the subcommittees that are supposed to write 12 different spending bills every year.
This is an immensely important first step, because it means choosing winners and losers at a macro level. A relatively generous number for the subcommittees with jurisdiction over labor, health and education programs, for example, would provide some relief from social spending limits that Democrats would embrace. But that money would mean somewhat smaller top lines for subcommittees in charge of the domestic programs Republicans typically favor, which cover such things as water projects, law enforcement and homeland security.
There was word Thursday evening that they had come to an agreement. But, as an indication of the sensitivity of these initial decisions, Rogers and Mikulski have decided to break with longstanding practice by not making public the 302(b) allocations.
Instead, the top Democrats and Republicans on each House and Senate subcommittee will be told of their cap and then given until Jan. 2 to come up with as much of a plan as they can agree on for dividing that pot of money and altering any policies along the way.
The challenge will impose especially dicey political challenges on three senior Republicans: Thad Cochran of Mississippi, his party’s second-most-senior Senate appropriator, faces an intense primary challenge on his right next year, as does Mike Simpson of Idaho, a subcommittee chairman in the House. Jack Kingston, the third-most-senior House appropriator, is in a hot primary against several fiscal conservatives for Georgia’s open Senate seat. All will face pressure to use their work on the bill as a way to say they’re cutting excessive spending and otherwise tacking to the right.
As a starting point, the appropriators will all presumably use the bills they advanced to various stages of completion earlier this year. Eleven bills got through Senate Appropriations, but none was passed on the floor. The House passed four of its bills, but only five others won endorsement from the full Appropriations Committee.
Because of the way the sequester law works, measures related to national defense have their own limit, now $520 billion for this year — more than before this month’s deal to ease the across-the-board limits, but still about $30 billion less than what House and Senate appropriators wrote into their bills several months ago. The limit on all non-defense spending for fiscal 2014 is $492 billion — the “pie” over which the bulk of the haggling will take place.
In addition to spending totals, any compromise omnibus would have to resolve intense and partisan differences on the use of federal funds to implement an array of policies — starting with, but hardly limited to, the health care law, environmental regulations and the rules to carry out the Wall Street oversight law. Some appropriators may want to push for legislative riders to address matters that have cropped up since the regular spending process stalled out this summer — for example, by making sure all the revenue from the budget deal’s new airline ticket fee goes to aviation security.
Any programmatic totals or policy disagreements that still remain after the first weekend in the new year will be taken out of the hands of the subcommittees and turned over to the big four appropriators: Mikulski, Rogers, top Senate Appropriations Republican Richard C. Shelby of Alabama and top House Appropriations Democrat Nita M. Lowey of New York.
The quartet will convene early the week of Jan. 6, when Congress reconvenes for the new year, with a goal of finalizing the entire package quickly enough that it can be put before the House for an up-or-down vote by Friday, Jan. 10. (The parliamentary sleight-of-hand that will be deployed to move the package along without amendment has not yet been settled on.)
That would allow the Senate to begin debating the legislation Jan. 13 and – assuming no one insists on a filibuster-busting cloture vote — send it to Obama before the current stopgap continuing resolution lapses at midnight on Jan. 15.
For now, the lawmakers driving the process are refusing to countenance the notion that the schedule is too unforgiving, and that another CR might be needed to patch the budget for a while beyond the middle of January.
“We’re all up to the task,” Mikulski told reporters Wednesday. “Our problem is it’s a very tight timeline.”
DoD to Submit 2015 Sequester Budget with Buybacks
Dec. 19, 2013 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is preparing to put forward a 2015 budget proposal that was built assuming billions of dollars in sequestration spending cuts, however it will use $30 billion in restored funding over the next two years to buy back readiness shortfalls and critical modernization programs.
US Defense Department officials had been preparing as many as four 2015 budget plans, ranging from one that built on the Obama administration’s 2014 budget plan to another than encompassed cuts of about $50 billion per year over a five-year period. The sequestration budget is called the Alt POM, which stands for alternative program objective memorandum. The House and Senate have passed — and the president is expected to sign — a two-year federal spending plan, that raises DoD’s 2014 budget cap by $21 billion and 2015 spending cap by nearly $10 billion.
“We know what the bottom looks like; the money that’s coming back, we’re buying it back,” Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said during a briefing at the Pentagon Thursday. “We’ll buy it up to the level we can buy it and there will still be a delta. The work is done.”
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with the chiefs of the military services on Wednesday where they discussing areas to use the money that is being restored in 2014 and 2015. Hagel said DoD will “work to minimize disruption to our most critical modernization efforts” in addition to readiness.
The Pentagon’s $527 billion fiscal 2014 budget proposal was $52 billion above federal spending caps. Under the compromise budget passed by Congress, DoD spending is capped at about $498 billion. DoD still faces full sequestration-level budget caps from 2016 into the next decade.
The budget deal gives DoD predictability for the next two years, Hagel noted. The secretary called the compromise budget — developed by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. — “a step in the right direction,” but noted the Pentagon still “faces very difficult budget decisions,” particularly how to reduce its force structure and reform military compensation.
“As we head into 2014, I think we’re beginning to turn the page on a prolonged period of fiscal uncertainty,” he said at the same briefing. “The budget deal … provides some relief from DoD and the devastating cuts of sequestration in fiscal years 2014 and 2015.
USAF Looks to Boost Readiness
The Air Force hopes to use its extra cash on readiness, according to a service spokeswoman.
“Air Force leadership would recommend that additional funding first be used to restore flying hours and weapon system sustainment levels, allowing units to begin to recover from the readiness damage done by sequestration,” Ann Stefanek, an Air Force spokeswoman, wrote in an emailed statement. “Additionally, we would seek to protect our top three investment programs [the Lockheed Martin F-35 joint strike fighter, Boeing KC-46 tanker replacement program, and new long-range strike bomber] and fund readiness enablers and critical installation requirements such as new mission beddowns, ranges, radars, airfields, taxiways and compliance deficiencies.”
Stefanek cautioned that “until an appropriation is signed, the Air Force does not know yet how much funding it will receive and the Congress will ultimately decide where those dollars are spent,” meaning plans could change. And even with the funds, the service still expects to feel “significant impacts” to investment programs.
Eric Fanning, Air Force Acting Secretary, said at a Nov. 18 event that the service would focus on readiness investments if it received any unexpected funds.
“What really suffers is readiness. That’s been a very hard thing to describe,” Fanning said. “We’re going to have a real hole in our readiness accounts the next five years if we stay under the sequestered numbers. So there’s a lot of risk there.”
Fanning added that he would also like to buy back delayed F-35 purchases.
Senate approves defense policy bill
Dec. 20, 2013 – 08:23AM |
By Patricia Kime
The Senate voted overwhelmingly late Thursday night to approve the defense authorization act, an 84-15 vote that paves the way for troops to receive a 1 percent raise beginning Jan. 1.
The $632.8 billion bill bill extends a number of expiring special pays and bonuses that would otherwise have ended on New Year’s Day and also includes prohibitions against any fee increases for Tricare or new user fees for the military health program by more than 1.7 percent next October.
Among the bill’s key provisions are a restriction on the Defense Department from transferring to the U.S. anyone held as a suspected terrorist at the Navy detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as well as allowances for detainees to be transferred under some circumstances to foreign countries.
The bill also includes about 30 provisions related to sexual assault in the military, including removing the authority of commanders to dismiss a court-martial finding, eliminating the current five-year statute of limitations on rape and sexual assault and establishing minimum sentencing guidelines for sex crimes.
There also are several provisions aimed at protecting victims of rape and sexual assault, including allowing victims to apply for a transfer to a new unit or a new base and creating a specific criminal charge in the military justice system for retaliating against a victim who comes forward.
Other adds include a provision to overhaul the military’s Article 32 process of pretrial hearings to expand rights of sexual assault victims and to reduce consideration of the military record of the accused as a reason not to press charges.
The bill also gives 171,000 military retirees and family members forced from Tricare Prime on Oct. 1, the option to return to the program if they choose.
And it changes eligibility rules for selective early retirement boards so that officers passed over just one time for promotion to O-6 would be considered by selection boards for involuntary retirement.
Notably, the bill contains no provisions for a military pay raise, setting up enactment of a presidential order issued in August that decided troops would receive a 1 percent raise.
The absence of any specific pay raise language paves the way for execution of the executive order capping next year’s increase at 1 percent.
Under a federal pay formula that remains part of permanent law, service members would have been due a 1.8 percent pay increase, and the House had approved that percent raise as part of its version of the bill approved in June.
But the Senate Armed Services Committee backed the White House proposal, and the compromise — to remain silent on the issue in the compromise version — left the decision to the administration.
In a letter to Congress in August, President Obama said he is “strongly committed to supporting our uniformed service members, who have made such great contributions to our nation over the past decade of war.”
But, he noted, the U.S. is recovering “from serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare” that require tough decisions to stay “on a sustainable fiscal course.”
The White House issued a statement Thursday before the Senate vote indicating it will support the bill as written. Singling out issues including the transfer of Guantanamo detainees and changes to military sexual assault prosecution and protection, administration officials said they were “pleased with the modifications and improvements” that addressed their objections to earlier iterations of the legislation.
“Although the bill includes a number of provisions that restrict or limit the Defense Department’s ability to align military capabilities and force structure with the President’s strategy and implement certain efficiencies … the Administration supports passage of the legislation,” the White House according to the White House statement.
The bill, H.R. 3304, provides $552.1 billion for the military budget and $80.7 billion for overseas contingency operations.
It passed the House last week, 332-94.
Bill negotiator Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman, described the bipartisan legislation as “good for national security” as well as for the men and women of the armed forces.
“This bill ensures that important pay and benefits, including combat pay, will continue; includes powerful and important new tools in our fight against military sexual assault; and makes progress toward the day we can close the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay,” Levin said.
New DoD Acquisition Guidelines Emphasize Cost of Programs
Dec. 18, 2013 – 11:18AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments
WASHINGTON — A major update of the Pentagon’s acquisition bible makes cost control and cost management a higher priority during the procurement process.
The new guidance focuses heavily on setting realistic program goals by aligning weapons requirements with long-term spending realities.
The plan is to “get the programming community and the requirements community to sit down and figure out what kind of cost constraint they’re going to have to live in based on future budgets they can expect,” Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, said during a Dec. 13 interview at the Pentagon.
Kendall recently completed a laborious two-year rewriting of a document know as DoD Instruction 5000.02, frequently called “Five-thousand two” by defense insiders.
In addition to the long-term spending emphasis, the new guidance formalizes Better Buying Power acquisition initiatives developed by Kendall and his predecessor Ashton Carter.
The 5000.02 update calls for locking in program requirements sooner by adding a new decision point earlier in the acquisition process, Kendall said. It also puts forth “much more specific guidance” about affordability analysis and spending caps.
“Basically it tells the services, and … the operational communities and the programming communities that they need to do long-term capital planning before they start down a program [and] that cost is a requirement, ” Kendall said. “We can’t afford to pay whatever people want in terms of capabilities. We have to limit our reach to stay within our grasp.”
Looking at costs over a 30-year period, Kendall feels, will force those developing requirements to exercise design restraint when developing new systems.
“I think that will help us avoid a lot of cancellations,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of program cancelations where we discovered after we got into development or early production, that the product wasn’t affordable.”
DoD has spent billions of dollars over the past decade on programs that never entered production. The most recent example of this is the Marine Corps Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle, an amphibious assault craft.
“Program managers have a fundamental responsibility to understand their cost and to act to try to control their costs to drive them down,” Kendall said. “That’s a cultural change that’s going to take a little time, but that’s something fundamental of what I’m trying to accomplish.”
The new guidance also tackles tailoring and alternative models for how structuring programs.
“I’m trying to make a very big point that there’s not just one size or one way to set up a program,” Kendall said. “There are some basic things that you have to do in almost every program, but beyond that you have to look at the nature of the product and determine based on the nature of the product and factors like the operational urgency … then lay out a program that makes sense for that product and those constraints that apply to that particular program.”
Much of the information in the new 5000.02 is already being used throughout DoD’s acquisition programs, however the new guidance formalized it.
“It’s a combination of a document that can be used by somebody who is new to this business to try to understand it more thoroughly,” Kendall said. “It’s also a document that somebody who is a serious, experienced professional can go back to as a reference to understand what the rules are that he’s going to have to follow and some of the fundamentals that he’s going to have to apply.”
Kendall’s revisions to 5000.02 have been implemented through an interim document, though he expects no major changes are expected in the finalized version. He is planning to get feedback on the changes during a program executive officer conference in January.
“All of this is a work in progress,” Kendall said. “I do expect that there will be changes in the future; there will be continuous improvement in this area as there is in other areas of acquisition.”
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Saturday, December 21, 2013
Americans need a little holly jolly time as the year comes to an end.
Just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters now think the country is heading in the right direction. A year ago, 37% felt that way.
More voters than ever (66%) believe the economy is unfair to the middle class.
Fifty-eight percent (58%) now oppose the new national health care law’s requirement that every American must have health insurance. That’s the highest level of opposition to the individual mandate to date.
Positive reviews of President Obama’s leadership fell again this month and now stand at their lowest level in two years. Only 39% of voters give the president good or excellent marks for leadership, down 16 points from a year ago.
Obama’s daily job approval ratings appeared to be improving slightly after weeks at the lowest levels of his presidency but in the last few days have fallen lower again.
Despite his support of the new bipartisan budget deal, nearly half (49%) of voters now rate the president poorly on his efforts to reduce the deficit, and he only fares marginally better when it comes to policies related to economic fairness.
Sixty-eight percent (68%) now view the federal government unfavorably, a new high.
Sixty-one percent (61%) still prefer a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a larger one with more services and higher taxes.
Sixty-one percent (61%) also favor a federal budget that cuts spending, although voters are more closely divided over the new budget deal that restores billions in across-the-board sequester spending cuts from earlier this year.
The budget deal includes no new taxes but does raise some user fees. Only 22% of voters believe additional tax hikes are needed to fund the federal government.
Just 15% of voters think the House of Representatives is doing a good or excellent job, while 13% say the same of the Senate. Still, that’s an improvement over the seven percent (7%) who rate the overall performance of Congress as good or excellent.
Republicans and Democrats are running even on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.
But for the next few days, the unhappiness with the national political scene will take a backseat as 92% of Americans celebrate Christmas with their families. After all, for many, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
Most Americans (53%) continue to have no problem getting into the holiday spirit, unchanged from last season. Still, while 45% consider the season joyous, just as many (43%) say it is generally stressful for them.
It probably doesn’t help that at the beginning of the week, just one-in-three had finished their holiday shopping. The level of gift-buying appears little changed from recent years, despite the lukewarm level of investor confidence.
An overwhelming majority of working Americans say they have time off for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but 40% have to work at least some major holidays.
Twenty-four percent (24%) of all Americans plan on traveling away from home this holiday season, and 84% of those travelers will be visiting family and friends.
Forty-nine percent (49%), however, believe airline deregulation has made flying more expensive. But regular fliers are less critical of deregulation and more likely than non-fliers to think it has made air travel cheaper.
Thirty-three percent (33%) are still concerned about the safety of most toys being sold this holiday season, but that’s the lowest level of concern measured in yearly tracking since 2009.
In other surveys last week:
— While 2013 will be known for plenty of domestic matters, U.S. foreign policy was also in the spotlight for much of the year.
— Just 21% of voters think the federal government should grant NSA leaker Edward Snowden full amnesty from prosecution in exchange for the return of all classified information that he still possesses.
— The Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting the ban on in-flight cell phone use, but 65% of Americans don’t think people should be allowed to chat on their cell phones during a flight.
— The Chinese landed a lunar probe earlier this week, the first manned landing on the moon in nearly 40 years, but just 42% of voters believe the United States should resume manned space missions to the moon within the next decade. That’s unchanged from a year ago.
— Time magazine named Pope Francis its “Person of the Year” earlier this month, and nearly one-in-four Americans agree that the pope was the year’s most influential person. The president was a close second.
DARPA makes games of finding software vulnerabilities
DARPA creates a set of games that covertly search for software vulnerabilities
December 8, 2013 (IDG News Service)
The U.S. Department of Defense may have found a new way to scan millions of lines of software code for vulnerabilities, by turning the practice into a set of video games and puzzles and having volunteers do the work.
Having gamers identify potentially problematic chunks of code could help lower the work load of trained vulnerability analysts by “an order of magnitude or more,” said John Murray, a program director in SRI International’s computer science laboratory who helped create one of the games, called Xylem.
DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) has set up a site, called Verigames, that offers five free games that can be played online or, in Xylem’s case, on an Apple iPad.
Verigames is set up in a manner similar to other online crowd-sourcing projects, such as SETI@homel, which has users’ computers scan for extraterrestrial signals, and Fold.it, which invites participants to play online puzzles for protein folding.
The games are designed in such a way that when users solve puzzles in order to advance to the next level of game play, they are actually generating program annotations and mathematical proofs that can identify or prove the absence of flaws in software written in either C or Java. DARPA funded the games and the portal through its Crowd Sourced Formal Verification (CSFV) program.
Formal software verification typically relies on engineers reviewing code for possible errors and omissions that could be used by an attacker to compromise a system.
This approach is slow and costly, though. DARPA is hoping the work can be reconfigured into a game format that would be enjoyable enough to interact with so that large numbers of people would do at least some of this work voluntarily. The idea is to map what in essence are really hard math problems onto puzzle games that would be fun to play, according to DARPA materials.
The vast bulk of analysis on a software program is conducted by automated testing programs, which flag sections that look questionable, Murray explained.
“We are able to take those small snippets of code that need further analysis and turn them into the parameters to generate a puzzle,” he said. Certain types of vulnerabilities, such as buffer overflows or flaws that result in privilege escalation, fit particularly well to the puzzle format, Murray said.
DARPA has awarded grants to a number of companies to build games around the resulting puzzles.
In Xylem, for instance, the user explores a never seen-before tropical island and catalogues unusual plants — which are actually representations of sections of code — by writing short descriptions about them.
In another game, called CircuitBot, the user links up a team of robots to carry out a mission. Flow Jam requires the user to analyze and adjust a cable network to maximize its throughput.
Despite the relative benign nature of all the games, only persons 18 and over are allowed to play, due to government regulations regarding volunteer participants. Over time, however, DARPA hopes to build up a game playing community that would reduce the number of software errors in commercial and open source software.
The games are now reviewing open source programs that are being used by the Defense Department and other governmental and commercial organizations. If an error is found through game play, the agency will notify the managers of the software.
Impact of budgetary hit to federal retirement weighed
BY ERIC YODER
December 9 at 1:53 pm
Requiring federal employees to pay more toward their retirement benefits would have an uncertain effect on recruitment of new workers but likely would spur some current employees to leave earlier than they would have otherwise, according to a recent analysis done for Congress.
Increasing the required contributions, and the potential impact of doing so, has been under consideration in negotiations over budget levels for the remainder of the current government fiscal year and for fiscal 2015.
One potential approach would be to require employees to contribute 1.2 percent of salary more toward their toward their benefits. The Obama White House has raised that idea several times, with a proposed three-year phase-in. Other proposals, by House Republicans, would require a still larger increase, potentially of about 5.5 percentage points; some of those have specified a multi-year phase-in as well. The White House has estimated that a 1.2 point increase would produce $20 billion for the government over 10 years. The Congressional Budget Office puts the figure slightly lower, at $19.3 billion, while specifying that it assumes the increase would not apply to certain employees already paying at a higher rate.
Those hired into federal jobs in 2013 and later generally pay 3.1 percent of their salaries toward their Federal Employees Retirement System benefits, compared with 0.8 percent for FERS employees hired previously. FERS employees also pay the standard Social Security payroll tax of 6.2 percent.
Those first hired before 1984 generally are under a separate system, the Civil Service Retirement System, that does not include Social Security. They pay 7 percent of salary toward their federal retirement benefits. Both FERS and CSRS employees in addition pay 1.45 percent of salary toward Medicare.
Federal employee organizations and some Democratic members of Congress continue to speak out against raising retirement contributions, arguing that federal employees already have done more than their share for deficit reduction, with three years of salary rate freezes and sequestration-triggered unpaid furloughs. They also argue that the increase would affect the quality of the federal workforce and the services it provides to the public.
“To continue targeting one group to carry the burden of fixing our deficits is absolutely unacceptable,” said a statement last week from House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland. “This denigration of our nation’s federal employees doesn’t just harm our ability to recruit and retain the top-notch workforce needed to serve the American people – it harms the American people who access the services of our government.”
In an analysis released in November, CBO said that because an increase in required contributions “would not change the compensation of federal employees hired after 2012, it would probably not affect the quality of new recruits.” However, it added that “some new recruits could be particularly susceptible to competition from private-sector employers.”
CBO said the impact on the retention end could be more clear: “An argument against this option is that it would reduce the number of highly qualified federal employees by motivating some of them to leave for the private sector and by encouraging some of them to retire earlier . . . some highly qualified federal employees have more lucrative job opportunities in the private sector than in the federal government. More of those employees would leave for the private sector under this option.”
CBO’s analysis was based partly on its conclusions regarding how federal pay stacks up against that of the private sector. In a 2012 report using data from before salary rates were frozen starting in 2011, CBO said that federal employees were 2 percent ahead overall, with those having lower levels of education farther ahead but those with higher levels of education behind.
Studies done by others using differing methods and differing data sets have reached widely varying conclusions regarding pay comparability. The Government Accountability Office concluded last year that none of them is definitive.
UAS application class created online by Sinclair
by Press • 10 December 2013
Sinclair Community College, Dayton, Ohio for the first time will offer a course online to teach students how to apply for approval to fly unmanned aerial systems from the Federal Aviation Administration, the school announced.
The online class — which Sinclair said is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation — is adapted from the college’s traditional classroom model instructing students on how to draft their request for a “Certificate of Authorization” that is required to fly drones in unrestricted airspace, according to Sinclair.
“In the current regulatory environment, public entities are eligible to apply for COAs,” according to Sinclair. “However, the tools and analysis techniques used in the COA development process and taught in this course will be invaluable for private operators as UAS integration and commercialization progresses.”
The new online course comes as Sinclair invests $1.4 million in an effort to lead the nation in education programs around unmanned aerial systems.
The COASmart program cost is $650.
The college also plans to bring other courses related to drones to the online format, including Introduction to UAS, Precision Agriculture for UAS, UAS and the Law, UAS Standards and Regulations, and Geospatial Information for UAS, according to the college. The college offers a certificate in UAS and has six certifications to fly drones at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airpark and at the Wilmington AirPark.
The Verge: Amazon filmed Prime Air demos outside the US to avoid legal trouble with the FAA
by Press • 10 December 2013
By Ben Popper
Amazon and the FAA have confirmed to the Washington Post that the company chose an international location to shoot its concept video for Prime Air, the drone delivery service CEO Jeff Bezos says Amazon plans to debut in the near future. That’s because the commercial use of drones is currently illegal in the United States, pending new regulations set to be issued by the FAA in 2015.
The laws concerning drones are far more relaxed in neighboring countries like Canada, which is a relatively short trip from Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle, Washington. And while commercial use of drones is illegal, numerous photographers and cinematographers working on projects in the United States have confirmed to The Verge that the use of drones to achieve aerial shots is common.
American advocates of commercial drone use point to situations like this as proof that the United States, which has been a leader in developing small unmanned aircraft, risks falling behind the rest of the world in terms of developing drones for business, due in large part to the lack of a complete regulatory framework.
U.S. Considers Russian Request To Install Satellite Monitoring Stations
By Bob Brewin
December 10, 2013
The Obama administration continues to review Russian proposals to install up to six monitoring stations on U.S. territory for its satellite navigation system, despite strong opposition in Congress.
In May 2012, Russia made a formal request to install base stations in the United States to monitor its Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS. Kenneth D. Hodgkins, director of the State Department’s Office of Space and Advanced Technology, told a space navigation and timing advisory board meeting last Thursday that “U.S. officials have requested more information through discussions led by State in coordination with executive branch departments and agencies.”
Hodgkins added, “Based on the ongoing discussions, the original Russian proposal has evolved and is currently under review within the U.S. government.” He did not provide additional details on changes in the Russian proposal. The Federal Aviation Administration and NASA “initially expressed interest in acting as hosts” for the Russian monitor stations.
On Nov. 16, The New York Times reported that the CIA and the Pentagon “have been quietly waging a campaign to stop the State Department” from approving installation of the GLONASS monitoring stations on U.S. soil.
The Pentagon and CIA fear the monitor stations would help Russia spy on the U.S. and improve the accuracy of GLONASS, a system designed to rival the U.S. GPS satellite navigation system.
Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on Nov. 19 introduced an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that prohibits the construction of foreign ground stations in the U.S. unless the Defense secretary and the director of national intelligence certify that the construction of the stations would not be used to gather intelligence or improve the accuracy of any foreign weapons systems.
“I am deeply concerned about the Russian proposal to use U.S. soil to strengthen its GPS capabilities,” Wicker said. “These ground monitor stations could be used to gather intelligence. Even more troubling, these stations could actually improve the accuracy of foreign missiles targeted at the United States,” he added.
Wicker, in remarks on the Senate floor, said he viewed the administration’s embrace of the GLONASS monitor stations as a way to improve its “failed” relations with Russia. “We have every reason to be skeptical of Russia’s intentions to utilize GPS monitoring stations on U.S. soil. Let me repeat this: GPS monitoring stations controlled by Russia on U.S. soil,” Wicker said.
Representative Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala., told the Times he had sent letters to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry and the director of national intelligence, James R. Clapper Jr., asking for an assessment of the impact on national security of the GLONASS monitoring stations. “I would like to understand why the United States would be interested in enabling a GPS competitor, like Russian GLONASS, when the world’s reliance on GPS is a clear advantage to the United States on multiple levels,” Rogers told the Times.
Monitoring stations, which include GPS receivers and an electronics package, are essential to operation of satellite navigation system, feeding information back to central control stations to help calculate precise orbits. The U.S. operates 16 GPS monitor stations wordwide, including sites in the lower 48 states, U.S. territories such as Guam, and in foreign countries such as Argentina, Australia, Bahrain, Ecuador, South Africa, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
Snoozers Are, In Fact, Losers
December 10, 2013
Posted By Maria Konnikova
On a typical workday morning, if you’re like most people, you don’t wake up naturally. Instead, the ring of an alarm clock probably jerks you out of sleep. Depending on when you went to bed, what day of the week it is, and how deeply you were sleeping, you may not understand where you are, or why there’s an infernal chiming sound. Then you throw out your arm and hit the snooze button, silencing the noise for at least a few moments. Just another couple of minutes, you think. Then maybe a few minutes more.
It may seem like you’re giving yourself a few extra minutes to collect your thoughts. But what you’re actually doing is making the wake-up process more difficult and drawn out. If you manage to drift off again, you are likely plunging your brain back into the beginning of the sleep cycle, which is the worst point to be woken up—and the harder we feel it is for us to wake up, the worse we think we’ve slept.
One of the consequences of waking up suddenly, and too early, is a phenomenon called sleep inertia. First given a name in 1976, sleep inertia refers to that period between waking and being fully awake when you feel groggy. The more abruptly you are awakened, the more severe the sleep inertia. While we may feel that we wake up quickly enough, transitioning easily between sleep mode and awake mode, the process is in reality far more gradual. Our brain-stem arousal systems (the parts of the brain responsible for basic physiological functioning) are activated almost instantly. But our cortical regions, especially the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain involved in decision-making and self-control), take longer to come on board.
In those early waking minutes, our memory, reaction time, ability to perform basic mathematical tasks, and alertness and attention all suffer. Even simple tasks, like finding and turning on the light switch, become far more complicated. As a result, our decisions are neither rational nor optimal. In fact, according to Kenneth Wright, a neuroscientist and chronobiology expert, “Cognition is best several hours prior to habitual sleep time, and worst near habitual wake time.” In the grip of sleep inertia, we may well do something we know we shouldn’t. Whether or not to hit the snooze button is just about the first decision we make. Little wonder that it’s not always the optimal one.
Other research has found that sleep inertia can last two hours or longer. In one study that monitored people for three days in a row, the sleep researchers Charles Czeisler and Megan Jewett and their colleagues at Harvard Medical School found that sleep inertia took anywhere from two to four hours to disappear completely. While the participants said they felt awake after two-thirds of an hour, their cognitive faculties didn’t entirely catch up for several hours. Eating breakfast, showering, or turning on all the lights for maximum morning brightness didn’t mitigate the results. No matter what, our brains take far longer than we might expect to get up to speed.
When we do wake up naturally, as on a relaxed weekend morning, we do so based mainly on two factors: the amount of external light and the setting of our internal alarm clock—our circadian rhythm. The internal clock isn’t perfectly correlated with the external one, and so every day, we use outside time cues, called zeitgebers, to make fine adjustments that mimic the changes in light and dark that take place throughout the year.
The difference between one’s actual, socially mandated wake-up time and one’s natural, biologically optimal wake-up time is something that Till Roenneberg, a professor of chronobiology at Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, calls “social jetlag.” It’s a measurement not of sleep duration but of sleep timing: Are we sleeping in the windows of time that are best for our bodies? According to Roenneberg’s most recent estimates, based on a database of more than sixty-five thousand people, approximately a third of the population suffers from extreme social jetlag—an average difference of over two hours between their natural waking time and their socially obligated one. Sixty-nine per cent suffer from a milder form, of at least one hour.
Roenneberg and the psychologist Marc Wittmann have found that the chronic mismatch between biological and social sleep time comes at a high cost: alcohol, cigarette, and caffeine use increase—and each hour of social jetlag correlates with a roughly thirty-three per cent greater chance of obesity. “The practice of going to sleep and waking up at ‘unnatural’ times,” Roenneberg says, “could be the most prevalent high-risk behaviour in modern society.” According to Roenneberg, poor sleep timing stresses our system so much that it is one of the reasons that night-shift workers often suffer higher-than-normal rates of cancer, potentially fatal heart conditions, and other chronic disease, like metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Another study, published earlier this year and focussing on medical-school performance, found that sleep timing, more than length or quality, affected how well students performed in class and on their preclinical board exams. It didn’t really matter how long they had slept or whether they saw themselves as morning people or not; what made a difference was when they actually went to bed—and when they woke up. It’s bad to sleep too little; it’s also bad, and maybe even worse, to wake up when it’s dark.
Fortunately, the effects of sleep inertia and social jetlag seem to be reversible. When Wright asked a group of young adults to embark on a weeklong camping trip, he discovered a striking pattern: before the week was out, the negative sleep patterns that he’d previously observed disappeared. In the days leading up to the trip, he had noted that the subjects’ bodies would begin releasing the sleep hormone melatonin about two hours prior to sleep, around 10:30 P.M. A decrease in the hormone, on the other hand, took place after wake-up, around 8 A.M. After the camping trip, those patterns had changed significantly. Now the melatonin levels increased around sunset—and decreased just after sunrise, an average of fifty minutes before wake-up time. In other words, not only did the time outside, in the absence of artificial light and alarm clocks, make it easier for people to fall asleep, it made it easier for them to wake up: the subjects’ sleep rhythms would start preparing for wake-up just after sunrise, so that by the time they got up, they were far more awake than they would have otherwise been. The sleep inertia was largely gone.
Wright concluded that much of our early morning grogginess is a result of displaced melatonin—of the fact that, under current social-jetlag conditions, the hormone typically dissipates two hours after waking, as opposed to while we’re still asleep. If we could just synchronize our sleep more closely with natural light patterns, it would become far easier to wake up. It wouldn’t be unprecedented. In the early nineteenth century, the United States had a hundred and forty-four separate time zones. Cities set their own local time, typically so that noon would correspond to the moment the sun reached its apex in the sky; when it was noon in Manhattan, it was five till in Philadelphia. But on November 18, 1883, the country settled on four standard time zones; railroads and interstate commerce had made the prior arrangement impractical. By 1884, the entire globe would be divided into twenty-four time zones. Reverting to hyperlocal time zones might seem like it could lead to a terrible loss of productivity. But who knows what could happen if people started work without a two-hour lag, during which their cognitive abilities are only shadows of their full selves?
Theodore Roethke had the right idea when he wrote his famous line “I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.” We do wake to a sleep of sorts: a state of not-quite-alertness, more akin to a sleepwalker’s unconscious autopilot than the vigilance and care we’d most like to associate with our own thinking. And taking our waking slow, without the jar of an alarm and with the rhythms of light and biology, may be our best defense against the thoughtlessness of a sleep-addled brain, a way to insure that, when we do wake fully, we are making the most of what our minds have to offer.
Maria Konnikova is the author of “Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.”
Air Force to reduce civilian workforce
Impact on Wright-Patterson is not yet known.
Posted: 5:16 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013
By Barrie Barber
The Air Force will slash 900 civilian jobs in 2014 because of budget pressures, the service announced Wednesday afternoon.
Of those cuts, 217 jobs will be eliminated at Air Force Materiel Command bases across the United States, including Wright-Patterson, said AFMC spokesman Ron Fry.
The number of positions that will be cut at Wright-Patterson was not immediately available.
Fry said AFMC also expects to cut uniform service members positions, but those numbers have not yet been settled. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh has predicted the jobs of 25,000 airmen will be cut during the next five years.
The Air Force will also maintain approximately 7,000 vacancies across the force, according to the Air Force News Service.
“The Defense Department used administrative furloughs to meet civilian pay budget demands in the compressed time frame between sequestration and the end of the FY13. We will meet a similar budgetary challenge in FY14 through a reduced workforce,” said Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, the director of force management policy for the Air Force. The general added that the Air Force’s strategy to meet civilian pay budget targets does not include a furlough.
It’s Time to Write the Rules of Cyberwar
The world needs a Geneva Convention for cybercombat
By Karl Rauscher
Posted 27 Nov 2013
In the 21st century, just about everything is vulnerable to cyberattack. A hit on a bank or a stock exchange would cause uproar in the financial sector; a strike on an electrical grid could shut down a city. And the consequences of an attack could be far more dire than mere inconvenience. If hackers disrupted operations at a nuclear power facility, they could trigger a meltdown. An attack on a hospital could leave doctors scrambling in the dark, machines failing, and patients dying in their beds.
Such scenarios are becoming ever more plausible. In 2007 the cyberwar era began in earnest, when Estonia’s government networks were hacked during a political dispute with Russia. In recent years, the United States and China have accused each other of sponsoring major cyberintrusions, and Iran has accused the United States and Israel of unleashing a worm against its nuclear installations. Before such activities escalate into cyberattacks that destroy innocent lives, we should apply the lessons of the bitter past and establish the norms of cyberconflict. We should define acceptable targets, and we could even place limits on cyber weapons, just as we did on chemical ones nearly a century ago.
Espionage, Sabotage, and More
In the past decade, cyberattacks have changed from theoretical concerns to urgent national priorities. While the bulk of attacks target private companies for economic gain, here’s a roundup of attacks that may have been launched with political intent.
I propose bringing the principles of the Geneva and Hague conventions to bear on cyberconflicts. These conventions, which reached mature form after the First World War, establish rules for the treatment of civilians, prisoners of war, and the wounded, and they also ban the use of certain weapons, such as poisonous gas. Preserving these principles is of solemn relevance to billions of people, yet there is still no clear way to apply them to cyberattacks. While it’s unlikely that nations could be convinced to sign on to a legally binding treaty, international norms could have the same effect.
To find the way forward, the EastWest Institute has created the Cyber 40, with delegates from 40 digitally advanced countries. Our think tank specializes in back-channel negotiations between countries that don’t normally cooperate, and I head the institute’s Worldwide Cybersecurity Initiative. We have issued practical recommendations on spam and hacking, many of which have already been implemented. Since we presented our first proposal for “rules of the road” for cyberconflicts in a Russia-U.S. bilateral report at the 2011 Munich Security Conference, the ideas have gained traction. Other groups are also working on the legal issues surrounding cyberattacks—most notably a NATO-related collaboration based in Tallinn, Estonia, which published its findings this March as the Tallinn Manual.
In cooperation with industry groups and think tanks in China, Russia, and other countries, we are now trying to define practical humanitarian agreements for cyberconflicts. Such agreements could, for example, designate critical civilian infrastructures like hospitals and electronic medical records as off-limits for cyber attacks. And we hope to at least begin a conversation on whether some cyberweapons are analogous to weapons banned by the Hague and Geneva conventions as offensive to “the principles of humanity and the dictates of the public conscience.”
Our international team has reviewed all 750 articles in the Geneva and Hague conventions, in each case asking whether the rule can be transferred directly from the physical world to the cyberworld. Often the situation is simpler in the material world: For example, the difference between routine intelligence gathering and warfare is relatively clear. In cyberoperations, the infiltration of a computer network could be espionage or the prelude to an offensive action—but the mechanism is the same in both cases.
Seemingly straightforward prohibitions, such as the one on attacking hospitals, become complicated when ported to cyberspace. In the physical world, military officials can easily distinguish between a hospital and an army base and can plan their campaigns accordingly. In the cyberworld, everything is intermingled. Hospital records may be stored on a server in a data center that may also store data from a military contractor. In fact, it is the ease with which data and data-searching functions can be distributed across networks that makes cyberspace valuable in the first place.
When we built the Internet, we weren’t thinking about how to implement the Geneva Conventions online. To adapt these rules to our era, we must therefore model cyberconflicts, define legitimate targets, and suggest ways of determining compliance with such guidelines.
We will have to mark nontargets in some way. The Geneva and Hague conventions direct that protected entities (such as hospitals and ambulances) and protected personnel (such as medics) be marked in a clearly visible and distinctive way, for instance, with a red cross or red crescent. Marking a hospital’s presence on readily available maps constitutes another such warning.
We’ve been conducting an assessment of special ways to designate protected humanitarian interests in cyberspace. We’re currently working with our international partners to evaluate a number of technical solutions to this challenge. For instance, one early idea was to use “.+++” to mark the Internet addresses of hospitals and health databases.
Of course, merely marking protected zones in cyberspace would not stop miscreants from barging into them; then again, neither does the presence of a Red Cross symbol cause a bomb to bounce off a medical clinic. The point is that such markers would allow a state that wanted to comply with the norm to write virus code or arrange attacks so as to avoid designated institutions.
Assuming we can devise a system to create safe havens on the Internet, another concern is how to get all the necessary parties involved. In the past, the rules of war could gain force if the major nation-states agreed to them. That’s not enough to ensure the usefulness of cyberconflict rules, however, because cyberwarriors may be nonstate actors, sometimes even individuals. In order to get those people to respect the rules, we’ll need all the world governments to come together to condemn certain acts. Such a consensus would carry enough moral force to isolate any cyberwarriors who cross the line.
I first thought about this question while serving on the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee for President George W. Bush. In 2002, when our group met with Vice President Dick Cheney at the White House, one member of the committee asked Cheney which countries the United States should engage with on questions of cybersecurity. His first answer was obvious: the anglophone countries that were eager to partner with us. “But the second answer will really surprise you,” he said. We never heard it. At that moment, the Secret Service descended on him and whisked him, and us, away to safety. It was all because of a false alarm that sounded when a small Cessna plane accidentally breached restricted airspace over the White House.
Ever since, I have wondered what Cheney’s second suggestion would have been—and my life’s work has come down to an attempt to find my own answer. I’ve come to the conclusion that we have to work with the difficult countries because those are the countries that matter. “Difficult countries” will mean different things to different countries; for the United States, though, the list would surely include Russia and China, both of which are formidable for their technological prowess.
The EastWest Institute’s Worldwide Cyber security Initiative has therefore begun bilateral processes with experts from the United States and Russia to define the terms used in discussions of cyber conflicts, so that future negotiators will have a clear dictionary to help them differentiate between, for example, cybercrime and cyberterrorism.
We have also brought U.S. and Chinese experts together to produce joint recommendations for fighting spam and botnets—the networks of hijacked computers that are used in some attacks. These recommendations were adopted by the Messaging, Malware, and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group, which brings the world’s biggest Internet companies together to swap strategies and collaborate on projects. Most recently, we’ve worked with our Chinese counterparts to issue recommendations on how to resolve conflicts over hacking. With these efforts, we’ve prepared the way for extending the humanitarian principles of the Geneva and Hague conventions into cyberspace.
It has sometimes been argued that international norms are toothless—that countries resort to chemical and biological attacks rarely only because they fear facing retalia tion in kind. However, recent events in Syria’s civil war show that norms do matter. The Syrian government, which is not party to the Chemical Weapons Convention, nevertheless felt the world’s wrath when it allegedly used poison gas against rebel forces and civilians. The United States first threatened to intervene in the war to protest the action. However, that threat was revoked when the regime’s allies— notably Russia, which was on record as opposing chemical warfare—devised a plan to take away Syria’s chemical weapons.
This case illustrates some of the problems that would face any attempt to enforce the norms of cyberwarfare, most obviously the problem of tracing an attack to its perpetrator. The Syrian government maintained that it had not broken international laws against chemical warfare, and some observers agreed that it wasn’t completely clear who had done the deed. It could even have been a provocation or, perhaps, a blunder on the part of the rebel commanders. Happily, the international community was able to agree on a practical remedy despite the lack of hard proof.
If we can set the parameters of basic human decency in time of cyberwar, then maybe we can ban aspects of such warfare altogether. At the least, we can discuss taking some cyberweapons off the table. Some of them do, after all, carry the potential for viral behavior, with a lack of discrimination regarding targets, and they all travel at computer speeds. These attributes, combined with a belligerent cause, are an understandable reason for concern.
We can bring the principles of the Geneva Conventions into the 21st century if we agree that these rules are worth preserving and agree that war need not be the infliction of maximum suffering on the enemy. Some may call me naive, but I believe mankind can be civilized even as we engage in a new era of cyberconflicts.
In Estonia, the websites of some government agencies, financial institutions, and newspapers are shut down by denial-of-service attacks during a political spat with Russia.
During the run-up to the U.S. presidential election, e-mails containing malware are sent to top aides in the campaigns of both Barack Obama and John McCain, and internal position papers and e-mails are accessed. The U.S. government blames foreign hackers.
In the weeks before the Russia-Georgia war, Georgia’s Internet infrastructure and some government websites are hit with a denial-of-service attack.
In a vast spy campaign known as GhostNet, e-mails containing malware are used to take control of computers in dozens of embassies, foreign ministries, and Tibetan exile centers around the world. The researchers who discover GhostNet believe it’s controlled by Chinese networks.
Iran’s nuclear facilities are sabotaged by the Stuxnet worm in one of the first uses of offensive cyberweapons. During an investigation by The New York Times, many unnamed officials say that the United States and Israel created the worm.
One month after the websites of many Pakistani government ministries are shut down and vandalized, with Indian hacker groups claiming credit, the websites of Indian security agencies are similarly attacked by Pakistani hackers.
The Canadian government has to disconnect its two main economic agencies from the Internet when a computer virus sweeps through government networks, seeking out classified documents and sending them back to hackers. The attacks are traced as far back as computer servers in China.
A malware program known as Flame is discovered in computers across the Middle East, with the majority of targets in Iran. The sophisticated cyberespionage program shares some source code with Stuxnet but is described by experts as being far more complicated.
Operations at several South Korean television stations and major banks are disrupted when a malware program known as DarkSeoul renders computers unusable. Many experts speculate that North Korea is responsible.
This article originally appeared in print as “Writing the Rules of Cyberwar.”
About the Author
Karl Rauscher recently completed his work as director of the Worldwide Cybersecurity Initiative at the EastWest Institute, a think tank that enables back-channel diplomacy between institutions and governments that may not normally cooperate. Rauscher, an electrical engineer by training, hopes that nations can be brought together to discuss placing limits on cyberattacks, and he wants to be sure engineers are involved in the conversation. “The world can’t solve this problem without EEs,” he says.
Ohio Study to Guide Air Force UAS Flights over U.S.
by Press • 12 December 2013
A study set to be completed early next year will lead to developing a unique national capability in Ohio for flying unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to meet Air Force research needs and to boostOhio’s leadership in developing technologies to integrate unmanned systems. The study will leverage and expand the state’s capabilities, particularly in improving the ability of unmanned systems to sense and avoid other aircraft in the same airspace.
The Ohio Airspace Strategic Integration Study (OASIS), which kicked off in February 2012, is intended to serve as a national model for the Air Force that coordinates federal, state, and local governments, aviation groups, academic institutions, private industry, and other stakeholders. The study is funded through the State of Ohio Development Services Agency.
“Ohio has complex airspace needs because of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, headquarters of the Air Force Research Laboratory, which is involved in research and development of unmanned aircraft systems,” said Maurice McDonald, Executive Vice President for Aerospace and Defense of the Dayton Development Coalition, which is administering the study.
“The idea behind the study is to solve military airspace requirements in a way that meets the needs of other airspace users. That includes the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and NASA, which are working with the Air Force in developing ways to integrate unmanned aircraft systems in the national airspace system.” McDonald said.
OASIS will also evaluate methods to promote business and industry growth in Ohio based on the development of available airspace to fly unmanned systems.
The process has involved a review of the test plans of the Air Force Research Laboratory, interviews with laboratory program leaders on upcoming unmanned systems development, and examination of the Defense Department Science and Technology Strategic Plans.
The resulting recommendations are intended to guide the Air Force and the FAA in structuring new rules that will govern flying unmanned systems in the vicinity of Wright-Patterson, which is located outside Dayton, Ohio. Bringing together user groups at the beginning of the process and consulting them along the way is intended to achieve a consensus on the final recommendations.
“The State of Ohio brings unique research, development, training, education, and infrastructure resources, as well as operations and airfield management experience,” McDonald said.
Last year, Ohio partnered with its neighboring state to create the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex to fly unmanned systems. The OASIS study will help determine the ultimate capabilities of the Center, including support of Air Force research and development flight test requirements. The Center has applied to the FAA to become one of the six national sites to test the integration of unmanned systems in the national airspace system.
The Dayton Development Coalition (DDC) is the leading economic development organization for the 14-county Dayton Region. Working closely with public and private regional partners, its mission is to retain, expand and recruit jobs in the Dayton Region.
Trappy’s lawyer responds to the FAA
by Press • 12 December 2013
Our moving brief established that there is no regulation concerning the operation of a model airplane, that the FAA’s 2007 Policy Statement purporting both to regulate and ban the “business” use of a model aircraft was unenforceable for lack of notice-and-comment rule making, and therefore no civil penalty can be imposed for an alleged federal aviation regulation (“FAR”) violation. In response to these dispositive arguments, the FAA disavows that this proceeding has anything to do with its 2007 Policy Statement concerning commercial model aircraft operation, a transparent argument that is intended to evade scrutiny of that policy and that contradicts the FAA’s public statements about its enforcement approach.
As a substitute for the unenforceable policy statement, the FAA retreats to last-resort arguments granting itself the extraordinary power to regulate and penalize the operation of any device found in the air, at any location, and without prior notice to the public. This overextension is based on two seemingly simple but completely flawed premises: first, that the definition of “aircraft” in 14 C.F.R. § 1.1 is so broad that it has always included model aircraft, and, second, that the FAA’s jurisdiction extends to activity conducted even an inch above the ground and inside tunnels — locations outside the navigable airspace.
Both of these propositions fail as a matter of law. The definition of “aircraft” is expressly stated in section 1.1 to rely upon context, and that context is unquestionably manned operations. Part 91 itself confirms that only persons “on board” aircraft are subject to any of its provisions. The alternative proposition suggested by the FAA leads to fundamental contradictions and unintended consequences, including placing the NTSB in the awkward position of having failed to abide by its own regulations for decades. Moreover, this new theory contradicts the plain language of the definition as well as the conclusions of the FAA’s own researchers as reported in 2009.
The jurisdictional proposition is equally erroneous. The FAA’s attempt to capture all activity in airspace everywhere elides the historic record concerning the creation of the public navigable airspace as it was carved out from the property rights of land owners decades ago. In the delicate balancing act between the common-law ownership of airspace by land owners and the exigencies of a nascent aviation industry, the Supreme Court of the United States declared that only the airspace above the minimum safe altitude would be considered public and subject to federal control. In the FAA’s organic statute, Congress correspondingly empowered the FAA only to regulate activity in that same “navigable airspace,” generally defined as the airspace at and above 500 feet.
The Administrator, having first run afoul of the APA with an unenforceable Policy Statement, now overreaches both on statutory text and regulatory jurisdiction, all in an attempt to penalize conduct that indisputably has never been subject to regulation before. These litigation arguments should be rejected, and the Complaint dismissed.
I. THE ADMINISTRATOR’S DISAVOWAL OF THE 2007 POLICY STATEMENT IS INTENDED TO SHIELD THE UNENFORCEABLE COMMERCIAL BAN FROM LEGAL SCRUTINY
The Administrator’s opposition brief is remarkable for the lack of response on many points that confirm that model aircraft are not subject to current FAA regulation. The Administrator does not deny that his agency has never before sought enforcement of any FAR against the operator of a model aircraft. He is unable to cite a single example of any civil penalty assessed against a model aircraft operator. Nor does he deny that the FAA never investigates model aircraft accidents (even fatal ones), and that pilots of manned aircraft have been informed by the FAA’s own FSDO representatives that “the FARS do not address” model aircraft operation. Br. at 9. 1 These admissions, and the public record, confirm that the FAA has never issued a regulation applicable to the operation of a model aircraft. Only the 2007 Policy Statement contemplates the application of any FAR to model aircraft operation by claiming that “business” operation requires exemption from Part 21 or Part 91 via a COA or experimental certificate.
Rather than explain how the 2007 Policy Statement could possibly be enforceable, the
Administrator admits that it is “not mandatory,” Opp. at 3. He then makes the disingenuous argument that the “the FAA’s 2007 UAS Policy Notice . . . . has nothing to do with the issue that is pending before the Board in this case.” Opp. at 3. On the contrary, there is an obvious explanation for why Mr. Pirker’s model aircraft flight, which caused no damage or injury, is the only instance in the history of U.S. model aviation of attempted FAA enforcement, and that reason is spelled out in the allegation in paragraphs 2, 5 and 6 of the Complaint: Mr. Pirker “operated the flight referenced above for compensation,” he was “paid . . . . to supply aerial photographs and video of the UVA campus and medical center” and, by policy, “[t]he aircraft referenced above is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS)”. The FAA would have this Board believe that these allegations in its Complaint are superfluous or coincidental. But they match precisely the FAA’s current policy framework for commercial UAS operations.
The term “unmanned aircraft system” found in paragraph 2 of the Complaint is contained only in the 2007 Policy Statement, not in any of the FARs. And that statement includes “remotely controlled model aircraft” in its definition. Yet the policy reiterates that “for model aircraft the [operational] authority is AC 91-57″ which was published “for the purpose of providing guidance to persons interested in flying model aircraft.” Thus, the voluntary guidelines in AC 91-57 still apply three decades later even though the Administrator argues in his Opposition that the growth in the uses of these devices and in their technical sophistication demands a different safety regime. Opp. at 6 (“the assertion that the aircraft piloted by the Respondent in this case is akin to any type of line-of-sight model airplane that was publicly available in 1981, the year the Advisory Circular was published, strains credulity.”) There is no mention in the 2007 Policy Statement that model aircraft flown for recreational purposes are subject to any of the FARs or, specifically, to 91.13. Nor is there any distinction made among model airplanes based on their technical capabilities. In contrast, operation of the same device, in the same manner, in the same location, but for “business” purposes turns the model aircraft into an “unmanned aircraft system” that is purportedly subject to some or all of the FARs, including the requirement that a COA or experimental certificate be obtained prior to operation. It is the 2007 Policy Statement that attempts to apply regulations to a model aircraft only if it is operated for “business” purposes. The policy plays a central role in this proceeding.
Additionally, FAA officials have repeatedly announced to the public that the intended mechanism of enforcement of the commercial ban is the 91.13 recklessness standard. Earlier this year, Jim Williams, Manager of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Integration Office, participated at the AMA Expo in Ontario, California. During a panel on UAS integration, he was asked to advise model aircraft operators who wanted to pursue commercial use of their model aircraft. Mr. Williams responded that “the bottom line is that until we get that [sUAS] rule out, it’s going to be very difficult to conduct commercial operations in the United States legally. If you are selling your services to take photographs of real estate, that’s not allowed under the current set of regulations that we have. It’s unfortunate, because I think that done safely there’s nothing wrong with doing that, but until we can catch the rules up to the technology it remains against the rules, against the law.” See AMA/FAA Forum AMA Expo 2013 (Feb. 10, 2013) at 37:00-38:45,
When asked about the possibility of enforcement against an operator who is paid by a company to fly a model aircraft, Mr. Williams responded that the FAA’s own lawyers have told him that “if you are getting paid to operate the [model] aircraft . . . then it’s a commercial operation,” but with respect to enforcement, “the bottom line is that unless you cross that line into hazardous or reckless behavior or come to the attention of the FAA because you’re operating a business illegally, the key is operating safely. And if you’re operating safely and there’s no obvious commerce going on, we’re not going to get involved.” Id. 53:35-55:19 (emphasis added). Notably, Mr. Williams does not suggest that the FAA would ever pursue safety enforcement against reckless recreational modelers even though the question posed to him contemplated the same operations using the same devices, with the only difference being a payment.
This enforcement approach to commercial model aircraft operations was reiterated in an August 8, 2013 Chicago Tribune article quoting FAA spokesperson Les Dorr:
The FAA says it will try to stop unauthorized commercial activity if it becomes known but adds that it will resort to civil penalties only in extreme cases. “We really would only pursue a civil penalty if someone was operating an unmanned aircraft in a reckless manner,” said FAA spokesman Les Dorr.
Read the full reply here PirkerReply
AF officials announce FY14 civilian workforce shaping
Published December 11, 2013
WASHINGTON (AFNS) —
The Air Force will reduce the size of its civilian workforce by about 900 positions in addition to maintaining approximately 7,000 vacancies across the force to meet the demands of a constrained fiscal 2014 budget, officials announced.
Specific reductions by location have not been determined.
The Air Force will implement civilian workforce shaping initiatives, along with continued targeted hiring to comply with mandatory funding targets and to rebalance the civilian workforce to meet skill demands for fiscal 2014 and beyond.
“The Defense Department used administrative furloughs to meet civilian pay budget demands in the compressed time frame between sequestration and the end of the FY13. We will meet a similar budgetary challenge in FY14 through a reduced workforce,” said Brig. Gen. Gina Grosso, the director of force management policy for the Air Force. The general added that the Air Force’s strategy to meet civilian pay budget targets does not include a furlough.
To reduce the number of employees assigned against previously and newly abolished positions, the Air Force plans to maximize the use of Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay to entice employees who are eligible to leave federal service to do so voluntarily. These programs offer early retirement for employees who are considering life outside of federal service and up to $25,000 for employees whose voluntary separation would save another employee from being involuntarily separated.
“Over the last couple of years the Air Force has gone through significant civilian pay budget challenges,”Grosso said. “By implementing voluntary programs now we hope to mitigate future involuntary losses to the civilian workforce.”
For information about civilian employment, reduction in force and other personnel issues, visit the myPers website at https://mypers.af.mil.
NSA Moves to Prevent Snowden-Like Leaks
Agency Implementing 2-Person Rule, Increasing Encryption Use
By Eric Chabrow, December 11, 2013
The National Security Agency has taken 41 actions to prevent leaks by insiders in the wake of disclosures of highly classified documents about the agency’s surveillance programs by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander says.
Appearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Dec. 11, Alexander was unapologetic about the mass data collection programs that some critics contend violate Americans’ privacy and civil liberties, saying he’s willing to work with Congress and industry to develop better surveillance methods as long as they don’t compromise the nation’s security.
To prevent future Snowden-like leaks, Alexander says the NSA is implementing the so-called two-person rule, which requires that two systems administrators approve jointly any access to systems and files containing highly classified materials (see NSA Pilots 2-Person Rule to Thwart Leaks).
The NSA also will increase the use of encryption to keep sensitive data secret from unauthorized individuals, Alexandar says. The 4-star Army general, who also heads the military’s cyber command, didn’t provide the committee with any more information about the 41 actions, but promised to furnish the panel with details on all those steps by Dec. 18.
Snowden Leak Details
In his testimony, Alexander also furnished more insight about how Snowden leaked the documents.
“His job was to move data,” the NSA director says. “He was the person to move the books from point A to point B; he was the SharePoint webserver administrator. His job was to do what he did. Therein lies part of the problem. We had one individual who had responsibility to move that data, who betrayed that trust. We believed [he] would execute that duty and in a manner that everybody agreed to be done.”
Citing a letter to President Obama and Congress from eight information technology companies calling for reforms of government surveillance programs, Alexander says he’s willing to meet with them to hear their ideas.
“They ought to be players here,” he says. “They have been hurt by this, unfairly hurt. … Industry has some technical capabilities that may be better than we have. If they have ideas about what we can do better to protect the nation and protect our civil liberties and privacy, we should put them on the table. I think that we should have a way to bring government and industry together for the good of the nation and we ought to take those steps.”
Patriot Act Provisions
The NSA’s data collection programs are authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which permits the government to apply to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act courts to compel businesses to hand over metadata of non-U.S. citizens. Another provision of the act, Section 702, allows the collection of communications data on foreigners located overseas. Some critics, though, contend information about Americans has been collected as well.
Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Alexander how many Americans had communications information collected under Section 215. Alexander responded the NSA has identified fewer than 200 telephone numbers searched under that provision.
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., sought a ballpark figure for the number of Americans whose communications information was collected under Section 702. But Alexander didn’t provide a figure, responding: “I don’t mean to hedge. Let me tell you the difficulties. If a terrorist we’re going after is talking to another person, in that communication, there is nothing that says, ‘I’m an American and here’s my Social Security number.’ The fact is that when we are tracking a terrorist, if they’re talking to five people and one of those is an American, the chances of us knowing that [he is an American] is very small. If we find out they are an American, then there are procedures the attorney general and courts have given us that we have to do to minimize that data [collection] on that American.”
Franken has introduced a bill that would require the NSA to estimate the number of Americans whose information had been searched by the government.
“The American people are skeptical of executive power. When there’s a lack of transparency they tend to suspect abuse,” Franken says. “Part of the reason to have transparency is for people to make their decisions based on some real information about whether or not this power is being abused.”
Alexander says he agrees with Franken and wants to work with Congress to create more transparency. “I think this is the right thing to do,” he says. “The number isn’t that big, and I think that if we can bring it to the American people and … when the American people understand that, they’ll know what we’re doing is right.”
Drone experts see booming ag market
by Press • 13 December 2013
MCMINNVILLE — Young Kim is a former U.S. Air Force pilot and familiar with the “outcome oriented” use of drone aircraft by the military. Get them over a target, conduct the surveillance or fire the missile – that’s how success is gauged.
Putting drone technology to work in agriculture, as he does now as general manager of Bosh Precision Agriculture in Virginia, requires an entrepreneurial mind-set.
“Do not waste growers’ time,” he said at drone technology forum in the heart of Oregon’s wine country this week. “You’ve got to deliver value very, very quickly. Show them how it will increase yield and lower inputs costs.”
Kim believes unmanned planes, equipped with sensors and cameras, will rapidly transform agriculture by providing quick, detailed information on plant health, soil and water conditions, disease or pest outbreaks and more. He said it’s a change similar to moving from analog to digital technology.
Agriculture is in the midst of a significant transformation, he said. The “biggest ag boom since the 1980s” is accompanied by a trend in which the number of farmers is declining but the acreage farmed by each is increasing, Kim said. At the same time, those farmers working large plots of land want the intimate knowledge they used to have of smaller acreage. Drones can provide that, but Kim said people shouldn’t get hung up on the “sexiness” of the technology.
“The real value is the data,” he said. “Focus on the problem of the grower and work backward from there.”
Kim was among a series of experts speaking at a day-long precision agriculture forum held in McMinnville, at the Yamhill County Fairgrounds. The county’s part-time economic developer, Jeff Lorton, believes the area’s renowned vineyards will benefit from the technology and hopes the county can attract drone makers and the legions of engineers and programmers who will follow the industry.
The forum included a brief outdoor demonstration of a small, four-bladed helicopter equipped with a video camera, which zipped about 50 feet in the air and hovered above the crowd. Images captured by the video camera were displayed on screens mounted on a control truck. About 100 people attended the forum, including vineyard owners, researchers and students.
John Parmigiani, an OSU mechanical engineering professor, displayed a fixed-wing drone painted to resemble a predatory hawk and programmed to mimic its flight patterns.
A student team under his direction built it as a project in 2012. The team wanted to find out if the “Mock Hawk” would scare damaging robins, starlings and cedar waxwings from vineyards, but the birds didn’t show in numbers enough to make the tests conclusive, Parmigiani said. The university is eager to test the drone again, he said.
“You can tell this thing what to do and it will go out and do it,” he said. “This really looks promising, the technology is there.”
Researchers with the University of California-Davis have test-sprayed vineyards and nut orchards with a 200-pound, unmanned helicopter made by Yamaha Motor Co. About 2,000 of the devices are in use in Japan, said Ken Giles, a UC-Davis agricultural engineering professor. Regulations have limited the researchers to spraying only water so far, not actual pesticides, but application coverage, speed and cost considerations appear favorable, Giles said. The ability to spot spray crops could be a significant advantage, he said.
To reassure potential critics, university researchers opened flight demonstrations to the public.
“You want to talk about a couple things people get jumpy about, it’s pesticides and drones,” Giles said.
Eric Folkestad, president of the Cascade chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International said groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union are worried police agencies will use drones to peek into people’s backyards without a search warrant. Agriculture has no such interest, he said.
“We don’t use these systems to spy on people,” he said. “We’re the good guy drones.”
In farming, the technology can mitigate risks, Folkestad said. He predicted drone use will become like other specialized crop services offered by companies or co-ops, rather than taken up by individual farmers.
Ryan Jenson, chief executive of the Portland-based HoneyComb Corp., said his company will begin selling its fixed-wing Ag Drone in January 2014. The drone, “ready to go out of the box,” costs $14,995, can be launched by hand and comes in a case that can be thrown into the back of pickup for transport to fields. “It’s a flying robot,” he said.
The drone’s cameras, including infrared sensors, will provide early detection of disease or pest outbreaks, irrigation problems, plant stress or other issues, Jenson said. His company will process the data at a per acre charge to be determined later, with the first month free.
A key point in the forum discussion came when an audience member asked Jenson if his “drone in a suitcase” is legal for farmers or service companies to fly. The short answer is “not yet,” but the Federal Aviation Administration is working to establish drone guidelines by 2015. For now, unmanned aerial systems may be flown for pleasure or in conjunction with university research, but advocates are optimistic the FAA will recognize the value of agricultural applications.
When the FAA integrates commercial drone use into the national airspace, backers expect an industrial boom. The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International projects the idustry will produce an $82 billion economic impact and create more than 100,000 jobs by 2025.
Agriculture is likely to be an early adapter of the technology, speakers at the McMinnville forum said.
Michael Wing, an OSU forestry professor who will test drones over three Yamhill County vineyards in the coming year, said the industry is just getting started.
“It’s a revolution in the application of remote sensing, and it’s happening right in front of us,” he said.
Senate confirms James as next secretary of the Air Force
Published December 13, 2013
WASHINGTON (AFNS) —
Deborah Lee James will be the next secretary of the Air Force, according to a Senate confirmation vote Dec 13.
James provided testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee Sept. 19, before the full Senate voted on her confirmation. Now the president must appoint her before she can assume her new position.
“I view this opportunity as the privilege and an honor of a lifetime. I will work very hard to insure that I live up to what is an enormous amount of trust that may be placed in me,” said James during her confirmation hearing. “My goal would be to leave our Air Force some years from now on a path toward greater capability and better affordability for our taxpayers, and with the people who underpin everything who are second to none.”
Undersecretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning assumed the role of acting when then-Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley stepped down in June.
President Obama nominated James Aug. 1, 2013. At that time, she was serving as president of the technology and engineering sector at Science Applications International Corporation.
Pending the president’s appointment, James will be sworn into the position this month.
Air Force looks to boost combat readiness
By Barrie Barber – Staff Writer
The Air Force will spend more money to boost declining combat readiness if Congress passes a budget to reduce the impact of sequestration, but the military branch is still sorting through how the additional dollars might impact spending, the service branch’s top leaders said Friday.
In a press conference live streamed Friday, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning and Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh briefed reporters on the state of the military service in an annual address.
Welsh said the potential of partial relief from the budget sequester, or automatic spending reductions, won’t eliminate the need to reduce the size of the Air Force. “We can’t afford to operate and maintain the size of the Air Force we have today,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Air Force announced it will cut 900 civilian positions and an undetermined number of military jobs service wide in 2014 because of budgetary woes. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base has not yet been able to determine how many of those reductions will hit the Miami Valley base, spokesman Daryl Mayer said in an email Friday.
Welsh said he didn’t think the recently released force management guidelines would change, but didn’t rule out it might change within months. The House passed a two-year budget plan that would restore about $22 billion in sequester reductions to the military if the Senate passes the measure.
A new Air Force civilian leader will face budget and other questions soon. Deborah Lee James, a former defense firm executive, will take over as Secretary of the Air Force on Tuesday, replacing Fanning. The Senate confirmed her nomination Friday.
Fanning, a Centerville High School graduate, has temporarily served in the lead role since June, when the secretary, Michael B. Donley stepped down.
Fanning said the nation rightly expects defense spending to shrink as the nation winds down a wartime footing in Afghanistan and ended fighting in Iraq, but the immediacy of sequestration cuts have been destructive and forced the service to make choices it otherwise wouldn’t.
While Congress has resisted cutting military bases and opposed cuts to personnel, readiness and modernization programs faced the biggest threats, the two leaders said. This summer, the Air Force temporarily grounded some aircraft squadrons and halted or reduced training and furloughed most of the civilian workforce, including 10,000 at Wright-Patterson, because of sequestration. A second civilian furlough happened in October because of a 16-day federal government shutdown due to a budgetary stalemate in Washington.
“This has resulted in a profound impact on our readiness,” Fanning said, adding the Air Force has faced an ongoing decline in readiness for 20 years. “Tiered readiness models simply don’t work for the Air Force.” The military must be able to respond to a crisis around the globe rapidly, he said.
Welsh said sequestration has forced the dilemma of choosing between near term readiness and the long-term modernization of the fleet, and the Air Force has attempted to strike a balance between the two.
Even so, he reiterated the service’s commitment to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the KC-46 aerial refueling tanker and a new long-range strike bomber.
“Our legacy fighters against the new generation fighter will not survive,” he said. “Operationally, it’s just a fact.”
Welsh said he does not back cutting purchases of new F-35s coming off the production line over modernizing existing combat aircraft. Reducing purchases would increase the per unit cost, he said, which has declined with the addition of allied nations buying the controversial plane.
“This is not a good time to walk away from the F-35 program in any way, shape or form,” the four-star general said.
Neither Welsh nor Fanning ruled out a new combat search and rescue helicopter despite budget constraints. “We’ll just have to see what the budget holds,” Welsh said.
“The mission is part of the fabric of our Air Force,” he added. “The mission is not going anywhere.”
The Air Force reportedly has considered pulling the A-10 Thunderbolt II attack plane, a 1970s-era tank busting subsonic jet flown extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan, out of the fleet to cut costs, but the two leaders did not indicate that would happen soon.
Welsh said the F-35 would eventually replace the A-10 in the close air support mission to defend troops on the ground. “It’s like the B-52,” he told reporters. “We can’t rely on the B-52 for the next hundred years.”
The military will look for redundancies to eliminate among the services’ missions, such as in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, to reduce duplication and pare Defense Department costs, Welsh said.
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, December 14, 2013
For voters, it seems, you can’t always get what you want.
Only 12% of Likely U.S. Voters favor a federal budget that increases government spending, but that’s just what the bipartisan budget deal passed by the House late this week does. It restores billions cut by the sequester on March 30 and puts off potential savings for several years.
Fifty-six percent (56%) want a long-term budget deal that cuts spending instead, but then only 29% expected Congress to reach such a deal to avoid another government shutdown.
No wonder just seven percent (7%) think Congress is doing a good or excellent job. A plurality (47%) now believes their representative in Congress is not the best person for the job, and 43% don’t think he or she deserves reelection. Both are highs for the year.
Sixty-one percent (61%) of voters expect spending to go up under President Obama, the highest finding in three years, even though 53% think cuts in government spending are the best way to help the economy.
Just 19% agree with the president and many congressional Democrats that those who are already in this country illegally should be put on the path to citizenship before the borders are fully secured against future illegal immigration. But pressure is growing in Congress for that approach. Most voters already believe that the government’s practices and policies encourage illegal immigration, and 60% believe the feds are not aggressive enough in deporting those who are here illegally.
Negative opinions of the new health care law also continue to grow. Voters feel as strongly as ever that Americans should have choices when it comes to how much health insurance coverage they want and how much they want to pay for it. Belief that the government should require every health insurance plan to cover the exact same set of procedures has fallen to its lowest level ever.
The president, however, may be moving past the nightmare that has marked the rollout of Obamacare since October 1. After several weeks of the lowest job approval ratings of his entire presidency, those ratings improved slightly at week’s end to levels not seen since September.
Positive views of Obama’s economic leadership are also up a bit since hitting their lowest level in a year and a half earlier this month. Still, only 36% of voters give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of economic issues, while 46% rate his performance in this area as poor.
Just 28% think the country is heading in the right direction, but that’s the highest level of confidence since late September.
Republicans still hold a five-point lead over Democrats – 43% to 38% – on the Generic Congressional Ballot.
One year after the elementary school massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, only 31% of Americans think it is even somewhat likely that Congress and the president will create tougher gun control laws. Fifty-nine percent (59%) say stricter gun control is unlikely. This is almost a complete reversal from just after the school shootings when 59% expected tougher gun control laws and 33% disagreed.
While mental health issues and gun control have gotten much of the attention over the past year, there is also support for limiting access to violent video games and movies like those many recent mass killers have been watching.
Many voters are wondering if the president’s handshake with Cuban leader Raul Castro at this week’s memorial service for Nelson Mandela signals a thaw in the relations between the two countries, but only 17% believe America’s relationship with Cuba will be better a year from now.
Many Americans are out shopping now with Christmas less than two weeks away, but consumer confidence at week’s end remained near its lowest levels of the year.
Only 31% of Employed Americans now work 40 hours a week. Forty percent (40%) work more. Nearly one-out-of-four (23%) say they work more hours during the holiday season to earn extra money.
Fifty-seven percent (57%) are in favor of raising the minimum wage from its current level of $7.25, but Americans are evenly divided over whether this will be good or bad for the economy.
In other surveys last week:
— Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Americans think Christmas should be more about Jesus Christ than about Santa Claus.
— Despite school policies to the contrary nationwide, 75% think Christmas should be celebrated in the public schools.
— Seventy-six percent (76%) are at least somewhat likely to make a charitable donation of some kind this year, including 57% who are Very Likely. This is the highest level of charitable giving measured in surveys since 2009.
— Time magazine this week named Pope Francis the person of the year. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Americans view the new pope favorably, and 56% think he has had a positive impact when it comes to the public’s impression of the Catholic Church.
— Arne Duncan is the president’s point man for the controversial Common Core national education standards being imposed on schools all over the country, but he remains largely unknown to voters after nearly five years of serving as the U.S. Secretary of Education.
— Americans remain very positive about the water they drink and the air they breathe, but 41% believe the overall environment in this country is getting worse.
7 December 2013
At many agencies, fears of an exodus
Hundreds of thousands of feds can retire today
Dec. 1, 2013 – 02:31PM | By SEAN REILLY
Across the federal government, only one out of every seven full-time employees is currently eligible to retire.
But that overall 14 percent ratio masks gaping disparities across agency and organizational lines. At one NASA organization — the Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley — the proportion of retirement-eligible employees stands at almost 28 percent, according to Office of Personnel Management statistics released at Federal Times’ request.
The statistics show that some agencies are far more vulnerable to a retirement-driven exodus than others.
“Yes, it is a concern to us,” said Karen Newton Cole, deputy chief human capital officer at the Housing and Urban Development Department, where almost a quarter of the workforce can immediately retire — the highest percentage of any Cabinet-level department. “If everybody suddenly decided to take a walk, it would cripple the agency.”
Although unsure of the reason for the high ratio of retirement-eligibles, Newton Cole saw it as a positive reflection of employee commitment to the department’s mission. Whatever the cause, HUD is updating its departmentwide succession plan and taking measures — such as cross-training workers for more than one job — to prepare for a smaller workforce, she said.
At the Federal Aviation Administration, a much larger agency where 22 percent of employees are retirement eligible, the cause isn’t hard to find. A large chunk of FAA’s workforce is made up of air traffic controllers hired after 1981 when President Ronald Reagan fired their predecessors in response to a strike. Unlike most federal workers, those controllers face mandatory retirement at age 56. In the past five years, the FAA has made more than 6,660 new hires to help replace about 3,000 controllers who retired over the same time, spokesman Hank Price said in an email.
But sequester-related budget cuts that took effect in March largely shut down that pipeline. The FAA had planned to hire more than 1,200 controllers in fiscal 2013; because of a sequester-related hiring freeze, only about 550 were brought on board, said Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association.
Although hopeful that the funding outlook will improve this year, the broader demographic trend means the situation is “probably going to get worse before it gets better,” Church said.
For agencies with a large number of employees eligible to retire, a phased-retirement option is one tool “to mitigate that risk,” said Adam Cole, a senior director at CEB, a member-based advisory firm in northern Virginia. Congress approved that option last year; the Office of Personnel Management is drafting rules to implement it.
Some entities have the opposite problem. At the Patent and Trademark Office, a branch of the Commerce Department that has been rapidly hiring to reduce a backlog of patent applications, less than 7 percent of the workforce can retire. At the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the figure is 10 percent.
Navy Cmdr. Bill Urban, a DCAA spokesman, attributed the relatively low number to hiring that has boosted the size of the total workforce by more than 700 employees in the last four years.
Among federal organizations with more than 1,000 employees, NASA’s Ames Research Center had the highest proportion of retirement-eligibles: More than one out of four of its 1,200employees are able to retire immediately. That percentage is well above other NASA agencies. At Ames, the staff is “very energized” by its work on aeronautics and space applications, Associate Director Deborah Feng said in written answers. In addition, she said, employees often leave to take jobs at local companies, only to return later on to Ames’ benefit.
But, while the center has a succession plan, Feng said, “limited hiring flexibility” is hampering its ability to prepare for “the departure of a large share of our seasoned workforce.”
Background check contractor at risk of suspension, experts say
USIS faces fraud claims in lawsuit
Nov. 3, 2013 – 06:00AM | By SEAN REILLY
The government’s top contractor that performs security clearance background investigations appears to be scrambling to head off suspension or debarment as it comes under increased fire for allegedly defrauding the government.
Last week, the Justice Department joined in a False Claims Act lawsuit filed against USIS of Falls Church, Va.. The firm performs almost two-thirds of the background checks for security clearances that are extended to millions of federal employees and contractors, according to one lawmaker.
The case, unsealed last week, was filed in Alabama two years ago by Blake Percival, a former director of fieldwork services at the company, who alleges that USIS systematically submitted background investigations to the government that were incomplete or not properly reviewed, which, if true, would constitute fraud.
“We will not tolerate shortcuts taken by companies that we have entrusted with vetting individuals to be given access to our country’s sensitive and secret information,” Stuart Delery, head of DOJ’s civil division, said in a news release. “The Justice Department will take action against those who charge the taxpayers for services they failed to provide, especially when their non-performance could place our country’s security at risk.”
The department is mulling whether to proceed with its own complaint.
In his suit, Percival charges that the firm defrauded the government by forwarding cases to the Office of Personnel Management that had either not undergone a contractually required review or “had not been investigated at all.”
The practice, known as “dumping,” aimed to pump up revenue because USIS is paid about $1,900 for every investigative report turned in to OPM before the next-to-last day of the month and just 75 percent of that amount thereafter, Percival alleges. When Percival refused to order his employees to continue dumping, he was fired in June 2011, according to the suit.
USIS, which became aware of the allegations 18 months ago, has cooperated with the investigation, said the company’s spokeswoman Brandy Bergman. She declined comment on whether the company has had any discussions with OPM about the possibility of suspension or debarment. By press time late last week,an OPM spokesman had not responded to the same question.
The company, owned by the investment firm Providence Equity Partners, came under scrutiny earlier this year because it performed the background checks both for Edward Snowden, the one-time National Security Agency contractor who has leaked details of classified programs to the media, and Aaron Alexis, a former Navy reservist who gunned down a dozen people at the Washington Navy Yard in September before being killed by police. In the latter case, OPM has said that it believes that the check on Alexis was complete and fully complied with investigative standards.
Federal contractors faced with charges of serious wrongdoing typically respond by bolstering their ethics programs and removing problem executives as a way to demonstrate they are “responsible” companies that can continue to be entrusted with federal work.
USIS has revamped its senior management team and hired an independent integrity officer reporting directly to the board and CEO, according to Bergman. “We have acted decisively to ensure the quality of our work and adherence to OPM requirements,” Bergman said in a statement. Of the three USIS employees accused by Percival of participation in the dumping scheme, none is still with the firm.
Bob Meunier, a former suspension and debarment official with the Environmental Protection Agency who is now a consultant, said it appears that USIS — formerly known as U.S. Investigations Services — is trying to avert a cutoff of government business.
“In this day and age, you would be a fool to do nothing if you knew you were under investigation,” Meunier said, stressing that he had no direct knowledge of the case.
Jessica Tillipman, a contracts law specialist and assistant dean at George Washington University Law School, also sees USIS at risk of suspension or debarment. While any federal suspension or debarment official would likely take that option more seriously after the Justice Department intervened in a False Claims Act suit, the outcome would hinge in part on what steps the company does “to remedy the issue,” she said.
Since January, the company’s CEO has been Sterling Phillips, who in 2010 was brought in to lead tech firm GTSI in a shakeup after that company was briefly suspended from federal contracts for allegedly gaming set-aside programs.
USIS is the largest of three contractors that do background checks for OPM and other agencies, handling about 65 percent of the total, according to Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
At the Senate hearing last week, Elaine Kaplan, OPM’s acting director, said her agency continues to have “some level” of confidence in USIS, citing its management changes since Percival’s suit was filed.
“Rely, but trust, but verify,” Kaplan said, according to a transcript.
The Government Accountability Office has urged OPM to create yardsticks to measure the quality of background investigations. Brenda Farrell, a GAO director for defense capabilities and management, said at the Senate hearing that several years ago OPM had an agreement with the defense and intelligence communities to move forward, “but at this time, all we know is that that plan has fallen apart.”
More Chinese Air ID Zones Predicted
Dec. 1, 2013 – 04:18PM |
By WENDELL MINNICK, JUNG SUNG-KI and PAUL KALLENDER-UMEZU |
TAIPEI, SEOUL AND TOKYO — China’s establishment of an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) last week over the East China Sea has given the US an unexpected challenge as Vice President Joseph Biden prepares for a trip to China, Japan and South Korea beginning this week.
The trip was scheduled to address economic issues, but the Nov. 23 ADIZ announcement raised a troubling new issue for the US and allies in the region. China’s ADIZ overlaps the zones of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
Sources indicate China’s ADIZ could be part of its larger anti-access/area-denial strategy designed to force the US military to operate farther from China’s shorelines.
China might also be planning additional identification zones in the South China Sea and near contested areas along India’s border, US and local sources say.
China’s ADIZ might be an attempt by Beijing to improve its claim to disputed islands in the East China Sea also claimed by Japan, sources said. These islands — known as the Senkaku in Japan and the Diaoyu in China — are under the administrative control of Japan.
Mike Green, senior vice president for Asia and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), said this is part of a larger Chinese strategy beyond disputes over islands.
“This should be viewed as a part of a Chinese effort to assert greater denial capacity and eventual pre-eminence over the First Island Chain” off the coast, he said.
Green, who served on the US National Security Council from 2001 to 2005, said China’s Central Military Commission in 2008 “promulgated the ‘Near Sea Doctrine,’ and is following it to the letter, testing the US, Japan, Philippines and others to see how far they can push.”
June Teufel Dreyer, a veteran China watcher at the University of Miami, Fla., said “salami slicing” is a large part of China’s strategic policy. “The salami tactic has been stunningly successful, so incremental that it’s hard to decide what Japan, or any other country, should respond forcefully to. No clear ‘red line’ seems to have been established,” Dreyer said.
The Chinese refer to it as “ling chi” or “death from a thousand cuts.”
For example, China’s new ADIZ overlaps not only Japan’s zone to encompass disputed islands, but South Korea’s zone by 20 kilometers in width and 115 kilometers in length to cover the Socotra Rock (Ieodo or Parangdo). Socotra is under South Korean control but claimed by China as the Suyan Rock.
Seoul decided to expand its ADIZ after China refused to redraw its declared zone covering the islands. Seoul’s Ministry of National Defense (MND) and related government agencies are consulting on how to expand the South Korean ADIZ, drawn in 1951 by the US military, officials said.
“We’re considering ways of expanding [South] Korea’s air defense identification zone to include Ieodo,” said Wi Yong-seop, vice spokesman for the MND.
During annual high-level defense talks between Seoul and Beijing on Nov. 28, South Korean Vice Defense Minister Baek Seung-joo demanded that Wang Guanzhong, deputy chief of the General Staff of the Chinese Army, modify China’s ADIZ.
“We expressed regret over China’s air defense identification zone that overlaps our zone and even includes Ieodo,” Wi said after the bilateral meeting. “We made it clear that we can’t recognize China’s move and jurisdiction over Ieodo waters.”
Amid these growing tensions, South Korea’s arms procurement agency announced Nov. 27 it would push forward on procurement of four aerial refueling planes. Currently, South Korea’s F-15 fighter jets are limited to flying missions over Ieodo for 20 minutes. New tankers will extend that time to 80 minutes.
“With midair refueling, the operational range and flight hours of our fighter jets will be extended to a greater extent, and we will be able to respond to potential territorial disputes with neighboring countries,” a spokesman for South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said.
In the southern part of China’s ADIZ, which overlaps Taiwan’s ADIZ, Beijing was careful not to cover Taiwan’s Pengjia Island, which is manned by a Taiwan Coast Guard unit.
“The exclusion of the Pengjia Islet indicates that mainland China respects our stance,” said Chinese Nationalist Party legislator Ting Shou-chung. Relations across the Taiwan Strait have been improving over the past several years.
“We’re all waiting for the other shoe to drop,” said Peter Dutton, an ADIZ expert and director of the China Maritime Studies Institute at the US Naval War College.
“We’re looking to see how China will now behave,” he said. “Hopefully, they will not try to fly inside the airspace over the Senkaku Islands, since that is under Japanese sovereign administration and would therefore be a highly provocative act.”
Dutton downplayed fears of another civilian airliner being shot down, as was the case in 1983, when a Soviet Su-15 fighter shot down a South Korean airliner that strayed into Soviet airspace, killing 269.
In 1988, a US Navy Ticonderoga-class cruiser, the USS Vincennes, shot down Iran Air Flight 655 over the Arabian Gulf, killing 290. The Vincennes mistook the airliner for an Iranian F-14 Tomcat fighter jet.
“For civilian aircraft, this is really not a major issue,” he said. “Those aircraft almost always file flight plans in advance and follow the directions of ground controllers. This means that their route through the ADIZ would already by pre-approved, and this is not a problem for the Chinese.”
Dutton said the real concern is the freedom of military flights.
“But both the US and Japan have said they do not intend to alter their behavior or to abide by the ADIZ procedures, no matter what they are, for military flights,” he said.
In 2001, a Chinese J-8 fighter collided with a US Navy EP-3 Aries signals intelligence aircraft near Hainan Island. Bonnie Glaser, a China specialist at CSIS, said she does not expect China to “back down” from its ADIZ policy, and anticipates more intercepts by Chinese fighters of US reconnaissance aircraft.
“The risk of accident will undoubtedly increase, especially [with] fighters [flown at] Mach 1 by young, inexperienced pilots,” she said.
Alessio Patalano, a lecturer in the Department of War Studies, King’s College, London, said the Chinese move might have been prompted by the current tensions in the East China Sea, and recent discussions in Japan about how the military can deal with Chinese drones and manned patrol aircraft that intrude into Japan’s air defense space.
“Chinese authorities are seeking to force Japan to accept the existence of the dispute challenging Japanese control of the islands,” Patalano said. “The problem with this is that Chinese authorities are using military and paramilitary tools to force a change of status quo to what is a political issue.
“Of course, a more robust response could see the US and Japan deploy air assets in the overlapping areas of the ADIZ to challenge the Chinese position,” Patalano said. “US and Japanese aircraft flying together in the Chinese ADIZ would present a serious dilemma to Chinese authority.”
Green said the US should at least send a “joint US-Japan patrol into the area to prove the point that coercion does not work.”
The announcement of the ADIZ also affects the Chinese military, likely adding to the Air Force’s status over the traditional role the Army has played as national defender.
Defense Executives: Shortage of Engineers Is Not a Myth
By Sandra I. Erwin
U.S. defense executives are pushing back on suggestions that a shortage of science, math and engineering graduates is a fake crisis.
A deficit of STEM (short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics) skilled workers has been the conventional wisdom in Washington for years, but a crop of studies in recent months has poured cold water on the notion, embraced by defense industry, that a dearth of engineering talent poses a threat to U.S. industrial competitiveness and national security.
Industry officials want to avoid letting the STEM debate become, like climate change, a reality that gets challenged by deniers.
Defense executives were surprised to see a study published in April by the Economic Policy Institute that concluded there is no shortage of STEM workers in the United States. “Contrary to many industry claims,” the study said, “U.S. colleges and universities provide an ample supply of highly qualified STEM graduates.”
The EPI study sought to counter high-tech industry lobbying efforts to increase the number of foreign guest workers that are allowed into the United States on the premise that there are not enough qualified U.S. workers. According to EPI, “Our examination shows that the STEM shortage in the United States is largely overblown.”
These findings, which were widely reported by news media, muddy the waters for defense and aerospace firms that claim they have thousands of unfilled jobs because they cannot find qualified engineers. Industry CEOs also worry that a wave of baby boomer retirements in the coming years will dig a deeper hole.
The challenge for aerospace and defense companies is to not let broad generalizations obscure the facts, said Brian Fitzgerald, CEO of the Business Higher Education Forum, an organization of Fortune 500 CEOs and research university presidents.
“Data can be misinterpreted,” he said. A case in a point is a study by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce, which also cast doubts on the STEM shortage. It concluded that nearly half of the nation’s STEM graduates don’t go into STEM jobs. “The diversion of native-born STEM talent into non-STEM educational and career pathways will continue and likely accelerate in the future,” the Georgetown study said.
That trend should alarm defense industry because it means that, even if there is an ample supply of U.S.-born STEM graduates, many will choose to work in commercial, non-defense disciplines, said Fitzgerald. “Many STEM engineers go to Wall Street,” said Fitzgerald. “It’s a reflection of the value that the economy places on quantitative and analytical skills.”
He said defense companies should stop debating this issue and do something about it.
Many top U.S. defense contractors are taking action and becoming deeply invested in the STEM cause. They are pouring millions of dollars into education and training programs to help secure a skilled U.S.-born workforce. They fear that, increasingly, a majority of STEM graduates from U.S. universities are not American citizens and therefore are ineligible to work on sensitive military programs.
Executives point out that the United States has fallen way behind the power curve in STEM education, compared to other industrialized nations. The end of the Cold War and a dramatic decline in the Pentagon’s clout as a technology mover and shaker also play against defense industry recruiting, executive said.
The defense business just isn’t interesting enough for up-and-coming engineers, executives acknowledge. “Graduates have decided that aerospace and defense isn’t as sexy as it used to be,” said Peter Nicholas Lengyel, president and CEO of Safran USA, a subsidiary of France’s aerospace giant Safran Group.
In an interview, Lengyel said the company is not experiencing an engineer shortage, partly because of its internal programs that identify engineers with superior skills and promote them into senior positions. Safran does, however, have many unfilled jobs in high-tech manufacturing, he said.
In the defense sector, leaders have to counter the perception that the work involves dull, dirty factory jobs, said Linda P. Hudson, president and CEO of BAE Systems,
“When the general public hears the words ‘industrial base,’ they typically think of steel and grease,” Hudson said in a speech last week at the Atlantic Council.
“Young engineers, mathematicians, programmers, and cyber specialists rarely graduate today anxious to work in national security,” she said. “They have exciting choices: Google, Amazon, Instagram, Microsoft, McAfee, to name a few.”
Tens of thousands of skilled workers around the globe manufacture computer chips, she said. “But how about making radiation hardened microprocessors like our electronics business produced for NASA to power the Rover’s trip to Mars? Much of this talent is now being produced outside the United States,” she said. “But unlike Silicon Valley who can hire immigrant technology talent with an H1B visa, I need U.S. citizens to work on classified programs.”
Science, technology, engineering and math graduates, she said, “are the lifeblood of our industry. Unfortunately, we’re letting that blood spill away, and the supply is increasingly limited.”
In the race for top talent, Hudson said, “our industry is running with not just an arm tied behind its back, but a leg or two trussed up as well. … If we’re forced to forgo international talent, then we damned well better be doing something to produce that talent domestically.”
Hudson recognized that “our culture as an industry simply does not appeal to the incoming generation of workers. … We scare them away with our hierarchies, with our cubicles, with our gray walls and our red tape.”
How Did The U.S. Fall So Far Behind On UAS Integration?
by Patrick Egan • 3 December 2013
While it is no big revelation the FAA’s successive FAA administrators have been fiddling while the UAS/RPAS airspace integration Rome has burnt to the ground, but here we will examine how far ahead the rest of the world is and why?
The graphic aptly illustrates who is leading the way and how the U.S. as a country has fallen by the UA technology wayside to last place. All of this glory was accomplished with the political and bureaucratic prowess of some third world government. With all chagrins aside, it is only getting worse. If you’re not first… well, you get the picture.
Most folks don’t realize that this is the case as most reports paint a rosy picture of progress through diligence and hard work. Two limited type certificates hardly justifies all the public jubilation or even meritorious mention beyond a glaring watermark of a grossly ineffective agency. Smart guys are even getting bamboozled. Amazon’s Bezos will be delivering DVD’s packages by drone in 4 years. To be honest, he is a smart guy with the publicity stunt. Bezos has probably already made more money with drones than most other folks will dream of in a lifetime. All without having to deal with the FAA.
We’ve heard the same tired excuses over the last 10 years about manpower and budgets and why the FAA just can’t seem to move anything forward. “We need data” is definitely plausible, but has outlived its shelf life as there is tons of data folks have wanted to share. The unsophisticated ruse in the estimation of the rest of the world community has only produced absolute bewilderment. They’ve been asking for and denying data for that same 10 years all the while sanctimoniously crowing about leading the way. Worse, is the world’s largest advocacy group carrying the water espousing the same obtuse mantra. Credibility and public confidence in that baloney are lower than a proverbial snake’s belly and shame just doesn’t compute in proximity to the Beltway. The whole area could be recognized and designated a UNESCO world heritage scruple free zone. No new tale to tell here.
Silver lining alert…
It’s not all doom and gloom as the FAA has been effective at one thing, silencing critics (except one) by offering either special dispensation or fear of retribution. The old carrot and stick routine. They don’t even have to show the stick just allude to the carrot. Anytime there is carrot talk you can bet the rest of the community is getting the stick and usually the dirty end at that.
I had heard reports that in public FAA folks were saying they’re watching who’s doing what and will remember them when the regulations come out. Boy howdy, is that the textbook definition of representative government or what? Man alive it just makes me well up with inspiration and pride. Do you reckon the FAA’s current administration was cagey enough to hatch this plan in house? Nope, this one is straight out of the accomplish nothing and retire to the private sector playbook. For those outside of the U.S., it is all the rage right down to the city council level. Representative government has devolved into a state sanctioned stand and deliver rebrand with supposed customer service where they pick your pockets with a smile. The teleprompter matched with the right canned goods makes for a potent tool.
Look at the budgets and manpower afforded the FAA by Congress. Nearly a billion dollars requested for NextGen in the $18.5 billion FY 2014 budget, but no money for test sites or UAS NAS integration. Whoops must have slipped past someone’s watchful eye. Or, maybe their was/is no watchful eye watching managing the UAS integration project?? How many more billions of dollars will it take Mr. Huerta? Maybe if the staff traveled less, worked more, and had real oversight we’d of had or gotten some real progress? It’s all speculation as the sUAS News is still waiting on the UAPO/UASIO budgets and SOPs that were FOIA requested many months ago. Too busy planning the next working vacation in Europe or South America I suppose to get through the everyday paperwork.
On another side note…
Lets look at the rendering used in the DOT Budget Highlights PDF
Examine the rendering (in proximity to the Small Unmanned Systems Business Expo venue) looks very much like it was taken from a low altitude aerial photo. Possibly even shot from a drone. I can’t think of any tall enough buildings in that area where you get that shot.
Now, if we compare it to the budget (both manpower and money) at say the CAA U.K at 130,000,000 + pounds. They had a handful of people who certainly don’t have the budget to go on junkets all over the world. Sure, the air traffic isn’t the same scale either is the area and population, yet they were able to accomplish several stunning firsts in the vicinity of the 3rd busiest airport on the planet.
Disenfranchisement came early…
We, the small business stakeholder group, have been repeatedly and systematically disenfranchised from the public rulemaking process. Actually the process is designed and set up to disenfranchise people without lobbyists and or monetary means to stay in the public rule making process. For insurance, you install people that know as little as possible about the subject matter and drag it out for 5 to 10 years with no tangible results. Folks start falling by the wayside as they lose everything they have invested. Oh, and heaven forbid you bring it up… you should be happy to take your lumps or enjoy the fruits of the orchestrated debacle and suffer in silence.
The handwriting was on the wall over at RTCA. Things looked so bad after 7 years of reshuffled meetings with nothing to show that they had to scrap the whole 203 committee and start over. We are assured the 228 will get the support it needs to make progress. (I think the old script from 2005 was pulled out of the birdcage and trotted out as fresh ink.) But we have enough funding and manpower for this? Do we have a representative from the FAA that knows UAS from a can of Shinola. Or, do we have another new government person that will take 2 or 3 years to come up to speed? It could very well all be for naught. That effort may already be DOA as the scuttlebutt says the FAA isn’t going to support a public algorithm for ADS-B. Basically, that relegates ADS-B to a safety accessory. The Sky-king flight plan survives past 2020. Makes you wonder if that is at the behest of the AOPA. You need to get the “Administrator on the phone after hours” kind of clout. Yes, friends, they have that kind of pull.
He/she will have to take 6 months just to learn some of the acronyms. Then the vendors will all have to train them on the product lines that way when the integration hair shirt asks if they ever flown a UAS they can gleefully parrot… Wasp, Raven, Puma and sometimes ScanEagle. The later cost about $40,000 a head and isn’t as freely dispensed with as the interoffice musical chairs make a bad investment.
I can imagine that there is many an enterprising entrepreneur putting the business plan together. In the expenses column; training everyone in the UASIO, traveling to and fro D.C., following the staff around on the international junket circuit for the next 5 to 10 years. Then there are the dues and subscriptions to various associations, lobbyists, campaign contributions and all of the other trappings of the good old boy network. COA’s to fly out of public airports for commercial purposes don’t grow on trees Laddy. Actually, any and all special dispensation to play in this arena is going to cost you plenty of money. You start doing the math, and you realize real quick that your capital one card better come with an earmark-sized credit limit.
I knew it was all a sham prior to Margret Jenny (another beltway insider and company woman) who did not mention UAS when testifying to Congress about NextGen and what would be making the biggest impact on the NAS in the near future.
The only folks who still think the skies are opening up for UAS in September of 2015 are the mayor of Toronto and maybe Lindsay Lohan. However, post rehab I’m sure the doubts are starting to surface.
After 7 long years, ASTM is publishing documents. We’re fast tracking now as the canned goods have to be out and vetted for the DoD guys to fleece the municipalities out of money they could never hope to have. These same companies call me and ask what are big markets and where/how to invest to hit the jackpot. On the front side, they can’t be seen as associated with me as it would raise the ire of the FAA. No one who’s spent millions of dollars working the system wants to fall into disfavor with the Lords and Ladies of the FAA court.
The new square game includes hedging your bets by working all sides of the triangle…
You’ll hear how the DoD guys are working selflessly to get you into the NAS. I say hogwash and folks buying that malarkey are so deluded or ill informed that they could be beyond the righting of an intervention or re-education. Most reading this tome would most likely chuckle and say, ” I know, who’d buy that hogwash at this point?” Well, you’d be surprised how many people are betting the farm.
This graphic illustrates the money influence dynamic..
And it goes like this…
“I spoke with so and so over at the FAA, or someone at ATSM (they usually can’t remember whom they spoke with or his name) and he/they said in a year or so… we’ll be flying.” After laying out the end game, I get the old “you’re painting a dark picture response and that sounds like a lot of work.” On many occasions, I get off the phone and wonder how does a guy get a job with no experience in the field?
And Congress isn’t much help…
One of the newer go forward plans is to spend $10,000 on a lobbyist that knows nothing about the industry or what it needs. It’ll get the word out that we’re here, and things should work themselves out. Yeah, and then I ask if they read the BBC story about the Predator King, Big Buck’s “Buck” McKeon. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23024462
Now it is estimated that Buck has been on the receiving end of close to $850,000 in campaign contributions from the Drone industry. Now before you go breaking out the checkbook, realize that all they’ve been able to accomplish is for the public entities (the same group that can currently get COAs now) will get to go first. Gee willlikers, what systems will they buy? Most likely those usual suspects on the DOJ/DHS approved vendor list. Oh, they got this deal sewed up so tight, and everyone wants you to believe it all just happened that way. When you hear it’s all about safety, there is some truth in that as it is all about job safety. Do no harm to my career.
A couple more bullets in the back should kill this industry for small business…
Well, what about advocacy, who’s watching out for my patch? Unless your company is bringing down part of the $5 billion dollars a year in government contracts, your concerns may only warrant a chuckle.… Hard to squeeze personal gain out of a small business.
It is up to you to start advocating for yourself. Tell the companies and groups that are making money selling products that you would like to see them quit acting like the DoD blood money guys and put some of those profits into advocating for the small business end-user community.
Ok, you’ve highlighted the problems, what do we do?
Demand (not ask for) accountability from the FAA for public rulemaking.
A sub 2 or 3 kilo bin that is administered by a community based group. This will give people without huge budgets a safe place to operate. A reiteration of some of parameters… Speed under 35 knots, frangible made primarily of wood, plastic or foam. 400′ AGL and 1500′ laterally with no observer with direct pilot intervention. No class 2 medical, or commercial pilot certification.
Demand that the people involved with the rulemaking from the government side must know the technology they propose to regulate.
Demand that the people representing the industry must have industry experience. Not just board members from the DoD vendors and members of the GA groups.
Advocacy groups need to support qualified people (with experience operating UAS and running businesses) represent us to the FAA, ICAO and the Congress. Far too many mistakes have been made due to inexperience.
These existing conditions have added years as well as a hurdle to the airspace integration process.
Federal Government Shackles Unmanned Aerial System Industry
by Press • 3 December 2013
By Pamela Barrett
The relatively new technology of modern Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) inherently offers potentially great benefits to myriad facets of the U.S. economy. However, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the lead federal agency responsible for policy, regulation, and oversight of UAS technology and integration outside the military, has been working this issue since the mid- 2000′s—with little or nothing to show for its efforts.
The delays, lack of viable action, and strict unnecessary limitations the FAA mandates are having, and will continue to have, will negatively impact UAS businesses, UAS professionals, and the economy as a whole. UAS applications in agribusiness alone could save farmers and growers millions of dollars annually if they could apply UAS water and pest technologies that are already available. Locating precious and rare earth metals and other natural resources using UAS technology would not only economically benefit the mining and energy industries, but pinpointed drilling, excavations, and locations for infrastructure would save wild lands and wildlife as well. And while the extensive financial impact is of great import, it pales in comparison to the effect the FAA’s folly is having on public safety and disaster relief initiatives. If the UAS community were allowed to germinate and grow safe, effective, innovative, and entrepreneurial UAS/public safety technologies, lives could be saved and property reclaimed and protected. Yet the actions of the FAA are stifling the capabilities of law enforcement, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel.
There are a number of significant concerns regarding the UAS roadmap recently released by the FAA, specifically regarding the timeline for regular access to the National Airspace System (NAS) and current procedures. According to Patrick Egan, author of “Are You Tired of Hearing Excuses From The FAA?” and Host and Executive Producer of the sUAS News Podcast Series, “The small UAS ARC [Advisory and Rulemaking Committees] put out their recommendations on April 1, 2009, yet we still haven’t seen the NPRM [Notice of Proposed Rulemaking]. The NPRM was to be released for public comment almost two years ago. Sadly, it appears that we will miss the December 2013 NPRM timeline we were told about this spring/summer.” He went on to say “…recommendations for the NPRM are disheartening as there is no small business stakeholder representation in, on, or around that committee.” It appears the committee and the FAA as a body lack representation from anyone with any significant UAS experience. This is a real tragedy because small businesses potentially have the most to lose financially.
Egan stated, “References made to ‘develop standards’ or ‘facilitate the development of standards’ for pilot certification and aircraft certification are ambiguous and disheartening for those of us safety-minded stakeholders and end-users trying to build a legal business plan.” The overall effect of the FAA’s lack of adequate response and action has had a chilling effect on the UAS industry in the United States. Amazingly, this lack of action is taking place at a time of a huge economic downturn. Also, it is not affording an industry which has the opportunity to increase employment and productivity the chance to safely and effectively do so. Egan continued, “Even more disconcerting are the Class 2 medical requirements for operators of smaller UASs and the [significant] standoff distances from airports. All of this, coupled with a very limited flight envelope [and] the lack of a public algorithm for ADS-B” [a replacement/supplement to traditional radar-based aircraft surveillance] will have the effect that the domestic UAS industry will be stillborn.” Egan went on to suggest the FAA examine “the pragmatic work done by some of the European countries like the United Kingdom…,” and seek input from this nation’s stakeholders who have significant UAS experience in safe and effective UAS operations. Rather than allowing bureaucracy and lack of expertise to stifle progress, the FAA should incorporate experienced UAS companies and their experts into the process, thereby helping create comprehensive capabilities to approach and solve issues.
Small business owner Brian Wimmer of Thompson-Wimmer, Inc., a UAS consulting and systems integration company in Sierra Vista/Fort Huachuca, Arizona is also frustrated by the limitations placed upon commercial and private-party uses of UAS technologies. Mr. Wimmer stated, “Our hands are tied. There are so many wonderful uses for UAS technology that could benefit not only the United States, but the world. The restrictions upon the industry will benefit no one other than the U.S. government. It’s preposterous. In a time when the people of this country need exciting technologies, economic opportunities, innovation, and a rebirth of the entrepreneurial spirit, we are hampered by red tape and nonsensical mandates by an agency that either doesn’t truly understand the industry, or that has an agenda that excludes the greater good of the American people.”
Underground drone economy takes flight
Alistair Barr and Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY 9:37 p.m. EST December 2, 2013
SAN FRANCISCO — Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos says in the future drones delivering packages will be as common as mail trucks. But for many entrepreneurs, the drone economy is already here.
“There are many people out there making extraordinary amounts of money,” says Gene Robinson, who uses drones to help authorities with search and rescue missions. “You can even get liability insurance to operate now.”
While the Federal Aviation Administration hasn’t yet drafted regulations for the futuristic unmanned devices and limits their commercial use, some players have already plunged in:
Real estate specialist Manie Kohn uses drones to video luxury properties. Terence Reis flies them to photograph surfers. Brad Mathson monitors farmland in the Dakotas, while Ryan Kunde uses a drone to improve production at his vineyard.
Bezos thrust drones into the spotlight when he talked about his plans to use them to deliver packages on 60 Minutes Sunday night. But thanks to drones’ ability to shoot aerial photos and video steadily and collect other data cheaply, they are already being used in many sectors, including movie making, sports, mining, oil and gas production and construction.
Most of the activity is outside the U.S. because of regulatory uncertainty. But there are a lot of U.S. drone operators who are either hobbyists, or who provide drone services for free or in return for donations. Business owners can also operate their own drones for their own benefit. And at times, money changes hands out of the FAA’s gaze.
Manie Kohn founder and CEO of Don’t Tell Me Show Me pilots his Quadcopter at a home in Hillsborough, Cali. on Wednesday, November 6, 2013. Kohn runs a business that uses a drone to make aerial videos of real estate.(Photo: Martin E. Klimek for USA TODAY)
“I walk down the street and see drone dollars everywhere,” says Patrick Egan, a drone consultant who heads the Silicon Valley chapter of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, or AUVSI, a lobbying group for the industry. “The potential is huge, and thousands of people are already flying them around the U.S. making money.”
Once the FAA drafts its drone regulations, integrating the devices into U.S. airspace could boost the economy by at least $13.6 billion in the first three years and the economic benefit may top $82 billion between 2015 and 2025, the AUVSI estimated earlier this year. It could also create more than 70,000 new jobs, including 34,000 manufacturing positions, in the first three years, the group forecast. In 10 years, it projects 100,000 jobs will be added.
Egan says those numbers don’t account for the impact of future regulation, focused on safety and privacy, which could increase the cost of operating drones and reduce the value of the technology.
Despite such uncertainty, the commercial potential of drones has attracted big investors.
Airware, which makes software and systems that control drones, raised more than $10 million this year from Andreessen Horowitz, a big venture capital firm, and Google’s venture capital arm.
“There will be a whole economy around it, with entrepreneurs creating technology for specific types of customers,” says Chris Dixon, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz who joined Airware’s board of directors. “There are a number of obvious applications, and lots of less-obvious applications that we haven’t even thought of yet.”
But a lot of the action involves individual entrepreneurs and small business owners who are using this new technology to either make more money from existing operations or branch out into new areas.
Drones have mostly been used by the U.S. military to shoot missiles at enemy combatants in countries such as Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the cost of these unmanned aircraft has dropped precipitously in recent years, making them more affordable.
3D Robotics, a drone manufacturer run by former Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson has already sold “tens of thousands” of drones and the company will soon launch a new model called IRIS, aimed at consumers and other individuals, that will cost about $750.
Drones cost millions of dollars just a few years ago, partly because the components needed to control them, such as global positioning systems, gyroscopes and accelerometers, were so expensive, according to Anderson. The boom in smartphones, which contain most of the same hardware, has increased production massively, lowering costs.
Says Anderson, “This is bringing technology from the military industrial complex within reach for lots of people.”
Manie Kohn, who works in the high-end real estate market of the San Francisco Bay Area, got his hands on drones for the first time about three years ago.
He used to use helicopters to shoot aerial photos and video of luxury properties for real estate agents who were willing to pay $20,000 for an extra service that could help win big commissions.
But helicopters were expensive, noisy and limited in how low they could fly. So Kohn started building his own drones to do the job and has spent at least $45,000 developing the machines, getting trained to fly them, accumulating certifications and lining up insurance.
It took Kohn about a year to track down an insurer that would cover his drone operation. Transport Risk Management now provides him with coverage that starts at $1 million and covers damage to property, people and the drones themselves. The cost of the policy depends on proficiency, so Kohn had to get official training and certification.
“There is an ever growing demand for this type of coverage,” Dawnell West, an insurance agent at Transport Risk Management, wrote in a recent e-mail to Kohn.
Terence Reis, a 54-year-old IT professional based in Oahu, started using a drone this year for his part-time business, KahiwaKiwi Media Productions, which shoots surfing photos and takes other photos and video of Hawaii ocean life.
Reis spent about $5,000 on parts and equipment. But it has helped him take better pictures and video from locations that he couldn’t have reached before.
“Before, I would shoot from a helicopter, which was very expensive — about $300 to $400 an hour,” he says. Helicopters also could not get low enough and they vibrated a lot, which meant the images had to be edited heavily. Reis’s drone is steadier, which sometimes means no editing is needed.
“It gives a different dimension to my footage,” he added. “It’s opening up new doors to new clients.”
The biggest opportunities, at least initially, may be in agriculture, because big farms do not have many people on them, reducing the risk that wayward drones might cause injuries if and when they crash.
Dakota Precision Ag Center is using drones that cost about $3,000 to collect agricultural data that helps farmers produce more by monitoring crops and cattle and guiding watering and fertilizer application.
Using traditional methods, about 100 to 300 acres of farmland can be monitored a day, but using drones that number can rise to 2,000 or 3,000 acres a day, according to Brad Mathson, assistant director of the Dakota Precision Ag Center.
Ryan Kunde of DRNK Wines uses a drone to keep an eye on how grapevines are growing in his vineyard in Sonoma, Calif.
Kunde flies the drone over the vineyard, takes photos and uses software to stitch together a map of the area. By comparing maps at the same time of the season each year, he can spot which grapes are developing quickest, which helps to decide where to harvest first. The same drone images help with estimating crop sizes, giving Kunde more time to line up the right number of grape buyers.
“Any time I want to fly, I can get the drone in the air the same day,” he says. “Satellites and helicopters need booking in advance and the drone can fly lower and capture better images.”
The Motion Picture Association of America has been lobbying the Obama administration to let filmmakers use drones, arguing that putting a camera on an unmanned aircraft can be cheaper, safer and more useful than relying on a helicopter or a crane to get a difficult shot.
The effort has not borne fruit. But drones are already being used in making movies, TV shows and advertisements, according to Gus Calderone of IsisCopter LLC, which makes drones and related equipment.
Drones with rigs costing $25,000 carry cameras in Hollywood that weight about 15 pounds and are worth $30,000 to $40,000, he explains.
“This is a major underground market,” Calderone says. “Some people are hiding. Others are in plain sight, and it’s happening way more than people know.”
SEARCH AND RESCUE
Gene Robinson runs his search and rescue service through a non-profit called RP Search Services, which uses drones with high-resolution cameras and infrared sensors to track down missing people and help authorities obtain access more safely to dangerous areas.
Gene Robinson launches a Spectra flying wing platform which can be configured to carry most any sensor and operate in just about any environment.(Photo: rpflightsystems)
RP Search Services receives donations and gets other payments to cover its costs, but it does not get any money beyond that, Robinson says, adding, “That would get us into trouble with the FAA.”
GETTING U.S. FIRMS INTO THE GAME
The FAA said in 2007 that drones, or Unmanned Aircraft Systems, cannot be flown commercially. And so much of the world’s commercial drone activity is happening outside the U.S.
The regulator aims to have regulations in place by 2015, and an FAA spokeswoman says it plans to propose a rule for small drones next year. It is also expected to pick six test sites by the end of this year.
The FAA is likely to come out with tiered regulations, according to Chris Anderson of 3D Robotics. Small drones may be regulated lightly, while heavier, faster drones that fly higher may face much stricter rules. Drone flights in very lightly populated areas will probably get cleared earlier than activity in urban areas, he predicts.
“This has the huge potential reshape the landscape of industries and the economy, but if drones are improperly deployed that would cause more harm than good,” he says. “I’m not surprised the regulatory process is involved and lengthy.”
Still, some commercial drone experts worry that the FAA is taking too long, giving a valuable head start to other countries such as Japan, Canada, the U.K., France and Australia.
“People are using this technology in a much more widespread way outside the U.S., especially in Australia, which supports commercial applications,” says Jonathan Downey, founder of Airware. “If the U.S. takes too long and the regulations are too restrictive, it will just be used in other countries, and the technology will be developed in other countries as well.”
In France, Delta Drone has been training drone operators in its own school for about a year. The course takes roughly a week and then another three days to learn techniques for specific industries. Once trained, Delta Drone signs service contracts with companies, mostly in the mining industry currently, then brings the operators in as sub-contractors.
So far, 69 drone pilots have graduated and 80 should be trained by the end of 2013.
“It’s growing very fast,” Delta Drone co-founder Fabien Blanc-Paques said.
Pentagon Disconnects iPhone, Android Security Service, Forcing a Return to BlackBerry for Some
By Aliya Sternstein
December 3, 2013
Some military members who were working off Apple and Android-based smartphones and tablets now must return to using older model BlackBerrys because of a security service switchover, according to an email obtained by Nextgov and confirmed by Pentagon officials.
The Defense Department is building a new mobile device management system to monitor government-issued consumer smartphones on military networks, but it’s not yet ready for prime time.
Employees within at least one Army organization were forced to disconnect iPhones, iPads and Android devices from their existing security service, Good Mobile Messaging, because the Pentagon is deploying a new departmentwide system by Fixmo, states an email that appeared in an Army listserve.
Army personnel “have been told that between now and whenever this ‘fixmo’ is online, their Droids and iThings are simply to become useless,” the email said. The Defense Information Systems Agency is in the midst of transitioning smartphone users in each military component to the full $16 million system.
“The victim, er organization under migration offered their [Good] licenses and servers and expertise to DISA, but were told no, don’t want it,” the email continues. “Expectation is that Droid and iThing users will be deviceless until March 2014 at earliest, and they can either do without or go back to a BB 9930,” an older model BlackBerry smartphone, “So…..once again, we are going to save money through consolidation no matter how much it costs.”
After a proposed buyout of BlackBerry collapsed last month, Pentagon officials emphasized efforts to wean service members off reliance on the company’s devices. But officials on Monday night acknowledged BlackBerry will retain its position in the department’s mobile computing arsenal for now.
“DISA will support BlackBerry devices with the existing [Blackberry Enterprise Server]. During the transition period, DISA is not provisioning new iOS/Android users on the existing server,” Pentagon spokesman Damien Pickart said in an email. “We are delaying provisioning of those devices until the [mobile device management] environment is ready in Jan 2014. We will provision new devices as rapidly as possible starting in January 2014.”
The aim is to hook up 100,000 military personnel and their government-furnished Apple, Samsung, BlackBerry and other consumer devices to the security service by September 2014.
Some defense contract analysts say the more popular commercial devices may not meet battlefield security standards.
Ray Bjorklund, a longtime procurement specialist who now serves as president of BirchGrove Consulting, speculated that “there may be a more fundamental issue of device suitability among the major manufacturers and OS versions.”
According to DISA approval documents, only BlackBerry phones and Playbook tablets have an “authority to operate,” or ATO, on Defense networks — not Android, Apple or any other device lines.
Bjorklund returned to the question raised by the listserv email, about the short-term sacrifices Defense is making to potentially control long-term costs.
“At what cost consolidation? I am quite certain the DoD has completed some semblance of a business case for this program. However, I know it’s often difficult to rationalize business cases in the military based on some future horizon,” he said. The rationale of “spend money now to save money later” is a “stretch rationale in daily government operations. I hope the disruption is worth it.”
UPS and Fedex Are Also Working on Drone Delivery Systems
By Christopher Mims
December 3, 2013
Amazon’s next-day shipping miracle is possible only because it relies on companies like UPS to deliver its goods. So the news that UPS is experimenting with its own drone delivery system, reported today by The Verge, is an implicit endorsement of Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s announcement at the weekend of Amazon’s own drone delivery plans. FedEx founder Fred Smith too has plans to deliver packages by drone, but it won’t be the small, quadcopter kind favored by Amazon. Instead, Smith wants the giant planes FedEx has criss-crossing the country to be replaced by unmanned aircraft because, he told Wired four years ago, a plane that doesn’t have to carry any people can be designed quite differently, with a lot more space for cargo.
Both efforts also seem to be about eliminating humans from the supply chain. A self-driving UPS truck that rolls onto the block, cracks open like a Decepticon and spews a small fleet of drones that fly out to drop packages on front stoops would go a long way towards reducing the company’s huge—and unionized—workforce. FedEx’s plans would eliminate airline pilots, who aren’t cheap either.
What’s stopping Amazon, UPS and FedEx is a combination of technological and regulatory issues. In the US, the Federal Aviation Administration wants to be able to certify drones as safe before it will allow them to fly autonomously, which means engineers have to figure out how to program drones to avoid human beings and each other. It’s the same thicket of problems faced by self-driving cars, and resolving it means trusting machines to a degree unprecedented in human history. Or in other words, it could happen any day now.
Drone-Delivery Expert on Amazon’s Plans
By Alexis Madrigal
December 3, 2013
Two and a half years ago, Andreas Raptopoulos founded Matternet, a company devoted to creating a network of drones that could deliver lightweight packages. It’s starting with medical applications, with plans to extend from there to “bring to the world its next-generation transportation system.” To hear Raptopoulostell it, when the histories are written in a few decades, people will think: electric grid, road infrastructure, telephone lines, Internet, mobile phones, and … tiny flying drones.
“We think about it not just as a point-to-point delivery, but as a network. What can you do if you have many stations of these flying drones?” Raptopoulos said. “What can you do with a system like this in the developing world, in our cities, in our megacities? We’re convinced that it’s going to be the next big paradigm in transportation.”
Of course, last night, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos revealed Amazon Prime Air, his company’s plans to use drones at some point in the future to deliver packages to customers.
It all sounds a little crazy. And we can all think of many objections to drone delivery networks. They won’t have enough range! People will shoot them down! What if they crash! They can’t operate in places where you can’t get a steady GPS signal!
Given that Amazon seems unlikely to give real answers to these questions, I contacted Raptopoulos, who has spent the last several years deeply engaged with these problems since working on a project at Singularity University in 2011.
First off, why create a network of flying drones at all?
“You have the technology that can help the most difficult part of delivery: The last-mile problem. You have a lightweight package going to a single destination.You cannot aggregate packages. It’s still way too complicated and expensive. It’s very energy inefficient,” Raptopoulos said. “UAVs or drones deal with the problem of doing this very efficiently with extremely low cost and high reliability. It’s the best answer to the problem. The ratio of your vehicle to your payload is very low.”
Part of the argument is that our current last-mile delivery system can seem kind of ridiculous, at least from an energy efficiency point of view.
As Raptopoulos put it: “In the future, we think it’s going to make more sense to have a bottle of milk delivered to your house from Whole Foods rather than get in your car and drive two tons of metal on a congested road to go get it.”
Of course, we could also build walkable neighborhoods that don’t require driving as often as we do, but walkability requires density—and even places like San Francisco sometimes balk at the sorts of buildings that entails. And we’ve got a lot of low-density infrastructure in place that isn’t going away anytime soon.
How quickly could this all happen?
The technology is getting there. It is not as good as people assume. There is a lot of hype around what drones can do today.
Amazon has said their timeline is dependent on rulemaking for civilian drone flights by the Federal Aviation Administration. “We hope the FAA’s rules will be in place as early as sometime in 2015,” their website contends. “We will be ready at that time.”
But even Raptopoulos, a booster of the technology, is skeptical of that timeline.
“It’s not going to happen in the U.S. in the next two or three years. Even if you’re optimistic, it’s not going to happen before three to five years,” he said. “Our assumption is that this may happen in other places in the world first. It may happen in the global south in countries that are developing and don’t have alternatives. There, it’s not about cost reduction but giving access when you don’t have access at all.”
Is this technology anywhere close to ready for mass deployment?
“The technology is getting there. It is not as good as people assume. There is a lot of hype around what drones can do today. We see it in biotechnology. We see it in robotic technology in particular,” Raptopoulos said. “We need to resolve a lot of things before we can get to the point where it is reliable or effective.”
Matternet has developed half a dozen drone prototypes and tested them in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. “The next step is to operate a network for a month in a real location where it solves a real problem,” Raptopoulos said. “The next big item on our calendars is how we can get that trial—and we think it’s going to happen in the first half of next year.”
But what about the range of the technology? The batteries aren’t good enough, are they?
“We started at 10 kilometers and got to 20 kilometers. Even without assuming a battery breakthrough, we see a 5x increase in the range. If you factor in some advancements to battery development, you might see another 3x increase to 300 kilometers,” he contended.
In the near term, Matternet is still trying to get to 100 kilometers by optimizing their system and subsystems. But Raptopoulos is optimistic that itwill happen. “There are quadcopters out there that can do 50 kilometers a day, but they cost 10x what our target cost is,” he said. “How can you get the technology better while keeping the cost down? Technology is pretty good at that. It’s inevitable it’s going to happen.”
But what about reliability?
“We need to design these vehicles to make sure they don’t represent a public risk. If we’re able to do that, we’re ready for primetime,” Raptopoulosresponded. “The way to unlock regulatory approval is to show with really good data, 99.9999999—seven nines—percent reliability. Then, of course, you’ll have regulatory approval.”
So far, he doesn’t think that any of the burrito or pizza delivery stunts qualify as anything close to a real solution to the delivery question.
“People saying, ‘We’re doing this kind of delivery in China.’ Or talking about burritos, pizza, tacos, whatever. All this stuff is BS. In order to get the deliveries working as a system, the drones need to be reliable. Cars are reliable. Planes are reliable.”
He continued, “There are three things you’re trying to optimize for reliability: time, development, and keeping the cost per vehicle down. The more time and money and cost per vehicle you allow, the better the reliability. For Amazon’s application to make sense, the vehicle cost should be below $20,000. If its $100,000, it’s not cost-effective anymore.”
But he saw reliability as far from an insurmountable problem. “It’s the same thing we have with every technology. We know we’ve been able to build much more complex machines. A 777 has thousands of moving parts, versus eight for a quadcopter. But the question is how quickly, for what level of money, for what reliability. These are the competing factors.”
But won’t you get sued if one crashes?
His company’s plan, too, is to start deploying in places where the regulatory and litigation risks are lower. “The application changes your requirement of reliability,” Raptopoulos said. “The FAA may require another level than authorities in Haiti. If you lose a vehicle in Palo Alto, you may be sued for millions of dollars. If you lose a vehicle in Haiti, you may not be sued at all. ”
But maybe, Raptopoulos contends, there are ways to integrate drones into the airspace that would present a lower risk to everyone. “Maybe there is a way to fly these things on routes where you don’t risk anything where you lose them. It will take that kind of innovation. [To us] it makes sense to start this first in rural places and maybe in the third world. Then once we figure out how to do this at scale, we can bring it here.”
What are the specific things that can be done to increase reliability?
“There are a lot of octocopters and a lot of quadcopters, but how do you design one that has the right redundancies? Should the vehicle have a parachute so when it has a catastrophic failure, it doesn’t just fall out of the sky? If you have one failure, can you diagnose and get it to a landing spot?”
Some of those problems may be solved by increasing the sophistication of the analytics they have on each drone. “How well can we predict failures? If we’ve flown 2.5 thousand hours and we have this kind of telemetric data, I might know I should retire the vehicle.”
And each environment brings its own challenges.
“You have to worry about specific problems in specific environments. In Haiti, you have to worry about dust. If you want to work in San Francisco, you have to have worry about GPS signals being lost because of the terrain.”
Assuming you can work out the technology, why won’t people just shoot them out of the sky?
“They fly at 400 feet between 45-65 kilometers an hour and they are very small. At that height, you can barely see them. You cannot hear them. It’s like a tiny dot moving in the sky. That’s the practical aspect of the question. It’s not going to be a bunch of kids doing it for fun,” Raptopoulos said, raining on every kid’s parade.
“The second point is that it’s illegal,” he said. “The reason we’re not shooting other moving things with guns is because it’s not something that’s legal. It is more challenging to rely on that framework in a place like Haiti or Kenya or Mali. The risk there is higher.”
But couldn’t the drones get taken out when they land?
“As you pointed out, the vulnerable part of the mission is when they come down,” he responded. “In our case, they do a vertical descent and then they go out again. And those locations need to be protected.”
Thinking about the developing world contexts where Matternet is working, he continued. “You need to have them owned by people who use the system, and then you tap into the social dynamics. We’re not planning to set up the networks in local places. We’re just providing the technology. So, they have to be owned by people in the developing world that have the right social status,” he said. “It would be people on the ground who understand how their location works. Those people are the experts on the ground. They know how to read the country and protect their assets.”
What do you think of the regulatory hurdles in the U.S.?
“We’ve just had a public statement from a big company they want it to happen. Public acceptance goes hand in hand with regulation. There are many reasons that the public will see these as the wave of the future,” he said. “But we cannot [make that case] that if we cannot guarantee to the public that this is a safe thing to be flying over our heads and our children.”
So, let’s say you can fly a few drone deliveries, does this actually work as a big business, the way Amazon seems to be imagining?
“Scale is a challenge in itself. For Amazon to do this, they don’t get to do 10 or 100 deliveries a day, they get to do thousands or hundreds of thousands of deliveries a day. How you resolve the scale issue is a question,” Raptopoulos said. “But we’re pretty good at solving those challenges as a technical civilization.”
Flying hacker contraption hunts other drones, turns them into zombies
by Press • 4 December 2013
by Dan Goodin
Serial hacker Samy Kamkar has released all the hardware and software specifications that hobbyists need to build an aerial drone that seeks out other drones in the air, hacks them, and turns them into a conscripted army of unmanned vehicles under the attacker’s control.
Dubbed SkyJack, the contraption uses a radio-controlled Parrot AR.Drone quadcopter carrying a Raspberry Pi circuit board, a small battery, and two wireless transmitters. The devices run a combination of custom software and off-the-shelf applications that seek out wireless signals of nearby Parrot drones, hijack the wireless connections used to control them, and commandeer the victims’ flight-control and camera systems. SkyJack will also run on land-based Linux devices and hack drones within radio range. At least 500,000 Parrot drones have been sold since the model was introduced in 2010.
SkyJack made its debut the same week that Amazon unveiled plans to use drones to deliver packages to customers’ homes or businesses.
“How fun would it be to take over drones, carrying Amazon packages… or take over any other drones and make them my little zombie drones,” Kamkar asked rhetorically in a blog post published Monday. “Awesome.”
Posted on Thu, Dec. 05, 2013
Obama to feds: Boost renewable power 20 percent
By MATTHEW DALY
President Barack Obama speaks about the new health care law during a White House Youth Summit, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2013, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.
Saying the government should lead by example, President Barack Obama is ordering the federal government to nearly triple its use of renewable sources for electricity by 2020.
Obama says the plan to use renewables for 20 percent of electricity needs will help reduce pollution that causes global warming, promote American energy independence and boost domestic energy sources such as solar and wind power that provide thousands of jobs.
Obama announced the plan Thursday as part of a wide-ranging, second-term drive to combat climate change and prepare for its effects. A plan announced in June would put first-time limits on carbon pollution from new and existing power plants, boost renewable energy production on federal lands and prepare communities to deal with higher temperatures.
The directive on renewable energy applies to all federal agencies, civilian and military. The Defense Department had previously set a goal that 25 percent of its energy needs should be supplied by renewable energy by 2025.
Federal agencies have reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by more than 15 percent since he took office in 2009, Obama said, but the government can do even better.
The federal government occupies nearly 500,000 buildings, operates 600,000 vehicles and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services.
The government currently has a goal of using 7.5 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, but Obama said recent increases in renewable energy supplies make the new 20 percent goal achievable by 2020.
His order says the government should use renewable sources for 10 percent of its electricity in 2015 and gradually increase that amount to 20 percent by 2020.
The order also requires agencies to install energy meters and water maters where appropriate to monitor efficiency and to publicly disclose energy performance data through the Energy Department.
The White House did not provide an estimate for how much money, if any, the proposal would save over the next decade.
The order on renewable energy is one of several steps the administration is announcing this week on energy efficiency.
On Tuesday, officials announced a plan to cut energy waste at multifamily housing such as apartments and condominiums and released a 2014 fuel economy guide to help motorists choose fuel-efficient vehicles.
As part of the administration’s push to expand renewable energy, the Pentagon last year committed to deploying 3 gigawatts of renewable energy on Army, Navy and Air Force installations by 2025 — enough to power 750,000 homes.
Government shutdown had remarkably broad impact across U.S., survey finds
Wed, 2013-12-04 04:29 PM
The 16-day shutdown of the U.S. Government in October 2013 had widespread business and personal impacts that reached far beyond the federal sector and well outside the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, according to findings of a survey released today by ORI, a market research and strategic business intelligence firm.
“When the shutdown began, the supposition was that impacts would be localized and concentrated on the federal community,” said Kathleen Benson, president of ORI. “But our survey found that the shutdown hit checkbooks and pocketbooks within and outside the D.C. region equally hard, while damaging the perception that government cares about the interests of the business community.”
Key findings of the ORI survey include the following:
From the inability to work on federal contracts to the lack of access to federal business services, the shutdown affected a large cross-section of the economy. Nearly four in 10 organizations (37%) said they were unable to receive services they needed from the government during the shutdown, which explains, in part, why the shutdown was so widely felt. As a result of the shutdown, nearly one-third (31%) of respondents’ organizations delayed or canceled conferences or events, while one quarter decreased staff hours (24%) and delayed or canceled hiring decisions (23%). These disruptions were significantly higher among federal agencies.
The governing climate that led to the shutdown has severely undermined business optimism. A large majority thinks the gridlock in Washington has become a drag on the economy with three-quarters (74%) believing that the governing climate will make strong national economic growth less likely in the next year.
Government contractors were more optimistic than others about the prospects for their own businesses, but pessimism about the economy prevails. While nearly eight in 10 contractors (79%) said U.S. economy was unlikely to see strong national economic growth in the next year, 44% projected their organization’s revenues to increase in the next year — a significantly higher percentage than any other sector. “This suggests that many contractors continue to see rich opportunity for government spending in the next year, despite the ongoing budget cuts from the sequester,” said John Kagia, ORI’s director of strategy and insight.
Alarm about the shutdown mobilized business leaders into action. Three quarters of business owners and senior executives (75%) contacted a member of Congress during the shutdown. At the same time, fewer than 5% of senior executives were optimistic that the government would address priorities that were important to them. “This underscores the extent to which business leaders feel that Washington’s priorities are not aligned with their interests,” said Kagia.
Finding qualified staff to support strategic initiatives is a key challenge in the federal community, but recruiting the best and brightest could be a challenge. Approximately half of the federal respondents (55%) and government contractors (45%) indicated that finding qualified employees would be important to their organizations’ success in the next six months. However, as a consequence of the shutdown and surrounding governing climate, two-thirds of all respondents (and a striking 75% of federal staff) believe that qualified candidates will be less likely to want to work for the government. Said Kagia, “This indicates that the shutdown and surrounding debate significantly undermined the perceived stability and security that have been hallmarks of working in the public sector.”
The ORI study, with a sample size of 665, was conducted online from October 15 to October 25. The margin of error is ±3.8.
The Rise and Fall of Australia’s $44 Billion Broadband Project
Why Australia decided to abort an ambitious fiber-to-the-home plan
By Rodney S. Tucker
Posted 26 Nov 2013 | 15:00 GMT
In April 2009, Australia’s then prime minister, Kevin Rudd, dropped a bombshell on the press and the global technology community: His social democrat Labor administration was going to deliver broadband Internet to every single resident of Australia. It was an audacious goal, not least of all because Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on Earth.
The National Broadband Network (NBN), as the project is known, would extend high-speed optical fiber directly into the homes, schools, and workplaces of 93 percent of Australians. The remaining 7 percent, living out of fiber’s reach in rural areas and remote pockets of the vast outback in the middle of the continent, would be linked to the Internet via state-of-the-art wireless and satellite technology.
Governments and telecom carriers in other countries, such as Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, and South Korea, have similarly embarked on endeavors to deploy widespread fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) networks. But those countries are much smaller and more densely populated than Australia. The country has roughly the landmass of the contiguous United States but only 7 percent as many people—fewer, in fact, than the state of Texas. To lay a nationwide fiber footprint, the government would need armies of workers and unprecedented access to rights-of-way, utility poles, and underground ducts.
And indeed, the NBN’s estimated cost was high: The latest figure was AU $45.6 billion (US $44.1 billion). It would be one of the largest, most pervasive FTTP rollouts any government has ever attempted. But although the price would be great, so would the impact: The network would bring broadband access to underserved areas, but it would also raise standards of living everywhere by driving innovations in telemedicine, remote education, e-commerce, and e-governance. A government-funded report released this year by Deloitte Access Economics concluded that the NBN would provide job opportunities, time savings, and other benefits worth, on average, AU $3800 (US $3600) per household per year by 2020, when construction would be nearly complete. In addition, fiber’s enormous bandwidth capacity means that transmitting and receiving equipment could be upgraded indefinitely at low cost, allowing the NBN to keep pace for decades with the incessant demand for higher data rates.
Yet despite these benefits, some conservative politicians and media outlets vehemently opposed the plan. In the campaign leading up to a national election this September, the fate of the NBN was vigorously debated. Although polls showed that the majority of voters supported the project, they nevertheless rejected the Labor Party and ushered into power an alliance of moderate conservative parties known as the Coalition, whose leader and now prime minister, Tony Abbott, promised to drastically scale back the national network.
So now, after three years of planning and construction, during which workers connected some 210 000 premises (out of an anticipated 13.2 million), Australia’s visionary and trailblazing initiative is at a crossroads. The new government plans to deploy fiber only to the premises of new housing developments. For the remaining homes and businesses—about 71 percent—it will bring fiber only as far as curbside cabinets, called nodes. Existing copper-wire pairs will cover the so-called last mile to individual buildings.
Such issues are not unique to Australia. Enthusiasm for near-universal broadband was once widespread, and it is still being pursued in the countries mentioned above, among others. But the ardor has cooled in recent years as legislators in many parts of the world move to cut government spending. Unfortunately, as is so often the case with technology, the public debate is beset by misunderstanding, misinformation, and a general lack of technical knowledge. A rare opportunity for growth and development is about to be lost, and disappointingly few people fully grasp the implications of that loss.
For example, in Australia, the Coalition is pursuing a fiber-to-the-node (FTTN) strategy because it would be much cheaper in the short term—about two-thirds the price of the original NBN. But that calculus overlooks the longer-term realities. Copper links simply lack the capacity to support the massive growth in data consumption that analysts predict. Eventually, Australians will have no choice but to replace those links with fiber, probably before the end of this decade. At that point, upgrading to an FTTP network will add to the cost of the FTTN rollout, increasing the total investment beyond the price of installing that fiber today.
And in delaying the deployment, Australians will have passed up a unique chance to become leaders in the global digital economy—an opportunity they may not get again.
Australia in the Slow Lane
Global ranking Average connection speed (Mb/s)
1 South Korea 13.3
2 Japan 12.0
3 Switzerland 11.0
4 Hong Kong 10.8
5 Latvia 10.6
6 Netherlands 10.1
7 Czech Republic 9.8
8 United States 8.7
9 Sweden 8.4
10 United Kingdom 8.4
43 Australia 4.8
Global Average: 3.3 Mb/s
Source: Akamai Technologies
Today in Australia, as in much of Asia, Europe, and North America, commercial carriers own and operate competing landline networks. Such an arrangement normally encourages carriers to stay at the forefront of technology. However, it can have disadvantages as well: In a thinly populated country such as Australia, carriers may cherry-pick customers in the few dense urban centers where they know they can make the most profit. Consequently, progress is slow to reach the vast majority of people living in rural and suburban areas.
It’s not surprising, then, that among developed countries, Australia is notable for its paucity of fiber-optic links. The highest rates are in Japan and South Korea, densely populated countries with small landmasses, where fiber accounts for more than 60 percent of broadband lines. In larger, more sparsely populated countries, such as the United States and Canada, rates are much more modest. In Australia, the rate is less than 2 percent.
Today, more than two in three Australian households have fixed broadband subscriptions. Most of those connections still use digital subscriber line (DSL) technology, which transmits data packets at higher frequencies than do analog voice signals, enabling Internet traffic to travel over telephone lines at relatively high bit rates. In a DSL system, twisted copper pairs, also known as loops, connect each customer to a central switching office. There, a rack of modems known as DSL access multiplexers, or DSLAMs, link the local loop to the backbone networks of various Internet service providers.
The problem with relying on DSL for broadband service is that many modern applications, including ultrahigh-definition videoconferencing and 3-D television, already require faster transmission speeds than these lines can provide. The biggest bottleneck is the copper itself. Due to the electrical properties of the metal, signals distort and weaken considerably with distance and can interfere with signals traveling through neighboring wires. This severely limits the bit rate of connections, particularly long ones. While customers close to a central office can receive rates as high as 24 megabits per second (using a common standard known as ADSL 2+), more distant customers experience much slower speeds. In Australia, where loops can be quite long and where some users opt for low-speed plans, the average Internet connection is just 4.8 Mb/s. And because the upload rate for DSL rarely exceeds more than one-fourth the download rate, the service doesn’t work well for high-bandwidth two-way applications such as videoconferencing.
Broadband Far and Wide: The original conception for Australia’s National Broadband Network would have given all citizens high-speed data connections—93 percent of them fiber. The country’s large landmass and sparse population made this controversial plan unprecedented and hugely ambitious.
The leaders of the Labor Party weren’t the first Australians to recognize the need for a faster, more inclusive network. Telecom carriers and federal advisory groups have been kicking around proposals for a national broadband network since about 2003. But it wasn’t until December 2007, after the Labor Party won majority power, that the government committed to the venture.
At first, Labor representatives thought the new network should use an FTTN architecture, which would require removing DSLAMs from central offices, located kilometers from customers, and installing new ones in nodes as close as a couple of hundred meters. The nodes would connect to the central offices via fiber and relay data to and from each customer’s premises using very-high-bit-rate DSL, or VDSL, the highest-speed DSL standard available at the time. These shorter copper loops would boost average speeds considerably—to as high as 50 Mb/s, depending on the distance between the node and the premises. The resulting FTTN network wouldn’t be nearly as fast as a full-blown FTTP grid, but the anticipated cost seemed more reasonable.
The government also assumed that the best way to build the network was to award the job to a commercial carrier through a bidding process. It would grant the winner a monopoly license and pitch in AU $4.7 billion to subsidize the cost of construction. Six carriers, including the market leader Telstra, submitted proposals by November 2008. To evaluate them, the government appointed an expert panel; I was among its seven members.
After studying the proposals, we agreed on two key points. First, we found that the global economic recession, sparked by the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble in 2006, was preventing Australia’s carriers from raising enough capital to fully fund the construction of a national network. In fact, none of the bidders came up with a viable business model. It was clear that unless the government bankrolled the majority of the cost, a commercial network would not likely succeed.
Our second observation was that an FTTN layout would be a bad idea. Using VDSL, a home connection could theoretically deliver 50 Mb/s, but only if the node sat very close to the house—a mere 100 meters or so away. Since the panel disbanded, a newer standard, VDSL2, has emerged. When combined with a novel interference-reduction technique called vectoring, it can provide download speeds up to about 100 Mb/s over short distances. And now an even faster standard known as G.fast is in the works, which promises download rates up to 1 Gb/s, but again, only for very short connections. For customers on longer loops, telecoms would be able to guarantee only about 50 Mb/s.
Market analysts project that data usage from a single family or small business could easily surpass that rate by 2020, and to meet this demand, Australia would need an FTTP network. Laying a cheaper FTTN footprint first would make little sense because it’s not a necessary step toward realizing an all-fiber system. In fact, an FTTN network requires special equipment and infrastructure, including nodes, that would have to be removed and discarded during an FTTP upgrade. An interim FTTN rollout would consequently end up costing Australians more in the long term than simply investing in FTTP technology today.
For these and other reasons, we recommended that the government itself create a national FTTP network. Incredibly, it accepted our advice.
In April 2009, following Prime Minister Rudd’s landmark announcement, the Australian government established NBN Co to build and operate the future National Broadband Network. The governmentowned company would be responsible for connecting every home and business to more than 100 hubs, called points of interconnect, around the nation. These are places where commercial Internet providers and other content-delivery companies, called retail service providers, would hook into the network. To reduce some of the cost of laying fiber lines, NBN Co would pay commercial carriers to access existing underground ducts and pits and decommission copper telephone lines and DSLAM equipment. Telstra currently owns the vast majority of this infrastructure, and the government had agreed to pay AU $11 billion to access it.
As the sole owner of the new national network, NBN Co would run what’s known as a Layer 2 network. It would offer commercial providers a choice of speeds at set prices (from AU $24 per month for 12 Mb/s downloads and 1 Mb/s uploads to AU $150 per month for 1 Gb/s downloads and 400 Mb/s uploads). It would route the data to and from the providers’ customers using Ethernet protocol. The providers would add on the remaining layers, including data packaging, encryption, and error correction, and bill customers directly. Although NBN Co alone would manage the physical infrastructure, including the modems in people’s homes, providers could still compete, based on the type of content they offered and the quality of their service.
To construct the network’s fiber web, engineers opted to use passive optical network (PON) technology, a standard approach for FTTP networks. In NBN Co’s PON system, a single fiber would ferry data from a central office to a small curbside cabinet, where a beam splitter would divide the signal, guiding the light through up to 32 branching fibers, each leading to a separate premises. Unlike active optical networks, which electronically switch data at the cabinet in order to route it to its final destination, PON systems broadcast to all premises on a splitter. They rely on electronic switches at each customer’s terminal to weed out the neighbors’ traffic and encrypt the data to prevent eavesdropping. PON systems also tend to be cheaper, use less power, and are easier to maintain than active ones because they don’t require engineers to install and tend to switching equipment in outdoor cabinets.
When construction began on the NBN in 2010, the fastest equipment available for transmitting data on a PON network relied on an industry standard known as gigabit PON, or GPON, which can send 2.4 gigabits per second to each splitter. This overall capacity would be divided among all of the premises on a splitter. However, if several customers in a neighborhood opted for fast services, NBN Co would simply install more splitters at the cabinet—a quick, 20-minute job. This way, NBN Co could guarantee that every fiber-connected Australian who wanted the maximum 1 Gb/s rate could get it.
Inevitably, though, some people would fall outside this fiber footprint. About 7 percent of Australians live in rural communities or remote outposts where wired broadband access is technically or economically unviable. NBN Co would connect about half this population via fixed wireless towers equipped with standard 4G LTE technologies capable of delivering download speeds up to 25 Mb/s and upload speeds up to 5 Mb/s to each customer. The other half would be served by two new high-bandwidth geostationary satellites due to launch in 2015, which would provide similar data rates.
But no matter the type of access technology—fiber, wireless, or satellite—NBN Co would still charge commercial providers the same wholesale rates to use its pipes, ensuring equal and fair prices to all consumers regardless of location.
Many politicians and industry executives praised the NBN plan. Alan Noble, Google Australia’s head of engineering, called it “the greatest enabler of innovation.” Others said it was “a critical part in the evolution of the Internet” and “too good an opportunity to miss.” Nevertheless, the plan was controversial from the outset. Members of the conservative Coalition, concerned about rising costs and construction delays, have described the NBN as a “dangerous delusion,” a “white elephant on a massive scale,” and a “shockingly misconceived, wasteful exercise in public policy.”
Some of the early criticisms, particularly from media commentators, stemmed from technical misunderstandings. Opponents of the FTTP approach, for instance, often reasoned that the popularity of mobile gadgets is causing wireless technologies to advance so rapidly that they will eventually offer greater speeds than fiber, making the NBN obsolete.
The fallacy of this assumption is immediately apparent to anybody with a basic knowledge of wireless networks. Such connections will always be limited by the bandwidth capacity of a cellular base station, which must be shared among all its users. Even if one station could use all available radio spectrum to serve one customer, the bandwidth of frequencies that can be passed through an optical fiber would still be some 20 000 times as great.
What’s more, mobile systems may not be able to sustain their awesome growth without an extensive fiber network. Already, operators are deploying miniature base stations known as small cells in homes, businesses, and busy urban centers, to help expand capacity and bring services to places where traditional towers may not reach, such as indoors. The glut of data flowing through these cells will need to be hauled to and from an operator’s core network—a job that suits fiber very well.
Other critics of the Labor Party’s plan worried that giving NBN Co sole ownership of Australia’s physical network would stifle infrastructure competition, keeping prices high for consumers and slowing the adoption of new network technologies. This argument might be persuasive in more densely populated countries such as the United States, where high consumer demand usually ensures vigorous competition based largely on technology. Indeed, in the United States, Verizon began offering its FiOS FTTP service in 2005, and plans are now available to more than 18 million homes, 5 million of which have subscriptions, the company says.
But in Australia, providers have already demonstrated that a free market hasn’t produced good access options for most consumers. In the 1990s, for instance, Telstra and its competitor Optus strung separate hybrid fiber-coaxial lines, a faster service than DSL, to the same 2 million premises in some populous suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne. Meanwhile, millions more premises missed out on the upgrade.
By far the biggest concern about the FTTP model was, and still is, that the benefits won’t justify its high cost. The Coalition argues that an FTTN network, though less than ideal, would provide more value per dollar. But the numbers just don’t add up.
An FTTP network offering peak speeds of up to 1 Gb/s would have cost Australians about AU $3450 per premises, according to NBN Co’s cost analysis. By contrast, the new Coalition government estimates that each FTTN connection, capable of guaranteeing up to 50 Mb/s, will cost on average around AU $2320—a whopping two-thirds the cost of a vastly superior FTTP link. And if consumer data rates continue to climb as fast as analysts predict, many FTTN customers will probably want to upgrade to FTTP technology before 2020. To accommodate them, the Coalition government plans to offer “fiber-on-demand” service, in which a customer could choose to pay out of pocket for installing fiber from a curbside node to a home or business. These upgrades would likely add another AU $1000 to $5000 to the price of each connection, depending on the length of the fiber and the amount of labor required.
In the meantime, an FTTP network using GPON infrastructure could last well into the future. Upgrading it to the next-generation standard, called XGPON, which will support up to 10 Gb/s, would simply require replacing some of the equipment in central offices and the terminal modem at each customer’s premises—for a likely total bill of no more than AU $300 per connection. In the future, newer standards could provide even faster bit rates for a comparable cost.
It has been painful watching the formation of this “futureproof” network come to an end. I can’t help but think of the United States’ Interstate Highway System, championed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1950s, which paved the way, literally, for a booming transportation-based economy. In Australia, a fiber-based broadband highway could transform the country’s digital economy in much the same way.
Sadly, the new Coalition government seems impervious to these arguments and is determined to downscale the NBN. I am left clinging to the hope that Australians will realize the foolishness of abandoning the FTTP network and insist that their leaders reconsider or devise a new plan that’s not too far removed from the Labor Party’s revolutionary vision.
Microsoft Launches Cybercrime Center
Microsoft expands global role supporting law enforcement, government, and businesses fighting cybercrime.
December 4, 2013
Microsoft has unveiled its latest effort to combat cyberthreats with the opening of its new Cyber Crime Center. The state-of-the-art operations facility, located on Microsoft’s Redmond, Wash., campus, provides specialists with an array of advanced tools to visualize and identify cyberthreats around the world.
The center is not simply for Microsoft, though. In addition to the technical experts who can track criminal activities, the center is working closely with law enforcement agencies, customers, and academics to develop ways to keep the public safe from cyber criminals. Microsoft is also including legal experts who can advise the best ways to navigate international law.
“The center provides an unprecedented opportunity to bring together people with different expertise — engineers, investigators, lawyers, etc. — and equip them with the best tools and technology available,” Bonnie MacNaughton, assistant general counsel for the Digital Crimes Unit (DCU), told InformationWeek.
The DCU team is made up of nearly 100 lawyers, investigators, forensic analysts, and business professionals all around the world. The company has established a dozen satellite offices or regional labs in major cities, including Beijing, Berlin, Bogota, Dublin, Hong Kong, Sydney, and Washington, D.C. It can provide the latest technology and monitor developments internationally — two aspects that can be challenging for US law enforcement.
Housed within the Cyber Crime Center, the DCU team brings cybercrime experts across the areas of IP, botnets, malware, and child exploitation under one umbrella, “so that when focus areas intersect … we can work better together to eliminate cyber threats to Microsoft’s businesses, customers, and the entire digital ecosystem,” said MacNaughton.
Many federal agencies are working on aspects of cyberthreats: the Department of Homeland Security’s US Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), the FBI’s Cyber Crime division, the Secret Service network of Electronic Crimes Task Forces, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, to name a few, do everything from tracking threats, to cyber forensics, to taking down internationally wanted criminals.
Almost every country has its own cybercrime program, not to mention Interpol, NATO, and other regional alliances.
Where does Microsoft’s center fit into this veritable galaxy of cyber law enforcement?
“The DCU understands that Congress has traditionally seen fit for private entities to protect themselves, and their customers, through legal action,” MacNaughton said. “Microsoft is very deliberate about pursuing disruptive measures through the civil judicial system, as the U.S. Congress envisioned when it created a civil component to the RICO and Lanham acts. By effectively leveraging these civil causes of action, Microsoft has sought to bring additional pressure against a determined and sophisticated adversary.”
But the company knows that only law enforcement agencies can really crack down on cybercriminals.
“[We work] closely with law enforcement to combat cybercrime, and whenever possible we use the evidence gathered in civil actions to refer cases to law enforcement for criminal prosecution,” MacNaughton said. “For instance, in the Rustock and Zeus botnet cases, after closing our civil cases we made a criminal referral to the FBI.” Those are two of seven botnets tied to criminal organizations committing consumer, financial, and advertising fraud, according to Microsoft briefing materials. The others include Citadel, Bamital, Nitol, Kelihos, and Waledac.
In another worldwide botnet investigation targeting cybercriminals out of Eastern Europe, Microsoft and financial services industry leaders affected by the Citadel botnet investigated and filed their own civil case, MacNaughton said. Then they worked with the FBI and coordinated a worldwide disruption of the Citadel zombie network and shut down nearly 90% of enslaved computers.
“When Microsoft seizes the command and control infrastructure of a botnet, it severs the connection between the cybercriminals running it and the computers they infected with that botnet’s malware,” she said. “These infected computers continue to try to check into the botnet command for instructions until they are cleaned of the malware. Every day, Microsoft’s system receives hundreds of millions of attempted check-ins” from infected computers.
The company shares data gathered by its Azure-based Cyber Threat Intelligence Program (C-TIP) with ISPs and CERTs, giving them better situational awareness of cyber threats.
Microsoft officials also noted that as a result of joint operations with Interpol, the FBI, ICE/HSI, Scotland Yard, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), more than 20,000 illegal online pharmacies selling dangerous counterfeit drugs were identified through Microsoft’s SitePrint tool and subsequently taken down.
Microsoft lines up critical Windows, Office and IE fixes for next week
Year’s update total will be 28% higher than 2012’s
By Gregg Keizer
December 5, 2013 04:13 PM ET
Computerworld – Microsoft today said it will ship 11 security updates next week to patch critical vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer (IE), Office and Exchange, including one meant to stymie active attacks the company confirmed a month ago.
With the 11 slated for release on Dec. 10, Microsoft’s update tally for the year will reach 106, tying the record from 2010 and representing a 28% increase over 2012.
Five of the updates outlined in today’s Patch Tuesday advance notification will be marked “critical,” the top ranking in Microsoft’s scoring system; the remaining six will be labeled “important,” one step down in severity.
“IE is the ‘of course patch first’ update,” said Andrew Storms, director of DevOps at San Francisco-based security company CloudPassage.
The critical IE update will affect all currently-supported versions of Microsoft’s browser, from the aging IE6 to the just released IE11. The upcoming update means that Microsoft will have patched IE every month of 2013, a feat impossible prior to July 2012, when the Redmond, Wash. company applied fixes only on alternating months.
Microsoft will be forced to support the half-dozen flavors of IE through at least April, when it will finally retire IE6, the oft-derided browser that debuted more than 12 years ago.
“Talk about legacy costs,” said Storms in an instant message interview Thursday. “We think about the operational costs for IT departments to manage and maintain X number of old systems, [but] imagine Microsoft having to do the same for all their customers.”
Another critical update will patch one or more flaws in a combination of Windows and Office editions to shut down ongoing attacks reported to Microsoft by McAfee researchers in early November. Microsoft issued a security advisory on Nov. 5 that described the threat and offered a temporary fix.
Two of the remaining three critical updates will affect Windows, while the third will patch Exchange, the business-critical email server software that most businesses rely on for delivering messages.
Storms recommended that Microsoft’s customers immediately install the critical Windows updates, but hedged on the one for Exchange.
On one hand, the criticality of the Exchange update would seem to demand attention. But Storms pointed out that the decision may be tougher than at first glance, since IT staffs are often short-handed at the end of the year and leery of breaking email at any time.
“Taking the risk of patching and rebooting Exchange at the end of the year will surely create a lot of opinions inside meeting rooms,” said Storms, referring to discussions that will take place next week about whether to patch the email servers.
“If we get lucky, [the Exchange vulnerability] will be in Oracle’s Outside In, and there will be an easy mitigation,” Storms added.
Exchange relies on Outside In libraries to display file attachments in a browser rather than open them in a locally-stored application, like Microsoft Word. Microsoft has patched those libraries repeatedly, twice this year — most recently in August — and also twice in 2012.
Outside In was included in Oracle’s October patch collection, making it almost certain that the Exchange update will address that technology’s latest bugs. “Given Microsoft’s time to test patches, the timing of this does match up,” agreed Storms in a final instant message.
The six updates marked important will patch vulnerabilities in Windows, Office 2010 and Office 2013, SharePoint Server and Visual Studio Team Foundation Server 2013. If the updates are not deployed, criminals may be able to infect PCs with malware, steal information, acquire additional privileges that would let them run more threatening attacks, or bypass security features.
Microsoft will release next week’s security updates on Dec. 10 around 1 p.m. ET.
DoD begins cutting staff sizes, will reorganize policy office
Dec. 5, 2013 – 01:50PM |
By Marcus Weisgerber
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel put into action Wednesday plans to reduce his Defense Department staff by 20 percent, an effort he said will save the Pentagon $1 billion over a five-year period.
The changes involve eliminating civilian and contract workers, while reorganizing the oversight responsibilities of some of DoD’s senior officials. The plans also call for a major overhaul of the Pentagon’s policy directorate, including the elimination of one deputy undersecretary and four deputy assistant secretaries.
“This restructuring will better balance workload across policy’s assistant secretary of defense, sustain our emphasis on the Asia-Pacific region, space and cyber capabilities, and better integrate our focus on emerging threats with homeland defense efforts and strengthen our security cooperation efforts, while eliminating some senior executive positions,” Hagel said of the policy reorganization during a press briefing at the Pentagon on Wednesday.
Hagel has also realigned the Office of Net Assessment, a strategic analysis organization, under the policy directorate. The organization, which is led by long-time strategist Andrew Marshall, was said to be on the chopping block during the review but survived.
Over the summer, Hagel asked former Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to look for places to cut Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), services, Joint Staff and combatant command headquarters staffs by 20 percent.
In 2012, OSD had nearly 2,700 civilian and military staff positions, according to Pentagon documents. There are about 2,400 military and civilian personnel in OSD today, according to a senior defense official. After the downsizing, there will be fewer than 2,200 people remaining, Hagel said.
Other changes ordered by Hagel include trimming DoD’s intelligence division by identifying “non-core functions and programs that may be transferred to the services or defense agencies,” and moving oversight of information technology resources from the Deputy Chief Management Officer to the Chief Information Officer, a fact sheet on the changes states.
Hagel also called for changes to the Deputy Chief Management Officer’s responsibilities “to better coordinate and integrate DoD’s business affairs by creating a leadership focused on management concerns and creating a single management, business oversight, and administrative organization within OSD and across DoD,” the fact sheet states. He also called for realigning oversight of business systems from the deputy chief management officer to the chief information officer.
“[E]very dollar that we save by reducing the size of her headquarters and back-office operations is a dollar that can be invested in war-fighting capabilities and readiness,” Hagel said. “Beyond these fiscal considerations, our goal is to use this opportunity to streamline OSD, making it more agile and responsive.”
More details of the initiative will be included in the Pentagon’s 2015 budget proposal, which is scheduled for a February release.
“These reductions are only a first step in DoD’s efforts to realign defense spending to meet new fiscal realities and strategic priorities,” Hagel said. “Difficult, but necessary choices remain ahead for the department, choices on compensation reform, force structure, acquisitions and other major parts of DoD.”
Jul 01 2013 by Matt Ball
Geospatial vendors in the United States wait rather impatiently as the Federal Aviation Administration works on regulations that will allow the use of drones or unmanned aerial systems for commercial applications. While research and development is ongoing, other countries stand to make a leap ahead where there are fewer regulations, despite the fact that much of the technology development has come about thanks to heavy use of these technologies by the American military.
There are a burgeoning number of aerial drone platforms, including a very active do-it-yourself community (diydrones.com). The machines are becoming more robust, with abilities to accommodate heavier payloads for longer flight times. There are also new sensors and systems that are being tailored for specific applications, taking away technical barriers by automating both the flight and data processing, and returning intelligence that can be acted upon.
Given the growing interest, and the ability for these tools to address new areas of application, it’s fitting to survey the top markets, the advantage, and the sensors that provide new insight in a wide area of application.
Agriculture – The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) reports that the agricultural use of drones could comprise 80% of the market. The reasons include the need to closely monitor crops to improve management and yield, the need to do this more regularly and cheaply, and the environment of private land with little threat to others. Near-infrared sensors can be tuned to detect crop health, letting farmers react and improve conditions locally with inputs of fertilizer or insecticide.
Mines – Mining companies are already deploying drones worldwide with great efficiency and safety gains to accurately measure site conditions, inspect pit walls, calculate quantities, and measure and map in 3D. Photogrammetric techniques are used for 3D modeling to date, however more precise laser LiDAR sensors for UAV platforms will be developed in time.
Construction Sites – The monitoring from above of construction project sites provides a new input during all phases of a project lifecycle. Aerial photography is done now for only the largest projects, however the input would be used more widely and more frequently if more readily accessible. The ability to quickly model from above in 3D with increasing precision will provide a check on projects with as-builts compared to plans, as well as the better coordination of materials on the job site.
Infrastructure Inspection – From pipelines to powerlines, to towers, to processing plants, the inspection of complex infrastructure will benefit from regular aerial monitoring. The ability to sense in three dimensions, take thermal readings, and to detect metal strain will greatly improve infrastructure inspection. Small and unmanned platforms that can hover and get close and surround infrastructure, such as a bridge or plant, will provide a new level of detail to improve performance.
Wildlife Research – Drones are being used internationally to monitor and track wildlife, providing new insight into animal behavior, as well as protection from poachers. With the ability to operate at night, and with thermal camera sensors, drones provide unprecedented protection.
Prospecting – Mineral and oil and gas exploration is a natural fit for drones, with field prospectors extending their toolset with aerial sensors to confirm and expand their insight. Magnetometers on aerial platforms can be used to detect ferrous metals and gravitational fields, with less of a disturbance due to their size.
Storm Tracking/Forecasting – Sending drones into hurricanes and tornadoes provides new insight into their behavior and trajectory. Unmanned systems are the best approach to these dangerous situations, and with specialized sensors to detail weather parameters, new insight becomes possible.
Emergency Response – After a natural or manmade disaster, a drone provides a quick means to gather information, navigate debris with a portable and useful technology that doesn’t drown out cries for help, and that can be deployed by teams that are working a specific area.
Environmental Monitoring – Drones fill a gap between manned aerial inspections and traditional fieldwork, monitoring hard to reach areas, or taking reading in contaminated areas where human health would be at risk. The ability to quickly deploy and capture an area of interest in concert with in-situ measurements, provides an advantage to contamination and reclamation work. Near-infrared sensors provide details of plant health to determine environmental health. The site-specific insight will greatly improve habitat restoration, environmental assessments, monitoring, and remediation.
Search and Rescue – With thermal sensors, drones can quickly discover the location of lost persons, and are particularly useful at night or in challenging terrain. The search and rescue mission is a battle against time, particularly in harsh conditions, and drones become a powerful tool because of the ease of deployment.
Drones provide a paradigm shift for remote sensing, given their portability, low cost of operation, ease of use, and the automation of the analysis. It’s just a matter of time before regulations are lifted, and they are widely used. There are legislative efforts that could dramatically impact their utility, but with a focus on best-use, and with tailored sensor and platforms for these applications, their benefit will be broadly felt without repercussion to privacy.
Military drones zero in on $400 billion civilian market, by Chris Wicham, Reuters, Nov. 14, 2012.
Are drones tools of war or a social good?, by Jane Wakefield, TEDGlobal, June 12, 2013
Bad Laws Would Hurt Good Drones, by Ryan Calo, CNN, March 5, 2013
AV Week reveals new large flying wing the RQ180
by Press • 6 December 2013
Amy Butler and Bill Sweetman
A large, classified unmanned aircraft developed by Northrop Grumman is now flying—and it demonstrates a major advance in combining stealth and aerodynamic efficiency. Defense and intelligence officials say the secret unmanned aerial system (UAS), designed for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions, is scheduled to enter production for the U.S. Air Force and could be operational by 2015.
Funded through the Air Force’s classified budget, the program to build this new UAS, dubbed the RQ-180, was awarded to Northrop Grumman after a competition that included Boeing and Lockheed Martin. The aircraft will conduct the penetrating ISR mission that has been left unaddressed, and under wide debate, since retirement of the Lockheed SR-71 in 1998.
Neither the Air Force nor Northrop Grumman would speak about the classified airplane. When queried about the project, Air Force spokeswoman Jennifer Cassidy said, “The Air Force does not discuss this program.”
The RQ-180 carries radio-frequency sensors such as active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar and passive electronic surveillance measures, according to one defense official. It could also be capable of electronic attack missions.
This aircraft’s design is key for the shift of Air Force ISR assets away from “permissive” environments—such as Iraq and Afghanistan, where Northrop Grumman’s non-stealthy Global Hawk and General Atomics’ Reaper operate—and toward operations in “contested” or “denied” airspace. The new UAS underpins the Air Force’s determination to retire a version of the RQ-4B Global Hawk after 2014, despite congressional resistance. The RQ-180 eclipses the smaller, less stealthy and shorter-range RQ-170 Sentinel.
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
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Saturday, December 07, 2013
President Obama got some good late-week news with the drop of the unemployment rate to a five-year low and better-than-projected economic growth in the third quarter. It remains to be seen whether these trends continue and offset the damage done by Obamacare’s disastrous debut.
The president’s total job approval dipped four points to 45% in November. That’s down 11 points from last December’s recent high of 56% and is his lowest monthly approval in two years. In recent weeks, Obama’s daily job approval ratings have been at the lowest levels of his presidency.
Positive views of the president’s economic leadership have fallen to their lowest level in 18 months. Just 32% of Likely U.S. Voters now give the president good or excellent marks for his handling of economic issues.
Twenty-five percent (25%) think the country is heading in the right direction. A year ago, 41% felt that way.
Despite assurances from the Obama administration that problems with the federal health insurance exchange website have been fixed, 59% of voters think it’s unlikely the current problems with the new national health care law will be fixed within the next year.
Since October 1, the law has begun forcing millions of Americans to change their health insurance coverage because it does not meet the standards set by the law and to buy more expensive policies in their place. The resulting political uproar has forced the president to delay implementation of that portion of the law. Voters who have health insurance overwhelmingly rate the coverage they have as good or excellent. Fifty-six percent (56%) of all voters now expect the health care system to get worse under the new law.
No wonder then that voters overwhelmingly want to change or repeal the health care law. Fifty percent (50%) want to scrap it completely and start over again.
By a 51% to 38% margin, voters oppose the law’s requirement that employers provide health insurance with free contraceptives for their female employees. But they remain closely divided when asked if a business should be allowed to opt out of such a mandate for religious reasons – the subject of the latest legal challenge of Obamacare now before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Voters are almost evenly divided over how much influence the law will have over their upcoming vote. Thirty-eight percent (38%) say they are more likely to vote for a member of Congress who supports the health care law. Forty percent (40%) are less likely to vote for a supporter of the law. But perhaps surprisingly, 35% are not sure if their representative in Congress voted for it or not.
As the political fallout from the health care law continues, Republicans have jumped to a five-point lead over Democrats – 43% to 38% – on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. This is the biggest lead the GOP has held since June 2012 and the highest level of support it has earned since just before Election Day in early November of last year.
But the economy may be offering a little more hope these days. The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence jumped five points in November after falling to a low for the year in October. An increase in the Employment Index generally suggests the upcoming government report on job creation will be stronger than the prior month’s report, and indeed it was.
The president on Wednesday declared that growing income inequality in the United States is “the defining challenge of our time.” The number of workers who consider themselves poor (18%) is at its highest point this year, but help may be on the way: The number who expect to be earning more a year from now (43%) matches its highest level in four-and-a-half years.
Fewer workers than ever are willing to commit to their current job. Twenty-five percent (25%) of Employed Adults are looking for a job outside of their current company. Sixty-four percent (64%) are not, but that’s the lowest finding in regular surveying since the spring of 2009. However, just 37% think their next job will be better than their current one.
The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes aren’t overly optimistic, though. At week’s end, 25% of consumers said economic conditions in the United States are getting better, but twice as many (50%) believe they’re getting worse. Investors share these views by a similar margin.
Speaking of consumers, 48% of Americans have begun their holiday shopping, and 14% are finished already.
But 75% agree that most Americans need to cut back on credit card use and other borrowing. Nineteen percent (19%) say the bad economy is causing them to use their credit cards more.
Most Americans (70%) are fairly comfortable using their credit cards on the Internet, but 24% say they have had credit card information stolen online.
The Obama administration recently changed long-standing military policy to allow gays and lesbians to serve openly. Thirty-four percent (34%) think this decision is good for the military, but nearly as many (31%) feel it’s bad for the military. Another 31% say it will have no impact.
Forty-seven percent (47%) think the growing role of women in the armed services is also good for the military. Fifty-three percent (53%) believe women should be allowed to fight on the front lines and perform all the combat roles that men do, although that’s down six points from 59% in January.
In other surveys last week:
— Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans held a favorable view of iconic South African leader Nelson Mandela when we asked in February 2011. Mandela died on Thursday at age 95.
— Vice President Joe Biden visited Beijing this week following the latest flare-up of tensions with China. Fifty-two percent (52%) of voters consider China a long-term threat to the United States, but 75% think that threat is economic rather than a military one.
— The United States spends more on defense annually than the next 10 countries combined, but more voters than ever (37%) don’t think that’s enough.
— Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans say they will decorate their homes this holiday season.
— Sixty-six percent (66%) of Americans prefer signs in stores that say “Merry Christmas” rather than ones with “Happy Holidays.”
Expect Sequestration to Hit Much Harder in 2014, Report Says
By Eric Katz
November 22, 2013
Less severe cuts, deferred costs and temporary solutions mitigated sequestration’s effect in its inaugural year, but will not help lessen the impact in 2014, according to a new report.
The Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, said the tactics federal agencies used to reduce furloughs in fiscal 2013 are, in many cases, no longer available. In fact, they will largely accentuate the severity of the cuts this time around.
For example, Congress allowed the Federal Aviation Administration to move funds from an account meant to provide maintenance to airports nationwide to avoid furloughs of air traffic controllers that would have delayed flights. Similar budgetary “gimmicks” were employed at the Agriculture Department to stave off furloughs of meat inspectors and by the Justice Department, which has already announced plans of 10 furlough days for FBI agents in 2014.
Every major federal agency reduced its furlough projections in fiscal 2013, though that will likely be impossible this year, the report found.
“In some cases, agencies minimized their sequester cuts using budget gimmicks, but those gimmicks only work once,” wrote Harry Stein, CAP’s associate director for fiscal policy. “In other cases, agencies drained their reserve and investment accounts to sustain urgent needs, but those accounts need to be replenished later.”
The Defense Department was able to reduce original projections of 22 furlough days for civilians to just six by putting off expenses elsewhere. The Pentagon, however, will soon have to resume training its personnel, hiring more staff, repairing its infrastructure and purchasing new equipment, Stein said.
“Federal agencies have implemented sequestration under the assumption that it is a short-term glitch — one that Congress will soon fix,” he wrote. “Federal agencies have weathered sequestration as best they can, as long as it is just a short-term problem. But if sequestration becomes the new normal, all of these quick fixes will have only made things worse for the American people.”
Additionally, the CAP report found many of the cuts made to meet reduced budget caps last year have not yet gone into effect. That, combined with the fact that sequestration will cut $24 billion more from agency budgets in fiscal 2014 than it did the previous year, will mean much more severe effects.
Finally, CAP noted sequestration’s impact has flown under the radar of the American public because programs like Social Security, Medicaid and veterans’ benefits were exempted from the cuts. Lower profile programs that have more of a residual impact and affect fewer people have already absorbed significant budget reductions, however. Agencies such as the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health have cut research significantly. Additionally, federal investigators and inspectors general — who find savings 35 times their collective budgets — are conducting fewer audits and identifying less waste, the report said.
A House-Senate congressional budget conference committee is attempting to negotiate a deal to fund government past Jan. 15, with Democrats steadfast in their desire to offset sequestration with other cuts and increased revenues and Republicans more reluctant to do away with what they say has worked to reduce the budget.
Stein said it is not too late for the harm to be undone.
“Sequestration was never meant to happen and Congress made a mistake by allowing it to kick in,” he wrote. “As long as that mistake is fixed soon, the damage can be contained.”
Cyber-attack at a major port could cost $1 billion per day
Sun, 2013-11-24 11:44 AM
By: Troy Anderson
At a time when the nation’s infrastructure faces a growing threat from cyber-attacks, maritime and homeland security officials say they are making significant progress in protecting the nation’s ports, which handle more than 2 billion metric tons of cargo annually and are critical to the global economy.
“It’s finally picking up speed,” said Randy Parsons, director of security at the Port of Long Beach, during the Port Security Operations Conference & Expo held Nov. 19-21 at the Hilton Long Beach & Executive Meeting Center. “A lot of time and effort have been put into this by the private sector, as well as the government agencies — the FBI in particular and the U.S. Secret Service. I’ve seen a major shift in just the last 12 months.”
Parsons said cyber-attacks pose a growing threat to the nation’s infrastructure, including its ports.
“All we have to look at is the 6 o’clock news about every night to see some damage hackers have done around the country,” Parsons observed. “I think we’ve seen plenty of evidence that the capability exists and that puts a challenge on all the partners at the port to assess the protections we have, identify our gaps and then come up with mitigation strategies.”
Doug Albrecht, director of information management at the Port of Long Beach, said the port blocks about 9 million attacks monthly on its network. But it only takes one successful intrusion to potentially do damage, he said.
“There is an annual hackers’ convention in Las Vegas called DEF CON to break into real companies and real networks,” Albrecht said. “The best tool they could use is the telephone. They can profile you from LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and when they call you and ask you the question about your bank account or password, they know a lot of information about you and you can be easily tricked.”
To combat this threat, port officials teach workers how to recognize these and other methods hackers use to break into the highly-secure networks of ports and other critical infrastructure in the nation.
A lot is at stake. A cyber-attack that successfully shuts down the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach would cause $1 billion a day in losses to the national economy, Parsons said.
“The cyber risk has not been adequately addressed in the maritime security model,” said Michael O’Brien, the port facilities officer at the Port of Oakland. “That needs to be addressed. I think there is some room to grow with the cyber-security threat and become more systematic about it.”
Pentagon Outlines Stronger Military Presence in the Arctic
By Kevin Baron
November 22, 2013
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — Citing American interests in climate change, energy security and the integrity of northern sea lanes, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel introduced a new Pentagon plan for Arctic security on Friday that promises to significantly increase U.S. military resources and attention to the polar region.
The plan is the Defense Department’s follow-on to President Barack Obama’s national Arctic strategy, released in May. The Arctic has gained increased attention in security circles as melting ice caps promise new access to strategic positions and undersea resources for three of the worlds most powerful countries in the U.S., Russia, and China, as well as Canada and NATO.
“In order to realize the full potential of the Arctic, nations must collaborate and build trust and confidence through transparency and engagement,” Hagel said at the Halifax International Security Forum in Canada.
The U.S. will not relent in defending Alaska and its northern borders, Hagel said, laying out an 8-point plan to 1) Protect U.S. borders and Alaska, 2) do more to more study the environment, 3) enforce the law of the seas, 4) “evolve” Defense Department capabilities and infrastructure, 5) increase international training, 6) prepare for natural disasters, 7) protect the Arctic environment, and 8) build and enforce international institutions and organizations.
“We are beginning to think about and plan for how our Naval fleet and other capabilities and assets will need to adapt to the evolving shifts and requirements in the region,” Hagel told the audience of international officials, including a congressional delegation led by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Hagel is scheduled to return to Washington on Friday evening. The forum continues through Sunday.
‘Neverquest’ trojan threatens online banking users
Attackers could start to aggressively distribute this malware in the near future, Kaspersky Lab researchers warn
November 26, 2013 (IDG News Service)
A new Trojan program that targets users of online financial services has the potential to spread very quickly over the next few months, security researchers warn.
The malware was first advertised on a private cybercrime forum in July, according to malware researchers from Kaspersky Lab who dubbed it Trojan-Banker.Win32/64.Neverquest.
“By mid-November Kaspersky Lab had recorded several thousand attempted Neverquest infections all around the world,” said Sergey Golovanov, malware researcher at Kaspersky Lab, Tuesday in a blog post. “This threat is relatively new, and cybercriminals still aren’t using it to its full capacity. In light of Neverquest’s self-replication capabilities, the number of users attacked could increase considerably over a short period of time.”
Neverquest has most of the features found in other financial malware. It can modify the content of websites opened inside Internet Explorer or Firefox and inject rogue forms into them, it can steal the username and passwords entered by victims on those websites and allow attackers to control infected computers remotely using VNC (Virtual Network Computing).
However, this Trojan program also has some features that make it stand out.
Its default configuration defines 28 targeted websites that belong to large international banks as well as popular online payment services. However, in addition to these predefined sites, the malware identifies Web pages visited by victims that contain certain keywords such as balance, checking account and account summary, and sends their content back to the attackers.
This helps attackers identify new financial websites to target and build scripts for the malware to interact with them.
Once attackers have the information they need to access a user’s account on a website, they use a proxy server to connect to the user’s computer via VNC and access the account directly. This can bypass certain account protection mechanisms enforced by websites because unauthorized actions like transferring money are done through the victim’s browser.
“Of all of the sites targeted by this particular program, fidelity.com — owned by Fidelity Investments — appears to be the top target,” Golovanov said. “This company is one of the largest mutual investment fund firms in the world. Its website offers clients a long list of ways to manage their finances online. This gives malicious users the chance to not only transfer cash funds to their own accounts, but also to play the stock market, using the accounts and the money of Neverquest victims.”
The methods used to distribute Neverquest are similar to those used to distribute the Bredolab botnet client, which became one of the most widespread malware on the Internet in 2010.
Neverquest steals log-in credentials from FTP (File Transfer Protocol) client applications installed on infected computers. Attackers then use these FTP credentials to infect websites with the Neutrino exploit pack, which then exploits vulnerabilities in browser plug-ins to install the Neverquest malware on the computers of users visiting those sites.
The Trojan program also steals SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) and POP (Post Office Protocol) credentials from email clients and sends them back to attackers so they can be used to send spam emails with malicious attachments. “These emails are typically designed to look like official notifications from a variety of services,” Golovanov said.
In addition, Neverquest steals account log-in information for a large number of social networking websites and chat services accessed from infected computers. Those accounts could be used to spread links to infected websites with the intention to further spread Neverquest, even though Kaspersky Lab hasn’t seen this method being used yet.
“As early as November, Kaspersky Lab noted instances where posts were made in hacker forums about buying and selling databases to access bank accounts and other documents used to open and manage the accounts to which stolen funds are sent,” Golovanov said. “We can expect to see mass Neverquest attacks towards the end of the year, which could ultimately lead to more users becoming the victims of online cash theft.”
Hopes fade as budget panel’s work plods along
Nov. 26, 2013 – 04:19PM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments
WASHINGTON — A House-Senate budget conference committee is finding its work on a compromise spending plan tough sledding, and the prospects for a long-term federal spending blueprint appear dead.
During recent conversations with Defense News, senior House and Senate aides have acknowledged talks between the leaders of the bicameral conference committee have been plodding, and have so far yielded few tangible plans.
In public statements, their bosses have sounded even less optimistic.
“These budget negotiations are moving way too slowly,” House Budget Committee Ranking Member Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said Tuesday. The chairman of that panel, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., last week said “we are further along than when we started” — but made clear major differences remain between Republicans and Democrats.
Asked during an interview on MSNBC if a House-Senate budget conference committee will meet congressional appropriators’ demands for a final 2014 budget topline figure by Monday, Van Hollen responded: “The short answer is: No — that would be a minor miracle.”
Congressional sources say the parties — as they have since Barack Obama became president and ultra-conservative members joined Congress — remain far apart on taxes, entitlement reforms, and just where to cut the federal budget.
“The idea of a small [budget] deal is on base, I think,” said one Senate source.
The Senate source said the conference committee’s nitty-gritty work is mostly being done by its co-chairs, Ryan and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash.
“Murray and Ryan are doing most of the talking, and then they’re kind of just getting back to the rest of us,” said the source, whose boss is a member of the conference committee.
It is increasingly unlikely that the Ryan-Murray committee will agree to the kind of long-term budget and deficit-paring blueprint it was charged with creating. Instead, aides and lawmakers say what’s most likely is a shorter-spanning — likely two years at the most — plan like the “mini-bargain” long pushed by Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
So why can’t Democrats and Republicans strike that kind of long-term plan? It depends on which member of which party is answering. Both sides largely blame the other for refusing to negotiate.
“The fundamental issue has been the difference in opinion over some big issues,” Van Hollen said.
“For example, Republicans started the negotiations by taking things off the table,” Van Hollen said. “For example, they said, ‘You can’t replace the sequester, even in part, by eliminating one special-interest tax loophole.’
“When you take that position, it simply makes things harder,” he said. “Essentially, what they’ve said is they’re willing to see dramatic cuts to the budget — including for defense — rather than dealing with some of these special-interest tax breaks.”
A Pentagon spokesman said the Defense Department faces a total sequester cut to all non-exempt accounts in 2014 of $52 billion. DoD civilian and uniformed brass have raised dramatic warnings about the ramification of continued across-the-board cuts.
Van Hollen described Republicans as divided on what to do about the remaining nine years of sequestration.
He said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., “came over to the House and said, ‘Let’s just settle for sequester at the end of the day.’ ” But members of the House-Senate budget conference panel, he said, got a letter from some House Appropriations Committee Republicans urging the budget conference to “fix” sequestration.
But Ryan, during an event last week sponsored by the Wall Street Journal, largely blamed Democrats for dismissing the notion of replacing some or all remaining sequester cuts with entitlement program changes.
Ryan said that during closed-door talks, Democrats do not pitch entitlement reform changes “of any significance whatsoever.”
“They’re signaling they aren’t interested in entitlement reform in any shape or form,” Ryan said. “If this becomes about raising taxes, we’re not going to get anywhere.”
“We are willing to trade” some of the sequester cuts for other federal spending cuts, he added.
Ryan made clear House Republicans support keeping the defense and domestic sequestration cuts in place — in full — if Democrats refuse to accept the entitlement and tax reforms they want.
“We know … our debt is about to take off in a few years and never come back down if we don’t do something about it,” Ryan said. “This is our concern. What we get from the president is: Give me more debt … without doing anything to deal with why the debt is rising so fast.”
That’s why Republicans want to lock in “a down payment” on curbing the nation’s massive deficit.
Short of a mostly entitlement-reform deal, Ryan said, “then we’ll stick with what we have.”
William Lynn, a former deputy defense secretary, told Defense News editors and reporters on Monday that the department likely could live with the spending levels set in place by the sequester-creating 2011 Budget Control Act.
But he described the mechanism of sequestration as untenable. Removing that so-called “meat axe,” he said, would allow Pentagon and defense industry officials to have more insight about future defense budget levels.
That move “would have a significant effect on mitigating the damage,” Lynn said. “That is the most important step we could take.”
Ryan, the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee, also predicted there will be no government shutdown when the federal government runs out of funding on Jan. 15.
He believes that either the House-Senate budget conference committee will strike some kind of deal or lawmakers will instead pass another continuing resolution in January.
“One of those two scenarios will prevail, and therefore,” he said, “we will not have a government shutdown.”
Navy weighs options for email services
Nov. 26, 2013 – 04:22PM |
By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON |
It’s no secret that Navy and Marine Corps leaders haven’t been the biggest fans of enterprise email services offered by the Pentagon.
At a Defense Information Systems Agency conference last year, Brig. Gen. Kevin Nally, spoke out against the Marine Corps moving to the DISA-managed email service and using @mail.mil addresses. The reasons were cultural, but at the time the Navy and Marine Corps already had an email system under the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet.
Now, email, along with data storage, video teleconferencing and other enterprise services, is expected to transition to the new Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN), NMCI’s replacement, and provide IT services for some 800,000 users.
Incumbent vendor HP will be providing all services currently offered on NMCI and a subsequent continuity of services contract, said Victor Gavin, the Navy’s program executive officer for enterprise information systems, in June.
But new departmentwide mandates could throw a wrinkle in at least part of the Navy’s plan to roll out enterprise services, particularly email.
DoD CIO Teri Takai is giving defense components until early January to come up with a plan to switch their email service to the DoD enterprise email service, according to a Sept. 5 memo.
Takai directed all components to identify existing email capabilities and begin moving them to the DoD-wide system no later than the first quarter of fiscal 2015. She said sharing a single email service will provide DoD components a common platform to coordinate activities and plan and schedule meetings.
“[Defense Enterprise Email] reduces the cost of operations and maintenance by consolidating hardware, as well as operations and support teams,” Takai said in the memo.
When asked whether DoD enterprise email would replace capabilities offered under NGEN, Department of the Navy CIO Terry Halvorsen said the Navy and Marine Corps require a business case analysis before making investment decisions.
“We will conduct a BCA of available alternatives — including DISA Enterprise Email — to find the most cost-effective means to deliver the department’s email service,” Halvorsen said in a statement to Federal Times. “The business case analysis will consider cost, mission, security and system performance related to the various solutions to determine which offers the necessary security and service at the best price.”
Marine Corps CIO Nally declined to comment.
Email is a service required to be delivered under NGEN, “there’s no question, that is just fact,” said Bill Toti, vice president and executive for Navy and Marine Corps accounts at HP. Toti said the Navy has not said otherwise about transitioning its email services under the NGEN contract.
If the government were to change its requirements, then HP would modify its delivery model, Toti said. But HP was able to offer the winning technically acceptable, lowest price bid for NGEN by integrating enterprise services, he said.
“So, there will be efficiencies lost if we were to sever a service,” he said.
Toti stressed that HP is not a competitor to DISA when it comes to providing enterprise services for the Navy.
“We look at ourselves as the first instantiation of the [Joint Information Environment] in DoD,” he said. “We were doing enterprisewide email before it was cool. Now, is it possible that requirements evolve over time for what enterprise email might be, of course.”
There’s an ongoing push to move to DISA for shared services, said John Slye, a federal analyst with IT market research firm Deltek. First it was enterprise email, and now it’s DISA for cloud services and data center consolidation. The move is part of the large JIE initiative to consolidate and standardize IT and get some consensus on costs.
If the services are going to move to DISA shared services, they have to work out the actual costs, Slye said. Working through cultural barriers is another challenge because there are entrenched processes for things like budget and capital planning.
Slye said the services are warming up to departmentwide approaches like DISA’s cloud offering, but the “Navy has been the one foot dragger among the three compared to Army and Air Force.”
NSA testing how to handle classified data over unsecured networks
Wednesday – 11/27/2013, 3:45am EST
By Jared Serbu
In the view of the National Security Agency, just because information is classified doesn’t mean authorized users should only be able to view it while they’re tethered to their desks. So NSA is looking for ways to access classified information on tablets and smartphones over transport mechanisms and on devices that would have been unthinkable a few years ago.
The agency, which is in charge of ensuring the security of classified-level IT systems for the entire government, just launched a pilot program that it hopes will introduce the ability to use commercial mobile devices for classified data without any hardware modifications. The data those devices consume and transmit would be able to be exchanged over WiFi networks while a government employee is at work, and over the networks of commercial cellular providers when he or she isn’t.
“It’s going to introduce some new complexities for us, and it’s going to test the availability and effectiveness of commercial technology,” said Debora Plunkett, the director of the NSA’s information assurance directorate. “This is a significant demand signal for us, and we really have to deliver on it. This is going to help us update the next iteration of our mobility capability package, and it’s going to provide us with the technical guidance we need to deploy secure enterprise mobility.”
Plunkett said the pilot is part of NSA’s recognition that government employees increasingly demand the ability to use the latest generation of commercial mobile devices in their day to day jobs, and that the agency needs to be able to quickly sign off on ways to use those devices securely.
Rejects the old ways
The project falls under the broader heading of NSA’s Commercial Solutions for Classified (CSfC) program, which aims to use commercial standards and commercial technologies in a layered approach to security. CSfC spurns the traditional approach in which the agency tells government contractors to build government-only solutions, a process that usually took years of development for each product.
“Capability and usability features that are the same or essentially the same, and do not lag behind those available in commercial devices will improve security by discouraging the use of communications methods that are more convenient, but less secure,” she told attendees at a mobility conference hosted by AFCEA DC. “They will reduce training and familiarization curves associated with new functionalities, and they will generally provide users with a host of efficiency tools that recognize the needs of a mobile workforce.”
In February 2012, NSA released its first capability package for mobility, intended to eventually become a guidebook for agencies on how to incorporate commercial technologies into national security systems without having to have the entire system specifically pre-cleared by NSA.
NSA has been adding new criteria to deal with different aspects of mobile technology since then. The latest version, released earlier this month, includes new guidance for agencies and vendors on mobile device management and protecting data at rest.
Plunkett said NSA now needs to do a better job of proactively releasing its security requirements for mobile devices to industry in the hopes that mobile device manufacturers will begin to use that guidance at the foundation of their gadgets’ designs.
“This is not a new message for us,” she said. “Addressing security as an afterthought will degrade the user experience, lead to development inefficiencies and really preclude or delay participation in our CSfC programs. In the past, it has not been unusual for a customer to come to me and say, ‘I’ve got a really great product. Can you make it secure? And, by the way, I’ve already bought 1,000 of them.’ That’s too late. I’m really happy that today, we’ve got more and more government customers coming to us at the front end, at the concept. They say, ‘I’ve got a need and I’ve got a great idea, can you help me?’ That’s when we can get to a win-win. We can make sure we can partner together inside the development cycle, making sure security and the needs of the user are both being addressed.”
MDM still falls short
While NSA wants to move away from government-only solutions, there are some areas in which it believes commercial providers haven’t advanced their products enough to completely meet the government’s security needs. One of them surrounds mobile device management (MDM) technology, something NSA will need if it’s going to scale up its project to use commercial devices on both WiFi and cellular networks.
“MDM has taken a significant step forward in the last year, but today’s products do not provide the full functionality and the robust security we need for the national security mission,” she said. “We need the ability to apply dynamic policy management for our end users. That policy will be enterprise-controlled, and dependent on the device type, on the user and the location, and possibly additional parameters. One big benefit is that the policy can be dynamically changed to accommodate mission conditions, like a [continuity of operations] scenario or a short window where an analyst might not be able to get to a secure facility.”
Plunkett said vendors have some very legitimate complaints about the amount of time and money it usually takes to put their products through the paces of the NSA vetting process before they’re approved for classified use. She says the agency is trying to do better, and it’s working on processes that it hopes will reduce the cycle time to around 90 days.
“We’re working to reduce the complexity of the requirements in the typical six- month evaluation using a new common criteria paradigm, but we need your help,” she said. “We need you to come ready to play, with robust documentation. We find that evaluations take the longest when vendors come and are not prepared without all the right documentation intact.”
Cash Is Dead. Are Credit Cards Next?
By Matt Vasilogambros
November 25, 2013
The future of money has arrived, and it’s called Coin. https://onlycoin.com/
It looks like a credit card. It’s the size of a credit card. It swipes in credit card machines. But it holds the information of up to eight of your debit, credit, rewards, or gift cards. And you can switch between cards by simply pressing a button.
The new product, launched recently, promises to change the way consumers spend money in a secure and efficient way.
The key technology is a Bluetooth signal. To load information from your different cards, just swipe them on a card reader into your Apple or Android phone and take a picture of the card. If you’re too far from your card—like, say, you leave it at the restaurant—your phone gets a notification. And the Coin’s battery lasts up to two years.
So, what does it cost someone to fundamentally change the way they pay for dinner? $100.Pre-ordering has already started (at the reduced price of $50), and Coin will ship out next summer.
But this San Francisco company is just one of many start-ups across the country that are finding new ways of developing the future of retail.
Cash is dead, haven’t you heard?
In recent years, Americans have used less and less physical money when purchasing items. Several don’t use it in stores, and many more don’t keep bills and coins in their pockets. The “cling” of stray pennies hitting the counter at your local coffee shop may soon become a distant memory.
According to a survey by Walker Sands, a Chicago-based public relations firm, nearly 1-in-5 consumers do not carry any cash on them. In total, more than 60 percent of consumers carry $20 or less in cash. Surprisingly, about 1-in-20 people say they don’t use cash and refuse to go to places that accept only physical currency. (The survey was conducted over the last year among 1,046 consumers across the United States.)
And other surveys show a similar trend: According to a 2012 study by Javelin Strategy and Research, 27 percent of purchases in 2011 were made with cash. By 2017, the group expects that number to drop to 23 percent.
So, yes, we’re headed toward a cashless society. But what about plastic credit cards, as well?
The end of the George Costanza wallet is near.
People use cash less. Receipts are redundant with online banking. And products like Coin allow people to pay digitally, instead of with a physical credit card. Could the George Costanza wallet be a thing of the past?
Christine Pietryla, the senior vice president of public relations for Walker Sands, said she was immediately drawn to Coin. It’s a product that fits into her firm’s research: People want their consumer experience to be simpler, easier, and more efficient.
“It’s definitely a challenge to find an application or a solution that puts everything all in one place,” she said. “This is unique in that it does do that.”
Consumers are starting to prefer digital options in payments: According to the same research from Walker Sands, 28 percent of consumers are more likely to use a digital gift card, rather than a plastic gift card. It only makes sense that services like PayPal, a business that allows people to make payments and money transfers through the Internet, have taken off.
Similarly, Google Wallet, launched in 2011, allows users to store information for their debit cards, credit cards, reward cards, or gift cards on their mobile phone. For participating stores, someone can just tap their phone to a PayPass terminal to pay for a product. Google Wallet users can all send money through Gmail attachments. Additionally, Google announced last week that it was introducing prepaid debt cards that can be used in ATMs.
And in the same survey, 95 percent of people say they’ve purchased something from Amazon in the last year.
PayPal, in fact, last week just made a deal with another digital start-up, Uber—a car service company that uses a mobile application to hail rides.
Other start-ups, like Isis (which allows consumers to pay for items in person through their smartphones) or Dynamics (which created a similar multi-account card like Coin), also have products that offer a different way of paying for goods.
It’s not just how you pay, but how businesses get paid.
The future of retail goes well beyond Coin or PayPal. It’s also about how stores are processing your payments.
Any person who works in Washington, New York, or Los Angeles can attest to the growing number of gourmet food trucks that have popped up on street corners around lunchtime. It’s noon, so why not go to Farragut Square and eat at Far East Taco? And for payment, many of these food trucks use the Square Reader—an easy attachment that allows anyone with an iPhone or iPad to process a credit card payment. Even some big-box stores have checkouts with iPads.
And it’s not just the Square. What about paying for items without actually going to a checkout line? According to the same Walker Sands study, 59 percent of consumers said they would be more likely to shop at stores that offer self-checkout on mobile devices.
Store owners are also turning to digital companies to get around traditional credit card companies that charge too much to process payments. Des Moines, Iowa-based Dwolla is a payment network that allows people to transfer money—either to friends or businesses—more efficiently through a mobile application and its website. And it saves merchants money by charging only 25 cents for transactions over $10—and charging nothing if it’s less. Thousands of companies and consumers have already signed up for the service, which started in 2009. Dwolla has even launched a credit feature, which could compete with credit cards.
This is all well and good, but…
Many of these start-ups are just that: start-ups—small outfits of techies who had a vision of a product that challenges the industry to think differently and move in radical directions.
For one, it costs a lot of money to change the game. That’s why companies like these rely on crowd-funding. Coin is looking to raise $50,000 beyond what some of its investors have put in. It can also cost a lot of money to buy these new products. Coin is $100—not steep, but not cheap. Other modern payment services, like PayPal or Google Wallet, are free.
Additionally, with any new product, there are risks for security breaches. Coin notifies consumers when they might have left it at a restaurant, but their information is still just as much at risk as with a plastic credit card.
And no product is guaranteed to catch on. Most consumers are looking for three major qualities in any product: increased security, a tremendous amount of customer service, and a consistent visual experience. In other words, consumers want to know that when they walk into a store or log in to the product’s website or mobile application, it’s all going to look the same, be easy to use, and be visually appealing.
If these start-ups lack these qualities, consumers won’t buy into the idea. With Coin, consumers will have to replace their card every two years—shorter than with a normal credit card. And lest we forget a simple truth: Credit cards are already easy to use.
Coin is new. It’s unfamiliar. It’s dangerous, to some. But every idea from a start-up company is at least a little risky.
“Start-ups are there to disrupt and be innovative,” Pietryla said. “It’s either going to take off or it’s not.”
Two years ago, people might have thought paying with an iPad was crazy. As the technology catches up, consumers get more confident in it. Coin might be just that.
Aide: Senate To Tee Up NDAA Again – After Two-Week Break
Nov. 26, 2013 – 04:18PM | By JOHN T. BENNETT |
WASHINGTON — The US Senate likely will take a second swipe at passing a Pentagon policy bill as soon as it returns from a two-week Thanksgiving break.
A senior Senate Armed Services Committee aide tells Defense News that panel leaders and aides “are continuing to work through the holiday time to prepare for the NDAA to be back on the Senate floor the week of Dec. 9.”
The Senate plodded along for several days last week on its 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) before the process broke down on Thursday. The chamber killed a motion that would have ended debate on the must-pass bill and set up a final vote.
SASC Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., pinned blame on Republicans such as Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla., saying they submitted nearly 20 amendments late in the week that the two sides never previously discussed.
A spokeswoman for Inhofe declined to comment on Levin’s version of why the process fell apart.
The legislation, when Energy Department funding is factored in, would authorize about $522 billion in base 2014 defense funding. That’s about the same level authorized by a House-passed version of the bill.
The Senate’s bill calls for $80 billion for overseas contingencies operations; the House-passed level is $85 billion. A conference committee would have to find a compromise war-funding amount.
Levin last week said the pre-Thanksgiving breakdown put the bill “in jeopardy,” raising new doubts about whether a 51-year streak of both chambers passing a final NDAA might be broken.
U.S. Sent B-52s Into China Air Zone, Official Says
By David Lerman – Nov 26, 2013 3:00 PM ET
The U.S. flew two unarmed B-52 bombers into a disputed air-defense zone claimed by China, the first test of China’s response amid escalating tensions in the region that have implications for international air travel.
The flight of bombers into China’s newly claimed zone occurred without incident, according to a U.S. defense official. The area includes three islands in the East China Sea that are owned by Japan, a major U.S. ally, and have been at the center of a dispute between Asia’s two biggest economies.
China announced the air-defense identification zone effective Nov. 23 and said its military will take “defensive emergency measures” if aircraft enter the area without reporting flight plans or identifying themselves.
Japan, which denounced the move, told its airlines to stop providing flight plans to China. Within hours of that request, ANA Holdings Inc. (9202) and Japan Airlines Co. (9201), the country’s two biggest carriers, said they would stop reporting flight plans for planes traveling through the zone.
China’s action poses a “direct threat” to the U.S. military in the region and raises the risk of escalation if it isn’t resolved, said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security in Washington.
“China will not back off, and Japan will not back off, and the United States will support Japan,” Cronin said. “What has been a maritime contest has now become an air and maritime contest.”
China and Japan both are seeking bigger roles in the region at the same time President Barack Obama has a goal of reasserting U.S. military and economic influence there. Major powers are asserting themselves as they hunt for new sources of growth in trade with the emerging economies of southeast Asia.
Vice President Joe Biden is scheduled to travel to China and Japan next week and Obama plans to take a postponed trip to Asia in April.
The two U.S. bombers flew from Guam and spent less than an hour in the China-claimed zone as part of an annual training exercise, said the defense official, who asked not to be identified discussing the deployment.
No Chinese aircraft were observed at the time of the U.S. flights, the official said. The flights, part of a long-planned exercise, occurred last night Washington time and took several hours to complete, the official said. The flights were reported earlier today by the Wall Street Journal.
The U.S. defense official said there’s no expectation of an armed conflict arising from the air-defense zone dispute.
The Pentagon said yesterday that the U.S. won’t abide by China’s identification rules.
“We view this development as a destabilizing attempt to alter the status quo in the region,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a Nov. 23 statement in response to China’s announcement. “This unilateral action increases the risk of misunderstanding and miscalculations.”
The main focus of Biden’s trip, which includes South Korea, is negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. The vice president’s office said his meetings with China’s leaders will be on “global and regional issues of mutual interest.”
China’s announcement of the air zone, denounced by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, marks one of the most serious escalations in tensions since September 2012, when Japan bought three disputed islands in the East China Sea that now lie within the contested zone.
China and Japan both claim sovereignty over the islands, which are known as Diaoyu in Chinese and Senkaku in Japanese. The surrounding waters are rich in oil, natural gas and fish.
China is “resolute in its will and resolve” to defend its sovereignty over the islands, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing on Nov. 25. The current situation is “totally caused” by Japan’s “erroneous actions,” Qin said.
While the U.S. hasn’t taken sides in the territorial dispute, it recognizes Japan’s administration of islands in the area that are the center of the tensions.
The dispute has already been played out at sea, including confrontations in which Chinese vessels were accused of targeting Japan’s forces with weapons-guiding radar systems.
The flight by U.S. bombers may have been designed in part to discourage Japan from taking any actions that could aggravate tensions further, said Anne-Marie Slaughter, president of the New America Foundation, a public policy institute in Washington.
“We are saying to Japan, ‘Do not respond, we are here,'” Slaughter said at a forum today held by the Center for New American Security.
Robert Kaplan, a senior fellow at the center, called the U.S. flights a “show of force in defense of Japan” that underscores how seriously the U.S. is taking China’s action.
Oklahoma Farmers Use Drones To Monitor Crops, Cattle
by Press • 26 November 2013
By Justin Dougherty, News 9
OKLAHOMA CITY –
Privacy concerns weigh heavy on the governmental use of UAS. But for farmers in Oklahoma and all around the United States, UAS could be a necessary tool to the future of farming.
“The technology is pretty new to our members but as we go and technology gets stronger I see a huge market for it in the future,” said Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s John Collison.
UAS is already a tool for many Oklahoma Farmers.
“Check their cattle, check their property, use these drone for precision agriculture and make sure we are farming the most efficient and effective way possible,” Collison said.
Oklahoma Farm Bureau’s John Collison still hears concerns from other farmers across the state.
“Farmers want to use these drones in a correct manner and under FAA guidelines and using them correctly,” Collison said.
In an exclusive statement to News 9, the FAA clarified the issue, stating:
“Farmers may operate an unmanned aircraft over their own property for personal use and Guidelines for the operation of model aircraft, such as those published by the Academy of Model Aeronautics, may be used by farmers as reference for safe model UAS operations.”
One priority guideline from the AMA… “(c) Not fly higher than approximately 400 feet above ground level within three (3) miles of an airport without notifying the airport operator.”
“System are much smaller, and has the capability to sense where his crops need to be watered,” said Retired Major General Toney Stricklin.
Retired Major General of the US Army and member of the Oklahoma Unmanned Aircraft Council Toney Stricklin knows the difference between military and commercial drones, and feels farming is just the beginning.
“I Like to say the genie is out of the bottle. This technology will continue to grow in public safety and agriculture,” Stricklin said.
It really is just the beginning. General Stricklin estimates in the next 20 years, UAS will be a multi-billion dollar industry.
What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls
Bottom of Form
Saturday, November 30, 2013
No wonder men age so noticeably in the job. Things are pretty rough for President Obama these days.
Negative reviews of his leadership continue to rise and now stand at their highest level in over three years. Forty-four percent (44%) of Likely U.S. Voters consider the president’s leadership poor, while 40% think he’s doing a good or excellent job.
As problems continue to surround the rollout of the new national health care law, the president’s job approval ratings for over two weeks now have been running at the lowest levels of his entire presidency.
[Some readers wonder how we come up with our job approval ratings for the president since they often don’t show as dramatic a change as some other pollsters do. It depends on how you ask the question and whom you ask.]
Just 36% of voters now have at least a somewhat favorable opinion of the health care law, the lowest finding this year. Sixty-one percent (61%) predict that the cost of health care will go up under the new law. That’s the highest level of pessimism since early March 2011.
Only 43% have a favorable opinion of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the government official in charge of implementing the health care law.
Democrats lead again by one point on the Generic Congressional Ballot, but they were ahead by seven in early October during the government shutdown. Voters now trust Republicans more than Democrats to handle health care, in addition to the economy which is their number one concern.
Thirty-two percent (32%) of all Americans think now is a good time for someone in their area to sell a house. That’s up from 16% a year ago but down from 39% in September, the highest level of optimism in regular surveying for over four years.
Homeowner confidence in the short- and long-term future of housing values is down slightly from last month’s highs but remains relatively steady.
Looking overseas, the president’s team is negotiating a deal that would end some sanctions on Iran in exchange for verifiable cutbacks in the Iranian nuclear weapons program. Voters are almost evenly divided over that idea: 41% favor a deal with Iran, while 43% are opposed. Two weeks earlier, 52% favored a deal with Iran.
The United States has proposed a security deal to Afghanistan that would leave some U.S. troops in that country after next year, but 51% of voters want all troops out of Afghanistan by then.
In other surveys last week:
— Forty percent (40%) of Americans say they or someone they know are responsible for the care of at least one parent. Nearly as many (37%) have at least one parent living with them or know someone who does.
— Eighty-five percent (85%) think they have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.
— Although an early winter storm threatened much of the East Coast, more Americans planned to travel this Thanksgiving, compared to last year.