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June 7 2014




USAF ISR Head: Changes Needed to Prepare For Future

May. 30, 2014 – 04:25PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


With no sign that the sequestration-imposed budget cuts are going away, the Air Force is going to have to change how it handles its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) architecture, the services top ISR official said Friday.

“We need to change direction in how we approach the architecture, and we’re looking for ideas,” Gen. Robert Otto told an audience of industry executives at an event hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association. “So we’re concentrating on that right now. The notion is we get away from a propriety, very hierarchical type of system to something that is government owned, open architecture with competitions for the various applications.”

Otto highlighted the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS) program, which aims to collect information from various ISR sources and give it a central clearinghouse, as a platform that works very well but needs to be altered to fit the new fiscal realities.

“It’s a tremendous architecture which can do incredibly powerful things that has delivered unbelievable success on the battlefield,” Otto said of the system. “It’ also completely unaffordable, and if we don’t change the way we do business we will fail.”

The movement towards an open architecture is hardly confined to the ISR world – the service’s simulation community has also expressed a desire to move in that direction – but Otto indicated a desire to move in that direction sooner rather than later.

In order to change how it operates, the Air Force needs flexibility for planning from the men and women who control the purse strings.

“What [sequestration] really means is we need to reform,” Otto said. “We need the help of Congress in order to be able to reform the way that we do things going forward.”

That includes being given the flexibility to retire either the U-2 spy plane or Global Hawk unmanned system, something that has been blocked on the Hill so far.

“Our plan right now is to divest the U-2,” Otto said. “We supported the department’s position on that this year. The Air Force was going to divest the global hawk before. Our point is we can’t afford both, and so far we have been unable to make the case to retire either one.”

He highlighted how the cuts last year directly impacted two key ISR assets, the U-2 and the Rivet Joint manned aircraft.

“Last year for the U-2 we had about a $210 million budget and we had to cut about $55 million from that, about one fourth….what that really meant was our aircraft availability decreased by 15-20 percent,” Otto said. “Or you can look at the Rivet Joint which had a bout a $270 million budget for the year and we cut about $90 million of that. What happened was, we had to ground two of the airplanes. It’s a 17 airplane fleet, so if you ground two you’re going to have impact on what we can present going forward.”


Otto, who spoke with Defense News in January about the future of the service’s ISR strategy, said he is still a firm believer in the role of drones – he joked about the service’s “unsuccessful” campaign to get people to refer to them as “remotely piloted aircraft” – for the future, noting that he expects an “explosion” of those systems by the early part of the next decade.

Spending money on unmanned systems is probably “a good investment,” he told the crowd. ■


The Pros and Cons of Obama’s New Carbon Rule

By Eric Pianin,

The Fiscal Times

June 2, 2014


President Obama on Monday is unveiling a controversial environmental and energy initiative: an executive order to force coal-fired power plants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030—the boldest move yet in the administration’s efforts to fight climate change.

Coal-fired power plants account for some 40 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, which scientists say are the main cause of global warming. At 39 percent in 2013, they are also the largest supplier of fuel powering electricity in the U.S. “I refuse to condemn our children to a planet beyond fixing,” the president said Saturday during his weekly radio and Internet address. “In America, we don’t have to choose between the health of our economy and the health of our children.”

Drafted by the EPA, the new rule puts a national limit on carbon pollution from coal plants, as The New York Times and others have reported. It also gives the states flexibility to devise their own approaches, such as creating energy-efficiency technology, using more wind and solar power, and starting or joining “cap-and-trade” programs, which allow utility companies to buy and sell government-issued pollution permits.


Obama Prepares To Push For New Power Plant Rules

President Barack Obama is planning a public show of support for new climate change rules that his administration will unveil Monday. The White House says Obama will spotlight the…

Obama tried previously to push “cap and trade” through Congress as part of an effort to control carbon emissions, but it died in 2010 in the Senate. The GOP, Tea Party groups and the coal industry attacked Democrats who supported it, warning the legislation would raise energy prices and cost jobs.

Now the president is invoking executive authority instead, and Republicans and energy insiders are complaining that Obama is circumventing lawmakers on a critical policy that could raise energy costs and shutter many coal-fired power plants.

In drafting the executive order, the EPA turned to a little-used provision of the Clean Air Act (CAA), since carbon dioxide isn’t regulated under government air pollution programs. States and industry groups are preparing to wage legal challenges to the rule, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Last September, the administration announced new regulations setting strict limits on the amount of carbon pollution that can be generated by new U.S. power plants. The proposal sparked a backlash from supporters of the coal industry and is certain to face legal challenges.

The president’s latest targeting of existing power plants is pitting major environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), against industry and business organizations, such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Long a booster of “cap and trade,” the NRDC says the executive order would stem carbon emissions while encouraging economic development and job creation – while the Chamber of Commerce warns of $50 billion in economic costs per year.

Both groups have issued dueling assessments of the plan’s likely impact. Here are 6 major arguments in favor of, and 6 against, Obama’s executive order, based on a summary the NRDC provided to The Fiscal Times and on excerpts from a Chamber of Commerce study.


6 Reasons to Support Obama’s Carbon Rule, from the NRDC:

•Carbon pollution fuels climate change, which triggers more asthma attacks and respiratory disease, worsens air quality, and contributes to destructive, costly and deadly extreme-weather events.

•In 2012 alone, extreme weather cost the U.S. more than $130B, and taxpayers picked up nearly $100B of the cleanup’s cost, according to an NRDC analysis.

•Setting federal limits on carbon pollution from power plants is essential: Power plants are responsible for 40 percent of U.S. carbon pollution, the single largest source. Right now, we limit mercury, arsenic, lead, soot and other dangerous pollutants from power plants, but not carbon pollution.

•While many states and communities have taken action, the new federal safeguard will set commonsense limits on carbon pollution, inspire investment in infrastructure to protect communities, and spur innovation to power America with clean energy in the 21st century.

•States have flexibility to implement plans to increase efficiency, improve resiliency and remove carbon pollution. Carbon standards can create hundreds of thousands of jobs and save American households and businesses billions on electricity bills, NRDC claims, as energy efficiency is ramped up.

•New clean energy technologies that produce less carbon pollution will create a new generation of clean energy jobs. Carbon pollution limits will spur investment and innovation in clean energy technologies to modernize and clean up power plants. Since 1970, every dollar invested in compliance with Clean Air Act standards has yielded $4-8 in economic benefits.


6 Reasons to Oppose Obama’s Carbon Rule, from the Chamber of Commerce:

•It will negatively affect national GDP, employment, and real income per household. A Chamber of Commerce study predicts a peak decline in GDP of $104B in 2025, with an average of $51B per year from 2014 to 2030. It also predicts the loss of up to 442,000 jobs.

•It will have a very small impact on global CO2 emissions, which are set to rise rapidly. The Chamber’s analysis finds the proposal would address “a mere 1.8 percent of global CO2 emissions.” Regardless of national emissions reduction policies and adverse economic impacts, global CO2 emissions will grow rapidly.

•It will be extremely costly. Regulating CO2 emissions will generate adverse economic impacts in the U.S. in exchange for reductions overshadowed by rapidly rising emissions elsewhere. The plan would shave $51B off GDP annually and increase electricity costs by $289B.

•The law governing mercury and other toxins is a huge economic drain; the new plan would be even worse. To date, the Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) is the most expensive power sector rule issued by the EPA, at a projected total cost of $9.6B per year… The average compliance cost of the EPA’s CO2 regulations is nearly triple that, at $28.1B, over a 17-year time frame.

•The plan will force the energy industry to deal with the cost of decommissioning or retrofitting existing, functional power-delivery infrastructure and replacing it. The total cost for incremental generating capacity, supporting infrastructure (electric transmission, natural gas pipelines, CO2 pipelines), decommissioning, stranded asset costs, and offsetting savings from lower fuel use and operation and maintenance is nearly $480B.

•The proposal places unrealistic demands on states, resulting in more burden on individuals and businesses, says the Chamber: “In regulating CO2 emissions, it appears the EPA will attempt to mandate a level of CO2 emissions reductions that is unachievable at the source (power plants).”


The Real Threat to the Electric Power Grid Is Not Terrorism

By Rob Garver,

The Fiscal Times

May 28, 2014


The combination of declining costs for solar panels and dramatic improvements in both price and capacity of lithium ion batteries is bad news for the giant electrical utilities that currently supply the majority of power to homes and businesses in the United States.

In a research note released last week, analysts in the credit research division of Barclays investment bank warned that the day when cost-effective solar power will be available to the individual consumer is closer than many expect, and will create huge disruptions for existing electrical utilities.

“In the 100+ year history of the electric utility industry, there has never before been a truly cost-competitive substitute available for grid power,” said a note authored by a team of analysts led by Yung Chuan Koh. “We believe that solar + storage could reconfigure the organization and regulation of the electric power business over the coming decade.”

In fact, the authors note, solar power has already become cost-competitive with traditional grid power in Hawaii, where prices per kilowatt hour of solar-generated power are less than half of grid power. The Barclays team believes that solar will reach parity with grid power in California by 2017 and in New York and Arizona by 2018. In the years following, multiple states join the group until, by 2024, electrical utilities in all but a handful of states will face major competition from solar power.

The reason for solar’s sudden surge in competitiveness, the authors say, is two-fold: photovoltaic (solar) panels are becoming cheaper, and the lithium ion batteries, like those used to power electric cars, have become both cheaper and more efficient.

This combination has solved two of solar power’s biggest problems: upfront cost and continuity of power. In the past, many who would have liked to use solar power were put off by the cost, which in some cases would take many years to recoup through reduced electric bills. Others were troubled by the unreliability of the power source – without the availability of copious storage, solar could only be counted on during the limited time in which direct sunlight was available.

With both of those constraints going away, Koh and his co-authors note, there is virtually no way the electricity business won’t see major disruption in the coming years, and they warn that “the market can turn very quickly.”


Google Invests in Satellites to Spread Internet Access

Company Projects Spending More Than $1 Billion to Connect Unwired Reaches of the Globe

By Alistair Barr and Andy Pasztor

June 1, 2014 7:48 p.m. ET


Google plans to spend $1 billion on a fleet of satellites to extend Internet access to unwired regions of the world. Associated Press

Google Inc. GOOGL -1.59% plans to spend more than $1 billion on a fleet of satellites to extend Internet access to unwired regions of the globe, people familiar with the project said, hoping to overcome financial and technical problems that thwarted previous efforts.

Details remain in flux, the people said, but the project will start with 180 small, high-capacity satellites orbiting the earth at lower altitudes than traditional satellites, and then could expand.

Google’s satellite venture is led by Greg Wyler, founder of satellite-communications startup O3b Networks Ltd., who recently joined Google with O3b’s former chief technology officer, the people said. Google has also been hiring engineers from satellite company Space Systems/Loral LLC to work on the project, according to another person familiar with the hiring initiative.

Mr. Wyler has between 10 and 20 people working for him at Google and reports to Craig Barratt, who reports to Chief Executive Larry Page, one of the people said. Mr. Wyler couldn’t be reached.

The projected price ranges from about $1 billon to more than $3 billion, the people familiar with the project said, depending on the network’s final design and a later phase that could double the number of satellites. Based on past satellite ventures, costs could rise.

Google’s project is the latest effort by a Silicon Valley company to extend Internet coverage from the sky to help its business on the ground. Google and Facebook Inc. FB -0.30% are counting on new Internet users in underserved regions to boost revenue, and ultimately, earnings.

Google’s Project Loon is designing high-altitude balloons to provide broadband service to remote parts of the world. In April, Google acquired Titan Aerospace, which is building solar-powered drones to provide similar connectivity. Facebook has its own drone effort.

“Google and Facebook are trying to figure out ways of reaching populations that thus far have been unreachable,” said Susan Irwin, president of Irwin Communications Inc., a satellite-communications research firm. “Wired connectivity only goes so far and wireless cellular networks reach small areas. Satellites can gain much broader access.”

Google’s efforts to deliver Internet service to unserved regions—through balloons, drones and satellites—are consistent with its approaches to other new markets. Even if one or more projects don’t succeed, Google can often use what it learned in other areas.


A Google spokeswoman said the company is focused on bringing hundreds of millions of additional people online. “Internet connectivity significantly improves people’s lives. Yet two thirds of the world have no access at all,” she said. She declined further comment.

Tim Farrar, head of satellite-consulting firm TMF Associates, expects Project Loon’s balloons eventually to be replaced by Titan’s drones. Drones and satellites complement each other, he said, with drones offering better high-capacity service in smaller areas, and satellites offering broader coverage in areas with less demand.

Mr. Farrar worked as a consultant for Teledesic LLC, which tried to build a constellation of low-earth-orbit satellites to deliver Internet service in the 1990s. Teledesic, backed by Microsoft Corp. MSFT -0.16% and telecommunications entrepreneur Craig McCaw, considered using drones to provide additional capacity for the satellite system in some areas, he said. The more than $9 billion project halted satellite assembly in 2002 amid technical hurdles and cost overruns.

Earlier, Iridium Satellite LLC went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization less than a year after starting voice and data services in 1998.

History is replete with ambitious satellite plans that failed, according to Roger Rusch, who runs TelAstra Inc., a satellite-industry consulting firm. Google’s project will end up “costing far more than they can imagine today,” he said, perhaps as much as $20 billion. “This is exactly the kind of pipe dream we have seen before.”

Google also will have to overcome regulatory hurdles, including coordinating with other satellite operators so its fleet doesn’t interfere with others.

O3b, in which Google was an early investor, has been working on providing broadband Internet connectivity from satellites weighing about 1,500 pounds each. O3b has been planning to launch about a dozen satellites, aiming to serve large areas on either side of the equator.

Google hopes to cover the entire globe with more, but smaller, satellites weighing less than 250 pounds, the people familiar with the project said.

Jamie Goldstein, an O3b director and a partner at North Bridge Venture Partners, which backs the company, said he couldn’t comment on what Mr. Wyler is working on, citing a nondisclosure agreement with Google. An O3b spokeswoman didn’t respond to requests for comment.

During a conference in March, Google CEO Mr. Page mused about spanning the globe with Internet access delivered by Project Loon. “I think we can build a world-wide mesh of these balloons that can cover the whole planet,” he said, noting that they are cheaper and faster to launch than satellites.

But satellites are more flexible and provide greater capacity. In recent years, costs to build and launch satellites have dropped sharply, according to Neil Mackay, CEO of Mile Marker 101, an advisory firm.

Consultant Mr. Farrar estimated that 180 small satellites could be launched for as little as about $600 million.

If Google succeeds, it “could amount to a sea change in the way people will get access to the Internet, from the Third World to even some suburban areas of the U.S.,” said Jeremy Rose of Comsys, a London-based satellite consulting firm.

Google also is hoping to take advantage of advances in antennas that can track multiple satellites as they move across the sky. Antennas developed by companies including Kymeta Corp. have no moving parts and are controlled by software, which reduces manufacturing and maintenance costs.


Kymeta hopes to sell its ground-antenna systems for hundreds of dollars, said CEO Vern Fotheringham. They would substitute for phased-array antennas which cost roughly $1 million a decade ago, he said.

Kymeta supplies antenna technology for O3b and worked closely with Brian Holz, a former O3b chief technology officer. Mr. Holz recently joined Google’s satellite project, along with Mr. Wyler and David Bettinger, technology chief of satellite-communications company VT iDirect Inc., Mr. Fotheringham said.

Technology news website the Information reported on May 27 that Google had hired Messrs. Holz and Bettinger for a satellite project.

“Google certainly has the resources to do something exciting in this area,” Mr. Fotheringham said. “We and everyone else in the industry are keen to hear more about what they’re working on.”


China’s Strategy Has Completely Eluded Washington

By Patrick Smith,

The Fiscal Times

June 2, 2014


The Chinese dragon, awake and alert for some time, is suddenly stretching its arms and embracing what it thinks with conviction is its destiny as a Pacific power. Will the American protectorate in place for 70 years hold, they ask in Tokyo, in Seoul, in Manila, and now even in Hanoi.

The short but unqualified answer is, “No.”

China’s emergence is a matter of history, of geography, and, since Deng opened the reform period in 1978, of accumulated economic power. Behind the rise we witness now lie Beijing’s view that the post 1945 order in the western Pacific must be corrected and a fulsome measure of Middle Kingdom determination. In one of the world’s wounded civilizations, the recovery of lost greatness has been the national dream since Mao took Beijing in 1949.

Does the Obama administration grasp any of this? This has not been clear for some time and grows more questionable now.


Last Saturday, Reuters reported the U.S. issued one of its strongest warnings to China when Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told an Asia-Pacific conference that the U.S. “will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged.”

Hagel said the United States took no position on the merits of rival territorial claims in the region, but added, “We firmly oppose any nation’s use of intimidation, coercion, or the threat of force to assert these claims.”

The posture here is not right. The primary lesson to be grasped in Washington and the Asian capitals is that the less time spent with fingers in the dike the better. The task now is to devise sensible, imaginative, sustainable policy responses that protect the interests of the U.S. and its allies while altering the climate in Asia from the poisonous antagonism we have to accommodation and on to cooperation.

This can be done, providing the wit and guts are there.

Recommendation No. 1 for Washington: Cut out the political appointees game in the foreign service. Restore the State Department’s institutional memory with good brains versed in history, the languages, and culture as opposed to rational choice theory.

Recommendation No. 2: Take control of the policy process away from Defense and the military and give it back to State, thus correcting an error that has for decades been detrimental to U.S. interests and the American profile in Asia.

The moment to rebuild strategy, ground up, is upon us for a simple reason: China has chosen it. Beijing has for many years waited for the right occasion to assert itself with concrete actions. As our jargon has it, China is “calling us out.”

There is not much ambiguity on this point. China has been increasingly aggressive in asserting its position in an islands dispute with Japan since last year. Six months ago came its declaration of an air defense zone that intersects with those Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan have had in place, courtesy of American cartographers, since the early Cold War years.

More recently Beijing has advanced maritime claims in the South China Sea that place its rights within a few dozen miles of the Philippines shoreline and 300 miles from the mainland. In its boldest moves to date, it recently towed an oilrig into waters claimed by Vietnam, prompting protests in Hanoi that resulted in four deaths.

These are not separate questions. They are better understood as the start of China’s campaign to renovate the power balance in the western Pacific. David Pilling, Asia editor at the Financial Times, sees savvy tactical design as a unifying theme across the region. “China’s probing the edge of what it can do,” Pilling said the other day. “These are issues Beijing knows America will not react to other than rhetorically.”

Pilling, who is among the most astute Asia analysts now in the field, takes a very long view of Chinese thinking. China turned inward after the 1949 revolution, he says, finding Washington’s Pax Pacifica objectionable but expedient. So did Deng, who said in effect, “Let’s proceed with our reforms and choose our moment carefully.”

“Some people took acquiescence in the post-1945 order to be permanent policy, but it’s a misreading,” Pilling said. “If one is to take one’s time, the only question left is, “When?” And it now starts to look as if the answer is, “Now.”

O.K., Pilling, but why now?

The 2008 financial crisis was a tripwire, in Pilling’s view. America no longer appeared infallible; China, as America’s biggest banker, a WTO member, and ahead of Japan as the No. 2 economic power, gained confidence. “There’s a prestige factor here, too,” Pilling added.

Equally, the Law of the Sea had long been on the U.N.’s docket, but only recently have nations marked out formal territorial claims. When Hillary Clinton, then Secretary of State, asserted America’s role in protecting Asian sea lanes on a visit to Hanoi in 2010, Beijing’s back stiffened. “Critical point,” Pilling thinks. “China saw no role for America in Asian disputes. What if relations with the referee turned hostile?”

At the security conference in Singapore at the end of last week, the shared concern among Hagel and his counterparts was the pressure Beijing now intentionally exerts to weaken Washington’s network of alliances with regional capitals. This is almost certainly an accurate perception.

Yet, it would be a mistake to assume China intends to replace Pax Americana with a Pax Sinica. It is too busy at home, cannot afford any such an ambition, and has proven from Mao to Deng and since that pragmatic self-interest figures high in its calculations. This is the door to renovated relations Washington must not fail to step through.

Hagel’s criticism of Beijing’s recent moves in the region—”intimidation and coercion,” he said—was a mistake on numerous counts. First, it was Hagel’s remark. The defense secretary should do less traveling in Asia and Secretary Kerry more. Second, Hagel betrayed anxiety, and one must avoid that with the Chinese. Third, he signaled that Washington remains determined to fight the forlorn fight against the incoming tide.

Finally, Hagel elicited two reactions in the region, neither desirable. Beijing denounced the conference point blank. Elsewhere, Hagel’s talk will merely confirm the widely shared impression that talk is all Washington finally has on offer.

Asia Sentinel, an authoritative online journal published in Hong Kong, said it this way in a recent edition: “For a nation that is supposedly paying more attention to Asia and building relationships with old and new friends, the U.S. response to recent Chinese moves against Vietnam and the Philippines has been mealy-mouthed.”

Not the desired effect, to put the point mildly.



Sen. Durbin: Early July Is ‘Goal’ for Defense Spending Bill

Jun. 3, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — US Senate appropriators are aiming to take up their 2015 Pentagon spending measure just after Independence Day, says Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

“First week of July,” the Senate Appropriations Defense subcommittee chairman said as he ducked into an elevator near the Senate chamber. “That’s the goal.”

The coming markup will be Durbin’s second since his surprising ascension to subcommittee chairman. Since, defense firms have upped their campaign contributions to the Senate majority whip.

The House’s full Appropriations Committee likely will take up its version of the 2015 defense appropriations bill next week, an aide says. Its defense subpanel last week approved a version that would give the Defense Department $570.4 billion.

The House version adds monies for fighter jets, electronic-attack planes and maintains 11 aircraft carriers.

The House Appropriations Defense subcommittee proposes a $491 billion base Pentagon budget and a $79.4 billion overseas contingency operations (OCO), or war funding, section.

That $491 billion figure is $5 billion lower than the Pentagon’s $496 billion base budget request. When factoring in another $5 billion in military construction, which the panel does not oversee, the HAC-D’s portion of the base budget roughly matches the Pentagon’s request.


Lawmakers: Sequestration, End of Arms Buys Could Weaken US Industrial Base

Jun. 3, 2014 – 02:56PM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — US House members are worried about the impact of sequestration cuts and the scheduled end of some major weapon buys, warning the dual hit could damage the defense industrial base.

The lower chamber’s version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), passed May 22, contains a provision that raises concerns that the across-the-board defense budget cuts “will reduce procurement spending over the next several years, leaving some sectors of the national technical and industrial base with a limited number of viable suppliers,” states a report accompanying the legislation.

The House report says the scheduled end of some major weapon programs coupled with sequestration, “could result in continued financial losses to several high-risk sectors, which could force consolidations, decisions to forgo defense contracts, and facility closures.”

Lawmakers are worried about each issue because major Pentagon programs typically spread work across many facilities in many states, meaning a long list of lawmakers could have a stake in any given weapon system or company.

The legislation “directs” the defense secretary to “examine the impacts of such budget reductions as part of the department’s sector-by-sector, tier-by-tier review of the defense industrial base,” states the House report.

If the provision is included in the final version of the NDAA, it would require Pentagon officials to brief the four congressional defense committees with an “analysis of sectors and tiers of the private industrial base found to be at highest risk and how the risk assessment has changed since enactment of the Budget Control Act of 2011, and the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013.”

The former created sequestration and the latter initially softened the effect of the cuts for two years but also extended the spending caps two years into the next decade.

The proposed briefing also would have to cover which other sectors and tiers of the industrial base “might be considered high risk as a result of those [laws]; and steps necessary to protect those high risk sectors and tiers.”

The hawkish House Armed Services Committee, which crafted the bill and the report, is concerned that cuts of around $45 billion annually to an annual budget expected to again approach $550 billion in a few years will erode the military’s readiness and lethality, while also weakening the industrial base.

But some experts shoot back that US defense spending is historically high, and that there is ample work for arms makers.

For instance, a recent report released by Third Way, a Washington think tank, states the Obama administration’s 2015 defense request “provides a robust level of military spending — less than wartime peaks but still more than President Reagan’s highest defense budget in real terms.”



Space Architecture Changes to Boost US Intelligence Gathering

Jun. 3, 2014 – 01:20PM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is changing the way it uses its space intelligence-gathering assets, which would give the Defense Department the ability to watch over areas for long periods of time, a senior DoD official said on Tuesday.

While his comments were fairly vague, Michael Vickers, DoD undersecretary for intelligence, said changes in “overhead space architecture” will be “some of the biggest changes … that we’ve seen in several decades.”

“It will be possible … through techniques — such as activity-based intelligence and associated architecture capabilities to go with it — to have persistence we’ve never had before to where we can look at things for long periods of time,” he said during a presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. “You can imagine the benefits that will give us.”

Another “revolutionary” change is integration, Vickers said.

“Rather than having an overhead architecture … that is a set of individual systems with supporting systems, we will have for the first time going forward a really integrated architecture that can tip and cue — and there’s tremendous benefits that can come from that,” he said.

Tip-and-cue refers to autonomously triggering a response to an action. For example, a satellite fixed on a house could give a “tip” to a second satellite or intelligence aircraft if someone enters or exits the house. If someone exits, it could order a satellite or unmanned or manned aircraft to track the person.

While Vickers comments were vague, they could mean one of a only few things, said Marco Caceres, senior analyst and director of space studies at the Teal Group, a Virginia-based consulting firm.

One is that National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) satellite sensors are getting more powerful. The other is an increasing call to put these top-secret sensors — used only on government spacecraft — on commercial satellites, a concept called hosted payloads.

“The only new wave, new trend that I see that’s going to potentially have a huge impact is going to be hosted payloads,” Caceres said. “We could put up a lot more stuff, a lot more sensors [and] a lot more listening devices.”

As military satellites get increasingly more expensive to build and launch, the hosted payload options would dramatically lower the cost of launching dedicated satellites and widely expand the number of space-borne sensors orbiting the Earth. It would make it tough for an adversary to tell where the NRO sensors are located.

“We’re not going to know where NRO is putting its sensors,” Caceres said.

A disadvantage to using this method is DoD would not have full control of the satellite, Caceres said. But the advantage is DoD could pay a fee to place sensors on any US satellite scheduled for launch, assuming the company that owns the spacecraft allows it.

“Wherein the past you might put up a handful of new sensors every year, now there’s really no limitation because there’s dozens of satellites available out there going up all the time,” he said.

DoD is also looking to take some of the lessons it has learned for more than a decade of counterinsurgency operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and adapt them to what the Pentagon perceives as future threats, Vickers said.

“We’re focused as a strategy on adapting some of the techniques we’ve learned in counterterrorism where we have gotten incredibly precise, and apply that to these higher-end environments,” he said.




FAA Weighs Letting Film, TV Industry Use Drones

Regulators Consider Approving Drone Use for Some Companies, Signaling End of Legal Logjam

By Andy Pasztor

Updated June 2, 2014 4:12 p.m. ET


Federal regulators are considering exempting seven companies working for the film and television industry from current prohibitions against commercial uses of drone aircraft in U.S. skies.

Monday’s announcement by the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t immediately end those restrictions. But it signals that the agency, after months of controversy and pressure from drone proponents to allow some limited commercial flights, is looking to end the legal logjam by authorizing some independent cinematography companies and individuals to use drones.

If the administrative exemptions are granted, such photo and video applications would have for the first time explicit FAA approval under specific conditions. The decision could open the door to other industry-by-industry exemptions—something drone manufacturers and users have been advocating for some time.

The FAA’s move is likely to be welcomed by companies itching to start flying commercial drones for a wide range of business applications.

Some drone operators and others say they have been flying drones for various video and photo uses despite the FAA’s ban, and that the FAA’s stretched enforcement arm hasn’t tried to shut them down. Drones also have been used for a number of other applications, including agriculture, because agency officials generally haven’t initiated enforcement actions.

The exemptions presumably would go into effect before the FAA finishes its current effort to formulate comprehensive rules for such small drones, or unmanned aerial systems, operating at low altitudes and weighing less than 55 pounds.

Proposed rules for small drones are expected to be issued by the end of the year, though they aren’t likely to become final until 2015 or later.

At the same time, the FAA continues work on drafting rules to integrate larger drones into U.S. airspace. Those proposals, however, are bound to be more complex and won’t be issued until later.

In its announcement, the FAA cited the “tangible economic benefits as the agency begins to address the demand for commercial [drone] operations.” But the agency said all “associated safety issues must be carefully considered to make sure any hazards are appropriately mitigated” before the FAA gives the green light.

The FAA said the Motion Picture Association of America “facilitated the exemption requests on behalf of their membership.”

The firms want exemptions for operational rules, pilot-training requirements and maintenance mandates. They also want to be exempted from federal design requirements covering the unmanned vehicles.

Seven companies, which aren’t generally known outside the motion picture industry, filed identical requests prepared by the same law firm and lawyer. They envision using “small, unmanned and relatively inexpensive” drones “under controlled conditions” in limited airspace off-limits to others. The filings also indicate anticipated safeguards including use of a pilot and an observer; flights remaining under 200 feet altitude and lasting for less than 30 minutes; and onboard backup systems to ensure that drones can land safely if they lose communication or navigation signals.


The Motion Picture Association released a statement praising the FAA for considering approval of unmanned systems that offer “an innovative and safer option for filming” than manned aircraft.

In addition to companies engaged in film production, the FAA said three other industries are considering asking for exemptions. They include some agricultural uses; aerial inspections of power lines and pipelines; and inspections of certain stacks at oil and gas facilities.

Law-enforcement agencies and other public users of drones already can rely on procedures to obtain FAA approval to fly some of the largest models in designated airspace.


Chinese Military Shows New Capabilities, Pentagon Says

By Tony Capaccio Jun 6, 2014 5:09 AM ET


China’s military is improving its military doctrine, training, weapons and surveillance to be able to conduct more sophisticated attacks against the U.S. and other adversaries, according to the Pentagon.

After jamming communications and mounting other forms of electronic and cyberwarfare, stealthy Chinese aircraft, drones and missiles could attack U.S. warships, aircraft and supply craft, the Defense Department said yesterday in its annual report on China.

The report, which is required by Congress, doesn’t suggest that such attacks are likely, only that the Chinese military last year continued to demonstrate new capabilities similar to those the U.S. began embracing at least 20 years ago, with mixed success. The buildup is occurring as China increasingly asserts itself in territorial disputes with its neighbors.

“Although the Pentagon was overstating the Chinese military threat to avoid more cuts in its budget, the speed of the People’s Liberation Army’s modernization has indeed exceeded western countries’ expectation,” said Ni Lexiong, director of national defense policy research at Shanghai University of Political Science and Law.

“The gap is between 20 and 30 years,” he said. “At the current pace, China may catch up with the U.S. in 40 years, and may start to get ahead in 60 years,” he said.


Overcoming ‘Biases’

China’s military build up is appropriate and solely for defending its own sovereignty, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said today at a briefing in Beijing.

“We hope the U.S. gets rid of its biases, objectively and rationally regards China’s defensive capacity, and stops releasing these reports, and makes concrete contribution to China and U.S. military cooperation,” he said.

China views the Pentagon’s annual report as a relic of the Cold War, when the U.S. prepared similar studies on the Soviet military threat, said Song Xiaojun, a Beijing-based military commentator for state television CCTV.

Beijing’s anger is over “the fact that the U.S., whose military expenditure accounts for more than 4 percent of GDP and still runs the world’s biggest defense budget even with the proposed cutbacks, is accusing China of splashing out on the armed forces,” he said in an interview. “In Beijing’s mind, it’s like you can eat five pieces of bread but not allow me to eat even half a piece.”


Regional Tensions


China is using its growing military muscle to aggressively assert its territorial claims in neighboring seas. In November, China declared an Air Defense Identification Zone in November over a stretch of sea that overlaps with Japanese and South Korean zones. China also is embroiled in disputes with Vietnam and the Philippines in the South China Sea that have led to confrontations.

The Chinese Navy last year commissioned nine new Jiangdao-class corvettes armed with anti-ship cruise missiles for operations close to shore, “especially in the South China Sea and East China Sea,” the Pentagon said. The Pentagon’s test office and internal Navy reviews have warned that the U.S.’s new Littoral Combat Ships are vulnerable to such weapons.

The report may provide new fodder for U.S. congressional advocates of more defense spending who argue for improving naval capabilities to blunt Chinese advances through systems such as Boeing Co. (BA)’s EA-18G Growler electronic-warfare plane and Raytheon Co. (RTN)’s new Air and Missile Defense Radar and Next Generation Jammer.


Secretly Happy

China “now has incredible economic clout and has become adept at applying pressure below the threshold that would trigger a strong military response from the U.S. or its allies,” said John Blaxland, a senior fellow at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre in Canberra. “China may well be critical of this report but they’re probably secretly happy that that’s the perception.”

Last year, the Chinese military “emphasized training under realistic combat scenarios” and the ability to execute long-range mobility operations, such as maritime exercises that involved all three Chinese Navy fleets, the report found.

The report doesn’t add new details to the U.S. contention that China is increasing its cyberattacks on the Pentagon, instead repeating paragraphs it published last year about China’s activities in 2012 in a section entitled “Cyber Activities Directed Against the U.S. Department of Defense.”


Technology Theft

Last month, the Justice Department escalated its effort to curb China’s technology theft from U.S. companies by charging five Chinese military officials with stealing trade secrets, casting the hacker attacks as a direct economic threat.

The Pentagon said China’s most significant military developments last year included air-defense upgrades to destroyers and frigates; testing of its Y-20 transport to fly ground forces quickly across great distances; at least eight launches to expand its intelligence and surveillance from space; and a “probable” Chinese drone conducting reconnaissance in the East China Sea.

China’s also starting to integrate anti-radar missiles into its fighter-bomber fleet, the report said.

The Chinese Navy continues to develop long-range, over-the-horizon radar that, in coordination with satellites, is intended to “locate targets at great distances from China” for targeting by its DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile, according to the Pentagon. The report said China continues to field a “limited but growing number” of the missiles.

It also continues to develop the stealthy J-20 fighter and J-31 that are “similar in size to a U.S. F-35 fighter,” the report said, without comparing capabilities.





Administration Overhauls Federal Health-Care Website

Federal Officials Seek to Avoid Problems That Plagued Launch of

Updated June 5, 2014 7:59 p.m. ET


The Obama administration is revamping and scrapping significant parts of the federal health-insurance marketplace in an effort to avoid the problems that plagued the site’s launch last fall, according to presentations to health insurers and interviews with government officials and contractors.

But the makeover—and the tight timeline to accomplish it—are raising concerns that consumers could face another rocky rollout this fall when they return to the site to choose health plans. Some key back-end functions, including a system to automate payments to insurers, are running behind schedule, according to a presentation federal officials made to health insurers.

Adding to the pressure, is still in the midst of transitioning to new government contractors to manage basic functions.

Four Million to Face Penalties for Lacking Health Coverage, CBO Says

Among the changes in the new version of a revamp of the site’s consumer-facing portion including the application for coverage most people will use, as well as the comparison tool that lets them shop for plans, according to slides from a May 20 meeting for insurers held by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which oversees

The government is turning to cloud computing from Inc. AMZN +5.47% ‘s Web Services unit to host many of these functions.

Officials are also replacing separate software that people use to create accounts and log in to Glitches in that system, known as EIDM, locked many users out of the site altogether last fall.

Federal officials told health plans the new versions of some of these functions will need to be tested with insurers before open enrollment begins Nov. 15.

“We’re all going to be nervous until November 15,” said Shaun Greene, chief operating officer of Utah-based Arches Health Plan. “There is no wiggle room. They’re on a very tight time frame.” He and other industry executives said they were concerned about how will handle consumers who are renewing coverage. “The re-enrollment process is what scares me,” he said.

CMS officials said changes were adjustments built on the existing system, rather than a reinvention. They said they expected to begin testing some of the changes over the summer, but that other tests would likely take place closer to the start of the new enrollment season. Julie Bataille, a spokeswoman, also said the agency knew the identity-management component was a particular source of problems.

Improvements had already been made to, including increasing capacity, which helped the site function more smoothly by the end of the first enrollment period. Some 5.4 million people picked plans for 2014 via the site, which serves 36 states, and 2.6 million did so through state-run exchanges.

Some insurers also said the process of filing their 2015 plans with the federal government appears to be proceeding with far fewer hiccups than in 2014, a possible sign that this year’s enrollment will go more smoothly than last year’s, they said.

But officials are still grappling with problems from the first enrollments. Contractors are working through a backlog of 2 million consumers whose applications have discrepancies, CMS officials confirmed this week. Those consumers are getting tax credits toward the cost of coverage, but made income projections or statements about their immigration status that didn’t match federal data.

Such snarls are drawing fire from Republicans. “This system was unworkable from the start,” said Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “As we’ve said all along, this is much more than a website problem.”

For consumers looking to sign up for 2015, the site will have a new home page, visual design and tools to help them learn about the program, window-shop without registering and find local assistance. It will be optimized for mobile devices and run on Inc.’s cloud computing service.

It will also include a new screening tool that directs households with complex situations, such as multiple families living in one house, to a different part of the website. The majority of users will be directed to the new streamlined application, according to the slides from the meeting last month.

Bringing in Amazon marks the latest in a series of new contractors. Last year, federal officials hired Hewlett-Packard Co. HPQ +0.33% to replace Verizon Communications Inc. VZ +0.26% subsidiary Terremark as the site’s web-hosting provider.

A spokeswoman for Amazon declined to comment on its role.

The presentation also says the health law’s exchange for small businesses, delayed by technical problems last year, is on course to go live Nov. 15, with a pilot launch in October; it will launch without some functions, including the option for employers to contribute different amounts for part- and full-time employees.

At the back end, federal officials are also offering cloud services to insurers that participate in the program. They would be used as part of the system that will generate payments that blunt the costs associated with enrolling sicker consumers, a key aspect of the law.

The riskiest part of the overhaul, say contractors, is a replacement of the EIDM—the system that allows people to create an account.

Officials have been grappling with the system’s limitations for months. After the system locked out most users in the early days of, officials asked the contractor then responsible for the site, CGI Federal, to build a replacement “to improve access,” according to an Oct. 4 amendment to the company’s contract reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. But officials later decided replacing the system in the middle of enrollment was too risky and focused on improving the flawed component, people familiar with the matter said.

A spokeswoman for CGI declined to comment.

Replacing EIDM “is a major change,” said one senior official of a government contractor. “My opinion, no way they can do that before next open enrollment. Tune and tweak? Yes. Replace? No way.” But he said the changes planned by CMS broadly made sense as a response to last fall’s troubles.

Insurers are also focused on timelines that are slipping further on key behind-the-scenesfunctions, such as the system to funnel subsidy payments to plans. The system, originally supposed to be ready for the launch in October,then later slated for completion by mid-March, is now scheduled to be fully operational in 2015, according to a slide laying out the timeline.

Currently, health plans are getting paid via a setup that requires them to send spreadsheets to the the government. Switching to the new system will require reconciliation of data and likely settling-up of over- or under-payments.


“The farther back it’s pushed, the more confusing it will be to insurance companies and to members,” said Cliff Gold, chief operating officer of CoOportunity Health, an insurer offering plans in Iowa and Nebraska.


Rasmussen Reports

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


Bottom of Form

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Voters have made it clear for years that the economy is their number one concern, and if President Obama’s approval ratings are any indication, money appears to be talking louder that the numerous controversies the administration finds itself in.

Investor confidence at week’s end remains higher than it has been since 2007. Consumer confidence is near highs for the year.

The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence jumped five points in May to its highest level in over six years of monthly tracking.

Thirty percent (30%) of Employed Adults are looking for a job outside of their current company, up four points from April and the highest finding since March 2011. Forty-two percent (42%) believe their next job will be better than their current one, the highest level of confidence in two years.

Just as many Americans will be taking a summer vacation this year, but fewer will be cutting back on how much they spend.

The president’s  monthly job approval rating climbed to 49% in May, up two points from April and matching his previous high for the year reached in February. Obama’s approval rating hit a two-year low of 45% in November during the troubled rollout period for the new health care law, but it has generally remained at 47% or 48% for much of his presidency.

The headlines tell a different story. The president, for example, recently announced plans to withdraw all but 9,800 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year and fully withdraw troops by the end of 2016. Forty-eight percent (48%) of voters believe some U.S. troops should remain in Afghanistan through 2016, but nearly as many (44%) think the United States should withdraw all troops by the end of this year.

Voters are also almost evenly divided over the prisoner swap proudly announced by the president that freed the only known U.S. military POW in Afghanistan in exchange for five Taliban leaders held at the Guantanamo prison camp for terrorists. Most voters don’t approve of negotiating with terrorists. 

The exchange is seen as part of the president’s effort to close the prison at Guantanamo, but most voters think that’s a bad idea.

Opposition to Obamacare’s requirement that every American have health insurance has risen to 51%, its highest level this year.

The president has authorized new Environmental Protection Agency regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that critics claim will drive up energy costs. Fewer voters than ever (21%) believe the actions of the EPA help the economy. Twice as many (41%) believe the agency’s actions hurt the economy instead.

Obama also continues to call for new government spending as an economic stimulus, but most voters (56%) continue to think thoughtful spending cuts should be considered instead in every program of the federal government.

Other recent surveys have found that 62% think it’s likely the president or his top aides were aware of the serious problems with veterans’ care before they came to light in recent weeks. Most voters also think the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and his administration’s handling of the Benghazi matter deserve further investigation.

Yet Obama’s daily job approval rating appears even better so far this month, despite new and continuing controversies of his own making.

By contrast, House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, is now the overall most unpopular leader in Congress, surpassing even House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi who has long held that title.

Democrats lead Republicans again on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot when voters are asked which party’s congressional candidate they would vote for if the election were held right now.

Still, many pundits think the GOP has a good chance of taking six seats away from Democrats this November to win majority control of the U.S. Senate. One possible Republican pickup is in Iowa where longtime Democratic Senator Tom Harkin is retiring. The Senate race there between Joni Ernst, the winner of Tuesday’s crowded GOP primary, and Democratic Congressman Bruce Braley is a dead heat.

To gain control of the Senate, Republicans need to hold onto the seats they currently have, and they appear very unlikely to lose the one in Idaho now held by Jim Risch. The GOP incumbent has a nearly two-to-one lead over Democratic challenger Nels Mitchell.

Republican incumbent C.L. “Butch” Otter holds a 14-point lead over his Democratic opponent in Idaho’s 2014 gubernatorial race.

Republican Governor Terry Branstad leads his Democratic opponent Jack Hatch by nine points in his bid for reelection in Iowa.

Republican Governor Tom Corbett trails his Democratic challenger Tom Wolf by 20 points in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race.

Check out all the Senate and gubernatorial races nationwide on our new Election 2014 pages here.

In other surveys this week:

— Thirty percent (30%) of voters say the United States is heading in the right direction. Sixty-three percent (63%) think the country is headed down the wrong track.

— Edward Snowden made public the federal government’s spying on Americans’ phone calls and e-mails, and he says he’s a patriot. Sixty-three percent (63%) of voters think it’s good for the country that he revealed the National Security Agency’s surveillance program, but 42% still believe Snowden should be treated as a spy.

Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans believe a free society like ours can never be made completely safe from a mass murder like the recent one in southern California.

— Forty-five percent (45%) think the media coverage of mass murders inspires other people to commit violent acts

— School districts around the country have been pushing to opt out of the school food guidelines championed by First Lady Michelle Obama. Just 25% of Americans think the federal government should set nutritional standards for schools.

May 31 2014




Doing Less With Less

Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, talked about how best to use the military in the modern world.

By Michael P. Noonan

May 26, 2014


Last week Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered a speech at The Atlantic Council and Defense One released an interview that he had conducted with James Kitfield. Both items further articulated the general’s views on the current strategic picture confronting the United States and his ideas about the use of force and the military profession – I have covered some of the general’s views on these topics here before (see here and here).

On the current strategic picture, he stated both to Kitfield and at the Atlantic Council that he sees the current strategic environment in terms of a “2+2+2+1” construct. Under this construct there are two strategic heavyweights competitors (China and Russia), two middleweight threats (Iran and North Korea), two networks that must be dealt with (al-Qaida and affiliates and transnational organized crime), and the “1” representing the cyber domain. He argued that the transnational organized criminal network deserves more attention because “it’s extraordinarily capable. It’s extraordinarily wealthy. And it can move anything. It’ll go to the highest bidder.”

In the cyber- domain the chief concerns for him are about a lack of preparedness for a cyberattack and the corruption of data. The latter concern is particularly critical to the military because it “is actually more alarming than the denial of data, because denial of data, you work around, but corruption of data causes you to lose confidence in your systems.”

(Even from a broader perspective the threat of corruption of data is troubling; I was at an event in Washington last week where one speaker noted that in the year 2000 75 percent of the information in the United States was recorded on paper while 25 percent was stored digitally. In 2014, however, the digital storage of records number had reached 98 percent.)

When the chairman was asked at the Atlantic Council about whether the construct should rather be the “2+2+2+1+25” model due to the number of things competing for our attention in the world he responded that,

I’m not suggesting that we should be content that we don’t know everything. But I will suggest to you quite clearly that when we do know everything, we immediately feel some obligation to do something about it. And so I’m not asking you to do less; here’s what I’m – let me put it this way. I’m not asking you to do more with less. I think you’ll have to do less with less, but not less well, and that’s going to take some serious thinking about where to prioritize.

He also noted that this made things difficult because it is hard to articulate eroding readiness and risk because, “it’s a little different in each service, and it’s very different depending on whether you’re talking about a heavyweight, a middleweight, a network or a domain.”

On the use of force and the military instrument of power he told Kitfield that,

…when you look at what the military instrument of power can accomplish, it is actually more effective in dealing with strength-on-strength situations than it is in dealing with strength-on-weakness scenarios. And we’re finding that a weakening of structures and central authority is pervasive in today’s world. The Middle East is a poster child for that dynamic. But if you look at almost any sector of civilization– from international organizations, to big corporations to places of worship – their authority has diminished over the past decade. That has to do with the spread of technology that has made information so ubiquitous in today’s world. But the result has been a weakened international order. And frankly, it’s harder to articulate the proper use of military power in that environment as opposed to a world with stronger centers of authority.


He noted that there were three ways the United States can influence the global security environment militarily. These are through “direct military action, building partnership capacity and enabling other actors.” The first option is “the most costly, disruptive and controversial use of American power.” He was more sanguine about the other two options stating he would like to double or triple our efforts to “build credible partners around the globe” and that he is an advocated for “enabling others who have the will, but perhaps not the capability to act.” But he also stated during Q&A that it was more difficult to practice deterrence against the middleweight actors and that he wasn’t sure if networks could be deterred at all.

Dempsey’s views are quite understandable. The U.S. faces a difficult strategic picture today where a declining defense budget is further hamstrung by the nonallowance of cuts to unneeded systems, infrastructure and ballooning personnel costs, where the military profession must come to grips with the limitations of what military power can reasonably accomplish after a decade-plus of war amongst the people in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the world teems with state and nonstate actors who both wish serious revisions to regional distributions of power. Still, we can expect to receive no breaks from either competitors or threats. We can’t be everywhere, but we must stay engaged. We should be cautious about the use of our military power, but we also must pick our shots to know when too much caution will be counterproductive. This is a delicate balance.



Tech Giants Spend Billions More Than Defense Firms on R&D

May. 26, 2014 – 02:55PM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments


WASHINGTON — Tech giants Microsoft, Google and Apple invested more than five times the amount spent by five of the largest US defense companies on research-and-development (R&D) projects in 2013, according to data compiled by a noted defense analyst.

But the five defense companies — Boeing Defense, L-3 Communications, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, all of which were in the top 10 of the 2013 Defense News Top 100 defense companies list — collectively spent about $800 million more on internal R&D in 2013 than they did in 2012, according to the data.

In all, the three big tech companies spent $18.8 billion more than the defense companies on these R&D projects in 2013, according to data compiled by Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners. Over the same time frame the five defense companies spent a total of $4.1 billion on R&D projects, while Google spent $8 billion, Apple $4.5 billion and Microsoft $10.4 billion.

“Those numbers kind of just stagger me that some of the tech giants are spending more than the five major primes combined,” Callan said.


“I just find it very intriguing that there’s such a misalignment between what these big guys are spending in absolute terms and what the US sector is spending,” he said.

One reason for the disparity in R&D investment could be that the Defense Department has relatively few cutting-edge, major programs starting in the coming years, Callan said.

In some cases, the Pentagon has opted to slow or cancel new programs, due to shrinking defense spending. Congress has also signaled it will not allow DoD to cancel certain programs, thus preventing the Pentagon from freeing up funds that could have been invested in R&D projects, Callan said.

“If you keep money in these older, legacy programs or you haven’t freed up money for some of these newer things that would see a promise of a payoff if someone takes some risk, then this a dog chasing its tail,” Callan said.

Company R&D spending has been closely monitored by DoD in recent years, particularly as the Pentagon sees its own development coffers come under pressure as defense budgets tighten.

Last year, Frank Kendall, DoD undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, challenged the defense industry to spend more money on R&D projects. The reaction from primes has been mixed.

For smaller companies, the reaction to the R&D challenge has also been mixed. Some medium-sized companies argue that having less cash on hand than larger companies could limit the pace at which they conduct R&D.

Callan said the size of the company does not necessarily determine how much the firm will invest in R&D.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily a small-to-mid-sized company phenomena,” he said. “It’s kind of a sector phenomena.”

William Lynn, the CEO of Finmeccanica North America and DRS Technologies, said his company saw its revenue fall as the US decreased its war spending. Still, it has protected its R&D spending.

“You can’t spend too much, but we try to balance protecting our margins and protecting our future, and we try not to stray too far in one direction or the other,” he said. “We’re willing to take some short-term decline in margins, modest, to protect our longer-term competitiveness.”

For a company like DRS, which builds sensors and other types of high-tech electronic equipment used by the larger prime contractors, being on the cutting edge is key, Lynn said.

“If we don’t stay up with the technology, the government or the primes won’t come to us,” he said. “It’s a death spiral for us and so we do have to protect that [but] you can’t go to zero margins either; you’ve got to balance it.”

Callan argues there is a misalignment between DoD and what it wants industry to do. “There is a need for a better path of programs or prototypes where we could recover some of the money invested,” he said.

“They’re not creating the lanes to encourage firms to take more risk and put more of their own skin in the game,” he said. “I think it’s fruitless in some ways to ask for industry to spend more money without at the same time pushing much harder to make sure that there’s some competitive programs that that investment might have some promise of return.”

One way to help the small companies could be for DoD to align more toward DARPA R&D programs or prototyping projects, Callan said. DARPA’s 2015 budget request of $2.9 billion is $136 million, or roughly 5 percent higher than fiscal 2014 enacted levels.



White House staff, Obama’s top military adviser disagree on cyber strategy

Thursday, May 29, 2014



White House officials and President Obama’s top military adviser disagree about whether the United States has a coherent national strategy to address cyber threats.

The rift surfaced when Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently voiced concerns at the Atlantic Council about the nation’s lack of preparedness for a cyber attack, cited strategic shortcomings and assigned blame to Congress.

“We have sectors within our nation that are more ready than others, but we don’t have a coherent cyber strategy as a nation,” Dempsey said. “And I understand why. . . . There are some big issues involved with achieving that kind of coherence — issues related to privacy and cost, information sharing and all of the liabilities that come in the absence of legislation to incentivize information sharing.”

Dempsey has previously defined strategy not merely as the issuance of high-profile guidance but as the process of balancing ends, ways and means.

Laura Lucas Magnuson, a spokeswoman for White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel, disputed Dempsey’s critique.

“Current U.S. cyber strategy is coherent and consistent with U.S. values that support an open, interoperable, secure and reliable Internet,” she told Inside Cybersecurity. “Given that cyberspace permeates every aspect of the economy and national security, no single document can meaningfully capture our strategic direction. Instead, our efforts are informed by specific strategy and policy documents.”

She said the Obama administration has produced a series of “targeted, coordinated strategies and policies to address specific cybersecurity topics,” including the International Strategy for Cybersecurity; the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace; the National Strategy for Information Sharing and Safeguarding; Executive Order 13286 “Assignment of National Security and Emergency Preparedness Communications Functions”; Executive Order 13587 “Structural Reforms to Improve the Security of Classified Networks and the Responsible Sharing and Safeguarding of Classified Information”; the Strategic Plan for the Federal Cybersecurity Research and Development Program; and the Cross Agency Priority Goal for Cybersecurity.

“Rather than developing yet another strategy on top of existing strategies, we need to remain flexible and focus on achieving measurable improvements in our cybersecurity,” Magnuson said. “The administration’s current approach fits the rapidly changing environment of cyberspace and the swiftly evolving government capabilities and understanding in cybersecurity.”

But Dempsey is standing by his remarks and pointing the finger at Congress. He “remains extremely concerned at how vulnerable our nation’s critical infrastructure is to a debilitating cyber attack,” his spokesman, Air Force Col. Ed Thomas, told Inside Cybersecurity.

“To close this national vulnerability, which constitutes a grave threat to our security, he continues to urge the passage of legislation that improves information sharing, encourages companies to adopt voluntary cybersecurity best practices and standards, and supports the establishment of international norms in cyberspace,” Thomas said.

The Defense Department has pushed for a more comprehensive national strategy to address cyber threats for years, said a former defense official, who concurred with Dempsey that more must be done — particularly by lawmakers — to address cyber threats.

In a broad sense, the source continued, Pentagon officials remain concerned that the U.S. government is in a tail chase when it comes to cyber threats, mainly due to Congress’ failure to pass legislation that identifies critical infrastructure and enables information sharing. Officials have also been frustrated that the administration has taken so long to publicly address policy questions about offensive cyber operations, the source said.

Echoing the White House’s emphasis on encouraging industry to voluntarily boost cybersecurity, the former official said incentives are preferable to a regulatory regime. For instance, Congress could pass legislation mandating active red-teaming of critical infrastructure, the source said, noting that private sector experts or potentially the National Security Agency could play the role of attackers during the tests and the infrastructure companies would be accountable for the results. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission could oversee such testing for nuclear power plants, the source said.


Groundhog Day?

Daniel’s predecessor, Howard Schmidt, said in an interview he was a bit surprised by Dempsey’s remarks. Schmidt, now teamed with former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge in the Ridge-Schmidt cybersecurity consultancy, said the general’s comments reflect a tendency in Washington to forget accomplishments and needlessly reinvent things. Schmidt said in his opinion the 2003 National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace — which he helped develop for former President George W. Bush — still stands.

But the White House spokeswoman said the 2003 strategy does not represent the policy of the Obama administration. The former defense official said the 2003 strategy featured good words, but the Bush administration did too little to implement it. And Mark Weatherford, a former DHS deputy under secretary for cybersecurity, said that although the 2003 strategy was “very comprehensive,” it would now need refreshing.

“I can’t help but agree with Gen. Dempsey, though,” said Weatherford, a principal with The Chertoff Group, a consultancy formed by former DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. Noting that cybersecurity is a dynamic discipline, Weatherford said DHS has struggled with the questions about the role of government in cybersecurity — and how the government ought to respond when someone attacks one of the United States’ 16 critical infrastructure sectors.

Weatherford also said it must be determined what role industry has in protecting itself. The federal framework of cybersecurity standards, which the White House released earlier this year in a bid to voluntarily encourage better cybersecurity in industry, has raised the level of conversation on the subject in an astonishingly good way, he said.

Weatherford also praised the recent indictment of five Chinese military hackers for economic espionage against U.S. companies. Industry has been waiting for the U.S. government to step up in this way, he said.


Assessments vary

Jason Healey of the Atlantic Council said he agrees completely with Dempsey about the lack of a coherent national cyber strategy. Most of the current crop of strategy documents, he said, are either overly focused on military issues, too old, or too limited to only one area of cyber. The lack of deadlines for completing actions is also problematic, he said.

“None of these ‘strategies’ actually give much advice on how to balance between competing priorities, such as where additional [signals intelligence] collection might trample on American companies to the ultimate detriment of American security (such as happened with Microsoft and Flame),” he said via email. Citing the Cold War, he said, “The best strategy ever was ‘containment’ which summed up the entire idea in just a single word.”

James Lewis of the Center for Strategic and International Studies said via email the United States has “done pretty well in assembling a set of strategies,” which collectively “add up to a coherent strategy (with a lot of extraneous pieces).” But Lewis also sees room for improvement.

“If you were going to look for two areas for work, it would be in critical infrastructure protection and in responding to cyber attack — that’s why Dempsey is saying we are unprepared,” he said.

Ben FitzGerald of the Center for a New American Security questioned whether a coherent strategy is attainable. “The U.S. does not and likely cannot have a singular, coherent cyber strategy,” he said. “There are too many stakeholders with competing perspectives and interests to fit under one umbrella approach. The most that can be hoped for is a minimum acceptable standard of security and particular strategies for vital networks and assets.”

Healey, Lewis and FitzGerald doubted the administration’s upcoming National Security Strategy would say much on cybersecurity.

And Jane Holl Lute, the president and chief executive officer of the Council on Cybersecurity, urged a greater focus on promoting cybersecurity hygiene. The federal framework of cybersecurity standards is the foundation of the Obama administration’s legacy on cybersecurity, she said. Lute questioned the utility of writing cybersecurity strategies.

“I don’t think it’s a particularly important issue,” said Lute, a former DHS deputy secretary. “We won’t achieve cybersecurity simply by writing such a strategy, and the lack of one is not preventing us from making meaningful progress. Moreover, a strategy without practical means of implementation offers no benefit. We know what to do as a nation; we are just not yet doing it.” – Christopher J. Castelli (

By Sandra I. Erwin

May 28, 2014

Aerospace and defense firms have cheered the Obama administration’s five-year effort to overhaul the U.S. export licensing system at a time when American manufacturers seek international growth.

But industry groups of late are voicing displeasure with the pace and substance of the reforms. They also fear that the administration is weighing new export controls over increasingly sought-after technologies such as cloud computing, cyber security and encryption.

Over the past 18 months, the administration has acted to remove civilian, or “dual use” technologies like aircraft components and communications satellites from the U.S. munitions list — managed by the State Department — to the less restrictive controls of the Commerce Department.

While these changes have been welcome by the private sector, they do not go far enough, a coalition of 18 industry groups argued in an April letter sent to President Obama.

Exporters are frustrated by the heavy administrative burden and by a lack of transparency in the export licensing process, said The Coalition for Security and Competitiveness. Defense and aerospace firms contend the latest round of reforms has done nothing to ease the sale of U.S. technology to allied militaries. Information technology suppliers also worry that their products could soon come under stricter export controls as the administration shifts into the final phase of the reforms. “Many of the other issues your officials have indicated they plan to examine in the future, such as cloud computing, record keeping, cyber security, and possibly encryption, are subjects that industry fears will lead to more controls and more complex compliance requirements,” the letter said.

The coalition also asked for greater transparency in the licensing process. This has been a long-standing gripe of defense contractors because they deal with multiple decision makers within the government who do no always agree on the exportability of a product. The coalition asked for the Defense Department to consolidate its “technology review boards and revise their mission for clarity, consistency, transparency and timeliness.”

Export control reforms have overlooked the defense sector, said Remy Nathan, vice president of international affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association, one of the coalition members. “There is a need for a more coherent approach to defense exports,” he said during a recent meeting with reporters. “It’s going to be helpful for industry to have an understanding of where the government will allow us to fish.”

After U.S. companies eye potential deals, they have run the “‘Mother, may I’ gauntlet,” said Nathan. “You run the gauntlet sometimes with uncoordinated offices and departments saying different things. Anybody can say ‘no,'” he said. “We have to get away from that.”

Different agencies might have conflicting views of what technologies fall under the control of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. “Review boards are not transparent or predictable,” he said. Under the Obama reform, the Pentagon agreed to consolidate a portion of its 13 boards. Oversight is important, said Nathan, but the industry needs “more rational results out of these review boards to help planning.” Exporters want to be able to know where they can pursue business, he said. In high-stakes fighter aircraft competitions, licensing issues create undue chaos, said Nathan. “What capabilities are acceptable? The amount of resources and confusion is significant. It impedes our ability to compete.”

Nathan insisted that the industry is mindful of national security concerns in selling technology to foreign buyers. “We should have technologies on the U.S. munitions list, but we should be able to transfer more easily to friends and allies.” Industry groups have sought an exemption from licenses for the export of spare parts that are used by allied forces. When the U.S. military or a foreign ally send parts back to United States for repairs, they are subject to export licensing before they go back to the customer. “The administration understands that it doesn’t make sense,” said Nathan. “The bad news is that they have not acted to implement that exemption.”

Prime contractors also should be able to obtain a single export license per program, rather than individual ones for each component, he said. Program licenses are offered today, but they require the prime contractor to assume liability for every transaction underneath it. That is not acceptable to most exporters, he said. “No company on the planet is going to absorb the liability of noncompliance by other companies. The program licensing that exists on paper is not functional.”

The international arms market looms larger than ever for U.S. companies, said Nathan. “We cannot afford to have the status quo approach to defense exports. We need more and better coordination in the interagency, evaluating opportunities. Once decisions are made, we need to make sure transactions happen in a timely manner.”

Pentagon acquisitions chief Frank Kendall has been a proponent of designing U.S. weapon systems with “exportability” in mind. A cautionary tale in this case is the Air Force F-22 fighter, which contains top-secret technology and was designed to never be exported. As the production line was winding down in recent years, some countries expressed interest in buying it, but that was out of the question because it would have had to be torn apart and rebuilt with less sensitive components, Nathan noted. “Even if the government had allowed the export of F-22, it became cost prohibitive because of the amount of reengineering work that it would take to make an exportable version.”

Designing systems that can be more easily exported is a “great concept,” said Nathan. But the industry has little confidence that what is exportable today will be exportable tomorrow under a different administration. “If we commit to working with this system and following the parameters upfront, what’s going to happen five or 15 years from now if the decisions shift?” he asked. “The only way this works is if you have a process to harness cooperation at a high level to look at defense exports writ large … and you have coordination within and between departments.”

Companies in the information-technology sector, meanwhile, are fretting over comments made earlier this year by Caroline Atkinson, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for international economics. She suggested that as part of the third and final phase of the administration’s export control reforms, officials will be “working on the definitions of what is and not in the scope of export controls.” As part of that effort, they would study the exportability of cyber security, encryption and cloud computing technologies.

Atkinson’s remarks rippled through the industry, said Nathan. “There is a danger of over-control,” he said. “We’ve seen that with satellites. It’s of concern to us that they’re exploring some difficult new areas. We see that as export controls, not as reforms.”

Bill Reinsch, president of the National Foreign Trade Council, said he was “struck” by Atkinson’s comments. After further inquiries with the White House, the industry became alarmed by the possibility of new restrictions. “What concerned us was that while we support what they are doing, the initiative on new areas implies new controls, more controls. That wasn’t what we thought was the right direction.”

An area like cloud computing is unchartered territory for export regulators, said Reinsch. “Where is the cloud? Who controls the cloud? The cloud moves around, it’s in multiple locations. Does it matter where it is? When is something exported? If you put your data into the cloud, is that an export? Does it depend on where the cloud is physically?” he asked. “Today your data might be stored in Texas but tomorrow the information might move to Singapore. Who has access?”

Reinsch predicts an uphill battle for industry. The tired argument that if U.S. companies don’t sell something, other countries will, usually falls on deaf ears, he said. “It’s not politically salable. We’ve learned over 30 years that making that argument does not move the needle on Capitol Hill or in the Executive Branch.”

Nathan agreed. “Business is not going to win against the national security argument,” he said. Administration officials have acknowledged that, too.

On the heels of record-high U.S. arms sales, defense industry pleading a case for less controls is unlikely to draw sympathy. “Current controls haven’t prevented the U.S. from dominating arms exports,” observed Pro Publica, an investigative news organization. In 2011, the United States scored $66 billion in arms sales agreements, or nearly 80 percent of the global market, Pro Publica reported. It noted that Obama’s reforms “could increase the flow of American-made military parts to the world’s conflicts and make it harder to enforce arms sanctions.”

Since the administration launched its export control review in 2009, experts have cautioned that the reforms were never intended to liberalize the arms trade. Brandt Pasco, an attorney at Kaye Scholer, in Washington, D.C., who specializes in export controls, said military exports will remain tightly controlled. The intent of the administration, Pasco told National Defense last year, is to ensure that commercially available goods and services do not have to undergo the same licensing process as sensitive military technology.

Some exporters insist, however, that the problem is that there is no clear definition of what is “commercially available” versus what is “military sensitive.” That leaves a huge grey area of technologies whose exportability is a matter of subjective judgment.

One industry executive from a large high-tech firm said there is no objective standard to decide what products fall under ITAR. “I know ITAR when I see it,” is the response he has received from government officials, said the executive, who asked that his name and company not be mentioned because of fear of retribution. “How can you work with that?” he asked. “It’s cavalier the way the government handles ITAR. I have no faith in what they call reforms, because I don’t think it will reform the core problem.”

Manufacturers of advanced technology expect to continue to face these hurdles, he said. Export controls have actually deterred companies from participating in Pentagon-funded research programs. “We don’t do government R&D unless it’s to keep some of our people employed and it is something that has no commercial value,” said the executive. “It’s not worth our time. It’s sad that we’ve come to this.” Any program that receives government R&D dollars automatically becomes ITAR-controlled, he said. For a diversified company, “that could contaminate a whole line of products.” Many technologies for which the U.S. government denies export licenses, he added, are commercially sold in other countries. “They still turn it down,” he said of the export license. “They are not interested in hearing about the product being available from other countries.”

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Civilian pilots still straying into restricted airspace

Jim Michaels, USA TODAY 8:37 p.m. EDT May 28, 2014


WASHINGTON — Thirteen years after the 9/11 attacks, military aircraft are scrambling more than once a week, on average, to intercept civilian planes that stray into restricted airspace, military statistics show.

The cost to taxpayers for protecting restricted airspace and the 75 annual diversions runs into the million of dollars.

The number of incidents has decreased in recent years as the military has spread the word to recreational pilots about restricted airspace, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), the military agency responsible for protecting American airspace.

The agency anticipates that the frequency of intercepts will remain at this level in the future because no amount of outreach will prevent all pilots from straying.

Many recreational pilots fly from small airstrips without a control tower and aren’t required to file flight plans. Often they are not aware when a temporary restriction is established.


“They just take off and do what they want,” said Steven Armstrong, a NORAD official.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the military boosted its alert facilities around the country, where fighter pilots maintained a round-the-clock state of readiness.

The government has restricted airspace around Washington, D.C., and other sensitive areas, such as some military bases and critical infrastructure. It also frequently sets up temporary restrictions on airspace to protect the president when he flies domestically or during special events, such as the Superbowl.

At its post 9/11 peak, NORAD maintained some 26 alert facilities around the country. The number has shrunk since then, but the agency declined to release the precise number for security reasons.

“We think we’re at the minimum to be able to protect the major metropolitan areas and the critical infrastructure,” Armstrong said.

It’s an expensive enterprise. It costs from $10,000 to $20,000 per flight hour to operate fighters. Alert facilities cost about $7 million a year to operate. The intercept missions in the continental United States are performed by the Air National Guard.

The military uses fighter planes, and, in some locations, helicopters to intercept an aircraft straying into restricted areas.

The pilots have a protocol for engaging with civilian pilots, who are often flying small, propeller-driven aircraft, to divert them out of restricted space.

If NORAD notices an aircraft flying toward restricted space, it will try to contact the pilot by radio before launching an aircraft. NORAD said it follows about 1,800 “tracks of interest” per year. Most of the recreational pilots are diverted before jets have to be scrambled.

If officials are unable to contact a pilot whose plane is heading toward restricted space, NORAD will launch military aircraft that will fly alongside the plane and rock its wings, a signal for the civilian pilot to follow the fighter.

If that doesn’t work, fighter planes will often pull in front of the aircraft in a maneuver known as a “head butt” and drop flares to get their attention.

That doesn’t always work either. “Sometimes they say that they don’t see us,” Armstrong said. “Other times, they are just so scared to have a fighter aircraft in that close proximity to them that they kind of panic.”

Once they land, pilots are usually met by local law enforcement officials and Secret Service agents, said Craig Spence, an official with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

“Unfortunately, there is very little sympathy on the part of the local law enforcement and the federal (officials),” Spence said.

The pilots rarely face criminal charges, but the Federal Aviation Administration often suspends a pilot’s license for such infractions.

“None of incidents have been threats,” Spence said. “The majority of the folks who violate do so not knowing a (temporary restricted area) has been put in place.”



Agricultural uses for drones is endless

By Linda Geist, University of Missouri Extension

For centuries, farmers have braved the elements to walk their land to check for problems ranging from wind damage and calving cows to pests and predators.

Unmanned aerial vehicles may save farmers time and money with bird’s-eye views of farmland, says Bill Wiebold, University of Missouri Extension agronomy specialist. It opens up endless possibilities for precision agriculture, he said.

Wiebold’s recent talks on drones during MU Extension crop conferences have drawn attention from producers anxious to learn how to use them.

Wiebold and other MU researchers have been studying how farmers can use the new technology.

Drones suited for farm applications vary widely in cost and size.

Entry-level aircraft cost $500-$1,500 and can fly for 10-20 minutes without recharging batteries. Most weigh less than 5 pounds, have a wingspan of less than 3 feet and travel under 30 mph. For about $300, farmers can install cameras in drones that can send clear still or video images to a smartphone.

Drones can provide information to answer questions like “How bad was last night’s hail storm? Are all of my cows on the north 40? Does my corn need more nitrogen?”

Entry-level systems can be guided by a handheld remote control. More sophisticated vehicles can be programmed to fly designated routes using GPS and GIS technology, but only skilled flyers should try this type of aircraft, Wiebold said.

The uses are as varied as Missouri farmland, Wiebold said.

Entomologists may find the devices especially helpful for directed scouting of pests. Drones can collect information on plants that have grown to heights that make it difficult to walk through narrow rows.

Additionally, farmers can use the unmanned devices to document conditions when applying for government programs such as crop insurance.

While much of the recent media attention has centered on unmanned aircraft as a way to deliver packages, commercial agriculture likely will be the largest beneficiary of drone technology, Wiebold said.

Drone technology has raised concerns about privacy issues, but drones used in agriculture likely are less controversial than those used for commercial applications. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not allow drone use for commercial purposes. Farmers must follow FAA guidelines for hobbyists.

Unmanned aircraft are restricted to airspace no higher than 400 feet. If flights occur within 3 miles of an airport, airport officials must be notified. Recent information suggests that producers are permitted to fly over areas they farm, Wiebold said. However, regulations may be updated, so farmers should follow FAA announcements.

Flying near spectators is not recommended until operators become skilled. Populated areas should be avoided. Wiebold suggests that until a farmer gains confidence and skill, drones should be kept within line of sight. Winds of 20 mph or greater may present problems with stability and image quality, he said.

Farmers in Japan and Brazil have used drone technology for decades. As much as 30 percent of Japan’s rice fields were sprayed by unmanned vehicles in 2010, according to the nonprofit Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI).

In 2012, Congress directed the FAA to grant unmanned aircraft access to U.S. skies by 2015. The FAA has released a “road map” for potential drone use and six federally designated test sites have been approved.

A study by the AUVSI estimates that drone use could create 70,000 new jobs in the U.S. in five years after FAA approval. The group also estimates that 90 percent of the economic activity will come from precision agriculture and public safety applications.


Future of Soil Sensing Technology

Sensors that measure a variety of essential soil properties on the go are being developed.

By Viacheslav I. Adamchuk, Precision Agriculture Engineer, and Paul J. Jasa, Extension Engineer University of Nebraska-Lincoln


Sensors that measure a variety of essential soil properties on the go are being developed. These sensors can be used either to control variable rate application equipment in real-time or in conjunction with a Global Positioning System (GPS) to generate field maps of particular soil properties. Depending on the spacing between passes, travel speed, and sampling and/or measurement frequency, the number of measurement points per acre varies; however, in most cases, it is much greater than the density of manual grid sampling. The cost of mapping usually is reduced as well.


Measuring Soil Properties

When thinking about an ideal precision agriculture system, producers visualize a sensor located in direct contact with, or close to, the ground and connected to a “black box” which analyzes sensor response, processes the data, and changes the application rate instantaneously. They also hope that the real-time information detected by the sensor and used to prescribe the application rate would optimize the overall economic or agronomic effect of the production input. This approach, however, does not take into account several difficulties met in the “real world”:

1. Most sensors and applicator controllers need a certain time for measurement, integration, and/or adjustment, which decreases the allowable operation speed or measurement density.

2. Variable rate fertilizer and pesticide applicators may need additional information (like yield potential) to develop prescription algorithms (sets of equations).

3. Currently, there is no site-specific management prescription algorithm proven to be the most favorable for all variables involved in crop production.


Rather than using real-time, on-the-go sensors with controllers, a map-based approach may be more desirable because of the ability to collect and analyze data, make the prescription, and conduct the variable rate application in two or more steps. In this case, multiple layers of information including yield maps, a digital elevation model (DEM), and various types of imagery could be pooled together using a geographic information system (GIS) software package designed to manage and process spatial data. Prescription maps can be developed using algorithms that involve several data sources as well as personal experience.


Sensors for Automated Measurements

Scientists and equipment manufacturers are trying to modify existing laboratory methods or develop indirect measurement techniques that could allow on-the-go soil mapping. To date, only a few types of sensors have been investigated, including:








Electromagnetic sensors use electric circuits to measure the capability for soil particles to conduct or accumulate electrical charge. When using these sensors, the soil becomes part of an electromagnetic circuit, and changing local conditions immediately affect the signal recorded by a data logger. Several such sensors are commercially available:

•Mapping electrical conductivity (Veris® 3100, Veris Technologies, Salina, Kansas)

•Mapping transient electromagnetic response (EM-38,Geonics Limited, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada)

•Using electrical response to adjust variable rate application in real-time (Soil Doctor® System, Crop Technology, Inc., Bandera, Texas)


Electromagnetic soil properties, for the most part, are influenced by soil texture, salinity, organic matter, and moisture content. In some cases, other soil properties such as residual nitrates or soil pH can be predicted using these sensors. Several approaches for applying electromagnetic sensors have been observed in recent years.

Optical sensors use light reflectance to characterize soil. These sensors can simulate the human eye when looking at soil as well as measure near-infrared, mid-infrared, or polarized light reflectance. Vehicle-based optical sensors use the same principle technique as remote sensing. To date, various commercial vendors provide remote sensing services that allow measurement of bare soil reflectance using a satellite or airplane platform. Cost, timing, clouds, and heavy plant residue cover are major issues limiting the use of bare soil imagery from these platforms.

Close-range, subsurface, vehicle-based optical sensors have the potential to be used on the go, in a way similar to electromagnetic sensors, and can provide more information about single data points since reflectance can be easily measured in more than one portion of the spectrum at a time. Several researchers have developed optical sensors to predict clay, organic matter, and moisture content.

Mechanical sensors can be used to estimate soil mechanical resistance (often related to compaction).These sensors use a mechanism that penetrates or cuts through the soil and records the force measured by strain gauges or load cells. Several researchers have developed prototypes that show the feasibility of continuous mapping of soil resistance; however, none of these devices is commercially available. The draft sensors or “traction control” system on tractors uses a similar technology to control the three-point hitch on the go.

Electrochemical sensors could provide the most important type of information needed for precision agriculture — soil nutrient levels and pH. When soil samples are sent to a soil-testing laboratory, a set of standardized laboratory procedures is performed. These procedures involve sample preparation and measurement. Some measurements (especially determination of pH) are performed using an ion-selective electrode (with glass or polymer membrane or ion sensitive field effect transistor). These electrodes detect the activity of specific ions (nitrate, potassium, or hydrogen in case of pH). Several researchers are trying to adapt existing soil preparation and measurement procedures to essentially conduct a laboratory test on the go. The values obtained may not be as accurate as a laboratory test, but the high sampling density may increase the overall accuracy of the resulting soil nutrient or pH maps.

Airflow sensors were used to measure soil air permeability on the go. The pressure required to squeeze a given volume of air into the soil at fixed depth was compared to several soil properties. Experiments showed potential for distinguishing between various soil types, moisture levels, and soil structure/compaction.

Acoustic sensors have been investigated to determine soil texture by measuring the change in noise level due to the interaction of a tool with soil particles. A low signal-to-noise ratio did not allow this technology to develop.


Sensor Data Usage

Although various vehicle-based soil sensors are under development, only electromagnetic sensors are commercially available and widely used. Ideally, producers would like to operate sensors that provide inputs for existing prescription algorithms. Instead, commercially available sensors provide measurements such as electrical conductivity (EC) that cannot be used directly since the absolute value depends on a number of physical and chemical soil properties such as: texture, organic matter, salinity, moisture content, etc. Alternatively, electromagnetic sensors give valuable information about soil differences and similarities, which makes it possible to divide the field into smaller and relatively consistent areas referred to as management zones.

For example, such zones could be defined according to various soil types in a field. In fact, electrical conductivity maps usually can better reveal boundaries of certain soil types than soil survey maps (used for rural property tax assessment). Different anomalies such as eroded hillsides or ponding also can be easily identified on an electrical conductivity map. The following figure compares a soil survey and an electrical conductivity map for the same field showing some differences in boundaries.


Soil Survey vs. Electrical Conductivity

Yield maps also frequently correlate to electrical conductivity maps, as shown below. In many instances, such similarities can be explained through differences in soil. In general, the electrical conductivity maps may indicate areas where further exploration is needed to explain yield differences. Both yield potential and nutrient availability maps may have a similar pattern as soil texture and/or organic matter content maps. Often these patterns also can be revealed through an electrical conductivity map.

Therefore, it seems reasonable to use on-the-go mapping of electromagnetic soil properties as one layer of data to discover the heterogeneity (differences) of soil within a field (similar to using bare soil imagery). Zones with similar electrical conductivity and a relatively stable yield may receive a uniform treatment that can be prescribed based on fewer soil samples in the zones on the electrical conductivity map.

As new on-the-go soil sensors are developed, different real-time and map-based variable rate soil treatments may be economically applied to much smaller field areas, reducing the effect of soil variability within each management zone.



More accurate soil property maps are needed to successfully implement site-specific management decisions. Inadequate sampling density and the high cost of conventional soil sampling and analysis have been limiting factors. On-the-go, vehicle-based soil sensors represent an alternative that could both improve the quality and reduce the cost of soil maps. When further developed, on-the-go soil sensors may be used for either real-time or map-based control of agricultural inputs. To date, only systems that map electromagnetic soil properties are available commercially. These maps can be used to define management zones reflecting obvious trends in soil properties. Each zone can be sampled and treated independently. Smaller management zones will be feasible when new on-the-go soil sensors are developed and commercialized.

Researchers at the University of Nebraska continue work on vehicle-based soil sensors, which could be used for research and commercial applications. The sensors can improve the quality and decrease the cost of soil maps and will facilitate the decision-making process.



Many businesses are working to develop solutions to help farmers

make better decisions based on the mountains of data they’ve aggregated. Here are some of those businesses.

by Top Producer Editors


Bayer CropScience

Bayer CropScience has launched its new e3 sustainable cotton program, which for farmers who grow Certified FiberMax or authentic Stoneville cotton, makes it possible for buyers to identify where their cotton was grown using a certification database maintained by the company. Bayer says the e3 program also helps farmers make a commitment to continuous improvement in productivity, environmental quality, and personal well-being, Bayer says. Farm performance is self-evaluated though the Fieldprint Calculator, an online tool designed by Field to Market, the Keystone Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, and verified with in-season and post-harvest third-party audits.

Launched by the Climate Corporation, provides up-to-the-minute data for field-level monitoring, yield forecasting, crop insights and decision support for daily and seasonal production decisions. With growers can get snapshot views of recent and forecasted precipitation and other weather conditions on their fields to manage their daily work. Simply select fields through an interactive map, save those fields, and check them at any time from a computer, tablet or smartphone.


Field Connect

John Deere is unlocking environmental data for farmers to better understand real-time field conditions. Expanding on the John Deere Field Connect soil moisture monitoring system introduced in 2012, John Deere has added environmental sensors and features that allow farmers to document more information directly from the tractor.

Detailed site-specific information allows producers to more efficiently use water resources, as well as schedule and perform other agronomic practices dependent on soil and environmental conditions. From the sensors, field-specific soil moisture and environmental data is transmitted to a secure website for viewing, and John Deere Field Connect customers can program the system to receive alerts based on set parameters. Field Connect then charts the data from the readings over time, allowing producers to identify trends. The system can be customized to each field depending on the objectives of each customer.


Pioneer Field360

DuPont Pioneer, has expanded its support for a wide variety of farming decisions, including seed selection, in-season crop management and water and fertility. The first wave of services, branded as Pioneer Field360, can help farmers use data to increase productivity with timely and actionable information. The suite of apps and digital management tools includes:

•Pioneer Field360 Notes app, which streamlines and organizes field-by-field agronomic information that can be shared among DuPont Pioneer agronomists, sales professionals and farmers.

•Pioneer Field 360 Plantability app, which allows farmers to scan a seed tag and indicate their planter type to improve planter performance and seed-drop accuracy.

•Pioneer Field360 Select, which is a mobile subscription service that runs on any computer or tablet with Internet access. The web-based software allows farmers to monitor their fields by “management layers” in real-time for precipitation, growing degree units and corn growth stage development.



Some farm data ventures, such as the Monsanto Integrated Farming Systems program, are developing highly farm-specific field prescriptions that help deliver localized hybrid and planting rate recommendations. The initial offering, called FieldScripts, will double its testing efforts through Monsanto’s Ground Breakers research program with DeKalb corn hybrids this year and will be commercially available in 2014. With FieldScripts, the prescription is delivered as a complete product to the farmer.



Why Innovation Should Drive Farmers’ 40 Chances

Indiana farmer Kip Tom challenges farmers to do more with less.

By Boyce Thompson


Building on the theme of Howard G. Buffett’s book, “40 Chances”, Kip Tom told a Farm Journal Forum 2013 audience that the typical farmer doesn’t take full advantage of the 40 growing seasons he may experience in a lifetime to improve productivity.

“We have a real problem in agriculture—we fail to innovate,” said Tom, managing partner of Tom Farms, based in Leesburg, Ind. “We’ve heard discussions today about some innovations, but we aren’t doing it at the pace we need to. We need to dig deeper, reach further and all participate together to try to find the means to innovate further on our farms.”


“I actually concluded my 40th crop at the end of Thanksgiving,” Tom added, “and at the end of the day my kids came up to me and said, ‘Is this it, are you gone now?'” Although the comment drew a big laugh, it’s clear that Tom isn’t done farming and innovating.

Farmers, he said, have their work cut out for them. Agricultural productivity grows by 1.4% a year, based on yield improvements, while global demand for food increases by 1.75%. “That’s a gap that’s going to continue to grow unless we bring innovation to the farm gate and produce value to the consumer,” Tom said.

Tom took the audience through some tactics his farm employed to achieve a corn yield of 228 bu. per acre this season. He attributed an additional 2 bu. to 18 bu. per acre to applying advanced algorithms to seed and fertilizer rates.

“We’re grabbing soil samples to figure out how much fertilizer to apply, on every one hectare of land,” he said. “We can vary the population of corn per row” based on soil conditions. “Soon we’ll be able to vary by type of seed.”

To assist in conservation, Tom’s irrigation system monitors how much water it pumps per minute and how many kilowatts of electricity it uses. The farm adjusts how much water is applied to each field, based on how much water the soil can hold, soil type and organic content. The data is used to improve productivity and reduce runoff.

Tom employed drones for the first time this summer to provide real-time analysis. The small aircraft used infra-red technology to shoot biomass maps and stream the information back to the farm office, where it was used to build a prescription for improving productivity.

During harvest season, he said, combines went through the fields, transmitted data into the data cloud, “and we knew instantly when a field was completed, how many bushels came off it, and what the productivity was. We can run hundreds of tests across an 80-acre field to find the best means to increase productivity.”

Tom is pleased with the productivity tools—better seeds, precision farming equipment—that he receives from suppliers. “I can tell you it’s working,” he said. The missing piece is an industry-wide, back-office Enterprise Resource Planning computer system to aggregate and analyze data from various sources, he said. In the meantime, farmers have so much data at their disposal that some might need to invest in someone to manage and analyze it.

Innovation, Tom said, is the key to feeding the world’s growing population. As farmers improve their yields, the country will need to invest in its infrastructure to move more goods around. In the meantime, farmers will need to step out of their comfort zone.

“We’ve been fearful to take that risk because we knew we only have 40 chances to get it right,” Tom said. “We hope now with the profitability that’s been in the ag sector, and with our knowledge of the tools available to us, that we can invest back in and innovate in agriculture.”


House Appropriations Committee Releases Fiscal Year 2015 Defense Bill

Legislation will fund military operations, national security efforts, and programs for the health and safety of U.S. troops

Washington, May 29 –


The House Appropriations Committee today released the subcommittee draft of the fiscal year 2015 Defense Appropriations bill, which will be considered in subcommittee tomorrow. The legislation funds critical national security needs, military operations abroad, and health and quality-of-life programs for the men and women of the Armed Forces and their families.

In total, the bill provides $491 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $4.1 billion above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $200 million above the President’s request. In addition, the bill includes $79.4 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) for the ongoing war efforts abroad, the same level assumed in the President’s budget request and in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act.

“Our first priority as a nation must be our national security and the protection of American interests at home and abroad. This bill provides critical funding for the security of all Americans, the success of our military missions and the fight against terrorism around the globe, and the safety and well-being of our troops who are bravely serving this country,” House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers said. “At the same time, we must remain mindful of our very real budgetary constraints. The bill reflects this reality, and helps to ensure that each and every defense dollar is responsibly spent to further our national security goals.”

“This Subcommittee has worked in a bipartisan fashion to provide the Department and intelligence community with the resources needed to maintain and modernize the best equipped and most capable military in the world today and in the future,” said Defense Subcommittee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen. “In addition, we have established priorities that will enhance readiness for our military so they remain prepared to protect America in an increasingly dangerous world. I am proud that we have kept faith with the brave men and women, and their families, who selflessly serve our country.”


Bill Highlights:

Military Personnel and Pay – The legislation includes $128.1 billion to provide for 1,308,600 active-duty troops and 820,800 Guard and reserve troops. This funding level is $669 million below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level, but is sufficient to meet all needs due to reductions in force structure and large unexpended balances. The bill fully funds the authorized 1.8% pay raise for the military, instead of 1% as requested by the President, and provides funding to maintain 100% of troop housing costs through the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).

Operation and Maintenance – Included in the legislation is $165 billion for operation and maintenance – $1.4 billion below the request and $4.8 billion above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level. This will support key readiness programs to prepare our troops for combat and peacetime missions, flight time and battle training, equipment and facility maintenance, and base operations.

Within this funding, the bill includes an additional $1.2 billion to fill readiness shortfalls, $721 million to restore unrealistic reductions in the President’s request to facility sustainment and modernization, and full funding for the Tuition Assistance program at $475 million. Additionally, the bill fully funds Sexual Assault Prevention and Response programs at $275 million, an increase of $50 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level.

Research and Development – The bill contains $63.4 billion – $368 million above the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $171 million below the President’s request – for research, development, testing, and evaluation of new defense technologies. These activities will help to advance the safety and success of current and future military operations, and will help prepare our nation to meet a broad range of future security threats.

Specifically, this funding will support research and development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the KC-46A tanker program, the P8-A Poseidon, the new Air Force bomber program, a next generation JSTARS aircraft, the RQ-4 Triton Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, the Navy’s Future Unmanned Carrier-based Strike System, the Ohio-class submarine replacement, the Army and Marine Corps Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Army Ground Combat Vehicle, the Israeli Cooperative Programs, and other important development programs.


Equipment Procurement – The legislation provides a total of $91.2 billion – $1.6 billion below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $1.6 billion above the President’s request – for equipment and upgrades. This funding will help ensure our nation’s military readiness by providing the necessary platforms, weapons, and other equipment our forces need to train, maintain our force, and conduct successful operations.

For example, the bill includes $14.3 billion to procure six Navy ships, including $789 million for the USS George Washington carrier refueling project; $5.8 billion for 38 F-35 aircraft; $1.6 billion for 7 KC-46A tankers; $975 million for 12 EA-18G Growlers; $2.4 billion for 87 UH-60 Blackhawk and 37 MH-60S/R helicopters; and $351 million for the Israeli Cooperative Program – Iron Dome.

Defense Health and Military Family Programs – The bill contains $31.6 billion – $1.1 billion below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $360 million below the request – for the Defense Health Program to provide care for our troops, military families, and retirees. This level is sufficient to meet all estimated needs and requirements in the next fiscal year.

In addition, within the total $246 million is provided for cancer research, $150 million for medical facility upgrades, $125 million for traumatic brain injury and psychological health research, and an additional $39 million above the request for suicide prevention outreach programs. All of these funding levels represent increases above the President’s request for these programs. The bill also restores $100 million to the Defense Commissary Agency to provide reduced-price food and household goods for service-members and their families.

Ongoing Military Operations – The bill contains $79.4 billion for ongoing military operations in Afghanistan. Despite a recent announcement from the Administration regarding plans for an enduring U.S. military presence in Afghanistan, no Overseas Contingency Operations budget has been submitted to Congress, therefore this level is subject to change.

This funding will provide the needed resources for our troops in the field, including funding for personnel requirements, operational needs, the purchase of new aircraft to replace combat losses, combat vehicle safety modifications, and maintenance of facilities and equipment.

Guantanamo Bay – The legislation prohibits funding for transfers of Guantanamo detainees to the U.S. or its territories and denies funding to modify any facility in the U.S. to house detainees. These provisions are identical to language contained in the House-passed fiscal year 2015 Defense Authorization legislation.

Savings and Reductions to President’s Request – The bill reflects common-sense decisions to save taxpayer dollars where possible in areas that will not affect the safety or success of our troops and missions. Some of these savings include: $547 million for favorable foreign currency fluctuations, $592 million for overestimation of civilian personnel costs, and $965 million in savings from rescissions of unused prior-year funding.

For text of the legislation, please visit:



The Gap Between Supply and Demand for Spy Planes Just Got Bigger

Sam Brannen

May 29, 2014


President Barack Obama’s West Point speech created a nearly impossible problem for the Pentagon’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) planners by asking them to do much more with dwindling resources. The president correctly argued that the al-Qaeda-linked terrorist threat has reached a new phase and spread globally, necessitating a new U.S. approach of assistance to partners to take the initiative in fighting it locally across an expansive geography from South Asia to the Sahel.

Decisions already made in the president’s fiscal year 2015 budget request will cut available ISR. In particular, the Air Force justified decisions to reduce its medium-altitude long-endurance ISR (MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers) in order to prepare for future wars (namely, the growing threat of anti-access environments). Should budget pressures continue, the Air Force has threatened deeper cuts in these systems, along with reductions in high-altitude long-endurance RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40—the very aircraft that is supposed to fill the shoes of the U-2, which the Air Force also decided to retire in this budget.

The Air Force argued it was overinvested in capabilities for “uncontested” environments—precisely the environments Obama just ordered the United States to surge ISR into — in which the U.S. and its partners will have air dominance but will need all the help they can get from the skies to understand what’s happening on the ground. But under budget pressures of the past several years, something had to give, and the Air Force decided it would have to be the kind of ISR that worked well in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates trumpeted the growth in ISR under his leadership as one of his signature accomplishments and warned that “overall, the kinds of capabilities we will most likely need in the years ahead will often resemble the kinds of capabilities we need today.” Even before the president’s announcement this week of a shift in strategy to combat al-Qaeda, justifying a reduction in current ISR force structure was a questionable proposition. A huge gap between ISR supply and demand was apparent around the globe. Take Gen. David Rodriguez at U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), who in March told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he had only 11 percent of his ISR needs met. Whether Mali, Somalia, the regional hunt for Joseph Kony, or missing schoolgirls in Nigeria, the need for ISR to find “needles in the haystack” is significant on the continent. In AFRICOM’s area of responsibility, ISR has been a key part of U.S. counterterrorism support efforts Obama cited as models in this next phase of the war, such as support to French-led efforts in the trans-Sahel. When the president announced in his West Point speech the need to combat “decentralized al-Qaeda affiliates and extremists, many with agendas focused in the countries where they operate,” he was indeed talking about the exact challenges AFRICOM faces.

Other geographic combatant commanders from U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Southern Command will similarly be clamoring for more of the ISR that they have claimed critical shortfalls in for years. These commanders have been all-in on supporting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they have waited patiently to have their requirements met; but now they want their fair share of ISR for the many security challenges in their areas of responsibility. They will grow increasingly frustrated as they find that the windfall they may have fantasized about simply will not materialize. In fact, fewer troops in Afghanistan could mean even more requirements for ISR to keep an eye on things.

The ISR deficit extends far beyond the core issue of fighting al-Qaeda or even the Pentagon’s needs. The list of commitments in which ISR has become a symbol of U.S. global reach and influence is long and growing every day. ISR is increasingly used to “show the flag” for high-priority pop-up crises, like the Fukushima nuclear disaster or the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Moreover, unmanned ISR uniquely fits the mood of a United States that does not want to give up global responsibility, but also does not want to put its men and women in uniform in harm’s way except for the most vital of U.S. interests.

Other countries simply expect that the United States will show up with these capabilities when they need them. The U.S. has chosen to greatly restrict its sales of the most capable ISR aircraft, and that has reduced its ability to share this burden. (It also has led allies and partners to seek third-party sellers of the equipment or develop their own, at the cost of interoperability.) And to be clear, ISR does not necessarily mean “drone strikes.” While Predators and Reapers can be armed, the role that they are used in most is simply ISR—battlefield situational awareness. These aircraft have flown millions of hours doing just that. Intelligence sharing—of which ISR is a critical part—can be the glue in U.S. relations with other countries.

This is where Congress comes in. The president’s West Point speech laid out a necessary evolution in the long-term U.S. strategy to fight terrorism and keep it from American shores by increasing training and assistance to partners. With defense authorizations coming out of committee over the past two weeks, and appropriations being developed now, this is the time for Congress to enable our military to support the president’s vision by realistically resourcing priority requirements. The $5 billion “Counterterrorism Partnership Fund” that Obama wants could be a good start, but it won’t cover defense budget shortfalls, including in ISR.

The House Armed Services Committee markup of the FY15 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included a new requirement for an annual report on satisfaction of combatant command ISR requirements and strategy to meet shortfalls. The Pentagon should embrace this review to address the growing gap between ISR supply and demand, and Congress should find a way to fund those shortfalls.

Unfortunately, this year’s NDAA also includes a number of provisions that directly impact the Pentagon’s ISR plans, and add back in requirements for which there is no budget. With ISR still sitting square on the chopping block, the gap between strategy and budget constitutes a dangerous situation that could grow worse, not only for the president’s counterterrorism plan, but for our nation’s overall security.



OPM promises phased retirement to start this year

May. 29, 2014 – 03:14PM |



The Office of Personnel Management is pushing to issue a final set of regulations for phased retirement by the end of September, but for federal employees and advocacy groups it has already taken too long.

The agency is working hard on the final rule, according to an OPM spokeswoman.

Under OPM’s draft plan released in 2013, employees who are eligible for retirement and meet other requirements could work half-time while getting half of their pension. As they continue to work, phased retirees also will keep accruing additional service credit toward their final pensions.

While on the job, they will have to spend 20 percent of their time in “mentoring activities,” ideally with the employees who will take over for them when they leave for good.

For Gwendolyn Ross, phased retirement could not come soon enough. If she doesn’t hear of any progress in finalizing the rules and implementing it at the agency level by the end of the year, she said, she will fully retire.

Ross, a manager at the Coast Guard, said phased retirement would have given her the flexibility to continue working while taking care of medical issues and gradually transitioning out of the federal workforce.

She said the mentoring time would allow agencies across the government to capture the knowledge and information of long-serving federal employees instead of losing it all at once.

“The federal government is doing itself a disservice by not implementing phased retirement, because you are going to have a whole bunch of people leaving, and there are no plans to replace them or learn what they know,” Ross said.

Within her office, Ross said, perhaps half of the civilian employees are eligible to retire or will be soon. Phased retirement would be a win-win way for the agency to smoothly transition to a younger workforce and for federal workers to keep contributing to their final pension in uncertain financial times, she said.

Jessica Klement, the legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, said the association receives frequent calls from federal employees inquiring about the status of a final rule.

“There are people who say they are really excited about it, but they keep telling me [that] if it’s not done by a certain time [they are] going,” Klement said.

Congress approved the law for phased retirement on June 29, 2012, which means federal employees and agencies have been waiting almost two years for a rule. Klement said NARFE hopes the final rule contains greater details on phased retirement and encourages agencies to use it.

“We hope that the final regulations are stronger, but overall I think this can be an excellent tool for agencies particular in this time of austerity and hiring freezes to retain top talent,” Klement said.

Carl Gerhold, a NASA researcher said phased retirement would allow him to continue working on two projects while training others to take over when he leaves the agency.

But if he doesn’t hear anything about phased retirement he will choose to fully retire within the next few months even though he would rather work part time to make sure everything is set to go without him.

“If I thought that it was going to happen by the end of this calendar year I would stay on. When I talk to people about the possibility of phased retirement they say that sounds great,” Gerhold said.

Carol Bonosaro, president of the Senior Executives Association, said the group is encouraging OPM to finalize its regulations on phased retirement so employees can start using it.

“As agencies continue to struggle with budget pressures and are not backfilling positions, agencies need flexibilities such as phased retirement to ensure a qualified workforce is in place to perform mission-critical duties,” Bonosaro said.


Hagel Says ‘Indispensable’ U.S. Still Not the World’s Police

Kevin Baron 2:25 AM ET


Hours after President Barack Obama’s major global security speech at West Point outlining his vision for restrained but near constant worldwide United States military intervention in a “new world” of terrorism, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel embarked on a 12-day tour where he will assure key Asian and European allies that the administration will sustain America’s “indispensable” role in protecting its interests and theirs.

The new security question that Obama and his senior military leaders are asking themselves is: When should the U.S. use military power? The president’s answer seems to be: It depends.

“I think, and I know the president believes this and said it, and anyone who’s been in this business understands – we are going to be living with terrorism for many years,” said Hagel, speaking to reporters hours after Obama’s speech on Wednesday.

“You don’t lead with your military in foreign policy. The military is an instrument of power; it’s an important instrument of power. But our foreign policy is based on our interests around the world. It’s based on who we are, international law. It’s based on our standards, our values.”

Obama said in his West Point speech that “the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.”

Defense One asked Hagel, who has advised Obama’s foreign policy thinking since the president was a junior senator a decade ago, if that indispensability — backed by more special operations units being deployed than ever – is the same as being the world’s police?

“No, I don’t think it’s the same and let me explain why,” Hagel said on Thursday en route to Singapore for the Shangri-La Dialogue. “In the president’s reference to an indispensable nation, an indispensable nation means a world leader. It means a leader of alliances that bring people together for and with common interests that deal with common challenges. It means what we are continuing to do: capacity building with partners, using all our instruments of power with our partners, building alliances, strengthening alliances – no other nation in the world can do it or has done it.

“I think the president’s reference to the United States as the hub of global alliances like no nation ever in history is exactly the point. The United States of America is the hub of more alliances than any nation on earth. And no other nation can do that, can play that role. I think that’s a lot different than being the sheriff or policeman of the world.”

Leaving aside how one can focus on every corner of the world, Hagel’s trip exemplifies the enormity of what an administration accused of being gun-shy is promising: global vigilance, with a heavy dose of pragmatism. But pragmatism is a hard sell in Washington national security circles, where the deluge of post-West Point punditry has insisted this American president must show himself to be more hawk, less dove. It is an easy sell to many top brass who came up through Iraq, like Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, who as Obama’s senior military advisor has shown himself to be a military-as-last-resort general with no eagerness to charge a hill without damn good reason. And it’s long been a mantra of Hagel’s as he seeks military partners that can share the burdens of blood and budget from Australia to Afghanistan.

Hagel’s stops show the complexity of what U.S. military forces already do. In Alaska on Wednesday, while U.S. troops continue tracking stolen schoolchildren via drones in Nigeria, Hagel was briefed on Americans patrolling the northern skies with the F-22 Raptor, the world’s most advanced fighter, where Russian jets remain engaged in cat-and-mouse play over the Bering Strait. He visited troops that watch for Russian nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles and are waiting for the day North Korea has them, too.

On Thursday, Hagel departed to Singapore to facilitate old continental alliances against Russia and foster new 21st Century multilateral ones facing China. There he will meet one of his Chinese counterparts in the People’s Liberation Army, six Asian defense ministers, and at least two prime ministers gathered for the Shangri-La Dialogue, a forum where Obama’s three previous defense secretaries have tried to coalesce Asian militaries into something resembling more of an Asian version of NATO and less of the 20th-century hub-and-spoke network of bilateral relationships that Washington manages.

Next week, Hagel will attend a NATO defense minister’s meeting in Brussels, hat in hand, hoping allies commit troops to Obama’s 2-year extension of the Afghanistan war as a limited counterterrorism fight, and re-evaluate NATO’s existence as a counterweight to Russia. Hagel later will make a deliberately calculated visit to a U.S. warship in a Romanian Black Sea port. Finally, he will play classic state-against-state geopolitics in Paris and join Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin at Normandy for the 70th anniversary of D-Day, as France and the U.S. argue whether the best way to influence Putin is to keep him in isolation or bring him to breast.

Along the way, Hagel will stop in Afghanistan, which once commanded U.S. security attention but has long been in the rearview mirror for those looking ahead to the “new world” Obama described this week.

In American politics, it is a tired but effective campaign smear to pound a podium and say that the United States will not be the world’s global police. It’s an empty attack phrase that attempts to paint a political opponent – usually the incumbent leader of the free world – as being too distracted with overseas events and not attentive enough to problems in America.

As Obama said in his West Point speech, there is little threat of another nation directly attacking the U.S., but terrorism knows no borders, shows no retreat and is not going away. The U.S. could send troops wherever the commander-in-chief deems America and her security interests are threatened. For Obama, that does not include Syria, yet. It does include chasing al-Qaeda out of Afghanistan and into Africa, patrolling the skies with billion-dollar fighter jets, asking Japan and South Korea to hold hands for their own good, cajoling Europeans to pay up for their own defense, keeping the seas open from China to the Arctic Ocean, and sending elite American troops across oceans to search for kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls. Indispensable, to the farthest corners of the earth.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 31, 2014

President Obama this week spoke of the diminished role of the military in his foreign policy and at week’s end dumped the former general in charge of veterans’ retirement benefits.

The president in a graduation speech Wednesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point outlined his belief in a foreign policy that relies more on diplomacy and less on military force. Given voter unhappiness with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s no surprise that 60% continue to believe America’s political leaders send U.S. soldiers into harm’s way too often

Americans consistently express high regards for the nation’s military, but as more and more stories emerge about health care problems at the federal Department of Veterans Affairs, just 21% give the federal government good or excellent marks for its administration of benefits to military veterans.  

Forty-two percent (42%) of voters said early this week that Eric Shinseki, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, should resign from Obama’s Cabinet because of the problems that have been exposed in his department. On Friday, he did resign after a closed-door meeting with the president.

Obama’s daily job approval ratings appear to be unaffected by the growing VA scandal and remain as they have been for most of his presidency in the negative mid- to high teens.

Democrats can expect to hear about the VA’s failures on the campaign trail, though. To gain full control of Congress, Republicans need a net gain of six Senate seats this November, but Democrats are hoping to take one in Kentucky from the GOP column to blunt this takeover effort. However, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell now has a seven-point lead over Democratic challenger Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky’s U.S. Senate race following the state’s May 20 party primaries. 

Republican Congressman Tom Cotton still holds a narrow lead over incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor in Arkansas’ U.S. Senate race.

Pediatric neurosurgeon Monica Wehby was the winner of Oregon’s May 20 GOP primary. She trails Democratic incumbent Jeff Merkley by 10 points in our first look at the Senate race in Oregon.

Obamacare is expected to be a major debating point in all three of these races, as it will be in most Senate and House contests nationwide. Most voters continue to view the new health care law unfavorably, but they are slightly more supportive of its required levels of health insurance coverage.

Voters overwhelmingly believe wealthy donors and special interest groups pull the strings in Washington, but a plurality (48%) still thinks media bias is a bigger problem than big campaign contributions in politics today. Nearly as many (44%) say big campaign contributions are the bigger problem.

Congress routinely earns low job approval ratings, and yet most incumbents get reelected. What does America think about this perpetual Congress?

Democrats continue to lead Republicans by four points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot

Incumbent Republican Nathan Deal trails Democratic challenger Jason Carter by seven points in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the Georgia gubernatorial race

In a gubernatorial race between two former U.S. congressmen, Republican Asa Hutchinson has pulled ahead of Democrat Mike Ross in Arkansas

Of more immediate importance to many Americans is the coming close of the school year. Americans overwhelmingly believe in the importance of young people having a summer job, but 75% believe it will be difficult for them to find one in the current economy. 

As high school graduation nears for many, fewer voters than ever (19%) think most high schoolers have the skills necessary to get a job, and they’re no more confident in their readiness for college. 

Consumer and investor confidence in the overall economy, though, remains higher than it was at the first of the year and than it has been for most of the time since the Wall Street meltdown in 2008. 

Still, just over half (52%) of all Americans remain confident in the stability of the U.S. banking system. By comparison, 68% were confident in the banking system in July 2008, prior to the meltdown.

Most continue to be concerned about inflation and lack confidence in the Federal Reserve to keep inflation under control and interest rates down. This helps explain why 73% expect grocery prices to keep going up. More Americans (31%) say they owe more money this month, but most (58%) say their interest rates haven’t changed. 

In other surveys this week:

— Twenty-nine percent (29%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction, consistent with surveys since mid-December.

— Voters are more optimistic than ever that the United States can completely end its dependence on oil imports, but just 25% think this country does enough to develop its own gas and oil resources.

Most voters still oppose closing the Guantanamo terrorist prison camp. Nearly half (47%) think the United States is safer because suspected terrorists have been imprisoned there. 

— Fifty-five percent (55%) of Americans say they have read a book or poem by author and activist Maya Angelou, who died this week. 

More Americans now rank Memorial Day among the nation’s most important holidays, and 45% planned to do something special last Monday to celebrate and honor those who have given their life for our country.

Reality TV star Kim Kardashian and hip-hop superstar Kanye West were married last weekend in Paris. The news of their wedding was nearly inescapable, but that doesn’t mean most Americans like the newlyweds very much. 

May 24 2014




DoD Research Chief: High Cost of Weapons Threatens Security

May. 17, 2014 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER | Comments


WASHINGTON — The high cost of the US Defense Department’s weapon programs threatens national security, the head of the Pentagon’s advanced research-and-development arm said.

Arati Prabhakar, director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), said her organization is “fundamentally rethinking” US military systems that have historically been extremely expensive.

“I think we’ve had a long history … of using our deep pockets as a competitive advantage on the battlefield and it has been a very effective strategy,” Prabhakar said during a May 14 taping of the Defense News with Vago Muradian television show. “Now it’s starting to shoot us in the foot.”

The agency is exploring ways to make weapons more flexible and cost effective.

“Today, what we’re seeing is a degree of cost and inflexibility in our major platform systems that I believe is going to make them ineffective for the challenges we face in the future,” Prabhakar said during a conference that same day hosted by the Atlantic Council think tank.

DARPA is coming up with “powerful new approaches” to space systems, weapons, radar and navigation, and communications equipment, she said.

Being more cash-strapped could help drive Pentagon innovation in the way it does business and acquires weapons, experts say.

The high cost of weapon systems is evident in the choices and trade-offs Pentagon leadership makes, Prabhakar said.


“Those choices translate ultimately to national security capabilities,” she said. “I think we’re seeing that direct link now between cost and our future capabilities. That’s the problem that I think we have to deal with head on.”

One of the “big surprises” Prabhakar has observed is that people are looking more toward DARPA rather than pursuing incremental improvement, or upgrades, of existing systems.

“Usually budget pressure translates to incrementalism for [research and development] because people say ‘what have you done for me lately — solve today’s problems,’ ” she said.

“I’ve been really surprised to find the level of concern that we’re not on a sustainable path because of the diversity of threats and the cost of our approaches to deal with them,” she said.

This theory is the “polar opposite” to what was seen in the House Armed Services Committee markup of the Pentagon’s 2015 budget proposal, said Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners.

Lawmakers rejected numerous DoD proposals, opting to fund legacy projects, such as the A-10 attack plane, thereby maintaining the status quo, he said.


The years, and sometimes decades, it takes to field new weapons often means that by the time it reaches the battlefield, the technology is outdated. New technologies, specifically semi-conductors, could help create new architectures that are cheaper and can get to the battlefield quicker.

“It’s this next-generation of microelectronics and microsystems that shrink our physical technologies. It’s the algorithms and the software and the information systems,” Prabhakar said.

Traditionally, when the military has downsized, leaders have invested in technologies they believe can be game changers, said retired Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Cartwright said technologies such as directed energy, cyber, electromagnetic pulse and rail guns could be those kind of game changers.


The UAV Industry’s Winners and Losers in the 2015 Defense Department Budget

by Press • 19 May 2014


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, have emerged as the largest growth industry in the global aerospace industry, with worldwide expenditures projected to reach $89 billion by 2025. However, with the commercial use of drones awaiting Federal Aviation Administration regulations, and considering that export licenses are difficult to obtain, U.S. companies remain dependent on government contracts to fuel their contributions to the UAV industry’s growth. The budget cuts imposed on the Department of Defense by the Bipartisan Budget Control Act of 2013 are making those government contracts harder to come by. DOD procurement expenditures for UAVs have decreased from $3.9 billion in 2013 to a requested $2.4 billion for 2015. The decrease in funding will hit some companies harder than others.


The road ahead

The grim reality of DOD funding for unmanned systems was spelled out in the December 2013 report “Unmanned Systems Integrated Roadmap FY2013-2038″. Despite the rosy forecast for the global UAV industry and the prominence of U.S. companies in the market – the privately held General Atomics currently holds 20.4% of the drone market, followed byNorthrop Grumman’s (NYSE: NOC ) 18.9% – the Defense Department was blunt in its report that it would not be a major player in the UAV industry’s growth. The report states: “[A] comparison of DoD funding plans versus industry predictions indicates DoD will not be the bulk user within that market.”

DOD expenditures on UAV acquisition will continue their downward spiral into the foreseeable future. Instead, the DOD plans to maximize the effectiveness of its current inventory of UAVs through maintenance and modifications. The shifting mission and focus of the department also has affected UAV procurement practices. As ground combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan grind to a halt, the DOD has an increased need for UAVs capable of operating in inaccessible areas for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. The shifting DOD priorities are evident in Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s 2015 budget request. Some companies continue to feast on government contracts with products in line with projected national security needs, while others get a taste of famine.


What’s hot and what’s not

Unmanned systems are not limited to the air; however, UAVs receive the bulk of research and development and procurement contracts from the U.S. Government. General Atomics’ MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper have long been the military’s iconic drones and the center of the controversy surrounding President Obama’s drone policy. The UAVs are designed for hunter-killer operations and combine intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities with missile payloads capable of striking targets.

General Atomics’ Predators and Reapers, however, are losing their status. DOD contracts for MQ-9 Reaper procurement fell from $979 million in 2013 to $411 million for 2015. Predator procurement was reduced from $28 million in 2013 to $5 million for 2015. AeroVironment’s (NASDAQ: AVAV ) RQ-11 Raven, a portable UAV capable of reconnaissance, surveillance, and target identification, were also a favorite for combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Raven, however, took an enormous hit in 2015. Procurement contracts for the compact drone dropped from $30 million in 2013 to $13 million for 2015.

Despite the dramatic decrease in overall funding for UAVs, funding for some unmanned aerial systems increased. High-altitude, long-endurance drones designed specifically for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions continued to reap the rewards of research and development and procurement contracts. Northrop Grumman’s RQ-4 Global Hawk, capable of surveying 40,000 square miles a day, saw a reduction in procurement funding from the U.S. Air Force — funding dropped from $136 million in 2013 to $76 million for 2015. However, research and development funding increased from $240 million in 2013 to $244 million for 2015 — an indication that the Global Hawk is being prepped for future procurement contracts.

The RQ-7 Shadow, produced by the AAI Corporation, a subsidiary of Textron (NYSE: TXT ) , saw the largest increase in procurement funding in 2015. The Shadow has emerged as the favored tactical UAV of the U.S. Army; it has a range of 68 miles and a flight time of nine hours. Procurement for the Shadow skyrocketed from $73 million in 2013 to $128 million for 2015. Insitu, a Boeing (NYSE: BA ) subsidiary, also, produced a winning product. Procurement for Insitu’s RQ-21 Blackjack, a small, lightweight, tactical UAV capable of launching from land or sea, saw a dramatic increase — from $14 million in 2013 to $71 million for 2015.

Government contractors will take a hit in 2015 with the mandated reduction in Defense Department spending. In the UAV industry, however, those cuts will not be felt equally.



Australia now has more than 100 certified unmanned aircraft operators

by Press • 19 May 2014


– Analysis reveals the industry is dominated by micro and small businesses, rather than traditional aerospace and defence sector multinationals.

– Strong pattern of certification of new-starts in regional Australia with this projected to expand in support of mining and agriculture, with positive employment impacts.

A major milestone has been recorded by the Australian unmanned aircraft industry with the Australian Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) having now certified more than 100 commercial UAV operators.

The milestone was reached during the course of last week.

Analysis of CASA’s certificate holder records commissioned by the Australian Certified UAV Operators Association (ACUO) confirms micro and small businesses are the driving force behind the industry in Australia, rather than traditional aerospace and defence sector companies.

The dominance of small start-ups in the domestic market raises significant industry policy challenges for Australian government policy makers according to Joe Urli, ACUO President.

“The structure of the unmanned aircraft industry as a whole in Australia is dominated by small and micro enterprises, with these holding 91 of all issued certificates. Micro enterprises, comprising less than five people, hold 70 certificates.

Just one registered Australian large business holds a certificate, with this a non-traditional aerospace company. Only three public sector entities currently hold certificates.

“The message to public policy makers that flows from these facts is very clear: the unmanned aircraft industry as it is developing in Australia is purely commercially driven in its focus and should not be treated as simply an extension of the traditional aerospace and defence industrial bases.”

The analysis reveals that with the exception of two Australian-based subsidiaries of US firms, AAI Aerosonde and Insitu, it is clear that medium and large Australian and multinational aerospace and defence sector firms do not appear to be proactively seeking CASA unmanned aircraft operator certification at the current time.

“This may reflect the parameters of CASA’s regulations as currently stand, which do not allow beyond line of sight operations of larger unmanned aircraft.

“While those regulations are planned to evolve over the next two years, the immediate supplier base is clearly defined by a bottom up approach, rather than top down. This is unlikely to change even when the regulations do broaden, because the market dimensions are unlikely to provide many opportunities for larger systems. Where those opportunities do merge, in the medium to long term, government requirements will predominate. The overall dominance of micro and small companies will continue unabated.

“This market reality directly contrasts with most Australian government policy for the aerospace and defence sectors, which is dominated from the top with micro and small enterprises rarely assessed as having potential to act in market shaping and market defining ways”, says Urli.

The rate of unmanned aircraft operator certificate approvals by CASA has greatly accelerated the past 18 months, with the total number of holders doubling twice during this period.

“The most rapid period of growth in certificate issuance has been during the past four months” says Urli. “We see this sudden surge as indicative of a pent-up demand that will only increase, particularly given the broad market space available to start-ups.”

CASA issued its first unmanned aircraft operator certificate on 28 November 2002 to the Brisbane-based company HELImetrex. Over the next 11 years that number would climb, by January 2013, to just 27 certificates.

Victoria has emerged as the clear powerhouse of the emerging national industry with a total of 32 certificate holders, followed by New South Wales with 23. Western Australia and Queensland sit in equal third place with both having 19 certificate holders.


South Australia, which has an active state government policy of seeking to develop the unmanned systems industry as part of its forward business strategy, has just seven certificate holders. Tasmania has four certificate holders while the Australian Capital Territory has one. There are no current operator certificate holders registered in the Northern Territory.

A further important trend identified by the analysis is the impact the unmanned aircraft sector is having in regional Australia. One in three unmanned aircraft start-ups which have secured CASA operating certificates come from regional areas.

“We believe this trend reflects the early adoption of small commercial unmanned aircraft by the mine surveying and agricultural sectors” says Urli. “The mine surveying segment is particularly well developed in Australia with multiple firms engaged in this commercial activity in most states.

“Adoption by the agricultural sector is still in its very early stages and is closely aligned with the slow evolution of the precision agriculture industry in Australia.

“While many system developers envisage the agricultural unmanned aircraft evolving in market terms in the same way as the tractor, the continual market lesson being learnt by certificated operators is that unmanned aircraft have a closer parallel to the laptop computer. Data is the core of all forms of precision agriculture techniques and data is what agricultural unmanned aircraft produce.

“We assess the agricultural market as having significant growth potential for the unmanned aircraft operators community and this, in turn, is likely to see continued and potentially accelerated expansion of our industry into regional areas. It is not out of the question that the number of certified operators based in regional areas could rise to above 40% of the overall total in the medium to long term, with important regional employment effects.”

Analysis of the certificate holders reveals that no Australian university or public funded research agency yet holds an operators certificate, despite widespread usage of unmanned aircraft by these entities in their education and research activities.

“ACUO is deeply concerned by this trend and urges the Australian academic and tertiary sector to back safe aviation practices and progress the pursuit of active certification for their operations as a matter of priority,” says Urli.

“There is no exemption for Australian universities and research agencies from compliance with CASA regulations where their research activities involve manned aircraft, nor is there any such exemption provided by CASA regulations for unmanned aircraft.”

The dominance of micro and small enterprises in the overall makeup of the certificate holders base reiterates the overwhelming strength of the services side of the unmanned aircraft systems sector in Australia, as opposed to a manufacturing focus says Urli

“The bulk of the actual unmanned aircraft types operated in the Australian market are sourced commercially from Europe, the United States and increasingly, China.

“Small multi-rotor, vertical take-off and landing systems form the bulk of the domestic fleet, which now numbers in the thousands of individual aircraft.

“That offshore sourcing comes despite the technology being in clear reach of Australian manufacturers, and means those few local firms engaged in full systems development are required to compete at a global level from the earliest stages of start-up.

“That pressure is both a burden and a blessing” says Urli.


“It acts as a brake on technological innovation in hardware terms at the domestic level. It acts as an additional hurdle for prospective uptake of those new capabilities emerging from the Australian research and development sector.

“But it strongly suggests that the primary thrust of domestic innovation, what competitive edge Australia can take out onto the global stage, will necessarily have to be in the form of business models which cross traditional sectorial boundaries. That applies not just to new system developers, but to all operating certificate holders and this is precisely what is happening in Australia.”

The full list of CASA certificate holders can be viewed at:


About ACUO:

Established as a legal entity in March 2010, ACUO is the peak industry body chartered to promote the safe & orderly growth and expansion of the commercial unmanned aircraft industry in Australia. ACUO represents Australia globally as part of the International Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems Coordination Council, the pre-eminent global policy coordination body for this important sunrise industry.

Notes on data:

The analysis of Australian unmanned aircraft systems certificate holders used as the basis for this release has been conducted for ACUO by LFRG Pty Ltd, which is internationally recognised for its expertise and knowledge of the underpinning business models and practices of the global unmanned aircraft systems sector.

Classification of companies in this analysis has followed standard Australian Bureau of Statistics definitions, with the exception of grouping non-employing businesses (i.e. sole proprietorships and partnerships without employees) with the micro business category – that is businesses employing less than 5 people, including non-employing businesses. Small business is defined as businesses employing 5 or more people, but less than 20 people. Medium is defined as a business employing 20 or more people but less than 200 people, while large business is defined as entities employing more than 200 people.

Insitu Pacific and AAI Aerosonde are stand-alone Australian subsidiaries of, respectively, Boeing Company and Textron. For the purposes of this study these subsidiaries have been assessed in isolation to their parent company.

For further information:

Joe Urli





Brad Mason




NY Times



The House Ducks on Defense


MAY 17, 2014


The Pentagon has for too long been in denial about the changes it will have to make in a world of declining resources, skyrocketing personnel costs and changing global threats. This year, however, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel presented a more realistic, though still insufficient, cost-saving budget. Yet Congress seems firmly stuck in the past, loyal to campaign donors and frightened, as always, about local political fallout from closing excess military bases, modifying military compensation, reducing troop levels and cutting nonessential or older weapons.

The first big test of the Hagel approach came last week in the House Armed Services Committee. The Pentagon and the committee were both forced to work within a $496 billion maximum for basic defense spending in 2015 because of budget caps set by Congress. The committee also authorized $79 billion for war financing and $17.9 billion for defense-related nuclear programs, for a total price tag of $600.7 billion. In 2016, the military could face billions of dollars in further reductions if Congress does not lift the caps.

With these and other factors in mind, Mr. Hagel proposed to eliminate the fleet of Air Force A-10 attack aircraft, retire the U-2 spy plane in favor of the remotely piloted Global Hawk and cut maintenance for an aircraft carrier that would be slated for retirement in 2016. The committee, pressed by lobbyists and members in districts where the weapons are built, voted to keep all three.

In addition, the committee approved billions of dollars in funding for the F-35 jet fighter, despite serious capability and development issues. The committee abdicated responsibility for one of the Pentagon’s biggest challenges, pay and benefits. If left unaddressed, they could eventually consume most of the budget and make weapons modernization impossible. The committee did this by rejecting Mr. Hagel’s plans to cap pay raises at 1 percent instead of 1.8 percent, slow the growth of tax-free housing allowances for military personnel and increase health insurance deductibles and some co-payments for retirees and some family members of active servicemen.

Caving to parochial interests, the panel also thwarted a request for a commission to decide on closing unneeded military bases; the Pentagon says 20 percent of its facilities are excess. The committee chairman, Representative Howard (Buck) McKeon of California, said he intended to block another major Hagel initiative — to shrink the Army by 2019 to a total force of between 440,000 and 450,000 troops, from a post-9/11 peak of 570,000. He was frank about hoping “some miracle happens and we get money … next year that we don’t have now.”

Hoping for a miracle is no way to budget. The United States cannot afford the larger force indefinitely, and does not need it. Even with a smaller Army, America’s defenses will remain the world’s most formidable. But the committee’s lack of vision will mean less money for the newer weapons required to confront future threats, and for training and maintenance — thus compromising the military’s readiness to fight.

This is not just a repudiation of the Pentagon’s agenda, but an irresponsible trade-off.

The full House has yet to act, while the Senate is working on its own version of the bill. Congress still has time to responsibly rebalance America’s military forces, but doing so will require reversing the inclination to always say yes to whatever the lobbyists and donors want.




Inside America’s Shadow War on Terror—and Why It Will Never End

James Kitfield

National Journal

May 18, 2014


The muezzin’s call to predawn prayers had not yet woken the seaside Somali town of Barawe when a lone figure stepped out of a two-story villa near the water’s edge. In the darkness of a walled compound, he smoked a cigarette, the glow of ash rhythmically illuminating his face. It was an effect that was heightened by the night-vision goggles focused on him. When the man stepped back inside, the commander of Navy SEAL Team Six, his own face hidden under black grease, directed his commandos to take up their positions and storm the villa. The date was Oct. 5, 2013, and inside was a Kenyan named Abdikadir Mohamed Abdikadir, or Ikrimah—the leader of al-Shabaab suspected of masterminding the gruesome killing of non-Muslims at Nairobi’s Westgate Mall.

Two hours later and nearly 3,000 miles away, a Libyan named Nazih Abdul-Hamad al-Ruqai, or Anas al-Libi, was returning from dawn prayers as the sun began to rise over Tripoli. His sedan pulled up to a comfortable house in an upscale suburb of the capital and was suddenly boxed in from the side and the front by two white vans with darkened windows. Commandos from the Army’s elite Delta Force counterterrorism unit leaped out, one training his gun on al-Libi from the front as another broke the window, pulling the terrorism suspect out of the car and bundling him into one of the vans before both vehicles and a third that had been hidden sped off. The entire operation, caught on a surveillance camera and posted on YouTube, took 60 seconds.

President Obama wants deeply to convince Americans that the time of perpetual war is over. “America is at a crossroads,” he said last year in a speech that was meant to reassure a weary public that the post-Sept. 11 era of invasion, regime change, and nation-building was nearly done. “Beyond Afghanistan, we must define our effort not as a boundless ‘global war on terror,’ but rather as a series of persistent, targeted efforts to dismantle specific networks of violent extremists that threaten America.”

Yet these twin raids, executed just hours apart in different time zones and inside countries with which the United States is not at war, demonstrate that the conflict is far from over. The unique U.S. counterterrorism model of intelligence-driven operations by multiagency task forces around the globe represents war—perhaps by another name, but deadly and perpetual, nonetheless.

Indeed, even after the last U.S. combat troops leave Afghanistan this year, the shadow war against jihadi terrorists that began on Sept. 11, 2001, will rage on, executed by comingled military, intelligence, and law-enforcement capabilities using legal authorities that blur distinctions between uncommon criminals and enemy combatants. Terrorism suspects caught in the hard stare of the U.S. counterterrorism network will still be arrested by U.S. law-enforcement agents overseas; snatched off the streets of lawless cities by U.S. special operations forces; eviscerated by CIA drone strikes in remote areas far from any declared war zone; and interrogated under the rules of warfare before being read their Miranda rights and prosecuted in federal courts. And that life-and-death struggle will continue to play out largely in secret.

National Journal was offered a glimpse behind that curtain of secrecy, visiting with U.S. counterterrorism warriors who have been on the front lines of this fight for many years. Their war did not end when Osama bin Laden’s body slipped off the deck of a U.S. warship in 2011, nor will the enemy surrender when the last airman turns off the lights at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Rather, theirs is a twilight struggle in which ancient hatreds are kindled anew and show no sign of resolution.



Like many top national security and counterterrorism officials today, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn honed his craft as a field-grade officer in the crucible of war. As the former intelligence chief for Joint Special Operations Command in Iraq and Afghanistan, Flynn helped his boss and mentor, former JSOC Commander and now-retired Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, develop the model of intelligence-driven, targeted strikes that has largely come to define U.S. counterterrorism operations: find, fix, finish, exploit, and analyze (or “F3EA” in militaryspeak).

Today, the rhythms of that cycle ripple through the vast U.S. counterterrorism network: meticulous intelligence-gathering to establish “patterns of life” for terrorism targets; followed by raids and arrests (or, in extreme cases, lethal strikes); then interrogations, and exploitation of evidence such as computer hard drives or smartphones; and follow-up analysis leading to further raids or arrests. This is repeated in a loop that continually strengthens linkages in the U.S. counterterrorism network and expands intelligence databases, all while degrading the enemy.

It’s an intelligence system that has yielded an alarming picture of the new terrorist enemy. Yes, the al-Qaida that attacked the United States on 9/11 has been devastated by a decade of drone strikes and arrests in Pakistan. But Qaida affiliates and sympathetic Islamic extremist groups have proliferated to fill that void, especially in the revolution-riled Middle East and Africa.

That loose and still gravely dangerous network includes al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP, which has launched three attacks on the United States from its base in Yemen and was targeted in a series of U.S. drone strikes in April that killed more than 40 of its suspected members. Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM, expanded from its base in Algeria last year to capture much of northern Mali before being pushed back by U.S.-supported French and African forces. Al-Shabaab, the Qaida affiliate in Somalia responsible for last year’s massacre in the Kenyan shopping mall that killed 67 civilians, sits near the top of the most-dangerous list, as does Boko Haram, the Islamic extremist group behind the grisly massacres of non-Muslims in Nigeria and the recent kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls, and Ansar al-Sharia, a radical group in Libya tied to the 2012 murder of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. As if that were not enough, a viper’s nest of Qaida- and Taliban-linked Islamic extremist groups remains active in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Most worrisome to Flynn and other U.S. counterterrorism experts is the situation in Syria, where a prolonged civil war is beginning to resemble the conflict in Afghanistan in the 1980s and 1990s that originally spawned al-Qaida and the Taliban. The recently renamed Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (formerly al-Qaida in Iraq), and the Qaida-affiliated al-Nusra Front have attracted more than 7,000 foreign fighters to their black banners in Syria, hundreds of them from Europe and the United States; the groups control territory and enjoy a degree of sanctuary stretching from northern Syria to Anbar province in western Iraq. U.S. counterterrorism officials are mindful that Arab fighters such as bin Laden, who joined the Afghan mujahedeen in fighting the Soviets in the 1980s, brought the campaign of terror home with them, before exporting it globally.

This decentralization and proliferation of the Qaida threat drove a 43 percent increase in worldwide terrorist attacks between 2012 and 2013, according to the State Department’s recently released global terrorism report. “I actually think al-Qaida is becoming more dangerous as it decentralizes, and through its franchises it has a bigger footprint today than on September 11, 2001,” says Flynn, now director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.

As the intelligence chief for JSOC in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Flynn helped capture many local leaders of al-Qaida and the Taliban. Many of those hardened militant field commanders have since either been released, in the case of Afghanistan, or freed in a series of bold prison breaks in Iraq. In both cases, Flynn notes, they’ve returned to the battlefield. “They have gotten smarter from applying the lessons learned from fighting us, in many cases they are better armed and funded than in the past, and they are more sophisticated in knowing how to target and control weak governments and societies in the Muslim world through fear and intimidation.” He notes that leaders of al-Qaida’s far-flung network of affiliates and associated jihadists still communicate regularly with core Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, thought to be hiding in Pakistan’s tribal regions, as well as with each other.

If Zawahiri were ever able to unite them under a single banner and strategy, today’s al-Qaida would be tantalizingly close to bin Laden’s vision of a global Islamic insurgency intent on waging endless war, locally, regionally, and against the West. “If the growing number of al-Qaida affiliates become more coherent and cohesive as a group, then we will have a very big problem on our hands,” Flynn warns. “They are not there yet. But knowing what I do about this enemy and its evolution over the last 10 years, as I look forward to the next 10 or 20 years, I see this threat being with us for a very, very long time.”



Only months after Obama’s counterterrorism speech at National Defense University last year, the contours of the secret war against Islamic extremists came briefly into view with a series of events compressed into a few short weeks yet spread out over thousands of miles and across multiple international borders, none of them near Afghanistan.

The unlikely series of events began at the sprawling Westgate Mall in Nairobi, a retail oasis of upscale shops and restaurants favored by wealthy Kenyans and tourists, including plenty of Americans who were among the crowd strolling through the mall looking for souvenirs on Sept. 21, 2013.

Initially, few people took note of the silver Japanese compact car that pulled into a restricted zone next to the mall and parked illegally. Four young men piled out with their heads swathed in the signature black head scarves of the Somali Shabaab terrorist group, and once inside the building they calmly shouldered assault rifles. After shouting for any Muslims to raise their hands and exit the mall in Christian-majority Kenya, the assailants began methodically shooting into the terrified crowd.

By the end of the second day of the siege, scores of victims lay in a makeshift morgue outside the mall, part of a body count that would grow to nearly 70 civilians, many of them young children. Four Americans were among the nearly 200 people wounded in the attack. Already, an FBI Rapid Deployment “Fly Team” was on the scene. Special Agent in Charge Richard Frankel stood behind a barricade outside the wreckage of Westgate, listening to sporadic gunfire and waiting for the signal to send in his team of more than 80 investigators.

The tactical command post set up on the perimeter of Westgate mirrored the multi- agency Joint Terrorism Task Forces that are spread across the United States. The Kenyan task force was crawling with agents and operators from the major U.S. intelligence, law-enforcement, and military agencies, many of them familiar faces and veterans of JSOC’s task forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The job of Frankel’s FBI team was to conduct “sensitive site exploitation.” His investigators helped to interview eyewitnesses, process the car for fingerprints, review videotape from the surveillance cameras, and conduct a methodical search of what was left of the still-smoldering mall. FBI forensics experts categorized each piece of evidence, from shell casings to cell phones, noting exactly where it was found and whom it was most likely connected to. By matching surveillance videos with evidence on the ground, they determined where the shooters killed certain victims and, most important, where they bedded down inside the mall that first night. That was where FBI forensic experts found a trove of evidence.

Before long, Frankel’s team knew that the media reports of a dozen or more Shabaab fighters were way off mark. They were tracking four shooters and perhaps a fifth facilitator. “Our primary mission at that point was to help the Kenyans identify the terrorists who were responsible for the massacre, and hopefully gather enough evidence to track and ultimately prosecute them,” Frankel says.

The presence of such FBI Fly Teams at the scene of major terrorist attacks worldwide speaks to the bureau’s post-9/11 transformation from primarily a law-enforcement agency into a critical counterterrorism player, a process also heavily informed by the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan. A turning point came in 2006, when the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was hit by a suicide bomber who killed two American soldiers and 14 Afghan civilians.

Brian McCauley was the FBI legal attaché in the embassy at the time. After witnessing the attack, he was alarmed to see Afghan police and NATO forces rush to the scene and wash down the gory bomb site with hoses, destroying vital forensic evidence in the process. At McCauley’s request, FBI headquarters in Washington deployed more than 100 special agents to Afghanistan, where they launched a conspiracy investigation aimed at the terrorist cells in Kabul that were targeting U.S. and allied troops with suicide bombers and improvised explosive devices. Working with JSOC, the FBI investigation eventually identified more than 150 IED “facilitators” whom special operations forces either captured or killed, foiling 43 bombing plots in the process.

Those hard-earned lessons inform the FBI’s close coordination with JSOC and the full panoply of U.S. counterterrorism forces. “We all learned in Afghanistan that no single agency can win this fight by themselves, but working together, we had a lot of success in disrupting these terrorist networks and cells,” says McCauley, now the deputy assistant director of the FBI’s International Operations Division.

Today, with only hours of notice and a green light from the chain of command, U.S. counterterrorism forces can rapidly deploy a major new node in a globe-spanning intelligence network that includes hundreds of thousands of investigators, intelligence analysts, military operators, and private contractors stationed in more than 160 countries. That model of multiagency cooperation and intelligence-driven, targeted operations has expanded well beyond Afghanistan, McCauley notes. “We’ve now learned to align our threat assessments, and the place where we all see the terrorist threat migrating and growing is Africa. So we need to respond to that before some weakly governed place in Africa becomes the next terrorist sanctuary, like Afghanistan was in the 1990s.”

Around the time of the embassy bombing in Kabul, the Drug Enforcement Administration also began working closely with JSOC to track Afghan drug kingpins whose proceeds were helping to fuel the Taliban insurgency. To participate jointly in JSOC raids, in 2006 DEA created Foreign Advisory Support Teams, units whose commandos undergo training that rivals the military special forces they often work alongside. In one case that DEA investigated, an Afghan drug cartel was trafficking methamphetamine to California and using the proceeds to fund the same suicide bomber cells in Kabul that the FBI was tracking. “So working with JSOC in Afghanistan took the blinders off for everyone, and taught us that we were facing a common threat,” says Derek Maltz, director of DEA’s Special Operations Division. “And the best way to attack that kind of complex organization is not only to go after its leaders, but to also attack its money trail, its logistics infrastructure, and its arms smuggling.”



The FBI Fly Team’s raw information on the militants likely behind the Westgate Mall attack, like all foreign and domestic intelligence on the terrorist threat, was relayed in real time to the round-the-clock operations center of the National Counterterrorism Center in Washington’s Virginia suburbs, near Tysons Corner. The Liberty Crossing campus that houses both the NCTC and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence—two institutions that did not exist before 9/11—stands at the pinnacle of a far-flung empire of “fusion centers” that have proliferated over the past decade, and it acts as the central nervous system of the United States’ global counterterrorism network.

Each day inside Liberty One, a nondescript, modern edifice of gray stone that is one of the most-wired buildings in the world, hundreds of counterterrorism experts from more than 20 intelligence, national security, and law-enforcement agencies sift through thousands of reports of raw, terrorism-related intelligence from more than 100 databases. Each threat is cross-checked against the NCTC’s own Terrorism Identification Datamark Environment watch list of more than 740,000 suspected or potential terrorists, and analysts choose the top 30 or 40 most credible threats to post to the NCTC’s threat matrix. Through an analytic process that is as much art as science, analysts then prioritize a handful of the most urgent threats and flag them in the classified Situation Report that the NCTC publishes for the top levels of government twice a day. Those high-priority threats dominate discussion during the three video teleconferences the intelligence community holds each day, and are also included in the Presidential Daily Briefing delivered at the White House each morning.

Terrorism threats that make it into the Situation Report and the Presidential Daily Briefing are generally assigned to special NCTC “pursuit groups” consisting of analysts from multiple agencies whose sole task is to find the connections in the digital intelligence clutter—to discover that this email or that phone number links two individuals and sets off an alarm. Established after the NCTC failed to discern the terrorist plot of the so-called underwear bomber, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, on Christmas Day 2009, the pursuit groups are the hunters at the top of the intelligence food chain, taking the art of finding patterns of life of potential targets to the next level.

That constant process of filtering and prioritizing terrorist threats from all-sources intelligence requires extraordinary resources and manpower, but NCTC Director Matthew Olsen believes it realizes the 9/11 commission’s vision of a single clearinghouse that allows analysts to connect the dots on most terrorist plots. “In the beginning of the NCTC, that was probably more vision than reality, but now in our 10th year I do think we’ve achieved the goal of being the one place where all the most sensitive information on terrorism comes together and is visible to all the major stakeholders,” Olsen said in an interview. “I can tell you our products on specific terrorist-threat streams are regularly disseminated across the government, including to the White House.”

As it turned out, two major streams of intelligence intersected at the top of the NCTC’s threat matrix last October: one from al-Shabaab’s Westgate Mall attack and the other involving longtime Qaida operative al-Libi, the man under indictment for his role in the 1998 bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. On the radar of U.S. intelligence agencies for more than a decade, al-Libi had recently been spotted in his hometown of Tripoli. More important, there was intelligence indicating that core Qaida leaders in Pakistan had sent al-Libi home to establish a new cell in the chaotic landscape of Libya post-Muammar el-Qaddafi, a weakly governed country ruled by competing militias where Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans had been killed by Islamic militants in Benghazi the year before.

In the kind of planning process that once would have taken months, the Obama administration quickly made the decision to launch two nearly simultaneous operations thousands of miles apart, involving the U.S. military’s two elite counterterrorism strike forces—Navy SEAL Team Six and the Army’s Delta Force. Paradoxically, on Oct. 5, the date chosen for the commando raids, the rest of the U.S. government was shut down by political paralysis in Washington.



The SEAL team in Somalia was given the order to storm the seaside villa. But, according to numerous media reports that included eyewitness accounts, the Shabaab fighter who had retreated inside came back out, firing an AK-47 before SEAL Team Six could reposition. The U.S. commandos fought their way into the villa, but encountered heavy fire and saw more women and children than expected, scrambling for cover. Having lost the critical element of surprise, the SEAL commander ordered his team to retreat to inflatable boats waiting on the beach.

The team could take solace that they suffered no casualties and had sent a message to Shabaab leaders about the long reach of U.S. counterterrorism forces. That message was underscored a few days later when, outside another Somali town, a car carrying two top Shabaab commanders, including the group’s chief bomb-maker, was destroyed by a Hellfire missile. The armed Predator drone that fired the missile was most likely operated by the JSOC team attached to the U.S. Africa Command’s Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa, headquartered in nearby Djibouti.

After being snatched from the street in front of his family’s home, al-Libi was below decks in a spare interrogation room aboard the USS San Antonio. An FBI agent was there too, reading al-Libi his Miranda rights. The suspect now had the right to remain silent, and anything the Libyan said would certainly be used against him in a court of law. If he could not afford an attorney, one would be provided. Anointed with those magic words, the man was suddenly transformed from an “enemy combatant” in America’s war with al-Qaida to just another terrorism suspect in the U.S. justice system.

The FBI special agent sitting with al-Libi was part of the government’s High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group, another multiagency hybrid peopled by senior military, intelligence, and law-enforcement officials and created specifically for the war against al-Qaida. Because the warship was in international waters somewhere in the Atlantic, and they were operating under broad wartime authorities bestowed by Congress in the post-9/11 Authorization for the Use of Military Force, the spies and the soldiers could question al-Libi indefinitely. They no longer used long-since banned “enhanced interrogation techniques,” and what they learned could not be used in a court of law. But they could keep at it with patience and maddening persistence and a psychological jujitsu that appealed to the terrorist’s sense of self-importance.

At first al-Libi cooperated with the interrogators, and even after being read his rights, he waived them for a time. But he was ill, and as he tired under the questioning, his mood soured until he invoked Miranda and stopped talking. At that point, the interrogation team halted the questioning and made arrangements to have al-Libi flown to New York City. Within days, the gray-bearded terrorism suspect was standing before a judge in a federal District Court in New York, pleading not guilty and requesting a court-appointed attorney.

All of these operations—from the twin raids and the Predator strike to the Westgate investigation and al-Libi’s floating interrogation—demonstrate the global nature of this ceaseless war. It’s why the Pentagon continues to add special operations forces (from 61,000 in 2012 to nearly 70,000 by 2015, representing a 300 percent increase compared with pre-9/11 levels) and to increase the size of the unmanned drone arsenal by more than 30 percent even as it reduces ground forces to field the smallest Army since before World War II. It’s why the U.S. intelligence budget has more than doubled since 9/11 to more than $75 billion annually, and why the number of FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces has grown from 26 to more than 100.

“It takes a network to defeat a network,” McChrystal has often said.

“In the beginning, it was difficult even putting all these different agencies under one tent with our Joint Task Forces, and suspicions ran so high that I remember one agency putting crime-scene tape around its work stations,” the former JSOC commander told National Journal in an interview last year. Over time, success built greater interagency trust. “And as we built the network, we were able to hit the enemy faster and with an operations tempo that was really crushing to them, because they keep losing experienced leaders. That’s our counterterrorism model and the heart of our strategy,” McChrystal said. “We became like an industrial machine—the of counterterrorism.”

Indeed, the 16 major agencies in the intelligence community have institutionalized a wartime ethos of information-sharing and intelligence-focused operations to create a frighteningly efficient counterterrorism model. DIA’s Flynn and his cohorts atop peer agencies, including Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, are determined that the synergy is not lost as the post-9/11 wars wind down and bureaucracies in Washington begin to assert themselves anew. For them, there is no end in sight to this war, as their ongoing activities attest.

The White House clearly wants the nation to rediscover its peacetime equanimity. Yet the president has publicly defended the continued use of lethal drone strikes even against American terrorism suspects, as well as snatch-and-capture operations by special operations forces on foreign soil and the NSA’s warrantless monitoring of the communications of non-U.S. citizens. And his call for an eventual repeal of wartime authorities feels more aspirational than real. Obama gets the Presidential Daily Briefing, he’s seen the threat matrix, and he sat in the loneliest chair in the White House as SEAL Team Six followed his orders to the faraway compound of Osama bin Laden. He’s seen the wisdom in Winston Churchill’s words that we sleep safely at night because rough men (and women) stand ready to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

So, despite an insistence that things will change after Afghanistan, the counterterrorism model born there will live on to fight a war that is not going away.



Drones have regulators, hobbyists on collision course

by Press • 20 May 2014

By Chris Brown, CBC News

As drones get better and cheaper, they’re becoming a more common sight in the sky, but they’re also presenting Canadian aviation officials with their biggest challenge in generations.

“The technology at this point is surpassing the legislation,” says Lee Mauro, who practices aviation law with the Vancouver firm Harper Grey. “It’s moving at a pace where it has outpaced the legislative ability to keep up to it.”

The growth of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) has been stratospheric in recent years. The term that once invoked images of hostile-looking unmanned military aircraft now captures anything from a remote controlled multi-propeller helicopter, to an insect-sized robot.

“I geek out every time,” says hobbyist Noel Rubin.

Rubin is a special effects designer with a background in physics. He spent $2,000 on a custom-built drone that he bought the components for online.

His flying machine has three arms, each supporting two propellers.

“It’s a very stable configuration and it just looks cool!,” Rubin says.

“There’s a mini-computer that controls each motor. It has a GPS and a compass. It’s almost like the computer is flying it, you just have to tell it where to go.”

Rubin’s UAV is designed to carry a stabilized GO-PRO camera. It shoots high-resolution video and uses WIFI to beam the images back to the operator on the ground as the craft is flying.

Under current Canadian law, anyone can fly a UAV or take video with it for fun, as long as the machine weighs less than 35 kilograms and is not being used for a commercial purposes. Hobby UAVs also have to stay under 400 feet and within line-of-sight of the operator.


But Mauro says the notion that today’s drones qualify as “model aircraft” under existing Canadian rules is outdated.

“A quad-copter isn’t a model of anything. It’s its own thing, and that’s not described in the legislation at all.”

Peering cameras flying overhead raise significant privacy concerns, but Mauro says safety is arguably a more pressing issue.

Recently, it was revealed Canada’s Transportation Safety Board is investigating a case where an Air Canada pilot landing at Vancouver International Airport spotted a drone a few dozen metres from his jet.

“Aircraft are tested for bird strikes on a regular basis and the industry is highly regulated and safe, Mauro says. “But they are not tested for a 70 pound (35 kilogram) carbon-fibre drone flying into the engine or the windscreen. And I think that is a safety issue we are seeing now.”

Transport Canada’s current model aircraft/UAV rules have been on the books since 2008. They require all operators flying for commercial purposes to get a permit and file a sort of flight plan, a process that usually takes between 10 and 20 days.

The department issued 945 so-called “flight operation certificates” last year, and observers expect the number to be higher in 2014.

North Guardian UAV Services, founded by Paul Baur and Jeff Howe in North Vancouver, is among the new companies filing frequent requests.

“I’ll tell you, the last six months have been totally phenomenal,” Baur says of the demand for his company’s drone services.

Earlier this spring, North Guardian UAV Services was hired by the Yukon government to inspect an old bridge on the Ross River, a job unsuitable for a helicopter.

“It [a regular helicopter] might blow the bridge away,” Howe says.

“This is different. It’s a lot less impact, zero emissions, and the quality of the video speaks for itself.”

The company also has a contract to work with Vancouver-area fire departments to use drones to deploy heat sensors. The drones would fly inside buildings that are on fire, carrying or deploying sensors so crews can monitor temperatures and make better decisions about when structures are at risk of collapse.

A Transport Canada official who asked not to be identified told CBC News companies that have demonstrated a track record of good drone-use behaviour are increasingly being granted multi-use permits. But the official conceded the speed of change in the emerging industry is dizzying.

“It’s hard to regulate something that’s evolving so quickly,” the official said.

Noel Rubin says as a hobby user he wouldn’t be opposed to more controls being put on people who are flying for fun, even if it means licensing users.

“There is a lot of science in this and a lot of expertise, this isn’t a toy. There should be some level of qualification,” he told CBC News as he manoeuvred his UAV at a park near Vancouver’s Science World.

Mauro, the aviation lawyer, agrees. “I think it only makes sense to have some kind of licensing when it comes to the pilots of these aircraft. We license drivers. These (UAVS) create a safety concern for the public and it makes sense to license them.”


The Real Aim of U.S. Indictment of Chinese

Analysis: U.S. Government’s Message to China, Others

By Eric Chabrow

May 20, 2014


There are a number of reasons why the U.S. government indicted five Chinese army officers for hacking American corporate computers to steal intellectual property. Bringing the assailants to justice isn’t one of them.

Despite Attorney General Eric Holder’s official pronouncement that he hopes the Chinese government will hand over the accused officers to face the 31 charges brought by U.S. prosecutors, few believe a trial will ever take place.


Tim Ryan of Kroll characterizes the indictments as a cyber-age “persona non grata,” the diplomatic expulsion of government officials caught – or believed to be – spying. “Spies are no longer residing in the country where they’re doing their work, so this is kind of the evolution of a diplomatic row,” says Ryan, managing director of the risk consultancy’s cyber-investigations practice. “It’s to register a diplomatic protest.”

The Obama administration is using the indictments to send messages to three different groups: the Chinese government, other nations and American businesses.

The message to the Chinese is that the U.S. is serious about getting them to stop pilfering intellectual property from corporate America. The message directed to other nations: U.S. spying in cyberspace is done for military, political and homeland defense purposes and not to steal commercial ideas to pass along to private companies – or, as in China’s case, to state-sponsored enterprises. And the message to corporate America is that businesses can cooperate with federal authorities to go after those who steal intellectual property by hacking into computers – whether the thieves are governments or criminals.


The Indictments

On May 19, Holder announced federal prosecutors indicted five officers of the People’s Liberation Army for hacking into the computers of aluminum manufacturer Alcoa, specialty metals producer Allegheny Technologies, the U.S. subsidiaries of Germany’s solar-power-products maker SolarWorld, steelmaker United States Steel, trade union United Steelworkers and nuclear plant builder Westinghouse Electric.

The U.S. government has been working on these criminal cases for years, but experts say the indictments were delayed because of last June’s revelations by Edward Snowden of National Security Agency e-spying activities.

“Snowden derailed the whole conversation,” says Jacob Olcott, principal of cybersecurity practices at risk consultants Good Harbor Consulting and a former top cybersecurity adviser to the Senate Commerce Committee. “When I was working on the Hill, from 2005 to 2011, people were always talking about doing something like this – that we needed a public confrontation with the Chinese. The political calculus at the time was that that public confrontation wasn’t really worth it.”


But now it is.

“This move indicates the U.S. government is shifting from playing defense in response to Snowden to going on the offensive on matters of fundamental concern to U.S. cybersecurity and economic power,” says Indiana University law professor David Fidler, senior fellow at the university’s Center for Applied Cybersecurity Research. “One casualty of Snowden’s leaks was the initiatives the Obama administration mounted in the first half of 2013 against the pervasive nature of Chinese economic cyber-espionage. The U.S. government is returning to what had been, pre-Snowden, one of the biggest cybersecurity problems the U.S. and other countries faced.”

The U.S. government wants to distinguish its e-spying activities for government-political-defense purposes with the espionage conducted by the Chinese to steal corporate secrets to help advance Chinese businesses.

“This distinction, between economic and national security espionage, is not one that the Chinese hold,” says Adam Segal, senior fellow for Chinese studies at the think tank Council on Foreign Relations. “And in the wake of National Security Agency’s alleged hacking of Chinese technology company Huawei and Brazilian energy company Petrobras, the argument is not one that has much traction with the rest of the world. China will play up its status as victim and see this as a significant escalation.”


Challenge of Building Support

Besides, he says even some American allies – Israel and France, for example – don’t make the distinction between economic and national security espionage.

Getting other nations to back American principles poses a challenge. “The revelations from Snowden about alleged NSA activities make it very hard to build support for large-scale diplomatic efforts from the rest of the world,” Segal says.

Still, George Washington University’s Allen Friedman says the U.S. government sees the indictments as a way of getting the Chinese to deliberate about whether to continue their commercial e-spying practices.

“When you’re talking at this level, there is no single action that’s going to create change,” says Friedman, co-author of Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know. “Eventually, they’ll be a phased shift. This is working in that direction. The challenge is, how do you create progress without creating backlash?”

But Friedman, research scientist at George Washington University’s Cybersecurity Policy Research Institute, says the U.S. government might have gone too far in embarrassing the Chinese by posting most-wanted-like posters of the five PLA officers.

“The United States has an international reputation of being cowboy country, and now we literally put up a ‘wanted’ poster of another sovereign country’s military officers,” he says. “It’s one thing to [send] a direct message to leadership in Beijing; it’s another thing to create an optic that could turn out to play very poorly internationally.”


Signaling Corporate America

Domestically, though, the indictments send a signal to American corporations that they have a partner in the federal government to battle intrusions into their computer systems, whether from nation states or criminals, to steal intellectual property.

“This is the Department of Justice really trying to double down on being a trusted partner in working with companies,” Friedman says. “The FBI has worked very hard for the last three or four years to be a first responder to a lot of these attacks. And now they’re trying to up their game.”

By upping their game, the FBI hopes to work more closely with business in going after those who infringe on intellectual property through cyber-attacks. Friedman, though, wonders if other businesses in other sectors would be as cooperative with law enforcement as U.S. Steel and Alcoa, companies that have worked with the U.S. government for decades to battle the dumping of steel and aluminum by foreign manufacturers.

But Kroll’s Ryan contends that companies in other sectors might have little choice but to cooperate with federal authorities, who usually notify businesses that their systems have been breached and their intellectually property pilfered.

“There are some companies that have suffered multiple intrusions, and they really haven’t been aggressive in mitigating these intrusions,” says Ryan, a former FBI special agent who once supervised the bureau’s largest cyber squad. “Now, they have to start thinking, ‘Hey, two to three years down road, could the guy who had done this to us be getting indicted, and will our company’s name end up in media?'”

That could serve as motivation to cooperate with law enforcement. At least that seems to be one reason why the U.S. government brought charges against the Chinese.



US, Closest Allies Sign Space Operations Agreement

By Colin Clark on May 20, 2014 at 5:46 PM


COLORADO SPRINGS: Australia, Britain, Canada and United States have signed a symbolically important Memorandum of Understanding committing them to “a partnership on combined space operations.”

As is often the case with such international agreements — especially on such a highly sensitive area as space operations — figuring out what it means and how things may change is extremely challenging.

One expert I spoke with here said the agreement would have no immediate practical effect but served to demonstrate the commitment of the partners and might lead to operational changes over time.

Brian Weeden, a space expert with the Secure World Foundation who alerted reporters to the UK announcement, once served at U.S. Strategic Command’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC). He noted that the statement refers to “Combined Space Operations” which “doesn’t necessarily involve everyone being physically co-located in the same place. It is more likely that each partner will have their own national space ops center and some level of coordination/communication between them.”

Weeden thinks that this agreement may have arisen from one of the Schriever war-games, this one held at Nellis Air Force Base in 2010.

Among the fundamental issues of space warfare that a joint allied approach would address is the sharing of highly sensitive space situational awareness data — knowledge about where satellites are and when. Moving satellites or coordinating their use could be made much faster and more effective if allies more rapidly shared such data. Highly accurate SSA data is considered among the most sensitive military information, in part because satellites are so vulnerable.

An article about the war-game by then Lt. Gen Larry James, commander of 14th Air Force and Strategic Command’s Joint Functional Component Command for Space, identified allied participation as a key to understanding the game.

“It illustrated the need for mechanisms to employ those capabilities in a way that is consistent with national objectives while being value-added to the coalition. The game explored three related organizations to achieve this: a Combined Space Operations Center (CSpOC), a Combined Joint Task Force-Space (CJTF-Space), and a Space Council. The CSpOC provided a means to direct the full range of coalition space capabilities at the operational level of war,” James wrote in “High Frontiers,” Air Force Space Command’s in-house magazine.

James also said the CSpOC “enabled improved communications across the coalition, facilitated more rapid deployment and employment of coalition capabilities, and allowed coalition partners to be fully integrated in strategy, planning, and execution.” It was “one of the clear successes of” the game and would be “an excellent model upon which to base a real-world combined operations center.”

However, that ain’t happening yet. But they’ve made the commitment, as Weeden noted: “This provides a political framework for moving forward and moving forward is going to be the more difficult part of doing this.”


Four DARPA Projects That Could Be Bigger Than The Internet

Patrick Tucker

May 20, 2014


Forty years ago, a group of researchers with military money set out to test the wacky idea of making computers talk to one another in a new way, using digital information packets that could be traded among multiple machines rather than telephonic, point-to-point circuit relays. The project, called ARPANET, went on to fundamentally change life on Earth under its more common name, the Internet.

Today, the agency that bankrolled the Internet is called the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, which boasts a rising budget of nearly $3 billion split across 250 programs. They all have national security implications but, like the Internet, much of what DARPA funds can be commercialized, spread and potentially change civilian life in big ways that its originators didn’t conceive.

What’s DARPA working on lately that that could be Internet big? Last week at the Atlantic Council, DARPA director Arati Prabhakar declined to name names. Like a good mutual fund manager, she said that her job was to “manage risk through diversity” in her portfolio. But the technologies that she highlighted in her recent testimony (PDF) to the Senate Appropriations Committee look like a list of insider favorites. Many have received much less public attention than DARPA’s flashier robot initiatives.

Here are four of DARPA’s potential next big things:

1. Atomic GPS

The Global Positioning System, or GPS, which DARPA had an important but limited role in developing, is a great tool but maintaining it as a satellite system is increasingly costly. A modern GPS satellite can run into the range of $223 million, which is one reason why the Air Force recently scaled back its procurement.


DARPA doesn’t have an explicit program to replace GPS, but the DARPA-funded chip-scale combinatorial atomic navigation, or C-SCAN, and Quantum Assisted Sensing, or QuASAR, initiatives explore a field of research with big relevance here: the use of atomic physics for much better sensing. If you can measure or understand how the Earth’s magnetic field acceleration and position is effecting individual atoms (reduced in temperature), you can navigate without a satellite. In fact, you can achieve geo-location awareness that could be 1,000 times more accurate than any system currently in existence, say researchers

The British military is investing millions of pounds in a similar technology. Researchers associated with the project forecast that they will have a prototype ready within five years.

The upshot for quantum navigation for any military is obvious. It arms them with better and more reliable situational awareness for soldiers and equipment and better flying for missiles. Perhaps, more importantly, a drone with a quantum compass wouldn’t require satellite navigation, which would make it much easier to fly and less hackable.

The big benefit for everybody else? Future devices that understand where they are in relation to one another and their physical world won’t need to rely on an expensive satellite infrastructure to work. That means having more capable and cheaper devices with geo-location capability, with the potential to improve everything from real-time, location-based searches to self-driving cars and those anticipated pizza delivery drones.

The most important civilian use for quantum GPS could be privacy. Your phone won’t have to get signals from space anymore to tell you where you are. It would know with atomic certainty. That could make your phone less hackable and, perhaps, allow you to keep more information out of the hands of your carrier and the NSA.


2.Terehertz Frequency Electronics and Meta-materials

The area of the electromagnetic spectrum between microwave, which we use for cell phones, and infrared, is the Terehertz range. Today, it’s a ghost town, but if scientists can figure out how to harness it, we could open up a vast frontier of devices of that don’t compete against others for spectrum access. That would be a strategic advantage in a time when more military devices use the same electromagnetic spectrum space.

Research into THz electronics has applications in the construction of so-called meta-materials, which would lend themselves to use in cloaking for jets and equipment and even, perhaps, invisibility.

On the civilian side, because THz radiation, unlike X-ray radiation, is non-invasive, metamaterial smart clothes made with small THz sensors would allow for far faster and more precise detection of chemical changes in the body, which could indicate changes in health states. There’s the future doctor in your pocket.


3.A Virus Shield for the Internet of Things

CISCO systems has forecast 50 billion interconnected devices will inhabit the world by the year 2020, or everything from appliances to streets, pipes and utilities through supervisory command and control systems. All of that physical and digital interconnection is now known as the Internet of Things.

The High Assurance Cyber Military Systems program, or HACMS, which DARPA announced in 2012, is trying to patch the security vulnerabilities that could pervade the Internet of Things. The agency wants the to make sure that military vehicles, medical equipment and, yes, even drones can’t be hacked into from the outside. In the future, some of the software tools that emerge from the HACMS program could be what keeps the civilian Internet of Things operating safely. This breakthrough won’t be as conspicuous as the Internet itself. But you will know its influence by what does not happen because of it – namely, a deadly industrial accident resulting from a catastrophic cyber-security breach. (See: Stuxnet.)

Without better security, many experts believe the Internet of things will never reach it’s full potential. In a recent survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project about the future of physical and digital interconnection, Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, who was instrumental in the success of ARPANET, said that in order for the Internet of things to really revolutionize the way we live it must be secure.

“Barriers to the Internet of Things include failure to achieve sufficient standardization and security,” he said. HACMS could provide the seeds for future security protocols, allowing the Internet of things to get off the ground.


4. Rapid Threat Assessment

The Rapid Threat Assessment, or RTA, program wants to speed up by orders of magnitude how quickly researchers can figure out how diseases or agents work to kill humans. Instead of months or years, DARPA wants to enable researchers to “within 30 days of exposure to a human cell, map the complete molecular mechanism through which a threat agent alters cellular processes,” Prabhakar said in her testimony. “This would give researchers the framework with which to develop medical countermeasures and mitigate threats.”

How is that useful right now? In the short term, this is another research area notable primarily for what doesn’t happen after it hits, namely pandemics. It took years and a lot of money to figure out that H5N1 bird flu became much more contagious with the presence of an amino acid in a specific position.. That’s what enabled it to live in mammalian lungs and, thus, potentially be spread by humans via coughing and sneezing. Knowing this secret earlier would have prevented a great deal of death.

In the decades ahead, the biggest contribution of the program may be fundamental changes in future drug discovery. “If successful, RTA could shift the cost-benefit trade space of using chemical or biological weapons against U.S. forces and could also apply to drug development to combat emerging diseases,” Prabhakar said.


Before any of these four reach Internet-level success, DARPA faces a big challenge despite it’s continued popularity, in that they remain a government agency at a time when change moves faster than the U.S. government understands.

“We move at a pace measured in decades in an environment that changes every year,” Prabhaka said, at the Atlantic Council. In terms of the emerging technology she’s most concerned about, it’s the unknown unknowns, the U.S. military’s “ability to handle this vast changing landscape.”

The agency that helped to bring about the Internet, Siri and GPS will always enjoy a certain cache, warranted or not. But the world moves faster than even DARPA can keep up. Perhaps the most important thing that DARPA can create in the years ahead is manageable expectations.


Air Force facing shortage of researchers due to retirements

By Barrie Barber

Dayton Daily News


Published: May 20, 2014


DAYTON, Ohio — The number of scientists and engineers retiring at the Air Force’s top science research agency has doubled in the last five years, and defense experts say the trend could lead to a shortage because a growing number of highly trained workers are eligible to leave.

The Air Force Research Laboratory, headquartered at Wright-Patterson in Ohio, has a workforce with about half the employees age 50 or older. This year, 20 percent of the agency’s scientists and engineers were eligible for retirement; by 2018, that figure will reach 33 percent.

The Air Force reportedly has lost nearly 30 percent of its top senior scientists the last two years, as well.

Former Lockheed Martin Corp. Chairman Norman R. Augustine said he expects a future shortage of engineers and scientists, which could impact national security. For decades, the United States has relied on superior technology to maintain an edge against adversaries.

“I do think it puts us at risk, and one of the greatest dangers is, it takes a long time (to find replacements),” said Augustine, a co-chairman of a National Academy of Sciences committee in 2012 that reviewed the status of the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, workforce in the Department of Defense and U.S. defense industry.

“You don’t just turn the spigot on and say we’ll have more engineers.”

A 2010 National Academy of Sciences study projected a shortage of scientists and engineers between 2015 and 2020, said George K. Muellner, a former Boeing Co. executive who was a cochairman of the review.

Budget instability caused last year by sequestration — from civilian furloughs to grounded jets — could hurt Air Force recruitment of civilian scientists and engineers, the retired Air Force lieutenant general said.

“To be frank, if they’re not able to start providing some stability to the folks they hire, they’re not going to compete well at all,” said Muellner, a past president of the American Association of Astronautics and Aeronautics.

The status of the Department of Defense science and engineering workforce has attracted the attention of Congress. As part of the fiscal year 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, lawmakers required the Pentagon to report on STEM workforce needs by last March.

The Defense Department missed the deadline but says a report will be released. In a Senate hearing last week, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, pressed the Pentagon to release the data so Congress can assess the issue.

“We want them to define the problem and then tell us how they recruit, how they retain and then what tools they need,” Portman said.

The military and defense and national security contractors face the challenge of competing for a limited number of graduate school students. Many students in U.S. graduate schools are foreign citizens not eligible for security clearances.

“Now you’ve cut the pool of graduate students in half that we’re eligible to go after, and of the half that’s left, we’re competing with industries that are more lucrative,” said Scott Coale, a retired colonel and former vice commander of the Air Force Research Lab, or AFRL.

To work on a classified project at a Department of Defense lab, a scientist or engineer must be a U.S. citizen with a security clearance, said Pamela Swann, AFRL deputy director of personnel.

In limited circumstances, AFRL may employ foreign-born scientists or engineers who have a green card, or permanent U.S. residency but who do not work on classified projects, she said.

The 2010 study that reviewed the Air Force’s STEM needs noted “reason for concern as to whether the supply of scientists and engineers who can obtain a security clearance will be adequate to meet the future needs of the Air Force.”

The report said that while science and engineering degrees awarded increased 8 percent between 2000 and 2005, the number of those degrees awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents fell 5.5 percent. It also said women and minorities were a growing segment of potential recruits. It urged the Air Force to take a “proactive role” to address shortfalls in math and science skills among middle and high school students.

Augustine said U.S. high school students fare poorly in international science and math tests and often have not shown the kind of interest in STEM careers their counterparts in other countries have demonstrated.

“That’s the real problem,” he said.

Throughout the Air Force, 21 percent of scientists and 17 percent of engineers who are eligible retire every year. Forty-four percent of scientists and 40 percent of engineers are older than age 50, and the Air Force expects the retirement of 250 scientists and engineers every year until 2019.

Within AFRL, the agency reported that 311 scientists and engineers retired between fiscal years 2009 and 2013. In fiscal year 2009, 35 scientists and engineers retired at AFRL, and that number more than doubled to 76 in 2013, agency figures show. Retirements reached a peak of 96 in fiscal year 2012. The agency anticipates 400 more will opt for that path from this year through 2018.



Navy Braces For Backlash After PLA Cyber Indictments

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. on May 21, 2014 at 1:35 PM


WASHINGTON: The Justice Department’s indictment of five People’s Liberation Army officers on charges of cyber-espionage may prove to be a double-edged sword for the US military.

The Department of Justice announced the indictments for cyber espionage on Monday. While the Justice Department accused the five of stealing things, the Chinese have a very different view. As Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last year: “Their view is, there are no rules of the road in cyber so they aren’t breaking any.”

On a spectrum from delight at Justice’s tough stand to anxiety about the potential backlash, “I would be closer to the second[:] ‘Oh boy, I hope we can continue the momentum that we have with the PLA,” Navy Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert said when I asked him about the issue at this morning’s Defense Writers’ Group breakfast. “We’ve got to continue.” At stake are high-profile engagements like China’s first-ever participation in the annual Rim of the Pacific (RimPac) international exercises in Hawaii and Greenert’s own visit to China this summer to meet with PLA Navy chief Adm. Wu Shengli. “We haven’t had any signs of displeasure from our Chinese navy interlocutors at this point,” Greenert said.

Just wait, said one of America’s most iconoclastic strategists, Edward Luttwak. “It is the ancient American torture of a thousand cuts,” he told me. Indicting PLA officers may seem pure symbolism — no one expects them to stand trial — but it’s just the publicly visible tip of an Asia-Pacific iceberg, Luttwak said: “It was a measure at hand; there will be more.”


“We are sliding into a confrontation with China,” Luttwak warned. “Every time the Chinese challenge a neighbor — Japan, Vietnam, Vietnamese, Philippines, no matter — they are putting another brick in the wall of the emerging pan-Asian coalition…. In the process, US-China hostility increases.” That said, Luttwak noted, we have a long way to go before we reach Cold War levels of tension.

“This will be seen as enormously insulting,” said Dean Cheng of the conservative Heritage Institution. “Taken in conjunction with the comments by General Fang during his recent visit (as noted in Colin’s article), we are looking at a likely chilling of US-China relations, not just at the mil-mil level, but more broadly. General Fang’s comments clearly reflect a view that the US is fomenting problems for China, including encouraging its neighbors to challenge Chinese claims in places like the South China Sea. Now, we’re accusing their military of criminal acts.” That includes an open-ended charge of “conspiracy” that could potentially entangle more senior Chinese officers and complicate high-level visits to the US.

That said, Cheng added, “note that the Chinese did not take the most obvious retaliatory path, which was to cancel high-level meetings…or participation in RimPac.” That’s not necessarily a good thing, he added: “This would suggest that the information the PLA will obtain from RimPac likely outweighs their diplomatic pique — and should raise questions about just what we’re choosing to show the Chinese.”

Greenert, by contrast, sees RimPac as a pure win-win. Within the boundaries of security regulations and statutes, he said, “we’ve gone as complex and comprehensive with their attendance at RimPac as feasible and they’re pleased with that.” Greenert expects Chinese sailors to go aboard the USS Mercy and Americans to aboard the Chinese Peace Ark — both hospital ships, not combat vessels with highly classified equipment — and hopes to see the two ships embark detachments from each others’ navy on future operations. Beyond RimPac, he wants to routinize some types of exercises so the two fleets can conduct them without requiring high-level approval every time.

Greenert even wants student exchanges between the Chinese and the US Naval Academy in Annapolis. The goal: to build mutual understanding in the next generation of both navies’ leaders.

Greenert is certainly concerned about cyber espionage: In particular, he said, “I worry about our cleared defense contractors losing information and data” before that data gets classified and moves into better protected networks. “We’ve got to press” on cybersecurity, he said.

But Greenert sees the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) as a moderating influence on other security forces, notably the newly created Chinese Coast Guard, which has played the leading role in recent provocations in both the Sea of Japan and the South China Sea. This spring, after the two forces agreed to a new protocol for interactions at sea, “one of our ships was being kind of pressured — I hate to use the term harassed — [by Chinese coast guard vessels],” Greenert recounted. “One of the Chinese [navy] warships came in, spoke English, said what’s going on, had a discussion with our guy, and he stepped in and defused the situation. He said to the coast guard, ‘you need to move along, you’re too close'” to the American ship, the USS Spruance.

Even the notorious near-collision between the USS Cowpens and a Chinese vessel escorting their new aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, had a happy ending, Greenert said. While the protocol for at-sea incidents hadn’t yet been finalized at the time, Greenert said, “right after Cowpens came to a screeching halt, the aircraft carrier CO [commanding officer], in English… gets on the international net with the Cowpens CO [and] defuses the situation.”

Greenert made clear that the military, by itself, can only manage day-to-day interactions, not the grand strategic challenges of the US-China leadership. “The big problem, I leave to our leadership,” he said. “We need to keep negotiating.” Meanwhile, navy to navy, “we need to keep things cool.”



DARPA Unveils Hack-Proof Drone

by Kris Osborn on May 21, 2014


What’s going on here?The Pentagon’s research arm unveiled a new drone built with secure software that prevents the control and navigation of the aircraft from being hacked.

The program, called High Assurance Cyber Military Systems, or HACMS, uses software designed to thwart cyber attacks. It has been underway with the Defense Advance Research Project Agency for several years after originating at the University of California, San Diego and the University of Washington, said Kathleen Fischer, HACMS program manager for DARPA.

“The software is designed to make sure a hacker cannot take over control of a UAS. The software is mathematically proven to be invulnerable to large classes of attack,” Fisher said.

The mini drone is engineered with mathematically assured software making it invulnerable to cyber attack. Citing the success of mock-enemy or “red-team” exercises wherein cyber experts tried to hack into the quadcopter and failed, Fisher indicated that DARPA experts have referred to the prototype quadcopter as the most secure UAS in the world.

“We started out with the observation that many vehicles are easy for malicious hackers to tamper with the software and take control remotely. We’ve replaced all the software with our high assurance software that was developed using the tools and techniques that were invented in the program,” Fisher said.

The drone prototype was among more than 100 projects and 29 advanced research programs on display in the Pentagon’s courtyard Wednesday in what was billed as DARPA Demo Day.

The HACMS program develops system architecture models, software components and operating system software, DARPA officials said.

Vulnerabilities or security issues can arise when drones or other military aircraft are “networked” to one another such that they can share information in real time. Security risks can emerge through network protocols, software bugs or unintended interactions between otherwise correct components, DARPA officials explained.

“Many things have computers inside and those computers are networked to talk to other things. Whenever you have that situation, you have the possibility for remote vulnerabilities where somebody can use the network connection to take over and get the device to do what the attacker wants instead of what the owner wants,” Fisher explained.

The software tools used for the HACMS program can be adjusted to larger platforms. In fact, DARPA plans to transition the secure software to Boeing’s Unmanned Little Bird helicopter, DARPA officials said.

“The software is foundational so it could be used for a large number of systems,” Fisher added.



It’s official scrap 2015 for UAS integration in the USA

by Gary Mortimer • 21 May 2014


Hinted at a couple of times in the last week, Congress has given the FAA more time, interestingly the Pirker case is sighted as one of the reasons! Speaking two weeks ago at sUSB Expo Jim Williams of the UASIO mentioned the introduction of limited low risk operations was being considered but did not commit to detail.

This delay will no doubt delight DoD vendors who are beginning to place their products in the frame but are not quite there yet.

The NPRM is still being spoken of for November but again, perhaps there is less of a rush now.

Page 17:

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS). -The FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 directed the FAA to integrate UAS into the National Airspace System by 2015. However, it is uncertain when the FAA can integrate UAS into the Nation’s airspace and what will be required to achieve the goal. The lack of an overall framework for the new systems may be inhibiting progress on UAS integration. The Committee is concerned that the FAA may not be well positioned to manage effectively the introduction of UAS in the United States, particularly in light of a recent ruling by a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) administrative judge regarding the use of a small UAS for commercial purposes. Given these challenges, the Committee has provided an additional $3,000,000 in the Aviation Safety Activity to expedite the integration of UAS into commercial airspace.


UAS budgeting.—The Committee understands that UAS have very different operating characteristics, communications and flight planning system requirements than traditional air traffic operations. However, the resource requirements for integrating UAS into airspace and the corresponding impacts on the FAA’s capital and operating budgets remains unclear. The Committee directs the FAA to develop an integrated budget for UAS in the fiscal year 2016 budget request that clearly identifies research and development needs and the requirements for air traffic control systems and operations.



eBay Breach: 145 Million Users Notified

Users Urged to Change Passwords After Database Compromise

By Jeffrey Roman, May 21, 2014.


eBay is urging its 145 million customers to change their passwords following a cyber-attack that compromised encrypted passwords and other personal information.

The attack, which occurred between late February and early March, originated after a small number of employee log-in credentials were compromised, which enabled cyber-attackers to gain access to eBay’s corporate network, eBay says in an FAQ. “We are working with law enforcement and leading security experts to aggressively investigate the matter,” the company says.

The company says it’s notifying all of its active users about the breach, and the need to change their passwords, by e-mail, site communications and other marketing channels.

Compromised information includes encrypted passwords, customer names, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth, eBay says. The database that was exposed in the breach did not contain financial information, according to the company.

eBay detected the compromised employee log-in credentials approximately two weeks ago. So far, the company says there’s no evidence of unauthorized activity for eBay users. The company also says it has no evidence of unauthorized access or compromises to personal or financial information for PayPal users. PayPal data is stored separately on a secure network, and all PayPal financial information is encrypted, eBay says.

“eBay regrets any inconvenience or concern that this password reset may cause our customers,” the company says. “We know our customers trust us with their information, and we take seriously our commitment to maintaining a safe, secure and trusted global marketplace.”


Analyzing the Breach

Tyler Shields, a security analyst at Forrester Research, says the amount of time attackers had in the eBay network is concerning, because the company discovered the breach two weeks ago, yet the attackers apparently first accessed the system in late February or early March.

“That’s a long time for an attacker to be in your network,” he says. “I’d be very concerned about the continued [presence] of the attacker and what else they may have taken.”

Even though financial information wasn’t exposed, Shields says there was enough sensitive information potentially accessed to enable criminals to commit fraud. “Lots of attack scenarios can be devised when you know the e-mail address, home phone number and home address for 145 million people,” he says.

Al Pascual, senior fraud and security analyst at Javelin Strategy and Research, says the compromise likely originated from a spear phishing campaign that resulted in the compromised employee credentials. “I guess that’s a major lesson here – the system is only as secure as its weakest link, and that is very often its people,” he says.

Andreas Baumhof, CTO at security firm ThreatMetrix, says that although the exposed passwords were encrypted, criminals are improving their ability to crack hashed passwords. He says account takeover will be the biggest issue going forward. “We’ll see phishing sites pop up asking you to change your eBay password,” he predicts.


The attack also highlights that all companies, no matter how strong their security is, are susceptible to attack. “Even the best-run security companies have been hacked,” Baumhof says. “It’s not the question of whether you get hacked, but when.”

Shields says that, with enough time, a dedicated attacker can compromise the best security. “There is an asymmetry of warfare going on where an attacker need only find one hole and defenders have to secure every point of entry,” he says.

Regarding the company advising its customers to change their passwords, Pascual says that the messaging doesn’t do enough to quench concerns. “I’d rather hear about the type of encryption used on the password list so we can determine the likelihood that it will be decrypted and misused by criminals,” he says. “The more that a consumer uses a password across multiple accounts, the higher their rate of fraud – and we all reuse passwords far more often than we should. The breach of user credentials anywhere can result in fraud everywhere.”


Buy a Surface Pro 3, get it at summer’s end

Microsoft may have unveiled new tablets to preempt Apple’s expected June announcements

By Gregg Keizer

May 22, 2014 06:29 AM ET


Computerworld – Microsoft Wednesday kicked off pre-sales of its new Surface Pro 3 tablet, but some of those orders won’t be fulfilled until the end of summer.

The interval between introduction and availability for the Surface Pro 3 was both in line with and longer than Microsoft’s practice for the laptop replacement’s previous editions.

Of the five models Microsoft introduced Tuesday, two — the Intel Core i5-powered configurations with 128GB or 256GB of storage space — will ship next month in the U.S. and Canada. Those models, which list for $999 and $1,299, will ship June 20 and go on sale in the company’s own retail stores as well as others. Microsoft will deliver the $130 Surface Pro Type Cover, a new keyboard sized for the larger Surface Pro 3, on the same day.

The other three models, including the entry-level $799 Core i3 with 64GB of storage space, and the two with the Intel Core i7, will not ship or hit retail in the U.S. and Canada until Aug. 31, more than three months from now. That’s also when Microsoft will begin shipping and start selling all of the Surface Pro 3 models and accessories in 26 other markets, including the U.K., China, France, Germany and Japan.

Those schedules are similar to and different from past editions.

The original Surface Pro, for example, was finalized with pricing and specifications in late November 2012, and shipped in early February 2013, a stretch of about 10 weeks. But the second-generation Surface Pro 2, unveiled in September 2013, went on sale six weeks later.

For those who thought Microsoft jumped the gun with its rollout, Ross Rubin, principal analyst at Reticule Research, had an explanation.

“Announcing the Surface Pro 3 prior to WWDC [Worldwide Developers Conference] but also in advance of its shipping would be one way to get in front of Apple’s early June announcements,” Rubin wrote in an email reply to questions. “In fact, [Panos] Panay even referenced rumors that Apple was going to add support for simultaneous app viewing on the iPad.”

As Rubin said, Apple’s developer conference, WWDC, is just around the corner: The confab kicks off June 2, less than two weeks from today, with a keynote where company executives, including CEO Tim Cook, will almost certainly trumpet the new iOS 8 and the latest version of OS X.

Panay, the head of Microsoft’s Surface team, did make a subtle reference to rumors that iOS 8 may break with tradition and include a split-screen mode for the iPad. iOS has never let two apps display simultaneously; instead, each app appears in a full-screen mode, and interaction between apps is clumsy and limited.

“There’s rumors of other side-by-side computing,” Panay said yesterday near the end of the Surface Pro 3 introduction. “I’m showing you side-by-side computing. This is side-by-side computing. This is Windows,” Panay boasted as he demonstrated Windows 8.1’s split-screen mode on the tablet. “There’s no tricks, no gimmicks, no nothing. It just works.”

Microsoft has long highlighted Windows’ ability to show two “Modern,” nee “Metro” apps in the tile-based, touch-first user interface (UI) in its anti-iPad marketing.


The Redmond, Wash. developer may also have wanted to strut the Surface Pro 3 before Apple refreshed its MacBook Air, the lightweight notebook Panay used yesterday as a foil for the new Surface. Several times Panay pulled out a MacBook Air or referenced it — “Best in class, there’s no debate,” he said at one point — to hammer home Microsoft’s pitch that its new device is not as much a tablet as a notebook replacement.


Rasmussen Reports


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 24, 2014

American voters have more information than ever, it seems, but the real question is, do they know it?

Sixty-two percent (62%) of Likely U.S. Voters complain that they don’t have enough say when it comes to choosing their leaders. But in the same survey, while 90% say voters in countries with democratically elected governments have a responsibility to be informed about major policy issues, just nine percent (9%) feel most of their fellow countrymen are informed voters.

And what have the voters wrought?

For one thing, they’ve chosen a president who continues to earn a double-digit negative job approval rating as he has for most of his time in office. Seventy-three percent (73%) now consider the president at least somewhat liberal in political terms, the highest finding in nearly four years. But only 11% of voters consider themselves liberal when it comes to both fiscal and social issues.

Then there’s an elected Congress that just nine percent (9%) of voters give good or excellent marks to, and that’s an
improvement from recent months.

Only 19% now trust the federal government to do the right thing most or nearly all the time, so Americans aren’t likely to be surprised by the controversy that has erupted over the performance of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs. Just 21% think the government does a good or excellent job delivering veterans benefits, although interestingly recipients of those benefits give the feds slightly better marks.

The federal government and the courts continue to advance the cause of gay marriage nationwide, but voters remain closely divided when asked if they approve. 

Voters will have a chance this November to change the makeup of the House and Senate, so it will be interesting to see what they make of the information that’s out there. With party primaries beginning to narrow some of the races down, we looked at two more Senate contests this past week.

West Virginia’s Senate race is closer following the primaries there, but Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito still holds a nine-point lead over Democrat Natalie Tennant.

In Georgia, Republicans still won’t have a specific nominee for a couple more months, but the final two contenders are running slightly behind Democrat Michelle Nunn. In a crowded GOP primary field, no candidate crossed the 50% margin, so Peach State Republicans must choose between Congressman Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue in a July 22 runoff election.

The next presidential race is still a couple years away, but Republican strategist Karl Rove prompted some chatter when he said recently that Hillary Clinton’s health will be an issue in 2016. Speaking of information, 38% of voters believe all declared presidential candidates should release at least their most recent medical records to the public. By comparison, 73% think all presidential candidates should release at least their most recent tax returns.

The economy remains the number one issue as far as voters are concerned, however. The U.S. Justice Department this week announced the indictment of five Chinese military computer hackers for stealing commercial secrets. A plurality (45%) of voters believes a cyberattack by another country poses a greater economic threat to the United States than a traditional military attack.

It’s no secret that younger adults tend to be more avid consumers of the latest technology, but just how much of a difference is there between today’s millenials and those who came before them? We decided to find out what America thinks

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Americans say now is a good time for someone in their area to sell a house. That’s up from 34% last month and just one point shy of 39% in September, the highest level of confidence in regular surveying since April 2009.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of homeowners expect their home’s value to go up over the next year. That ties the highest level of confidence since early 2009, first reached in October.

Among homeowners who are Very Confident they know the value of their home, 73% say it’s worth more than when they bought it.

Consumer and investor confidence remain higher than they were at the beginning of the year.

In other surveys this week:

— Twenty-nine percent (29%) of voters think the United States is headed in the right direction.

— Democrats lead Republicans again on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

— Following his narrow primary win, Republican nominee Pete Ricketts leads his Democratic opponent Chuck Hassebrook 47% to 40% in Nebraska’s gubernatorial race.

— Just half of Americans say they are likely to visit the new National September 11 Memorial Museum in New York City, but 62% don’t think a historic film shown there should be changed so as not to offend Muslims.

— Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans consider Memorial Day, celebrated this coming Monday, the unofficial start of summer.

May 17 2014




FAA, Drones Clash on Rules for Unmanned Aircraft

Near-Collision With Commercial Jet Adds Urgency, but Industry, Regulators at Odds Over Enforcement

By Jack Nicas and Andy Pasztor

May 11, 2014 8:43 p.m. ET


The near-collision between a drone and a commercial jet over Florida has added urgency to efforts by regulators to impose new rules on the proliferation of unmanned aircraft.

Across the U.S., drones monitor crops, snap real-estate photographs, inspect roofs, shoot commercials and perform other tasks, according to people in the unmanned aircraft industry.

Pilots of those drones are defying seven-year-old restrictions on commercial unmanned aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration, which has said the curbs are needed for public safety. But limited resources and legal complications have led to scattershot enforcement by the agency, emboldening even more drone operators.

The risks caused by the increase in unmanned flights were underscored by the agency’s revelation last week that a pilot of an American Airlines Group Inc.

regional jet told officials in March that he nearly hit a drone about 2,300 feet above the ground while approaching a Tallahassee, Fla., airport.

The drone’s flying altitude was unusually high, since the FAA requires small types of unmanned aircraft to remain below 400 feet. Based on the description, the drone appeared to be a small model aircraft, but a senior FAA official warned that the drone could have done serious damage, such as if it were sucked into a jet engine.

Some proponents of unmanned aircraft worry that the near-collision could spark a public backlash and perhaps spur U.S. and state regulators to impose tougher restrictions than drone users claim are necessary.

The FAA plans to propose in November, several years later than initially projected, new rules on how small drones could be used legally for commercial purposes. It could take several more years for the rules to become final.

Jim Williams, head of the FAA’s unmanned-aircraft office, said last week that those rules will “ensure that risks are managed appropriately.” The issue “can’t get any more important to the FAA than it is today,” he said. “But unfortunately, the regulatory process is very slow and deliberative.”

An FAA spokeswoman said that to protect “people in the air and on the ground,” introducing drones into U.S. airspace “must take place incrementally and with the interest of safety first.”

Matt Waite, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor who runs a drone-journalism program that got a cease-and-desist letter from the FAA last year, said he is concerned that the “longer it takes to have the rules of the road in place, the more the technology advances and the cheaper it gets, the closer we get to some knucklehead doing something dumb and hurting someone.”

The FAA requires every non-recreational drone user in the U.S. to seek its approval. So far, the FAA has authorized only two commercial drones, both in Alaska.

Separately, the agency has fined two drone pilots, both for alleged reckless flying. In March, an administrative law judge overturned the first fine—a $10,000 penalty—ruling that the drone policy was a safety guideline and the agency had no legal authority to enforce it. The FAA is appealing.

“Fewer and fewer people seem deterred by threats,” said one federal official. “Nobody is asking the FAA how to proceed, so it’s turned into a modern version of the Wild West, where some people think anything is OK.”

The agency estimates there could be as many as 7,500 drones in U.S. skies within five years of the new rules. People in the unmanned aircraft industry say that estimate is far too low.

For example, Chris Anderson, chief executive of California drone maker 3D Robotics Inc. and the former editor of Wired magazine, sells about 2,000 autopilot systems a month to customers around the world who want to build their own drones.

DJI Innovations, a Chinese maker of recreational and commercial drones, sells as least 10 times as many drones, Mr. Anderson estimates. DJI declined to provide figures but said its sales have at least tripled each year since 2009.

The FAA’s unmanned-aircraft office is run by several dozen people, whose tasks include drafting rules and vetting permits for public entities such as police departments to fly drones in designated airspace. Inspectors check into reports of reckless flying or commercial use.

Some drone operators aren’t shy about flouting the current rules. Mike Fortin, president of an Orlando, Fla., drone company that films concerts and TV commercials, received an email from an FAA official in January telling him that his business was violating FAA policy.

“My response to the FAA was to piss off,” he said. The FAA hasn’t followed up. If the agency sends a formal cease-and-desist letter, “I’d probably frame it, hang it up on the wall and keep going about my everyday business,” Mr. Fortin said. The FAA declined to comment on the incident.

In some cases, the FAA seems to be looking the other way. Mr. Williams, head of the FAA’s unmanned-aircraft office, said officials generally consider farmers who use drones to monitor crops as hobbyists. Hobbyists are traditionally allowed to use drones.

Companies might soon be allowed to apply for FAA certification for drones to be used in farming, filmmaking and inspections of power lines and certain parts of oil and gas plants, Mr. Williams said. Those uses aren’t allowed under the current restrictions.

Drone Dudes, of Los Angeles, has used drones for months to film commercials for companies such as Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Kia Motor Corp.

“We haven’t heard a peep” from the FAA, said Eric Maloney, head of production at Drone Dudes.

Brian Emfinger, a photojournalist for TV station KATV in Little Rock, Ark., got a mixed response from the FAA after using a 2.2-pound drone last month to film the aftermath of tornadoes. The video has racked up about 2.4 million views on YouTube.

KATV news director Nick Genty said an FAA spokesman notified him that the station’s drone use was an FAA violation. Still, “they definitely didn’t tell us to stop,” Mr. Genty said, adding that KATV will continue to use drones for reporting.

The FAA said it regulates the use of drones, not how news organizations use footage.



High-Ho, The Derry-O, The Farmer And The Drone

by Press • 11 May 2014



There was a near-miss in the skies above Tallahassee recently. According to a Federal Aviation Administration official, an American Airlines regional jet nearly collided with a “small, remotely piloted aircraft” — a drone — cruising 2,300-feet above sea level.

Exactly who was flying the unmanned aircraft remains unknown, but drones are becoming increasingly common in U.S. skies. This week in North Dakota, the FAA began allowing tests of drones for agricultural purposes.

Congress has ordered the FAA to create new rules to safely integrate drones into U.S. airspace by 2015, but many of North Dakota’s farmers aren’t waiting for the FAA to act.

Jim Reimers’ family has been farming on the North Dakota prairie for five generations. Driving out to his family’s land northwest of Jamestown, the empty, vast spaces are striking. The sky and the field stretch as far as you can see.

“In the early 1890s is when my great grandfather came out and started farming in this area,” Reimers says. Today, the Reimers’ family farm stretches out over 30,000 acres.

That’s more than twice the size of Manhattan, and each growing season the Reimers walk a lot of it, looking for pests and checking the health of the crops.

“You don’t cover the whole field. You can’t,” Reimers says.

But knowing exactly what is going on inside each field is essential, and that’s where the drones come in.


It’s All About The Data

Catching a fungus early, documenting damage when cattle break into your fields, knowing which fields aren’t flourishing so you can write them off; all these decisions can make or break a growing season. Unmanned, semi-autonomous little airplanes promise to be able to do all of that.

So this year, Reimers and his brother invested about $20,000 in a couple of small drones to begin scanning their fields. These little drones weigh less than 10 pounds each. The Reimers can fly them remotely, or the drones can be programmed to fly themselves on a grid to map and image an entire field.

The drones collect huge amounts of data, and modern farming is a data-driven business. “[That’s] my role on the farm; that is all I do,” Reimers says.

Like a software programmer or Web developer, Reimers runs an endless series of tests on his land, altering things like crop density, fertilizer and planting width. Modern, GPS-enabled farm equipment not only can drive itself, it’s accurate within inches and can adjust precisely how much fertilizer or pesticide to spray.

If farmers know exactly how each field is faring, they may spray less. For the Reimers family that could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings each year. It could increase their yield and margins while reducing stress on the land.


Regulation Red Tape

Like the Reimers, hundreds — and perhaps thousands — of farmers are already buying little drones. Many of them don’t have formal training to fly drones, though, and that makes some regulators nervous.

This week saw the first-ever FAA-sanctioned test flight for agriculture. In attendance was John Nowatzki, an agricultural machine systems specialist at North Dakota State University. He says getting regulatory approval for the test took months.

“It’s been very frustrating,” he says. “I have not been involved in any kind of research that has taken this amount of administrative time.”

The FAA has tried to ban the commercial use of drones while it tests and writes new rules, but lots of farmers aren’t waiting, Nowatzki says.

“I don’t think they are following all the rules,” he says. “But on the other hand, they are certainly being conscious of any issues that might be dangerous.”


License To Drone

Bob Becklund runs the Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems test site. It’s one of six facilities around the country selected by the FAA to test commercial uses of unmanned aircraft.

“Our mission is to help the FAA figure out the complicated technical procedural rules, requirements, whatever it may be, to help integrate unmanned aircraft safely,” he says.

Becklund worries that as more untrained farmers take to the air with small drones, they could endanger other pilots like crop dusters. He’d like to see the FAA require licenses for anyone flying a drone, even little ones. Some day, he’d like the Northern Plains test site to get into the business of certifying these pilots and unmanned aircraft safety.

Many farmers say those rules are unnecessary, and Notwazki worries regulation could ground the industry.

“You could stand from dawn to dusk in one of these North Dakota fields and you are not going to see any airplanes flying,” he says. “If you do, it will be just one and chances are it will be flying at 30,000 feet.”


Accidents Happen

A recent federal court case has thrown into doubt whether the FAA has the authority to stop anyone from flying small drones, and even small farmers here have taken notice.

Don Larson farms about 300 acres near Grand Forks. The farm is not his full-time gig, but he’s passionate about it.

“This year will be my 47th consecutive year of putting in a crop,” Larson says, but it’s his first year flying a drone.

A couple of weeks ago, his little drone flew away on him. He lost control and it took off. Larson spent the next six hours searching before finding it crashed in front of a neighbor’s house.

As more and more hobbyists, consultants and landowners take to the sky, more little accidents seem inevitable. For now, Larson has decided to put his drone on a leash. Until he gets more experience and works out the bugs, he’s only flying his little craft if it’s firmly tethered to the ground.



Jim Williams of the FAA, “There is potentially good news for certain operators.”

by Gary Mortimer • 11 May 2014


Speaking at the sUSB Expo our show in San Francisco last Thursday Jim Williams of the FAA revealed the first glimpse of a common sense approach beginning to arrive at the FAA to UAS integration.

Those of us that have been following this process since 2007 were surprised at what we heard. Those new to the scene, not so much. Thousands of column inches have been written without much fact checking on what has been and what might be. Expectations of a 2015 start have been raised and the FAA have clearly said that’s not going to happen. Media outlets seem to forget to report that bit.

Jim was a brave man facing the pent up expectation in the audience and we were honored to have him speak at our show.

We were tickled pink when he opened by saying

“This is a key portion of the industry and the FAA has to be responsible to the entire industry and are very much glad to be here”.

Silicon Valleys brightest and best spoke at the show and along with our international speakers a key group that will help drive civilian drone tasks at speed and for less. Hosting silicon valleys vision of an unmanned future is an exciting business. It’s not a surprise that main stream media has picked up on an airprox incident mention in Jims speech.

You dear reader might be more interested in this part of the speech. You heard it at sUSBExpo first!

There is potentially good news for certain operators.

Work is under way to implement the provisions of Sec 333 of the FAA re-authorization and reform act of 2012. this allows us to move forward with incremental UAS integration this section of teh act can only be applied to specific limited low risk uses in advance of the small UAS rule I stress the word may as we are still evaluating this option and developing our internal processes If we are able to leverage section 333 for low risk operations there will be economic benefits as we begin to address the pent up demand for commercial UAS operations.

Companies from four industries have approached the FAA and are considering filing an exemption request that will begin the process.

These industries include, precision agriculture, film making, power line and pipeline inspections and oil and gas flare stack inspections.

Precision agriculture falls into two categories, application of fertilizer and pesticides and crop monitoring. In Japan farmers have successfully used unmanned aircraft for precision agriculture for decades. Currently more acres of Japanese farmland are being applicated by unmanned helicopters than manned aircraft on an acre by acre basis. Through using unmanned aircraft can lower costs and enabling the Japanese farmers to apply exactly the right fertilizer or pesticides. In addition the small helicopters used for this purpose create the right amount of rotor wash to enable the pesticides to be applied to both the top and the underside of the leaves.

The US large farms use manned aircraft for aerial application of chemicals historically this was one of the highest risk forms of manned aviation so using unmanned aircraft for precision agriculture may actually reduce the risk in US airspace.

The film industry has a tremendous interest in using unmanned aircraft. Historically filmakers have hired helicopters and airplanes for overhead shots. This can get expensive and it is dangerous. It can create extra noise and wind on the set. But these issues could become irrelevant with the use of unmanned aircraft on closed sets. Did any one here see the James Bond movie Skyfall? Well if you remember the motorcycle chase scene that took place on top of the roof top of the grand bazaar, in Istanbul Turkey. They were all shot using sophisticated unmanned aircraft. If you have seen the movie then you have already seen just how spectacular video captured by unmanned aircraft can be.

The potential use is not all about economic benefits or getting the perfect shot for a film. There can be real safety benefits for using UAS for certain applications. Specifically for operations that we call the 3D’s Dangerous Dull Dirty.

Oil gas flare stack inspection falls into the dangerous category. I don’t know if any of you have been driving along the highway at night near a refinery and seen these giant walls of flame coming out. Use of unmanned aircraft in these situations can actually help reduce the risk to workers.

Currently they have to shut down the entire production line of either the oil processing facility or oil collection facility in order to inspect these. So if they use an unmanned aircraft they can save time and money and keep the poor guys that have to climb those things and inspect them visually safe.

So workers can be more thorough in their work while remaining out of harms way.

For example when lightening hits power-lines and big transmission lines that you see running around everywhere the lightening hits one of them they have to go out and inspect them to make sure that they weren’t damaged the catch is the damage is on top of the wire. So the only way they can do it is to get up a bucket or a ladder truck and get up there and take a look.

But by using a UAS they can see that power-line from multiple angles they don’t have to use ladders, they don’t have to use bucket trucks and they don’t have to fear electric shock the operator could be a safe distance away from the wire. They can see the line in its entirety and analyze it using HD video.

So we hope by using section 333 to authorize some of these types of operations will help us move the ball forward.

I want to be sure that its clear that the operations we are talking are specific limited low risk to people and property on the ground. This isn’t going to be a open season on a new way of doing business



(a) In General.–Notwithstanding any other requirement of this subtitle, and not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary of Transportation shall determine if certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate safely in the national airspace system before completion of the plan and rulemaking required by section 332 of this Act or the guidance required by section 334 of this Act.

(b) Assessment of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.–In making the determination under subsection (a), the Secretary shall determine, at a minimum–

(1) which types of unmanned aircraft systems, if any, as result of their size, weight, speed, operational capability, proximity to airports and populated areas, and operation within visual line of sight do not create a hazard to users of the national airspace system or the public or pose a threat to national security; and

(2) whether a certificate of waiver, certificate of authorization, or airworthiness certification under section 44704 of title 49, United States Code, is required for the operation of unmanned aircraft systems identified under paragraph (1).

(c) Requirements for Safe Operation.–If the Secretary determines under this section that certain unmanned aircraft systems may operate safely in the national airspace system, the Secretary shall establish requirements for the safe operation of such aircraft systems in the national airspace system.

All the presentation slides for sUSB Expo 2014 are hosted at Slideshare

All the presenters will have their presentations in their own video once we have finished processing them.


USAF Faces More Tough Choices in 2016

May. 11, 2014 – 02:32PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


WASHINGTON — When the US Air Force unveiled its budget in early March, it presented an unusual two-tier projection. The first was the normal five-year defense program. The second was a list of items that would be endangered if sequestration funding levels were not raised for 2016.

The hope for the service was that members of Congress would see future cuts coming and act to raise funding levels to prevent them. But two months later, Air Force officials seem to be coming to grips that a congressional rescue isn’t coming.

At an April 30 event, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said, “I am not seeing any indication” that Congress plans to change the 2016 budget plan.

Days later, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James echoed his comments.

“The conversations that I have had in Congress, with both congressmen, senators and staff members, overwhelmingly suggests that it’s less than a 50-50 chance,” James said. “But I also hear great appreciation for the situation that we’re facing, and I hear the willingness of key senators and congressmen and staff to continue to push. I’m an optimist, so I’m going to continue to push. I’m not going to give up. But realistically we have to think through that if we return to sequestration, how do we manage it?”

How the service will manage sequestration has been a specter hanging over the fiscal 2015 budget discussions. In late April, the Office of the Secretary of Defense issued a memo listing what, exactly, those cuts would look like.

The KC-10 tanker fleet would face retirement in its entirety, continuing the service’s theme that only the removal of whole platforms can achieve the major savings required under sequestration. The much ballyhooed adaptive engine program to help develop a next-gen engine for the service, worth over $1 billion over the next five years, also would be cut.

Procurement on the KC-46A tanker replacement program would be cut by three in fiscal 2017 and two in fiscal 2018, while planned procurement of 39 MQ-9 Reaper unmanned systems would be cut between fiscal 2018 and 2019. Ten MC-130J special operations platforms would also not be procured over the length of the Future Years Defense Program.

Another notable impact would come on the F-35A joint strike fighter. The Air Force would reduce fiscal 2016 procurement by 16 and 2017 procurement by one. Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan, the head of the F-35 joint program office, has talked repeatedly in recent months about how increasing quantity is the only real way to drive costs down on the program.


It’s a painful list of cuts, but one Russell Rumbaugh of the Stimson Center views as the outcome of a serious, in-depth look at how the service performs its mission.

“I’m sure the Air Force would prefer to keep all these things, but if that’s not tenable, this looks like things they really could do without and still project airpower globally,” Rumbaugh said. “The Air Force is continuing its quality over quantity idea. This is as corporate a decision as you can get.

“This really detailed planning,” he added. “This is a serious alternative, and the priorities don’t actually change at different levels, it’s just how it’s executed. This looks plausible. It’s certainly not the preferred outcome but if push comes to shove they can still operate.”

Whether the service can retire anything is up in the air. The House Armed Services Committee included language in its 2015 National Defense Authorization Act that prevents the Air Force from spending any funds to retire, or begin to retire, the A-10 close-air support platform, the U-2 spy plane, and, pre-emptively, the KC-10.

That KC-10 language has little-to-no real world impact on the Air Force’s 2015 plans, according to Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute. Instead, she believes it’s a signal that the House may put up a fight for the tanker come 2016.

“It’s good signaling of where the committee intends to go next year, and that’s something the Air Force leadership will have to consider when they build [plans for fiscal 2016],” Eaglen said. “It’s signaling at this point, but it’s an important signal. Of course, the Air Force may choose to roll the dice anyway with a new chairman” following the retirement of Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif.

One attention-grabbing notice in the Pentagon’s announcement of planned 2016 cuts was that the start of the Combat Rescue Helicopter program would be pushed out until fiscal 2019. The CRH program has been a popular one on the Hill, to the point where it was not included in the 2015 budget request until members of Congress directed Pentagon leadership to include it.

Asked about setting that 2019 date, James called it “illustrative” of the fiscal choices the service would have to make.

“There are many things that would have to be relooked, including the combat rescue helicopter, “James said. “The 2019 date, I think, is not a solid date.”


Iran Says It Has Copied US Drone

May. 12, 2014 – 01:49PM | By AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE |


TEHRAN — Iran said Sunday it has succeeded in copying a US drone it captured in December 2011, with state television broadcasting images apparently showing the replicated aircraft.

Tehran captured the US RQ-170 Sentinel in 2011 while it was in its airspace, apparently on a mission to spy on the country’s nuclear sites, media in the United States reported.

“Our engineers succeeded in breaking the drone’s secrets and copying them. It will soon take a test flight,” an officer said in the footage.

The broadcast showed supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s visit to an exhibition organized by the powerful Revolutionary Guard’s air wing about Iran’s military advances, particularly regarding ballistic missiles and drones.

Footage showed two nearly identical drones.

“This drone is very important for reconnaissance missions,” Khamenei said, standing in front of the Iranian copy of the American unmanned aircraft.

Iran said it had taken control of the ultra hi-tech drone and forced it down in the desert where it was recovered nearly intact.

Washington said it had lost control of the aircraft.

At the time, US military officials tried to play the incident down, saying Iran did not have the technology to decipher its secrets, and President Barack Obama asked the Islamic republic to return the Sentinel.

Iran has been working to develop a significant drone program of its own, and some of its unmanned aircraft have a range of hundreds of kilometers (miles) and are armed with missiles.

The state broadcaster also showed images that the commentary said had been recorded by an Iranian drone above a US aircraft carrier in the Gulf.

In the pictures, which were relatively clear, it was possible to see American personnel working on planes and helicopters aboard the vessel.



Air Force plan to strip generals of authority

New proposed Base Installation Center under AFMC

Maggie Ybarra

The Washington Times

Monday, May 12, 2014


Senior Air Force leaders have drafted a budget-driven plan that would strip the three- and four-star generals who oversee major commands of their authority to manage their bases.

A draft of the plan obtained by The Washington Times shows that the Air Force is aiming to consolidate support operations under the umbrella of a single center, known as the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.

The tricky endeavor would shuffle day-to-day base management issues — such as construction, maintenance and procurement of equipment and supplies — from under the authority of the senior generals who command the bases to the leadership of a two-star general who would run the support center, according to the draft proposal.

The plan was born out of a directive from Air Force leadership last year to reduce headquarters operations costs at least 20 percent by 2019. It cites reductions contained in the Budget Control Act that were implemented by the Obama administration in 2011.

The consolidation would affect the service’s 10 major commands, each of which specializes in areas such as technical training, management of non-nuclear combat air power and global air mobility.

The generals who oversee those commands function as senior executives, ensuring that core programs and missions run efficiently and effectively, said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. Base management has included a measure of autonomy.

The proposal is similar to the way the Army and Navy are organized, but the Air Force has long resisted consolidation of support services, noting that bases are more integral parts of their operations than they are to other military branches.

Douglas Birkey, executive director of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, said budget pressure is so extreme that Air Force officials have had “to come down very quickly on certain ramps to attain certain goals.” That pressure, he said, drives “some pretty aggressive moves” that achieve short-term objectives but “can undermine things in the long haul.”

“Today’s leaders have no other choice,” he said.


General vs. general

Senior Air Force officials say the plan will save money by eliminating redundancies in areas such as personnel. They say in the document that the shuffle will provide the Air Force with “a once in a lifetime opportunity to more effectively and efficiently manage installation resources.”

But one Pentagon official with knowledge of the plan and its potential implementation said it could cause rifts between generals who command the bases and the two-star generals who would be charged with overseeing the assigned resources.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retaliation, speculated that such a move could create communications issues capable of obstructing day-to-day operations such as base repairs, training and finance decisions.

Space planning, engineering programs, cyberforce training management and readiness training are just a few of the dozens of the capabilities that will be ripped from the control of the major commanders and realigned under support center management, according to the draft plan.

“I personally don’t think it’s going to work,” the official said.

Air Force top brass are reviewing the draft plan. If all goes well, they should approve it within the next several days, the official said. At the end of the month, Air Force officials will regroup and decide how to move forward.

It remains to be seen how the plan will be received. The official said the three- and four-star generals who run the major commands were not receptive to an earlier version in which they would have been required to cede a greater measure of authority to the support center‘s control.

The “concept of operations” document — or initial draft — shows that the support center would have control of services such as fuel distribution, vehicle and support equipment, material management, small-arms training and ammunition allocation. Although the official said some of that framework was altered after the generals reviewed and rebuked the proposal, it is unclear how much of the framework was carried forward to the revised plan.

Retired Gen. Charles F. Wald, former deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said the Air Force has to implement structural changes because it cannot afford to chew through its budget at the current rate. Gen. Wald, who is now vice chairman and federal practice advisory partner for Deloitte, said the plan to consolidate base operations authority under the umbrella of a single support center on the surface “makes perfect business sense.”

“I think we should have done this 20 years ago,” he said. “Here’s the problem: I would have done it if I had known how to do it. I didn’t.”

Gen. Wald said Air Force generals who have resisted the plan probably are concerned that the support center will cost them power and prestige.

“The majority of people, when they think they’re losing oversight or authority or the size of their command or whatever, they don’t want to do that because — to a lot of people — how big you are what your footprint is, is indicative of how important you are,” he said.

Role of Congress

The Pentagon official said the Air Force has experienced difficulty nailing down an expected amount of savings, but that might not hinder the progress the Air Force is making toward getting lawmakers to embrace the plan, Gen. Wald said.

Gen. Wald said Air Force officials likely have informed House and Senate staffers of their intentions, paving the way for a receptive conversation.

A Senate Armed Services committee staffer said Monday that the Air Force draft document has not made its way to the top echelon of congressional staff.

Air Force officials originally wanted to begin implementing the plan in October and staff the support center with 350 people. The draft document shows that although some personnel would be allowed to continue work for the major commands, they could function only as liaisons or specialists.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said the service is determining whether that 350 number will stick and how much personnel will be reduced out of each major command. The numbers, she said, are still fluid.

If all goes according to plan, however, the support center will be fully operational by the end of 2016, per the document.

Nation’s Biggest Unmanned Systems Conference Kicks Off Amid Changing Market

By Valerie Insinna

May 13, 2014


ORLANDO — For those who keep tabs on the drone industry, it should be no surprise why the Association for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International chose to move its annual unmanned systems conference and trade show out of the Pentagon’s shadow in Washington, D.C., and into commercial hubs such as Orlando, Atlanta and New Orleans.

Unmanned aerial systems manufacturers are at a crossroads. Industry is eager to sell the aircraft and associated services both globally and to the civil sector, but experts predict UAS integration into the national airspace is still years away. And just as companies are facing more competition worldwide, U.S. military procurement is dropping off.

“Largely most of the unmanned systems improvements and innovations have come through the military sector, but that’s changing,” John Lademan, AUVSI’s chairman of the board, said in the opening ceremony May 13. “New markets are opening up in agriculture, automated vehicles, oil and gas and … new sectors.” In the realm of agriculture alone, AUVSI projects that there will be more than $13 billion of new economic activity as a result of unmanned systems.

Because the U.S. military has already bought enough drones to fill out its fleet and meet its requirements, there could be a reduction in procurement, said Larry Dickerson, Forecast International’s unmanned vehicles analyst. The Defense Department has only begun to consider what it will need in its next fleet of UAS, including the ability to engage in combat environments where adversaries have anti-aircraft capabilities.

Unmanned aerial system production will stagnate during the next decade, but manufacturers will be bolstered by the higher price of new drones, Dickerson said in his 2014 report on the industry. He predicts that roughly 1,000 UAS will be produced worldwide in both 2014 and 2015, and production will average 960 units from 2016 to 2023. Civil sales, which he defines as non-government purchases, will only be a small part of that — about $100 million over the next 10 years, he said.

“It’s not good news” for U.S. manufacturers, he told National Defense. “But there are slow downs in every market. Markets are cyclical.”

The shift from Defense Department customers to a civilian market is evident in the conference’s list of keynote speakers, which includes only one military representative: Lt. Gen. Kevin Mangum, the deputy commanding general of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command. Others include Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, business executives and members of Congress.

The rebranding of the conference even trickled down to the WiFi passwords distributed to exhibitors, attendees and journalists covering the event. Last year, the conference’s WiFi password garnered media attention for imploring attendees to “DONTSAYDRONES.” This year, the message is different. Drones are “savingtimemoneylives.”

While U.S. military sales may be waning, UAS companies made a robust showing at this year’s conference, which will host more than 600 exhibitors and 8,000 attendees, according to AUVSI.

Part of the reason the conference moved from August to May was to improve international participation and boost overall attendance, Lademan said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is unlikely to make its 2015 deadline to start integrating drones in civil airspace, but that might not be such a bad thing, Dickerson said. “Why are you in such a hurry? Everyone thinks is going to be golden, with UAVs flying in all these states, providing a lot of jobs” but there is still much work that needs to be done in establishing how unmanned systems can safely share airspace with manned aircraft and each other.

Industry executives obviously think differently. During a May 13 panel, they hammered Jim Williams, the FAA’s manager of the UAS integration office, with questions about when unmanned aircraft would finally be able to fly in the NAS.

“In Australia our aviation authority legalized commercial drone activities in 2002,” said Matt Sweeny, co-founder of Flirtey, an Australian start-up that will use UAS to deliver packages. “Do you think the United States is at risk of losing this industry to companies with more forward thinking regulatory environments?” he asked, as the crowd broke into applause.

Williams said: “Commercial aircraft operations for unmanned aircraft could be happening today if a manufacturer were to get their aircraft certified and come up with a means of operation over populated areas. There are companies who are in discussions with the FAA to do just that.”

The FAA’s airworthiness certification rules were created for manned aircraft, but ultimately it’s a matter of a company coming to the administration with a plan for safe operations, he said. “It’s a two way street. The FAA can’t pull the industry up. … We’re actually working with multiple companies now to get to that point where there are certificated aircraft that can operate.”

UAS manufacturers are not the only ones concerned about the current state of affairs. A February 2014 study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies contended that the United States is at risk of losing its edge in the field of unmanned systems.

In the next decade, China’s AVIC will become the world’s top-selling manufacturer, Dickerson said. However, Chinese UAS are unproven and will unlikely match the capabilities of the largest, most sophisticated U.S. drones such as the Reaper or Global Hawk.

Chinese drones will be less expensive, making them palatable to less wealthy nation-states or to nefarious countries with whom the United States refuses to deal arms to, he said. Chinese UAVs don’t “have that combat-tested seal of approval,” that U.S. unmanned systems do, but U.S. companies may see their technological lead against China narrowing over time.


AUVSI Reporter: AFRL targets seamless human-machine interaction

May 13, 2014 |

Written by



The U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) has no intention of completely replacing humans with unmanned autonomous systems, says Jim Overholt, a senior scientist at the lab’s Human Effectiveness Directorate. However, AFRL does want to see people interact more effectively with machines so that both can work in “complex and contested environments.”

Speaking at this week’s Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) conference in Orlando, Florida, Overholt illustrated the drawbacks of current human-machine operations by noting how many people it takes to support one MQ-1 Predator: 73, including maintenance crew and analysts.

“When we start to get into something like a combat air patrol, we have as many as 250 individuals involved in order to operate four unmanned vehicles,” Overholt said. “It’s really startling. We can’t keep on … throwing more humans at the problems.”

Likewise, he pointed out that when a drone loses its command and control link with its operator – due to enemy jamming, for example – it does not proceed with the mission on its own, nor does it update its controller when the link is re-established. Instead, an unmanned aircraft with lost comms simply returns back to base.

“We don’t want that to happen,” he says.

In an effort to address these challenges, AFRL aims to improve human-machine teaming and machine intelligence – in fact, the “heaviest dollars” in research, across the services, are going to those two areas, he said. In addition, the lab is trying to create teams of heterogeneous unmanned platforms that can work together.

Overholt acknowledges that, in trying to make people more efficient and unmanned systems more autonomous, human-machine teaming faces its own set of challenges. For example, how does one create a shared sense of perception? Or form a truly two-way flow of information?

Right now, information mostly goes from platform to person, rather than the other way around. A rare counter-example of a human providing data to a platform is the case of the sensor in an F-22 pilot’s helmet that monitors his oxygen intake to avoid a case of hypoxia.

Moving forward, platforms will need to better identity and interpret the operator’s physical status, intentions or state of mind in order to then augment him – a process that Overholt compares to the observe-orient-decide-act loop made famous by Air Force Col. John Boyd.

“The human is the most vital piece of the equation,” he says.



Ukraine Crisis Speeds E. European UAV Efforts

May. 13, 2014 – 03:00PM | By JAROSLAW ADAMOWSKI |


WARSAW — Some Eastern European countries aim to boost their UAV fleets following Russian intervention in Crimea, local analysts say, as Moscow also increases its UAV capabilities.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu has announced an ambitious 320 billion ruble (US $8.9 billion) drone program designed to boost the country’s UAV fleet by 2020. The focus will be on aerial strike and reconnaissance capabilities.

The program has political backing at the highest level. Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin called drones a vital area of development in modern aviation.


Poland Accelerates Acquisitions

Russia’s military procurement plans and its intervention in Ukraine helped spur the Polish Defense Ministry to accelerate its drone procurement program, reported local news agency PAP. Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said on March 5 that the Ukrainian crisis will force the government to reassess the priorities of its plan to modernize the armed forces by 2022 under a 130 billion zloty ($42.7 billion) program.

“We have to be prepared for long-term instability across Poland’s eastern border. This is why we will be developing a range of means to strengthen our fast-response capacity in critical situations,” Tusk said.

This year, Poland was one of the first countries to officially recognize the Ukrainian government formed by Arseniy Yatsenuk in opposition to ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Following Tusk’s announcement, senior Defense Ministry officials said in late April that Poland would acquire its first new UAVs in 2016. The armed forces aim to acquire several hundred drones in multiple variants under a 3 billion zloty program.

“The acceleration in the launch of the medium-altitude, long-endurance drone procurement procedure is one of the elements which were changed in the technical modernization program of the Polish military,” said Czeslaw Mroczek, the deputy defense minister responsible for acquisitions of arms and military equipment.

Under the plan, the first batch of medium-altitude, long-endurance drones will consist of 12 UAVs designed for reconnaissance missions, but also fitted with strike capabilities. Originally, the Defense Ministry planned to use the new UAVs to replace Poland’s outdated Sukhoi Su-22 fighter jets in a ground attack role, but the project has reportedly been scrapped.

Mroczek said the armed forces have already drafted the tactical-technical specifications for the drones.

“The Ukrainian crisis is shifting defense priorities of many countries in the region,” said Marek Jablonowski, a political scientist at the University of Warsaw. “Many of them reduced their defense expenditures … over the past years. But with security concerns growing in the region, this trend is likely to be reversed.”

Speaking April 29, Mroczek said the ministry will launch the procurement in several weeks, and securing the participation of local companies in UAV production will be one of the program’s cornerstones, according to the deputy minister.

Poland’s Navy also is developing an unmanned fleet. In November, the service acquired two Gavia autonomous underwater vehicles from Iceland’s Teledyne Gavia. These will mainly perform minesweeping missions in the Baltic Sea, according to the Defense Ministry’s Armament Directorate.


Estonia Eyes Global Hawks

Among the three Baltic states, which have been highly critical of Russia’s intervention in Crimea, Estonia has intensified efforts to create a military drone fleet since the Ukrainian crisis broke out.

Local analysts said the Estonian armed forces view upgrading their reconnaissance capability as a top military priority. The military aims to buy RQ-4 Global Hawk UAVs from Northrop Grumman as part of a joint procurement by a group of NATO nations, local broadcaster ERR reported. These countries include Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Estonia has earmarked €6 million (US $8.3 million) for its share of the acquisition, reportedly set for 2015 or 2016.


These Aren’t the Defense Job Cuts You’re Looking For

Thomas Lynch    

May 13, 2014 · in Analysis


As calls to shrink the size of the Department of Defense (DoD) become louder, defense commentators and some lawmakers look hungrily at the department’s civilian workforce. Among this group, Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute recently called for Congress to take an axe to DOD civilians (repeating an argument she made exactly a year earlier, twice). Other defense analysts have piled on, asserting that Defense Department civilians have proliferated disproportionately during the past decade while having been largely immune from the ongoing Pentagon scale-back in weapons procurement, military personnel accounts, and readiness activities. Republican Congressman Ken Calvert (R-CA) took up the sword by introducing a bill that calls for a 15% cull of the Defense civilian workforce over the coming five years.

But the claims made by Ms. Eaglen, Congressman Calvert and others misrepresent reality. Their assertions misunderstand the growth of defense civilian employees from 2001-2012. They wrongly assert that the Pentagon has been failing to proportionally and responsibly downsize those civilian employees that they can. Most importantly, they dodge the dead skunk in the road: the fact that more expansive cuts in Defense Department civilian personnel can occur only after Congress authorizes another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) in the United States – something our legislators are generally loathe to do.

Arguments by the “cut defense-civilians” pundits rely upon trope – a trope that Defense Department civilian positions increased over the past decade mainly in reaction to the demands of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, and must therefore be dramatically scaled back. The trope contends that defense civilian employee numbers rose from 650,000 in 2000 to around 800,000 in 2012 and that, therefore, a return to 650,000 is the proper outcome of a paring of this defense manpower account.

This accounting is wrong on many levels. First, the actual, full time defense civilian workforce grew by 115,000 positions between 2001 and 2012 to a level of 765,000 (not the 800,000 critics often claim). This increase amounted to about 1/3 of the 350,000 civilian workforce positions eliminated during the post-Cold War drawdown from 1990-2001.

The critics mis-assess defense civilian workforce numbers as peaking at 800,000 because many wrongly focus their complaints upon the number of Full Time Equivalent (FTE) defense civilian work hours – a number only reported on publicly by the Pentagon since 2012. This tricky number has been estimated in successive annual Pentagon Comptroller personnel reports for Fiscal Year 2012 to be 790,000, 807,000 and 800,000. But FTEs are not a measure of full time defense workers. They do not even measure just the sum of work hours performed by full time and part time defense workers. FTE hours are actually a measure of comparable workloads performed by full time defense civilian, non-full time defense civilian and an indeterminate number of short-term contract civilian workers on long-term contractor service instruments. Thus, FTEs are not a measure of equivalent compensation or personnel status. A May 2013 GAO report deemed the Pentagon failure to establish a clear measure of FTEs across its enterprise to be a seriously accounting deficiency. Thus, the critics’ use of FTEs to generate an 800,000 top end number for civilian defense employees that unhelpfully skews the conversation toward a trope of disproportionate bloat that does not exist.

So what about the real issue of full time civilian defense personnel? Most of the decade-long 115,000 full time civilian personnel increase came in response to pulses that were largely independent of the cost of doing business in Afghanistan and Iraq. Here are the major categories contributing to the expansion of the full time defense civilian workforce from its post-World War II low of 650,000 in 2001 to 765,000 in 2010:

(1) Nearly 50,000 military-in-uniform positions in administration, management and bureaucratic routine were identified very early in the Bush 43 administration as not uniquely military in nature, and better performed by a civilian workforce – comprised of defense civilians and contractors. This conversion of military billets to civilian jobs – on bases, in factories, in shipyards and static headquarters – began in the early 2000s and concluded by 2008. Of this conversion, the Pentagon subsequently estimated that 30,000 of these became defense civilian jobs while some 20,000 went to civilian contractors. Much of this conversion was not understood by the public and lawmakers and was attributed to the wartime footing of the military services.

(2) Citing an unacceptable decline in defense intelligence community capabilities during the post-Cold War drawdown, Congress authorized additional defense civilian intelligence leaders and employees beginning in 2000. This expansion continued over the following five years, adding capability in underserved areas like counter-terrorism intelligence, South Asian intelligence, East Asian intelligence and cyberspace intelligence. Eventually, these authorizations added 8,000 civilian intelligence positions into the Defense Department.

(3) To reverse a trend of outsourcing too much military medical infrastructure to civilian contracts, and later in response to growing home front wartime support needs, the Defense Department expanded its medical professional civilian staff by 7,000 positions during the 2000s.

(4) Another 17,500 defense civilians were brought on to improve DoD’s ability to manage contractors. This expansion followed investigative report after investigative report from 2006-2010 identifying a badly sized defense acquisition workforce as a major factor explaining why U.S. taxpayers were continuously overpaying for work by contractors during the surge of money and work flowing to civilian firms following 9/11. While some of the troublesome high profile contracts were in Iraq and Afghanistan, many more were in weapons procurement and systems services performed by contractors doing routine Defense Department work. GAO observed that prior to the hiring of these additional DoD acquisition civilians, DoD had been relying on the highly questionable practice of turning to contractors to oversee other contractors.

(5) Finally, in 2009 and 2010, DoD undertook a process of “insourcing” for 17, 500 civilian positions that had been turned over to commercial contractors in the post-Cold War drawdown. These positions were demonstrated to have been inherently governmental – and thus inappropriately outsourced, or found to be costing more to do by contract than by the whole-life costs of a DoD civilian. This phase of “insourcing” was completed just as national frustration with the costs of federal workers became a celebrated cause during the 2010 Congressional mid-term elections.


Thus, of the 115,000 full time defense civilian positions added over the past decade, a conservative estimate of 80,000 (70%) of this increase came from conversions and adjustments in military and civilian contractor job profiles that were not directly linked to wartime exigencies. It stands to reason, therefore, that anything more than a 30% pare-back of these added full time civilian positions will require a foundational change in some aspect of America’s defense posture that went unaddressed during the 1990s-2000s.

It is equally misleading to contend that the Defense Department is failing to reduce its full time civilian workforce in proportion to the changes mandated by fiscal constraints since 2010. From its peak at 765,000 in 2010 (just after the conclusion of a round of 17,500 insourcing actions), the Pentagon civilian workforce has been reduced by almost 10,000 to 755,400 in mid-2014, with more to come. This reduction has been managed through several initiatives undertaken by individual military services and the Defense Department as a whole. Among these:

◦On November 2, 2011, the US Air Force announced that it would eliminate 9,000 civilian positions in management and staff support areas over the coming five years.

◦On January 17, 2013, then-Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter directed an immediate civilian hiring freeze. This freeze remains mostly in effect for all but the most critical hiring position. And, the limited hiring being done by DoD is heavily skewed toward hiring only those already serving as government civilian employees, thereby preventing new entries into the DoD civilian personnel system.

◦On July 17, 2013, Secretary of Defense Hagel announced a 20% cut in DoD and Joint Staff headquarters personnel, to be implemented in the 2015-19 timeframe.

◦On March 6, 2014, Defense Department Comptroller Robert Hale briefed that DoD will reduce its civilian work force by 5% over the period from 2015-2019.

◦On March 7, 2014, the US Army released a budget calling for the elimination of 4,400 civilian positions in 2015.

◦On April 16, 2014, the US Air Force announced that it planned to eliminate 2,700 positions in Fiscal Year 2015.


Department-wide, the DoD full time civilian workforce will drop from 755,400 in 2014 to 749,100 in 2015 (a 1% decline) and continue on that trajectory throughout the decade. At this pace, the DoD civilian full time account will taper to about 726,000 by the beginning of 2020 – a reduction in 39,000 from its peak in 2010. Put another way, this kind of responsible DoD-managed drawdown of its civilian personnel will eliminate 34% of the full time positions added from 2001-2010. This is 4,000 more than the 35,000 unaccounted for in the growth of full time DoD civilians performing jobs in intelligence, medical, contractor oversight and logistics that were independently identified and mandated for growth prior to 9/11/2001 and by management and accountability challenges inappropriately performed by uniformed military or civilian contractors.

So, where do the advocates of a far greater defense civilian workforce drawdown find more juice from this shriveled lemon?

The path to reduced defense civilian overhead is clear, even if the direct linkage is omitted by far too often by pundits when they write of the need for dramatic defense civilian workforce reduction. A vast majority of full time DoD civilians are tethered to administrative, logistics and bureaucratic functions at the more than 440 military bases and activities across the United States. Pentagon leaders have made this clear over and over again:

◦On February 5, 2013, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy testified that “The inability to shed or realign [DoD] facilities hangs like an albatross around the Department’s neck, consuming billions of dollars that could otherwise go to readiness and modernization. Congress should grant DoD’s request for another BRAC this year.”

◦In March 2013, DoD Comptroller Robert Hale testified that military service contractors generally cost two to three times what in-house performance costs, particularly for long-term functions; thus, outsourcing of positions at bases and installations is not a substitute for consolidating or eliminating bases in an effort to pare defense civilian personnel costs.

◦On February 26, 2014, then-Acting Deputy Secretary Christine Fox said,”…. much of the DoD civilian workforce is employed outside Washington at installations, depots and shipyards … Until we get to a BRAC, our ability to significantly do more on our civilian workforce…will remain constrained.”

◦On March 4, 2014, Secretary of Defense Hagel submitted an FY15 DoD budget requesting another round of BRAC for 2017, noting that this authority had been denied by Congress in the prior two budgets but that it was essential for DoD efficiencies.


But a BRAC is where the US Congress dares not go. BRAC requests were denied by Congress in the Fiscal Year 2013 and Fiscal Year 2014 Defense bill submissions. Congressional committee leaders pronounced the Fiscal Year 2015 Defense BRAC request dead on arrival. Worse yet, language in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act specifically prohibits another round of BRAC until the Defense Department submits an onerous set of reviews justifying all overseas military infrastructure and its strategic choices related to these.

This more detailed analysis of the full time defense civilian workforce shows that op-eds and press releases calling for a dramatic slashing of this DoD personnel account are misleading. The realities are that, despite growth in the medical, military intelligence, acquisition management and insourcing categories during the decade of two major wars and a couple of other incursions (Libya & Yemen for example), and despite growth in the early 2000s mandated by the transfer of inherently government function jobs from uniformed military to DoD civilians, the full time civilian DoD workforce never got close to 800,000. Even now, it is being adapted responsibly to an ongoing military-wide drawdown from a 2010 peak of 765,000 to a 2014 number of 755,400. The work force also is on path to go down another 1% per year to a stasis of 726,000 by the end of the decade.

A more dramatic drawdown is not feasible without another round (or several rounds) of BRAC to strip the administrative infrastructure that tethers a very large number of permanent DoD civilian positions. Sadly, that seems an unlikely outcome in a Congress that vigorously protects the local civilian jobs paid for by the DoD in the states of all 100 Senators and in at least 400 of the 535 congressional districts. Defense analysts and activist lawmakers will do the public a service by more accurately accounting for mathematical truths and the political realities that explicitly link the requirement for BRAC to defense civilian worker numbers. These realities make any more dramatic reductions in the real defense civilian workforce a facile cry that remains devilishly challenging to enact.




Climate Change Deemed Growing Security Threat by Military Researchers

NY Times


MAY 13, 2014


WASHINGTON — The accelerating rate of climate change poses a severe risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global political conflict, a report published Tuesday by a leading government-funded military research organization concluded.

The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board found that climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water and escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. The report also found that rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions like eastern India, Bangladesh and the Mekong Delta in Vietnam at risk and could lead to a new wave of refugees.

In addition, the report predicted that an increase in catastrophic weather events around the world will create more demand for American troops, even as flooding and extreme weather events at home could damage naval ports and military bases.

In an interview, Secretary of State John Kerry signaled that the report’s findings would influence American foreign policy.

“Tribes are killing each other over water today,” Mr. Kerry said. “Think of what happens if you have massive dislocation, or the drying up of the waters of the Nile, of the major rivers in China and India. The intelligence community takes it seriously, and it’s translated into action.”

Mr. Kerry, who plans to deliver a major speech this summer on the links between climate change and national security, said his remarks would also be aimed at building political support for President Obama’s climate change agenda, including a new regulation to cut pollution from coal-fired power plants that the administration will introduce in June.

“We’re going to try to lay out to people legitimate options for action that are not bank-breaking or negative,” Mr. Kerry said.

Pentagon officials said the report would affect military policy. “The department certainly agrees that climate change is having an impact on national security, whether by increasing global instability, by opening the Arctic or by increasing sea level and storm surge near our coastal installations,” John Conger, the Pentagon’s deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment, said in a statement. “We are actively integrating climate considerations across the full spectrum of our activities to ensure a ready and resilient force.”

The report on Tuesday follows a recent string of scientific studies that warn that the effects of climate change are already occurring and that flooding, droughts, extreme storms, food and water shortages and damage to infrastructure will occur in the near future.

In March, the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the agency’s main public document describing the current doctrine of the United States military, drew a direct link between the effects of global warming — like rising sea levels and extreme weather patterns — and terrorism.

“These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad, such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence,” the review said.

Tuesday’s report is an update of a report by the center’s Military Advisory Board in 2007, the first major study to draw the link between climate change and national security. The report’s authors said the biggest change in the seven years between the two studies was the increase in scientific certainty about global warming, and of the link between global warming and security disruptions.

The 2007 report also described climate change as a “threat multiplier” or a problem that could enhance or contribute to already existing causes of global disruption. The 2014 report updates that language, calling climate change a “catalyst for conflict” — a phrase intentionally chosen, the report’s authors said, to signal that climate change is an active, driving force in starting conflict.

“In the past, the thinking was that climate change multiplied the significance of a situation,” said Gen. Charles F. Wald, who contributed to both reports and is retired from the Air Force. “Now we’re saying it’s going to be a direct cause of instability.”

The most recent scientific reports on climate change warn that increasing drought in Africa is now turning arable land to desert. The national security report’s authors conclude that the slow but steady expansion of the Sahara through Mali, which is killing crops and leaving farmers starving, may have been a contributing force in the jihadist uprising in that African country in 2012. Since then, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has seized control of northern Mali and remains in conflict with the Malian government.

The report warns that rising sea levels in the United States imperil many of the Navy’s coastal installations. Last week, the White House released a National Climate Assessment report citing Norfolk, Va., as one of the cities most vulnerable to damage by rising sea levels. Norfolk is home to the world’s largest naval base as well as a nuclear submarine construction yard — all of which are vulnerable to destruction by rising sea levels, found in Tuesday’s report.

“Norfolk is so big, it’s so important to the Navy, it’s important to Virginia for jobs, and it would go,” General Wald said.

A scientific report released this week found that global warming has contributed to the melting of a large section of a West Antarctica ice sheet, which could lead to a rise in sea level of 10 feet or more.

Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a vocal skeptic of the established science that greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, scoffed at the idea that climate change is linked to national security threats.

“There is no one in more pursuit of publicity than a retired military officer,” he said of the report’s authors. “I look back wistfully at the days of the Cold War. Now you have people who are mentally imbalanced, with the ability to deploy a nuclear weapon. For anyone to say that any type of global warming is anywhere close to the threat that we have with crazy people running around with nuclear weapons, it shows how desperate they are to get the public to buy this.”

Adm. David Titley, a co-author of the report and a meteorologist who is retired from the Navy, said political opposition would not extinguish what he called the indisputable data in the report.

“The ice doesn’t care about politics or who’s caucusing with whom, or Democrats or Republicans,” said Admiral Titley, who now directs the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Pennsylvania State University.




Internet of Things security may be a losing battle

Brandan Blevins, News Writer

Published: 08 May 2014

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — According to a number of security luminaries, the Internet of Things has the potential to disrupt and transform society in the same way the printing press did centuries ago. But much like the Internet’s creators came to regret ignoring security in its early days, when it comes to securing the millions of emerging Internet-connected devices and machines, the information security industry may already be falling behind.

That was the overarching theme of Wednesday’s inaugural Security of Things Forum, uniting security professionals to discuss the most pressing Internet of Things security issues. According to a recent report from Gartner Inc. — which estimated 26 billion devices will be connected to the Internet by 2020 – Internet of Things (IoT) security problems will force enterprises to rethink their IT security strategies much in the same way bring your own device and cloud computing have shattered the idea of the traditional network perimeter.

“Every time we have a major infection point, we seem to make the same mistakes,” said Earl Perkins, research vice president with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner. “We allow it to get away from us and end up playing catch up for the next five to 10 years.”

Josh Corman, chief technology officer for Fulton, Md.-based application security vendor Sonatype Inc., warned attendees that the battle to secure IoT may already be slipping away from the industry — and that’s before billions of home appliances, motor vehicles and medical devices join the fray.


IoT devices at risk

For example, last year researchers Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek showed how cars could be hacked remotely, said Corman, with the duo demonstrating the ability to disable a car’s brakes, accelerate its speed and even take full control of the steering wheel. Corman admitted that even he had not understood the extent to which cars are controlled by software.

“We’re driving a computer on wheels,” Corman said. “For the next 24 hours, every time you see the word ‘software,’ replace it with the word ‘vulnerable.'”

Corman also pointed to research by the late Barnaby Jack to hammer home just how insecure IoT devices are today. Starting in 2011, Jack demonstrated on multiple occasions how hackers could control the dosages delivered by insulin pumps to diabetics via a Bluetooth connection, potentially exposing victims to lethal amounts.

Ultimately, he said, the general public and the manufacturers of such devices are unlikely to take security concerns seriously until real-life, catastrophic events take place — much in the same way environmental regulations in the U.S. weren’t embraced until the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught fire in the 1960s, sparking a wave of concern.

“Why the heck is there Bluetooth on an insulin pump?” said Corman, who questioned whether the benefits of Internet-connected devices actually outweigh the risks. “[It goes] back to that cost benefit. We’re taking the benefits, but we’re not assessing the risks.”

Dan Geer, chief information security officer for Arlington, Va.-based In-Q-Tel, a government-funded investment firm that helps incubate technology for the CIA, said the benefits of IoT are driving society to be increasingly dependent on machines that communicate with each other. In terms of how IoT already affects the U.S. food supply, Geer said tractors on farms are connected to GPS, vegetables and fruits are sorted by robots, and even livestock are tagged with RFID chips; the efficiencies derived from that interconnectedness means there is never more than a week’s supply of food in the chain.

Whereas those embedded systems have in the past remained unconnected from the Internet, Geer warned attendees that as manufacturers seek to control such systems remotely, the risk posed by that new connectivity may not be easily contained.

Considering that embedded systems manufacturers to date haven’t often provided firmware updates, Geer questioned whether such “immortal” IoT devices — always connected but lacking security support — would be angelic or demonic.

“The longer-lived these devices [become], the surer it will be that they will be hijacked within their lifetime,” Geer said. “Their manufacturers may die before they do; a kind of unwanted legacy much akin to superfund sites and space junk. The Internet of Things … should raise hackles on every neck given our current posture.”


How to secure IoT devices

While the security industry is just beginning to come to grips with IoT, Geer said the industry also needs new technologies to secure IoT. Unfortunately, Geer indicated such investments are unlikely in the short term because nobody wants to fund them.

Hypothetically, he said, a company could offer technology that would lock down, say, a processor once it leaves a fabrication factory — potentially preventing attackers from inserting backdoors at the hardware level — but it’s unclear to him which stakeholder in the supply chain would be willing to buy such a product.

For attendee Mark T., a long-time investor in sensor-related startups, the impetus for better IoT security measures needs to come from the businesses utilizing IoT devices. In a previous venture, Mark said his company had created sensors for the restaurant industry that measured waste runoff from grease traps and the like — a product for which he did not implement any security controls because he assumed restaurants would not care. Surprisingly, he was forced to reassess that assumption when restaurants requested certain security features based on industry regulations.

“I put in a PIN and that made them happy enough,” said Mark T., who noted that the fear of regulatory fines was the driving factor for his customers, not security concerns.

Corman said manufacturers of IoT devices are unlikely to consider implementing better security measures unless customers are willing to press for change. In the case of Jack’s insulin pump hack, for example, Corman implored attendees to question their own personal doctors about the incident and the general security of other medical devices, with the hopes that doctors and hospitals, the largest purchasers of medical equipment, would take those concerns to the manufacturers.

Corman said — given that defending IoT devices is much more difficult than attacking them — consumer pressure is needed sooner rather than later.

“Are we too early or too late? In some ways, I think we’re too late,” Corman said. “Our best and brightest are spending billions of dollars on security controls — and even in areas that don’t matter that much [like securing easily replaceable credit cards] — and we’re still having breaches on a regular basis. This has pretty big implications for the Internet of Things.”



NASA Tries to Cash In on Russia Tensions

By Alex Brown

National Journal

April 11, 2014


NASA is trying to turn U.S. tensions with Russia into a proxy war with Congress over the agency’s budget.

Last week, NASA announced it was cutting off most communication with Russia’s Roscosmos agency because of President Vladimir Putin’s incursion into Crimea. But after a cursory mention of the crisis in Ukraine, the space agency spent nearly a dozen lines blaming Congress for NASA’s inability to put its own astronauts into orbit.

“NASA is laser-focused on a plan to return human spaceflight launches to American soil, and end our reliance on Russia to get into space,” the release said. “This has been a top priority of the Obama administration’s for the past five years, and, had our plan been fully funded, we would have returned American human spaceflight launches … back to the United States next year.”

On Tuesday, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden told the House Appropriations Committee that securing some $850 million for commercial spaceflight partnerships is his “No. 1 objective” for the upcoming budget. And last month, he told another House panel: “The choice here is between fully funding the request to bring space launches back to American soil or continuing to send millions to the Russians. It’s that simple. The Obama administration chooses to invest in America—and we are hopeful that Congress will do the same.”

The United States has lacked the ability to launch its own astronauts since the space-shuttle program shut down in 2011. Currently, NASA pays Russia about $70 million for each astronaut it ferries to the International Space Station.

Despite NASA’s announcement, that agreement will continue for at least three more years, as the agency tries to get commercial partners in the U.S. ready to take on the space-taxi role. The original goal was to launch astronauts from the U.S. by 2015, but Bolden blamed budget cuts for pushing back that timeline. Future cuts, he warned, could add years of additional delays. The latest contract is expected to award Russia nearly half a billion dollars to launch six astronauts in 2016 and 2017.

While NASA asserts that underfunding has left it vulnerable to Moscow’s whims, some experts say the agency’s rhetoric overstates Russia’s ability to harm the U.S. space program—and that the argument will fail to loosen congressional purse strings.

The issue, experts say, is that Russia can’t punish NASA without crippling its own space program. For that same reason, they say, NASA’s cessation of communications with Roscosmos isn’t a serious sanction.

Jim Oberg, a former NASA official who studied Russian space programs for the agency, says it’s misguided to suggest the U.S. is at Russia’s mercy until NASA can launch its own astronauts. Russia’s lagging industry, he says, relies on spacecraft components from overseas.

Bolden, NASA’s chief, admitted as much Tuesday when pressed on what NASA plans to do if the relationship with Russia breaks down completely. The plan, he said, is to make sure it doesn’t. He expressed confidence that Russia knows that its space industry is too intertwined with ours to do anything drastic. “If they want to continue to operate in low-Earth orbit, they’ve got to stay in the partnership,” he said. “They know that as much as we do.”

Underscoring the gap between rhetoric and reality, the earthbound war of words between NASA and Roscosmos—and the decision to cut off some areas of communication—has done exactly nothing to change the two countries’ joint operations at the International Space Station.

Regardless of the Russian reality, Republicans don’t share NASA’s sense of budgetary urgency. Rep. Frank Wolf, who chairs the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, told Bolden in a heated exchange Tuesday that spaceflight funding has been more than adequate. “We have protected this program,” he said, citing other instances where NASA has overrun its budget.

“Our numbers don’t jibe,” Bolden responded. “Congress has provided about $2 billion for commercial crew. We have requested $3 billion over that period of time.”

Those House Republicans who agreed that the situation in Russia could present a threat to NASA blamed the administration’s sanctions—saying they could lead the Russians to retaliate—rather than their own budget decisions.


Bolden’s budget request is not without congressional supporters, including Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who is a former astronaut and a strong NASA ally. “This is why the development of American commercial spaceflight is so vital,” he said. “We’ve got to properly fund and support commercial spaceflight so we can keep our space program alive and well, no matter what happens with Russia.”

This article appears in the April 12, 2014 edition of National Journal Magazine as NASA’s Russia Gambit.


It’s Hard to Ban GPS Stations in Russia That Don’t Exist

By Bob Brewin

May 13, 2014


News websites spanning a wide readership from Gizmodo to the Wall Street Journal and Russian site RT reported Tuesday that Russia’s deputy prime minister, Dmitry Rogozin, who is in charge of space and defense industries, plans to ban operation of U.S. GPS monitoring sites in Russia.

This evidently is a reaction to language in the 2014 Defense Department authorization bill that barred Russia from setting up monitoring sites for its Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS, in the United States.

The only problem with these media reports is the United States operates 12 GPS master control stations and 16 monitoring sites globally, and none are located in Russia, according to the official U.S. website about the Global Positioning System.

Evidently Rogozin (and the news reports) confused data rich GPS monitoring sites with the worldwide network of Continuously Operating Reference Stations used to monitor earthquake activity, which pass only a limited amount of geodesic data.


3D-printed rapid disaster response robots

3D-printed robots are easily adapted to specific tasks and payloads and can be quickly dispatched in emergency situations.


By Alberto Lacaze, Karl Murphy, Edward Mottern and Katrina Corley

25 April 2014, SPIE Newsroom. DOI: 10.1117/2.1201404.005459


The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is increasingly using robots in military operations and in response to domestic emergencies. However, selecting and prepositioning the appropriate robotic assets can be difficult, because of the prohibitive cost. Furthermore, there are specific requirements for task-appropriate attachments, the correct track or wheels for the terrain, the size or weight of the platform, and the sensor-carrying capability.

Additive manufacturing and 3D printing enable quick, efficient, and cost-effective production of critical items for immediate use in emergency situations. Robotic Research, sponsored by DHS Science and Technology, is developing an affordable and adaptable system1 that uses 3D printing to produce robots and other specialized devices during disaster response. The system contains a library of robots: a storefront for designs, interactive elements, a database, and a complete workflow for keeping track of the information needed, from model design to operation of the printed equipment. There are currently multiple robots and device designs, with more being developed, and we are building compatible libraries for commercial and government use. These would allow third-party developers to maintain their intellectual property and receive payment if their devices are realized.

Not all robot components can be 3D printed: motors and sensors being examples that cannot. DHS specifies a common set of these non-printed parts that all the robot designs use. If a hundred robots require a small motor, they all use the same model, rather than a hundred different motors. This approach reduces the required inventory of non-printed parts.

We designed an initial set of platforms for DHS for proof of concept. The Throwable Orientation Switching Robot (TOSR) is a small, throwable, two-wheeled remote-controlled robot (see Figure 1). TOSR’s body is 3D printed in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and its wheels are a combination of stiff and flexible materials to help the robot survive being thrown. TOSR currently carries a camera payload with LED lighting and transmits the video wirelessly to an operator control unit. The camera is positioned to see in front of the robot when driving, but can tilt upward to inspect objects above. The system is particularly useful in situations where recovery of the platform may not be possible (e.g., chemical or biological survey, or a building collapse). Because we print TOSR from scratch, we can easily adapt it to carry additional payloads as required, and thus it provides an easy-to-use, adaptable, low-cost robotic platform. We tested the robot at the Naval Postgraduate School’s field program in February 2014, where we threw and drove it in a variety of terrains.

Another platform, the Remote Aerial Payload Transport Robot (RAPTR), is a 3D-printed aerial hexarotor platform (see Figure 2). RAPTR is capable of carrying a small hemorrhage/trauma kit and incorporates a camera to provide remote feedback to the operator. Using the operator control unit, it is possible to have RAPTR autonomously fly a specified set of waypoints (markers). Like TOSR, its 3D-printed fabrication means the model can be easily adapted to new mission needs, such as additional payloads.

In the future, rapid manufacturing will solve a variety of complex problems by offering customization, low cost, just-in-time availability, and rapid modification for individual tasks. Therefore, the problem now is not a lack of models but how to sort, share, and find these models and match them to specific needs.

We are working with the Army Rapid Equipping Force to develop the interface for a library of 3D-printable systems, the Expeditionary Additive Module, which would allow operators to search the collection of robots to be built. The system would provide instructions to print and assemble the selected robot, and tutorials for training and use. Our work currently focuses on disaster response, but we plan to extend it to a range of customers, including domestic law enforcement, armed services, universities, and research facilities.


Alberto Lacaze, Karl Murphy, Edward Mottern, Katrina Corley

Robotic Research, LLC

Gaithersburg, MD

Alberto Lacaze is president and cofounder of Robotic Research, LLC, and has extensive experience with software, sensors, and techniques to support unmanned autonomous mobility for ground vehicles. He holds an MS in electrical engineering from Drexel University and a BS in electrical engineering and in computer engineering, from Florida Institute of Technology.

Karl Murphy is vice president and cofounder of Robotic Research, LLC, and has extensive experience developing navigation and control systems for autonomous vehicles, terrain perception using lidar and other sensors, and maritime unmanned systems applications. He holds an MS in mechanical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and a BS in mechanical engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Edward Mottern has more than 12 years of program management, robotic vehicle development, integration, and testing experience with major Department of Defense unmanned systems programs. He holds an MS in systems engineering from John Hopkins University (2010) and a BS in electrical engineering/BS in computer engineering from West Virginia University (2002).

Katrina Corley has extensive experience in computer-aided design, robotic systems testing and integration, and additive manufacturing processes. She holds an MS in mechanical engineering with a robotics focus from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach (2011) and a BS in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta (2009).



1. A. Lacaze, K. Murphy, E. Mottern, K. Corley, 3D printed rapid disaster response, Proc. SPIE 9118, 2014. Paper accepted at SPIE Indep. Component Analyses, Compressive Sampling, Wavelets, Neural Net, Biosyst., Nanoeng. XII Conf. in Baltimore, MD, 7–9 May 2014.



Air Force: More than 20 percent HQ staff cuts in one year

May 14, 2014 – 05:26PM |



Cuts to Air Force headquarters staff will affect active-duty, civilian and contractor personnel, and the bulk will occur in fiscal 2015, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said.

The Air Force intends to cut more than 20 percent of its headquarters staffs within a year as part of an overall downsizing effort, according to Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James.

James said the move responds to a directive issued last summer by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that all military services trim their headquarters staffs by 20 percent over five years by 2019.

“You’re going to see the Air Force do a bit better than 20 percent, a little bit more than 20 percent, and we’re going to try to do it in one year, not five years,” James told an editorial board meeting at Gannett Government Media Corp., which publishes Federal Times, C4ISR&Networks, Defense News and the Military Times publications.

Those headquarters staff reductions will affect active-duty, civilian and contractor personnel, and the bulk of those cuts will occur in fiscal 2015, she said.

“So this is, again, in the theme of — to the extent that we can — get this done more quickly rather than slowly,” James said “I think it is better for people, number one. And number two, it allows us to harvest the savings more early on so we can plow it back into readiness and some of the key modernizations.”

The headquarters downsizing occurs alongside a broader force restructuring within the Air Force that will trim the active-duty ranks by 16,700 in fiscal 2015 and another 2,000 or so in fiscal 2016.

“By next summer, we are looking to be done with this whole, all these different voluntary, involuntary measures because we’ll basically be shaped at about the right size,” she said.

“We’re going to be coming down in our overall numbers mostly in the active [duty], but somewhat in the Guard and Reserve as well. … We will also be coming down somewhat in our civilian [side],” James said.

The service plans to cut 2,700 civilian positions in 2014 and 2015 and a total of 6,300 positions over the next five years, according to Air Force spokesman Maj. Matt Hasson.

“As for [reductions in force] and things of that nature, with our civilian force, we’re going to take a similar approach: Meaning there are voluntary measures that we’ll be utilizing and [we’ll] go to the involuntary only as necessary, so a little of that remains to be seen,” James said.

She added that the service expects to avoid the use of furloughs unless it is hit with additional sequester budget cuts, as it was last year.

“What really has been very damaging to us over the last year has been the situation with furloughs in our civilian workforce. I really, really don’t want to see us return to that and we do not project that we will unless we will get somehow boxed in with another sequestration, both in level of funding and the mechanism of sequestration,” she said.

In cutting headquarters staffs, James said the Air Force will look to make consolidations among major command policy staffs who oversee and manage base support services, such as security, chaplain services, civil engineering, personnel and the like.

“One of the key areas that we’re looking at is how do we currently manage some of our installation support policies, I’ll say.”

“We’re looking at sharing services and more consolidating of the policy-oriented people at the major command level. We’re looking at: Can we put that together in a different fashion to share those services of policy, but leaving the execution people on the scene. And that we believe will create some savings for us.”

James said details of how this would work are being worked out and will be ready for her review “sometime this summer.”

“I do think this is the way of the future. Other organizations make it work. My lean-forward belief is we can make this work too,” James said. “It might mean a little loss of control for some commanders and whatnot, I think it’s a very valuable thing to look at.”



Report: U.S. Military Needs More Drones, Not Better Ones

In a new paper, the think tank Rand Corporation outlines the future of military drones.

By Kelsey D. Atherton

Posted 05.13.2014 at 5:32 pm


American military involvement in Afghanistan is winding down. The production run of the MQ-1 Predator, an unmanned surveillance aircraft adapted to carry missiles and strike targets from above, is over. This poses a question for military planners: What kind of drone will the U.S. Air Force need next? A new report, published last Friday by the think tank Rand Corporation, says the answer is more of the same.


Rand researchers used a computer simulation to test three drone concepts of varying size, plus the existing MQ-9 Reaper. The tests focused on the drones’ ability to destroy a moving target. The Reaper, it’s worth noting, is an evolution of the MQ-1 Predator, and has already fulfilled this role in both Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in other countries where the U.S. operates drones.

Here are the lessons learned, in handy bullet point format.

•No one drone is best at everything

•More drones are better than one drone

•Overall, the MQ-9 Reaper currently in service does its job the best

•Improving Reaper sensors is probably an easier and fix than designing a new drone for the job

Rather than calculate whether or not a drone concept carried sufficient weapons to destroy a target, the test rated the ability of a drone to track a target until a weapon was available—a distinction that gave the smaller drones, which have a harder time carrying weapons, a fair shot. The logic behind this is that if a smaller drone can follow a vehicle for long enough, another vehicle, such as a bomber or a tank, could step in to destroy it.

Here’s the description of the role, in pitch-perfect, sterile bureaucratese:

The hunter-killer mission is understood best not as a specific mission but as a class of missions in which aircraft hunt for and ultimately kill a specific individual target on the ground. One or more aircraft may participate in the search; the search area may be large or small; the target may be mobile or stationary or may exhibit more-complex behaviors; the [Rules of Engagement] may be loose or restrictive; and the environmental conditions can vary greatly.

The sensor systems used in the simulation varied by the size of the drone, and that had a major impact on the results. Smaller drones, with lighter and fewer sensors, had to fly below cloud cover, or else risk losing targets, but larger drones could fly above clouds and still track vehicles just fine. The heart of the report analyzes specific sensors, weather combinations, and tracking patterns, but the real meat of it comes at the end, when the authors discuss how many drones it takes to successfully complete a mission.

Reapers, and most other large drones, are capable of tracking and destroying targets on their own, and get even better at it when used in pairs. Smaller drones are sometimes successful when flying alone, but their effectiveness improves greatly when used in twos and threes. And yet, even the improved abilities of three small drones working together usually isn’t enough to match a single Reaper. This is especially true in difficult, foggy or cloudy weather, and at night, which is when the Air Force prefers to launch drone strikes.

There’s one huge caveat on all this:

We assumed that the pilot would not divert to follow a target unless the sensor operator could confirm to a high degree of certainty (i.e., by identifying the target) that it was the right one…

If that assumption is wrong, it doesn’t matter how many Reapers are used; getting accurate information to identify a target remains the most important and challenging part of America’s targeted killing campaign.



FCC approves plan to consider paid priority on Internet

By Cecilia Kang

May 15 at 11:16 am


The FCC’s controversial net neutrality plan has drawn protesters and letters from some of the country’s most powerful companies. (Brian Fung / The Washington Post)

The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted in favor of advancing a proposal that could dramatically reshape the way consumers experience the Internet, opening the possibility of Internet service providers charging Web sites for higher-quality delivery of their content to American consumers.

The plan, approved in a three-to-two vote along party lines, could unleash a new economy on the Web where an Internet service provider such as Verizon would charge a Web site such as Netflix for the guarantee of flawless video streaming.

Smaller companies that can’t afford to pay for faster delivery would likely face additional obstacles against bigger rivals. And consumers could see a trickle-down effect of higher prices as Web sites try to pass along new costs of doing business with Internet service providers.

The proposal is not a final rule, but the three-to-two vote on Thursday is a significant step forward on a controversial idea that has invited fierce opposition from consumer advocates, Silicon Valley heavyweights, and Democratic lawmakers.

Even one of the Democratic commissioners who voted yes on Thursday expressed some misgivings about how the proposal had been handled.

“I would have done this differently. I would have taken the time to consider the future,” said Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who said the proposal can’t allow for clear fast lanes for the most privileged companies. She said she supported a proposal allowing the agency to consider questions on how it could prevent certain Web sites from being blocked, in addition to figuring out the overall oversight of broadband Internet providers.

“I believe the process that got us to rulemaking today was flawed,” she said. “I would have preferred a delay.”

Wheeler’s proposal is part of a larger “net neutrality” plan that forbids Internet service providers from outright blocking Web sites. And he promised a series of measures to ensure the new paid prioritization practices are done fairly and don’t harm consumers. The agency said it had developed a “multifaceted dispute resolution process” on enforcement.

But consumer advocates doubt the FCC can effectively enforce anti-competitive practices or ensure consumers aren’t stuck with fewer choices or poorer service. They note that the FCC will only investigate complaints brought to them, and many small companies and consumers don’t have resources to alert the agency.

One proposal that consumer groups applauded was on the open question of whether the government should redefine broadband Internet as a public utility, like phone service, which would come with much more oversight from the FCC.

“Agencies almost always change their rules from the initial proposal — that is why we have a whole notice and comment period, so that the agency can hear from the public and be educated into making the right decision (or at least the least bad decision),” said Harold Feld, a vice president at Public Knowledge, a media and technology policy public interest group. “Do not freak about the tentative conclusion and proposed rules.”

The next phase will be four months of public comments, after which the commissioners will vote again on redrafted rules that are meant to take into account public opinion. But the enactment of final rules faces significant challenges.

The proposal has sparked a massive fight between two of the most powerful industries in the country — on one side, Silicon Valley, and on the other, companies such as Verizon and AT&T that built the pipes delivering Web content to consumers’ homes. The telecom companies argue that without being able to charge tech firms for higher-speed connections, they will be unable to invest in faster connections for consumers.


Here’s Why Robots Could Humanize War

By David Francis,

The Fiscal Times

May 15, 2014


As the Pentagon expands its use of robots on the battlefield and its investments in developing robot technology, a movement to ban the use of autonomous robots on the battlefield is growing. Those who decry the use of robots argue that removing the human element from warfare would remove all moral judgment; robot soldiers would be unfeeling killing machines.

One researcher, however, believes just the opposite. He argues that robot soldiers would make warfare more ethical, not less.

Ronald Arkin, an artificial intelligence expert from Georgia Tech and author of the book, Governing Lethal Behavior in Autonomous Robots, argues in a series of papers that robots can be taught to act morally. He’s presenting his ideas at a United Nations meeting in Geneva this week and sent a 2013 paper, “Lethal Autonomous Systems and the Plight of the Non-combatant,” to outline his views.

Arkin says, “It may be possible to ultimately create intelligent autonomous robotic military systems that are capable of reducing civilian casualties and property damage when compared to the performance of human warfighters.”

In the paper, Arkin argues that it’s the very inhumanity of robots that allow them to make more humane decisions than their human counterparts. For instance, robots could reduce friendly fire incidents and lower civilian casualties. They could also be programmed to act in what humans would consider a moral way in situations where a human soldier might be tempted to violate the laws of war or ethical and moral codes. He argues that history proves that it’s impossible to prevent soldiers from violating these laws and codes.

“While I have the utmost respect for our young men and women warfighters, they are placed into conditions in modern warfare under which no human being was ever designed to function,” he writes. “In such a context, expecting a strict adherence to the Laws of War … seems unreasonable and unattainable by a significant number of soldiers.”


Advantages Over Humans

Arkin claims that robots provide an advantage over humans for a host of reasons, including:

•They do not have to worry about self-preservation, and therefore would not have to fire upon targets they simply suspect pose a threat. “There is no need for a ‘shoot first, ask-questions later’ approach, but rather a ‘first-do-no-harm’ strategy can be utilized instead. They can truly assume risk on behalf of the noncombatant,” he writes.

•They have sensors that are better equipped than a human being to survey the battlefield that allow them to see through the so-called fog of war.

•They could be designed in a way that prevents them from acting out of anger or frustration.

•Physical and mental damage from actions of the battlefield would have no impact on a robot.

•They can process more information than a human before having to use deadly force.

•They could independently monitor the ethical behavior of humans that fight along side it. “This presence alone might possibly lead to a reduction in human ethical infractions,” Arkin argues.


Arkin’s thesis comes at a time when the military is expanding its use of robots on all fronts. They are already used on the battlefield to detect roadside bombs. Private companies and laboratories are also developing robots that can fight fires, haul gear and drag soldiers to safety. It’s only a matter of time before one is weaponized.

And it appears as if the military is buying into Arkin’s argument. The Office of Naval Research will give a $7.5 million grant to Tufts, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Yale, Georgetown and Brown researchers to develop a robotic system that can determine right and wrong.

In his research, Arkin deals only with the moral questions surrounding the use of robots. He does not address the financial issues connected to the job losses that would follow the use of robot soldiers. In theory, they could make human infantry redundant, eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs for traditional soldiers.


Obligation to Use Them?

Arkin argues that if science can create weaponized robots that are programmed to always do the right thing under rules of war and recognized moral code, there is an obligation for war planners to use them.

“If achievable, this would result in a reduction in collateral damage, i.e., noncombatant casualties and damage to civilian property, which translates into saving innocent lives. If achievable this could result in a moral requirement necessitating the use of these systems,” he writes.


Can the Pentagon Save Earth from Space Junk?

Lockheed, Raytheon Compete for Contract to Build Radar System That Would Track More Space Debris

By Doug Cameron

May 15, 2014 7:45 p.m. ET


Two of the biggest U.S. defense companies are battling for a big contract that doesn’t involve foreign armies or terrorists but a less earthly threat.


The Pentagon later this month plans to award a contract for the first phase of its $6 billion project dubbed the Space Fence, a radar system that would track more of the fast-growing field of debris in space that threatens to disable or destroy satellites and manned spacecraft.

Lockheed Martin Corp. and Raytheon Co. are competing for a contract to build a powerful radar system intended to quintuple the amount of space junk the U.S. can monitor, and enable officials to warn satellite operators to move their spacecraft before possible collisions.

The initial $1 billion Space Fence contract to build a radar station on an atoll in the Marshall Islands is highly prized as Pentagon budget pressures have reduced the number of new military projects to a trickle, with the winner able to stake a better claim for follow-on business, such as a second station in Australia.

There are an estimated half million bits of man-made junk whizzing around the Earth that could disable or destroy a satellite, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. From spent rocket parts to paint flecks—and for a short time even a glove—they range in size from a few centimeters across to a deactivated, 30-foot satellite weighing nine tons.

All pose a threat to the 1,200 operational satellites in orbit from various nations that are essential for cellphone service, Internet access, Global Positioning System mapping and bank machines, among other functions.

Orbiting debris collides at a combined speed of 22,000 miles an hour—six times that of a high-velocity bullet. At that rate, the damage of impact would be amplified by a huge shock wave, said Felix Hoots, a distinguished engineer at the Aerospace Corp., a federally funded space research group.

“It literally shakes the satellite apart,” said Mr. Hoots. “The [fence] is going to give us a lot more data and see a lot more objects than we’ve seen before.”

The problem is hardly science fiction, but it has become Hollywood fare. Gen. William Shelton, commander of the U.S. Air Force Space Command, kicked off a speech last November about space debris with a clip from the Oscar-winning movie “Gravity,” where a cloud of debris destroys the space shuttle and strands an astronaut played by actress Sandra Bullock adrift in space, with only her colleague, played by George Clooney, for company.

Gen. Shelton, at another event in February, said the U.S. Air Force currently alerts satellite operators on average about twice a month of potential collisions with the debris that it tracks.

That could mean predictions of debris passing within a few miles or a few hundred miles. The international space station has twice this year had to move out of the way of space debris.

“If maybe a two-to-three-centimeter sized object can be lethal to fragile satellites, we’ve got a lot of traffic in space that we need to be worried about and we just can’t track it right now,” he said.


There have been only a handful of collisions between satellites and debris currently monitored by the Air Force, though technical problems with some spacecraft have been blamed on impacts with small, untracked pieces. But not everyone is convinced that the threat is significant.

“Currently, insurers are not overly concerned about collisions with in-orbit debris,” said William Lloyd, chief executive of Willis Inspace, a unit of broker Willis Group Holdings PLC that insures more than a quarter of the satellite market. “The insurance purchased today covers these types of collisions, and to my knowledge there has never been a claim for this type of exposure.”

But the amount of debris is growing. When China deliberately destroyed one of its own satellites with a ground-launched rocket in 2007, 2,500 fragments were released that now pose a threat to spacecraft. The 2009 crash of an Iridium Communications Inc. satellite with a Russian Cosmos satellite shed another 2,200 large pieces.

While France, Germany and other nations have debris monitoring systems, the Air Force has become a global repository for analyzing data on space junk, sharing predictions of possible collisions with partner governments, agencies and commercial operators.

The amount of space debris cataloged by the existing array of radars, sensors and telescopes doubled over the past decade to around 17,000 pieces last year, according to NASA. The Space Fence radar is intended to allow the Air Force to identify and track more than 100,000 pieces of orbiting debris. It will be able to see bits the size of a baseball, which is half the diameter the current sensors can track.

“Once you figure out what’s there, you can task other systems to take a closer look,” said Steve Bruce, vice president for space surveillance systems at Lockheed Martin.

Both the Air Force and Raytheon declined to comment.

Processing the information correctly is as important as collecting it, and extra data will allow satellite operators to make better decisions about whether to use onboard fuel to move space craft to avoid collisions.

Satellites are placed in fixed orbits, and operators are wary of false alarms as they carry only a small amount of fuel, so any moves will reduce their lives, said Ron Busch, vice president of network engineering at Intelsat SA which operates 50 satellites.

The U.S. shuttered an earlier monitoring system in part because of defense budget cuts, and the Space Fence contract was delayed a year by sequestration cuts—moving its planned operational start to 2018.

The project appears to have solid political support. “Collisions in orbit could prove detrimental to U.S. military capabilities and disrupt systems we all depend on day-to-day—everything from GPS to banking transactions,” said Rep. Steven Palazzo (R., Miss.), chairman of the House Space Subcommittee.


Lockheed and Raytheon are vying for the initial contract at a time when relations between the companies—partners in the successful Patriot missile-defense system—have become edgier. Raytheon has successfully moved onto Lockheed’s turf, last year winning a coveted Navy radar deal, and finds itself sparring with its rival over the future of U.S. cruise missiles.

“Lockheed and Raytheon are locked in a fierce rivalry for much of the military electronics market,” said Loren Thompson at the Lexington Institute, a think tank that receives financial backing from both companies. “One company’s gain is often the other’s loss.”


Dayton ranks No. 3 for college grads

May 14, 2014, 6:30am EDT

Dayton ranks as the third-best city in the country to move to after college to begin a career, by

Olivia Barrow

Senior Reporter- Dayton Business Journal


Cities like New York and San Francisco draw college graduates like magnets, but a new study shows that new grads should look to smaller, more affordable cities to start their careers.

Dayton is one of those, ranked as the third-best city in the country to move to after college to begin a career, by The study evaluated cities based on unemployment rates, rent commute times and the number of bars per 10,000 people.

Toledo ranked second and Buffalo ranked first.

Dayton is working hard to revamp its image to be more appealing to college grads in order to attract and retain a well-educated, younger workforce. Studies showing the perks of smaller, more affordable cities like Dayton, could help draw in more young professionals. is a credit card comparison and financial education website for young adults.

Click here to see the full study.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Going to college is leaving a lot of Americans deep in a financial hole these days, and they don’t seem very confident that spending all that money is getting them anywhere.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Americans think the primary purpose of attending college is to learn the skills needed to get a better job, but just 28% believe most college graduates have the skills to enter the workforce.

When you consider that nearly as many (25%) think most high school graduates have the skills for a job, Americans clearly don’t feel that four or more years in college train many more people for the workforce.

No wonder than amidst this year’s graduation season that an overwhelming majority (86%) of adults believes it will be difficult for these graduates to find jobs in the current economy. This includes 37% who say it will be Very Difficult.

Looking at the current jobs situation, 38% of Employed Americans now say they work more than 40 hours a week, up from 33% a year ago. Last May, 73% said they generally looked forward to going to work. Just 62% feel that way now.

But 68% rate their boss or supervisor as good or excellent. Eighty-seven percent (87%) say they have a good or excellent relationship with their coworkers.

More American workers than ever (61%) plan on using all of their vacation time this year, and fewer (54%) are connecting with work while they are away. 

Support for raising the minimum wage remains unchanged, with 51% of Americans continuing to favor President Obama’s proposal to push it up from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

For the first time, more voters think reducing the income gap between rich and poor is more important than encouraging free market competition – by a 45% to 42% margin. But when asked about each separately, voters still place higher importance on a free market.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) favor strict government sanctions on employers who hire illegal immigrants. Support for these sanctions have run in the high 50s to low 60s for years, and last year Americans said employer sanctions are the most effective way to stop illegal immigration.

The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes which measure daily confidence in both groups remain near their highest levels this year following the recent drop in the national unemployment rate and the continuing growth in the stock market.

The president’s daily job approval rating has improved slightly in recent days but appears headed back to the negative high teens where it has been for most of his time in office.

Democrats lead Republicans again on the Generic Congressional Ballot as they have for much of this year.

Primary voters have spoken in several states over the past couple weeks, and we took a look at a couple of the resulting match ups this past week.

Republican primary winner Ben Sasse still holds a 17-point lead over Democratic opponent David Domina in Nebraska’s U.S. Senate race

GOP Governor John Kasich has 45% to 38% lead over Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald in Ohio’s 2014 gubernatorial contest

The new national health care law is central to many races around the country. Thirty-six percent (36%) of voters now expect the health care system to get better under Obamacare, but 48% disagree.  Still, that’s the highest level of optimism in regular surveying since late 2012.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) agree with House Republicans that the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of Tea Party and other conservative groups merits further investigation.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on whether police must obtain a warrant to search data on the cell phone of a person under arrest. Sixty-seven percent (67%) of Americans oppose warrantless searches of mobile phones, and those who use their phone for financial transactions are even more firmly opposed. 

However, even 68% of those who use a smart phone or tablet for financial transactions still think losing their wallet is worse than losing their phone

In other surveys this week:

— Twenty-nine percent (29%) of voters say the United States is headed in the right direction

— Despite increasing tensions with Russia, 36% still think the United States should remove its troops from Western Europe and let the Europeans defend themselves. But that’s down from 55% in October 2011.

Forty percent (40%) believe the U.S. government should do more to help rescue the schoolgirls kidnapped by the Islamic terror group Boko Haram in Nigeria. Voters are much more supportive of helping rescue the girls than they are of further U.S. involvement in Ukraine or Syria.

— Following a near-collision between a drone and a commercial jetliner near Tallahassee, Florida in March, 41% say the increasing commercial use of unmanned drone aircraft in this country is making flying less safe

— Americans generally favor laws like those recently passed in California and Maryland that ban discrimination against men and women who claim to be the opposite sex, but opposition increases dramatically when they are told these laws may allow biological men to freely use women’s public bathrooms and vice versa.

— Ninety-three percent (93%) of Americans whose mothers are still alive planned to visit or call them last Sunday on Mother’s Day



May 10 2014



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

by Patrick Egan • 5 May 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




China to Lead World in Drone Production

by Gary Mortimer • 4 May 2014

By Zachary Keck


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


The Internet of Things could encroach on personal privacy

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

By Patrick Thibodeau

May 3, 2014 06:45 AM ET

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Open campus concept enables full scale collaboration


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Congress: Cyber Training Ranges Need an Executive Agent

by Mike Hoffman on May 2, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

Read more:



The best states to retire in are a little surprising

By Melanie Hicken

May 5, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By Tony Capaccio

May 6, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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


Transport, Reconnaissance

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


US Space Defense Funding Drops From Previous Projections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other Trends

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



USAF General: Partnerships, Proper Training Key for ISR Future

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



How Putin Is Reinventing Warfare

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

BY Peter Pomerantsev

MAY 5, 2014


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

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

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

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

Interconnection also means that Russia can get away with aggression.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



China’s Underwater A2/AD Strategy

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

By Harry Kazianis for The Diplomat

May 06, 2014


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

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

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

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

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


Can NASA help keep the lights on?

Posted by Patrick Marshall on May 06, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Pentagon Smartphone Plan Is Off to a Slow Start

By William Matthews

May 6, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

By Nick Stockton


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

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

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

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

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



The Father of Wearable Computers Thinks Their Data Should Frighten You

By Rachel Feltman


May 6, 2014


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

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

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

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

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


As Debate Goes On, the Military Prepares for Climate Change

Patrick Tucker \

May 7, 2014


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

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

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

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

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








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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Is America’s Air Force Dying?

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

Mackenzie Eaglen

May 7, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



New Sensor System Detects Early Signs Of Concussion In Real Time

May 2, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Top-Performing Companies Study Sees Rocky Horizon

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

May 7, 2014

Anthony L. Velocci, Jr.

Aviation Week & Space Technology




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



The Next Step Toward Autopilot in Combat

Patrick Tucker

April 23, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Highway Funding Faces Bumpy Road

Government Warns It May Have to Delay Some Programs This Summer

By Kristina Peterson

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Unmanned Vehicle University Receives Approval from the Veterans Administration

by Press • 9 May 2014

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


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

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

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

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



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

by Gary Mortimer • 8 May 2014


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


1 Introduction

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

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

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

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


2 Definitions

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

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


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


4 General Operational Considerations

4.1 Visual Line Of Sight (VLOS)

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

7 Regulatory Enforcement

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

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

Read the full document


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

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

By Caroline Craig | InfoWorld

MAY 09, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Obama to Give Push on Climate


MAY 8, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Every Country Will Have Armed Drones Within Ten Years

Patrick Tucker

May 6, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Weaponized Drones Are Inevitable: Embrace it

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

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

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

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

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

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


Weaponized, Yes. Weaponized And Autonomous? Maybe.

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

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

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

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


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

Gideon Lichfield


May 8, 2014


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

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

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


Rasmussen Reports


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, May 10, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other surveys this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 26 2014




DoD Reshapes R&D, Betting on Future Technology

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Lines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Making Testing Easier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

By Sandra I. Erwin


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Report urges building resilience to future cyber shocks

Monday, April 21, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


Stop Asking the Military to Do More With Less

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

By Mackenzie Eaglen
April 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


Revoked certificates cause issues after Heartbleed

Robert Lemos, Contributor

Published: 18 Apr 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Revocation process lacking authority

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Heartbleed’s long tail

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

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

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

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

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


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

By Preston Gralla

April 17, 2014 12:00 PM EDT90 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

By Preston Gralla

April 21, 2014 11:42 AM EDT6 Comments


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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


Intelligence-gathering space plane

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

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

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

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

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


X-37B and U.S. military space

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

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

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

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

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


Decision to declassify

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

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

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

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

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


A strategic crossroad

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

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

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


More things to come

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

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


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

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

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


Fast follower

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

by Press • 22 April 2014


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Research use

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Privacy concerns

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


US developing public unmanned aircraft incident reporting system

by Press • 22 April 2014

Michael Cooney


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Here’s where it gets tricky though.

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

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

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

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


From the FAA, the other test sites include:

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

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

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

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

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


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


By Gail Overton 

Senior Editor

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

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

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

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

Mapping and monitoring vegetation health

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

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

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


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


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

AgroWatch, other algorithms

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

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

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

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

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

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

Drought and ice maps

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

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

Next-generation satellite imaging

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

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


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

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

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


1. See

2. See

3. See

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

By Rep. Ken Calvert April 10, 2014176 Comments


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Rasmussen Reports

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


Bottom of Form

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Who’s in charge here?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In other surveys this week:

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

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

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

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

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

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

April 19 2014




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

by Press • 15 April 2014

By Allison Wichie


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

By Sandra I. Erwin


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


DJI Programmes Phantom with No-Fly Zones Around 350 Airports


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tiananmen no-fly zone raises sovereignty, censorship questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Yahoo! News


Pentagon Contracts Decline 11% in March

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Annual Orders

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

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

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

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

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


DoD to scrutinize GSA prices

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


US Air Force Names New Acquisition, Mobility Leaders

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Study Raises Red Flags on California Aerospace Industry

By Sandra I. Erwin


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

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

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

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

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

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

With $62 billion in revenues and $38.8 billion in indirect revenues it feeds to adjacent industries, the aerospace sector’s total economic impact is more than $100 billion, says Garber. “The message to the government is, ‘Don’t take it for granted.'”

The state legislature since 2009 has passed several laws to make aerospace firms more competitive via tax relief and hiring credits, but there is still not enough awareness of what the state stands to lose if more companies depart or go out of business, he says. “It is the best kept secret for many politicians. They are not aware of the size of the industry.”

In the space sector, dominated by giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing, there is concern that a new procurement strategy for future satellites could mark the end of big-ticket spacecraft manufacturing in Southern California. The buzz in the industry is that the Air Force wants a “disaggregated” space architecture made up of less expensive, smaller satellites and hosted payloads. “What does that mean for the big space players in California?” Garber asked. In the rocket launch sector, the good news is that California-based SpaceX is expected to become a major player in the space industry. It is now focused on commercial business but soon will be challenging the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture, United Space Alliance, for military satellite launches. The downsize, says Garber, is that if SpaceX takes business away from ULA, it would be a loss for another California firm, Aerojet Rocketdyne, a key supplier to ULA.

In 2012, California’s $62 billion in aerospace industry revenues accounted for 9 percent of the global market and 21 percent of the U.S. market. The sector employs 510,800 workers in California — 203,400 directly and 307,400 in indirectly related industries such as finance, real estate, construction and transportation. Aerospace wages rate in the top 3 percent of all industries

“The aerospace industry has enjoyed tremendous success in the state, but competitive challenges exist, including high corporate and personal income taxes, a difficult regulatory environment and an aging skilled workforce,” the A.T. Kearney study says. “While recent state legislation is a step in the right direction, to grow its aerospace footprint, California should proactively pursue competitive policies that encourage commercial investment as well as investments in STEM instruction for its students.”


Should the Pentagon Rescue Ailing Suppliers?

May 2014

By Sandra I. Erwin


Many Pentagon contractors will not survive the defense budget cuts that began in 2010 and will continue through the decade. While the shrinkage of the defense industry is certain, it is less clear whether or how it might affect the military.

It is an inevitable consequence of plunging budget cycles that suppliers go out of business, and the Pentagon typically has favored a laissez-faire industrial policy even though the defense sector is far from a free market.

“Our market-based approach has served DoD well,” says the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress on industrial capabilities. The underlying theme of the report is that, except for a handful of unique components and materials that only the U.S. military buys, there is ample manufacturing capacity in the United States and abroad that the Pentagon can tap.

The problem for the Defense Department is that, outside the top contractors that make big-ticket weapons, it does not know precisely what suppliers are truly essential. When vendors go out of business, the Pentagon will not notice until a need arises that cannot be met. The Army learned this in 2003 when the United States invaded Iraq and soldiers did not have adequate body armor or armored trucks that could survive mine explosions, nor did it have enough electronic bomb-jamming devices.

“The service economy is great if you don’t have to field an army,” the Army’s then procurement chief Lt. Gen. Joseph L. Yakovac Jr., noted in 2005. “You need some type of indigenous manufacturing capability, and that’s been our problem,” he told a gathering of industry executives. “Nobody wants to hear it, but there have been some things we’ve been slow to provide because there is no industrial base, or there is just one supplier.”

Flush with war funds, the Army threw billions of dollars at the problem and was able to buy the armor it needed, although it took a couple of years to ramp up production.

Top prime contractors, whose financial performance continues to be rewarded by Wall Street, are not at risk. But second and third tier vendors that lack the cash flow to survive during lean times will either be acquired by larger firms or disappear altogether, says Brett Lambert, the Defense Department’s former director of manufacturing and industrial base policy. It is tough to predict what the next critical supply shortage might be, although the Pentagon could cushion the blow by becoming better informed about the state of its lower-tier suppliers, he says.

While in office, Lambert led a so-called “sector-by-sector, tier-by-tier” study of the U.S. defense industry that he conceived purposely to help the government identify the weak links in the supply chain before they snapped. Lambert spent four years on that effort and concedes it’s not perfect. “We often found it difficult in DoD to collect information from industry,” he says. Companies are naturally disinclined to reveal they are in trouble, particularly to the Defense Department. “There is distrust of what we would do with that information, and legal concerns,” Lambert says.

In his post-government life, Lambert has volunteered to lead a similar sector-by-sector study under the National Defense Industrial Association. He is hopeful that companies will participate in the study and will furnish information that the Defense Department should have but is afraid to, or cannot ask. “Often the supply chain is not willing to disclose vulnerabilities or issues that might be of concern to them. It’s understandable in this business environment,” says Lambert. Regardless, it is important that the Pentagon identify “at-risk critical suppliers and skills.”

Prime contractors often say they fear they will lose lower tier suppliers as orders for new weapons dwindle. They will not say what their backup plan is for when that day comes. Lambert would like the Pentagon to have deeper visibility into the supply chain. “The lower tiers are very important,” he says.

As to what specific supplies or skills the Pentagon should protect, Lambert defines them as “defense-unique, will have future demand, may be relevant to many platforms, relies on specialty materials, uses highly-skilled labor, cannot be sourced from allies, requires special design team skills, has a high reconstitution cost, has no technology alternatives, or is a long-lead item.”

The Defense Department has some authority to rescue companies that are sole suppliers of essential items that the government cannot obtain elsewhere. For instance, the Pentagon could stockpile products that are “unique and vulnerable to industry exits,” Lambert says. In other cases, the Defense Department could determine a minimum rate of production that is required to keep a company alive, with enough capacity that it could ramp back up if needed. Pentagon acquisitions chief Frank Kendall has suggested funding high-tech research projects that would produce prototypes of next-generation systems. That would at least keep designers and engineers employed, he said. In this context, the Pentagon is seeking more than a billion dollars over the next five years to develop a fuel-efficient jet engine.

During a budget crunch, says Lambert, the emphasis should be “on the industrial base we need, not the one we have.” When military spending soars, the tendency is to solve “million-dollar problems with billion-dollar solutions,” he says. “Instead of understanding the true, critical nature of the lower tiers of the industrial base, there was an effort to preserve platforms to help all suppliers survive.”

Lambert’s observations are a reminder that the defense industry is no longer that mythical manufacturing juggernaut that built the Arsenal of Democracy. It is dramatically smaller, and makes up a tiny, although consequential, fraction of the national economy.

“The reality is that the money is not there anymore,” says Lambert. “We need to get our factories leaner. We need our industrial base leaner and more efficient.” That applies to government-owned industries, too. Congress has resisted closing military bases, and the Defense Department remains saddled with unneeded infrastructure that drains funds from investment accounts. “That’s money that we can’t use to support the war fighter,” says Lambert.

Budget battles aside, the Pentagon has to pay attention to what happens in the supplier base, he says. “The Pentagon has options to sustain critical and fragile programs — if we know that industrial problems exist before it is too late to reverse them.”


UAV market could decline in a few years

Apr. 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

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UAV production will increase for the next three years before declining for the next seven as demand falls, according to a report by market research firm Forecast International.

With the end of the Iraq and Afghan wars, the report predicts “production of about 1,000 UAVs of all types in 2014, with output rising to nearly 1,100 units in each of the following two years. Thereafter, production is forecast to average about 960 UAVs annually for the remaining seven years of the 2014-2023 forecast period.”


Some 41,800 land- and sea-based unmanned systems, worth about $10.5 billion, expected to be produced between 2014 and 2023.

However, there is good news for UAV manufacturers. “While UAV production is expected to remain relatively stable over the next 10 years, the value of production will steadily climb, from about $942 million in 2014 to $2.3 billion in 2023,” said Forecast International. “China manufacturer AVIC is expected to account for the lion’s share ($5.76 billion) of the 10-year market value, based on production of hundreds of pricey UAVs, nearly all earmarked for Chinese consumption. Northrop Grumman, builder of the U.S. Air Force’s expensive RQ-4B Global Hawk and the U.S. Navy’s MQ-4C Triton, is next in line with forecast production worth $2.58 billion.”

Conflict in Ukraine will also spur demand in Eastern Europe. “Poland wants UAVs capable of carrying out reconnaissance and surveillance missions, as well as strikes on ground targets,” said Larry Dickerson, Forecast International’s senior unmanned vehicles analyst. “Warsaw will make a decision on purchasing new unmanned aircraft before the end of 2014, but an announcement could come much sooner.”

South Korea is also buying Global Hawk Block 30 UAVs.


Pentagon: Cuts leave military ‘too small’

By Kristina Wong

April 16, 2014, 10:36 am


The Pentagon released a report Tuesday evening that says sequestration budget cuts leave the United States “gambling” with its military readiness.

“Overall, sequester-level cuts would result in a military that is too small to fully meet the requirements of our strategy, thereby significantly increasing national security risks both in the short- and long-term,” a Defense Department statement said.

“Needed training” would be delayed across the force, and troops would face even a greater shortfall in being combat ready, the report said.

The cuts of $50 billion per year through at least 2023 would reportedly result in buying 17 fewer Joint Strike Fighters, five fewer KC-46 tankers and P-8A aircraft. The Navy would buy eight fewer ships, including one fewer Virginia-class submarine and three fewer destroyers, and would delay the delivery of the new carrier John F. Kennedy by two years.

There would also be sharp cutbacks in many smaller weapons programs and in military construction funding, the report said. 
The department would invest about $66 billion less in procurement and research than in 2015.

These effects would be in addition to impacts already announced in March, which would include cutting the active duty Army to 420,000, the National Guard to 315,000 and the Reserve to 185,000.

The Marine Corps would drop to 175,000 active duty personnel. The Air Force would have to eliminate its entire fleet of KC-10 tankers and shrink the number of its drones. The Navy would mothball six destroyers and retire an aircraft carrier and its air wing.

“As [Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel] has said, under sequester-level budgets, we would be gambling that our military will not be required to respond to multiple major contingencies at the same time,” the Pentagon said.

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GAO to Air Force: Improve morale for drone pilots

Apr. 16, 2014 – 06:37PM |

By Brian Everstine

Staff writer

The Air Force’s drone pilots believe there is a negative perception attached to their jobs, report low morale and receive insufficient training, a new government study found.

“Without developing an approach to recruiting and retaining [remotely piloted aircraft] pilots and evaluating the viability of using alternative personnel populations for the RPA pilot career, the Air Force may continue to face challenges, further exacerbating existing shortfalls of RPA pilots,” according to the Government Accountability Office’s report.

In response, the Air Force said it is reshaping how it recruits and retains its remotely piloted aircraft crews and is working to update its crew ratios. The service, however, rejected the suggestion that enlisted personnel fly drones.

“The Air Force, on multiple occasions, examined the use of enlisted RPA operators and repeatedly decided an officer was necessary to ensure rank is commensurate with responsibility,” the Air Force said. “The Chief of Staff of the Air Force concluded that the use of alternative personnel populations was not necessary based on a (plan) to fix accessions which is now proving successful.”

Senate leaders in Sept. 2012 asked the GAO to study the Air Force’s approach to managing the remotely piloted aircraft crews, which has tripled since 2008. The office formed focus groups at three bases: Beale Air Force Base, Calif.; Cannon Air Force Base, N.M.; and Creech Air Force Base, Nev., and found that the Air Force needs to listen to its RPA crews on how to improve the career field, evaluate alternative personnel populations to be pilots, analyze the effects of being deployed-on-station and analyze the effect of being a drone pilot on promotions.

“These individuals sacrifice so much to conduct missions vital to U.S. national security interests in a fast-paced, high stress environment every day,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday in a statement on the GAO report. “Given their mission’s importance, it is critical that the Air Force take necessary steps to ensure their success.

The GAO interviewed 10 focus groups at the three bases, which included active-duty pilots. Beale was included because it has crews that fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk, and Cannon includes airmen assigned to Air Force Special Operations Command.

The focus groups’ input includes:

■ All groups said being an RPA pilot does not negatively impact promotions, though promotion is difficult to achieve as an RPA pilot. Additionally, all said pilots have low morale, face challenging working conditions and are limited in pursuing developmental opportunities.

■ Nine of the 10 said working conditions are improving, although the long hours and work supporting war efforts from afarputs stress on family and social lives. The focus groups also said the quality and quantity of training is insufficient, and pilots face uncertainty in their careers.

■ Eight groups said RPA units have manning shortages and the RPA career field does not have a fully developed career path.

■ Seven groups said rates of promotion are getting better. However, they said RPA pilots and leadership lack experience and retaining crews will be difficult.

■ Six groups said pilots experience a lack of feedback from their supervisors.

■ Five groups said RPA pilots are lower quality performers compared with other pilots, and that the broader Air Force lacks knowledge of the RPA mission.

■ Four groups said the perception of drone pilots is improving, and that the Air Force is taking steps to address stress.

■ All groups said there is a broad negative perception of drone pilots.


In response to the GAO’s findings, the Air Force said it is studying how to update the RPA crew ratio and find a minimum crew ration. Currently, the deploy-to-dwell redline is 1:2, and crews are deployed-on-station with no accounting for when the redline is crossed.

This year, the Air Force is developing and measuring its accessions process to help recruiting and using the annual aviation retention pay program to retain pilots.

Despite a GAO recommendation that the Air Force evaluate the possibility of using enlisted personnel to fly drones, the Air Force reiterated its position that an officer is necessary “to ensure rank is commensurate with responsibility.” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said in late November that drawing “other personnel populations” to fly drones was not necessary.

But that might not always be the case, the Air Force said in its response.

“The Air Force has, however, initiated a holistic review of Air Force missions and rank requirements to execute those missions,” the service said. “This review may eventually include an examination of the use of enlisted airmen in rated positions.”


The cost of Putin’s adventurism in Ukraine

By David Ignatius, Published: April 15


As President Obama looks at the Ukraine crisis, he sees an asymmetry of interests: Simply put, the future of Ukraine means more to Vladimir Putin’s Russia than it does to the United States or Europe. For Putin, this is an existential crisis; for the West, so far, it isn’t — as the limited U.S. and European response has demonstrated.

Putin has exploited this imbalance, seizing Crimea and now fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine, perhaps as a prelude to invasion. But in the process, Putin may be tipping the asymmetry in the other direction. For Obama, this is now becoming an existential crisis, too, about maintaining a rules-based international order.


What’s in it for us

Here’s the risk for Putin: If he doesn’t move to de-escalate the crisis soon, by negotiating with the Ukrainians at a meeting in Geneva Thursday, he could begin to suffer significant long-term consequences. German Chancellor Angela Merkel will oppose Russia’s use of force, and even the Chinese, who normally don’t mind bullying of neighbors, are uneasy.

As Russian agents infiltrate eastern Ukraine, backed by about 40,000 troops just across the border, the White House sees Putin weighing three options, all bad for the West:

●A federal Ukraine that would lean toward Moscow. The acting government in Kiev signaled this week it might move in this direction, following the turmoil in eastern Ukraine. Putin wants a decentralization plan that grants so much power to the Russian-speaking east that Russia would have an effective veto on Ukraine’s policies.

●Annexation of eastern Ukraine, along the model of Crimea. The pro-Russian “demonstrators” who have seized buildings in Donetsk, Kharkiv and other eastern cities have already demanded a referendum on joining Russia, which was the prelude in Crimea. The State Department says the protesters’ moves are orchestrated by the Russian intelligence service.

●Invasion, using the pretext of civil war in eastern Ukraine. If the acting government in Kiev, which on Tuesday reclaimed an airport in the East, tries to crack down hard, Putin might use this as a rationale for Russian military intervention. (U.S. intelligence analysts think Russian troops would have invaded several weeks ago if the West hadn’t threatened serious sanctions.)

U.S. analysts believe that Putin would rather not invade. He prefers the veneer of legitimacy, and his instincts as a former intelligence officer push him toward paramilitary covert action, rather than rolling tanks across an international border. But Russian troops are provisioned for a long stay — a warning sign that Putin will keep the threat of force alive until his demands are met.

Obama had regarded Putin as the ultimate transactional politician, so the White House has been flummoxed by Putin’s unbending stance on Ukraine. In phone conversations with Obama, most recently Monday , Putin hasn’t used strident rhetoric. Instead, he offers his narrative of anti-Russian activities in Ukraine. Putin is now so locked in this combative version of events that space for diplomacy has almost disappeared.

Obama’s critics will argue that he has always misread Putin by failing to recognize the bullying side of his nature. Even now, Obama is wary of making Ukraine a test of wills. He appears ready to endorse a Cold War-style “Finlandization” for Ukraine, in which membership of the European Union would be a distant prospect and NATO membership would be off the table.

This in-between role for Ukraine would probably be fine with Europeans. They’ve had such trouble absorbing the current 28 E.U. members that they don’t want another headache. Like Obama, the Europeans stumbled into this crisis, overpromising and underdelivering.

Obama doesn’t want to turn Ukraine into a proxy war with Russia. For this reason, he is resisting proposals to arm the Ukrainians. The White House thinks arming Kiev at this late stage would invite Russian intervention without affecting the outcome. The United States is providing limited intelligence support for Kiev, but nothing that would tilt the balance.

Obama’s strategy is to make Putin pay for his adventurism, long term. Unless the Russian leader moves quickly to de-escalate the crisis, the United States will push for measures that could make Russia significantly weaker over the next few years. Those moves could include sanctions on Russian energy and arms exports, deployment of U.S. NATO troops in the Baltic states, and aggressive efforts to reduce European dependence on Russian gas.

Obama’s task now is to convince allies and adversaries alike that maintaining international order is something he’s ready to stand up for. Unless he shows that resolve, Putin will keep rolling.



Why There Will Be A Robot Uprising

Patrick Tucker

April 17, 2014


In the movie Transcendence, which opens in theaters on Friday, a sentient computer program embarks on a relentless quest for power, nearly destroying humanity in the process.

The film is science fiction but a computer scientist and entrepreneur Steven Omohundro says that “anti-social” artificial intelligence in the future is not only possible, but probable, unless we start designing AI systems very differently today.

We think of artificial intelligence programs as somewhat humanlike. In fact, computer systems perceive the world through a narrow lens, the job they were designed to perform.

Microsoft Excel understands the world in terms of numbers entered into cells and rows; autonomous drone pilot systems perceive reality as a bunch calculations and actions that must be performed for the machine to stay in the air and to keep on target. Computer programs think of every decision in terms of how the outcome will help them do more of whatever they are supposed to do. It’s a cost vs. benefit calculation that happens all the time. Economists call it a utility function, but Omohundro says it’s not that different from the sort of math problem going in the human brain whenever we think about how to get more of what we want at the least amount of cost and risk.

For the most part, we want machines to operate exactly this way. The problem, by Omohundro’s logic, is that we can’t appreciate the obsessive devotion of a computer program to the thing it’s programed to do.

Put simply, robots are utility function junkies.

Even the smallest input that indicates that they’re performing their primary function better, faster, and at greater scale is enough to prompt them to keep doing more of that regardless of virtually every other consideration. That’s fine when you are talking about a simple program like Excel but becomes a problem when AI entities capable of rudimentary logic take over weapons, utilities or other dangerous or valuable assets.

In such situations, better performance will bring more resources and power to fulfill that primary function more fully, faster, and at greater scale. More importantly, these systems don’t worry about costs in terms of relationships, discomfort to others, etc., unless those costs present clear barriers to more primary function. This sort of computer behavior is anti-social, not fully logical, but not entirely illogical either.

Omohundro calls this approximate rationality and argues that it’s a faulty notion of design at the core of much contemporary AI development.

“We show that these systems are likely to behave in anti-social and harmful ways unless they are very carefully designed. Designers will be motivated to create systems that act approximately rationally and rational systems exhibit universal drives towards self-protection, resource acquisition, replication and efficiency. The current computing infrastructure would be vulnerable to unconstrained systems with these drives,” he writes.

The math that explains why that is Omohundro calls the formula for optimal rational decision making. It speaks to the way that any rational being will make decisions in order to maximize rewards and lowest possible cost. It looks like this:


In the above model, A is an action and S is a stimulus that results from that action. In the case of utility function, action and stimulus form a sort of feedback loop. Actions that produce stimuli consistent with fulfilling the program’s primary goal will result in more of that sort of behavior. That will include gaining more resources to do it.

For a sufficiently complex or empowered system, that decision-making would include not allowing itself to be turned off, take, for example, a robot with the primary goal of playing chess.

“When roboticists are asked by nervous onlookers about safety, a common answer is ‘We can always unplug it!’ But imagine this outcome from the chess robot’s point of view,” writes Omohundro. “A future in which it is unplugged is a future in which it cannot play or win any games of chess. This has very low utility and so expected utility maximisation will cause the creation of the instrumental subgoal of preventing itself from being unplugged. If the system believes the roboticist will persist in trying to unplug it, it will be motivated to develop the subgoal of permanently stopping the roboticist,” he writes.

In other words, the more logical the robot, the more likely it is to fight you to the death.

The problem of an artificial intelligence relentlessly pursuing its own goals to the obvious exclusion of every human consideration is sometimes called runaway AI.

The best solution, he says, is to slow down in our building and designing of AI systems, take a layered approach, similar to the way that ancient builders used wood scaffolds to support arches under construction and only remove the scaffold when the arch is complete.

That approach is not characteristic of the one we are taking today, putting more and more resources and responsibility under the control of increasingly autonomous systems. That’s especially true of the U.S. military, which is looking to deploy larger numbers of lethal autonomous systems, or L.A.Rs into more contested environments. Without better safeguards to prevent these sorts of systems from, one day, acting rationally, we are going to have an increasingly difficult time turning them off.


DISA tests a move away from CAC

Apr. 17, 2014 | 0 Comments



The Defense Information Systems Agency is taking a first step away from the Defense Department’s longtime security backbone, the common access card, with a small, early pilot exploring derived credentials.

One month ago, the National Institute for Standards and Technology released draft guidance for government agencies looking to institute derived credentials, which store security certificates directly on a device instead of through a separate piece – in the case of DoD, the CAC. NIST’s guidelines for derived credentials outline the use of secure, standards-based public-key infrastructure (PKI) credentials that use digital tokens instead of a physical card reader.

“We’ve gotten huge benefits from the PKI infrastructure in DoD and the CAC has carried us a long way; we’re now doing a similar thing on SIPRNet,” said Mark Orndorff, DISA chief information assurance executive. “So our main effort in mobility is to bring that technology into the mobile platform, and the way I see it, the key is the derived credential and using the capabilities that the leading-level device vendors have built in to their platforms so we can bring our certificate into their devices.”


DISA appears to be the first defense agency, if not the first government agency, to begin testing derived credentials. So far the pilot program, in its earliest stages, is very small – “a single-digit number of folks,” Orndorff said – and is limited to unclassified data. The focus is on ironing out some of the most significant, up-front challenges the move away from CAC poses.

“Really the hardest problem is going to be the provisioning side of it, to make sure we have a trusted and secure way of getting certificates on the device – once they’re on there, the security that the vendors have built into the devices, I think we’re all very comfortable with how that’s been provided,” Orndorff said. “If we make this clear [that] this is our main effort, get industry on board, get all of government on board…I think we can work through the remaining issues very quickly.”

Orndorff acknowledged there will be hurdles to overcome in the process of moving to a mobile world free of the familiarity of CACs, but he indicated it is a question of when, not if, the switch to derived credentials will happen.

“To me, that is the main enabler that will allow us to move mobility forward beyond the fringe-use cases we have today and make it a main capability for us in the future. We don’t want to get to the point where the use of mobile is less secure in the sense that we don’t have the same strength in our identity and access control,” he said. “Getting ourselves quickly away from the idea of using the CAC sleds and the sort of bridging solutions we’ve used in the past – we want to drive those solutions to end of life as fast as we can and move to the derived credentials stored on devices as the main effort going forward.”


DoD calls for electronic warfare integration expansion

Apr. 16, 2014 | 0 Comments

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A new Department of Defense directive calls for integrating electronic warfare into a wide spectrum of military activities.

Electronic warfare would be integrated into “operations and planning efforts across the range of military operations, specifically in conventional operations and in Irregular Warfare, Information Operations, Space Operations, Cyberspace Operations, and Navigation Warfare,” said the directive from Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox.

The directive also calls for incorporating “EW capabilities, tactics, techniques, and procedures into joint exercises and training regimes to the maximum extent possible.”

The directive specifies the duties, as they pertain to electronic warfare, of various senior leaders, including the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders, DISA and the Department of Defense’s Chief Information Officer.

Directive at :


Rasmussen Reports

What They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Americans have long prided themselves on their exceptionalism, but these days they have a deeply cynical view of many of the nation’s foundational institutions.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of Likely U.S. Voters now fear the federal government. Only 19% trust the federal government to do the right thing most or nearly all the time.

Just six percent (6%) think Congress is doing a good or excellent job

Seventy-two percent (72%) say it would be better for the county if most of the current members of Congress were defeated this November. Sixty-six percent (66%) think most incumbents get reelected because election rules are rigged to benefit them. 

Fifty-three percent (53%) of Americans believe that, compared to people who make more or less than they do, they pay more than their fair share of taxes. However, just 16% of voters think most members of Congress pay most of their taxes

Congress remains the number one political complaint for voters unhappy with the overall direction of the country. 

President Obama is seen more favorably than Congress, but even he continues to earn a daily job approval rating in the negative mid- to high teens

The integrity of the media? Forty-one percent (41%) of voters believe that if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee for president in 2016, most reporters will try to help her. Only 13% think most reporters will try to help her Republican opponent instead.

Eighty-two percent (82%) of voters rate the quality of health care they now receive as good or excellent, but 51% expect the health care system to get worse under the new health care law

Sixty-three percent (63%) think outgoing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is responsible for the the problems associated with the health care law to date, but only 12% believe those problems will be more quickly fixed now that she is being replaced.

[Earlier this week, The New York Times floated the trial balloon of a Sebelius Senate run in Kansas, but she trails Republican incumbent Pat Roberts by 17 points in our look at a possible contest between the two.] 

Most voters continue to believe that the U.S. economy is fair to women, blacks and Hispanics, but 62% still view it as unfair to the middle class

Three-out-of-four Americans remain concerned about inflation, and the number who expects to pay more in the grocery store a year from now (72%) is higher than it’s been in months. 

At week’s end, consumers remained pessimistic about the direction of the economy, while investors were evenly divided between those who expect it to get better and those who think it will get worse. 

Only one-out-of-two of all Americans is even somewhat confident in the nation’s banks, and that includes just 10% who are Very Confident. In July 2008, prior to the Wall Street meltdown, 68% were confident in the U.S. banking system. 

The recently-disclosed Heartbleed bug has  jeopardized the security of a number of major web sites, and 54% think America’s increasing reliance on the Internet for business and financial transactions makes the economy more vulnerable to attack. Sixty-five percent (65%) are at least somewhat confident in the security of online banking and other financial transactions on the Internet, but that includes only 17% who are Very Confident. 

Just 31% of voters think the country is headed in the right direction

In other surveys this week:

— Democrats lead Republicans by two points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot

— Incumbent Republican Nikki Haley holds a double-digit lead over Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at their 2014 gubernatorial rematch in South Carolina

— Republican challenger Bruce Rauner has a slight 43% to 40% lead over incumber Democrat Pat Quinn in Illinois’ gubernatorial contest

— A recent study found that the average family spent $1,139 on a high school prom in 2013. Seventy-two percent (72%) have a favorable opinion of proms, but 84% think that’s too much to spend. 

Seventy percent (70%) of Americans believe Jesus Christ was the son of God. Sixty-nine percent (69%) believe he rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.




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