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November 16 2013




US Postal Service Wins Amazon Sunday Deliveries

NEW YORK November 11, 2013 (AP)

By BARBARA ORTUTAY AP Technology Writer


Amazon is rolling out Sunday package delivery as part of a new deal with the U.S. Postal Service.

Delivery started on Sunday to customers in the New York and Los Angeles metropolitan areas, but Amazon and the Postal Service plan to extend service to “a large portion of the U.S. population” next year, the company said. This includes the cities of Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, and Phoenix.

Sunday delivery will be available to all Amazon customers for no extra charge but Amazon expects it will be particularly popular with members of its Prime service, which costs $79 a year and comes with free two-day shipping on many items on the site as well as access to Amazon’s TV and movie streaming service.

“For Prime members, it’s free, for non-Prime members, it’s like any other delivery day of the week,” said Dave Clark, vice president of worldwide operations and customer service at Amazon.

Sunday delivery has been on Amazon’s wish list for a long time. The company does not disclose the percentage of its packages that are delivered on weekends, but Clark expects customers “to be delighted that they will get their products on a weekend.”

Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed, but the deal is likely to give the financially ailing Postal Service a boost. The agency, which lost $16 billion last year and expects to lose $6 billion this year, had tried but failed to end Saturday mail delivery as a cost-saving measure. The Postal Service’s financial quandary stems largely from the fact that fewer people send mail, instead using the Internet to pay bills, send letters or birthday greetings. Adding to its troubles is a 2006 congressional requirement that it make advance payments to cover expected health care costs for future retirees.

The agency has been building up a “flexible workforce” for the past 18 months, so right now it doesn’t need to hire additional carriers to work on Sunday,” said Sue Brennan, a spokeswoman for the Postal Service. If and when this service expands, “we’ll make (the) decision if necessary,” she added in an email.

Sunday delivery isn’t an entirely new territory for the USPS. Priority Mail Express, its fastest service, offers Sunday and holiday delivery for a small fee. And during the holiday shipping rush in December it delivers packages on Sundays in major metropolitan areas.

Shares of Seattle-based Inc. closed up $4.07 at $354.38.



Few bright spots in sad survey of federal employees


November 11 at 1:20 pm


Federal workers have spoken, and they are not happy.

The Office of Personnel Management’s Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey was released on Friday, and the results are discouraging. The agency’s overall measure for employee satisfaction—what it terms federal workers’ “global satisfaction index”—dropped to 59 percent, down 4 percentage points since 2012. Meanwhile, little more than half of government employees (54 percent) responded positively about their compensation, compared to 59 percent in 2012 and 66 percent in 2010.

Yet, as new OPM director Katherine Archuleta writes in the report, one of the biggest drops in the survey had to do with whether employees felt they had the resources they need to get their jobs done. Just 44 percent said they did, compared with 48 percent last year. “Any employer seeing this meaningful level of decline would be very concerned,” she wrote in the report. All in all, OPM surveyed views on 77 different items, and it turned out that attitudes on 53 of them had declined since 2012. Just two increased.

Both, it’s worth noting, had to do with workers’ individual supervisors. A slightly higher percentage–65 percent in 2013, up from 64 percent last year–agreed that “my supervisor is committed to a workforce representative of all segments of society.” And a few more folks–80 percent, up from 79 percent last year–agreed “my supervisor treats me with respect.”

In the section about team leaders, the trend line was mostly flat. Still, that’s far better than the sections on job satisfaction, agency satisfaction and work experience, where the recent “significant trend” lines were almost universally negative.

Unfortunately, included in those poor results was the section on agency leadership. Just 52 percent of federal workers said they have a high degree of respect for senior leaders, down from previous years. And just 41 percent said leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment at work. Keep in mind these numbers were tallied before the recent government shutdown, meaning they could very well be worse now. In fact, it’s hard to imagine how they couldn’t be worse in the aftermath of being victimized by some members of Congress, not knowing when they’d be back on the job, and handling the stress of digging out after the shutdown.

While the report is unsettling, it’s at least a little reassuring that federal workers feel respected by their individual managers and have some faith in the people who lead them on a day-to-day basis. If research (and conventional wisdom) says people don’t quit their jobs, they quit their bosses, then maybe the reverse will hold true as well. Federal employees may not be very satisfied with their jobs right now, but a good individual manager might help them stay put.



Insurers Press for Way Around


November 11, 2013


Some major health insurers are so worried about the Obama administration’s ability to fix its troubled health care website that they are pushing the government to create a shortcut that would allow them to enroll people entitled to subsidies directly rather than through the federal system.


The idea is only one of several being discussed in a frantic effort to find a way around the technological problems that teams of experts are urgently trying to resolve.

So far, the administration has resisted the idea, partly because of concerns about giving insurance companies access to personal data. People familiar with the matter said no such modifications are planned, and even some insurers are not holding out much hope.

But senior White House officials said the administration was open to ways in which insurers could handle more enrollments and had stepped up efforts to make that possible because of the technical problems with the site.

“It was something we were always doing,” one official said, but it is “of additional value now.”

In a statement, Chris Jennings, a senior health care adviser to President Obama, said the administration was “continuing to pursue additional avenues by which people can enroll, such as direct enrollment through insurance companies, that will help meet pent-up demand.”

In proposing the idea, the insurers said a bypass giving them direct access to the federal platform that determines a consumer’s eligibility for a subsidy would alleviate the traffic on the website,, and provide more breathing room to fix complicated technical problems that threaten to persist beyond a crucial, self-imposed Dec. 1 deadline.

But even if such a shortcut could be designed, federal officials are concerned about protecting personal data, such as confidential financial and tax information and immigration status. The security and privacy issues are likely to overshadow any possible compromise, according to people briefed on the discussions.

A more likely solution is for consumers to be able to work directly with an insurer to estimate their qualifications for a subsidy, leaving federal verification to a later date, some insurers said. Insurance executives declined to speak on the record because of company policies and concerns about alienating political officials.

Time is running out. Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, has promised to have the website’s technical problems largely solved by the end of the month. But inside the White House, there is increasing anxiety that the troubled rollout of the health care site could imperil the remainder of Mr. Obama’s presidency.

Aside from the direct enrollment option, insurers and federal officials are examining other ways in the coming weeks to sign up the millions of Americans looking for health insurance. However, none of the options represent a quick fix. One idea being considered would allow people to enroll before the paperwork is completed. At the extreme, despite strong resistance from the insurance industry, there is even talk of extending the deadline for obtaining insurance on the exchanges by months.

Consumers must now enroll by Dec. 15 for insurance coverage that would begin Jan. 1. The open enrollment period is to end on March 31. The main stumbling block for some consumers is the need to determine their eligibility for subsidies, and the amount. Insurance companies can now only estimate the amount for them. It is up the government to verify eligibility, using personal financial information from tax returns and the like.

“The question is, can they create a separate direct pathway so consumers can get that information on their subsidies?” asked one industry official. “If they don’t have Healthcare?.gov up and running by the end of the month, direct enrollment is critical.”

The other option, allowing consumers to obtain their own estimates, seems more palatable. It is unclear whether that proposal is possible. Insurers are worried that they will have offered coverage to individuals whose actual subsidies are less than they have estimated, potentially leaving the insurers or the people themselves financially exposed.

“I think there are potential work-arounds,” said an executive of a major insurer. “I think we have some leeway here so long as people are not in a situation where individuals have to pay significantly more than expected or plans end up in a position with cash-flow issues.”

Insurers are opposed to the idea of extending the enrollment period. They say it encourages people to wait to sign up, particularly the young and the healthy, an age group that insurers need to balance the cost of insuring people with expensive health conditions. They are also worried about the effect of the delay on their ability to price plans for 2015.

By all accounts, the administration is making an enormous effort to rescue the website. The appointment of Quality Software Services late last month as the project’s general contractor has established a sense of order amid chaos. Henry Chao, the technology official from the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services, who had managed the project since its infancy, has been sidelined, people involved in the effort said.

Specialists say software engineers now have a clear set of priorities and are steadily crossing items off a three-tier list for repairs. On Friday, Jeffrey D. Zients, the administration’s point man on fixing, said “a couple dozen” high-priority fixes would be made over the weekend. He repeatedly declined to say how many critical fixes had been identified, saying the list continually changes.

“We are making progress across those priority items, and the site is getting better each week, and will be at the standard that we set for the end of the month,” Mr. Zients said.

Specialists said that most of the effort so far had been focused on eliminating the delays and timeouts that have so frustrated consumers trying to shop for and enroll in plans. More challenging, one person said, are the repairs to the more complex, invisible part of the system that draws information from various federal and state databases into a central base to determine eligibility and subsidies and confirms enrollment data.

The technological effort cited by the White House, that person said, is actually a swell of software engineers. Red Hat, which makes Linux operating systems, and the database giant Oracle, already had sent specialists to help out.

Quality Software has assigned one senior engineer, from Google, to edit website software fixes, he said.

Some software engineers on the job have been replaced simply because they were too burned out to continue the late-night schedule. “A lot of the stuff people are doing now is going through the checklists they should have gone through before Oct. 1,” one specialist said.

On the two floors at an office building in suburban Virginia, visible evidence of President Obama’s promised new “tech surge” is slight. About 350 employees are hunkered over their computers — roughly 70 more than last month — trying to repair

Several White House technology fellows, young enough to be mistaken by some as students, have taken over one office. Another change, said one person closely involved in the repair effort: “A lot of suits are walking around.”

The scene at the office building, for one of the two main contractors that built the troubled website, illustrates the bind in which the Obama administration now finds itself. Despite the White House’s suggestions that a cavalry from the Silicon Valley has arrived to save the day, specialists say that the online system cannot be fixed by adding manpower. Some experts argue that an influx of software engineers at this stage would slow down, not speed up, the repair effort.

“If you have got nine women that doesn’t mean you can have a baby in a month,” said Frederick P. Brooks, a computer science professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and one of the world’s leading authorities on software development. Rather, he and others said, fixing the system involves a painstaking slog through line after line of software code.

No one at this point can be certain how many fixes need to be made, specialists said, because some fixes expose new problems.



With BlackBerry’s Future Uncertain, Pentagon Readies a Contingency Plan

By Aliya Sternstein

November 11, 2013


The Defense Department, owner of 470,000 BlackBerrys, is distancing itself from the struggling vendor while moving ahead with construction of a departmentwide app store and a system for securing all mobile devices, including the latest iPhones, iPads, and Samsung smartphones and tablets.

Just two months ago, when BlackBerry announced the company would radically curtail commercial sales, Pentagon officials said their business partnership remained unaffected. At the time, Defense’s technology support agency was readying networks with software to handle tens of thousands of BlackBerry Z10 and Q10 smartphones.

Last week, BlackBerry called off a tentative buyout and fired Chief Executive Officer Thorsten Heins, heightening uncertainty about the future of the company, which has seen its market share plummet in recent years as consumers embraced more user-friendly devices that run on operating systems built by Apple and Google.

For now, Defense’s mobile security strategy primarily depends on BlackBerry. The Pentagon has granted only BlackBerry 10 phones and Playbook tablets an “authority to operate,” or ATO — not Android, Apple or any other device lines. Consumer smartphones and tablets must have an ATO to hook up to Defense networks.

But there is a contingency plan at the Pentagon, should BlackBerry phones go the way of Betamax VCRs.

A 2012 strategy to transition personnel from PCs to smartphones and tablets did not favor any one device maker, Defense officials noted on Thursday. “This multi-vendor, device-agnostic approach minimizes the impact of [a] single vendor to our current operations,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said.

Implementation of the strategy centers on a “mobile device management” system to track handhelds that touch military networks so that they do not compromise military information or corrupt Defense systems.

“DoD’s mobility strategy and commercial mobile device implementation plan includes reliance on multiple vendors to support its mobile communications needs,” Pickart said.

The mobile security management system is in the early stages of development. It will undergo a limited pilot, or reach “initial operating capacity,” by Dec. 31, Pickart said.

The Pentagon anticipates connecting 300,000 approved government-issued consumer devices by 2016.


Air Force cuts may mean grounding fleets

No furloughs planned for now, Acting Air Force Secretary tells Dayton Daily News.

By Barrie Barber

Staff Writer

Posted: 4:54 p.m. Monday, Nov. 11, 2013

Dayton Daily News



The Air Force will have fewer airmen and civilian employees and entire fleets of aircraft may be pulled out of the air because of sequestration reductions, the service’s top civilian leader said.

“If the sequestered numbers are the new normal, we’re too big of an Air Force,” said Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning. “The military is too big for the budget so we’ll have to reshape, resize.”

In an exclusive interview with the Dayton Daily News, Fanning said sequestration has impacted “everything” in the service branch. The Air Force may buy fewer fifth generation F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, and pilots may be grounded periodically two to three months in rolling rotations of a tiered-readiness model if the sequester persists, he said. The automatic cuts amount to roughly 10 percent reductions a year for a decade.

Fanning said the “real pernicious effect of sequestration” remains “the lack of flexibility. It’s all across your accounts. And even more so it’s the immediacy. There’s no ramp. It takes a while to get money out of an organization this size unless you’re just lopping off limbs and doing really long-term damage.”

Pentagon leaders haven’t seriously considered a new round of furloughs, Fanning said.

“I think furloughs were the hardest and worst decision that we made last (fiscal) year, and I’ve seen the worst-case planning for all three of the military departments,” he said. “And nobody is talking about furloughs as an option. The word is hardly even mentioned in planning.”

Most of the Defense Department’s civil service workers, including 10,000 Wright-Patterson employees, were forced off the job for six days last summer without pay. A partial federal government shutdown in October sent more than 350,000 Defense Department workers, including 8,700 at Wright-Patterson, home for four days. They were given back pay for time off during the shutdown.

Fanning, a 1986 Centerville High School graduate, said political and military leadership have a “tremendous recognition” furloughs have damaged morale.

“We have some repairing to do,” he said. “We don’t want to do any more damage to it.”

Voluntary departures

Fanning did not offer specific numbers on how deep the personnel cuts will go, but a “broad range of numbers” are under consideration while the Air Force waits to find out how much money Congress will allocate this fiscal year. The military continues to operate under the last fiscal year’s spending caps. The new budget year began Oct. 1.

The Air Force, he said, would use “every voluntary incentive available” to reduce the size of the workforce.

“I don’t suspect that will get us all the way there, but I think it will get us close enough, especially on the civilian side, that anything that’s involuntary will be very targeted and relatively small,” he said.

The Air Force aims to protect as much as possible the top three acquisition priorities: the KC-46 aerial tanker, the F-35 and a new long-range strike bomber, he said. While he declined to talk about specific aircraft or platforms, Fanning said fleets that may be retired operate in the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and mobility and refueling tanker communities.”That’s the only way we can achieve those (sequestration) numbers because you have to get the whole tail that goes with it,” he said. “We’re going to have to take out entire fleets.”

The Air Force is in talks with the other services to determine what to cut because they rely on air power in their warfighting plans, he said.

Congress has balked at a Pentagon and Air Force push for a round of base closures in 2015 and 2017 to cut costs. Fanning said the best chance may be 2017.

In the last base realignment and closure round in 2005, the Air Force determined it had 20 percent more bases than it needed “and we’re smaller than that now than we were then,” he said. “It starts based on Congress’ direction with a look at our European footprint, which we’re doing right now. I think we’d start there, but that would just be a small portion of what we need to do (in the) Air Force globally, including the United States.”

Wright-Patterson, home of the Air Force Material Command and the Air Force Research Laboratory, would be well-poised in a base closure process, he said.

“Wright-Patt, I think, is such a critical base to the Air Force and there are so many different, diverse activities that take place on this base, it’d be very hard to… recreate that someplace else,” he said. “I can’t think but of a handful of bases that are as important to the Air Force as Wright-Patt.”

Combating sexual assault

In an annual report released last week, the Department of Defense reported a 46 percent increase in sexual assaults last year. Fanning said combating sexual assault remains a top priority.

“I think what you’re seeing is an increase in reports which is different than an increase in incidents,” he said. “I actually take the increase in reports as a good sign that the changes we’re putting in place are making some people more comfortable coming forward if something happened that shouldn’t. … It doesn’t mean that we don’t have a lot of work to do to get the incidents down, but the number of reports is not in my view a direct correlation to an increase in incidents.” He said some of those reports include assaults prior to airmen joining the military.

An Air Force special victims counseling program has raised the number of victims who seek unrestricted prosecution by about 50 percent, he said.

Fanning, who is reportedly the highest ranking openly gay official at the Pentagon, said the elimination of the military‘s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy to allow gay service members to openly serve has gone much smoother than he expected, but the military needs to recognize and extend benefits to same sex partners faster.

“The military is incredibly professional and when told this is the new rule, this is the new norm, they adapt pretty quickly,” he said.


6,000 Wright-Patt jobs at stake, Turner says

Over a decade, $8.6B could be lost to local economy if sequestration continues.

By Barrie Barber

Posted: 5:31 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2013

Dayton Daily News

Staff Writer


Sequestration could cost Wright-Patterson Air Force Base up to 6,000 military and civilian jobs by next year, U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said Tuesday.

Moreover, said Turner, the region could lose a total of about 13,000 jobs both in and outside the base in the years ahead, and $8.6 billion to the economy is at risk over the decade sequestration would be in effect.

“This is not the result of a policy shift. This is not a result of a BRAC (base realignment and closure),” Turner said. “This is really the result of the negligence of the work not getting done in Washington. With 6,000 jobs at risk, it is absolutely imperative that our community join together with one voice to ensure these job losses don’t happen.”

Turner, R-Dayton, had a forum Tuesday at Sinclair Community College on the sequestration impact to the Miami Valley. Military and private sector leaders told state and local political leaders of the economic and national security fallout they said would happen because of the automatic federal budget cuts.

The estimate of up to 6,000 job losses was based on a House Armed Services Committee extrapolation of the number of jobs and dollars the Air Force has said it will cut in the years ahead because of the sequester, Turner said. The Republican congressman is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee.

The Dayton Development Coalition and the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce are working to get the state’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Kasich behind a drive to bring more attention to the looming threat of job losses and to prevent the cuts, officials said.

When asked about the potential for job losses at the base, Air Force officials referred to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh’s remarks to the House Armed Services Committee in September that up to 25,000 airmen and 550 aircraft would need to be cut in the next five years if the sequester continues.


“How that translates for all the different commands across the Air Force is yet to be seen, so I haven’t seen a number yet,” said Col. Cassie B. Barlow, 88th Air Base Wing commander, told the Dayton Daily News at a press briefing afterwards.

“At this point, it’s too soon to determine exactly where those cuts would take place,” Lt. Col. Laurel P. Tingley, an Air Force spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said in an email.

Jeff Hoagland, Dayton Development Coalition president and chief executive officer, estimated sequestration may have already meant a loss of 2,000 base-connected jobs.

The base had around 29,000 employees at last count.

If the cuts happen, the trickle-down effect would mean less tax revenue for local governments and fewer services to taxpayers, officials said.

“I’ve always said if Wright-Patterson gets a cold, Greene County gets pneumonia,” said Greene County Commissioner Bob Glaser. “Well, Wright-Patterson is getting more than a cold.”


Brain drain

The budget sequester has led to “record numbers” of senior and junior employees leaving and a “brain drain” at Wright-Patterson, Barlow said.

“When we have people leave earlier than expected it’s alarming because that means we haven’t had time to pass on that knowledge to the next generation,” she said.

In the first nine months of sequestration, the base temporarily sent home thousands of employees on an unpaid six-day furlough and later an unplanned four-day emergency furlough during the partial government shutdown, she noted. Wright-Patterson faces a growing maintenance backlog without enough money to fix decaying and damaged infrastructure for everything from an underground pipeline to a runway and reduced “quality of life” programs, she said.

Spending caps could dry up money for utilities by June, and logistics readiness contracts by May, she said.

Carl Francis, a Dayton Area Defense Contractors Association vice president, said a Dayton Defense survey of defense contractors in the region showed as much as a 75 percent drop in sales and a loss of $300 million through late August “with billions in revenue at risk.”

Between 20 to 35 percent in staff reductions have hit some companies, he said.

“We’ll feel these effects for years to come,” he said. “This is just the beginning.”


‘Doesn’t bode well’

With all the uncertainty, some contractors have gravitated away from doing business with the government and are focusing instead on commercial sales, according to Francis.

“This doesn’t bode well for the Air Force, it doesn’t bode well for national security, nor does it bode well for our competitive advantage here in this economy,” he said.

A number of area companies have slowed growth because of sequestration and consumers have pared back spending, said Chris Kershner, Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce vice president of public policy and economic development.

“The unknown and eleventh hour federal government budget decisions do impact businesses and their investment confidence,” he said.



New York’s One World Trade Center deemed tallest U.S. skyscraper

NEW YORK Tue Nov 12, 2013 4:51pm EST

(Reuters) – The skyscraper at New York’s World Trade Center has been designated the tallest building in the United States by virtue of its spire, surpassing Chicago’s Willis Tower, an international body said on Tuesday.

The Chicago-based Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat said its Height Committee ruled the mast atop the building, built on the site of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and formerly called the Freedom Tower, was a spire and therefore a permanent feature.

If the mast were considered an antenna instead, it would be considered functional equipment and subject to change.

With the spire, One World Trade Center reaches 1,776 feet compared with 1,451 feet for the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower. Counting its antenna, the Willis Tower reaches 1,729 feet.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the public entity that owns the building, changed the name in 2009, saying it would make the office tower more marketable for tenants.

The council’s Height Committee convened a group of 25 architects, engineers and facade consultants from around the world on November 8 to consider the issue, and ultimately decided the mast is a spire, the council said.

Because One World Trade Center is still incomplete, its designation will become official once the building is occupied in 2014, the council said. It is one of four skyscrapers planned at the site alongside a memorial, a museum, a transit center and a performing arts center.

It would then become the third-highest building in the world after Dubai’s Burj Khalifa at 2,717 feet and the Makkah Royal Clock Tower in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, at 1,972 feet.

However, four other buildings under construction in China and one in South Korea would be taller than One World Trade Center, according to Emporis, a database for building information.


DISA considers scrapping $450 million commercial cloud contract

Nov. 12, 2013 – 03:40PM | By NICOLE BLAKE JOHNSON | Comments

The Defense Information Systems Agency is considering canceling its planned $450 million commercial cloud contract, following lower than expected demand for those services.

“Initial indications are the demand will not require a contract with the ceiling estimated in this draft solicitation,” according to a Nov. 8 notice on “We are currently revising our acquisition strategy for satisfying requirements for hosting public non-sensitive data in commercial cloud environments,” DISA said in the notice.

DISA went on to say that its strategy “may result in a solicitation for a new contract at a significantly lowered ceiling,” or the use of existing contracts capable of meeting user demands.

At an industry event in July, a DISA official said the agency expected up to 10 awards under the $450 million contract. A final request for proposal was supposed to be released in August.

Meanwhile, some DoD components have already struck deals with commercial vendors to host public data in the cloud. For example, several websites under the secretary of the Navy are now being hosted in the cloud.

Public websites for the Department of the Navy chief information officer, and the assistant secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment, are among those being hosted by Amazon Web Services. “The initiative standardizes technology used for public website development while reducing costs to the government,” according to an announcement on the CIO website.

The 2012 Defense Authorization Act required DoD to develop a strategy to move its data and services from department-owned and -operated data centers to cloud computing solutions. Cloud solutions “provide a better capability at a lower cost with the same or greater degree of security” and are generally available in the private sector, the law says.

This has prompted DISA to expand cloud offerings beyond its current private clouds, where services are provided exclusively to DoD and hosted in DISA data centers. But some vendors question whether cloud services provided though DISA will be cheaper than customers dealing directly with cloud service providers. DISA customers would be charged a 2 percent fee for using the contract, in addition to the cost of the service.



Local defense contractor plans national layoffs, closures

Updated: 10:41 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 | Posted: 9:20 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013

By Thomas Gnau

Staff Writer


A defense contractor with a local presence is announcing cuts of 4,000 jobs and the closure of five facilities or clusters of facilities, including its mission systems and training center in Akron.

“At this time there are no changes to our Dayton facility,” Suzanne Smith, a Lockheed Martin spokeswoman, told the Dayton Daily News. She did not immediately respond to a question about whether changes are planned for a later date.

Lockheed Martin said in a release Thursday that it will reduce its workforce by 4,000 positions “to increase the efficiency of its operations and improve the affordability of its products and services. These actions are in response to continued declines in U.S. government spending.”

By mid-2015, the company plans to close operations in Akron, Newtown, Pa.; Goodyear, Ariz.; and Horizon City, Texas; and four buildings on its Sunnyvale, Calif., campus.

“The facility closures will result in the elimination of 2,000 positions and ongoing operational efficiency initiatives will result in the elimination of an additional 2,000 positions in the corporation’s Information Systems & Global Solutions (IS&GS), Mission System and Training (MST), and Space Systems business areas by the end of 2014,” the company said.

As part of the consolidation, program work and some employees will transition to other Lockheed Martin facilities, the company said. Space Systems and IS&GS will move work to its Denver, Colo. and Valley Forge, Pa. facilities. The company also said it is reviewing potential sites to transition the MST work, including its facilities in Owego, N.Y. and Orlando, Fla., and expects to finalize plans in early 2014.

The company’s Dayton-area offices are not mentioned in a corporate fact sheet or press release on the actions.

The actions come on the heels of recent local warnings about the impact of sequestration on defense spending. In a recent exclusive interview with the Dayton Daily News, Acting Secretary of the Air Force Eric Fanning said recently the federal budgetary sequestration may mean a smaller Air Force. “The military is too big for the budget so we’ll have to reshape, resize,” he said.

And U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, in recent days has also warned that sequestration could cost up to 6,000 military and civilian jobs by next year.

Last year, the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $156 million contract to provide new training devices to C-130J aircrews and maintainers, airplanes supported by Wright-Patterson. Another contract, also awarded in 2012 by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson, supports development of a green hybrid small unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that runs on renewable energy.

“Reducing our workforce of dedicated employees and closing facilities are among the most difficult decisions we make,” Marillyn Hewson, Lockheed Martin chief executive and president, said in the company’s statement. “In the face of government budget cuts and an increasingly complex global security landscape, these actions are necessary for the future of our business and will position Lockheed Martin to better serve our customers.”

Based in Bethesda, Md., Lockheed Martin is a global security and aerospace company that employs about 116,000 people worldwide.


Fanning: Air Force Having Trouble Keeping Pilots, and Pay Isn’t the Problem


Tom Shoop

November 14, 2013


The Air Force is offering big bonuses to keep its pilots in the service, but they’re not taking them because budget constraints are forcing the service to limit both current flying hours and opportunities to fly the next generation of aircraft, acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning said Thursday.

Over the summer, the Air Force began offering its pilots payments of $25,000 per year as an incentive to stay on, up to a maximum of $250,000. But “pilots aren’t taking them,” Fanning said at the Defense One Summit in Washington. The main reason is that “we’re going to have flying hour issues for the foreseeable future,” he said, with rolling groundings of two to three months per squadron.

Pilots “want to fly,” Fanning said. And with the airline industry facing a wave of forced retirements of pilots, opportunities for them are opening up in the private sector.

At the same time, the Budget Control Act and sequestration are putting limits not only on Air Force operations, but investments in new aircraft platforms. “That will have a worse effect on morale” than pay and benefits issues, Fanning said. “It’s not just compensation that keeps people in the military. It’s mission.”

In the current budget environment, the Air Force is contemplating fairly steep reductions in compensation costs. Such costs consume 40 percent of the service’s budget, and the numbers are growing faster than the rate of inflation.

“We’re not cutting compensation, we’re just slowing its growth,” Fanning said. In particular, the current path of spending on health care is “unsustainable,” he said. “If we don’t address it, we will have aging platforms. That will have a worse effect on morale.”

Overall, Fanning said, “morale is really as bad as I’ve seen it on the civilian side and the uniformed side. But it is better than you think it is, and better than we deserve it to be, because we’ve got an amazing mission.”


Top Air Force official stresses need for modernization

By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service

Published November 14, 2013


WASHINGTON (AFNS) — The Air Force must modernize to confront the threats of the future, acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning said at the Defense One Summit here Nov. 14.

Fanning echoed previous testimony and comments in saying the service will fight to maintain modernization programs. He specifically cited the joint strike fighter, long-range strike bomber and next-generation air-to-air tanker programs. These programs go to the root of Air Force capabilities, he said.

“We need to be able to move quickly (and) strike quickly anywhere in the world, and we need to be able to monitor things anywhere in the world,” Fanning said.

The service has to invest in these next-generation platforms, he said.

“We cannot over the next 10 years just invest in modernizing legacy platforms,” Fanning said. “Even if you modernize … a fourth-generation fleet, when it goes against a Chinese or Russian fifth-generation aircraft, it’s dead before you even know an adversary is in the air.”

Still, Fanning said, he is not concerned about the Air Force losing its dominance, “as long as we keep focusing on the investments, as we are now.”

These capabilities are crucial as the threats are changing and growing geographically, he said, with more nations and even groups– fielding advanced weaponry.

“We need to maintain investments in next-generation platforms so we have that agility, that mobility, that ability to strike,” he added.

Aside from these programs, Fanning said, he believes the Air Force must develop its cyberwar, space, special operations and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities in the future.

The biggest threat to the service today is budget uncertainty, the acting secretary said, adding that Air Force budget planners have no idea what the service budget topline will be for fiscal 2015.

Sequestration spending cuts, as they stand, will take an extra $20 billion from the Defense Department’s budget across all accounts in January. What is even more damaging, Fanning said, is that the law mandating the cuts does not give the services the flexibility needed to make them in a smart manner. Last year, Congress did give the military this flexibility, and DOD officials expect the Congress will probably do that again, but this is not a given, he added.

The immediacy of the cuts also causes problems, Fanning said, noting that the majority of the cuts will have to be from operations and maintenance funds. Budget instability makes this enormously hard on the service to build a budget as detailed and solid as people would like, he said.

“It forces the institution into a shorter and shorter and shorter ‘do loop,'” he said. “The stability of the process is weakening. I keep thinking, … ‘It can’t get any crazier, and we will be able to fix it.’ And somehow, we manage to fix ourselves into more craziness.”

Under sequester, the Air Force will reduce by about 25,000 people and 550 aircraft, Fanning said. “Even before sequestration, Air Force readiness was not vectored in the right direction,” he said. “(Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III) and I think we were not building a sustainable Air Force for 10 years down the road.”

Personnel costs take up 40 percent of the Air Force budget, and this is an area that needs attention, Fanning said, emphasizing that the service is not looking to cut pay and benefits, but rather to slow the growth. The Air Force simply cannot afford to maintain the current growth rate, he said.

“It is unsustainable,” he added. “It will collapse. It won’t be there for people if we don’t do something about it. We just need to rationalize what we’ve done over the last 10 years.

“If we allow it to continue to grow, we’re going to have a force that has aging platforms, and that is going to have an effect on morale more than anything,” he continued. “People don’t join the Air Force to fly old planes or look at old planes on the ramp from the ready room.”



Manage Defense Spending Through ‘Better Buying Power,’ Not Sequestration

Ashton B. Carter

November 13, 2013


It was a little over three years ago that then-Secretary of Defense Bob Gates foresaw correctly that the days of increasing defense budgets were coming to an end. The nation confronted a looming fiscal crisis, and, as he famously put it in a speech at the Eisenhower Library, “The gusher has been turned off and will stay off for a good period of time.”


In acknowledgement of that fiscal reality, Secretary Gates launched a department-wide efficiency initiative to ensure that the department wasn’t forced to sacrifice one ounce more force structure than was absolutely necessary. “Better Buying Power,” introduced in September 2010, was the acquisition system’s contribution to the efficiency initiative. It was directed at the approximately $400 billion that the department spends annually on goods and services. Gates’ efforts have been followed by similar efforts from Secretaries Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel, each of which has dealt with ever deeper budget reductions. Better Buying Power has remained a central tool for helping the Defense Department deal with an increasingly challenging budget environment.

Better Buying Power’s goal was to do more without more — that is, to get more capability for the warfighter and more value for the taxpayer by obtaining greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending, or what economists call productivity growth. It wasn’t intended to be an overnight revolution in the way we did business, but instead a steady, lasting and continuous process of improvement in our performance. It was based on emphasizing acquisition best practices that long ago were identified by predecessors at DOD such as former Deputy Secretary of Defense David Packard and former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry. And at the same time, it addressed important defense acquisition changes, most importantly the significant increase in the budget share that goes to acquisition of services, rather than goods like planes and ships.

To achieve these objectives, Better Buying Power initially directed 23 principal actions in five major areas. First, target affordability and eliminate cost-growth in our programs. Second, incentivize productivity and innovation in industry by aligning their profits with performance and reinvigorating their partnership with the Defense Department. Third, promote real competition: head-to-head competition where there was more than one supplier, and competition for profit via contract structure where there was a sole supplier. Fourth, improve DOD’s tradecraft in the acquisition of services. And fifth, reduce nonproductive processes and bureaucracy in the government as well as in industry.

In April of this year, we rededicated ourselves to the effort by initiating Better Buying Power 2.0, adding a 6th major area — improving the professionalism of the total acquisition workforce — and taking on several new actions. Over the past three years, we’ve worked hard and with some considerable success to implement these actions. The department experienced steady improvement on performance measures such as cost growth.

For example, by targeting affordability in the Ohio-class submarine replacement program and scrubbing its requirements, the Navy cut over $2 billion from the projected cost. The Air Force is taking the same approach to the long-range strike family of systems. It is prioritizing affordability targets that have eluded past bomber efforts by maximizing the utilization of existing components and subsystems. The Army this year received a Packard Award for using increased competition and participation from small business to lower costs and reduce production time for the purchase of $2.7 billion in ammunition, such as artillery and mortar shells. The Navy, by constructing a well-designed competition on the littoral combat ship program, was able to award contracts for 20 ships at dramatically lower cost, which generated big per-ship savings now but also sustained competition going forward, posturing us to save even more money in the future. More recently, a Navy team received a Packard Award for using competitive pressures to save almost $300 million in the DDG-51 Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer program. These are just a handful of hundreds examples of our acquisition executives putting the better buying principles into practice since 2010. Each of these examples show what we can achieve when we rededicate ourselves to acquisition best practices.

A key aspect of Better Buying Power has been renewing the department’s partnership with industry. From the beginning, we recognized that any acquisition initiative that tried to cut costs by simply going after industry profits would be short-sighted and doomed to fail. Industry needs profits and competitive margins, and a healthy defense industry is essential to the department’s short-term and long-term success. While incentivizing cost consciousness is centrally important to our work, our transactions with industry must be successful for both parties. Our focus in Better Buying Power is on aligning industry’s incentives with the department’s objectives. The key to success in this effort is the knowledge and professionalism of the acquisition workforce and that is why this area is further highlighted in Better Buying Power 2.0 under Frank Kendall, my successor as under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics.

Achieving Better Buying Power would of course be an important goal in any budget environment, but its importance has only grown given the strategic and budgetary challenges the Defense Department now faces. Since Better Buying Power was first unveiled, Congress passed the Budget Control Act, which required the department to cut $487 billion from our defense plans over 10 years. We developed a plan to do that in accordance with our 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. At the same time, winding down combat operations in Afghanistan means that our budget for overseas contingency operations also has been decreasing. Taken together, these reductions compare in pace and magnitude to historical cycles in defense spending that the nation has experienced in the past, either after Vietnam or after the Cold War. Earlier this year, however, sequestration was triggered, forcing deep, essentially mindless, additional cuts in the defense budget. Secretary Hagel directed us to perform a Strategic Choices and Management Review to help the department develop options for dealing with these additional budget reductions. But its central finding was that there is no strategically and managerially sound approach to budget cuts that can close the funding gap created by sequestration in the near term.

In other words, if sequestration holds, the department will be driven to make inefficient and unsound near term funding choices that will reduce our buying power, magnifying the effects of what is already a substantial funding cut and further harming our readiness, as well as carefully laid plans to control program costs.

What does this mean for Better Buying Power? The central tenets of Better Buying Power remain not just valid, but more important than ever. However, our ability to follow these tenets will be substantially challenged. It goes without saying that we will continue to have a duty to protect taxpayers by getting the most out of every dollar we spend, and following through with Better Buying Power remains critical to this effort.

Ashton B. Carter is the deputy secretary of defense. He previously served as under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology, and logistics.


Pentagon’s Hale Still Optimistic About a Budget ‘Micro-Deal’

Charles S. Clark

Government Executive

November 15, 2013


Chopping defense spending at a time of budget uncertainty poses risks to military readiness that might not be obvious to the general public, the Pentagon’s comptroller said on Thursday. “It’s like buying an insurance policy with a greatly raised deductible — if you have to make a claim, there will be great regrets,” Defense Undersecretary Robert Hale said at the inaugural Defense One Summit put on by Atlantic Media in Washington.

“In this crazy period of time, the enormous budget uncertainty is taking its toll,” Hale said. “Planning gets replaced by planning, and we don’t know where we’re headed. We don’t do well under any particular plan.”

The comptroller said he remains “cautiously optimistic” that negotiators in Congress will come up with a “micro-deal” that would lift some of sequestration and perhaps limit defense cuts to $20 billion-$25 billion rather than the $50 billion required under the 2011 Budget Control Act. “The specific number is less important than the certainty,” he said.

Hale described how the cuts will substantially risk force readiness, reduce procurement along with investment in research and development, and threaten recruitment and retention of mid- and junior-level talent.

“At the moment, planners are looking at budget ranges that are pretty wide,” Hale said. Budget planning and long-term strategy are being done “concurrently” and coordinated by the same senior leaders doing the coming installment of the Quadrennial Defense Review, he said. “I don’t remember ever seeing this much uncertainty.”

Last year, the Pentagon held off planning for sequestration on the assumption that the sword of Damocles might never fall. But Hale said this year the planning has to assume the possibility that across-the-board cuts could continue. He said he has no regrets about the way in which his team and the Obama White House sounded the alarm about the harm from sequestration. “Think of the situation a year ago, when sequestration was postponed two months and the amount changed. Almost all of our planning done a year ago would have been wrong.”

Hale also revealed that he lost a bet with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey on whether the shutdown would actually occur. (Hale had to buy Dempsey a bottle of scotch.)

Executing the inevitable cuts will involve trimming procurement as well as research, development, testing and evaluation, which will risk a repeat of the 1990s “procurement holiday” that may be tough to recover from, Hale said.

He also said he worried about the “low morale” of the Pentagon’s civilian workforce due to hiring freezes, pay freezes and the recent shutdown. “People were wondering whether they have a job, and whether they want the job,” he said. He added he pictures many — particularly non-senior employees — sitting around the kitchen table with their spouses and wondering “whether we want to go through it again,” especially when the economy is “pepping up” and bringing new recruitment competition from the private sector.

Retirements are evident anecdotally, “but I don’t think there’s an avalanche yet,” he said, “though we could lose some of our best.”

Asked about charges from some in Congress that the Defense Department is “arrogant,” Hale said, “we have a good working relationship. I don’t recall we turned down any meetings. Maybe it’s that we just don’t know some of the information they’d like to have, such as where things are going and what our plans for sequestration are. But frankly,” he added, “we’re feeling our way toward” how to implement the sequester. “They may not like the answers they’re hearing.”


One area where many lawmakers clearly disagree with Pentagon leaders is on President Obama’s proposal for another round of the Base Closure and Realignment Commission. “Yes, we need another BRAC because there’s no practical way to close or realign bases outside of BRAC,” Hale said. “I understand it’s a tough political vote, but it’s an important one.”


Hale expressed frustration with the challenges of getting the Pentagon’s books ready for auditability by coming deadlines set by Congress and the Defense secretary, saying officials have good data on obligated funds but not on cost, and adding, “It is harder than I expected.”



F.C.C. Smartphone App Gauges Speed of User’s Network


November 14, 2013


WASHINGTON — The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday released its first smartphone app, a free program that allows consumers to measure the broadband speed they are getting on their mobile devices and to determine whether it is as fast as wireless companies say.

So far, the app works only on smartphones that run the Android operating system, but the commission is working on an iPhone version, which it expects to be ready by the end of January. The app provides information on upload and download speeds and on how efficiently data is transmitted, a measure known as packet loss.

The app, F.C.C. Speed Test, also will allow the commission to aggregate data about broadband speeds from consumers across the country. It will use the data to create an interactive map, giving consumers a tool to use in comparison shopping rather than relying on wireless companies’ promises.

Tom Wheeler, who was presiding over his first F.C.C. meeting as chairman, said the app was a “public beta” version, meaning that the commission wanted to hear suggestions for improvement from consumers and app developers.

“We know from experience that this type of transparency about broadband speeds is not only helpful to consumers on a day-to-day basis, but also that it can drive improvements in network performance,” Mr. Wheeler said.

The app, available in the Google Play store, will run periodically in the background on a consumer’s phone, automatically performing tests when a user is not otherwise using the phone.

F.C.C. officials stressed that the software would not collect any personal or uniquely identifiable information, and that it would release information only after the data was analyzed. The app uses open-source code, and the agency details its methodologies and privacy policy on its website.

The commission also voted unanimously to consider, on a case-by-case basis, allowing foreign companies to own more than the current limit of 25 percent of a television or radio licensee.

If it approves such a request, however, the F.C.C. might ask the broadcaster to free up some of its airwaves for use in wireless broadband. The commission has been seeking broadcasters that would give up some of their airwaves or move to another part of the broadcast spectrum to free up space that can be auctioned off for more wireless broadband service.



Which of the 11 American nations do you live in?


November 8 at 1:36 pm


Red states and blue states? Flyover country and the coasts? How simplistic. Colin Woodard, a reporter at the Portland Press Herald and author of several books, says North America can be broken neatly into 11 separate nation-states, where dominant cultures explain our voting behaviors and attitudes toward everything from social issues to the role of government.

“The borders of my eleven American nations are reflected in many different types of maps — including maps showing the distribution of linguistic dialects, the spread of cultural artifacts, the prevalence of different religious denominations, and the county-by-county breakdown of voting in virtually every hotly contested presidential race in our history,” Woodard writes in the Fall 2013 issue of Tufts University’s alumni magazine. “Our continent’s famed mobility has been reinforcing, not dissolving, regional differences, as people increasingly sort themselves into like-minded communities.”

Take a look at his map:

Courtesy Tufts Magazine


Woodard lays out his map in the new book “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America.” Here’s how he breaks down the continent:


Yankeedom: Founded by Puritans, residents in Northeastern states and the industrial Midwest tend to be more comfortable with government regulation. They value education and the common good more than other regions.

New Netherland: The Netherlands was the most sophisticated society in the Western world when New York was founded, Woodard writes, so it’s no wonder that the region has been a hub of global commerce. It’s also the region most accepting of historically persecuted populations.

The Midlands: Stretching from Quaker territory west through Iowa and into more populated areas of the Midwest, the Midlands are “pluralistic and organized around the middle class.” Government intrusion is unwelcome, and ethnic and ideological purity isn’t a priority.

Tidewater: The coastal regions in the English colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland and Delaware tend to respect authority and value tradition. Once the most powerful American nation, it began to decline during Westward expansion.

Greater Appalachia: Extending from West Virginia through the Great Smoky Mountains and into Northwest Texas, the descendants of Irish, English and Scottish settlers value individual liberty. Residents are “intensely suspicious of lowland aristocrats and Yankee social engineers.”

Deep South: Dixie still traces its roots to the caste system established by masters who tried to duplicate West Indies-style slave society, Woodard writes. The Old South values states’ rights and local control and fights the expansion of federal powers.

El Norte: Southwest Texas and the border region is the oldest, and most linguistically different, nation in the Americas. Hard work and self-sufficiency are prized values.

The Left Coast: A hybrid, Woodard says, of Appalachian independence and Yankee utopianism loosely defined by the Pacific Ocean on one side and coastal mountain ranges like the Cascades and the Sierra Nevadas on the other. The independence and innovation required of early explorers continues to manifest in places like Silicon Valley and the tech companies around Seattle.

The Far West: The Great Plains and the Mountain West were built by industry, made necessary by harsh, sometimes inhospitable climates. Far Westerners are intensely libertarian and deeply distrustful of big institutions, whether they are railroads and monopolies or the federal government.

New France: Former French colonies in and around New Orleans and Quebec tend toward consensus and egalitarian, “among the most liberal on the continent, with unusually tolerant attitudes toward gays and people of all races and a ready acceptance of government involvement in the economy,” Woodard writes.

First Nation: The few First Nation peoples left — Native Americans who never gave up their land to white settlers — are mainly in the harshly Arctic north of Canada and Alaska. They have sovereignty over their lands, but their population is only around 300,000.

The clashes between the 11 nations play out in every way, from politics to social values. Woodard notes that states with the highest rates of violent deaths are in the Deep South, Tidewater and Greater Appalachia, regions that value independence and self-sufficiency. States with lower rates of violent deaths are in Yankeedom, New Netherland and the Midlands, where government intervention is viewed with less skepticism.

States in the Deep South are much more likely to have stand-your-ground laws than states in the northern “nations.” And more than 95 percent of executions in the United States since 1976 happened in the Deep South, Greater Appalachia, Tidewater and the Far West. States in Yankeedom and New Netherland have executed a collective total of just one person.

That doesn’t bode well for gun control advocates, Woodard concludes: “With such sharp regional differences, the idea that the United States would ever reach consensus on any issue having to do with violence seems far-fetched. The cultural gulf between Appalachia and Yankeedom, Deep South and New Netherland is simply too large. But it’s conceivable that some new alliance could form to tip the balance.”



The Next U.S. Weapon at Sea Could Be Music

By Aliya Sternstein

November 14, 2013


The next Cuban missile crisis could be resolved through the power of music rather than an armed standoff between nuclear powers, military officials and researchers speculate.

It is believed that sound waves can “jump the air gap” — or hack a machine that is not on a network — to paralyze a ship’s control systems. Instead of using a blockade or firing Tomahawk missiles to prevent Russia from delivering weapons to Cuba, the United States could use malicious tones.

“This is where you talk about fleets coming to a stop. Our ships are floating SCADA systems,” retired Capt. Mark Hagerott, deputy director of cybersecurity for the U.S. Naval Academy, said at a summit in Washington organized by Government Executive Media Group. He was referring to supervisory control and data acquisition systems that control industrial operations. “That would disrupt the world balance of power if you could begin to jump the air gap,” Hagerott said.

It’s conceivable sound waves can be transformed into malicious electrical signals. An air disruption causes the diaphragm of a speaker to create an electrical signal made up of ones and zeros. Targeted ones and zeros can override a computer-driven ship.

Taking down a SCADA system “gives you a nonlethal warfare capacity at sea,” Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution national security analyst, said in an interview after speaking at the Defense One Summit. A president could say, for example: “Don’t let this enemy fleet seize these island chains but also don’t let it turn into a shooting war.” It would warn the adversary that if it crosses a certain boundary, the United States will flip the switch. “Now their ship is floating but you haven’t killed anyone,” Singer said.

Even the Stuxnet virus, an alleged U.S.-Israel creation that breached an air-gapped Iranian nuclear production system, required more proximity. Someone inserted an infected jump drive that made the nuclear centrifuges go haywire.

Onboard, “you think you are secure. You didn’t put a flash drive in. There’s no wires,” Hagerott said.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Obamacare hasn’t been good for the political health of President Obama and his party this past week.

Just 35% of Likely U.S. Voters now believe the new national health care law is good for America, and 55% favor repealing it.

Fifty-four percent (54%) oppose the law’s individual mandate which requires every American to have health insurance by January 1 or else face financial penalties. Just 34% support it.

And that was before the Obama administration announced Wednesday that only 106,000 Americans signed up for health insurance in October through the new national and state exchanges because of major problems with their websites. That’s well below the projected goal of 500,000 sign-ups in October, and most of the websites are still broken.

That wasn’t the worst political news, though. Despite the president’s oft-repeated promise that Americans could keep their health insurance policies if they liked them, the implementation of Obamacare appears to be forcing millions of Americans to change those policies and pay more for them.

Voters are evenly divided when asked whether the president deliberately lied about the potential impact of the health care law before it was passed by Congress. But 71% think Americans should be allowed to keep their current health insurance policies even if they do not meet the standards set by the new law.

After all, 75% or more have said in surveys all year that Americans should have the right to choose between different types of health insurance plans based on what they cover and how much they cost.

Obama responded to the political outcry on both sides of the aisle by announcing a one-year extension for those policies that don’t satisfy the new law’s requirements, but opponents questioned the legality of the president making such a change in a law passed by Congress. Meanwhile, 39 Democrats jumped ship in the House on Friday and voted for a Republican bill that gives insurers the power to extend plans through 2014 that would otherwise be canceled because of the new law. Insurers also can enroll new customers in these plans.

Fifty-five percent (55%) of voters now give the president poor marks for his handling of issues related to health care, a new high for the year. Democrats continue to be strong supporters of Obama, but even among voters in the president’s party, those giving him good or excellent marks for his handling of health care have tumbled 25 points over the past month, from 78% to 53%.

The president’s daily job approval rating remains at its lowest levels in months, and on Wednesday fell to -25, his worst rating in over two years.

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of voters now consider the president at least somewhat liberal in political terms, including 43% who believe he is Very Liberal.

Bill Clinton was one of several Democrats who urged Obama publicly to keep his promise and allow Americans to stay on their existing health insurance policies if they wanted to. Sixty-two percent (62%) of voters think Clinton was a better president than Obama. Looking ahead, a plurality (41%) believes that the former president is a plus for Hillary Clinton’s hopes for the White House. Only 20% consider Clinton a minus as far as his wife’s presidential ambitions are concerned.

Seventy percent (70%) of Likely Democratic Voters say they would vote for Hillary Clinton if the 2016 Democratic presidential primary were held in their state today. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Kentucky Senator Rand Paul lead the 2016 presidential pack among Likely Republican Voters.

If the 2016 presidential election were held today, 43% of all voters would choose Clinton, while 41% would opt for Christie.

Democrats jumped out to a seven-point lead over Republicans on the Generic Congressional Ballot as the battle over the partial government shutdown escalated last month. Now they lead by just two.

Despite the shutdown, 65% of Americans believe government workers have more job security than those in the private sector.

Speaking of government workers, 56% oppose the use of standardized testing to measure school and teacher performance.

Forty-five states have adopted new national education standards known as Common Core, but just 39% of Americans these standards are likely to improve student achievement throughout the country, with 11% who say it’s Very Likely.

House Speaker John Boehner this past week said immigration reform legislation is dead in the current session of Congress. Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters feel the current policies and practices of the federal government encourage illegal immigration.

Fifty-two percent (52%) favor the current negotiations with Iran that would reduce that country’s nuclear program in exchange for lifting some economic sanctions. But 37% believe the United States should get Israel’s approval before making any nuclear deal with Iran.

While the holiday shopping season is rapidly approaching, consumer confidence remains near its lowest levels of the year.

But many Americans still will find a way to bring good cheer to the season.
Two-out-of-three Americans consider themselves regular alcohol drinkers. They’re almost evenly divided between those who drink for social reasons and those who drink because they enjoy it.

Among those who do drink, 40% say wine is their alcohol of choice. Thirty-four percent (34%) reach for a beer first, while 20% prefer hard liquor.

There are a few surprises, too, in what America thinks about drinking.

In other surveys last week:

– For the second week in a row, 24% of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, is the nation’s most influential banker; Janet Yellen, the board’s vice chairman, is about to take over Bernanke’s job. Yet both are unknowns to a sizable number of Americans.

– Following the devastating typhoon that hit the Philippines leaving thousands dead and many more displaced, 25% of Americans say they have contributed or will contribute money to the relief effort there.

– Just 28% favor the smoking of electronic cigarettes in public places.

– Forty-seven percent (47%) planned to do something special last Monday to celebrate Veterans Day and honor those who have given their lives for this country.

November 9 2013

9November 2013



Pentagon Toils to Build a Bomber on a Budget

Financial Considerations Vital in Effort to Build Replacement for Aging B-52s and B-1s


Nov. 3, 2013 10:33 p.m. ET


When a military contractor showed Col. Chad Stevenson a design for the Air Force’s top secret plane of the future, he began to worry.

“They were showing this really nice fold out bed, this nice refrigerator and microwave, a kind of lounge-provision area,” Col. Stevenson recalled of the recent design.

The plane of the future, the “Long-Range Strike Bomber,” is the first weapon system to be designed in the new age of military austerity. But flight range and fire power are no longer the only features that matter. Julian Barnes explains. Photo: Getty Images.

The contractor, Lockheed Martin, LMT +0.74% didn’t offer an estimate for such flying comforts. But Col. Stevenson imagined a publicity nightmare in the making: a $300,000 kitchenette as the latter-day symbol of Pentagon excess—the $600 toilet seat for the 21st century.


The kitchenette was killed.

Such financial considerations are vital to the Air Force’s most important project today: building a new long-range bomber to replace the iconic and aging B-52s and B-1s that have come to represent America’s domination of the sky.

It is the job of Col. Stevenson and a small group of Air Force colleagues to guard against improvidence and any untested technologies that could lead the grand project—expected to cost upwards of $55 billion—down the path the Pentagon often travels of cost-overruns and blown deadlines.

The plane of the future, dubbed the “Long-Range Strike Bomber,” is the first weapon system to be designed in the new age of military austerity. Flight range, firepower and technological prowess are no longer the only features that matter. The Pentagon says it now gives equal weight to a far more pedestrian point: cost.

After a decade of rapidly rising defense spending, Congress capped the Pentagon budget, forcing nearly a trillion dollars in cuts by 2023.

Defense officials worry that those cuts could threaten many modernization programs, like the bomber.

The new bomber remains largely classified, with critical elements of range, bomb payload and overall look a closely guarded secret. But over the past six months, the Air Force offered The Wall Street Journal rare access to officers behind the project.

“We are trying to stick to a plan, for once,” Col. Stevenson said. “Adding things means risk: risk of increasing costs, risk the plane won’t be built.”

Col. Stevenson has blocked everything from new cyberdefenses to advanced surveillance sensors, squaring off over upgrades against defense contractors and aides to the Defense secretary.

While his job is mostly budget cop, he also plays the role of a kind of crisis manager, on the lookout for any embellishments that might make the plane appear gold-plated.

In 2011, officials agreed to spend $550 million on each new bomber—a third of the cost of its predecessor, the B-2 bomber, which ended up with a price tag of $1.8 billion a plane.

Air Force leaders believe the new aircraft is critical to America’s ability to project force in far-flung parts of the world, particularly in Asia, where China is investing heavily in its military and long distances between U.S. bases diminish the effectiveness of its short-range fighters.

The Air Force hopes to get the new nuclear-capable bomber airborne in the middle of the next decade—a daunting task considering the history of such ambitions.

Delays, technical glitches and cost overruns have beset nearly every Air Force project in the past three decades.

An F-22 fighter plane scheduled to take flight in 2002, for instance, wasn’t finished until 2011, with fewer planes than planned and each costing hundreds of millions more than expected. None have been used in combat.

The oldest plane in the bomber fleet, the B-52, took flight in 1954, during the Cold War, followed by the B-1 and the latest, the batlike B-2, which hit the battlefield in 1998, after more than 20 years in research and development.

Most recently, the B-2 was deployed in the early days of the Libyan conflict, where it took out air defenses.

Aging and expensive to maintain now, only 16 B-2s are combat ready (at $135,000 per hour of flight), and many of the remaining 138 B-52 and B-1 bombers are heading for retirement.

The military fears being stuck with a small fleet, as many in the service believe future conflicts will require lightning quick responses, with the ability to strike newly identified targets in distant lands within hours while at the same time penetrating a bristling range of air-defenses.

For supporters of the new bomber, only a long-range stealthy aircraft offers that capability.

“In the future, what our president is going to need is options, options to project power anywhere in the world within hours,” said Major Gen. Steve Kwast, who is charged with helping shape the Air Force’s long-term strategy. “This Long-Range Strike Bomber is going to be that option the president can use when there are no other options.”

The project is still at an early design stage, putting it in an especially risky spot during the coming negotiations over government spending.

There are no flying prototypes. Last month, Boeing Co. BA +0.13% and Lockheed Martin announced a joint bid for the new bomber, setting them up against Northrop Grumman Corp. NOC +0.57% , maker of the B-2.

The three firms declined to discuss their work on the bomber.

Some defense analysts and former officials believe the Air Force should put the future bomber resources into developing advanced unmanned drones, which have been used increasingly to strike distant targets in Africa and the Middle East. Others think the Air Force needs to invest more in aircraft that better support ground troops.

“The services are all wedded to tradition,” said Mieke Eoyang, the director of the national security program at Third Way, a centrist think tank. “It is like the Army and its fondness for tanks. If you prioritize things that you don’t use, you have less money for things you do.”


The new bomber rises out of the ashes of an earlier program that struggled to get off the ground over the last decade. That program was canceled in 2009 by then Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who lamented that such weapons systems were “so complex that they take forever to build.”

The Long-Range Strike Bomber began life in February 2011 when Mr. Gates signed off on the plane’s new requirements, setting its range and payload (both classified) and requiring that it be able to evade radar and penetrate defended air space.

About $600 million has been spent so far to research the new plane and another $8.7 billion is set to be spent over the next five years, according to budget documents.

As Col. Stevenson dug into the new project, he also took on a larger mission: transforming the culture of the Air Force.

“If Ford or GM design a new car, they know how many they want to sell and they know much they want it cost. And they go back from there,” Col. Stevenson said. “But the Air Force has not done that.”

A 48-year old from South Dakota, Col. Stevenson arrives to work at 7 a.m. every morning in a green flight suit, putting in at least 12 hour days as he darts between meetings at the Pentagon and around Washington, D.C.

He was chosen for the job largely because, as a former B-2 pilot, he knows what pilots need—and don’t.

It was with this eye that he looked askance when Lockheed Martin showed him the proposed crew lounge last year.

“This was a very nice crew rest area which would have made a lot of pilots very happy,” he said.

There were debates over the kitchenette. Design contractors and some officers argued mishaps would decline if crews flying around the world for nearly two days could get proper rest, Air Force officials said.

In his 40-hour B-2 runs from Missouri to targets in Afghanistan, Col. Stevenson slept on a cot bought from a sporting-goods store and kept his two sandwiches, a bottle of water and a Mountain Dew in a 10-gallon cooler.

When Col. Stevenson sought approval to jettison the pilot lounge, he went to Gen. Kwast, his boss then at Air Combat Command, who backed his deputy.

“This is a plane to go to war in,” Gen. Kwast told the colonel. “Crew comfort, while important, is not a necessity.”

In an interview, Gen. Kwast said he wanted to “maintain an appetite suppressant” while encouraging smart innovation.

“If they were to bring us fusion power and could power the bomber for 100 hours on a banana peel, I would probably say ‘yes’ to that,” he said.

Air Force officials struck down more than a dozen ideas from the defense industry, including new electronic support measures, the warning systems that detect enemy radar or cyberattacks. Instead, Col. Stevenson said, the Air Force has opted to go with existing systems.

“Technology that has been fielded is the only answer,” the colonel said. “If it hasn’t already been tested, we aren’t interested.”

The bomber will likely resemble the B-2, with its famously sleek black body and sweptback wings, Defense officials said. It will also run on an existing engine design, Air Force officials said.

” Along with flight range, firepower and technological prowess, the Pentagon says it now gives equal weight to a far more pedestrian point: cost. ”

While that means its range is likely to be similar to the 7,500 miles the B-2 can travel without refueling, it will save billions of dollars in development costs.

But Air Force officials note that the new bomber will exceed the B-2 in many ways. Stealth technology has advanced, as has the coordination of real-time targeting intelligence from satellites and other airplanes.

The cost obsession however has its downside, resulting in the elimination of requirements that some officials originally considered essential.

For instance, a concept that would have allowed the plane to be converted into a unmanned drone was shelved for now—too costly for the age of austerity, according to Air Force officials.

Still, some remain doubtful the bomber will remain stripped down. Thomas Christie, the Pentagon’s former Director of Operational Test and Evaluation, predicts the defense industry will eventually convince the Air Force to include various new technologies.

“I have watched over the years as we load a system up with all the latest toys,” said Mr. Christie, a critic of the Air Force’s history of building planes. “The next thing you know, we are in trouble technically and with costs.”

One heavily debated upgrade was a new reconnaissance sensor. A contractor presented the Air Force with the design late last year. On its face, the sensor held great appeal.

One of the military’s new guiding principles is that new weapons shouldn’t be designed for only one task or one style of warfare. The added sensor would essentially create a spy plane on top of a fighting machine.

But it would come at a cost: $25 million or more.

Four months of discussions ensued, with Col. Stevenson shuttling around the Pentagon, with stacks of papers detailing design plans, meeting senior officers and four-star generals.

Some argued that the sensor would save money later and make the plane more useful as a surveillance platform, officials said.

“There was a rich debate,” said Gen. Kwast.

In the end, Col. Stevenson believed that the sensor would take the plane into unknown technological areas, ultimately the death of the last bomber.

The colonel came up with a compromise: no second sensor, but the design would leave enough space for one to be added later.

There were 15 meetings within the Pentagon alone, just to explain the decision and then another with congressional staffers.

The cost-cutting move brings its own complications, of course. To allow for later upgrades, the Air Force will adopt an “open architecture” for the plane’s internal software. That would make adding new capabilities easier and less expensive. It would also add upfront costs and increase the risk of delays.

All the current bombers are used far beyond their original imagining. The B-2, for example, was designed to hit one or two targets in bombing runs, but today can carry 80 500-pound precision-guided bombs.

Building in flexibility, said Air Force officials, will ensure the plane will evolve over its decadeslong time in service.

Col. Stevenson said the new bomber will be very powerful. Still, he said, some people will inevitably be disappointed. “This plane,” he said, “is not going to be all things to all people.”


RPAs then and now Part II: Maintenance makes history possible


Posted 11/1/2013

by Senior Airman A.K.

432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


11/1/2013 – LAS VEGAS, Nev. — (Editor’s note: This article is part two of a four-part series.)


During the morning of Oct. 22, 2013, the aircraft parking ramps at a deployed location roared to life. Checklists were run, hatches checked, and missions briefed as the crew chiefs, support units and air crew carefully prepared an MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft for flight, just as they would on any other morning. Except this was not any other morning.

On this morning, the MQ-1 and the Airmen preparing it for flight were getting ready to make history by surpassing 2 million flight hours.

During 18 years of service the Predator and its successor, the MQ-9 Reaper, have played an important support role in operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch, Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom, as well as in humanitarian aid missions. Yet none of the operational support would have been possible were it not for maintenance Airmen keeping the aircraft, ground control stations, satellites, and other components in pristine condition.

“This is an Air Force success story,” said Col. James Cluff, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “This is, as the chief of staff says, ‘Air Power, get you some.’ We have flown the preponderance of the two million hours but, in no way does that diminish the team effort it takes to make this mission happen. It starts with training, continues with maintenance, and it goes into preparing to fly, then actually flying.”

The hard work and dedication of maintenance crews are essential to mission success for hundreds of active duty, Air National Guard, and Air Force Reserve Airmen, as well as joint and coalition partners involved in everyday RPA operations.

“Our maintainers are vital; they’re the critical backbones to making these RPAs work,” said Maj. Joshua, 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron operations officer. “A lot of our maintainers come from F-16 Fighting Falcons or prior legacy platforms and now they’re part of this cutting edge of technology to bring this capability to the warfighter.”

The men and women of the 432nd AMXS are a mix of active duty Airmen, reservists and guardsmen, who provide aircraft and equipment maintenance in support of worldwide expeditionary operations, formal training, and for operational test and evaluations.

For the Predator and Reaper maintainers, keeping their aircraft operational means more than just having routine maintenance completed, they must also have a reliable communication network to ensure intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance data is available.

This is where the Air Force’s one-of-a-kind 432nd Aircraft Communications Maintenance Squadron steps in. Airmen from both cyber-operations and cyber-support must be involved and work together to ensure the aircraft and ground control centers stay linked.

The 432nd ACMS provides 24/7, 365-day maintenance support to the communication infrastructure that supports the wing’s global RPA operations. In this squadron, Airmen monitor the operational readiness of the RPA command and control network infrastructure and provide maintenance for 22 GCSs and 21 satellite communication terminals.

Capt. Zalika, 432nd ACMS operations officer, said what makes the squadron truly unique is the way the two different traditional missions of maintenance and communications partner together for a unified purpose.

“When we generate a line, it’s important that we synchronize efforts because any action on our part can affect aircraft maintenance and generation or vice versa,” she said. “For example, the aircraft cannot take off if a GCS is not ready with the appropriate software to match the aircraft. Similarly, we can’t confirm command and control connectivity for a GCS without an aircraft to link to. For these reasons, we work very closely with AMXS with regard to scheduling, troubleshooting, and daily operations.”

Airman 1st Class Jenner, 432nd ACMS maintainer, and Staff Sgt. Joshua, a full-time Nevada guardsman and 432nd ACMS maintainer, were chosen to perform pre-flight inspections on the GCS that supported the 2 millionth hour flight. Both men feel humbled knowing their actions keep men and women on the ground safe and ensure continued global operations.

“It’s important that we do our job every day to the best of our ability, because if we don’t then we could lose the chance to take out a target or miss out on important information that could help save lives,” Jenner said. “It’s rewarding knowing my actions can keep people safe down range or prevent further harm to our country or our partners. I’m responsible for supporting the RPA community and its area of responsibility.”

In addition to the 432nd AMXS and 432nd ACMS, the 432nd Maintenance Squadron also provides key maintenance support. The squadron provides on- and off-equipment maintenance and maintenance operations, as well as training, analysis and inspections on aircraft, aerospace ground equipment, munitions and other equipment necessary for RPA operations.

The expansive growth of the RPA community in less than two decades would not have been possible without the active duty, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard Airmen who maintain not only the aircraft but also the various systems needed for the planes to function. It is the dedication and professionalism of these men and women that has garnered the attention and recognition of leaders Air Force-wide.

Lieutenant Gen. David Goldfein, Director of the Joint Staff, said of RPA operations, “Remote split operations are nothing short of magic and not easy. Thanks to the [Airmen] who not only make it look easy … they provide the unblinking eye on the enemy with the ability to deliver the goods when the Nation calls.”


RPAs then and now Part III: History in the making

Posted 11/7/2013

by Senior Airman A.K.

432nd Wing, 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs


11/7/2013 – LAS VEGAS, Nev. — (Editor’s note: This article is part three of a four-part series.)


Early days:

How did the remotely piloted aircraft develop into what it is known as today?


The RPA actually got its start as early as 1896. Known as aerodromes at the time, early RPAs were used to test the capabilities of new flying devices and to test if it was even possible for a heavier-than-air craft to achieve sustained flight. In May 1896, Dr. Samuel Langley proved that mechanical flight was possible with his Aerodrome No. 5.

From that point on, the shape, design and technology structure of the unmanned aircraft was manipulated and evolved over the years, improving each time.

In 1918, the U.S. Army became interested in unmanned flight and ordered 25 Liberty Eagle aircraft. The intent was for the aircraft to be used as an aerial torpedo.

Just over two decades later in 1941, the OQ-2 Radioplane became the first mass-produced unmanned aerial vehicle. By 1945, only a few years later, radioplane factories had produced around 15,000 aircraft for use as target drones.

Since achieving the first sustained controlled flight, the idea of unmanned flight has grown to be one of the most useful aircraft technology systems in modern history. Today, RPAs have transformed from a basic tool into high-tech machines, providing assistance during both humanitarian and war time situations.


1990s – 2000:

In January 1994, more than half a century after the advent of the first mass-produced UAV, the Air Force’s modern-day remotely piloted aircraft program was born.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. received an advanced concept technology demonstration contract to produce a medium altitude endurance “unmanned” aerial vehicle. This new system would be called the RQ-1 Predator and would be based off its precursor the GNAT 750, which initially debuted in 1989 and was used for long-endurance tactical surveillance.

A mere six months after the contract was established, the new aircraft achieved its first flight in July 1994. While the flight was a success, the Air Force then had to bring in military pilots, navigator-trained rated officers and non-rated officers to learn to use the new technology.

“I was the first person to receive a permanent change of station and the ninth person to actually enter into the program,” said Lt. Col. Eric, 432nd Wing Director of Staff. “I came in short notice in November of 1995 from Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. In May 1996 I went to ground school in San Diego at the General Atomics headquarters. Afterward, I went to flight training at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where the Army had the only system in the states at the time.”

John Box, a retired Air Force pilot, trained to become an RPA pilot in June 1996. He said because the system wasn’t produced by the Air Force, the new equipment did not come with technical orders, making the task of learning how to use the system rather challenging.

“Much of what we learned was by word of mouth from our instructors and not delivered in a military format,” he said. “That took an adjustment and I found it frustrating and challenging but very exciting. I often had to deal with emergency situations that no one had ever before encountered. Every time I flew the system, I learned something new. We were developing books and adding new information to them daily. I wasn’t trained for this type of work. Others may have got us started off on a better foot, but I believed in the concept and was committed to making it happen as best I could. It was a ‘cowboy’ atmosphere and I really enjoyed it.”

By 1995 it was decided that the Predator’s capabilities were needed to aid U.N. and NATO efforts in Europe. The Predator and Air Force personnel were deployed to Taszar, Hungary, to provide support from 1995 until August 1998.

Eric deployed to Hungary in August 1996 after completing training. It was during this deployment that he felt the continued challenges of integrating a new form of air power into the Air Force’s inventory.

“There were two Air Force pilots and a General Atomics instructor pilot with us … only the three of us to accomplish the mission,” he said. “There were no publications, technical orders, regulations or guidance that we hadn’t created ourselves. We had to rewrite the very first technical orders that we were given and put them into Air Force terminology.”

Eric said maintainers were also dealing with some of the same issues as the pilots – learning by observation.

“The General Atomics technician was there saying ‘here’s how we do the 50-hour engine inspection,’ and our guys were watching him do it,” he said. “But there were no publications or technical orders to break down the process of actually doing it. It took almost three years before we actually started getting valid technical orders on the systems, and it was the same the guidance and everything else. Today we are used to having regulations outlining how people do their jobs and laying down boundaries–we didn’t have those.”

In October 1996 Eric found himself testing new waters for the Predator while facing the challenges of learning new technology and not having Air Force publications or technical orders to break down the processes.

“On Oct. 1, 1996, during my deployment, I got the dubious distinction of being the first person in the military to be investigated for a safety investigation board for crashing a remotely piloted airplane,” he said “At the time I was doing everything I could to save the airplane. That was my first and foremost concern, but because we didn’t have any resources to help us, we kind of made it up as we went. We actually had a General Atomics engineer in the ground control station with us. We said, ‘what if we try this?’ and he would reply, ‘well I don’t know we’ve never tested that before.’ We just didn’t have any other choices so we were doing it the best that we could.”

In the end it was determined the crash occurred because the engine had been incorrectly rebuilt. Although the incident resulted in the loss of an aircraft, Eric said it was a learning experience.

“We didn’t have any publications to follow and we lost an airplane because of it,” he said. “But, we learned a lot from it … we were pioneers on the leading edge of this system making Air Force leaders understand what kind of capabilities this thing had, what we could do with it, and how to move forward with it.”

It was during this time when Eric and John were learning to fly the Predator that James Clark, at the time an Air Force colonel assigned to the Pentagon, was chosen by Gen. Ronald Fogleman, Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force, to examine Predator operations. Clark, who is known as “Snake” by many, was chosen because he had no experience with RPAs. Fogleman wanted someone with an outsider’s perspective.

“What I found [during my study] was remarkable,” he said. “This little drone could fly hundreds of miles away and provide color television and infrared video surveillance of enemy activity, without risking the life of a pilot. In a control van, which was a converted NASCAR transporter trailer, I watched pilots and sensor operations sitting in front of computer screens actually flying this thing – simply remarkable.”

While Snake was studying Predator operations in D.C., and pilots, mechanics and other RPA community members were providing assistance in deployed locations, Creech Air Force Base, Nev., was continuing to be built up in order to become home to the Air Force’s premier RPA wing.

The 11th Reconnaissance Squadron was the first squadron to stand up at Creech AFB. This milestone also marked the point when the Air Force RPA program’s dynamic objectives took on a new strategic focus. After the squadron stood up the 11th RS deployed members to support Detachment 3, which was under Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

“While deployed we were Detachment 3 under DARPA,” Eric said. “When the Air Force took over we became the 11th Reconnaissance Squadron deployed; then once the Air Force turned to the expeditionary concept, [the squadron] became the 11th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron. I was actually the first formal commander of the 11th ERS when it stood up.

While the 11th ERS was deployed and redefining itself as a combat asset, Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field was continuing to grow back home in preparation to become the home of additional RPA squadrons.

“Indian Springs was a pretty bare base then,” John said. “Most of the existing infrastructure was dilapidated, early Cold War era construction. They converted the small Base Exchange into our Intel vault and they renovated a small building across the street for our squadron operations facility. We ate at a small chow hall that originally supported up-range and transient aircraft operations. There was a recreation center/gym converted from several other old buildings ‘kluged’ together.”

Mardi Wilcox, who was the squadron maintenance officer in 1995, took her new task head on despite having few resources available at the time.

“I was super excited to be selected as the first maintenance officer in the Air Force to be assigned to a UAV unit,” she said. “It was cutting edge technology and the UAVs we had at the time were special in that way. No one else had them, and a lot of people had never heard of them. We were excited because there was no limit to what they could do … we could only dream about what was to come. We had one double-wide trailer and one small hangar. Shelters for the UAVs were canvas structures across the ramp. It was 10 tons of stuff in a 1 ton bag.”

During the late 1990s the program was still in its beginning phases. For some this was exciting but to others it seemed less than promising. However, Wilcox said she had a much different outlook on the subject.

“There were a lot of naysayers [at the time],” she said. “Many thought it was just another ‘thing’ that would just go away … but our major command leadership made it work. I think for the most part my people loved it. It was new, it was on the leading edge and for the majority of my folks, we wanted it to work. We set the foundation for what the program is today.”


2000 – Present:

After Operation Allied Force wrapped up in mid-1999, the Air Force was left to figure out what to do with this still relatively new technology. By early 2000 the RQ-1 Predator, which had just proved its capabilities overseas, was armed and became known as the MQ-1 Predator.

“As part of the ‘lessons learned’ from Operation Allied Force, it was determined that if the Predator had a weapon on it, we could cut the time between identifying a target and then destroying it,” Snake said. “On Feb. 16, 2000, Predator 3034 took its first successful Hellfire shot from the air, and to all of our surprise, it worked.”

This new capability arrived just in time, as events on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, changed many lives and the helped define the future of the Predator.

“We watched the attack on the World Trade Center, until we were shocked by flight 77 as it crashed into the Pentagon,” Snake said. “Late on the evening of Sept. 12, a lone C-17 took off from an airfield on the west coast with its cargo of Predators and Hellfire missiles. Days later, one of America’s first responses to the terrorist attacks on 9/11 was in place and ready for combat.”

After 9/11 the MQ-1 Predator proved itself resilient and capable during operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom. The success of RPAs during these operations resulted in an increased desire for RPA capabilities in future operations.

Lt. Col. Russell, who was the RPA assignments officer at Air Force Personnel Center in 2005, remembers trained RPA pilots were a constant need for the Air Force. At the time, there were general officers everywhere who wanted every training spot filled in order to support U.S. and partner nation troops overseas.

Pilots, maintainers and intelligence Airmen were pulled from several different platforms from across the Air Force to meet the demand RPA community’s growing demands.

In 2007, the 432nd Wing was activated at Creech AFB as the Air Force’s first wing comprised entirely of RPAs, which was a sign of the program’s rapid growth.

A year later the demand for RPAs had grown so significantly that the wing expanded and became dual-hatted as the 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing, capable of offering full-spectrum support to overseas operations while still supporting the 432nd Wing’s operate, train and equip efforts.

“In 2011 I came out to Creech and was qualified as a MQ-9 pilot,” Russell said. “Having been a part of the assignment process in the past, it’s good to see how the tribe has grown. The Air Force is very tribal; I used to be an F-15 pilot, so I used to be part of that ‘tribe’. Now it’s neat to see the growth of an RPA tribe, made up of people from all different backgrounds.”

As Russell arrived at Creech in 2011, the MQ-1 and its successor, the MQ-9 Reaper reached 1 million total flight hours – just 16 years after the program initially began.

Just over two years later, on Oct. 22, 2013, the Air Force’s MQ-1 and MQ-9 RPAs doubled that by achieving 2 million cumulative flight hours.

Today, the MQ-1 and MQ-9 continue to be flown from 8,000 miles away in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, patrolling the skies and providing critical support and protection to U.S. and coalition forces on the ground.

It is because of the dedication and diligence of the men and women past and present that the RPA community has gotten where it is today. As a testament to the vital role of the RPA community during the past 18 years, Predator 3034, the first RPA to test the Hellfire, and the first to shoot in combat on Oct. 7, 2001, is now displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.





Palm-Size Drones Buzz Over Battlefield


By By Erik Schechter, LiveScience Contributor 23 hours ago


Weighing only 0.56 ounces (16 grams), the Black Hornet looks like a tiny toy helicopter. But it’s really a nano-size piece of military hardware unlike anything on the battlefield today — experimental robot flies and hummingbirds not withstanding.

The PD-100 Black Hornet Personal Reconnaissance System, unveiled to the American public for the first time last week at the Association of the United States Army Expo in Washington, D.C., is a drone (actually, a pair of them) that a soldier can carry and operate as easily as he or she would a radio.

Since last year, the British infantrymen in Afghanistan have been using the new Black Hornets on a variety of missions — from scouting routes for possible enemy ambushes to peeking over the walls of a nearby compound. [9 Totally Cool Uses for Drones]

The unmanned air vehicle was designed for small units that required a quick, tactical “stealth” camera in the sky, said Ole Aguirre, vice president of sales and marketing for Prox Dynamics AS, the Norwegian company that produces the Black Hornet.

Indeed, troops working with the Black Hornet say it runs silent and is invisible at more than 30 feet (10 meters). A Brigade Reconnaissance Force sergeant quoted in a U.K. Ministry of Defense announcement said the system is “very easy to operate and offers amazing capability to the guys on the ground.”

A complete PD-100 kit comes with two Black Hornets, a docking station for battery recharging, a remote control unit and a mobile device with a 7-inch-wide (18 centimeters) screen to watch the camera feed — all of which is carried in a tough, waterproof case, for a total weight of almost 3 lbs. (1.3 kilograms).

Pulled out of the case and readied for action, the drone follows GPS waypoints to reach its target. Once there, it sends video and still images back to the operator. The Black Hornet can fly for 20 to 25 minutes before needing to recharge, so it’s limited to traveling just three-quarters of a mile (1,200 m) in one shot.

Likewise, the Black Hornet is too small to carry a mid-wave infrared (MWIR) camera, so it’s not able to do any night-spying. “The smallest MWIR sensor available on the market today is the FLIR Quark, weighing almost two times what our helicopter weighs,” Aguirre said.

Still, the U.S. Army examined two Black Hornets in February as part of its Cargo Pocket Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (CPISR) effort. The Army purchased two, but what that means program-wise, they declined to say.

According to Flightglobal, the British military has amassed 324 Black Hornets in its unmanned aerial vehicle arsenal.

Plotting its next development step, Prox Dynamics is seeking to add new sensors and overcome many of the challenges its drone currently faces. “We like keeping our engineers busy,” Aguirre said.



Hagel’s Plan for the Military in the Post-War Era

Kevin Baron 9:58 AM ET


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in a major speech outlining the breadth of post-war global security responsibilities the United States faces, called for greater use of civilian “instruments of power,” saying the nation should do more to recognize the limits of military force.


Hagel delivered his vision in perhaps the most significant speech of his term in office so far. The former senator and Vietnam veteran came to office with a reputation as a noninterventionist who advocated against the Iraq war. But quickly Hagel has faced a myriad of security challenges from Syria imploding in the Middle East to terrorism seeping into Northern Africa and massive leaks of classified information from the National Security Agency. On Tuesday, Hagel stepped back from those duties to give a lengthy address warning that while the U.S. has yet to determine the limits of its security responsibilities the application of military force must be “used wisely, precisely and judiciously.”

It’s not a new message from a Pentagon chief. Hagel noted that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican like Hagel, made a similar call to lesser arms in 2008, right after the height of the Iraq war. But with more distance from Iraq and the end of Afghanistan near, Hagel said the world’s security challenges require renewed commitment to fulfill “the promise of that commission” from Secretary Gates.

“While these challenges are not America’s responsibility alone, they will demand America’s continued global leadership and engagement,” Hagel said at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “No other nation has the will, the power, the capacity, and the network of alliances to lead the international community. However, sustaining our leadership will increasingly depend not only on the extent of our great power, but an appreciation of its limits and a wise deployment of our influence.”

“We remain the world’s only global leader. However, the insidious disease of hubris can undo America’s great strengths. We also must not fall prey to hubris.”


Hagel said the U.S. is perhaps too close to the war years to understand or prioritize what security challenges it faces at hand, but that the time has come to “adapt and adjust” as the nation moves from a “perpetual war footing.”

“As the United States makes this transition to what comes after the post-9/11 era, we are only beginning to see the dramatic shifts underway that will define our future and shape our interactions in the world,” Hagel said. “Not since the decade after World War II has mankind witnessed such a realignment of interests, influences, and challenges.”

One new characteristic to emerge in the post-war years, Hagel argued, was the common threat of terrorism to all nation-states, requiring greater cooperation among friends and adversaries.

“The challenge of terrorism has evolved as it has metastasized since 9/11. This has required and will continue to demand unprecedented collaboration with partners and allies on counterterrorism efforts. Many share a common threat – regardless of state-to-state differences or political ideologies.”

Hagel is a proponent of alliances and has written extensively on the need to find common threads that can connect even Iran to the United States.

“In the 21st century, the United States must continue to be a force for, and an important symbol of, humanity, freedom, and progress. We must also make a far better effort to understand how the world sees us, and why. We must listen more.”

Hagel lauded the Obama administration’s use of military force to pressure Assad into giving up Syria’s chemical stockpiles, and said a similar nonviolent path still exists for Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions.

“In both cases our military power has been an important part of the work to possibly find diplomatic resolutions to difficult and interconnected international problems,” Hagel said.

“America’s hard power will always be critical to fashioning enduring solutions to global problems. But our success ultimately depends not on any one instrument of power. It depends on all of our instruments of power.”


Hagel: Six Priorities Shape Future Defense Institutions

By Cheryl Pellerin

American Forces Press Service


WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2013 – In the months since the 2012 defense strategic guidance first reflected a new budget reality, Pentagon officials and military leaders have been working on the department’s longer-term budget and strategy, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said here this morning.

In the keynote address before the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Global Security Forum, Hagel said a needed realignment of missions and resources is being undertaken across the department that will require significant change across every aspect of the enterprise.

“I have identified six areas of focus for our budget and strategic planning efforts going forward,” the secretary said.


“Working closely with the service secretaries, service chiefs, combatant commanders and DOD leaders,” he added, “these six priorities will help determine the shape of our defense institutions for years to come.”

The priorities include institutional reform, force planning, preparing for a prolonged military readiness challenge, protecting investments in emerging capabilities, balancing capacity and capability across the services, and balancing personnel responsibilities with a sustainable compensation policy.

During his first weeks in office, Hagel said, he directed a Strategic Choices and Management Review that over several months identified options for reshaping the force and institutions in the face of difficult budget scenarios.

“That review pointed to the stark choices and tradeoffs in military capabilities that will be required if sequester-level cuts persist, but it also identified opportunities to make changes and reforms,” Hagel said.

“Above all,” he added, “it underscored the reality that DOD still possesses resources and options. We will need to more efficiently match our resources to our most important national security requirements. We can do things better, we must do things better, and we will.”

Addressing the six priorities that will shape future defense efforts, the secretary began with a continued a focus on institutional reform.

Coming out of more than a decade of war and budget growth, he said, there is a clear opportunity and need to reshape the defense enterprise, including paring back the world’s largest back office. This summer, Hagel announced a 20-percent reduction in headquarters budgets across the department, beginning with the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

“Our goal is not only to direct more of our resources to real military capabilities and readiness,” Hagel said, “but to make organizations flatter and more responsive to the needs of our men and women in uniform.”

The second priority is to re-evaluate the military force-planning construct — the assumptions and scenarios for which U.S. military forces organize, train and equip themselves.

“I’ve asked our military leaders to take a very close look at these assumptions [and] question these past assumptions, which will also be re-evaluated across the services as part of the [Quadrennial Defense Review],” the secretary explained.

“The goal,” he added, “is to ensure they better reflect our goals and the shifting strategic environment, the evolving capacity of our allies and partners, real-world threats, and the new military capabilities that reside in our force and in the hands of our potential adversaries.”

Hagel said the third priority will be to prepare for a prolonged military readiness challenge. In managing readiness under sequestration, he added, the services have protected the training and equipping of deploying forces to ensure that no one goes unprepared into harm’s way.

This is the department’s highest responsibility to its forces, the secretary said, and yet already, “we have seen the readiness of nondeploying units suffer as training has been curtailed, flying hours reduced, ships not steaming, and exercises canceled.”

The Strategic Choices and Management Review showed that sequester-level cuts could lead to a readiness crisis, and unless something changes, Hagel said, “we have to think urgently and creatively about how to avoid that outcome, because we are consuming our future readiness now.”

The fourth priority will be protecting investments in emerging military capabilities — especially space, cyber, special operations forces, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, the secretary said.


“As our potential adversaries invest in more sophisticated capabilities and seek to frustrate our military’s traditional advantages, including our freedom of action and access … around the world,” he said, “it will be important to maintain our decisive technological edge.”

The fifth priority is balance across the services in the mix between capacity and capability, between active and reserve forces, between forward-stationed and home-based forces, and between conventional and unconventional warfighting capabilities, Hagel said.

“In some cases we will make a shift, for example, by prioritizing a smaller, modern and capable military over a larger force with older equipment. We will also favor a globally active and engaged force over a garrison force,” he explained.

The services will look to better leverage the reserve components, with the understanding that part-time units in ground forces can’t expect to perform at the same levels as full-time units, at least in the early stages of a conflict. In other cases, the services will seek to preserve balance, for example, by controlling areas of runaway cost growth, the secretary said.

The sixth priority is personnel and compensation policy, which Hagel said may be the most difficult issue.

“Without serious attempts to achieve significant savings in this area, which consumes roughly now half the DOD budget and increases every year, we risk becoming an unbalanced force, one that is well-compensated but poorly trained and equipped, with limited readiness and capability,” he said.

Going forward, the department must make hard choices in this area to ensure that the defense enterprise is sustainable for the 21st century, the secretary said.

Hagel said Congress must permit meaningful reforms as it reduces the defense budget, and the department needs Congress as a willing partner in making tough choices to bend the cost curve on personnel, while meeting its responsibilities to its people.

“Even as we pursue change across the Department of Defense,” the secretary said, “the greatest responsibility of leadership will always remain the people we represent, our men and women in uniform, their families, and our dedicated civilian workforce.”



Review: Box beats Dropbox — and all the rest — for business


Box trumps Dropbox, Egnyte, Citrix ShareFile, EMC Syncplicity, and OwnCloud with rich mix of file sync, file sharing, user management, deep reporting, and enterprise integration


By Serdar Yegulalp

November 6, 2013 06:06 AM ET

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Infoworld – In the beginning, there was Dropbox, and enterprises far and wide were appalled. How dare corporate and business users make use of a file sync and sharing service that’s meant for consumers? But the convenience and flexibility of Dropbox were hard to ignore, and soon file repository services for businesses of all sizes began to spring up.


As the number of file storage services for businesses and enterprises has mushroomed, so have the options they provide and the third-party services they can leverage. (It’s an app world, after all.) Today, the problem is more of too many choices than too few.


[ Stay on top of the state of the cloud with InfoWorld’s “Cloud Computing Deep Dive” special report. Download it today! | Also check out our “Private Cloud Deep Dive,” our “Cloud Security Deep Dive,” our “Cloud Storage Deep Dive,” and our “Cloud Services Deep Dive.” ]


In this article we’ll look at five enterprise-level file sync and sharing services (Box, Dropbox, Egnyte, Citrix’s ShareFile, and EMC’s Syncplicity), as well as one system you deploy on your own hardware (OwnCloud). What we found is heartening. There really is a storage service for just about every need.


Business-level sync and storage services focus on delivering features that will be valuable to a connected enterprise. Single sign-on capabilities let you use your organization’s existing credentialing system (typically Active Directory) to log in. Activity logging and reporting let you see at a glance who’s doing what, while granular permissions help you make sure people aren’t doing things they shouldn’t. However, not all these solutions deliver the same features in the same ways. Reporting, for instance, varies enormously across the products.


It may come as no surprise that Box is the leading contender in this space. Its feature set and third-party integrations rise above the rest, and it offers some of the most granular reporting, permissions, and user management features of any competing service. Syncplicity and Egnyte aren’t far behind, with Syncplicity leveraging its close integration with EMC storage solutions, while Egnyte provides generous storage allotments and a well-wrought UI.


ShareFile’s biggest drawback is its astonishingly small storage allotments, compared to the other products here, although its management capabilities and app selection are excellent. Dropbox for Business isn’t a bad product — it may well be the easiest solution for those looking to convert a batch of existing users into a working team — but it’s severely hampered by poor reporting. And though OwnCloud is a novel solution, it not only lags the others in features but also requires you to do some heavy lifting. Consider it if you’re planning on hosting or building something around it.


Whether it’s ease, flexibility, transparency, granular control, integrations with existing systems, or rich mobile support, all of these solutions have something to recommend them. Read on for the full reviews.


Dropbox for BusinessBusinesses have long fretted about Dropbox being a potential security hole, but no one can deny that its convenience, utility, and familiarity make for a compelling way to share files among multiple computers and users. Small wonder Dropbox has gone on to offer a business-level tier for its services, with a slew of security, team management, and reporting functions.


Dropbox for Business doesn’t have the breadth or granularity of functions found in competing services, so it’s best for smaller, more intimate teams that don’t need as much top-down control. But using it is a snap to anyone who has a Dropbox account, and storage isn’t metered for a full-blown business account. Whereas Dropbox Pro is $99 per user per year with 100GB of storage, the Business tier is $795 per year for five users (plus $125 for each additional user per year) with no storage limits.


To use Dropbox for Business, you can either go with an existing Dropbox account or create a new one from scratch. The first account on a given team is automatically made an administrative account. Adding team members is functionally similar to the way existing Dropbox users invite each other to share resources: type a name, pick a user. Once a user has been added to the team, the only obvious change in the way Dropbox works is that some behaviors — such as sharing links to nonteam members — may be administratively restricted. A shared folder that appears in all Dropbox accounts for the team can also be automatically created.


Admins for a business account have access to a dashboard where they can survey their Dropbox account by user or activity. Each user’s devices, browser sessions, apps, and activity are shown, and you can download CSVs of team activity reports — who signed on from where, what members were added, and so on. Browser sessions can be closed, devices unlinked, and third-party Dropbox apps can be disabled for all users from this interface.


Organizations who want greater security over their Dropbox setup can elect to turn on a number of different authentication mechanisms, including two-step verification. You can also configure single sign-on via Active Directory or a third-party SSO provider, though you can’t always use two-step verification and single sign-on together. Another useful security feature is a global password reset button, which provides a handy way to lock everything down at once in a matter of seconds.


One of the bigger shortcomings of Dropbox for Business is the lack of auditing tools for files themselves. You can’t, for instance, inspect the contents of an individual user’s account or look up an earlier revision of a file. The only way to do those things is to log in as the user and browse his or her files. Further, the activity reports lack details about uploads and external shares, which also makes auditing difficult.


Another potential gotcha stems from Dropbox’s popularity with consumers. End-users with personal Dropbox accounts will want to create a separate account specifically for team access, lest they accidentally conflate files between the two. For bigger corporate setups, this isn’t likely to be an obstacle, but informal teams with only a few people will need to be cautious. Fortunately the Dropbox folks seem to be aware of this: When you’re invited to a team, you’re given the option to join with your currently logged-in account or to create a whole new one.


Dropbox for Business’s team management features make it easy to corral a slew of existing Dropbox users into a working team. On the downside, the member activity reports lack too much detail to be really useful.


OwnCloudThe big selling point for OwnCloud is doubly inviting in this post-PRISM era. It’s a file storage and sharing service that runs entirely on open source software and the hardware of your choice, which you can deploy within your own four walls. It also comes with an optional at-rest file encryption module — useful if you’re running on shared hosting and want to keep out prying eyes.


I looked at a previous 4.x version of OwnCloud and was impressed, but the product’s been redesigned almost completely from the inside out for its 5.x iteration. Most crucially, the at-rest encryption system used in 4.x has been scrapped entirely and replaced, so users of OwnCloud 4.x will need to take care when migrating their setup.


Installing OwnCloud could hardly be simpler, in theory. Unpack an archive to the desired destination folder on your Web server, navigate to said folder in your Web browser, and create a master user account. You can elect to use MySQL, MariaDB (preferred), SQLite, or PostgreSQL as the database. In practice, setting up OwnCloud can be trickier, in part because your PHP installation needs to be correctly configured for OwnCloud to work right. In my case, it was “strongly recommended” that I add the fileinfo module for proper MIME-type detection, and similar tinkering was needed to get the file-encryption plug-in running.


The functionality of OwnCloud is provided through a range of add-ons or “apps,” several of which are bundled with the system by default: a file manager, a music player and library manager, a CardDAV-driven contacts manager, a CalDAV-compatible calendar, a picture gallery, and add-ons for the likes of OpenID and WebDAV support and in-browser viewing of various document types (ODF, PDF, and so on). Dozens of other apps are available through OwnCloud’s app library. This makes OwnCloud more than just a file depository. It can become, in time, a nexus for many different kinds of collaboration and sharing in an organization.


Files can be uploaded into an OwnCloud instance either via drag-and-drop into the browser, or by using a Windows or Mac client that synchronizes the contents of a folder with an OwnCloud account, A la the desktop clients for Dropbox. The only limits on file sizes or storage are those you set yourself. Incidentally, the desktop app is free, but the mobile apps are $1 each — a smart way for the company to indirectly monetize the free community version of the product.


One of the major add-ons, included but not enabled by default, is the server-side encryption plug-in. Files saved to the server when the plug-in is enabled are encrypted and cannot be read even by the server administrator. Note that file names are not encrypted, just the contents, although I imagine in time this too can be addressed.


The biggest advantage to OwnCloud is also its biggest disadvantage: You have to run it yourself. The total control it gives you over the way files are stored and managed comes at the cost of having to set up and maintain the program. What’s more, OwnCloud requires some expertise with Web servers — Apache, PHP, and MySQL — to use effectively. An instance of OwnCloud I set up on my own local server ran very slowly — probably because it wasn’t properly optimized. When installed on a Web server maintained by a hosting company, it ran much faster. Your mileage will definitely vary.


The folks at Turnkey Linux have created a virtual appliance edition of OwnCloud for fast installation, albeit only the earlier 4.x version. It’s also possible to have OwnCloud hosted by an authorized service provider who can set up and manage an OwnCloud instance for you.


One of OwnCloud’s many built-in apps is a photo gallery. The biggest advantage with OwnCloud is the total control you get over your data; the biggest hurdle is the work involved in setting it up.


Citrix ShareFileCitrix ShareFile does one thing, and it does it very well: It provides an enterprise with a customizable, protected space where files can be uploaded and shared. Other services may be more expandable, but ShareFile is extremely granular and configurable right out of the box.


Among the first decisions you’ll need to make when setting up ShareFile is how to deal with user credentials. You can use ShareFile’s own native user database or set up federation with Active Directory or another SAML-compatible system. The native user database will suit smaller organizations that will be using ShareFile in an ad hoc way, although I would’ve liked to see a slightly better gamut of tools for bulk-uploading users.


ShareFile splits users of the system into three categories: clients (people outside your organization who need access to what you’re sharing), employees (rank-and-file users), and superusers/admins. People can be promoted or demoted between those ranks, and the privileges within them can be granted to users on an extremely granular basis — such as management of remote forms, access to account-wide reporting, and so on. Companies can also apply their own logos and custom branding to the ShareFile interface, and each account comes by default with up to three custom subdomains in the format


The most straightforward way to upload files is through the browser, via a drag-and-drop interface. You can supply descriptions for files in the upload process, too, if a file name isn’t descriptive enough. Fine-grained options for each folder allow you to configure file versioning, define the sort order for files, and set file retention policies on a folder-by-folder basis. ShareFile can also work with Citrix’s StorageZones to incorporate Microsoft SharePoint shares and other on-premises repositories, providing for greater flexibility where the files are stored.


In addition, ShareFile comes with a wide range of client apps. Windows and Mac users can install apps that sync folders on their desktop with a ShareFile account. iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and BlackBerry users can sync from their devices with apps for each of those platforms, too. An Outlook plug-in automatically substitutes a ShareFile link for an attached file, so you don’t end up mistakenly emailing someone a 10MB file. Also included is support for Secure FTP, a handy fallback, and command-line scripting tools for automating file uploads, downloads, and synchronizations.


ShareFile puts strong emphasis on reporting, which ought to gratify those who want or need detailed activity auditing. Reports for each account or folder can be downloaded as Excel files, and users can have their access to reports granted or revoked as a separate privilege.


The biggest problem with ShareFile is the minimal amount of storage. The basic $29.95-per-month tier, for up to two employees, provides a measly 5GB of storage. Even at $99.95 per month for 20 or more employees, you get a mere 20GB. This makes ShareFile most useful only if you’re using it to share a few well-trafficked files. In an age where cloud storage providers are throwing theoretically unlimited amounts of storage at their customers, Citrix seems downright stingy.


ShareFile doesn’t give you a lot of storage to work with, but it does give you a fine user interface, granular controls, and detailed reporting.


Egnyte”Do not defy data gravity” is the motto that appears on Egnyte’s home page. By this the company means it doesn’t always make sense to shove every file up into the cloud, and to that end its services are designed to allow files to live in the right place — cloud or on premise — depending on their size and sensitivity.


Egnyte’s services are split into three tiers: Office, Business, and Enterprise. The lowest tier, for teams of five to 24 users, costs $8 per user per month and offers a batch of basic features along with a whopping 1TB of storage and a 2.5GB maximum file size. Go up a tier to Business (25 to 100 users, $15 per user per month) and those limits are 2TB and 5GB; you also get Outlook integration and custom branding options along with the standard desktop sync and FTP. The Enterprise level requires that you call for a price quote, but it has no limit on the number of users, starts at 3TB of storage, ups max file size to 10GB, and provides auditing and reporting and integration with third-party enterprise apps.


Egnyte’s Web client is so good that you might not even use the local desktop app. Not only files but entire folders can be dragged, dropped, and uploaded into your Egnyte account, and entire folders can even be downloaded as zip archives. One-click sharing lets you provide a public or invite-only link to any object or folder. Shares can be set to expire after a certain period of time or a certain number of downloads.



Army Looks to Integrate Cyber and Electronic Warfare Capabilities


Tuesday, 05 November 2013


As new technologies emerge and new cyber and electronic warfare threats plague soldiers in the field, U.S. Army scientists and engineers continue to define next-generation protocols and system architectures to help develop the technology to combat these threats in an integrated and expedited fashion. As part of the Integrated Cyber and Electronic Warfare (ICE) program, the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Communications- Electronics Center (CERDEC) researches the technologies, standards and architectures to support the use of common mechanisms used for the rapid development and integration of third-party cyber and electronic warfare, or EW, capabilities.

“Currently, within cyber and EW disciplines there are different supporting force structures and users equipped with disparate tools, capabilities and frameworks,” said Paul Robb Jr., chief of CERDEC Intelligence and Information Warfare Directorate’s Cyber Technology Branch. “Under the ICE program, we look to define common data contexts and software control mechanisms to allow these existing frameworks to communicate in a manner that would support the concurrent leveraging of available tactical capabilities based on which asset on the battlefield provides the best projected military outcome at a particular point in time.”

The boundaries between traditional cyber threats, such as someone hacking a laptop through the Internet, and traditional EW threats, such as radio- controlled improvised explosive devices that use the electromagnetic spectrum, have blurred, allowing EW systems to access the data stream to combat EW threats, according to Giorgio Bertoli, senior engineer of CERDEC I2WD’s Cyber/Offensive Operations Division. Additionally, significant technological advancements, including a trend towards wireless in commercial applications and military systems, have occurred over the last decade.

“This blending of networks and systems, known as convergence, will continue and with it come significant implications as to how the Army must fight in the cyber environment of today and tomorrow,” said Bertoli. “The concept of technology convergence originated as a means to describe the amalgamation of traditional wired versus wireless commercial services and applications, but has recently evolved to also include global technology trends and U.S. Army operational connotations, specifically in the context of converging cyber and EW operations.”

The Army finds itself in a unique position to help mitigate adverse outcomes due to this convergence trend.

“Post-force deployment, the Army has the vast majority of sensors and EW assets on the tactical battlefield compared to any other service or organization, posing both risks and opportunities. Our military’s reliance on COTS [commercial-of-the-shelf] systems and wireless communications presents a venue for our adversaries to attack. Conversely, the proximity and high density of receivers and transmitters that we deploy can be leveraged to enable both EW and cyber operations,” said Bertoli.

“The ability to leverage both cyber and EW capabilities as an integrated system, acting as a force multiplier increasing the commander’s situational awareness of the cyber electromagnetic environment, will improve the commander’s ability to achieve desired operational effects,” said Robb.

A paradigm shift in how the Army views system and technology development will further enhance CERDEC’s ability to rapidly adapt to new cyber and EW threats.

“The biggest hindrance we have right now is not a technological one, it’s an operational and policy one,” said Bertoli. “The Army traditionally likes to build systems for a specific purpose – build a radio to be a radio, build an EW system to be an EW system, but these hardware systems today have significantly more inherent capabilities.”

To demonstrate the concepts of multi-capability systems, CERDEC chose not to solely focus its science and technology efforts on researching solutions to address specific cyber and EW threats, but also to develop the architecture onto which scientists and engineers can rapidly develop and integrate new, more capable solutions.

“As an example, the World Wide Web has grown into an architecture that is so powerful your tech savvy 10-year-old can build a website – and a pretty powerful one at that,” said Bertoli. “The only reason this is possible is because there is a wealth of common tools, like web browsers and servers, and standards such as HTML or HTTP already in place for them to use. The ICE program is attempting to extend this model to the cyber and EW community by providing mechanisms to enable the leveraging of available tactical assets to support cyberspace operation mission sets. Early focus revolves around the development of augmented situation-awareness capabilities but will evolve to include the enabling of a multitude of cyberspace operations.”

ICE will provide the Army with common tools and standards for developing and integrating cyber and EW capabilities.

“Capabilities can be developed to combat EM (electromagnetic) and cyber threats individually, but this is neither time nor cost effective and simply will not scale in the long term. The domain is just too large and will only continue to expand,” said Bertoli. “In the end, we (CERDEC) believe this is the only way the Army will be able to keep pace with the anticipated technology advancements and rate of change related to cyberspace and the systems that comprise it.”

The Army acquisition community has also seen changes in the relationship between cyber and EW.

“Tactical EW systems and sensors provide for significant points of presence on the battlefield, and can be used for cyber situational awareness and as delivery platforms for precision cyber effects to provide a means of Electronic Counter Measures and Electronic Counter-Counter Measures, for instance,” said Col. Joseph Dupont, program manager for EW under Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors. “There is no doubt in my mind that we must provide for a more integrated approach to cyber warfare, electronic warfare and electromagnetic operations to be successful in the future conduct of unified land operations.”

CERDEC, as the Army’s research and development experts in cyber and EW, works closely with the Program Executive Offices, the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and Army Cyber Command to shape operational concepts and doctrine by providing technical expertise regarding technically achievable solutions in the context of the tactical cyberspace operations and supporting materiel capabilities for the Army. In addition to working with the Army’s strategy and policy makers, CERDEC I2WD has tapped into its facilities and pre- existing expertise to further the ICE program.

CERDEC I2WD maintains state-of-the-art laboratories that support both closed and open-air testing facilities to provide relevant environment conditions to conduct research that provides a seamless cyber-electromagnetic environment with both wired and wireless modern communication infrastructure. The fully- instrumented labs include commercial information assurance products and allow for in-depth experimentation while sustaining automated rapid network re- configuration technology and virtualization technologies to support scalable testing. Additionally, I2WD expands its potential environment by maintaining remote connections with external government sites, which also enables collaborative experiments. The combination of these assets and expertise allows CERDEC to demonstrate achievable capability improvements related to cyber and EW convergence.


Wide use of drones down the road

FAA chief says privacy, safety still huge obstacles.


Posted: 4:47 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, 2013


By Jessica Wehrman

Washington Bureau


WASHINGTON — Ohio is pinning its hopes on becoming one of six test sites for unmanned aircraft, but the Federal Aviation Administration made it clear Thursday that it will be some time before commercial use of such aircraft enters the mainstream.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said currently the FAA approves use of such aircraft — commonly referred to as drones — on a case-by-case basis. They’re used for everything from firefighting to search and rescue to border patrol, he said.

But broader commercial use remains out of reach, in part because of safety and privacy concerns.

“We have to make sure we have the appropriate safeguards in place to understand how they operate and how they interact with the aircraft that exist in the national airspace system today,” he said.

He made the comments on the same day the FAA released a road map charting out the regulatory and other requirements needed for long-term domestic use of drones. The agency expects to continue permitting grants for unmanned aircraft on a case-by-case basis for the immediate future despite a congressional directive to permit their widespread use by Sept. 30, 2015.

“Government and industry face significant challenges as unmanned aircraft move into the aviation mainstream,” acknowledged Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The agency also announced that it would ask test site operators to determine and release privacy plans that would be made available to the public, and stopped far short of creating its own policy to address concerns that drones might collect intrusive information during their flights.

“The FAA does not have any specific authority to regulate (privacy) policy and we’re not seeking that,” Huerta said. “We do feel we have a responsibility to create a forum for the privacy question to be debated, and that is what we’re doing.

“We’re not specifically regulating what potential users would be looking at in a test site, but what we are doing is telling the public what they intend to do.”

There are safety concerns as well, including what would happen if an aircraft lost contact with its operator or whether drones would be able to effectively avoid other aircraft.

Once it overcomes its challenges, Huerta predicted that some 7,500 drones would be flying through U.S. air space within the next five years.

The safety concerns appear to make the six test sites even more vital. The FAA received 25 proposals representing 26 states and plans to announce its six sites at the end of this year. Ohio, in conjunction with Indiana, has lobbied hard for selection, exhibiting at industry conventions and making the case that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the state’s thriving aerospace industry make them a logical choice.

The two states submitted their 6,000-page application to become an FAA test site in May, two years after a group of Ohio lawmakers pushed for language in an FAA reauthorization bill calling for the establishment of FAA test sites.

The state argues that Ohio is a pioneer in unmanned aircraft thanks to Dayton businessman Charles Kettering, who developed the first armed UAV, the Kettering Bug, in 1917.

If Ohio’s bid is selected, officials here will be among those helping to craft privacy policy for the widespread use of drones. Each test site will also have to follow state and federal privacy laws. Information would “feed into a larger conversation” about the privacy issues inherent in drone use, Huerta said.

“We need to make sure we use these sites to collect the best data that we possibly can,” he said.

Huerta gave few details on the site selection process, saying simply that a range of geographic, technical and climactic issues will be under consideration. But, “we expect to meet our deadline at the end of this year,” he said.


The Kettering “Bug”

Ohio hopes its rich aviation heritage — including the unmanned Kettering Aerial Torpedo, nicknamed the “Bug” that Charles Kettering invented in 1917 — will help propel the Federal Aviation Administration to name Ohio and Indiana as one of six test sites for unmanned aircraft.

The Dayton-Wright Airplane Co. built fewer than 50 Bugs before the war ended, though it was never put into combat use. The scarcity of funds in the 1920s halted development.

Key facts about Kettering’s “Bug”:

Armament: 180 pounds of high explosives

Engine: De Palma 4-cylinder of 40 hp

Maximum speed: 120 mph

Range: 75 miles

Span: 14 ft. 11 1/2 inches

Length: 12 ft. 6 inches

Height: 4 ft. 8 inches

Weight: 530 pounds loaded

Source: National Museum of the U.S. Air Force                   


FAA Releases Road Map and Comprehensive Plan For Unmanned Aircraft


New York (November 07, 2013) — The Federal Aviation Administration on Thursday released a much-anticipated road map for integrating unmanned aircraft systems into the national aerospace, projecting an intensive regulatory effort that will not yield a unified system for obtaining operational clearance for at least several years.



UAS Roadmap

The first annual UAS Roadmap addresses current and future policies, regulations, technologies and procedures that will be required as UAS operations increase in the nation’s airspace.

Comprehensive Plan

The Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) has developed a comprehensive plan to safely accelerate the integration of civil UAS into the national airspace system.

Final FAA Privacy Policy

In connection with the UAS Test Site selection, the FAA is sending a final privacy policy to the Federal Register that requires test site operators to comply with federal, state, and other laws on individual privacy protection, and take other measures related to privacy.


FAA cautiously agrees to some use of civilian drones

While still far from giving a thumbs up to unmanned flying vehicles crowding the skies, the government agency recommends that some drones be allowed.


Dara Kerr by Dara Kerr November 7, 2013 7:13 PM PST


The Federal Aviation Administration weighed in on the increasing civilian use of autonomous drones on Thursday. The government agency released a report outlining a roadmap for certain cases in which unmanned drones could be permissible.

In the report, with the lengthy title “Integration of Civil Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) in the National Airspace System Roadmap,” the FAA said that autonomous drones are already being used in disaster response, cargo transport, aerial mapping, and commercial photography. While drones are already buzzing around, the FAA is cautious with allowing wholesale use of the flying machines.

Unmanned drones bring up the sticky issue of privacy. These self-flying vehicles can swoop over vast areas gathering information on unsuspecting people. Even Google’s executive chairman has cautioned legalizing drone use, saying they could infringe on people’s privacy and that they should be regulated.

However, drones can also be very useful for civilians. For instance, farmers can use them to monitor their crops, hunters could use them to stake out deer, and earth scientists could use them for gathering data and research.

In its report, which was created by orders of Congress, the FAA said it would accept some agricultural drones if a person monitors the flying object from the ground.

For now, all unmanned drones bigger than a small shoebox sized apparatus are still prohibited. For those smaller drones that are allowed — they must stay within a person’s view. The FAA wrote that it will prioritize research on the use of self-flying vehicles. Additionally, it will launch six drone test sites by the end of this year.

These test sites are “not intended to predetermine the long-term policy and regulatory framework under which UAS would operate,” the FAA wrote. But they will “help inform the dialogue.”

Most likely, the government won’t take action on legalizing or prohibiting drones further until 2016.



Panel: Merge DoD, VA care

Unified health system would smooth out inefficiences

Nov. 7, 2013 – 04:46PM |


By Patricia Kime

Staff writer


In the Defense Department, a “unified medical command” means a health system combining the assets of the Army, Navy and Air Force medical branches.

But for some members of the Military Retirement and Compensation Modernization Commission, the phrase could describe a unified Veterans Health Administration-Defense Department health system, a behemoth that would erase divisions between the two and care for troops and veterans from boot camp to grave.

That idea was among several floated by commissioners as they listened Nov. 4 to veterans service organizations discuss the concerns of ill and injured troops during one of the commission’s first public hearings at Fort Belvoir, Va.

“If [VA and DoD] can’t work together, put one of them in charge. Pick your poison, I don’t care which one. Create a unified command with DoD or put VA in charge,” said former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey, a Medal of Honor recipient who served on the Senate Appropriations Committee and later the 9/11 Commission.

“If you had one chief information officer in charge of budget and line items for both, this problem and many others would not be an issue,” agreed former Indiana congressman and Army veteran Stephen Buyer, who once sat on the House Armed Services Committee.

The idea surfaced after veterans service organizations discussed the failure of VA and the Pentagon to create a single electronic health record system. The $1 billion program, launched in 2008, largely was abandoned in February in favor of a less expensive system built on existing technology.


The Pentagon has yet to award a contract for its portion of the information technology.

Continued problems with the VA and DoD joint disability system, the transition of care from active duty to veteran status and disconnects when veterans leave active duty are among the issues the organizations pressed commissioners to consider when drafting their recommendations.

Tom Tarantino, a policy associate with Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said there is a need to “push for uniformity.”

“We have fixed the cracks in the facade but … we have been just tweaking things. It’s time we do a single unified push all they way through the system to get it right,” Tarantino said.

A health care overhaul also should consider incorporating private-sector care for those who seek it, recommended retired Army Brig. Gen. Jack Hammond, executive director for the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program.

Hammond said about a quarter of veterans seeking care at Mass General do not have health insurance.

“They may have been eligible for VA coverage, but it doesn’t mean they’ve applied for it,” he said. “When it comes to mental health, they might not want a public-sector record that they’ve had mental health issues, so they come to us.”

A comprehensive health program should incorporate private-sector care and also make it easier for charities and the private sector to provide services to the government as well as troops, Hammond said.

An overhaul also may require a complete review of the disability ratings system, which Buyer pointed out includes compensation for those diagnosed with service-related conditions who would lose their monthly checks if they are cured.

“It’s almost like this is the rail no one wants to touch because it involves mental health,” Buyer said. “But something is not right within our disability system that we have a financial disincentive to get better.”

Commissioners acknowledged that much of their discussion would receive push-back from VA and the Pentagon, but said there was no room for sacred cows.

“People look at this commission as nine Scrooges who want to take something away from them. I hope this is not the case … we have a pretty broad brush and we’re trying to learn,” said Larry Pressler, a former South Dakota senator and the first Vietnam veteran elected to the Senate.


U.S. may split command of spy and cyber agencies

Nedra Pickler, Associated Press 11:35 a.m. EST November 7, 2013


WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House is considering a proposal to split the work of the single military commander who now oversees both the National Security Agency and cybersecurity operations, presenting an opportunity to reshape the spy agency in the wake of harsh criticism of its sweeping surveillance programs.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander is top officer at both the U.S. Cyber Command and the NSA, and he’s retiring next spring.


White House spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Thursday that no final decision has been made about how to handle the commands after Alexander leaves, but it’s a “natural point” to consider a change.

The consideration of a split, first reported Thursday in The Washington Post, comes in the wake of revelations about the agency’s widespread monitoring of telephone, email and social-media data from documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The concentration of power over two such different missions has been controversial, and Alexander’s departure gives President Obama a chance to make changes at both agencies.

“The current arrangement was designed to ensure that both organizations complement each other effectively,” Hayden said. “That said, in consultation with appropriate agencies, we are looking to ensure we are appropriately postured to address current and future security needs.”

Alexander has led the NSA since 2005 and he added the Cyber Command to his duties when that entity was created in 2010 to defend U.S. military networks and conduct cyberwarfare. Both are headquartered at suburban Fort Meade, Md.

The NSA has been one of the most secretive of all U.S. intelligence operations. Alexander has vigorously defended its activities as lawful and necessary to detect and disrupt terrorist plots.

Alexander said secrecy about how the programs work was needed “not to hide it from you, it’s to hide it from those who walk among you and are trying to kill you.”



State Creates ‘Cyber National Guard’

Rapid Response Team Aims to Protect Government, Industry IT


By Eric Chabrow, November 7, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity


As Michigan deploys its Cyber Civilian Corps, the state will need to address some of the same challenges the federal government faces in sharing cyberthreat information between the government and the private sector, state CIO David Behen says.

Gov. Rick Snyder last month announced the creation of the Cyber Civilian Corps, which Behen characterizes as a cyber National Guard, a rapid response team that would assist the state and industries across Michigan during a major cybersecurity incident.

The Cyber Civilian Corps, which will include volunteers from government, education and business, will offer training on how best to respond to cyber-attacks.

Governments and the private sector collaborating to defend against cyber-attacks need to share information, some of which businesses contend could include data they want to keep secret. And, as the debate over stalled cyberthreat information sharing legislation in Washington has shown, matters involving liability and privacy protection regarding information sharing need to be resolved.

In an interview with Information Security Media Group, Behen says those issues must be addressed if the Cyber Civilian Corps is to succeed, adding that the government must be sensitive to businesses’ concerns about information sharing.

“What we can’t do, in my opinion, is just stop and wait for that conversation to happen,” Behen says. “We need to run forward on parallel paths. Let’s put together the Cyber Civilian Corps; let’s get them trained; let’s have them take the course work. So, when once something happens, we’re prepared to protect data and to respond to things here in the state of Michigan.”

As the state’s chief information officer, Behen is a member of Snyder’s cabinet. He previously served as CIO and deputy administrator of Washtenaw County, the home of Ann Arbor. Behen cofounded software maker InfoReady and served as a vice president and CIO of its parent corporation, GDI InfoTech. Eastern Michigan University awarded Behen a bachelor of science and master of science in public administration degrees.


CIA-backed Cloud Security Firm Buys Encryption Company to Help Spy-Wary Industry


By Aliya Sternstein

November 7, 2013


At least one U.S. cloud company sees an opportunity to benefit from the backlash against brethren accused of facilitating domestic surveillance.

Cloud services — think Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure — essentially rent out data storage space in big computer rooms clients can access through the Internet or a private network. At times, U.S. spies have infiltrated the networks of American cloud providers, as well as subpoenaed their customer data without their customers’ knowledge, according to the Washington Post.

This has not deterred HyTrust, which is backed by CIA venture capital funding, from marketing anti-surveillance tools to corporations.

The California-based company on Thursday announced the purchase of encryption software firm HighCloud Security, acknowledging industry concerns about storing clear text files in an off-site data center.

Not wanting to bite the hand that feeds them, HyTrust officials say the deal also should benefit intelligence agencies by preventing rogue system administrators, such as ex-federal contractor Edward Snowden, from decoding government data. The company since 2007, has built a business off technology that monitors the activities of cloud system administrators.

With Thursday’s acquisition of HighCloud encryption, “even if somehow that admin was able to get away with that virtual machine, it would be unusable. It’s like a brick. You can’t access the data inside of it. It’s meaningless,” HyTrust co-founder Eric Chiu said in an interview. “You’ve solved, end to end, that potential Snowden-level attack — of that admin and the godlike privileges that they typically have — in safeguarding against them and monitoring that as well as protecting the data itself, in case it does get stolen.”

But the company empathizes with corporations entrusting data to cloud providers that cooperate with the feds.

While some data center providers offer to encode their tenants’ data, “if you’re letting the cloud provider provide not only the encryption, but also manage and store the keys to unlock that encryption, well, you have no idea whether somebody has been granted access to that data because of subpoena,” Chiu said. “If you keep the keys to your data that means that nobody else can unencrypt and potentially access your data without your approval.”


With the European Union expressing outrage over alleged intercepts of its citizens’ communications, HyTrust officials might be worried about losing business from customers such as one unidentified major European development bank and many Fortune 500 companies.

The company is still in startup mode. Intel Capital, VMware and Cisco participated in a $18.5 million round of financing, HyTrust announced in August.

In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital wing, also contributed funding at the time.

“We don’t make any political decisions,” Chiu insisted. But, he also said: “I have to be careful what I say because one of our customers and investors is In-Q-Tel,” and the company’s services “are very much strategic to the efforts of the intelligence community.” In-Q-Tel and HyTrust made public a technology development deal in July.

Chiu said talks between HyTrust and HighCloud started before revelations about NSA domestic surveillance were made public in May through leaks by Snowden.

In an interview this week, he said the new partnership should help put corporate clients’ minds at ease about the risk of U.S. government spying. “I think that is a real, is a legitimate concern. I think being able to have your data encrypted and being able to keep the keys and be the one that determines whether or not you want to give the keys over to give access to that data is important. I think you want to make the decision on what happens to your data,” he said.

HighCloud officials have also touted their software’s ability to protect Web-based data from U.S. surveillance. “Technologies like HighCloud’s encryption, where you control encryption keys, inside your firewall if you prefer, can help ensure that the government must come to you in order to access your data,” said a July note on the company’s blog.” In a statement last month, HighCloud co-founder Steve Pate said, “As cloud service providers become a target for data access, both to thieves and the U.S. government, organizations must take further steps to secure their data in the cloud.”

HyTrust, a private company, did not disclose the terms of the deal.



Groups Fear Federal Pensions Are At Risk in Budget Talks

By Kellie Lunney

November 7, 2013


Lawmakers tasked with reaching a budget deal before mid-January are likely to consider increasing the amount federal workers contribute to their pensions, according to federal employee and retiree advocates.

Similar proposals have come up during previous budget and deficit discussions over the last few years, and this time won’t be any different, say representatives from the Federal-Postal Coalition and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “Common knowledge would certainly put this on the table,” said Jessica Klement, NARFE legislative director. “I don’t see how something like this isn’t part of the conference unless we have some very, very vocal opponents,” she said, adding, “At this point in time we have no reason to believe that cuts to the federal community are off the table.”

The groups’ fears are well-founded because it’s an area of savings Republicans and the Democratic White House agree on. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., in his fiscal 2014 budget plan, wants feds to pay 5.5 percent more of their salaries toward their defined benefit; he would also eliminate an additional benefit — what’s known as the Federal Employees Retirement System Annuity Supplement — for those government workers who retire before the age of 62 and who are not eligible for mandatory retirement. President Obama in his fiscal 2014 budget blueprint recommended that federal employees contribute 1.2 percent more of their pay, phased in at 0.4 percent over the next three years, toward their pensions. The White House estimated that the change would save the government $20 billion during the next decade. Obama also supports eliminating the FERS Annuity Supplement.

However, the Senate budget plan opposes further tinkering with federal employees’ pay and benefits. “Federal workers play a key role in running a smart and efficient government,” said the budget resolution crafted by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash, also a budget conferee. “These workers have borne the brunt of recent deficit reduction efforts, with years of pay freezes and many workers facing furloughs in the coming months caused by the indiscriminate and untargeted sequestration cuts.” The document noted that the Republican budget would “further harm these workers by significantly increasing their contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System, effectively cutting their take-home pay in every paycheck.”

The House and Senate budget conferees, including Ryan, are supposed to reconcile differences in the next month between the House and Senate fiscal 2014 budget plans — currently about $91 billion apart. The lawmakers also are discussing how to deal with the next round of 10-year automatic spending cuts scheduled to take place on Jan. 15, 2014, when the current continuing resolution expires. The government will have to cut $109.3 billion from the budget under sequestration — half from defense and half from non-defense — in fiscal 2014 unless Congress agrees on an alternative. The committee must submit its recommendations by Dec. 13, 2013.

“There’s considerable concern that once again, the federal retirement account continues to be an ATM to solve the nation’s fiscal problems,” said Bruce Moyer, chairman of the Federal-Postal Coalition, a group of 31 national organizations that represents millions of federal and postal employees and retirees. Moyer’s group, along with NARFE and the National Treasury Employees Union, has sent letters to the budget conferees urging them not to include any recommendations that would reduce federal employee or retiree pay and benefits in their final report. NTEU estimates that federal employees already have contributed $114 billion in deficit reduction as a result of the three-year pay freeze and a 2012 law that requires feds hired after 2012 or those with fewer than five years of previous federal service to contribute 3.1 percent toward their pensions – 2.3 percentage points more than the 0.8 percent most feds put in per paycheck for their defined benefit plan.

“In addition to the $141 billion from a three-year pay freeze and increased pension contributions for new hires, federal employees have faced unpaid furloughs due to sequestration, expanded workloads due to little hiring because of sequestration and a 16-day government shutdown, which could be repeated if Congress again does not do its job by Jan. 15,” NTEU President Colleen Kelley said.

The conference committee, which held its first public meeting last week, hasn’t delved into budget-cutting specifics yet. But negotiators are under pressure to find common ground, so it makes sense that they will seriously consider proposals that have support on both sides of the aisle. “I think that there are significant motivations on both sides of the aisle to reach a deal that tempers, if not eliminates sequestration in 2014,” Moyer said. “For Republicans, the extra hit that defense will take in 2014 motivates them to reduce sequestration; for Democrats, the compounding problems of sequestration on domestic spending will continue to motivate them to find a solution.”

Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 09, 2013

The Founding Fathers in their wisdom set up a federal government with three equal branches – the executive, legislative and judicial – to ensure a system of checks and balances that would preserve our democracy. But what happens when most Americans doubt the integrity of all three?

Consider first the Executive BranchMost voters now disapprove of the job President Obama is doing. His daily job approval rating at week’s end ties his low for the year.

This rating is undoubtedly the result of increasingly negative opinions of the new national health care law as millions now appear likely to face major changes in their health insurance coverage – and big cost increases. Most voters opposed the law from the start. Fifty-three percent (53%) now view Obamacare unfavorably, with 42% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion of it.

Seventy-one percent (71%) believe it’s at least somewhat likely that the president or senior officials in his administration were aware long before the law began being implemented that health insurance costs would go up for some Americans, contrary to what they said publicly.

Just over a year ago, most voters didn’t know enough about Obama Cabinet member Kathleen Sebelius to have any kind of opinion of her, even though the secretary of Health and Human Services was in the powerful position of implementing the health care law. Now that Obamacare’s off to a troubled start, a plurality (44%) views Sebelius unfavorably.

Most voters also have consistently said that cutting government spending is the best boost for the economy, but 47% of voters give the president poor marks in this area.

Then there’s the National Security Agency domestic spying scandal. Fifty percent (50%) of Americans – one-out-of-two – now think it is at least somewhat likely that their own government has monitored their Internet activity or the activity of a member of their family, with 27% who believe it’s Very Likely.

Next, consider the Legislative BranchSeventy-five percent (75%) of voters now say Congress is doing a poor job. That’s Congress’ highest negative rating in more than seven years of regular tracking.

Not only that, but 61% believe most members of Congress are willing to sell their vote for cash or campaign contributions. Most (56%) even think it’s likely their own representative in Congress has sold his or her vote.

Voters also remain strongly convinced that most members of Congress get reelected because the election rules are rigged in their favor. So is it any surprise that only 35% now think American elections are fair to voters? That’s the lowest level of confidence in regular surveys since September 2004.

As for the Judicial Branch – Sixty percent (60%) of voters think most U.S. Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda.

Judges are often criticized for legislating from the bench, and just one-in-three voters (33%) now believe most judges follow the letter of the law in their rulings.

Americans are even suspicious of the supposedly independent Federal Reserve. Only 34% have a favorable opinion of the nation’s central bank, and 74% want to audit the Fed and make the results available to the public.

No wonder just 24% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

But then voters have consistently said for the last several years that the economy is number one in importance, and where is the economy five years after the Wall Street meltdown?

At week’s end, one-in-four consumers (24%) said their personal finances are getting better, but 43% think they’re getting worse. 

Friday’s government jobs report found that the unemployment rate has edged up to 7.3 percent in October.

No surprise there since the Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence dropped in October to its lowest level this year. October marked the first month since November of last year that reported hirings did not outnumber reported layoffs.

Only 19% of Americans now believe the job market is better than it was one year ago. Looking ahead, 36% believe the unemployment rate will be higher one year from now, the highest level of pessimism all year.

With lower government spending in mind, however, most Americans still think the federal government should avoid a long-term role in aiding those who can’t find work.

Meanwhile, with a sizable cohort of Baby Boomers reaching retirement age, just 41% of voters are at least somewhat confident that they’ll get their full Medicare benefits, with only 12% who are Very Confident.

In other surveys last week:

– Democrats maintain a six-point lead – 43% to 37% – over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

– Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters favor a law just passed by the Senate that outlaws discrimination in the workplace against transgender, gay, lesbian and bisexual people. However, just 39% consider such discrimination to be even a somewhat serious problem.

– Only 26% of voters favor U.S. military action against Syria if its government fails to destroy its chemical weapons capabilities as promised.

Thirty-six percent (36%) favor a stop and frisk law like New York City’s where they live that allows police to stop and frisk anyone on the street whom they consider suspicious.

Thirty-six percent (36%) of Americans believe the federal government should bail out Detroit to make sure the pensions of the city’s retired employees are paid in full.

– Most Americans think even though someone is old enough to vote or die for their country, they’re not mature enough yet to decide whether they want to smoke. So they want to raise the legal age for buying tobacco to 21.

– As the crackdown on tobacco smoking continues, nearly nine-out-of-10 Americans say they’ve either quit the habit or have never smoked at all.  Here’s what America thinks about smoking these days

November 2 2013




Federal workers must pay back jobless benefits

Paul Davidson, USA TODAY 12:04 a.m. EDT October 28, 2013

Labor Department says federal employees can’t get back pay and keep unemployment aid.


The federal government shutdown cost taxpayers billions of dollars but at least a tiny fraction will be recouped: Federal employees will get paid just once—not twice– for not working.

All federal employees who collected unemployment insurance during the 16-day shutdown will have to return the payments because the workers are also receiving back pay, the Labor Department said late last week.

The agency earlier this month said it expected to issue guidance that likely would result in most states requiring workers to repay the jobless benefits. It was expected that the guidance would let some states keep both the benefits and the retroactive pay, depending on laws in each state.

In Oregon, for instance, a law permits employees to keep the benefits even if they receive back pay, as long as they did not perform any services during their furloughs. About 730 federal workers in Oregon made an initial claim for unemployment insurance during the shutdown and received about $390,000 in benefits, the state Employment Department says. The state paid the benefits but said it expected to be reimbursed by the federal government.

But in guidance to states late last week, the Labor Department said that, because they were in “pay status,” all furloughed employees “were not ‘unemployed’ and are thus ineligible for unemployment benefits.”

The Oregon Employment Department said in a news release that it now will tell federal employees the benefits “are an overpayment and must be repaid.” It added that the Labor Department changed the directive it had issued earlier this month which said that federal employees were eligible for unemployment insurance.

Nationally, about 70,000 of the 400,000 federal employees furloughed during the shutdown applied for jobless benefits, but a much smaller number took the steps required to receive them, federal and state labor officials say. They generally collected the payments for just one week because they worked during parts of the shutdown’s first and third weeks.

Even before the Labor Department’s recent guidance, the agency had said it was clear that federal employees in most states would have to repay the benefits


DoD to better protect data on unclassified contractor networks

Oct. 25, 2013 – 06:00AM |

By Marcus Weisgerber

Staff writer

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is moving to secure unclassified contractor networks in an attempt to better safeguard U.S. intellectual know-how.

The plan — put in place by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Oct. 10 — hits the streets just weeks after Iran hacked an unclassified U.S. Navy computer network.

These actions will ensure that the department provides a cohesive, comprehensive and cost-effective approach to protect priority investments and future defense capabilities while maintaining efficient business operations with our industrial partners, Hagel wrote.

Hagel’s orders include changes that span Pentagon’s acquisition, intelligence and policy directorates, as well as the military services and other DoD entities.

Specifically, Hagel ordered his subordinates to take immediate action to improve the protection of unclassified controlled technical information that resides on or passes through defense contractor systems or networks.

The new guidance issued by Hagel packs more of a punch than prior directives because it will include mandates for unclassified contractor network security. Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall is instructed to propose an amendment to current regulations pertaining to the safeguarding of this technical information.

This shall include necessary policy, guidance, and rulemaking activities, to include expansion of current cybersecurity information-sharing activities and programs, Hagel wrote.

DoD already has strict rules for how contractors handle classified data.

Pentagon officials have long lamented the lack of security for technical data on contractor networks. Smaller contractors lower down in the supply chain with lesser cyber defenses are thought to be soft targets for smart attackers, and both large and small contractors are routinely bombarded by attacks.

Hagel has also ordered the stand up of a joint analysis capability to assess technical information losses and determine consequences of those losses in order to inform requirements, acquisition, programmatic, and strategic courses of action.

The services shall identify critical acquisition and technology programs requiring higher levels of protection. Michael Vickers, undersecretary for intelligence, will oversee this initiative.

Protection of contractor networks has been thrust into the spotlight numerous times in recent months. Earlier this year, the Defense Science Board warned that China has attacked U.S. networks that contained information about dozens of defense weapon programs and technologies, including the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 joint strike fighter.


Timeline: When to Expect a Possible Pay Raise, and Other Key Fiscal Deadlines

By Kellie Lunney

October 25, 2013


In just the past few weeks, the government shut down, reopened and skirted a default on its debts. We could all do without that kind of excitement for a while.

A while, in this case, is less than three months, roughly the amount of time left until the current continuing resolution funding agencies expires. Absent a grand budget bargain between Republicans and Democrats in December, the beginning of 2014 will put us right back where we were in September and October 2013. We’ve got new deadlines for the same old problems. Oh, and remember sequestration? Another round of automatic, governmentwide budget cuts hits in mid-January, unless Congress reverses them. Federal employees, many of whom were furloughed during the summer and again in the fall because of the shutdown, face the prospect of more unpaid leave or even layoffs heading into the new year.

There’s one bright spot for federal workers on the horizon: It’s looking more likely that they will get an across-the-board pay hike in 2014, the first such increase in three years. And the 2013 holiday season is looking relatively hassle-free, at least from a congressional perspective. Lawmakers were careful not to schedule any major upcoming deadlines that could disrupt holiday travel or family time.

Here’s an updated timeline of important dates for federal employees to watch over the next few months:


◾Oct. 30: House and Senate budget conferees hold their first public meeting. The continuing resolution re-opening government included a provision creating the panel to come up with a deficit reduction plan before the end of the year.

◾Nov. 11: Open Season for health, dental, and vision insurance as well as flexible spending accounts begins. Federal employees might want to shop around for a better deal to save money in preparation for any possible future unpaid leave due to sequestration, or another shutdown.

◾Dec. 9: Open Season ends.

◾Dec. 13: The House and Senate budget conference committee presents its fiscal recommendations. A grand bargain is a long shot, considering the failure of the 2011 joint congressional supercommittee to produce a deficit reduction plan and avoid sequestration. The current House and Senate budgets are very different, so the conferees have their work cut out for them in finding common ground. Federal employees should pay attention to the negotiations and the panel’s recommendations. Feds’ pay and benefits have been on the table before in these discussions.

◾Dec. 16: Congress begins its holiday recess through the end of the year. During the past few years, both chambers have worked up to the end of December to debate and vote on important budget legislation. This year should be less chaotic since the next big budget deadline isn’t until Jan. 15. And Congress, as we all know, likes to procrastinate.

◾Dec. 31: Look for news regarding a possible civilian pay increase around this time, or an extension of the pay freeze, now in its third year. President Obama wants to give civilian employees (as well as military personnel) a 1 percent, across-the-board pay boost in 2014. The current continuing resolution does not prohibit one. If lawmakers do not pass a measure prohibiting a raise or extending the pay freeze, which doesn’t look likely at this time, then the president’s recommendation takes effect.



◾Jan. 1: 1 percent across-the-board pay raise for federal civilian and military personnel takes effect unless Congress blocks it.

◾Jan. 15: Mark your calendars. This is an important date. The current continuing resolution funding the government expires and the automatic cuts under sequestration take effect for fiscal 2014 on this date, unless Congress changes the law before then. Agencies likely will start announcing furlough plans soon after, if the sequester remains in place. The FBI has already said it will furlough employees for 10 days if the sequester continues next year, and the Defense Department has said it might have to resort to laying off civilian employees.

◾Feb. 3: President Obama must submit his fiscal 2015 budget proposal to Congress by the first Monday in February. But Obama typically has been late delivering his blueprint, blaming sequestration and delaying his fiscal 2014 proposal until April 2013. It’s likely the fiscal 2015 proposal also will be late for similar reasons.

◾Feb. 7: The government hits its latest debt ceiling on this date. Unless there’s an extension before Feb. 7, the Treasury secretary will use emergency borrowing authority to give the government a few months’ wiggle room to avoid defaulting on its debts. One of the extraordinary measures that the government often has used to avoid a default is tapping into and suspending investments into the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and halting the daily reinvestment of the government securities (G) fund, the most stable offering in the Thrift Savings Plan’s portfolio. The law requires the Treasury secretary to refill the coffers of the G Fund and the Civil Service Retirement Fund once the issue of the debt ceiling is resolved, and in addition, to make up for any interest lost on those investments during the suspension.


Pentagon weighs future of its inscrutable nonagenarian futurist, Andrew W. Marshall

By Craig Whitlock, Published: October 27

From his office deep inside the Pentagon, Yoda has outlasted the Cold War, countless military conflicts and 10 presidential elections. But can he survive the sequester?

Yoda is the reverential nickname for Andrew W. Marshall, a legendary if mysterious figure in national security circles. A bald, enigmatic 92-year-old strategic guru, he resembles the Jedi master of “Star Wars” fame in more ways than one.

Since the Nixon administration, Marshall has directed the Pentagon’s secretive and obliquely named internal think tank, the Office of Net Assessment, which contemplates military strategy decades into the future. Over his long career, he has foretold the economic collapse of the Soviet Union, the rise of China and the spread of robotic warfare.

Today, confronting a budget crunch, Pentagon leaders are contemplating whether Marshall and his think tank have outlived their usefulness, or need to be reined in. The Office of Net Assessment costs taxpayers only about $10 million a year — pocket change in the $525 billion annual defense budget, but enough to face fresh scrutiny at a time of cutbacks.

Few places, however, are tougher to scrutinize. Many of Marshall’s studies and reports are classified. And he has to share them with only one man: the secretary of defense. Which reports actually get read, and which ones end up in history’s top-secret dustbin, is everybody else’s guess.

“There’s no real way to weigh it or figure out how much he pays” consultants for the reports, said a former senior defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about the Office of Net Assessment. “You can’t quite tell what the nation is getting out of it.”

Even so, the mere suggestion that the Pentagon might force its nonagenarian futurist to retire has sparked a backlash among Marshall’s heavyweight corps of supporters.

Several members of Congress, from both parties, have dashed off letters to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in protest. Former Pentagon chief Donald H. Rumsfeld tweeted that it would be a “serious mistake” to close the Office of Net Assessment and praised Marshall for being at the “forefront of strategy & transformation” for 40 years.

Others described Marshall’s intellect in Einsteinian terms. “Mr. Marshall’s brain is highly networked,” said John Arquilla, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., who has known him for decades. He praised Marshall’s “mental suppleness” and said advanced age had not slowed him down.

“His mind is as sharp as ever,” Arquilla said. “He’s gotten not just a second wind but a third wind in recent years.”

Marshall has also demonstrated exceptional political acumen, hanging on to his job under 13 defense secretaries. He has nurtured generations of national security thinkers and helped find them jobs on Capitol Hill, in academia, at private think tanks and in other parts of the government. The last time the Pentagon tried to close his office, almost two decades ago, his acolytes saved it with a furious lobbying effort.

A hero to China’s military

Sensitive to Marshall’s iconic status, Pentagon officials are treading carefully this time around; they declined to elaborate publicly on the futurist’s future.

“The Department of Defense is currently assessing our missions, structure and programs in light of an evolving set of strategic challenges, as well as a constrained fiscal environment,” Lt. Col. Damien Pickart, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement. “It would be premature to comment on pre-decisional issues.”

Another defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Hagel thinks that the Office of Net Assessment should be reorganized and that it “can be strengthened potentially by realigning it so that it remains close to him and his senior team.”

Marshall declined an interview request placed through a Pentagon spokesman. He shuns public appearances, doesn’t testify before Congress and permits himself to be quoted only on rare occasions.

Colleagues say he has always projected an inscrutable mystique. He generally keeps his thoughts to himself at conferences and meetings but can command attention just by twitching an eyebrow.

Although he is little known among Americans, Marshall enjoys an outsize reputation in Moscow and Beijing, where Russian and Chinese strategists have long admired his ideas, even if their countries were in the strategic crosshairs.

“Our great hero was Andy Marshall in the Pentagon,” Gen. Chen Zhou of the People’s Liberation Army said in an interview last year with the Economist. “We translated every word he wrote.”

‘Not very happy futures’

Marshall’s national security career began in 1949, the same year that Mao Zedong proclaimed the creation of the People’s Republic of China.

As a 28-year-old economist with a master’s degree, Marshall joined the Rand Corp., a nonprofit think tank that had just been created to perform research for the government. He burrowed into analyses of Soviet military programs, nuclear targeting and organizational behavior theory.

After a stint at the White House, Marshall was brought to the Pentagon in 1973 by then-Defense Secretary James Schlesinger to found the Office of Net Assessment. He concentrated on nuclear strategy and specialized in forecasting apocalyptic scenarios, some seemingly lifted from the satirical film “Dr. Strangelove.”

“We tend to look at not very happy futures,” he once told The Post in an interview.

He also became a leading proponent of a theory known as the “revolution in military affairs,” which posits that the history of warfare has been marked by several brief but transformative bursts in technology and organizational strategy, from the chariot to the German blitzkrieg to the atomic bomb.

Such thinking has led Marshall to argue that some foundational weapons of the armed services — the tank, the aircraft carrier and short-range fighter jets — are doomed to obsolescence because of advances in missile technology. That has made him an unbeloved figure among some U.S. generals and admirals, who view him as an unrealistic radical and a threat to conventional military strategy.

Millions to consultants

For the past two decades, Marshall’s office has gamed out scenarios for war with China.

Critics say he has exaggerated that and other threats as justification for fatter defense budgets. But fans say the Pentagon needs more long-range, out-of-the-box thinking, not less.

“We think that office provides incredible value to the country at a time when we need strategy more than ever,” said Rep. J. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee who helped sponsor a $10 million earmark last year for the Office of Net Assessment, nearly doubling its annual budget.

Forbes said that the office needs to be kept insulated from bureaucratic and political pressures and that it would fill an important niche long after Marshall steps down, whenever that might be.

“Obviously, I have enormous respect for Mr. Marshall,” Forbes said. “But this office is not just Andy Marshall. This office has spawned a number of great thinkers and ideas.”

The Office of Net Assessment contracts out much of its research to private think tanks. It recently commissioned a study titled “The Future of Africa” from Booz Allen Hamilton for $105,633, federal contracting records show.

A primary recipient of Marshall’s grant money is the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington. The defense think tank, headed by retired Army Lt. Col. Andrew Krepinevich, a longtime Marshall disciple, generally receives about $2.75 million to $3 million a year.

The former senior defense official said the Office of Net Assessment pursues some worthwhile lines of study but suggested that more oversight and accountability are needed. “How much money should we be dishing out to outside parties to restate [these findings] again and again?” he said.

At the same time, the former official said Marshall is so well entrenched politically that it doesn’t make sense for the Pentagon to try to change his ways or force him out before he is ready to go.

“Everybody is worried about the perception that they would go against this legendary icon who brought down the Soviet Union single-handedly,” the former official said. “It’s not even worth it to challenge that narrative at this point.”


Patent law is so broken that casinos, supermarkets, and realtors are demanding change


October 28 at 8:00 am


In the last few years, patent litigation has become such a widespread problem that industries that traditionally had nothing to do with the patent system are demanding that Congress take action. The latest sign of that is a letter asking Congress to make it easier to invalidate low-quality patents.

The letter is signed by some high-tech lobbying groups that have long been active on patent issues. But, surprisingly, the letter also drew support from distinctly low-tech sectors of the economy, including casinos, supermarkets, chain restaurants, airlines, and the printing industry.

“It’s important to recognize that the problem of patent trolls are no longer limited to technology companies,” says Whit Askew of the American Gaming Association, which represents casinos and the manufacturers of gambling devices. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve unfortunately been bit by the patent troll lawsuit bug, where frivolous lawsuits have been filed against many in our industry.”

These predominantly brick-and-mortar business groups aren’t just demanding patent reform in the abstract. Askew and other letter signers are endorsing expansion of the clumsily-named “covered business method” program, which provides an expedited process for challenging patents at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO). That’s significant because expansion of the CBM program has drawn the ire of some patent-rich software companies, including Microsoft, IBM, and Adobe.

Opponents of expanding the CBM program argue that procedural reforms, such as allowing technology vendors to intervene on behalf of their customers and forcing defeated patent plaintiffs to pay defendants’ legal bills, will be sufficient to bring the patent litigation crisis under control. And they worry that the defendant-friendly provisions of the CBM program will make it too difficult for the owners of legitimate patents to enforce their rights.

But Monday’s letter, whose more than two dozen signers include groups representing advertising agencies, publicly-owned power plants, real estate agents, hotels, and retailers, argues that these process-oriented reforms aren’t sufficient to solve the patent troll problem.

“Companies need an effective alternative for challenging validity [of patents] outside of the courtroom,” the letter argues. The CBM program “gives threatened companies a substantially less expensive way to challenge low quality patents. Other programs for challenging patent validity at the PTO do not allow the PTO to consider whether the patent is abstract, vague, or too broad,” which are common problems with patents used by trolls, the letter argues.

Industry groups that signed the letter say they were motivated to do so by a dramatic increase in the frequency of frivolous patent lawsuits. “We are now seeing [real estate] brokers receive demand letters for use of common technologies like scanner-copiers and website alert technologies,” says Gary Thomas, president of the National Association of Realtors.

“I’m a food lawyer,” says Erik Lieberman of the Food Marketing Institute, which represents grocery wholesalers as well as supermarkets. “Members bring us issues that impact them. A couple years ago they start coming to me saying ‘look this entity we’ve never heard of is sending us a demand letter asking us for $300,000 or $500,000 claiming we’re violating their patent.'”

Lieberman says many of the patents covered common technologies like the store locator function on a grocery store’s website or the use of QR codes in advertisements. Lieberman said that patent threats have now cost some of his larger clients millions of dollars in legal fees and staff time. And the burden can be especially serious for smaller supermarket chains that don’t have anyone on staff with experience handling patent issues.

For both Lieberman and the American Gaming Association’s Askew, low costs are one of the CBM program’s key advantages. The program “gives threatened companies a substantially less expensive way to challenge” low-quality patents, Askew says. It can take years for a court to reach a final ruling on a patent case. In contrast, the CBM program can end a lawsuit — and permanently eliminate a low-quality patent — in a matter of months, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.

The letter also notes that under the program, “small businesses are able to pool their resources in order to pay to have a [patent troll]’s patent reviewed.” That makes the program a particularly potent weapon against trolls that send letters to a large number of defendants seeking nuisance settlements.

Lieberman says that in the grocery business, “the profit margin is well under 1 percent,” so the costs of patent litigation “get passed down to consumers.”

The industries that signed the letter collectively have significant lobbying muscle. They could provide a counterweight to patent-rich companies who are squeamish about seeing their patent portfolios subjected to the kind of serious scrutiny the CBM program could make possible.


Cryptolocker: How to avoid getting infected and what to do if you are

There’s a new piece of ransomware in town; here’s how to protect your company’s assets


Jonathan Hassell

October 25, 2013 (Computerworld)


There’s a big threat wiling around on the Internet right now: A particularly nasty piece of ransomware called Cryptolocker. Many, many organizations are being infected with this malware, but fortunately, there are surefire ways to avoid it and also ways to mitigate the damage without letting the lowlifes win.

What is Cryptolocker?

Cryptolocker comes in the door through social engineering. Usually the virus payload hides in an attachment to a phishing message, one purporting to be from a business copier like Xerox that is delivering a PDF of a scanned image, from a major delivery service like UPS orFedEx offering tracking information or from a bank letter confirming a wire or money transfer.


Cryptolocker’s ransom note to infected users.

The virus is, of course, an executable attachment, but interestingly the icon representing the executable is a PDF file. With Windows’ hidden extensions feature, the sender simply adds “.pdf” to the end of the file (Windows hides the .exe) and the unwitting user is fooled into thinking the attachment is a harmless PDF file from a trusted sender. It is, of course, anything but harmless.

Once Cryptolocker is in the door, it targets files with the following extensions:

*.odt, *.ods, *.odp, *.odm, *.odc, *.odb, *.doc, *.docx, *.docm, *.wps, *.xls, *.xlsx, *.xlsm, *.xlsb, *.xlk, *.ppt, *.pptx, *.pptm, *.mdb, *.accdb, *.pst, *.dwg, *.dxf, *.dxg, *.wpd, *.rtf, *.wb2, *.mdf, *.dbf, *.psd, *.pdd, *.pdf, *.eps, *.ai, *.indd, *.cdr, *.jpg, *.jpe, img_*.jpg, *.dng, *.3fr, *.arw, *.srf, *.sr2, *.bay, *.crw, *.cr2, *.dcr, *.kdc, *.erf, *.mef, *.mrw, *.nef, *.nrw, *.orf, *.raf, *.raw, *.rwl, *.rw2, *.r3d, *.ptx, *.pef, *.srw, *.x3f, *.der, *.cer, *.crt, *.pem, *.pfx, *.p12, *.p7b, *.p7c

When it finds a file matching that extension, it encrypts the file using a public key and then makes a record of the file in the Windows registry under HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\CryptoLocker\Files. It then prompts the user that his or her files have been encrypted and that he or she must use prepaid cards or Bitcoin to send hundreds of dollars to the author of the malware.

Once the payment has been made, the decryption usually begins. There is typically a four-day time limit on the payment option; the malware’s author claims the private key required to decrypt files will be deleted if the ransom is not received in time. If the private key is deleted, your files will essentially never be able to be decrypted — you could attempt to brute force the key, but as a practical matter, that would take on the order or thousands of years. Effectively, your files are gone.

Currently, the only versions of Cryptolocker in existence target files and folders on local drives and mapped drives. The malware does not currently attempt to perform its malfeasance over network-based universal naming convention paths, although one would surmise this would be a relatively simple change for the author of the ransomware to make.

Antivirus and anti-malware programs, either running on endpoints or performing inbound email message hygiene, have a particularly difficult time stopping this infection. Unless you have a blanket email filtering rule stripping out executable attachments, and that tool is intelligent enough to do so without allowing the user to request the item’s return from quarantine, you will see your users getting these phishing messages attempting to introduce Cryptolocker. It is only a matter of time.

Prevention: Software Restriction Policies and AppLocker

As of now, the best tool to use to prevent a Cryptolocker infection in the first place — since your options for remediating the infection involve time, money, data loss or all three — is a software restriction policy. There are two kinds: Regular software restriction policies, and then enhanced AppLocker policies. I’ll cover how to use both to prevent Cryptolocker infections.

Software Restriction Policies

Software Restriction Policies (SRPs) allow you to control or prevent the execution of certain programs through the use of Group Policy. You can use SRPs to block executable files from running in the specific user-space areas that Cryptolocker uses to launch itself in the first place. The best place to do this is through Group Policy, although if you’re a savvy home user or a smaller business without a domain, you can launch the Local Security Policy tool and do the same thing.

One tip: if you’re using Group Policy, create a new GPO for each restriction policy. This makes it easier to disable a policy that might be overly restrictive.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Open up Local Security Policy or the Group Policy Object editor and create a new GPO. I’ll show you how to create two here — one for Windows XP machines (which use slightly different paths for the user space) and one for Windows Vista and later machines.
  2. Name the new GPO “SRP for XP to prevent Cryptolocker” or something similar for you to remember easily.
  3. Choose Computer Configuration and then navigate through Policies ‘ Windows Settings ‘ Security Settings ‘ Software Restriction Policies.
  4. Right-click Software Restriction Policies and choose New Software Restriction Policy from the context menu.
  5. Now, create the actual rules that will catch the software on which you want to enforce a restriction. Right-click Additional Rules in the left-hand pane. Choose New Path Rule.
  6. Under Path, enter %AppData%\*.exe.
  7. Under Security level, choose Disallowed.
  8. Enter a friendly description, like “Prevent programs from running in AppData.”
  9. Choose New Path Rule again, and make a new rule like the one just completed. Use the following table to fill out the remainder of this GPO.






Security Level 

Suggested Description 



Prevent Cryptolocker executable from running in AppData* 



Prevent virus payloads from executing in subfolders of AppData 

%UserProfile%\Local Settings\Temp\Rar*\*.exe 


Prevent un-WinRARed executables in email attachments from running in the user space

%UserProfile%\Local Settings\Temp\7z*\*.exe 


Prevent un-7Ziped executables in email attachments from running in the user space 

%UserProfile%\Local Settings\Temp\wz*\*.exe 


Prevent un-WinZIPed executables in email attachments from running in the user space

%UserProfile%\Local Settings\Temp\*.zip\*.exe 


Prevent unarchived executables in email attachments from running in the user space 

*Note this entry was covered in steps 5-8. It is included here for your easy reference later.

WinRAR and 7Zip are the names of compression programs commonly used in the Windows environment.

Close the policy.

To protect Windows Vista and newer machines, create another GPO and call this one “SRP for Windows Vista and up to prevent Cryptolocker.” Repeat the steps above to create the SRP and create path rules based on the following table.



Security Level 

Suggested Description 



Prevent Cryptolocker executable from running in AppData* 



Prevent virus payloads from executing in subfolders of AppData 



Prevent un-WinRARed executables in email attachments from running in the user space



Prevent un-7Ziped executables in email attachments from running in the user space 



Prevent un-WinZIPed executables in email attachments from running in the user space



Prevent unarchived executables in email attachments from running in the user space 

Close the policy.

Once these GPOs get synchronized down to your machines — this can take up to three reboots to happen, so allow some time — when users attempt to open executables from email attachments, they’ll get an error saying their administrator has blocked the program. This will stop the Cryptolocker attachment in its tracks.

Unfortunately, taking this “block it all in those spots” approach means that other programs your users may install from the web, like GoTo Meeting reminders and other small utilities that do have legitimate purposes, will also be blocked. There is a solution, however: You can create ad-hoc allow rules in the software restriction policy GPOs. Windows allows these “whitelisted” apps before it denies anything else, so by defining these exceptions in the SRP GPO, you will instruct Windows to let those apps run while blocking everything else. Simply set the security level to Unrestricted, instead of Disallowed as we did above.


AppLocker is the SRP feature on steroids. However, it only works on Windows 7 Ultimate or Windows 7 Enterprise editions, or Windows 8 Pro or Windows 8 Enterprise edition, so if you’re still on Windows XP for the time being or you have a significant contingent of Windows Vista machines, AppLocker will not do anything for you.

But if you are a larger company with volume licenses that is deploying the enterprise editions of the OS, AppLocker is really helpful in preventing Cryptolocker infections because you can simply block programs from running — except those from specific software publishers that have signed certificates.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Create a new GPO.
  2. Right-click on it to edit, and then navigate through Computer Configuration, Windows Settings, Security Settings, Application Control Policies and AppLocker.
  3. Click Configure Rule Enforcement.
  4. Under Executable Rules, check the Configured box and then make sure Enforce Rules is selected from the drop-down box. Click OK.
  5. In the left pane, click Executable Rules.
  6. Right-click in the right pane and select Create New Rule.
  7. On the Before You Begin screen, click Next.
  8. On the Permissions screen, click Next.
  9. On the Conditions screen, select the Publisher condition and click Next.
  10. Click the Browse button and browse to any executable file on your system. It doesn’t matter which.
  11. Drag the slider up to Any Publisher and then click Next.
  12. Click Next on the Exceptions screen.
  13. Name the policy something like “Only run executables that are signed” and click Create.
  14. If this is your first time creating an AppLocker policy, Windows will prompt you to create default rules — go ahead and click Yes here.

NOTE: Also take this opportunity to review the permissions set on your file server share access control lists, or ACLs. Cryptolocker possesses no special capabilities to override deny permissions, so if the user who gets infected is logged into an account that has very limited permissions, the damage will be minimal. Conversely, if you allow the Everyone group Write access for the NTFS permissions on most of your file shares, and you use mapped drives, one Cryptolocker infection could put you into a world of hurt. Review your permissions now. Tighten where you can. Work with your line of business application vendors to further tighten loose permissions that are “required” for “supportability” — often these specifications are needlessly broad.

Using either an SRP or an AppLocker policy, you can prevent Cryptolocker from ever executing and save yourself a lot of problems.

Mitigation: Previous versions (shadow copies) and ShadowExplorer

If you are unlucky enough to have been infected with Cryptolocker, then there are some mitigation strategies available to you. (Of course, you can always restore from backups as well.) Both strategies involve a tool called Shadow Copies that is an integral part of the System Restore feature in Windows. This is turned on by default in client versions of Windows, and best practices for storage administration have you turning this on manually on Windows Server-based file servers. If you have left this setting alone, you likely have backups right on your computer or file share.

Previous versions

To restore the previous version of a file using the traditional Windows interface, just right-click the file in question and choose Properties. If System Restore is enabled or your administrator has enabled Shadow Copies through Group Policy, you should be able to see the Previous Versions tab in the Properties window. This will list all of the versions on record of the file. Choose a version before the Cryptolocker infection and then click either Copy to export a copy of the file somewhere else, or Restore to pop the backup right where the encrypted file belongs. You can open the files directly from this box too if you are not sure of the exact date and time of infection.


ShadowExplorer is a downloadable free tool that makes it much easier to explore all of the available shadow copies on your system. This is a useful ability when you have a wide range of files infected with Cryptolocker and need to restore a swath of them at once.

When you install and run the tool, you can select the drive and the shadow copy date and time from the drop-down menu at the top of the window. Then, just like in a regular Windows Explorer menu, you can choose the folder and file you want, and then right-click and select Export. Choose the destination on your file system to put the exported shadow copies on, and then you have your backup restored. Of course, this is a previous version, so it may not have the most current updates to your files, but it is much better than having lost them completely or having to pay a ransom for them.

The last word

Cryptolocker sucks. Its creator is a piece of scum. To trick users into downloading something that encrypts their files and then to demand from them hundreds of dollars to give their own data back to them is despicable. Please, take steps now so you don’t have to be the one ponying up your money and enabling this trash to continue.


Brit Charged with Hacking Federal IT

Military, NASA, EPA Systems Breached

By Eric Chabrow, October 29, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity

Prosecutors have charged a 28-year-old resident of Great Britain with hacking thousands of U.S. government computers, including those at the U.S. Army and a number of federal agencies, to steal massive amounts of confidential information.

On Oct. 25, British authorities arrested Lauri Love of Stradishall, a village about a 90-minute drive north of London. Love, working with others, illegally accessed U.S. government computers, including those of the U.S. Army, Missile Defense Agency, Environmental Protection Agency and NASA, according to allegations in an indictment from a federal district court grand jury in Newark, N.J.

The indictment, which also includes a charge of conspiracy, says the breaches resulted in millions of dollars in losses, but prosecutors didn’t explain how they calculated those damages. Prosecutors in Virginia also charged Love with attacks on other computers in the United States.

“As part of their alleged scheme, [Love and others] stole military data and personal identifying information belonging to servicemen and women,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishmansays in a statement. “Such conduct endangers the security of our country and is an affront to those who serve.”

Love faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, on each of the two counts. Officials did not provide a specific amount of the loss.

According to reports in the British media, U.K. authorities were holding Love in connection with an investigation by Britain’s National Crime Agency. British authorities charged Love under the Computer Misuse Act, which allows individuals to be arrested for launching cyber-attacks from within the U.K. against computers anywhere in the world. The reports say information accessed by Love included budgeting data and the disposal of military facilities.

Attacks Occurred Over Past Year

The indictment unsealed in Newark federal court says Love and his cohorts hacked thousands of computer systems since last October. Once inside the compromised networks, Love and his conspirators placed back doors within the networks that allowed them to return to the compromised computers to steal confidential data, including the personally identifying information of thousands of individuals, some of whom serve in the U.S. military, as well as other nonpublic material.

Authorities say Love and his conspirators planned the attacks in secure online chat forums, where they identified vulnerable computer networks and decided what type of information to pilfer with the goal to disrupt the operations of the U.S. government.

Citing prosecutors, the Associated Press says the indictment includes parts of instant message conversations that Love allegedly had with his partners, including one boasting about hacking the space agency’s networks: “ahaha, we owning lots of nasa sites.” In another exchange, Love marvels at the information the group has accessed, writing “this … stuff is really sensitive,” according to prosecutors.

Authorities allege the conspirators, who reportedly also include an Australian and a Swede, implemented SQL injection attacks and exploited vulnerabilities in the ColdFusion web application platform, which some of the targeted agencies employed. Once they infiltrated the networks, Love and his conspirators placed malware on the systems, creating back doors and leaving the systems vulnerable for later access.

Authorities say the conspirators used proxy and Tor servers to launch the attacks to mask their IP addresses and frequently changed their nicknames in online chat rooms, using multiple identities to communicate with each other.

AP reports authorities charged Love in New Jersey because he allegedly used a server in Parsippany, N.J.



Echoes of Echelon in Charges of NSA Spying in Europe

Updated July 1, 2013 9:09 p.m. ET

BRUSSELS—It isn’t the first time the U.S. has found itself in the center of a storm about spying on allies. The allegations that the National Security Agency spied on European Union institutions and friendly countries in continental Europe and further afield echo a furor of more than a decade ago.

Then, European politicians were scandalized by disclosures about a U.S. signals intelligence project supposedly called Echelon, said to be able to capture and analyze electronic signals—phone calls, faxes, emails and more—around the world.

Like the Echelon claims, the latest allegations, presumably from the computer of former U.S. intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, suggest espionage not for national-security reasons but for possible commercial advantage. The EU is the largest trading bloc in the world, and Jonathan Eyal of the Royal United Services Institute think tank in London, says it “would be naive to think it wouldn’t be subject to interception.”

But there are important differences. The first is the detailed nature of the allegations, far more specific than in the Echelon controversy. The other is the scale of the operations.

Mr. Eyal says the allegations suggest the devotion of U.S. intelligence to so-called big data: vacuuming up details of electronic communications from around the world. But there is a drawback: “Big data mean big leaks.”

The U.S. intelligence services, criticized for “stove-piping” information before 9/11, now seem to be sharing too much.

The fierceness of the reaction is especially evident in Germany, where there is huge sensitivity to invasions of privacy because of the pervasive spying on individuals in East Germany and under the Nazis. However, former intelligence specialists suspect some theater in the shocked condemnations from European politicians.

Former NSA director Michael Hayden told CBS television on Sunday that the U.S. Fourth Amendment that is held to protect the privacy of Americans isn’t an international treaty. He added: “Any European who wants to go out and rend their garments with regard to international espionage should look first and find out what their own governments are doing.”

Indeed, espionage isn’t forbidden under international law and it is more pervasive than ever. Whereas 60 years ago the world had two-dozen intelligence services of any importance, now most countries have some capacity, specialists say.

Intelligence services are constrained by their capabilities—and whether the expected benefits of an operation outweigh the risks. “The reality,” one former spy said, “is that friends do spy on friends,” but it is important not to get caught.

In one high-profile American case, Jonathan Pollard, a former civilian intelligence analyst, was sentenced in 1987 to life in prison for passing classified information to Israel.

The latest allegations throw light on another feature of international intelligence: the very close relationship of the five English-speaking allies, the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand, particularly in sharing of signals intelligence. This alliance is based on the proposition that its members won’t engage in covert action against one another.

It has long been an irritant in relations between continental Europe and “Anglo-Saxon” countries that flares when there are new disclosures, such as those this week.

There could be consequences.The allegations may sour negotiations over a free-trade accord between the U.S. and EU. The increasingly powerful European Parliament—and national regulators—also have the ability to throw sand in the machine of data sharing with the U.S., for example on air passengers and financial transactions.





Espionage? Moi?

Sure, Paris is a hypocrite when it comes to spying. But it isn’t alone.


If you buy the latest reporting out of Europe, France is outraged, simply outraged, at news that the National Security Agency has been eavesdropping on the European Union through its mission in New York and embassy in Washington. French political parties are now rumbling about offering asylum to Edward Snowden, the former NSA contractor at the center of the leaks. The French government is demanding answers from the United States about its snooping. Monsieur Le Président himself, François Hollande, is calling for an end to the spying.

All of which is pretty hilarious, given France’s penchant for stealing American defense technology, bugging American business executives and generally annoying U.S. counterintelligence officials. If you’ve been paying attention, you know that France is a proficient, notorious and unrepentant economic spy. “In economics, we are competitors, not allies,” Pierre Marion, the former director of France’s equivalent of the CIA, once said. “America has the most technical information of relevance. It is easily accessible. So naturally your country will receive the most attention from the intelligence services.”

It’s thus tempting to toss aside France’s protests as rank and witting hypocrisy over economic espionage, which of course they are. But the leaks about the NSA’s collection of economic information and the difficulty in explaining the differences in how it’s used on opposite sides of the Atlantic spell trouble for American cyberdiplomacy around the world.

Lest you doubt that France has dirty hands in corporate spying, there’s a long, storied and public bill of particulars against La République Française’s intelligence agencies.

France’s espionage against American companies, described as “aggressive and massive,” dates back to the 1960s and is largely born out of a desire to prop up its defense industry, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office, which delicately referred to France as “Country B.” France lacks a domestic defense market large enough to support cutting edge development so it opts to steal American military technology in order to save R&D costs and enjoy advanced weaponry for its own military and competitive for exports abroad.

France’s economic espionage hasn’t been confined solely to America’s defense industrial base, though. In the late 1980s, French intelligence reportedly spied on premiere firms such as Texas Instruments and IBM in a bid to help out its domestic computer industry. Reports of hidden microphones in the seats of Air France picking up the indiscreet business chatter of American executives have since become common intelligence lore.

The snooping burst into the public sphere during the 1993 Paris Air Show, the world’s biggest aerospace confab. It’s usually prom for the aviation industry, a chance for countries to show off their latest and greatest fighter jets and commercial airliner. But the show hit a sour note when a CIA document listing dozens of American companies targeted for espionage by France leaked to the public, prompting firms like Pratt & Whitney and Hughes Aircraft to hold back products or withdraw from the show entirely.


The spying continues even today, according a recent U.S. National Intelligence Estimate. The NIE declared France, alongside Russia and Israel, to be in a distant but respectable second place behind China in using cyberespionage for economic gain.


White House backs global spying

By Julian Pecquet and Justin Sink     – 10/28/13 08:35 PM ET

The White House on Monday defended the National Security Agency amid criticism from world leaders over its surveillance efforts.

The Obama administration’s already politically awkward dilemma became more challenging when a top Democratic ally slammed the latest allegations of spying on world leaders.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a staunch NSA supporter, said Monday that she “totally opposed” spying on U.S. allies. She called for a “total review” of intelligence gathering.

Meanwhile, nine European parliamentarians arrived in Washington, D.C., to investigate the latest revelations from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

These include claims that the agency tapped German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone and monitored the communications of tens of millions of French and Spanish citizens.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the NSA’s work “saves lives.”

“If we’re going to keep our citizens and our allies safe, we have to continue to stay ahead of these changes, and that’s what our intelligence community has been doing extraordinarily well,” Carney said.

But there’s evidence the controversy is wearing on the White House both at home and abroad.

Foreign governments that have been subjected to U.S. spying have launched at least three separate efforts aimed at curtailing the practice.

Germany and Brazil have joined hands at the United Nations on a resolution enshrining an international right to privacy. At least 19 other countries have signed on, according to Foreign Policy, including U.S. allies France and Mexico.

Germany and France are leading an effort to craft a new code of conduct between spy agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. The heads of Germany’s intelligence services are expected to travel to Washington, D.C., shortly to meet with administration officials.

Nine European Union (EU) lawmakers met Monday with the chairman of the House Intelligence panel and officials from the departments of Commerce, Treasury and Homeland Security as they kicked off a weeklong visit. The legislators are members of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties panel, which has been tasked with conducting an in-depth inquiry into the electronic mass surveillance of EU citizens.

“These are concerns we feel have to be taken seriously,” Claude Moraes, the lead author of the committee’s report, told reporters after meeting with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) on Capitol Hill.

Rogers said he’d had a “very candid” meeting with the Europeans, “which is important if we’re going to get through some of our differences.” He said the panel would be sending a delegation to Brussels, the de facto EU capital, “soon.”

Moraes praised Rogers’s move to “continue this discussion in Brussels because trust has to be rebuilt.”

Republicans on Capitol Hill slammed the president after The Wall Street Journal reported that Obama was unaware the NSA was targeting Merkel’s cellphone before an internal audit earlier this summer.

“If the executive did not know, it’s a mistake of both the people doing it not informing their superiors, and their superiors not questioning what was going on,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) told the paper.

The Arizona lawmaker called for a congressional investigation and hearings examining the nation’s surveillance techniques in light of the revelations.

At the White House, Carney would not confirm whether Obama had been in the dark over the surveillance program.

The administration hopes that by cooperating with European investigators and stressing the security benefits of surveillance programs, it can sooth concerns.

“We understand that German officials plan to travel to Washington in coming weeks, and the U.S. government looks forward to meeting with them,” National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told The Hill.

Still, EU leaders have warned there will be consequences if the NSA doesn’t back down.

“The NSA scandal was a wake-up call,” European Parliament President Martin Schulz said last week after legislators voted to recommend suspending data sharing on terrorism financing. “Now that there is evidence that EU embassies, European parliaments, European heads of government and citizens have been spied on by the USA on a grand scale, the European Parliament has called for the suspension of the TFTP [Terrorist Finance Tracking Program] Agreement.”

The European Parliament warns there could also be “consequences” for the sharing of airline passenger manifests with the Department of Homeland Security as well as “safe harbor” privacy certifications allowing companies to transfer data on European customers to the U.S. Some European lawmakers are also pressing for a delay in a U.S.-EU trade pact that would be the world’s most expansive to date.

Some U.S. intelligence experts think the latest trans-Atlantic row will blow over soon enough, however. They agree with the White House and Congress that U.S. allies are also heavily engaged in spying and are merely responding to public pressure.

“Yes, everybody does it, but not everybody has the same capabilities as the U.S.,” said Paul Pillar, a 28-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence service who’s now teaching at Georgetown University. “The officials who are part of the delegation know that full well; they also know that when something like this becomes public, they can’t just say, ‘Everybody does it, so we don’t care.’ They have to express public umbrage.”


Microsoft plans to stop issuing security patches for Windows XP next April, leaving mllions of PCs even more vulnerable to hackers.

Byron Acohido, USA TODAY 12 p.m. EDT October 29, 2013

SEATTLE – Microsoft’s venerable Windows XP operating is six times more likely to be successfully hacked than newer Windows 7 and Windows 8 personal computers.

Microsoft disclosed that metric at the RSA Conference in Amsterdam this morning. The software giant hopes to compel XP users to dump XP and upgrade to Windows 7 or Windows 8 — before it ends all XP support, including issuing security patches. That will happen come April 8, 2014.

“XP has been a beloved operating system for millions and millions of people around the world, but after 12 years of service it simply can’t mitigate the threats we’re seeing modern-day attackers use,” says Tim Rains, director of Microsoft Trustworthy Computing.

Criminal hackers, as you might imagine, can’t wait until April 8. That’s because most consumers are clueless about the true scope of security risks. And thousands of companies, for economic and operational reasons, appear intent on continuing to use XP machines well after Microsoft officially stops supporting XP, which was launched in October 2001.

But the intense good-guy vs. bad-guy race to find and exploit new holes in Windows 7 and Windows 8 is not going to stop. The key point is this: Microsoft will continue to issue security patches for Windows 7 and 8, but not for XP.

Security experts anticipate that cybercriminals will move to take advantage.Historically, about two thirds of malware developed for Windows 7, for instance, work well on Windows XP, says Wolfgang Kandek, chief technology officer at vulnerability management firm Qualys.

Every time Microsoft issues new security patches for Windows 7 or 8, which it does on the first Tuesday of each month, hackers will get a list of fresh, never-to-be-patched security holes in most XP machines still in use.

“Attackers can take information about new problems with Windows 7 and say, ‘I wonder if this works also in XP,'” says Kandek. “With no more patches available, XP will make a good target for hackers.”

The sheer number of Windows XP machines still in operation provide ample incentive for the bad guys. Of the estimated 1.3 billion Windows PCs in use globally, some 21% use Window XP, according to StatCounter. And if you count the the PCs accessing the Internet, as does, some 31% are Windows XP machines.

Microsoft has stuck by XP longer than any previous version. It went eight years before cutting support for Windows NT, 11 years before doing the same with Windows 2000 and it will go 13 years before pulling the plug on XP, points out Rob Kraus, research director at security management firm Solutionary.

“Having an operating system in place for 13 years is a testament to the work Microsoft has put into the OS,” Kraus says.

It was with XP Service Pack 2 in 2004 that Microsoft first enabled firewalls for Windows users by default. Subsequently, the software giant endured costly delays in the launch of XP’s successor, Windows Vista, mainly to make major security upgrades. And then it reinforced those security protections in Windows 7 and 8.

“Microsoft fundamentally redesigned the operating system after XP,” says Phil Lieberman, president of security consultancy Lieberman Software. “Trying to patch such an old operating system is akin to doing repairs to an old building that everybody agrees needs to be torn down.”

Even so, it’s highly likely millions of consumer and business XP machines will continue in use after April 8. A French company, Arkoon, has even begun offering a service that will identify vulnerabilities in XP machines after Microsoft stops issuing security patches.

And Microsoft itself is offering a failsafe for companies who can’t , or won’t, sunset XP. They might qualify to purchase “custom support” from Microsoft to receive critical security updates and related technical support.

Companies that face switching large numbers of XP workstations or that risk losing use of old business apps that won’t run well on newer versions of Windows must do the cost vs. benefit calculation.

Pierluigi Stella, Chief Technology Officer of Network Box USA , says for many companies still using XP, the wisest course will be to bite the bullet and upgrade.

“Generally speaking, most of companies typically can be migrated without major issues,” he says. “It’s only a matter of planning, budgeting and executing.”


NSA director Keith Alexander says European spying reports are false


National Security Agency director Gen. Keith Alexander on Tuesday called “completely false” press reports that the NSA had gathered information on millions of telephone calls in countries across Europe.

At a House Intelligence Committee hearing, Alexander said the data in question came from foreign intelligence agencies and was usually gathered outside Europe.

“This is not information we collected on European citizens,” Alexander said, citing reports of snooping in Italy France, and Spain. “It represents information that we and our NATO allies have collected in defense of our countries and in support of military operations.”

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sought to reassure a worldwide audience Tuesday that the U.S. is not cavalier about the privacy of Americans or foreigners.

“What we do not do is spy unlawfully on Americans or, for that matter, spy indiscriminately on the citizens of any country,” Clapper said during the House hearing. “We do not spy on anyone except for valid foreign intelligence purposes.”

The hearing came as European leaders and citizens are in an uproar about reports of widespread U.S. surveillance of e-mails and telephone communications both of average citizens and of prominent politicians.

Speaking in advance of the House hearing, White House press secretary Jay Carney would not confirm a Wall Street Journal’s story that some snooping attributed to the NSA in other reports was conducted by French and Spanish intelligence services in war zones and then passed to the NSA.

“We have important cooperative relationships with the security agencies and intelligence agencies” of allies around the world, Carney said, but he declined to “get into the specific alleged intelligence activities.”

Citing documents provided by Edward Snowden, newspapers in Italy, France and Spain have reported in recent days that the NSA monitored tens of millions of phone calls in both countries.

During his appearance on Capitol Hill, Clapper also warned Congress not to overreact to the stream of disclosures by passing legislation that undermines important counterterrorism programs.

“We must remain mindful of the potential impact of over-correcting the authorizations of the intelligence community,” Clapper said.

Other players in Congress are already moving ahead with reform legislation. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and House Judiciary Committee member Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced legislation Tuesday that would end a National Security Agency program that collects information on virtually all telephone calls made to, from or within the United States.

The House narrowly defeated a similar measure in July, but the prospects for such an aggressive move passing Congress are doubtful. Democrats in the Senate appear divided about the notion of cutting off the domestic call-tracking program.

A member of the European delegation in Washington to discuss surveillance issues suggested that the intelligence sharing might have extended into surveillance of foreign leaders, and that the NSA may not have directly tapped into German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone.

“The truth of a lot of these allegations has still not been actually explored properly,” European Parliament member Timothy Kirkhope told POLITICO on Monday.

“Who it was for instance who was listening to the chancellor’s conversations, if they were? Was it the Americans at all? I’m not convinced myself. I think it may be closer to home,” he said cryptically.

The White House is considering ending U.S. surveillance of friendly foreign leaders, but no final decisions have been made, a senior administration official told POLITICO late Monday. “While we have made some individual changes…we have not made across the board changes in policy like, for example, terminating intelligence collection that might be aimed at all allies,” the official said.

That came after Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made a more sweeping claim, saying that the White House had told her that “collection on our allies will not continue.” That assessment, the administration official said, was “not accurate.”


Treasury says taxpayers’ GM bailout loss now $9.7B

Fred Meier, USA TODAY 3:37 p.m. EDT October 29, 2013

The latest quarterly report from the Treasury Department says it has booked a $9.7 billion loss on the $49.5 billion bailout of General Motors.

The report to Congress is from Treasury’s special inspector general overseeing TARP, the Troubled Asset Relief Program that was the bailout fund for troubled financial and auto companies.

Taxpayers originally held 60.8% of GM in exchange for the bailout loans. Treasury has been selling down that stake and says in the report:

“Through a series of stock sales, Treasury has divested its preferred stock and most of its common stock, reducing its stake to 7.3%. Because the common stock sales have all taken place below Treasury’s break-even price, Treasury has so far booked a loss of $9.7 billion on the sales.”

The 7.3% equates to about 101 million shares of GM common stock, and to break even it now would have to sell those shares for an average of about $150. GM closed Monday at $35.80 making the remaining taxpayer stake worth about $3.6 billion.

The Treasury is conducting a new round of selling and has said it will divest all the shares by the end of the first quarter.


Motorola’s modular smartphone will be the anti-iPhone



October 29 at 10:17 am


Google owns Motorola. So it’s no surprise that Motorola’s latest smartphone idea draws inspiration from Google’s Android operating system — and offers another foil to Apple’s “closed” iOS.

Motorola’s vision of the future smartphone is open source: The device’s hardware will be customizable, and not just when you’re buying it from the store. The company’s Project Ara hopes to turn your phone into a physical platform. As with PCs, the device will be modular, meaning users can swap out components whenever they feel like it. Did you drop your phone and break the screen? Just replace the part that’s damaged all by yourself. Want to take better pictures? Just unplug the camera and slip in a new one. The phone will automatically detect the new component and integrate it into the rest of the system.

In many ways, a completely modular phone would be the antithesis of the iPhone. Those iconic smartphones, by design, are not upgradable — at least, not unless you fork over several hundred dollars for a new one. Consumers can’t easily take an iPhone apart and see what’s inside, let alone install new parts themselves. All that mystery and secrecy makes the iPhone seem kind of magical — and thus impenetrable to the average user.

Motorola’s bet, however, is that consumers will appreciate a more accessible smartphone, one that users can tinker with and repair themselves without having to go to a Genius Bar or another company store for help. (That convenience could also inspire users to hold on to their devices longer, reducing e-waste and countering the trend in the device industry toward shorter and shorter product life-cycles.)

Motorola appears to be so convinced of the modular future that it’s partnered with the Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, whose similar Phonebloks concept has won over nearly 1 million supporters. 



DoD’s top officers lack skills needed to lead tomorrow’s military, report says

Monday – 10/28/2013, 2:00pm EDT

By     Michael O’Connell

Retired Lt. Gen. Dave Barno, senior adviser and fellow, Center for a New American Security

Today’s generals and admirals don’t have the skills to address tomorrow’s military challenges, a new report concludes. Just because you’re a good soldier doesn’t mean you’re a good office manager.

Retired Lt. Gen. Dave Barno, a former top commander in Afghanistan, said that the military’s top leaders have been through 12 years of demanding conflicts in two different theaters of war, but that has not prepared them for the enterprise side of managing in the Department of Defense. He’s the author of a new report released today by the Center for a New American Security addressing this concern.

“Since 2003, we fought a very long, bloody war in Iraq alongside the one in Afghanistan,” he said. “And the general officer corps, and in many cases admirals in the Navy, have been deeply involved in this. For the last decade, it has been in some ways their entire focus. So, their ability to have broadening assignments and even have their normal educational opportunities to grow into their positions and to learn the bigger enterprise of defense has been missing in a lot of ways.”

Barno told the Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp incoming generals need time to learn how to do their jobs.

These days, it’s rare for a general to have an assignment last four or five years. Typically, tours of duty last only one or two years, which doesn’t allow them the opportunity to really learn their jobs in depth, Barno said.

“One of our recommendations is to make some significant changes to how long we keep successful people in their positions,” Barno.

Looking back over 40 years, Barno said he found shorter tours to be a relatively recent phenomenon. For example, Adm. Hyman Rickover, who many considered the father of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion program, held his job for more than three decades. More recently, Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was commander of the Joint Special Operations Command for five years.

It’s not just how much time officers spend on an assignment, it’s also the lack of scope in the work they’re focused on, Barno said. Officers specialize on combat and combat-related tasks, usually through the first 20 years of their careers. After that, though, as they become flag officers, those same officers are expected to acquire a whole new skill set.

“They’re expected to go from being very, very proficient at a fairly narrow set of skills, in some ways, to being good at everything,” Barno said. “That’s where the term general comes from. They are generalists. But the world that they’re going to inherent looks a lot less like the combat or combat-support environment they grew up in. It looks a lot like corporate business.”

Barno found that two-thirds of what general-rank officers do is “managing the enterprise” of the military, something they have very little experience doing.

“They can sometimes fall short when they’re put in those positions, which are the predominant positions they find as flag officers,” Barno said.

He recommended that at about the selection point for a two-star general, an officer should be put in one of two tracks. The first track would focus on combat, where an officer would continue to receive warfighting training so he or she could continue to lead the military’s warfighting effort.

The second would be an enterprise track, which accounts for more than half of all the general and admiral positions in the military.

Barno said this track would resemble an MBA program that would provide “an education in how to run our corporate enterprise, which the Defense Department is perhaps one of the largest in the world. They need something like that.”

The study also found education for generals and admirals drops significantly when compared to the first 20 years of their careers.

“Once you become a general, you can count your educational opportunities in days or weeks,” Barno said. “For an additional 15 or 20 years of service, that just doesn’t seem to make sense to us.”

Sequestration and budget cuts have impacted the entire military, so it’s not surprising that funding for training senior officers remains tight — not just for general ranks either, but for up and coming majors and lieutenant colonels, who will be the military’s future leaders.

In addition, the report suggests the military expand the opportunities for officers in their first 20 years to learn more about enterprise. Some of that may include training with industry and seeing how non-defense agencies do their work.

DoD should also look at expanding opportunities for graduate-level education and training, according to the report.

“That has diminished by probably 75 percent of what it was when I was a junior officer, just primarily due to budget cuts,” Barno said. “That’s an incredible opportunity for officers to get to know their counterparts out there in the broader population by being in civilian graduate schools, and also just broaden their horizons beyond the very narrow military warfighting focus.”


McKeon Taps Thornberry to Lead Acquisition Reform Effort

Oct 29 2013

Washington, D.C. – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon today announced that Vice Chairman Mac Thornberry will lead a long-term effort to reform the Department of Defense including a hard look at acquisition.

At an Armed Services Committee hearing today, Chairman McKeon said:

“While this Committee has led successful efforts to improve the way the Department acquires items and services, there are still significant challenges facing the defense acquisition system. We cannot afford a costly and ineffective acquisition system, particularly when faced with devastating impacts of repeated budget cuts and sequestration. The Congress, together with the Department of Defense and industry, must be willing to do the hard work to find root causes, look past band-aid fixes and parochial interests, and have the courage to implement meaningful, lasting reform. To this end, I have asked our Vice Chairman, Mr. Thornberry, in consultation with our ranking member, to engage in a long-term DOD reform effort that includes a hard look at acquisition.”

Vice Chairman Thornberry wrote an op-ed for Real Clear Defense today outlining his goals for the new acquisition reform effort.

Reforming a Defense Acquisition System That Costs Money, Lives

By Vice Chairman Mac Thornberry

Real Clear Defense

October 29, 2013

A scan of any week’s headlines makes clear that the world is not getting any safer, nor are our security challenges getting any simpler. We face a complex array of threats, known and unknown.Yet, we will have to meet those threats with tight defense budgets for the foreseeable future. Even if Congress and the President can agree to find other savings to replace further defense cuts under sequestration — which we should — the United States will still have to meet essentially unlimited threats with quite limited resources. That means it is more important than ever to get the most value possible out of each dollar spent on our national security.

Too much of the money spent now is not used as efficiently or as effectively as it should be. Upward of 10 percent of the entire federal discretionary budget goes to buying things for our troops, ranging from tanks to toilet paper. Reform of defense acquisition – the goods as well as the services we buy – must be a top priority. There are a lot of good people in and out of government who work hard to see that our military is provided with the best. But they operate in a system that too often works against them. Heavy federal regulations drive up the cost of military hardware.

There are nearly 2000 pages of acquisition regulations on the books, many of which have not been reviewed in years. Too often, Congress and the Pentagon respond to cost overruns by adding another law or an additional oversight office.The situation has gotten so bad that in order to supply our troops in Iraq andAfghanistan, entire new streamlined procurement systems were created in order to circumvent the normal process.To his credit, Secretary Hagel recently announced an effort to cut 20 per cent of headquarters personnel over the next several years.

But cuts alone, whether in people or in programs, will not fix the system. It will take Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, Defense Department and Military Services, industry and trade associations, as well as smart, experienced individuals in and out of government all working together to fix these problems.The cost of the current system is enormous.

Too much money and manpower is poured into processes and systems that do not yield a single bullet or minute of training. The weapons and equipment that are produced are too often late and over budget. But the cost is in more than just dollars. Delays in getting top quality equipment into the hands of our troops can cost lives, and the overall security of our nation can be affected.Later this week, a bust of Sir Winston Churchill will be unveiled for permanent display in the United States Capitol.

Upon his appointment as Minister of Munitions toward the end of World War I, Churchill found decision-making at the Ministry a bureaucratic mess. He once remarked that “Everyone claims his margin at every stage, and the sum of the margins is usually ‘no’.” Churchill reorganized and simplified decision-making at the Ministry, and the results included a doubling or better in the production of tanks, field guns, and aircraft, all of which were crucial to final victory.The volatile security environment, our budget constraints, and changes in the way DOD operates have all come together to make this the time to act on defense reform in our own time. The bottom line is that we can do better – and we must.

Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) is the Vice Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and Chairman of the HASC Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities.


Retirees to get 1.5 percent inflation increase to benefits


October 30 at 9:16 am

Federal retirees, Social Security recipients, military retirees and beneficiaries of several other government programs will receive an increase of 1.5 percent in their benefits in January.

The cost of living adjustment, or COLA, is based on a figure announced this morning by the Labor Department reflecting inflation over the 12 months ending in September.

Joseph A. Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, called the COLA “welcome news for countless Americans who rely on the increase to keep up with the rising price of food, housing, transportation and medical care.”

As of October 2012, there were 1,933,062 federal retirees, about three-fourths of them drawing benefits from the Civil Service Retirement System, which generally applies to those hired into the government before 1984.

The average monthly CSRS benefit was $3,181 for retirees. For those receiving benefits under the newer Federal Employees Retirement System, the average retiree annuity was $1,175. The figures don’t take into account the 1.7 percent inflation adjustment paid in January of this year.

That means the COLA translates into a monthly increase of about $50 on average under CSRS and $20 under FERS; however, with some exceptions, FERS doesn’t pay COLAs to retirees under age 62.

In addition, there were 576,467 survivor beneficiaries with an average benefit of $1,446 per month under CSRS and $484 under FERS as of last October, the most recent accounting of federal retirement figures.

While civil service retirement benefits on average are lower under FERS, those under that system also pay into Social Security and receive benefits from that program. Social Security is not part of the CSRS system, and while CSRS retirees may be eligible for Social Security through other employment, those benefits may be relatively low and typically are subject to an offset that further reduces their value.

The COLA for retirees is determined separately from the raise for active employees. A 1 percent raise for employees is in the works, although not yet finalized. That raise, which would be the first increase in salary rates since 2010, would take effect in early January, varying somewhat by agency pay cycles; it would not go to members of Congress, however.

Beaudoin said the inflation measure the government uses to set the COLA understates cost increases experienced by retirees, who spend a larger percentage of their incomes on health care than does the general population. The average enrollee premium for the health plan that covers federal employees and retirees will rise by 4.4 percent in 2014.

He urged that Congress reject proposals to switch to the “chained” consumer price index measure designed to take into account changes in buying patterns and that would produce slightly lower annual COLA figures. Instead, an inflation measure that better reflects spending by older persons should be used, he said in a statement.

COLAs on civil service benefits, although not on Social Security payments, are prorated for those on the retirement rolls less than a full year.

The annual COLA announcement was delayed two weeks because of the partial government shutdown this month.


Sharing Data Between Top Secret and Unclassified Security Domains

October 31, 2013

Lockheed Martin has developed a cyber security solution that allows intelligence to be securely shared among personnel working at all security levels – from highly classified intelligence sites to unclassified users in the field. This high assurance information solution, called Trusted Sentinel, allows data to be manually and/or automatically transferred between two or more differing security domains by using a single consolidated configuration of hardware and software.

“In today’s complex cyber threat environment, protecting and securing our data is critical,” said Jim Quinn, vice president of C4ISR Systems for Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions. “Trusted Sentinel addresses the difficult challenge of sharing relevant information across security domains and between organizational echelons.”

Trusted Sentinel supports the secure flow of intelligence data between all clearance levels by ensuring that sensitive information does not escape the highest clearance levels. It also ensures that information traveling back up the chain from un-cleared sources does not contain malicious code that could corrupt secure networks. By incorporating a suite of network protection capabilities that ‘guards’ classified data from unauthorized access, Trusted Sentinel controls the release of information commensurate with the security level of the information being processed, including clearance level, formal access approval and user need as determined by assigned confidentiality requirements.

Trusted Sentinel was developed by combining the capabilities of two of Lockheed Martin’s Unified Cross Domain Management Office (UCDMO)-approved Cross Domain Solutions. The UCDMO is a joint Department of Defense and Intelligence Community organization that provides centralized coordination and oversight of cross-domain initiatives across these communities. The solution, which has received design approval from the accrediting organization, is being prepared for placement into an operational environment.


How General Motors Was Really Saved: The Untold True Story Of The Most Important Bankruptcy In U.S. History

Editor’s Note: Lots of people–including President Obama–have trumpeted their role in the success of the government-backed turnaround plan that saved General Motors, the most important industrial company in the history of the United States.

But on the fifth anniversary of the crisis, Forbes presents an exclusive, unprecedented look at what really happened during GM’s darkest days, how a tiny band of corporate outsiders and turnaround experts convened in Detroit and hatched a radical plan that ultimately set the foundation for the salvation of the company.

Author Jay Alix, one of the most respected experts on corporate bankruptcy in America, was the architect of that plan, and now, for the first time, he reveals How General Motors Was Really Saved.

By Jay Alix

For months the news was horrific, a pounding beat of warm-up obituaries for what once had been America’s greatest and most influential corporation: General Motors. At death’s door or already in the graveyard were Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, AIG and Citibank. The mood was apocalyptic.

With car sales in a free fall from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression, GM was losing billions and running out of cash. By the time the company closed its books on 2008 it would be in the red by a staggering $30.9 billion. Chief executive Rick Wagoner led the auto delegation in Washington seeking government funding to save the industry and keep GM out of bankruptcy.

Five years later, after an unprecedented government equity investment, GM is thriving and the Treasury plans to sell its remaining stake in the coming months. With countless articles and books now written about the GM restructuring and turnaround–not to mention three years of trumpeting by the Obama Administration taking full credit for the turnaround’s success–the most startling aspect of the prevailing narrative is that the core of how the restructuring really happened, inside GM, is yet to be fully told.

In the popular version of the company’s turnaround story, as GM teetered toward liquidation in 2009, an Obama-appointed SWAT team, led by financier Steven Rattner, swept in and hatched a radical plan: Through a novel use of the bankruptcy code they would save the company by segregating and spinning out its valuable assets, while Washington furnished billions in taxpayer funds to make sure the company was viable.

The real GM turnaround story, significant in saving the auto industry and the economy, is contrary to the one that has been published. In fact, the plan that was developed, implemented and then funded by the government was devised inside GM well before President Obama took office. In what follows, the inside story of this historic chapter in American business unfolds, laying bare the key facts.

GM’s extraordinary turnaround began long before Wagoner went to Washington in search of a massive loan to keep GM alive. My involvement in that story began in GM’s darkest days, five years ago on Sunday, Nov. 23, 2008, when I visited Wagoner at his home that morning, presenting a novel plan to save General Motors.

As a consultant with expertise in restructurings and turnarounds, I had completed a half-dozen assignments at GM over the years. I had worked with Wagoner in 1992 when he became chief financial officer. I was asked to come in for a two-year stint as CEO of GM’s National Car Rental, the first time GM had recruited an outsider to lead a turnaround in one of its subsidiaries.

By 2008 I had over 20 years of experience with the auto industry and almost 30 years of working on turnarounds. But for the past eight years I had backed away from business and my firm, AlixPartners, to care for my daughters after the death of my wife. I was essentially “retired.” But GM’s enveloping crisis and my friendship with Wagoner would bring me out.

Early on that November Sunday I called Wagoner at his home in a Detroit suburb. I asked to see him right away, explaining that I had a new idea that could help save the company.

Three hours later I walked through his front door and into his family room. I knew Wagoner believed GM could not survive a bankruptcy. Studies showed consumer confidence would crash. No one would buy a car from a company that was bankrupt. However, what I knew about the economic crisis and GM’s rapidly deteriorating liquidity position told me the company had no choice but to prepare for a bankruptcy.

Yet I agreed with Wagoner. For a global company as big and complex as GM, a “normal” bankruptcy would tie up the company’s affairs for years, driving away customers, resulting in a tumultuous liquidation. It had happened to other companies a fraction of GM’s size. It would mean the end of GM.

“I don’t think the company will survive a bankruptcy,” he told me. “And no one has shown me a plan that would allow it to survive a bankruptcy.”


“Filing bankruptcy may be inevitable, Rick. But it doesn’t have to be a company-killing bankruptcy,” I said. “I think we can create a unique strategy that allows GM to survive bankruptcy.”

To be sure, my idea, sketched out on a few pages, was provocative. I knew as I pitched it to Wagoner that it might raise eyebrows, if not outright objection, from others who believed their plans would be safer.

In short, I proposed that GM split into two very separate parts before filing: “NewCo,” a new company with a clean balance sheet, taking on GM’s best brands and operations; and “OldCo,” the leftover GM with most of the liabilities. All of the operational restructuring to make the new company profitable would also occur before a bankruptcy filing so GM could go through bankruptcy in a matter of days–not months or years with creditors and other litigants fighting over the corporate carcass while the revenue line crashes.

Seeking funding from the government, or any source, we would use Bankruptcy Code Section 363, which allows a company to sell assets under a court-approved sale. Typically, 363 is used to sell specific assets, from a chair and desk to a factory or division, but not the entire stand-alone company. Under this strategy GM could postpone filing a plan of reorganization and a disclosure statement, which consume months and fuel a blizzard of litigation while market share and enterprise value bleed away.

Wagoner listened, challenging every assumption. After discussing it with board members, Rick asked me to come to GM and work on the plan, one of several alternatives GM would consider. I volunteered to help GM on a pro bono basis. But what I could never anticipate was how deep and strong the opposition to my plan would ultimately be.


On Tuesday, Dec. 2, I pulled into GM’s Detroit headquarters at 7 a.m. after most of the company’s executives had already arrived for work. I was given a small cubicle and conference room on the 38th floor, a spacious but empty place that held GM’s corporate boardroom and a warren of cubicles reserved for visiting executives and board members.

Each day I would be the sole person who got off the elevator on 38, one floor down from where Wagoner and his team worked. It was eerie and quiet, the main wall lined with large oil paintings of GM’s past chairmen. I’d walk past those gilded frames daily, feeling the full weight of their gaze, reminded of the history and past glory of what had been the most powerful corporation on earth.

Spending 18 hours a day digging through the numbers in GM’s filings, I began working in greater detail on the outlines of the plan and making some assumptions on what assets should be transferred to NewCo and what would stay in OldCo, which I dubbed Motors Liquidation. There were thousands of crucial questions that had to be asked and answered with management: Which brands and factories would survive? Which ones would the company have to give up? What would be the endgame strategy? What would be the enterprise value of NewCo? The liquidation value of OldCo?

Wagoner and COO Fritz Henderson were developing three alternative plans. First, they hoped to avoid bankruptcy altogether, believing the government would provide enough funding to bring GM through the crisis. At least two cabinet members in the Bush Administration and others had provided assurances to Rick and board members that government help would be forthcoming.


Second was a “prepackaged” bankruptcy plan being developed by general counsel Robert Osborne with Harvey R. Miller, the dean of the bankruptcy bar and senior partner at Weil, Gotshal & Manges. Under this plan, GM would prepare a reorganization in cooperation with its bond creditors that would take effect once the company went into a Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The goal of a so-called prepack is to shorten and simplify the bankruptcy process.

Miller commanded great respect in bankruptcy circles and in the GM boardroom, and for good reason. At the age of 75 Miller was the only attorney in the country who had successfully dealt with as many high-profile bankruptcies. Miller was already in the middle of the largest corporate liquidation ever, at Lehman Brothers.

And third was the NewCo plan, based on years of experience at AlixPartners, where we had a major role in 50 of the 180 largest bankruptcies over $1 billion in the past 15 years. GM had also retained Martin Bienenstock, the restructuring and corporate governance leader from Dewey & LeBoeuf, to help develop the NewCo plan as well.

Inside and outside GM, the pressures mounted. Each day the company lost more money and got closer to running out of cash. In Washington several prominent politicians began calling for Wagoner’s resignation. On Dec. 7 Senator Chris Dodd, the Connecticut Democrat, told Face the Nation’ s Bob Schieffer that Wagoner had to move on.

The next day I went to see Wagoner to offer encouragement and advice. It is not unusual for a CEO to lose his job when his company is forced into bankruptcy and a major restructuring. I’d seen this play out many times before and learned the boss should never volunteer his resignation without first putting in place the things that would help the organization survive. I wanted to help fortify Rick’s resolve and keep us all focused on the endgame.

From my perspective Wagoner had been unfairly treated by many politicians and the media. Since taking over as CEO in 2000, working closely with Fritz and vice chairman Bob Lutz, Rick orchestrated large, dramatic changes at the company. They closed GM’s quality, productivity and fuel-economy gaps with the world’s best automakers, winning numerous car and truck awards. They built a highly profitable business in China, the world’s biggest potential car market. They reduced the company’s workforce by 143,000 employees, to 243,000. They reached a historic agreement with the UAW that cut in half hourly pay for new employees and significantly scaled back the traditional retiree benefit packages that had been crippling the company, while also funding over $100 billion in unfunded retiree obligations. And he was able to accomplish all these changes without causing massive disruptions among GM’s dealers or major strikes with the unions.

Ultimately, those structural changes positioned the company not only to survive but also to bring about the extraordinary turnaround. But now, with the economy and the company in free fall, all of that hard work seemed to be forgotten.

It was late in the day on Dec. 8, around 5:30 p.m., when I walked into Wagoner’s office.

“Rick, do not resign or even offer to resign,” I told him. “Later you may have to fall on your sword to get the funding deal done with the government, but don’t do it until we get the three things we need. If you’re going to be killed on the battlefield, we need to make it worth it.”


“And what is that exactly?” he pressed me.

“We have to get government funding of $40 billion to $50 billion. Plus, we need an agreement with the government and GM’s board to do the NewCo plan. And we must put a qualified successor in place. It must be Fritz and not some government guy. It’s going to be painful for you, but you’ve got to stay on the horse until we get all three.”

Wagoner was already there. He had no intention of resigning and was determined to complete his mission. I gave him a bear hug, letting him know he had my full support.


When we gathered for a telephonic board meeting on Dec. 15, the mood was urgent, the tension high. Only two weeks after arriving at GM I was about to present the plan to the board of directors in a conference room outside Wagoner’s office. Also on the phone were the company’s lawyers and investment bankers.

A Spiderphone was in the middle of the table for what would be a historic meeting of the board. Only three days earlier the Senate had abandoned negotiations to provide funding for the auto industry. Suddenly a free-fall bankruptcy within days loomed large. Consideration of the NewCo plan, now refined with the help of chief financial officer Ray Young and other senior finance staffers, took on greater urgency as we were just two weeks away from running out of cash.

“I know the company has many lawyers and bankers working on other approaches,” I said. “I know many of the people doing the work, and I’ve worked with many of them over the years. But I have an alternative strategy for the board’s consideration. I suspect there might be some controversy over it, but I believe this could be lifesaving for General Motors.”

After carefully laying out the details and time sequence of the NewCo plan, I drew to a close.

Well,” one director asked over the phone system, “I want to hear what Harvey Miller has to say about this. Is there a precedent for this, Mr. Miller?”

Miller’s deep baritone voice filled the room, pointing out that the idea was unorthodox and lacked precedence.

Other attorneys chimed in, claiming the plan oversimplified the situation and there would be major problems with it. Yet another added that this would not be viewed well by the court and doubted any judge would allow it. Collectively, they characterized it as a long shot, discouraging the directors from thinking the plan could ever succeed.

Hearing all the disapproving words amplified from speakers in the ceiling, I felt ambushed by general counsel Osborne, who was strongly advocating for a prepackaged bankruptcy strategy, which he believed was the only way to go. Unbeknownst to me he had previously proposed the idea to GM’s board, naively believing GM could complete a prepack bankruptcy in 30 days.

GM’s most senior leaders had been working with me on the NewCo plan around the clock. I felt strongly this alternative approach could succeed, and I knew that any other type of Chapter 11 strategy would kill vehicle sales and lead to the demise of GM. Now it seemed as if the NewCo plan could be dead on arrival.

“If the attorneys feel this is a waste of time and corporate resources, I don’t know why we would pursue this,” stated another director.

A chilling silence descended upon the room, broken by Kent Kresa, the former CEO of Northrop Grumman and a GM board member since 2003.

“I understand this has some risk attached to it, but we’re in a very risky state right now,” he said. “And I understand it may even be unusual and unprecedented. But it’s certainly creative, and quite frankly, it’s the most innovative idea we’ve heard so far that has real potential in it. I think it deserves further consideration and development.”

Rick then addressed another lawyer on the call, Martin Bienenstock.

“Well, I’ve actually studied the problem, too, and there’s a way for this to work,” said Bienenstock. “Almost all bankruptcies are unique and the Code does allow for the transfer of assets. I can’t imagine a judge taking on this problem and not wanting to solve it. We’ve done a preliminary analysis, and it’s not as crazy as it sounds. It’s unique and compelling.”

“Okay, we’ve heard both sides of it,” Rick said after others spoke, smartly bringing the debate to a reasonable close. “I suggest we continue working to develop both the prepack plan and the NewCo option, while seeking the funding to avoid Chapter 11 if at all possible.”

The meeting adjourned without a vote. I left the room disappointed to hear Osborne’s legal chorus so dead set against NewCo and surprised their remarks had stopped all real discussion of the plan. But I also was relieved the plan was not completely dead, at least not yet.


Over the next weeks I worked closely with Bienenstock, assistant general counsel Mike Millikin, Al Koch of AlixPartners and GM senior vice president John Smith on the NewCo plan. We huddled dozens of times with Wagoner and Henderson to work out which brands GM would ultimately have to give up (Hummer, Saturn, Saab and Pontiac) and which ones it would keep (Chevrolet, Cadillac, GMC and Buick). Informed debate and deep analysis of structural costs led to decisions about projects, factories, brands and countries.

On Sunday afternoon, Mar. 29, Wagoner called me. It was a call I had hoped would never come–but here it was.

“Jay,” he said, “I wanted to give you a heads-up. The Administration wants me to step aside. The President is going to hold a press conference tomorrow morning.”

Wagoner told me Henderson would be named CEO.

“What about the bankruptcy?” I asked.

“They’re enamored with the 363 NewCo plan. They seem bound and determined to make us file Chapter 11 and do NewCo. … This is really tough,” he said.

“I’m so sorry,” I said, pausing, “but … you got the money. They’re doing the NewCo plan, and Fritz is your successor. … You’ve succeeded. You got the three things.”


Rick responded with resigned acknowledgment, then said, “Please help Fritz in any way you can,” before hanging up.

Rick’s personal sacrifice was not in vain. Months of hard work had paid off. The assets and liabilities had been selected. The NewCo legal entities and $45 billion tax-loss strategy had been developed. The strategy I pitched to Wagoner in his living room four and a half months earlier was the plan chosen by Team Auto in a meeting on Apr. 3, 2009 in Washington. Treasury agreed to fully fund NewCo with equity, and thus it became the chosen path to save the company.

By late April NewCo implementation was well under way. The bankruptcy filing would occur in New York within weeks. My partner, Al Koch of AlixPartners, would become the chief restructuring officer running OldCo, now officially named Motors Liquidation, Inc. In my notes, I jotted: “My work is finished … impact from this day forward will be negligible. … Treasury’s in control. Time to get back to my girls.”

On June 1, 2009 General Motors filed for bankruptcy in New York, with $82 billion in assets and $173 billion in liabilities. It was the largest industrial bankruptcy in history. Harvey Miller and his team masterfully defended and guided the NewCo plan through the bankruptcy court, successfully making it their own. New GM exited bankruptcy protection on July 10, 2009–in a mere 40 days, as designed. Fritz called and thanked me.

There would be many other twists and turns to GM’s narrative, but the company got its fresh start using the NewCo plan, and the industry was saved with government funding from both Presidents Bush and Obama. In March 2009 President Obama cited a “failure of leadership” as his reason for forcing out Wagoner. In fact, it was Wagoner’s exercise of leadership through years of wrenching change and then simultaneously seeking government funding while developing three restructuring plans that put GM in position to survive the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression and complete its turnaround, which, ironically, became a key campaign issue in the reelection of Barack Obama in 2012.


Los Angeles to Form Centralized Cyber Command

Mayor: Efficiency Plus Cost Savings Equals More Security

By Eric Chabrow, October 31, 2013.

Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity

Influenced by President Obama’s executive order on cybersecurity, the mayor of Los Angeles on Oct. 30 announced the creation of a Cyber Intrusion Command Center to centralize information security standards across city agencies.

In signing an executive directive, Mayor Eric Garcetti says he’s working to break down silos between city departments. “This makes us more efficient, more cost effective and in this context, more secure,” he says.

Garcetti, in a statement, says the center will provide a single, focused team responsible for implementing enhanced security standards across city departments and serve as a rapid reaction force to cyber-attacks. The new center will be assisted by the FBI and Secret Service, although Garcetti didn’t explain how those agencies will help the new command center.

In the executive directive, Garcetti cites Obama’s executive order that fathered the cybersecurity framework being developed (see Obama, CEOs Meet on Cybersecurity Framework), as well as comments on cyberthreats made by National Intelligence Director James Clapper and then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as rationale for creating the center.

Protecting Basic Services

The mayor put the threat in local terms. “Today, our traffic lights, our routing system for trash pick-up and so much more are electronic,” he says. “Cybersecurity means protecting the basic services at the core of city government, and it means protecting our critical infrastructure like our port and airport, which we know are top targets.”

Details on how the center will function, including its leadership, are pending. By mid-November, the mayor will organize a working group of key city departments to propose a detailed organizational structure for the center. The working group will present the proposed structure to the mayor by late November.

The directive calls on the center to:

  • Facilitate the identification and investigation of cyberthreats and intrusions against city assets;
  • Guarantee incidents are quickly and thoroughly investigated by the appropriate law enforcement agency;
  • Promote dissemination of cybersecurity alerts and information;
  • Provide uniform governance structure accountable to city leadership;
  • Coordinate incident response and remediation across the city;
  • Serve as an advisory body to city departments;
  • Sponsor independent security assessments to reduce security risks;
  • Ensure awareness of best practices.

Enhancing Cybersecurity

According to the directive, all departments must contribute personnel, resources and data to the center, report information about significant cyber-related events that occur, identify personnel who require notification about distributed threat information and provide resources for cooperative actions as situations may require.

Besides participating in the center, Garcetti directs each department to enhance its own cybersecurity.

The mayor used the executive directive to reinforce to city departments and employees minimum IT security standards, such as limiting access to data and networks, requiring new passwords every 90 days, requiring updates to anti-virus software, planning for business continuity and disaster recovery and promoting a culture of cybersecurity awareness.

“City employees are our first line of defense in ensuring that city systems are protected from intruders,” Garcetti says. “Employees are in the best position to protect the systems, and are in the best position to report problems at an early stage before the issue impacts the city more broadly.”


Is China Building a Trojan Horse into NATO Through Turkey?

by Aki Peritz and Mieke Eoyang

October 31, 2013

The People’s Republic of China may be building a new Trojan horse in the modern lands of ancient Troy — but this time it seems the mission is to penetrate not a walled city, but NATO’s security architecture.

Turkey currently is negotiating a contract with China’s missile builders, the China Precision Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CPMIEC), which beat competing bids from Raytheon/Lockheed Martin and a few other foreign firms. While it seems Turkey is saving money on the deal — the Chinese bid to sell the FD-2000 surface-to-air missile system came in at $3.44 billion, while the other bids were around $4 billion — Ankara’s behavior suggests it believes it can have its security cake and eat it too.

It’s unclear what is the Turkish word for chutzpah, but Turkey already has a missile defense system defending it in NATO’s Raytheon-built Patriot system, courtesy of Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States. Ankara requested it last year. As part of the NATO Air Defense Ground Environment, other countries have already picked up half of the tab of Turkish missile defense needs. This is because Ankara took advantage of the interoperable missile defense systems among NATO’s 28-country alliance. The civil war in neighboring Syria legitimately threatened Turkey and its allies quickly answered the call.

The Turks knows full well that if events ever go south — say, if Syria or Iran devolve into a shooting war that sucks them in– NATO will back them in a military conflict. If Turkey was serious about missile defense, it would have bought the American Patriot system that has a proven track record and avoided wasting money on an inferior Chinese program. It’s like buying a motorcycle when you really need an SUV. Instead, Turkey might be cutting itself off from the alliance if they now try to deploy the Chinese technology. And allowing Beijing spies into NATO’s backyard seems to be a secondary concern for the Turks.

Of course, the Turkish government has been well-informed of the many pitfalls of purchasing this Chinese system. For example, President Barack Obama twice told Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that there will be major interoperability issues between the Chinese and NATO systems. Despite a top Turkish Defense Ministry official brushing these problems aside,

China’s system is copied heavily from the Russian model, so its technical architecture is completely different than the Western model. And just as China’s cartridges won’t fit into NATO’s rifles, Turkey will have to perform major technical surgery to synchronize the NATO and Chinese systems, reconfiguring sensors and radars to be able to operate on both systems. This of course, will cost a lot of money and may not work in the end.

Even if it’s technically possible, other NATO countries will balk at having a highly-advanced, potentially adversarial structure integrated into their top-secret missile system. According to one defense analyst, “[NATO] member nations will refuse any cooperation with Turkey for the integration of the Chinese system into the alliance’s assets deployed in Turkey.” As another British defense analyst told the Financial Times, “This type of arrangement, which requires the transfer of design information, is not feasible for American military firms.” And not just Chinese technology, but Chinese cyber, military and missile personnel will theoretically be working next to NATO resources, providing Beijing an intelligence foothold in these critical national security fields.

It remains unclear whether Turkey’s strategy for missile defense buys extends to other parts of the defense acquisition process, for there are ramifications with working with a sanctioned Chinese company that, since 2006, has been banned from working with American firms. U.S. companies now might think twice about selling Turkey fighter aircraft like F-16s or F-35s, or advanced radar systems, because Chinese technology will compromise their systems. It might even be illegal for U.S. corporations to work with Turkish businesses once the deal is complete.

All in all, Turkey might be thinking they worked out a great arrangement because it saved money and forged a deal with a growing economic powerhouse. But this will affect U.S. national security almost as much as Turkey’s because we too have interests in the region and in the cohesiveness of the NATO alliance. Every American and allied policymaker who interacts with his or her Turkish counterparts should underscore this fact.

The contract isn’t signed in stone; Erdoğan hinted that the deal may still be in play. Let’s hope the Turkish president has a change of heart; recall the Trojan War ended rather poorly for King Priam and his people because of a fatal, stupid, self-inflicted wound. Let’s hope Turkey’s modern-day leaders reflect upon the folly of the ancient Anatolians and remember to beware Chinese defense corporations bearing gifts.


FAA changes safety rules so airline passengers can use electronic gadgets from gate-to-gate

By Associated Press, Updated: Thursday, October 31, 10:31 AM

WASHINGTON — Government safety rules are changing to let airline passengers use most electronic devices from gate-to-gate.

The change will let passengers read, work, play games, watch movies and listen to music — but not make cellphone calls.

The Federal Aviation Administration says airlines can allow passengers to use the devices during takeoffs and landings on planes that meet certain criteria for protecting aircraft systems from electronic interference.

Most new airliners are expected to meet the criteria, but changes won’t happen immediately. Timing will depend upon the airline.

Connections to the Internet to surf, exchange emails, text or download data will still be prohibited below 10,000 feet. Heavier devices like laptops will have to be stowed. Passengers will be told to switch their smartphones, tablets and other devices to airplane mode.

Cellphone calls will still be prohibited.

A travel industry group welcomed the changes, calling them common-sense accommodations for a traveling public now bristling with technology. “We’re pleased the FAA recognizes that an enjoyable passenger experience is not incompatible with safety and security,” said Roger Dow, CEO of the U.S. Travel Association.

Rapid Prototyping the New Model

Sikorsky’s New Norm Saves Money, Time

Oct. 31, 2013 – 05:20PM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments

Samir Mehta, president of Military Systems at helicopter giant Sikorsky, talks JMR, rapid prototyping and future markets.

WASHINGTON — At last week’s Association of the United States Army (AUSA) conference, few programs stood out like the Joint Multi-Role (JMR) demonstrator competition. The winner will be in prime position to eventually replace the Army’s Black Hawk, Apache, Chinook and Kiowa rotorcraft fleet. Defense News sat down with Samir Mehta, president of Military Systems at helicopter giant Sikorsky, to talk JMR, rapid prototyping and future markets.

Q. You have done three “rapid prototyping” projects, the Raider, Matrix and now Defiant. Is this the new model for the company?

A. Yes. I think it is the new model, because at a time when resources are tight, things like time to market, speed of innovation, when the aircraft gets fielded, when we can start performing our customers missions, that’s incredibly important. With long development programs, every year the program goes is another year the budgeting could be messed with. It could be cut, defunded, there are a lot of things that could happen. So every year of development is a year of vulnerability for a budgeting standpoint.

If you can essentially reduce the time it takes to develop, you’re also reducing the resources it takes to develop. Flight test is now a confirmation of the technologies you developed, not experimenting with the technologies you’ve developed.

Q. What tools are you specifically thinking of?

A. System integration laboratories have come a long way. In years past, you had all of these independent systems being developed, and then the first time they’ve come together to work is in the actual test aircraft themselves. You get to work out the kinks and the issues there, not 10 minutes after you roll out first flight, which is a very different risk and cost equation. The advance in simulation also, being able to do much higher fidelity of real-world missions, helps the designers understand what the aircraft capabilities need to be.


Q. How do those tools come into play when developing new technologies?

A. From a business standpoint, you don’t start making investment in technologies or initiatives without fully understanding what the length and size of that investment is going to be. Rapid prototyping allows us, as business people, to make investments. I don’t look at it as an opportunity to reduce R&D. I see it as an opportunity to take your R&D and fund more than one key project.

If you look at our company, between Joint Multi-Role, the work on Matrix, the work on the S-97 Raider, the work that we’re doing on making our core products better, the work we are doing in manufacturing technology — in order to fund those activities now and not have rapid prototyping, we’d either be spending twice as much or we wouldn’t be doing half of it.


Q. Do you expect rapid prototyping to spread?

A. I think it will become an industry standard. That’s not to say everyone will be on an even playing field. We’re an early adaptor of rapid prototyping so I think we’re doing fairly well in this area. I think it just takes a continuous investment, making sure those tools are updated. It’s not without cost or without resources; 40 percent of the engineers we have on the [Army’s Joint Multi-Role program], the future of the company, have less than 10 years of engineering experience. To them, rapid prototyping is obvious. It’s not a leap forward; it’s not something that’s a paradigm shift. It’s the only way they know. For them, things like rapid prototyping are just second nature.

Q. As a company that’s focused on a niche area, is it easier to defend R&D spending?

A. It’s never easy. You have to remember we’re part of a bigger company. Sikorsky is part of a $65 billion industrial powerhouse in United Technologies. When it comes time for us to make significant investments, we’re like everyone else in the company, we have to go and convince the corporate parent that it’s the right level of investment. The fact we’re focused and do one thing well, that’s great. But our parent company does more than one thing, and they’re the ones who have to ultimately bless our larger scale investments.

Q. Do you expect R&D to expand or contract in the short term?

A. I think it will continue to be a significant investment for us. In terms of expansion or contraction, a lot of that depends what happens in the next few years with our customer. Our plan is to stay relatively consistent with our level of development. What has changed is the nature of who we work with, using industry partnerships more effectively, like we’re doing with Boeing on Joint Multi-Role. Now it’s not just about your dollars, talent and expertise. It’s being able to leverage that for the broader industry, forming a partnership and understanding that with that you not only have an efficient use of dollars but you’re not the only one betting on a big technology.

Q. Will that be a trend?

A. Absolutely. I am convinced. Clearly, there’s pressure on RDT&E budgets. I think it starts with that. The days of the government coming and fully funding your program from cradle to grave appears to be over. With that understanding comes the need for industry to step up and make investments, and that’s a tough proposition. It’s always easier to pool your investment, because, from a financial standpoint, it makes sense, and it’s the old one-plus-one equals three equation. We have advancements we’re making every single day that both companies acknowledge we would not be able to do on our own.

Q. Talk about the Boeing partnership on Defiant, your JMR demonstrator.

A. It’s interesting. The scope of the partnership includes not just JMR. It includes future vertical lift, and it includes anything that could replace it. This is not a technology demonstrator partnership. We’re in it for the long haul. This will be a 30-40 year partnership. I can’t think of anything which was so integral to both companies’ core businesses for a period of 30-40 years. It’s game changing.

Q. Analysts expect market dropoff for military rotorcraft in the next decade. How do you position the company to handle that?

A. It’s very easy to take a look at US defense funding in isolation and say that it will be the bellwether of the entire industry, because the US government is the biggest helicopter operator in the world. I’m not saying it’s not important or impactful, but I think you’ll see increased spending on sophisticated equipment in international markets, especially emerging economies with higher growth rates, rapid expansion of their economy and an appetite to be more active in international affairs.

We [also] have an extraordinarily strong commercial business right now. That’s one of the benefits of being diversified. If you took military OEM [original equipment manufacturer] business and that was the key determining factor of the health of our company or industry, you could paint a pretty grim picture. If you take it all in totality and you look at the next three to five years, it starts to become a pretty balanced picture.

Q. Which markets in particular?

A. First and foremost on my mind is Turkey. They’ve been a great customer, there’s 150 Black Hawks in Turkey, and they’re looking to buy 109 more. That’s a program we’ve been very closely involved in and are hopefully looking forward to the last stages of a binding contract here in the next several weeks. Beyond that, there’s a lot of interest in India, certainly the Middle East; we have a solid base of countries in South America from which to grow. It really is broad base, and it’s global.

Q. Is it easier to partner with local firms or to go it alone?

A. We can do both. It really depends on the maturity of the aerospace industry and the desire of the country that is procuring the helicopter. There is a growing sophisticated aerospace industry outside the US. Turkey, for instance, has much more sophistication than they get credit for. So when we do countries like Turkey, industrialization is a key requirement. And it’s not industrialization in the old mode of offsets where you buy 109 helicopters and I promise that my sister division will buy raw material from a copper mine, or something like that. Now it’s about some technology transfer, but more importantly, allowing the countries we sell to to have greater independence in supporting the aircraft after procurement and even designing and building their own aircraft.

Aerospace is one of those very attractive sectors, because it’s a great way to promote your national interests but also indirectly spur growth in STEM. I haven’t talked to an international customer yet who says ‘I don’t have an interest in further developing my country, I just want your helicopters.’

Q. How do you work with a customer like the Pentagon amidst all the uncertainty?

A. The first thing we do is understand that often it’s not the customer that we’re talking to that is the cause of the uncertainty. It’s important for us to articulate that, and it’s important for us to understand that, in many cases, the services we deal with, the program officer we’re dealing with are quite frankly in a tough environment. It’s not that they know there’s a plan and they don’t want to tell us; it’s that they don’t know. That indecision and uncertainty, I think, pervades the entire leadership right now probably all the way up to the leadership of the country.

As an example, we were in the situation with the shutdown that we were going to lose our DCMA [Defense Contract Management Agency] quality assurance inspectors. The amount of uncertainty and consternation that causes our company, who are very reliant on DCMA to keep the assembly line moving, is incredible. We can come to a gridlock on our manufacturing floor within 24-48 hours. So the key for us is what the impact of that would likely be and then go communicate that impact to the outside world and the leadership. Our leadership, whether in the Pentagon or with elected officials, need to know the decision they are making, that whatever savings they think they are making by furloughing 45 inspectors, evaporates in 10 minutes by not having three or four thousand people be able to show up and come to work.


In the meantime, while you have the ability to manufacture, it’s about executing. Now, more than ever, it’s important to execute on the programs you have. This is not a good time to be behind schedule and overrun your costs. This is not the time to be a wounded program.

Q. Any long term delays from the shutdown?

A. Quite frankly we’re trying to play catch up right now which is not the most efficient way to do business. Three or four days [without DCMA inspectors], which doesn’t seem like a lot, when you are a manufacturer, three or four days of disruption is significant. It takes you much longer than three to four days to recover from that. We’ll get there, though; we’re not going to miss a delivery.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Zombie nation?  For a sizable number of Americans, it’s a better alternative than the government we’ve got.

Thirty-seven percent (37%) of American Adults believe zombies would do a better job than the federal government running the country today. An equal number (37%) have more confidence in the feds, but another 26% can’t decide between the two.

This should come as no surprise given that 64% of Likely U.S. Voters now view the federal government unfavorably, with 34% who have a Very Unfavorable opinion of it.

Case in point: Obamacare, which is off to such a shambling start that even some Democrats are questioning it.

Voters overwhelmingly want to scrap or change the new health care law, with 43% who want to repeal it entirely and start over and 35% who would prefer Congress go through the law piece by piece to improve it. Just 18% want to leave the law as is. But voters are evenly divided over whether Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius should lose her job because of the law’s troubled debut.

Voters remain overwhelmingly positive about the health care they receive, although they are less enthusiastic about the overall U.S. health care system. But 52% continue to predict that health care in this country will get worse under Obamacare

Just 25% of voters believe the United States is heading in the right direction. Still, that’s the first time since just before the government shutdown began on October 1 that over 20% have felt that way.

The president’s total job approval inched up a point to 49% in October, a month that saw both the implementation of the health care law and the partial shutdown. The president’s daily job approval ratings have been worsening this week, though, as more bad news about the health care law emerges. 

As for one of Obama’s possible successors, 43% of voters think the circumstances surrounding the murder of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya will hurt Hillary Clinton’s chances for the presidency in 2016. 

Voters are evenly divided at 42% apiece when asked whether they agree more politically with the president or with the average member of the Tea Party. However, there’s an enormous partisan divide. When it comes to the major issues facing the nation, 77% of Democrats say Obama’s views are closest to their own. Seventy-six percent (76%) of Republicans and 51% of unaffiliated voters identify more closely with the average member of the Tea Party.

Democrats hold a six-point lead over Republicans – 43% to 37% – on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot

The economy doesn’t seem to offer much reassurance about how the federal government’s been doing.

Five years after the Wall Street meltdown, a plurality (48%) of voters still believes the government bailouts of the financial industry were a bad move

Most consumers and investors believe the country is still in a recession. 

Only 33% of Americans believe the U.S. economy will be stronger in a year’s time, while 41% think it will grow weaker by then. 

Just 38% say the economy is fair to people who are willing to work hard, a new low. 

Fewer than half (47%) of Americans believe it’s still possible for anyone in this country looking for work to find a job

Only 24% think the stock market will be higher a year from now

In other surveys last week:

Rasmussen Reports’ final survey of the Virginia gubernatorial race finds Democrat Terry McAuliffe with a seven-point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli – 43% to 36%. 

– Sixty-nine percent (69%) of voters favor the use of unmanned drone aircraft to kill al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists overseas, even though 64% believe it’s at least somewhat likely that drone strikes overseas have killed more innocent civilians than the U.S. government is officially reporting

– Just 18% favor the use of unmanned drones by police agencies in the United States. 

– Forty-one percent (41%) of Americans think the U.S. legal system worries too much about the separation of church and state

– When we asked what America thinks about driving, we discovered some interesting things. 

– Most Americans put their family and friends before their pet, but for one-in-10, their pet comes first

– While most adults don’t dress up in a costume or go trick or treating, 61% of Americans think Halloween is children and adults. Even though many schools don’t allow it, 63% believe students should be allowed to wear costumes and bring candy to school for Halloween

Twenty-five percent (25%) of Americans believe in ghosts. 

– Daylight Saving Time ends tonight, but only 36% think there is still a need for DST in America today

October 26 2013




After the Shutdown, Uncertainty Still Plagues Pentagon

By Kevin Baron

October 17, 2013


Now that the shutdown has ended, it’s business as usual again in Washington. At the Pentagon, that’s the problem. In a word: uncertainty.

“I know there are no guarantees in life, but we can’t continue to do this to our people, having them live under this cloud of uncertainty,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Hagel said that the shutdown harmed everything for the Defense Department from training to the trust of key allies. But instead of waking up Thursday to a normal budget cycle, Pentagon planners instead are right back to where they started before the shutdown — under the budgetary thumb of sequester and continuing resolutions that temporarily fund the government weeks or months at a time.

Hagel said he is now worried about the morale of the military and its civilian workforce.

“Morale is a huge part of this,” Hagel said. “We won’t be able to recruit good people. Good people will leave the government. They’re not going to put up with this. Good people have many options.”

Bob Hale, Pentagon comptroller, was blunter as usual.

“When I read the [White House Office of Management and Budget] message about 2:30 this morning saying government was reopened, I felt like I could stop beating my head against a wall,” he said. “But I’ve got to say it would have felt a lot better never to have started beating my head against a wall.”

The shutdown cost the Pentagon, Hale said, $600 million in “lost productivity” just to start. Additionally, DoD accrued higher interest on outgoing payments not being paid. The department also took on huge costs from ordering thousands personnel to return home from travel duty — including those in schools and training programs – who will now head back out again.

The morning after the shutdown only ends one bad dream for Pentagon leaders. Now they go back to waking up to the same day all over again. “It’s a Groundhog Day approach to budgeting,” said Hale.

The Defense Department is still operating under a continuing resolution that funds the government at last fiscal year’s levels and therefore prevents any new starts of weapons programs, Hagel said. Hale said while no major programs are on hold, it does mean, for example, that because Congress appropriates the purchase of each new naval ship, the Pentagon is required by law to purchase the same numbers of ships this year as last year.

Separate from the continuing resolution, Hagel said that Congress still must address the sequester and the Budget Control Act to give the Pentagon a clue of its “long-term” budgeting. The Pentagon has gone right back to staring down at the Budget Control Act mandated cuts of $50 billion next year. If that budget requirement holds, Hale said, “we’re going to have to get smaller. I can’t tell you exactly how much. Yes, that will mean fewer civilians.”

Those civilians that get to stay in their jobs, however, may not want to. The military and its supporting civilian workforce — roughly 3 million people combined — have been stung by Washington politics.

“We’ve had three years of pay freezes,” added Hale. “We’ve had the sequester furloughs, now the shutdown furloughs. I mean, my own people are kind of looking at me and asking the question — most of them are seniors so they’ll probably stick around, but you wonder what the folks out in the field are saying. ‘I’m not so sure I want to work for this government.'”

Hagel, in his opening remarks, said the effect from the shutdown will linger.

“While all of us across the department welcome the fact that the shutdown is now behind us, I know that its impact will continue to be felt by all of our people. All of them, in different ways, had their lives affected and disrupted during this period of tremendous uncertainty. In particular, I am deeply aware of the harm that this shutdown inflicted on so many of our civilian personnel.”

“You can’t take an institution like this, as you all know because you’ve been around it a long time, and turn these things around in a month, in a week. This is the national security of America that we’re talking about, and so it does take thought and it does take planning.”

Outside of the United States, world leaders also have let Hagel know they’re not so sure about American resolve either, Hagel added. He said he has been to Asia three times this year and noted that Secretary of State John Kerry’s latest planned Asia trip was canceled because of the shut down.

“Our allies are asking questions: Can we rely on our partnership with America? Will America fulfill its commitments and its promises? These are huge issues for all of us and they do impact our national security and our relationships and our standing in the world,” said Hagel.


Will the U.S. ‘Rebalance’ Its Contribution to NATO?

By Jorge Benitez

October 20, 2013


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is on his way to Brussels to have a difficult conversation with his fellow defense ministers in NATO. The point of contention is the continued reduction of the military capabilities of our allies and their growing dependence on U.S. support.

Hagel will repeat to European allies the stark message made by Robert Gates on his last trip to Brussels as defense secretary. Gates made international headlines with his warning of “a dim, if not dismal future” for NATO if it continues to be divided “between those willing and able to pay the price and bear the burdens of alliance commitments, and those who enjoy the benefits of NATO membership… but don’t want to share the risks and the costs.”

Hagel will make many U.S. allies uncomfortable by emphasizing their need to resolve the worsening gap in defense capabilities within NATO. Hagel warned earlier that “as NATO adjusts, it must address the gaps in military expenditures and capabilities of its partners. The tough decisions cannot continue to be deferred.” 

Hagel was even more explicit at the defense ministers meeting in June when he said “over-dependence on any one country for critical capabilities brings with it risks.” One of these risks is that the U.S. will soon tell its allies, if you don’t invest much in your defense, neither will we. The U.S. will “rebalance” its own shrinking defense dollars to allies and partners that share the security burden more equitably. Too many European leaders refuse to realize that this long-festering problem is having a dangerously corrosive effect on the Alliance.

In 2006, the 28 members of NATO agreed to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. According to NATO records, by 2012 only four members met this bare minimum standard; the United States, Great Britain, Greece, and Estonia. During the Cold War, the U.S. accounted for roughly 50% of defense spending by NATO members. Now after years of shrinking defense budgets in Europe, the U.S. share is more than 75%.

It is a priority for both President Obama and Hagel to convince our allies to take specific actions to fulfill their alliance commitments. This point will be communicated to them this week and at every top NATO meeting leading up to the summit next year in London. This is not an issue the Obama administration can walk away from. In fact, criticism of the excessive dependence on U.S. capabilities by NATO allies is one of the few issues that enjoys widespread bipartisan support in Congress. If U.S. allies continue to ignore the gravity of this problem, it is inevitable that the day will come when the United States will stop payment on their security credit card.

The Obama administration began moving in this direction when it chose to “lead from behind” in Libya and limited the use of important U.S. enablers such as unmanned aircraft and A-10 war planes. The administration already crossed the threshold, but changed its mind, when it initially asked the French military to pay for the use of U.S. air transports for the French mission in Mali.

The European members of NATO are geographically closer and arguably more vulnerable than the U.S. to the growing violence and instability across the Mediterranean, the Sahel, and the Middle East. Unless significant progress is made to fairly live up to their defense commitments, Europe will have to deal with these threats with a decreasing amount of U.S. military support. It is only a matter of time before the Obama administration turns down future requests for assistance from allies who ignored the dangers in their neighborhood and chose to starve their defense capabilities.

Unless our European allies change course, Gates’ dire warning will soon come true. “The blunt reality is that there will be dwindling appetite and patience in the U.S. … to expend increasingly precious funds on behalf of nations that are apparently unwilling to devote the necessary resources or make the necessary changes to be serious and capable partners in their own defense.”

This can still be avoided if our NATO allies improve their military capabilities and carry their fair share of the defense burden. What cannot be avoided is the end of the status quo. Either our European allies change their defense behavior or the U.S. will, but the current imbalance within the NATO alliance is not sustainable. 


Big data heralds return of the Cray supercomputer

Sun, Oct 20 2013

By Bill Rigby


SEATTLE (Reuters) – “Big data” means big computers, and good news for Cray Inc.

The pioneer of supercomputers in the 1970s stood on the brink of obscurity 20 years ago but is now surging back to prominence. Its shares have almost doubled over the past 12 months.

The explosion of data – measuring weather, traffic, health and countless other areas – coupled with a desire to tease meaning out of it, demands greater computing power than is accessible via standard machines.

“The assumption was that supercomputers were cliche five years ago. People thought, ‘I can run my simulation on my laptop’,” said Barry Bolding, a Cray vice president, at the company’s Seattle headquarters last week. “That may have been true, so long as the data associated wasn’t growing as well. But raw data is being created in exabytes as we sit here. More data means bigger computer, bigger computer means more data.”

Experts estimate that 2.5 exabytes – or 2.5 billion gigabytes – of data are now generated every day, and the world’s capacity to store that data is doubling every 40 months, which all plays to Cray’s strengths.

A basic Cray cabinet costs $500,000 and up and is roughly the size of a refrigerator. Big customers can group 200 or more into massive supercomputers worth hundreds of millions of dollars, such as “Titan” at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Titan, completed by Cray last year, is the world’s third-fastest supercomputer, takes up the size of a basketball court and can perform more than 20,000 trillion calculations a second.

To be sure, most companies will never need that scale, or can process what they need through multiple machines running in tandem on a high-speed network or in the cloud, which for many projects works out cheaper and more power-efficient.

What makes supercomputers different is that they can make a huge number of interconnected calculations at the same time, rather than a consecutive list of unconnected calculations, which makes them good for running complex simulations and mining unrelated data.

For example, weather apps on smartphones are based on vast models run by research agencies on supercomputers. Financial firms can detect online fraud or cybersecurity breaches in seconds rather than days by using supercomputer models, which would take days on standard set-ups.

“Big data is a new term, but arguably the supercomputer market was the original home of big data, and Cray has been dealing with it forever,” said Steve Conway, an analyst at tech research firm IDC.


The Seattle-based company, with just over 900 employees and a market value of around $940 million, has changed ownership several times but was started in 1972 by Seymour Cray, the “father of supercomputing.”

With a recent resurgence in supercomputers, Cray is garnering Wall Street’s attention. This June, it sold one of its new XC30 supercomputers to the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts for $65 million, nabbing a contract from a long-time IBM customer.

That sort of deal is piquing investor interest. Wall Street analysts are expecting revenue of $519 million this year, up 23 percent from 2012, with a gross profit margin around 34 percent. Its shares are up 91 percent over the past 12 months while rival Silicon Graphics International Corp’s are up 90 percent. Cray is now richly valued, with a share price 36 times estimated earnings for the next 12 months, compared with 19 times for SGI.

The global market for computers costing more than $500,000 is on a tear, according to IDC, having more than doubled to $5.6 billion in 2012 from $2.7 billion in 2008.

The whole market for high-performance computing (HPC) – essentially any machine bigger than a desktop used for intense computation – is forecast to grow 7 percent a year through 2017, well ahead of the stagnant business server market.

The U.S. government directly or indirectly accounted for two-thirds of Cray’s revenue last year. But the company is reaching out to new customers interested in big data. Last year it set up a new unit called YarcData – Yarc is Cray backwards – to focus on analyzing huge amounts of information and teasing out unseen patterns in a process known as graph analytics.

“Unstructured databases are becoming more prevalent, gathering raw data from everywhere,” said Cray’s Bolding. “Now you start asking very complex questions, and it starts to create links between sets of data.”

The YarcData unit is helping the U.S. government detect fraud patterns in Medicare and Medicaid payments. Private sector customers include medical research group Mayo Clinic and several financial services, life sciences and telecommunications firms, which Cray cannot name for contractual reasons.

New efforts are working and should boost revenue over time, said Sid Parakh, an analyst at fund firm McAdams Wright Ragen.

“This is not a commodity market. It takes years of experience,” said Conway at IDC. “It’s easy to build a big computer, but it’s not easy to build a big computer that works.”

(Reporting by Bill Rigby; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


Cybersecure: Supreme Court Justices Only Send Each Other Memos on Paper

By Garance Franke-Ruta

October 18, 2013


Here’s another one to add to the charming Elena Kagan anecdote files providing a wonderful glimpse into how the least transparent of the three branches of government operates.

Speaking during an interview at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night, Supreme Court Associate Justice Kagan elaborated on remarks she’d made in August about how Supreme Court justices don’t use email.

“We don’t to each other. I obviously do to my clerks,” said Kagan about the decades-old communications technology. “But the justices themselves do not communicate by email.”

“So how do you communicate?” senior editor at large Pattie Sellers of Fortuneasked.

“Well, we either talk to each other, which is not a bad thing,” said Kagan, to applause from the well-heeled audience of female CEOs and business leaders.

“Or we write memos to each other,” she continued.

“And you know, you have to remember that the Court is an institution where…we’re not horse trading. We’re not bargaining. We’re reasoning. And we’re trying to persuade people. And often the best way to do that is by putting things down on paper in a kind of careful and deliberate way and saying this is what I think and, and giving people an opportunity to read a memo and to think about it and to reflect on it,” she said.

“And so we do a lot of our communicating by these, it looks, it’s sort of 19th century. It’s very heavy ivory paper—it looks like it came out of the 1800s or something. But it seems to work pretty well,” she added. “And when you think about it, how many emails have you sent that you wished you could take back? So, so we’re careful and deliberative.”

That may be one reason the court works so well. Even though the justices “disagree a lot” and can “express our disagreement in powerful and sharp terms,” they all like and respect each other, Kagan said. That sort of good faith environment of knowing “how to disagree without being disagreeable” keeps the court functioning well as an institution.

And while she didn’t say it, she might as well have: Unlike Congress, which was at that very moment finally signing off on a debt deal and temporary budget plan that today allowed the government to reopen after 16 days.


Cyber Civil Servants Knock on Industry’s Door after Shutdown

By Aliya Sternstein

October 21, 2013


The top executive at Secure Ideas, a cybersecurity firm looking to recruit new talent, broke the ice with a prospective hire at a shooting range the day before the shutdown ended. The applicant, an employed federal information technology engineer, said he is worried about job stability.

He is hardly alone.

There are about 200,000 cyber employees in the federal workforce, according to a recent government survey. Many were exempt, or “excepted,” from the furlough, meaning they had to work but wouldn’t be paid for that work until government reopened and resumed payroll operations. (Congress eventually passed a law authorizing back pay to furloughed federal employees as well.) Between the 16-day shutdown and the possibility of another lapse in funding just three months away, some cyber civil servants are considering jumping ship, according to several industry recruiters, who say they’ve seen an uptick in job inquiries from federal data security specialists.

“Rarely do we receive inbound calls from cybersecurity people who work for the federal government — a lot of times because the job is so secure,” said Mark Aiello, president of Cyber 360 Solutions, a placement firm in Massachusetts. He estimates receiving at least half a dozen such queries since Oct. 1, when the shutdown began.

“The basic motivation for their call is they are concerned over the debt crisis and ongoing furloughs. The vast majority of people were on the job and deemed essential but concerned,” he said. “They recognize they can probably make more money in the private sector [and ask themselves] ‘Why am I going through this if it’s just going to happen every quarter, every election cycle?’ ”

Kevin Johnson, chief executive officer at Secure Ideas, a six-person consultancy, said his new shooting partner contacted him last week about one of two job openings at the company. The IT engineer, who works at a civilian agency, declined to be interviewed.

That applicant “looks at my field and sees that it’s growing by leaps and bounds,” Johnson said. Secure Ideas’ so-called penetration testers are paid by government and industry organizations to fake out physical security and IT staff by posing as legitimate employees and hacking systems to identify cyber vulnerabilities.

Johnson, on Oct. 2, two days into the shutdown, said of the impact on federal cyber operations — “I haven’t seen much except a number of headhunters offering services to the out of work people.”

“Out-of-work cyber professional” typically is an oxymoron. This past weekend, there were 16,662 openings involving cyber or information security responsibilities listed on the major job search website and 16,033 on the tech-focused job site

Johnson cautions those testing the waters outside the government that consulting is very different from working for one agency. At a federal department, the professional knows every system inside and out, whereas at an advisory firm, the individual is constantly changing focus to meet the expectations of new clients.


Angst over Job Stability, Not Security

Most government cyber proressionals are very dedicated to their work, Aiello said. “Beyond their sense of duty, they are feeling a real [need] to help their country,” he added, but “they are looking at their own lives and their families — it’s not like [they’re] living at such a high level that [they] can afford to be out of work for two weeks” without any certainty about when or even if they’ll be paid for that time.

U.S. private sector cyber salaries, which average $111,376, appear to be outpacing government salaries, averaging $104,081, likely due to federal budgetary constraints, according to statistics from (ISC)2, an information security trade group representing industry and government employees.

Traditionally, cyber specialists inside the government have found the work more rewarding than higher-paying private sector positions, but that may be changing.

“There is frustration. There is fatigue . . . I think they are feeling overwhelmed at times,” said Kathy Lavinder, executive director of Maryland-based firm Security and Investigative Placement Consultants, who specializes in information and physical security.


The funding uncertainty, combined with constant policy and programmatic changes, makes them feel like they can’t accomplish anything, she said. “I think they all understand that when they leave they can be snapped up pretty quickly,” Lavinder added.

One of the two federal cybersecurity employees who contacted her said he wanted to take advantage of the “interlude,” Lavinder recalled, laughing at the euphemism. Another told her: “I want to get out. I just need more stability.”

The anxiety has trickled down to federal vendors, whose paychecks also depend on congressional appropriations. One contractor, a technology professional at a three-letter agency, said he wanted to be free of the whims of lawmakers. With his program defunded, his supervisors recommended staff look for other employment.

Some essential information security professionals were possibly too exhausted during the furlough to freshen up their resumes, some recruiters speculated. “I probably get at least seven to ten [cyber applicants] a week and I only got three during that period. I’m convinced it was because they were working,” Lavinder said.


Are They All Talk?

Even before the Oct. 1 shutdown, the budget sequester that went into effect last spring had prompted some government workers to explore other opportunities, said Deborah Page, a principal at the Virginia-based McCormick Group who recruits IT, cybersecurity and risk management professionals.

“Now, the question is how serious are they?” she said. The private sector is “indeed seeking good infosec folks but whether [federal employees] will be able to transition well into those environments is another question.”

Some recruiters say they have not noticed a difference in interest from feds, and pointed to the positive aspects of a lull.

“Being furloughed is one thing but knowing that you’ll get paid for your time off doesn’t really instill fear in people — I don’t think,” said Jeff Snyder, president of Colorado-based “Change is something that most people resist like it is a plague. Getting time off and getting back pay seems like a double bonus to me. Then again, I’ve never had a salary in my entire adult life.”

More government workers likely will start hunting as another potential hiatus approaches in January, compared to the number of employees who picked up the phone last time, Page predicts.

“They were still on the payroll and perhaps, for some, enjoyed a bit of relaxation time to do family chores or update their resumes,” she said. “When it hits once, you may not take it so seriously but when it repeats, you now have to look at yourself and [the] situation to not allow it to happen again.”



Public Sentiment on Takes a Nosedive

By Joseph Marks

October 18, 2013


The public’s impression of, the Obama administration’s online health insurance marketplace, remains deeply negative two weeks after its troubled launch, according to an analysis of Twitter sentiment.


That’s a reversal from what was happening in the weeks leading up to the Oct. 1 launch of the online insurance exchange, when more tweeters expressed positive opinions about than negative opinions, according to an analysis by Topsy, an analytics firm that mines Twitter to gauge public sentiment.

The marketplace’s sentiment score shot up a few days before the public launch, spurred mainly by tweets from news organizations urging people to check the site out, according to Topsy’s analysis. That sentiment score dropped precipitously once the online marketplace was online and has remained low ever since. (See the graph below).

Topsy’s “sentiment score” for has hovered between 10 and 15 on a scale of 1 to 100 since Oct. 3. The company uses a keyword analysis of tweets mentioning to determine whether tweets are positive or negative. A score of 50 out of 100 essentially means there are an equal number of positive and negative tweets, a spokeswoman said.

The sentiment score for the president’s overall healthcare reform, popularly known as Obamacare, suffered a similar decline in sentiment after Oct. 1 but has only dropped to a score of about 30 out of 100.

The analyses don’t measure sentiment since the end of the partial government shutdown on Thursday, after which more of the public’s attention may have been freed up to focus on

After the shutdown ended, the Republican National Committee shifted its focus to the online marketplace’s troubled launch, including a Twitter campaign urging the president to fire Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Health and Human Services Department, which is largely responsible for implementing the new law.

Software failures have plagued since its launch, drastically reducing the number of people who were able to enroll in insurance programs through the federal site and frustrating some state exchanges that rely on federal data. The federal site also suffered from insufficient server capacity during its first days, according to U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park.

Less than 1 percent of visitors to have successfully enrolled in insurance programs using the site so far, according to figures from the market research firm Millward Brown Digital.

The largest share of people left because their attempts to register with the site — one of the first phases in the enrollment process — failed, Millward Brown found. IT experts have warned there may be more software troubles that haven’t yet been uncovered because people have been halted at the registration phase.

An early version of came online several months ago, but the components of the site that allow uninsured people to research and enroll in insurance plans launched at the beginning of this month. runs insurance marketplaces for 36 states and provides data for 14 states and the District of Columbia, which are running their own exchanges. 


Budget and Travel Restrictions Force Army Conference Online

By Bob Brewin

October 15, 2013


The Army will live stream nearly every discussion panel from its 2013 Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington next week.

The Army decided to use the Web to provide remote access to the Oct. 21-23 conference for those who will not be able to attend in person “due to lack of budget and restrictions on travel.”

The Army views the conference as a professional development opportunity, spokeswoman Alison M. Hamilton said. “Live streaming these forums gives the opportunity to hear senior-leader priorities, learn how they view changes in the force over the next 10 years and hear about important policy decisions and the Ready and Resilient Campaign,” she said.

Conference streams will be available on a microsite at , she said. Soldiers and family members will also be able to ask questions of the speakers at appropriate times through social media, with on-site moderators passing questions from remote viewers to the speakers, Hamilton said.

David Liddle, an AUSA spokesman, said the conference live streams will also be viewable at .

The Army has live-streamed AUSA panels in the past. But last year, for instance, only the “family forums” allowed for interaction. This year, all panels will allow for virtual engagement, Hamilton said.

“This is a cost-effective way to be able to reach a larger sort of total Army audience,” Hamilton said. “We’re trying to increase support to the soldiers who can’t travel, so they still can benefit from professional development.”


The Case for Computer-Based Health Care

By Darius Tahir

October 16, 2013


The victory of Watson, an artificial-intelligence system designed to dominate the quiz show Jeopardy!, over the country’s best nerds in 2011 may not be the equal of John Henry struggling against a steam-powered drill in the annals of man versus machine. But the replacement of Jeopardy!’s human competitors with a computer algorithm may signal a trend that could soon spread through the health care sector as Obamacare is implemented.

That’s the prophecy of venture capitalist Vinod Khosla. The prominent Silicon Valley investor has predicted that computers will replace 80 percent of what doctors do in a couple of decades. The shift could counter another health-sector trend: stagnant productivity, which the Affordable Care Act aims to address with financial incentives for effective, efficient care, and which could encourage a move toward digital doctoring.

Between 1990 and 2010, productivity in the health care sector declined by 0.6 percent annually as employment increased by 2.9 percent, according to Robert Kocher, now a venture capitalist at Venrock, in an October 2011 editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine. Increasing productivity might bridge this disconnect, and computers could be part of the solution.

Khosla, who supports the move to computer-based health care, notes the human frailties that weaken doctors’ diagnoses and treatment: The brain is biased, forgetful, and limited. As a result, diagnoses are often inconsistent. Khosla cites a study in which psychologists were asked to diagnose patients’ major depressive disorder. On a scale where 0 represented total disagreement and 1 represented total agreement, the psychologists rated 0.3.

Human brains take in less data than their digital counterparts. “It’s a simple fact that most doctors couldn’t possibly read and digest all of the latest 5,000 research articles on heart disease,” Khosla writes. “In fact, most of the average doctor’s medical knowledge is from when they were in medical school, and cognitive limitations prevent them from remembering the 10,000+ diseases humans can get.” As the amount of information increases–there’s more research, and more sensors to collect it–digital support processing the data could be a big help.

Khosla predicts that computers will take over large portions of the medical process, leaving humans to do empathic tasks, such as reassuring and coaching patients. The beginnings of that trend are here already. Several start-ups offload doctors’ tasks onto computers; EyeNetra, which Khosla has invested in, uses software and a device that attaches to a smartphone to determine the strength of prescription lenses a patient requires.

This summer, the National Institutes of Mental Health funded a round of grants to explore using mobile devices to treat mental health problems. Akili Interactive, a video-game maker that received NIMH funding, combines tasks that require fine motor skills and visual attention. The games “actually become a very sensitive measure of cognition,” company cofounder Eddie Martucci said at a May conference. Akili is also hoping to treat major depressives, who tend to struggle with problem solving. Solving problems in a game might condition these patients to better solve problems in real life, without a doctor’s intervention.

Other algorithmic software aims to aid physicians’ decisions rather than replace them. “Clinical decision support software” analyzes data, often from a patient’s electronic health records, and advises doctors as they prescribe a treatment course. The software could note, for example, that two drugs shouldn’t be administered together due to their harmful interactions.

Software can also be used to improve doctors’ adherence to clinical guidelines. The HealthPartners hospital system in Minnesota found limited success with a software tool that showed doctors how well their order of a scan for a patient stacked up to American College of Radiology guidelines. The tool brought only modest increases in the doctors’ ordering of evidence-based scans, according to a study published in theAmerican Journal of Managed Care in 2010, but there were no incentives for the doctors to order more of these appropriate tests. Hospitals could offer more rewards to ensure adherence to best practices.

Health care workers have also started performing empathic tasks based on algorithmic advice. Jeffrey Brenner, executive director of nonprofit Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” for his approach to delivering better care at lower cost. Brenner sent social workers to certain “hot spots,” which were identified by software as places where a small minority of patients consumes a disproportionate amount of health care resources. These patients often have chronic diseases that aren’t treated properly, and these patients frequently end up in the hospital. The goal of “hot spotting” is to intervene early before problems flare, making the patient healthier despite using fewer resources. Social workers can assist by forming relationships with patients and helping them manage their illnesses.

Providers are adopting this approach in response to new payment incentives ushered in by the 2010 health reform law, which imposes penalties on hospitals with high readmission rates. Mount Sinai in New York is one institution sending social workers to troubled patients. A 600-patient pilot study cut emergency-room visits in half between September 2010 and May 2012, the hospital says.

So instead of being replaced–what John Henry fought against when he raced the steam drill–health care workers can perhaps work alongside the new computer overlords.


Budget cuts leave US Army with only 2 fully-trained brigades

Published time: October 22, 2013 12:23


Massive budget cuts in the US have forced the Army to cut corners on training, leaving only two brigades prepared for war. Military commanders have warned of a serious backlash if the White House continues to slash budgets.

At an annual conference for the Association of the US Army, military leaders voiced criticism of the spending cuts that are having a detrimental effect on the armed forces.

General Ray Odierno, the Army’s chief of staff, attacked the government for the climate of economic instability that has forced the military to cut corners.

“And there’s going to come a time when we just simply don’t have enough money to provide what I believe to be the right amount of ground forces to [carry out]… contingency operations,” Odierno told the media.

He stressed that because of the cuts to the military budget they were forced to cancel six months of military training, leaving the US Army with only two fully-trained brigades. A brigade can contain between 3,500 and 5,000 soldiers.

With the onset of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts the US military grew by about 570,000 personnel over the last decade. As the Obama Administration withdraws forces from these countries, officials are planning to scale down the military, cutting the number of brigades from 45 to 33.

“The worst-case scenario is you ask me to deploy thousands of soldiers somewhere and we have not properly trained them to go because we simply don’t have the dollars and money because of the way sequestration is laid out,” Odierno said, referring to automatic budget cuts.

The next government sequester is set to take place in January of next year and it could potentially see the Defense Department’s budget slashed by $21 billion.


Technology vs. manpower

The Department of Defense is currently carrying out the ‘Quadrennial Defense Review’, a study that assesses Pentagon spending. Odierno said that had been suggested that manpower could be replaced with technology.

“There are lots of different opinions out there. There are people that want to change how the Army fights, and they believe we don’t need ground forces, that we can do everything with technology, stand-off weapons, missiles,” he said.

However, Army Secretary John McHugh, who also spoke at the conference, said that the budget cutbacks had also caused big delays in weapons and military equipment orders, including “high priority projects for a new armored vehicle and new communications networks.”

US finances were put under further strain by the government shutdown that could have a knock-on effect on next year’s military budget.

Last week the US brought an end to the three-week deadlock that did significant damage to the economy. Moody’s Analytics estimate that the shutdown could cost the US up to $50 billion.


With U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, American military gear sold as scrap

By Kevin Sieff, Published: October 20


IN BAGRAM, Afghanistan — The armored trucks, televisions, ice cream scoops and nearly everything else shipped here for America’s war against the Taliban are now part of the world’s biggest garage sale. Every week, as the U.S. troop drawdown accelerates, the United States is selling 12 million to 14 million pounds of its equipment on the Afghan market.

Returning that gear to the United States from a landlocked country halfway around the world would be prohibitively expensive, according to U.S. officials. Instead, they’re leaving behind $7 billion worth of supplies, a would-be boon to the fragile Afghan economy.

But there’s one catch: The equipment is being destroyed before it’s offered to the Afghan people — to ensure that treadmills, air-conditioning units and other rudimentary appliances aren’t used to make roadside bombs.

“Many non-military items have timing equipment or other components in them that can pose a threat. For example, timers can be attached to explosives. Treadmills, stationary bikes, many household appliances and ­devices, et cetera, have timers,” said Michelle McCaskill, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s Defense Logistics Agency.

That policy has produced more scrap metal than Afghanistan has ever seen. It has also led to frustration among Afghans, who feel as if they are being robbed of items such as flat-panel televisions and armored vehicles that they could use or sell — no small thing in a country where the average annual income hovers at just over $500.

In Afghanistan, nicknamed the “graveyard of empires,” foreign forces are remembered for what they leave behind. In the 1840s, the British left forts that still stand today. In the 1980s, the Russians left tanks, trucks and aircraft strewn about the country. The United States is leaving heaps of mattresses, barbed wire and shipping containers in scrap yards near its shrinking bases.

“This is America’s dustbin,” said Sufi Khan, a trader standing in the middle of an immense scrap yard outside Bagram air base, the U.S. military’s sprawling headquarters for eastern Afghanistan.

The scrap yard looks like a post-industrial landfill in the middle of the Afghan desert, a surreal outcropping of mangled metal and plastic. There’s a tower of treadmills 50 feet high and an acre of American buses, trucks and vans, stripped of seats and engines. An ambulance is perched unsteadily atop a pile of scrap, as if it fell from the sky. A mountain of air-conditioning units sits next to a mountain of truck axles.

Some of the scrap still shows signs of its previous owners — vehicles spray-painted with American names, mattresses sunken from 12 years of use, bumper stickers from Hawaii or Oklahoma.


A torrent of scrap

The Bagram scrap yard is owned by Feda Mohammad Ulfat, who helped build the neighboring base more than a decade ago, transporting gravel and concrete. Now Ulfat is helping to dismantle the base, taking in thousands of pounds of American scrap metal every day.

“I never imagined we’d be getting this much stuff,” he said.

Not all of the equipment reaching the scrap yard was deliberately damaged: Some was already broken after a decade of use. Ulfat decided several years ago that he would invest in it anyway.

Some of his friends thought he was crazy, but Ulfat had an idea: The expensive American gear could be melted and reconstituted as raw material for an Afghan building boom. He’d gotten rich on dozens of other contracts with the U.S. military, and he assumed that this one would be no different.

When he signed the contract, the scrap metal was only trickling in. But over the past six months, the U.S. drawdown has reached a fever pitch in eastern Afghanistan, with dozens of bases being closed. Suddenly, a torrent of scrap metal was being delivered to Ulfat’s farm. He had to buy more land. Scrap was piled atop scrap. He now spends up to a half-million dollars a month on gear that has been shredded or flattened.

When U.S. officials began planning for their exit, the idea was to ship home the majority of their equipment, especially expensive military gear such as mine-resistant vehicles. That calculus has changed.

The Pentagon has budgeted $5 billion to $7 billion to ship gear back to the United States. But that sum isn’t enough to take everything currently in Afghanistan.

Wanting at least a small return on its investment, the U.S. military decided to sell the leftovers for pennies on the pound. That’s where Ulfat came in.

He has now opened his scrap yard for the public to rummage through. Small groups of men wander around, buying broken air conditioners that can be stripped of their copper wiring or sheets of corrugated iron that can be sold to Pakistani traders. Many of the supplies that the U.S. military used to fight its longest war have begun their second lives in South and Central Asia.


This month, Haji Montazer paced the scrap yard with his son. They were looking for generators that might be repairable or really anything that they could sell in Kabul or Pakistan. One of their customers makes bed frames out of the metal beams that once held up American military structures. Another takes metal pieces — parts of military vehicles and barbed wire — to Lahore, where they are melted and sold as corrugated rooftops for cheap Pakistani homes.


Not like the Russians

Montazer once bought equipment from the Soviet forces, which began their withdrawal in the late 1980s.

“But the Russians didn’t break their things before they sold them to us,” he said.

That bitter sentiment is shared by many who visit Ulfat’s scrap yard. The United States has not publicly explained why its gear is destroyed before being sold. U.S. officials are quick to point out that the Afghan government typically has an opportunity to express interest in American military equipment, which is sometimes handed over intact.

Lately, Ulfat’s dream of getting rich off the U.S. scrap has started to fade. Kabul’s real estate boom is over, he said. All he hears from Afghans are concerns about what will happen to the country after the U.S. withdrawal. His scrap yard tells the story of the drawdown.

“What will we do with all of this? Right now, no one will buy it. And if the future is as bad as people say it will be . . . .” His voice trailed off. “It could be bad.”

Hafizullah, an employee of Ulfat’s who goes by one name, wandered through the scrap yard one day this month, overseeing the latest delivery — a mix of blast walls and carburetors. With Bagram still the most active base in eastern Afghanistan, aircraft flew over his head incessantly.

One helicopter flew particularly close, hovering near the scrap yard. Hafizullah pointed to the Black Hawk and laughed.

“I can’t wait until they start selling those here,” he said.



AFMC 5-center construct reaches full operational capability

Published October 22, 2013

Air Force Materiel Command



The Air Force Materiel Command commander announced the full operational capability of the command’s 5-center construct Oct. 22, 2013, a major milestone in AFMC history.

“The 80,000-plus men and women of AFMC have repeatedly raised their own bar for success,” said Gen. Janet Wolfenbarger. “This world-class workforce continues to display the dedication and innovation that are hallmarks of Air Force professionals. As a result, we leveraged an historic opportunity to more efficiently and effectively equip the Air Force for world-dominant airpower. I am incredibly proud to stand with them today as I declare full operational capability.”

Birthed from former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates’ 2010 “efficiency” directive in anticipation of substantially reduced resources, this is the largest reorganization within AFMC since its establishment 21 years ago.

Wolfenbarger pointed out that AFMC’s reorganization maximizes mission-effective and cost-effective operations to provide global vigilance, global reach and global power for America through:


Unity of purpose — One center, one mission, one commander across multiple locations;

Standardized processes across all mission areas;

A streamlined organizational structure; and,

A single weapon system face to the warfighter and industry.


Wolfenbarger also said there are several quantifiable successes the reorganized AFMC has realized in the past year since initial operational capability was declared Oct. 1, 2012. They include the following:

Reduced costs and improved readiness, marked by a substantial increase in depot aircraft production, and a reduction in critical parts shortages and depot backorders;

Collaboration across maintenance, repair, overhaul/supply and lifecycle management to reduce depot rates by 5 percent for the first-time ever — driving a fiscal 2015 savings of $515 million;

Implementation of a standard Should Cost process that captured the life cycle of weapon systems for Acquisition Category 1 programs — more than $2 billion savings projected to date, with potential to save more than $5 billion when employed across all ACAT programs, sustainment programs, and services; and,

Creation of the Weapons System Enterprise Review to provide senior leaders comprehensive, integrated, and timely data focused on fielded weapon system support, modernization, and future risk areas.

Prior to the reorganization, AFMC was made up of 12 centers across the command. The reduction to five centers immediately netted an operating efficiency through reduced overhead of more than $109 million per year.

The command’s five centers are the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, both headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB; Air Force Test Center, headquartered at Edwards AFB, Calif.; Air Force Sustainment Center, headquartered at Tinker, AFB, Okla.; and the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center, headquartered at Kirtland AFB, N.M.



US government releases draft cybersecurity framework

NIST comes out with its proposed cybersecurity standards, which outlines how private companies can protect themselves against hacks, cyberattacks, and security breaches.

by Dara Kerr

 October 22, 2013 8:09 PM PDT

According to NIST, all levels of an organization should be involved in cybersecurity.

(Credit: The National Institute of Standards and Technology)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology released its draft cybersecurity framework for private companies and infrastructure networks on Tuesday. These standards are part of anexecutive order that President Obama proposed in February.


The aim of NIST’s framework (PDF) is to create guidelines that companies can use to beef up their networks and guard against hackers and cybersecurity threats. Adopting this framework would be voluntary for companies. NIST is a non-regulatory agency within the Department of Commerce.

The framework was written with the involvement of roughly 3,000 industry and academic experts, according to Reuters. It outlines ways that companies could protect their networks and act fast if and when they experience security breaches.

“The framework provides a common language for expressing, understanding, and managing cybersecurity risk, both internally and externally,” reads the draft standards. “The framework can be used to help identify and prioritize actions for reducing cybersecurity risk and is a tool for aligning policy, business, and technological approaches to managing that risk.”

Obama’s executive order in February was part of a government effort to get cybersecurity legislation in place, but the bill was put on hold after the National Security Agency’s surveillance program was revealed.

Some of the components in Obama’s order included: expanding “real time sharing of cyber threat information” to companies that operate critical infrastructure, asking NIST to devise cybersecurity standards, and proposing a “review of existing cybersecurity regulation.”

Critical infrastructure networks, banks, and private companies have increasingly been hit by cyberattacks over the past couple of years. For example, weeks after the former head of Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, announced that she believed a “cyber 9/11″ could happen “imminently” — crippling the country’s power grid, water infrastructure, and transportation networks — hackers hit the US Department of Energy. While no data was compromised, it did show that hackers were able to breach the computer system.

In May, Congress released a survey that claimed power utilities in the U.S. are under “daily” cyberattacks. Of about 160 utilities interviewed for the survey, more than a dozen reported “daily,” “constant,” or “frequent” attempted cyberattacks on their computer systems. While the data in the survey sounded alarming, none of the utilities reported any damage to their facilities or actual breaches of their systems — but rather attempts to hack their networks.

While companies are well aware that they need to secure their networks, many are wary of signing onto this voluntary framework. According to Reuters, some companies are worried that the standards could turn into requirements.

In an effort to get companies to adopt the framework, the government has been offering a slew of incentives, including cybersecurity insurance, priority consideration for grants, and streamlined regulations. These proposed incentives are a preliminary step for the government’s cybersecurity policy and have not yet been finalized.

NIST will now take public comments for 45 days and plans to issue the final cybersecurity framework in February 2014.


Wireless Electric Buses Developed In Utah

By Chris DeMorro

It’s easy to understand why some people hate public transportation. Most city buses use large diesel engines that are are loud and smelly, but pure-electric buses are too expensive for most cash-strapped cities to afford. Utah-based electric bus company WAVE might have a solution for electric buses, using a clever wireless-charging system that drastically reduces battery size and cost.

Developed in conjunction with the University of Utah and commercialized first in Park City, Utah, WAVE got its start powering buses around the university campus. The technology uses inductive charging to wirelessly transfer energy between the charger and the bus. This is nothing exactly groundbreaking here, with other projects in places like South Korea displaying similar ideas.

The difference is that wave uses very small, limited-range batteries with wireless chargers are regular intervals. This cuts down on battery size, which cuts down on cost, and also reduces charging times as well. The batteries are big enough to last a full 16-hour workday with just a few stops over charging pads. Keep in mind that even though buses are big, electric motors provide full-torque at 0 RPM, and most buses never see speeds higher than 40 mph.

As it stands, WAVE currently has test fleets in several U.S. cities, and is working on the installation of a ten-bus system in Long Beach, California. WAVE is looking to expand offerings in another 10 to 20 U.S. cities in the next year, and it could do that thanks to the most-appealing aspect of the system; the ability to retrofit old city buses. With a gallon-equivalent of electricity selling for 65-cents, compared to almost $4 a gallon for diesel, cities that convert their buses to electric systems could save millions of dollars per year with ease.

Could WAVE’s business model be the breakthrough electric buses have been waiting for?


Obamacare exchange contractors had past security lapses


Hackers exposed data on 123,000 people at one, another put personal data of 6 million Medicare beneficiaries at risk

Jaikumar Vijayan

October 23, 2013 (Computerworld)

Two of the contractors involved in developing the Affordable Care Act healthcare exchanges have had fairly serious data security issues, a Computerworld review of publicly available information has found.

The incidents involving Quality Software Services (QSS) and Serco are not related to the ongoing glitches in, the ACA’s troubled website.

Even so, the information is relevant in light of the ongoing scrutiny of the companies involved with the problem-plagued exchange.

Since going live on October 1, Obamacare’s site has been bedeviled by problems that are keeping people from shopping for and enrolling in ACA health insurance plans. So far, none of the problems appear security related.

However, critics say the exchanges and the underlying data hub connecting health insurers to federal eligibility verification systems could face security problems, given the complexity and the sheer volume of highly sensitive personal information flowing through the systems.

Systems integrator Quality Software Services developed the software code for the ACA data services hub and oversaw development of tools to connect the hub to databases at the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration and other federal agencies.

The company is also charged with helping the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) maintain and administer the data hub.

The company in June was the subject of an audit report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General for failing to adhere to federal government security standards in delivering, what appears to be unrelated, IT testing services for the CMS.

The 16-page report noted that the systems QSS used for testing purposes at CMS did not include controls for protecting against misuse of USB ports and devices as required by the CMS.

Specifically, QSS failed to disable USB ports or put other measures in place for preventing unauthorized use of USB devices and ports, the report said. The company had also not listed essential system services or ports in its security plan, it said.

“As a result of QSS’s insufficient controls over USB ports and devices, the [Personally Identifiable Information] of over 6 million Medicare beneficiaries was at greater risk from malware, inappropriate use, access or theft,” the report warned.

QSS officials did not respond to a request for comment on the report.

However, in a response to the Inspector General’s findings, the company said it revised corporate network access control polices to put restrictions on the use of USB ports and devices. It also said it planned to implement “Read Only” restrictions for USB ports in all laptops along with controls to prevent USB devices from automatically executing code.

Testifying before the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health in September, a QSS executive said the design and development of the ACA Data Services Hub complies with federal security standards.

Services firm Serco in July won a five-year $1.3 billion contract to process and verify paper applications submitted by individuals seeking health insurance via the online exchanges.

A Serco executive told lawmakers earlier this year that the company has taken many steps to ensure that the data it handles meets CMS and Federal Information Security Act security requirements.

Serco had made the news in 2012 whn it disclosed a data breach that exposed sensitive data of more than 123,000 members of the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), a $313 billion retirement plan, run by the U.S. Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board.

The exposed data included full names, addresses, Social Security Numbers, financial account information and bank routing information.

The compromise resulted from an intrusion into a single desktop computer used by a Serco employee to support the TSP.

Though the breach occurred in July 2011, Serco did not discover it until April 2012 after being notified about it by the FBI. The incident, and Serco’s subsequent handling of the breach notification process, prompted some lawmakers to demand a clear timeline from the company on the initial intrusion, its subsequent discovery and the steps taken to prevent another breach.

In a lengthy e-mail to Computerworld Tuesday, Serco spokesman Alan Hill downplayed the significance of the breach and maintained that the company has since thoroughly reviewed its security program and infrastructure protection mechanisms. For instance, the company redesigned its network and data management infrastructure and revised security risk management policies, controls and procedures, Hill said.

Serco executives are working with the CMS to ensure that information security controls are built into the ACA paper application processing system, the spokesman said.

“We are committed to applying and enforcing a strong information security program and strict controls across all of our contracts and operations,” Hill said. “Protecting the privacy of consumers through the paper application process is top priority for Serco and CMS.”

Richard Stiennon, principal at security consultant IT-Harvest, predicts a lot of finger pointing at the contractors if there’s a breach into ACA systems.

“That said, often having made mistakes in the past will lead to improved coding and security practices in the future. Here’s hoping that is the case,” he said.

However, bringing in a slew of experts to fix the system “will probably lead to short cuts, which usually lead to bad security hygiene,” he said.


Cramer: N.D. is 2nd or 3rd choice for drone test site

by Press • 22 October 2013

By: Tu-Uyen Tran

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — It’s very likely North Dakota will be one of the six states to host a test site for unmanned aircraft, but it is also very likely not the Federal Aviation Administration’s top candidate, Rep. Kevin Cramer said this past week in Grand Forks.

The top candidate appears to be Alaska, he said.

Next best or third best appear to be North Dakota, home to Grand Forks Air Force Base and its unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), he said. “I’m optimistic about North Dakota.”

Cramer, R-N.D., bases his belief on background discussions with analysts working for the FAA, he said.

It’s a privilege he has as vice chairman of a House subcommittee that has held hearings on the test sites with the FAA, he said. “That position has given me a rather good view of the whole program.”

He expects the FAA will announce Alaska as a test site “fairly soon,” and it may be months before North Dakota is added to the list with a test site near Grand Forks.

Local leaders are pushing to get the area selected as a UAS test site because they believe it would bolster the UAS industry here, which has already received a leg up because of the presence of Global Hawk and Predator UAS at the base and a UAS research center at the University of North Dakota.

But there’s a big field candidates to deal with. According to the FAA, it has received 25 applications from 24 states.


Untapped potential

The FAA currently forbids unmanned and manned aircraft to mix for fear of collisions, but that also hampers development of civilian uses for UAS technology, which experts say could benefit fields as far apart as agriculture, telecommunications and law enforcement.


A test site would allow the two kinds of aircraft to mix. UAS boosters in Grand Forks believe having one would attract UAS firms from all over, making the area an industry hub.

The analysts Cramer said he has spoken with are impressed with what the area and the state has to offer the FAA. Basically, he said, they’re saying “Wow, how do you beat what North Dakota has to offer in terms of airspace, climate, not the least of which is the cooperation of the entire state.”

All are talking points for him and many other UAS boosters from North Dakota, but he said it’s coming from “people who don’t have any skin in the game or really care except they’re part of the analysis team.”

By airspace, he means that North Dakota’s is mostly empty which decreases the chance for collisions considerably. It can also be very cold, allowing for testing under cold weather conditions.


But the business climate can be warm.

Cramer cites the example of the UAS tech park Grand Forks County is trying to build at the Air Force base, which recently agreed to let the county lease 217 acres. “I don’t think we can understate the value of this lease, not only local and state cooperation, but now you throw in the United States Air Force.”


Shutdown setback

The FAA had earlier said it would announce the six test sites in December, but Cramer said he doesn’t believe it will happen. The recent government shutdown likely set the agency’s schedule back, he said.

It’s also likely that the FAA will announce one site at a time rather than all six at once, as expected earlier, he said.

UAS boosters here will have to wait in suspense longer than expected.


Future uncertain for Ground Combat Vehicle, Armed Aerial Scout

October 22, 2013

David Vergun

Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, and Gen. Dennis Via, commander, Army Materiel Command, speak Oct. 21, 2013, at a modernization press conference at AUSA’s 2013 Annual Meeting, at the Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C.


WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 22, 2013) — As a result of fiscal “belt tightening, the Ground Combat Vehicle and the Armed Aerial Scout could be delayed, continued or terminated,” said the Army’s top acquisition professional.

“We’re lurching” ahead with deciding which programs stay, are postponed, canceled or not started “because our budget is lurching,” said Heidi Shyu, assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology.

Shyu, along with Gen. Dennis Via, commander, Army Materiel Command, spoke Oct. 21, at a modernization press conference at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting and Exposition.

It’s especially hard on the Army’s industry partners, Shyu acknowledged, but it’s been a “perfect storm of continuing resolutions, sequestration and government shutdown” with no end in sight and the impacts will be even greater next year.

Deciding which capability is most important, what’s good enough and what to sacrifice “is not an easy one. It’s a decision not taken lightly,” she continued. “We’re in a belt-tightening mode.”

The Army is looking closely at every one of its portfolios and is receiving input from U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command to determine the future status of each of its programs as sequestration in 2014 and beyond will have a significant impact on all of them, she continued.

Last year, the Army was criticized by Congress for its Program Objective Memorandum, or POM.

“Last year we were blamed for having just one POM,” she said, indicating there was no backup POM. The POM provides the Army with budgetary decisions over several years.

“This year, the Army’s producing two POMs,” based on what the budget might or might not look like. “One is a good POM and the other is a bad POM,” the latter being a worst-case budget scenario or lack of a budget.

It’s not just portfolios that are affected, she said. So are science and technology, research and development and operation and maintenance of equipment. On top of that, “we can’t get the force structure down fast enough” to keep up with cuts to readiness and modernization.

Shyu said the “budget morass” is so significant, she wouldn’t be surprised if the force structure is brought down below the planned 490,000 target.

The budget woes also threaten to disrupt “our efforts to regain expeditionary capability,” said Via.

The Army had large, fixed bases with infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan. Future operations “may not have that luxury and may be austere,” he explained. As forces draw down from Afghanistan and become more U.S.-based, that expeditionary capability becomes critical from “kinetic to disaster-relief” missions.

Besides future threats, the Army still has a war on its hand in Afghanistan, Via reminded the audience. Logistical support is still needed there as well as the need to retrograde equipment from Afghanistan to the U.S. where it needs to be reset and delivered to units so they’re prepared for future contingencies.

To address these growing concerns, Shyu said the Army has four logistical strategies:

First, since the force structure is coming down, the Army will purchase less equipment.

Second, existing legacy equipment not needed and too expensive to maintain will be eliminated.

Third, any new equipment purchases will likely be done using more efficient contracts such as multi-year contracts, since these have the greatest discounts that will drive cost savings.

And fourth, the Army will continue to incrementally improve and modernize its aging systems and platforms like the Apache, Chinook and Black Hawk helicopters; Bradley Fighting Vehicles; M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, which will be upgraded to Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles; Paladins; and Abrams tanks.

“We also have to prepare ourselves to fight in a much more contested environment,” she said.

To do this will cost money, but it’s a necessary investment, she continued, giving some examples such as better integrating sensors, missiles and manned and unmanned aviation assets together so they’re networked and visible across the battle space.

Another example would be providing special capabilities to pilots so they can navigate and land in “degraded visual environments such as smoke, fog sandstorms and whiteout conditions.”

Science and technology investments will also continue, she said. For example, if the enemy jams GPS, Soldiers would need a reliable backup system, since its weapons and people are so reliant on satellite positioning.

Another program that will continue through its testing phase is the Enhanced Medium Altitude Reconnaissance and Surveillance System, which is a signals intelligence gathering system used on aircraft.

The Army is also interested in keeping tabs on the underlying sensor technology that drives systems like EMARSS, so it will continue to invest in science and technology, she said, noting that systems become obsolete in just a few years as they keep evolving at a rapid-fire fashion.

On a different topic, Via provided some good news on current equipment retrograde efforts in Afghanistan, which had sometimes bogged down over the long, tortuous road through Pakistan over the last few years.

“Retrograde is proceeding on plan,” he said. “The Pakistan ground lines are open so each week there’s an increasing throughput and velocity in pushing equipment back. We don’t know what the final security agreement will look like or how many forces will remain, so we’re watching that.”

Via added that the Army is using lessons learned in Iraq to do a smarter drawdown in Afghanistan, not just for retrograde procedures, but for disposing of excess gear. For instance, some countries have expressed an interest in acquiring it, he said. And some of it that’s not economically feasible to bring back is being scrapped and dismantled in ways that will make it difficult for anyone who wants to do harm to use.

RPAs Part I: Reaching 2 million hours

Posted 10/23/2013

by Senior Airman A.K.

432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs

The U.S. Air Force’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft accumulated 2 million flight hours Oct. 22, 2013, not only marking a significant milestone, but also demonstrating the evolution of the program.

The RPA program began in the mid-1990s. It took 16 years for the community to reach 1 million hours and a mere two and a half years to double those flight hours.

“There is just no way to describe what an amazing event that was,” said Col. James Cluff, 432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing commander. “The community really had some very humble roots flying out of what used to be Indian Springs Air Force Auxiliary Field here almost 20 years ago.”

Although it was a crew from Creech Air Force Base to actually fly the mission that reached the 2 millionth flight hour marker, it is was a team effort that made the mission possible.

Cluff said it was really an enterprise-wide event for the men and women of the RPA community.

“Air Force Special Operations Command, Air Force Materiel Command, 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing, our guard and reserve partners, and many others all contributed to this – not just the 432nd Wing or Air Combat Command,” said Cluff. “The whole team is represented here by this amazing achievement, and we couldn’t be prouder.”

Lt. Gen. John Hesterman, Commander of the U.S. Air Forces Central Command, Southwest Asia, noted the importance of RPAs and said it’s the men and women of the community who have helped achieve such great success over the years.

“The fact that commanders have had this ISR and precision-strike capability from remotely piloted aircraft when and where they have needed it for so long is a remarkable milestone, and should be noted,” Hesterman said. “But perhaps the bigger story and true achievement has been the unwavering dedication of the men and women who have made this capability available for such a sustained period of time. They have saved lives and made us and our coalition partners safer and more secure.”

Chief Master Sgt. Butch Brien, 432 Wing/432nd AEW command chief, noted the dedication of the Airmen, both past and present, behind the mission is unmatched.

“People are going to be talking about us for years and years to come – it’s great to be part of this elite team,” Brien said. “I think about the 24/7, 365 operations capability that we have working with our partners across the United States and overseas making this happen, and how advanced the technology has become since the beginning … what we’re achieving right now, you can’t touch that.”

The crew chosen to fly the mission was hand-picked directly by their commander for a multitude of reasons.

“The decision was based on several things such as qualifications, merit, and experience,” said Capt. Ben, 18th Reconnaissance Squadron RPA pilot who flew the 2 million hour mission. “We are continuing a legacy of flying of all the RPA pilots and sensors before us. However, it’s a combined ‘one team, one fight’ effort. We depend on our counterparts like communications, maintenance, launch and recovery teams, and other RPA Airmen to be able to conduct and complete our missions.”

Staff Sgt. Tabitha, 18th RS mission intelligence coordinator, said the community has experienced an increase in the number of combat air patrols over the years but the dedication of the team is what makes the difference.

“Even though it’s been hard, we’ve always found a way to meet the increasing demands,” she said.

Senior Airman Travis, 18th RS sensor operator, gave one piece of advice for all the Airmen who play a part in keeping the mission capabilities going.


“Stay flexible,” he said. “At one point I was flying eight hours each day for nearly three months, but the flexibility and dedication of our people makes anything possible.”

Although the aircrew members are the ones flying the planes, there are hundreds of people involved every day in RPA operations.

“There is really nothing ‘unmanned’ about RPAs, other than the fact that there isn’t a pilot in the cockpit,” said Maj. Gen. John Shanahan, Air Force ISR Agency commander. “From the maintenance personnel, to the pilots and sensor operators, to the communications experts, to the ISR professionals who exploited every signal and every second of every video, this is a team business. I am incredibly proud of the Airmen across the Air Force ISR Agency who have been involved in the RPA success story since day one. They take information from the RPAs and turn it into intelligence that allows someone to make a better decision – in peacetime and war.”

Achieving such great heights commemorates more than just a proud moment, it also demonstrates how valuable the program has become in just two decades.

Today, the RPA community continues to aid in missions worldwide while concurrently assessing and improving the capabilities of both the program and aircraft.

“I carried the first Predator to Tazar, Hungary, in 1996 at the direction of Secretary of Defense William Perry,” said retired Maj. Gen. Kenneth Israel. “Dr. Perry’s guidance was ‘if Predators save one soldier’s life, they are worth deploying now.’ No one could have envisioned the unprecedented success these systems have had during the last two decades.”


Defense Cuts Conundrum: Weighing the Hard Choices Ahead

September 29, 2013

By Todd Harrison

The main strategic choice the military now faces is essentially one of timing — that is, when to take risks. Should it protect near-term capacity and accept a higher degree of long-term risk by cutting funding for future capabilities? Or should it focus on developing future capabilities and accept a higher degree of near-term risk by cutting the current capacity and readiness of the force? As budgets come down, the military cannot do both, at least not to the degree it had previously planned. Most likely, policymakers will attempt to protect near-term capacity and readiness as much as possible and sacrifice modernization programs to meet budget targets. This approach is already beginning to play out in response to the 2013 sequester. For example, U.S. President Barack Obama exempted $150 billion in military personnel accounts from sequestration, and the Defense Department sought permission from Congress to transfer some $4.1 billion from modernization accounts to restore funding for near-term readiness activities such as flying hours and training exercises.

The near-term approach is appealing because the current security environment is unpredictable. The military does not know when or where it may be called upon next, and senior leaders, whose tenures are relatively short, are naturally reluctant to risk a readiness crisis occurring on their watch.

Moreover, one could argue that in a few years the budget environment could be less constrained than currently projected.

Adopting a near-term approach, the military would focus cuts disproportionately on modernization programs, since the capabilities these investments produce will not be available for years, if not decades. Even with deep cuts in modernization programs, however, the Defense Department would still be forced to make modest reductions in the size and readiness of the current force. Given the uncertain threat environment, a likely way of doing this would be to make relatively uniform reductions across the military — a so-called haircut approach — to minimize the risk of being too unprepared in any one area.


Just as important as what the military would do with a near-term focus is what it would not do. Taking this approach, the Defense Department and Congress would not have a strong incentive to make internal reforms to how the Defense Department operates and manages its resources. Such changes typically require up-front costs, both financially and politically, in exchange for long-term savings.

Closing excess bases and facilities, for example, would cost billions in the near term before it would begin to yield annual savings. Likewise, both Congress and the military would not have an incentive to pursue serious reforms in the military compensation system or alter the size and structure of the Defense Department’s civilian workforce, because these efforts would carry significant political repercussions.

A likely result of the near-term approach is a military that looks and operates much as it does today. It implicitly assumes that future conflicts will require capabilities similar to those the military already possesses, many of which were designed for counterterrorism and counterinsurgency operations or for more conventional military conflicts such as the 1991 Gulf War. As threats evolve, however, and more advanced technologies proliferate, current capabilities may increasingly become less effective and less relevant. For example, the Predator and Reaper drones that the military has used extensively in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan are designed to operate in undefended airspace. These systems would not be effective against an adversary that attempts to keep U.S. aircraft out with even modest air defenses. The development of new or evolved weapons systems, such as stealth drones that can evade air defenses, requires investments of both time and funding. If such investments are not made now, these advanced capabilities may not be available to the U.S. military when needed, no matter how much funding is available in the future.

More important, the near-term approach would avoid politically difficult internal reforms. The growth in personnel and peacetime readiness costs has effectively reduced the buying power of each defense dollar. If these costs continue to grow at the rates experienced over the past decade and the military attempts to maintain a force of 1.4 million on active duty, as currently planned, they could consume the entire defense budget by 2024, leaving no money for research and development or the procurement of new equipment. Alternatively, the Defense Department could reduce the overall size of the military to compensate for internal cost growth, but it would have to continue getting smaller as costs continued to mount. Either way, rising internal costs make the near-term approach unsustainable without significant reforms.


A long-term approach, in contrast, would protect funding for future capabilities and require near-term risks in capacity and readiness to meet budget targets. For those who see the threats to U.S. interests as dangerous now and growing worse over time, it makes sense to take more risks today rather than in the future, when threats will be more challenging. Alternatively, if one views the current situation as relatively safe for the United States, then the future security environment could be worse — meaning it would still be better to take risks sooner than later.

Taking a long-term approach, the military should first identify the capabilities the current force lacks but is likely to need in the future and plan investments accordingly. The idea is to make strategically informed bets on technologies and programs that could lead to significant improvements in future capabilities. New investments could include increasing budgets for existing programs, funding technologies the Defense Department previously abandoned, or starting new development programs.

While many of these investments could fail or end up addressing the wrong threats, the ones that succeed would be prerequisites to developing advanced capabilities down the road. To pay for these new investments, the military would need to capabilities that are likely to be less relevant in the future. While strategists and planners can disagree about what the ideal future force should look like, it will not likely look like the force of today. The nature of warfare is constantly evolving, as evidenced by advances in unmanned systems, guided munitions, and the increasing role of networks and cyber-operations in conventional conflicts. Given these technological advancements, parts of the force structure that have been important for decades may not be as important in the future.

The idea is to begin divesting from lower priority capabilities to make room for higher-priority ones. A long-term approach must also begin the process of making systemic internal reforms in the Pentagon, including slowing the growth of military compensation costs, reshaping and resizing the Defense Department’s civilian workforce, and eliminating excess bases and infrastructure. Despite the upfront costs and political risks involved, the sooner such reforms are implemented, the sooner savings can begin to accrue. Savings from structural reforms, such as reducing the size of U.S. forces, will improve the effective buying power of defense dollars, enabling the United States to afford a larger and more capable military than would otherwise be possible.

The bulk of the required savings under the long-term approach would come from near-term reductions in capacity and preparedness, which, while never ideal, could be mitigated somewhat by adopting tiered readiness within the services or dissimilar readiness levels across the services. Moreover, the long-term effectiveness of U.S. forces could be enhanced by the advanced technologies and weapon systems funded by a near-term reduction in readiness.

Policymakers will understandably be reluctant to pursue the long-term approach because it requires stepping on many of the so-called third rail issues in defense. Reforming military compensation and cutting the Defense Department civilian workforce, for example, would anger the many veterans’ service organizations and federal employee unions whose members could be affected. Supporting another round of base closures would require many members of Congress to vote against their own parochial political interests. Making targeted reductions in acquisition programs and force structure would upset the status quo in the defense industry. More important, the long-term approach would also require policymakers to accept a higher degree of risk that the military may not be adequately prepared for a major war in the next few years. This lack of readiness could constrain U.S. foreign policy if potential adversaries are less deterred by the threat of military force. And if military action becomes necessary in the near future, reduced preparedness could compromise the performance of U.S. forces in battle.


In congressional testimony following the release of the SCMR results, Admiral James Winnefeld, Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, noted that readiness “has no constituency other than the young soldier, sailor, airman, or Marine putting his or her life on the line for our nation’s security interests.” Winnefeld’s statement reveals that readiness does indeed have a constituency. The current force and those who lead it are strong and vocal proponents of preparedness for good reason: If readiness suffers, they are the ones who will bear the consequences. But senior leaders should instead be concerned that the future may not have a strong constituency. The next generation of service members — our children and grandchildren — have no say in the decisions made today, yet they are the ones who will live with the repercussions. Who will speak for their interests, and what type of military will they inherit?

The usefulness of framing the Pentagon’s upcoming strategic choice as a near-term versus long-term dichotomy is that it explicitly acknowledges the trade-offs senior leaders face in the thousands of lower-level decisions they must make over the coming years. These thousands of decisions, at times going in opposite directions and made by scores of senior leaders in the executive and legislative branches, will ultimately coalesce into what in hindsight appears to be a defense strategy, however flawed, disjointed, and ugly it may be. The key question is which way that strategy will lean.

A strategy that is more inclined toward a near-term approach would leave the next generation a military with capabilities similar to those it has today, and with excellent pay and benefits. But that military would be less technologically advanced and also unsustainable due to internal cost growth. A strategy geared more toward a long-term approach would give the subsequent generation a military that is smaller but more modernized and more easily scaled in size if needed, albeit with less generous pay and benefits.

The strategic choices facing the U.S. military today are not easy, but it would be naive to blame this difficulty entirely on fiscal constraints. As the military strategist Bernard Brodie wrote in 1959, “We do not have and probably never will have enough money to buy all the things we could effectively use for our defense. The choices we have to make would be difficult and painful even if our military budget were twice what it is today.” The budget constraints the Defense Department currently faces, no matter how difficult and painful they may seem, should be viewed as more of an opportunity than a burden. The Defense Department should seize this opportunity and the compelling force it provides to reshape the military fundamentally and make internal reforms that are long overdue. Writing nearly a decade after Brodie, the Rolling Stones perhaps summed it up best: “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.”


Hagel Could Remove One of the NSA’s Key Duties: Running Cyber Command

By Aliya Sternstein

October 25, 2013

Here’s a tough call for any person to make: An Air Force general conducting a drone strike on an Al Qaeda leader abroad overhears communications between the terrorist and his subordinates about a plot to blow up an American subway line. Does the general keep eavesdropping to identify the imperiled subway system or kill the high-value target?

This should not be one person’s call to make, but that’s exactly how it works today at the Defense Department’s National Security Agency.

Since 2010, one individual — the agency’s director – has had to decide whether to destroy adversary computer networks or continue spying on those networks. This is because NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander also leads Cyber Command, a Defense organization that attacks adversary computer systems.

With Alexander expected to depart by April, many former administration officials are urging a division of power.

It wouldn’t require navigating Capitol Hill gridlock. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel need only consult with President Obama to divide the directorship.

“It is a DoD policy decision, not law, that defines and establishes the command structure for Cyber Command and the National Security Agency,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart said.

In 2009, then Defense Secretary Robert Gates recommended that Obama reassign then NSA Director Alexander to the role of joint NSA-Cyber Command chief, he added.

“The process for selecting his successor is ongoing,” NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines said of what will happen after Alexander leaves next year.

Some former officials say the current dual-hatted role harms U.S. military strategy.

“You’ve got a tension between the intelligence people who want to learn and the war people who want to win,” said Jason Healey, former White House cyber infrastructure protection director. “The intelligence people don’t want you to act on that information, because you’re revealing the fact that you know it,” and “the warfighting commander will say, ‘But by leaving that [communication line] open, it’s helping the enemy.”

Concern about the concentration of decisionmaking power within NSA has become part of a larger debate over surveillance overreach at the agency. This spring, ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden ignited the discourse by revealing classified cyberspying operations on American citizens and allied leaders, such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Vines said Alexander’s departure “has nothing to do with media leaks; the decision for his retirement was made prior.”

Former NSA and CIA Director Michael Hayden told Nextgov he expects the administration will appoint a dedicated Cyber Command chief either after Alexander exits or after his successor exits.

“As the role or cyber in military and intelligence operations grows, it is inevitable that the two jobs – director of NSA and head of Cyber Command — will be split if not now then in the next cycle,” he said.

Cyber Command and NSA both operate in the same military domain, so they have had the advantage of being able to share resources and approaches — but each deserves its own powerful leader, said Peter W. Singer, a Brookings Institution senior fellow, who researches current and future defense needs.

“They are both crucially important, and dividing one’s time between them is not ideal,” he said. “You’d never propose the head of the Marine Corps also be simultaneously the CIA director. To put it in sports terms, many a good sports team has made the mistake of dual hatting a skilled coach and GM. The same holds here, all the more so, given while it was certainly within the letter of the law, it wasn’t truly in the spirit.”

It remains to be seen whether lawmakers will pressure the White House to change the organizational chart.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., recognizing the benefits and drawbacks of the dual-hatted role, directed the Pentagon to study the issue and report back later this fall, a committee aide said.

The 300-day report, called for in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act enacted Jan. 2, must examine, among other things, “the ability of the existing management structure of the command and the agency to identify and adequately address potential conflicts of interest between the roles of the commander of the United States Cyber Command and the director of the National Security Agency.”

Staff for Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said they are reviewing the issue, but have no other comment. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, declined to comment on her stance, as did her counterpart on the House Intelligence Committee, Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich.


Merkel: U.S. spying has shattered allies’ trust

Oct. 24, 2013 – 03:30PM |

By Geir Moulson and John-Thor Dahlburg

The Associated Press

BRUSSELS — European leaders united in anger Thursday as they attended a summit overshadowed by reports of widespread U.S. spying on its allies — allegations German Chancellor Angela Merkel said had shattered trust in the Obama administration and undermined the crucial trans-Atlantic relationship.

The latest revelations that the U.S. National Security Agency swept up more than 70 million phone records in France and may have tapped Merkel’s own cellphone brought denunciations from the French and German governments.

Merkel’s unusually stern remarks as she arrived at the European Union gathering indicated she wasn’t placated by a phone conversation she had Wednesday with President Obama, or his personal assurances that the U.S. is not listening in on her calls now.

“We need trust among allies and partners,” Merkel told reporters in Brussels. “Such trust now has to be built anew. This is what we have to think about.”

“The United States of America and Europe face common challenges. We are allies,” the German leader said. “But such an alliance can only be built on trust. That’s why I repeat again: spying among friends, that cannot be.”

Other leaders arriving for the 28-nation meeting echoed Merkel’s displeasure. Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called it “completely unacceptable” for a country to eavesdrop on an allied leader.

If reports that Merkel’s cellphone had been tapped are true, “it is exceptionally serious,” Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte told national broadcaster NOS.

“We want the truth,” Italian Premier Enrico Letta told reporters. “It is not in the least bit conceivable that activity of this type could be acceptable.”

Echoing Merkel, Austria’s foreign minister, Micheal Spindelegger, said, “We need to re-establish with the U.S. a relationship of trust, which has certainly suffered from this.”

France, which also vocally objected to allies spying on each other, asked that the issue of reinforcing Europeans’ privacy in the digital age be added to the agenda of the two-day summit. Before official proceedings got underway, Merkel held a brief one-on-one with French President Francois Hollande, and discussed the spying controversy.

The Europeans’ statements and actions indicated that they hadn’t been satisfied with assurances from Washington. On Wednesday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama personally assured Merkel that her phone is not being listened to now and won’t be in the future.

“I think we are all outraged, across party lines,” Wolfgang Bosbach, a prominent German lawmaker from Merkel’s party, told Deutschlandfunk radio. “And that also goes for the response that the chancellor’s cellphone is not being monitored — because this sentence says nothing about whether the chancellor was monitored in the past.”

“This cannot be justified from any point of view by the fight against international terrorism or by averting danger,” Bosbach said.

In the past, much of the official outrage in Europe about revelations of U.S. communications intercepts leaked by former NSA contract worker Edward Snowden seemed designed for internal political consumption in countries that readily acknowledge conducting major spying operations themselves. But there has been a new discernible vein of anger in Europe as the scale of the NSA’s reported operations became known, as well as the possible targeting of a prominent leader like Merkel, presumably for inside political or economic information.

“Nobody in Germany will be able to say any longer that NSA surveillance — which is apparently happening worldwide and millions of times — is serving solely intelligence-gathering or defense against Islamic terror or weapons proliferation,” said Hans-Christian Strobele, a member of the German parliamentary oversight committee.

“Because, if you tap the cellphone or the phone connection of the presidents of France or Brazil, or the cellphone of the chancellor, then this is no longer about collecting intelligence about international terrorism, but then that is about competition, about getting advantages in this competition and winning. That’s why today is a watershed moment.”

European Union Commission President Jose Manuel Borroso said for many Europeans, eavesdropping on their phone calls or reading their emails is particularly objectionable because it raises the specter of totalitarian regimes of the recent past.

“At least in Europe, we consider the right to privacy a fundamental right and it is a very serious matter. We cannot, let’s say, pretend it is just something accessory,” Barroso told a presummit news conference.

Referring to the East German Communist secret police, the feared Stasi, Barroso said, “to speak about Chancellor Merkel, in Germany there was a part of Germany where there was a political police that was spying on people’s lives every day. So we know very recently what totalitarianism means. And we know very well what comes, what happens when the state uses powers that intrude in people’s lives. So it is a very important issue, not only for Germany but for Europe in general.”

In Berlin, the German Foreign Ministry summoned the U.S. ambassador to stress how seriously it takes the reported spying on Merkel. Germany’s defense minister said his country and Europe can’t return “to business as usual” with Washington, given the number of reports that the United States has eavesdropped on allied nations.

“The Americans are and remain our best friends, but this is absolutely not right,” Thomas de Maiziere, who served as Merkel’s chief of staff, told ARD television. “I have reckoned for years with my cellphone being monitored, but I wasn’t reckoning with the Americans.”

A German parliamentary committee that oversees the country’s intelligence service met to discuss the spying allegations. Its head, Thomas Oppermann, recalled previous reports to the panel that U.S. authorities had denied violating German interests, and said, “we were apparently deceived by the American side.”


What makes so complicated?


10/24/13 8:25 AM EDT

Building a website in 2013 should be as easy as U-R-L, so what’s the deal with

The White House billed the Obamacare portal as the of health coverage — only instead of plane rides, it was selling health insurance. It was supposed to be a one-stop click and shop place to compare and buy health plans in the 36 states not running their own insurance exchanges — and for the millions who are eligible, get federal subsidies.

Hundreds of millions of dollars later, it’s fundamentally broken and a frantic fix is underway.

What made it so complicated?

The Obama administration has done little to give outsiders a peek under the hood — although it promises daily briefings from the Department of Health and Human Services starting Thursday.

But it’s way more complicated than tweaking a simple commercial site.

“This is one of the most complex IT projects the federal government has ever undertaken,” said Dan Schuyler, senior technology expert at Leavitt Partners.

With the contractors who built the system preparing for a grilling from House Republicans today, here’s a quick guide to all the things that have to go right for to start humming.

By all accounts, and the programs it’s built upon include tens of millions — if not hundreds of millions — of lines of code. When major portions are rewritten, it usually takes time and testing to ensure that the fixes worked. But in the political pressure-cooker surrounding the health law, time isn’t really an option. Fixes are happening on the fly.

“It’s almost like test riding a 747 while writing a manual from the cockpit seat,” said Bryce Williams, managing director of exchange solutions for Tower Watson.

The code directs all the big parts of the enrollment process — creating online accounts, managing reams of personal and demographic data, determining whether someone get a tax credit, or qualifies for Medicaid.

“If you take a look at the work involved in this particular project, it’s at least five different transactional functions,” said Aneesh Chopra, the Obama administration’s former chief technology officer. “What that really means is it’s performing a series of application functions. Each of those functions has a level of complexity and stitching them together has a level of complexity.”

Not only does everything have to work, it has to work well with thousands — if not millions — of people interacting with the site simultaneously, putting pressure on different aspects of the system. That’s a situation that’s barely come up yet because most visitors to the site can’t get past the early stages. More problems may lurk once the first wave is solved.

The data hub

The hub is what a lot of people worried about, but the early indications are that it actually works quite well. The hub can be thought of as the heart of the system, linking five federal agencies to process information about people who sign up for health insurance through as well as in the states running their own enrollment systems.

When a person seeks coverage through the new Obamacare marketplaces, the hub draws data from the Department of Health and Human Services, Social Security, the Department of Homeland Security, the IRS and the U.S. Treasury to determine eligibility for subsidies.

“The accuracy and the effectiveness and the quality with which it is pulling information from various systems appears to be working,” Chopra said.

More tests will come as more applicants reach this point in the signup process.

The federal-state connection

Not only do federal agencies have to work in concert, the enrollment system has to talk to 50 states with 50 diverse Medicaid programs. Each state has different eligibility rules and years of regulation, so connecting them all to the same system has been a challenge.

The National Association of Medicaid Directors said Monday that states are reporting vastly different experiences. Some have experienced seamless connectivity to the federal system. Others — not so good. “Communication between states and marketplaces continue to contain challenges,” the association said.

“With this many agencies, this many states, there are a whole lot of cooks in the kitchen,” said Williams of Towers Watson.

Talking — and listening — to insurers

The crux of the new enrollment system is the marketplace — getting health plans sold by private insurers. But to complete that process, the system has to be able to transfer massive amounts of data — subsidy calculations, personal information of enrollees and application files.

Some applications have made it to insurers without a hitch. But sometimes the system is spewing out files that are garbled, incorrect or repetitive.

And for people who wish to bypass and purchase plans directly from an insurer, they’re running into the same brick wall. Some insurers are directing people back to because of their own problems calculating subsidies and interacting with the federal system.

The rules

Sites like don’t have to deal with an Obamacare-sized thicket of federal rules and regulations. The health law passed in March 2010, but the final regulatory framework for wasn’t really in place until earlier this year.

“HHS was slow in distributing and promulgating the necessary rules and regulation,” Dan Schuyler of Leavitt Partners said. “Had the federal government initiated the legislation in March 2010 … we wouldn’t be having these problems today. The rules, the regs, the guidance are, in essence the business processes, if you will, of how the exchanges are supposed to function.”

Some allies of the administration point back to the way the law was passed — after Republican Scott Brown was elected to the Senate in early 2010, the Democrats couldn’t merge the House and Senate bills, a process that could have purged some of the kinks. They ended up enacting the Senate bill — and regulators had more work to fill in some gaps.

The threat of the Supreme Court overturning the law and the 2012 election also may have slowed some of the implementation.

But Schuyler has a simpler theory: “Poor design and poor planning. There is no other reason.”


Analyst: Pentagon Budget Could Drop To $415 Billion

By Michael Bruno

Source: Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

October 25, 2013

The Pentagon’s baseline budget could dip to $415 billion in coming years, with as little as $62 billion in annual authorized procurement, while the active military force shrinks to about 1 million uniformed personnel, according to analyst Todd Harrison of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Harrison provided Washington reporters an outlook Oct. 24 on the effects of the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and its annual threat of automatic, widespread sequestration cuts in fiscal 2014 and beyond. While he did not necessarily see each of the outcomes as probable, when looking at historical trends and accounting for how the 2011 law is written, Harrison said the nadirs in defense spending and capability were nonetheless plausible.

Indeed, one of the unintended consequences of the law and sequestrations is the turnabout that will occur in the ratio of Defense Department procurement to research, development, testing and evaluation (RDT&E), according to Harrison’s report, “Chaos and Uncertainty: the Fiscal 2014 Defense Budget and Beyond.” Since fiscal 1955 the ratio has averaged 2.1, meaning the Pentagon was spending more than $2 in procurement for every $1 of RDT&E. While the actual figure has vacillated and dropped over the decades, it never got below a fiscal 2006 nadir of 1.1. But under decade-long spending caps mandated by the BCA, that ratio will drop below 1.0.

“For the first time in modern history, [the Pentagon] would be spending more on developing new technologies and systems than procuring equipment,” Harrison says in a report on sequestration in fiscal 2014 and beyond.

The day before, leading generals, admirals and civilian officials were testifying to Congress and in public about the so-called “procurement holiday” on the horizon under the 2011 law.

In a hearing before a House Armed Services subcommittee Oct. 23, top acquisition officials from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps and Navy noted how the next round of sequestration, slated to begin Jan. 15, will demand the Air Force cull four or five of 19 planned F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, while the Marines cut an F-35B and the Navy cuts an F-35C.

That came two days after the Army chief of staff spoke at the annual Association of the U.S. Army conference of damage to about 485 acquisition programs. “Some we will have to cancel,” said Gen. Raymond Odierno. “Ground Combat Vehicle, name your favorite acquisition developmental program, it’ll probably be affected.”

Harrison said historical trends point to a low in annual authorized defense procurement of just $62 billion. As the years go on and cuts to once-planned procurements mount, it could devastate many programs as they find the new economics of reduced purchases or the subsequent lack of military capability due to smaller numbers — or both — not to be worthwhile. The Joint Chiefs have warned about the risks of having a smaller military with regard to capabilities, especially compared with existing national security strategy and expectations (Aerospace DAILY, Sept. 26).

Pentagon Weapons Buyers Say Cuts May Delay Aircraft Plans

By Tony Capaccio – Oct 23, 2013 4:45 PM ET .

Chief weapons buyers for the U.S. military services outlined the impact of continued defense budget cuts, including a delay of 25 aircraft for the Navy and Marine Corps that would have been purchased this fiscal year.

Written testimony submitted today for a House subcommittee hearing from Sean Stackley, the Navy’s assistant secretary for acquisition, his Army counterpart Heidi Shyu and the Air Force’s William LaPlante represented worst-case estimates of budget cuts facing the Pentagon in the year that began Oct. 1.

While the Pentagon has tried to shelter from cuts its costliest weapons systems, led by Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-35 fighter, pressure is growing for reductions in weapons accounts because President Barack Obama has for the second year exempted the accounts that pay military personnel. Compensation amounts to about $137.1 billion of the president’s proposed $526.6 billion defense budget, not including war costs.

The first obstacle facing the Pentagon is the impact of a stopgap funding measure that freezes defense spending at current levels and would require a reduction of about $20 billion if continued throughout the fiscal year. The current stopgap measure goes through Jan. 15.

The second obstacle is a full round of automatic cuts, known as sequestration, requiring a reduction of about $52 billion.

Unless Congress and Obama reverse the sequestration cuts, the Navy may have to delay plans to purchase aircraft, Stackley said in testimony submitted to the House Armed Services subcommittee on Tactical Air and Land Forces.

Growler, Osprey

Some of the affected aircraft include four Boeing Co. (BA) EA-18G Growler electronic warfare planes, two Boeing P-8 reconnaissance aircraft and as many as three V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft made by Textron Inc. (TXT) and Boeing, Stackley said. Two Navy or Marine Corps F-35s wouldn’t be bought out of the 10 planned, he said.

Shyu said in her statement that sequestration at the current level may require delaying the purchase from Chicago-based Boeing of 12 Apache helicopters in addition to 13 cut last year. The Army wouldn’t pay General Dynamics Corp. (GD) to modify as many as 50 Stryker vehicles into a “Double-V” model that improves their capability to withstand roadside bomb blasts, she said.

LaPlante said in his testimony that the Air Force may have to cut as many as five of 19 F-35s it planned to buy from Bethesda, Maryland-based Lockheed this year.

“Our modernization forecasts are bleak” if sequestration continues into fiscal 2015, LaPlante said.

“Program disruptions will cost more taxpayers dollars to rectify contract breaches, raise unit costs and delay delivery of critical equipment,” he said.

The biggest U.S. defense contractors are reporting third-quarter earnings this week that showed they have endured federal budget cuts so far with little harm to their profits.

Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Voters have lurched in recent days from a government shutdown to an Obamacare breakdown and aren’t hugely optimistic about putting either behind them.

Following the short-term deal to end the partial government shutdown, voters are more concerned than ever that the federal government will not do enough responding to the weak economy. Sixty-two percent (62%) think the best thing the government can do is cut spending.

Fifty-four percent (54%) of voters want a long-term federal budget deal that cuts spending, but only 30% think Congress is even somewhat likely to reach such a deal and avoid another government shutdown in mid-January

Fifty-one percent (51%) say the government shutdown had some impact on their personal lives, but that includes just 11% who say it had a major one. Forty-six percent (46%) say the shutdown did not personally impact them at all.

Voters are narrowly divided over whether the Obama administration can fix within the next six months the problems plaguing the new government exchange websites set up to provide health insurance. Because of these problems, 51% think the administration should delay the new health care law’s requirement that every American have health insurance by January 1.  But that’s down from the 56% who favored delaying the so-called individual mandate in July.

Perhaps in part that’s because voters are almost evenly divided in their views of the health care law for the first time since the beginning of the year: 46% have a favorable opinion of Obamacare, while 48% view it unfavorably.

Perceptions of the law have improved in recent weeks as the shutdown debate focused on funding for it and despite the glitches experienced by the health insurance exchanges.

Democrats appear to still be benefiting from the shutdown as well. For the second week in a row, they lead Republicans by seven points on the Generic Congressional Ballot. Two weeks before, the parties were tied.

President Obama’s job approval ratings also appear to be unscathed by the shutdown and the health insurance exchange problems.

Just 17% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction, though. Still, that’s up slightly from 13% the week before, the lowest finding in five years. Confidence in the country’s direction fell 15 points during the government shutdown and is still well below its high of 43% the week before Election Day a year ago.

Consumer confidence also seems to have rebounded slightly since the shutdown ended but remains near the lowest levels of the year.

Thirty-five percent (35%) of Americans think now is a good time for someone in their area to sell a house, down from last month’s high of 39%.

The president has turned his attention to the immigration reform plan that passed the Democratic-controlled Senate but is stalled in the Republican-led House of Representatives. Obama wants to move ahead with a pathway to citizenship for the illegal immigrants who are now here, but 62% of voters continue to believe securing the border has to come first. However, fewer voters than ever (25%) believe the federal government is even somewhat likely to secure the border to prevent future illegal immigration if it’s part of legislation that would give legal status to those here illegally. This includes only five percent (5%) who think stricter border control is Very Likely.

Seventy percent (70%) feel that when people move to this country from other parts of the world, they should adopt America’s culture, language and heritage. Only 15% believe new immigrants should maintain the culture, language and heritage of their home country instead.

Not that voters express much confidence in the next generation already here at home. Sixty-six percent (66%) continue to believe most high school graduates in this country lack the necessary skills for college or a job.

Fifty-two percent (52%) of Americans think there’s not enough religion in the public schools. Fifty-seven percent (57%) favor prayer in school.

Only 36% of voters believe the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror. That belief is down from 40% in July and is the lowest measured since April 2011, just before U.S. Navy SEALs killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Voters generally agree that national security is a federal government priority, but just 35% think laws about marriage should be set by the feds. Forty-five percent (45%) see that as a state or local function. Views on gay marriage differ greatly depending on whether voters see marriage laws as a federal or state/local responsibility.

In other surveys last week:

– As the country debates whether every American should be required to have health insurance, 11% say they have health insurance for their pets.

– Democrat Terry McAuliffe has jumped to a 17-point lead over Republican Ken Cuccinelli in the Virginia gubernatorial race following the federal government shutdown that hit Northern Virginia hard and Hillary Clinton’s weekend visit to the state.

– Twenty-six percent (26%) think we will find a cure for cancer within the next 10 years.

– Fifty-six percent (56%) think the eligibility age for a driver’s license should be higher than 16. Twenty-six percent (26%) support a complete ban on cell phone use while driving, but that’s down from 38% four years ago. 

 — Consider it a classic example of “do as I say, not as I do.” Only 16% of Americans believe someone who is sick should go to work anyway, but three times as many (47%) say they generally go to work when they are under the weather.

– Twenty-nine percent (29%) are more likely to shop at a consignment store these days due to the weak economy.

October 19 2013




OPM clarifies leave, holiday policies during shutdown

Federal News Radio

Monday – 10/14/2013, 11:24am EDT

By Jack Moore


Federal employees who are “excepted” from furloughs have remained on the job despite the government shutdown, which is now stretching into its third week.

But what if they get sick or have a previously planned appointment or vacation as the shutdown drags on?

According to updated guidance from the Office of Personnel Management, these employees can take a break from performing their essential duties — but, in many cases, they’ll have to be furloughed, even if only for a day, to do so.

OPM updated its shutdown guidance Friday to include instructions on how to handle “brief or intermittent unpaid absences” by excepted federal employees.

During the lapse in annual appropriations, federal employees are unable to take any kind of paid time off. However, if excepted employees need to take a day or two off, agencies should considering using workplace flexibilities, such as alternative work schedules or telework, to work around the absence, according to OPM’s guidance.

Barring that, however, employees will have to be furloughed during their time off, which must be properly documented by the agency.

“One option would be for the agency to issue a furlough notice for the period of time when the employee will be absent, and then recall the employee when the employee is once again available to come to work and perform excepted activities,” the guidance stated.

For employees who expect to have multiple absences, another option is for managers to issue a special furlough notice that generally excepts them from furloughs except for the days they require off — all of which must be documented in the notice.

Overall, OPM has made more than a dozen changes to its shutdown guidance since congressional appropriations for fiscal 2014 lapsed two weeks ago.

Among the recent changes include an Oct. 8 update clarifying holiday pay during the shutdown. Excepted employees who don’t work on a holiday, such as Columbus Day, must be furloughed for the day and won’t receive pay, when Congress eventually restores funding. Employees who do work during the holiday are eligible for holiday premium pay.

OPM updated the holiday-pay guidance again on Oct. 11 to note that certain employees, such as the heads of agencies and members of the Senior Executive Service, are not eligible for holiday pay and overtime pay.



How Your Knees Can Predict the Weather

Granny was right: Scientists find link between achy joints and the forecast

October 14, 2013, 7:12 p.m. ET

By Melinda Beck


Leora’s grandmother, Esther Polatsek, says she started being sensitive to the weather in her 20s, when a fracture in her foot would ache whenever a snowstorm approached. Now 66 and plagued by rheumatoid arthritis, Mrs. Polatsek says she suffers flare-ups whenever the weather is about to change.

“It’s just uncanny. Sometimes it’ll be gorgeous out, but I’ll have this awful pain. And sure enough, the next morning it rains,” she says. “It may be just a few drops, but it makes my body crazy.”

Do weather conditions really aggravate physical pain?

It is one of the longest running controversies in medicine.

Weathering the Pain

You can’t change the forecast, but you can lessen its impact.

  • Take a pain reliever or anti-inflammatory in advance if a storm or cold weather is forecast.
  • Dress warmly in the cold, including thermal socks, gloves and a vest.
  • Keep out drafts at home by sealing doors and windows and carpeting floors.
  • Apply heat to aching joints.
  • Use a dehumidifier to avoid spikes in dampness.
  • Consider visiting a warm, dry climate, although the benefits may wear off after a prolonged stay.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight.
  • Stay active, keeping muscles strong around damaged joints.

Hippocrates in 400 B.C. noticed that some illnesses were seasonal. The traditional Chinese medicine term for rheumatism (fengshi bing) translates to “wind-damp disease.”

But modern scholars have gotten inconsistent results in studies that tried to match weather patterns to reported pain symptoms—leading some to dismiss the connection as highly subjective or all in sufferers’ minds.

“People’s beliefs about arthritis pain and the weather may tell more about the workings of the mind than of the body,” concluded the late Stanford psychologist Amos Tversky in the mid-1990s, after comparing the pain reports of 18 rheumatoid-arthritis patients with local weather conditions for a year and finding no connection.

Still, other studies have linked changes in temperature, humidity or barometric pressure to worsening pain from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, as well as headaches, tooth aches, jaw pain, scar pain, low-back pain, pelvic pain, fibromyalgia, trigeminal neuralgia (a searing pain in the face), gout and phantom-limb pain.

Bill Balderaz had a rheumatoid-arthritis flare-up last year—just before a surprise storm hit Ohio.

Scientists don’t understand all the mechanisms involved in weather-related pain, but one leading theory holds that the falling barometric pressure that frequently precedes a storm alters the pressure inside joints. Those connections between bones, held together with tendons and ligaments, are surrounded and cushioned by sacs of fluid and trapped gasses.

“Think of a balloon that has as much air pressure on the outside pushing in as on the inside pushing out,” says Robert Jamison, a professor of anesthesia and psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. As the outside pressure drops, the balloon—or joint—expands, pressing against surrounding nerves and other tissues. “That’s probably the effect that people are feeling, particularly if those nerves are irritated in the first place,” Dr. Jamison says.

Not everyone with arthritis has weather-related pain, says Patience White, a rheumatologist at George Washington University School of Medicine and a vice president of the Arthritis Foundation. “It’s much more common in people with some sort of effusion,” an abnormal buildup of fluid in or around a joint that frequently occurs with inflammation.

Many patients swear that certain weather conditions exacerbate their pain. Consequently, orthopedists, rheumatologists, neurologists, family physicians, chiropractors, physical therapists—even personal trainers—report an increase in grousing among their clients when the temperature drops or a storm approaches.

“I can tell you emphatically there are certain days where practically every patient complains of increased pain,” says Aviva Wolff, an occupational therapist at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and Mrs. Polatsek’s daughter. “The more dramatic the weather change, the more obvious it is.”

Both the Weather Channel and AccuWeather have indexes on their websites that calculate the likelihood of aches and pains across the country, based on barometric pressure, temperature, humidity and wind. Changes in those conditions tend to affect joints even more than current conditions do, says AccuWeather meteorologist Michael Steinberg, which is why the Arthritis Index shows more risk the day before a storm or a sharp drop in temperature is forecast.

Some sufferers say their joints can be more accurate than meteorologists. Rheumatoid-arthritis sufferer Bill Balderaz, 38, president of a digital-marketing firm in Columbus, Ohio, recalls feeling “the worst arthritis pain I’ve ever had—I could barely move” one day last year, even though it was sunny and clear. By midafternoon, a land-based hurricane known as a derecho with 80 mile-per-hour winds unexpectedly buffeted Ohio and three other states, traveling 600 miles in 10 hours and knocking out power for 10 days. “The storm caught everyone off guard. It was clear one minute and then the skies opened up,” Mr. Balderaz says.

Tests on animals seem to bear out the impact of weather. In one study, guinea pigs with induced back pain exhibited signs of increased pain by pulling in their hindpaws in low barometric pressure.

Cold weather seems to raise the risk of stroke, heart attacks and sudden cardiac death, some research shows. Heart-attack risk rose 7% for every 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) drop in temperature, according to a study of nearly 16,000 patients in Belgium, presented at the European Society of Cardiology last month. British researchers studying years of data on implanted defibrillators found that the risk of ventricular arrhythmia—an abnormal heart rhythm that can lead to sudden death—rose 1.2% for every 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit drop, according to a study in the International Journal of Biometerology last month.

Once blamed on physically demanding tasks like shoveling snow, the increased heart risk due to cold may be due to thickening blood and constricting blood vessels, researchers think.

And rising humidity may cause joints to swell and stiffen. In fact, tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones and other tissues all have varying densities, so they may expand or contract in different ways in changing conditions, Dr. Jamison says.

In people with chronic inflammation from arthritis or past injuries, even slight irritations due to the weather can aggravate sensory nerve cells, known as nociceptors, that relay pain signals to the brain. That may explain why some people with neuropathic pain and phantom-limb pain also report weather-related flare-ups.

“Fibromyalgia patients seem to be the most sensitive,” says Susan Goodman, a rheumatologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery. She also notes that while some people seem to be extremely sensitive to weather, others with similar conditions aren’t, for reasons that aren’t clear. That may explain why many studies find no clear association, she says.

Some weather conditions seem to relieve pain. In one study, the warm, high-pressure Chinook winds common to western Canada lessened patients’ neuropathic pain, the kind brought on by disease or injury. For other patients, the same climate increased migraines and sinus headaches.

Some pain sufferers say they feel better in warm, dry climates where weather conditions seldom change. When she went to Israel in the 1990s, “I felt like I was 20 years younger when I stepped off the plane,” says Mrs. Polatsek, the rheumatoid-arthritis patient.

But studies haven’t consistently borne out the benefits of one climate over another. “There really is no place in the U.S. where people report more or less weather-related pain,” says Dr. Jamison. He surveyed 557 arthritis sufferers in four cities in 1995 and found that more than 60% believed the weather affected their pain—regardless of whether they lived in San Diego, Boston, Nashville, Tenn., or Worcester, Mass.

Visiting a warm, dry climate may bring temporary relief, Dr. Jamison adds. “But if you live there full time, your body seems to acclimatize and you become sensitive to even subtle weather changes.”



The Mars-and-Mercury problem of cybersecurity

By Frank Konkel

Oct 15, 2013


Half of all agency cybersecurity breaches are caused by feds who fail to comply with security measures in place at their agencies, according to a Meritalk study released Oct. 15. (Download the report at

The study, which polled 100 government cyber professionals and 100 federal employees, suggests a rift between IT cybersecurity professionals who value security above all else and their systems’ end users – the feds who just want to do their jobs.

Titled “The Cyber Security Experience: Cyber Security Pros from Mars; Users from Mercury,” the study finds 31 percent of federal employee end-users use some form of security work-around at least weekly, and nearly 20 percent of feds have failed to complete a work assignment because of existing security measures. Feds reported being most frustrated by simple tasks like surfing the web and downloading files, the same two tasks that cybersecurity professionals said most frequently produced security breaches through external attacks like phishing and malware.

The protocols cyber pros find necessary to keep data secure are burdensome, time-consuming and sometimes obstructive to their end users.

“More security rules, more security tasks, and more security delays have done little to drive more user buy-in for cybersecurity,” said Tom Ruff, Akamai’s vice president for public sector. Akamai underwrote the study.

Despite obvious disagreements on implementation, 95 percent of end users and cyber professionals agreed the deployment of cybersecurity measures is an “absolute necessity” to prevent against data loss, data theft and denial-of-service (DOS) attacks.

According to end-users surveyed, possible strategies to mitigate the bridge between themselves and security professionals include a single sign-on (56 percent), user-friendly interface (27 percent) and streamlined access to mobile applications (13 percent). However, cyber professionals rated “ensuring a user-friendly experience” dead last as a priority, indicating they favor the nuts and bolts of a tool over its looks and ease of use.

“Without question, federal cybersecurity pros have a tough job, but they must start working with end users as partners instead of adversaries,” Ruff said. “It is a team game, and better support for users will deliver better results for security.”

The news is particularly alarming because the number of cybersecurity threats to federal agencies continues to increase, as does the amount of damage attackers can do. Half the cyber professionals polled say their agency is likely to be a DOS attack victim in the next year – and less than 75 percent of agencies feel “completely prepared” for a variety of potential cyberattacks.


Pentagon Determining Fate of Revered Net Assessment Office

Oct. 15, 2013 – 03:45AM | By MARCUS WEISGERBER and JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is considering reorganizing its internal think tank, an organization credited with helping the US win the Cold War, according to defense sources.

The office has been around since 1973, and is the ultimate rarity in Washington, where senior officials come and go like the seasons. Andrew Marshall, who is over 90 years old, was its boss on Day 1 and continues to be its boss.

But now as the Pentagon looks to build itself for the decade ahead, a period with fewer spending cash, the revered office could be reorganized or, as some have suggested, eliminated.

Defense officials stress that no final decision has been made, however DoD is in the midst of reducing its headquarters staffs by 20 percent over the next five years, a move intended to save the Pentagon billions of dollars.

Any change in the office’s status has prompted concern on both sides of the political aisle.


Asked if he thinks closing the Net Assessment shop is a good idea, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin’s eyes grew large as he replied: “No!”

“It doesn’t strike me as a good idea,” the Michigan Democrat said. “But I would at least consider their argument. I’m sure before they do it, they’ll talk to me about it.”

In an Oct. 11 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, House Armed Services seapower subcommittee Chairman Randy Forbes, R-Va., noted panel members have been “made aware that the Department is considering the elimination of the Office of Net Assessment (ONA).”

Forbes told Hagel that the Marshall-led office “has been at the forefront of the most innovative defense strategies of the last two generations.”

“Given the critical contributions to U.S. national security made by the office during its forty-year history and its role as a central repository for long-range strategic thinking, we believe it would be a serious error to further consider its abolition,” Forbes wrote.

The office is “helping to drive the development of the Air-Sea Battle concept” and long-range strategies, Forbes wrote.

“[T]hroughout ONA’s history the office has trained and mentored numerous strategic practitioners who have made considerable contributions to our nation’s long-range thinking,” he wrote.

Forbes wants Hagel’s commitment to remain “appropriately funded in light of its singular and continuing contributions to American national security and interests.”

The proposed move also has caught the attention of some in the think tank and consulting worlds. Dan Goure of the Lexington Institute, is as unimpressed with the idea as Forbes.

“The decision to eliminate [Net Assessment] might make sense were it an expensive endeavor, employing a large staff that might be better deployed elsewhere,” he wrote.

The Net Assessment office is less than a dozen people, tiny when compared with the rest of the Pentagon sweeping bureaucracy, Goure noted.

“Its budget is a few million dollars annually, much of that devoted to outside studies and analyses, he wrote. “You wouldn’t save enough from this action buy even one tactical fighter. Furthermore, the loss of the intellectual energy NA provides at a critical time for the Pentagon’s future could have negative effects far outweighing the utility of the few dollars that would be saved.”


McKeon Breaks With Senate Hawks Over Sequestration Flexibility

Oct. 15, 2013 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT |


WASHINGTON: — House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon on Tuesday broke with Senate defense hawks by opposing a plan to allow Pentagon leaders authority to pick what gets axed via sequestration.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, R-Nev., took to the chamber floor early Tuesday afternoon to endorse the notion of giving top Defense Department leaders the ability to pick and choose what gets cut — and spared — under across-the-board sequester cuts.

His endorsement came in the form of blasting House Republicans for not including such a provision in its version of last-minute legislation to raise the debt ceiling through early February and fund the government through mid-January.

“This [House] bill would give no flexibility to the president or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to move money around,” Reid said. “I don’t know how this country can go farther with this bill. … It’s awful for our country.”

Most defense hawks in recent months have voiced support for flexibility for the Pentagon.

Most feel that, if the Pentagon has to live with sequestration, it would be best for DoD leaders and congressional appropriators to determine what should get cut the deepest and what should be safeguarded.

“I would be glad to have it in there,” influential Senate Armed Services Committee member John McCain, R-Ariz., said Tuesday.

McCain said he would prefer to insert flexibility language if and when the Senate takes up its version of a 2014 Pentagon policy bill. But if it made it into the emergency debt-government funding bill, he said, “I would love to have it in there.”

Senate Armed Services Committee member Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., told Defense News on Tuesday she thinks “the flexibility language is important.”

“It’s not something that’s a deal breaker for me,” Ayotte said. “But I would prefer to have it in there.”

McKeon took the opposite stance on Tuesday, creating a rare chasm between the HASC chairman and Senate GOP hawks. McKeon is worried flexibility could make it tougher to get rid of sequestration, as many congressional Republicans and Democrats say they want to eventually do.

“The chairman’s goal is resolving sequestration,” McKeon’s spokesman, Claude Chafin, said in an email. “He is concerned that contrary to a bipartisan desire to end the defense sequester, flexibility actually makes sequester a likely long-term proposition. He is opposed to any flexibility package at this time.”

The stance also puts McKeon on the opposite side of the issue than Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member James Inhofe, R-Okla.

Inhofe for months led the charge to get Senate and House approval for sequester flexibility. Inhofe in March said Congress needs “to give the department the flexibility it needs to mitigate risk and operate within these severe budgetary constraints.

“Although the amount of the cuts to the topline would remain the same, the department would have maneuvering room to decide where to take them,” Inhofe said at that time. “I talked to all of the service chiefs about this topic, and all of them agreed that this flexibility would provide significant relief and help to reduce risk.”

The 2011 Budget Control Act stipulates that twin $500 billion cuts be made every year for 10 years to all non-exempt defense and domestic accounts are automatic. That means Pentagon and agency leaders have no ability to protect high-priority programs and target low-priority ones for bigger cuts.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and a bipartisan group of senators late last week took up Inhofe’s cause, pushing a debt-ceiling plan that featured language granting all federal agency leaders the flexibility most say they want.

Pentagon brass, industry officials and hawkish lawmakers want DoD to be granted sequestration flexibility because the first round of across-the-board cuts hit operations and maintenance and procurement accounts hard.

The next round is slated to kick in Jan. 15. Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are finishing a version of emergency legislation that would adopt a GOP-preferred $986 billion government-wide funding level. It also would only fund the government through Jan. 15 to force a conversation about budgetary matters, including sequestration — a Democratic demand.


‘Running out of hope’

The debate about whether or not to include the sequestration language came as promising talks between Reid and McConnell about a deal to open the government and avoid a debt default ceased.

The leaders, senior senators said, have decided to see what the House GOP leadership puts on the floor, or if it fails to get enough votes and the lower chamber does nothing in the next 24 hours.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., a McConnell confidant, told reporters he doesn’t “think there are any discussions going on now” among Senate leaders.

Moderate senators streamed out of separate party luncheons to tell reporters that the differences between the House and Senate debt deals aren’t that big.

But the White House and Reid called the House plan a waste of time that wouldn’t see the light of day in the Senate since it again targets part of the Affordable Healthcare Act, or Obamacare.

With the clock ticking toward Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s Thursday deadline for a debt deal, Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said he remains optimistic that a deal will get done.

“But I’m running out of hope,” Nelson said.


ACC Training Units Flying, Some Combat Coded Units Still Down

Oct. 15, 2013 – 04:06PM | By AARON MEHTA |


WASHINGTON — The US Air Force’s Air Combat Command (ACC) ended a shutdown-imposed grounding of training aircraft last week , but some combat craft remain grounded.

“All formal training units, which spin up pilots who are new to a particular aircraft, were able to resume operations once civilians returned to duty, but we still have combat-coded units that are stood down,” Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, ACC spokesman, wrote in an email. “As the shutdown continues, we’re making adjustments as changes in unit readiness levels require us to restart flying to maintain an ability to meet our operational taskings.”

Approximately 7,500 civilians were furloughed on Oct. 1. A day later, ACC announced it was grounding aircraft that are not immediately being used to train for deployment, a direct result of the furloughs. Nine combat-coded squadrons, along with 26 training and test units in ACC, were ordered to stop flying.

Following a decision by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to bring back the vast majority of furloughed Pentagon civilians, all ACC civilians returned to work on Oct. 7.

The stand down order came three months after ACC lifted its sequestration-based grounding of 17 combat-coded squadrons.

This year, Air Force officials said it would take about 90 days after the previous grounding ended for pilots and crews to regain currency for higher-end missions. And it would take more time after that to be completely combat ready, Lt. Gen. Burton Field, the deputy chief of staff for operations, said in July.


ACC is trying to keep all combat-coded units that are scheduled for operations within the next few months training at mission ready levels, but the longer the units remain grounded, the more degradation to readiness.

“Over time, if you want to ensure an acceptable level of readiness in support of ongoing or emerging taskings, you need to resume flying those grounded units,” Sholtis said. “We’re managing those adjustments based on a recurring review of where we stand in terms of readiness and missions — more of a week by week approach, rather than … turning everything back on at one time.”


Calif. town clears Apple’s ‘spaceship’ campus

By Hayley Tsukayama, Wednesday, October 16, 11:42 AM


Apple got unanimous approval from the city council of Cupertino, Calif., to move ahead with plans for a new campus.

The company’s late co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs personally made his pitch for the campus before the council in 2011, saying that the four-story circular building would make it look “like a spaceship landed there.”

Yahoo is regaining its appeal among investors a lot faster than with the online advertisers who generate most of its revenue.

The building is expected to house up to 14,200 employees and will be surrounded by green space, according to the plans. The new campus is just across the highway from the tech giant’s current headquarters, which is also in Cupertino.

The building itself will be designed with input from architect Sir Norman Foster and his firm, Foster + Partners.

The measure was expected to pass with no problems, according to reports from the San Jose Mercury News, but the council met to finalize the impacts that the campus’s construction and presence would have on the city’s traffic patterns and environment.

Apple employees showed up in force at the meeting — the Mercury News reported “several hundred” Apple workers, some with bright green posters of support — to be there during the measure’s final vote.

The benefit of having Apple remain in Cupertino was not lost on the council members.

“It’s great that we’re keeping jobs here rather than letting them go somewhere else, and I want to thank both Apple and Steve Jobs for his vision,” said Cupertino City Council member Mark Santoro, at the meeting after the final vote passed.

Cupertino Deputy Mayor Gilbert Wong said in the meeting that the company is expected to have its grand opening in the winter of 2016 if everything goes “very well.”

The city will be holding a news conference Wednesday to discuss its approval of the campus plans. According to a release from the city of Cupertino, the conference will include remarks from Cupertino Mayor Orrin Mahoney and representatives from Apple.


The FAA’s complaint against Trappy

FAA Civil Penalty on Misuse of UAS

by Patrick Egan • 8 October 2013


Docket No. 2012EA210009


On April 13, 2012, you were advised through a Notice of Proposed Assessment that the FAA proposed to assess a civil penalty in the amount of $10,000. After consideration of all the available information, it appears that:


1. On or about October 17, 2011, you were the pilot in command of a Ritewing Zephyr

powered glider aircraft in the vicinity of the University of Virginia (UVA), Charlottesville, Virginia.


2. The aircraft referenced above is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).


3. At all times relevant herein you did not possess a Federal Aviation Administration pilot


4. The aircraft referenced above contained a camera mounted on the aircraft which sent real time video to you on the ground.

5. You operated the flight referenced above for compensation.

6. Specifically, you were being paid by Lewis Communications to supply aerial photographs and video of the UVA campus and medical center.


7. You deliberately operated the above-described aircraft at extremely low altitudes over vehicles, buildings, people, streets, and structures.


8. Specifically, you operated the above-described aircraft at altitudes of approximately 10 feet to approximately 400 feet over the University of Virginia in a careless or reckless

manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.


9. For example, you deliberately operated the above-described aircraft in the following manner:

a. You operated the aircraft directly towards an individual standing on a UVA sidewalk causing the individual to take immediate evasive maneuvers so as to avoid being struck by your aircraft.

b. You operated the aircraft through a UVA tunnel containing moving vehicles.

c. You operated the aircraft under a crane.

d. You operated the aircraft below tree top level over a tree lined walkway.

e. You operated the aircraft within approximately 15 feet of a UVA statue,

f You operated the aircraft within approximately 50 feet of railway tracks.

g. You operated the aircraft within approximately 50 feet of numerous individuals.

h. You operated the aircraft within approximately 20 feet of a UVA active street

containing numerous pedestrians and cars.

i. You operated the aircraft within approximately 25 feet of numerous UVA


j . You operated the aircraft on at least three occasions under an elevated pedestrian

walkway and above an active street.

k. You operated the aircraft directly towards a two story UVA building below rooftop

level and made an abrupt climb in order to avoid hitting the building.

l. You operated the aircraft within approximately 100 feet of an active heliport at UVA.


10. Additionally, in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another, you operated the above-described aircraft at altitudes between 10 and 1500 feet AGL when you failed to take precautions to prevent collision hazards with other aircraft that may have been flying within the vicinity of your aircraft.


11. By reason of the above, you operated an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another. By reason of the foregoing, you violated the following section(s) of the Federal Aviation Regulations: Section 91.13(a), which states that no person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.


NOW THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to 49 U.S.C. §§46301(a)(l) and (d)(2) and 46301(a)(5), that you be and hereby are assessed a civil penalty in the amount of $10,000. You may pay the penalty amount by submitting a certified check or money order payable to the “Federal Aviation Administration” to the Office of Accounting, 1 Aviation Plaza, Jamaica, NY 11434. In the alternative, you may pay your civil penalty with a credit card over the Internet. To pay electronically, visit the web site at Iittp:// and click on

“Civil Fines and Penalty Payments” which will bring you to the “FAA Civil Penalty Payments Eastern Region” page. You must then complete the requested information and click “submit” to pay by credit card.


If you do not request a hearing before the National Transportation Safety Board within twenty (20) days after you receive this Order, the amount of debt assessed in this Order constitutes a

legally collectible debt owed to the United States. You will not have a right to seek review within the Federal Aviation Administration of the validity and/or amount of this debt. If this debt is not paid in full within thirty (30) days of your receipt of this Order, the debt is considered delinquent.


For delinquent debts, federal regulation (49 C.F.R. §89.23) requires us to charge interest, from the date this Order is issued, at a fixed annual rate of 5% along with an administrative charge of $12.00

per month, representing our costs of administrative collection. Furthermore, if the full amount assessed is not paid in full within 120 days of your receipt of this Order, we are required to assess an additional penalty at an annual rate of 6%, accruing from the date of delinquency. Delinquent debts may be reported to consumer reporting agencies or commercial credit bureaus, which could adversely affect your credit rating. Nonpayment of this debt may ultimately result in a referral to a collection agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Department of Justice or, if applicable, to a Federal Agency for offset of debt against Federal pay.

Alfred R. Johnson, Jr.

Regional Counsel


Remember Trappys counsel filed a motion to dismiss last week.



SOCOM Wants an Iron Man Suit with Liquid Body Armor




Special Operation Command wants a suit its operators can wear that features liquid body armor, built-in computers and offers super human strength. Essentially, the Pentagon wants to outfit its special operators in Iron Man suits.

Officials from U.S. Special Operation Command issued a formal request to researchers to help them build this suit the military is calling the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS). The request comes right from the top — Adm. William McRaven, USSOCOM commander.

Some of America’s top scientists from labs such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology are pitching in on the project. MIT engineers are working on a liquid body armor made of magnetorheological fluids that “transform from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” according to an Army statement.

But the liquid body armor is only a portion of the suit. Leaders of the project also want the TALOS to include physiological subsystems that can monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels.

“[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that — a whole bunch of stuff that RDECOM is playing heavily in,” said Lt. Col. Karl Borjes, a Army Reserach, Development and Engineering Command science advisor assigned to SOCOM, in a statement.



Nighttime Solar Power Arriving in United States


Pete Danko

October 9, 2013


Arizona Public Service says plant developer Abengoa is now testing the Solana Generating Station, a massive solar thermal power plant that will be the first in the country to use cutting-edge heat storage technology to extend energy production into the evening hours.

An APS spokesman said the plant is expected to go into commercial operation this month, but already it is sending energy to the grid in the testing phase, include during periods when the sun isn’t shining on the nearly 3 square miles of row upon row of parabolic mirrors that have an aperture area of 2.2 million square meters.

Solana, backed by a federal loan guarantee of nearly $1.5 billion, will be able to generate 280 megawatts of power, which will make it a very big solar power plant, though not as big as the three-unit Ivanpah power tower plant that’s in a similar testing phase in the California desert. But Solana comes with up to six hours of energy storage.

“Solana is a monumental step forward in solar energy production,” Don Brandt, APS president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Solana delivers important value to APS customers by generating power when the sun isn’t shining. It also increases our solar energy portfolio by nearly 50 percent. This provides a huge boost toward our goal to make Arizona the solar capital of America.”

With most parabolic trough solar thermal systems, the troughs focus the sun’s heat on a tube that has a transfer fluid running through it. That fluid is used to boil water to make steam.

That happens at Solana, but the plant also can use some of the sun-heated fluid to heat molten salts, where the heat can be efficiently stored.

The molten salt storage technology is something that the plant’s builder, Abengoa, already has working, although in a somewhat different fashion, at the much smaller, 19.9-megawatt capacity Gemasolar plant in Spain. Like Ivanpah, Gemasolar uses a power tower system, with 2,650 mirrors (heliostats in the industry’s jargon) bouncing sunlight to the top of a 460-foot tower at the center of the circle of mirrors. But unlike with the trough system, there’s no intermediary fluid used — the heat goes directly to the molten salts.

This is a system that’s akin to what SolarReserve is working on in Nevada with the much larger Crescent Dunes plant. It’s expected to be operating before the end of this year, giving the U.S. the two largest solar power systems in the world that have energy storage capability.


Good enough for government work? The contractors building Obamacare

Sunlight Foundation

Friday, October 11, 2013

By Bill Allison Oct 09 2013 3:34 p.m.

The Obama administration dreamed that itshealth insurance exchanges–the websites that were supposed to make it easy to buy health insurance–would function as smoothly as online consumer sites like Expedia or But as head-scratching continues about how a famously web-savvy administration could have flubbed its Internet homework so badly, an examination by the Sunlight Foundation shows the administration turned the task of building its futuristic new health care technology planning and programming over to legacy contractors with deep political pockets.

One result: Problem-plagued online exchanges that make it all but impossible for consumers to buy insurance and hundreds of millions of dollars in the coffers of some of the biggest lobbying powerhouses in Washington. 

Citing the government shutdown, the Health and Human Services Department will not release a list of the estimated dozen or more companies tasked with building the site. But Sunlight reviewed contract award information from and, and found 47 organizations that won contracts from Health and Human Services or the Treasury Department to manage, support or service the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Among them were top contractors likeNorthrop GrummanDeloitte LLPSAIC Inc. General Dynamics and Booz Allen Hamilton. All fiveof those companies provided information technology services to either the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or the Internal Revenue Service, the two agencies tasked with building back components of the health insurance exchanges.

All but one of of the 47 contractors who won contracts to carry out work on the Affordable Care Act worked for the government prior to its passage. Many–like the Rand Corporation and the MITRE Corporation–have done so for decades. And some, like Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, are among the biggest wielders of influence in Washington. Some 17 ACA contract winners reported spending more than $128 million on lobbying in 2011 and 2012, while 29 had employees or political action committees or both that contributed $32 million to federal candidates and parties in the same period. Of that amount, President Barack Obama collected $3.9 million.

Because the government provides brief, partial descriptions of contracts in, it is not possible to say which of the contractors with information technology contracts or project management contacts were involved in building the 36 federally run health insurance marketplaces, a responsibility tasked to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known by the acronym CMS, or those assigned to develop the federal data hub, which would allow applicants to have their income and family size immediately verified by the Internal Revenue Service.

Media accounts note that CGI Federal, a longtime provider of IT services to the federal government, won the contract to build the exchanges. The federal data hub was shelved when the health insurance exchanges launched on Oct. 1; when it will come online has not been announced. 

Sunlight contacted a number of vendors that won IT and related contracts to implement portions of the Affordable Care Act. A spokesperson for SAIC, whose contracts with the Internal Revenue Service included one for supporting income and family verification procedures required by the health care law, said it had no role in building the federal data hub. Similarly, PricewaterhouseCoopers said its contract from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a multi-vendor award, to “analyze, evaluate and improve existing business processes and technology systems required under the Affordable Care Act,” had nothing to do with the health insurance exchanges.

Vangent, the company that won a $28 million contract to run customer contact centers for CMS — fielding questions via telephone, mail, email and web chats — is a subsidiary of General Dynamics, a company best known for making submarines, Abrams tanks and ammunition. While it’s not clear that Vangent was the company responsible, web chat responses for help for with the health insurance exchanges have been one of many targets of consumer ire.

There was no shortage of top flight consultants hired by Health and Human Services. Booz Allen Hamilton was awarded a $1.8 million task order to develop a plan to allow CMS to fully utilize electronic medical records. McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm that released a widely criticized study claiming that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of large employers would drop employee health insurance because of the health care reform, had one contract potentially worth $13.8 million for project management planning with CMS. Deloitte LLP won a contract to support the IRS in its effort to “deliver world class implementation” of its technological requirements under the act.  

The Deloitte LLP contract was to service the project management office in the IRS, which had the responsibility of meeting the Affordable Care Act’s requirements. That contract was awarded two months after the Government Accountability Office found fault with the way the IRS was managing implementation of the act. 

And then there are the surveys, studies and reports. The National Opinion Research Center, a Chicago-based polling organization that also does the Survey of Consumer Finances, a Federal Reserve report that measures the assets and indebtedness of Americans, got a $300,000 task order from CMS for a study that “may be of assistance to the department in determining future needs” due to the impact of the Affordable Care Act. NORC’s lobbying firm, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, reported spending $200,000 in 2012 to lobby Congress and the Office of Management and Budget on funding for health and social science research and data. George Washington Universtiy won a contract to study the act’s impact on vaccine programs, while the University of California won a $12,000 contract to report on how minority women fare under the act.

Sunlight’s survey does not include awards to contractors that built the 14 state exchanges. For example, Xerox Corp. won a $72 million contract to help build Nevada’s exchange and one for $68 million to do the same in Florida. Not only is Xerox building the online marketplaces for some states, it’s also offering insurers the means to “fully take advantage of the nearly 30 million new members that will be shopping for health care on these exchanges.”

Peter Olsen-Phillips contributed to this report.







LOBBYING, 2011-12 


A. Reddix & Associates 





ABT Associates 















Booz Allen Hamilton 





CDM Group 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



CGI Federal 





Client/Server Software Solutions (





Computer Sciences Corp. 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Computing Solutions 





David-James LLC 





Deloitte Consulting





Genova Technologies 





George Washingotn Univeristy 





H.S.I. Network 





Humanitas Inc. 





ICP Systems LLC 





Information Systems Consulting Group Inc.





International Business Machines 





Intertribal Council of Arizona 


Indian Health Service, HHS 



IQ Solutions Inc. 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers



JSI Research and Training Institute 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



KAT Video Productions 





Macro International Corp. 





Maximus Federal Services Inc. 





McKinsey & Company 





Mitre Corp 





National Opinion Research Center 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Northrop Grumman 





Porter Novelli Public Strategies 










Quality Software Services Inc (United Health Group) 





Rand Corporation 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Research Triangle Institute 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Science Applications International Corp. 





Sentel Corp 










Social and Scientific System Inc. 





Soft-Con Enterprises 





Summit Consulting 





Thomson Reuters Healthcare Inc. (now Truven Health Analytics) 





Unicom Logistics 





University of California (SF) 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Urban Institute 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Vangent (General Dynamics)





Verizon Business Network Services 





Weber Shandwick 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Westcott, John 







New NIST cybersecurity standards could pose liability risks

Once passed, the standard will become the benchmark to measure critical infrastructure security programs

Jaikumar Vijayan

October 11, 2013 (Computerworld)


Critical infrastructure companies could face new liability risks if they fail to meet voluntary cybersecurity standards being developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The slated release of a draft of the standard on Thursday was delayed, apparently due to the federal government shutdown. NIST’s main website was shuttered on Thursday.

The standards effort was launched after an Executive Order by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

A preliminary version of the draft standard has been floating around for several weeks, however.

The formal draft version, when released, will be available for public review until February 2014, according to the original schedule. Once the review is complete, will release a final version of the standards that incorporates changes recommended by stakeholders.

The NIST cybersecurity framework is designed to serve as a security best practices guide for organizations in critical infrastructure sectors, like power, telecommunications, financial services and energy.

The framework was developed with input from industry stakeholders.

It is not designed to mandate specific security controls. Rather, it offers broad standards for identifying and protecting critical data, services and assets against cyber threats. It offers a set of best practices for detecting and responding to an attack, mitigating the fallout from cyber incidents and for managing risks overall.

Obama issued the Executive Order in February to address, what he said was an immediate need to protect critical infrastructure targets against cyberattacks. Administration officials said the order came only after repeated failures by Congress to pass meaningful cybersecurity legislation.

Participation in the standards program is voluntary. The Executive Order leaves it up to the federal agencies in charge of each critical sector to push adoption of the standards through a combination of incentives and other market driven means.

In practice though, critical infrastructure owners and operators will likely be left with little choice but to follow the standards, or at least show they have comparable security measures in place, said Jason Wool, an attorney with Venable LLP, a Washington D.C-based law firm.

Companies that ignore the standards and are breached will open themselves up to negligence, shareholder and breach of contract lawsuits along with other liability claims. The standards will likely be viewed as the minimum level of care and integrity within critical infrastructure sectors, Wool noted.

“You don’t have to adopt these standards. But the fact that this framework [spells out] activities that are recommended for cybersecurity, establishes a bar that companies need to meet,” Wool said. “The framework requires, at minimum, that owners and operators of critical infrastructure look at themselves and do a gap analysis.”

Even companies that don’t adopt the standards need to show what they are doing is as effective.

“If a company gets sued, it should be able to provide some evidence that they took a look at the standards, performed a risk assessment and were managing their risk in a reasonable manner, Wool said.

Scott Vernick, an attorney at Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia said that there is a good chance that the NIST standards will eventually become sector-specific regulations overseen by the federal agencies in charge of various critical infrastructure areas. At that point, covered entities will have no choice but to adopt the standards, he suggested.

Even if that’s wrong, “once NIST finishes its work, the Plaintiffs Bar will point to it as the standard,” Vernick said. Critical infrastructure owners and operators should, at a minimum, determine how their security measures stack up against the standard, he said.

Companies should also consider joining information sharing initiatives and other cybersecurity forums to show they are making an effort to understand new threats, he said. “This really is an area where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Ironically, even companies that do adopt the framework may not be free from liability risks, experts say.

For instance, some of the provisions for protecting personally identifiable information (PII), could be pose problems for critical infrastructure companies, said Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy under the George W. Bush administration, in a blog post.

The privacy appendix would require that companies take extensive measures to protect PII while carrying out cybersecurity functions, said Baker now an attorney in the Washington office of the Steptoe & Johnson LLP law firm.

For example, companies that want to share threat-information with other firms will have to first scrub the data so it’s clean of personally identifiable information.

Baker said the requirements in the draft document are ambiguous and open to interpretation.

Companies that share threat information containing personal data, like IP addresses and email addresses, face few legal consequences as long as the government is kept out of the picture.

“Once the NIST privacy appendix takes effect, though, private cybersecurity sharing will slow to a crawl as lawyers try to anticipate whether every piece of data has been screened for PII and for relevance,” Baker noted. “In short, under the NIST framework, pretty much every serious cybersecurity measure in use today will come with new limits and possibly new liability,” he said.



Ramussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Americans paint a pretty gloomy picture of the present and the future these days, but the housing market offers a glimmer of hope.

Just 13% of Likely U.S. Voters now say the country is heading in the right direction. That’s down 15 points from two weeks ago and the lowest finding in five years.

Over half (52%) say America’s best days are in the past, the highest level of pessimism since December 2011. 

Consumer confidence remains at its lowest levels of the year. 

Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans now say they know someone who joined the military because of the bad job market. That’s up four points from 39% in January 2012.

The body bags continue to come home, but just 19% of voters believe it’s still possible for the United States to win the war in Afghanistan. That’s down from a high of 51% in December 2009 and the lowest level of confidence ever. Though most troops and equipment are set to be out of Afghanistan by December 2014, 53% now favor the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. troops from that country.

But is the government listening?

Voters remain skeptical of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs, but only 32% trust the president, the executive branch, Congress and federal judges to make sure the NSA abides by the Constitution

Consistent with surveys since 2006, a solid majority (64%) of voters favors a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes

Sixty-three percent (63%) believe thoughtful spending cuts should be considered in every program of the federal government, but just 30% believe it’s even somewhat likely that government spending will be significantly reduced over the next few years

As the new national health care law stumbles into existence, most voters continue to dislike it as they have since Congress passed it in March 2010. 

Forty-seven percent (47%) now give President Obama poor marks for his handing of the health care issue. That’s an eight-point increase from September and a high for the year to date.

Yet Obama’s overall job approval rating appears to have weathered the government shutdown/debt ceiling crisis in Washington, D.C., and remains at levels seen for much of his presidency. 

If the next congressional election were held today, however, 78% would vote to get rid of the entire Congress and start over again. That’s a 10-point jump from the previous high of 68% in May of last year.

Sixty-one percent (61%) of voters believe Republicans in Congress are acting in a partisan, rather than bipartisan, fashion, and 55% say the same of congressional Democrats. Just over half (51%) think the president is acting like a partisan Democrat.

Democrats jumped to a seven-point lead over Republicans – 45% to 38% – on the most recent Generic Congressional Ballot. But 47% think it is fair to say that neither party in Congress is the party of the American people

Still, ask voters which party they want in charge of the entire Congress, and – it’s a draw. Forty-six percent (46%) would vote for the Democratic Party to run everything, while just as many (45%) would vote for the Republican Party to be totally in control.

Interestingly, in these seemingly hyperpartisan times, while 56% of Americans believe their fellow citizens are less tolerant of other people’s political opinions than they were in the past, that’s the lowest finding in three years. 

At the same time, 77% think their fellow Americans are becoming ruder and less civilized

Now for some good news: 38% of U.S. Homeowners believe the value of their home will go up over the next year, the highest finding since Rasmussen Reports began regular tracking in April 2009. Fifty-six percent (56%) expect the value of their home to go up over the next five years. That’s up 11 points from last month and also the highest to date.

Fifty-nine percent (59%) feel that their home is worth more now than when they bought it. That’s a three-point increase from 56% in June and the highest level of confidence since October 2011.

Rasmussen Reports’ final survey of New Jersey’s special U.S. Senate race showed Democrat Cory Booker with a 12-point lead over Republican Steve Lonegan. Booker won this past week by 11 points.

In other surveys last week:

– Only 12% of Americans consider the federal government’s oversight of the banking industry as good or excellent, and 53% continue to feel it is better for the U.S. financial system to have more competition and less regulation

– Fifty-three percent (53%) say bullying in schools is a bigger problem today

Eighty-one percent (81%) of adults trust their doctor. 

– Fifty-eight percent (58%) think the United States should continue to honor explorer Christopher Columbus with a national holiday

October 12 2013




Software, Design Defects Cripple Health-Care Website

Government Acknowledges It Needs to Fix Design and Software Problems

October 6, 2013, 8:42 p.m. ET



Six days into the launch of insurance marketplaces created by the new health-care law, the federal government acknowledged for the first time Sunday it needed to fix design and software problems that have kept customers from applying online for coverage.

The Obama administration said last week that an unanticipated surge of Web traffic caused most of the problems and was a sign of high demand by people seeking to buy coverage under the new law.

But federal officials said Sunday the online marketplace needed design changes, as well as more server capacity to improve efficiency on the federally run exchange that serves 36 states.

The government said for the first time Sunday it needed to fix design and software problems that have marred the online health-care exchange.

“We can do better and we are working around the clock to do so,” said Joanne Peters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. The government is making software and hardware changes to smooth the process of creating accounts needed to gain access to the marketplace, federal officials said.

The website is troubled by coding problems and flaws in the architecture of the system, according to insurance-industry advisers, technical experts and people close to the development of the marketplace.

Among the technical problems thwarting consumers, according to some of those people, is the system to confirm the identities of enrollees. Troubles in the system are causing crashes as users try to create accounts, the first step before they can apply for coverage.

Experian EXPN.LN -0.59% PLC, an information-services firm, holds a federal subcontract to support that system. The company declined to comment.

Information technology experts who examined the website at the request of The Wall Street Journal said the site appeared to be built on a sloppy software foundation. Such a hastily constructed website may not have been able to withstand the online demand last week, they said.

Engineers at Web-hosting company Media Temple Inc. found a glut of stray software code that served no purpose they could identify. They also said basic Web-efficiency techniques weren’t used, such as saving parts of the website that change infrequently so they can be loaded more quickly. Those factors clog the website’s plumbing, Media Temple said.

The identity-checking foul-ups are also triggering problems for state-run exchanges, which rely on the federal system. The problem caused delays last week for users of MNsure, Minnesota’s exchange, as they waited for federal confirmation to create their accounts, said April Todd-Malmlov, MNsure’s executive director. She said the issue in her state was largely resolved by Friday.

Administration officials, who reported nearly nine million unique visitors to the federally run exchange as of Friday night, said the system underwent maintenance over the weekend.


The federal government is running all or part of the online marketplace for 36 states, while 14 states and the District of Columbia have their own systems. Those state-run systems have seen mixed performance. Such states as Connecticut and Kentucky have successfully enrolled customers, while Maryland had to take down its marketplace periodically last week to fix glitches.

About 30 million uninsured people live in the states the federal marketplace will serve, including Texas and Florida.

So far, Web-traffic problems are allowing only a small trickle of buyers, said John Gorman, chief executive of Gorman Health Group, an insurance-industry consulting firm with clients selling policies on the exchanges.

Large insurers have seen enrollment figures totaling in the hundreds each, said Sumit Nijhawan, chief executive of Infogix Inc., a data-integrity firm that works with such insurers as WellPoint Inc., Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp.

So far, many tens of thousands of people had started the application process but the number of those who were able to create accounts and shop for coverage is likely in the low thousands, according to people with knowledge of the situation and estimates by insurance-industry advisers.

The administration has declined to say the total number of enrollees.

President Barack Obama has urged patience since the exchange launched. Early last week, as the website opened for business, he said online traffic was higher than expected. “This gives you a sense of how important this is to millions of Americans across the country,” he said.

Stephen Push, a 52-year-old early retiree living in McLean, Va., said he tried to log in to the website a dozen times last week, and was thwarted by website errors each time. On Friday, he called a hotline set up by the administration to help people enroll, but the customer-service representative was also unable to access the online marketplace.

On Sunday, Mr. Push said, he was able complete an application to begin shopping for insurance by telephone. But he said he was told he would have to wait two more days to log in and begin shopping for coverage, a delay the customer service representative attributed to the identity-checking system.

“After what I’ve been through, I’m a little suspicious,” Mr. Push said, adding that he hoped to see premiums lower than what he pays now.

Separately, a system that determines whether people are eligible for federal subsidies to buy insurance, or Medicaid, a state-run program for low-income people, continued to make some inaccurate determinations, despite improvements, people familiar with the matter said. By late last week, officials worried they may have to notify some applicants that they weren’t eligible for programs they enrolled in, one person said.

That system was developed by CGI Group Inc., GIB -0.83% the main contractor developing the federal exchange. CGI declined to comment.

Another problem last week involved security questions that were asked of applicants, similar to those asked by e-commerce websites. asks users to select such questions as “What is your radio station?” and then supply answers. Initially, the questions didn’t always appear in drop-down tools, leaving many early customers stuck last week.

After the problem was largely resolved, people said they were able to fill in the required information but the site still couldn’t process their application.

The website and enrollment problems don’t “matter so much in October, but for the actual enrollment campaign, this all needs to get fixed by November or they won’t be able to process the volume they’re going to get,” said Jon Kingsdale, an exchange expert who helped set up a similar marketplace in Massachusetts in 2005 and who now works as a consultant for several state-run exchanges.

—Jennifer Corbett Dooren and Timothy W. Martin contributed to this article.


DoD Official: 90 Percent of Furloughed Civilians Coming Back to Work

Defense News

Oct. 5, 2013 – 03:45AM | By PAUL McLEARY and MARCUS WEISGERBER


WASHINGTON — The Defense Department announced late Saturday afternoon that more than 90 percent of the 350,000 civilian employees it had furloughed on Oct. 1 will be able to go back to work as soon as Monday.

Pentagon comptroller Bob Hale said that the Pay Our Military Act — which Congress passed on Sept. 30 just hours before the government shuttered its doors — would allow many of DoD civilians who perform essential activities to come back to work, but contractors are not included among their number.

Since the government shutdown began, “we have stopped everything” save for critical activities that run operations in Afghanistan, Hale told reporters Saturday, adding that “it is very disruptive to the planning process” for sequestration as well.

“We’ve had to stop training activities, especially those that are not closely related to military operations, so it’s damaging our readiness,” which was already in decline due to budget cuts already enacted, he said.

Hale announced the categories of DoD civilians who would be eligible to come back to work on Monday, including those who are working on supporting combat operations in Afghanistan, along with civilians who provide ongoing support activities such as healthcare, commissaries, and critical logistics and maintenance functions.

Also included are staffers who work on acquisition, program oversight, and supply chain management, including — significantly — government inspectors who work with the defense industry to inspect their production lines.

“We will be bringing those inspectors back under [the Pay Our Military Act] I hope soon and we will be able to start the inspections,” at production plants that churn out helicopters, ground vehicles, and everything else that keeps the military humming, Hale told reporters.

Last week, defense industry giants Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Sikorsky, and Boeing announced thousands of employee furloughs due to lack of government inspectors and contract management personnel.

Asked if the company would cancel the 3,000 furloughs announced Friday, Lockheed spokesman Gordron Johndroe said “it’s too early to say. We welcome the announcement and will remain in close contact with the Pentagon. We’re hopeful our programs and contracts can move forward and there is minimal negative impact on our employees.”

A Boeing spokesperson said that “we have not received any information from our defense customers about plans to reinstate part of their workforce, therefore it would be inappropriate to speculate about what it might mean for Boeing employees and operations.”

The company said that it was still assessing how many furloughs it would have to issue due to the shutdown.

While the government inspectors will be coming back to work Hale didn’t know exactly when they would be able to assume their duties, but he estimated that it would be a matter of days.

The original announcement of the DoD civilian employee callback came from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel at about 3 p.m. on Saturday, when he issued a statement saying that Defense and Justice Department lawyers had concluded that the DoD can bring back “employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities, and readiness of service members.”

While not all furloughed civilians would be able to come back, Hagel said that he had directed “the military departments and other DoD components to move expeditiously to identify all employees whose activities fall under these categories.” He cautioned that “I expect us to be able to significantly reduce —but not eliminate — civilian furloughs under this process.”

While the department announced the categories of employees that would be recalled, Hale was reluctant to get into too much detail since his office was still awaiting word from the services about who they want to bring back. He was also unable to say when the services would report back to him.

Lawmakers were quick to applaud the move.

“I am very pleased to see so many of our national security workforce will be able to return to work,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon, R-Calif., said Saturday in a statement.

“Congress gave the Executive Branch broad authority to keep our Armed Forces and dedicated defense civilians working throughout the government shutdown,” McKeon said. “Though I do not believe the law required these hundreds of thousands of workers to be furloughed in the first place, it is welcome news.”



Why Defense CIOs Remain Furloughed


By Bob Brew in

October 7, 2013


All civilian Defense Department chief information officers and their staffs remain on mandatory leave, a Pentagon spokesman told Nextgov, even though Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has recalled 90 percent of the 350,000 civilian workers furloughed last week.

Hagel, in his recall memo, said the Justice Department determined that the Pay Our Military Act signed by President Obama on Sept. 30 allowed the Pentagon to recall civilian employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service.

Defense Comptroller Robert Hale explained that “certain areas simply were not covered” by the Pay Our Military Act. Falling outside the interpretation of the law are “chief information officer functions, but not Internet protocol and cyber functions; legislative and public affairs functions, but not internal public affairs communications; deputy chief management office functions at the Office of the Secretary of Defense and component levels, and auditors and related functions.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Damien Pickart told Nextgov, “The comptroller’s guidance applies to all CIOs and their staffs across the Department of Defense.”

Trey Hodgkins, senior vice president of global public policy for information technology industry trade group TechAmerica, said the policy to sideline CIOs and their staffs goes far beyond just the Pentagon and the services, with CIOs at all the component commands, such as the U.S. Central Command, and even some bases.

Hodgkins said that the decision not to recall CIOs and their staffs makes no sense as they, among other things, help maintain email systems used by troops to communicate with their families, which could fall under the morale and well-being interpretation of the Pay Our Military Act.

He said information systems are ubiquitous within Defense and that cyber stands aside land, sea and air warfare as a key battleground. “CIOs can’t be anything but essential.”

Warren Suss, president of Suss Consulting, agreed, calling it “staggering” that CIOs and their staffs remain furloughed. “Information technology is at the center of Defense mission critical systems. It is the lifeblood of the Pentagon,” Suss said.

Top level CIOs still sidelined include Defense CIO Teri Takai, Army Acting CIO Mike Krieger and Navy CIO Terry Halvorsen, along with their staffs. Lt. Gen. Michael J. Basla, who serves as the Air Force CIO and as an active duty service member, was not furloughed.




DoD Acquisitions Staff Have No Money to Buy


By Bob Brewin

October 7, 2013

The Pentagon has recalled 90 percent of the 350,000 civilians furloughed last week, including acquisition, contracts and logistics personnel.

But, as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made clear in his recall memo, due to the fact that the Pentagon doesn’t currently have an appropriations bill, those folks don’t have any money to buy stuff.

The Pentagon brought back most of the furloughed civilians based on an interpretation of the quickly written Pay Our Military Act, signed by President Obama on Sept. 30. The law says furloughs don’t apply to civilian employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.

Hagel said that law provided appropriations for personnel only and did not include funds for “equipment, supplies, materiel and all the other things the department needs to keep operating efficiently.” “If the lapse of appropriations of continues, many of these workers will cease to be able to do their jobs,” he warned. “If there comes a time that workers are unable to do their work, I will be forced to once again send them home.”

We have truly entered an alternative universe.

http://w w w hats-brew in/2013/10/dod-acquisitions-staff-have-no-money-buy-stuff/71477/


House Approves Immediate Pay for Feds Working During Shutdown

By Eric Katz October 8, 201360


The House unanimously approved legislation Tuesday that would pay federal employees who are working during the shutdown on time, rather than once the government reopens.

The bill would make appropriations for excepted workers through Dec. 15. About 1.5 million federal employees are currently excepted or exempted from furloughs, most of whom will not receive their next paychecks until the shutdown ends unless Congress acts.

The legislation, called the Federal Worker Pay Fairness Act, was linked to another bill that would establish a special committee to work out a deal on reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling. The committee would consist of 10 Republicans and 10 Democrats. The resolution will head to the Senate as a single piece of legislation.

Obama announced his intentions to veto the joint bill should it reach his desk, saying it would do “nothing to solve the immediate, pressing obligation the Congress has to open government and pay its bills.”

The House on Saturday unanimously passed a separate bill that would grant retroactive pay to employees forced to take unpaid leave during the shutdown. While excepted employees are guaranteed back pay upon the government’s reopening, furloughed workers require congressional action to receive compensation for the shutdown period. President Obama has announced his support for the measure, though its timeline for passage in the Senate remains unclear.

House Republicans hope to use Senate Democrats’ general support of federal workers as a means to bring the upper chamber majority to the negotiating table, BuzzFeed reported.


Who Gets Paid First If the U.S. Hits the Debt Ceiling?

By Karen Weise October 08, 2013

President Obama had plenty of strong statements during his lengthy press conference today. He said the country would face a “very deep recession” if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling. He said Republicans are holding the country “hostage” and that they can’t just “wish away chaos.” But his words were squishier on one topic: whether he’d accept a deal that prioritizes which debts the U.S. will repay first.

This is the idea that the government can technically avoid a default if it pays bondholders before paying back obligations such as Social Security benefits. When Bloomberg’s Julianna Goldman asked Obama about whether he’s going along with such a plan, the president wouldn’t directly answer the question: “I am going to continue to be very hopeful that Congress doesn’t put us in that position,” he said.

That’s not to say he was warm to the idea. Obama said the country’s credit rating would suffer and borrowing costs would rise if the markets think the government is “not paying all of our bills on time”—”all” being the operative word. That echoes the sentiment top Wall Street executives have been telling lawmakers, according to a front-page story in today’s Wall Street Journal. Obama said the government’s obligations include payments to contractors, benefits for veterans, and Social Security checks for seniors.

Later, when pressed again on the topic, Obama said he didn’t want to say too much because he knows every word he mentioned would be parsed for meaning. He’s right—just look at the Federal Reserve’s struggles to communicate, or this very blog post. Obama said he’d prefer to defer to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, who’s scheduled to testify in the Senate on Thursday. He said Lew will make a “formal presentation” then and address the issue. So mark your calendar. Thursday is now officially “debt prioritization” day.




Meltdowns zap NSA’s giant new data center

By Kevin McCaney

Oct 08, 2013

Operations at the National Security Agency’s massive new Utah Data Center will be delayed by a year because of powerful electrical surges that have caused explosions, melted equipment and disrupted circuits. The center had been scheduled to begin operating this month.

Ten meltdowns caused by arc fault failures — described as “a flash of lightning inside a 2-foot box” — over the last 13 months have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment at the center, the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports.

The failures occurred between Aug. 9, 2012 and Sept. 25 this year, with each causing up to $100,000 in damage, the Journal reported. It took investigators six months to determine what caused the first two failures; the causes of the other eight remained undetermined.

While investigations continue, an initial report by the Army Corps of Engineers’ Tiger Team blamed the problems overall on fast-tracking construction of the $1.5 billion center and taking shortcuts around “regular quality controls in design and construction,” the Journal said. The Army Corps’ report also said it “did not find any indication that the proposed equipment modification measures will be effective in preventing future incidents.”

Arc faults are high-powered electrical discharges between two or more conductors. Forbes quoted an unidentified person familiar with the construction project as saying, “The problem, and we all know it, is that they put the appliances too close together. They used wiring that’s not adequate to the task. We all talked about the fact that it wasn’t going to work.”

Backup generators at the center also reportedly have failed in testing, with officials disagreeing over the cause.

The Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the construction, with architectural firm KlingStubbins handling the electrical work under a subcontract. Three companies — Balfour Beatty Construction, DPR Construction and Big-D Construction — are the primary contractors.

The center is located at the National Guard’s Camp Williams near Bluffdale, 26 miles south of Salt Lake City. The NSA has said the data storage capacity of the center is classified, but estimates have ranged from several zettabytes (a zettabyte being 1 trillion gigabytes) to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert’s claim of a yottabyte (a thousand zettabytes).

In July, Forbes examined blueprints of the facility with Brewster Kahle, founder of the Internet Archive, and came up with a lower estimate, of about 12 exabytes.

By any measure, the center — one of the largest in the world and the largest run by the intelligence community — will have the capacity for a lot of the data being generated by the agency’s surveillance programs, including its controversial phone records collection and PRISM Web monitoring program. Delaying its operation for a year will put a crimp in NSA’s plans, but the Utah center isn’t its only means of processing data.

The agency has a data center at its Fort Meade, Md., headquarters and in the spring broke ground at the base on the $860 million High Performance Computing Center-2, a 600,000-square-foot facility scheduled to go live in 2016.


The FAA’s complaint against Trappy

FAA Civil Penalty on Misuse of UAS

by Patrick Egan • 8 October 2013


Docket No. 2012EA210009


On April 13, 2012, you were advised through a Notice of Proposed Assessment that the FAA proposed to assess a civil penalty in the amount of $10,000. After consideration of all the available information, it appears that:


1. On or about October 17, 2011, you were the pilot in command of a Ritewing Zephyr

powered glider aircraft in the vicinity of the University of Virginia (UVA), Charlottesville, Virginia.


2. The aircraft referenced above is an Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS).


3. At all times relevant herein you did not possess a Federal Aviation Administration pilot


4. The aircraft referenced above contained a camera mounted on the aircraft which sent real time video to you on the ground.

5. You operated the flight referenced above for compensation.

6. Specifically, you were being paid by Lewis Communications to supply aerial photographs and video of the UVA campus and medical center.


7. You deliberately operated the above-described aircraft at extremely low altitudes over vehicles, buildings, people, streets, and structures.


8. Specifically, you operated the above-described aircraft at altitudes of approximately 10 feet to approximately 400 feet over the University of Virginia in a careless or reckless

manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.


9. For example, you deliberately operated the above-described aircraft in the following manner:

a. You operated the aircraft directly towards an individual standing on a UVA sidewalk causing the individual to take immediate evasive maneuvers so as to avoid being struck by your aircraft.

b. You operated the aircraft through a UVA tunnel containing moving vehicles.

c. You operated the aircraft under a crane.

d. You operated the aircraft below tree top level over a tree lined walkway.

e. You operated the aircraft within approximately 15 feet of a UVA statue,

f You operated the aircraft within approximately 50 feet of railway tracks.

g. You operated the aircraft within approximately 50 feet of numerous individuals.

h. You operated the aircraft within approximately 20 feet of a UVA active street

containing numerous pedestrians and cars.

i. You operated the aircraft within approximately 25 feet of numerous UVA


j . You operated the aircraft on at least three occasions under an elevated pedestrian

walkway and above an active street.

k. You operated the aircraft directly towards a two story UVA building below rooftop

level and made an abrupt climb in order to avoid hitting the building.

l. You operated the aircraft within approximately 100 feet of an active heliport at UVA.


10. Additionally, in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another, you operated the above-described aircraft at altitudes between 10 and 1500 feet AGL when you failed to take precautions to prevent collision hazards with other aircraft that may have been flying within the vicinity of your aircraft.


11. By reason of the above, you operated an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another. By reason of the foregoing, you violated the following section(s) of the Federal Aviation Regulations: Section 91.13(a), which states that no person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.


NOW THEREFORE, IT IS ORDERED, pursuant to 49 U.S.C. §§46301(a)(l) and (d)(2) and 46301(a)(5), that you be and hereby are assessed a civil penalty in the amount of $10,000. You may pay the penalty amount by submitting a certified check or money order payable to the “Federal Aviation Administration” to the Office of Accounting, 1 Aviation Plaza, Jamaica, NY 11434. In the alternative, you may pay your civil penalty with a credit card over the Internet. To pay electronically, visit the web site at Iittp:// and click on

“Civil Fines and Penalty Payments” which will bring you to the “FAA Civil Penalty Payments Eastern Region” page. You must then complete the requested information and click “submit” to pay by credit card.


If you do not request a hearing before the National Transportation Safety Board within twenty (20) days after you receive this Order, the amount of debt assessed in this Order constitutes a

legally collectible debt owed to the United States. You will not have a right to seek review within the Federal Aviation Administration of the validity and/or amount of this debt. If this debt is not paid in full within thirty (30) days of your receipt of this Order, the debt is considered delinquent.


For delinquent debts, federal regulation (49 C.F.R. §89.23) requires us to charge interest, from the date this Order is issued, at a fixed annual rate of 5% along with an administrative charge of $12.00

per month, representing our costs of administrative collection. Furthermore, if the full amount assessed is not paid in full within 120 days of your receipt of this Order, we are required to assess an additional penalty at an annual rate of 6%, accruing from the date of delinquency. Delinquent debts may be reported to consumer reporting agencies or commercial credit bureaus, which could adversely affect your credit rating. Nonpayment of this debt may ultimately result in a referral to a collection agency, the Internal Revenue Service, the United States Department of Justice or, if applicable, to a Federal Agency for offset of debt against Federal pay.

Alfred R. Johnson, Jr.

Regional Counsel


Remember Trappys counsel filed a motion to dismiss last week.



SOCOM Wants an Iron Man Suit with Liquid Body Armor




Special Operation Command wants a suit its operators can wear that features liquid body armor, built-in computers and offers super human strength. Essentially, the Pentagon wants to outfit its special operators in Iron Man suits.

Officials from U.S. Special Operation Command issued a formal request to researchers to help them build this suit the military is calling the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit (TALOS). The request comes right from the top — Adm. William McRaven, USSOCOM commander.

Some of America’s top scientists from labs such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology are pitching in on the project. MIT engineers are working on a liquid body armor made of magnetorheological fluids that “transform from liquid to solid in milliseconds when a magnetic field or electrical current is applied,” according to an Army statement.

But the liquid body armor is only a portion of the suit. Leaders of the project also want the TALOS to include physiological subsystems that can monitor core body temperature, skin temperature, heart rate, body position and hydration levels.

“[The] requirement is a comprehensive family of systems in a combat armor suit where we bring together an exoskeleton with innovative armor, displays for power monitoring, health monitoring, and integrating a weapon into that — a whole bunch of stuff that RDECOM is playing heavily in,” said Lt. Col. Karl Borjes, a Army Reserach, Development and Engineering Command science advisor assigned to SOCOM, in a statement.



Nighttime Solar Power Arriving in United States


Pete Danko

October 9, 2013


Arizona Public Service says plant developer Abengoa is now testing the Solana Generating Station, a massive solar thermal power plant that will be the first in the country to use cutting-edge heat storage technology to extend energy production into the evening hours.

An APS spokesman said the plant is expected to go into commercial operation this month, but already it is sending energy to the grid in the testing phase, include during periods when the sun isn’t shining on the nearly 3 square miles of row upon row of parabolic mirrors that have an aperture area of 2.2 million square meters.

Solana, backed by a federal loan guarantee of nearly $1.5 billion, will be able to generate 280 megawatts of power, which will make it a very big solar power plant, though not as big as the three-unit Ivanpah power tower plant that’s in a similar testing phase in the California desert. But Solana comes with up to six hours of energy storage.

“Solana is a monumental step forward in solar energy production,” Don Brandt, APS president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Solana delivers important value to APS customers by generating power when the sun isn’t shining. It also increases our solar energy portfolio by nearly 50 percent. This provides a huge boost toward our goal to make Arizona the solar capital of America.”

With most parabolic trough solar thermal systems, the troughs focus the sun’s heat on a tube that has a transfer fluid running through it. That fluid is used to boil water to make steam.

That happens at Solana, but the plant also can use some of the sun-heated fluid to heat molten salts, where the heat can be efficiently stored.

The molten salt storage technology is something that the plant’s builder, Abengoa, already has working, although in a somewhat different fashion, at the much smaller, 19.9-megawatt capacity Gemasolar plant in Spain. Like Ivanpah, Gemasolar uses a power tower system, with 2,650 mirrors (heliostats in the industry’s jargon) bouncing sunlight to the top of a 460-foot tower at the center of the circle of mirrors. But unlike with the trough system, there’s no intermediary fluid used — the heat goes directly to the molten salts.

This is a system that’s akin to what SolarReserve is working on in Nevada with the much larger Crescent Dunes plant. It’s expected to be operating before the end of this year, giving the U.S. the two largest solar power systems in the world that have energy storage capability.


How the shutdown affects departments

Washington Post

By Darla Cameron, Josh Hicks and Masuma Ahuja,

Published: Oct. 9, 2013


The burden of the federal government shutdown has not fallen evenly across federal departments. Here’s the percentage of workers who are furloughed at 16 Cabinet-level departments, arranged by size of each department’s workforce. The State Department and the Office of Management and Budget are not included because they did not list specific numbers in their contingency plans. Also missing is the CIA, which announced Tuesday that it would recall thousands of employees.


Defense Department

Furloughed workers 4%

800,000 total workers

On Oct. 5, the agency said it would recall nearly all of its 350,000 furloughed civilian employees. The roughly 1.4 million active-duty uniformed service members were never furloughed.


Department of Veterans Affairs 4%

332,025 total workers

About 92 percent of the Veterans Benefits Administration’s 13,000 employees are likely to be furloughed by the end of the month, when VA expects to run out of funds for issuing checks.


Department of Homeland Security 14%

231,117 total workers

The Transportation Security Administration, which handles airport screenings, has retained about

93 percent of its workforce.


Justice Department 16%

114,486 total workers

FBI agents and Drug Enforcement Administration field workers are still on the job.


Treasury Department 82%

110,000 total workers

Non-essential workers include nearly 90 percent of the Internal Revenue Service workforce.


Department of Health and Human Services 52%

78,198 total workers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recalled about a dozen furloughed experts on foodborne illnesses.


Agriculture Department 66%

74,200 total workers

Only 10 of 22 components provided numbers to determine furlough percentages, so total is not comprehensive.


Interior Department 81%

72,562 total workers

Exempted workers have mostly law enforcement and security-related duties.


Transportation Department 33%

55,468 total workers

At the Federal Aviation Administration, workers whose jobs don’t involve the air traffic control system are furloughed.


Commerce Department 87%

46,420 total workers

The bulk of the non-furloughed employees are at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Labor Department 82%

16,304 total workers

Those furloughed include employees at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where monthly unemployment reports are on hold.


Environmental Protection Agency 94%

16,205 total workers

Only employees involved with military, law enforcement or direct provision of health-care activities are exempted.


Energy Department 61%

13,814 total workers

Exempted workers include those overseeing electric transmission lines.


Department of Housing and Urban Development 96%

8,709 total workers

The vast majority of HUD’s agencies are staffed by skeleton crews, with the exception of Ginne Mae, the mortgage-guarantee agency.


Education Department 94%

4,225 total workers

Initial plans said an additional 30 employees may be called to work if the shutdown lasts longer than a week.


Small Business Administration 62%

3,516 total workers

Nearly all of the exempt employees work in the agency’s Office of Disaster Assistance.


Ash Carter to Retire


Ash Carter, the Pentagon’s top budget official and deputy secretary of defense, will retire in December.

Carter’s decision, which comes as Congress grapples with the administration in a government shutdown, leaves a mountain of uncertain budget decisions for Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and the administration to manage.

In a statement, Hagel said he “reluctantly accepted” Carter’s decision on Thursday. “I will always be grateful that Ash was willing to stay on and serve as my Deputy Secretary. I have continually relied upon Ash to help solve the toughest challenges facing the Department of Defense.”

Indeed, Carter, who previously was the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, has long been considered the top man “in the building,” offering stability for the Defense Department and defense industry community as secretaries Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Hagel cycled through office under President Obama.

“There are few people who understand the operations, mechanics and engineering, as well as the policies and the foreign relationships, like Ash carter. His departure is significant,” said a defense official.

Despite reports of that causing some tension between Hagel and Carter’s staffs, Hagel, in his early months as secretary, has clearly relied on Carter’s management skills.

“I think there was a way for both to benefit from one another. There were a few moments of real partnership. One was as Hagel was in Asia last week, as the shutdown was looming, and getting these deep updates from Ash Carter about how he was bringing the building together to address some of the immediate fiscal challenges. That was a pretty powerful thing.”

“He has trust in Carter to keep the building running the best we can under these conditions. Even yesterday, when Hagel was out [at Dover Air Force Base] with the families of the four who had fallen, it was Ash Carter who was closing the deal with the Fisher House.”

Carter just passed the two-year mark in his current job and took no break from his previous post as under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics. By last year, he was on many short lists as a candidate for defense secretary before Obama tapped Hagel, last year.

The Pentagon has no succession plan for Carter’s position.

Here is the full statement from Hagel:

“Earlier today, I met with Ash Carter and reluctantly accepted his decision to step down as Deputy Secretary of Defense on December 4th, after more than four and a half years of continuous service to the Department of Defense.

“Ash has been an extraordinarily loyal and effective Deputy Secretary, both for me and Secretary Panetta. In his previous capacity as Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, he provided outstanding support to Secretary Gates and – most importantly – to our men and women fighting downrange. He possesses an unparalleled knowledge of every facet of America’s defense enterprise, having worked directly and indirectly for eleven Secretaries of Defense over the course of his storied career.

“I will always be grateful that Ash was willing to stay on and serve as my Deputy Secretary. I have continually relied upon Ash to help solve the toughest challenges facing the Department of Defense. I particularly appreciate his work spearheading the Strategic Choices and Management Review, which put the department in a far stronger position to manage through unprecedented budget uncertainty. He is a brilliant strategist and an excellent manager who helped enhance the department’s buying power, but Ash’s most recent tour of the department will be especially remembered for his tremendous efforts to provide more agile and effective support for our warfighters and their families. His compassion, love, and determination to overcome any and all bureaucratic obstacles earned him their abiding respect and appreciation.

“I am confident that the department, and the country, will continue to benefit from Ash Carter’s service in the months and years ahead. I am thankful that Ash will continue to be at my side for the next two months, helping the Department of Defense manage through a very disruptive and difficult time, and ensuring a smooth transition within the office of the Deputy Secretary. The department will miss him – I will miss him.”

Good enough for government work? The contractors building Obamacare

Sunlight Foundation

Friday, October 11, 2013

By Bill Allison Oct 09 2013 3:34 p.m.

The Obama administration dreamed that itshealth insurance exchanges–the websites that were supposed to make it easy to buy health insurance–would function as smoothly as online consumer sites like Expedia or But as head-scratching continues about how a famously web-savvy administration could have flubbed its Internet homework so badly, an examination by the Sunlight Foundation shows the administration turned the task of building its futuristic new health care technology planning and programming over to legacy contractors with deep political pockets.

One result: Problem-plagued online exchanges that make it all but impossible for consumers to buy insurance and hundreds of millions of dollars in the coffers of some of the biggest lobbying powerhouses in Washington. 

Citing the government shutdown, the Health and Human Services Department will not release a list of the estimated dozen or more companies tasked with building the site. But Sunlight reviewed contract award information from and, and found 47 organizations that won contracts from Health and Human Services or the Treasury Department to manage, support or service the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Among them were top contractors likeNorthrop GrummanDeloitte LLPSAIC Inc. General Dynamics and Booz Allen Hamilton. All fiveof those companies provided information technology services to either the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services or the Internal Revenue Service, the two agencies tasked with building back components of the health insurance exchanges.

All but one of of the 47 contractors who won contracts to carry out work on the Affordable Care Act worked for the government prior to its passage. Many–like the Rand Corporation and the MITRE Corporation–have done so for decades. And some, like Northrop Grumman and General Dynamics, are among the biggest wielders of influence in Washington. Some 17 ACA contract winners reported spending more than $128 million on lobbying in 2011 and 2012, while 29 had employees or political action committees or both that contributed $32 million to federal candidates and parties in the same period. Of that amount, President Barack Obama collected $3.9 million.

Because the government provides brief, partial descriptions of contracts in, it is not possible to say which of the contractors with information technology contracts or project management contacts were involved in building the 36 federally run health insurance marketplaces, a responsibility tasked to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, known by the acronym CMS, or those assigned to develop the federal data hub, which would allow applicants to have their income and family size immediately verified by the Internal Revenue Service.

Media accounts note that CGI Federal, a longtime provider of IT services to the federal government, won the contract to build the exchanges. The federal data hub was shelved when the health insurance exchanges launched on Oct. 1; when it will come online has not been announced. 

Sunlight contacted a number of vendors that won IT and related contracts to implement portions of the Affordable Care Act. A spokesperson for SAIC, whose contracts with the Internal Revenue Service included one for supporting income and family verification procedures required by the health care law, said it had no role in building the federal data hub. Similarly, PricewaterhouseCoopers said its contract from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a multi-vendor award, to “analyze, evaluate and improve existing business processes and technology systems required under the Affordable Care Act,” had nothing to do with the health insurance exchanges.

Vangent, the company that won a $28 million contract to run customer contact centers for CMS — fielding questions via telephone, mail, email and web chats — is a subsidiary of General Dynamics, a company best known for making submarines, Abrams tanks and ammunition. While it’s not clear that Vangent was the company responsible, web chat responses for help for with the health insurance exchanges have been one of many targets of consumer ire.

There was no shortage of top flight consultants hired by Health and Human Services. Booz Allen Hamilton was awarded a $1.8 million task order to develop a plan to allow CMS to fully utilize electronic medical records. McKinsey & Company, the consulting firm that released a widely criticized study claiming that anywhere from 30 to 60 percent of large employers would drop employee health insurance because of the health care reform, had one contract potentially worth $13.8 million for project management planning with CMS. Deloitte LLP won a contract to support the IRS in its effort to “deliver world class implementation” of its technological requirements under the act.  

The Deloitte LLP contract was to service the project management office in the IRS, which had the responsibility of meeting the Affordable Care Act’s requirements. That contract was awarded two months after the Government Accountability Office found fault with the way the IRS was managing implementation of the act. 

And then there are the surveys, studies and reports. The National Opinion Research Center, a Chicago-based polling organization that also does the Survey of Consumer Finances, a Federal Reserve report that measures the assets and indebtedness of Americans, got a $300,000 task order from CMS for a study that “may be of assistance to the department in determining future needs” due to the impact of the Affordable Care Act. NORC’s lobbying firm, Drinker, Biddle & Reath, reported spending $200,000 in 2012 to lobby Congress and the Office of Management and Budget on funding for health and social science research and data. George Washington Universtiy won a contract to study the act’s impact on vaccine programs, while the University of California won a $12,000 contract to report on how minority women fare under the act.

Sunlight’s survey does not include awards to contractors that built the 14 state exchanges. For example, Xerox Corp. won a $72 million contract to help build Nevada’s exchange and one for $68 million to do the same in Florida. Not only is Xerox building the online marketplaces for some states, it’s also offering insurers the means to “fully take advantage of the nearly 30 million new members that will be shopping for health care on these exchanges.”

Peter Olsen-Phillips contributed to this report.







LOBBYING, 2011-12 


A. Reddix & Associates 





ABT Associates 















Booz Allen Hamilton 





CDM Group 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



CGI Federal 





Client/Server Software Solutions ( 





Computer Sciences Corp. 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Computing Solutions 





David-James LLC 





Deloitte Consulting 





Genova Technologies 





George Washingotn Univeristy 





H.S.I. Network 





Humanitas Inc. 





ICP Systems LLC 





Information Systems Consulting Group Inc. 





International Business Machines 





Intertribal Council of Arizona 


Indian Health Service, HHS 



IQ Solutions Inc. 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers



JSI Research and Training Institute 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



KAT Video Productions 





Macro International Corp. 





Maximus Federal Services Inc.





McKinsey & Company 





Mitre Corp 





National Opinion Research Center 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Northrop Grumman





Porter Novelli Public Strategies 










Quality Software Services Inc (United Health Group) 





Rand Corporation 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Research Triangle Institute 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Science Applications International Corp. 





Sentel Corp 










Social and Scientific System Inc. 





Soft-Con Enterprises 





Summit Consulting 





Thomson Reuters Healthcare Inc. (now Truven Health Analytics)





Unicom Logistics 





University of California (SF) 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Urban Institute 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers



Vangent (General Dynamics) 





Verizon Business Network Services 





Weber Shandwick 


Office of Asst. Sec. for Health Except Centers 



Westcott, John






States Prepare Layoffs, Furloughs During Shutdown

State employees notified to prepare for furloughs, layoffs if shutdown persists


October 10, 2013 RSS Feed Print

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder talks with the news media during a town hall meeting at Wayne State University March 1, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, whose state could give up to 20,000 workers unpaid leave, and other state leaders are preparing for the worst as the federal shutdown strains state budgets.

States have started furloughing employees as the absence of federal funds is straining already tight state budgets, so more workers will be sent on unpaid leave or even laid off if the shutdown continues.

States running programs on cash reserves are uncertain whether the federal government will repay them for the absent federal funds and might cut back spending of state money if the shutdown continues, says Scott Pattison, executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASB). Approximately one-third of the $1.7 trillion that states spent in 2012 came from federal funds, he explains.

“If this goes on another few days you are going to see states begin to make announcements that they are going to have layoffs,” Pattison says. Those notices will likely set the end of October as a time when layoffs would occur, he added.

Some states have already laid off federally-funded employees or sent them home on unpaid leave in response to the shutdown, or sent them notices to prepare for layoffs or furloughs, according to a report published on Thursday by the NASB.

“States are also seeking information on any possible legal ramifications that could result from furloughing employees, such as jeopardizing reimbursement from the federal government or compliance with entitlement program requirements,” the report stated. “Several states have also issued formal or informal hiring freezes for federally-funded positions for the duration of the shutdown.”

Michigan’s government is preparing to place up to 20,000 workers on unpaid leave, says Kurt Weiss, spokesperson for the Michigan State Budget Office. Michigan state workers received advance furlough notice on Oct. 1 because union agreements with those workers require 30-day notification, Weiss says.

“I don’t know if some states without those union agreements might be able to make swifter decisions on furloughs,” Weiss says. “I don’t think we will furlough anybody until Oct. 30. Most of the unions here require a 30-day notice because of those bargaining agreements, which we definitely want to honor.”

The National Governors Association also sent a letter on Thursday to leaders of both parties in the House and Senate citing the shutdown’s damaging effect on states’ ability to recover from economic recession.

“States are not in a position to be the bank for the federal government,” the letter stated. “As this impasse continues, we call on Congress and the administration to commit to fully reimbursing states and territories for the federal expenses they absorb during the shutdown.”

The lack of federal funds is not as damaging to state pocketbooks as the damage the shutdown is causing to small businesses, with missing revenues, including sales taxes that could be damaged by lack of tourism as national parks are closed, Pattison says.

“States are very worried about economic impact that might decrease revenues, even a tiny amount,” Pattison says. “A small decrease in revenue might mean a few million, but that’s a lot of money for a state.”


New NIST cybersecurity standards could pose liability risks

Once passed, the standard will become the benchmark to measure critical infrastructure security programs

Jaikumar Vijayan

October 11, 2013 (Computerworld)


Critical infrastructure companies could face new liability risks if they fail to meet voluntary cybersecurity standards being developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The slated release of a draft of the standard on Thursday was delayed, apparently due to the federal government shutdown. NIST’s main website was shuttered on Thursday.

The standards effort was launched after an Executive Order by President Barack Obama earlier this year.

A preliminary version of the draft standard has been floating around for several weeks, however.

The formal draft version, when released, will be available for public review until February 2014, according to the original schedule. Once the review is complete, will release a final version of the standards that incorporates changes recommended by stakeholders.

The NIST cybersecurity framework is designed to serve as a security best practices guide for organizations in critical infrastructure sectors, like power, telecommunications, financial services and energy.

The framework was developed with input from industry stakeholders.

It is not designed to mandate specific security controls. Rather, it offers broad standards for identifying and protecting critical data, services and assets against cyber threats. It offers a set of best practices for detecting and responding to an attack, mitigating the fallout from cyber incidents and for managing risks overall.

Obama issued the Executive Order in February to address, what he said was an immediate need to protect critical infrastructure targets against cyberattacks. Administration officials said the order came only after repeated failures by Congress to pass meaningful cybersecurity legislation.

Participation in the standards program is voluntary. The Executive Order leaves it up to the federal agencies in charge of each critical sector to push adoption of the standards through a combination of incentives and other market driven means.

In practice though, critical infrastructure owners and operators will likely be left with little choice but to follow the standards, or at least show they have comparable security measures in place, said Jason Wool, an attorney with Venable LLP, a Washington D.C-based law firm.

Companies that ignore the standards and are breached will open themselves up to negligence, shareholder and breach of contract lawsuits along with other liability claims. The standards will likely be viewed as the minimum level of care and integrity within critical infrastructure sectors, Wool noted.

“You don’t have to adopt these standards. But the fact that this framework [spells out] activities that are recommended for cybersecurity, establishes a bar that companies need to meet,” Wool said. “The framework requires, at minimum, that owners and operators of critical infrastructure look at themselves and do a gap analysis.”

Even companies that don’t adopt the standards need to show what they are doing is as effective.

“If a company gets sued, it should be able to provide some evidence that they took a look at the standards, performed a risk assessment and were managing their risk in a reasonable manner, Wool said.

Scott Vernick, an attorney at Fox Rothschild in Philadelphia said that there is a good chance that the NIST standards will eventually become sector-specific regulations overseen by the federal agencies in charge of various critical infrastructure areas. At that point, covered entities will have no choice but to adopt the standards, he suggested.

Even if that’s wrong, “once NIST finishes its work, the Plaintiffs Bar will point to it as the standard,” Vernick said. Critical infrastructure owners and operators should, at a minimum, determine how their security measures stack up against the standard, he said.

Companies should also consider joining information sharing initiatives and other cybersecurity forums to show they are making an effort to understand new threats, he said. “This really is an area where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Ironically, even companies that do adopt the framework may not be free from liability risks, experts say.

For instance, some of the provisions for protecting personally identifiable information (PII), could be pose problems for critical infrastructure companies, said Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy under the George W. Bush administration, in a blog post.

The privacy appendix would require that companies take extensive measures to protect PII while carrying out cybersecurity functions, said Baker now an attorney in the Washington office of the Steptoe & Johnson LLP law firm.

For example, companies that want to share threat-information with other firms will have to first scrub the data so it’s clean of personally identifiable information.

Baker said the requirements in the draft document are ambiguous and open to interpretation.

Companies that share threat information containing personal data, like IP addresses and email addresses, face few legal consequences as long as the government is kept out of the picture.

“Once the NIST privacy appendix takes effect, though, private cybersecurity sharing will slow to a crawl as lawyers try to anticipate whether every piece of data has been screened for PII and for relevance,” Baker noted. “In short, under the NIST framework, pretty much every serious cybersecurity measure in use today will come with new limits and possibly new liability,” he said.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Consumer confidence fell to a new low for the year at week’s end as Washington, D.C. continues to talk and talk and talk. 

Sixty-eight percent (68%) of Americans now think another financial industry meltdown similar to the 2008 crisis is likely. Sixty-two percent (62%) believe the U.S. government is likely to default on its debt in the next five years. That’s up 18 points from 44% six months ago. 

Congress and the president are now talking about a short-term deal to raise the federal government’s $16.7 trillion debt ceiling, and 53% think the best approach for dealing with the debt ceiling is to raise it as part of a deal that includes significant spending cuts. However, Democrats are unlikely to agree to the major cuts Republicans want, even though 62% of all voters agree it will be bad for the economy if the government defaults on its debt.

A similar partisan divide stands in the way of ending the federal government shutdown now in its second week. Fifty-one percent (51%) of all voters would rather have Congress end the shutdown by authorizing spending for the new national health care law at existing levels. Forty-one percent (41%) would rather continue the shutdown until spending for the law is cut. But a closer look finds that 82% of Democrats want to end the shutdown by continuing spending for the health care law at current levels, while 71% of Republicans would rather keep the shutdown going until the law is defunded.

So the talk continues.

Even as the shutdown and debt ceiling arguments go on, voters are giving President Obama better marks for his handling of deficit reduction issues, although a plurality (46%) still rates his performance in this area as poor.

With Democrats rallying to the president, Obama’s job approval ratings are now running at their highest levels since April.

But Democrats have lost their lead of the last two weeks and are tied with Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot

Just 17% of all likely voters now say the country is heading in the right direction, the lowest finding since early December 2011. 

Despite this pessimism, only nine percent (9%) of Americans say they have ever thought about giving up their U.S. citizenship

Just because four-out-of-five Americans think being a U.S. citizen is Very Important doesn’t mean they haven’t considered their options, though. 

Unfavorable reviews of the new health care law have fallen below 50% for the first time in several months. 

Perhaps in part that’s because 50% of Americans say they are paying more for health care now than they were a year ago. Still, 48% think the private sector, not the federal government, has the best chance of keeping health care costs down and the quality of care up.
Thirty-five percent (35%) have more confidence in the federal government to keep costs down and quality up.

Thirty-six percent (36%) report postponing a medical checkup or procedure to save money in the past six months, although that’s down from 43% two years ago. 

Twenty-eight percent (28%) think doctors make too much money

Several employees of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff went on trial last week, but just 14% believe the federal government has been aggressive enough in pursuing criminal behavior on Wall Street

On a lighter note, 34% of Americans, when asked which they would rather win in their dream world, say a Nobel Prize. Eighteen percent (18%) would rather win a Pulitzer Prize, while 14% would opt for an Academy Award “Oscar.”

In other surveys last week:

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie continues to lead Democratic challenger Barbara Buono by over 20 points in his bid for reelection. 

– With New Jersey’s special U.S. Senate election coming next week, Newark Mayor Cory Booker leads Republican Steve Lonegan 53% to 41%. 

– Twenty-nine percent (29%) of voters believe the regulations and actions of the Environmental Protection Agency help the economy, but 37% think the federal agency’s actions hurt the economy instead. 

Nearly two-out-of-three voters (62%) continue to view global warming as a somewhat serious problem, with 30% who consider it a Very Serious one. 

– California has become the latest – and biggest – state to authorize driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. But 68% of voters think illegal immigrants should not be eligible for driver’s licenses in their state

– Forty-five percent (45%) say if a family is not in the country legally, their children should still be allowed to attend public school. That’s a 13-point increase from the 32% who felt that way in August 2011.

– Voters for the first time are evenly divided over whether there should be a waiting period before a woman can get an abortion, but the importance of abortion as a voting issue has fallen to its lowest level in a year-and-a-half

– Fifty-two percent (52%) of Americans say they will get a flu shot this year

October 5 2013




Springfield at center of Ohio’s UAS effort

State office here boosts area’s chances to land unmanned aircraft business.Thousands of jobs, billions of dollars at stake.

By Andrew McGinn

Staff Writer

Posted: 2:13 p.m. Monday, Sept. 30, 2013

Dayton Daily News


SPRINGFIELD — The lease at a local technology park for a state office tasked with enticing unmanned aircraft systems companies to Ohio was barely 60 days old when a Florida business announced it would relocate a program to Springfield to develop and commercialize an unmanned airship.

The state’s choice to locate the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex within 2,060 square feet of leased office space along U.S. 40 in the Nextedge Applied Research and Technology Park puts Springfield at the center of Ohio’s effort to claim a chunk of what promises to be a lucrative new industry.

“It provides the business center for the overall initiative,” said Tom Franzen, the city of Springfield’s assistant city manager and director of economic development. “It’s a big benefit to having them here.”

Call them UAS, UAVs or RPA — as in remotely piloted aircraft — or call them drones, but the commercial and civil market for them is predicted to generate more than $82.1 billion the first decade after they’ve been cleared for takeoff by the Federal Aviation Administration.

That could happen as soon as 2015.

The industry will create more than 34,000 new manufacturing jobs alone the first three years, according to a widely publicized report by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

That is, once the FAA is satisfied they can be flown safely and with the privacy of citizens protected.

The developer of that unmanned airship, World Surveillance Group, envisions the day when its Argus One — flying aloft with 30 pounds of sensors, cameras and electronics — will be available for purchase to assist first responders or to transmit wireless communications, or to keep watch over military forces in hostile lands.

World Surveillance will work to make it all a reality by tethering the Argus program in Springfield and working with several firms already established in Ohio.

The combined parties will “assist the Ohio/Indiana UAS Test Center by fostering the growth of Ohio as a preeminent aerospace and UAS center,” the company’s announcement read.

It’s hoped other companies follow suit.

“I hope that’s exactly what happens,” said Dick Honneywell, a retired Air Force Reserve colonel who was appointed by Gov. John Kasich last month to be the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center’s first director. “We want businesses to come in here, and they can absolutely succeed.”

For Honneywell, 58, it was the easiest sale he’s likely to have during his tenure — he didn’t know about World Surveillance Group’s decision to move the Argus One program here from Easton, Md., until it was announced.

“Besides being surprising,” he said, “it was good news. That’s exactly the kind of movement we’d like to see.”

Glenn Estrella, president and CEO of World Surveillance Group, has been to this part of Ohio and said he’s a “fan” of the area.

“The area is rich with space,” Estrella said. “It’s rich with open field testing opportunities. And it’s rich with very smart folks in this field. It’s the perfect package for a company like ours.”

The proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is itself a selling point for companies like Estrella’s, and arguably the reason why the Miami Valley as a whole has emerged as the state’s hub of unmanned aircraft technology.

Companies throughout the area already are involved in developing UAS, including SelectTech GeoSpatial, which has had a manufacturing facility at the Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport since 2009.

From his new office in the Avetec building looking out toward what was once known as the National Road, Honneywell is eager to spur more commercial business development.

“We’re part of the solution,” he said.

After 32 years in the Air Force, leading research into power and propulsion at Wright-Patterson, that part of his new role is a welcome change.

His office falls under the Ohio Department of Transportation.

“You don’t get to do a lot of economic development in the Air Force,” Honneywell said.

Wright-Patt has been the military’s center of aircraft innovation since the 1920s, but most of the Air Force’s manufacturing, he said, is done in the West and South.

“A lot of the technology started in this region, but we weren’t able to capture the manufacturing base out of that,” Honneywell said.

Honneywell said he’d like to see the region both develop and manufacture UAS — and it arguably has a birthright to do both.

The Wright brothers aside, the world’s first unmanned aerial vehicle was invented and produced in Dayton.

In 1917, Dayton inventor Charles F. Kettering developed the Kettering Aerial Torpedo. Known as the “Bug,” it was meant to be used in World War I, but never saw combat.

More of an early guided missile than a UAV, it nonetheless set the stage, with a range of 75 miles. After a predetermined length of time, the Bug’s engine would shut off and its wings would release.

The resulting bomb packed 180 pounds worth of explosives.

A reproduction of the Bug has been on display since 1964 at the nearby National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, and it only takes a stroll through the museum to learn that unmanned aerial technology isn’t exactly new.

On display are such early military UAVs as the Teledyne-Ryan AQM-91A Compass Arrow, whose radar-absorbing body also constituted proto-stealth technology.

While never used, the Compass Arrow was ready as early as 1971 to fly deep into China — either automatically or manually by someone aboard the cargo plane that launched it — taking reconnaissance photos along the way.

However, it wasn’t until the Global War on Terror that the use of UAVs exploded and “drones” became a household word.

Commercial developers envision stripping drones of their weapons and putting them to work at a variety of civilian tasks, including weather monitoring and oil and gas exploration.

“I see it as an opportunity for the region to regain aerospace manufacturing,” Honneywell said.

That effort to lure UAS business to Ohio could be made much easier, or that much harder, at year’s end, when the FAA designates six sites nationally where unmanned aircraft will be tested.

Those six sites will help develop the safety and privacy parameters needed for full integration of drones into the nation’s airspace.

“A lot of folks are waiting to see what happens,” Franzen said.

The FAA received 25 applications from 24 states, according to spokesman Les Dorr, and is expected to make its picks by the end of 2013.

“There’s an obvious upside to getting the designation,” Franzen said.

According to that earlier report by the drone industry, the selection of the test sites will help determine where jobs flow.

Ohio and Indiana applied for a test site jointly. Honneywell, serving at the time as vice president of aerospace at the Dayton Development Coalition, led the application process.

While staffing for the Argus One development program initially will come from partnering companies, World Surveillance Group didn’t want to wait to make a move.

“We’re moving our products forward,” Estrella said. “For the Argus, Springfield was the right place. We never hesitated.”

The two-state test complex put forth for FAA consideration encompasses multiple locations, mostly all within the Dayton region, including Springfield-Beckley and the Wilmington Air Park for the takeoff and recovery of unmanned aircraft, along with restricted airspace in southeast Indiana.

Partners in Ohio’s endeavor include such R&D powerhouses as the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patt and NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

The Ohio-Indiana test complex also includes military airspace southeast of Wilmington and the National Center for Medical Readiness run by Wright State University at a former cement plant in Fairborn.

That plant has been converted into a 52-acre training site dubbed Calamityville for civilian and military first responders.

“The FAA has a very difficult decision,” Honneywell said.

The Ohio/Indiana UAS Center will manage the entire range, renting airspace to companies like World Surveillance Group that will want to flight test aircraft.

“We’ll be pleased to support any customer to the range,” Honneywell said.

Despite the competition — 10 to 12 sites in the running are “very strong,” Honneywell said — he’s admittedly not worried about losing out to, say, North Dakota, which scored an article last month in Popular Science headlined, “How North Dakota Plans to Become the Drone Capital of America.”

Ohio’s mix of airspace and research partners, plus its strong supply chain, means “it’s going to be tough for other communities to match,” Honneywell said.

But at the drone industry’s annual trade show last month in Washington, D.C., the state of North Dakota, which likes to tout its $2 billion state surplus thanks to fracking, was among the event’s top sponsors, right alongside the likes of aerospace behemoths Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

“Everybody’s trumpeting their own horn,” Franzen said.

The state of Ohio sponsored a booth at the show, and Franzen, for one, attended to both man the booth and work the floor.

“You can probably go to any state, and the folks involved say they’ve got it wrapped up,” said Joel Embry, president of Indiana-based Drone Systems, a company that markets drones.

Embry primarily sells two small quadcopters, the Scout and the SkyRanger, made by a Canadian company, Aeryon Labs.

Priced between $100,000 and $150,000 — “They’re serious tools,” he said, “They’ll fly in any weather” — they currently can be used by first responders who apply for special permission from the FAA.

The FAA doesn’t yet allow drones to be used by farmers, but Embry also envisions Scouts and SkyRangers at work on farms, flying over fields to spot areas of blight.

That would be in keeping with the drone industry’s prediction that agriculture and public safety will be the two biggest markets for UAS, with agriculture emerging as the most dominant by far. Of the $82.1 billion the UAS industry is calculated to generate by 2025, agriculture alone could generate $75.6 billion.

From his home base just north of Louisville, Ky., Embry has been watching closely Ohio and Indiana’s efforts to win an FAA test site.

“It’d be awfully convenient for us,” he said, adding that they could conceivably come flight test their quadcopters for the first time at distances of five, even six miles.

Even if Ohio isn’t picked as an FAA test site, the Ohio/Indiana UAS Center in Springfield won’t be without UAS to manage. The state has committed 12 full-time positions to the center, Honneywell said, and signed a two-year lease in the Avetec building at a cost of $70,000.

Regardless of the FAA’s decision, the range here will officially open in the spring to unmanned aircraft competing in a NASA contest intended to speed up development of “sense and avoid” technology.

The space agency picked this region to hold its UAS Airspace Operations Challenge.

Using the range’s airspace in Indiana, NASA will run intercepts with aircraft of its own, Honneywell said. It will be up to the competing UAS to sense and avoid the air traffic.

“If we’re going to integrate UAS into the airspace,” he said, “you want to maintain the level of safety we have today.”

NASA has put up $500,000 in prize money for the challenge, which “will bring an army of ideas forward,” Honneywell said.

A number of university teams are expected to take part, he said, but there are no guarantees anyone will win the pot of money.

All the while, the center will seek to support new business opportunities throughout the region.

“The commercial opportunity is too great,” Honneywell said.



Shutdown could test IT security at federal agencies

Agencies would have skeletal IT teams in place to manage systems

Jaikumar Vijayan

October 1, 2013 (Computerworld)


A government shutdown that lasts more than a few days could test the ability of federal agencies to protect their information systems against security threats.

Several agencies, over the past few days, have released contingency plans showing that they will have to heavily scale down their IT teams to maintain, manage and protect IT infrastructure during a shutdown.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs , for instance, said it will furlough more than 40%, or 3,267, of its 8,026 IT employees in the event of an appropriations lapse. Those remaining will be responsible for functions such as network maintenance and protection, information security and for keeping the data center and enterprise infrastructure running.

In some cases, the shutdown will leave barely a skeletal staff in place to run legally “excepted” activities.

The Federal Trade Commission exempted a total of six employees from taking a forced furlough. The six will be responsible for ensuring the integrity and availability of the agency’s IT infrastructure to other exempt employees at the agency. The six individuals will also be responsible for other tasks, including direct support of the agency’s network and telecommunication services, operating the FTC’s data center, rotating backup media for offsite store and provide on-site database administration support, the FTC said in its contingency plans.

The Social Security Administration exempted 10%, or 310 of its 3,187 IT employees, for infrastructure and program support purposes. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development asked all but 349 of its 8,709 administrative and management staff to go on furlough. Among those exempted from the furlough are 13 IT employees out of 244 in the agency CIO’s office. The 13 will be responsible for keeping critical systems running and protecting them against security threats.

Most other federal agencies are expected to have a similar handful of IT security staff and other essential personnel to run infrastructure operations.

“I believe that most CIOs will have their security and network analysts deemed ‘essential,’ and they will be on a heightened [state] of awareness,” said Karen Evans, former de facto federal CIO during the George W. Bush administration.

Many IT services will need to be available through a shutdown so most IT staff will also be deemed essential, she noted. “But, the short of it is, because of all the services online and how government accesses these services, there are going to be risks,” associated with a prolonged shutdown, she said.

Eugene Spafford, executive director of the Center for Education and Research in Information Assurance and Security at Purdue University said the contingency plans that federal agencies have set up should be adequate for a few days but not for a long stretch.

Even with systems shut down, functions like patching and installing key maintenance upgrades are important and could pose a challenge for skeletal teams that have been assembled to manage IT systems during a shutdown, he said.

If the shutdown were to persist through the second Tuesday of October for instance, many agencies could find themselves scrambling to install Microsoft’s monthly security updates, Spafford said.


Mike Brown, vice president and general manager at security firm RSA’s global public sector unit, noted that security risks to federal agencies overall should not increase dramatically as a result of the shutdown. However, the potential for agencies to make mistakes increases during times of reduced staffing.

“I would expect that most of the infrastructure would be maintained by personnel who have been designated as essential, and that planning has taken place to ensure security remains a priority,” Brown said. “However, any time there is an event like this, there is the potential for mistakes to take place,” Brown said. “Not only will the impact of nonessential personnel weigh on an organization, but additional issues could arise based on the overall status of personnel and priorities.”

A Sept. 16 directive issued by the White House Office of Management and Budget requires federal agencies to wind down all IT activities other than “excepted” activities, including those that are essential to safety and protection of property, in the event of a government shutdown.

The directive leaves it up to agency heads to determine what systems can be kept running, but it makes clear that the only systems allowed to run will be those that directly support an exempted activity. If that system happens to be interconnected with other system, the agency has to figure out a way to keep it running without affecting the safety and security of the other systems, the directive noted.

“Given that websites represent the front-end of numerous back-end processing systems, agencies must determine whether the entire website can be shut down or components of the website will be shut down,” to ensure compliance with procedures during an appropriations lapse, the OMB memo noted.


Pilot Projects Aim to Replace Passwords

Feds Ante Up $7 Million in New Round of NSTIC Funding

By Eric Chabrow, September 19, 2013. Follow Eric @GovInfoSecurity


The federal government sees big potential in, an online service that helps merchants securely identify members of the armed forces to offer them discounts. That’s why it has awarded the company a $1.2 million grant for a pilot program to evolve its service into a trusted identity solution to let military families securely access sensitive information online from government agencies, financial institutions and healthcare. is one of five groups receiving a total of more than $7 million in taxpayer money in a second round of grants under a program designed to bolster development of reliable, easy-to-use online credentials that the government hopes will help build trust in online commerce and boost the economy.

Creating an “identity ecosystem” will fuel the next generation of online businesses, says Jeremy Grant, senior executive adviser for identity management at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which oversees the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace program, known as NSTIC (pronounced n-stick).

NSTIC is a collaborative effort among business, not-for-profits and the government to create secure and interoperable identity credentials to access online services. NIST last year awarded $9 million to five other pilot programs, and it expects in the coming days to announce two more pilots aimed at state governments., founded as Troop ID by former Army Rangers who served in Iraq, will use its grant to expand its identity solution by incorporating multifactor authentication to access sensitive information online. The company’s key partners include federal government agencies and a leading financial institution serving the nation’s military community and its families.

“This is a company that already made tremendous strides just by doing a low-level credential as a startup,” Grant says. “Now, they’re looking to take a grant and really build a solution that’s NSTIC aligned that would offer a lot more value to them. There are a lot of service providers online who will, if the pilot goes well, trust those credentials and get people to login to their sites.”

Exponent received $1.6 million to issue secure, easy-to-use and privacy-enhancing credentials to users to help secure applications and networks at a leading social media company, a healthcare organization and the Defense Department.

Exponent and partners Gemalto and HID Global will deploy two types of identity verification: mobile devices that leverage so-called derived credentials stored in the device’s SIM card and secure wearable devices, such as rings and bracelets. Solutions will be built upon standards, ensuring an interoperable system that can be easily adopted by a wide variety of organizations and companies.

Georgia Tech Research Corp. will use its $1.7 million grant to develop and demonstrate a “trustmark framework” that seeks to improve trust, interoperability and privacy. Trustmarks are a badge, image or logo displayed on a website to indicate that the website business has been shown to be trustworthy by the issuing organization.

Defining trustmarks for specific sets of policies would enable website owners, trust framework providers and individual Internet users to more easily understand the technical, business, security and privacy requirements and policies of the websites with which they interact.

NIST says supporting consistent, machine-readable ways to express policy can enhance and simplify the user experience, raise the level of trust in online transactions and improve interoperability between service providers and trust frameworks.

Privacy Vaults Online will apply its $1.6 million grant to the development of a solution that provides families with Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act-compliant credentials that would let parents authorize their children to interact with online services in a privacy-enhancing way.

NIST says parents need better tools to ensure their children safely use of the Internet; online service providers need to comply with the requirements of the COPPA when they deal with minors under the age of 13.

Transglobal Secure Collaboration Participation, also known as TSCP, will use its $1.3 million grant to deploy trusted credentials to conduct secure business-to-business, government-to-business and retail transactions for small and medium-sized businesses and financial services companies, including Fidelity Investments and Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Employees of participating businesses will be able to use their existing credentials during the pilot to securely log in to retirement accounts at brokerages, rather than having to obtain a new credential.

NIST says the key to enabling these cross-sector transactions will be TSCP’s development of an open source, technology-neutral trust framework development guidance document that can provide a foundation for cross-sector interoperability of online credentials.


Becoming a ‘Shining Star’

Grant says last year’s five pilot projects are progressing satisfactorily. “A pilot could have troubles one month and the next month find a way to overcome them and become a shining star,” he says (see Creating Trust: The $9 Million Pilots).


The 2012 pilot projects will report to NSTIC next month on their progress and will continue for another year. “We’re learning a lot on where things are working out as well as to where they’re running into challenges,” he says.

One common theme culled from the pilots is the importance of the Identity Ecosystem Steering Group to the NSTIC initiative, Grant says. The steering group is a mostly private-sector led organization, chaired by Bob Blakely, Citigroup director of security innovation, that will facilitate trusted identities once the government withdraws from the NSTIC initiative in about three years.

The steering group is creating a legal and policy framework to enable identity providers to set up contracts and conduct transactions. “Every one of the pilots [from 2012] have found that they spent more time than anticipated working on how to get these agreements signed,” Grant says.


Furloughed Federal Employees Flood State Unemployment Offices

On the first day of the shutdown, some state unemployment offices received an unusually high number of applications from federal employees.

BY J.B. WOGAN / OCTOBER 2, 2013 0


Federal employees who can’t work due to a government shutdown that began on Oct. 1 are applying for unemployment benefits in droves. State offices in the mid-Atlantic region — where much of the federal workforce is located — reported an immediate surge in applications. It’s just one consequence of a shutdown that’s also rendered federal websites inoperable and caused some state departments to furlough employees whose jobs are partly dependent on federal funds.

Between 7 a.m. and 1 p.m. on the first day of the shutdown, Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation received roughly 4,000 applications, according to Maureen O’Connor, an agency spokeswoman. That’s more federal claim applications than the department usually receives in an entire year, she said.

The federal government has not released an official estimate on the total number of workers being furloughed, but shutdown plans from different agencies suggest it could be higher than 818,000 employees, according to an analysis by the Wall Street Journal. Several state offices that handle unemployment insurance, including in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., have posted notices about how federal workers can collect unemployment benefits. If Congress decides to retroactively grant back pay (as it did in the last shutdown 17 years ago), then the employees would be required to return the unemployment money they received.

Last week officials from the U.S. Department of Labor held conference calls with states in the mid-Atlantic region, assuming they would be hardest hit if both federal employees and federal contractors were suddenly out of work, according to Bill Walton, the unemployment insurance director for the Virginia Employment Commission. A recent tabulation of federal employees in the executive branch shows Virginia with the second most employees (144,753) of any state or the District of Columbia. The district was third (143,573) and Maryland was fifth (119,816).* (The counts were based on place of employment, not place of residence.)

After the shutdown, the district’s Department of Employment Services received an increase in the number of inquiries by federal workers wanting to know if they were eligible for unemployment benefits, said Najla Haywood, a spokeswoman for the agency. Applications were also up, she said. In Virginia, it will be a few days before the Employment Commission can tally incoming applications, Walton said, but simply by virtue of the uptick in activity on his email inbox he knows that Virginia was experiencing a steep increase. He attributed it to the concentration of federal employees and contractors working in Northern Virginia and Virginia Beach. While the benefits themselves were in no danger of losing federal funding, the state staff who processes those claims are also reliant on federal funding; on that front, “we have about a 30-day window,” he said, or “we have to potentially ask state government for additional monies.”

In Virginia, the employment commission created a special process for reviewing federal claims in preparation for a surge that might otherwise overwhelm staff, Walton said. The agency is directing everyone to its website, where they can print an application and read a Q&A. To save time, the agency is instructing people to provide either a pay stub or W-2 form; otherwise, the agency has to ask the employer (in this case, the federal government) for a wage history for the past four quarters and — due to the shutdown — that process would be abnormally slow. While state unemployment compensation requirements differ, compensation is usually available to individuals who have been in a non-pay status for seven or more consecutive days and meet other eligibility requirements.


Microsoft to patch zero-day IE bug now under attack

Eight updates will plug holes in IE, Windows, Office, SharePoint and Silverlight

By Gregg Keizer

October 3, 2013 04:00 PM ET

Computerworld – Microsoft today said it will ship eight security updates next week to patch critical vulnerabilities in Windows and Internet Explorer (IE), with the one aimed at IE plugging the hole attackers have been exploiting for months.

“The Critical update for Internet Explorer will be a cumulative update which will address the publicly disclosed issue described in Security Advisory 2887505,” confirmed Dustin Childs on the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC) blog today.

Security experts identified the IE update as the one to deploy first, citing the fact that one of the vulnerabilities has been used by cyber criminals in targeted attacks against users in Japan and Taiwan.

“IE is always top of the list,” said Andrew Storms, director of DevOps at cloud security vendor CloudPassage, in an interview today.

On Sept. 17, Microsoft confirmed that hackers were exploiting a critical unpatched vulnerability in Internet Explorer 8 (IE8) and Internet Explorer 9 (IE9). The bug, however, existed in all versions of the browser, including the 12-year-old IE6 and the newest IE11.

Over the next two weeks, security companies reported that attacks had been aimed at Japanese and Taiwanese organizations since July. And earlier this week, exploit code went public as a working module was added to the open-source Metasploit penetration framework. Researchers predicted that the Metasploit appearance would result in an increase in attacks as less-capable hackers copied the code and added it to their weaponized toolkits.

“Once it went into Metasploit, I anticipated an early release of a patch by Microsoft,” said Storms today. “Obviously the patch is done, but Microsoft’s and its partners’ telemetry must have shown that there were no reasons to go out-of-band.”

Historically, Microsoft has issued “out-of-band” updates — those outside the normal monthly release schedule — only when it believes large numbers of its customers are at risk. The company has never publicly disclosed how it decides when to ship an out-of-band security update.

The early date of October’s Patch Tuesday — always the second Tuesday of the month — may have played a part in Microsoft’s decision to hold the update and not go out-of-band, Storms said.

The IE update was just one of four rated “critical” by Microsoft. The remaining three critical updates were all aimed at Windows, including one that applied to the newest Windows 8, Windows RT, Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1, according to Microsoft’s advanced notification distributed today.

Experts recommended that customers install the Windows updates as soon as possible after their release. “Bulletins 2 and 3 are through the stack and might end up rating more attention than the IE update,” warned Storms.

Microsoft said Bulletin 3 did not affect Windows 8.1 or Windows RT 8.1, but that Bulletin 2 did.

The other four updates will patch vulnerabilities in Excel, other pieces of Office, the SharePoint collaboration server software and Silverlight, a media format Microsoft seems to have discarded or at least isn’t interested in developing further.

Because the Office-related vulnerabilities were ranked as “important” even though Microsoft said hackers could exploit them to plant malware on customers’ PCs, Storms said it was probable that any attack code required considerable user interaction to work, such as downloading files, opening shared folders or clicking through multiple warnings.

“Being exploited via a drive-by is not going to happen,” said Storms, referring to the most dangerous attacks, which only require a user to visit a malicious website to trigger exploits.

Microsoft will release next week’s security updates on Oct. 8 around 1 p.m. ET.


Hackers steal data on 2.9 million Adobe customers

Source code for some Adobe products also was stolen

Lucian Constantin

October 3, 2013 (IDG News Service)


Hackers broke into the internal computer network of Adobe Systems and stole information on 2.9 million customers, as well as source code for several of the company’s products.

Adobe’s security team discovered “sophisticated attacks” on the company’s network “very recently,” Brad Arkin, Adobe’s chief security officer, said Thursday in a blog post announcing the incident.

So far, Adobe’s investigation has revealed that attackers managed to access Adobe customer IDs and encrypted passwords, as well as obtain information on 2.9 million customers, including names, encrypted credit or debit card numbers with their expiration dates, and other customer order details.

“At this time, we do not believe the attackers removed decrypted credit or debit card numbers from our systems,” Arkin said.

“Our investigation to date indicates that the cyber attackers removed certain customer information between September 11 and September 17, 2013,” an Adobe spokeswoman said via email. As far as the timeline for the source-code compromise is concerned, the investigation is ongoing, she said.

It’s not clear if the same attackers are responsible for the compromise of customer information and accounts and the theft of source code.

Adobe is in the process of resetting the passwords of all affected Adobe ID accounts and notifying customers whose credit or debit card information was involved in the security breach. The company is offering U.S.-based customers a one-year complimentary membership in a credit monitoring service.

Adobe has alerted the banks processing customer payments and is working with external partners and law enforcement to address the incident.

According to Arkin, hackers also appear to have accessed the source code of “numerous Adobe products.” However, only Adobe Acrobat, ColdFusion and ColdFusion Builder have been named so far.

“Based on our findings to date, we are not aware of any specific increased risk to customers as a result of this incident,” Arkin said in a separate blog post, adding that Adobe is not aware of any zero-day exploits — exploits against previously unknown vulnerabilities — being used to target Adobe products.

Arkin credited security journalist Brian Krebs, as well as Alex Holden, chief information security officer of Hold Security, a company that monitors the Internet underground for stolen business data, with helping Adobe respond to the incident.

According to Hold Security, more than 40GB of encrypted archives that appear to contain the source code for the Adobe Acrobat and Adobe ColdFusion product lines were found on servers used by cybercriminals who are believed to have also hacked into computer systems of major data brokers Dun and Bradstreet, LexisNexis and Kroll Background America.

The breach appears to have occurred in early August, and it’s unclear whether the hackers analyzed the source code or used it for malicious purposes, Holden said on its website.

The firm seems to disagree with Adobe on the potential security impact of the source code being stolen.


“Adobe products are installed on most end-user devices and used on many corporate and government servers around the world,” Holden Security said in a blog post. “While we are not aware of specific use of data from the source code, we fear that disclosure of encryption algorithms, other security schemes, and software vulnerabilities can be used to bypass protections for individual and corporate data. Effectively, this breach may have opened a gateway for [a] new generation of viruses, malware, and exploits.”

Adobe could not confirm whether the popular Adobe Reader product was also affected, or if the security breach also resulted in the theft of encryption keys or code-signing certificates.

“Our investigation is still ongoing,” the Adobe spokeswoman said.

This is not the first time hackers have compromised Adobe’s internal computer systems. Last year, attackers gained access to an Adobe code-signing server and used it to digitally sign malware.


Lockheed, Boeing to Start Furloughing Employees Next Week

Defense News

Oct. 4, 2013 – 02:45PM |



WASHINGTON — Defense giants Lockheed Martin and Boeing will begin furloughing thousands of employees Monday if the US government shutdown continues next week, according to company officials.

Maryland-based Lockheed Martin will furlough approximately 3,000 employees on Monday, a number the company says will likely increase as the government shutdown continues. Employees from across Lockheed’s businesses will be impacted by the furloughs.

“We expect the number of employees affected by the shutdown to grow as we experience contractual actions and the impact of furloughs among [Defense Contract Management Agency] and other customer inspectors across our business and our suppliers’ businesses,” Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson said in a memo to employees.

“I’m disappointed that we must take these actions and we continue to encourage our lawmakers to come together to pass a funding bill that will end this shutdown,” Hewson added.

A Boeing spokeswoman said the Chicago-based company would begin furloughs next week if the shutdown continued. The company was still tabulating the number of impacted employees.

“Boeing is seeing increasing effects on certain daily operations that involve U.S. government facilities and people,” Meghan McCormick, a company spokeswoman said in an email. “Boeing will continue working with its customers and suppliers to maintain normal operations in as many parts of our business as possible. While the company is working to limit the negative impact of the shutdown on customers and employees, we expect more consequences could emerge in the coming days, including limited furloughs of employees in some areas.”

Earlier this week, Lockheed released a statement indicating it hoped to avoid furloughs.

“We will continue to conduct business with the same dedication to our purpose and commitment to our customers,” the company said then. “Unless we are directed otherwise by our customers, our facilities will remain open, and our employees will continue to receive their pay and benefits.”

When asked what changed, a spokesman for Lockheed said ongoing discussions with the Pentagon led the company to make a decision to begin furloughs.

“It’s in their interest and our interest to keep production moving,” the spokesman said. “They need what they bought, but they’re working within confines of the government shutdown as well.”

Just a day earlier, Boeing issued a much more positive statement that said it had “contingency plans in place to deal with interruptions to normal operations. Boeing has maintained an open dialogue with its customers and suppliers to maintain normal operations in as many parts of the business as possible. We continue to monitor the situation and provide updates on any interrupted operations.”


Defense Companies Warn Thousands Of Layoffs Imminent Due To Shutdown



10/04/2013 @ 9:47AM


The Sikorsky unit of United Technologies that makes this Black Hawk helicopter and other rotorcraft for the joint force says it will have to furlough 2,000 workers on Monday because production can’t continue in the absence of federal inspectors who audit and approve processes. Other military contractors will be forced to take similar action if federal workers remain furloughed, with the economic consequences rippling through the defense supply chain and related industries.

Military contractors are warning government officials that they are only days away from furloughing thousands of workers if the government’s partial shutdown continues. The Sikorsky helicopter unit of United Technologies UTX +0.16% says it will furlough 2,000 workers on Monday due to the absence of federal inspectors from its plants who audit and approve various stages in the production process. UTX’s Pratt & Whitney engine business expects to furlough an additional 2,000 at week’s end if the shutdown continues.

Some industry employees have already begun to head home. Linda Hudson, CEO of fifth-ranked Pentagon contractor BAE Systems BAE Systems, Inc., told employees in an internal communication yesterday that, “The impact on our Intelligence & Security sector has been significant, with about 1,000 employees already excused from work at their customer sites.”

Much of BAE’s work in defense electronics, armored vehicles and ship repair is funded by prior-year budgets and thus does not immediately require additional appropriations to continue into the new fiscal year. However, without representatives from the Defense Contract Management Agency to perform required inspections, production activity at all of the major military contractors is beginning to slow. DCMA has furloughed 85% of its personnel for the duration of the government shutdown.

A letter to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel from the industry’s two biggest associations yesterday noted that the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will also cease functioning next week, slowing the disbursement of funds that are still available to contractors. It warned that, “The impact on credit lines for small businesses and cash flow for other than small businesses will be significant in short order.” That’s a diplomatic way of saying companies won’t have the money to pay their workers or their suppliers.

One senior industry executive told me that within days, the layoffs at prime contractors and their hundreds of subcontractors will number in the tens of thousands. Defense plants are concentrated in a handful of states such as Florida and Texas, where industry layoffs will exacerbate the economic impact already being felt from furloughs of federal workers. The defense department has deemed about 400,000 of its civilian employees to be non-essential, and most of them work at bases scattered across the nation (especially in the South).

The impact of the shutdown varies considerably from company to company, depending on how their products are funded and regulated by the military customer. For example, the number of government inspections and certifications required at various stages in the production process is very different at Sikorsky’s helicopter facilities in Alabama, Connecticut and Florida than it is at the sprawling shipyards Huntington Ingalls Industries operates in Mississippi and Virginia.

However, because the defense industry is the most heavily regulated sector of the U.S. economy, there is little doubt that if government acquisition personnel remain furloughed for a long time, virtually all defense production will eventually cease. That will inevitably impact company results across the supply chain, and also in other industries that generate revenues indirectly as a result of defense production. About 10% of the manufacturing workforce in the U.S. is engaged in some aspect of defense production.


How the Adobe hack could fuel next wave of cyberattacks

Byron Acohido


4:52 p.m. EDT October 4, 2013


SEATTLE – Adobe has taken several steps to calm concerns among its corporate users about the loss of customer account data and critical source code to hackers.

The company has begun advising enterprise customers that Adobe product users will be required to change their account password at their next login attempt.

The breach does not affect users of Adobe Creative Cloud or Digital Publishing Suite — other than a password reset.

Adobe will also be sending notification letters over the next two weeks to customers whose individual accounts were breached.

“There are no indications to date that attackers have leveraged the illegally accessed source code to harm Adobe customers,” says Adobe’s CSO, Brad Arkin. “We are not aware of any specific increased risk to customers as a result of a potential theft of the product source code.”

The fact that it took an exposé by to prompt Adobe to alert customers of this devastating breach is not surprising, says Peter Toren, a former federal prosecutor of computer crimes, who is now with Weisbrod Matteis & Copley.

All but four states have enacted data loss disclosure laws modeled after the pioneering California statute that was the first to require companies to notify customers, should any personal data held by the business turn up lost or stolen. Only Alabama, Kentucky, New Mexico and South Dakota do not have data loss disclosure laws, according to

But adherence to such laws has been uneven. “As this highlights, data loss disclosure laws are not nearly as effective in protecting consumers as they should or need to be,” Toren says. “Presently, there is no federal law addressing this issue and the state laws that do exist are patchwork of different standards and requirements.”

Despite the law, there remains minimal incentive for companies to do the right thing. “Many companies believe that it is worth the risk of not reporting since reporting could mean a loss of consumer confidence in the brand,” Toren says. “Until there is a federal law with real penalties for not reporting, these type of incidents are likely to continue.”

Meanwhile, corporations would be wise to brace for a fresh wave cybercriminal activity that is likely to spin out of the Adobe breach, security experts say.

Now out in the Internet wild are personal and financial data for 2.9 million more individuals — Adobe product users. Perhaps more worrisome, source code for Adobe Acrobat PDF reader and Adobe ColdFusion web app developer’s tool has begun circulating.

Concern is brewing that the bad guys seem certain to use knowledge of Acrobat source code to intensify already widespread attacks revolving around corrupted PDFs.

“Having the source code to an application is like having the blueprints to a product,” says George Tubin, senior security strategist at Trusteer, an IBM company, “having access to it expedites the vulnerability identification process — leading to more weaknesses being identified and used for cybercrime.”

Dave Jevans, CTO and founder of mobile security vendor Marble Security, concurs. “It is 100 times easier to find new exploits if you have the source code, than if you have to disassemble the binary,” Jevans says. “Plus you may discover exploits on other platforms, like the Mac.”

The fact that ColdFusion’s source code is out in the open is particularly ominous. ColdFusion supports the new HTML5 standard being used for the new generation of mobile apps, and it is widely used in building websites, business apps and mobile apps for corporate use.

“Now that attackers have access to the ColdFusion source code they can much more easily find exploits and attack enterprises through their own web apps and mobile apps,” Jevans says. “This could create the next wave of advanced attacks against enterprises.”

Tubin points out that the bad guys have already started using ColdFusion vulnerabilities to deliver malicious content to computing devices.

By reverse engineering ColdFusion’s code, bad guys are likely to find fresh security holes, that “can give hackers full access to the web server, all files on the server and admin rights to the server,” Tubin observes. “Further, this type of compromise can be used as a stepping stone into the broader corporate network in an APT (advanced persistent threat) type of attack.”


Pentagon to recall most furloughed workers, Hagel says

By Craig Whitlock, Updated: Saturday, October 5, 6:29 PM

The Pentagon will recall almost all of its 350,000 furloughed civilian workers in the coming days, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced Saturday, in a move that could substantially ease the impact of the government shutdown on the federal workforce.

Hagel’s decision is based on a liberal interpretation of a bill passed by Congress last week and signed by President Obama that ensures uniformed members of the military will not have their paychecks delayed by the shutdown. The law, titled the Pay Our Military Act, includes broad language exempting Defense Department civilians from furlough if they provide direct support to the military.

Robert F. Hale, the Pentagon comptroller, estimated that more than 90 percent of about 350,000 furloughed Defense Department employees would return to work, many of them as soon as Monday. “We hope to move very quickly,” Hale told reporters.

The Defense Department directly employs about 750,000 civilians. Pentagon officials had previously said about 400,000 of them had been furloughed because of the government shutdown. Hale revised that number Saturday, saying that 350,000 was a more accurate figure.

He said he could not precisely say how many people would be able to return to work because officials were still determining which employees qualified under the new law. He said he hoped that “no more than a few tens of thousands will remain on furlough,” and maybe even fewer than that.

“Although we’re very happy we’re getting most of our people back,” Hale added, “we haven’t solved all the problems.”

Regardless, the Pentagon announcement will dramatically scale back the government shutdown. Defense Department civilian employees had represented nearly half of the estimated 800,000 federal workers who have been furloughed for the past week.

After consulting with Pentagon lawyers and other Obama administration officials in recent days, Hagel decided that he could justify recalling almost of the Pentagon’s furloughed workforce based on provisions in the Pay Our Military Act.

In a statement, Hagel said the Justice Department advised that the law would not permit a blanket recall of all civilians working for the Pentagon. But he added that attorneys for the Justice and Defense departments agreed that the law does permit the Pentagon to eliminate furloughs “for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.”

Hagel said he has directed the armed services and defense agencies to determine exactly how many employees can come back to work. Workers, he said, can expect to hear from their managers starting this weekend whether they can return to their jobs.

“I expect us to significantly reduce – but not eliminate – civilian furloughs under this process,” he said. “We will continue to try to bring all civilian employees back to work as soon as possible. Ultimately, the surest way to end these damaging and irresponsible furloughs, and to enable us to fulfill our mission as a Department, is for Congress to pass a budget and restore funds for the entire federal government.”

Paradoxically, however, the Pentagon’s announcement could actually relieve political pressure on lawmakers to end the shutdown by cancelling furloughs for at least 300,000 federal employees.

Moreover, Hagel’s decision could bring some relief to thousands of private contractors who work for the Defense Department but had faced the threat of layoffs because of the government shutdown. On Friday, for example, Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin said it would furlough about 3,000 employees next week and expects that number to grow if the budget standoff doesn’t end soon.

“I am very pleased to see so many of our national security workforce will be able to return to work,” Rep. Howard P. McKeon (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said in a statement. “Congress gave the Executive Branch broad authority to keep our Armed Forces and dedicated defense civilians working throughout the government shutdown. Though I do not believe the law required these hundreds of thousands of workers to be furloughed in the first place, it is welcome news.”

In a memo, Hagel noted that the Pay Our Military Act appropriates funds “as are necessary to provide pay and allowances to contractors” working for the Pentagon. He said that government lawyers are still “analyzing what authority is provided by this provision.”

Hagel’s memo offers some general guidance for which furloughed Defense Department employees can expect to return to work.

Those who will likely receive a green light include people who provide health care to troops and their families; buy, repair or maintain weapons systems; work at commissaries or acquire other supplies for the military.

Those who might not be covered include auditors, employees who work in public affairs or legislative affairs, or civilian employees of the Army Corps of Engineers, according to the memo.

The Pentagon’s announcement will affect a vast global workforce. Hale said that 86 percent of the department’s civilian employees work outside the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.


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

Rasmussen Reports

Bottom of Form

Saturday, October 05, 2013

The longer the federal government remains partially shut down, the more the partisan blame game escalates. But voters remain conflicted, just as they are about the health care law at the heart of the dispute.

Most voters still don’t like the health care law, and 54% expect it to increase, not reduce, health care costs.

One-out-of-two voters continue to oppose the law’s requirement that every American have health insurance. Most also were still unaware at the beginning of the week if their state has a health care exchange even as those exchanges were scheduled to start signing up insurance applicants.

In mid-September, 51% of voters liked the idea of a government shutdown until spending for the health care law was cut, while 40% favored no shutdown and keeping spending on the law at existing levels. By the beginning of this past week, though, support for a shutdown until cuts were made to slow or stop Obamacare was down five points to 46%. Just as many (45%) wanted to avoid a shutdown by authorizing spending for the law at existing levels.

Sixty percent (60%) said a partial shutdown of the federal government would be bad for the economy even though payments for things like Social Security, Medicare and unemployment benefits would continue.

Negative reviews for Congress are now at their highest level in nearly two years. Nine percent (9%) of voters rate the way Congress is doing its job as good or excellent, but 70% say it’s doing a poor job. Tellingly, however, while Democrats are more critical of Congress than they were two weeks ago, Republicans are giving the legislators more positive ratings now.

Voters in general are slightly more likely to identify with President Obama and congressional Democrats these days, but a surprising problem for congressional Republicans is that 21% think they are too liberal.
A closer look suggests that Republicans don’t think their representatives in Congress are conservative enough.

This helps explain why while freshman Texas Senator Ted Cruz may not be popular with the Republican establishment, 57% of GOP voters view him favorably, including 30% with a Very Favorable opinion. In March, 52% of Republicans had a favorable view of Senator John McCain, one of Cruz’s harshest critics, but that included only 16% with a Very Favorable one.

Among all voters, 50% view the agenda of Republicans in Congress as extreme, while 46% say the same of the Democratic congressional agenda.

In a survey completed just before the shutdown, Democrats extended their lead over Republicans to four points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

After three days of slightly improved job approval ratings as the government shutdown took effect, numbers for Obama appear to have returned to levels seen for much of his presidency.

The president’s total job approval inched up a point to 48% in September, his highest rating since May. Still, that’s down eight points from December’s high of 56%.

Forty-nine percent (49%) of Americans think the Founding Fathers would view the United States today as a failure.

Still, 93% consider it at least somewhat important to be an American citizen, with 79% who think it is Very Important. However, 26% believe it is too easy to become a citizen of the United States.

Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans regard themselves as informed citizens, but only 12% think most of their fellow countrymen are informed voters.

Americans still get most of their news from television, and a plurality (41%) says U.S. politics is the type of news they are most likely to look at first. Thirty percent (30%) are most likely to look at local news first, while 12% look first at business news.

The Internet. E-mail. Social media. With easy access to information at any hour of the day, Americans claim to be pretty well informed about the world around them.  But are they?

Eighty-six percent (86%) of voters think it is important for the economic system to provide everyone with an opportunity to succeed, but just 41% think the U.S. economy now is even somewhat fair.

The Rasmussen Employment Index, which measures worker confidence, fell four points in September to its lowest level this year.

Consumer and investor confidence have also fallen back from the highs they hit earlier this year but still remain well above levels seen from 2009 through 2012.

Forty-two percent (42%) of Working Americans believe their earnings will be higher a year from today, the highest level of optimism since the beginning of the year. Most (66%) also continue to consider themselves to be middle class.

One-in-four (24%) is looking for work outside his or her current company.

In other surveys last week:

– For the second week in a row, 28% of Likely U.S. Voters say the country is heading in the right direction.

– The U.S. Justice Department announced Monday that it is challenging North Carolina’s new voter ID law on the grounds that it is racially discriminatory. But 70% of voters believe all voters should be required to prove their identity before being allowed to vote. Fifty-nine percent (59%) do not believe such laws discriminate.

– Voters are evenly divided over the need for stricter gun control, but 73% think the United States needs stricter enforcement of gun control laws already on the books.

Fewer voters than ever give the president positive ratings on gun control-related issues. Just 34% now rate his handling of issues related to gun control as good or excellent.

– Fifty-seven percent (57%) still favor building the Keystone XL pipeline.

– Sixty percent (60%) think most Supreme Court justices have their own political agenda.

– Seventy-one percent (71%) of Americans say they have returned a lost wallet that they have found, but just 31% have had a lost wallet returned to them.


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