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December 13 2014

13 December 2014


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Airbus in Near Miss with a Drone at London Heathrow Airport

December 8, 2014


A passenger plane had a near miss with a drone as it landed at Heathrow, in the first such incident recorded at Britain’s biggest airport. The incident involved an Airbus A320, which can carry up to 180 passengers, and was rated by investigators as among the most serious near-collisions.

The UK Airprox Board (UKAB), which will publish its findings on Friday, is expected to record an incident risk rating of A – the highest of five categories – defined as a “serious risk of collision”.

The report  said the pilot of an Airbus A320 spotted the drone, which failed to show up on air traffic control systems, at 2.16pm on 22 July while flying at an altitude of 700ft.

The pilot reported the incident to the UKAB, which launched an inquiry, but the owner of the drone has never been identified.

The Airbus A320 is a short-haul jet that can carry 180 passengers and is commonly used by European airlines

Earlier this year the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) demanded better protection for the public from the risks of drones.

It wants drones, officially known as remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), which share airspace with passenger and freight airliners, to meet the same safety standards as piloted aircraft. It includes being flown only by operators with pilot-equivalent training.

Balpa’s general secretary, Jim McAuslan, said: “The UK should become a ‘safe drone zone’ so we can make the most of the major business and leisure opportunities offered by remotely piloted aircraft, while protecting passengers, pilots and residents.

“The technology is developing quickly and we could see remote aircraft the same size as a Boeing 737 being operated commercially in our skies within 10 years.”

Research carried out by intelligence experts for a University of Birmingham policy commission report published in October warned of the misuse of drones.

The commission called for urgent measures to safeguard British airspace to cope with civil and commercial use, which is expected to be more widespread by 2035.

The report said the “hazards presented by inadvertent or accidental misuse of RPAS, or the consequences of their malfunctioning are becoming better understood”. It added that small commercial aircraft, including for taking photographs, are already being flown and often in breach of the rules.


Multirotor came within 20 feet of airliner AIRPROX REPORT No 2014117

by Gary Mortimer • 12 December 2014


THE A320 PILOT reports being on short final to land on RW09L at Heathrow. The blue and white aircraft had external lights selected on, as was the SSR transponder with Modes A, C and S. The aircraft was fitted with TCAS II. The pilot was operating under IFR, in VMC; the Air Traffic Service was not reported.

He stated that a small black object was seen to the left of the aircraft as they passed 700ft in the descent, which passed about 20ft over the wing. It appeared to be a small radio controlled helicopter. The object did not strike his aircraft and he made a normal landing but it was a distraction during a critical phase of flight. ATC was informed of the object’s presence and following aircraft were notified.

THE MODEL OPERATOR: Despite extensive tracing action and the proactive assistance of local model-flying-club members, it was not possible to trace the operator of the model aircraft in question.

Factual Background

The weather at Heathrow was recorded as follows:

METAR EGLL 221420Z 04007KT 340V070 9999 FEW048 27/14 Q1022 NOSIG


Analysis and Investigation

UKAB Secretariat

The Air Navigation Order 2009 (as amended), Article 138


‘A person must not recklessly or negligently cause or permit an aircraft to endanger any person or


Article 166, paragraphs 2, 3 and 4 state:

(2) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft may only fly the aircraft if reasonably satisfied that the flight can safely be made.

(3) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft must maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the aircraft sufficient to monitor its flight path in relation to other aircraft, persons, vehicles, vessels and structures for the purpose of avoiding collisions.’

(4) The person in charge of a small unmanned aircraft which has a mass of more than 7kg excluding its fuel but including any articles or equipment installed in or attached to the aircraft at the commencement of its flight, must not fly the aircraft


(a) in Class A, C, D or E airspace unless the permission of the appropriate air traffic control unit

has been obtained;

(b) within an aerodrome traffic zone …; or

(c) at a height of more than 400 feet above the surface unless it is flying in airspace described in

sub-paragraph (a) or (b) and in accordance with the requirements for that airspace.’



An Airprox was reported when an Airbus A320 and a suspected radio controlled model helicopter came into proximity at 1416 on Tuesday 22nd July 2014. The A320 pilot was operating under IFR in VMC, in receipt of an Aerodrome Control Service from Heathrow Tower.



Information available consisted of a report from the A320 pilot and radar photographs/video recordings. The model helicopter did not appear on radar and, from the A320 pilot’s description, was probably of a size that could not be considered likely to do so.

The Board members were satisfied that the A320 crew had seen a model helicopter and were of the unanimous opinion that the operator of the model had chosen to fly it in an entirely inappropriate location. That the dangers associated with flying such a model in close proximity to a Commercial Air Transport aircraft in the final stages of landing were not self-evident was a cause for considerable concern. Members reiterated that anyone operating an air vehicle, of whatever kind, had to do so with due consideration for regulation and for other airspace users, and preferably under the auspices of an established association or club. The Board were heartened to hear of work being undertaken by the CAA to bring the issue of remotely piloted aircraft operations to wider public attention, an example being the recent issue of CAP1202, giving advice for the conduct of such operations. The UKAB Secretariat also pointed out that a link to ‘CAA UAS/UAV Information and Guidance’ could be found on the Airprox Board website

The Board concluded that the cause of the Airprox was that the suspected model helicopter had been flown into conflict with the A320, and that the risk amounted to a situation that had stopped just short of an actual collision where separation had been reduced to the minimum.



Cause: A suspected model aircraft was flown into conflict with the A320.

Degree of Risk: A.

ERC Score: 1



If GoPro gets into consumer drones, the industry could finally have the innovation champion it needs

by Press • 7 December 2014

By Dominic Basulto

In order for any consumer technology to go mainstream, it needs one tech giant to emerge as its innovation champion. In search, it’s Google. In social networking, it’s Facebook. In digital music, it’s Apple. In e-commerce, it’s Amazon. And now the consumer drone market might one day have GoPro, the wildly popular action camera maker that just went public in June.

According to a credible report from the Wall Street Journal, GoPro is considering the launch of its own line of multirotor consumer drones priced between $500 and $1,000 by late 2015. While GoPro hasn’t officially confirmed or denied the report, they have joined a Washington-based drone-lobbying group, the Small UAV Coalition. And moving into consumer drones would be a likely next step for them, given the popularity of aerial photography for GoPro users.

Almost overnight, GoPro would become the odds-on favorite to become the leader and champion of the fast-growing consumer drone market. According to Teal Group, an aerospace research firm, the worldwide UAV (unmanned aerial vehicles) market – including both military and civilian drones – is expected to nearly double in size over the next ten years, from $6.4 billion to $11.5 billion.

Right now, military drones account for 89 percent of that total, so the total worldwide civil UAV market is relatively tiny, approximately $700 million. The consumer drone market (i.e. the market for personal, hobbyist drones and not the market for mapping or search-and-rescue drones) is even tinier, estimated by the Consumer Electronics Association to be $130 million in 2015. To put that number into context, GoPro’s sales through the first nine months of 2014 — $763 million — is almost six times the size of the personal drone category and bigger than the size of the entire worldwide civil UAV market.

So whom would GoPro have to knock off in order to become the undisputed champion of the consumer drone market?

There are three consumer drone manufacturers that are considered the industry leaders – China’s DJI Innovations, France’s Parrot and California’s 3D Robotics (founded by former Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson). According to industry estimates, DJI posted $131 million in annual sales in 2013. The next closest competitor is France’s Parrot, with$53.35 million in sales in fiscal 2013.

There’s not a single U.S. tech giant in the consumer drone market. in other words, there’s no Apple waiting in the wings with an Apple Drone to take on GoPro. While both Facebook and Google acquired drone companies in 2014, and Amazon seems to be embracing drones for commercial deliveries via Amazon Prime Air, none of them has created a drone that consumers can walk in and buy at a retail store. And even market leader DJI could be ripe for the picking, given that the company only launched its Phantom quadcopters in 2013 – hardly enough time to gain true brand equity in the marketplace.

At the end of the day, if American consumers had the chance to choose between “designed in the USA” (GoPro) and “designed in China” (DJI), which one do you think they’re going to pick?

Right now, we don’t know exactly what GoPro is going to create with its consumer drones. Company spokesmen are keeping things close to the vest, only noting that the company’s users are creating “jaw-dropping GoPro footage recorded from quadcopters.” So there’s reason to expect more from GoPro in this direction — it’s a natural brand extension, given that the company already provides cameras for drones.

There are two basic options for GoPro – either the company creates a new standalone consumer drone with an internal GoPro camera, or it essentially adapts a drone model already in the marketplace, equips it with a sophisticated mount, and lets users hook on an existing GoPro camera. You can see immediately see which of these two options is more valuable for GoPro – they’ve got to build the drone with the internal camera because there are already a handful of companies that already offer the “drone plus mount” option for aerial photography. Why would you bother buying a new GoPro drone if you can just buy another drone and mount a GoPro on it?

Another big question is how the FAA is going to rule on drones. That matters a lot, since the civil UAV market is expected to explode in popularity if the FAA gives the green light for commercial drones. Right now, civil drones are essentially limited to hobbyists, they cannot be flown above 400 feet in the air and they cannot be flown close to airports.

Yet, even with those restrictions in place, there are signs of drone mania taking off. It’s not just aerial photography, which is far and away the biggest drone hobbyist use so far. Filmmaking could be next, now that Hollywood has received the green light to use them for filmmaking. We may even see more creative uses unveiled at January’s CES tech trade show in Las Vegas, which for the first time ever, is going to have an Unmanned Systems Marketplace.

For now, though, all eyes are Washington and not on Vegas. It seems like we’ve been expecting an FAA ruling forever. And now even the White House has been pushing for more guidance. There’s a lot of regulatory risk here, especially given all the concern about airplane-drone accidents. In fact, perhaps based on all those concerns, the latest reports are that the FAA will go ultra-strict on its commercial drone ruling, perhaps even limiting consumer drone use to daylight hours and requiring all commercial drone operators to get a pilot’s license.



China Reaches Out To US For Space Data: Air Force Space Commander

By Colin Clark

on December 08, 2014 at 11:41 AM

WASHINGTON: China has taken the unprecedented step of asking Air Force Space Command to share information about possible satellite and satellite debris collisions. The United States had been sharing so-called conjunction warnings with China through the State Department, but no one knew if China actually paid any attention because the data was never acknowledged.

Then, quite recently, the head of Air Force Space Command, Gen. John Hyten, got a formal request from the Chinese to share the information directly. “The Chinese have asked to get data straight from our operations center to their operations center without going through State,” Hyten said during a Capitol Hill breakfast. How significant is this, I asked after we ate. “To me, it’s a big deal.”

I understand that China had committed to this in July as part of the U.S.-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue. The summary document about the agreement between the two countries says the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs “committed to provide e-mail contact information for appropriate Chinese entities responsible for spacecraft operations and conjunction assessment, allowing these entities to receive Close Approach Notifications directly from the United States Department of Defense.”

Of course, getting the PRC’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to get the People’s Liberation Army to do something doesn’t always happen quickly — if at all. Observers of the fallout after the Chinese anti-satellite test will remember that Foreign Affairs appeared absolutely clueless about the test, both publicly and privately. And that anti-satellite test, ironically, was responsible for an enormous increase in the amount of space debris that may cause a collision. That the United States will play the responsible global citizen and provide conjunction data to the Chinese after the test only deepens the irony.

Of course, for the Chinese it’s a win as the US catalogue and tracking of orbital data is considered the best there is and they are getting direct access to it should any of their satellites be threatened. But this also provides proof to the Chinese that playing by international rules and norms can provide tangible benefits, which surely played a key role in the sharing being approved. Several attendees at the space breakfast said the Chinese request marked an important step forward in US-Chinese military-to-military relations and welcomed it.

One of the foremost US authorities on the Chinese military’s space efforts says in an email that the Chinese move demonstrates “first and foremost, that in the Chinese system the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is NOT a powerful entity. This is reflected in the basic reality that the Foreign Minister has not been a member of the Politburo since the days of Qian Qichen, in the late 1990s.”

He believes that the PLA “is most likely acting, in the first place, to remove an unnecessary link in the chain of information, especially important since conjunction data is perishable.

“Given China’s steadily improving space situational awareness system, my own guess is that they are accessing this data, first, to minimize the chances of a conjunction. There have been some interesting stories in the Chinese press about moving satellites to avoid collisions. It is unclear what data has been used to make that determination, whether it is primarily home-grown, from the US, from third parties, or a combination. Second, it may be to double-check their own data: What are the Americans seeing that we are not? This may be partly a matter of resolution, and partly a possible source of intelligence. There was a brouhaha a few years back where we were reporting in our space catalogs European satellites that the Europeans denied existed.”

So what does America get out of this? “For the United States,” Cheng writes, “ideally this would be an opportunity for us to gain insight into what organizations play a role in China’s space situational awareness organization. Who gets this data (almost certainly the General Armaments Department)? Who else outside the military gets this data? How does it get incorporated into China’s SSA system? In particular, does the China National Space Administration (CNSA) get this data, and at what point? (I doubt the information is going from us to CNSA).”

In the end, Cheng assesses this is not the beginning of a fundamental change to US-Chinese military to military relations. “What WON’T change is that Chinese space (and military, but I repeat myself) officials will NOT engage in direct, US-PRC communications. Certainly not in a crisis, and probably only minimally in peacetime, even with this new connection.”


Banks Urge Clients to Take Cash Elsewhere

New Rules Mean Some Deposits Aren’t Worth It, J.P. Morgan, Citigroup and Others Tell Large U.S. Clients


The Wall Street Journal

By Kirsten Grind, James Sterngold and Juliet Chung

Dec. 7, 2014 8:57 p.m. ET

Banks are urging some of their largest customers in the U.S. to take their cash elsewhere or be slapped with fees, citing new regulations that make it onerous for them to hold certain deposits.

The banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc., HSBC Holdings PLC, Deutsche Bank AG and Bank of America Corp. , have spoken privately with clients in recent months to tell them that the new regulations are making some deposits less profitable, according to people familiar with the conversations.


In some cases, the banks have told clients, which range from large companies to hedge funds, insurers and smaller banks, that they will begin charging fees on accounts that have been free for big customers, the people said. Bank officials are also working with these firms to find alternatives for some of their deposits, they said.

The change upends one of the cornerstones of banking, in which deposits have been seen as one of the industry’s most attractive forms of funding, said more than a dozen corporate officials, consultants and bank executives interviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

Deposits have traditionally been a crucial growth engine for banks. Banks generally pay depositors one interest rate and then make loans with higher rates, often collecting fees in the process. But deposits also can be withdrawn at any time, potentially leaving a bank short of cash if too much money is removed at once.

The new rule driving the action is part of a broader effort by U.S. regulators and policy makers to make the financial system safer. But the move may inconvenience corporations that now have to pay new fees or look for alternatives to their bank.

Sal Sammartino, vice president of banking at Stewart Title, a unit of Stewart Information Services Corp. , a global title insurance company based in Houston, said he has had sleepless nights in recent weeks as he has negotiated with large banks to try to keep the firm’s deposits there. He declined to name the banks.

“Ultimately my balances aren’t as profitable for the banks, and that’s going to impact my business,” he said.

In an environment of slow economic growth with fewer opportunities to make loans and ultralow interest rates, some banks feel they have too much money on deposit.

Some banks, including J.P. Morgan and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. , have also started charging institutional clients fees to hold euro deposits, mainly driven by the European Central Bank’s move to make firms pay to park their cash with the ECB. BNY Mellon recently started charging 0.2% on euro deposits. State Street Corp. said in its third-quarter earnings call in October that it planned to begin charging fees later this year on euro deposits.

U.S. banking rules set to go into effect Jan. 1 compound the issue, especially for deposits that are viewed as less likely to stay at the bank through difficult times.

The new U.S. rules, designed to make bank balance sheets more resistant to the types of shocks that contributed to the 2008 financial crisis, will likely have little effect on retail deposits, insured up to $250,000 by federal deposit insurance. But the rules do affect larger deposits that often come from big corporations, smaller banks and big financial firms such as hedge funds.

Hundreds of companies and other bank customers with deposits that exceed the insurance limits could be affected by the banks’ actions.

Overall, about $4 trillion in deposits at banks in the U.S. were uninsured, covering more than 3.5 million accounts, according to Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. data.

The rule primarily responsible involves the liquidity coverage ratio, overseen by the Federal Reserve and other banking regulators. The new measure, finalized in September, as well as some other recent global regulations, are designed to make banks safer by helping them manage sudden outflows of deposits in a crisis.

The banks are required to maintain enough high-quality assets that could be converted into cash during a crisis to cover a projected flight of deposits over 30 days.

Because large, uninsured deposits would be expected to leave most quickly, the rule will now require that banks maintain reserves that they cannot use for profitable activities like making loans. That makes it much less efficient or profitable for banks to hold these deposits.

The new rules treat various types of deposits differently, based on how fast they are likely to be withdrawn. Insured deposits from retail customers are regarded as more safe and require that banks hold reserves equal to as little as 3% of the sums.

But the banks must hold reserves of as much as 40% against certain corporate deposits and as much as 100% of some big deposits from financial institutions such as hedge funds.

Some corporate officials said the new rules could make it more expensive for them to keep money in the bank or push them into riskier savings instruments such as short-term bond funds or uninsured money-market funds.

“You’re going to see a lot of corporations that have had much simpler portfolios that are going to move toward more sophisticated portfolios,” said Tory Hazard, president and chief operating officer of Institutional Cash Distributors, a broker to large clients looking for places to hold their cash.

Some bankers said they are advising corporate clients to break up large deposits across several banks, including smaller ones not affected by all of the new rules. Others might be attracted to other products offered by banks or products being created by asset managers.

Some customers are negotiating for a reduction in the fees, said people familiar with the discussions.

J.P. Morgan told some clients of its commercial bank recently that it would begin charging monthly fees on deposit accounts from which clients can withdraw money at any time. The new charges will start Jan. 1 for U.S. accounts, according to an Oct. 21 memo reviewed by the Journal, and later for international accounts.

“New liquidity and capital requirements have changed the operating environment and increased the cost of doing business with financial institutions,” the memo read.

The change affects some hedge-fund customers, rather than corporate accounts. The charges include items such as a $500 monthly account maintenance fee for demand deposits and a $25 charge per paper statement.

Larger clients with broad, long-term relationships with their banks may get a break on the new fees, according to people familiar with the situation. Banks also are likely to differentiate between clients’ operational deposits, used for things like payroll, and excess cash that can be pulled more easily, the people said.

At a National Association of Corporate Treasurers conference in October, consultant Treasury Strategies noted that the new rules “will redefine the economics and dynamics of corporate banking relationships.”

Some argue that while it is a good policy on its face, the rule potentially magnifies problems in a recession by encouraging banks to hoard high-quality assets, potentially paralyzing markets for these assets such as Treasury securities and some corporate bonds.

“This proposal, which is supposed to promote financial stability, actually does the opposite,” said Thomas Quaadman, a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Thomas Deas, treasurer at chemicals company FMC Corp. said dialogue is increasing between banks and corporate clients as company executives get their arms around the potential new fees.


Robert Marley, assistant treasurer at EnerSys Inc., a maker of industrial batteries in Reading, Pa., said he was recently told by banks that his company would need to move cash that had been sitting in short-term deposit accounts in Europe or face new fees. “I’m not happy about it,” he said.


Industry Pivots From New Simulators to Services

Dec. 7, 2014 – 03:45AM | By AARON MEHTA | Comments


ORLANDO, FLA. — Amid a global downturn in defense spending, the training and simulation world is booming. But in a series of interviews at this year’s I/ITSEC conference here, executives for some of the world’s largest defense firms acknowledged that the sector’s market strategy is changing.

The biggest market trend, they said, is a growing emphasis on providing services to customers. In the past decade, companies could feast on providing the technology of simulators and classroom education. Now, governments are buying less new equipment, which means industry needs to focus on upkeep and training opportunities in existing systems.

Mike Blades, an analyst with Frost & Sullivan who attended I/ITSEC, said the emphasis on providing services is a major industry trend.

“That’s the theme of the show,” he said. “There are very few programs that require new simulators, just upgrades.”

Simon Williams, a retired Royal Navy rear admiral who chairs the defense arm of Clarion Events, noted that service companies that have no role in producing education and training tools are jumping into the market for the first time.

“In the future, where the market will be is training as a service,” Williams said. “So you will have suppliers who will supply you with the technologies, but there will be an interface between the customer and the technology, which is the service company.”

“Increasingly what we’re going to see is companies — the Sercos, the Babcocks — these large global service operators will start to step into this market,” he added.

And while new companies are throwing their hats into the ring, the traditional defense industry powers are moving to adapt.

Bob Gower, Boeing Defense’s vice president for training systems and government services, said he is “aggressively” pursuing training services, which led to a recent reorganization of his team.

“We did this for a couple of reasons,” Gower told reporters. “One is where the market is, but we also see trends where some customers are buying services and upgrading systems under those services. So to me, to have a healthy business over the long term, we have to be in the services business if we want to do systems as well.

“The services portion of the business is about 10 percent of my portfolio,” Gower added. “Going forward I’d like to get to where the services is much closer to half than 10 percent, but that’s going to take me some time.”

Asked how much time, Gower said he had no set timetable, but “sooner would be better.”

Gower added that schoolhouse-type solutions, where a company owns and operates a training center on behalf of another nation, is one area of growth. The schoolhouse model essentially outsources the entire pilot training for an air force. Traditionally, militaries buy aircraft and simulators, develop courseware, train instructors and then train pilots. In this model, a company does all that and is judged on a variety of metrics, including pilots graduated.

Competitor Lockheed Martin is also pursuing that model, through what it calls “turnkey training solutions.” Jon Rambeau, vice president and general manager of Lockheed’s Training and Logistics business, said his company is focusing on “not just innovating around technology, but also applying innovative business models to help our customers manage their budgetary constraints.”

That model is “definitely something that is picking up a little bit of momentum,” Rambeau said. “When you think about the huge upfront capital investment a country needs to make to recapitalize its fleet of training aircraft, it’s a much more cost-effective model that spreads costs out over typically 20-25 years.”

That model is largely being marketed internationally. Lockheed is already doing schoolhouse work for the UK and Singapore, and expects to be on contract with Qatar in the near future. Gower added that the Middle East is particularly interested in this model of learning.

Gene Colabatistto, group president for defense with CAE, agreed that services are becoming more important. In his two-and-a-half years in his position, he said, services has grown from 33 to 48 percent of his business.

In addition to the schoolhouse model, Colabatistto said countries are learning it is easier to let companies handle upgrades and service the equipment rather than relying on military maintenance crews.

“I think the most sophisticated users realize what we’re really good at is obsolescence management,” he said. “They realize we’re really good at this because we operate 60 commercial centers. We know how to do this. So a lot of what is driving this [move to services] is the way budgets are being allocated and executed.”



Blades points to companies such as Engility, spun off from L-3 as a company solely focused on government services, as an example of where the market is going and evidence of enough services requirements to merit a spin-off.

At the same time, Anthony Smeraglinolo, Engility president and CEO, warned in a keynote address at the show that there is an oversaturation in the services market and a correction may be coming.

“It is still a great market, but there are too many of us addressing it,” he said. “When there is more capacity than demand, something needs to give, and I think we have begun to see that in terms of industry consolidation.”

Smeraglinolo has put that into effect, acquiring two government services firms in Dynamics Research Corp. and TASC over the past 12 months to grow Engility’s marketshare.

“I firmly believe consolidation is a fundamentally good thing for both industry and our government partners,” he said. “Mergers and acquisitions result in increased scale, which enables fixed infrastructure costs to be spread across the larger base.”

Smeraglinolo’s speech set off different reactions among industry attendees at the show.

Some, such as Blades, agreed there will be more merger and acquisition (M&A) activity in the sector in the near future, noting that “some companies just might not make it.”

CAE’s Colabatistto, however, warned acquisitions may be limited, the result of a small pool of companies that would make sense for a larger firms to acquire.

Many of the firms doing interesting things in the simulation and training world that larger companies could acquire are categorized as small businesses under US government regulations, he said, reliant on the ability to compete for small business set-aside contracts. If those companies are claimed by larger firms, those small-business contracts go away.

“So we look at those companies and it’s very hard to find which ones you would actually acquire,” Colabatistto said.

“I think there will continue to be acquisitions,” he said. “But to make a large play in the market is difficult with budget uncertainty and then in the smaller companies, the way they are classified makes it very risky.”

Even if chunks of the sector are gobbled up in acquisitions, Williams said, the training and simulation market is at a point where new ideas are constantly leading to new companies popping up.

“Yes, there will be consolidation, but equally, in a highly innovative market, you will always have the disruptive technology and the small entrepreneurial companies that will be starting up to fulfill a need that the major corporation doesn’t foresee because they [the small companies] have the agility to do so,” he said.

“So I think we will always have a number of smaller players, and they will be subject to M&A activity as time goes on,” he added. “It will almost be self-refreshing.” ■


If You Want to Pay More for Internet Access, Obama’s Got Your Back

Ed Feulner / @EdFeulner / November 22, 2014 / 7 comments

Edwin J. Feulner’s 36 years of leadership as president of The Heritage Foundation transformed the think tank from a small policy shop into America’s powerhouse of conservative ideas. Read his research.


Ready to pay more for Internet access? Me neither.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we can expect under the “net neutrality” rules being pushed by President Obama.

“Net neutrality” may sound harmless, but there would be nothing neutral about this change. Currently, broadband providers such as Verizon, AT&T and Comcast are treated differently than traditional telephone companies and electric utilities. They aren’t subject to “common-carrier” rules that prohibit them from varying rates and services.

In short, they can offer — and charge — what they want. That’s good for consumers, because it means that in order to compete, they’re always trying to win and keep customers by offering better, faster service at lower rates.

That would change with the advent of “net neutrality.” Under the plan that Obama is urging the Federal Communications Commission to adopt, Internet providers would be declared common carriers providing “telecommunications services.” That would leave the FCC free to regulate them.

One result: The providers would have to pay a part of their Internet revenue to the FCC’s “Universal Service Fund,” which provides subsidies for Internet service. This fee is set at 16.1 percent of revenue, or about $7 per subscriber per month. Former FCC Commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth calls it “perhaps the largest, one-time tax increase on the Internet.”

It may surprise you to learn that two of the current FCC commissioners oppose the president’s plan. According to one of them, Mike O’Reilly, the FCC is planning a “spending spree” with these new USF subsidies. It’s bad enough our Internet access would become more expensive, but we’d have to fund more waste at a government agency, too?

As regulation expert James Gattuso notes, this push for net neutrality comes at an ironic time: Congress is considering a renewal of its moratorium on state Internet taxes. But, he says, the FCC has no plans to ask Congress to vote on this matter. Why? It claims it has the power to move forward without legislative approval.

But net neutrality would mean more than a rate hike (which will naturally hit lower-income Americans the hardest). Coming under the FCC’s regulatory thumb would harm innovation and make broadband companies wary of investing in new ways to provide better, faster and cheaper service.

This isn’t just conjecture. An example of it came quite recently, in fact, when AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson spoke of how the company’s plans to invest in fiber-optic networks in up to 100 cities would change under Obama’s proposal.

The fiber-optic rollouts “are long-term investments,” Stephenson said on Fox Business Network. “And we have to ask under what rules will those be regulated in two or three years. Until we have some clarity, we’ll have to slow ourselves down, and we’ll have to pause and have some idea of what these rules look like in two or three years.”

I can’t think of a better phrase to describe the effect of regulation on innovation: “We’ll have to slow ourselves down.” The fact is, we shouldn’t have to do anything of the sort. These companies should feel they can invest freely in the kinds of services that make life better for their customers. But under net neutrality, that won’t be possible.

It simply makes no sense to yoke the Internet of 2014 to any portion of the Communications Act of 1934. As Erik Telford of the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity recently wrote in The Hill, “Given how much the Internet has revolutionized our lives in just the past [10] years, it’s absurd to think that an 80-year-old law will ensure the best service to consumers going forward.”

So let’s see: We’d pay more — for less. Sounds like a government plan, all right.

Here’s a better idea: Leave “net neutrality” junked on the shoulder of the information superhighway instead.


Will Government Regulation Kill the Internet of Things?

By Jack Moore

December 8, 2014 1 Comment


The government needs to update laws and regulations to accommodate the explosive growth of Internet-connected smart devices or risk falling behind the global technology curve.

That’s the view of a few tech-minded lawmakers who have turned their focus to the expanding web of objects and sensors that make up the so-called Internet of Things.

“We’re destined to lose to the Chinese or others if the Internet of Things is governed in the United States by rules that predate our VCRs,” said Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, speaking at a Washington, D.C., event last week hosted by the Center for Data Innovation.

Some 27 million fitness trackers and other forms of “wearable” technology will be sold globally by the end of the year, according to recent research.

And that’s just one fragment of the so-called Internet of Things, or IoT.

This tangled network of Internet-connected sensors and other devices has also become firmly embedded in industrial-control systems that help run power plants and water systems. Smart devices are also making inroads in telecommunications and the health care system.

Will Too Much Regulation ‘Snuff Out’ Innovation?

But Fischer and her Senate colleagues appear anxious about the government writing too many of those rules in stone.

“I think we need to have a firm enough hand to have some rules of the road, to ensure security and privacy but not to snuff any of this great innovation out,” said Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, a fellow member of the Senate commerce panel who also spoke at the event.

Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., who also spoke at the event, said, “I think there’s an exciting opportunity as we look at the new Congress to take up some of these issues where we’re living in the Dark Ages in the way that some of the regulations have been framed.”

But she called for “humility” in the way the government oversees the adoption and spread of IoT, echoing comments made by Federal Trade Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen last year when FTC first studied IoT.


NIST Offers IoT Playgrounds to Test Devices

Traditionally, the government has operated in only carrot-or-stick mode when it comes to the regulation of new technologies, said Sokwoo Rhee, associate director of IoT and cyber-physical systems at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the first, the government offers research and development funding to help companies securely adopt new technologies. The latter amounts to strict regulation.

But there’s also a third way, Rhee said: providing a “playground,” or testing space for companies to test what works.

That could be perfect for IoT, in which there are almost as many security standards as there are devices.

“The problem is, there are too many standards out there … Everybody claims they have their own standard,” Rhee said. “Every company’s creating their own thing.”

A NIST-backed program, the Global Cities Challenge, leverages that, allowing IoT manufacturers to work directly with local governments to test out various devices in the real world.

“The market’s going to figure it out,” Rhee said. “The question is, how fast the market can get there and what is the role of government to accelerate that process.”


Security of Devices and Data a Focus

One of the areas in which there’s agreement the government needs new rules is in securing the growing number of devices connected to the Internet — and the data stored on those devices.

University of Michigan researchers this summer, for example, showed that networked traffic lights are vulnerable to cyberattacks. Meanwhile, hackers breached Internet-enabled baby monitors and harassed parents and young children.

A recent study showed 70 percent of widely used IoT devices had security vulnerabilities, Schatz said.


For the government and private companies that operate critical infrastructure, such as power grids and water systems, the challenges may be even more acute.

The President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee last month issued a report last month warning of the pressing need for the government to take steps to ensure IoT devices in critical infrastructure are adopted securely.

“So policymakers actually have no choice in this space,” Schatz said. “We must take on this topic, both because of its scope and its potential benefits and dangers.”


DHS Cyber Program Repels Threats in Real Time

By Aliya Sternstein

December 9 2014


CenturyLink has begun automatically blocking malicious operations on federal networks, under a controversial Department of Homeland Security program that monitors Internet traffic governmentwide.

The progress comes after delays due to contract negotiations. DHS in 2013 tapped five telecommunications companies to computerize threat deflection, including major players AT&T and Verizon.

CenturyLink becomes the first company to go live with intrusion prevention — the third phase of the “Einstein” scanning program. The company, as of Monday, is delivering services to nine civilian agencies, representing about a quarter of federal users, DHS and CenturyLink tell Nextgov.

The company has “the first fully operational” system that is “actively providing cybersecurity services to federal civilian agencies’ end-users,” CenturyLink officials said in a statement.

The project is ahead of schedule, DHS officials said. Einstein 3 Accelerated, or E3A, was slated for completion in 2018 but now is projected to reach full operating capability as early as 2015. DHS has inked memorandums of agreement with 42 other agencies.

DHS would not name the agencies or comment on negotiations with other Internet service providers. AT&T and Verizon declined to address the program, saying they do not comment on customer matters.

The whole Einstein project, as of Aug. 31, was expected to cost nearly $3 billion, according to federal spending databases.

The contract issues complicating rollout included the “general readiness of the ISPs to meet the functional, security, and operational requirements of E3A,” a March DHS inspector general report determined.

Einstein 3 is designed to quarantine emails and block malicious Web domains that “spoof” legitimate sites, according to CenturyLink. The service defends the perimeter of federal civilian networks. It senses aberrant activity using threat “signatures,” or tell-tale signs of a hacker derived from U.S. intelligence and private research. These indicators can include certain email headers or IP addresses, according to a DHS privacy assessment of Einstein.

Under a one-year task order, CenturyLink is adding the blocking features to agencies’ existing Einstein services. Einstein 1 analyzes traffic flows; Einstein 2 alerts security professionals to suspected threats using intrusion detection technology.

DHS ultimately expects to deploy phase 3 across all federal agencies.

The new system consists of commercial technologies and government-developed software. A “sinkholing” application prevents malware on dot-gov networks from copying data to rogue Internet domains by redirecting users to safe servers, according to DHS.

The email filtering tool scans messages destined for dot-gov networks for dubious attachments and links, before delivering them. Infected messages are either quarantined or redirected to DHS cyber analysts for further scrutiny.

Homeland Security has plans to discard all Einstein records at least three years old, as earlier reported. DHS officials have decided they have no research significance. But some security analysts say DHS would be disposing of a wealth of historical threat data. And privacy experts say destroying the records could eliminate evidence the governmentwide surveillance system does not yield results.


Woolpert gets unique permission to fly drones over Ohio, Mississippi

Dec 10, 2014, 9:54am EST

Tristan NaveraStaff Reporter-

Dayton Business Journal


A local company is among the first in the nation to get permission to fly drones.

Woolpert Inc. has been granted permission by the Federal Aviation Administration to fly unmanned systems at two locations, it announced Monday as part of a round of exemptions granted which included three other companies. This makes the Beavercreek-based firm one of the first commercial enterprises in the United States to be allowed to fly unmanned systems for commercial uses.

“Unmanned aircraft offer a tremendous opportunity to spur innovation and economic activity by enabling many businesses to develop better products and services for their customers and the American public,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “We want to foster commercial uses of this exciting technology while taking a responsible approach to the safety of America’s airspace.”

In a petition, the group sought permission to operate the Altavian Nova Block III over parts of rural Ohio, areas a map which covers about 35 percent of the state, or about 16,000 square miles, limited to rural areas and away from airports.

The group had also been seeking permission to operate the Altavian Nova Block III to survey Ship Island near Biloxi, Miss., per a request from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The other companies receiving permission were Trimble Navigation Limited, VDOS Global LLC and Clayco Inc.

The UAS in the proposed operations do not need an FAA-issued certificate of airworthiness because they do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security. The firms said they will operate UAS weighing less than 55 pounds and keep the UAS within line of sight at all times.

Woolpert, a geospatial analysis firm, has been seeking to use unmanned craft for surveying purposes. It submitted its requests to the FAA over the summer, a move which was supported by prominent drone trade group, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

The FAA granted its first few commercial exemptions to oil companies operating pipelines in Alaska earlier this year. It then granted exemptions to six major film studios to use the craft. The FAA requires special rule making exemptions on a case-by-case basis for drone operations for commercial companies. It also allows public entities to operate the craft using Certificates of Authorization.

Several hundred COAs have been authorized around the country including to Sinclair Community College, Ohio State University and Wright State University.

Woolpert has more than 600 total employees, including 235 in the Dayton region. It posted revenue of $110 million last year, according to DBJ research.


Amazon commercial cloud tapped for GEOINT

Dec. 9, 2014 |



The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) has become the first intelligence agency to host an operational capability on Amazon Web Services’ Commercial Cloud Services.

Lockheed Martin put an interactive map for NGA’s Map of the World on Amazon’s C2S, according to a company announcement. Map of the World is an interactive map that allows users to identify terrain and manmade features as well as any intelligence data associated with them. Lockheed Martin’s Geospatial-Intelligence Visualization Services (GVS) program migrated the map and ensured that it complied with the intelligence community’s ICD-503 security guidelines for IT. The project is part of the Total Application Services for Enterprise Requirements (TASER) GVS contract vehicle, which was originally awarded in 2012.

“Deploying geospatial mission applications and software to a commercial cloud environment allows the Map of the World to operate with more agility and efficiency,” said Jason O’Connor, vice president of analysis and mission solutions at Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Solutions. “This accomplishment demonstrates the power of what can be done by leveraging cloud technologies with mission driven software. It shows how we can further enhance geospatial capabilities in the intelligence and DOD community.”



DoD’s first network hub successful in early tests

Dec. 8, 2014 |

Written by JOE GOULD


Tests of the first hub in the Pentagon’s network consolidation effort, at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, have thus far been successful, Acting DoD Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen said Friday.

This amounts to a step forward as the Pentagon collapses its sprawling, disparate networks into a more streamlined, standardized, defendable and cost-effective structure. Each network hub, called a joint regional security stack (JRSS), is essentially a collection of servers, switches and software tools to provide better network traffic visibility and analysis.

“It has some sensors, which will give us a better tip-off to what’s going on on the network, so we can take more responsive action [against anomalous activity],” Halvorsen said in a call with reporters. Citing security concerns, he declined to discuss the specifics of the test or the protective software — and declined to discuss costs ahead of Congress approving the Defense Department’s budget.

The consolidated structure would also be visible to the National Security Agency, for intelligence sharing and collaborating on network defense, officials say.

Starting next year and culminating in 2016 and 2017, the rolling effort will see 11 JRSS nodes in the continental U.S., and 23 locations around the world. The first JRSS is at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland has been set up to handle both Army and Air Force network traffic.

“There’s an enormous push behind the thing, this is happening now, it’s not some future pipe dream type stuff,” Hari Bezwada, the chief information officer for the Army’s Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems. Bezwada was speaking at an industry conference here on Thursday.

An Army battalion, which has been installing bulk buys of networking gear, has completed work at nine bases, Bezwada said. The Army and Air Force are converting to JRSS nodes, ahead of the Navy and Marine Corps.

The consolidation is meant to reduce the attack surface for hackers, and DoD’s finite number of defenders, Rezwada said. DoD plans to wrap the whole thing in “best-of-breed” security software.

“You don’t want people to come in through the back door and attack, now we can defend these locations a lot better, with sophisticated, trained people,” Bezwada said.

The Army and the NSA’s Information Assurance Directorate are also collaborating on a laboratory that allows experimentation with new cybersecurity technology.

Among other cloud-based applications, the consolidated networks will host “big data” analytics apps that would sniff out intrusions in real time, Bezwada said. What’s more, network overseers will be able to “see” 4 million users simultaneously, Rezwada said.

The transition will also enable the Army to seek cloud-based “unified capabilities,” a package of IP-based services including chat, video and voice communications. The Pentagon plans to issue a request for proposals in early 2015.




JRSS paves the road to JIE

Oct. 16, 2014 |



As the Defense Department edges closer to making its Joint Information Environment a reality, the pieces are coming together, perhaps most tangibly in the form of the joint regional security stack (JRSS).

Pegged as one of JIE’s cornerstones that will better secure military networks and standardize defense IT, JRSS is evolving into a foundational piece of broader departmentwide efforts to transform how the military handles IT, networks and global communications.

“One of the early successes of the JIE is the deployment of joint regional security stacks, which are a component of the single security architecture and will ultimately help to improve command and control and situational awareness across the enterprise,” said Col Daniel Liggins, the vice director of the JIE implementation office at the Defense Information Systems Agency, which is helping lead DoD’s sweeping IT restructuring taking place under JIE. “The stacks are being installed at various sites around the world.”

JRSS continues to take shape as the first site, located at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, reached initial operating capacity on Sept. 14.


“Joint Base San Antonio has been our proof of concept,” said MG Alan Lynn, DISA vice director. He noted that with the other services on track to integrate with the Army’s efforts down the line, San Antonio serves as the 1.0 version of JRSS, with the coordination of the Air Force and DISA down the road being the “1.5” version and a 2.0 also coming but at the moment remains “undefined.”

“We’re working on 2.0, which will represent capturing the differences between how the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps do things differently,” Lynn said at a recent AFCEA DC event in Washington.

Joint Base San Antonio is just the first of 11 continental U.S.-based, or CONUS, JRSS locations, and one of what will eventually be 23 locations around the world. In Wiesbaden, Germany, and in southwest Asia (SWA), noncontinental U.S. JRSS facilities are providing network services to troops overseas, and support to those users will continue to grow in the coming years as DoD agencies continue to build up JRSS in Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

The JRSS strategy has steadily gained momentum over the past year or so as JIE evolves and as the services work to modernize their IT infrastructure, according to defense officials.

“What we were focused on last year was SWA, CONUS and one reach back from SWA to Wiesbaden,” said Mike Krieger, deputy Army CIO/G-6. “We wanted SWA to have two ways out — [communications] right now either go to Germany or to space [via satellite]. So we wanted to do the states and Germany. Last year it was ‘let’s fix SWA,’ and to fix SWA we had to do CONUS and Europe so they’re not isolated. Now we’ve got to go back as DoD, not just as the Army, and say now that we’ve got these installed we’ve got to finish Europe and finish the Pacific.”

With San Antonio reaching initial operating capability Sept. 14, the Wiesbaden location is not far behind, with IOC expected on Nov. 14, LTG Robert Ferrell, Army CIO/G-6, told conference attendees at a recent AFCEA TechNet event. IOC for two stacks in southwest Asia is planned for Dec. 14, Ferrell said.

In the U.S., Montgomery, Alabama, is set to be one of the next locations to be up and running in the coming months, eventually joined by locations at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; Fort Meade, Maryland; Fort Belvoir, Virginia; and in San Diego and St. Louis, among others, Krieger said. Plans are still being made for the locations of all 23 facilities, some of which also are DISA defense enterprise computing centers, or DECCs.

Back at Joint Base San Antonio, work there has progressed quickly, officials say, setting the tone for the base infrastructure modernization efforts that are at the core of the transition to JRSS facility. Work began last year on upgrading network switches and implementing the multi-label protocol switching (MPLS) that underpins DoD’s CONUS network infrastructure overhaul, as well as the transition to JIE and to cloud capabilities.

The effort has relied on partnership between the services and with the defense agencies — collaboration focused on efficiency and effectiveness, according to COL Robert Mikesh, product manager, for the installation information infrastructure modernization program at Army Program Executive Office Enterprise Information Systems.

“That’s what gets us into what we’re doing now in network modernization in terms of the switches, the MPLS network that DISA’s working — the new DISN, so to speak,” Mikesh said. “That’s a [wide-area network] upgrade and that’s very important to us, because the tenets coming out of CIO/G6 right now are [to] reduce the cyber attack surface of our network, increase the capacity of our network and then simplify your network in terms of how our soldiers and the operating commands can actually manage the day to day. How can we centralize that management and simplify the day to day?”


That idea is a critical piece of JRSS and the broader DoD IT infrastructure overhaul. It’s also key in the partnership not only between services and agencies, but also with industry helping to implement the upgrades on the ground and transition DoD to an enterprise-level approach IT management.

“With Joint Base San Antonio, this is the first version of JRSS deployed, so it involves the collection of different capabilities, tools and technologies in multiple servers and multiple software sets,” Chris Kearns, director of DISA programs for enterprise IT solutions at Lockheed Martin. Lockheed’s Information Systems and Global Solutions is the prime contractor for the Global Information Grid Systems Management-Operations contract, which JRSS work is being performed under. “That will allow the virtualization of a lot of capabilities at the base and service levels, and at the DISA and agency level it allows them to have visibility into the network. The team becomes very involved in the operational networks that have to be moved to route traffic through; it has to be planned so no missions are interrupted. Then it’s managed at that single, enterprise level.”

Kearns noted that the broad scope of JRSS and the wider DoD network infrastructure reform efforts means an essentially unprecedented level of IT-focused cooperation in order to get to the enterprise-level approach that is at the heart of JRSS and JIE. It is a journey that has not been without its bumps in the road.

“In general a lot of the policy and procedure improvements, the concepts of operations — the joint aspect is a new approach where rather than have multiple sets of equipment for different stakeholders and different views, now you have everyone coming together,” Kearns said. “Workshops have been valuable to get stakeholders together and dialogue, making sure all the requirements are getting met by the same platform. It’s a little like Joint Strike Fighter, where we had multiple sets of different entities and services come together on a single platform. From a cybersecurity perspective, there are a lot of the same initial challenges in making sure everyone is at the table and getting their requirements met.”

MG John Morrison, commander of Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, said that JRSS, JIE and the installation-level upgrade efforts like those at San Antonio are the three legs of the stool behind an entire new methodology in modernizing the Army network.

“All of these approaches are really an integrated team … the joint management construct applied to [command and control] is really a new way of doing things,” Morrison said at an AFCEA event in Washington. “At San Antonio, we’ve already completed what [in the past] would have taken years. This is really where we’re cutting our teeth on the [concept of operations] of this new joint construct. We’ve got to get this right.”


Can Iran Turn Off Your Lights?

Patrick Tucker

December 9, 2014


Online security company Cylance released a report last week showing that an Iranian cyber-espionage operation “Operation Cleaver” had successfully breached U.S. and foreign military, infrastructure and transportation targets. The report claimed to confirm widely-suspected Iranian hacks of the unclassified Navy Marine Core Intranet system, NMCI, in 2013. It describes (with explicitly naming) more than 50 targets around the world, including players in energy and transportation.

But is the Iranian cyber threat overblown?

The tactics detailed in the report show an escalation of Iranian hacking activity, which the report’s writers, in several instances, refer to as rapid.

“We observed the technical capabilities of the Operation Cleaver team rapidly evolve faster than any previously observed Iranian effort. As Iran’s cyber warfare capabilities continue to morph the probability of an attack that could impact the physical world at a national or global level is rapidly increasing. Their capabilities have advanced beyond simple website defacements, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, and Hacking Exposed style techniques,” the report states.

The Operation Cleaver team found vulnerabilities in the Search Query Language or SQL coding in various target systems and then used those SQL vulnerabilities to inject secret commands into back servers (a tactic called SQL injection). They were then able to upload new tools into the systems allowing for more data theft and access. The tools enabled the hackers to capture a wide number of administrator passwords (a technique known as

Among the targets were some 50 companies in 16 countries, representing 15 industries including “military, oil and gas, energy and utilities, transportation, hospitals, telecommunications, technology, education, aerospace, defense contractors, chemical, companies and governments.”

The report’s most dramatic assertion appears on page 5, “Iran is the New China” it declares.

But is it true?

The Not-So-New China of Cyber-Attacks

Speaking before the House Intelligence Committee last month, Vice Admiral Michael Rogers, the commander of U.S. Cyber Command, said that China and perhaps “one or two others” could effectively blackout portions of the United States. “It is a matter of when, not if, that we are going to see something dramatic.”

What does “something dramatic” look like? In a word: dark. “If I want to tell power turbines to go offline and stop generating power, you can do that,” Rogers said. “It enables you to shut down very tailored parts of our infrastructure.”

Rogers declined to mention which “one or two others” had the ability to turn off your lights, but Iran’s burgeoning cyber-capabilities occupy a growing portion of Roger’s job.

In 2013, when hackers within Iran attacked NMCI, it was Roger’s job to fix the gaps, an issue that members of the Senate Armed Services committee asked him about during his 2014 confirmation hearing. At the time, he said that NMCI was “properly architected and constructed against external cyber attacks.”

Other cyber hawks have been more eager to play up the Iranian threat. House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., speaking to The
Free Beacon
last month, noted, “We have seen some very, very devastating efforts on behalf of Iran.”

To understand what those efforts may be, it makes sense to consider the history of Iran’s cyber capabilities.

In the 2009, as the Green Movement was fomenting popular resistance the Iranian government, the formation of the “Iranian Cyber Army” marked “a concentrated effort to promote the Iranian government’s political narrative online,” according to OpenNet Initiative’s 2013 analysis of Internet Controls in Iran from 2009-2012. The Army attacked news organizations and opposition Websites within Iran with great success.

Around the same time, the pro-government Basij paramilitary organization launched the Basij Cyber Council, which recruited hackers to develop cyber attacks and spy on Iranian dissidents through malware and “phishing campaigns” where victims were lured to fake websites and tricked into surrendering information. Not long afterward, Iran’s pro-government hacker community turned its attention outward. 

The most severe attack that can be linked to Iran was the 2012 “Shamoon” attack against Saudi Arabian oil company Aramco. It emerged from a shadowy group called the “Cutting Sword of Justice” and effectively took out 33,000 Aramco computers, erasing the data on the hard drives. Then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called it “a significant escalation of the cyber threat and they have renewed concerns about still more destructive scenarios that could unfold.” Escalation sounds troubling until you consider the baseline state from which said escalation ascends.

Here’s what Shamoon did not do: affect any of the computers that actually controlled vital mechanical processes at Aramco. It did not cause any industrial accidents and did not shut down oil production. The attack was costly, caused inconvenience on a large scale, but was not a black-out attack.

“There was nothing about Shamoon that was sophisticated. In fact, Shamoon was only 50 percent functional according to one of the labs that I spoke with,” Jeffrey Carr, CEO of the cyber-security firm Taia Global and the author of Inside Cyber Warfare: Mapping the Cyber Underworld, told Defense One.

The level of technical expertise displayed by Shamoon, and hinted at in the Cylance report, suggest that the sophistication of Iran’s cyber capabilities has not reached that of China or Russia or the United States. SQL injection hacks can be severe but are not exotic. The attacks detailed in the Cylance report also make use of a widely known security bug, the MS08-O67 flaw in Microsoft Windows.

Today Is Not Zero-Day

Cylance claims that they uncovered “only a fraction” of the systems that Operation Cleaver likely targeted. But as Dan Goodin, writing for Ars Technica, reports “there’s no evidence any zero-day vulnerabilities were exploited.” That suggests that the gaps Operation Cleaver took advantage of are fixable at relatively low cost.

So-called zero-day attacks exploit new classes of vulnerabilities in systems, vulnerabilities for which there is no effective patch. When a zero-day attack occurs, the security team has “zero” days to come up with a solution a very novel problem. Stuxnet, the worm that effectively shut down the Iranian nuclear refinement centrifuges in 2010, was a zero-day weapon and actually did succeed in shutting down vital mechanical processes outside of cyberspace.

Hackers within China are practiced at zero-day attacks, including a reported global attack against shipping interests occurring in July. That attack, while sophisticated, amounted to little more than industrial espionage, which fits with China’s modus operandi.

China vs. Iran: Differing Capabilities and Motivations

Therein lies the big difference between China and Iran as a cyber adversary. China is more capable and more focused on narrow objectives, which Cole defines as “stealing intellectual property and national secrets primarily to give itself a competitive edge in competing in the global market.”

Government officials have echoed that view. Speaking before the Senate Intelligence Committee in January, James Clapper, the Director of National Intelligence, said “China’s cyber operations reflect its leadership’s priorities of economic growth, domestic political stability, and military preparedness.” Read that to mean a likely continuance of data theft, not terrorist acts that could damage both economies.

Iran, as a cyber adversary, is both less capable and more bellicose than China. The Iranian economy, unlike China’s, is largely divorced from that of the United States. And Iran was the only nation to actually suffer a catastrophic cyber attack, for which it blames Israel and the U.S. As a result of these and other factors, Iran may have more of a will for cyber-mayhem even if it lacks the most dangerous tools.

In this way, Iran is the perfect cyber adversary for Washington’s hawks to rattle sabers against, and the rattling is becoming more frequent.

Speaking to The Hill’s Cory Bennett on Nov. 22, Rep. Rogers speculated that a breakdown in negotiations between Iran and the United States on an upcoming nuclear deal could compel Iran to attack water and oil and water systems in the United States.

“As soon they believe it’s to their advantage to begin again in more aggressive cyber activity toward the United States, they’re going to do it,” Rogers said. “It would be logical to conclude that if the talks fail completely, they’ll re-engage at the same level.”

The deadline for a deal passed—peacefully—two days later, with the parties agreeing to a seven-month extension.

“Are they the new China? At this point they haven’t shown us enough capability to overshadow the continuous attacks of various levels of sophistication from China,” Tony Cole, the global government chief technical officer for the cybersecurity group FireEye told Defense One. “They might be simply showing the world that they have a capability at this point in the cyber arena or it could be for more nefarious purposes where they plan on creating a cyber attack to have a kinetic and damaging effect in the real world. We hope it’s not the latter.”

(For a history of Iranian cyber capabilities, check out FireEye’s 2013 paper.)

Despite its growing capabilities, Iran probably lacks the means to turn off your lights. 


FAA Faces Fresh Flack for Drone Policy

U.S. Regulators Approves Anther Four Companies to Use Drones for Industrial Operations

By Jack Nicas

Updated Dec. 10, 2014 1:26 p.m. ET


The lack of a comprehensive policy for drone use in the U.S. is endangering the safety of air transportation while also setting U.S. businesses behind their peers abroad, lawmakers, government watchdogs and industry officials said at a congressional hearing.

The comments on Wednesday came as the Federal Aviation Administration made its latest incremental move to open the skies to commercial use of drones, approving four companies to use the devices to create maps and collect data on construction sites. The decision brings the number of approved commercial-drone operators in the U.S. to just 13—compared with thousands in Europe.

“I can’t help but wonder: If the Germans, French and Canadians can do some of these things today, why can’t we also be doing this?” said U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R., N.J.) at a hearing Wednesday on U.S. drone regulations. “Are they smarter than us? I don’t think so.”

The hearing underscored frustration over the pace of the FAA’s efforts to develop new drone rules, as well as the many technological, regulatory and safety challenges that remain to integrate the devices into U.S. skies. Currently the agency bans the use of drones by companies other than the 13 it has granted exceptions, though many businesses and entrepreneurs are using them without authorization.

Peggy Gilligan, the FAA’s associate administrator for aviation safety, defended the agency’s progress, saying regulators are taking a gradual, cautious approach because authorizing widespread drone flights in the U.S.—which has the world’s most crowded airspace—carries extreme safety risks.

Other experts at the hearing reinforced the need for caution. Dr. Nicholas Roy, a robotics professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology who helped develop Google Inc. ‘s delivery-drone prototypes, said small consumer drones aren’t yet reliable and engineers are struggling to develop many important technologies, such as features that enable the devices to detect and avoid obstacles. But, he added, FAA restrictions on test flights are complicating the development of such technologies.

Lee Moak, head of the Air Line Pilots Association, brought a hand-held four-rotor drone to the congressional hearing and showed pictures of planes that were struck by birds or drones. He urged regulators and lawmakers not to allow industry pressures to rush drone regulations. “Standards and technologies must be in place to ensure the same high level of safety before an [unmanned aircraft] can be permitted to occupy the same airspace as planes,” he said.

Gerald Dillingham, director of aviation issues at the Government Accountability Office, said the FAA is behind schedule on eight of 17 drone-related mandates Congress gave the agency in 2012. Notably, he said, integrating drones into U.S. airspace—mandated to occur by September 2015—likely won’t occur until 2017 or later.

That delay “could contribute to [drones] continuing to operate unsafely and illegally and lead to additional enforcement activities for FAA’s scarce resources,” he said. Plus, without rules for commercial drones, “U.S. businesses may continue to take their testing and research-and-development activities outside of the U.S.”

Rep. Blake Farenthold, (R., Texas), who said he had “a quadcopter on my Christmas list,” asked Mr. Dillingham how the FAA could expedite its drone regulations. In response, Mr. Dillingham said, “This is a situation that, although we’ve studied it, we don’t have an answer for.”


Rep. Farenthold then asked Mr. Dillingham how the FAA could better enforce its effective ban on commercial-drone use in the U.S., a policy that U.S. entrepreneurs are widely violating. “It’s going to be a difficult, if not impossible task because the FAA already has so many calls on their resources,” Mr. Dillingham said.

The FAA has written draft rules on commercial drones, but they are under review and aren’t expected to be implemented soon. Meanwhile, the agency is issuing case-by-case approvals for companies to use drones for their businesses. Earlier this year, the agency approved seven companies to use drones for filmmaking. The agency earlier approved two commercial-drone operations in northern Alaska.

On Wednesday, the FAA approved four more companies because their proposed drone operations “do not pose a threat to national airspace users or national security.”

FAA issued those exemptions to Trimble Navigation Ltd. and VDOS Global LLC, which make or operate unmanned aircraft, and Clayco Inc. and Woolpert Inc., two architectural and engineering firms. The companies plan to use drones to make maps, monitor construction sites and inspect oil flare stacks, the agency said.



Unmanned aircraft rules needed now, AOPA tells Congress

by Press • 11 December 2014


By Elizabeth A Tennyson


The FAA should expedite its rule governing the operation of small commercial unmanned aerial systems, AOPA told the House Aviation Subcommittee in comments submitted for the record as part of a Dec. 10 hearing on UAS technology. In its statement, AOPA also recommended that the FAA take steps to address dangerous operations by recreational UAS users, including stipulating penalties.

In order to operate safely in the National Airspace System, AOPA said, commercial unmanned aircraft should be certified using a standard airworthiness certificate or other form of FAA approval, be controlled by an FAA-approved pilot or operator, and be utilized in compliance with current operating rules and airspace requirements, including see-and-avoid capabilities.

Commercial UAS are currently allowed to operate only with an FAA waiver. On the day of the hearing, the agency granted five new regulatory exemptions to four companies, bringing the total number of exemptions to 11. The newest waivers will allow the use of UAS for aerial surveying, construction site monitoring, and oil rig flare stack inspections. To obtain the exemptions, the companies had to demonstrate they could maintain an equivalent level of safety to other aircraft.

In addition to concerns over commercial operations, an increasing number of incidents involving recreational UAS pose a potential threat to aviation operations, AOPA told the subcommittee. The FAA limits recreational UAS operations to altitudes below 400 feet, requires that they be flown within sight of the operator, and puts restrictions on operations in the vicinity of airports and aircraft. Despite these rules, the FAA has received reports from pilots and air traffic controllers describing 193 UAS encounters so far this year.

“It is clear that many of the people flying UAS have little or no knowledge of the rules under which other airspace users operate,” AOPA wrote in its statement. “It is also clear from online videos that operators are flying near airports, in the clouds, and in congested airspace.”

AOPA is encouraging the FAA to issue clear guidance for recreational UAS operations and ask manufacturers to include that information in product packaging. AOPA also wants the FAA to work with associations to improve educational outreach to recreational UAS operators, establish penalties for reckless UAS operations, and publish guidance for pilots on how to file timely reports on UAS encounters.

Dangerous commercial and recreational UAS operations have also raised concerns for the AOPA Air Safety Institute, an arm of the nonprofit AOPA Foundation that provides free safety education for pilots and flight instructors, analyzes safety data, and conducts safety research.

“Radio controlled model aircraft have been around for decades. The difference—and the challenge—now is the proliferation of low cost, multi-rotor ‘drone’ aircraft that take little or no training to operate and are often flown beyond line of sight using ‘point of view’ systems,” said George Perry, Air Safety Institute senior vice president. “Technology moves fast, and government bureaucracies like the FAA do not. It’s clear to anyone who has been following ‘the rise of the drone’ that there are several safety concerns and the FAA is struggling with how best to deal with those.”

AOPA has been involved in UAS regulatory issues since 1991, when the FAA tasked an aviation rulemaking advisory committee with developing guidance for UAS. In 2004, AOPA asked the FAA to create a government-industry working group to develop consensus standards for operating small UAS weighing 55 pounds or less. AOPA served on the group and the FAA accepted the resulting consensus standards in 2007, but has yet to release a proposed rule.

In the meantime, the FAA has relied on outdated guidance to govern the use of UAS, including Advisory Circular 91-57, which was drafted in 1981. That guidance “does not address commercial UAS operations or line-of-sight and point-of-view operations because in 1981 commercial applications for model aircraft were almost non-existent and having images beamed back to the user to be displayed in Google glasses was science fiction,” AOPA wrote in its statement.

During Wednesday’s hearing, the subcommittee heard from representatives of the FAA, the Government Accountability Office, the Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, the airline industry, and the UAS industry.


Fight or flight: Amazon gets tough with the FAA

Amazon says if the US agency won’t play, its drone operations will end up overseas. We’ll see whether that threat gets off the ground.

by Donna Tam and Stephen Shankland

December 10, 2014 1:27 PM PST

For Amazon and its drones, the FAA must seem like a heavy cloud cover that just won’t lift.

The online retailer has ambitious plans to try out home delivery of goods via small unmanned aircraft, but needs clearance from the US Federal Aviation Administration to do flight tests outdoors — clearance that, in Amazon’s eyes, can’t come soon enough.

The FAA, meanwhile, is in no rush to allow what could be swarms of pilotless vehicles — not just from Amazon — into airspace also used by commercial and private planes and helicopters. Operating a commercial fleet of drones is currently illegal, but the government agency has approved a limited number of organizations to conduct flight tests. Amazon was hoping to be among those allowed to do trial runs with its drones.

Amazon’s impatience with the oversight process showed through this week in the company’s latest letter to the FAA, in which it threatened to move more of its drone trials overseas.

“I fear the FAA may be questioning the fundamental benefits of keeping [unmanned aircraft systems] technology innovation in the United States,” Amazon’s vice president of global public policy, Paul Misener, wrote in the letter, dated December 7.

The agency said it will continue to review Amazon’s situation and has assigned an inspector to “work closely” with the company, according to a statement.

“The FAA is currently waiting for additional information from the company to complete the application,” the agency said.

Neither Amazon or the FAA would say what additional information the agency requires of Amazon. There is no set timetable for the process, an FAA spokeswoman said.

The new plea from the world’s largest online retailer, which follows a letter Amazon sent in July, underscores the FAA’s caution on drones as it works to establish rules for commercial drone operations. Currently, only hobbyists can fly drones outdoors. Until commercial regulations are in place, the FAA is reluctant to approve widespread outdoor testing, meaning that for now Amazon must conduct such flight tests abroad.

“In the absence of timely approval by the FAA to conduct outdoor testing,” Amazon said in its letter, “we have begun utilizing outdoor testing facilities outside the United States. These non-U.S. facilities enable us to quickly build and modify our Prime Air vehicles as we construct new designs and make improvements.”

Amazon won’t say where, but the BBC reported that the company has a drone facility in the UK. It’s not the only company that has to go overseas — Google has been testing drones in Australia.

Meanwhile, Amazon is testing drones in an indoor space near its headquarters in Seattle, Wash.


The slow approach

The deliberate approach by the FAA is in keeping with its mandate.

“The FAA’s approach is conservative by necessity. Given the number of rogue operators out there who just don’t seem to care, the FAA is moving slowly, although I call it methodically,” said Mark A. Dombroff, an aviation attorney who leads a drone practice at McKenna Long & Aldridge.

Despite those concerns, the government should approve Amazon’s request, he said.

“I see no problem with them testing [drones] outside so long as they observe all the same parameters that the FAA has defined for any exemption being sought,” he said. “I understand that they are agreeable to doing just that, so I think they should get an exemption.”

It’s likely the government is hesitant given Amazon’s ambitious plans for commercial delivery, according to Dombroff.

Amazon last year announced Prime Air, a way to deliver packages that weigh 5 pounds or less in under 30 minutes. More than 86 percent of the millions of products Amazon sells fall in that weight category.

While drones are traditionally associated with military operations, the US government is trying to figure out how these unmanned aircraft will work in a civilian environment. In January, the FAA announced six testing sites that would help the agency determine guidelines for issues related to civilian drone operation, like safety, communications, navigation, air traffic control and privacy. The sites chosen are the University of Alaska, the state of Nevada, Griffiss International Airport in New York, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Texas A&M University’s Corpus Christi campus and Virginia Polytechnic Institute.

Misener said previously that the company wants to run its outdoor testing closer to its home in Washington. It applied for an exemption in July, arguing its service would benefit the public, and would not harm public safety. The FAA previously approved a handful of exemptions in September to moviemakers operating drones under tight controls.

The FAA initially suggested Amazon apply for an experimental permit instead of exemptions, according to Monday’s letter. The agency said it has issued more than 200 of these experimental certificates to drone operators since 2005.

These permits are applied to a specific drone model, which Misener said would take too long, given how quickly Amazon is developing new models. The drones went through three iterations in the span of two months, according to the company’s initial request, and is likely past its ninth generation by now. Misener called the permit process “lengthy” and “burdensome.”

Misener also played the patriotism card in his letter this week, writing that it is “in the public interest” to keep Amazon’s drone R&D efforts in the US: “Amazon is increasingly concerned that, unless substantial progress is quickly made in opening up the skies in the United States, the nation is at risk of losing its position as the center of innovation for the [drone] technological revolution, along with the key jobs and economic benefits that come as a result.”

Still, the FAA has good reason for its go-slow approach, said Paul Saffo, who forecasts technology trends as a consultant at Discern Analytics.

“The FAA’s ‘slow’ pace might be actually protecting the industry from some horrible accident that would have a vastly greater negative impact,” said Saffo. “First we invent our technologies. Then as a society we decide how to use that technology.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, December 13, 2014

It’s disconnect time between Americans and their government once again.

Voters continue to believe that cutting government spending and taxes are the best presents the federal government can give the economy this holiday season.  Instead, Congress is on the brink of passing a $1.1 trillion budget that does neither.

Most voters have said in surveys for years that controlling the border to stop illegal immigration should come before any steps putting those already here illegally on the path to citizenship. Instead, President Obama on his own has exempted up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation, and so far there doesn’t appear to be much Congress can do about it.

The majority opposes the president taking action on immigration issues without Congress, perhaps in part because many don’t believe he is as interested as they are in stopping illegal immigration.  Voters are closely divided over whether their state should join the 17 states now suing the Obama administration over the president’s action.

Voters weren’t clamoring for a report on CIA interrogation methods either, but the Senate Intelligence Committee released one anyway this week. Some in the national security community warned against making the results of the Senate investigation public, saying it’s likely to cause reprisal attacks against Americans overseas. Voters strongly believe it would have been better for Congress to keep the Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation methods a secret if the disclosures put the American public at risk.

Besides, nearly half of voters favor the harsh interrogation tactics used by the CIA on suspected terrorists and think they elicited valuable information that helped the United States.

Then there’s Obamacare which remains untouched despite numerous voter concerns. Most voters continue to believe the unpopular national health care law will cost the government more than projected and will push up health care costs for all Americans.

Voters aren’t keen on the idea of declaring war on the radical Islamic group ISIS in Iraq and Syria and strongly feel that congressional approval should be required before the president sends U.S. troops into combat. The Senate edged closer this week to authorizing boots on the ground for a war most voters don’t want.

On the holiday front, Americans remain strongly supportive of celebrating Christmas in the public schools and putting religious displays on public land – even as state and local governments run in the opposite direction.

Voters continue to give mediocre reviews to the public schools and remain strongly pro-choice when it comes to things like uniforms, academic calendars and school prayer.

Despite complaints from many in government, Americans are solidly convinced that their local police are their protectors and give them high makes for the job they do. Most also believe deaths that involve policemen are usually the fault of the suspect, not the cop.

But Americans are less sure of the need for police to use factors such as race, ethnicity and overall appearance to determine whom they should randomly search.

As with many issues involving race, black Americans and white Americans have distinctly different views of the police and recent high-profile events involving them in Ferguson, Missouri and on Staten Island in New York.

Most Americans aren’t convinced that recent protests around the country in response to the grand jury decisions in Missouri and New York will bring about desired changes and think such protests are controlled by special interest groups and outside agitators anyway.

Americans are more supportive of police officers wearing body cameras and believe it will reduce the number of fatal incidents cops are involved in.  Interestingly, however, they think the cameras will protect the police more than civilians.

Voters have become slightly less critical of the president since Election Day, although his daily job approval rating still runs in the negative mid-teens.

Democrats have edged ahead on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot, the first time they’ve had the lead since early October.

In other surveys last week:

— Twenty-six percent (26%) of voters think the United States is heading in the right direction. This finding has been under 30% nearly every week for the past year-and-a-half.

Investors are feeling more upbeat, consumers less so.

— It’s Jesus vs. Santa again this Christmas season.

— Americans are in the charitable spirit this Christmas, and more plan to make a donation than last year.

Most adults think their fellow Americans play video games too much. Nearly half of Americans also still believe violent video games lead to more violence in society.

December 6 2014


6 December 2014


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For Obama and the Pentagon, an uneasy relationship


Nov. 29, 2014 11:03 AM EST


WASHINGTON (AP) — On a trip to Afghanistan during President Barack Obama’s first term, Defense Secretary Robert Gates was stunned to find a telephone line at the military’s special operations headquarters that linked directly back to a top White House national security official.

“I had them tear it out while I was standing there,” Gates said earlier this month as he recounted his discovery. “I told the commanders, ‘If you get a call from the White House, you tell them to go to hell and call me.'”

To Gates, the phone in Kabul came to symbolize Obama’s efforts to micromanage the Pentagon and centralize decision-making in the White House. That criticism later would be echoed publicly and pointedly by Gates’ successor, Leon Panetta.

The president’s third Pentagon chief, Chuck Hagel, was picked partly because he was thought to be more deferential to Obama’s close circle of White House advisers. But over time, Hagel also grew frustrated with what he saw as the West Wing’s insularity.

There have been similar gripes from other Cabinet officials, but the friction between the White House and the Pentagon has been particularly pronounced during Obama’s six years in office. That dynamic already appears to be affecting the president’s ability to find a replacement for Hagel, who resigned Monday under pressure from Obama.

Within hours, former Pentagon official Michele Flournoy called Obama to take herself out of consideration, even though she was widely seen as his top choice and would have been the first woman to hold the post.

Flournoy officially cited family concerns, but people close to her say she also had reservations about being restrained like Hagel and would perhaps wait to see if she could get the job if another Democrat — namely Hillary Rodham Clinton — won the presidency in 2016.

Obama’s eventual nominee will join a national security team that is under intense criticism for its response to the rise of the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq. The president has authorized airstrikes in both countries and sent about 3,000 U.S. troops to train and assist Iraqi security forces.

He has resisted sending American troops into ground combat and has insisted the military campaign is not designed to oust Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose 3½ year assault on civilians helped create the chaos that allowed the Islamic State to thrive.


The foreign policy landscape looks far different from what Obama envisioned when he ran for the White House and pledged to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Obama has been seen in the Pentagon as being overly suspicious of the military and its inclination to use force to address problems. To some in the Pentagon, the president’s approach to the military seems particularly cool and detached when compared with that of his predecessor, Republican George W. Bush, who was more eager to embrace the military and accept its judgments.

Stephen Biddle, an occasional adviser to U.S. combat commanders, said the White House has fallen victim to “group think” and is distrustful of advice or perspectives that challenge its own.

“That’s a bad policy development design,” said Biddle, a political science professor at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Several White House, defense and other administration officials discussed the relationship between the president and the Pentagon on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to do so publicly.

On foreign policy decision-making, Obama relies in particular on national security adviser Susan Rice and chief of staff Denis McDonough. Secretary of State John Kerry has managed to carve out some areas of influence, particularly on Iranian nuclear negotiations. Some Pentagon officials say they have seen an increasingly close relationship between Obama and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But at the Pentagon, senior officials say there is growing frustration with a lack of policy direction and clarity from the White House that has hampered the military’s ability to quickly respond to fast-moving events around the world. Policy recommendations from the Pentagon are often discussed exhaustively in White House meetings that can bog down, delaying decisions and sometimes resulting in conclusions that remain vague.

Over the past year, officials said the Pentagon leadership was particularly baffled by the White House’s slow deliberations on Russia’s moves against Ukraine and the rise of Islamic State militants.

Earlier this fall, officials said, Hagel sent Rice a memo on Syria reflecting the views of military commanders who feel Obama’s strategy lacks cohesion and has included too many one-off decisions, such as resupplying Kurdish forces fighting the militants in the Syrian town of Kobani. Hagel and military commanders were particularly concerned about a lack of clarity over Obama’s position toward Assad.

On Ukraine, officials say Hagel pressed the White House to speed up the protracted debate over providing even nonlethal assistance to Ukrainian forces and to look for new options when the support the administration did provide proved ineffective in stopping Russian-backed rebels.

Obama’s advisers deny Hagel was ousted because he challenged the president. They cast the former Republican senator as the wrong fit for a job in which he never appeared comfortable. The aides also defended the White House’s lengthy internal deliberations, saying Obama’s decision-making process reflects the complexity of the problems.

Hagel’s ouster has spurred a flurry of suggestions from foreign policy experts for how Obama can repair his relationship with the Pentagon, from ousting his West Wing aides to revamping the White House’s National Security Council, which has ballooned from a few dozen staffers in the 1970s to more than 400.

But Gates, the former Pentagon chief who voiced his frustrations during a forum this month at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in California, suggested the real issue rested with the president himself.

“When a president wants highly centralized control in the White House at the degree of micromanagement that I’m describing, that’s not bureaucratic, that’s political,” he said.



Defense Firms Could Be Skeptical of Investing in Research

Marcus Weisgerber

November 26, 2014


Despite a recent push by the Defense Department for companies to invest more in research projects, the Pentagon might continue having trouble getting firms to spend more of their own money for this, experts say.

Unless DOD creates “more compelling threats of potential lost business” so-called prime contractors — such as Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and General Dynamics – will be less likely to boost research spending, a new report by analyst Byron Callan at Capital Alpha Partners has found.

Callan’s report comes just days after the Pentagon officially launched a project to find new technologies that it hopes will give it an edge on the battlefield decades from now.

The project, called the Long-Range Research and Development Planning Program, is akin to the so-called “offset strategies” that the Pentagon employed after World War II and again in the 1970s. The terminology refers to offsetting an enemy’s military with a technology. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, the driving force behind the effort, has termed the latest effort the “third offset strategy.”

Nuclear weapons were considered the first offset and stealth and precision weapons were considered the second offset. So-called smart bombs, that could hit targets hundreds of miles away with pinpoint accuracy, have given the U.S. military a battlefield advantage for nearly four decades, but now other nations are catching up.

Work envisions a future where the U.S. military will have to fight from farther away with stealthy air, sea and ground weapons. Technologies, including biotechnology and robotics could all play into this concept as well as using different technologies in concert with one another.

“The key thing is, what is something that we believe that will give us a competitive advantage?” Work said during an interview at the Defense One Summit last week.

And other countries, including adversaries, will try to duplicate this strategy, Work said. The Pentagon’s first two offset strategies were “relatively hard to duplicate.” Not the case anymore as adversaries will be able to copy the way DOD uses the technology.

“We have potential competitors who are very, very good in this business and cannot only steal our [intellectual property], but can duplicate things very fast,” he said.

The prior offset strategy has lasted about four decades, but “it is unlikely the next one will last that long,” Work said.

Parts of the new offset strategy will be classified and kept secret while others will be remain in the open.

“There are certain capabilities that might surprise us so much that we say: ‘Hey, we would not want to reveal this capability,'” Work said. He likened this to the development of the Air Force’s fleet of F-117 stealth fighters, which were battle-ready for years before they were publically acknowledged.

Even though the Pentagon has been spending less in recent years, defense firms have still been able to turn sizable profits by downsizing, reorganizing and expanding commercial business.

“We did not want our potential adversaries to know we had the capability,” Work said. And they didn’t until 1988.

Defense firms were integral to the last offset strategy and Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall is trying to get companies to buy in to this latest round. Over the next six months, DOD leaders will build a “conceptual framework” for the new offset strategy.

Defense leaders argue that companies that spend their own money on research projects will be better positioned to win contracts down the road when Pentagon spending rebounds from the current decline.

Companies with large commercial businesses oftentimes spend multiples more on research than pure defense companies. That’s because there is a far greater chance of recouping investments with a successful commercial technological breakthrough. That is not the case with defense technology.

So if Apple develops a new phone, it could sell hundreds of millions of them worldwide leading to billions of dollars in profit. If Lockheed Martin develops a new missile with sensitive military technology and DOD doesn’t want it, the company loses the money it cost to build the weapon since there are not as many sales options.

Even though the Pentagon has been spending less in recent years, defense firms have still been able to turn sizable profits by downsizing, reorganizing and expanding commercial business. DOD’s research spending has been slowing in recent years as well. But as Pentagon spending continues to fall, it will be difficult for DOD to convince companies to tap into profits to expand research spending.

Companies are not required to say how much they’re spending on research, but many have been more open about disclosing figures, particularly over the past year as DOD has challenged firms to step it up.

Lockheed officials have said the company would boost research project spending in 2014 to about $730 million, but that’s still well below the $822 million the company spent in 1999.

And leadership is key to keeping the military services focused on the effort, particularly making sure they budget money for research projects, according to experts.

Work called the effort a “very big priority” for Pentagon leaders of the remaining two years of the Obama administration. Despite budget constraints, Pentagon officials are trying to free up money for prototyping projects, Work said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in September put an emphasis on using prototyping as a way to keep company design teams fresh when there are fewer DOD funded research projects.


Ex-DoD official Carter leads list of SECDEF candidates

By Leo Shane III, Staff writer 1:41 p.m. EST November 26, 2014

Within an hour of Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s resignation announcement, defense watchers began looking to potential nominees to replace him. Within two days, two of the top contenders removed themselves from that list.

On Monday, Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., said through his staff that he had no interest in the job. A day later, Michèle Flournoy, the former top policy adviser at the Pentagon, asked the White House to drop her name from consideration as well.

The moves leave Ash Carter, the former deputy secretary of defense, as the most-rumored name to be selected for the post. White House officials have floated his name as a possible Pentagon leader for years.

Carter has worked both as the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer and budget official, and still commands the respect of many in the building and on Capitol Hill. He’s a Rhodes scholar with degrees in theoretical physics and medieval history, and also served as an assistant defense secretary during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

But he’s not the only name still under consideration. Here’s an updated look at some of the other rumored candidates:

• Robert Work: The current Defense Department deputy secretary has played a major role in recent military budget planning issues. He’s a former Navy undersecretary and has close ties to a pair of prominent defense think tanks. He’s also been a long-trusted adviser to President Obama, taking a lead role on his defense transition team.

• Deborah Lee James: The current Air Force secretary boasts more than 30 years of national security experience in the government and private sector, with ties to influencers in both arenas. She also has ties to the Clinton administration, serving as an assistant secretary for reserve affairs. And she worked on the House Armed Services Committee staff for a decade, giving her allies on Capitol Hill as well.

• Ray Mabus: The former Mississippi governor works as secretary of the Navy, and was a key figure in the department’s reaction to the 2013 Navy Yard shooting. Mabus was also previously tapped by the White House to lead clean-up efforts following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010.

• Other names in the mix: Army Secretary John McHugh, Clinton’s Navy Secretary Richard Danzig, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Clinton Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre.

• Names not in the mix: Retiring Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin has said he’s looking forward to returning home to Michigan at the end of the year. A spokeswoman for former Joint Chiefs Chairman Colin Powell said he has no interest in returning to the government.


Sunni vs. Shi’ite: Why the U.S. plan to save Iraq is doomed to fail

By Peter Van Buren November 25, 2014

If the United States was looking for the surest way to lose Iraq War 3.0, it might start by retraining the failed Iraqi Army to send north — alongside ruthless Shi’ite militias — into Sunni-majority territory and hope that the Sunnis will welcome them with open arms, throwing out the evil Islamic State.


Maybe it’s time for a better plan.

And the way to find one is by understanding how we lost Iraq War 2.0. We need a plan to create a stable, tri-state solution to the Sunni-Shi’ite-Kurd divide, or the current war will fail as surely as the previous one.

A critical first step is, of course, to remove Islamic State from the equation, but not how the Obama administration envisions. The way to drive Islamic State out of Iraq is to remove the reason Islamic State has been able to remain in Iraq: as a protector of the Sunnis. In Iraq War 2.0, the Iraqi Sunnis never melded politically with al Qaeda; they allied out of expediency, against the Shi’ite militias and the Shi’ite central government. The same situation applies to Islamic State, the new al Qaeda in Iraq.

The United States is acting nearly 180 degrees counter to this strategy, enabling Shi’ite militia and Iranian forces’ entry into Anbar and other Sunni-majority areas to fight Islamic State. The more Shi’ite influence, the more Sunnis feel they need Islamic State muscle. More Iranian fighters also solidify Iran’s grip on the Shi’ite government in Baghdad, and weakens America’s. The presence of additional Sunni players, like the Gulf States, will simply grow the violence indecisively, with the various local factions manipulated as armed proxies.

Iraq in 2007 was, on the surface, a struggle between insurgents and the United States. However, the real fight was happening in parallel, as the minority Sunnis sought a place in the new Shi’ite-dominated Iraq. The solution was supposedly the Anbar Awakening. Indigenous Iraqi Sunnis would be pried lose from al Qaeda under American protection (that word again), along with the brokered promise that the Shi’ites would grant them a substantive role in governance. The Shi’ites balked almost from day one, and the deal fell apart even before America’s 2011 withdrawal — I was in Iraq with the Department of State and saw it myself. The myth that “we won” only to have the victory thrown away by the Iraqis — a favorite among 2.0 apologists — is very dangerous. It suggests repeating the strategy will result in something other than repeating the results. The Sunnis won’t be so easily fooled again.

Progress otherwise in Iraq? The new prime minister has accomplished little toward unity, selecting a Badr militia politician to head the Interior Ministry, for example. The Badr group has been a key player in sectarian violence.

Islamic State still controls 80 percent of Anbar Province, the key city of Mosul and is attacking in Ramadi. U.S. air strikes cannot seize ground. The Iraqi Army will never rise to the fullness of the challenge. One can only imagine the thoughts of the American trainers, retraining some of the same Iraqi troops from War 2.0.

Military vehicles of the Kurdish security forces are seen during an intensive security deployment in Diyala province north of BaghdadElsewhere, the Kurds are already a de facto separate state. Their ownership of Arbil, the new agreement to allow the overt export of some of their own oil, and the spread of the peshmerga to link up with Kurdish forces in Syria, are genies that won’t go back into the bottle. America need only restrain Kurdish ambitions to ensure stability.

Present Iraq strategy delays, at great cost — in every definition of that word — the necessary long-term tristate solution. It is time to hasten it. The United States must use its influence with the Shi’ites to have their forces, along with the Iranians, withdraw to Baghdad. America would create a buffer zone, encompassing the strategically critical international airport as a “peacekeeping base.” Using air power, America would seal the Iraq-Syria border in western Anbar, at least against any medium-to-large scale Islamic State resupply effort. Arm the Sunni tribes if they will push Islamic State out of their towns. Support goes to those tribes who hold territory, a measurable, ground-truth based policy, not an ideological one. Implementing the plan in northwest Iraq can also succeed, but will be complicated by Kurd ambitions, greater ethnic diversity among the Iraqis and a stronger Islamic State tactical hold on cities like Mosul. There’ll be another tough challenge, the sharing of oil revenues between the new Sunni and Shi’ite states, so this plan is by no means a slam-dunk.

The broad outline is not new; in 2006 then-Senator Joe Biden proposed a federal partition of Iraq along the Bosnian model. Bush-era zeal kept the idea from getting a full review. But much has transpired since 2006.

If the tristate plan works, it will deny Islamic State sanctuary where it is now most powerful, and a strategy for northwest Iraq may emerge. America will realize its long-sought enduring bases in Iraq as a check on Iranian ambitions and an assurance of security for the embassy. The president can decouple Syrian policy from Iraq. An indefinite American presence in Iraq will not be fully welcomed, though one hastens to add it basically is evolving anyway.

For advocates of disengagement, this is bitter medicine. But we are where we are in Iraq, and wishful thinking, on their part or the White House’s, is no longer practical. A divided Iraq, maintained by an American presence, is the only hope for long-term stability. Otherwise, stay tuned for Iraq War 4.0.


National Security Policymakers—No Experience Necessary?

Chris Miller

Posted on November 30, 2014

The United States possesses the most capable military in human history accompanied by the largest intelligence community in the world. The well-oiled machine that is our military-industrial complex underpins all other components of American national strength. Even with all of this power at our disposal, national security decisions with great ramifications are often made on the basis of executive summaries and PowerPoint briefings to congressional and executive branch officials–including presidents–who have little to no real national security experience of their own to draw on. Our leaders cannot properly defend America while learning about national security 45 minutes at a time. The learning curve is far too steep.


No Experience Necessary?

The President of the United States and U.S. Representatives and Senators, using history as a guide, are generally white males past middle age of above average wealth and education. They are most likely lawyers by training, clawed their way up through the ranks of one of the major political parties, held local, state, and national political offices, and served several years as a Congressman, Senator, or perhaps Governor.

On average, they have little to no military or national security experience, other than perhaps serving on related congressional committees or as commander of a state’s National Guard. This common lack of experience among our national leaders holds true even of presidents and congressmen who are not white, male, older, Christian, educated and rich. Lack of national security experience seems to be the common trait that our national leaders have in common, no matter their background. Yet they are the ultimate decision-makers for the most capable national security complex in the history of the world, all the way up to Commander in Chief. As the number of veterans in congress dwindles every year, it should not surprise us that we are struggling to form a coherent national strategy.

No person in their right mind would knowingly hire a dentist, a lawyer, a carpenter, or a plumber who has neither experience nor training. But America’s system elects leaders who are qualified for little else than winning elections.

Those involved in helping elected officials make security decisions update them on the full historical background, developments, and nuances of a complex international situation involving the interests of the United States and other countries that may have great implications for American national security. In this discussion, they must consider America’s national strategy, whether and how it should act, its goals if it does act, and how to achieve these goals using the specific tools—military, economic, diplomatic, and social—the country has to achieve them. The only tools for the briefing are an executive summary and a PowerPoint presentation, after which they must be prepared to answer detailed questions.

How the President’s daily window onto the world since the Kennedy administration—the Presidential Daily Brief (PDB)—is delivered depends upon their personal taste, issues they find most important, their desired level of detail, and determines which issues are left out as well as included. It is usually delivered in under an hour each day. Naturally, those, such as the Director of National Intelligence, who determine what the President is told and how and what he is not told are in a position of some power. They are responsible for building the President’s knowledge of the state of the world, especially if he has very little experience of his own to draw upon. Not all national security decision-making follows or is based upon such a complex process as the NIE. Nonetheless, the product of what may be weeks, months, or even years of work is often briefed to the President in blocks of 45 minutes at a time.

Before the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy only devoted 45 minutes at a time to briefings on the planning, conduct, and chances of success of the operation and later believed if he had understood the full picture and ramifications, he would never have approved it. Kennedy was a WWII veteran who initially served as a U.S. Navy intelligence officer. Some would argue—especially those without security experience—that this is proof such experience makes little difference. However, a more clear-eyed view would be that if someone with military and intelligence experience such as Kennedy could not spot the pitfalls or folly of such an operation following 45-minute briefings, what chance does someone who does not possess even that much experience have?


To the Election Victor Goes the Spoils

Though the smoke is still clearing over the imminent departure of Chuck Hagel from the Pentagon, it appears that Secretary of Defense, a former Republican and Vietnam veteran, was never accepted into the inner circle of decision-making at the White House. Hagel was supposed to simply preside over the final departure of U.S. troops from the Middle East, but instead has presided over a slowing of the withdrawal from Afghanistan and a return to military operations—against ISIS this time—in Iraq. That Hagel and America’s top Generals were at odds with the White House on Syria and Iraq was obvious almost from the beginning.

Much of America’s security policy in the post-9/11 era, spanning both Democratic and Republican administrations and multiple shifts in party control of congress, has been wrought with bipartisan policy failures that have outweighed military and intelligence successes. As Mark Lowenthal points out, we are always told about intelligence failures and policy successes, but never of intelligence successes and policy failures. The bin Laden raid, the Libyan intervention, and the targeted elimination of militants throughout the MENA region have been successes. However, these successes have been overshadowed by poor policy in Iraq and Afghanistan and the opportunity cost they represent which has left the U.S. looking impotent in the face of Russian aggression and put the “Asia Pivot” on hold.

Our military has performed valiantly in the face of great strain over the past decade, with 1% of the citizenry called upon to do all of the fighting. There are no signs it will let up soon. Despite all of Americans’ grumbling about elected leaders, Congress enjoys a re-election rate over 90% despite approval in the lower-teens. Congress agreed with the President that Iraq and Afghanistan should be invaded and America should stay until they were “secure and stable”, but they would not pay for civilian experts from places such as the State Department to help get the job done. Americans dislike “foreign aid.” So battle-hardened Marines and soldiers were called upon to fill the roles of aid workers, public works directors, sociologists, anthropologists, economists, and diplomats and managed to succeed in limited measures despite the impossibility of the task. Defense was forced to fill the hole left by State.

The limited successes America has experienced in the post-9/11 era show that our tools of national power still do work, it is just the decisions made by those who use them that are faulty. This is because they are operating them with no experience and they have not read the instruction manual. Working in national security is the necessary experience. The academic study of war and conflict is the instruction manual. No person in their right mind would knowingly hire a dentist, a lawyer, a carpenter, or a plumber who has neither experience nor training. But America’s system elects leaders who are qualified for little else than winning elections.

It is a no-brainer to say that national security decision-making is a complex task. Even with years of experience, academic study, or both it is still complicated. America’s premier national intelligence product—the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE)—has been likened to the final product of a complex machine that funnels the whole of the nation’s knowledge on a problem and then assembles it; validates it; interprets it; analyses it; condenses it, and; reports it to policymakers. Capabilities across the U.S. government in the intelligence community, the Departments of Defense, State, Justice, Homeland Security, Energy, Treasury, and others feed information through the estimative “machine” in order to develop a product. This product is checked and re-checked by those possessing relevant knowledge and experience within multiple organizations until it is judged fit for purpose. Inter-agency meeting are held to iron out differences and dissents.

After this complex and carefully-constructed process, the result of months or years of work by thousands of experienced, trained personnel, it ends up in the hands of presidents and congressmen who make decisions based upon a written synopsis and a 45-minute briefing. They do have staffers to help them. However, as is frequently lamented, the greatest qualification many possess is having worked on the campaign and then having stayed put, wearing their clearances and committee staff roles as qualification badges. As Kevin Parsneau found, presidents place “loyalty” above “experience” when it comes to choosing staff. Many career State Department Foreign Service Officers, often with decades of experience, lament working under political appointees who often have half their qualifications.

Many will argue that the American system was designed to ensure that civilian control over the security complex is maintained. This is true and it should be maintained. However, all of America’s founding fathers either served in the continental army during the revolution or supported the war effort diplomatically, all of them knowing from the moment they signed the Declaration of Independence that they would be hung if it failed. Today, leaders and their advisers who set troops up to fail get re-elected at no cost to themselves. George Washington set aside his uniform as America’s first military commander and its first spy chief to become its first president, but he did not set aside that experience.

Of recent note, the sequestration debacle, triggering untargeted, across-the-board cuts to defense spending, is further proof of Congress’ misguided understanding of national security. Congress is so broken as an institution that, knowing the parties could not reach an agreement on the budget, they agreed instead to place the added pressure upon one another to reach a compromise by setting this sequestration trap for themselves. They both believed that with defense spending on the line, the other party would cave.

Neither of them did. Congress played a game of chicken with the defense budget and both congressional Democrats and Republicans were willing to ride off the cliff together rather than work together. Now, as Army Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno points out, these military spending cuts are squeezing the defense budget just as more requirements are being placed upon it by the fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, not to mention Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Asia Pivot. Congress is not only inexperienced when it comes to national security; it is also reckless and irresponsible.

America’s national security, especially in an era of great uncertainty, is too important to leave in the hands of amateurs. You cannot teach nor learn national security with an executive summary and a 45-minute briefing. We are often told that our leaders are surrounded with the best advisers. They are most often surrounded with those most loyal to them and those who tell them what they want to hear. To sort this mess out, going forward those without experience need not apply.


Chris MillerChris Miller is a U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient and has worked as a military contractor in the Middle East. His work currently focuses on strategic studies. His interests are CBRNe, military and veterans issues, the Cold War, and international security affairs.


The Perversion of Military Ideas: How Innovative Thinking is Inadvertently Destroyed

by Dr Aaron P. Jackson

Journal Article | December 1, 2014 – 3:04am

Abstract: Have you ever read a military concept or doctrine publication, or an academic or professional paper about warfare or military operations, and wondered how it came to include such an ill-conceived idea? Odds are that the idea you read is a perversion of an earlier, better idea that in its original incarnation was actually quite innovative and insightful. This article explains the process by which such innovative and insightful military ideas are inadvertently oversimplified and/or distorted into intellectually questionable caricatures of their former selves.

A saying attributed to Confucius is that ‘the beginning of wisdom is calling things by their right names’.[1] Assuming for a minute that this is a truism, then contemporary Western militaries aren’t particularly wise. The latest buzzword to make the ‘bingo’ list is ‘ambiguous warfare’, coined to describe Russian actions in Ukraine, which involved an ‘unconventional attack, using asymmetric tactics’ (two more buzzwords to tick off on the bingo card).[2] Forgive me if I’m oversimplifying things, but doesn’t the word ‘warfare’ itself imply that a situation might be ambiguous? Also, aren’t tactics variable, and is it not good practice to continually adapt them to maximise the odds of achieving the strategic aims that one has gone to war for in the first place? In other words, Russian tactics and strategy in Ukraine need to be understood and organisations like NATO need to figure out how to respond to them. But this doesn’t warrant the invention of yet another new buzzword.

Of course I’m not the first to complain about the proliferation of buzzwords at the cost of genuine understanding; in fact what might be dubbed ‘the buzzword problem’ has grown to the extent that complaining about it has become something of a cliché. Even such world-renowned strategists as Colin Grey have observed that ‘Americans in the 2000s went to war and by and large have remained conceptually wounded’.[3] But the wittiest summary of the buzzword problem has to be that of Justin Kelly and Ben Fitzgerald, who penned a short paper entitled ‘when a cup of coffee becomes a soy decaf mint mocha chip frappuccino’.[4] Bingo!

There is a flip side to this coin, however, noting that I use the word ‘coin’ in the literal, dictionary definition sense, not as an acronym or abbreviation or attempt to employ some kind of once clever but now exhausted counterinsurgency related homonym. The flip side is that with so many buzzwords proliferating it becomes hard to separate good, innovative, insightful ideas and approaches from white noise. As far as the volume of complaints go, this flip side has been relatively neglected. People prefer to disparage the white noise, not lament what gets lost in it. I intend to buck this trend, and will do so by offering an explanation of how good military ideas (or concepts, or theories, or models, or whatever else they may be called) are assimilated by the military community and quickly but inadvertently turned into mere buzzwords that form part of the white noise. This process might well be called the birth, perversion and death of good military ideas.

Regardless of which particular military idea (or concept or theory or model) we examine, thinking about it will tend to follow this trajectory:

(1) A very intelligent thinker comes up with an innovative idea or approach that captures the attention of a core group of people who become adherents to the thinker’s ideas. Alternatively, a think tank comes up with a bad idea that someone, somewhere can profit from, and adherents are drawn to it by good old-fashioned profit motives. Either way, proceed to step 2.

(2) The core group of adherents writes secondary material (journal articles etc) about the thinker’s original work, including their interpretations of it, how to practically apply it and (in the case of long-dead thinkers) how to modify it for current conditions.[5]

(3) A much broader group of military personnel (a ‘lay audience’) engages with the secondary literature, re-interprets and simplifies that literature, and ends up popularising an over-simplified and often inaccurate or distorted version of the original thinker’s idea.[6] Usually very few within this lay audience will bother going back to the original thinker’s work and actually reading and considering it directly (for example, how many people can you think of who have quoted but never read Clausewitz?). Furthermore, somewhere between the adherents and the lay audience historical context is often lost and as a result ideas that were derived within specific historical circumstances tend to morph into timeless caricatures of themselves, even if the original idea was explicitly intended only to suit the circumstances in which it was first conceived (for example, Boyd’s decision making process, a complex model developed to guide fighter pilots in aerial combat, has morphed into a simplified ‘OODA loop’ that seems to promise victory to whichever side can go around the loop quickest).

With very rare exception it is only once a military idea (or concept etc) has reached a point of multiple reinterpretations and gross oversimplification that it tends to be incorporated into doctrine. This is for a few reasons. First, doctrine writers, sadly and due to what I call ‘being a subject matter expert by virtue of posting’, tend to fall into the third group of idea developer identified above (the lay audience). Second, to end up in doctrine an idea must be generally accepted by the military as an institution, and to reach the critical mass necessary for this acceptance an idea has to have reached the lay audience (and hence has to have been dumbed down). It also doesn’t help that doctrine is written by consensus and, as the old saying goes, a committee that sets out to build a horse usually ends up with a camel.[7]

Examples of this process are everywhere; indeed, they are for the most part the white noise itself! Terms such as ‘complexity’, ‘design’, and perhaps even ‘system’ spring immediately to mind. Ideas like ‘network centric warfare’, ‘effects based operations’ and ‘centre of gravity’ also roll quickly off the tongue. These ideas all started life as novel, innovative ways to think about warfare. And all were subsequently simplified (or distorted), generalised and applied in a way that removed them from their original context. Other times, an existing idea has been altered slightly then re-labelled so that it appears to be something completely new when it actually isn’t. For example, ‘ambiguous warfare’ is essentially a relatively minor variation to what was last year called ‘hybrid warfare’, itself a relatively minor variation to what was called ‘irregular warfare’ a few years earlier still. Such new terms create the impression of analysis and understanding, while in reality they obscure genuine understanding, especially if one desires to make valid and meaningful historical comparisons.

These terms are not the only examples of this process; they are merely some of the better-known or more recent. Which brings me to the final part of the process.

(4) The oversimplified, reinterpreted version of the original idea, often perverted to the point that it has lost its original meaning (and goodness), then suffers one of two fates. If it has a high enough profile (i.e. a large enough group of adherents), it gets to ride on the ‘good ideas merry-go-round’ for the rest of infinity. Centre of gravity is an excellent example; in fact, this idea may well own the merry-go-round and therefore ride for free. Centre of gravity isn’t ever going to be applied in the way Clausewitz intended, because his writings were sufficiently open to interpretation that we don’t actually know precisely how he would have applied the term himself. So adherents are able to debate, interpret and re-interpret the concept ad infinitum—heck, one of them has even gone so far as to advocate disconnecting it from the writings of Clausewitz altogether, leaving this commentator wondering why the concept’s other adherents haven’t yet burned him as a heretic![8]

The second possible fate is that the idea gets so distorted as to become detrimental and so is dumped from the lexicon altogether (General Mattis’ memorandum directing US Joint Forces Command to cease use of the ‘effects based operations’ concept is perhaps the most famous example).[9] Unfortunately, this second option is (by a wide margin) the one less exercised (meaning that most ideas get their infinite merry-go-round ride).

Sadly there is little that can be done to stop this process. The most effective solution may well be one that can only be implemented by individuals and to that end I offer the following advice. If you see or hear about a military idea and think it looks like a good one, first find the original source of the idea, read it and ensure you understand it. Second, find, read and critically evaluate the existing secondary literature about it.[10] Do this before you write something of your own about the idea (or push for it to be included in doctrine). Third, if having read what is already out there you decide that what you’ve got to say isn’t actually new or innovative, avoid the temptation to re-package the same old junk in a shiny new box; find something else to write about instead. Finally, and above all, please don’t invent a new term when there is another perfectly good term already in use! Sure, this proposed approach will involve some additional time and intellectual effort, but the alternative is worse. The alternative is ambiguous warfare.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this paper are the author’s own and are not necessarily those of the Australian Defence Organisation or any part thereof.

End Notes

[1] Quoted in: Charles M. Westenhoff, Military Airpower: A Revised Digest of Airpower Opinions and Thoughts, Maxwell Air Force Base: Air University Press, 2007, p. 239 (available online,, accessed 26 November 2014).

[2] Peter Apps, ”Ambiguous Warfare’ Providing NATO with New Challenge’, Reuters, 21 August 2014 (available online,, accessed 17 October 2014).

[3] Colin S. Gray, ‘Concept Failure: COIN, Counterinsurgency, and Strategic Theory,’ Prism, Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2012, pp. 18-19 (available online,, accessed 26 November 2014).

[4] Justin Kelly & Ben Fitzgerald, ‘When a Cup of Coffee Becomes a Soy Decaf Mint Mocha Chip Frappuccino’, Small Wars Journal, 13 September 2009 (available online,, accessed 17 October 2014).

[5] The first two steps in this process echo the relationship between what Thomas Kuhn labelled ‘paradigms’ and ‘normal science’. The first of these terms is defined by Kuhn as the ‘constellation of beliefs, values, techniques and so on shared by the members of a given [scientific] community’ and the latter involves the conduct of further research (which Kuhn also refers to as ‘puzzle solving’) within the confines of the paradigm. Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (4th ed., Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2012), quote p. 174.

[6] The term ‘lay audience’ is used here in deference to Ludwig Fleck’s concept of ‘thought collectives’. This concept posits the existence within any field where ideas are exchanged (e.g. science, art, religion, medicine, etc) of an ‘esoteric circle’ consisting of specialists and an ‘exoteric circle’ consisting of their followers. Core ideas within the field are generated by the esoteric circle, but the opinions and feedback of the exoteric circle are nevertheless important as they validate and give impetus to thought generation by members of the esoteric circle. Ludwig Fleck, The
Genesis and Development of a Scientific Fact (transl. by Fred Bradley & Thaddeus J. Trenn, ed. by Thaddeus J. Trenn & Robert K. Merton, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1979).

[7] Although a single central authority ultimately approves doctrine, it is nevertheless developed at working level through compromise between various stakeholder groups within a military organisation (e.g. different units that have an interest in the same doctrine publication for a variety of training, teaching or operational purposes).

[8] Dale C. Eikmeier, ‘Give Carl von Clausewitz and the Centre of Gravity a Divorce’, Small Wars Journal, 2 July 2013 (available online,, accessed 17 October 2014).

[9] General J. N. Mattis, U.S. Joint Forces Command Commander’s Guidance for Effects Based Operations, unpublished memorandum dated 14 August 2008 (available online,, accessed 26 November 2014).

[10] For those who are willing to ‘swallow the red pill’, I recommend going one step further: in addition to thinking about the idea, try thinking about thinking about the idea. This seems a bit abstract and philosophical, but such an approach helps enable an evaluation not only of why an idea does or doesn’t work, but also of the institutional reasons underlying why a military or its members covet an idea in the first place.


Canada Issues Clear Guidelines for UAS Flying    

UAS Vision

Dec 3 2014


Transport Canada has released the details of its new rules governing the commercial use of unmanned aerial systems. Last month, the agency, the equivalent of the FAA, announced a significant liberalization of so-called “low threat” UAS operations. Those were generally described as line-of-sight operations below 300 feet in rural areas away from airports by UASs weighing less than 4.4 pounds and up to 55 pounds. The advisory circular fills in the blanks, explicitly laying out the responsibilities of owners and operators and acknowledging operational circumstances in which some compromise is appropriate. It also clearly shows that Canada isn’t requiring UAS pilots to be licensed per se, but they do have to complete a ground school course to fly the larger class of UAS.

The agency has also published a consumer-friendly part of its web site that guides users easily through the regulations on flying an unmanned aircraft.


Drones Face Critical Moment As White House Prepares To Act

Gregory S. McNeal

Washington 11/30/2014 @ 6:23PM


The White House is currently reviewing a series of policy initiatives related to the integration of drones into the national airspace. At the conclusion of the policy review process, the White House will act on both the FAA’s sUAS rule and on matters related to privacy. For an industry begging for clear rules that won’t stifle innovation, the next few weeks will be the most critical since the passage of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012.


The FAA is preparing to publicly release their rules for small drones (under 55 pounds). Rather than recognizing the potential benefits of small drones, and distinguishing between very risky high powered, high speed, heavier drones, and less risky lightweight aircraft (some weighing as few as one or two pounds), it appears that the FAA is poised to treat all sUAS as identical. The rules, according to the Wall Street Journal, will “require operators to have a license and limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls.” If the reporting is accurate, these rules will disappoint many and will put America far behind other developed nations which have already established risk-based rules that recognize that large 55 pound fuel powered unmanned aircraft present different risks than small battery powered multicopters, and even smaller remote controlled toys.

In the coming weeks, America’s drone laws will be in the hands of the White House. I reached out to individuals familiar with the process at the White House and have provided below an overview of what to expect in the short run. That overview is followed by a short preview of what 2015 will bring.


Where is the sUAS (drone) rule?

The rule is out of the hands of the FAA and is currently being reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs at the White House. This review is the last opportunity for individuals outside of the FAA to correct the FAA’s proposed rule. The FAA cannot publish the rule until the White House review is complete, and that review is supposed to focus on costs vs. benefits. The FAA has made it clear that they are an agency focused on safety, not innovation, as such when their regulators conduct a cost-benefit analysis of drones, they see only safety costs and few innovation benefits. The job of OIRA is to push back against that regulatory mindset and conduct a true cost-benefit analysis. The next few weeks will determine whether the White House does their job and ensures that the FAA doesn’t stifle innovation with overly burdensome rules.

Last week a group of U.S. Senators contacted the FAA demanding answers about the status of the new regulations regarding drones. Those Senators expressed concern that “…proposed regulations on small, commercial unmanned aircraft will be costly, needlessly restrictive and hinder research and development for the growing UAS industry.” If those Senators truly want to influence policy, they should immediately contact the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and discuss the specifics of their concerns. Unfortunately, the fact that five Senators didn’t know that the sUAS rule was pending regulatory review at the White House (in their letter they embarrassingly asked the FAA for a status update) indicates that the quality of their commentary may be less than helpful.


What about privacy?

The White House is preparing an executive order to deal with the privacy issues related to drones. The executive order has been delayed while the White House awaits the completion of its review of the draft FAA sUAS rule and conducts a preliminary review of a European study on privacy and drones. Sources familiar with the White House’s deliberations tell me that the executive order will segment the privacy issues related to drones into two categories — public and private. For public drones (that is, drones purchased with federal dollars), the President’s order will establish a series of privacy and transparency guidelines. The order will include some operational guidelines, and will require that agencies operating drones reveal information about their use and surveillance capabilities. (For some possible guidelines regarding drones and privacy, see this white paper “Drones and Aerial Surveillance: Considerations for Legislators”).

The second part of the executive order will address the privacy concerns associated with private uses of drones. In the order, the President will direct that the Department of Commerce’s, National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) chair a process for creating privacy rules for private drone operators. The NTIA typically creates these rules by convening stakeholder meetings with individuals from industry, consumer groups, and advocacy groups.

The process will likely begin with a notification and a request for public comments regarding a privacy blueprint. That blueprint will be available for sixty days of commentary. Following the receipt of comments, a notice will be published regarding a series of multi-stakeholder meetings. Those stakeholder meetings are designed to create a set of consensus based rules — which may take up to a year to draft. The final set of rules become what are known as a “voluntary, enforceable code of conduct.” The codes are voluntary, in that NTIA does not have the regulatory authority to impose their rules on individuals or organizations. However, the rules are enforceable in that those individuals or organizations who claim to comply with a “voluntary, enforceable code of conduct” are subject to the Federal Trade Commission’s enforcement authority if they fail to comply with the code of conduct.

Public commentary will dominate 2015.

In light of the expected publication of the FAA’s sUAS rule for public commentary, and the NTIA’s multi-stakeholder privacy guideline process, 2015 will be a year in which public commentary on drone rules and regulations will be critical . While these processes will be open for the general public to submit comments, the reality is that those who hire experienced regulatory affairs professionals usually have the most influence in these processes. Big businesses know this and already have teams of regulatory professionals working on their behalf.

If small drone businesses want to have a voice, they will need to work with experienced professionals individually, or organize and hire someone to represent their views collectively. That may be hard for some small businesses to hear, but that’s the reality of regulation, organized interests dominate. 2015 will be all about whose voice is heard in the commentary process — get ready for it.

Gregory S. McNeal is a professor specializing in law and public policy. You can follow him on Twitter @GregoryMcNeal or on Facebook


Russia Establishes Military UAV Unit

Russia has reportedly established a dedicated unmanned air vehicle unit in the eastern region of Chukotka, believed to stem from a $9.2 billion investment in the technology pledged by the nation’s defence ministry in May.

According to the state-owned Sputnik news agency, Alexander Gordeev, spokesperson for the Russian Eastern Military District (EMD), says the unit was formed at the Ugolny military and civil airfield, and it is expecting to receive a number of indigenously-designed Orlan-10 surveillance UAVs by the end of the year.

Flight testing with the type in cold conditions is expected to take place in early 2015, and the type will be operated by Orlan to begin with, until the military unit is fully trained on the aircraft.

On 20 May, the Russian defence ministry said it would invest some $9.2 billion on UAVs by 2020.

Separately, President Vladimir Putin has ordered the establishment of a public body responsible for the implementation of Russian policies in the Arctic, Sputnik says. Putin also requires that a naval force of warships and submarines be positioned near the Arctic to bolster the country’s border defence in the region.

In August it was reported that EMD personnel had started assembling Russian-built Forpost UAVs, which were to carry out patrol missions over Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula.

The unit was to operate six of the type, which entered service at the beginning of 2015, and as of August operators had already completed a training course on the system, Sputnik says.

The use of unmanned technology by Russia is prevalent. This is demonstrated by the reported Russian use of UAVs over Ukraine, as observed by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s special monitoring mission (SMM) to the country.

According to the OSCE, the SMM visited Strelkov on the Arabat Spit on 1 December to meet with representatives of the Ukrainian army, who said they had observed military activities on the Crimean side of the peninsula, with a UAV flying every 2-3 days. The SMM could not verify this information, however.

These flights, the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine says, are increasing. Seven flights took place – alongside terrorist attacks – on 24 November alone.

On 28 November, the NSDC said a Russian UAV was shot down in the Shchastya region of Ukraine, using a ZU-23-2 anti-aircraft weapon.


Reports: Ash Carter Tapped as Next Defense Secretary

Dec. 1, 2014 – 03:45AM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments


WASHINGTON — Ashton Carter, the former deputy defense secretary, will be nominated to be the next defense secretary to replace Chuck Hagel, sources have told CNN and The Associated Press.

Carter served as the Pentagon’s No. 2 civilian official from October 2011 to December 2013, and had a stint as the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer before that. He has mostly kept quiet since leaving the Pentagon.

Described as an “uber wonk” by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey at Carter’s farewell ceremony last year, Carter was in the thick of the wartime rapid fielding initiatives of the past decade, playing a key role in procuring tens of thousands of hulking MRAPs to Iraq and Afghanistan in just about two years.

“It’s lucky for us that you have worked without glamor or fame behind the scenes to make sure through good management and common sense and discipline that we are an organization that continues to adapt to the challenge that we find in front of us,” Dempsey added at Carter’s farewell ceremony.

Known for his ability to work through complicated budgetary issues while playing a large — and thoughtful — role behind the scenes, Carter has given few clues as to some of the priorities he would bring with him to the Pentagon.

He has stressed the need to retain some of the rapid fielding offices and initiatives that were stood up during the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I very much hope we can retain that agility,” Carter told the New York Times in a November 2013 exit interview just before departing the Pentagon. “Rapid fielding — not on a Cold War schedule of years and decades, because that’s how slowly the Soviet Union changed, but on weeks and months, because that’s how fast the battlefield has changed in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

In a Foreign Affairs story published in January, he wrote that in a postwar environment, “it is important to understand what prevented the Pentagon from rapidly meeting immediate demands during those wars, what enduring lessons can be learned from its efforts to become more responsive, and how to put in place the right institutions to ensure success against future threats when agility is crucial.”

These ideas are in keeping with the initiatives recently launched by Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and the chief weapons buyer Frank Kendall — both of whom hold offices previously occupied by Carter — that are aimed at streamlining acquisition processes, and rapidly developing new technologies to meet new threats.

And Carter has friends on the Hill.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., who has seen many confirmation processes over his three decades in the chamber, told reporters on Tuesday that he believes Carter “would do very, very well in a confirmation hearing” run by Republicans in the new Congress.

“Offhand, I don’t foresee that there would be a big issue because I think he’s highly respected on both sides of the aisle,” Levin said.

Republican lawmakers responded by stressing the president must change what some have dubbed a micromanaging style over the department, no matter who gets the nomination.

Carter is “a good guy,” retiring House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., told reporters Tuesday morning.

“It’s not the secretary. It’s the president,” McKeon said. “And he’s going to keep going through these guys unless they do just whatever he tells them to do.

The lawmaker who is set to replace McKeon as HASC chair, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas., said of Carter: “I have a lot of respect for him.”

“I hope that whoever gets the job has an understanding that he or she is going to do what’s best and not be micromanaged from the White House,” Thornberry said. “He knows the Pentagon. He certainly knows some of the acquisition issues I’ve been dealing with. So, we’ll see.”

Carter earned bachelor’s degrees in physics and medieval history from Yale University in 1976. He received his doctorate in theoretical physics from Oxford in 1979, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.


He also worked as a postdoctoral fellow at Rockefeller University and MIT, as well as a research associated at Brookhaven and Fermilab National Laboratories.

In government, Carter has been awarded the Department of Defense Distinguished Service Medal four times, along with the Defense Intelligence Medal.

During the Clinton Administration, Carter was assistant defense secretary for International Security Policy. From 1990 until 1993, he served as director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and chairman of the Editorial Board of International Security.

Has co-edited and co-authored 11 books. ■


It’s Not a (Totally) Poisoned Chalice

Some “presidential” suggestions for Ash Carter on taking the Pentagon’s top job.

BY James Stavridis

DECEMBER 3, 2014


From: President of the United States (POTUS)

To: Forthcoming Secretary of Defense

Subj: The Top Challenges and Opportunities Ahead


First, I want to thank you for taking the job, Ash. After Michèle Flournoy, Jeh Johnson, and Jack Reed all turned down the job before anyone even asked them to serve, a lot of people started to talk about the secretary of defense job as a “poisoned chalice.” I know working with John McCain on one side and Valerie Jarrett on the other won’t be fun, but there is so much to do — even with only two years left. So let me give you a sense of a few of the top things I would like to see you working on.

Islamic State: We need to come together on a coherent strategy and put the foot on the gas pedal. Two key elements will be getting NATO to step up to the plate (and I am personally willing to lean on leaders in Europe) and hopefully energizing the Turks to get in the game with strikes from Incirlik and quickly moving troops into the field. We also need to work with the Jordanians, especially their special forces. Let’s get IS under a three-front war: Peshmerga from the north; Iraqi security forces from the south and east; and first bombing and then Syrian opposition forces from the west. We will soon see they are not ten feet tall if we put them under multi-axis pressure.


Ukraine and Putin:

The key strategic terrain in Europe isn’t southeast Ukraine — it is the six inches between Vladimir Putin’s ears.

The key strategic terrain in Europe isn’t southeast Ukraine — it is the six inches between Vladimir Putin’s ears. We have to get his attention and that means reassuring NATO (with strong rotational air, sea, and ground forces); arming the Ukrainian military with effective lethal assistance and cyber support; and creating real pain for Russia by stretching their forces globally. That means meeting them in the Mediterranean, Arctic, Atlantic, and anywhere else they decide to operate, including the English Channel and the Caribbean Sea. As the price of oil falls through the floor, their disposable cash for operations and new expensive weapons systems will dwindle, and we can help pressurize them along the way. And the White House will support you by keeping the sanctions viable.


Cyber: We are far behind where we should be in cyberspace operations. Let’s start by splitting the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command, as both jobs are expanding rapidly in scope and scale — having one officer commanding both, even one as good as Adm. Mike Rogers, is a mistake. Let Mike take Cyber Command, and turn the NSA over to a highly qualified civilian with both technical and legal training. We also need to be exploring offensive cyber capability, developing cyber doctrine (starting with defining just what an “attack” means and what our range of responses should be), and building the outline of a true U.S. Cyber Force to stand alongside the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. The Chinese and Russians are already doing so and we cannot afford to fall behind.


Third Offset strategy: Take a good look at the paper from the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis on the idea of a new “offset” strategy. This would be the third one since the 1950s “New Look” and the 1970s “Offset Strategy” and the idea would be to find our technological and organizational edge in facing potential 21st-century opponents. The idea of a triad of cyber, special forces, and unmanned systems working together is probably part of it, as are standing up new organizations to operate in a hugely networked era as the “Internet of things” emerges. For example, look hard at the Unified Command Plan — do we really need six geographic combatant commanders when so many challenges are global and don’t respect boundaries? Your undersecretary, Bob Work, has worked this hard and is a superb source of ideas and insights. Frankly, we are so consumed with the day-to-day crises that we need to consciously step back from the tactical and think strategically. I am not sure anyone is really doing that in the Pentagon and figuring out how to nurture that will be crucial.


Opportunity agenda: It is not all gloom and doom, no matter what David Ignatius and Tom Friedman are always writing about. In addition to the inevitable firefighting, you also have to find time to focus on the positive elements of what the Pentagon can do. Continuing to help our Colombian colleagues as they move toward a peace agreement with the FARC is a good one. Ensuring the Balkans stay on track is another. So is a robust program of disaster relief and humanitarian work, using the tools of smart power. Consolidating our global alliance systems with NATO, the Partnership for Peace nations who were with us in Afghanistan and have real capacity (e.g. Sweden, Austria, Finland), and our Pacific partners (e.g. Japan, South Korea, and Australia) is crucial. Working with the interagency — especially State and USAID, but also the Directorate of National Intelligence, the Department of Homeland Security, Justice, and Treasury — will yield dividends.


Strategic communications. Get out and tell the story, Ash. You must be the principal spokesman for what this enormous department is all about. Naturally, we want to have coherence and alignment across the executive branch, but that still means you going forth and explaining what our men and women are doing for the nation at every turn. Gen. Martin Dempsey may have a great singing voice, but there is no substitute for hearing from the secretary directly. Craft a strategy for the Pentagon’s message and move it fast.


Two years is not a long pull at the oar, so this may be more a sprint than a marathon. Energy, determination, and a good sense of humor will help, as will a thick skin. The nation is counting on you, and I wish you the best. And good luck at the confirmation hearings — you’ll need it!


Barack Obama

P.S. Does DARPA have anything in the locker over there that can help people quit smoking? Just thought I would check.…



Shutdown-Avoiding ‘Cromnibus’ Emerges in House – With Reid’s Endorsement

Dec. 2, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — A plan is emerging on Capitol Hill to avoid a government shutdown while also passing a full 2015 Pentagon spending measure, and a key senator is on board.

Republican lawmakers trickled out of a morning caucus meeting in the Capitol basement and signaled they have decided to move a bill that would fund all but one federal agency for all of 2015.

Excluded would be an appropriations measure that funds the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for all of fiscal 2015, the GOP’s first legislative response to President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration.

But included would be a bill to hand the Pentagon around $500 billion in base funding and likely over $60 billion in war funding, one House Appropriations aide said.

Several House members spoke to reporters following a closed caucus meeting and predicted something called a “cromnibus” is most likely to pass next week.

The bill would by a hybrid of the omnibus spending measure the leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations committees had been working on for weeks. That measure would have included full-year spending bills for a dozen agencies, including the Defense Department.

The emerging “cromnibus” would also include a full Pentagon bill, as well as the same for many other agencies. But it would be merged with a continuing resolution for DHS in retaliation for the immigration action — hence the new moniker “cromnibus.”

Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., told reporters he expects a vote on the cromnibus next week.

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said Tuesday that “no decisions have been made at this point.”

“We’ll continue to discuss with our members a number of options in terms of how we will deal with this in consultation, again, with the members,” Boehner said.

If such a bill passes the House late this week, it would land in the Senate just days ahead of a Dec. 11 deadline. That’s when funding for the Pentagon and the rest of the government runs out.


Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., hinted Tuesday he would bring a “cromnibus” to a vote and let the new Congress fight over immigration next year.

“That would be a big accomplishment if we could get a bill over here that would fund all the appropriations subcommittees except for one,” he said.

Reid dubbed it “kind of unfortunate” the House would withhold the DHS full-year funding, but seemed more interested in averting a shutdown.

“That’s the way it is,” he said.

Minutes later, John McCain, the incoming Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, told reporters he is betting strongly against a government shutdown next week.

“They might do their usual ‘pass something then leave town’ — so watch the House,” McCain said. “It’s all driven by time, and you don’t make decisions until you have to. That’s how the Senate works.” ■



Pentagon to Begin Drafting Technology Roadmap
By Sandra I. Erwin

Dec 3, 2014




The Defense Department is seeking to recapture the technology magic of decades past that propelled the United States to become the world’s only superpower.

The Pentagon’s new effort to spur innovation is casting a wide net in hopes that outsiders in the private sector and academia can help inject new thinking into weapon programs and investment plans.

“We recognize that all good ideas don’t originate in this building,” said Stephen P. Welby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems engineering.

Welby is overseeing the technology initiative, named “long-range research and development plan.” His team will spend six months perusing proposals and determining whether they merit further study and investment. The recommendations will go to Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall in time to influence the Pentagon’s fiscal year 2017 budget request.

Companies, think tanks, universities, and the general public are being invited to send ideas. A “request for information” was published Dec. 2 on the website

“We are inviting folks for a dialogue,” Welby told reporters. The Pentagon wants to understand the “art of the possible” a decade or two into the future, he said. “What is emerging across the private sector that might shape the future of military capabilities?” The Defense Department recognizes that innovation now comes from the private sector, so it wants to become a “fast follower,” Welby said.

The long-range R&D study is part of a broader “offset” strategy that Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work and Kendall are leading. It is modeled after the strategy the Pentagon adopted during the Cold War, when the Eisenhower administration figured out how to “offset” the Warsaw Pact’s much larger conventional forces with nuclear weapons. In the 1970s, Secretary of Defense Harold Brown and Undersecretary William Perry pushed a second offset initiative to use digital microelectronics and information technology to counter conventional forces. The Pentagon will attempt a third offset strategy in order to jump ahead of future enemies that are acquiring increasingly advanced technology.

The Pentagon worries that countries like Russia and China have steadily invested in advanced technology over the past decade. Potential adversaries are fielding advanced aircraft, submarines, long-range, precision-guided missiles, undersea and electronic warfare technologies.

The long-range R&D plan will identify “high-payoff enabling technology investments that could provide an opportunity to shape key future U.S. materiel investments, offer opportunities to shape the trajectory of future competition for technical superiority, and will focus on technology that can be moved into development programs within the next five years,” said the solicitation.

Welby’s team is divided into five groups that will focus on space, undersea technology, air dominance and strike, air and missile defense, and broadly emerging technology. The last category is likely to include autonomous vehicles, agile manufacturing and nanotechnology.

This does not mean that the Pentagon only is interested in those five areas, Welby said. The five priorities were chosen for efficiency. “We are not building a hundred panels,” he said. “We are starting with those five.”

The panels also have been instructed to not engage in the inter-service infighting that typically occurs when programs and dollars might be at stake. “We recruited folks who are bright and open minded,” said Welby. “We want to make sure we don’t get trapped into silos.”

For the private sector, this project is not necessarily going to lead to procurement contracts, he noted. “We are thinking about a decade out. We’re not talking about the next opportunity, the next win,” he said. The questions at hand for the next six months will be: Where are the long bets, what are the markets going, and where is technology headed, Welby said. “There are no dollars associated with this RFI.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, December 06, 2014

It’s often been said that there are two or more Americas within the fabric of this great nation. Racially, that’s certainly true.

The refusal of grand juries in Ferguson, Missouri and on Staten Island in New York to indict white police officers following the deaths of two young black men has highlighted this division. Many had high hopes that the election of the nation’s first black president would help heal our racial wounds, but just eight percent (8%) think race relations in America are better since Barack Obama became president in 2009. That’s something that blacks, whites and other minority Americans agree on.

But while 54% of whites think the U.S. justice system is fair to blacks, 84% of black voters consider the justice system unfair to them

Eighty-two percent (82%) of black voters think most black Americans receive unfair treatment from the police. White voters by a 56% to 30% margin don’t believe that’s true.

In the Ferguson case, 59% of blacks think white police officer Darren Wilson should be charged with murder for the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown.Just 15% of whites agree.

Similar racial divides are found on a number of key issues, with blacks more favorable to a big government approach than whites are. Black voters also continue to overwhelmingly approve of the job Obama is doing as president, while most whites disapprove.

That disapproval is expected to cost the president’s party another seat in the U.S. Senate when Louisiana voters choose in a runoff election today between incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu and her Republican challenger, Congressman Bill Cassidy.

Republicans are still out front on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

While his party took a shellacking at the polls in early November, the president’s monthly job approval held steady at 47% for the third month in a row. Fifty-one percent (51%) disapprove.

Nearly half of voters want Congress to stop the president’s new plan to protect up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation. Americans rate their citizenship highly and aren’t keen on putting many of those here illegally on the path to citizenship.

Thirty-six percent (36%) of voters now give the president good or excellent ratings for his handling of issues related to immigration, his highest positive ratings since late January. Forty-eight percent (48%) still say the president is doing a poor job in this area.

Many voters expect the new Republican Congress to repeal Obamacare, but for the first time, most want to fix the new national health care law rather than repeal it.

 Voters remain closely divided on the issue of gun control, but  they also continue to strongly believe it would be bad for the country if only police and other government officials were allowed to have guns. 

 The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence jumped to a six-year high in November, correctly predicting the upbeat jobs report released by the federal government on Friday.

One-out-of-two working Americans expect a pay raise in the coming year. But fewer of these employed adults are confident that their next job will be better than the one they’ve got now.

Consumer confidence remains lukewarm this holiday season, but investors are definitely feeling more upbeat.

More Americans than ever are doing their holiday shopping online, but they’re also highly concerned about cyberattacks from abroad. Voters feel more strongly than ever that these cyberattacks – the most recent ones allegedly from Iran and North Korea – should be considered acts of war.

 In other surveys last week:

 — Just 25% of Likely Voters think the country is heading in the right direction. The number of voters who think the country is on the right course has been below 30% most weeks since June of last year.

  — But few Americans have ever thought about giving up their U.S. citizenship.

  — The number of Americans who have started their holiday shopping jumped dramatically following the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales weekend.

  — Here’s a closer look at those Black Friday sales.

November 29 2014

29 November 2014


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Despite Contracting Reforms, Pentagon Seen As Unfriendly to Business

By Sandra I. Erwin



Pentagon officials have been emphatic about “lowering the barriers” to potential vendors — especially those on the cutting edge of technology — in order to spur competition in a market dominated by big conglomerates.

But the private sector is skeptical. Industry executives say they appreciate the Pentagon’s initiatives but so far see them as empty rhetoric.

Defense procurement chief Frank Kendall launched in September a new contracting reform campaign that specifically calls for the Pentagon to attract new businesses into the military market. He also is seeking congressional support to lighten the regulatory burden, as red tape is the most often cited reason why commercial companies shun the defense business.

But executives contend that Kendall’s initiative is not enough to counter a deeply entrenched bureaucratic resistance to doing business differently. They argue that Pentagon buyers are rewarded for squeezing profits out of contractors and make unreasonable demands for companies’ intellectual property. Unless conditions change, executives say, the Pentagon will continue to have trouble wooing high-tech vendors that could far more easily sell their products in mainstream commercial markets.

A new white paper by the Lexington Institute, an industry-funded think tank, lays out a litany of reasons why the Pentagon has become an unfriendly customer. They include a reluctance to use commercial contracting methods that are faster and less burdensome on suppliers, and a lack of understanding of how the private sector works even though the Defense Department buys as much as $400 billion of goods and services per year from the defense industry.

“DoD has a strong initiative to increase competition but they do not understand it well,” observed the paper’s author Scott E. Chandler, an associate fellow at Lexington and a long-time commercial and military aviation executive.

The Pentagon mistakenly believes that new policies by themselves can increase competition, Chandler said. “But they forget that competition fundamentally requires attracting at least two companies willing to do business with you. However, DoD strategy does not seem geared to policy that is designed to be an appealing buyer.”

The issue sparked a lively debate last week at the Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, Calif. During a panel discussion, Kendall reaffirmed his stance that Pentagon is not targeting industry’s profits and respects companies’ rights to their intellectual property.

Other panelists disagreed. Former Pentagon comptroller during the George W. Bush administration Dov Zakheim accused the Defense Department of being antagonistic toward industry profits. “This country was built on profit,” he proclaimed.

Kendall pushed back. “We get it that [profit] is a necessity for business. We respect that,” he said. “At the same time, we use profit as a tool to incentivize. … We need to strike the right balance.”

Zakheim fired off a list of complaints. It’s not just profits, he said, it’s IP (intellectual property) concerns. “Industry invests in its own R&D,” Zakheim said, and companies expect to get a return on that investment. “Then the government tells you that you can’t make more than 8 or 9 percent profit margin, and they want your IP. Why in God’s name would Google hand over their IP to a bunch of civil servants who haven’t taken a [technology] course in over 25 years?”

Companies such as Google that are pushing the technology revolution in areas where the Pentagon has fallen behind say “No, thank you,” Zakheim added. “Their major market is the entire world.”

The Pentagon has contracting rules in place that allow it to buy technology from the commercial market with minimum red tape, but that method typically is used to buy commodities like food and clothing. Purchases of advanced technology usually are done under the traditional procurement process, with the government calling the shots. With commercial contracting, the government simply buys what it needs from open market. “You can get all kinds of innovation, it’s quicker, less restrictive, more attractive to industry,” Zakheim said. He noted that even though senior leaders such as Kendall have endorsed this approach, the contracting workforce in mid-level management prefers to not use commercial contracting because it restricts government access to corporate IP and cost data.

Kendall defended the Pentagon’s buying methods. “We do a fair amount of business with commercial companies,” he said. “Some come in as part of the supply chain. We have to be careful about the security of the supply chain.” But he recognized that the Defense Department has to change its ways if it hopes to capture private-sector innovation, especially from small businesses. Changes is needed in “how we do accounting, contracting in general,” said Kendall. “We are working this hard.”

He said commercial contracting can be tricky for Pentagon buyers. “The IP issue is complex,” he said. “We respect people’s right to their IP. We cannot compel anybody to share IP.” On the other hand, “industry uses IP as a weapon to gain competitive advantage,” Kendall said. “In the government, there is frustration about not having competition because someone has secured a position [in the market] based on their IP rights.”

Over the past several years, he said, the Pentagon has started to require procurement officials to learn how to price and negotiate IP. “We have to be very good at this because it’s a complicated thing to do.”

The Lexington paper notes that the U.S. government goes to great lengths to provide patents, copyrights and licenses to protect proprietary data, trademarks and industrial secrets. The Pentagon, meanwhile, seeks to dismantle these protections as part of its strategy to spur competition, Chandler argued. He blames the Pentagon for creating an increasingly uncongenial market where vendors are seen as enemies and not as business partners. “It is true that individual companies or contractors misstep from time to time, but the snipe hunt for rampant fraud, waste and abuse is largely unwarranted,” he said.

The U.S. government wields enormous power but sometimes that power can undermine its own goals, Chandler contends. The Defense Department can “cancel contracts for convenience; change requirements, purchase quantities, or schedules at will; demands proprietary information even for commercial products for distribution to competitors; and, dictates contract terms and controls margins.” Conversely, a “fundamental objective of business is to seek and grow competitive advantage, while the objective of the government policy and practice is to erase it, artificially if necessary.”


China’s Anti-Stealth Radar Comes to Fruition

Nov. 22, 2014 – 03:45AM | By WENDELL MINNICK | Comments


TAIPEI — The one great testament to China’s anti-access/area denial efforts were weapon and sensor systems on display at the recent China Airshow in Zhuhai.

One of the most noticeable was the road-mobile JY-26 “Skywatch-U” 3-D long-range air surveillance radar. China had plenty of road-mobile radars on display, but this one claimed a unique capability — “stealth target detection.” This towering radar is a clear symbol of China’s continued desire to locate and destroy stealth aircraft like the B-2 bomber and F-22 and F-35 fighters.

According to a brochure by the East China Research Institute of Electronic Engineering (ECRIEE), this radar “boasts double stealth target detection virtues thanks to operation in UHF [ultra high frequency] band and owning of large power-aperture product” for both air breathing targets and tactical missiles. The range of the UHF radar is not cited on the brochure, but other details are, including electronic counter-countermeasures and a complex digital active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar capable of tracking 500 targets.

An unusual feature is the bubble surface of the radar, which looks similar to Lockheed Martin’s offering in the Three Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar (3DELRR) competition, which Raytheon won. The surface of both radars is analogous to bubble wrap used to ship breakable items in the mail. These bubbles are transmit receive modules (TRM), but the JY-26 has fewer TRMs then the Lockheed 3DELRR, said Richard Fisher, senior fellow on Asian military affairs, International Assessment and Strategy Center.

Press reports of an alleged Chinese cyber espionage strike against Lockheed surfaced in April 2009, Fisher said. “Barring further US and Lockheed disclosures, we cannot know whether China stole critical radar information in addition to other programs like the F-35 stealth fighter.”

However, John Wise, a UK-based radar specialist, said the Lockheed 3DELRR is a “G-band (5.4GHz) radar and has nothing whatsoever in common with the JY-26, other than shape.” If JY-26 has true anti-stealth aircraft detection and tracking capability, it would need to operate down the bottom end of the UHF band (250-350MHz), he said.

“The elements [TMR] might be so shaped because they may offer circular polarization, which could have benefits for an air detection radar, and guesstimate the elements are half wavelength in dimension,” he said.

In 2011, an image of a larger version of the JY-26 appeared on Chinese-language military blogs that had twice the number of TMRs than the Lockheed radar, but the JY-26 variant on display at Zhuhai had fewer, which suggests the JY-26 at Zhuhai is either a lower-cost model or its developer has improved its software to allow for fewer TRMs, Fisher said.

“Nevertheless, the JY-26 poses a real threat to US and allied air forces and also demonstrates China’s capacity for developing electronic warfare systems that are competitive with the latest US systems,” Fisher said.


The timing of China’s cyber espionage and the appearance of the JY-26 suggest a painful question, Fisher said.

“Did China successfully steal data from Lockheed Martin’s radar shop that is now going to be used to better prosecute Lockheed’s F-35 fighter?”

Other experts, such as Wise, caution that common radar configurations are not necessarily evidence of espionage because similar engineering objectives could lead to similar solutions. Fisher said he believes the Lockheed radar was compromised by Chinese espionage and the evidence is the eerie similarity between two radars that use unique TMRs.

According to a Nov. 10 China-based article in the Global Times, a Shandong Province-based JY-26 recently monitored an F-22 flying to South Korea. Separated by the Yellow Sea, Shandong’s coastline is 400 kilometers from Kunsan Air Base and Osan Air Base, South Korea.

Who would be in the market for the JY-26? For one, Pakistan has to contend with India’s stealth fighter program with Russia, and Iran must deal with Israel’s planned procurement of the F-35 fighter.

Then there is the continuing threat many nations face from US B-2 bombers, F-22 fighters and eventually the F-35. ■


Hagel rallies chairmen around defense budget

By Kristina Wong – 11/21/14 09:33 AM EST


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met quietly with congressional leaders of three defense committees on Thursday as lawmakers prepare the Pentagon’s budget for next year.

Hagel spoke with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the incoming leaders of the Armed Services committees, and Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), who was reappointed as chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.

The chair of the Senate’s Appropriations subcommittee on Defense has yet to be announced.

“He wanted to reach out to these leaders to discuss a wide range of issues of importance to the Defense Department, to include our budget pressures,” said Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby.

Lawmakers are putting together an omnibus 2015 spending bill, which would fund the Defense Department through next September. However, before recessing on Dec. 12, they could instead simply extend a temporary funding measure known as a continuing resolution (CR).

A news report said Hagel was on Capitol Hill to argue against a CR, which would hold the Pentagon to 2014 funding levels and restrict spending on new programs and projects. Frelinghuysen is the current chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee on Defense, and would be involved in any such process.

Hagel spoke out against a CR on Wednesday during a PBS interview.

“You can’t run any institution by the uncertainty of maybe you’ll get funding in six months, maybe you won’t, maybe it will be the same, maybe it won’t,” he said. “Especially you can’t run national security … on the basis of hope of a continuing resolution.”

He also urged lawmakers to overturn Defense budget caps under sequestration.

“We won’t have the resources. We won’t have the readiness. We won’t have the capability. We won’t have the long-term investments that this institution requires to stay ahead of everybody else as we have since World War II with a technological edge, with the ability to continue to recruit, retain the best people,” Hagel said.


The Defense Department will submit its 2016 defense budget request to Congress in March, which Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey suggested Wednesday would be higher than caps.

McCain and Thornberry would oversee the process of authorizing that budget, and Frelinghuysen would oversee House Appropriations of that budget.

Lawmakers partially lifted caps for 2014 and 2015, and experts say they are likely to do so again in 2016 and 2017.

“We the Defense Department are being called upon to do more everywhere,” Hagel said. “And our budget continues to be cut. Something doesn’t connect here and that’s going to have to change.”



Leaders monitor burnout among intel analysts

Oriana Pawlyk, Staff writer 12:10 p.m. EST November 22, 2014


JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Virginia – They stay up all night and chug too many energy drinks. They have psychiatrists and chaplains on call, and a therapy dog named Lily.

Secluded in a dimly lit, cavernous maze of computer screens, they collect and analyze mission data that is transmitted from an aerial, unblinking eye — drones — flying anywhere in the world.

The airmen who walk the halls of the 480th Intelligence, Reconnaissance and Surveillance Wing headquarters here are among the 6,000 airmen around the globe committed to fighting a new type of war where the margin between victory and defeat lies in massive amounts of information.

They work at such a rapid rate that leaders are putting forth efforts to stop these airmen from burning out. The wing’s leadership has molded the Comprehensive Fitness Model — an attempt to help airmen balance their busy lives through targeted programs, activities and resiliency skills — to cater to airmen involved in these operations.

“In each one of our groups, we have now resourced to have a doctor, a medical tech, a psychologist, a psych tech, a chaplain and a chaplain’s assistant available and on our operations floors,” said Col. Timothy Haugh, the wing’s commander.

Haugh said the wing is constantly working to best posture these airmen to sustain the mission and motivate them during their careers.

“These are our enlisted airmen, predominantly, [using] the general weapons system that produces thousands of intelligence reports every day” Haugh said Nov 17. “For us, the investment in the brain matter of all of these very talented airmen is what makes the difference.”


Intel overload

At any given time in the Middle East, there are more than 160 Air Force fighter, bomber, ISR, airlift, air refueling and other types of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft that support Air Forces Central Command operations in partnership with sister services and allied nations, according to an Air Force official. In the fight against the Islamic State group, Air Force warplanes through Nov. 17 have conducted almost two-thirds of the 956 airstrikes in Iraq and Syria, Air Force figures show.

The analysts at Langley continue to watch these events, processing the intelligence through the Distributed Common Ground System, or the DCGS. They monitor video feeds coming from a Predator, Reaper, Global Hawk or U-2 unmanned aerial vehicle, sift through lines of chat conversations with pilots, and watch as strikes dissolve the area below.

In 2013, such information translated into 460,000 hours of full-motion video, 2.6 million images and 1.7 million signals intelligence reports, according to officials.

Intel airmen can begin working a new mission in a day’s time, unlike airmen in other career fields who get two weeks’ notice for a new deployment cycle. And these airmen — most between the ages of 19 and 25 — sit side-by-side regardless of their active-duty or reservist capacity.

“The team that exists at this site, they’re my fusion lead for things that are going on in the Central Command [area of responsibility] and fuse it … or make sense of it for the supporting commander,” Haugh said.


Occupational hazard

Haugh and his team’s mission, aside from identifying adversaries and threats, is to constantly monitor the occupational health for these airmen working 12-hour shifts, for three to four days at a time.

One surprising area of concern: dental hygiene.

“Our biggest problem is dental,” said Lt. Col. Cameron Thurman, the 480th’s surgeon. “They’re staring at computer screens for 12 straight hours and you can’t miss a guy running across the screen with an AK-47 … or good guys are gonna die … so a lot of things that they do is sit there and chug Monsters and energy drinks left and right to stay vigilant.”

Thurman said the need for more sugar has led to intel analysts having the worst cavity rate in the Air Force. But “the fact that we know that is a significant step forward,” Haugh said.

If airmen must drink high-end sugary drinks, Thurman has a few tips.

“The worst way is the way most of us do it, which is to sip on it over a long period of time throughout the day,” Thurman told Air Force Times. “You [are] continuously bathing your teeth in that sugar-acid mixture all day. So if you’re going to do it … you should drink some water afterward to wash it off as best you can off of your teeth.”

While energy drinks are becoming an Air Force-wide problem, Thurman said, he hasn’t seen overwhelming evidence that shows airmen are plagued with other risks such as heart palpitations or agitation. But some leaders didn’t take a chance — a few years before Thurman arrived, one group commander mandated that all energy drinks needed to be removed from his facility’s vending machines.

While Haugh isn’t looking to do the same, he has put another practice in place. Thurman said the wing provides education on the effects of sugar intake, fatigue management and mild exercise during breaks, some of it coming from the newly created “Wingman Tactics Process.”

The program aims to collect and review best wingman practices already in place throughout the wing, and then share those ideas with the remaining wing members. It starts at the bottom — if there is a local solution to a problem affecting a small group of airmen, the successful solution gets passed on and grows to the next level.

The Wingman Tactics Process is modeled off the Air Force’s weapons and tactics processes, but Haugh has fashioned it to be more proactive for the airmen.


Some examples: techniques to optimize the new Airman Comprehensive Assessment Form; resiliency team tactics; a ‘What if tragedy occurs’ exercise; and developing a Heritage Hall for airmen.

“If our wing members have a tactic that enhances the way we care for our Airmen, or accomplish the mission, let’s share it,” Haugh said in a release in October.

Airmen also have the four pillars — spiritual, social, mental and physical — of the Comprehensive Assessment Form to turn to in order to build core strength. A struggle, thus far, has been the social aspect for these airmen stuck in a room for hours on end.


Overcoming isolation

While a multitude of programs are available under the CAF’s four pillars, Thurman sees intel members investing in their spiritual and mental well-being most.

“Most of these airmen are in between the ages of 18 and 25, and most people in [that age group] do not have physical medical problems,” Thurman, in the Air Force eight years, said. But having an extremely stressful job at that age is what makes having someone to talk to extremely important, he said.

The wing is trying to keep the airmen interacting in as many social ways as they can because they are isolated in more ways than one.

Intel airmen aren’t always interacting with other members of the Air Force because of their out-of-sync schedules, Thurman said. A second issue is secrecy. “They may have the best day of their military career … and they can’t tell anybody about it,” he said. Some intel airmen working on Army bases or in remote locations are geographically isolated as well.

Working in shifts for these airmen will probably not change — Thurman said the airmen have their own family life and schedules that, for now, work for them.

With 2,000 people at DCGS-1, the Langley intel platform, “it’s impossible to override a schedule that makes all 2,000 people happy,” Thurman said. Wing leaders have done a good job in giving the airmen leeway to deal with their personal issues before they step into the pod that makes up their daily activity, he said.

But the wing has managed to create a social network among the DCGS airmen.

“Last month we closed DCGS-1 for eight hours and moved the mission over to another DCGS … and got everybody together for a ‘warrior day,’ ” Thurman said. The competitive nature and the camaraderie of the day promoted stress relief.

For now, these airmen will be working together, socializing together and keeping Air Force dentists busy, too.



When Hagel leaves, new SecDef faces big questions about the military’s future

By Andrew Tilghman, Staff writer 5:13 p.m. EST November 24, 2014


President Obama’s new pick to run the Pentagon will face a dizzying set of challenges affecting the Defense Department’s mission, budget and culture.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s resignation Monday comes at a time when the military advance of the Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria is prompting some fundamental reassessments of defense policy and the use of the military.

“The hardest question before the new secretary — and it’s a question the American people are also grappling with — is exactly how much responsibility does the United States have to take for all the problems in a chaotic world?” said Mieke Eoyang, director of the national security program at Third Way, a think tank in Washington.

“I think the resurgence of ISIS over the fall is what is leading the White House to reevaluate that,” she said referring to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

It remains unclear who Obama will pick to serve as his fourth Defense Secretary. Hagel has agreed to remain in office until his successor is confirmed by the Senate, which will likely be early next year. The front runner is Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy. If selected, she would be the first woman to lead the Defense Department.

The new secretary will be drawn into an intense debate inside the military and the White House about operations in Iraq and Syria. There’s disagreement about the number of U.S. troops and type of operations needed to defeat the Islamic State. Top officials are also debating the nature of the aid the U.S. should provide to the Iraqis and whether money and weapons should be supplied only through the Iraqi government or directly to the Kurdish forces or the Sunni tribal militias.

“There’s a lot of policy to resolve,” said one former military official.

Politically, Obama’s pick may face a bruising battle in the Senate, which in January will be under Republican control for the first time in eight years. The head of the Armed Services Committee will likely be Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a fierce critic of the Obama administration who would use the confirmation process to pressure the White House on foreign policy.

After confirmation, the new secretary will be immediately thrust into another budget crisis. The 2016 budget — due for release early next year — will reignite fears about the budget caps known as sequestration. The two-year deal that temporarily eased the impact of sequestration will expire next year.

A new secretary may come to appreciate the newly empowered GOP, which could give the Pentagon more money, potentially lifting one of Hagel’s biggest constraints.

“The irony is that the Republicans are taking over Congress and may repeal sequestration. And that would make it easier for his successor to deal with things,” said Larry Korb, a defense expert at the Center for American Progress.

A new secretary will also be coming into the Pentagon at a critical moment in the debate about military compensation. The Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission will issue a massive report about troops pay and benefits, along with proposed legislation, in February.

The commission was created by Congress to help jump-start reform on the controversial topic and the new secretary’s public position on proposed changes will help shape the debate on Capitol Hill.

The new secretary will also likely oversee a critical transition regarding the integration of women into combat units. The services will complete that transition next year or, if service leaders want to keep some jobs or units off limits to women, service leaders will have to provide the secretary with a detailed request an exemption to the new policy.


Chuck Hagel’s resignation underscores defense rifts

Obama and his inner circle didn’t hide their concerns about the defense secretary.

By Philip Ewing and Jennifer Epstein

| 11/24/14 9:33 AM EST

| Updated 11/24/14 8:32 PM EST


As President Barack Obama searches for his fourth defense secretary in six years, Chuck Hagel’s resignation Monday only confirms the perception of how tightly the White House controls the most important national security decision making.

Hagel’s departure follows a drumbeat of complaints by his predecessors, former officials and members of Congress that the National Security Council has assumed nearly all the authority for foreign conflicts, counterterrorism and other vital issues — leaving ever-less involvement for the Defense Department and other agencies.

“I know that Chuck was frustrated with aspects of the administration’s national security policy and decision-making process,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “His predecessors have spoken about the excessive micro-management they faced from the White House and how that made it more difficult to do their jobs successfully. Chuck’s situation was no different.”

Specifically, Hagel had grown frustrated with Obama’s unwillingness to mount a serious push on behalf of defense spending, one Senate aide said, as well as other priorities for the Pentagon.

“Hagel has been pushing back on the administration in regards to the defense budget and some of the defense policy, and that’s kind of what led to this,” the aide said. “He started to no longer be a yes-man.”

Hagel formally notified Obama on Monday that he would step down as soon as the Senate confirms his successor — a process that could take months. In a ceremony at the White House, Obama thanked Hagel for his candor.

“When it’s mattered most, behind closed doors in the Oval Office, you’ve always given it to me straight,” the president said. “For that, I will always be grateful.”

The president’s reference to his and Hagel’s behind-the-scenes discussions was the only allusion to the friction that appears to have led Hagel to quit.

Hagel’s departure was “a mutual decision,” a senior defense official said, reached after “several weeks” of discussions about the outlook for the remainder of the administration.

While a senior administration official on Monday praised Hagel’s “steady hand” during his 22 months on the job, Obama and his inner circle never fully integrated Hagel into the decision-making process and did not hide their concerns about him.

Unlike firings in previous administrations, however, Hagel’s departure will not likely mark a new direction in policy, as President George W. Bush wanted when he relieved then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in 2006.

“The risk now is making him a scapegoat, when the problems that have most bedeviled us in the Middle East were obviously not his making,” said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.

A senior defense official acknowledged to POLITICO that there had been policy differences between Hagel and National Security Adviser Susan Rice but said no single disagreement had prompted Hagel’s departure.

“Did he and Rice agree on everything? No — but that’s normal, that’s healthy. This is not about him vs. Susan Rice,” the official said. “The secretary is not resigning in protest.”

The White House said that Hagel initiated conversations about his role in October “given the natural post-midterms transition time.” He finally decided to resign last week.

Hagel told troops in a message on Monday that he didn’t make his decision “lightly” and urged them to keep their attention on deployments around the world and the work of running the vast Defense Department.

“That work will continue,” he wrote. “It must continue. The world is still too dangerous, the threats too numerous, for us to lose focus. And even as I promised the president my full support going forward, so, too, do I promise that I will work hard to support you right up until my last day in office. I owe you that.”

The president said he intends to move quickly to name a successor, though no firm timetable has been suggested. The Republicans take control of the Senate in January.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) told CNN on Monday he was “flabbergasted” to hear from Hagel that he was quitting — and warned that whoever Obama picks to replace him can expect “to have a very tough time” in the Senate.

Hagel’s resignation was not publicly expected and rattled the Washington defense establishment.

Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby had said after the Nov. 4 midterm elections that Hagel had committed to remaining in the administration for its final two years. At a defense conference in California earlier this month, Hagel delivered a speech about acquisition reform as usual and gave no sign that he was planning to leave.

“I don’t get up in the morning and worry about my job,” Hagel told Charlie Rose in an interview televised last week.

All the same, Hagel’s tenure has more often been an anchor for Obama than a help. He endured a long and painful confirmation process that included a widely panned hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee and several weeks of limbo as a Republican filibuster kept him on ice.

More recently he has battled behind the scenes with Rice, even sending her a memo sharply critical of the administration’s strategy for Syria. Senior defense officials have complained in reports by several news organizations, including POLITICO Magazine, about the National Security Council’s micromanagement of national security and the growing centralization of decision making by the White House.

Both of Hagel’s predecessors in the Obama administration, Robert Gates and Leon Panetta, have written books complaining about the president’s national security policy process, and other critics seized on Hagel’s departure on Monday.

Hagel and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey have sought to preserve maneuvering room for U.S. commanders to send troops to Iraq to help Iraqis in their battle against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.

Now, Obama must gear up for a major new confirmation battle in the Senate, depending on how quickly he can find a replacement.

Potential successors could include Michèle Flournoy, a former undersecretary of defense who now runs the Center for a New American Security; Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work; or another administration alumnus such as Ash Carter, who stepped down as Hagel’s first deputy secretary.

Hagel’s tenure at the Pentagon has mostly been reactive. He launched major studies or reviews following the 2013 Washington Navy Yard shooting, scandals at military hospitals and revelations about cheating and decay within the Air Force’s nuclear weapons units.

He also has taken on Panetta’s initiative to integrate more women into combat units, but that work has been slow in the Marine officer corps and in the special operations forces.


The Army has just begun an initial effort to send women to its elite Ranger School; completing that work will be among the challenges waiting for Hagel’s successor.

House Speaker John Boehner said Washington must use the transition as an opportunity to re-examine Obama’s strategy for fighting ISIL in Syria and Iraq.

“This personnel change must be part of a larger rethinking of our strategy to confront the threats we face abroad, especially the threat posed by the rise of ISIL,” he said. “We cannot defeat this enemy without a broad, coordinated, well-thought-out effort that has the strong support of the American people. Thus far, this administration has fallen well short.”

Read more:


US: Commercial Farming, Other Industries React to Forthcoming FAA Drone Rules

by Press • 25 November 2014



News about forthcoming rules from the Federal Aviation Administration for the operation of drones was met with mixed reaction by those experimenting with unmanned aerial vehicles. At least one person expressed concern that the rules may inhibit adoption by farmers, while others saw any potential movement by the FAA as a good sign that the industry might move forward.

Federal rules on commercial drones are expected to require operators to have a license and limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls, the Journal’s Jack Nicas and Andy Pasztor reported Monday. The FAA is still in the process of drafting the rules, so it can’t comment on them, an FAA spokesman told CIO Journal.

The line of sight rule may be an issue for commercial farming because of the huge acreages involved, said Phil Hamm, director of the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center at Oregon State University. For the past two summers, the university has used unmanned aerial vehicles to photograph potato crops for monitoring purposes. This work was done under a permit for research testing from the FAA.

“You want to be able to pre-program these vehicles to fly your fields and return home,” he told CIO Journal. While farmers may have someone guiding them from a central place, a line of sight rule means that you can only fly one circle of 125 acres, he added.

And, while Oregon State has used licensed pilots to operate its unmanned aerial vehicles, Mr. Hamm told CIO Journal that the requirement may not be necessary for all types of drones, particularly the smallest ones.

Still, some in the industry welcomed any sign that the FAA might be moving forward with rules. “The forthcoming FAA rulemaking is a critical milestone in the unmanned aircraft systems integration process, and one that is long overdue,” said Michael Toscano, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, in an email. “After continued delays in the rulemaking process, the release of the proposed rule will bring us one step closer to realizing the many societal and economic benefits of UAS technology,” he added.


Mr. Toscano said he hadn’t yet seen the draft rule and could not comment on specifics. “As an industry, we believe it’s important that the forthcoming rule enables the many civil and commercial uses for UAS technology in a safe and responsible manner without being unnecessarily restrictive,” he said.

The agriculture industry should appreciate the decision as it will drive manufacturers and operators to improve their equipment and operations to match safety and standards that have made our national airspace a safe and effective means for commerce, said Brian Whiteside, president of VDOS Global LLC, which wants to use its drones to perform inspections in the Gulf of Mexico for a major energy producer. “While this may have some short-term negative effects, long term this is what is needed to bring the technology forward,” he added.

Currently, FAA regulations effectively prohibit the use of commercial drones unless an exemption has been granted. On September 25, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced that the FAA had granted the first exemptions for the commercial use of drones to some aerial photo and video production companies for use in Hollywood. The FAA has not yet granted exemptions for the commercial use of drones in the agricultural industry, but companies say they hope the agency might do so by the end of the year.


New Zealand:- New civil aviation rule proposed for unmanned aircraft

by Press • 25 November 2014


Industry and the public will soon get an opportunity to have their say on a proposed Civil Aviation Rule for unmanned aircraft operations.

Commonly known as UAVs, drones or Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS), most unmanned aircraft operations are currently regulated by a rule designed for model aircraft.

Steve Moore, CAA General Manager – General Aviation, says most unmanned aircraft can fly much faster, further, and higher than traditional model aircraft.

The advanced performance characteristics of unmanned aircraft mean they can be used for a much wider range of applications including scientific research, film and video production and agriculture.

“This can mean greater safety risks for airspace users, and for people and property. It’s important we update the rules in recognition of those risks.

“Ultimately, users will need to abide by the new rule, so it is important they get the chance to have input into its development,” he says.

Recent advances in technology have led to significant growth in the number of unmanned aircraft operations, particularly RPAS, world-wide.

The proposed rule is part of the CAA’s strategy to integrate unmanned aircraft into the aviation system.

“It is important that we put in place a comprehensive regulatory framework that is flexible enough to accommodate further growth over the long-term.”

The proposed rule focuses on the safety risks associated with high performance unmanned aircraft, with operators of high risk unmanned aircraft likely to require CAA certification. Initial consultation in developing the rule has involved users, including industry group UAVNZ, and Callaghan Innovation.

“We are aware that these operations are opening up significant business opportunities in areas like real estate, film and television and scientific research.

“We want to make sure the new rule does not impose an undue regulatory burden on operators and will seek feedback on this and other aspects during the consultation period,” says Steve Moore.

“We want to make sure that recreational users can still operate in a low-risk environment, and will modify the existing rules so they can continue to do this where appropriate,” he says.

Unmanned aircraft can be purchased from retail outlets and also online for a few hundred dollars. In some cases users may not be aware they are subject to Civil Aviation Rules, he says.

“The CAA encourages anyone who wants to operate an unmanned aircraft to find out what their safety obligations are before they fly.”

The CAA’s Notice of Proposed Rule Making will be issued on 4 December 2014. Members of the public and industry can give feedback until 30 January 2015 through the CAA web site:



UK: Drones might be the must-have Christmas present, but owners could be breaking the law

by Press • 25 November 2014

By Chris Pyke


Drones might be flying off the shelves in the lead up to Christmas but you could easily fall foul of the law when operating one

The many people unwrapping a drone on Christmas Day morning may not realise that by the afternoon they could be breaking the law.

With the price of drones for the amateur starting from as little as £35 – with more sophisticated models costing up to £300 and even higher-spec devices costing into the thousands – the flying devices have found their way to the top of a lot of Christmas present lists.

But an intended fun gift could mean the new proud owner may be unwittingly breaking the law when they take-off with their new toy.

The unmanned aircraft are used for aerial photograph or video, capturing anything from coastal paths to castles to the humble back garden.

Unmanned aircraft have often been used by model aircraft enthusiasts for recreational purposes. Unlike manned aircraft or model aircraft used for pleasure there are no established operating guidelines so operators may not be aware of the potential dangers – or indeed the responsibility they have towards not endangering the public.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) does have specific rules on flying drones, or unmanned aircraft, that limit where the owner can fly the craft.


Drones cannot be flown over or within 150m of any congested area, over or within 150m of an organised open-air crowd of more than 1,000 people, within 50m of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the control of the person in charge of the aircraft or within 50m of any person except during take-off.

The person in charge of the aircraft must also maintain direct, unaided visual contact with the device in order to monitor its flight-path and avoid possible collisions with other aircraft as well as people and buildings.

Huw Evans, owner of Huw Evans Picture Agency, pointed out that anyone using a drone for commercial purposes must have training and pass exams before using them.

And he said he was concerned about safety with untrained people operating the drones, pointing out an incident at an event in Virginia in the United States when an unmanned aircraft crashed into the crowd and left five people hurt.

This was also a worry for Beverley Richards, operations director at SkyCam Wales, who said: “Professional commercial ‘drone’ operators must obtain permission for aerial work (PFAW) from the CAA.

“This involves a ground school, written exams, production of an operational manual, flight exam and airworthiness tests. Only upon completion of all this is it possible to get public liability insurance.

“Skycam Wales uses professional ‘drones’ and camera equipment but the regulations are the same for hobbyists using small quadcopters with tiny cameras. The only difference is receiving payment or reward thus necessitating a PFAW.”

Mr Evans added: “A 14-year-old could buy one and they are not going to read the CAA regs. You are only going to come under the CAA radar when images are being sold commercially.”

The CAA have produced leaflets to explain the rules and dangers of flying a drone but they are not included in the packaging of devices as yet.

“You do need to follow these rules,” said a CAA spokesman, who added that they were looking to do more to raise awareness and had produced a leaflet for new drone operators.

The leaflet has eight points for the new owners, such as it being illegal to fly over congested areas and that you are legally responsible for each flight.

Resource Group Training Solutions, in Cwmbran, runs courses in unmanned aircraft, which provided the licence for Mr Evans to operate a drone,

“UK Aviation legislation is focused on the safe operation of manned aircraft,” said Craig Palmer at Resource Group Unmanned Aviation Services.

“Remote pilots must work within the same regulatory framework. Remote pilots must be aware that when operating they have a legal responsibility for the safe conduct of each flight. Failure to comply could lead to a criminal prosecution.

“Resource Group is a UK CAA national qualified entity and we pride ourselves on our professional and thorough approach to air safety within our remote pilot qualification programme.

“We work closely with many manufacturers and distributors to ensure that the safety message remains paramount to all involved within the industry.

“The students we train come to us to gain the experience and knowledge, both theoretical and practical, needed to operate safely. We require them to prove a high level of skill before we sign them off as competent remote pilots capable of working safely in UK airspace.


“We believe that safe operation, whether for commercial or recreational flying, needs to be at the forefront of any remote pilot’s mind. The message for us is clear: ‘Fly safe, fly legal or don’t fly and if in doubt ask’.”


Drone Flights Face FAA Hit

Looming Rule Proposal Would Restrict Commercial Uses, Require Pilot License


The Wall Street Journal

By Jack Nicas and Andy Pasztor

Updated Nov. 24, 2014 11:14 a.m. ET


Highly anticipated federal rules on commercial drones are expected to require operators to have a license and limit flights to daylight hours, below 400 feet and within sight of the person at the controls, according to people familiar with the rule-making process.

The drone industry has awaited commercial rules for about six years, hoping the rules would pave the way for widespread drone use in industries such as farming, filmmaking and construction. Current FAA policy allows recreational drone flights in the U.S. but essentially bars drones from commercial use.

While the FAA wants to open the skies to unmanned commercial flights, the expected rules are more restrictive than drone supporters sought and wouldn’t address privacy concerns over the use of drones, people familiar with the matter said.

The agency also plans to group all drones weighing less than 55 pounds under one set of rules. That would dash hopes for looser rules on the smallest drones, such as the 2.8-pound Phantom line of camera-equipped, four-rotor helicopters made by China’s SZ DJI Technology Co. Similar-sized devices are seen as the most commercially viable drones and have surged in popularity in the last two years.

Drone sightings this week by airline pilots flying into New York’s JFK International Airport pose high aviation risks. WSJ’s Andrew Tangel and Simon Constable discuss. Photo: Getty

Small-drone supporters say such models are less risky to people and structures than heavier drones like Boeing Co. ‘s ScanEagle, a gas-powered, 40-pound aircraft with a 10-foot wingspan that can stay aloft for more than 24 hours. ConocoPhillips Co. uses the ScanEagle to gather data on Arctic ice pack and whale migrations.

In addition, pilot certifications likely to be proposed by the FAA would typically require dozens of hours flying manned aircraft, according to people familiar with the rule-making discussions. Drone proponents have resisted requiring traditional pilot training for drone operators.

FAA officials expect to announce proposed rules by year-end. The proposal will kick off a public comment period that is likely to flood the agency with feedback. It could take one or two years to issue final rules.


Recent milestones in commercial-drone use in the U.S.


On Sept. 25, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration authorizes six filmmaking companies to use unmanned aircraft for their work. Above, a drone on the set of the 2012 James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ in Istanbul.

Commercial drone use is on the rise in big industry, including filmmaking, farming and construction. The rush to the skies comes despite the fact that commercial drone use is mostly banned in the U.S. The Federal Aviation Administration is considering loosening the rules. But the regulator is moving carefully because the technology is potentially dangerous and raises privacy concerns.

One of the first milestones in the U.S. for commercial drones was the co-founding of 3D Robotics Inc. in 2009 by the former editor of Wired magazine Chris Anderson. The firm is now one of the leading makers of consumer drones and flight-control systems that customers use to build their own drones. Mr. Anderson is also the founder of, a popular forum for drone enthusiasts.

In 2010, Parrot SA debuts its AR.Drone, a quadcopter that is controlled by a user’s smartphone priced at $300. It becomes a starter drone for many enthusiasts.

Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co. in January 2013 releases the DJI Phantom, an easy-to-fly quadcopter priced under $1,000 that can carry a GoPro camera. The device becomes popular for capturing aerial footage. DJI has sold thousands of units in the U.S. and abroad. Inc. in December 2013 unveils its plan to deliver packages via drone, a service it dubs Amazon Prime Air. The company showcases a prototype on ’60 Minutes’ and says its drones would eventually be able to deliver small packages in less than 30 minutes. Drones take a big step in the public consciousness from machines of war to commercial gadgets.

In June 2014, BP PLC signs a five-year contract to use drones made by AeroVironment Inc. at its oil operations in Alaska, the first large-scale, government-approved commercial use of unmanned aircraft in the U.S. The FAA has approved one other drone for commercial use, the 40-pound ScanEagle made by a Boeing Co. subsidiary ConocoPhillips used in test flights.<br>

On Aug. 28, 2014, Google Inc. says it is developing drones to deliver goods. Google unveils a 5-foot-wide single-wing prototype that has carried supplies to two farmers in Queensland, Australia. Google says it began working on drones in 2011 and dubs the plans Project Wing.

On Sept. 25, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration authorizes six filmmaking companies to use unmanned aircraft for their work. Above, a drone on the set of the 2012 James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ in Istanbul.

Commercial drone use is on the rise in big industry, including filmmaking, farming and construction. The rush to the skies comes despite the fact that commercial drone use is mostly banned in the U.S. The Federal Aviation Administration is considering loosening the rules. But the regulator is moving carefully because the technology is potentially dangerous and raises privacy concerns.

One of the first milestones in the U.S. for commercial drones was the co-founding of 3D Robotics Inc. in 2009 by the former editor of Wired magazine Chris Anderson. The firm is now one of the leading makers of consumer drones and flight-control systems that customers use to build their own drones. Mr. Anderson is also the founder of, a popular forum for drone enthusiasts. David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

In 2010, Parrot SA debuts its AR.Drone, a quadcopter that is controlled by a user’s smartphone priced at $300. It becomes a starter drone for many enthusiasts. Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

Chinese drone maker SZ DJI Technology Co. in January 2013 releases the DJI Phantom, an easy-to-fly quadcopter priced under $1,000 that can carry a GoPro camera. The device becomes popular for capturing aerial footage. DJI has sold thousands of units in the U.S. and abroad. DJI North America/Associated Press Inc. in December 2013 unveils its plan to deliver packages via drone, a service it dubs Amazon Prime Air. The company showcases a prototype on ’60 Minutes’ and says its drones would eventually be able to deliver small packages in less than 30 minutes. Drones take a big step in the public consciousness from machines of war to commercial gadgets. Amazon

In June 2014, BP PLC signs a five-year contract to use drones made by AeroVironment Inc. at its oil operations in Alaska, the first large-scale, government-approved commercial use of unmanned aircraft in the U.S. The FAA has approved one other drone for commercial use, the 40-pound ScanEagle made by a Boeing Co. subsidiary ConocoPhillips used in test flights.

On Aug. 28, 2014, Google Inc. says it is developing drones to deliver goods. Google unveils a 5-foot-wide single-wing prototype that has carried supplies to two farmers in Queensland, Australia. Google says it began working on drones in 2011 and dubs the plans Project Wing. Google/Associated Press

On Sept. 25, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration authorizes six filmmaking companies to use unmanned aircraft for their work. Above, a drone on the set of the 2012 James Bond movie ‘Skyfall’ in Istanbul. Flying-Cam

In a statement, the FAA said it is working to “integrate unmanned aircraft into the busiest, most complex airspace system in the world—and to do so while we maintain our mission—protecting the safety of the American people in the air and on the ground. That is why we are taking a staged approach to the integration of these new airspace users.”

The White House Office of Management and Budget is reviewing the current FAA proposal and seeking comments from other parts of the government, including the Pentagon and law-enforcement agencies. Last-minute objections could change some specifics and delay release of the proposed rules.

The agency has said it is moving carefully on drone rules out of concern for potential collisions with other aircraft and injury to people and structures on the ground.

Airline pilots and aircraft owners have supported the cautious approach. But some drone-industry officials predict a loud backlash to the proposal.

“I feel like there’s a colossal mess coming,” said Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, an advocacy group for drone makers and innovators, including Google Inc. and Inc. The rule is going to be “so divorced from the technology and the aspirations of this industry…that we’re going to see a loud rejection.”

Unmanned aircraft have proliferated in U.S. skies as technology makes them smaller, cheaper, more powerful and easier to fly. While the FAA has helped build unparalleled safety into passenger air-travel with strict manufacturing and operating rules, the system didn’t foresee thousands of small aircraft buzzing around at low altitude.

The FAA’s current policy allows commercial drone flights only with case-by-case approval. Officials have authorized just a handful of companies so far.

Still, thousands of entrepreneurs are believed to be flying the devices without FAA clearance, making it hard for those operators to get insurance.

Some government and aviation-industry officials are worried about surging use without meaningful oversight. Pilots are increasingly reporting midair drone sightings, including three near John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York last week.

Drone proponents say the U.S.’s regulatory approach is less accommodating than in other countries. This month, Canada plans to issue blanket approval for all commercial operations that use drones weighing less than 4.4 pounds as long as they comply with certain safety standards, such as altitude limits and no-fly zones around airports.

The FAA must “properly balance regulatory restrictions and the safety risks posed by” various sizes of unmanned aircraft, said Ted Ellett, a former FAA chief counsel who now is a partner at law firm Hogan Lovells US LLP. Mr. Ellett said a “one-size-fits-all” approach “will create yet another unnecessary and costly impediment.”

The FAA plans to group all drones weighing less than 55 pounds under one set of rules. Gretchen West, former executive vice president of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the nation’s biggest drone-lobbying group, said large, powerful drones like those used by the military got more attention when the FAA began working on the rules.

Since then, much of the growth has shifted to smaller drones. The expected rules are “going to be very restrictive for small systems,” she added.

Jesse Kallman, head of regulatory affairs for drone-software firm Airware, said requiring commercial drone pilots to have cockpit training “will end up excluding someone who has hundreds of hours of experience on an unmanned aircraft in favor of a pilot who understands how to operate a Cessna but not an unmanned aircraft.”

In exemptions granted to six filmmaking companies to use drones on film sets earlier this year, the FAA required operators to have private-pilot licenses.

The FAA’s draft rule is expected to require lower-level pilot certifications requiring fewer flight hours, according to people familiar with the matter.

But with roughly 150 exemption requests pending, some experts predict the agency may end up establishing important legal precedents long before the formal regulatory effort ends. The FAA “is now embarking on an unprecedented use of rule-making by exemption, yet Congress invited it and everyone knows the final rule is over a year away,” said Kenneth Quinn, another former FAA chief counsel who heads the aviation and unmanned aircraft practice at the law firm of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in Washington.

One former FAA official said the agency is concerned that statutes bar it from authorizing commercial aircraft operations that don’t have a certified pilot.

The agency is drafting language asking Congress for greater flexibility, this person said.

The planned 400-foot flying limit within the operator’s sight largely follows the FAA’s current rules for recreational uses of drones. Those rules are based partly on voluntary guidelines for model aircraft published by the agency in 1981.

Drone proponents say the FAA is relying on decades-old regulations that don’t account for advancements in technology. Many drone pilots use “first-person view” technology allowing them to rely on real-time footage from a drone’s camera broadcast to their controller or headwear that resembles virtual-reality visors. Users can add infrared and other sensors for night or low-visibility missions.

The FAA’s expected requirement for daylight flights within the operator’s sight would essentially prohibit many commercial applications, such as pipeline inspections and crop monitoring on large farms.

The FAA is awaiting data from a number of test sites before proposing regulations affecting drones that weigh more than 55 pounds. That process is expected to take at least several years. Until then, many states and local governments are likely to establish their own standards.

Write to Jack Nicas at and Andy Pasztor at


White House Needs Strategic Thinker at Pentagon, and Quickly, Former Official Says

Nov. 24, 2014 – 03:45AM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments


WASHINGTON — Eyebrows were raised earlier this month when an unannounced but widely anticipated trip by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to Asia in early December was abruptly called off.

When reporters in the Pentagon’s press room began to push for answers and speculate over the fate of the secretary, they were quickly assuaged by a host of officials who brushed away such concerns, pointing to upcoming Congressional testimony as the cause for what they insisted was merely a postponement of the trip.

Now we know that — according to the official accounts, at least — Hagel had for weeks been in discussions with the White House about his future, and it was clear that he wasn’t long for the top job in the Pentagon.

But when the announcement came on Monday, with no successor named to be chewed over during the lame duck session of the 113th Congress, a litany of familiar names cropped up as Hagel’s potential replacement.

At the top of the list — as she has been before — sits Michele Flournoy, a longtime defense expert who has spent a career moving in and out of government service, academia and the think tank world.

Former deputy defense secretary Ash Carter is also on the short list, and it is widely held that either one is more than qualified to take the Pentagon’s top job.

But some there is a real question of how much it will ultimately matter who gets to sit in the big seat at the five-sided building across the river, given the White House’s penchant for controlling national security matters tightly, along with a powerful National Security Council that has the president’s trust and clashed not only with Hagel, but his predecessors Leon Panetta and Bob Gates.

One defense analyst, Byron Callan of Capital Alpha Partners, asked “why would [Flournoy or Carter] really want to do this for what could be a very short period of time?” The Obama administration’s clock runs out in January 2017.

For anybody considering this position now, especially those thought to be friendly to a democratic administration, Callan thinks the answer might be “thanks but no thanks, I’ll wait until 2016” and see what their chances are under the next administration, particularly if Hillary Clinton emerges as a frontrunner.

But not everyone sees such reluctance once a call from the White House comes.

“The reality is you just can’t count on that call from the White House ever coming, and I think it’s extremely compelling when the president of the United States asks you to take on a cabinet level position” said one former high-ranking Pentagon official who asked not to be named.

The official pointed out that Bob Gates replaced Donald Rumsfeld with only two years left in the Bush administration, and managed to not only be a driver of change, but extended his stay into the Obama administration.

Underlining Hagel’s imminent departure is a stark reminder of how much things have changed since his taking the job in February 2013, and how much the White House’s expectations have shifted of what is needed in a secretary of defense.

When Hagel was first nominated, the White House “probably thought this was about drawing down and keeping the budget in check and shifting focus to Asia, but none of that is today true” the former official said. “The bigger global strategic issues have come back to the forefront, so the administration would likely look for someone who has the background to think through those problems.”

While the big strategic issues of the Islamic State group, Iraq, Syria, Russia, and China are still being grappled with both at the White House and in the Pentagon, the management of the Pentagon itself is going through a time of disruptive change, and with it a management restructure — even if relatively modest — will likely be one of the results of sequestration.

And here, Michele Flournoy appears well placed to take the reigns. After vacating the undersecretary of defense for policy job which she held from 2009 to 2012, Flournoy headed for the Boston Consulting Group, where she wrote several op-eds outlining ways to cut defense spending. One defense consultant has also said that while there, Flournoy delivered a series of private talks to clients about how critical it was to reform management processes in the Pentagon.

It’s this insider perspective that the White House is likely looking for.

During his Monday press briefing, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that whoever is nominated to take over at the Pentagon will be “somebody who knows the inner workings of the department well” and has the “leadership skills and management skills that are necessary” to manage such a large organization “in a time of crisis.”

Adding to the sense of crisis is the fact that any new secretary will face questioning from a Republican-controlled Senate Armed Services Committee.

Outgoing Republican head of the House Armed Services Committee Buck McKeon told CNN on Monday that the president is “gonna have a very tough time getting any nomination through [Congress] so we may have Secretary Hagel there for a while.”

But several sources don’t see either Flournoy or Carter has having much difficulty in getting through the confirmation process, McKeon’s comments aside.


And there’s not a lot of time.

Given the dwindling amount of time left in the Obama administration, and having already been burned in Hagel’s confirmation hearings which exposed holes in his knowledge of administration policies, the White House will most assuredly “want someone who can hit the ground running” the former defense official said. “So that limits your pool of people under consideration because you don’t have 6 months” to spool up.

Speaking at the Bipartisan Policy Center on Oct. 22, Flournoy nicely laid out a series of views that are very much in line with the message that has come out of the White House and Pentagon over the last several years, though perhaps more eloquently stated than Hagel has often managed to express.

“There’s a huge disconnect between where we see the world going, the demands that are going to be placed on the US military and what our policy is with regard to defense spending,” she said.

“Congress has got to give the Pentagon the authorities to reform, to be able to spend its money smarter and more efficiently and arrest cost growth in certain areas. Even with that you can’t expect to defend the nation under sequestration. The risks are real and they are accumulating…you’ve got to invest more in defense over time, particularly regaining readiness in the near term and investing in the capabilities we’re going to need for the future.”


In keeping with the Better Buying Power and Offset initiatives being pushed by deputy secretary of defense Bob Work and chief weapons buyer Frank Kendall, Flournoy also insisted on the importance of “letting the department come into the 21st century as far as its business practices.”

Writing in The National Interest magazine in August with Richard Fontaine, president of CNAS, the duo argued for “a sustainable brand of American internationalism” which would “reverse the harmful effects of sequestration and address the issues of skyrocketing military benefits and gross inefficiencies in the Department of Defense in order to reinvest in defense preparedness and future combat capabilities” which also emphasizing “the long-term American relationship with Iraq and Afghanistan in order to protect U.S. interests there.”

Fine words, but the fact remains that the Obama has developed a bad reputation when it comes to secretaries of defense, as seen by the fact that it has burned through a secretary every two years.

At the Reagan National Defense Forum in California earlier this month, former secretary Panetta lamented that “because of that centralization of authority at the White House, there are too few voices that are being heard in terms of the ability to make decisions.”

Sitting on the same panel, Bob Gates added that “it’s in the increasing interest of the White House to control and manage every aspect of military affairs. When a president wants highly centralized control of the White House at every degree of micromanagement that I’m describing, that’s not bureaucratic, that’s political.” ■


New DoD cloud policy delayed to early December

Nov. 25, 2014 |

Written by AARON BOYD


The Department of Defense’s new cloud procurement policy — expected to drop last week — is now slated to be released in early December, according to a spokesperson from the DoD Office of the Chief Information Officer.

In an effort to speed the department’s move to cloud computing, the new policy will divest authority from the Defense Information System Agency to the contracting officers at each branch and agency within DoD. Before issuing the policy, a memo has been circulating among the component agencies for review, a process that is still ongoing.

Despite minor delays, the policy should be signed and released in early December, sooner than later, according to the DoD representative.

Stakeholders eagerly awaiting the new policy are curious about the ultimate role of DISA and the DoD OCIO, both of which will have some authority to review cloud purchases for security and interoperability, though their specific functions have yet to be defined publicly.

Acting director of strategic planning and information at DISA, Alfred Rivera, gave some indication of what to expect from the new policy.

“DISA is going to be moving away from participation as cloud broker and in cloud services, with more focus on providing security guidelines to include security reference models, the basis in determining costs and the types of applications that are candidates for cloud services,” Rivera said, quoted in an earlier article. “I think we’re going to continue to play a very big role from the cloud broker perspective in that respect as cloud server provider, [and] also be a vehicle for network access to cloud service providers [that are] available, secure and reliable. Those two elements are still going to be germane to DISA’s responsibility.”


Near-collisions between drones, airliners surge, new FAA reports show

By Craig Whitlock November 26 at 1:06 PM 


Pilots around the United States have reported a surge in near-collisions and other dangerous encounters with small drones in the past six months at a time when the Federal Aviation Administration is gradually opening the nation’s skies to remotely controlled aircraft, according to FAA records.

Since June 1, commercial airlines, private pilots and air-traffic controllers have alerted the FAA about at least 25 episodes in which small drones came within a few seconds or a few feet of crashing into much larger aircraft, the records show. Many of the close calls occurred during takeoffs and landings at the nation’s busiest airports, presenting a new threat to aviation safety after decades of steady improvement in air travel.

Many of the previously unreported incident reports — released Wednesday by the FAA in response to long-standing public-records requests from The Washington Post and other news organizations — occurred near New York and Washington.

The FAA data indicates that drones are posing a much greater hazard to air traffic than previously recognized.

Until Wednesday, the FAA had publicly disclosed only one other near-midair collision between a drone and a passenger aircraft — a March 22 encounter between a US Airways plane near Tallahassee, Fla., and what the pilot described as a small, remotely piloted aircraft at an altitude of 2,300 feet.

On Sept. 30, air-traffic controllers at LaGuardia airport in New York reported that Republic Airways Flight 6230 was “almost hit” by a brightly colored small drone at an altitude of 4,000 feet as the passenger plane was descending to land. On Sept. 8 at LaGuardia, three different regional airliners — ExpressJet, Pinnacle and Chautauqua — reported “very close calls” with a drone within minutes of each other at a height of about 2,000 feet as they were preparing to land.

On July 29, a US Airways shuttle flight that had departed from Reagan National Airport reported an extraordinarily narrow encounter with a yellow drone with a four-foot wingspan that suddenly passed within 50 feet of the aircraft while it was approaching LaGuardia.

In Washington, Porter Airlines Flight 725 from Toronto was descending to Dulles International Airport at an altitude of 2,800 feet on June 29 when it reported that a black-and-silver drone zipped past, just 50 feet away. On June 1, a United Airlines flight originating from Rome alerted the control tower at Dulles that a four-engine helicopter drone interfered with its descent and passed just 100 feet underneath the Boeing 767.

The 25 near-midair collisions were among more than 175 incidents in which pilots and air-traffic controllers have reported seeing drones near airports or in restricted airspace. Pilots described most of the rogue drones as small camera-equipped models that have become increasingly popular with hobbyists and photographers.


Although such drones often measure only a few feet in diameter and weigh less than 10 pounds, aviation safety experts say they could easily trigger an accident by striking another plane’s propeller or getting sucked into a jet engine.

“The potential for catastrophic damage is certainly there,” said Fred Roggero, a retired Air Force major general who was in charge of aviation safety investigations for the service and now serves as a consultant to companies seeking to fly drones commercially.

The reported increase in unsafe encounters comes as the FAA is facing heavy pressure from federal lawmakers and drone manufacturers to move more quickly to open the skies to remotely controlled aircraft.

Under a 2012 law, Congress ordered the FAA to legalize drones and safely integrate them into the national airspace. The FAA is still developing regulations to make that happen, a process that is expected to take years.

Under FAA guidelines, it is legal for hobbyists to fly small drones for recreational purposes, as long as they keep them under 400 feet and five miles away from airports. Flying drones for commercial purposes is largely prohibited, although the FAA has begun to issue special permits to filmmakers and other industries to operate drones on a case-by-case basis.

The agency, however, is facing a monumental task to enforce its rules. It lacks the manpower to police airports or effectively track down offenders.

In a statement, the FAA acknowledged that it is now receiving about 25 reports a month from pilots who have seen drones operating in close vicinity.

“In partnership with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies, the FAA has identified unsafe and unauthorized [drone] operations and contacted the individual operators to educate them about how they can operate safely under current regulations and laws,” the agency said. The FAA has also issued fines to rogue drone operators on a handful of occasions.

Many of the close calls have been reported to the FAA by pilots of helicopters and small planes.

“All it’s going to take is for one to come through a windshield to hurt some people or kill someone,” said Kyle Fortune, who was flying a four-seat Cirrus SR-22 near Medford, Ore., on Sept. 22 when he said a drone about four feet in diameter suddenly appeared 100 feet underneath his plane. He was flying at an altitude of 4,000 feet — about 10 times higher than the FAA’s height restrictions for small drones.

“It was some idiot out there with a drone. I have no idea what he was doing up there, taking pictures or whatnot,” Fortune said in an interview. “If it had come through the cockpit it wouldn’t have been a good day.”

Several other near-midair collisions have been reported by pilots of rescue helicopters used to transport patients needing emergency medical attention.

A Life Flight helicopter in Pottsville, Pa., reported Nov. 19 that it was descending at 2,400 feet when a flight nurse in the co-pilot seat suddenly yelled: “Watch out!” A small drone was flying straight toward the rescue helicopter “at a high rate of closure,” according to a report that the crew said it filed with the FAA.

The pilot was forced to make a sharp banking turn to the right to avoid a collision, according to the report. The crew estimated that the drone passed by with about 50 to 100 feet of separation.

Greg Lynskey, government relations manager for the Association of Air Medical Services, said small drones were becoming a major concern for rescue helicopter crews around the country. He said the FAA guidelines that allow hobbyists to fly drones as long as they stay five miles away from airports are too lax and do little to protect helicopters that fly near hospitals or pick up patients at accident scenes on the ground.

“I’m hoping this can get worked out before we have a catastrophic incident,” he said. “It wouldn’t take much to bring down a helicopter. If a drone hits the tail rotor, that’d pretty much be it.”



Here’s What the Rewrite of DOD’s Cloud Strategy Will Look Like

By Frank Konkel

November 25, 2014


An update to the Defense Department’s cloud computing strategy aims to decentralize the process for purchasing commercial cloud solutions away from the Defense Information Systems Agency and toward individual agencies, according to a draft document of the retooled cloud strategy obtained by Nextgov.

The 46-page draft document has not been released publicly and is subject to change, according to a DOD spokeswoman. DOD acting Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen alluded to its pending release in a recent speech.

The new strategy, “DOD Cloud Way Forward,” describes a “cradle-to-grave process” that service providers and customers can follow to get DOD computing to the cloud.

Perhaps the biggest shift spelled out in the document will be DISA’s more limited role.

Under DOD’s current cloud strategy, DISA has acted as a cloud broker for the whole agency, handling both security assessments of potential cloud offerings and contracting duties. The new strategy would enable individual agencies to pursue approved cloud services through their own contract offices.

While several cloud pilots are ongoing within DOD, DISA’s all-encompassing role became a bottleneck between cloud service providers and DOD customers.

DISA will, however, still play a significant role in ensuring security, according to the draft strategy and recent remarks from Halvorsen.

“DISA will have a role in looking to make sure that as we go more commercial, we have met the security requirements,” Halvorsen said in a Nov. 6 speech. “We’ve spent a lot of time over the past 90 days really figuring out what do we have to have from a security standpoint for what levels of data.”


Cloud Security Levels Get a Rewrite

The draft document makes several important proposed revisions to its cloud security model, including modified security levels that distinguish between national security systems and DOD computing systems that are not national security systems.

The proposed change reduces the number of security controls required for non-national security systems – an important distinction given that much of DOD’s workload is not within national security systems. It would also “change the specific categorization levels (Low, Moderate, High) for the cloud security impact levels (1-6),” according to the draft document.


The system of impact levels are the result of DISA’s attempt to categorize data depending on a broad, three-tier risk scale — low, moderate or high — based on the type, confidentiality, integrity and availability of the data.

DOD policymakers want to change impact levels in a few different ways, according to the draft document.

For example, impact levels 1 and 2 would be more aligned with Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program’s “moderate” designation. That means cloud service providers that go through the civilian government’s standardized cloud security assessment can get their skin in the game for DOD’s public-facing, lowest-risk data.

Currently, cloud providers have to adhere to additional requirements on top of FedRAMP’s baseline standards.

Impact levels 3 and 4 would also be modified to accommodate non-national security systems’ controlled unclassified information — another example of DOD shifting away from treating all its systems as national security systems.

In addition, one proposed change is to allow non-DOD federal government tenants access to cloud services vetted at impact levels 3-6.

The document alludes to legal challenges inherent in DOD storing controlled unclassified data in a public cloud. Opening impact levels 3-6 to other federal agencies could circumvent that legal issue, the document stated.

Other potential changes include amending the security control baselines for impact levels 5 and 6 from “High-High to Moderate-Moderate.” That comes after feedback from the 45-day report suggested the “High-High” baseline for impact levels 5 and 6 “exceeds the requirements of the vast majority of fielded DOD systems.”

Specific DOD customers would, however, have the option to negotiate additional security controls directly with cloud service providers.


An Evolving Effort, But Questions Remain

DOD’s move to cloud computing has been much slower than that of its counterparts across the rest of government.

While civilian agencies and even the intelligence community have found ways to bring innovative, daring solutions to government, DOD has lagged behind mostly because of security concerns.

IDC Government Insights concluded in a September report the federal government spent more than $3 billion on cloud computing in fiscal 2014, but the Pentagon’s cloud spend accounts for only a fraction of that total.

A revamped cloud security model may help expedite DOD’s cloud migration, but assuming few changes to the draft document before its public release, some questions still remain.

The draft document does not thoroughly delineate how DOD will handle creating cloud access points between a cloud service providers and the NIPRNet, the nonclassified IP router network, used by DOD to exchange sensitive but unclassified information.

Workloads at impact levels 3 and up will require a connection to the NIPRNet, but there’s been little guidance from DOD to industry on that front, according to multiple industry sources.

If the draft holds, another interesting point sure to raise eyebrows is that workloads at impact levels 3-5 cannot be hosted in a public cloud environment.


The draft guidance states that virtually separating tenants “is allowed if all tenants are federal government cloud customers. Otherwise, the DOD will require the cloud infrastructure to be physically separated from non-DOD/federal government tenants.”

In other words, the draft language indicates only cloud providers with government-only enclaves will be able to host data at impact levels 3 and above. Data at impact level 6, which includes classified information, can only be hosted in an environment physically separated from anything other than other DOD entities hosting impact level 6 information.

The DOD spokeswoman declined to discuss the draft with Nextgov.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 29, 2014


  Did Thanksgiving come just in time? After outrage over the expected yet controversial grand jury decision in Ferguson and contention over the president’s executive action on immigration, perhaps Americans needed a day to step back and reflect.

On Monday, the St. Louis County Grand Jury decided not to indict Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown back in August. Prior to the decision, most Americans didn’t expect Wilson to be charged with murder, and half said the U.S. Justice Department should not try to charge him for federal crimes related to the Brown shooting.

Eighty-one percent (81%) of Americans expected violent protests if Wilson is not charged with murder, but only 28% believed them to be the result of legitimate outrage over the case.  Fifty percent (50%) thought it would be mostly criminals taking advantage of the situation. 

Fifty percent (50%) of voters oppose the president’s new plan that will allow nearly five million illegal immigrants to remain in this country legally and apply for jobs, while 40% are in favor of it.
But that’s slightly less opposition than voters expressed prior to the announcement. 
Half also think the plan will be bad for the economy, and a majority believes the new plan will attract more illegal immigrants.

Americans put a great deal of importance on being a U.S. citizen, but nearly one-in-three think it’s too easy to become one.

Open enrollment for 2015 started earlier this month for insurance under the new national health care law, but 35% now say Obamacare has hurt them personally. That’s the highest finding in over a year.

But it’s not just the president who is taking heat. Voters continue to give Congress dismal reviews and the majority still believes members get reelected because the system is rigged.

Two weeks after they won full control of Congress, Republicans now lead Democrats by four points on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

In other news this week, just 28% of voters favor President Obama’s newly disclosed plan to expand the U.S. military’s fighting role against the Taliban in Afghanistan after this year. Thirty percent (30%) now believe it is possible for the United States to win the war in Afghanistan, but that’s up from 23% earlier this year.

Of course, the week ended with Thanksgiving and Black Friday, and Americans put much more importance on the former than the latter. An overwhelming majority of Americans have a lot to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, and 49% consider it one of the nation’s most important holidays. Forty-four percent (44%) planned to have Thanksgiving dinner at home, while nearly as many (42%) visited the home of a relative.

One-in-four Americans planned to be out of town this Thanksgiving weekend.

Thirty-three percent (33%) of Americans said they were at least somewhat likely to go shopping yesterday to take advantage of Black Friday sales deals. But only nine percent (9%)  said they are more likely to shop at a store that opens on Thanksgiving Day to get a jump on Black Friday deals. Forty-four percent (44%) say they are less likely to shop at a store that is open on Thanksgiving. Find out more about What America Thinks about Black Friday.

Forty-three percent (43%) of American Credit Card Holders plan to pay for most of their holiday gifts this year with a credit card. But 51% do not intend to pay that way.

Speaking of plastic, most Americans think they have their own credit card use under control but say most other people need to cut back on how much they use their cards. They admit, however, that credit cards tempt people to buy things that can’t afford.

In other surveys last week:

Hillary Clinton remains the heavy favorite for her party’s presidential nomination in 2016, but the Republican race is still in flux less than two years before the election.

– Though nearly half of Americans think it’s likely the recent sexual assault allegations against comedian Bill Cosby are true, they still think television networks should hold off on pulling his shows until he is officially charged with a crime.

Just 36% of Americans think the Founding Fathers would consider the United States a success. But a plurality (46%) believes the Founders – a group that generally includes George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, among others – would view the nation as a failure instead.

– Just 26% think the United States is heading in the right direction.

November 22 2014

22 November 2014


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Sinclair pushes ahead with UAS facilities, plans new flying pavilion downtown

Nov 14, 2014, 3:20pm EST

Tristan Navera

Staff Reporter

Dayton Business Journal


Sinclair Community College is pushing ahead with plans for a new testing center for drones downtown.

The school’s board of trustees approved this week $1 million to support the National UAS Training and Certification Center, a proposed refit of Building 13 into a 28,000-square-foot facility for the school’s unmanned aerial systems and aviation programs.

Another $4 million for that center is expected to come from Ohio, through the state controlling board.

“With this move we’re able to start making the center a reality,” said Deb Norris, vice president of workforce development at Sinclair.

The school will next select an architect and begin design work on the new UAS center.

New to the idea, the school will construct a 3,200 square foot flying pavilion onto Building 13, with 40-feet-high ceilings where students will be able to test fly unmanned aircraft outside of weather concerns and in compliance with the tight regulations placed on unmanned aircraft by the Federal Aviation Administration, said Andrew Shepherd, director for unmanned aerial systems at Sinclair.

Sinclair’s UAS center will also include an indoor flying tunnel where students will be able to test craft and parts that are 3-D printed. It’s received about $914,500 in donations and equipment to support the center, including major industrial equipment, Norris said. The $5 million going into the UAS center will also pay for the moving of other equipment in Building 13 to other parts of campus.

It’s another boost to Sinclair’s UAS program, which has got six active permissions from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly aircraft at Wilmington Air Park and Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport. But the new indoor range will allow for UAV testing and training on-campus.

It’s also a boost to the efforts of the Dayton region, where leaders have been hoping to draw more business and research around the emerging industry.

Sinclair has been growing its own set of UAS, now with more than 50 vehicles from 21 different manufacturers.

The school also has designated its 35,000-square-foot fieldhouse, which is located in the basement of Building 8, as an indoor flying range for the community and school purposes.

“It’s another benefit to the range of flying options we have now,” Shepherd said. “Now we will be able to fly the unmanned aerial systems in several different ways.”



House GOP Approps Chair Lobbies for Omnibus, Warns Against Govt. Shutdown

Nov. 17, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — US House Republicans’ top appropriator has a message for any member who might favor a government shutdown next month: The American people “want action.”

Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers, R-Ky., penned a Monday op-ed in Roll Call preaching “elections have consequences” as some in his Republican caucus are pushing to shut down the federal government should President Barack Obama issue an executive order that alters the federal immigration system.

“I believe a major consequence of this election is a loud and clear mandate from the American people for Washington to stop the gridlock, work together across ideological lines and start producing real accomplishments on their behalf,” Rogers writes.

“The bottom line from the election is this: The American people want a government that works for them. They want action on the issues that are meaningful and important to the country and to their daily lives,” writes Rogers, an ally of House Speaker Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, who is trying to find a way to pass an omnibus spending bill with a full 2015 defense appropriations while also placating the most conservative wing of his caucus.

Rogers made a case for ending the “circular and corrosive politicking that has infected our system and that is designed for quick cable TV news bites and little else.” And in a veiled message to his GOP mates, he said, the American people will not “tolerate [it] any longer.”

The message from Boehner’s camp is clear: Shutting down the government weeks after capturing control of both chambers of Congress would be a political loser for the GOP.

Rogers and others aligned with the speaker believes, as he writes, “this means ‘regular order’ for appropriations bills — enacting funding bills on time, and in a responsible, transparent and pragmatic way, without the specter of government shutdowns or the lurching, wasteful and unproductive budgeting caused by temporary stopgap measures.”

Rogers noted that “there will be an extraordinary amount of work to do when the new Congress convenes in January.

“But there simply won’t be the necessary political bandwidth available to address these pressing issues if Congress is bogged down in old battles and protracted to-do lists,” Rogers writes. “That is why it is critical that we pass an omnibus appropriations bill before the end of the year that will close the books on fiscal 2015, responsibly fund the government and allow the next Congress to get off to a running start.”

Veteran federal budget analyst Stan Collender writes in a Monday blog post that a GOP-on-GOP “war” is underway, and the budget is a major front.

“Make no mistake about it, the sides have already been drawn and the battle — no, the war — among congressional Republicans on the federal budget is well underway,” Collender writes.

Settle in, he advises, because the “war” has only just begun.

“What’s most important about the GOP budget war is that it won’t be resolved anytime soon,” Collender writes, “no matter what is decided between now and Dec. 11.”

The Pentagon and defense industry are pressing congressional leaders to pass an omnibus, rather than another, or multiple, continuing resolutions. That’s because the Defense Department, under a CR, cannot take actions such as start new programs or increase production rates. ■


SOCOM wants to probe mobile devices

Nov. 17, 2014 |



Special Operations Command (SOCOM) is looking for technology that can extract data from computers, tablets and smartphones.

The request for information (read it here) calls for a device that within 15 minutes, under austere field conditions, can:

■Survey digital media and physical properties associated with memory drives and devices.

■Extract files for a specified search.

■Identify file properties such as filenames and hash numbers, and compare them to a watch list.

■Detect and extract personal identifying information such as names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses and chat room nicknames, and compare them to a watch list.


At a forward operating base or Special Operations safehouse, the device should also be able to:

■Create a forensically sound image.

■Examine user-configuration settings.

■Extract user and file metadata.

■Find keywords in specified languages.

■Examine default and alternate file storage locations to see what files are stored there.

■Recover unallocated files.



NTSB: Gov’t aircraft regulations apply to drones

Updated: 12:21 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014 | Posted: 12:21 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014


The Associated Press


The government has the power to hold drone operators accountable when they operate the remote-control aircraft recklessly, a federal safety board ruled Tuesday in a setback to small drone operators chafing under Federal Aviation Administration restrictions.

The National Transportation safety Board, which hears appeals of Federal Aviation Administration enforcement actions, ruled that small drones are a type of aircraft and fall under existing FAA rules.

The FAA had fined Raphael Pirker, an aerial photographer, $10,000 for operating his Ritewing Zephyr in a reckless manner on the University of Virginia campus in 2011. Pirker allegedly flew the drone at low altitudes — at times, just 10 feet off the ground — and directly at people, causing them to duck out of the way.

Pirker appealed the fine, saying his aircraft was effectively no different than a model aircraft and therefore not subject to regulations that apply to manned aircraft. An NTSB administrative law judge sided with him in March, saying the FAA hasn’t issued any regulations specifically for drones and therefore can’t determine their use.

The FAA appealed the decision to the four-member safety board, which said Tuesday that the definition of an aircraft is very broad.

“An ‘aircraft’ is any ‘device’ ‘used for flight in the air.’ This definition includes any aircraft, manned or unmanned, large or small,” the board said. The board sent the case back to the judge to decide if Pirker’s drone was operated recklessly.

FAA officials had no immediate comment.

The decision strengthens the FAA’s position as the agency tries to cope with a surge in use of unmanned aircraft, some weighing no more than a few pounds and available for purchase on the Internet and in hobby shops for as little as a few hundred dollars.

More than a million small drone aircraft have been sold worldwide in the past few years, and a growing number of them are turning up in U.S. skies near airports and airliners, posing a risk of collision. Reports of drone sightings near other planes, helicopters and airfields are reaching the government almost daily — a sharp increase from just two years ago when such reports were still unusual.

“It’s a huge win for the FAA, and signals it’s not going to be the Wild West for drones, but a careful, orderly, safe introduction of unmanned aircraft systems into the national airspace system,” said Kenneth Quinn, a former FAA general counsel.

But Pirker’s attorney, Brendan Schulman, said the NTSB ruling “is narrowly limited to whether unmanned aircraft systems are subject to a single aviation safety regulation concerning reckless operation.”

“The more significant question of whether the safe operation of drones for business purposes is prohibited by any law was not addressed in the decision,” he said. Several cases challenging the FAA’s ban on commercial drone operations are pending in federal district court in Washington.

The FAA has barred commercial operators from using drones, with the exception of two oil companies operating in Alaska and seven aerial photography companies associated with the movie and television industry. Even those exceptions have come with extensive restrictions, including that a requirement that the operators of the remote control aircraft have an FAA-issued pilot’s license the same as manned aircraft pilots.

A wide array of industries as varied as real estate agents, farmers and major league sport teams are clamoring to use small drones. Congress directed the FAA to safely integrate drones of all sizes into U.S. skies by the fall of 2015, but it is clear the agency won’t meet that deadline.

Congress also directed the FAA to first issue regulations permitting widespread commercial use of small drones, usually defined as weighing less than 55 pounds. Agency officials have indicated they expect to propose regulations for small drones before the end of the year. However, it may be months to years before those rules are made final.

Meanwhile, the agency is poised to issue a series of special permits to a wide array of for companies that applied for exemptions to the commercial ban similar to the exemptions granted to the film industry. More than 120 companies have applied for special permits.

Among those close to being granted are permits to monitor and spray crops, inspect smokestacks and natural gas flares, and to inspect pipelines and power lines.


NTSB Remands Administrator v. Pirker Case Back to ALJ for Further Review

by Press • 18 November 2014


WASHINGTON – The National Transportation Safety Board announced today that it has served the FAA and respondent Raphael Pirker with its opinion and order regarding Mr. Pirker’s appeal in case CP-217, regarding the regulation of unmanned aircraft. In the opinion, the Board remanded the case to the administrative law judge to collect evidence and issue a finding concerning whether Pirker’s operation of his unmanned aircraft over the campus of the University of Virginia in 2011 was careless or reckless.

The FAA appealed an NTSB administrative law judge’s decision after the judge dismissed the FAA’s order requiring Pirker to pay a civil penalty of $10,000 for allegedly operating an unmanned aircraft in a careless or reckless manner. In his decision, the judge compared Pirker’s unmanned aircraft to a model aircraft, and found the FAA had not enacted an enforceable regulation regarding such aircraft.

In reaching its decision, the Board determined the FAA may apply the regulation that prohibits operation of an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner to unmanned aircraft. To determine whether Pirker violated this regulation, however, the Board stated an administrative law judge would need to review evidence showing the operation was careless or reckless.

The public may view the opinion and order on the NTSB website, at



CybAero invests in Swedish advanced test facility

by Press • 18 November 2014


First North-listed CybAero, which develops and markets unmanned helicopters, has decided to build a test center which will contain the industry’s most sophisticated equipment. Construction commenced on November 1st, and the test center is scheduled to be ready for occupancy by April 2015.

“Our testing represents a large and important part of our commitment to offer customized solutions. Our goal is to become the leading supplier in the market based on customer satisfaction,” says Mikael Hult, CybAero’s CEO.

The test center will occupy 300 square meters and will be located only minutes away from CybAero’s head office in the Mjärdevi Science Park in Linköping, Sweden. The company is currently recruiting test engineers who will be responsible for the test center where tests will be carried out 24 hours a day.

“At the test center, we will be able to test components, customer-specific solutions and, together with clients, perform complete factory tests, including functionality and performance prior to delivery,” Mikael Hult explains.

The advanced test center will provide CybAero with significantly better capacity than the company previously had access to. A number of necessary tests had been conducted by CybAero’s suppliers, but now we will have the ability to test components, subsystems and complete systems all under one roof.

“We will also be able to hold our customer training in the new location,” adds Mikael Hult.

“The large orders we received during the past year and our progress in refining our products and systems are now complemented by a new, advanced test facility,” Hult concludes.

For more information:

Mikael Hult, CEO, CybAero AB, tel. 46 (0)70 5642545 e-mail:


Offset 3.0, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Commercial Technology Offset 3.0, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Commercial Technology

Adam Jay Harrison    

November 17, 2014 · in Beyond Offset


Editor’s note: This article is part of the Beyond Offset series, a collaborative project between War on the Rocks and the Center for a New American Security that aims to build a community-of-interest that will address the challenges of maintaining America’s competitive edge in military technology and advance solutions.


America loves technology. As a nation, our cultural predilection for technical ingenuity has created the conditions for economic prosperity, scientific discovery, and military superiority. However, the worldwide proliferation of American free market ideas and liberalism (not to mention technology) has led to the emergence of an increasingly competitive global innovation landscape. According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the U.S. represented just 26% of world total patents in 2012, down from 40% in 1999. During the same period, the number of patents filed in China increased by some 3,200 percent, growing to roughly 10% of world total patents today.


In a related trend, the technological state of the art is shifting from the advanced militaries of the world to the commercial marketplace. An October 2014 update by the Defense Business Board makes the startling claim that “commercial technology…is more advanced in most areas critical to military capabilities.” To the extent that the commercial marketplace is predicated (more or less) on the free flow of goods and ideas, it is not hard to imagine a world where America’s peer competitors and non-state adversaries achieve technological parity with the U.S. military in many important areas.

During the Cold War, the U.S. relied on qualitatively superior weapons systems to “offset” Soviet military mass. This imperative led to the emergence of a captive industry servicing the U.S. military’s warfighting needs. The migration from a dual-use defense industrial base in World War II to a defense-specific industrial base created a dependency between public financing and military-relevant technologies. This connection has been an important factor in ensuring America’s military-technology edge; however, there are forces at work that threaten to undermine such a model. The “democratization” and proliferation of advanced technology, the shift in research and development spending to the private sector, and the convergence of commercial, consumer, and defense applications allow nations, organizations, and individuals alike to capitalize on military-grade technologies more quickly and cost effectively than ever before.

As the Pentagon is set to deploy a new offset strategy focusing on the development of “revolutionary” defense technologies, the Center for New American Security – War on the Rocks “Beyond Offset” series is exploring the key factors relevant to ensuring America’s military competitiveness. In this context, it is worth considering how the contemporary technology environment should inform the new offset strategy. In a world where advanced technology has entered the public domain, can the U.S. reasonably expect to command a decisive, full spectrum technological lead? With innovation cycles accelerating at faster and faster rates, should DOD make “big bets” on a small number of technologies? Does it make sense to aspire to overwhelming technological superiority at the expense of greater numbers of commercially derived capabilities? These are some of the key questions that DOD must answer.

The technology-first mindset punctuates Department of Defense (DOD) decision-making from top to bottom. The U.S. government has at times found it difficult to supply basic equipment required for large scale military operations but has consistently risen to the occasion when it comes to the development of advanced capabilities. In an interview for this article, Major General (R) Buford C. Blount, former commander of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, noted that approximately 600 sets of Small Arms Protective Insert (SAPI) plates (i.e., body armor) were supplied to his 19,000 soldiers at the launch of the ground invasion during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Similarly, it took years for the Army and Marine Corps to furnish sufficient handheld radios to meet the needs of ground forces in Iraq. This state of affairs is easily contrasted with the massive development efforts that accompanied the emergence of the IED threat in Iraq. From Counter Radio Frequency IED Electronic Warfare systems to Mine Resistant Ambush Protect vehicles, DOD leaned-in to the IED threat with a massive technology campaign reminiscent of the ambitious industrial-scale research and development efforts of prior generations. Today, technology bias can be seen at work behind closed doors in the Pentagon, where personnel training and readiness accounts stand to assume a disproportionate share of shrinking defense budgets.

Technology as strategy stems at least in part from the perception that American military technology played the decisive role in the post-World War II conflict arena. In support of this contention, strategists point to the causal relationship between the United States’ qualitative military-technology superiority in the Cold War and the eventual collapse of the Soviet Union. To its proponents, the culminating milestone of the techno-centric strategy was Operation Desert Storm, the overwhelmingly one-sided conflict that pitted advanced American military capabilities against conventional mass and signaled the birth of the Revolution in Military Affairs – the abortive antecedent to the Pentagon’s current offset campaign.

Taking for granted that a certain level of technological capacity is required to ensure U.S. military interests, the question is whether the pursuit of a strategy emphasizing the development and employment of “exquisite platforms” trumps strategies equally predicated on technology scalability (i.e. affordable systems). While these two approaches are not necessarily mutually exclusive, the manner in which DOD has pursued the former certainly leaves little room for the latter. As a case in point, the cost trajectory of contemporary American fighter aircraft programs such as the F-22 and F-35 is unnervingly consistent with the somewhat tongue-in-cheek predictions of former Lockheed Martin Chairman and CEO, Norm Augustine. In his excellent collection of missives on the defense industry entitled Augustine’s Laws, he posits that while the defense budget grows linearly, the cost of new military aircraft grows exponentially. In Law 16, he concludes in reductio ad absurdum fashion.

In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one tactical aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and the Navy three and a half days per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.

The Democratization of Technology. During the Cold War, the capital requirements associated with advanced military research and development favored nations with the economic muscle to make such investments and the talent to exploit these investments. This combination of factors were major contributors to the United States’ military-technology edge. Current trends, however, are eroding this historical advantage.

Through the mid-1980’s, the U.S. government was responsible for the preponderance of global research and development spending. Today, by contrast, the U.S. government accounts for less than 5% – a dramatic shift that is primarily attributable to the explosion of private sector investment accompanying the high tech boom. Throughout much of the 1990’s and 2000’s, venture capital favored opportunities with low technology risk, many of which focused on the exploitation of technologies substantially underwritten by public financing. During this period, corporate research and development spending produced a wide spectrum of component-level innovations that the military sector has, to a greater or lesser extent, successfully internalized in the development of advanced capabilities. More recently, however, the investment trend has shifted towards system-level innovations with potentially disruptive relevance for military applications.

Robotics, space systems, computation, networking and communications, and transportation are all areas where the commercial marketplace has taken an increased interest or assumed an outright lead over the traditional defense industrial base. The rapidly expanding global technology commons constitutes an unprecedented transnational ecosystem operating outside the control of individual nations yet with the power to directly influence the military-strategic landscape. Market-based proliferation of capabilities and systems once exclusively reserved for the advanced militaries of the world makes it less and less likely that any one nation can build and sustain a decisive, broad-based military-technology advantage.

The Acceleration Factor. The democratization of military grade technologies is also linked to the emergence of low cost prototyping and manufacturing equipment most prominently associated with the nascent “maker” movement. The availability of 3-D printers and scanners, software-based design tools, and network-enabled marketplaces offering an endless assortment of commodity and bespoke components is mitigating cost and time as a barrier to advanced research and development. Leveraging the Internet, start-ups, sub- and transnational organizations, and super-empowered “creatives” are able to access and share rich information resources enabling new forms of distributed, social-scale technology development. The decentralization of research and development beyond the confines of government labs and corporate research centers is a trend that foretells exponentially accelerating rates of technology innovation over time or what technology futurist Ray Kurzweil has dubbed the Law of Accelerating returns.


Low capital costs, open innovation approaches that distribute technical and financial risk, and agile development methodologies are also changing the overall R&D economic value proposition. The significant investments and lead times associated with traditional research and development impose a long technology half-life (i.e., employment timeframe) in order to recover sunk costs. As the forces governing the contemporary technology landscape are driving faster and faster innovation cycles, the rate of technology obsolescence (i.e. the period of time before a technology is overtaken by new innovations) also increases. Ultimately, this dynamic stands in opposition to the “big bet,” revolutionary technology mindset at the heart of the Pentagon’s new offset strategy.

The Quantity Question. Perhaps an even more fundamental question is whether, in the current fiscal and technological environments, it is advisable to pursue qualitative military-technology superiority at the expense of numbers. During World War I, English mathematician and father of the field of operations research, Frederick William Lanchester, devised a set of differential equations to describe the power relationships between opposing military forces. Dubbed Lanchester’s Laws, the equations predict that the power of a force in “modern” military engagements is proportional to the squared number of individual warfighting units. Writing as he was at the beginning of the twentieth century, Lanchester did not make specific allowances for the force multiplier effect of advanced technologies, to include everything from nuclear weapons to guided munitions. He, therefore, concludes that a force will require an N-squared increase in technology quality to compensate for an adversary’s N-fold increase in quantity (i.e., quantity trumps quality).

Even if we assume a more conservative model, where the impact of technological quality is proportional to quantity, Lanchester’s Laws have stark implications for a techno-centric offset strategy that imposes trade-offs between quantity and quality. In the case of the F-22, the world’s premier air superiority platform, a single aircraft can carry up to eight air-to-air missiles and simultaneously engage up to four targets. Regardless of its awesome capabilities, however, one cannot help but wonder how the F-22 would perform in a battle of attrition against swarms of relatively low cost, ultra-maneuverable Unmanned Combat Aerial Systems like the Kratos UCAS-167A – an aircraft derived in part from a U.S. built, high performance target drone. What happens, for instance, when the F-22’s limited missile complement is expended on waves of “good enough” opposing aircraft? Moreover, every loss due to maintenance or operator error would disproportionately impact the qualitatively superior, but numerically inferior force – an asymmetry that could spell disaster in a protracted campaign.

Not Your Father’s Offset. Notwithstanding the above, it should go without saying that technology is an important part of American military strategy. In an era where market forces have both catalyzed and metastasized advanced research and development, however, the way we think about technology as an element of military power should evolve. DOD’s historical bias toward qualitative technological superiority must be balanced by cost, quantity, and obsolescence considerations in order to sustain a force that is both numerically sufficient and operationally relevant for a full spectrum of military contingencies. As technology continues to evolve at faster and faster rates outside the confines of the traditional military-industrial complex, lower financial and organizational barriers to adoption favor nimble, emerging powers. Within this context, long-lifetime, high cost, “exquisite” weapon systems represent a potential strategic vulnerability increasingly at risk of innovation-fueled disruption.

Once upon a time, the combination of American defense and American industry was an unstoppable force that won two world wars. Today, however, a highly specialized and financially dependent defense industrial base has replaced the manufacture of high quality military capabilities substantially underwritten by dual-use infrastructure and know-how. The efficacy of the current model is predicated on DOD maintaining a virtual monopoly on advanced military-grade technologies – a state of affairs that no longer exists. With the unconstrained proliferation and acceleration of R&D, individual technologies are no longer sustainable differentiators. In this environment, DOD needs an offset strategy that’s less concerned with finding the next “golden BB” and instead enables the U.S. military to become the world leader in rapidly, systematically, and sustainably internalizing (and complementing) the high tech outputs of America’s most sustainable competitive advantage – the commercial high tech marketplace.


The USPS hit by hackers; 800,000 records stolen as foreign entities map US federal systems

This article was posted on 11/11/2014


Cyber warfare is a very real and ongoing thing, taking place across multiple fronts on the international theater. To that extent, it’s of no surprise that every month there’s a seemingly different company or organization that comes into the spotlight as the latest victim in the battle. November’s latest high-profile target ─ that we’re aware of ─ is our very own United States Postal Service.

According to Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, the big hancho overseeing the agency, 800,000 employees’ personal data, including social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and dates of employment, have been stolen. Stolen information may also include the phone numbers and home addresses of customers who’ve contacted USPS customer service. On the plus side ─ if there can even be one once your Social Security number is taken ─ credit information from post offices or online purchases at was untouched.

“It’s an unfortunate fact of life these days that every organization connected to the internet is a constant target for cyber intrusion activity,” Donahoe wrote in a statement. “The United States Postal Service is no different. Fortunately, we have seen no evidence of malicious use of the compromised data.”

Interestingly enough, USPS had learned about the data breach as far back as September, but concealed the issue from its employees until Nov. 10, 2014, stating that it did not want to inform employees until the problem could be resolved. “We notified employees as soon as we were able to without jeopardizing the remediation efforts. Earlier notification could have resulted in additional files being compromised,” a spokesperson told Gizmodo.

Although the FBI is currently investigating the hack, it is unclear who is actually responsible for it. In an interview with The Washington Post, James A. Lewis, a cyber-policy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, alleged that it makes sense for China to be target a federal agency such as a post office. That’s because China may be under the assumption that the U.S. postal service holds a vast array of personal information on its citizens, much like the majority of state-owned postal services. This data can potential analyzed for previously unseen patterns.

“They’re just looking for big pots of data on government employees,” says Lewis. “For the Chinese, this is probably a way of building their inventory on U.S. persons for counterintelligence and recruitment purposes.”

The New York Times offers a different explanation: rather than collecting personal information, the objective may have been to conduct reconnaissance and form an understanding as to how federal systems operate and link together.

As far as the public is concerned, it’s unclear who is actually responsible for the hacking; the Chinese government repeatedly denies accusations of engaging in cyber-theft, citing the actions are prohibited by Chinese law. Nevertheless, the incident is worrisome because it shows that foreign entities are making progress in plotting how U.S. infrastructure operates.

At least we can rest assured that whoever hacked the USPS has just gotten on the hit list of the most humorless and retributive U.S. agency. Also ─ the USPS is offering a year of free credit monitoring to employees and customers who may be at risk.

Source: USPS



Air Force ISR mission grows with threats from Islamic State

By Oriana Pawlyk

Staff writer

5:01 p.m. EST November 18, 2014


Langley Air Force Base, Virginia — The demand for intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions has increased across combatant commands from a tolerable level in the last few years to more frequent and in-depth requirements in recent months.

The Air Force is leading intelligence gathering missions over Iraq and Syria, as well as Afghanistan and the Pacific, said Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, commander of Air Combat Command, in a briefing Monday. But no matter how much the missions gather — the Air Force is supplying more than 80 percent of joint-force ISR — commanders still want more.

“We have more mission than money, manpower or time today,” Carlisle told reporters in his first public remarks since becoming ACC commander on Nov. 4. “The real question is how do we prioritize this capability and that capacity to meet the highest demand. What the COCOMs and the national command authorities need to tell us, or what I need to tell … these guys is, ‘I need you to do the next most important thing for the nation, not the next thing that shows up in your mailbox.'”

Balancing the ISR demand and combatant commanders’ needs will be one of the challenges Carlisle said he will address with commanders in his new post.

In the fight against Islamic State militants, the Air Force’s ISR role is impeded because there are no supporting troops on the ground in hostile areas between Syria and Iraq. One problem in particular, Carlisle said, is identifying activities on the ground.

“If you’re looking at the ground and watching folks moving on the ground, to tell a Shia from a Sunni, it’s pretty hard to do,” Carlisle said. “Unless ISIS is actually flying a flag that says ISIS across the top if it … these guys are trying to determine with everything that we have available given the restrictions that are placed on us ,… how do we positively identify where we’re going or who we’re going to hit?” he said.

But airmen are committed to the fight, Carlisle said. Compared to 10 years ago, today’s ISR teams have greater resources, and are more educated and trained in their career fields and on the systems they work with.

Airmen working on the Distributed Common Ground System, or DCGS weapon system, the Air Force’s primary ISR collection system, produce intelligence information from the data collected in the skies in just minutes.

“The ability to provide the warfighter the ability to transfer capability depending on where the greatest need is — whether it’s a nuke going off in North Korea or it’s ISIS or it’s Afghanistan or it’s the Horn of Africa — the agility of this system is amazing,” Carlisle said.


While the information “doesn’t really mean a whole lot unless you do something with it,” he said, “what [these airmen] do and the way they produce a product that is so incredibly good, it just means the demand continues to go up.”



GA-ASI Advances SAA Capability With Two New Flight Tests

by Press • 21 November 2014

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GAASI), a leading manufacturer of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) systems, radars, and electro-optic and related mission systems solutions, today announced two key technological advances related to its ongoing Sense and Avoid (SAA) system development efforts.

In collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Honeywell, GA-ASI tested a proof-of-concept SAA system, marking the first successful test of the FAA’s Airborne Collision Avoidance System for Unmanned Aircraft (ACAS XU). The company also performed the first flight tests of a pre-production air-to-air radar for SAA, called the Due Regard Radar (DRR), making it the first radar of its kind designed for a RPA.

“Our latest Sense and Avoid test represents a major step forward for integrating RPA safely into domestic and international airspace,” said Frank Pace, president, Aircraft Systems, GA-ASI. “Our proof-of-concept SAA system is now functional and ready for extensive flight testing with the FAA, NASA, and our industry partners.”

A functional flight test of GA-ASI’s SAA system—which includes automatic collision avoidance and a sensor fusion capability designed to provide the pilot on the ground with a clear picture of the traffic around the aircraft—occurred September 4, 5, and 10 at GA-ASI’s Gray Butte Flight Operations Facility in Palmdale, Calif. onboard a Predator B RPA. During the test, Predator B proved the functionality of ACAS XU during collision avoidance maneuvers against ADS-B and transponder-equipped aircraft executed automatically onboard the RPA with the pilot ready to override the system.

Automatically executing collision avoidance maneuvers will enable Predator B to maintain safety in the National Airspace System in the unlikely event of a loss of the command and control data link. ACAS XU is specifically designed to be interoperable and backwards compatible with Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) II, which is the worldwide collision avoidance system used on most commercial transport aircraft.

GA-ASI is currently working with NASA to integrate the proof-of-concept SAA system aboard NASA’s Predator B, called Ikhana. Ikhana will serve as the primary test aircraft in a SAA flight test scheduled to take place this month and next at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. The flight test campaign will evaluate the SAA system in a wide variety of both collision avoidance and self-separation encounters and will include a sensor fusion algorithm being developed by Honeywell.

Meanwhile, DRR testing has been occurring at various locations across Southern California this year onboard a Beechcraft King Air in an attempt to detect and track multiple test aircraft across the full Field-of-Regard, including General Aviation aircraft beyond ten miles. The tests are the first in an extensive flight test campaign designed to develop the Engineering Development Model (EDM) DRR fully and make it ready for flight testing on Predator B.

The ultimate goal of GA-ASI’s SAA program is to enable “due regard” operations in international airspace and routine access in non-segregated civilian airspace in the U.S. and around the world. The company’s pioneering efforts commenced in 2011 and have included the successful demonstration and follow-on integration of Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) onboard the Guardian RPA, the flight test of a SAA architecture and self-separation functionality on Predator B, and testing of a prototype DRR on a Twin Otter aircraft and Predator B.


Virgin Atlantic jet’s ‘close call’ with radio-controlled drone

by Press • 20 November 2014



A Virgin Atlantic jumbo jet from London to New York had a close call with a radio-controlled drone as it made its final approach to John F. Kennedy Airport last Sunday evening, it has emerged. The pilots told investigators they saw the machine clearly while on final approach.

Experts were warning that a direct hit by a drone could have catastrophic consequences rather like a bird strike, particular if they were to be sucked into an engine at either landing or take-off.

The crew of the Boeing 747, Virgin Atlantic Flight 9, spotted what they said looked like the kind of drone that can be bought by any enthusiast for just a few hundred pounds, flying at an altitude of about 3,000 feet. “The object was moving at a slow rate of speed and was like a quad copter drone,” they told investigators. The jetliner was flying over heavily populated areas of Nassau County at the time.

The incident with the Virgin plane was one of three to have occurred in the vicinity of JFK in the space of as many days. A few minutes later, a Delta 737 coming in to the airport from San Diego, California, also spotted the drone. In their case “it came within several feet of the left wing,” a police official said.

A similar sighting by the crew of a Jet Blue aircraft early on Wednesday afternoon also on approach to JFK had by last night prompted a formal investigation into all three incidents being led by the Federal Aviation Authority, FAA, and the FBI.

The moment when the Jet Blue plane came close to a drone was captured on a recording of the pilot expressing his alarm to the control tower at the airport. “About two miles out on the final, maybe 4 to 300 feet, looks like one of those unmanned drones is flying right on the final,” he said.

County police later said they had sent up a helicopter to look for the drone in the wake of the Jet Blue sighting but that nothing had been found.

The moment the Delta crew spotted the same danger was also recorded. “We just had something fly over us,” the pilot said. “I don’t know if it was a drone or a balloon, it just came real quick.”

The three cases are certain to cast a spotlight on growing concern about the proliferation of drones as private toys and the menace they represent to civil aviation as well as to privacy. The FAA has said that it expects about 10,000 drones to be in operation in about five years.

Aviation experts are especially concerned that rules put in place by federal regulators in the US banning drones from airspace close to airports have not been respected or enforced. While most of the drones, also known as UAVs, are small some are more substantial and carry cameras.

“These planes are all being approached [by drones] while the planes are landing, so they’re close to the ground, which means the pilot doesn’t have a whole lot of room for manuevering,” Ken Honig, formerly a senior official with the Port Authority that operates all the New York area airports, commented. “If the unmanned aerial vehicle gets too close to a plane, it could get sucked into a jet engine. The kind of damage done by a bird could be amplified by the metal parts in a UAV.”


The Pentagon’s Budget Dilemma

BY Kate Brannen    

NOVEMBER 19, 2014


The Pentagon has shared with Congress new details about its plan to train and equip vetted members of the Syrian opposition to fight the Islamic State in hopes of finally securing funding for the effort.

With an initial tranche of $225 million, the Defense Department aims to train the first classes of Syrian rebels, each of which will have 300 fighters, according to a reprogramming request signed by the Pentagon’s chief financial officer, Mike McCord.

The document, dated Nov. 10, was sent to Capitol Hill last week. It represents the final hoop the Pentagon must jump through before it can start using the money the way it wants. Because Congress has already granted the Defense Department authority to launch a “train-and-equip” program for Syrian rebels, the four congressional defense committees are expected to approve this latest request before adjourning in December.

The Pentagon aims to begin training in the second quarter of fiscal year 2015, meaning anytime between January and March. The plan calls for moving a total of 5,400 trainees through two sites, the document states, without mentioning where the training will happen. However, both Saudi Arabia and Turkey have offered to host training.

“The funds will be used for infrastructure and facilities work, leasing cost, construction of firing ranges, force protection, training and support, stipends, transportation, base operations, and life support,” according to the reprogramming document, a copy of which was obtained by Foreign Policy.

Lawmakers have criticized Barack Obama’s administration for not ramping up the training-and-arming program faster

Lawmakers have criticized Barack Obama’s administration for not ramping up the training-and-arming program faster — but the Pentagon’s hands are somewhat tied until Congress officially OKs the money to do so, McCord explained in an interview. In September, Congress signed off on the program but didn’t fund it, he said.

Instead, Congress asked the Pentagon to send what’s called a reprogramming request — used whenever the Defense Department wants to shift large amounts of money from lower-priority programs to higher-priority ones — to outline the training plan.

For McCord, this is just one example of how the Pentagon’s ability to respond to rapidly developing crises is hampered by a legislative and budget-planning system that isn’t designed to move quickly.

“These things take a while — and ISIL doesn’t wait on us,” he said, using one of the Islamic State’s acronyms.

Neither does Ebola.

As death rates in Western Africa climbed higher and higher in early September, aid groups working there made a rare call for global military intervention. Soon after, the Pentagon said it would send a 25-bed hospital to Monrovia, Liberia’s capital. That initial offer seemed paltry given the scale of the epidemic and the massive need for help in the hardest-hit countries.

But the Defense Department was also busy crafting much bigger response plans. McCord’s office was charged with figuring out how much it would cost and how to pay for it. There is a big difference between Ebola and other humanitarian disasters, McCord said. With something like an earthquake or hurricane, there is an early understanding of the extent of the destruction and the numbers of lives lost. With that information, the U.S. military can plan its contribution to the relief effort.

“With Ebola, the problem continues to spread and evolve at rates you can’t predict,” which requires flexible budgeting, McCord said.

Reprogramming requests are one way the Pentagon can respond to unforeseen conflicts or disasters. These were used in new, and some would say innovative, ways this summer, and they reflected the uncertainty about how big these crises were going to get.

For example, in one such request, the Pentagon asked to reassign $500 million to help fight Ebola and respond to the humanitarian crisis in Iraq caused by the Islamic State. However, it did not delineate amounts, meaning the U.S. military technically could spend $1 on Ebola and $499,999,999 on Iraq — or vice versa.

“We were trying to build in hedges for things that were not precisely defined,” McCord explained. “We’re trying to use all of the flexibility that we do have in the system. The world moves so fast right now, and our system was not built to move fast, and it’s really in conflict with how the world works.”

In total, the Pentagon eventually asked to shift $1 billion to counter Ebola in Liberia.

“We’ve never put that kind of money into our humanitarian assistance account,” McCord said.

The Pentagon’s normal spending on disasters around the world is roughly $100 million a year, he said: “[Ebola] would have eaten our whole budget for the year in a month.” Therefore, he was not surprised that Congress had lots of questions.

“We were, I think it’s fair to say, pushing the envelope in terms of a lot of big reprogrammings,” McCord said, adding that there was also a hefty classified request associated with the operations against the Islamic State.

Timing also made McCord’s job harder. Late in any fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, few dollars are left to move around. Also, the United States was ramping up two huge efforts — fighting Ebola and terrorists in Iraq and Syria — well after the Pentagon finished its budgeting for fiscal year 2015, which started Oct. 1, forcing McCord and his staff to amend the plan already sent to Capitol Hill.

Just last week, the Pentagon asked Congress for another $5 billion to fight the Islamic State.

Just last week, the Pentagon asked Congress for another $5 billion to fight the Islamic State. This is on top of the $59 billion it seeks to fund war operations around the globe. The Pentagon already told Congress how much it wants allocated to its overseas contingency operations account much later than usual because of the long, drawn-out dispute over the Afghan presidential election, McCord said. Without a clear winner, Washington was unsure about the fate of the bilateral security agreement, without which it couldn’t keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan past December. Whether troops remained in Afghanistan would dramatically alter how big an appropriation the war account would need.


Included in the $5 billion request for fighting the Islamic State is $1.6 billion for a new train-and-equip program for 12 brigades of Iraqi security forces and Kurdish Peshmerga. On Nov. 7, the Pentagon said it is sending another 1,500 troops to Iraq. Of them, 870 will be assigned to the training mission at sites in northern, western, and southern Iraq.

Although the Pentagon has deployment authority, once in Iraq, the troops cannot conduct the training mission without specific approval from Congress. That’s because the training of foreign militaries — or in the case of Syria, foreign rebel groups — requires Congress to sign off on the plans and the funding.

“We have almost no authority to conduct that train-and-equipping operation until Congress approves something that gives the authority to do so,” McCord said. “There are little things that we can do, but nothing like the kind of scope that we think that we need to do.”

Now the issue is all wrapped up in the messy end-of-year budget battle playing out on Capitol Hill with a lame-duck Congress.

In September, lawmakers passed a temporary spending measure to avoid a government shutdown. Included in that legislation was legal authority for the Pentagon to start the program for Syrian rebels, but not the money for it.

The short-term spending measure — called a continuing resolution (CR) — expires on Dec. 11, as does that legal authority. To keep the government running, Congress will need to pass an omnibus spending bill for 2015, or at the very least extend the CR into January.

If Congress extends the CR, McCord said he thinks the authority to train and equip the Syrian rebels would extend with it. But the Pentagon still wouldn’t have the authority it needs to launch a handful of other high-priority endeavors, including the Iraqi train-and-equip program, he said.

The Pentagon is also waiting for congressional authority to launch a $1 billion European Reassurance Initiative and a new $5 billion fund to fight terrorism, including $500 million to train Syrian rebels.

“You could argue that those can wait, but I would argue they shouldn’t,” he said. “Around the world, whether it’s in Europe or the Middle East or in Africa, I think there’s real good we could be doing with these authorities,” McCord said.

That doesn’t mean the training programs will be up and running the day after Congress signs off, he said. “But the longer we wait, we can’t do anything other than planning.”


Adversaries Will Copy ‘Offset Strategy’ Quickly: Bob Work

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on November 19, 2014 at 5:59 PM


WASHINGTON: The “third offset strategy” is officially just four days old, but the man in charge is already lowering expectations for what it will produce.

Yes, the Pentagon is absolutely seeking “the key technologies we think will give us a particular operational advantage,” said Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work. Yes, the quest is inspired by Eisenhower’s nuclear “New Look” in the 1950s and the “Offset Strategy” of smart bombs, sensors, stealth, and networks in the 1970s. But no one should expect the Pentagon to find another technological advantage that endures for decades, as they did.Bob Work deputy defense secretary


“What’s different about this third offset strategy [from] the last two offset strategies is they were relatively hard to duplicate,” Work told the Defense One conference this afternoon. Today, however, “we have potential competitors who are very, very good in this business and can duplicate — not only steal our IP — but can duplicate things very fast.” (Consider the Chinese J-31 fighter, which looks suspiciously similar to the Pentagon’s most expensive program ever, the F-35).

“So one of the things we’re asking ourselves is, what are the temporal aspects of this competition? It’s going to be much, much different than the last one,” Work said. “The last offset strategy lasted us for four decades. It is unlikely that next one will last that long.”

Much of the new strategy, in fact, depends on upgrades and integrating new technologies and software (such as automation) with existing weapons to create new capabilities, a senior official who took part in many of the meetings that crafted the new strategy said last week. One of the examples to watch may be the Long Range Strike Bomber program, which will comprise a system of systems – a bomber may well be paired with other aircraft, if vague comments over the last year by senior Air Force officials are any indication.

“When we invested in technology” in the past, DARPA Director Arati Prabhakar said at the conference, “we could do that investment with the confidence that we’d have 10, 20, maybe 30 years of technological advantage over any other party. That is not the world that we live in today.”

“In fact, it is really good news for human beings that that’s not the world we live in anymore,” Prabhakar continued. Rather than tech trickling slowly down from the US to other countries, rapid globalization of technology “has raised living standards and improved lives around the planet,” she said. “[But] it creates some really different problems for those of us who worry about national security.”

It’s easy to make America’s dominant position post-World War II your baseline, look at the world today, and “wring your hands,” Prabhakar said. In historical terms, however, such dominance by any one nation is an anomaly.

Indeed, until World War I, civilian inventions drove military technology: the telegraph and railroad shaped the bloody stalemate of the Civil War; the radio, the airplane, the internal combustion engine, and even tank tracks began as civilian tools before they were used on the battlefield. Now the world’s returning to the state where the private sector, not governments, leads the way to new technologies — which places different nations on a much more equal competitive footing.

That’s why changing how the Pentagon procures new technology is as important as what new technology it procures. The acquisition and requirements system has to move faster to get advanced technology in the hands of troops before the adversary catches up. Said Work, “we are going to have to do rapid prototyping and rapid fielding or we will continually lose ground.”


Congress Must Act on War Authority

Military Action in Syria Requires a New A.U.M.F.

NY Times


NOV. 18, 2014

The United States is fighting a new and costly war in Iraq and Syria. Yet, for months, members of Congress have ducked their constitutional responsibility for warmaking. They have neither initiated a meaningful debate on the use of American force against the Islamic State, which is known as ISIS, nor shown any inclination to vote on whether to endorse or modify the mission.

With the midterm elections over, we had hoped this would change. But, increasingly, it seems as if the current lame-duck Congress will leave the issue to the next one.

Republicans will control both the Senate and the House come January. There are signs that some want a broad war authorization that could be exploited to justify military action against terrorist groups geographically beyond Iraq and Syria, just as the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, or A.U.M.F., against Al Qaeda was used by the Bush and Obama administrations to expand operations against other “associated forces.”

Some Democrats, including Senate leader Harry Reid, seem oddly passive, saying they are open to an authorization vote but doing little to advance it now. At the start of the campaign against ISIS in September, Mr. Obama insisted he had all the legal authority he needed to attack. After Election Day, he said he would ask Congress to authorize the military campaign specifically against ISIS.

Yet now it seems clear that he has no problem waiting until next year for Congress to act. The vacillation is not reassuring. Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that has jurisdiction over a use-of-force resolution, has called for quick action, along with a few other Democrats like Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia and Representative Adam Schiff of California.

What Mr. Menendez needs to put forward is a resolution that focuses on the war on ISIS, not on any far-flung terrorist group, and limits the fighting to Iraq and Syria.

A bill filed by Mr. Schiff would have this authorization expire 18 months after being enacted; Mr. Kaine’s bill limits the period to one year. Mr. Obama, however, has said that the campaign against ISIS would take years. The important point is that presidents should be required to go back to Congress to explain why a military conflict deserves continued support.

Although Mr. Obama has said he will not put American ground forces in Iraq or Syria, Mr. Schiff’s bill creates a loophole that would allow trainers, advisers, intelligence officers and special operations forces to be there. Mr. Kaine’s bill would allow ground forces to rescue American personnel or attack high-value targets.

While it is important for Congress to repeal the 2002 authorization for the Iraq War and terminate the 2001 authorization against Al Qaeda, the priority in the lame-duck session should be to pass a new and separate authorization for the war against ISIS.

If the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is unable to get such an authorization approved, Mr. Kaine and others should try to attach it as an amendment to other related legislation. It’s past time for Congress to exhibit some courage and take a stand.


Sources: Top Appropriators Focusing Solely on Omnibus, Have Had No CR Talks

Nov. 20, 2014 – 03:45AM | By JOHN T. BENNETT | Comments


WASHINGTON — Capitol Hill’s top appropriators have yet to discuss another short-term measure to keep the government running, focusing solely on a longer-term bill they hope to drop in early December.

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky., and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations committees, respectively, are cobbling together an omnibus spending bill that would fund the Pentagon and other federal agencies through Sept. 30.

A stopgap government-funding measure expires Dec. 11, and House conservatives’ desire to use repeated threats of government shutdowns to influence the White House’s pending action on immigration has House GOP leaders searching for options.


As leaders look for a way to avoid a government shutdown, which they believe would damage the party, Rogers and Mikulski are in talks to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year, congressional sources say.

“I can tell you … that all of leadership is working towards an omnibus and the chair think[s] we will have a deal in place by early Dec.,” a House aide wrote in a Thursday email, referring to Rogers.

Neither House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, nor Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has said when they intend to move a government-funding bill next month.

But a Senate aide said the appropriations leaders intend to have their omnibus on the floor the week of Dec. 8. (The House Republican leadership this week altered the lower chamber’s schedule to be in session that day.)

“We are making significant progress on a full-year, 12-bill omnibus,” the Senate aide said. “We expect to have it ready for the floor by the week of Dec. 8.”

Among the dozen appropriations bill that will comprise the omnibus, is a full 2015 defense spending bill with a war funding section.


McCain Emerges as Pentagon’s Last Hope to Avert Sequester

By Sandra I. Erwin


Pentagon pleas for relief from drastic spending cuts are getting scant attention as the lame-duck Congress becomes enmeshed in partisan fighting over immigration reform and the threat of a government shutdown.


But there is still fresh hope for defense in the new Congress when Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., takes the gavel as chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“With McCain, you have a very, very vigorous opponent to sequestration,” Sen. Tim Kaine, D-VA, told a gathering of defense industry executives this week.

Kaine, who has served with McCain on Armed Services, also firmly opposes the automatic spending cuts, or sequester. He urged defense executives to join forces with McCain. “He fundamentally believes that sequestration is harming our nation’s defense,” Kaine said.

Although McCain has frequently hammered defense contractors for mismanaging military programs and overspending, the industry now needs to view him as a partner, Kaine added. “Having a Republican chairman who is vigorously passionate against sequestration is very important,” he said. “McCain will be a good ally.”

Defense CEOs have had an uneasy relationship with McCain. As the ranking Republican on Armed Services over the past eight years, he has called for the termination of big-ticket military programs such as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the USS Ford aircraft carrier and the Littoral Combat Ship. He also has chastised the Pentagon for poor stewardship of procurement dollars.

Once a program reaches a certain point and has enough constituencies around the country, you can’t stop it,” McCain said in 2012. “Some of these programs need to be stopped.” And he has condemned corrupt business practices in the defense sector. “We have a revolving door between the Pentagon and industry. … There is an environment where overruns are not a major concern.”

Despite such disapproval, defense industry officials are encouraged by the prospect that McCain might be able to sway votes against sequester in fiscal year 2016.

“Sen. McCain has crossover with the Foreign Relations Committee and will be extremely active on national security policy,” said retired Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Arnold Punaro, chairman of the board of the National Defense Industrial Association.

Punaro said the industry is optimistic about the new GOP leadership in both the Senate and House Armed Services Committees. McCain and incoming HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, are highly experienced on defense issues, with a combined 52 years on the authorizing committees.

“They have dealt with increases and decreases in budgets, previous drawdowns, base closures, numerous conflicts and wars, five different administrations, 10 secretaries of defense and 10 Joint Chiefs of Staff chairs,” said Punaro. “Both have had to cooperate and confront when necessary.” Of note to defense industry, he said, is that while McCain and Thornberry have different leadership styles, they share common goals to repeal sequester, improve acquisition, increase oversight, and ensure the relevance and timeliness of authorizers.

Pentagon officials have not spoken publicly about the new leadership on Capitol Hill, but have ramped up the rhetoric against sequester and have called on the lame-duck Congress to replace the continuing resolution that funds the government through Dec. 11 with a full-year appropriation. It now appears unlikely that Congress will pass an “omnibus” appropriations bill in December to replace the CR.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey said the military badly needs more money and funding stability as national security crises escalate. “We need additional top line for emerging and additional requirements,” he said Nov. 19 at the Defense One summit in Washington, D.C.

Dempsey said military leaders have to “convince members of Congress not only that the Defense Department needs more money, but that it must begin to operate under a new set of rules than the current budgetary deadlock allows.”


The Obama administration’s defense budget request for 2016-2020 exceeds the congressionally mandated spending limits by $110 billion. If Congress rejects that request and enforces the caps set by law, military budgets would go up by $43 billion over the next five years. The Pentagon has insisted that even that increase would put the military in a bind because it does not cover the rate of inflation.

Punaro noted that in the 114th Congress, the Republican House and Senate will have more conservative conferences, which means any budget decisions will have to be deficit neutral. “There is not as much leverage to force policy changes or block changes through the debt ceiling, reconciliation or appropriations process as either side seems to think.”

Even if the Pentagon gets more money next year, higher appropriations alone do not remove the sequester caps. That would require a bipartisan deal.

The incoming GOP senators ran campaigns of “no compromise,” Punaro said. “They replace Democrats who were punished for their perceived support of the president. Will these Republicans senators now say, ‘Let’s compromise with the president?'”

In his remarks to industry CEOs, Kaine lamented how profoundly dysfunctional the legislative process has become, to the point of undermining the United States’ standing in the world. “A Congress that does nothing,” Kaine said, “sends a message of national decline.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Did someone miss the message on Election Day? Actions this week by President Obama and in the Senate suggest that we can look forward to another two years of hyper-intense partisanship.

The president on Thursday announced his long-anticipated plan – without congressional approval – that will allow nearly five million illegal immigrants to remain in this country legally and apply for jobs. Republican leaders, scheduled to take control of the full Congress in January, had asked Obama to delay the decision, saying it would poison their future relations. Most voters oppose the amnesty plan and think the government is not aggressive enough in deporting illegal immigrants.

Most voters also have said in regular surveys for years that gaining control of the border to prevent future illegal immigration is more important than legalizing the status of the illegals living in the United States.  But 56% think the current policies and practices of the federal government encourage people to enter the United States illegally. 

Even though voters across the partisan spectrum are clear that the economy remains their number one concern, a bill approving construction of the Keystone XL pipeline was shot down by liberal Democrats in the Senate early this week. Voters continue to favor the oil pipeline’s construction from Canada to Texas and feel it will help the economy. Opponents claim it will contribute to global warming. 

Incumbent Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu was desperately pushing passage of the bill in hopes that it would help her bid for reelection in Louisiana. But our surveying indicates it wouldn’t have made much of a difference: Landrieu’s Republican challenger Bill Cassidy looks comfortably on his way to joining the new GOP Senate majority. Louisiana voters will decide on December 6.

Senate Republicans in turn this week stopped a legislative effort to put the brakes on National Security Agency domestic spying. Voters still don’t approve of the NSA’s activities, but at a time when more than ever see a terrorist attack as the biggest threat to the nation, 57% believe protecting the country from a possible terrorist attack is more important than protecting the privacy of most Americans.

Major technology companies like Google, Apple and Facebook were pushing for the restrictions, but voters tend to think they spy on individuals more than the government does.

Voters are now evenly divided when it comes to Obamacare’s requirement that every American buy or otherwise obtain health insurance. Repeal of the unpopular health care law appears unlikely, but congressional Republicans are expected to make major changes in it next year if they can. 

The president also has come out strongly for so-called “net neutrality” rules that would allow the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet like TV and radio. But Americans have a message for the government: Leave my Internet alone.

For the second time this year, the number of voters who rate Obama’s leadership positively has reached a three-year low of 38%. But the president’s daily job approval ratings have improved slightly since the election.

Opinions of the current Congress haven’t changed much. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid are Congress’ two least-liked leaders, but John Boehner’s close behind them. Republicans and Democrats are tied on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

The president began the year with a State of the Union address that focused on the issue of economic fairness. While voters rate policies that encourage economic fairness and economic growth as both important, they continue to feel that economic growth is the more important of the two.

The housing market remains a rare bright spot. Forty percent (40%) of homeowners now expect their home’s value to increase in the next year. That’s the highest level of optimism since the housing bubble burst several years ago.

More homeowners than ever think that their home’s worth more than when they bought it. Thirty-seven percent (37%) think now is a good time for someone in their area to be selling a home.  Two years ago, only 16% felt that way. 

Consumer confidence continues to muddle along, but investors are more upbeat these days.

Americans are in a more generous mood this holiday season, but they’re off to a slower start when it comes to shopping.

In other surveys last week:

— Americans don’t expect the white police officer who killed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri to be charged with murder and oppose the U.S. Justice Department trying to prosecute him after that.

– For the third consecutive week, 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

— Just over half of Americans remain confident in the nation’s banks, well below the level of confidence measured before the 2008 financial meltdown.

— While most Americans say their interest rates haven’t changed over the past year, roughly half still expect them to go up over the next 12 months.

— Most adults continue to be concerned about inflation but show slightly more confidence in the Federal Reserve to keep inflation under control and interest rates down

— Eighty percent (80%) think Christmas is over-commercialized.

November 15 2014

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FAA Official: Small Drone Rule to Be Released by End of Year

by Press • 8 November 2014

By Yasmin Tadjdeh


After years of waiting, a Federal Aviation Administration official said the agency was close to releasing a ruling that would give commercial entities greater access to fly small unmanned aerial system in the domestic airspace.

The proposed ruling, which the agency has been working on over the past year, is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, Jim Williams, manager of the FAA’s UAS integration office, said on Nov. 5.

“We’re taking great strides to authorize commercial operations in the U.S., and the small unmanned aircraft systems rule that we’ve all been waiting on so long is getting really close to being done. We hope that it will be published before the end of this year,” Williams said during the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s annual program review.

Williams said he could not discuss specifics, but that the ruling “will open the door to a lot of commercial operations that aren’t authorized today.”

Under the 2012 FAA Modernization and Reform Act, Congress mandated that the agency integrate small UAS — defined as systems less than 55 pounds — into the domestic airspace by September 2015.

Recreational drone users already enjoy flying their craft within line of sight, away from airports and under 400 feet. Commercial entities, on the other hand, are barred from flying drones until the FAA releases the much-anticipated small UAS ruling.

In late September, commercial users saw a glimmer of hope when the FAA announced it had granted six movie production companies regulatory exemptions to fly small UAS at controlled sets. Shortly after, a seventh company was exempted. Williams said the first filming would start this week.

The exemptions are permitted under section 333 of the modernization act, which gives the FAA more flexibility in allowing some commercial entities to fly small UAS safely, he said.

Williams said the agency had received 117 exemption requests as of Nov. 5, and the number increases every day. The FAA hopes to answer them within 120 days of their submission.


Many companies have expressed disappointment and frustration with the FAA because of what they perceive as delays in fulfilling its congressional mandate. AUVSI, for example, has been publicly vocal about the need for the FAA to speed up the small UAS ruling.

Eric Hudson, a senior analyst at the Government Accountability Office, said the GAO has been researching integration since 2008. While progress has been made within the FAA, more must be done. Specifically, it is imperative that the agency release the small UAS ruling.

“It’s critically important … because there continues to be additional users out in the airspace,” Hudson said. “It has kind of become a little bit out of a wild west out there. Obviously Congress isn’t interested in an accident happening, [and] the FAA’s not interested in an accident happening.”

While the Section 333 exemptions are a good step forward, the FAA must go further, he noted.

“There’s more and more requests each day for those exemptions and there’s no way those individual exemptions can keep up with demand,” Hudson said.

Despite criticism, Williams said the FAA is on its way to meeting its September 2015 deadline, though that doesn’t mean full integration will be completed.

“If you go look carefully at what the legislation actually says for the 2015 deadline, it says we have to have a comprehensive plan that describes what safe integration looks like by 2015, which we have, and we’ve got milestones along the way. We’re going to show progress by 2015 toward that safe integration, but the bottom line is Congress wanted us to be safe,” Williams said.

Last year, the FAA released a roadmap that detailed its plan for integration. Additionally, the organization in 2014 opened six UAS test sites throughout the country to research how to safely integrate the technology into the national airspace.

This is “an incremental process,” Williams said. “Yes, there are things we’ll have done by 2015 … [that] we’ll be very proud of. There’s a lot more work to be done that won’t be done by 2015 as well.”

As for when there would be full integration, Williams said he couldn’t answer that.



Pillars of US nuclear arsenal showing cracks


Nov. 10, 2014 3:34 AM EST


WASHINGTON (AP) — The foundation of America’s nuclear arsenal is fractured.

The cracks appear not just in the military forces equipped with nuclear weapons but also in the civilian bureaucracy that controls them, justifies their cost and purpose and plans their future.

It’s not clear that the government recognizes the full scope of the problem, which has wormed its way to the core of the nuclear weapons business without disturbing bureaucracies fixated on defending their own turf. Nor has it aroused the public, which may think nuclear weapons are relics of the past, if it thinks about them at all.

This is not mainly about the safety of today’s weapons, although the Air Force’s nuclear missile corps has suffered failures in discipline, training, morale and leadership over the past two years. Just last week the Air Force fired senior officers at two of its three nuclear missile bases for misconduct and disciplined a third commander.

Rather, this is about a broader problem: The erosion of the government’s ability to manage and sustain its nuclear “enterprise,” the intricate network of machines, brains and organizations that enables America to call itself a nuclear superpower.

The slippage is in certain key building blocks — technical expertise, modern facilities and executive oversight on the civilian side, and discipline, morale and accountability on the military side.

The shortfalls are compounded by tight budgets and uneven political support. In the absence of a headline-grabbing nuclear accident in recent decades and receding fears of nuclear war, these problems have generally gone unnoticed.

The White House and Congress have paid little attention, allowing the responsible government agencies to “muddle through,” according to a congressional advisory panel. This is the case despite the fact that the U.S. still has thousands of nuclear weapons — more than it says it needs — and is approaching decision points on investing enormous sums to keep the arsenal viable for future generations.

“This lack of attention has resulted in public confusion, congressional distrust and a serious erosion of advocacy, expertise and proficiency in the sustainment” of the nation’s nuclear weapons capabilities, the panel on “Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise” said in a report in April that is expected to be updated soon.

The panel was led by retired Adm. Richard Mies, a former commander of U.S. Strategic Command, in charge of all U.S. nuclear forces, and Norman Augustine, a retired chairman of Lockheed Martin Corp.

Nuclear weapons, the panel said, have been “orphaned” by Washington. Although today’s weapons are technologically sound, “there is no affordable, executable (government) vision, plan or program for the future of nuclear weapons capabilities.”

Paul Bracken, a Yale professor of management and political science, goes further. He says the neglect is deliberate and began two decades ago in response to the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the communist threat.

“Nuclear forces were left to rot, technologically and intellectually,” he wrote in his 2012 book, “The Second Nuclear Age.”

The atrophy gets little public notice because it’s largely hidden.

Some aspects of the problem will emerge with the expected release, possibly this week, of an in-depth study of “gaps or deficiencies” in the nuclear force that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered in February. He also asked for immediate and long-term solutions after declaring in January that “something is wrong” in the nuclear force.

Hagel acted in response to a series of Associated Press stories detailing failed nuclear security inspections, leadership lapses, training gaps and morale problems in the nuclear Air Force. The Navy has since disclosed that a cheating ring operated undetected for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site and that at least 34 sailors were being kicked out.

But the problem goes beyond the military and Hagel’s responsibility for nuclear weapons. It extends to the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This office within the Energy Department is in charge of ensuring that nuclear warheads attached to Navy and Air Force missiles and bombs — as well as those in storage — are safe and work properly. It also administers a network of nuclear weapons plants and nuclear laboratories.

The government splits nuclear management responsibilities between agencies. The Energy Department, through the NNSA, develops, produces and maintains nuclear weapons as well as dismantles and disposes of those that are retired. The Defense Department sets weapons requirements and operates them in the field.

Augustine told Congress last April that the NNSA “is on a trajectory toward crisis,” is suffering from numerous “systemic disorders,” and has “lost credibility and the trust of the national leadership (and the Pentagon) that it can deliver needed weapons and nuclear facilities on schedule and on budget.”

Frank Klotz, the NNSA administrator and a former commander of the nuclear Air Force, says his agency is taking numerous steps to fix its shortcomings. He believes its management of the nuclear weapons stockpile is a “phenomenal achievement,” considering it has not conducted an underground nuclear test for more than 20 years.

In an interview with reporters Oct. 29, Klotz did not dispute that the government has allowed cracks to form in the civilian and military underpinnings of its nuclear weapons complex.

“My generation came of age in the Cold War, when nuclear deterrence and the nuclear deterrent force were center stage,” he said. “At the end of the Cold War it was almost as if we had all heaved a sigh of collective relief and said, ‘Thank goodness we don’t have to worry about that anymore.’ … Quite frankly, we lost focus.”

Congress is supposed to oversee both the military and civilian sides of the nuclear enterprise, but it has shown limited interest in addressing the problems. The most vocal lawmakers on nuclear weapons issues are usually those seeking to protect home-state interests — nuclear missile bases, nuclear weapons labs and the like.

Those who see nuclear weapons as a necessary deterrent to attack from other nuclear-armed countries worry about the looming obsolescence of the current Cold War-era arsenal and about the jaw-dropping cost, of up to $1 trillion, of replacing it with a new generation of weapons and their support systems.

“Unaffordable,” is the blunt conclusion by a panel of defense experts who reviewed the Pentagon latest defense plan.

John Hamre, president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former deputy defense secretary, says post-Cold War decisions that downgraded nuclear weapons as a national priority may come back to haunt the U.S., in light of efforts by several countries to expand or begin building nuclear arsenals.

“It was always the backdrop of the competition with the Soviet Union that undergirded the nuclear enterprise. Now the Russians are coming back, the Chinese are expanding their inventory, and we are on the rim of a potential cascade of nuclear weapon states,” Hamre said. “But the American establishment is in serious decline.”


McCain & McCaskill At SASC: A McNightmare Scenario For Pentagon?

By Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.

on November 10, 2014 at 5:06 PM


WASHINGTON: Every election sets off a round of musical chairs on Capitol Hill. This year’s GOP sweep will shake up the Senate in particular, and there’s one plausible scenario that should make the Pentagon and contractors especially nervous, because it would put two champion attack dogs of oversight at the helm of the Senate Armed Services Committee: John McCain and Claire McCaskill.

My colleague Colin Clark has already written about McCain’s now-nigh-certain return to the SASC chairmanship, but the mention of McCaskill threw me. Several sources, though, say it’s pretty plausible. I first heard the scenario Friday during a panel discussion hosted by the Professional Services Council (PSC), a government contractors’ group.

“The conventional expectation that we would have the ranking member [be] Jack Reed,” said Alan Chvotkin, the PSC’s executive vice-president and counsel. “[But] he’s also eligible to be the ranking member on the Banking Committee” — finance being a major industry in Reed’s homestate, Rhode Island. So far the Senator has stayed studiously silent on his choice.

If Reed goes for Banking, Chvotkin continued, the next Democrat in line on SASC would be Florida’s Bill Nelson — “but Sen. Nelson also is in position to be the next ranking member on the Senate Commerce committee, which has NASA, [and] he’s a former astronaut heavily engaged in those kinds of Commerce Committee issues.” (Of course, Florida has plenty of military bases as well as the “Space Coast” around NASA’s Cape Canaveral, so the SASC chair may prove more powerful a lure than space sentiment for Nelson)

“If neither Mr. Reed nor Mr. Nelson, then Sen. McCaskill is third in line,” Chvotkin concluded. That means a McCain-McCaskill committee, he said. “Cue groans from all of us on the panel.”

PSC represents not just any federal contractors, but specifically service contractors, the ones in most direct competition with federal employees, so they’re used to be being bashed in hearings and take a dim view of what one panelist called “shoot-first oversight.” That said, as a former sex-crimes prosecutor and government auditor, McCaskill has hammered the Pentagon hard on classic “waste, fraud, and abuse” issues and on sexual assault in the ranks, helping drive major and often controversial reforms in how the military justice system handles such cases.

A McCaskill-McCain SASC would be a furious dynamo of oversight. McCain is famous — or infamous, depending on your perspective — for his acid tongue about everything from earmarks to aircraft carriers. But softer-spoken counterparts like Levin, Reed, or Nelson could take the edge off: McCaskill would sharpen it.


China Plans To Export J-31 Stealth Fighter

Nov. 10, 2014 – 03:45AM | By WENDELL MINNICK | Comments


ZHUHAI, CHINA — China plans to export its stealthy twin-engine J-31 fighter, which would become the first aircraft of its kind available to global customers who cannot afford the Lockheed Martin F-35. The fighter is similar in configuration to the single-engine F-35 stealth fighter.

The J-31 export revelation occurred in the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) Exhibition Hall after personnel unwrapped its 1:2 model of the aircraft Nov. 10 during a preshow tour of this week’s Airshow China in Zhuhai. The placard for the model states: “FC-31 4th Generation Multi-Purpose Medium Fighter.”

Chinese fighters are designated with a “J” for fighter and “FC” for export,” and this is the first time the J-31 has been referred to as the FC-31.

Though overcast, a J-31 performed a demonstration flight during the preshow tour, as did the Russian Su-35 multirole fighter. China and Russia are expected to sign a deal for export of the Su-35 sometime later this month.


The 10th biennial China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition (Airshow China) has been an outlet for defense companies to market new products for export and for China’s military to show off sophisticated weapon systems. The Nov. 11-16 airshow has become the biggest commercial and defense airshow in Asia with over 700 companies exhibiting. ■



Pentagon seeks aircraft-based drones for future missions

Ray Locker, USA TODAY 7:02 a.m. EST November 10, 2014


The Pentagon is looking for ways to base multiple unmanned drones aboard larger aircraft, from which the drones will depart and return after they fly intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions in hard-to-reach areas, according to a new request from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The request for information released over the weekend seeks drones that would be based on larger aircraft, such as B-52 or B-1 bombers or C-130 transport planes, to cite a few examples. The smaller drones would then fly from the larger planes, conduct their missions and return to the aircraft, which would then be able to fly away from potentially contested airspace.

“The agency envisions a large aircraft that, with minimal modification, could launch and recover multiple small unmanned systems from a standoff distance,” the request for information says.

Drones are continuing to play a larger role in U.S. military and intelligence operations, including flights over Africa and the Middle East in search of terrorist groups.

DARPA’s latest request is part of a series of research programs aimed at developing aircraft and weapons that will enable U.S. forces to cover large distances to get to coastal and other regions that are often protected by rival forces.

Earlier this year, DARPA released requests for long-range, anti-ship missiles that would break down the defenses of potential rivals as China and Iran, as well as underwater drones that would be based aboard larger submarines. Another DARPA plan would enable multiple drones to communicate with each other autonomously without a central station on the ground.



Google to Lease NASA’s Moffett Field for $1.2 Billion

by Press • 11 November 2014

By Brian Womack


Google Inc. (GOOGL:US) has agreed to a $1.2 billion lease of NASA’s Moffett Field airfield in California for 60 years, as the company invests in new technologies such as robotics and aviation.


As part of the deal, Google subsidiary Planetary Ventures LLC will invest more than $200 million in improvements at the site, which is near the company’s headquarters in Mountain View, according to a NASA statement. The facility is slated for research, assembly and testing in the areas of robotics, space exploration, aviation and other technologies, it said.

Google is committing more resources to cutting-edge technologies as it looks for new ventures beyond its core online search services. The Internet search provider has acquired several companies in a robotics effort that was led by Android co-founder Andy Rubin. Last month, Google said Rubin was stepping down and that James Kuffner, a research scientist, would take his position. Other research efforts have included wind power, driverless cars, drones and computerized eyewear.


Editorial: Don’t Count on More Funding

Nov. 10, 2014 – 02:40PM | | Comments


Now that Republicans are set to take over the Senate and have increased their lead in the House, some in Washington predict a defense spending boom.

That’s wishful thinking.

Republicans campaigned on defense, but now talk more about the Keystone pipeline, Obamacare and immigration than raising DoD’s budget or lifting sequestration.

Despite an improving economy, debt reduction and tax cuts are top Republican priorities as another borrowing limit battle looms. More for DoD means cuts elsewhere, and Democrats will shield social programs and the president still has veto power.

Remember, the Obama administration each year asks for more Pentagon funding than Congress approves — with Republicans opposing more defense money to cut government spending.

Even the conservative Wall Street Journal last week said defense cuts could pay for highway improvements.

Both President Barack Obama and the next Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, say they want to work together.

And they must.

Obama’s legacy is at stake and Republicans must show there’s more to them than saying no, threatening debt default and shutting down government as they position for 2016.

Cooperation will be difficult. Republicans blame Obama for all the nation’s ills and won by running against him. Obama, meanwhile, resents McConnell’s strategy of blocking him at every turn.

They must work together to lift sequestration, reform entitlements and taxes. But it’s simply too early to count on more defense money.


White House Details New $5.6B War Request, Billions for O&M

Nov. 11, 2014 – 03:45AM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments


WASHINGTON — The White House’s new $5.6 billion request for additional funding to fight the military advances of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria contains specific provisions that begin to detail the scope of the missions launched so far and how expensive it will be to station US ground troops in Iraq in the coming months.

The request comes along with the Obama administration’s Friday announcement that it is sending an additional 1,500 troops to Iraq to bolster the 1,600 already authorized to help train, advise and assist the beleaguered Iraqi security forces.

The breakdown of the new request includes $1.6 billion to establish the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, which would pay for training both Iraqi and Kurdish forces, plus a hefty new operations and maintenance (O&M) request for the services to operate fixed- and rotary-wing assets in Iraq and Syria as part of Operation Inherent Resolve and to transport troops and equipment throughout the region.

The US Air Force would also receive $931 million for O&M activities, while the Army would get $779 million, the Navy $122 million and the DoD overall would receive another $464 million.

But when it comes to replacing actual equipment and munitions used so far, a clearer picture is emerging of what has been expended.

The two biggest requests are $55 million to buy “small tactical” drones and $54 million for “tactical missiles for the Navy such as the Tomahawk and laser guided Maverick missiles that were expended” in operations. Both the Tomahawk and Maverick are produced by Raytheon.

The Pentagon has also decided that it needs $49 million more to procure joint direct attack munition (JDAM) conversion kits that can turn unguided “dumb” bombs into satellite-guided munitions, and $21 million to allow the Air Force to replace the Lockheed Martin-made Hellfire missiles used so far and the small diameter bombs, made by Boeing.

American and allied aircraft have flown over 8,000 reconnaissance and combat missions over Iraq and Syria since Aug. 8, and have expended 2,178 munitions against ground targets, the US Central Command has said.

In total, the overseas contingency operations (OCO) request for 2015 had been increased to $63.6 billion for the DoD and $7.8 billion for the State Department, resulting in a $71.4 billion fiscal 2015 request, although this is still $14 billion less than the OCO placeholder submitted in the original 2015 request in June.

The overall cost of operations in Iraq and Syria is largely unknown, but given the numbers that the Pentagon has so far released, it is at least $795 million, and likely over $1 billion, according to Defense News’ estimates.

Various Pentagon officials have confirmed that the cost of air operations for Operation Inherent Resolve over Iraq and Syria has been $8.3 million a day from the start of the bombing campaign on Aug. 8. But the government refuses to offer an estimate from June 16 — when US advisers first began flowing into Iraq — to the start of the bombing.

Previously, Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman, has estimated that the mission cost $7.5 million a day from June 16 onward so using that number, operations from June 16 to Aug. 7 would have run approximately $397 million, adding up to $1.1 billion overall.


Why Veterans Make Good Cyberwarriors

By Jack Moore

November 11, 2014


It’s no secret the ranks of the federal cybersecurity workforce are notably thin.

Think tank studies and media reports put the shortage of federal cyber professionals at anywhere from 30,000 to more than 10 times that in the broader labor force.

It’s a matter of supply and demand, federal officials attest: a glut of open positions for protecting the dot-gov domain and a lack of qualified personnel to fill them.

The federal government faces the exact inverse supply-demand imbalance when it comes to another signature initiative: reducing veteran unemployment and expanding work opportunities for veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

“The good news is that cybersecurity is the great shiny object right now,” Tim Polk, assistant director for cybersecurity in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, told members of a science advisory board last month. “One of the ways that we’re going to make progress in the cybersecurity workforce is by capitalizing on our connection to other administration priorities … things like getting returning veterans back into the workforce.”

For many, putting returning warfighters back to work as cyberdefenders makes sense.

“It should be a pretty good win-win, as we like to say, on marrying up the [workforce] shortage that we have and tapping into a pool of potential applicants that really could transition pretty effectively into the cyber workforce,” said Dan Waddell, director of government affairs at (ISC)2, a nonprofit focused on cyber education and certification.

Waddell’s group recently announced the second round of winners for its U.S. Cyber Warrior Scholarship program.

A partnership with Booz Allen Hamilton, the program provides returning veterans with training, textbooks and study materials and covers the cost for one of six (ISC)2 certifications, including the Certified Information Systems Security Professional test.

Applicants who’ve applied so far have typically had an IT background, but are still looking to crack into entry-level cyber positions.

“Being a veteran, they’ve already been exposed to some sort of IT training,” he told Nextgov. “So, it’s not necessarily a very broad leap that they have to take in order to kind of get to that next level.”

Plus, veterans typically already have a security clearance, much sought-after in government IT contracting, Waddell said.

“It’s a great way for them to continue to serve their country,” Waddell said. “They may not be necessarily wearing the uniform anymore, but as a cyberwarrior you can still serve that mission.”

The group is now accepting applications through January for a third round of applications.

A federal program dating to 2009 called “Vets to Feds,” which aims to ease the career pathway for veterans entering federal service, will focus especially on science, technology, engineering and math jobs in the coming year.

Last summer, the Department of Homeland Security launched a special hiring initiative specifically targeting veterans for cyber careers at the department to help fill gaps in its workforce that include cyberincident response, vulnerability detection and digital forensics.




Chinese hack U.S. weather systems, satellite network

By Mary Pat Flaherty, Jason Samenow and Lisa Rein November 12 at 12:20 PM 


Hackers from China breached the federal weather network recently, forcing cybersecurity teams to seal off data vital to disaster planning, aviation, shipping and scores of other crucial uses, officials said.

The intrusion occurred in late September but officials gave no indication that they had a problem until Oct. 20, according to three people familiar with the hack and the subsequent reaction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA, which includes the National Weather Service. Even then, NOAA did not say its systems were compromised.

Officials also said that the agency did not notify the proper authorities when it learned of the attack.

NOAA officials declined to discuss the suspected source of the attack, whether it affected classified data and the delay in notification. NOAA said publicly in October that it was doing “unscheduled maintenance” on its network, without saying a computer hack made that necessary.

NOAA’s satellites provide the bulk of the information for generating weather models, advisories and warnings to the nation and world. Maintaining the operations and data acquisition from these satellites is a 24/7 process.

In a statement released Wednesday, NOAA spokesman Scott Smullen acknowledged the hacks and said “incident response began immediately.” He said all systems were working again and that forecasts were accurately delivered to the public. Smullen declined to answer questions beyond his statement, citing an investigation into the attack.

But the agency confirmed to U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) that China was behind the attack, the congressman said. Wolf has a long-standing interest in cybersecurity and asked NOAA about the incident after an inquiry from The Washington Post.

“NOAA told me it was a hack and it was China,” said Wolf, who also scolded the agency for not disclosing the attack “and deliberately misleading the American public in its replies.”

“They had an obligation to tell the truth,” Wolf said. “They covered it up.”



DJI Opens World’s Leading Quadcopter Platform to Software Innovation

by Press • 13 November 2014


Software Development Kit allows Programmers to Create Apps for Phantom Vision Series


  • Developers can access several levels of control over the Phantom Vision camera and flight
  • controllers
  • Apps developed using the SDK open up tailored solutions for capturing images and information from the sky
  • SDK supports both iOS and Android development


DJI, the market leader in flying camera technology, today released a software development kit (SDK) for its Phantom 2 Vision series quadcopters.


Access to the SDK will allow developers and programmers the ability to create apps on either iOS or Android that open new levels of control over the Phantom’s key functions.

“The SDK creates opportunities for customization of the Phantom that is only limited by programmer’s imagination,” said Eric Cheng, DJI’s Director of Aerial Imaging. “New apps for the Phantom will allow for more creativity using the DJI Phantom Vision series and simplify the workflow for aerial creators.”


DJI – Software Development Kit from DJI on Vimeo.


Some of the key functions of the Phantom that developers can access using the SDK include –


  • Camera – Video transmission, full camera position, changing camera settings, image storage
  • Live Telemetry – Latitude and longitude information, flight speed, distance travelled, battery strength
  • Flight Control* – Setting way points, adjusting flight characteristics

* Access to the flight controller and waypoints will be available selectively upon application to DJI


Already DJI is working with some of the leading developers across multiple industries to deliver apps that open the possibilities of the Phantom. Developers including Pix4D, Drone Deploy, Bright Sky Labs, Pixie Path, Field of View and have already begun creating apps that help Phantom pilots edit and share videos on their mobile devices, create 3D maps, ensure flights comply with regulations and better manage multiple flights.

“DJI’s SDK allowed us to put years of research and industry experience on image acquisition into the Pix4Dmapper App so that Phantom users can now create maps and 3D models in a fully automatic way,” said Dr. Christoph Strecha, CEO and Founder, Pix4D. “This benefits the civil UAS industry in general as it allows to add new adopters and increase their confidence in applications such as UAS based mapping.”

Developers can learn more about the SDK at


Hagel Directs Leadership Changes, New Funding for Nuclear Community

Nov. 14, 2014 – 12:02PM | By BRIAN EVERSTINE | Comments


US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has directed the Air Force to elevate its top nuclear missile leadership, and authorized the Defense Department to request a 10 percent increase in funding for its nuclear enterprise every year for the next five years to address systematic issues across the nuclear triad.

The announcements came as Hagel outlined the results of two reviews of the missile enterprise, which found systematic problems in funding, career advancement, leadership and inspections in both the Air Force and Navy nuclear communities. The reviews have produced about 100 recommendations, including the increase in funding. Hagel approved an Air Force request to raise the billet for its commander of Air Force Global Strike Command from a three-star to to be a four-star, and the head of the service’s nuclear integration, currently a two-star, to become a three-star billet.

“Our nuclear deterrent plays a critical role in ensuring us national security and it is DOD’s highest priority mission,” Hagel told reporters today. “No other capability we have is more important.”

An internal review of the nuclear communities found a series of problems that needed to be addressed, including a blurring of the line of accountability and perfection in the Air Force, inadequate facilities, a rapidly aging civilian workforce in Navy shipyards, a lack of promotion opportunities, stress on submarine crews in the Navy, and an “unduly burdensome, overly technical and excessively risk-averse” implementation of the personnel reliability program for nuclear crews.

“The root cause has been a lack of a sustained focus, attention and resources, resulting in a pervasive sense that a career in the nuclear enterprise offers few opportunities for growth and advancement,” Hagel said.

The review found excessive inspections, especially in the Air Force, led to a demand for perfection and the lack of a meaningful self-assessment program. A survey of the enterprise found the infrastructure is aging, meaning sustainment is becoming more difficult, time-consuming and expensive.

To address these issues, the Defense Department will increase the amount of funding it requests for its nuclear community, even in the face of strict budget restrictions. Over the next five fiscal years, the department is looking at a 10 percent increase in each year beginning with the fiscal 2016 budget request, Hagel said. The department currently spends about $15 billion on the nuclear enterprise.

Additional funding will also focus on people, as well as infrastructure. The Air Force has exempted 4,000 airmen in the nuclear community from manpower reductions, while adding more than 1,100 billets to Global Strike Command for maintenance, operations and security. The Navy has reduced “administrative distractions” and will hire more than 2,500 workers to address infrastructure issues at shipyards and in training facilities.

Hagel has directed Jamie Morin, the director of the department’s cost evaluation and program assessment, to lead a review team to meet every five weeks to follow up on how the recommendations are being implemented.

In addition to the internal review, an external review led by former Air Force Chief of Staff retired Gen. Larry Welch and retired Navy Admiral John Harvey Jr. found similar infrastructure and morale issues across the service.

“Among the most serious problems encountered were a series of significant disconnects, including those between what the DOD and service leadership expected and what the leadership did to empower the forces to meet those expectations; what leadership says and presumably believes and what the sailors, airmen and Marines who must execute the mission actually experience,” the report states.

The 60-page report outlined deep infrastructure issues at missile bases, and a lack of tools needed for those on the ground. For example, the report found that a single tool required to tighten the warhead on a Minuteman III missile had to be shared among crews at the Air Force’s three missile bases. Crews would FedEx the tool to each base as needed.

“It’s indicative of the depth and width of what has happened over the last few years,” Hagel said. “A lack of focus, and little attention to some of these specific areas. It wasn’t just resources, partly it’s cultural.”

Crews had to be creative to make it work, Hagel said. Now, the service plans two of these tool sets for each base.

The review took an in-depth look at recent cheating incidents that have shaken the nuclear communities in both the Navy and the Air Force.

In August, the Navy announced that 34 sailors were being kicked out for their involvement in a cheating ring that went on for at least seven years at a nuclear power training site at Charleston, South Carolina. The review found that although this exam was just one part of an advanced qualification, success on it had far-reaching consequences, including advancement to chief petty officer in the nuclear forces and completion is a motivation for sailors seeking prototype training duty.

“They move their families and some buy homes in Charleston,” the review stated. “They see their professional and personal lives as hinging on success in this qualification, and thus this exam.”

Going forward, the review recommended that the secretary of the Navy and the chief of naval operations insure that the director of naval reactors provide an in-depth report on actions to address the broader organizational, cultural and institutional leadership issues contributing to the cheating incident.

The Air Force’s cheating scandal, which focused on almost 100 missile officers at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana, early this year served as a catalyst for the nuclear reviews. The service has found that an overemphasis on inspections and exams led to a culture where perfection was required, and missileers cheated to get the best possible scores on their exams. The service has already changed its tests to a pass/fail system to address this, and the review urged the chief of staff of the Air Force to join the chief of naval operations to ensure that training and skill testing is focused on measuring whether the airman’s or sailor’s knowledge is necessary and sufficient for the mission, instead of testing devolving into a counterproductive demand for high grades.

The independent review panel visited all the military’s nuclear bases, but called Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota, a “special case.”

“Conditions at Minot magnify many of the challenges discussed in this report,” the review states.

The base is the service’s most remote of the missile sites, and puts intense demands on its airmen because of the weather and the nuclear mission. Airmen face more demanding travel to and from dispersed ICBM facilities. Limits on hours of the base’s commissary and daycare impact morale. Personnel policies at the base have limited how airmen advance, such as senior noncommissioned officers often retiring rather than accepting assignments at the base. There’s a lack of training to qualify 3-level arrivals for missile, bomber and warhead maintenance, and the time and energy of 5- and 7-level technicians is solely focused on keeping ICBMs and bombers on alert, rather than training other aircrews.

“Minot and the Minot mission was the toughest in the Air Force,” Welch told reporters today. “There was a sense of pride that went with being from Minot. In (the former) Strategic Air Command, if you had not served at Minot, you were not a real (nuclear officer).


“Over the years, that gradually disappeared, as the nuclear mission moved from MAJCOM to MAJCOM in the Air Force. The northern tier did not get the kind of emphasis that was demanded in the kind of environment you exist in in the northern tier.”

The review recommends that Air Force leadership direct a special priority for mission support and support for families at Minot, along with initiating controlled tours at the northern tier missile bases — Minot, Malmstrom and F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming.

Following today’s announcement of the recommendations, Hagel and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James left the Pentagon to visit with airmen at Minot and discuss the coming changes to the community.


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Obamacare is back in the news, for better or worse.

The U.S. Supreme Court has opted to hear another legal challenge of the health care law, while the Obama administration hopes the glitches in the federal exchange website have been fixed in time for this weekend’s open health insurance enrollment. Meanwhile, several videos have surfaced showing one of the law’s chief architects saying it was deliberately written in a confusing manner so “stupid” voters wouldn’t realize how much the law could end up costing them.

A lot of Americans may soon find out, though. The New York Times reports that the cost of health insurance could go up as much as 20 percent next year for many policyholders, thanks to the health care law.

Forty-six percent (46%) of voters are confident that the problems experienced by the exchange website since its debut in October 2013 will be fixed when open enrollment begins again this weekend. But just as many (47%) also think the health care law should be put on hold until all the legal challenges against it have been resolved.  

Voters by a 50% to 44% margin still have a more unfavorable than favorable view of Obamacare. But that’s the lowest level of dislike in over a year. While voters are clearly getting used to the law, the favorables and unfavorables have moved very little since its passage in 2010. It will be interesting to see if the expected jump in policy costs impacts these numbers.

The case for the law isn’t being helped by newly discovered videos of MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber bragging that it was written in a way to fool voters. But just one-out-of-three voters agree that Americans are too stupid to comprehend the health care law.

Obamacare was front and center in most major political races this year, and half of voters say last week’s Republican takeover of Congress was a repudiation of President Obama’s party rather than an endorsement of the GOP. Democrats don’t disagree.

Voters question whether the president set the right tone in his first press conference after Election Day, and most aren’t optimistic about his working relationship with the new Republican congressional majority.

The current Congress is expected to return this week for a final lame duck session, but most voters consider such sessions a waste of time. They’re almost evenly divided over whether any of the president’s nominations should be handled by this Congress or put off until the next one.

In a survey taken the week they won full control of the U.S. Congress, Republicans hold a one-point lead over Democrats on the Generic Congressional Ballot.

Whether it’s sympathy or Democrats rallying to his side, the president’s daily job approval rating has improved slightly in the last few days.

Most voters still want across-the-board federal spending cuts but think they are unlikely anytime soon. Support for spending cuts drops dramatically, however, if the defense budget or entitlements are taken off the table. But Americans also show more willingness to spend when given specifics.

Thirty-eight percent (38%) of voters, for example, say the United States doesn’t spend enough on defense, and a sympathetic Republican Congress is likely to agree.

Just over half (52%) of Americans think the federal government should support more mass transit projects – unless the projects lose money. The irony is that most rarely use mass transit at all.

The president began the week with a strong endorsement of so-called “net neutrality” rules which would give the Federal Communications Commission the power to regulate the Internet like it does radio and TV. Sixty-one percent (61%) of Americans oppose government regulation of the Internet.

Americans are confident in the privacy of their own Internet communications, but 44% think it’s likely the government has monitored their Internet activity or the activity of someone in their family.

Obama began the year with a State of the Union address that focused on income inequality, but as the year draws to a close, voters still give the president mediocre marks for the job he’s doing in the area of economic fairness.

Going into the holiday shopping season, consumer confidence at week’s end was at its highest level since September

Still, only 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction, basically unchanged for months.

In other surveys last week:

— Americans don’t think it’s great for the country that the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden has identified himself to the public, but they also don’t believe the government should be able to shut him up.

— Voters give a lukewarm endorsement to the president’s proposal that Iran join in the fight against the radical Islamic group ISIS, but they don’t expect it to improve relations between the two countries anytime soon.

— Most voters continue to believe that development of shale oil reserves will likely end U.S. dependence on foreign oil, but they are not as convinced that the United States has enough reserves to become the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas.

When it’s time for Happy Hour, most Americans order a beer or wine.

— Americans don’t particularly like the increased use of cosmetic surgery and procedures, although one-in-five would at least consider going under the knife.

— Forty-three percent (43%) of Americans planned to do something special this past Tuesday to honor Veterans Day.

November 8 2014

8November 2014


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Microsoft ends retail sales of Windows 7 and 8

3 November 2014

Microsoft has officially stopped selling retail copies of some versions of Windows 7 and 8.

The date to stop selling the software was set some time ago and should help Microsoft move people on to more recent versions of its operating system.

Separately, statistics suggest people are finally moving away from some very old versions of Windows.

The next version of Windows, called Windows 10, is due to be released in late 2015.

From 31 October, consumers could no longer buy copies of the Home Basic, Home Premium and Ultimate versions of Windows 7. Now, Windows 8 is also no longer available. The change affects both copies bought in shops or loaded on PCs and laptops.

The current version of Windows, 8.1, will be the default version offered on PCs.

The change will take time to feed through into the market, as many PC makers have large stocks of older versions of Windows and will continue to sell PCs running the software.

Those keen to get a computer running Windows 7 will be able to “downgrade” from 8.1 to Windows 7 Professional but relatively few PC firms offer this option.

Gordon Kelly, writing in Forbes, said the policy revealed “Microsoft’s determination to distance itself from the original form of Windows 8” despite it being released just over two years ago.

The original version of Windows 8 did not prove popular because it did away with some familiar elements of the desktop version of the operating system.

By contrast, he said, Windows 7 has been available since late 2009 and is still very popular among users. About 53% of Windows users are on the various editions of Version 7 of Windows, he said. The more recently released Windows 8 has only grabbed a 6% market share and has already been surpassed by 8.1, said Mr Kelly.

The change will also clear the path for the arrival of Windows 10, he added.

Separately, market analysis reveals that the numbers of people using the venerable Windows XP operating system has suddenly seen a sharp decline. Data from Netmarketshare suggests that in October this year its share dropped from almost 24% to just over 17%. It is not yet clear what was behind the fall.


Big Oil Feels the Need to Get Smaller

Exxon, Shell, Chevron Pare Back as Rising Production Costs Squeeze Earnings


Daniel Gilbert in Houston and Justin Scheck in London

Nov. 2, 2014 7:08 p.m. ET


As crude prices tumble, big oil companies are confronting what once would have been heresy: They need to shrink.

Even before U.S. oil prices began their summer drop toward $80 a barrel, the three biggest Western oil companies had lower profit margins than a decade ago, when they sold oil and gas for half the price, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

Despite collectively earning $18.9 billion in the third quarter, the three companies— Exxon Mobil Corp. , Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Chevron Corp. —are now shelving expansion plans and shedding operations with particularly tight profit margins.

The reason for the shift lies in the rising cost of extracting oil and gas. Exxon, Chevron, Shell, as well as BP PLC, each make less money tapping fuels than they did 10 years ago. Combined, the four companies averaged a 26% profit margin on their oil and gas sales in the past 12 months, compared with 35% a decade ago, according to the analysis.

Shell last week reported that its oil-and-gas production was lower than it was a decade ago and warned it is likely to keep falling for the next two years. Exxon’s output sank to a five-year low after the company disposed of less-profitable barrels in the Middle East. U.S.-based Chevron, for which production has been flat for the past year, is delaying major investments because of cost concerns.

BP has pared back the most sharply, selling $40 billion in assets since 2010, largely to pay for legal and cleanup costs stemming from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that year.

To be sure, the companies, at least eventually, aim to pump more oil and gas. Exxon and Chevron last week reaffirmed plans to boost output by 2017.

“If we went back a decade ago, the thought of curtailing spending because crude was $80 a barrel would blow people’s minds,” said Dan Pickering, co-president of investment bank Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. “The inherent profitability of the business has come down.”

It isn’t only major oil companies that are pulling back. Oil companies world-wide have canceled or delayed more than $200 billion in projects since the start of last year, according to an estimate by research firm Sanford C. Bernstein.

In the past, the priority for big oil companies was to find and develop new oil and gas fields as fast as possible, partly to replace exhausted reserves and partly to show investors that the companies still could grow.

But the companies’ sheer size has meant that only huge, complex—and expensive—projects are big enough to make a difference to the companies’ reserves and revenues.

As a result, Exxon, Shell and Chevron have chased large energy deposits from the oil sands of Western Canada to the frigid Central Asian steppes. They also are drilling to greater depths in the Gulf of Mexico and building plants to liquefy natural gas on a remote Australian island. The three companies shelled out a combined $500 billion between 2009 and last year. They also spend three times more per barrel than smaller rivals that focus on U.S. shale, which is easier to extract.

The production from some of the largest endeavors has yet to materialize. While investment on projects to tap oil and gas rose by 80% from 2007 to 2013 for the six biggest oil companies, according to JBC Energy Markets, their collective oil and gas output fell 6.5%.

Several major ventures are scheduled to begin operations within a year, however, which some analysts have said could improve cash flow and earnings.

For decades, the oil industry relied on what Shell Chief Financial Officer Simon Henry calls its “colonial past” to gain access to low-cost, high-volume oil reserves in places such as the Middle East. In the 1970s, though, governments began driving harder bargains with companies.

Oil companies still kept trying to produce more oil, however. In the late 1990s, “it would have been unacceptable to say the production will go down,” Mr. Henry said.

Oil companies were trying to appease investors by promising to boost production and cut investment.

“We promised everything,” Mr. Henry said. Now, “those chickens did come home to roost.”

Shell has “about a third of our balance sheet in these assets making a return of 0%,” Shell Chief Executive Ben van Beurden said in a recent interview. Shell projects should have a profit margin of at least 10%, he said. “If that means a significantly smaller business, then I’m prepared to do that.”

Shell late last year canceled a $20 billion project to convert natural gas to diesel in Louisiana and this year halted a Saudi gas project where the company had spent millions of dollars.

The Anglo-Dutch company also has dialed back on shale drilling in the U.S. and Canada and abandoned its production targets.

U.S.-based Exxon earlier this year allowed a license to expire in Abu Dhabi, where the company had pumped oil for 75 years, and sold a stake in an oil field in southern Iraq because they didn’t offer sufficiently high returns.

Exxon is investing “not for the sake of growing volume but for the sake of capturing value,” Jeff Woodbury, the head of investor relations, said Friday.

Even Chevron, which said it planned to increase output by 2017, has lowered its projections. The company has postponed plans to develop a large gas field in the U.K. to help bring down costs. The company also recently delayed an offshore drilling project in Indonesia.

The re-evaluation has also come because the companies have been spending more than the cash they bring in. In nine of the past 10 quarters, Exxon, for example, has spent more on dividends, share buybacks and capital and exploration costs than it has generated from operations and by selling assets.

Though refining operations have cushioned the blow of lower oil prices, the companies indicated that they might take on more debt if crude gets even cheaper. U.S. crude closed Friday at $80.54 a barrel.

Chevron finance chief Patricia Yarrington said the company planned to move forward with its marquee projects and is willing to draw on its $14.2 billion in cash to pay dividends and repurchase shares.

“We are not bothered in a temporary sense,” she said. “We obviously can’t do that for a long period of time.”


The Pentagon May Finally Have a Plan to Keep America on Top

Bill Sweetman

Nov 3, 2014


After years of strategic drift, the U.S. military may finally have a path to maintain its edge over countries like China. Will the defense-industrial bureaucrats stand in the way?

Nowhere other than inside the Pentagon will you find more truth in Machiavelli’s warning about the hazards of change: “There is nothing more difficult to plan, more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to manage… For the initiator has the enmity of all who would profit by the preservation of the old institution and merely lukewarm defenders in those who gain by the new.”

Which was why my response to Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work’s arrival involved a reference to Raymond Chandler’s Big Willie Magoon, a vice cop who “thinks he’s tough.” The arrival of someone with genuine strategic and technical chops at the upper level of the Defense Department was such a good idea that a lot of people were guaranteed to respond with equal parts rage and terror.

Work’s co-thinkers have now run the pirate flag up the mast with the publication of a concise and hard-hitting report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments that details what Work has called a Third Offset strategy for towing the Pentagon out of the strategic quicksand into which it is steadily sinking today.

My compressed version of the CSBA report is here, along with an explanation of the innocuously wonkish “Third Offset” name by which the new strategy is known. But to be even briefer, this is the gist of the strategy.

Widely available weapons—this is not all about China—are threatening the U.S. ability to project power and influence events worldwide. Those weapons include guided missiles, satellites, and drones that can track ships in mid-ocean, and long-range surface-to-air missiles.

Rather than wading into a symmetrical fight against those weapons, the Third Offset strategy exploits U.S. and allied core competencies—not just the things we do well, but areas where we can maintain our lead for a long time, and without adding to the defense bill. Think advanced unmanned vehicles, all-aspect, broadband stealth, and undersea warfare.

Third Offset calls for some new weapons, none of them miraculous, some of them a little more specialized than those that have been planned in the last decade or two.

As a strategy, it has the enormous merits of focus and consistency, which is why there are people and groups who are going to hate it and try to stop it from happening.

The strategy exploits not just the things America does weel. But areas where we can maintain our lead for a long time. Think advanced unmanned vehicles, all-aspect, broadband stealth, and undersea warfare.

First among these will be the boot-centric warfare (BCW) crowd, whose admiration for the military theorist Carl von Clausewitz has blinded them to the fact that our world is not Clausewitz’s, where armies ruled and the war was won when the enemy’s capital was occupied. They will not be mollified by another new CSBA report that proposes an expanded Army role in providing offensive and defensive regional missile support. They will portray Third Offset as the intellectual stepchild of one of those nutty airpower cheerleaders, and not the kind of warfare performed by Real Warriors. 

This is not completely inaccurate. Third Offset reflects the views of people inside and outside the Pentagon who see large-scale BCW, particularly in a counter-insurgent role against cultures that revere martyrdom, as akin to wrestling a pig: You both get covered in slime but the pig enjoys it.

Next will be the peace-hawks. No, Third Offset does not advocate war with China. It seeks to prevent war with China, or any other nation that wants to exploit anti-access and area denial to further its own interests at the expense of the global community. In the classic phrase of deterrence, we want all such actors to wake up each morning and think: Not today.

The fighter generals and the advocates for the biggest program in Pentagon history, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, will not be much happier. Lord knows I am not a Joint Strike Fighter fan, but I have yet to call it “semi-stealthy” as the CSBA report does. The report also suggests that the Navy’s F-35C might be usefully canceled. But the critique is deeper: In some scenarios, it matters little if the adversary’s fighters can’t defeat F-35s directly. Shoot down or drive off the tankers and the fighters never make it back.

Some naval aviators will be at best skeptical of the report’s embrace of carrier-based unmanned combat air systems. They should not be surprised: Work himself co-authored an early and influential study of Navy advanced drones at CSBA, identifying range as a critical factor in an anti-access/area-denial environment.

The Navy’s surface-combatant community and the U.S. shipbuilding enterprise will be clearing the decks for action. Third Offset strongly favors the submarine and implies that, as missile threats become more intense, the weapon tubes on surface warships will fill up with defensive interceptor missiles, leaving only a handful of weapons to fire at the enemy.

The CSBA report says little about the Marine Corps and never mentions the F-35B—the Corps’ version of the Joint Strike Fighter. However, it does mention all the short-range anti-access weapons, like guided rockets and mortars, weapons that Work (a retired Marine himself) talked about in his CSBA and Navy years as representing a very difficult challenge for amphibious warfare in general and the F-35B in particular.

Third Offset is not policy. Yet. But it’s an important and coherent starting point for a discussion that is long overdue.



Study: Long-term shift work lessens brain power

By Laura Smith-Spark, CNN

updated 11:38 AM EST, Tue November 4, 2014

(CNN) — It’s not the news that any shift worker wants to hear. Not only is working irregular hours bad for your social life and likely your health, but it has a chronic effect on your ability to think, a new study has found.

The study, published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine, looked at the long-term impact on people’s cognitive abilities of working at odd hours or with frequently changing shifts.

Researchers in France and the United Kingdom followed employed and retired workers in southern France — some of whom had never worked shifts, while others had worked them for years — over the course of a decade.

They found that shift work was associated with impaired cognition, and the impairment was worse in those who had done it for longer.

The impact was particularly marked in those who had worked abnormal hours for more than 10 years — with a loss in intellectual abilities equivalent to the brain having aged 6.5 years.

The only encouraging finding for shift workers is that the decline can be reversed by a switch to regular hours. The bad news? It takes at least five years, the findings suggest, except for processing speeds.

Rotating hours

The authors say their research is the first published study into the reversibility of the chronic impact of shift work on the brain after the shift work finishes.

For the study, the participants were asked to carry out cognitive tests intended to assess long- and short-term memory, processing speeds and overall cognitive ability on three occasions, in 1996, 2001 and 2006.

Just under half of the sample, 1,484 people, had worked shifts for at least 50 days of the year.

Participants were aged exactly 32, 42, 52 and 62 at the time of the first set of tests. In all, just under 2,000 people were assessed at all three time points.

Around a fifth of those in work and a similar proportion of those who had retired had worked a shift pattern that rotated between mornings, afternoons, and nights.

Circadian rhythms

The researchers, from the University of Swansea and the University of Toulouse, say this is an observational study so no definitive conclusions can be drawn about cause and effect.

However, they suggest that disruption to the body clock could “generate physiological stressors, which may in turn affect the functioning of the brain.”

Humans are wired to sleep at night by their circadian rhythm, a 24-hour cycle that brings about physical, mental and behavioral changes in the body. The circadian rhythm affects sleep cycles, hormone releases, body temperature and various processes. Besides the intellectual impact, disrupting it has been associated with health problems including ulcers, heart disease and breast cancer.

Other research has also linked vitamin D deficiency caused by reduced exposure to daylight to poorer thinking skills, the researchers say.

“The cognitive impairment observed in the present study may have important safety consequences not only for the individuals concerned, but also for society as a whole, given the increasing number of jobs in high hazard situations that are performed at night,” the researchers warn.

At the very least, the findings suggest that monitoring the health of people who have worked shift patterns for 10 years would be worthwhile, they say.

It’s a message that merits attention.

It has been remarked that accidents tend to happen late in the night or in the early morning — as with the Three Mile Island disaster in 1979 and the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.


First drone takes off from Griffiss

by Press • 4 November 2014

On Oct. 28, the experimental test flight of a Logos Technologies unmanned aerial vehicle took place at the Griffiss UAS Test Site and the Northeast UAS Airspace Integration Research Alliance.

The vehicle flown was powered by a parafoil system, which combines a fabric wing (essentially a parachute) with an aircraft fuselage. Beyond the parafoil system’s ability to carry significant loads for its weight class, it provides increased safety over traditional UAVs, according to the release.

The vehicle is designed to further develop Logos’ flight control approach for inexpensively delivering supplies to dispersed units.

“We are excited about being the first to fly a UAS at the Griffiss FAA test site” said Dr. Wade Pulliam, director of Advanced Concepts at Logos Technologies. “(The) flight tests were a great success and allowed us to collect valuable data that will be critical to our development of parafoil systems for military and commercial applications.”

The ability to develop unmanned aerial systems could accelerate the development of such systems for many future applications, including precision agriculture, pipeline and power line monitoring, environmental monitoring, and disaster/humanitarian relief support.

“Through these first successful operational flights, the NUAIR Alliance and its partners have met a significant mandate for this test site,” said Larry Brinker, executive director of the NUAIR Alliance. “This is an exciting step into the future of aviation and the deployment of unmanned aircraft systems.”


The UPS Store rolls out 3D printing in Dayton

Nov 4, 2014, 1:12pm EST


Joe Cogliano

Senior Reporter- Dayton Business Journal

UPS has launched 3D printing services at nearly 100 U.S. locations, including one in the Dayton area.

As of this week, the UPS Store on Far Hills Avenue in Oakwood has a 3D printer for retail use. It is the only location the company lists so far in Ohio.

Also known additive manufacturing, 3D printing is a process of adding layers of thin materials to create a product or component.

UPS officials say the new rollout follows a successful pilot program in six markers.

3D printing is supposed to be the next big thing — for manufacturers as well as consumers — and this latest news should keep the Dayton region on the leading edge of adopting the technology.

In the last few weeks, Proto BuildBar opened its doors in downtown Dayton ( Click here to read that story.)

Proto BuildBar features a wall of 3D printers, as well as “maker” tables, in a cafe’/bar setting.

In August, 3D printer Tangible Solutions LLC moved into space om Germany Lane in Beavercreek. The company, which also performs modeling and design services, works with everyone from retail customers who come in with small orders to manufacturers who need anything from a prototype to large-run part orders.

Last fall, Ben Staub opened of the area’s first retail 3D printing operation, GetPrinting3D, on North Dixie Drive in Dayton.


US Air Force Wants Better Global Hawk Protection Against Cyber Attacks

November 5, 2014

U.S. Air Force unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) experts are asking Northrop Grumman Corp. to upgrade the abilities of the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) to resist computer hackers’ attempts to commandeer the unmanned aircraft while in flight. Officials of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, are awarding a $33.9 million contract modification to the Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems segment in San Diego to retrofit satellite communications links in the Global Hawk UAV fleet. The contract modification calls for Northrop Grumman to upgrade communications security in International Maritime Satellite links to enable Global Hawk UAVs to improve their defenses against cyber attack.

Related: Air Force orders three Block 30M RQ-4B Global Hawk UAVs for high-altitude surveillance Global Hawk, which can fly for more than 24 hours between refuelings, often relies on maritime satellite communications (SATCOM) links to enable ground controllers to maintain contact with the unmanned aircraft. The Air Force operates more than 40 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft. Air Force officials want to stiffen the Global Hawk’s maritime SATCOM links to prevent computer hackers from breaking through existing data security to take unauthorized control of the long-endurance, high-altitude Global Hawk reconnaissance UAVs. Recent studies have uncovered some flaws in satellite communications links that could enable cyber warfare attacks to disrupt military operations and ship and aircraft communications.


States ditch electronic voting machines

By Cory Bennett – 11/02/14 09:00 AM EST

States have abandoned electronic voting machines in droves, ensuring that most voters will be casting their ballots by hand on Election Day.

With many electronic voting machines more than a decade old, and states lacking the funding to repair or replace them, officials have opted to return to the pencil-and-paper voting that the new technology was supposed to replace.

Nearly 70 percent of voters will be casting ballots by hand on Tuesday, according to Pamela Smith, president of election watchdog Verified Voting.

“Paper, even though it sounds kind of old school, it actually has properties that serve the elections really well,” Smith said.

It’s an outcome few would have predicted after the 2000 election, when the battle over “hanging chads” in the Florida recount spurred a massive, $3 billion federal investment in electronic voting machines.

States at the time ditched punch cards and levers in favor of touch screens and ballot-scanners, with the perennial battleground state of Ohio spending $115 million alone on upgrades.

Smith said the mid-2000s might go down as the “heyday” of electronic voting.

Since then, states have failed to maintain the machines, partly due to budget shortfalls.

“There is simply no money to replace them,” said Michael Shamos, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University who has examined computerized voting systems in six states.

The lack of spending on the machines is a major problem because the electronic equipment wears out quickly. Smith recalled sitting in a meeting with Missouri election officials in 2012 where they complained 25 percent of their equipment had malfunctioned in preelection testing.

“You’re dealing with voting machines that are more than a decade old,” Smith said.

Roughly half of the states that significantly adopted electronic voting following the cash influx have started to move back toward paper.

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration in January warned that the deterioration of voting machines is an “impending crisis,” but House Republicans say the issue should be left to the states.

Rep. Candice Miller (R-Mich.), who chairs the house committee that oversees federal elections and is a former Michigan secretary of State, said the cash infusion to the states in the mid-2000s was “unprecedented.”

“State and local election officials should not rely on the federal government to replace voting machines that may be nearing the end of its useful life. Therefore, state and local election officials should recognize that they are responsible for upgrading their voting equipment as needed, and hopefully they are budgeting accordingly,” Miller said in a statement to The Hill.

Some voters might welcome the return to punch voting, given that researchers have repeatedly proved the fallibility of individual e-voting machines.

One group from Princeton needed only seven minutes and simple hacking tools to install a computer program on a voting machine that took votes for one candidate and gave them to another.

More whimsically, two researchers showed they could install Pac-Man onto a touch-screen voting machine, leaving no detectable traces of their presence.

But concerns of widespread tampering are overblown, Shamos said.

“It’s something you can demonstrate under lab conditions,” he said. To translate it to an election-altering hack, “you would have to commit the perfect crime.”

“There’s never been a proven case of manipulation of an electronic voting machine,” he said.

Voting machines are not connected to any network and not connected to each other, making them difficult to tamper with.

“These machines are not hooked up or networked in any way that would make them vulnerable to external access,” said Matt McClellan, press secretary for the Ohio secretary of State. “We’re confident that process is secure and the integrity is being maintained.”

“There’s no mechanism whereby viruses can pass from one machine to another,” Shamos agreed. Best-case scenario, “maybe I could fool a few people” and get several hundred votes “for my guy.”

Bryan Whitener, director of communications for the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, noted that all electronic voting machines are tested and certified.

Many states, like Colorado, keep their machines under video surveillance with detailed records of when software is being installed.

When Ohio made the $115 million statewide switch to e-voting, it passed a law that all voting methods, including touch screens, must also generate a paper trail.

“It’s not just solely an electronic vote,” McClellan said.

More than 60 percent of states passed similar laws with the electronic switch. Some states moved preemptively; others were reactionary.

An electronic machine in North Carolina lost roughly 4,500 votes in a 2004 statewide race after it simply stopped recording votes. The race was ultimately decided by fewer than 2,000 votes.

“Now what do you do?” Smith asked. “You can’t really do a recount. There’s nothing to count.”

Within a year, the state passed a law requiring a paper back-up.

Paper trails are simply “more resilient,” Smith said.

Shamos said he expects the move back to paper ballots to continue, unless there’s a high-profile crisis similar to the 2000 election.

Still, he predicted the drumbeat for Internet and mobile voting will grow.

“Eventually [a generation is] going to have the thought that it’s idiotic for me not to be able to vote using my cell phone,” Shamos said.

Then all bets are off.


The White House Must Change its ISIS Strategy

Chris Miller

Posted on November 4, 2014

It is becoming clear that the American-led international coalition and its airstrikes in Iraq and Syria alone are not going to defeat ISIS. The U.S. government, its Western allies, and its Middle East partners, thus far, are against deploying ground troops to Iraq. The New Iraqi Army, a Shiite dominated organisation, has shown itself unwilling or incapable of defending Sunni-dominated western provinces. None of the parties concerned will commit soldiers to face ISIS, despite their acts of unspeakable violence and depravity. Current U.S. policy is against any military action in Iraq that does not come from the air, including firm support for non-conventional ground forces. The results thus far speak for themselves.

Coming Back to Bite Us

Scholars and security professionals have long been on the fence regarding the wisdom of supporting local non-conventional or conventional forces through military and security assistance programs. Many question if there is any tangible benefit in supporting friendly dictatorships, not to mention the intangible negative effects of supporting such systems. The same goes for supporting revolutionary forces, who at times topple an old adversary only to become a new one. Most recently, the Obama administration’s hesitancy to support opposition forces on the ground in Syria appears to have been heavily influenced by a CIA study that U.S. support for insurgent forces, specifically considering South American examples, has historically had little return.

However, this study, as many others which have covered the subject, does not provide satisfying answers. There are many factors which must be taken into account, such as the stage in the fight at which assistance begins, the speed and concentration of assistance, and the morale, local support, and battle momentum behind the supported forces. Nonetheless, current American policy is that the U.S. will only support military force in Iraq and Syria which it can apply itself directly and from the air or in the form of advice from military advisers. In fairness, it worked against Qaddafi in Libya.

As Clausewitz wrote, tactics is the use of troops to win battles. Strategy is winning war by winning battles. If America does not want to use its troops, it will not win battles. Therefore, it will not win the war. You cannot win a war you do not actually fight.

One of the main supporting veins of this type of thinking is that U.S. advisory and material assistance to foreign forces—conventional or non-conventional—can and does come back to bite us. The botched Bay of Pigs invasion made Castro paranoid about another attempt so he asked Khrushchev to place nuclear missiles on Cuba. U.S. and British involvement in the toppling of Mossadeq in Iran to be replaced by the Shah created the chasm that exists since the 1979 revolution. America supported Saddam Hussein against Iran and later went to war against him—twice. The U.S. supported Afghan mujaheddin and other fighters, such as Osama bin Laden, in their fight against the Soviets and they turned into al Qaeda and the Taliban we are still fighting today.

Comparing Apples to Oranges

However, basing decisions today on whether or not to intervene in foreign conflicts on America’s track record of success or failure in Cold War actions is comparing apples to oranges and leaves out what broader concerns drove those decisions to take action.

There are two ways to win a contest: Win by competing or, alternatively, make sure the other guy cannot win (and winning by default). The first option generally involves a head-on battle. The second involves careful planning, probing, deception, and even “dirty tricks”—espionage, sabotage, and proxy wars. During the Cold War, a head-on contest between the U.S. and USSR would have meant nuclear war, something out of the question for both sides.

The U.S. had to show up to every dirty match of the Cold War. If it did not, its enemy—the Soviet Union—would. Anywhere America did not show up, the enemy would win by default. And vice versa. Causing the Soviet Union to expend vast amounts of economic and political capital—which it did not have—was the long term strategy of the United States. It worked. Necessarily, this involved a Realist policy calculation of America becoming involved in places where and with people who, in better times with better options, it would have been better to stay away from.

It is correct that America married itself to brutal dictators and repressive regimes and kept them in power. Its track record of winning these battles and their follow on effects is mixed. However, it was a strategy that meant while some battles were won and some lost, every further battle meant the U.S. and its allies were moving closer to eventually winning the war with Soviet Union. We were winning even when we were losing. It worked. But we did do harm to do a greater good.

America’s Strategic Challenges Today

The Cold War is over and has been for a while. What kind of world is America facing today? As JCS Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey puts it, the situation is “2, 2, 2 and 1”: Two heavyweights—Russia and China; two middleweights—Iran and North Korea; two non-states—al Qaeda affiliates and organised crime networks; and, one system—the cyber domain. It is no longer a bipolar world. Instead, we have a multipolar world with different foes competing at different levels in different places—all of which, however, in sum, means a bigger total problem for the U.S. than any of its opponents.

Since our strategic calculation is no longer based on the single concern of defeating the Soviet Union, the question is actually simpler: Do we want to defeat ISIS? If so, the U.S. can–unlike against the USSR–take the direct route to victory by openly confronting them militarily. America certainly has the capability. ISIS is, by all measures, certainly deserving of a resounding defeat. However, America’s leaders lack the will. America also has the capability to support local actors on the ground to engage ISIS in Iraq. However, it lacks the will to do this as well.

Clausewitz differentiated between tactics and strategy thus: “Tactics is the use of troops to win battles; strategy is the use of battles to win at war.” America’s tactics in the fight against ISIS, thus far, have been a poor showing. It does not, in fact, want to use troops at all, only airstrikes. Though it is killing ISIS fighters from the air, destroying their equipment, and degrading them in other ways, they remain in control of western Iraq and eastern Syria. America’s side is not winning the battles.

Perhaps it will, eventually. The calculation is that the U.S. and its allies will “degrade and defeat” ISIS through attrition over time—eliminating their troops and capabilities steadily from the air until they collapse. However, if this does not happen before they, say, take Baghdad or before they achieve other major victories, this timeline may continue to extend—and with more foreign fighters flocking to join them. Will America’s will to deploy ground troops be any greater then? Many American strategists also believed that with superior tactics, troops, and equipment they would defeat North Vietnamese communists over time. Perhaps they could have. But America and its leaders lacked the will to continue such a fight then as well. That is to say victory using such a strategy against such an enemy is not guaranteed.

A War Which Cannot Be Won Without Fighting It

It is hard to picture a scenario in these circumstances in which America will win this war without winning the battles. The longer ISIS exists, the longer its propaganda machine will continue to poison alienated, vulnerable minds internationally—as the Ottawa attack shows. The longer it exists, the more Shiites, Sunni resisters, Kurds, and non-Muslim minority groups will be murdered. American policy currently considers the downside of having to send American ground troops back into Iraq greater. American policy also considers the downside of providing material aid to local ground forces greater. It may come back to bite us.

However, is the prospect of ISIS continuing to exist, continuing to murder and enslave, continuing to disrupt regional stability, continuing to provide a calling and safe haven for Islamic extremism, continuing to prolong a Syrian civil war, and continuing to block the progress of a re-emerging Iraq any lesser an evil? The current U.S. strategy against ISIS seems to be doomed to lead, at best, to an eventual victory after yet another prolonged and indecisive Middle East intervention, with the same problems returning in another form a few years down the road. After all, ISIS itself is also the “same problem” popping up again. Remember, much of the early ISIS infrastructure was based around the former al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) the U.S. previously fought in Western Iraq.

Strange enough, this is a fight America can win if it takes the enemy head on with military force. For once, the enemy is using massed ground forces with columns of vehicles and even armor. Yet America lacks the will to do so. This is a war we can win, but have decided not to. If America is unwilling to commit ground forces and unwilling to support local forces to fight ISIS, then bombing them seems to be a waste of effort, other than to perhaps assuage our consciences. America should perhaps refrain from acting at all in Iraq and Syria and simply focus its efforts on Gen. Dempsey’s “heavyweights”, its touted “Pivot to Asia”, regroup from its weak showing against Russia in Ukraine, or focus on its nuclear negotiations with Iran and North Korea. It is better not to waste time, focus, and effort.

One of the lessons of Afghanistan and Iraq is to fully commit to victory with sufficient focus, effort, material support and troop levels to assure victory or do not act at all. Middling solutions have cost us much in blood and treasure over the last dozen years. Against ISIS, America is, once again, taking a middling approach bound to be prolonged and indecisive.

As Clausewitz wrote, tactics is the use of troops to win battles. Strategy is winning war by winning battles. If America does not want to use its troops, it will not win battles. Therefore, it will not win the war. You cannot win a war you do not actually fight.

Chris Miller is a U.S. Army veteran and Purple Heart recipient following two tours in Baghdad, Iraq and has worked as a military contractor in the Middle East. His work currently focuses on strategic studies. His interests are CBRN, military and veterans issues, the Cold War, and international security affairs.


Prototype AI chip allows UAV to learn

Nov. 4, 2014 |


HRL Laboratories’ Center for Neural and Emergent Systems has tested an unmanned aircraft with a prototype neuromorphic chip — a processor that essentially acts like a brain, learning and acting on its own, Gizmodo reports.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is funding the research. According to the MIT Technology Review, the first time the tiny test craft was flown into a new room, “the unique pattern of incoming sensor data from the walls, furniture, and other objects caused a pattern of electrical activity in the neurons that the chip had never experienced before.” That caused the way its synthetic neurons connect to one another to change as the chip learned the layout of the room, to be remembered next time it enters.

Narayan Srinivasa, who leads HRL’s Center for Neural and Emergent Systems, told MIT Technology Review: “This shows it is possible to do learning literally on the fly, while under very strict size, weight, and power constraints.”

Aerovironment built the test drone, which is six inches square and weighs 93 grams. The chip accounts for just 18 grams of that weight, and used 50 milliwatts of power.


DOD tries to allay industry fears on intellectual property

By Sean Lyngaas

Nov 04, 2014

Addressing an audience of defense executives and military acquisition officials, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Katrina McFarland on Nov. 4 sought to clarify how much intellectual property the Defense Department is interested in owning in a project it outsources to private industry. McFarland and other DOD leaders argue that maintaining a delicate balance of owning parts of a project to control its upkeep but not owning too much IP as to scare off bidders could help shore up the U.S. defense industry’s dwindling technological edge.

DOD does not want to own IP when it amounts to business secrets a firm can leverage for competitive advantage, McFarland told a conference hosted by Defense Daily in Washington, D.C. Rather, the department wants to own the interfacing part of a system that would be interoperable with another firm’s technology added later in a project, she said.

Defense Acquisition University defines open systems as those that use open, public interfaces and formats, making them interoperable and portable. To encourage competition for projects, and in turn save money in tight fiscal times, DOD has made open-systems architecture a key tenet of Better Buying Power 3.0, the latest edition of acquisition reform that the department unveiled in September. BBP 3.0 is now in draft form and won’t become DOD practice until the department hears more from industry, Congress and other stakeholders in the coming weeks.

McFarland took the podium to dispel some of the apparent misconceptions that defense firms have relayed to her about open-systems architecture. “There’s a lot of confusion related to intellectual property and open-systems architecture,” she said. “There is no interest in the government in pursuing intellectual property when it’s the secret sauce of the company.”

In introducing BBP 3.0 in a white paper, Frank Kendall, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, wrote that DOD had had “varying degrees of success in the past” with pursuing open-systems architecture. “We need to do a better job of ensuring that our designs are modular — and that the government is in a position to control all the relevant interfaces so that competitors have the opportunity [to] win their way onto our programs.”

McFarland echoed that argument Nov. 4, saying that DOD had not yet adopted open-systems architecture “at the level that I’d like to see.” Nonetheless, 75 percent of the acquisition strategy carried out across the department since July 2012 had involved open-systems architecture, she said.

DOD program managers are charged with implementing this shift in acquisition policy. McFarland said she instructs program managers to think about future threats and how technology will evolve when designing a given system. That mindset is especially important when it comes to cyber threats, many of which stem from open-source information, she said.

“In order for us to be able to address this threat, we have to jump ahead of it,” she added, calling for industry to develop more open-architecture cybersecurity systems.


Speaking later in the day at the same conference, Lt. Gen. Michael Williamson, principal to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, offered an illustrative example of the cost savings possible from open-architecture systems.

Williamson said he heard recently from an Army program manager who wanted to upgrade software for a control system and was confronted with 11 software languages, making the situation unnecessarily and inordinately complex.

“The challenge for us has been the cost associated with not only the software development, but also the software maintenance and the post-production software cost,” he said. “And as a service, it’s unaffordable for us to continue down a path where we have hardware and software proprietary systems that cause us to spend a lot of money in post-production trying to maintain connectivity and interoperability.”

Sean Lyngaas is a staff writer covering defense, cybersecurity and intelligence issues. Connect with him on Twitter: @snlyngaas.


‘Computer Chaos’ at 20: Back where we started

By Paul Brubaker

Oct 24, 2014


Editor’s Note: Paul Brubaker worked for Sen. Cohen in the mid-1990s as a subcommittee staff director, and was deeply involved in drafting both the Computer Chaos report and the Clinger-Cohen legislation.


Twenty years ago this month, then-Sen. William S. Cohen issued his seminal investigative report entitled “Computer Chaos.”

That report, and the Maine Republican’s deep interest and commitment in fixing the longstanding systemic deficiencies in the government’s approach to buying technology, were the driving forces behind the Information Technology Management Reform Act, now recognized as the IT provisions of the Clinger-Cohen Act.

At a recent luncheon, I had the opportunity to discuss the progress, or lack thereof, with Cohen. I think it is fair to say that we were both dismayed and disappointed that almost two decades later, the government has failed to take full advantage of the tools provided by the law that bears his name.

What was most disappointing was our mutual realization that many of the deficiencies highlighted in the Chaos report are still plaguing the government’s inability to keep pace with advances in technology.

The Government Accountability Office, the inspectors general and congressional committees are still citing failures that can be traced to many of the findings in the report: inadequate planning; misunderstood and over-prescribed requirements; large unmanageable programs; skill set disconnects; cumbersome and antiquated regulations and practices; disconnect between acquisition and mission; failure to link technology investments to mission outcomes; inadequate business cases … and the list goes on.

We also seem to be spending millions and wasting time redocumenting the deficiencies and admiring the problem when in fact, many of these flaws could be addressed by refocusing on the key provisions of the Clinger-Cohen Act and actually implementing them.

Last year I watched in shock and horror as a senior agency executive spent seven figures on a McKinsey study to highlight the very findings outlined above, while many of the oversight responsibilities delegated to that executive under Clinger-Cohen were either neglected or poorly executed. Too often, it seems, government does not take sufficient care to hire people with the necessary knowledge, skills, abilities and traits to succeed.

Over the past decade we have watched successive major procurements continue to fail in virtually every major department. And after spending more than $800 million on a fatally flawed site, it is still not clear the holistic and tightly integrated underlying business processes will ever be properly automated.

Moreover, the oversight mechanisms established by the Office of Management and Budget to gain visibility into the health of IT spending are useless. At the core is the fact that OMB and the agencies have lost the plot. They have simply forgotten what Computer Chaos and the Clinger-Cohen Act were saying: “It’s the business processes, stupid; not the technology.”

Since passage of Clinger-Cohen, well meaning but tragically bureaucratic policy people have been at the core of prescribing implementation guidance for the provisions of the law — and they have simply gotten it wrong.

Additional laws and regulations have also added to the layers of non-value added bureaucracy that have bastardized Clinger-Cohen’s intent, and burdened the system to the point where everything from capital planning and investment control, architecture, security and business case development has turned into a compliance exercise. At the same time, those subsequent additions have stifled innovation and the rapid deployment of the types of technologies that can transform business cases and create billions of dollars in efficiencies.

One need only to look at the FedRAMP process to see my point. This is an extraordinarily cumbersome and bureaucratic response to a legitimate concern that is better handled through clear lines of responsibility and accountability. This process arguably has unnecessarily slowed down cloud deployment in the federal government and has created billions of dollars in opportunity cost and lost innovation, as infrastructure and cloud service providers have spent millions attempting to navigate a fluid, often unclear, and understaffed compliance exercise — one that, at its core, may not really even be achieving its objective.

There are other examples. Implementation of FISMA, E-Gov Act requirements, OMB A-130, OMB’s 25-point plan and other inflexible and complicated laws, regulations, policies and practices have all conspired to ensure that we live in a federal IT environment that is impossibly complicated.

It is at least as daunting today as it was 20 years ago, when Cohen set out to simplify the government’s approach to technology in a way that would allow agencies to take advantage of 21st century tools. Clearly, and sadly, we are back to the future.

Paul Brubaker is AirWatch by VMWare’s director for U.S. federal government.


Can DHS get it together?

By Sean Lyngaas

Oct 31, 2014

Twelve years after its creation, the Department of Homeland Security is at a crossroads in how it handles its ever-evolving cybersecurity mission. On the one hand, the department says it lacks the legal authority to tackle the subject, and it struggles to hire and retain cybersecurity experts. On the other hand, former DHS officials say key cybersecurity programs and the department’s ability to coordinate the response to cyber threats — internally, with other agencies and with industry — has markedly improved.

The department’s technical efficacy in cybersecurity might now rest on how well its separate programs of intrusion detection and Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation can complement each other.

That mixed report card reflects the challenges of harnessing a big bureaucracy to defend federal civilian networks and the emphasis the department has placed on cybersecurity in recent years, although it has been part of the department’s mission since its inception.

John Cohen, who until April was the acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis at DHS, said various facets of cybersecurity under the department’s charge, such as cyber intelligence and threat detection, have become better integrated than they were five or six years ago. Then, two of the department’s main cyber-related divisions — DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis and the National Protection and Programs Directorate — suffered from stovepiping and subpar levels of communication. Threat analysis done by I&A was not very well integrated into the threat-detection activities that went on in NPPD, he said.

Coordination between the two divisions has come a long way, said Cohen, who is now chief strategy adviser at data-protection firm Encryptics. For starters, DHS’ intelligence office has a seat at NPPD’s hub for monitoring cyber threats, the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC).

That closer intra-agency coordination was put to the test last year when President Barack Obama was considering airstrikes against the Syrian regime. Cohen said there was evidence that the Syrian Electronic Army, a hacking group sympathetic to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, was considering retaliatory cyberattacks on U.S. assets if Washington struck Damascus.

The United States has since gone on to bomb the Islamic State in Syria but not Assad, and Cohen said the intelligence office shared cyber threat information coming from the Syrian Electronic Army with NCCIC, which in turn was able to give a more credible perspective of the threat to U.S. critical infrastructure. According to Cohen, that coordination would have been unlikely just a few years ago.

Rob Zitz, who was deputy undersecretary of preparedness at DHS from 2006 to 2007, said the department’s cyber capability in those years was somewhat fragmented because of bureaucratic growing pains and evolving technology.

DHS and cybersecurity through the years

The Department of Homeland Security was created in 2002 and began deploying Einstein — an intrusion-detection system designed to offer the government a snapshot of federal civilian networks — in 2005. A glance at the past 15 months, however, shows how rapidly the cyber landscape is shifting.

August-September 2013 — The Syrian Electronic Army, a hacking group aligned with President Bashar al-Assad, threatens cyberattacks on U.S. assets. DHS’ Office of Intelligence and Analysis and its National Protection and Programs Directorate show improved coordination with each other in responding to the threat.

December 2013 — Jeh Johnson is sworn in as DHS secretary. Since then, Johnson has shown a keen interest in having Congress pass multiple cybersecurity bills and lobbied them to do so in a recent opinion piece.

April 2014 — DHS’ U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team gets a big test from Heartbleed, an OpenSSL vulnerability affecting vast portions of the Internet. US-CERT issues an alert with mitigation advice to industry within 24 hours, but it reportedly takes DHS a week to get approval from some agencies to scan their networks for signs of the vulnerability.

August 2014 — Larry Zelvin resigns as director of DHS’ National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, the department’s hub for monitoring cyber threats. He is one of several high-level cybersecurity officials to leave for the private sector in recent years.

October 2014 — Citing the need to respond more quickly to bugs like Heartbleed, the Office of Management and Budget announces enhanced authority for DHS to scan federal networks for acute cyber threats. DHS has long sought that authority.


For Zitz, who is now senior vice president of Leidos, the introduction of a vast intrusion-detection program called Einstein in 2005 was a turning point in the department’s prioritizing of cybersecurity.


Enter Einstein

Einstein is one of DHS’ primary weapons for defending federal civilian networks. The intrusion-detection system is designed to provide the department’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) with a “snapshot of the health of the federal government’s cyberspace,” as a DHS description puts it. The program installs sensors at Web access points on federal agency networks and sifts through that data looking for vulnerabilities.

As of August 2013, according to an inspector general report published in March, NPPD had spent more than $321 million on intrusion-detection capabilities. (When asked for an updated tally of Einstein’s costs, a DHS spokesman referred FCW back to that figure.)

Einstein is now the tip of the spear in the U.S. government’s response to the most acute cyber threats. And yet its efficacy is evidently undercut by the department’s nebulous legal mandate to implement it. Deploying Einstein throughout the executive branch “has been significantly delayed by the lack of clear authorities for DHS,” said then-NCCIC Director Larry Zelvin in testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee in May. Zelvin, who left DHS in August and is now director of Citi’s Cyber Security Fusion Center, declined to be interviewed for this story. A DHS spokesman also declined to make current cybersecurity officials available for an interview.

Although DHS is responsible for guarding federal civilian networks, it needs permission from each agency, through a memorandum of agreement, to deploy Einstein on its network. That bureaucratic conundrum was on display in the government’s response to Heartbleed, an OpenSSL vulnerability that emerged in April.

Einstein was able to detect the bug’s threat to federal networks but, as Deputy Undersecretary for Cybersecurity and Communications Phyllis Schneck said recently, nearly a week passed before lawyers from various agencies could agree to allow DHS’ technical team to scan agency networks and mitigate the threat. A cybersecurity adviser on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, one of several congressional committees with jurisdiction over DHS, said department officials were prompt in briefing committee members on the nature of the Heartbleed threat. But in this case, word of the threat got out much quicker than DHS could deploy Einstein to address it.

In July, the House passed the kind of legislation that senior DHS officials have long been calling for. The National Cybersecurity and Critical Infrastructure Protection Act would codify and enhance NCCIC as the hub for sharing threat information across sectors. The bill, which now sits before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, will compete with several other measures for lawmakers’ attention during the lame-duck session this fall. However, a committee aide expressed optimism that bipartisan support for doing something on cybersecurity would help the bill’s chances.

Too big a piece of the puzzle?

Einstein is a central piece of DHS’ cyber defense. Indeed, some experts warn that it could be too central to the effort.

John Pirc, a former cybersecurity researcher at the CIA and until recently chief technology officer at IT testing organization NSS Labs, said he believes DHS might be making a mistake by relying so heavily on Einstein.

The kind of intrusion-detection systems Einstein uses are “typically myopically focused on exploits,” Pirc said. “If you have a pared-down list of known vulnerabilities or exploits…are those current or are those legacy? And the reason why that’s important is that the adversary is not always going to be using new techniques. They’re going to use old stuff…for the mere fact of trying to evade the system.”

Pirc argues that Einstein’s signature-based security technologies “only know what they’re being told to look for” and don’t address much of the encrypted traffic on networks. He said the program is helping the government improve its cybersecurity posture, but “where I think Einstein is falling short…is you’re using technology that is only solving a fraction of the problem.”

Ken Durbin, manager of Symantec’s Continuous Monitoring and Cybersecurity Practice, said it is important not to think of Einstein as a silver bullet for the government’s cybersecurity vulnerabilities but as one of an arsenal of weapons.

“I’ve heard several times that cybersecurity isn’t like finding a needle in a haystack. It’s like finding a dirty needle in a pile of needles,” he said. “And any tool that you can use to pull out some of those needles to reduce the scope of your search is effective and useful.”

Symantec, one of the largest information security firms in the world, was unsuccessful in its bid to have DHS use the firm’s data repository to feed into Einstein, but Durbin said he gained intimate knowledge of the program in pursuit of that work.

In separate interviews, Durbin and Zitz described Einstein as a foundational tool for threat detection that complements another pillar of DHS’ cybersecurity work: the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program.


Congress established CDM as a risk-based approach to cybersecurity that uses sensors to detect weaknesses on agency networks and send alerts to local dashboards. Whereas Einstein addresses network traffic, CDM scans the endpoints of that traffic, such as servers and workstations, for vulnerabilities and secure configurations. Durbin said the two programs are symbiotic: CDM aggregates and correlates data that can be used to develop more security signatures for Einstein.

Zitz said DHS’ treatment of Einstein as just one piece of the cyber puzzle “is indicative of the maturation of…NPPD [as a place] where all of those pieces come together now.”

Still lacking manpower

Despite the rise in automated cybersecurity services, which can reduce the manpower needed for some security missions, complex programs such as Einstein and CDM require experts to carry them out. And DHS has at times struggled to hire and retain those experts. Cybersecurity professionals can earn significantly more money in the private sector than they can in government, and the work can require long and stressful hours on the job.

A recent front-page Washington Post article states that a high turnover rate among senior DHS cybersecurity officials has hampered the department’s work. From June 2011 to March 2012, five such officials left for the private sector, according to the Post. But Zitz rejected the notion of instability among the department’s cybersecurity leadership. He cited Ann Barron-DiCamillo, who has worked at US-CERT for two years and been its director since January 2013, as one example of continuity.


Can CDM change the game?

“I think you’ve got stability in the leadership,” Zitz said. “I think a continuing concern is more so the idea that the subject-matter experts and technical experts who are inside of government, who are performing cybersecurity duties — they are extremely valuable and sought after in the private sector as well.”

Here, again, Congress could help. On Sept. 18, the Senate approved a measure that would give DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson greater authority to hire cybersecurity professionals and pay them salaries commensurate with those of cybersecurity experts at the Defense Department. The average annual salary for cybersecurity professionals, public or private, is around $80,000, according to a recent Rand study, which cited 2012 data from the Office of Personnel Management. More than one-quarter of federal security employees earn $74,872 to $97,333, or somewhere near that industry average, according to the study.

Yet there is a roughly $155,500 ceiling for how much the government can pay cybersecurity professionals, while top private-sector jobs can offer several hundred thousand dollars in annual pay. As the Rand study notes, “Once professionals can command more than $250,000 a year, the competitiveness of the U.S. government as an employer suffers correspondingly.”

Regardless of any action Congress takes on cybersecurity hiring, private-sector IT experts will, in general, always earn more than their public-sector counterparts. But it is not always about the money. DHS recruiters hope their appeals to a sense of mission to protect federal networks in cyberspace will resonate as that mission grows clearer.


U.S. Pilots Say New Chinese Stealth Fighter Could Become Equal of F-22, F-35

By: Dave Majumdar

Published: November 5, 2014 12:53 PM • Updated: November 6, 2014 7:00 AM

China’s new Shenyang J-31 stealth fighter — making its debut next week at the Zhuhai international airshow — could eventually become more than a match for American stealth fighters in battle, several U.S. military and industry officials told USNI News.

The J-31 is China’s latest crack at developing a modern so-called fifth-generation stealth fighter — equivalent in ability to Lockheed Martin’s F-22 Raptor or F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter.

“They’re still in the glossy brochure phase of development, so they still look ten feet tall and bulletproof,” one senior U.S. fighter pilot familiar with the F-35 program told USNI News.

“I think they’ll eventually be on par with our fifth gen jets — as they should be, because industrial espionage is alive and well.”

Many suspect the J-31 is designed using technology stolen from the Pentagon’s nearly $400 billion Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

“They sure look like F-35 and F-22s don’t they?” one Air Force operational test pilot told USNI News.

The senior U.S. pilot familiar with the F-35 — who has extensive experience flying the Lockheed Martin F-16 Falcon — told USNI News the Chinese jet is now likely more than match for existing fourth generation non stealth American fighters like the Air Force Falcons, Boeing F-15 Eagles and the U.S. Navy’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.

“They’ll probably be a handful right off the bat for all of our fourth gen stuff,” the pilot said.

One former Air Force fighter pilot extensive experience with foreign hardware told USNI News potential air battles might be more about sheer number of jets the Chinese might be able to put into the air versus the superior training of U.S. pilots.

“I worry about numbers more than particular platforms,” the former fighter pilot said.

“I imagine their jets and their weapons are pretty good. Don’t know about the pilots or their capacity to employ.”

Further, the retired pilot noted, airshows are designed to show off weapons to potential buyers, but offer no real information about what jet can really do during an actual combat mission.


“Just remember that airshows are exactly that — airshows.” the former pilot said. “Airshows provide no real clue to capabilities. As such, airshows generally rely on spectacular maneuvers to garner attention without providing substance. No different from the F-15C or the F-22.”

One current Air Force test pilot told USNI News that it would be difficult to gauge just how good the Chinese jet will be.

“Overall at this stage they’re not [operational] so it’s hard, for anyone to truly make a reasonable assessment,” the test pilot said.

There are still many unanswered questions about how the Chinese will operate their aircraft and what kinds of weapons the jets will carry. Perhaps the most important question is how good are the Chinese radars and other sensors compared to their American equivalents.

“How well will organic sensors work to support those weapons?” the test pilot asked rhetorically.

For U.S. industry officials, the J-31’s debut at the Zhuhai airshow signals that the Chinese are planning on selling the jet on the open market.

“I would characterize the J-31 flying at the Chinese airshow as ‘incremental and measured,'” a senior industry official told USNI News.

“There have been some reports that the J-31 maybe be exported. If so, then showing it off makes even more sense to attract prospective buyers,” the official said.

The Chinese are making a lot of progress in developing their aerospace industry.

However, jet engines remain a weak spot for China.

“They have yet to field many of their “new” designs in any quantities,” the industry official said.

“Time will tell.”

Meanwhile, the Russia’s advanced Sukhoi Su-35 Flanker-E is also making it debut at the Zhuhai airshow.

The Chinese are reportedly interested in the purchase of 24 examples of the modernized Russian-built jet.

There has been much media speculation that the Chinese intend to reverse engineer the aircraft as they have with previous Flanker variants.

“I view the Su-35 buy as a conservative stop-gap measure while they wait for the J-20 and J-31 to enter service,” the industry official said.

“Gotta have aircraft to have an air force.”



John McCain Poised to Control Senate’s Defense Policy

The move will give the hawk an influential avenue to merge his two favorite roles: administration critic and legislative deal maker.


By Jordain Carney

November 5, 2014

One of the president’s chief critics could soon lead the Senate’s main military committee.

With Republicans gaining the majority in the upper chamber in Tuesday’s midterm elections, Sen. John McCain is widely expected to become the next Armed Services Committee chairman in January.

McCain, the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2008, has decades of experience in foreign policy and defense issues in the Senate, where he was first elected in 1986. He also served in the Navy, and he spent more than five years as a prisoner of war after his plane was shot down during the Vietnam War.

As committee chairman, McCain would have an influential role in spearheading defense policy from Capitol Hill. That includes the Senate’s version of the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that outlines defense policy and tells the Pentagon what it can and can’t spend money on. He’ll also gain a megaphone to voice his frequent opposition to the Obama administration on military and national security issues.

On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby downplayed any concerns over McCain gaining the top spot, but, at least publicly, the senator’s relationship with the Pentagon has been rocky.

For example, during the past year, McCain put a hold on Bob Work’s nomination to be deputy Defense secretary, called the administration “cowardly” for not providing arms to Ukraine’s military, and frequently criticized the strategy to combat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

And his blunt style isn’t likely to change once he becomes chairman.

“With Senator McCain, what you see is what you get. It’s part of his charm and persona, that he is a maverick—he is an outspoken maverick—that tells it like it is to anyone of any party,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a fellow at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute think tank. “He wasn’t best friends with the Defense Department when the last president was in office either.”

Despite McCain’s penchant for straight talk, he’s also known for a willingness to work with his opponents and find a solution—for example, on immigration-reform legislation with the “Gang of Eight.” And there are at least two areas where he and top Pentagon officials agree that something has to change: budget cuts under sequestration and how the Defense Department buys what it needs.

Without action from Congress, the budget caps would return in October 2015, the start of the 2016 fiscal year. Under Obama’s five-year budget, the Pentagon projects that it will need more than $535 billion in fiscal 2016. But under the budget caps, the Pentagon is expected to receive less than $500 billion, leaving a roughly $35 billion budget gap.

McCain has been pressing for years to reverse or replace the cuts. And Eaglen called a budget deal—similar to the Ryan-Murphy agreement that eased budget cuts for fiscal 2014 and 2015—”a no brainer.” But Eaglen also acknowledged that completely undoing the sequester for the Pentagon is “much easier said than done.”

McCain is also expected to be outspoken on reforming the Pentagon’s acquisitions process—or how the department buys the programs and technology it needs. He released a report that outlined potential improvements to the system last month with current chairman Sen. Carl.


Turning UAVs into chemical, biological weapon detectors

Nov. 5, 2014


As chemical and biological weapons continue to be a risk for military personnel and civilians alike, the Pentagon is seeking new ways to detect them. A new demonstration RFI has the goal of developing UAVs that can detect the weapons.

The Thunderstorm Project seeks a battery-powered vertical-takeoff UAV that can fly or hover at altitudes up to 1,000 feet above ground level for at least 30 minutes. The desired UAV also:

Can be carried in a backpack or in a Humvee.

Can detect chemical and biological weapons and transmit the data to a receiver at least 1 kilometer away.

Can be operated by regular Chemical Biological Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) personnel with minimal training.

Includes a ground station able to provide visual displays of the sensor readings.

Offers autonomous operations based on satellite imagery that is pre-loaded, or downloaded from cell phones or Wifi networks.

Can carry modular payloads capable of detecting G, H and V-type chemical agents, biological agents, and can conduct surveillance of natural flora.

Is able to collect and return samples for testing.


At this stage, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Emerging Capability and Prototyping, Rapid Reaction Technology Office only wants to see technology demonstrations; the document is not a request for proposals.

On the flip side, the RRTO is also looking for technologies to counter small, man-portable, off-the-shelf UAVs carrying chemical or biological warheads. The Pentagon wants sensors that can detect and identify these small WMD carriers, plus kinetic and non-kinetic weapons to destroy them.

Thunderstorm, which is a technology demonstration program, will hold an industry day in the second quarter of 2015 at Camp Shelby, Mississippi.


Children’s Hospital, AFRL explore fatigue in airmen

Posted: 4:39 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014    

By Barrie Barber

DDN Staff Writer


Researchers will peer deep inside the brain to explore how electrical stimulation eases fatigue in airmen, researchers say.

Dayton Children’s Hospital and the Air Force Research Laboratory collaborated Wednesday on a 3T Magnetic Resonance Imaging machine to begin find answers for the first time.

AFRL has experimented with attaching electrodes to the brain of volunteers to find out how well the stimulation improves the alertness and performance of fatigued airmen.

The nearly $2 million MRI machine at Dayton Children’s has a stronger magnetic field to get detailed images of how the brain responds when specific areas are stimulated, said Dr. Elizabeth Ey, a pediatric radiologist at the hospital. The images are twice as detailed as other scanners, the hospital said.

“It provides the most amazing view of brains,” said Vicki Giambrone, Dayton Children’s vice president of strategic partnerships.

Aaron Miller, director of the Alliance for Human Effectiveness and Advancement (AHEAD) at Wright State University, brought the two sides together. Wright State research Institute is also collaborating in the research.

Miller said the Air Force has traveled outside the region to get access to equipment to obtain the same data.

The stimulation could make imagery analysts, cyber and unmanned vehicle operators more alert with long hours of staring at computer screens, and research findings suggest students could train up to twice s fast or more, Air Force researchers have said.


GAO: U.S. Air Force Needs More Info Before Committing to Disaggregation

By Mike Gruss | Nov. 5, 2014

WASHINGTON — A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office says that distributed satellite constellations, a concept currently in vogue with Air Force space leaders, may solve some problems for the Defense Department, but would also create new difficulties.

A transition to smaller satellites could lead to increased costs at a time when budgets are tight, would require a reimagination of launch possibilities and would face cultural obstacles within the Defense Department, where such a shift is not viewed as urgent, the GAO said.

The report, “Additional Knowledge Would Better Support Decisions about Disaggregating Large Satellites,” provides a more nuanced look than a white paper the Air Force published last year arguing disaggregation would help keep the United States ahead of adversaries in a quickly evolving space environment.

The GAO identified several benefits, including the potential for improved acquisition process, but said the Defense Department needs more information before the Air Force makes decisions about its future satellite architecture.

“Until more knowledge is gained, disaggregation will not only remain inconclusive, but poorly informed decisions could be made in the interim,” the report said.

Air Force Space Command is currently leading a series of studies on the service’s next-generation technologies. Specifically, the Air Force is expected to wrap up studies on its missile warning and protected communication satellites in the next several months. Disaggregated constellations have been part of every study on future satellite programs, the report said.

But the GAO said the Air Force needs more information specifically on how the new approach would work from an operational perspective.

“While technology demonstrations are providing an avenue for gaining knowledge about disaggregation, they have been limited, concentrating more on technical than operational feasibility,” the report said. “Focusing more on operational feasibility would help to empirically quantify the effects of disaggregation and address implementation barriers.”


Air Force leaders have pointed to improved resilience as a major advantage of disaggregation. But when the GAO first started studying the topic, the Defense Department did not have a definition for resilience or any metric to gauge improvement.

“DoD does not have common measures for resilience — a key space system consideration — which may limit the effectiveness of these assessments,” the report said, referring to the Air Force’s analyses of alternative space architectures.

The call for metrics has been a point of frustration for Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the commander of Space Command. At a speech in Huntsville, Alabama, in August, Hyten complained about Pentagon pressure to quantify resilience.

“The whole concept of resiliency is a very frustrating concept to me,” he said. “Folks in the Pentagon keep coming up to me and saying, ‘General Hyten, what is the number for an AEHF resiliency constellation? Is it 95 percent? 90 percent?’ I don’t even know what that means, but they’re trying to put a number on it I guess because we’re space people and we’re geeks and we put numbers on everything, but I don’t care what the number is. I want a resilient warfighting construct.”

The cost of the transition to a disaggregated architecture may be expensive, the report said. While smaller satellites might spur more new entrants subsequently lowering costs through competition and saving money by launching on smaller, less expensive rockets, the report said, a disaggregated portfolio could also lead to a more complex and more expensive ground system, more frequent launches and therefore higher launch costs, and higher overall costs for nonrecurring engineering, the report said.

In addition, the use of smaller satellites would require a new emphasis on different launch capabilities.

“Disaggregation can enable DoD to reduce launch costs because satellites would no longer require the heaviest, most expensive launch vehicles to get to orbit,” the report said. “However, the vehicles DoD primarily relies on to deliver its satellites to orbit are designed to carry heavier satellites. Without changes to the current architecture, DoD may well find itself having to rely on launch vehicles that are more capable and expensive than needed.”

In addition, the GAO said the Pentagon may be slow to adopt such a drastic departure from current standards.

“DOD’s culture has generally been resistant to changes in space acquisition approaches and that fragmented responsibilities have made it very difficult to coordinate and deliver interdependent systems,” the report said.

In the white paper, the Air Force advocated that disaggregation is “an innovative opportunity to stay ahead of our adversaries, to change their targeting calculus, and to mitigate the effects of a widespread attack on our space assets,” the report said. “In addition, resilience serves as a deterrent, which may be the best way to preserve our capability by avoiding an attack.”

The GAO report also questioned whether adversaries would be more willing to attack smaller satellites that may be viewed as less important and therefore carry less retribution.

Is a “Missile Truck” the Solution to One of the Scariest Wargames Ever?

By Dustin Walker

November 5, 2014

In August 2008, the RAND Corporation joined military leaders at Hickham Air Force Base in Hawaii for a wargame entitled “Pacific Vision.” The exercise was meant to identify the capabilities U.S. Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) would need to prevail against potential threats in the Asia-Pacific region through 2016. At least one of the scenarios examined in the wargame was truly frightening.

As Paul Scharre of the Center for a New American Security recently summarized in an op-ed for The National Interest:

[The RAND study] analyzed a U.S.-China air war over Taiwan made the bold assumption that every air-to-air missile fired from a U.S. F-22 hit a Chinese fighter (100 percent kill rate) and that every Chinese missile missed the U.S. F-22s (0 percent kill rate). In their simulation, the United States still lost the fight. The F-22s ran out of missiles and the Chinese fighters were able to go after vulnerable tankers and command and control aircraft. A far more detailed simulation the following year showed the same results. Even though U.S. F-22s were pegged with a 27-to-1 qualitative advantage over Chinese fighters, their diminished numbers and the fact that they had to fight from long range meant the Chinese had vastly superior numbers and won the fight.

The RAND study emphasized that improvements in forward basing infrastructure were necessary for U.S. airpower to achieve its objective effectively.

But in a new report from CNAS, “Robotics on the Battlefield Part II: The Coming Swarm,” Scharre offers another solution to mitigate China’s numerical advantage – an unmanned “missile truck” fighter:

An uninhabited “missile truck” that brought additional air-to-air missiles to the fight to supplement human-inhabited F-22s could tip the scales back in the United States’ favor. Such an aircraft need not have the full performance characticeristics of a 5th or 6th generation fighter aircraft. It would only need to have sufficient stealth to get close enough to launch its missiles against Chinese fighters. If it then perished in the engagement, that would be acceptable provided it took a sufficient number of enemy fighters with it. It would still have accomplished the mission. The uninhabited aircraft would not need advanced autonomy, merely enough to fly in a straight line under a human’s control and sufficiently robust communications links for the human-inhabited F-22s to pass targeting data. All targeting and firing decisions would be made by the F-22 pilots. If such an aircraft could be built at relatively low costs, this uninhabited “loyal wing-man” could be a tremendous force multiplier for U.S. human-inhabited fighters.

In general, Scharre has argued that uninhabited and autonomous systems will be essential to maintaining U.S. military dominance. As he wrote recently for RealClearDefense:

Humans will still fight wars, but new technology will give combatants, as it always has, greater standoff from the enemy, survivability or lethality. Exploiting those advantages will depend principally on the ability to uncover the most innovative applications of robotic swarms, which will require not only increased resources but also an aggressive campaign of experimentation and technology development. Many of the underlying technologies behind increased autonomy are driven by commercial sector innovation, and as a result will be available to a wide range of state and non-state actors. In a world where some of the most-game changing technologies will be available to everyone, uncovering the best uses of that technology – and doing so urgently – will be vital to sustaining American military dominance.

Dustin Walker is the Editor of RealClearDefense.


Harsh Winter Outlook Made a Bit More Dire by Siberia Snow

By Brian K. Sullivan

Nov 6, 2014 12:07 PM ET


Remember how evidence was mounting last month that early snowfall was accumulating across Siberia? And remember how there’s a theory that says this snowfall signals a cold winter?

So in the two and a half weeks since, the news for the winter-haters has, unfortunately, only gotten worse.

About 14.1 million square kilometers of snow blanketed Siberia at the end of October, the second most in records going back to 1967, according to Rutgers University’s Global Snow Lab. The record was in 1976, which broke a streak of mild winters in the eastern U.S. In addition, the speed at which snow has covered the region is the fastest since at least 1998.

Taken together they signal greater chances for frigid air to spill out of the Arctic into more temperate regions of North America, Europe and Asia, said Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting at Atmospheric and Environmental Research in Lexington, Massachusetts, who developed the theory linking Siberian snow with winter weather.

“A rapid advance of Eurasian snow cover during the month of October favors that the upcoming winter will be cold across the Northern Hemisphere,” Cohen said in an interview yesterday. “This past October the signal was quite robust.”

There are a few steps to get from the snows of Siberia to the chills in New York City.

Cold air builds over the expanse of snow, strengthening the pressure system known as a Siberian high. The high weakens the winds that circle the North Pole, allowing the cold air to leak into the lower latitudes. The term Polar Vortex actually refers to those winds, not the frigid weather.


Chance Discovery

Cohen said he first noticed the relationship between the Eurasian snow cover and larger weather patterns while doing post-doctoral work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the 1990s.

It came about by chance because the original assignment was to look at the North American snow cover, Cohen said. He changed it to Eurasian and “when we investigated further it turned out it was Eurasian snow cover that was the dominant influence.”

Last year, 12.85 million square kilometers covered Eurasia at the end of October. By January, waves of frigid air were pummeling the U.S. Prices for natural gas, a heating fuel used by half of American households, rose to a five-year high in February.

“The big early snowbuild will definitely set things up for a cold back half of the winter,” said Todd Crawford, a meteorologist at commercial forecaster WSI in Andover, Massachusetts.


October Snow

When the snow across Eurasia began piling up again this October, many forecasters and energy traders began to take note.

By Oct. 13, Cohen had calculated, 12.2 million square kilometers of Eurasia were covered by snow, compared with 10.8 million the same day last year.

Not everyone is convinced.

Mike Halpert, acting director of the U.S. Climate Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, told reporters last month that there wasn’t enough historical information to make the Siberian snow rule a useful tool.

The climate center’s forecast calls for a greater chance for a mild winter along the West Coast and then across the northern U.S. states into New England.


Energy Clients

Matt Rogers, a commercial forecaster in Bethesda, Maryland, said that while the snow accumulation isn’t a perfect predictor, he does keep an eye on it to help make seasonal calls for energy clients.

“I believe it increases the chances of a cold winter, but it does not guarantee it,” said Rogers, president of Commodity Weather Group LLC in Bethesda, Maryland. “I’ve seen some failures of it before.”

Rogers said for the U.S. East Coast, it’s important to watch the North Atlantic Oscillation, which often acts in tandem the Arctic one.

The oscillation is a shift of high and low pressure systems over the ocean that can influence storm tracks and the location of the jet stream, and affect the weather over the eastern U.S. and western Europe.


For Cohen, this year presents a good opportunity to test the theory. After seeing this much snow pile up, a balmy January and February in the eastern U.S. would undercut the thesis.

Cohen said he has started a blog to track the changes in the Arctic oscillation and what happens with temperatures this season.

“It is an important year,” Cohen said, “because it is a big number for the snow.”


The Military Wants New Technologies To Fight Drones

Patrick Tucker

November 6, 2014

At the end of October, the Pentagon put out a request for information, or RFI, for new technologies “countering” commercial drones that are armed with chemical, biological, or massively destructive weapons. Specifically, the request asks for ideas on “emerging technologies, technical applications and their potential to counter a low-cost, small/man portable, commercial off-the-shelf unmanned aerial system (UAS) carrying a chemical and/or biological WMD payload.” And that includes “electronic systems that can interdict defeat or deny hostile use of UAS” and “systems providing the capability to intercept and neutralize the UAS. Both kinetic and non-kinetic solutions are encouraged and should cover both” the United States and global applications. The project, called Thunderstorm, will feature a technology demonstration in the second fiscal quarter of 2015 at Mississippi’s Camp Shelby.

The first portion of the request asks for ideas on technology to outfit drones with chemical weapons detectors. It’s another area of intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance where flying robots that don’t sleep or blink or breathe could easily outperform humans. The biggest technological hurdle here is simply shrinking the sensors to the point where they can fit on relatively small drone but still be robust enough to pickup the most popular poisons.

The RFI is looking for the drone to be able to detect a wide variety of nerve agents like Sarin as well as industrial compound toxins and even flowers and wildlife, or “persistent and natural flora (providing biological surveillance on current and emerging flora).” It should be able to reach an altitude of 1000 feet, fly for at least 30 minutes without recharging and be able to actually collect samples and fly them back to defense department labs for analysis.

It’s the second portion of the RFI that speaks to a fast growing military worry: how to down the thousands of potentially dirty drones that could be swarming toward the United States in the decade ahead.

As many as 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles will be darkening America’s skies by 2020, according Todd Humphreys of the University of Texas at Austin. They could be engineered to carry dangerous payloads or simply used as weapons. It’s an area that has attracted increasing Pentagon focus. A December 2012 meeting at Oklahoma’s Fort Sill, for instance, brought 120 representatives together from the services to discuss methodologies for countering UAVs with talks and discussions scheduled to continue. Around the same time, the Naval Postgraduate School disclosed the existence of a classified research effort called Project Jason to “characterize and understand the threats posed by swarms of UAV,” according to the school’s website.

In a request for proposals from February, the military asked for ideas on counter UAV technologies to detect drones that were both large and even “micro-sized.”

Some of the capabilities featured in the most recent request include “sensors, software, or computers to detect and classify Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Collaboration and Intelligence (C5I) and sensor systems that facilitate rapid detection, identification and classification of UAS targets.”

As many as 30,000 unmanned aerial vehicles will be darkening America’s skies by 2020.

How easy is it to detect drones? Simple enough that you can do it at home, in some cases.

A company called Domestic Drone Countermeasures will sell you a kit consisting of “three boxes: a Primary Command and Control Module and two Detection Sensor Nodes. These three boxes create a mesh network that can triangulate moving transmitters.” You can increase the size the mesh network to detect the drone radio signals over a wider area, up to 200 feet. ( is also worth checking out.)

But detecting the presence of a drone is different from tracking a drone’s location, movement, or classifying its type or payload.

Achieving that level of detection capability requires more advanced radar equipment that military is looking to shrink down and make more mobile. Last September, the Air Force modified the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aboard one of its JSTARS test jets to perform a massive counter-UAV exercise. JSTARS is “an airborne system designed to find and track ground and maritime targets, as well as slow-moving fixed-wing aircraft and rotating antennas.”

Here’s how they described the test. “Once JSTARS…called ‘on-station,’ UAVs launched from the naval air station in intervals and flew patterns over water. The crew tested the new capabilities of the radar by attempting to detect and track the UAVs…They did not have advanced knowledge of the take-off times or patterns of flight of the target aircraft.”

Drone detection and tracking on the ground comes in various forms. One of the more interesting is a radar truck called Green Rock, developed by Israeli defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries. The Green Rock tracks low-flying UAVs as well as rockets and mortars via Phased-Array Pulse Doppler Radar.

If you can detect the identity of the drone and find it, how do you get it down?

Today, the primary drone counter measure for disrupting drones is communication and radar jamming, hurting the ability of the drone to communicate with its operator. The military is paying Raytheon $10 billion to build what the military is calling the Next Generation Jammer.

If detection tech can be made small and cheap enough, the ultimate weapon against swarms of cheap drones will likely be… swarms of cheap drones.

But future counter-drone technologies include the various direct energy weapons making their way onto trucks and planes and particularly ships and boats. The Office of Naval Research, ONR, has made this a particular focus.

“We can expect that our adversaries will increasingly use UAVs and our expeditionary forces must deal with that rising threat,” Col. William Zamagni, said in a June press release announcing ONR’s award in the Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-the-Move program, GBAD, program.

If detection tech can be made small and cheap enough, the ultimate weapon against swarms of cheap drones will likely be… swarms of cheap drones. It’s a research project underway at the Naval Postgraduate School, where in 2012 professor Timothy Chung said he was looking to put together a massive swarm on swarm drone challenge. This effort was to culminate in two teams, each with 50 Harpy style small drones “Duk[ing] it out over the skies of Camp Roberts,” in California in 2015.

In the meantime, ideas for the Thunderstorm project are due in on Nov. 26.


Rasmussen Reports

They Told Us: Reviewing Last Week’s Key Polls

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Now America’s in the eye of a hurricane. The storm of Election 2014 is over, and we have a little calm until the new Republican Congress and our lame duck president face each other down beginning in January.

There were 36 Senate races this fall. We projected a GOP takeover of the Senate on Monday. Here’s a state-by-state post-election look at how we did in our Senate surveying.

The Louisiana Senate race is the only remaining question mark. It will be settled by a December 6 runoff because no candidate cleared the 50% mark. We’ll be surveying that race soon.

Where does the president go from here? The Republican takeover of the Senate is seen by many as a repudiation of his policies. There’s no doubt that voters don’t approve of much of what they see out of the White House these days.

Heading into the midterm elections, Obamacare, the president’s major achievement, remained unpopular, with most voters still convinced that it will worsen health care in America.

The president in a press conference the day after the elections signaled that he still intends to grant amnesty to countless illegal immigrants if Congress doesn’t act. Most voters oppose such an amnesty because they want to see stricter border control that ends illegal immigration first.

It doesn’t help the president’s cause that barely half of voters now believe most immigrants to this country come here to work hard, support their family and pursue the American Dream.

The president’s daily job approval rating remains low. His monthly job approval stayed at 47% in October, showing no change from September.

Just 27% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction, but that was before Election Day. It’ll be interesting to see if that number moves noticeably up or down because of the outcome of Tuesday’s voting.

On the eve of the midterm elections, Republicans moved to a 43% to 41% lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot, their highest level of support since November 2012. But the two parties have been separated by just two points or less for most weeks this past year.

With the ink scarcely dry on Tuesday’s ballots, most voters already expect the new Republican majority in Congress to let them down. After all, only four percent (4%) think most politicians keep their campaign promises.

There’s no doubt that Americans are a pessimistic lot these days. Just 40% of voters think U.S. elections are fair.

Americans also elected governors in 36 states on Tuesday. Here’s our before Election Day assessment  and our after Election Day state-by-state look at how we did in our surveying.

The lopsided Republican gains in both the Senate and governor’s races can be explained in larger part by turnout. Republicans voted; many Democrats did not. We found out after the election that 56% of GOP voters felt “compelled” to vote in this year’s election, compared to 43% of Democrats.

This election cycle also appears to be a repudiation to some degree of negative politicking. Most voters rejected the use of the so-called “war on women”  and of outlandish racial complaints, known more familiarly as “playing the race card,” as political ploys more than genuine problems.

Fifty-seven percent (57%) of Americans told us that negative campaign ads actually make them less likely to vote for the candidate who produced the ad.

The economy remains the number one issue on voters’ minds. As of yesterday, just 23% of consumers and 29% of investors rated the economy as good or excellent.  Will the new Congress and the president be able to change those long-standing perceptions?

New job figures released by the federal government on Friday show the unemployment rate dropping to 5.8 percent. Our surveying earlier in the week found that 35% of Americans believe the job market is better than it was a year ago, and only 21% think unemployment will be higher in a year’s time. That’s more optimism than we’ve seen in several years.

Americans continue to believe, however, that private sector employees work harder and get paid less than government workers

An overwhelming majority also say it’s more common for grown children to live with their parents these days, and most think that’s a bad thing for families and the economy.

Meet Rasmussen Reports’ new on-air spokesman, Leon Sculti. 

In other surveys last week:

— Americans say they would choose to be Superman if they could be any superhero, and if they could have one super power, it would be the ability to see into the future.

— Eighty percent (80%) of Americans trust their doctor, unchanged from past surveying. But 32% think most doctors overprescribe drugs to their patients.

— Even though voters still generally regard Medicare as a good deal for working Americans, only a third are willing to pay more in taxes to allow it to continue as is.

— Just over a third of Americans still say they drink alcohol at least once a week. 

— Nearly half of pet owners (49%) own a dog, while 23% own a cat

— Daylight Saving Time ended last weekend for this year, and many Americans question whether it’s really needed anymore.






























November 1 2014

1November 2014


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Bring Back the Earmark

Earmarks can fix our partisan gridlock and our crumbling infrastructure.

By Jacob Anbinder

Oct. 22, 2014 | 1:30 p.m. EDT


Remember the “Bridge to Nowhere?”

The most famous piece of infrastructure never built, the bridge was supposed to serve an Alaskan island with just 50 residents, thanks to more than $100 million in earmarks slipped into the text of the 2005 highway bill. Instead, it became a symbol of government waste and played a role in House Speaker John Boehner’s decision to ban earmarks when Republicans took control of the House four years ago.

With midterm elections less than two weeks away, though, candidates who criticize the United States’ crumbling infrastructure must speak truth to power. The fact is, while much maligned, earmarks were the linchpin of American infrastructure investment. And it’s time we gave them a second chance.

Why are earmarks so important to infrastructure spending?

It’s not that they’re the most reasonable way to allocate money – far from it. Research from Gian-Claudia Sciara, an expert on earmarks at the University of California-Davis, has shown that earmarking tends to shift funds away from local transportation priorities rather than adding new money to the infrastructure pot.

Nor is it because earmarks ever comprised a major part of federal spending – Sciara’s work found that even at their peak in the mid-2000s, they comprised little more than 5 percent of total transportation appropriations.

But while banning earmarks may not have eliminated a significant chunk of infrastructure funding, it did eliminate the main reason congressmen were interested in infrastructure in the first place. For all their problems, earmarks were a genius bit of legislative procedure, giving politicians a personal stake in passing broadly beneficial infrastructure authorization.

The 2005 highway act – by some measures, the last truly comprehensive transportation bill to pass Congress – was approved by the House 417 to 9 and by the Senate 89 to 11. With billions of dollars in more than 5,000 earmarks, the law promised enough ribbon-cuttings to please every lawmaker involved.

Since the ban, however, members’ reelection prospects are no longer so closely linked to the amount of infrastructure money they can direct to their district. As Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said earlier this month, this new reality has “created a situation where you can’t get transportation bills passed.” With no incentive to support large authorizations, lawmakers have resorted to the bare minimum: Short-term appropriations that fund existing programs – and little else.

In this Sept. 12, 2014 photo, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin D-Ill., answers questions during an interview with The Associated Press in Chicago. Durbin is running for re-election against Illinois State Sen. Jim Oberweis R-Sugar Grove, Ill., in the November general election. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)

Sen. Richard Durbin thinks the ban won’t even let transportation bills survive.

Ironically, this financial uncertainty makes life difficult for the same local transportation agencies whose priorities were once ignored by overly aggressive earmarkers. Without a federal commitment to multi-year funding, local transportation planning has in some cases devolved into mere guesswork, which in turn scares away investors and drives up costs for everyone involved.

It seems to have scared voters, too. In the post-earmark era, Americans are notably less happy with their representation in Congress than before the ban was in place. Though the data is too limited to draw any formal conclusions, there is some evidence that the end of pet infrastructure projects has coincided with the demise of “Fenno’s Paradox,” the old aphorism that people hate Congress but love their own congressman.

As the figure below shows, the decline of earmarks since the mid-2000s has roughly mirrored the rise in voters’ disapproval of their own member of Congress – a figure that recently surpassed 50 percent in one study for the first time since pollsters began asking the question. And though earmark critics cited corruption as a key reason to ban them, more voters now say”yes” when asked if their congressman is corrupt than did eight years ago.

It’s understandable why the quid pro quo of earmarking leaves a bad taste in voters’ mouths. The tradition doesn’t square with our notion of how infrastructure spending – or Congress in general – should work. But if there’s one midterm reality check this country needs, it might be admitting that Congress’ old pork-barrel traditions, however icky, were what made it tick.

After all, Congress doesn’t care at the end of the day about the pothole on your street. Your representative might, but only if he can take credit for fixing it. The earmark ban, for all of its good-government intentions, took that power away. And with it went lawmakers’ interest in infrastructure altogether.

At the time, it may have seemed like the right thing to do. Now, however, it’s preventing us from passing the infrastructure legislation we sorely need. Federal infrastructure spending is stagnant, and the American Society of Civil Engineers has estimated that $3.6 trillion of new investment will be needed by 2020.

Ending the earmark ban will go a long way toward fixing the problem. And if that means beating back a few Bridges to Nowhere along the way, then so be it.


Researchers identify sophisticated Chinese cyberespionage group

By Ellen Nakashima October 28 at 12:01 AM 

A coalition of security researchers has identified a Chinese cyberespionage group that appears to be the most sophisticated of any publicly known Chinese hacker unit and targets not only U.S. and Western government agencies but also dissidents inside and outside China.

News of the state-sponsored hacker group dubbed Axiom comes a week before Secretary of State John F. Kerry and two weeks before President Obama are due to arrive in Beijing for a series of high-level talks, including on the issue of cybersecurity.

In a report to be issued Tuesday, the researchers said Axiom is going after intelligence benefiting Chinese domestic and international policies — an across-the-waterfront approach that combines commercial cyberespionage, foreign intelligence and counterintelligence with the monitoring of dissidents.

Axiom’s work, the FBI said in an industry alert this month, is more sophisticated than that of Unit 61398, a People’s Liberation Army hacker unit that was highlighted in a report last year. Five of the unit’s members were indicted this year by a U.S. grand jury. The researchers concur with the FBI’s conclusion, noting that, unlike Unit 61398, Axiom is focused on spying on dissidents as well as on industrial espionage and theft of intellectual property.

“Axiom’s activities appear to be supported by a nation state to steal trade secrets and to target dissidents, pro-democracy organizations and governments,” said Peter LaMontagne, chief executive of Novetta Solutions, a Northern Virginia cybersecurity firm that heads the coalition. “These are the most sophisticated cyberespionage tactics we’ve seen out of China.”

Chinese Embassy spokesman Geng Shuang said in an e-mail that “judging from past experience, these kinds of reports or allegations are usually fictitious.” He repeated Beijing’s position that Chinese law prohibits cybercrime and that the government “has done whatever it can to combat such activities.”

Senior Obama administration officials have over the past year and a half publicly called on China to halt its practice of stealing U.S. commercial secrets to benefit its own industries. China, especially in the wake of disclosures last year of widespread U.S. government surveillance by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, has pushed back, arguing that it is the United States that needs reining in.

Geng said in his e-mail: “China is a victim of these kinds of attacks, according to the Snowden revelations.” Following the PLA indictments in May, Beijing pulled out of bilateral talks aimed at easing tensions in cyberspace.

In recent weeks, the research consortium has detected Axiom malicious software on at least 43,000 computers around the world belonging to law enforcement and other government agencies, journalists, telecommunication and energy firms, and human rights and pro-democracy groups.

The group said there also are indications that Axiom may be behind a high-profile cyberattack on Google, announced in 2010, which compromised the tech giant’s source code and targeted Chinese dissidents using Gmail.

At least one Chinese-language computer in the United States was targeted, the report said, without specifying to whom the computer belonged.

Novetta senior technical director Andre Ludwig also said Axiom is seeking to hack personnel management agencies to obtain the personal data of people who have access to classified information that it can use for future targeting.

Axiom has been active for at least six years and employs techniques that make it stand out from other hacker groups, the researchers said. For one thing, it is highly skilled at burying malware within legitimate computer traffic so that a company or agency analyst who is studying traffic logs cannot detect it, Ludwig said.

The malware, called Hikit, can create multiple points of presence — what Ludwig called “breadcrumbs” inside the network to help Axiom move around and steal data, all without arousing suspicion.

Axiom also appears to have a “maintenance cycle” in which it periodically switches out malware, Ludwig said. “They have an advanced playbook,” he said.

Unlike the security firm Mandiant, which reported on Unit 61398, the researchers were unable to identify the locations in China where Axiom operates from or identify its members. Axiom’s members, Ludwig said, are better at covering their tracks than those of Unit 61398. They did not, for example, keep e-mail accounts or have an online presence that could be traced back to them.

China military expert Mark Stokes said it was “not surprising” to find that Unit 61398 was not as sophisticated as Axiom. That unit is part of the second bureau of the PLA’s Third Department, which is the rough equivalent of the NSA. “Cyber seems a really small part of second bureau’s broader mission, which is signals intelligence,” said Stokes, executive director of Project 2049 Institute, an Arlington think tank. “There are other parts of 3 PLA that reasonably could be expected to have a much more dedicated cyber mission.”

Some security experts said the report carries valuable remediation advice not often seen in such reports. The researchers created custom “signatures,” ways to detect Axiom malware in users’ computers. This is the sort of data more traditionally exchanged in private intelligence-sharing groups, the experts said.

“This is the beginning of what will hopefully be a long line of industry-coordinated efforts to expose these threat groups, and to do so without having to use law enforcement, to help corporations and governments around the world combat” hackers, said Stephen Ward, senior director of iSight Partners, another coalition member. “This is a big first step.”

Other coalition members include Microsoft, Bit9, Cisco, FireEye, F-Secure, Symantec, Tenable, ThreatConnect, ThreatTrack Security, Volexity and threat researchers who did not wish to be identified.


Opinion: Bumbling Caused B-52 Reengining Delay

Better late than never to re-engine the B-52


Oct 27, 2014

Bill Sweetman 

Aviation Week & Space Technology



The U.S. Air Force is taking a serious look at reengining the Boeing B-52. The question is not whether it makes sense, but why it hasn’t been done. The answers include poor planning, budgetary procedures that defied economic logic and at least one bone-headed accounting error.

Putting new engines on the Buff, or Big Ugly Fat (cough) Fella, became a possibility after 1978, when the commercial business launched two modern powerplants that would fit a four-engine Buff: the Rolls-Royce RB.211-535 and Pratt & Whitney PW2000. Pratt published a study in early 1982 that showed the reengined airplane would fly farther and need less tanker support.

But in 1982 the Air Force expected to replace all of its bombers, well before 2000, with 100 B-1Bs and 132 Advanced Technology Bombers (ATB); and gas was cheap. The idea went nowhere.

Within another decade, the ATB—the B-2 stealth bomber—had been cut back to 21 aircraft, the B-1B had been shorn of its cruise-missile armament under the first Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, and the B-52 was going to be around for a while longer. This time it was Rolls-Royce, which had just acquired a U.S. military foothold in the form of Allison, that proposed leasing RB.211-535s to the Pentagon, reducing the upfront investment.

Legal problems with the lease deal were one reason for the proposal’s failure. It was a sign of a deeper and as yet unsolved problem: Budget rules often run counter to common sense. Corporations and even people decide every day to spend money today on energy efficiency, calculating the payback period. In the Pentagon, procurement and operations budgets for weapon systems are separated by a near-unbreachable wall. It’s easier for the Air Force to spend money on golf carts for on-base transport, or solar panels for the O-club roof, than to put new fuel-saving engines on its aircraft.

But as a Defense Science Board (DSB) task force on the B-52 reengining proposal reported in 2004, the Air Force also made an elementary mistake. It had assessed the payback period using fuel prices on the ground, and overlooked the fact that fuel coming out of the back end of a KC-135 was a little more expensive. Fifteen times more expensive, to be exact. The DSB recommended that the Air Force proceed with a new engine immediately, a suggestion that vanished without a trace in the service bureaucracy. The same fate overtook a National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report in 2009 that recommended new engines for the B-1B and E-3 Sentry as well.

The economic case for reengining the B-52 should in theory have become weaker in the decade since the DSB report, given that the retirement date has not changed, but the reverse has happened. Newer engines burn less fuel, and that fuel costs more. The maintenance cost of the wheezy old TF33 has soared past Air Force predictions, possibly because it’s not just a matter of nobody making TF33s any more; nobody makes engines that even look like TF33s. Today’s new engines are designed to stay on the wing so long that they will never be removed routinely until the B-52s are retired.

The technical risk is manageable. There have been questions about the engine-out characteristics of a four-engine B-52, but if that issue cannot be solved there is an eight-engine option with General Electric

Do some generals worry that upgrading old airplanes weakens the case for new ones? That would not be logical, even though stories of pilots flying their grandfathers’ bombers make good copy. The longevity of combat aircraft is a good-news story: Since today’s B-52s rolled off the Wichita production line, the Navy has launched and scrapped two classes of destroyer and four cruiser classes, and that comparison makes a $550 million Long Range Strike Bomber look a little more digestible.

Operationally, the case for extending the B-52’s life is at least as strong as ever. The decision to rebuild the Triad (AW&ST Sept. 29, p. 14) includes a new long-range cruise missile. In the Air-Sea Battle concept, the idea that B-52s carrying Lockheed Martin‘s Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles could be almost anywhere, able to hit your ships while staying far out of range of missiles or even carrier-based fighters, will concentrate an adversary’s mind wonderfully. And when a hypersonic strike weapon is available, what better platform than an aircraft that was built to carry a Mach 14 weapon, the AGM-48A Skybolt? 

The B-52 is not the only aircraft that might need a new powerplant. The 2009 NAS report also pointed out that the C-17 is the Air Force’s biggest fuel user, and that its early-1980s engines could benefit from a technology infusion. If the E-3 is not to be replaced before 2030, a CFM56-7 installation would be relatively easy. The challenge is to make sure that common-sense, valuable opportunities don’t fall through the cracks again. 


Skyward announces first commercial drone network demonstration

by Press • 28 October 2014


PORTLAND, OREGON, Oct. 28, 2014 – SkyWard, a leading software platform for the aerial robotics ecosystem, today announced the Urban SkyWays Project, the first end-to-end demonstration of a commercial drone network operated with full regulatory and insurance compliance.

SkyWard is partnering with NASA to incorporate technology and research from their UAS Traffic Management (UTM) System into the Urban Skyways Project. The first demonstrations will take place in Las Vegas, Vancouver, London, and Portland, Ore. Each city will showcase demonstrations such as drone deliveries, emergency-response capabilities, infrastructure inspection and network coordination.

Urban SkyWays is a partnership between top aerial robotics manufacturers, commercial operators, and airspace management agencies. It will demonstrate urban commercial package delivery and emergency response by aerial robots, also known as drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). “The airspace is a great place to build a new highway” said SkyWard CEO Jonathan Evans. “Bringing together global partners solidifies the magnitude of this project, and is the first step in enabling the Aerial Robotics Network and realizing its potential.”

Urban SkyWays partners include (in alphabetical order): 3DRobotics, Accuas, City of Las Vegas, City of Portland, DJI Innovations, Drone Deploy, NASA, Pix4D, Sky-Futures. The Project will showcase what is possible with aerial robotics and demonstrate the standard of professional aviation safety needed to develop commercial systems that the public can trust. Transport Risk Management Inc. is the official insurance partner for Urban SkyWays. Insurance for all US flights will be underwritten by Global Aerospace, a leading global provider of aviation insurance which is backed by Berkshire Hathaway and Munich Re, among others.

All flights are compliant with jurisdictional regulations and will operate under the appropriate authorization, including: Certificate of Authorization (COA) issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); Special Flight Operation Certificate (SFOC) from Transport Canada, or Permission to operate small unmanned aircraft from the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

About SkyWard

SkyWard provides a pathway for businesses to manage legal and insured flight operations around the world. Unique, portable identities for drones and people give managers real-time visibility on assets in the field; customer requests can be efficiently dispatched; and flight operations can be tracked at all times. Logs for aircraft and personnel are automatically updated and the information flows seamlessly to the regulator and insurer as needed. SkyWard works with regulators and local governments to map and establish safe urban flight corridors, and provides access to those corridors to operators through its network. As a member of the Small UAV Coalition and DroneCode, Skyward collaborates with cross-sector industry experts to build the Aerial Robotics Network safely and in accordance with regulations.



Unique drone store to open in Dayton Mall

Oct 28, 2014, 1:48pm EDT Updated: Oct 28, 2014, 2:11pm EDT


Olivia Barrow

Senior Reporter-

Dayton Business Journal


A local retailer is opening a drone sales and training store at the Dayton Mall, which he says will be the first in the country.

Jay Day, who operates a drone store for hobbyists at Trader’s World in Cincinnati, is opening Dayton Drones at the Dayton Mall on Nov. 3.

The 3,100-square-foot store next to Sears is entirely dedicated to drones of every shape and size, Day said. The machines range in price from $30 to $150,000, although Day said the most expensive one he has in the store costs $15,000.

“I’m going for the consumer as well as the business end of it,” he said.

The store includes a training center where customers can learn how to fly their drones around both an indoor obstacle course and indoor race track.

The drone industry possesses massive growth for the U.S. economy. The Dayton region is positioning itself to become one of the national hubs for drone research and testing.

Day said he has invested $150,000 so far in opening the store. He is also looking into opening another location at The Mall at Fairfield Commons.

Dave Duebber, general manager of the Dayton Mall, said he is excited for the store to open.

“We’re already starting to get a lot of inquiries from customers walking through seeing the store coming together,” he said.


Pentagon urges industry to innovate, take risks to meet threats

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON Tue Oct 28, 2014 6:03pm EDT


(Reuters) – The U.S. Defense Department is expanding its dialogue with weapons makers about emerging threats and potential technology solutions, a top U.S. official said on Tuesday, urging companies to invest in areas such as “big data” and quantum sciences.


“Technological superiority is not assured,” Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, told executives at a conference hosted by the TechAmerica Foundation. “The firms that make strategic investments now will succeed.”

McFarland said she and other defense officials were meeting with the chief technology officers at the biggest U.S. arms manufacturers so that both sides could get smarter on emerging threats and new technology developments to combat them.

The department was also trying to gather data from companies earlier in the acquisition process to better understand emerging capabilities as it shaped requirements for new weapons systems.

Big weapons makers such as Lockheed Martin Corp, Boeing Co, and Northrop Grumman Corp say they are focusing on innovative approaches, but industry executives say they need the Pentagon to be more specific about its needs as it decides where to focus limited research dollars.

McFarland said the Pentagon was particularly focused on ways to counter current and emerging threats, including weapons of mass destruction, electronic warfare, attacks that could disable satellite services such as communications, navigation and timing; and assaults on U.S. computer systems.

“What we need from industry is an expensive but innovative counter to these low-tech threats,” she said.

To help the U.S. military develop “technological surprise,” she urged industry to invest in research on such things as quantum, or particle, sciences; and “big data”: computer analyses of very large sets of data for patterns, trends and associations.

McFarland said there has been improvement in this research in recent years but said further gains were urgently needed.

“A great deal of emphasis is being put on these areas because we believe that’s going to create us an advantage and we’re very interested in that,” she said. “If we want to continue to be the superior force, we need to take chances, and taking risks is not optional.”

Bill Greenwalt, a former senior Pentagon official who is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, welcomed the increased focus on innovation and dialogue with industry.

But he said the Pentagon’s recent initiatives to drive down the cost of weapons had imposed new burdens on use of commercial products, discouraging the very companies at the forefront of technological innovation from entering the weapons market.

“To get innovation, they’re going to have to make it easier for the defense industry and commercial interests to partner,” Greenwalt said in an interview at the conference.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)


DHS Mismanages Pandemic Preparedness Amid Ebola Crisis    

By: Amanda Vicinanzo, Senior Editor

10/28/2014 ( 7:39am)


In the midst of rising fears over the spread of Ebola, a recent hearing revealed that Department of Homeland (DHS) has not effectively managed and overseen its inventory of pandemic preparedness supplies, including protective equipment and antiviral drugs, calling into question the ability of DHS personnel to effectively respond to a pandemic.

With the importance of the continued operations of DHS during a pandemic, Congress appropriated $47 million in supplemental funding to DHS to train, plan and prepare for a potential pandemic. DHS used the funding to stockpile protective equipment and antiviral drugs for pandemic response.

However, at a recent House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing, DHS Inspector General John Roth referenced an August audit that concluded DHS did not adequately assess its needs before purchasing pandemic preparedness supplies, and then did not adequately manage the purchased supplies.

As Homeland Security Today previously reported, “DHS did not adequately conduct a needs assessment prior to purchasing pandemic preparedness supplies and then did not effectively manage its stockpile of pandemic personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures.”

When the Inspector General’s report was initially released, Homeland Security Today also reported that it sparked sharp criticism from public health sector and other authorities.

“Specifically,” the IG reported, DHS “did not have clear and documented methodologies to determine the types and quantities of personal protective equipment and antiviral medical countermeasures it purchased for workforce protection.

Roth said that determining the adequacy of equipment stockpiles requires DHS to conduct a needs assessment. However, DHS reportedly spent $9.5 million on protective equipment since 2006, as well as $6.7 for antiviral drugs, without first determining the types and quantity of medication it should purchase or the amount of protective equipment it needed.

Roth expressed concern that DHS may not be able to provide pandemic preparedness supplies to crucial personnel necessary to continue operations during a pandemic. Specifically, by failing to implement controls to monitor its stockpiles, DHS cannot be certain whether it has too little, too much or ineffective supplies.

“DHS purchased these supplies without thinking through how they would need to be replaced,” said Roth.

For example, the stockpile contains 4,982 bottles of hand sanitizer, 84 percent of which is expired. Moreover, the Transportation Security Administration’s stock of pandemic protective equipment includes about 200,000 respirators that are beyond the 5-year usability guaranteed by the manufacturer. The glut in supplies means millions of dollars wasted on unnecessary drugs and equipment that need to be replaced in order to be continuously prepared.

“We spent millions of dollars for a pandemic … We don’t know the inventory, we don’t know who’s got it, and we don’t know who’s gonna get it,” Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said during the hearing.

Roth responded: “You are correct.”

Roth’s remarks during the hearing coincide with looming fears over US preparedness to meet the threat of Ebola on American soil. Just this month, Thomas Eric Duncan—the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the US—died.

After Duncan’s death, DHS announced plans to implement new layers of entry screening at five US airports that receive over 94 percent of travelers from the Ebola-affected. However, last week Dr. Craig Spencer, New York City’s first Ebola diagnosis, passed through enhanced screening at JFK airport without incident after returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.




“The healthcare worker had returned through JFK Airport on October 17 and participated in the enhanced screening for all returning travelers from these countries’ affected by the virus,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

“What you have in place has failed,” Mica said. “The New York doctor self-reported. We need to learn from this example.”

The number of cases in the Ebola outbreak has exceeded 10,000, with 4,922 deaths recorded as of October 23, according to the World Health Organization.

Amid rising concerns over the spread of Ebola, Roth’s remarks on the August audit which found DHS is internally unprepared to respond to a pandemic raise concerns that America is not prepared to face the threat of Ebola.

“This is a scathing report,” said Rep. Mica. “Page after page. The inventory is outdated. We spent millions of dollars, and we’re not prepared.”



GIS: The Biggest Little Drone Market in the World

by Colin Snow • 29 October 2014



Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a two-day symposium on unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) hosted by the Northern California American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing (ASPRS). The event was held in Reno, Nevada, (otherwise known as “The Biggest Little City in the World”), and its purpose was to assemble UAS experts and enthusiasts to share information, showcase new technologies, and demonstrate systems in action – systems that support geographic information systems (GIS). Presentations covered a wide range of topics, including everything from vehicles, to software, to data collection, to workflow, cameras, and sensors. You can find my presentation here.

By all measures, this event was a success. With more than 500 attendees, the symposium included presentations on a wide range of topics including vehicles, to software, to data collection, to workflow, to cameras and sensors and an afternoon of UAS demos. But what struck me most about the symposium was not just the participants’ level of sophistication and knowledge (it was very high), but also the suitability of drones for the mapping and surveying market. In this article, I’ll explain why I think this market will be the second biggest commercial drone market (behind aerial photography and cinema and ahead of precision agriculture) by telling you three things I learned about how GIS professionals see and use drones.

Drones are a perfect fit for GIS – A geographic information system (GIS) lets you visualize, question, analyze, and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns, and trends. GIS benefits organizations of all sizes and in almost every industry. So, GIS professionals, like those who are members of ASPRS, are no strangers to aerial imaging. They know cameras and aircraft – and surprisingly a lot about drones. When I asked the audience by show of hands how many are familiar with drone technology and have remotely piloted a drone, more than half said they were familiar and had been a drone pilot. This stands in sharp contrast to the audience of the large agricultural drone show I attended over the summer where most attendees had never flown a drone and were unfamiliar with the technology – let alone cameras.

As a profession, most of this audience does photogrammetry. They are image producers. As a profession, farmers are consumers of images. For the unschooled, photogrammetry is the science of making measurements from photographs. The inputs are georeferenced photographs. Up to now these have been taken from manned aircraft or satellites. The output is typically a map, drawing, measurement, or a 3D model of some real-world object or scene. Since photogrammetry is used in fields like topographic mapping, architecture, engineering, manufacturing, quality control, and geology, the accuracy of images matters to these professionals. What matters to their customers is whether the output is timely, rich, localized, and problem-specific.

So, what better way is there to get all that done than from a drone? None. Low altitude small drones provide an advantage over incumbent aerial technology for GIS work. The images from these drone sensors are more resolute, can be captured more frequently, and cost less to produce. GIS professionals are willing to spend a lot of money on drone systems — they already spend about $40K for a complete ground-based GPS rover system and more than $100K for 3D laser scanners. So, the idea of spending up to $100K for a turnkey unmanned aircraft system is not out of line — and drone vendors know this. That’s why those that exhibited at this event showcased their high-end turnkey systems.

GIS professionals need good drone software – There is a growing interest in and awareness of the economic and strategic value of GIS for the Global 2000, as witnessed by the recent integration partnership between Esri (world’s largest GIS software vendor) and SAP (world’s largest enterprise application vendor). But the race to the top is for the software front end to that enterprise piece. The part that mappers and surveyors use on a day-to-day basis—including software like work management, flight controls, mission planning, aerial capture, post-processing, and mapping, and modeling.

There were more than 25 software vendors at this show – each with a bit of news. Some of the most interesting came from DroneDeploy and Google. DroneDeploy announced the first drone software capable of creating orthorectified maps in real time. Users have typically had to wait for four to six hours for maps to be created from drone imagery, but now they can get real-time aerial maps. This will save operators hours every time they fly their drones, and enable better decisions, as data can now be verified during a flight instead of hours or even days later as is the case with existing systems. DroneDeploy is able to achieve this real-time stitching because the drones its product manages are all internet-enabled and use cloud infrastructure for the processing.

The other interesting news from the event came from Google. Its soon-to-be-released Earth Engine product can now mix the world’s satellite imagery with UAS images — along with trillions of scientific measurements dating back over 40 years — and make it available online with tools for scientists, independent researchers, and nations. All of whom can mine this massive warehouse of data to detect changes, map trends, and quantify differences on the Earth’s surface. Google has already worked with Skycatch and opened up the engine to other partners, so expect to hear more as they go to full-scale launch.


LiDAR drones are here

Mapping and surveying professionals love LiDAR. They love it because it allows them to capture minute details that photos can’t — and with those details create precise digital representation of objects, buildings, and the ground. LiDAR is based on the same concept as RADAR, but it uses laser light instead of radio waves. By sending out laser beams in all directions, collecting the reflected energy, and performing some nifty high-speed computer processing, a scanner can create a real-time, virtual map of the surrounding area. These representations have many uses.

But most LiDAR units are heavy and – up to now – had to be mounted on trucks or manned aircraft. So over the past couple of years manufacturers like Reigl and Velodyne have reduced the size and weight of their units such that that it’s now possible to mount them on large multicopters. Additionally, these same vendors sell or partner to sell their own dedicated drones, thereby ‘vertically integrating’ (no pun intended) their scanner offerings. By coupling novel drone-mounted LiDAR systems with vision cameras, advanced computer processing, and GPS, it has become possible to create a remotely piloted flying LiDAR scanner. These vendors were at the show as was Phoenix Aerial Systems and XactSense, both of which have LiDAR drones.

What’s next?

What will be the next innovation for this market? Well, maps of navigable drone highways in the sky, for one. These would be aviation maps that would help pilots of manned aircraft know where not to fly. This BHAG is already being taken on by SkyWard, which just introduced the Urban SkyWays Project and the first end-to-end demonstration of a commercial drone network operated with full regulatory compliance. After that? Who knows. One thing is certain: I expect to see the vendors that attended this symposium continue to innovate in big ways. Stay tuned. In the meantime, feel free to write me at and tell me what you think about the market opportunities


Pentagon Officials: No Hope for Budget Soon; Tech Development Vital

Oct. 29, 2014 – 01:50PM | By PAUL McLEARY | Comments

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s chief financial officer admitted on Wednesday that he is “not super optimistic” about Congress reaching a budget deal once the current continuing resolution temporarily funding the federal government expires on Dec. 11.

“What I do worry about is that we’re looking at a ‘new normal’ where people think [a budget being approved] three months late isn’t a problem anymore” said Comptroller Mike McCord during an afternoon speech at the TechAmerica defense industry conference in suburban Washington.

Even getting a budget done this year “doesn’t seem that likely” since Congress will be locked in a lame duck session after the midterm elections in November. Instead, it’s more likely that the looming debt ceiling expiration next spring will be the next best chance for Congress and the White House to reach a deal.

McCord, who did not take questions following his brief remarks, said that Pentagon leadership is “already carrying more risk” than they are comfortable with as the building prepares itself for the possible return of sequestration in 2016.

The fiscal 2016 budget request, which is currently working its way through the civilian Pentagon leadership channels, will likely begin to squeeze modernization accounts for existing platforms, a move that will allow the service chiefs to continue to fund readiness accounts to ensure that troops are properly trained.

Some of this has already happened, as seen in the Army’s cancellation of its Ground Combat Vehicle earlier this year, and the Marine Corps slowing down its acquisition of a new amphibious vehicle, both in the name of cost savings.

Both services still plan to move forward with upgrades, but not until later in the decade once they begin to see some budget relief.

As a result of cuts like this, McCord said he is concerned about the larger modernization effort across the services, and what effect such program slippages will have over the long term, since the longer a platform waits for upgrades, the more expensive it tends to be.

“We’re probably more concerned about the five years after the next five years being really harder for us as we face some hard bills to modernize the nuclear triad” in particular, he said. The triad modernization includes things like a new long-range bomber for the Air Force and replacing the Ohio-class nuclear submarine, which the Navy has said it will not be able to afford while also modernizing its surface fleet.

For the DoD to afford a sufficient level of readiness while also funding the development and acquisition of truly new technologies that will allow it to dominate increasingly sophisticated potential adversaries, it needs the defense industry’s help, said Katrina McFarland, assistant secretary of defense for acquisition.

“Technological superiority is not assured” in the future, she warned, adding that the Pentagon is particularly interested in capabilities that will allow it to counter threats like weapons of mass destruction, electronic warfare attacks, unmanned systems, and a variety of both near-peer and hybrid threats.

“A great deal of emphasis is being put on these areas because we believe that’s going to create an advantage and we’re very interested in that,” she said.

This is at the heart of the new “offset” strategy that Bob Work, undersecretary of defense for policy, and chief weapons buyer Frank Kendall have been pushing in recent weeks.

The Pentagon is looking for new ways to partner with industry and a select group of allies to share the cost burden of research-and-development activities to produce leap-ahead technologies.

McFarland insisted that “if we want to continue to be the superior force we need to take chances, and taking risks is not optional.



Wishful thinking in the U.S. plans against the Islamic State

By David Ignatius

Opinion writer

October 28


A glimpse of the anxiety sweeping the Arab world surfaced last week when an Arab woman complained during a talk in Amman at the Columbia Global Center for the Middle East. She said my speech’s title about the “crisis” in the region wasn’t accurate. The correct word was “disintegration.” The audience cheered loudly.

The Arab world is suffering a sense of vertigo these days. Extremists from the Islamic State, who have seemingly arisen out of nowhere, have burst through the gates of power. Political elites are confused and frightened. They’re angry at the United States (as always). But at the same time, they want the United States to explain a strategy for combating a group that threatens every structure of stability, including borders.

This anxiety has been compounded by President Obama’s slow start in rolling out his plan to “degrade and ultimately destroy” the Islamic State. It was painful last week to hear Jalal al-Gaood, a tribal leader from the Albu Nimr clan along the Euphrates, tell me how his town was overrun because the United States hadn’t devised a plan to resupply tribal allies.

Since returning home, I’ve heard U.S. officials describe more details of their plans. The strategy has a lot of “ifs” and “maybes,” and it’s definitely a “work in progress,” as one U.S. official frankly admits. Among other drawbacks, it requires patience, in short supply in America and the Middle East; and it’s much clearer about Iraq than Syria. But the campaign plans do provide more clarity and allow for some needed public discussion.

For starters, this is an army at dawn, and U.S. commanders insist on taking little steps before big ones. The United States has posted a string of small successes, with air power backing Iraqi and Kurdish forces that liberated the Mosul and Haditha dams, freed trapped Yazidis on Mount Sinjar and successfully defended Irbil and Amerli.

Dozens of Iraq’s Kurdish fighters are set to fly to Turkey on Tuesday and cross into the Syrian border town of Kobane to help fight Islamic State militants. (AP)

Big, risky operations such as retaking the city of Mosul are many months away. But the ops tempo increased modestly this week as Iraqi security forces pushed to regain control of the strategic Baiji refinery and Kurdish forces attacked jihadists in Zumar in northern Iraq. Commanders believe that as U.S.-backed forces take the offensive, the extremists will face tough choices: They can fight, risking heavy casualties, retreat, or hunker down. All three slow their momentum.

U.S. commanders know they must act quickly to gain credibility with Sunnis, especially after Albu Nimr and other tribal strongholds in Anbar province fell recently. These areas were sacrificed because U.S. military leaders believed it was unwise to mount ad hoc operations to free small, stranded pockets. U.S. air power could have been used but the risk of collateral damage was judged too high.

The centerpiece of the Sunni outreach is a force of 5,000 “national guard” fighters, drawn from the tribes. Their development is seen as very urgent, and within the next two weeks commanders hope to begin recruiting, paying and training the Sunni fighters. Hundreds of U.S. and foreign trainers are supposed to be on scene by year-end. To help woo the Sunnis, a senior member of the Shiite-led government is supposed to meet 70 tribal leaders this week. U.S. officials think about half these tribes are ready to break with the Islamic State.

U.S. officials would also like to bring Jabr al-Jibouri, a prominent tribal leader, into the government, perhaps as head of the national guard or as a national security adviser. His brother told me last week in Amman that such a move would pull some tribal fighters away from the Islamic State.

Military commanders are always looking for signs of progress, and they claim to see some enemy weaknesses emerging, even as the extremists continue to gain ground: Intelligence reports say there are tensions within the Islamic State, between Iraqis and foreign fighters. In Mosul, these fissures led to their segregation in different buildings. The Islamic State has also been forced to change tactics — seeking shelter in urban areas and avoiding mass movements or overt displays, such as flags or caravans.

When the jihadists stand and fight, as they have done in the northern Syrian town of Kobane, they get pounded. U.S. officials estimate the jihadists have lost 400 fighters in that battle. U.S. airstrikes have also hammered their infrastructure in Iraq and Syria, including oil wells and supply depots.

There is some solid military planning in the U.S. strategy but it also includes some wishful thinking. The most dubious assumption is that Iraqi and Syrian recruits can win this fight against the extremists without U.S. advisers alongside them in battle.


Innovation Warfare: Technology Domain Awareness and America’s Military Edge

Adam Jay Harrison, Jawad Rachami and Christopher Zember    

October 29, 2014 · in Commentary


On December 21, 2013, a small Japanese robotics start-up called Schaft claimed top honors at the DARPA Robotics Challenge. With minimal funding, team Schaft’s robot was the only performer to successfully complete all of the challenge events and beat robots built by companies like Boston Dynamics, who delivered a competing system through a $10.8 million contract from DARPA. In 2013, Google purchased Schaft and six other robotics companies as part of a new broad scale robotics initiative.

In May 2011, D-Wave Systems, a start-up spun out of the University of British Columbia, announced they had created the world’s first quantum computer. The current generation D-Wave Two is benchmarked to solve some computational problems 3,600 times faster than conventional computers. A complete D-Wave Two system can be purchased for $10-15 million.

At the 2014 International Manufacturing Technology Show in Chicago, Local Motors, a company that uses advanced manufacturing techniques and open collaboration to drive rapid product innovations, unveiled the world’s first 3-D printed vehicle. Over a 44-hour period on the floor of the trade show, Local Motors “printed” and assembled an entire vehicle, showing how direct digital manufacturing can quickly and cost effectively produce complex systems.

The genie is out of the bottle. Today, global commercial markets increasingly set the pace for advanced technology innovation. Enter Technology Domain Awareness (TDA) – a defense innovation concept that uses knowledge of the technology commons (i.e. the place where non-defense R&D intersects with defense applications) to incorporate the high tech outputs of the commercial marketplace. In the first of a series of three articles on this topic, we explored the underlying factors and goals of the TDA mission to develop a robust defense innovation base that cooperatively aligns the non-defense R&D marketplace with emerging defense capability needs. In this second article, we turn our attention to how TDA is accomplished.

An abundance of R&D capital, market-driven incentives, and efficient flows of information between technology producers and technology consumers are underwriting a global innovation engine that operates independently of traditional defense markets. This innovation marketplace does not function by technology suppliers picking “winners” so much as by letting the market determine those technologies and “killer apps” that will survive and thrive. In this context, the technological edge favors those organizations with the strategic flexibility to leverage the widest number of technology options and rapidly exploit the applications of these technologies that generate the most value. This model of competition has broad implications for future conflict scenarios where “leveraging to win” becomes just as important as “building to win.”

In the war for the global technology commons, the winners will be those militaries that can best adapt to rapid, disruptive technological change. As such, DOD must develop internal mechanisms to successfully capitalize on the dynamics governing the commercial marketplace in order to secure and maintain the military-technology initiative. Consistent with this objective, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, Frank Kendall, recently announced the third installment of DOD’s Better Buying Power (BBP 3.0) initiative, which focuses on delivering dominant capabilities through technical excellence and innovation. Among the prominent themes reflected in BBP 3.0 are removing barriers to commercial technology utilization, increasing the use of prototyping and experimentation, and improving technology search and outreach in global markets.

To achieve the ambitious goals of BBP 3.0, DOD needs an innovation business processes to (1) source products and technologies for near-term prototyping applications, (2) identify strategic co-investment opportunities where DOD can partner with academia and the global R&D marketplace, and (3) optimize long-term defense technology priorities and investments. We call this business process Technology Domain Awareness, and it represents an information-based framework that connects technology stakeholders in DOD, academia, and industry; informs defense technology decision-making; and builds cost effective defense capabilities.


Connect. In 2004, U.S. forces in Iraq began seeing signs of active efforts by Iraqi insurgents to modify their mortar and rocket tactics to evade detection by coalition Firefinder radars deployed in and around military installations. In one such attack on December 22, 2004 at a military base outside of Mosul, 22 U.S. and coalition personnel were killed and 66 injured, representing one of the highest single-day American casualty totals of the entire Iraq conflict. Based on requests for support from the field, the Army Research Development and Engineering Command deployed members of their Field Assistance in Science and Technology team to investigate the problem first-hand. The FAST team’s analysis in turn fueled a rapid reaction development effort at the Army Research Laboratory (ARL). Lacking the internal funding required to build and deploy a prototype countermeasure, ARL turned to the Army Technical Operations Support Activity for financial and operational resources. This collaboration between the field, the lab, and the resourcing agency led to the development of the Unattended Transient Acoustic MASINT System, a hostile fire geolocation system developed in fewer than 90 days from concept to implementation.

As the above example highlights, technological innovation requires a set of building blocks that must be successfully connected. These building blocks include people, needs, technologies, applications, capital, and a variety of enabling resources ranging from contract vehicles to specialized infrastructure. Social-scale networks like LinkedIn, Kickstarter, and Alibaba and open collaboration platforms like Innocentive and Local Motors have demonstrated the impact of extended connectivity on improving business efficiency and product innovation. In the context of defense, efforts like the Army Rapid Equipping Force’s Co-Create initiative have likewise validated the utility of self-forming communities of interest for solving military problems.

Available tools that can facilitate the desired levels of engagement between DOD stakeholders and their counterparts in academia and industry include both real world events and complementary online services. Real world activities like the Naval Special Warfare Group 2’s annual Trident Specter exercise provide a model for connecting diverse technology options with emerging operational needs in a collaborative, experimental environment. Scaling DOD-industry connectivity also requires Internet-enabled social networking tools that operate both inside and outside the DOD “firewall.” These tools should reach beyond conventional DOD communities of interest to foster persistent and diverse interactions with the defense innovation base. Such interactions, however, ultimately depend on appropriate outreach and incentive mechanisms to motivate participation by academia and industry. Communicating the value proposition of DOD engagement, lowering barriers to participation, and providing mechanisms for public-private co-investment opportunities are therefore all vital to the TDA idea.

Inform. Like most complex organizations, DOD is often challenged to connect the outputs of product innovation with corporate processes that enable such outputs to be scaled. Low transition rates for R&D technologies to formal sustainment paths limit DOD’s innovation return on investment. To enhance ROI, efforts must be made to more explicitly align prototypes with the DOD product portfolios managed by the military services, the U.S. Special Operations Command, and various DOD agencies. This approach involves creating a robust flow of information between defense prototyping activities and corresponding requirements, acquisition, and budgeting processes.

Improving technology ROI also means capitalizing on the information value associated with prototyping efforts – a concept that business strategist Greg Galle refers to as Learning From Investment. This idea forms the basis of the iterative development cycles underwriting product innovation in the commercial high tech world, where learning is synonymous with doing. TDA nominally provides the context for defense innovation stakeholders to self-organize and execute prototyping efforts, but the core objective is to leverage these transactions to create a learning context for technology experimentation. As defense technology stakeholders interact and build in the furtherance of specific project objectives, empirical data is generated. Accumulated knowledge developed from this data can then be used to optimize both follow-on prototyping efforts and strategic, DOD-wide technology priorities and investments.

Facilitating the collection, organization, and dissemination of transactional knowledge calls for a novel data model that relates technology information to decision making. This function is analogous to the intelligence community’s approach to collection management, where intelligence is developed in a manner that conforms to the essential elements of information (EEI) associated with acquisition, operational, and policy activities. One potentially promising approach consistent with the needs of TDA involves the use of scalable online tools that facilitate the organization of technology information around the building blocks (i.e. people, needs, technologies, applications, capital, and other resources) necessary for defense product innovation.

Build. We learn by doing. Similarly, building is an antecedent to innovation. Mr. Kendall recently underscored the need for DOD to increase the use of prototyping and experimentation to maintain DOD’s military-technology edge. In this context, prototyping acts as a bridge between technologies and military applications. The products and information derived from prototype development and experimentation are a critical resource for augmenting the conventional, industrial-scale defense acquisition system; however, significant barriers to entry limit the ability of the most promising commercial and university-derived R&D to penetrate DOD.

Insofar as DOD experimentation depends on a healthy supply of new technologies, the TDA concept is based on the employment of information and services that reduce or eliminate transactional barriers to entry. A number of existing DOD authorities can be leveraged in support of this objective, including (1) multiple-task Section 845 Other Transaction Agreements that incorporate simplified commercial contracting standards, (2) public-private partnerships and communities of practice that promote DOD-industry engagement and co-investment, and (3) common use infrastructure available to qualifying firms for defense prototype development. Incentivizing the commercial market to build with the needs of defense in mind, however, involves more than addressing transactional barriers. It also means meeting – at least in part – the R&D capital requirements of start-ups and established firms. As such, creative co-investment approaches that expand on the Central Intelligence Agency’s successful In-Q-Tel model and explicitly align non-dilutive, risk-taking public financing with venture capital investments are needed. The public-private co-investment approach allows DOD to distribute risk by spreading limited R&D funding over a larger number of opportunities and offset costs by leveraging private capital to a much fuller extent.

Technology Domain Awareness. The global R&D marketplace represents both an unprecedented threat and an unprecedented opportunity to the DOD. Defense-relevant technology innovations from commercial industry and the academic research community are a viable means to offset defense acquisition costs, distribute technology-related risk, and accelerate innovation. These same technologies, however, are also available to nations, organizations, and individuals antagonistic to U.S. interests. In order for the U.S. to maintain the military-technology initiative in this environment, DOD should aggressively pursue the development and deployment of business processes and tools optimized to exploit the commercial technology environment ahead of the threat.

TDA involves the creation of new and expanded channels for defense-relevant collaborative innovation incorporating the extended global, commercial, and academic R&D communities. Through information sharing and targeted services, the TDA approach promotes the transactions necessary for (1) advanced technology prototyping and experimentation and (2) development of the knowledge that will enable the U.S. to maintain and extend its decisive military-technology edge.

Adam Jay Harrison is Director of the Center for Smart Defense at West Virginia University. He is former Director of the Department of Defense Technical Operations Support Activity and founder of Mav6, an Inc. 500 aerospace and defense technology company.

Jawad Rachami is the Founder and CEO of Cylitix LLC, specializing in the application of human-centered design and collaborative innovation models to technology development programs. Jawad has over 16 years of experience in the execution and management of federal programs.

Christopher Zember is Director of the Department of Defense’s Information Analysis Centers, which annually conducts over $1.5 billion in technology-centered research and analysis. His prior positions include work in national security policy, Defense planning, and intelligence analysis, with posts both inside and outside government, in the U.S. and abroad.


FAA purports to criminalize unmanned aircraft and model aircraft operations near stadiums during certain sporting events.

by Press • 29 October 2014


Monday, October 27, 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration issued Notice to Airmen (“NOTAM”) No. FDC 4/3621, replacing NOTAM No. FDC 9/5151 from 2009 concerning the operation of aircraft and parachutes in the vicinity of stadiums during certain sporting events. The FAA’s new NOTAM adds the words “unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft” to the scope of operating restrictions within three nautical miles of stadiums and racetracks on the day of certain sporting events, posing a potential risk of criminal prosecution to model aircraft and unmanned aircraft operators.

Background: Origins in the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks

The notion of restricting airspace surrounding stadiums during a sporting event arose in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks which were, of course, carried out using passenger airliners. On September 20, 2001, the FAA issued NOTAM FDC 1/0257 restricting aircraft flights within three nautical miles below 3000 feet over “any major professional or collegiate sporting event or any other major open air assembly of people.” Various revisions were made to this “sports/stadium” NOTAM in successive years, such as to remove the vague “open air assembly” language and to define the specific types of sporting events to which the NOTAM applied. The apparent regulatory premise for these NOTAMS was 14 C.F.R. § 91.137 (“Temporary flight restrictions in the vicinity of disaster/hazard areas”), a regulation that refers throughout to “aircraft.” In later NOTAMs on the subject, 14 C.F.R. § 99.7 (“Special security instructions”) was cited as regulatory authority, a regulation that requires “each person operating an aircraft” to comply with security-related instructions issued by the FAA “in the interest of national security.”

In February 2003, Congress codified the stadium/sports NOTAM in an appropriations bill, Pub. L. 108-7 § 352 (2003). Notably, the statute provided exceptions for broadcast coverage as well as allowing flights for “operational purposes of an event, stadium, or other venue” including the transportation of team members and officials involved in the event, among others, but only upon the issuance of an FAA waiver or exemption. The statute, which refers to “aircraft” and not to other types of devices, contemplated that modifications to the restrictions could be made “after public notice and an opportunity for comment.” Id. § 352(b). Commentators over the years have noted that the restrictions do little or nothing to prevent terrorist attacks because the three-mile distance (or 3000 foot altitude) can be traversed within minutes, while ensnaring pilots who inadvertently pass too close to a stadium during a game.


October 2014 Superseding NOTAM

In the February 2009 NOTAM, the FAA reiterated the classification of the area surrounding stadiums during certain events as “national defense airspace” and provided that: all aircraft and parachute operations are prohibited within a 3 [nautical mile radius] up to and including 3000 [feet above ground level] of any stadium having a seating capacity of 30,000 or more people where either a regular or post season major league baseball, national football league, or NCAA Division One football game is occurring.


FAA NOTAM No. FDC 9/5151 (Feb. 10, 2009)

These restrictions were indicated to be in place one hour before the sporting event to one hour after the end of the event.

In the new superseding NOTAM issued by the FAA yesterday, the FAA added the words “unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft” to the operative text, so as to provide: all aircraft operations; including parachute jumping, unmanned aircraft and remote controlled aircraft, are prohibited within a 3 [nautical mile radius] up to and including 3000 [feet above ground level] of any stadium having a seating capacity of 30,000 or more people where either a regular or post season major league baseball, national football league, or NCAA Division One football game is occurring.


FAA NOTAM No. FDC 4/3621 (October 27, 2014) (emphasis added). The term “remote controlled aircraft” is not defined nor familiar from recent FAA policy documents; if the term was meant to refer to model aircraft, it is unclear why that language was not used in the NOTAM only a few months after the FAA’s noteworthy “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft,” 79 Fed. Reg. 36,172 (June 25, 2014).


Potential Impact

The impact of the textual change is potentially quite substantial. NOTAM No. FDC 4/3621 places within its scope stadiums with a capacity of 30,000 or more, even if far fewer than 30,000 people are in attendance. Nearly 350 colleges and universities are members of the NCAA Division. There are estimated to be approximately 150 professional and college stadiums in the United States with a capacity of 30,000 or more.

The FAA’s NOTAM now purports to criminalize the operation of model aircraft near those locations on the day of baseball and football games (among other sporting events such as auto racing), even if the operation is conducted by the institution, team, or facility itself (in the absence of a formal waiver from the FAA).

The FAA’s issuance of the NOTAM follows a series of publicized incidents involving remote controlled model aircraft (“drones”) operated near stadiums and ball parks, and may be perceived as response thereto, notwithstanding the observation that the national security issues addressed by the original September 2001 stadium/sports NOTAM was quite different from potential safety or nuisance issues that could be said to be posed by small model aircraft or drone operations.

The consequence for a violation of national defense airspace is potentially quite serious, including a fine, imprisonment for up to one year, or both. See 49 U.S.C. § 46307. Unfortunately, compliance with stadium/sports flight restrictions is generally known to be challenging because the FAA does not publish individual notices of the many sporting events to which these restrictions are said to apply. (Major League Baseball, for example, involves 162 games per year per team.) Model aircraft and civilian drone operators who believe that the new NOTAM applies to their activities and endeavor to comply with it may wish to consult professional and university team schedules or unofficial aviation information resources such as for an indication of upcoming sporting events in their operating areas.

In a defense to an enforcement action or criminal proceeding, the FAA and prosecutors would face legal arguments concerning the categorization of remote-controlled model aircraft as “aircraft” for regulatory purposes, particularly because the regulations and statute authorizing the imposition of the stadium related flight restrictions address “aircraft” operated by “airmen” and not other devices.

The treatment of model aircraft as “aircraft” for regulatory purposes was rejected in a March 2014 decision by an NTSB administrative law judge in the civil penalty proceeding Huerta v. Pirker, CP-217 (March 6, 2014), which decision is currently pending on appeal before the NTSB Board. (This firm is counsel of record for Mr. Pirker in that matter.)

A challenge as to whether any new regulations may be imposed by the FAA upon the operation of model aircraft, particularly in the absence of proper rulemaking, is also pending in recently-filed litigation in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, UAS America Fund LLP v. FAA, Case No. 14-1156 and Academy of Model Aeronautics v. FAA, Case No. 14-1158).

(This firm is counsel of record for petitioners in those two proceedings.)

* * *

If you have any questions or need additional information about this Alert or any unmanned aircraft systems topic, please contact:

Brendan M. Schulman

Special Counsel




Pentagon Request Shows Scant Science Supports White House’s Ebola Assurances




The Defense Department is seeking research that shows federal public-health officials and the broader medical community have a limited understanding of the Ebola virus, despite their assurances that the public should not panic about the deadly disease.

On Oct. 24, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, charged by the Pentagon to counter weapons of mass destruction, began the formal process of paying someone to determine whether the virus can be transmitted through the air or live outside of the body for an extended period.

“While current science indicates the disease can only be transmitted by contact with contaminated body fluids, it remains unclear if other transmission modes are feasible,” the proposal read in a section labeled “Ebola Characterization.” “Filoviruses are able to infect via the respiratory route and are lethal at very low doses in experimental animal models, however the infectious dose is unknown. There is minimal information on how well filoviruses survive within aerosolized particles, and in certain media like the biofilm of sewage systems.”

The document, known officially as a “request for proposal,” continues: “Preliminary studies indicate that Ebola is aerostable in an enclosed controlled system in the dark and can survive for long periods in different liquid media and can also be recovered from plastic and glass surfaces at low temperatures for over 3 weeks.”

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency did not immediately comment on the proposal.

The research request comes two weeks after Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey worried that the Ebola virus could be transmitted through the air.

“If you bring two doctors who happen to have that specialty into a room, one will say ‘No, it will never become airborne, but it could mutate so it would be harder to discover,'” Dempsey mused in an Oct. 15 interview with CNN. “Another doctor will say, ‘If it continues to mutate at the rate it’s mutating, and we go from 20,000 infected to 100,000, the population might allow it to mutate and become airborne; and then it will be a serious problem.’

“I don’t know who is right,” the general added. “I don’t want to take that chance.”

The Pentagon’s search for more information does not mean that the outbreak underway in West Africa can spread like the common cold. There are five known strains of the virus. Only one – known as the Reston strain – can transmit through the air. And it cannot infect humans (it spread among monkeys in Reston, Va., in 1989).

However, public-health experts agree that more research is necessary. Academic work on Ebola is scant. Therefore, to stem future outbreaks, they need a better understanding of the disease.

“There are a lot of potential research needs in regards to the Ebola virus, especially in regards to transmission,” said Dan Hanfling, a clinical professor of emergency medicine at George Washington University who lectures on Ebola safety. “Looking at routes of transmission remains important. There are issues about viability of the virus outside the body. We need to continue to look at issues related to incubation.

Eden Wells, an infectious-disease expert at the University of Michigan, added that requests such as this are not unusual.

“This has been around as long as we’ve been worried about bioterrorism,” she told Foreign Policy. “We’ve always been worried that this is something that could become airborne if it was manipulated.”

“There hasn’t been a whole lot of the disease. It has been difficult to study the virus. It’s a very pathogenic virus and it’s not the easiest to conduct studies on,” Wells added.

Pieter Devries, the country director for Global Communities and chief of party for USAID’s Improvement for Water Sanitation and Hygiene, has been fighting Ebola in West Africa for months. He said that although the epidemic that has claimed approximately 5,000 lives so far is tragic, it is an opportunity to learn more about the disease and how it spreads to better protect people from it.

“There are a lot of lessons learned and there’s a lot of work to be done,” he said. “There are a lot of areas that are beginning to be impacted by the outbreak.”


New Strategy Would Cut F-35s, Boost Bombers and UAVs

The U.S.’s air-centered strategy has top-level backing

Oct 31, 2014

Bill Sweetman

Aviation Week & Space Technology


Today’s U.S. power-projection forces, and those currently planned for the future, will not be able to operate effectively or efficiently against anti-access/area-denial (A2AD) weapons and doctrine being developed by China and other adversaries, according to a new report by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) that details a new approach to defense strategy known as Third Offset.

Instead, the Pentagon should immediately refocus its development efforts on a global surveillance and strike (GSS) system based on long-range, very stealthy aircraft—including the Long-Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) and a new family of unmanned combat air systems (UCAS)—and submarines. Tactical fighter, surface combatant and heavy land-force programs should be cut back, the report suggests, to pay the bills and rebalance the force.

The CSBA report carries far more weight than usual because it was drafted under the leadership of deputy defense secretary Robert Work (AW&ST March 31, p. 20) and his senior advisers, according to a source directly involved in its production. It is intended to launch a detailed discussion of a major change in national strategy, inside and outside the Pentagon. Author Robert Martinage, a former senior Pentagon official, “can neither confirm nor deny” the extent of Work’s involvement, he tells Aviation Week.

The CSBA paper details the roles of new and existing systems in the Third Offset strategy. It recommends a larger role for the Long-Range Strike Bomber, suggesting that the program could be “accelerated and expanded.” Along with the B-2 and another proposed new weapon, a boost-glide missile launched from submarines, it is the only system able to deal with hard and deeply buried targets in a medium- to high-threat environment. According to the paper, too, it has a stand-in airborne electronic attack capability and can perform high-volume precision strike missions.

The biggest new program recommended in the report is the future UCAS family. Conceptually, Martinage says, this program’s prototype is already flying in the form of the Northrop Grumman X-47B UCAS-D (demonstrator), which could lead directly to a Navy operational aircraft: the CSBA report outlines an N-UCAS with an 8-10-hr. unrefueled endurance and a 3,000-4,000-lb. payload. As a CSBA analyst, Work was a vigorous proponent of a “high-end” Navy UCAS, and his influence has played a part in stalling Navy plans for a less capable and less costly solution to the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike requirement.

The CSBA report revives an idea from UCAS-D’s precursor program, the Joint UCAS: Because wingspan sets a cap on the payload and range of a carrier-based blended wing-body aircraft, a land-based version could benefit from being made larger. A U.S. Air Force version, identified as MQ-X, could handle double the payload, the report suggests, and have a 12-hr. unrefueled endurance. In a move that is unlikely to get strong support from the fighter community, the Air Force aircraft could be armed with air-to-air missiles for both offensive and defensive counter-air missions.

Persistence is a key advantage of UAVs, the report notes. A primary mission for the new UCAS in Third Offset is a “mobile and relocatable target killer,” using a combination of unrefueled range and tanker support to fly 48-hr.-plus missions and remain on-station beyond the limits of human endurance. The UAVs would be nodes in an aerial communications network that would hedge against an adversary’s counter-space activities—and thereby render anti-satellite operations less valuable. The report also cites an unpublished Northrop Grumman study showing that an unmanned replacement for the F/A-18E/F could save $56 billion over a 25-year service life, compared to a piloted aircraft.

Funding the new N-UCAS and MQ-X could call for “reduction in manned tactical aviation force structure” across all services and “scaled-back procurement of all F-35 variants—including possible cancellation of the F-35C, replaced with advanced Super Hornets and eventually N-UCAS.” In July 2011, during Work’s tenure as deputy Navy secretary, he directed the service to study alternatives to the F-35B/C.

The limits on the effectiveness of fighters—including the “semi-stealthy” F-35, so described to discriminate it from the wide-band, all-aspect stealth technology of the UAVs and LRS-B—include survivability and their dependence on tankers, which are vulnerable and difficult to protect. Martinage concurs with Aviation Week’s assessment of the Chengdu J-20 as an offensive counter-air fighter aimed at tankers and other air assets. “With an extended-range air-to-air missile the J-20 can push the tanker 800-900 mi. back. [U.S.] fighters can’t even make it to the beach.”

Another unmanned vehicle recommended in the study is a “future” stealthy, high-altitude long-endurance UAV. However, the report notes that only three of the most important new GSS elements are not currently under development (MQ-X, N-UCAS and a towed payload module for submarines). The so-called future Hale UAV appears, in fact, to be the in-development but secret Northrop Grumman RQ-180 (AW&ST Dec. 9, 2013, p. 20). The report suggests that the RQ-180 has a light strike capability, possibly for targets of opportunity.

An important caveat is that the Third Offset still addresses lower-intensity conflicts. As the threat becomes less intense and far-reaching, current systems such as tactical fighters and permissive-airspace Reaper UAVs should be available. “The most dangerous cost-imposing strategy is the one we impose on ourselves,” says Center for a New American Security analyst Ben FitzGerald. “It’s taking out a HiLux truck with a $500,000 weapon.” But a near-peer threat will be the driving factor. “You can’t lose an advantage versus a near-peer,” FitzGerald adds. “You don’t come back from that position.”

Martinage says that the CSBA report does not recommend specific numbers for new systems “because we did not intend this to be a budget drill.” But as one example, the Northrop Grumman study cited in the report suggests that a Navy UCAS force could replace a two-times-larger force of manned aircraft.

Submarine warfare is seen as another area where the U.S. has a substantial and enduring lead. The Third Offset report advocates improving the firepower and flexibility of submarine forces by accelerating the development of unmanned underwater vehicles, developing a long-range boost-glide weapon for submarine launch, and developing towed payload modules. The latter could be 3,000-4,000-ton unmanned systems with up to 12 large-diameter launch tubes, which could be towed into position and remain on station for months. Again, there is a price to be paid: the scaled-back procurement of large surface combatants of the DDG-51 class.

In the Third Offset strategy, the use of special operations and counterterrorism land forces is favored over large military formations. Ground forces, however, would play a strong role in establishing “local area A2AD networks,” particularly on the territory of threatened allies. Systems such as land-based anti-ship cruise missiles linked to aerostat-borne radars, for example, could both defend coastlines and inhibit an adversary’s naval movements.

A version of this article appears in the November 3/10 issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology.



The Understated Role of the Air Force In the Battle Against Ebola

Janine Davidson Council on Foreign Relations October 30, 2014



With so much misinformation circulating about the scale and domestic danger of the Ebola threat, less attention has been paid to the U.S. military’s effort to stem the disease’s spread in Africa. Operation United Assistance is now well underway, drawing the joint armed services together with a wide range of interagency and multinational partners. While the headquarters of the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division have been the most visible element of this operation, much of the behind-the-scenes work has been conducted by the U.S. Air Force. I spoke with Air Force participants to get a sense of this contribution:

Dr. Janine Davidson is senior fellow for defense policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her areas of expertise include defense strategy and policy, military operations, national security, and civil-military relations. Full Bio

1. The U.S. Air Force is the backbone of the anti-Ebola effort. From the outset of Operation United Assistance on September 17 to October 21, Air Mobility Command (the U.S. military’s worldwide airlift system, commanded by General Darren McDew) flew 208 sorties in support of operations, transporting 1,989 short tons of cargo and 595 passengers. This provided the logistical foundation for the entire mission.

2. Airmen are building bases and getting their hands dirty right alongside the Army. There are over 200 Airmen on the ground—roughly one quarter of the United States’ total 880 troops currently deployed to West Africa. These Airmen are civil engineers, logisticians, and operational coordinators, engaging in a wide range of tasks. They are assessing sites for temporary air bases and pitching in with the building.

3. Airmen are providing medical support, too. The Air Force’s Expeditionary Medical Support System (EMEDS) are devoting critical in-house talent to Operation United Assistance’s medical mission set. The Air Force’s 633rd Medical Group completed deployment of a modular hospital in Liberia on October 20—the first deployment of a facility of its kind. This hospital will be used to train crucial emergency care responders.

4. Volunteer Air Force Reservists and the Air Guard provide significant capability. The Air Force relies heavily on volunteers in its Reserve Component (which includes the Air Guard and the Reserves) for all of its day to day and surge operations. Accordingly, many of the C-17 sorties are being flown by Air Force Reservists, who have volunteered to take time off of their civilian jobs to support the anti-Ebola mission. Likewise, 70 Airmen from the Kentucky Air Guard 123rd Contingency Response Group have deployed to Senegal with active duty airmen from California and New Jersey to support the Joint Task Force—Port Opening (JTF-PO) operation, where their mission is to move the supplies and support through to the main effort.

Although the Air Force supplies only a quarter of the most visible “boots on the ground” for this mission, without the other dozens of less visible “boots in the air,” there would be no military mission at all.


HP’s move into 3D printing will radically change manufacturing

By Lucas Mearian

Computerworld | Oct 31, 2014 3:06 AM PT


HP’s announcement this week that it’s entering the 3D printing market with an industrial machine that is 10 times faster and 50% cheaper than current systems, immediately brought out the online snark.

“The question is, will it print a prototype that’s just in black if you’re out of Yellow polymer?” Reddit user ILikeLenexa wondered.

“3D printing from the company that charges the moon and stars for ink refills? Full vendor lock in? I don’t think so…” wrote another named TotalWaffle.

Cynicism aside, HP is a $112 billion company whose products span the corporate and consumer marketplace, and it can bring to bear 30 years of 2D printer R&D on the 3D printer space.

Simply put, the move is unprecedented.

“There’s a lot of parallels between document printing and 3D printing, so our company’s been looking at HP for a long time, thinking it’s an excellent candidate to enter this market place,” said Terry Wohlers, president of research firm Wohlers Associates. Recently, Wohlers said he was given a demonstration of HP’s new Multi Jet Fusion printer and was “blown away” by the speed, quality, feature details of printed items and by the brilliant colors it produces.

“It’s better than I expected. It’s many times faster than anything on the market,” he said. “It’s something that is vastly different than what has even been developed before.”

In the 3D printing world, buzz about an HP entry has been going on for the past year, and it has evoked both anticipation among those who use 3D printers and fear within the small but fast growing community of 3D machine manufacturers.

Stratasys, the largest maker of 3D printers today, and a company that regularly sees 60% year over year revenue growth, said HP’s entry is far from frightening. “This activity will bring more awareness, and it will lift the overall space. We see it as a big opportunity for the industry,” the company said in a response to a Computerworld request for comment.

Wohlers said that while 3D printing is still in its “early days” HP’s move will accelerate growth in ways never seen.

A one-quarter pound chain link made with HP’s Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer is prepared to lift a one-ton car.

“HP’s new 3D printer, if people see that and they’re not blown away, then they don’t understand what it takes to built parts using conventional manufacturing,” Wohlers said. “It’s not only a game changer, it’s going to rewrite the rules in the 3D printing industry.”

3D printing, which has been around since the 1980s, has mainly been used to more quickly produce prototypes — a process known as rapid prototyping through additive manufacturing. Rapid prototyping with additive manufacturing slashes development time and costs because test parts no longer need to be sent off to a design firm and then cut on a giant machine tool lathe from blocks of metal or other materials. With that method, it’s one mistake and back to the drawing board.

HP is claiming its 3D printing technology, called Multi Jet Fusion, will enable mass production of parts instead of just rapid prototyping. The new machine is unlikely to mass produce millions or billions of product parts; think, instead, in terms of tens, hundreds or thousands of parts.

A worker at the Ford 3D Printing Lab in Detroit removes a part from the 3D Sand Printing bin. Ford has several “binder jet printing machines” that churn out large bins filled with 100 or more molds into which molten metal will later be poured to make metal prototypes. A single binder jet print run can take as little as a week or as much as a month, depending on the job size and deadline.

Imagine 100 Multi Jet Fusion printers all churning out replacement parts on an as-needed basis for an aircraft or automotive manufacturer — and say goodbye to inventory storage costs or wasted product. Say you’ve got a new model car or you need to modify a faulty part — just adjust the part in CAD software and hit “print” again.

If there’s any doubt about that prospect, you need look no further than Ford or Airbus, two multi-billion-dollar, multinational companies that have been successfully integrating 3D printing into parts production for years.

“I see this as a revolutionary technology,” said Pete Basiliere, research vice president at Gartner. It’s unique, not because the printer’s components haven’t ever existed, but because they’ve never been combined into a new, faster process.

A view from the top of the HP Multi Jet Fusion 3D printer showing a print bar. It looks like a scanning bar on a typical 2D printer. The 3D print bar, however, has 30,000 nozzles spraying 350 million drops a second of thermoplastic or other materials.

The printer works by using a print bar that looks like a scanning bar on a typical 2D printer. The 3D print bar, however, has 30,000 nozzles spraying 350 million drops a second of thermoplastic or other powdered materials as it moves back and forth across a print platform.

The 3D printer combines the attributes of binder jet printing, where a liquid bonding agent is selectively deposited to join the powder materials, and selective laser/electron beam sintering, where layer upon layer of powder material is fused together with heat.

HP showed examples of 3D prints that were astounding in their complexity and durability. In one example, a one-quarter pound metal chain link was printed in half an hour and then tested to withstand 10,000 lbs. of pressure. In another example, a miniature model of an oil rig was printed with multiple colors and complex rigging thinner than pencil lead.

A model of an oil rig printed by the new Multi Jet 3D printer. Notice the details and colors all printed in one pass.


While the Multi Jet Fusion printer isn’t due out until 2016 — it’ll be beta tested by manufacturers in 2015 — its unveiling is sure to spur R&D in the 3D printing industry and beyond. That’s because the company that invents and successfully markets a better manufacturing method wins.

A survey of 100 top manufacturers by PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed that two-thirds are using 3D printing, some for rapid prototyping and others for production or custom parts.

As 3D printing techniques evolve to handle multiple materials and faster processes, they will find use beyond rapid prototyping, PwC said.

“As has happened all throughout history, if you invent a new process for making things, people will design new and better things,” said Carl Bass, CEO of Autodesk, a maker of professional 3D design software.


Opinion: FAA Must Act On Rules For Small UAS

Oct 28, 2013

John Langford

Aviation Week & Space Technology


It is rare that industries come to Washington begging for more regulation. But that is how we in the unmanned systems business find ourselves with respect to small unmanned aerial systems (SUAS). A notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) has been on the shelf for years. We need to move forward before a serious accident occurs.

The issue of how to safely integrate the myriad sizes and classes of UAS into the national airspace is complex. But it is clear that in at least one category, small UAS (under 55 lb.), we have a good idea how to start. The FAA convened a SUAS Aviation Rulemaking Committee, which had broad participation from many communities and completed its work in 2009. Many of us expected an expedited release of draft regulations. We are still waiting.

These regulations would impact three distinct communities. First are hobbyists, whose interests are represented by the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Since 1936, the AMA has set voluntary safety standards for models under which hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts have flown millions of flight hours with an admirable safety record. The AMA takes the not unreasonable position that voluntary standards have worked so far, so modelers should be exempted from FAA regulations. They convinced Congress to include language to this effect in the FAA’s 2012 reauthorization bill.

The second category is the “do-it-yourself drone” community, which comes more from computer and robotics enthusiasts than traditional aeromodelers. Chris Anderson, a former editor at Wired, estimates there are thousands of do-it-yourself drones in operation. Unlike traditional models, which are either free-flight or controlled by radio within the pilot’s line of sight, these computer-driven aircraft literally have minds of their own. The third category comprises aerospace and defense companies, which includes everything from the industrial giants to garage startups.


Models fly under the FAA’s Advisory Circular 91-57, issued in 1981. Everyone else needs either a special airworthiness certificate (experimental ticket), or a certificate of authorization (available only to public entities), or must fly in restricted airspace. The effect of this is that commercial UAS users—and by commercial, we basically mean anyone in the private sector who is being paid to do this—are prohibited from operating UAS in the National Airspace. This covers everything from aerial photography and surveying to news reporting to communications relay to cargo delivery. The effect is that professional aerospace companies—which arguably have the most to lose from lax standards, and who are mostly likely to have established safety procedures, to follow the rules and to carry good insurance—are being punished, while amateurs operating on the fringes are allowed to operate more or less with impunity. The public, of course, cannot tell the difference.

This is a recipe for disaster. The current situation effectively encourages people to fly in quasi-legal activities, without uniform standards and with little or no enforcement. This is not the way aviation has achieved its enviable safety record.

Furthermore, the absence of FAA rulemaking encourages others to fill the vacuum and preempt the FAA. Dozens of states are either considering or have already promulgated rules impacting SUAS—a morass that the FAA will have to untangle when it finally steps up to its leadership role.

Many of us in the business find ourselves in the paradoxical situation: An airplane we operate in our day jobs is essentially illegal, but is perfectly fine if we head off to the local schoolyard as modelers and fly for fun. Activities should be judged on objective standards of safety, not on whether someone is being paid to do it.

The issue of privacy has muddled the drive for UAS safety regulation. My own belief is that many of the things that most concern privacy advocates, such as flying low enough to look in someone’s window, may also be unsafe, and that effective safety regulations will go a long way toward addressing the privacy concerns. But the FAA must not allow such misgivings to stand in the way of implementing its primary charter. Its mandate is safety.

The history of aviation safety regulations is, sadly, one where rules are promulgated largely in response to accidents. We cannot, should not and must not follow this path on SUAS. Rules will evolve based on experience and practice, but we must start somewhere. The FAA should release the SUAS NPRM immediately so we can all get started.

John Langford is a longtime aeromodeler and the founder and CEO of Aurora Flight Sciences Corp.


Will Bust Pilots for Model Airplane Infractions

By Pia Bergqvist / Published: Oct 28, 2014


Earlier this month, the FAA released a National Policy Compliance and Enforcement Bulletin containing language that takes a harsh stance against pilots who operate unmanned aircraft. As a result of this new policy, pilots who operate UAS against FAA regulations or model aircraft in a manner that endangers aircraft in the National Airspace System (NAS) risk their ability to fly manned aircraft.

According to the bulletin, a civil penalty will be warranted for cases in which the FAA determines the violation imposed a medium or high risk to other aircraft in the NAS. However, the FAA takes disciplinary action further for pilot certificate holders who fly drones.

UAS operators who the FAA finds conducted a “deliberate and egregious violation” risk certificate action in addition to the civil penalty “regardless of whether the certificate holder is exercising the privileges of the certificate in connection with the violations associated with the UAS operation.” This means pilots could lose their ability to fly manned airplanes for a period of time or have their certificates revoked.

Not only do pilot certificate holders risk their flying privileges if they fly UAS or model aircraft; they may also receive a greater penalty than individuals who are not pilots would. The FAA bulletin states that certificate holders are more likely to be slapped with a civil penalty “above the moderate range for a single, first-time, inadvertent violation” because they “should appreciate the potential for endangerment that operating a UAS contrary to the FAA’s safety regulations may cause.”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, November 01, 2014

Is there a Republican Congress coming on Tuesday? The votes are already being cast in a number of states around the country.

Voters believe more strongly than ever that the upcoming midterm elections will put Republicans in charge of the Senate. Confidence that Democrats will regain control of the House continues to fall. If these scenarios play out, President Obama will be facing a Congress entirely in the hands of the opposition party.

Just eight percent (8%) of voters think the current Congress is doing a good or excellent job. Sixty-two percent (62%) rate Congress’ performance as poor.

Going into Election Day, white voters are nearly twice as likely as blacks to believe America is a more divided nation than it was four years ago. For one-in-three of all voters, the president is what this election is all about. 

Voters are evenly divided when asked if Obama is a plus or a minus to political candidates in their states. But Republicans attach a lot more importance than Democrats do to whether a candidate voted for the president in 2012.

Obama’s daily job approval ratings continue to run in the high negative teens.

But then the president is at odds with most voters on several major issues including the new national health care lawillegal immigrationtaxes and spending and how to respond to the deadly Ebola virus.

Voters are getting increasingly fed up with a federal government that won’t give them what they want.

On the economic front, consumer and investor confidence began to go up last year but have flat-lined in recent months.

Meanwhile, in the area of national security, the number of voters who think the United States and its allies are winning the War on Terror continues to fall to new lows. More than ever they see a terrorist attack as the biggest threat to the nation. 

Following two recent deadly incidents in Canada that appear terrorist related, U.S. voters also feel more strongly that radical Islamic terrorism is a threat to this country, but they acknowledge overwhelmingly that not all so-called “lone wolf” attacks can be prevented.

Only 26% think the country is heading in the right direction, a finding that has been under 30% for most of the past year.

With only a few days until the midterm elections, Republicans have taken the lead on the Generic Congressional Ballot.  But the two parties have been separated by two points or less most weeks this year.

Republicans need a net gain of six seats to take control of the Senate, and looking over the past week’s surveys, AlaskaArkansasColorado and South Dakota look like good pickup possibilities for the GOP.  Republicans have a strong chance in Louisiana, too, but  this race appears headed for a runoff.

The Georgia Senate race may be decided in a runoff as well. This seat is now held by a Republican.

Contests for two other current Democratic Senate seats, Iowa and North Carolina, are Toss-Ups.

Michigan looks safe for Democrats, while New Hampshire remains a long shot for GOP challenger Scott Brown.

As for the governor’s races we looked at this week, Republicans have the advantage in Arkansas and Georgia, while Colorado appears headed to a photo finish. 

See our latest video election update.

In other surveys last week:

— Common Core or not, just one-in-three Americans rate the performance of the nation’s schools positively.

— Most Americans think college sports run the show and have too much influence over educational institutions.

— Most also believe that half or more big-time college athletic programs regularly break the rules.

— Most adults don’t think Halloween is just for kids, and a few more will be playing dress up this year.

— Some schools continue to prohibit Halloween costumes and candy, and most Americans still disagree with these policies. 


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