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March 7 2015


7 March 2015


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‘Cadillac’ tax likely to diminish union health plans, study finds

By Bob Herman  | March 2, 2015

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  • IRS considers exclusions on ‘Cadillac’ health plans
  • New GOP reform plan rolls back Cadillac tax to win over conservatives
  • Health plans obtained through union collective bargaining agreements often include much more generous benefits than other employer-sponsored plans. But such benefits are likely to be pared down as the Affordable Care Act’s excise tax nears, a new study in Health Affairs contends.

    That excise tax, often called the “Cadillac” tax, will go into effect Jan. 1, 2018. A 40% tax will be levied on every dollar of total premiums paid above $10,200 for individual health plans and $27,500 for family plans.

    Policymakers included the Cadillac tax in the ACA as a way to raise revenue to fund the law. The Congressional Budget Office estimates it will bring in $120 billion between 2018 and 2024. Most of that will come from higher taxes on employees’ taxable wages instead of the tax-exempt insurance benefits.

    But the tax also was viewed as a way to reduce the number of health plans that have little cost-sharing and premium contributions, which some argue contribute to the overuse of healthcare. President Barack Obama has been quoted as saying the excise tax will discourage “these really fancy plans that end up driving up costs.” Lavish executive-level health plans and collegiate benefit packages, like Harvard University’s, have been oft-cited targets. However, many collectively bargained policies fall into the Cadillac bracket as well.

    The Health Affairs study, published Monday, sought specifics about what kind of health benefit packages unions provide for employees. People with union plans have lesser out-of-pocket obligations and don’t pay as much per month toward their premium as others with employer-based insurance, but the surprise was “the magnitude of the differences for certain things,” said Jon Gabel, a healthcare fellow at NORC at the University of Chicago and one of the study’s authors.

    For instance, families in collectively bargained plans paid about $828 per year toward their premium, or about $69 per month, according to the study’s surveyed data. That compared to $4,565 for the average employer-sponsored family plan, or about $380 per month, according to 2013 data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    Cost-sharing requirements also were less onerous in union health plans, the study found. The average annual in-network deductible for an individual in a collectively bargained plan was $203. The average deductible at other employer-based plans was almost six times higher at $1,135.

    Although the federal government is considering some flexibility for “high risk” unionized occupations such as miners and construction workers, many employers are looking to get ahead of the excise tax by slimming down benefits.

    “For those who are fortunate to have a Cadillac plan right now, it’s probably not going to be so comprehensive in the future,” Gabel said. However, he said, reduced benefits should lead to increased wages to offset higher cost-sharing.

    Tom Leibfried, a healthcare lobbyist for the AFL-CIO, a federation of 56 unions, calls the Cadillac tax “a misnomer” because union plans apply to middle-class Americans with modest wages. The issue should not be about the generosity of health coverage, but rather whether the coverage is appropriate for people based on the healthcare costs in their geography, he said.

    “Trying to control utilization in that way really does amount to a cost-shift,” Leibfried said. “This is really a middle-class problem.”

    Higher compensation supplanting lost benefits is not a sure thing either, Leibfried said. Indeed, wages and salaries have been mostly stagnant the past decade, barely edging out inflation even as health benefits shrink.


    Bill rolls back deep cuts to Defense travel per diems

    Andy Medici, Staff Writer 2:34 p.m. EST March 2, 2015


    A bipartisan group of lawmakers are attempting to undo deep cuts the Defense Department made to travel per diems in 2014, according to a new bill introduced March 2.

    Reps. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., and Walter Jones, R-N.C. introduced legislation to halt the approximately $22 million in per diem cuts.The per diem policy– implemented on Nov. 1 – dropped reimbursements to 75 percent for trips or temporary duty assignments lasting 31 to 180 days. For trips longer than 181 days the traveler gets 55 percent of the lodging and meal per diem.

    The previous policy paid 100 percent of the per diem rates for any length of time.

    The Defense Department believes it will save about $22 million annually without harming the traveler or the mission, according to spokesman Nathan Christensen. Many hotels offer discounted long-term rates for travelers staying a while, which helps drive down costs, he added.

    But William Dougan, president of the National Federation of Federal Employees, said the per diem cuts merely shift additional costs onto DoD employees, while the agency failed to work with federal employee groups on the initial cuts.

    “In recent years, Defense workers have experienced death by a thousand cuts, with pay and benefits being whittled away little by little,” Dougan said. “These cuts dealt a significant blow to morale within the Department. The passage of this legislation will help rectify the problem of low morale that is already prevalent throughout the Department.”

    The legislation is co-sponsored by Reps. Mark Takai, D-Hawaii, Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, Juan Vargas, D-Calif., Brian Higgins, D-N.Y. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, Anne McLane Kuster, D-N.H., Gerry Connolly, D-Va., Charles Rangel, Jim McGovern, D-Mass., Pat Meehan, R-Pa., George Norcross, D-N.J., Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, Frank Lobiondo, R-N.J., Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., Tom Cole, R-Okla., Matt Cartwright, D-Pa., Don Beyer, D-Va., Bobby Scott, D-Va., Scott Peters, D-Calif., and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C.

    When the Screens Go Dark: Rethinking Our Dependence on Digital Systems

    by Marc Lindemann

    Journal Article | March 2, 2015 – 3:47pm


    Despite its name, the U.S. Army’s Command Post of the Future (“CPOF”) is now more than ten years old.[1]  Since CPOF’s introduction, the U.S. Army has fielded multiple upgrades to it and to the digital systems that have constituted the Army Battle Command System (“ABCS”).[2]  While this succession of improvements has added functionality to the digital systems themselves,[3] the hidden costs of these sophisticated technologies threaten to undermine the very warfighting functions that they were intended to facilitate.  Without proper precautions, the weight of a unit’s digital architecture can crush that unit’s ability to conduct operations.  Likewise, emerging cyber and electromagnetic threats[4] that can degrade networked digital systems make excessive dependence on such systems an acute vulnerability.  Ever-increasing digital-system complexity requires units to allocate more resources to master ABCS intricacies at the expense of other objectives, such as the conduct of traditional – now often characterized as “degraded” – operations.  The less time a unit spends on non-digital training, the more dependent the unit’s operations become on its digital systems.  When these systems fail, however, the drawbacks of an increasingly exclusive focus on digital-systems training – and the associated sacrifice of traditional training – become readily apparent.  Thus, paradoxically, the more advanced the U.S. Army’s digital systems become, the more U.S. Army leaders will need to consciously and continuously emphasize non-digital fundamentals.  The availability of technology is no substitute for the tactical training of Soldiers.

    The Costs of Digitization

    In 1994, as part of the Force XXI modernization initiative, the U.S. Army designated the 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) (“4ID”) as its Experimental Force.  At Fort Hood, Texas, the 4ID trained on the precursors to many of the digital systems that are present in today’s ABCS, and, in 1999, the U.S. Army hailed the 4ID as its “First Digital Division.”[5]  As the 4ID was adapting to these digital systems, the U.S. Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences (“ARI”) simultaneously embarked upon a study entitled, “Managing Force XXI Change: Insights and Lessons Learned in the Army’s First Digital Division,” to chronicle the 4ID’s progress.[6]  The ARI researchers noted that the transition to digital systems was not without its difficulties.  At least one commander within the 4ID went so far as to ban paper maps from his Tactical Operations Center (“TOC”) to force his Soldiers to rely solely on digital versions.[7]  In its March 2002 closing report, the ARI team cited many leaders who gave the digital systems favorable reviews; still, the report featured some prophetic warnings: “Digital leaders and soldiers must be warfighters first.  They need to master warfighting basics before they can harness digital tools.”[8]  Quoting the 4ID’s COL Ted Kostich, the report also noted: “We need to be careful that we don’t make our ABCS operators technicians instead of warfighters.”[9]

    Since the 2002 ARI Report, ABCS, in the hands of trained operators and supervisors, has effectively reduced the fog of war.  For example, a commander and his staff no longer have to depend exclusively on subordinate units calling up their positions over the radio; Force XXI Battle Command Brigade-and-Below/Blue Force Trackers (“FBCB2s/BFTs”) regularly transmit unit locations, displaying corresponding unit icons that move through the battlespace in the Common Operating Picture (“COP”).[10]  A swarm of blue icons marching across a CPOF screen is an impressive sight.  With the timely influx of situational information, leaders at all levels can integrate and synchronize battlefield activities, making ABCS a significant combat multiplier.[11]  Given the success of its digitization, the U.S. Army has committed itself to the further expansion of its systems and networks.  As the digital environment becomes more complex, however, today’s leaders must take a hard look at the challenges inherent in their current reliance on these systems.

    Information demands an audience, and the sheer volume of data available through ABCS can be daunting.[12]  The accessibility of information creates a perceived obligation to observe and process it, resulting in a danger of what GEN Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has termed “paralysis by analysis.”[13]  In a TOC, the stream of near-real-time position and spot reports results in constant monitoring to guarantee responsiveness.  As more information comes in, a unit assigns more resources to observe the information and analyze its meaning.  In addition, though the ABCS provides powerful tools to evaluate, reconfigure, and package data, the crafting of detailed storyboards and CPOF-based update briefs requires time and trained personnel.  With more Soldiers becoming necessary to mind and process the data flow, a unit must devote more assets to handle the incoming information.

    Yet digital systems cannot do anything if they are not connected properly.  What the 2002 ARI report recognized is still true: “[t]he signal battalion has become the Achilles heel of digital operations.  Maintaining digital networks and connectivity depends absolutely on signal capabilities.  The impact of digital failures during distributed combat operations could be harsh.”[14]  Today’s ABCS operators – and even senior leaders[15] – often have to stand aside and wait for signal personnel to painstakingly connect all of the digital systems in a command post or TOC.  Many Soldiers defer to signal personnel as the priesthood of the U.S. Army’s digital systems; somehow, after tinkering with wires and pressing various buttons, the signal Soldiers are mysteriously able to elicit functionality.  The prospect of digital failure is so unwelcome that commanders may be tempted to keep their command post location static once the signal personnel have established some degree of connectivity and digital capability.  Typically, the larger its digital footprint, the more immobile a command post will be.  Likewise, the digital logistics and signal support necessary to even push out a tactical command post can seem overwhelming.  Each move involves the transport of a multitude of computer equipment, as well as the reconfiguration of digital systems to establish connectivity.  Sometimes, too, uniformed signal personnel hit a road block in their efforts, and a digital system is out of the fight until a contractor’s field service representative can arrive.  And once the digital systems are functioning, there remains the matter of the proficiency of the people who will be operating them.

    In order to use ABCS systems, a unit must allocate sufficient personnel to serve as operators, and each operator requires extensive initial and regular refresher training to keep his skills current.  In an era of diminished budgets and multiplying training requirements, finding the resources for such training can be difficult.[16]  Moreover, relatively junior operators are not the only ones who need training.  A trained, low-level operator may sit in front of a CPOF console, monitoring reports and icon positions, but when it comes time for a staff principal to check his section’s running estimates or to brief a commander using CPOF, that staff member must also know how to use the device.  If a staff section relies upon a digital system, the operators and the principals must be subject matter experts in that system’s use.  Unfortunately, the turnover in headquarters personnel – especially junior personnel who will move out to line units – ensures that many digital system operators leave their positions just as they are nearing some level of expertise with their assigned devices.[17]

    The rapid succession of upgrades, updates, and other ostensible ABCS improvements results in still more challenges.  Military contractors such as General Dynamics and Raytheon repeatedly roll out updates providing additional functionality to the existing digital systems that they produce; sometimes, such as the case with BCS3, the military incorporates entirely new systems into ABCS.  Each update may involve additional training for operators and principals.[18]  These subsequent versions can also bring what is known as “feature creep”: to distinguish a new version from its predecessors, a digital system’s creator adds functionality.  With each version, the “functionalities” of the system multiply, eventually resulting in a system that few Soldiers fully understand and whose primary function is clouded with “gee-whiz” features that are of little practical use. 

    The steady procession of digital system versions also brings with it a dependence upon an array of contractors to implement these improvements.[19]  Operators may undergo an initial 40-hour block of instruction regarding a particular digital system, but there are few operator-level fixes possible when there needs to be an update to the device itself.  Operations can slow to a crawl when a digital system goes down and a field service representative has to arrive to install an update.  Sometimes a unit will not know that it needs a necessary update until it boots up its system and discovers that the system does not work or cannot “talk” with another system.  Military contractors provide valuable services, but there is a problem if uniformed operators and their supervisors do not have the ability to troubleshoot and fix the most basic issues with their “primary weapons systems,” other than by turning off and on the power switch and hoping for the best.  Increasing ABCS complexity, the need for communication between digital devices, and a growing emphasis on jointness and interoperability between different services’ systems has resulted in the permanent presence of contractors in waiting.  The constant need for these contractors detracts from a command post’s agility and mobility.  

    Whereas contractor field service representatives and signal Soldiers have seen their stock soar in the past 12 years, analog maps have become a casualty of the U.S. Army’s reliance upon digital systems.[20]  Before the advent of ABCS, Soldiers would regularly update a TOC situation map’s acetate overlays.  Now, with no way for an analog situation map to compete with the near-real-time data feed from ABCS, making analog updates takes a back seat to monitoring computers.  In a conclusion that will resonate with today’s battalion and higher headquarters staff members, the 2002 ARI report remarked that “[t]he division is not manned to conduct operations using both digital and analog (map-and-grease-pencil) systems.”[21]  The 4ID’s leaders acknowledged that they had to break with traditional, analog mission command procedures in order to tend the TOC’s digital systems; in the words of one officer, “I don’t have enough people to be inside the TOC working ASAS and then running outside the track and changing the analog stuff on the maps and wingboards.”[22]

    Today, training for degraded operations is too often an afterthought.  Units struggle so much with setting up, connecting, and operating the latest digital systems that there is little time left to train on how to operate when these systems are not available.[23]   The tendency is for units to concentrate on digital training at the expense of analog proficiency, as the skills required for the successful use of ABCS are particularly perishable.  As the 2002 ARI report had noted:

    Balancing digital training with field craft and tactical training is a challenge unique to the digital division.  Because information management skills atrophy more quickly than other skills, units are likely to devote more time to digital training.[24]

    These days, in TOCs full of glowing CPOF screens, analog situation maps – when posted – fall into various stages of neglect and obsolescence.  Likewise, hard copies of current staff running estimates may be hard to find, as well-meaning leaders attempt to enforce a “paperless TOC” model.  The higher the headquarters, the less likely there will be an analog back up of information from subordinate elements.  Granted, analog products are inefficient, time-intensive, and relatively limited in terms of the data they display; they are also vital to have on hand when digital systems are not working.  Without the presence and regular updating of these analog products, mission failure may be just a power outage or a system crash away.

    Regardless of how technologically savvy a commander may be, ABCS provides a sweeping situational awareness that also serves as a tempting opportunity for higher headquarters’ micromanagement, what GEN Dempsey has recognized as “a debilitating inhibitor of trust in the lower echelon of the force.”[25]  The packaging of volumes of data into simple icons creates visibility with the suggestion of manipulability.  Excessive interference with subordinate unit operations becomes a real danger: if a commander can see something on the screen, then it appears deceptively simple to control it.[26]  Some studies have even developed the term “Predator View” for a leader who becomes so caught up with what is on the screen that he fails to see the larger tactical picture.[27]  A senior leader who thus becomes enmeshed in the details of an operation at the lowest tactical level is not doing his job and is not allowing his subordinate leaders to do theirs.  Digital systems’ invitation to micromanagement also manifests itself in the opposite direction.  Although junior leaders do not have to constantly call up to higher headquarters with their positions and give minute-by-minute radio reports of their progress, their FBCB2s/BFTs effectively and automatically provide that stream of information.  Junior leaders know that their movements are being tracked and expect higher headquarters to regularly monitor their position and status.  This umbilical cord to higher headquarters results in an expectation of constant communication and oversight; moreover, additional guidance is only a free-text message away.  This tendency plays out above the small unit level, as well.  Digital networks allow for the easy dissemination of Fragmentary Orders (“FRAGORDs”). Without restraint, a flurry of FRAGORDs bombarding a subordinate headquarters’ in-boxes can lead to the same sort of micromanagement problems and initiative-deadening expectations as described above.

    Going Forward

    The U.S. Army’s current path, with its emphasis on joint and multinational operations[28], will ultimately require the integration and interoperability of other services’ and various nations’ digital systems.[29]  In the foreseeable future, the digital architecture will become more, not less, complicated, as the U.S. Army attempts to digitally connect headquarters, Soldiers, and vehicles[30] across services and across nations.  Every step closer to this goal involves the investment of additional funds, personnel, and training resources, along with the consequent opportunity cost in traditional tactical training.  Today, facing budget cuts, some military leaders are promoting digital systems as a means of cutting training and personnel.  LTG Susan Lawrence, the U.S. Army’s Chief Information Officer/G-6, announced on 27 June 2013, “I’m convinced that, as we draw down, if we get this network modernized right, it will enable us to be that smaller, better-trained, more capable expeditionary Army.”[31]  When hearing these arguments, it is important to remember that digital systems and networks were a means to an end, not an end unto themselves. 

    The U.S. Army cannot pin all of its hopes upon its digital systems; such thinking is dangerously akin to treating the network as the country’s Maginot Line.  The U.S. Army is rightly investing in the creation of cyber warriors to protect against and repel attacks to its digital systems.  Protecting the digital dominance that we have obtained goes hand in hand with the use of these systems.  Merely attempting to harden our digital systems – increasing our defenses – is not enough, however.  The U.S. Army must train for situations in which its digital systems, by accident or design, are not functional. 

    In trying to refocus on the operations that digital systems were designed to facilitate, the concept of decentralization provides a useful prism through which leaders can view the demands of current and future digital complexity.  Recent Unified Land Operations and Mission Command doctrine has reaffirmed the significance of decentralization and expanded its applicability.[32]  There is an inherent conflict between networking and decentralization, however.  The more an organization is networked, the more reliant it becomes on the center – the hub or the brain – of the network.  It is important to remember that the U.S. Army originally embarked upon its networking program in order to facilitate point-to-point control between commanders and subordinates.[33]

    Disciplined initiative is the key to non-digital operations in a military force that now prioritizes networked, digital operations.  In a threat environment where even the most useful digital system may be knocked out of the fight, there needs to be a back-to-basics approach that will enable units to continue to fight effectively in the absence of their digital systems and digital guidance from higher headquarters.[34]  Every commander should be able to shut off the TOC’s power, slipping the digital leash, and have confidence that his or her unit can continue to function.[35]  Junior leaders and staff sections should be able to anticipate the problems inherent in digital-system failure and know what to do without a major disruption in TOC operations.  ADRP 6-0’s non-digital solutions – “establishing trust, creating shared understanding, or providing a clear intent using mission orders”[36] – are significant.  More significant, however, and more measurable is the degree of Soldiers’ basic proficiency in their warfighting tasks.


    Although this paper does not and cannot advocate the abandonment of the U.S. Army’s existing digital systems, the U.S Army’s dependence on digital systems is very much on its leaders’ minds today.[37]  These systems have repeatedly demonstrated the potential to make the U.S. Army a much more efficient and lethal fighting force.[38]  Before his retirement, however, GEN Robert W. Cone, then Commanding General, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, gave digital systems an ultimatum: “Why do we want this piece of technology?  If it does not dramatically improve training efficiency, we need the strength to walk away.”[39]  Right now, the military is poised to increase digital training requirements in pursuit of inter-service operations, multinational activities, and the expansion of the network to include all Soldiers and vehicles.  Leaders at every level must understand their dependence on digital systems, successfully manage their units’ use of these systems, and promote decentralized initiative in support of clearly defined and mutually understood tactical goals.  In the end, Soldiers must have tactical knowledge that transcends anything displayed on a computer monitor.  Soldiers, not our digital systems, are what will win our future conflicts.[40]  When the screens go dark, the mission must go on.

    End Notes

    [1]. The 1st Cavalry Division first employed CPOF in Iraq in 2004.  BG Harry Greene, Larry Stotts, Ryan Paterson, and Janet Greenberg, “Command Post of the Future: Successful Transition of a Science and Technology Initiative to a Program of Record,” Defense Acquisition University, January 2010, available at <>‎ (14 May 2014); “Command Post of the Future (CPOF),”, undated, available at <> (14 May 2014).

    [2]. The ABCS Version 6.4 is a system of systems consisting of 11 battlefield automated systems: Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System (“AFATDS”); Air and Missile Defense Workstation (“AMDWS”); All Source Analysis System (“ASAS”); Battle Command Sustainment Support System (“BCS3”); Digital Topographic Support System (“DTSS”); Force XXI Battle Command Brigade-and- Below and Blue Force Tracking (“FBCB2/BFT”); Global Command and Control System – Army (“GCCS-A”); Integrated Meteorological System (“IMETS”); Integrated System Control (“ISYSCON”); Maneuver Control System (“MCS”); and Tactical Airspace Integration System (“TAIS”).  Timothy L. Rider, “‘Digital’ Army Dawns as System Undergoes Testing,” Army Acquisition, Logistics & Technology, September-October 2004, p. 15-18, available at <> (14 May 2014).

    [3]. “Information systems – especially when merged into a single, integrated network – enable extensive information sharing.”  Army Doctrine Publication (“ADP”) 6-0, Mission Command, 17 May 2012, 12, available at <> (14 May 2014).

    4. “Various weapons and techniques — ranging from conventional munitions and directed-energy weapons to network attacks — can destroy enemy systems that use the electromagnetic spectrum.”  Field Manual (“FM”) 3-36, Electronic Warfare, 9 November 2012, 1-11, available at <‎&gt; (14 May 2014); see also Army Doctrine Reference Publication (“ADRP”) 6-0, Mission Command, 17 May 2012, 3-30, available at <>  (14 May 2014).

    [5].  MAJ Mark Newell, “New Division Design Announced,” 4th Infantry Division, Public Affairs Office, undated, available at <> (14 May 2014); Ann Roosevelt, “Army’s First Digital Division Waits for the Call,” Defense Daily, 19 November 2001, available at <… > (14 May 2014); Paul Boutin, “The Army’s Desktop Jockeys: Can Information Technology Help the Military Win the War?”, 31 March 2003, available at <> (14 May 2014).

    [6].  Bruce C. Leibrecht, John C. Johnston, Barbara A. Black, and Kathleen A. Quinkert, Managing Force XXI Change: Insights and Lessons Learned in the Army’s First Digital Division,” United States Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences, March 2002, available at <> (14 May 2014).

    [7].  “Forceful steps may be needed to jump-start digitization. For example, a brigade commander in the 4ID banned the use of paper maps in command posts to force leaders and soldiers to use the new digital systems. The commander later credited that step for much of his unit’s digitization success.” Ibid., 29.

    [8]. Ibid., 32.

    [9]. Ibid., (quoting COL Ted Kostich, 13 March 2001).

    [10]. “Commanders rely on technical networks to communicate information and control forces.  Technical networks facilitate information flow by connecting information users and information producers and enable effective and efficient information flow.  Technical networks help shape and influence operations by getting information to decisionmakers, with adequate context, enabling them to make better decisions. They also assist commanders in projecting their decisions across the force.”  ADRP 6-0, 3-28.

    [11]. “Information becomes a force multiplier when it provides a capability that, when added to and employed by a combat force, significantly increases the combat potential of that force and enhances the probability of successful mission accomplishment.”  AR 25-1, 1-7.

    [12]. “Electronic means of communication have increased the access to and speed of finding information. However, they also have increased the volume of information and the potential for misinformation. Successful commanders are mindful of this when they configure their mission command system. Commanders determine information requirements and set information priorities. They avoid requesting too much information, which decreases the staff’s chances of obtaining the right information.” ADRP 6-0, 2-83.

    [13]. GEN Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mission Command White Paper, 3 April 2012, 7, available at <; (14 May 2014). “Commanders and staffs must continually work to maintain their situational understanding and work through periods of reduced understanding as the situation evolves.  As commanders develop their situational understanding, they see patterns emerge, dissipate, and reappear in their operational environment.”  COL Clinton J. Ancker, III (Ret.) and LTC Michael Flynn (Ret.), “Field Manual 5-0: Exercising Command and Control in an Era of Persistent Conflict,” Military Review, Mission Command Special Issue 2012, 44 (originally published in Military Review, March-April 2010), available at <; (14 May 2014).

    [14]. Leibrecht et al., 40.

    [15]. “In the military, concepts such as Information Operations and Network Centric Warfare rely on complex information systems that utilize global computer networks.  Until 2009, most requirements and decisions on network security and capability were made by communications experts, especially in the military.  However, as dependence on this vulnerable network increases, commanders must be directly involved because of the great operational impact of network failure or degradation.  There is concern that many senior leaders are being thrust into an area for which they are poorly equipped due to lack of cyberspace education or experience.”  William Waddell with David Smith, James Shufelt, and COL Jeffrey Caton, “Cyberspace Operations: What Senior Leaders Need to Know About Cyberspace,” Center for Strategic Leadership Study 1-11, March 2011, 1, available at <‎&gt; (14 May 2014).

    [16]. “While advances in the science of human learning and training help us train soldiers faster, the truth is that it can barely keep up with the expanding list of training requirements.”  GEN Robert W. Cone, “Building the New Culture of Training,” Military Review, January-February 2013, 14, available at <> (14 May 2014).

    [17]. “Soldiers are usually assigned duties using Mission Command systems for a brief time in a given career.”  Kathryn Bailey, “Mission Command in Garrison – ‘Train as You Fight,'” Office of the Project Manager Mission Command, 17 September 2013, available at <> (14 May 2014) (quoting LTC Brian Lyttle, Product Manager, Strategic Mission Command).

    [18]. COL Harold Greene and Robert Mendoza, “Lessons Learned from Developing the ABCS 6.4 Solution,” Defense Acquisition Review Journal, April-July 2005, available at <> (14 May 2014).

    [19]. For example: AFATDS, Raytheon; AMDWS, Northrup Grumman; FBCB2, Northrup Grumman; BCS3, Boeing subsidiary Tapestry; CPOF, General Dynamics; and TAIS, General Dynamics.

    [20]. Hard copies of field manuals have also fallen victim to digitization.  Too often, though, leaders will put copies of U.S. Army publications on disc and then, when the power goes out, are unable to access the necessary reference material.

    [21]. Leibrecht et al., 40.

    [22]. Ibid. (quoting COL Bob Cone, 02 March 2001).

    [23]. “The current generation of complex digital tools has only added to an already heavy individual and collective training burden.  Accordingly, commanders must make hard choices about the amount of training that soldiers receive and often find the time by sacrificing other training.”  Christopher J. Toomey, “Army Digitization: Making It Ready for Prime Time,” Parameters, Winter 2003-2004, 43, available at <> (14 May 2014).

    [24]. Leibrecht et al., 41.

    [25]. Dempsey, 7.

    [26]. “Just because you can see imagery from miles above the earth doesn’t mean you understand the problem.”  LTG Michael T. Flynn and BG Charles A. Flynn, U.S. Army, “Integrating Intelligence and Information: Ten Points for the Commander,” Military Review, January-February 2012, 7, available at <… > (14 May 2014). 

    [27]. Christine G. van Burken, “The Non-Neutrality of Technology: Pitfalls of Network-Enabled Operations,” Military Review, May-June 2013, 40, available at <> (14 May 2014).

    [28]. “The long-term goal is to integrate these [Mission Command Training Program (‘MCTP’)] corps and division multi-echelon [Warfighter Exercises] with Global Combatant Command exercises.  This will increase the Joint-Interagency-Intergovernmental-Multinational component and provide high-payoff training opportunities for Special Operations Forces, multinational partners, and our Unified Action Joint partners that enable operational level headquarters to tie tactical capabilities to regional or national strategies. . . . Tied to this are plans for NATO partners to participate habitually in future U.S. corps and division WFXs.  Overall, MCTP’s transformed exercise architecture and OCT initiatives will ensure operational level HQs can train in a much more relevant, realistic, and complex environment than previously possible, with all the required enablers to fully train commanders and staffs.”  COL Michael Barbee, “The CTC Program: Leading the March into the Future,” Military Review, July-August 2013, 21 available at <> (14 May 2014).

    [29]. “The term ‘network-enabled capabilities’ requires some explanation.  The term means the use of network technologies and information technology assets to facilitate cooperation and information sharing.  This can lead to a build-up of complex and ad hoc multinational environments, referred to as network-enabled capabilities or network enabled operations.  Network enabled capabilities have the potential for increasing military effects through improved use of information technology systems.” van Burken, 40.

    [30]. “Network the Dismounts!”  MG Robert B. Brown, “The Infantry Squad: The Infantry Squad: Decisive Force Now and in the Decisive Force Now and in the Future,” Military Review, Mission Command Special Issue 2012, 4 (originally published in Military Review, November-December 2011).

    [31]. Joe Gould, “Connecting Soldiers: Army Boosts Network Security by Cutting Access Points,” Army Times, 08 July 2013, 16.

    [32]. “Commanders enable adaptive forces through flexibility, collaborative planning, and decentralized execution  They use mission command to achieve maximum flexibility and foster individual initiative.” ADP 3-0, Unified Land Operations, 10 October 2011, 7, available at <> (14 May 2014); ; see also Dempsey, 3-4 (“Smaller, lighter forces operating in an environment of increased uncertainty, complexity and competitiveness will require freedom of action to develop the situation and rapidly exploit opportunities.  Decentralization will occur beyond current comfort levels and habits of practice.”); ADRP 6-0, 2-86.

    [33]. COL Harry D. Tunnell IV (Ret.), “Network-Centric Warfare and the Data-Information-Knowledge-Wisdom Hierarchy,” Military Review, May-June 2014, 44-45.

    [34]. Recent training simulations, such as that with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in October 2012 at the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana, have involved “significant communications challenges involving either austere and immature infrastructures or sophisticated area-denial electronic and cyber attack from our adversaries.”  Flynn and Richardson, 40.  In addition, these challenges have forced units undergoing evaluation to “practice the skills needed when communications are degraded, and then navigate through the challenges of establishing digital connectivity across [multiple] battalion task forces—all under free-play enemy action, including electronic jamming and military cyber attack.”  Ibid.

    [35]. “Successful commanders understand that networks may be degraded during operations. They develop methods and measures to mitigate the impact of degraded networks. This may be through exploiting the potential of technology or through establishing trust, creating shared understanding, or providing a clear intent using mission orders.”  ADRP 6-0, 3-48.

    [36]. Ibid.

    [37]. At an 18 June 2013 symposium at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, BG James E. Rainey, director of the Mission Command Center of Excellence, announced the new Army Mission Command Strategy.  Rainey received the question whether “units were relying too much on technology in order to execute Mission Command,” he and replied that “units have to plan on the possibility that the enemy will have the capability of temporarily neutralizing our technological systems.”  In particular, he commented, “Mission Command set us up for success when we temporarily lose those systems.”  Another symposium participant, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey L. Bailey, deputy chief of staff, G-3, U.S. Army Forces Command, indicated that the U.S. Army was “requiring units to operate in degraded technological environments to ensure units are not becoming overly reliant on technology.”  LTC Jeff Allen, “Leaders Discuss Mission Command Strategy,” Combined Arms Center, 27 June 2013, available at <> (14 May 2013).

    [38]. “Information systems — especially when integrated into a coherent, reliable network — enable extensive information sharing, collaborative planning, execution, and assessment that promote shared understanding.”  ADRP 6-0, 3-49.

    [39]. Cone, 15.

    [40]. “The truth is that the most agile, adaptive, intelligent system on the battlefield or anywhere else in our Army is a human being.  We will spend billions of dollars researching how to improve the network, but it will mean little if we don’t focus our energies on command climates and environments that develop the human foundation—trust, initiative, dialogue and freedom of action within intent—that will allow mission command to thrive throughout our Army and our institutions to become as agile as our operating forces.”  COL Tom Guthrie, “Mission Command: Do We Have the Stomach for What is Really Required?” Army, June 2012, 28.


    Carter: Budget Cuts Threaten US Interests

    By John T. Bennett 5:25 p.m. EST March 3, 2015


    WASHINGTON — US Defense Secretary Ash Carter pleaded with senators Tuesday to roll back planned cuts to the military’s annual budget, saying US interests around the globe are at risk.

    The Obama administration last month sent Congress a 2016 budget request that seeks $561 billion in baseline national defense funds, $38 billion over existing federal spending caps. Unless Congress acts, the Pentagon would get just under $500 billion in fiscal 2016 after sequestration’s ax does its work.

    That amount of funding, Carter and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey told the Senate Armed Services Committee, means the military would be unable to carry out the current national defense strategy.

    “This committee and this Congress will determine whether our troops … can continue to defend our nation’s interests around the world with the readiness, capability and excellence our nation has grown accustomed to, and sometimes taken for granted,” Carter said.

    “Halting and reversing the decline in defense spending imposed by the [2011] Budget Control Act, the president’s budget would give us the resources we need to execute our nation’s defense strategy,” Carter said, meaning an un-sequestered funding level equal to Obama’s $534 billion request for the military.

    “It would ensure we field a modern, ready force in a balanced way, while also embracing change and reform, because asking for more taxpayer dollars requires we hold up our end of the bargain — by ensuring that every dollar is well spent,” the secretary said.


    “The president is proposing to increase the defense budget in fiscal year 2016, but in line with the projection he submitted to Congress last year in the fiscal year 2015 budget’s Future Years Defense Program [FYDP],” Carter said.

    “The Defense Department needs your support for this budget,” he told the panel, “which is driven by strategy, not the other way around.”

    SASC Ranking Member Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., warned of a coming “budgetary train wreck in the United States.”

    Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., typically a major critic of President Barack Obama, called the president’s decision to seek $38 billion more for defense than the caps would allow “more than justified.”

    “With each passing year since the BCA was enacted in 2011, and with the United States slashing its defense spending as a result, the world has become more dangerous, and threats to our nation have grown,” McCain said. “I don’t think that is purely a coincidence.”

    McCain, Reed and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, are pushing the chamber’s Budget committees to provide more Pentagon spending than the caps would allow.

    While McCain agrees with Obama’s topline number, he made clear he intends to push back and reverse some of its specific proposals.


    McCain, Reed Want $577B Plus War Funding

    “The president’s budget request responds to many critical priorities, particularly addressing cyber and space vulnerabilities, military readiness shortfalls, and essential long-term modernization initiatives,” McCain said.

    “At the same time, the president’s request reflects budget-driven policy decisions that would reduce some critical military capabilities, either through the early retirement or cancellation of existing systems, deferred development or procurement of new systems, or withheld funding for proven requirements,” he said. “This committee will closely scrutinize these decisions and seek to meet urgent and legitimate military needs where possible.”

    Under questioning about the impact the cuts are having abroad, Carter said US allies get “an outsized” picture “of our lack of will.” He added that America’s foes are “probably thinking, ‘What are these guys doing to themselves?'”

    The new secretary said “getting it together” to address sequestration “is a matter of deterrence.”

    Meantime, Dempsey told the panel the US should “consider” providing lethal arms to Ukraine in its standoff with Russian-backed separatists.

    On the Islamic State, Carter called the group “the social media terrorists.” He said the US and its allies “have to take the steam out of this thing.”

    “They’re not invincible,” Carter said.

    And on Russia, Carter noted that President Vladimir Putin “talks openly” about “having countries around him that are in his orbit, adding “Ukraine is an example of that.” He warned that “Putin will keep pushing and pushing.”





    Unleash the Swarm: The Future of Warfare

    Paul Scharre    

    March 4, 2015 ·

    Editor’s note: This is the third article in a six-part series, The Coming Swarm, on military robotics and automation as a part of the joint War on the Rocks-Center for a New American Security Beyond Offset Initiative. Read the first and second entries in this series.


    Could swarms of low-cost expendable systems change how militaries fight? Last November, Under Secretary of Defense Frank Kendall asked the Defense Science Board to examine a radical idea: “the use of large numbers of simple, low­ cost (i.e. ‘disposable’) objects vs. small numbers of complex (multi-functional) objects.” This concept is starkly at odds with decades-long trends in defense acquisitions toward smaller numbers of ever-more expensive, exquisite assets. As costs have risen, the number of fighting platforms in the U.S. inventory has steadily declined, even in spite of budget growth. For example, from 2001 to 2008, the U.S. Navy and Air Force base (non-war) budgets grew by 22% and 27% percent, respectively, adjusted for inflation. Yet the number of ships in the U.S. military inventory decreased by 10% and the number of aircraft by 20%. The result is ever-diminishing numbers of assets, placing even more demands on the few platforms remaining, a vicious spiral that rises costs even further and pushes numbers even lower. Over thirty years ago, Norm Augustine warned that:

    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 Navy 3½ days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.

    But we need not wait until 2054 when the U.S. military only has one combat aircraft for “Augustine’s Law” to be a problem. It is here today.

    Kendall is joined by a growing number of voices calling for a paradigm shift: from the few and exquisite to the numerous and cheap. T.X. Hammes wrote for WOTR in July of last year that the future of warfare was the “small, many, and smart” over the few and exquisite. And none other than the current Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work wrote back in January of 2014:

    Moreover, miniaturization of robotic systems would enable the rapid deployment of massive numbers of platforms – saturating an adversary’s defenses and enabling the use of swarming concepts of operation that have powerful potential to upend more linear approaches to war-fighting.

    Overwhelming an adversary through mass has major advantages, but a deluge is not a swarm. The power of swarming goes beyond overwhelming an adversary through sheer numbers. In nature, swarming behavior allows even relatively unintelligent animals like ants and bees to exhibit complex collective behavior, or “swarm intelligence.” Similarly, autonomous cooperative behavior among distributed robotic systems will enable not only greater mass on the battlefield, but also greater coordination, intelligence, and speed.


    What is a swarm?

    A swarm consists of disparate elements that coordinate and adapt their movements in order to give rise to an emergent, coherent whole. A wolf pack is something quite different from a group of wolves. Ant colonies can build structures and wage wars, but a large number of uncoordinated ants can accomplish neither. Harnessing the full potential of the robotics revolution will require building robotic systems that are able to coordinate their behaviors, both with each other and with human controllers, in order to give rise to coordinated fire and maneuver on the battlefield.

    Swarming in nature can lead to complex phenomena

    Swarms in nature are wholly emergent entities that arise from simple rules. Bees, ants, and termites are not individually intelligent, yet their colonies can exhibit extraordinarily complex behavior. Collectively, they are able to efficiently and effectively search for food and determine the optimal routes for bringing it back to their nests. Bees can “vote” on new nesting sites, collectively deciding the optimal locations. Ants can kill and move very large prey by cooperating. Termites can build massive structures, and ants can build bridges or float-like structures over water using their own bodies.

    These collective behaviors emerge because of simple rules at the individual level that lead to complex aggregate behavior. A colony of ants will, over time, converge on an optimal route back from a food source because each individual ant leaves a trail of pheromones behind it as it heads back to the nest. More ants will arrive back at the nest sooner via the faster route, leading to a stronger pheromone trail, which will then cause more ants to use that trail. No individual ant “knows” which trail is fastest, but collectively the colony nonetheless converges on the optimal route.


    Robot swarms differ from animal swarms in important ways

    Like ants, termites, and bees, simple rules governing the behavior of robots can lead to aggregate swarming behavior for cooperative scouting, foraging, flocking, construction, and other tasks. Robot swarms can differ from those found in nature in several interesting and significant ways. Robot swarms can leverage a mix of direct and implicit communication methods, including sending complex signals over long distances. Robot swarms may consist of heterogeneous agents – a mix of different types of robots working together to perform a task. For example, the “swarmanoid” is a heterogeneous swarm of “eye-bots, hand-bots, and foot-bots” that work together to solve problems.

    The most important difference between animal and robot swarms is that robot swarms are designed while swarm behavior in nature has evolved. Swarms in nature have no central controller or “common operating picture.” Robot swarms, on the other hand, ultimately operate at the direction of a human being to perform a specific task.


    Concepts for military swarming are largely unexplored

    Increasingly autonomous robotic systems allow the potential for swarming behavior, with one person controlling a large number of cooperative robotic systems. Just last year, for example, the Office of Naval Research demonstrated a swarm of small boats on the James River, conducting a mock escort of a high-value ship during a strait transit. Meanwhile, researchers at the Naval Postgraduate School are investigating the potential for swarm vs. swarm warfare, building up to a 50-on-50 swarm aerial dogfight.

    These developments raise important questions: How does one fight with a swarm? How does one control it? What are its weaknesses and vulnerabilities? Researchers are just beginning to understand the answers to these questions. At a higher level, though, a look at the historical evolution of conflict can help shed light on how we should think about the role that swarming plays in warfare.


    From melee to mass to maneuver to swarm

    In 2005, John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt released a groundbreaking monograph, Swarming and the Future of Conflict. It articulates an evolution of four doctrinal forms of conflict across history: melee, mass, maneuver, and swarm.


    Ronfeldt and Arquilla proposed that, over time as military organizations incorporated greater communications, training, and organization, they were able to fight in an increasingly sophisticated manner, leveraging more advanced doctrinal forms, with each evolution superior to the previous. Today, they argued, militaries predominantly conduct maneuver warfare. But swarming would be the next evolution.


    From melee to mass

    In ancient times, warriors fought in melee combat, fighting as uncoordinated individuals (think: Braveheart). The first innovation in doctrine was the invention of massed formations like the Greek Phalanx that allowed large numbers of individuals to fight in organized ranks and files as a coherent whole, supporting one another.

    Massed formations have the advantage of synchronizing the actions of combatants, and were a superior innovation in combat. But massing requires greater organization and training, as well as the ability for individuals to communicate with one another in order to act collectively.


    Melee vs Mass

    In melee fighting, combatants fight as individuals, uncoordinated. Massed formations have the advantage of synchronizing the actions of combatants, allowing them to support one another in combat. Massing requires greater organization, however, as well as the ability for individuals to communicate to one another in order to act as a whole.


    From mass to maneuver

    The next evolution in combat was maneuver warfare, which combined the benefits of massed elements with the ability for multiple massed elements to maneuver across long distances and mutually support each other. This was a superior innovation to mass on its own because it allowed separate formations to move as independent elements to outflank the enemy and force the enemy into a disadvantageous fighting position. Maneuver warfare requires greater mobility than massing, however, as well as the ability to communicate effectively between separated fighting elements.


    Mass vs Maneuver

    Maneuver warfare combines the advantages of mass with increased mobility. In maneuver warfare, mutually supporting separate massed formations move as independent elements to outflank the enemy and force the enemy into a disadvantageous fighting position. Maneuver warfare requires greater mobility than massing as well as the ability to communicate effectively between separated fighting elements.


    From maneuver to swarm

    Arquilla and Ronfeldt’s hypothesis was that maneuver was not the culmination of combat doctrine, but rather another stage of evolution that would be superseded by swarming. In swarming, large numbers of dispersed individuals or small groups coordinate their actions to fight as a coherent whole.

    Swarm warfare, therefore, combines the highly decentralized nature of melee combat with the mobility of maneuver and a high degree of organization and cohesion, allowing a large number of individual elements to fight collectively. Swarming has different organization and communication requirements than maneuver warfare, since the number of simultaneously maneuvering and fighting individual elements is significantly larger.


    Maneuver vs Swarm

    Swarm warfare combines the highly decentralized nature of melee combat with the mobility of maneuver and a high degree of organization and cohesion, allowing a large number of individual elements to fight collectively. Swarming has much higher organization and communication requirements than maneuver warfare, since the number of simultaneously maneuvering and fighting individual elements is significantly larger.


    Challenges to fighting as a swarm

    These four types of warfare – melee, mass, maneuver, and swarm – require increasingly sophisticated levels of command-and-control structures and social and information organization. Examples of all four forms, including swarming, can be found dating to antiquity, but widespread use of higher forms of warfare did not occur until social and information innovations, such as written orders, signal flags, or radio communication, enabled coherent massing and maneuver.

    Swarming tactics date back to Genghis Khan, but have often played a less-than-central role in military conflict. Recent examples of swarming in conflict can be seen in extremely decentralized organizations like protest movements or riots. In 2011, London rioters were able to communicate, via London’s Blackberry network, the location of police barricades. They were then able to rapidly disperse to avoid the barricades and re-coalesce in new areas to continue looting. The police were significantly challenged in their ability to contain the rioters, since the rioters actually had better real-time information than the police. Moreover, because the rioters were an entirely decentralized organization, they could more rapidly respond to shifting events on the ground. Rioters did not need to seek permission to change their behavior; individuals simply adjusted their actions based on new information they received.

    This example points to some of the challenges in swarming. Effectively employing swarming requires a high degree of information flow among disparate elements; otherwise the fighting will rapidly devolve into melee combat. Individual elements must not only be connected with one another and able to pass information, but also able to process it quickly. It also depends upon the ability to treat individual elements as relatively sacrificial, since if they are isolated they may be subject to being overwhelmed by larger, massed elements. Finally, and perhaps most challenging for military organizations, swarming depends on a willingness to devolve a significant amount of control over battlefield execution to the fighting elements closest to the battlefield’s edge. Thus, swarming is in many ways the ultimate in commander’s intent and decentralized execution. The resulting combat advantage is far greater speed of reaction to enemy movements and battlefield events in real-time.


    The Operational Advantages of Robot Swarms

    The information-processing and communications requirements of swarming, as well as the requirement to treat individual elements as relatively sacrificial, makes swarming a difficult tactic to employ with people. It is ideal, however, for robotic systems. In fact, as militaries deploy large numbers of low-cost robotic systems, controlling each system remotely as is done today would be cost-prohibitive in terms of personnel requirements. It will also slow down the pace of operations. Autonomous, cooperative behavior of multiple robotic systems operating under human command at the mission level will be necessary to control large numbers of robotic systems. Autonomous, cooperative behavior will also unlock many advantages on the battlefield in terms of greater coordination, intelligence and speed. A few examples are given below:

    ◦Coordinated attack and defense – Swarms could be used for coordinated attack, saturating enemy defenses with waves of attacks from multiple directions simultaneously, as well as coordinated defense. Swarms of small boats could defend surface vessels from enemy fast attack craft, shifting in response to perceived threats. Defensive counter-swarms of aerial drones could home in on and destroy attacks from incoming swarms of drones or boats.

    ◦Dynamic self-healing networks – Swarming behavior can allow robotic systems to act as dynamic self-healing networks. This can be used for a variety of purposes, such as maintaining surveillance coverage over an area, resilient self-healing communications networks, intelligent minefields or adaptive logistics lines.

    ◦Distributed sensing and attack – Swarms can perform distributed sensing and attack. Distributing assets over a wide area can allow them to function as an array with greater sensor fidelity. Conversely, they can also, in principle, conduct distributed focused electronic attack, synching up their electromagnetic signals to provide focused point jamming.

    ◦Deception – Cooperative swarms of robotic vehicles can be used for large-scale deception operations, performing feints or false maneuvers to deceive enemy forces. Coordinated emissions from dispersed elements can give the impression of a much larger vehicle or even an entire formation moving through an area.

    ◦Swarm intelligence – Robotic systems can harness “swarm intelligence” through distributed voting mechanisms, which could improve target identification, geolocation accuracy, and provide increased resilience to spoofing.

    Swarming has tremendous potential on the battlefield for coordinated action, far beyond simply overwhelming an adversary with sheer numbers. However, paradigm shifts in warfare ultimately are derived not just from a new technology, but the combination of technology with new doctrine, organization, and concepts of operation. Concepts for swarming are largely unexplored, but researchers are beginning to conduct experiments to understand how to employ, control and fight with swarms. Because much of the technology behind robotic swarms will come from the commercial sector and will be widely available, there is not a moment to lose. The U.S. military should invest in an aggressive program of experimentation and iterative technology development, linking together developers and warfighters, to harness the power of swarms.

    Paul Scharre is a fellow and Director of the 20YY Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and author of CNAS’ recent report, “Robotics on the Battlefield Part II: The Coming Swarm.” He is a former infantryman in the 75th Ranger Regiment and has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.



    Submitted Statement — House Appropriations Committee-Defense (Budget Request)

    As Submitted by Secretary of Defense Ash Carter, Washington, D.C., Wednesday, March 04, 2015


    Chairman Frelinghuysen, Ranking Member Visclosky, Members of the Committee:

    thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request for the Department of Defense (DoD). Oversight is key to our system of government. I not only welcome your wisdom and experience; I also want your partnership, and need your help.

    I also want to thank Chairman Dempsey for his leadership, as well as Deputy Secretary Work and Vice Chairman Winnefeld, in particular for all their hard work over the past year in helping develop the budget request we will be discussing today.



    During my first week as Secretary of Defense, I had the opportunity to see our troops in Afghanistan and Kuwait. Hearing from them was one of my highest priorities upon taking office.

    In Afghanistan, our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are helping cement progress made toward a more secure, stable, and prosperous future, by training, advising, and assisting Afghan forces and continuing their counter-terrorism mission. They are working to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for attacks on our homeland, or on our partners and allies.


    In Kuwait, our men and women in uniform are contributing to our counter-ISIL coalition in Iraq and Syria. They are working closely with Iraq and our global coalition partners to ensure that local forces can deliver lasting defeat to a vile enemy that has barbarically murdered American citizens, Iraqis, Syrians, and so many others, and that seeks to export its hateful and twisted ideology across the Middle East and North Africa, and beyond.

    No doubt the challenges and opportunities we face extend well beyond the Middle East.

    In Europe, our troops are helping reinforce and reassure our allies in Eastern Europe as we confront a reversion to archaic security thinking.

    In the Asia-Pacific – home to half the world’s population and economy – they are working to modernize our alliances, build new partnerships, and helping the United States continue to underwrite stability, peace, and prosperity in the region – as we have for decades.

    And as we still meet longtime challenges, such as the continuing imperative to counter the spread of weapons of mass destruction, our armed forces are also addressing new dangers, such as in cyberspace.

    Across the world, it is America’s leadership, and America’s men and women in uniform, who often stand between disorder and order – who stand up to malicious and destabilizing actors, while standing behind those who believe in a more secure, just, and prosperous future.

    Mr. Chairman, this committee and this Congress will determine whether our troops can continue to do so – whether they can continue to defend our nation’s interests around the world with the readiness, capability, and excellence our nation has grown accustomed to, and sometimes taken for granted.

    Halting and reversing the decline in defense spending imposed by the Budget Control Act, the President’s budget would give us the resources we need to execute our nation’s defense strategy.

    It would ensure we field a modern, ready force in a balanced way, while also embracing change and reform, because asking for more taxpayer dollars requires we hold up our end of the bargain – by ensuring that every dollar is well-spent.

    The President is proposing to increase the defense budget in Fiscal Year 2016, but in line with the projection he submitted to Congress last year in the Fiscal Year 2015 budget’s Future Years Defense Program (FYDP). The department is executing the plan it presented last year. Accordingly, for Fiscal Year 2016, the President is proposing $534 billion for DoD’s base budget and $51 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), totaling $585 billion to sustain America’s national security and defense strategies.

    The Defense Department needs your support for this budget, which is driven by strategy, not the other way around. More specifically, it is driven by the defense strategy identified in the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, which reflects the longtime, bipartisan consensus that our military must protect the homeland, build security globally, and project power and win decisively. We do so in line with our longstanding tradition of maintaining a superior force with an unmatched technological edge, working in close partnership with friends and allies, upholding the rules-based international order, and keeping our commitments to the people who make up the all-volunteer force.

    Our defense budget’s priorities line up with our strategic priorities: sustaining America’s global leadership by:

    • rebalancing to the Asia-Pacific region;

    • maintaining a strong commitment to security and stability in Europe and the Middle East;

    • sustaining a global counterterrorism campaign;

    • strengthening key alliances and partnerships; and,

    • prioritizing key modernization efforts.


    This budget ensures we can execute our defense strategy with manageable risk, even as it does require us to accept elevated risk in some areas.

    But – and I want to be clear about this – parts of our nation’s defense strategy cannot be executed under sequestration, which remains the law of the land and is set to return 211 days from today.

    As I have said before, the prospect of sequestration’s serious damage to our national security and economy is tragically not a result of an economic emergency or recession.

    It is not because these budget cuts are a mathematical solution to the nation’s overall fiscal challenge – they are not.

    It is not because paths of curbing nondiscretionary spending and reforming our tax system have been explored and exhausted – they have not.

    It is not due to a breakthrough in military technology or a new strategic insight that somehow makes continued defense spending unnecessary – there has been no such silver bullet.

    And it is not because the world has suddenly become more peaceful – for it is abundantly clear that it has not.

    Instead, sequestration is purely the collateral damage of political gridlock. And friends and potential enemies around the world are watching.

    We in the Department of Defense are prepared to make difficult strategic and budgetary choices. We are also committed – more than ever before – to finding new ways to improve the way we do business and be more efficient and accountable in our defense spending.

    But in order to ensure our military remains the world’s finest fighting force, we need to banish the clouds of fiscal uncertainty that have obscured our plans and forced inefficient choices. We need a long-term restoration of normal budgeting and a deal that the President can sign, and that lives up to our responsibility of defending this country and the global order. And that means, among other things, avoiding sequestration.

    To be sure, even under sequestration, America will remain the world’s strongest military power. But under sequestration, our military – and our national security – would have to take on irresponsible and unnecessary risk – risk that previous Administrations and Congressional leaders have wisely chosen to avoid.

    Sequestration would lead over time to a military that looks fundamentally different and performs much differently than what we are used to. Not only as Secretary of Defense, but simply as an American, I deeply, earnestly hope we can avert that future. I am committed to working with the members of this committee, and your colleagues throughout the Congress to prevent it.

    I know how proud you and all Americans are that we field the finest fighting force in the world. But our military superiority was not built, and will not be sustained, by resting on our laurels. So instead of resigning ourselves to having the diminished military that sequestration would give us, I propose that we build the force of the future, together.



    Assuming the Congress funds the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget and averts sequestration, we have the opportunity to build the force of the future. We have inherited a long tradition of military excellence from those who came before us, and we must preserve it for those who will come after.


    But to do so, DoD must embrace the future – and embrace change – throughout our institution. We must be open to new ideas and new ways of doing business that can help us operate more efficiently and perform more effectively in an increasingly dynamic and competitive environment.

    As DoD counters the very real dangers we face in the world, we will also grab hold of the bright opportunities before us – opportunities to be more competitive and re-forge our nation’s military and defense establishment into a future force that harnesses and develops the latest, cutting-edge technology, and that remains superior to any potential adversary; one that is efficient and accountable to the taxpayers who support it; and one that competes and succeeds in attracting the next generation of talented Americans to fill its ranks.

    These are the three main pillars on which DoD will build the force of the future.

    Competitiveness through Technological and Operational Superiority

    As other nations pursue comprehensive military modernization programs and develop technologies designed to blunt our military’s traditional advantages, the first pillar of our future force must be ensuring that we maintain – and extend – our technological edge over any potential adversary.

    The President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget includes targeted investments in modernized space, cyber, and missile defense capabilities geared toward countering emerging threats that could upend our technological superiority and our ability to project power. DoD would look forward to providing a full account of our proposed modernization investments, and the threats that compel them, in a classified setting.

    The budget also supports the Defense Innovation Initiative, which will help ensure the military continues to ride the leading edge of innovation, and makes deferred modernization investments that will ensure America’s nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure, and effective. Across all these efforts, we must be open to global, commercial technology as well, and learn from advances in the private sector.

    Because we know that technology alone – however advanced – cannot sustain our military’s superiority, just as important is a ruthless focus on operational excellence. This means using our existing forces and capabilities in new, creative, and fiscally prudent ways to achieve our objectives. This also means working to develop more innovative and effective strategic and military options for the President, introducing a new and more rapidly responsive global force management model, developing new operational concepts, and reforming and updating all our operational plans.


    Competitiveness through Accountability & Efficiency

    The second pillar of building the force of the future requires redoubling our efforts to make DoD more accountable and efficient. We live in a competitive world and need to be a competitive organization. If we don’t lean ourselves out and maintain our fighting weight, we have no business asking our fellow citizens for more resources.

    As I made clear in my confirmation hearing, I cannot suggest greater support and stability for the defense budget without at the same time frankly noting that not every defense dollar is always spent as well as it should be.

    American taxpayers rightly have trouble comprehending – let alone supporting – the defense budget when they read of cost overruns, insufficient accounting and accountability, needless overhead, and the like.

    If we’re asking taxpayers to not only give us half a trillion of their hard-earned dollars, but also give us more than we got last year, we have to demonstrate that we can be responsible with it.

    We must do all we can to spend their money more wisely and more responsibly. We must reduce overhead, and we must curb wasteful spending practices wherever they are.


    DoD has sought to continuously improve our acquisition processes over the past five years, and I am proud myself to have been a part of that effort. Today, I am recommitting the Defense Department to working both with Congress, and on our own, to find new and more creative ways of stretching our defense dollars to give our troops the weapons and equipment they need.

    The department’s Better Buying Power initiative is now on its third iteration since I established it in 2010, with Better Buying Power 3.0 focused on achieving dominant capabilities through technical excellence. I know well and very much appreciate the strong support for acquisition reform demonstrated by the Senate and House Armed Services Committees, and their Chairmen, and I share their deep desire to achieve real, lasting results that benefit both America’s security and taxpayers.

    DoD is working closely with committee Members and staff on ways to eliminate some of the burdensome and duplicative administrative requirements levied on our program managers. To that end, the President’s FY 2016 budget submission includes a number of legislative proposals designed to help streamline the program oversight process. We look forward to continuing our close partnership with Congress to see these measures implemented.

    As we sustain our focus on acquisition reform, I believe that DoD must concurrently undertake a wholesale review of our business practices and management systems.

    Our goal is to identify where we can further reduce the cost of doing business to free up funding for readiness and modernization – ensuring that our energy, focus, and resources are devoted to supporting our frontline operations as much as possible.

    We intend to work closely with industry partners – who execute or enable many of our programs, logistics, training, administrative, and other functions – throughout this process, both to explore how they could help us accomplish our missions at reduced cost, and because they may have new and innovative ideas worth considering.

    Additionally, the Defense Department is pursuing creative force structure changes to be more agile and efficient – such as how we’re modernizing our cruisers and restructuring Army aviation. We’ve established a new Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. And four previous rounds of efficiency and budget reduction initiatives have yielded approximately $78 billion in projected and actual savings in FY 2016, helping to cushion our defense programs from successive years of budget cuts.

    We’re also working hard to cut unnecessary overhead: from reducing management headquarters budgets by 20 percent across the department, to divesting excess bases and infrastructure.

    When DoD recently requested a round of domestic Base Realignment and Closure, Congress asked that we first pursue efficiencies in Europe. We did. DoD has approved and is pursuing a broad European Infrastructure Consolidation – which will result in some $500 million in annual recurring savings. We now need a round of domestic BRAC beginning in Fiscal Year 2017 to address excess infrastructure here at home.

    Simply put, we have more bases in more places than we need. We estimate DoD has about 25 percent more infrastructure capacity than necessary. We must be permitted to divest surplus infrastructure as we reduce and renew force structure. With projected recurring savings from a new BRAC round totaling some $2 billion a year, it would be irresponsible to cut tooth without also cutting tail.

    For base communities in question, it’s important to remember that BRAC is often an opportunity to be seized. Communities have shown that BRAC is ultimately what you make of it, and there are plenty of places that have emerged from it stronger than they were before.

    Consider Lawrence, Indiana, which took advantage of Fort Harrison’s closure in 1996 to create an enterprise zone, community college, recreational facilities, and commercial sites that in just 7 years not only replaced 100 percent of the jobs lost when the base closed, but created even more.

    Charleston, South Carolina stepped up when the Charleston Naval Complex closed in 1993, and now is home to more than 80 new industrial and federal agency tenants. The former naval base is now producing millions of dollars’ worth of goods that are exported to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

    And at former Mather Air Force Base in Sacramento County, California, the local redevelopment effort has invested $400 million and created more than 6,500 jobs – over six times the number of jobs lost when the base closed in 1993. It’s now home to scores of businesses, a mixture of private companies, government agencies, and non-profit organizations.

    These are just a few examples of what can happen when local leaders, communities, and businesses work together and take advantage of the opportunities for new jobs and new growth after BRAC.

    One more point on accountability: Whether we’re improving acquisition or closing bases, it is not enough to simply tell taxpayers that we’re spending their dollars responsibly. We have to also show them, which is why good cost accounting and financial auditability is so important to me.

    DoD has made significant progress over the past five years in adding more discipline to our business environment, but there is much work left to be done, and we remain fully committed to our current audit goals.

    Today, over 90 percent of DoD’s current year, general fund budgetary resources are under some form of financial audit, with the military services all involved and following the model employed by the Marine Corps.

    We plan to submit every corner of DoD to this kind of audit regimen beginning in FY 2016. With this foundation, the department will progressively expand the scope of these audits until all our organizations, funds, and financial statements will be under audit in FY 2018, complying with Congress’s statutory direction to be audit ready by the end of FY 2017.

    There’s a reason why auditing is a basic practice as ancient as the Domesday Book, and it is time that DoD finally lives up to its moral and legal obligation to be accountable to those who pay its bills. I intend to do everything we can – including holding people to account – to get this done.


    Competitiveness through Attracting Future Talent

    Third, but no less important, DoD must be competitive when it comes to attracting new generations of talented and dedicated Americans to our calling of defending the nation.

    We know how the attacks of September 11th, 2001 motivated so many Americans to want to be part of this noble endeavor. Going forward, we must ensure our future force can continue to recruit the finest young men and women our country has to offer – military and civilian – like those who serve today.

    As we do this, we must be mindful that the next generation expects jobs that give them purpose, meaning, and dignity. They want to be able to make real contributions, have their voices heard, and gain valuable and transferable experience. We must shape the kind of force they want to be in. The battle for talent will demand enlightened and agile leaders, new training schemes, new educational opportunities, and new compensation approaches.

    DoD is already pursuing several initiatives that will help ensure the military is a compelling career option. In recent years, we’ve been expanding pilot programs that facilitate breaks in service that let our people gain diverse work experience. We’ve tailored our transition assistance program, Transition GPS, to better prepare servicemembers to enter the civilian workforce – providing different tracks for those who want to go to college, those who want skills training, and those who want to be entrepreneurs. And we’ve put a renewed focus on military ethics and professionalism, as well as making sure our military health system is held to the same high-quality standards we expect from the servicemembers and military family members under its care.

    Because we know how important it is – both for today’s servicemembers and the generation that will follow them – we’re also deeply committed to creating an environment and culture where we live the values we defend and every servicemember is treated with the dignity and respect they deserve.

    That’s why we’re continuing to expand combat positions available to women – because everyone who’s able and willing to serve their country should have full and equal opportunity to do so.

    It’s why we’re striving to eliminate sexual assault from the military.

    And it’s why we’ve been making sure gay and lesbian servicemembers can serve openly, and that their families receive the benefits their loved ones have earned.

    But for everything we’re doing, DoD cannot build the force of the future by ourselves. We need Congress’s help.


    What We Need Congress To Do

    Since our current defense budget drawdown began several years ago, I’ve observed something of a phenomenon here in Washington.

    Along with our troops, their families, and our defense civilians, I thank our supporters on Capitol Hill, including most members of this committee, who have joined with us in trying to do everything possible to get Congress to prevent more mindless cuts to our defense budget.

    Unfortunately, these combined efforts have been unsuccessful in actually restoring adequate and predictable resources for DoD. We have had to endure deep cuts to readiness, weather pay freezes and civilian furloughs, and cut badly needed investments in modernization and critical technologies. At the same time, Congress has sometimes sought to protect programs that DoD has argued are no longer needed, or require significant reform.

    We have had the worst of both worlds – a double whammy of mindless sequestration coupled with inability to reform.

    As many of you know, it wasn’t always this way.

    During the defense drawdown after the Cold War, DoD had much more flexibility thanks to the help of Congress. For example, we were able to resize the Army, retire the A-6 Intruder and many other weapons systems, and implement multiple BRAC rounds, which freed up dollars we re-allocated to keep our force structure ready, capable, and deployable around the world.

    I know some of the changes and reforms we’re proposing may feel like a significant change from how we currently do business. But if anyone can understand how the dots connect and how we need Congress’s help to be able to defend our country, our allies, and our interests in an increasingly dangerous world, it’s you – the members of this committee.

    The fact is, if we’re not able to implement the changes and reforms we need, we will be forced to make painful tradeoffs, even at the higher topline the President is requesting. We will lose further ground on modernization and readiness – leaving tomorrow’s force less capable and leaving our nation less secure. And we will face significant hurdles to executing our nation’s defense strategy. That’s why we need your help.



    As we do every year when formulating our budget, this budget seeks to balance readiness, capability, and size – because we must ensure that, whatever the size of our force, we have the resources to provide every servicemember with the right training, the right equipment, the right compensation, and the right quality of fellow troops. That is the only way we can ensure our military is fully prepared to accomplish its missions.

    Almost two-thirds of DoD’s Fiscal Year 2016 base budget – $348.4 billion – funds our day-to-day expenses, similar to what a business would call its operating budget. This covers, among other expenses, the cost of fuel, spare parts, logistics support, maintenance, service contracts, and administration. It also includes pay and benefits for military and civilian personnel, which by themselves comprise nearly half of our total budget.

    The remaining third of our base budget – $185.9 billion – comprises investments in future defense needs, much like a business’ capital improvement budget. It pays for the research, development, testing, evaluation, and ultimately acquisition of the weapons, equipment, and facilities that our servicemembers need.

    Broken down differently, our base budget includes the following categories:

    • Military pay and benefits (including health care and retirement benefits) – $169 billion, or about 32 percent of the base budget.

    • Civilian pay and benefits – $79 billion, or about 15 percent of the base budget.

    • Other operating costs – $105 billion, or about 20 percent of the base budget.

    • Acquisition and other investments (Procurement; research, development, testing, and evaluation; and new facilities construction) – $181 billion, or about 34 percent of the base budget.



    What makes this budget different is the focus it puts, more so than any other over the last decade, on new funding for modernization. After years of war, which required the deferral of longer-term modernization investments, this budget puts renewed emphasis on preparing for future threats – especially threats that challenge our military’s power projection capabilities.


    Threats to Power Projection and our Technological Edge

    Being able to project power anywhere across the globe by rapidly surging aircraft, ships, troops, and supplies lies at the core of our defense strategy and what the American people have come to expect of their military. It guarantees that when an acute crisis erupts anywhere in the world, America can provide aid when disaster strikes, reinforce our allies when they are threatened, and protect our citizens and interests globally. It also assures freedom of navigation and overflight, and allows global commerce to flow freely.

    For decades, U.S. global power projection has relied on the ships, planes, submarines, bases, aircraft carriers, satellites, networks, and other advanced capabilities that comprise our military’s unrivaled technological edge. But today that superiority is being challenged in unprecedented ways.

    Advanced military technologies, from rockets and drones to chemical and biological capabilities, have found their way into the arsenals of both non-state actors as well as previously less capable militaries. And other nations – among them Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea – have been pursuing long-term, comprehensive military modernization programs to close the technology gap that has long existed between them and the United States.


    These modernization programs are developing and fielding advanced aircraft, submarines, and both longer-range and more accurate ballistic and cruise missiles. They’re developing new and advanced anti-ship and anti-air missiles, as well as new counter-space, cyber, electronic warfare, undersea, and air attack capabilities. In some areas, we see levels of new weapons development that we haven’t seen since the mid-1980s, near the peak of the Soviet Union’s surge in Cold War defense spending.


    Targeted Investments in the President’s Budget

    One of the reasons we are asking for more money this year than last year is to reverse recent under-investment in new weapons systems by making targeted investments to help us stay ahead of emerging threats – adding substantial funding for space control and launch capabilities, missile defense, cyber, and advanced sensors, communications, and munitions – all of which are critical for power projection in contested environments.

    The budget also makes significant investments in the resilience and survivability of our infrastructure and forces, particularly in the western Pacific, with improved active defenses such as our Patriot and AEGIS systems, as well as selective hardening of key installations and facilities.

    DoD is also addressing the erosion of U.S. technological superiority with the Defense Innovation Initiative (DII). The DII is an ambitious department-wide effort to identify and invest in innovative ways to sustain and advance America’s military dominance for the 21st century.

    The DII will identify, develop, and field breakthrough technologies and systems through a new Long-Range Research & Development Planning Program, and the President’s budget supports this effort through specific investments in promising new technologies and capabilities such as high-speed strike weapons, advanced aeronautics, rail guns, and high energy lasers. The DII also involves the development of innovative operational concepts that would help us use our current capabilities in new and creative ways. The ultimate aim is to help craft ‘offset strategies’ that maximize our strengths and exploit the weaknesses of potential adversaries.

    Our budget is also making focused and sustained investments in modernization and manning across the nuclear enterprise, even as we reduce the roles and numbers of nuclear weapons in the U.S. nuclear posture. These investments are critical for ensuring the continued safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent, as well as the long-term health of the force that supports our nuclear triad, particularly after recent troubling lapses in parts of DoD’s nuclear enterprise. To help fund improvements across the nuclear enterprise, we are requesting an increase of approximately $1 billion in Fiscal Year 2016, and about $8 billion over the FYDP.



    DoD must rebuild and recover after more than 13 years of uninterrupted war. But our effort to do so has been frustrated by two variables, both of which are out of our hands – one, the continued high operational tempo and high demand for our forces, and two, the uncertainty surrounding annual appropriations.

    Only over the last couple of years has readiness begun to recover from the strains of over a decade of war, exacerbated by sequestration in 2013. Nevertheless, readiness remains at troubling levels across the force.

    While our forward-deployed forces remain ready, our surge forces at home are not as ready as they need to be. The President’s budget therefore invests in near-term unit readiness by adjusting service end-strength ramps to reduce personnel turbulence and stress on the force, while increasing funding to improve home station training and training-related infrastructure.

    This past year has demonstrated that our military must be ready to fight more than just the last war. We have to be prepared across all domains – air, land, sea, space, and in cyberspace – to engage in both low- and high-end missions and conflicts, as well as in the shadowy, so-called ‘hybrid warfare’ space in between.

    While this budget submission’s requested and projected funding levels will enable the military to continue making steady progress toward full-spectrum combat readiness, the gains we’ve recently made are fragile. Sustaining them to provide for ready and capable forces will require both time and a stable flow of resources, which is why, even under the budget we’re requesting, the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps won’t all reach their readiness goals until 2020, and the Air Force won’t do so until 2023.



    For Fiscal Year 2016, the Army’s base budget of $126.5 billion supports an end-strength of 1,015,000 soldiers – 475,000 soldiers on active duty, 342,000 soldiers in the Army National Guard, and 198,000 soldiers in the Army Reserve – comprising 57 total force brigade combat teams and associated enablers. The budget also supports 19 brigade-level training rotations at the Army’s Combat Training Centers, which are critical to the Army’s efforts to reach full-spectrum combat readiness.

    While the Army’s postwar end-strength target remains a force of approximately 450,000 active-duty soldiers, 335,000 Army National Guard soldiers and 195,000 Army Reserve soldiers, this year’s budget slows the drawdown rate. Rather than planning to reduce the active-duty force by 20,000 soldiers and the National Guard by 14,000 soldiers in Fiscal Year 2016, the Army will instead plan to reduce by 15,000 active-duty soldiers and 8,000 Guardsmen, while still maintaining its schedule for reducing unit structure. This will help mitigate personnel turbulence and stress, while also improving unit manning as the Army approaches its target size.

    The Army’s budget for Fiscal Year 2016 also includes $4.5 billion for Army helicopter modernization. Specifically:

    • UH-60M Black Hawk: We are requesting $1.6 billion to support buying 94 multi-mission helicopters in FY 2016, and $6.1 billion for 301 helicopters over the FYDP.

    • AH-64E Apache: We are requesting $1.4 billion to support development and purchase of 64 attack helicopters in FY 2016, and $6.2 billion for 303 helicopters over the FYDP.

    • CH-47F Chinook: We are requesting $1.1 billion to support development and purchase of 39 cargo helicopters in FY 2016, and $3.2 billion for 95 helicopters over the FYDP.

    • UH-72 Lakota: We are requesting $187 million in FY 2016 to support the final buy of 28 light utility helicopters.

    These investments require difficult trade-offs given today’s constrained fiscal environment. That is why the Army is resubmitting the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative, which makes the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars by retiring outdated airframes and streamlining the Army’s helicopter fleet so that platforms can be modernized and allocated where they are needed most.

    As you know, I am committed to reviewing the Army’s Aviation Restructure Initiative. However, the Army believes that fully implementing the Aviation Restructure Initiative (ARI), which includes shifting National Guard Apaches to active-duty units while providing Guard units with Black Hawks, is prudent for several reasons.

    For one, Apaches are in high demand at high levels of readiness that would require Guard units manning them to mobilize at unprecedentedly high rates; or alternatively, for the Army to spend a total of approximately $4.4 billion to fully equip the Guard’s Apache battalions, and then $350 million per year to maintain them at those high levels of readiness. Meanwhile, Black Hawks are more suitable for Guard missions here at home. Whether homeland defense, disaster relief, support to civil authorities, or complementing our active-duty military, these missions tend to demand transport and medical capabilities more than the attack capabilities of Apaches. In sum, the initiative avoids approximately $12 billion in costs through Fiscal Year 2035 and saves over $1 billion annually starting in Fiscal Year 2020. Considering these figures, implementing the Aviation Restructure Initiative is not only in the best warfighting interest of the Army, but also in the interest of the taxpayers who fund it.

    I know this is a contentious issue. However, we believe the ARI is the least cost, best solution for the Army’s aviation enterprise. DoD looks forward to making its case to the National Commission on the Future of the Army established by the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act.


    Navy & Marine Corps:

    The Navy and Marine Corps are allocated $161 billion for Fiscal Year 2016, supporting a 282-ship fleet in 2016 and a 304-ship fleet by Fiscal Year 2020 with a return to 11 aircraft carriers, 386,600 active-duty and Reserve sailors, and 222,900 active-duty and Reserve Marines.

    The President’s budget invests $16.6 billion in shipbuilding for Fiscal Year 2016, and $95.9 billion over the FYDP. The budget protects critical Navy and Marine Corps investments in undersea, surface, amphibious, and airborne capabilities – all of which are critical for addressing emerging threats. Specifically:

    • Submarines: We are requesting $5.7 billion for FY 2016, and $30.9 billion over the FYDP, to support buying two Virginia-class attack submarines a year through FY 2020. We are also requesting $1.4 billion in FY 2016, and $10.5 billion over the FYDP, to support the replacement for the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine.

    • DDG-51 Guided Missile Destroyers: We are requesting $3.4 billion for FY 2016, and $18.5 billion over the FYDP, to support the continued development and procurement of two DDG-51 destroyers a year through FY 2020.

    • Aircraft Carriers: The President’s budget plan enables us to support 11 carrier strike groups. We are requesting $678 million in FY 2016, and $3.9 billion over the FYDP, to support the refueling and overhaul of the U.S.S. George Washington. We are also requesting $2.8 billion in FY 2016, and $12.5 billion over the FYDP, to support completion of the Gerald Ford, fourth-year construction of the John F. Kennedy, and long-lead items for CVN-80, Enterprise.

    • Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and Small Surface Combatants: We are requesting $1.8 billion in FY 2016, and $9.4 billion over the FYDP, to support development and procurement of 14 littoral combat ships over the FYDP – including three LCS in FY 2016. We are also requesting $55 million in FY 2016, and $762.8 million over the FYDP, to support capability improvements to the survivability and lethality of the LCS required for the Navy to modify it into a small surface combatant.

    • Fleet Replenishment Oiler: We are requesting $674 million to support buying one new fleet replenishment oiler, the TAO(X), in FY 2016 – part of a $2.4 billion request to buy four of them over the FYDP.

    • Amphibious Transport Docks: We are requesting $668 million in FY 2016 to finish buying one San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock.

    • F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter: The Department of the Navy is procuring two F-35 variants, the Navy carrier-based F-35C and the Marine Corps short-take-off-and-vertical-landing F-35B. The Navy and Marine Corps are requesting $3.1 billion in FY 2016 to support procurement of 13 aircraft – nine F-35Bs and four F-35Cs – and aircraft modifications and initial spares, and $20.9 billion over the FYDP to support procurement of 121 aircraft and aircraft modifications and initial spares.

    • Patrol and Airborne Early Warning Aircraft: We are requesting $3.4 billion in FY 2016, and $10.1 billion over the FYDP, to support continued development and procurement of 47 P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft through FY 2020. We are also requesting $1.3 billion in FY 2016, and $6.1 billion over the FYDP, to support buying 24 E-2D Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft through FY 2020.

    Making these investments while also abiding by fiscal prudence, we had to make more difficult trade-offs. For that reason, we are resubmitting our request to place some of the Navy’s cruisers and an amphibious landing ship – 12 ships in total, including 11 cruisers – into a phased modernization program that will provide them with enhanced capability and a longer lifespan. Given that our cruisers are the most capable ships for controlling the air defenses of a carrier strike group, and in light of anti-ship missile capabilities being pursued by other nations, this modernization program will, over the next decade and a half, be a baseline requirement for sustaining both our cruiser fleet and 11 carrier strike groups through 2045.

    I acknowledge and appreciate the plan put forward in the omnibus Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act, 2015, which helps us get to our goal, and which we have begun to implement. However, this plan is more expensive, and results in shorter ship life. Considering that our plan is critical for our power projection capabilities, we believe it should be implemented in full, and look forward to working with the Congress as we move forward.


    Air Force:

    The Air Force is allocated a base budget of $152.9 billion for Fiscal Year 2016, supporting a force of 491,700 active-duty, Guard, and Reserve airmen, 49 tactical fighter squadrons, 96 operational bombers out of a total 154-aircraft bomber fleet, and a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent that includes 450 intercontinental ballistic missiles.

    The Air Force’s budget reflects DoD’s decision to protect modernization funding for advanced capabilities and platforms most relevant to both present and emerging threats – in this case, fifth-generation fighters, long-range bombers, and mid-air refueling aircraft to assure our air superiority and global reach; both manned and remotely-piloted aircraft to help meet Combatant Commanders’ needs for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR); and research and development to ensure continued and competitive space launch capabilities. Specifically:

    • F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter: We are requesting $6 billion to support buying 44 aircraft, aircraft modifications, and initial spares in FY 2016, and $33.5 billion to support buying 272 aircraft, modifications, and spares over the FYDP.

    • KC-46A Pegasus Refueling Tanker: We are requesting $2.4 billion to buy 12 aircraft in FY 2016, and $14.6 billion to buy 72 aircraft over the FYDP.

    • Long-Range Strike Bomber: We are requesting $1.2 billion for research and development in FY 2016, and $13.9 billion over the FYDP.

    • Remotely-Piloted Aircraft: We are requesting $904 million to support buying 29 MQ-9A Reapers in FY 2016, and $4.8 billion to support buying 77 of them over the FYDP. This investment is critical to ensuring the Air Force has enough around-the-clock permissive ISR combat air patrols – in this case, allowing us to increase from 55 to 60 – to meet increased battlefield demands.

    • Competitive Space Launch: This budget supports year-over-year increases in competitive space launches – going up from two in FY 2015 to three in FY 2016, and further increasing to four competitive launches in FY 2017. The budget also supports investments to mitigate DoD reliance on the RD-180 space engine that powers the Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle rockets.

    • Combat Rescue Helicopter: We are requesting $156 million in FY 2016 for the Air Force’s next-generation combat rescue helicopter – part of a total $1.6 billion request over the FYDP for research, development, testing, and evaluation – and requesting $717 million over the FYDP for procurement.

    In light of high demand coupled with Congressional consultations, the Air Force budget reflects DoD’s decision to slow the retirement timelines for three key ISR and battle management platforms.

    We chose to defer the retirement of the U-2 Dragon Lady reconnaissance aircraft until Fiscal Year 2019, when planned sensor upgrades to the RQ-4 Global Hawk will combine with other capabilities to mitigate the loss of the U-2. We chose to delay the previously planned retirement of seven E-3 Sentry AWACS until Fiscal Year 2019, so they can support air operations over Iraq and Syria. And we chose to delay retirement of any E-8 JSTARS through Fiscal Year 2020, pending final approval of the Air Force’s acquisition strategy for its replacement.

    The Air Force budget also supports a timeline that would phase out and retire the A-10 in Fiscal Year 2019. With the gradual retirement of the A-10 that we’re proposing, the Air Force will better support legacy fleet readiness and the planned schedule for standing up the F-35A by filling in some of the overall fighter maintenance personnel shortfalls with trained and qualified personnel from the retiring A-10 squadrons.

    As you know, F-35 maintainer demand has already required the Air Force to use the authority Congress provided last year to move some A-10s into back-up aircraft inventory status. I should note that the Air Force is doing so only to the extent that it absolutely must, and so far intends to move far fewer A-10s into this status than what Congress has authorized. I know this is an important issue, and DoD looks forward to working with you on it.



    The remaining share of our base budget – about $94 billion – is allocated across the Department of Defense. This includes funding for cyber, U.S. Special Operations Command, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Defense Health Agency, the Joint Staff, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and missile defense.

    For Fiscal Year 2016, a $9.6 billion total investment in missile defense helps protect the U.S. homeland, deployed forces, and our allies and partners. This includes $8.1 billion for the Missile Defense Agency, $1.6 billion of which will help ensure the reliability of U.S. ground-based interceptors, which are currently sited at Fort Greely, Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The budget also continues to support the President’s timeline for implementing the European Phased Adaptive Approach.


    Overseas Contingency Operations:

    Separate from DoD’s base budget, we are also requesting $50.9 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding for Fiscal Year 2016. This represents a 21 percent decrease from last year’s $64.2 billion in OCO funding, continuing OCO’s decline since 2010, while also reflecting continued operational demands on U.S. forces around the world. OCO comprises funding for:

    • Afghanistan and Other Operations: We are requesting $42.5 billion to support Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and other missions. This includes $7.8 billion for reset and retrograde of U.S. equipment from Afghanistan, as well as $3.8 billion for training and equipping the Afghan National Security Forces through our ongoing train-advise-and-assist mission.

    • Counter-ISIL Operations: We are requesting $5.3 billion to support Operation Inherent Resolve. This includes $1.3 billion for training and equipping Iraqi forces, including Kurdish forces, and the vetted moderate Syrian opposition.

    • Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund: Reflecting the vital role that our allies and partners play in countering terrorism that could threaten U.S. citizens, we are requesting $2.1 billion for the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund that President Obama established last year.

    • NATO Reassurance: We are requesting $789 million for the European Reassurance Initiative, which the President created last year to help reassure our NATO allies and reinforce our Article V commitment in light of Russia’s violations of Ukrainian sovereignty.

    The conclusion of major combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq has resulted in a 73 percent drop in DoD’s OCO costs from their $187-billion peak in Fiscal Year 2008.

    We are continuing to use OCO as appropriate to finance our military’s response to unforeseen crises, but we must also account for those enduring priorities that we do not envision going away – such as supporting our Afghan partners, countering terrorism, maintaining a strong forward presence in the Middle East, and ensuring our military is ready to respond to a wide range of potential crises.

    The Administration intends to transition OCO’s enduring costs to the base budget between Fiscal Years 2017 and 2020. We will do this over time, and in a way that protects our defense strategy – including DoD’s abilities to deter aggression, maintain crisis-ready forces, and project power across the globe. This transition, however, will not be possible unless the threat of sequestration has been removed.

    Having financed the costs of key military activities – such as counterterrorism operations and our Middle East posture – outside the base budget for 14 years, and knowing that the security situation in the Middle East remains volatile, it will take time to determine which OCO costs are most likely to be enduring, and which are not. But we will release a plan later this year, which will also address how we will budget for uncertainty surrounding unforeseen future crises, and implications for DoD’s budget.




    The choices we face about military compensation are vexing, critically important, and closely followed, so I want to be direct and upfront with you.

    When our troops go into battle – risking their lives – we owe to them, and their families, not only adequate pay and compensation, but also the right investments – in the right people, the right training, and the right weapons and equipment – so that they can accomplish their missions and come home safely.

    To meet all of these obligations at once, we have to balance how we allocate our dollars. It would be irresponsible to prioritize compensation, force size, equipment, or training in isolation, only to put our servicemembers’ lives at unacceptable risk in battle.

    For the President’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget, the Defense Department considered its compensation proposals very carefully, as well as those approved by Congress in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. Accordingly, this budget again proposes modest adjustments to shift funds from compensation into readiness, capability, and force structure, so that our people can continue executing their missions with continued excellence.

    As you know, the Congressionally-commissioned Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission has recently released its own compensation proposals. Their work, which DoD is continuing to analyze, shows thoughtfulness and good intent, which we deeply appreciate.


    Given that this hearing is being held before the department has submitted its recommendations on the commission’s report to President Obama, it would not be appropriate for me to discuss them at this time. Many of these proposals would significantly affect our servicemembers and their families, and DoD owes them, the President, and the country our utmost diligence and most rigorous analysis.

    However, I can say that the department agrees with the overarching goals of the commission, especially providing servicemembers and beneficiaries more options – whether in preparing for retirement or in making health care choices.

    I can also say that the commission’s proposals are complicated, and do not lend themselves to binary answers. Therefore, when we provide the President with our recommendations on each proposal, DoD will clarify not simply whether we support each proposal, but also where we recommend specific modifications to improve or enable us to fully support a given proposal.

    We believe there is something positive in almost every one of the commission’s recommendations, and that they present a great opportunity to ensure we honor our servicemembers past, present, and future. I look forward to Congress’s support and partnership as we work hard to take advantage of it.



    At the end of 2013, policymakers came together on a bipartisan basis to partially reverse sequestration and pay for higher discretionary funding levels with long-term reforms. We’ve seen how that bipartisan agreement has allowed us to invest in areas ranging from research and manufacturing to strengthening our military. We’ve also seen the positive impact on our economy, with a more responsible and orderly budget process helping contribute to the fastest job growth since the late 1990s.

    The President’s budget builds on this progress by reversing sequestration, paid for with a balanced mix of commonsense spending cuts and tax loophole closures, while also proposing additional deficit reduction that would put debt on a downward path as a share of the economy. The President has also made clear that he will not accept a budget that locks in sequestration going forward.

    As the Joint Chiefs and others have outlined, and as I will detail in this testimony, sequestration would damage our national security, ultimately resulting in a military that is too small and insufficiently equipped to fully implement our defense strategy. This would reflect poorly on America’s global leadership, which has been the one critical but defining constant in a turbulent and dangerous world. In fact, even the threat of sequestration has had real effects.

    You don’t need me to tell you that the President has said he will not accept a budget that severs the vital link between our national and economic security. Why? Because the strength of our nation depends on the strength of our economy, and a strong military depends on a strong educational system, thriving private-sector businesses, and innovative research. And because that principle – matching defense increases with non-defense increases dollar-for-dollar – was a basic condition of the bipartisan agreement we got in 2013. The President sees no reason why we shouldn’t uphold those same principles in any agreement now.

    The only way we’re going to get out of the wilderness of sequestration is if we work together. I therefore appeal to members of Congress, from both parties, to start looking for ways to find a truly bipartisan compromise. I hope they can make clear to their colleagues that sequestration would also damage America’s long-term strength, preventing our country from making pro-growth investments in areas ranging from basic research to early childhood education – investments that, in the past, have helped make our military the finest fighting force the world has ever known.


    Sequestration is set to return in just over 200 days. Letting that happen would be unwise and unsafe for our national defense, over both the short and long term.


    Short-Term Impact

    DoD has had to live with uncertain budgets for the last three years, continuous and sudden downward revisions of our budget plans, and even a government closure. To continue meeting all of our mission requirements, we’ve done our best to manage through these circumstances, underfunding significant parts of our force and its support systems. Put bluntly, we have survived, but not thrived. Our military has made painful choices and tradeoffs among the size, capabilities, and readiness of our joint force, and we’ve amassed a number of bills that are now coming due.

    That’s why the department has been counting on and planning for a budget increase of roughly $35 billion above sequestration-level caps in Fiscal Year 2016. If it looks like DoD will be operating at sequestration levels in 2016, on October 1 we will have to swiftly begin making cuts so that we don’t end up $35 billion short as we approach year’s end.

    A return to sequestration in Fiscal Year 2016 would affect all aspects of the department, but not all equally.

    More than one-third of the Fiscal Year 2016 cuts would come have to come from Operations and Maintenance accounts, with unavoidable reductions in readiness and our ability to shape world events in America’s interest. Let me put this more plainly: allowing sequestration to return would deprive our troops of what they need to accomplish their missions.

    Approximately half of the cuts would have to come from the department’s modernization accounts, undermining our efforts to secure technological superiority for U.S. forces in future conflicts. Because there are bills that DoD absolutely must pay – such as the salaries of our troops – many capabilities being developed to counter known threats from highly capable adversaries would be delayed or cancelled, deepening our nation’s vulnerabilities at a time when the world is growing more dangerous, not less. Sequestration would put a hold on critical programs like our Aerospace Innovation Initiative, the Next Generation Adaptive Engine, the Ground-Based Interceptor missile defense kill vehicle redesign, and several space control efforts.

    Deferring these investments is bad policy and makes the Defense Department less competitive for the future. What’s more, it breaks faith with the troops of today and the troops of tomorrow. And it undermines the defense industrial base that is a critical foundation for our national security.


    Long-Term Impact

    If sequestration were to persist over time, the long-term consequences would be harder hitting. We would ultimately have a military that looks fundamentally different, and that performs much differently, from what our nation is accustomed to.

    If we are forced to sequestration-level budgets, I do not believe that we can continue to make incremental cuts and maintain the same general set of objectives as we’ve had in our defense strategy. I will insist that new cuts be accompanied by a frank reassessment of our strategic approach to addressing the threats we face around the world – what we are asking the Armed Forces to do and to be prepared to do.

    I cannot tell you right now exactly what that means – DoD is not resigned to the return of sequestration – but I can tell you that I will direct the department to look at all aspects of the defense budget to determine how best to absorb these cuts. No portion of our budget can remain inviolate.

    What I will not do is let DoD continue mortgaging our future readiness and capability. I will not send our troops into a fight with outdated equipment, inadequate readiness, and ineffective doctrine.

    Everything else is on the table.

    What does that mean? We could be forced to consider pay cuts, not just cuts in the growth of compensation. We could be forced to consider all means of shedding excess infrastructure, not just working within the Congressional BRAC process. We could be forced to look at significant force structure cuts, not just trimming around the edges. We could be forced to ask our military to do – and be prepared to do – significantly less than what we have traditionally expected, and required of it.

    I am not afraid to ask these difficult questions, but if we are stuck with sequestration’s budget cuts over the long term, our entire nation will have to live with the answers.

    A prolonged period of depressed defense budgets will almost certainly mean a smaller, less capable, and less ready military. No one can fully predict the impact on the future. But it could translate into future conflicts that last longer, and are more costly in both lives and dollars.

    That may sound severe to some, but it is a fact, and history should be our guide when we think about the true cost of sequestration.


    The Case for Repealing Sequestration

    I know I’m preaching to the choir here. If sequestration could have been reversed by just this committee and its counterpart in the Senate, it probably would have happened years ago. So I offer the following to Members of the Committee about what you can remind your colleagues when you ask for their vote to repeal sequestration:

    Remind them that even after the increase we’re asking for, DoD’s budget as a share of total federal spending will still be at a near-historic low – a quarter of what it was during the Korean War, a third of what it was during the Vietnam War, and half of what it was during the Reagan buildup.

    Remind them that the increased funding is for modernization that’s critical to keeping our military’s technological edge and staying ahead of potential adversaries.

    Remind them that DoD has hands-on leadership from the very top – me – devoted to using taxpayer dollars better than they’ve been used in the past. You have my personal commitment to greater accountability, greater efficiency, and running this department better and leaner than before.

    Remind them that sequestration’s cuts to long-term investments will likely make those investments more costly down the line. All who bemoan unnecessary Pentagon program delays and the associated cost overruns should know that sequestration will only make these problems worse. I can easily sympathize with my non-defense counterparts in this regard; knowing how wasteful and inefficient sequestration would be at DoD, I have no doubt the same is true at other departments and agencies as well.

    Remind them that sequestration’s impact on our domestic budget will cause further long-term damage to our defense – because the strength of our nation depends on the strength of our economy, and a strong military needs strong schools to provide the best people, strong businesses to provide the best weapons and equipment, and strong science and research sectors to provide the best new innovations and technologies.


    Remind them that we can’t keep kicking this can down the road. The more we prolong tough decisions, the more difficult and more costly they will be later on.



    The men and women of the Department of Defense are counting on Congress to help assure the strength of our military and American global leadership at a time of great change in the world.

    We must reverse the decline in defense budgets to execute our strategy and fund a modern, ready, leaner force in a balanced way. We must seize the opportunity to enact necessary reforms in how we do business. And we must bring an end to the threat sequestration poses to the future of our force and American credibility around the world.

    As you evaluate the President’s budget submission, I encourage you and your colleagues to keep it in perspective.

    In the years since the President’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget request – the benchmark for cuts prescribed under the 2011 Budget Control Act – DoD’s 10-year budget projections have absorbed more than $750 billion in cuts, or more than three-quarters of the trillion-dollar cuts that would be required should sequestration be allowed to run its course. And while some claim this is our biggest budget ever, the fact is, as a share of total federal spending, DoD’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget is at a near-historic low – representing about 14 percent of total federal discretionary and non-discretionary outlays. DoD’s total budget remains more than $100 billion below what it was at the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    I think we can all agree that the world in 2014 was even more complicated than we could have foreseen. Given today’s security environment – which has over 200,000 American servicemembers stationed in over 130 countries conducting nearly 60 named operations – our proposed increase in defense spending over last year’s budget is a responsible, prudent approach.

    Some of you may recall how, in 1991, after America’s Cold War victory and amid doubts about America’s engagement with the world and calls for a bigger domestic peace dividend, a bipartisan group in Congress stepped forward to help shape America’ global leadership and make long-term decisions from which we continue to benefit.

    Senators Sam Nunn and Dick Lugar helped craft, pass, and pay for the small Cooperative Threat Reduction Program that allowed the United States and DoD to provide the funding and expertise to help former Soviet states decommission their nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon stockpiles.

    The Nunn-Lugar program was initially opposed abroad, and there were also doubts at the Pentagon about whether we could implement it without losing track of funding. I know. I helped lead the program in its early years. But with slow and diligent effort by American defense officials, the Congress, and our foreign partners, it worked.

    It helped prevent weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands. It helped establish a pattern of international cooperation and global norms in the post-Cold War international order. And, in the light of the current instability in Ukraine, it might have staved off several variants of nuclear disaster.

    But it also set an important precedent for our work on this budget and in the years ahead. It shows what Congressional conviction – especially when it is bipartisan – can accomplish in foreign policy. It shows the value of foresight and planning for an uncertain future. And it shows how spending a relatively few dollars today can generate huge value down the line.

    As the new Secretary of Defense, I hope it will be possible to again unite behind what our great nation should do to protect our people and make a better world, and provide our magnificent men and women of the Department of Defense – who make up the greatest fighting force the world has ever known – what they deserve.

    Thank you.



    4 Myths That Drive (and Endanger) U.S. Defense Policy

    By Janine Davidson

    March 4, 2015


    U.S. defense planning has evolved since the mid 1970s, with the end of the Vietnam War and the founding of the All-Volunteer Force (AVF). Since then, at least four troubling myths have become baked into doctrine, strategy, and force planning processes. These beliefs focus on our strengths, but have in some ways blinded us to the enduring nature of conflict. They have hindered our ability to institutionalize lessons from our most frustrating operational experiences in favor of constructs like the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA), “rapid, decisive, operations” and (most recently) Air-Sea Battle. As the Pentagon grapples with diminishing resources and an accelerating technology curve, it is worth reflecting on these myths and how we can overcome them.


    1. The “Maserati” Myth. Imagine a gorgeous, gleaming Maserati, the sort of car that belongs on a showroom floor. The car is elegant, but it’s also extraordinarily capable—the Maserati GranTurismo goes 0 to 60 in 4.7 seconds and tops out at 186 miles per hour. What do you do with a machine like this? You certainly don’t use it for your commute on the pot-holed roads or your grocery runs or all the other mundanities of daily life. Instead, the Maserati is to be reserved for only the most special occasions. Otherwise, you keep it in an air conditioned garage, to be admired from a polite distance.

    Too often, planners and policymakers apply this same sort of thinking to the U.S. military. They think that the primary—indeed, the only—mission of the United States’ armed forces is to “fight and win the nation’s wars.” These wars, so often assumed to be quick, high-tech and decisive conflicts waged against a peer competitor, demand the most expensive force possible, armed with the most “exquisite” platforms that the nation can produce. When not called on to fight these decisive conflicts, the military, like the Maserati, should be preserved and protected in its enclosed garage.

    There are two problems here. The first is that the vast majority of contingencies the U.S. military is called on to perform are not quick, decisive, one-versus-one “football games” where one side wins, the other loses, and they both pack up and go home. Instead, the United States most typically deploys its forces for peacekeeping, stability operations, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, mass atrocity prevention, drug interdiction, and more. U.S. foreign policy demands a wide range of options and mission sets; it’s the military that makes these happen.

    The second problem is that these expensive, “exquisite,” platforms are not the best-suited for what we do most. Even if an F-35 can outfly and outshoot everything in the sky, or a Zumwalt-class destroyer can dominate a huge ocean stretch, we will never be able to build very many of them. Trading this much capacity for capability may not make sense when, for most missions, a lot of the older stuff works pretty darn well. The American military need not be a shiny Maserati. Most of the time it can be a Ford F-150: worn, reliable, and more than able to get the job done.


    2. The “Shock and Awe” Myth. Underpinning the “Maserati” myth is a persistent belief in “Shock and Awe,” the theory that an adversary can be rendered militarily impotent through a mix of “knowledge, rapidity, brilliance, and control.” This is the theory that guided the conduct of the Persian Gulf War, and, more infamously, the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Although the million-strong Iraqi army had been decisively beaten after just twenty-one days of major combat operations, there was little planning for what might come next. U.S. forces slowly discovered the difference between winning a battle and winning a war.

    Even today, there remains a tendency in military planning to draw a line between quick, decisive battlefield victory and all the “messy” political stuff that goes along with it. Belief in this myth helps fuel our comparative over-investment in top-threshold weapons systems and may also increase the risk of operational failure. If the U.S. military pours its focus and dollars into preparing for that quick, decisive blow—what Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster calls the “pipe dream of easy war”—it logically has fewer resources to enforce political settlement or “consolidate gains” once the shooting stops.


    3. The “Interagency” Myth. Of course, if you subscribe to the beliefs of some planners, “enforcing political settlement” isn’t something the U.S. military should have to do anyway. Instead, that task falls to “The Interagency”—a vast, well resourced organization of civilian agencies whose job it is to “win the peace” the same way the military wins the war. This is the group organized, trained, and equipped for cultural competency; for historical knowledge of the region; for smart investment and disbursement of aid; for the creation of smart, lasting political institutions.

    The problem is that “The Interagency,” as taught to so many military officers and written into the military’s doctrine, doesn’t exist (it’s not even a noun). In fiscal year 2015, total operations for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) were funded to the tune of $49.26 billion dollars—roughly 9 percent of the Pentagon’s budget. These two agencies employ about 15,000 foreign service officers and specialists—about 1 percent the size of America’s active duty military—none of whom is trained to kick start a war-torn country, either. With this disparity in resources, it is beyond aspirational for the military to adopt a “hands off” attitude toward the political elements of war, assuming that civilians can adequately fill the gap. They can’t.


    4. The “Superhero” Myth. Another tempting way to try to save money and promote world peace is to turn the messier problems over to Special Operations Forces. These highly trained warriors have proven remarkably effective in combating networks of insurgents and terrorists. Relying on these superheroes to operate under the radar and out of mind is especially attractive for civilian policy makers and a war-weary public. But while conducting targeted strikes in coordination with CIA teams and drones may take out a lot of bad guys at low cost and less risk; ultimately these tactics on their own cannot achieve strategic effects or otherwise win wars.


    Preparing for twenty-first century defense challenges requires that we acknowledge the complex, political character of war as it is—not as we wish it to be. These four interconnected myths exert a powerful, pernicious influence on U.S. defense planning. They need to be examined and debated as we make hard choices on downsizing, recapitalizing, and modernizing our military.

    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.

    This piece is adapted from my February 25 remarks at the New America Foundation’s first annual “Future of War” conference, where I spoke on a panel alongside Michèle Flournoy, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for a New American Security, and Tom Ricks, Senior Adviser at the New America Foundation. You can watch the full discussion at



    Special Program emerges to combat cyber insider threats

    Posted 3/5/2015 Updated 3/5/2015

    by Justin Oakes

    66th Air Base Group Public Affairs


    3/5/2015 – HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. — It’s not often that the public gets to hear about the Air Force’s inner workings when pertaining to highly-classified networks. However, a Special Programs team from Hanscom AFB’s Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks Directorate has recently emerged and made its presence known.

    “We have developed an agile and efficient process for delivering solutions that protect against the cyber insider threat,” said Lt. Col. Richard Howard, Materiel Solutions Analysis chief.

    Unlike other teams within the Special Programs Division, the Materiel Solutions Analysis section, or MSA for short, is the only one that functions outside the classified realm.

    The team’s mission is to rapidly identify and test government and commercial-off-the-shelf hardware and software, and if viable, transition it to the classified arena. However, combating the cyber insider threat on secure networks quickly became one of MSA’s primary focuses.

    In January 2014, the Special Programs unit stood up the MSA Lab, where the team tests and scrutinizes commercial and government technologies that could potentially function on a secure network, and at the same time, serve as a deterrent for insider attacks. The MSA Lab consists of three sections: Level 1, a robust unclassified area used to test incoming technologies; Level 2, which has the potential to perform classified tests; and Level 3, which is a virtual demonstration room.

    Since MSA’s inception it has fielded more than 100 proposals on insider threat mitigation technologies from commercial companies, both large and small.

    “The MSA Lab is unique, and by design, highly specialized on the needs of a select classified community,” said Paul Krueger, MSA chief engineer. “Being co-located at Hanscom AFB with the Hanscom Collaboration and Innovation Center is important so that when necessary, we can take advantage of its infrastructure for massive joint and multi-nation coalition warfighting experiments and demonstrations.”

    Upon significant amounts of testing, the Air Force partnered with MIT Lincoln Laboratory and began to notice a common misconception within industry.

    “We saw a disturbing trend emerging from companies — that there is a single solution fix to insider attacks,” Howard said. “The cyber insider threat is complex, and to believe a single technology exists that will prevent malicious insiders from stealing, altering or destroying sensitive information is inaccurate.”

    To better understand and depict the intricacies of this problem, MSA engineers devised a model known as the Insider Threat Universe, also known as the ITU.

    The ITU concept is comprised of layers that convey how certain technologies protect in part — but not in all — the Air Force’s secure networks.


    Confidentiality, integrity and availability make up the basis of the ITU with information serving as the core. Procedures, policies and monitoring are other items that directly impact information concerns. Specific areas such as data-at-rest encryption and role-based access controls represent technology layers also used to protect information.

    The MSA team realized the need to socialize the ITU concept and generate open communication among other Department of Defense agencies also faced with growing insider threat problems.

    Last month, the MSA office hosted the first Cyber Insider Threat Workshop at Hanscom.

    More than 100 cyber, security and acquisition professionals from more than 30 organizations attended. Representatives from the MSA office, Air Combat Command, Air Force Research Laboratory, 24th Air Force, Carnegie Mellon University, C3I Infrastructure Division, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and MITRE discussed current mitigation efforts and how they fit into the ITU model.

    According to MSA officials, there were two main takeaways from the event.

    “The cyber insider threat is complicated, difficult to define and a challenge to defend against,” Krueger said. “The ITU model is a useful tool that can be used to help define these threats, but it is a constantly evolving concept.”

    Krueger also called for more effective communication across the Air Force, government, and other agencies throughout the DOD.

    “Communication is the only way synergy can be developed across the board,” he said. “Making the community aware of currently used technologies, as well as equipment and software that’s being tested and fielded by facilities like the MSA Lab, is critical to solving this problem.”

    During the last year, the demand for MSA-vetted technologies has increased exponentially. In order to keep up with testing and analysis, the lab increased from two to seven engineers plus support from MIT Lincoln Laboratory, MITRE and various contractors.

    This week, Maj. Gen. Craig Olson, C3I and Networks Directorate program executive officer, presented MSA’s areas of interest to industry during the annual 2015 New Horizons event in Newton, Mass.

    “Not only is this a great opportunity to bring our efforts to light outside of DOD agencies, but it will also allow us to gather valuable feedback on how our industry partners deal with insider cyber threats,” said Olson.

    Since the Materiel Solutions Analysis team was created, it has stood up a testing lab, developed a threat model and organized a forum fostering dialogue among other DOD agencies — all in the name of cyber security.

    “In order for us to successfully mitigate the cyber insider threat problem, organizations across the DOD must work together; technological, physical and administrative solutions should be leveraged across the DOD IT enterprise,” said Col. Jeffrey Kligman, Special Programs Division senior materiel leader. “Communication and innovation are key to securing our computing environment.”



    MWC: It’s only a matter of time before a drone kills someone, warns IEEE

    by Press • 6 March 2015

    By Lee Bell


    BARCELONA: It’s only a matter time before a drone such as the one that crashed outside the White House will fall out of the sky and kill someone.

    This is the stark warning issued by theInstitute of Electronics and Electrical Engineering (IEEE) this week at Mobile World Congress (MWC).

    Kevin Curran, senior lecturer in Computer Science at the University of Ulster, and technical expert for internet and security at the IEEE, told The INQUIRER that making “powerful” drones available to the consumer market will lead to civilians being injured or even killed.


    “Up until last year, most people flying [drones] were guys who were used to flying planes, but when something powerful becomes cheap, and it hits the consumer market, you get all sorts of idiots using it,” he said.

    “People are just flying drones wherever they can and it is only a matter of time before we see a death in the UK from a drone.”

    Curran explained that this could happen if a drone hits a building without the propeller guards up.

    “Once drones hit a solid item [without propeller guards up] they fall from the sky; that’s all they can do. And I guarantee that there’ll be a lot of accidents in the next 12 months and I’m pretty sure we’ll see a death,” he said.

    Since Curran’s comments at MWC, a House of Lords committee has said that the UK should create a database of drone owners and flights in order to circumvent possible threats.

    The EU Internal Market, Infrastructure and Employment Sub-Committee report said that, while drones have the potential to create 150,000 jobs in Europe by 2050, there is also a substantial risk from their unregulated use.

    Committee chairwoman Baroness O’Cathain said: “The growth in civilian drone use has been astonishing and they are taking to the skies faster than anyone could have predicted. We have a huge opportunity to make Europe a world leader in drone technology.

    “But there’s also a risk. Public understanding of how to use drones safely may not keep pace with people’s appetite to fly them. It would just take one disastrous accident to destroy public confidence and set the whole industry back.”

    Due to these concerns, the committee said that a database of drone owners should be created, and that all flights should be tracked by GPS and uploaded to a public website for anyone to access.

    It’s also worth noting that drones like the Hubsan X4 Pro, which was unveiled at CES this year, are safer than your standard drone becaue they are fitted with a parachute that activates after a collision.

    Making these parachutes available as an attachment for existing drones could ease the concerns about a death from someone being hit, according to Curran.

    Curran also said that we can expect to see drones as a form of wireless advertising in the skies very soon, hovering in the streets for maximum visibility. µ


    Just one ‘disastrous accident’ could set drone industry back, warn Lords

    by Press • 5 March 2015


    The drone industry could create 150,000 jobs across the European Union by 2050, but it would take “just one disastrous accident” to destroy public confidence and set the sector back, a group of peers has warned.

    A report from the Lords EU select committee has concluded that there is huge potential for growth in the sector, but that this potential can only be realised if the safety of drone operations is demonstrated to the public.

    The report comes after a near miss between a passenger jet and a civilian drone near Heathrow airport in December sparked debate about how best to regulate the consumer drones market.

    Commenting on the report, Civilian use of drones in the EU, the committee’s chair Lady O’Cathain described the growth in civilian drone use as “astonishing”, adding that they were “taking to the skies faster than anyone could have predicted”.

    “We have a huge opportunity to make Europe a world leader in drone technology,” she said. “But there’s also a risk – public understanding of how to use drones safely may not keep pace with people’s appetite to fly them. It would just take one disastrous accident to destroy public confidence and set the whole industry back.”

    The committee found that drones – formally known as remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) – are increasingly being used by small and medium-sized businesses across Europe for photography, filming and surveying, and that they can be used to carry out dirty or dangerous jobs, like cargo shipping and search and rescue.

    The group of peers called for urgent public debate about the acceptable uses of civilian drones in light of evidence that the media and police use of drones will increase.

    Earlier in 2014, the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) demanded better protection for the public from the risks of drones. It called for drones to meet the same safety standards as piloted aircraft, including that they are only flown by operators with pilot-equivalent training.

    O’Cathain said that authorities would need to find ways to manage and keep track of drone traffic. “That is why a key recommendation is that drone flights must be traceable, effectively through an online database, which the general public could access via an app. We need to use technology creatively, not just to manage the skies, but to help police them as well,” she said.

    The report recommends the development of a shared manufacturing standard for drones – similar to the CE marking that exists for products that adhere to European Economic Area regulations – and that an online database to track and manage drone traffic be created.


    Rasmussen Reports

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

    Bottom of Form

    Saturday, March 07, 2015


    If it’s in the news, it’s in our polls, and this week we really showed it.

    The week began with numerous reports out of the just-ended Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) where most of the top Republican presidential hopefuls courted the crowd. We were quick to report findings that show Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has surged to the front of the GOP pack and now gives likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton a run for her money

    Tuesday , in a speech to a joint session of Congress, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came out strongly against the deal the Obama administration is negotiating with Iran to curb the latter’s nuclear development program.

    The day before, we reported that voters were more supportive than they had been earlier of Netanyahu addressing Congress despite strong protests from the White House. Most also considered it important whether their congressional representative was attending.

    Later in the week, we found that Netanyahu is winning the argument with voters so far over the deal President Obama is trying to make with Iran.

    On Wednesday , the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that would eliminate the taxpayer-funded subsidies for many of those who have signed up for health insurance through Obamacare. We reported that day that nearly half of voters think it’s a good idea to hold up the health care law until court cases like this are resolved.

    Voters still tend to share an unfavorable opinion of the health care law and say it has hurt more than helped them. They’re also less enthusiastic this month about fixing the law rather than repealing it.

    Thursday , the U.S. Justice Department released a report charging the Ferguson, Missouri police department with a systematic pattern of racial discrimination but stopped short of charging police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown.

    But we released findings that same day showing that 56% of voters think the Justice Department is more concerned with politics than with making sure justice is done when it decides to investigate a local crime like the Brown shooting independent of the local police.  

    On Friday , the federal government released its monthly jobs report, highlighting the creation of nearly 300,000 new jobs and a decrease in the unemployment rate to 5.5 percent.

    Of course, our readers already knew that was coming because the Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence rose a point in February to tie the highest level measured in six years. Generally speaking, an increase in the Employment Index suggests the upcoming government report on job creation will be stronger than the prior month’s report. 

    The president still doesn’t seem to be getting much credit for this improved jobs picture, though. His daily job approval ratings appear to be returning to levels seen before Election Day. 

    Obama earned a monthly job approval of 48% in February. That’s down a point from January and ties his approval rating for December. The 49% approval he earned in January tied his high for all of 2014.

    The president in this year’s State of the Union address proposed $320 billion in tax increases on the wealthiest Americans including raising capital gains and inheritance taxes in an effort to pay for initiatives he says will benefit lower- and middle-class taxpayers. But most voters suspect this will lead to more taxes on the middle class as well.

    Americans already feel more strongly than ever that the middle class pays a larger share of their income in taxes than the wealthy do.

    They also strongly distrust the way the federal government spends their tax dollars.

    But then just 30% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

    In other surveys last week:

    — It’s time for the clocks to “spring ahead” this weekend, but many Americans still don’t see the point.

    — We frequently ask Americans what they think about different things around the world and in their own country, but we don’t always ask how they feel about the country itself. So we decided to find out what America thinks about America

    — Democrats and Republicans run neck-and-neck on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

    — Voters still give positive marks to their local air and water but think the environment as a whole is getting worse.

    — As stories of teen suicide continue to appear in the news, Americans are taking it seriously and feel strongly about who should be responsible for preventing such tragedies.

    — Despite a recent analysis that suggests Americans are sacrificing good coffee for cost and convenience, most coffee drinkers claim that quality means the most to them. Though more Americans admit they have trouble resisting sweets, fewer say they are overweight.

February 28 2015

28 February 2015


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Defense R&D: Is the Reward Worth the Risk?

By Sandra Erwin

February 21, 2015


At a time when the Defense Department is eager to attract more private investment in cutting-edge technology, even the Pentagon’s top contractors are taking a step back and hedging their bets.

A growing hesitance to gamble on futuristic military hardware was the clear subtext of speeches and conversations last week at Lockheed Martin’s annual media day in Arlington, Va. The nation’s largest defense contractor derives most of its business from military sales but when it comes to next-generation technology, the company is not ready to make huge wagers.

“Are defense companies going to invest more to get new programs started? That’s more of a commercial model. I don’t see a lot of that happening in the future,” said Rob Weiss, Lockheed Martin executive vice president and general manager of aeronautics advanced development programs, also known as the Skunk Works.

Weiss runs the company’s most secretive and most celebrated operation that was the cradle of revolutionary military machines like the SR-71 spy airplane and the F117 stealth fighter. Most projects at Skunk Works are classified, and new technology development largely is funded by the Defense Department. Lockheed does not intend to make risky bets on technology for its own sake, Weiss said, and he sees similar behavior across the defense industry. “If industry is going to invest on the front end, then we’ve got to expect that you’re going to get returns on the back end,” he said. “At Lockheed Martin in general, we are being prudent with any internal dollars we spend to make sure there’s a reasonable return on the back end.”

The company is working on future concepts for surveillance and strike aircraft, but is not going to pour funds into these projects until clear “requirements” are spelled out by the Defense Department. “Requirements are key,” Weiss said. Although that is easier said than done, however. Sometimes a company works on a design, development and prototyping, and “you’re not necessarily sure what the requirements are,” he said. “The problem with investing early is that you may invest and the requirements move.”

That is why companies are increasingly gun shy. A case in point is the Navy’s carrier-based combat drone known as UCLASS. The Navy initially selected four designs but the requirements changed and some of those designs no longer met the needs, Weiss noted. “Who’s going to invest to catch up with competitors that happen to be in the right space?” he asked. “I think it’s going to require much better clarity overall on what is the requirement, earlier. And then stick to that requirement so investments by industry are focused on that requirement.”

Another reason corporations may hold back investments is the uncertainty that a program will survive leadership changes. Military and civilian officials, and members of Congress “come and go,” Weiss said. “These programs take a long time to come to fruition. So you may have different leaders over time. A challenge for the industry is how to maintain direction even with new people.”

Trailblazers like Skunk Works seek to push the limits of technology, but in the current business environment, it is best to use as much existing “proven” technology as possible, said Weiss. “What’s the key to successful programs? Take as much mature technology as you can. We use it all. Every bit that we can from prior programs.” Weiss is leading Lockheed’s bid in the upcoming competition for a new trainer airplane for the U.S. Air Force. The company announced it would propose an updated version of the existing T-50 trainer. A clean-sheet design would be put forth if the Air Force requested it, but Weiss believes that would add risk and years to the program. “The issue is the time associated with a new development. If you need it soon, an off-the-shelf solution is the way to go.”

Much of the excitement at Skunk Works today is less about dreaming up airplane concepts and more about updating current aircraft with modern information networks. “We made a huge investment in open systems architecture work,” said Weiss. “We have hard data to prove the value.” This is the type of technology that saves the government money because it allows legacy airplanes like the U-2 to be outfitted with plug-and-play electronics and sensors made different vendors, he said. “We are all in on open systems architecture.”

The industry wants to help the Defense Department innovate, he added, but it is difficult in the current environment. During the glory days of military aviation at Skunk Works, “we had stable requirements, small teams, engineering talent empowered to make decisions, higher tolerance for risk.” The system today is “not quite as comfortable” with those things any more.

Risk aversion is reflected in Lockheed Martin’s latest financial reports, observed James McAleese, industry consultant at McAleese & Associates. “The sheer size of Lockheed Martin’s dividends and share repurchases limits overall size of annual R&D funding,” he wrote in a briefing to clients. Internal R&D in 2014 was only 1.6 percent of sales, compared to an average of 2.1 percent for its peers, McAleese noted. “Expect Lockheed Martin to invest in R&D with a two to three year payout,” he added. Most of the R&D funds are going into the company’s lucrative missiles and fire control sector, McAleese said, where Lockheed is investing in programs like the MEADS missile defense system and the joint light tactical vehicle.

In the space business, Lockheed is shifting focus to the commercial market. It is spending $250 million in corporate R&D to update a 20-year-old communications satellite called A2100. “We are refreshing the design and investing in new manufacturing capabilities as the commercial market is growing,” said Mark Valerio, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s military space business.

The modernized satellites would target the growing global market for Internet, TV, and secure communications, said Lockheed Martin President and CEO Marillyn A. Hewson. “We invested in the A2100, reducing the number of its parts and streamlining its production so our customers can get it into orbit more quickly and at a fraction of the cost,” she said. “Worldwide demand for smartphones is estimated to increase by six times over the next six years. Mobile data traffic will grow by more than 11 times in five years.”

Lockheed also is venturing into nondefense applications of big data algorithms that were originally created for the Pentagon. “We’ve taken traditional missile defense tracking technology and applied it to detect sepsis in patients in hospitals,” said Keith Johnson, Lockheed Martin technical director for analytics. “We have a workforce of engineers that have a lot of experience working with data,” he said. “The technology now is allowing us to use that knowledge for new customers. That’s what we are seeing as we go forward.”


Hewson said Lockheed is betting on potentially groundbreaking healthcare technology such as genomics. It signed a partnership last year with Illumina, a pioneer in gene sequencing. Both firms are working on “personalized healthcare” solutions that would be marketed to countries around the world.

Investors generally have encouraged large Pentagon contractors like Lockheed to transition some of its business to other markets that might offer better returns.

The Defense Department’s 2016-2020 funding projections show “flattish investment outlays,” said Byron Callan, director of Capital Alpha Partners. Periods of defense innovation, he noted in a note to investors, are not stable and predictable. “Managements that seek this sort of environment are apt to see plans wrecked by new military surprises and competitors.” Commercial technology firms earn much higher margins than defense contractors, he added. “They take far more risk than defense firms, but they also spend far more on research and development, for the most part. Commercial technology is globally available and proliferation of cheap digital electronics is one factor why the Defense Department has become so concerned.”



Industry lobbyists take aim at proposed FAA drone rules

by Press • 24 February 2015



(Reuters) – Businesses hoping to capitalize on the commercial potential of drones are preparing to push back against proposed regulations that would strictly limit how the aircraft can be used.

During a 60-day public comment period on the rules, lobbyists representing a range of industries, from Internet giants Inc and Google Inc to aerospace firms and the news media, say they will try to convince regulators that cutting-edge technologies make some of the limitations proposed last week by the Federal Aviation Administration unnecessary.

Spending on lobbying by special interests that list drones as an issue surged from $20,000 in 2001 to $35 million in 2011 to more than $186 million in 2014, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks lobbying activity. And the proposed rules provide a new focus of lobbying efforts.

If approved as written, the new FAA rules would lift the current near-ban on flying drones for commercial purposes, but its restrictions would make many business applications, such as package delivery, unfeasible.

Among other constraints, the proposed rules would limit commercial drones to an altitude of 500 feet, allow flights only during daytime hours and require operators to keep the aircraft in their sights at all times. Drones could not be flown near airports or directly over humans. Officials say these precautions are needed for safety.

But drone makers and other firms with a stake in unmanned aircraft technology say they are already working on features that would allow drones to “sense and avoid” obstacles including other aircraft and prevent link disruptions that could cause a drone to lose contact with ground operations.

For example, is developing autonomous drones that would navigate via GPS and use redundant safety mechanisms and sensor arrays to avoid accidents as part of a “Prime Air” drone delivery service it hopes to launch.

Industry representatives say they will use the 60-day comment period to try to convince regulators that breakthrough safety features could make drone flights safe and dependable.

“This is the chance for all the parties who think the FAA got it wrong to come forward and say why,” said Jack Schenendorf, a former House Transportation Committee staff member who now works for law firm Covington & Burling.

The current ban on most commercial drone flights will stay in place until the FAA finalizes its proposed rules — which could take anywhere from nine months to three years. During that period, companies can continue to apply for exemptions to use drones under strict rules. But the FAA has so far granted only 28 of more than 325 exemption requests, according to government documents.

Amazon, which applied for an exemption to allow outdoor testing at its own U.S. facilities last summer, says it has not yet received approval from the agency. It has been testing a number of drone configurations at facilities in Washington state, Britain and Israel. But only in the Britain has the company been able to conduct outdoor tests that it says are vital to its goal of developing a prototype that can be demonstrated to the FAA.

Meanwhile, a coalition of news media companies including NBC, the New York Times and Thomson Reuters hopes to test news-gathering drones in coming months at an FAA site in Virginia.

Separate forecasts by government and industry officials expect businesses to invest nearly $90 billion in drones worldwide over the next 10 years, as the technology takes root in hundreds of markets that now rely on manned flights or ground operations for activities ranging from pipeline inspections to aerial photography.

The number of companies and groups involved in drone lobbying now exceeds 50. Senate documents show a broad range of parties from high-tech and aerospace manufacturers to electric utilities, realtors, filmmakers, universities, labor unions, state governments and broadcasters.

Business interests have a potentially powerful lever in Congress, which must reauthorize the FAA’s funding and regulatory direction by the end of September. That process allows lawmakers to direct regulatory agencies to take specific actions. For example, the last reauthorization in 2012 directed the FAA to pursue rulemaking on drones.

Some influential allies in Congress have already begun questioning the proposed rules. U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said last week the FAA’s “line of sight” rule appears to be a “concerning limitation on commercial usage, and this proposed rule should be modified.”

Regulators may be difficult to convince, however.

“The FAA is going to be very conservative because they don’t want an airliner hitting one of these things,” said Phil Finnegan, director of corporate analysis at research firm the Teal Group.



Head off an unmanned aircraft disaster

by Press • 24 February 2015


Whether found lying on the White House lawn or slicing into the flight path of an airliner on approach to a major airport, examples abound of the danger we court by misusing aircraft that are unmanned or remotely piloted. In these events, we have seen glimpses — but so far only glimpses — of the potential for disaster if we fail to treat them as what they are: aircraft in our national airspace.

While many use the term “drone,” these vehicles are, in fact, aircraft. Some fly without a pilot on a pre-programmed route; others are flown remotely by pilots working near the launch site or thousands of miles away.


The Air Line Pilots Association, International, recognizes the popularity of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) for recreation, the value of employing them in certain commercial applications, and the importance of our country’s ability to compete in leading the development of new UAS technologies. The safety of air transportation, however, must be paramount over all of these goals.

My organization is not against UAS aircraft; we are for their safe integration. The North American airspace is the most complex on the planet. It’s also the safest, and we need to protect that extraordinary level of safety for all who depend on air transportation.

Remember the bird strike that caused the “Miracle on the Hudson”? Unmanned aircraft can be smaller or larger than birds, but they harbor added risk to aircraft in flight because they include batteries, motors and other hard, metal components.

For that reason, UAS must meet the same high level of safety and security standards as other airspace users. Regardless of whether they are used by hobbyist or for commercial purposes, rules are being developed for both small aircraft under 55 pounds and large ones that weigh more.

Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration has limited commercial small UAS operations to “line of sight,” meaning that operators must be able to see the aircraft while flying it. Small UAS operators must keep the aircraft below 400 feet above ground level, and they can’t be flown within 5 miles of an airport. Despite these guidelines, serious safety questions persist for airline pilots.

The most serious issue for small UAS operations is flying the device, intended or not, into civil airspace or a “lost link” scenario — a situation when the UAS is no longer receiving the signals that the operator transmits that could result in its entering the same airspace I fly in as commercial pilot. These situations are not acceptable.

Integrating larger UAS aircraft, which can be as large as my airliner, to be operated in our national airspace system is an even bigger concern. For that reason, ALPA maintains that large UAS must be designed, equipped, and certified to the same standards as airliners. The pilots that fly them must also be required to meet the same training and qualification standards that I am required to meet.

When I am flying in the cockpit, I need to be able to see any UAS operating in my airspace, intentionally or unintentionally, on my cockpit display of traffic. Air traffic controllers need to see them on their display as well, so they can manage traffic in the airspace. And the UAS itself must be equipped with safety systems including active collision-avoidance technology.

Traffic Collision Avoidance Systems were developed as a result of a number of midair collisions many years ago. UAS aircraft must be equipped with this technology if they are intended to be operated in our airspace or have the potential to inadvertently find their way into our airspace. Why subject our passengers and cargo to an avoidable risk?

ALPA continues to work with the FAA and other industry stakeholders to develop real-world solutions and standards for safe UAS operations. While the regulations needed to address these challenges will be complex, they need to be developed thoroughly and correctly.

Airline pilots often say that you don’t fly an airplane with your hands, you fly it with your head. We can’t cross our fingers and hope that we will continue to avert the potential threat posed by the misuse of UAS. Our nation needs to make wise decisions based on safety as we integrate UAS into the national airspace.

Capt. Tim Canoll is the president of the Air Line Pilots Association, International, which represents more than 51,000 professional airline pilots.



Newsweek:- Most French Nuclear Plants ‘Should Be Shut Down’ Over Drone Threat

by Press • 24 February 2015



“You don’t need massive amounts of force to allow a nuclear plant to go into instability. The plant has enough energy to destroy itself. Drones can be used to tickle the plant into instability.”

With devastating simplicity, John Large explains how drones could be used to coordinate a terror attack on a nuclear power station. First, one drone hits the distribution grid serving the plant, depriving the facility of off-site power, making it dependent on its diesel generators to cool the reactor, which generates up to 1,000 megawatts of power – enough to light up half of Paris. Then the generators are easily taken out by an unmanned drone with a relatively small payload. Without power to cool the radioactive fuel, Large estimates it would take approximately 30 seconds before the fuel begins to melt, leading to potential leakages of nuclear waste.

It’s the same cause behind the meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan after it was hit by a tsunami in March 2011. But potential terrorists wouldn’t need to trigger an earthquake, just be able to accurately pilot a pair of readily-available commercial drones carrying small payloads of explosive. Last year, unmanned drones were spotted flying over at least 13 nuclear power stations in France. The last widely-reported sighting was on 3 January, when two aircraft were seen flying over a nuclear facility in Nogent-sur-Seine, in northern-central France.

Activists maintain that a government blackout has blocked information on any further sightings. Curiously, no pictures of drone sightings near power stations have surfaced, a fact that causes concern amongst experts.

“There’s not one single picture. That’s very troubling,” says Jean-Luc Fornier, whose company designs and operates drones for use in the media industry. “If we had some pictures, we could decide on who may be operating the machines.” Fornier suggests that the flyovers that have been noted have three possible explanations: innocent pranksters, anti-nuclear protestors, or trial runs by terrorists. French National Research Agency said the General Secretary for Defence is “providing €1m of funding for research projects into the detection, identification and neutralisation of small aerial drones”.

According to Large, of consulting engineers Large & Associates, based in London, who was commissioned by Greenpeace France to evaluate and report on the spate of flyovers, the “unacceptable” risk posed by a terrorist drone attack means that many of Europe’s nuclear power stations – including the majority of those in France – should be shut down.

He has advised countries around the world on nuclear safety and believes that governments must reassess the balance of risks and benefits of nuclear power due to the increased danger from terrorists targeting them with modern and readily available hardware such as unmanned drones. “If the risk of a nuclear plant’s design, age and location is unacceptable, governments must consider closing those plants down,” he says. “At the moment, most of the plants in France are not acceptable. The plants in the rest of Europe are old and need reviewing in this respect.” Banning the drones will only spark an underground network of drone builders, adds Large; the best solution for some plants is to close down altogether rather than risk a meltdown.



Spy Research Agency Is Building a Machine To Predict Cyber Attacks

February 24, 2015

By Aliya Sternstein



The intelligence community is holding a contest to design software that combs open source data to predict cyber attacks before they occur.

Imagine if IBM’s Watson — the “Jeopardy!” champion supercomputer — could answer not only trivia questions and forecast the weather, but also predict data breaches days before they occur.

That is the ambitious, long-term goal of a contest being held by the U.S. intelligence community.

Academics and industry scientists are teaming up to build software that can analyze publicly available data and a specific organization’s network activity to find patterns suggesting the likelihood of an imminent hack.

The dream of the future: A White House supercomputer spitting out forecasts on the probability that, say, China will try to intercept situation room video that day, or that Russia will eavesdrop on Secretary of State John Kerry’s phone conversations with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

IBM has even expressed interest in the “Cyber-attack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment,” or CAUSE, project. Big Blue officials presented a basic approach at a Jan. 21 proposers’ day.


Aims to Get to Root of Cyberattacks

CAUSE is the brainchild of the Office for Anticipating Surprise under the director of national intelligence. A “Broad Agency Agreement” — competition terms and conditions — is expected to be issued any day now, contest hopefuls say.

Current plans call for a four-year race to develop a totally new way of detecting cyber incidents — hours to weeks earlier than intrusion-detection systems, according to the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

IARPA program manager Rob Rahmer points to the hacks at Sony and health insurance provider Anthem as evidence that traditional methods of identifying “indicators” of a hacker afoot have not effectively enabled defenders to get ahead of threats.

This is “an industry that has invested heavily in analyzing the effects or the symptoms of cyberattacks instead of analyzing and mitigating the — cause — of cyberattacks,” Rahmer, who is running CAUSE, told Nextgov in an interview. “Instead of reporting relevant events that happen today or in previous days, decision makers will benefit from knowing what is likely to happen tomorrow.”

The project’s cyber-psychic bots will estimate when an intruder might attempt to break into a system or install malicious code. Forecasts also will report when a hacker might flood a network with bogus traffic that freezes operations – a so-called Denial-of-Service attack.

Such computer-driven predictions have worked for anticipating the spread of Ebola, other disease outbreaks and political uprisings. But few researchers have used such technology for cyberattack forecasts.


At Least 150 People Interested — No Word Yet on Size of the Prize Pot

About 150 would-be participants from the private sector and academia showed up for the January informational workshop. Rahmer was tight-lipped about the size of the prize pot, which will be announced later this year. Teams will have to meet various minigoals to pass on to the next round of competition, such as picking data feeds, creating probability formulas and forecasting cyberattacks across multiple organizations.

At the end, “What you are most likely to be able to do is say to a client, ‘Given the state of the world and given the asset you’re trying to protect or that you care about, here are the [events] you might want to worry about the most,'” David Burke, an aspiring participant and research lead for machine learning at computer science research firm Galois, said in an interview. “Instead of having to pay attention to every single bulletin that comes across your desk about possible zero days,” or previously unknown vulnerabilities, it would be wonderful if some machine said, “These are the highest likelihood threats.”

His research focus is “advanced persistent threats,” involving well-resource, well-coordinated hackers who conduct reconnaissance on a system, find a security weakness, wriggle in and invisibly traverse the network.

“Imagine that CAUSE was all about the real-world analogy of figuring out whether some local teenagers are going to knock over a 7-Eleven. That would be really hard to predict. You probably couldn’t even tie that to any larger goal. But in the case of APTs — absolutely” you can, Burke said in an interview. “The fact that APTS are on networks for a long period of time gives you not only the sociopolitical pieces of data or clues but you have all sorts of clues on your network that you can integrate.”

It’s not an exact science. There will be false alarms. And the human brain must provide some support after the machines do their thing.

“The goal is not to replace human analysts but to assist in making sense of the massive amount of information available and while it would be ideal to always find the needle in a haystack, CAUSE seeks to significantly reduce the size of the haystack for an analysts,” Rahmer said.


Unclassified Program Will Trawl for Clues on Social Media

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one’s stance on surveillance, National Security Agency intercepts will not be provided to participants.

“Currently, CAUSE is planned to be an unclassified program,” Rahmer said. “We’re going to ask performers to be creative in identifying these new signals and data sources that can be used.”

Participants will be judged on their speed in identifying the future victim, the method of attack, time of future incident and location of the attacker, according to IARPA.

Clues might be found on Twitter, Facebook and other social media, as well as online discussions, news feeds, Web searches and many other online platforms. Unconventional sources tapped could include black market storefronts that peddle malware and hacker group-behavior models. AI will do all this work, not people. Machines will try to infer motivations and intentions. Then mathematical formulas, or algorithms, will parse these streams of data to generate likely hits.

One research thread Burke is pursuing examines the “nature of deception and counterdeception, particularly as it applies to the cyber domain,” according to an abstract of his proposers’ day presentation.

“Cyber adversaries rely on deceptive attack techniques, and understanding patterns of deception enables accurate predictions and proactive counterdeceptive responses,” the abstract stated.

It’s anticipated that supercomputer-like systems will be needed for this kind of analysis.

For example, “if you were able to look at every single Facebook post and you processed everything and ran it through some filter, through the conversations and the little day-to-day things people do, you could actually start to see larger patterns and you could imagine that is a ton of data,” Burke said. “You would need some sort of big data technology that you’d have to bring to bear to be able to digest all that.”


Still Nailing Down Specifics on Supercomputer Use

The final rules will indicate whether companies can or must use a supercomputer, and whether they can borrow federal computing assets, Rahmer said. “We definitely want innovation and creativity from the offerers,” he added.

Researchers at Battelle, a technology development organization, said they might harness fast data processing engines like Hadoop and Apache Spark. They added that the rules and their team partners will ultimately dictate the system used to amp up computing power.

“We have already recognized as both the rate of collection and the connections between data points grow we will need to move to a high-performance computing environment,” Battelle’s CyberInnovations technical director Ernest Hampson said in an email. “For the CAUSE program, the data from several contractors could push us towards the need for a supercomputing infrastructure using technologies such as IBM’s Watson to support deep learning,” or, hardware such as a Cray Urika “could provide the power to fuel advanced analytics at-scale.”

According to IBM’s January briefing, the apparatus currently used to solve similar prediction problems “runs on x-86 infrastructure.” However, IBM’s x-86 supercomputer hardware was spun off to Chinese firm Lenovo last year. It remains to be seen what machine IBM might deploy, a company spokesman said.

“In theory, the government could say they are going to own the servers,” IBM spokesman Michael B. Rowinski said. “We don’t know ultimately that we would participate or what we even would propose.”

Recorded Future, a six-year-old CIA-backed firm, already knows how to generate hacker behavior models by assimilating public information sources, like Internet traffic, social networks and news reports. But the company’s analyses do not factor in network activity inside a targeted organization, because such data typically is confidential.

“Doing this successfully is not simply the sociopolitical analysis applied to current flashpoints,” Burke said. “You also have observables on a network: signs possibly of malware or penetration because many campaigns that take place go on for weeks or months. So you also have a lot of network data that you are going to end up crunching.”



Hacked Hardware Could Cause The Next Big Security Breach

Microchips govern our homes, cities, infrastructure, and military. What happens when they’re turned against us?

By P.W. Singer Posted February 17, 2015


In late summer of 2006, the Japanese division of McDonald’s decided to run a new promotion. When customers ordered a Coca-Cola soft drink, they would receive a cup with a code. If they entered that code on a designated website and were among 10,000 lucky winners, they would receive an MP3 player pre-loaded with 10 songs.

Cleverly constructed, the promotion seemed destined for success. Who doesn’t like a Coke and a free MP3 player? But there was one problem the marketers at McDonald’s could not anticipate: In addition to 10 free songs, the music players contained QQPass malware. The moment winners plugged their players into a computer, the Trojan horse slipped undetected into their system and began logging keystrokes, collecting passwords, and gathering personal data for later transmission.

McDonald’s eventually recalled the devices and issued an apology, but not before an unknown number of users had fallen prey to the malware. In the annals of fast food promotions, the incident is still regarded as one of the worst of all time (even beating the ill-conceived McAfrika burger—an African–inspired sandwich released at the height of a famine). For security professionals, it was notable too, but for entirely different reasons: It offered a terrifying glimpse at how hackers could build a cyberattack directly into the very systems we depend on.

In the past year, cybercrime has blossomed into a pandemic, consuming more than $445 billion in lost time, jobs, and intellectual property. Hackers compromised 233 million personal records from eBay; they intimidated Sony into scuttling the theatrical release of The Interview; they even commandeered the Pentagon’s Twitter account. But as varied as those assaults were, they shared a trait: Somone hacked software to penetrate a network or account. What set the McDonald’s incident apart—and what strikes fear into cybersecurity professionals everywhere—is that the perpetrator hacked hardware instead.

In computing terminology, hardware boils down to microchips, the integrated circuits that run our devices. They are in our phones, refrigerators, electric grids, planes, and missiles. And many more are on the way. Cisco estimates that more than 50 billion Internet-connected devices will come online by 2020, all communicating ceaselessly with the world around them.

Microchips are the bedrock upon which our digital world is based, and they are almost entirely unsecured. Whereas software security is on pace to become a $156 billion industry in the next five years, hardware security gets relatively little mention. Yet the challenges hardware presents are in many ways more extensive, more dangerous, and more difficult to combat. When the marketers at McDonald’s ordered their MP3 players, they simply chose a device from a catalog. It just happened that someone at a production line in Hong Kong decided to load it with malware. We’ll likely never know why that person chose those particular MP3 players, and that’s not really the point. This kind of attack could have hit anywhere hardware exists, from coffeemakers to fighter jets, and the consequences could have been much, much worse.

When Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments invented the first integrated circuit in 1958 (for which he later won a Nobel Prize), the age of the microchip was born. These early processors cost $450 and consisted of a few transistors, diodes, resistors, and capacitors placed onto a slice of germanium and linked by gold wires. The unit was about 10 millimeters across.


Today’s microchips follow the same principles but are exponentially more complex. They consist of billions of transistors and are divided into multiple sub-units (called “blocks,” as Kilby first labeled them), each of which carries out a specific function. A smartphone’s processor, for example, may have some blocks whose purpose is to store frames of video and others to convert them so they can be sent over an antenna.

As the nature and complexity of chips has changed in five and a half decades, so too has their design and manufacture. In the 1970s and ’80s, there were just a handful of known and trusted chip designers; now there are a huge number of companies creating more than 5,000 new designs each year, spread from the U.S. to Asia. These teams, in turn, involve hundreds or thousands of people at multiple locations—each working on different blocks. Chips have become so intricate that no one person can see, let alone understand, every detail of their architecture.

These developments have, by and large, been positive. The more powerful our microchips, the more capabilities we have. But when such complexity is paired with massive scale—$333 billion–worth of chips were sold in 2014 alone—it also creates significant vulnerabilities, and an ever-more irresistible opportunity for hardware hackers. In a recent report for the Brookings Institution, John Villasenor, a professor of electrical engineering and public policy at University of California at Los Angeles, wrote, “The laws of statistics guarantee that there are people with the skills, access, and motivation to intentionally compromise a chip design.” In other words, more frequent and large-scale hardware attacks are just a matter of time. And when they come, whether from a nation state, a crime syndicate, or a rogue employee, they will arrive in one of two forms: overt or covert.

Overt actions are perhaps the simpler of the two: They make it apparent that the system isn’t working properly. The best example would be a so-called kill switch, in which an enemy or criminal could selectively turn off chips at will. Doing this is easier than one might think. For example, the different blocks in a chip can communicate and coordinate via a “system bus,” which they take turns using so as not to create interference. If one block was corrupted so it would not give up access to the system bus—something well within reach of many mid-level chip designers—it would prevent the other blocks from getting data, effectively disabling, or bricking, the system.

Microchips are the bedrock upon which our digital world is based, and they are almost entirely unsecured.

Just one small corruption can have grave consequences. In 2011, faulty transistors were found in an electromagnetic interference filter destined for a U.S. Navy helicopter (an SH-60 deployed to a destroyer in the Pacific Fleet). Though never installed, that defective part would have compromised the SH-60’s ability to fire its Hellfire missiles, making it practically useless in combat. The manufacturer of the filter, Raytheon, and the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services had to trace the transistors through five companies before finding their origin in China.

An investigation later proved the flaws were an honest production error. But had someone intentionally pursued this sort of hack, the result could have been different. More than three-quarters of the field-programmable gate arrays in the F-35 strike fighter are made in China and Taiwan. So are the majority of chips in automobiles and wireless medical devices, such as pacemakers and dialysis machines. If that hardware was modified ever so slightly, a kill code could selectively disable the chip and the systems that depend on it. And that code could come from any number of sources. A command could originate in a text or email message. It could be delivered by radio signal to a micro-antenna hidden on the chip. It could even be a simple internal time bomb, programmed at the chip’s inception, to trigger a coordinated shutdown on a certain time and date, as in the first episode of Battlestar Galactica.

If an overt action is the equivalent of dropping a bomb, a covert one is like laying a landmine. A compromised chip may appear to function normally while secretly collecting and transmitting information, launching malware from inside the system, or even coordinating with other corrupted chips to carry out a larger attack. In 2007, for example, the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice discovered that a number of Seagate hard drives had two separate Trojans built into them by someone in the design or manufacturing process. The malware would phone home to a pair of websites hosted out of Beijing, which would then cause the hard drive to upload all its data. More recently, the Star N9500, a knockoff of the Galaxy S4 smartphone, shipped from a factory in China preloaded with a Trojan masquerading as the Google Play Store. It allowed the attackers to record phone calls, read emails, intercept financial information, and remotely watch and listen in via the phone’s camera and microphone.

Even hardware generally considered innocuous could be exploited by hackers and used for covert acts. Modified third-party phone chargers have served as vehicles for malware, as have game consoles. In the world of hardware hacking, any smart device—a refrigerator, clock, even a wearable fitness monitor—could be weaponized.

Such covert actions could inflict even greater harm were they to work their way into the backbone of the Internet: the servers and other networking equipment that comprise the infrastructure of the IT world. Instead of gathering embarrassing emails from a handful of executives, hackers with compromised servers could monitor most of the world’s Internet messages. As companies such as Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corporation—both of which supply telecommunication equipment and have ties to the Chinese military—continue to grow, so too will concerns about network security. Add to that, the revelations by Edward Snowden indicate the National Security Agency (NSA) has moved from hacking individual computers to network hardware.

Perhaps the most devastating form of covert attack would be one that turns kinetic. Imagine a single employee at a microchip foundry hellbent on engineering an international crisis. Knowing the foundry’s chips go into drone systems, that employee could embed a malfunction into the hardware that would activate only at a certain GPS point. When the drone reaches the designated position, say in northwest Pakistan, it would fire a missile at a school or dam instead of a militant camp.

The example is a worst-case scenario but hardly inconceivable. At a cybersecurity panel at the Aspen Institute in 2011, General Michael Hayden, a retired Air Force four-star general who headed both the CIA and NSA, was asked about hardware hacking, and his response was simple: “It’s the problem from hell.”

At this point, hardware hacking is still in its infancy, and so too are solutions to it. Chip designers primarily rely on protocols that have not appreciably changed for years. For that reason, Villasenor wrote in 2010, “Defensive strategies have not yet been fully developed, much less put into practice.”

And so protection for consumers at this point comes down to common sense: If you don’t know where something is from, it’s generally not a great idea to plug it into your network. The advice sounds obvious, but it bears stating that the worst hack in U.S. military history occurred when someone found a corrupted memory stick outside a base in the Middle East and plugged it into a classified network.

Beyond simple schoolyard rules, creating defenses becomes much more difficult. To stop hardware hacking at the design and manufacture stage, the Pentagon has launched its “Trusted Foundry” program. To qualify, foundries that build integrated circuits must pass a rigorous accreditation process. It’s a good first step, but it affects only a small fraction of the chips the U.S. military needs, let alone the rest of us. The next step would be to expand the network of trusted chipmakers and punish companies found to be untrustworthy. But given the layers of buyers and sellers involved, that will be difficult. The researchers that detected the hack in the Star N9500 smartphone spent more than a week trying to find the source of the malicious chip, to no avail.

In the world of hardware hacking, any smart device—a refrigerator, clock, even a wearable fitness monitor—could be weaponized.


As foundries strive to improve their security, some researchers are investigating the development of digital watermarks, such as holograms or bits of plant DNA, that could be authenticated at key points in the supply chain. Other researchers are looking upstream to secure the microchip design process. More robust encryption programs could track design changes, making it harder for someone to initiate a hack in the first place.

Testing, too, requires an overhaul. Tests today are “usually designed to weed out accidental defects and design flaws, not identify parts that counterfeiters have specifically altered to masquerade as something they are not,” Villasenor wrote in an article with co-author Mohammad Tehranipoor. And only a small percentage of the millions of chips produced each year are tested anyway. To fortify this vulnerability, DARPA created the Integrity and Reliability of Integrated Circuits program. Its projects include an advanced scanning optical microscope that will use an infrared laser to probe “microelectronic circuits at nanometer levels, revealing information about chip construction as well as the function of circuits at the transistor level.”

The agency also launched the Supply Chain Hardware Integrity for Electronics Defense program. It aims to develop a dielet, a 100-micron-by-100-micron component that could be attached to chips at less than a penny per unit. It would carry an encryption engine to help secure data and sensors to detect any tampering.

Each program holds a lot of promise, but to truly safeguard hardware vulnerabilities chip designers need to rethink chips themselves. That means building defenses directly into integrated circuits. One example could be to install input and output monitors that stop chips from communicating with unauthorized connections and memory gatekeepers that prohibit access to off-limits areas. Another would be to incorporate a “no execute” bit, which cordons off certain areas of memory and prevents the processor from executing any code from there. The appetite for such solutions, however, is still very limited.


Chronic Condition

A few years ago, Cody Brocious, a 24-year-old researcher at Mozilla, began to investigate the security of the electronic room-lock systems used at many hotels, most of which can be programmed to accept master keys. At the 2012 Black Hat security conference, he showed off how to spoof a master key with little more than $50 worth of homebrewed hardware. The lock manufacturer developed a defense against this attack, but it involves replacing the hardware in more than four million locks.

In the end, that’s truly what makes hardware hacking the “problem from hell”: The potential avenues of attack are so numerous and insidious, they can be hard to contemplate. Addressing them will be neither easy nor fast—but it can be done. The challenge of software security appeared equally insurmountable at one time, but now cybersecurity professionals are doing a better job of understanding and confronting those risks than ever before. As with software, the decision to pursue hardware security will ultimately come down to cost-benefit analysis. Added defenses often come with tradeoffs, namely lower performance, increased cost, or both. Until now, the decision to adopt them has been pretty easy—don’t bother. Going forward, the thought process will change. As James Hayward, the CEO of Applied DNA Sciences, said in an interview, “A $100 microchip might keep a $100 million dollar helicopter on the ground.”

That new calculus will hopefully spur governments and companies to attack hardware vulnerabilties before criminals do. “Frankly, it’s not a problem that can be solved,” General Hayden said of hardware hacking in Aspen. “This is a condition that you have to manage.”

This article was originally published in the March 2015 issue of Popular Science, under the title, “Nowhere To Hide.”


Move over Wallace and Gromit – it’s the right trousers

Press release issued: 24 February 2015

With an ageing UK population, older people could have the opportunity to stay independent for longer thanks to a pioneering project announced today [Tuesday 24 February]. New research, led by the University of Bristol, will develop smart trousers using artificial ‘muscles’ in its soft fabric to help disabled and older people move around easily and unaided.

The research project, funded by a £2 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will enable people with mobility impairments, disabilities and age-related weaknesses to live independently and with dignity.

The soft robotic clothing could help vulnerable people avoid falls by supporting them whilst walking, give people added bionic strength to move between sitting and standing positions and help people climb stairs, which were previously impossible. 

The wearable clothing could replace the stair lift in the home and other bulky and uncomfortable mobility and stability aids.  Ultimately soft robotic clothing has the potential to free many wheelchair users from their wheelchairs.

Dr Jonathan Rossiter, Reader in Robotics in the Department of Engineering Mathematics at the University of Bristol and who is leading the project, said: “This is the first time soft robotics technologies have been used to address the many rehabilitation and health care needs in one single type of wearable device.

“Many existing devices used by people with mobility problems can cause or aggravate conditions such as poor circulation, skin pressure damage or susceptibility to falls, each of which is a drain on health resources.  Wearable soft robotics has the potential to improve many of these problems and reduce healthcare costs at the same time too.”

This intelligent clothing or ‘second skin’ will use artificial ‘muscles’ made from smart materials and reactive polymers which are capable of exerting great forces.  The wearable device will be developed using the latest wearable soft robotic, nanoscience, 3D fabrication, functional electrical stimulation and full-body monitoring technologies, all driven by the need of the end users, who will be directly involved in the project.

The clothing will include control systems that monitor the wearer and adapt to give the most suitable assistance, working with the body’s own muscles.  For patients needing rehabilitation the smart clothing can initially provide strong support and subsequently reduce assistance as the patient recovers mobility and strength.

The research team hope the wearable clothing will be easy to use, comfortable, and adaptable and meet the user’s individual mobility needs.

The £2 million project called Wearable soft robotics for independent living
is led by the University of Bristol in collaboration with the universities of Nottingham, Leeds, Strathclyde, Southampton, Loughborough and UWE Bristol.  The three-year project will start in July 2015 and be completed by June 2018.

The project is part of a £5.3 million funding programme announced by the EPSRC today to transform the design of assistive and rehabilitative devices.



Cyber-Armageddon Less Likely Than Predicted, Clapper Says

‘By’Anthony Capaccio

8:08 PM EST

February 25, 2015


(Bloomberg) — A single cyber-attack that cripples U.S. infrastructure is less likely than a succession of costly computer attacks, according to the nation’s top intelligence official.

“Rather than a ‘cyber-Armageddon’ scenario that debilitates the entire U.S. infrastructure, we envision something different,” James Clapper, the director of national intelligence, said in a report on global threats. “We foresee an ongoing series of low-to-moderate level cyber-attacks from a variety of sources over time, which will impose cumulative costs on U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.”

Clapper’s report, submitted to a Senate committee, marks a significant departure from past U.S. warnings about the type of Internet attacks that the country will face. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned in 2012 of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” that could paralyze the country.

The intelligence chief’s report was obtained by Bloomberg News in advance of his testimony Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Attacks may include not only hacking but “supply-chain operations to insert compromised hardware or software,” Clapper said. At the same time, detection has improved so that attackers can no longer assume that their identities will stay concealed, he said.

Other findings in Clapper’s wide-ranging summary of a “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community” were less optimistic than positions taken by other Obama administration officials.


Iraq Stalemate

On Iraq, where officials have said the U.S. has stopped the momentum of Islamic State extremists, Clapper described a stalemate.

Six months of air strikes by the U.S. and allies and limited ground operations have “largely stabilized” Iraq, with no side “able to muster the resources necessary” to meet its objectives, Clapper said.

Growing sectarian conflict in mixed Sunni-Shia areas in and around Baghdad, including a campaign of retribution killings, threatens to undermine the coalition’s efforts, he said.

On terrorism more broadly, Clapper said that “Sunni violent extremists are gaining momentum” and the number of groups “and safe havens is greater than at any other point in history.”

The threat to U.S. allies and partners will probably increase depending on extremists’ success in seizing and holding territory, he said.


Radicalized ‘Operatives’

Most groups “place a higher priority on local concerns than on attacking the so-called far enemy — the United States and the West,” Clapper said.

If Islamic State’s priority were to change, “radicalized Westerners who have fought in Syria and Iraq would provide a pool of operatives who potentially have access to the United States and other Western countries.”

As the U.S. seeks to negotiate an accord to halt Iran’s nuclear program, Clapper said Iran remains “an ongoing threat to U.S. national interests because of its support to the Assad regime in Syria, promulgation of anti-Israeli policies, development of advanced military capabilities and pursuit of its nuclear program.”


While Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has been described as relatively moderate, Clapper said he is “a longstanding member of the regime establishment” who “will not depart from Iran’s national security objectives.”


Russia’s Plans

In recounting cybersecurity threats from countries including China, Iran and North Korea, Clapper said that Russia’s defense ministry “is establishing its own cyber command.”

According to senior Russian military officials, the command “will be responsible for conducting offensive cyber activities, including propaganda operations and inserting malware into enemy command and control systems,” Clapper said.

U.S. companies have called for a more aggressive response to cyber-attacks on companies by China, Iran, North Korea and other nation states. Financial institutions, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., have repeatedly asked U.S. officials to do more to halt the attacks rather than expect banks to fight them off.


North Korea, China

On North Korea and China, Clapper said both nations are making strides in nuclear weapons delivery systems

North Korea “launched an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles” in tests last year and remains “committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States,” he said.

The regime has twice publicly displayed its road-mobile KN08 intercontinental ballistic missile and “has already taken the initial steps” to field the system, although it hasn’t been flight-tested, Clapper said.

China is expanding its nuclear force “by adding more survivable road-mobile systems and enhancing its silo-based systems” to provide a second-strike capability, Clapper said.

The U.S. intelligence community also assesses that China “will soon conduct its first nuclear deterrence patrols” with its JIN-class submarines armed with JL-2 sea-launched ballistic missiles, Clapper said.



Less than half of combat squadrons fully ready for combat

By Jeff Schogol, Staff writer 1:25 p.m. EST February 25, 2015


Less than half of the Air Force’s combat-coded squadrons are fully prepared for combat, top service officials told lawmakers on Wednesday.

“While the specific numbers are classified, I’ll tell you the overall combat capability of our combat coded squadrons in the Air Force is still below 50 percent, so fewer than 50 percent of them are fully combat capable,” Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh told the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee on Wednesday.

And if Congress does not block the spending cuts called for in the Budget Control Act, the decline in squadrons that are fully combat ready will be “stunning,” Welsh said.

The Air Force’s proposed budget for fiscal 2016 does not include the steep Budget Control Act spending cuts, which could return next fiscal year unless Congress repeals the mandated spending caps.

“It will not be a precipitous drop off because we will prioritize funding for readiness, but we will not be able to continue the recovery of individual and unit readiness that we had started over the last two years,” Welsh said.

The Air Force also faces a bigger problem because it has not invested in training ranges and other infrastructure over the last 15 years, Welsh said. It will take between eight and 10 years for the Air Force to rebuild that infrastructure, depending on how much money it gets.

The Air Force was hit hard by the Budget Control Act cuts known as sequestration, which went into effect in 2013 when Congress and the president failed to reach an agreement on how to balance taxes and spending.

Because the cuts came in the middle of the fiscal year, the Air Force had to take drastic measures to reduce spending, including slashing flying hours. Ultimately, the service had to ground 17 combat squadrons that year.

In 2013, the Air Force also had to cancel two Red Flag exercises, which simulate air-to-air combat, and four Green Flag air-to-ground combat training exercises. A weapons school class at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada, was also canceled.

Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said she is concerned that roughly half of combat air forces are not sufficiently trained for “high end” combat.

“I’m talking about a conflict in which the enemy has the ability to interfere with you in the air or in space,” James told reporters after Wednesday’s hearing.

While the Air Force would be prepared if called on to fight a high-end war, the service has to get more squadrons fully combat ready, she said.

“I want to make sure that we are readiest that we can be and ought to be and I think we can do better in this country than what sequestration would allow for us,” James said.


McCain vows ‘one hell of a fight’ on sequestration     

By Kristina Wong – 02/26/15 07:27 PM EST


Sen. John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, declared war on sequestration earlier this week.

“Next week, [Defense Secretary] Ash Carter is going to come over with a budget and then we’re going to have one hell of a fight over sequestration,” McCain said at a New America Foundation conference on Wednesday.

“I will not vote for a budget in the United States Senate that has sequestration in it. I can’t do that to the men and women who are serving,” he said.

McCain said he didn’t know how many people were with him.

“I’ve never been very good at counting votes but I do know that there is real unease out there about continuing the sequestration,” he said.

Although the White House has proposed a 2016 defense base budget of $535 billion, budget caps imposed by sequestration would limit the budget to $500 billion and force the military to cut things like weapons systems, training and manpower.

Sequestration, a mechanism passed by Congress in the 2011 Budget Control Act, cut the government’s budget by $1 trillion over 10 years — $500 billion of that from the Pentagon’s budget alone — after lawmakers were unable to reach a deal on spending and tax reform.

Reversing sequestration would require an act of law by Congress, but whether lawmakers could agree on tax and spending reform is unclear. Fiscal hawks and liberals are also wary of uncontrolled defense spending, and some liberals say any lifting of defense cuts should be accompanied by lifting cuts on social programs.

Lawmakers were able to partially lift defense budget caps in 2014 and 2015, but the caps are set to return in October with the new fiscal year — and could force the Navy to retire an aircraft carrier, the Army to reduce troops to World War II levels, and the Air Force to cut critical weapons systems. Military training and readiness would be affected across the board.

If Congress does not raise the budget caps, lawmakers will either have to find ways to meet the $500 billion limit, or allow cuts of $35 billion to go into affect, slicing the same percentage off nearly every Pentagon program except for pay and benefits.

“I worry a little bit…As I mentioned, sequester is about $40 billion lower than the lower ragged edge of what it takes to defend the country,” McCain said.

“We’ll never succeed, but we want as much as possible a policy-driven budget rather than just take the Pentagon’s numbers and see how we can cram it into different areas, so I’m really trying to work as hard as I can on that aspect,” he added.

McCain has vowed to work with Carter and House Armed Services Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) to reform the defense acquisition system to reduce waste in the Pentagon’s purchases of major weapons systems.

At Carter’s confirmation hearing for defense secretary earlier this month, McCain mentioned the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program, the Navy’s Littoral Combat Ship program and the Gerald Ford Class Nuclear Aircraft Carrier, and the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps’ F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program.

Thornberry sounded optimistic in recent remarks at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

“We have a major reform effort on acquisition, both the goods and services, that we’re working with the Pentagon on,” he said Tuesday at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

“We’re not going to fix it, but we’re going to try to make some improvements, and then keep — keep after it,” he said.


Between a Roomba and a Terminator: What is Autonomy?

Paul Scharre    

February 18, 2015

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a six-part series, The Coming Swarm, on military robotics and automation as a part of the joint War on the Rocks-Center for a New American Security Beyond Offset Initiative.


Department of Defense leaders have stated that robotics and autonomous systems will be a key part of a new “offset strategy” to sustain American military dominance, but what is autonomy? Uninhabited, or unmanned, systems have played important roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, from providing loitering overhead surveillance to defusing bombs. They have operated generally in a remote-controlled context, however, with only limited automation for functions like takeoff and landing. Numerous Defense Department roadmap and vision documents depict a future of uninhabited vehicles with greater autonomy, transitioning over time to true robotic systems. What that means for how militaries fight, however, is somewhat murky.

What does it mean for a robot to be “fully autonomous?” How much machine intelligence is required to reach “full autonomy,” and when can we expect it? And what is the role of the human warfighter in this proposed future with robots running loose, untethered from their human controllers?

Confusion about the term “autonomy” is a problem in envisioning the answers to these questions. The word “autonomy” is used by different people in different ways, making communicating about where we are headed with robotic systems particularly challenging. The term “autonomous robot” might mean a Roomba to one person and a Terminator to another! Writers or presenters on this topic often articulate “levels of autonomy,” but their levels rarely agree, leading a recent Defense Science Board report on autonomy to throw out the concept of “levels” of autonomy altogether.





In the interest of adding some clarity to this issue, I want to illuminate how we use the word, why it is confusing, and how we can be more precise. I can’t change the fact that “autonomy” means so many things to so many people, and I won’t try to shoehorn all of the possible uses of autonomy into yet another chart of “levels of autonomy.” But I can try to inject some much needed precision into the discussion.


What is “Autonomy?”

In its simplest form, autonomy is the ability of a machine to perform a task without human input. Thus an “autonomous system” is a machine, whether hardware or software, that, once activated, performs some task or function on its own. A robot is an uninhabited system that incorporates some degree of autonomy, generally understood to include the ability to sense the environment and react to it, at least in some crude fashion.

Autonomous systems are not limited to uninhabited vehicles, however. In fact, autonomous, or automated, functions are included on many human-inhabited systems today. Most cars today include anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, power steering, emergency seat belt retractors, and air bags. Higher-end cars may include intelligent cruise control, automatic lane keeping, collision avoidance, and automatic parking. For military aircraft, automatic ground collision avoidance systems (auto-GCAS) can similarly take control of a human-piloted aircraft if a pilot becomes disoriented and is about to fly into terrain. And modern commercial airliners have a high degree of automation available throughout every phase of a flight. Increased automation or autonomy can have many advantages, including increased safety and reliability, improved reaction time and performance, reduced personnel burden with associated cost savings, and the ability to continue operations in communications-degraded or denied environments.

Parsing out how much autonomy a system has is important for understanding the challenges and opportunities associated with increasing autonomy. There is a wide gap, of course, between a Roomba and a Terminator. Rather than search in vain for a unified framework of “levels of autonomy,” a more fruitful direction is to think of autonomy as having three main axes, or dimensions, along which a system can vary. These dimensions are independent, and so autonomy does not exist on merely one spectrum, but three spectrums simultaneously.



Robots at War and the Quality of Quantity

Paul Scharre    

February 26, 2015 · in Beyond Offset

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a six-part series, The Coming Swarm, on military robotics and automation as a part of the joint War on the Rocks-Center for a New American Security Beyond Offset Initiative. Read the first entry in the series, “Between a Roomba and a Terminator.”


The U.S. Department of Defense has launched the search for a “third offset strategy,” an approach to sustain U.S. military technological superiority against potential adversaries. But, for a number of reasons, this strategy is different than the previous two. Even the name “offset” may not be valid. The first two strategies were aimed at “offsetting” the Soviet numerical advantage in conventional weapons in Europe, first with U.S. nuclear weapons and later with information-enabled precision-strike weapons. But this time around, it may be the United States bringing numbers to the fight.

Uninhabited and autonomous systems have the potential to reverse the multi-decade trend in rising platform costs and shrinking quantities, allowing the U.S. military to field large numbers of assets at affordable cost. The result could be that instead of “offsetting” a quantitative advantage that an adversary is presumed to start with, the United States could be showing up with better technology and greater numbers.







The value of mass

The United States out-produced its enemies in World War II. By 1944, the United States and its Allies were producing over 51,000 tanks a year to Germany’s 17,800 and over 167,000 planes a year to the combined Axis total of just under 68,000. Even though many of Germany’s tanks and aircraft were of superior quality to those of the Allies, they were unable to compensate for the unstoppable onslaught of Allied iron. Paul Kennedy writes in The Rise and Fall of Great Powers:

…by 1943-1944 the United States alone was producing one ship a day and one aircraft every five minutes! … No matter how cleverly the Wehrmacht mounted its tactical counterattacks on both the western and eastern fronts until almost the last months of the war, it was to be ultimately overwhelmed by the sheer mass of Allied firepower.

The Cold War saw a shift in strategy, with the United States instead initially relying on nuclear weapons to counter the growing Soviet conventional arsenal in Europe, the first “offset strategy.” By the 1970s, the Soviets had achieved a three-to-one overmatch against NATO in conventional forces and a rough parity in strategic nuclear forces. In response to this challenge, the U.S. military adopted the second offset strategy to counter Soviet numerical advantages with qualitatively superior U.S. weapons: stealth, advanced sensors, command and control networks, and precision-guided weapons.

The full effect of these weapons was seen in 1991, when the United States took on Saddam Hussein’s Soviet-equipped army. Casualty ratios in the Gulf War ran an extremely lopsided 30-to-1. Iraqi forces were so helpless against American precision airpower that the White House eventually terminated the war earlier than planned because media images of the so-called “highway of death” made American forces seem as if they were “cruelly and unusually punishing our already whipped foes,” in the words of Gulf War air commander General Chuck Horner. Precision-guided weapons, coupled with sensors to find targets and networks to connect sensors and shooters, allowed the information-enabled U.S. military to crush Iraqi forces fighting with unguided munitions.

What happens when they have precision-guided weapons too?

The proliferation of precision-guided weapons to other adversaries is shifting the scales, however, bringing mass once again back into the equation. The United States military can expect to face threats from adversary precision-guided munitions in future fights. At the same time, ever-rising platform costs are pushing U.S. quantities lower and lower, presenting adversaries with fewer targets on which to concentrate their missiles. U.S. platforms may be qualitatively superior, but they are not invulnerable. Salvos of enemy missiles threaten to overwhelm the defenses of U.S. ships and air bases. Even if missile defenses can, in principle, intercept incoming missiles, the cost-exchange ratio of attacking missiles to defending interceptors favors the attacker, meaning U.S. adversaries need only purchase more missiles to saturate U.S. defenses.


Enter the swarm

Uninhabited systems offer an alternative model, with the potential to disaggregate expensive multi-mission systems into a larger number of smaller, lower cost distributed platforms. Because they can take greater risk and therefore be made low-cost and attritable – or willing to accept some attrition – uninhabited systems can be built in large numbers. Combined with mission-level autonomy and multi-vehicle control, large numbers of low-cost attritable robotics can be controlled en masse by a relatively small number of human controllers.

Large numbers of uninhabited vehicles have several potential advantages:

◦Combat power can be dispersed, giving the enemy more targets, forcing the adversary to expend more munitions.

◦Platform survivability is replaced with a concept of swarm resiliency. Individual platforms need not be survivable if there are sufficient numbers of them such that the whole is resilient against attack.

◦Mass allows the graceful degradation of combat power as individual platforms are attrited, as opposed to a sharp loss in combat power if a single, more exquisite platform is lost.

◦Offensive salvos can saturate enemy defenses. Most defenses can only handle so many threats at one time. Missile batteries can be exhausted. Guns can only shoot in one direction at a time. Even low cost-per-shot continuous or near-continuous fire weapons like high energy lasers can only engage one target at a time and generally require several seconds of engagement to defeat a target. Salvos of guided munitions or uninhabited vehicles can overwhelm enemy defenses such that “leakers” get through, taking out the target.

These advantages could translate to new, innovative approaches for using uninhabited systems, just a few of which are explored below.

The miniature air-launched decoy (MALD) and miniature air-launched decoy – jammer (MALD-J) – loitering air vehicles that are not quite munitions and are not aircraft – hint at the potential of small, loitering uninhabited air vehicles and air-mobile robots. The MALD functions as an aerial decoy to deceive enemy radars, while the MALD-J jams enemy radars. Similar future uninhabited air vehicles, launched from aircraft, ships or submarines, could saturate enemy territory with overwhelming numbers of low-cost, expendable systems. Like D-Day’s “little groups of paratroopers” dropped behind enemy lines, they could sow confusion and wreak havoc on an enemy.

Loitering electronic attack weapons could create an electronic storm of jamming, decoys and high-powered microwaves. Small air vehicles could autonomously fly down roads searching for mobile missiles and, once found, relay their coordinates back to human controllers for attack.

Such aircraft would be small and would require a means of getting to the fight. This could include submarines parked off an enemy’s coast, uninhabited missile boats that race to the enemy’s coastline before launching their payloads into the air, large bomber or cargo aircraft, or even uninhabited undersea pods like DARPA’s Hydra program.

A similar approach could help the Army expand combat power on land. The Army has thousands of fully functional ground vehicles such as HMMWVs and M113 armored personnel carriers that will not be used in future conflicts because they lack sufficient armor to protect human occupants. At very low cost, however, on the order of tens of thousands of dollars apiece, these vehicles could be converted into robotic systems. With no human on board, their lack of heavy armor would not be a problem.

This could be done at low cost using robotic appliqué kits – sensors and command systems that are applied to existing vehicles to convert them for remote or autonomous operation. Robotic appliqué kits have already been used to convert construction vehicles into remotely operated Bobcats and bulldozers to counter improvised explosive devices.

Applied to existing vehicles, robotic appliqué kits could give the Army a massive robot ground force at extremely low cost. The sheer mass of such a force, and the ability to apply it in sacrificial or suicidal missions, could change how the Army approaches maneuver warfare.

Uninhabited ground vehicles could be the vanguard of an advance, allowing robots to be the “contact” part of a “movement to contact.” Robotic vehicles could be used to flush out the enemy, flank or surround them, or launch feinting maneuvers. Uninhabited vehicles could be air-dropped behind enemy lines on suicide missions. Scouting for targets, they could be used by human controllers for direct engagements or could send back coordinates for indirect fire or aerial attacks.

These are just some of the possibilities that greater mass could bring in terms of imposing costs on adversaries and unlocking new concepts of operation. Experimentation is needed, both in simulations and in realistic real-world environments, to better understand how warfighters would employ large numbers of low-cost expendable robotic systems.

And there would be other issues to work out. Robotic systems would still require maintenance, although mitigation measures could minimize the burden. Modular design would allow easy replacements when parts broke, allowing maintainers to cannibalize other systems for spare parts. And uninhabited systems could be kept “in a box” during peacetime with only a limited number used for training, much like missiles. For some applications where uninhabited systems would be needed in wartime but not in peacetime, mixed-component units that leverage National Guard and Reserve maintainers may be a cost-effective way to manage personnel.


A new paradigm for assessing qualitative advantage

The point of building large numbers of lower cost systems is not to field forces on the battlefield that are qualitatively inferior to the enemy. Rather, it is to change the notion of qualitative superiority from an attribute of the platform to an attribute of the swarm. The swarm, as a whole, should be more capable than an adversary’s military forces. That is, after all, the purpose of combat: to defeat the enemy. What uninhabited systems enable, is a disaggregation of that combat capability into larger numbers of less exquisite systems which, individually, may be less capable but in aggregate are superior to the enemy’s forces.

Disaggregating combat power will not be possible in all cases, and large (and expensive) vehicles will still be needed for many purposes. Expensive, exquisite systems will inevitably be purchased in small numbers, however, and so where possible they should be supplemented by larger numbers of lower-cost systems in a high-low mix. Neither a cheap-and-numerous nor an expensive-and-few approach will work in every instance, and U.S. forces will need to field a mix of high and low-cost assets to bring the right capabilities to bear – and in the right numbers – in future conflicts.

Paul Scharre is a fellow and Director of the 20YY Warfare Initiative at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) and author of CNAS’ recent report, “Robotics on the Battlefield Part II: The Coming Swarm.” He is a former infantryman in the 75th Ranger Regiment and has served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.



A New American Grand Strategy

by General Jim Mattis

Thursday, February 26, 2015


The world is awash in change. The international order, so painstakingly put together by the greatest generation coming home from mankind’s bloodiest conflict, is under increasing stress. It was created with elements we take for granted: the United Nations, NATO, the Marshall Plan, Bretton Woods and more. The constructed order reflected the wisdom of those who recognized no nation lived as an island and we needed new ways to deal with challenges that for better or worse impacted all nations. Like it or not, today we are part of this larger world and must carry out our part. We cannot wait for problems to arrive here or it will be too late; rather we must remain strongly engaged in this complex world.

The international order built on the state system is not self-sustaining. It demands tending by an America that leads wisely, standing unapologetically for the freedoms each of us in this room have enjoyed. The hearing today addresses the need for America to adapt to changing circumstances, to come out now from its reactive crouch and to take a firm strategic stance in defense of our values.

While we recognize that we owe future generations the same freedoms we enjoy, the challenge lies in how to carry out our responsibility. We have lived too long now in a strategy-free mode.

To do so America needs a refreshed national strategy. The Congress can play a key role in crafting a coherent strategy with bipartisan support. Doing so requires us to look beyond events currently consuming the executive branch.

There is an urgent need to stop reacting to each immediate vexing issue in isolation. Such response often creates unanticipated second order effects and more problems for us. I suggest that the best way to cut to the essence of these issues and to help you in crafting America’s response to a rapidly changing security environment is to ask the right questions.

These are some that we should ask:

What are the key threats to our vital interests?

The intelligence community should delineate and provide an initial prioritization of those threats for your consideration. By rigorously defining the problems we face you will enable a more intelligent and focused use of the resources allocated for national defense.

Is our intelligence community fit for its expanding purpose?

Today we have less of a military shock absorber to take surprise in stride, and fewer forward-deployed military forces overseas to act as sentinels. Accordingly we need more early warning. Congress should question if we are adequately funding the intelligence agencies to reduce the chance of our defenses being caught flat-footed.

We know that the “foreseeable future” is not foreseeable; our review must incorporate unpredictability, recognizing risk while avoiding gambling with our nation’s security.Incorporating the broadest issues in its assessments, Congress should consider what we must do if the national debt is assessed to be the biggest national security threat we face.

As President Eisenhower noted, the foundation of military strength is our economic strength. In a few short years paying interest on our debt will be a bigger bill than what we pay for defense. Much of that interest money is destined to leave America for overseas. If we refuse to reduce our debt or pay down our deficit, what is the impact on national security for future generations who will inherit this irresponsible debt and the taxes to service it? No nation in history has maintained its military power while failing to keep its fiscal house in order.

How do we urgently halt the damage caused by sequestration?

No foe in the field can wreck such havoc on our security that mindless sequestration is achieving. Congress passed it because it was viewed as so injurious that it would force wise choices. It has failed and today we use arithmetic vice sound thinking to run our government, despite emerging enemy threats. The Senate Armed Services Committee should lead the effort to repeal the sequestration that is costing military readiness and long term capability while sapping troop morale.

Without predictability in budget matters no strategy can be implemented by your military leaders. Your immediate leadership is needed to avert further damage. In our approach to the world, we must be willing to ask strategic questions. In the Middle East, where our influence is at its lowest point in four decades, we see a region erupting in crises.

We need a new security architecture for the Middle East built on sound policy, one that permits us to take our own side in this fight. Crafting such a policy starts with asking a fundamental question and then others: Is political Islam in our best interest? If not what is our policy to support the countervailing forces? Violent terrorists cannot be permitted to take refuge behind false religious garb and leave us unwilling to define this threat with the clarity it deserves. We have potential allies around the world and in the Middle East who will rally to us but we have not been clear about where we stand in defining or dealing with the growing violent jihadist terrorist threat.

Iran is a special case that must be dealt with as a threat to regional stability, nuclear and otherwise. I believe that you should question the value of Congress adding new sanctions while international negotiations are ongoing, while having them ready should the negotiations for preventing their nuclear weapons capability and stringent monitoring break down.

Further, we should question if we have the right policies in place when Iran creates more mischief in Lebanon, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere in the region. We should recognize that regional counterweights like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council can reinforce us if they understand our policies and if we clarify our foreign policy goals beyond Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

In Afghanistan we need to consider if we’re asking for the same outcome there as we saw last summer in Iraq if we pull out all our troops on the Administration’s proposed timeline. Echoing the military advice given on the same issue in Iraq, gains achieved at great cost against our enemy in Afghanistan are reversible. We should recognize that we may not want this fight but the barbarity of an enemy that kills women and children and has refused to break with Al Qaeda needs to be fought.

More broadly, is the U.S. military being developed to fight across the spectrum of combat?

Knowing that enemies always move against perceived weakness, our forces must be capable of missions from nuclear deterrence to counter-insurgency and everything in between, now including the pervasive cyber domain. While surprise is always a factor, Congress can ensure that we have the fewest big regrets when the next surprise occurs. We don’t want or need a military that is at the same time dominant and irrelevant, so we must sort this out and deny funding for bases or capabilities no longer needed.

The nuclear stockpile must be tended to and fundamental questions must be asked and answered: We must clearly establish the role of our nuclear weapons: do they serve solely to deter nuclear war? If so, we should say so, and the resulting clarity will help to determine the number we need. Is it time to reduce the Triad to a Diad, removing the land-based missiles? This would reduce the false alarm danger. Could we reenergize the arms control effort by only counting warheads vice launchers? Was the Russian test violating the INF treaty simply a blunder or a change in policy, and what is our appropriate response?

The reduced size of our military drives the need to ask other questions: Our military is uniquely capable and the envy of the world, but are we resourcing it to ensure we have the highest quality troops, the best equipment and the toughest training?

With a smaller military comes the need for troops kept at the top of their game. When we next put them in harm’s way it must be the enemy’s longest day and worst day. Tiered readiness with a smaller force must be closely scrutinized to ensure we aren’t merely hollowing out the force. While sequestration is the nearest threat to this national treasure that is the U.S. military, sustaining it as the world’s best when smaller will need your critical oversight. Are the Navy and our expeditionary forces receiving the support they need in a world where America’s naval role is more pronounced because we have fewer forces posted overseas?

With the cutbacks to the Army and Air Force and fewer forces around the world, military aspects of our strategy will inevitably become more naval in character. This will provide decision time for political leaders considering employment of additional forms of military power. Congress’ resourcing of our naval and expeditionary forces will need to take this development into account. Because we will need to swiftly move ready forces to act against nascent threats, nipping them in the bud, the agility to reassure friends and temper adversary activities will be critical to America’s effectiveness for keeping a stable and prosperous world. I question if our shipbuilding budget is sufficient, especially in light of the situation in the South China Sea.

While our efforts in the Pacific to keep positive relations with China are well and good, these efforts must be paralleled by a policy to build the counterbalance if China continues to expand its bullying role in the South China Sea and elsewhere. That counterbalance must deny China veto power over territorial, security and economic conditions in the Pacific, building support for our diplomatic efforts to maintain stability and economic prosperity so critical to our economy.

In light of worldwide challenges to the international order we are nonetheless shrinking our military. Are we adjusting our strategy and taking into account a reduced role for that shrunken military?

Strategy connects ends, ways and means. With less military available, we must reduce our appetite for using it. Absent growing our military, there must come a time when moral outrage, serious humanitarian plight, or lesser threats cannot be militarily addressed. Prioritization is needed if we are to remain capable of the most critical mission for which we have a military: to fight on short notice and defend the country. In this regard we must recognize we should not and need not carry this military burden solely on our own.

Does our strategy and associated military planning take into account our nation’s increased need for allies?

The need for stronger alliances comes more sharply into focus as we shrink the military. No nation can do on its own all that is necessary for its security. Further, history reminds us that countries with allies generally defeat those without. A capable U.S. military, reinforcing our political will to lead from the front, is the bedrock on which we draw together those nations that stand with us against threats to the international order.

Our strategy must adapt to and accommodate this reality. As Churchill intimated, the only thing harder than fighting with allies is fighting without them. Congress, through the Armed Services Committee, should track closely an increased military capability to work with allies, the NATO alliance being foremost but not our sole focus. We must also enlist non-traditional partners where we have common foes or common interests.

In reference to NATO and in light of the Russian violations of international borders, we must ask if the Alliance’s efforts have adjusted to the unfortunate and dangerous mode the Russian leadership has slipped into?

With regard to tightening the bond between our smaller military and those we may need at our side in future fights, the convoluted foreign military sales system needs a challenge. Hopefully it can be put in order before we drive more potential partners to equip themselves with foreign equipment, a move that makes it harder to achieve needed inter-operability with our allies and undercuts America’s industrial base. Currently the system fails to reach its potential to support our foreign policy.

As we attempt to restore stability to the state system and international order, a critical question will be: Is America good for its word?

When we make clear our position or give our word about something, our friends (and even our foes) must recognize that we are good for it. Otherwise dangerous miscalculations can occur. This means that the military instrument must be fit for purpose and that once a political position is taken, our position is backed up by a capable military making clear that we will stand on our word.

When the decision is made to employ our forces in combat, Congress should ask if the military is being employed with the proper authority. I believe it should examine answers to fundamental questions like the following:

Are the political objectives clearly defined and achievable? Murky or quixotic political end states can condemn us to entering wars we don’t know how to end. Notifying the enemy in advance of our withdrawal dates or reassuring the enemy that we will not use certain capabilities like our ground forces should be avoided. Such announcements do not take the place of mature, welldefined endstates, nor do they contribute to ending wars as rapidly as possible on favorable terms.

Is the theater of war itself sufficient for effective prosecution? We have witnessed safe havens prolonging war. If the defined theater of war is insufficient, the plan itself needs to be challenged to determine feasibility of its success or the need for its modification.

Is the authority for detaining prisoners of war appropriate for the enemy and type war that we are fighting? We have observed the perplexing lack of detainee policy that has resulted in the return of released prisoners to the battlefield. We should not engage in another fight without resolving this issue up front, treating hostile forces, in fact, as hostile.

Are America’s diplomatic, economic, and other assets aligned to the war aims, with the intent of ending the conflict as rapidly as possible? We have experienced the military alone trying achieve tasks outside its expertise. When we take the serious decision to fight, we must bring to bear all our nation’s resources. You should question how the diplomatic and development efforts will be employed to build momentum for victory and our nation’s strategy demands that integration.

Finally the culture of our military and its rules are designed to bring about battlefield success in the most atavistic environment on earth. No matter how laudable in terms of a progressive country’s instincts, Congress needs to consider carefully any proposed changes to military rules, traditions and standards that bring noncombat emphasis to combat units. There is a great difference between military service in dangerous circumstances and serving in a combat unit whose role is to search out and kill the enemy at close quarters. Congress has a responsibility for imposing reason over impulse when proposed changes could reduce the combat capability of our forces at the point of contact with the enemy.

Ultimately we need the foresight of the Armed Services Committee, acting in its sentinel and oversight role, to draw us out of the reactive stance we’ve fallen into and chart a strategic way ahead. Our national security strategy needs bipartisan direction. In some cases, Congress may need to change our processes for developing an integrated national strategy, because mixing capable people and their good ideas with bad processes results in the bad processes defeating good peoples’ ideas nine times out of ten. This is an urgent matter, because in an interconnected age when opportunistic adversaries can work in tandem to destroy stability and prosperity, our country needs to regain its strategic footing.

We need to bring clarity to our efforts before we lose the confidence of the American people and the support of our potential allies.

This essay was adapted from statements made by the author before the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 27, 2015.


Rasmussen Reports


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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Americans don’t feel safe at home and are increasingly estranged from their government and their leaders.

Even as a radical Islamic group announces its intention to attack American shopping malls, belief among voters that the United States and its allies are wining the War on Terror has fallen to its lowest level in nearly 11 years of regular tracking.

Voters agree with President Obama that America is not at war with Islam, but they are far less convinced than he is that the economic measures promoted at a recent White House summit on violent extremism will help protect this country.

They also disagree with the president when he says global warming is a bigger long-term threat to the United States than terrorism.

Obama’s refusal to describe Middle Eastern terrorists such as the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria as “radical Islamic” even has some critics wondering if the president loves his own country enough. Voters overwhelmingly say they love America, but one-out-of-three doesn’t believe Obama feels that way.

Congressional Republicans, worried about the direction the president’s negotiations with a hostile Iran have taken, have invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress despite outspoken White House opposition. Do voters think it’s right for political opponents to criticize the president’s foreign policy?

Not that the president doesn’t have many supporters. Voters remain almost evenly divided when it comes to the job he is doing, although those who Strongly Disapprove continue to outnumber those who Strongly Approve.

Democrats have edged ahead of Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot, but the parties keep exchanging the lead, generally separated by two points or less in weekly surveys for over a year now.

No wonder then that voters strongly expect gridlock between the president and the GOP-led Congress to continue for the next two years.

Then again, maybe that’s what they want. Voters aren’t happy with the president’s veto this week of a bipartisan bill passed by Congress calling for construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. But rather than work to meet the president halfway, they want Congress to keep doing what it wants even if Obama doesn’t like it.

Ratings for Congress overall are up only slightly, but they’re the most positive they’ve been in nearly five years.

Voters are feeling better about the U.S. Supreme Court, too, but one-third still don’t think the high court puts the brakes on the federal government enough.

After all, most voters no longer believe the United States has a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

For example, they remain more conservative about money matters than about social issues but don’t expect their leaders to listen. Most favor across-the-board cuts in federal spending but have very little confidence that Congress and the president will make those cuts anytime soon.

The majority of voters in surveys for years have called for a smaller government with fewer services and lower taxes over a more active one with more services and higher taxes.
But the president called for more government programs and higher taxes in his latest State of the Union address, although Congress is unlikely to agree to either.

Speaking of taxes, you’d be surprised how many Americans have already paid their income taxes and are expecting a refund. Americans hate filling out tax paperwork, but at least they’re not too worried about being audited after the fact.

But Americans also send mixed messages about spending at times. Consider, for example, that they tend to see inadequate funding as the biggest problem in the public schools. But ask them how much extra they personally are willing to pay in higher taxes and fees to generate more money for the schools, and 50% say nothing.
Another 22% are willing to spend just $100 more a year for this purpose. So what’s the government to do?

Government is mandating a lot more standardized testing in the public schools these days. Parents of school-age children object even more strongly to the increasing emphasis on these tests, but they’re not so sure students should be able to opt out of the tests.

In other surveys last week:

— Thirty-one percent (31%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

— The Rasmussen Consumer and Investor Indexes continue to hold steady at or near the highs they hit at the beginning of the year.

— It’s no secret this winter’s been a brutal one, pummeling the northeast with record snowfall and bringing snow, ice and extremely low temperatures across much of the country. But do Americans think it’s just a typical February chill, or is climate change to blame?

Support for gay marriage has fallen to its lowest level in over a year.

— Americans continue to say they are paying higher interest rates than they were a year ago and expect to pay even more a year from now.

— Most Americans didn’t plan to tune into last Sunday night’s Academy Awards program. Most also say they don’t follow awards shows closely and aren’t influenced by them when it comes to their viewing, listening and buying habits.

February 21 2015

21 February 2015


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DOT and FAA Propose New Rules for Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems

by Press • 15 February 2015


WASHINGTON – The Department of Transportation’s Federal Aviation Administration today proposed a framework of regulations that would allow routine use of certain small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) in today’s aviation system, while maintaining flexibility to accommodate future technological innovations.

The FAA proposal offers safety rules for small UAS (under 55 pounds) conducting non-recreational operations. The rule would limit flights to daylight and visual-line-of-sight operations. It also addresses height restrictions, operator certification, optional use of a visual observer, aircraft registration and marking, and operational limits.

The proposed rule also includes extensive discussion of the possibility of an additional, more flexible framework for “micro” UAS under 4.4 pounds. The FAA is asking the public to comment on this possible classification to determine whether it should include this option as part of a final rule. The FAA is also asking for comment about how the agency can further leverage the UAS test site program and an upcoming UAS Center of Excellence to further spur innovation at “innovation zones.”

The public will be able to comment on the proposed regulation for 60 days from the date of publication in the Federal Register, which can be found  Separate from this proposal, the FAA intends to hold public meetings to discuss innovation and opportunities at the test sites and Center of Excellence.  These meetings will be announced in a future Federal Register notice.

“Technology is advancing at an unprecedented pace and this milestone allows federal regulations and the use of our national airspace to evolve to safely accommodate innovation,” said Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.

The proposed rule would require an operator to maintain visual line of sight of a small UAS. The rule would allow, but not require, an operator to work with a visual observer who would maintain constant visual contact with the aircraft. The operator would still need to be able to see the UAS with unaided vision (except for glasses). The FAA is asking for comments on whether the rules should permit operations beyond line of sight, and if so, what the appropriate limits should be.

“We have tried to be flexible in writing these rules,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta. “We want to maintain today’s outstanding level of aviation safety without placing an undue regulatory burden on an emerging industry.”

Under the proposed rule, the person actually flying a small UAS would be an “operator.” An operator would have to be at least 17 years old, pass an aeronautical knowledge test and obtain an FAA UAS operator certificate. To maintain certification, the operator would have to pass the FAA knowledge tests every 24 months. A small UAS operator would not need any further private pilot certifications (i.e., a private pilot license or medical rating).

The new rule also proposes operating limitations designed to minimize risks to other aircraft and people and property on the ground:

  • A small UAS operator must always see and avoid manned aircraft. If there is a risk of collision, the UAS operator must be the first to maneuver away.
  • The operator must discontinue the flight when continuing would pose a hazard to other aircraft, people or property.
  • A small UAS operator must assess weather conditions, airspace restrictions and the location of people to lessen risks if he or she loses control of the UAS.
  • A small UAS may not fly over people, except those directly involved with the flight.
  • Flights should be limited to 500 feet altitude and no faster than 100 mph.
  • Operators must stay out of airport flight paths and restricted airspace areas, and obey any FAA Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFRs).

The proposed rule maintains the existing prohibition against operating in a careless or reckless manner. It also would bar an operator from allowing any object to be dropped from the UAS.

Operators would be responsible for ensuring an aircraft is safe before flying, but the FAA is not proposing that small UAS comply with current agency airworthiness standards or aircraft certification. For example, an operator would have to perform a preflight inspection that includes checking the communications link between the control station and the UAS. Small UAS with FAA-certificated components also could be subject to agency airworthiness directives.

The new rules would not apply to model aircraft.  However, model aircraft operators must continue to satisfy all of the criteria specified in Sec. 336 of Public Law 112-95, including the stipulation that they be operated only for hobby or recreational purposes. Generally speaking, the new rules would not apply to government aircraft operations, because we expect that these government operations will typically continue to actively operate under the Certificate of Waiver or Authorization (COA) process unless the operator opts to comply with and fly under the new small UAS regulations.

In addition to this proposal, earlier today, the White House issued a Presidential Memorandum concerning transparency, accountability, and privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties protections for the Federal Government’s use of UAS in the national airspace system which directs the initiation of a multi-stakeholder engagement process to develop a framework for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues concerning commercial and private UAS use.

The current unmanned aircraft rules remain in place until the FAA implements a final new rule. The FAA encourages new operators to visit:

You can view the FAA’s Small UAS Notice of Proposed Rulemaking later today at:

An overview of the Small UAS rule can be viewed at:

You can view the fact sheet at:

For more information on the FAA and UAS, visit:






Proposed Drone Laws Rule Out Most Actual Commercial Uses for Drones

by Press • 17 February 2015


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has been stuck with two cold truths. The first is that they have to make common-sense regulations that both protect Americans and allow both businesses and ordinary people to fly little quadcopter drones. The second is that they have absolutely no idea how.

The FAA gave us their outline yesterday for what they think drone regulation might look like. Possible prerequisites for being a drone pilot include a biennial aeronautical knowledge test, and being 17 or older. Some other proposals are:

•Drones have to be within line of sight at all times

•Drones can’t fly over people

•They can’t fly faster than 100 mph, or higher than 500 feet—which is still pretty fast and high

Each of these rules, on the own, doesn’t seem too prohibitive. But taken together, they start to rule out most of the commercial applications that futurists say could revolutionize industries like agriculture and urban development.

For example, if a drone has to be within line of sight, this rules out Amazon’s plans for a network of drones that fly for miles to deliver packages, or an agriculture drone that monitor acres of farmland. And if a drone can’t fly higher than 500 feet, that does away with real estate drones that help contractors survey the hard-to-access exteriors of skyscrapers.

“The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers,” Amazon VP Paul Misener told the Guardian.

Mr. Misener brought out the tired big-business threat that they’ll simply take their business to other, more amenable countries if the FAA can’t simply get it together and make regulation that lets Amazon build the network they want. It’s a reminder that the struggle for sensible drone laws is a classic, sad dichotomy of a slow-moving regulatory body that can’t get anything done in time and a megalithic corporation that wants to make stacks of cash innovate without any interference from the government.

The FAA, which is already behind schedule in its rule-making, will spend the next two years making revisions, hearing comments and deliberating while tens of thousands of enthusiasts and companies continue using drones without clear guidelines.



Reactions to FAA Proposals

February 18, 2015


Long-awaited federal rules proposed for commercial drones should pave the way for thousands of U.S. businesses to fly the devices in industries like filmmaking, farming and construction, but drone proponents worried that limits in the regulations would stifle other possible uses like package delivery.

Drone makers and users generally cheered the rules proposed by the Obama administration on Sunday, which would replace the Federal Aviation Administration’s current near-ban on commercial use of the devices. The industry had worried federal regulators would treat drones like manned aircraft, mandating expensive and time-consuming airframe certifications and full pilots licenses for drone operators.

Instead, the FAA set simple criteria for certifying operators and said they could maintain safety of the devices themselves.

But the proposed rules—which will undergo 60 days of public comment before the FAA finalizes them, likely late next year—also contain limits on drone operations. Those include bans on flights over people or beyond the sight of operators, and a requirement for prior approval from air-traffic control for flying in many urban areas. Proponents said such restrictions would preclude many commercial uses for the devices and set U.S. drone users behind their peers abroad.

The proposed rules “are more progressive than we expected,” said Michael Drobac, executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, a trade group that represents drone makers, including Inc. and Google Inc. “But once you spend some time looking at them, some of the things proposed would be devastating to the future of the industry.”

FAA officials said they sought to balance the need for flexibility for the emerging drone industry with the agency’s top priority, public safety. The rules would “provide probably the most flexible regime for unmanned aircraft 55 pounds or less that exists anywhere in the world,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said.

The rules would require operators to obtain an FAA certificate by passing a written exam in person every two years. The standards would limit flights to daytime, below 500 feet, less than 100 miles an hour, and within sight of the operator. The rules don’t affect recreational use of drones, which is already permitted as long as users obey safe-operating requirements.

The FAA requested comment on specific areas throughout its 195-page proposal, which was nearly four years behind schedule. Final regulations often differ from proposals. The FAA also said it was still mulling separate, less-demanding rules for unmanned aircraft weighing less than five pounds.

Until the rules are final, the FAA’s effective ban on commercial drones will remain in place. The FAA has approved just 26 companies to use drones under strict rules.

Separately on Sunday, the Obama administration set rules on how federal agencies can use drones in the U.S. The administration said the rules are designed to protect citizens’ privacy and civil liberties, including a mandate for federal agencies to release annual summaries of their drone operations.

For private and commercial drones, the White House ordered the Department of Commerce to convene a stakeholder group within 90 days to develop guidelines for “privacy, accountability and transparency issues” for such devices.

The FAA said it proposes banning flights over people and beyond eyeshot because of risks unique to unmanned aircraft: operators can suddenly lose control of the devices and no pilot is on board to see and avoid obstacles. Drone makers are working on technology to improve the wireless link between drones and operators and to enable the devices to sense and avoid obstacles automatically.


The proposed restrictions could limit many commercial drone applications, including filmmaking, delivering packages, news reporting, monitoring crops at large farms, and inspecting power lines and pipelines. Inc. said the proposed rules wouldn’t allow Prime Air, its planned delivery-by-drone program, to operate in the U.S. “The FAA needs to begin and expeditiously complete the formal process to address the needs of our business, and ultimately our customers,” the company said.

The FAA said its proposed rules don’t cover delivery drones, and that any unmanned aircraft carrying an “external load” might require FAA certification. Companies would be allowed to test a drone carrying a package under the proposed rules, “but they could not carry it for payment; they could not carry it for someone else,” said Mark Bury, the FAA’s assistant chief counsel.

Limitations on the battery life of drones and their ability to carry payloads far distances mean systematic drone deliveries aren’t possible today, but companies are running delivery trials and say the technology will be ready in the next several years.

Ted Ellett, a former FAA chief counsel who represents companies that want to use drones, said the proposal “seems to be close to a home run” for many of his clients and their peers.

Drones for farming would likely thrive under the proposal, he said, but the FAA’s proposed limits still would allow the agency to block drone flights if they pass “over a single farmer on his tractor in the middle of a 100-acre field in Iowa.”

Mr. Ellett and other industry officials also worry that requiring operators to get approval from air-traffic control to fly drones near airports—and thus in many urban and suburban areas—would pose a big hurdle to certain operations.

Private manned aircraft frequently operate without flight plans around such areas, and they don’t need approval prior to takeoff.

The FAA said it aims to separate drone traffic from manned aircraft. The agency says it has received dozens of reports of drones flying too close to manned aircraft and airports in recent years.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) said in an interview that the proposed rules are a positive step, but that limits on flights over people or beyond the view of the operator would stifle the industry.

The FAA “started out on the strict side, but they’ll have to loosen up,” he said. “Legislation is a possibility, but let’s see how the regulations evolve.”

Chris Anderson, chief executive of U.S. drone maker 3D Robotics Inc., played down the impact of the proposed limits that his peers criticized, saying that the rules would enable the vast majority of commercial drone flights that are technically possible today.

Not requiring full pilots licenses, aircraft certifications “and other things that would have been barriers to innovation is what encourages me the most,” he said. “The little, tiny things like no nighttime flying and not flying over people all strike me as things that can be discussed.”


He added that regulations would finally lend legitimacy to the drone industry and lead to rapid expansion. “All I wanted was a sandbox where we could innovate,” he said. “Now we’ve got that sandbox and I think you’ll see an explosion of creativity and energy and investment in this space going forward.”


Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems

by Press • 15 February 2015



SUBJECT: Promoting Economic Competitiveness While Safeguarding Privacy, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties in Domestic Use of Unmanned Aircraft Systems


Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) technology continues to improve rapidly, and increasingly UAS are able to perform a variety of missions with greater operational flexibility and at a lower cost than comparable manned aircraft. A wide spectrum of domestic users — including industry, private citizens, and Federal, State, local, tribal, and territorial governments — are using or expect to use these systems, which may play a transformative role in fields as diverse as urban infrastructure management, farming, public safety, coastal security, military training, search and rescue, and disaster response.

The Congress recognized the potential wide-ranging benefits of UAS operations within the United States in the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (Public Law 112-95), which requires a plan to safely integrate civil UAS into the National Airspace System (NAS) by September 30, 2015. As compared to manned aircraft, UAS may provide lower-cost operation and augment existing capabilities while reducing risks to human life. Estimates suggest the positive economic impact to U.S. industry of the integration of UAS into the NAS could be substantial and likely will grow for the foreseeable future.

As UAS are integrated into the NAS, the Federal Government will take steps to ensure that the integration takes into account not only our economic competitiveness and public safety, but also the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties concerns these systems may raise.

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish transparent principles that govern the Federal Government’s use of UAS in the NAS, and to promote the responsible use of this technology in the private and commercial sectors, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. UAS Policies and Procedures for Federal Government Use. The Federal Government currently operates UAS in the United States for several purposes, including to manage Federal lands, monitor wildfires, conduct scientific research, monitor our borders, support law enforcement, and effectively train our military. As with information collected by the Federal Government using any technology, where UAS is the platform for collection, information must be collected, used, retained, and disseminated consistent with the Constitution, Federal law, and other applicable regulations and policies. Agencies must, for example, comply with the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a) (the “Privacy Act”), which, among other things, restricts the collection and dissemination of individuals’ information that is maintained in systems of records, including personally identifiable information (PII), and permits individuals to seek access to and amendment of records.

(a) Privacy Protections. Particularly in light of the diverse potential uses of UAS in the NAS, expected advancements in UAS technologies, and the anticipated increase in UAS use in the future, the Federal Government shall take steps to ensure that privacy protections and policies relative to UAS continue to keep pace with these developments. Accordingly, agencies shall, prior to deployment of new UAS technology and at least every 3 years, examine their existing UAS policies and procedures relating to the collection, use, retention, and dissemination of information obtained by UAS, to ensure that privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties are protected. Agencies shall update their policies and procedures, or issue new policies and procedures, as necessary. In addition to requiring compliance with the Privacy Act in applicable circumstances, agencies that collect information through UAS in the NAS shall ensure that their policies and procedures with respect to such information incorporate the following requirements:

(i) Collection and Use. Agencies shall only collect information using UAS, or use UAS-collected information, to the extent that such collection or use is consistent with and relevant to an authorized purpose.

(ii) Retention. Information collected using UAS that may contain PII shall not be retained for more than 180 days unless retention of the information is determined to be necessary to an authorized mission of the retaining agency, is maintained in a system of records covered by the Privacy Act, or is required to be retained for a longer period by any other applicable law or regulation.

(iii) Dissemination. UAS-collected information that is not maintained in a system of records covered by the Privacy Act shall not be disseminated outside of the agency unless dissemination is required by law, or fulfills an authorized purpose and complies with agency requirements.

(b) Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Protections. To protect civil rights and civil liberties, agencies shall:

(i) ensure that policies are in place to prohibit the collection, use, retention, or dissemination of data in any manner that would violate the First Amendment or in any manner that would discriminate against persons based upon their ethnicity, race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity, in violation of law;

(ii) ensure that UAS activities are performed in a manner consistent with the Constitution and applicable laws, Executive Orders, and other Presidential directives; and

(iii) ensure that adequate procedures are in place to receive, investigate, and address, as appropriate, privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties complaints.

(c) Accountability. To provide for effective oversight, agencies shall:

(i) ensure that oversight procedures for agencies’ UAS use, including audits or assessments, comply with existing agency policies and regulations;

(ii) verify the existence of rules of conduct and training for Federal Government personnel and contractors who work on UAS programs, and procedures for reporting suspected cases of misuse or abuse of UAS technologies;

(iii) establish policies and procedures, or confirm that policies and procedures are in place, that provide meaningful oversight of individuals who have access to sensitive information (including any PII) collected using UAS;

(iv) ensure that any data-sharing agreements or policies, data use policies, and record management policies applicable to UAS conform to applicable laws, regulations, and policies;

(v) establish policies and procedures, or confirm that policies and procedures are in place, to authorize the use of UAS in response to a request for UAS assistance in support of Federal, State, local, tribal, or territorial government operations; and

(vi) require that State, local, tribal, and territorial government recipients of Federal grant funding for the purchase or use of UAS for their own operations have in place policies and procedures to safeguard individuals’ privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties prior to expending such funds.

(d) Transparency. To promote transparency about their UAS activities within the NAS, agencies that use UAS shall, while not revealing information that could reasonably be expected to compromise law enforcement or national security:

(i) provide notice to the public regarding where the agency’s UAS are authorized to operate in the NAS;

(ii) keep the public informed about the agency’s UAS program as well as changes that would significantly affect privacy, civil rights, or civil liberties; and

(iii) make available to the public, on an annual basis, a general summary of the agency’s UAS operations during the previous fiscal year, to include a brief description of types or categories of missions flown, and the number of times the agency provided assistance to other agencies, or to State, local, tribal, or territorial governments.

(e) Reports. Within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, agencies shall provide the President with a status report on the implementation of this section. Within 1 year of the date of this memorandum, agencies shall publish information on how to access their publicly available policies and procedures implementing this section.

Sec. 2. Multi-stakeholder Engagement Process. In addition to the Federal uses of UAS described in section 1 of this memorandum, the combination of greater operational flexibility, lower capital requirements, and lower operating costs could allow UAS to be a transformative technology in the commercial and private sectors for fields as diverse as urban infrastructure management, farming, and disaster response. Although these opportunities will enhance American economic competitiveness, our Nation must be mindful of the potential implications for privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties. The Federal Government is committed to promoting the responsible use of this technology in a way that does not diminish rights and freedoms.

(a) There is hereby established a multi-stakeholder engagement process to develop and communicate best practices for privacy, accountability, and transparency issues regarding commercial and private UAS use in the NAS. The process will include stakeholders from the private sector.

(b) Within 90 days of the date of this memorandum, the Department of Commerce, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, and in consultation with other interested agencies, will initiate this multi-stakeholder engagement process to develop a framework regarding privacy, accountability, and transparency for commercial and private UAS use. For this process, commercial and private use includes the use of UAS for commercial purposes as civil aircraft, even if the use would qualify a UAS as a public aircraft under 49 U.S.C. 40102(a)(41) and 40125. The process shall not focus on law enforcement or other noncommercial governmental use.

Sec. 3. Definitions. As used in this memorandum:

(a) “Agencies” means executive departments and agencies of the Federal Government that conduct UAS operations in the NAS.

(b) “Federal Government use” means operations in which agencies operate UAS in the NAS. Federal Government use includes agency UAS operations on behalf of another agency or on behalf of a State, local, tribal, or territorial government, or when a nongovernmental entity operates UAS on behalf of an agency.

(c) “National Airspace System” means the common network of U.S. airspace; air navigation facilities, equipment, and services; airports or landing areas; aeronautical charts, information, and services; related rules, regulations, and procedures; technical information; and manpower and material. Included in this definition are system components shared jointly by the Departments of Defense, Transportation, and Homeland Security.

(d) “Unmanned Aircraft System” means an unmanned aircraft (an aircraft that is operated without direct human intervention from within or on the aircraft) and associated elements (including communication links and components that control the unmanned aircraft) that are required for the pilot or system operator in command to operate safely and efficiently in the NAS.

(e) “Personally identifiable information” refers to information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, either alone or when combined with other personal or identifying information that is linked or linkable to a specific individual, as set forth in Office of Management and Budget Memorandum M-07-16 (May 22, 2007) and Office of Management and Budget Memorandum M-10-23 (June 25, 2010).

Sec. 4. General Provisions.

(a) This memorandum complements and is not intended to supersede existing laws and policies for UAS operations in the NAS, including the National Strategy for Aviation Security and its supporting plans, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) Integration of Civil UAS in the NAS Roadmap, and the FAA’s UAS Comprehensive Plan.

(b) This memorandum shall be implemented consistent with applicable law, and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) Nothing in this memorandum shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) the authority granted by law to an executive department, agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) the functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budgetary, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(d) Independent agencies are strongly encouraged to comply with this memorandum.

(e) This memorandum is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

(f) The Secretary of Commerce is hereby authorized and directed to publish this memorandum in the Federal Register.




Drone rules may be a boon to local industry

Updated: 6:41 p.m. Monday, Feb. 16, 2015 | Posted: 6:39 p.m. Monday, Feb. 16, 2015

By Barrie Barber and Matt Sanctis

DDN Staff Writer

The small drone industry could get a boost with the Federal Aviation Administration’s long-awaited proposed rules on how, where and under what conditions they can fly commercially, local business and education leaders said Monday.

Drone manufacturers and potential business users have lobbied and waited years to find out what rules the FAA would put in place to allow everything from inspecting pipelines to scouting real estate locations.

“What the FAA has handed down in terms of rules is very practical and very achievable,” said Frank Beafore, executive director of unmanned aircraft-maker SelectTech Geospatial in Springfield.

The proposed rules released Sunday would require operators to be certified, and fly drones within line of sight and during the day. The drones would be restricted to below 500 feet in altitude and speeds of less than 100 miles per hour. The regulations might not take effect for another two years or more as the federal agency listens to what the public has to say.

State leaders have identified the emerging industry as among the most important to create jobs in future years. It could employ 2,700 workers in Ohio by 2025, according to a trade association report.

The Dayton Development Coalition has been among the economic development organizations touting unmanned aerial vehicles as a new and promising industry for jobs in Southwest Ohio.

“The bottom line is it’s encouraging that (FAA officials) have come out with some rules and the rules appear to be reasonable so far, but again I would like to receive some input from some of the companies actually flying these,” said Maurice McDonald, coalition executive vice president of aerospace and defense.

Drones have raised concerns about safety and privacy.

President Barack Obama issued a memorandum Sunday to federal agencies to guard against abuse of data collected by drones, including a 180-day limit on keeping personally identifiable information with some exceptions, the Associated Press reported.

Drone users and advocates must build confidence with the public that the machines can be flown safely, McDonald said.

The possible regulations are a good first step to realizing the benefits of drone technology, said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, in a statement.

“This proposed rule is a critical milestone in the UAS integration process, and one that is long overdue,” he said. “UAS technology has largely remained grounded while many prospective users wait for the regulatory framework to catch up.”


‘Going to be big’

The region is in a good position to attract investment and develop new companies because of the area’s background in aviation and manufacturing, Beafore said. Along with agriculture, his company is working with a customer who might use drones to inspect power lines.

“It’s going to be big everywhere and it’s going to be exceptionally good for the greater Dayton region because we have a lot of the technical pieces of the puzzle already in place,” he said.

Clark County is expected to play a significant role in Ohio’s drone industry. Clark State Community College has a precision agriculture program and the Ohio/Indiana UAS Test Center in Springfield supports universities and government agencies research, and economic development and commercialization of the technology.

In Dayton the FAA gave mapping and surveying firm Woolpert Inc. approval in December to be one of the first companies in the nation to fly drones commercially.

Businesses that operate drones will largely regulate themselves, Beafore said, because the companies would be liable for any accidents or destruction of property. Recreational hobbyists must follow other existing rules, and the FAA might in the future issue rules on so-called micro-drones, or those weighing less than five pounds.

One of the places with a big stake in the new rules is Sinclair Community College, which has worked to be a national leader in training an unmanned aerial systems workforce.

Andrew Shepherd, Sinclair director of the UAS program, called the FAA rules “a good balance between safety and being open to the market” to get the industry off the ground.

Deborah Norris, Sinclair vice president of workforce development and corporate services, said while the FAA move was important to integrate drones into the national airspace, the college will continue to seek approval to fly more drones to train students and partner in research with corporate clients.

A less stringent certification process — rather than a pilot’s license — will open the field to more people to fly drones commercially, Shepherd said.


A ‘sigh of relief’

The rules as proposed are a big win for both Clark State and the Miami Valley, said Aimee Belanger-Haas, interim dean of business and applied technology at Clark State. The community college uses drones in a new precision agriculture program.

Students learn to analyze data the unmanned aircraft collect over farm fields, ranging from the amount of moisture in the soil to pests that might be damaging crops.

The rules are flexible enough that they would allow almost any farmer or consultant to fly the drones as long as they have the proper certification.

Although the public has a say in the rule-making, Beafore said they make sense for likely uses locally, including precision agriculture. For example, the rules set a maximum altitude of 500 feet, and require an observer to keep the aircraft in sight at all times.

“When you’re up at a higher altitude, you need a more powerful camera,” he said. “If you can skim the top of corn at say, 15 feet, I’m getting a much better sensor image.”

The Richmond, Ind., Police Department will launch a small drone in the months ahead if the FAA grants approval, Police Chief Kris J. Wolski said.

“We started realizing it would not only benefit us from traffic accidents but maybe outdoor crime scenes where the incident is spread out over a larger area,” he said.

The department, which spent $1,800 on the quad-copter, would follow federal laws on privacy and warrantless searches, he said.

The proposed rules were “a sigh of relief” to Dayton photographer Andrew J. Snow, 64, because it won’t require a pilot’s license. Snow has a drone photography exhibit at Sinclair Community College.

“I look forward to expanding my business with the use of these devices because it’s a huge opportunity,” he said. “It provides us with new perspectives that you can’t get any other way.”



DARPA’s New Search Engine Puts Google in the Dust

February 13, 2015

By Hallie Golden



After only one year in use, DARPA’s Memex search engine has already played a key role in nearly 20 different investigations.


The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s foray into fighting hackers and other malcontents on the Web can be summed up in a single probing question.

“How can I make the unseen seen?” Dan Kaufman, the director of DARPA’s information innovation office director, said last week in a feature on “60 Minutes.”

The answer, Kaufman said, is Memex. Developed by DARPA, this search engine on steroids dives deep into the realm of the “Dark Web” and spits out a data-driven map detailing all of the patterns it’s unearthed.

After only one year in use, Memex has already played an important role in about 20 different investigations, according to officials.

Inspiration for the technology’s — and its name — came in part from a 1945 Atlantic article written by Vannevar Bush, director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, which was stood up in 1941 to coordinate military science research during World War II.

Bush described a memex as “a device in which an individual stores all his books, records and communications, and which is mechanized so that it may be consulted with exceeding speed and flexibility.” In other words, a lot like the Internet we know today.

But of course, the real importance of Memex is not how it came to be, but the innovative advances it has accomplished with big data. And one of the ways it is accomplishing this goal is through the use of social science.

Jacob Shapiro and his team at Giant Oak, a data firm that advertises itself as “seeing the people behind the data,” are responsible for the social science aspect of Memex.

The team has held the role since late August. Its main job, according to Shapiro, is to apply social science to the reams of data collected by Memex to make sure it isn’t misinterpreting any of the data — a common pitfall.

Without a correct understanding of where the data came from, the time and energy spent on accumulating information will likely prove unhelpful, Shapiro explained.

“One thing that happens a lot with big data is [that] it’s very easy to lose track of what the social process is that generated the data in the first place,” Shapiro told Nextgov. “The data doesn’t always mean what you think [it means], because there can be complicated, unobserved processes which are generating certain patterns.”

The 2012 flu season calculation — or lack thereof — produced by Google, is an example of that type of misstep, according to Shapiro. Its algorithm overestimated flu prevalence by over 100 percent.

The mistake likely happened because the search team changed its flu algorithm without communicating the change with the flu trends team, Shapiro explained. While the team members were getting data, it proved unhelpful because they had the incorrect understanding of where the numbers came from.

Although DARPA envisions Memex as a program to generate search results for a variety of missions, it currently focuses on using its tools to fight human trafficking and its hotbed of Web ads and exchanges.

Shapiro said there is little knowledge about how human trafficking markets work, their size and even their geography. “Part of our charter is to build some more of that basic knowledge,” he said.

Even these initial steps have proven surprisingly difficult.

“We’ve spent relatively more time than we thought we would trying to find the intersection between, ‘We know the bad things happened,’ and ‘We actually have data on what the entities involved in those bad things were doing,'” Shapiro said.



The Marines Are Building Robotic War Balls

February 12, 20150

By Patrick Tucker


The future of amphibious assault looks kind of like an explosive inner tube. It’s really a drone.

Establishing a beachhead on enemy-held turf is historically one of the most dangerous jobs in warfare, just ask Achilles. But the robotic age may make it slightly less so.

A research team from Stamford, Conn. has developed an amphibious drone that they are currently testing with the Marines. The GuardBot is a robot ball that swims over water at about 4 miles per hour and then rolls along the beach, at as much as a 30-degree incline and 20 miles per hour.

It uses a nine-axis stabilization, “pendulum motion” propulsion system, which moves the bot forward by shifting the center of gravity back and forth and a variety of steering algorithms.

It took creator Peter Muhlrad some seven years to develop, but now that it’s complete Muhlrad says it can be rapidly produced in various sizes. Company documents suggest it can be scaled down to units as small as 10 cm and as large as nine feet. The company is planning to develop a prototype that’s 6 feet in diameter.

Muhlrad’s company, GuardBot Inc. has a cooperative research development agreement, or CRADA, with the Navy. A CRADA is a legal framework that allows private companies or researchers to use government facilities, research and resources to build things that are mutually beneficial to both parties. The information that the researcher discovers is protected for up to five years. Under many CRADAs the researcher does not receive money from the government but has the right to commercialize what he or she produces. The government retains a use license.

The company is currently working with the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab to test the GuardBot in an operational environment, though it’s unclear what that may be. Here’s the team presenting it at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia, in 2012. Watch it navigate the volleyball pit.

In January 2014, they tested it at the Naval Amphibious Base in Little Creek, Va., where the GuardBot successfully deployed from and returned to a naval craft.

Today, the machine is remotely operated over a 2-8 GHz datalink.

But Muhlrad and his team are working on new software that incorporates geographic information system data, or GIS, to allow for far greater autonomy. Just pick a spot on the map and the ball will get there.

“Depending on if we get funding, we could develop that in 8 to 10 months,” Muhlrad told Defense One.

Muhlrad designed the system primarily for surveillance and object inspection. It’s capable of 360 degree turns so its somewhat more maneuverable than other ground robots. In tests with Smith Detection’s raman laser spectroscope in the payload (the two small transparent half-spheres on the side of the bot) it was able to detect explosive chemicals from about 2 inches away.

No, unlike a one-armed PackBot, it clearly won’t be disabling explosives. And it won’t replace special operations teams, but it could accompany them on dangerous missions. When Defense One asked if the GuardBot could carry explosives rather than detection or camera equipment, Muhlrad answered simply: “Yes.”


The Pentagon is building an app store for cyberoperations

An exclusive inside look at DARPA’s futuristic Plan X.

Sara Sorcher

February 16, 2015


It looks like outer space.

The hundreds of thousands of computers look like stars. Across the vast military network, the sparkling connections between them form constellations.

This is the Pentagon’s vision of the Internet.

The US military’s cyber warriors, unlike soldiers patrolling a battlefield overseas, will not hear the sound of an attack coming. They will not see their opponents in the flesh. They will not die because they were in their line of fire.

Like information security professionals at private companies, they spend long hours hunkered over computers, analyzing lines of code, trying to detect breaches – a laborious process that requires advanced engineering skills. Though their networks are scanned up to millions of times every day, there is no alarm system that triggers when an enemy hacker crosses a virtual tripwire to breach their network. There’s no virtual explosion if they destroy the data inside.

The Pentagon’s research arm wants to change this.

With a project called Plan X, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is building what could one day become a virtual reality that gives cyber warriors “instantaneous knowledge of the fact [their] network is being attacked,” says its program manager Frank Pound.

Slated to cost around $125 million over four years, Plan X marks the first major attempt to create an actual online battle space and would fundamentally shift the way the military operates on the virtual battlefield.

Simply moving a hand across a flat, touchscreen monitor could allow a user to analyze the health of the entire network or find rogue computers that are not supposed to be connected. Attacks would be translated into rich display graphics and 3-D visualizations so it’s impossible to miss them as they happen. Military specialists could defend against them by literally dragging blocks of code from a virtual shelf or marketplace similar to Apple’s App Store onto their network. They may one day even use 3-D visors like the Oculus Rift, a video-gaming headset, to launch these operations in a fully immersive virtual reality.

Here’s why this is a big deal: Protecting its networks from computer attacks is as important to the military as defending the country’s air, land, sea, and space. The director of national intelligence has listed a potential compromise of online systems and theft of information as the No. 1 threat to US national security – more than terrorist groups or weapons of mass destruction. US military superiority, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey said recently, does not carry over into cyberspace. It may have superior weapons and technology, but the asymmetrical nature of cyberconflict means increasingly sophisticated attackers will always have the upper hand against the defenders.

A program such as Plan X would also speed up the military’s cyberoperations. With it, researchers expect it to take up to 72 hours to write, test, and deploy a mission – a process that, at this time, sometimes takes months.

The program is still in the early stages, but DARPA is the influential agency that fueled the creation of the Internet in the first place. It also invented the technology behind GPS, videoconferencing, and other key tools you likely use every day. It’s possible that one day Plan X could ultimately end up in your hands to help track the health of all the devices in your home network.

Passcode, The Christian Science Monitor’s new section on security and privacy in the Digital Age, has the exclusive first peek at the Plan X concept.

Editor’s note: DARPA’s Frank Pound will also give a live demonstration of Plan X at a Passcode event on the future of cybersecurity innovation in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 26. Join us.



DARPA makes progress on air-launched satellites

Michael Peck, Contributing Writer

February 16, 2015


DARPA says it’s making progress on its project for aircraft-launched satellites.

The ambitious Airborne Launch Assist Space Access (ALASA) program aims to launch 100-pound satellites into low Earth orbit (LEO) on 24 hours notice, and for less than $1 million per launch.

“ALASA seeks to overcome the limitations of current launch systems by streamlining design and manufacturing and leveraging the flexibility and re-usability of an air-launched system,” said ALASA program manager Mitchell Burnside Clapp in a DARPA news release. “We envision an alternative to ride-sharing for satellites that enables satellite owners to launch payloads from any location into orbits of their choosing, on schedules of their choosing, on a launch vehicle designed specifically for small payloads.”

Phase 1 of the project produced three viable designs, DARPA said. In March 2014, Boeing won the prime contract for Phase 2, which will focus on quick mission-planning software and advanced propulsion. “Perhaps the most daring technology ALASA seeks to implement is a new high-energy monopropellant, which aims to combine fuel and oxidizer into a single liquid,” said DARPA. “If successful, the monopropellant would enable simpler designs and reduced manufacturing and operation costs compared to traditional designs that use two liquids, such as liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.

The first demonstration flight is slated for late 2015, followed by the first orbital test launch in the first half of 2016. Depending on test results, there could be 11 more demonstration launches through summer 2016.



Fears of secret Soviet weapon helped fuel Air Force’s Project Blue Book

By Matthias Gafni

Contra Costa Times (TNS)

Published: February 17, 2015

A recently declassified CIA report on the development of the U-2 and SR-71 spy planes said the high-flying jets were mistaken for UFOs more than half the time in the late 1950s and 1960s during Project Blue Book, a Wright-Patterson Air Force Base operation that investigated reports of UFOs. But not everyone is convinced.

(Tribune Content Agency) — It was 1964. Late at night. The Northern California man had lost his hunting buddies in the woods near Lake Tahoe and climbed a tree to sleep.

Awakened by a glowing object landing on a nearby ridge, the man was soon fighting for his life against two neckless creatures and a robot before the beings emitted a noxious gas and knocked him out.

A tall tale? Drunken binge? Drug-induced hallucination (it was the ’60s, after all)? No matter. That Placer County, Calif., UFO sighting and thousands more were studiously collected and meticulously researched as part of the Air Force’s strange, long-shuttered Project BLUE BOOK, a government program on the hunt for little green men — or perhaps Soviet spies; no one is saying for sure.

For 22 years, the military seemed to spare little expense in chronicling humans’ reported otherworldly encounters with glowing orbs, spinning spheres, flying ice cream cones and more.

All of it had been hidden away in archive files until a UFO enthusiast posted 130,000 documents worth of BLUE BOOK material in a free online database for the first time last month.

The project launched in 1947, two years after the end of World War II and just as the Cold War was gearing up. It concluded in 1969 without offering definitive proof of either aliens visiting Mother Earth or advanced spycraft launched by our enemies. But the goldmine of reports — witness names redacted — provides a snapshot of a nervous, suspicious era that drove our government to consider even the most fanciful reports.

“UFO investigations were taken very seriously,” said Alejandro Rojas, editor of Open Minds magazine, who points to a 1947 report of an unidentified flying object near Mount Rainier in Washington by private pilot Kenneth Arnold as the mother of modern UFO sightings.

“He was a credible person, and it hit the press and became a really, really big story,” Rojas said.

Add a dash of post-war paranoia, and the Air Force dove in head first, he said.

“The public’s imagination went wild with (UFOs),” agreed Jeff Underwood, historian of the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force. “It was a serious attempt to find if there was any validity to a UFO crisis or just mass hysteria.

“For the Air Force, it was driven more over concerns the Soviets created a super secret weapon than if there were little green men,” he said.

In the end, many of the more than 12,000 sightings diligently investigated by the Air Force were chalked up to weather phenomena, meteors, satellites, a bright planet, balloons, birds or overactive imaginations.

The latter category would seem to fit the story told in 1964 by the lost hunter near Lake Tahoe, who swore he spent the night in a tree, firing arrows at three white “robot”-looking creatures, setting scraps of his clothing afire and hurling the pieces at the glowing aliens below.

Although the BLUE BOOK documents suggest the military’s time commitment was considerable, it wasn’t enough to please everyone. In 1966, then-Michigan congressman and future president Gerald Ford complained that the Air Force was dismissing scores of UFO sightings from his constituents as “swamp gas” and called for a Congressional inquiry into the phenomena.

He wasn’t the only famous politician to get an earful from his constituents about UFOs. In a letter to President John F. Kennedy, 63-year-old Alice Reynolds of San Mateo, Calif., said she was out feeding bread to the birds when she saw two stationary white balls, one with a tail, in the early morning sky Nov. 13, 1961.

She complained that she tried to contact the Civil Defense Control Center in Belmont, but it wasn’t open, so she called the police: “They were more curious as to why I (was) up at that time than what I called about,” she wrote to the president.

The UFO witnesses ranged from grandmothers to amateur astronomers and even military pilots, who should have known a weather balloon when they saw one.

Several reports included sketches, charts and purported photographs of the objects.

Bay Area newspapers had a field day with one mysterious craft spotted by dozens of people as it drifted over the region on Feb. 7, 1950, including two nurses who swore they were “non-drinkers.”

“Flying ‘Ice Cream Cone’ Reported Over Alameda,” a San Francisco Chronicle headline screamed. The article featured a cartoon drawing of the flying confection with a Navy officer looking through binoculars yelling “Vanilla!” while a young boy said: “I say it’s chocolate!”

A San Jose man eventually wrote to the Air Force explaining that his own close look at the object revealed a single-engine airplane with a reddish vapor trail behind it. Mystery solved, concluded investigators.

Popular culture drove the reports, Underwood said, and it ultimately slowed them down in the late 1960s.

“As soon as Star Trek started, I lost interest in UFOs,” he laughed.

He wasn’t alone. On Dec. 17, 1969, the Air Force terminated the project, citing conclusions from a University of Colorado report titled, “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects.” Researchers determined there was no threat to national security, additional scientific knowledge or extraterrestrial vehicles uncovered by Project BLUE BOOK. However, 701 sightings remain “unidentified.”


What happens if DHS shuts down?

By Alexandra Jaffe, CNN

February 16, 2015


Washington (CNN)—Congress has just 12 days until Department of Homeland Security funding runs out, and House Speaker John Boehner this weekend said he was “certainly” willing to let that happen.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson has said a shutdown would cause a “terrible disruption” for everyday Americans, and the White House is slated this week to ramp up pressure on Congress to deliver a compromise to fund the agency.

Republicans, however, say the impact of a shutdown would be minimal, because most of DHS’ operations are considered essential, and so would continue despite a funding lapse.

So what would actually happen if Congress doesn’t pass a funding bill in time?

Some DHS employees would be furloughed — but most won’t.

Two kinds of government staffers are required to work during a shutdown: Employees whose salaries are paid for by funds outside the appropriations process, and those “whose work is necessary for the preservation of the safety of human life or the protection of property,” according to the Congressional Research Service. Unsurprisingly, that latter part covers quite a lot of DHS’ workforce.

During the 2013 government shutdown, around 200,000 DHS employees were required to report to work, many of them without pay.





Those that are required to work include 50,000 TSA screeners, 40,000 active duty Coast Guard members, 13,000 immigration law enforcement officers, 40,000 border patrol and customs officers, and 4,000 Secret Service agents.

But there would be some — around 30,000 or so — furloughs, mainly hitting the department’s management and administrative functions. It’s possible, though, that staffers furloughed could be called back to work in case of an emergency — and immediately re-furloughed after they handled the issue.

That doesn’t sound like it would be pleasant for DHS employees.

It’s not — and the potential hit to DHS morale is a serious problem with the possible shutdown. A third-party review of federal employees found DHS ranked dead last in employee satisfaction and commitment over the past two years, and morale actually declined in 2014. It’s a challenge for the Department, which struggles to retain and recruit employees, and a shutdown wouldn’t help.

But it does sound necessary for, well, homeland security…

Exactly. Many of DHS’ most fundamental operations won’t be impacted.

A number of DHS programs are funded by fees, rather than congressional appropriations, and would continue to operate even if funding lapses.

Those include the bureau’s cybersecurity operations and the Federal Protective Service, the law enforcement agency that oversees federal buildings. Border security efforts, the TSA and intelligence gathering efforts, among others, are all key DHS activities that would remain.

FEMA’s disaster relief operations and the national flood insurance program would continue to operate.

And most U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services operations, including the visa program, immigrant naturalization and asylum claims, would continue — except for the E-Verify system employers use to verify workers’ visas, which would pause in case of a shutdown.

Wait — so Obama’s executive action on immigration, which started this mess, would still be implemented?

Yep. It turns out defunding the agency that’s implementing Obama’s executive action delaying deportations for millions of immigrants won’t prevent the executive action from taking effect.

Republicans haven’t given up, though. They’re looking to add a policy rider to the bill extending funding for DHS that would block the executive order from taking effect — which remains a sticking point for Senate Democrats, who say they’ll only vote for a clean funding bill.

And even if House and Senate Republicans were able to pass a DHS funding bill that blocked Obama’s immigration move, he would likely veto it.

That’s caused the current showdown. And Boehner’s comments this weekend indicate there’s no clear compromise yet.

Then what DHS operations would take a hit?

State law enforcement could feel the pain of a shutdown the most.

Johnson has previously warned that, if DHS funding lapses, “we cannot engage in new starts, new spending, new initiatives, new grants to state and local law enforcement to fund homeland security missions.”

Many local law enforcement operations, including training, hiring of new staff and purchasing new equipment, are funded through DHS grants, and those would be discontinued during a shutdown.

And it could impact the nation’s ability to respond to future threats. Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Maryland Democrat and ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, said during a hearing this week that a DHS shutdown would halt “research and development work on countermeasures to devastating biological threats.”

Civil rights and civil liberties complaint lines and investigations would shut down as well.


Send In The Weathermen

By Tony Dokoupil

February 18, 2015


On a moonless night in October 2001, an American helicopter lifted off from an airbase in Uzbekistan, banking south on a covert mission into Afghanistan. Inside was one of America’s most elite and unknown special operators, hand-selected for a job so important that the wider war on terror hinged on its success.

In New York and Washington, D.C., the funerals continued. Families gave up hope of a miracle rescue in the rubble of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. But if this soldier succeeded he would never shoot his gun and no one outside the military would know his work.

He was a weatherman.

More precisely, he was a special operations weather technician, known as a SOWT (pronounced sow-tee). As the Department of Defense’s only commando forecasters, SOWTs gather mission-impossible environmental data from some of the most hostile places on Earth.

They embed with Navy SEALs, Delta Force and Army Rangers. Ahead of major operations they also head in first for a go/no-go forecast. America’s parachutes don’t pop until a SOWT gives the all-clear.

That was Brady Armistead’s job as his helicopter rumbled toward a strip of desert 80 miles south of Kandahar, the capital of the Taliban government. He had a satellite forecast calling for clear skies. But satellite forecasts depend on ground data, too, and there was nothing from Afghanistan.

Five years earlier, when the Taliban seized power, it granted sanctuary to Al Qaeda and ruled by a strict interpretation of the Koran. No television or movies, mandatory burkas for women and long beards for men — plus no weather reports.

The Taliban considered forecasting to be sorcery. They fired the country’s 600 or so professional meteorologists, shelled the Afghan Meteorological Authority, and burned the country’s vast climatological archives.

That created a blind spot in global weather data, which is typically pooled and shared between the world’s governments. The Pentagon felt it had a fix in SOWTs like Armistead, jump-ready scientists with the God-given guts to do the weather behind enemy lines.

The dropzone approached and Armistead watched through night-vision goggles as a sandstorm melted the ground and blurred the horizon. The pilot pulled the aircraft into a hover, letting Armistead fast-rope 60 feet down into the void below. The weatherman was accompanied by a small team of Air Force combat controllers, commandos trained at seizing airfields and managing traffic in the sky.

By dawn they had traversed several kilometers of desert, scaled a mountain and dug into a ledge, where Armistead started to work. In the days that followed, he used laser rangefinders for cloud height, night-launched weather balloons for upper atmospheric data, and a pocket meteorological wand for everything else.

The result was a daily “nowcast,” which he compared against the computer predictions. He adjusted the forecasts, tweaking the estimate to match the reality and running the calculations again. He wanted to be as close as possible to clear skies, moderate temperatures, calm winds, good visibility and air dense enough to support flight, which was no guarantee in a high-altitude, hot environment.


“I’ve done plenty of missions where it’s like, ‘No kidding, don’t step off the porch, bad guys, because you’re going to step on me.’

—Brady Armistead


By day three Armistead felt ready. A thousand miles away, General Dell Dailey, the head of Joint Special Operations Command, felt ready, too. On a tarmac in Uzbekistan, 199 Army Rangers double-knotted their boots and pilots fired the engines on four MC-130 Talons. As night fell on October 19, Dailey asked for final word from the front.

“Conditions favorable,” Armistead wrote in a secure text message.

“Roger,” replied Dailey, adding his initials. “Force will launch.”

So began the ground war in Afghanistan. The Army Rangers seized an airfield and created Camp Rhino, the first American base in the country. Their mission also marked the start of a dangerous new era for meteorologists like Armistead, guardians of unmanned aircraft and commandos in low-flying helicopters. Both assets are extremely weather-sensitive. A satellite can fly overhead, but combat meteorologists liken the quality of such data to shaking a box to guess what’s inside.

“We get the ground truth,” said Armistead, speaking publicly for the first time about his work. “I’ve done plenty of missions where it’s like, ‘No kidding, don’t step off the porch, bad guys, because you’re going to step on me.'”

The Grey Berets, as they’re called — in recognition of their storm-colored headgear — have been around in some capacity since World War II. Over the years, however, their mission has been stymied by a tangled chain of command, inconsistent training and a requirement that all SOWTs begin as desk meteorologists.

That’s all changed.

In 2008, in response to demand for SOWTs and a rash of weather-related accidents, the Air Force quietly created career field 1WXOS, the first official class of commando weathermen. The field has allowed Air Force Special Operations Command to expand recruiting, signing kids as young as 17 and then sending them through a new two-year training pipeline, the longest in the Department of Defense.

SOWTs were on the ground ahead of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to military sources, and their work has helped nail pirates, free hostages and respond to humanitarian disasters. Overall, their ranks have tripled in recent years, with more growth expected. No position in the Air Force is a higher priority for recruiters.

But the work of SOWTs is still invisible to the general public; it’s often overshadowed by members of the military’s rougher quarters, who rarely seem to tire of mocking their colleagues with the weather balloons. That’s why so many SOWTs — among more than two dozen operators and forecasters, from teenage recruits to proudly broken-down old guys — opened up to NBC News.

“In special operations most of the failures have weather as a causal effect,” said Rip Coleman, a former director of environmental services for Joint Special Operations Command. “The weather is going to make or break a mission before it even takes off,” added Dusty Lee, a recruiting, accessions and selection superintendent for Air Force Special Tactics, the branch equivalent of the Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces. “There are never enough of us.”

This is the story of the combat weatherman’s long road from desk jockey to war hero. But it is also a view of conflict from the inside in an age of environmental change. A time when some of the most important commandos in the military don’t kick down doors and when the greatest threat to human security may not even be human.


“We’re Human Sensors”

Morning comes early for clandestine weathermen.

Long before the sun bobs up over the Gulf of Mexico, SOWT pickup trucks and muscle cars are lined at the main gate of Hurlburt Field, the home of Air Force Special Operations Command on the Florida Panhandle.

Their first official workouts start at 7 a.m. But even at this hour, SOWTs are taught to be reading the skies. Forgot to roll up your windows on a rainy day? You owe the team a thousand push-ups. Blow an outlook for chilly weather? You aren’t allowed to go home for your coat.

SOWTs don’t just do the weather. They leverage it. They use the morning dew to erase a platoon’s tracks or the wind to muffle a helicopter or the shadow of a mountain to shelter the wounded. They also watch for obstacles and opportunities, cataloging where the soil is soft, the rivers are swift, the snow is loose, the fog is dense or the apples are juicy. They make America a home-turf warrior no matter the country.

“We live out our forecasts,” said Jonathan Sawtelle, an angular young officer who, after serving as the SOWT’s director of operations last year, is set to start a more senior forecasting job at Joint Special Operations Command. “We’re sensors, human sensors, and that’s the magic of the SOWTs.”

But let’s be honest.

There’s a joke here, something comical about sending a meteorologist to war. It has to do with our image of the ordinary forecaster: that second-rate scientist who spends his life indoors, predicting the outdoors, and getting it wrong.

“Meteorologists everywhere are weenies in the extreme,” the author and aviator William Langewiesche wrote in 2008. “They are twerps. Dweebs. Instrument tappers. Professional virgins.”

Before the new career code, many SOWTs fit this description. They were drawn from the Air Force’s conventional weather centers, which tended to make them meteorologists first, warriors second. The new SOWTs — and the best of the old ones — are a different breed. They are warriors first, meteorologists second.

“They’re stronger, faster and brighter than we ever were,” said Tony Carson, a SOWT officer who came in under the old system. “The challenge now is pulling these guys back, not pushing them forward.”

There are about 120 SOWTs spread across three newly created Special Tactics teams, with two more planned by 2020. These teams comprise combat controllers, weathermen and medics, among other Special Tactics airmen. If the Air Force is right, these men — there are no women allowed — represent a widening component of U.S. special operations.

They are essential in combat, dealing death from above, but they can also save lives, coordinating rescues and re-supply drops — all while keeping an eye on the unfriendly skies. Climate change is expanding the need for such work, according to the Pentagon, which anticipates a greater number of humanitarian relief and disaster response missions.

“Can you attribute any given weather event to climate change? No,” said Sawtelle. “But is Special Tactics there and ready to take action? Absolutely. We’re a fast-reacting force, standing ready to respond to climate disasters.”

SOWTs are a tiny slice of the special operations machine but a unique one, a rare blend of brawn and brains. Their careers start with a standard military intelligence test. To qualify for the pipeline, SOWTs need a minimum score that’s 20 points higher than what is required by anyone else in Air Force Special Tactics — higher, in fact, than almost every job in the military other than code breaker.

They need that extra intellectual firepower to survive forecasting school at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi: 30 weeks of advanced meteorology, interspersed with workouts and trips to the mess hall.

The SOWTs have to unlearn as much as they learn. The “thin air” around us is in fact thick, for example, dense enough to support flight. An object that’s “light as air” is actually, as a matter of science, exerting a ton of atmospheric pressure per square foot.

They learn that trying to predict the weather is as hard as following a wave across the open seas or predicting the first bubble in a slowly boiling pot of water. But good forecasts shape history. One Air Force academic traces the relationship between weather and war to the first caveman who scored his club handles for skull-bashing in the rain.

America itself was founded on the exploitation of fog, snow and favorable tides. The Continental Army used a shroud of low clouds to hide from the British bayonets on Long Island. General George Washington then crossed the Delaware in a blizzard, surprising the enemy and turning the war.

The lore is endless, which is why the military has always been one of meteorology’s biggest patrons. Between 1870 and 1955 it launched the forerunner of the National Weather Service, opened the first graduate school of meteorology, and funded the first computer-generated forecasts. These days, the military is working to loop the world’s data together, flow it through an ensemble of models, and forecast the Earth as a single entity. Here’s the outlook, it’ll say: from three days to three decades.

But even then there are likely to be SOWTs. During training, they get a glimpse of their essential value. They’re shown a nighttime picture of the Earth. The cities glow but the land is largely dark and desolate, “data sparse.” What’s the weather like there? No one can be sure.

This may come as a surprise to Americans, the world’s most wired people for weather. We have about 10,000 professionally run surface weather reporting stations, the same amount as the rest of the world combined. We also have about 150 radar centers; some regions of Africa have none. Asked to name what parts of the globe lacked for surface weather data, one researcher said, “The whole southern hemisphere, really.”

The key to a perfect forecast is a perfect picture of the atmosphere, from the edge of space down to the tip of a farmer’s wet finger. It’s an image scientists can’t get from a climate-controlled room. They know the physics that govern the sky. Their supercomputers can stay ahead of the clouds. They just can’t get the numbers right in the first place.

Insufficient or faulty ground data is a major reason why forecasts curdle within a week, and go totally rancid after 10 days. Even a same-day satellite forecast is a spaghetti plot of best guesses and city-sized generalities. That won’t do in war, where the weather is never neutral.

As SOWTs master the language of the sky, they also learn to survive under it. The physical side of the SOWT pipeline may be an even greater test than the intellectual side. It starts with a 500-meter surface swim, two 25-meter underwater swims, a 1.5-mile run and timed bursts of pull-ups, sit-ups and push-ups.

Pass that and you qualify for a “selection course,” a two-week cycle of spittle and sweat at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Here SOWTs get their ribs kicked by drill instructors while the anguish of muscle failure eats at their minds. They jump off cliffs, run through rivers, drag truck tires and perform everyday calisthenics made more torturous by a spray of water to the face, anything to trigger a fear of drowning.

“We’re here to push them, to show them that their bodies and minds are capable of handling much more than they think,” said one instructor featured in a SOWT recruiting video released online. “We’re looking for that alpha male drive,” said another instructor.

If the SOWTs survive this hell, there are others waiting, including five kinds of survival school and a disaster-movie sequence of severe weather observations, tactical training and demolition. Throughout this regime prospective SOWTs are constantly being evaluated. Most candidates never get accepted into the pipeline. Of those who do, fewer than one in five get their grey beret, according to Lee, the senior recruiter.

Recent recruits include wrestlers, water polo players, surfers, runners and a lineman pulled off an NFL practice squad. The common denominator is a knack for tamping down the body’s instinct to scream. “I’m leaving with a grey beret or a body bag,” said one new recruit, entering the pipeline this fall. He’s 17.

“These guys are certified mental and physical studs,” said Sawtelle.

They’re stronger, faster and brighter. The challenge now is pulling these guys back, not pushing them forward.

They’re also deadly operators. Before they deploy, all SOWTs get a coat of battle paint at Hurlburt Field, home of the Air Force’s advanced combat training school. It’s a sprawling gym, pool and classroom complex, and on a recent visit the facility felt like a stroll through the pages of a spy novel.

Cell phones get locked up in little boxes. The cinder blocks above the urinals are covered with one-pagers on countries in West Africa and Southeast Asia. Everywhere the walls are talking, reminding young airmen about the need for strict operational security.

“Loose pieces of talk are put together by our enemies for victory,” warns one poster.

“This is a 100 percent shred zone,” notes another.

In a warehouse across the street, the SOWTs keep their personal “cages”: wire mesh closets packed like Hollywood costume trailers and piled high with beef jerky and books.

“A lot of guys read a lot of books,” said Sawtelle, walking down the aisles. He pointed out a particular favorite in one locker: “The Art of War,” an ancient Chinese military treatise attributed to Sun Tzu.

“Know the weather,” Sun Tzu advised around 320 B.C. “Your victory will then be total.”

Air Force special operators support Army, Navy and Marine special operations detachments, which means SOWTs have the guns, radios and battle dress to join any team at any time.

Sawtelle stopped at a red door with a security keypad and another little locker for phones.

“We’re behind every SOF (special operations forces) mission,” he said, before saying goodbye. “Weather is always the first slide.”

But not everyone in the military seems to care. The most celebrated soldiers are the ones who most directly take enemy lives and most often lose their own in the process. In Air Force Special Tactics those soldiers are the combat controllers, the ones who call in bombs in a firefight.

Inside the main doors of the Special Tactics Training Complex there is a wall of framed photos, almost all of them fallen combat controllers. In the auditorium two combat controllers recently addressed visitors (and potential recruits) from the Ultimate Fighting circuit. “I know how it sounds,” one of the men said, as he neared the end of a bloody anecdote about his time in Afghanistan, “but just before a firefight, I start to smile.”

This kind of machismo may be necessary, given the work of special operations, but it also means that soldiers sometimes don’t respect the weather. A couple of months after the auditorium speeches a team of Special Tactics airmen huddled in tents on Alaska’s Manatuska Glacier. They were on a training mission, an effort to find a body in one of the area’s seemingly bottomless crevasses.

They were supposed to have SOWTs with them, testing the ice and snowpack, gauging the depth and swiftness of a nearby river. If the team found a body — an actual dummy hidden in the terrain — the SOWTs would forecast for an incoming helicopter. But the SOWTs were called away, sent on a real-world mission at the last moment, according to the Air Force.

The combat controllers and medics didn’t mind. Some used a smartphone app, which failed to predict an afternoon of high winds and rain that might have flipped tents if they had not been angled correctly by a local guide. Others planned to ford the river — until another guide warned them of a dangerous drop in the middle.

Even when the SOWTs are around, the rougher soldiers don’t necessarily see their value. Some prank the SOWTs, stuffing their bags or lockers with balloons. Others ignore the SOWTs entirely — too tough to worry about the weather, too young or inexperienced to realize they should.

One day last spring, dozens of combat controllers filed into a room ahead of a parachute exercise. They were joined by a smaller number of combat medics and an even smaller number of SOWTs. The room darkened as soundproof hatches closed over the windows and a projector turned on.

The young combat controller in charge of the briefing said, “Here’s the weather report.”

He added, “If anyone cares.”


The First SOWT

To understand the new special operations weathermen, it helps to look back to their origins.

The number of military weather observers surged during World War I, when the appearance of long-range artillery and chemical warfare meant that a busted forecast took on dire consequences. A bad wind sock could turn a chemical weapon into a chemical threat. A broken air pressure gauge could make it impossible to determine the distance of incoming fire and get return fire on target.

But World War II was the weatherman’s golden hour. It was the first war with the widespread use of air power, and the United States prepared by training more than 30,000 conventional weather personnel to help guide America’s new flyboys. On D-Day an Allied forecaster first delayed the invasion of France, then sent Commander Eisenhower’s “great crusade” through a clear patch the Germans didn’t see and never expected.

That invasion included the earliest known airborne weathermen, forerunners to today’s SOWTs. One of them stepped out into the clouds over Normandy, popping silk with the 82nd Airborne Division. Another followed in a glider. Both were stitched by gunfire before taking an observation.

The modern SOWT mission was reborn in 1963.

The Johnson administration began to prepare for a secret war in Laos, where the North Vietnamese were cutting tracks through the jungle, creating a supply route known as the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The Pentagon wanted to stop them with bombs, but the flight conditions were dicey. When tropical air hits a mountain range it cools rapidly, forming thunderstorms that could knock back a jet in already difficult skies.

Back at Hurlburt Field, two brigadier generals had an idea for managing this problem. They created an experimental five-man team, a squad of weathermen who could operate like Army Special Forces. They called it the Commando Combat Weather Team and tapped an Air Force captain named Keith Grimes to run it, according to a copy of Grimes’ 1974 “oral autobiography,” prepared by the Air Force (and still partially redacted by the CIA).

Grimes held three degrees, spoke four languages and went on to become one of the most important commandos in Air Force history. He became the first true SOWT, and implemented the broader vision of warriors first, weathermen second.

Grimes came from the regular Air Weather Service, a group of people who, as he described it, “don’t talk to strong men without sort of quivering.” By contrast he was “a wonderful maverick,” in the words of a two-star general whose note introduces the Grimes story, “a credit to mankind — as well as the military.”

In June 1965 Grimes deployed to an air base in Udorn, Thailand, dressed in civilian clothes and posing as a scientist. The war had started but it wasn’t going well. For the past year American-backed bomber pilots had been following a finger of the Annamite Mountains and, just as the Pentagon had feared, they were getting “socked in” by storms. As many as half their missions were aborted because of weather.

So, to get these sorties on target, Grimes hiked into the Annamites himself, accompanied by a band of Laotian guerillas. From a mountaintop, he could see for 50 miles around, and he would monitor the sky. When he saw a storm collapse, he would call in a strike by code word, coaching the pilots through this hole in the clouds or that sun-drenched valley.

He watched the bombs fall.

“We’d be waiting, hiding in the grass, or the jungle, or up on top of some rocks, or in some cave,” he later recalled, “and before the North Vietnamese could regain their composure and get organized in any fashion we’d overrun the position. Then we’d do it somewhere else two or three days later.”

It worked.

The weather-related abort rate tumbled and the enemy death toll soared. Grimes himself got credit for facilitating 1,200 confirmed kills. He also studded the mountains with three dozen permanent weather stations, and trained a team of indigenous local observers, a “net” he could “crank up” to keep future bombs on target.

What Grimes did in Laos flashed the benefits of a hyper-local, eyes-on combat weather forecast. But like SOWTs today, Grimes still struggled for proper recognition. When he tried to get new rounds for his M-16, for example, the equipment manager at Udorn denied him.

“You’re a weatherman,” he said.

Grimes left his M-16 on the counter and walked out to find an AK-47.

“All we needed to do to get ammunition for the AK-47 was to kill some North Vietnamese,” he said. “That was a devil of a lot easier.”

In 1970 Grimes again demonstrated the value of SOWTs. He was asked to help execute Operation Kingpin, a lionhearted mission to rescue American POWs from Son Tay, a prison camp near Hanoi. The plan called for six helicopters and two dozen Green Berets and involved an issue of front-page national concern.

To prepare, Grimes called the Air Force’s climatology department and, based on the historical averages, selected October or November as the ideal time for the raid. He wanted the conditions just so: less than five knots of surface wind, an east moon, no more than 45 degrees above the horizon, scattered cirrus clouds, nothing to silhouette the helos.

After a summer of mock-ups, the team flew to Vietnam to wait on the right conditions. But a typhoon formed off the coast and by all appearances it was going to make landfall on November 21, the very day Grimes was targeting for the launch.

From a classified bunker on Monkey Mountain, an American base about 800 miles south of the target, he searched for another option. He reviewed satellite photos and surface observations from his commandos in Laos and China. He saw a cold trough coming down out of the north, a low-pressure system that might be strong enough to delay the typhoon and create a “tongue” of clear weather over Son Tay.

“What’s your conclusion?” the general said.

“If we don’t do it tonight, we’ll never do it,” Grimes said.

They did it.

Six helicopters flew the nape of the Earth, and the night was perfect. The force got in and got out in 26 minutes flat.

The mission still failed.

The POWs had all been moved, the camp deserted. But that was a failure of intelligence, not weather, and Grimes won the Legion of Merit for his work.


“What is the price to be paid by military commanders for not knowing the weather? Mission failure? Damage to national prestige? The blood of American servicemen?

—Joseph T. Benson


Today Grimes is a relative unknown even within the Air Force, where his accomplishments have been left out of books and buried in the Vietnam archive at Texas Tech University. The reasons help explain why the specialty of combat weather itself has struggled over the years, and may continue to struggle.

Through the 1970s and beyond, the SOWT career field still had a major problem: There was no career field, nothing distinct from the traditional Air Force meteorologists. The Commando Combat Weather Team was a revolving door of volunteers, many with no training beyond jump school. One Grey Beret would be a top-tier special operator. The next wouldn’t even know how to load his gun.

It was almost impossible to get the military’s elite commandos to allow a desk-bred man with a thermometer to take the place of a battle-hardened colleague with a gun. By the time Grimes died in a plane crash in 1977, the field seemed to die with him, setting the stage for the lowest moment in the history of special operations.

Operation Eagle Claw began in November 1979 when Iranian militants seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and held 52 Americans captive. Five months later President Jimmy Carter launched a rescue mission, this one involving eight helicopters.

They were to take off from an aircraft carrier in the Red Sea and rendezvous at a secret location in the Iranian desert. Combat controller John T. Carney, who had gone in first to scout the landing site, returned with his teammates to marshal the aircraft, including three large fuel transports. The weather, forecast by desk meteorologists from thousands of miles away in Nebraska, was supposed to be favorable.

The rotor blades of a burned-out U.S. helicopter create a stark silhouette against the desert skies of eastern Iran, where the American commando mission to rescue the hostages proved impossible after equipment failure, seen April 27, 1980. In background is a U.S. helicopter that was also left behind when the mission was aborted.

The rotor blades of a burned-out U.S. helicopter create a stark silhouette against the desert skies of eastern Iran, where the American commando mission to rescue the hostages proved impossible after equipment failure, seen April 27, 1980. In background is a U.S. helicopter that was also left behind when the mission was aborted.

The actual weather was not. The helicopters flew through shrouds of chalk-white dust, invisible to the satellites above, billowing for hundreds of miles near the surface. One of the aircraft crashed. Another turned back in desperation. A third malfunctioned. Carter decided to abort, but one of the remaining choppers flew into a transport plane, erupting in an explosion that left eight servicemen dead.

Carter’s presidency never recovered, and for a while it seemed the Air Force’s forecasters wouldn’t either. Many assumed that they had delivered a busted outlook. The truth was even worse, according to several after-action reports. The desk meteorologists had done the best they could do. The problem was the SOWTs.

They were never on the scene.

No one had called them.

In February 2007, Joseph T. Benson, the SOWTs’ director of operations at Hurlburt Field, attacked this lapse in a blistering essay for Air & Space Power, the Air Force’s professional journal.

“What is the price to be paid by military commanders for not knowing the weather? Is it paid in lost equipment? Mission failure? Damage to national prestige? The blood of American servicemen?” he wrote. “On April 24, 1980, at a remote location in central Iran code-named Desert One, the United States paid on all counts.”


Grey Berets Rise Again

Before special operations weathermen emerged as modern war heroes, they spent decades on the fringes of military life. By the early 1980s, the commando weather team that had been formed for secret work in Vietnam and Laos had, in the words of one former officer, been “allowed to atrophy to the point of being almost nonfunctional.” That’s when people started dying.

In 1982, five Army paratroopers were dragged to their deaths in unforeseen high winds near Fort Irwin, California. A year later, four Navy SEALs dropped into unexpectedly rough surf and died during the invasion of Grenada. In these cases and others, the SOWTs were uncalled or unheeded.

The first Gulf War made matters worse. One SOWT built the largest clandestine weather net since Keith Grimes hiked into Laos. But there was another SOWT on the ground, a drinker. To consummate the invasion he held “a sexual orgy in the middle of the desert,” Wayne Golding, the SOWTs’ commanding officer, later told an Air Force historian.

Golding wasn’t smiling. A major reason why U.S. special operators — from the SEALs to the Rangers to the Green Berets — were turning down SOWTs at the time was the fear that the weather guy would somehow compromise a mission. They didn’t trust the SOWTs’ training, nor their professionalism, and this libidinous forecaster had just given them proof that those suspicions were justified.

It got even worse. In the early 1990s, General Merrill McPeak, the new Air Force chief of staff, decided to deflate the Air Weather Service, a byzantine, bloated organization that grew out of World War II. He closed wings, shuttered squadrons and reassigned hundreds of forecasters.

A “Right Stuff”-style fighter jock from the Vietnam era, McPeak thought the Air Weather Service was, as he suggested in an email to NBC, as outdated as the Polish cavalry. He nearly succeeded in making its forecasters just as ceremonial.

“It killed our career field,” said Rip Coleman, who at the time was the director of meteorology for Air Force Special Operations.

Coleman and others succeeded in getting a new unit created: the 10th Combat Weather Squadron at Hurlburt Field. Brady Armistead was already there, a proud young forecaster who, like Grimes before him, was a human test case.

He was among the first weathermen assigned to an experimental Special Tactics Team. Such teams are now the official future of Air Force Special Operations. In the beginning, however, Armistead’s arrival was met with bewilderment.

The guard stopped him at the front gates. There must be some mistake, the guard told him: “We don’t have a combat weather team at Hurlburt Field.”

Armistead demanded that the guard station call the base commander: “We don’t have a weatherman,” the base commander confirmed.

It took three more calls to get Armistead a bunk for the night. It was right about then — as he lay awake and little worms of anger spread in his chest — that Armistead decided to change the way special operations thinks about weathermen.

“You can beat me down. You can talk crap. But at the end of the day, I’m going to show you my value,” he remembers thinking.

By the time he dropped into Afghanistan, poised to start the war on terror, Armistead had won his own battle, according to several former colleagues. He had earned a spot on the 24th Special Tactics Squadron, the Air Force’s version of SEAL Team 6 and Delta Force. (The Pentagon doesn’t officially acknowledge any of these teams and neither does Armistead, but other senior military personnel confirmed STS 24’s existence to NBC News.)

“Those guys were s**t-hot,” remembers a member of Delta Force, who deployed with SOWTs and combat controllers during the fierce early months of the war in Afghanistan. “They could swing like Tarzan, think like Einstein and climb like Spider-Man.”

The military started to trust SOWTs again, using them two years later when the United States invaded Iraq, according to records compiled by the Air Weather Association, a society of military forecasters.

At least three SOWTs infiltrated early. One landed in the northeast, near Iran, where he watched the winds for signs of chemical warfare. Another entered in the south, surviving incoming missiles and a sandstorm strong enough to bury his sleeping bag.

A third worked the center of the country, and forecast clear skies for a thousand paratroopers making the first major insertion of the war. A half hour before the paratroopers reached their jump point, the SOWT thought he had blown his call. The clouds above him were low and thick — then he saw his first star.

In a role that remains classified, SOWTs also deployed in support of Operation Neptune’s Spear, the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, according to people familiar with that and similar SOWT missions.

“I guarantee you there were guys out there,” said one senior official, who requested anonymity because he isn’t authorized to discuss the bin Laden mission. Special Operations Command declined to comment directly, as did Sawtelle, the officer then in charge of the SOWTs at Hurlburt Field.

But the need for data was obvious. Pakistan’s ground weather stations are spotty and far-flung, producing forecasts too vague for military use. To compensate, at least one environmental observer was on the flight path into Pakistan, while a second dug into the mountains surrounding Abbottabad, providing environmental “overwatch” on the compound, according to military sources.

It’s unclear how they landed in those positions. SOWTs are trained to jump from tens of thousands of feet, glide through the night and hit an X anywhere on the map. But they’re equally adept at flying commercial with an Osprey backpack, North Face boots and a cover story.


“Those guys were s**t-hot. They could swing like Tarzan, think like Einstein and climb like Spider-Man.

—Delta Force member


For all the SOWT successes, it was yet another failure that perhaps did the most to secure their future.

The date was July 7, 2007, a bloody day for American soldiers in Mali, but of course the men zipped into their tents in the Kidal region didn’t know that yet. They were waiting out a storm, worrying, if at all, about a strike by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

The average summer storm in Mali drops less than a quarter inch of rain. This was not the average summer storm. It was most likely a mesoscale convective complex, a violent kind of disturbance that climatologists expect to multiply as the planet warms.

It had grown overnight, the power undetected by satellites, hundreds of miles from the nearest radar station. Warm air soared upward, pulling in moisture from the Atlantic coast, and by noon what had begun as a few gray clouds on the horizon had blossomed into an ambush, according to Bruce Perkins, an Air Force meteorologist who helped investigate the incident for U.S. Special Operations Command.


The storm collapsed directly over the unsuspecting soldiers of the 10th Special Forces Group. Rain cut grooves in the earth and lightning lit the sky with sudden, eerie flashes. When the wind gusted, it sheared away a layer of mud.

One gust loosened the tent pegs.

The next gust blew the tents over.

Two soldiers toppled out uninjured. Two others rolled, and the tent turned into a grinder of heavy people and heavier gear. They suffered brain damage and were flown to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for long-term care. The fifth soldier — a decorated veteran and new father from Monterey, California — died at the scene.

A SOWT, Perkins made clear to his seniors, could have made all the difference. A SOWT, he said, “would have been able to forecast some pretty heavy stuff coming, and tell the guys to find a harder place to site their tents.”

The right people in the Pentagon agreed. Less than a year later, on May 5, 2008, the Air Force decided to create its new career field for special operations weather.

No more need to teach desk meteorologists how to fight. SOWTs now recruit at football games and college wrestling tournaments, sometimes drawing people in with a chin-up bar and a challenge. SOWTs have resources now, too, and they get to train alongside the best commandos in the military.

“Sixty seconds to touchdown!” the crew chief yelled during one such training mission.

The interior of a grounded CH-47 helicopter came alive with the wet rumble of motorcycle engines. The commandos balanced on dirt bikes, eight per team: 24 soldiers to protect the lives of several thousand refugees. They adjusted their M4 carbines and flipped on night-vision goggles.

Then the ramp fell and they sped into a war zone.

They were actually on a parcel of forest near Pensacola, Florida, conducting a simulated response to environmental trauma. The people of one country had pushed into the people of another, and Special Tactics had been deployed to secure the perimeter of the refugee camp, help the injured and keep the peace.

That, and don’t get themselves killed. One of the instructors was tossing mortars. They were blanks, but the sounds and shakes were real. One rookie was blown off his bike and into the mud. Another sped up, riding the tailpipe of the bike in front of him.

Afterward the team debriefed in a small clearing near a lake. It was full dark, so everyone kept their night-vision goggles on.

“Why don’t you want to bunch on those turns?” asked the mortar-tossing instructor.

He put a pinch of tobacco in his lip and didn’t wait long for an answer.

“Ambush, IED,” he said. “You’re all smoked in a second flat.”

Observing this session was lead instructor Sergeant Travis Sanford, a 27-year-old SOWT in the new mold. He looks like G.I. Joe: a V-bodied six-footer, snapped together with symmetry and blessed with a kung-fu grip. In 2010 he grabbed a wounded Marine by his ankle and pulled him to safety in Afghanistan, earning a Bronze Star for valor.

Today he’s a model the Air Force would like to replicate by the dozen. But he also gets it. There’s still a joke here, still something slightly off about forecasting the weather while someone is trying to kill you. That will probably always be true.

The new SOWTs don’t take the slights too personally anymore, Sanford said. When a smirking officer asks for a weather balloon, as one always does, one of Sanford’s colleagues likes to pull out a kid’s party balloon and shape it into a giraffe.

Sanford understands the military in terms of a giant high school social scene. The special operators are like starting quarterbacks and homecoming kids, but not the SOWTs.

“We’re kind of like the valedictorians,” he said. “We’ve got the 4.0 grade point average, but we can play a little, too.”


What ISIS Really Wants

The Islamic State believes it is a key agent of the coming apocalypse. Here’s what that means for its strategy.

By Graeme Wood, The Atlantic

February 17, 2015


What is the Islamic State?

Where did it come from, and what are its intentions? The simplicity of these questions can be deceiving, and few Western leaders seem to know the answers. In December, The New York Times published confidential comments by Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, the Special Operations commander for the United States in the Middle East, admitting that he had hardly begun figuring out the Islamic State’s appeal. “We have not defeated the idea,” he said. “We do not even understand the idea.” In the past year, President Obama has referred to the Islamic State, variously, as “not Islamic” and as al-Qaida’s “jayvee team,” statements that reflected confusion about the group, and that may have contributed to significant strategic errors.





The group seized Mosul, Iraq, last June, and already rules an area larger than the United Kingdom. Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has been its leader since May 2010, but until last summer, his most recent known appearance on film was a grainy mug shot from a stay in U.S. captivity at Camp Bucca during the occupation of Iraq. Then, on July 5 of last year, he stepped into the pulpit of the Great Mosque of al-Nuri in Mosul, to deliver a Ramadan sermon as the first caliph in generations—upgrading his resolution from grainy to high-definition, and his position from hunted guerrilla to commander of all Muslims. The inflow of jihadists that followed, from around the world, was unprecedented in its pace and volume, and is continuing.

Our ignorance of the Islamic State is in some ways understandable: It is a hermit kingdom; few have gone there and returned. Baghdadi has spoken on camera only once. But his address, and the Islamic State’s countless other propaganda videos and encyclicals, are online, and the caliphate’s supporters have toiled mightily to make their project knowable. We can gather that their state rejects peace as a matter of principle; that it hungers for genocide; that its religious views make it constitutionally incapable of certain types of change, even if that change might ensure its survival; and that it considers itself a harbinger of—and headline player in—the imminent end of the world.

The Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, follows a distinctive variety of Islam whose beliefs about the path to the Day of Judgment matter to its strategy and can help the West know its enemy and predict its behavior. Its rise to power is less like the triumph of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (a group whose leaders the Islamic State considers apostates) than like the realization of a dystopian alternate reality in which David Koresh or Jim Jones survived to wield absolute power over not just a few hundred people, but some 8 million.

We have misunderstood the nature of the Islamic State in at least two ways. First, we tend to see jihadism as monolithic, and to apply the logic of alQaida to an organization that has decisively eclipsed it. The Islamic State supporters I spoke with still refer to Osama bin Laden as “Sheikh Osama,” a title of honor. But jihadism has evolved since al-Qaida’s heyday, from about 1998 to 2003, and many jihadists disdain the group’s priorities and current leadership.

Bin Laden viewed his terrorism as a prologue to a caliphate he did not expect to see in his lifetime. His organization was flexible, operating as a geographically diffuse network of autonomous cells. The Islamic State, by contrast, requires territory to remain legitimate, and a top-down structure to rule it. (Its bureaucracy is divided into civil and military arms, and its territory into provinces.)

We are misled in a second way, by a well-intentioned but dishonest campaign to deny the Islamic State’s medieval religious nature. Peter Bergen, who produced the first interview with bin Laden in 1997, titled his first book Holy War, Inc. in part to acknowledge bin Laden as a creature of the modern secular world. Bin Laden corporatized terrorism and franchised it out. He requested specific political concessions, such as the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Saudi Arabia. His foot soldiers navigated the modern world confidently. On Mohammad Atta’s last full day of life, he shopped at Walmart and ate dinner at Pizza Hut.

There is a temptation to rehearse this observation—that jihadists are modern secular people, with modern political concerns, wearing medieval religious disguise—and make it fit the Islamic State. In fact, much of what the group does looks nonsensical except in light of a sincere, carefully considered commitment to returning civilization to a seventh-century legal environment, and ultimately to bringing about the apocalypse.





The most-articulate spokesmen for that position are the Islamic State’s officials and supporters themselves. They refer derisively to “moderns.” In conversation, they insist that they will not—cannot—waver from governing precepts that were embedded in Islam by the Prophet Muhammad and his earliest followers. They often speak in codes and allusions that sound odd or old-fashioned to non-Muslims, but refer to specific traditions and texts of early Islam.

To take one example: In September, Sheikh Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, the Islamic State’s chief spokesman, called on Muslims in Western countries such as France and Canada to find an infidel and “smash his head with a rock,” poison him, run him over with a car, or “destroy his crops.” To Western ears, the biblical-sounding punishments—the stoning and crop destruction—juxtaposed strangely with his more modern-sounding call to vehicular homicide. (As if to show that he could terrorize by imagery alone, Adnani also referred to Secretary of State John Kerry as an “uncircumcised geezer.”)

But Adnani was not merely talking trash. His speech was laced with theological and legal discussion, and his exhortation to attack crops directly echoed orders from Muhammad to leave well water and crops alone—unless the armies of Islam were in a defensive position, in which case Muslims in the lands of kuffar, or infidels, should be unmerciful, and poison away.

The reality is that the Islamic State is Islamic. Very Islamic. Yes, it has attracted psychopaths and adventure seekers, drawn largely from the disaffected populations of the Middle East and Europe. But the religion preached by its most ardent followers derives from coherent and even learned interpretations of Islam.

Virtually every major decision and law promulgated by the Islamic State adheres to what it calls, in its press and pronouncements, and on its billboards, license plates, stationery, and coins, “the Prophetic methodology,” which means following the prophecy and example of Muhammad, in punctilious detail. Muslims can reject the Islamic State; nearly all do. But pretending that it isn’t actually a religious, millenarian group, with theology that must be understood to be combated, has already led the United States to underestimate it and back foolish schemes to counter it. We’ll need to get acquainted with the Islamic State’s intellectual genealogy if we are to react in a way that will not strengthen it but instead help it self-immolate in its own excessive zeal.

In November, the Islamic State released an infomercial-like video tracing its origins to bin Laden. It acknowledged Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the brutal head of alQaida in Iraq from roughly 2003 until his killing in 2006, as a more immediate progenitor, followed sequentially by two other guerrilla leaders before Baghdadi, the caliph. Notably unmentioned: bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the owlish Egyptian eye surgeon who currently heads alQaida. Zawahiri has not pledged allegiance to Baghdadi, and he is increasingly hated by his fellow jihadists. His isolation is not helped by his lack of charisma; in videos, he comes across as squinty and annoyed. But the split between al-Qaida and the Islamic State has been long in the making, and it begins to explain, at least in part, the outsized bloodlust of the latter.

Zawahiri’s companion in isolation is a Jordanian cleric named Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi, 55, who has a fair claim to being al-Qaida’s intellectual architect and the most important jihadist unknown to the average American newspaper reader. On most matters of doctrine, Maqdisi and the Islamic State agree. Both are closely identified with the jihadist wing of a branch of Sunnism called Salafism, after the Arabic al salaf al salih, the “pious forefathers.” These forefathers are the Prophet himself and his earliest adherents, whom Salafis honor and emulate as the models for all behavior, including warfare, couture, family life, even dentistry.

Maqdisi taught Zarqawi, who went to war in Iraq with the older man’s advice in mind. In time, though, Zarqawi surpassed his mentor in fanaticism, and eventually earned his rebuke. At issue was Zarqawi’s penchant for bloody spectacle—and, as a matter of doctrine, his hatred of other Muslims, to the point of excommunicating and killing them. In Islam, the practice of takfir, or excommunication, is theologically perilous. “If a man says to his brother, ‘You are an infidel,’ ” the Prophet said, “then one of them is right.” If the accuser is wrong, he himself has committed apostasy by making a false accusation. The punishment for apostasy is death. And yet Zarqawi heedlessly expanded the range of behavior that could make Muslims infidels.

Maqdisi wrote to his former pupil that he needed to exercise caution and “not issue sweeping proclamations of takfir” or “proclaim people to be apostates because of their sins.” The distinction between apostate and sinner may appear subtle, but it is a key point of contention between al-Qaida and the Islamic State.

Denying the holiness of the Koran or the prophecies of Muhammad is straightforward apostasy. But Zarqawi and the state he spawned take the position that many other acts can remove a Muslim from Islam. These include, in certain cases, selling alcohol or drugs, wearing Western clothes or shaving one’s beard, voting in an election—even for a Muslim candidate—and being lax about calling other people apostates. Being a Shiite, as most Iraqi Arabs are, meets the standard as well, because the Islamic State regards Shiism as innovation, and to innovate on the Koran is to deny its initial perfection. (The Islamic State claims that common Shiite practices, such as worship at the graves of imams and public self-flagellation, have no basis in the Koran or in the example of the Prophet.) That means that roughly 200 million Shia are marked for death. So, too, are the heads of state of every Muslim country, who have elevated man-made law above sharia by running for office or enforcing laws not made by God.

Following takfiri doctrine, the Islamic State is committed to purifying the world by killing vast numbers of people. The lack of objective reporting from its territory makes the true extent of the slaughter unknowable, but social-media posts from the region suggest that individual executions happen more or less continually, and mass executions every few weeks. Muslim “apostates” are the most common victims. Exempted from automatic execution, it appears, are Christians who do not resist their new government. Baghdadi permits them to live, as long as they pay a special tax, known as the jizya, and acknowledge their subjugation. The Koranic authority for this practice is not in dispute.

Centuries have passed since the wars of religion ceased in Europe, and since men stopped dying in large numbers because of arcane theological disputes. Hence, perhaps, the incredulity and denial with which Westerners have greeted news of the theology and practices of the Islamic State. Many refuse to believe that this group is as devout as it claims to be, or as backward-looking or apocalyptic as its actions and statements suggest.

Their skepticism is comprehensible. In the past, Westerners who accused Muslims of blindly following ancient scriptures came to deserved grief from academics—notably the late Edward Said—who pointed out that calling Muslims “ancient” was usually just another way to denigrate them. Look instead, these scholars urged, to the conditions in which these ideologies arose—the bad governance, the shifting social mores, the humiliation of living in lands valued only for their oil.

Without acknowledgment of these factors, no explanation of the rise of the Islamic State could be complete. But focusing on them to the exclusion of ideology reflects another kind of Western bias: that if religious ideology doesn’t matter much in Washington or Berlin, surely it must be equally irrelevant in Raqqa or Mosul. When a masked executioner says “Allahu akbar” while beheading an apostate, sometimes he’s doing so for religious reasons.

Many mainstream Muslim organizations have gone so far as to say the Islamic State is, in fact, un-Islamic. It is, of course, reassuring to know that the vast majority of Muslims have zero interest in replacing Hollywood movies with public executions as evening entertainment. But Muslims who call the Islamic State un-Islamic are typically, as the Princeton scholar Bernard Haykel, the leading expert on the group’s theology, told me, “embarrassed and politically correct, with a cotton-candy view of their own religion” that neglects “what their religion has historically and legally required.” Many denials of the Islamic State’s religious nature, he said, are rooted in an “interfaith-Christian-nonsense tradition.”

Every academic I asked about the Islamic State’s ideology sent me to Haykel. Of partial Lebanese descent, Haykel grew up in Lebanon and the United States, and when he talks through his Mephistophelian goatee, there is a hint of an unplaceable foreign accent.

According to Haykel, the ranks of the Islamic State are deeply infused with religious vigor. Koranic quotations are ubiquitous. “Even the foot soldiers spout this stuff constantly,” Haykel said. “They mug for their cameras and repeat their basic doctrines in formulaic fashion, and they do it all the time.” He regards the claim that the Islamic State has distorted the texts of Islam as preposterous, sustainable only through willful ignorance. “People want to absolve Islam,” he said. “It’s this ‘Islam is a religion of peace’ mantra. As if there is such a thing as ‘Islam’! It’s what Muslims do, and how they interpret their texts.” Those texts are shared by all Sunni Muslims, not just the Islamic State. “And these guys have just as much legitimacy as anyone else.”

All Muslims acknowledge that Muhammad’s earliest conquests were not tidy affairs, and that the laws of war passed down in the Koran and in the narrations of the Prophet’s rule were calibrated to fit a turbulent and violent time. In Haykel’s estimation, the fighters of the Islamic State are authentic throwbacks to early Islam and are faithfully reproducing its norms of war. This behavior includes a number of practices that modern Muslims tend to prefer not to acknowledge as integral to their sacred texts. “Slavery, crucifixion, and beheadings are not something that freakish [jihadists] are cherry-picking from the medieval tradition,” Haykel said. Islamic State fighters “are smack in the middle of the medieval tradition and are bringing it wholesale into the present day.”

The Koran specifies crucifixion as one of the only punishments permitted for enemies of Islam. The tax on Christians finds clear endorsement in the Surah Al-Tawba, the Koran’s ninth chapter, which instructs Muslims to fight Christians and Jews “until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” The Prophet, whom all Muslims consider exemplary, imposed these rules and owned slaves.

Leaders of the Islamic State have taken emulation of Muhammad as strict duty, and have revived traditions that have been dormant for hundreds of years. “What’s striking about them is not just the literalism, but also the seriousness with which they read these texts,” Haykel said. “There is an assiduous, obsessive seriousness that Muslims don’t normally have.”

Before the rise of the Islamic State, no group in the past few centuries had attempted more-radical fidelity to the Prophetic model than the Wahhabis of 18thcentury Arabia. They conquered most of what is now Saudi Arabia, and their strict practices survive in a diluted version of Sharia there. Haykel sees an important distinction between the groups, though: “The Wahhabis were not wanton in their violence.” They were surrounded by Muslims, and they conquered lands that were already Islamic; this stayed their hand. “ISIS, by contrast, is really reliving the early period.” Early Muslims were surrounded by non-Muslims, and the Islamic State, because of its takfiri tendencies, considers itself to be in the same situation.

If al-Qaida wanted to revive slavery, it never said so. And why would it? Silence on slavery probably reflected strategic thinking, with public sympathies in mind: When the Islamic State began enslaving people, even some of its supporters balked. Nonetheless, the caliphate has continued to embrace slavery and crucifixion without apology. “We will conquer your Rome, break your crosses, and enslave your women,” Adnani, the spokesman, promised in one of his periodic valentines to the West. “If we do not reach that time, then our children and grandchildren will reach it, and they will sell your sons as slaves at the slave market.”

In October, Dabiq, the magazine of the Islamic State, published “The Revival of Slavery Before the Hour,” an article that took up the question of whether Yazidis (the members of an ancient Kurdish sect that borrows elements of Islam, and had come under attack from Islamic State forces in northern Iraq) are lapsed Muslims, and therefore marked for death, or merely pagans and therefore fair game for enslavement. A study group of Islamic State scholars had convened, on government orders, to resolve this issue. If they are pagans, the article’s anonymous author wrote, “Yazidi women and children [are to be] divided according to the Shariah amongst the fighters of the Islamic State who participated in the Sinjar operations [in northern Iraq] … Enslaving the families of the kuffar [infidels] and taking their women as concubines is a firmly established aspect of the Shariah that if one were to deny or mock, he would be denying or mocking the verses of the Koran and the narrations of the Prophet … and thereby apostatizing from Islam.”

Tens of thousands of foreign Muslims are thought to have immigrated to the Islamic State. Recruits hail from France, the United Kingdom, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Australia, Indonesia, the United States, and many other places. Many have come to fight, and many intend to die.

Peter R. Neumann, a professor at King’s College London, told me that online voices have been essential to spreading propaganda and ensuring that newcomers know what to believe. Online recruitment has also widened the demographics of the jihadist community, by allowing conservative Muslim women—physically isolated in their homes—to reach out to recruiters, radicalize, and arrange passage to Syria. Through its appeals to both genders, the Islamic State hopes to build a complete society.

In November, I traveled to Australia to meet Musa Cerantonio, a 30-year-old man whom Neumann and other researchers had identified as one of the two most important “new spiritual authorities” guiding foreigners to join the Islamic State. For three years he was a televangelist on Iqraa TV in Cairo, but he left after the station objected to his frequent calls to establish a caliphate. Now he preaches on Facebook and Twitter.

Cerantonio—a big, friendly man with a bookish demeanor—told me he blanches at beheading videos. He hates seeing the violence, even though supporters of the Islamic State are required to endorse it. (He speaks out, controversially among jihadists, against suicide bombing, on the grounds that God forbids suicide; he differs from the Islamic State on a few other points as well.) He has the kind of unkempt facial hair one sees on certain overgrown fans of The Lord of the Rings, and his obsession with Islamic apocalypticism felt familiar. He seemed to be living out a drama that looks, from an outsider’s perspective, like a medieval fantasy novel, only with real blood.

Last June, Cerantonio and his wife tried to emigrate—he wouldn’t say to where (“It’s illegal to go to Syria,” he said cagily)—but they were caught en route, in the Philippines, and he was deported back to Australia for overstaying his visa. Australia has criminalized attempts to join or travel to the Islamic State, and has confiscated Cerantonio’s passport. He is stuck in Melbourne, where he is well known to the local constabulary. If Cerantonio were caught facilitating the movement of individuals to the Islamic State, he would be imprisoned. So far, though, he is free—a technically unaffiliated ideologue who nonetheless speaks with what other jihadists have taken to be a reliable voice on matters of the Islamic State’s doctrine.

We met for lunch in Footscray, a dense, multicultural Melbourne suburb that’s home to Lonely Planet, the travel-guide publisher. Cerantonio grew up there in a half-Irish, half-Calabrian family. On a typical street one can find African restaurants, Vietnamese shops, and young Arabs walking around in the Salafi uniform of scraggly beard, long shirt, and trousers ending halfway down the calves.

Cerantonio explained the joy he felt when Baghdadi was declared the caliph on June 29—and the sudden, magnetic attraction that Mesopotamia began to exert on him and his friends. “I was in a hotel [in the Philippines], and I saw the declaration on television,” he told me. “And I was just amazed, and I’m like, Why am I stuck here in this bloody room?”

The last caliphate was the Ottoman Empire, which reached its peak in the 16th century and then experienced a long decline, until the founder of the Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, euthanized it in 1924. But Cerantonio, like many supporters of the Islamic State, doesn’t acknowledge that caliphate as legitimate, because it didn’t fully enforce Islamic law, which requires stonings and slavery and amputations, and because its caliphs were not descended from the tribe of the Prophet, the Quraysh.

Baghdadi spoke at length of the importance of the caliphate in his Mosul sermon. He said that to revive the institution of the caliphate—which had not functioned except in name for about 1,000 years—was a communal obligation. He and his loyalists had “hastened to declare the caliphate and place an imam” at its head, he said. “This is a duty upon the Muslims—a duty that has been lost for centuries. … The Muslims sin by losing it, and they must always seek to establish it.” Like bin Laden before him, Baghdadi spoke floridly, with frequent scriptural allusion and command of classical rhetoric. Unlike bin Laden, and unlike those false caliphs of the Ottoman Empire, he is Qurayshi.

The caliphate, Cerantonio told me, is not just a political entity but also a vehicle for salvation. Islamic State propaganda regularly reports the pledges of baya’a (allegiance) rolling in from jihadist groups across the Muslim world. Cerantonio quoted a Prophetic saying, that to die without pledging allegiance is to die jahil (ignorant) and therefore die a “death of disbelief.” Consider how Muslims (or, for that matter, Christians) imagine God deals with the souls of people who die without learning about the one true religion. They are neither obviously saved nor definitively condemned. Similarly, Cerantonio said, the Muslim who acknowledges one omnipotent god and prays, but who dies without pledging himself to a valid caliph and incurring the obligations of that oath, has failed to live a fully Islamic life. I pointed out that this means the vast majority of Muslims in history, and all who passed away between 1924 and 2014, died a death of disbelief. Cerantonio nodded gravely. “I would go so far as to say that Islam has been reestablished” by the caliphate.

I asked him about his own baya’a, and he quickly corrected me: “I didn’t say that I’d pledged allegiance.” Under Australian law, he reminded me, giving baya’a to the Islamic State was illegal. “But I agree that [Baghdadi] fulfills the requirements,” he continued. “I’m just going to wink at you, and you take that to mean whatever you want.”

To be the caliph, one must meet conditions outlined in Sunni law—being a Muslim adult man of Quraysh descent; exhibiting moral probity and physical and mental integrity; and having ‘amr, or authority. This last criterion, Cerantonio said, is the hardest to fulfill, and requires that the caliph have territory in which he can enforce Islamic law. Baghdadi’s Islamic State achieved that long before June 29, Cerantonio said, and as soon as it did, a Western convert within the group’s ranks—Cerantonio described him as “something of a leader”—began murmuring about the religious obligation to declare a caliphate. He and others spoke quietly to those in power and told them that further delay would be sinful.

Cerantonio said a faction arose that was prepared to make war on Baghdadi’s group if it delayed any further. They prepared a letter to various powerful members of ISIS, airing their displeasure at the failure to appoint a caliph, but were pacified by Adnani, the spokesman, who let them in on a secret—that a caliphate had already been declared, long before the public announcement. They had their legitimate caliph, and at that point there was only one option. “If he’s legitimate,” Cerantonio said, “you must give him the baya’a.”

After Baghdadi’s July sermon, a stream of jihadists began flowing daily into Syria with renewed motivation. Jürgen Todenhöfer, a German author and former politician who visited the Islamic State in December, reported the arrival of 100 fighters at one Turkish-border recruitment station in just two days. His report, among others, suggests a still-steady inflow of foreigners, ready to give up everything at home for a shot at paradise in the worst place on Earth.

In London, a week before my meal with Cerantonio, I met with three ex-members of a banned Islamist group called Al Muhajiroun (The Emigrants): Anjem Choudary, Abu Baraa, and Abdul Muhid. They all expressed desire to emigrate to the Islamic State, as many of their colleagues already had, but the authorities had confiscated their passports. Like Cerantonio, they regarded the caliphate as the only righteous government on Earth, though none would confess to having pledged allegiance. Their principal goal in meeting me was to explain what the Islamic State stands for, and how its policies reflect God’s law.

Choudary, 48, is the group’s former leader. He frequently appears on cable news, as one of the few people producers can book who will defend the Islamic State vociferously, until his mike is cut. He has a reputation in the United Kingdom as a loathsome blowhard, but he and his disciples sincerely believe in the Islamic State and, on matters of doctrine, speak in its voice. Choudary and the others feature prominently in the Twitter feeds of Islamic State residents, and Abu Baraa maintains a YouTube channel to answer questions about Sharia.

Since September, authorities have been investigating the three men on suspicion of supporting terrorism. Because of this investigation, they had to meet me separately: communication among them would have violated the terms of their bail. But speaking with them felt like speaking with the same person wearing different masks. Choudary met me in a candy shop in the East London suburb of Ilford. He was dressed smartly, in a crisp blue tunic reaching nearly to his ankles, and sipped a Red Bull while we talked.

Before the caliphate, “maybe 85 percent of the Sharia was absent from our lives,” Choudary told me. “These laws are in abeyance until we have khilafa”—a caliphate—”and now we have one.” Without a caliphate, for example, individual vigilantes are not obliged to amputate the hands of thieves they catch in the act. But create a caliphate, and this law, along with a huge body of other jurisprudence, suddenly awakens. In theory, all Muslims are obliged to immigrate to the territory where the caliph is applying these laws. One of Choudary’s prize students, a convert from Hinduism named Abu Rumaysah, evaded police to bring his family of five from London to Syria in November. On the day I met Choudary, Abu Rumaysah tweeted out a picture of himself with a Kalashnikov in one arm and his newborn son in the other. Hashtag: #GenerationKhilafah.

The caliph is required to implement Sharia. Any deviation will compel those who have pledged allegiance to inform the caliph in private of his error and, in extreme cases, to excommunicate and replace him if he persists. (“I have been plagued with this great matter, plagued with this responsibility, and it is a heavy responsibility,” Baghdadi said in his sermon.) In return, the caliph commands obedience—and those who persist in supporting non-Muslim governments, after being duly warned and educated about their sin, are considered apostates.

Choudary said Sharia has been misunderstood because of its incomplete application by regimes such as Saudi Arabia, which does behead murderers and cut off thieves’ hands. “The problem,” he explained, “is that when places like Saudi Arabia just implement the penal code, and don’t provide the social and economic justice of the Sharia—the whole package—they simply engender hatred toward the Sharia.” That whole package, he said, would include free housing, food, and clothing for all, though of course anyone who wished to enrich himself with work could do so.

Abdul Muhid, 32, continued along these lines. He was dressed in mujahedeen chic when I met him at a local restaurant: scruffy beard, Afghan cap, and a wallet outside of his clothes, attached with what looked like a shoulder holster. When we sat down, he was eager to discuss welfare. The Islamic State may have medieval-style punishments for moral crimes (lashes for boozing or fornication, stoning for adultery), but its social-welfare program is, at least in some aspects, progressive to a degree that would please an MSNBC pundit. Health care, he said, is free. (“Isn’t it free in Britain, too?,” I asked. “Not really,” he said. “Some procedures aren’t covered, such as vision.”) This provision of social welfare was not, he said, a policy choice of the Islamic State, but a policy obligation inherent in God’s law.

All Muslims acknowledge that God is the only one who knows the future. But they also agree that he has offered us a peek at it, in the Koran and in narrations of the Prophet. The Islamic State differs from nearly every other current jihadist movement in believing that it is written into God’s script as a central character. It is in this casting that the Islamic State is most boldly distinctive from its predecessors, and clearest in the religious nature of its mission.


In broad strokes, al-Qaida acts like an underground political movement, with worldly goals in sight at all times—the expulsion of non-Muslims from the Arabian Peninsula, the abolishment of the state of Israel, the end of support for dictatorships in Muslim lands. The Islamic State has its share of worldly concerns (including, in the places it controls, collecting garbage and keeping the water running), but the End of Days is a leitmotif of its propaganda. Bin Laden rarely mentioned the apocalypse, and when he did, he seemed to presume that he would be long dead when the glorious moment of divine comeuppance finally arrived. “Bin Laden and Zawahiri are from elite Sunni families who look down on this kind of speculation and think it’s something the masses engage in,” says Will McCants of the Brookings Institution, who is writing a book about the Islamic State’s apocalyptic thought.

During the last years of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the Islamic State’s immediate founding fathers, by contrast, saw signs of the end times everywhere. They were anticipating, within a year, the arrival of the Mahdi—a messianic figure destined to lead the Muslims to victory before the end of the world. McCants says a prominent Islamist in Iraq approached bin Laden in 2008 to warn him that the group was being led by millenarians who were “talking all the time about the Mahdi and making strategic decisions” based on when they thought the Mahdi was going to arrive. “Al-Qaida had to write to [these leaders] to say ‘Cut it out.’ ”

For certain true believers—the kind who long for epic good-versus-evil battles—visions of apocalyptic bloodbaths fulfill a deep psychological need. Of the Islamic State supporters I met, Musa Cerantonio, the Australian, expressed the deepest interest in the apocalypse and how the remaining days of the Islamic State—and the world—might look. Parts of that prediction are original to him, and do not yet have the status of doctrine. But other parts are based on mainstream Sunni sources and appear all over the Islamic State’s propaganda. These include the belief that there will be only 12 legitimate caliphs, and Baghdadi is the eighth; that the armies of Rome will mass to meet the armies of Islam in northern Syria; and that Islam’s final showdown with an anti-Messiah will occur in Jerusalem after a period of renewed Islamic conquest.

The Islamic State has attached great importance to the Syrian city of Dabiq, near Aleppo. It named its propaganda magazine after the town, and celebrated madly when (at great cost) it conquered Dabiq’s strategically unimportant plains. It is here, the Prophet reportedly said, that the armies of Rome will set up their camp. The armies of Islam will meet them, and Dabiq will be Rome’s Waterloo or its Antietam.

“Dabiq is basically all farmland,” one Islamic State supporter recently tweeted. “You could imagine large battles taking place there.” The Islamic State’s propagandists drool with anticipation of this event, and constantly imply that it will come soon. The state’s magazine quotes Zarqawi as saying, “The spark has been lit here in Iraq, and its heat will continue to intensify … until it burns the crusader armies in Dabiq.” A recent propaganda video shows clips from Hollywood war movies set in medieval times—perhaps because many of the prophecies specify that the armies will be on horseback or carrying ancient weapons.

Now that it has taken Dabiq, the Islamic State awaits the arrival of an enemy army there, whose defeat will initiate the countdown to the apocalypse. Western media frequently miss references to Dabiq in the Islamic State’s videos, and focus instead on lurid scenes of beheading. “Here we are, burying the first American crusader in Dabiq, eagerly waiting for the remainder of your armies to arrive,” said a masked executioner in a November video, showing the severed head of Peter (Abdul Rahman) Kassig, the aid worker who’d been held captive for more than a year. During fighting in Iraq in December, after mujahedeen (perhaps inaccurately) reported having seen American soldiers in battle, Islamic State Twitter accounts erupted in spasms of pleasure, like overenthusiastic hosts or hostesses upon the arrival of the first guests at a party.

The Prophetic narration that foretells the Dabiq battle refers to the enemy as Rome. Who “Rome” is, now that the pope has no army, remains a matter of debate. But Cerantonio makes a case that Rome meant the Eastern Roman empire, which had its capital in what is now Istanbul. We should think of Rome as the Republic of Turkey—the same republic that ended the last self-identified caliphate, 90 years ago. Other Islamic State sources suggest that Rome might mean any infidel army, and the Americans will do nicely.

After its battle in Dabiq, Cerantonio said, the caliphate will expand and sack Istanbul. Some believe it will then cover the entire Earth, but Cerantonio suggested its tide may never reach beyond the Bosporus. An anti-Messiah, known in Muslim apocalyptic literature as Dajjal, will come from the Khorasan region of eastern Iran and kill a vast number of the caliphate’s fighters, until just 5,000 remain, cornered in Jerusalem. Just as Dajjal prepares to finish them off, Jesus—the second-most-revered prophet in Islam—will return to Earth, spear Dajjal, and lead the Muslims to victory.

“Only God knows” whether the Islamic State’s armies are the ones foretold, Cerantonio said. But he is hopeful. “The Prophet said that one sign of the imminent arrival of the End of Days is that people will for a long while stop talking about the End of Days,” he said. “If you go to the mosques now, you’ll find the preachers are silent about this subject.” On this theory, even setbacks dealt to the Islamic State mean nothing, since God has preordained the near-destruction of his people anyway. The Islamic State has its best and worst days ahead of it.

The ideological purity of the Islamic State has one compensating virtue: it allows us to predict some of the group’s actions. Osama bin Laden was seldom predictable. He ended his first television interview cryptically. CNN’s Peter Arnett asked him, “What are your future plans?” Bin Laden replied, “You’ll see them and hear about them in the media, God willing.” By contrast, the Islamic State boasts openly about its plans—not all of them, but enough so that by listening carefully, we can deduce how it intends to govern and expand.

In London, Choudary and his students provided detailed descriptions of how the Islamic State must conduct its foreign policy, now that it is a caliphate. It has already taken up what Islamic law refers to as “offensive jihad,” the forcible expansion into countries that are ruled by non-Muslims. “Hitherto, we were just defending ourselves,” Choudary said; without a caliphate, offensive jihad is an inapplicable concept. But the waging of war to expand the caliphate is an essential duty of the caliph.

Choudary took pains to present the laws of war under which the Islamic State operates as policies of mercy rather than of brutality. He told me the state has an obligation to terrorize its enemies—a holy order to scare the shit out of them with beheadings and crucifixions and enslavement of women and children, because doing so hastens victory and avoids prolonged conflict.

Choudary’s colleague Abu Baraa explained that Islamic law permits only temporary peace treaties, lasting no longer than a decade. Similarly, accepting any border is anathema, as stated by the Prophet and echoed in the Islamic State’s propaganda videos. If the caliph consents to a longer-term peace or permanent border, he will be in error. Temporary peace treaties are renewable, but may not be applied to all enemies at once: The caliph must wage jihad at least once a year. He may not rest, or he will fall into a state of sin.

One comparison to the Islamic State is the Khmer Rouge, which killed about a third of the population of Cambodia. But the Khmer Rouge occupied Cambodia’s seat at the United Nations. “This is not permitted,” Abu Baraa said. “To send an ambassador to the U.N. is to recognize an authority other than God’s.” This form of diplomacy is shirk, or polytheism, he argued, and would be immediate cause to hereticize and replace Baghdadi. Even to hasten the arrival of a caliphate by democratic means—for example by voting for political candidates who favor a caliphate—is shirk.

It’s hard to overstate how hamstrung the Islamic State will be by its radicalism. The modern international system, born of the 1648 Peace of Westphalia, relies on each state’s willingness to recognize borders, however grudgingly. For the Islamic State, that recognition is ideological suicide. Other Islamist groups, such as the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, have succumbed to the blandishments of democracy and the potential for an invitation to the community of nations, complete with a U.N. seat. Negotiation and accommodation have worked, at times, for the Taliban as well. (Under Taliban rule, Afghanistan exchanged ambassadors with Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates, an act that invalidated the Taliban’s authority in the Islamic State’s eyes.) To the Islamic State these are not options, but acts of apostasy.

The United States and its allies have reacted to the Islamic State belatedly and in an apparent daze. The group’s ambitions and rough strategic blueprints were evident in its pronouncements and in social-media chatter as far back as 2011, when it was just one of many terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq and hadn’t yet committed mass atrocities. Adnani, the spokesman, told followers then that the group’s ambition was to “restore the Islamic caliphate,” and he evoked the apocalypse, saying, “There are but a few days left.” Baghdadi had already styled himself “commander of the faithful,” a title ordinarily reserved for caliphs, in 2011. In April 2013, Adnani declared the movement “ready to redraw the world upon the Prophetic methodology of the caliphate.” In August 2013, he said, “Our goal is to establish an Islamic state that doesn’t recognize borders, on the Prophetic methodology.” By then, the group had taken Raqqa, a Syrian provincial capital of perhaps 500,000 people, and was drawing in substantial numbers of foreign fighters who’d heard its message.

If we had identified the Islamic State’s intentions early, and realized that the vacuum in Syria and Iraq would give it ample space to carry them out, we might, at a minimum, have pushed Iraq to harden its border with Syria and preemptively make deals with its Sunnis. That would at least have avoided the electrifying propaganda effect created by the declaration of a caliphate just after the conquest of Iraq’s third-largest city. Yet, just over a year ago, Obama told The New Yorker that he considered ISIS to be al-Qaida’s weaker partner. “If a jayvee team puts on Lakers uniforms, that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant,” the president said.

Our failure to appreciate the split between the Islamic State and al-Qaida, and the essential differences between the two, has led to dangerous decisions. Last fall, to take one example, the U.S. government consented to a desperate plan to save Peter Kassig’s life. The plan facilitated—indeed, required—the interaction of some of the founding figures of the Islamic State and al-Qaida, and could hardly have looked more hastily improvised.

It entailed the enlistment of Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, the Zarqawi mentor and al-Qaida grandee, to approach Turki al-Binali, the Islamic State’s chief ideologue and a former student of Maqdisi’s, even though the two men had fallen out due to Maqdisi’s criticism of the Islamic State. Maqdisi had already called for the state to extend mercy to Alan Henning, the British cabbie who had entered Syria to deliver aid to children. In December, The Guardian reported that the U.S. government, through an intermediary, had asked Maqdisi to intercede with the Islamic State on Kassig’s behalf.

Maqdisi was living freely in Jordan but had been banned from communicating with terrorists abroad, and he was being monitored closely. After Jordan granted the United States permission to reintroduce Maqdisi to Binali, Maqdisi bought a phone with American money and was allowed to correspond merrily with his former student for a few days, before the Jordanian government stopped the chats and used them as a pretext to jail Maqdisi. Kassig’s severed head appeared in the Dabiq video a few days later.

Maqdisi gets mocked roundly on Twitter by the Islamic State’s fans, and alQaida is held in great contempt for refusing to acknowledge the caliphate. Cole Bunzel, a scholar who studies Islamic State ideology, read Maqdisi’s opinion on Henning’s status and thought it would hasten his and other captives’ death. “If I were held captive by the Islamic State, and Maqdisi said I shouldn’t be killed,” he told me, “I’d kiss my ass goodbye.”

Kassig’s death was a tragedy, but the plan’s success would have been a bigger one. A reconciliation between Maqdisi and Binali would have begun to heal the main rift between the world’s two largest jihadist organizations. It’s possible that the government wanted only to draw out Binali for intelligence purposes or assassination. (Multiple attempts to elicit comment from the FBI were unsuccessful.) Regardless, the decision to play matchmaker for America’s two main terrorist antagonists reveals astonishingly poor judgment.

Chastened by our earlier indifference, we are now meeting the Islamic State via Kurdish and Iraqi proxy on the battlefield, and with regular air assaults. Those strategies haven’t dislodged the Islamic State from any of its major territorial possessions, although they’ve kept it from directly assaulting Baghdad and Erbil and slaughtering Shia and Kurds there.

Some observers have called for escalation, including several predictable voices from the interventionist right (Max Boot, Frederick Kagan), who have urged the deployment of tens of thousands of American soldiers. These calls should not be dismissed too quickly: an avowedly genocidal organization is on its potential victims’ front lawn, and it is committing daily atrocities in the territory it already controls.

One way to un-cast the Islamic State’s spell over its adherents would be to overpower it militarily and occupy the parts of Syria and Iraq now under caliphate rule. AlQaida is ineradicable because it can survive, cockroach-like, by going underground. The Islamic State cannot. If it loses its grip on its territory in Syria and Iraq, it will cease to be a caliphate. Caliphates cannot exist as underground movements, because territorial authority is a requirement: Take away its command of territory, and all those oaths of allegiance are no longer binding. Former pledges could, of course, continue to attack the West and behead their enemies, as freelancers. But the propaganda value of the caliphate would disappear, and with it the supposed religious duty to immigrate and serve it. If the United States were to invade, the Islamic State’s obsession with battle at Dabiq suggests that it might send vast resources there, as if in a conventional battle. If the state musters at Dabiq in full force, only to be routed, it might never recover.

Abu Baraa, who maintains a YouTube channel about Islamic law, says the caliph, Baghdadi, cannot negotiate or recognize borders, and must continually make war, or he will remove himself from Islam.

And yet the risks of escalation are enormous. The biggest proponent of an American invasion is the Islamic State itself. The provocative videos, in which a black-hooded executioner addresses President Obama by name, are clearly made to draw America into the fight. An invasion would be a huge propaganda victory for jihadists worldwide: Irrespective of whether they have given baya’a to the caliph, they all believe that the United States wants to embark on a modern-day Crusade and kill Muslims. Yet another invasion and occupation would confirm that suspicion, and bolster recruitment. Add the incompetence of our previous efforts as occupiers, and we have reason for reluctance. The rise of ISIS, after all, happened only because our previous occupation created space for Zarqawi and his followers. Who knows the consequences of another botched job?

Given everything we know about the Islamic State, continuing to slowly bleed it, through air strikes and proxy warfare, appears the best of bad military options. Neither the Kurds nor the Shia will ever subdue and control the whole Sunni heartland of Syria and Iraq—they are hated there, and have no appetite for such an adventure anyway. But they can keep the Islamic State from fulfilling its duty to expand. And with every month that it fails to expand, it resembles less the conquering state of the Prophet Muhammad than yet another Middle Eastern government failing to bring prosperity to its people.

The humanitarian cost of the Islamic State’s existence is high. But its threat to the United States is smaller than its all too frequent conflation with al-Qaida would suggest. Al-Qaida’s core is rare among jihadist groups for its focus on the “far enemy” (the West); most jihadist groups’ main concerns lie closer to home. That’s especially true of the Islamic State, precisely because of its ideology. It sees enemies everywhere around it, and while its leadership wishes ill on the United States, the application of Sharia in the caliphate and the expansion to contiguous lands are paramount. Baghdadi has said as much directly: In November he told his Saudi agents to “deal with the rafida [Shia] first … then al-Sulul [Sunni supporters of the Saudi monarchy] … before the crusaders and their bases.”


The foreign fighters (and their wives and children) have been traveling to the caliphate on one-way tickets: They want to live under true Sharia, and many want martyrdom. Doctrine, recall, requires believers to reside in the caliphate if it is at all possible for them to do so. One of the Islamic State’s less bloody videos shows a group of jihadists burning their French, British, and Australian passports. This would be an eccentric act for someone intending to return to blow himself up in line at the Louvre or to hold another chocolate shop hostage in Sydney.

A few “lone wolf” supporters of the Islamic State have attacked Western targets, and more attacks will come. But most of the attackers have been frustrated amateurs, unable to immigrate to the caliphate because of confiscated passports or other problems. Even if the Islamic State cheers these attacks—and it does in its propaganda—it hasn’t yet planned and financed one. (The Charlie Hebdo attack in Paris in January was principally an alQaida operation.) During his visit to Mosul in December, Jürgen Todenhöfer interviewed a portly German jihadist and asked whether any of his comrades had returned to Europe to carry out attacks. The jihadist seemed to regard returnees not as soldiers but as dropouts. “The fact is that the returnees from the Islamic State should repent from their return,” he said. “I hope they review their religion.”

Properly contained, the Islamic State is likely to be its own undoing. No country is its ally, and its ideology ensures that this will remain the case. The land it controls, while expansive, is mostly uninhabited and poor. As it stagnates or slowly shrinks, its claim that it is the engine of God’s will and the agent of apocalypse will weaken, and fewer believers will arrive. And as more reports of misery within it leak out, radical Islamist movements elsewhere will be discredited: No one has tried harder to implement strict Sharia by violence. This is what it looks like.

Even so, the death of the Islamic State is unlikely to be quick, and things could still go badly wrong: If the Islamic State obtained the allegiance of alQaida—increasing, in one swoop, the unity of its base—it could wax into a worse foe than we’ve yet seen. The rift between the Islamic State and al-Qaida has, if anything, grown in the past few months; the December issue of Dabiq featured a long account of an alQaida defector who described his old group as corrupt and ineffectual, and Zawahiri as a distant and unfit leader. But we should watch carefully for a rapprochement.

Without a catastrophe such as this, however, or perhaps the threat of the Islamic State’s storming Erbil, a vast ground invasion would certainly make the situation worse.

It would be facile, even exculpatory, to call the problem of the Islamic State “a problem with Islam.” The religion allows many interpretations, and Islamic State supporters are morally on the hook for the one they choose. And yet simply denouncing the Islamic State as un-Islamic can be counterproductive, especially if those who hear the message have read the holy texts and seen the endorsement of many of the caliphate’s practices written plainly within them.

Muslims can say that slavery is not legitimate now, and that crucifixion is wrong at this historical juncture. Many say precisely this. But they cannot condemn slavery or crucifixion outright without contradicting the Koran and the example of the Prophet. “The only principled ground that the Islamic State’s opponents could take is to say that certain core texts and traditional teachings of Islam are no longer valid,” Bernard Haykel says. That really would be an act of apostasy.

The Islamic State’s ideology exerts powerful sway over a certain subset of the population. Life’s hypocrisies and inconsistencies vanish in its face. Musa Cerantonio and the Salafis I met in London are unstumpable: No question I posed left them stuttering. They lectured me garrulously and, if one accepts their premises, convincingly. To call them un-Islamic appears, to me, to invite them into an argument that they would win. If they had been froth-spewing maniacs, I might be able to predict that their movement would burn out as the psychopaths detonated themselves or became drone-splats, one by one. But these men spoke with an academic precision that put me in mind of a good graduate seminar. I even enjoyed their company, and that frightened me as much as anything else.

Non-Muslims cannot tell Muslims how to practice their religion properly. But Muslims have long since begun this debate within their own ranks. “You have to have standards,” Anjem Choudary told me. “Somebody could claim to be a Muslim, but if he believes in homosexuality or drinking alcohol, then he is not a Muslim. There is no such thing as a nonpracticing vegetarian.”

There is, however, another strand of Islam that offers a hard-line alternative to the Islamic State—just as uncompromising, but with opposite conclusions. This strand has proved appealing to many Muslims cursed or blessed with a psychological longing to see every jot and tittle of the holy texts implemented as they were in the earliest days of Islam. Islamic State supporters know how to react to Muslims who ignore parts of the Koran: with takfir and ridicule. But they also know that some other Muslims read the Koran as assiduously as they do, and pose a real ideological threat.

Baghdadi is Salafi. The term Salafi has been villainized, in part because authentic villains have ridden into battle waving the Salafi banner. But most Salafis are not jihadists, and most adhere to sects that reject the Islamic State. They are, as Haykel notes, committed to expanding Dar al-Islam, the land of Islam, even, perhaps, with the implementation of monstrous practices such as slavery and amputation—but at some future point. Their first priority is personal purification and religious observance, and they believe anything that thwarts those goals—such as causing war or unrest that would disrupt lives and prayer and scholarship—is forbidden.


They live among us. Last fall, I visited the Philadelphia mosque of Breton Pocius, 28, a Salafi imam who goes by the name Abdullah. His mosque is on the border between the crime-ridden Northern Liberties neighborhood and a gentrifying area that one might call Dar al-Hipster; his beard allows him to pass in the latter zone almost unnoticed.


Pocius converted 15 years ago after a Polish Catholic upbringing in Chicago. Like Cerantonio, he talks like an old soul, exhibiting deep familiarity with ancient texts, and a commitment to them motivated by curiosity and scholarship, and by a conviction that they are the only way to escape hellfire. When I met him at a local coffee shop, he carried a work of Koranic scholarship in Arabic and a book for teaching himself Japanese. He was preparing a sermon on the obligations of fatherhood for the 150 or so worshipers in his Friday congregation.

Pocius said his main goal is to encourage a halal life for worshipers in his mosque. But the rise of the Islamic State has forced him to consider political questions that are usually very far from the minds of Salafis. “Most of what they’ll say about how to pray and how to dress is exactly what I’ll say in my masjid [mosque]. But when they get to questions about social upheaval, they sound like Che Guevara.”

When Baghdadi showed up, Pocius adopted the slogan “Not my khalifa.” “The times of the Prophet were a time of great bloodshed,” he told me, “and he knew that the worst possible condition for all people was chaos, especially within the umma [Muslim community].” Accordingly, Pocius said, the correct attitude for Salafis is not to sow discord by factionalizing and declaring fellow Muslims apostates.

Instead, Pocius—like a majority of Salafis—believes that Muslims should remove themselves from politics. These quietist Salafis, as they are known, agree with the Islamic State that God’s law is the only law, and they eschew practices like voting and the creation of political parties. But they interpret the Koran’s hatred of discord and chaos as requiring them to fall into line with just about any leader, including some manifestly sinful ones. “The Prophet said: As long as the ruler does not enter into clear kufr [disbelief], give him general obedience,” Pocius told me, and the classic “books of creed” all warn against causing social upheaval. Quietist Salafis are strictly forbidden from dividing Muslims from one another—for example, by mass excommunication. Living without baya’a, Pocius said, does indeed make one ignorant, or benighted. But baya’a need not mean direct allegiance to a caliph, and certainly not to Abu Bakr alBaghdadi. It can mean, more broadly, allegiance to a religious social contract and commitment to a society of Muslims, whether ruled by a caliph or not.


Quietist Salafis believe that Muslims should direct their energies toward perfecting their personal life, including prayer, ritual, and hygiene. Much in the same way ultra-Orthodox Jews debate whether it’s kosher to tear off squares of toilet paper on the Sabbath (does that count as “rending cloth”?), they spend an inordinate amount of time ensuring that their trousers are not too long, that their beards are trimmed in some areas and shaggy in others. Through this fastidious observance, they believe, God will favor them with strength and numbers, and perhaps a caliphate will arise. At that moment, Muslims will take vengeance and, yes, achieve glorious victory at Dabiq. But Pocius cites a slew of modern Salafi theologians who argue that a caliphate cannot come into being in a righteous way except through the unmistakable will of God.

The Islamic State, of course, would agree, and say that God has anointed Baghdadi. Pocius’s retort amounts to a call to humility. He cites Abdullah Ibn Abbas, one of the Prophet’s companions, who sat down with dissenters and asked them how they had the gall, as a minority, to tell the majority that it was wrong. Dissent itself, to the point of bloodshed or splitting the umma, was forbidden. Even the manner of the establishment of Baghdadi’s caliphate runs contrary to expectation, he said. “The khilafa is something that Allah is going to establish,” he told me, “and it will involve a consensus of scholars from Mecca and Medina. That is not what happened. ISIS came out of nowhere.”

The Islamic State loathes this talk, and its fanboys tweet derisively about quietist Salafis. They mock them as “Salafis of menstruation,” for their obscure judgments about when women are and aren’t clean, and other low-priority aspects of life. “What we need now is fatwa about how it’s haram [forbidden] to ride a bike on Jupiter,” one tweeted drily. “That’s what scholars should focus on. More pressing than state of Ummah.” Anjem Choudary, for his part, says that no sin merits more vigorous opposition than the usurpation of God’s law, and that extremism in defense of monotheism is no vice.

Pocius doesn’t court any kind of official support from the United States, as a counterweight to jihadism. Indeed, official support would tend to discredit him, and in any case he is bitter toward America for treating him, in his words, as “less than a citizen.” (He alleges that the government paid spies to infiltrate his mosque and harassed his mother at work with questions about his being a potential terrorist.)

Still, his quietist Salafism offers an Islamic antidote to Baghdadi-style jihadism. The people who arrive at the faith spoiling for a fight cannot all be stopped from jihadism, but those whose main motivation is to find an ultraconservative, uncompromising version of Islam have an alternative here. It is not moderate Islam; most Muslims would consider it extreme. It is, however, a form of Islam that the literal-minded would not instantly find hypocritical, or blasphemously purged of its inconveniences. Hypocrisy is not a sin that ideologically minded young men tolerate well.

Western officials would probably do best to refrain from weighing in on matters of Islamic theological debate altogether. Obama himself drifted into takfiri waters when he claimed that the Islamic State was “not Islamic”—the irony being that he, as the non-Muslim son of a Muslim, may himself be classified as an apostate, and yet is now practicing takfir against Muslims. Non-Muslims’ practicing takfir elicits chuckles from jihadists (“Like a pig covered in feces giving hygiene advice to others,” one tweeted).

I suspect that most Muslims appreciated Obama’s sentiment: The president was standing with them against both Baghdadi and non-Muslim chauvinists trying to implicate them in crimes. But most Muslims aren’t susceptible to joining jihad. The ones who are susceptible will only have had their suspicions confirmed: The United States lies about religion to serve its purposes.

Within the narrow bounds of its theology, the Islamic State hums with energy, even creativity. Outside those bounds, it could hardly be more arid and silent: a vision of life as obedience, order, and destiny. Musa Cerantonio and Anjem Choudary could mentally shift from contemplating mass death and eternal torture to discussing the virtues of Vietnamese coffee or treacly pastry, with apparent delight in each, yet to me it seemed that to embrace their views would be to see all the flavors of this world grow insipid compared with the vivid grotesqueries of the hereafter.

I could enjoy their company, as a guilty intellectual exercise, up to a point. In reviewing Mein Kampf in March 1940, George Orwell confessed that he had “never been able to dislike Hitler”; something about the man projected an underdog quality, even when his goals were cowardly or loathsome. “If he were killing a mouse he would know how to make it seem like a dragon.” The Islamic State’s partisans have much the same allure. They believe that they are personally involved in struggles beyond their own lives, and that merely to be swept up in the drama, on the side of righteousness, is a privilege and a pleasure—especially when it is also a burden.

Fascism, Orwell continued, is “psychologically far sounder than any hedonistic conception of life … Whereas Socialism, and even capitalism in a more grudging way, have said to people, ‘I offer you a good time,’ Hitler has said to them, ‘I offer you struggle, danger, and death,’ and as a result a whole nation flings itself at his feet … We ought not to underrate its emotional appeal.”

Nor, in the case of the Islamic State, its religious or intellectual appeal. That the Islamic State holds the imminent fulfillment of prophecy as a matter of dogma at least tells us the mettle of our opponent. It is ready to cheer its own near-obliteration, and to remain confident, even when surrounded, that it will receive divine succor if it stays true to the Prophetic model. Ideological tools may convince some potential converts that the group’s message is false, and military tools can limit its horrors. But for an organization as impervious to persuasion as the Islamic State, few measures short of these will matter.


Rasmussen Reports

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



Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The United States prides itself on being a nation of laws, not a nation of men. But a surprising number of voters are ready to override those laws in order to have their way.

President Obama’s immigration plan and his national health care law both face legal challenges this year that could bring them to a halt. But one-in-four voters think the president should be able to ignore the courts if he wants to, and Democrats believe that even more strongly.  

Opponents of the president’s actions say he does not have the constitutional authority to alter a law passed by Congress without congressional approval. Forty-four percent (44%) of voters think Obama has been less faithful to the U.S. Constitution than most other presidents. 

But 31% believe when it comes to issues that he considers important to the nation, Obama should take action alone if Congress does not approve the initiatives he has proposed.  So much for our constitutionally mandated checks and balances between the three branches of government.

Twenty-four percent (24%) believe states should have the right to ignore federal court rulings if their elected officials disagree with them.

Fifty-six percent (56%) of Americans think the Constitution should be left alone.  Thirty-three percent (33%) believe only minor changes are needed in the nation’s foundational document. The rest are ready to rewrite it or scrap it completely.

While the Founding Fathers conceived this nation as one based on laws, they also insisted right from the start in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive their authority from the consent of the governed. But just 25% of voters believe the federal government today has that consent.

No wonder then that voter distrust in the federal government continues to climb. Only 20% now consider the government a protector of individual liberty, while 60% see it as a threat to liberty instead.

Voters still view the president’s order exempting up to five million illegal immigrants from deportation as illegal and tend to think Congress should try to stop it. But they’re evenly divided over whether a partial shutdown of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the way to do it. The House of Representatives has approved funding for the DHS that does not include money for the president’s amnesty plan, but Obama has vowed to veto any budget that doesn’t include that money.

As for Obamacare, voters still balk at its requirement that all Americans must buy or otherwise obtain health insurance.

While the president’s daily job approval ratings remain better than they were before Election Day, voters remain closely divided over his handling of national security and economic matters.

Ratings for Congress are still nothing to write home about, but they are more positive than they’ve been in nearly five years. Still, most voters think Congress is a bunch of sellouts. Voters continue to find the large number of millionaires serving in Congress troubling and to question how they got that way.

Republicans hold the edge over Democrats for the second week in a row on the Generic Congressional Ballot, but it remains very close as it has been for well over a year.

The president hosted a summit at the White House this week to discuss ways to counter terrorism worldwide. But in a recent interview, he said the media overhypes the threat of terrorism and downplays the greater long-term threat of climate change and epidemic diseases. Voters by far, however, see terrorism as the bigger long-term threat to the United States.

We were curious this week, too, whether Americans think global warming is to blame for the cold weather and heavy snows hitting much of the country.

Daily consumer and investor confidence are down slightly but still remain at higher levels than they have been in several years. But voters still feel the current economy isn’t working for the middle class

While confidence in home ownership as a family investment has hit a year-high, Americans continue to have mixed feelings about whether now’s a good time to sell a home. Most homeowners are making their mortgage payments on time, but Americans don’t want the government assisting those who can’t.

Beginning-of-the-year confidence in the banking industry has faded, and concerns about rising grocery prices have returned to levels seen for the last three years.

In other surveys last week:

— Thirty-two percent (32%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction.

— It’s no secret that faith in God is important to many Americans in one form or another. But just how important is religion in their everyday lives, and how do they practice their faiths? 

— This past Monday, we celebrated Presidents Day to honor George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Americans think some other presidents deserve a federal holiday, too.

— But the thought of adding any of the recent presidents to Mount Rushmore leaves most Americans cold.

February 14 2015

14 February 2015


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Idaho company pioneers agricultural drones

by Press • 9 February 2015

By Mike Petrovsky


A company in Idaho’s panhandle thinks its agriculture-related drone business will eventually take off before the start of the growing season despite federal regulations temporarily putting on hold its flight plan into uncharted territory.

Hayden-based Empire Unmanned LLC was launched Jan. 31. The company is a collaborative effort between Advanced Aviation Solutions out of Star, located a little northwest of Boise, and Blair Farms in Kendrick, just southeast of Moscow. The company intends to use drones to help farmers in Idaho, Montana and the Pacific Northwest monitor their crops and ranchers do the same for their livestock from above.

Empire Unmanned is the first business in the U.S. authorized to legally fly drones as a service for agriculture, said company president Brad Ward.

Ward, 44, is a retired Air Force pilot who also flew MQ-1 Predator and RQ-4 Global Hawk drones over his 20-year military career.

“We are hoping to charge (farmers and ranchers) $3 an acre, and with the learning curve, we will bring that cost down,” Ward said.

The company, in business not even two weeks, already has had seven potential customers express interest — most of them large growers.

“The smallest grower that has contacted us has 1,500 acres,” Ward said. “The largest is a rancher with 14,000 acres.”

Yet the former Air Force drone aviator said the amount of acreage really doesn’t matter.

“We’re looking to get the word out to as many farmers and ranchers as we can.” Ward said. “It’s not so much the size of the farm — 200, 500 acres. We don’t have a minimum charge.”

Empire Unmanned plans to use its drones to collect data on grain crops and potatoes in Idaho, cattle in Montana and orchards and vineyards for growers in Washington state and Oregon.

Yet before Empire Unmanned can launch its first agricultural drone, the company has to navigate an increasingly more complicated puzzle of Federal Aviation Administration regulations as they pertain to unmanned aircraft used commercially.


“We are waiting on one last piece – a Certificate of Authorization from the FAA. That’s the only piece,” Ward said, adding that Empire Unmanned expects to officially get its business off the ground on March 1, in time for planting season. “The biggest challenge is regulatory and the changing environment at the FAA (regarding drones). (The number of regulations) is growing and the rules are changing at a fast pace.”

As for drone regulations in Idaho, Ward said the extent of the state law governing drones is simply to not allow the drone to trespass on private property.

The potential benefits to the use of drones in agriculture is great particularly for farmers who practice a type of farming that is known by different names including target farming, zone management and precision agriculture. Ward explains:

“We can tell you what your wheat stand looks like, instead of you walking all 640 acres identifying where you’re having problems with the field. Drones give them (farmers) an idea of what their field is doing — where a particular area is under stress -— so a farmer can go to that spot and figure out what’s going on.”

Ward said a 30-minute drone fly over can provide farmers with crop field data “right down to the square inch,” which means, for example, growers can examine the blossoms on fruit trees without having to go into the orchard with a ladder.

He added that farmers who practice zone management can transfer the coordinates compiled by the drone to their GPS-guided tractors, making the process more efficient and thereby less costly.

One would think growers or ranchers could save even more money if they purchased a drone from Ward’s company outright and operated it themselves.

“We couldn’t in good faith sell an aircraft to farmers knowing that they couldn’t operate it legally,” Ward said.

He explained that last year the U.S. Secretary of Transportation issued the “Interpretation of the Special Rule for Model Aircraft.”

“The crux of the matter is … a farmer using a UAS (unmanned aircraft system) to monitor crops that are part of a commercial farming operation do not fall under (federal) ‘Hobby and Recreation’ rules,” Ward said.

He added that model aircraft, which do not meet the federal statutory requirements of the hobby and recreation exemption, are nonetheless unmanned aircraft, and as such, are subject to all existing FAA regulations.

“Depending on the system, there are about 20 Federal Aviation Regulations that the typical small UAS do not comply (with),” Ward said. “A farmer that wants to fly an unmanned aircraft to monitor his crops needs an exemption to these regulations.”

Furthermore, Ward said, the FAA is only approving exemptions for the operators of the aircraft and is not taking applications from manufacturers on behalf of their customers, which means a farmer who buys a drone doesn’t inherit approval to fly it from the manufacturer or reseller, they have to apply for an exemption themselves.

Ward added that as of Saturday morning only 23 companies, with his Empire Unmanned being first on the list, have exemptions to operate drones for commercial agricultural purposes.

Ward outlined how the drones collect the data for growers and ranchers.

“They (drones) take a still picture and all those still pictures it takes are put on to a mosaic map of overlapping images,” he said, adding that one 3-D stereoscopic image is the end result.

As for ranchers, Ward said the drones can be equipped with thermal sensors to seek out water or check on irrigation systems.

“The drones (using thermal imaging) can even take the temperature of (a ranchers’) cows to see which ones are sick,” he said.

Ward points out that using drones and thermal imaging to keep an eye on cattle has never been done before, at least not legally, because to his knowledge Empire Unmanned is the only company to get federal approval to apply drones and thermal imaging to ranching.

But what if something should go wrong? A drone goes out of control, let’s say.

“One of the advantages (Empire Unmanned) has is we have $2 million of liability coverage,” Ward said.

Yet Ward doubts if his company will ever have to take advantage of that coverage because black and yellow drone called eBee it’s using — which is manufactured by the Swiss company senseFly — weighs about a pound and a half and is made mostly out of foam.

“There’s a You-Tube video showing a man knocking the drone out of the sky with his forehead,” Ward said, adding eBee can fly no higher than 400 feet “and you’re pushing really hard to get it to go 45 mph on a dive.”

Empire Unmanned has sky-high ambition, but seems to be pretty short player in the world of commercial aviation giants.

Ward said his company has only three employees, but expects to bring on more once business, well, takes off.

For those looking for a job flying an eBee drone with Empire Unmanned, Ward advises that an applicant must “be a private pilot with a Type 3 medical exam, and they have to meet the flight review requirements for the FAA.”

Yet, despite those requirements, Ward said, “We have no shortage of resumes, so we won’t have to go out of the state (to look for drone pilots).

And Empire Unmanned has, for now, has just one drone, which has yet to get off the ground because the company, as stated before, needs to have that final piece of the FAA regulatory puzzle in place. Five more eBees, however, are on order from senseFly, Ward said.

“In the short term, it is probably going to be pretty slow to start,” he said of his company’s upcoming startup. “We won’t keep all six airplanes busy.”

As an aside, Empire Unmanned this year plans to team up Donna Delparte, an assistant professor with Idaho State University’s Geosciences Department. Delparte’s background is in geographic information systems, or GIS, which is a mapping technology that allows the user to create and interact with a variety of maps and data sources. And Ward said his company’s UAS, will be used to assist Delparte with her research.

“Empire Unmanned is a valued research partner, and we will be collaborating with them to collect multi-spectral imagery using UAS to evaluate potato crop health this upcoming growing season,” Delparte told the Journal in an email early Saturday. “(Empire Unmanned) brings extensive expertise in safe UAS mission planning and flight operations.”

ISU has received a $150,000 federal grant to develop ways to use drones equipped with specialized sensors to monitor crop health.

As Ward stated earlier, drones allow farmers to monitor their fields quickly with less cost.

The aircraft can provide even greater advantages, Delparte told the Associated Press in a recent interview.

“Remote sensing technologies offer the potential to protect U.S. food security by providing rapid assessments of crop health over large areas,” she said.


Ward told the Journal on Friday his company “would like to share expenses” with ISU on Delparte’s potato crop project, but it hasn’t worked out those details with the university yet.


New federal agency to sniff out threats in cyberspace

By Ellen Nakashima

The Washington Post

Published: 09 February 2015 11:07 PM


The Obama administration is establishing a new agency to combat the deepening threat from cyberattacks, and its mission will be to fuse intelligence from around the government when a crisis occurs.

The agency is modeled after the National Counterterrorism Center, which was launched in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks amid criticism that the government failed to share intelligence that could have unraveled the al-Qaida plot.

Over the past several years, a series of significant cyber-incidents has affected U.S. companies and government networks, increasing the profile of the threat for policymakers and industries. Disruptions, linked to Iran, of major bank websites, a Russian intrusion into the White House’s unclassified computer network and the North Korean hack of Sony Pictures have raised the specter of devastating consequences if critical infrastructure were destroyed.

“The cyberthreat is one of the greatest threats we face, and policymakers and operators will benefit from having a rapid source of intelligence,” Lisa Monaco, assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism, said in an interview.”It will help ensure that we have the same integrated, all-tools approach to the cyberthreat that we have developed to combat terrorism.”

Monaco will announce the creation of the Cyber Threat Intelligence Integration Center on Tuesday in a speech at the Wilson Center in Washington.

“It’s a great idea,” said Richard Clarke, a former White House counterterrorism official. “It’s overdue.”

Others question why a new agency is needed when the government already has several dedicated to monitoring and analyzing cyberthreat data. The Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and the National Security Agency all have cyber-operations centers, and the FBI and the NSA are able to integrate information, noted Melissa Hathaway, a former White House cybersecurity coordinator and president of Hathaway Global Strategies.

“We should not be creating more organizations and bureaucracy,” she said. “We need to be forcing the existing organizations to become more effective — hold them accountable.”

The idea of a central agency to analyze cyberthreats and coordinate strategy to counter them isn’t new. But as the threat has grown, the idea has taken hold again.

Monaco, who has a decade of government experience in counterterrorism, has long thought that the lessons learned from fighting terrorism can be applied to cybersecurity. She saw that as a policymaker she could quickly receive an intelligence community assessment on the latest terrorism threat from NCTC, but that was not possible in the cyber realm.

“We need to build up the muscle memory for our cyber-response capabilities, as we have on the terrorism side,” she said.

Last summer, Monaco directed White House cybersecurity coordinator Michael Daniel to see whether lessons learned from the counterterrorism world could be applied to cyberthreats. She also revived a cyber-response group for senior staff from agencies around the government, modeled after a similar group in the counterterrorism world, to meet weekly and during crises.

Daniel’s staff concluded that the same defects that contributed to the 2001 terrorist attacks — intelligence agency stove-piping and a failure to combine analysis from across the government — existed in the cyber context.

They recommended the creation of an NCTC for cybersecurity, but some agencies initially resisted. Advocates argued that the new center would not conduct operations or supplant the work of others. Rather it would support their work, providing useful analysis so that the FBI can focus on investigations and DHS can focus on working with the private sector, officials said.

During Thanksgiving week, news broke of a major incident at Sony Pictures Entertainment. In the following days, it became clear the hack was significant: Computers were rendered useless, and massive amounts of email and employee data were pilfered and made public.

President Barack Obama wanted to know the details. What was the impact? Who was behind it? Monaco called meetings of the key agencies involved in the investigation, including the FBI, the NSA and the CIA.

“Okay, who do we think did this?” she asked, according to one participant. “She got back six views.” All pointed to North Korea, but they differed in the degree of certainty. The key gap: No one was responsible for an analysis that integrated all the agency views.

In the end, Monaco asked the FBI to produce one, coordinating with the other agencies.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NCTC, might seem a natural place to provide that analysis. But its small cyber staff focuses on strategic long-term analysis, not a rapid merging of all sources of intelligence about a particular problem.

The Sony incident provided the final impetus for the new center. Monaco began making the rounds at the White House to build support for the center, officials said.

In his State of the Union speech on Jan. 20, Obama made a veiled reference to the center, saying the government would integrate intelligence to combat cyberthreats “just as we have done to combat terrorism.”

Obama will issue a memorandum creating the center, which will be part of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The new agency will begin with a staff of about 50 and a budget of $35 million, officials said.

Matthew Olsen, a former NCTC director, said the quality of the threat analysis will depend on a steady stream of data from the private sector, which operates the nation’s energy, financial and other critical systems. “One challenge will be identifying ways to work more closely with the private sector, where cyberthreats are the most prevalent,” he said.

The government and industries need to invest more in technology, information-sharing and personnel training, as well as in deterring and punishing those who carry out cyberattacks, said Michael Leiter, another former NCTC director who is now executive vice president at Leidos, a national security contractor.

The new center “is a good and important step,” Leiter said. “But it is far from a panacea.”



Ash Carter Could Face Big Decisions on Industry Consolidation
By Sandra Erwin

February 7, 2015


The Pentagon in recent years has frowned on mega-mergers of top weapons contractors, a policy that is likely to continue under soon-to-be confirmed Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter.

But Carter could face challenges to that policy in the near future as defense contractors weigh their options in a tight market. There is growing speculation that such a test might come in 2015 or 2016, following the award of a major Air Force contract to build a new stealth bomber.

The competition for the $100 billion Air Force long-range strike bomber program includes three of the Pentagon’s top contractors. The contest pits Northrop Grumman against a Boeing-Lockheed Martin team.

Whoever loses the bomber is likely to come under pressure from investors to make a big move — to either merge with a competitor or acquire a piece of one, predicts aerospace industry analyst Richard Aboulafia, vice president of the Teal Group.

The Air Force said it plans to make an award some time in 2015. It has budgeted nearly $14 billion for long-range strike bomber research-and-development work through 2020, and procurement would begin some time in the next decade. Additional funding is said to be tucked in the Pentagon’s classified “black” budget.

For the companies, the contest is a matter of long-term survival because the bomber is the only combat aircraft program up for grabs that is likely to go into production in the next decade.

“It’s a fascinating horserace … and the outcome could precipitate a big merger or acquisition,” Aboulafia told executives at a recent meeting of the National Aeronautic Association.

Only Lockheed Martin can afford to lose the bomber contract and still have certainty that it will remain a combat aircraft prime contractor, as it will be producing the F-35 joint strike fighter for decades. But Boeing’s and Northrop Grumman’s future as a combat aircraft prime depends on winning the bomber. “If you are not Lockheed, you’d better win this one,” Aboulafia said.

Under one scenario, if Northrop wins, Boeing could seek to acquire if not the entire company, maybe Northrop’s aerospace unit that would have the bomber contract and also builds sizeable components of the F-35. Aboulafia believes this would be the only option for Boeing to remain a combat aircraft prime contractor if it does not win the bomber deal. If Northrop loses, its investors might conclude that it is more lucrative to break up the company and spin off the aerospace division.

“That is not inconceivable,” he said. The bomber award will be a “huge determinant of the defense industrial base. … It is going to be transformative.”

Boeing continues to manufacture Super Hornet fighter planes for the U.S. Navy and international customers, as well as F-15s. But the last of its current Super Hornet orders would be delivered in 2017 and the last F-15s in 2018, said Aboulafia. Northrop Grumman designed the most recent stealth bomber the Air Force bought in the 1990s, the B-2. The company has military aircraft manufacturing capabilities for both manned and unmanned systems.

Although the Pentagon has drawn a hard line on prime contractor mergers, there might be cases when it might have to reconsider, Aboulafia said. Since the last big wave of industry consolidation in the 1990s, the market has changed dramatically, including the definition of what constitutes a prime contractor. If Northrop doesn’t win the bomber, even if the company is financially healthy and successful, its days as a military airframe prime would be numbered, said Aboulafia. “Does that mean it can sell one or more of its units?” The Pentagon might not be able to make a strong enough case to stop a sale, he said.

“The money you spend is the only real leverage you have,” he said of the Defense Department. “This is a changing environment in terms of investor expectations and company structure. Maybe we’ve forgotten that people do expect either growth or a compelling story to invest their cash.” The companies that are left out of the bomber program will feel pressure from investors, he added. “How do you make your case to Wall Street? An acquisition might be the way forward.”

If the government doesn’t have enough work to keep prime contractors in business independently, it is not clear how it can dictate which units a company can sell, said Aboulafia. “That sounds problematic.”

During his time as chief weapons buyer and deputy secretary of defense, Carter stood firmly behind the idea that market competition is essential to ensure innovation and protect the Defense Department from becoming dependent on monopolies.

But the reality is that big programmatic decisions — like selecting a prime contractor for the F-35 in 2001 and now one for the bomber — unleash market forces that the Pentagon cannot control, said Aboulafia. “Contractors understand this. When the bomber program gets decided, someone is going to be without a seat at the table.”

Carter told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he continues to believe that the Pentagon should carefully review the implications of industry consolidation before allowing mergers. “I support the review of each proposed merger, acquisition, and teaming arrangement on its particular merits, in the context of each individual market and the changing dynamics of that market,” Carter said in written answers to committee questions submitted before his Feb. 4 confirmation hearing.

“I believe the government must be alert for consolidations that eliminate competition or cause market distortions that are not in the department’s best interest,” Carter said. “During my time as the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics and the deputy secretary, the department took steps to improve and preserve competition in defense procurements, and I would support the creation or continuation of competitive opportunities.”

For military aircraft manufacturers that want to be viable beyond the coming decade, the bomber is the only game in town. The Air Force has plans to buy a trainer aircraft, and both Boeing and Northrop have announced their intent to develop clean-sheet designs for the competition. The Air Force, however, has said it might choose to buy an existing airplane rather than a new design. The Pentagon also is eyeing a “sixth-generation” fighter, but that program is too far into the future to satisfy the shareholders of whichever company doesn’t get selected to build the bomber. “A sixth-gen fighter is not going to come soon enough to save a military airframe prime that doesn’t get this,” said Aboulafia.

If the Air Force sticks with its goal of buying 80 to 100 bombers, the program could be worth more than $100 billion. The Air Force has championed the bomber as one of its top three acquisition priorities.

In his statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carter said he would support the program. The Air Force, he wrote, “requires a new generation of stealthy, long-range strike aircraft that can operate at great distances, carry substantial payloads, and operate in and around contested airspace.”



Wary of Procurement Mishaps, Air Force Takes Cautious Steps
By Sandra I. Erwin

February 8, 2015


Its aircraft fleet averages 27 years of age and rival nations are rapidly modernizing, but the U.S. Air Force is not rushing to commit to futuristic weapon systems.

The Pentagon’s budget proposal for 2016 seeks more than $48 billion for new aircraft production and upgrades. It is buying airplanes that are either already in production or in late stages of development, including 57 F-35 joint strike fighter jets, 41 logistics support aircraft, 300 helicopters and 53 unmanned aerial vehicles.

These acquisitions will help replenish the Air Force fleet but new aircraft designs are years or decades away. The next major development is a stealth bomber planned for the 2020s. But the Air Force is hitting the pause button on several programs, including a next-generation fighter, a new trainer airplane and a ground surveillance jet. Officials said they are being cautious about committing to new designs at a time when technology is advancing far more rapidly than the military’s procurement decision cycle. They also are resistant to make big wagers on unproven technology during a period of great uncertainty about future threats.

Illustrating the Air Force’s modernization dilemma is the so-called “sixth-generation” fighter that would succeed the fifth-generation F-22 and F-35. The Pentagon has funded research work in the 2016 budget but officials insist the program should not follow the traditional path of military acquisitions. “It’s a concept, and there’s money scattered throughout the budget,” said Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget Maj. Gen. James F. Martin.

As national security threats become more complex and the challenges too unpredictable, a different approach to developing future weapon systems is needed, said Air Force Lt. Gen. James M. “Mike” Holmes, deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements.

That means a departure from the predictable cycle of replacing an airplane with another airplane. “We’re trying to not jump straight to the idea that we’re going to build a sixth-generation fighter,” Holmes said during a roundtable with reporters at the Pentagon.

For the Air Force, the question is how to ensure “air superiority” in the future, and a new-and-improved stealth fighter might no longer be the answer, he said. “We’re trying to get a feel for what is the requirement for air superiority in the future and look at all the domains and not just jump into another air platform.”

Under the traditional process, the Air Force would conduct an “analysis of alternatives,” or a market study and years later choose an airplane design and begin development. The service wants to do business differently, said Holmes. “We just don’t want to jump straight to the AOA on the next airplane before we’ve looked across the range of ways of doing air superiority in the future. That includes cyber, space systems, ground and maritime. Not just jump straight to an air solution.”

The procurement system was designed for a more foreseeable world, he explained. “With 20-year development programs, by the time you design it and set requirements, by the time you field it, you have to think about what comes next.”

Another concern is how to get ahead of the fast-moving innovation train. Other countries have studied U.S. weaponry and how they are employed, and are now making systems to neutralize U.S. advantages, Holmes said. This is happening “faster than was anticipated,” he added. “The gap between our capability and the capability of potential adversaries is decreasing, and it’s decreasing at an accelerated rate.”

While it is “prudent to think about what comes next,” Holmes said, the military has to avoid the traps of traditional thinking. The tendency is to build a “little bit better F-35 or even a leap ahead F-35 or F-22” rather than “think about the right approach to solve problems.”

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert shares that view. In a presentation at an Office of Naval Research conference last week, he observed that advanced stealth fighters are not a silver bullet. Holmes said the CNO makes a valid point. “Our analysis says that with modern integrated air defense systems, stealth is necessary but may not be sufficient.”

The military has to be prepared to fight “air against air, air against ground, ground against air,” Holmes said. “You could see an application of swarming autonomous [vehicles] to go target surface-to-air defenses.” If so, he added, “Is it worth the cost to pay for autonomy for something that’s going to blow itself up when it hits a target? There are a lot of things we need to learn.”

The Air Force is reluctant to move forward with some modernization programs until is has more certainty about the state of technology. A case in point is the replacement of the T-38 trainer, a project called T-X. The service initially wanted to keep it simple and choose a trainer aircraft from among a handful of available models flown by countries around the world. But the technical requirements grew more complex in recent years as the Air Force realized it needed more advanced airplanes to train F-22 and F-35 pilots. Companies like Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Textron are working on clean-sheet concepts, and forced the Air Force to question whether it should buy off-the-shelf or gamble on a new design.

Officials are once again scrubbing the T-X requirements and are making it a test case for a new procurement reform initiative called “bending the cost curve.” T-X is years behind schedule but the Air Force is comfortable with the delay because it is allowing program officials to better understand the technology offered in the open market and to capitalize on private investment, Holmes said. The Air Force also is reevaluating the T-X acquisition rules so that proposed aircraft that exceed the baseline requirements without adding cost can get credit in the competition.

The Air Force in this case benefits from putting off contract awards and letting market forces work in its favor. “We think that keeping multiple teams in competition” helps the Air Force, said Holmes. “Having airplanes that are flying puts pressure on developmental airplanes, and having developmental planes puts pressure on airplanes that are flying.”

Doubts about earlier acquisition plans also prompted the Air Force to delay a competition to build a ground surveillance aircraft to replace the aging JSTARS, or joint surveillance target attack radar system. Companies like Boeing, Bombardier and Gulfstream are expected to propose JSTARS concepts built in smaller, commercial airframes that they claim will save the government money both in the procurement and lifecycle support of the aircraft.

Officials for some time had begun to question whether the JSTARS’ intricate sensor suites and electronics could be squeezed into smaller airframes. The Air Force decided to delay the program in order to further investigate the issue. The question is “what’s possible and what’s not,” Holmes said. “When [Air Force officials] looked at the strategy we had built for acquisition, they thought it was risky. The integration challenge may have been understated by some of the proposals. We want to keep the competition longer, it drives the price down.”

A similar path might be followed for the modernization of the AWACS airborne radar plane, Holmes said. “We hope to see how the JSTARS plan goes in the new business approach to how we take sensors and people and put them on a more efficient, cheaper airframe.”



Ash Carter’s Team Taking Shape

By Paul McLeary and Vago Muradian 6:46 p.m. EST February 11, 2015


WASHINGTON — As Ash Carter nears his widely anticipated confirmation to become the next US defense secretary, the team that he will bring with him to the Pentagon is already taking shape.

Carter is expected to tap current Air Force Undersecretary Eric Fanning as his chief of staff, and US Army Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis, head of Army public affairs, to be his senior military adviser, according to a source familiar with internal deliberations.

Fanning has served in his current capacity since April 2013, and is widely regarded as an up and comer in defense circles.

As undersecretary, Fanning primarily oversees the service’s budget and takes the point position onmatters of space operations, policy and acquisition issues.

Before joining the Air Force’s leadership team, Fanning also served as deputy undersecretary of the Navy and its deputy chief management officer from 2009-2013, where he led the sea service’s business transformation and governance processes.

Fanning “has had a terrific tenure in the Air Force,” said Rebecca Grant, a former Air Force official and president of IRIS Research. “He’s really been able to operate across the full range, including being involved in the difficult budget meetings in the Pentagon” over the past several years, she added.

Grant also noted that the Air Force is facing some weighty issues, such as the long-range bomber program, finding ways to pay for the expensive fleet of F-35s that will soon be making their way down assembly lines and into the operational Air Force, and finding ways to increase — or at least maintain — the current operational posture of its fleet of ISR and strike drones.

The chief of staff commonly assists the secretary with policy deliberations and coordinating interagency matters, among other tasks.

Lewis took over the Army’s public affairs office in June, fresh off a yearlong deployment to Afghanistan having served as the deputy commanding general (support) for the 101st Airborne Division.

A career Air Cavalry officer, Lewis also served a tour in Iraq and an earlier tour in Afghanistan.

Between deployments, Lewis has spent a lot of time at the Pentagon, much of it at Carter’s side, most recently as an adviser on his transition team.

Not counting his role on the transition team, Lewis has already filled the role of military adviser to Carter twice, first as his military assistant when Carter was the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics in 2011, and following him to become his senior military assistant when he took over as the deputy secretary of defense until he deployed back to Afghanistan in early 2012.

Lewis also served as the military assistant to the chairman of the Defense Business Board.



Lawmakers talk big cuts for Pentagon budget

By Andrew Tilghman, Staff writer 1:25 p.m. EST February 11, 2015


Big cuts to the Pentagon budget that once would have been unthinkable were openly discussed Wednesday on Capitol Hill as lawmakers summoned a panel of experts to weigh in on the White House’s newly released 2016 defense budget request.

This year’s budget battle will be exceptionally intense because a two-year deal in 2013 that eased the impact of the spending caps known as sequestration will expire when the 2016 fiscal year begins in October.

If lawmakers fail to reach a new agreement to extend that relief, the Defense Department will have to make major across-the-board cuts to planned spending.

That is forcing lawmakers to scrutinize the military budget in search of big-ticket items and lower-priority programs to target.

“The weapons system that we are planning on building right now, we can’t afford,” Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., said at Wednesday’s hearing of the House Armed Services Committee. “Something’s got to go.”

The expert witnesses called to testify all had suggestions on how to save money.

“The obvious answer is the F-35,” said Nora Bensahel, a military analyst with American University, referring to the futuristic weapons system slated to replace large parts of the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps tactical aircraft fleets.

“That is the procurement program that is eating the defense budget alive,” she said.

She did not advocate scrapping the program, but said the Air Force “doesn’t need as many of them as it says it needs.”

The Navy’s controversial littoral combat ship also came in for blunt criticism. Tom Donnelly, a defense expert with the American Enterprise Institute, said the LCS is “the wrong weapon” that resulted from “bad analysis of mission and needs.”

Several experts agreed that reducing personnel costs, which make up about one-third of the base defense budget, will be central to any long-term plan to reduce Pentagon spending.

They pointed to the new proposals from the Military Compensation and Retirement Modernization Commission, which call for reducing the size of the current retirement benefit and offering new contributions to 401(k)-style accounts for troops who leave before reaching the 20-year service milestone.

“They’ve got a sound approach there — it certainly could use some tweaks and improvements from Congress,” said Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a think tank in Washington.

However, Harrison and others noted that those changes alone will not bring defense spending within the sequestration budget caps mandated under current law and suggested further reductions in personnel costs will require cutting the size of the total force.

Several experts suggested that reducing Army active-duty strength is the least harmful option. But the likely easiest path to that end — shrinking units garrisoned in Europe — is looking less attractive these days in the face of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and Eastern Europe.

“There are significant choices that can change just in the course of a year,” said Ryan Crotty of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, suggesting lawmakers consider the cost-saving benefits of trimming troop strength in the reserve components and potentially moving important capabilities out of the active-duty military.

“If you are going to start thinking about big cuts, you’re going to have to start thinking about big moves,” Crotty said. “Maybe the cyber mission needs to move out of the active component and into the Guard and reserve.”

Making the right budget cuts will require a fundamental rethinking of how the U.S. military fights wars, the experts said. That means less emphasis on conventional ground forces and short-range tactical aircraft, and more investment in new technologies in areas like intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber warfare and long-range guided missiles.

Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., criticized his own committee for failing to support the Pentagon’s request for base closures. The top brass wants to shut down dozens of underused military facilities across the country, but lawmakers are resistant to do anything that might hurt jobs and the local economy of their home districts.

“We look incompetent, we look selfish, we look weak,” Cooper said.

Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., said perhaps Congress should consider a “war tax” because the current budget system cannot support the kind of spending that many people want.

“I just don’t think we can continue to go down this road, quite frankly, without a [financial] collapse,” Jones said. “Maybe we need to debate a war tax or some type of taxation to make sure that we are not cheating our defenses from being strong enough to defend this country.”

Behsahel said explaining to the American people why defense spending is important should be a high priority, especially after years of unpopular wars.

“My mother used to say to me, ‘Why can’t we defend the United States for $500 billion a year?’ It’s an excellent question,” she said. “Saying not everything looks like the wars of the past 13 years is an important step.”


Bomber contract could push Northrop into Boeing’s arms

Originally published February 10, 2015 at 6:28 PM | Page modified February 11, 2015 at 7:15 PM

The Air Force award of a major new bomber contract this spring could lead to consolidation among the big three aerospace defense giants. Analyst Richard Aboulafia argues that one likely scenario is that Boeing will buy Northrop’s aerospace unit.

By Dominic Gates

Seattle Times aerospace reporter


When the Pentagon this spring announces who will design and build a major new stealth bomber for the Air Force, the decision will determine Boeing’s future in the combat-aircraft business.

The choice could also reshape the military-industrial base. Top aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia said that whatever the outcome, it could precipitate an aggressive move by Boeing, the No. 2 U.S. defense contractor, to acquire the aircraft unit of No. 3 defense player Northrop Grumman.

Boeing has teamed with Lockheed Martin, the top defense contractor, in bidding against Northrop to build up to 100 new-generation long-range strike bombers (LRS-B) that will replace the Air Force’s B-1 and B-52 bombers.

The currently projected cost, not counting classified spending, is $90 billion, or $900 million per airplane.

“If Boeing loses, it won’t be building combat aircraft after 2018 unless it buys Northrop’s aircraft unit,” said Aboulafia, a Teal Group analyst who will address the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance annual conference Wednesday morning in Lynnwood.

“If Boeing wins, Northrop will not be a combat-aircraft prime, and its investors may decide the company is more valuable broken up — in which case Boeing would be the likely buyer for the aircraft unit anyway.”

Besides aerospace, Northrop has distinct and substantial businesses in electronics, information systems and technical services such as supply-chain management.

Details of the government’s requirements for the plane remain top secret. But Pentagon officials have said the aircraft must be able to carry nuclear bombs, and may be designed to fly unmanned when dropping conventional bombs.

Should the Boeing/Lockheed team win, it’s likely Lockheed will do the design and Boeing will build it, Aboulafia said in an interview.

Boeing would probably build the planes in St. Louis, with significant pieces subcontracted around the nation, including potentially to the Puget Sound region.

Boeing built large portions of the B-2 stealth bomber’s wing and aft fuselage in Seattle under a subcontract from Northrop, that program’s winning bidder.

The Boeing jet-fighter production lines in St. Louis, meanwhile, are likely to be shuttered before the end of the decade. So losing the contract would mean “Boeing will exit the combat-aircraft business,” Aboulafia said.


Plenty of cash

Boeing’s leadership, riding record-high share prices and sitting on a $13 billion mountain of cash — eight times as large as Lockheed’s — is unlikely to accept that position.

Aboulafia’s bold thesis is backed by history.

In November 1996, the Pentagon eliminated McDonnell Douglas from the Joint Strike Fighter competition, leaving the company with dim prospects.

Boeing, eager to balance its commercial unit with a defense acquisition, announced just a month later it would buy McDonnell Douglas for $13.3 billion in stock.

The market forces that will come to bear after the LRS-B decision may be even stronger than in 1996.

Pressure on the U.S. defense-procurement budget has increased under the mandatory budget cuts imposed by Congress in the process known as “sequestration.”

Boeing plans $4 billion in cuts on its defense side to cope with the downturn in business.

Ahead, there are few big-money military-airplane contracts. After the LRS-B, defense contractors won’t begin real work on the next prospect, new “sixth-generation” jet fighters, for a decade or more.


LRS-B is by far the biggest prize in sight.

“There’s only going to be one bomber program awarded probably in the next generation,” said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow specializing in the defense budget for the Center of Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent public policy research institute.

“You either win this, or you’re out of the business,” he said. “For both teams, this is a must win.”


Based on public Air Force budgets, Harrison extrapolates the official total program cost at $90 billion, including approximately $24 billion in development costs but excluding any prior “black budget” classified spending.

However, he believes the real cost “will be much higher than that.”

The initial contract will be to produce a limited number of operational aircraft, with the government covering development costs plus a profit for the manufacturer. Only afterward will the terms of a production contract be negotiated.

“It’s exceedingly rare that a program ever comes in anywhere close to its initial cost estimates,” Harrison said.

The government’s last bomber program, the B-2, started out with a requirement for 132 airplanes. Northrop ended up building only 21, so that the unit cost soared to $2 billion per airplane.

Still, it’s unlikely the LRS-B program will be cut down so drastically, since it is designed to replace some 150 aging B-52s and B-1s.

The contest for the bomber is so secret, analysts outside the Pentagon have no idea who is favored.

No one knows for sure what the plane will look like, either, though it is expected to be a triangular “flying wing” shape like the B-2.

Prototypes may already have flown. Trade journal Aviation Week reported on a mysterious triangular “blended wing-body aircraft type” that was photographed over Amarillo, Texas, last March.

Adding to the mystery of what’s coming, the Pentagon has left open an option that the bomber may not be a single platform, but a system of several aircraft.

A government defense analyst, who asked not to be identified because he is not allowed to speak publicly, said that could mean development of an unmanned sensor drone stuffed with intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment and command-and-control systems. This drone could potentially direct a separate aircraft that would be nothing but a basic “bomb truck.”


Drone work

Northrop has already developed a possible version of such a drone, called the RQ-180, details of which are still classified. That work could give Northrop an advantage in the bomber competition.

“They have designed a stealthy large aircraft more recently than anyone on the Boeing/Lockheed team,” said the government defense analyst.

The wild card is how much the Pentagon wants to protect the industrial base. It’s clear that while Boeing and Lockheed are healthy companies, Northrop may not survive intact a loss of this contest.

Would the Pentagon accept Boeing absorbing Northrop’s aircraft unit, reducing its prime military-airplane providers from three to two, perhaps with Lockheed exclusively building fighters and Boeing bombers?

The government analyst said the Pentagon has already accepted such virtual monopoly consolidation in the building of U.S. submarines and aircraft carriers.

Both Boeing and Northrop declined to answer questions on the bomber competition.

“We feel we are well positioned for this program in terms of capability and capacity,” said Northrop spokesman Randy Belote.

Boeing spokesman Todd Blecher said the company has “been part of the bomber community from the start of the bomber age” and looks forward to the opportunity provided by LRS-B.


USAF Budget: Hardest Choices Yet to Come

By Aaron Mehta 11:36 a.m. EST February 11, 2015


WASHINGTON — The US Air Force requested $122.2 billion for fiscal 2016, a budget that emphasizes designing the Air Force of the future while addressing current needs.

The budget was crafted to balance the future force with what Maj. Gen. Jim Martin, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for budget, called the “most urgent combat and commander requirements.”

“It’s a request that’s based on necessity, what we need for today’s readiness in a long-term strategic framework, the capabilities we’ll need in the future,” Martin said. “It also allows us to begin the recovery from three years of operating at reduced funding levels.”

In many ways, it’s an ideal budget. Unfortunately, it’s also an idealized one.

The Air Force budget went about $10 billion over projected budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act (BCA), and came with a wide list of programs that may have to be altered or cut if Congress does not change the law, whether by repealing the BCA or through another Ryan-Murray type compromise. This means the biggest question isn’t what’s in the budget today — it’s what the budget will look like later this year.

Mackenzie Eaglen of the American Enterprise Institute put the situation this way: “No one knows the final topline number for 2016, including Congress, the White House and the Pentagon. So everything is up in the air.”

She guessed that based on previous agreements, the Air Force could project to get an extra $4 billion to $5 billion over BCA levels in a “Ryan-Murray lite” agreement. That’s significant money, but not nearly enough to fund everything requested.

If BCA funding levels are not raised, in 2016 the service is threatening to cut F-35A procurement by 14 jets, drop the number of space launch procurements by one, cut nine MQ-9 Reaper buys, and potentially cut whole fleets of aircraft like the KC-10 tanker, U-2 spy plane or RQ-4 Global Hawk Block 40.

One system already on the cutting block is the A-10 Warthog, the close air support plane much beloved by soldiers on the ground. The service says it will save $4.2 billion over the future years defense plan if it can retire the jet starting in fiscal 2016, but Congress has resisted in the past and some, including Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., are already promising to protect the plane this year.

One source with knowledge of Congress said the A-10 decision is already generating blowback, but noted that was expected. Aside from the A-10, however, “there isn’t really much that was controversial in this budget.”

The budget works in the service’s major recapitalization programs, getting second-tier priorities like recapitalization of the Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System and T-X trainer replacement included alongside the three biggest priorities: the F-35 joint strike fighter, Long Range Strike-Bomber and KC-46A tanker.

It also restored the U-2 to the base budget, a flip from last year when the service intended to start early retirement on the high-altitude spy plane.

The real challenge is going to be what happens when, barring a miracle, BCA levels are not raised to what the Air Force wants to see. When that happens, the source warned, expect the cuts to start at the same place they always do.

“Realistically, the flying hours will take a hit again. Readiness accounts, things like that,” the source said, adding that the science and technology accounts could also be vulnerable as technologies like the new ADVENT engine for future aircraft “don’t have clear constituencies and isn’t a game changer today. It’s out in the future.”

Eaglen agreed that the most likely cuts are “a combination of readiness reduction in the near term and procurement cuts, stretching out of buys and slowing down procurement rates in the long term.

“There is nothing new in how the Pentagon will manage what they do when the budgets are decided,” she added.

The source familiar with Congress added that the service simply doesn’t have the horsepower on the Hill to muscle through whole fleet cuts, despite their threats to do so.

“I think the Air Force will make an attempt against a small fleet asset, like the KC-10 or something in that zone, but I don’t think they have the weight to make a retirement really happen. That’s why I think it will default back to readiness.”

A former top US Air Force official expressed frustration that the service’s hands are tied in terms of what can and cannot be touched.

“We would love to retire the A-10, and that’s a multibillion dollar decision, but because of politics we’re not allowed to do that,” he said. “We would love to retire the Global Hawk and keep the U-2, but now we’re going to end up keeping both.”

At the end of the day, he said, “you have so much force structure you have to retain, where do you go for the savings? That’s the problem we’re facing particularly under a sequestered budget.”


ISR and Weapons

While the budget may alter dramatically, it is worth looking at what the service prioritized in its ideal budget request.

Analysts and officials who talked with Defense News all noted that the fiscal 2016 budget request hews closely to what the service sought in the 2015 request. That is no accident, as the service emphasized analysis of various programs and personnel figures before 2015. Abandoning those findings so quickly would be a mistake, the analysts agreed.

That doesn’t mean the budget hasn’t been impacted by real world events. The last budget was formulated at a time when the Pentagon was withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan and pivoting toward the Pacific, with potential drawdowns in Europe on the table.

Between Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group, also known as ISIS, the service has found itself flying significantly more operations than it had anticipated. In 2014, the Air Force flew 20,000 close air support and more than 35,000 ISR missions, according to service figures.

The budget reflects that in two main ways: an increase in munitions and an emphasis on intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) assets.

Ammunition procurement funds grew from $635 million to just under $1.7 billion in the 2016 request, a jump of more than 150 percent. That is driven largely by the need to procure more air-to-ground munitions, such as the joint direct-attack munition, which are being used regularly in Syria and Iraq to fight ISIS.

That trend continues in the overseas contingency operations (OCO) request. The “blue” OCO funding request comes in at $10.6 billion, down from $12.1 billion in fiscal 2015 enacted. That includes a huge jump in missile procurement, going from $136 million in the 2015 enacted budget to $289 million for the 2016 request.

Weapons, of course, are no good if you don’t know where to put them. When combat operations against ISIS kicked off, experts both inside and outside the Pentagon said this would be a fight that was won or lost based on ISR.

In addition to procuring 29 MQ-9 Reaper units, the service included funding for both the U-2 and Global Hawk, pushing the retirement of the manned U-2 out to 2019 to make sure upgrades to the unmanned Global Hawk are complete.

Keeping both the U-2 and Global Hawk fleets, but spending significantly to upgrade the Global Hawk Block 30 sensor packages, is a big step toward maintaining a high-end ISR fleet, Mark Gunzinger of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments said.

“Their decision to maintain and upgrade Global Hawks will pay dividends in the future,” he said. “While some services are still debating what they would like their UAS to do, the Air Force is putting real money behind unmanned systems.”

James Poss, a retired major general and deputy chief of staff for ISR with the US Air Force, supported the focus on ISR, although he cautioned against reading the budget as an unmitigated success for ISR proponents.

“The budget isn’t plussing-up ISR. It’s more just not cutting it as heavily” as other sectors, Poss said.

He, too, praised the decision to keep the U-2, even if just for a few more years.

“Pushing the retirement date of the U-22 to 2019 gives us a good chance to make sure we have all the risk bought out of the [Global Hawk] system, because those high-altitude aircraft are absolutely vital when going against an adversary which can shoot back, when you need that standoff range to find his defenses,” Poss said.


Mattel’s View-Master gets a Google VR makeover

The stereoscopic toy leaps into the 21st century as Google scopes out uses for its Cardboard virtual-reality tech.

by Ben Fox Rubin

/February 13, 2015 6:05 AM PST


Google and Mattel on Friday unveiled a new View-Master toy infused with virtual-reality technology.

The Internet search giant and the toymaker plan to use Google’s Cardboard virtual-reality platform to offer virtual reality, augmented reality and “photospheric” images, using a smartphone as the display inside a plastic View-Master casing.

“We view this as just the beginning,” said Doug Wadleigh, a Mattel executive, adding that Google and Mattel will be testing and learning as they continue their partnership.

The companies plan to come out with the product in October, in time for the holiday season.

View-Master, a binocular-shaped Mattel toy created decades ago, was used to give kids 3D-like images by flipping through its picture reels. Early details of the new product are available at

For Mattel, the struggling maker of Barbie and Fisher-Price toys, the partnership could be a much-needed boost. The company has been posting softer revenue in recent quarters, while rivals Hasbro and Lego have been able to grow their sales even while more kids are using tablets and smartphones for games. Amid the difficulty, Mattel’s CEO stepped down last month.


Google has been a major player in augmented reality and virtual reality lately, last year unveiling the cheap, do-it-yourself virtual reality kit called Cardboard, which it has continued to develop with additional features and apps. Earlier this week, South Korean electronics maker LG unveiled a new promotion that offers a virtual-reality headset based on Cardboard — the VR for G3 — for free for new buyers of its G3 flagship smartphone.

Google’s Glass wearable headset project has faced a bumpier start, with government officials asking about privacy issues and Google eventually taking the product off the market, at least temporarily.

Those products are just one part of a growing list of virtual-reality and augmented-reality products being created, as tech firms work to add new technologies into those previously unrealized markets. The intent of virtual reality is to provide an immersive experience for gaming or other applications, while augmented reality offers an overlay of the real world to provide extra information for the user.


Catapult-Launched Bat Drone Wages Electronic War

By Allen McDuffee

11.18.13 |


Small, tactical drones may have a new role in military strikes after Northrop Grumman’s catapult-launched Bat demonstrated an electronic attack capability for the first time in new tests.

With its 12-foot wingspan, the low-flying Bat, which maxes out at 70 miles per hour, was able to jam radar during tests. That means the Pentagon will soon have the option of deploying a flexible, largely undetectable drone with radar-jamming capability to protect manned aircraft against radar and surface-to-air missile guidance systems.

“Bat continues to demonstrate capabilities that can normally only be achieved by larger, more expensive unmanned aircraft,” said George Vardoulakis, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of Medium Range Tactical Systems, in a statement. “Our customers now have a more mobile and affordable option for electronic warfare missions.”

The tests, involving other unmanned and fixed-wing aircraft, took place last month at the Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron One Weapons and Tactics Instructor event at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, according to Northrop Grumman.

While the Bat has been in operation for some time, it has remained a surveillance vehicle until now. Northrop integrated its Pandora electronic attack payload — a lightweight, low-cost derivative of the company’s family of APR-39 systems — on the Bat in less than two months.

According to Northrop, the Bat was a good candidate because of its price point, larger payload volume given its size and its ability to accept different-size fuel tanks and sensor payloads.

Bat is a runway-independent and fully autonomous vehicle that launches from a hydraulic rail launcher at sea or land and recovers into a portable net system.










Leaked FAA Document Provides Glimpse Into Drone Regulations

Gregory S. McNeal

February 14, 2015

Forbes Contributor


The FAA appears poised to release regulations that will impose a minimal burden on businesses, paving the way for integration of drones into the national airspace.  Information about the forthcoming regulations is contained in an inadvertently published document that appears to be an FAA economic analysis of the long awaited regulations for small drones.  In no uncertain terms, the purported FAA economic analysis assumes that drones provide great social and economic benefits, will save lives, and can be integrated into the national airspace with minimal risk while providing benefits that far outweigh their costs.

Less burdensome regulations and a recognition of the benefits of drones is a reversal from what many observers (including me) believed the FAA would do.  The economic analysis suggests that the forthcoming regulations may allow for many beneficial drone uses across a variety of industries.  The analysis also indicates that ensuring that the potential of drones can be realized will be a key driver behind the final regulations.

Steve Zeets a professional land surveyor who filed a petition for an exemption from FAA rules last year downloaded the document from  Zeets works with EZAg, an agricultural company and Terraplane, LLC, a company that wants to use drones for GIS, surveying, engineering, and photogrammetry — his specialties.  Zeets was on the federal government website checking for an update to his petition for an exemption when he came across the economic analysis “The exemptions they have been approving were submitted around the same time mine was,” Zeets said, “so I was figuring mine would be approved any day now.”  As he scrolled through the exemptions he came across the economic analysis and opened the 89 page report.

“Once I opened the document, I called a colleague. He went to the website while we were still on the phone and couldn’t find the document. I still had it open so I saved a copy to pdf.”  It seemed that the document was taken down almost immediately, and what Zeets didn’t know was that he may have been the only person in the world to have been in the right place at the right time, able to download the inadvertently uploaded document before it was taken down by an unknown government official.

Initially Zeets didn’t realize the significance of the report, so he decided to share it with others through social media.  I figured that someone else had to have seen the document, so I started watching Twitter
TWTR +1.15% for any chatter and didn’t see anything.”  He then began reading the document and realized the significance of what he held.  Based on the document, Zeets feels the FAA is moving towards a common sense approach to regulations.  The regulations they talked about in that document mirrored a lot of what my exemption was requesting” said Zeets, “I know the final rules won’t be out for a while, because they have to get public comments. But, if my exemption is approved with similar limitations to what is proposed in that document, then we will start offering our services almost immediately after our exemption is approved.”

Looking at the document and seeing what the FAA was planning, Zeets knew that others needed to see the report.  It was at that point that Zeets decided to upload the document to his Drive.  I sent the link to sUAS News to ask if they had seen it too,” Zeets said, “But shortly after I sent the Tweets my phone battery died. When I woke up this morning and plugged my phone in, I saw a lot of Tweets about the documents and people asking for the source. At that moment I realized that no one else saw the document on the website.”

The report Zeets published provides insights into what the FAA considered and rejected while crafting regulations for small drones (those weighing less than 55 pounds, also known as sUAS).  The reportsuggests that the FAA will adopt a regulatory approach far more favorable to the operation of drones than many expected.  According to the report the FAA has decided to adopt a “minimally burdensome rule” for drones.  In fact the term “minimal regulatory burden” or a variant thereof is a key theme throughout the document.  If the economic analysis ends up reflecting a true assessment of the proposed rule, many drone advocates will be very happy with the FAA and their decision to regulate the lowest-risk small UAS operations by imposing a minimal regulatory burden on those operations.

The FAA may be poised to release regulations that will please many drone advocates — at least that’s what a document that appears to be an FAA economic analysis of the long awaited regulations for small drones suggests.

A small note of caution: As stated earlier, the document appears to be the economic analysis of the proposed sUAS rule.  The document is dated February 2015 and is captioned “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Regulatory Evaluation, Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems” authored by George Thurston of the Office of Aviation Policy and Plans, Economic Analysis Division.  But, it’s possible this is a leaked early draft that has since been revised or is otherwise incomplete or inaccurate.  With that caveat lector disclaimer out of the way:

Here are 9 key takeaways regarding how the proposed FAA regulations will handle drones:

The FAA believes drones provide great social and economic benefits. The agency admits that drones provide significant societal benefits, and that the social benefits will continue to increase as entrepreneurs enter the drone marketplace.  The agency noted that if the use of a small drone replaces a dangerous, non-drone operation and saves even one human life, that savings alone would result in benefits outweighing the expected costs of the integration of drones into the national airspace.  Specifically, the agency found that integrating small drones into the national airspace will have an economic impact of greater than $100 million per year in benefits.  The FAA sees great upside potential in aerial photography, precision agriculture, search and rescue/law enforcement and bridge inspection (specifically noting the nearly 45,000 bridge inspections that could be conducted by drones each year).    The agency estimated that at a mere $5 per acre of cost reduction, drones in precision agriculture could produce billions of dollars per year in cost savings.  For operators that can’t afford to purchase their own drone or train their personnel to operate them, there will be a market for end users to seek contracted small UAS services (full disclosure, as of a February 12th, I began collaborating with Measure, a company that provides drone services on a contract basis).

Drones will save lives.  The FAA assumes drones will provide safety benefits by allowing the substitution of drones for operations that pose a higher level of public risk.  Climbers working on towers have a fatality rate that is 10 times that of construction workers, and drones can help to reduce those fatalities.  For example, 95 climbers working on cell and other towers died between 2004 and 2012.  If drones had been available for those inspections, those fatalities could have been avoided.  The FAA believes that drones will become a safer and less costly substitute for manned aerial photography, will enable safer operations than manned aircraft for agricultural purposes, and will allow quicker responses in search and rescue and disaster relief operations.  The FAA reviewed accident data related to aerial aviation photography and found that out of 17 accidents, a drone could have substituted for the manned operation in two cases — both cases could have ended in fatalities, and could have been performed by a drone.

The FAA will not require a commercial pilot certificate for drone operations.  The FAA considered requiring drone pilots to obtain a commercial pilot certificate, have a Class II medical certificate,  pass an aeronautical knowledge test, and demonstrate flight proficiency and aeronautical experience before a certified flight instructor.  The FAA determined that drones pose a low level of pubic risk and that imposing all of those requirements would be unduly burdensome.  Instead, the FAA will require an operator to pass an aeronautical knowledge test before obtaining an unmanned aircraft operator certificate, and that knowledge test will need to be taken at a certified testing site in person.  On-line testing was rejected due to concerns about the integrity of the test, and the possibility that personally identifiable information might be at risk through on-line test taking.  The FAA believes that the cost of obtaining a small UAS operator certificate will be less than $300 and the operator will be required to pass a recurrent test every 24 months and undergo vetting by the TSA.  The FAA will not require flight school and believes that little preparation would be necessary for applicants with an existing pilot certification.

The FAA decided to accommodate all types of drone businesses by adopting the least complex set of regulations across all sizes and categories of drones.   In pursuit of that goal, the FAA determined that segmenting drones into different categories based on weight, operational characteristics, and operating environment was too complex and burdensome for the public and the FAA.  By treating all small drones as a single category without airworthiness certification, the FAA believes they can accommodate a large majority of small drone businesses and other non-recreational users .  The FAA concluded that their single category rule will mitigate risk while imposing the least amount of burden to businesses and other non-recreational users of even the smallest drones.  While the FAA considered a “micro UAS” subcategory of drones — the micro drone rule proposed by the UAS America Fund —  they ultimately decided that the micro drone proposal should be treated as a comment to the FAA’s rulemaking, rather than as the separate petition that it was filed as.

The FAA considered, but rejected onerous inspection, maintenance and permitting requirements for drones.   The agency determined that such requirements were not proportionate to the risk posed by small drones.  The FAA specifically noted that the light weight of drones versus manned aircraft means that drones pose significantly lower risk to people and property on the ground.  As such, the FAA believes that inspection and maintenance of small drones pursuant to existing FAA regulations would not result in significant safety benefits.  While inspection, maintenance, and permitting requirements will not be required, the FAA notes that statutory constraints will require unmanned aircraft to be registered.  Registration fees will cost $5, and will need to be renewed every three years.

The FAA will require drones to be operated within line of sight of the operator, rejecting technology as a substitute for an operator’s sense and avoid responsibilities.   The FAA considered whether technological means could serve as a substitute for the operator’s see-and-avoid responsibilities, for example by utilizing onboard cameras.  The agency believed that technology has not yet advanced to the point where it could be miniaturized and used on board a small drone.  Specifically, the FAA found that no acceptable technological substitute for direct human vision in small UAS operations exists at this time.  Perhaps they missed the Intel announcement at CES — no doubt this will come up in the comments to the NPRM.

Drone flights will need to take place between sunrise and sunset.  Regulators considered allowing drone flights after sunset, as it would allow for a greater number of drone operations in the national airspace.  However, because such flights would take place at low altitudes it would increase risks to persons on the ground.  Mitigating those risks would require equipment and certification that would run contrary to the FAA’s goal of a minimally burdensome rule.

Drone flights will need to be below 500 feet.   Fearing the risk to manned aircraft operations above 500 feet, and recognizing that flights at that altitude would require greater levels of operator training, aircraft equipment, and aircraft certification, the FAA rejected the idea of allowing flights above 500 feet because the goal of the sUAS rule is to regulate the lowest-risk small UAS operations while imposing a minimal regulator burden on those operations.

Less burdensome rules mean more people will comply with the rules, decreasing enforcement costs.  The FAA believes that their proposed rule will not increase enforcement costs because the legal standards will result in increased compliance by operators.  Moreover, the clearer simplified standards will reduce the uncertainty associated with drone operations, reducing the likelihood of enforcement litigation (because litigation is more likely when the parties disagree as to which legal standards are applicable to an operation and how those standards apply to the operation).

The assumptions made by the FAA in their economic analysis seem to indicate that their first stab at regulating the drone industry will be a success.  Many commentators (including this one) will be pleasantly surprised if the regulations match the views in the purported economic analysis of the proposed regulations.


Ramussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Words, words, words. Words make a difference. Take “net neutrality.”

It sounds good, right? After all, it’s “neutral,” and supporters, including President Obama and the Democratic majority on the Federal Communications Commission, say it will ensure that the Internet remains a level playing field. But critics who include congressional Republicans say net neutrality is really just a cover for government control of the Internet, and they don’t like where that leads.

Most Americans approve of the FCC’s regulation of radio and TV, but far fewer think the FCC should have the same regulatory power over the Internet.   Most still believe the best way to protect those who use the Internet is more free market competition rather than more government regulation.

After all, Americans continue to give high marks to their online service even as the government insists that regulatory control will make it better.

Words also brought down NBC News evening anchor Brian Williams who was caught in a lie about his experiences during the invasion of Iraq. Americans tend to think Williams hurt NBC’s credibility and agree with the decision to drop him from the evening news.

Fewer Americans are getting their news predominately from television anyway, and they trust the news they are getting less than they did a year ago.

Speaking of words, the president caused an uproar the other day in remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast when he equated atrocities by the radical Islamic group ISIS with past sins of Christianity. But a plurality of voters agrees with what he said.

That doesn’t mean voters are letting Muslims off the hook. Seventy-five percent (75%) agree that Islamic religious leaders need to do more to emphasize the peaceful beliefs of their faith, and 52% believe Islam as practiced today encourages violence more than most other religions.

Most Americans say their religious faith is important in their daily lives  and think this nation would be better off if people practiced their faith more often.

The president this week asked Congress to authorize more military force against ISIS up to and including the use of combat troops, but are most Americans willing to go that far?

Also on the speaking front, the president proposed $74 billion in new spending in his State of the Union address last month, and Republicans predictably said, no way. But it appears Democrats weren’t strongly persuaded either

Congress at week’s end sent a bill to the president calling for construction of the long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline from western Canada to Texas, but Obama has vowed to veto it. Voters wish he wouldn’t.

Voters also remain opposed to the president’s decision to give amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants.

Keep a close eye on our Daily Presidential Tracking Poll and our Consumer/Investor Index that measures daily confidence in both groups. They all fell back this week from beginning-of-the-year highs, but it’s too soon to tell if that’s a trend in the making.

Republicans have inched ahead on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot.

House Speaker John Boehner and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi remain the best-known and least-liked leaders in Congress. Voters continue to overwhelmingly favor term limits for members of Congress.

In other surveys last week:

— Thirty-four percent (34%) of Likely U.S. Voters think the country is heading in the right direction. The number of voters who think the country is heading in the right direction has been 30% or higher for the last seven weeks after being in the mid- to high 20s most weeks since mid-June 2013.

Medical professionals strongly support vaccinations for children and say there is no scientific evidence that they do more harm than good. But what does America think?

— A commercial airliner landing in Los Angeles last weekend reported a near miss with an unmanned drone, the latest of such incidents to make the news. With more and more drones flying, voters are becoming a lot more concerned about air safety.

— Most voters oppose criminalizing smoking and growing marijuana in the privacy of one’s home.

Is it love or is it Valentine’s Day? Most Americans aren’t planning anything very special to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

— If a black cat crosses your path, what do you do? Do you walk under ladders? How superstitious is the average American?

Beware of Friday the 13th?


February 7 2015

7 February 2015


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Kendall Unveils 6th Gen Fighter Strategy

By Aaron Mehta 10:18 a.m. EST February 2, 2015


WASHINGTON — Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall unveiled part of his strategy for procuring a next-generation fighter for the Air Force and Navy in congressional testimony last week.

The core of the strategy, Kendall told members of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC), is called the Aerospace Innovation Initiative.

“What it will be is a program that will be initially led by [the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency]. But it will involve the Navy and the Air Force as well,” Kendall said. “The intent is to develop prototypes for the next generation of air dominance platforms, X-plane programs, if you will.”

The initiative will also include work on a next-generation engine, Kendall said, adding that more details about the plan will appear in the fiscal 2016 budget request being unveiled this week.

Whereas the F-35 joint strike fighter was billed as one plane that can fit the needs of the Air Force, Navy and Marines, the next-generation fighter will instead be two planes that share common parts.

The Navy and Air Force have offices looking at a next-generation fighter that would replace the Navy’s F/A-18s and the Air Force’s F-22s, respectively. An Air Force official told Defense News in September that he hopes to have Milestone A acquisition activity started in fiscal 2018.

The 6th generation initiative will be a “fairly large-scale” program, and one that Kendall said was designed with the industrial base in mind.

“The only reason the department’s doing that is to preserve the design teams that can do this next-generation of capability in that area, because once those design teams go away, we’ve lost them and it’s very hard to get them back,” Kendall said in response to a question by HASC Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas.

“In very specialized areas, like you mentioned electronic warfare, that’s a very special skill set and you can’t develop somebody who is an expert at that overnight; it takes time,” Kendall continued. “And you get that expertise by working on programs, by developing new cutting-edge things.”

Byron Callan, an analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, said the emphasis on protecting design teams is smart, especially as other major programs are winding down.

“There are a lot of people working diligently on the Long Range Strike-Bomber. When that decision is made [in the spring], that will let go of some people,” he said, adding the future of the Navy’s Unmanned Carrier-Launched Surveillance and Strike program is also unclear. “People can only be kept so long without a contracting path. At its essence, it really gets down to preserving these design teams that will dissipate.”

Timing will be a key question with the initiative, Callan said. If the program takes 10 years to develop a prototype, it is much less effective than if this Initiative is targeting a five year window.

What other specialized technologies might be involved in a 6th-generation fighter are unclear, but there may be some hints in comments made by Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work at a Jan. 28 Center for a New American Security event.

Work said upcoming budgets will feature funding lines to invest “in promising new technologies and capabilities, including unmanned undersea vehicles; sea mining; high speed strike weapons; an advanced new jet engine; rail gun technology; and high energy lasers.”

The announcement of the initiative could also be a warning shot at Lockheed Martin, whose F-35 is just now gearing up to go operational. If the company doesn’t keep costs down on the program, Callan said, the Pentagon could consider moving future funding for F-35 procurement over to this next-generation system.

“I think by injecting some alternatives back into the mix, at the very least Kendall is going to have a pricing tool,” Callan noted. “He has to keep Lockheed on its toes, because Lockheed obviously wants to keep F-35 as relevant as it can, so they’d better keep coming up with good ideas for future software releases, for continuing to drive down the airplane’s cost, and just make it relevant.”

It is assumed that Boeing and Lockheed are working on concepts for sixth-generation, while Northrop has confirmed it has teams assigned to developing a new design. Interestingly, Northrop’s setup mirrors that of the initiative, with coordination over shared systems but two teams assigned to developing a pair of different designs.



Bomber Leads Way on USAF RDT&E Request

By Aaron Mehta 4:16 p.m. EST February 2, 2015


WASHINGTON — The US Air Force’s single biggest research program is also its most mysterious.

In the president’s fiscal 2016 budget request, the Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) program is budgeted for $1.2 billion in research and development funding, making it the largest system under the Air Force’s $17.9 billion research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E) funding request.

RDT&E funding for the bomber will continue to escalate over the future years defense plan (FYDP), with a planned request of $2.2 billion in fiscal 2017, $2.8 billion in 2018, $3.6 billion in 2019 and $3.7 billion in 2020. Those figures do not reflect money that is hidden in the “black” budget as well, which could dramatically increase the cost of the program.

The LRS-B program is targeting a production line of 80-100 planes, with an estimated cost of $550 million each, although critics of the program warn that is not a realistic figure. It will eventually replace the fleet of B-52 and B-1 bomber fleets. Although technical specifications are largely unknown, it is expected the design will be stealthy, with optionally manned capability.

A down-selection will be made this spring or early summer, with initial operating capability planned for the mid-2020s. Nuclear certification will follow two years after that.

After the bomber comes the KC-46A tanker at $602 million requested and the F-35A engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) phase at $589 million. Unlike the bomber, those RDT&E funding profiles will likely track down, as both those programs are close to going operational. The F-35A goes operational in 2016, with the KC-46A in 2017.

Following that is the GPS III-OCX ground station program, a contract awarded to Raytheon, at $350 million, then the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) EMD phase at $292 million and the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) system at $228. The costs of those three space programs aligns with what Gen. John Hyten, the head of Space Command, has been saying about needing to drive down the development costs of satellite systems.

Science and technology accounts receive a $2.3 billion request, at a time when the service is emphasizing scientific development as a way to keep up with growing high-end threats from nations such as China.

However, that dollar value is at risk if Congress does not agree to raise budget caps imposed under the Budget Control Act. The service has warned that one option it will exercise if BCA cap levels are not raised is to cut science and technology funding by 10 percent.




Northrop Grumman Will Tease Top-Secret Stealth Bomber With a Super Bowl Ad

Firm is battling Boeing-Lockheed for defense contract

By Tim Nudd

February 1, 2015, 7:38 AM EST


You can advertise a lot of things on the Super Bowl, from a bag of Doritos to … a next-generation bomber that will cost half a billion dollars per aircraft to build.

Northrop Grumman is working on a design for the latter—it’s battling Boeing-Lockheed for defense contract to build the U.S.’s next-gen bomber—and will tease the aircraft on the Super Bowl with the 30-second spot below, a rep for the company confirmed to Adweek.

Breaking Defense, a leading news site on defense, first broke the news Saturday. Running a Super Bowl ad is a first for Northrop, and is believed to be a first for any defense company.

The ad has been on YouTube since Thursday and already has more than 300,000 views. According to Breaking Defense, it begins by showing various famous Northrop aircraft—first the YB-35, then the B-2 bomber, then the X-47B.

Finally, the new mystery plane is shown at the end, shrouded in a giant sheet, as an airman walks toward it and grins slightly. (Breaking Defense says there’s a chance the aircraft is the so-called sixth generation fighter for the Air Force and Navy, which Northrop also has design teams working on.)

The bomber program will be enormously expensive. Research and development alone is expected to cost $25 billion. Then, each plane is likely to cost $600 million to build—and the Air Force plans to buy 100 of them. If Northrop gets the contact, the $4.5 million NBC buy will have been a drop in the bucket.


Aerospace Daily & Defense Report

USAF Slips Next Joint Stars, Opens Door to GPS Competition

Feb 2, 2015 Amy Butler | Aerospace Daily & Defense Report


The U.S. Air Force is restructuring several key efforts — delaying a follow-on to the Joint Stars ground surveillance aircraft program, adding a three-year extension for U-2 operations and a setting up a possible competition for more GPS satellites — as part of its $167.3 billion budget request for fiscal 2016.

The request is up from $152.8 billion provided by Congress for fiscal 2015.

The procurement and research and development (R&D) plan would increase in the fiscal 2016 budget request by $8 billion compared with levels enacted by Congress in fiscal 2015. In the $25.3 billion procurement request and $17.99 billion R&D request, the service is maintaining a focus on its three top procurement priorities: the F-35, KC-46 aerial refueler and the Long-Range Strike Bomber.

The F-35 consumes a large portion of the Air Force’s investment budget — as well as the Navy’s. In fiscal 2016, the Pentagon is requesting about $11 billion for F-35 development, purchases and spares and associated equipment; that is $2.4 billion higher than enacted in fiscal 2015. Much of the spike would pay for a proposed increase in production rate from 38 to 57 aircraft (16 more for the Air Force and 3 more for the Navy). This boost has been long sought by Lockheed Martin and is part of an effort to reduce the per-unit price of the single-engine, stealthy fighter. That amounts to a request of 44 conventional take-off-and-landing Lockheed Martin F-35As for the Air Force, up from 28 in fiscal 2015. Fourteen of those would be cut if Congress forces the Pentagon to adhere to cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act.

Likewise, the request seeks to boost the purchase to 12 of Boeing’s KC-46As in fiscal 2016, up from seven in fiscal 2015; that increase is likely only if the company manages to achieve its first tanker flight in April as planned, despite earlier delays associated with designing wiring bundles for the aircraft.

The service also plans to continue development of a next-generation, stealthy bomber. The fiscal 2015 budget of $914 million increases substantially in this request to $1.25 billion. The Air Force plans to announce a winner between the Boeing/Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman teams this spring. If a protest is lodged, it should be resolved by the fall, the start of the new fiscal year.

By contrast, the Air Force is planning to delay procurement of a next-generation Joint Stars airborne ground surveillance aircraft by one year to fiscal 2023; the first four Joint Stars follow-on aircraft were expected in fiscal 2022. The Air Force is planning to retire the existing Boeing 707-based E-8Cs from 2025-2026 to help pay for the new program. Another offset is the planned retirement of the E-8C test aircraft in fiscal 2016. The new aircraft are expected to be housed on a much smaller business jet to allow for decreased sustainment cost and increased efficiency on missions.

The Air Force also is delaying the retirement of seven E-3 Airborne Warning and Control Aircraft from fiscal 2016 to fiscal 2019 to support combatant commander requirements.

Another change to the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance plan in the fiscal 2016 budget is the Air Force’s reversal on the U-2. Slated for termination in last year’s budget, it is now expected to continue flying for as least three more years — until fiscal 2019. The Air Force is still investing substantial funds in modifying the Northrop Grumman RQ-4B Global Hawk to continue operations beyond fiscal 2023; it was the U-2’s planned replacement. However, the service says that if the Budget Control Act remains law, it will slice funding from sensor upgrades efforts for the Global Hawk Block 30 program.

The Air Force plans to stabilize operations at 60 combat air patrols (CAPs) for the Predator/Reaper unmanned aircraft. Sixty-five CAPs are now operating. The Air Fore plans to buy 29 MQ-9 Reapers, up from 24 in the fiscal 2015 budget. However, 20 of those would be sliced if the Budget Control Act remains in place. The goal remains to phase Predators out of service and move to an all-Reaper fleet.

The Air Force plans to finally settle the debate about how to replace the aging UH-1N helicopters used to support nuclear operations in the vast intercontinental ballistic missile fields operated by the service. The Air Force will convert old Army UH-60As to L models. “The Air Force has not yet determined the phasing of these replacements,” says Capt. Melissa Milner, a service spokeswoman.

The budget includes substantial R&D for he next-generation Air Force One fleet to replace the current fleet of two VC-25As. The fiscal 2015 request included $1.6 billion for R&D, including the first 747-8 on which the new flying White House will be built.

The Air Force’s space budget includes some changes as well. Perhaps most notable is a plan to reopen competition in the Global Positioning System III with space vehicle 11. Lockheed Martin won what was described in 2008 as a “winner-take-all” contract and is developing and building the precision timing and navigation satellites now. However, its performance was marred by poor oversight of the first timing and navigation payload developed by Exelis, which was nearly a year late. Boeing, a legacy GPS satellite provider, has been eager to restart its work since the Air Force announced the 2008 win. A new competition shows an aggressive approach by the Air Force after the Lockheed Martin slip up; its original intent was to “have a long-term relationship with one partner,” as described by former GPS program director Col. Dave Madden in 2008. At that time, GPS III was envisioned as potentially a 30-satellite constellation.

The service also is sticking to its plan to explore alternate architectures to those now established for protected, nuclear-hardened satellite communications with the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) satellite and the Space-Based Infrared System (Sbirs) early missile warning spacecraft. Both are developed by Lockheed Martin, and the plan is to continue with purchases of six satellites for each constellation. Beyond that, industry is likely to have opportunities to win work for far simpler, more resilient satellite architectures in these mission areas. Budget documents do not lay out the timing of these projects, though.

The service also plans to propose once again to retire the A-10 fleet in light of the F-35’s planned introduction into service in December 2016 and the use of other platforms – such as the B-52, B-1, F-15E and F-16 for close air support missions. The service plans to retire 164 of them in fiscal 2016, with the entire fleet following three years later.



The Pentagon’s Adoption of Cloud Technology Is Finally Taking Off

February 3, 2015 By Frank Konkel Nextgov


As the Pentagon transitions to use more cloud-based services, its systems still have a long way to go in improving how they collect, distribute and share information.


Rarely has the Defense Department dedicated the kind of time and resources to talking emerging technologies as it did Jan. 29 at an industry-day event, parading a who’s-who of top tech officials to explain the Pentagon’s plans for cloud computing.

Held at the Commerce Department headquarters, the event served two purposes. The first was to explain how DOD has advanced its cloud strategy. That explainer alone was enough to retain a standing-room-only auditorium for eight hours – a mind-boggling feat considering no lunch was served and networking opportunities were limited.

The second goal for DOD and Defense Information Systems Agency officials appeared to be the outlining of the Pentagon’s vision for making use of emerging technologies in the near future.


Behold the Data Distribution Center

DOD Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen says he hates the term “data center,” or at least the connotation people get when they hear the term – that is, of a siloed set of servers somewhere that don’t share information as well as they seal it away.

As the Pentagon transitions to use more cloud-based services – either from commercial providers or internal efforts such as its milCloud service – Halvorsen stated systems would have to improve how they collect, distribute and share information collectively. Optimal data distribution requires a common infrastructure, sensors and data exchange, and it’s not a problem limited to the Pentagon’s internal operations.


“There’s a responsibility on the industry side, too,” Halvorsen said. “Industry has to figure out how it will share data with other industry partners. There won’t be one single cloud environment. The only way for it to work is if we share common data.”

DOD already collects a huge amount of information from sensors, open-data sets and myriad other entities, but making maximum use of those growing data sets in the coming decade simply won’t be possible under DOD’s current data center-focused approach.

DISA Chief Technology Officer Dave Mihelcic used the industry day to echo similar comments he’s made recently about DOD’s need tostrategize for the future.


MilCloud ‘Not Getting a Free Pass’

MilCloud is DISA’s internal answer to commercial cloud providers, offering a cloud-services portfolio to DOD customers. Milcloud was initially deployed for sensitive, unclassified information on the NIPRnet and later configured for the SIPRNet, too. It’s oft-criticized for poor performance and high costs – commercial cloud services executives are especially critical of milCloud, deeming it inferior in performance and security to their offerings.

U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Alan Lynn, vice director at DISA, used the industry day stage to defend milCloud, noting its costs have come down and customer engagement has improved via the creation of a customer engagement center.

MilCloud has been deployed in two Defense Enterprise Computing Centers – in Montgomery, Alabama, and Oklahoma City. Lessons have been learned along the way, he said, and DISA is modifying processes to address customer feedback to develop additional features for milCloud.

“The discussion is more on how much do we want to push out to commercial industry and how much can you drive costs down,” Lynn said. “If you can drive cost down, we’re interested. Bring us your best offers.”

But is milCloud’s rate competitive with industry? Without exact numbers, it’s tough to tell – alas, a cost comparison was not displayed among the gratuitous number of PowerPoint slides presented that day – but Halvorsen did indicate that milCloud still has significant room to improve.

“MilCloud’s rate has decreased, but not low enough,” Halvorsen said, noting that milCloud is “not getting a free pass.”

“[Lynn] and the team are continuing to look hard at how to drop those costs,” Halvorsen added.

Halvorsen noted there are “things in milCloud,” which, because “times have changed,” could potentially migrate to commercial cloud. His statements indicates that commercial cloud providers are beginning to meet increased security requirements in the cloud, with various pilot programs – dominated by Amazon Web Services – already handling sensitive DOD workloads.

Yet, he defended milCloud as an important tool in storing or processing data, which “for all kinds of risk reasons, we want to keep inside government” to mitigate, financial, technical and political risks.


A Hint of Future Partnerships?

It’s not reality yet, but Halvorsen alluded to the possibility of a “contracted data distribution center,” in which a vendor provides hot-ticket items, such as on-demand cloud services while the military provides physical security.


As a joke, Halvorsen added that most private security companies “can’t roll tanks up to provide security” to a commercial data center, indicating the lengths at which DOD would go to ensure its data centers – at least physically – are nearly impenetrable.

“Why couldn’t we put what amounts to be a commercial data distribution center on government property in government buildings?” Halvorsen said. “I’m waiting for that proposal with all the costs associated with it. Maybe it becomes the first federal cloud computing center? There are a growing number of customers who want the same level of protection.”

When asked by reporters what industries might want to partner up to store highly sensitive data on a managed DOD premises, Halvorsen replied “financial institutions,” but added that such developments are not close to be carried out yet.

“We are not there yet, but that’s what we’re looking for,” he said.



U.S. FAA grants 8 more exemptions for commercial use of drones

by Press • 4 February 2015


The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration said on Tuesday it had granted eight more exemptions for commercial use of small drones as the industry eagerly awaits new agency rules on the remote-controlled aircraft.

The agency said it issued new exemptions to Total Safety U.S. Inc for flare stack inspections; to Slugwear Inc for aerial photography and surveys; and to Team 5 LLC, Shotover Camera Systems LP, Helinet Aviation Services LLC, and Alan D. Purwin for film and television production.

The FAA also amended the exemptions previously granted to Pictorvision Inc and Aerial MOB LLC to let the companies fly additional types of small drones.

The FAA is developing specific regulations for unmanned aircraft that weigh less than 55 pounds (25 kg). The agency has effectively banned their commercial use except when operators are granted special exemptions.

The FAA, which has received 342 requests for exemptions for use of commercial drones, has granted a total of 24.

Businesses have been clamoring for rules to allow commercial drone flights, fearing the United States is falling behind other countries in developing a multibillion-dollar industry.

The FAA turned a draft of the rules – the first major overhaul of the regulations – over to the White House on Oct. 23, and had said it expected them to be published in 2014.

Last month, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters the rules were close to being issued.


Two US Army Events Explore COTS

By Joe Gould 5:06 p.m. EST February 4, 2015


WASHINGTON When it comes to modernization, the US Army has come to recognize it does not always need to reinvent the wheel — or the router, server stack or tactical radio — especially when the commercial sector has ready or near-ready technology.

Two of the service’s try-before-you-buy emerging technology events feature, or at least weave in, commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) gear, according to Army officials. These are the massive bi-annual Network Integration Evaluation (NIE), and the Army Expeditionary Warfighter Experiment (AEWE) at Maneuver Center of Excellence’s battle lab, Fort Benning, Georgia.

“We’re not hung up on the TRL [technology readiness level],” said Harry Lubin, chief of the battle lab’s live experimentation branch. “If it has a capability that TRADOC [Training and Doctrine Command] might be interested in, go ahead and bring it. We’ll employ it within the constraints of its current capability. If it isn’t hardened and can’t get wet, still bring it, and we’ll use it when we can.”

While the NIE is less tolerant of immature technologies, one of its acquisition partners, the Army’s Program Executive Office Command, Control Communications Tactical (PEO C3T), has made use of COTS and modified COTS across all of its major programs, according to PEO C3T director of public affairs, Paul Mehney.

“Today, as both commercial and military sector network capability continues to rapidly mature, we plan to leverage new technologies as they emerge in the commercial sector instead of encouraging developers to begin with a blank slate by designing a system or capability from the beginning to end,” Mehney said.

The program office, which is seeking both hardware and software, employs commercial software applications, routers and server stacks in programs that have appeared in the NIE. For example, the NIE uses a modified Android computing environment for tactical situational awareness and mission command apps, called the Mounted Android Computing Environment.

As for hardware, COTS is in use within the Army’s developing tactical radio programs, its network backbone, called the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T), and particularly in its satellite communications systems.

The Army’s first networking waveform radio, known as the AN/PRC 117G, is a single-channel COTS radio that provides wideband networking capability and interoperability with fielded waveforms. The 117G was evaluated at the NIE and in the field. It and several other COTS radios were deployed by the US and coalition forces, including the AN/PRC 148, AN/PRC 150 and AN/PNC 152.

A significant amount of COTS or modified COTS gear appeared in both WIN-T Increment 1, which provides soldiers with high-speed, high-capacity communications down to battalion level at-the-quick-halt; and Increment 2, for operations on-the-move.

When WIN-T’s 4G/wireless command post is evaluated during future NIEs, COTS technology will feature prominently, Mehney said.

A decade old, the AEWE differs from the NIE in a few key ways. In scale, the AEWE is much smaller and focuses primarily on units below battalion, while the NIE includes brigade and higher echelons. Lubin called the AEWE the “farm system” to the NIE’s “major leagues,” because the NIE aims to field to a near future brigade “capability set,” while the AEWE offers a forgiving test-fix-test environment.

Both use soldiers and scenarios designed to simulate real-world conditions.

At the end of each AEWE, the Army’s testing agency will highlight technologies that would be ready for the NIE or worth a look by related Army proponents. Each vendors is given a report on its technology’s performance in the AEWE, as well as direct feedback from the soldiers throughout the experiment.

At worst, participation can yield a learning experience, and at best, it can mean business. After the AN/PSQ-20 Enhanced Night Vision Goggles participated at Fort Benning a few years ago, the Army purchased 2,300 of them and fielded them to Afghanistan, Lubin said.

The AEWE, which began in 2004 with seven pieces of gear, was intended to see how emerging technologies could protect small combat units and make them more lethal. Retaining much the same mission, it has evolved into TRADOC’s annual outreach to industry, and this year it involves 66 technologies, Lubin said.

The Army’s research and development organizations have increasingly offered their Army-developed technologies to the AEWE. The arrangement allows vendors a sense of how ready their technology is and the Army a chance to work with cutting-edge technologies.

“At the start, it was 90 to 95 percent industry, and industry has remained the majority of the systems we look at, but we have seen a growing number of government technologies over the last several years,” Lubin said. “A number of government and industry technologies use AEWE as a risk-reduction venue, knowing full well the next stop will be NIE.”

To integrate the various technologies, many of them unmanned vehicles and sensors in recent years, the AEWE employs engineers from the Cyber Center of Excellence. Because there is no standing network, engineers will use vendor input to tailor-build the experiment’s network each year to handle the various radio and video signals.

Critics say such experiments force companies to shoulder more of the up-front research and development costs, an unreasonable burden for small businesses. Lubin acknowledges that industry “underwrites a huge chunk” of the AEWE because their gear must be certified as safe for soldiers to use, and the companies must bring the gear to Fort Benning, train the soldiers on it and maintain them throughout the experiment.

But in return, Lubin said, vendors get access to a flexible testing environment, as well as valuable input about where to focus tech development dollars and what soldiers will accept. It also allows vendors to connect with each other and possibly associate their efforts.

“The smaller companies don’t have a lot of exposure with the Army, so it gives them a better taste of working with the Army and what their path forward would be,” whether with program offices, or research and development organizations, Lubin said.

“You can see how a tech provider who looks to leverage this venue can really move their technology forward because they have that constant engagement with the soldier who’s using it in a tactical environment,” Lubin said.

COTS in the Field

The Army is employing a range of COTS satellite terminals, some the size of a carry-on bag and all aimed at providing soldiers with access to global communications in austere locations and terrains.

Deployable Ku-Band Earth Terminal: Uses commercial and military satellites to provide long haul, high-capacity transport both within and beyond the Afghan theater. The system is for headquarters-level, network-hub connectivity.

Secure Internet Protocol Router/Non-secure Internet Protocol Router (SIPR/NIPR) Access Point (SNAP) V1 & 2: Transportable in the back of a truck, these use commercial- and military-band satellites to provide high-capacity beyond-line-of-sight SIPR, NIPR, coalition networks and voice capability to remote company and platoon outposts.

• Global Rapid Response Information Package: Suitcase sized and used by small teams, it can be set up in minutes for secure and unclassified communications.

Ground to Air Transmit and Receive Inflatable SATCOM Antenna: An inflatable ground satellite antenna enabling high-bandwidth network connectivity, this antenna connects soldiers to WIN-T.

• Transportable Tactical Command Communications: Satellite dishes that deploy in a suitcase to support small detachments and teams, and larger transportable satellite dishes to support company-sized elements. Enables soldiers to connect to WIN-T.



Next-Generation Fighter Will Be Less Reliant on Stealth

By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor

Posted: February 4, 2015 11:40 AM


WASHINGTON — The chief of naval operations (CNO) said the next-generation fighter — notionally named F/A-XX — may be less reliant on stealth and more reliant on suppression of enemy air defenses to carry outs its missions and needs a “manned and unmanned feature.”

In response to a question while speaking Feb.4 to a forum audience at the Naval Future Force Science & Technology Expo sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and the American Society of Naval Engineers in Washington, ADM Jonathan Greenert warned that “stealth may be over-rated.

“If something moves fast through the air and disrupts molecules in the air and it puts out heat — I don’t care how cool the engine can be — it’s going to be detectable,” he said.

Greenert said that the next-generation strike fighter should have manned and unmanned options of operation, noting that it had to be “interchangeable.”


It has to be in also had to have a payload capacity for a wide spectrum of weapons, he said, and gain access “probably by suppressing air defenses. Today it’s radar but it might be something more in the future.

“I don’t see that it’s going to be super-duper fast,” he said. “You can’t outrun missiles. You can’t be so stealthy that you become invisible. You are going to generate a signature of some sort. You have to be able to deal with that and be able to employ weapons that are going to have longer range and be smarter and more of them, … overwhelming of defenses—confuse it–or suppress it.”


DoD Needs Commercial Tech, but How To Get It?

By Paul McLeary 5:13 p.m. EST February 4, 2015


WASHINGTON— As commercial and small technology firms move ever faster to develop next-generation software, communications and hardware solutions to push into a tech-hungry marketplace, governments find themselves struggling to keep pace.

The issue was highlighted earlier this month when an inebriated government employee inadvertently crashed a small, commercially available drone onto the White House grounds, calling into question the ability of the Secret Service to protect the president and his family against such small — but real — threats.

While the White House issue makes a good punchline, government officials are worried, and they say they’re trying to reach out to the commercial tech sector to do something about it.

“The explosion of research and development in the non-defense sector means DoD must devise new means of pulling in commercial technology,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work told a Center for a New American Security conference in Washington on Jan. 28.

This all falls in line with Work’s so-called “third offset” strategy that is taking its place alongside other urgent reform initiatives percolating in the Pentagon, including “Better Buying Power 3.0,” a plan by the Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, that in part pushes for more commercial and dual-use technologies in DoD weapon competitions.

The two projects themselves fall broadly under the Defense Innovation Initiative, which is urging the building to revamp its entire training, education, development and acquisition enterprise to stay ahead of the advances being made by peer competitors like China and Russia, while also holding the line against the vast amounts of advanced commercial technologies now available to non-state actors for little cost.

Seated alongside Work at the CNAS event, Gen. Jean-Paul Paloméros, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Transformation, agreed that the alliance “can no longer contend that we maintain the advantage” in the realm of cyber or even some forms of tactical communication or the exploitation of social media for tactically relevant information.

Speaking across town on Jan. 28 at a special operations conference, Matthew Freedman, senior adviser at the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that while the exploitation of social media is something that needs to be studied, the US military “needs to rethink its acquisition strategy from requirement of things to an acquisition of capabilities” when it comes to other communications and surveillance technologies.

He said this doesn’t mean the Pentagon should fall back on doing what it has always done: launching a slew of expensive and time-consuming programs to develop new technologies out of whole cloth.

“Sometimes allocating resources means retrofitting existing systems at much lower costs instead of building new systems,” he said.

Except for several wartime rapid acquisition programs that some in the Pentagon are fighting to keep as a more permanent part of the building’s bureaucratic infrastructure, the DoD’s acquisition system isn’t built for speed. Freedman said that a different model needs to take hold, since “sometimes we need to get software developments to the war fighters within 90 days,” and the system as currently structured just can’t handle that.

Robert Newberry, director of the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office, added that targeting terrorists via social media is an area in which the US intelligence agencies — and especially the military — is still struggling. “We’re studying it to death,” he said, “but I’m not sure coming up with any grand solutions.”

These issues are no less prevalent with larger, more traditional systems, many of which, like the US Air Force’s fighter and bomber fleets, have been in the inventory since the 1980s or earlier.

“We came out of the Cold War with a very dominant military,” Kendall told the House Armed Services Committee on Jan. 28. “And no one observed more carefully the dominance we displayed in 1991 more closely than the Chinese.”

As such, the Beijing government, among others, has been busily developing a suite of capabilities that are explicitly intended “to defeat the American way of doing power projection [and the] American way of warfare when we fight in an expeditionary manner far from the United States.”

Testifying with Kendall was Lt. Gen. Mark Ramsay, the Joint Staff director for force structure, resources and assessment, who promised the House committee that “we’re looking at the whole soup and nuts” of the rapid advancements being made by potential US foes, and how best to offset them.

In particular when it comes to US expeditionary operations, Pentagon planners are concerned about the strength and security of their communications and satellite backbone. And there, the military expects to lean on private industry even more in the future.

“The big issue is there’s certain things we have to do that are very protected, very secure, that may not have the bandwidth commercial satellites do,” Ramsay said. “But we really are very much wedded to the commercial backbone, and I do see that increasing over time. But it’s finding that right balance in the future.”


Full budget details on cyber, cloud, networks

Amber Corrin, Senior Staff Writer 1:29 p.m. EST February 4, 2015


The Defense Department’s ongoing move to enterprise-wide IT services got a boost in the form of President Barack Obama’s proposed 2016 defense budget, with the Pentagon’s leading enterprise IT effort receiving more than a six-fold increase in spending.

Funding for the Joint Information Enterprise under the Defense Information Systems Agency’s budget grew from $13.3 million in 2015 to $84 million in 2016, part of DISA’s nearly quadrupled procurement budget of $1 billion. DISA is leading the DoD-wide move to JIE.

DISA’s Defense Information Systems Network, the military’s backbone for network communications, saw an increase in procurement funding as well, up from $80 million last year to $141 million, as the network undergoes upgrades.

As DoD pushes ahead with JIE, enterprise IT services and IT infrastructure upgrades, some legacy efforts saw significant funding decreases, including DISA’s net-centric enterprise services program, which fell from $3.7 million last year to a mere $444,000 in 2016.

In the Navy, procurement funding for enterprise IT jumped from $87 million to $99 million.

Cybersecurity spending in the 2016 largely remained flat under research, development, testing and evaluation, with some shifting of funds going on within the more than $149 million in funds specifically labeled as cyber.

In the Air Force, cyber operations technology development gained $82 million in RDT&E money, an effort that was new in the 2016 budget. Air Force RDT&E defensive cyber operations investments grew from $5.6 million to $7.7 million, while offensive cyber operations fell slightly from $13.3 million to $12.8 million. Likewise, RDT&E money for the Air Force rapid cyber acquisition lost $1 million on the year, with a $3 million allocation for 2016.


Across DoD, defense-wide cyber intelligence funding fell slightly from $6.7 million to $6.5 million, and some cyber programs appeared to go unfunded in 2016, including a line item for defense-wide cybersecurity advanced research.

Network-centric warfare technology was a winner in RDT&E spending, growing from $360 million to $453 million as part of DARPA’s $1.3 billion budget for advanced technology development.

Elsewhere in RDT&E – a area of the DoD budget that grew by half a billion dollars in 2016, to $13.5 billion – Navy unmanned systems development received more than $350 million across several programs, including $227 million for RQ-4 Global Hawk R&D. Last year, that category received only $45 million. However, funding for the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike dropped off from $400 million to $134 million.

At the Missile Defense Agency, research and development for command, control, communications and computers (C4) fell to $10 million, after receiving $13 million in 2015 and $35 million in 2014. Defense-wide C4 interoperability funding, however, inched up from $63.5 million to $65 million under DISA’s RDT&E budget. Across DoD, a new line item for unmanned aerial vehicle integration and operation allocated nearly $42 million.

In the Army, signals modernization funding more than doubled from last year’s $21 million in procurement funds to $50 million in 2016. The Army’s Defense Enterprise Wideband SATCOM Systems also increased from $118 million to $196 million. The Joint Tactical Radio program received a $25 million increase to $65 million, while WIN-T procurement spending grew from $664 million to $783 million.

The Army’s ongoing installation IT modernization effort received a boost in the new budget, with installation information infrastructure modernization growing from $80 million to $103 million.

In the Army and the Navy, each service’s version of the Distributed Common Ground System saw a plus-up in funding, with DCGS-A growing from $192 million to $314 million and DCGS-N increasing from $24 million to $32 million. However, the Marine Corp’s version was practically defunded, with their program dollars shrinking from $20 million to $1.9 million.

The Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network budget increased significantly as the service executes its transition from the Navy-Marine Corps intranet, with procurement funding for NGEN growing from $2 million in 2015 to $67 million in 2016.

Elsewhere in the Navy, tactical/mobile C4I systems funding fell from $16.7 million last year to $13.6 million in 2016, while C4ISR equipment funds remained essentially flat at just under $10 million. A line item for Navy SATCOM systems included a jump of nearly $20 million on the year, to $31 million, while funding for the Navy multiband terminal fell off from $248 million in 2015 to $118 million in 2016.

Spending on the Navy’s Rapid Technology Transition program, designed to quickly field new technologies to meet emerging and urgent naval requirements, more than doubled to $18 million in the proposed budget.

In the Air Force, investment in strategic command and control procurement doubled from $140 million to $287 million, while general IT funding fell from $43 million to $31 million, and mobility equipment funds were cut in half to $62 million.

Across DoD, investment in military manufacturing science and technology jumped from $90 million last year to $157 million in 2016 as Pentagon officials seek emerging manufacturing capabilities and other advanced technologies.



The Pentagon’s Weapon Wish Lists Could Disappear

February 4, 2015

By Marcus Weisgerber & Molly O’Toole


The military’s billion-dollar wish lists for weapons that did not make it onto the Pentagon’s budget might disappear as lawmakers decide whether they’re worth it.

Long live the Pentagon wish list? Lawmakers this year might not ask the military services to send them wish lists of weapons, that on-again, off-again practice of informally requesting items not included in the Pentagon’s official budget proposal.

Aides for both the House and Senate Armed Services committees say members of the panels have not decided whether they will request the unfunded priority lists. Traditionally these lists, which are closely watched by defense firms and lobbyists, are chock full of expensive programs that fell just below the cut line.

In the past, the military brass from services compiles the lists, at the request of lawmakers. It’s seen as a way for service chiefs to go around the administration’s budget request and ask Congress to fund or put back items they want.

“Actually I’m not really big on unfunded priority lists,” Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told Defense One Wednesday. “I think they’re sort of a backdoor way of getting things done.”

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, has not yet decided if he will request lists from the services, said committee spokesman Claude Chafin. “[Thornberry] recognizes the utility of the information, and it’s certainly something we need, he just doesn’t have his heart set yet on the vehicle for that information.”

McCain said he’s ambivalent right now, but would talk to Thornberry this weekend at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

Michael Amato, spokesman for Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., ranking Democrat on the House panel, said unfunded lists have not been discussed but the committee would probably not request them from the services.

“From our perspective, the budget is the document that matters and if the services want to send a letter, that’s all and good, but we are focused on the formal budget request and removing sequestration,” Amato said.

While the 2016 budget proposal was released in its entirety on Monday, defense firms closely watch for the wish lists, which are customarily sent to Congress a few weeks later. If a company’s program is included on the list, it gives their lobbying effort more stock, since they could point to the military’s desire for the item.

Often times, Congress will find a way to squeeze these items into the budget, albeit not always at the levels requested.

That was the case this year with the Navy’s EA-18G Growler. The Boeing-made Growler is a F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jet that carries special wing pods that jam enemy radio signals. The Navy did not request any Growlers in its 2015 budget proposal, but included 22 in its unfunded priority list. In the end, lawmakers added $1.46 billion for 15 jets in the Pentagon’s budget.

The Pentagon has gone back and forth over wish lists. Sometimes, it is referred to as unfunded requirements, more often, unfunded priorities. The list grew in length and dollar value last decade. At one point, the Air Force’s list topped $20 billion. This came despite military spending already being at an all-time high.

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was not a fan of the lists, and pared them back substantially. By 2013, they were no longer produced. They reemerged last year after the Pentagon submitted its 2015 budget proposal.

On Monday, Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord said he “would assume that the chiefs would probably continue past practice, but for me … it’s too early to comment about what people don’t like about it already.”

Ashton Carter, who had his nomination hearing Wednesday to become defense secretary, said in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee the he would allow the military’s service chiefs to submit the wish lists. But it’s up to Congress to request them.


Operator of Drone That Crashed Outside White House May Be Charged

by Press • 5 February 2015



WASHINGTON — Secret Service agents investigating the man who operated the drone that crashed on the White House lawn last week believed there was enough evidence to charge him with a crime, and they have presented the case to federal prosecutors, according to law enforcement officials.

But the decision on whether to indict the man, Shawn Usman, has been a vexing one for the prosecutors because laws designed to protect the airspace around the White House were written for manned aircraft like planes, long before unmanned ones, like drones, became popular toys.

There is also a question of whether Mr. Usman should face charges for something he contends happened because of a malfunction with the drone.

According to aviation experts, the law’s ambiguity highlights a larger legal issue that has emerged in recent years as regulations for unmanned aircraft have not kept pace with their increased use by hobbyists and companies.

If the prosecutors decide against criminal charges, Mr. Usman may face civil charges from the Federal Aviation Administration. The agency has opened an investigation into Mr. Usman, according to a senior official there. Under F.A.A. regulations, it is illegal to operate a drone in Washington because of national security concerns at landmarks like the White House and Capitol, the official said. The penalty for such an infraction can be more than $1,000.

Mr. Usman, 31, has worked at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which uses satellites to gather information for the Defense Department. But it is not clear whether he has continued to work there while the government decides whether to charge or fine him.

In recent days, James M. Garland, a lawyer for Mr. Usman, did not return several messages seeking comment. But after his client’s name was posted online Wednesday night, he released a statement saying that Mr. Usman was “an accomplished scientist and dedicated public servant.”

“Many of the public reports of his actions with respect to this incident are inaccurate,” Mr. Garland said. “He has cooperated fully with the Secret Service’s investigation and looks forward to putting this unfortunate episode behind him.”

In an interview with Secret Service agents, Mr. Usman said that around 3 a.m. on Jan. 26, he had been playing with the drone — a 2-foot-by-2-foot quadcopter called the DJI Phantom — in the living room of his apartment a little less than a mile from the White House.

Mr. Usman, who said that he had been drinking earlier that night, told the agents he had opened a window and flown the drone outside. He then flew the drone, which belonged to a friend, back into the apartment through the window and back out again. After guiding the drone about 100 feet outside the window, Mr. Usman said that he lost control of it. The drone hovered for several minutes before shooting up several hundred feet in the air and disappearing.

Mr. Usman called the friend who owned the drone. They realized that there was nothing they could do, and Mr. Usman went to bed without knowing where the drone had landed.

When Mr. Usman woke up, he saw the news reports that a drone had been found at the White House. He spoke with one of his bosses, who told him to call the Secret Service.


Anthem hack will shake up market for cyber risk insurance

By Adam Rubenfire | February 5, 2015


The cyberattack on Anthem, which affected 80 million people, likely won’t do immediate financial damage to Anthem’s bottom line because it had cybersecurity insurance coverage, J.P. Morgan Securities analyst Justin Lake said Thursday.

What the attack will do is impact the market for such cyber security insurance for healthcare providers, payers and others. Small and medium-sized healthcare organizations that have not considered such coverage may now do so, while insurers will be re-evaluating underwriting standards and likely premium levels in the wake of the Anthem attack, insurance experts said.

Larger healthcare institutions can purchase cybersecurity coverage in excess of $100 million, in some cases for as high as $300 million to cover the costs associated with recovering from an attack, said Evan Fenaroli, cyber product manager at Philadelphia Insurance Companies, which has clients that include small physician practices and regional health systems. His average healthcare client has a $1 million policy, but the company can write policies of $5 million to $10 million.

Premiums for a $1 million plan are generally $5,000 to $10,000 annually, though that can vary based on several factors, including the company’s revenue, cyber-risk management efforts and the coverage chosen, Fenaroli said. For hospitals, premiums can be much larger—sometimes more than $100,000 or even $1 million for larger health systems, he said.

Larger organizations are more likely to purchase coverage than smaller ones, he said, because they often have access to risk managers, in-house IT security and sophisticated insurance brokers. Smaller companies, like physician practices and local clinics, don’t have access to these resources and are less likely to recognize their vulnerabilities and so see coverage as too expensive or unnecessary.

“However, as data breaches continue to be publicized in all industries, we are seeing more of the small and mid-sized organizations actively seek out this coverage,” Fenaroli said.

Most policies provide broad coverage for what constitutes a privacy breach, Fenaroli said, whether it stems from a hacker, unauthorized access by an internal rogue employee or a laptop that was lost or stolen and gotten into the wrong hands. Optional coverage can include underwriting for costs or lost revenue associated with a denial of service attack, in which a network is made unavailable to users, or for cyber extortion, where hackers access a network and demand a ransom in exchange for not stealing data (a lot of companies would rather pay the ransom and make the problem go away).

Some of the largest healthcare breaches have been handled by Beazley, which underwrites cybersecurity coverage, but also contracts services that include forensic analysis, customer notification, call center operation, credit monitoring and crisis communications. The company also has an internal team of lawyers that advises clients and represents them in class action lawsuits.

The cost of insurance coverage and breach response is minimal compared to the legal and regulatory costs associated with a massive attack that can wreck a company’s coffers if the response isn’t adequate, said Katherine Keefe, global head of British insurer Beazley’s breach response team and a former deputy general counsel for Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross.

“You’re making a meaningful, legally compliant breach response that lessens the chance down the road of class action and regulatory compliance issues,” Keefe said.

Mac McMillan, a healthcare security expert and founder of CynergisTek, an Austin, Texas-based security consultancy, said he’d heard a steep estimate of $100 million on the Community Health Services hacking incident last year in which 4.5 million records were compromised.

Cybersecurity insurers have yet to address coverage for intellectual property theft because it’s hard to determine the value of ideas and trade secrets, said Fenaroli. Devicemakers and pharmaceutical companies are in particular trouble in this regard, since they spend billions of dollars on research and development.

“The number would be potentially so high that it really wouldn’t’ be insurable,” Fenaroli said. “But I think that’s something that the insurance industry as a whole will evolve to provide some kind of coverage.

Chinese hackers who infiltrated CHS’ computer network last year were believed to be looking for intellectual property on medical devices and other equipment, but instead stole data on patients who sought care from its physician practices, the company said in August.

Any large, well-publicized breach such as the one that struck Anthem will affect the market for cybersecurity insurance, Fenaroli said, by influencing coverage terms, making underwriting requirements more stringent and increasing coverage prices, especially for healthcare companies as the industry sees more large-scale breaches. Such has been the case in the retail industry following major attacks on Home Depot and Target.

“What was acceptable five years ago is no longer going to be adequate protection from these types of attacks,” Fenaroli said. “That’s the challenge we as underwriters face, and the challenge the industry faces.”


France Seeks Drone Interception System

February 6, 2015


A French national security and defence agency under the prime minister closed the books on a call for bids to fund a drone interception system. It hopes to have at least some drone defences operational in the next 18 months. “We have made a proposal to the scientific community to see what best emerges,” said Karine Delmouly, a project manager at the National Research Agency, or ANR, which is vetting the proposals. She declined to discuss specifics or say how many companies made bids. France wants to monitor and detect intruding drones and their remote-control pilots; analyze and track their flight paths; and ultimately neutralize the drones – either temporarily or permanently – with the least collateral damage possible, the ANR said in its call for bids. As for the options, the sky may be the limit.

Anti-drone devices could include pinpoint radar systems to track drones the size of a breadbasket or even smaller (and distinguish them from birds), high-tech lasers to destroy the unwanted intruders or telecommunications-scrambling systems to block the remote controls that direct them. Interception drones could be sent up into the sky to fight back and low-tech solutions such as sky-high netting or fences could also work, officials say.

Last year in France, authorities faced a series of illegal small drone flights above atomic power plants and the military port of Toulon on the Mediterranean Sea. Last month one was spotted above the Elysee presidential palace in Paris. The Secretariat, which oversees the country’s security systems including cybersecurity, put 1 million euros ($1.1 million) on the table to get a system that will keep drones far from atomic plants, President Francois Hollande’s office and even landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. While it would be too costly to create a radar system to detect drones across the country, the French government is studying where and how to install scramblers and low altitude radars. Some “Vital Service Operators” — a classified list of about 200 companies key to run France’s transport, energy or health care — may be among those that will use the systems the Secretariat wants up and running within 18 months. For now, French skies are vulnerable to small drones because French military radar systems aren’t adapted to detect those flying at low altitudes, General Mercier said.

On, an image-sharing website of footage gathered by amateur drone operators, a user called “toniorapido” posted a 9-minute video of a fly-over the business district of La Defense last July. In the video, a drone flies nearby the headquarters of nuclear energy operator Areva, oil giant Total, and the country’s nuclear power plants operator Electricite de France. The drone also flew under the Arche de la Defense, a landmark of the country and above the nearby mall. La Defense has been a no-fly zone since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. “We must keep calm. Most drones are harmless,” said Francis Durufle, vice president the Civilian Drones Federation. “But we have to be vigilant. It’s like cars had appeared overnight and you had to understand the scope of changes and dangers instantly, from privacy to spying or attacks or one falling on your head.”

The Defense Ministry declined to give details on the sort of drones spotted above its nuclear submarine base in Brittany. Authorities said they didn’t capture the crafts. The Elysee palace also declined to give more details about the drone spotted above its courtyard. “We take this very seriously,” Gaspard Gantzer, a spokesman for Hollande, told Bloomberg News. “But we have to take it with sang froid.” –

See more at:


Robotics-law expert Ryan Calo weighs in on drone regulations — and ‘drunk droning’

by Press • 5 February 2015


Hard cases, said a long-ago Supreme Court justice, make bad law. The startling outliers shouldn’t be the yardstick for crafting routine criminal law. When a tipsy off-duty employee of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency lost control of his friend’s drone last month and smashed it onto the White House lawn, the cry went up for more drone regulation. But the incident was an oddity; the real legal questionsabout drone regulation have to do with privacy, policing, commerce and other uses. Ryan Calo, a law professor at the University of Washington, specializes in robotics. The White House drone flew right onto his radar.

The White House crash had even the president asking if we were doing enough to regulate drones.

I worry … that there isn’t the expertise in government to deal with robotics, whether it’s drones or driverless cars.- Ryan Calo, University of Washington law professor who specializes in robotics issues

You can’t fly a drone around D.C. — it’s unlawful — so I’ve been confused by calls for additional legislation. What’s been interesting is the company that manufactured the drone. It’s fair to say they overreacted by creating a firmware update to prevent using that drone in the region.

Why is it overreacting?

We shouldn’t impose heavy restrictions on what amount to toys, let alone require their firmware to restrict flight. Basically, when you lock down drones for one purpose, you set a bad precedent of taking control away from innovators and owners. I think that the FAA should be more permissive about the commercial use of drones. They want commercial drone operators to hire a professional pilot. That seems like overkill.

In the past, how did the law cope with new technology, like cars, that one person controlled but that affected others?

With cars, a lot of early case law involved people scaring horses, because a new technology has unintended consequences. The law will strike one balance, and then we’ll get comfortable [with the new technology], and the law will strike a different balance.

The three big challenges for robotics laws are, one, that software can suddenly touch you; it’s not just your computer losing your homework but [doing someone] physical harm. Two, that these things will behave in ways that are useful but surprising. Three, that there’s a social valence where we react more viscerally to such technology, and the law has to take that into account.

Technology always seems to outstrip our ability to legislate its consequences.

The pace of change is faster than the pace of legislative or judicial change. These are difficult things for legislators to predict. People put restrictions on Segways, but it ended up that the Segway wasn’t a big deal. The Electronic Communication Privacy Act passed in 1986, based on technology in which storage of digital stuff was very expensive and systems would routinely purge information to make room for new information. Today we store everything indefinitely; this law has been outdated for 10 years.

You regard drones as a catalyst for privacy laws. Where are the boundaries? If I saw one hovering at my window, I’d be inclined to take a baseball bat to it.

Tort law is going to look at you taking a baseball bat to a drone as two different claims: your claim against the drone operator for trespassing, and the operator’s claim against you for trespassing on his chattels. So you’re going to end up potentially suing each other. If the drone were to fly at your face, you’d be excused under the defense-of-self doctrine. But you can’t just take a bat to something.

Privacy law is not as protective as it should be. It’s hard to sue people for spying on you in your back yard. It’s hard to get police to exclude evidence from a drone or aerial photography. And it’s not exclusively about drones; drones are a good example but not the only example.

Aren’t crime and terrorism the big drone fears?

Almost every credible threat you could accomplish with a drone, you could accomplish with a football. There are certain things drones make easier. If the concern is about an explosive too close to the White House, walking up to the gates and throwing a football full of explosives is one way to accomplish that; another is with a drone. Why ban drones but not balls? If the scenario is as horrific as you’re imagining, those people will not be dissuaded by additional laws.

Arguments about gun regulation often go this way: “Why not regulate butter knives? You can kill with those too.” Butter knives are made to spread butter; guns are made to put holes in things. Likewise, balls are made for sports, drones to get into places where humans cannot and maybe should not go.

I take your point. It’s harder to characterize drones as being an entirely innocuous tool, the way you would with a butter knife, nor do I think it goes so far as being like a gun. Certain activities are made easier by technology, in some cases so easy that we’re made uncomfortable.

[But] artificial intelligence and robotics are interesting precisely because of what they allow people to do. That’s what makes them empowering. Let’s say you want the best surgeon; that surgeon could be in Tokyo. You could get surgery in L.A. from that surgeon through robotics.

What is the answer? New laws? Industry self-regulation?

I think it’s very unwise to disallow a whole platform from doing certain things. You are curtailing the prospects of innovation.

And it’s a slippery slope. If there’s a protest, and police have the ability to affect your drone at a distance, all of a sudden you can’t exercise your 1st Amendment rights to monitor the police. This sort of thing has happened. [San Francisco’s rapid transit system shut down cellphone service on its train platforms to head off a potential protest in 2011.]

A better way to manage this is to throw the book at people who endanger others with their drones. A Pepperdine colleague, Gregory McNeal, says we have these two-ton machines that can veer off and run into each other — and we protect against that with a line of paint.

Driverless cars are another emerging robotic technology; California is still trying to come up with standards for them too.

I worry, and I’m not alone, that there isn’t the expertise in government to deal with robotics, whether it’s drones or driverless cars.

The legal liability issues around driverless cars are going to be pretty easy. If you build a product to get from point A to point B safely, and it doesn’t do that, you’re going to be liable.

It becomes tricky when you have an app-enabled platform, like your smartphone. Imagine you run a third-party app, and that app ends up doing something problematic. It’s no longer the manufacturer or the operator that is responsible. It’s [app] code that literally anybody in their basement, anybody in Russia could have written.

The optics suggest you should sue the manufacturer because its robot ran into you and hurt you. But [the injury] is in part a product of a third-party app. I have proposed immunizing manufacturers of open robotic systems for the apps people run but also being more careful in selecting what apps to sell.

What was your first thought when you heard about the “drunk droning” incident at the White House?

Thanks a lot, one person, for sending us in the wrong direction. We’re now talking about locking down platforms and extra regulation just because of one guy.

On Twitter, some of us had this hashtag going, #drunkdrone songs. Remember that Jimmy Buffett lyric, “Why don’t we get drunk and screw?”? My first one was, “Why Don’t We Get Drunk and Screw Up Drone Policy in the United States?”


Rasmussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Things are heating up for America on several fronts overseas, and voters don’t like what they see.

In its latest atrocity, the radical Islamic group ISIS burned a captured Jordanian pilot to death earlier this week. U.S. voters say President Obama has not been vocal enough in criticizing the heinous acts of this group and believe overwhelmingly that those involved should be tried for war crimes.

The president is expected to ask Congress any day now to authorize the use of more military force against ISIS up to and including ground forces. We’ll let you know early next week how voters feel about boots on the ground again in Iraq.

Most voters think it is likely the United States will be forced to send combat troops to fight ISIS but strongly agree that Obama needs Congress’ approval first.

Voters are cool to the president’s plan to send additional military aid including weapons to Ukraine to help it fight pro-Russian separatists. After all, only 38% consider Ukraine a vital national security interest of the United States.

By contrast, most voters consider Israel vital to national security, but 44% believe the U.S. relationship with Israel has gotten worse since Obama took office.

Meanwhile, the number of voters who think the United States needs to spend more on the military and national security has risen to its highest level in several years of regular surveying.

Perhaps in part that’s because belief that America and its allies are winning the War on Terror has fallen to its lowest level ever.

But there’s the rub. Most voters continue to call for across-the-board spending cuts, but that support drops if the military budget or entitlements are taken off the cutting block. Generally speaking, Democrats want to cut defense spending, while Republicans want to cut entitlements. The president has already warned the GOP-led Congress that he will not accept a budget that increases defense spending but cuts his domestic priorities.

Obama began the week by proposing a near $4 trillion budget to Congress that includes spending and tax increases. Republican leaders declared it largely dead on arrival. In theory at least, most voters prefer to cut spending and don’t see a need for higher taxes.

Voters want the president and Congress to work together: The problem is that, depending on their party, voters want them to do completely different things. So where do we go from here?

Maybe the president’s getting some credit after all for the economy’s improving performance. His daily job approval ratings remain several points higher than they were before Election Day, and his monthly job approval hit 49% in January. That’s up a point from December and ties his high for 2014. Forty-nine percent (49%) also disapproved, but that his lowest negative since October 2013.

Democrats have a two-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. They have now led for four of the first five weeks of 2015.

The federal government’s jobs report, released yesterday, showed another month of healthy hiring, although the unemployment rate slipped back slightly. The Rasmussen Employment Index which measures worker confidence also slipped a point in January, but that follows two months in a row of six-year highs.

Americans seem to be relatively content with their current jobs since nearly half believe staying put affords them the best opportunity to get ahead.

But 15% also now say they’re among the working poor, the highest finding since July 2012.

Daily consumer and investor confidence are down slightly from their beginning-of-the-year highs but remain ahead of levels seen for the last several years.

Of course, there’s still a lot of nervous anticipation about the impact of the new national health care law on businesses this year. Just over half of voters again view Obamacare unfavorably, and support for government-mandated levels of health insurance coverage continues to fall.

Americans also remain highly skeptical about the ability of the public schools to produce high school graduates ready for college and the workplace.

Keep in mind, too, that only 34% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. But then again, believe it or not, that’s more optimism than we’ve seen in the last couple years.

In other surveys last week:

— Following reports of a measles outbreak in 14 states, Americans overwhelmingly support requiring children to be vaccinated before being allowed to attend school.

Support for capital punishment in America remains steady, despite lingering concerns about wrongful executions and uncertainty as to whether the death penalty deters crime.

— Most think the man who killed 12 and wounded 70 in a Colorado theater mass shooting should get the death penalty, but there’s less support for punishing a suspect who’s proven to be mentally ill.

— An overwhelming majority of Americans say they receive good service at the restaurants they visit, and they tip accordingly.

How do Americans rate the way the media covers the weather?

— Oops! The Seattle Seahawks were the fans’ favorite to win Super Bowl XLIX.

January 31 2015

31 January 2015


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DJI Phantom Crashes on White House Lawn


January 27, 2015


The person operating the quadcopter that crashed on the White House grounds called the U.S. Secret Service Monday morning to “self-report” their involvement in the incident.

The individual was interviewed by Secret Service agents and has been fully cooperative, Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said in a statement Monday afternoon. The Secret Service locked down the White House shortly after 3 a.m. after an officer on the south grounds of the White House spotted the drone, described as a two-foot wide “quad copter,” flying above the White House grounds before crashing on the southeast side of the complex. The officer saw the drone flying at a very low altitude.

“Initial indications are that this incident occurred as a result of recreational use of the device,” Leary said.

The Secret Service will continue to investigate the incident through “corroborative interviews, forensic examinations and reviews of all other investigative leads,” Leary said.

A Secret Service official said the owner of the drone called in after seeing reports of the drone on the news.

The Secret Service was sweeping the White House grounds on Monday morning looking for anything else that might be on the ground.

President Barack Obama and the first lady are both away, traveling in India.

The executive director of the Small UAV Coalition, Michael Drobac, called the news of the drone crashing at the White House a “terrible incident” for the drone industry because it sends a message that drone users aren’t using the technology responsibly.

But the vast majority of the at least half-million drone users in the U.S. are, Drobac said, citing a conservative estimate. The problem is “bad actors,” he said, and the industry is working with the FAA to educate new users about the rules for operating drones.

And the industry is developing new technologies to prevent users from operating drones in unauthorized spaces. Some of the newest models of recreational drones won’t turn on in unauthorized areas, like within 5 miles of an airport, Drobac said.

“Technology is going to help solve the problem and is already doing it. I trust technology over rogue operators,” he said.

Flying drones is illegal in the District of Columbia, but that hasn’t always kept them out of the capital’s skies.

The Secret Service previously detained an individual operating a quadcopter drone on July 3 in President’s Park, just a block from the South Lawn of the White House, according to a report filed with the Federal Aviation Administration.

Another person was detained by the U.S. Capitol Police for flying a drone on the Capitol Hill grounds. And in October, a drone was spotted above D.C.’s Bolling Air Force Base.

A surge in interest in drones and how they should be regulated even brought one to Capitol Hill — inside a committee room, no less.

Source: CNN


Did the White House Use Drone Killing Technology?

Patrick Tucker January 26, 2015

At about 3 a.m. on Monday morning, a small quadcopter drone, or unmanned aerial vehicle, crashed on the White House lawn. White House officials said that the drone, by itself, was unarmed and didn’t represent a threat. Authorities quickly located the owner, a government employee, who has managed (so far at least) to convince the Secret Service that he made an innocent mistake flying his drone outside of the White House in the wee hours of the morning.

The White House won’t comment on whether or not they took any special steps to bring down the small UAV. But the White House may have employed the same anti-drone technology that the military is trying to perfect to protect ships and planes from future drone swarms. There are plenty of ways to knock a drone out of the sky, everything from surface to air missiles to hunter-killer robots to, yes, lasers. But for a cheap off-the-shelf drones operating off a simple radio or Wi-Fi signal, the best method is simple jamming.

For the military, signal jamming is an increasingly important component of electromagnetic warfare, or EW. It’s an area of growing concern as the electromagnetic spectrum, an area where the United States once enjoyed sole dominance, is becoming increasingly crowded.

What might the White House have used to jam the signal? Defense contractor Raytheon markets a wide variety of electronic anti-drone jammers. That includes the enormous “next generation jammer” that comes in at $10 billion as well as some that actually fly, such as the miniature air-launched decoy (with jamming kit) or MALD-J.

But drone jamming doesn’t have to come in at billions of dollars. For instance, a device called the Cyborg Unplug promises to make your living area drone free for around $66.

Here’s how the manufactures describe it on their website. “Cyborg Unplug hits wireless surveillance devices where it hurts: network connectivity. ‘Plug to unplug’, it sniffs the air for wireless signatures from devices you don’t want around, sending an alert to your phone when detected. Should the target device connect to a network you’ve chosen to defend, Cyborg Unplug will immediately disconnect them, stopping them from streaming video, audio and data to the Internet… Detected wireless devices currently include: wearable ‘spy’ cameras and microphones, Google Glass and Dropcam, small drones/copters and a variety of popular spy devices disguised as familiar objects.”

You can also make your own jammer with easily obtainable components, as researcher Ahmad Jisrawi points out.

There’s just one problem, cell phone, Wi-Fi and signal jamming in the United States is illegal. So use your home jammer at your own peril.  If you just want to detect a drone and then down it via some more conventional means, outfits like or Domestic Drone Counter Measures have all that you need, off mesh network components that can pick up and report a drone’s signal nearby.

Reports suggest that the drone seems to have crashed on its own, begging the question, is the White House equipped with an off-the-shelf drone jamming kit? If not, why not?

It’s an issue that won’t be going away. In fact, drones have been crashing all over Washington lately. On Jan. 21, a representative from 3D Robotics attended a hearing of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and demonstrated how to pilot a small $500 Parrot Bebop UAV from his iPhone. The meeting broke history, marking the first time that an unmanned aircraft was flown—and crashed—inside a congressional hearing.

“Oh my gosh. And that’s your worst-case scenario! Drone crash. Drone crash!” Colin Guinn, 3D Robotics chief revenue office, said to committee members.

The other key takeaway from the event, the Federal Aviation Administration has no current strategy for integrating UAVs into commercial airspace, even though they are required to do it by Sept. 15 of this year, according to Section 333 of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012. What does that mean? Drones will be regulated by the current regime and, as demonstrated Monday, poorly policed even around targets of national security interest.

What’s the current FAA strategy regarding drones? If you want to fly a robot plane beyond your line of site, or one over 55 pounds, within 400 feet of an airport, or for any sort of commercial purpose at all, you need a special exemption from the FAA, of which they have granted 16 out of some 295 requests.

James Williams, the manager for the FAA’s Unmanned Aerial Systems Integration Office told the House committee: “We’re in the process of building a tracking system…similar to laser systems…On the research side…we’ve started an initiative to assess the risk of an unmanned aircraft to a manned aircraft.” Williams added: “We’re accelerating that thanks to congressional funding this year.”

Monday’s event may accelerate that research further.  



DJI Announces Mandatory Firmware Update

by Gary Mortimer • 28 January 2015


DJI will release a mandatory firmware update for the Phantom 2, Phantom 2 Vision, and Phantom 2 Vision+ to help users comply with the FAA’s Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) 0/8326, which restricts unmanned flight around the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

The updated firmware (V3.10) will be released in coming days and adds a No-Fly Zone centered on downtown Washington,

The restriction is part of a planned extension of DJI’s No Fly Zone system that prohibits flight near airports and other locations where flight is restricted by local authorities. These extended no fly zones will include over 10,000 airports registered with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and will expand no fly zones to ensure they cover the runways at major international airports. DC and extends for a 25 kilometer (15.5 mile) radius in all directions. Phantom pilots in this area will not be able to take off from or fly into this airspace.

DJI is also continuing to update its no fly zone list in compliance with local regulations to include additional sensitive locations and to prevent flight across national borders.

These new safety features will be released across DJI’s flying platforms in the near future.

“With the unmanned aerial systems community growing on a daily basis, we feel it is important to provide pilots additional tools to help them fly safely and responsibly,” said Michael Perry, DJI’s company spokesperson. “We will continue cooperating with regulators and lawmakers to ensure the skies stay safe and open for innovation.”


DoD Business Panel Proposes $125B in Savings

By Paul McLeary 10:58 a.m. EST January 25, 2015

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s Defense Business Board (DBB) issued a series of recommendations on Jan. 22 calling on the Defense Department to slash $125 billion in spending over the next five years by reducing services from contractors, implementing early retirements, reworking contracts and reducing administrative costs.

The report comes at the direction of Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, whose October 2014 memo to the civilian panel instructed it to form a Task Group “to review and recommend changes to the Department’s current plans for enterprise modernization.”

Specifically, Work wanted advice on how private sector organizations consolidate their information technology (IT) services and to “recommend ways to best reconfigure all or part of DoD’s supporting business process and their associated IT.”

He also wanted the board to recommend an approach to quantify “the economic value of modernization on a productivity basis,” and how modernizing department business practices would help it gain further efficiencies.

The DBB released its findings just a week before the fiscal 2016 defense budget is due to be unveiled.

The task group identified more than 1 million people working in the DoD’s human resources, health care, financial, logistics, acquisition and property management fields. It claimed that by renegotiating contracts with vendors, offering early retirements and retraining employees to be more efficient, the building could save about $125 billion between fiscal 2016 and 2020, or about $25 billion a year.

Those savings could then be pumped back into the force, the board claims, and would equal the funding it takes to field 50 Army brigades, 10 Navy carrier strike groups or 83 Air Force F-35 fighter wings.

The three biggest cost saving initiatives identified between 2016 and 2020 are $49 billion to $89 billion through “more rigorous vendor negotiations” for contracted goods and services; another $23 billion to $53 billion through retirement and attrition of defense civilians and contractors, also reducing redundancy; and $5 billion to $9 billion in its IT processes though data center consolidation, cloud migration and automating some functions.

Work’s Oct. 15 memo said the DoD spends about $100 billion annually on “core business processes,” which he identified as human resources and healthcare management, financial management, logistics and supply, and property management.

“My goal is to modernize our business processes and supporting systems and create an agile enterprise shared services organization in order to reduce costs, maximize return on investment, and improve performance,” he wrote.

The study also includes deep looks at the business processes of Lockheed Martin, Pepsi Co.,Hewlett Packard, and IBM.

The inclusion of such large commercial firms has raised some eyebrows, however.

“Commercial businesses tolerate risk because the worst that can happen to their business is that they lose some money” said Steven Grundman, Lund Fellow for Emerging Defense Challenges at the Atlantic Council.

“The military organizes and costs for risk because there are far more consequential interests that they are guarding than money, and mitigating risk is expensive and one reason the analog between business and the military is imperfect at best.”

The DBB also looked at several Pentagon programs to gain some insight on how procurement practices can be streamlined. They studied the Army Logistics Support Agency’s successful outsourcing its data center, the 10-year, $1 billion failure of the Defense Integrated Military Human Resources System, which was canceled in 2010, and the Air Force’s $1.1 billion Expeditionary Combat Support System failure.


SpaceX, US Air Force Settle Lawsuit

By Aaron Mehta 7:03 p.m. EST January 23, 2015


WASHINGTON — SpaceX has reached an agreement with the US Air Force and will drop its lawsuit against the service, the company and Pentagon announced in a joint statement Friday evening.

The two parties have “reached agreement on a path forward for the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program that improves the competitive landscape and achieves mission assurance for national security space launches,” the statement reads.

“The Air Force also has expanded the number of competitive opportunities for launch services under the EELV program while honoring existing contractual obligations,” the statement continued. “Going forward, the Air Force will conduct competitions consistent with the emergence of multiple certified providers. Per the settlement, SpaceX will dismiss its claims relating to the EELV block buy contract pending in the United States Court of Federal Claims.”

The lawsuit dates back to April 25, when Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, announced his company was filing a protest against the Air Force for its decision to award a block-buy contract for 36 launches to the United Launch Alliance (ULA), the only company currently certified to launch under the EELV program.


With Lawsuits and Mergers, US Space Market Primed for Changes

Musk decried the sole-source deal as wasteful for taxpayers and, over the past eight months, has publicly slammed the Air Force as being too close to the legacy launch company.

Friday’s statement indicates that ULA’s block buy contract will remain. Given how forceful SpaceX had been that the block buy was unfair, that qualifies as a win for both the legacy launch provider and the Air Force.

At the same time, the mention of “expanded” competitive opportunities and the statement that the Air Force will conduct future competitions “consistent with the emergence of multiple certified providers,” it becomes clear that SpaceX got its message across: ULA can no longer count on having a monopoly on the EELV program.

The statement also said SpaceX will “work collaboratively” with a new panel, set up by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, that will review the certification process and look for ways to improve it.

In a follow-on statement, James said she was “extremely pleased” at the agreement.

“I have always been a huge proponent of competition and believe this is an important step in that direction,” James said. “The Air Force is dedicated to ensuring we have the world’s finest national security space architecture and a robust launch capability is at the heart of making that possible.”

A spokesman for SpaceX referred queries to the joint statement. Reached for comment, a ULA spokeswoman did the same.

SpaceX expected certification to be complete before the end of 2014, but that now appears more likely to happen by midyear. James has expressed confidence the company will eventually be certified, which would allow them to launch sensitive military equipment into orbit.

Musk recently announced that his company will begin producing satellites.



SpaceX Enters Satellite Business

By Aaron Mehta 3:28 p.m. EST January 23, 2015


WASHINGTON — SpaceX, the upstart company led by Elon Musk, has already upended the space launch market. Now the company has its eyes turned toward the creation of a massive new satellite constellation, one that would have major repercussions for the commercial and military communications market.

A recording posted on YouTube of a Jan. 16 event announcing the opening of SpaceX’s Seattle facilities shows Musk claiming the company has submitted paperwork to international regulators, the first step in securing the bandwidth frequencies on which his network could operate.

The system would be “about” the 1,100-kilometer level in space, solidly in the low-Earth orbit range. The weight of the satellites would be in the “few hundred kilogram” range, and the overall network would eventually include 4,000 or so systems, almost doubling the number of active systems currently in space. Musk envisions the system going online in five years providing coverage for most of the globe, a timeframe he admitted is ambitious.

Following a series of regular updates, full capacity of the system would go online within 12-15 years, with an estimated price tag of $10-$15 billion. Musk indicated he is looking to hire about 500 people for the Seattle-based program to get the initial version of the system ready to go.

“The focus is going to be on creating a global communications system,” Musk told the audience. “This is quite an ambitious effort — we’re really talking about something which is, in the long term, like rebuilding the Internet in space.”

At no point in the speech did Musk mention whether the future constellation would be used for military purposes, and a SpaceX spokesperson declined to offer further comment on the satellite program.

However, if Musk can make the system work, it could have serious benefit for the Pentagon, which has struggled to provide enough bandwidth for communications across the globe.

Marco Cáceres, an analyst with the Teal Group, pointed to the way the Pentagon leases bandwidth from Iridium as a potential path forward.

“I would imagine [Musk would] be interested in getting the military on board as a customer, much in the same way Iridium has,” Cáceres said. “It gives the Pentagon another system if they need more bandwidth, more coverage. I would imagine that they would probably enter into a similar arrangement with Iridium, where they just lease capacity.”

Brian Weeden, technical adviser to the Secure World Foundation, added that security will be a deciding factor in whether the Pentagon looks to SpaceX.

“A lot depends on the security of the service, and whether it can meet the Pentagon’s requirements for encryption,” Weeden said. “If it can, then I think the Pentagon could be a customer, like they are with Iridium.”

However, the Pentagon is already the largest single customer for Iridium, and that company’s updated network will likely meet department needs for the next few years. With that in mind, Cáceres doesn’t see the Pentagon signing contracts until Musk’s network is up and running.

“SpaceX will have to prove itself, which will take at least a few years,” Cáceres said. “So I don’t think you’ll see the military jumping on board anytime in the next few years.”

Iridium spokeswoman Diane Hockenberry indicated the company does not see SpaceX, nor a similar system proposed by OneWeb Ltd., as direct competitors in the near future.

There are “many differences and advantages when compared to the two proposed systems, including our unique mesh architecture of cross-linked satellites that provides truly global coverage with no compromises,” Hockenberry said. “Because we operate in L-band, which provides superior mobile voice service as compared to the higher spectrums these projects plan to use, we do not anticipate any risk to our existing business model, or competition for our voice, aviation safety services, or Department of Defense services.”

As to the cost, Cáceres warned that satellite constellations tend to increase in price as reality intrudes on planning. However, he pointed out that a big chunk of the cost is tied into launch — something SpaceX would be able to do in-house with its Falcon system of launch vehicles.

Iridium, ironically, was one of the first commercial operators to select SpaceX for its satellite launch missions.


Clogging Space?

Musk acknowledged “similarities” between his proposed system and Iridium, but emphasized that the number of satellites in his system should lead to less risk. “If a satellite didn’t work you’d just take it out of the constellation and deorbit it,” he pointed out in his speech.

One question with SpaceX’s plan is whether throwing 4,000 satellites into low-Earth orbit would create traffic issues. Space, after all, is growing more congested as new countries begin launching systems into orbit.

Musk waved away concerns about that in his speech, noting that at the 1,100-kilometer level “there’s just not a lot up there.”

Weeden agreed that there is space for the proposed constellation at that altitude. However, he warned that SpaceX needs to focus on not creating further space debris with its system.


“That means managing the constellation so they don’t run into each other, and then properly disposing of their satellites when they reach end of life,” Weeden explained.

Musk acknowledged the potential issue of space junk and said it would be a big focus for planners.

While the sheer number of satellites could pose a problem, it also may make the system attractive to the Pentagon, which has been exploring the idea of “disaggregation,” or breaking the very expensive, gold-plated satellite systems into smaller, cheaper constellations, for the last few years.


US Space Officials Push Smaller Platforms

While that push began under former Space Command head Gen. William Shelton, his successor, Gen. John Hyten, pledged to continue to look at moving toward disaggregation in a December speech.

“That architecture has to fundamentally change, and it is going to fundamentally change,” Hyten said.

Regardless of Pentagon interest, Musk plans to go ahead with the system, with an eye on using profits to fund his true passion — the development of a city on Mars.

“This is intended to be a significant amount of revenue and help fund a city on Mars,” Musk said. “Looking in the long term, and saying, what’s needed to create a city on Mars? Well, one thing’s for sure — a lot of money. So we need things that will generate a lot of money.”

He added that SpaceX is unlikely to go public until there are “regular” flights to Mars.



Google Fiber Expands to 18 Cities in American Southeast

The search giant’s gigabit broadband service is making its biggest expansion yet.

by News Staff / January 27, 2015 1


Google Fiber is making its biggest expansion to date. On Jan. 27, the company announced 18 new cities that will become part of its growing gigabit broadband service. The new Fiber cities are in the metropolitan regions of Nashville, Tenn.; Atlanta; Charlotte, N.C.; and Raleigh-Durham, N.C.

In February 2014, Google named 34 prospective Fiber cities, beginning an evaluation process that involved gauging the public’s interest in those areas and the cooperation of local governments. Those regions still in the “prospective” category include Portland, Ore.; San Jose, Calif.; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; and San Antonio.

In blog post chronicling Fiber’s progress, Google notes that the availability of gigabit Internet access has connected students to underwater microscopes that allow them to study the Pacific Ocean, it’s assisted the work of a geneticist looking to help newborns in intensive care, and facilitated programming courses in Kansas City.

Fiber has also stimulated the broadband market in the regions it has entered. Anecdotes of increased competition is driving market choice around the nation. CenturyLink recently began offering gigabit broadband in some areas of Seattle, leading incumbent provider Comcast to begin doubling service speeds in those areas.

Google noted that Fiber is a long-term investment that aligns with infrastructure needed to build a future like the one alluded to by the president in his recent State of the Union address.



New Malware Can Bring Down Drones Mid-Flight


January 29, 2015


Maldrone bills itself as the “first backdoor for drones.” Developed by security researcher Rahul Sasi, this malware tricks a drone’s autonomous decision-making unit into handing over control to a hacker. Once the drone has been infected, that hacker can do anything from flying the drone to the destination of their choice to making the drone just drop out of the sky.

Sasi demonstrated Maldrone’s ability in a demo and outlined the specifics of the malware on a hacker forum.

This isn’t the first time someone’s developed malware for UAVs—it really isn’t—but it is unique for a few reasons. First of all, as Sasi himself points out, past malware targets the drone’s API, whereas Maldrone goes straight for the brain—the autonomous decision-making unit.

And unlike past hacks that were specific to a particular make and model of drone, Maldrone is designed to work with any drone software. The demo shows the malware taking over a Parrot AR drone, but Sasi says he’s also implementing the malware on a DJI Phantom.



SECDEF Hagel Farewell Ceremony

01/29/2015 08:45 AM CST

As Delivered by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia, Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Mr. President, thank you.

I’m very grateful to you for many reasons. But first, thank you for being here today. I know the kind of schedule that you have been on, and the length of the trip, the intensity of those visits…and to make this effort today means an awful lot. Thank you.

I want to also thank you for giving me the honor of serving you and the American people as the Secretary of Defense. I will always be grateful, always grateful for that opportunity.

And Mr. President, thank you for your strong leadership at a very difficult time: a difficult time in our world that requires wise, steady, careful leadership. You have and you are providing that leadership, and I have been very proud to serve with you in the Senate and in particular, over the last two years as your Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Biden, thank you as well for being here today. I have not forgotten some of the stories that you told. I recall very well us calling my mother on that trip through the mountains of Iraq, and I remember you wanted to speak with her.

And hours and hours later…

… She never forgot that, Mr. Vice President, and was so proud of that phone conversation. And so I thank you for your generous reaching out to my mother at a very difficult time for her. Because she she was gone about a month later. So, thank you.

One of my greatest joys during my time here in Washington has been development of our friendship. And as you have noted, and as the president has noted, our time together, the three of us, on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Secretary Kerry is here today, who knows a little something about this business, and to you Secretary Kerry, thank you. I include you in those days.

Our former chairman, Chairman Lugar, is here as well. And to Dick Lugar, thank you. As you have noted, there are special people in our lives that we benefit from, and certainly Dick Lugar is one of those I think we all have benefited a great deal from.

And Vice President Biden, thank you for your years of service to this country as well.

Chairman Dempsey, it has been a great privilege for this old sergeant to have worked side by side with a general of your character and your courage. I’ve been very fortunate to have you as my partner in this job, especially during those self-help and educational opportunities called congressional hearings.

I was always reassured in each of those hearings, as we would drive to the Hill in the morning, knowing that Marty Dempsey was next to me. And for what you have meant to our military, Marty, and what you continue to do for this country, thank you very much.

I see another great icon of the United States Senate with us today: Senator John Warner, who we all worked closely with and benefited from. And to our distinguished colleagues, Senators Warner and Lugar, welcome and thank you for what you have done for this country, as so many of you here today. And I am grateful that you would take the time to visit us on this on this occasion.

To the chiefs of the services, our senior civilian leaders, and the combatant commanders, thank you. Thank you for your unflagging service and your leadership and your commitment to this country.

I want to particularly acknowledge Bob Work Bob Work, our Deputy Secretary of Defense. I thank him for his leadership and our strong partnership over the last year. And my appreciation as well to Ash Carter: for Ash’s service and his partnership during my first year at the Pentagon, and for his continued commitment to public service.

And my heartfelt thanks to my security and advance staff. Each of you played critically important roles for which my family and I will always be grateful. To my personal staff and those in the office of the secretary, you’ve been indispensable, indispensable in helping me carry out my responsibilities, and I thank you.

And to the men and women who serve our country and their families, whose service and sacrifice is unequaled, you have my deepest gratitude. We salute your high purpose in defense of our freedoms and our values. Every day, you wake up, and you go to work knowing that this department this department alone is charged with one fundamental mission: the security of this nation. It’s been my absolute privilege to have been on your team.

Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed the courage and dignity of America’s servicemen and women all over the world. I’ve seen young enlisted and young officers do their jobs realizing that how how they do their jobs is just as important as the job itself.

I’ve seen senior officers and senior enlisted realizing that they are role models. Maybe their highest responsibility of all. And I’ve seen the enduring devotion and commitment of their families: the mothers, the fathers, husbands, wives, children, and the sacrifices that they willingly willingly make for our country.

Their individual commitment to the greater good and strength of the institution has been a complete inspiration to me in every way. They understand that it’s people, people who build and strengthen institutions and make the world a better place.

These are the reasons why America’s military is the most admired and most trusted institution in our country. We must always protect that confidence and trust by our conduct and our performance continuing to hold ourselves and each other to the highest standards of professionalism and personal behavior.

As I will soon leave this job that I have cherished for the last two years, I want you all to know that the things that I have most respected and most admired are your dignity, your courage, and your dedication.

The opportunity to have been part of all this is something I could not have imagined when I joined the Army 48 years ago. No high office with responsibility is easy, as everyone in this room knows.

But with each difficult challenge comes the satisfaction of knowing knowing that you are like Teddy Roosevelt’s man in the arena, slugging it out, doing what you believe, doing what you like, and doing it your way. And recognizing that it’s not the critics who count or change the world or make the world better, but rather it’s those who are willing to work, work very hard toward building a better world.

We live in a complicated and defining time. The men and women who have devoted their lives to America’s security are the architects of this new, 21st century world. They’re building onto the great legacies and foundations that have been laid by those who have gone before them.

We’ve made mistakes. We will make more mistakes. But we hold tightly to one of America’s greatest strengths: the capacity and the constitutional structure that allows us to self-correct. We can change systems, right wrongs, solve problems, and start over. But we must get the big things right.

We must recognize that there is not an immediate answer to every problem. Some problems require evolving solutions that give us the time and the space to adjust, and the patience to seek higher ground and lasting results.

Our world, captive to immediacy, uncertainty, and complexity, is not moving toward less complicated problems, but rather, toward more global challenges rooted in historic injustices and conflicts.

In this dynamic environment, we need to prioritize and focus on how on how to build greater partnership capacity around the world with our partners, to help solve problems through coalitions of common interests that help build opportunities and create hope for all people.

These are difficult and complicated tasks, but we have no choice. It will require steady, wise, and judicious use of American power, prestige, and influence. We must never fail to always ask the most important question when making decisions in policy: what happens next.

With all the world’s travails and problems, it is still a hopeful world. This I believe.

I want to thank my wife, Lilibet, with whom I’ve shared this remarkable 30-year journey. I could never have done this job without her by my side. And I’m especially proud of her work on behalf of military families and other important issues to the men and women of the military. I valued all of her many contributions to this institution, and I thank her deeply for helping me be a better Secretary of Defense.

I want to also thank my daughter Allyn, my son Ziller, for their constant support, encouragement, and always good advice…and helping me with the internet…and recognizing and allowing me to take inventory in that recognition that I am not near as smart as I thought I was. Those are the humbling experiences of parenthood. Those of us who’ve had the opportunity to know those days and have that experience and be blessed with that experience know so well.

And to my brothers, Tom and Mike, who have truly been with me since this train left the station in Nebraska many years ago, thank you.

And one last point: Of all the opportunities my life has given me and I have been blessed with so many I am most proud of having once been a soldier.

The lessons from my time in uniform about trust, responsibility, duty, judgment, and loyalty to your fellow soldier these I have carried with me throughout my life.

May God bless and keep each of you. Thank you.



New Budget Will Feature 6th Gen Fighter

By Paul McLeary 3:57 p.m. EST January 28, 2015

WASHINGTON — More pieces of next Monday’s fiscal 2016 defense budget request are beginning to fall into place.

The Pentagon’s future years funding projection to be released with each annual budget request will include more money than planned, the Pentagon’s second in command said on Wednesday.

The fiscal 2016 future years defense program (FYDP) slated to be released on Feb. 2 “reverses the decline in defense spending over the past five years and works to address the under-investment in new weapons by making targeted investments in those areas we deem to be the highest priority,” Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said.

Earlier in the day, Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall told a Senate panel that there is money in the next budget for the Air Force to begin work on its 6th generation fighter

“It will be a program that will be initially led by DARPA,” Kendall said, “but it will involve the Navy and the Air Force as well. And the intent is to develop prototypes for the next generation of air dominance platforms, X-Plane programs, if you will.”

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been working on a series of studies on 6th generation fighter technologies for the past several years, and Air Force officials have said they expect to begin flying the next-generation jets by as early as the 2030s. Industry teams are also known to have started internal research and development projects on potential 6th generation technologies.

The DARPA 6th generation fighter program has been dubbed the Air Dominance Initiative.

In keeping with the push by Kendall and Work to increase competition for programs and get the department the best deal — and the best technology possible — he added that in order to be competitive, “the Navy and the Air Force will each have variants focused on their mission requirements. There’ll be a technology period leading up to development of the prototypes.”

Kendall confirmed that “this will be in our budget” in 2016.

The initiative will be a key component of the Better Buying Power 3.0 plan that Kendall has championed, which seeks to find efficiencies in the technology development phase of new programs, while tapping allies to share some of the cost of prototyping and development.

The work will eventually “lead to the systems that will ultimately come after the F-35,” he said, adding that “part of the program is an airframe-oriented program with those X- plane prototypes.” Another is a jet engine development program “for the next generation, also competitive prototypes for the next generation propulsion.”

Speaking at a Center for a New American Security event, Work added that in the upcoming budgets, his team is programming funding lines to invest “in promising new technologies and capabilities, including unmanned undersea vehicles; sea mining; high speed strike weapons; an advanced new jet engine; rail gun technology; and high energy lasers.”


The Pentagon’s new fiscal cliff

“Everyone is still with the happy talk that somehow sequestration is going to go away.”

By Jeremy Herb

1/28/15 6:54 PM EST


President Barack Obama and congressional Republicans say they want to boost Pentagon spending by tens of billions of dollars next year — but that’s just budget theater.

The administration and the new Republican-controlled Congress are creating another budgetary cliff on defense spending, forcing the military to face across-the-board cuts if Pentagon spending busts the caps that are already law.

The sequestration cap for Pentagon spending is about $499 billion, but the Obama administration is set to propose a $534 billion base defense budget, according to budget documents. And many analysts expect congressional Republicans propose a similar, if not higher, topline.

The first delivered Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental jet taxies into position before taking off from Paine Field following delivery to an undisclosed customer Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2012, in Everett, Wash. The new 747-8 Intercontinental is expected to deliver double-digit gains in fuel efficiency over the 747-400 and provide VIP customers and passenger airlines, such as Lufthansa, with the lowest operating costs and best economics of any airplane in its class. Lufthansa is scheduled to take delivery of its first 747-8 Intercontinental early this year. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

If the the final Pentagon spending measure exceeds the budget cap without changing the sequestration law, the Pentagon would get hit with across-the-board cuts back down to $499 billion.

Leaders of the Armed Services committees continually preach about the devastation of the cuts — summoning military leaders to Capitol Hill to detail how the cuts would wreak havoc — but so far there’s little talk of another budget resolution like the Ryan-Murray deal in December 2013, which provided some sequestration relief, let alone a “grand bargain” involving taxes and entitlements to stave off sequestration once and for all.

“Everyone is still with the happy talk that somehow sequestration is going to go away and they’re somehow going to have a higher number,” Rep. Adam Smith of Washington state, the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, told POLITICO.

Across the Capitol, many, if not most, Democrats and Republicans alike oppose defense sequestration, set up by the 2011 Budget Control Act that raised the debt ceiling. But defense spending has been tied up for years over the larger budget debate about taxes and entitlements that has stymied Congress and President Barack Obama from striking a major budget agreement.

That disconnect is likely to play out once again in this year’s budget proposals. The administration’s budget, to be released Monday, is likely to boost both defense and domestic spending — expected to be paid for in part with tax increases unacceptable to Republicans.

Past Republican budgets have also proposed a higher defense spending topline, but they’ve done so through cuts to domestic agencies and entitlement reforms that are non-starters with Democrats.

Defense hawks, however, say there’s still plenty of time to gin up support for a budget deal that can give the military — and possibly domestic agencies — relief from the budget crunch.

“Endgame? We aren’t even at kickoff yet,” one House GOP aide said when asked about a sequestration fix.

Armed Services members argue that the dynamic in Washington has shifted with the new U.S. war against the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq and the military’s fight against Ebola in Africa, which can convince wayward lawmakers the defense shortfall must be addressed.

And they say that the effects of sequestration will hit the military much harder than it did initially in 2013 because the services have already cut to the bone to grapple with reductions after the end of the war in Iraq and the drawdown in Afghanistan.

Senate Armed Services Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.), who has made repealing sequestration his top committee priority this year, is trying to force his colleagues to listen to the military’s dire warnings. He held a hearing Wednesday with the service chiefs so they could lay out the damage the cuts would cause, from losing capabilities for intelligence-gathering drone flights to more casualties due to a hollow and untrained military force.

“I will say candidly that it is deeply frustrating that a hearing of this kind is still necessary,” McCain said. “And yet, here we go again: If we in Congress do not act, sequestration will return in full in fiscal year 2016, setting our military on a far more dangerous course.”

In past years, the budget battles have pit the Republican House against the Democratic Senate and Obama. This year, though, GOP defense hawks will be squaring off primarily with deficit hawks in their own party.

The Budget Committee chairmen will play a key role, and defense analysts say they don’t know yet how the new chairmen, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) and Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), will tackle defense spending amid a desire to cut the deficit. Both chairmen held hearings on the budget outlook this week, where they talked plenty about balancing the budget and curbing spending. But neither mentioned defense spending or sequestration in his opening statements.

Congressional leaders have also said little about sequestration in outlining their priorities for the new Congress.

“Right now, the signals are not encouraging, and by that I mean lack of signals by Speaker [John] Boehner, Majority Leader [Mitch] McConnell, and chairs and ranking members of the Budget Committees in both chambers,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst at the American Enterprise Institute. “Only when it becomes a crisis, when we are confronting sole sequestration close to the deadline, will there be real movement — if there is movement on a budget deal.”

Asked whether his budget would put Pentagon spending above the sequester cap, Enzi declined to say. “I’m a long way from starting to comment on every item in the budget,” he said.

Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, who has been a vocal Democrat on averting sequestration, said that some informal discussions are underway among members of the Budget and Armed Services committees. And he noted he was one of a half-dozen senators on both committees.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) and other defense hawks say their role is to highlight the dangers of not stopping sequestration, rather than proposing an ultimate solution that involves taxes, spending and entitlements.

But there have been some signs that GOP defense hawks may be more willing to compromise with the president on a budget deal. Thornberry, for instance, did not rule out tax increases as part of a sequestration solution, something his predecessor did not support.

“I’m pretty much open to any solution that would fix sequestration,” Thornberry said in an interview.

And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), McCain’s right-hand man on defense issues, has said repeatedly he’s willing to support new revenues in exchange for entitlement reforms, as well as pursuing a fix addressing both defense and domestic spending.

At Wednesday’s hearing, Graham slammed Obama and Congress, criticizing both sides for creating sequestration and not doing anything about it.

“We don’t have a plan,” Graham said. “But Sen. McCain, to his credit, is challenging some of us on the committee to find a plan. Mr. President, help us, because we can’t do this by ourselves.”

The 2013 budget agreement between the then-Budget Committee chairs, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) proved there can be some appetite for a budget deal, but that agreement only reversed a small chunk of sequestration — and it used up many of the “easy” spending cuts.

“It’s clear that all of the low-hanging fruit has been picked, which means a deal is that much harder,” said Eaglen, a former Senate staffer.

The defense industry, which has vowed to help fight sequestration, is gearing up for a year’s worth of uncertainty with the sequestration cliff looming. And on Wednesday, the investment firm Guggenheim Partners issued a memo to investors warning “there will not be quick resolution” on the defense budget.

“The key wildcard remains whether the GOP Congress and White House can reach an agreement on lifting the FY16 cap on defense,” wrote Guggenheim analyst Roman Schweizer. “This deal may not come together until the very end of the fiscal year.”

Gordon Adams, a defense budget official in the Clinton administration who now teaches at American University, said there was a key fail safe for the Pentagon if sequestration can’t be thwarted: the war budget, which does not count against the caps.

“OCO is a safety valve,” Adams said, referring to the formal name for the war budget, Overseas Contingency Operations.

But war funding could still get hit with an across-the-board cut, according to Todd Harrison, a budget guru at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, because funding for Afghanistan and ISIL operations does not count against the spending caps, Harrison said, but is subject to the across-the-board cuts if Congress breaks the caps, due to a quirk in the 2011 law.



USAF Vice Chief to Scientists: ‘Help Us’

By Aaron Mehta 3:12 p.m. EST January 28, 2015


WASHINGTON — If the US Air Force is going to simultaneously keep ahead of the technology curve while fighting a war, it needs innovative thinking from all corners, the service’s vice chief told scientific advisers on Tuesday.

Speaking at an annual conference of the USAF Scientific Advisory Board, Gen. Larry Spencer implored the group of independent advisers to help the service break out of its traditional mold.

“We need your help to help us break through that, because we are so tied to the way we’ve always done it and we are so encumbered by what ‘we cannot do’ and ‘what won’t work,’ ” Spencer told the audience.

The service is never at a loss for potential new technologies it can exploit. The challenge, Spencer said, is to take those ideas and turn them into something actionable.

“What we need help with, at least from this group is, at some point, we need to leap off the paper into something we can use,” he said. “The dilemma we’re having is balancing the demands of today with the demands we know are in the future, and being able to afford them both at the same time.”

Spencer said it’s worth exploring technology allowing the service to track femtoseconds — tiny fractions of a second that could give more accuracy to a variety of technologies; heads up displays that can be fed into contact lenses; improvements in quantum systems; and ways to cut the hours needed to operate an unmanned system.

He also said the service will put a premium on innovation in its fiscal 2016 budget request, which will be unveiled Monday.

Spencer’s comments came at a kickoff event for this year’s trio of studies being run by the Scientific Advisory Board, a federal advisory committee formed in 1944 to provide an independent voice to the service on technology and science.

The three topics being looked at this year are the use of quantum systems, cyber vulnerabilities in embedded systems on air and space systems, and how to enhance the utility of unmanned vehicles in contested environments.

One major topic of discussion raised by audience members is how the service will keep up with technology growth from near-peer competitors such as China, at a time of tightening budgets.

Spencer acknowledged that balance is difficult, but said the service cannot allow itself to fall behind other nations.

“We should not, in my view, put ourselves in a position where we are reacting. We should have people reacting to us,” Spencer said. “That is obviously more difficult in an environment of shrinking budgets, particularly when your budget is shrinking and your threats are certainly not going down.”

Spencer also argued that the traditional drawdown after a military conflict is not applicable to modern day situations. After World War II, Korea or the Persian Gulf War, hostilities ended, and so a drawdown made sense, Spencer said. In comparison, the conflicts of today are unending.

“People would typically think after Afghanistan or Iraq the budget comes down,” he said. “The problem is, back then we had defeated someone and that adversary’s capability had gone down. The type of war we have been fighting is not against a state actor that we had traditionally fought in the past.

“If anything you can argue our peer competition is on the rise,” Spencer continued. “So how do you take that down after Afghanistan and Iraq, budget reduction, and at the same time stay on top of the curve? And that’s what we’re trying to convince the American people of.”


The FAA should strike the right balance on drone regulation

By Editorial Board January 28 at 6:45 PM


SOME PEOPLE intend to be national security threats. Others are just drunk. In the case of Monday’s drone crash on the southeast corner of the White House grounds, the immediate problem seems to have been an inebriated pilot. But the underlying issue is that the federal government poorly regulates the booming drone industry. The right response is not overreaction but rather tightening rules and procedures in some ways — and loosening them in others.

The White House has seen a handful of eye-raising security breaches in recent years, including one in September in which a man armed with a knife hopped the perimeter fence and ran into the building. In response, security continues to tighten. Among the most visible changes are unsightly waist-high fences around the building. Following the latest breach, the Secret Service says it won’t install golf netting around the White House grounds. That’s good: Washington has already become a city of concrete bollards and security cordons; official buildings shouldn’t be wholly removed from the public.

Federal authorities can and should enhance security against drones and other threats in smarter, less obtrusive ways. Technologies in the pipeline could detect small incoming aircraft. The trick will be intercepting or jamming drones on their way toward the West Wing without harming bystanders.

Rather than shooting errant drones out of the sky, it would be better to ensure that they never get near sensitive areas. At the moment, the Federal Aviation Administration requires that amateur drone pilots keep their devices at least five miles away from airports and below 400 feet. But several recent near-miss episodes between descending jetliners and drones demonstrate that these rules are far from perfectly applied. The responsibility is mostly in operators’ hands. The FAA should look into requiring that safety protocols be written into drone firmware, which would automatically prevent operation in unauthorized airspace, no matter how inebriated operators are.

Until the agency does that, high-profile enforcement in cases of serious rule-breaking might help. The government hasn’t released the name of the man who flew his 2-foot-by-2-foot unmanned aerial vehicle into restricted White House airspace Monday. Whoever he is, he should be punished publicly, showing other amateur drone pilots that responsibly operating their drones isn’t optional.

In other ways, the government should loosen up. The FAA generally doesn’t allow drone flights for commercial purposes even as amateurs take to the sky freely. The agency is developing rules that would allow more commercial drone flying — but might also require commercial operators to carry full pilot’s licenses, which would be another form of regulatory overkill. The aim should be to prevent midair collisions and cordon off restricted airspace. Licensing makes sense, but requiring hours of cockpit time does not. The benefits of using drones in commerce — from delivering packages to dusting crops — are too great to continue repressing the industry. (One potentially interested party is Amazon, whose chief executive is Jeffrey P. Bezos, the owner of The Post.)

Drone use should be safe. At the moment, though, it’s both under- and over-regulated. We hope the latest incident jolts the system into a better balance.



Russian Chirok Strike UAS Prepares for Test Flights

January 30, 2014


The first full-size model of the Chirok (Teal) reconnaissance and strike drone is preparing for test flights. It was introduced last year at the Innoprom Expo on a 1:5 scale in Yekaterinburg. Now the full-size model is ready, sporting a wingspan of 10 meters. The Chirok is getting ready for flight tests, according to reports TASS received from the United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation, which developed the drone.

The official presentation of the full-size Chirok model will be held at MAKS this year. United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation CEO Alexander Yakunin believes serial production of the drone will begin in 2016.

The Chirok is a dual-purpose aircraft, developed by the Moscow Radio Engineering Research Institute. It is designed for monitoring the ground or water surface, and for cargo transport. As expected, the military will be able to use the UAV for reconnaissance and as an unmanned combat aircraft.

The Chirok combines the latest achievements of engineering from different areas: electronics, aerospace, and the chemical industry. The technologies employed allow for building a truly modern aircraft. It is lightweight and durable, and has high performance marks, despite its impressive dimensions. The Chirok has a 10 m wingspan, with a maximum take-off mass not exceeding 700 kg. The device has an all-composite (carbon) body. The membrane of the air cushion is made of super-modern material, which was developed by Russian specialists. The technology behind the production of this material is based on Russian know-how.

The maximum take-off weight of the Chirok is up to 700 kg, and the maximum weight of its payload is up to 300 kg. On board it will be able to use opto-electronic devices for various types of monitoring. The UAV is also capable of carrying precision-guided weapons. It can also ascend to a height of 6,000 meters, with a range of up to 2,500 km. Currently, UIMC experts are working on further improvements for the technical specifications of the Chirok UAV.

Another feature of the design is that the arms can be positioned within the aircraft’s housing. For previous models, arms were mounted on the external suspension. Such a solution reduces the visibility of the UAV and improves its aerodynamic properties.


“This type of machine is designed for use in harsh environments: in regions where there are no runways. The machine will help to solve this problem across a large swath of our great country,” said Yakunin. “Our project will be offered to customers on both civil and military markets. I think it will generate a lot of interest in the energy sector and with the Ministry of Defense,” said Yakunin.

The United Instrument Manufacturing Corporation, a Russian state-backed corporation, was created in 2014, as part of the Rostec state-backed corporation, to develop the high-tech manufacturing of competitive products in the field of technology and communications systems, automated control systems, and electronic security and robotic systems for the Russian Armed Forces and other special groups, as well as competitive products for civil and dual-purpose. It brings together 55 enterprises and research institutions in the Russian electronic industry.

Source: Kalasihnikov Group



Dutch Interceptor Project Combats Unlawful UAV Use

Januray 30, 2014


European UAV manufacturer Aerialtronics has been working with the Dutch National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR) to develop the Interceptor, a system aimed at protecting the public from potential threats resulting from the unlawful use of unmanned aerial vehicles.

The move comes as the government recognises that inexpensive remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS), more commonly referred to as drones, can be misused by rogue operators to threaten public order and perform a host of illegal activities such as smuggling. Only this week, a small consumer drone crashed into a tree on the South Lawn as it flew undetected into the grounds of the White House in Washington, USA. This incident could have had catastrophic consequences, raising questions about whether small UAS can be effectively detected and brought down in case of risk.

To combat this, the Dutch National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism — NCTb (Nationaal Coördinator Terrorismebestrijding) — in cooperation with the police, has started the Interceptor development programme and invited companies to submit proposals. The Interceptor system — intelligent and efficient RPAS concept and product against unwanted RPAS — will use drones to perform the interceptor role against other drones creating a potential hazard for public security.


The system will be equipped with means to:

◾Pursue a menacing drone;

◾Bring it to the ground in a controlled way;

◾Render it harmless (while still in the air).


The Interceptor system is likely to be deployed as a mobile as well as fixed system. The mobile deployment is an essential move, given the current market development in the drones sector.


Thanks to the built-in scalability of its countermeasures, the Interceptor will be able to tailor its response according to the situation and threat levels. The first phase of this project will consist of a feasibility study aimed at drafting the requirements and characteristics of the desired system.


About Aerialtronics

Aerialtronics is an international manufacturer of state of the art, high quality unmanned aircraft systems for civilian purposes. The company provides full aerial data solutions to a variety of applications worldwide. Aerialtronics’ systems are designed and developed in-house according to aviation grade quality standards.



FCC seeks broadband speeds with wow factor; telecom firms say, ‘Whoa’

FCC seeks broadband speeds with wow factor; telecom firms say, ‘Whoa’

David Lazarus

Los Angeles Times

January 29, 2015, 3:21 PM

Broadband Internet in this country just got a whole lot faster..

Actually the definition of broadband Internet just got faster — and the cable and phone industries are none too pleased about it.

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to change the standard for U.S. broadband to a download speed of 25 megabits a second, more than six times zippier than the old standard of 4 megabits.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in calling for the change this month, said raising America’s broadband bar is “table stakes” for playing in a 21st century global digital economy.

The U.S. currently ranks 14th worldwide for broadband speed, according to the networking company Akamai Technologies. The average speed here is 11.4 megs a second.

South Korea is way out in front, with an average broadband speed of 24.6 megs a second. The rest of the top 10: Hong Kong, Switzerland, Japan, the Netherlands, Sweden, Latvia, Ireland, the Czech Republic and Romania.

Yeah, Romania.

The previous U.S. broadband standard of 4 megabits a second wasn’t exactly lightning-fast when you consider that some South Korean Internet users are on the verge of receiving a speed of 10 gigabits a second, or enough digital muscle to download a high-definition movie in seven seconds.

With a 4-meg connection, U.S. Internet users would have to wait hours to download the same film.

You’d think the American telecom industry would be cool with meeting higher broadband expectations. We invented the Internet, after all. The rest of the world should be eating our digital dust.

But guess what? The cable and phone industries think a faster broadband standard is unnecessary and impractical.

We just don’t need that much speed, they argue.

The National Cable & Telecommunications Assn. filed an opinion with the FCC last week declaring that the calls for a 25-megabit standard “dramatically exaggerate the amount of bandwidth needed by the typical broadband user.”

“Some are suggesting that NCTA is against this definitional change because the cable industry doesn’t want to deliver consumers faster speeds or improved infrastructure,” the group said in a related blog post. “This is laughable.”

Telecom companies are already offering speeds well above 25 megs a second, it said. AT&T and Verizon Communications made similar arguments in their own recent FCC filings.

So what’s the problem?

It’s this: Federal law requires that the FCC make sure broadband is being deployed nationwide in a reasonable and timely fashion. If the definition of broadband is changed, many current — read: slower — services would no longer qualify.

That would empower the FCC to exert pressure on telecom companies to step up their game.

And these guys would rather spend millions of dollars lobbying regulators and lawmakers than spending money to keep pace with the rest of the developed world in meeting demand for faster broadband.

Thursday’s FCC vote was 3 to 2, with the panel’s two conservative commissioners siding with telecom companies.

Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai said that 70 million households could buy faster Internet speeds if they wanted, but “choose not to.”

Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, a libertarian-leaning think tank, said the FCC’s action represented “a new low in cynical, elitist politics,” paving the way for “a reckless, ideologically driven regulatory agenda.”

But Kate Forscey, an Internet rights fellow with the advocacy group Public Knowledge, said it’s bizarre that cable and phone companies would even defend a broadband standard of 4 megs a second.

“Those same companies spend an awful lot of time every single day telling consumers that the kind of speeds they want and need far surpass” this level, she said.

Time Warner Cable, for example, tells Los Angeles customers that its 50-megabit-a-second service is “ideal for downloading music, streaming videos and more.”

Its 3-megabit service, the closest Time Warner plan to a 4-megabit broadband standard, is “a good choice for checking email and doing a light amount of web surfing.”

Golly, doesn’t that sound like fun?

The FCC’s broadband vote followed a crackdown this week on businesses blocking people’s personal Wi-Fi hot spots.

The Marriott hotel chain caught regulators’ attention after announcing it would jam people’s wireless devices and prevent them from syncing a laptop or tablet to a cellphone’s Internet connection — though the hotel would be happy to provide its own Internet access for a price.

“Consumers must get what they pay for,” Wheeler declared. “Protecting consumers from this kind of interference is a priority area for the FCC Enforcement Bureau.”

That raises some interesting questions. If making sure consumers get what they pay for is a “priority area” for federal regulators, does that mean officials will play a more active role in net neutrality issues, ensuring that no Internet content receives special treatment from network providers?

Does it also work the other way, with the FCC protecting consumers from having to pay for things they don’t want, such as pay-TV packages with hundreds of unwatched channels?

Clearly the FCC believes U.S. consumers deserve a higher standard of Internet service. Phone and cable companies should embrace that challenge, rather than whine about regulatory kibitzing.

It’s all about giving consumers what they pay for. We’re paying for a top-quality online experience.

Is the telecom industry really saying that’s too much for it to deliver?



North Carolina Not Waiting on FAA to Explore Commercial Drone Use

The state-funded NextGen Air Transportation office at N.C. State University plans to apply for special FAA permission to start drone experiments for the state Department of Transportation.

by Jay Price, The News & Observer / January 29, 2015 0


(TNS) — The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to issue long-awaited draft regulations for operating small commercial drones this year, something that’s expected to open the skies to a multibillion-dollar industry.

President Barack Obama called for drone regulations this week after one landed, apparently by accident, on the White House lawn.

But with experts saying new rules for civilian use are still probably months or even years away, North Carolina’s nascent drone industry and state government agencies that are eager to use the aircraft aren’t waiting.

In coming days, the state-funded NextGen Air Transportation office at N.C. State University plans to apply for special FAA permission to start drone experiments for the state Department of Transportation.

Meanwhile, one of the state’s largest drone companies, Raleigh-based PrecisionHawk, is expecting its own FAA exemption in the next few weeks so that it can begin commercial operations across the United States.

NGAT, which has been investigating various aspects of drone use at several sites around the state, will demonstrate its newest aircraft Thursday for state officials and members of the media at an N.C. State University farm off Lake Wheeler Road. That particular aircraft is mainly aimed at agricultural use, said the office’s director, Kyle Snyder.

By late spring, NGAT expects to receive the aircraft it will use for the DOT experiments, Snyder said.

The highway department is keen to evaluate several jobs it thinks drones could do well, said Bobby Walston, aviation director for DOT. Among those are investigating routes for new roads and inspecting bridges, construction sites and rock slides.

Other state agencies will be keeping a close eye on the work, too, Snyder said, including the Division of Emergency Management, which could use drones for evaluating damage in disasters and for search and rescue.

A bigger question is probably which state agency, if any, would not have a proper use for a drone, said state Rep. John Torbett, a Gaston County Republican who helped craft a state drone law approved last year that addressed privacy issues among other things.

“We can all understand the potential for law enforcement, and we could really save taxpayer dollars with bridge inspection,” said Torbett, who will attend the demonstration flight Thursday. “I doubt that there is a state agency – except maybe treasurer – that won’t have an opportunity to apply the technology and do it in a very cost-effective way.”


Given that it’s impossible to even guess at the range of applications for drones, the economic potential they represent here, both for drone users and companies that are involved in creating them, is unknowable but huge, Torbett said.

PrecisionHawk is already doing business in Canada, Great Britain, Australia and Latin America. It’s beginning to do more work on applications across a range of industries, including oil and gas, insurance, geology and mining and search and rescue, but its main focus has been agriculture.

PrecisionHawk sells its basic aircraft for about $16,000, but it essentially considers itself a data company, said spokeswoman Lia Reich.

That’s probably not surprising, given that the company has close ties to more traditional tech outfits. PrecisionHawk got a $10 million influx of cash this fall from a group of investors that included Bob Young, co-founder of the Red Hat software company, who sits on its board of directors.

The drone – which has a fuselage crafted from circuit boards rather than aerospace material – uploads the data it gathers to the cloud, where software developed by PrecisionHawk analyzes it and delivers the results to, say, a farmer’s laptop.

The buzzphrase is “precision agriculture.” Depending on which sensors a drone is configured with, the data it picks up when flying slowly over the farm can determine things such as how much nitrogen should be added to which part of a field or where weeds or disease are popping up, Reich said.

By helping farmers apply only as much nitrogen as a field needs, PrecisionHawk not only saves them money but helps reduce nitrogen runoff into streams and waterways.

Data from the drone also can help boost crop productivity. Just how much is something the company plans to gather more data on this year while working on several North Carolina farms in partnership with NGAT, Reich said.



Will Our Smart Gadgets Become Trusted or Oppressive Companions?

As we turn more of our decision-making over to devices, experts say, our reliance on these interconnected tools will far surpass today’s dependence on smartphones.

by Steve Johnson, San Jose Mercury News / January 28, 2015 0


(TNS) — Like legions of hyperactive butlers, many of the brainy gadgets being developed for the Internet of Things will anticipate our needs and make choices for us — without being told what to do — marking a momentous transformation in our relationship with machines.

As we turn more of our decision-making over to the devices, they will evolve into our personal confidants and counselors, determining everything from the time we wake up and clothes we wear to the music we listen to and route we take to work. In the process, experts say, our reliance on these interconnected tools will far surpass today’s dependence on smartphones.





These autonomous assistants are widely expected to help us stay healthier, take better care of our loved ones, live more comfortably, become more environmentally responsible, and boost our productivity by freeing us from an endless array of mundane, everyday tasks so we can concentrate on the most important ones.

But social scientists and others worry these computerized devices might make decisions that are seriously flawed or that we otherwise dislike, leaving us feeling less in control of our lives. More troublingly, their ceaseless surveillance could result in an excessively conformist society, some experts fear — especially with government and other entities exploring the use of these intelligent machines to identify and deter “abnormal behavior.”

“When we’re not being tracked, we’re more free to experiment, to be our authentic selves, to read new things, to be different kinds of people,” said Neil Richards, a law professor and privacy specialist at Washington University in St. Louis. But such omnipresent monitoring, he believes, “menaces our society’s foundational commitments to intellectual diversity and eccentric individuality.”

Stanford University researchers believe society may be profoundly impacted by Internet-of-Things machines endowed with “artificial intelligence,” generally defined as humanlike capabilities. So in December they began a centurylong study of the technology — with findings to be published every five years — in part to assess the implications “of systems that can make inferences about the goals, intentions, identity, location, health, beliefs, preferences, habits, weaknesses, and future actions and activities of people.”


Understanding such effects is crucial, experts say, because the technology is rapidly being adopted. About 13 percent of consumers already have outfitted their homes with a smart thermostat, security camera or other device, according to an Internet-of-Things study in August by consulting firm Accenture. Within five years, it added, that figure will likely hit 69 percent.

Instead of just doing what we command, many of the devices are being empowered with sophisticated software and microelectronics to act on their own initiative as our personal advisers.

Seattle’s Pith makes a smart furniture fabric called BackTracker, which the company says “nags” people to correct the way they sit if their poor posture might cause them back pain. A computerized fork from Hapilabs in Hong Kong admonishes users with lights and vibrations when they eat too fast. And Atlanta-based Monsieur claims its “intelligent bartender” not only remembers which alcoholic drinks its owner prefers, but “knows when you’ve had a long day at work and offers a double instead of a single.”

That’s just for starters, according to this prediction from Santa Clara chipmaker Intel about the technology that’s coming:

“Your bed knows when you wake up. It tells the radio to switch on so you can listen to the traffic and weather report or music it knows you enjoy. It tells the coffee machine to make a fresh pot. When you prepare for the day, your toothbrush notifies you that it’s time to see the dentist and it schedules an appointment based on your availability. Your shower adjusts its temperature based on your preference and when you go to the bathroom mirror, it reminds you to take your vitamins. As you get dressed, your closet mirror helps you choose an outfit based on the weather and what activities you have planned. As you leave the house, a display on the way lets you know you forgot your wallet.”


Mary Czerwinski, a Microsoft research manager and cognitive psychologist, said it’s conceivable some machines might function for their owners as a kind of psychotherapist, noting that people will get so close to their devices, they’ll think, “What would I ever do without this?” not unlike the relationship depicted in the movie “Her.”

To heighten such emotional attachments, some consumer robots are being given lifelike human features, and researchers at the University of Hertfordshire, in England, are developing versions “capable of expressing anger, fear, sadness, happiness, excitement and pride.”

Yet machines making decisions for people stirs mixed emotions.

Consider the self-driving cars being developed by Google and many automakers. Of more than 15,000 vehicle owners surveyed this year by market researcher J.D. Power, only about 1 in 4 expressed interest in having their next car chauffeur them about. Among those looking forward to that is 61-year-old Deryl Stanley, vice president of a club whose members customize classic cars.

“One day I’ll be 90 years old and need to go to the doctor, pick up some groceries and drop off some laundry,” he said. “It sure would be nice to go out to the garage, punch in where I want to go, and let it take me there.” Besides, he added, the autonomous vehicles “could virtually eliminate all the problems associated with driving under the influence.”

But fellow club member Joe Wilder, a 72-year-old retired drug-company salesman who has lovingly restored a 1956 Crown Victoria, is less enthusiastic.

“Self-driving cars may be safer, but I don’t think the drive will be as enjoyable as when I have the ability to speed up, slow down, wander here and there, and feel the car in my control,” he said. “Technology has taken a lot of living life away from us.”

One concern that could influence how we feel about the Internet of Things is that the technology might prove prone to malfunctions, as some experts fear.

That might not be a big problem if a smart refrigerator gets confused and orders too much milk, said Jörg Denzinger, a University of Calgary computer science professor. But in a computerized transportation system, where cars automatically relay braking alerts to each other in emergencies, a glitch could cause multiple crashes, he said, adding that designers of the technology “need to be careful.”

Although experts say smart devices generally won’t make decisions for people without at least initially seeking their consent, anybody hoping to approve every action their gadgets take would quickly suffer what researchers call “consent fatigue.” As a result, it’s widely expected that people will give their devices the power to act independently much, if not most, of the time.

However, that could produce an unhealthy “techno-dependency” in people, resulting in them losing self-reliance and suffering “a lack of depth and breadth of understanding about how the world works,” according to a Microsoft forecast on the impact of smart devices in coming years. “If we are not careful, undermining these values may make the world of 2020 a much less rewarding world to live in.”

Others worry that human and machine goals may conflict, particularly if individual and societal interests clash.

You may want your smart car to drive the quickest route, but for environmental reasons it might be programmed to choose slower roads that minimize fuel consumption, Israeli researchers have speculated. And if you’re hospitalized with an illness, they added, it’s conceivable your doctor’s smart software might oppose giving you an effective new antibiotic, to limit the general population’s risk of becoming resistant to the drug.

Such clashes could “get creepy” — and perhaps insulting — noted Martin Reynolds, a fellow with the research firm Gartner, who speculated during an Internet-of-Things conference that you might be dying for Kentucky Fried Chicken one day, but your smart car — knowing you’re overweight — “directs you to someplace to get a salad.”

Having your consumer gadgets scrutinize and record everything you do also could get disconcerting.

To test that, researchers at the Helsinki Institute for Information Technology installed video cameras, microphones and other monitoring gear in 10 Finnish households in what was billed as a groundbreaking study, despite its limited size, to learn how devices might affect people. While most of the subjects got used to being incessantly observed, some grew so annoyed they hid their activities by blocking the cameras’ view or turning them off.

For some of the subjects, “the surveillance system proved to be a cause of annoyance, concern, anxiety and even rage,” the study concluded, noting that the snoopy gadgets deprived the participants “of the solitude and isolation they expected at home.”

Aside from worrying about who will see the personal information these gadgets gather on their users and spew across the Internet, privacy advocates fear the technology might turn everyone into timid sheep.

Because the data smart devices gather will likely result in the government and others creating profiles on everyone, “behaving normal will eventually become the ultimate practice in the Internet of Things,” warns Paul De Hert, a criminal law expert at the Institute for European Studies in Brussels.


“It limits creativity, it inhibits individuality, social change, progress,” added Bruce Schneier, a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society. “You get conformity and stagnation. These are really big issues.”

Heightening that concern, government officials in the U.S., Europe and elsewhere are studying the use of smart video-surveillance systems to spot “abnormal behavior.”

One example is BRS Labs’ “behavior recognition system” that Amtrak has deployed in some of its Bay Area train stations and that San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency plans to use. After several weeks of videotaping a location, BRS Labs’ technology learns to recognize usual patterns of activity and alerts its human operators if it spots anything out of the ordinary, said the company’s chief scientist, Wesley Cobb, adding, “this is stuff that 10 years ago everybody would have said, ‘Nah, that’s science fiction.’ ”

Two European Internet-of-Things technologists have even proposed sending people warnings through their smart devices if the gadgets detect “behavior violating regulations of a society.” Moreover, “to prevent antisocial behavior from re-occurring,” they suggest “automatic publication of such incidents on the web,” a strategy they term “name-and-shame.”

Many experts believe the benefits of the Internet of Things will far outweigh any problems it causes. Besides, Elizabeth Charnock, CEO of Half Moon Bay software company Chenope, said it’s common for new innovations to trigger temporary hand-wringing.

“People start off screaming about privacy,” she said, and then “people just stop thinking about it.”


DARPA to leverage open architectures, enabling UAS to fly as collaborative units

John McHale, Editorial Director, OpenSystems Media



DARPA officials announced that the agency’s Collaborative Operations in Denied Environment (CODE) program is offering the opportunity to participate in discussions to enable development of “groundbreaking” software that will allow unmanned aircraft to work together with minimal supervision.

According to a DARPA release most current ISR systems for unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) require constant control by a dedicated pilot and sensor operator plus a large number of analysts, all via telemetry. These control requirements severely constrain the scalability and cost-effectiveness of UAS operations and create operational challenges in dynamic, long-distance encounters with highly mobile targets in contested electromagnetic environments. (Photo courtesy of DARPA)

This DARPA program looks to overcome these challenges by designing algorithms and software that can extend the mission capabilities of existing unmanned aircraft well past the current state-of-the-art, with the goal of improving U.S. military ability to conduct operations in denied or contested airspace. CODE researchers are seeking to create a modular software architecture that will be resilient to bandwidth limitations and communications disruptions, while compatible with existing standards and capable of affordable retrofit into existing platforms.

DARPA officials released a Special Notice ( inviting any interested parties to identify their interest in participation in select Phase 1 CODE meetings. DARPA is particularly interested in participants that have capabilities, methodologies, and approaches related to CODE research and focused on revolutionary approaches to UASs, autonomy, and collaborative operations. Responses to the Special Notice will then be used to select the participants and should not contain intellectual, confidential, proprietary, or other privileged information.

Two meetings are planned at the moment — an Open Architecture Meeting and a Technology Interchange Meeting. The Open Architecture Meeting will cover the requirements and approaches for making the CODE open architecture compatible with communication-constrained, distributed, highly autonomous collaborative systems. During the Technology Interchange Meeting, invited participants will present technologies that have potential for incorporation into the demonstration planned for Phases 2 and 3 of the program and ensure that CODE leverages the best available technologies from all possible sources.

The meetings are scheduled for the first week of March in the Arlington, Va., area. To be considered for attendance to the meetings, interested parties can submit a one-page response to DARPA by 4:00 PM Eastern Time on February 4, 2015. More information can be found at . All technical and administrative correspondence, including one-page responses and questions regarding this announcement, should be sent to

CODE focuses on developing and demonstrating enhancements in collaborative autonomy: the capability for groups of UASs to work together under a single human commander’s supervision. The unmanned vehicles would then continuously evaluate themselves and their environment to present recommendations for UAV team actions to the mission supervisor who would approve, disapprove, or direct the team to collect more data. Using collaborative autonomy, CODE-enabled unmanned aircraft could find targets and engage them as appropriate under established rules of engagement, leverage nearby CODE-equipped systems with little supervision, and then adapt to dynamic situations such as attrition of friendly forces or the emergence of unanticipated threats.

CODE’s improvements would essentially enable UAS control systems to go from multiple human operators for each UAS to one person who is able to command and control six or more unmanned vehicles simultaneously.


“Just as wolves hunt in coordinated packs with minimal communication, multiple CODE-enabled unmanned aircraft would collaborate to find, track, identify and engage targets, all under the command of a single human mission supervisor,” says Jean-Charles Ledé, DARPA program manager. “Further, CODE aims to decrease the reliance of these systems on high-bandwidth communication and deep crew bench while expanding the potential spectrum of missions through combinations of assets—all at lower overall costs of operation. These capabilities would greatly enhance survivability and effectiveness of existing air platforms in denied environments.”



The FCC has set a new, faster definition for broadband

By Brian Fung January 29 at 1:12 PM 


Federal regulators have set a new definition for broadband that establishes 25 megabits per second as the baseline for high-speed downloads, up from 4 Mbps previously.

With this standard, the Federal Communications Commission will be able to argue for much stronger action on Internet providers — a point that’s rankling Republicans on the commission as the agency moves to promote the adoption of fast, cheap and reliable Internet in America.

It’s a simple accounting change that will have major ramifications. As a result of the decision — which also sets the minimum speed for uploads at 3 Mbps — millions of people who subscribe to slower plans will effectively lose their broadband status. Combine those with the substantial share of Americans who have never had broadband, and as many as 17 percent of America, or 55 million people, will lack access to high-speed broadband under the new measure, according to the FCC.

Conservatives are decrying the move as a case of government overreach, calling the 25/3 Mbps standard an “arbitrary” threshold and arguing that most consumers seem to think the old one — 10 Mbps down, 1 Mbps up — works just fine.

“Seventy-one percent of consumers who can purchase fixed 25 Mbps service — over 70 million households — choose not to,” said Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai.

For an agency whose mission is to remove barriers to broadband, the FCC is its own worst enemy, Pai added, saying the FCC is intentionally finding that the industry has failed just so that it can “regulate it back to health.”

But Democrats on the commission say the new standard establishes a forward-looking, aspirational target. Those who lack access to speeds that are “table stakes” for the rest of the country don’t deserve to be left behind, they argue. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pointed out that subscriptions to 25/3 service have quadrupled in the last three years. And Wheeler said that Internet providers’ claims that there isn’t enough demand for 25 Mbps broadband isn’t borne out by their marketing campaigns, which treat customers like voracious data consumers.

“Someone is telling us one thing and telling consumers another,” Wheeler said. “Our challenge is not to hide behind self-serving lobbying statements, but to recognize reality. And our challenge is to help make that reality available to all.”

As the FCC prepares to intervene next month against state laws that make it harder for cities to build their own, public alternatives to traditional Internet providers — and as it plans to release its latest draft rules to prevent discrimination against Internet traffic — the standard for broadband will become a key political tool in defending the FCC’s actions. So will the underlying law that recognizes the FCC’s authority to promote broadband, Section 706 of the Communications Act. A Republican-backed bill in Congress is already seeking to strip the FCC of that power.


Ramussen Reports

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

Bottom of Form

Saturday, January 31, 2015


A more optimistic America plans to take a Super Bowl break tomorrow, but why isn’t President Obama getting more credit for our improving national disposition?

We’ll tell you tomorrow morning whether Super Bowl fans think the New England Patriots or the Seattle Seahawks will come out on top. One thing’s already certain, though: Americans aren’t buying the Patriots’ story in the “Deflategate” controversy.  

The Super Bowl may be the biggest sporting event of the year, but a sizable number of viewers are more interested in the big budget commercials and the halftime show by pop star Katy Perry.

Going into the Super Bowl weekend, Mitt Romney was the big newsmaker with his announcement that he is not running for president again. In announcing his decision, Romney said he hoped Republicans would pick a fresh face to be their 2016 presidential nominee, and GOP voters strongly agree with him. 

Romney knew, too, that a big potential problem for his candidacy is that Republican voters are a pretty conservative bunch. Democratic voters have their complaints with Washington, D.C., but they remain more content with their party’s political representation than GOP voters are.

The best-known fresh face among Democrats is Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, but Hillary Clinton trounces her in a head-to-head matchup for their party’s 2016 presidential nomination.
The race to be the next Democratic nominee is still Clinton’s to lose.

Consumer and investor confidence remain at or near their highest levels in several years, and now 35% of voters think the country is heading in the right direction. That may not sound great, but it’s the highest level of optimism in nearly two years.

Homeowners are more confident than they have been since the housing bubble burst that their homes will be worth more in one year and in five years’ time

More than half of voters believe the country can end its toxic dependence on foreign oil as prices at the pump continue to trend down.

The president’s daily job approval ratings  rose to their highest levels in nearly two years just after his State of the Union address last week but have since settled back. Yes, the president’s daily ratings have improved slightly since Election Day, but unchanged are the mediocre marks he earns for his handling of economic and national security issues.

Democrats have a three-point lead over Republicans on the latest Generic Congressional Ballot. It will be interesting to see whether the Generic Ballot and right direction findings signal a trend or just spiked temporarily after the State of the Union speech like Obama’s job approval.

The president’s poor national security marks are perhaps no surprise given that belief the United States is winning the War on Terror has fallen to yet another low.

Voters also think the president is getting more confrontational with his political opponents, despite the belief by 82% that it is more important for Obama and the Republican-led Congress to work together than to stand for what they believe in.

Voters are ever-so-slightly happier with the new Congress, although that’s not saying much.

Speaking of confrontational, most voters don’t want Loretta Lynch to be like the person the president has nominated her to replace, Attorney General Eric Holder.

In other surveys last week:

Americans support women in the pulpit and in senior leadership positions within the church. But they are more hesitant when it comes to supporting openly gay and lesbian religious leaders.

— As Kentucky, Illinois and several other states consider adopting right-to-work laws, voters aren’t as convinced that such laws which ban compulsory union dues have a positive impact on state economies. However, those who currently live in right-to-work states paint a rosier picture.

Few voters think Saudi Arabia will become a more liberated society following the passing of King Abdullah and the quick succession of his half-brother, King Salman.

— Is lifting the trade embargo on Cuba long overdue? What does America think?

— Americans don’t feel as strongly as they used to that movies send a bad social message, especially when it comes to violence.

Americans are eating out more but still enjoying it less than a good meal at home. Half of Americans say they rarely eat fast food, but for those who do, it’s not necessarily because they like it.

Subscribers to Rasmussen Reports receive more than 20 exclusive stories each week for less than a dollar a week. Please sign up now. Visit the Rasmussen Reports home page for the latest current polling coverage of events in the news. The page is updated several times each day.

Remember, if it’s in the news, it’s in our polls.


January 24 2015

24 January 2015


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Shrouded in Mystery, New Bomber Makes Waves

By Aaron Mehta 4:14 p.m. EST January 18, 2015


WASHINGTON — In late spring or early summer, the US Air Force will decide who will build its next-generation bomber. Yet, despite all the hype and public interest, the program remains shrouded in mystery.

The Long Range Strike-Bomber (LRS-B) program is stealthy, literally and figuratively. Few details are actually known about the bomber’s capabilities or design. But the program’s impact is already being widely felt throughout the Pentagon and its industry partners.

The half a dozen analysts and experts interviewed by Defense News for this piece all agree on one thing: the LRS-B has the chance to shape American military aerospace for the next 20 years. Whichever competitor wins will reap a windfall of development money; the loser could find itself out of the military attack airframe business entirely.

And while the program appears to be on track, Congress is waiting in the wings for any sign of cost overrun or technological problems.

“This is crunch time,” said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the Teal Group. “It’s the biggest single outstanding DoD competition by a very wide margin. That makes it important in and of itself.”


Known Unknowns

The program is targeting a production line of 80-100 planes. It will replace the fleet of B-52 and B-1 bombers. It will be stealthy, capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and optional manning has been discussed. A down-selection will be made this spring or early summer, with initial operating capability planned for the mid-2020s. Nuclear certification will follow two years after that.

The target price, set by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, is $550 million a copy. To keep the price down, the Air Force is looking to use mature technologies that are available now, rather than launching new developments. At the same time, the program will have an open architecture approach for future technologies.

Unless there is a secret competitor still unknown — highly unlikely, but like many things with the program, impossible to rule out — there are two teams are bidding for the contract. One is Northrop Grumman, which developed the B-2 stealth bomber. The other is a team of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Together, those companies represent three of the top five defense firms in the nation.

Breaking down the rest of the program is a master class in the classic “known unknowns” phrase coined by Donald Rumsfeld. What equipment will it carry? Will it be in a flying wing shape? What is more important, stealth or speed? Will the planes, like the B-2, be so classified that they cannot be stationed abroad? If so, does that affect the range vs. payload tradeoff?

A source with knowledge of the program said the Air Force is likely looking at something smaller than a B-2, perhaps as small as half the size, with two engines similar in size to the F135 engines that power the F-35, so enhancement programs can also be applied to the bomber.

“They should go bigger [in terms of airframe], but Gates threw that $500 million figure out there without thinking through the overall effect and requirement,” the source said.

Retired Lt. Gen. David Deptula, former deputy chief of staff for ISR, agreed that the focus on the $550 million figure may end up hurting the bomber’s capabilities by driving the discussion from what the plane does to what can keep the price down.

“One of the biggest concerns is that this is going to turn into a cost shootout, and whomever can produce a ‘technically acceptable’ airplane at the lowest cost will be the winner, without any judgment or look at the ability for growth, the ability to connect to new technologies,” he said. “That is a big concern amongst folks out there who are involved in this evolution.”

And then there are the theories that the bomber is further along in its development cycle than it appears. Last year, J.J. Gertler, an analyst with the Congressional Research Service penned a memo noting that the bomber’s budget profile looks more like a production than a research and development program, hinting that much of the technological development and testing has already occurred behind the scenes.

One analyst noted that some of that work could be based on technologies developed for the previous bomber recapitalization, which was canceled in 2009.

Mark Gunzinger, a retired Air Force official and senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, argued that the mystery around the jet isn’t a bad thing.

“We don’t know performance specifics in terms of range, payload, low observability, what weapons, what missions, radar capabilities — all these specific performance details,” he said. “Nor should we. Those should not be announced publicly. It is a black program and those kind of details now would do nothing but give our potential enemies more time to develop countermeasures.”


Industrial Impact

One of the larger unknowns is how much weight the Air Force — or higher ups at the Pentagon — is putting on industrial base impact. The answer to that question could seriously affect on which of the Boeing/Lockheed or Northrop teams win.

Deptula said industrial base considerations “absolutely” need to be part of the calculus.

“It has been a factor in other segments of our defense architecture, and one could make the case that in the aerospace industry, it is perhaps even more important than in the shipbuilding industry,” he said.

Asked about that topic on Jan. 14, William LaPlante, the civilian acquisition head for the service, indicated that while industrial base concerns are something the Pentagon is aware of in a broad sense, that is not specifically one of the criteria for the bomber program.

“There is a bigger picture of just making sure we understand when will [different programs] have a downselect, what will come out of that — it’s almost like a game theory thing to understand the implications,” LaPlante said. “It’s at the strategic level. Occasionally you might put it into a single competition. I don’t think that’s the case on the LRS-B.”

The stakes are high for all three companies, Aboulafia said. After this contract, the next attack airplane will be a new fighter in the 2030s, and then a follow-on bomber sometime after that.

If Northrop loses, the chances of it still having the infrastructure to compete for a jet 15 years from now, or on a bomber longer out, seem slim. Losing the contract now would essentially end that part of their business.

Boeing, too, is coming to the end of its time as an attack aircraft manufacturer, despite the company’s best efforts to keep the F/A-18 Super Hornet line humming. While the KC-46A tanker remains a Boeing program, it, and many other products from the company, are commercial derivatives rather than a brand new design.

Awarding Northrop the bomber would spread out the US Air Force’s three top recapitalization priorities among three companies. On the flip side, giving the contract to the Lockheed/Boeing team would mean that Lockheed Martin, the producer of the F-35, essentially has full control over Air Force combat aviation production.

Analysts are divided as to who would be favored if the industrial base is a high priority. On the one hand, an industrial base angle should benefit Northrop, as it would spread the major programs among competitors.

“If you want Northrop to stay in the game as a prime, and you don’t want to see the entire combat air forces at Lockheed, you have to go with Northrop,” noted the first source familiar with the program.

Aboulafia, however, questions whether there is truly enough work available to spread among the three firms.

“That presupposes the Pentagon has this illusion that there can be three military airframers, and that’s living in a fantasy land,” he said, adding that strengthening the two military primes in Boeing and Lockheed would be “appealing” to DoD.

Aboulafia also points out that the contract could have major implications for one long rumored transaction among aerospace analysts — the potential sale of Northrop’s aerospace group to Boeing.

“If Northrop loses, it could tip things to being bought by Boeing because it would not have a new airframe to build,” Aboulafia said. “If Northrop wins, it could make them a more attractive target, and do the same.”

Once the primes are settled, the subcontractor battle is likely to be just as fierce, Aboulafia noted.

Spokespeople for both teams expressed confidence that they were offering the better option to the Air Force.

Another thing to keep an eye on is the fight over the engine. If F135-maker Pratt & Whitney wins that competition, it would give it a stranglehold on the US military engine market. Whether the Pentagon be OK with that, or look to award a contract to General Electric instead, is another known unknown.


Challenges Ahead?

Right now, the program is humming along, with strong support from inside the Pentagon.

Last week, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel threw his weight behind the new bomber in a speech at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

“I think the Long-Range Strike Bomber is absolutely essential for keeping our deterrent edge,” Hagel said. “We need to do it. We need to make the investments. We’ll have it in the budget. It’s something I have particularly put a priority on.”

That commitment was echoed by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James at a Jan. 14 speech.


“When we roll out the FY16 budget, the budget line will be similar to what you saw in ’15 projected into ’16,” James said. “We’re on track for our competition, it remains a top priority and it is truly the future of our bomber force.”

But some foresee challenges ahead as the bomber moves from a black, hypothetical program to one actually bending metal — and one that can become a high profile target for government spending watchdogs and the nonproliferation community.

“As the F-35 gets spun up, LRS-B will become a new target, especially with the arms control people,” said the source with knowledge of the program. “This a big airplane, and it will cost a lot.”

Several experts agreed that the larger threat to the program comes from internal budgetary pressures, as the bomber will be competing not just with other service priorities, but with programs like the Navy’s Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine replacement, something Rebecca Grant of ISIS Research says the Navy is positioning as a “national asset” on Capitol Hill.

“The black program status makes it harder in my opinion to build support for the bomber,” Grant said. “With new [Senate Armed Services Committee] leadership, the program will come under additional scrutiny as the first big budget wedges appear this year and beyond. So the USAF had best have its act together on why the bomber they pick is the right bomber now, in the hands of the right manufacturer.”

Congress could also interfere with the program in another way. The loser could protest the award, which could set up not only a battle at the Government Accountability Office, but a public relations fight. High profile contract protests often result in each company tapping its preferred congressmen to lobby on its behalf.

According to public data analyzed by the non-profit, Lockheed ($4 million), Northrop ($3.9 million) and Boeing ($3.1 million) were the top three contributors to congressional campaigns and affiliated political action committees from the defense sector in 2013-2014. All three companies also rank in the top 25 of US companies in terms of dollars spent on lobbying.

Drawing a direct line from dollars spent on campaigns and lobbying and results for certain programs is always a bit risky, especially given the breadth of each company’s portfolio. After all, Boeing and Lockheed traditionally work against each other, while both companies work with Northrop on different programs.

But those figures illustrate how strong the ties are between industry and members of Congress, even before the key issue of industrial base in various districts comes into play. After all, representatives will always rally around whichever side will bring jobs to their constituents.

While Boeing and Lockheed each have their own local supporters, Northrop may be able to call on the California and Florida delegations following its decision to expand facilities at Melbourne International Airport, on Florida’s Space Coast.

While a company official did not confirm that Northrop plans to work on a potential LRS-B in Florida, Sen Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told media in May that the company plans on using the facility for that purpose.


Air Force UFO files hit the web

By Stephen Losey, Staff Writer 10:20 a.m. EST January 17, 2015



This week, nearly 130,000 pages of declassified UFO records — a trove that would make Agent Fox Mulder’s mouth water — hit the web.

The truth is out there — and it’s now on the web.

The fabled Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s files on UFO sightings and investigations, have tantalized and frustrated extraterrestrial enthusiasts for decades. But this week, nearly 130,000 pages of declassified UFO records — a trove that would make Agent Fox Mulder’s mouth water — hit the web.

UFO enthusiast John Greenewald has spent nearly two decades filing Freedom of Information Act requests for the government’s files on UFOs and other phenomena. On Jan. 12, Greenewald posted the Blue Book files — as well as files on Blue Book’s 1940s-era predecessors, Project Sign and Project Grudge — on his online database, The Black Vault.

Project Blue Book was based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio. Between 1947 and 1969, the Air Force recorded 12,618 sightings of strange phenomena — 701 of which remain “unidentified.”

According to a 1985 fact sheet from Wright-Patterson, posted online by the National Archives, the Air Force decided to discontinue UFO investigations after concluding that “no UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any indication of threat to our national security [and] there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ are extraterrestrial vehicles.” Wright-Patterson also said the Air Force has not seen any evidence suggesting the sightings “represent technological developments or principles beyond the range of present-day scientific knowledge.”

Skeptics smelled a whitewash. The private and now-defunct National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, for example, charged throughout the 1960s that the federal government was covering up what it knew about UFOs and pushed for congressional hearings.

The National Archives has made these files available to public on microfilm in its Washington headquarters. Parts of the Project Blue Book files have previously been posted online in various locations, Greenewald said. But his webpage is the first time the complete files have been posted in PDF form in a searchable database, he said.

The more than 10,000 cases include a 1950 incident at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, where an Air Force Office of Special Investigations agent reported a star-like craft that shifted from a bright white color to red and green as it moved erratically in several directions.

And in 1965, Air Force Maj. Jack Bond, the deputy for reconnaissance at the Directorate of Advanced Recon Planning, reported seeing an unidentified object moving in a sine wave pattern while on a flight out of Wright-Patterson. Bond said the object strongly reflected the sunlight as it rose and appeared gray as it descended. It rose and fell three times at varying speeds, before leveling off and accelerating away at more than 600 knots.

The investigator dismissed Bond’s observation as a mirage caused by the sun, due to the motion of Bond’s plane and the hazy atmospheric conditions.

One thing you won’t find online are records related to the alleged 1947 Roswell, New Mexico, incident, where conspiracy theorists maintain the military recovered a crashed alien spacecraft and its occupants.

But Roswell does pop up several times in the files. There are several blurry photographs of lights in the sky taken at Roswell in 1949, for example. And in 1950, airmen there spotted a circular object 10 feet in diameter with a bluish-white color going fast at 8,000 feet and taking a sharp turn to the right.

The National Archives maintains it “has been unable to locate any documentation among the Project BLUE BOOK records which discuss the 1947 incident in Roswell, New Mexico.”

But that is just what they would say, wouldn’t they?


Top 10 states with the most UFO sightings

USA Today Network

Mary Bowerman, USA TODAY Network

1:43 p.m. EST January 19, 2015


From seeing streaks of light across the sky to floating orbes in the backyard, people across the USA have reported unidentified objects over the years. The National UFO Reporting Center has a State Report Index that breaks down UFO sightings by state, duration of sighting, shape and description.

Here are the 10 states with the most UFO sightings, according to the center:

1. California: 11,092

2. Florida: 5,017

3. Washington: 4,951

4. Texas: 4,313

5. New York: 3,799

6. Illinois: 3,031

7. Arizona: 3,143

8. Ohio: 2,883

9. Michigan: 2,424

10. North Carolina: 2,247


Sightings in the database range from the 1950s to 2015.

In the past week, almost 136,000 pages of declassified UFO records, known as Project Blue Book or the Air Force’s files on UFO sightings and investigations, were put online.


Project Blue Book was based at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. The project investigated sightings of strange phenomena from 1947 to 1969. While many of the sightings were attributed to air traffic or Mother Nature, 701 remain “unidentified.”




Don’t Believe the Defense Acquisition Reform Hype

Alex Ward    

January 19, 2015 ·


The likely nomination of Ashton Carter as Secretary of Defense has increased expectations of substantial reform in the Pentagon’s acquisition system. Conventional wisdom holds that the quintet of Carter, Robert Work, Frank Kendall, John McCain, and Mac Thornberry will work together to bring about meaningful — almost revolutionary — change in the way the Department of Defense obtains its weaponry.

Don’t believe the hype. Delivery times are too slow. Weaponry is too costly. Competition barely exists. Government and industry still struggle to interact with one another. All of these are deep-seeded problems with the defense acquisition process that no group of men, even with Carter at the helm, can fix all at once.

Despite the certainty that these five will try to reform the current acquisition process, massive, wholesale change is highly unlikely for three reasons: Carter will not have a lot of time to focus on defense acquisition; Congress will focus mostly on oversight, not reform, which will lead to incremental change at best; and the current path of reform is already the accepted path.

To the first point, as much as Carter may want to focus on acquisition reform, the tides of global events are against him. Over the next two years, the United States will be involved with combating the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, handling the Iranian nuclear issue, tensions in the South China Sea, confronting a resurgent Taliban, spreading terrorism, and rapidly-developing humanitarian crises like Ebola. All of these issues require substantial attention and Carter only has two years (unless he is asked to stay on by President Obama’s successor. And, as world affairs have proven recently, we are likely in for some sort of under-the-radar surprise that will require even more American forward engagement in the world. Even though this White House notoriously micromanages the country’s foreign and defense policies, Carter will still be expected to contribute substantively on shaping the policy and strategy, all while being the face of the administration abroad related to the defense dimensions of these matters. So, even if Carter did want to devote the majority of his time to defense acquisition reform, sadly the clock and calendar are not on his side.

Second, those who are more sanguine about reform’s chances point to Senator John McCain and Representative Mac Thornberry, who run the Armed Services Committees in their respective chambers. They will undoubtedly draw attention to the issue, but expect strict and vociferous oversight as opposed to meaningful and substantive reform. McCain will surely host multiple hearings on cost overruns and delivery delays as he has in the past on systems like the Littoral Combat Ship, and will therefore not do much to change the system other than point out its faults. Most of Senator McCain’s attention will be diverted toward grand strategy and repurposing America’s role in the world as he considers his legacy during his last years in the Senate. Representative Thornberry will be the most active on the reform front, most likely working to rewrite existing legislation. However, he will likely fail to simplify the defense acquisition process because his sole attention to the issue will not be enough solve its near intractable problems. Without substantive support from his Senate counterpart and Pentagon officials, Thornberry will work hard to make something happen but will not be able to fix the system. That said, Thornberry will be able to get some measures through, but they are more likely to be aimed at keeping costs down as much as possible, hindering research, development, and experimentation — which could ultimately leave to lower costs in the long run, to the cost of our defense capabilities and efforts such as the new “offset strategy.” Yet, it is important to note that, this Republican-led Congress will be friendlier to ending the financial constraints on the Department of Defense (the sigh of relief from American defense contractors is audible.) That still will not change the overall tone in Congress toward defense acquisition reform which is that it is too hard to fix, partially because it is very technical but mostly because the status quo brings money to the districts of many Congressmen. If the system changes, the money and the votes may go away. At best, then, we can expect Congress to point all the problems, but not legislation to finds solutions.

Lastly, Better Buying Power 3.0 (BBP 3.0), the path chosen by the Department of Defense to improve the defense acquisition process — started by Carter and currently put into action by Kendall — has not received much pushback from Congress. In fact, there is bipartisan agreement that the system is broken and needs fixing, and BBP 3.0 is as good a strategy to deal with the issue as any. A letter from Kendall to McCain last June showed they both agree that “defense acquisition improvement, as opposed to defense acquisition reform, should be our goal.” Not surprisingly, a report from the National Defense Industrial Association is in agreement, with most of the proposals having to do with improving the workforce and culture within the Pentagon’s acquisition department, as opposed to reforming the system from the ground up. With Congress taking a mostly oversight role, and the Department of Defense out in front with a proposed way forward, it is reasonable to expect that not much will change between now and the end of 2016. The Pentagon will continue apace with its incremental change agenda and Congress will bloviate whenever something goes awry.

There is certainly movement and appetite for reform. The problem is that the “change is nigh” refrain has become a tired prediction that never pans out. The next two years may see the most quantitative movement on defense acquisition reform, but not the most qualitative. That said, it is imperative that change come soon, because “even a small improvement in performance of the acquisition system can make a difference of billions in the cost of equipping the military,” according to a defense acquisition expert. One can only hope that “The Trinity” in the Pentagon and the “Dynamic Duo” in Congress can make wholesale change happen, but it is not likely.

With Carter at the helm, expect small steps, but nothing major, in the acquisition process.


N.S.A. Breached North Korean Networks Before Sony Attack, Officials Say


JAN. 18, 2015


WASHINGTON — The trail that led American officials to blame North Korea for the destructive cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment in November winds back to 2010, when the National Security Agency scrambled to break into the computer systems of a country considered one of the most impenetrable targets on earth.

Spurred by growing concern about North Korea’s maturing capabilities, the American spy agency drilled into the Chinese networks that connect North Korea to the outside world, picked through connections in Malaysia favored by North Korean hackers and penetrated directly into the North with the help of South Korea and other American allies, according to former United States and foreign officials, computer experts later briefed on the operations and a newly disclosed N.S.A. document.

A classified security agency program expanded into an ambitious effort, officials said, to place malware that could track the internal workings of many of the computers and networks used by the North’s hackers, a force that South Korea’s military recently said numbers roughly 6,000 people. Most are commanded by the country’s main intelligence service, called the Reconnaissance General Bureau, and Bureau 121, its secretive hacking unit, with a large outpost in China.

Kim Heung-kwang, a defector, said that in the early 1990s, North Korean computer experts had an idea: Use the Internet to attack the nation’s foes. Credit Jean Chung for The New York Times

The evidence gathered by the “early warning radar” of software painstakingly hidden to monitor North Korea’s activities proved critical in persuading President Obama to accuse the government of Kim Jong-un of ordering the Sony attack, according to the officials and experts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity about the classified N.S.A. operation.

Mr. Obama’s decision to accuse North Korea of ordering the largest destructive attack against an American target — and to promise retaliation, which has begun in the form of new economic sanctions — was highly unusual: The United States had never explicitly charged another government with mounting a cyberattack on American targets.

Mr. Obama is cautious in drawing stark conclusions from intelligence, aides say. But in this case “he had no doubt,” according to one senior American military official.

“Attributing where attacks come from is incredibly difficult and slow,” said James A. Lewis, a cyberwarfare expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The speed and certainty with which the United States made its determinations about North Korea told you that something was different here — that they had some kind of inside view.”

For about a decade, the United States has implanted “beacons,” which can map a computer network, along with surveillance software and occasionally even destructive malware in the computer systems of foreign adversaries. The government spends billions of dollars on the technology, which was crucial to the American and Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear program, and documents previously disclosed by Edward J. Snowden, the former security agency contractor, demonstrated how widely they have been deployed against China.

But fearing the exposure of its methods in a country that remains a black hole for intelligence gathering, American officials have declined to talk publicly about the role the technology played in Washington’s assessment that the North Korean government had ordered the attack on Sony.

The extensive American penetration of the North Korean system also raises questions about why the United States was not able to alert Sony as the attacks took shape last fall, even though the North had warned, as early as June, that the release of the movie “The Interview,” a crude comedy about a C.I.A. plot to assassinate the North’s leader, would be “an act of war.”


Dinner in Pyongyang

The N.S.A.’s success in getting into North Korea’s systems in recent years should have allowed the agency to see the first “spear phishing” attacks on Sony — the use of emails that put malicious code into a computer system if an unknowing user clicks on a link — when the attacks began in early September, according to two American officials.

Gen. James R. Clapper Jr. says he had dinner last fall with the man who later oversaw the Sony attack. Credit Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

But those attacks did not look unusual. Only in retrospect did investigators determine that the North had stolen the “credentials” of a Sony systems administrator, which allowed the hackers to roam freely inside Sony’s systems.

In recent weeks, investigators have concluded that the hackers spent more than two months, from mid-September to mid-November, mapping Sony’s computer systems, identifying critical files and planning how to destroy computers and servers.


“They were incredibly careful, and patient,” said one person briefed on the investigation. But he added that even with their view into the North’s activities, American intelligence agencies “couldn’t really understand the severity” of the destruction that was coming when the attacks began Nov. 24.

In fact, when, Gen. James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence, had an impromptu dinner in early November with his North Korean counterpart during a secret mission to Pyongyang to secure the release of two imprisoned Americans, he made no mention of Sony or the North’s growing hacking campaigns, officials say.

In a recent speech at Fordham University in New York, Mr. Clapper acknowledged that the commander of the Reconnaissance General Bureau, Kim Yong-chol, with whom he traded barbs over the 12-course dinner, was “later responsible for overseeing the attack against Sony.” (General Clapper praised the food; his hosts later presented him with a bill for his share of the meal.)

Asked about General Clapper’s knowledge of the Sony attacks from the North when he attended the dinner, Brian P. Hale, a spokesman for the director of national intelligence, said that the director did not know he would meet his intelligence counterpart and that the purpose of his trip to North Korea “was solely to secure the release of the two detained U.S. citizens.”

“Because of the sensitivities surrounding the effort” to win the Americans’ release, Mr. Hale said, “the D.N.I. was focused on the task and did not want to derail any progress by discussing other matters.” But he said General Clapper was acutely aware of the North’s growing capabilities.

Jang Sae-yul, a former North Korean army programmer who defected in 2007, speaking in an interview in Seoul, said: “They have built up formidable hacking skills. They have spent almost 30 years getting ready, learning how to do this and this alone, how to target specific countries.”

Still, the sophistication of the Sony hack was such that many experts say they are skeptical that North Korea was the culprit, or the lone culprit. They have suggested it was an insider, a disgruntled Sony ex-employee or an outside group cleverly mimicking North Korean hackers. Many remain unconvinced by the efforts of the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to answer critics by disclosing some of the American evidence.

The northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, where there are North Korean-run hotels and restaurants, and an “attack base” to which some I.P. addresses have been traced. Credit Sheng Li/Reuters

Mr. Comey told the same Fordham conference that the North Koreans got “sloppy” in hiding their tracks, and that hackers periodically “connected directly and we could see them.”

“And we could see that the I.P. addresses that were being used to post and to send the emails were coming from I.P.s that were exclusively used by the North Koreans,” he said. Some of those addresses appear to be in China, experts say.

The skeptics say, however, that it would not be that difficult for hackers who wanted to appear to be North Korean to fake their whereabouts. Mr. Comey said there was other evidence he could not discuss. So did Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the N.S.A. director, who told the Fordham conference that after reviewing the classified data he had “high confidence” the North had ordered the action.


A Growing Capability

North Korea built its first computer with vacuum tubes in 1965, with engineers trained in France. For a brief time, it appeared ahead of South Korea and of China, which not only caught up but also came to build major elements of their economic success on their hardware and software.

Defectors say that the Internet was first viewed by North Korea’s leadership as a threat, something that could taint its citizens with outside ideas.

But Kim Heung-kwang, a defector who said in an interview that he helped train many of the North’s first cyberspies, recalled that in the early 1990s a group of North Korean computer experts came back from China with a “very strange new idea”: Use the Internet to steal secrets and attack the government’s enemies. “The Chinese are already doing it,” he quoted one of the experts as saying.

Defectors report that the North Korean military was interested. So was the ruling Workers’ Party, which in 1994 sent 15 North Koreans to a military academy in Beijing to learn about hacking. When they returned, they formed the core of the External Information Intelligence Office, which hacked into websites, penetrated fire walls and stole information abroad. Because the North had so few connections to the outside world, the hackers did much of their work in China and Japan.

According to Mr. Kim, the military began training computer “warriors” in earnest in 1996 and two years later opened Bureau 121, now the primary cyberattack unit. Members were dispatched for two years of training in China and Russia. Mr. Jang said they were envied, in part because of their freedom to travel.

“They used to come back with exotic foreign clothes and expensive electronics like rice cookers and cameras,” he said. His friends told him that Bureau 121 was divided into different groups, each targeting a specific country or region, especially the United States, South Korea and the North’s one ally, China.

“They spend those two years not attacking, but just learning about their target country’s Internet,” said Mr. Jang, 46, who was a first lieutenant in a different army unit that wrote software for war game simulations.

Mr. Jang said that as time went on, the North began diverting high school students with the best math skills into a handful of top universities, including a military school specializing in computer-based warfare called Mirim University, which he attended as a young army officer.

Others were deployed to an “attack base” in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang, where there are many North Korean-run hotels and restaurants. Unlike the North’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs, the cyberforces can be used to harass South Korea and the United States without risking a devastating response.

“Cyberwarfare is simply the modern chapter in North Korea’s long history of asymmetrical warfare,” said a security research report in August by Hewlett-Packard.


An Attack in Seoul

When the Americans first gained access to the North Korean networks and computers in 2010, their surveillance focused on the North’s nuclear program and its leadership, as well as efforts to detect attacks aimed at United States military forces in South Korea, said one former American official. (The German magazine Der Spiegel published an N.S.A. document on Saturday that provides some details of South Korea’s help in spying on the North.) Then a highly destructive attack in 2013 on South Korean banks and media companies suggested that North Korea was becoming a greater threat, and the focus shifted.

“The big target was the hackers,” the official said.

That attack knocked out almost 50,000 computers and servers in South Korea for several days at five banks and television broadcasters.

The hackers were patient, spending nine months probing the South Korean systems. But they also made the mistake seen in the Sony hack, at one point revealing what South Korean analysts believe to have been their true I.P. addresses. Lim Jong-in, dean of the Graduate School of Information Security at Korea University, said those addresses were traced back to Shenyang, and fell within a spectrum of I.P. addresses linked to North Korean companies.

The attack was studied by American intelligence agencies. But after the North issued its warnings about Sony’s movie last June, American officials appear to have made no reference to the risk in their discussions with Sony executives. Even when the spear-phishing attacks began in September — against Sony and other targets — “it didn’t set off alarm bells,” according to one person involved in the investigation.

The result is that American officials began to focus on North Korea only after the destructive attacks began in November, when pictures of skulls and gruesome images of Sony executives appeared on the screens of company employees. (That propaganda move by the hackers may have worked to Sony’s benefit: Some employees unplugged their computers immediately, saving some data from destruction.)

It did not take long for American officials to conclude that the source of the attack was North Korea, officials say. “Figuring out how to respond was a lot harder,” one White House official said.


Cyber warfare: Capitol staffers aren’t ready

“It’s amazing we weren’t terribly hacked, now that I’m thinking back on it.”

By Tal Kopan

| 1/19/15 7:00 PM EST



Congressional staffers are the gateway to all lawmaking on the Hill, but they also may be unwittingly opening the door to hackers.

The Hill’s networks are under constant attack. In 2013 alone, the Senate Sergeant at Arms’ office said it investigated 500 potential examples of malicious software, some from sophisticated attackers and others from low-level scammers. And that’s just the serious cases — in a different measurement, the House IT security office said in 2012 it blocked 16.5 million “intrusion attempts” on its networks.

But the thousands of men and women who keep Congress running every day are committing the basic cybersecurity mistakes that attackers can exploit to do harm — like in the CENTCOM social media hack or crippling breach of Sony Pictures Entertainment.

POLITICO interviews with nearly a dozen current and former staffers, as well as congressional IT security staff, reveal a typical array of poor cyber habits.

Most of the staffers interviewed had emailed security passwords to a colleague or to themselves for convenience. Plenty of offices stored a list of passwords for communal accounts like social media in a shared drive or Google doc. Most said they individually didn’t think about cybersecurity on a regular basis, despite each one working in an office that dealt with cyber or technology issues. Most kept their personal email open throughout the day. Some were able to download software from the Internet onto their computers. Few could remember any kind of IT security training, and if they did, it wasn’t taken seriously.

“It’s amazing we weren’t terribly hacked, now that I’m thinking back on it,” said one staffer who departed the Senate late this fall. “It’s amazing that we have the same password for everything [like social media.]”

“This is a problem waiting to happen, not even just on the institutional security side but in terms of mischievous hackers trying to break into social media sites or dropboxes of senators or any of that stuff.”

While the House and Senate IT security staffs work to ensure that human mistakes are backstopped by technology, experts and lawmakers say they’re hampered by the unique challenge of securing an enterprise divided into hundreds of networks each overseen by an empowered elected official.

“I think people would be shocked to know how little people know about these things and care about things,” said one former longtime Senate staffer who left the Hill this fall. She noted offices have access to a lot of constituents’ personal information just like banks and businesses.

“I don’t think the Senate as a whole does a very good job of teaching people what matters as to how to do cyber hygiene and advice on how to come up with good passwords, because when you think about it, some of the lowest-level staff have the most access, and this is their first job and isn’t self-explanatory. It needs to be taught to staff,” the former aide said.

Another former staffer who worked for years in both chambers but left in recent months said that people who work on the Hill can easily feel a false sense of security.

“You feel very secure up there in terms of the IT services that are provided, and I think the reasoning behind that is twofold, you fall into the trap that you’re on the Hill and you’re in a bubble up there, and it’s also the fact that the House and Senate IT folks bring up that fact a lot that you should be safe online and there are firewalls to prevent any breaches,” the former staffer said. “Looking back, I would say that it’s a false sense.”

Even the best security techniques and technologies are undermined by poor user practices like password reuse and sharing. Part of the problem is that even if the House and Senate staff that secure their respective networks do a great job, there’s still a lot of autonomy in every office, and they may have different levels of interest and expertise in security.

“The House administration, they’re doing everything they can to keep the House network as secure as possible, given the constraints that they operate under,” said Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), who co-chairs the Congressional Cybersecurity Caucus.

“Managing risk in the House is particularly difficult because its organizational structure is unusual. In most organizations, you have a very hierarchical structure,” he said.

“No [other] organization has 435 CEOs each responsible for a completely independent division.”

Langevin said a huge number of individuals and “perhaps” nation-states try to breach the House network every day — as former Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) learned in 2006 when he says the Chinese hacked four computers in his office used by staffers working on human rights issues.

Wolf and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) — two longtime China critics — revealed their office computers had been breached by Chinese sources in 2008, and Wolf said the FBI told him to keep the attack quiet for some time.

Wolf said he believes the House IT security team works very hard, but there’s more to be done.

“I don’t think any federal agency, and probably including the Hill, is doing a very good job,” Wolf said, citing his own hacking experience. Wolf, a high-profile China critic with staffers investigating human rights abuses, was an obvious target. And for foreign hackers more generally, congressional computer systems represent a cornucopia of intelligence about the thoughts and intentions of lawmakers.

The problem, said Wolf, is a lack of understanding and a lack of will.

Langevin also said more could be done on outreach, saying a positive step was a change recently for the House to require regular password changes. Not all members and staffs are focused on cybersecurity like his office, he added.

“It goes back to constant education and reeducation,” Langevin said. “People are people, and if you’re not focused on something or constantly reminded, it’s easy to let things fall through the cracks.”

A study released last week found that IT security professionals identify negligent employees as the No. 1 threat they deal with.

The offices tasked with securing Hill networks are well-aware of the threat. In an interview, an official for the Senate Sergeant at Arms said along with constant research and innovation, training and education is a core focus of the office as they try to keep bad guys out of the Senate network.

That means contacting new members as soon as they’re elected and offering briefings for full staff. The Senate-wide team coordinates with each office’s system administrator or point person, sending out advisories and recommendations, offering support and conducting monthly vulnerability assessments of every office that are shared with staff.

While some controls are managed at the office level, including downloading permissions on computers, the SAA monitors the entire network for Web traffic (without seeing the content) and anything out of the ordinary coming in or out. They also control software updates, testing all software patches before deploying them to check they work on Senate software and network configuration, and they scan mobile devices used by members and staff overseas.

The office of the House Chief Administrative Officer would not speak with POLITICO about its practices, but said in a statement the office takes a “dynamic approach” to security and recently hired a full-time trainer. In congressional testimony, CAO has said it provides firewall protection and intrusion detection as well as services for individual offices like training and foreign travel mobile device scanning.

In testimony submitted to the Senate Appropriations subcommittee this spring, then-Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer said in the previous year, 2013, his office analyzed more than 500 potential malicious software incidents and shared their analysis with other federal agencies. In some cases, his team discovered previously unidentified zero-day vulnerabilities — a clear sign of advanced intruders at work. In separate testimony before its committee of jurisdiction, the House CAO budget request measured the challenge differently, saying the House IT security office in 2012 blocked 16.5 million intrusion attempts, 11.4 million efforts at spyware and 17,763 viruses.

Attackers in the Senate primarily used spearphishing — targeted emails designed to trick a specific person into clicking a bad link or opening a weaponized attachment — and watering holes — otherwise innocent sites known to be frequented by Senate staffers that could be hacked and used to distribute malicious software to visitors. In one recent example of a watering hole-style attack, advertisements on the AOL ad network were configured to distribute malicious software, meaning unsuspecting visitors to The Huffington Post could be hit.

The example shows that even seemingly safe and important uses of the Internet, like surfing news websites and opening email attachments, can be turned into the pathway for an attack by a skilled adversary. Without constant vigilance, even the lowest-level staffer can unwittingly invite bad guys into Hill computers.

The SAA official, like all security experts, acknowledges no network can be made 100 percent secure, and any network has to be workable for the employees.

“I think our biggest issue really is finding the balance between the protections that we want to have in place to keep the Senate secure and balancing that against the business needs of the Senate community,” the official said in the interview. “Being able to find that middle ground, where we still are doing what we need to do to keep our Senate safe, but yet allowing the staff and the senators to do the job that they were elected to do.”

Simple security measures can seem like major hurdles for staffers just trying to get their work done. A recent change to House password change rules — requiring changes every three months instead of six months — meant staffers had to change their email and computer login passwords at different times, one former staffer who left at the end of the 113th said. And having to call an IT person every time you need to update Firefox, say, can be a hassle.

Asked if that meant that there are times when security measures face pushback from members or staffs that aren’t thinking about security first and foremost, the official said that’s “true,” but they try to engage the community to work on solutions.

Even the most technically secure network needs the buy-in of every employee to be as safe as possible, experts say. Tony Cole, vice president and global government chief technology officer at major security firm FireEye, said having every staff member see themselves as part of cybersecurity is “extremely critical.”

“In the federal government and many other allied nations as well, cybersecurity is not part of the culture, very clearly it’s not,” Cole said. Most attackers are highly sophisticated at researching potential targets, like Hill staffers, and using information on social media to craft emails that they are likely to click on.

“Even with a robust architecture, having all of the best practices laid out across the board and the latest tools, you really need the security culture in place as well if you’re going to be successful at identifying attacks,” Cole said, “and even then, a place like the Hill, attackers are going to get in.”

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New rules could speed up DoD cloud migration

Aaron Boyd, Senior Writer 5:50 p.m. EST January 19, 2015


Until now, the Defense Department has trailed considerably behind civilian agencies when it comes to taking advantage of new commercial cloud capabilities, namely because of stringent procurement and security rules. But that’s about to change.

Pentagon leaders last month announced new procurement rules that empower DoD agencies to buy cloud services more quickly and easily. And this month, tight security rules that effectively closed off the option of using public cloud services in most cases were loosened.

Experts say the changes will set in motion a flurry of projects across the Defense Department to migrate networks, data and applications to the cloud.

“I think there is some genuine, real excitement about going to the cloud in the DoD,” said Gregory Garcia, executive director of the Army Information Technology Agency.

Initial forays into the cloud are likely to be uncoordinated and small in scale. Once the cloud concept proves successful with those early endeavors, more ambitious enterprise-scale projects will likely follow, experts like Garcia say.

“As we build success stories of those early adopters, we’ll see more people embrace that idea,” Garcia said. “Five years from now, I think it’s going to be all in the cloud.”

The first key policy change announced in November by acting DoD CIO Terry Halvorsen aimed to speed up and expand the department’s procurement of cloud services by removing the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) as the department’s sole cloud broker, thereby empowering all DoD agencies to buy cloud services on their own.

And earlier this month, DISA loosened security restrictions on certain classes of data that previously were off-limits to commercial cloud service providers. The new guidelines spell out how and where DoD data can reside, setting the stage for how component agencies will purchase cloud services.

The result is a new security requirements regime that is more willing to accept some increased risk for less mission-critical data, said Mark Orndorff, mission assurance executive for DISA.

“Where is that right balance point that will allow us to get the full benefits of commercial cloud providers while doing that with the right level of security?” Orndorff said. “This is an opportunity to get the agility, economic and technical advantages from commercial cloud and do that without putting the department at risk by leveraging the virtual separation capabilities that commercial cloud providers have, up to a level of sensitivity.”

In a nutshell, DoD data now will fall into one of three levels of security, based upon the impact there would be on DoD operations if that data were compromised.

For example, public-facing data, websites and information discoverable through FOIA could reside on a public cloud. A higher level of security would cover controlled unclassified information, which can be kept separate on virtual servers but require logging in to a secure DoD connection. The highest level of security is reserved for unclassified and classified national security data, which must be housed on physically separate servers.

Garcia said the policy changes are sure to ignite many cloud ventures, but he added, “I think the economic question and the security question are going to really drive people to make that assessment.”

The Pentagon appears open to the possibility of further relaxing security requirements in the future, if warranted.

“We are very open minded to it, but we want to do due diligence to assess: What is the risk, what are the mitigations and how do we want to press forward,” Orndorff said. “We just want to spend more time before we decide if that’s a goal.”

In time, as more DoD services are managed by commercial cloud providers, agencies could move to single, enterprise contracts for all their cloud needs, experts say. But, early on, the varied missions within DoD components and different security requirements likely will force agencies to look at their cloud needs one application and network at a time.

“This will be piecemeal, at least at first,” said Stu Fleagle, vice president of government solutions for Carpathia. “It will probably be much more limited before it’s wholesale and enterprisewide.”


Where does DoD begin?

Steven Kousen, vice president of cloud strategy and integration services at Unisys, said the earliest initiatives likely will focus on “things that are already virtualized and make sense.”

“If that’s public data, they’ll solicit for that sort of data. Other areas they know are sensitive but unclassified — those things can be moved,” Kousen added.

Another factor likely determining what moves to the cloud first will be technical compatibility with cloud service providers’ infrastructure. So, for example, Fleagle of Carpathia noted that the .mil domain was built on VMware technology, making DoD websites an easy first choice for migration as many cloud systems are built on the same stack.

Chris Spina, government cloud specialist with VMware, agrees. “Having cloud service provider networks that are all using the same core stack will make it easier,” he said. “If [a DoD application] is running VM on-prem today, it will be easier to move on a cloud with VMware.”

In addition to setting the right balance between security and economics in their cloud plans, DoD executives will need to address another issue: what to do with their networks, data and applications once their cloud services contracts expire.

“That question has to be asked,” Garcia said. “Is it portable from a cloud to a cloud? There are many constraints in getting it there, but there are also many, many constraints in getting it out of there.”

Despite the challenges, all parties are expecting a much faster transition to the cloud for DoD agencies under the new guidelines.


Confusing a “Revolution” with “Terrorism”

by Eric C. Anderson

Journal Article | January 19, 2015 – 5:27am


That the world should be so simple Washington could “bin” offshore challenges in a small set of categories that expedite planning and policy options. The Cold War dichotomy made life in the Pentagon a much simpler affair. You were either “communist” or you were not. In the wake of Gorbechev’s failure, you were a “rogue” state, or not. Osama Bin Laden only served to further add a category, “terrorist,” or not. This dichotomous sorting process made it relatively easy to explain policy options to the American electorate and direct the expenditure of taxpayer blood and treasure. Iraq, “rouge,” Afghanistan and all things al-Qaeda “terrorism.” Respond appropriately. Iraq meant deployment of large conventional force and time spent with boots on the ground. Afghanistan and al-Qaeda, pin-point targeting and late night visits to remote locales with black helicopters and US Special Forces. But what happens when the problem does not fit into t