Bismullah Khan talks to planners, Afghanistan, Ledford

What Will We Have Left?

What Will We Have Left

by Ed Ledford       January 29, 2014       blog.edledford.com

The Washington Post broke the military’s latest embarrassing story: three officers in one article, “Military Brass Behaving Badly.”

At first glance, Army Veterans and active duty Soldiers – especially those who have served with Brig. Gen. Schweitzer – might shake our heads in disappointment (but not shame).

But Washington Post presents a grossly incongruous association of Schweitzer with the two other brigadiers highlighted in the same story – Brig. Gen. Bryan T. Roberts and Brig. Gen. David C. Uhrich.

To enrich the guilt-by-association effect, WaPo throws in a good dose of Petraeus, allusions to Navy’s sex and bribery debacles, the Air Force’s nuclear shenanigans, and other Army gropers.

But here’s the real context:

Brig. Gen. Roberts allegedly engaged in a long-term adulterous affair that culminated with Roberts – get this – slapping the crap out of his lover and, then, viciously Mike-Tyson-style biting his girlfriend’s lip, inflicting enough damage that she had to seek medical attention for the bleeding wound, and for her black eye, also allegedly inflicted by Roberts. That particular beating, though, was only one of three alleged beatings she endured at Roberts’ hands.

So, with Roberts, if reports are accurate, we find a deeply troubled man who not only disregards military protocol by way of his affair but, as well, clearly suffers from some sort of serious psychological dysfunction manifested by way of the beating and biting.

Brig. Gen. Uhrich was, as well, allegedly engaged in a long-term adulterous affair and allegedly routinely drunk or, at least, imbibing on duty like Henry Blake on M*A*S*H* (Blake gets a buy, in my view, given his duties, the nut-jobs around him, and the brutality of the Korean War).

According to the Post, an “officer told investigators that ‘if [Uhrich] did not have his alcohol, the wheels would come off . . . .” Worth notice is that Uhrich at least sought treatment for his apparent alcoholism, but the affair alone may be inexcusable under decisions of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

So, with Uhrich, if reports are accurate, we see another troubled man, probably an alcoholic, with repeated and varied indiscretions that justifiably cause one to question his judgment and fitness to continue serving.

Petraeus, well, we all know that story.

Schweitzer: he fat-fingered out what was meant to be a private e-mail, in jest, that, as Schweitzer reportedly admits himself, represented poor judgment on his part: “’My comments were a terrible attempt at humor. I didn’t mean them literally or figuratively, I simply meant them to try and be funny during a very tense period within the command to a limited audience. I know they were not appropriate. It was stupid.’”

Today, Brig. Gen. Schweitzer, undeniably one of The Army’s most talented, experienced, wartime leaders is awaiting a call from the Secretary of the Army, who will decide Schweitzer’s fate: accept already applied administrative action, or ask for Brig. Gen. Schweitzer’s retirement.

The Secretary could accept the administrative action already taken by The Army in the matter – and on which Congresswoman Ellmers herself reportedly said, “’I am pleased with the corrective actions that are taking place and how they handled this very difficult situation . . . . ’”

Or, the Secretary could ask Schweitzer to retire.

Schweitzer certainly committed an offense that The Army and the military doesn’t really need right now: it’s too busy wrangling up leaders with serious problems and professional shortcomings.

However, The Army must accept, as well, that if it forces Schweitzer to retire over this one relatively minor, though stupid, indiscretion, then, over time, we are not going to have much of an Army left when the bar is lowered that far.

Certainly, Schweitzer should have not joked around about an official matter in an e-mail.

But if the Nation, Congress, and the Pentagon believe that Soldiers – in contending with the day-to-day stresses of either combating the Taliban on multiple 15 month tours in Afghanistan or consistently working some 20 hours a day, 6-7 days a week, getting the troops ready for the next big deployment – are not going to periodically use profanity, in an e-mail or otherwise, or inadvertently make an inappropriate or injudicious comment here or there, then they are all fooling themselves and, what is more, establishing an impossible standard that even they do not and cannot meet.

Brig. Gen. Schweitzer is one of the most courageous, respected, intelligent, wartime experienced, ugly-looking, dog-soldier Infantryman in The Army’s inventory. He is a foxhole fighter. A warrior. A leader. A human being.

Schweitzer’s troops love him – guys and girls. His colleagues love him – guys and girls. He treats everyone the same – guys and girls – and demands accountability of all his troops, and himself, the same.

Our Army’s best leaders request Schweitzer by name for the toughest, most grueling assignments when they need someone whose quiet sense of duty is inexorable and someone who will just not quit short of success.

Schweitzer can be a tough son-of-a-bitch and gruff as hell.

He’s an American Infantry Soldier for God’s sake.

And, he made a mistake uglier than even his own mug.

But to lump Schweitzer in with all the rest is simply misleading, a misrepresentation of the context of the facts and a misrepresentation of the man, nothing more than a matter of embellished guilt by association.

Hopefully, the Secretary of the Army will see that vivid distinction, be unmoved by the Washington Post’s media maneuver, and let Schweitzer continue to serve his Nation at a time when we need Schweitzer’s kind of experience and grit.

 

 

Reviewing the Plan, Afghanistan - Ledford

People analytics, Drone strikes in Yemen, and Cost reimbursable contracts

Catch all the Intelligence and Cleared Jobs news at ClearanceJobs.Com

How your keystrokes inform hiring decisions, Yemenis heartburn over getting droned, and GSA’s consideration of a new business model – all in today’s defense headlines. 

 

December 14, 2013

Quick Read for Saturday

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Travelers’ checks – security first. Contributor Christopher Burgess’ 5 tips for more secure overseas travel: “Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Defense Security Services have issued counterintelligence guidance . . . to prep the foreign traveler, and it should be a mainstay of the pre-travel preparation by any traveler.”

2.  Efficient, productive interviews, the first time. Editor Lindy Kyzer’s Candidate Requirements and Job Requirements checklists focus your efforts: “The candidate screening process is critical. How you prepare for it will make the critical difference in how much time you spend searching for the perfect applicant. When screening security-cleared candidates for your company, obtain key qualifications from the hiring manager up front. Knowing the office dynamic and desired personality characteristics will save time in the screening process.”

3.  Congressional Roundup: Contributor Ashley LaGanga reviews the week on The Hill.

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Karzai to the United States: I’m not backing down. Reuters’ Sanjeev Miglani reports from New Delhi, “Karzai was in New Delhi in a burst of regional diplomacy as his ties with Washington have come under renewed strain over his refusal to sign the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that will shape U.S. military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014 when most international troops will leave. He told reporters that the United States would have to stop the practice of raiding Afghan homes and help restart a peace process with the Taliban as necessary conditions for the security pact. . . . If Karzai doesn’t sign the deal, Washington says it will have to withdraw its entire force of some 44,500 troops by the end of 2014. Other NATO nations could follow suit leaving Afghan forces to fight the Taliban insurgency on their own.” Listen while you read.

2.  In Afghanistan, a governor with guts. AP’s Kathy Gannon reports, “The determination of [Tooryalai] Wesa, and other highly educated Afghans who returned from self-imposed exile after the collapse of the Taliban, has taken on increased importance ahead of a 2014 deadline for most U.S. and allied troops to withdraw. The pullout could put billions of dollars in annual international military and development aid at risk and place increasing importance on the role of local and national politicians and civil workers to fill the vacuum in rebuilding the country.”

3.  In Yemen, droning al Qaeda to popular support. Reuters contributor Yara Bayoumy reports, “The United States says its drone program has been successful in eliminating members of al Qaeda in various countries. Some Yemenis say had it not been for such strikes, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) could have seized more territory across Yemen. . . . Other Yemenis, and some U.S. politicians, say the strikes and civilian casualties are increasing sympathy for AQAP and resentment against America. AQAP, which has scattered across the country, is now targeting local police and security officials, who have only tenuous control in Yemen.” See related, LongWarJournal.Org’s “US drone strike kills civilians in central Yemen,” by Bill Roggio and Aljazeera.Com’s “Relatives want justice for Yemen drone strikes.”

4.  In North Korea, The Tragedy of Jang Song Thaek. AP contributor Jean H. Lee reports, “Jang’s execution, announced early Friday, marked an unprecedented fall from grace of one of the most powerful figures in the country as well as its most serious political upheaval in decades. . . . It was a humiliating end to a complicated career.”

5.  Iran steps away from nuclear talks table. Agence France-Presse’s Cyril Jordan reports, “Iran has quit nuclear talks with world powers, accusing Washington on Friday of going against the spirit of a landmark agreement reached last month by expanding its sanctions blacklist. US Secretary of State John Kerry and a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, who represents the major powers in the talks, both played down the suspension and said talks were expected to resume soon.”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Korea Aerospace Industries’ next big sale. AviationWeek.Com’s Bradley Parrett reports, “Iraq has ordered 24 light attack fighters based on the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 supersonic trainer, with deliveries due to be completed by 2017. The order, including training, is valued at $1.1 billion, but KAI says supporting the aircraft over 20 years, also contracted, will take total revenue beyond $2 billion. Though Iraq’s aircraft are designated T-50IQ, an industry official says the aircraft will be built to the design of the FA-50 light attack variant of the T-50 family. Powered by a single General Electric F404 engine, the T-50 is a contender for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer requirement.”

2.  Let’s hear it for the Warthog! DefenseTech.Com’s Kris Osborn reports, “The bipartisan defense budget that passed through the House Thursday includes strict language mandating the Air Force not execute any plans to retire the A-10 Warthog. The legislation specifically blocks the Air Force from spending any money to divest A-10s through calendar year 2014. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh has said the service needs to retired older, single mission aircraft like the A-10 in order to reserve funding for newer aircraft like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is slotted to take over the A-10’s close air support role.”

3.  GSA cost reimbursable contracts may nudge out small business. FederalTimes.Com’s Andy Medici reports, “The General Services Administration is considering adding cost-reimbursable options to its supply schedules . . . . Contracts on the GSA federal supply schedules currently use time-and-materials and fixed-price pricing terms. The General Services Administration could greatly increase its share of federal spending by adding cost-reimbursable options to its supply schedules, experts say. The move is partly a response to pressure from the Defense Department for more cost-reimbursable options.”

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Your company’s data collection target may be you. The Atlantic’s Don Peck explains, “The application of predictive analytics to people’s careers—an emerging field sometimes called “people analytics”—is enormously challenging, not to mention ethically fraught. And it can’t help but feel a little creepy. It requires the creation of a vastly larger box score of human performance than one would ever encounter in the sports pages, or that has ever been dreamed up before. To some degree, the endeavor touches on the deepest of human mysteries: how we grow, whether we flourish, what we become. Most companies are just beginning to explore the possibilities. But make no mistake: during the next five to 10 years, new models will be created, and new experiments run, on a very large scale.”

2.  Now, let’s shoot them all down! WashingtonTimes.Com contributor Cheryl K. Chumley reports, “The U.S. Army said its latest defense technology — a vehicle-mounted laser — has passed a recent test with flying colors, successfully shooting a drone from the sky and intercepting and destroying several mortar rounds. The laser, dubbed the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator, or HEL MD, and placed atop a military vehicle, hit more than 90 mortar bombs, as well as several drones, during a six-week test period conducted in New Mexico at the White Sands Missile Range . . . . The technology probably won’t be completely operational and ready for mission until 2022, because developers are going to be working on increasing the power and range of the lasers. And the Army still has decide whether or not to buy the system . . . .”

3.  They can hear you now. WaPo’s Craig Timberg and Ashkan Soltani report, “The cellphone encryption technology used most widely across the world can be easily defeated by the National Security Agency, an internal document shows, giving the agency the means to decode most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over public airwaves every day. While the military and law enforcement agencies long have been able to hack into individual cellphones, the NSA’s capability appears to be far more sweeping because of the agency’s global signals collection operation. The agency’s ability to crack encryption used by the majority of cellphones in the world offers it wide-ranging powers to listen in on private conversations.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Kill Bill Vol. III:   “One day after winning lopsided House approval, bipartisan legislation to ease across-the-board spending cuts and reduce economy-rattling budget brinkmanship appears likely to command the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate . . . . Yet unlike in the House, significantly more Senate Republicans are expected to oppose the legislation than vote for it, highlighting the different political forces at work at opposite ends of the Capitol. . . . On Thursday, in advance of the vote, Speaker John Boehner unleashed a stinging attack on the groups campaigning for the bill’s demise, saying they lacked credibility. He also blamed them for leading the party into the shutdown this fall. The bill’s principal Republican negotiator, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, is also considered a potential presidential contender. An aide said he has been making phone calls to senators seeking their support.”

2.  Once a lobbyist, always a lobbyist?: “Mr. Podesta, named a senior adviser to President Obama, is not currently a lobbyist and therefore does not have to worry about the Obama administration’s self-imposed ban on hiring lobbyists to administration jobs. But he will nonetheless arrive at the White House after having run an organization that has taken millions of dollars in corporate donations in recent years and has its own team of lobbyists who have pushed an agenda that sometimes echoes the interests of these corporate supporters.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  “To Cut Component Prices, Learn To Manage Supplier Costs.”  AviationWeek.Com contributors Raman Ram, Joseph Martin, Jono Anderson , Erich Fischer argue, “OEMs and systems providers have the power to recapture some of the value they have conceded. To do this, however, they need to become good at estimating what the sourced parts should cost. Should-cost estimation capability has atrophied in many OEMs as procurement staffs have focused more on transactional activities. They are unable to identify inefficient suppliers that pass along high cost structure and opportunistic ones looking to exploit the absence of economic transparency.”

2.  “Israel must give up its worst-kept secret: the bomb.” Aljazeera.Com contributor Neve Gordon argues, “I am against Iran developing a nuclear weapon, but I am also opposed to Israel having a nuclear arsenal, which at 200 warheads, would be larger than the arsenal of Britain. There is, after all, a connection between the two and this connection needs to be spelled out, if a broader framework is to be adopted.”

3.  “The budget deal and Washington’s new politics of compromise.” Reuters’ contributor Anatole Kaletsky argues, “There are . . . several important lessons that can be drawn already from the U.S. budget agreement, several with implications for politics and economic policy in other countries. Here, briefly, are five . . . .”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Let’s hear it for the pork.

2.  In-action committees.

3.  “The NSA Before Xmas.”

End of the Runway, KAIA, Afghanistan

A Must Read: Afghanistan After the Drawdown

Afghanistan After the Drawdown

From http://www.cfr.org/afghanistan/afghanistan-after-drawdown/p31944

Authors: Seth G. Jones, Associate Director, International Security and Defense Policy Center, RAND Corporation, and Keith Crane, Director, Environment, Energy, and Economic Development program, RAND Corporation

Overview

The United States has now been at war in Afghanistan for more than a decade. The sacrifice in blood and treasure has been substantial. Some 2,300 American servicemen and women have lost their lives, more than 19,000 have been injured, and nearly $650 billion has been spent over the course of the United States’ longest war. The results, however, can only be described as inconclusive. The reach and effectiveness of the Afghan central government remain circumscribed, challenged by various armed groups and undermined by pervasive corruption. The economy has grown rapidly, albeit from a low starting place, but remains largely dependent on international aid flows that will certainly shrink.

The combination of high costs and middling returns has left the American public increasingly skeptical of the utility of the U.S. commitment to Afghanistan. The 2011 death of Osama bin Laden, mastermind of the 9/11 attacks that brought the American military to Afghanistan in 2001, only reinforced that perception. Yet the United States retains interests in Afghanistan, including preventing the reemergence of a terrorist safe haven and promoting stability in the region, which could be further undermined by a total withdrawal of American military forces.

As this Council Special Report explains, 2014 will be a pivotal year for Afghanistan. An election will, presumably, bring a new president to Kabul. The U.S. military will complete its transfer of responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces, making the war effort Afghan-led. And, as donor financing begins to come down, the Afghan economy will need to find sustainable, internal sources of growth.

Authors Seth Jones and Keith Crane recommend a number of steps the United States can and should take to advance its interests during this transition. During the presidential elections, they write, Washington should encourage multiethnic political coalitions to increase the representativeness of (and decrease divisions within) the Afghan government. The United States should also help the Afghan National Security Forces and other relevant authorities secure election sites and improve the quality and transparency of the election itself. They further recommend a continued military presence in Afghanistan of eight thousand to twelve thousand U.S. soldiers pursuing a “foreign internal defense mission.” These troops, ideally with further support from NATO and other allies, would conduct strikes against terrorists and train, advise, and assist Afghan national and local forces; as is obvious, all this depends on the willingness of the Afghan government to agree. The authors also encourage the United States and other donors to continue their civilian aid pledges, provided that Afghanistan meets its commitments to good governance and transparency, and suggest small-scale economic initiatives to help improve relationships among countries in the region. Finally, they acknowledge that there is unlikely to be a major change in the troubled U.S.-Pakistan relationship, in no small part because Islamabad continues to provide a sanctuary to the Afghan Taliban. As a result, the authors recommend that Washington seeks ways to reduce its dependence on Islamabad for what the United States does in Afghanistan and tightly calibrates its military assistance to the Pakistani government.

Afghanistan After the Drawdown is a sober, thoughtful assessment of Afghanistan’s prospects in the coming year and beyond. It offers U.S. policymakers a realistic set of options in the political, security, and economic realms that are consistent with the scope of American interests, the resources the United States can reasonably bring to bear, and Afghan realities. Despite the many challenges facing Afghanistan in the years ahead, this report argues persuasively that the United States still can, and should, seek a role in its future.
 

 

Vietnam Vet Mem - 1

Afghan collapse, Jihadi backlash, and Bring back the draft

Karzai’s jeopardizing Afghan stability, Syria’s civil war bleed-over, and why we need the draft . . . .

Saturday Summary

 

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Drone drop in Defense. Contributor Charles Simmins explains, “The Department of Defense appears to be drastically slowing its procurement of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) for FY2014. That change is according to a report on the website of the Federation of American Scientists from Nov. 12. The combined reduction from FY 2013 is $1.3 billion, divided between R&D and procurement. Reductions ought not to be entirely unexpected. Larger drones, such as the Reaper, have a service life similar to a manned aircraft. Just as the B-52 and the F-18 have received continual upgrades in avionics and weapons systems, so will larger UAS systems. Smaller drones, used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, will be in less demand as the U.S. completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.”

2.  It’s Greek, to me. However, if you are bi-lingual, tri-lingual, or have that bent, contributor Charles Simmins tiene alguno buenas noticias para usted: “The U.S. Department of Labor finds that translators and interpreters will be one of the 15 fastest growing occupations between now and 2020. The demand for people who are bilingual or multilingual is far exceeding the supply. The demand for language speakers is based upon the needs of the day. Right now, for example, the Federal government would like to hire people fluent in Arabic, Farsi, Dari and Pashto. Businesses want people who can speak Chinese, Japanese and Hindi, languages tied to trade. At a more local level, police departments, hospitals and social service agencies are looking to fill positions for pockets of local non-English speaking residents, Somali in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, Russian in New York City’s Brighton Beach, Hmong in Galveston.”

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Afghan collapse a possibility. Christian Science Monitor runs Reuters’ Maria Golovnina, and John Chalmers:  “President Hamid Karzai’s stubborn refusal to sign a pact that would keep thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan after 2014 is a high-risk gamble that Washington will give in to his demands, one that has left him isolated as the clock runs down on his presidency. Diplomats said he may have overplayed his hand, raising the risk of a complete U.S. withdrawal from a country where Western troops have fought Taliban militants for the past 12 years. It also risks a backlash at home by critics who believe Karzai is playing a dangerous game with Afghanistan’s future security. If the bilateral pact is not signed, Western aid running to billions of dollars will be in serious jeopardy, and confidence in the fragile economy could collapse amid fears the country will slip back into ethnic fighting or civil war.”

2.  Brace yourself – Syria civil war threatens jihadi backlash. BBC.Co.Uk’s Frank Gardner reports, “This week Britain’s House of Commons was told that a terrorist attack in Europe by jihadist fighters returning from Syria is ‘almost inevitable but may not happen for some time’. . . . with the Syrian conflict now approaching its fourth year and the death toll passing 100,000, attention is focusing on what the long-term risks are to the rest of the world.”

3.  One less drone in Afghanistan, anyway. Khaama.Com reports, “According to local authorities in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, a US drone has crashed in Chaparahar district on Saturday afternoon. . . . [A] Taliban group in Afghanistan claimed that the US drone was shot down by Taliban militants. A spokesman for the Taliban group Zabiullah Mujahid following a statement said that the drone was shot down by Taliban fighters in Chaparhar district on Friday afternoon.” LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, however, that in Pakistan, “The US killed three unidentified “militants” in a drone strike in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan yesterday. The strike is the third in Pakistan this month; the previous two attacks killed senior leaders in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and the Haqqani Network.”

4.  Pakistan will facilitate Afghan-Taliban truce talks. Reuters’ Mirwais Harooni and Hamid Shalizi report from Kabul, “Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif promised Afghanistan on Saturday that he would help arrange further meetings between Afghan officials and a former Taliban commander as part of renewed efforts to revive a defunct peace process. Pakistan announced it would release the insurgent group’s former second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in September. Afghan officials believe he still retains enough influence within the Taliban to help rekindle peace talks.”

5.  In Iraq, seems the sectarian war is already on. Aljazeear.Com reports, “Violence on Friday struck Baghdad and mostly Sunni Arab parts of the north and west, with shootings and bombings targeting civilians, local officials, security forces and even a brothel. But the most troubling of the bloodshed came early on Friday morning, when authorities discovered the bodies of 18 men , including two tribal chiefs, four policemen and an army major, dumped in farmland near the Sunni Arab town of Tarmiyah, just north of Baghdad. There was another such incident in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad. Seven men – all maintenance workers and labourers at a local football field – were found dead, their throats cut. A police officer told the AFP news agency he felt physically sick upon seeing the mutilated corpses.” [I have looked for good news in Iraq – I can find none.]

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Syrian chem on the table for contracted destruction. AP’s Toby Sterling and Albert Aji report from Damascus, “The U.S. has offered to help destroy some of the most lethal parts of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile at an offshore facility . . . . 35 private companies have applied so far to participate and are at an early stage of being vetted. He also called on governments of the 190 countries that belong to the OPCW to contribute funds to the effort, or by contracting directly with companies to help destroy chemicals.”

2.  Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles (AMPV) RFP is out. DefenseIndustryDaily.Com reports, “The US Army released its finalized RFP to acquire Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicles (AMPV) to be used for a variety of support roles, from medical treatment and evacuation, to mission command and other functions. They expect EMD funding to peak in FY16 at $174M, followed by a low rate initial production phase in 3 options of between $244M and $505M each. Eventually close to 3,000 vehicles could be produced.”

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Russian spymasters shy away from Google. VentureBeat.Com contributor Oleg Kouzbit reports, “Keeping with their prior attempts to keep Westerners as far away as possible from Russians’ Internet activity, Russian secret service agents have recently advised regional government officials across Russia to use domestic webmail services and stay away from overseas ones, such as Google’s Gmail. The recommendation, still off the record, came earlier this month from the Federal Security Service (FSB), the post-Soviet successor of the KGB, and followed the revelations made by Edward Snowden, the fugitive American government contractor who is now safe from prosecution during his one-year asylum in Russia.”

2.  Where you are and what you’re doing. BuzzFeed.Com’s Charlie Warzel reports, “A new phone bought today can sense if you are walking or running, if you drove to your destination in a car or hopped on a bike. Far better than most pedometers, it can tell you how many steps you’ve taken and in which direction you went. It knows how long you stayed out at the bar last weekend and how you got home. And it’s getting more accurate by the day. . . . Researchers at the University of Helsinki announced they’ve developed an algorithm that accurately reveals modes of transportation based solely off of movement data collected from mobile phones. By studying over 150 hours of accelerometer data, the Finnish team found their algorithms have improved transportation mode detection by over 20%.”

3.  DoD’s $50 million privacy suit settlement. TheVerge.Com’s Amar Toor reports, “The US government this week agreed to pay $50 million to a Texas-based company that accused the military of pirating its software. The company, Apptricity, struck a software licensing deal with the Department of Defense in 2004, but filed a copyright infringement claim against the government last year after it discovered that the military had distributed thousands of unauthorized copies among its ranks. The Dallas Morning News first reported the settlement on Monday, before Apptricity announced it one day later.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  A “glass-is-half-full” kind of guy: “President Obama in an interview with ABC News insisted his administration could fix the rocky rollout of his health care reform bill and that his political troubles would pass, saying he had ‘nowhere to go but up.’ . . . ‘I’ve gone up and down pretty much consistently throughout,’ said Obama in an interview with Barbara Walters taped last week and aired on Friday. ‘But the good thing about when you’re down is that usually you got nowhere to go but up.’”

2.  Wacko birds of a feather? “Sen. John McCain is starting to sound like a Tea Party ‘wacko bird.’ In a new fundraising letter for the Republican National Committee released Friday, McCain lashed out at ‘Barack Obama, Harry Reid and Washington liberals,” who he claimed are destroying the United States. Liberals, he warned, ‘have taken us down a dark and dangerous path defined by record levels of debt, ever-expanding government, and a lead-from-behind defense strategy. There’s not much time left to turn things around.’ McCain’s name carries a lot of weight in fundraising because he was the 2008 GOP nominee and is a leading voice of establishment Republicans. But he also toughened his tone to sound more conservative and closer to Tea Party senators like Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, whom McCain recently labeled ‘wacko birds.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  “Save America: Restore the Draft.” WaPo’s Dana Milibank argues, “But one change, over time, could reverse the problems that have built up over the past few decades: We should mandate military service for all Americans, men and women alike, when they turn 18. The idea is radical, unlikely and impractical — but it just might work.”

2.  “Netanyahu: Crying wolf again.” Aljazeera.Com contributor Akbar Ganji argues, “The reality is that Iran does not present an existential threat to the people of Israel. It is, in fact, Israel that is a serious threat to Iran.”

3.  “U.S. should help Iranian dissidents.” UPI.Com contributor Hamid Yazdan Panah argues, “The narrative on Iran has become fixated solely around the supposed moderation of the new President Hassan Rouhani and undertaking a policy of appeasement toward Tehran. Despite emerging in full force during the 2009 protests, Iranian dissidents and freedom activists are all but forgotten.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Black and Blue Friday.

2.  Close call.

3.  See you next year, Turkey.

Department of Vet Affairs Front

Cold war warms, al Qaeda evolution, and Welcome Maveric drone – Daily Intelligence

China steps up tensions in the East China Sea, al Qaeda’s growing pains, and a drone the birds won’t even notice – all in today’s defense headlines. 

 

Friday Finales

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Continuous monitoring of cleared employees. Editor Lindy Kyzer reviews the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence agenda to curb leaks: “Included in the 2014 Intelligence Authorization Bill is language requiring intelligence agencies to ‘continuously determine whether their employees and contractors are eligible for access to classified information.’ This would include automated checks of social media accounts and other legally available public records, including financial information, credit reports, travel information and criminal records.”

2.  Interview Rorschach tests. Contributor Jillian Hamilton’s Recruiting Round-Up ink blot test: “Apparently, it’s okay to try to identify the next Edward Snowden as long as you don’t provide a clinical diagnosis. So, instead of just calling references and verifying resume information, you might need to have the employee complete a behavioral survey.” And more – hiring, growing, acquiring, and nobody’s firing!

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Cold war warms in East China Sea. Reuters Ben Blanchard and Roberta Rampton report, “China sent several fighter jets and an early warning aircraft into its new air defense zone over the East China Sea, state news agency Xinhua said on Friday, raising the stakes in a standoff with the United States, Japan and South Korea. . . . Ties between China and Japan have been strained for months by the dispute over the islands in the East China Sea, called the Diaoyu by China and the Senkaku by Japan. Washington does not take a position on the sovereignty of the islands but recognizes Tokyo’s administrative control and says the U.S.-Japan security pact applies to them.”

2.  “You’d better hope we never have a war again” . . . . [I was already doin’ that]. AP’s Pauline Jelinek reports that “because of ongoing budget fights, officials in recent weeks have given broad examples of readiness lapses in hopes of convincing Congress and the American people that cutbacks, particularly in training budgets, are creating a precarious situation. . . . Even those who believe the situation is not yet dire say that eventually these budget cuts will catch up with the force. Some analysts say another two or three years of training cuts, for instance, will leave the U.S. military seriously unprepared.”

3.  Surf’s up in wave of Iraqi violence. Aljazeera.Com reports, “Another deadly wave of attacks hits Iraq. . . . Attacks in Iraq killed 31 people Thursday as 11 car bombs struck nationwide, the latest in a surge of violence that has sparked fears Iraq is slipping back into all-out sectarian war. The bloodshed, in which more than 6,000 people have been killed this year, is the worst prolonged stretch of unrest since 2008 and comes just months before a general election, forcing Baghdad to appeal for international help in battling rebel fighters.”

4.  al Qaeda alliances morph and expand. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio and Lisa Lundquist report, “The Islamic Front, a newly formed coalition of Syrian Islamist groups that cooperate with al Qaeda and is estimated at 45,000 fighters . . . . Although the formation of the Islamic Front has been hailed as a blow to al Qaeda, the new group embraces jihad and calls for the establishment of an Islamic state and the imposition of sharia law, both of which are goals of al Qaeda.” Also, however, LWJ’s Thomas Joscelyn reports, “A Chechen-led group of fighters in Syria has sworn allegiance to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who heads the Islamic State of Iraq and the Sham (ISIS), an official al Qaeda affiliate. . . . The Army of the Emigrants and Helpers’ allegiance to ISIS is not surprising, as the Chechen-led fighters have long fought under ISIS’ command in Syria. . . . the statement highlights the fluid nature of al Qaeda’s global network. Fighters who first swore allegiance to an al Qaeda-linked jihadist in the Caucasus now readily seek formal integration into the ranks of another al Qaeda branch in Syria.”

5.  Karzai condemns drone civilian casualties in Helmand. Khaama.Com reports, “Afghan president Hamid Karzai strongly condemned the airstrike by coalition security forces on a residential house in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan, the presidential said in a statement. Local government officials in Helmand province quoted in the presidential palace statement said a child was killed and two women were injured following a drone strike by coalition forces on Thursday morning. . . . President Karzai said the airstrike takes place shortly after the consultative Loya Jirga approved the bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and United States.” In response, “The NATO-led international coalition security forces regretted civilian casualties in a drone strike in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.”

6.  AFRICOM update. American Forces Press Service’s Jim Garamone reports, “The Defense Department continues to work with nations in North Africa to promote security and increase stability in the region still feeling the effects of the Arab Spring, , Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs . . . . Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco are confronting instability and the U.S. military is working to build or strengthen their police and military forces . . . .”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Navy suspends $240 million shipping contract. WaPo’s Craig Whitlock reports, “The Navy announced Wednesday that it has suspended business with a major defense contractor over ‘questionable business integrity,’ the second time in two months that it has revealed deep problems with a company that services its ships around the world. In a statement it released Wednesday night, the Navy said it had suspended Inchcape Shipping Services, an old-line maritime trading firm based in Britain that delivers cargo and provides port services in 66 countries.”

2.  GSA contract savings encourage “work from home.” FederalTimes.Com’s Andy Medici reports, “The General Services Administration’s Networx telecommunications contract saved agencies more than $678 million in 2013, according to an agency announcement. . . . In 2013, agencies spent more than $1.3 billion on services from toll-free numbers to voice, data and video services. Since 2007, agency use of those services has increased by 800 percent, but the cost has only grown by 43 percent, according to GSA. Lewis said these services also can encourage mobility by providing the technology that employees need to work from any location. This saves agencies money on real estate while increasing productivity.”

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s another drone. Wired.Com’s Allen McDuffee reports, “The big problem with drones is they look like, well, drones. It makes them easy to spot, and easy to target. The Army has a solution to this problem: make them look like birds. A microdrone that resembles a bird would be harder to spot, the thinking goes, rendering them almost as invisible to the enemy as the soldiers controlling them. Maveric has a bird-like profile with flexible wings, giving it the appearance of a raptor in flight. The drone, made of composite material, can fly as high as 25,000 feet and zip along at between 20 and 65 mph, making it just the thing for reconnaissance missions. And those super-stealthy guys in Special Operations.”

2.  Army’s brain-wave control technology. NextGov.Com’s Bob Brewin reports, “Typing while grunting makes for a real challenges, so the Army  Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center wants some smart folks to come up with alternative input gadgets controlled by brain waves or eye movements. CERDEC, which hangs out in Aberdeen, Md., also wants to consider other ‘alternate human-machine interface modalities’ including haptic interfaces first used in video games and conversational speech inputs  for troops on foot or in ‘vibration and noise challenged environments,’ such as tactical vehicles.”

3.  Microsoft joins Google and Yahoo in fight against NSA. WaPo’s Craig Timberg, Barton Gellman and Ashkan Soltani report, “Microsoft is moving toward a major new effort to encrypt its Internet traffic amid fears that the National Security Agency may have broken into its global communications links, said people familiar with the emerging plans. Suspicions at Microsoft, while building for several months, sharpened in October when it was reported that the NSA was intercepting traffic inside the private networks of Google and Yahoo, two industry rivals with similar global infrastructures, said people with direct knowledge of the company’s deliberations. They said top Microsoft executives are meeting this week to decide what encryption initiatives to deploy and how quickly.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Not sequestration, but smoothing . . . sounds more sooooooothing: “With less than three weeks until their deadline, U.S. budget negotiators have yet to break an impasse over revenue, prompting lawmakers to draft plans to blunt $19 billion in defense cuts set to start in January. One idea — known as “smoothing” — would redistribute the 2014 reductions across the 10-year timeframe of the automatic Pentagon cuts known as sequestration. Instead of the cuts hitting in January, defense spending next year would remain at or higher than the current $518 billion level, with greater reductions coming in future years. Budget analysts call the smoothing approach a gimmick, and Tea Party-aligned lawmakers probably will oppose it.”

2.  A tall tale of turkey as persistent as a blister agent: “It wasn’t exactly the disastrous rollout of Obamacare, but 10 years ago this week, Washington was consumed with another scandal, dubbed by one CNN newscaster as “Turkey-gate”: Was that a fake turkey President George W. Bush was photographed with during his first surprise visit with troops in Iraq? The photo resulting from the visit was iconic — possibly history’s most famous picture of a cooked turkey. It’s certainly the most misunderstood. Despite being a real turkey, meant as a decoration for the chow line, Mr. Bush’s political opponents seized on it, erroneously claiming it was plastic.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  “John Kerry has not yet saved — or destroyed — the Middle East.” WaPo contributor David Rohde argues that “talk in Washington of a legacy-defining breakthrough for Obama is overstated and premature. So are the apocalyptic warnings of Iranian hegemony now coming from Jerusalem and Riyadh.”

2.  “Iraq and Saudi Arabia: between a rock and a hard place.” Aljazeera.Com contributor Salah Nasrawi argues, “Inevitably, a nuclear deal with Iran will have vast implications on the regional balance of power. It has the potential to reshape relationships throughout the Middle East. No country will be more affected by the ensuing uncertainty than the two regional powers – Iran and Saudi Arabia. The prospect of geo-strategic rivalry between the two is expected to be on an upward trajectory, with several sources of short- and longer-term tension evident.”

3.  “Shut Up and Shop This Turkey Day.” Time contributor Nick Gillespie argues, “If there’s one thing even more uniquely American than choking down mouthfuls of turkey no one wants, green bean casserole no one admits to preparing, and pumpkin pie that no one remembers buying on Thanksgiving, it’s going shopping all the time. For god’s sake, George W. Bush counseled a nation still reeling from the 9/11 attacks that when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Deficit spending.

2.  Black Thursday.

3.  Border control.