Monthly Archives: November 2013

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.

2012-11-04 13_27_38

Alliances in Syria, The Verge in Geneva, and Immunity in Afghanistan – Daily Intelligence

Big 7 Reb groups team up against Assad’s advances, success in Geneva is within reach, and Loya Jirga majority agrees to U.S. Soldier immunity to Afghan prosecutions – all in today’s defense headlines. 

Saturday Coffee Read & BREAKING NEWS!

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Security clearance reform on the Hill. Editor Lindy Kyzer reports, “Congress continues to debate next steps in the security clearance reform process. A senate hearing this week focused on position sensitivity designations. A new rule proposed by the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence would streamline the process for determining which positions are deemed ‘sensitive.’ Such a designation applies to positions with a potentially adverse effect on national security but which don’t require a security clearance. . . . [meanwhile,] the White House pushed back this week on Senate efforts to reform clearance procedures within DoD as a part of the 2014 Defense Authorization Bill.”

2.  . . .  ask what your company can do for you. Contributor Diana Rodriguez – a.k.a. D-Rod – with good advice  on interviewing the interviewer, for your own sake: “A successful interview requires input from both parties- the interviewer and the job candidate. Although many private firms, and federal and state government agencies, are actively seeking out veterans to hire, a percentage won’t be hired because they fail to ask the right questions during an interview.  Asking the right questions can help the interviewer form an impression of the applicant that may, in many cases, be as important as the answers given about their skills. “

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  In Geneva, just don’t screw it up. Reuters’ Parisa Hafezi and John Irish report from Geneva, “U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Geneva on Saturday to join talks on Iran’s contested nuclear program with Tehran and six world powers appearing on the verge of a breakthrough to defuse the decade-old standoff. . . . Diplomats said a formidable sticking point in the intense negotiations, which began on Wednesday, may have been overcome with compromise language that does not explicitly recognize Iran’s claim to a ‘right to enrich’ uranium but acknowledges all countries’ right to their own civilian nuclear energy. But Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Iran’s demand to continue construction of a heavy-water reactor near Arak that could, when operational, yield bomb-grade plutonium remained one of the main outstanding issues.” AP’s John Heilprin and Jamey Keaten, also in Geneva, report, “John Kerry and world’s other top diplomats joined Iran nuclear talks Saturday, cautioning there were no guarantees their participation would be enough to seal a deal . . . .”

2. In Syria, new alliances against al Assad. Aljazeera.Com reports, “Seven major Islamist rebel groups battling President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria have announced a merger to form an “Islamic Front” and pledged to build an Islamic state in a post-Assad Syria. . . . The factions joining the merger are Aleppo’s biggest fighting force Liwa al-Tawhid, the Salafist Ahrar al-Sham, the Idlib-based Soqour al-Sham, the Homs-based al-Haq Brigades, Ansar al-Sham, and the Damascus-based Army of Islam. The Kurdish Islamic Front also joined the front. . . . Amad Essa al-Sheikh, the head of the Consultative Council of the new Islamic Front, told Al Jazeera the goal of integrating the factions was to bring about ‘a paradigm shift in the armed rebellion by closing ranks and mobilising them to become the real alternative to the dying regime’. ”

3.  Jan – Haqqani’s second – killed in Pakistan. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, “The CIA-operated Reapers killed Maulvi Ahmed Jan, a top deputy in the al Qaeda-allied Haqqani Network, and two other commanders in an airstrike on a seminary in the settled district of Hangu. The hit was remarkable because US drones rarely stray outside of the designated kill boxes of Pakistan’s tribal areas, particularly the tribal areas of North and South Waziristan, where a host of jihadist groups operate unfettered. Of the 352 strikes recorded by The Long War Journal since the drone program began, 95 percent have taken place in the two tribal agencies. Only four of the remaining strikes occurred outside of the tribal areas; the last was in March 2009.”

4.  In Afghanistan, Loya Jirga immunizes troops. Khaama.Com reports, “The immunity for US troops which is considered to be one of the controversial terms of the bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and United States, has reportedly been approved by majority. The national grand council (Loya Jirga) comprised of 50 working committees continued debate on the terms of bilateral security agreement between Afghanistan and United States. According to reports, majority of the working committees have approved the article 13 of the bilateral security agreement, which gives exclusive US “the exclusive right” to try its soldiers accused of crimes in Afghanistan.” And, a big OOPS in Nangarhar.

5. Uni-Polar Disorder: DoD’s 8-point Arctic Prozac. The Defense Department’s new Arctic strategy is an 8-point approach to maintaining peace and security in a new frontier that climatic forces are poised to open in the coming years . . . . As global warming accelerates, the secretary said, Arctic ice melt will cause a rise in sea levels that could threaten coastal populations around the world — but it could also open a transpolar sea route. Hagel said that expanded tourism, commercial shipping, migrating fish stocks and energy exploration in the region will affect the eight Arctic nations — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia and Sweden, along with the United States –- most closely. All, he said, ‘have publicly committed to work within a common framework of international law and diplomatic engagement.’”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Microsoft on the cheap. FederalTimes.Com reports, “The General Services Administration is looking for better deals on Microsoft software, according to a request for quotations released Wednesday. The RFQ is part of the agency’s Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative and will reduce the prices agencies pay for purchases of Microsoft software . . . . Companies have until Dec. 18 to respond to the RFQ.”

2.  Contractor windfall — $1.1 billion. NextGov.Com’s Bob Brewin explains, “The now moribund interagency program office charged with developing an integrated electronic health record for the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments spent $1.1 billion during its five year life, with the bulk of that going to support service contracts, based on a Nextgov review of Pentagon reports to Congress and testimony. The two departments in February ditched efforts to develop the iEHR after costs spiraled to $28 billion and decided to pursue modernization efforts on their own.”

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Welcome to the Dark Side. A remarkable read from DefenseMediaNetwork.Com’s George Galdorsi: “The expanding use of armed unmanned systems (UxS) is not only changing the face of modern warfare, but also altering the process of decision-making in combat operations. Indeed, it has been argued that the rise in drone warfare is changing the way we conceive of and define ‘warfare’ itself. . . . While few today fear that a 21st century HAL will turn on its masters, the issues involved with fielding increasingly autonomous UxS are complex, challenging, and increasingly contentious. While advancing other aspects of UxS improvements in areas such as propulsion, payload, stealth, speed, endurance, and other attributes are – and will remain – important, coming to grips with how much autonomy is enough and how much may be too much, is arguably the most important issue we need to address with unmanned systems over the next decade.”

2.  Congress to OPM – C’mon up. FederalTimes.Com’s Sean Reilly reports, “The chairman of a House oversight committee has subpoenaed the Office of Personnel Management for contracts and other documents as part of an investigation into the process for granting security clearances. . . . Both Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has since disclosed sensitive secrets, and Aaron Alexis, another contract worker who killed a dozen people two months ago in a rampage at the Washington Navy Yard, held clearances granted through a process ‘orchestrated’ by OPM . . . .”

3.  “Staring down the Taliban in the Race to Eradicate Polio from Earth.” A special report from Wired.Com contributor Matthieu Aikins: “The smallpox campaign represented a new kind of success brought about by cooperation on a global scale, one that permanently made the world a better place. Researchers studying smallpox are the only people who have to be vaccinated against it anymore. It’s gone. With that success behind them, public-health officials naturally wanted to repeat it with other diseases. After a 17-year campaign, a cattle infection called rinderpest was officially eradicated in 2011. But the struggle to eliminate a second human affliction has proved more difficult than anyone imagined.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  They pushed the button, Jim. . . .The big red one. In Geneva, we work to diminish “nucular” options; on The Hill, Senate Dems leverage them: “the rule change represents a substantial power shift in a chamber that for more than two centuries has prided itself on affording more rights to the minority party than any other legislative body in the world. Now, a president whose party holds the majority in the Senate is virtually assured of having his nominees approved, with far less opportunity for political obstruction.”

2. If it’s not a secret, you can’t leak it. That was Easy!: “Excessive government secrecy feeds public mistrust and may be fostering a culture of leaks, a Democratic lawmaker said Thursday in urging a fundamental re-look at the scope of the classification system. ‘It totally undermines public confidence in our institutions,’ Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said at the National Archives and Record Administration’s headquarters in downtown Washington. ‘We simply classify too much information for too long at too great a cost.’”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  “The Arabs’ Iran Dilemma.” Aljazeera.Com contributor Salah Nasrawi argues, “The best way to keep Iran in check, and to address the rise of sectarianism and its threats to internal security, would be to enact the long overdue democratic reforms that are vital for stability and to reduce tensions in the region through a new effective security and cooperation framework.”

2.  “What the filibuster’s demise means for the Supreme Court.” Reuters’ contributor Reihan Salam argues, “Now that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has ended the filibuster for district and appeals court nominees and executive branch appointments, it’s only a matter of time before the filibuster goes away for Supreme Court nominations and legislation as well.”

3.  “Without the filibuster, a tyranny of the majority.”  WaPo contributor Senator Lamar Alexander argues, “This was the most dangerous restructuring of Senate rules since Thomas Jefferson wrote them. It creates a perpetual opportunity for ‘tyranny of the majority,’ which Alexis de Tocqueville called one of the greatest threats to American democracy.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  War on Xmas.

2.  Ass-phyxiation.

3.  First Thanksgiving.

Metro Images 1

The Philippines, Hack threats, and forgetting Libya – Daily Intelligence

Update on aid to the Philippines, Anonymous big hack attack looms, and the price Africa will pay for neglecting Libya Aid – all in today’s defense headlines. 

 

Take ‘em away!

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Next in line at Department of Homeland Security. Contributor Ashley LaGanga reports, “The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee questioned Jeh Johnson on Wednesday, President Obama’s pick for Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). . . . While his nomination is opposed by Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) – who are concerned with border security and the attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, respectively – Johnson is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate soon.” Also, NSA transparency, sequestration and defence, and Veteran entrepreneurs.

2.  For Defense Industry jobs, questions before the exam, thanks to contributor Diana Rodriguez: “The defense industry and defense contracting careers come with their own unique requirements. Expect questions that delve into your trustworthiness, as well as your capabilities. . . . [here] are five questions you can expect to be asked by a defense industry hiring manager.”

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Aid to Philippines still slow. Reuters’ Aubrey Belford reports from Tacloban, “Survivors began rebuilding homes destroyed by one of the world’s most powerful typhoons and emergency supplies flowed into ravaged Philippine islands, as the United Nations more than doubled its estimate of people made homeless to nearly two million. But the aid effort was still patchy, and bodies still lay uncollected as rescuers tried to evacuate stricken communities on Saturday, more than a week after Typhoon Haiyan killed at least 3,633 with tree-snapping winds and tsunami-like waves.” American Forces Press Service reports, “Military Airlifts Supplies, Displaced People in Philippines,” “Pacific Command Creates Joint Task Force for Philippines Relief” and “Hagel Conveys Condolences, Vows Support to Filipinos.”

2.  Afghanistan’s Loya Jirga. AP’s Kathy Gannon and Rahim Faiez report from Kabul, “Afghan and U.S. negotiators have finished a draft of a contentious security pact to be presented to a traditional council next week . . . there remain disagreements between the two countries over the final content of the accord. Without approval of the Loya Jirga, a gathering of several thousand prominent figures from across the country, Afghanistan will likely refuse to sign the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement . . . . And if the Loya Jirga does approve it, the agreement still will require a final nod from parliament.” Khaama.Com reports, “Karzai also added that Afghanistan will likely refuse to sign the bilateral security agreement without the approval of the national grand council (Loya Jirga). . . . However, President Hamid Karzai said that the issue of immunity for US troops remained unresolved, and called for a national grand council (Loya Jirga) to debate the issue.”

3.  Syrian government forces’ incremental progress against rebels. Aljazeear.Com reports, “Syrian troops have captured a contested suburb of Damascus as the government forged ahead with a offensive that already has taken four other opposition strongholds south of the capital. For more than a year, much of the belt of neighbourhoods and towns just south of Damascus has been a rebel bastion and a key arms conduit for the opposition. But government forces – reportedly bolstered by fighters from Lebanon’s Shia armed group Hezbollah group and Shia fighters from Iraq – have made significant headway in recent weeks in the area as President Bashar al-Assad pushes to shore up his hold on the capital and its doorstep.”

4.  Syria’s sarin, mustard, and nerve, hold the ketchup. Albania rejects proposal to destroy chem in their country. Reuters’s Anthony Deutsch and Benet Koleka report from the Hague, “Albania rejected on Friday a U.S. request to host the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons, dealing a blow to a U.S.-Russian accord to eliminate the nerve agents from the country’s protracted civil war. . . . There was no immediate indication where the United States or Russia might look next to dispose of thousands of tons of toxic waste. Friday was the deadline for the details of the plan to be agreed by Damascus and the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague.”

5.  Hope in Geneva for Iran plan. Aljazeera.Com reports, “Six world powers and Iran are getting close to a first-stage agreement to curb the Islamic Republic’s nuclear programme, a senior US official has said. The official told reporters in Washington on Friday that it was ‘quite possible’ a deal could be reached when the parties meet on November 21-22 in Geneva . . . . ‘I don’t know if we will reach an agreement. I think it is quite possible that we can, but there are still tough issues to negotiate’ . . . . ”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) contracting (in)digest(ion). Forbes.Com unravels the contracting complexities behind the failed website-rollout: “For its part, Administration officials disregarded criticism that some of the contractors had checkered histories. Responding to reports that Serco was facing a series of major inquiries in the UK, Brian Cook, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, said, ‘Serco is a highly skilled company that has a proven track record in providing cost-effective services to numerous other (U.S.) federal agencies.’ The hard-to-believe takeaway is that just about no one, least of all the administration, was ready on launch day.”

2.  LMT’s Long Range Anti Ship Missile does it again. AZOSensors.Com reports, “Flying over the Sea Range at Point Mugu, Calif., a U.S. Air Force B-1B bomber from the 337th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, released the LRASM, which navigated through all planned waypoints receiving in-flight targeting updates from the Weapon Data Link. After transitioning to autonomous guidance, LRASM identified the target using inputs from the onboard sensors. The missile then descended for final approach, verified and impacted the target.”  Ka-Boom.

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Megatons, Megapixels, Megabites – Dempsey achieves consonance at Stratcom Change of Command. American Forces Press Service’s Nick Simeone reports, “The organization responsible for protecting Americans against ‘the world’s most complex and dangerous threats’ will continue to get the resources it needs to maintain an effective nuclear deterrent, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said . . .  during a change-of-command ceremony for U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base . . . . Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also spoke at the ceremony and reflected on how much the world and the nature of the threats facing the nation have changed over Kehler’s nearly 40-year military career. ‘There are few that are better able to understand, to appreciate and to articulate the vast mission which comprises our nation’s strategic deterrent force, measured no longer in megatons alone, but also these days in megapixels and megabytes,’ Dempsey said. ‘Our world is different’ . . . .

2.  What can we do about that nasty hack? Reuters’ Jim Finkle and Joseph Menn report, “Activist hackers linked to the collective known as Anonymous have secretly accessed U.S. government computers in multiple agencies and stolen sensitive information in a campaign that began almost a year ago, the FBI warned this week. . . . The Anonymous group is an amorphous collective that conducts multiple hacking campaigns at any time, some with a few participants and some with hundreds. In the past, its members have disrupted eBay’s Inc PayPal after it stopped processing donations to the anti-secrecy site Wikileaks. . . . Some of the breaches and pilfered data in the latest campaign had previously been publicized by people who identify with Anonymous, as part of what the group dubbed ‘Operation Last Resort.’”

3.  Hacker gets 10 years. VentureBeat.Com’s Meghan Kelly reports, “n 2011, Jeremy Hammond hacked into intelligence firm Stratfor, obtaining private e-mail, credit card numbers, passwords, and personal information in the name of political activism. . . . he received 10 years in jail under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. The CFAA has become a controversial piece of legislation for punishing people for accessing computer systems without permission. It has resulted in sentences, or proposed sentences, that many claim are too harsh to fit the crime. Hammond, in this case, says he’s being made an example to deter others from political ‘hacktivism’ and that the CFAA is being twisted to cover this form of political protest.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Congress’ magic show. Understanding sequestration. DefenseMediaNetwork.Com’s Craig Collins interviews Todd Harrison, Senior Fellow for Defense Budget Studies, Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, on sequestration, and Congress’ not-so-sleight of hand is remarkable:  “Why on Earth would Congress appropriate more money than the caps allow, knowing the caps are going to cut their appropriation? They can do that because voting on a higher level of defense spending gives everyone political cover, and then the caps will kick in and do the dirty work of cutting things. Now, they do that in a dumb, blind, nonstrategic way: Sequestration just cuts every account – with an exception for military personnel – by the same amount.”

2.  Time to start those office pools: 83 days to our next crisis: “Twelve weeks from today, the US government will hit its borrowing limit. When Congress lifted the debt ceiling last month, for the first time ever, it pegged the increase to a specific date, rather than a dollar amount. The current borrowing authority expires in just 84 days, on February 7th. Three major policy challenges are converging in January. Government spending authority expires in the middle of the month, just three weeks ahead of the debt ceiling. There is also likely to be ongoing agonizing about the implementation of ObamaCare.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  The price of forgetting Libya. Aljazeera.Com contributor Solomon Dersso reminds us of the implications of Libya’s turmoil: “The deterioration of the political and security situation in Libya has been worsening throughout the year, stocking fears that the country risks total anarchy and civil war. Violence and instability have increased in parts of the country, while the level of insecurity, particularly in cities such as Tripoli and Benghazi, has worsened. Indeed, a simple survey of headlines such as ‘Libya: Going wrong’,  ‘Libya on the brink’,  ‘Premier’s brief ‘arrest’ highlights anarchy’, or ‘Deepening crisis in Libya’, all tell the story of a failing Libya.”

2.  America’s global stature is slipping. But that might not be a bad thing. Christian Science Monitor’s Graham E. Fuller argues, “Things are getting worse for the United States, not because of our weak policies but because the times are changing, our capabilities and energies limited, and we haven’t recognized it yet. We can’t afford to keep on doing those things we shouldn’t have been doing in the first place.”

3.  “Can Iraq be saved?” Also from Aljazeera.Com, contributor Salah Nasrawi argues, “Iraq’s disruption since the US invasion in 2003 is a national, if not an existential, quandary of great proportion that cannot be assessed by a vote on new election laws, or even by the election of a new parliament. It is the predicament of the massive failure to rebuild the Iraqi state and society after they were ruined by more than a decade of occupation, civil strife and mismanagement.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Surgeon General’s Warning.

2.  Thanksgiving traditions.

3.  Getting on with Xmas.