1. Big fish winning in sequestration. Contributor Diana Rodriguez reports, “. . . Northrop Grumman, General Dynamics, Boeing, Raytheon, and Lockheed Martin, showed significant increases in earnings and stocks. Even with the ever-increasing government budget cuts, constraints, and cancellation of contracts, the bigger and wealthier defense contracting firms are seeing profits due to their ability to wait out contract and budget holds. This ability gives them an advantage over smaller companies who don’t have the same fiscal cushion or resources to sustain them.”
2. Money and trust in short supply, so intel sharing suffers. One less of GWOT was share, share, share information. Contributor Chandler Harris explains how budget challenges are creating an every-agency-for-itself culture catalyzed by Snowden-esque fears: “Intelligence community information sharing is increasingly difficult as agencies batten down in the face of budget cuts. . . . the leaks by Edward Snowden and other high profile leaks may have had an impact on the way these information-sharing projects move forward.” Along those lines, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronnie D. Hawkins “acknowledged the challenges ahead in changing the Defense Department’s tactics, techniques and procedures and integrating that culture on a cyberspace landscape with numerous networks.”
3. Tech-masochist-exhibitionist heyday. For those who don’t yet believe the NSA is looking through your drapes, contributor D.B. Grady offers 5 ways you can invite them on in: “Spy agencies have long been known for the programs they secretly install on your computer. (Or on Iran’s computers, at least.) But you might be surprised to know that the U.S. intelligence community has also made available an assortment of free spy software, apps, and databases designed for everything from keeping your children safe to locking down your operating system. The best part is that you won’t even have to buy General Alexander a beer after.” Nicely said, D.B.
THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT
1. In Egypt, “’the moment we would rather avoid.’” Aljazeera.Com reports from Cairo, Morsi-supporters continue to protest generally peacefully, but interim prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi warns, the ruling government’s time is running out: “The government has said it held off from breaking up the protest camps in Cairo out of respect for the holy month of Ramadan . . . and to give foreign mediators to find a peaceful solution. . . . ‘The government wants to give the protesters, especially the reasonable ones among them, a chance to reconcile and heed the voice of reason . . . .’”
2. In Afghanistan, ANA brings the hammer down in Logar. Khaama.Com reports, “Afghan defense ministry officials on Friday said around 200 militants mostly foreigners were killed during the operations in eastern Logar province of Afghanistan. Defense ministry spokesman, Gen. Zahir Azimi said that the main operations in Azra district have ended, and Afghan national army is currently conducting search operation.” Note – no mention of coalition assistance in the operation. Also, Taliban prefer Karzai’s brother to Karzai and Sweden’s 40% aid increase to Afghanistan.
3. Same-sex spouses coming into the fold. AP’s Lolita Baldor reports, “Same-sex spouses of military members could get health care, housing and other benefits by the end of August . . . In the new draft memo, Hagel says the department intends to treat all married military personnel the same and ‘make the same benefits available to all military spouses, regardless of sexual orientation.’”
4. In AFRICOM, “Exercise Africa Endeavor 2013 Kicks off in Zambia.” U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs reports, “Africa Endeavor’s primary objective is to increase the command, control and communications capacities of African nations by encouraging interoperable tactics, training and procedures, and creating documented standards that support interoperability. This allows African nations to provide critical support to the African Union and African Standby forces involved in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and peacekeeping missions.”
5. Bring in the drones. ForeignPolicy.Com contributor Elias Groll dissects the drone war in detail: “The drone war is back. Amid fears that al Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in Yemen are plotting a major attack, U.S. drones reportedly launched three strikes in the country on Thursday alone, killing 12 suspected al Qaeda militants. In fact, the Obama administration is arguably waging its most intense drone campaign ever in Yemen, with nine suspected drone strikes in the last 13 days and six in the last three. The concentrated bombing is all the more striking considering that just days ago the State Department was shuttering nearly two dozen embassies around the world in response to what seemed an amorphous terrorist threat.”
1. Anti-counterfeiting rules challenging contractors. NextGov.Com’s Aliya Sternstein reports, “Many contractors admit they will be unable to immediately comply with a rule, taking effect by March 2014, that would require contractors to either develop a new system for detecting counterfeit electronic parts or forego payment. . . . a Senate Armed Services Committee two-year investigation uncovered in excess of 1 million suspect electronic parts in the Pentagon supply chain. The suspected bogus components were found in mission computers for a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile, military aircraft and other key systems. The infractions were traced to China more than 70 percent of the time.”
2. Excluding engines . . . . AviationWeek.Com announces that the Pentagon is excited to get F-35s at under $100 million per copy, engine and retrofits not included: “The Pentagon and Lockheed Martin have agreed to a handshake deal for the latest two lots of F-35 airframes, and based on cost projections the program for the first time is targeting a unit price under $100 million, excluding engines and retrofits. . . . A breakdown of additional prices such as the F135 engine and projected retrofits reveals a far higher cost.”
TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY
1. POTUS instigates forward movement in the surveillance debate. Armed Forces Press Service Cheryl Pellerin covers President Obama’s press conference, during which POTUS “announced four steps that he said would move the public debate forward about classified government surveillance programs that gather data about the telephone records of Americans and others. . . . the president said he has consulted with members of Congress, asked the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to review tensions between counterterrorism efforts and American values, and directed the national security team to be more transparent and pursue reforms of laws and practices.” See also AP’s “Surveillance Debate Intrudes into Obama’s Agenda” and McClatchy’s “Obama wants more oversight on government surveillance.”
2. Space going commercial, with successes. Many of us (a few of us?) faintly remember watching the first moonwalk on black and white Zeniths. Now, NASA’s Commercial Pilot Program (CCP) is making acceptable progress. AviationWeek.Com’s Mark Carreu reports, “Despite potential funding troubles, a new sense of optimism is surrounding NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) to transport crews to and from the International Space Station (ISS) by 2017. . . . The Apollo-shaped capsule has met eight of 19 milestones outlined under Boeing’s $460 million NASA Commercial Crew Integrated Capability agreement . . .” In case you don’t remember the first moon walk.
3. Sikorsky removing the weakest link – people. DefenseNews.Com contributor Aaron Mehta introduces Sikorsky’s Matrix suite, “a collection of software algorithms designed to introduce a higher level of autonomy in airborne vehicles. . . . The goal of Matrix is to create the option of removing a human controller entirely from the equation, with the software taking in situational data and information, processing it and making decisions on how the aircraft should proceed.”
4. Snowden effects on security professionals. ClearanceJobs.Com research featured in NextGov.Com. NextGov.Com’s Brittany Ballenstedt explains, “many of those security-cleared pros fear the repercussions that may result from the Snowden case, including a possible slowdown in the clearance process . . . . ‘It’s important to remember the government focused on speeding up the clearance process in part to stop losing qualified applicants that withdraw due to wait times,’ said Evan Lesser, managing director of ClearanceJobs.com. ‘At a time when the government is hurting for qualified cybersecurity professionals, the clearance process is critical. Our cyber talent is mainly in private industry and bringing that talent into government positions is difficult at best.’”
1. POTUS and the surveillance shimmy. TheGuardian.Com, POTUS’ favorite rag, reports, “Obama said that revelations about the National Security Agency’s activities had led Americans to question their trust in government and damaged the country’s reputation abroad. But he made it clear that the programs themselves would remain in place. . . . ‘It makes sense to go ahead, lay out what exactly we are doing, have a discussion with Congress, have a discussion with industry, which is also impacted by this, have a discussion with civil libertarians, and see if we can do this better.’” But, if we cannot do better, that’s ok, too. The shimmy?
2. Passive-Aggressive Putin. Reuters’ Timothy Heritage reports, “Russian President Vladimir Putin sent a telegram on Thursday to his old sparring partner, former U.S. President George W. Bush, wishing him a quick recovery from heart surgery. It may have been coincidence that the Kremlin released details of the telegram a day after Barack Obama pulled out of a planned summit with Putin, but little is left to chance in Russian politics.” See Vanity Fair’s take, and expansion.
OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS
1. How to deal with the terrorist franchise. Time.Com contributor Fareed Zakaria argues, “. . . the best policy in the long run would be to shift the struggle over to locals, who can most effectively win a long war against militants in territory they know better than any outsiders. It also shifts the struggle over to Muslims, who can most effectively battle al-Qaeda in the realm of ideas.”
2. “Keeping Whistleblowers Nervous.” TheAtlantic.Com’s Amitai Etzioni argues in an excellent read, “some ‘chilling’ of the leakers is called for if we are going to have any state secrets left.”
3. Arab Spring plows fertile fields for Al Qaeda. ForeignPolicy.Com’s Marc Lynch argues, “What is less often appreciated, however, is the extent to which the Syrian jihad has helped bring al Qaeda’s ideology into the mainstream of the Arab world. Its struggle against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has given it a major role in a cause that is now central to Arab concerns.”
1. Shark week.
3. Not gonna happen.