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.
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.’”
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.”
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.”
1. War on Xmas.