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.
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 . . . .”
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.”
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.”
1. Deficit spending.
2. Black Thursday.
3. Border control.