Tag Archives: Opinion

Reviewing the Plan, Afghanistan - Ledford

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

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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.”

ANA Plan Brief

Diplomatic Revival, the Ultra Light Vehicle (ULV), and DoD’s “Complex Catastrophe” – Daily Intelligence

Developments in Syria seem to spark a new era of diplomacy, the Ultra Light Vehicle prototype in the spotlight, and the fight for turf in the cyberspace, all in today’s defense headlines.

Monday’s main points & There she is, Miss America.

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCEJOBS.COM

1.  The art and science of the security clearance cycle. By way of the Snowden example, Contributor Jeffrey Bennett examines and explains essential measures necessary to keep secrets safe: “The justification and request for security clearance, investigation, adjudication, periodic re-investigation and continuous evaluation process, work together to find the insider threat to classified information. In this case, threat is any adversary (internal or external) with intent and capability to gain a security clearance and exploit classified information. Regardless of the threat’s (Snowden) motivation, countermeasures should be in place to identify and stop the threat.”

2.  The craft of security. Also from contributor Jeffrey Bennett, understand the nuances of your responsibilities and the risks you face as an expert Facility Security Officer: “FSOs and security professionals should continue to make it a point to study their craft and learn ways to counter evolving threat. Business intelligence methods should also continue to keep up with technology to analyze and prevent the internal and external influences that can ruin the enterprise. The threats corporations face include: theft, vandalism, workplace violence, fraud, and computer attacks. The role of security to converge traditional physical protection with the capabilities of IT systems is necessary.”

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Diplomacy in Syria as an example for the region. While some deplore an attack averted, President Obama imagines a revival of diplomacy.  UPI.Com reports, “President Obama said Sunday he was hopeful the plan to place Syria’s chemical weapons under international control could set the stage for a peace process. . . . Obama dismissed the harsh criticism he has received since calling for a military response to the August gas attack in a Damascus suburb that left a reported 1,400 civilians dead. He told ABC he was not interested in political ‘style points’ and was happy Russian President Vladimir Putin was using his influence with the Syrian regime.”

2.  Speaking of diplomacy, read Kissinger’s and Brezezinski’s take on the crisis in Syria, from Fareed Zakaria’s GPS on CNN, Sunday:  Kissinger argues, “The issue in Syria is the historic conflict between Shiites and Sunnis and the Sunni revolt against a Shiite minority dominated Syria in which, however, most of the other minorities are supporting the Alawite, which is the Shia position. So, the position for the United States is to work on a transition government and not make it dependent with the — on the removal of the Syrian leader, especially not make it dependent at the very beginning of the process. From the beginning, Putin has said that the immediate removal of Assad would lead to chaos. That’s probably a correct sentiment.”

3.  For Syria, Paris talks put pressure on AssadAljazeera.Com reports, “France, Britain and the United States have said they will seek a ‘strong and robust’ UN resolution that sets precise and binding deadlines on removal of Syria’s chemical weapons, the office of the French President Francois Hollande said. . . . On Sunday, President Hollande said ‘the military option must remain’ to force Syria to give up its chemical arsenal. . . . many of those who blame the Syrian regime for the chemical attack and supported military strikes say the pressure is on President Bashar al-Assad to uphold his end of any deal.”

4.  Syrian rebel infighting – the complexity of the fight and an opportunity for the West.Time’s Aryn Baker reports on growing tensions among rebel groups that could, on one hand, spell defeat for the rebellion and, on the other, better define the good guys for the West: “If the moderate-leaning rebel groups can sever their symbiotic relationship with their al-Qaeda affiliates for good, they stand to get significantly more support from Western backers wary of inadvertently assisting old enemies. But it won’t be easy — even as the rivals battle for turf in Aleppo province, they have united to inflict a resounding defeat on government forces elsewhere in the country.”

5.  Afghan good enough – a standard for successTheDailyBeast.Com contributor Jacob Siegel describes the evolution of an idiom: ““Afghan good enough” is the military phrase for limiting our objectives to what is achievable and not overreaching. Given the country’s violent history and its present condition less as a nation-state than a patchwork of tribal groups, Afghan good enough has become, for many within the military, the best that we can hope for. Facing short timelines and intractable obstacles, the military has slowly weaned itself off the gung-ho ideals it originally held and defined its expectations down. . . . It’s hard to achieve a recognizable victory in a war whose aims keep being redefined, but perhaps this, too, is Afghan good enough.”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  “Complex catastrophe,” cyberspace and contractors: new front lines, opportunities, and threatsCSM.Com staff writer Anna Mulrine conducts an Intelligence Prep of the new Battlefield: “the US military is forging ahead with its own cyberdefense plans. While the Posse Comitatus Act largely bars the US military from getting involved in law enforcement endeavors, a new Department of Defense publication argues that the Pentagon can provide ‘law enforcement actions that are performed primarily for a military purpose, even when incidentally assisting civil authorities’ . . . . That includes cyberattacks, under the category of ‘complex catastrophe’ – a ‘new addition to the DOD lexicon’ introduced in the DOD report . . . . ‘There is some turf-marking that seems to be going on on the part of the Pentagon.’ It’s a lexicon that has been embraced, too, by defense contractors eyeing the end of the war in Afghanistan and vying for their next business opportunity. Half of Booz Allen’s $5.8 billion annual revenue comes from US military and intelligence agency contracts.”

2.  Lead contractor Hardwire LLC and the Ultra Light Vehicle (ULV)DefenseMediaNetwork.Com contributor Scott R. Gourley deconstructs the prototype: “The ULV prototype platform features a hybrid powertrain design with two electric motors – front and rear – with either capable of powering the vehicle, providing a level of mobility redundancy. Moreover, by eliminating the need for a driveshaft and other traditional automotive components beneath the vehicle, the platform can be optimized for underbody survivability through the integration of various blast-mitigating kits under the hull for higher threat levels. Interior technologies include a crushable floating floor system that decouples the crew’s feet and legs from the steel hull and absorbs energy, adjustable stroking seats, five-point restraint systems, and spatial accommodations to mitigate head impacts and flail injuries.”

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Drones, drones, and more dronesWired.Com contributor Allen McDuffee maps out DARPA’s plan for Hydra: “Hydra, named after the serpent-like creature with many heads in Greek mythology, would create an undersea network of unmanned payloads and platforms to increase the capability and speed the response to threats like piracy, the rising number of ungoverned states, and sophisticated defenses at a time when the Pentagon is forced to make budget cuts. According to DARPA, the Hydra system ‘represents a cost effective way to add undersea capacity that can be tailored to support each mission’ that would still allow the Navy to conduct special operations and contingency missions. In other words, the decreasing number of naval vessels can only be in one place at a time.”

2.  Be a Bluetooth guruTime’s Techland answers the eternal riddles confusing Bluetooth connectivity: “Bluetooth is all great when it works. But if you’re someone who likes to play around with these kinds of connected gadgets, you know it can be frustrating when there’s a hang-up pairing the two. Here are some common causes of pairing problems as well as advice on what you can do about them.”

3.  The Snowden bounce – the tech industry isn’t suffering from Snowden’s betrayalReuters’ Joseph Menn explains that “smaller U.S. companies offering encryption and related security services are seeing a jump in business overseas, along with an uptick in sales domestically as individuals and companies work harder to protect secrets. ‘Our value proposition had been that it’s a wild world out there, while doing business internationally you need to protect yourself,’ said Jon Callas, co-founder of phone and text encryption provider Silent Circle, where revenue quadrupled from May to June on a small base. ‘Now the message people are getting from the newspapers every day is that it’s a wild world even domestically.’”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Slow dancing toward 2016. Biden and Hillary square off with not-necessarily-so-subtle gestures toward Pennsylvania Ave: “With most Democrats keeping an eye on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for hints about her 2016 plans, Vice President Joe Biden’s appearance at Iowa’s 36th annual ‘Tom Harkin Steak Fry,’ may one day be viewed as a telling sign of his presidential intentions. . . . Many in Washington believe [Biden] will not run if Clinton runs, and she is making a regular series of public appearances that could easily be interpreted as setting the stage for a campaign.”

2.  Obama’s Persian dance.  First in letters, now, potentially, face-to-face, President Obama stands to make a breakthrough in U.S.-Iranian diplomacy at the United Nations: “An exchange of letters between Barack Obama and the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, has set the stage for a possible meeting between the two men at the UN next week in what would be the first face-to-face encounter between a US and Iranian leader since Iran’s 1979 revolution. . . . In a television interview aired on Sunday, Obama made clear that there was a diplomatic opening with Iran, not only over the nuclear question but also over Syria. He confirmed earlier reports that he and Rouhani had ‘reached out’ to each other, exchanging letters. US officials were skeptical about a Rouhani meeting, but some observers said the Geneva deal on Syria’s chemical weapons has opened new space for global diplomacy.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  The Few. The Proud. The Marines. The advertisement campaign. Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos argues, “Our nation requires a Marine Corps that is ready, forward deployed and able to respond to crisis on a moment’s notice. This will not change for the foreseeable future, no matter the budgetary woes our country faces. . . . As our nation reduces its overseas forces, there remains a heightened requirement for a very capable crisis response force, one that can deploy anywhere quickly, provide a variety of response options, a force that can buy time for national decision-makers when the need arises. The Marine Corps is, and will continue to be, the answer to this need. This is what we do . . . this is who we are!”

2.  “The Right’s Sickening Syria Spin.”  TheDailyBeast.Com’s Michael Tomasky argues, “I don’t know about you, but I’m not very interested in being lectured that Bashar al-Assad has no real intention of giving up his chemical weapons by the very same people who a decade ago were pushing this country into war—and having the deranged gall to call the rest of us unpatriotic—on the argument that there was no possible way a monster like Saddam Hussein had given up his chemical weapons. Barack Obama has been forced to spend about 70 percent of his presidential energies trying to repair crises foreign and domestic that these people created, and forced to do so against their iron opposition on all fronts; and now that he’s achieved a diplomatic breakthrough, they have the audacity to argue that he sold America out to Vladimir Putin? It’s staggering and sickening.”

3.  “. . . the dunces are all in confederacy against him.” Coming in Der Spiegel, former SecDef Rumsfeld critiques Obama’s foreign policy: “In an interview to be published in the next issue of SPIEGEL, former US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has strongly criticized President Barack Obama’s Syria policies. ‘I believe the reason he has had difficulty gaining support both in the US and from other countries is because he has not explained what he hopes to do, what the mission would be and what he hopes to accomplish,’ Rumsfeld said. ‘To gain support in our Congress and from other nations requires clarity, an acceptable mission and an explicit outcome.”  [Actually achieving that outcome would be key, too.]

THE FUNNIES

1.  Let’s get on with it.

2.  The budget.

3.  P. Dean does Texas.

Ed Ledford appreciates the most challenging, complex, and high stake communications requirements. As his principal’s spokesman and speechwriter in Afghanistan, Ed composed, edited, and presented operational guidance and strategies to national and international elected and appointed leaders and the media during the McChrystal-Petraeus era. His portfolio includes policy and strategy papers; correspondence with Members of Congress, senior Department of State and Defense officials, foreign counterparts, chiefs of industry; and innumerable speeches. Ed edits and writes blogs, fiction, nonfiction, poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., Ed currently works from his office in Charlottesville, Va. He enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring. You can find him online at EdLedford.com.

Playing for change 640x185

Daily Intelligence: Egypt taking on the Sinai, Syria on hold, and the iPhone cometh

Israel applauds Egypt’s efforts in the Sinai, a surprise pause in the run-up to Syria, and Apple’s iPhone launch may eclipse Obama’s oration, all in today’s defense headlines.

by Ed Ledford

September 10, 2013

 

 

Photo of the Day & Ten things for Tuesday.

 

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  VetNet – Google’s tip of the hat to Vets and their families. Contributor Diana Rodriguez explains Google’s developments specifically for the war weary: “’Google for Veterans and Families’ was created in 2011 by veterans, families of veterans, and friends who work at Google. The developers and administrators of the site have special understanding of the challenges of service members and those who are making the transition to civilian life. . . . In November of 2012, Google partnered with other veteran and family advocacy organizations that are providing support and resources to veterans and families. VetNet is collaboration between veteran-focused non-government agencies designed to help and their families find careers.”

2.  Rhyme to the reason – the logic of classification. Contributor Jeffrey Bennett reminds exactly why the government classifies certain information: “The US Government relies on a system of security classification to ensure users protect sensitive information at the right level. . . . Contrary to popular spy novels and movies, a classification cannot be assigned to hide legal violations, inefficiencies or mistakes. Nor can the OCAs assign a classification just to prevent embarrassment, prevent or restrict competition or delay the release of information that hasn’t previously required such a level of protection.”

 

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Call it – DoD’s Crisis Line is there for Vets and families. American Forces Press Service’s Terri Moon Cronk explains, “When someone is in crisis and feeling despondent, reaching out for help is a stronger step to take than doing nothing, which can lead to a worsening state . . . . people contact the crisis line to discuss a variety of issues, from feeling suicidal, depressed or anxious to feeling pressure from finances or relationships, among a wealth of other concerns . . . . callers can expect a live person and not an electronic menu to answer their calls.”

2.  Egypt takes on Sinai terrorists. TheGuardian.Com’s Patrick Kingsley reports from Cairo, “Egypt’s army has announced a full-scale assault on militant areas in the restive northern Sinai desert, in what a senior Israeli official has approvingly called Egypt’s first-ever serious counter-terrorism campaign in the region. . . . observers argued that this latest campaign, which began on Saturday, may be the largest in years.”

3.  The President speaks to America – tonight. AP’s Bradley Klapper and Donna Cassata set the scene for tonight’s speech: “President Barack Obama is heading to Congress on Tuesday with fresh hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough that would allow Syria’s government to avert U.S. missile strikes if it surrenders its chemical weapons arsenal. Obama had planned to use the meetings with Democratic and Republican senators to personally lobby for his plan of targeted strikes against Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces in retaliation for last month’s massive chemical weapons attack outside of Damascus. Instead, he signaled in interviews ahead of his trip to Capitol Hill that new diplomacy involving Russia and others could eliminate the risks of a repeat chemical attack without requiring an American intervention. He presents his case to the American people Tuesday night.”

4.  Kerry said what? Slip of the tongue or well-played olive branch, SecState’s apparent gaff gets legs. Reuters’ Mark Felsenthal and Steve Holland report, “Russia’s offer to work with Damascus to put its chemical weapons under international control could be a big deal – if it is serious. . . . The president said he had explored the possibility of a proposal for Syria to cede control of its chemical weapons stockpile to international authorities with Russian President Vladimir Putin at a meeting last week in Russia.”  Aljazeera adds, “Russia is working on an ‘effective, concrete’ plan for putting Syria’s chemical weapons under international control and is discussing the details with Damascus . . . .”

5.  Human Rights Watch – “Assad did it.” Time reports that Human Rights Watch (HRW) is convinced: “Human Rights Watch claims that all evidence suggests that forces loyal to Bashar Assad were behind the infamous chemical-weapons attack in Damascus. . . . HRW’s extensive investigation, which relied on expert analysis from chemical-weapons and arms specialists along with witnesses’ accounts, concluded that the surface-to-surface rocket systems used to carry out the attack, along with the large quantity of nerve agent that was deployed during the assault on Aug. 21, match up with equipment that is only possessed by government troops in Syria.”

6.  AFRICOM – Armed Forces of Liberia bring Fort Jackson to Monrovia. Marine Corps Forces Africa’s Master Sgt. Brian Bahret reports, “U.S. Army instructors teamed with [Liberian First Sergeant James] Gant in a weeklong refresher course to help reinforce the concepts the drill sergeants learned at Fort Jackson. The refresher training revisited fundamentals including the importance of maintaining professional relationships, leadership skills, and core subjects designed to create a productive learning environment for the recruits.”

 

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Boeing – on time and on target with KC-46 refuelersAmerican Forces Press Service’s Jim Garamone shares Acting Air Force Secretary Eric Fanning’s good news: “Fanning said the program ‘is in a real healthy place.’ . . . Fanning visited Boeing’s KC-46 plant in Everett, Wash., recently. Two KC-46s now in production there will be ready for flight next year. The KC-46 is based on the Boeing 767 aircraft, which had its first flight in 1981. The company has 32 years of experience with the plane.”  Read about the mighty KC-46.

2.  Sequestration costs – rather than saves – $64 million. GovExec.Com’s Charles S. Clark reports, “Offering one of the more concrete examples of sequestration’s impact, the Defense Contract Audit Agency has calculated that the $11 million in cuts it absorbed this year likely prompted its auditors to take a pass on retrieving as much as $74 million in unmerited contractor billing.”

3.  Contractor-Bashing at an all-time high, reports GovExec.Com’s Charles S. Clark: “Current budget constraints, curbs on contracts and congressional hostility toward the federal workforce have combined to create a climate in which ‘anti-contractor rhetoric has become at least as common a political tool as public employee bashing,’ a leadership commission convened by the Professional Services Council wrote in a report released Monday. . . . A sign of the tension, the leadership commission found, is the rise in contract award protests in response to the government’s increased preference for lowest price, technically acceptable proposals.”

 

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Save the NSA the trouble – scan your own fingerprints. Big news for the soon-to-be-announced iPhone: “There are plenty of potential use cases for a fingerprint sensor in your smartphone, from making it easier to unlock the phone, to adding another level of security to your mobile wallet. The sensor would be the equivalent to the introduction of Siri in the iPhone 4S — it’s not an Earth-shattering feature, but it’s one that clearly distinguishes the slightly refreshed phone from its predecessor.”  See also 10 iPhone predictions.

2.  Facebook, Yahoo!, Google, Microsoft – their bid to regain some public trust. UPI.Com reports, “Facebook Inc. and Yahoo! Inc. sued a secret court for authority to reveal aggregate information about the national security orders they receive from Washington. . . . All four tech companies, in rare coordinated but separate lawsuits, say they want permission to reveal the aggregate number and nature of the national intelligence requests to respond to growing public concern and to regain the trust of users. . . . The tech companies, prevented from disclosing information under national security rules, say they also want permission to correct false allegations and incorrect news reports about what they supply to the FBI for National Security Agency use. They argue their constitutional free-speech rights are being violated.”

3.  If you’re serious about secrecy, you might still outsmart the NSA. PCWorld.Com contributor Jaikumar Vijayan reports, “Though the National Security Agency spends billions of dollars to crack encryption technologies, security experts maintain that properly implemented, encryption is still the best way to maintain online privacy. . . . Steve Weis, chief technology officer at PrivateCore and holder of a Ph.D. in cryptography from MIT, said despite the NSA activities, the mathematics of cryptography remains very hard to crack. He suggested that it’s likely that the NSA managed to break through insecure and outdated implementations of some encryption technologies.”

 

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Syrian Shimmy. Mixed messages and exaggerations confuse the whole damned thing: “Secretary of State John Kerry said in London Monday that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could avoid a U.S. attack by ‘turning over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week — turn it over, all of it, without delay and allow the full and total accounting.’ The Russian foreign minister subsequently made that offer to Syria, and the Syrian foreign minister reportedly welcomed the idea. Since then, the State Department has tried to walk back Kerry’s statement, with spokeswoman Marie Harf calling it a ‘rhetorical statement about a scenario that we think is highly unlikely’ at a press briefing.”

2.  Dancing with the devil. The Hill asks Putin, “May we have this dance?”  BuzzFeed.Com reports, “Russian President Vladimir Putin could be giving lawmakers — and the White House — at least a temporary out. However, not all lawmakers are pleased with Washington’s sudden embrace of the Russian proposal. ‘I think they’re playing us like a fiddle,’ said Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the chief proponents for military action against Assad.

 

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  The difference between intelligence on Syria and Iraq. Reuters contributor David Wise argues, “There are important differences between the intelligence fobbed off on the public to justify the 2003 Iraq war and what is being said by government officials today. For one thing, the Syrians essentially admitted Monday that they have chemical weapons, when they started talking about turning them over to the international community. Nonetheless, the U.S. intelligence on Syria still leaves some critical unanswered questions.”

2.  “Press Pause on the Rush to War.”  USNews.Com contributor Michael Shank argues, “If America wants to reassert its moral weight in the world, there are more efficient and effective exercises that are less expensive and less likely to result in increased chaos, escalated violence and additional chemical weapons usage.”

3.  God Bless America: Criticize our troops and we’ll kill you. An interesting social experiment proves a Salon.Com writer’s theory: “I had published an essay about the problems of uncritically repeating the slogan ‘Support Our Troops.’  Not everybody was happy with my argument. . . . Suddenly I went from being a troop-hating fag to a jihadist, awash in the new vocabulary of apocalyptic struggle — dhimmitude, swine, Taliban, anti-Semitism, Allah, terrorism, hijab, pedantry, oppressed women — informing the limitless Clash of Civilizations.”  Read Salaita’s original opinion piece.

 

THE FUNNIES

1.  Computer Cam.

2.  Sequestration and foreign policy.

3.  Priorities, priorities.

 

AFGHAN CITYSCAPE KABUL - LEDFORD (2)

Syria – time for Congress to lead

            Syria’s use of chemical weapons is as heinous as it is unacceptable, and, ultimately, the United States’ ill-conceived foray into Iraq under the Bush Administration is irrelevant to that particular point (that we’ve resurrected opinions of the likes of Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz is despairing enough).  

If we are to preserve any moral and ethical credibility for the future, the United States has to lead, and sometimes that might mean leading the world.

Sometimes we lead others who are following. Sometimes we can only lead by example. But the there is no question of the necessity of our leadership.

Fist, in regard to allusions to the war in Iraq, from one view the very fact of our unprovoked attack on Iraq – and the argument and basis for it that received overwhelming U.S. public and Congressional support – demands that we act against the Assad regime in Syria. Indeed, while the Bush Administration was relegated to yellow cake fabrications and far-fetched hyperbolic hypotheticals, the Obama Administration and the world has before it hard-fact intelligence collected by both the United Nations, the United States, and other allies that adds up to as much incontrovertible circumstantial evidence that we – or any international tribunal – could ever demand. I mean, if what we have right now is not enough to indict Assad, then we might as well shut down every intelligence apparatus we have, shut down the United Nations, shut down the Hague.  So for members of Congress or anyone else to withhold approval of action in Syria because they “are not convinced” that Syria gassed its own people smacks of partisan politics, at best, and of incumbents privileging re-election over national and international morals and ethics worst.

And that is where leadership by example comes in. We elect our national representatives, I hope, because of what we believe is their Wisdom of Solomon they will marshal in those impossible moments we never anticipated, those impossible moments that, perhaps, even they did not anticipate. We did not elect them to could poll their uninformed constituents at the first sign of crisis and seek guidance. Leadership by consensus is not really much leadership. CNN, Fox News, and other networks’ polls are entertaining to watch, I suppose, but the polls that counted were those that seated our elected representatives.

Assad is quick to point out that an attack would demand a response. There are terrorists waiting the wings – or already acting – who need another excuse to attack the United States or our interests. They might attack our embassies . . . they did that already. Assad even went so far as to threaten chemical attack on our interests in the Middle East. They might attack Israel . . . they do that already. Iran or Syria might attack Israel (frankly, at this point, I’d like to see that, for an attack on Israel would bring about a lightning quick regime change in both Iran and Syria, and Israel would not wait for our or anyone else’s approval).

If the United States is not willing to lead now in the face of these crimes against humanity, then I hope we will at least consciously and deliberately relegate ourselves to – and embrace – the long-term isolationism that paralysis and indecision in the face of the facts in Syria today demands and let the Middle East Sharia-law itself into four or five decades of decline, marginalization and irrelevance that, maybe, will finally motivate some self-imposed intellectual evolution and technological progress in the place.

Now, Congressmen, you are in charge. Lead. Stop looking over your shoulder and counting votes for the next election cycle. Assad’s war crimes in Syria are inexcusable, and if you turn a blind eye to them, you are excusing him. Do not later talk about absence of intelligence or what your constituents wanted. Your moral and ethical high ground is gone.

Certainly, action in Syria could very well expand into something larger. That is a risk. It is all about risk. There are no guarantees. That’s why we have a professional military. They can plan for contingencies. Let them.

But inaction in Syria will absolutely expand into something larger, too. Inaction will say loudly and clearly that the United States has lost its way, and we cannot count on them to lead any more.

What a relief, yes?

I am tired of war. I was morally and emotionally exhausted watching our nation march like a runaway train into a despicable war of choice in Iraq in the wake of September 11, 2001, while we grossly neglected a war of necessity in Afghanistan. I am exhausted by the more-than-decade long cloud that has hovered over the world since 11 September and its fallout.

But for soldiers, being tired was never an excuse. Soldiers do their duty. They always have, and they always will.

Now it is time for Congress to do its duty and lead.  Lead the nation.  Lead the world. Show us all that we have not forgotten – and will not forget nor ignore – what is right.

Bagram Air Base Sandbags

Power on Syria, Nigeria’s fight with Islamists, and The Final Rule explained.

The latest debates over Syria as POTUS (and Congress) returns to D.C., Nigerian troops’ hard fight with Islamists, and a review of The Final Rule for hiring Vets,  all in today’s defense headlines.

September 7, 2013

Syria talks raise the dead: Wolfowitz & Rumsfeld

 

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Navy braces its ships for a hit.  Contributor Marc Selinger reports, “The U.S. Navy will probably have to cut about 25 aircraft and several ships from its planned purchases in the coming year if deep federal spending cuts remain in place . . . The affected aircraft in fiscal year 2014 will likely include helicopters, F-35 Joint Strike Fighters and P-8A maritime patrol aircraft . . . . The Navy also could lose such vessels as a Littoral Combat Ship and an Afloat Forward Staging Base, as well as advance procurement for a Virginia-class submarine.”

2.  Put your money where your next big threat will be.  Contributor Charles Simmins reports, “The nations of Africa are increasing their spending on defense. The sum budgeted by these nations is expected to top $20 billion in the next ten years. Both local and multinational firms in the defense industry are rushing to participate in this growth spurt. . . . Islamic terrorism and regional instabilities have continued to grow. African governments recognize that their militaries must be modernized, better trained and better equipped. The increase in prices for minerals and oil of the last several years have left many nations with the cash to invest in their armed forces.”

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Super Tuesday. Congress returns and the Administration prepares the press. Reuters’ John Whitesides and Richard Cowan report, “Obama’s address to the nation from the White House on Tuesday will be part of a rejuvenated lobbying effort on Syria as Congress returns to Washington next week. A Democratic congressional aide said the administration is planning ‘a full-court press’ aimed at undecided lawmakers. . . . only 23 senators have been willing to go on record in favor of military force, while 17 are against. It will likely take 60 of the Senate’s 100 members to advance the measure to the House of Representatives. In the House, where 218 votes will be required to pass the resolution, only 25 members are on record in support of military action so far, according to the Post, with 106 opposed.”  And AP reports, POTUS taking the plunge while Sen. Al Frank lends his support.

2. U.S. UN rep explains Syria. American Forces Press Service’s Cheryl Pellerin reports, “Speaking to an audience at the Center for American Progress, Ambassador Samantha Power characterized Syria as lying at the heart of a region critical to U.S. security . . . . The Bashar Assad regime, Power said, has stores of chemical weapons that it recently used on a large scale and that the United States can’t allow to fall into terrorists’ hands. The regime also collaborates with Iran and works with thousands of extremist fighters from the militant group Hezbollah.”

3.  Egyptian military attacks Islamists and Al Qaeda in the Sinai. AP’s Ashraf Sweilam reports from el-Arish, Egypt, “Egyptian helicopters and tanks are attacking Islamic militants in villages in the northern Sinai Peninsula. He says ‘dozens’ have been killed or wounded. The Saturday assault came after Egypt deployed a column of armored vehicles and trucks carrying infantry into the region, a militant stronghold, in a major new counterinsurgency offensive . . . . Multiple al-Qaida-inspired militant groups have stepped up attacks against security forces in the Sinai . . . .” Aljazeera reports, using those pesky quotation-mark-fingers, “Egypt’s military sends reinforcements to the Sinai border area to ‘clean’ villages in the area of ‘terrorists.’”

4.  In Pakistan, drone takes out Haqqani network’s Mullah Sangeen Zadran. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, “Yesterday’s drone strike in the Ghulam Khan area of Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan is reported to have killed Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a senior Haqqani Network leader who is on the US list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists for supporting al Qaeda . . . . Sangeen has long been a supporter of al Qaeda and has encouraged foreign fighters to wage jihad in Afghanistan.” Also, Pakistan releases Taliban to facilitate Afghan peace efforts.

5.  In AFRICOM, Nigerian troops taking on Islamists and Sharia law. Reuters Lanre Ola reports from Maiduguri, Nigeria, “Nigerian soldiers have tracked down and killed 50 members of the Islamist sect Boko Haram in its northeastern stronghold . . . . Army units mounted the operation after suspected Boko Haram fighters killed 20 people in two attacks on Wednesday and Thursday in villages in  northeastern Borno State . . . . Boko Haram, which wants to impose sharia law in northern Nigeria, and other splinter Islamist groups, are the biggest threat to stability in Nigeria, Africa’s top oil exporter.”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  $4.3 billion Veterans Health Administration contract awarded. AZCentral.Com reports, “TriWest secured the five-year contract to manage behavioral health and specialty care in Arizona and 27 other states. The company will arrange health care for veterans in rural regions not served by the VA or in communities where the VA cannot accommodate such care. . . . The VA contract means TriWest will ramp up hiring in Phoenix and Washington state, where it plans to open a call center at a yet-to-be-selected location. The company expects most of its 600 to 700 full-time positions will be in Phoenix.” Review TriWest.

2.  The Final Rule is out, “good faith” just wasn’t cutting it.  NationalLawReview.Com explains how they are meant to help Vets: “With the Obama Administration’s recent appointment of Tom Perez as Secretary of Labor, the enactment of these new regulations signals a renewed focus on increasing the numbers of veterans and disabled individuals in the U.S. workforce. . . . the Final Rule largely formalizes recruitment practices that, up until recently, have been considered ‘good faith efforts.’”

 

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  The NSA is tracking you.  Are you tracking you?  Time’s TechLand covers the latest in Activity Trackers that will make lazy people fell not so lazy: “You can buy an inexpensive pedometer to gauge your steps, but a slew of new self-tracking devices are available that do so much more, calculating things such as how many calories you’ve burned or how well you’re sleeping at night. Here’s what the best of the next-gen devices have the offer.”

2.  Straight to the moon. NASA is at it again, [hoax] rocket launch to the moon. USNews.Com reports, “NASA’s newest robotic explorer rocketed into space late Friday in an unprecedented moonshot from Virginia that dazzled sky watchers along the East Coast. . . . Scientists want to learn the composition of the moon’s ever-so-delicate atmosphere and how it might change over time. Another puzzle, dating back decades, is whether dust actually levitates from the lunar surface.”  [That’s $280 million well-spent, I’d say.]

3.  Better than the real thing – a man chooses prosthetics over pain. At Salon.Com, Norbert Nathanson tells his story: “I was relieved that those feet and lower legs that had been the source of life-long pain and humiliation, and a magnet for mindless stares of legions of strangers, were gone. . . . The impact was significant. As I recovered from surgery, tension flowed out of me and relaxation set in. For the first time in my life I was completely at ease.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Impending side-step?  At the G-20, President Obama subtly opened another door as many congressmen get spanked by their constituents: “President Barack Obama hinted Friday that he might not strike Syria if Congress rejects his authorization request. ‘I’m not itching for military action . . . . and if there are good ideas that are worth pursuing, then I’m going to be open to them,’ he told one reporter who asked if he was seeking alternatives to a missile strike.”

2.  The Screw-Up-and-Move-Up. What do we do with a lawyer unfamiliar with the Fourth Amendment?  Make her a federal judge in terrorism court, of course. TheGuardian.Com reports, “Valerie Caproni, the FBI’s top lawyer from 2003 to 2011, is scheduled to receive a vote on Monday in the Senate for a seat on the southern district court of New York. Caproni has come under bipartisan criticism over the years for enabling widespread surveillance later found to be inappropriate or illegal. During her tenure as the FBI’s general counsel, she clashed with Congress and even the FISA surveillance court over the proper scope of the FBI’s surveillance powers. . . . Even before the Guardian’s phone records revelations, provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, lawmakers found Caproni to be complicit in surveillance abuses.”

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  Six reasons to attack Syria. TheDailyBeast.Com contributor Michael Tomasky argues, “What most liberals are passionate about is one thing: opposition to U.S. militarism. That’s what really roils the loins. . . . Here are six consequences of not launching a strike against Syria, all of which could harm small-d democratic hopes in the region and, indeed, potentially increase the carnage.”

2.  “For Obama, a contradiction too many.”  Reuters’ contributor David Rohde argues, “The president should have demanded that Congress be called back from recess immediately. He should also have immediately made a far more personal and passionate case for strikes. But what may doom the president’s effort, in the end, is not his short-term tactics. It is years of contradictory policies and unfulfilled promises by Obama himself.”

3.  The folly of empire?  Unlikely-but-regular contributor to Aljazeera Paul Rosenberg argues, “Attacking Syria is not the same as invading Iraq, we are told. And of course, that’s right. . . . There are two things that attacking Syria and invading Iraq have in common, which US elites utterly ignore. First is the sheer frequency with which the US attacks other countries. Second is the casual disregard for dire and deadly negative consequences, so long as US elites convince themselves their motives are pure. . . . This is what it means to be an empire. The players change endlessly. The folly never does. It only grows darker and more dire over time.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Anticipation of attack is worse . . . .

2.  The real holdup in Congress.

3.  Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.

 

IMG_0213

Daily Intelligence: Syria in the House, Fed hiring tips, and two-factor authentication

On Syria, the administration faces a tough fight Wednesday in the House, the role of leadership in hiring, and two-factor authentication gadgets, all in today’s defense headlines.

by Ed Ledford

September 4, 2013

 

Short-life sentence & the de-bearding.

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  Thought police – the Insider Threat Task Force. In the wake of Bradley Manning’s Wiki-leak, the Administration established the Insider Threat Task Force. Contributor Chandler Harris revisits this strange, surreal tale: “program presses managers and employees of federal agencies to monitor their co-workers for ‘indicators’ such as stress, divorce and financial problems and report them. Those who fail to report such signs could even face criminal charges. Leaks to the media are considered espionage.”

2.  K.I.S.S. – Old principles are hard to break. Like those in most every profession, we spoke a specialized language among our military colleagues. In the civilian job market, it sounds like Greek. Contributor Tranette Ledford’s offers great – and understandable – advice on translating you into civilian: “Your training may be unparalleled and having a security clearance is a definite asset.  But your ability to demonstrate these assets comes down to your ability to communicate them clearly to hiring managers. . . . If you still aren’t sure about how your resume translates, get some feedback from civilians.  They’ll be the first to question terms with which they’re unfamiliar.”

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

1.  Senate on Syria – 90-day window, no bootsDefenseNews.Com contributor Susan Davis reports, “Members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee hammered out a deal on Tuesday evening that would set a 60-day deadline for military action in Syria, with one 30-day extension possible, according to a draft of the resolution. The proposal, drafted by Sens. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Bob Corker, R-Tenn., would also bar the involvement of US ground forces in Syria, according to the draft.”

2.  Senate Syria vote today & a “broader strategy.” Reuters’s Jeff Mason and Yara Bayoumy report, “Leaders of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee said they reached an agreement on a draft authorization for the use of military force in Syria . . . . However, the draft is much narrower than the request made by Obama and includes a provision barring the use of U.S. troops on the ground. . . . Obama said on Tuesday the United States also has a broader plan to help rebels defeat Assad’s forces. ‘What we are envisioning is something limited. It is something proportional. It will degrade Assad’s capabilities,’ Obama said. ‘At the same time we have a broader strategy that will allow us to upgrade the capabilities of the opposition.’”

3.  Now comes the House of Representatives – a tough fight. AP’s Bradley Klapper’s pre-game for the Administration’s House debates: “While the administration was making progress in the Senate, it also needed to persuade a Republican-dominated House that has opposed almost the entirety of Obama’s agenda since seizing the majority more than three years ago. Several conservative Republicans and some anti-war Democrats already have come out in opposition to Obama’s plans, even as Republican and Democratic House leaders gave their support to the president Tuesday.”

4.  Even Egypt suspects AljazeeraAljazeera.Com reports, “Egyptian authorities are deliberately jamming [Aljazeera’s] satellite signals . . . . Trackers have pinpointed locations east and west of Cairo, and specifically identified military installations as the source of the satellite interference. After the military takeover in Egypt on July 3, Al Jazeera became one of several media outlets that have come under increasing pressure. . . . Egyptian authorities deported on Monday three members of a TV crew working for Al Jazeera English, the sister channel of Al Jazeera’s Egypt channel, Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr, after they were detained for nearly a week and accused of working illegally.”

5. In Afghanistan, $1.1 million bank heistKhaama.Com reports, “Shegofa, an Afghan female employee transferred USD 1.1mn from Azizi Bank and has left Afghanistan. According to reports, the employee has transferred the amount to a relative’s bank account outside of Afghanistan and has escaped from the country together with her family.”  Take the money and run.  Also in Afghanistan, Minister of Finance Mohammad Aqa Kohistani works to privatize the New Kabul Bank: “Kabul Bank was seized by the government in 2010 after the exposure of a staggering $900 million fraud, which led the International Monetary Fund to temporarily halt its hundreds of millions of dollars of loans to the country. Renamed New Kabul Bank, the institution was bailed out by the government.”

6. In Iraq, democracy is on shaky groundCSMonitor correspondent Tom A. Peter reports from Baghdad, “Many Iraqis are worried that democracy, never firmly rooted here, is sliding away from their country. On Saturday, Iraq’s security forces stopped demonstrators from protesting against the parliament’s pension program, which activists say is excessive. In Baghdad, police closed off several main roads and bridges to stop protesters from reaching designated gathering places. . . . Iraqi officials said they forbade the protests because a large gathering would have been susceptible to a terrorist attack.”

7.  In AFRICOM, Sailors in schools for stability.  Amphibious Squadron Four, Public Affairs’ Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Sabrina Fine reports from Port Victoria, Seychelles, “Although school was not currently in session, Sailors and Marines also were able to interact with local children who were playing music in a classroom. Sailors showed the children some American dance moves, and the children demonstrated their dance steps as well. . . . Service projects like the one conducted with the school serve to continue Naval Forces Europe-Africa efforts to strengthen maritime partnerships with East African nations like Seychelles in order to enhance regional stability.”

CONTRACT WATCH

1.  Fed-Hiring: It’s a leadership issue  WaPo contributor Tom Fox offers some savvy tips for getting the right people: “Given the current fiscal climate and an ever-increasing workload, it is imperative that as a federal manager you make smart hiring decisions. While this should be the norm even during ordinary times, it is not always an easy task to get the best talent given the obstacle-laden nature of the federal hiring process. Managers often view hiring as an HR function, but the truth is that it is a leadership issue.”

2.  $58 million Alliant Techsystems Operations win. DefenseIndustryDaily.Com covers Australia’s buy of “low rate initial production of the XM1156 Precision Guidance kit . . . . ATK was already the US Army’s top supplier of artillery propellant and fuses, so this is a natural extension for them. . . . This is a very fast turnaround, and would be impossible for many countries, but Australia sits alongside NATO allies in a category that can negotiate contracts just 15 days after DSCA notifications.”

3.  One to watch: Army aviation contracting under investigation. Reuters reports, “The Pentagon has opened a criminal investigation of an Army aviation unit that awarded tens of millions of dollars worth of contracts to Russian and U.S. firms for maintenance and overhaul of Russian-made helicopters . . . . Investigators are examining potentially improper payments by the Army aviation office to contractors as well as possible personal connections between members of the Army unit and the contractors, said the sources, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  Two factor authentication – the new standardWired.Com contributor tracks GitHub’s release: “Coding platform Github released two-factor authentication today, one of the many tech companies putting that extra step between you and hackers who want access to your account. . . . Two-factor authentication gives your login username and password combination a bit of backing. When you login using these credentials, instead of immediately being approved, the two-factor authentication will send a special code either by text message or through an app for you to enter as a second form of proof.”

2.  iPhone announcement – 10 September. Time’s Jared Newman reports, “Apple has sent out invitations to the press for a September 10 event, and unless the rumors are completely off-base, that’s when the company will announce the next iPhone. . . . rumored features include a better camera, faster processor and maybe even a fingerprint reader. New color options, such as gold-colored plating, are rumored as well.”

3.  Wireless pitfalls in the small-business office. PCWorld.Com contributor Paul Mah navigates obstacles to successful wireless networks for the small business: “Mobile devices are now as essential to workplaces as copy machines and coffee makers. That means a fast, reliable wireless network is essential as well. But building one isn’t as simple as plugging in your ISP-supplied router and connecting your smartphone. In fact if you’ve never done it before, putting together a Wi-Fi network robust enough to support your business can be pretty tricky. To shorten the learning curve, we’ve highlighted some common pitfalls and how to avoid them.”

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  D.C.’s delegate’s insightful foreign policy: love of the manPJMedia.Com reports on Democrat Eleanor Holmes Norton’s reason she would support Obama on Syria: “’If [Obama] gets saved at all, I think it’ll be because, it’ll be because of loyalty of Democrats. They just don’t want to see him shamed and humiliated on the national stage.’”  [Thankfully, Norton cannot vote in Congress, being a D.C. rep.]

2.  McCain is a betting man. I’m betting he supports Obama on Syria. HuffingtonPost.Com, among hundreds of others, reports, “At some point during the conversation, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) – who has been skeptical about President Barack Obama’s proposal for “limited” action in Syria – was taking a break to play poker on his phone.”  [In related news, McCain later consulted his Mystical Magical 8 Ball to answer his question, “Should I support Obama in Syria?”  The answer: “Concentrate and ask again.”]

OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  Deconstructing ghosts of the ‘Nam. DefenseOne.Com contributor Kevin Baron deconstructs our defense leaders’ language: “In questioning the automatic flag-waving of Americans for the troops, Hagel wrote, ‘I wonder how many of us here at home actually picture the grunt in the mud and grime with the cold stench of death hanging over him . . . .’ Get the picture? One man prosecuted military strikes from above. The other smelled their effects on the ground.”

2.  If you must, go alone, but go nonetheless. CSMonitor.Com contributor Jonathan Zimmerman argues, “I’m glad that President Obama decided to seek congressional approval before proceeding with a strike against Syria, which would give any such action more legitimacy at home. And I also admire his efforts to get the rest of the world behind a strike. But if that doesn’t work, the US – and Mr. Obama, as commander in chief – might have to go it alone.”

3.  “GOP should support Obama on Syria.”  WaPo contributors Mike Pompeo and Tom Cotton argue, “We are Army veterans. One of us served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq; the other conducted patrols along the Iron Curtain during the Cold War. We understand the gravity of using force. . . . Congress has its own constitutional duty to defend U.S. interests, and those interests shouldn’t be neglected simply because we have doubts about Obama.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Swift kick in the pants.

2.  Damned red tape.

3.  New axis of evil?

 

COW HILLS - LEDFORD

Syria’s broad effect, Afghan National Police outnumbered, and DEA’s Hemisphere Project

Refugees fleeing Syria threaten stability in neighboring nations, the ANP dwindling in the face of combat losses, and the NSA has nothing on the DEA, all in today’s defense headlines.

by Ed Ledford

September 3, 2013

Diana – Perseverance Incarnate & Ten Things for Tuesday.

FROM THE DESK OF CLEARANCE JOBS.COM

1.  How (not) to squander your security clearance.  From the vaults, contributor Janet Farley with 7 deadly security sins: “There are a number of ways you could potentially jeopardize possession of your ever-so marketable credential. Let’s count some of the ways, extrapolated from the 2011 annals of industrial security clearance decisions made, shall we?”

2.  Cover letters – first impressions. Also from the vaults and contributor Janet Farley, 5 steps to an effective cover letter: “a cover letter is what introduces your sterling credentials to a potential employer. It is that segue that matches their needs with your qualifications. It is the valuable chance to use your real voice vice resume sentence fragments to pique the interest of the reader.”

 

THE FORCE AND THE FIGHT

*Israel-U.S. fire missiles in Med: breaking news from AP, among others: “Israel says it has carried out a joint missile test with the U.S. in the Mediterranean Sea amid heightened tensions as Washington weighs sea-launched strikes against Syria.”

1.  Losing in Afghanistan – the Afghan National PoliceTheGuardian.Com reports Gen. Dunford’s fair but dire conclusion: “Afghanistan’s police and army are losing too many men in battle, and may need up to five more years of western support before they can fight independently, the top US and Nato commander in the country has told the Guardian. . . . Dunford admitted that Nato and Afghan commanders are concerned about Afghan casualty rates, which have regularly topped more than 100 dead a week. ‘I view it as serious, and so do all the commanders,’ Dunford said. ‘I’m not assuming that those casualties are sustainable.’”

2.  Syria – diving too deep?  Reuters’ Steve Holland and Thomas Ferraro evaluate the stakes this Tuesday morning: “President Barack Obama’s efforts to persuade the U.S. Congress to back his plan to attack Syria were met with skepticism on Monday from lawmakers in his own Democratic Party who expressed concern the United States would be dragged into a new Middle East conflict.”

3.  Syria – pressure on neighboring countries reaching crisisAP’s Karin Laub and John Heilprin lay out the tides as refugee numbers mount to disastrous proportions: “Antonio Guterres, the head of the Office for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said Syria is hemorrhaging an average of almost 5,000 citizens a day across its borders, many of them with little more than the clothes they are wearing. Nearly 1.8 million refugees have fled in the past 12 months alone, he said. The agency’s special envoy, Angelina Jolie, said ‘some neighboring countries could be brought to the point of collapse’ if the situation keeps deteriorating at its current pace. Most Syrian refugees have fled to Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.”  See also Aljazeera.Com’s report, “UN: Syrian refugee numbers cross two million.”

4.  Marines heading to West AFRICOM. Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa reports, “An international task force of Marines embarked the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN) landing platform dock HNLMS Rotterdam (L800) Aug. 30 as part of a 3-month comprehensive effort to strengthen capabilities with African partner forces in West Africa. The ship and combined security cooperation task force, comprised of U.S., U.K., Spanish and Dutch Marines, will conduct practical application exercises in security techniques and tactics alongside forces from partner nations Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Benin.”

 CONTRACT WATCH

1.  DoD’s clean energy contract race – two front-runnersChicagoBusiness.Com contributor Paul Merrion reports, “With more than a hundred firms in the running, New Generation Power Inc. and Acciona Energy North America Corp. were among 22 solar-power contractors selected . . . by the Army Corps of Engineers, allowing them to compete for contracts with individual bases and other military sites. Congress has mandated that military installations must get 25% of their power from renewable energy by 2025.”

2.  Government contracting in plain EnglishPRWeb.Com covers Government ContactingTips.Com and new recommendations for succeeding in contract competition: “GovernmentContractingTips.com is a website that is devoted to showing small business contractors all the opportunities there are in government contracting. The website’s home page breaks down their new ‘First Steps to Government Contracting’ guide into easy to follow lessons. Each lesson displays all the basic knowledge a contractor should be aware of when entering the federal marketplace.”  Check out GovernmentContractingTips.Com.

 TECH, PRIVACY, & SECRECY

1.  NASA – vision for the futureAviationWeek.Com wakes us up to NASA’s relevance to the future of technology: “So NASA’s unveiling of a new strategy for aeronautics research is a bold and welcome move from a bureaucratic agency that often seems to have lost its sense of direction . . . . The aeronautics reset is based on the fundamental assumption that U.S. leadership in civil aviation will be at risk in as little as 20 years unless the nation acts to keep the pipeline of new technologies flowing. The revitalization plan—spearheaded by the associate administrator for aeronautics, Jaiwon Shin—was inspired by the story of Kodak, which through complacency and lack of vision saw its domination of the photographic film and camera market wiped out by digital imaging and smartphones.”

2.  Terrorism, drugs, . . . the incremental erosion of the Fourth Amendment?  NYTimes.Com contributor Scott Shane covers the latest and previously unreported government data collection project, The Hemisphere Project: “Hemisphere covers every call that passes through an AT&T switch — not just those made by AT&T customers — and includes calls dating back 26 years, according to Hemisphere training slides bearing the logo of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. Some four billion call records are added to the database every day . . . . the program at least touched on an unresolved Fourth Amendment question: whether mere government possession of huge amounts of private data, rather than its actual use, may trespass on the amendment’s requirement that searches be ‘reasonable.’”  Related, read VentureBeat.Com’s “Have we passed peak surveillance?”

3.  The professional-scale DSLR camera you’ll want to own – and can.  At $399, it’s time to get serious about your photography bent.  Time exposes Sony’s new Alpha 3000 DSLR: “a DSLR that is small, inexpensive and easy for beginners to use, while still being powerful enough for a more experienced photographer . . . .”  [I’m getting one of these.]

POTOMAC TWO-STEP

1.  Rhetoric-ing himself into a corner: Obama’s backdoor might just force him to use it. TheDailyBeast.Com’s Michael Tomasky unravels the riddle and concludes, “I think this posture invites an avalanche of no votes. Obama and Kerry should have just used very oblique language suggesting that in the event of a congressional defeat, they’d reassess the situation or something like that. A posture such as that would at least let members of Congress know that their votes here really matter.”

2.  A confession: “’. . . I’m the idiot?’” asks Palin.   With one eye on the White House – and the other spinning counter-clockwise – Sarah Palin offers her Middle East policy.  WashingtonTimes.Com’s Jessica Chasmar writes, “In a Facebook post titled ‘Let Allah Sort It Out,’ former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin condemned President Obama’s decision to get further involved with the ongoing civil war in Syria. ‘So we’re bombing Syria because Syria is bombing Syria? And I’m the idiot?’ Mrs. Palin asked on Friday.  [Incidentally, Palin can see Syria from her back porch.]

 OPINIONS EVERYONE HAS

1.  “Striking Syria: Illegal, immoral, and dangerous.”  Aljazeera.Com contributor Phyllis Bennis argues that “whatever Congress may decide, a US military strike against Syria will still be illegal, immoral and dangerous, even reckless in the region and around the world. Congress needs to say no.”

2.  “On Syria: Be Clear, Then Hit Hard.”  Time contributor Walter Russell Mead argues, “What needs to come next is more clarity about what he plans to accomplish in Syria. I don’t ask that the President share his innermost thoughts with the world at this time; I only ask that he develop a clear strategic concept in his own mind. If he has a serious strategy, the rest of the world can watch it unfold; military leaders are under no obligation to telegraph their moves.”

3.  America’s identity is the pointChristian Science Monitor’s Editorial Board argues, “If US lawmakers accept that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons, they too must weigh the balance between affirming America’s identity as a global ideal leader against a humility in knowing the history of America’s war-waging disappointments.”

THE FUNNIES

1.  Punishing Assad.

2.  Palin’s Middle East policy.

3.  Politics, as usual.