Category Archives: Technology

Logistics Support is on the Rise – Air Force Awards Nearly $1B to Upgrade Landing Gear on Older Aircraft

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C130 Landing Gear

910th Airlift Wing maintainers install a new C-130 main landing gear tire in 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jim Brock).

“DOD BUZZ”

“The Air Force plans to drop some serious cash to upgrade the landing gear on some of its oldest aircraft.

The service has awarded a contract to AAR to overhaul the landing gear on its C-130 HerculesKC-135 Stratotanker; and E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system, or AWACS, fleets, according to an announcement.

AAR, an Illinois-based aviation services company, recently landed a $909.4 million fixed-price contract from the service for landing gear performance-based logistics, the company said in a release.

AAR will provide “total supply chain management,” including “purchasing, remanufacturing, distribution and inventory control to support all Air Force depot and field-level, foreign military sales, other services, and contractor requisitions received for all C-130, KC-135 and E-3 landing gear parts,” the release states.

“We are excited to get started on this important contract for the Air Force,” said Nicholas Gross, senior vice president of AAR’s government supply chain solutions, in a statement. “Serving as the prime contractor, AAR will support these three fleets utilizing our Landing Gear Repair and Overhaul center in Miami [Florida], as well as our supply chain network across the country.”

AAR also has offices and warehouses in Wood Dale, Illinois, and Ogden, Utah.

The work comes at a time when landing gear malfunctions have become more common, especially in older aircraft such as the Hercules.

A maintenance team with the 386th Air Expeditionary Wing, based in Southwest Asia, recently worked to fix a C-130’s landing gear after a tire blew out on landing at a forward operating base — days before this reporter took a flight in a sister C-130 over Iraq.

The team’s combat metals airmen ended up creating and installing the damaged Hercules’ landing gear door to salvage the wheels’ cover.

The repair cost the Air Force “229 man-hours, $400 in material, and 264 rivets for an engineer-approved air battle damage repair procedure,” the service said.

In total, it saved $107,000 in replacement cost for the Air Force, according to a release.”

https://www.dodbuzz.com/2017/08/16/air-force-awards-nearly-1b-update-landing-gear-older-aircraft/

 

 

 

How to Destroy Afghanistan: Establish a Private Contractor Army

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Desertpeace.wordpress.com

Image: Desertpeace.wordpress.com

“THE NATIONAL INTEREST” By Molly Dunigan

” The Department of Defense already has a relatively large number of operational contractors working in Afghanistan (23,525 in total as of July 2017).

In recent weeks, two major players in the private security industry proposed that Trump administration officials privatize U.S. military operations in Afghanistan to an unprecedented degree.

Erik Prince, former owner of the now-defunct firm Blackwater Worldwide, proposed a scheme that would entail the appointment of a viceroy to oversee operations in Afghanistan, and the use of “private military units” to fill in gaps left by departing U.S. troops. Meanwhile, Stephen Feinberg—owner of DynCorp International, which holds numerous major U.S. government security contracts at present—similarly proposed that the Trump administration privatize the military force in Afghanistan, though his conceptualization of such a force calls for it to be placed under CIA control.

Luckily, Defense Secretary Mattis reportedly has so far declined both offers. Research overwhelmingly indicates that replacing U.S. military personnel with contractors is not likely to be a militarily effective solution for the Afghanistan problem.

First, research has shown that security contractors tend to decrease military effectiveness when working alongside regular military units in large numbers, primarily due to coordination issues fed by convoluted command-and-control systems and resentment and misperception between the two types of forces. Coordination problems between the military and contractor forces lead contractors to have a negative impact on the military’s integration, responsiveness, and skill when the two groups are co-deployed in the field.

Second, while security contractors operating on their own—free from any alliance with an extensive force of friendly military troops—have been shown in some instances to increase operational effectiveness and achieve tactical and strategic goals, this has primarily occurred when they have been sent into an area without clear state support. In such cases, they can operate covertly and with “plausible deniability” for the state actor supporting them, which may allow for looser interpretations of the norms of international humanitarian law. In other words, contractors can be effective, but it may not always be pretty. Notably, current Department of Defense policy mandates compliance with standards of behavior may preclude such activities—but may also explicitly preclude some of what Prince is proposing.

Perhaps more relevant in this case is the fact that the tactical and strategic effectiveness of contractors who are operating without longer-term military support typically lasts only as long as the contract is in place. In Sierra Leone, in the late 1990s, paramilitary firm Executive Outcomes was successful in securing enough of the country to hold the first free elections in thirty years, but the peacefully-elected president was then ousted in a coup within eighty-nine days of the contract expiration.

Third, in a counterinsurgency effort such as Afghanistan, U.S. military policy focuses on establishing legitimacy with local civilians. The use of armed contractors has been shown to be risky in this regard: a survey of 152 U.S. troops showed in 2007 that 20 percent of them had at times witnessed armed contractors performing unnecessarily threatening, arrogant or belligerent actions in Iraq. Similarly, nearly 50 percent of a sample of 782 surveyed State Department personnel who had experience working alongside armed contractors in Iraq showed in 2008 that armed contractors did not display an understanding of—or sensitivity to—Iraqi people and their culture.

Both recruitment and retention are critical here. At key points during the contracting surge in the early years of the Iraq War, private security company vetting and hiring standards varied and were at times relaxed in order to hire a large number of contractors quickly. A company’s recruitment policy could therefore affect the quality of the force.

Moreover, the labor pool for highly skilled contractors is limited, and both retention of such skilled personnel and their overall effectiveness could be hindered by deployment-related health effects: a 2013 study indicated that 25 percent of a large, multinational sample of contractors screened positive for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a rate higher than among civilians (6 percent have PTSD) or even U.S. service members (8–20 percent). Even more troubling, 23 percent of those who were deployed overseas at the time of the 2013 survey had probable PTSD, and most were not being treated for it. In contrast to the numerous mental-health resources available to members of the U.S. military, very few (if any) resources are available to help private contractors struggling with deployment-related mental health problems, and seeking help is highly stigmatized across this population. Research has found that untreated mental-health problems reduce productivity and attentiveness—setting the stage for decreased effectiveness and even the potential for harm in an operational environment if left untreated.

None of these research findings bode well for the long-term stability and security of Afghanistan if contractors are used to replace U.S. troops in the country. While operational contractors are now an entrenched part of the Department of Defense’s “total force” and are here to stay, large-scale privatization of the U.S. force in Afghanistan is unlikely to be effective.”

Molly Dunigan is a senior political scientist and associate director of the Defense and Political Sciences Department at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation and a lecturer in Carnegie Mellon University’s Institute for Politics and Strategy.

http://nationalinterest.org/feature/how-destroy-afghanistan-establish-private-contractor-army-21886

 

 

Estonia Lesson Learned: “Every Country Should Have a Cyber War”

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“DEFENSE ONE”

” Estonia’s biggest turning point was 10 years ago, when the country came under sustained cyberattack.

The shock of a cyberwar united the community to take action.  Estonians don’t see cybersecurity as a phenomenon,  it’s about being empowered by technology, not controlled by it.”


“Estonia’s steps have certainly been radical, and other countries can learn lessons from them about how to defend themselves.

In 1991, Estonia was part of the dying communist empire. Its economy was run by central planners in Moscow, less than half of all households had a phone line, and goods were so scarce that people had to line up for food.

Skip ahead 26 years, and Estonians don’t even have to queue to vote. They do that online.

In just over two decades, Estonia has become one of the world’s most digitally innovative and efficient countries. In fact, Estonians conduct all their civic responsibilities online. Offices and paper forms have become obsolete as state-issued digital identities allow all citizens to carry out any financial or government transaction from their laptops or cellphones. And that gives them an edge when it comes to cybersecurity.

Estonia’s journey down the digital road has been astonishingly fast. When it gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, it had almost no money and few natural resources. But it did have one advantage: It was the designated center for software and computer production for the USSR. After achieving independence, the country had a pool of tech expertise for them to build on.

During these early years of independence, Estonia needed to create the means for a new economy. And it wasn’t going to be easy. The country’s tiny population of just 1.3 million is spread over a relatively vast countryside. Outside the capital Tallinn, there’s an average of just four people per square kilometer. The new government didn’t have the resources to extend government offices or banking facilities to small towns and villages, so it decided to encourage self-service, and spread internet access across the country in order to do so.

To achieve this, the government set up an investment group to build computer networking and infrastructure. By 1997, almost every school was connected to the internet, and by 2004, 300 wifi access points had been established, bringing the internet even to small villages—and mostly for free.

In 2007, Estonia was in the middle of a political fight with Moscow over plans to remove a Soviet war memorial from a park in Tallinn. Suddenly, it was hit with three weeks of D-DoS (designated denial of service) attacks. When this happens, multiple sources send multiple online requests, flooding a service or system and making it unable to function. It’s the digital equivalent of crowding an entrance to a building so that no one can come in or out.

As a result, the internet shut down as websites were bombarded with traffic. Russia denied any involvement, but Estonia didn’t believe it.

“War is the continuation of policy by other means,” Estonian president Kersti Kaljulaid told a NATO cyber-conference in Tallinn in June 2017. “Ten years on, it is clear that the decision made by Estonia not to withdraw but stay and fight for the security of our cyberspace was indeed the right one.”

The attacks made Estonia more determined than ever to develop its digital economy and make it safe from future attacks. “I think every country should have a cyber war,” says Taavi Kotka, the government’s former chief information officer. “Citizens get knowledge about what an attack means, about how phishing works, how D-DoS works, and they start to understand and live with that. People aren’t afraid if they know they can survive something. It’s the same thing as electricity going off: Okay, it’s an inconvenience, but you know how to deal with it.”

In Estonia, people are not afraid of cyber warfare, nor are they afraid of sharing personal data across public and private institutions. Go to a hospital, and the nurse or doctor can call up your entire health records from any doctor you ever visited without the need to call their offices and asking them to send files.

Full marks for convenience, simplicity, and efficiency. But what about the dangers of nameless bureaucrats accessing your personal data? Isn’t there a risk of future governments abusing the system and using your intimate details against you? Isn’t this inviting an Orwellian nightmare?

Estonia says no. Unlike an authoritarian state like the old Soviet Union, government transparency is built into the system. While all your private data is online, only you can give permission for any data to be accessed. And you can check who has accessed what. If a doctor you don’t know has viewed your records, it will be traceable, and you can have them sacked. As one software developer Quartz spoke to said, “You become your own Big Brother.”

Data is protected through a framework known as X-road, which helps exchange decentralized data between big government databases. X-road has built-in security measures that encrypt traffic and time-stamps so that the data cannot be manipulated. Taimar Peterkop, from Estonia’s Information System Authority, says that the security measures built into E-identity databases are all but impenetrable by outsiders. “Estonia takes data integrity very seriously because our society is so digitized,” he says. “If someone manipulates citizens’ data, that’s a challenge for us. We use blockchain-based technology to ensure the data is as it should be.”

When it comes to security, Peterkop says humans are usually the weak link. “Cybersecurity starts with us. If you have weak cyber hygiene, that’s a problem. We need to raise awareness and educate people about using strong authentication methods,” he says. For example, Estonia has public-education campaigns about how to use your smart devices wisely.

It seems like glaringly obvious advice, but a look at the recent USelection shows that basic cyber hygiene has been an after-thought, even for the powerful. When Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton’s campaign chief John Podesta’s Gmail account was hacked, Wikileaks founder Julian Assange claimed Podesta’s password was simply the word “password.” The campaign denied this claim and said they fell victim to a phishing scam. Whatever the case, it was an avoidable security breach that should never have occurred.

Peterkop also says that consumers need to ask more questions about the Internet of Things, especially when it comes to everyday household products and devices. “There is so much pressure to come up with new products in a hurry, so security measures are an after-thought,” he says. “As consumers, it’s essential that we start paying attention to it. We don’t do enough risk mitigation. Basically every TV is a computer now.” These issues are present already: A recent document dump from Wikileaks points to hacking tools that directly relate to Samsung televisions.

Estonia’s steps have certainly been radical, and other countries can learn lessons from them about how to defend themselves. As well as creating a paperless public service, Estonia is now backing up government data on secure servers offsite in Luxembourg. It has also prioritized tougher international action for cyber-crime and encouraged private companies to review security measures and have stronger agreements with server providers.”

http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2017/08/every-country-should-have-cyber-war-what-estonia-learned-russian-hacking/140217/?oref=d-mostread

 

DIU(X) Pentagon Outreach Program To Tech Startups Is Here to Stay

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DIU(X) Web Site:   https://www.diux.mil/portfolio

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“DIU(X) has spent $100 million on projects from 45 companies. These are not traditional defense contractors but commercial tech companies, mostly small ones, backed by about $1.8 billion in venture capital.

The whole idea is to reach beyond the often stodgy military-industrial complex to the thriving, innovative tech sector, especially to start-ups that lack the time, connections, or specialized manpower to penetrate the defense procurement labyrinth.


How does Trump’s Defense Secretary feel about one of the Obama Pentagon’s more controversial aus, the outreach to tech start-ups known as DIU(X)?

“I don’t embrace it,” Jim Mattis told reporters en route to Silicon Valley yesterday. “I enthusiastically embrace it, and I’m grateful that Secretary Carter (Ash Carter, Obama’s last SecDef) had the foresight to put something in place to anchor the Department of Defense out there.”

“I want to see results. I want to see what they’re doing with their location and the ideas that they’re bringing, they’re harvesting — what are we getting out of it?” Mattis continued when pressed by a skeptical press. “Absolutely, I want to see them in their mission. I’m not coming out here questioning the mission.” (Emphasis ours).

Mattis’s embrace of this Obama-era idea is just the latest sign that there’s a lot more continuity at the Pentagon in some policy areas than President Trump’s Twitter barrages would suggest. Trump blasted the F-35 stealth fighterMattis committed to continued production. Trump called NATO “obsolete” and said South Korea should pay for US missile defenses; Mattis reached out to allies. Trump campaigned on pledges of a Reaganesque defense buildup; his actual budget proposal has been modest. Trump promised new Navy ships and Army units; Mattis has prioritized better training and maintenance for the forces we already have. Trump said he’d made US nuclear forces stronger but they’re actually still shrinking under Obama-era arms control treaties. All modernization to nuclear delivery systems was started under Obama.

In this context, Mattis keeping his predecessor’s Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) isn’t so surprising. Congressional Republicans have been ambivalent about DIU(X), which has offices in three strongholds of Democrat-leaning techies: Palo AltoAustin and Boston. (Note the persistent attacks by the far right on Google and other tech companies.) House Armed Services chairman Mac Thornberry has worried aloud that DIU(X) duplicates longstanding high-tech efforts such as DARPA.

One of Work’s last acts, on July 14, was to give DIU(X) new legal authorities. One of the most significant is rapid hiring authorities that let DIU(X) bypass cumbersome federal regulations and bring tech expert onboard in as little as a day. (Similar authorities have been proposed in Congress) Another expanded the unit’s ability to set up Cooperative Research & Development Agreements (CRADAs) with private companies. Still other authorities gave DIU(X) new abilities to advertise, run prize competitions, host conferences, all methods of getting geniuses’ attention for its projects.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/08/diux-is-here-to-stay-mattis-embraces-obama-tech-outreach/

What has DIU(X) done to deserve more money and power? The unit’s signature achievement so far is new planning software for Air Force flight operations previously run with Microsoft Excel and markers on whiteboards. The new software cost $1.5 million, but by scheduling sorties more efficiently, it will save an estimated $131 million year in fuel and maintenance for tanker aircraft, DIU(X) says. The DIU(X) project also delivered in 120 days what a multi-year, $745 million dollar Air Force program could not.

Other DIU(X) contracts range from robotic sailboats (“saildrones”) to collect data on the ocean – vital for naval planning – to military simulations derived from commercial games.

All told, after a rough start which prompted Carter to reboot the unit, DIU(X) has spent $100 million on projects from 45 companies. These are not traditional defense contractors but commercial tech companies, mostly small ones, backed by about $1.8 billion in venture capital. The whole idea is to reach beyond the often stodgy military-industrial complex to the thriving, innovative tech sector, especially to start-ups that lack the time, connections, or specialized manpower to penetrate the defense procurement labyrinth. [UPDATE: Mattis also visited Google on Friday, but the tech giant has been leery of military contracts.] This strategy lets the military ride a train whose locomotive is massive private investment the Pentagon doesn’t have to pay for.

Now Mattis is publicly embracing this approach. In the words of a press release the Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) put out to celebrate the secretary’s visit, it looks like “DIU(X) is here to stay.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/08/diux-is-here-to-stay-mattis-embraces-obama-tech-outreach/

 

 

 

 

A New Tool for Looking at Federal Cybersecurity Spending

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Image:  “Taxpayers for Common Sense”

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“A new database and visualization tool that breaks down unclassified federal spending on cybersecurity over the past decade—giving the public a peek at how each major federal agency is devoting resources toward protecting computer systems.”


“More and more of what the federal government does relies on complex computer systems and networks. This high tech infrastructure makes the government work better by making services more efficient and accessible.

But that digital revolution also comes with big risks—just think back to the massive data breach at the Office of Personnel Management disclosed in 2015, when hackers compromised sensitive information about tens of millions of Americans. Last year, there were at least “30,899 cyber incidents that led to the compromise of information or system functionality” at federal agencies, according to a White House report released in March. The number of attacks on federal computer systems have risen sharply over the last decade.

So how much is the government spending to protect itself (and us) in this brave new world?

Unfortunately, the answer is “we don’t really know.” But a new tool from nonpartisan watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense provides perhaps the most comprehensive analysis of federal cybersecurity spending.

Last week, Taxpayers released a new database and visualization tool that breaks down unclassified federal spending on cybersecurity over the past decade—giving the public a peek at how each major federal agency is devoting resources toward protecting computer systems.

Taxpayers used public budget documents to build the database, but it wasn’t easy. “There is no government-wide standard definition or method of accounting for what qualifies as cyber funding and, therefore, no way to fully track it,” the organization explains on its methodology page. Agencies also use a variety of different approaches to tackle the issue, making it even harder to pin down their spending. Then, there is the government’s murky “black budget” of classified spending. So Taxpayers “settled on providing the best picture [it] could develop from extensive research of government programs” that are unclassified, spending two years searching through thousands of budget documents for terms like “information security” and “information assurance.”

Taxpayers found the amount spent on cybersecurity has quadrupled over 11 years. The group was able to tally $7 billion in unclassified cybersecurity spending in 2007, as compared to $28 billion in 2016. But some of that growth could be attributed to improvements in how the government tracks cybersecurity funding.

The resulting snapshot isn’t perfect, but it’s an impressive start—and a necessary one. After all, you can’t figure out what bang the government gets for its cybersecurity buck if you don’t know where those bucks go.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/08/a-new-tool-for-looking-at-federal-cybersecurity-spending.html

 

 

 

 

 

New Policy: Military Bases Can Shoot Down Trespassing Drones

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Shoot Down Drones

A small drone crash-landed at the White House in Washington, D.C. An increase in similar private drones above U.S. military complexes led to the Pentagon issuing guidance on how bases can now defend themselves against the private aircraft. (U.S. Secret Service via AFP)

“MILITARY TIMES”

“The Pentagon has signed off on a new policy that will allow military bases to shoot down private or commercial drones that are deemed a threat, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Monday.

The policy itself is classified and was transmitted to the services in July, Davis said. Broadly, it outlines the rules of engagement for a base when a private or commercial drone is encroaching upon its airspace.

On Friday, unclassified guidance was sent to each of the services on how to communicate the new policy to local communities.

The installations “retain the right of self-defense when it comes to UAVs or drones operating over [them,]” Davis said. “The new guidance does afford of the ability to take action to stop these threats and that includes disabling, destroying and tracking.”

Davis said the private or commercial drones could also be seized.

However, in some instances where the military leases land for operations, the use of a drone may not always be a threat — and who owns the airspace may not always be clear.

The Air Force, for example, maintains its arsenal Minuteman III nuclear intercontinental ballistic missiles in 150 underground silos in vast fields around Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. But the land is only leased from commercial and private farmers who use the rest of the area for crops or livestock. Those farmers sometimes find it easier to launch a drone to check on their cows or agriculture than to cover the miles by foot or truck.

As of last fall, the sky above the silos at Minot AFB was also not previously restricted airspace.

It was not immediately clear whether the new policy has changed access to the airspace above the silos or at other bases.

The policy would affect 133 military installations, DOD said.

Davis said the policy was worked through the Federal Aviation Administration and other federal agencies, and the specific actions a base takes when a drone encroaches upon it “will depend upon the specific circumstances,” Davis said.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/breaking-news/2017/08/07/dod-can-now-shoot-down-trespassing-uavs/

 

 

 

2011 “Insider Threat Program” in Jeopardy Under Justice Deparment Whistle Blower Investigations?

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Image: Scott.Net

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“It is important to note that when information is not classified or otherwise specifically barred by statute from disclosure, most federal employees are protected for disclosing wrongdoing to the media. [under the Insider Threat Program in place since 2011].

POGO has worked for decades to ensure that whistleblowers are afforded strong protections when reporting through proper channels and urge the White House and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to conduct these investigations with a firm commitment to not target, discourage, or detect legally protected whistleblowing in the process. This commitment is written into the Executive Order creating the Insider Threat Program, and must be adhered to. It is also important to note, that when information is not classified or otherwise specifically barred by statute from disclosure, most federal employees are protected for disclosing wrongdoing to the media.

POGO’s Danielle Brian issued the comment below:

“Whistleblowers are the nation’s first line of defense against fraud, waste, abuse, and illegality within the federal government, the last thing this administration wants to do is to deter whistleblowing in an effort to stymie leaks. This administration must carefully tailor the parameters for this investigation with this important consideration in mind. While I appreciate the distinction between whistleblowers and leakers at today’s press conference, the commitment to strong whistleblower protections must be more than just lip service.

In the public discourse, the lines regularly become blurred between leaking and whistleblowing. While not all leaks are whistleblowing disclosures, it is often impossible to distinguish between the two activities without understanding all the facts in each instance. It is especially difficult when discussing ‘leaks’ of unclassified information.

Whistleblowers will be allies to this administration if the White House embraces them and their disclosures, which often are an early warning system that can spotlight problems before they metastasize. Such disclosure help save taxpayer dollars, prevent loss of life, and curb abuses. Overzealous investigations will chill legitimate whistleblowing and drive whistleblowers away from proper government channels to the press. ”

Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO’s investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.”

http://www.pogo.org/about/press-room/releases/2017/press-statement-doj-press-conference-to-address-leaks-of-classified-material.html

 

 

Ex-GSA Contracting Official Gets Prison Time for Nepotism

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GSA Official Goes to Jail

“GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE”

“The director of a central contracting office at the General Services Administration has been sentenced to one year in prison for a nepotism conspiracy, while her husband received 18 months, the Justice Department announced.

Part of the more than $200,000 scheme executed from 2010-2014 involved inducing an Arlington-Va.,-based contractor to hire Steve Ballard based on false statements about his education, qualifications and status as the husband of Renee Ballard, who would supervise the contract in question.

Helen Renee Ballard, 52, and Robert “Steve” Ballard, 56, both of Brandywine, Md., pleaded guilty last March to conspiracy to make false statements to authorities concerning the work qualifications Robert Ballard used in attempting to obtain work for federal agencies and contractors. Helen Ballard, who left GSA in 2016, had been director of the agency’s Central Office Contracting Division from May 2006 to May 2011.

The couple acknowledged causing more than 139 false employment applications and fake certification documents to be submitted to the FBI, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the State Department, the Transportation and Security Administration, the Veterans Affairs Department, the Education Department, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Labor Department, the Office of Personnel Management, and the Internal Revenue Service.

“The Ballards sent Steve Ballard’s false resume to the Executive Office of the President in an attempt to obtain employment there,” the release said. Steve Ballard also submitted falsified applications to six private contractors working for GSA and Customs and Border Protection, among other agencies.

A co-conspirator, Donna C. Hughes, 32, of Lanham, Md., who worked under Renee Ballard as a contracting officer at GSA, pleaded guilty on April 21 and last week received a year of probation.

The sentencing in federal court Alexandria, Va., was announced by Dana Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and GSA Inspector General Carol Ochoa.”

http://www.govexec.com/contracting/2017/08/ex-gsa-contracting-official-gets-prison-time-nepotism/139975/?oref=federal-news-all

Northrop Grumman Expanding Grand Forks, North Dakota Unmanned Aerial Systems Facility

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Photo: Northrop Grumman

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Less than a year after Northrop Grumman opened the doors to its new unmanned aerial systems facility in North Dakota, the company will soon break ground on a new hangar to conduct testing and maintenance on its family of autonomous systems.

The company expects to employ 100 people by the end of 2017, with a mix of current Northrop employees coming from San Diego and other locations, and new hires from the North Dakota area.

The Grand Sky Park, for which Northrop Grumman is the anchor tenant, hosts several commercial tenants with ties to unmanned aerial systems, including General Atomics, Hambleton said. Northrop committed over $10 million to the initial Grand Sky project, and its initial 36,000 square-foot facility was completed in late 2016.

The company in April announced the opening of its new facility at the Grand Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems Business and Aviation Park near Grand Forks. The facility serves as a “nucleus” for research and development, pilot, operator and maintainer training, as well as operations and mission analysis and aircraft maintenance, according to Northrop.

Before the end of the summer, Northrop will start work on a new hangar that will allow it to take advantage of the proximity of Grand Forks Air Force Base’s remotely piloted aircraft squadron, David Hambleton, Grand Sky program manager and site lead, said in an interview with National Defense.

Northrop leased 10 acres of land from the Air Force to build the recently opened facility and the 35,000 square-foot hangar, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2018, he said. Flight testing and aircraft maintenance for the company’s family of autonomous systems will begin by the following year, he added.

The company’s facility in North Dakota will be an “offshoot” of its autonomous systems division in San Diego, California, he said. “In one place, we have access to both civil and restricted airspace [and] opportunities to collaborate with the universities nearby” such as the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, he said.

The Grand Sky team will have the ability to link different capabilities “through a modeling and simulation backbone,” he added. “We’ll be able to tie together system testing in a lab with monitoring mission data as it comes in, connecting to training simulators and linking them together in a technical way to enable new ways to doing what, in the past, we’ve done independently or separately.”

The FAA-designated Northern Plains unmanned aerial systems test site is also located in Grand Forks, and the Air Force’s fleet of RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft, produced by Northrop, is based next door, he noted.

“Having all of these capabilities and infrastructure concentrated here makes Grand Sky a desirable place for us to pursue flight testing and system demonstration,” he added.

Northrop expects to perform flight testing and maintenance for the Global Hawk fleet at Grand Sky, but also intends to support other unmanned systems such as the Navy’s forthcoming MQ-4C Triton surveillance aircraft or the MQ-8 Fire Scout reconnaissance helicopter, he added.

Northrop committed over $10 million to the initial Grand Sky project, and its initial 36,000 square-foot facility was completed in late 2016, he added.

The local community and the state of North Dakota were interested in developing the unmanned aerial systems industry in the Red River Valley region, he said. A group of local actors that included the University of North Dakota and Grand Forks County developed the Red River strategic alliance agreement.

“Northrop Grumman signed on to this agreement to promote the UAS industry,” he said. “That set the stage for the goal of creating… the Grand Sky aviation business park for UAS.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/8/3/northrop-prepares-for-new-hangar-construction-in-north-dakota

 

General Mattis and Special Inspector General Sopko Agree on “Spoils of War”

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Mattis and SIGAR

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“When the head of an agency actually listens to the findings of an Inspector General (IG), great things can happen.

June 2017 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) prompted Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to acknowledge and denounce the Department of Defense’s (DoD) dismissive attitude towards reigning in its overspending of taxpayer dollars, and to highlight the good work done by SIGAR.

The official memo to DoD leadership, dated July 21, discusses SIGAR’s report on camouflage uniform misspending in Afghanistan, while also pointing out and decrying DoD’s “complacent mode of thinking” when it comes to spending in general. Mattis found that SIGAR’s report highlighted two truths about DoD work:

1) Every action contributes to the larger missions of defending the country

2) Procurement decisions have a lasting impact on the larger defense budget

Mattis uses these truths to reinforce the importance of effective spending at DoD, and wants to use SIGAR’s report and the instances of misspending it found as a “catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices – and take aggressive steps to end waste in [DoD].”

While this is potentially great news and a marked shift in DoD rhetoric, it is important to note that stating a problem exists is not the same as taking concrete action to fix it. Just last year, DoD was working to discredit SIGAR over a report on a $43 million gas station in Afghanistan, rather than working to fix the problem. Moreover, the $28 million in misspending that this most recent SIGAR report focused on and that drew Mattis’s attention is nothing compared to the waste, fraud, and abuse occurring in the larger defense budget (over $300 billion of which was spent on goods and services in 2016). It is important to remember that DoD is not known for its willingness to proactively address its spending issues, but is rather known for actively resisting efforts to increase transparency and accountability. (See, for instance, POGO’s work on DoD’s reluctance to examine its contracts for improper payments & DoD still not being able to pass an audit.)

It will take more than this memo for DoD to change the way it spends taxpayer money, but publically acknowledging the truth of SIGAR’s findings and trying to leverage that work for change—rather than fighting against and resisting the IG at every turn—is an important first step.

It is even more important, however, that DoD truly works towards achieving effective spending on an agency-wide scale.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/07/secdef-mattis-commends-ig-efforts-highlights-dod-shortcomings.html