Polaris Trucks Carry Commandos And Casualties – And Can Be Robots




“Polaris is a small, tough company that makes small, tough trucks, favored by the MarinesSpecial Forces, and allied nations. They’re basically military-grade dune buggies, easy to transport by plane or helicopter and easy to customize to the mission. In this video, Polaris shows us one of their larger DAGOR vehicles configured to carry a full eight-man squad and the smaller MRZR set up as a mini-ambulance — as well as where to attach the gadgets to make it self-driving for the Army’s S-MET robotics competition.”





Inspectors General Community Launches “Oversight.Gov”




“Oversight.gov, a centralized and searchable database of reports from offices of the inspector general (OIGs) throughout the federal government.

The database makes it easier to find reports on cross-cutting problems across the government.”

“The project is the result of two years of work from the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE).

Michael Horowitz, the Inspector General (IG) of the Department of Justice and the Chair of CIGIE, elaborates on the goals of the website in a press release, stating that “the public should have easy access to information about their government, and Oversight.gov is a big step in this direction.”

67 OIGs who make their reports public have committed to posting searchable versions of their reports from fiscal years 2015 through 2017 to Oversight.gov. They have also committed to posting all new reports to Oversight.gov whenever they post to their own site moving forward.

The homepage of Oversight.gov has data broken down by fiscal year on the number of reports available, on how many recommendations are in those reports, and on the potential savings identified by IGs. This data automatically updates every time an IG uploads a new report to reflect this new information.

The site also has a “Report Government Fraud, Waste & Abuse” button at the top of every page, which currently links to a list of contact information for all 73 OIGs. CIGIE has hopes of expanding the capacity of this whistleblower assistance functionality by, for example, assigning a full time CIGIE employee to facilitate whistleblower disclosures through the ‘report’ page of the site. However, such plans are contingent on funding.

The Project On Government Oversight has done extensive work to ensure IGs are independent and effective watchdogs, and we believe the introduction of Oversight.gov could serve to help those in the oversight community stay privy to the most recent findings of waste, fraud, and abuse, and to keep IGs accountable.

To keep up with the latest in the IG community, you can check out POGO’s database of vacant IG posts, and follow @OversightGov on Twitter to get live updates whenever new IG reports are available.”





Afghanistan Veteran Awarded Medal of Honor Explains Beating PTSD and Finding Peace and Hope

Afghanistan Medal of Honor Explains

The author, Florent Groberg, is seen here as an Army lieutenant flying over Afghanistan’s Konar province in 2012. He was awarded a Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest combat valor award, after risking his life to minimize the fallout from a deadly suicide attack. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Alexis Ramos)

“WASHINGTON POST” By Florent Gronberg

“I realized sitting in my own hospital bed, having been injured by a suicide bomber, that no Taliban, no al-Qaeda, and no foreign fighter ever truly scared me.

What frightened me were the demons in my head left behind after that traumatic attack, and their relentless work to destroy my inner spirits and finish me off.”

“The longest war in American history turns 16 years old Saturday — the anniversary of the first deployment of elite special operators to Afghanistan just weeks after the worst terrorist attack in our nation’s history.

Back then our mission was clear, and the call to war was simple: We were going to take out Osama bin Laden, and shut down al-Qaeda’s safe haven for good.

For most American teenagers, a 16th birthday is a huge milestone, a joyful transition into the independence, freedom and opportunities that come with adulthood. But in war, these milestones operate in reverse. The longer they stretch on, the murkier our mission feels, the greater the sacrifice becomes, and the farther into the distance our original goals fade.

Most Americans, glad to be hitting back after being attacked on 9/11, never imagined how expansive this war would become, how many millions would ultimately deploy to fight it, that bin Laden would prove such an elusive target, or that this conflict would morph from a massive manhunt to an even greater struggle for Afghanistan’s nationhood and soul.

And no one would have believed 2,500 American lives — and even more Afghan allies — would be lost.

Americans look at these questions differently and from many perspectives — across our dining room tables and our political divides. Some think we have been there too long, some that victory is just around the corner. Some think we have a responsibility to put Afghanistan back together, others that we are doing more harm than good.

I’ve been a part of these conversations, and I’ve been one of the many confused about our mission. Until I deployed myself.

On the ground in Afghanistan, walking through the silvery moon dust that layers the mountain ridgelines and among ancient societies who carve their homes out of some of the world’s most unforgiving terrain, this war looks very different.

Instead of hostile barbarians, I found myself among hungry and hopeful people. Instead of hunting a terrorist, we hunted for a nation’s future.

Yes, we fought the Taliban, and we used overwhelming American strength to fight those who engaged us with hostility. But we spent much more time working to improve the living conditions for ordinary Afghans, to clear paths for children to safely go to school, to deliver electricity, clean water and basic human security.

I saw the best of humanity at work in Afghanistan through the sacrifices and bravery of the people we worked alongside.

I also saw the depths of evil. Acts of barbaric cruelty, Afghan against Afghan, and brother against brother. The Taliban are a merciless enemy, happy to kill scores of their own people if it was worth one American life.

What hits hardest from my time in Afghanistan is how many of us came home with wounds — physical and emotional.

I nearly became a statistic, one of the 20 veterans who takes his or her life every single day. But like my time in combat, I relied on my brothers and sisters around me. They never quit on me, they pushed me and guided me. They saved my life once in the mountains of Afghanistan and again in the hospital room of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

Today, I work with the Boeing Co. to help veterans and their families land careers where they can use their rare and unique skills. Part of that process involves providing our veterans with the resources they need when they, too, are struggling, physically or emotionally. To me, the continuing legacy of this war resides in every job offered to a veteran, in every family reunited with their service member, and in every opportunity for peace that we create.”


Florent Groberg is a retired Army captain, Medal of Honor recipient and author of “8 Seconds of Courage: A Soldier’s Story from Immigrant to the Medal of Honor,” to be released Nov. 7. He works at Boeing Co. as director of veterans outreach and defense, space and security strategy. On Twitter: @FlorentGroberg



How Lockheed Martin Has Made a Killing Off Our Perpetual Wars


Photo Credit: Hasan Shaheed / Shutterstock


“We can’t seem to stop investing in a company more interested in profit than in America.

As the largest arms dealer in the world, Lockheed, it’s safe to say, is profiting off the United States’—and the world’s—perpetual state of war.”

“Defense contractor Lockheed Martin has taken advantage of America’s wars to make absurd profits. The company made $47.2 billion last year. To put this figure into perspective, $47.2 billion is 172 percent of Yemen’s gross domestic product in 2016; more than the U.S. government spends annually on energy and the environment; and 1,000 times as much as Lockheed spent to settle allegations of lobbying with taxpayer funds in August 2015.

Money Pit Planes

Cost overruns, development and production delays, and extremely high prices are all part of Lockheed’s business model. Take the fiasco of the F-22 and F-35 jet fighter planes.

The F-22 planes, which cost the U.S. Air Force $412 million each, were supposed to be the best fighter planes in the world, characterized by their stealth, agility and precision. Lockheed executives described the planes as “an icon of American power.” But the F-22 planes have never seen combat because of irredeemable flaws in design that may have led to the death of Air Force Captain Jeff Haney.

Eclipsing the staggering failure of the F-22, the F-35 promises to waste $1.4 trillion of American taxpayer funds. The cost of each plane has soared by more than 50 percent above original projects; the program is years behind schedule. Thus far, the F-35 has consistently failed to meet minimum performance standards and was recently out-performed by an F-16 during a test. Defense spending analyst Winslow Wheeler concluded that the F-35 is “flawed beyond redemption.”

Who profits from this colossal waste of money? Lockheed: the F-35 fighter is its most profitable program, generating more than half of all sales from its aeronautics division in 2015 and stimulating a 5 percent rise in 2017 second-quarter profits.

Management Is a Costly Mess

In addition to these trillion-dollar national disasters, Lockheed’s management is deeply problematic. According to the Project on Government Oversight’s Contractor Misconduct Database, Lockheed has had 84 instances of contractor misconducts since 1985, making it number one on the list of errant federal contractors.

Lockheed’s contractor misconducts are impressive in their breadth, ranging from overbilling and fraudulent lease cost claims to whistleblower retaliation and racial discrimination.

Ironically, Lockheed prides itself on its commitment to ethics, requiring ethics awareness training for all of its employees.

But America Pays It Anyway

Despite Lockheed’s monumental misconducts, the corporation is firmly entrenched within the U.S government.

Eighty percent of Lockheed’s 2015 profit came from the U.S government. Since 1989, the company has received 31 grants and 15,358 contracts from the federal government. Lockheed is contracted by more than two-dozen government agencies, from the Department of Defense to the Environmental Protection Agency. It engages in surveillance and information processing for the CIA, FBI, IRS, NSA, the Pentagon, the Census Bureau, and the Postal Service. It hires interrogators for U.S. overseas prisons including Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib.

Every Aspect of U.S. Government and American Life

Lockheed’s lobbying capabilities are omnipotent. The company spends around $13 million each year on lobbying.

Recent bills that favor Lockheed by further extending the military budget include the Electronic Warfare Capabilities Enhancement Act and the National Defense Authorization Act. At the very least, Lockheed’s lobbying efforts are undiscriminating; it gave millions of dollars to both Democrat and Republican congressional candidates.

Under the Trump Administration, Lockheed Is Poised to Profit Even More 

President Trump’s call for a $54 billion increase in defense spending will only further augment Lockheed’s profits; the money would accelerate planned acquisitions of the F-35 fighters and THAAD missile systems.

Lockheed’s profits are blood money. Lockheed’s values include preschool maxims like “do what’s right” and “respect others,” and its annual report boasts it is “proud to stand with our international partners to enhance their capabilities to protect the lives of citizens and build a brighter future.”

Yet the corporation has no qualms about war profiteering. Its arms sales constituted 78 percent of its total sales in 2014. It sells weapons to the repressive Saudi regime, which indiscriminately kills thousands of Yemeni civilians.

Lockheed is not building a brighter future; it is destroying any prospect of a peaceful one.”


Contractors and the True Size of Government


Image: “Project on Government Oversight”


“Four out of every ten people who work for the U.S. government are private contractors.

Contract employees are less expensive only until overhead—or indirect costs such as supplies, equipment, materials, and other costs of doing business—enter the equation.

The U.S. Army ran the numbers and found that those costs accounted for more than half of what the contractors charged the Army.”

“New York University professor Paul Light. Light estimates the true size of the federal government (as of 2015) is 9.1 million government employees, active-duty military personnel, Postal Service workers, and contract and grant employees.

More than 40 percent of the workforce—about 3.7 million people—are contract workers. Light’s analysis shows that contractors have long been the single largest segment of Uncle Sam’s “blended workforce,” accounting for between 30 and 42 percent of that workforce since the 1980s:

Table 1: The True Size of the Federal Government's Blended Workforce, 1984-2015

(Source: The True Size of Government: Tracking Washington’s Blended Workforce, 1984-2015, Paul C. Light, October 2017, p. 3.)

His analysis tracks government data showing that the number of federal employees has remained relatively constant since 1951.

Light, one of the foremost authorities on the federal workforce, has long voiced concern about the rapidly growing “shadow government” of contractor employees. In the report, Light wrote that contract employees “work in a hidden bureaucratic pyramid.” While presidential candidates often campaign on a promise to cut the size of the federal government, Light noted these promises often fail to take into consideration the size of the contractor workforce.

Light warned that the blended workforce as a whole “may have grown so large and poorly sorted that it has become a threat to the very liberty it protects.” His dire conclusion: “It may have become so complex that Congress and the president simply cannot know whether this blended workforce puts the right employees in the right place at the right price with the highest performance and fullest accountability.

Professor Light presented his findings today at the National Press Club. Joining him to discuss the significance of his findings were Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson, Project On Government Oversight Executive Director Danielle Brian, and American Enterprise Institute resident scholar Norman Ornstein (who is also on POGO’s Board of Directors).

For many years, POGO has spoken out about the unchecked growth of federal contracting. Light cited one of our seminal works in this area—the 2011 Bad Business report—in his discussion of the various systemic “pressures” compelling the government to hire contractors. One such pressure is the assumption we debunked in Bad Business that contractor employees always cost less than government employees. Periodically, this assumption gains traction in the wake of a pay gap study finding government workers are paid significantly more than workers in the private sector. Every once in a while, POGO feels compelled to explain why such studies are misleading. In a nutshell, those studies do not factor in the cost of hiring private sector employees as government contractors. (Federal News Radio recently published commentary highlighting the other ways pay gap studies are flawed.)

“The explanation is in billing rates, not paychecks,” Light wrote.

The American Society of Military Comptrollers produced a notable graph of defense workforce costs that tracked expenditures over the previous decade for civilian, military, and contractor personnel. The section of the graph representing contracted services contains the following annotation: “The savings are here. This is Total Force Manpower, but its growth has been unchallenged and often we don’t even know what is in the base.”

That’s why POGO has long advocated for a comprehensive cost analysis model that fosters smarter, more cost-effective decisions regarding the composition and costs of the federal workforce. To this end, we have called for the creation of an advisory panel of experts to evaluate policies and procedures for making hiring decisions. Congress has also taken up this issue: Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO) held a hearing on this topic in 2012 and pushed the Department of Defense to make more informed workforce decisions.

We commend Paul Light for bringing sunshine to the shadow government. His work will help point the way to a more balanced and effective federal workforce.”


By: Neil Gordon
Investigator, POGO

Neil Gordon, Investigator Neil Gordon is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Neil investigates and maintains POGO’s Federal Contractor Misconduct Database.

Army To Discard $6 Billion (WIN-T) Network Investment And Start Over Without A Plan


Army Network $6B


“House lawmakers roasted Army officials for abruptly scrapping its acquisition strategy months after submitting its 2018 budget without a well-defined alternative. 

Whether the U.S. Army may shift a half-billion dollars from its ailing network programs and chart a new course will be up for debate as lawmakers reconcile rival House and Senate defense policy bills this month.”

“But several key lawmakers said they are not ready to let the Army reboot from a $6 billion investment without explaining what’s next.

Army officials argue the service lacks the survivable, mobile and hardened tactical network it would need on a modern battlefield. They are asking Congress to end the Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio, the Command Post of the Future and the Warfighter Information Network-Tactical (WIN-T) Increment 2 at the end of fiscal year 2018 to free up money budgeted for the three.

And although at least two key lawmakers said they were supportive — chairmen of the House and Senate armed services committees — they want more information.

“I support them being willing to examine themselves and reverse course if that’s what’s appropriate,” HASC Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said of the Army on Oct. 5. “It’s going to be up to them to prove to us that now we are on a better path, that we have learned the lessons.”

Thornberry said Army officials spoke with him in September about making the change.

“They’ll have to lay out their plans to us, but if we can have a path forward in ’18, there’s no reason to wait until ’19.”

The House-passed 2018 National Defense Authorization Act calls for WIN-T to be accelerated, and the Senate-passed version zeroes out the president’s request for WIN-T funding. The White House has defended WIN-T and some other programs the Senate NDAA would cut.

SASC Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., grilled Gen. Mark Milley, the Army chief of staff, at a May hearing and accused the Army of wasting $6 billion on WIN-T. That stance actually aids Milley’s aim to reboot Army network plans.

On Sept. 9, McCain met with Milley on Capitol Hill and asked him how he proposes the WIN-T funding be redistributed.

“We told them to send us what they want to do with it, and we will examine it, but we had to act to cut it off,” McCain said of the meeting.

McCain said his support for the Army’s next move “depends on what they want to use it for. WIN-T has been a total failure.”

Proposed changes could be handled as an Army request to reprogram the 2018 funding or as part of the NDAA depending on the timing, McCain said.

The Army envisions scenarios in which it fights a near-peer enemy in contested environments that require small units, operating independently and moving constantly to avoid defeat.

Yet the first increment of WIN-T, while fielded, can only function — transmitting voice, video and data — when a unit is stopped. The WIN-T’s second increment is meant to provide an on-the-move capability, but it has struggled.

The latest annual report from the Pentagon’s office of developmental test and evaluation faults WIN-T’s technical performance, usability and vulnerability to enemy jamming.

At a hearing of the HASC Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee on Sept. 28 to question Army officials over its new plans, Chairman Michael Turner, R-Ohio, expressed deep skepticism the Army would get it right this time.

In a subsequent interview with Defense News, Turner said the goal is to provide new troops technology at least as advanced as what they were had in high school, and not to be eclipsed by adversaries who “have modernized and put at risk our ability to operate.”

“The question is what are we going to do, not just what are we not going to do,” Turner said.

Turner pushed back at the idea WIN-T had been a failure, noting it had been delivered, tested and fielded.

“The issue is not that it’s not working; the issue is: What are our goals and objectives, what are our technology needs, and how do you achieve those?” Turner said, “And the Army’s going to need to have an answer at least in scoping and in implementation, while they explain the nearly $6 billion that’s already been spent.”


How to Manage Risk for Your Global Business

Global Business Risk


“STRATFOR” By Brett Boyd

“The global economy is a fascinating ecosystem to both study and participate in. 

There are entirely new challenges to be faced and business competencies required to compete and win in today’s economy, many of which have very little to do with the product or service that companies deliver to their customers.”

“The term ‘globalization,’ while important, has an academic connotation that tends to underplay the very real and tactical implications for what it means to operate a business in 2017.

Stratfor has enjoyed a unique vantage point for observing the internationalization of business interests over the past 20 years.  While there have always been international companies — Ford has been selling cars around the world since opening operations in Canada in 1904 and Europe shortly thereafter; ExxonMobil’s predecessor Standard Oil began international operations in China in the 1890s; and investment firms have traded globally for centuries — virtually all companies are now impacted by international events to some extent.  Even companies that only operate domestically in the United States, for example, are influenced by global dynamics to a far greater extent than they were 20 years ago.  Spikes or depressions in non-related commodities prices can cascade into shipping and transportation costs.  Political upheaval in far-away places can impact labor costs for essential subcomponents controlled by suppliers.  Default on large debt instruments by countries in “emerging” markets can impact domestic interest rates and investments.

However, more and more companies are taking the further step to actually operate in these international markets.  This can manifest as selling products in new markets, opening offices to develop international capacity in fields such as software development, or developing supplier, product or distribution relationships.  In some cases, companies’ international exposure is limited to individual travel; in other cases it requires management of buildings, physical infrastructure and supply chains around the world.  The risks associated with each type of operations are different, but all international operations incur some degree of risk. Even Europe, often considered a relatively risk-free region for new investments, has significant political, economic, and security risks that must be understood.

Not all risks associated with international operations are equal.  The degree of risk is determined both by location and activity. International expansion into Nigeria entails different risks than would a similar program in France.  Neither is inherently better or worse, but the political, economic and security risks are different and must be understood and mitigated accordingly. Thoughtful risk management entails a balance between the economic potential of an opportunity and the costs required to mitigate the risks associated with that opportunity.  Companies understand that they get paid for risk, to some extent, and that it is possible to conduct operations anywhere in the world. But there are places where the costs of risk management outweigh the economic potential of the opportunity.

Framework-Based Risk Assessment

Stratfor has helped investors and corporate executives evaluate and manage risks associated with international operations for decades.  We have developed a market-assessment framework to help our clients evaluate international opportunities – whether they are in moderate-risk locations such as Europe or in higher-risk locations around the world.  This framework includes four primary areas of evaluation: political, economic, infrastructure, and security.  In some cases, we will also look at demographics or other factors that impact the attractiveness of an international market for sales or hiring opportunities, but these four areas are at the center of the majority of our risk assessment efforts.

Political.  Political risks involve local political decisions that could affect the viability of an investment or business interest.  These risks can range from broad election-based shifts  in a country’s political direction, to more specific regulatory moves that could adversely affect an industry or type of company.  We have seen organizations who woke up one morning to find that the effective tax rate for their operations in a country doubled, changing the country business unit from an extremely profitable operation to one that was losing money and potentially needed to be divested.  The challenge with political risk is that it needs to be understood on a forward-looking basis, as these risks are better avoided than worked through.  If a company plans to buy a business in Eastern Europe it is helpful to understand the current political environment, but that is only the beginning of a responsible country assessment.  What that company really needs is to understand the most likely political trajectory for that country over the next 10 years. Though this is difficult, and never error-free, it is possible.

Economic.  Companies tend to excel at evaluating specific opportunity risks, but in our experience, are less proficient at evaluating the environmental or macroeconomic conditions that can also impact performance. A company looking to buy a company in Southeast Asia, for example, may completely understand the risks associated with that company – equipment replacement needs, product shortcomings and balance sheet issues, for example.  That same company may miss the fact that the regional food-based commodities economy is under extreme pressure from other actors in the South China Sea, which could lead to significant operational risk that will be outside of their ability to control.  In our experience, although investors are better at evaluating these types of risks, they remain challenging nonetheless.  Economic risks range from currency issues (which are often political), to workforce availability, to the overall economic trajectory of a country and the cascading impact that can have on all companies operating in that market.

Infrastructure.  First-world companies sometimes take for granted the availability of functional infrastructure, especially when considering opportunities in developing economies.  Ports, roads and airports constitute critical supply chain and transportation nodes required for the success of a multinational enterprise.  Healthcare and education systems can be considered important parts of national infrastructure, especially for companies that plan to operate, hire, and sell products in a region for decades. Telecommunications infrastructure is one of the most commonly under-appreciated infrastructure sectors, as gaps in telephone and internet connectivity are often not as obvious as shortcomings in ports and roads.

Security.  Security risks are one of the most obvious areas of concern that companies evaluate, especially when they put people in less-developed “emerging” or “frontier” markets.  Companies tend to inherently understand that there are security risks involved in sending employees to the Middle East, for example.  The complexity comes from the need to do something about it; aside from telling our people not to go, how do we manage risk when we need to send a team member to a high-risk country?  Stratfor evaluates security threats in terms of crime, terrorism, espionage, and business continuity, with the aim of helping our clients implement the right levels of protective measures to allow successful operations anywhere in the world.  Industrial espionage and information security risks are specific areas where we have found that most companies understand that there are risks, but few have appropriate mitigating strategies in place.  Travel to China, for example, is extremely important for many different types of businesses, and there are relatively simple measures companies can put in place to mitigate common information security risks.

Even small companies that send employees overseas only for limited travel to seemingly low-risk places need to understand the environments in which they operate.

While some of the use cases mentioned above may seem tied to large investments, these factors are important for all organizations to understand.  Even small companies that send employees overseas only for limited travel to seemingly low-risk places need to understand the environments in which they operate.  Information and physical security considerations are important for small companies with individual international travelers, just as they are for large companies with significant international business interests.  Financial reward is often correlated in part with risk, and company executives understand that there are times where they need to incur risk in order to realize success.  Risk must be managed in a balanced fashion. Excessive risk aversion can lead to missed opportunities while ignoring risks can lead to disaster.

Companies that can understand and manage risk in a thoughtful, cost-efficient fashion tend to have an advantage over their competitors.  The most successful companies are those that go beyond understanding the present risk environment, and instead assess what it will look like in the next three to five years. This type of thinking facilitates the first-mover advantage, developing business infrastructure and relationships in a country before it becomes obvious that the risk environment there has improved.  Companies that lead in this fashion can be extremely successful, benefiting from the rush of competitors and capital that follow once the market understands that the risk environment has changed.”


Bret Boyd leads Stratfor’s enterprise business, which includes products and advisory services to support executives and fund managers operating in international markets. Prior to Stratfor, Mr. Boyd served in leadership roles at several high-growth companies and as an officer in the U.S. Special Operations Command. Mr. Boyd is a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where he studied international relations and systems engineering.


Jimmy Carter: “What I’ve Learned From North Korea’s Leaders”

Jimmy Carter...In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Age

Image – AP – Former president Jimmy Carter in Pyongyang


“Over more than 20 years, I have spent many hours in discussions with top North Korean officials and private citizens during visits to Pyongyang and to the countryside. I found Kim Il  Sung and other leaders to be both completely rational and dedicated to the preservation of their regime.

The next step should be for the United States to offer to send a high-level delegation to Pyongyang for peace talks or to support an international conference including North and South Korea, the United States and China, at a mutually acceptable site.

The Pyongyang government believes its survival is at stake.  Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s statement last week that “we have lines of communications to Pyongyang. We’re not in a dark situation” is a good first step to defusing tensions.

“As the world knows, we face the strong possibility of another Korean war, with potentially devastating consequences to the Korean Peninsula, Japan, our outlying territories in the Pacific and perhaps the mainland of the United States. This is the most serious existing threat to world peace, and it is imperative that Pyongyang and Washington find some way to ease the escalating tension and reach a lasting, peaceful agreement.

What the officials have always demanded is direct talks with the United States, leading to a permanent peace treaty to replace the still-prevailing 1953 cease-fire that has failed to end the Korean conflict. They want an end to sanctions, a guarantee that there will be no military attack on a peaceful North Korea, and eventual normal relations between their country and the international community.

I have visited with people who were starving. Still today, millions suffer from famine and food insecurity and seem to be completely loyal to their top leader. They are probably the most isolated people on Earth and almost unanimously believe that their greatest threat is from a preemptory military attack by the United States.

The top priority of North Korea’s leaders is to preserve their regime and keep it as free as possible from outside control. They are largely immune from influence or pressure from outside. During the time of the current leader, Kim Jong Un, this immunity has also applied to China, whose leaders want to avoid a regime collapse in North Korea or having to contemplate a nuclear-armed Japan or South Korea.

Until now, severe economic sanctions have not prevented North Korea from developing a formidable and dedicated military force, including long-range nuclear missiles, utilizing a surprising level of scientific and technological capability. There is no remaining chance that it will agree to a total denuclearization, as it has seen what happened in a denuclearized Libya and assessed the doubtful status of U.S. adherence to the Iran nuclear agreement.

There have been a number of suggestions for resolving this crisis, including military strikes on North Korea’s nuclear facilities, more severe economic punishment, the forging of a protective nuclear agreement between China and North Korea similar to those between the United States and South Korea and Japan, a real enforcement of the Non- Proliferation Treaty by all nuclear weapons states not to expand their arsenals, and ending annual U.S.-South Korean military exercises.

All of these options are intended to dissuade or deter the leadership of a nation with long-range nuclear weapons — and that believes its existence is threatened — from taking steps to defend itself. None of them offer an immediate way to end the present crisis, because the Pyongyang government believes its survival is at stake.”


Vets Sue Defense Department Over Spain H-bomb Mishap

Vets Suing DOD

A four-engine U.S. B-52 bomber takes off from Guam for a strike against the Viet Cong in Vietnam, 2,200 miles away, in 1965 during the Vietnam War. (Air Force via AP)


“A U.S. B-52 bomber and a refueling plane crashed into each other. None of the bombs exploded, but the plutonium-filled detonators on two went off, scattering 7 pounds (3 kilograms) of highly radioactive plutonium 239 across the landscape.

1,600 airmen were sent to the crash site area to recover the weapons and were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation daily for weeks or months at a time, according to the lawsuit.”


 “Veterans groups sued the Defense Department on Tuesday in an effort to obtain disability benefits for airmen who say they were exposed to radiation while responding to a 1966 accident involving U.S. hydrogen bombs in Spain.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Connecticut says many of the 1,600 airmen who responded to the accident have been unable to obtain disability benefits for radiation-related illnesses because the Defense Department has refused for five decades to release medical testing results and other information.

A Defense Department spokesman said he could not comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit was filed by Yale Law School students representing Vietnam Veterans of America, the group’s Connecticut chapter and Anthony Maloni, a 72-year-old veteran airman from Agawam, Massachusetts.

The veterans groups are seeking a court order compelling the Defense Department to release records under the federal Freedom of Information Act relating to the accident, including results of urine sampling from the airmen and environmental testing data. The department has failed to respond to requests for the records, according to the lawsuit.

On Jan. 17, 1966, a U.S. B-52 bomber and a refueling plane crashed into each other during a routine refueling operation near the southern Spanish village of Palomares, killing seven of 11 crew members. There were no fatalities on the ground.

Many of the airmen later developed various forms of cancer, blood disorders, heart and lung dysfunction and other sicknesses, but were denied disability benefits by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the lawsuit says.

Maloni was 21 when he went to Palomares. Afterward, he developed psoriasis, eczema, alopecia, bronchitis, high blood pressure and ischemic heart disease, and began experiencing excruciating headaches and migraines, the lawsuit says.

“Palomares veterans have waited decades for even basic information about the medical risks that prolonged exposure to radioactive plutonium dust carries,” said Patti Dumin, president of the Connecticut State Council of the Vietnam Veterans of America. “They cannot wait any longer. The Pentagon owes them answers.”

The lawsuit also says the Air Force failed to protect the airmen from the radiation and warn them about the danger. Although the Defense Department collected urine samples from the airmen, it never shared the results with most of them, the suit says.

The Defense Department also has maintained that the airmen’s radiation exposure was too low to have triggered diseases, despite many urine samples showing dangerously high exposure levels, the lawsuit says.”



Collaboration Tools and Security Are The Perfect Marriage

Collaboration and Security

(NicoElNino/Getty Images)


“When it comes to collaboration tools and security, it is a necessary and equal partnership.

Security is that enabler for collaboration tools and other solutions. In other words, security is what allows collaboration to “become the best version” of itself for agencies.”

“Government officials often position collaboration and security as opposites pitted against each other. Many federal CIOs and IT managers have long considered security an inhibitor that has slowed or even prevented them from driving greater collaboration among IT tools, ultimately increasing efficiency.

This is a misconception.

In fact, the opposite is true. Security is not an “added feature” to be bolted on after purchase like a car accessory. Rather, it is essential for modern collaboration, allowing solutions to reach peak performance and enabling agencies to adopt new innovative communication technologies.

Flexibility (Interoperability) Is Critical

In any relationship, flexibility is important. The same is true for collaboration tools, especially today – when connected technologies and individual user preferences change quickly.

However, federal agencies must meet some baseline security requirements for their email and collaboration tools, and this is in addition to compliance requirements from National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program (FedRAMP). The most critical requirement is interoperability.

Agency employees and end users (i.e. citizens) are spread across the United States and around the globe. To communicate effectively, agencies today need their web-based communications and collaboration tools to be completely available and accessible. The tools must also meet the diverse requirements and individual preferences of these users. This means, for instance, that mobile devices must function securely and connect easily from various locations, whether they are government-owned, contractor-owned or personal.

Federal agencies today are under pressure to more effectively share resources and information with each other, with state and local government and with the private sector. Challenges arise when organizations have small variations in their security requirements and as access specifications vary across countries.

On top of that, many federal organizations today want to move their collaboration tools to the cloud to improve availability and accessibility. Without the proper security built in, however, the free-flow of communication between agencies cannot take place.

Effective Communication Requires Trust

In any partnership, relationship or marriage, trust is perhaps the most important ingredient to long-term success.

Collaboration is more than just the single instance of a “meeting,” a “discussion,” or an “email thread.” True collaborations encompasses the “before,” “during,” and “after” activities that take place online and offline, asynchronously (different time, different place) and synchronously (same time, different place), using a variety of disparate tools.

Security is especially important when dealing with synchronous collaboration – communicating at the same time, but from different places. Government employees regularly discuss and share sensitive information, making it imperative for them to use reliable and secure channels of communication.

Secure messaging tools enable agencies to connect teams and users easily with the added benefits of that before-, during-, and after-meeting messaging and content sharing. Whether through 1-to-1 or group messaging conversations, users can collaborate both synchronously in real time or asynchronously to share information. Agencies can conserve costs by standing up or removing these virtual rooms for communications as needed, on a project basis.

Messaging is just one component, as government agencies today require various channels to communicate effectively. The way the government operated five or 10 years ago differs drastically from how it functions today and how agencies will operate in the future. We do know government agencies will continue to need to communicate securely, using trusted channels and solutions. Thus, security should be at the core of the collaboration toolset – including voice, video, web conferencing and whatever the next innovative tool will be.

Enabling the Best Possible Collaboration

“Being with you makes me a better version of myself.”

We have all heard something similar to this in wedding vows or a speech. However, this sentiment also reveals the real relationship between collaboration and security today.

Government agencies need to build in more agility to their collaboration strategy to cut across boundaries to communication with compromise – anytime, anywhere, with any device and with the combined benefits of on-premise and cloud technology. Security is the catalyst for making this happen. Agencies cannot be agile and utilize the latest collaboration tools without the security necessary to support it.

Going back to the car accessories analogy – brakes are essential to a car for a reason. They are not an optional accessory to be added later. Nobody thinks brakes are included to stop a car from driving quickly; rather, brakes are what allow the car to go faster safely.

That is why collaboration tools and security are the perfect marriage.”