Tag Archives: Good Leaders

California Law Now Requires Registration of 3D-Printed Guns


3D Printing Gun Law


“California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law legislation requiring anyone who makes or assembles a homemade firearm to apply for a serial number or “other mark of identification” from the state Department of Justice.

This means passing a background check.

Said measure, one of several new gun restrictions signed by Brown, mandates that said identification be permanently affixed to the weapon, and, moreover, forbids the sale or transfer of self-assembled firearms.

The new law is an overt response to the 3D printing boom as well as the increasing sale of “unfinished” lower receivers. These are somewhat modular gun components encompassing trigger, firing pin, and ammunition feeding mechanisms. While the finished versions of lower receivers have historically been subject to the same laws as regular old long guns, unfinished versions requiring only a few small tweaks have offered a gun buyers a fudge. The new law aims to close this loophole.

A bit more subtly, the bill goes after would-be undetectable plastic guns, mandating that in order to pass California state muster, the are required to have a piece of stainless steel embedded somewhere such that they’ll register in a metal detector.

As for the no sale/transfer clause, an argument put forth on the state Senate floor back in may by the California Chapters for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence states: “Homemade guns may be of very poor quality and extremely unsafe and should therefore only be for personal use. At this point, many 3-D printed guns explode when they are fired. The technology will, no doubt, improve but it is unlikely that these guns would ever meet basic firing or drop tests and such unsafe guns should not be transferable.” (ATF testing in 2013 found that some popular models do indeed have a habit of exploding.)

Naturally, the NRA and gun rights groups are furious. The president of the Firearms Policy Coalition offered the totally hyperbole-free declaration that “Today’s action by Governor Brown shows how craven California’s despotic ruling class has become. The Legislature has abandoned the Constitution, representative government, and the People of California. I fully expect the People to respond in kind.”

A Field Poll conducted in January found that most California voters, including Republicans, support increased gun control measures, including requiring background checks for purchasing ammunition and outlawing possession of large-capacity magazines, among others.”


U.S. Designates Cyber Attack Lead Agency


"You have reached technical support...your call is important to us so please stay on the line..."


“For years there has been confusion about who does what when hackers hit the homeland. Not anymore.

Justice Department is squarely in charge of responding to cyberthreats against the United States, under a presidential directive issued Tuesday.

At the same time, the Homeland Security Department will immediately help agencies and companies, if requested, stanch the bleeding from a hacker assault on networks, or “assets,” President Barack Obama said.

Justice will take the lead in “threat response” or investigating a system attack on site, identifying the perpetrator and breaking up attack operations because foreign adversaries often are involved.

In view of the fact that significant cyberincidents will often involve at least the possibility of a nation-state actor or have some other national security nexus, the Department of Justice, acting through the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force, shall be the federal lead agency for threat response activities,” the directive states.

The latest data breach pinned on a foreign country, this time Russia, leaked Democratic National Committee emails in what some foreign policy experts say was a ploy to influence the presidential elections or the next administration’s policies.

This presidential policy directive sets forth principles governing the federal government’s response to any cyber incident, whether involving government or private sector entities,” Obama says in the rules signed July 26.

In a Tuesday statement, DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson acknowledged: ”I am often asked ‘who’s responsible within the federal government for cybersecurity? Who in the government do I contact in the event of a cyberincident?’”

Now, the so-called U.S. Cyber Incident Coordination presidential directive “clarifies the answer to these questions,” Johnson added.

DHS’ role is providing technological help and figuring out what other organizations might be at risk, among other things.

Johnson explained asset response “involves helping the victim find the bad actor on its system, repair its system, patching the vulnerability, reducing the risks of future incidents, and preventing the incident from spreading to others.”

In addition, DHS and Justice will produce “a fact sheet” with instructions on how private individuals and organizations can contact relevant agencies about a hack attack.

The director of national intelligence’s job will be to assist in aggregating analysis of threat trends, along with helping “to degrade or mitigate adversary threat capabilities.”

The military will be responsible for dealing with threats against its own Department of Defense Information Network. Likewise, theDNI will handle incidents that impact the intelligence communityIT environment.

First Things First

Whichever federal agency first learns of a cyberincident “will rapidly notify other relevant federal agencies in order to facilitate a unified federal response and ensure that the right combination of agencies responds to a particular incident,” the directive says.

Obama expects DHS to write, within the first month of the next administration, what he is calling a “National Cyber Incident Response Plan” that addresses attacks against private-sector networks.”


5 Tough National Defense Questions for Clinton & Trump


5 tough Questions


“This presidential primary process has been a huge (or, yuge) disappointment.

The most disappointing aspect, perhaps, is the failure of the candidates to address the details of their budgetary and defense strategies.

The party platforms may offer more information about Donald Trump’s and Hillary Clinton’s objectives. But telling the public what they want to do is not enough. Goals require action to be achieved. It’s imperative that Americans ask the candidates tough questions about what they would do as president to defend our nation against heightened threats abroad and in cyberspace.

For over two decades I’ve led a company that provides cyber security solutions and services to protect, among others, numerous branches and agencies within the Defense Department and Intelligence Community. Naturally, I have some strong opinions. Below are five issues I suggest we raise, along with specific questions to ask of the candidates:

Innovation Strategy

First, I would join the chorus of those who advocate that the next president needs to embrace innovation strategies to meet our nation’s current and future challenges. A recent open letter to this year’s presidential candidates from a number of technology associations and companies said that the next administration must “adopt policies that accelerate, not hinder, innovation and allow the government to keep pace with the technology being developed and deployed in the private sector, including the use of digital technologies to modernize government legacy systems.” I’m sure the candidates would say they support this. But what specific actions would they take to promote such innovation? What policies would they pursue?

Procurement Reform

A second question that the candidates need to answer: what would they do to overhaul the government procurement process? This is an issue that has bedeviled policy makers as far back as the Truman Committee hearings during World War II. Congress and Presidents repeatedly pledge to reform the government acquisition process in order to eliminate waste, inefficiencies, and duplication… and yet, the problems continue. Here’s just one example:

In this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Senate has included language to limit the Pentagon’s use of “cost contracts that have required expensive government unique processes to manage,” and is instead urging “a transition to more commercial-like fixed price contracts and accounting systems and methods.” According to the Senate Armed Services Committee, this would “focus the (Defense) Department on achieving greater value and innovation through accessing commercial, non-traditional, and small business contractors that are nimble enough to operate in a fixed-price environment.”

From my experience, fixed-price contracts incentivize contractors to reduce or avoid cost overruns. Yet, the White House is objecting to this provision and has threatened to veto the overall NDAA due to a number of concerns, including this one. So, I’d ask the candidates: will you support efforts to further encourage the use of fixed-price contracts?

Budgetary Gridlock

A third idea would be for the next President (and Congress) to commit themselves to eliminating the annual budgetary gridlock by sitting down early every year to negotiate bipartisan budget and appropriations legislation, so the myriad of defense and intelligence related departments and agencies are funded on time and for the full year. By this, I mean:no more Continuing Resolutions.

Our nation is highly vulnerable to evolving cyber threats and challenges. Yet, the departments and agencies in charge of managing this cyber risk are, year after year, funded for only months at a time by Continuing Resolution. If our government is unable to move on new contracts, and is using year-old funding levels and congressional direction, it can’t adequately respond to new threats. A few months in cyber security is the equivalent ofyears in other fields. It is foolish to force federal agencies to stand in place while the bad actors step up their attacks.

Which leads to this question for the candidates: Will you commit to working in a bipartisan manner to enact budgets and full-year appropriations legislation prior to the start of the fiscal year on October 1?  This means compromises will be needed, which should not be a dirty word — as the late President Gerald Ford noted, “Compromise is the oil that makes governments go.”  We need our government to quit being so dysfunctional.

[Rose Covered Glasses Note:  See also: The One Year Budget Cycle Must Go ]

Spending Caps and Sequestration Threats

That leads me to a fourth concern – the arbitrary discretionary spending caps imposed early this decade, and annual sequestration threats, which have seriously hamstrung America’s ability to meet its defense needs. These caps aren’t even tied to deficits, nor do they address the growing cost of entitlements.  The next Administration and Congress need to junk the caps and start over.  The question for the candidates would be: will you commit to participating in a bi-partisan budget reform effort that puts everything on the table in order to reduce our future deficits, even though you might have to compromise on things you and your party currently hold sacred?

U.S. Cyber Command

Finally, candidates should be asked if they will give U.S. Cyber Command budgetary resources commensurate with the challenges facing it.  Cyber Command gets a fraction (less than 1 percent) of the funding that each of the various services receives, and incremental funding hikes won’t begin to do the job.  A failure by Cyber Command will have an enormous downstream impact. I would ask the candidates: will you support a significant, even exponential, immediate increase in funding for U.S. Cyber Command, and increases in future years to enable it to keep pace with the evolving cyber threats? And will you support elevating Cyber Command to a unified Combatant Command reporting directly to the Secretary of Defense, which would give it a place at the table reflecting its awesome responsibilities?

Again, I offer these as suggested questions for the candidates for President (and for that matter, for Congress).  But most of all, we must all demand that they offer specifics pertaining to how they will reach their objectives, to include making government work for the American people, and protecting us from our adversaries. Let’s pin the candidates down on the important issues, and have an informed electorate going to the polls on Election Day!”

Five Tough Cyber Questions for Trump And Clinton



U.S. Wants 3,500 Cyber Jobs Filled In 5 Months


Cyber Security Employees Needed


“The White House on Tuesday unveiled a recruitment agenda that envisions a tour of duty fighting hackers for the U.S.government as part of any private cyber pro’s career.

“A cybersecurity cadre” within the Presidential Management Fellows program.

The supply of cybersecurity talent to meet the increasing demand of the federal government is simply not sufficient,” officials from the White House and Office of Personnel Management said in a government blog post. “This shortfall affects not only the federal government, but the private sector as well.”

The newly released Federal Cybersecurity Workforce Strategy was characterized as a first step toward building a sustainable pipeline of government and industry data security talent that will last well into the future. It also “sets forth a vision where private sector cybersecurity leaders would see a tour of duty in federal service as an essential stop in their career arc,” according to the post.

One of the short-term actions calls for agencies to hire 3,500 more people to fill “critical cybersecurity and IT positions” by January 2017.

The administration says it will find ways under existing law and current hiring authorities to expedite recruiting, specifically, the Presidential Innovation Fellows program and “other dynamic approaches for bringing top technologists and innovators into government service.”

Congress has recently criticized the management of two such rotational programs: U.S. Digital Service, an IT troubleshooting team originated by some of the Silicon Valley tech experts working to salvage HealthCare.gov, and 18F, a tech consultancy guiding other agencies in projects such as agile software development.

There will also be an orientation program for new cybersecurity professionals entering the government. The aim there would be to improve information sharing and employees’ knowledge of upcoming developmental and training opportunities.

The White House says the government onboarded 3,000 new cyber and IT pros in the first six months of the fiscal year, which started October 2015.

In addition, the administration plans to explore opportunities to expand the use of new or revised pay authorities, as well as work to retain talent who give public service a try and like it. This will involve the Office of Personnel Management coordinating with agencies to develop cybersecurity career paths, badging and credentialing programs, and rotational assignments, so employees can become subject matter experts in their field.

The White House is asking agencies to identify the types of security pros in most need by consulting a cybersecurity workforce framework organized by the National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education.

The workforce strategy builds off goals outlined in February by President Barack Obama inside a $19 billion cybersecurity budget and accompanying Cybersecurity National Action Plan.

According to the White House, the strategy supports the plan’s proposed $62 million investment in expanding higher education opportunities for promising cyber students. The fund will help cover scholarships and full tuition for college and university students through the CyberCorps: Scholarship for Service program. The pool of money also will go toward “program development grants” that would allow universities, among other things, to hire or retain professors and stand up a cybersecurity core curriculum.

The Cybersecurity National Action Plan followed a major theft of data at OPM, in which suspected Chinese hackers copied the Social Security numbers and other private details on 21.5 million national security workers and contacts.

Every day, federal departments and agencies face sophisticated and persistent cyberthreats that pose strategic, economic and security challenges to our nation,” the officials said Tuesday. ”Addressing these cyberthreats has required a bold reassessment of the way we approach security in the digital age and a significant investment in critical security tools and our cybersecurity workforce.”




Heal the V.A. (But First, Do No Harm)


VA Hospital, Minneapolis, MN

VA Hospital Minneapolis

VA Hospital – Minneapolis, Minnesota


“For all its problems, the V.A. is not failing in the area that matters most.

It delivers excellent, integrated health care to a population with many challenging medical needs. The overall quality of its clinical care is high, as good as and often better than what the private sector can offer.

And for veterans with complex, combat-related wounds — spinal-cord injuries,traumatic brain injuries, severe burns, amputations, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the combination of grave injuries called polytrauma — there is no substitute for the breadth and specialized competence of the V.A.

Two years after a scandal engulfed the nation’s veterans hospitals, with reports of long waiting lists, cooked appointment books and patients dying while they waited for care, a commission created by Congress has delivered a plan to transform the Veterans Affairs Department over the next 20 years.

Its 300 pages, released on Wednesday, are a chronicle of failings at the Veterans Health Administration, the part of the V.A. that handles medical care. The debate over the report’s many judgments and prescriptions is just beginning. But the commission’s ambitious work brings two immediate thoughts to mind.

First is a fresh awareness of the danger of quick fixes. After the furor of 2014, which forced the V.A. secretary, Eric Shinseki, to resign, Congress swiftly passed a law and gave the V.A. 90 days to carry it out. It offered a seemingly straightforward solution to long-delayed appointments — allowing patients who have to wait more than 30 days or live more than 40 miles from a V.A. hospital or clinic to see private doctors.

But that hastily created program, whose management was outsourced to private contractors, with confused and conflicting rules, only made things worse. “In execution,” the commission wrote, “the program has aggravated wait times and frustrated veterans, private-sector health care providers participating in networks, and V.H.A. alike.”

That leads to the second thought: the danger of jumping to the wrong conclusions. The V.A. is troubled, no question. But the commission properly stops short of recommending a solution dear to ideologues on the right, which is to dismantle one of the largest bureaucracies in American government — one with a critically important mission — and hand the wreckage to the private sector.

For all its problems, the V.A. is not failing in the area that matters most: delivering excellent, integrated health care to a population with many challenging medical needs. The overall quality of its clinical care is high, as good as and often better than what the private sector can offer. And for veterans with complex, combat-related wounds — spinal-cord injuries,traumatic brain injuries, severe burns, amputations, post-traumatic stress disorder, or the combination of grave injuries called polytrauma — there is no substitute for the breadth and specialized competence of the V.A.

Those who delight in accounts of big-government ineptitude and inefficiency will find lots to savor in the commission report. The commission acknowledges that V.A. care can be inconsistent, with the lack of access to doctors being the agency’s worst management failure. It recommends overhauling the agency’s leadership structures, reforming eligibility requirements, investing in buildings and updating information technology, among other things.

But its primary recommendation is to greatly expand access by creating “integrated, community-based” health care networks that all veterans can use, bolstering the Veterans Health Administration with doctors and hospitals from the Defense Department, other federally funded providers, and local ones.

It’s unclear how that new public-private agglomeration is supposed to work, but getting those devilish details right is crucial. Veterans’ advocacy groups are right to be concerned that shedding patients and services to the private sector may ultimately weaken the V.H.A.

Given the egregious gap between the need for medical care and the supply of doctors and providers, there is clearly a role for qualified private health care providers to pitch in. But privatizing the V.A. — throwing wounded veterans upon the vagaries and mercies of corporations, co-pays and premiums — is no solution.”

Heal the VA

See Related Topic:

Why does the United States veterans administration have it’s own health care facilities and provide its own healthcare?

Iraq And The Cost of Geopolitical Hubris


Hubris Selling Iraq War


“These leaders created a false case for invading Iraq and then utterly mismanaged the occupation.

It seems a long time ago, and in a world far, far away, that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, enthusiastically supported by Tony Blair, went to war with Iraq.

Yet now a long and long-overdue British report into Britain’s role in that war, the report of the official and independent Iraq Inquiry Committee led by John Chilcot, has been published, reopening wounds and forcing Mr. Blair back into the limelight to defend why, despite so much evidence and advice against joining in the Bush administration’s misguided enthusiasm for invading Iraq, he chose as prime minister to throw his full support behind America.

Mr. Blair’s message to Mr. Bush at the time — “I will be with you, whatever” — leaps out painfully from the report’s 2.6 million words, proclaiming a blind loyalty that the Iraq war only helped erode, and that seems especially archaic now that Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has raised questions about its role in NATO and its place as America’s closest European ally.

Mr. Blair’s critics are no doubt disappointed that in response to theChilcot report, he has continued to defend his actions. “I believe we made the right decision and the world is better and safer as a result of it,” he said, which seems willfully blind to the current chaos in Iraq and beyond. But if he would not confess that he erred in his decision, he did acknowledge, “There’s not a single day that goes by that I don’t think about it.”

His plea for understanding the context in which he made his decision to stand with the United States, the confusion and the need for action after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, seems tragically inadequate and self-serving with so many lives lost — more than 200 Britons, at least 4,500 Americans and more than 150,000 Iraqis, most of them civilians — and so much treasure spent prosecuting a war that was built on falsehoods.

While there have been no consequences for Mr. Blair himself, the political judgment of the British has been decisive, rendering the Iraq war as a defining blot on Mr. Blair’s 10 years in office.

The report should not be read as an indictment only of Mr. Blair’s foolish decision. Though the United States was not the subject of the inquiry, it was the Bush administration that falsely sold and launched the invasion. There has been no comparable, comprehensive official inquiry in Washington by independent investigators into the origin and politics of the fateful decision to go to war. Years have passed, but the public, in the United States and abroad, still yearns for the full truth and deserves an American investigation on the scale of the 9/11 Commission.

Given the partisan divide in Washington, however, it is hard to believe a similar exercise would produce anything even remotely dispassionate or honest. And yet it is the United States, far more than Britain, that needs to understand how national policy can be hijacked by lies and ideology so that there’s less chance it will happen again.”


Failed Afghanistan Counter-Narcotics Program




“Afghanistan [is] the No. 1 supplier of heroin to the world.

The U.S. has spent more than $8 billion with little effect over 15 years to counter the flourishing poppy trade.

The Defense Department no longer includes a section on counter-narcotics in its semi-annual report to Congress on Afghanistan. It was absent from the report on “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan” submitted last month and also omitted in the previous submission.

After nearly 15 years in Afghanistan, it has reached the point where U.S. military officials can now occasionally see an upside to the poppy harvest — it gives a breather to the struggling Afghan army.

In a May briefing to the Pentagon from Kabul, Army Brig. Gen. Charles Cleveland, a spokesman for U.S. Forces-Afghanistan and the NATO Resolute Support mission, said the Taliban would be too busy with the poppy harvest to press the fight against the 215th Division of the Afghan National Defense Security Forces in southwestern Helmand province, the country’s biggest opium-producing region.

“The poppy crop is really the engine that provides all the money that fuels the Taliban,” Cleveland said, and the insurgents were keen to rake in the profits from “this very good poppy crop that they had this year.

“A lot of the Taliban fighters have been out harvesting the poppy,” giving the 215th Division a chance to regroup from the firing of corrupt leaders and the battering it took from the Taliban last year, Cleveland said.

Neither the Afghan government nor the U.S. will say so up front, but both acknowledge that narcotics is the main driver of the Afghan economy and will remain so for decades, according the Vanda Felbab-Brown, a Brookings Institute analyst with long experience in Afghanistan.

The Afghan government hasn’t quite given up on the effort to rein in the poppy trade, “but the government is realistic,” she said. Afghanistan was “extraordinarily dependent” on the money the drug trade brings in, with estimates that more than one-third of Afghanistan’s Gross Domestic Product comes from poppy.

“No country in history has been as economically dependent on the drug economy as Afghanistan,” Felbab-Brown said. “Much of the economic and political life of the country depends on it,” and currently “we are in a situation where a worsening insurgency limits action,” she said.

The ongoing U.S. and NATO commitment to Afghanistan will be a sidebar at the NATO summit in Warsaw this weekend, which will focus mainly on alliance efforts to counter Russia. President Barack Obama, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah were scheduled to attend.

At a news conference in Brussels Monday to preview the summit, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO’s Resolute Support mission would continue into 2017 along with continued funding of the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces through 2020. The levels of funding were still open to debate.

“With a regional presence, we will continue to advise, train and assist the Afghan national forces because we are very committed to continuing to support Afghans,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO officials were discussing the possibility of $5 billion for the Afghan military and police through 2020, but Afghan officials put the price tag at $25 billion.

“Our first expectation is NATO members and U.S. under our bilateral security pacts should finance all the related and foreseeable costs of our security and defense forces for the next five years,” Afghan National Security Adviser Mohammad Haneef Atmar said, Bloomberg News reported. “The total cost is estimated to be $5 billion each year and we expect to receive most of it from the United States of America.”

Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the U.S. has spent $68 billion to support Afghanistan’s army and police forces, and an additional $45 billion has been spent on direct humanitarian assistance, according to John Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction.

However, independent analysts have put the total costs to the U.S. of the commitment to Afghanistan at more than $700 billion in a war that has also cost the lives of more than 2,300 American troops.

The inspector general reported, “as of March 31, 2016, the United States has provided $8.5 billion for counter-narcotics efforts in Afghanistan since 2002. Nonetheless, Afghanistan remains the world’s leading producer of opium, providing 80% of the world’s output over the past decade, according to the United Nations.”

The report also quoted Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the U.S. and NATO mission in Afghanistan, as saying, “until we can create a stable enough environment for some of these economic development initiatives to take hold, I think we are going to have this problem (narcotics) for some time to come.”

Afghan officials tend to suggest that the failures of the counter-narcotics efforts can mostly be attributed to the waning interest of the U.S. and its allies.

“I think if you look at the scheme of priorities, dealing with counter-narcotics is a very high priority for Afghanistan, but not really for the international partners,” Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Afghanistan’s deputy Foreign Minister told the Russian outlet RT on June 17, when the Pentagon report to Congress was released.

The report of more than 100 pages contained a single line on the counter-narcotics effort, stating the obvious: “Revenue from opium trafficking continues to sustain the insurgency and Afghan criminal networks.” However, the report also noted that the Afghan Counter-Narcotics Police had arrested in April an individual suspected of being a major trafficker in eastern Afghanistan.

The sputtering and half-hearted attempts at curbing the poppy trade were also counter-productive, given the entrenchment of narcotics trafficking in Afghan society, according to Felbab-Brown.

Harvesting, processing and transporting poppy “employs a lot of people, including Taliban fighters,” she said. “If miraculously opium poppy disappeared, that would mean many people would be unemployed and with time on their hands” with the likely result that they would turn against the government and join the insurgency, Felbab-Brown said. “Yes, absolutely more people would be available for insurgency.

“It doesn’t look good at all and very little can be done,” she said. “No country has ever substantially reduced drug cultivation during an ongoing insurgency. Under the best of circumstances, we will still be looking at several decades of efforts” to reduce poppy cultivation.

Until then, the allies will have to decide whether to continue support for a government “running a country based on illegality (the drug trade) and foreign aid,” Felbab-Brown said, but the tragic reality was that “things would be much worse without poppy — much more violence and terrorism, huge amounts of unemployment.”

Pentagon Stops Reporting Counter-Narcotics Program in Afghanistan


Buy a Car Without Knowing Sticker Price?


B-21 Price Tag Secret


“Would you buy a car without knowing the sticker price? How about a fleet of ultra-sophisticated military aircraft?

Didn’t think so.

“There are only two phases of a program. The first is ‘It’s too early to tell.’ The second: ‘It’s too late to stop,’” said veteran Pentagon reformer Ernie Fitzgerald.

Because of this, it is troubling that the Air Force is hiding the initial price of the new B-21 stealth bomber. Congressional auditors found that the cost of Pentagon weapon systems grew $469 billion beyond initial estimates. Given the complexity and cost risks inherent to this program, the public deserves to know the baseline contract price of the B-21 program so the Pentagon and the contractors can be held accountable for any cost overruns.

The Air Force has promised to deliver an effective and affordable bomber. But price estimates released by the Air Force for the program have ranged from $33.1 billion to $58.4 billion—an increase of $25 billion, or 76 percent. Publicly releasing the actual contact price is key to oversight of this program and of the rest of our planned nuclear modernization, which is currently projected to cost taxpayers $1 trillion.

The Air Force has resisted releasing the figure, claiming the contract price would allow potential adversaries to identify some of the new plane’s capabilities, like its range and how many weapons it can carry. The Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain (R-AZ), has said this argument is “nonsense” since the program’s budget is unclassified and the Air Force has already released the per-unit cost, drawings of the new bomber, and a list of top-tier suppliers for the program.

In a closed-door 19-7 vote, members of the Senate Armed Services Committee eliminated the Chairman’s requirement to publicly disclose the cost. Tell Congress that you believe the American people need to know the contract price to hold those in charge accountable.

Tell Congress you want to know the price taxpayers will pay for the B-21 stealth bomber program. The only reason to keep the costs secret is to prevent oversight.

For more information on POGO’s work on the B-21 bomber see “Senators Vote to Keep Bomber Price Secret” and “B-21 Comes with a Stealth Final Price Tag.” You can follow all of our Pentagon spending work at the Straus Military Reform Project website.”


Three Keys to Reforming Government Agencies


Lessons from repairing the VA

Reforming Government


“Secretary McDonald has led the VA through a period of ambitious reform, anchored by the MyVA program.

He and his team have embraced three core strategies that are securing meaningful change. They are important insights for all government leaders, and private sector ones as well.

1. Set bold goals

Secretary McDonald’s vision is for the VA to become the number one customer-service agency in the federal government. But he and his team know that words alone won’t make this happen. They developed twelve breakthrough priorities for 2016 that will directly improve service to veterans. These actionable short-term objectives support the VA’s longer term aim to deliver an exceptional experience for our veterans. By aiming high, and also drafting a concrete roadmap, the VA has put itself on a path to success.

2. Hybridize the best of public and private sectors

To accomplish their ambitious goal, VA leadership is applying the best practices of customer-service businesses around the nation. The Secretary and his colleagues are leveraging the goodwill, resources, and expertise of both the private and public sector. To do that, the VA has brought together diverse groups of business leaders, medical professionals, government executives, and veteran advocates under their umbrella MyVA Advisory Committee. Following the examples set by private sector leaders in service provision and innovation, the VA is developing user-friendly mobile apps for veterans, modernizing its website, and seeking to make hiring practices faster, more competitive, and more efficient. And so that no good idea is left unheard, the VA has created a “shark tank” to capture and enact suggestions and recommendations for improvement from the folks who best understand daily VA operations—VA employees themselves.

3. Data, data, data

The benefits of data-driven decision making in government are well known. As led by Secretary McDonald, the VA has continued to embrace the use of data to inform its policies and improve its performance. Already a leader in the collection and publication of data, the VA has recently taken even greater strides in sharing information between its healthcare delivery agencies. In addition to collecting administrative and health-outcomes information, the VA is gathering data from veterans about what they think . Automated kiosks allow veterans to check in for appointments, and to record their level of satisfaction with the services provided.

The results that the Secretary and his team have achieved speak for themselves:

  • 5 million more appointments completed last fiscal year over the previous fiscal year
  • 7 million additional hours of care for veterans in the last two years (based on an increase in the clinical workload of 11 percent over the last two years)
  • 97 percent of appointments completed within 30 days of the veteran’s preferred date; 86 percent within 7 days; 22 percent the same day
  • Average wait times of 5 days for primary care, 6 days for specialty care, and 2 days for mental health are
  • 90 percent of veterans say they are satisfied or completely satisfied with when they got their appointment (less than 3 percent said they were dissatisfied or completely dissatisfied).
  • The backlog for disability claims—once over 600,000 claims that were more than 125 days old—is down almost 90 percent.

Thanks to Secretary McDonald’s continued commitment to modernization, the VA has made significant progress. Problems, of course, remain at the VA and the Secretary has more work to do to ensure America honors the debt it owes its veterans, but the past two years of reform have moved the Department in the right direction. His strategies are instructive for managers of change everywhere.”








George Friedman STRATFORGeorge Friedman at STRATFOR offered two commentaries on our nation and its future leader on the eve of the 2012 elections.

We find them worthy for consideration again since they hold true today and have been born out by the last four years experience in Washington.

The Purpose of Presidential Debates

Character, Policy and the Selection of Leaders

Mr. Friedman points to a practical reality.  Presidents manage as they must. The real issue for the winner of this election will arise when the Chinese and our other major creditors stop showing up at our bond auctions and our credit and credibility diminish to dysfunctional levels on the world stage.

Until then our stagnated, polarized, congress will kick the can down the road as they have with current legislation that postpones any consideration of the issues until after the election.

The new White House occupant will be just as bound and tied by the inability of our elected representatives to compromise. This situation is an economic illness.

We have seen a similar situation take down other countries in recent times and place them at the mercy of the international community.  It has threatened the financial future of Greece and other countries in Europe.

Our country has caught a catchy illness of political diatribe and inaction.  Let us hope for some leadership in Congress that is driven by the practical reality of the world at large and is not based on the rarefied air of financial pocket-lining on the Washington D.C.  Beltway.
The clock is ticking:

US National Debt Clock (Real Time)