Tag Archives: national security

New report draws on Medill/ABA security book

WASHINGTON — PEN/America has released a new report entitled: Secret Sources: Whistleblowers, National Security and Free Expression, which refers to material in a book co-published by the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative and The American Bar Association.

The report is an excellent compendium of information about contemporary national security reporting in America.  It draws some of its information from the book “Whistleblowers, Leaks and the Media: The First Amendment and National Security” that was published last year. The book was compiled and edited by Medill Adjunct Lecturer Paul Rosenzweig and Medill professors Ellen Shearer and Timothy J. McNulty.   Rosenzweig also was interviewed for the PEN/America report and is quoted in the report

Syrian reporter honored for giving back to her country

Erhaim and top Washington foreign editors discuss national security threats in Syria. (Sara Shouhayib/ MEDILL NSJI)

Erhaim and top Washington foreign editors discuss national security threats in Syria. (Sara Shouhayib/ MEDILL NSJI)

WASHINGTON – The increasing dangers to journalists covering the Syrian civil war and other stories in areas where the Islamic State operates has driven many to cover the conflicts from outside the country, leaving the rest of the world less able to get eye-witness news Syrian journalist Zeina Erhaim is trying to get those stories out by training Syrians to report on their country’s war despite the dangers.

Erhaim was honored with the Peter Mackler Award on Thursday at the National Press Club.

The award honors courageous and ethical journalism by reporters and editors who have demonstrated a commitment to fairness, accuracy and speaking truth to power and asserting their right to publish or air their stories in countries where independent journalism is under threat.

Erhaim works to bring Syria’s stories to people around the world by reporting from inside the country herself and training others Syrian citizens to be reporters. In Syria, international news organizations and freelance reporters have left the country due to journalists’ beheadings by the Islamic State and threats for being there.

As the director of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which supports journalists in countries undergoing conflict, crisis or transition, she has trained dozens of Syrians on how to report and produce stories, many of which have been published by news organizations outside Syria. She began working for IWPR in 2013, after reporting for the BBC.

After receiving the award at the National Press Club event, Erhaim shared her experiences in Syria during a panel discussion that included Miriam Elder, world editor of Buzzfeed News, Hannah Allam, a foreign policy reporter for McClatchy Newspapers, and Louise Roug, global news editor of Mashable.

Erhaim noted that other countries only recently began to seriously address the Syrian refuges crisis.

“I think in terms of the refugee crisis that it only became a crisis because it hits the EU, even though it’s been hitting Jordan, Beirut and Turkey for so long,” Erhaim said.

Allam agreed that Syrian migration should have been more widely covered sooner, emphasizing that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a bigger reason than the rise of the Islamic State for Syrians to leave their country.

“I think it’s been really good in the recent interest in the refugee issue that there have been a number of stories pointing out that… I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that here it’s easy to imagine that they’re all fleeing ISIS, but when you actually talk to them they say by and large, they’re fleeing the barrel bombs,” Allam said.

Erhaim agreed, saying some Syrians consider ISIS-occupied territories as some of the safest parts of the country because the Assad regime won’t bomb those areas.

She criticized the news media’s attention on ISIS for giving the terrorist group exactly what it wants – a propaganda megaphone.

Reporting in Syria requires different approaches than in Western countries.

Erhaim said she used men, most often her husband, to conduct interviews with other men because they would not speak directly with a female reporter.

Further information about the IWPR and how it operates can be found at https://iwpr.net/.

Veteran journalists prepare you to survive hostile environments

National Security Reporter Lydia Randall engages in a first aid scenario. (Sara Shouhayib/Medill NSJI)

National Security Reporter Lydia Randall engages in a first aid scenario. (Sara Shouhayib/Medill NSJI)

ROCKVILLE, Md. — The danger for journalists covering conflict zones has grown more volatile, according to a number of veteran reporters. The beheadings of James Foley and Steve Sotloff by the Islamic State show that reporting in under-covered areas torn apart by war, terrorism and poverty can be deadly.

Updated safety and security measures are needed in order to better ensure the safety of journalists as they head out to cover chaotic regions like Africa and the Middle East where groups such as the Islamic State, Boko Haram, al-Qaida and the Taliban operate.

Frank Smyth, founder of Global Journalist Security, has spent several years advising journalists, human rights defenders and NGOs on how to better care for themselves in hostile environments. Smyth himself was held captive for 18 days while covering Iraq in 1991.

For years, in cases of terrorist abductions, Smyth advised against attempting an escape because terrorist organizations were “well-organized militias” and usually took hostages in order to get ransom money or information. But the extremism shown by today’s terrorist groups has caused Smyth to tell trainees to consider escape. But even then, “the chances are slim,” he said.

Smyth’s program has grown more relevant in the industry of journalism over the past several years. Representatives from TIME, NPR and VICE were attending a recent training. Smyth said that wire services and many major news organizations are requiring hostile environment training for their journalists before sending them to conflict areas.

The team at Global Journalist Security is diverse. Sara Salam is a self-care practitioner and a level 5 Krav Maga instructor. Salam guides trainees to develop risk-assessment skills when going into new and potentially dangerous settings. Salam also teaches procedures that can help reporters de-escalate or escape situations as large as a riot or as small as street harassment.

Most people have an intrinsic power of “gut instinct,” the Global Journalist Security instructors said, and they encourage the ability to listen to your gut, because it might be the difference between safety and harm.

Journalists in the course run through increasingly intensified scenarios such as being in terrorist captivity or needing to provide emergency first-aid.

The need for professional training to be better prepared for hostile environments like conflicts areas has become a bigger movement in the world of journalism as a whole.

David Rohde, an editor at Reuters and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was abducted, is among a group of international journalists who published a call to action for reporters and news organizations to better equip themselves for what he called “historic highs” for reporter abduction, imprisonment and killings.

“We call on governments, combatants and groups worldwide to respect the neutrality of journalists and immediately end the cycle of impunity surrounding attacks on journalists,” Rohde said.

Rohde also said that it important for news organizations executives who are not in the field with their reporters to hold themselves to a higher degree of accountability when overseeing the safety of their reporters.





Did poor US planning prompt Russia’s rise in Syria?

A witness speaks about strategy in Syria. (Sam Fiske/MEDILL NSJI)

A witness speaks about strategy in Syria. (Sam Fiske/MEDILL NSJI)

WASHINGTON — Russia’s recent airstrikes in Syria are prompting concerns that America is losing power and political influence in the region. And the fact that Russia is reportedly targeting positions that include those held by U.S.-trained rebel factions – but not by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL or ISIS – is widely seen as underscoring the divide between American and Russian strategies.

“I believe Russia will first and foremost protect Assad and its port, and ensure its own continued role and influence,” Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow specializing in national security and defense policy at the Brookings Institution, said in an email, referring to Russia’s naval facility in the Syrian city of Tartus. “Defeating ISIL in the first instance matters less to them.”

Russia’s perceived intent to attack terrorist forces fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – its historic ally – while focusing less on the Islamic State group alarmed lawmakers this week, who decried what many of them see as America’s lackluster Middle Eastern counterterrorism strategy.

Since last year, the U.S. has conducted airstrikes against the Islamic State group, provided air cover for ground forces like the Kurdish peshmerga, and trained and equipped rebel ground forces. The Pentagon announced Tuesday it had “paused” sending forces it has trained back into Syria after confirming previous reports some of those rebels had traded their U.S.-issued gear and vehicles to extremists in exchange for safe passage through areas they controlled.

But even before that, results had been mixed.

At a hearing Tuesday in Washington, members of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade questioned witnesses about the effectiveness of these tactics, particularly the so-called “train and equip” mission.

“The indigenous ground forces in Syria and Iraq are not capable of defeating ISIS,” retired U.S. Army Gen. John M. Keane told the panel. “We are not only failing, we are losing this war. Moreover, I can say with certainty this strategy will not defeat ISIS.”

When done right, training and equipping indigenous forces is considered by some military experts to be an effective strategy for stabilizing a region. In a phone interview, Ben Connable, an analyst for the RAND Corp. and a retired Marine intelligence officer, compared the U.S. training in the Middle East to the French attempts to build a militia force in South Vietnam in the 1950s.

“They were in a hurry. They wanted to get out of Indochina,” said Connable. “So what they did was rush the half-trained force into the field and they were destroyed piecemeal.”

The situation, in Connable’s view, is similar to present-day Syria.

“Just because they went through a training course does not mean they are ready for combat,” he said. “You don’t put a couple hundred newbies into the fight.”

Airstrikes prevent gains by the Islamic State group and eliminate targets, but they have done little to quell the insurgent activities tearing through Iraq and Syria.

“High-value targeting is most effective when it is combined with other counterinsurgency measures,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a witness at the Tuesday committee hearing and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “Unfortunately, there are currently no boots on the ground truly capable of implementing a large-scale counterinsurgency strategy.”

America’s inability to develop a successful trained militia in Syria or maintain a concrete strategy allowed Russian President Vladimir Putin to criticize the U.S. in an address to the United Nations on Monday and call for a “broad international coalition” to fight ISIS and other terrorists, such as the al-Nusra Front.

The subcommittee chairman, Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, offered his concerns that the U.S. won’t achieve one of its principal objectives: removing Assad from power.

“It is a reality,” Keane said in response to Poe’s concerns that Russia’s new tactics will successfully prop up Assad. “I would tell Mr. Putin that I’m going to fly my airplanes where I want, when I want and you’re not going to interfere with them.”

Keane believes that the U.S. will eventually be able to remove Assad from leadership in Syria, with or without the help of the Russians. But with the Russian military now involved, it is not clear how or when that will happen.

Daniel Benjamin, another committee witness, noted Thursday that Russian military support has revitalized the Assad government.

“Whatever shared commitment there was among Western nations that Assad had to go has been essentially rendered moot,” said Benjamin, also a nonresident senior fellow at The Brookings Institution. “The diplomacy now has to get going with an understanding that Assad still may go, but not soon and not on the kinds of terms that were envisioned to date.”

Complicating matters is the fact that the Syria-Russia relationship goes well beyond the military alliance.

“There is an emotional connection between the Russian military and Syria,” Connable said. “The Syrian officers married Russian women and the Russian officers married Syrian women. It’s not just a political relationship, it’s a socio-cultural relationship as well.”

Stephen Blank, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, said America’s limited military role in Syria is giving Russia an even stronger position of power.

“The fundamental problem is this administration does not know how to cover political objectives with military strategies,” Blank said of the Obama White House, adding that Russia has “a capability to project power in well-defined strategic objectives.”

Russia, which began bombing anti-Syrian government forces Wednesday, has forced the U.S. government to reassess its strategy in the Middle East. Lawmakers and experts who participated in Tuesday’s panel appeared to agree America must revisit its counterterrorism efforts in Syria.

“I think it’s time this administration goes back to the drawing board,” said Rep. Scott Perry, R-Penn.

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White House calls on Congress after Virginia TV shooting

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions from reporters at Wednesday's daily press briefing. (Jenny Leonard / Medill NSJI)

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest answers questions from reporters at Wednesday’s daily press briefing. (Jenny Leonard / Medill NSJI)

WASHINGTON — In the wake of a fatal shooting during a live television broadcast in Virginia, the White House called on Congress Wednesday to pass tougher laws combatting gun violence.

“While there is no piece of legislation that will end all violence,” Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “there are some common sense things that only Congress can do that we know would have attainable impacts at reducing gun violence.”

Two members of WDBJ 7, in Roanoke, Virginia, were killed in the early-morning attack: reporter Alison Parker and cameraman Adam Ward. The interview subject, Vicki Gardner, was shot but not killed and taken to a nearby hospital for treatment.

The suspected shooter, Vester Lee Flanagan II, was a former employee at the station, who went by the on-air name of Bryce Williams. Flanagan died later at Inova Fairfax Hospital from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

“This is another example of gun violence that is becoming all too common in communities large and small all across the United States,” White House spokesman Earnest said.

Closing the gun show loophole is the most frequently cited “common sense” action that Congress could take, Earnest said. The loophole allows some individuals to purchase firearms at gun shows without going through a background check.

This legislative action, he said, would not alter the United States Constitution in any way, nor would it infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens who are exercising their Second Amendment rights.

“The laws about gun safety in a sparsely populated rural community, I think justifiably, can be different than in a dense urban community like the District of Columbia,” Earnest said.

The most recent legislation seeking tougher gun laws, sponsored by Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa., failed to pass a Senate vote in 2013.

According to a 23-page fax that Flanagan sent to ABC News on Wednesday morning, he “put down a deposit for a gun on 6/19/15,” and cited racial discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying as his motivations for the shooting.

“The thoughts and prayers of everybody here at the White House are with the families of those who were injured or killed in that terrible incident,” Earnest said.

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Experts say retaliation over OPM cyber attacks may be misguided

WASHINGTON — With cyber attacks grabbing the public’s attention, calls for retaliation, especially against suspected state-sponsored intrusions, have escalated.

Critics argue that a passive approach by the U.S. government only emboldens perpetrators. Draw a red line, they urge; the massive Office of Personnel Management breach, in particular, warranted a decisive response by the government.

But on the other side, some experts warn that retaliation, in any form, would be shortsighted, simplistic, and unrealistic, potentially undermining America’s interests. The rules of engagement, even informal guidelines, have yet to be written, they say.

Those advocating hacking back say the OPM breach should have been the final straw. But where to strike? The Obama administration has not openly accused the Chinese government,or any government, of being behind the OPM cyber attack.

The OPM, which handles security clearance for federal government employees, discovered in June that the agency had been hacked. The latest figures reveal that records of 22 million workers were compromised.

But Robert Knake, former head of cybersecurity policy at the National Security Council, said those advocating for hacking back are overreacting.

“It’s bad. But it’s not devastating,” said Knake of the names and Social Security numbers exposed by the breach. “The reason it’s not devastating is that we know about it.”

Speaking at an Atlantic Council panel last week debating the consequences of retaliating for cyberattacks, Knake said identifying the breach offers the opportunity to mitigate the damage. Once armed with this knowledge, the government can use the hack to its advantage, he argued.

For example, in the unlikely event that China uses information gleaned from the breach to identify Americans involved in sensitive activities, Knake said the U.S. could respond with misdirection by changing personnel.

Knake said the leaking of classified National Security Agency information by NSA contractor Edward Snowden, changed the norms in cyberspace.

“We are in the post-Snowden period where the whole world knows the U.S. engages in this kind of [surveillance] activity,” said Knake. “That we have a very strong program. And we got through all those disclosures without … Angela Merkel or anyone else declaring that it was an act of war.”

Fighting cyber espionage requires a different skillset than defending against pre-Internet, traditional Cold War espionage, said Austin Berglas, former head of the FBI’s New York Cyber Branch. “Whatever country is trying to steal our state secrets or international property doesn’t have to have a physical body. They can do it from their own home. There is a cloak of anonymity that people can hide behind to deny the actions.”

Unlike the Cold War when the adversary was clear, there are many more nations engaged in cyber espionage. China, Russia North Korea and Iran have all been suspected as culprits.

Jason Healey, senior fellow, at the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative, said that in the Cold War, there was a set of unwritten “Moscow rules” illuminating red lines that would not be crossed.

“It wasn’t a treaty, but there was this sense of where each side could go and if they overstep that, than there might be repercussions,” Healey said at the Aug. 19 panel discussion. “We would never kill a Russian. They will never kill an American spy.”

In contrast, Healey said no set of unifying standards exist for resolving cyber espionage conflicts.

“We have had some cyber espionage cases going back to 1986 where the KGB was spying,” said Healey.

In a telephone interview, Daniel Garrie, founder and editor in chief of the Journal of Law and Cyber Warfare, said countries’ varying attitudes towards cyber warfare make it harder to establish standards between the U.S. and other countries.

“Not only is there no playbook for countries and companies looking to respond to a cyberattack,” said Garrie, “but there are arguably a hundred different play-books, for each country, making the appropriate and permissible response all the more challenging, assuming your legal team understands what sort of action you are seeking to take,”
In some countries, Garrie said hacking is “not per-se illegal and it is certainly not taboo or shameful, in fact, it appears in some countries that such activity is encouraged.”

While it would seem tempting to fighting back against perpetrators aggressively, a tit-for-tat approach in the OPM affair, risks giving rise to many more problems than it would solve.

Is war a racket?

Screenshot 2015-08-27 14.40.11

Although considered at the time to be grandiose hearsay, General Smedley Butler’s testimony concerning the “Business Plot” to overthrow the Federal government was found credible in 1934 by a special McCormack-Dickstein congressional committee.

In his testimony before the McCormack-Dickstein committee, in which Butler accused many powerful business tycoons and politicians – such as DuPont, J.P. Morgan, even Prescott Bush (father to George H.W. Bush) – of attempting to persuade him to lead 500,000 soldiers in taking the reigns of government from FDR and his progressive proclivities. One year later, the Marine Corps major general wrote a 39-page treatise, “War is a Racket”.

Butler was a war hero. In fact, he was the most decorated Marine of his time, receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor twice. So it may have been a shock for some Americans to hear their famed general accuse powerful people of treason, or the country of racketeering. Or to read sentiments such as this in magazines:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico…safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate in three districts. I operated on three continents.” (Common Sense, 1935)

In “War is a Racket”, Butler focuses mainly on the actions of the United States, but one of his main arguments is that all wars are rackets, in that all wars are “conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.”

But “the claim that American foreign policy is dictated by economic interests…is a vast over-simplification,” said Michael Morgan, professor of history at UNC at Chapel Hill. “If you say that the [U.S.] only goes to war to help American corporations, well then, that’s an exclusively materialist explanation of foreign policy. There are many more factors other than material interests that influence foreign policy,” he added.

If Morgan is correct, and Butler’s argument lacks nuance, it may have been because of the age in which the general lived. “General Butler’s military experience – Nicaragua, Honduras, Philippines, Mexico – was among the most politicized and aggressive uses of the military advancing U.S. foreign policy interests in U.S. history,” said William Braun, a professor at the U.S. Army War College. With “the exceptions being actual war,” he added.

Whatever the case, whether war is sometimes or always a racket, the fact remains that war has at times been a racket. It remains that the U.S. has used it in such a way, and is arguably still. Economic interest is not the only variable in U.S. foreign policy; however, it is one that is, sadly, lucrative even for the Americans who detest it.


Oshkosh, B’Gosh: The US Military Is Finally Replacing the Humvee

WASHINGTON — This week marks the beginning of the end for the Humvee.

A UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter being operated by B Company, 43rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, lifts off after having a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) sling loaded to it by Soldiers on the ground assigned to Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 4th Infantry Division and Lithuanian Land Forces Soldiers assigned to the Grand Duchess Birutė Uhlan Battalion (BUB), during exercise Uhlan Fury being held at the Gen. Silvestras Zlikaliskas Training Area, Pabrade, Lithuania, Aug. 10, 2015. The U.S. units are in Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve, a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and to enduring peace and stability in the region. U.S. Army Europe is leading Atlantic Resolve enhanced land force multinational training and security cooperation activities taking place across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria to ensure multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied militaries, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. James Avery, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

A UH-60M Black Hawk helicopter being operated by B Company, 43rd Assault Helicopter Battalion, 3rd Cavalry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, lifts off after having a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWV) sling loaded to it by Soldiers on the ground assigned to Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 4th Infantry Division and Lithuanian Land Forces Soldiers assigned to the Grand Duchess Birutė Uhlan Battalion (BUB), during exercise Uhlan Fury being held at the Gen. Silvestras Zlikaliskas Training Area, Pabrade, Lithuania, Aug. 10, 2015. The U.S. units are in Europe as part of Atlantic Resolve, a demonstration of continued U.S. commitment to the collective security of NATO and to enduring peace and stability in the region. U.S. Army Europe is leading Atlantic Resolve enhanced land force multinational training and security cooperation activities taking place across Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, and Bulgaria to ensure multinational interoperability, strengthen relationships among allied militaries, contribute to regional stability and demonstrate U.S. commitment to NATO. (U.S. Army Photo by Sgt. James Avery, 16th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)

That’s because the US Army chose Oshkosh Defense to manufacture about 55,000 joint light tactical vehicles (JLTVs) that will become the successors to Humvees and mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicles (MRAPs). The initial contract awarded to Oshkosh on Tuesday is for $6.7 billion and 17,000 vehicles. The total contract, valued at up to $30 billion, could provide the Wisconsin-based company with work through 2040.

The new offering provides underbody and side-armor protection similar to a tank’s, but retains the on-ground and in-theater mobility of an all-terrain vehicle. The vehicle’s reduced weight allows it to be transported by Chinook helicopters and amphibious vessels, a feat that was largely impossible with MRAPs.

Thousands of MRAPs were purchased in response to the traditional Humvees’ failures to sufficiently protect troops from the widespread use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by Iraqi insurgents in the mid-2000s. It was not unusual for soldiers to stack sandbags on the floors of the vehicles for added protection — and still have to contend with canvas for doors. The introduction of the MRAP solved the protection problem, though it came at the expense of battlefield mobility.

“Our JLTV has been extensively tested and is proven to provide the ballistic protection of a light tank, the underbody protection of an MRAP-class vehicle, and the off-road mobility of a Baja racer,” John M. Urias, president of Oshkosh Defense, said in a statement.

The new vehicle reflects the military’s various needs in modern warfare — protecting troops from roadside bombs, traversing mixed terrain quickly, transporting vehicles within and between combat theaters.

The Humvee, which has been the military’s go-to vehicle for decades, was born in 1979, when AM General began early design work on the M998 Series high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle — or HMMWV, pronounced “Humvee” — to replace the legendary Army Jeep. In 1983, the company was awarded an initial contract worth $1.2 billion to make 55,000 Humvees.

The Humvee has since accompanied troops in Panama, the Persian Gulf, Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. But now the mainstay military vehicles are being sold off by the dozen, with the bidding starting at $7,500.

In the early ’90s, AM General began production of the Hummer, the Humvee’s commercial spinoff. General Motors later assembled, distributed, and marketed the vehicle before it was discontinued. The last new Hummer was sold in 2010.

The Pentagon dismissed the Humvee’s original manufacture’s design concept for the JLTV, along with an offering by Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor.

Lockheed Martin said in a statement that it was disappointed that the Army and Marine Corps did not select its design.

“We believe we presented a very strong solution and await the customers’ debrief to hear more detail regarding the reasons behind this selection before making a decision about a potential protest,” the statement said.

If the defense goliath chooses to protest the Pentagon’s decision, the Government Accountability Office, which has a forum to resolve disputes over awards of federal contracts, will review the military’s decision.

AM General also expressed disappointment in the decision and is “considering all available options,” a company spokesman said in a statement.

The competition to win the multi-billion dollar contract began in 2012. Each competitor provided 22 prototypes for the JTLV program. These were then tested over a 14-month period.

“I am tremendously proud of the JLTV program team,” Heidi Shyu, the assistant secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics, and Technology, said in the announcement. “Working with industry, they are delivering major improvements in protected mobility for soldiers and have succeeded in executing a program that remains on-budget and on-schedule.”

Oshkosh is scheduled to begin manufacturing the vehicles in the first quarter of 2016 so the Army can start getting the trucks in the field by 2018.

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Transforming thoughts of climate change

WASHINGTON – I remember studying abroad about three years ago on a program called Semester at Sea, during one of my summers as an undergraduate student. I was taking three classes and one of them was marine biology. My roommate on the ship, Maggie, went to school in Ohio as a computer engineer. We got along fine, but I’ll never forget our first day of biology class.

Our professor took us to the deck of the ship and began talking about all of the different creatures we would be able to see while out here in the middle of the ocean traveling from port to port.

He went on to describe the role these creatures play in their own microcosms, but also in the world at large and in our everyday lives, whether we realize it or not. We ended up discussing issues of global warming, the rising seas, glacial melt, energy shift, higher temperatures and droughts – all topics we would come back to many times over the course of the summer.

But when Maggie and I got back to our room after that first day of class she looked at me and said, “You know, when he was talking about all the global warming stuff — I’m sorry but I just don’t believe him. I know that’s a load of hogwash.”

I was completely shocked. While I knew that there were many non-believers out there, I didn’t know any of them. Not to mention, at this point it was 2012 and there was someone my age—albeit very conservative in her political persuasion—who actually thought the idea of global warming was a myth (and especially a computer engineer, no?).

How can a population cause so much destruction to the natural environment and cause extinction for many of its inhabitants and not see any repercussions? Until this day, that still boggles my mind. I didn’t even know how to respond to Maggie other than trying to morph the expression in my face quickly enough to hide my true feeling.

I managed to say, “Oh, really? Yeah….I mean, I definitely believe in that.” I wasn’t exactly trying to start anything, so I quickly changed the subject since I knew there were just clearly some fundamental differences in our beliefs, and we still had a whole summer to live together.

My point is, that even just three years ago and I’m sure still today, there are people who simply ignore the majority of scientists and research, and argued against the concept of climate change. But now, the conversation has changed or at least, it’s beginning to. Today it’s not about if it’s true or false, it’s about how we can best counter the domino effects that have been set into motion.

Across the U.S. our nation’s leaders and commander in chief have taken action, so much so that the United States is actually leading global efforts to address the issue of climate change. That’s because they’ve realized something: the issue of climate change is connected to American interests at home and abroad.

It may be hard to see the connection but at the basest level of analysis you can deduce that for national security, there is a purely logistical concern about the effects of climate change.

Dr. Boudrias, an expert in environmental studies at the University of San Diego, put it this way, “there’s no doubt at this point, having talked to military members at a national level, that they are clearly concerned of the affects of climate change on national security and international conflicts.” Boudrias explained that the issue of climate change comes into play for military installations around the world.

“If you think of Navy bases and understand the problems that come with rising sea levels, the issues begin to change,” said Boudrias, “If climate change effects water resources and you have a drought, then in the logistics of your bases—having enough water for your troops, for your facility, there are going to be major problems.”

Go beyond a military scope and think about natural disasters. Though it’s unclear whether climate change will increase the number of hurricanes, it’s a fact that its effects intensify their impacts.

Take for example, Hurricane Sandy, which caused an estimated $65 billion in damages. The magnitude of power the storm wielded was only increased by the rising sea levels. We saw the destruction of homes, crops, land, depleting the area of human necessities needed to survive and leaving people homeless, jobless, displaced from their own families and impoverished.

Even in more recent years we have seen an increase in the number of North Atlantic tropical storms per year, jumping from 11 annually to 16. The rise in sea surface temperatures, which could be related to global warming, has a direct correlation to that number.

What about at even more basic level? We don’t need a hurricane or an increase in the number of tornadoes to see that something has to change. Just think about something as basic to us in the U.S like water, with global warming comes decreased rainfall, higher temperatures, desertification and energy shifts. According to A Medill student journalism project, Global Warning, “the UN projects climate change will double the number of droughts worldwide and extend their length.”

With potable water level low around the world, that scarcity coupled with increased urbanization, ethnic tension, poverty, etc. and something is going to happen. The National Intelligence Council predicts that fresh water scarcity “could lead to conflict in the Nile, state failure in Pakistan and Yemen and large movement of people along the Rio Grande.”

But bring that even closer to home, what about California right now? Where the drought is so bad, Gov. Jerry Brown introduced mandatory water cuts for the first time in the state’s history.

How is water scarcity going to effect the ~38 million people and 900 miles of wildlife who call that state home?

Even further than that, it’s a state that grows much of the produce shipped across the U.S, so what is that going to mean for everyone who call the U.S. home?

I know that for myself, being from California, it’s something I think of a lot.

When I first heard that climate change was an issue of national security I didn’t make that immediate connection, but climate change has the ability to affect our everyday life and it can happen instantly.

As Boudrias said, “climate change is complicated and the connections are everywhere.”

It changes the whole economic, social and political world, it’s a symbiotic relationship—when one part of that equation falters it creates a butterfly effect to the other.

DHS makes sure terrorists don’t get access to chemical facilities

"IED Baghdad from munitions". Licensed under Public Domain via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IED_Baghdad_from_munitions.jpg#/media/File:IED_Baghdad_from_munitions.jpg

“IED Baghdad from munitions”. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IED_Baghdad_from_munitions.jpg#/media/File:IED_Baghdad_from_munitions.jpg

WASHINGTON – Chemicals are an important part of modern society but, in the wrong hands, they can be deadly weapons. The government has recognized this danger and taken on the act of trying to protect the American people by protecting the stocks of chemicals across the country.

Since the 9/11 attacks the United States has collectively feared a repeat terrorist attack on domestic soil. In, then-President George W. Bush called for the creation of what is now called the Department of Homeland Security to address and attempt to resolve this very fear.

Part of that effort includes the work done by the Office of Infrastructure Protection, which has a mission to work with the chemical industry to protect critical infrastructure, including chemical facilities, from terrorist attacks.

A key piece of the critical infrastructure that needs to be protected is chemical facilities.

“We are talking about things where people could turn a facility into a weapon much like the terrorists in 9/11. They took something that we would not have expected to be used as a weapon and turned it into [a weapon]. And this presents a significant concern for the department,” said Todd Klessman, a senior policy advisor at the Department of Homeland Security.

He said there are two main concerns when it comes to chemical site facilities. The first is the prevention of an attack directly on the facility. Some of these sites are located in heavily populated urban areas. A release of a toxic gas or substance would result in many people injured or dead. Experts point to the Bhopal disaster in India in 1984, in which a gas leak at a pesticide plant killed at least 3,787 people and injured more than 550,000 others.

The second concern is a terrorist stealing chemicals to build a bomb elsewhere, Klessman said at a talk about chemical weapons and security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington based think tank.

Acknowledging this infrastructure vulnerability, Congress authorized the creation of the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards program in 2007 and reauthorized it for an additional four years in 2014. This legislation gave DHS regulatory authority over “high-risk chemical facilities.” The first task was to determine what that category meant.

“What we decided was that it didn’t really matter what type of facility these chemicals were at. The chemicals will present threats or risk based on their nature, not necessarily the type of facility,” said Klessman, in an interview.

The department developed a list of 325 chemicals of interest and set out to base their regulator efforts on this list, rather than on categories of facilities. Each of the chemicals on the list presented a security risk in at least one of three categories:

  • Release hazards – Toxics, flammables and explosives
  • Theft aversion hazards ­– Precursors to chemical weapons, explosives, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) or weapons of mass destruction
  • Sabotage hazards – Chemicals that when mixed with water will turn into toxic hazards

This results in DHS regulating a large swath of industry that is not just limited to what would traditionally be classified as chemical facilities. Alongside the many manufacturing facilities regulated are mines, education facilities, prisons and wineries.

Once the department has determined that a facility is within the highest risk category, it works with a company to implement an appropriate security plan. There are about 3,000 facilities in the high-risk category with only 111 falling into the highest risk group.

“Rather than give prescriptive standards and tell a facility that they must have this type of fence or they must have this type of camera system, we’ve identified 18 areas of security and asked the facility to tell us how they are going to address this,” said Klessman. This allows the facilities to build up on what they already have in place and recognizes that this is not a one size fits all security solution.

“It also makes it so that the terrorists cannot simply read our manual and determine how they can overcome our security,” he said. “If we had a requirement of a ten foot fence then the terrorist could just go build an 11-foot ladder.”