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Saturday, September 1, 2012


Mars Interior

Artist rendition of the formation of rocky bodies in the solar system - how they form and differentiate and evolve into terrestrial planets.

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech



Strengthening the U.S.-Taiwan Economic Relationship
Jose W. Fernandez
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs

American Chamber of Commerce
Taipei, Taiwan
August 5, 2012

I. Introduction

Thank you. This is my first trip to Taiwan and I continue to marvel at the numerous cultural and economic ties that bind our people. One of our ties was illustrated to me as I read the paper this morning. I enjoyed seeing that Jeremy Lin’s visit took top billing in the newspaper, and the meeting between President Ma and I drew a little less attention.

Let me give you just one example that is illustrative of the larger U.S. – Taiwan relationship. It is a great American tradition to start new companies in a home garage. In an Irvine, California garage in 1988 Linksys was born. The creators of this now ubiquitous line of home computer networking devices were Taiwan immigrants Janie and Victor Tsao. At the time they founded Linksys, they were also working as consultants specializing in pairing U.S. technology vendors with manufacturers in Taiwan. That pairing has become emblematic of the U.S. – Taiwan economic relationship. The latest numbers show that two-way trade between the United States and Taiwan in electrical machinery hovers around $23 billion per year.

II. Strategic Rebalancing Toward Asia

While Taiwan has been exemplary as one of the so-called "Asian Tigers," I want to put our economic relationship with Taiwan in the larger Asian context before discussing Taiwan specifically. That larger context is our work on the Trans Pacific Partnership, and the Select USA initiative.

As you know, the global economic crisis of the past few years has pushed us in the United States to pursue our own economic recovery. This is a two-sided coin, with an eye toward regional trade liberalization on one side, and concerted efforts to attract more foreign investment to the United States on the other. At all levels of the U.S. government, we are broadening and deepening our economic relationships throughout the Asia Pacific region. We are acutely aware that reinvigorating our economy at home goes hand in hand with partnering on economic growth abroad.

The United States has long been involved in developments in the Asia Pacific region. We are proud that our contributions to regional security here helped create the conditions that brought more people out of poverty faster than anywhere else in history. That engagement continues today and the futures of the United States and the Asia Pacific are inextricably linked. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has highlighted, we are not just a diplomatic or military power here. We are an economic force as well. In 2010 alone, our exports to the Pacific Rim were over $320 billion, supporting 850,000 American jobs.

But our work is not finished. One of our country’s great challenges in this century will be to establish a stronger network of trade links and practices around the Pacific Rim. Our recently enacted Free Trade Agreements with South Korea and Colombia, and our commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, are clear demonstrations that we are here to stay.

I am proud to note that the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has been a very active promoter of these efforts. In fact, they have been so successful in working to promote America’s economic relationship with Taiwan that I was able to personally congratulate the former Director, Bill Stanton, on winning my award for export promotion in 2011. He also received the State Department’s coveted Cobb award for global trade promotion efforts. That’s two awards in the same year to one man, something that doesn’t happen very often in the State Department. The AIT team in Taipei and Kaohsiung ("GOW shung") is carrying on that tradition and I expect great achievements from the incoming leadership team here in Taipei.

All of these individual efforts fit into our larger work toward regional trade liberalization. Also supporting this effort is our commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Looking ahead to the next generation of trade agreements, we are aiming at crafting an agreement that addresses new and emerging trade issues and challenges. The Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, includes the United States, along with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. It is a high-standard, broad-based regional agreement. We see the TPP as the most credible pathway to broader Asia-Pacific regional economic integration.

The agreement will include core issues traditionally found in trade agreements, such as industrial goods, agriculture, and textiles as well as rules on intellectual property, technical barriers to trade, labor, and the environment. But it will also address cross-cutting issues not previously found in trade agreements, such as making the regulatory systems of TPP countries more compatible so U.S. companies can operate more seamlessly in TPP markets. It will also help innovative, job-creating small- and medium-sized enterprises participate more actively in international trade. Equally important is addressing new emerging trade issues, such as trade and investment in innovative products and services, and ensuring that state-owned enterprises compete fairly with private companies and do not distort competition in ways that put U.S. companies and workers at a disadvantage.

The United States is participating in the TPP as the best vehicle to advance our economic interests and to promote economic growth and development in the critical Asia-Pacific region. Expanding U.S. exports is critical to our economic recovery and to the creation and retention of high-quality jobs in the United States. With its rapid growth and large markets, there is no region with which expanding our trade is more vital than the Asia Pacific.

The TPP countries recently announced the addition of Mexico and Canada to the negotiations. Late last year Japan also formally expressed interest in beginning consultations with TPP member countries with a view to possibly joining the negotiations. Candidate countries for TPP must demonstrate through their actions and through bilateral consultations with each TPP country their readiness to meet the standards and objectives of the agreement. Once those bilateral processes are concluded, the current TPP partners must decide by consensus before a new member can participate. In short, we are excited by the possibilities created in the Asia-Pacific by the TPP, and are working very hard to make it a reality by the end of this year.

Let’s move on to another program we just started, Select USA. So one side of the coin of economic recovery is expanding opportunities for U.S. companies to do business effectively abroad. The other side of that coin is the work that we do at home to encourage investment in the United States. The United States consistently ranks at the top of most major indicators for its attractive business and investment climate. In fact, from 2006 through 2010, the United States received more FDI than any other country. The FDI flow into the United States in 2010 - $228 billion - was more than double the flow into any other country in the world, and despite economic difficulties of the time, 49 percent greater than the FDI flow into the United States in 2009. At the same time, total Taiwan direct investment flow in the United States was over $5 billion in 2010, an increase of 14.7% from 2009.

Under a program called SelectUSA, the U.S. Departments of Commerce and State engage partners around the world, as I am doing here, to promote investment into our dynamic economy. SelectUSA showcases how the United States is the world’s premier business location and provides easy access to federal-level programs and services related to business investment.

Why do I say that the United States is the world’s premier business location? Because we are the world’s largest economy; we consistently rank at the top of most major indicators for our attractive business and investment climate; our own investment in research and development makes us the world’s center for innovation; and our leadership in protecting intellectual property with a transparent and predictable legal system makes doing business in the U.S. both cost-efficient and secure. Also, one of the strongest reasons will always be the quality of our higher education, particularly in science and engineering. Taiwan people in the United States are well aware of this: 80 percent have achieved some level of higher education, particularly in these fields and in medicine. I understand that the U.S. regulatory environment can be daunting to some investors, but through our hardworking representatives at the American Institute in Taiwan, and SelectUSA and other U.S. government partners back in Washington, we can help connect investors with the business counseling and training they may need to comply with applicable regulations.

We can also direct you to the different states’ economic development agencies, making sure you get connected to the right partners for your investment selection process.

III. U. S. – Taiwan Economic Relations

Where does Taiwan figure into this picture? How can Taiwan partner with us and benefit from this wealth creation? Today, Taiwan is our 10th largest trading partner and our 15th largest export market. It would surprise many people but the United States actually trades more with Taiwan than with France; and Taiwan-U.S. trade is at near the same level as India-U.S. bilateral trade. The United States is Taiwan’s largest foreign investor, and Taiwan companies have made significant investments in the United States. Historically, the United States has been the strongest champion of Taiwan’s participation in global trade bodies such as the World Trade Organization and the APEC forum. Our strong economic relationship covers more than six decades. Taiwan has been an invaluable partner in influencing others to embrace reform and strive for economic growth.

In recent years, however, this immensely valuable relationship has hit some bumps in the road that hinder our partnership and progress. We can’t afford these bumps and need to make sure that they do not detract from efforts to make full use of our potential. We were pleased to see that the Legislative Yuan recently took action that will clear the path for Taiwan to establish a maximum residue limit for ractopamine in beef, eliminating a serious impediment to U.S. beef imports. U.S. trade agencies will be monitoring implementation of the regulatory measures needed to allow U.S. beef imports to resume. These steps will be important in helping to rebuild confidence in our bilateral trade relationship.

We know from our own experience that adhering to bilateral and multilateral trade commitments is not always easy, but it is essential to maintaining the credibility that serves as the foundation of what has long been a positive, constructive relationship between trading partners.

Of course our bilateral economic relationship goes well beyond this particular issue and we have continued to engage Taiwan at the working level and via our capable colleagues at AIT on the full range of important bilateral trade and investment issues. For example, the United States worked for many years in support of Taiwan’s candidacy to join the WTO Government Procurement Agreement. These joint efforts were rewarded when Taiwan acceded to the Agreement in 2009. Taiwan has already made many reforms to its procurement practices, and we stand ready to assist as Taiwan continues to harmonize its measures with global best practices with regard to transparency, contract terms, and licensing.

Taiwan has made tremendous progress over the years in improving intellectual property rights protection and enforcement, and the United States has carried out significant bilateral cooperation activities on intellectual property rights—IPR—issues. Still, challenges remain, including with regard to online infringement and the theft of trade secrets. During my time here in Taiwan I have visited companies that have had their technology stolen and heard their stories. For U.S. firms the protection of IPR is so vital because so many of our exports derive from IPR. A recent study estimated that 75% of U.S. exports involve IPR. Taiwan aspires to be an economy based on innovation, and together our unceasing efforts will ensure that Taiwan’s IPR enforcement regime meets the highest standards. Improved protection of trade secrets in Taiwan will help both foreign and domestic firms be competitive and innovative in today’s knowledge-based economy. The bottom line: we have made major progress over the years on many critical issues when both sides have been prepared to work together. The United States sincerely desires a reinvigorated trade relationship with Taiwan. It’s already generally good, but we can do better.

Like the United States, Taiwan is also pursuing trade liberalization. We understand the Ma Administration has indicated a desire to be considered for the TPP in eight years. As a gold standard for future trade agreements in the region, the TPP requires members to embrace ambitious and comprehensive liberalization and open their markets to competition. We commend President Ma for recognizing the importance of trade integration, and for his expressed determination to push forward liberalization measures that would help Taiwan make its case as a possible candidate for future trade agreements.

Change will not be easy, but the benefits of liberalization are clear: stronger and more competitive firms, better services, wider availability of products at lower prices, greater efficiency, and smoother integration into the world marketplace. More comprehensive economic liberalization will be an essential component for securing Taiwan's economic future. Real liberalization will demonstrate Taiwan's commitment to trade integration and potential inclusion in various trade arrangements. This includes comprehensive, bilateral FTAs—such as Taiwan's ongoing negotiations with Singapore—which is an important first step. As Taiwan's leaders implement meaningful market liberalization measures and pursue new trade agreements, firm resolve and commitment to free market principles as a responsible WTO member are essential attributes to live by. We look forward to deepening our trade and economic interaction with Taiwan. We will support Taiwan as it embraces these fundamental prerequisites to effective and meaningful trade integration. Everyone in this room is an important element of what we hope to do.

IV. Next Steps & Conclusion

Just as Janie and Victor Tsao understood when they founded Linksys nearly 25 years ago, trade between Taiwan and the United States is vital to the prosperity of both. The United States and Taiwan have a long and positive history of cooperation and many shared interests in the region. We are hopeful that the positive recent steps Taiwan has taken to address the beef issue are a demonstration of the sustained commitment that will be needed to reenergize our bilateral trade dialogue. To be sure, Taiwan, like any democracy, will face tough choices in order to live up to its international obligations and to put its long-term economic interests above domestic politics. Taiwan is a part of the Asia-Pacific region’s economic future. We look forward to working with Taiwan as it builds cooperative and credible partnerships throughout the region, including with the United States.

NASA - "When Biospheres Collide: A History of NASA’s Planetary Protection Programs"

NASA - "When Biospheres Collide: A History of NASA’s Planetary Protection Programs"



Obama: Improve Mental Health Access, Care for Military, Vets

American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2012 - President Barack Obama today signed an executive order that provides increased access to mental health services for service members, military families and veterans.

The order, signed as Obama left Washington for a visit to Fort Bliss, Texas, directs the Defense Department, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and other key federal departments to expand suicide-prevention strategies and to take new steps to meet the demand for mental health and substance abuse treatment services, White House officials said.

The president is expected to share details about the new initiative today during a private roundtable discussion with soldiers and their families at Fort Bliss and during an address to the troops.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the new provisions underscore the U.S. government's commitment to strengthening the health of the military force and providing additional support to combat "two unseen wounds" of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan: post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries.

The executive order:

-- Strengthens suicide-prevention efforts across the force and in the veteran community;

-- Enhances access to mental health care by building partnerships between the Department of Veterans Affairs and community providers;

-- Increases the number of VA mental health providers serving veterans; and

-- Promotes mental health research and development of more effective ways to prevent, identify and treat PTSD, TBI and other related injuries.

More than 2 million service members have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001, serving tours of unprecedented duration and frequency, White House officials noted in announcing the new executive order.

"Long deployments and intense combat conditions require optimal support for the emotional and mental health needs of our service members and their families," they said.

The executive order builds on efforts already under way within the Defense Department, VA and other federal agencies to ensure veterans and active, Guard and Reserve service members and their families get the support they deserve, officials noted.

In terms of suicide prevention, the executive order directs VA to increase the capacity of its veteran crisis line by 50 percent by the year's end. It also calls on VA to ensure that no veteran who reports being in crisis should have to wait more than 24 hours to be connected to a mental health professional or trained mental health worker.

VA also will work with the Defense Department to establish a national, 12-month suicide prevention campaign focused on connecting veterans to mental health services, officials reported.

To ensure veterans have access to these services, the executive order also calls on VA and the Department of Health and Human Services to establish at least 15 pilot sites where VA can partner with local mental health providers. This initiative, officials said, will help ensure services are available in regions where VA has had trouble hiring or placing providers.

The order also directs VA and HHS to develop a plan to increase access to mental health care in rural communities.

In addition, VA will hire 800 peer-to-peer support counselors to help veterans support each other and ensure that their mental health needs are met.

That's on top of VA's ongoing effort to hire 1,600 new mental health care professionals by June 2013. VA has hired more than 3,500 mental health professionals since 2009, and the new executive order includes recruiting incentives to build on that momentum.

The new order rallies interagency support in confronting mental health and substance abuse support for veterans, service members and their families. It establishes an interagency task force to recommend new strategies, and calls on DOD, VA, DHHS and the Department of Education to devise a national plan to improve PTSD and TBI diagnosis and treatment. A comprehensive study included in that plan will delve into better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat these and other mental health challenges, officials said.


US Navy Videos




120826-N-KB563-346 PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 26, 2012) An AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542 approaches the flight deck during flight operations aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Bonhomme Richard is the lead ship of the only forward-deployed amphibious assault group. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell/Released)


120830-N-KB563-091 PACIFIC OCEAN (Aug. 30, 2012) AV-8B Harrier jet aircraft assigned to Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 542 sit on the flight deck aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) at sunset off the coast of White Beach Naval Facility. Bonhomme Richard is the lead ship of the Bonhomme Richard Amphibious Ready Group. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell/Released)


Wednesday, August 29, 2012
U.S. Army Master Sergeant Pleads Guilty to Defrauding U.S. Government

WASHINGTON – A U.S. Army master sergeant pleaded guilty today to accepting thousands of dollars in gratuities from contractors during his deployment to Iraq as a field ordering officer at a forward operating base in Iraq, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina William N. Nettles.

Julio Soto Jr., 52, of Columbus, Ga., pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Chief Judge Margaret B. Seymour in the District of South Carolina to a criminal information charging him with one count of conspiracy to accept illegal gratuities.

According to court documents, Soto was a master sergeant in the U.S. Army, deployed to Forward Operating Base (FOB) Hammer in Iraq, as a field ordering officer (FOO), a public official. FOO funds are used to purchase miscellaneous items and supplies such as paint, lumber and plywood from local vendors. It is a violation of federal law for field ordering officers to accept gratuities from contractors dependent upon them for contracts.

In or about March 2007 through October 2008, Soto, along with an alleged U.S. Army co-conspirator, was involved with the construction of a government building at FOB Hammer by local Iraqi contractors. Soto and his alleged co-conspirator unlawfully sought, received and accepted illegal gratuities for helping Iraqi contractors gain U.S. government contracts, and then purchased U.S. Postal money orders with the illegal proceeds and mailed them back to the United States.

At sentencing, Soto faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary gain or loss, and up to three years of supervised release. As part of his plea agreement, Soto agreed to pay $62,542 plus interest in restitution to the United States.

This case is being prosecuted by Special Trial Attorney Mark Grider of the Justice Department Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, on detail from the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), and by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean A. Eichelberger of the District of South Carolina. The case is being investigated by SIGIR, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the Major Procurement Fraud Unit of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command.


U.S. Relations With PeruBureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs

Fact Sheet
August 28, 2012

The United States established diplomatic relations with Peru in 1827 following Peru’s independence from Spain. In the last decade, Peru has seen consistent economic growth, poverty reduction, and broad support for democracy. The country is a key U.S. partner in Latin America, and the two have strong, positive, and cooperative relations. The United States promotes the strengthening of democratic institutions and human rights safeguards in Peru as well as socially inclusive economic growth based on free trade and open markets. The U.S.-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (TPA) was signed in 2009.

The two countries cooperate on efforts to limit the production and exportation of narcotics, and to strengthen the rule of law in Peru. Bilateral programs include manual eradication of illicit coca cultivation, aviation support for eradication and interdiction operations, and technical assistance and equipment for the Peruvian National Police (PNP) and Customs agency (SUNAT). The United States also provides funding to build the capacity of judicial actors. These U.S. Government-supported law enforcement efforts complement an aggressive effort to establish an alternative development program for coca farmers in key coca-growing areas to voluntarily reduce and eliminate illicit coca cultivation.

Peru Today

President Ollanta Humala Tasso began a five-year term on July 28, 2011, pledging to extend the benefits of Peru's strong economic growth to all Peruvians, particularly those from traditionally disadvantaged indigenous and rural communities. Two decades of pro-growth macro-economic policy in Peru have yielded unprecedented economic expansion, low inflation, investment-grade status for the country’s debt, and a dramatic drop in poverty rates. Yet many challenges remain. More than a quarter of the population continues to live in poverty, illegal coca growth and cocaine production are on the rise, and social conflicts over natural resources and how to achieve socially inclusive and environmentally responsible growth pose serious challenges. Continued poverty reduction will remain critical to achieving socially inclusive and environmentally responsible growth.

U.S. Assistance to Peru

To further strengthen its democracy, reduce illegal coca cultivation, and promote socially inclusive market-based economic growth, Peru has committed to broaden economic opportunities and increase the state presence in areas susceptible to the influence and control of narco-traffickers, including the Valley of the Rivers Apurimac, Ene and Montaro (VRAEM). U.S. assistance promotes these objectives through bilateral programs that support Peru’s anti-narcotics and alternative development efforts, increased social and economic inclusion, improve governance, and sound environmental stewardship.

Bilateral Economic Relations

Economic and commercial ties have deepened with the 2009 implementation of the U.S.- Peru TPA. U.S. investment in Peru has grown substantially in recent years as has two-way trade. The United States is one of Peru's largest foreign investors and trade partners. About 330,000 U.S. citizens visit Peru annually for business, tourism, or study. Peru is a participant in efforts to negotiate a regional trade agreement under the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which also includes the United States.

Peru's Membership in International Organizations

Peru and the United States belong to a number of the same international organizations, including the United Nations, Organization of American States, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization.


Photo:  Northern Michigan Lumberjacks.  Circa:  1890's.  Credit:  LCB 

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.



Army Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Carter from the South Carolina Army National Guard's 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade shakes hands with a role-playing police chief near a simulated protest during a Kosovo Force training exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany, Aug. 24, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michael Sharp
Kosovo Force Rotation Prepares for Peacekeeping Mission

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2012 - As the next rotation to serve in the NATO Kosovo Force completes its final training, its members are looking beyond the warfighter skills they've refined during combat deployments to focus on the distinctly different challenges of peacekeeping.

It will be a profound departure," Army Lt. Col. Rob Stilwell, chief of staff of the South Carolina Army National Guard's 218th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade, said in comparing the upcoming, 10-month mission to his unit's deployment to Afghanistan in 2007.

"In a peacekeeping operation, we really have to recognize that there is no enemy, and that we have to be focused on a much broader spectrum of issues than we did in Iraq or Afghanistan," he told American Forces Press Service during the mission rehearsal exercise at the Joint Multinational Readiness Center in Hohenfels, Germany.

Stilwell is preparing to serve as chief of staff for KFOR's Multinational Battle Group-East, an element currently led by the Wisconsin Army National Guard's 157th Maneuver Enhancement Brigade.

The deploying unit, to be commanded by Army Col. Blake Storey, includes National Guard members from South Carolina and eight other states, as well as members of the Army Reserve and troops from several other nations.

As part of KFOR, they will serve alongside another multinational battle group and five joint regional detachments to help set conditions for a stable, democratic, multiethnic and peaceful Kosovo.

KFOR entered Kosovo in June 1999 in support of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244. The Balkans at that time were in turmoil, facing the biggest military and humanitarian crisis since World War II.

A mounting conflict between the Serb-dominated military of the Federal Yugoslav Republic and the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army demanding independence from Belgrade had claimed some 10,000 lives and sparked the exodus of almost 1 million Albanian refugees.

At the height of the KFOR mission, 39 nations were contributing about 50,000 troops. Today, the NATO-led mission continues, supported by about 6,240 peacekeepers from 30 nations. The upcoming deployment represents the 16th for KFOR.

As Stilwell and his fellow soldiers are learning, peace support operations are vastly different than the combat missions many of them have conducted in the past.

"We train as warfighters, but in this instance, we really are not in the business of warfighting," Stilwell said. "So we can't necessarily address the issues that arise in the same manner that we would in a kinetic fight. Our enablers aren't necessarily guns and ammo. Our enablers are our ability to form relationships and having meaningful discussions and negotiations to inform and influence the population of Kosovo."

The unit mobilized three months ago to train for the mission -- first at their home station at Fort Jackson, S.C., then at Camp Atterbury, Ind., then at Hohenfels for an intensive final mission rehearsal exercise to wrap up this weekend.

When the first elements of the KFOR-16 rotation begin deploying to Kosovo next week, Army Lt. Col. Eric McFadden is committed to ensuring they arrive ready to take on whatever awaits them.

"The goal here is to replicate the challenges they might face, and in some cases, accelerate those challenges," said McFadden, senior trainer for JMRC's "Raptor" team, during a break from the training.

He and his observer-controller-trainers monitor the situation in Kosovo and travel there regularly to meet with KFOR leaders and get firsthand assessments of conditions on the ground. That, McFadden explained, helps them make the training they provide as realistic and valuable as possible.

For example, when Serb demonstrators attacked NATO peacekeepers who removed roadblocks that had shut off a main road in northern Kosovo last November, JMRC introduced a similar training scenario within days.

The current training scenarios reflect escalating tensions north of the Ebar River and ongoing challenges to the newly independent Kosovo state. "We have incorporated all those aspects into the operating environment here," McFadden said.

The scenarios typically unfold in realistic-looking Balkan mock villages with role players depicting agitated local citizens. A protest or riot may erupt, and a barrier or barricade will appear, preventing freedom of movement by not only the KFOR, but also the local people.

KFOR will be tasked to restore freedom of movement and ultimately, calm.

"They have to figure out the best way to do that," McFadden said. "The goal is to do that from a nonlethal perspective. The primary means is through negotiations."

Much of the training focuses on crowd-control techniques and negotiation and problem-solving skills required to engage with key leaders to deescalate tensions, he explained.

During their after-action reviews, McFadden and his team regularly emphasize the importance of perceptions -- by the Kosovars and the media. "One of the most significant challenges [KFOR troops] face are the potential implications of tactical actions with strategic impact that is virtually real time," he said.

Demeanor means a lot going into an operating environment, he tells them. "If you go in heavy and strong and look like you are looking for a fight, there will be a fight," he said. And a seemingly minor misstep can have unintended second and third-order consequences that could turn public opinion against KFOR.

By using cameras and audio during the training, the Raptor team helps the deploying teams understand exactly how they come across when they respond to the exercise scenarios.

"We have to think a lot harder about what we do and say, because the effects are much more subtle, but no less profound," Stilwell said.

He called the JMRC training "invaluable" in challenging him and his fellow soldiers to focus on the important nuances associated with peace operations.

"The heavy hand is not the best way to deal with every set of circumstances," he said. "So this has been a very, very good resource, here at Hohenfels, to help all of the soldiers, from E-1 to O-6, recognize that this is a very different ballgame."

It's a mission he said they're honored to take on.

"Personally and professionally, we are looking forward to another challenge," in a different part of the world, Stilwell said. "It is another opportunity to hone our skills in something other than what we have become accustomed to over the years."

Giving Thanks to Our Troops

President Obama Speaks to Troops at Fort Bliss

First Lady Announces 125,000 Veterans and Military Spouses Hired Through Joining Forces | The White House

First Lady Announces 125,000 Veterans and Military Spouses Hired Through Joining Forces | The White House


U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update


Obama Pledges Responsible Drawdown in Afghanistan
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 31, 2012 - The United States will remain focused on the mission in Afghanistan while working toward ending the war in a responsible way that protects everything its military members have sacrificed for there, President Barack Obama said today.

Obama traveled to Fort Bliss, Texas, today, to honor service members he credited with making a turnaround in Iraq and also helping Afghanistan chart its own new future.

"You left Iraq with honor, your mission complete, your heads high," the president told the assembly of active, National Guard and reserve troops and their families. "And today Iraq has a chance to forge its own destiny."

Last visiting Fort Bliss two years ago, Obama recalled reminding the troops there that "we had more work to do, including taking the fight to al-Qaida."

Flashing forward to today, the president cited progress. "With allies and partners, we've taken out more top al-Qaida terrorists than at any time since 9/11," he said. "And thanks to the courage of our forces, al-Qaida is on the road to defeat, and bin Laden will never again threaten the United States of America."

Obama recognized Fort Bliss troops who have recently returned from Afghanistan or are currently deployed there, and some scheduled to deploy soon.

"I've got to tell you the truth," he said. "This is still a very tough fight."

The president recognized the sacrifices made, noting that he met earlier today with Gold Star families who lost loved ones in the conflict. "Your loved ones live on in the soul of the nation. We will honor them always," he told the family members.

"Because of their sacrifice, because of your service, we pushed the Taliban back," the president said. "We're training forces. The transition to Afghan lead is under way. And, as promised, more than 30,000 of our troops will have come home by next month."

Obama offered assurance that "just as in Iraq, we are going to end this war responsibility."

The Afghans will take the lead for their own security next year, he noted, and the transition will be complete in 2014.

"And even as this war ends, we will stay vigilant until Afghanistan is never again a source for attacks against America -- never again," Obama said, drawing cheers from the crowd. "So we're not just ending these wars. We're doing it in a way that keeps America safe and makes America stronger."

That, the president said, includes the military. Drawing down forces, he said, will mean fewer deployments, which creates more time to train, improve readiness, prepare for the future and reconnect with families.

"So make no mistake: ending the wars responsibly makes us safer, and it makes our military even stronger," he said.

Obama emphasized, in drawing down the force in Afghanistan, that the United States must remain ready for the challenges ahead. "In a world of serious threats, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the United States of America or our interests," he said.

"At the same time, I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary," he pledged. "And when we do, we will give you the equipment and the clear mission and the smart strategy and the support back home that you need to get the job done. We owe you that."

The president recognized that the future, post-conflict military will be leaner. He promised, however, that the United States will continue making the investments needed "to keep you the absolute best military in the world, bar none."

The United States will always maintain its military superiority, he said.

"In you, we've got the best-trained, best-led, best-equipped military in human history. And as commander in chief, I am going to keep it that way," the president said.

Obama reaffirmed his pledge that the United States will continue to support those who have served and sacrificed on behalf of the nation.

"We may be turning a page on a decade of war, but America's responsibilities to you have only just begun," he said.


Maxx, an improvised explosive device detector dog, licks the face of his handler, Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Stephen Mader, during a convoy in southern Helmand province, Afghanistan, July 26, 2012. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter

Face of Defense: Dog, Handler Protect Marines By Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brian Buckwalter
Regimental Combat Team 6
HELMAND PROVINCE, Afghanistan, Aug. 27, 2012 - Riding in an armored truck over Afghanistan's rutted dirt roads is scarcely a smooth or comfortable experience.
Each bump is felt as springs groan and creak under the weight of the mine resistant, ambush-protected vehicle. The air conditioner circulates dusty air, and unless you're right next to the vents, you're drenched in sweat. Body armor weighs down on shoulders and compounds the pain of sitting in one spot for hours on end.
For Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Stephen Mader and his dog Maxx, this experience is routine. Mader is an improvised explosive device detector dog handler with 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, Regimental Combat Team 6.
Their MRAP hits a large bump, and water in a metal dish near the truck's back entrance splashes onto the floor. Maxx, who was dozing, stands up, puts his front paws on Mader's lap and nuzzles his head against Mader's body armor. Mader wraps his arms around Maxx, gives him a pat on the side and a scratch behind the ears, and reassures him everything is all right. Maxx settles down with his chin across Mader's boots – his spot – and closes his eyes again.
"It's basically like having a 3-year-old in Afghanistan," said Mader, who is responsible for every aspect of Maxx's care. He feeds him, cleans him and even monitors Maxx's behavior for signs of stress or fatigue.
And like a 3-year-old, Maxx, a yellow Labrador, always wants attention.
"Otherwise, he'll start licking me," Mader said.
Mader and Maxx have been together for seven months since they met at the five-week IED detector dog handler school in Southern Pines, S.C. The dogs come to the school trained to obey commands and track explosive scents. Human students go to learn how to handle the dogs.
School instructors interviewed Mader about his demeanor and personality and asked questions such as, "Are you laid-back or a hard-charger?" to get an idea of which dog to assign him. Mader said he's a mix of both.
Mader, who joined the Marine Corps in 2009, said the dogs need a good rapport with their handlers. If there is a personality clash, the dog won't perform. Maxx is a perfect match, he said.
"If I want to be playful and active, he will be," Mader said. "But, if I want to relax, he'll lay down next to me."
Overall, Maxx, who is actually 4 years old, is "pretty chill" and will sleep when he's not working, Mader said. But, Maxx does have his wild streaks, he added. The dog likes to break out of his kennel and to try to swim in the canals in the southern Helmand River Valley, where the battalion's personal security detachment often travels.
"He'll try, and I'll have to stop him," Mader said.
Unlike some military working dogs, IED detector dogs are not trained to be aggressive. Their handlers have the discretion to allow other Marines to approach or pet their dogs. Maxx is popular with the Marines and gets a lot of attention, Mader said, but when it comes time to work, he's ready to go.
"In the truck, he's like a pet, but whenever we're out there, he's like a tool," he added, noting that IED detector dogs are "a great tool to have if you use them correctly."
The duo spends a lot of time on the road. Mader said Maxx can sense where they are.
"It's weird, but he'll know what [forward operating base] we're going to," he said. When they're getting close to FOB Geronimo, a larger, more built-up base, Maxx gets excited and starts pacing. When they approach a smaller, more austere place such as Combat Outpost Rankle, "he'll just lay there," the dog handler added.
When Mader and Maxx aren't on the road or working, they're training. After missions, while other Marines are relaxing, Mader is making sure Maxx's tracking skills stay sharp. Maxx is trained with a rubber bouncy toy called a "bumper," used as a reward for performing a task successfully. When the bumper comes out, it's a morale boost for the dog, Mader said.
Even with the long hours and the extra responsibilities of being a dog handler, Mader said, it's "the best thing to happen to me in the Marine Corps."
After this deployment, Mader said, he would volunteer to be a handler again if there is a need and an opportunity. He is an infantry mortarman by trade.
"I love being with the dogs," he said.
As the Afghan army continues to take over more of the security responsibilities here, officials at Marine Corps Systems Command said they anticipate the number of dogs to be reduced in the near future, correlating with the reduction in Marine forces in the region. If Maxx is no longer needed, Mader said, he wants to adopt him.
"I don't want to give him up," he said. "I've bonded too much to give him up."
Mader looks down at Maxx, still asleep across his boots, unaware of the potential dangers outside their MRAP. The occasional hard bump in the road is the only thing that stirs him from his nap on this ride. However, if needed, the pair will be ready to go on a moment's notice to track down the scent of any explosives on the route to prevent vehicle damage, injuries or worse.
"A local kid asked if he could buy Maxx for $10," Mader said. "I had to tell him he's worth a little bit more than that."


Friday, August 31, 2012
Aryan Brotherhood of Texas Gang Leader Sentenced in Houston for Violent Crimes in Aid of Racketeering

WASHINGTON – A high ranking member of the Aryan Brotherhood of Texas (ABT) was sentenced today for his role in an aggravated assault that took place in Tomball, Texas, in September 2008, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson of the Southern District of Texas.

Steven Walter Cooke, 48, aka "Stainless," pleaded guilty on March 16, 2012, to racketeering aggravated assault for his role in the beating of an ABT prospect member. Cooke was sentenced today to 87 months in federal prison by senior U.S. District Court Judge Ewing Werlein Jr. The sentence will run concurrent with a life sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge Marcia Crone on May 3, 2012, in the Eastern District of Texas in connection with Cooke’s role in a 2008 Liberty County, Texas, homicide.

According to court documents, the defendant was a leader of the ABT, a powerful race-based, state-wide organization that operated inside and outside of state and federal prisons throughout the United States. The ABT was established in the early 1980s within the Texas prison system. The gang modeled itself after and adopted many of the precepts and writings of the Aryan Brotherhood, a California-based prison gang that was formed in the California prison system during the 1960s. According to court documents, previously, the ABT was primarily concerned with the protection of white inmates and white supremacy/separatism. Over time, the ABT has expanded its criminal enterprise to include illegal activities for profit.

According to court documents, the ABT enforced its rules and promoted discipline among its members, prospects and associates through murder, attempted murder, conspiracy to murder, assault, robbery and threats against those who violate the rules or pose a threat to the enterprise. Members, and oftentimes associates, were required to follow the orders of higher-ranking members, often referred to as "direct orders."

According to court documents, Cooke, along with 11 fellow ABT gang members, participated in the beating of a prospective ABT member at Cooke’s home in Tomball on Sept. 22, 2008. The ABT prospect, who sustained serious bodily injury, including an orbital blowout fracture, was beaten by ABT gang members because he violated ABT rules of conduct.

Eleven of the 12 co-defendants previously pleaded guilty to violent crimes in aid of racketeering aggravated assault. The 12th ABT gang member, David Harlow, 43, aka "Bam Bam," was found guilty at trial by Senior Judge Werlein on March 21, 2012. Harlow was sentenced on July 27, 2012, to 120 months in prison.

This case is being investigated by a multi-agency task force consisting of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Drug Enforcement Administration; the FBI; the U.S. Marshals Service; the Texas Rangers; the Texas Department of Public Safety; the Walker County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office; the Montgomery County, Texas, Sheriff’s Department; the Houston Police Department-Gang Division; the Tomball Police Department; the Texas Department of Criminal Justice – Inspector General; and the Harris County, Texas, Sheriff’s Office.

The case is being prosecuted by David Karpel of the Criminal Division’s Organized Crime and Gang Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman of the Southern District of Texas.


Photo:  Mars Rover.  Image Credit:  NASA
Curiosity Rover Plays First Song Transmitted From Another Planet

PASADENA -- For the first time in history, a recorded song has been beamed back to Earth from another planet. Students, special guests and news media gathered at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., today to hear "Reach for the Stars" by musician after it was transmitted from the surface of Mars by the Curiosity rover.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden addressed the crowd in a video message encouraging students to study science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). "Mars has always fascinated us, and the things Curiosity tells us about it will help us learn about whether or not life was possible there," Bolden said. "And what future human explorers can expect. has provided the first song on our playlist of Mars exploration."

In opening remarks, NASA Associate Administrator for Education and space shuttle astronaut Leland Melvin said, "I can think of no greater way to honor NASA pioneer Neil Armstrong's life and legacy than to inspire today's students to follow his path. That first footprint that Neil placed on the lunar surface left an indelible mark in history. Perhaps one of our students here today or watching on NASA Television will be the first to set foot on the surface of Mars and continue humanity's quest to explore."

Musician and entrepreneur shared his thoughts about "Reach for the Stars" becoming the first interplanetary song and an anthem for NASA education. The entertainer is a well-known advocate of science and technology education. He said, "Today is about inspiring young people to lead a life without limits placed on their potential and to pursue collaboration between humanity and technology through STEAM education. I know my purpose is to inspire young people, because they will keep inspiring me back."

After completing a journey of more than 300 million miles from Earth to Mars and back, the opening orchestral strains of "Reach for the Stars" filled the auditorium. The event added to continuing worldwide interest in Curiosity's mission.

NASA engineers spoke to attendees about the Curiosity mission, and the systems engineering and orbital mechanics involved in getting the song file back from Mars. Students had the opportunity to ask questions of all program participants. Earlier in the day, students received a guided tour of JPL to view rover models and learn about STEM career options.

During the event,'s angel Foundation and Discovery Education announced a $10 million classroom education initiative that will reach 25 million students annually, including many from underserved communities. Focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) educational themes, the Discovery Education initiative will incorporate NASA content and space exploration themes as part of the curriculum.



Washington, DC
– The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced the filing of a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, charging defendant Jeffrey Gustaveson of Carlsbad, Calif., with fraud, misappropriation, and issuing false statements in an approximate $2.5 million commodity pool scheme.

According to the CFTC complaint, filed on August 29, 2012, from at least January 2010 through approximately July 2010, Gustaveson accepted at least $2,495,000 million from at least four individuals to invest in a commodity futures pool. However, rather than trade pool participants’ funds as promised, Gustaveson allegedly only used approximately $400,000 of the funds to trade commodity futures, which resulted in a net loss. Gustaveson kept the remaining funds in a checking account from which he used at least $400,000 of pool funds to pay his personal expenses, including hotels, restaurants, and online gambling, according to the complaint.

Furthermore, to conceal his fraud, Gustaveson allegedly distributed false trading account statements to pool participants that misrepresented the value of the pool, reported false profits, and failed to disclose Gustaveson’s misappropriation of pool participants’ funds. When his fraud was exposed, Gustaveson allegedly repaid a portion of pool participants’ funds, but, despite repeated requests to do so, Gustaveson allegedly has not returned $415,000 of pool participants’ money. According to the CFTC complaint, Gustaveson admitted in a California state court proceeding that he had misappropriated investor money and falsified financial statements in connection with the acts described in the CFTC complaint.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks restitution to defrauded customers, a return of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, trading and registration bans, and permanent injunctions against further violations of federal commodities laws, as charged.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Lindsey Evans, Mary Beth Spear, Diane Romaniuk, Ava M. Gould, Scott R. Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard B. Wagner.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Soldiers from the Warrior Transition Battalion, based in Heidelberg, Germany, with staff and team of the 2012 U.S. Women's Sitting Volleyball Paralympic squad at the University of East London, Aug. 30, 2012. DOD photo by U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.

Wounded Warriors Gain Inspiration From U.S. Paralympic Volleyball Team

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
American Forces Press Service

LONDON , Aug. 30, 2012 - Watching the 2012 Paralympic Games today left a group of Europe-based wounded warriors inspired, especially after they were able to meet some of the U.S. athletes.

Soldiers assigned to Warrior Transition Units in Germany, Italy and Belgium, and participating in adaptive reconditioning programs, met the U.S. Women's Sitting Volleyball Paralympic Team at the University of East London during a trip sponsored by the U.S. Paralympic Committee, the Wounded Warrior Project and Red Cross.

Army Master Sgt. Major Luckett, a food supply noncommissioned officer and 25-year veteran, said he was thrilled during the meet and greet with the athletes.

"I was really excited to get a chance to see the team with their experience," he said. "They explained their training and we had a chance to meet some of the players. I met [Kari] Miller, a former soldier. It was real exciting."

Motivation and inspiration were often used by the wounded warriors to describe their feelings during and after meeting the paralympians.

"We get great motivation [from meeting them]," Luckett said. "Going through the type of stuff I've been through, and then seeing these individuals with these disabilities perform; it [lets] me know I [only] have a limit [right now]. But I know I can go out and make myself better going into the things I do to train for," he said. "Things I've never done or I stopped doing since I had my injuries."

Luckett was assigned to the WTU after being plagued by persistent knee and back problems and recently underwent a medical review board with results still pending.

"I had an opportunity to visit several events, and it built my confidence inside [for] what I can do with the injuries that I had," the Petersburg, Va. native said.

"I had chills going through my body," he added. "It was great, and I enjoyed it. It's one of three things that I'll experience in my life. It was a real big motivator for me. Go USA!"

Army Spc. Maurice Walter, an information systems operator-analyst, and native of Huntsville, Ala., also had the chance to meet the U.S. Paralympic volleyball team.

"I actually met quite a few," he said. "I met Heather [Erickson] and Kari [Miller]. We have similar injuries so it's motivating to actually see them out here and to talk to them."

Walter said he reinjured his leg in Iraq during the course of day-to-day activities. He noted it aggravated a previous injury from an assignment in Korea resulting in his assignment to the WTU.

"I got some great insight from them," Walter said. "They were telling us to push through no matter what it is, don't hold back and just get it done. It's really inspiring to see them," he said. "Number one, they're not letting their injuries hold them back from what they want to do."

Walter said one of the volleyball players told him she grew up playing volleyball, and when she injured her leg she didn't want to stop. "So she didn't give up, so it inspires me to do anything that I want to do," he said.

Although he enjoyed the trip, Walter noted the opportunity to meet the Paralympic volleyball team topped his list of activities during the trip.

"The visit to London was amazing," he said. "But meeting the volleyball team was the best thing that came out of this trip. Of course, the sights and stuff are great, but meeting these individuals and seeing them – it's really motivating and inspiring," Walters said.

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: Tactical Robotic Controller

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update

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The Global Positioning System is a constellation of orbiting satellites that provides navigation data to military and civilian users all over the world.  Credit:  U.S.  Air Force Space Command.

AFSPC Milestone: First Block II GPS satellite launched
8/28/2012 - Peterson AFB, Colo. -- As Air Force Space Command approaches its 30th Anniversary on 1 Sep, here is a significant milestone from the command's history...

On 14 February 1989, the first Block II GPS satellite was launched, marking the beginning of the deployment of the operational constellation. The Global Positioning System is a constellation of orbiting satellites that provides navigation data to military and civilian users all over the world. The constellation is designed and operated as a 24-satellite system, consisting of six orbital planes, with a minimum of four satellites per plane.

GPS satellites orbit the earth every 12 hours, emitting continuous navigation signals. With the proper equipment, users can receive these signals to calculate time, location and velocity. The signals are so accurate, time can be figured to within a millionth of a second, velocity within a fraction of a mile per hour and location to within 100 feet. Receivers have been developed for use in aircraft, ships and land vehicles, as well as for hand carrying.

GPS capabilities were put to the test during the United States' involvement in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Allied troops relied heavily on GPS to navigate the featureless Arabian Desert. During operations Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle and Iraqi Freedom, GPS contributions increased significantly. During OIF, the GPS satellite constellation allowed the delivery of 5,500 GPS-guided Joint Direct Attack Munitions with pinpoint precision (to about 10 feet) and with minimal collateral damage. This was almost one-fourth of the total 29,199 bombs and missiles coalition forces released against Iraqi targets. GPS continues to fill a crucial role in air, ground and sea operations guiding countless service members and equipment to ensure they are on time and on target.

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update: NAVAL CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE

U.S. Department of Defense Armed with Science Update


Thursday, August 30, 2012

Former U.S. Consulate Guard Pleads Guilty to Attempting to Communicate National Defense Information to China

WASHINGTON – Bryan Underwood, a former civilian guard at a U.S. Consulate compound under construction in China, pleaded guilty today in the District of Columbia in connection with his efforts to sell for personal financial gain classified photographs, information and access related to the U.S. Consulate to China’s Ministry of State Security (MSS).

At a hearing today before U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle, Underwood pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government with intent or reason to believe that the documents, photographs or information in question were to be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of a foreign nation.

The guilty plea was announced by Lisa Monaco, Assistant Attorney General for National Security; Ronald C. Machen Jr., U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia; James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office; and Eric J. Boswell, Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.

Underwood, 32, a former resident of Indiana, was first charged in an indictment on Aug. 31, 2011, with two counts of making false statements and was arrested on Sept. 1, 2011. On Sept. 21, 2011, he failed to appear at a scheduled status hearing in federal court in the District of Columbia. The FBI later located Underwood in a hotel in Los Angeles and arrested him there on Sept. 24, 2011. On Sept. 28, 2011, Underwood was charged in a superseding indictment with one count of attempting to communicate national defense information to a foreign government, two counts of making false statements and one count of failing to appear in court pursuant to his conditions of release. Sentencing for Underwood has been scheduled for Nov. 19, 2012. He faces a maximum potential sentence of life in prison.

"Bryan Underwood was charged with protecting a new U.S. Consulate compound against foreign espionage, but facing financial hardship, he attempted to betray his country for personal gain," said Assistant Attorney General Monaco. "This prosecution demonstrates that we remain vigilant in protecting America’s secrets and in bringing to justice those who attempt to compromise them."

"Bryan Underwood was determined to make millions by selling secret photos of restricted areas inside a U.S. Consulate in China," said U.S. Attorney Machen. "His greed drove him to exploit his access to America’s secrets to line his own pockets. The lengthy prison sentence facing Underwood should chasten anyone who is tempted to put our nation at risk for personal gain."

"Bryan Underwood sought to benefit from his access to sensitive information, but his attempted betrayal was detected before our nation’s secrets fell into the wrong hands," said FBI Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. "Together with our partners, the FBI will continue to work to expose, investigate and prevent acts of espionage that threaten our national security."

"The close working relationship between the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office resulted in the capture and conviction of Bryan Underwood before he could harm the security of our country," said Assistant Secretary of State Boswell. "The Diplomatic Security Service is firmly committed to thoroughly investigating all potential intelligence threats to our nation."

According to court documents, from November 2009 to August 2011, Underwood worked as a cleared American guard (CAG) at the construction site of a new U.S. Consulate compound in Guangzhou, China. CAGs are American civilian security guards with Top Secret clearances who serve to prevent foreign governments from improperly obtaining sensitive or classified information from the U.S. Consulate. Underwood received briefings on how to handle and protect classified information as well as briefings and instructions on security protocols for the U.S. Consulate, including the prohibition on photography in certain areas of the consulate.

Plan to Sell Information and Access for $3 Million to $5 Million

In February 2011, Underwood was asked by U.S. law enforcement to assist in a project at the consulate and he agreed. In March 2011, Underwood lost a substantial amount of money in the stock market. According to court documents, Underwood then devised a plan to use his assistance to U.S. law enforcement as a "cover" for making contact with the Chinese government. According to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood intended to sell his information about and access to the U.S. Consulate to the Chinese MSS for $3 million to $5 million. If any U.S. personnel caught him, he planned to falsely claim he was assisting U.S. law enforcement.

As part of his plan, Underwood wrote a letter to the Chinese MSS, expressing his "interest in initiating a business arrangement with your offices" and stating, "I know I have information and skills that would be beneficial to your offices [sic] goals. And I know your office can assist me in my financial endeavors." According to court documents, Underwood attempted to deliver this letter to the offices of the Chinese MSS in Guangzhou, but was turned away by a guard who declined to accept the letter. Underwood then left the letter in the open in his apartment hoping that the Chinese MSS would find it, as he believed the MSS routinely conducted searches of apartments occupied by Americans.

In May 2011, Underwood secreted a camera into the U.S. Consulate compound and took photographs of a restricted building and its contents. Many of these photographs depict areas or information classified at the Secret level. Underwood also created a schematic that listed all security upgrades to the U.S. Consulate and drew a diagram of the surveillance camera locations at the consulate. In addition, according to his subsequent statements to U.S. law enforcement, Underwood "mentally" constructed a plan in which the MSS could gain undetected access to a building at the U.S. Consulate to install listening devices or other technical penetrations.

According to court documents, the photographs Underwood took were reviewed by an expert at the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security who had original classification authority for facilities, security and countermeasures at the U.S. Consulate. The expert determined that many of the photographs contained images classified at the Secret level and that disclosure of such material could cause serious damage to the United States.

In early August 2011, Underwood was interviewed several times by FBI and Diplomatic Security agents, during which he admitted making efforts to contact the Chinese MSS, but falsely claimed that he took these actions to assist U.S. law enforcement. On Aug. 19, 2011, Underwood was again interviewed by law enforcement agents and he admitted that he planned to sell photos, information and access to the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to the Chinese MSS for his personal financial gain.

The U.S. government has found no evidence that Underwood succeeded in passing classified information concerning the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou to anyone at the Chinese MSS.

This investigation was conducted jointly by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The prosecution is being handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and Trial Attorney Brandon L. Van Grack from the Counterespionage Section of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.

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Un equipo de astronautas busca nuevas formas de vida subterránea

Un equipo de astronautas busca nuevas formas de vida subterránea



Combined Force Detains Several Suspected Insurgents
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 31, 2012 - An Afghan and coalition force detained several suspected insurgents during an operation to arrest a Haqqani bomb maker in the Pul-e 'Alam district of Afghanistan's Logar province today, military officials reported.

The sought-after Haqqani leader facilitates the construction of improvised explosive devices and directs their use in the Pul-e 'Alam district, officials said.

In other Afghanistan operations today:

-- In the Gelan district of Ghazni province, a combined force detained many suspects during a search for a Taliban leader. The sought-after insurgent leader manages the finances, supplies and the movement of foreign fighters into the area.

-- A combined force detained several suspects during a search for a Taliban leader in the Gelan district of Ghazni province. The sought-after insurgent leader plans and coordinates attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in southern Ghazni province.

-- Afghan and coalition forces confirmed the Aug. 29 arrest of a Taliban leader during an operation in the Andar district of Ghazni province. The detained insurgent leader prepared and conducted attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces. He also facilitated the movement of weapons and supplies, including IEDs, throughout the Andar district.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force killed two armed insurgents during a precision airstrike in the Sayyid Karam district of Paktiya province. No civilians were harmed and there was no damage to civilian structures.


GSA Announces Cloud Email Services for Federal Government

Blanket purchase agreements streamline cloud transition, saves taxpayer dollarsAugust 30, 2012

WASHINGTON — Today, the U.S. General Services Administration announced that it is now offering cloud based email services, making it easier for government agencies to move to cost saving cloud services. Through 20 blanket purchase agreements awarded to 17 businesses today, federal, state, local and tribal governments will have access to cloud based email services. Cloud based email services supports the Obama Administration’s mandates and initiatives to bring cloud services into the federal government and reduce federal data centers, which save taxpayer dollars.

"GSA has added another excellent option for agencies looking to rapidly move their email to the cloud to save time, resources and taxpayer dollars," said Mary Davie, Acting Commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service. "Our innovative cloud solutions are another example of how GSA offers the best value, low cost services that help agencies serve the American people."

GSA is offering these email services through a blanket purchase agreement with the cloud service providers, which allows for simplified ways of fulfilling recurring needs for these services. Transitioning to a cloud solution lowers the cost of email by up to 50 percent annually and saves $1 million for every 7,500 email boxes. Cloud computing provides flexible platforms that enable increased efficiency, agility, and innovation.

Last year, GSA was the first federal agency to move to a cloud based email system, saving $2 million dollars to date. Over the next five years, GSA will see another 50 percent savings with an estimated $15 million reduction in IT costs.

GSA’s award of these cloud email service contracts allows vendors to provide government entities with email, cloud-based office automation, electronic records management, migration services, and integration services.

President Obama has asked government agencies to leverage cloud services to become more efficient. The implementation of 25 Point Federal IT Reform Plan, and "Cloud First" mandates require federal agencies to consider cloud-based solutions the new default IT solution.

GSA has awarded 20 blanket purchase agreements to 17 cloud service providers, 4 of which are small businesses. The businesses that received these contracts are:

Accenture Federal Services LLC, Autonomic Resources LLC, CGI Federal Inc., Ciracom Inc., Computer Sciences Corporation, Dell Federal Systems L.P., DLT Solutions, General Dynamics Information Technology Inc., Harris IT Service Corporation, IBM Global Business Services, Lockheed Martin, Onix Networking Corp, Science Applications International Corporation, Smartronix Inc., Systems Research and Applications Corporation, Technosource LLC, and Unisys.

West Wing Week: 8/31/12 or, "It's Summer Mailbag Time!" | The White House

West Wing Week: 8/31/12 or, "It's Summer Mailbag Time!" | The White House


Kennedy Receives Mariner 2 Model

This 1961 photo shows Dr. William H. Pickering, (center) JPL Director, presenting a Mariner spacecraft model to President John F. Kennedy, (right). NASA Administrator James Webb is standing directly behind the Mariner model.

Mariner 2 launched 50 years ago on Aug. 27, 1962.

The Mariner 2 probe flew by Venus in 1962, sending back data on its atmosphere, mass, and weather patterns. It stopped transmitting in 1963 after delivering a wealth of scientific information.

Image Credit: NASA

Arne Answers your Questions on Pell Grants and the Cost of College


FORT RUCKER, Ala. - Soldiers from the 7th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 159th Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division land at Cairns Army Airfield, Fort Rucker, Ala., as a staging area awaiting the call to assist relief efforts resulting from Hurricane Isaac. The Soldiers and a combination of HH-60 Alpha Plus Black Hawk and CH-47F Chinook helicopters stand ready to support our federal and State partners.
(U.S. Army photo by Kelly Pate)


National Guard, Northcom Support Isaac Effort
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2012 - Governors of four states have activated more than 7,500 National Guard soldiers and airmen to deal with the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaac, Defense Department officials said today.

In Louisiana, where the storm made landfall yesterday as a hurricane, 5,761 Guardsmen have been activated. Alabama has activated 177 Guard members, 17 are activated in Florida, and Mississippi has activated 1,547 citizen-soldiers and airmen.

The Louisiana National Guard has 5,761 soldiers and airmen on duty to support citizens, local and state authorities. The governor yesterday authorized activation of all Louisiana Guardsmen, which would bring total forces in the state to more than 8,000, officials said. The Louisiana Guard has already assisted in the rescue or evacuation of more than 3,400 people.

In Orleans Parish, Guardsmen delivered more than 34,500 bottles of water to an emergency operations center in New Orleans as well as a 350-kilowatt generator to the Padua Skilled Nursing facility, also in New Orleans. In Plaquemines Parish, Guard members rescued 141 people while assisting local authorities in Braithwaite, conducting search and rescue missions with 14 high-water vehicles and five boat teams.

The Louisiana Guard also has 14 Humvees assisting the parish in evacuating a nursing home in the Belle Chasse area. As of this morning, Guardsmen had delivered 6,336 packaged meals and 17,280 bottles of water and had transported 400 cots, along with linen and pillows, to the Belle Chasse YMCA.

Guardsmen also transported 1,200 meals and water to the naval air station-joint reserve base gym in Belle Chasse, along with 150 cases of water and 1,500 meals to the base itself. The Guard also delivered a 350-kilowatt generator to a nursing home in Belle Chase.

Mississippi National Guard missions include presence patrols, traffic control points, search and rescue, commodity distribution, and emergency communications. The Mississippi Guard is assisting local authorities in evacuating residents from flooded areas and is helping others as needs are determined by the governor and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency.

Military aircraft have been flown out of Naval Air Station Pensacola, Tyndall Air Force Base, Duke Field and Eglin Air Force Base, all in Florida, and Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans in Louisiana.

U.S. Northern Command is coordinating Defense Department support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency and to state and local response activities. Northcom has staged four UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters from Fort Campbell, Ky., and two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters from Norfolk Naval Air Station, Va., to Fort Rucker, Ala., to assess and support potential search and rescue efforts.

A search and rescue planner also has been activated and deployed to the Baton Rouge Emergency Operations Center in Louisiana. Four emergency planner liaison officers are deployed to the National Response Coordination Center in the nation's capital in support of FEMA, and Fort Polk, La., has been designated as a federal team staging area.

The command has activated its Region 6 defense coordinating officer and defense coordinating element to Baton Rouge to validate, plan and coordinate potential DOD support of FEMA's hurricane response operations and to aid support for federal and state partners.

Northcom also deployed portions of its Region 1 defense coordinating officer and defense coordinating element assets to Clanton, Ala., and Region 7 defense coordinating officer and defense coordinating element members are in Pearl, Miss., to backfill Region 4 defense coordinating officer and defense coordinating element members deployed to the Florida Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee.

Additionally, Northcom has designated Meridian Air Station, Miss., as an incident support base, and Maxwell Air Force Base, Ala., as a federal support area.

Women, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis

Women, obesity, and rheumatoid arthritis


Army Sgt. Johnny Merical puts together a display of donated school supplies at Mae Stevens Elementary School in Copperas Cove, Texas, Aug. 22, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard Wrigley
Face of Defense: Soldier Leads Drive for School Supplies

By Army Sgt. Richard Wrigley
1st Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division

FORT HOOD, Texas, Aug. 29, 2012 - A 1st Cavalry Division soldier here headed a fundraiser to provide school supplies for the Mae Stevens Elementary school in Copperas Cove, Texas.

"It's about giving back to a community that has given so much to you," said Army Sgt. Johnny Merical, a CH-47 Chinook helicopter repairer for Company B, 615th Aviation Support Battalion, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade.

After more than a month of collecting donations, and with help from other soldiers in his platoon, Merical bought school supplies and presented them to the school Aug. 22.

Merical and his fellow soldiers set up a display of the new school supplies in the school's gymnasium, and members of the community -- along with children, parents and faculty members -- came by to hear him explain why he led the drive.

"I've been here almost six years, and have lived here the whole time," he said. "I'm leaving now, but the community has supported me whenever I needed it, and the school district really looked out for my family when they allowed my children to stay in Mae Stevens, even though the rezoning could have forced them to go to a different school."

While this is the biggest volunteer effort Merical has undertaken, he is no stranger to volunteer work, said Army Capt. Nicholaus Cortez, a platoon leader in Company B, 615th ASB.

"He's done a lot of volunteering for the unit and the surrounding community," Cortez said. "When I think of Sergeant Merical, I think of selfless service."

The captain added that Merical's professionalism and work ethic are unparalleled at his level in the platoon.

The school's students and their families were in dire need of the supplies, Merical said. Joe Burns, the superintendent for the Copperas Cove Independent School District, agreed.

"About 63 percent of this campus' student population consists of kids who receive free or reduced lunches," he explained. "This means that a lot of the families that have kids who attend here simply don't have the resources to provide [the children] with all the things they need for school. This donation Sergeant Merical put together ... will go a long, long way to meeting the needs of those families."

Another school district official talked about how donations will benefit the students as they begin this school year.

"Many of these students are used to getting hand-me-down materials," said Rick Kirkpatrick, the deputy superintendent. "Just imagine how happy these students will be to have a brand-new notebook or binder this year."

Merical said he hopes that his and his fellow soldiers' efforts to help will have a lasting impact.

"My family and I are about to leave, but the good that this has done for the community will last much longer than that," he said.