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Saturday, March 30, 2013


General Discusses Focus on Younger Force, Cyber Capabilities
By Amaani Lyle
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 - NATO officials are closely analyzing what the future cyber warrior will look like as the war landscape shifts from air, ground and sea to cyberspace, Allied Command Transformation's deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and policy said here this week.

In an interview during a March 26 "Young Professionals Forging the Future" event at Johns Hopkins University's Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Army Maj. Gen. Peter C. Bayer Jr. said it's time to lean into the younger generation in preparation for new and more complex challenges.

Enhanced e-training and application of cyber skill sets need to be customized to the millennial generation born into, rather than adapting to the information age, Bayer said.

"The folks that are going to solve the problems of 2030 [are] not me; I'll be doing something else," the general said. "It's some 25-year-old already in the uniform of their nation. They already have experience in Afghanistan or somewhere else. They're going to be the two- or three-star generals or admirals solving problems."

Bayer said his charge is to develop ongoing training and an open problem-solving environment to tap into the minds of young leaders who can bring an innovative perspective as NATO and its transformation command shift from operational to contingency-based missions.

"I want the junior leaders already in uniform [to be immersed] in this future world of complex problem-solving and begin to develop skills they need to work in an ambiguous uncertain, complex, fast-paced [environment]," Bayer said.

As U.S. forces pivot to the Pacific during the simultaneous drawdown in Afghanistan, Bayer said, NATO priorities should adjust accordingly.

"When Afghanistan is over, we go from an operations-centric alliance to a contingency-based alliance, which means being ready for the next thing, but unsure what that thing might be," he explained.

And NATO, he added, has played a large role in the United States being able to focus its attention on new challenges.

"The only reason the U.S. can think about shifting priorities and emphasis to the Pacific is because we have a secure flank, and it's called NATO," Bayer said. "NATO should see this as an opportunity, not a threat, [as] increasingly, centers of power are going to be in that part of the world -- less so on the traditional East-West axis."

The general acknowledged the occasional challenges of consensus.
"It's frustrating to have 28 [nations] trying to work on something, but there's nothing more powerful than when we get to the point where 28 say, 'Yep, that's the answer we can live with,' because now we're speaking as one."

After spending most of the last 20 years in operations since the advent of missions in the Balkans, Bayer said, it's vital for NATO to update its training concept and revitalize its exercises program, the general said. "I could see the day where the security interests of the alliance will be challenged by some adversary who will employ information, influence, cyber and space," he added.

The response from the alliance, Bayer said, would not necessarily require the alliance to use air, sea or land forces in the way it traditionally has.

"We've already forced [younger people] to operate very decentralized, and they're ready for it, so we've got to figure out now how to get the institutions to catch up."


Army Staff Sgt. Maliek Kearney and Army Sgt. Danielle Doucette transfer a sample of simulated nuclear fallout as Ruth Anne Sorter from the Department of Energy looks on during the Prominent Hunt exercise in Indiana that helped test the Defense Department's chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear enterprise, July 28, 2012. Research conducted by the University of Nebraska in partnership with U.S. Strategic Command is expected to identify new ways to address the threat posed by of weapons of mass destruction. U.S. Army photo by Lt. Col. Carol McClelland
Stratcom Research Partnership Tackles WMD Threat
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb., March 29, 2013 - A new partnership between U.S. Strategic Command and the University of Nebraska is pushing the envelope to address what Air Force Gen. C. Robert Kehler, Stratcom's commander, calls one of the most pervasive threats to the United States: weapons of mass destruction.

Kehler, who's been tasked by President Barack Obama under the unified command plan to lead the Defense Department's efforts to combat WMDs, championed the first university-affiliated research center to be sponsored by a combatant command.

Stratcom entered into a five-year contract with the University of Nebraska in late September, establishing the 13th UARC within the Defense Department. All are committed to cutting-edge research in some of the most challenging areas confronting the United States, explained Evan J. Hoapili, Stratcom's deputy director of capabilities and resource integration.

"The purpose of a UARC is to focus a high-level, world-class research university on a specific, enduring, technical hard problem," Hoapili told American Forces Press Service. "The idea is to create a continuity of research and focus and generate out-of-the-box thinking to solve a problem that is vexing the department."

Stratcom selected the University of Nebraska for the coveted UARC contract, based on its existing research programs at its National Strategic Research Institute, Hoapili said. The UARC, he said, will invite the best and brightest minds to delve into nuclear forensics, ways to detect biological, chemical and nuclear threats, passive defense against weapons of mass destruction, and consequence management.

Collaborating with other research institutions, University of Nebraska researchers will explore areas ranging from new ways to identify a WMD aboard a container ship without slowing down the entire delivery network to ways to make the human body more resistant to chemical or biological agents, Hoapili said. They also will investigate faster, more effective decontamination methods in the event of an attack.

The research will extend to laws governing space, cyberspace and telecommunications -- other key areas within Stratcom's area of responsibility.

"These are big, technical problems. If you solve any one of these, it will be a huge difference for the department, and frankly, for the security of the United States," Hoapili said.

The outcome, he said, could lead to breakthroughs in areas that top the agenda, not just at Stratcom and the Defense Department, but across the U.S. interagency, particularly at the departments of Homeland Security and Energy.

A Stratcom-led executive steering committee that oversees the UARC includes representatives from several agencies. This helps synchronize counter-WMD efforts across the government and brings different perspectives, expertise and revenue sources to the challenge, Hoapili said.

"The beauty of the UARC is that it enables you to synergize the efforts across all these different departments ... into an integrated effort that is focused on the right problem set," he said. "Ultimately, what we hope to come up with are the most-efficient, cost-effective ways of detecting, eliminating and mitigating weapons of mass destruction."

But Hoapili emphasized that Stratcom's partnership with the University of Nebraska will extend long beyond the initial contract. The hope, he said, is that the UARC will spawn researchers who commit themselves to the challenge over the long term, either through government service or through research efforts that support DOD.

"These are problems that aren't going to go away, and the department recognizes that it is going to be with us for decades, if not forever" he said. "So we want to build an enduring enterprise, and to grow a cadre of researchers, professors, students and PhD candidates all focused on what is possible in dealing with the gravest threat to the United States."

Kehler told Congress earlier this month he's excited about the new partnership.

"One of my highest priorities, in addition to securing and reducing dangerous materials, is acquiring the capabilities to monitor and track lethal agents and their means of delivery, and defeating or responding to the use of these weapons," he told the House and Senate armed services committees. "The UARC will help address these challenges by providing unique access to academic perspectives and research methods not currently found anywhere in DOD to engage current and future counter-WMD challenges."

University-affiliated laboratories have been conducting research and development for the U.S. military for the past six decades. DOD launched the first UARCs in 1996, to maintain essential engineering and technology capabilities required by the department.

"UARCs have changed the nature of their problem set. They are pushing the envelope, and I expect the same out of this one," Hoapili said. "I can't predict where it will go, but I know it is the right way to go."

Woensdagmorgen: Vrouwen in de ruimtevaart

Woensdagmorgen: Vrouwen in de ruimtevaart



Rear Adm. Bill McQuilkin, second from left, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Korea, and members of the Republic of Korea military leadership salute after placing flowers during the Cheonan memorial ceremony at the national cemetery. Forty-six sailors were killed when the Republic of Korea corvette was sunk by a torpedo attack from North Korea three years ago in the Yellow Sea. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joshua B. Bruns (Released) 130326-N-TB410-185

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Pukin Dogs of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143 lands aboard the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility promoting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Ryan D. McLearnon (Released) 130328-N-GC639-109


Hagel: Partnerships Lay Groundwork for Contingency Responses
By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 - Established military and diplomatic partnerships set the tone when it comes time to defend international allies, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said today.

The recent rapprochement between NATO member Turkey and major non-NATO ally Israel was critically important to the region, Hagel said during a joint Pentagon press conference with Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

"It does affect Syria," he said. "It does affect the neighbors in developing more confidence, I would suspect, among the neighbors in that area that Turkey and Israel will once again begin working together on some of these common interests."

On Wednesday, NATO announced the appointment of Swedish scientist Ake Sellstrom to lead a commission examining whether Syrian President Bashar Assad used chemical weapons in Syria.

"He does possess chemical weapons," Hagel said. "It is dangerous. It is real. And we've got to deal with that eventuality and how we would respond to it."

The take-away is that the United States is working with its international partners, through NATO and other alliances, to address the complex challenge posed by Syria, Dempsey said.

"We ... have collaborative planning efforts underway with each of them, not just uniquely for the possibility of chemicals, but also for other eventualities," he said. Those include the loss of control of heavy air defense weapons, refugee or humanitarian assistance requirements, and the defense of Turkey and Jordan, Dempsey added.

"So we've got any number of contingency plans. And each of them -- each of them at some level rely upon regional partners to help us figure this out," he noted.

Addressing tensions elsewhere in the world, Hagel said the NATO agreement made last summer in Chicago is guiding the drawdown in Afghanistan, exactly as intended. The transition was designed to be an orderly, step-by-step process, he said, and each interim agreement "gets us to eventually where we all want to go, a peaceful transition, a transition that will hopefully put Afghanistan in a position to have a peaceful, prosperous future."

"It's jaggedy, raggedy, not easy, up and down, but we're on track," Hagel said. "Afghanistan's a sovereign nation. And we want them to be a strong sovereign nation with a significant future."

Other countries with interests in regions where the U.S. has strategic interests -- like the Asia-Pacific -- can't be ignored, Hagel said. Regional interests must be factored into long-term relationships, he said.

"The key to relationships with great powers is common interest. You anchor relationships around common interests. You don't start with your differences. And that's what we'll continue to do," Hagel said.

Weekly Address: President Obama Offers Easter and Passover Greetings | The White House

Weekly Address: President Obama Offers Easter and Passover Greetings | The White House


Here’s What They’re Saying about EPA’s Proposed Cleaner Fuels and Cars Standards

WASHINGTON – Based on extensive input from auto manufactures, refiners, and states, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today proposed sensible standards for cars and gasoline that will significantly reduce harmful pollution, prevent thousands of premature deaths and illnesses, while also enabling efficiency improvements in the cars and trucks we drive. These cleaner fuels and cars standards are an important component of the administration’s national program for clean cars and trucks, which also include historic fuel efficiency standards that are saving new vehicle owners at the gas pump today. Once fully in place, the standards will help avoid up to 2,400 premature deaths per year and 23,000 cases of respiratory ailments in children.

Martin O’Malley, Governor of Maryland
"The new motor fuel standards proposed today by the Environmental Protection Agency under President Obama’s leadership will help Maryland reach its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020. Reductions from mobile sources are one of the most important strategies needed to provide clean air to Maryland’s citizens for generations to come. Today’s actions will also provide a significant benefit to the Chesapeake Bay as approximately one-third of its nitrogen issues are caused by air pollution. By proposing these new robust vehicle and fuel quality standards, President Obama and the EPA have made a strong commitment to protecting the public’s health and our environment. Together with our federal partners, we can create a more sustainable future for our children."

Deval Patrick, Governor of Massachusetts

"I applaud President Obama and the EPA for issuing this new rule, which is a significant step forward in reducing air pollution from vehicles. This rule means cleaner cars and cleaner fuels, which in turn means healthier communities across the country," said Governor Deval Patrick. "This common sense regulation is a victory for a cost-effective and sensible way to clean our air."

Dannel P. Malloy, Governor of Connecticut

"EPA’s proposed Tier 3 vehicle standards and cleaner gasoline will give our state immediate air quality benefits, which will only grow over time as new cars enter the marketplace. In Connecticut, we are taking action to show that we can have a strong economy and a healthy environment, and the new standards for motor vehicles and fuels announced today by EPA are consistent with our approach. I applaud EPA’s help taking on the most significant source of air pollution – cars, trucks and other so-called mobile sources – and look forward to prompt finalization of the rule so we all breathe cleaner air."

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island

"Today the Obama Administration took much-needed action to reduce air pollution and protect the health of our citizens. Rhode Islanders, particularly seniors, children, and those with asthma, have suffered for too long from the so-called ‘bad air days’ that can land them in the hospital. This new standard means cleaner gasoline and cleaner vehicles, which will help us prevent a major source of the air pollution that causes those bad air days. This is a big step forward for public health."

Robert M. Pestronk, MPH, Executive Director, National Association of County and City Health Officials
"On behalf of America’s 2,800 local health departments, NACCHO applauds the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed standards for cleaner gasoline and cars. The updated standards prevent illness, preserve health and help reduce health care costs. Standards like these help local health departments keep people healthy and safe by improving air quality."

U.S. Sen. Kristen Gillibrand, N.Y.
"The implementation of Tier 3 emission standards is a big step forward for Americans," said Senator Gillibrand. "More stringent emission standards would significantly decrease air pollution, create new jobs and increase worker’s economic productivity by reducing the number of sick days they take from lung and heart related ailments. We’ve cleared a crucial step in the process, and I will continue to urge the Administration to move quickly to finalize the rule this year"

Paul Billings, Senior Vice President, American Lung Association
"Pollution from cars, light trucks, and SUVs kills and makes people sick. Stronger standards that lower sulfur levels in gasoline and cut toxic tailpipe pollutants will pave the way to a healthier future. Using lower sulfur gasoline in cars currently on the road will reduce as much pollution as taking 33 million cars off the road. Passenger vehicles are major sources of ozone and particle pollution that pose serious threats to public health. This pollution triggers asthma attacks, worsens lung and heart health and can even lead to early death. Children, the elderly and those with chronic lung and heart health problems are most vulnerable to traffic-related pollution."

Georges Benjamin, Executive Director, American Public Health Association
"The return on investment of these important standards measured in both health savings and deaths averted is hugely significant and should not be overlooked. Reducing dangerous tailpipe emissions from cars will deliver between $8 and $23 billion in national health benefits annually by 2030 and prevent tens of thousands of asthma attacks, hospitalizations and early deaths. "

Gloria Bergquist, Spokeswoman, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers
"This is a big step forward for this country to catch up to the clean fuels available in other industrialized nations. Automakers have already reduced vehicle emissions by 99 percent, and we’re working to go further while also delivering high quality, affordable vehicles to our customers."

Dan Wyant, Director, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality
"Michigan’s automobile industry continues producing vehicles that are more fuel efficient and better for the state’s air quality. The EPA’s proposed Tier 3 fuel standard will further the goal of cleaner air."

Shannon Baker-Branstetter, Policy Counsel for Consumers Union
"Vehicles have gotten cleaner over the years, but unfortunately too many Americans still struggle with health issues like asthma and respiratory problems that come from breathing in air heavy with smog and other pollutants. These standards are expected to be highly cost-effective in cleaning up gasoline and tailpipe emissions. These minimal costs will be largely outweighed by the savings that come from the huge health benefits we get from cleaner air."

Bill Becker, Executive Director, National Association of Clean Air Agencies
"The new standard could be ‘the most significant air pollution policy President Obama will adopt in his second term. . . . There is not another air pollution control strategy that we know of that will produce as substantial, cost-effective and expeditious emissions reductions."

Luke Tonachel, Senior Vehicles Analyst, Natural Resources Defense Council
"These common-sense standards will save lives, save money and clean up our air - all at a minimal cost. Big Oil companies want us to believe these benefits aren’t worth it. But that’s because they care about profits above all else."

Frank O’Donnell, President, Clean Air Watch
"I think this proposal is the single most effective step EPA can take right now to reduce smog."

Statement from the Emissions Control Technology Association
As the companies who have developed the cutting edge technology to reduce mobile source emissions by more than 90 percent, the Emissions Control Technology Association (ECTA) commends President Obama’s leadership in proposing a Tier 3 regulation that will improve public health and strengthen our domestic manufacturing base. The benefits of Tier 3 will far outweigh the cost.

Michelle Robinson, Director of Clean Vehicles Program, Union of Concerned Scientists
"The path from a car’s tailpipe to our lungs is surprisingly short, and more than 1 in 3 Americans live in areas where air pollution levels exceed at least one federal limit. Today’s proposal is a common-sense step that will protect our health while growing our economy."

Michael Brune, Sierra Club, Executive Director
"With these expected cleaner tailpipe standards, President Obama is taking a strong step to protect our public health and secure his clean energy legacy. We have the technology to clean up our fuels and our cars and it’s critical that we put them to work to ensure Americans have the safe, breathable air they deserve. Cutting smog and other toxic air pollution will help American children breath cleaner air and will save lives. These new standards will save billions annually in health costs and will free American families from some of the crippling effects of respiratory disease, asthma attacks and other severe health problems."

Michael Stanton, President and CEO, Global Automakers
"We have been anxiously awaiting this rulemaking because it is good for the environment and will help harmonize the federal and California programs for both vehicles and fuels. With 15 million new vehicle sales a year, automakers need predictable national fuel quality at the retail pump. Ultra-low sulfur gasoline is already available in California, Europe, and Japan and will enable automakers to use a broader range of technologies to meet the significant environmental challenges facing the industry."

Mark MacLeod, Environmental Defense Fund
"The new Tier 3 standards will make our cars cleaner, and that means we’ll have cleaner air to breathe. Reducing tailpipe pollution will provide healthier, longer lives for millions of Americans for less than a penny per gallon of gas. That’s why updating the standards has such broad support from U.S. auto makers, state health commissioners, and health advocates."



An F/A 18 Super Hornet performs a high-speed climb during the 2013 Langkawi International Maritime Aerospace and Exhibition (LIMA 13). Aircraft and personnel of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force are supporting the 4-day exhibition and aerial demonstrations March 26-30. Events such as LIMA 13 help contribute to increased understanding and interoperability which supports region stability and security throughout the Indo-Asia-Pacific Region. U.S.Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Alfredo Rosado (Released) 130327-N-ZV190-006

130328-N-CT127-047 NORFOLK (March 28, 2013) The guided-missile destroyer USS Winston Churchill (DDG 81) steams to its homeport of Norfolk after a nine-and-a-half month deployment. Winston S. Churchill was deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Josue L. Escobosa/Released)



Doc, a dog trained to detect improvised explosive devices, retrieves a bumper during a training session on Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, March 19, 2013. Doc is assigned to the 2nd Combat Engineer Battalion. U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Tammy K. Hineline
Combined Force Arrests Senior Taliban Leader
From an International Security Assistance Force Joint Command News Release

KABUL, Afghanistan, March 29, 2013 - An Afghan and coalition security force arrested a senior Taliban leader and detained one other insurgent during an operation in the Nahr-e Saraj district of Afghanistan's Helmand province today, military officials reported.

The arrested Taliban leader is believed to have exercised operational control over multiple insurgent cells throughout Helmand province, officials said. Under his leadership, insurgents committed multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He is also believed to be heavily involved in the acquisition and distribution of weapons to insurgent forces, and reportedly owns multiple poppy farms used in the production of illegal narcotics.

Also today, a combined force detained two insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Dand district of Kandahar province. The sought-after Taliban leader has command-and-control responsibilities over a number of fighters dedicated to attacking Afghan and coalition forces. He also has extensive experience with improvised explosive devices, and plays a role in weapon transportation and distribution throughout Kandahar province.

In Afghanistan operations yesterday:

-- A combined force killed numerous insurgents during a search for a Taliban leader in the Chimtal district of Balkh province. The sought-after Taliban leader is said to be the second-highest Taliban official in the Chimtal district, responsible for directing multiple attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He also is believed to be the district's chief financier for the insurgency, funneling money to fighters for use in illegal arms purchases. During the operation the security force also seized six motorcycles, two rocket-propelled-grenade launchers with 12 rounds, multiple light machine guns and four drums of ammunition.

-- In the Sabari district of Khost province, a combined force killed an insurgent during a search for a Haqqani leader. The sought-after Haqqani leader is responsible for acquiring and distributing weapons to his fellow insurgents and has personally led his subordinates in multiple rocket-propelled-grenade attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

Friday, March 29, 2013


Hagel Commemorates Vietnam Veterans Day
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 29, 2013 - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who'd served in Vietnam as an Army noncommissioned officer, today issued a statement commemorating Vietnam Veterans Day.

The secretary's statement reads as follows:

"Today and this weekend, communities across the country commemorate Vietnam Veterans Day.

"This year we also mark forty years since the end of U.S. combat operations in Vietnam. On March 29, 1973, the last of our combat forces departed the country and the final release of American prisoners of war drew to a close.

"When Vietnam veterans reached their hometowns, many were not greeted with the appreciation and respect they very much deserved. In our time we must take every opportunity to thank all veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice.

"More than 1,600 service members remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Their families still seek answers. Today, the Department of Defense reaffirms its commitment to take all steps to account for our missing personnel and bring closure to their families. And we salute and thank our Vietnam veterans and their families."

President Obama Speaks on Infrastructure and the Economy | The White House

President Obama Speaks on Infrastructure and the Economy | The White House


Hagel Announces Fewer Furlough Days for Civilians
By Nick Simeone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 2013 - The Defense Department has revised from 22 to 14 the number of days hundreds of thousands of civilian employees could be furloughed this year because of the budget sequester, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today.

In addition, a senior Defense Department official speaking on background told reporters the start of the furloughs will be delayed until mid-to-late June, after more than 700,000 department employees receive furlough notices now set to go out in early May. Furloughs would happen over seven two-week pay periods until the end of September, when the current fiscal year ends, the senior official said, with employees likely to be told not to come to work for two days during each of those pay periods.

Department officials say they are still working to determine which employees might be exempted.

Hagel characterized the reduced furloughs as well as a revised estimate of sequestration's impact on the defense budget as good news. The changes follow Congressional approval last week of a defense appropriations bill that prevented an additional six billion dollars in cuts, ordered under sequestration, from taking effect.

"It reduces a shortfall at least in the operations budget," the secretary told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. "We came out better than we went in under the sequester, where it looks like our number is $41 billion [in cuts] now versus the $46 billion."

But despite a Congressional reprieve, Hagel said the Pentagon is still going to be short at least $22 billion for operations and maintenance, "and that means we are going to have to prioritize and make some cuts and do what we've got to do," including making sharp reductions in base operating support and training for nondeployed units.

More critical in the long run, he said, is how budget cuts will affect readiness and the department's overall mission. Because of that concern, he said he has directed Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to conduct an intensive department-wide review of U.S. strategic interests including how to protect the nation with fewer resources. "How do we prioritize the threats and then the capabilities required to deal with threats?" he said. "There will be some significant changes, there's no way around it."

Dempsey said the department has already exhausted 80 percent of its operating funds halfway through the fiscal year and characterized the current budget situation as "not the deepest, but the steepest decline in our budget ever," and warned it will affect military readiness into the future.

"We will have to trade at some level and to some degree our future readiness for current operations," the chairman said. He called on elected leaders to give the Pentagon the budget flexibility it needs to carry out institutional reforms.

"We can't afford excess equipment," Dempsey said. "We can't afford excess facilities. We have to reform how we buy weapons and services. We have to reduce redundancy. And we've got to change, at some level, our compensation structure."


Credit:  DHHS
Agriculture Secretary Vilsack Outlines USDA Efforts to Raise a Healthier Generation of Americans; Highlights Efforts to Increase Access to Affordable and Healthy Food

National Nutrition Month Provides Opportunity to Focus National Conversation on Nutrition
SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota, March 28, 2013 - Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today discussed USDA efforts to improve access to healthy foods, and outlined the need for a renewed commitment to improve childhood nutrition, which includes empowering parents to provide healthy meals for their families. In remarks at a Hy-Vee, Inc. grocery store, Secretary Vilsack noted that increasing access to healthy foods is one of USDA's top priorities.

"We must help families provide our children with healthy foods that are full of the nutrients they need," said Vilsack. "Research shows that healthy foods aren't always more expensive than less healthy options. Expanding access to affordable, healthy options and providing more information for parents will help create a generational shift to reverse the obesity crisis and protect the health of our youngest Americans."

Secretary Vilsack made two announcements today, highlighting programs in USDA's Food and Nutrition Service designed to increase access and empower families to provide healthy foods. In the first, he announced that a pilot program initiated by the USDA to increase fruit and vegetable consumption among students in the nation's poorest elementary schools resulted in 15 percent higher consumption among students in the program. The Fresh Fruits and Vegitables Program is part of USDA's focus on improving consumer access to healthy food, which can help our nation combat obesity and malnutrition – raising a healthier generation of young people.

The program, which is popular among schools, students and parents, began as a pilot in 2002 to examine the effects of providing free, fresh fruits and vegetables to students outside of regular school meals. The report released today demonstrates that when children are provided healthy fruits and vegetables as snacks, they were not only willing to try them, but the majority finished them.

Secretary Vilsack also announced the launch of the
SNAP: Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Grant Program. This program expands the scope of the existing SNAP education program by providing states with additional flexibility to support targeted nutrition education and obesity prevention activities according to the needs of SNAP recipients and low-income families in their state. Under this new program, states could use the funding for a variety of activities including bringing famers markets to low income areas, developing policies for addressing food deserts in low-income areas, or educating SNAP retailers on how to stock healthier food options.

"Expanding access to nutritious food will not only empower American families to serve healthy meals to their children, but it will also help expand the demand of agricultural products," said Vilsack. "These efforts will help open new markets for famers to sell their products, create jobs, and help revitalize distressed communities."

American agriculture provides our nation with the tools we need to increase the availability, affordability and variety of nutritious food. More than 80 percent of our food supply comes from American agriculture, and American families pay less for their food at the grocery store than the people of any developed nation.

Research by USDA's Economic Research Service has found that
healthy foods are often no more expensive than less-nutritious foods. Still, there are millions of American families who lack access to healthy foods due to economic or geographical barriers. Vilsack said that USDA empowers Americans to make healthier food choices by providing science-based information and advice, while expanding access to healthy food availability:

America's students now have healthier and more nutritious school meals due to improved nutrition standards implemented as a result of the historic Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.
USDA is making fresh fruits and vegetables more accessible for low-income families. More than 3,200 farmers markets and farm stands are now authorized to accept payment through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), an increase of nearly 100 percent since 2010.
USDA's MyPlate symbol and the resources at provide quick, easy tips for parents trying to feed their families on a budget. USDA provides tips to help parents Plan, Compare and Prepare meals that are both nutritious and budget friendly.
USDA's Know your Farmer, Know Your Food initiative contributes to healthy food access through the development of strong local and regional food systems. Innovative approaches such as mobile farmers markets, late-season vegetable production in high tunnels, and regional food hubs are making fresh, local food more available to communities in need. The number of farmers markets increased by more than 67 percent in the last four years and there are now more than 220 regional food hubs in operation around the country.
USDA launched a new $5 million Farm to School grant program in 2012 to increase the amount of healthy, local food in schools. In its first year, the grants are supporting 68 projects serving nearly 2 million students.
USDA developed the Food Access Research Atlas to enable researchers, city planners, non-profit organizations and policy makers to identify areas where the availability of grocery stores and transportation create geographical barriers to accessing healthy food.


Joint Statement: United States and United Arab Emirates Hold Third Economic Policy Dialogue in Abu Dhabi

Media Note
Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
March 27, 2013

Following is the text of a joint statement issued by the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) at the conclusion of the U.S.–UAE Economic Policy Dialogue (EPD), on March 27 in Abu Dhabi.

The U.S. delegation was led by Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs Jose W. Fernandez and included representatives from the Department of State, the Department of Commerce, Department of Treasury, and the Department of Homeland Security with input from several other government agencies. The UAE delegation was led by his Excellency Khalid Al-Ghaith, Assistant Foreign Minister for Economic Affairs for the UAE, and consisted of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Finance and Economy, as well as the Federal Customs Authority, Tawazun, Tawteen, Masdar, Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation, TAQA, and Mubadala.

Begin Text:

Representatives from the United States of America and the United Arab Emirates met on March 27, 2013, for the third session of the U.S.–UAE Economic Policy Dialogue in Abu Dhabi. The dialogue is designed to supplement and deepen the official bilateral dialogue between the UAE and the United States.

The meeting reflected the achievements that have been made since the first dialogue last year, such as the hosting of the third Annual Global Entrepreneurial Summit on December 2012 in Dubai and the new visa system provided by the United States for UAE business people visiting the United States.

The discussions focused on topics including exploring ways to ease business facilitation, formalizing mechanisms for linking U.S. businesses with UAE training and internship organizations, addressing regional political risk perceptions related to e-commerce, and looking into opportunities for collaboration in energy, cyber security, and the involvement of the private sector.

The event was also a platform to announce the creation of a U.S.–UAE CEO Roundtable that will advise successive EPD meetings starting later this year and the publication of a new study on the economic impact of the new commercial air routes between the two countries.

The UAE is the largest export market for U.S. goods in the Middle East and Arab World. Total trade between both countries reached 24 billion dollars in 2012. Today’s meeting underscores the strong UAE–U.S. relationship and provided opportunities to discuss ways to further deepen our economic cooperation, which will lead to more economic growth and job creation in both countries.

Following the dialogue, a senior-level working dinner between government officials from the UAE and the United States and the private sectors from each side was held in Emirates Palace Hotel. It provided an opportunity for the private sector to engage senior U.S. and U.A.E. government officials directly about topics, outcomes, and proposals on the agenda for the private, bilateral EPD meetings between the two government delegations.

The next Economic Policy Dialogue will be held in Washington, D.C. in the latter half of 2013 and is expected to include discussions on new strategic initiatives and priority sectors.


A Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System-equipped C-130 drops retardant on a section of the Waldo Canyon fire near Colorado Springs, Colo., June 26, 2012. U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas J. Doscher
EPA Announces Chemicals for Risk Assessment in 2013, Focus on Widely Used Flame Retardants

– Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it will begin assessments on 23 commonly used chemicals, with a specific focus on flame retardant chemicals, in order to more fully understand any potential risks to people’s health and the environment. This effort is part of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Work Plan which identifies commonly used chemicals for risk assessment.

Americans are often exposed to flame retardant chemicals in their daily lives; flame retardants are widely used in products such as household furniture, textiles, and electronic equipment. Some flame retardant chemicals can persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in people and animals, and have been shown to cause neurological developmental effects in animals.

"EPA is committed to more fully understanding the potential risks of flame retardant chemicals, taking action if warranted, and identifying safer substitutes when possible," said James J. Jones, Acting assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention. "Though today’s announcement represents a significant step forward on chemical safety, it’s important to remember that TSCA, this country’s chemicals management legislation, remains in dire need of reform in order to ensure that all Americans are protected from toxic chemicals in their environment."

EPA will begin evaluating 20 flame retardant chemicals, conducting full risk assessments for four of the flame retardants, three of which are on the TSCA Work Plan, and one that was the subject of an Action Plan development under TSCA. In addition, we are assessing eight other flame retardants by grouping flame retardants with similar characteristics together with the chemicals targeted for full assessment. EPA will use the information from these assessments to better understand the other chemicals in the group, which currently lack sufficient data for a full risk assessment.

EPA will also begin analyzing how eight of the 20 flame retardant chemicals transform and move in the environment. These chemicals were selected because they are likely to persist in the environment, bioaccumulate in people and/or have high exposure potential, but there are not adequate data to conduct full risk assessments.

During its review of data on flame retardant chemicals in commerce, EPA also identified approximately 50 flame retardant chemicals that are unlikely to pose a risk to human health, making them possible substitutes for more toxic flame retardant chemicals.

As EPA develops its draft risk assessments, the agency will use information that is available through a wide range of publicly available data sources. EPA also encourages submission of additional relevant information on these chemicals, such as unpublished studies and information on uses and potential exposures. This information should be submitted by May 30, 2013, to ensure that it is included in the agency’s review.

West Wing Week: 03/29/13 or “Where Peace Begins” | The White House

West Wing Week: 03/29/13 or “Where Peace Begins” | The White House


Ten Things You Should Know About the State Department's Bureau Of Counterterrorism
Fact Sheet
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism
Bureau of Counterterrorism
March 13, 2013

1. We build foreign counterterrorism capacity
n the civilian sector and contribute to efforts in the military and defense sectors. We develop and support programs in law enforcement, rule-of-law, and counterterrorism finance, and on topics ranging from cyber-security to crisis response.

2. With our partners, we created a new multilateral counterterrorism body. In 2011, with 30 founding members (29 countries and the EU), the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF) was launched. GCTF is a major initiative within the Obama Administration’s broader effort to build an international architecture for dealing with 21st century terrorist threats. The GCTF has mobilized over $175 million to strengthen counterterrorism-related rule of law institutions, and has developed best practice documents in rule of law, combating kidnapping for ransom, and prison deradicalization and disengagement. The GCTF is also developing two international training centers in the Middle East and North Africa region that will provide training in the Forum’s two areas of strategic priority: countering violent extremism and strengthening rule of law institutions.

3. We counter violent extremism. To defeat terrorists, we must undermine their ability to recruit. We work to delegitimize the violent extremist narrative, develop positive alternatives for populations vulnerable to recruitment, and build partner government and civil society capacity to counter violent extremism themselves.

4. We engage with foreign governments. We hold regular bilateral, regional, and multilateral dialogues on shared counterterrorism issues and consult with foreign governments on urgent and emerging threats. We exchange intelligence, information, and best practices to ensure that we all are in the best position to thwart terrorists. We help draft foreign counterterrorism laws and maintain cooperative research and development agreements with partner nations.

5. We respond to crises. We lead an interagency crisis response team, the Foreign Emergency Support Team (FEST). Established in 1985, the FEST travels at four hours notice to the scene of an overseas emergency to provide round-the-clock advice and assistance to U.S. Ambassadors and foreign governments. The FEST has responded to bombings, kidnappings, and other crises, and supports and participates in training exercises. We have deployed a FEST 30 times since 1989.

6. We strategize. We work closely with the National Security Staff and other agencies to develop, refine, and implement U.S. counterterrorism strategy and operations.

7. We designate. We prepare designations that carry legal sanctions against State Sponsors of Terrorism, foreign terrorist organizations, entities and individuals, and countries not fully cooperating with U.S. counterterrorism efforts.

8. We support research and development. We co-chair with the Department of Defense the interagency Technical Support Working Group (TSWG). TSWG conducts the National Interagency Combating Terrorism Research and Development Program, which enhances the counterterrorism technology and equipment capabilities of U.S. government agencies involved in counterterrorism activities.

9. We support the safe recovery of hostages. The Hostage Policy Subgroup refines and implements official U.S. policy toward Americans taken captive abroad. We work closely with interagency partners to shape and guide implementation of hostage policy to accomplish the safe recovery of hostages, bring hostage-takers to justice, and prevent future incidents.

10. We strengthen homeland security. We partner with the Department of Homeland Security and other U.S. agencies to strengthen international cooperation on a range of homeland security issues, including transportation security, terrorist travel interdiction, and critical infrastructure protection.



130325-N-XY604-017 ROTA, Spain (March 25, 2013) A tugboat maneuvers the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) as it enters port in Rota, Spain. Kearsarge is part of the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group on a scheduled deployment supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the 6th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Karen Blankenship/Released).

130326-N-WA189-002 FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. (March 26, 2013) MZ-3A, the U.S. Navy's only airship currently in operation, moored at Fernandina Beach Municipal Airport. The airship is visiting U.S. 4th Fleet for a capabilities demonstration as a potential search and detect platform for Counter Transnational Organized Crimes operations in South and Central America and the Caribbean Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Adam Henderson/Released).



Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Justice Department’s Civil Injunction Program Shuts Down Fraudulent Tax Return Preparers and Promoters Nationwide
Federal Courts Enjoined More than 30 Tax Return Preparers and Tax Scheme Promoters in Past Six Months

The Justice Department today announced recent results of its civil injunction efforts to combat unscrupulous tax return preparers and tax fraud promoters. According to Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates, 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare and file their tax returns. Paid tax return preparers now prepare more than 80 million individual tax returns annually. For more than a decade, the department’s Tax Division, working with the Internal Revenue Service, has pursued a civil injunction program to stop fraudulent return preparers and promoters from violating federal tax laws and consumer protection laws. With the current tax-filing season underway, the Tax Division in the last six months has obtained permanent injunctions against more than 30 preparers and promoters doing business all over the United States.

Since Oct. 1, 2012, the Tax Division has obtained civil injunctions against both large-scale return preparation franchises and smaller, independent return preparers and promoters across the country. For example, on Oct. 22, 2012, a U.S. District Court in Dayton, Ohio, entered
preliminary injunctions against ITS Financial LLC and its CEO, Fesum Ogbazion. ITS Financial is the parent company that owns the Dayton-based Intstant Tax Service tax-preparation franchise operation. Instant Tax Service claims to be the fourth-largest tax-preparation firm in the nation. The preliminary injunction remains in force pending trial on the government’s request for a permanent injunction, currently scheduled for May 2013. During December, January and February, federal district courts also permanently enjoined current and former Instant Tax Service franchisees in Las Vegas, Kansas City and Los Angeles , and entered a preliminary injunction against an Instant Tax Service franchisee in Indianapolis. Similarly, on March 1, 2013, a U.S. District Court in Tennessee permanently shut down a licensee of Memphis-based Mo’ Money Taxes LLC and MoneyCo USA LLC. Federal courts have also shut down return preparers in Mississippi, Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina, and promoters of alleged tax-fraud schemes in Michigan, New York and Kansas.

As alleged in the Tax Division’s civil injunction complaints, fraudulent return preparers commonly falsify information to take advantage of refundable credits available under federal tax law, often improperly manipulating customers’ income, expenses and dependents to hit the so-called "sweet spot" to maximize the refundable credit claimed. They also take advantage of customers by selling deceptive loan products with exhorbitant fees. As identified in the government’s complaints, some of the fraudulent schemes and practices that have been stopped through injunction orders recently include:

· Preparing phony tax-return forms with fabricated businesses and income;

· Claiming false education and homebuyer credits;

· Claiming false and inflated deductions;

· Claiming false filing status;

· Claiming false dependents;

· Selling deceptive loan products;

· Filing tax returns without customer consent or authorization;

· Preparing bogus W-2 forms, based on information from employee paystubs;

· Falsifying information on returns to claim inflated earned income tax credits; and

· Filing fraudulent tax returns using stolen taxpayer identities to obtain improper tax refunds.

Some preparers try to conceal their fraud by not signing the returns they prepare and by using stolen or fake social security numbers to misidentify the paid preparer.

"It is important that we make clear, especially now when honest taxpayers are filing their returns, that we will pursue those who would abuse our nation’s tax laws," said Assistant Attorney General for the Tax Division Kathryn Keneally. "Fraudulent tax return preparers and tax scheme promoters too often seek to take advantage of their customers as well as to undermine our tax system. I commend the Tax Division’s attorneys and our colleagues at the Internal Revenue Service for their steady diligence and tireless work in uncovering and shutting down these schemes and scams."

Thursday, March 28, 2013


Fifteenth Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement
Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
March 28, 2013


The United States congratulates the people of Northern Ireland as we approach the fifteenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The courage, conviction, and hard work of leaders and communities over the past 15 years in implementing the Agreement and securing subsequent agreements have led to a more peaceful and vibrant Northern Ireland.

The progress that has been made is significant and inspiring, but the promise envisioned by the Agreement is incomplete. The fifteenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement is a call to action to consolidate the gains of the last 15 years. This is an appropriate moment for all parties to rededicate themselves to achieving a shared future and to healing the divisions of the past. A spirit of cooperation and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law are essential to achieving these goals and a necessary condition for unlocking the full economic potential of Northern Ireland.

The United States remains committed to working with all parties to secure a stable, peaceful, and prosperous future for all the people of Northern Ireland.

President Obama Speaks on Protecting Our Children from Gun Violence | The White House

President Obama Speaks on Protecting Our Children from Gun Violence | The White House


ISAF Deputy Details Final Afghan Security Transition
By Cheryl Pellerin
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 27, 2013 - With the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan shifting from combat to support later this spring, the ISAF deputy commander briefed reporters at NATO headquarters in Brussels today on progress and the hard work that remains.

The Afghan national security forces' assumption of the operational lead across Afghanistan will coincide with the fifth and last "tranche," or geographic area, of transition in the country. If NATO and the Afghans approve, the transition will be implemented starting this summer.

The last tranche includes areas along the eastern front and down into Kandahar and parts of Helmand province -- areas that are the Pashtun heart of the insurgency and are expected to be most violent, said Lt. Gen. Nick Carter of the British army, ISAF's deputy commander and the United Kingdom's national contingent commander in Afghanistan.

From the moment the springtime announcement is made, he added, the Afghan army and police "effectively will have the security lead at the national level."

With that, the general said, ISAF "will place our effort very much on the basis of train, advise, assist and support. The support piece is important because, as we stand at the moment, there are certain capabilities the Afghans still require us to supply for them." These include air power, aviation, medical evacuation, some logistics support, countering improvised explosive devices, intelligence support and some help with command and control, he added.

"Those are important supporting capabilities, without which I think the Afghans would find life quite difficult at the moment," Carter observed.

This summer, in its work with Afghan forces, ISAF will build on the concept of layered security that Carter said brings together many Afghan security force capabilities on the ground at the provincial and regional levels, producing an outcome that "is rather greater than the sum of the parts."

"It's our goal come this autumn that we should be able to look back with the Afghan security forces having managed the period of high operational tempo that generally comes in the summer," he added, "and look back with some confidence on what they've achieved."

This will set the stage for successful handling by the Afghan forces of Afghanistan's presidential elections, now set for April 2014, he said.

In terms of capabilities, Carter called the Afghan forces' success at the tactical level "impressive" and said the trick is to sustain that success "at the levels above and connecting that tactical success at provincial level up to and out to [the Afghan capital of] Kabul and to the ministerial level."

Most attention over the next 18 months must be paid to connecting the provincial and local levels back to Kabul, he added. "The notion of ministry development, both in the [Ministry of Defense] and the Ministry of Interior, is important," Carter said. "We're applying some attention to that, ... because it's only through having the proper processes in place that some of the capabilities the Afghans will need in terms of logistics, command and control, and the ability to share intelligence will be transmitted down to the lower level."

Progress at the brigade level also is encouraging, the general said. Media reports last summer said only one of 26 Afghan army brigades was capable of operating independently, hesaid, adding that the number has increased to five out of 26, and 16 of 26 are effective with advisors. "At that rate of progression, I think we can be confident that come 2014, the majority of our Afghan brigades will be able to operate independently," Carter said.

In the Afghan forces' fight against the insurgency, the general described those adversaries as confused at a strategic level.

"I believe that it is much harder for [the insurgents] to persuade Afghans to fight Afghans, and much easier to claim jihad if they're focusing on coalition troops than Afghans," Carter noted.

The general said other "confusing" behavior includes Pakistan's release from prison over the past three months of Taliban officials and fighters, and the opening of an office in Doha, Qatar, for negotiations between the Afghan High Peace Council and authorized representatives of the Taliban. Such behavior, he said, is "causing the insurgency to have to think quite hard about its political approach."

Afghanistan itself has "leapt forward in technological terms," Carter said, since his first tour there in 2002.

"Some 40 percent of Afghans have the use of mobile phones now, and there are some 6 million Internet subscribers," he said. "[And] a fourth-generation fiber-optic cable is now being laid around Afghanistan that will provide extreme bandwidth and connectivity to all Afghans."

A transport network based on the Highway 1 ring road is 90 percent complete, he said, and 45 percent of Afghans now live in secure urban areas. Nine million Afghan children attend school, and 40 percent of them are female. The nation also has 200,000 teachers and 40,000 educational centers.

"Compare that to the 1990s, when there were only 650 schools in the country," Carter said. "And when you look at access to health care and the fact that maternal mortality is down some 80 percent during the course of the last 10 years, I think you have a very different country. And it's a country that the insurgency is having to think very carefully about how it re-engages with in political terms."

At the same time, the general said, there should be no doubt that the insurgents are capable of executing deadly attacks.

"Two complex attacks that have taken place in the last 24 to 36 hours are indicators of that: one in Helmand and one in Jalalabad," he said. "[The insurgents] also have the capability to attack Kabul and to mount spectacular attacks against government institutions and people in Kabul."

The insurgents also have the capacity through coercion to apply the insider threat, "which we've come to know well during the course of the last 18 months or so," Carter said.

"The plain fact is that it will be a political solution that will ultimately remove that capability," he told reporters.

Though his view is optimistic, the general said, "I'm in no doubt that we've got two very important years ahead of us. 2013 will create the conditions for, we hope, a successful political transition in 2014, and that will be the basis on which so much of our effort over the last 10 to 11 years will be judged."

If he had a concern, Carter said, it would involve the notion of Afghan confidence.

"Unless we're careful, Afghans will think and do think that the end of 2014 will be like 1991," Carter said, referring to the idea that the United States was perceived at that time to have walked away from Afghanistan.

"It's very important that we continue to bolster Afghan confidence and to make them feel genuinely that 2014 is simply a waypoint into the decade of transformation," the general added.


Photo:  Atlas V Launch.  Credit:  NASA/Wikimedia 

SBIRS GEO-2 launches, improves space-based capabilities

3/27/2013 - BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- In support of the Buckley missile warning and awareness mission, the second Space-Based Infrared System geosynchronous earth orbit launched into space March 19 from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The satellite, called GEO-2, provides more advanced space-based capabilities than Defense Support Program satellites, which are being replaced by the GEO satellites after more than four decades in operation.

"While DSP has been the workhorse for missile warning and missile defense for the last 40-plus years, SBIRS GEO takes us into the next generation with a revolutionary increase in detection capability," said Col. DeAnna Burt, 460th Operations Group commander. "The successful launch of GEO-2 continues to bring greater detection capability to the Overhead Persistent Infrared enterprise. GEO-2 will allow the 460th to provide near real time, high fidelity OPIR data to warfighters around the world."

The capabilities of the GEO-2 involve a new era of overhead infrared surveillance that will deliver unprecedented global, persistent and actionable infrared surveillance. Such resources enable the U.S. and its allies to continuously maintain global situational awareness.

SBIRS persistent surveillance capabilities enable detection and reporting of missile launches around the globe, support the nation's ballistic missile defense system, expand technical intelligence, and gather and bolster situational awareness for warfighters on the battlefield.

The GEO-2 was carried by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The launch team consisted of military, government civilians and contractors from the 45th Space Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Fla.

"The successful launch of GEO-2 is a testament to the partnership between industry, the SBIRS Space Program Office and the 460th Space Wing," Burt said.

The U.S. Air Force Infrared Space Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center in Los Angeles Air Force Base, Calif., leads the SBIRS development and acquisition. Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company, Sunnyvale, Calif., is the SBIRS prime contractor; Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems, Azusa, Calif., is the payload integrator; and the 14th Air Force operates the SBIRS system.



On the morning of December 6, 1917, in the port of Halifax, Nova Scotia, near the U.S. border in Maine, a French ship, the Mont Blanc, filled with military explosives collided with another vessel. Twenty minutes later, a fire set off the Mont Blanc’s volatile cargo and caused a catastrophic explosion—killing thousands and destroying an entire section of the nearby city. Rescue efforts were dispatched immediately from the Canadian mainland as well as the United States, but confusion and lack of immediate information delayed some of the rescue efforts for hours.

A recent joint experiment held in Maine and New Brunswick (NB), including officials from the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the Province of New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science of the Canadian Department of National Defence, and Public Safety Canada, proved that even across borders, any immediate confusion or lack of information following an incident like the Mont Blanc may not greatly affect overall rescue efforts.

First responders and international officials on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border had been preparing since last fall for the Canada-U.S. Enhance Resiliency Experiment (CAUSE)demonstrating the ability to exchange information between local, state, provincial and national systems and software applications, including Virtual Maine, the Mutual Aid Support System and Mission Ready Package Tools (MASS MRP), Canada’s Multi Agency Situational Awareness System (MASAS) and the United States’ Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS), as well as the U.S.’s Virtual USA® (vUSA)
*. The vUSA library and "widget" developed by DHS S&T, and made available to all cooperating agencies and jurisdictions, allowed each agency or jurisdiction to make their unique data available to other participants. When incident specific information, alerts or warnings are needed across jurisdictional lines, or indeed across international borders, vUSA enables that information to be found and used in near real time.

During the CAUSE, two scenarios were used: a massive oil refinery fire in Saint John, NB, and the explosion of a compressed natural gas truck near the Calais, Maine, border crossing. In each case, first responders required an information exchange for response efforts from all neighboring jurisdictions on both sides of the border (bi-national first response) in near real time, including incident reports, evacuation routes, road closures, hospital status/locations, weather issues, availability of hazmat teams, incident response assets, fire and rescue units, triage locations, availability and location of needed resources and virtually anything else first responders might need. At the Command Posts, first responders in Saint John and Calais created incident reports, generated requests for mutual aid and issued alerts. Through the integration of Virtual Maine, Virtual USA, MASS MRP, MASAS and IPAWS first responders were able to see, communicate and use the critical information being provided to them through the five systems.

"In every exercise of CAUSE," noted S&T’s lead Dr. David Boyd, "It worked more effectively and rapidly than we had hoped. This is a tremendous milestone in tearing down the technological ‘tower of Babel’ along national borders."

"When we get calls from first responders in Calais and Washington County," noted MEMA’s Deputy Director Bruce Fitzgerald, "our role is to provide support and help so that we can save lives and property. In this experiment, we requested international mutual aid, including ambulances and hospital resources from New Brunswick, and requested an available helicopter medivac unit from the New Hampshire National Guard to support the operation. Responders at the incident scene in Calais, at the State Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Augusta and our partners in New Brunswick were all able to visualize these resource deployments using their respective situational awareness tools, Virtual Maine and MASAS. Sharing incident data in a common operation picture has been a long standing goal in both Maine and New Brunswick. We are very pleased to have achieved that through the CAUSE experiment."

CAUSE is a direct result of the Joint U.S.-Canada Beyond the Border Initiative signed by President Obama and Canada’s Prime Minister Harper in February 2011 to further enhance the economic and national security of both nations. The CAUSE demonstration represents an important milestone for the Beyond the Border Action Plan for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness.

Thigh fat and walking | Daily HealthBeat

Thigh fat and walking | Daily HealthBeat



Dolphins jump out of the water near the Military Sealift Command dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE-3) during an underway replenishment with the guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG 106), not pictured. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class David Hooper (Released) 130324-N-HN991-338

130325-N-OY799-427 U.S. 5TH FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBILITY (March 25, 2013) Explosive ordnance disposal technicians participate in spy rope training from an MH-60S Sea Hawk from the Eightballers of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8 above the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). John C. Stennis is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations, theater security cooperation efforts. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate/Released)



Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment, Research Pay Off
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., March 26, 2013 - Service members who have suffered severe traumatic brain injuries and psychological ills can benefit from an intensive four-week program at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence here.

Dr. James Kelly, the center's director, said that when service members with severe TBI fail to respond to conventional medical treatment, they often are referred to NICoE's program, which finds the best methods to treat their conditions on an individual basis. The patients must also have a co-existing psychological health issue, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or anxiety, Kelly said.

"If you add together all of those things in a person, that's a very complex human condition," he said. "It is our job to characterize that complex condition ... and its effects on the brain, and look at what works to help them."

The only center of its kind, the Defense Department's NICoE offers a wealth of medical and alternative approaches for such service members, with medical professionals such as neurologists, therapists and counselors working in an interdisciplinary team approach, Kelly explained.

Because the team members are located in the same facility, he added, an occupational therapist and a speech therapist, for example, could see a patient together, discuss different approaches, and learn from each other. And because the teams comprise a variety of specialists, "every day we can ask, 'Did we hit the mark?' and if not, we say "Let's try something different tomorrow,'" Kelly said.

"Whatever patients need, they get," the director said, adding that NICoE does not operate in an assembly-line format, but rather as a "compact, intensive care" outpatient program that treats different patients with individualized forms of care that fit their particular needs.

"There's a whole menu of things we have available to them," Kelly said. "Not everybody gets the same 'dose' of sleep therapy, counseling or acupuncture, [because] everybody's individual needs are addressed."

Another key ingredient in treating service members with TBI is having their family members immersed in the treatment plan whenever possible, the doctor said. "We do our best to encourage [families to come to NICoE] because they are affected as well," he noted.

When service members finish the NICoE program, they are equipped with a thorough discharge summary of their diagnostic evaluations, treatment plans, counseling and rehabilitation work to take home to their doctors, Kelly said.

"We think highly of the existing system and the health care providers," he added. "Even though we have a unique opportunity that doesn't exist anywhere else, it's an unfair comparison to [put NICoE up against] anything else. I fully recognize our colleagues are doing good work."

Stood up two and a half years ago, NICoE is considered the DOD hub of TBI research, Kelly said. The center also is designed to influence TBI and PTSD treatment in the military health system with its cutting-edge approach.

Located on the campus of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, NICoE partners in TBI research with other organizations, including the nearby Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the National Institutes of Health, among others in academia, Kelly said.

The concept for NICoE began when DOD invited Kelly, a former neurology consultant for the Chicago Bears football team, to join a group of doctors to examine how to treat service members who were exposed to blast injuries and other head trauma, Kelly said.

NICoE was privately funded by the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, which also oversaw the construction and equipment of the $65 million 72,000-square-foot center. NICoE's research, education and patient care have proven so successful, Kelly said, satellite clinics around the country now are in the works.

"We're being seen as a model to export, rather than just consult, on cases, so the project has led to satellite clinics because of the success of [our] concept," Kelly said.

Like NICoE, the clinics will be built with $100 million in philanthropic donations through the work of the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. The clinics will be built at Fort Bragg, N.C.; Forts Bliss and Fort Hood in Texas; Fort Carson, Colo.; Fort Campbell, Ky.; Fort Belvoir, Va.; and Camp Lejeune, N.C.

NICoE officials estimate each of those clinics will see about 1,200 patients with TBI and PTSD per year. The most severe combat-related cases will still be cared for at the NICoE here.

The clinics also will benefit from NICoE's advanced research practices. Service members fill out questionnaires before and after their stay, Kelly said. "We compare the differences" he added,, "and they are striking."

The staff also observes service members' actions and records vital signs to show changes, he said. Relief from headaches, sleep disturbances, balance issues and vision concerns improves the quality of their lives are noted, Kelly said. Patient data is compiled and used in NICoE's research work to determine which treatments seem to help service members the most.

Another measure of success in the program is when former patients visit NICoE to advise the staff of how much their lives have changed for the better since their treatment, the director said.

Kelly said he sees the future of TBI research as "very specific" to characterize TBI on anatomical, physiological and emotional levels. Researchers also will look at the best forms of intervention that help to relieve symptoms and treat basic issues.

"We need to know what a person's concussion looks like, compared to another's," he said. "Why do some people recover more quickly than others, and what can we do to help them?"

So far, the NICoE staff knows that certain approaches produce success, such as the patients' complete immersion into the intensive care program and the interdisciplinary team approach, Kelly said. And when service members realize they have a TBI diagnosis and accompanying psychological issues that are real and treatable, they feel relieved and appreciate knowing there's something to work on, Kelly said. "They're validated by that," he added.

The center's director emphasized again that his staff's ability to help patients doesn't mean they weren't getting good care before they were referred for the NICoE program.

"Our successes with patients who have been through [another] system should not be seen as a reflection of inadequate care," he said. "Our job is to try something new, and that's what we've done."