Space Force will be in the (Department of the) Air Force.
President Trump has made the outlines of Space Force clearer. Space Policy Directive 4 sets out a plan for the new Service that will place it under the Department of the Air Force. Thus the organizational model will be close to that of the Marine Corps, a distinct service administratively within a larger Service Department. As the Marines fall under the Department of the Navy, so will Space Force fall under the Department of the Air Force (Politico). This is roughly what the Air Force and the larger Department of Defense had recommended (Washington Post). US Strategic Command in particular sees itself as likely to play a big role in the new Service's mission (Military.com).
JEDI contract scrutinized over potential conflicts of interest.
The Defense Department's very large and much litigated $10-billion JEDI cloud contract has run into more difficulties. The US Court of Federal Claims has placed a stay on a lawsuit involving Oracle, Amazon, and the Department of Defense because potential signs of a conflict of interest were discovered. The Defense Department requested the stay, and neither Oracle (the plaintiff) nor Amazon opposed it (Nextgov). The potential conflict of interest the Department is now investigating involved a former employee of the Defense Digital Service who had founded a startup Amazon Web Services was interested in acquiring. The JEDI Contracting Officer had thought the employee in question had recused himself from JEDI. The court documents are heavily redacted, but it appears from what's available that this might not have been the case (Federal News Network).
Planning rapid technology acquisition.
The cloud will have tactical as well as administrative uses. The US Army is interested in pushing cloud access out to organizational and unit levels, and has a research program designed to enable doing just that (Defense One).
US military services, especially the US Army, are planning to move away from familiar, purpose-built and hardware-defined tactical radios to software-defined radios. They see several advantages in such systems. They're more affordable. They're relatively easy to upgrade, and that addresses the familiar problem of rapid obsolescence that has long troubled military communications and information technology. They offer multi-channel capabilities legacy systems could not. And their advanced waveforms make possible ad hoc networking that renders tactical communications more reliable, more flexible, and more robust (National Defense).
Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) has issued a solicitation for Special Operations Deployable Tactical Satellite Communications (SATCOM) systems. The work covers about 2500 deployable systems with supporting infrastructure at some 90 sites. SPAWAR, by the way, is also getting a name change that suggests the way the services see the future: its centers will henceforth be known as Naval Information Warfare Centers (C4ISRNet).
The US Department of Defense plans to undertake joint, integrated demonstration of satellites and ground systems. They Services have for some time been troubled by perceived inefficiencies in the way ground station development lagged that of satellites. Highly capable satellites too often found themselves supported by sometimes less capable and imperfectly integrated ground stations (Breaking Defense).
Funding rapid technology transition.
Appropriations can induce the sort of rigidity into programs that sometimes militates against rapid innovation. The US Army says it's worked out a Shark-Tank-like approach to changing needs, however, that has enabled it to shift some $31 billion to better align with the Service's priorities (Defense News). This is less radical than it sounds at first, as it's all conducted within the budget process, but it does bring high-level attention to problems of needs shifting faster than requirements, and of technologies advancing more swiftly than programs of record. (And it offers a pleasant parlor game: which Army leader, for example, would be the counterpart of Shark Tank's Mr. Wonderful?)
Developments in the launch services and human space flight sectors.
United Launch Alliance and SpaceX may be sector leaders (Bloomberg), but they don't constitute a duopoly. Many start-ups are offering such services, among them Blue Origin, Rocket Lab, Relativity Space, Slingshot Aeropsace, and Virgin Orbit. The start-ups are increasingly turning their attention to supporting technologies. Network, communications, and ground-station systems and infrastructure are proving at least as important as the rockets themselves (TechCrunch).
One launch start-up, Stratolaunch, is thought by some observers to be pulling in its horns in the wake of its founder's death. The passing of Paul Allen may have induced the company to scale back its ambitions (Motley Fool via Yahoo! Finance). And Mars One, the visionary company whose goal was nothing less than colonization of the Red Planet, has gone under, declaring bankruptcy in February (Computing). But Virgin Galactic still seems to be on track. The company gave its first test passenger a suborbital ride this past month (Space.com).
Espionage indictment of former USAF intelligence specialist.
On February 13th, the US Department of Justice unsealed an indictment against Monica E. Witt, now also known as Fatemah Zahra, a former US Air Force technical sergeant who served as a counterintelligence specialist and Farsi linguist between 1997 and 2008. After leaving the Air Force in 2008 she continued to work as a Government contractor, first briefly at Booz Allen Hamilton, and then for around two years for Chenega Federal Systems. She's charged with having spied for Iran, having defected to that country after several visits.
The indictment indicates that there were six “manners, ways, and means” of the conspiracy by which Ms Witt is alleged to have committed espionage. She used her position as a Special Agent with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations to gain access to classified information. She traveled to Iran, where she identified herself as a US military veteran. She met with members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and expressed a desire to defect to Iran. She provided “bona fides” to the Revolutionary Guard to demonstrate her ability and willingness to pass them information that would interest them. She created target packages to enable the Iranian government to target US counterintelligence agents. Finally, the indictment says, she provided US national defense information to the Iranian government.
Four Iranian nationals were also indicted. They’re referred to collectively as the “cyber conspirators,” because they acted against at least eight US operators—counterintelligence agents—using various social engineering techniques to compromise them and gain access to their organizational networks. The social engineering techniques includes spearphishing, fraudulent use of stolen identities, and at least one catphish (fictitious persona), “Bella Wood,” by name, complete with inauthentic Facebook account. These attempts seem to have been at least partially successful. All eight of the US agents whom the cyber conspirators approached had at one time, the Justice Department said in a public statement, “at one time worked or interacted with Monica Witt.” The threat group is known as "Charming Kitten," and it has a clear if plausibly deniable connection with the Islamic Republic and its Revolutionary Guard (Foreign Policy).
The indictmentalleges that after her defection Ms Witt created dossiers ("target packages") for Iranian intelligence services on her former colleagues in counter-intelligence, thereby contributing to the social engineering of US security and intelligence personnel. A target package, according to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, is “a document, or set of documents, assembled to enable an intelligence or military unit to find, fix, track and neutralize a threat.” A "human target package" of the kind Ms Witt is alleged to have prepared on her former colleagues, includes not only the targeted person’s official position, but “an analysis of personal vulnerabilities or other opportunities to exploit the individual, and confirmation of the identity and location of the individual.” It also recommends a “neutralization plan,” where neutralization might include “apprehension, recruitment, cyber exploitation, or capture/kill operations.” In this case the Cyber Conspirators are thought to have carried out such neutralization plans.
If one runs through the traditional acronym "MICE" (for Money, Ideology, Compromise, or Ego) that counterintelligence and security specialists use as convenient shorthand for the reasons insiders turn to espionage, Ms Witt's motivation appears to have been ideological, as she seems to have undergone radicalization driven by a growing revulsion for the "Hollywoodism" of American culture. Before she defected to Iran in 2013, the Washington Post reports, the FBI warned her she was probably the target of recruitment by Iranian intelligence, and she promised to be careful if she returned to Iran, and also promised not to give Iran classified material. The indictment charges, of course, that she went on to do exactly that. Ms Witt is not in US custody, and is believed to be in Iran.
US defense and aerospace sectors remain foreign intelligence targets.
The Witt case is splashy, especially in view of its tie to a single individual and the serious nature of the material allegedly betrayed, but foreign intelligence services, particularly those of China and Iran, are showing heightened activity. US suspicion that Iran continues to pursue a nuclear capability and the bite of harder sanctions is thought to have served as a spur to Tehran's intelligence services. Beijing for its part shows signs of renewed industrial espionage, with a particular interest in defense, aerospace, and tech. Boeing, General Electric Aviation, and T-Mobile are among the recent targets of Chinese intelligence services (New York Times).
Technological competition in space remains keen.
As the 2019 US National Intelligence Strategy observed, competition with international rivals in space and other military domains can be expected to sharpen. A Defense Intelligence Agency report, Challenges to Security in Space, issued on February 11th, highlighted the same four adversaries so often mentioned in the National Intelligence Strategy: Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. China and Russia have both, the report says, developed "robust and capable space services," especially with respect to intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance. Their ability to find, track, and classify satellites is particularly noteworthy, given its application to counterspace operations. In this field both Moscow and Beijing are developing kinetic and cyber weapons for use against space assets. They're also active on the ground. Foreign Policy notes US concern about a deep space ground station China used to control its robotic mission to the far side of the moon. That station is in a remote corner of Argentina, and US planners think it could have less benign applications than lunar exploration.
North Korea and Iran are less capable, but they haven't neglected this military competition either. One example of a new capability was on display at the end of February, when Iranian media announced that the country's navy had successfully launched a surface attack cruise missile from a submerged Ghadir-class submarine during the Velayat-97 exercise (Military Times).
Bringing in orbital debris.
Clearing trash out of low-earth orbit has been attracting some attention from policy makers and researchers for some time. Some universities are working on the problem. The University of Surrey had earlier tested the use of nets and LIDAR in its RemoveDEBRIS project. Its researchers have now deployed a harpoon capable of bringing in (and ultimately down, but that's the next phase) a large defunct satellite. Stanford University researchers are working on other aspects of the problem: classifying the various items circulating in orbit.
Surrey has another research effort under way: developing methods of defending satellites against cyberattack. It's working with NCC Group to create the Surrey Space Centre and Surrey Centre for Cyber Security (Infosecurity Magazine).
Readers of the above-mentioned DIA report on Challenges to Security in Space will recognize that such technologies may have more applications than garbage collection and network reliability.
Today's edition of the CyberWire reports events affecting Argentina, China, the European Union, Iran, Israel, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
DIA releases report on challenges to US security in space(Intelligence Community News) On February 11, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) released “Challenges to Security in Space,” a report that examines the space and counterspace programs that could challenge U.S. or partner int…
Contractors confused by DoD's new cloud strategy(Federal News Network) Earlier this month the Defense Department under Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy put out an 18-page cloud strategy that seemed to be little more than reaffirming what the department is already doing.
SPAWAR issues SATCOM RFP(Intelligence Community News) On February 12, the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command released the request for proposals for SOCS SATCOM Support (Solicitation Number: N65236-17-R-0005). Solicitation N65236-17-R-0005 is here…
DoD tries to clear its cloud fog(Federal News Network) Tom Temin outlines why recent cloud strategies released by the Defense Department read more like a way of backing into what the department has already been doing in cloud computing.
Military, Industry Gung-Ho on Software Defined Radios(National Defense) Industry is moving to supply the U.S. military with new communications technologies that are more cost-effective and offer enhanced capabilities. Software defined, multi-channel radios are seen as the wave of the future as the armed services try to stay ahead of emerging threats.
Raytheon wins $406 million contract(Fort Wayne Business Weekly) The Army has awarded the Fort Wayne operations of Raytheon Co. a $406 million indefinite delivery/indefinite quantity contract for ARC-231A radio systems.
Mercury Systems Receives $3.5M Order for Rugged Servers(GlobeNewswire News Room) Mercury Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: MRCY, www.mrcy.com) announced it received a $3.5 million order from a leading defense prime contractor for rugged servers to be used in a naval subsurface application.
Head of Google federal cloud leaves(Federal News Network) Aileen Black, Google’s executive director and industry lead and group leader for the U.S. government, left the company after more than two years.
Harpoon successfully captures space debris(University of Surrey) The RemoveDEBRIS satellite, one of the world’s first attempts to address the build-up of dangerous space debris, has successfully used its on-board harpoon-capture system in orbit.
Whither Nuclear Command, Control & Communications?(Breaking Defense) Most of the system that allows the president to launch nuclear weapons and to know what the enemy is doing with theirs is ancient. No one yet agrees what it must replaced with. And no one knows how much it will cost, although late last month the Congressional Budget Office issued an estimate of $77 billion.
US Army Aims to Put Cloud Data In Troops’ Hands(Defense One) The Army Research Lab is funding tech that could put the computing power of the cloud in the hands of individual soldiers—and ultimately bring more artificial intelligence to the battlefield.
Joint Demos Try To Better Coordinate Ground Control & Satellites(Breaking Defense) The Air Force and other services, after decades during which America often built a highly capable military satellite but didn’t have the ground equipment to use it, are trying to claw back years and dollars of often wasted effort by holding joint experiments to test satellites and ground equipment at the same time.
NASA rover finally bites the dust on Mars after 15 years(AP NEWS) NASA's Opportunity, the Mars rover that was built to operate for just three months but kept going and going, rolling across the rocky red soil, was pronounced dead Wednesday, 15 years after it landed on the planet. The six-wheeled vehicle that helped gather critical evidence that ancient Mars might have been hospitable to life was remarkably spry up until eight months ago, when it was finally doomed by a ferocious dust storm.
Huge Intel Leadership Shifts: New Directors For NRO, NGA(Breaking Defense) NGA HQ: The low grading noise you could barely hear yesterday was the sound of the tectonic plates of American intelligence shifting as the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the National Reconnaissance Agency got new directors.
Intel: How an Air Force vet’s indictment reveals US vulnerability to Iranian cyber-espionage(Al-Monitor) The Justice Department handed down a 27-page indictment today charging a former Air Force intelligence officer with passing classified information to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). The indictment also charges four hackers allegedly linked with the Tehran-based military command. Why it matters: Today’s indictment shows increased Iranian interest in cyberespionage....
New Evidence Of Conflict of Interest In JEDI Contract(Breaking Defense) The massive and troubled $10 billion cloud contract the Pentagon has been pursuing has run into another snag. DoD revealed Tuesday it has obtained “new information” pointing to potential of conflicts of interest in the competition, already widely criticized for favoring Amazon Web Services.
Compiled and published by the CyberWire editorial staff. Views and assertions in source articles are those of the authors, not CyberWire, Inc. or Cosmic AES