Flames, infosec shenanigans, Policy, work

On journalism, “fake news,” and the business of news media

I tweeted most of this last night. But as several people have requested, I’m re-posting this here for the purposes of readability, illumination, and annotation.

Journalism is (supposed to be) a search for the truth. It’s not (supposed to be) easy. Like science, sometimes the results are imperfect. Only through peer review, conversation, revisions and (occasionally) corrections does journalism more closely approach the truth.

This is why the drive to make news generation more efficient is so horrible for actual journalism. We’ve already repeatedly seen the problems created by what people call “the news cycle,” particularly on 24-hour cable news networks, but the problem has become more widespread as news media goes “digital.”

The problem with television journalism (especially cable) is that it is transactional, disposable and low fidelity, making quality even harder.  TV journalists are largely generalists thrown at stories with perceived mass appeal, and are expected to quick-read themselves into instant experts on topics they have little if any background in.  (For more on this, see the story I wrote on Sharyl Atkisson in November 2014). It is not a crucible for truth.

If nobody does a sanity/fact check on a story or forces the reporter to defend each sentence, and the focus is on volume, the results will inevitably be lower quality. Narratives will get forced. Facts will be bruised and bent. It’s even worse when there’s a war against truth being waged, and the sources of truth are being destroyed or obscured by bullshit. When you are time-limited and don’t have a review process on story selection and production, bad things can and will happen.

So that’s why it’s especially disheartening to see the New York Times cutting copy editors, and others trading quality for quantity & efficiency. The “digital” process adds more roles for reporters and “preditors” (producer/editors), and by focusing on producing more digital content at the expense of quality control and editorial dialogue, media companies are creating more opportunities for error–and more opportunities for the enemies of truth to exploit those errors to discredit journalism writ large.

The truth can hardly ever be found with efficiency at scale. I’m lucky because Ars is sort of artisanal about journalism. Even so, I know and acknowledge that I make mistakes, especially when thrown headlong into a breaking story. But I make a lot less of those mistakes when I have another editor checking my stuff.

Given how people are actively working to derail journalism and destroy truth, we need to acknowledge how hard a job this is. And we really need to take a step back and look at what “efficiency” and speed in news production actually costs us.

Unfortunately, we’re being driven by a business model that is anathema to deliberateness and reflection. But we need to realize that the more automated, efficient and digitally optimized “news” becomes, the more vulnerable it becomes to manipulation and attack. Journalism needs to take a deep look at its threat model, and harden itself against the forces aligned to bring it down.

 

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DISA, Policy, tech

DISA aims for smooth operations across business lines

(The following is excerpted from an interview I recently did for Defense Systems magazine)

With John Garing’s elevation from Defense Information Systems Agency chief information officer to director of strategic planning, Bobbie Stempfley has stepped into the CIO role. While Garing focuses on long-term strategy and developing program objectives within DISA’s budget, Stempfley has taken on what she calls the more finely defined role of managing the agency’s ongoing information technology operations. Defense Systems contributing editor Sean Gallagher spoke with Stempfley about her role at DISA and the top challenges she faces.

DS: How has the CIO role at DISA changed since you took over for Mr. Garing?

Stempfley: He’s been given a great opportunity to be an even more significant part of the agency’s leadership team. Influencing strategies for how to help in this time of receding budgets and increasing mission demand — it’s a really a great opportunity for a service provider. And John Garing has to be a part of helping us do that. So the role of the CIO is just more finely defined now than it was before. The strategic planning and the out year [program objective memorandum] development activity are where Mr. Garing is focusing, and are things he’ll be able to do. I’ll be focused on how the information and the technology support those activities. We still work very closely together, and we will continue to work closely together. But you can never lose sight of either problem.

For the full article, see DISA aims for smooth operations across business lines — Defense Systems.

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Policy, tech

ABM “symbolism” versus ABM capability

Conservatives are piling on over the decision by the Obama administration to cancel plans to deploy a long-range missile defense system in eastern Europe, calling it everything from a “betrayal” of Poland to “appeasement” of Russia.   That, despite the fact that the move –which includes deploying a system that has already been demonstrated to work  (the Patriot missile system) for defense of Europe, and another  system that is much closer to being operational than the land-based option (the Aegis ABM system).

Additionally, the new plan calls for deploying a land-based version of the Aegis system, potentially in Poland and the Czech Republic, in 2015.

Ironically, the Aegis ABM system was already slotted for budget cuts.  It’s not even clear that the cancellation of the land-based system means that program’s revival,  The Navy recently contracted for SM-3s at a low manufacturing level–these are for short and medium range ballistic missiles, not the long-range.

Even Brent Scowcroft, George H. W. Bush’s national security advisor, has endorsed the decision. And the plan has the backing of  much of the Pentagon, and of the NATO alliance.  In fact, most of the conservative critics have pointed to commentary from the opposition parties in Poland and elsewhere, who are seizing on the decision for their own political gain.

Aegis ABM already has the backing — political, technical, and financial — of the US’s allies. Patriot offers Poland the “tripline” of US involvement in its defense.

The cancellation means that there will, in effect, be no ABM system designated for homeland defense.  The range of short- and medium- ballistic missiles from Iran isn’t a real threat to Europe–it’s more a threat to Israel.  The sea-based option is, in its current state, used best as a defense against attacks by North Korea.  But the symbolism of  “Star Wars” and an America shielded from all manners of  attack, and the direct involvement of allies (i.e. Poland and the Czech Republic) in the US’s direct defense is what conservatives were clinging to, and the loss of that is the fuel to their outrage.

Then again, the real  reason that conservatives are probably screaming over this is the damage cancellation of the program — along with several other programs, such as the F-22 and the vehicles in the now-defunct Future Combat Systems program — will do to the defense industry.  BAE Systems has been particularly stung by the recent turn of fate for many programs, having integrator roles in the F-22 and on the FCS team (plus losing a medium tactical vehicle contract recently).  With Boeing, BAE, and Lockheed all facing a shrinking pool of programs to profit from, some neocons may be seeing their PACs’ contributions shrinking.

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Policy, tech

ABM "symbolism" versus ABM capability

Conservatives are piling on over the decision by the Obama administration to cancel plans to deploy a long-range missile defense system in eastern Europe, calling it everything from a “betrayal” of Poland to “appeasement” of Russia.   That, despite the fact that the move –which includes deploying a system that has already been demonstrated to work  (the Patriot missile system) for defense of Europe, and another  system that is much closer to being operational than the land-based option (the Aegis ABM system).

Additionally, the new plan calls for deploying a land-based version of the Aegis system, potentially in Poland and the Czech Republic, in 2015.

Ironically, the Aegis ABM system was already slotted for budget cuts.  It’s not even clear that the cancellation of the land-based system means that program’s revival,  The Navy recently contracted for SM-3s at a low manufacturing level–these are for short and medium range ballistic missiles, not the long-range.

Even Brent Scowcroft, George H. W. Bush’s national security advisor, has endorsed the decision. And the plan has the backing of  much of the Pentagon, and of the NATO alliance.  In fact, most of the conservative critics have pointed to commentary from the opposition parties in Poland and elsewhere, who are seizing on the decision for their own political gain.

Aegis ABM already has the backing — political, technical, and financial — of the US’s allies. Patriot offers Poland the “tripline” of US involvement in its defense.

The cancellation means that there will, in effect, be no ABM system designated for homeland defense.  The range of short- and medium- ballistic missiles from Iran isn’t a real threat to Europe–it’s more a threat to Israel.  The sea-based option is, in its current state, used best as a defense against attacks by North Korea.  But the symbolism of  “Star Wars” and an America shielded from all manners of  attack, and the direct involvement of allies (i.e. Poland and the Czech Republic) in the US’s direct defense is what conservatives were clinging to, and the loss of that is the fuel to their outrage.

Then again, the real  reason that conservatives are probably screaming over this is the damage cancellation of the program — along with several other programs, such as the F-22 and the vehicles in the now-defunct Future Combat Systems program — will do to the defense industry.  BAE Systems has been particularly stung by the recent turn of fate for many programs, having integrator roles in the F-22 and on the FCS team (plus losing a medium tactical vehicle contract recently).  With Boeing, BAE, and Lockheed all facing a shrinking pool of programs to profit from, some neocons may be seeing their PACs’ contributions shrinking.

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Air Force, Boeing, Defense Department, EADS, Policy

Gates– Just say no to “corporate food fights” on tanker procurement

Audio:Gates on Air Force KC-X competition:   This morning, in an address to the Air Force Association conference, Secretary Gates announced that the  Air Force will be the contracting authority for the KC-X Tanker, but with with oversight from contracting officials at the Department of Defense. He expects the release of the Draft RFP for the KC-X Tanker “soon”. “We are committed to the integrity of the selection process and cannot afford the kind of let downs, parochial squabbles and corporate food fights that have bedeviled this effort over the last number of years.”

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Air Force, Boeing, Defense Department, EADS, Policy

Gates– Just say no to "corporate food fights" on tanker procurement

Audio:Gates on Air Force KC-X competition:   This morning, in an address to the Air Force Association conference, Secretary Gates announced that the  Air Force will be the contracting authority for the KC-X Tanker, but with with oversight from contracting officials at the Department of Defense. He expects the release of the Draft RFP for the KC-X Tanker “soon”. “We are committed to the integrity of the selection process and cannot afford the kind of let downs, parochial squabbles and corporate food fights that have bedeviled this effort over the last number of years.”

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Air Force, Army, BAE Systems, Boeing, Contractors & Vendors, Cyberdefense and Information Assurance, Defense Department, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Navy, Policy, Sensors, tech

It's the most wonderful time of the year for primes — more C4ISR contract announcements

(Editor’s note:  Because of the volume of contracts announced this week, I’ll be following up with more detail in a seperate post.)

ARMY:

Flir Systems Inc., Wilsonville, Ore., was awarded on Sept. 10, 2009, a $15,389,821 delivery order (GSA). This requirement is for the procurement of the Star Safire II System Support Kits in support of the UH-60 family of aircraft.  Work is to be performed in Wilsonville, Ore., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2010.  One bid solicited with one bid received.  U.S. Army Aviation and Missile Command, Huntsville, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-09-F-0010).
 
Five Rivers Services, LLC, Colorado Springs, Colo., was awarded on Sept. 3, 2009, $20,978,988 single award services contract at a firm fixed price with time and materials CLINS for the Information Technology support services for the 1st Signal Center Army Global Network Operation and Security Center.  Work is to be performed in Fort Belvoir, Va., and Fort Huachuca, Ariz., with an estimated completion date of Mar. 27, 2012.  Bids solicited from the ASFI and FedBizOpps with fourteen bids received.  ACC-ITEC4-w, Fort Huachuca, Ariz., is the contracting activity (W91RUS-09-C-0036).
 
  
AOSENSE, Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., was awarded on Sept. 3, 2009, a $11,230,139 cost-plus-fixed-fee contract.  This contract is for the High Dynamic Range Atomic Sensors (HiDRA) effort will build on the Precision Inertial Navigation System (PINS) work by demonstrating that atom optic (AO) sensors can outperform existing technologies in the presence of realistic platforms dynamics for a broad range of military applications.  The goal of this program is to provide jam-proof, non-emanating inertial navigation with near-GPS accuracies for future military systems.  Work is to be performed in Sunnyvale, Calif., with an estimated completion date of Sept. 13, 2011.  Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with more than 25 bids received.  Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (HR0011-09-C-0116).
 
 
HRL Laboratories LLC, Malibu, Calif., was awarded on Sept. 3, 2009, a $10,982,174 cost-no-fee contract.  This contract is for the SyNAPSE program seeks to break the programmable machine paradigm and define a new path forward for creating useful, intelligent machines.  The vision for the anticipated DARPA SyNAPSE program is the enabling of electronic neuromorphic machine technology that is scalable to biological levels.  Programmable machines are limited not only by their computational capacity, but also an architecture requiring (human-derived) algorithms to both describe and process information from their environment.  In contrast, biological neural systems (e.g., brains) autonomously process information in complex by automatically learning relevant and probabilistically stable features and associations.  The key to achieving the vision of the NyNAPSE program will be an unprecedented multidisciplinary approach that can coordinate aggressive technology development activities in the following areas 1) hardware; 2) architecture; 3) simulation; and 4) environment.  Work is to be performed in Malibu, Calif., (61.7 precent), San Diego, Calif., (6.3 precent), Portland, Ore., (2.1 precent), Fairfax, Va., (3.2 precent), Atlanta, Ga., (7 precent), Reno, N.V., (1.8 precent), Arlington, Va., (6 precent), Boston, Mass., (6.5 precent), and Irvine, Calif., (3.0%) with an estimated completion date of Feb. 2011.  Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with 13 bids received. Defense Advanced Research Project Agency Contracts Managements Office, Arlington, Va., is the contracting activity (HR0011-09-C-0001).
 
Orbimage, Inc., Dulles, Va., was awarded on Sept. 1, 2009, a $214,238,640 firm-fixed-price contract.  This contract modification is for the continued acquisition of commercial imagery from the ORBIMAGE satellite constellation.  The basic contract Service Level Agreement (SLA) will be extended 4-month through Mar. 31, 2010 ($50, 000,000 SLA value, $51,738,640 miscellaneous), followed by one 9-month option (April 2010 – December 2010, $112,500,000).  Work is to be performed in Dulles, Va., with an estimated completion date of Mar. 31, 2010.  One bid solicited with one bid received.  National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, NGA/ACA-C, Bethesda, Md., is the contracting activity (HM1573-04-C-0014).
 
 
James G. Davis Construction Corp., Rockville, Md., was awarded on Aug. 27, 2009, a $20,740,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the consolidated North Facility, Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) Campus. Work is to be performed in Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 21, 2010.  Eighty-five bids were solicited with 14 bids received.  U.S Army Engineer District, Philadelphia, Pa., is the contracting activity (W912BU-09-C-0039).

The Boeing Co., Ridley Park, Pa., was awarded on Aug. 25, 2009, a $17,828,572 firm-fixed-price contract for the CH-47G Recap, Lot 7, six each CH-47G Recap Aircraft.  Work is to be performed in Ridley Park, Pa., with an estimated completion date of May 30, 2010.  One bid solicited with one bid received.  U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aviation & Missile Command Contracting Center, CCAM-CH-A, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W58RGZ-04-G-0023).
  
Boeing S&IS Mission Systems, Springfield, Va., was awarded on Aug. 21, 2009, a $6,675,906 firm-fixed-price contract for the Global Geospatial Intelligence date products in support of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).  Work is to be performed in Springfield, Va. (35 precent), Rockville, Md. (3 precent), Bowie, Md. (2 precent), Albuquerque, N.M. (10 precent), Huntsville, Ala. (21 precent), Springfield, Mo. (4 precent), Tampa, Fla. (5 precent), and Chantilly, Va. (20 precent) with an estimated completion date of Aug. 20, 2010.  One bid solicited with one bid received.  NGA, St. Louis, Mo., is the contracting activity (NMA302-03-D-0005).
 
BAE Systems National Security Solutions Inc, San Diego, Calif., was awarded on Aug. 21, 2009 a $ 5,663,717 firm-fixed-price contract for the production of High Resolution Terrain Elevation Data (HRTe) Level 3 data product.  Work is to be performed Pittsburg, Pa., with an estimated completion date of Jan. 13, 2013.  Bids were solicited on the World Wide Web with eighteen (18) bids received. National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, St. Louis, Mo., is the contracting activity (NMA302-03-D-0004).
 
AIR FORCE
 
Rome Research Corp., of Rome, N.Y., was awarded a $46,000,000 contract for research and development, testing and evaluation expertise to operate the far field antenna test ranges, anechoic chambers, other laboratory facilities for the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate and conduct exercises and training missions on Air Force fielded technologies in combat.  At this time, $196,762 has been obligated.  AFRL/RIKD, Rome, N.Y., is the contracting activity (FA8750-09-D-0032).
 
UES, Inc., Dayton, Ohio, was awarded a $44,500,000 contract to provide development of materials and processing methodologies that are vital to create advanced materials and devices for future Air Force Systems.   At this time, $161,979 has been obligated.  Det 1 AFRL/PKMN, Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, is the contracting activity (FA8650-09-D05037).
 
ACTA Services Corporation of Torrance, Calif., was awarded a $36,096,013 contract to provide safety engineering analysis service in support of the 30th Space Wing Safety office.  At this time, the entire amount has been obligated.  30 CONS/LGCZG, Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., is the contracting activity (FA4610-09-C-0006).
 
Northrop Grumman Defense Mission Systems, Inc., San Diego, Calif., was awarded a $35,529,915 contract to provide the rapid fielding and support of the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node System.  At this time no money has been obligated.  653d ELSG/PK, Hanscom Air Force Base, Mass., is the contracting activity (FA8726-09-C-0010,P00003).
 
                
BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services of Rockville, Md., was awarded a $8,807,135 contract to provide non-personal services to operate, maintain, and support  the ground-based electro-based electro-optical deep space sensor system at the 21st Space Wing.  At this time, no money has been obligated.  21 CONS/LGCZB, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is the contractin.
 
BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services of Rockville, Md., was awarded a $7,543,573 contract  for the Perimeter Acquisition Radar Attack Characterization System which will provide non-personal services to operate, maintain, and support the system at Cavalier Air Force Station, N.D.  At this time no money has been obligated.  21 CONS, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is the contracting activity (FA2517-09-C-8000, P00012).

Boeing Satellite Systems, Inc., El Segundo, Calif., was awarded a $6,491,386 contract which will provide storage for the third Wideband Global Satellite.  At this time the entire amount has been obligated. SMC/MCSW/PK, El Segundo, Calif., is the contracting activity (F04601-00-C-0011, P00190). 
 
NAVY
 
Lockheed Martin Maritime Systems and Sensors (LM MS2), Syracuse, N.Y., is being awarded a $15,200,000 firm-fixed-price contract for the production of five TB-29A Thin Line Towed Arrays (TLTA).  The TB-29A TLTA is a passive underwater acoustic sensor utilizing a thin line towed body. The TB-29A TLTA consists of a Tow Cable Assembly (TCA) and a Towed Array Assembly (TAA).  The TB-29A TLTA is deployed and operated underwater from a submarine to passively detect acoustic energy.  This contract contains options, which, if exercised, will bring the total cumulative value of the contract to $29,900,000.  Work will be performed in Syracuse, N.Y., (62 percent); Salt Lake City, Utah, (15 percent); Millersville, Md., (15 percent); Mauldin, S.C., (4 percent), and Cambridge, Mass, (4 percent), and is expected to be complete by January 2011.  This contract was competitively awarded based upon a limited competition with one offer received.  Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-6238).      
 
General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Inc., Fairfax, Va., is being awarded a $7,190,354 cost plus incentive fee contract for follow-on to Phase III Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR), Topics N93-078 (Utilization of High Resolution Color Displays), N98-072 (Combat Systems Software Migration to Open Systems), N98-127 (Next Generation Combat System Display Concepts), N99-133 (JAVA Applications for Naval Combat Systems) and N99-157 (Development of Low Cost COTS technology for Total Ship Monitoring (TSMS).  General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems shall continue these SBIR efforts to continue development and production of multiple upgrades to the hardware and software products for the Multipurpose Processor and TSMS systems that will be integrated into the Acoustic Rapid Commercial-Off-The-Shelf Insertion System.  This contract includes options, which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $45,961,330.  Work will be performed in Fairfax, Va., and is expected to be completed by February 2011.  Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year.  This contract was not competitively procured.  The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-09-C-6206).
 

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