Thursday, November 9, 2017

DOE sheds light on why a suspended agent still had access to nukes.


E&E NEWS:

A report, once closed to the public, sheds more light on a security mishap at the federal agency responsible for transporting nuclear weapons across the United States.

The Department of Energy inspector general inspection report, released to E&E News under a Freedom of Information Act request made more than two years ago, provides fresh detail on a troubling incident from 2011. It centered on a suspended agent with the Office of Secure Transportation (OST) gaining "unauthorized access" to a nuclear weapons storage area.

The 19-page document — its "OFFICIAL USE ONLY" classification crossed out, lined with redactions under FOIA exemptions for privacy and law enforcement matters — describes a July 14, 2011, episode when the OST agent inappropriately gained access to a secure facility.

The agent was "not weapons qualified" and had been temporarily removed from OST's Human Reliability Program (HRP), which is "designed to ensure that those who meet the highest standards of reliability, physical and mental suitability can gain access to nuclear weapons," according to the updated IG report, which is dated September 2015.

The agent gained inappropriate access to the weapons storage area primarily because he chose to disregard "specific orders" not to take part in duties that required certification under the HRP. OST officials, however, indicated to the IG's investigators that the suspended agent never had "unescorted access" to the weapons storage area.

It took until July 20, 2011, to officially launch an investigation into the security incident. That is contrary to DOE policy that says a probe of a suspected breach should be initiated within 24 hours, according to the IG.

"Characterization and review of this incident was not initiated in a timely manner," said the report.

In addition, the National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages OST, could not provide evidence to investigators that it officially notified "the customer agency" that a suspended agent had unauthorized access to its facility — again, not in line with department policy.

Along with reviewing allegations focused on the suspended agent, the IG also received two complaints with similar concerns, including charges of "questionable management practices" by OST officials in Amarillo, Texas, one of the agency's command posts.

The mission of OST agents is one of the most sensitive in the federal government. They drive modified tractor-trailer trucks with armed escorts to shuttle nuclear weapons and their components from DOE facilities and military bases dotted across the country.

The report had an ominous warning for OST that uncertified agents could gain access to nuclear weapons unless the agency acts.

"Unless OST takes actions to ensure that agents without active HRP certifications are clearly identified on [redacted] the risk remains that an agent who lacks required certifications could improperly gain access to certain materials, nuclear explosive devices, facilities, and programs," said the report.

The inspector general also found that certain OST officials knew the agent in question was suspended and appealed to an individual — whose identifying information is redacted in the report — to intervene. That person told investigators he didn't intervene partly because he had already ordered the agent not to enter the secure facility.

The IG had several recommendations for the nuclear transport agency, such as making sure all OST personnel know their obligations to report security incidents, drafting written policies on how to handle such incidents and ensuring that only agents with HRP certification are on missions.

Management agreed with those recommendations and took action to fix those issues, according to the IG.

In response to written questions, Greg Wolf, an NNSA spokesman, provided a statement to E&E News.

"OST works diligently to ensure a safe, secure working environment in which all employees are treated with respect, and updates policies and procedures as needed so that issues or concerns — such as those in this report — are swiftly resolved," Wolf said. "As this report indicates, NNSA took corrective action in response to the 2011 incident. The HRP program is only one element of a comprehensive approach to ensuring the safety and security of OST operations."

The NNSA spokesman noted, "No nuclear facilities or material were damaged or otherwise put at risk as a result of the incident."

He added: "NNSA cannot comment further on the details of the 2011 incident due to operational security and the privacy of personnel."
Report initially withdrawn

The inspector general's initial report on the breach at the nuclear weapons facility came under scrutiny from NNSA.

The IG issued a summary of its investigation in September 2014. But within months, NNSA questioned the accuracy of parts of the report, and the DOE watchdog also received another complaint that raised issues about the report's accuracy.

The IG then decided to remove the report and put it under internal review. The report was then updated, and a summary of its findings was released in September 2015 while the full report remained closed to the public until its release to E&E News.

The nuclear transport agency has had a history of problems catalogued by the inspector general.

A November 2014 report by the IG, also obtained by E&E News under FOIA, found that over a decade, OST agents were repeatedly getting into fights with each other. One squad commander in Oak Ridge, Tenn., another of the agency's command posts, was alleged to have threatened to kill an OST official (Greenwire, April 1, 2015).

The IG also uncovered OST agents getting drunk while on duty.

The DOE watchdog said in one memo issued in November 2010 that there were 16 incidents involving OST personnel and alcohol between 2007 and 2009. One OST agent was arrested for public intoxication in 2007, and two agents were handcuffed and detained by police after an incident in a local bar in 2009.

Wolf said despite past problems, OST agents are prepared extensively for their serious job.

"The personnel of NNSA's Office of Secure Transportation (OST) are an elite force of highly trained national security personnel. Due to the sensitive and demanding nature of their work, OST agents are subject to rigorous security and safety standards," said the NNSA spokesman.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Trump statement confirms capture of Mustafa al-Imam


A statement by President Donald J. Trump on the Apprehension of Mustafa al-Imam for His Alleged Role in the September 11, 2012 Attacks in Benghazi, Libya Resulting in the Deaths of Four Americans

"Yesterday, on my orders, United States forces captured Mustafa al-Imam in Libya. Because of this successful operation, al-Imam will face justice in the United States for his alleged role in the September 11, 2012 attacks in Benghazi, which resulted in the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Glen Doherty, Sean Smith, and Tyrone Woods—four brave Americans who were serving our country.

To the families of these fallen heroes: I want you to know that your loved ones are not forgotten, and they will never be forgotten.

Our memory is deep and our reach is long, and we will not rest in our efforts to find and bring the perpetrators of the heinous attacks in Benghazi to justice.

I want to thank our law enforcement, prosecutors, intelligence community, and military personnel for their extraordinary efforts in gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and tracking down fugitives associated with the attack, capturing them, and delivering them to the United States for prosecution.

The United States will continue to support our Libyan partners to ensure that ISIS and other terrorist groups do not use Libya as a safe haven for attacks against United States citizens or interests, Libyans, and others.

Libya’s long-term stability and security are linked to its ability to form a unified government and military, and we encourage all Libyans to support the ongoing reconciliation process facilitated by the United Nations and to work together to build a peaceful and stable country."

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Is SKYNET here? USAF developing a cephanpoloidal nervous system.

Leaders of the Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines are converging on a vision of the future military: connecting every asset on the global battlefield.

That means everything from F-35 jets overhead to the destroyers on the sea to the armor of the tanks crawling over the land to the multiplying devices in every troops’ pockets. Every weapon, vehicle, and device connected, sharing data, constantly aware of the presence and state of every other node in a truly global network. The effect: an unimaginably large cephapoloidal nervous system armed with the world’s most sophisticated weaponry.

In recent months, the Joint Chiefs of Staff put together the newest version of their National Military Strategy. Unlike previous ones, it is classified. But executing a strategy requiring buy-in and collaboration across the services. In recent months, at least two of the service chiefs talked openly about the strikingly similar direction that they are taking their forces. Standing before a sea of dark- blue uniforms at a September Air Force Association event in Maryland, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said he had “refined” his plans for the Air Force after discussions with the Joint Chiefs “as part of the creation of the classified military strategy.”

The future for the Air Force? The service needed to be more like a certain electric-car manufacturer.

“Every Tesla car is connected to every other Tesla car,” said Goldfein, referring to a presentation by Elon Musk about the ways his firm’s vehicles learn from their collective experience. “If a Tesla is headed down the road and hits a pothole, every Tesla that’s behind it that’s self-driving, it will avoid the pothole, immediately. If you’re driving the car, it automatically adjusts your shocks in case you hit it, too.”
What would the world look like… If we looked at the world through a lens of a network as opposed to individual platforms?
AIR FORCE CHIEF OF STAFF GEN. DAVID GOLDFEIN

Goldfein waxed enthusiastically about how Tesla was able to remotely increase the battery capacity of cars in the U.S.Southeast to facilitate evacuationbefore the recent hurricanes.

“What would the world look like if we connected what we have in that way? If we looked at the world through a lens of a network as opposed to individual platforms, electronic jamming shared immediately, avoided automatically? Every three minutes, a mobility aircraft takes off somewhere on the planet. Platforms are nodes in a network,” the Air Force chief said.

The idea borrows from the “network centric warfare” concept that seized the military imagination more than a decade ago. But what leaders are today describing is larger by orders of magnitude. It’s less a strategy for integrating multiple networks into operations more efficiently than a plan to stitch everything, networks within networks, into a single web. The purpose: better coordinated, faster, and more lethal operations in air, land, sea, space, and cyberspace.

So the Air Force is making broad investments in data sharing. Maj. Gen. Kimberly A. Crider, the service’s first data officer, issetting up a series of experimental tests in the Nevada desert at Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas, seeking to better understand “what happens when we actually connect into this resilient and agile network” said Goldfein. The Air Force’s current experimentation with next-generation light tactical attack aircraft are as much about hardware as networks, he said. “Not only what can I buy and what can they do, but more importantly, can they connect? Can they actually share? And can we tie it to a new network that’s based on sharable information that gets me beyond the challenges I have right now in terms of security?”

The Air Force is also fielding new connected devices. The handheld “Android Tactical Assault kit” or ATAK, designed with special operations forces, provides a common operational picture of everything going on — basically, doing what a huge command-and-control station used to do a few years ago. “What we determined was that there were so many devices on the battlefield that had information that we weren’t collecting. Rather than build a system to pull that in, we actually went to a commercial entity and they created an algorithm. It’s user-defined and it pulls in whatever data you need and puts it on Google Maps,” said Goldfein.

READ MORE

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Classified aircraft crashes - pilot killed








LIEUTENANT Colonel Eric Schults died from injuries sustained after the military aircraft he was flying crashed on Tuesday.


The US Air Force won’t reveal what aircraft he was flying.


It also took authorities three days before publicly announcing his death.


Both elements are highly unusual, especially given it came a day before two A-10C Thunderbolt II ground-attack aircraft crashed on the same weapons testing range. Both pilots managed to eject to safety.


“Information about the type of aircraft involved is classified and not releasable,” Major Christina Sukach, chief of public affairs for the 99 Air Base Wing at Nellis, told military.com.



UPDATE: AVWK: Fatal Nevada Crash Involved Foreign Aircraft Type


Aerospace Daily & Defense Report


LOS ANGELES—A Sept. 5 accident at the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR) that killed a U.S. Air Force test pilot appears to have involved a foreign aircraft type operated by the service’s secretive Red Hat squadron.

Monday, September 4, 2017

North Korea Claims to have detonated Hydrogen Bomb

SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea’s claim of a successful hydrogen bomb test marks a major step in the isolated country’s long-stated goal of developing a nuclear-tipped missile that puts the U.S. mainland within range, experts say.

North Korea conducted its sixth and most powerful nuclear test on Sunday, which it said was a successful detonation of an advanced hydrogen bomb, technically known as a two-stage thermonuclear device.

All of North Korea’s six nuclear tests including the one on Sunday have taken place at its underground testing site in Punggye-ri, deep in mountainous terrain, and it is hard to independently verify the claims.

But experts who studied the impact of the earthquake caused by the explosion - measured by the U.S. Geological Survey at magnitude 6.3 - said there was enough strong evidence to suggest the reclusive state has either developed a hydrogen bomb or was getting very close.

The detonation produced 10 times more power than the fifth nuclear test a year ago, South Korean and Japanese officials said. NORSAR, a Norwegian earthquake monitoring agency, estimated the yield at 120 kilotons, significantly above the 15 kiloton “Little Boy” bomb dropped on Hiroshima and the 20 kiloton “Fat Man” dropped on Nagasaki at the end of World War Two.

“That scale is to the level where anyone can say (it is) a hydrogen bomb test,” said Kune Y. Suh, a nuclear engineering professor at Seoul National University.

“North Korea has effectively established itself as a nuclear state. This is not just a game changer, it’s a game over,” Suh said.

Lassina Zerbo, executive secretary of nuclear test ban watchdog CTBTO, said: “The physics of the event that we’re talking about today seems to indicate a much larger event than the one from 2016 and before.”

North Korea claims its intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) tested twice in July can reach large parts of the mainland United States.

READ MORE AT REUTERS

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