Federal Drive interviews – Nov. 28, 2012

Richard SteinTechnology Analyst, Bloomberg Government

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The ferociousness of Hurricane Sandy renewed interest in whether climate change is affecting weather.

Russell BermanReporter, The Hill

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Members of Congress wanted to delay fiscal cliff negotiations until after the election but they are working furiously on a solution now but that may spell doom for the holidays.


DoD Report

  • Female service members are suing the Pentagon over its ban on women in combat. The Defense Department is slowly opening up more combat roles to women. Secretary Leon Panetta directed the services to study more options. But the lawyer for the plaintiffs said those were just tweaks and minor changes. They said women are barred from more than 200,000 roles across the military. Women have served on the front lines of battles but not in designated combat roles. The plaintiffs said that hurts their chances of promotion within the military’s ranks. (Federal News Radio)
  • A military ship based in Baltimore has been converted to a large, if spartan, hotel for emergency workers. The S.S. Wright is now parked off Staten Island, helping in the recovery effort after Hurricane Sandy. The Wall Street Journal reports the Wright is an aviation support vessel maintained by the Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration. It usually aids in maintenance operations of Marine Corps airplanes and helicopters. The 600-foot vessel was also used in emergency response for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. (The Wall Street Journal)
  • The Navy fired two men at the top of its Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. This follows an inspector general’s report that accused school president Daniel Oliver of waste and mismanagement. In one example, it said he arranged for a woman to be hired as a contractor rather than an employee so she could earn a lot more money for the same work. It said he wrongly accepted gifts from a group that does business with the school. The IG said provost Leonard Ferrari also failed to follow Navy regulations and accepted gifts. Both men had held their jobs for more than five years. The Navy appointed interim leaders to replace them and has set up a group to implement the IG’s recommendations. (Federal News Radio)

Cybersecurity Report

  • The Pentagon is creating a space where technology companies can test their latest cyber attack tools. The Defense Department’s research arm DARPA is setting up a lab for projects that fit with its new “Plan X.” This Plan X calls for strategies and systems that let the military control cyberwarfare. Experts said it is groundbreaking because it acknowledges how aggressive the Pentagon hopes to be in cyber space. The new lab will let contractors and the military mingle and test new technology. Each contractor would have one or two developers at the site. DARPA told Next Gov more than 350 researchers and contractors attended briefings on Plan X last month. (NextGov)
  • Now even your printer might be a backdoor for hackers, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team is warning users of Samsung and Dell printers. A built-in password could give hackers administrative privileges, letting them see sensitive information flowing to and from the printers. The passwords can turn the machine into a gateway to critical servers. For techies, the password is called a hard-coded SNMP full read-write community string. Even if disabled, it’s still ripe for hackers. Devices made after Oct. 31 of this year are not affected. Samsung, which makes printers under its own and Dell’s name, promises a patch before the end of the year. (DHS)