ON THE FIGHT
France is in talks with the United States and Israel to buy intelligence-gathering drones, the country’s Defense Minister, Le Drian, said on Sunday. “We need this capacity in the short term. There are currently two countries in the world that build drones, the United States and Israel.” Le Drian, who was in Washington over the weekend to meet Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as well as lawmakers and White House officials, said France had an “urgent need” for such drones. The lack of remotely piloted aircraft was evident during the French military operation in Mali. The budget for the Reapers is around US $250 million. That compares with an estimated €1 billion (or roughly $1.3 billion in American dollars) to develop a European medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV as proposed by Dassault Aviation and BAE Systems.
The Obama White House is shifting control of the drone-strike program out of the CIA and back to the military, according to a story that ran in Reuters this morning. The move comes in response to a bruising confirmation fight for now-director Brennan that saw him just barely become head of the Central Intelligence Agency. Republicans and Democrats alike used Brennan’s confirmation hearings to criticize the administration for not being more open about the drone program, especially when it has, on rare occasions, targeted U.S. citizens.
ON TECH, PRIVACY AND SECRECY
Special Operations Command–in space?! Yes, it’s real. U.S. Special Operations Command, along with other government agencies, have put their heads together to develop the Operationally Responsive Space system, which will assist in clandestine tagging, tracking and locating tasks as well as assist, in the form of cubesats, in the establishment of non-line-of-sight communication mediums for deployed special operations forces.
The Central Intelligence Agency is hiring targeting analysts and the officers to oversee them, in a move that reflects Director Brennan’s previous Congressional testimony where he stated he’d like to see the CIA gradually phase out its involvement in time-sensitive targeting programs that involve drones and refocus its ability to provide strategic intelligence and tactical intelligence support to the military and policymakers.
The Air Force is scanning the market for “cyber warfare systems” tools, a fact revealed in a recent release from a requisition unit for Air Force cyber operations known as the Network Warfare Systems Branch, posted a request for information from firms that could offer software and services to support cyber operations. “The objective of this effort is to overcome restricted competition barriers in subsequent acquisitions for cyberspace warfare systems supplies and services resulting from legacy security policies, practices, and guidance.” The market research will influence whether the service should bid out contracts openly and set aside some to small businesses.