Finally Friday’s Finale


1.  (In)security clearances. Editor Lindy Kyzer reports, “This week the Department of Justice filed a new complaint against security clearance investigation firm USIS. The filing accuses the company of filing incomplete investigations approximately 40 percent of the time, at least 665,000 cases. . . . USIS conducted the background investigations for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden as well as Navy Yard shooter Aaron Alexis.” Related, see NextGov.Com’s “Top Contractor for Background Checks Charged With Fraud.”

2.  Family matters, for clearances. Contributor Ashley LaGanga explains, “Not all foreign influence is created equally – a security clearance applicant with ties to Germany and one with ties to Russia are two different things. In either case, significant foreign connections may be cause for security clearance denial. But the nature of the country, its relationship with the U.S., and the applicants relationship with his family overseas are determining factors.”


1.  Top getting to the bottom (of USAF nuclear failures). AP’s Robert Burns reports, “Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel turned up the heat a notch by paying a rare visit to a nuclear missile base. And on Thursday he dropped his bombshell: a demand for quick answers to what ails this most sensitive of military missions. . . . Hagel ordered immediate actions to define the depth of trouble inside the nuclear force, particularly the Air Force’s intercontinental ballistic missile force, which has been rocked by disclosures about security lapses, poor discipline, weak morale and other problems that raise questions about nuclear security.” American Forces Press Service’s Tyrone C. Marshall Jr. reports that “the secretary still has confidence in the strategic deterrence force, but seeks to upgrade the entire nuclear enterprise.”

2.  Army guard woes – Apache losses, and more. DoDBuzz.Com’s Michael Hoffman and Brendan McGarry report that “the Army Guard is upset with Army service leaders over plans to transfer 400 helicopters — 200 AH-64 Apaches, OH-54 Kiowa scouts, and 100 UH-72 Lakota utility helos — from the Guard to the active component. Congress also effectively killed the Army’s top vehicle modernization priority, the Ground Combat Vehicle, last week when it slashed the Army’s budget request for the program from $592 million to $100 million. . . . Guard leaders outside Washington have taken to the media to blast Army leaders over their helicopter plan. The adjutant general of the Tennessee Guard told the Jackson Sun, a daily newspaper in Jackson, Tenn., that the Army’s plans would have a ‘tremendously negative impact on the Tennessee Guard.’”

3.  Commitments in Afghanistan. DefenseOne.Com’s Stephanie Gaskell reports, “Lt. Gen. Mark Milley, commander of the International Security Assistance Force’s Joint Command, said Thursday that the Afghan National Security Forces were a formidable foe against Taliban and Haqqani fighters during this past fighting season. But there’s more to standing up a national army and police force than just tactical fighting, he argued. . . . Milley said the Afghans still need help with building institutional systems to replenish forces, manage personnel and budgets, conduct intelligence operations, train pilots and medics, and bolster their counter-IEDs capabilities.” Khaama.Com reports, “NATO defence chiefs reaffirm support to ISAF mission until end of 2014.”

4.  Drone strikes AQAP in Yemen – 2014’s third. LongWarJournal.Org’s Bill Roggio reports, “The US killed four al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula fighters last night, in the third drone strike in Yemen so far this year. . . . The pace of the drone strikes in Yemen decreased last year from the previous year (26 in 2013 versus 41 in 2012). The reduction in the number of strikes coincided with a speech by President Barack Obama at the National Defense University in May 2013. The strikes are being reduced as the US government is facing increasing international criticism for conducting the attacks in both Yemen and Pakistan.”

5.  In Geneva II, Assad losing Russian backing. Aljazeera.Com reports, “Russia, Assad’s major backer, had given assurances that it was not “holding on” to Assad . . . . The opposing views of Assad’s future underline the difficulties facing the Geneva talks – the first time the government and opposition sides have met since the fighting began.” AP’s Zeina Karam and Lori Hinnant report from Geneva, “Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem questioned both the point of the talks and the legitimacy of the Syrian National Coalition, which is made up largely of exiles and lacks influence with an increasingly radicalized rebellion.”


1.  VA contracting – favoring Vet businesses. NextGov.Com’s Bob Brewin reports, “The Veterans Affairs Department plans to tap veteran-owned firms for management expertise and business support services through a five year contract starting in June. VA said its Agile Delivery of VA Imminent Strategic and Operational Requirements — or ADVISOR — indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract will cover four service groups: Oversight, including program and project management, strategic planning and performance measurement; Improvement, namely business process reengineering, improvement and management; change management and transition; and quality measurement; Data and Analyses, including studies, analyses, and information and records management; Training.”

2.  Life support removed – Army’s ground combat vehicle pronounced dead. DefenseNews.Com’s Paul McLeary reports, “If the US omnibus budget bill that President Obama signed earlier this month didn’t already make it clear, the Army’s Ground Combat Vehicle program is all but dead. After Congress slashed $492 million from the Army’s $592 million fiscal 2014 request for continued development of the program, it appeared that the next-generation infantry carrier was being relegated to little more than a technology development and study program. . . . BAE Systems and General Dynamics have been given hundreds of millions of dollars by the Army since 2011 to develop technologies for the GCV program, even though the Congressional Budget Office has argued against building the platform due to its ballooning weight, armor and projected sustainment requirements. In an April report, the agency estimated that the Army would have to spend $29 billion between 2014 and 2030 to purchase 1,748 GCVs.”

3.  Boeing and Raytheon duking it out over USAF secure comms. AviationWeek.Com’s Amy Butler reports, “The U.S. Air Force is expected to decide whether to stick with Boeing’s original next-generation, secure communications terminal or opt for a competing design from Raytheon as early as March, according to industry officials. Raytheon lost the Family of Beyond-Line-of-Sight terminals, designed for secure communications for Air Force aircraft, nearly 11 years ago. But the company got its foot back into the door due to technical problems with Boeing’s $4.7 billion development program. Sixteen months ago the Air Force embarked on an alternative design path with Raytheon as a backup plan; the company has been working under a $70 million contract.”


1.  NSA data collection illegal, Privacy Board concludes. New York Times’  Charlie Savage reports, “An independent federal privacy watchdog has concluded that the National Security Agency’s program to collect bulk phone call records has provided only “minimal” benefits in counterterrorism efforts, is illegal and should be shut down. . . . The report is likely to inject a significant new voice into the debate over surveillance, underscoring that the issue was not settled by a high-profile speech President Obama gave last week.” Read the report.

2.  Reaching out to Snowden. VentureBeat.Com’s Eric Blattberg reports, “Edward Snowden has an open invitation to talk with Attorney General Eric Holder — but only if the former NSA contractor accepts responsibility for leaking government secrets. The U.S. ‘would engage in conversation’ about a resolution with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden under those circumstances, said Holder in an upcoming interview with MSNBC. The Attorney General said that full clemency, ‘where we say, no harm, no foul,’ would be going too far, however. . . . Obama hasn’t outright rejected the possibility of clemency for Snowden.”

3.  Lockheed Martin and Boeing out in space. Reuters’ Irene Klotz reports, “An unmanned rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Thursday to put the newest member of NASA’s space communications network into orbit. The 19-story tall Atlas 5 rocket, built and launched by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co, lifted off at 9:33 p.m. EST (0233 GMT Friday). . . . ‘This capability is analogous to standing at the top of the Empire State Building and tracking an ant as it marches its way down the sidewalk in front of the building,’ Boeing program director Andy Kopito told reporters during a prelaunch press conference at the Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday.”

4.  Remembering the big Mac. Time recalls, “the Apple Macintosh that was unveiled in Cupertino, Calif., on Jan. 24, 1984. The space-efficient case contained a 32-bit microprocessor, an innovative built-in 3 1/2 inch disk drive and a nine inch display. The 128k of RAM turned out to be alarmingly skimpy. Suggested price was $2,495.”


1.  “No spin” end zone: “Super Bowl Sunday is all about the Broncos-Seahawks. Now you can add Obama-O’Reilly to the list. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly — not exactly President Obama’s biggest fan — will interview Obama at the White House live on Sunday, Feb. 2, as part of the Super Bowl pre-game show. It will mark the third time O’Reilly has interviewed Obama, the last conversation coming in 2011. Additional segments of the interview will air on Fox News’ ‘The O’Reilly Factor’ the following night. Ahead of the big game, Obama could be asked about his recent comments in a New Yorker profile in which he suggested that, ‘I would not let my son play pro football.’” [President Obama has a son?]

2.  Bouncing baby budget coming 4 March: “The Office of Management and Budget said Thursday that President Obama would release his annual budget on March 4. ‘Now that Congress has finished its work on this year’s appropriations, the administration is able to finalize next year’s budget,’ said OMB spokesman Steve Posner. ‘We are moving to complete the budget as quickly as possible to help Congress return to regular order in the annual budget process.’ Lawmakers recently reached a bipartisan deal on an omnibus spending bill, a modest accord welcomed by the White House.”


1.  “Chuck Hagel: The Invisible Man.” TheAmericanConservative.Com contributor Kelley Vlahos explains, “It’s been a year since former Republican senator Chuck Hagel emerged from one of the most grueling and cringe-worthy nomination hearings in recent history with the confirmed title of secretary of defense. Since then, his most vocal critics—all from his own party—have apparently moved on, leaving Hagel to steer the massive military industrial complex through its first war drawdown in more than 20 years.”

2.  “2014: A new beginning for the Arab Spring?” Aljazeera.Com contributor Clovis Maksoud argues, “If peace negotiations defuse the crisis in Syria and the Palestinian issue is addressed in a manner that renders credible and applicable the UN resolutions, and if the ongoing detente with Iran succeeds after the six months, then hopes that have eluded the Arabs – and perhaps the world – for a long time, and especially in 2013, might be resumed in 2014.”

3.  “How to piece Syria back together.” Christian Science Monitor’s Editorial Board argues, “President Bashar al-Assad has lost the support of Syria’s Sunni majority by his ruthless repression, including the use of torture and chemical weapons. On the other side, the National Coalition is fractured as a political opposition and largely ignored by rebels groups fighting within Syria. In this vacuum of legitimacy, it is up to other countries – either out of genuine concern over the slaughter in Syria or with a national interest in the war’s outcome – to force a consensus at the talks in Switzerland.”


1.  Just strange.

2.  No kidding.

3.  New Olympic events.

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Ed Ledford enjoys the most challenging, complex, and high stakes communications requirements. His portfolio includes everything from policy and strategy to poetry. A native of Asheville, N.C., and retired Army Aviator, Ed’s currently writing speeches in D.C. and working other writing projects from his office in Rockville, MD. He loves baseball and enjoys hiking, camping, and exploring anything. Follow Ed on Twitter @ECLedford.