Friday Finale & This Time Last Year


Choice and the GI Bill. Contributor Ron Kness reports, “Due to the recent implementation of the Veterans’ Access to Care Through Choice Accountability Transparency Act of 2014, one significant change non-resident students using their GI Bill at public colleges and universities will see this year is lower tuition. As of July 1, 2015 public schools are mandated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to charge non-resident veterans (and family members using transferred Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits) resident tuition rates.”

Flex tech defense. Contributor Marc Selinger reports, “The Defense Department, private industry, academia and others are partnering to launch a national manufacturing innovation institute in Silicon Valley to develop a new generation of electronics for devices ranging from weapon systems to artificial limbs. . . .”


al-Baghdadi deep dive. Brookings’ William McCants reports, “Baghdadi’s lower middle-class family was known for its piety but also for its proud lineage. His Sunni forefathers claimed to descend from the Prophet Muhammad through the Shiite leaders buried in Samarra’s golden-domed shrine. Baghdadi’s lineage is one instance of the many overlapping religious identities in Iraq that belie the supposedly eternal divide between Sunnis and Shiites.”

Guantanamo recidivists: update. Vice News’ Jason Leopold reports, “The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on Thursday released its latest report on so-called Guantanamo recidivists . . . . According to ODNI’s latest report, of the 653 detainees that have been transferred by both the Bush and Obama administrations, 117 of the former captives have reengaged in terrorism. The report says that as of July 15 the Obama administration had transferred 121 detainees since he was sworn into office in 2009; six of the 121 have been confirmed of re-engaging in terrorism, a number that has not changed since ODNI released its last report in March.”

F-35s arrive. Defense Media Network Editor Chuck Oldham reports, “The first two operational F-35As arrived at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, [Tuesday] . . . . The active duty 388th Fighter Wing at Hill, along with the Reserve 419th Fighter Wing, will be the first combat-coded units to operate the Air Force’s first two operational F-35A Lightning IIs.”

Taliban takes on ISIS. Khaama Press reports, “At least 23 Taliban militants and affiliates of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group were killed during a clash in eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. According to the local government officials, the clash erupted late on Thursday afternoon in Pichegram district.”


Tech contracting: dropping the corporate experience requirement. Nextgov’s Mohana Ravindranath reports, “The General Services Administration is trying to make it easier for new IT contractors to sell technology to the government. In a new request for information, GSA is asking tech companies to comment on how the federal contracting system can be improved. The agency is also considering eliminating as a requirement for a spot on the Schedule 70 – GSA’s list of approved IT vendors – that potential contractors must have at least two years’ corporate experience, according to the RFI.”

Bomb disposing robots. Military & Aerospace Electronics Editor John Keller reports, “U.S. Navy bomb-disposal experts are awarding a nearly half-billion-dollar contract to Northrop Grumman Corp. to build open-systems man-packable ground robots to help infantry units detect and neutralize improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and other roadside bombs. Officials of the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division in Indian Head, Md., announced a $14.2 million contract to Northrop Grumman in Falls Church, Va., this week for the Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS) Increment 1, dismounted operations variant.”


Ross William Ulbricht: dark web deep dive. Fast Company contributor KC Ifeanyi reports, “Earlier this year, Ross William Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his involvement with the dark net drug market Silk Road. Ulbricht was slammed with all seven of the charges brought against him, including computer hacking, drug trafficking, money laundering, and even what’s known as the ‘kingpin’ charge, which is more commonly doled out to cartel leaders and mafia members. Serious crimes? Yes. Worth life in prison? Director Alex Winter doesn’t think so.”

Stingrays: cell-site simulators require warrants. Electronic Frontier Foundation’s Nate Cardozo reports, “At long last, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has announced a slew of much-needed policy changes regarding the use of cell-site simulators. Most importantly, starting today all federal law enforcement agencies—and all state and local agencies working with the federal government—will be required to obtain a search warrant supported by probable cause before they are allowed to use cell-site simulators.” See also, “Police Need a Warrant for Americans’ Cell Phone Location Records” and “Justice Department tightens cellphone tracking rules.”

Cybersecurity on the offense. Nextgov’s Aliya Sternstein reports, “The State Department, fresh off the heels of a highly publicized cyberintrusion, is picking industry’s brain for tactics to block and perhaps strike back at hackers, according to new contracting documents. State wants to produce a new set of how-to ‘playbooks’ around cybersecurity ‘to clearly guide both offensive cyber operations and responses to cyberattacks’  . . . .”

Skimmers: high tech fraud. Krebs on Security reports, “Most of us know to keep our guard up when withdrawing cash from an ATM and to look for any signs that the machine may have been tampered with. But ATM fraud experts say they continue to see criminal innovations with ‘insert skimmers,’ wafer-thin data theft devices that fit inside the ATM’s card acceptance slot and do not alter the outward appearance of a compromised cash machine.”


Plausible deniability. “It’s either a launching pad or a last hurrah, one more time for Biden to sop up the love of what a campaign would be before he writes off his lifelong dream of being president—like here at the synagogue, when he jokingly crossed himself as former Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat introduced him as ‘the real thing.’”

Benghazi battle. “Former State Department official Cheryl Mills sat through nine hours of extended questions from the House committee investigating the 2012 terror attack in Benghazi, Libya, on Thursday. The closed-door, daylong deposition of the longtime Hillary Clinton aide was marked by ‘professionalism and respect,’ Mills told reporters in brief remarks after the discussion had concluded.”


Managing Military Incidents Between the West and Russia.” European Leadership Network contributor Thomas Frear argues, “Crisis management mechanisms in the Euro-Atlantic area are in a poor state of repair, and their reassessment is crucial. . . . [T]he future of Euro-Atlantic security might very well depend on it.”

Russia is condemning itself to repeat history.” Reuters contributor John Lloyd argues, “Critical thinking on the past hurts national pride: but it soothes national anxiety, punctures national arrogance, moderates nationalist aggression. It’s a prophylactic against history repeating itself.”

Europe’s policy did not kill Aylan Kurdi.” Aljazeera contributor Crispian Cuss argues, “Until the West is serious about destroying ISIL, the refugees will keep coming, the human traffickers will ply their trade and the bodies will continue to wash up on Europe’s shore.”

China’s voice in the global opera.” Christian Science Monitor’s Editorial Board argues, “Xi should use the US-China summit and his coming G20 leadership to explain the values that China wants to use in helping to manage the world’s challenges, such as cybercrime, refugee flows, balanced economic growth, nonstate militancy, and a need for more technological innovation.”


It’s Friday.


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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.