Science and Technology News

Friday, January 30, 2015

DoD Moves Data to the Cloud to Lower Costs, Improve Security



By Cheryl Pellerin
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2015 – The Defense Department is moving its data to the cloud, driven by cost reductions, technical efficiencies and security considerations, Acting Chief Information Officer Terry Halvorsen told military and industry leaders gathered here yesterday.

Halvorsen’s office hosted the first of what it characterized as a series of DoD CIO Cloud Industry Days – meetings intended to promote a continuous, open dialogue with industry that will shape DoD’s approach to the business of information technology, or IT, and cyber.

According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, cloud computing is a model for enabling on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources -- networks, servers, storage, applications and services.

For users, cloud resources can rapidly be provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction, NIST says, providing efficiencies and cost effectiveness.

Modernizing and Streamlining Government IT

Cloud computing is part of a government-wide effort to modernize and streamline government IT, and Halvorsen said that in the early stages of transitioning to the cloud, and moving as much as possible into the commercial cloud, it’s important to communicate with defense industry partners.

“Industry needs some consistency,” Halvorsen added, “so I've got to … let industry know ahead of time [what we need],” and when a baseline changes.

Such an interactive process with industry, he said, will be critical to avoiding “putting industry in a place where they think they've got it right, they spent their money, they've come in and said this is [our solution], and we have to tell them … that we’ve found new security threats and [their solution] is not going to work.”

The cloud is as new an environment as anything out there, the CIO said, and for each element of the cloud the department has new decisions to make new.

One of these has been to move as much nonsensitive data as possible to the commercial cloud, Halvorsen told the audience, because costs there are lower.

Leveraging Against a Larger Population

“We're leveraging against a larger group population in this business. E-mail, particularly, is commoditized, and any time you can share more pricing and more capability with a commoditized environment, you're going to drive down the price,” he added.

The CIO said commercial companies will be able to meet DoD’s security requirements for nonsensitive data.

“I see the national cyber bar coming up,” he added, “and we're such a big market that they'll be willing to adapt their security to meet us. I'm hoping this comes out to be 25 percent or 30 percent more efficient when we're done.”

Two important programs involved in DoD’s transition to the cloud are FedRAMP and the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative, or FDCCI.

A Standardized Approach to Security

FedRAMP is a government-wide program that offers a standardized approach to security assessment, authorization and continuous monitoring for cloud products and services.

FDCCI aims to reduce the number of federal data centers by optimizing them, consolidating them or closing them.

About FedRAMP, Halvorsen said that if industry wants to do business with DoD they have to meet FedRAMP security requirements, plus extra security requirements if DoD calls for them.

“I think there's an opportunity for national, commercial and government [entities] to set some very common standards,” the CIO said. The medical industry has done that, he added, and the same could be done in other areas to “raise the national bar” together.

He added, “We actually could have some national standards that apply to everyone.”

The milCloud Suite of Capabilities

Another element of the move to the cloud is milCloud, a cloud-services product portfolio managed by the Defense Information Systems Agency, or DISA.

milCloud offers an integrated suite of capabilities that can make the development, deployment and maintenance of secure DoD applications more agile, according to the DISA website. It leverages a combination of mature, commercial off-the-shelf and government-developed technology to produce DoD-tailored cloud services.

Halvorsen said DoD has to do a better job of internal marketing so everyone understands the pricing differences between standard storage of sensitive but not classified data and storage in the cloud.

“It's 20 percent to 25 percent less … in the milCloud now, and this milCloud data is data that, by everything I see right now, is going to stay inside the government,” he said. “It's not classified in many cases but it is so sensitive that I'm probably not ever going to put that data into a public [cloud].

Wrestling with Data Security

The CIO says he’s wrestling with how much of DoD’s data is truly sensitive, using the example of budget data from 1949, which was sensitive at the time but is not sensitive now. Yet it is still stored with data that has relatively high security protection.

“I think [relatively sensitive data] is a much smaller portion of our data than we think it is,” he added.

Where DoD is in its transition to the cloud is hard to measure, Halvorsen said, adding, “but I can tell you this, I'm not where I want to be.”

In the near future, the CIO envisions situations in which a defense contractor might put data inside a data center located on federal property.

Pushing the Model Forward

“The other group I see that would probably want to do that is financial institutions. We are not there yet [but] that's what we're looking to push the model forward on,” he added.

In this scenario, federal systems and commercial systems would have to move beyond interoperability, Halvorsen said, and into interconnectivity and become part of the same structure.

“I can make things interoperable a lot of times by kluging them together. I want to get past the klugde so it’s a seamless, interconnected structure. How am I doing that? With lots of help from all the services,” he said.

“All the service CIOs get that we’ve got to go there. Top leadership gets that we've got to go there,” Halvorsen added. “One of the chairman’s top priorities is the whole [DoD Joint Information Environment], which gets us there.”

Making it Work

Now, he said, it’s time to take the technical engineering solutions and make them work, and do it in a cost-effective way.

In 10 years, the CIO said, DoD will have a much better distributed data network.

“It’s all data distribution,” he said, “it really is.”

Halvorsen added, “I think what you'll have in 10 years is a lot fewer physical facilities, much more virtual cloud data that from our standpoint is accessible on whatever the new technology brings.”

The CIO doesn’t think the platforms will be laptops or smart phones, but perhaps smaller devices connected to big-screen entertainment systems accessible at home.

Wearing the Future

“You'll probably have a watch-type device that gives you some level of data, and you'll be wearing the rest of it,” he speculated.

“Wearable IT is going to be an interesting phenomena for DoD. Think about what you could do, how you could [suit up] a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine with wearable IT -- monitor health, monitor location,” he said.

“That’s the growth area to me,” he added, “but you've got to get the data distribution right.”

AFRL announces winners of student satellite competition

Air Force Research Laboratory

1/30/2015 - KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Students representing 10 universities competed in Albuquerque, New Mexico this week for the chance to send a satellite they designed and built into space. The competition was held through the Air Force Research Laboratory's Space Vehicles Directorate University Nanosat Program.

The winners:
1st place - Missouri University of Science and Technology
2nd place - University of Colorado at Boulder
3rd place - Georgia Institute of Technology
4th place - Taylor University

Boston University and State University of New York at Buffalo tied for 5th place. Judges will break the tie during upcoming visits to both universities where they will conduct a deep dive into their respective programs.

Each winning school will receive $110,000 from the Air Force Office of Science and Technology, and mission support from AFRL/Space Vehicles to finish preparing their satellites for launch. Now in its eighth cycle, this is the first time multiple winners were selected.

"We are excited that we were able to expand the number of winners from one to five this year, allowing more teams the opportunity to send their satellite to space and, in turn, increasing the scientific and technology benefits of the program," Dr. David Voss, University Nanosat Program manager said. "We had a remarkable field of competitors this year, and we commend the hard-work, passion and professionalism of these young great minds."

The University Nanosat Program was established in 1999 by AFRL and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research as a way to inspire and train the next generation of space professionals. It is a rigorous two-year concept to flight ready spacecraft competition, and the only program in the country that gives university students the opportunity to actually participate in U.S. spacecraft development. The approximately 5,000 students from 32 universities have participated in the program and several of their satellites have been sent to space.

Embry Riddle Aeronautical University, University of California Los Angeles, University of Florida and New Mexico State University also competed.   

Winning schools and descriptions of projects:

Missouri University of Science & Technology, M-SAT (SSA/Prox Ops) - Determine physical characteristics of an Uncooperative Residential Space Object (URSO) by utilizing visible light and infrared images. Estimate and track the trajectory of an URSO. Perform visual-based proximity operations to characterize the physical structure of an URSO.

Colorado University at Boulder, PolarCube (Upper Atmospheric Imaging) - PolarCube shall study the Earth's tropospheric temperature patterns in the polar regions and observe the extent of sea ice/open ocean boundaries through atmospheric temperature sounding with the 118.7503 GHz O2 resonance

Georgia Institute of Technology, RECONSO (Defensive Space/Prox Ops) - RECONSO's mission is to place a passive optical sensor in a Low Earth Orbit. This sensor will be used to detect and track transient objects within its field of view. The detected objects will be analyzed to generate track information from the optical observations made to help study space debris.

Taylor University, ELEO-SAT (SSA/Space Weather Effects) - To study ionospheric structure, temperature, and composition, their effects on VLF transionospheric propagation and the efficiency of VLF-LEP coupling and to open up the F-region for further nano-sat studies

Boston University, ANDESITE (Space Weather Effects) - ANDESITE will evaluate a space based - wireless sensor network to examine the spatial and temporal variability of the current density within the region 1 and region 2Birkeland currents through in situ magnetic field measurements.

State University of New York at Buffalo, GLADOS (SSA) - Utilize multi-band photometric data of glinting space objects to identify their type, surface materials, and orientation.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Apollo 1 crew remembered, honored in annual memorial ceremony

by 45th Space Wing
Public Affairs


1/29/2015 - Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. -- Three former space pioneers were honored during the 48th annual Apollo 1 Memorial Ceremony Jan. 27 at Launch Complex 34, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The memorial honored crew members, Command Pilot Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Senior Pilot Edward H. White II and Pilot Roger B. Chaffee, who were killed by a flash fire during a launch pad test of their Saturn 1B rocket, Jan. 27, 1967.

"Throughout our nation's history, its greatest accomplishments have been manifested by brave men and women, willing to exert the effort necessary and overcome adversity to seize upon life-changing opportunity," said Col. Shawn Fairhurst, 45th Space Wing vice commander. "These three Americans chose to serve our nation, first in defense of the freedoms we hold so dear and then later as our nation's explorers. They embodied humanity's desire to understand who we are and our place in the vast universe we call home."

About 140 people were in attendance at the event, including Gus Grissom's wife, brothers, son and grandson, and Roger Chafee's daughter, Cheryl. The family members were recognized and honored for the sacrifices they made.

"You have our deepest sympathy and hope that you can find some solace in knowing that we promise to continue the legacy of Gus, Ed and Roger ... To serve proudly and honorably, finding strength from your sacrifice and their memory ... To continue reaching for the stars," Col. Fairhurst said.
During the ceremony, three candles were lit, and burned through the ceremony. At exactly 6:31 p.m., the exact moment of the fire on board Apollo 1, the candles were extinguished and a bugler played Taps.

Dr. Sonny Witt, 45th Mission Support Group director of operations, said it is an honor to be part of the ceremony, which honors both the heroes and their families.
"It's the right thing to do, and the right day to do it," he said of the event, which is held on the anniversary of the flash fire." It's their ceremony, and we treat them with the dignity and respect that they deserve."

Along with Col. Fairhurst, Kelvin Manning, Kennedy Space Center director and Navy Capt. John Sager, Naval Ordnance Test Unit commander, also served as guest speakers for the event.

"Tonight, we stand here, in recognition that we are forever indebted to the sacrifices of these men and women and their families," said Col. Fairhurst. "With nearly 3,500 launches from this small piece of Florida, the spirit to serve and explore lives on in the men and women of our nation's military, NASA and our commercial space partners."

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Montana youth lead way building cyber security skills

by 2nd Lt. Annabel Monroe
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs


1/20/2015 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont.  -- Students and faculty from Charles M. Russell High School in Great Falls, Montana, along with members of the Air Force Association and volunteers from Malmstrom Air Force Base, have combined forces to compete in CyberPatriot, Montana's first national youth cyber education program.

In an effort to increase adolescent focus in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, students compete in the field of cyber security and network defense while being taught and mentored by experts in the field.

Top performing teams across the nation will be invited to attend an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C., for the National Finals Competition. The regional competition was held Jan. 16, 2015, for Montana's first and only CyberPatriot team.

"The program addresses very real national security concerns in an ever-evolving industry and introduces students to career opportunities in the cyber security field," said Senior Master Sgt. David Lohouse, 341st Communications Squadron superintendent.

Each student participates in training, a practice exercise once a week and meets with a mentor at least once a month.

"(I volunteered) because it's challenging, fun and an opportunity to teach the future 'us,'" said Airman 1st Class Daniel Rome, 341st CS client system technician. "We might as well start now."

"CyberPatriot teaches kids about cyber security and provides a glimpse of the things we face in the Air Force every day," said Senior Airman Eric Garrison, 341st CS client system technician. "Additionally, it's an opportunity to pass on knowledge that can broaden each of these students' opportunities."

"We also have the opportunity to improve our knowledge base and learn new computing policies," added Senior Airman Austin Beaty, a visual imagery and intrusion detection systems specialist from the 341st CS.

"It's a fun group of people to be around. We are proud of what we do and proud of creating safer computers in general," said Joe Grasseschi, an 11th-grade student at CMR High School.

Katie Peppers, a senior at CMR High School who is looking into some of the best technical universities on the East Coast, looks forward to her future and is grateful for the things being a CyberPatriot taught her.

"I love being able to help others with computer issues and appreciate the problem solving skills I have learned," said Peppers.

In the end, that's exactly what programs like these are all about.

"We love providing opportunities that students might not otherwise have in the classroom," explained Jamie Williams, a librarian at CMR and the CyberPatriot team coach.

In a combined effort to further science, technology, engineering and mathematics knowledge in schools, organizations like CyberPatriot help build America's national security future as well as positive and productive youth.

SAVER-GSA Purchasing Program Webinar for First Responders



The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's First Responders Group System Assessment and Validation for Emergency Responders (SAVER) Program and General Services Administration (GSA) will host the first in a series of free webinars titled "SAVER-GSA Purchasing Program for First Responders." The webinars will provide an overview of the SAVER program and GSA's critical role in providing disaster-related products and services to state and local governments and federal agencies the webinar is free to join. The webinar will be held Jan. 27, 2015 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST. HSIN Link: https://share.dhs.gov/saver-gsa_purchasing_program_for_first_responders/.  Dial in number: 877-352-5212; participant code: 7289941

96th Test Group brings 'R2D2' to life

by SrA Daniel Liddicoet
49th Wing Public Affairs


1/22/2015 - HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Remotely tucked away in the high desert of southern New Mexico, the 96th Test Group at Holloman AFB provides some of the most sophisticated military testing in the world. Often, their innovations and technological pursuits can conjure images seen in science fiction films or novels. The group's latest project, dubbed affectionately as 'R2D2', is no exception.

According to 2nd Lt. Troy Biersack, program manager with the 746th Test Squadron, explained that the project began from a need to design a platform that could serve to perform high-dynamic testing of new GPS technology inside the 56 year-old T-38 Talon.

The culmination of efforts across the 96th TG led to the creation of a rear cockpit mounted electronics package reminiscent of the beloved Star War's robot.

"The similarities between our RCP and R2D2 would be that it's in the rear seat and it's got this funny little cap on the top which functions as an antenna," Biersack described. "We started jokingly referring to it as R2D2 as the project developed, and it just stuck."

Building the RCP required careful coordination between the 746th Test Squadron, 846th Test Squadron and the 586th Flight Test Squadron.
The 746th Test Squadron performed program management, test management, integration of equipment and ground test data analysis. The 846th Test Squadron added by managing the mechanical design and fabrication. Finally, the 586th Flight Test Squadron led the flight certification process and coordinated the installation and removal of the RCP.

"It is a point of collective pride that the squadrons each possess such unique capabilities, yet they work so well together," said Biersack. "Our leadership is promoting innovation and cohesion. This dynamic exists across the squadrons, enabling us to quickly identify and leverage the correct talent."

Biersack served as the program manager for the RCP project, overseeing each phase of development between squadrons to ensure the process was seamless.

"My charge was to maintain program vector and momentum while standing clear of the experts. I was responsible for budget, for keeping it on track and holding people accountable to getting things done on time."

After the 746th Test Squadron developed the requirements to construct the RCP, the 846th Test Squadron began working on the mechanical design and fabrication of the rack.

As Biersack explained, one of the unique challenges of the project was designing a rack that could fit inside the aging T-38 without negatively affecting the pre-existing conditions of the aircraft.

"When the fabricated rack arrived from the 846th, for us it was one of the biggest moments of the entire project," beamed Biersack. "It was such a great feeling to see how far we'd come, and to bear the fruits of our labor in such a tangible way."

Once fabricated, the RCP then had to undergo a series of ground testing and safety reviews before it could become airborne.

According to 1st Lt. Jeffrey Son, test manager at the 746th Test Squadron, explained that one of the challenges of this phase was testing for the aggressive vibration profile necessary to ensure the RCP could undergo the rigors of high dynamic testing.

"As a test manager, it's very neat to be a part of test execution. I feel a lot of the time that I'm just along for the ride. The folks here at the squadron are experts at what they do and need very little guidance to make tests successful. It's been an honor to be a part of this team."

The 746th had to perform a safety review to guarantee that the RCP would bring no new hazards to the T-38.

Erin Morgenstern, unit test safety manager at the 746th Test Squadron, explained that their biggest priority was to ensure that installing the rack would not interfere with the aircraft's ejection system.

"The pilots had to change their ejection settings in order for the gas lines to cooperate with the RCP, we had to make sure there were no hazards to the aircrew upon ejection and that the equipment stayed with plane also so there could be no mid-air collisions."

Finally, once the equipment had been checked out, the RCP was sent to the 586th Flight Test Squadron so it could be flown in the T-38 for initial flight testing.

"The moment it all came to together, the big kumbaya," recalled Biersack, "was the eight sorties that were flown by the 586th went off without a hitch. Seeing the data from our analysts showing that this rack is just as good as the rack we're replacing it with."

As it all came together, the members of the RCP project could see their own little piece of science-fiction forming before their eyes.

"In order to accomplish something like this, you've got to chip away at it bit by bit, piece by piece," said Biersack. "And sometimes it's amazing to just look back, pick your head up from the grind and see everything that's been accomplished."

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Incirlik Innovation - Bright idea reduces base energy cost

by Senior Airman Michael Battles
39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs


1/20/2015 - INCIRLIK AIR BASE, Turkey  -- Editor's note: This article is part of a series designed to highlight innovative ideas, programs and actions that have or can save the Air Force money as well as improve mission readiness.

As a whole, the Armed Forces and Department of Defense are becoming smaller as part of a shrinking budget. Due to these fiscal restraints, service members are thinking out-of-the-box and developing innovative ways to improve their installations.

In an attempt to reduce Incirlik Air Base's energy usage, members of the 39th Civil Engineer Squadron's leadership, in cooperation with a contracted partner, developed a way to save the base $500,000 annually - solar water heating systems.

"As we get more into a financially constricted budget, we have to be smarter about doing projects and be good stewards to the taxpayers," said Christopher Stewart, 39th CES quality assurance flight commander. "The Air Force takes advantage of the newest technology and applies these innovative ideas to base projects to reduce energy costs."

The new solar system replaces the traditional electrical energy source, which heated a buildings' water supply in the past, by removing the heater from the base power grid, which ultimately lowers the amount of energy used by the facility.

According to Stewart, solar panel projects are one of the most effective techniques to save energy.

"The panels capture energy from sunlight and convert it to useable energy," Stewart said. "Other energy projects that are typical on Air Force installations are converting to higher efficiency light bulbs, upgrading water lines to reduce water breaks, but even though all of these projects contribute to energy reduction, the savings take longer to payback the cost of the project than solar panels."

The project, which costs $2.4 million, was implemented into 19 facilities across the base that require a larger amount of heated water such as the Sultan's Inn Dining Facility, fitness center and the base dormitories.

According to Capt. Thomas Sena, 39th CES director of operations, by targeting these high demand facilities the base will substantially reduce Incirlik's usage while following the Air Force's goal to save energy.

"The Air Force is always asking for energy saving projects, so this project worked in our favor since the facilities targeted were huge energy demanding facilities," Sena said.

Implemented in July 2013, the system has been operating slightly longer than 18 months. The 39th CES estimates that through reduction in base energy costs, the base will save the cost of the solar water heating systems by the summer of 2018.