Posts filed under ‘Washington’
Workplace Crime or Terrorism?
UPDATES with DC officials saying at least 12 killed at Washington Navy Yard shooting attack today, FBI taking over investigation
Twelve people were killed during a chaotic mass shooting incident at the Washington Navy Yard, Washington city officials this afternoon (September 16).
“At this time it appears we have 12 fatalities,” Washington, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray told a press briefing near the sprawling Navy facility. “We have no known motive,” he added. The suspected gunman was also killed but his identity and the circumstances surrounding his death were not disclosed.
DC Police Chief Kathy Lanier said at least 12 dead were confirmed and “a few others” were wounded. Previously officials said four people were wounded and taken to area hospitals. Lanier said the FBI was now heading the investigation.
Lanier also said police were still seeking information on two other possible shooters. She shocked an earlier briefing when she announced that “we potentially have two other shooters that we have not located.” She said there was no confirmation yet that there were other shooters but witnesses said they saw two other people with guns. One was described as white male wearing a khaki/tan military style uniform with a beret and a handgun. The other was described as a black male in olive drab military style clothing with a long gun.
Officials at Med Star Washington Hospital Center said three of the wounded — a Washington police officer and two women — were being treated for gunshot wounds they were expected to survive. Lanier said her department deployed multiple active shooter teams within seven minutes after receiving the first 9-1-1 call from the Navy Yard at 8:15 a.m.
Flights at nearby Washington National Airport were grounded for a few hours and security was beefed up around Capitol Hill following the incident. There were no incidents at either location. “As far as we know this is an isolated incident,” Gray said.
According to earlier reports from local TV stations as well as the Washington Post at least 12 people were shot – including two law enforcement officers – in and around the Navy facility in Southeast Washington on the Anacostia River.
An early statement from the Naval District Washington said an active shooter was reported inside Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) Headquarters (Building 197). “Several people were injured and there are reports of fatalities,” according to the statement. NAVSEA employees — which normally number about 3,000 workers — have been ordered to shelter in place, the Navy said.
Television images showed U.S. Park Police and Maryland State Police helicopters lowering baskets to retrieve people – presumably wounded – from rooftops in the area. Multiple ambulances, police cars, armored vehicles and fire trucks can also be seen in the video footage. Later images showed hundreds of Navy Yard workers exiting the facility proffering ID with their hands raised.
Many streets in the area were blocked off and nearby subway stations and schools were closed due to the incident. The Navy Yard is also near the stadium that is home to the Washington Nationals baseball team.
Cleaning up after Snowden
ASPEN, Colorado – Two top Defense Department leaders say the National Security Agency (NSA) is taking several steps to secure its data following the embarrassing revelation of two U.S. secret surveilance programs by a rogue NSA contractor.
Both Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director and head of U.S. Cyber Command, told the Aspen Security Forum Thursday (today) that the intelligence gathering agency would be changing how it stored sensitive data and who would be allowed access to it.
Carter told the annual national and homeland security gathering in Aspen, Colo. that the release of classified information by the contractor, Edward Snowden, was a failure to protect the military’s own cyber networks. “I’ll tell you right now, the damage itself was very significant,” he added. Asked if the information Snowden had transported out of the country was “a lot,” the Alexander replied “Yes.” He said NSA had “concrete proff that terrorist groups are taking action, making changes” in the wake of the information revealed by the Snowden leaks.
Carter called for measures to remove what he calleed “the root causes” of the Snowden failure: too much classified information stored in one place and a single employee with unsupervised access to that data. He suggested a system similar to that used in handling nuclear weapons – a “two-man rule” – where no single person can access a nuclear bomb.
Alexander said changes like that and closed and locked server rooms that can only be accessed by two people working together “makes our job more difficult.” He urged moving to a joint information environment where data can be encrypted, so if stolen, it would be useless to thieves and spies.
“We also have to ensure that people who need information to do their job have access to that information,” he said, adding that both needs have to be balanced and since the Snowden leak occurred on NSA’s watch the agency would oversee the changes for both the Defense Department and the larger federal intelligence community.
4GWAR is in Aspen, Colorado this week, covering the Aspen Security Forum.
Heading to California
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is stepping down as head of the department to head the University of California system.
Napolitano – a former U.S. Attorney in Arizona and governor of that state – took over the third-largest U.S. Cabinet department (after Defense and Veterans Affairs) in January 2009. During her tenure she oversaw the response to Hurricane Sandy and Irene. he is always , and decided to ditch the idea of a multi-billion virtual security fence along the U.S.-Mexican border.
After four years and hundreds of millions of dollars were spent on the DHS plan to pepper the 700-mile border with surveillance cameras and sensors, the program managed to cover about 50 miles in Arizona, so Napolitano pulled the plug.
Napolitano was also criticized for a number of issues confronted by DHS, including what some called “intrusive” passenger searches at U.S. airports and record numbers of illegal aliens repatriated to their home countries.
Napolitano’s announcement is here. She is expected to leave DHS in September.
Within hours of her announcement, the chattering class in Washington was speculating on who would replace Napolitano as overseer of the hudge agency which includes Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Coast Guard, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Secret Service and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).
Among the names being bandied about are:
Thad Allen, former Coast Guard commandant who oversaw the cleanup and response to the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico;
Raymond Kelly, head of New York City’s police department – the largest in the country — and former head of the U.S. Customs Service;
William Bratton, former head of the police departments in Boston, New York City and Los Angeles.
Other names include former Connecticut Sen. Joseph Lieberman and John Pistole, head of the Transportation Security Administration.
Billion Dollar Deal
China has agreed to provide $1.1 billion in low interest loans to oil-rich Nigeria to pay for much-needed infrastructure in Africa’s most populous country.
The money will help build roads, airport terminals in four cities and a light rail line for Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. China is investing heavily in Africa as a source of oil and other natural resources, according to the BBC. Chinese companies, under contracts worth $1.7 billion, are already building roads across Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer.
The agreement was signed Wednesday (July 10) by Nigerian Prersident Goodluck Jonathan and Chinese leader Xi Jinping during Jonathan’s four-day visit to Beijing.
The Associated Press reported that China’s demand for crude oil produced in Nigeria is expected to rise tenfold to 200,000 barrels a day by 2015, according to information provided by a team accompanying Jonathan.
Zang Chun, an expert on Africa at the Shanghai Institute of Foreign Studies, told the AP that Nigeria is important to China because it has the largest economy in West Africa and because it has oil.
* * * *
Obama in Africa
During his three-nation tour of Africa earlier this month, President Barack Obama pledged U.S. investment in a plan to double electrical capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.
Obama, who visited Senegal in West Africa, South Africa and finally the East African nation of Tanzania during his eight-day trip, spoke about food security and announced a $7 billion investment to double electrical capacity in sub-Saharan Africa.
On his last day in Tanzania, Obama visited the Ubungo Symbion Power Plant near Dar es Salaam, to focus on the lack of electrical power for most residents of sub-Saharan Africa. investing $7 billion in financial support for an initiative called “Power Africa.” Tanzania is one of the initial six participating countries where the government hopes to add 10,000 megawatts of generation capacity and reach 20 million households that lack electricity.
“Public and private resources will be matched with projects led by African countries that are taking the lead on reform,” Obama said. “In this case, African governments commit to energy reforms. And the U.S. is committing some $7 billion in support, and private sector companies have already committed more than $9 billion. And this is just the beginning,” he added “because we look forward to even more companies joining this effort.”
Speaking to U.S. and African business leaders in Dar Es Salaam, Obama announced that new U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker would lead a “major trade initiative” to Africa in her first year at the Commerce Department, the New York Times reported.
* * * *
Food Security Threat
A deteriorating food security situation in northeastern Uganda could affect an estimated 1.2 million people, according to reports from the government and aid agencies.
A June 2013 analysis, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, revealed that up to 975,000 people in the semi-arid Karamoja region face “stressed” levels of food insecurity, while 234,000 more cannot meet their minimum food needs, according to IRIN.
Food security – or the lack of it – is considered a potential security issue by U.S. Intelligence officials. In their 2013 Worldwide Threat Assessment, the U.S. Intelligence Community says “terrorists, militants and international crime organizations can use declining food security to promote their own legitimacy and undermine government authority. Growing food insecurity in weakly governed countries could lead to political violence and provide opportunities for existing insurgent groups to capitalize on poor conditions, exploit international food aid and discredit governments for their inability to address basic needs.”
Meanwhile, African leaders meeting in Ethiopia earlier this month pledged to make agriculture a higher priority in their national policies and increase spending witrh a goal of ending hunger across the continent by 2025, The Guardian reported.
At the conclusion of meeting at the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa, ministers committed to working with the private sector, farmers’ groups, civil society and academia to increaase productivity – while addressing the underlying causes of malnutrition.
Despite strong economic growth across many parts of Africa over the past 10 years, nearly a quarter of the population – about 240 million people – are undernourished, of whom more than 40 percent are children under five, according to the Guardian.
Of the 20 countries in the world suffering from prolonged food shortages, 17 are in Africa, according to José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
In an interview with the news agency Inter Press Service, da Silva said Africa is entering a new era “with greater investment in agriculture, and that stronger coordination between governments, civil society organizations and the private sector would make the goal of zero hunger in Africa realistic by 2025.”
Catching White Elephants
By now you’ve probably heard or read about the $34 million military headquarters building at Camp Leatherneck in southern Afghanistan that probably won’t ever be used by U.S. troops.
But maintaining the 64,000-square foot, air conditioned windowless building – equipped with modern office space, work stations and an auditorium — is probably too expensive for the Afghans to handle so the brand new building may be demolished by departing U.S. forces.
But wait, there’s more. Less than four months after the Army asked Congress to fund the huge command center, the local Marine Corps commander said it wasn’t needed and made a request – in May 2010 – to cancel the project. In February 2011, however, the Air Force issued a construction contract to build the facility, which Uncle Sam took possession of in November 2012, according to the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). SIGAR is a government agency created by Congress to prevent and detect waste, fraud and abuse in Afghanistan reconstruction programs.
“Based on these preliminary findings, I am deeply troubled that the military may have spent taxpayer funds on a construction project that should have been stopped,” Special Inspector General John Sopko, wrote in a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel; the commander of U.S. Central Command – which includes Afghanistan; and the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan.
Sopko said he was also troubled by the options of either “destroying a never-occupied, never-used building or turning over what may be a ‘white elephant’ to the Afghan government that it may not have the capacity to sustain.” You can read his letter here.
Meanwhile, another special inspector general for reconstruction – this time in Iraq – has a recommendation to avoid future money-wasting boondoggles. In testimony before a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Tuesday (July 9) Stuart Bowen Jr., urged creation of a U.S. Office for Contingency Operations (USOCO) to concentrate authority over relief and reconstruction efforts into a single office that would report to both the secretaries of Defense and State – as well as the president’s National Security Advisor.
Now there is no executive branch department with the primary responsibility for carrying out relief and reconstruction activities, Bowen said, noting that Congress has appropriated $60 billion for Iraq’s reconstruction over the last 10 years and his office has recovered more than $200 million through waste and fraud investigations. Instead of a single office, the stabilization operations are just add-ons to the work already being done by the departments of State, Defense, Justice and Treasury, as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Current geopolitical events make the need for a reform like USOCO quite compelling,” Bowen said in written testimony for the Middle East and North Africa subcommittee, adding “a number of fragile states, including Syria, could soon require integrated stabilization and reconstruction assistance.”
A bill that would create USOCO and assure that the government is preparing for the next stabilization and reconstruction operation ahead of time has been introduced in the House by Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Texas).
President Barack Obama leaves Washington Wednesday (June 26) for an eight-day trip where he will visit South Africa — Africa’s largest economy — Senegal in West Africa and Tanzania in East Africa. Obama will not be visiting Tanzania’s neighbor, Kenya, his late-father’s birthplace. Details here.
Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Cyber Command, the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps are slated speakers. Details here.
And on Thursday (June 27) Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaks at the Brookings Institution on the military’s role in cyberspace and the threat posed by cyber attacks. Details here.
Maritime Domain Awareness
C-SIGMA, a maritime domain awareness group, co-founded by the former science and technology adviser to the U.S. Coast Guard holds a two-day conference on monitoring ocean-going vessels from space via a global network of satellites starting Wednesday (June 26) in Cork, Ireland. Details here.
More Border Agents?
If a compromise deal on pending immigration legislation holds up, it would double the number of federal agents on the U.S.-Mexican border. But according to Reuters, some officials question the benefits of the $50 billion pricetag for the boost from 21,000 to 40,000 border security agents.
In addition to the federal agent surge and completion of a 700-mile-long border fence, the compromise would also include $3.2 billion for a high tech border surveillance plan – including unmanned aircraft, infrared ground sensors and long range thermal imaging cameras, the New York Times reported.
James Comey tapped for FBI Post
[Updates with Comey nominated, praised by Obama, adds photo and link to 2008 UAV demonstration for FBI]
As predicted, President Obama formally nominated James Comey – a former high-ranking official in the George W. Bush administration – to be the nation’s next FBI director.
At a White House announcement in the Rose Garden, Obama praised Comey’s integrity — without going into specifics of his opposition, when Comey was Deputy U.S. Attorney General, to the continuation of a warantless eavesdropping program that he believed was unconstitutional. Comey threatened to resign in opposition to the move. President George W. Bush later backed Comey’s position.
“This is a 10-year assignment. I make this nomination confident that long after I’ve left office, our nation’s security will be in good hands with public servants like Jim Comey,” Obama said, calling for the Senate to “act promptly with hearings and to confirm our next FBI director right away.”
As a U.S. attorney in New York, Comey successfully prosecuted more than a dozen men for the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service members.
If he is confirmed, Comey, 52, the former top federal prosecutor in Manhattan and areas north of New York City, will replace Robert S. Mueller III, who is leaving the agency after a dozen years. Comey’s nomination has been expected since last month when news reports indicated he had emerged as the top candidate.
Obama also praised the outgoing FBI director. “Under his watch, the FBI joined forces with our intelligence, military and homeland security professionals to break up al Qaeda cells, disrupt their activities and thwart their plots,” the president said, adding: “Countless Americans are alive today, and our country is more secure, because of the FBI’s outstanding work under the leadership of Bob Mueller.”
Earlier this week, the current FBI director told Congress that while the FBI has used drones in its investigations, it has been rare and only for surveillance purposes.
According to NBC, Director Robert Muller acknowledged that the FBI used drones in investigative practices but said the agency is working to establish better guidelines for their use.
Back in 2008, when your 4GWAR editor was working at Aviation Week, we went down to Quantico, Virginia to see a demonstration for FBI officials of a catapult-launched Insitu Scan Eagle unmanned air vehicle. You can see a short video of the launch and recovery here.
Ideals Carved in Stone
In late May every year, soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment – known as The Old Guard because it is the oldest serving unit of the Army – place American flags at every grave marker in Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetery in advance of the Memorial Day holiday, which honors the nation’s war dead. The cemetery is located in Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the nation’s capital, Washington.
If you click on the above image to enlarge it, you’ll notice the symbols at the top of the headstones of the first three graves indicate (from left to right) the deceased is a Christian, a Jew or a Muslim who all died in the service to their country. Behind these three headstones, on the left, you can also make out the grave of a woman Army officer, who earned the Bronze Star medal in Iraq.
We think these symbols, purchased with blood and carved in stone, are silent testaments of the ideals that America stands for — even if the road to achieving those ideals has been a rocky one since 1776. In the not so distant past, men and women of all races, colors or creeds — even if they weren’t treated equally back home — still answered the nation’s call to serve, sometimes at the risk of their own lives, because they believed in those ideals.
Today, the Army notes that “though they may differ in faith or background, all soldiers bleed the same color for our country. They serve with honor and integrity, and those that fall are all given the same honors.”
Each May, the soldiers of The Old Guard, who also provide military honors at burial services in Arlington, fan out across the cemetery’s rolling lines of graves — and in a matter of just a few hours — place the small flags a uniform distance from each marker and then salute.
On May 23, about 1,200 Old Guard soldiers participated in the “Flags In” event this year, and about 220,000 graves received a flag, as did memorial markers and rows of urns at the cemetery’s columbarium, according to Army Maj. John Miller, spokesman for the Old Guard.
The tradition dates back to the Grand Army of the Republic in 1868 to honor Union Soldiers that had fallen during the Civil War, Miller said. The custom was interrupted a few times over the years but the Old Guard revived it after World War II.
SHAKO is an occasional 4GWAR posting on military history, traditions and culture. For the uninitiated, a shako is the tall, billed headgear worn by many armies from the Napoleonic era to about the time of the American Civil War. It remains a part of the dress or parade uniform of several military organizations like the corps of cadets at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, New York.
Navy League’s Expo
Your intrepid 4GWAR editor is at the Navy League’s 2013 Sea-Air-Space Expo at the Gaylord National Convention Center, National Harbor, Maryland (it’s across the Potomac from Alexandria, Virginia).
The annual gathering brings together Navy and Coast Guard officials from all over — including many foreign countries — as well as defense contractors — large and small — and scribes like your editor to find out what’s the Navy’s up to and where it thinks it’s going in the future.
We’re helping the folks at Seapower, the Navy League’s magazine, cover the scores of briefings by Navy and Coast Guard commanders, government officials, big defense contractors and organizations dedicated to the sea services.
On Monday we wrote about the Navy’s plans for unmanned aircraft on nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the successes of the V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft and what Naval Air Systems Command is doing to integrate new systems into the fleet while making them interoperable with existing systems and platforms.
You can see all three stories among lots of others written by the staff of Seapower by clicking here.
Hail to the Chiefs
We know this kind of photo is a cliche, but we just love the bland expression on this Navy chief’s face as these beautiful Springfield 1903 rifles — with fixed bayonets — sail over him. We also love the chief’s cutlass. Haven’t seen anything like that on a modern day sailor since the river battle scene in “The San Pebbles” (See photo below)
This week’s Friday Foto shows the Navy celebrating 120 years of the chief petty officer rank during an April 1 ceremony at the U.S. Navy Memorial in Washington. D.C. The chief petty officer rank was created in 1893 and Navy chiefs have been leading sailors ever since. We wonder who yelled at the blue jackets and told them to shape up before 1893.
The role and duties of a master chief — and the tradition behind them — are outlined in this interesting column from the Washington Times.
Please click on both photos to enlarge image.