In Midst of Financial Crisis, Military Goes Green

The Army’s mission is not to be green. Our mission is to defend the nation. In that context, we’ve found it’s in our interest to develop sustainable projects.” – Kevin Geiss, United States Army program director for energy security

The U.S. military is expected to save up to $1.6 Billion in costs through its diverse programs centering on increasing the efficiency of its operations through green initiatives. While Geiss is sure to point out that ‘going green’ is not a mission of the military, he does cite a Pentagon strategy review stating that consuming less foreign oil and contributing less to climate change are critical to long-term safety.

The Army has cut water usage at its permanent bases and other facilities around the world by 31% since 2004, and the military has spent more than $100 million on “spray foam” insulation for tents in Iraq and Afghanistan, cutting leakage of air conditioning by at least 50%.

Tad Davis, the Army’s deputy assistant secretary for environmental issues, states that “the energy savings usually recover the investment within 90 days.”

Read more at USA Today.

Arlen Specter to look at Revising Wiretapping Laws

According to Congress Daily, Senator Arlen Specter, D-Pa., suggested he might push for revisions to federal wiretapping laws to prevent secret video surveillance.

Specter is facing fierce competition in his primary election campaign after having switched his political party affiliation from Republican to Democrat last year. The remarks come amid a recent Philadelphia case involving allegations that school administrators monitored students via a secret webcam that had been embedded in a school-issued laptop.

The school’s secret monitoring came to light after the student was punished for actions caught on camera in his own home. Privacy advocates have seized on the case as an example of the perils of the online community.

Read more at technology daily.

Russia Becoming More Cooperative on Cybercrime

Over the past several years, the Russian government has consistently frustrated European and U.S. officials by refusing to take hard stances regarding organized cybercrime gangs that have become increasingly sophisticated. The organized gangs have stolen millions of identities as well as millions of dollars in employee pay by striking at banking systems throughout Europe and the United States.

During the past few days, however, Russian authorities associated with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) – the successor organization to the KGB – have quietly arrested several men who have been wanted in connection with a notorious cyber-attack on the payment processing unit of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Viktor Pleshchuk, an alleged mastermind behind the $9m attack on the payment processing unit of RBS WorldPay, based in Atlanta, was detained by the FSB and is awaiting next steps in Russia. The group broke RBS encryption protecting the data associated with payroll debit cards and “counterfeit versions of the cards were used in a 12-hour period in late 2008 to withdraw cash from 2,100 ATMs in 280 cities,” according to the original U.S. grand jury indictment in Atlanta.

U.S. experts are cautiously optimistic that this new level of cooperation will continue in the future. The Financial Times quotes Don Jackson, a cybersecurity expert with SecureWorks, in Atlanta, stating that  “I believe [the United States is] embarking on an era of genuine co-operation with Russian authorities.”

To read more, visit the Financial Times (free registration required).

White House Asks Congress For Largest Defense Budget in History

Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Via Slate.

Yesterday, the White House revealed OMB’s budget that asks Congress for $741.2 billion in new military spending, including a $548.9 billion base budget for fiscal year 2011.  The administration is also asking for an additional $33 billion in fiscal year 2010 supplemental funds for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already cost one trillion dollars since 2001, and the new budget calls for roughly $159 billion dollars to cover the costs of the US missions there — including about $11.6 billion to expand the Afghan security forces.

The fiscal year 2011 budget request “builds on the reforms begun in last year’s defense budget,” Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in a statement on the budget. “These substantial changes to allocate defense dollars more wisely and reform the department’s processes were broadened and deepened by the analysis and conclusions contained in the Quadrennial Defense Review.”

Secretary Gates breaks down that $159.3 billion in some detail ($89.4 billion for operations, $21.3 billion to repair broken equipment, $13.6 billion to train the Afghan and Iraqi security forces, etc.).  However, The Center for a New American Security calculates that, adjusting for inflation, this sum is 13 percent higher than the defense budget at the peak of the Korean War, 33 percent higher than at the peak of the Vietnam War, 23 percent higher than at the peak of the Cold War, and 64 percent higher than the Cold War’s average.

Proposed Revenues and Spending for 2011 Fiscal Budget. Via NPR.

Read the OMB Fact Sheet on Department of Defense spending.

The Budget & The Department of Defense Budget.

Ahmadinejad to Announce "Good News Regarding 20 Percent Uranium Enrichment"

Iranian technicians remove a container of radioactive uranium from the Isfahan nuclear facility. AFP (2009)

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stated Sunday that Iran had “[g]iven a chance to Western countries” to accept its version of the UN-brokered nuclear enrichment deal that includes a phased fuel swap instead of a bulk exchange of enriched fuel between Iran and Russia.

Ahmadinejad announced that “during the ten days of dawn (February 1 to 11) we will announce good news regarding the production of 20 percent enriched fuel in our country. This news is so sweet that it will make any Iranian and any freedom-loving person in the world happy. This news is about Iran’s scientific advancement.” The ten days of dawn is a celebration of the 1979 Islamic revolution, with this year’s celebration marking the 31st anniversary of the U.S.-backed shah’s toppling.

For more, visit AFP.