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.

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).

Defense Department Lifts Ban on Women Serving on Submarines

Women Will Now Be Able to Serve On Submarines, Including the New Virginia-Class Submarines. Via Navy.mil.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates notified Congress on February 19 that the Defense Department would start allowing women in the Navy to serve on submarines. Prior to this policy change, female members of the Navy could only serve on surface ships for long-term missions. They only served on submarines for short stints as technicians and other short term jobs. Critics say that the cramped quarters of submarines would make it difficult for the crew to manage working with women. However, Secretary Gates said that accommodations can be made to make the change easier.

This change in policy illustrates the continued tension between traditional gender roles and culture of the military and the increasing demand of access to the military for women. On the one hand, 15% of the Navy is made of women, many of whom have distinguished themselves in the military, such as General Ann E. Dunwoody who was promoted to a four star general last year. These women have proved they deserve access to prestigious military positions such as those on a submarine and that they can provide the Navy with talented personnel. However, the concern that women would be disruptive to submarine operations continues to linger. Practical matters such as male and female crew sleeping in the same cramped quarters and the possible disruption of efficiency of operations on submarines provide good reasons why women’s rights may not extend to submarines.

The upcoming female graduates from Navy Academy may be the first to try out this new policy and prove the critics wrong.

See Reuters & WashingtonTimes.

Man Behind Subway Bomb Plot Pleads Guilty

The man arrested in last year’s plot to bomb the New York subway has pleaded guilty to terrorism charges. Najibullah Zazi, a 25-year-old Afghan immigrant, admitted to a federal judge yesterday that he had been trained by Al Qaeda and came to New York to detonate a bomb in the subway at a time close to the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction, conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country, and providing material support for a foreign terrorism organization, Zazi could face life in prison when sentenced in June.  While some criticize the decision to try terrorists in civilian courts, Attorney General Eric Holder argued that the success in this case serves as an example for how “the criminal justice system has proved to be an invaluable weapon for disrupting plots and incapacitating terrorists.”

NY Times

ABC News

Click here for a  look inside the Zazi courtroom

United States Successfully Shoots Down Ballistic Missile With Airborne Laser

The U.S. Missile Defense Agency announced successful use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) successfully destroyed a boosting ballistic missile during a Friday test.

According to the Agency, this was the “first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform.”

The ALTB is being chiefly designed by Boeing, but has components from numerous defense companies. Boeing produces the airframe from a 747 jumbo jet, with Northrop Grumman supplying the higher-energy laser and Lockheed Martin developing the beam and fire control systems.

Read more at Reuters.