Thursday, June 27, 2013

Dempsey: Cyberattacks Could Prompt Conventional Response

By Claudette Roulo
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 – Cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure or networks could be met with a conventional military response, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today.

“There is an assumption out there … that a cyberattack that had destructive effects would be met by a cyber response that had destructive effects,” Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey said to an audience at a Brookings Institution forum. “That’s not necessarily the case. I think that what [President Barack Obama] would insist upon, actually, is that he had the options and the freedom of movement to decide what kind of response we would employ.”

The impact of a cyberattack is a key question for elected officials to answer when considering the level of response, Dempsey said. “When does cyber theft become a hostile act?” the chairman asked. “Or when does cyber theft, added to distributed denial of services, become a hostile act? Or is a hostile act simply defined as something that literally is destructive in nature?”

Cyber has many features in common with other domains, and shouldn’t be thought of as a wholly exceptional realm, Dempsey said. Although it can sometimes feel abstract, he explained, cyber is a physical domain in the sense that it is operated by men and women over routers and servers, and cyberattacks can result in real, physical damage.

“I think that to the extent that we can always think about it in the way that we’ve always organized our thinking about the other domains, it might illuminate the challenge a little better,” the chairman said. “I do think that there are capabilities out there that are so destructive in nature and potential that it would be very difficult not to see them as acts of war.”

But, he noted, “the decision to declare something a hostile act -- an act of war -- is certainly one that resides in the responsibility of our elected leaders.”

Labor Department Awards $29 Million in Grants to Help Veterans

From a Department of Labor News Release

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 – More than 14,000 veterans across the nation will benefit from job training, job placement, housing help and other services, thanks to 121 grants totaling almost $29 million announced today by officials of the Labor Department’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service.

The grants were awarded through the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, the only federal program that focuses exclusively on employment of homeless veterans.

"Military service members and their families have been asked to make tremendous sacrifices for this nation. Although homelessness among veterans has fallen, too many of our heroes cannot find jobs or homes," acting Labor Secretary Seth D. Harris said. "These grants will provide those who have served our nation with the means to find meaningful civilian employment and chart new directions for their lives."

The grants will help homeless veterans reintegrate into society and the labor force while providing effective services aimed at addressing the complex challenges that homeless veterans often confront, officials said. The services provided by grantees will include job placement, on-the-job training, career counseling, life skills and money management mentoring, as well as help in finding housing.

Funds were awarded on a competitive basis to state and local workforce investment boards, local public agencies and nonprofit organizations, including faith-based and community organizations. These organizations are familiar with the areas and populations to be served, officials explained, and have demonstrated that they can administer effective programs to help veterans.

From Jennies to jets to stealth bombers: 90 years of the 131st Bomb Wing and 110th Bomb Squadron

by Senior Master Sgt. Mary-Dale Amison
131st Bomb Wing Public Affairs

6/25/2013 - WHITEMAN AFB, Mo -- From Jennies to jets to stealth bombers, the 131st Bomb Wing's history really began with its co-located flying squadron, now the 110th Bomb Squadron, which traces its roots back to the 110th Observation Squadron.

The 110th OS was organized by Maj. Bill Robertson and his brothers, Lieutenants Frank and Dan Robertson, owners of Robertson Aircraft Company. The Robertsons were aviation pioneers, noted for being the first two pilots from Missouri to enlist in World War I. Among their associates were a number of former Army Air Corps veterans and visionary young men who shared an interest in organizing a National Guard unit in St. Louis.

They strove to make this vision a reality; they worked with local newspapers to get the word out.

These outlets informed the public that "enlistments would not be limited to aviators but a number of young men who wanted to learn to fly or maintain flying equipment would also be taken."

Members would be paid for a maximum of 60 "drills" a year, which were described as periods of instruction in ground work, machine-shop practice and flying. They would receive instruction in war maneuvers, and conduct bombing and machine-gun firing practice with targets on the nearby Missouri River. Personnel assigned to the photo section would learn to "make pictures for use in war" and intelligence personnel would be "trained as Scouts of the Air (observers) and probably will have radio equipment."

A five-day "recruiting drive" enlisted a total of 110 men, most of whom were World War I veterans. On June 23, 1923, the 110th OS, 110th Photo Section and 110th Intelligence Section (35th Division Aviation Section) from the Missouri National Guard were federally recognized and Maj. Robertson became the first commanding officer.

The first headquarters for the unit was located in a gas station on Manchester Avenue in St. Louis. From there, it moved to a small room over a grocery store on Olive Street Road in St. Louis County. Members participated in training at the airport, which at that time was little more than a pasture.

At first there were no uniforms for the enlisted men. Their first flying equipment was a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny," which was purchased through officer donations and used for flight training until early 1924, when they received three additional World War I-surplus JN-4Hs. The pilots were eager to train; they would often fly three men to an aircraft, with one man strapped to a wing so they could switch off in midflight without having to take time to land.

The planes were housed in corrugated sheet-metal hangars erected on the field that had been built for the International Air Races of 1923. The 110th received additional aircraft and equipment throughout 1924, and by year's end, they had established a well-planned training program.

(This is Part 1 of a 3 part series.  Additional content provided for this story by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Boehlein, 131st Bomb Wing, and Mr. Charles Machon, Missouri National Guard Museum Curator)

Bureau Orders Refunds for Troops After Faulty Car Loans

By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 – About 50,000 service members will get refunds averaging $100 -- though some will be far higher --- after an enforcement action involving auto loans that Consumer Financial Protection Bureau officials announced today.

The bureau is ordering U.S. Bank and one of its nonbank partners, Dealers Financial Services, to return about $6.5 million to service members across the country, CFPB Director Richard Cordray told reporters during a conference call today.

“We’ve determined that the companies developed a joint program that engaged in deceptive marketing and lending practices while providing subprime auto loans to tens of thousands of active-duty military members,” he said.

Cordray explained that U.S. Bank and DFS created the Military Installment Loans and Educational Services program, better known as MILES, to sell subprime auto loans to active-duty service members at communities across the country located near military bases.

The consumer bureau found that MILES used the military discretionary allotment system to its advantage. Service members were required to pay by allotment, which he noted is “straight from their paycheck before the money hit their personal bank accounts,” without disclosing all associated fees and the way the program worked.

Specifically, he said, MILES failed to accurately disclose the finance charge, annual percentage rate, payment schedule and total payments for the loans.

“The examination also found that the MILES program deceived service members by understating the cost and scope of certain add-on products, such as a service contract, marketed and sold in connection with the loans,” he said.

Today’s action requires return of at least $3.2 million in undisclosed fees and costs, he said, and $3.3 million for the cost of the add-on products.

CFPB won’t impose civil penalties, he said, in part “because of the manner in which U.S. Bank and DFS cooperated with the bureau to resolve these matters.”

“Today’s action reflects our determination to act to protect service members against harmful practices in the consumer financial marketplace. … Everyone at the bureau will continue to stand side by side with our military and veterans,” Cordray said.

The director said he is pleased that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered an interagency effort to determine whether the allotment system should be changed to further protect service members.

Holly Petraeus, CFPB’s assistant director for service member affairs, joined Cordray on the call and echoed his sentiments about allotments.

The system has been around since long before electronic fund transfers existed, she noted, and has been extremely useful for troops who need to make regular payments to their creditors, especially when deployed or on the move.

But allotments have drawbacks, she added. They may include costs for third-party processors, “as we saw in this case,” she said, and they reduce budget flexibility, because an allotment comes out before a service member receives his or her pay.

Allotments also offer less protection and less transparency than electronic bank transfers, she said.
Noting Hagel’s interagency working group to study allotments, Petraeus said, “I hope all of us can work together to try to eliminate the risks to military consumers that have grown up around the use of the allotment system.”

The third CFPB official on today’s call was Kent Markus, the bureau’s assistant director for enforcement, who told reporters service members due refunds don’t need to take action. They will receive them either through an account credit or by check.

Markus noted the enforcement action also mandates that MILES drop the allotment requirement, and that the institutions involved make no further deceptive statements or omissions.