We Have All The Best Toys: laser-cannon edition

September 5, 2014
Science-fiction comes to life

Science-fiction comes to life

(Photo via Wired)

Okay, how cool is this?

Boeing is building a laser cannon for the U.S. Army, and the new weapon has now proved it will be as capable at sea as on land. The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD)—basically a high-energy laser mounted on top of a big truck—was successfully used to blast some UAV drones and 60mm mortars out of the Florida sky earlier this year, Boeing announced Thursday.

This test was done in a windy and foggy environment, an essential step to proving the technology is useful for naval deployment. The HEL MD used a 10-kilowatt laser—a much less powerful version of what it will eventually fire—to “successfully engage” more than 150 targets at Eglin Air Force Base, a Department of Defense weapons testing facility on the Florida Panhandle. In other words, it disabled or destroyed them.

In simple terms, the laser makes an incredibly powerful, highly focused beam of light and aims it at a moving target. Light equals heat, and, after enough heat has been transferred, the target is compromised and crashes or blows up. The Army and Boeing (which landed a $36 million contract for the project) have been working on this for the better part of a decade, par for the course for a next-generation weapons platform.

It’s a preliminary test of course –I doubt the UAVs were taking any evasive action– but the fact that the laser was effective through fog was pretty danged amazing. I can recall engineer friends back in the 80s describing the problem of lasers diffusing through fog and clouds as being insurmountable. Now? Check it off.

Which reminds me, I wonder how many of the people who called Reagan an idiot for pushing missile defense feel like eating some crow these days? The Israelis have already shown the concept works tactically on the battlefield, we demonstrated proof-of-concept with the HEL MD on our own system, and repeated tests over the Pacific show that ballistic missile defense is not at all a “Star Wars” fantasy. Other than Israel’s “Iron Dome,” these systems aren’t usable in battle, yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Like the musket ended the age of armor, energy weapons may well spell the end of the missile age.

The next phase, of course, it to mount laser cannons on giant war robots, thus making Japanese anime a reality.

PS: Video at the link.

PPS: A very good book related to this is Max Boot’s “War Made New,” which covers the evolution of warfare as competing developments in technology and the effects these developments had on strategy and tactics. This is potentially the latest example.

 


A birds-eye view of the bird scorching Ivanpah solar electric power plant

August 19, 2014

Phineas Fahrquar:

So, the road to Our Green Future is paved with… solar-fried birds. Lovely.

Originally posted on Watts Up With That?:

At the start of the weekend, and quite by accident, I found myself aloft and looking directly into the glare of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. I can tell you that not only does it roast birds in mid-air, it certainly seems to be a hazard to aviation. First, a story today from AP, via my local newspaper. Photos follow.

Emerging desert solar plants scorch birds in midair-Chico Enterprise-Record

There are roughly 300,000 computer-controlled mirrors at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in Primm, Nev. New estimates for the Ivanpah solar plant, an innovative year-old $2.2 billion solar project with Google as a major investor, say thousands of birds are dying yearly, roasted by the concentrated sun rays from the mirrors. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

IVANPAH DRY LAKE (AP) >> Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s…

View original 1,067 more words


#KYsen: Allison Grimes, national security sooper-genius

July 30, 2014
Perfect against tunneling jihadis!

Perfect against tunneling jihadis!

Federal senators deal with issues of national and international importance, including matters of war and peace, and overall national security. You would think, then, that someone wishing to ascend to the Senate would at least know the basics about a game-changing weapon wielded by one of our key allies, who happens to be in a shooting war.

That is, until you meet Kentucky Democrat Allison Lundergan Grimes:

As foreign policy inches its way into a debate that has largely focused on the economy, Grimes was asked about congressional efforts to aid Israel’s missile defense system, known as the Iron Dome.

“Obviously, Israel is one of our strongest allies in the Middle East, and she has the right to defend herself,” Grimes said. “But the loss of life, especially the innocent civilians in Gaza, is a tragedy. The Iron Dome has been a big reason why Israel has been able to withstand the terrorists that have tried to tunnel their way in.

Iron Dome — as normal, intelligent folks such as you, Dear Readers, can probably tell without needing the above highlighting — is a missile-defense system. It is designed to shoot down things flying through the air: incoming tactical rockets with only minutes or seconds to spare, and it does an amazingly good job at it. One thing it does not do is stop things tunneling under the ground, jihadis or even gophers.

Someone should explain these tricky technical details to Ms. Grimes.

Grimes is hoping to defeat Mitch McConnell and capture his seat for the Democrats, and it’s a tight race. While McConnell hasn’t been one of my favorite senators, he also doesn’t give me the gas that he gives many of my fellow Righties. Regardless of one’s opinion of him, though, I think we can agree that it’s important that his seat be kept in Republican hands, for the Republic.

Even against a defense wiz like Allison Lundergan Grimes.

via Jim Geraghty

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Rewarding failure: GSA awards big contract to designer of #Obamacare web site

July 8, 2014
Obama foreign policy advisers

GSA contracts oversight team

Because they did such a great job with the federal Obamacare web site, why shouldn’t they be given the chance to compete for billions more of our tax dollars?

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA, Jul 08, 2014 (Marketwired via COMTEX) — CGI Federal Inc. (CGI) GIB -1.59% CA:GIB.A -1.49% announced today that the General Services Administration (GSA) has chosen the company as a prime contractor under a new contract vehicle known as One Acquisition Solution for Integrated Services (OASIS). The multi-award contract has an unlimited ceiling, allowing CGI to compete for billions of dollars in complex professional services task orders across all agencies in the U.S. federal government.

GSA oversees the business of the federal government, among other things supplying federal purchasers with cost-effective, high-quality products and services from commercial vendors. CGI is one of 74 awardees under OASIS, an “indefinite delivery indefinite quantity” (IDIQ) contract that will allow awardees to compete on a range of program management, management consulting, logistics, engineering, scientific and financial management services. Awardees will also be able to offer technology solutions as an ancillary service. For the first time, agencies will be able to purchase high-value professional services along with supporting IT solutions through a single contract, saving customers time and money.

The Obamacare site rollout was such a fiasco that the Federal government refused to renew its contract with CGI when it expired last February. And this isn’t the only time they’ve been told to go away: the government of the Canadian province of Ontario fired CGI for missed deadlines and a failure to deliver a functional product, an online medical registry.

So, naturally the GSA decides that CGI warrants even more chances to deliver “quality IT solutions.” This being the same GSA that’s managed our dollars so well in the past.

What could go wrong?

via Iowahawk

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#IRS: IT professionals skeptical of Lerner email loss story

June 27, 2014
"The new liberal tokerance"

“House special investigators in action”

And I say “skeptical” because, I’m sure, the real language the head of the International Association of Information Technology Asset Managers used was not repeatable in polite company. IAITAM is an organization that issues certifications and sets standards for IT management, including the proper disposal of retired hard drives. This is what their president, Dr. Barbara Rembiesa, had to say:

“The notion that these emails just magically vanished makes no sense whatsoever.  That is not how IT asset management at major businesses and government institutions works in this country.  When the hard drive in question was destroyed, the IRS should have called in an accredited IT Asset Destruction (ITAD) professional or firm to complete that process, which requires extensive documentation, official signoffs, approvals, and signatures of completion.  If this was done, there would be records.  If this was not done, this is the smoking gun that proves the drive or drives were destroyed improperly – or not at all.”

Emphasis added. I think this not only calls for another round of grilling for IRS Comissioner Koskinen, but subpoenas for any and all people working in the IT office that serviced Lerner’s computer.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#IRS had an external email archiving service from 2005 to 2011

June 22, 2014
"Obama foreign policy advisers"

“IRS records retention staff”

Well, la-dee-da. Isn’t this interesting?

The agency said that emails stored on dead drives were lost forever because its email backup tapes were recycled every six months, and employees were responsible for keeping their own long-term archives.

The IRS had a contract with email backup service vendor Sonasoft starting in 2005, according to FedSpending.org, which lists the contract as being for “automatic data processing services.” Sonasoft’s motto is “email archiving done right,” and the company lists the IRS as a customer.

And, as recently as 2009, Sonasoft was advertising its work for the IRS. That’s awfully close to the time frame of Lois Lerner’s (and others’) missing emails. But, in an update to the linked article, Peter Suderman points out that Sonasoft’s contracts with the government were small, in the very low five figures. Thus, they may well have not been paid to back up the specific accounts in question. (SEE UPDATE)

But… This leaves wide open the question of what other archiving services, if any, IRS may have hired during the time in question. (And not just IRS, but the departments where the recipients of her emails worked.) This would be a very good question to ask IRS Commissioner Koskinen under oath, though I wouldn’t rely on his answer. After all, no one believes him. Rather, this is a question that should be posed by the lead investigator for a Select Investigating Committee who’s already done his due diligence and knows the answer.

Just because I like to see lying bureaucrats squirm.

RELATED: Per Sharyl Attkisson, it’s not just the IRS possibly destroying records they’re legally obligated to retain. A federal judge has held the EPA in contempt and ordered it to pay legal fees for destroying records requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

UPDATE: Oh, this is special! Via Rick Moran, The Daily Caller reports that Sonasoft’s contract with the IRS was terminated weeks after Lerner’s computer crash:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) cancelled its longtime relationship with an email-storage contractor just weeks after ex-IRS official Lois Lerner’s computer crashed and shortly before other IRS officials’ computers allegedly crashed.

The IRS signed a contract with Sonasoft, an email-archiving company based in San Jose, California, each year from 2005 to 2010. The company, which partners with Microsoft and counts The New York Times among its clients, claims in its company slogans that it provides “Email Archiving Done Right” and “Point-Click Recovery.” Sonasoft in 2009 tweeted, “If the IRS uses Sonasoft products to backup their servers why wouldn’t you choose them to protect your servers?”

Sonasoft was providing “automatic data processing” services for the IRS throughout the January 2009 to April 2011 period in which Lerner sent her missing emails.

But Sonasoft’s six-year business relationship with the IRS came to an abrupt end at the close of fiscal year 2011, as congressional investigators began looking into the IRS conservative targeting scandal and IRS employees’ computers started crashing left and right.

Read the whole thing. I’m sure the timing was just a coincidence, aren’t you?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


#IRS email epidemic claims six more victims: truth, common sense hardest hit

June 17, 2014
x

IRS IT expert

Boy, those mysterious computer crashes afflicting the IRS are something, eh? First it was just the computer of Lois Lerner, a central figure in the scandal involving IRS harassment of conservative groups. Potentially crucial emails gone, trashed, wiped out so thoroughly that even the resources of the IRS couldn’t recover them. (Try that excuse at your next audit.) Oops! No backups, either!  “Gee, Mr. Investigating Congressman and lawyers representing the people we harassed, we’re sorry. But, don’t worry! There’s not a smidgen of corruption here. Trust us.”

And now, we learn, it wasn’t just Lerner’s computer that crashed, but the PCs of six more figures close to the heart of the scandal. What a coincidence:

The IRS recently informed Ways and Means chairman Dave Camp and subcommittee chairman Charles Boustany that computer crashes resulted in additional lost e-mails, including from Nikole Flax, the chief of staff to former IRS commissioner Steven Miller, who was fired in the wake of the targeting scandal.

The revelation about Lerner’s e-mails rekindled the targeting scandal and today’s news has further inflamed Republicans. Camp and Boustany are now demanding a special prosecutor to investigate “every angle” of the events that led to Lois Lerner’s revelation in May 2013 that the agency had used inappropriate criteria to review the applications for tax exemption.

(…)

If Lerner is the central figure in the scandal — Oversight Committee chairman Darrell Issa said Monday evening he believes she was the senior-most official involved — Flax may be an important auxiliary figure. E-mails produced in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the group Judicial Watch show Flax giving the green light to Lerner’s request to meet with Department of Justice officials to explore the possibility of criminally prosecuting nonprofit groups — at the suggestion of Democratic senator Sheldon Whitehouse — for engaging in political activity after declaring on their application for nonprofit status that they had no plans to do so.

What kind of computers are these clowns using? 386s running Windows 3??

Nah, you can bet they’re using fairly recent hardware and software, which mean those emails exist. Not only are they required to maintain copies by statute, but, as a former IRS IT tech put it to PJMedia’s Brian Preston:

He says that the IRS uses Microsoft Outlook/Exchange systems, which are backed up using Symantec NetBackup.

He also says that “the IRS is the cash cow of the federal government. When they ask for funding for anything it was granted without discussion.”

In the case of the prime contract and record retention, “The IRS IT projects were fully funded and never lacked for resources. To state ‘Backup tapes were reused after some short period’ is a complete joke. The IRS had thousands and thousands of tapes and ‘Virtual Tape Libraries’ (VTL or non-tape backups based on hard drive storage technologies). There was never a reason to reuse tapes.”

(…)

The former IRS IT worker adds that in his time on the prime contract, “I have worked for many federal agencies and the IRS had some of the best people.”

“This reason is why I scoff at the story being put out. Those folks would not have had such a short retention period for email unless they had it in writing from the highest levels. It would have made the local IT water cooler gossip if the IRS had screwed up and lost tons of email by accident.”

It is absolutely un-credible that these emails happened to all get irretrievably destroyed in some grand cosmic accident. The question is, then, what is in them that makes it worth telling such baldfaced lies to the nation and risking civil or criminal liability?

A House select investigating committee may be the only way we ever get the answer.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 13,523 other followers