Enlisted airmen’s first-term retraining opportunities to shrink in 2018

The number of first-term airmen who can retrain into highly in-demand jobs will shrink in fiscal 2018, although the number of career fields they can switch to is set to expand slightly.

According to a chart provided Tuesday by the Air Force Personnel Center, eligible active-duty airmen in their first enlistment in 2018 will be able to retrain into 1,401 positions in 77 Air Force specialty codes. In fiscal 2017, 1,688 first-term airmen were able to retrain into 74 career fields.

The career fields taken off the list for retraining opportunities include 1A0X1 in-flight refueling, 1U0X1 remotely piloted aircraft sensor operator, 2M0X2 missile and space system maintenance, and 2M0X3 missile and space facilities. The Air Force is adding retraining opportunities for 20 airmen to become 1C551D command and control battle management operations weapons directors.

Other highly in-demand careers remaining on the list from last year include 1A111 flight engineer, 1B411 cyber warfare operations, 1T211 pararescue, 3P011 security forces, and 5J011 paralegals.

Personnel officials said, in a Tuesday news release, that the First Term Airman Retraining Program allows airmen, including staff and technical sergeants, to retrain into a new job that is facing a manning shortfall in conjunction with their re-enlistment.

The release said that some of the jobs with retraining opportunities include cyber, safety, flight engineer, command and control operations, and other career fields. Some jobs, such as cyber warfare operations, require prior qualifications, the release said, but most jobs are open to all airmen.

“Retraining is a great opportunity for airmen to pursue a different career field while enabling the Air Force to maintain a healthy balance in all enlisted career fields,” Master Sgt. Kris Reece, enlisted retraining superintendent at AFPC, said in the release.

Retraining information is available on the myPers website, according to the release. Airmen can also use the Air Force Work Interest Navigator, or AF-WIN, on myPers’ retraining page, to find a new job they may be interested in by answering a series of questions. Reece said the AF-WIN tool compares an airman’s interests to entry-level career fields and creates a customized list of potential jobs that may be a good fit for that airman.

The list of first-term retraining opportunities and career fields can be found here.

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Column: Trump trips over ‘impenetrable Cyber Security unit’

One of the many challenges of dealing with Donald Trump is that he sometimes misunderstands things. The fallout from Trump’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week shows just how problematic that can be.

Trump tweeted upon his return from Hamburg, Germany, that he and Putin “discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded.” That sounded alarming.

Indeed, most commentators took the tweet to mean that the U.S. president was thinking forming a joint cyber defense mechanism with a foreign leader accused by U.S. intelligence services of hacking the 2016 presidential election. People were predictably outraged.

A comment under the tweet expressed mock regret that Osama bin Laden was dead and couldn’t join forces with Trump in countering terrorism. Sen. Marco Rubio offered a similar reaction: “Partnering with Putin on a “Cyber Security Unit” is akin to partnering with Assad on a “Chemical Weapons Unit.”

“It’s not the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close,” Sen. Lindsey Graham commented on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

But what would an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit” actually do, and is it even a thing? Here’s how Putin addressed the subject at the brief press conference he gave after the G-20 summit:

“We agreed with the President of the United States that we would set up a working group and will work together on the subject of jointly controlling security in cyberspace, of making sure international legal norms would be unconditionally followed in this area and meddling with the domestic affairs of foreign states wouldn’t be permitted.”

In the original Russian, this means setting up a group that would work out clear rules of engagement in cyberspace, as well as notions of what would and wouldn’t be permissible and a de-escalation mechanism. It’s not the smartest idea I’ve ever heard, but it’s pretty close.

Today, Russia and the United States are engaged in creeping cyberwarfare against each other, and they may well be working to disable or undermine each other’s critical infrastructure. The conflict is potentially deadly and, unlike military interactions between the two adversaries, not subject even to the most rudimentary rules or mutual arrangements. That needs to be fixed, and though a multilateral process under the auspices of the United Nations or perhaps the G-20 would be preferable a bilateral working group would be a start.

I doubt that rules worked out by such a group would put political parties, think tanks and campaigns off limits for hackers. They could, however, clearly draw the line at hacking voting systems, transport networks or energy grids. There might be some clarity as to attribution mechanisms and appropriate responses. Intelligence could be shared if terrorist groups attempted to attack one of the two countries by cyber means.

Trump and Putin don’t need to be allies to agree on something like this; as heads of two largely hostile powers, they both have an interest in protecting their country’s vital infrastructure, physical and electoral, from hackers. Though voter opinion carries far more weight in the U.S. than in Russia, where opposition parties are kept weak, Putin would no doubt feel the heat if an attack was aimed against him.

It appears that Putin suggested forming the group in the same spirit that Russia and the U.S. have attempted to sort things out in Syria, where there’s a danger of direct military clashes. (The only specific result of the 136-minute meeting between Trump and Putin was a ceasefire in southwestern Syria — a possible precursor to the de-facto partition of Syria into areas controlled by the Assad regime and its U.S. backed opponents.) And while the words “jointly controlling” sound ominous, in Russian, “control” is more oversight than dominance.

Trump, however, appears to have misunderstood the offer. In his mind, the working group turned into a joint “impenetrable unit” to guard against “negative things.”

That’s perhaps not surprising. Trump is still a political novice, and his mind must have been spinning after hours of discussion on subjects about which he’s only recently been learning. Unlike Putin, who prepares meticulously for every public appearance and every round of talks, taking pride in his memory for detail, Trump is unabashedly ad-hoc. Putin noted this trait during the meeting and spoke about it afterward, masking it as praise: “He analyzes rather quickly, answers the questions that are put to him or to certain new elements that arise during the discussion.”

Soon after tweeting about the “impenetrable unit,” Trump realized something was wrong with the idea as he’d grasped it. So he tried to walk back the earlier tweet, posting on Sunday, “The fact that President Putin and I discussed a Cyber Security unit doesn’t mean I think it can happen. It can’t — but a ceasefire can, & did!”

If some form of cooperation toward rule-making doesn’t take place, it will have been an opportunity lost in Trump’s poor translation of his own conversation. The implications for further interaction between Putin and Trump are even more troubling.

The lapse in understanding on a serious issue creates potential for frustration, false expectations and shaky deals. Perhaps, when the two meet again, they should have more people in the room who will be able to intervene, provide some background and make sure the presidents are clear on what they’re talking about.

Leonid Bershidsky is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the founding editor of the Russian business daily Vedomosti and founded the opinion website Slon.ru. Readers may email him at lbershidsky@bloomberg.net.

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German Intelligence Reveals Iran Still Seeking Nuclear Weapons Tech

Details
Published: 11 July 2017

By INU Staff

INU – The Iranian Regime is still attempting to obtain illicit nuclear technology, in direct defiance of the 2015 deal between six world powers and Iran, according to German intelligence agencies.

The Hamburg intelligence agency’s report read: “There is no evidence of a complete about-face in Iran’s atomic policies in 2016… Iran sought missile carrier technology necessary for its rocket program.”

The nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), was supposed to stop Iran from continuing development of its nuclear weapons programme for at least a decade in exchange for sanctions relief.

It was signed by the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China), Germany, and the European Union.

The report also revealed that three German citizens have been charged with violating export bans by sending 51 special valves to Iran. These parts could be used in Iran’s Arak heavy water reactor, to develop plutonium for nuclear weapons.

This reactor was supposed to have been shut down as a condition of the nuclear deal but has not been.

Their report documented 49 instances of the Iranian regime engaging in illegal procurement of weapons of mass destruction and terrorist activities, like cyber warfare, spying, and providing financial and military support for the terrorist group, Hezbollah.

A report from the Baden-Württemberg intelligence agency, read: “Regardless of the number of national and international sanctions and embargoes, countries like Iran, Pakistan and North Korea are making efforts to optimise corresponding technology.”

It continued: “[Iran sought] products and scientific know-how for the field of developing weapons of mass destruction as well missile technology.

The Iranian Regime had even been used a Chinese front company in order to buy technology that would aid Iran’s development of ballistic missiles, but thankfully they were caught.A report from the Rhineland-Palatinate intelligence agency, said: “[In 2016,] German companies located in Rhineland-Palatinate were contacted for illegal procurement attempts by [Pakistan, North Korea and Iran]. The procurement attempts involved goods that were subject to authorization and approval on account of legal export restrictions and UN embargoes. These goods, for example, could be used for a state’s nuclear and missile programs.”

These reports are consistent with those issued by German intelligence agencies in previous years.In 2015, during the nuclear deal talks, German intelligence agencies found that Iran was evading existing sanctions on obtaining both nuclear and ballistic missile technology. While in 2016, they reported that Iran was actively seeking chemical and biological weapons capabilities in Germany.

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153rd Command & Control Squadron: serving as cyber & driver

CHEYENNE, WY, UNITED STATES

07.11.2017

Story by Capt. Megan Hoffmann

Wyoming National Guard

Cyber capabilities have presumably replaced a majority of the mud and blood seen in decades past. Seemingly, the new way of warfare gives the advantage to those who can predict, control and outsmart the opponent with information technology. Virtual reality has replaced battlefield reality to some degree.

The Wyoming Air National Guard’s 153rd Command and Control Squadron eats, drinks, and sleeps the cyber challenge. Their mission is to provide mobile, survivable and endurable command, control, communication and computer capabilities and intelligence in any environment, on any given day. Technology is their trade.

“I get to come into work every day and make sure all of our networks are functioning properly. If it isn’t, then I get to work on troubleshooting and mitigating further issues,” said Staff Sgt. Jake Duda, a cyber transport systems admin who has been in the cyber world since enlisting in the Air Force in 2010, and has been with the 153rd CACS since 2012.

Duda works in the cyber domain in CACS, which involves five areas: cyber transport, cyber surety, radio frequency transmissions, cyber systems and client systems, all of which are synergistic in providing communication and cyber capabilities. The personnel who work this mission do everything from setting up and troubleshooting email, to communicating with satellites in order to provide support to local, state and national customers.

The squadron, which stood up in 2000 as the 4th Command and Control Squadron, was initially an active duty unit. Two years later, it transitioned the mission to the guard and the unit became part of the Wyoming Air National Guard as the 153rd CACS. During the transition, the unit was comprised of active duty airmen working alongside guardsmen. The personnel of the 153rd CACS now fully belong to the Wyoming Air National Guard, but the unit resides on F.E. Warren Air Force base, both located in Cheyenne, only a few miles apart.

“We have a great relationship with F.E. Warren. They help us out in the area of comm assets and security forces, and we do our part to be good neighbors and end-users,” said Chief Master Sgt. Joshua Moore, chief of cyber systems, who has been a member with the 153rd CACS since its inception in 2000.

CACS also owns and operates an entire fleet of military vehicles that their personnel are required to be trained and certified to operate. They are expected to know cyber and driver duties.

“What makes this job tough is not only that we expect our comm personnel to come in and be able to keep our computers, phones and satellites up and running and troubleshoot and fix any issues, but then we also tell them they have to hold military certifications for a number of different vehicles, as well. They have to be able to do it all, which can become difficult to juggle,” said Moore.

The squadron has the capability to provide everything from resources to local and state first responders such as fuel, MREs and potable water, to supporting national-level events that would require providing highly sensitive, secure communication capabilities.

They host more than $500 million in assets and 200 personnel that comprise 29 Air Force Specialty Codes. Those assets and personnel answer to a multitude of commanders and organizations to include the 153 Airlift Wing, their host unit, who provide strategic combat airlift; the 90th Missile Wing, their housing command, who provide combat-ready intercontinental ballistic missile forces; U.S. Northern Command, who conduct homeland defense efforts to include security support and security cooperation; and Air Force Global Strike Command, who have oversight of the 90 Missile Wing with an overall mission to provide combat-ready forces to conduct strategic nuclear deterrence and global strike operations.

As complex as their chain of command is, so too is the cyber environment and the skills and time it takes to train personnel in the career field.

“From the time we get a new airman in, it takes at least 24 months to get them fully trained and for them to understand what we do here. Not only is the initial training intense, but then you add in trying to keep pace with the technology sector because it’s always changing. It makes the day-to-day job very challenging,” said Moore.

“My initial training was 11 months, two of which were spent just learning basic IT functions,” said Duda.

The training, as time consuming as it is, has benefits in the civilian sector.

“All the training and certification that you get while working in CACS are very beneficial and transferrable to civilian jobs. We purposely help our personnel by giving them days and shifts that can benefit them with extra certifications that they desire and can use in the civilian sector. Then, the civilian sector also has the means and training in the information technology sector that many of our people bring back to CACS that help us out here. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship,” said Moore.

Duda, said that the many facets of being in the command and control realm are what make the job so enjoyable, yet so challenging.

“Oddly enough, I look forward to coming into work knowing there will be problems that I will assist in troubleshooting. I enjoy the challenge,” he said.

Moore echoes Duda’s excitement for the CACS mission.

“I’ve been in the Air Force for 22 years and this is by far the best job I’ve ever had. The people here are like family. We are on an active duty base with an active duty mentality and functionality, but the guard sense of family is apparent. The people here aren’t looking to [transfer to another base], and they take pride in what they do.”

Although cyber has proven to be a constantly moving target, difficult but not impossible to hit, it’s one that’s always within the scope of those in CACS.

“The same thing that makes cyber work challenging, is also what makes it fun. For example, issues within the network will arise where no foreseeable solution exists. Suddenly, the issue has been resolved without knowing what caused the fix. It’s exciting and demanding all at the same time,” said Duda.

Although military history and warfare started on a physical battlefield, the battlefield has expanded.

“We aren’t just fighting in the physical battlefield anymore. The advancement of technology has advanced our adversary. We now require optimal cyber and communication capabilities to hold the advantage, and being able to play a part in advancing those systems is a distinct privilege,” said Duda.

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Date Taken: 07.11.2017
Date Posted: 07.11.2017 14:51
Story ID: 240786
Location: CHEYENNE, WY, US
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Report: Spyware targeted experts investigating Mexico’s missing students

July 11 (UPI) — Canada’s Citizen Lab Internet watchdog said government-exclusive spyware targeted international experts investigating the abduction and murder of 43 college students in Mexico.

Citizen Lab said the Pegasus spyware product sold exclusively to governments was created by the NSO Group Israeli company, which is majority owned by the Francisco Partners U.S. private equity firm. Pegasus was designed to track criminals and terrorists.

Mexican journalists, human rights activists and opposition politicians have previously made allegations that Mexican authorities spied on them using Pegasus. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto‘s government has denied using Pegasus to spy on opponents.

Citizen Lab said it collaborated with Mexican organizations to determine that the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which investigated the disappearance of the missing students, was targeted by Pegasus.

“The international investigation into the 2014 Iguala mass disappearance was targeted with infection attempts using spyware developed by the NSO group, an Israeli ‘cyber warfare’ company,” Citizen Lab said in a statement. “A phone belonging to the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts, a group of investigators from several countries, was sent text messages with links to NSO’s exploit infrastructure. The infection attempts took place in early March of 2016, shortly after the GIEI had criticized the Mexican government for interference in their investigation, and as they were preparing their final report.”

In September 2014, 43 students from Ayotzinapa traveled to the town of Iguala in Mexico’s Guerrero state and clashed with police, who opened fire, investigations revealed. Police then handed the students over to drug gangs. Soldiers were at the scene of the clash and relatives of the missing students believe the soldiers played a role in the disappearances by failing to act.

The students were declared dead and most bodies have not yet been recovered or identified. The investigation into the kidnapping by Mexico’s government generated mass criticism as allegations of a coverup permeated.

Citizen Lab said it does not conclusively attribute the infection attempts to the Mexican government but added that “each new case contributes to the already-strong circumstantial evidence that entities within the Mexican government are the responsible party.”

“Our published investigations have now confirmed at least 19 individuals targeted with NSO in Mexico, including lawyers, politicians, journalists, anti-corruption activists, scientists, public health campaigners, government officials, and their family members,” Citizen Lab added.

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