News in Brief

Ash Carter in the dock, FAA on the moon and more

Ashton Carter

Ashton Carter, the president's pick for Defense secretary, testified at a Feb. 4 confirmation hearing.

Carter: 'No silver bullet' for acquisition

While the Feb. 4 confirmation hearing for Defense secretary nominee Ashton Carter focused primarily on threats, strategy and the role of the defense chief in making security policy, a few members of the Senate Armed Services Committee honed in on how the military buys weapons, technology and services.

Carter promised senators that he would work to make defense acquisition more efficient and effective if confirmed.

This is familiar ground for Carter, who has previously served as undersecretary of Defense for acquisitions, technology, and logistics, and as deputy secretary of Defense. Carter said he "was in favor of reintroducing to the acquisition system the role of the customer, which is the chiefs of the military services." Carter told lawmakers that "there's no one silver bullet -- there are many things that we need to do to improve acquisition."

While senior military leaders have looked to develop cyber as a separate service, the nominee took a wait-and-see approach. He told senators that "the creation of new commands and new headquarters in this budgetary environment is something I think we need to look at very closely and cautiously." At the same time, Carter said that while improving cyber defenses was important, it was also vital to "improve our ability to respond" to cyberattacks. "Those responses can be in cyberspace or in other ways, but certainly they should include the option to respond in cyberspace," he said.

With two Senate confirmations under his belt, Carter is likely to prove less controversial than some of President Barack Obama's other recent nominees. Senators on both sides of the aisle expressed support for Carter's leadership, although some Republicans took the opportunity to express doubts about the Obama administration's efforts to fight the terror group ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and the wisdom of the planned drawdown of forces in Afghanistan.

FCC chairman outlines net neutrality plans

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler will recommend that the government regulate Internet service as a public utility under the FCC's Title II authority.

Wheeler made the announcement on Feb. 4, and published an essay on Wired.com explaining his position. "Originally, I believed that the FCC could assure internet openness through a determination of "commercial reasonableness" under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996," he wrote. "While a recent court decision seemed to draw a roadmap for using this approach, I became concerned that this relatively new concept might, down the road, be interpreted to mean what is reasonable for commercial interests, not consumers."

"That is why I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections. "

FAA eyes lunar rights

Even though the Federal Aviation Administration granted eight more regulatory exemptions for commercial drone use in the last few days, the agency is looking higher into the heavens for regulations.

The eight new exemptions -- granted Feb. 3 for companies using drones to inspect smoke stacks, aerial photography, and television and film productions -- bring the agency's the total number of exemption grants to 24.

Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx found that the drones in the proposed operations didn't need an FAA certificate of airworthiness because they don't pose a threat to national airspace users or national security. The agency has been tasked with integrating commercial drones into U.S. airspace.

The FAA, however, has reportedly sets its commercialization sights a bit higher -- on the moon. Reuters reported Feb. 3 that the agency has taken preliminary steps to help U.S. companies establish landing rights on the lunar surface using the agency's existing regulatory processes for space launches.

Report: White House readies new cybersecurity measure

President Barack Obama will announce fresh executive action next week to encourage information sharing between the Department of Homeland Security and the private sector, The Hill newspaper reported.

Obama is expected to announce the measure to clarify how firms can share threat information with DHS's National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center at a Feb. 13 event at Stanford University, the report said. The White House is characterizing the measure as an "executive action" rather than an executive order.

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