Public Safety

  • Seismic early warningCalifornia’s early-warning ShakeAlert system to be rolled out next year

    Officials in California expect the state’s ShakeAlertsystem to be available to some schools, fire stations, and more private companies early next year. Until now, only earthquake researchers, some government agencies, and a few private firms have received alerts from the statewide earthquake early warning system. The 2015 expansion will occur as long as Congress approves a $5 million funding request that has passed committees in both the Senate and House. A full vote on the budget was delayed until after the midterm elections.

  • CybersecurityU.S. Army creates a Cyber branch

    Soldiers who want to defend the nation in cyberspace, as part of the U.S. Army’s newest and most technologically advanced career field, now have an Army branch to join that will take its place alongside infantry, artillery, and the other Army combat arms branches. Army Secretary John McHugh and Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno approved the creation of the Cyber branch in September. “The establishment of a Cyber Branch shows how important and critical the cyber mission is to our Army, and allows us to focus innovative recruiting, retention, leader development, and talent management needed to produce world-class cyberspace professionals,” said Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, the commanding general of Army Cyber Command.

  • Nuclear weaponsScientist develops uncrackable security code for nuclear weapons

    Nuclear weapons exist, so control of nuclear weapons is essential. Intrinsic Use Control (IUC) is a concept which is capable of providing improved quantifiable safety and use control within a nuclear weapon. As a basic concept, use control is best accomplished in the weapon itself rather than depending on administrative controls, fences, and guards. Using established technology, IUC uses passive use control to resist any attacks or unauthorized use of a weapon at either the component or the fully assembled levels.

  • DetectionDogs trained on pseudo-explosives could not reliably identify genuine explosives

    When it comes to teaching dogs how to sniff out explosives, there is nothing quite like the real thing to make sure they are trained right. This is the message from researchers after finding that dogs which are trained with so-called “pseudo-explosives” could not reliably sniff out real explosives (and vice versa).

  • In the trenchesNavy considering allowing sailors temporary leave before returning to active duty

    The U.S. Navy is considering allowing sailors to take temporary leave and return to active duty after earning degrees or working in the private sector. The plan would save the Navy money spent on training new sailors, while retaining experienced personnel for the long term.

  • ImmigrationNew deportation approach targets convicted criminals, threats to national security

    Last Thursday, President Barack Obama announced the end of Secure Communitiesas part of his immigration reform strategy. The program was designed to identify deportable undocumented immigrants who had committed crimes, by allowing federal immigration agents to access fingerprint records collected at local jails. In many cases, agents requested local law enforcement officials to hold inmates beyond their jail terms until they could be transferred to federal custody. Obama has announced a new initiative — the Priority Enforcement Program— to target only undocumented immigrants who have been convicted of certain serious crimes or who pose danger to national security.

  • Offensive cyber operationsPentagon mulls “byte for a byte” cyber retaliatory operations

    Much has been made of the phrase “an eye for an eye” throughout history, and it is beginning to appear that the oft-used motto will extend to the new fields of cyber warfare as well.This “approach is something our adversaries will readily understand,” one analyst writes. “If they escalate, we escalate. They know they will lose because we have far more cyber resources to draw on than they have, and we can cause real harm if they mess with us.”

  • TerrorismRAND study assesses threat posed by Americans joining jihadist fronts abroad

    Although it is difficult to pin down the exact numbers of Western fighters slipping off to join the jihadist fronts in Syria and Iraq – the number is estimated to be around 100 — U.S. counterterrorism officials believe that those fighters pose a clear and present danger to American security. Some of these fighters will be killed in the fighting, some will choose to remain in the Middle East, but some will return, more radicalized than before and determined to continue their violent campaigns back in the United States.

  • SurveillanceGOP senators block NSA surveillance reform bill

    The USA Freedom Act, a bill introduced last year aiming to curtail some of the NSA’s data collection programs, especially those focusing on U.S. phone data, failed last night to reach the 60-vote threshold required to cut off debate and move to a vote. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Republican leader, and other leading GOP senators worked hard to defeat the bill. Nearly a year-and-a-half after the Edward Snowden’s revelations, the act was considered the most politically viable effort in four decades to place curbs on NSA activities. Civil libertarians and technology companies supported the bill, as did the White House and the intelligence community – although the latter two did so more out of fear that a failure of the bill would jeopardize the extension of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which expires next June.

  • ISISISIS has sufficient quantities of arms to carry on fighting for two years: UN

    A new report prepared for the United Nations Security Council warns that Islamic State (ISIS) has in its possession sufficient reserves of small arms, ammunition, and vehicles to wage its war for Syria and Iraq for up to two years. The size and diversity the Islamist organization’s arsenal allow the group durable mobility, range, and a limited defense against low-flying aircraft. The report notes that even if the U.S.-led air campaign continues to destroy the group’s vehicles and heavier weapon systems, such a campaign “cannot mitigate the effect of the significant volume of light weapons” Isis possesses.

  • In the trenchesTransforming planes into flying aircraft carriers

    Military air operations typically rely on large, manned, robust aircraft, but such missions put these expensive assets — and their pilots — at risk. While small unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) can reduce or eliminate such risks, they lack the speed, range, and endurance of larger aircraft. These complementary traits suggest potential benefits in a blended approach — one in which larger aircraft would carry, launch, and recover multiple small UAS. A flying carrier would allow the United States to use of drones in areas where the United States has no access to nearby airfields, but recovering a drone in mid-air remains a daunting technical challenge.

  • GunRight-to-carry gun laws may be inked to increase in violent crime: Stanford study

    Right-to-carry or concealed-carry laws have generated much debate in the past two decades — do they make society safer or more dangerous? Prior research based on data through 1992 indicated that the laws decreased violent crime. In 2004, however, the National Research Council issued a report that found that even extending this data through 2000 revealed no credible statistical evidence these particular laws reduced crime. New Stanford research confirms that right-to-carry gun laws are linked to an increase in violent crime. “Different statistical models can yield different estimated effects, and our ability to ascertain the best model is imperfect,” the study’s lead author notes, describing this as the most surprising aspect of the study.

  • DetectionWi-Fi signals enable through-wall detection

    Engineers prove the concept that local Wi-Fi signals can be used to monitor moving objects and bodies that are otherwise visually obscured. Although fundamentally similar to traditional radar systems, their novel approach is entirely passive — utilizing the wireless signals that already swamp our urban airways. This technology has a wide range of applications from healthcare monitoring, security and emergency disaster relief, to finding earthquake survivors in fallen buildings.

  • School shootingShooting-detection system will help police locate a shooter within a school building

    For the past two years, law enforcement officials in Methuen, Massachusetts have been testing an active shooter detection system installed in a local school as part of the city’s threat detection program, which includes prevention and emergency training protocols for school staff and students. The $70,000 system includes dozens of small square panels equipped with infrared cameras and microphones. The system detects gunfire and identifies the exact location where the shooting occurred within the school building – then sends data about the incident to a command center.

  • EarthquakesNew app turns smartphones into sensors for an earthquake early-warning system

    The MyShake app, still in test mode, uses smartphone accelerometers and locators to augment the data on incoming quakes issued by the 400 seismometers which are part of California’s ShakeAlert program.Registered phones act as additional earthquake sensors, as the app runs an algorithm which detects when the phone is still or shaking. Should several registered phones in the same area begin to shake at the same time, an earthquake alert is issued.