Kit4Combat Blog

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Face of Defense: Guardsman Takes Army Values to Heart


ARLINGTON, Va. —

An infantryman with the South Carolina Army National Guard’s Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, takes the Army values to heart. [1]

“We’re supporting the mission on the ground and making that difference,” said Army Sgt. Stephen Caldwell, adding that he loves being a part of a larger team.

“Being a fire team leader, providing fire superiority and taking over the objectives — it’s an adrenaline rush to say the least,” he said.

Monitoring Threats

In his civilian job, Caldwell is a watch analyst with the Department of Homeland Security. In that capacity, he monitors potential national threats that could pose harm to physical structures, cyber networks and the environment.[2]

“We have situational awareness on pretty much anything,” he said.

And, regarding his infantry duties, Caldwell said good radio communications provide a tactical edge for his unit.

“It’s communication that makes everything run and I love the challenge,” he said, adding the radio makes him feel like a double threat on the battlefield.

“A single radio has the power to change the outcome of an engagement,” Caldwell said.

Before working at DHS, he spent four years working at the South Carolina Emergency Management Division’s joint operations center. The experience there laid the groundwork for his current DHS job, Caldwell said.

“It gave me an understanding of what affects critical infrastructures,” he said. “Just seeing it from a technical standpoint helped me understand what is needed at the national level with DHS, as far as the cause and effect of things.”

Caldwell said he has also found crossovers from the military side, as well.

Communication

“Great communication is key when a situation is developing and when you need to put something out to leadership so they can make a judgment call,” he said. “Camaraderie is a big thing on our teams, and it keeps me motivated when taking on a new task.”

Whether he is in his civilian or military role, Caldwell said he likes to learn and grow, making it a point to move laterally within DHS and absorb all the new information he can along the way.

“Complacency kills, so I take the time in learning new things outside of my normal skill set,” he said. “It makes for more excitement on a daily basis.”

That eagerness to learn — along with being highly competent and having a strong commitment to the homeland security mission — makes Caldwell an asset, said Matt Vaughn, a program manager in the section where Caldwell works at DHS.

“He’s a real go-getter, and you never have to tell him [to execute a task] twice,” Vaughn said. “He gets it. He does it, and it’s always done well.”

Training, Teamwork

While Caldwell said training and teamwork have been the backbone of his success with the South Carolina Army National Guard and the DHS, he is furthering his personal and professional growth by attending school for intelligence studies at the American Military University.

“Education helps me relay my thoughts in a productive way, helping me better connect with soldiers,” he said.

But education has not been the only source of learning for Caldwell.

He was a self-described “gung-ho kid” when he deployed to Afghanistan in 2007 with the South Carolina Army National Guard’s 218th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. He said the experience of working with his fellow soldiers in a deployed environment taught him the importance of thinking in a more critical and tempered way.

“I learned that even though you can’t control everything, you still have to remain mission focused,” Caldwell said. Following that mindset, he added, requires not making “emotional decisions.”

He said he tells new soldiers that taking on new tasks will help them stand out – such as becoming a “double threat” by learning the ins and outs of radio communication.

“Always be willing to learn something new,” Caldwell said. “Once you start to do that you fall into a pattern as that soldier with a can-do attitude.”

References

  1. ^ South Carolina Army National Guard (www.scguard.com)
  2. ^ Department of Homeland Security (www.dhs.gov)
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Georgia police release 911 calls from deadly military plane crash

Police released 911 calls on Monday made by frightened onlookers as a WC-130 military plane crashed in Georgia last week and took the lives of nine airmen with the Puerto Rico National Guard.

The calls, some taken just seconds after the crash, offered details of the chaotic scene in Savannah, Georgia, last Wednesday when the WC-130 nose-dived onto a highway, covering the roadway with debris, and filling the surrounding area with thick clouds of black smoke.

There were no survivors.

“Yes, a plane just crashed. I’m looking at it right now and it’s up in flames,” one nearby witness said, giving authorities early details about the intense situation unfolding on the ground.

“I’ve got flames and smoke everywhere and stuff coming out of the sky,” another eyewitness said.

“It just literally nose-dived into the road,” another said.

The first call came in at 11:27 a.m. and it wasn’t long before dozens more followed, according to Savannah ABC affiliate WJCL[1], which obtained copies of the calls on Monday.

The Savannah Police Department released nearly four hours worth of 911 recordings from the morning of May 2, when the military cargo plane suffered an apparent malfunction just after takeoff.

“Yes, baby, it’s black smoke,” one frantic caller told a 911 operator. “The plane like incinerated whenever it hit the concrete.”

The plane, which took off from the Savannah airport, was en route to a so-called “boneyard” in Arizona, authorities said. All of the victims were members of the 156th Air Wing of Puerto Rico’s Air National Guard.

“I saw it take off from the airport and I noticed that one of the propellers wasn’t turning,” one female caller said. “And he banked like he was going toward [Interstate] 95, and then all of a sudden he lost altitude and just took a nose dive into the ground.”

“He did a barrel roll and went straight into the ground,” another caller added.

An Air Force official told ABC News that five of the victims were traveling as crew members on the flight and the other four were traveling as passengers. Some of victims had been with the Puerto Rico National Guard for decades.

The U.S. military, which is investigating the crash, has not released any details on what may have caused the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

References

  1. ^ according to Savannah ABC affiliate WJCL (www.wjcl.com)
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Georgia police release 911 calls from deadly military plane crash

Police released 911 calls on Monday made by frightened onlookers as a WC-130 military plane crashed in Georgia last week and took the lives of nine airmen with the Puerto Rico National Guard.

The calls, some taken just seconds after the crash, offered details of the chaotic scene in Savannah, Georgia, last Wednesday when the WC-130 nose-dived onto a highway, covering the roadway with debris, and filling the surrounding area with thick clouds of black smoke.

There were no survivors.

“Yes, a plane just crashed. I’m looking at it right now and it’s up in flames,” one nearby witness said, giving authorities early details about the intense situation unfolding on the ground.

“I’ve got flames and smoke everywhere and stuff coming out of the sky,” another eyewitness said.

“It just literally nose-dived into the road,” another said.

The first call came in at 11:27 a.m. and it wasn’t long before dozens more followed, according to Savannah ABC affiliate WJCL[1], which obtained copies of the calls on Monday.

The Savannah Police Department released nearly four hours worth of 911 recordings from the morning of May 2, when the military cargo plane suffered an apparent malfunction just after takeoff.

“Yes, baby, it’s black smoke,” one frantic caller told a 911 operator. “The plane like incinerated whenever it hit the concrete.”

The plane, which took off from the Savannah airport, was en route to a so-called “boneyard” in Arizona, authorities said. All of the victims were members of the 156th Air Wing of Puerto Rico’s Air National Guard.

“I saw it take off from the airport and I noticed that one of the propellers wasn’t turning,” one female caller said. “And he banked like he was going toward [Interstate] 95, and then all of a sudden he lost altitude and just took a nose dive into the ground.”

“He did a barrel roll and went straight into the ground,” another caller added.

An Air Force official told ABC News that five of the victims were traveling as crew members on the flight and the other four were traveling as passengers. Some of victims had been with the Puerto Rico National Guard for decades.

The U.S. military, which is investigating the crash, has not released any details on what may have caused the crash.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

References

  1. ^ according to Savannah ABC affiliate WJCL (www.wjcl.com)
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Homeland Security Promises to Prosecute 100 Percent of Illegal Immigration Cases

In a major policy shift, the Homeland Security and Justice departments are promising to prosecute everyone suspected of illegally entering the United States. The new approach will separate thousands of children from their parents when they are arrested, which critics called inhumane.

“We need legality and integrity in our immigration system. That’s why the Department of Homeland Security is now referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference in San Diego on Monday.

“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child may be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said as a protester with a bullhorn interrupted his remarks.

Politico reported Monday[1] that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed a memo on Friday directing the department to refer all suspected border crossers to the Justice Department for prosecution under a federal statute that prohibits illegal entry. Illegally entering the country has typically been treated as a civil matter in which the immigrant is subject to deportation. The new policy means all cases will be treated as a criminal matter in which immigrants face prison.

Border Patrol agents were told of the new policy over the weekend, said a federal law enforcement official who asked not to be identified because he or she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

“At muster they just said, ‘We are now prosecuting everyone, 100 percent.’ Then there were a few cheers and someone shouted, ‘Thank you, Trump.’ They followed up with family unit situations and said that if a unit was apprehended that the parent with the most criminal history would be prosecuted,” the official said.

One of the biggest changes in the 100 percent prosecution policy will be the separation of families accused of illegally crossing the border together. Children, who cannot be held in criminal detention, will be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services while their parents are in custody. Previously, families caught entering the country illegally were most often quickly released together to await civil deportation hearings.

The 100 percent prosecution policy “is yet another solution in search of a problem,” said Jeremy McKinney, national secretary of the American Immigration Lawyers Association[2]. ”Illegal entries are at forty-year lows and net migration with Mexico remains at or below zero. There exists an annual, spring/summer uptick in unlawful entries. But the numbers are not unusual and the (federal immigration enforcement) infrastructure is there to enforce our country’s immigration laws. Devoting our finite resources to achieve misdemeanor convictions, especially when it results in the separation of mothers from their children, is, at best, bad public policy, and, at worst, unlawful selective prosecution.”

The Department of Homeland Security said it used a tough prosecution approach against parents in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector between July and November 2017, after the West Texas and New Mexico border region saw a surge in families and unaccompanied children. Homeland Security said illegal crossings by family units dropped by 64 percent after the aggressive prosecution began, then began to rise again after the program was “paused.”

Andre Segura, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said that is a simplistic analysis. “Crossings can vary depending on a number of factors, what’s going on in home countries—there are a lot of different factors,” he said.

The Washington Post, which first reported[3] the plans to arrest parents who bring their children into the country illegally, said jailing parents would deter others from attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.

Sessions reinforced that message at his San Diego news conference. “I have to say our goal is to have the whole world know that this border is not open. Don’t come unlawfully. Don’t put yourself or your family through such a stressful thing,” Sessions said.

The ACLU’s Segura said immigration policy requires multiple approaches. “Immigration policies should not be set based on deterrence alone. If this is, in fact, deterring people from fleeing violence and coming here for refuge, that is an enormous problem.”

Thomas Homan, the outgoing head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, also spoke at the San Diego news conference and said police separate families all the time when making arrests.

“Every law enforcement agency in this country separates parents with children when they’re arrested for a crime. We are a law enforcement agency. We are enforcing the criminal laws,” Homan said. “So I want to make this perfectly clear. There is no new policy. This has always been the policy. Now, you will see more prosecutions because of the attorney general’s commitment to zero tolerance.”

Entering the United States without permission and proper documents has long been a misdemeanor, but previous policies allowed many of those apprehended to go through the administrative deportation process rather than face criminal charges.

The new policy applies to people who enter the country without permission, such as coming in at an area other than a port of entry. It would not apply to people who surrender at ports of entry to seek asylum.

Criminal prosecutions for violating immigration laws spiked during President Obama’s first term, reaching nearly 100,000 in fiscal year 2013, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University[4]. Such prosecutions declined in Obama’s second term and in President Trump’s first year in office, with fewer than 60,000 prosecutions in fiscal year 2016.

Sessions last week announced that the Justice Department was assigning 35 additional U.S. attorneys to the Southwest to handle additional immigration cases. That includes eight new prosecutors for the Southern District of Texas, which has the highest number of immigrant apprehensions along the border, and six in the Western District of Texas.

During his news conference, Sessions once again pointed to an increase in undocumented immigrant apprehensions in recent months. He said the number of apprehensions on the Southwest border tripled in April compared to the same month a year ago. However, Customs and Border Protection statistics show that the number of apprehensions over the past twelve months is 23 percent below the prior twelve-month period. Apprehension levels are less than half the levels of a decade ago.

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Homeland Security Promises to Prosecute 100 Percent of Illegal Immigration Cases

In a major policy shift, the Homeland Security and Justice departments are promising to prosecute everyone suspected of illegally entering the United States. The new approach will separate thousands of children from their parents when they are arrested, which critics called inhumane.

“We need legality and integrity in our immigration system. That’s why the Department of Homeland Security is now referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference in San Diego on Monday.

“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child may be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said as a protester with a bullhorn interrupted his remarks.

Politico reported Monday[1] that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed a memo on Friday directing the department to refer all suspected border crossers to the Justice Department for prosecution under a federal statute that prohibits illegal entry. Illegally entering the country has typically been treated as a civil matter in which the immigrant is subject to deportation. The new policy means all cases will be treated as a criminal matter in which immigrants face prison.

Border Patrol agents were told of the new policy over the weekend, said a federal law enforcement official who asked not to be identified because he or she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

“At muster they just said, ‘We are now prosecuting everyone, 100 percent.’ Then there were a few cheers and someone shouted, ‘Thank you, Trump.’ They followed up with family unit situations and said that if a unit was apprehended that the parent with the most criminal history would be prosecuted,” the official said.

One of the biggest changes in the 100 percent prosecution policy will be the separation of families accused of illegally crossing the border together. Children, who cannot be held in criminal detention, will be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services while their parents are in custody. Previously, families caught entering the country illegally were most often quickly released together to await civil deportation hearings.

The 100 percent prosecution policy “is yet another solution in search of a problem,” said Jeremy McKinney, national secretary of the American Immigration Lawyers Association[2]. ”Illegal entries are at forty-year lows and net migration with Mexico remains at or below zero. There exists an annual, spring/summer uptick in unlawful entries. But the numbers are not unusual and the (federal immigration enforcement) infrastructure is there to enforce our country’s immigration laws. Devoting our finite resources to achieve misdemeanor convictions, especially when it results in the separation of mothers from their children, is, at best, bad public policy, and, at worst, unlawful selective prosecution.”

The Department of Homeland Security said it used a tough prosecution approach against parents in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector between July and November 2017, after the West Texas and New Mexico border region saw a surge in families and unaccompanied children. Homeland Security said illegal crossings by family units dropped by 64 percent after the aggressive prosecution began, then began to rise again after the program was “paused.”

Andre Segura, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said that is a simplistic analysis. “Crossings can vary depending on a number of factors, what’s going on in home countries—there are a lot of different factors,” he said.

The Washington Post, which first reported[3] the plans to arrest parents who bring their children into the country illegally, said jailing parents would deter others from attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.

Sessions reinforced that message at his San Diego news conference. “I have to say our goal is to have the whole world know that this border is not open. Don’t come unlawfully. Don’t put yourself or your family through such a stressful thing,” Sessions said.

The ACLU’s Segura said immigration policy requires multiple approaches. “Immigration policies should not be set based on deterrence alone. If this is, in fact, deterring people from fleeing violence and coming here for refuge, that is an enormous problem.”

Thomas Homan, the outgoing head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, also spoke at the San Diego news conference and said police separate families all the time when making arrests.

“Every law enforcement agency in this country separates parents with children when they’re arrested for a crime. We are a law enforcement agency. We are enforcing the criminal laws,” Homan said. “So I want to make this perfectly clear. There is no new policy. This has always been the policy. Now, you will see more prosecutions because of the attorney general’s commitment to zero tolerance.”

Entering the United States without permission and proper documents has long been a misdemeanor, but previous policies allowed many of those apprehended to go through the administrative deportation process rather than face criminal charges.

The new policy applies to people who enter the country without permission, such as coming in at an area other than a port of entry. It would not apply to people who surrender at ports of entry to seek asylum.

Criminal prosecutions for violating immigration laws spiked during President Obama’s first term, reaching nearly 100,000 in fiscal year 2013, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University[4]. Such prosecutions declined in Obama’s second term and in President Trump’s first year in office, with fewer than 60,000 prosecutions in fiscal year 2016.

Sessions last week announced that the Justice Department was assigning 35 additional U.S. attorneys to the Southwest to handle additional immigration cases. That includes eight new prosecutors for the Southern District of Texas, which has the highest number of immigrant apprehensions along the border, and six in the Western District of Texas.

During his news conference, Sessions once again pointed to an increase in undocumented immigrant apprehensions in recent months. He said the number of apprehensions on the Southwest border tripled in April compared to the same month a year ago. However, Customs and Border Protection statistics show that the number of apprehensions over the past twelve months is 23 percent below the prior twelve-month period. Apprehension levels are less than half the levels of a decade ago.

0

Homeland Security Promises to Prosecute 100 Percent of Illegal Immigration Cases

In a major policy shift, the Homeland Security and Justice departments are promising to prosecute everyone suspected of illegally entering the United States. The new approach will separate thousands of children from their parents when they are arrested, which critics called inhumane.

“We need legality and integrity in our immigration system. That’s why the Department of Homeland Security is now referring 100 percent of illegal Southwest border crossings to the Department of Justice for prosecution,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said at a news conference in San Diego on Monday.

“If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple. If you smuggle illegal aliens across our border, then we will prosecute you. If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child may be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said as a protester with a bullhorn interrupted his remarks.

Politico reported Monday[1] that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen signed a memo on Friday directing the department to refer all suspected border crossers to the Justice Department for prosecution under a federal statute that prohibits illegal entry. Illegally entering the country has typically been treated as a civil matter in which the immigrant is subject to deportation. The new policy means all cases will be treated as a criminal matter in which immigrants face prison.

Border Patrol agents were told of the new policy over the weekend, said a federal law enforcement official who asked not to be identified because he or she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

“At muster they just said, ‘We are now prosecuting everyone, 100 percent.’ Then there were a few cheers and someone shouted, ‘Thank you, Trump.’ They followed up with family unit situations and said that if a unit was apprehended that the parent with the most criminal history would be prosecuted,” the official said.

One of the biggest changes in the 100 percent prosecution policy will be the separation of families accused of illegally crossing the border together. Children, who cannot be held in criminal detention, will be placed in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services while their parents are in custody. Previously, families caught entering the country illegally were most often quickly released together to await civil deportation hearings.

The 100 percent prosecution policy “is yet another solution in search of a problem,” said Jeremy McKinney, national secretary of the American Immigration Lawyers Association[2]. ”Illegal entries are at forty-year lows and net migration with Mexico remains at or below zero. There exists an annual, spring/summer uptick in unlawful entries. But the numbers are not unusual and the (federal immigration enforcement) infrastructure is there to enforce our country’s immigration laws. Devoting our finite resources to achieve misdemeanor convictions, especially when it results in the separation of mothers from their children, is, at best, bad public policy, and, at worst, unlawful selective prosecution.”

The Department of Homeland Security said it used a tough prosecution approach against parents in the Border Patrol’s El Paso sector between July and November 2017, after the West Texas and New Mexico border region saw a surge in families and unaccompanied children. Homeland Security said illegal crossings by family units dropped by 64 percent after the aggressive prosecution began, then began to rise again after the program was “paused.”

Andre Segura, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said that is a simplistic analysis. “Crossings can vary depending on a number of factors, what’s going on in home countries—there are a lot of different factors,” he said.

The Washington Post, which first reported[3] the plans to arrest parents who bring their children into the country illegally, said jailing parents would deter others from attempting to unlawfully enter the United States.

Sessions reinforced that message at his San Diego news conference. “I have to say our goal is to have the whole world know that this border is not open. Don’t come unlawfully. Don’t put yourself or your family through such a stressful thing,” Sessions said.

The ACLU’s Segura said immigration policy requires multiple approaches. “Immigration policies should not be set based on deterrence alone. If this is, in fact, deterring people from fleeing violence and coming here for refuge, that is an enormous problem.”

Thomas Homan, the outgoing head of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, also spoke at the San Diego news conference and said police separate families all the time when making arrests.

“Every law enforcement agency in this country separates parents with children when they’re arrested for a crime. We are a law enforcement agency. We are enforcing the criminal laws,” Homan said. “So I want to make this perfectly clear. There is no new policy. This has always been the policy. Now, you will see more prosecutions because of the attorney general’s commitment to zero tolerance.”

Entering the United States without permission and proper documents has long been a misdemeanor, but previous policies allowed many of those apprehended to go through the administrative deportation process rather than face criminal charges.

The new policy applies to people who enter the country without permission, such as coming in at an area other than a port of entry. It would not apply to people who surrender at ports of entry to seek asylum.

Criminal prosecutions for violating immigration laws spiked during President Obama’s first term, reaching nearly 100,000 in fiscal year 2013, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University[4]. Such prosecutions declined in Obama’s second term and in President Trump’s first year in office, with fewer than 60,000 prosecutions in fiscal year 2016.

Sessions last week announced that the Justice Department was assigning 35 additional U.S. attorneys to the Southwest to handle additional immigration cases. That includes eight new prosecutors for the Southern District of Texas, which has the highest number of immigrant apprehensions along the border, and six in the Western District of Texas.

During his news conference, Sessions once again pointed to an increase in undocumented immigrant apprehensions in recent months. He said the number of apprehensions on the Southwest border tripled in April compared to the same month a year ago. However, Customs and Border Protection statistics show that the number of apprehensions over the past twelve months is 23 percent below the prior twelve-month period. Apprehension levels are less than half the levels of a decade ago.

0

Indiana awaits Homeland Security election risk assessment review as primaries heat up

INDIANAPOLIS — With the midterm congressional primaries about to go into full swing, the Department of Homeland Security has completed security reviews of election systems in only about half the states that have requested them so far.

The government’s slow pace in conducting the reviews has raised concerns that the nation’s voting systems could be vulnerable to hacking, especially after U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia plans to continue meddling in the country’s elections.

Among those still waiting for Homeland Security to conduct a risk assessment is Indiana, one of four states with primaries on Tuesday. Its ballot includes several hotly contested races, including a Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said she is confident state officials have done what they can to safeguard Tuesday’s voting, but acknowledged: “I’ll probably be chewing my fingernails during the entire day on Election Day.”

Like other states, Indiana used a private vendor to conduct a risk assessment and is one of 33 states and 32 local election offices that are receiving remote cyber scanning services from Homeland Security to identify vulnerabilities in their networks.

The concerns aren’t just theoretical.

The nation’s intelligence chiefs warned earlier this year that Russia remains interested in disrupting U.S. elections after a multipronged effort to interfere two years ago. That included attempts to hack into the election systems of 21 states.

Election officials in nine of those states said they were still waiting for a DHS risk assessment, according to a nationwide AP survey.

There is no indication Russian hackers succeeded in manipulating any votes, but U.S. security agencies say they did manage to breach the voter rolls in Illinois. That state and Texas are the only two to hold statewide primaries so far this year, and neither reported any intrusions into their election systems.

But a local election in Tennessee last week highlights the concern: Knox County has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate why a website that reports election results crashed after the polls closed.

The county’s technology director said some of the unusually heavy traffic came from overseas servers. DHS spokesman Scott McConnell said there is no indication so far that the outage was caused by a “malicious actor.”

Homeland Security designated elections systems critical infrastructure just months after the 2016 presidential election, adding them to a list that includes chemical plants, dams and nuclear reactors.

The department said it has completed risk assessments of election systems in just nine of the 17 states that have formally requested them so far. It has pledged to finish them by November for every state that asks, but the reviews are not likely to be done in time for some state primaries, many of which are in May and June.

The number of states is likely to grow. At least 28 said they want Homeland Security to conduct the risk assessments, according to a 50-state survey of state election officials by The Associated Press.

The security reviews are designed to identify any weaknesses that could be exploited by hackers; such examinations are routinely conducted in the private sector. They are just one tool, although an important one, in ensuring a computer network has a robust defense.

Homeland Security officials attribute the backlog to increased demand for such reviews since the 2016 election and say they are devoting more money and shifting resources to reduce wait times. The reviews typically take two weeks each.

“Elections remain a top priority,” said Matt Masterson, the department’s senior adviser for cybersecurity.

Some states prefer to do the security checks on their own, with some, such as New Hampshire, expressing concern about federal overreach in a country where elections are run by state and local governments.

Cybersecurity experts say that as long as the process is robust, it should not matter who conducts the risk assessments.

“You could do this right in a number of different ways,” said Mike Garcia, lead author of a handbook for state and local election officials released recently by the nonprofit Center for Internet Security. “What matters is that you are doing it right.”

The delays have caught the attention of Congress, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which recommended in March that Homeland Security expand capacity to reduce wait times.

“DHS and the FBI have made great strides, but they must do more,” committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said at the time.

Of the other states holding primaries on Tuesday, the traditional battlegrounds of North Carolina and Ohio said they had received on-site reviews by Homeland Security. Election officials in the fourth state, West Virginia, told the AP they have yet to request a federal risk assessment but plan to do so before the November election. They asked the National Guard to help monitor the state’s election networks on Tuesday.

Other states that told the AP they had received the DHS reviews are Colorado, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oregon.

Two of the states targeted in 2016 — Alabama and Oklahoma — have yet to request a DHS security review.

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill said the state could still decide to make the request before the election.

“We are trying to be as prepared as we can possibly be with our existing partners,” Merrill said. “We want to keep every option open that we have.”

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Indiana awaits Homeland Security election risk assessment review as primaries heat up

INDIANAPOLIS — With the midterm congressional primaries about to go into full swing, the Department of Homeland Security has completed security reviews of election systems in only about half the states that have requested them so far.

The government’s slow pace in conducting the reviews has raised concerns that the nation’s voting systems could be vulnerable to hacking, especially after U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia plans to continue meddling in the country’s elections.

Among those still waiting for Homeland Security to conduct a risk assessment is Indiana, one of four states with primaries on Tuesday. Its ballot includes several hotly contested races, including a Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said she is confident state officials have done what they can to safeguard Tuesday’s voting, but acknowledged: “I’ll probably be chewing my fingernails during the entire day on Election Day.”

Like other states, Indiana used a private vendor to conduct a risk assessment and is one of 33 states and 32 local election offices that are receiving remote cyber scanning services from Homeland Security to identify vulnerabilities in their networks.

The concerns aren’t just theoretical.

The nation’s intelligence chiefs warned earlier this year that Russia remains interested in disrupting U.S. elections after a multipronged effort to interfere two years ago. That included attempts to hack into the election systems of 21 states.

Election officials in nine of those states said they were still waiting for a DHS risk assessment, according to a nationwide AP survey.

There is no indication Russian hackers succeeded in manipulating any votes, but U.S. security agencies say they did manage to breach the voter rolls in Illinois. That state and Texas are the only two to hold statewide primaries so far this year, and neither reported any intrusions into their election systems.

But a local election in Tennessee last week highlights the concern: Knox County has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate why a website that reports election results crashed after the polls closed.

The county’s technology director said some of the unusually heavy traffic came from overseas servers. DHS spokesman Scott McConnell said there is no indication so far that the outage was caused by a “malicious actor.”

Homeland Security designated elections systems critical infrastructure just months after the 2016 presidential election, adding them to a list that includes chemical plants, dams and nuclear reactors.

The department said it has completed risk assessments of election systems in just nine of the 17 states that have formally requested them so far. It has pledged to finish them by November for every state that asks, but the reviews are not likely to be done in time for some state primaries, many of which are in May and June.

The number of states is likely to grow. At least 28 said they want Homeland Security to conduct the risk assessments, according to a 50-state survey of state election officials by The Associated Press.

The security reviews are designed to identify any weaknesses that could be exploited by hackers; such examinations are routinely conducted in the private sector. They are just one tool, although an important one, in ensuring a computer network has a robust defense.

Homeland Security officials attribute the backlog to increased demand for such reviews since the 2016 election and say they are devoting more money and shifting resources to reduce wait times. The reviews typically take two weeks each.

“Elections remain a top priority,” said Matt Masterson, the department’s senior adviser for cybersecurity.

Some states prefer to do the security checks on their own, with some, such as New Hampshire, expressing concern about federal overreach in a country where elections are run by state and local governments.

Cybersecurity experts say that as long as the process is robust, it should not matter who conducts the risk assessments.

“You could do this right in a number of different ways,” said Mike Garcia, lead author of a handbook for state and local election officials released recently by the nonprofit Center for Internet Security. “What matters is that you are doing it right.”

The delays have caught the attention of Congress, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which recommended in March that Homeland Security expand capacity to reduce wait times.

“DHS and the FBI have made great strides, but they must do more,” committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said at the time.

Of the other states holding primaries on Tuesday, the traditional battlegrounds of North Carolina and Ohio said they had received on-site reviews by Homeland Security. Election officials in the fourth state, West Virginia, told the AP they have yet to request a federal risk assessment but plan to do so before the November election. They asked the National Guard to help monitor the state’s election networks on Tuesday.

Other states that told the AP they had received the DHS reviews are Colorado, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oregon.

Two of the states targeted in 2016 — Alabama and Oklahoma — have yet to request a DHS security review.

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill said the state could still decide to make the request before the election.

“We are trying to be as prepared as we can possibly be with our existing partners,” Merrill said. “We want to keep every option open that we have.”

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Indiana awaits Homeland Security election risk assessment review as primaries heat up

INDIANAPOLIS — With the midterm congressional primaries about to go into full swing, the Department of Homeland Security has completed security reviews of election systems in only about half the states that have requested them so far.

The government’s slow pace in conducting the reviews has raised concerns that the nation’s voting systems could be vulnerable to hacking, especially after U.S. intelligence agencies warned that Russia plans to continue meddling in the country’s elections.

Among those still waiting for Homeland Security to conduct a risk assessment is Indiana, one of four states with primaries on Tuesday. Its ballot includes several hotly contested races, including a Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson said she is confident state officials have done what they can to safeguard Tuesday’s voting, but acknowledged: “I’ll probably be chewing my fingernails during the entire day on Election Day.”

Like other states, Indiana used a private vendor to conduct a risk assessment and is one of 33 states and 32 local election offices that are receiving remote cyber scanning services from Homeland Security to identify vulnerabilities in their networks.

The concerns aren’t just theoretical.

The nation’s intelligence chiefs warned earlier this year that Russia remains interested in disrupting U.S. elections after a multipronged effort to interfere two years ago. That included attempts to hack into the election systems of 21 states.

Election officials in nine of those states said they were still waiting for a DHS risk assessment, according to a nationwide AP survey.

There is no indication Russian hackers succeeded in manipulating any votes, but U.S. security agencies say they did manage to breach the voter rolls in Illinois. That state and Texas are the only two to hold statewide primaries so far this year, and neither reported any intrusions into their election systems.

But a local election in Tennessee last week highlights the concern: Knox County has hired a cybersecurity firm to investigate why a website that reports election results crashed after the polls closed.

The county’s technology director said some of the unusually heavy traffic came from overseas servers. DHS spokesman Scott McConnell said there is no indication so far that the outage was caused by a “malicious actor.”

Homeland Security designated elections systems critical infrastructure just months after the 2016 presidential election, adding them to a list that includes chemical plants, dams and nuclear reactors.

The department said it has completed risk assessments of election systems in just nine of the 17 states that have formally requested them so far. It has pledged to finish them by November for every state that asks, but the reviews are not likely to be done in time for some state primaries, many of which are in May and June.

The number of states is likely to grow. At least 28 said they want Homeland Security to conduct the risk assessments, according to a 50-state survey of state election officials by The Associated Press.

The security reviews are designed to identify any weaknesses that could be exploited by hackers; such examinations are routinely conducted in the private sector. They are just one tool, although an important one, in ensuring a computer network has a robust defense.

Homeland Security officials attribute the backlog to increased demand for such reviews since the 2016 election and say they are devoting more money and shifting resources to reduce wait times. The reviews typically take two weeks each.

“Elections remain a top priority,” said Matt Masterson, the department’s senior adviser for cybersecurity.

Some states prefer to do the security checks on their own, with some, such as New Hampshire, expressing concern about federal overreach in a country where elections are run by state and local governments.

Cybersecurity experts say that as long as the process is robust, it should not matter who conducts the risk assessments.

“You could do this right in a number of different ways,” said Mike Garcia, lead author of a handbook for state and local election officials released recently by the nonprofit Center for Internet Security. “What matters is that you are doing it right.”

The delays have caught the attention of Congress, including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which recommended in March that Homeland Security expand capacity to reduce wait times.

“DHS and the FBI have made great strides, but they must do more,” committee chairman Sen. Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican, said at the time.

Of the other states holding primaries on Tuesday, the traditional battlegrounds of North Carolina and Ohio said they had received on-site reviews by Homeland Security. Election officials in the fourth state, West Virginia, told the AP they have yet to request a federal risk assessment but plan to do so before the November election. They asked the National Guard to help monitor the state’s election networks on Tuesday.

Other states that told the AP they had received the DHS reviews are Colorado, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico and Oregon.

Two of the states targeted in 2016 — Alabama and Oklahoma — have yet to request a DHS security review.

Alabama Secretary of State John H. Merrill said the state could still decide to make the request before the election.

“We are trying to be as prepared as we can possibly be with our existing partners,” Merrill said. “We want to keep every option open that we have.”

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82nd Airborne hosts first electronic warfare competition

Drew Brooks Military editor @DrewBrooks

Sgt. 1st Class Mike Sanders and Sgt. Sam Odior stood just outside a cluster of pine trees and stared at a small screen.

Sanders pressed an icon on the screen as Odior glanced up at the antenna protruding from a pack on the other soldier’s back.

“I think I’ve got something,” Sanders said as Odior leaned forward to get a better look.

“We’ve got a possible hit on the freq,” the paratrooper repeated, this time into a radio, signalling three other soldiers nearby.

In a wooded training area on Fort Bragg, the team of soldiers from 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division were involved in a complicated game of hide and seek.

Using an electronic warfare system known as the VMAX, paratroopers from across the 82nd Airborne Division were competing to find a series of waypoints. Using the VMAX, the soldiers scanned for a signal frequency and then honed in on its source.

The navigational test was the first event in the 82nd Airborne Division’s inaugural Electronic Warfare Competition.

Lt. Col. Robert A. Robinson II, the division’s cyber electromagnetic activities, or CEMA, chief and the officer in charge of the competition, said the event was designed to showcase skills that are becoming more and more important on the modern battlefield.

Electronic warfare is used to jam enemy signals, defeat unmanned aerial systems and disable improvised explosive devices.

Robinson said teams received an alert with a location grid early Monday.

“They knew the competition was going to start, but they didn’t know where,” he said. “We’re trying to stick to the traditions of the division: to be ready any time, any where.”

The three-day competition will include several classroom tests, but it began in the field.

Capt. Brian Mercado of the 3rd Brigade Combat Team said the navigation test was forcing the soldiers to use their electronic warfare systems in ways they haven’t before.

In past training, Mercado said, soldiers used the VMAX systems defensively on drop zones to protect paratroopers from enemy systems. But the navigational test showed that the systems also could be used to pinpoint an enemy force.

“This goes beyond our typical training,” Mercado said.

The system is the size of a large backpack with large antennas protruding overhead and can be jumped with a paratrooper. The lightweight system can detect, locate, monitor and jam radio frequency signals.

Each brigade combat team in the division has a CEMA cell. And each sent at least one team to compete, Robinson said. Each must be able to plan, troubleshoot and execute missions as they are provided.

“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “Electronic warfare is a big part of the future and this is the tactical-level support we provide.”

Military editor Drew Brooks can be reached at [email protected] or 486-3567.