Posts from April, 2006

Ending Secret Holds in the Senate

The Senate voted last week to end the practice of secret “holds” by which a Senator may anonymously block the consideration of pending legislation. The proposal, advanced by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), would still permit Senators to object to legislation, but they could not do so anonymously.

“What is unjust about the process of secret holds is that it prevents a Senator from being held accountable when it comes to conducting the people’s business,” said Sen. Wyden. “It’s time to force these objections out of the shadows and into the sunshine.”

Last year, a secret hold was used to block the FY 2006 Intelligence Authorization Act from coming to the Senate floor, and for the first time in three decades the annual Authorization Act was not passed.

“I will tell the Senator who is holding that important intelligence bill,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in a somewhat bizarre speech on the Senate floor last week. “It is the two Senators from Massachusetts. Senators Kennedy and Kerry have objected to considering the bill because they want to offer amendments.”

That’s not true, Senators Kennedy and Kerry replied. The Senators noted that their amendments had been cleared for consideration, and that there were no objections on the Democratic side.

“Apparently, to prevent debate on this very important issue, a Republican Senator is willing to let the whole intelligence bill fail,” said Sen. Kennedy. “That’s an outrage.”

The Wyden-Grassley amendment to prohibit secret holds passed the Senate on March 28 by a vote of 84-13. All of the 13 no votes were cast by Republicans.

Now that the amendment has passed, will the 2006 Intelligence Authorization Act finally be brought to the Senate floor? Probably not.

“I have little faith in SSCI’s [the Senate Intelligence Committee] ability to produce any legislation, regardless of the circumstances,” said one Democratic congressional expert. But in any case, work on the 2007 Intelligence Authorization bill has already commenced. And the Wyden-Grassley measure is not yet law, the congressional official noted.

The Wyden-Grassley amendment was offered as part of the Lobbying Reform bill that passed the Senate last week. Some recent Congressional Research Service reports on lobbying reform include the following:

“Lobbying, Ethics and Related Procedural Reforms: Comparison of Current Provisions of S. 2349 and H.R. 4975,” March 23, 2006.

“Lobbying and Related Reform Proposals: Consideration of Selected Measures,” 109th Congress, updated March 23, 2006.

“Lobbying Disclosure and Ethics Proposals Related to Lobbying Introduced in the 109th Congress: A Comparative Analysis,” updated March 23, 2006.

“Lobbying Reform: Background and Legislative Proposals,” 109th Congress, updated March 23, 2006.

And, unrelated but for good measure, “Taiwan: Major U.S. Arms Sales Since 1990,” updated March 21, 2006.

DoD Issues New Doctrine on Information Operations

The Department of Defense recently published new doctrine (pdf) on the planning and execution of “information operations.”

Information operations, including what was formerly known as “information warfare” (a term that has been withdrawn from official doctrine), is comprised of five elements: psychological operations, military deception, operations security, electronic warfare, and computer network operations.

Its overall purpose is “to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own.”

Information operations programs to influence foreign audiences under the rubric of “strategic communication” have been both controversial and notably ineffective.

“If I were rating, I would say we probably deserve a D or D+ as a country as how well we’re doing in the battle of ideas that’s taking place,” said Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on March 27. “I’m not going to suggest that it’s easy, but we have not found the formula as a country.”

The new doctrinal document is Joint Publication 3-13, “Information Operations,” dated February 13, 2006 (1.3 MB PDF).

Communications support to military operations through the Global Information Grid is addressed in another new document: Joint Publication 6-0, “Joint Communications System,” 20 March 2006 (3 MB PDF).

New Army doctrine on operations — beginning with “How Army Forces Fight” — was published last week in U.S. Army Field Manual Interim FMI 5-0.1, “The Operations Process,” March 31, 2006 (2.7 MB PDF).

Radio Frequency Bioeffects Viewed for Non-Lethal Weapons

The effects of radio frequency (RF) microwave (MW) radiation on the human nervous system and their potential for use in non-lethal weaponry were discussed in a new summary report (pdf) prepared for the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

“Although the Department of Defense is one of the world’s largest developers and users of RF/MW-emitting systems for radar, communication and anti-electronic weaponry purposes, the use of RF/MW radiation as a non-lethal weapon per se has not yet been realized,” according to the authors.

“Most likely this is because the effects of exposure of biological systems to RF/MW fields at levels that do not produce thermal effects are largely unknown,” the unclassified report states.

“The overall objective of the research funded by this grant was to begin laying the foundation upon which RF/WM technology can be developed that would have an application for non-lethal weaponry uses, such as stunning/immobilizing the enemy.”

See “Interdisciplinary Research Project to Explore the Potential for Developing Non-Lethal Weapons Based on Radiofrequency/Microwave Bioeffects” by Gale L. Craviso and Indira Chatterjee, University of Nevada, January 31, 2006 (1.3 MB PDF).

Update: DefenseTech has more here and here.