Defense Watch

Defense Policy Bill. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, hopes a House-Senate conference committee can complete the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill by the end of October, but he acknowledges that his goal is ambitious, especially since each chamber plans to take a week off this month. Lawmakers still have a host of issues to resolve, including what to do about a controversial House proposal to create a space corps in the Air Force Department, Thornberry told reporters Oct. 5 at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C. With no agreement yet on whether to prevent the return of federal budget cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011, authorizers might wait until the end of their negotiations to determine their bill’s total funding level. While the House and Senate both approved about $700 billion, the possible return of budget caps would slash defense by tens of billions of dollars.capitol

… Space Corps Defense. Thornberry defended the House proposal to create a space corps, saying that Air Force space activity needs to be separated from aviation to ensure it receives adequate attention. “I think there is absolutely no disagreement among anybody, including the Air Force, that space is -- I want to say a disaster -- is not going well right now,” he said. “The only conversation you have is what’s the right answer. Our view is that culturally, you’ve got to have some separation from the rest of the Air Force in order to ensure that there’s a priority on resources [and] the warfighting mentality. It’s just a different domain” than the air domain.

Introducing Maxar Technologies. MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates has completed its $2.4 billion acquisition of DigitalGlobe, expanding its footprint in the U.S. Canada’s MDA, which designs and produces communication satellites and related subsystems, satellite ground systems, space robotics, and satellite radar and optical systems for surveillance and intelligence missions, now has a constellation of earth imaging satellites that sells imagery and analytics services to government and commercial customers. With the acquisition complete, MDA will become Maxar Technologies Ltd.

Amazon Air Force. Private-sector innovation is forcing the Air Force to look at how it could do things differently, according to service Secretary Heather Wilson. For example, Wilson wonders whether Air Force logistics could emulate the kind of efficiencies that commercial shippers have achieved. “Amazon gets a package from their warehouse into the hands of the mail service, and I think there’s only like two people that physically touch that package,” Wilson said Oct. 5 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C. “They’re almost a completely automated system. Why isn’t our logistics working the same way?”

F-16 Radars. The Senate has approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill that would require the Air Force to develop a plan to replace mechanically-scanned radars on National Guard F-16s with active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) offered the amendment after learning that the D.C. Air National Guard at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland is not slated to receive new radars until the mid-2020s, Cardin spokeswoman Sue Walitsky says. “Given the evolving threats that the D.C. Guard protects the national capital region from weekly, Cardin wanted to ensure that the Air Force made the D.C. Guard a priority,” she says.

Executive Changes. BAE Systems, Inc., has appointed Alphonse “Al” Whitmore as president of its Intelligence & Security sector, reporting to Jerry Demuro, president and CEO of the U.S.-based operations of Britain’s BAE Systems. Whitmore joins BAE from General Dynamics Information Technology, with his most recent role senior vice president of the Global Solutions Division. Whitmore replaces Mark Keeler, who has been the acting head of I&S since DeEtte Gray left BAE last spring. Keeler remains with BAE. Meanwhile, Raytheon has given Todd Ernst the job of vice president of Corporate Development, succeeding Michael Cody who is retiring. Ernst will continue to lead Investor Relations, adding oversight of mergers and acquisitions with his new duties.

Cyber Threat Pilots. Evaluations aimed at identifying previously unknown cyber threats are showing promise, says a senior Department of Homeland Security cyber security official. “DHS is demonstrating the ability to capture data that can be rapidly analyzed for anomalous activity using technologies from commercial, government, and open sources,” Jeanette Manfra, assistant secretary for Cybersecurity and Communications, tells a House Homeland Security panel. “The pilot efforts are also defining the future operational needs for tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as the skill sets and personnel required to operationalize the non-signature based approach to cyber security.” DHS’ current perimeter-based cyber intrusion prevention system, called EINSTEIN, is based on signatures of known cyber threats.

U.S., China Abide. Senior U.S. and Chinese government officials have agreed to continue to implement “the consensus” reached by former President Barack Obama and China’s President Xi Jinping in 2015 preventing government support of cyber theft of intellectual property. The Justice Department says that that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and acting Secretary of Homeland Security Elaine Duke on Oct. 4 met with Chinese State Councilor and Minister of Public Security Guo Shengkun to co-chair the first U.S.-China Law Enforcement and Cybersecurity Dialogue. The department says the two countries continue to cooperate and improve cooperation in the areas of cybercrime, network protection, cyber security information sharing, and use an existing hotline to address urgent cyber issues.

New Tridents. The Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $419 million modification to a previously unpriced letter contract for new procurement of Trident II (D5) missile production, life extension production, and deployed systems support. The maximum value of the modification, including all options if exercised, could reach $1.1 billion. The work, including options, is expected to be finished by Sept. 2022. This contract covers the U.S. Navy as well as the United Kingdom.

…And Support. The Navy also awarded Lockheed Martin a $55.7 million contract to provide the U.S. and UK with D5 strategic weapon navigation subsystem technical engineering support services. Total contract value, including all options, could reach $105.6 million. Work is expected to be finished by Aug. 2018, or Aug. 2020 if all options are exercised.

Patrol Boats. Naval Sea Systems Command awarded Metal Shark Boats a $30 million single award contract to design and build up to 50 next-generation patrol boats (PB/X) for the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command. The initial order is for 11 boats plus initial engineering and design of the patrol boats and data rights to the design. If all options are exercised the total value could rise to $90 million. The Navy intends to replace 100 to 160 of its 25 by 34-foot Coastal Riverine Forces patrol boats with the larger 40-foot long PB(X) over 15 years. Work is expected to be finished by March 2020.

Spencer Visit. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer toured Lockheed Martin’s Owego, N.Y. facility where the Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopter is serviced. He visited with over 400 employees. “It's a privilege for me to be standing in front of you all because you deliver an amazing ingredient to America's freedom. You all are making the products that lets us deliver the fight,” Spencer tells employees in an address. 

Harris Radios. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command awarded Harris Corp. a $765 million contract to procure portable radios and ancillary parts. This includes fielding of handheld, manpack, fixed mount/vehicular, and base station radios. The contract wasn't competitive. Work is expected to be finished by Sept. 2018 but if all options are exercised it will last through 2022.

Egyptian Corvettes. France’s Naval Group delivered the first of four Gowind 2500 corvettes to the Egyptian Navy, the ENS El Fateh, at a ceremony in Lorient, France. The ship was delivered 36 months after the order was placed. This corvette has a max speed of 25 knots, crew of 80 (including helicopter detachment), and a range of 3,700 nautical miles. It also integrates the SETIS combat system as well as the the Panoramic Sensors and Intelligence Module, an assembly combining the integrated mast with various sensors and the control room.

Laser Demo. The Missile Defense Agency awarded Lockheed Martin a $9.4 million contract for the Low Power Laser Demonstrator (LPLD) Phase 1 with no options contemplated. Under this award, the company will perform the next step in the LPLD effort that addresses laser power and aperture size by integrating a low lower laser on an unmanned aerial vehicle. Work is expected to be finished by July 2018. The LPLD is working towards intercepting ballistic missiles in their boost phase with lasers/directed energy weapons.

SSN-787. The US Navy plans to commission its latest fast attack submarine, the future USS Washington (SSN-787) at a ceremony on Oct. 7 at Naval Station Norfolk. The vessel is the 14th Virginia-class nuclear-powered submarine and the fourth in the Block III configuration. The Block III replaces 12 separate vertical launch tubes with two large-diameter Virginia Payload Tubes that can each launch six Tomahawk cruise missiles. Construction began in 2011.

Chinese In London. China’s navy made its first ever visit to London and the fourth to the United Kingdom. The 26th Escort Taskforce reached London on Oct. 3 and consists of the Type 054A missile frigates FFG Huanggang and FFG Yangzhou as well as the AOR Gaoyouhu Type 903 replenishment ship. They arrived following an escort mission in the Gulf of Aden and off the coast of Somalia. The task force sailed to Europe following escort and anti-piracy missions, also visiting Belgium, Denmark, and France.

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