Defense Watch

NRO Launch. A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta 4 rocket carrying a National Reconnaissance Office satellite (NROL-47) lifted off Jan. 12 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The launch of the classified spacecraft was delayed a day due to a problem with a ground system valve, ULA said.

AFWERX Vegas. In Las Vegas, the Air Force celebrated the launch of its first AFWERX innovation hub with a Jan. 11 ceremony attended by Vice President Mike Pence. Pence said the center’s proximity to technology firms, air combat training units at Nellis Air Force Base, and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, will provide opportunities for new partnerships. “This program will focus on breaking down barriers, stripping out layers of bureaucracy that stand too often between Air Force decision-makers and innovators here in Las Vegas,” he said.

Guam B-2s. Three B-2 bombers and about 200 airmen from Whiteman AFB, Mo., have deployed to Andersen AFB in Guam for a routine “assurance and deterrence mission” in support of U.S. Pacific Command, according to the Pentagon. Air Force bombers have continuously rotated to Guam since 2004.Aerial view of the Pentagon, Arlington, VA

Commercial Crew. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee plans to hold a hearing Jan. 17 to get an update on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Under the program, Boeing and SpaceX are both developing spacecraft to transport people to and from the International Space Station. Representatives of NASA, the two companies, the Government Accountability Office and the NASA Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel are scheduled to testify.

NASA Nominee. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Jan. 18 intends to once again take up the controversial nomination of Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) to be NASA administrator. The nomination, which narrowly received committee approval in November, was sent back to the White House after failing to receive Senate confirmation by year’s end. Opponents said a politician should not run what has traditionally been a nonpartisan agency.

Drone Registration. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao said that more than one million drone aircraft have been registered with the FAA. The million-drone total registration figure includes 878,000 hobbyists, who receive one identification number for all the drones they own, and 122,000 commercial, public and other drones, which are individually registered. “The tremendous growth in drone registration reflects the fact that they are more than tools for commerce and trade, but can save lives, detect hazardous situations and assist with disaster recovery, says Chao. “The challenge is to remove unnecessary hurdles to enable the safe testing and integration of this technology into our country’s airspace.”

The Hurt Will Come. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft says that for now, his service isn’t “hurting” from the ongoing continuing resolution that federal departments and agencies have been operating under since last Oct. 1, which marked the start of fiscal year 2018. He tells an audience at the annual Surface Navy Association conference that “we need to move beyond this point and really need to have something tangible within the next month.” The current CR expires Jan. 19 and Zukunft says it’s a “possibility” that there’s another one to follow. “Can I go through the year on a continuing resolution? Absolutely not. There are critical timelines, new acquisitions that I need to get off the launching pad. Me and every other armed service cannot go through an entire year under a continuing resolution.” A longer-term CR will impact some of the Coast Guard’s new acquisition programs, including its highest priority, the medium-endurance Offshore Patrol Cutter, and the heavy polar icebreaker, he warns.

USCG Interest in Endurance UAS. The Coast Guard this spring hopes to issue a Request for Proposals seeking interested vendors for its land-based long-range and ultra-long endurance (LR/U-LE) unmanned aircraft systems effort. The Coast Guard also hopes to do technology demonstrations later this year depending on the responses to its RFP, a service spokeswoman tells Defense Daily. The Coast Guard is interested in the LR/U-LE UAS systems to patrol the drug transit zones in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea. Last year the Coast Guard conducted a market survey of the UAS systems and is currently conducting an alternatives analysis of the systems to examine feasibility, costs and benefits of using the systems. The technology demonstrations will be managed by the Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center.

TSA Win for Unisys. Unisys last November won a potential $250 million contract from the Transportation Security Administration to support an existing program that is meant to integrate the 15,000 pieces of Transportation Security Equipment the agency uses at airports nationwide to screen passengers and their baggage for potential threats. Unisys unseated General Dynamics, which was the incumbent for the Security Technology Integrated Program, or STIP, which TSA was using to connect its security equipment. However, due to potential cyber security concerns, the agency disconnected its equipment in 2015. TSA tells Defense Daily the potential five-year Blanket Purchase Agreement for the Domain Awareness Integrated Network, or DOMAIN,  award covers operations, corrective maintenance, and development, modernization and enhancement of STIP.

Battelle Bio-Threat Award. The U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity has awarded Battelle an $8.7 million contract to develop threat assessment software to assess the threat of potential genetic sequences before they are synthesized, which the non-profit company says would enable the end user to reduce the risk that biological threats will be created either intentionally or accidentally. The award was made under the Functional Genomic and Computational Assessment of Threats program, which is aimed at countering potential threats that could arise from advancements in biotechnology. Battelle’s industry partners on the work include Ginkgo Bioworks, One Codex and Twist Bioscience.

Medical Contract. General Dynamics Information Technology won a contract from Army Medical Command for professional training and operations services in support of the Army Reserve regional training sites-medical program. The single-award contract has a potential value of $58.9 million for a one-year base period with four option years. Under the contract, General Dynamics will provide customized medical training and exercises. Work on the contract will be performed at more than 15 locations throughout the country.

Engine Work. Cummins Inc., based in Columbus, Ind., won a $257 million  firm-fixed-price Army contract for procurement of new commercial, remanufactured and remanufactured conversion V903 Cummins series 600 and 675 horsepower diesel engines in support of multiple systems.

Japan Joins CCDCOE. Japan is joining NATO’s Cyber Defence Center of Excellence. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the decision during a visit Jan. 12 to the cyber defense training and research center’s headquarters in Tallinn, Estonia. “We welcome the decision of Japan to join CCDCOE as a Contributing Participant, membership status available to non-NATO nations. Japan is one of NATO’s key partners beyond the Euro-Atlantic area and a globally recognized technology and cyber security power. Joining the Centre will be a concrete step forward signalling the commitment in cyber defence cooperation between like-minded nations,” said Merle Maigre, Director of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence, in a statement.

Endgame/Navy. The Navy awarded Endgame a sole source contract to safeguard its endpoints from cyber attacks. U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. 10th Fleet will utilize Endgame’s endpoint protection platform to secure over 500,000 Navy computers, as well as ships’ mechanical and electrical systems, weapons systems, and IoT devices. “The Navy is widely known as being on the cutting-edge of cyber security defenses, and we were happy to exceed their protection requirements during this competitive process. Safeguarding the most targeted organizations across the Department of Defense is an important part of our mission, and we look forward to continuing it with the Navy,” said Nate Fick, Endgame CEO, in a statement.

Aspen Cyber Group. The new Aspen Cyber Strategy Group held its first meeting Jan. 5. The group’s founder and chairs include Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), chair of the House IT Subcommittee, Ginni Rometty, president of IBM, and Lisa Monaco, a former White House Homeland Security adviser during the Obama administration. The group brings together 35 cyber experts to discuss public and private sector solutions to the latest security challenges. “We are becoming more dependent on technologies each day, yet no comprehensive, nonpartisan group exists to keep up with the associated security implications across all sectors,” Hurd said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my fellow chairs and members of the Aspen Cyber Strategy Group to help facilitate a productive discussion between CEO’s, lawmakers and academics that leads to concrete, tangible cyber security solutions that bolster information security and safety, without stifling innovation.”

Body Armor Merger. Armor Express, Inc. and KDH Defense Systems, both producers of body armor solutions for federal and law enforcement customers, have merged, creating what they say is one of the leading manufactures globally of personnel protective gear. The companies are owned by Praesidium, which just installed James Henderson as its CEO. Henderson at one time was CEO of Point Blank Enterprises, which also provides protective solutions to military, law enforcement and other customers. Armor Express supplies concealable and tactical body armor systems to law enforcement, and also has contracts with the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. KDH manufactures protective hear for DHS and other agencies, as well as the U.S. Armed Forces.

Watching MuMNS. Saab officials told Defense Daily in an interview ahead of the Surface Navy Association’s (SNA) annual symposium that the U.S. Navy is closely monitoring the UK-French joint development and build contract on the Multi-Shot Mine Neutralization Systems (MuMNS). The company is currently building this Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), which contains three silos that can hold various payloads to tag or neutralize several mine targets before being reloaded. The company notes this is an ROV launched form an unmanned surface vehicle, possible the first such configuration in the defense field.

CNO Likes Frigate. The Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson highlighted the importance of the future frigate FFG(X) program as an acquisition priority. The change in how the Navy designs and builds the ship “might define a new era, if you will, in shipbuilding,” he said at the SNA symposium. Richardson said while the hull, propulsion, and power systems will not largely change over its lifetime, he wants to make the sensors and weapon systems as “plug and play” as possible. This would allow the Navy to “ride the technology curve as it advances, so that you can quickly and easily swap out and modernize that ship over time.” The CNO also said the Navy wants to make sure every dollar invested in that flexible capability has as much horizontal impact across the Navy as possible.”

More Trainer Work. The U.S. Navy is increasing its trainer delivery work by 50 percent in 2018, Capt. Samuel Pennington, program manager on Surface Training Systems, said during a briefing at the SNA symposium. “From FY18 to FY 20 we’re looking at about a 50 percent increase in our workload. So that’s not a 50 percent increase in actual trainers delivered, but it’s the work that’s going to be required to deliver those trainers across the world,” Pennington said. Deliverables in 2018 include Aegis Ashore team trainer, reconfigurable console for combat systems, and navigation training. 

…Because Wave. Pennington added the increase is for a couple reasons: a “bow wave” of work for the Aegis and building back from cost saving measures made a decade ago. He said this goes across navigation trainers programmed over a year ago and updating of combat systems. “Looking at the number of baselines Aegis [combat systems] has delivered over the years we’ve realized there was a bow wave of work that needed to be done to catch up to the training that need to support that.” The 10-year old cost-savings measures refer to initiatives like the Revolution in Training that the Navy found took too much out of training materials when trying to cull obsolete systems.

C-2A Found. A U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage and Diving team deployed to Japan found the crashed C-2A Greyhound aircraft on Dec. 29. The aircraft is 18,500 feet down after the November crash that killed three sailors, with eight rescued alive. The Navy said this will be the deepest recovery of an aircraft attempt it has ever conducted, once the salvage stage begins. The team will first use a side-scan-sonar and remote operated vehicles to map the debris field and attach heavy lines for lifting the C-2A to the surface.

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