Defense Watch

SOCOM R&D. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) chairwoman of the House Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities panel, says she is “somewhat disappointed” that U.S. Special Operations Command’s fiscal year 2019 budget request would cut SOCOM’s research and development funding for the second year in a row. But Army Gen. Raymond “Tony” Thomas, SOCOM’s commander, says he is “comfortable” with the request, partly because his command is trying to take greater advantage of R&D performed by others inside and outside of the Department of Defense. “I can’t tell you an area that I think we’re lacking,” Thomas testified before Stefanik’s panel Feb. 15.

Gulf Sales. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has lifted an eight-month hold on arms sales to Persian Gulf countries. In a Feb. 8 letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Corker wrote that while those countries have still not resolved their dispute over Qatar’s alleged support for extremist groups, weapon sales need to resume because they are vital to U.S. security cooperation with those states.

Budget Reaction. Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) Vice President for National Security Policy John Luddy says, “the president has requested $716 billion for the Department of Defense and nuclear weapons programs in FY19, marking a dramatic positive change in national security investment. While the President’s FY19 budget request is a good first step, what’s needed for the foreseeable future is at least five percent real annual topline growth – provided on time – so that both DOD and industry can most efficiently produce the forces we need to meet our national defense strategy.” 

… FAA Budget. AIA Vice President for Civil Aviation David Silver says, “the president’s FAA budget request is two percent below the FY17 enacted level, which would cut a number of important modernization programs that aviation users need. For instance, the NextGen modernization program represents the future of the nation’s aviation infrastructure. Yet the FY19 budget requests $952 million, an amount far below what is required for success and even below the FY17 enacted level of $1.1 billion. The request also cuts important FAA research activities. Especially with increased resources from the recent budget agreement, Congress should reject these reductions.” 

… And Space. AIA Vice President for Space Systems Frank Slazer says, “the FY19 budget request for NASA is disappointing given the Administration’s strong interest in civil space. NASA needs more resources to assure U.S. space leadership.  Yet the requested budget only increases 1% compared to the last budget to pass the Congress - a net cut in real dollars for our nation’s space program. The challenges compound in future years, where projections call for a cut followed by budget stagnation. Especially concerning are shortfalls from aeronautical research to astrophysics and the future of the International Space Station.  We look forward to working with Congress to improve upon this budget request and ensuring NASA’s resources match our rhetoric of assuring American space leadership.” 

Tactical Blimp. Drone Aviation Holding Corp., a manufacturer of tethered drones and lighter-than-air aerostats, has delivered its multi-mission capable tactical Winch Aerostat Small Platform ("WASP") to the Army under an $800,000 contract awarded in October 2017. The deal includes new WASP hardware, spare equipment and training. The soldier-operated WASP delivers multi-mission capability with simultaneous use of secure communications and advanced intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) payloads enabled by the company’s proprietary tether system. The order follows the Army’s successful in-theater use of the enhanced WASP system, a compact, tactical, mobile system providing multi-mission capabilities that can be operated on the move or rapidly relocated. 

Columbia Looking Better. Huntington Ingalls Industries Chief Mike Petters says congressional movement toward a budget deal that strengthens defense spending combined with Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan give him more confidence in the funding for the service’s new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. Petters tells investors on the company’s fourth quarter earnings call Feb. 15 that “I have been saying for a long-time that I have been worried about how the Columbia-class was going to be paid for without affecting the budget. If you look at the budget and you look at the 30-year plan, it looks like resources are going to be allocated to not create that effect, not create impact.” He adds, “We’re going to pay for it. That’s really encouraging to me.” General Dynamics is the prime contractor on Columbia with an 80 percent work-share while HII is the major subcontractor with a 20 percent share. With GD having more responsibility for Columbia, HII will be picking up more work on the Navy’s Virginia-class attack sub program.

Lockheed Expansion. Lockheed Martin is expanding its footprint in Florida with a new 225,000 square foot office facility in Orlando and plans to hire 1,800 new employees over the next two years, including 500 in Orlando. “The Research & Development II building underscores our customer commitments to provide the most modern facilities for our talented workforce to produce critical capabilities for the U.S. and allies for years to come,” says Frank St. John, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin’s Missiles and Fire Control segment. The company currently employs more than 4,000 people in Orlando, where it designs, develops and builds advanced combat systems.

After Challenges, Mission Complete. The Coast Guard’s only operational heavy polar icebreaker, the 42-year old Polar Star, earlier this month completed its annual deployment to McMurdo Station to cut a 15-mile resupply channel in support of the U.S. Antarctic Program. The vessel’s arrival at McMurdo in January was delayed first due to a failure of one of its three main gas turbine engines and then later by a failed shaft seal causing flooding in the engine room. The Polar Star completed its mission with two engines. The 399-foot icebreaker left its homeport of Seattle on Nov. 30, 2017, and is due to return in March.

Private Equity Deal. The private equity firm Arlington Capital Partners has made an investment in the professional services firm Integrity Applications Incorporated and will combine Integrity with another portfolio company, Xebec, a provider of human intelligence solutions to the intelligence community. Terms of the Integrity deal were not disclosed. Integrity’s co-founders participated in the investment and will remain involved with the company’s strategic growth initiatives. Integrity supports customers in the intelligence and defense communities. David Wodlinger, a Partner at Arlington, says the equity firm will support Integrity through investments in technology, people and strategic acquisitions.

Navy Size. Rep. Rob Wittman, (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, said at an annual amphibious warship forum that the president’s FY ’19 budget request for Navy shipbuilding is too small. The request calls for $21 billion for 10 ships.“The floor for shipbuilding in FY ’19 needs to be no less than 26.2 [billion] and 13 ships, period, bottom line,” Wittman says. He emphasizes the importance of serial production as important in making these increased production numbers more cost effective.

…Also LPD. Wittman also said at the Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition event the FY ’18 budget should have appropriations to fund the LPD-30 amphibious transport dock or the first follow-on LX(R) class. “We know how important that ship is to getting to [the Navy goal of] 38 amphibious ships.” He noted the FY ’19 request has no funding for amphibious warships and said there should be funding there, whether it’s another LHA amphibious assault ship or LX(R).

T-ESB-4 To Med. The Marine commandant said at the same forum the future USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams (T-ESB-4) expeditionary sea base will operate in the Mediterranean Sea in its first deployment. Gen. Robert Neller likes the ship class and hopes the Navy builds more. He said he would like to see the ship there if he was U.S. Africa Command head Marine Gen. Thomas Waldhauser or U.S. European Command head Army Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti. “That would give me a great deal of flexibility on where I could go or what I could do, maneuver around with that ship and the capability it has,” he said. Neller noted this would not negate the need for an Amphibious Ready Group or Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU)  in the region. It would, however, “create a different dynamic for where forces were stationed.”

LCS Names. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer named two upcoming Littoral Combat Ships (LCS): the Freedom-variant future USS Nantucket (LCS-27) and Independence-variant USS Savannah (LCS-28). LCS-27 will be built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Marinette, Wis., while LCS-28 will be made by Austal USA in Mobile, Ala.

…EPF Too.. Spencer also said the next Expeditionary Fast Transport ship will be named the future USNS Newport (T-EPF-12). The EPF is a catamaran ship aimed at serving various roles for high speed intra-theater surface lift. Mission types it can be used for include supporting special operations forces, overseas contingency operations, conducting humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. Austal USA will build T-EPF-12 in Mobile, Ala.

CH-53K. The Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) awarded Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky Aircraft a $126.5 million modification providing for long lead items supporting low-rate initial production (LRIP) seven Lot III CH-53k helicopters. Work will occur in Stratford, Conn., and is expected to be finished by Jan. 2019.

Resilient Shield. U.S. Navy and Air Force personnel are participating in the Resilient Shield 2018 exercise with Japanese partners from Feb. 16-23. The annual computer-based Fleet Synthetic Training-Joint (FST-J) exercise held in Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan and other regional command centers aims to test tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) against possible regional threats to ensure allied forces are well-rehearsed in responding. This year's exercise focuses on ballistic missile defense (BMD) training for U.S. 7th Fleet and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF) BMD-capable ships. Participating ships will include the USS Shiloh (CG-67), USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), USS Benfold (DDG-65), USS Stethem (DDG 63) as well as personnel from the JS Teruzuki (DD-116) and JS Kongo (DD-173).

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