Defense Watch: F-35 Update, Wittman on Carrier Block Buy, Mattis on JEDI

F-35 Milestone. The F-35 Lightning II program has wrapped up developmental flight tests for its system development and demonstration phase, according to the Defense Department’s joint program office and prime contractor Lockheed Martin. The tests, which involved more than 17,000 flight hours over more than 11 years, officially ended with the completion of a flight April 11 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. The program is now preparing for its initial operational test and evaluation, which is expected to begin this fall and pave the way for the stealth fighter to enter full-rate production.

Pence Speech. Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the Trump administration’s National Space Council, plans to deliver a speech April 16 at the start of the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colo. Pence is expected to make a space policy announcement. Other high-profile speakers at the symposium will include Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and acting NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot.

Griffin Testimony. Pentagon technology chief Michael Griffin is scheduled to testify at two congressional hearings in two days. On April 17, he will appear with Eric Schmidt, chairman of the Defense Innovation Board, at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on promoting innovation in the Defense Department. The next day, Griffin will appear alone before the Senate Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities panel for a hearing on accelerating new technologies.

NORTHCOM Nominee. President Donald Trump has nominated Air Force Gen. Terrence O’Shaughnessy to lead U.S. Northern Command and the North American Aerospace Defense Command. O’Shaughnessy, an F-16 pilot, is currently commander of Pacific Air Forces. If confirmed by the Senate, he would replace Air Force Gen. Lori Robinson, who is retiring.

Dual Carrier NDAA. House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower chairman Rob Wittman (R-Va.) says at the Navy League's Sea Air Space expo that approval for the two-aircraft carrier block buy will be in his subcommittee’s mark-up for the FY ’19 defense authorization bill. Wittman is “very confident” the Navy will be able to make its case for the purchase. He also says it is important to stress the 355-ship fleet as a topline target, while Navy and DoD officials need something to envision when it comes to the future. The House of Representatives is set to start its markup on April 26.

DoD Cloud. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, during a House Armed Services Committee hearing lastThursday, addressed concerns that the Department of Defense’s multi-billion dollar enterprise cloud migration project is structured to be awarded to Amazon Web Services. The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud has drawn industry scrutiny for its single-award nature, which would favor a large company like AWS. Mattis reiterated that DoD is maintaining a fair and open competition for the contract. Last August, Mattis traveled to Silicon Valley where he met with Amazon officials and other large tech companies, including Google. Department officials have said that industry comments on the contract are currently being considered, and an update will be announced if any change is made to the single-award contract structure.

DDG-1000. The Navy is almost done with industrial work in preparation to activate combat systems on the USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000). Capt. Kevin Smith, DDG-1000 program manager, says the ship’s combat system test and activation is set to continue through 2018, with operational test and evaluation to begin in FY ’18 before initial operational capability in FY ’20. The Navy still has no ammunition for the ship’s 155 mm guns, he says at the Navy League's Sea-Air-Space Expo. The system was originally planned to support precision land-attack operations. Separately, DDG-1001 is 99 percent complete and DDG-1002 is 74 percent complete with float-off planned for next November. Hull, Mechanical and Electrical (HM&E) delivery of DDG-1001 is planned for this month while HM&E delivery for DDG-1002 is set for March 2020.

Marines Shuffle. The Marine Corps announced several of its senior officers will take new commands in coming months. Maj. Gen. Charles Chiarotti is assigned as deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics at Marine Corps Headquarters. Chiarotti is currently serving as the deputy commander, U.S. Forces Japan, Yokota Air Base, Fussa, Japan. Lt. Gen. Michael Dana, who currently serves as the deputy commandant for Installations and Logistics, is appointed director of the Marine Corps Staff. 

… Combat Development. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. David Berger is assigned as deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps and commanding general for Marine Corps Combat Development Command MCCDC). Berger is currently serving as the commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific; and commanding general, Fleet Marine Corps Forces Pacific, Honolulu, Hawaii. Current MCCDC commander Lt. Gen Robert Walsh is scheduled to retire later this year.

Marine Vehicles. ManTech received $104 million in contracts to support and maintain Marine Corps ground vehicles. The first is an $82 million deal with the Navy’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWARSYSCEN) Atlantic to augment command-and-control capabilities of Marine Corps combat vehicles. ManTech’s work under the agreement will span systems engineering, software integration, and acquisition management support for SPAWARSYSCEN Atlantic’s Vehicular Technology Transition Integrated Products Team in support of the Digital Integration Facility. The second is a $22.5 million contract for vehicle maintenance and support services for engineering, acquisition and life-cycle sustainment of Marine Corps tactical vehicles. ManTech is responsible for research & development, design, acquisition and full life-cycle management of light, medium and heavy tactical vehicles, as well as legacy wheeled vehicle systems and ancillary equipment. The contract was awarded by the program managers of Medium and Heavy Tactical Vehicles and Light Tactical Vehicles. 

Cyber Storm Focus. The Department of Homeland Security last Thursday concluded its sixth biennial cyber security exercise, Cyber Storm VI, a simulated national and international crisis that involved attacks on the critical manufacturing and transportation sectors. The attack scenario was such that no single organization could stop it, so “the scenario promoted cooperation and information sharing across the United States government, states, the private sector, and international partners,” Jeanette Manfra, the department’s chief cyber security official, says in an April 13 blog post. She says there will be an after-action “process” to “discuss initial, high-level findings” and be followed by an after-action conference … to validate these findings and inform the development of an after action report.” There were more than 1,000 participants in the three-day distributed exercise.

Focus on Fentanyl. The Department of Homeland Security will be putting a greater focus on detecting fentanyl shipments into the U.S. and hopes to better detect synthetic opioid through improved technology and better targeting, department officials tell Congress. Fentanyl shipments are small relative to other illegal narcotics such as cocaine, yet a crumb-size amount of the drug can kill a person. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen tells House appropriators that her department is working with international mail shippers to collect data for better targeting of fentanyl shipments and that algorithms used in sensor technology need to be adjusted to detect the drug. Kevin McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, tells the appropriators in a separate hearing that his agency wants to send more vehicles through non-intrusive inspection systems as they enter the U.S. at land ports of entry. He says more funding is going towards detecting the drug in vehicles and small packages. Most fentanyl is coming to the U.S. from China by mail while Mexico is also a source.

Arctic Report. As the Coast Guard in the next month prepares to release its updated strategy for the Arctic, a new report identifies key capability gaps facing the service and Department of Homeland Security in Arctic operations. Among the findings are “patchy and unreliable” voice communications, and “extremely limited” data transmission, says the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center, which is a federally funded research and development center operated by the RAND Corp. under contract to DHS. Other findings include the need to better understand and monitor threats and hazards in the region, having greater capacity to deal with hazards, and for the Coast Guard to better identify and articulate its needs and risks in the Arctic.

Stolen Fuel. Fuel theft has become a lucrative business in Afghanistan, with at least $154.4 million in fuel stolen from either the U.S. military or the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). Fuel theft and other means of profiting from fuel conspiracies provide insurgent and terrorist organizations with funding, SIGAR says in a new report. The Defense Department supplied more than 2.8 billion gallons of fuel to support U.S. military operations in Afghanistan at a cost of more than $13 billion from fiscal 2008 through fiscal 2016. From fiscal 2010 through fiscal 2018, DoD spent $3.2 billion to supply fuel for the ANDSF. DoD's Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan (CSTC-A) is exploring new options to supply fuel going forward. “Although these requirements may address some of the weaknesses associated with the ANDSF fuel procurement process, CSTC-A still has no ability to remotely monitor fuel deliveries, storage tank levels, or fuel transfer procedures,” SIGAR reports.

LCS Guns. General Dynamics awarded BAE Systems a contract for two more Mk110 Naval Gun Systems for the Independence-variant of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). This is part of a follow-on to the current contract and raises the total amount of Mk110s to 15 for the Independence-variant. BAE also won a similar contract from Lockheed Martin for one Mk110 for their Freedom-variant LCS. Combined, this raises the amount of MK110s for LCS ships to 16. The Mk110, or Bofors 57Mk3, is a medium-caliber deck gun for use against air, surface, and ground threats. It can fire up to 220 rounds per minute at ranges up to 9 nautical miles with programmable ammunition. Deliveries are expected in 2019 and 2020. The Mk110 is also proposed for the future FFG(X) frigate program.

Cloud Security. A new report from Oracle and KPMG finds companies are struggling to protect their data despite moving more systems over the cloud and while facing a growing number of threats. Around 90 percent of the 450 IT professionals surveyed considered more than half of their cloud data as sensitive to a potential breach. The report finds the majority of IT professionals are concerned that employees aren’t following the policies in place to protect cloud data. "As organizations expand their cloud footprint, traditional security measures are unable to keep up with the rapid growth of users, applications, data, and infrastructure," said Akshay Bhargava, vice president of Oracle’s cloud business group.

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