Assistant Commandant: Marines Need to Ask for More Amphibs Despite Tight Budgets

By Megan Eckstein

The Marine Corps assistant commandant lamented the shortfall of amphibious ships in the Navy’s current fleet and upcoming shipbuilding plans, saying it forced both the Marine Corps and the Navy to respond to situations with “opportunistic and kind of crisis-response solutions” rather than with the preferred three-ship Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit setup.

Speaking at the Surface Navy Association’s annual conference in Arlington, Va., Gen. John Paxton spoke about recent events in which Marines had to self-deploy on V-22s and KC-130s instead of on ships like they should have.

Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. John PaxtonAssistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. John Paxton

In recent months, the Navy/Marine Corps team has responded to crises in Uganda and South Sudan, but in both cases the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) Crisis Response team deployed by aircraft from ground locations instead of off the deck of an amphib, opening the door to logistical problems and sovereignty issues.

Paxton called the responses in Africa “a case study about the flexibility and the readiness of the Navy Marine team” but added that the response was “green-heavy.”

“It was illustrative also of a gap and a chink in our armor in that we really would have been better off and done it more responsively if we had more amphibs,” Paxton told the crowd. “To have more amphibs would be proof-positive of why the Navy/Marine team, working from a feet-wet proposition and not having to worry about sovereignty and not having to worry about overflight, could deliver those very things that the combatant commander needs.”

Paxton also noted the massive military response to the super-typhoon that slammed into the Philippines in November--but the Marines again responded without the support of ships. Marines deployed from Okinawa, Japan, in their V-22s and KC-130s within six hours of receiving an execute order. But, Paxton added, “we were constrained by amphib shipping. Because the ships out there doing great things, they were bringing back the 31st ARG/MEU from deployments elsewhere, and the ships had turn-time to get into the yards and get maintained”

What Paxton was alluding to was the fact that the three amphibs stationed with the Marines in Japan were undergoing repairs when the typhoon hit. The first ship the Navy could deploy was an aircraft carrier, which was not as ideally suited to carry out the humanitarian assistance mission, a defense official told Defense Daily. It took several days for the amphibs to finish their repairs and prepare to deploy, and they relieved the aircraft carrier after days of it sitting off the coast of the Philippines to support airlifting supplies and water generated on the ship.

Paxton noted in his speech that the Marine Corps would have to face a shortfall in its amphib inventory before finally climbing out of the “bathtub” in the late 2020s. But, he added, “even in a fiscally constrained environment, we have to articulate the need for amphibs in the days ahead.”

Asked how the Marine Corps could try to generate support for additional ship buys, Paxton did not seem optimistic.

“In a perfect world, the blue/green team would buy more amphibs. But again, they’d buy more subs and buy more aircraft and buy more carriers too,” he said. “We realize these are hard decisions that institutionally the [chief of naval operations] and the [secretary of the Navy] have to make.”

He said he believed the Marine Corps would need to continue to rely on its two Special Purpose MAGTFs to fill in the gaps in its capability set, and the Navy would do the same with inventive ideas such as turning a to-be-retired ship or an inexpensive Mobile Landing Platform into a flexible Afloat Forward Staging Base to increase the responsiveness of the force to combatant commander requests.



Navy Acquisition Chief Insists Need For 52 LCSs Is Firm

By Mike McCarthy

The Navy's top acquisition official said Thursday the service's requirement for 52 Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) is "firm," and would not comment on reports a day earlier saying the Office of the Secretary of Defense has instructed the Navy to reduce the number to 32 vessels.

The LCS program again could be under the gun. Photo aboard the USS Forth Worth by Defense Daily.The LCS program again could be under the gun. Photo aboard the USS Forth Worth by Defense Daily.

Sean Stackley, the Navy's assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition, also refused to comment on whether the service has been told to cut the purchase by 20 ships, saying he cannot discuss the fiscal 2015 budget planning process before a proposal is submitted to Congress. His remarks, however, suggested the Navy would not readily accept any attempt to reduce the current program of record.

"We have a valid requirement for 52 ships that is firm," Stackley told a handful of reporters at the Surface Navy Association conference outside Washington. He added the program is "performing strongly in terms of cost" and that the Navy is conducting operational testing in accordance to its schedule.

"The Navy's position on the LCS program is solid, and any press reports to the contrary I have no comment on," Stackley said.

The Navy Times  and Bloomberg reported Wednesday that acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Christine Fox instructed the Navy in a Jan. 6 memo to reduce the purchase to 32, meaning only eight additional ships beyond the number already under contract or delivered to the fleet will be bought.

Lockheed Martin [LMT] is the prime contractor for the Freedom variant of the LCS, while Austal USA builds the Independence variant. The Navy is buying 12 of each variant, and two of each have been delivered. The Navy has yet to decide on the next block buy contracts.

The Pentagon is expected to submit its fiscal 2015 budget proposal sometime in February or early March.

The LCS program experienced significant cost overruns, technical problems and delays in the early stages. The controversial program has been subjected to strong criticism, particularly from many members of Congress. The Navy maintains the program is now on track, and touts the LCS as a cornerstone of future operations, citing its ability to operate in coastal areas and its three swappable mission packages for surface, anti-submarine and anti-mine warfare.

The USS Freedom (LCS-1) recently returned from a major deployment to Singapore, and the USS Fort Worth (LCS-3) is scheduled to depart on a longer, 16-month deployment to the same country toward the end of this year. The Navy says the ship will play a pivotal role in the military's strategic shift to the Asia-Pacific region.

Fox has been serving as acting deputy defense secretary since Ashton Carter departed the Pentagon in early December. Some industry officials noted that she is in the position on an interim basis and the instructions in the reported memo could change once a replacement for Carter has been confirmed.



GSA Awards Initial Task Orders Under Federal Cyber Monitoring Program

By Calvin Biesecker

The General Services Administration (GSA) this week awarded initial task orders to four companies under a potential multi-billion dollar, multiple award contract announced last August that allows federal agencies to buy cyber security products and services from vendors.

The task orders, the first yet awarded under the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program, were let to Hewlett Packard [HPQ], Knowledge Consulting Group (KCG), Northrop Grumman [NOC], and Technica.iStock Computer

HP received the lion’s share of the $60 million awarded for various products with $32 million. Northrop Grumman’s task order is for $15.8 million, KCG’s $8.5 million and Technica’s $3.8 million.

The purchases were made by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees the protection of federal civilian networks. The actual federal agencies that will be licensing the products being acquired from the four vendors were not disclosed.

CDM is part of a government-wide effort to move from periodic checks of networks to continuous security. DHS and GSA last August announced the selection of 17 vendors eligible to sell products and services under the $6 billion CDM program to interested federal agencies. GSA provides the Blanket Purchase Agreements for agencies to order products from. The initial task orders mean that the tap has begun to flow for orders under the program.

The orders also mean that the agencies acquiring the licenses will begin to close cyber vulnerabilities, Helen Kelly, Technica’s CDM program manager, told Defense Daily. Technica is providing Symantec’s [SYMC] endpoint protection and Altiris Software Management for Client under its initial task order, she said. Kelly said that until the actual order comes in Technica won’t know who the end customer is.

The cyber products will help agencies provide sensors at all servers and desktops, allowing agencies to have a better understanding of the software and software versions running on their networks, enabling more frequent security scans than is now the case, Kelly said.

Matt Brown, vice president of homeland security at KCG, said his company will be providing three products aimed an endpoint protection: McAfee [MFE] ePolicyOrchestrator, McAfee Vulnerability Manager and McAfee VirusScan. KCG will also provider BDNA Normalize, which normalizes IT language throughout an enterprise and makes it easier to monitor changes.

In addition to federal agencies, state agencies are also eligible to purchase various cyber security products and services under the CDM program, facilitating wider deployments of security technology.



Contracting Remains A Roadblock For DoD’s Move To the Cloud, Air Force Official Says

By Liz Gormisky

Contracting mechanisms are proving just as much of a roadblock to the Department of Defense’s planned implementation of cloud computing as security has been, according to Air Force’s chief technology and chief information officer.

DoD has appointed the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) as its “cloud broker”--meaning that DISA will help pair the military and other Pentagon programs with cloud service providers and ensure security protocols are followed. Two years since taking on its brokerage role, DISA has yet to establish guidelines for projects needing multiple providers and assigning liability for data breaches.iStock Cloud Computing

“We underestimated how much work it was going to be,” Air Force CTO and CIO Frank Konieczny said at MeriTalk’s Cloud Computing Brainstorm on Thursday in Washington.

Konieczny estimated that DoD manages 3,000-5,000 applications that may have slight variations across military bases. These applications must be streamlined to move to the cloud effectively. The task is so overwhelming that DoD will need to hire separate contractors for system integration in addition to hiring the cloud service provider. DISA is unsure of how to assign these complex contracts: does the cloud service provider contract the system integrator or vice versa? Does the cloud service provider or does the system integrator accept the risk for protecting the information as it is moved?

Civilian agencies have also grappled with the question of risk, but any commercial provider that partners with DoD will see cyber attacks on its systems increase, Konieczny said. Due to the sensitive nature of its information, DoD needs the contractual right to intervene in the company’s network should an attack take place--which may be problematic to providers unaccustomed to working with the department.

“CYBERCOM has to be able to come in and take over any incidents that occur,” he said.

Furthermore, Konieczny said various software licenses across DoD will further complicate the process. Moving the software to the cloud will make it difficult to track licenses and may change the terms of service.

“It may be too complex,” he said. “The workload would get ridiculous after a while.”

Such contractual issues have have called into question whether the cost and effort of the project may outweigh the scalable efficiency benefits of cloud.

“It takes a while to get to the point where we can justify the movement of anything into the cloud infrastructure,” Konieczny said.

Still, he is hopeful that 2014 will see DISA stood up as the functioning cloud broker for the department. DISA has been making progress on additional security controls for cloud service providers, building off of the process for civilian agencies called FedRAMP.

The Pentagon will most likely choose DoD-only private clouds, even for unclassified information. Konieczny said there is a model in place for classified information in the cloud, but the plan is to finish the unclassified cloud move first.



Lockheed Martin Successfully Tests LRASM Vertical Launch System Interface

By Pat Host

Lockheed Martin [LMT] recently demonstrated and validated that its Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) can be launched from any MK 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) by modifying the software to existing shipboard equipment, according to a company statement.

During the company-funded test in December, LRASM, Tactical Tomahawk Weapons Control System (TTWCS), MK 41 VLS and Mk-114 booster hardware with modified software executed simulated missions and provided all electrical interfaces and data transfers needed to prepare and launch LRASMs. Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Melissa Hilliard said Thursday this proved that LRASM needed only software modifications and no hardware modifications to be launched vertically.

An artist's rendering of LRASM. Photo: Lockheed Martin.An artist's rendering of LRASM. Photo: Lockheed Martin.

LRASM is an autonomous, precision-guided anti-ship standoff missile leveraging Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range (JASSM-ER) heritage. It is designed to meet the offensive anti-surface weapon needs of the Navy and Air Force. Lockheed Martin has invested $30 million to reduce risk and accelerate LRASM initial operational capability on Navy destroyers while the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has invested $400 million, according to Frank St. John, Lockheed Martin missiles and fire control vice president of tactical missiles.

LRASM had two successful air launched flight tests of a tactically representative missile in 2013: one in August and another in November, both from an Air Force B-1B at the Pt. Mugu, Calif., sea range. These tests were DARPA funded, Hilliard said. The test in August successfully searched and tracked the target among multiple tracks and autonomously routed it to target and conducted attack with no target updates. The November test included all first event objectives from August plus four first time events, according to briefing slides provided by Lockheed Martin. The November test also exceeded objective range and ingressed at lower tactical altitude.

LRASM also had three successful surface launch events in 2013, two live and one simulated. LRASM in February had a successful “push-through” test where the missile survived its push through the canister lid. St. John said Wednesday this is important because the nose cone can damage the missile and alter its capabilities. This test was funded under a $30 million company investment to de-risk surface launch. LRASM in September had a successful boosted test vehicle (BTV) flight in which Lockheed Martin demonstrated Mk-114 booster and MK 41 VLS canister design maturity and performance.  Lockheed Martin said it demonstrated LRASM missile egress from canister with no damage.

LRASM in December had its successful TTWCS/MK 41 shipboard integration testing that verified compatibility and validated that the missile can be integrated on Navy destroyer platforms with only software modifications. Lockheed Martin has two DARPA-funded surface launch demonstrations, including vertical launch to full flight scheduled for 2014, one in August and one in October.

St. John said Lockheed Martin has plans in place to facilitate production by leveraging the JASSM and JASSM-ER production lines, if the Pentagon ultimately chooses to buy the system. The test articles for the air launched and surface launched demonstration program were built in the JASSM factory, St. John said, and made by JASSM production staff using JASSM tooling and test equipment. St. John said Lockheed Martin believes this will provide very low risk for the production transition, if it is to occur.

St. John also said the manufacturing processes required to produce a large amount of LRASMs have already started based on the prototype work performed in the factory. Lockheed Martin invested to expand factory capability, St. John said, so that as additional quantities are added, it will only take additional sets of tooling to produce not only the future Navy LRASM requirements, but also future Navy requirements at the same factory.

“We think as this program moves through engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD), all of the EMD test articles will be built in this same factory and production will transition very seamlessly going forward,” St. John said.

Lockheed Martin is also starting to work with Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., for integration of LRASM on the F-18, St. John said. The company has performed preliminary testing, which St. John said is encouraging in its ability to put LRASM in the VLS cells for the surface Navy. The F-18 is developed by Boeing [BA].

DARPA in December issued a sole source notice for a LRASM follow-on development program, according to a notice posted on Federal Business Opportunities (FBO).  DARPA says in the notice the follow-on will conduct further sensor and avionics hardware development based on previous results achieved and will also provide for fabrication of missile hardware to enable additional missile flight tests. The follow-on effort will be completed within 24 months after contract award.

Lockheed Martin said it won a $54 million DARPA contract modification for two vertical launch demos in 2014.



McKeon to Retire After 11 Terms; Endorses Thornberry As Next HASC Chairman

By Megan Eckstein

An emotional Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) said Thursday that he would not seek reelection to Congress this year, instead choosing to retire after he reaches his term limit as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC).

At a press conference with his wife, Patricia, in the front row and several current and former staffers in attendance, McKeon said he would be leaving the House of Representatives but would never stop fighting to support the military and veterans.

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services CommitteeRep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee

“I’m not leaving the fight, I will continue to speak for funding for our military, for the training they need to give them the best chance to carry out their missions and return home safely,” he promised. Later, he tearfully added that “as a military grandfather…I don’t plan to forget about these issues or the troops. Patricia and I will always be among the thousands who pray for the safe return of those in uniform around the world who fight for our freedoms.”

Though McKeon will not have a say in who replaces him as HASC chairman, he strongly endorsed his current vice chairman, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), who ran against him in June 2009 to become ranking member of the committee. McKeon admitted he narrowly won, and just a year and a half he was elevated to chairman when the Republicans took over the House after the 2010 elections.

“I have so much respect for him and admiration for him as a congressman and as a person, as a leader,” McKeon said of Thornberry. “I think that he will run for the job as chairman, and I think he will win the job as chairman, and I think he’ll be an outstanding chairman.”

Thornberry released a statement later Thursday thanking McKeon for his support and adding that "at the appropriate time, I look forward to visiting with our colleagues on the Steering Committee about succeeding Buck, but we have a lot of work to do over the coming year."

McKeon, who is in his 11th term in Congress and 10th on HASC, said his decision to retire was heavily influenced by being term-limited. “I don’t want to be around here second-guessing a chairman, I just don’t want to do that. I don’t want people making comparisons,” he said.

McKeon said he intends to pack the rest of this year with as much work as he can. He noted during the press conference that Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) recently eased congressional travel restrictions, so McKeon hopes to visit troops in Afghanistan as well as see military leaders around the world who often visit him in Washington.

McKeon mentioned an ongoing HASC effort that Thornberry is spearheading to tackle Pentagon acquisition reform. And he said work has already started to prepare for the fiscal year 2015 National Defense Authorization Bill, even though the FY ’14 bill passed just last month.

Asked what he hoped to accomplish this year to ensure his voice remains in the discussion as the military transitions from war in Afghanistan to its Asia-Pacific rebalance, and as it adjusts to lower spending levels, McKeon noted the success of last year’s National Defense Forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in his district in California. McKeon’s event in his home district drew three defense secretaries, three members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, lawmakers, defense industry leaders and more.

“And then we had forums that were very open, very enlightening,” he said, adding that several HASC members told him the discussions were much more candid and informative than the more canned and prepared HASC testimony during hearings. Therefore, he said the next forum is already being planned for Nov. 15. 2014, and he hopes to continue it as an annual event even after his retirement.

“We’re going to make this something we can look at and focus on Reagan’s peace through strength,” he said.

McKeon will have plenty of opportunities to stay involved in military affairs from his home in Santa Clarita. Before being redistricted after the 2010 census, McKeon’s 25th district included Edwards AFB, Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake, Marine Corps Logistics Base Barstow and the Army’s Fort Irwin. Defense contractors do plenty of work around those bases and have eagerly supported McKeon over the years--McKeon’s top contributors in his last election included Lockheed Martin [LMT], General Dynamics [GD] and Northrop Grumman [NOC]. He received $566,900 from the defense industry that election cycle, representing more than a quarter of his total money raised, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.

McKeon’s HASC colleagues were full of praise for their chairman following his announcement. Ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said, “Buck set a tone on this committee that the rest of Congress should seek to emulate. As political tension continued to rise in Congress, Buck stayed committed to bipartisanship. We formed a strong working relationship that allowed us to pass the National Defense Authorization Act year after year. Given all the tense national security issues we have faced over the years, it would have been easy to devolve into partisan fights. Buck never let that happen--he never let our disagreements get in the way of providing for our troops.”

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said, “he has been a strong advocate for ensuring that our military has the capabilities to meet the complex and challenging threats it will face in the future. Since I took this position as secretary of defense a year ago, I have particularly appreciated his tireless work and leadership in providing DoD with greater budget stability and predictability.”



Army, Boeing Team Solves AH-64E Transmission Issue

By Ann Roosevelt

The new Boeing [BA] AH-64E Apache is back in the air, with the issue of a transmission component raised over the end of the year holiday resolved, according to Army and company officials.

Army Apache Project Manager Col. Jeff Hager said the service is still fixing transmissions and putting the helicopters back in the air, giving a nod to the swift resolution of the problem.

This is not the first time the new Apache variant faced with a transmission issue. Earlier, the Boeing’s transmission supplier Wynnchurch Capital’s Northstar Aerospace had financial issues--since resolved-- that delayed manufacturing of some transmissions.

In mid-December a planetary nut came loose in a transmission, said David Koopersmith, Boeing vice president Attack Helicopter programs, at a company breakfast for the media Jan. 16. The fix ensures that the nut--what officials are calling a threaded component in the transmission--will “never come loose again.” That transmission fix also went through dynamic and static testing before heading out to units.

“I’m confident in the fix,” Koopersmith said. But it reminds him of how technically challenging weapons systems of today are, and the power a team effort can bring to bear.

AH-64Es have been in service with the Army since 2011, the 1-229 Attack Reconnaissance Battalion at Joint Base Lewis McChord, Wash., and the 1-25 Aviation Regiment at Ft. Carson, Colo. The last of the reworked transmissions has gone to Lewis McChord and Jan. 16 the last reworked transmission was expected to leave for Ft. Carson, Colo.

“This has been the single most prominent teaming effort and success we’ve had to date,” Hager said. It was the first big issue to come after the helicopter began fielding. Within a couple of weeks, the problem was identified and the solution in execution.

The transmission issue only involved AH-64E helicopters, not other models.

AH-64E Guardian Photo: U.S. ArmyAH-64E Guardian
Photo: U.S. Army

The issue also involved grounding six AH-64E helicopters Taiwan acquired from the United States and delivered in November, after the military was notified of the transmission issue, according to the Dec. 19 Taipei Times.

Taiwan is spending some $2 billion for 30AH-64E helicopters.

Since the AH-64E still is under what could be described as a warranty, Boeing will foot the rotorcraft repair bills.