The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

SASC Switch. Longtime Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) staff director Rick DeBobes will retire at the end of February, after two decades on the panel that oversees Pentagon policy and budgeting. Peter Levine, currently the committee’s general counsel, will replace DeBobes as staff director, SASC spokeswoman Tara Andringa says. DeBobes, 74, is a retired Navy officer who served as legal adviser to chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the end of his military career in the late 1980s, according to published biographies. Levine, who works closely with DeBobes, currently has an array of responsibilities on the committee. Those include acquisition policy, the acquisition workforce, Buy America rules, civilian Pentagon nominations, competition policy, mergers and acquisitions, competitive sourcing, export controls, information-technology systems, and equipment test and evaluation, according to the SASC’s website. The committee’s minority Republican side is in transition as well. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was replaced as ranking member by Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) this month. Ann Elise Sauer has been the SASC’s minority staff director since February 2012.

…Member Moves. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) now serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, filling the seat formerly held by Daniel Inouye, the Hawaii Democrat who chaired the panel until his death last month. To move to the coveted appropriations panel, Begich gives up his seat on the SASC, according to new Senate Democrat committee assignments Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announces Jan. 4. Begich is replaced on the SASC by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). She is the new senator from Hawaii who replaced Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), who just retired.

…McCain Post. McCain, who is term-limited out of his spot as ranking member of the SASC, is now on the Senate Foreign Relations panel, he announces Jan. 3. “Very pleased to be named to Foreign Relations, Armed Services, Indian Affairs & Homeland Security Committees – lots of work to do,” he writes on Twitter. The Foreign Relations Committee has jurisdiction over defense-trade matters such as export controls and foreign-military sales, along with international pacts including the Law of the Sea Treaty. McCain is expected to use the seat on the Foreign Relations Committee to examine the Obama administration’s handling of the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. 

Guard’s Guard. Air Force Lt. Gen. Stanley “Sid” Clarke is the new director of the Air National Guard. The Senate confirms him to the post Jan. 1 via a voice vote. Clarke has been the commander of the Continental U.S. North American Aerospace Defense Command Region and 1st Air Force. He replaces Lt. Gen. Harry “Bud” Wyatt, who is retiring. Clarke comes to lead the Air National Guard at a sensitive time in terms of relations with Congress. Lawmakers limit the Pentagon’s ability to retire or divest Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve aircraft through the fiscal year 2013 defense authorization bill, which President Barack Obama signs into law Jan. 2. The new act also creates a National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force that will report to Congress by Feb. 1, 2014.

NDAA Nudge. Two senior SASC Republicans critique Obama’s move to issue a so-called signing statement expressing his reservations with the FY ’13 defense authorization bill before adding his signature to it. McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) say Obama’s statement challenges “the work Congress has done to protect American taxpayers, shape national security policy, and strengthen our nation’s defense.” Obama’s statement takes aim at bill provisions related to military detainees as well as language limiting the Pentagon’s ability to retire ships and aircraft. It says: “In a time when all public servants recognize the need to eliminate wasteful or duplicative spending, various sections in the act limit the Defense Department’s ability to direct scarce resources towards the highest priorities for our national security.” McCain and Graham, in a Jan. 3 statement, say they “urge the president to see that (the defense bill’s) implementation is carried out in accordance with congressional intent,” citing concerns with his statements on detainee provisions.

Skipping Paris. Northrop Grumman says it will not exhibit at this summer’s Paris Air Show to save money but will continue to pursue business in the international market. Company spokesman Randy Belote says the decision was in alignment with “its affordability and cost reduction goals.” “The decision does not, in any way, diminish Northrop Grumman’s commitment to France or its global customers,” he says. “Northrop Grumman continues to focus its international business development activities and resources in areas that better support its customers’ needs.” Boeing and Lockheed Martin say they plan to attend the June 17-23 show at Le Bourget Airport. Reuters first reported Northrop Grumman’s decision.

DDG-1000 work. Raytheon has been awarded a $169 million contract option by the Navy for deferred mission systems equipment for the Zumwalt-class (DDG-1000) destroyer program. The work covers non-hatchable mission systems equipment, and non-recurring engineering applicable to mission system equipment design and development. The contract was announced by the Department of Defense on Dec. 28.

GD Up North. Northrop Grumman has awarded General Dynamics Canada a contract valued at more than $30 million to provide communication network technology for NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance program, General Dynamics says. General Dynamics is to provide software that will control the AGS Communications Ground Control System (CGCS), which will manage radio and satellite communications between the Northrop Grumman-built Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and the main operating base in Sigonella, Italy.  The AGS program includes five Global Hawks.

USAF CRH. The Air Force is moving ahead with the potentially $6.8 billion Combat Rescue Helicopter (CRH) source selection even if only one bidder participates, a spokesman says Friday. Bids were due Thursday. European Aeronautic Space and Defense North America, Boeing, a Bell Helicopter-Boeing team and a Northrop Grumman-AugustaWestland team all said in December they would not bid on the program. Sikorsky spokesman Frans Jurgens confirmed Friday the company offered its H-60. Air Force spokesman Ed Gulick said Friday in a statement said the Air Force is ready and there are a number of acquisition procedures in place to proceed, regardless of the number of bidders. The CHR program is to replace the Air Force’s aging HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter.

Rolls V-22 Contract. The Navy awards Rolls-Royce a $52.2 million contract to support AE 1107C engines for V-22 aircraft operated by the Marine Corps and Air Force, according to a company statement. The Nov. 27 contract, a modification of a prior agreement, includes repair and support services as well as fleet support at customer bases. Work will be carried out at the company’s Indianapolis, Ind., and Oakland, Calif., locations as well as at fleet locations. The Pentagon is looking to station more V-22s in Japan and Tokyo cleared operations in August following the completion of investigations into two V-22 mishaps last year.

SpaceX’s Grasshopper. SpaceX’s Grasshopper vertical takeoff and landing (VTVL) rocket successfully rises 131 feet, hovers and lands safely during a Dec. 17 test, the company says in a Dec. 24 statement. The rocket uses closed loop thrust vector and throttle control to launch and land. The total test took 29 seconds. Grasshopper stands 10 stories tall and consists of a Falcon 9 rocket first stage, Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers and a steel support structure. The test tops Grasshopper’s previous efforts. Grasshopper flew to six feet in September and 17.7 feet with a brief hover in November. SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin says Friday Grasshopper’s development is a critical step toward the company’s goal of a rapid and completely usable rocket. Shanklin says Grasshopper is designed to test the technologies required to return a rocket back to Earth intact, unlike conventional rockets that burn up upon re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere. Testing of Grasshopper will continue with successfully more sophisticated flights over the next several months.

P&W F119 Contract. The Air Force awards Pratt & Whitney a contract modification worth as much as $223 million for F119 engine sustainment, the service says Dec. 27. The F119 turbofan engine powers the F-22 Raptor and has the ability to operate at supercruise: supersonically without after burner. The F119 is a twin-spool, augmented turbofan engine in the 35,000-pound thrust class with Full-Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC). The F119 also has a three-stage integrally bladed fan powered by a single-stage low-pressure turbine and a high-pressure compressor.

McCaul’s Priorities. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the new chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, on Friday broadly outlined his key priorities and named his subcommittee chairs. McCaul says in a statement that “I will focus on facing both terrorist and natural disaster threats on several fronts, beginning with rigorous oversight of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). We must ensure that all DHS operations are effective and that taxpayer dollars are not mismanaged. Additionally, I will work to bolster our defenses against cyber attacks on critical infrastructure, enhance our border security and ensure that the Transportation Security Administration effectively protects travelers.” He says that the four major threats facing the United States are “international and domestic terrorism, unsecured borders, cyber attacks, and the department’s dysfunctional management which continues to hinder security operations and cost taxpayers billions of dollars in waste.”

…Subcommittee Chairs. McCaul also announced his subcommittee chairs. Candice Miller (Mich.) will continue to head the Subcommittee on Border and Maritime Security. Peter King (N.Y.), the former chair of the full committee, will head the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism and Intelligence. Patrick Meehan (Pa.) will lead the Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection and Security Technologies, Susan Brooks (Ind.) will oversee Emergency Preparedness, Response and Communications, Jeff Duncan (S.C.) will chair Oversight and Management Efficiency, and Richard Hudson (N.C.) will head up Transportation Security.