Dempsey Decision. SASC Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and senior member John McCain (R-Ariz.) send Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey a letter July 19 asking for more insight into his views on policy on Syria and Afghanistan. McCain says July 18, after Dempsey testified before the SASC, that he will block the general’s re-confirmation to another term until he

GBI   Photo DoD

answers more questions on the administration’s stance on arming Syrian rebels. Levin and McCain ask Dempsey to “promptly” answer 11 questions. They include: “What is your assessment of the costs, benefits, and risks associated with training and arming vetted elements of the Syrian opposition?” and “Do you believe it is appropriate to accept the risk of drawing down half of our combat force in Afghanistan by February or March of next year, just a few weeks before the country’s presidential election?”

Rebalance Support. Vice President Joe Biden reaffirms the administration’s commitment to rebalance to the Asia-Pacific Region. “Economically and strategically it’s clear why the United States had to rebalance, to direct more resources and attention toward the Asia-Pacific region,” he says July 18 at the Center for American Progress think tank in Washington. He adds: “The president is absolutely committed, and so am I, and so is our entire national security and economic teams.” Dempsey tells the SASC the same day, in written responses to questions submitted for his re-confirmation hearing, that the Strategic Choices review “makes clear that we need to further prioritize missions within the context of a continued rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region.”

Cuts Review. Results of the Strategic Choices and Management Review are trickling out of the Pentagon. Those include Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s July 17 announcement of a 20 percent reduction in funding for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Joint Staff, and military-service headquarters. Those reductions are targeted for the fiscal year 2015 to 2019 timeframe and early estimates peg savings as high as $2 billion, Pentagon spokesman George Little says. “Personnel reductions associated with these savings will be determined during the development of detailed execution plans,” Little says. The Strategic Choices and Management Review “scrutinized the (Defense) Department’s spending priorities and determined that these headquarters reductions should be pursued now, regardless of future fiscal circumstances,” he adds, saying the cuts will be implemented even if Congress lifts sequestration budget caps.

Missile Miss. Missile Defense Agency Director Vice Adm. James Syring confirms July 17 that a missile-interceptor failed to separate from a booster rocket during a recent test failure. He tells the SAC-D that the Pentagon will do more regular testing. A Ground-based Interceptor launched from Vandenberg AFB in California failed to hit a long-range ballistic-missile target over the Pacific Ocean on July 5. The previous two tests of the interceptor, currently used in Alaska and California, also failed. SAC-D Chairman Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) tells Syring that lawmakers “are being asked by some to expand the amount of money we spend on the (missile-defense) systems at a time when testing has not proven that tests systems are effective.” 

PreCheck for the Masses. The Transportation Security Administration on Friday said it plans to expand its popular PreCheck trusted traveler program by allowing United States citizens to apply online and visit and enrollment site. The planned expansion of the program, which provides conveniences to air travelers as they proceed through aviation security checkpoints, will begin later this year. The expanded program will have two initial enrollment sites—Washington Dulles International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport–with plans for further sites nationwide. The application program requires a background check, fingerprints and an $85 enrollment fee for a five-year membership. Under PreCheck, approved passengers can leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt, keep their laptop in its case and their 3-1-1 compliant liquids bags in carry-on luggage in select screening lanes. Currently, the program is offered to travelers in select airlines’ frequent flier programs or in Customs and Border Protection trusted traveler programs.

…On Track for 2013 Expansion. TSA Administrator John Pistole tells the Aspen Security Forum last Friday that the agency is on track to expand PreCheck to 25 percent of the air traveling public by the end of 2013. He also says that the agency is also aiming for 50 percent of the air traveling public to go through some form of expedited screening by the end of 2014. He adds that the agency is also working with third party companies for travelers to apply for expedited screening benefits. Pistole says that as time goes on, expect to see the number of dedicated trusted traveler lanes to expand to accommodate the expansion of participants.

Aerostats on the Border. Tethered aerostats carrying various sensors to monitor surrounding areas work “great,” says Dr. Tara O’Toole, the chief of the Department of Homeland Security Science branch, but as far as using them for helping secure the nation’s border, not so. “They don’t perform well in weather that is fairly frequent on the border,” O’Toole tells a Senate panel. She also says they are expensive to operate and maintain, adding “they’re not the answer.” O’Toole’s office tested aerostats for Customs and Border Protection last year on the southwest border of the United States. She adds the border security technology challenge is finding systems that are “efficacious and cost effective.”

Huawei Under Pressure. Britain has assigned National Security Adviser Kim Darroch to inspect the U.K. location of Chinese telecommunications equipment provider Huawei. The decision, first reported by the Associated Press on Friday, comes after a parliamentary investigation determined that there was not proper oversight for the facility, colloquially known as “the Cell.” Huawei has been accused by the British and American governments of spying for the Chinese via its widely used products. The company responded positively to the proposed British review with a statement that it “shares the same goal as the U.K. government…in raising the standards of cybersecurity in the U.K.”

LMT F-35 Award. The Navy awards Lockheed Martin a $70 million contract modification to provide long lead-time parts, material and components required for the delivery of seven conventional variant F-35s and one short takeoff and vertical landing (STOVL) variant to Italy, according to DoD. Work is expected to be completed by February 2014. The F-35 is developed by Lockheed Martin.

Rose Nominated. President Obama announces his intent to nominate Frank Rose as assistant secretary of state for verification and compliance, according to the White House. In his current position as deputy assistant secretary of state for space and defense policy, Rose is responsible for advising the assistant secretary and, as required, the under secretary for arms control and international security, on key issues related to arms control and defense policy. From 2007 to 2009, Rose served as a professional staff member of the House Armed Services Committee and from 2005 to 2007, Rose served as professional staff member on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Beechcraft’s Grant. Beechcraft appoints Jim Grant as senior vice president of military programs, according to a company statement. Grant will be responsible for the new business initiatives of the company’s three military organizations: Trainer/attack, special mission and global mission support. Following his retirement from the Air Force in 1995, Grant was hired by Lockheed Martin, where he held a number of leadership positions throughout the past 17 years, most recently serving as vice president of new business. Grant’s responsibilities with Lockheed Martin included domestic and international pursuit and capture of new orders for the company’s air mobility, special operations forces and maritime lines of business.

UK LAIRCM. The United Kingdom awards Northrop Grumman a five-year, $120 million contract to support its Large Aircraft Infrared Countermeasures (LAIRCM) systems, according to a company statement. Northrop Grumman will provide repair, engineering sustainment, logistics and training services for LAIRCM, which are designed to protect aircraft from infrared surface-to-air guided missiles. LAIRCM functions by automatically detecting a missile launch, determining if it is a threat and activating a high-intensity, laser-based countermeasure system to track and defeat the missile.

U.K. Space. The United Kingdom prepares to invest about $305 million in its space sector to help develop cutting-edge technology, according to a U.K. government statement. The U.K. is investing nearly $92 million in the Synergetic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine (SABRE) developed by Britain’s Reaction Engines, which the U.K. government says could revolutionize air travel and reduce the cost of reaching space. The U.K. also awards European Aeronautic and Space Co. (EADS) subsidiary Astrium a nearly $205 million contract to develop instruments for the next generation of weather satellites. The U.K. estimates the worldwide launch market at $21 billion.

NG and Cleary. Northrop Grumman appoints Mark Cleary vice president of supply chain management for the company’s Linthicum, Md.-based electronic systems sector, according to a company statement. Cleary will be responsible for the development and implementation of the sector’s supply chain management strategic plan, as well as the function’s day-to-day execution. Cleary will report to Gloria Flach, corporate vice president and president of Northrop Grumman electronic systems. Cleary joined Northrop Grumman in 1979.

Boeing/Panasonic Avionics. Boeing enters into an agreement to offer Panasonic Avionics’ secure, satellite-based, in-flight broadband service called eXConnect to government customers within and outside the United States, according to a Boeing statement. The companies have agreed to a framework for Boeing to offer the eXConnect service and sell aeronautical terminals to the government market, including the Panasonic eXConnect terminal being deployed commercially today. Panasonic Avionics is a subsidiary of Panasonic Corp. of North America.

O’Malley at ATK. Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley visits ATK Space Systems in Beltsville, Md., Monday to discuss the state’s aerospace industry and its contribution to Maryland’s overall economy. Maryland says it is home to 15 of the U.S.’ top 20 aerospace companies and 70 of the country’s top 100 defense contractors. Maryland estimates the aerospace sector supports more than 140,000 direct jobs in the state.

Rocket Crash. An unmanned rocket carrying Russian satellites veers off course and crashes a few seconds after liftoff July 2, according to published reports. The Proton-M rocket rose just above its launching tower at the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, wobbled and then tipped over into the desert in a ball of fire. The New York Times said this was the fourth Proton failure in three years. The United States has relied on Russia in recent years to get its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), though the Times said those spaceflights have been powered by a Soyuz rocket that has a far stronger safety record.

Big Opportunities. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter sees the Asia-Pacific pivot as a strategic transition away from the intellectual and physical focus on Iraq and Afghanistan “to the part of the world that is going to more than any other define the American future, and that’s the Asia Pacific theater.” It’s happening now, he tells the Aspen Security Forum. Actions are taking place now in terms of troops, ships, investments of particular importance to that arena, “a new bomber, for example, a new variant of the Virginia-class submarine, new tactical aircraft, new electronic warfare things´ and other things they don’t talk about because “we hope they take people by surprise.” And that’s just the military dimension of a national policy, he says.

New Facility. General Dynamics’ Ordnance and Tactical Systems dedicates its new Healdsburg, Calif., site last week. A ribbon-cutting ceremony and facility tour was held with employees, local business and community leaders, customers and government personnel. The state-of-the-art facility is designed to meet the rigorous standards of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) for a clean room production environment. It will house the company’s manufacturing operations for advanced electro-mechanical actuation systems used in a variety of guided projectiles and missiles. General Dynamics supplies proportional control actuation systems to a number of defense contractors. Dan Paul, vice president and general manager of Precision Systems for the company, says: “This operations expansion reinforces our commitment to serve the missile defense industry using innovative technology combined with a proven and reliable production capability.”

U.K. Dambusters Go First. The U.K. Chief of the Air Staff says 617 Squadron, known as the Dambusters, will disband April 1, 2014 as part of the planned drawdown of the Tornado GR4 Force. It will re-form in 2016 with Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel and take delivery of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II. Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton makes the announcement in a speech to senior representatives of air forces from around the world at a recent Royal United Services Institute conference on air power. The next Lightning II squadron to stand up will carry a Royal Navy squadron number but be similarly jointly manned. The short take off and vertical landing aircraft will be operated jointly from land or from the Queen Elizabeth-class carrier.