Defense Authorization. The Senate seems to be in a holding pattern with its fiscal year 2018 defense authorization bill. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had hoped to have the full Senate debate the legislation the week of July 24. But Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked floor consideration of the bill because he is seeking “bipartisan amendments” on terrorism-related issues, a Paul spokesman says. Paul “looks forward to working with leadership and the committee to get this done soon,” the spokesman adds. But getting the bill to the Senate floor soon now appears unlikely. McCain’s office announced July 28 that he is returning to Arizona to undergo treatment for a brain tumor and will not return to Washington until after the August congressional recess.
Kelly to White House. A day after new White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci accused President Donald Trump’s Chief of Staff Rience Priebus of leaking information to the media, and ranting about both Priebus and Trump adviser Steve Bannon, the president fired Priebus and appointed Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly as his staff chief. “He is a Great American…” Trump says of Kelly through his favorite media channel, Twitter.
Lord Nomination. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved by voice vote July 27 the nomination of former Textron executive Ellen Lord to be the Pentagon’s acquisition chief. The panel also endorsed former congressional aide Matthew Donovan to be Air Force undersecretary. The nominations now head to the full Senate for its consideration.
Sullivan: No SDI. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) says at a Heritage Foundation event that his support of increased missile defense capabilities in space is focused on “architecture that is space-based but it’s focused on sensors, not anything beyond that.” He supports accelerating new technology but not deploying it until it is ready. “I mean, even the sensor layer is going to be costly” so thinking about space-based missile interceptors or lasers is far too early, he says. Pushing too fast on technologies like those is more than the political system can bear right now, he says.
Falcon Heavy. SpaceX plans to conduct the first flight test of its Falcon Heavy rocket in November, according to a July 27 tweet by company founder Elon Musk. The launch date has been delayed several times due to technical challenges in developing the heavy-lift rocket. Falcon Heavy is designed to carry large payloads into a variety of orbits and transport people to the moon or Mars.
Tanker Tests. Boeing, prime contractor for the Air Force’s new KC-46A Pegasus tanker, announced July 27 that the modified 767 jet recently completed testing to ensure it can safely operate in electromagnetic fields produced by radars, radio towers and other systems. The testing occurred at Edwards Air Force Base in California and at Naval Air Station Patuxent River in Maryland. “The KC-46 tanker is protected by various hardening and shielding technologies designed into the aircraft to negate any effects on the aircraft,” said Mike Gibbons, Boeing KC-46 vice president and program manager. “This successful effort retires one of the key risks on the program.” Boeing plans to deliver the first KC-46A by December, though the Air Force expects that date to slip to late spring.
DOMino Protest. Once again, the Department of Homeland Security’s award of its potential $1 billion cyber security support contract to Raytheon has been protested by Northrop Grumman. Raytheon Chairman and CEO Thomas Kennedy said on his company’s July 27 earnings call that both the DHS Development, Operations and Maintenance contract, also called DOMino, as well as an early June award by the Army for systems and computer resources support related to modernizing missile defense other strategic systems, have been protested, “which continues to be the norm in today’s environment.” Northrop Grumman has now protested the DOMino award three times, the first occurring in the fall of 2015 after Raytheon won. The latest protest will be decided this fall by the Government Accountability Office.
Navy Model for Coast Guard. The Coast Guard increasingly is arguing for a $2 billion minimum annual acquisition budget even though the Department of Homeland Security’s request for the service is typically far lower. Ron O’Rourke, a Naval analyst for the Congressional Research Service, tells a House panel that achieving an annual acquisition budget between $2 billion and $2.5 billion appears “daunting,” given that such appropriations would be about 100 percent more than the Coast Guard currently receives. However, he points out, the Navy over the past five years has increased its shipbuilding and conversion account by about 50 percent to potentially $20.4 billion in FY ’18, despite a period of constrained federal spending. He also says that since 2004 the Navy has changed its force level goals eight times given changes in budgetary and strategic “circumstances” while the Coast Guard has kept its expected force levels constant.
Rescue Radio. General Dynamics Mission Systems introduced the new HOOK3 Combat Survival Radio, which provides direct line-of-sight voice and encrypted two-way data communications to combat search and rescue teams. The system will allow them to quickly and accurately locate and rescue downed pilots and isolated military personnel, the company says. The new radio automatically activates and securely transmits location data when a specific G-Force level or the presence of salt water is detected by the radio. “General Dynamics has delivered more than 36,000 combat search and rescue radios to 36 countries over the past 30 years. These radios have helped save the lives of military personnel isolated or in harm’s way during a mission,” says Paul Parent, a vice president of General Dynamics Mission Systems. The HOOK3 radio is 30 percent smaller and 40 percent lighter than the previous iteration of the radio and has a smaller, longer-lasting battery. An embedded GPS module has 32 channels enabling faster position acquisition, more accurate position reporting and better performance under forested or densely vegetated areas or near structures.
France Takes Shipyard. The France Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, announced the state is temporarily nationalizing the STX France shipyard at St. Nazaire to prevent Italy’s Fincantieri from getting a majority stake. Earlier Fincantieri agreed to pay $93 million for a two-thirds ownership during parent company STX’s bankruptcy proceedings. France offered Italy a 50-50 stake in STX France, but after Italy refused, France exercised its preemption right to buy out other shareholders. Le Maire says the split ownership deal remains on the table and says he will visit Rome to further discuss the situation.
DDG-114. Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding division completed builder’s sea trials on the future USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114), an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The trials included spending over three days in the Gulf of Mexico to test the ship’s main propulsion, combat, and other ship systems. Acceptance trials and eventual delivery of the DDG-114 to the Navy is planned for later in 2017
DDG-115. The U.S. Navy plans to commission the newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS Rafael Peralta (DDG-115) at a ceremony on July 29 at Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, Calif. DDG-115 is named after a Marine Corps posthumous awardee of the Navy Cross for actions during Operation Iraqi Freedom combat operations.
Truman Finishes Trials. The USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) finished sea trials and returns to its homeport at the Naval Station Norfolk for the first time in almost a year. The five-day sea trials tested numerous systems and capabilities on the Nimitz-class carrier following 10 months of maintenance and installing improvements. Earlier in July the ship completed a fast cruise. The ship will next be deployed with Carrier Strike Group 8.
Murtha Trials. The USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) an Antonio-class amphibious transport dock completes Final Contract Trials (FCT) and returns to Naval Base San Diego. FCT is conducted by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey (INSURV) as a final examination of the newly built ship to ensure it meets Navy standards. LPD-26 is the 10th San Antonio-class ship to join the Navy. FCT occur over five days with both in-port and at-sea demonstrations. At sea the crew demonstrates full power runs, self-defense detect-to-engage exercises, evaluations of key combat and communications systems, steering checks, and other demonstration to certify systems readiness.
LSD-45. The U.S. Navy awards BAE Systems a nearly $50 million cost-plus-award-fee/incentive-fee modification to a contract to definitize USS Comstock (LSD-45) in fiscal year 2017 phased maintenance availability. The availability includes the planning and execution of depot-level maintenance, alterations, and modifications that will update and improve the ship’s military and technical capabilities. Work will occur in San Diego, Calif. with an expected completion date of Oct. 2018.
Icebreaker Model Testing. The Department of Homeland Security’s technology branch, the U.S. Navy and Canada’s National Research Council are conducting physical modeling in the NRC’s ice tank to better understand the requirements for the Coast Guard’s new fleet of heavy polar icebreakers. “Model testing activities enable us to examine critical design elements and make informed design decisions early in the acquisition process,” says Rear Adm. Michael Haycock, the Coast Guard’s assistant commandant for Acquisition. “The data we gather from model testing at the NRC is going to be a major driver of our heavy polar icebreaker acquisition program’s success and will be critical to our efforts to effectively manage costs, mitigate risks, and maintain an accelerated program schedule.”
CNO Japan Call. The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, held a video teleconference with his Japanese counterpart, Chief of Staff of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Adm. Yutaka Murakawa. During the call the two leaders discussed new ways to deepen bilateral and multilateral maritime operations, the situations in North Korea and East China Sea, and the U.S. commitment to regional allies. The Navy says the CNO specifically stressed the importance of the U.S.-Japan partnership in supporting regional maritime security.
Saxon Warrior Exercise. U.S. Navy forces assigned to the Sixth Fleet are set to participate in Saxon Warrior 2017 (SW17) exercise in the Northern Atlantic Ocean in early August. Sw17 is a U.S.-United Kingdom co-hosted joint and multinational maritime exercise to demonstrate allied combat compatibility and interoperability. U.S. forces from the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group will train with forces from the UK’s Carrier Strike Group to build combined maritime and aviation capacity. The Navy highlights SW17 “seeks to reassure NATO allies and partners of our commitment to collective security and stability in the region.”
AEGIS Support. The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded Lockheed Martin a $93.5 million cost-plus-incentive-fee modification to a contract to exercise options for DDG-116-118 AEGIS follow-on support services. It provides for the completion of the development and fielding of the AEGIS Baseline 9 AEGIS Weapon System and integrated AEGIS Combat System on the remaining AEGIS Technical Insertion (TI) 12 configured destroyers and TI 12 and TI 08 configured cruisers. Work will be finished by July 2018.
Sub Imaging. Naval Sea Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a nearly $120 million cost-plus-incentive-fee and cost-only modification an earlier contract to exercise an option for engineering services and support of the Integrated Submarine Imaging Systems program. The program provides visual and other capabilities for Navy submarines. Services include design, development, testing, reverse engineering, technology insertion/refreshment, engineering services, field engineering services, and system support. Work is expected to be finished by Sept. 2018
ManTech Contract. The U.S. Navy awards ManTech a five-year $80 million contract to support air warfare and related capability development activities of Naval Air Systems Command Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division’s mission and engineering and analysis department. ManTech will provide warfare analysis and assessments, acquisition analysis and support, modeling and simulation, weapons system technical publications and training, software development, data handling, and warfare analysis laboratory services. ManTech says the work will support systems and capability development ranging from near- through far-term by including naval mission areas like air, strike, and amphibious warfare; command, control, and communications; and cyber and electronic warfare.
Australia Aegis. The Naval Sea Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a $21 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract modification to a contract to exercise options for AEGIS foreign military sales lifetime support services for in-country support and staging in support of the Royal Australian Navy. The vast majority of the work will occur in Australia with an expected completion date of Nov. 2019.
Israel Patriot. The U.S. Army Contracting Command awarded Raytheon a $17 million modification to an Israel foreign military sales contract for engineering services for the Patriot weapon system. The estimated completion date is Oct. 31, 2018