SASC Navy. The Senate Armed Services Committee hosts a hearing on Sept. 19 to discuss recent naval incidents with top naval personnel. Witnesses include Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, and John Pendleton, director for Defense Force Structure and Readiness Issues at the Government Accountability Office. This comes less than two weeks after two House Armed Services Subcommittees held a joint hearing on the same topic with Vice CNO Adm. Bill Moran and Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of Surface Warfare.100x100 us capitol

New NSPD on Tap? The White House is expected shortly to release a new National Security Presidential Directive related to trans-criminal threats, says John Boyd, the assistant director for the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Biometric Identity Management. Boyd says he has been “obliquely working with some folks” on the forthcoming national security directing, noting that the first draft mentioned biometrics more than 20 times, although now the memorandum describes “identity attributes.” Still, he says at an AFCEA event last week on identity issues, when it’s signed, “I think it’s going to turbocharge our efforts and the demand signal for some of the things we’re doing.”

T-X Supplier. Boeing, which is partnered with Saab in the competition to build the Air Force’s T-X training jet, says it will make Triumph Group a major supplier if it wins the contract. Triumph Aerospace Structures, based in Red Oak, Texas, would provide the wing, vertical tail and horizontal tail structures. Triumph Group has already worked for Boeing on such programs as the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and the C-17 Globemaster III transport. Other competitors for T-X include a Lockheed Martin-Korea Aerospace Industries team, which is offering the T-50A, and Leonardo DRS, which is proposing the T-100. The Air Force is expected to award a $16 billion contract for an initial 350 aircraft, plus ground-based training and support, by year’s end. T-X will replace the Air Force’s aging T-38 trainers.

GSSAP Milestone. The third and fourth satellites in the Geosynchronous Space Situational Awareness Program (GSSAP) became operational Sept. 12, according to Air Force Space Command. The satellites were launched into orbit in August 2016 and have been undergoing testing since then. Built by Orbital ATK, GSSAP satellites characterize and track man-made objects in space. The first two GSSAP satellites became operational two years ago.

Biometric Entry. Customs and Border Protection is increasing its focus on re-engineering the entry process for all travelers arriving to the U.S. from overseas by adding facial recognition to the process. These plans have been in the works for more than a year but with efforts to add face recognition to all travelers on international flights departing the U.S., more resources are now being devoted to modifying the arrivals process. Currently foreign nationals arriving to the U.S. have their fingerprints checked to ensure they are the same individuals that received their visas overseas. Applying the face recognition technology to all people arriving by air is meant to enable CBP officers to more quickly identify each person as they arrive at agency booths before being cleared to enter the U.S. 

NOAA Cuts. The Trump administration is concerned about proposed congressional funding cuts to the Polar Follow On (PFO) program, which is supposed to pay for the third and fourth Joint Polar System Satellites (JPSS-3 and JPSS-4). The House-approved fiscal year 2018 Commerce-Justice-Science appropriations bill provides only $50 million of the administration’s $180 million request for the weather satellite program. “Insufficient funding for this program could increase both the cost of procurement in future years and the risk that critical weather forecasting data would be unavailable after the current generation of satellites reach the end of their operational lives,” the White House Office of Management and Budget says in a statement of administration policy.

Goodbye, Cassini. NASA’s Cassini orbiter completed its planned plunge into Saturn’s atmosphere, where it burned up Sept. 15. Cassini, which was launched in 1997, was running low on fuel after orbiting the ringed planet for the past 13 years.

LHA-7. The U.S. Navy plans to christen the latest America-class amphibious assault ship, the future USS Tripoli (LHA-7) in a ceremony on Sept. 16 in Pascagoula, Miss. Acting Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Dee will deliver the principle address while Lynne Mabus, wife of the previous Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, will serve as ship’s sponsor. The Navy highlights LHA-7 will be the first ship of its class leaving the shipyard fully ready to integrate the entire future air combat element of the Marine Corps, including their F-35-B fighters.

Second UK Carrier. The UK Royal Navy’s second Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carrier, the HMS Prince of Wales, was christened and named during a ceremony in Scotland. Like its sister ship, which entered its homeport three weeks earlier, the carrier will carry F-35B fighters and a crew of 679 sailors. The ship is expected to conduct sea trials in 2019 before it enters into service.

F-18 Life Extension Work. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing a $42 million modification to a previously awarded contract to provide additional funding for the Service Life Assessment Program (SLAP) and Service Life Extension Program (SLEP) Phase C for the Navy’s F/A-18E/F fighter. The SLAP and SLEP facilitate F/A-18E/F service life extension beyond the aircraft’s original design of 6,000 flight hours. Work is expected to be finished by April 2021.

ScanEagle Services. Boeing’s Insitu Inc. business unit received a $10 million contract from theNavy to provide ScanEagle unmanned aircraft systems intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance services in support of maritime operations. The work includes operations and maintenance of the ScanEagle UAS and real-time electro-optical imagery and infrared imagery. Work is set to occur in the Pacific theater and is expected to be completed by March 2021. 

MDA ARC. The Missile Defense Agency awarded COLSA Corp. a $41 million modification to a contract to extend the ordering period for a year in support of the Advanced Research Center (ARC). ARC is a simulation facility supporting the MDA and assists the joint warfighter via analysis, experimentation, and exercises. This award increases the overall contract ceiling from nearly $423 million to over $464 million. 

…MDA Reapers. MDA awarded General Atomics a $30 million one-year contract to continue to demonstrate passive MDA-configured MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles. The agency uses the Reapers in two Ballistic Missile Defense System (BMDS) tests and five continental U.S. tests. 

Cyber Diplomacy Bill. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) on Sept. 14 introduced the Cyber Diplomacy Act of 2017, which is designed to help keep the the Internet open and promote efforts with foreign governments to support international cyber security policies. “The U.S. is increasingly under attack by foreign actors online. Now more than ever, we need a high-ranking cyber diplomat at the State Department to prioritize these efforts and ensure we keep the internet open, reliable and secure.” The bipartisan Cyber Diplomacy Act will help counter foreign threats on the internet while promoting human rights and new jobs and economic growth.” The bill would establish an Ambassador for Cyberspace position at the State Department and set a policy aimed at rejecting Russian and Chinese attempts to exert control and censorship over the internet.

Poland’s Cyber Game. A new report from the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence details Poland’s aggressive approach to adopting new cyber security measures, including the creation of a national data collection center and the creation of a unified government information system. The NATO cyber center published its findings on Poland’s efforts as a roadmap for its member nations to use as they look enhance their own cyber resiliency. “National cyber-capacity is being developed following a strategic push in that direction by the government. Various initiatives involve state-owned companies, private enterprises, start-ups, research institutes and academia. Polish cybersecurity ecosystem is still evolving and its final shape remains to be seen,” says one of the report’s authors, Dominik Skokowski of The Kosciuszko Institute.

Electric Grid Bill. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced the Securing the Electric Grid to Protect Military Readiness Act of 2017 on Sept. 12 which requires the DoD to conduct a one-time report on significant security risks to the national electric grid and how those vulnerabilities may affect military readiness. “As the global threats evolve and our adversaries continue to develop new ways to attempt to disrupt our military operations, it is important to recognize our key vulnerabilities. This bipartisan legislation will ensure defense leaders can identify and understand any vulnerabilities to our electrical infrastructure so we can protect DoD assets and installations from potential threats,” says Tillis. The bill would require the secretary of Defense to work with the secretary of Energy, the Homeland Security secretary and the director of National Intelligence to identify cyber security risks to critical defense infrastructure and recommend a path for addressing the challenges.