Belgian F-35s? The Belgian Ministry of Defence, which is considering buying either the F-35A Lighting II or the Eurofighter Typhoon, says it expects to receive best and final offers from the U.S. F-35 Joint Program Office and the British Ministry of Defence on Feb. 14. “Analyzing and then evaluating those best and final offers against the criteria set out in the [request for proposals] will take several weeks,” the Belgian ministry says. “The aim is to provide the Belgian government with the results of the fighter competition no later than mid-2018.” The U.S. State Department has approved the possible sale of 34 F-35As to Belgium.Pentagon_anddowntown_

Acquisition Ideas. Kevin Fahey, President Donald Trump’s pick to be assistant secretary of defense for acquisition, received a homework assignment during his Feb. 8 nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) asked Fahey to give him “a couple of pages” of recommendations for improving the acquisition process. King said he is particularly concerned that the “cumbersome and time-consuming” process is turning away the kinds of small technology firms that the Department of Defense needs to help it maintain its advantage over adversaries. “Some [proposed changes] will be internal and some might be statutory,” King told Fahey. “If there are statutory changes that we can make, please let us know. I believe this is an urgent priority because we are losing our qualitative edge.”

Space Station Support. With the Trump administration reportedly considering ending federal funding for the International Space Station (ISS) by 2025, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee’s space panel, is vowing to oppose any such a proposal. “I hope those reports prove as unfounded as Bigfoot,” Cruz said Feb. 7 at the FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Conference. “We have invested massively in the ISS. It has produced enormous benefits to the United States and to the world, and we should use that asset as long as it is technologically feasible and cost-effective to do so.” He noted that the fiscal year 2017 NASA authorization act calls for the agency to study the possibility of extending the ISS to 2028 or 2030.

Mine Breacher. The Marine Corps Assault Breacher Vehicle (ABV) conducted its first amphibious landing with a modified full-width mine plow prototype during a long-range breaching exercise in the western United States. Tests conducted in December 2017 demonstrate the full capability to Marine Corps Systems Command of the modified full-width mine plow prototype. In the future, the equipment will make it easier for Marines to land and deploy an ABV from a Navy Landing Craft Utility boat to the shore to complete their mission. “Our legacy Full Width Mine Plow on the ABV could not fit onto an LCU because it was too wide,” says Timothy Barrons, ABV project officer for Engineer Systems at Marine Corps Systems Command. “The prototype we are testing fills a current capability gap and gives commanders the flexibility to use multiple surface connectors to get ABVs in the fight.” The ABV Program Team plans to take the information and feedback from Marines gathered at Steel Knight to refine the design and improve the overall performance of the modified plow. The team wants to ensure the modified plow will meet all requirements of the legacy mine plow in performance and survivability. After the redesign is completed, the articles will be tested at the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center in Maryland.

Krebs Nominated. Christopher Krebs, who has been running the Department of Homeland Security’s National Protection and Programs Directorate since last August under the odd title of, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for NPPD, has been nominated by President Donald Trump to be the Under Secretary of NPPD. Krebs, who was in charge of cyber security policy at Microsoft for several years before coming to DHS, if confirmed, will lead an organization responsible for helping provide cyber and physical infrastructure security to federal civilian agencies and working with the private sector to provide similar protections. In addition to his current role at NPPD, Kreps is the assistant secretary for the Office of Infrastructure Protection, which oversees programs and policies for critical infrastructure security and resilience nationwide.

AIA Departures. Doc Syers, who led Legislative Affairs at the Aerospace Industries Association, and Paul Paolozzi, who ran Communications there, left the organization on Friday. The departures were announced internally by Robert Durbin, the association’s chief operating officer, who thanked them for their service. Two assistant vice presidents, Rich Efford and Jason Yaley, are serving on an interim basis as heads of Legislative Affairs and Communications, respectively. An AIA spokesman declined comment per the organization’s human resources policy. Syers and Paolozzi both joined AIA in July 2015, the former coming from Exelis, where he led congressional relations for the defense contractor for 13 years, and the latter following a two-year stint leading strategic initiatives for the Under Secretary of the Army. At Exelis, Syers worked for a time when the company was led by retired Army Gen. David Melcher, who led AIA from June 2015 to Dec. 31, 2017. Eric Fanning, former Secretary of the Army, is now CEO of AIA.

Acceptances. The Coast Guard has taken delivery of its 27th 154-foot Fast Response Cutter (FRC), the USCGC Richard Snyder, from shipbuilder Bollinger Shipyards. The cutter will be christened in April and will be the first FRC to be stationed in Atlantic Beach, N.C. The service plans to acquire 58 of the patrol boats. The Coast Guard also took delivery this month of its fourth HC-130J long-range maritime surveillance aircraft retrofitted with the Minotaur mission system suite, which integrates sensors, radar and C4ISR equipment to allow aircrews to gather and process surveillance information and transmit it to other platforms and units during a mission. L3 Technologies supplies the Minotaur package.

Do Gooding. Boeing has made several revisions to its volunteer and gift match programs as a result of a federal tax reform package passed into law in December. After the tax package was approved by Congress, Boeing in December said it would make $300 million in investments, split evenly among infrastructure, workforce development, and charitable contributions. Under a new “Dollars for Doers” employee match program announced last week, Boeing is increasing its gift match cap from $6,000 to $10,000 per employee, allowing for employee teams and not-U.S. employees to participate in the volunteer match program, and reducing by 10 hours the number of volunteer hours necessary to obtain a company match.

Business Head. Peraton has announced David Myers as president of its new Communications sector, effective Feb. 20. Myers joins Peraton from DataPath, Inc., where he was president and CEO. DataPath, which was spun-out of Rockwell Collins in 2014,engineers and manufactures tactical communications systems for aerospace, broadcast, government and infrastructure markets. At Peraton, Myers’ sector will be focused on mission critical services to intelligence, defense, civil and commercial customers. The Communications sector was a business unit but has been elevated to reflect “Peraton’s strategic growth interests in government satellite and terrestrial communications markets,” company spokesman Matt McQueen tells Defense Daily.

Mattis Travels. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis leaves Sunday, Feb. 11, for Europe. Mattis begins his trip in Rome on Feb. 12-13, conducting bilateral meetings with senior officials, including Italian Minister of Defense Roberta Pinotti. From Feb. 14-15, Mattis attends the first NATO Defense Ministerial of 2018. He will engage with allies to discuss how to strengthen the alliance and forge new partnerships, “ensure that the alliance is fit for its time,” and to deter or defeat threats to the Alliance. Mattis then travels to Stuttgart, Germany, to visit with the leadership and troops of U.S. European and African Commands during a visit to their respective headquarters Feb. 15-16. Mattis concludes his trip in Munich, Germany, as he participates in the 54th Munich Security Conference February 16-17 to discuss current crises and future challenges in European security policy.

Finnish Guns. BAE Systems won a contract to build and deliver Bofors 40 Mk4 Naval guns for the Finnish Navy and Hamina-class Squadron 2000 fast attack craft. Patria, prime contractor for the mid-life upgrade and overhaul program of the four ships, awarded the naval gun work to BAE. The contract will add the 40 Mk4 gun system to the installed base of BAE naval guns, which include earlier versions of the 40-mm L/70 and 57-mm Mk3 systems. The total Hamina-class upgrade for Patria is worth $210.5 million before taxes and without options.

…LHA & CG. The U.S. Navy awarded BAE two contracts worth a total of $55 million for repairs, modification, and modernization of the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) and guided-missile cruiser USS Cape St. George (CG-71). If all options are exercised, the value of both contracts would increase to $62.2 million. BAE will conduct hull, mechanical, and electrical repairs of LHA-6 as well as flight deck modifications to support F-35B operations. This work is expected to be finished by Dec. 2019. Work on CG-71 will include alternations and repairs covering replacement of critical aluminum structures and removal of obsolete equipment under the Navy cruiser modernization program. Work will be finished by Jan. 2019 and occur in San Diego, Calif.

…SPAWAR. The Navy also awarded BAE up to $180 million to provide support services and equipment to the Space and Naval Warfare Center Atlantic (SPAWAR). BAE will be one of several companies to pursue delivery orders under this five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract. The work aims to help SPAWAR’s Joint Warfare Support Division field, adapt, and optimize mission critical surveillance and sensor systems. This includes services like systems integration, test and evaluation, training, certification, maintenance, life-cycle management, and technical field service support.

…LSD-52. The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded BAE a $34 million contract for USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) fiscal year 2018 selected restricted availability. This long-term availability includes maintenance, modernization, and repair of the ship. NAVSEA says this is competed on a West cost-wide basis so as not to limit performance to the vessel’s homeport. The contract includes options that, if exercised, raise the total value to over $36 million. Work will occur in San Diego and is expected to be finished by May 2019. Only one offer was received.

China Missile Defense. China’s Ministry of Defense says it carried out a land-based mid-course missile interception test on Feb. 5. The test occurred within its territory and “achieved the desired test objective. The test is defensive in nature and not targeted against any country,” it says.This test is in line with the new 2018 U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, which states China is testing a new mid-course missile defense system, plans to develop a sea-based mid-course ballistic missile defense, and is developing theater ballistic missile defenses.

Pacific Fleet. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis announced the nomination of Vice Adm. John Aquilino to full admiral and assignment as commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet. He currently serves as the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and commander of Fifth Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces Bahrain. If confirmed, Aquilino will replace Adm. Scott Swift, who announced last September he would retire after learning he would not be promoted to head U.S. Pacific Command.

…Harris To Australia. Separately, the White House announced its nomination of Adm. Harry Harris, commander of Pacific Command, to be the U.S. ambassador to Australia. He has led Pacific Command since May 2015. Harris was previously in charge of the U.S. Pacific Fleet from 2013-2015, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Communication Networks (OPNAV N6), and assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff where he served as the chairman’s direct representative to the Secretary of State. The White House highlighted that during his almost four decade long career, Harris “served in every geographic combatant command and has held seven command assignments.”

U.S-France Cyber Connection. U.S. and French officials held a bilateral cyber dialogue Feb. 7 and 8 to reaffirm their commitment to a previously agreed upon security framework and discuss new threats from malicious cyber actors. The State Department’s top cyber official, Rob Strayer, led the discussions along with representatives from the White House’s National Security Council, the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, FBI and more. David Martinon, France’s ambassador for digital affairs represented his administration and helped cover domestic and international cyber security challenges and updates to cyber diplomacy efforts.