F-35 vs. A-10. A congressionally mandated comparison test of the Air Force’s F-35A and A-10 aircraft will be conducted during the F-35’s initial operational test and evaluation, which is slated to run from September to May, a service spokesman says. The comparison test, which is required by the fiscal year 2017 defense authorization act, is supposed to focus on close air support, combat search and rescue and forward air controller airborne missions. The defense act blocks the retirement of any A-10s before the test is conducted.

Chairman Smith? If Democrats re-take the House of Representatives this fall, the likely new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee (HASC) plans to go through the defense budget with a fine-tooth comb to identify potential cuts. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), now the HASC’s top Democrat, said at a March 6 defense conference that Pentagon spending needs increased scrutiny because the United States cannot afford all the things the military wants to do in the coming years. “Where can we save money? That’s the number one question that I’m going to ask,” he said.

Moving MDA? Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s strategic forces panel, said at a March 7 hearing that he worries that the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) might lose its ability to move quickly if it is placed under the auspices of the new undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. “I’m concerned that that’s going to bureaucratize it again and slow it down,” Rogers said. Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command, testified that he has no such concerns as long as MDA keeps its unique authorities. He said the new undersecretary, Michael Griffin, is committed to speeding the delivery of new capabilities. “There’s nobody I know that’s more technically sound and hates bureaucracy and wants to go fast than Mike Griffin,” Hyten said.

Light Tank. So far the quietest of the bunch, General Dynamics Land Systems confirmed to Defense Daily that it is competing for the Army’s Mobile Protected Firepower program, envisioned as a light tank that will accompany infantry brigades into combat. In some ways, GD was ahead of the game, having showed up to the annual Association of the U.S. Army annual convention in 2016 with a mock up concept vehicle that combined an M1 Abrams turret and main gun atop a modified Ajax tracked personnel carrier made by General Dynamics’ U.K. division. The company is not yet releasing details on its submission.

TSA Restraining Order. The U.S. Court of Federal Claims has imposed a temporary restraining order on the Transportation Security Administration to prevent the agency from awarding a contract to Unisys for the integration of security equipment at U.S. airports. The restraining order is in effect until March 16 to give the court more time to adjudicate a challenge by General Dynamics, which is the incumbent on the Security Technology Integrated Program, which is being renamed Domain Awareness Integrated Network. GD filed its claim with the court in January and the temporary restraining order was issued on March 2 and published March 7. A stop work order issued by TSA to Unisys has been in effect but the court says the agency didn’t respond to its March 1 request to continue the stay until March 31, leading the court to “reluctantly” issue the temporary restraining order.

The Perspecta Brand. DXC Technology says that Perspecta will be the name of the new company that will be formed by the proposed merger of its U.S. Public Sector business with Vencore and KeyPoint Government Solutions. “In selecting the new company’s name and brand, it was important to represent the optimism and excitement around the unique value that this combined entity will deliver to government customers,” says Mac Curtis, president and CEO of Vencore and the pending CEO of Perspecta. “The name Perspecta does just that. With a keen focus on innovation and a deep understanding of our customers, we will passionately pursue smart, creative and collaborative approaches to solving the nation’s most complex challenges.” Perspecta is expected to debut in May.

Wider Focus Area. Transportation Security Administration Administrator David Pekoske said his agency needs to move beyond its primary focus on the checkpoint in aviation security and begin to look security outside the checkpoint. “More and more we must focus on both sides of the checkpoint and in the public areas where airport and surface transportation systems intersect,” he said during his State of TSA address. He said that TSA is testing stand-off detection technology at Penn Station in New York City that observes energy given off by human bodies to check for concealed weapons or explosives. “We face ambitious adversaries who are continuously looking for a point of attack and waiting for their opportunity,” Pekoske said.

Deal Done. Motorola Solutions has completed its acquisition of Plant Holdings from Airbus Group, strengthening its software portfolio for command and control applications for public safety. Plant Holdings, which was the Airbus DS Communications business, provides command center software for emergency call-handling in North America. Deal terms for the$100 million California-based business were not disclosed. Airbus says the divestiture is part of the portfolio reshaping of its Defence and Space division begun in 2014.

DHS Bills Marked Up. The House Homeland Security Committee last week unanimously approved 10 homeland security-related bills including one to authorize cyber incident response teams at the Department of Homeland Security and another directing the department to bolster its support to emergency responders and the private sector for mitigating and responding to threats of vehicular terrorism. Another bill requires the Transportation Security Administration to create an advisory committee for surface transportation security, which is directed to consider risk-based security approaches in performing its duties.

DISA/Encore III. DISA’s Encore II Suite to provide new full-range IT services from 20 companies for the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies is now open. The follow-up vehicle to ENCORE II includes opportunities for engineering development and IT maintenance and sustainment. “All contractors have either Capability Maturity Model Integration Level 3 and/or International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certifications for building, managing, and maintaining proven processes for success. All program and project managers are either Program Management Professional (PgMP) or Project Management Professional (PMP) certified; ensuring advanced industry experience in managing programs and projects,” Charlie Boone, program manager for ENCORE III, said.

MultiSail. Personnel from the U.S. Navy and Japan maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) are set to participate in the annual bilateral training exercise MultiSale 2018 in March. This exercise improves interoperability between the countries and this year’s will focus on improving skills like tracking and defeating submarines, combatting surface forces, live fire training, and interoperability between units. Participating ships include the USS Antietam (CG-54), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54), USS Benfold (DDG-65), USS Mustin (DDG-89), and the Japanese JS Fuyuzuki (DD-118) along with several subsurface and other special units.

Saudi Ships. The Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded Lockheed Martin a $481 million contract for long-lead time material to build four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ships bound for Saudi Arabia. The work for this foreign military sales (FMS) is expected to be finished by October 2024. The $240.6 million obligated at award time will not expire end the end of the current fiscal year. The contract was not competitively procured. Last year the Trump administration agreed to a $460 billion 10-year arms sale to Saudi Arabia, including eight letters of acceptance totaling nearly $110 billion – with one covering the MMSC.

Fitz Repair. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) awarded Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Ingalls Shipbuilding a $78 million modification for additional USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) emergent repair and restoration work. This covers further collision repairs, maintenance, and modernization on DDG-62. This set of work is expected to be finished by January 2020.

Navy In 3D. Navy acquisition chief James Geurts told a congressional committee last week the use of 3-D modelling and digitization of blueprints is becoming a good way to reduce naval construction costs. “What you can do, starting with digital, I think is going to be one of the fundamental things that allows us to drive costs out of these programs,” he said. Geurts added workers are creating ways to use tools like virtual reality to complete work at a 10th of the time. “I think it is going to be one of the founding things we’re going to pivot on to really drive cost out.”

B-21 Engines. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.), chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces, said there have been some early production “hiccups” with the B-21, notably with its engines. Wittman told reporters following a speech at the McAleese/Credit Suisse defense conference that there have been challenges with airflow through the B-21 engines. “This is a very, very different design as far as inflow, and there have been some design challenges there,” he said. Engine maker Pratt and Whitney has disagreements with the ducting contractor on how much air can move through the engine and balancing that with cowling and maintaining its low observability.  

..And Other Issues. Wittman said in his speech the committee is making sure the new B-21 Raider bomber stays on time and budget. The committee is asking the Air Force and prime contractor Northrop Grumman how they are aligning their respective timelines and budgets for aircraft development. “You know their challenges have been stacking up to get enough engineers in there to make sure the design stays on track, to make sure that they’re meeting their milestones, to do the Iron Bird.” The Iron Bird will be the B-21 mock-up, meant to serve as a test bed. Wittman noted the committee is making sure it gets monthly status reports from the Air Force and Northrop Grumman to see they are meeting milestones and on track for budget and time.