Telescope Under Microscope. The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to discuss NASA’s budget-busting James Webb Space Telescope in a hearing Thursday. The open hearing is set for 10:30 a.m. Eastern time. Invited witnesses are Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’ss Science Mission Directorate, and Tom Martin, the former Lockheed Martin executive chairing the agency-chartered independent review board of the flagship astrophysics mission. Northrop Grumman is building the long-delayed, nearly $10 billion James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) for NASA. The agency has said the contractor made avoidable errors that have slipped the one-of-a-kind infrared space telescope’s launch to 2021 or later, from 2018.

T-X Contract Countdown. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson last week said the service still plans to award its T-X trainer jet contract by Sept. 30. Wilson confirmed the timeline in response to a question from Defense Daily during a question-and-answer session at the Defense News Conference. The T-X competition pits confirmed bid teams Lockheed MartinKorean Aerospace Industries, Boeing-Saab and Leonardo DRS against one another to produce up to 350 trainer jets. Analysts say the deal could be worth $16 billion.

TCOs Put on Notice. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen says her department is standing up an interagency fusion cell as part of a “new effort to crush TCOs,” the acronym for Transnational Criminal Organizations. The cell will “map out a truly global and comprehensive approach to defeating these threats and dismantling their networks for good,” she says. “TCOs should be worried. The president has set his sights on their downfall, and we are stepping up to take action, regardless of where they hide or operate.”

…New Posture. Nielsen, speaking at an event hosted by the Center for Cyber & Homeland Security at George Washington University, said that given the rise of nation-state threats, she is directing a shift at the department from a “counterterrorism posture…to a wider counter-threats posture to make sure we are doing everything possible to guard against nation-state interference.” This shift includes organizing the intelligence units at the Department of Homeland Security into “mission centers,” which she said is similar to what the CIA has done. DHS is also working with the FBI, intelligence community and others to work more closely with industry and foreign partners “to counter foreign influence,” Nielsen said.

People. Raytheon has appointed retired Air Force Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski to its board. Pawlikowski, 61, retired on Sept. 1 as the commander of Air Force Material Command. Cubic Corp. said that Michael Knowles will be the new president of its Cubic Global Defense division effective Oct. 1, succeeding Dave Buss, who will be a senior adviser and corporate senior vice president focused on corporate strategy and growth in the defense businesses. President Donald Trump has elevated Navy Rear Adm. Keith Davids to Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Military Office from his prior role as Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Military Office. Before joining the White House last September, Davids was deputy commander of Naval Special Warfare Command.

MDA Laser Demo. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) on Aug. 31 awarded Lockheed Martin, General Atomics, and Boeing contract modifications to move to the tailored concept review phase of the Low Power Laser Demonstrator (LPLD) program. This work is in support of the LPLD post-preliminary design review risk reduction. Lockheed Martin won $25.5 million, raising its contract total to $38 million; General Atomics won $23 million, lifting its total award to $34 million; and Boeing won $20 million, boosting its total to $29 million. The performance period is being extended from this fall through July 2019.

LCS-18. The Navy accepted delivery of the future USS Charleston (LCS-18) on Aug. 31 during a ceremony at shipbuilder Austal USA’s Mobile, Ala., shipyard. This marked the final milestone before the ship is commissioned, although that date has not been set yet. This is the eighth Independence-variant LCS the Navy has accepted. The other variant, built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin, is the Freedom-variant. The Charleston will be homeported in San Diego. The Austal USA shipyard is finishing six other LCSs: the future USS Cincinnati (LCS-20) is preparing for sea trials, the Kansas City (LCS-22) and Oakland (LCS-24) are being assembled, modules for Mobile (LCS-26) and Savannah (LCS-28) are being built, and construction of Canberra (LCS-30) is planned to start in early 2019.

DoD IG. Late last month the Defense Department Office of Inspector General announced it was starting a subject audit of the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense program. The IG said its objective is determining whether the Army is developing an affordable program that can meet all capability requirements and if the requirements remain valid and meet warfighter needs.

Japanese Hawkeye. The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman a $164 million modification to procure one specially-configured E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft for Japan. The work is expected to be finished by March 2020. The full award is funded through Foreign Military Sales accounts and is obligated at award time, with no amount set to expire at the end of this fiscal year. The contract has previously been used to provide funding for three previous E-2Ds and support full-rate production on Advanced Hawkeye Lots 5 and 6 for Japan.

CNO China. The Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said at last week’s Defense News Conference he will meet with his Chinese counterpart at the Seapower Symposium being held in Newport, R.I., later this month. The annual event held at the U.S. Naval War college brings together international navy chiefs to discuss common challenges and opportunities to enhance cooperation. Richardson said his counterpart, Vice Adm. Shen Jinlong, will speak to the assembled chiefs then have one-on-one time with him. He said they will discuss what the navies can do to avoid miscalculations and behave professionally at sea.

DRS/Thermal Imaging. The Pentagon said last week that Leonardo DRS Network & Imaging systems inked a $435 million deal to deliver thermal imaging systems to support the Army’s horizontal technology integration program. DRS is tasked with providing second-generation infrared thermal receiver units, as well as kit components and repair parts, to be used on multiple Army platforms. DRS is the incumbent for the work and was the only company to submit a bid. Work on the program is expected to be completed by September 2025.