Future Amphib Fleet. Gen. David Berger, the newly appointed Marine Corps Commandant, is looking to move away from his force’s long-held requirement for a fleet of 38 amphibious ships. Berger included the decision in his recently released planning guide and said an ongoing force structure assessment will inform a future ship requirement. “I do not believe joint forcible entry operations are irrelevant or an operational anachronism; however, we must acknowledge that different approaches are required given the proliferation of anti-access/area-denial threat capabilities in mutually contested spaces,” Berger wrote. “Visions of a massed naval armada nine nautical miles off-shore in the South China Sea preparing to launch the landing force in swarms of ACVs, LCUs, and LCACs are impractical and unreasonable.” Berger said the Marine Corps will study the integration of proliferation long-range precision fires and unmanned system capabilities to justify its force structure requirements.

Early Warning

. The F-35’s automatic ground-collision avoidance system (AGCAS), originally scheduled for delivery in 2026, is being deployed seven years ahead of time. The system uses sensors to detect if the fighter is heading toward the ground or a mountain, and if it gets too close, it takes over control of the jet, redirects it out of harm’s way, and returns control to the pilot. The aim is to help if the pilot gets disoriented or temporarily loses consciousness. The Defense Department and F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin credit “an agile approach” to development and integration, though they have had designs on expediting the timeline for a while now. AGCAS has saved eight lives in F-16s and DoD estimates that it can prevent more than 26 F-35 ground collisions over the jet’s service life.

Esper and JEDI. Newly appointed Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters on July 24 he plans to look into the Pentagon’s potential $10 billion JEDI cloud computing program, which has faced several pre-award protests and allegations of potential conflicts of interest. “I’ve heard from everybody about the JEDI contract, and that’s one of the things I want to take a hard look at,” Esper said. His remarks follow recent comments from President Donald Trump that he will consider looking into JEDI after receiving complaints from several companies. 

…Esper To CENTCOM. Esper said he also plans to travel this week to visit Central Command and get briefed on the command’s proposed plans to begin escorting ships through the Strait of Hormuz to deter Iranian provocations. He stopped short of announcing that CENTCOM had already started to escort commercial vessels, adding that he intends to receive information on “concept of operations” for the plan. “I use escort broadly. Escort doesn’t mean they’re following right behind, as long as you’re in the area to react quickly enough to deter provocation that’s the key,” he said. Potential options for “escorting” ships could include overhead capabilities to provide surveillance or placing a naval warship in close proximity, according to Esper. “The Brits are trying to escort their ships. We will escort our ships to the degree that the risk demands it. And I assume that other countries will escort their ships,” Esper said.

Arms Sales Vetoes. President Trump on July 24 vetoed several bills passed by Congress that would have halted ongoing arms sales to the Middle East. He vetoed two bills passed in a bipartisan manner by the Senate that would have blocked weapons being sold to Saudi Arabia, and a third bill targeting arms sales to the UAE. Lawmakers have criticized Trump’s effort to sidestep congressional oversight by using an emergency provision of the Arms Export Control Act to push through over $8 billion worth of weapons sales to the Middle East, and ignoring the traditional 30-day wait between notifying Congress of a pending sale and approving that same sale. The Senate is expected to vote to override Trump’s veto Monday evening, but is unlikely to achieve the two-thirds majority needed to succeed.

French Space Investments. France is planning to stand up a new space-related command within its air force by Sept. 1, Defense Minister Florence Parly announced July 25. The nation’s air force will then become the air and space force, which would replace the current joint space command, a formation of the French armed forces that currently tackles national space issues. About 220 personnel would be tapped to initially stand up the space command, Parly said. France is also investing nearly $780 million to completely overhaul its satellite capabilities by 2025.

LSP Response Date Extended. The Air Force has extended the time period for competitors to submit proposals for its launch services procurement (LSP) program for the service’s next round of national security space launches. The original response date was Aug. 1, but it has been pushed back to Aug. 12, according to a July 23 notice on the federal procurement website FBO.gov.

Rare Earth Investments. The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is working to include an amendment to its FY ’20 budget request that would fund the development of advanced technologies that would help extract rare earth qualities for coal and coal byproducts. The amendment includes $23 million annually from 2020 to 2027. DoD officials and the defense industry have sounded the alarm on the need for the U.S. to become less dependent on countries such as China for its rare earth assets.

Hyten Confirmation Hearing Set. The Senate Armed Services Committee  announced July 25 it will question Strategic Command Commander and Air Force Gen. John Hyten as the nominee for the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a confirmation hearing July 29 at 10 a.m. The committee has been conducting a series of private hearings to discuss reports that Hyten was investigated for alleged sexual assault by a former subordinate, although he was cleared by Air Force investigators due to lack of evidence. The current vice chairman, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, is slated to retire later this month.

…CNO Confirmation Hearing. The committee also announced on July 23 it will consider the nomination of Vice Adm. Michael Gilday to be the next Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) during a confirmation hearing on July 31 at 9:30 a.m. President Trump nominated the three-star admiral who currently serves as director of the Joint Staff on July 18 on the recommendation from Navy Secretary Richard Spencer. He was chosen after Adm. Bill Moran, who had already been confirmed as CNO, decided to retire after Spencer questioned his judgment over a professional relationship with a former public affairs officer who was reprimanded for allegations of inappropriate behavior.

2Q M&A Activity. The value of global mergers and acquisitions in the aerospace and defense market in the second quarter was the highest its been in the past few years at $58.3 billion on 110 announced deals, driven largely by the $52 billion merger of United Technologies Corp. and Raytheon in June, says the global consulting firm PwC. The last time deal values crossed the $40 billion mark was in the third quarter of 2017 when 128 deals worth $41 billion were announced, PwC says in its quarterly report on global A&D deals. The 110 announced deals in the second quarter was equal to first quarter, which were valued at $6 billion, but a little below the 121 and 116 announced in the second quarters of 2017 and 2018 respectively. Pointing to the deal activity in the second quarter, PwC says that even though values were due to the pending merger of UTC and Raytheon, “it is also important to observe another element of the quarter; the lack of a recovery from a seasonally slower first quarter in terms of volumes.”

Small Deal. Systems Planning and Analysis, a defense contractor, on July 21 acquired Veracity Forecasting and Analysis, strengthening its skillset in operations research and broadening its capabilities in data science and software development. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. SPA says that Veracity’s decision support tools help customers with their complex decision making.

New Cyber Security Alliance. The International Society of Automation (ISA), which has developed cyber security standards for automation and control systems, has created a new alliance to promote the standards and share information. The founding members of the ISA Global Cybersecurity Alliance include Schneider Electric, Rockwell Automation, Honeywell, Johnson Controls, Claroty, and Nozomi Networks. “Accelerating and expanding globally relevant standards, certification, and education programs will increase workforce competence, and help end users identify gaps, reduce risks, and ensure they have the tools and systems they need to protect their facilities and installations,” says Mary Ramsey, ISA executive director. “Through the proliferation of standards and compliance programs, we will strengthen our global cyber culture and transform the way industry identifies and manages cyber security threats and vulnerabilities to their operations.”

DHS Nominees Advance. The Senate last Thursday afternoon approved by voice vote the nomination of Joseph Cuffari to be the new Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security. Cuffari was nominated by President Trump for the position last Nov. 1 and had his confirmation hearing last March. Most recently, Cuffari served as policy adviser for Military and Veterans Affairs to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R). Separately, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee last Wednesday approved the nominations for two DHS executives, including long-time acting Undersecretary of Science and Technology William Bryan to officially take on the job, and Chad Wolf to be the Undersecretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans. Wolf was chief of staff to former DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen. Bryan’s nomination was ordered favorably by a unanimous voice vote while Wolf’s nomination moved forward on a 9 to 3 roll call vote with Democrats Gary Peters (Mich.), Maggie Hassan (N.H.) and Jacky Rosen (Nev.) opposed.

Shipbuilding Act. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) reintroduced the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act while Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) introduced it in the House. The bill aims to support U.S. shipbuilding by requiring 15 percent of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and 10 percent of crude oil exports to be transported on U.S.-built, U.S.-crewed vessels by 2041 and 2033, respectively. They expect the legislation to spur the construction of dozens of ships, supporting many jobs as well as domestic manufacturing and maritime industries. Wicker said this would also “ensure the United States has enough American-flagged, crewed, and built ships to transport its growing oil and natural gas exports in times of conflict.” Garamendi noted their bill “counters other export countries’ similar requirements, including the Russian-flagged vessel requirement for Arctic oil and natural gas exports announced by the Kremlin in December 2018.”

DDG-117 Commissioning. The Navy plans to commission the latest Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer, the future USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117), during a ceremony on July 27 at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The ship is named after a World War II Navy veteran who also served as assistant secretary of defense for installations and logistics and Secretary of the Navy during the Lyndon Johnson administration. DDG-117 will be the 67th destroyer of its class and is in the Flight IIA configuration.

LCS-24 Launching. Austal USA launched the future USS Oakland (LCS-24) on July 21 at the company’s facility in Mobile Ala., the Navy said July 22. LCS-24 will be the 12th of planned 19 Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships set to join the fleet. Austal’s shipyard is also constructing four more LCSs; the future USS Kansas City (LCS-22) is preparing for sea trials while the future USS Mobile (LCS-26), Savannah (LCS-28) and Canberra (LCS-30) are all under construction. The company also have four more LCSs under contract.

T-ATS 8 Naming. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer announced on July 26 the newest Towing, Salvage, and Rescue ship, T-ATS 8) will be named after the Saginaw Ojibwe Anishinabek Native American tribe of Michigan. This will be the first ship with that name. Gulf Island Shipyards in Houma, La. won a $65 million contract option for detail design and construction of the new T-ATS ship type. This will replace the current T-ATF 166 and T-ARS 50 class ships in U.S. Military Sealift Command. T-ATS 8 will follow  the second ship in the class, the future USNS Cherokee Nation (T-ATS 7).

ExPO. The Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC) consolidated the NAVFAC Expeditionary Programs Office (NEPO) and the EXWC Expeditionary Department into one organization, Expeditionary Programs office (ExPO). It will be led by Director Capt. Jay Cavnar, who will report to the commanding officer of NAVFAC EXWC via the NAVFAC EXWC Technical Director. The Navy said this consolidation, announced July 24, is consistent with the Navy Secretary’s and Chief of naval Operations’ drives to make the service more lethal. “By consolidating both departments, the expeditionary branch of the Navy will achieve quicker delivery capabilities of expeditionary and technology solutions for the warfighter,” the service said.