Air Force Launch. The Air Force said Wednesday that Pearl White, an Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) demonstration program, is scheduled to launch beginning Aug. 16 on a rideshare aboard a Rocket Lab Electron launch vehicle from the Rocket Lab Launch Complex-1, New Zealand. Pearl White’s program includes designing, developing, launching and operating two 6U cubesat spacecraft as an “on-orbit testbed” for new tech including propulsion, power, communications and drag capabilities for future spacecraft applications, according to a press release. The cubesats were built by Herndon, Virginia-based Tiger Innovations Inc., which will operate the systems under AFSPC’s direction. The satellites are designed for a one-year lifetime.
Successful AEHF Launch. The Air Force successfully launched the fifth Advanced EHF protected tactical communications satellite aboard a ULA Atlas V 551 rocket Thursday morning from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. “The satellite successfully separated from the launch vehicle upper stage approximately 5 hours and 40 minutes after liftoff and will now undergo approximately 97 days of orbit-raising operations, followed by approximately 30 days of on-orbit testing,” said a Thursday press release. Once testing is complete, the 14th Air Force will take over control authority of AEHF-5 from Air Force SMC. The Air Force procured six AEHF satellites from Lockheed Martin, with the final system expected to launch in March 2020.
Enhanced Polar System. The Air Force on Wednesday awarded Northrop Grumman a $22.5 million cost-plus incentive-fee modification for the delivery of two Enhanced Polar System Recapitalization (EPS-R) payloads, for changes to the payload driven by selection of a host space vehicle, per a contract notice. The contract provides for the delivery of two EPS-R payloads. Work will be performed at Redondo Beach, California, and is expected to be completed by December 2023. Fiscal 2019 research and development funds in the amount of $5.9 million are being obligated at the time of award.
Marchant Retiring. Rep. Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) said Aug. 5 that he would not seek reelection in 2020, becoming the 12th GOP House member and 4th GOP Texan retiring from the lower chamber in 2021. Marchant’s district includes Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport along with parts of Dallas and its suburbs. He was first elected to Congress in 2004.
Army Chief McConville. Army Gen. James McConville was officially sworn in as the service’s next chief of staff at a change of command ceremony on Aug. 9. McConville, who has served as the vice chief and spent his career as a helicopter pilot, is the 40th Army chief and the first aviator to hold the position. “No senior officer is better prepared to lead the Army as we undertake what will be a massive, and yes, risky and costly transformation towards more advanced weapons and warfighting approaches,” Ryan McCarthy, the acting Army secretary, said during his remarks at the ceremony. McConville succeeds Gen. Mark Milley who has been confirmed as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Cyber Deal. DISA has released a justification & approval (J&A) notice for a recent sole-source contract to General Dynamics One Source to continue providing cyber defense capabilities for the Department of Health and Human Services. “The agency’s need for the services is so urgent that providing fair opportunity would result in unacceptable delays,” officials wrote in the notice. The seven-month contract was awarded at the end of July and includes one 12-month option period. The contract fills an HHS cyber defense requirement that was detailed in a task order the agency issued in April. The value of the deal was redacted in the J&A notice.
DoD’s Cyber ‘Stack.’ John Gartska, a top Pentagon cyber official, told attendees at an FCW event on Aug. 7 that DoD cyber officials have to more broadly combat malicious digital threats beyond “the traditional IT space,” facing an increased attack vector. “We’ve built the concept of a ‘stack’ where we have a mission at the top, then weapon systems, traditional DoD networks, defense critical infrastructure, commercial critical infrastructure and then the [Defense Industrial Base],” Gartska said. “An adversary can maneuver through any one of those spaces to degrade a mission. So the construct of cyber hygiene doesn’t just apply to traditional network space.” Gartska noted that DoD’s cyber security practices are most mature in the traditional network space, while not necessarily the case for the other levels of the “stack.” “We’re finding you can be really secure in your network space and lose a mission, because an adversary has figured out that they can attack one those other layers of the stack,” Gartska said.
Space To Reconcile. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said he thinks within a year the U.S. will have a Space Force. “We have differences with the House, but we think those differenced can be reconciled in the conference committee,” Reed told reporters during the Space and Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Ala., on Wednesday. He noted the Senate-specific provision establishing a specific acquisition officer for the Space Corps “because so much is about not just thinking great thoughts but buying the systems you need and having someone responsible for that.” Reed also said the Senate wants a secretary focused on space. “That’s important.”
…And Will Be Funded. Reed also said he believes appropriators in both chambers will agree to fund the Space Force. “I think they will [fund it]” because legislators recognize the changing military environment and that space is no longer a benign domain. “So this is an environment now that just can’t sort of be ignored.”
M&A Deals. Leidos is adding to its health business with an agreement to acquire IMX Medical Management Services, a Pennsylvania-based company providing independent medical evaluations, medical record reviews, and medical and vocational case management for insurance carriers, employers, law firms, third party administrators, and state and local governments. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close before the end of September, were not disclosed. IMX has nearly 200 employees and affiliate staff members. Meanwhile, the private equity firm Acorn Growth Companies has acquired Robbins-Gioia, which provides systems modernization and enterprise solutions to a range of federal customers, including the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and others. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
…Potential Divestiture. Textron said it is reviewing strategic alternatives for its Kautex business unit, a $2.3 billion supplier of automotive systems and components. The alternatives under consideration include a sale, tax-free spin-off, or other transaction. Divesting the business will allow Textron to put more focus on its aerospace and defense units. The company believes the business is well positioned to find a buyer. Kautex is headquartered in Germany.
Biosurveillance Oversight. A House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders have requested the Government Accounting Office examine the Department of Homeland Security’s pilot program for a biothreat detection system, called BioDetection 21. The pilot effort is a potential replacement for the existing DHS early warning biological threat detection system known as BioWatch. The bipartisan group of leaders also wants GAO to review the DHS’ implementation of GAO’s prior recommendations for BioWatch in which the auditors recommended DHS not upgrade the program until it better understood the system’s capabilities. BioWatch systems are deployed in more than 30 cities and major urban areas in the U.S. to help detect large-scale, covert biological attacks such as the release of anthrax.
Space Pitch Day. Col. Dennis Bythewood, space development program executive officer for the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, said the Air Force’s upcoming “pitch day” for space capabilities will take place in November as officials look to find new capabilities to build out the service’s space architecture. “We have a series of capabilities that we’re trying to deliver within a multi-layered architecture. We looked across that to understand where do we think the gaps and needs are, and then engage with industry in that broad sense to say bring us ideas,” Bythewood said, at a Mitchell Institute event on Aug. 9. The final list of participants will be selected from vendors that previously submitted white papers for new capabilities. Bythewood said the pitch day is focused on getting “dollars to ideas quickly.” “I’d expect to see that become a repeated activity within the Space and Missile Systems Center as one venue to reach out to find out what are the other ideas that we haven’t thought of,” Bythewood said.