Trump Signs CR. President Trump signed off on extending the continuing resolution through Dec. 20 on Thursday night, after the Senate passed it earlier that day and the House passed it earlier in the week. The bill gives Congress just one more month – and currently only eight legislative days with both the House and Senate in session – to complete negotiations with the White House on a number of contentious issues in order to pass various spending bills.
What’s Holding Up NDAA?
Several lawmakers and Hill staffers confirmed this week that several outstanding FY ’20 National Defense Authorization Act issues continue to prevent an agreement being reached, including the White House’s funding request to build a border wall; transgender troops; how to stand up the Space Force; and how to resolve the U.S. military’s PFAS issue regarding cancer-linked chemicals leaking onto military sites nationwide and contaminating water sources.
Blue Origin Protest. The Air Force has agreed to alter the requirements laid out in its Launch Services Procurement Request for Proposal in response to a Government Accountability Protest protest by Blue Origin which the government watchdog sustained last week. Instead of selecting two out of four offerors to provide launch services based on their combined ability to fulfill the requirements, “The Air Force will evaluate each offeror independently against the RFP evaluation criteria based on the merits of its own proposal and will amend the solicitation to make clear that each award will be made solely on the basis of the defined criteria,” said Will Roper, Air Force acquisition chief in a Thursday statement. He confirmed that the service remains committed to only awarding two contracts, and added that the change is not expected to delay contract award.
F-135 Engines. The Navy on Thursday awarded Pratt & Whitney a $762.4 million contract modification to provide for 58 F-135 engines for the service’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter fleet. The modification involves exercise options for Lot 14 of the F-35s, and includes 48 engines for the Air Force variant and 10 engines for the Marine Corps variant. Work will be performed mostly in Connecticut, with some work also in Indiana and in the United Kingdom, and is expected to be completed in April 2022. In October, the Defense Department awarded Pratt & Whitney a $2.1 billion modification that included almost 200 F-35 engines for all the service variants. Pratt & Whitney a segment of United Technologies.
B-21. The Air Force is still sticking to its plan to build 100 B-21 Raider aircraft, but if it does need to procure more, it should be able to boost production without re-negotiating the contract with Northrop Grumman, Air Force Materiel Command Chief Gen. Arnold Bunch told reporters last Thursday. “We’ve got the contract structured in a manner that we can go higher. … I’m not worried that we’ll have to go back and renegotiate that whole thing,” he said. Bunch helped shape the B-21’s acquisition plan in his prior role as the service’s military deputy for acquisition, and confirmed that “right now, the program is staying on track.”
CISA’s Manfra Leaving. Jeanette Manfra, the assistant director for Cybersecurity within the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, will depart at the end of the year after 12 years with the department, she announced via Twitter last Thursday afternoon. The news was first reported by CyberScoop on Wednesday night. “This is not an easy decision, as it’s been one of my greatest honors to work alongside such a remarkable team on this incredibly important mission,” she tweeted. Manfra has held multiple positions within the Cybersecurity Division at CISA and also served on the White House National Security Council staff as senior counselor for Cybersecurity to the Secretary of Homeland Security and director for Critical Infrastructure Security. Manfra served in the Army as a communications specialist and military intelligence officer before joining DHS.
Hyten Sworn In. Air Force Gen. John Hyten was sworn in on Thursday as the 11th Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a ceremony at the Pentagon. He succeeds retired Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who retired over the summer. Navy Admiral Charles Richard was sworn in as his successor as commander of U.S. Strategic Command commander Nov. 18 at Offutt AFB, Nebraska.
Fatal Crash. Two airmen based at Vance AFB, Okla., were killed last Thursday morning in an aircraft training mishap, the base said in a release. The airmen were flying T-38C Talons at the time of the accident. A safety investigation team will analyze the incident. The names of the airmen have not yet been released.
NATO AGS. Northrop Grumman has successfully sent the first of five RQ-4D unmanned aircraft systems meant for NATO alliance ground surveillance (AGS) from Palmdale, Calif., to Sigonella Air Base, Italy, per a Nov. 21 press release. The aircraft, derived from the U.S. Air Force’s Global Hawk, completed a nonstop 22-hour transatlantic flight. Fifteen NATO member nations pooled resources together for the aircraft program to allow for its data to be accessible by all. The Northrop-led industry team also includes Leonardo, Airbus and Kongsberg, among others.
CV-22. Air Force Special Operations Command’s head of requirements Brig. Gen. David Harris shared that the command is considering what a future CV-22 Osprey replacement would look like at a Nov. 18 event in Washington, D.C. He cited capabilities such as three pallet positions for improved logistics support, low-observable technology and improved speed, particularly the capability to move at 450—500 knots as opposed to the current top speed of 240 knots. The goal is to help AFSOC “get into places we haven’t seen before” and create multiple dilemmas for an adversary, he added at the Air Force Association event. “If our adversary is targeting every 5,000-foot runway that is out there, every 6,000-foot runway that is out there, can they target every batch of grass that’s out there?”
Naval Nuclear. The Navy awarded Bechtel Plant Machinery Inc. two contract modifications to previously awarded contracts for Naval Nuclear Propulsion Components. One contract is $914 million and another is for $484 million. Fiscal year 2020 shipbuilding and conversion funds of the full amount were obligated at award time and will not expire at the end of this fiscal year. The Navy does not provide completion date or additional information for nuclear propulsion program contracts.
AeroVironment Settlement. AeroVironment has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of State to pay $1 million over two years related alleged export violations by the company. Under terms of the settlement, $500,000 of the payment is suspended contingent on AeroVironment spend the funds on enhancing export controls. The company must also hire an outside special compliance officer for a one-year term and conduct an external audit to assess and improve its compliance program during the consent agreement term. AeroVironment, which develops and manufactures small unmanned aircraft systems, voluntarily disclosed the alleged export violations and fully cooperated wit the government’s review. The State Department decided against disbarring the company.
Boeing Comms Chief Retiring. Anne Toulouse, a 30-year veteran with Boeing, will step down as the company’s senior vice president of Communications at the end of 2019 and retire early in 2020, Boeing said last Friday. In a statement, Toulouse noted the challenging year it’s been for Boeing and even more so for the families affected by two tragic 737 MAX aircraft crashes. “As we look ahead, I am confident the hard lessons learned will make Boeing better and that we will deliver on our important commitments,” she said. “As we move into that next phase, I can best serve the company by turning over the role to someone with fresh perspective, and therefore, made the difficult decision to retire.” Toulouse, 61, will help with the transition to a new communications chief. She became the interim head of communication for Boeing in Sept. 2018, reporting to company President and CEO Dennis Muilenburg, and assumed the permanent job in Feb. 2019.
Open Skies. House Armed Services Committee Chair Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and House Committee of Foreign Affairs Chair Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) sent a letter Friday to National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien demanding clarity on the White House’s position on the Open Skies Treaty. In the letter, the lawmakers request the administration provide the two committees with written responses to questions regarding flights conducted by the U.S. and allies over the past two years under the treaty; details on mitigation risks for U.S. assets to address Open Skies collection risks posed by overflights; and communications from NATO allies and partners through diplomatic and military channels expressing their viewpoint on the potential U.S. withdrawal from the treaty. Responses, with a classified annex if necessary and a follow-on briefing, are requested by Dec. 13.
Cyber Security Standards. Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist said this week the Pentagon will assist small businesses in meeting new cyber standards to be rolled out in all contracts starting next year. Norquist was asked at a Senate hearing about the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification, which is intended to address supply chain security concerns, and its potential impact on smaller suppliers. “One of the things we’ve heard from some of the businesses we work with is that they’re very concerned about the timeframe within which they have to comply with those standards and also with the assistance. For the big folks, it’s not an issue as it is for some of the smaller people who subcontract or who work with defense and who don’t have the capacity and assistance that they need in order to comply,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) said. Norquist responded that the DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy and Ellen Lord, the department’s top acquisition official, plan to work on avenues for small businesses to improve their supply chain. “Part of this to recognize that the larger firms are going to have an easier time. We need to work with the small businesses,” Norquist said.
USSOCOM Radios. L3Harris Technologies announced U.S. Special Operations Command has placed an initial $86 million order for the company’s Falcon IV AN/PRC-163 two-channel handheld tactical radios as well as awarding a separate deal for the AN/PRC-163 multi-channel manpack radios. The order for the Falcon IV radios is the first under a potential $390 million contract L3Harris received in 2015 under USSOCOM’s Next Generation Tactical Communications program. “The Falcon IV NGTC program radios from L3Harris are integrated network systems that can simultaneously communicate over multiple channels and crossband between those channels,” the company said in a statement. “The AN/PRC-163 is a powerful multi-channel, software-defined radio system that enables advanced tactical communications and meets USSOCOM’s rigorous requirements for a small, two-channel, multiband, multifunction and multi-mission tactical radio.”
First MMSC. Fincantieri Marinette Marine held a ceremony for cutting steel for the first Saudi Arabia Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) on Oct. 24, the U.S. Navy said on Nov. 18. MMSC is a tailored version of the Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship used by the Navy. Cut steel symbolizes the initiation of construction on the MMSC. Prime contractor Lockheed Martin and its shipyard partner Fincantieri have been working on the design since 2017. Four MMSCs will be built at the shipyard.
T-AO-208. The Navy selected EnPro Industries’ Fairbanks Morse to provide main propulsion diesel engines for the future USNS Robert F. Kennedy (T-AO-208), the fourth John Lewis-class replenishment oiler. The company said T-AO-208 will use two MAN 12V 48/60 CR engines, which will be built at the company’s facility in Beloit, Wisc. The engines are rated at over 19,000 bhp each and will have a common rail fuel injection system. The engines are scheduled to be delivered to General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego, Calif. in 2021
ESSM Block 2. The Navy awarded Raytheon an $85 million modification to a previously awarded contract to exercise options for FY 2020 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile (ESSM) Block 2 low rate initial production (LRIP) requirements. This award will buy remaining materials to support the LRIP Lot 3 all-up-rounds and spares requirements. ESSM is an international cooperative program to produce and procure upgraded missiles that provide ship defense. Work is expected to be finished by June 2023.
GD Sailor 2025. General Dynamics’s Information Technology (GDIT) segment announced on Nov. 19 it won a Sailor 2025 Ready Relevant Learning (RRL) delivery order worth up to $57 million. The RRL program was made to provide sailors with the right training at the right time. GDIT will provide instructional designs and assessment strategies using advanced technologies across several training formats. This includes instructor-facilitated and self-directed interactive training and structured on-the-job resources. The total order value includes possible option periods.
Unmanned Autonomy. Mikros Systems Corp. received a $150,000 Naval Sea Systems Command Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I delivery order for unmanned surface vehicle (USV) and unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) autonomous behavior development. The company will develop a sensor in-stride diagnostic, correction, and confidence component (SID3C) to integrate with current and future USVs and UUVs. SID3C will specifically monitor shipboard sensors and data to detect degradation or failures, correct recoverable sensors, and help autonomy systems with filtering unreliable sensor data. Phase I aims to demonstrate proposed solution feasibility with Mikros developing a limited scale system to illustrate the concept. Mikros said the Navy could use this system to further advanced unmanned autonomous vehicles where sensor data quality can impact decision-making and success. The company underscored this SID3C capability could possibly be used on the Medium and Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles, Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicles, and Extra large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle.
U.S.-U.K.-Japan. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and his counterparts First Sea Lord, United Kingdom Royal Navy Adm. Tony Radakin and Chief of Staff of the Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force Adm. Hiroshi Yamamura signed a trilateral cooperation agreement reaffirming a commitment to increase collaboration and cooperation on Nov. 20. The officials met aboard the HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) while the U.K.’s new aircraft carrier was anchored outside Annapolis, Md., at the time for a visit to the East Coast. “Today, we reaffirm our commitment to strengthen our common efforts, which demonstrates that our relationships are institutional, rather than merely personal. This agreement strengthens our naval bonds and codifies our continued dedication to a free and open maritime commons,” Gilday said.