China/Russia Budgets. Army Gen. Mark Milley, the joint chiefs chairman, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 10 that the combined defense budgets of Russia and China likely exceeds the U.S.’ spending on defense. “At an unclassified level, I would tell you that, combined, the Russia and Chinese budgets exceed our budgets if all the cards are put on the table. Both governments do not put all their cards on the table when it comes to their budget. It’s a very difficult thing to discern that which is being spent on their defense versus other priorities,” Milley said.

KC-46 Communications.

The U.S. Air Force plans on having an initial operational capability (IOC) for the Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) on the service’s KC-46 tankers under ABMS Capability Release 1 by the end of the fourth quarter of fiscal 2022—an IOC that would come before the tanker receives an IOC for refueling. That capability has run into a number of problems over the last several years, including depth perception for the Remote Vision System. But the Air Force contends that the effort to make the KC-46 a central ABMS communications node is unrelated to the tanking issues. The service said that the idea of making tankers communications relays has been around since the late 1990s’ “smart tanker” concept, but the latter noted that simultaneous communications and tanking would not go together, as refueling was most securely done away from significant emitting environments.

Palletized Munitions. This year, the U.S. Air Force has said it plans to test whether transport aircraft, such as the Lockheed Martin C-130 and the Boeing C-17, can drop dozens of palletized munitions—long range cruise missiles, such as the Lockheed Martin Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile Extended Range—under an Air Force Research Laboratory effort. If such munitions move forward, transport aircrews will need additional training on rules of engagement. “We’ll have to adapt our training, as the system comes along,” said Air Force Lt. Gen. Brian Robinson, the deputy commander of Air Mobility Command. Such training has not started, “as we’re focused right now on the technical piece of palletized munitions, as we see the feasibility of that,” Robinson said.

Cyber Force? Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, the head of U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency, told lawmakers on June 11 he does not believe it is necessary to create a separate, standalone Cyber Force. “Our focus right now is developing the 133 teams that U.S. Cyber Command has,” Nakasone said during a House Armed Services Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee hearing. “My concern with moving toward a Cyber Force right now is the infrastructure, the other elements that take away from what we want. We want the best cyber operators working the mission every single day. And I think we have that based upon the experiences that I’ve had and also the outcomes that we’ve seen in [helping to secure] the past two elections.” 

DDG-125. Huntington Ingalls Industries announced on June 11 it launched the first Navy Flight III Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyer, the future USS Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125), at its shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss. HII has previously delivered 32 DDG-51s to the Navy and is also currently building the Frank E. Petersen Jr. (DDG-121), Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123), Ted Stevens (DDG-128) and Jeremiah Denton (DDG-129). The Flight III destroyers will feature a new larger SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar to improve performance of air and missile defense operations. To fit the new radar, the Flight III ships will be larger to accommodate both the radar and its power and cooling requirements.

Big Radio Deal. The Army on June 10 awarded a $3.3 billion deal to L3Harris for radios and communication equipment. Work on the firm-fixed price contract is expected to be completed by June 2026. An L3Harris spokesperson said the company “will supply a wide range of communication solutions and services to international customers through the FMS process,” under the latest order.

OPC Bids In. Bollinger Shipyards said it submitted a proposal for the second round of the Coast Guard’s program to construct medium-endurance Offshore Patrol Cutters (OPCs), one of the service’s top acquisition priorities. Eastern Shipbuilding Group is building the first four OPCs but the Coast Guard decided to reopen the program to a new round of competition after the shipbuilder ran into difficulties following a massive hurricane that slammed into its facilities in October 2018. Bids for up to 11 more OPCs were due last Friday. Overall, the Coast Guard plans to acquire 25 of the ships. Bollinger supplies the Coast Guard’s Fast Response Cutters, which typically operate in the littorals. Winning the new OPC round would sustain Bollinger’s workforce through 2031, the company said.

Nominations Advance. The Senate Armed Services Committee on June 10 advanced seven nominees by voice vote. The list includes Frank Kendall to be Secretary of the Air Force, Heidi Shyu to be Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Susanna Blume to be DoD’s Director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation, Jill Hruby to be the NNSA’s Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and Administrator, Frank Rose to be NNSA’s Principal Deputy Administrator, Deborah Rosenblum to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Program and Christopher Maier to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict. The nominations were reported for consideration by the full Senate.

Border Wall $$ for MILCON. The Pentagon on June 11 announced plans to redirect $2.2 billion in funds for unobligated military construction (MILCON) projects that had previously been pulled by the Trump administration for border wall construction. The funding will cover 66 MILCON projects across 11 states, three territories and 16 countries, according to the Pentagon. Projects that will now be funded include $89 million for Navy pier and maintenance facilities in Washington state and $64 million for maintenance of aircraft hangars in Puerto Rico.

NCD Role Explained. Chris Inglis, President Joe Biden’s nominee to fill the newly authorized position of National Cyber Director (NCD) within the Executive Office of the President, said that the provision creating the new role wants to “create coherence, unity of effort, unity of purpose across what are already impressive, deep and sharp capabilities within the federal enterprise and a partnership with the private sector where most of cyber gets built, operated, innovated and defended.” Testifying before a Senate panel during his confirmation hearing on June 10, Inglis said the “primary purpose” of the NCD “must be to add value, coherence, leverage, connection to all of those other pieces and to identify, when necessary, when somethings missing and to ensure that the national strategy and that our implementation of that strategy ultimately creates a coherent effort.” Creation of the NCD was a key recommendation of the 2020 Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which has broad bipartisan support, although some in Congress are skeptical that between the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and a deputy national security advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology at the White House, there may be too much overlap in cybersecurity responsibilities and a lack of accountability.

HII Hiring. Huntington Ingalls Industries announced its Ingalls Shipbuilding division in Pascagoula, Miss plans to hire about 3,000 full-time shipbuilders for its future growth plan. “We are steadily adding new team members to our growing workforce. Shipbuilding is a challenging, extremely rewarding and potentially life-changing career, and we are excited to offer so many full-time, stable, full-benefits opportunities to our community,” Ingalls Shipbuilding President Kari Wilkinson said in a statement. The company is specifically hiring ship fitters, electricians, pipefitters, pipe welders and structural welders and seeking applicants with mechanical, hot work or carpentry experience.

T-AGS 67. The Navy awarded VT Halter Marine a $149 million modification to definitize a previous contract for the detail design and construction of one oceanographic survey ship (T-AGS 67) on June 4. Work will primarily occur in Pascagoula, Miss. The full award amount will be obligated at the time of award and will not expire at the end of this fiscal year. T-AGS 67 is set to be a modified follow-on Pathfinder-class ship, similar to the USNS Maury (T-AGS 66). The Navy originally announced plans to issue a sole source solicitation to VT Halter Marine for this ship in 2018.

DDG-91. The Navy awarded General Dynamics’ National Steel and Shipbuilding Company a $99 million contract on June 4 to execute an FY ’22 depot modernization period of the USS Pinckney (DDG-91). This work will include a combination of maintenance, modernization and repair of the Pinckney. It includes options that, if exercised, would raise the total value of the contract to $121 million. Work will occur in San Diego, Calif. and is expected to be finished by July 2023. The announcement said this contract was competitively procured with three offers, but did not disclose the other competitors.

Feds Making it Easy. In its response to a ransomware attack last month on its information technology network Colonial Pipeline, the company found that having single points of contact to work with its federal partners was huge in terms of saving time and keeping resources free to deal with the impacts of the attack, Joseph Blount, Colonial’s CEO, said last week. Colonial learned of the attack at 5 a.m. EDT on May 7 and within hours reported to the FBI, which included the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in a follow-up discussion shortly thereafter, he said. The company also reported to a number of additional regulatory and oversight agencies. Ultimately, the Department of Energy created a single point of contact for the company to work through restoration and fuel supply issues and the FBI was the single government contact to work with other agencies on the investigative response to the attack, he added. “So, for anybody that comes under an attack like this, what you can’t recreate is time and space and the ability to respond and so the ability to have the conduit both on the investigative side as well as on the restoration and on the supply side was extremely helpful,” he said.