AUSA. Rick Maze, the Association of the United States Army’s (AUSA) director of media operations, provided an update to Defense Daily that the organization’s annual conference scheduled for Oct. 9 to 11 will take place “even if there is a government shutdown because of a lapse in federal appropriations.” The event, which gathers thousands for Army updates and industry exhibits, may coincide with a shutdown if Congress is unable to pass final appropriations bills or a continuing resolution stopgap funding bill before the end of September. “AUSA is preparing contingency plans that will allow the meeting to take place regardless of the federal funding situation,” Maze said.

Navy S&T Board. Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said he has established the Department of the Navy’s Science and Technology Board (DoN STB) as a federal advisory committee. The board is billed as a way to provide the Navy with independent advice on scientific, technical, manufacturing, acquisition, logistics, medicine and business management functions. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin appointed former Secretary of the Navy Richard Danzig as the chair of the DoN STB.  The vice chair will be Howard Fireman, former Chief Architect of the Navy, and the designated federal official will be Maria Proestou, a former industry executive serving as strategic acquisition adviser to the Department of the Navy.  A Sept. 11 federal notice first announced the board will hold its first meeting on Sept. 22.

LCS-25 Commissioning. The future Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship USS Marinette (LCS-25) is set to be commissioned during a ceremony in Menominee, Mich., on Sept. 16. The ship was built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine for prime contractor Lockheed Martin. LCS-25 was delivered to the Navy in February. It contains the combining gear correction that allows for unrestricted and full speed operations. A combining gear defect affecting this variant of LCS limits the ship’s speed. LCS-25 is set to be homeported in Mayport, Fla. 

…And LCS-5 Decom. The Freedom-variant USS Milwaukee (LCS-5) was decommissioned at Mayport, Fla., on Sept, 8 following eight years of operations since it was commissioned in 2015. The ship had two deployments, in April 2022 and June 2023, with U.S. Fourth Fleet. LCS-5 was built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin for designer Lockheed Martin. The Navy has pushed to retire several Freedom-variant LCSs early due to a combination of the cost to fix the faulty combining gear on delivered ships and the cancellation of the anti-submarine warfare mission package they were due to field.

MARAD NSMV. Philly Shipyard Inc. delivered the first of five purpose-built National Security Multi-Mission Vessels (NSMV) training vessels for U.S. state maritime academies, the Empire State on Sept. 8. The Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) program aims to provide high class training for future American mariners and to support humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions. This first vessel is set to serve at SUNY Maritime College. Philly Shipyard President and CEO Steinar Nerbovik underscored this is the first government new build for the shipyard. The shipyard won a contract to build these NSMVs by TOTE Services, LLC, which MARAD hired to oversee construction of these training vessels. The NSMV program is also the first government-sponsored shipbuilding program using the new Vessel Construction manager (VCM) model, which had MARAD hire TOTE. The next vessel, NSMV II, is set to be delivered for the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in 2024. The other vessels will be delivered in 2026. The NSMVs include instructional spaces, a full training bridge and accommodations for up to 600 cadets.

LaPlante on 3D Printing. Additive manufacturing has come a long way in the past decade and “is real and is real as a capability for us to use on our weapon systems,” Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante said last week. Additive manufacturing, also called 3D printing, produces parts fast and “things that we could not have produced otherwise,” he said at an Air Force Association conference. He also noted that 3D printing is “changing how sustainment is being done,” highlighting that Ukrainians are using the technology to produce parts of firing pins for M777 howitzers and “getting them right back into the fight.”

New Anduril UAS Variant. Anduril Industries last week introduced a new variant of its Ghost autonomous unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the Ghost-X, which includes an upgraded propulsion system for up to 75 minutes of flight time, a doubling of payload capacity to 20 pounds, an operational range up nearly 16 miles with an optional long-range communications kit, and modular payload carriage for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions. Ghost-X leverages Anduril’s Lattice operating system to automate mission planning, airspace management, and flight operations, and includes new capabilities such as vision-based navigation and automated frequency switching to enable improved operations in areas of low or denied communications.

DHS AI News. The Department of Homeland Security last week issued a directive with two new policies for how the department will use artificial intelligence, including for face recognition and capture. Directive 026-11 allows U.S. citizens to opt-out using face recognition for specific, non-law enforcement uses, and “dictates that all uses of face recognition and face capture technologies will be thoroughly tested to ensure there is no unintended bias or disparate impact in accordance with national standards.” A policy statement, Acquisition and use of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning by DHS Components, sets forth principles for the use of AI that comply with an earlier White House executive order on the use of “trustworthy AI” in the government. DHS will also not “establish AI-enabled systems that support decisions based on race, gender, sex, age, nationality, or disability.”

…Chief AI Officer. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has appointed Eric Hysen as the department’s first Chief AI Officer. Hysen will also continue as the DHS chief information officer. In his AI role, “Hysen will promote AI innovation and safety within the department, along with advising Secretary Mayorkas and department leadership on AI issues,” DHS said.

More STSS Awards. The Transportation Security Administration last week announced several more awards to some of its prime contractors that supply security equipment for aviation security. The agency awarded OSI Systems’ Rapiscan Systems division a potential $21.5 million contract for life-cycle support. TSA has deployed the company’s Advanced Technology X-ray systems to scan carry-on bags at U.S. airports. The potential values of the Security Technology Support Services contracts to CEIA USA, which supplies walk-through metal detectors, and Desko GMBH, which supplies boarding pass scanners, were redacted. TSA also in September awarded STSS contracts to Analogic, Leidos, Rohde & Schwarz, and Smiths Detection.

More HASTE Launches. Rocket Lab last week said it signed a deal to launch four more Hypersonic Accelerator Suborbital Test Electron (HASTE) missions for Leidos in 2024 and 2025. Rocket Lab in June launched the first HASTE mission, which demonstrated the program’s ability to accelerate the cadence of hypersonic flight testing. Rocket Lab’s HASTE suborbital launch vehicle is based on the company’s Electron rocket but modified to support hypersonic payload deployment. The HASTE missions are part of the Multi-Service Advanced Capability Hypersonic Test Bed, or MACH-TB, program.

Defensive Cyber Operations (DCO). The U.S. Space Force at Peterson Space Force, Colo. wants a contractor to support cyber “response actions and intrusion detection monitoring across all Delta 6 cyber squadrons,” including the 62nd, 64th, 65th, 68th, 69th, and 645th for Space Deltas 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 and 9, Space Launch Delta 30 at Vandenberg Space Force Base, Calif., and Space Launch Delta 45 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. Contractor tasks would include “employing DCO capabilities, conducting intrusion detection monitoring and analysis, identifying malicious cyber activity, and determining attack vectors, executing cyber response activities, developing defensive countermeasures, and providing on-the-job training for Cyber Guardians.” The cyber squadrons have different areas of responsibility. The 62nd, for example, is under Space Delta 3 and executes counterspace programs, such as Bounty Hunter and the Counter Communications System, and another program named Red Cloud, while the 69th Cyber Squadron is under Space Delta 9 and is charged with the Satellite Control Network and orbital warfare systems.

Space Assurances. Elon Musk’s sway on whether and when Ukraine has been able to use SpaceX’s Starlink satellite constellation for military communications is leading to high-level Department of the Air Force conversations. “If we’re gonna rely upon commercial architectures or commercial systems for operational use, then we have to have some assurances that they’re gonna be available,” U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says. “We have to have that. Otherwise, they’re a convenience and maybe an economy in peacetime, but they’re not something we can rely upon in war time, and we need both.”

…War Time Losses. DoD and Musk came to an agreement in June for the Pentagon to begin picking up some of the cost of Starlink services for Ukrainian military forces, but DoD has not released the cost nor the terms of the contract, nor the exact agency issuing it. Asked whether DoD is indemnified so that SpaceX would have to repay DoD, if Musk pulls the plug on Starlink’s contractual support of DoD-funded communications, Kendall replied that “the issue with indemnification is, if there were war time losses, would they [SpaceX] be indemnified so that we would have to cover the war time losses they might incur?” Kendall says he is not sure, that he “doesn’t know what’s in that specific contract,” but that it is likely a “straightforward commercial contract.” Kendall says that he doesn’t think the DoD contract with SpaceX for communications for Ukrainian military forces is with the Department of the Air Force. The U.S. Agency for International Development in February said that it has provided 5,175 Starlink high-speed internet terminals to Ukraine for use “in areas with compromised network connectivity, including in areas liberated from Russian troops” and by “critical infrastructure operators and the Ukrainian government.”

Ukraine Support. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will travel to Ramstein Air Base in Germany on Sept. 18 to host the next in-person meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG). Deputy Pentagon Press Secretary Sabrina Singh told reporters the meeting will once again bring together senior defense officials from nearly 50 countries “to discuss the ongoing crisis in Ukraine and the continued close coordination by the international community to provide the Ukrainian people with the means necessary to defend their sovereign territory.” This will be the 15th UDCG meeting since April 2022.

Marder IFVs. Rheinmetall received a new order from Germany in August to supply 40 more refurbished Marder infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine, the company said on Sept. 11. The deal is worth a “high double-digit million-euro amount,” Rheinmetall said, with deliveries expected to begin before the end of the year. With the new order, Rheinmetall will be under contract to supply 80 refurbished Marder IFVs for Ukraine.

Romney Retiring. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah.), the former Republican presidential nominee, announced on Sept. 13 he will not seek a second term in 2024. Romney, who serves on the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security Committees, noted his efforts to “secure key Utah priorities, including funding for Hill Air Force Base and its program to modernize our nuclear deterrent,” in his retirement message. “On China, President Biden underinvests in the military and President Trump underinvests in our alliances. Political motivations too often impede the solutions that these challenges demand. The next generation of leaders must take America to the next stage of global leadership,” Romney added.

Poland FMS. The State Department said on Sept. 13 it has approved a potential $389 million deal with Poland for F-16 aircraft sustainment and equipment. The new Foreign Military Sale covers additional non-”Major Defense Equipment” articles, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) noted, and follows an earlier $82 million deal with Poland for sustainment of Lockheed Martin-built F-16s. The new FMS case specifically covers electronic warfare database reprogramming support, software delivery and support, spare parts, Engine Component Improvement Program support, minor modifications and maintenance support. “The proposed sale will improve Poland’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing the reliability of their F-16 fleet,” the DSCA said in a statement.

Austal Sub Orders. Austal USA received a $10.6 million order on Sept. 11 to build and outfit three electronic deck modules for Virginia-class submarines from prime contractor General Dynamics Electric Boat. Construction is due to start this fall, with delivery by the middle of 2025. This order follows an initial February order from Electric Boat for a Command and Control Systems Module (CCSM). The two companies have been working in partnership since 2022, with Austal building and outfitting CCSM and Electronic Deck Modules for Virginia-class attack submarines and Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. The Navy has encouraged shipbuilders that have not been traditionally in the submarine field to work with submarine contractors to improve build rates and efficiencies.

General Atomics’ Purchase. General Atomics said on Sept. 15 that it has bought Massachusetts-based EO Vista, LLC, founded in 2013 and a provider of advanced space-based and airborne electro-optical payloads. EO Vista is to be part of General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (GA-EMS) group. Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS, said in a company statement that the acquisition fits as GA-EMS continues “to expand our weather and science programs and our growing portfolio of sensor system payload designs to support a wide range of customer requirements, including Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance missions.” GA-EMS said that EO Vista is supplying the advanced Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) weather sensor payload for a planned GA-EMS EO/IR Weather System (EWS) satellite for the U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command “to support the transition from the Defense Meteorological Support Program (DMSP) on-orbit systems to a new generation of affordable, high performance, small weather satellites.”