B-21 Avionics Testbed. It appears that the Northrop Grumman B-21 Raider test aircraft under construction in Palmdale, Calif., has yet to have avionics installed. The U.S. Air Force is instead flying the avionics on a testbed aircraft. “One of the things we’re working on is we have a flight test aircraft that we’ve been hosting some of those subsystems on to buy down the risk so the first time it’s introduced into an air environment is not on the bomber,” said Randall Walden, the director of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. “We’re doing it in kind of a parallel approach, working out some of the bugs with the software as well as the subsystems. All of that great knowledge is going to go in when we integrate it into the bomber.”

Recoveries Outpace New COVID-19 Cases at DoE Nuke Sites.

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), civilian steward of U.S. nuclear warheads and bombs, on Friday reported 160 active cases among civilians and contractors at its eight major U.S. sites. That’s seven fewer active cases than a week ago, and makes for a total of 457 confirmed cases at NNSA since the U.S. outbreak was confirmed in January. Two NNSA employees had died from COVID-19 at deadline Friday, the most recent last month at the Nevada National Security Site some 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. 

New Russian Malware. The National Security Agency and FBI last week exposed a previously undisclosed malware being deployed by the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate, better known as the GRU, that the agencies say represents a threat to national security systems, the Defense Department and defense industrial base customers that use Linux systems. The malware is called Drovorub is being attributed to the GRU’s 85th Main Special Service Center military unit 26165. To help network defenders, the NSA and FBI issued a 45-page advisory providing attribution and describing technical details of the malware. “By deconstructing this capability and providing attribution, analysis, and mitigations, we hope to empower our customers, partners, and allies to take action,” according to Anne Neuberger, NSA cybersecurity director. The Russian military unit is also known as Fancy Bear, Strontium or APT 28.

CFO Retirement. Science Applications International Corp. said Charles Mathis, the company’s chief financial officer since 2016, will retire on Jan. 29, 2021, the end of the company’s fiscal year to ensure smooth transition to a successor. Mathis was 60 at the time SAIC published its annual report in March. “We are grateful for Charlie’s leadership over these last four years as we have transformed from a $4.5 billion company to the $7.1 billion company we are today,” said SAIC CEO Nazzic Keene, who celebrated one-year her first year at the helm of the company on Aug. 1. “Charlie’s experience and financial acumen were critical success drivers during our two recent acquisitions, positioning SAIC as a market leader.” The two acquisitions were Engility and the federal business of Unisys.

The Future of DHS. Two former Department of Homeland Security officials that worked for the department during the Obama administration said DHS needs to refocus on non-military threats, morale and management challenges while maintaining resources and efforts on legacy missions such as counter-terrorism, aviation and border security, disaster response, maritime security and others. The report, Future of DHS Project: Key Findings and Recommendations, was released by the Atlantic Council and authored by Thomas Warrick and Caitlin Durkovich, who argue that DHS should have a stronger leadership role in responding to COVID-19 and future pandemics, and that it needs more resources for cyber security and election security to lead the “defense of the nation on cybersecurity, election security, protecting critical infrastructure, countering foreign nation-state disinformation, and countering foreign nation-state misuse of social media—under the mission to ‘protect American Democracy.”

Bell Facility. Bell said Aug. 10 it has opened a new 140,000-square foot Manufacturing Technology Center in Fort Worth, Texas, which it called “an innovative proving ground” for testing and refining new technologies and processes. The new facility is geared toward supporting its work on the Army’s Future Vertical Lift programs. “The MTC is the next step in successfully deploying new manufacturing technologies and processes into Bell’s future factories,” Glenn Isbell, Bell’s vice president for rapid prototyping and manufacturing innovation, said in a statement. “These future factories working together with our teammates and suppliers, will be designed to enable high-quality, high-rate production of the Bell V-280 Valor, Bell 360 Invictus and other future aircraft.”

BAE Systems/Austin. BAE Systems has announced a $150 million project to expand its campus in Austin, Texas, with plans to open a new 390,000-square foot facility in 2022. “This expansion will continue our longstanding legacy of innovation in Austin, while also preparing us for our projected engineering and manufacturing growth,” Dave Harrold, the company’s vice president and of countermeasure and electromagnetic attack solutions, said in a statement. “Austin is an ideal location to attract the talent we need to deliver the latest capabilities to our customers” BAE Systems noted the new facility is located near Army Futures Command’s headquarters in Austin, as well as the start-up incubator Austin Capital Factory. 

C-UAS Net. The Army on Aug. 11 released an RFI soliciting industry’s input on potential counter-drone devices that use a net to capture threats. “[The Army] is seeking to defeat low, slow, small Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) with a ballistically-fired net projectile launched from a vehicle-mounted turret,” officials wrote in the notice. 

AI Toolkit. DISA has awarded Deloitte a potential four-year, $106 million deal to design the common AI development framework for the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. Under the deal, Deloitte will “provide, operate, maintain, secure and enhance the [AI Joint Common Foundation toolkit] with platforms and tools that can be shared and distributed to end-users across the DoD enterprise.” JCF is intended to serve as a cloud-based AI environment that different DoD entities can use to build on algorithms and work on new projects. 

Wargaming Center. The Marine Corps has awarded BAE Systems a $19 million deal to prototype a design for a new wargaming center to be built at Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. The company said it will look to leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning, multi-domain modeling and simulation and predictive data analytics into its work on the project, which looks to build greater capability for metrics and training for Marines’ wargaming processes. “We will build on our experience supporting the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory Wargaming Division and partner with a diverse team of digital technology experts to produce an advanced prototype to help train an efficient, precise, and consistent force capable of fighting future wars in multiple domains,” Peder Jungck, vice president of BAE Systems’ Intelligence Solutions business, said in a statement. 

Arrow-2 Test. Israel successfully conducted an Arrow-2 ballistic missile defense system flight test intercepting a Sparrow target missile, the country’s Ministry of Defense said Aug. 13. The Sparrow target simulates a long-range surface-to-surface missile. The ministry noted “updated operational capabilities were validated” in the test. Participants included the Israeli Air Force, Israel Missile Defense Organization, and U.S. Missile Defense Agency while the system was operated and controlled by Elbit Systems’ Citron Tree and Golden Almond command and control systems. “We have proven again that the State of Israel possesses defensive and offensive capabilities that are among the strongest and most advanced in the world. I would like to express deep appreciation to our US ally for jointly advancing our security,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

Columbia Track. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts told reporters this week the Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program is still on track despite the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID has not impacted Columbia in terms of readiness to proceed and so that program is staying on track,” Geurts told reporters during a media round table call Aug. 12. Reiterating the submarine is their highest priority, Geurts said earlier this week he was doing reviews on it and other submarines with shipyard presidents and program teams. He reported design maturity on Columbia exceed 86 percent and “we’re focusing on converting that design then into manufacturing plans, manufacturing instructions, and material parts. Kind of call it plan, paper, and parts.”

…Bath Strike. Geurts also sounded an optimistic note on the tentative agreement between the union and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works that would end the strike at the shipyard. “It will be really a big positive for us to get that shipyard back up and get the full team focused on generating capabilities out of that shipyard that our Navy’s relying on. I realize that was a lot of hard work for all parties involved. I’m cautiously optimistic that pretty soon here we’ll be back to having a full force up there at Bath so that they can get to the hard work of delivering the ships we’ve got there and the ships we are going to send there in the future.” The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge S6 (LS6) have been on strike for almost two months over issues including seniority and contracting out additional workers.

AUTEC. The Navy awarded Amentum Services Inc. a $430 million contract for the operation and maintenance of the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC).  AUTEC is the Navy’s large-area, deep-water, undersea test and evaluation range. The primary activities at the center are underwater research, testing and evaluation of anti-submarine weapons, sonar tracking and communications. Amentum will perform AUTEC range operations support services and maintenance of facilities and range systems as well as be responsible for operating a “self-sufficient one square mile Navy outpost.” Work will be split between Andros Island in the Bahamas (64 percent) and West Palm Beach, Fla. (36 percent), and is expected to be finished by August 2025. If all options are exercised, the contract will last through August 2030. The announcement said there were six total offers but did not disclose the other five.

Harpoons. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing a $16 million price order against a previous basic ordering agreement to produce and deliver another 25 Harpoon Block II+ captive air training missiles and 24 tactical missiles. Work will mostly occur in St. Louis and is expected to be finished by August 2023. The Harpoon Block II+ features improvements like a new GPS guidance kit to improve midcourse navigational accuracy, improved reliability and survivability, and data link interfaces to allow in-flight updates and improved target selectivity. The training missiles are installed on the weapon pylons of aircraft to give electronic signals of live missiles without actual launch, for training purposes.

HII Staffing. Huntington Ingalls Industries said retired Navy Vice Adm. Joseph Tofalo was named corporate vice president for assessments and advanced technology, effective Aug. 7. Tofalo previously served as corporate vice president of program integration and assessment and will now continue to report to Mitchell Waldman, executive vice president of government and customer relations. In this role, Tofalo will inform national security policy and force architecture via engaging with think tanks, professional organizations, federal entities, and academia, while also managing the corporate Independent Research and Development (IRAD) program.

Collier Trophy. The National Aeronautic Association has awarded a U.S. Air Force-Boeing team the 2019 Robert J. Collier Trophy for its work on the Boeing X-37B spaceplane. The association cited the team’s work in “developing and employing the world’s only reusable, autonomous spaceplane, which logged more than 2,865 days in orbit across five missions, changing access to space and serving as the nation’s workhorse in space experimentation and technology.” U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, Gen. John “Jay” Raymond said that the X-37B team’s work “exemplifies the kind of lean, agile and innovative technological development our nation needs to secure its interests” and that “the ability to test new systems in space and return them to earth is unique to the X-37B and enables the U.S. to more efficiently and effectively develop space power to maintain superiority in the space domain.”

…No Transition. The X-37B program is to stay under the purview of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office, which has collaborated with the Space Rapid Capabilities Office at Kirtland AFB, N.M. The latter office is under Raymond. “We plan on keeping that [X-37B],” Walden says, adding that he’s discussed the issue with Raymond and Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett. “There’s a lot of interest in reusable space vehicles. We’ve gained a lot of information in the decade we’ve been operating that system. I think it’s provided unique and relevant insight into some of the newer technologies that would actually go to space and inform how they would build those systems.” Walden said his office is also collaborating with labs, including the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Naval Research Laboratory, on the X-37B.

Who Should Lead DHS? The Government Accountability Office last Friday issued a legal decision that it basically can’t enforce that says that Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli, the current Acting Secretary and Acting Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security respectively, were improperly appointed to their positions by President Trump, saying amended leadership succession orders made within DHS were “invalid” and without the proper authority. The GAO said it is “referring the question as to who should” be acting in both positions and the “question of consequences of action taken by these officials” to the DHS Office of Inspector General. Under the 2002 Homeland Security Act, after the last Senate-confirmed DHS secretary resigned—which was Kirstjen Nielsen in April 2019, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Christopher Krebs should have been promoted to the acting secretary role, according to the GAO’s decision. Instead, then acting head of Customs and Border Protection, Kevin McAleenan, was put in charge of DHS.

…Condemnation. The GAO’s finding brought swift responses by key Democrat overseers in Congress, including Reps. Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), the respective chairs of the Homeland Security and Oversight and Reform Committee, who said that Wolf should “immediately step down” and go back to being the Undersecretary for Strategy, Policy and Plans, and that Cuccinelli, who is woefully unqualified,” should resign. They called on Trump to “appoint an apolitical career official” to helm DHS and nominate someone as a permanent secretary.