Bomber Task Force. The latest Bomber Task Force mission on Nov. 26 featured an Air Force B-52 bomber from the 5th Bomb Wing at Minot AFB, N.D. conducting integration operations over the Barents Sea with NATO aircraft, including Greek and Norwegian F-16s, and refueling with U.S. and Turkish KC-135 tankers, according to U.S. European Command, adding that the mission was originally to include two B-52s, but one had to divert to RAF Fairford, England for maintenance. The mission, and others like it, “demonstrate America’s continual global strike and global reach capabilities through the employment of strategic bombers,” EUCOM said.
Clarion Call. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz says a recent report by the National Academies of Sciences calling for the service to take a harder look and more aggressive approach to the development and adoption of unmanned systems was “a little bit of a catalyst, clarion call to look a little harder.” Shultz told the Navy League last week that he’s “challenged” Vice Adm. Scott Buschman, deputy commandant for Operations, “to really take a round turn on that and make sure we’re leaning in as hard as our budget and our human capacity allows us to pull those capabilities into our mission sets.” The Coast Guard is currently equipping its high-endurance National Security Cutters with ScanEagle tactical unmanned aircraft systems and has experimented with unmanned surface vehicles.
Plug for Mayorkas. Former Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Director Christopher Krebs, who was fired by President Trump for telling the nation that the 2020 presidential election “was the most secure in American history,” said that President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security is “fantastic.” Krebs, interviewed last week by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius for a virtual event, said Alejandro Mayorkas “is a great pick.” Mayorkas led U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and was a deputy DHS secretary during the Obama administration.
…Code Cracked. Krebs said during the interview that going forward his former agency needs to continue building the public-private partnerships that have enhanced the nation’s cyber security posture and helped make CISA successful. Ahead of and on election day in November, “we cracked the code” in terms of working with the intelligence community, law enforcement, Defense Department and state and local partners in terms of “how to truly work together from a cyber security perspective and we found the Holy Grail in information sharing,” he said. On election day, a state reported to CISA that they were seeing scanning “trying to exploit a vulnerable system,” and was able to stop it. Still, CISA passed the information to another federal partner and “they did what they do, and that’s never happened like that. Defense in near-real time.” These lessons need to continue to be “replicated,” he said.
New IT Law. President Trump last Thursday signed into law a bipartisan bill that requires the General Services Administration to establish an Information Technology Modernization Centers of Excellence Program to facilitate the adoption of modern technology by executive agencies on a reimbursable basis. The law, the Information Technology Modernization Centers of Excellence Program Act (H.R. 5901), requires GSA to work with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that the IT technologies have “sufficient cyber security and maintain the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of federal information.”
INDOPACOM. The Pentagon announced Dec. 3 that the president is nominating Adm. John Aquilino to be the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). Aquilino currently serves as commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet. Both positions are based out of Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. He assumed his current duties in 2018 and previously served as commander of U.S. 5th Fleet. If confirmed, Aquilino would succeed Adm. Philip Davidson, who has overseen the command since 2018 and is expected to retire.
LSD-45. The Navy awarded General Dynamics National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. (NASSCO) a $100 million contract to execute the fiscal year 2021 docking selected restricted availability (DSRA) for the USS Comstock (LSD-45). This work covers a combination of maintenance, modernization, and repair of the Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship. The contract includes options that, if exercised, would raise the total value to $128 million. The contract announcement said this is a Chief of Naval Operations scheduled DSRA and a long-term availability solicited on a West Coast-wide basis. The competition has two offerors but DoD did not disclose the second competitor. Work will occur in San Diego and is expected to be finished by November 2022.
FFG-63. Secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite this week announced the second new Constellation-class frigate will be named the future USS Congress. Both of the first two ships are named after the first six frigates authorized by Congress in 1794. “I’d like to take this moment to announce that the next Constellation-class frigate will be named for one of those original six, a name selected by our first president, George Washington. The ship will be USS Congress, to honor and recognize the work that you and your staff do every day to support our sailors, our Marines, and the people of the United States of America, he said during a Senate Armed Service Subcommittee on readiness and management support hearing Dec. 2.
Canada C-17. The State Department approved a $275 million potential Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Canada on Dec. 1 to buy C-17 sustainment support. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress on Dec. 1. The sale includes aircraft hardware and software modification and support; software delivery and support; ground handling equipment; component, parts and accessories; GPS receivers; alternative mission equipment; and related equipment and services. DSCA said Canada would use the sale to improve its capability to meet current and future threats “by sustaining their strategic air lift capability, which allows Canada to maintain sovereignty and homeland defense, increase interoperability with the United States and other partners, and deter potential adversaries.” The primary contractor for the sale is aircraft builder Boeing.
…And Saudi. On Dec. 1 the State Department also approved a potential $350 million FMS to Saudi Arabia for U.S. Security Assistance Office (SAO) support services. The sale would include technical assistance and advisory support to Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Defense for another five years through the U.S. Military Training Mission to Saudi Arabia (USMTM) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. SAO support services include pay and allowances for U.S. military, U.S. government, and foreign national staff members; USMTM communications support costs; local contracting costs; and other related administrative and support costs and services. DSCA said the sale will continue to improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by using the USMTM efforts to train, advise and assist the Saudi armed forces. The agency noted USMTM conducts non-combat, institutional advising that assists the Ministry of Defense in “developing, training, and sustaining a capable deterrent to regional threats.” Implementing this sale would require the permanent assignment of 330 U.S. military, U.S. government and foreign national staff to Saudi Arabia.
F-35. The Navy awarded Raytheon Technologies a $642 million not-to-exceed undefinitized contract on Nov. 30 to procure performance-based logistics activities covering F135 engines for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This specifically covers activities including maintenance of support equipment, common program activities, unique and common base recurring sustainment, conventional take-off and landing/carrier variant F135 unique maintenance services and short take-off and landing F135 unique services in support of F135 propulsion system for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, non-DoD participants and FMS customers. Most of the work will occur in East Hartford, Conn. (73 percent) and Oklahoma City, Okla. (18 percent) and is expected to be finished by November 2021. The contract was not competitively procured pursuant to U.S. Code regulations.
Kaney SBIR. Kaney Inc. said Tuesday the Navy chose it for the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program to apply advanced power amplifier technologies to the next block upgrade of AN-SSQ/125 sonobuoys. The company said that under the effort its teams will develop a “low distortion Class D power amplifier using high-efficiency, high-power density, wide-bandgap semiconductors.” The Navy uses the sonobuoys for anti-submarine warfare operations, with the SSQ-125 deployed from a fixed or rotary wing aircraft or the deck of a surface vessel.
NATO Cyber Contract. The NATO Communications and Information Agency announced on Dec. 1 it is planning to award a $32.9 million contract to replace its legacy cyber defense systems. The agency plans to release a formal request for offers in the third quarter of 2021 and award a contract by the end of next year. The program looks to provide a technology refresh for NATO Cyber Security Centre tools. “The NATO Cyber Security Centre defends NATO networks 24 hours a day, seven days a week – and they need the right tools to do so. Collaborating with industry is key to maintaining the highest degree of cyber security across the NATO enterprise,” Thibaut Mahieux, the contract’s project manager, said in a statement.
U.S./Estonia Cyber. The Pentagon said on Dec. 3 it conducted a multi-week joint defensive cyber operation with Estonia earlier this fall. The event, which ran from Sept. 23 to Nov. 6, included participants from U.S. Cyber Command and the Estonian Defense Forces’ cyber command. The two groups worked together to track down malicious cyber actors on Estonian military networks. “These kind[s] of operations provide our operators an opportunity to exchange best practices as well as give us objective feedback on our current defense posture in [the] cyber domain. This operation is another successful milestone in our cooperation with U.S. partners,” Mihkel Tikk, deputy commander of Estonia’s cyber command, said in a statement.
AI/NDAA. The final version of the fiscal year 2021 National Defense Authorization retains several key artificial intelligence provisions, including bringing responsibility for the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center up to the Deputy Secretary of Defense level. The bill also calls for establishing a JAIC Board of Advisors and grants acquisition authority to the JAIC director. The new National Security Commission on AI also had several of their key recommendations secured in the bill, to include encouraging the Pentagon to establish a Steering Committee on Emerging Technology and modifying the department’s strategy for assured access to a trusted microelectronics supply chain. The bill also tasks the department with assessing its ability to ensure ethical considerations are built into all AI developments.
Ranking the Space Force. The House version of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act would have required the U.S. Space Force, the sixth and newest military service, to use the same ranks as the U.S. Navy, but the final NDAA conference report says that “the conferees assume the Space Force will be comprised of members transferring from all services across the department [DoD] and strongly encourage the consideration of all the military services historic rank structures.” Once the Air Force secretary decides on the rank structure for the Space Force, the secretary is to submit to the congressional defense authorizers details on “the final rank structure of the officer and enlisted force of the Space Force at least 15 days prior to implementation,” the NDAA conference report says.
NSSL Phase 3 Acceleration. Conferees on the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act want an acceleration of Phase 3 of the Space Force’s National Security Space Launch (NSSL) program. While Air Force plans have called for the Phase 3 competition to start in 2023, the NDAA conference report calls on the Secretary of the Air Force to enter into launch services agreements of up to $90 million each with launch providers by the end of this fiscal year “to maintain competition in order to maximize the likelihood of at least three National Security Space Launch providers competing” for Phase 3 contracts. Such contracts would fund enabling and transformational technologies for Phase 3. The NDAA conference report also requires the Air Force secretary to submit a strategy for technology investments for Phase 3 by March 15 next year. SpaceX and United Launch Alliance—a Boeing/Lockheed Martin partnership—are the contractors for the Phase 2 launches.
Australia FMS. The State Department approved a possible $132 million Foreign Military Sale to Australia for 155mm ammunition and accessories. It specifically covers M825A1 155mm White Phosphorous projectile munitions, M782 Multi-Option Fuze for Artillery, M762A1 electronic-timed fuzes, M231 and M232A2 propelling charges, percussion primers, and related technical and logistics support. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency said the sale would enable “effective training and extend the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) capability to conduct combined operations.” The agency noted Australia already has these rounds in service and is trained and equipped to use them. The notice said a principal contractor will be determined at a later date but the material could possibly be sources from a combination of DoD stocks and new procurement.