More Border Walls. Customs and Border Protection on Tuesday released a request for proposals for a potential $4.1 billion effort to meet border infrastructure and technology requirements along the U.S.-Mexican border. The agency plans to award multiple contracts with task orders worth between $50 million and $1 billion each under the five-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. Requirements include border barriers, anti-climb features, enforcement zones, roads, gates, bridges, drainage control, cattle guards lighting, detection systems, cameras, towers, and communications fiber. The pending awards appear to be a reversal of the Biden administration’s opposition to new border walls that were touted and funded during the former Trump administration.

TACAIR Portfolio Analysis.

While the U.S. Air Force and Navy plan to spend $20 billion annually through 2027 to develop and buy new tactical aircraft, DoD and the military services do not have a good handle on the best balance among older fighters and fighter attack aircraft and newer ones, according to a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) study. DoD “has not conducted a comprehensive integrated acquisition portfolio-level analysis of its tactical aircraft platforms,” says the report, Tactical Aircraft Investments: DoD Needs Additional Portfolio Analysis to Inform Future Budget Decisions (GAO-23-106375). The Pentagon told GAO that DoD is to conduct an integrated acquisition portfolio review of piloted fixed-wing tactical aircraft platforms “over the next one or two fiscal years,” GAO said.

F-15EX. Congressional appropriators, in the House-Senate conference agreement on the fiscal 2023 omnibus, direct Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall to submit a report to the congressional defense committees on conformal fuel tanks (CFT) for the Boeing F-15EX fighter within three months of the omnibus becoming law. Air Force plans to equip F-15EXs with CFT should include the “potential procurement of new CFT that are in production,” the appropriators said in their agreement. “[CFT] have the capacity to extend the range and increase the lethality of F-15EX aircraft.”

Wideband Global Satcom. The House-Senate conference agreement on the fiscal 2023 appropriations bill adds $442 billion for the U.S. Space Force to buy “a protected wideband satellite to provide resilient, jam resistant tactical communications to support warfighter needs.” The agreement “directs the secretary of the Air Force to provide a funding plan for launch and operation and maintenance activities to the congressional defense committees not later than 90 days after the enactment of this act.” Boeing received a $605 million contract for Wideband Global Satcom (WGS)-11 in 2019 and has planned to launch the satellite in 2024.

Scrubbed. Rocket Lab USA on Sunday postponed its first launch of its Electron rocket from U.S. soil until January 2023 due to weather and to give NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration more time to complete regulatory documentation for launch. The company says the delay means revenue from the mission, which is to launch and deploy three radio frequency satellites for HawkEye 360, will now be realized in the first quarter of 2023 instead of the fourth quarter of 2022 as previously expected. The Electron mission will take place from the company’s Launch Complex 2 at NASA’s Wallops Island, Va., flight facility.

Navy Comptroller. The Senate voted 80-10 to confirm Russell Rumbaugh as Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Financial Management and Comptroller) on Dec. 20. Before his confirmation, Rumbaugh worked at the Center for Space Policy and Strategy at the non-profit Aerospace Corporation. Previously, Rumbaugh worked in various government and think tank roles including twice in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation office, as the Defense and International Analyst on the Senate Budget Committee, and on personal staff in the House of Representatives. Rumbaugh also served as the Director of Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense at the Stimson Center.

Super Hornet Upgrades. The Navy awarded Boeing a $2.02 billion firm-fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract for system upgrades to F/A-18 Hornet/Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler aircraft on Dec. 20. The announcement noted this includes Foreign Military Sales (FMS) variants. The contract provides for deliverables and services based on systems configuration set requirements consisting of all software and hardware required to implement new capabilities on Navy and FMS customer aircraft. Work will largely occur at the company’s St. Louis, Mo. facility (86 percent) and is expected to be finished by December 2027. No funds were obligated at the time of award, but will be sent as individual orders are issued. 

CH-53E Assemblies. The Navy awarded Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky a $677 million performance-based logistics requirements contract on Dec. 20 for the supply chain management of 196 weapon replaceable assemblies/shop replaceable assemblies for CH-53E Super Stallion and MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters. This award comes with a five-year base period and one two-year option. If the option is exercised, the contract could rise up to $752 million total. The work will be split between Cherry Point, N.C. (77 percent); and Stratford, Conn. (23 percent) and is expected to be finished by December 2027. If the option is exercised, work will extend through December 2029. $150 million in Navy working capital funds are bieng issued for a delivery order awarded alongside the contract in an undefinitized contract action. This initial award covers January to September 2023. Funding does not expire at the end of this fiscal year.

More F-35 Spares. The Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $383 million modification on Dec. 20, exercising options to procure initial spares for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Lot 17 aircraft deliveries. This mod also procures the “global spares pool and afloat spares package/deployment spares packages” for the Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy, FMS customers and non-Defense Department participants. Work will occur in Fort Worth, Texas and is expected to be finished by December 2028. No funds were obligated at award time, but will be disbursed later for individual orders as they are issued.

DDG-117.  The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117) returned to Rota, Spain, Dec. 20, marking completion of its first Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe (FDNF-E) patrol in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of operations. DDG-117 was commissioned in 2019. It served for three years in Mayport, Fla. until it moved homeports to Spain, in a phased rotation of forward-deployed surface units. Four U.S. destroyers are based in Rota, Spain in support of the NATO integrated air and missile defense structure. 

Cyber Command. U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force (CNMF) was officially designated the Pentagon’s newest subordinate unified command during a ceremony on December 19. Cyber Command said the CNMF conducts “full-spectrum operations [in cyber space], including offensive, defensive, and information operations,” and supports efforts around election security, ransomware, cyber espionage, and other crisis and contingency operations. “This [CNMF] command is so special because they’ve always been on the cutting-edge in terms of the operations we’ve conducted,” Army Gen. Paul Nakasone, head of Cyber Command, said in a statement. “This is the command within U.S. Cyber Command that has always taken that first step forward. The future holds a lot for the Cyber National Mission Force.”

M88s To Poland. BAE Systems has received a $128 million deal to deliver 26 M88A2 HERCULES Recovery Vehicles to Poland. The deal was officially awarded on December 6 after the vehicles were included as part of a $6 billion foreign military sale with Poland the U.S. approved in February. “This recent contract continues to show BAE Systems’ commitment to Poland and the urgent needs of the Polish Armed Forces,” the company wrote in a statement. A separate $3.75 billion FMS with Poland approved in early December covers an additional 12 M88A2 vehicles, along with 116 M1A1 Abrams tanks and other combat vehicles. In November, BAE Systems signed an agreement with the Polska Grupa Zbrojeniowa (PGZ), or Polish Armaments Group, to cooperate on offering combat and recovery vehicles to the country. 

CV90s/Czech. BAE Systems on December 21 also signed a new memorandum of understanding with Sweden and the Czech Republic to establish a framework for negotiations to deliver CV-90 combat vehicles for the Czech Army. The company said negotiations will take place in the first half of 2023, with the aim of reaching an agreement to provide 210 CV90s to the Czech Republic. “We look forward to concluding contract negotiations in the new year, with the commitment to supporting the Czech Armed Forces in enhancing their defense and combat capabilities with the modern, combat-proven CV90,” Tommy Gustafsson-Rask, president of BAE Systems Hägglunds, said in a statement. The discussions with the Czech Republic follows Slovakia’s $1.4 billion award to BAE Systems on December 12 for 152 CV90s, becoming the eighth international operator of the combat vehicle.