COVID-19 Travel Restrictions. Pentagon leadership is currently evaluating whether sufficient COVID-19 prevention measures are in place to roll back the current travel restriction date from June 30, Undersecretary of Defense for Manpower and Personnel Matt Donovan told reporters on Thursday. Defense Secretary Esper is “now closely monitoring and assessing conditions” and issuing updated guidance in accordance with local COVID-19 health recommendations to see if loosening non-mission critical travel before June 30 is warranted, he said.

Space Force.

In the weeks since applications opened up for Air Force personnel to join the Space Force May 1, over 3,100 members have submitted applications, Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond told reporters Wednesday. “There are people knocking on our door each and every day, asking to transfer in, and we’re excited for those opportunities as well,” he said in a media teleconference hosted by the Defense Writers’ Group. About 16,000 U.S. military personnel are currently assigned to the Space Force, but only two leaders – Raymond and Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman – have actually transferred into the new force.

…Space Acquisition Report. Raymond also told reporters that the space acquisition alternatives report mandated by Congress is in the “very final stages” of coordination with senior Pentagon officials and will be sent to Capitol Hill “in a matter of days.” The report was originally due March 31. “The cornerstones of that [report] are increased flexibility, being able to improve at speed, [and] coming up with opportunities for further delegation and streamlining,” he added.

…SSA. The Space Force recently signed a space situational awareness sharing agreement with Peru, Raymond also shared during the Defense Writers’ Group call Wednesday. Peru is the 35th partner nation to sign an SSA agreement with the U.S. military. “International partnerships are absolutely critical to us,” Raymond said “I’ve seen great progress being made, and we’re going to continue to build those partnerships that will be beneficial to all.”

Air Force (and Space Force) Association. The Air Force Association has revamped its mission to firmly express its support for both the Air Force and the new Space Force, the trade association said Wednesday. “Just a few months ago, Congress and the President created this new Space Force, bringing it forth out of the Air Force, just as the Air Force was raised up out of the Army 73 years before,” said AFA Chairman and retired Command Master Sgt. Of the Air Force Gerald Murray in a release. “Now, as thousands of Airmen begin the process of transferring into the Space Force, we are making clear that AFA fully embraces every one of the 15,000 or more professionals who will eventually make up this great Space Force. Whether they come from the Air Force, the Army, Navy, or elsewhere, we welcome them with open arms and a steadfast commitment to fight and advocate for their every need.”

Ligado Decision. Representatives spanning multiple aerospace and aviation companies and associations on Thursday filed seven petitions of reconsideration of the FCC’s recent approval to repurpose GPS-adjacent bandwidth to Ligado for terrestrial mobile use. Petitioners included the Airline Pilots Association, the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, aviation interests (including the Cargo Airline Association, the International Air Transport Association and Airlines for America), Iridium Communications, Lockheed Martin, Trimble and the RNT Foundation. “The petitioners argue the FCC’s Order ignored or improperly disregarded the great majority of evidence, including technical analyses submitted by parties, showing harmful interference and relied instead on easily disproven claims that Ligado will provide a so-called 5G service,” per a Thursday release. Defense officials have collectively and separately appealed to Congress to urge the FCC to overturn the approval, arguing that the decision will negatively impact the nation’s GPS receivers.

U.S.-Israeli Defense Bill. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Thursday co-introduced a bill that would enhance cooperation between the United States and Israel on developing defense technology. The United States Israel Military Capability Act would require the Department of Defense to establish a working group with their counterparts in the Israeli government to collaborate on the research and development of technology used for national defense, the senators said in a joint press release. Peters and Cotton are both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Airborne Lasers? The Pentagon’s top technology leader said Wednesday that he was “extremely skeptical” that airborne directed energy weapons could become a viable missile defense option. Speaking at a virtual Washington Space Business Roundtable event, Mike Griffin noted that airborne lasers had been tested “as an experiment, but as a weapon system? To equip an airplane with the kinds of lasers we think necessary, in terms of their power level, and all their support requirements, and get the airplane to altitudes where atmospheric turbulence can be mitigated appropriately, that combination of things doesn’t go on one platform.”

Corporate News. Northrop Grumman last week said it will raise its quarterly dividend by 10 percent to $1.45 per share payable on June 17. The current dividend is $1.32. Science Applications International Corp. named Dorothy “Dee Dee” Helfenstein as its chief strategic growth officer effective immediately. Helfenstein, who will report directly to CEO Nazzic Keene, fills a new role focused on innovation, growth and market leadership. Previously, Helfenstein was an executive vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Solutions Business. And Telos Corp. said it has added retired Gen. Keith Alexander, the first commander of U.S. Cyber Command, as the first member of its advisory board. Alexander will serve as a strategic partner and provide counsel on cyber security efforts. Alexander is co-CEO of IronNet Cybersecurity.

Cognosante Acquires EIS. Federal technology solutions provider Cognosante last week said it acquired Enterprise Information Services, LLC (EIS), adding capabilities in cyber security, biometrics, application development, cloud migration, information technology operations, and program management. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Cognosante’s expertise is in helping states and the federal government in developing and managing complex health information programs. The acquisition also adds new customers in the defense and intelligence community, the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Energy and the U.S. Postal Service.

Cyber Secure Manufacturing. The Department of Energy last week selected the Univ. of Texas—San Antonio to lead the Cybersecurity Manufacturing Innovation Institute (CyManII), which will focus on understanding the evolving cyber security threats to manufacturing, and develop new cyber security technologies and methods and share information with U.S. manufacturers. The CyManII national consortium will also include industry, other universities, and DoE’s Idaho, Oak Ridge and Sandia National Laboratories.

Wall Consternation. House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) is upset again over a $1.3 billion contract the Trump administration awarded for additional construction of a security wall along the southwest border. The administration didn’t announce the contract—the largest ever for wall construction—that went to Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. The Army Corps of Engineers last December awarded the company $400 million to design and build portions of a security wall on the southwest border, prompting Thompson at the time to request the Defense Department’s Inspector General to review the deal because he said Fisher’s proposal didn’t meet operational requirements and it was behind schedule and over cost on a prototype. Last Wednesday, Thompson issued a statement saying, “Given the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing investigation into Fisher, the Administration should pause construction and contracting decisions until the investigation has concluded favorably and it is safe to resume non-essential construction projects.”

Army Promotion. The Senate on Thursday confirmed Army Maj. Gen. David Bassett as the next director of the Defense Contract Management Agency, including a promotion to lieutenant general. Bassett is currently serving as the lead for Program Executive Office for Command Control Communications – Tactical and is overseeing the modernization of the Army’s tactical network. Bassett is set to assume his new role in June. The Army announced in March that Brig. Gen. Rob Collins would succeed Bassett at PEO C3T. Collins is currently the program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors.

C-RAM Trainer. The Army has selected DiSTI Corporation to upgrade its Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar (C-RAM) Land-Based Phalanx Weapon System (LPWS) operator and maintainer trainer. DiSTI Corporation is tasked with enhancing existing features and developing additional materials for the C-RAM LPWS simulation system. “The use of virtual technologies to train operators and maintainers continues to deliver real benefits to our military and commercial customers. Because the C-RAM was originally developed using DiSTI’s VE Studio Common Core Architecture the enhancements can be completed in a much more cost-effective and timely manner than traditional hand-coding practices,” John Cunningham, DiSTI’s chief risk officer, said in a statement. 

AI Ethics. Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said this week the organization will now include language in contracts asking how competitors will factor in the department’s newly approved AI ethics principles. Shanahan noted the question was first posed in a new five-year, $800 million task order awarded recently to Booz Allen Hamilton for battlefield AI capabilities. “The fact that we were even able to put that into the contract language was, I would say, a sea change for the Department of Defense. We are serious about this. We’re not paying lip service,” Shanahan said. Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved the new ethics guidelines in February, which are based around five broad principles and intended to encompass “responsible, equitable, traceable, reliable and governable” AI initiatives.

Santos. Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts told reporters Wednesday the newly reassigned Jennifer Santos will work on transforming, aligning, and synchronizing the Navy’s research and development community. The administration removed Santos from her position as deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy last week. She served in the role for a year and worked on the Defense Production Act and with industry on the COVID-19 pandemic. “Ms. Santos’ experience both with the industrial base, with the CFIUS [Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States] programs and then with her time previously on the appropriations staff are perfectly aligned to help us drive the transformation that we’re doing on the S&T and R&D staff. So again, we’re really excited to have her here on the team,” Geurts said.

Zumwalt Fires. The USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) successfully conducted its first “structural test fire” from the Mark 46 MOD 2 Gun Weapon System (GWS) at the Naval Air Weapons Center Weapons Division Sea Test Range at Point Mugu on May 16, the Navy said Wednesday. The GWS is a remotely operated naval gun system that uses a 30mm high velocity cannon, forward-looking infrared sensor, low-light television camera, and a laser rangefinder for self-defense against small, high-speed surface targets. The Navy noted this was the first large caliber weapons firing event for the three-ship Zumwalt-class. This kind of structural test fire aims to assess structural and electrical components on a ship against the shock and vibration of firing a weapon while measuring potential hazards when using live ordnance.

Japan Aegis Ashore. The Missile Defense Agency awarded Lockheed Martin a $22 million modification under the Aegis Combat Weapon System development contract to increase the total value from $3.211 billion to $3.234 billion. About $65 million of that total vehicle was obligated for Japan’s Aegis Ashore program. According to the May 18 award notice, under the latest mod the contractor will continue to perform “engineering design support services necessary for continuation of planning efforts and risk reduction efforts required to maintain the initial operational capability schedule to support the Aegis Ashore Japan Foreign Military Sales main case.” Work will occur at the company’s Moorestown, N.J., facility and is expected to be finished by July 2020. This work is being funded from Japan in the full amount and is obligated at time of award.

DDG-125. Huntington Ingalls Industries on Wednesday said it lifted the aft deckhouse onto the first Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125). This section includes radar equipment rooms, main engine intake and exhaust compartments, the electric shop, and staterooms. “Our team has kept this first Flight III ship ahead of schedule by working collaboratively and using lessons learned from our long history of building destroyers,” Ben Barnett, Ingalls DDG-125 program manager, said in a statement. “With this lift, we are one step closer to delivering the U.S. Navy the most technologically advanced destroyer in the fleet,” he added.

Last P-3C. The last Navy Patrol Squadron (VP) transitioned from the P-3C Orion to the new P-8A Poseidon earlier this month after finishing a Safe-For-Flight evaluation on May 14 to accept the first P-8A. This is the culmination of a six-month process to transition away from the P-3C. VP-40 is the 12th and last active component squadron to transition aircraft. “The completion of all 12 active VP squadron transitions represents a landmark occasion in our storied branch of Naval Aviation,” Rear Adm. Pete Garvin, Commander of Patrol and Reconnaissance Group, said in a statement. The P-3C to P-8A transition has been underway for seven years. The same week the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Force accepted the 1,000th Navy P-8A.

PEO Ships. Rear Adm. Tom Anderson relieved Rear Adm. Bill Galinis to be Program Executive officers (PEO) Ships on Friday. The event did not include a formal ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts served as the presiding official in the handoff. Earlier this year, the Senate confirmed Galinis to be promoted to vice admiral and take command of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). Galinis will succeed Vice Adm. Tom Moore at NAVSEA on June 19, who is expected to retire. Anderson pervious served as commander of the Navy Regional Maintenance Center and NAVSEA’s director of Surface Ship Maintenance and Modernization.