Future Delays. The Navy’s top acquisition official said it will take several more weeks to see the full extent of the COVID-19 pandemic disruption on shipyard work. When asked by reporters about Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord’s comments on DoD expecting three months of slowdowns on major defense acquisition programs (MDAPs), James Geurts said he believes she meant there will be a range of zero to three months in delays. “I would say in the Navy we’re doing a pretty good job right now of balancing the risk and the mitigations. I do think there will be some delay and disruption but…I certainly wouldn’t characterize all MDAPs will have a three-month impact.” He added the next several weeks will be important. “It will give us more data on both the extent that the delay and disruption continues and the impact of our mitigations that we’ve been active in putting in place over the last four or five, six weeks.”
Geurts said they are also closely watching impacts on global supply chains for defense production to understand any impacts and how to manage through them while consulting with governments like Spain and Italy. “We’re watching Rota, Spain – obviously we do some ship repair work there. And so we’re managing around that, I would not put that in the crisis mode yet,” Geurts said. He noted Italy is a source of supply parts for the amphibious combat vehicle and has had factory shutdowns there in the past months. “Everyone’s working very aggressively to manage around it. There’s nothing I would put in a crisis mode yet. We’re just keeping an eye on it. We have flexibility in many of the programs to just rephase elements of construction or use stock we have on hand.”
…LHA-9. Geurts said he is willing to consider any accelerations to Navy programs given funding and authorization when asked about the Virginia delegation’s recent request to speed up construction of the amphibious assault ship LHA-9. He said he was “willing to consider any accelerations–obviously there’s funding and appropriations and authorization with it. Certainly, we are looking at any opportunity to stabilize the backlog and take advantage of the opportunity to get moving on things earlier than we had planned.”
…DDG-1002. Geurts underscored the last Zumwalt-class destroyer, the future USS Lyndon B. Johnson (DDG-1002), is about 93 percent complete and unlike its two sister ships, will have a single phase delivery. Doing so has had the Navy adjust the ship’s future plans, partially based on what the Navy learned from DDG-1000 and 1001. Geurts noted he personally is “not a fan of two-phase delivery” programs. “I can understand why we do them. In certain cases I think they’re also problematic because then you end up…delivering the ship more than once and you can get a little bit into a delay-test-maintain fixed cycle and so when the folks came to me and we worked with the fleet, a single phase delivery seemed to make the most sense for 1002.
FFG(X) COVID. In a separate press call, Geurts said he does not expect the COVID-19 pandemic to affect the newly awarded FFG(X) frigate program to Fincantieri’s Marinette Marine. “I don’t expect it to slow down the program…knowing what I know about COVID and the impact. You know the first year or two of this will be in detail design, engineering level work. We’ve proven across all our shipyards an ability to keep a high percentage of design work going on schedule and high percentage of the workforce on track there.” He said that unlike how the industrial operations are being affected in some shipyards this level of design work should not be sensitive to the pandemic. “I don’t see that as a risk to this program because of the phasing that industrial operations and construction won’t start for a little while, another two years down the road,” he added.
SASC Confirmation Hearings. The Senate returns to Capitol Hill next week, and SASC has scheduled a hearing May 7 to consider the nominations of three Pentagon officials. Ambassador to Norway Kenneth Braithwaite has been nominated to become the next Navy secretary, Pacific Air Forces Commander Gen. Charles Brown is nominated to become the next Air Force chief of staff, and James Anderson is nominated to become the next deputy undersecretary of defense for policy. The hearing will be livestreamed.
GPS Spectrum Hearing. SASC will also hold a hearing next week with multiple Pentagon officials to discuss “Department of Defense Spectrum Policy and the Impact of the Federal Communications Commission’s Ligado Decision on National Security.” The committee’s leaders have openly criticized the FCC’s decision to approve Ligado’s request for spectrum reallocation to build a new 5G network, as the Pentagon has said it could interfere with GPS receivers. Testifying at the May 6 hearing are Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, DoD CIO Dana Deasy, Undersecretary of Defense for R&E Mike Griffin and retired U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen.
SDA Final RFP. The Space Development Agency on Friday released the final RFP for “Space Transport Layer Tranche 0,” which will consist of up to 20 satellites for an initial space-based sensor layer to be stood up in LEO by 2022. Proposals are due by June 1, with contract award expected in August. A much larger constellation with hundreds of satellites will follow by 2024.
The First Cut. The Coast Guard said Eastern Shipbuilding Group has begun cutting steel for the second Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC), which is scheduled for delivery in 2023. The Florida-based shipbuilder in early April received a $343 million contract to begin construction of the second OPC and purchase long-lead materials for the third medium-endurance cutter. The Coast Guard plans to acquire 25 of the Heritage-class ships and is reopening the competition for the program beginning with the fifth vessel.
Teleworking is Good. Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said that so far having many of the department’s employees shift to teleworking during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has had a better outcome than expected. “I think there was a perception that the efficiency of the department would somehow drop off during the vast majority of folks teleworking and we’ve actually seen the opposite of that,” he told Frank Cilluffo, director of Auburn University’s McCrary Institute, during a virtual fireside chat last Thursday. “We’ve seen just great efficiencies. Utilization is higher and people are working just as much at home as they are here in the office.” Once the pandemic winds down, “how we interrelate to one another is going to be different,” Wolf said.
Cyber Industry Day. The Cyber Security Division of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security, will host a virtual industry day on May 15. DHS said the event will provide insight into the division’s structure and responsibilities and where it sits within CISA, the division’s perspectives on cyber challenges and risk in the .gov domain, its strategic focus areas and five-year plan, top mission priorities, capability challenges and technology needs, and upcoming procurements and potential future initiatives. The Cyber Security Division has 733 employees, 800 contractors and $1.3 billion in annual program funding and said it expects to double in size by 2023.
Next GridEx. The next major operational exercise to test incident response and resiliency of the nation’s energy grid will be in November 2021, said the North American Electric Reliability Corp., better known as NERC. The regulatory authority said to stay tuned for additional details about the sixth biennial grid security exercise, called GridEx, which is an opportunity for electric utilities, related critical industries and their government partners to demonstrate how they would respond and recover from simulated coordinated cyber and physical security threats and incidents, and strengthen crisis communications relationships.
Hiring at Boeing’s Wisk. The joint venture between Boeing and Kitty Hawk brought on Dan Dalton as vice president of global partnerships, where he’ll be a “key contributor in driving strategic efforts that further the company’s go-to-market strategy to bring its all-electric, self-flying air taxi to the sky,” the company said. Before joining Wisk, Dan served as executive vice president of strategic partnerships at Airspace Systems, Inc.
LHA-9. The Navy awarded Huntington Ingalls Industries a $187 million contract April 30 to procure long-lead time materials and associated engineering and design activities for LHA-9, the fourth America-class amphibious assault ship. LHA-9 will be the second LHA configured as a Flight 1 Amphibious Assault Ship Replacement (LHR(R)) ship, compared to previous ships in the Flight 0 configuration. This is a not-to-exceed undefinitized contract action with work that will be split mostly among Pascagoula, Miss. (33 percent); Beloit, Wis. (23 percent); Brunswick, Ga. (21 percent); King of Prussia, Pa. (11 percent); and York, Pa. (10 percent). Work is expected to be finished by February 2024.
LHA-7. Separately, the Navy awarded General Dynamics, National Steel and Shipbuilding Co (NASSCO) a $15 million cost-plus-award-fee modification on April 30 to exercise an option for the post-shakedown availability-related efforts in support of the USS Tripoli (LHA-7) amphibious assault ship. This covers engineering, planning, management, labor and material in support of the post-shakedown availability (PSA) of LHA-7, which is the second Amphibious Assault Ship Replacement (LHA(R)) Flight 0 ship. Work is expected to be finished by March 2021.
IRST. Naval Air Systems Command awarded Boeing a $112 million modification on April 30 exercising options to procure 16 Infrared Search and Track (IRST) Block II low-rate initial production IV units, four for the Navy and 12 for Australia. IRST Block II is a replacement for the IRST Block I on F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets. IRST is a passive infrared sensor with a range longer than radar that has to contend with atmospheric interference. The Block II upgrade features a Lockheed Martin IRST21 system in a center pod below the airframe. Work will be split among Orlando, Fla. (73 percent) and St. Louis, Miss. (27 percent) and is expected to be finished by June 2023. At time of award the Navy obligated $28 million in FY 2020 Navy aircraft procurement funds and $84 million in Foreign Military Sales funds.
UUVs. The Navy awarded Hydroid Inc. a $39 million modification on April 24 to exercise Option Year One for production support for the MK-18 Family of Systems of Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) systems. Work will occur in Pocasset, Mass., and is expected to be finished by April 2024. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head, Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technology Division at Indian Head, Md., is the contracting activity. The service noted this contract was awarded on a sole-source basis in accordance with regulations with only one responsible source.
Rocket Lab. Rocket Lab said Wednesday that it has rolled an Electron launch vehicle out to the Launch Complex 2 pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops, Virginia, for the first time. This marks one of the final steps before Rocket Lab’s first launch from the complex, which will carry a mission for the DoD’s Space Test Program and the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Small Launch and Targets Division, scheduled for no earlier than Q3 2020. Rocket Lab engineers and technicians carried out a range of successful integrated systems tests to verify launch systems on Electron and on the ground systems at Launch Complex 2. One of the final remaining steps before lift-off from Launch Complex 2 is completion of NASA certification for Rocket Lab’s Autonomous Flight Termination System (AFTS), a system that has already been successfully flown on several missions from Rocket Lab Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand, the company said.
Acquisition Closed. Rocket Lab also said Friday that it had completed the acquisition of Sinclair Interplanetary, a Toronto-based satellite hardware company whose products will be integrated into Rocket Lab’s Photon spacecraft line. The small launch company announced plans to acquire Sinclair in March 2020. “When we talk to small satellite operators across the board their challenges are clear: They need to get on orbit faster; they need proven and reliable hardware; and they need the ability to focus on their core business, rather than spending years tied up in hardware development. Rocket Lab and Sinclair Interplanetary are uniquely suited to solve these challenges and make space easy for our customers,” said Peter Beck, Rocket Lab founder and CEO in a statement. Sinclair Interplanetary will continue to be led by Doug Sinclair and the company will maintain its team and facilities in Toronto. In addition to being incorporated into Rocket Lab’s Photon satellite line, Sinclair Interplanetary hardware will remain available to satellite operators building their own spacecraft.
NASA’s Artemis. NASA announced Thursday that it has picked Space X, Dynetics and a Blue Origin national industry team to each build human landing systems for its Artemis crewed spaceflight program to return U.S. astronauts to the Moon by 2024. The Blue Origin team includes Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Draper. Boeing’s bid was not selected. The human landing system awards under the Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP-2) Appendix H Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) are firm-fixed price, milestone-based contracts, per NASA’s announcement. The total combined value for all awarded contracts is $967 million for the 10-month base period.
Progress on Progress Payments. Lockheed Martin said that at the end of last week it had delivered more than $365 million in accelerated payments to its supply base, with $110 million of that last week alone. The accelerated payments were made possible by the Defense Department increasing its rate of progress payments to prime contractors with expectation that the faster rate of spending on work already completed will be used to help sustain the defense industrial base through the smallest and most vulnerable suppliers. Lockheed Martin quickly committed to flowing down $450 million of the increased progress payments to its suppliers. The company has also accelerated more than $155 million in payments from its own funds to its suppliers. The company continues to hire new employees, contributed to relief efforts, including using its corporate jet fleet to support COVID-19 response, make various charitable financial and other contributions.