Vaccinated. Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan, the newly installed head of Air Mobility Command, said that he will not attend the Airlift/Tanker Association conference in Orlando on Oct. 28-31 after he tested positive for COVID-19. “Fortunately, my being vaccinated likely resulted in very minor symptoms, and I am still able to focus on the mission,” he wrote on Twitter on Oct. 28. “Can’t stress enough the need to get vaccinated.” Top current and recently retired DoD officials who have tested positive in the last year for COVID-19 include Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Ray and former acting undersecretary of defense for policy Anthony Tata, who served in that position under the Trump administration. Retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Colin Powell, who oversaw U.S. forces during the first Gulf War in 1991, passed away this month after contracting the disease. He was fully vaccinated but was battling multiple myeloma, which suppresses the immune system and the production of COVID-19 antibodies.

Opportunity for Speed. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. John Hyten, who is retiring in November, said that he is frustrated by the 10-15 year DoD development/procurement timelines and by the inability thus far to create a resilient space architecture that deters potential adversaries from attacking the “fat, juicy” satellite targets that the United States military now relies on. “Although we’re making marginal progress in the Department of Defense, it’s still unbelievably bureaucratic and slow so I’d encourage my successor in everything that he touches to focus on speed and reinserting speed back into the process of the Pentagon,” Hyten said. “Right now, it’s so frustrating because the answer to every question I get is that, ‘Ok. We need the following capability.’ ‘How long is it going to take?’ And the answer is 10-15 years, and they go through the reasons why—because it takes two years to experiment, two years for the requirements, two years for the budget, and, if we go really fast, maybe we have four years until initial operational capability, and another five years for full operational capability. Every program you look at, you can see it that way.”

…GBSD. The next generation ICBM, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD), which Northrop Grumman is building, is one example Hyten cites. Begun in 2015, the GBSD program will see initial operational capability around 2030 and full operational capability around 2035, “if everything goes right,” so “that’s a 15-20 year program,” Hyten says. “We built 800 three-stage solid rocket ICBMs, and we didn’t have any holes in the ground, and we didn’t have enough command and control, and we had to build all that stuff, and we built it in five years back in the 1960s so we can go fast, if we want to, but the bureaucracy we’ve put in place is just brutal,” Hyten says.

You Need to Fail to Succeed. Hyten laments what he views as a fundamental change in Pentagon development in which the system stars have to align nearly fully before a test proceeds. He points to hypersonics as an example, as the U.S. has conducted nine such tests in the last five or so years, while China has done hundreds. “Discoverer 1 through 13 failed in about 18 months, and Discoverer 14 happened [in 1960], and it worked, and on top of that was the Corona satellite–the first spy satellite that we launched,” Hyten says. “Our approach at the time was to test and instrument the heck out of it, fail, learn what failed, build another one, fire it, learn what failed, build another one, fire it, learn what failed. If you wanna go fast, that’s what you do.”

M&A Limiters. James Taiclet, Lockheed Martin’s chairman, president and CEO, said the company’s approach to acquiring other companies has evolved due to low supply of candidates and a shifting regulatory environment with a new presidential administration. “But the M&A window isn’t that open right now for valuation, availability and regulatory regime,” he said during the company’s third quarter earnings call last Tuesday.

…Big on Partnerships. As for fulfilling his 21st Century Warfighting strategy, which has much to do with rapidly digitizing every node in the battlespace and taking advantages of emerging commercial capabilities in areas such as artificial intelligence and 5G, Taiclet said the pending acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne will help here with “physical” technologies but in the digital space it’s not about acquiring telecommunications and technology startup firms but rather partnering with them to gain access to their technologies and know-how. “We want to use their IP, their people to accelerate that kind of technology, that digital technology into our world,” he said. “So, our approach is to partner with industry leaders in those spaces via commercial agreements, licensing, joint teaming, and participation standards bodies to accelerate those capabilities into our technology roadmaps.”

M1s for Poland. General Dynamics is working with Poland and the U.S. Defense Department on a potential foreign military sale of 250 M1 Abrams tanks to the East European country but a sale won’t happen anytime soon, Phebe Novakovic, GD Chairman and CEO, said last Wednesday during her company’s third quarter earnings call. It will be about two years for the sale to happen, she said. On the international front, GD is also seeing increased demand for its defense products from the Czech Republic, Romania, Denmark, Switzerland, Spain and the Middle East, she said.

Navy Bribery. Frank Rafaraci, the CEO of Multinational Logistics Services (MLS), faces criminal charges for participating in a bribery scheme. MLS is a large ship husbanding company that provides services like refueling and stocking provisions to ships at sports internationally and has received over $1 billion in Navy contracts since 2010. An affidavit alleges starting in 2011 he was involved in a scheme to bribe Navy officials and defraud the service using falsely inflated invoices and launder the proceeds through shell companies he set up in the United Arab Emirates to benefit MLS. Rafaraci was indicted in Sept. 30 on one count of bribery which, if convicted, carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. He was provisionally arrested in Malta on Sept. 27 at the request of the U.S. government. 

Ship Range. The Navy’s budget director defended the utility of using a number range in Navy’s force structure plans. In a 30-year plan “You put any number out there it’s guaranteed to be wrong. So it’s helpful to say: how precise can we be,” Rear Adm. John Gumbleton, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget (FMB)/Director, Fiscal Management Division, N82, said during a Navy league webinar on Oct. 27. He said that as the service introduces new capabilities and platforms and considers a mix of manned and unmanned systems for the future force structure that is a complex determination. “An incredibly complex effort and so I think a range speaks to the assumptions that underlie any study and so if we were to assume that we’re going to have manned-unmanned mix, that they bring different capabilities, that implies that there might be a future state where there’s multiple futures where this range can reflect what choices we take with those assumptions.”

Repair Plan. Acting Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition Frederick Stefany on Oct. 28 told the House Armed Services Readiness subcommittee that the Navy plans to submit both the 30-year shipbuilding plan and 30-year ship repair plan with the FY ‘23 budget request. “This year, with this year’s president’s budget, we’ll get a new shipbuilding plan and, while not required, we’ll provide a ship repair plan as well for ships and submarines,” Stefany said. In 2018, former service acquisition chief James Geurts initiated plans to begin the 30-year ship repair plan to be paired with the long-range shipbuilding plan.

…USS Connecticut. Stefany also said if the Seawolf-class USS Connecticut (SSN-22) requires repairs in a shipyard that could echo throughout the public shipyards. “If we end up doing work in one of the public shipyards, that would certainly cause perturbations in all the other work in the shipyards,” Stefany told the subcommittee. Earlier in October the Navy said SSN-22 struck an object while submerged in the Indo-Pacific region on Oct. 2 and has since sailed to Guam. As a nuclear-powered attack submarine, it normally undergoes maintenance and repairs in one of the four public shipyards, which are already stressed to meet demands for nuclear-powered vessel repairs. Stefany used the incident as an example of why the Navy strongly supports the shipyard infrastructure optimization plan to improve the yards and add a surge ability. “We need to optimize them to create the surge ability where we, whether it’s an accident or wartime damage, that we have to have that ability to surge. We have some ability to surge by going to the private sector…but again those yards are also building new ships so we need to create this surgability for the unexpected,” he added.

Microelectronics. Northrop Grumman has opened a new “micro-line,” or μ-Line, facility in Apopka, Fla., to manage post-processing of semiconductor wafers for microelectronics. The company said products processed at the μ-Line facility will serve as microelectronics foundations for systems such as radio frequency and electro-optic infrared defense solutions. “The systems that Northrop Grumman builds need increasingly higher levels of device integration to meet customer performance, reliability and affordability requirements, no matter the domain and conditions where it will be used. By establishing this new line we can provide our customers with a trusted packaging source to meet our quality specifications,” Scott Crudele, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for navigation targeting and survivability operations, said in a statement.

SASC Advances Noms. The Senate Armed Services Committee on Oct. 28 voted to advance four nominations for senior Pentagon civilian positions. The list includes Nickolas Guertin to be director of operational test and evaluation, Alexandra Baker to be DoD’s No. 2 top policy official, John Coffey to be the Navy’s general counsel and Doug Bush to be the Army’s lead acquisition official. The nominations were immediately reported to the floor for full Senate consideration.

Peraton/OSCAR. Peraton Labs said on Oct. 26 the Pentagon has selected the company to work on developing the new Operational Spectrum Comprehension, Analytics, and Response (OSCAR) tool, which will use artificial intelligence to enable improved spectrum management. The three-year deal was awarded under DoD’s Spectrum Access Research & Development Program through the National Spectrum Consortium and is worth up to $18 million. “Peraton Labs is excited to demonstrate and deliver an OSCAR solution, which provides innovative tools to maximize spectrum utilization and improve the efficiency of spectrum management. With our proven capabilities in Spectrum Usage and Management and our SecureSense system and sensors, we are uniquely positioned to support DoD test and training ranges with a solution that enables rigorous training on military aircraft, while also supporting expanded commercial utilization of scarce and valuable radio frequency spectrum,” Petros Mouchtaris, president of Peraton Labs, said in a statement. 

Election Security Lead. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has appointed Kim Wyman, secretary of state for Washington, as its senior election security lead, responsible for working with election officials nationwide to help make election infrastructure more secure and resilient. Wyman, the only Republican holding state-wide office in Washington, was elected in 2013 as secretary of state and will depart her office on Nov. 19. “Her decades of experience, unparalleled expertise, and unimpeachable integrity have earned her bipartisan respect at every level of government,” said Jen Easterly, director of CISA. “Kim’s deep knowledge of state and county government will strengthen our partnerships with state and local officials and enable us to expand our outreach to smaller election jurisdictions and private sector partners.”

Navy Small Business. Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) said it exceeded its fiscal year 2021 small business goals, reaching 11.71 percent against the assigned performance goal of 8.7 percent. NAVSEA accounted for almost a quarter of the Navy’s total small business obligations, issuing $3.98 billion of the Navy’s total $16.61 billion small business contract obligations. The Small Business Administration (SBA) assigns these performance goals to all government agencies annually. NAVSEA also boasted it has the highest total small business obligations across the 10 Navy buying commands and for the third year in a row it achieved all SBA performance goals under designated socio-economic programs. SBA defines a small business as having 500 or fewer employees. NAVSEA also started FY ‘22 hosting a Small Business Industry Day on Oct. 6, when it said it anticipated awarding seven contracts worth $44.9 million total and expects them all to go to small businesses.