Cyber Hiring System. The Department of Homeland Security “in short order” will launch its Cyber Talent Management System, giving the department more flexibility in hiring cybersecurity professionals to better compete with the private sector for talent, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said last Thursday evening during the Black Hat computer security conference. Earlier that day, Jen Easterly, director of the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told Black Hat attendees that the new hiring system will help the department “be able to pay closer to market. I am personally going to work with my team to be able to accelerate the hiring process.” She called the current government hiring process “byzantine and really kind of a mess.” The federal government and private sector are grappling with a dearth of cyber professionals.

…Relentless Focus.

Easterly, who was confirmed by the Senate in July to lead CISA, said she is “going to be relentlessly focused on” hiring and developing cybersecurity professionals. “So, if I don’t get it done, it won’t be for lack of effort.” Easterly would like to scale ongoing efforts in certain areas, including cyber scholarships for federal service and training for federal employees who want to become entry-level cybersecurity professionals. She also wants to hire a “chief people officer who can help me create that talent management ecosystem” and “to build that culture of collaboration and teamwork and ownership and empowerment and trust.”

Merger Reviews. Faced with a “tidal wave of merger filings” and limited resources, the Federal Trade Commission is finding that the government can’t always complete its initial investigation of proposed acquisitions within the statutorily required 30 days. And, in those instances, it is letting companies involved in pending deals know that the agency’s investigation remains open and if they decide to close the transaction the FTC may later determine the deal was illegal, Holly Vedova, director of the FTC Bureau of Competition, said last week. The minimum size threshold for a transaction that the FTC is required to review is $92 million.

KC-46 Capability. Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of Air Mobility Command, approved a second Interim Capability Release (ICR) mission set for the Boeing KC-46A Pegasus tanker on Aug. 5, 2021. AMC said the decision, the first ICR for the aircraft’s boom, allows the KC-46s to be tasked by U.S. Transportation Command to refuel Boeing C-17 Globemaster III transports, the B-52H bombers, and other KC-46s in operational taskings “otherwise filled by KC-135s and KC-10s.”

…First ICR. Van Ovost approved the first ICR for the KC-46’s Centerline Drogue System on July 9, 2021. The U.S. Air Force has said that full mission capability for the KC-46 is not slated until 2024 at the earliest, as the program tries to resolve Category I deficiencies and tests out a redesign of the aircraft’s Remote Vision System. “There is no timeline associated with the ICR plan, which instead focuses on establishing confidence measures that allow the AMC commander and other senior leaders to qualitatively and quantitatively assess achievements at ICR milestones,” AMC said on Aug. 6. “If confidence measures are not met, then a particular mission set will not be certified for operational use, and crews will continue to fly training, exercise and demonstration missions until the operational confidence measures are met.”

Next-Gen OPIR. Northrop Grumman said on Aug. 5 that it and Ball Aerospace have completed the Critical Design Review (CDR) for the companies’ proposed Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared (Next-Gen OPIR) Geosynchronous mission payload in accord with the “aggressive” program objectives of U.S. Space Force and prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, to deliver the first flight mission payload to Lockheed Martin in 2023. The Northrop Grumman/Ball Aerospace team is competing with Raytheon to become the payload provider for Next-Gen OPIR GEO. The latter is to succeed the Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman Space Based Infrared System to provide improved missile warning. The U.S. Space Force requested $2.4 billion for Next-Gen OPIR in fiscal 2022—an increase of $132 million over last year’s enacted amount.

LSE 2021. The Navy initiated Large-Scale Exercise (LSE) 2021 in the Fleet Forces, Pacific Fleet, and Naval Forces Europe areas of responsibility on Aug. 3. LSE is a Chief of Naval Operation(CNO)-directed live, virtual and globally integrated exercise spread across several fleets. The Navy said it is seeking to “refine how we synchronize maritime operations across multiple fleets in support of the joint force.” The service intends for LSE 2021 to be the first in a triennial exercise with future iterations to include other allies and partners. The training is based on a progression of fleet battle problems and scenarios that aims to refine warfare concepts like distributed maritime operations, expeditionary advanced base operations and littoral operations in a contested environment. LSE will include evaluation of experimental technology like unmanned systems. LSE 2021 is scheduled to take place from Aug. 3 – 16 and include 25,000 sailors and Marines, 36 ships underway and over 50 virtual units. During the Navy league’s annual 20201 Sea Air Space expo on Aug. 2, CNO Adm. Mike Gilday said this is the “biggest exercise we’ve done in a generation.”

LCS Restrictions. This week a Navy official confirmed the service put restrictions in place for Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs) suffering from a combining gear defect. “There is an operational restriction in place, we call it a class advisory that limits the CODAG mode…the co-diesel and gas turbine mode,” Howard Berkof, deputy program manager of Littoral Combat Ship (PMS 501) said on Aug. 2 during the Navy League’s annual Sea Air Space expo. The CODAG mode allows the ship to combine both diesel and gas turbines for maximum power and speed. The combining gear issue means until the issue is solved on a ship it can only operate in one and not both modes. “So we can still operate on diesel or gas turbine, but we just don’t do the full power at CODAG. So it limits some of the operational ability of the ship, but we still have the ability to operate in full diesel or gas turbine mode, which provides a fairly decent amount of mission capability.”

AARGM. The Navy awarded Northrop Grumman’s Alliant Techsystems Operations, LLC a $95 million contract on Aug. 3 to procure full rate production of Lot 10 Advanced Anti-Radiation Guided Missiles (AARGM). This includes the conversion of 87 U.S. government-provided AGM-88B High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARMs); 40 Germany Air Force-provided AGM-88B HARMs into 127 AGM-88E AARGM All-Up-Rounds; and related supplies and services. Work will occur in Northridge and Ridgecrest, Calif., and is expected to be finished by March 2024. The contract was not competitively procured in accordance with acquisition regulations. These weapons will be deployed on F/A-18C/D Hornets, F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets and EA-18G Growlers.

THAAD Trucks. The Missile Defense Agency awarded Lockheed Martin a $35.6 million modification on Aug. 4 to provide 36 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks (HEMTTs) A2 as a “lifetime buy to support” the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) weapon system. This increases the total maximum ceiling of the parent contract from $6.3 billion to $6.336 billion. Work will occur at Sunnyvale, Calif.; Dallas, Texas; and Oshkosh, Wis., with a performance period lasting from Aug. 4, 2021 to June 28, 2024.

LCS-27. The Navy planned to christen the newest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, the future USS Nantucket (LCS-27), during a ceremony on Aug. 7 in Marinette, Wis. The Freedom-variant LCSs are built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine in Wisconsin under prime contract Lockheed Martin.

Pentagon Nominee. The White House announced on Aug. 4 that David Honey has been nominated to serve as the Pentagon’s next deputy under secretary for research and engineering. Honey currently serves as a special assistant to the DARPA director where he advises the office on collaborating with other agencies. Before his current role, Honey spent time as the director of science and technology in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Pentagon’s deputy assistant secretary of defense for research. If confirmed, Honey would serve alongside Heidi Shyu, the recently confirmed under secretary of defense for research and engineering. 

Homeland Defense Nominee. President Biden last Friday nominated Melissa Dalton to be the next assistant secretary for homeland defense and global security affairs at the Pentagon. If confirmed, Dalton will be responsible for developing policy, planning and operational implementation in the areas of countering weapons of mass destruction, cyber, space, defense continuity, defense support of civil authorities, and supervising homeland defense activities for the Defense Department. She is currently the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities, having been appointed by the president in January. Before this DoD appointment, Dalton was at the Center for Strategic and International Studies as director of the Cooperative Defense Project and her work included research into the role of the U.S. military in support of civil authorities. The Pentagon’s homeland defense office is currently being filled by Jennifer Walsh in an acting capacity.

FMS Round-up. The State Department this week approved a handful of new foreign military sales including a $270 million deal with Greece for F-16 support, $82 million with India for Boeing to provide Harpoon missile maintenance work and $30 million with Georgia for over 80 Javelin missiles produced by Lockheed Martin and Raytheon’s joint venture. The potential deal with Greece would include support from L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, Collins Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon and Atec to improve Athens’ capability “to meet current and future threats by providing agile logistics support to its F-16 program, encompassing aspects of aircrew training and aircraft maintenance,” according to the State Department. 

Japan FMS. The State Department also approved two separate new foreign military sales with Japan, covering $134 million for Aegis class destroyer support and $61.5 million for 44 Raytheon-built RAM Block 2 Tactical Missiles. Lockheed Martin will serve as the prime contractor for the Aegis support work, which includes sustainment support and services, computer software updates, system integration and testing and engineering support. “The proposed sale is critical to ensure Japan Maritime Self Defense Force’s (JMSDF) Aegis Destroyer fleet and the Japanese Computer Program Test Sites remain ready to provide capabilities in the defense of Japan. Specifically, the requested CPM services will provide JMSDF with software patches and adaptation data support that are vital to the effective and safe operations of the Aegis Combat Systems suite,” the State Department wrote in a statement.

Taiwan FMS. The State Department has also approved the Biden administration’s first arms sale with Taiwan, a potential $750 million deal for 40 of BAE Systems’ 155mm M109A6 Paladin Medium Self-Propelled Howitzers. The deal also includes 20 M992A2 Field Artillery Ammunition Support Vehicles, five M88A2 Hercules vehicles; five M2 Chrysler Mount .50 caliber machine guns, nearly 1,700 multi-option, Precision Guidance Kits and one Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System. “We expect to continue seeing normalized, timely, and regular arms sales from the U.S. that promote Taiwan’s military readiness. We also hope to see additional offers from the Biden Administration of new capabilities for Taiwan, to both help expand its current military posture and to continue improving its multilayered self-defense capacity,” Rupert Hammond-Chambers, president of the US-Taiwan Business Council, said in a statement. 

Acting Acquisition Head. The Pentagon said Aug. 3 that Gregory Kausner will serve as the department’s interim top acquisition official. Kausner, who is currently executive director for international cooperation, will step into the role following Stacy Cummings’ planned departure after serving as the acting under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment since the start of the Biden administration. Last month, Michael Brown, director of DIU, announced he was withdrawing his nomination for the permanent role, saying his decision is related to an ongoing investigation by the DoD inspector general into his personnel practices at DIU that could delay consideration of his nomination by up to a year. The White House has yet to name a new nominee for the USD A&S role.

Final FRC Contract. The Coast Guard last week awarded Bollinger Shipyards a $212.9 million contract to construct and deliver fast response cutters (FRCs) 61-64, marking the final contract for the 154-foot Sentinel-class boats that are deployed worldwide and typically operate in the littorals conducting a range of safety and security missions. The FRCs under the final contract will be delivered between October 2024 and June 2025. The Coast Guard has spent more than $3 billion on the program. Currently, 43 FRCs are in operational service.