Data Informed Culture. A report this month by the Pentagon Inspector General (IG), Fiscal Year 2023: Top DoD Management Challenges

, says that the tri-service and international program for the Lockheed Martin F‑35 fighter “serves as an example of the barriers that the DoD must overcome to build a data‑informed culture.” In 2019, the DoD IG found that F‑35 program officials did not maintain a government record of government‑furnished property (GFP), “including part names and quantities, unit acquisition cost, and location,” the report says. “For more than 16 years, the DoD did not implement procedures to properly account for and manage government property.  The prime contractor and its subcontractors maintained the only record of GFP.  This impeded the DoD’s ability to readily account for and manage assets, which could have affected the DoD’s ability to meet its operational readiness goals.  Although the DoD OIG recommended in 2019 that the F‑35 Program Office perform a full inventory of GFP, as of October 2022, the inventory had not been completed.” The Pentagon’s fiscal 2022 financial audit projects that the F-35 program will not have a full and accurate accounting of F-35 parts in an Accountable Property System of Record until fiscal 2027—a four-year delay.

…Tech Refresh 3. As F-35s prepare to receive Technology Refresh 3 (Tech Refresh 3) next year, the U.S. Operational Test Team (UOTT), the Air Force, and the Marine Corps tested how to field rapid software upgrades this month at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Iwakuni, Japan. UOTT and Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) Detachment 6 at Nellis AFB, Nev., and the Air Force 461st Flight Test Squadron at Edwards AFB, Calif., worked with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 (VMFA-121), VMFA-242, and 356th Fighter Squadron pilots at MCAS Iwakuni for two weeks “to collect non-traditional flight test data for future software upgrades while educating pilots on new F-35 capabilities,” according to AFOTEC. Established in December 2019, UOTT is the successor to the Joint Strike Fighter Operational Test Team and is charged with ensuring interoperability among the three F-35 variants. “As the time between F-35 software updates continues to decrease, developmental test [DT] and operational test [OT] events occur often simultaneously in an integrated manner,” AFOTEC said. “Because of this, feedback on the performance of the current F-35 software iteration, 30P06, is being used to ensuring future updates offer increased combat capability to the warfighter.” Air Force Maj. Ryan Luersen, an F-35 experimental test pilot, said in an AFOTEC statement that OT has traditionally been more realistic and less scripted than DT and that examining OT data and integrating it into DT “ensures that future software updates continue to give F-35 pilots a suite of options when fighting in a highly contested, network-enabled battlespace.”

Clean Audit. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) said that it has received a clean audit for the 14th straight year. The NRO’s clean bill of financial health for fiscal 2022 stands in contrast to DoD, which said that it has failed its fifth consecutive audit. Pentagon comptroller Mike McCord said that of the 27 individual Pentagon audits conducted about 40 percent received clean opinions, one individual audit yielded a modified opinion and the remaining received disclaimers. NRO Director Chris Scolese said in a statement that the agency’s 14th straight “unmodified opinion”—clean audit—is “an unparalleled achievement within the intelligence community.” The clean audit signifies that an entity’s financial statements accurately present the results of operations. “The NRO Office of the Inspector General contracted with the independent public accounting firm Kearney & Company to conduct the annual audit of financial statements,” the NRO said. “Kearney evaluated the reliability of financial data supporting financial statements, the accuracy of the statements, and the accuracy of footnote disclosures in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the U.S., as well as guidance issued by the Federal Accounting Standards Advisory Board and the Office of Management and Budget.”

Ford Returns. The Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78), and its carrier strike group (CSG), is due to return to Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Nov. 26 following its first deployment that started on Oct. 4. The CSG conducted air defense, anti-subsurface warfare, distributed maritime operations, and transfer of authority with NATO training while operating in the Atlantic Ocean.

Confirming Drone Attack. A U.S. Navy lab in Bahrain confirmed Iran was connected to a Nov. 15 aerial drone attack on a Liberian-flagged commercial tanker, the service said on Nov. 22. The service said evidence gathered from the tanker, M/T Pacific Zircon, found the drone involved was a Shahed-136 UAV, which Iran supplied to Russia for use against Ukraine. This incident involved the explosive-carrying UAV attacking the Pacific Zircon on Nov. 15 in the Northern Arabian Sea, creating a 30-inch hole into the back of the ship.

Tri-Lateral Ops. The U.S. Navy Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5, including the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), recently conducted tri-lateral operations with the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) and Royal Australian Navy in the Philippine Sea. These operations included the first replenishment at sea (RAS) between the Australian oiler HMAS Stalwart (A304) and CVN-76 on Nov. 20. Other ships participating in these operations included guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69) and the JMSDF’s JS Setogiri (DD 156). The Navy underscored this was the first RAS between the newest class of Australian auxiliary oiler replenishment ships and a U.S. carrier. Beyond these and other RAS operations, the military units conducted air defense exercises, escort drills and formation sailing. 

SecNav Visits. The Navy recently announced Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro traveled to Greece, India and Italy from Nov. 15-22 to engage foreign officials, Navy leaders and reinforce bilateral security relationships. On Nov. 15 Del Toro met with Greek government officials in Souda Bay and had a tour of naval Support Activity Souda Bay. He then had a five-day trip to India, meeting with top government and naval officials and toured India’s first domestically-built aircraft carrier, the INS Vikrant. He ended the trip with a brief stop in Naples, Italy, where he met with Adm. Stuart Munsch, commander of U.S. Navy European Command, and Vice Adm. Thomas E. Ishee, commander of the U.S. 6th Fleet, and discussed the Navy’s forward deployed presence in Europe deterring Russia given its invasion of Ukraine.

UH-60V Support. Northrop Grumman said on Nov. 22 it will work with KBR in support of a five-year, $156.7 million deal to provide engineering services for the Army’s fleet of UH-60V Black Hawks. The award was placed as a task order under the Department of Defense Information Analysis Center’s (DoD IAC) multiple-award contract vehicle. “We are exploring a wide range of capabilities that will keep the UH-60V relevant in the multi-domain operations environment of the future,” Lindsay McEwen, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for navigation, targeting and survivability, said in a statement. “Our modular, open architecture approach makes it possible to rapidly integrate enhanced capabilities.” The UH-60V is a retrofit of the Lima-model Black Hawk upgraded with a Northrop Grumman-supplied ‘digital cockpit’ suite and OpenLift architecture to enable more rapid integration of new avionics capabilities and provide capability comparable to the UH-60M. The Army announced in late August it completed the initial operational test and evaluation period for the UH-60V, as the service aims for a full-rate production decision around the second quarter of fiscal year 2023.

Zero Trust Strategy. The Pentagon on Nov. 22 released its new Zero Trust cyber security strategy, with an accompanying “roadmap” document detailing the department’s efforts for implementing capabilities and activities in the plan by fiscal year 2027. “Current and future cyber threats and attacks drive the need for a Zero Trust approach that goes beyond the traditional perimeter defense approach,” the department wrote. “The strategy envisions a DoD Information Enterprise secured by a fully implemented, department-wide Zero Trust cybersecurity framework that will reduce the attack surface, enable risk management and effective data-sharing in partnership environments, and quickly contain and remediate adversary activities.” The new strategy outlines goals related to incorporating new cyber security practices to operationalize Zero Trust approaches in new and legacy systems as well as deploying new technologies to get after advanced perimeter control processes at or exceeding industry’s current pace. 

Huntsville Expansion. Aerojet Rocketdyne in 2023 will open a new 379,000 square foot manufacturing facility in Huntsville, Ala., to support growth for energetics for various defense programs. Huntsville has been the site of the California-based company’s defense headquarters for six years and has seen a more than 700 percent increase to over 800 employees in that time. Aerojet Rocketdyne said the new manufacturing and office space will include the transfer of some inert work currently done at the company’s facility in Camden, Ark.

COO Departure. New space company Redwire Corp. last week said that its president and chief operating officer, Andrew Rush, will leave the company on Dec. 9 as part of a mutually agreed to separation. Peter Cannito, Redwire’s chairman and CEO, will assume the role of president as well. Rush joined Redwire as COO in June 2020 when Made in Space, where he was president and CEO, was acquired by Redwire. He added the role of Redwire’s president in Jan. 2021.

Back in Port. The Coast Guard National Security Cutter Stratton returned to its homeport of Alameda on Wednesday following a three-month deployment in the Arctic Ocean and Bering Sea, where the ship and crew projected U.S. sovereignty, provided search and rescue capabilities, met with Alaskan communities and conducted a search and rescue exercise with international partners. The 418-foot high endurance cutter sailed along the length of the U.S.-Russian maritime boundary line well into the Arctic Circle and also patrolled along the U.S.-Canadian maritime boundary line in the Beaufort Sea.