New DHS CFO. The Senate last week by a vote of 62-31 confirmed Troy Edgar to be the new chief financial officer for the Department of Homeland Security, making him responsible for the department’s fiscal management, integrity and accountability. Edgar was appointed associate deputy under secretary of management for DHS in January, a role that gives him responsibility for financial systems modernization and Coast Guard readiness. Earlier in his career, Edgar was a CFO at a Boeing military aircraft logistics division that had $3.5 billion in sales and was also mayor of Los Alamitos, Calif., a city within Orange County. The Orange County Register says he was “a local face for the anti-sanctuary movement in California.”
Risky Cargo. Even though Customs and Border Protection alerts air carriers to potentially high-risk cargo that requires resolving all concerns before it is transported on U.S. bound aircraft, an audit of random alerts from fiscal years 2017 and 2018 showed that 45 percent of air carriers didn’t fully resolve Air Cargo Advance Screening referrals. The Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General said in a new report that the risk referrals weren’t fully resolved due to a lack of “adequate policies and procedures” on the part of CBP and the Transportation Security Administration. “As a result, air carriers will continue transporting high-risk aircraft into the United States, putting public safety and national security at risk,” the report said.
Drone Security Primer. The Congressional Research Service has a new brief out on “Protecting Against Rogue Drones,” which reviews rules for unmanned aircraft systems and the threats they may pose, what Congress and federal agencies are doing to mitigate these threats, and existing laws and authorities aimed at restricting drone flights in certain areas and allowing for counter-drone operations. The research note also briefly reviews drone security techniques and technologies but points to a thin knowledge base about how these systems will work in the real world. “The absence of standards raises questions about performance and safety of interdiction technologies, especially near airports where radiofrequency jamming could impact flight operations, and mass gatherings where interdiction could pose a hazard to people on the ground,” it said.
Blackjack. DARPA plans to launch the initial Blackjack satellites in late 2020 and early 2021, the agency said May 11. The program was launched in 2018 to demonstrate the utility of low-cost satellites in mesh networks operating in LEO. DARPA has not yet shared launch dates or systems, but up to 20 satellites are expected to be launched over the next two years.
A-29. The Air Force plans to buy an additional A-29 Super Tucano for AFSOC’s Combat Aviation Advisor (CAA) mission, on top of the two aircraft it committed to procuring in early 2020. Contractor Sierra Nevada Corp. announced the additional A-29 buy in a May 11 announcement, and said the production of the first two A-29s under the contract is currently underway in Jacksonville, Florida. The three aircraft are scheduled to be delivered in 2021, with training and support activities to continue through 2024.
Hacking Conferences Go Virtual. The annual DEF CON and Black Hat hacking conferences recently announced they are canceling their 2020 in-person events in Las Vegas and will instead be held virtually. DEF CON was scheduled for Aug. 7-9 and will now be held remotely over that same timeframe. Black Hat was scheduled for Aug. 1-6 and has not yet revealed whether the virtual event will stay on those dates.
Euronaval Still On. The world’s largest naval conference is still scheduled to be an in-person event as of May 15. Euronaval officials confirmed Friday that the conference is still scheduled to take place Oct. 20-23 at Le Bourget Airport outside Paris. “We are well aware of the threat posed by the health crisis to the organization of this major international gathering, but with six months to go before the exhibition, we prefer to believe in the recovery and we are vigorously preparing for it,” Euronaval managing director Hugues du Plessis d’Argentré, told NavalNews in a May 5 article.
Space Force Flag. Space Force Chief Master Sgt. Roger Towberman unveiled the official Space Force flag in a Friday ceremony in the Oval Office at the White House. He was flanked by Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. Jay Raymond, with President Trump looking on as well as Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark Milley and retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, national security adviser to the vice president. Towberman serves as the senior enlisted advisor to the chief of space operations and to the secretary of the Air Force. The presence of the North Star on the flag signifies “our core value, our guiding light,” Raymond said.
Air Force PACOM Moves. Air Force Lt. Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach has been nominated to receive a fourth star and succeed Gen. Charles Brown as the next PACAF commander and U.S. INDOPACOM air component commander, the Pentagon said Friday. Brown has been nominated to become the next Air Force chief of staff. Wilsbach is currently serving as deputy commander, U.S. Forces Korea; commander, Air Component Command, United Nations Command; commander, Air Component Command, Combined Forces Command; and commander, Seventh Air Force, Pacific Air Forces, Camp Humphreys, Korea.
… And LCMC Moves. Air Force Maj. Gen. Shaun Morris has been nominated to receive a third star and become the next commander of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at AFMC, Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. Morris is currently serving as commander of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center and Air Force PEO for strategic systems at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. He would succeed current AFLCMC Commander Lt. Gen. Robert McMurry.
Senate Ligado Letter. Thirty-two senators co-signed a letter sent Friday to the five FCC commissioners decrying the recent approval of Ligado’s application to build a terrestrial nationwide network for 5G that lawmakers and Pentagon officials have said will negatively impact U.S. GPS receivers. “We urge the Federal Communications Commission to immediately stay and reconsider their Order on this matter, more fully consider the technical concerns raised by numerous federal agencies and private sector stakeholders, and outline a path forward that adequately addresses these concerns.”
F-22 Crash. An F-22 Raptor based at Eglin AFB, Florida, crashed Friday morning, but the pilot safely ejected and is in stable condition, the Air Force said. The crash took place on Eglin’s test and training range. The jet was from the 43rd Fighter Squadron, part of the 325th Fighter Wing that was originally based at Tyndall AFB, but was relocated to Eglin in 2018 after Hurricane Harvey. An investigation of the crash is now underway, per the service.
New NSTAC Tasking. At the behest of the White House and Department of Homeland Security, a federal advisory panel that advises on critical telecommunications issues plans to do a quick review of communications resiliency as the nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis and the looming presidential and congressional elections this fall. Chris Krebs, director of the DHS Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, during a May 13 teleconference of the National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee (NSTAC), asked for an update of the NSTAC’s 2011 report on Communications Resiliency, suggesting such a review might take 18 months. Joshua Steinman, the senior director for Cyber on the White House National Security Council, asked for, and the panel agreed to, a faster turnaround on the study, given the “legislative cycles that are probably going to come pretty quickly in late summer and early fall to deal with the post-COVID scenario.” Once the report is delivered, the NSTAC can discuss whether a longer-term review of communications resiliency is needed, he said.
Aegis Ashore. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) told Defense Daily in an email the Poland Aegis Ashore site is not yet delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Currently, neither the host nation nor the U.S. government have implemented any restrictions that are limiting construction activities at the site.” MDA spokeswoman Deidre Forster said. She added the agency is assessing the possibility of a delay but thus far neither the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers nor MDA “have yet received documented impacts to construction from the prime contractor.” The agency is still planning on the Poland Aegis Ashore site to have operational capability “no earlier than FY ’22.”
UISS. The Navy awarded Textron’s AAI Corp. a $21 million modification on May 8 for engineering and technical services for the Unmanned Influence Sweep System (UISS) and Unmanned Surface Vehicle program. UISS is designed as part of the Littoral Combat Ships mine countermeasures mission package and tows a minesweeping payload for influence sweeping of magnetic, acoustic and magnetic/acoustic combination mines. The contract announcement said the UISS program “will satisfy the Navy’s need for a rapid, wide-area coverage mine clearance capability” and it seeks to “provide a high-area coverage rate in a small, lightweight package with minimal impact on the host platform.” Work will occur in Hunt Valley, Md. (70 percent), and Slidell, La. (30 percent), and is expected to be finished by September 2021.
VLS. The Navy awarded BAE Systems a $43 million modification on May 11 to exercise an option for for MK 41 Vertical Launching System (VLS) cannister production and ancillary hardware. It combines purchases for the Navy (68 percent) as well as foreign military sales for Japan (11 percent), Australia (six percent), Norway (six percent), Netherlands (six percent), and Turkey (three percent). This mod specifically covers the manufacture and delivery of MK 13 Mod 0, MK 21 (Mod 2 and 3), MK 21 Mod 1 and MK 29 Mod 0 canisters, ancillary hardware and MK 13 Mod 0 canister renews. The contract announcement underscored VLS cannisters serve as the missile shipping containers and launch tubes when loaded with VLS modules. Work will mostly occur in Aberdeen, S.D., and is expected to be finished by July 2023.
Jammer Team. Northrop Grumman announced May 12 it expanded its Navy Next Generation Jammer-Low Band (NGJ-LB) Capability Block 1 team to include CPI Aero, Inc. The company is already the supplier of record for pod structure and assembly for the Navy’s ALQ-249 Next Generation Jammer Mid-Band program. CPI Aero will provide the pod structure and assembly. In 2018 Northrop Grumman said it was teaming with L3Harris Technologies and Comtech Telecommunications Corp. on the NGJ-LB. “The addition of CPI Aero to our NGJ-LB team will help provide rapid fleet capability to the Navy,” Paul Kalafos, Northrop Grumman vice president for surveillance and electromagnetic maneuver warfare, said in a statement. He noted they have experience providing aircraft and pod structural components for various DoD customers. The NGJ-LB will fly on the EA-18G Growler to provide advanced Airborne Electronic Attack capabilities.
SAIC/Orion. SAIC has received a $42 million deal from the Army Space and Missile Defense Command to provide support for the Orion Decision Support Platform. The company is tasked with continuing work to develop, deploy and maintain the platform used by the joint services to collect data and provide visualization of forces and munitions. “For the past two years, SAIC has provided direct support to Orion, a mission-critical decision tool for the Army, developing a deep understanding of the platform’s requirements, architectures, and technologies,” said Jim Scanlon, SAIC’s executive vice president of its defense solutions group. The latest task order covers a three-year work period, and includes two one-year options. “Under the contract, SAIC will provide J3 Operations and J5 Strategic Plans and Policy with mission engineering and technology integration capabilities for the Orion Project,” the company wrote in a statement. “This work includes designing, developing, and prototyping of advanced information technology (IT) to implement hardware and software solutions for senior decision-makers.”
HD55. Trillium Engineering announced on May 12 it has begun airborne testing of its new lightweight HD55 midwave infrared gimbaled camera system, which will replace the legacy HD50. HD55 is designed for use on Group 2 and small Group 3 UAS platforms and uses a new electrooptical, cryogenically-cooled MWIR camera as well as an onboard image processor. “The HD55 has a narrower field of view than the HD50, allowing the new system to get a closer, more actionable look at targets,” Rob Gilchrist, president of Trillium Engineering, said in a statement. “We are already getting interest from major platform providers.” Flight testing of the HD55 has been conducted on a small multi-rotor drone and a manned Cessna aircraft, which served as a surrogate for a fixed-wing tactical UAS.
Supplier Payments. Lockheed Martin has accelerated another $300 million in Defense Department progress payments to its small and vulnerable suppliers, going beyond its original $450 million goal of accelerated payments to help its supply chain cope with challenges during the COVID-19 crisis. The company also said it has hired more than 3,400 new employees in the U.S. since the pandemic began and is on track with plans to hire 12,000 employees this year.