Mayorkas Up. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Tuesday morning will host its first hearing of the year as it considers the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to be the Secretary of Homeland Security. Mayorkas is a veteran of the Department of Homeland Security, having led U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and later serving as department deputy during the Obama administration. The Havana-born immigrant is a popular choice to lead the department and last week received the endorsement of four previous DHS chiefs, Tom Ridge and Michael Chertoff, who led the department under President George W. Bush, and Janet Napolitano and Jeh Johnson, who served Obama. Mayorkas does carry some baggage, having been the subject of a DHS Inspector General investigation into improperly influencing a foreign visa program on behalf of immigrant investors while leading USCIS.

…Morale Issues. If confirmed, Mayorkas will be contending with the usual challenges and crises including immigration, cyber security, the ongoing COVID pandemic and responding to natural disasters. Another issue will be the ongoing low morale at DHS, which has been depressed since the department stood up in 2003. The Government Accountability Office last week reported that greater employee engagement, such as career development, performance conversations, work-life balance and an inclusive work environment, can improve performance and morale. The department has made progress on engagement between 2015 and 2019 but still lags government-wide efforts, GAO said.

Coast Guard and Marines. The Coast Guard is examining the potential to use its resources to support the Marine Corps in the Indo-Pacific region with its “expeditionary advanced base operations,” Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said last week during the virtual Surface Navy Association symposium. “Our new capabilities offer more opportunities as well for joint operations with sister services and international partners,” he said. The Coast Guard is homeporting three of its new 154-foot Fast Response Cutters in Guam in the Western Pacific Ocean. The cutters have shallower drafts and access to outlying islands in the region, giving the Coast Guard an opportunity to work and train with the Marines in their proposed expeditionary advanced base operations. The Coast Guard in World War II played an integral role in amphibious operations, manning large troop transports and smaller craft the ferried Marines to beachheads in the Pacific and soldiers into Normandy.

OPC RFP Coming Soon. The Coast Guard said it plans to issue the Request for Proposal for Stage 2 of its multi-billion dollar Offshore Patrol Cutter (OPC) ship program in the second quarter of fiscal year 2021, which is anytime between now and the end of March. Stage 2 refers to the recompete of the program after the Coast Guard decided to terminate its original contract with Eastern Shipbuilding Group at the first four OPCs due to the company’s troubles rebounding from a major hurricane in October 2018 that crippled its Florida shipyard. The Stage 2 award will be for detail design and production of up to 11 OPCs, which are medium endurance cutters. The Coast Guard eventually plans to acquire 25 OPCS, which will comprise 70 percent of the service’s offshore cutter fleet.

Leidos Buys 1901. Leidos last week said it has completed its $215 million cash acquisition of 1901 Group, bolstering its capabilities in managed information technology services and cloud solutions with customers in the public and private sectors. The deal adds nearly 400 IT, cloud and cyber specialists to Leidos and improves its position in the digital modernization market to meet growing customer demands.

New Boeing Defense Comms Chief. Boeing has picked Marti Powers to take over as its new VP for communications for the company’s defense division amid a significant reorganization of the group. She replaces Jenna McMullin, who left Boeing for Lockheed Martin’s Space Division last summer. A long-time veteran of the oil industry, with her last 10 years at Shell, Powers’ first day at Boeing is Feb. 12.

Border Security Awards. FLIR Systems last week said it has nabbed more than $23 million from Customs and Border Protection for border security work, including a contract to provide 19 additional pickup truck-based Lightweight Vehicle Surveillance Systems (LVSS) for the agency’s Mobile Surveillance Capability (MSC) program and another to provide drone tether kits for the company’s SkyRaider unmanned aircraft systems it has provided to CBP under the Low Altitude Autonomous Safety and Situational Awareness for Officers (LASO) program. FLIR previously provided eight LVSS systems to CBP and 40 SkyRaiders, without tethers. The LVSS systems are equipped with the company’s TacFLIR 380-HD camera and R20SS radar to provide integrated surveillance beyond 10 miles. The award under LASO also includes StormCaster-T thermal payloads that features a FLIR Boson thermal camera for object detection and identification day or night.

Waiver For Austin. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, has introduced legislation in the House to grant a waiver for Ret. Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as the next secretary of defense because he has not been out of the military for the required seven years. This is the third waiver that has been introduced, with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) previously introducing language to consider the exception in committee and on the Senate floor. “The legislation filed today is an important step to advance the process for Secretary-designate Austin’s historic nomination,” Smith said in a statement. “While I initially had concerns about the nomination of another recently retired general, Secretary-designate Austin has reinforced his understanding of the role civilian control of our military plays in the safety and security of our democracy and is committed to upholding this cherished principle.”

Australia Selects AH-64E. Australia has selected Boeing’s AH-64E Apache as its next armed reconnaissance helicopter, the country’s Minister of Defense Linday Reynolds said on Jan. 15. The program is intended to replace its Airbus Tigers. The deal is worth around $3.5 billion and will potentially cover 29 AH-64Es, according to reports from Australia. “Thank you, Commonwealth of Australia, for your confidence in the AH-64 Apache! We look forward to partnering to deliver proven, reliable and value-for-money capability to the Australian Army,” Boeing wrote in a social media post. 

Eastern Europe Allies. The president has signed a bill that allows the U.S. to provide low-cost loans to NATO allies n Eastern Europe that still use Russian-made military capabilities as a means of promoting those countries to purchase American equipment. purchase “With the President’s signing of my bipartisan legislation into law, the United States has reaffirmed its unwavering support for the NATO alliance and the principle of collective defense. The law provides the executive branch the flexibility it needs to assist our NATO allies as they modernize their defense capabilities, transforming from countries that languished behind the Iron Curtain into invaluable partners,” Rep, Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in a statement.

CV90 Upgrades. BAE Systems said Jan. 14 it has signed a deal with the Netherlands for more than $500 million to upgrade the country’s fleet of CV90 combat vehicles. The contract covers 122 vehicles, with an option for an additional 19 vehicles. The upgrade program includes integrating a new turret, which the company said is designed to provide better vehicle balance, enhanced lethality and ergonomic improvements. “The result gives crews increased advantages, such as the ability to choose intuitive and effective modes of operation as well as shorten the time to detection, identification, decision-making, and engagement,” BAE Systems wrote in a statement.

HELIOS Integration. Lockheed Martin said the integration of the first High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS) on to a destroyer is a “very minor part of the ship avail that’s happening. There’s a lot of other capabilities that are going into that ship that are taking much longer than HELIOS,” Joe Ottaviano, director of Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Product Solutions business division, said in a press call Jan. 11.  The Navy previously planned to install HELIOS on the USS Preble (DDG-88), but that can change based on timing availability. Ottaviano confirmed Preble is the target, but he defers to the Navy since that can change.

…Less Risk. Ottaviano underscored most HELIOS-destroyer integration risk is cleared out since the company conducted Aegis integration testing at its facility in Morristown, N.J., and additional upcoming Navy testing will occur at Surface Combat Systems Center Wallops Island, Va. “Now it’s just – how does it bolt in…realistically how does it bolt on to the ship, make sure the bolts align, and then some [hull, mechanical and electrical] alignment with ship’s cooling.” He underscored between company testing and the Navy’s testing, “much of that risk will be knocked out. So by the time it gets there…it’s a very quick timeline to go operational.”

CNO Plan. During the Surface Navy Association symposium on Jan. 11, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday explained why he released his Navigation Plan this week rather than after President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated on Jan. 20.  “The reason I release it now is because I always intended, first of all, to release it on the heels of the Tri-Service Maritime strategy number one. But number two, this is what I really believe we need to deliver in this decade.” Gilday admitted there will be fiscal uncertainties in the future, “but we have to have our priorities right and… we have to understand what we’re expected to contribute to the joint force and that’s sea control and power projection. And we can never lose sight of that.”

HII Unmanned. Huntington Ingalls Industries finished the first phase of its new Unmanned Systems Center of Excellence in building a 22,000 square-foot facility, the company said Jan. 11. The center is planned to use two new buildings in Hampton, Va., to assemble hull structures for Boeing’s Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (XLUUV) for the Navy. Construction began in September 2020 and structural development of the second building and main facility is scheduled to be finished by the end of 2021. That main facility will be a 135,000 square-foot building. The facility will be used for unmanned systems prototyping, production, and testing.

Shift5. Transportation data company Shift5, Inc. said on Jan. 11 it received a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD). The CRADA allows for joint research and development in cyber resiliency to add capabilities to legacy systems. This is the first time Shift5 is working with the Navy, but it previously worked with the Army and Air Force. The CRADA will specifically leverage the company’s commercial defensive cybersecurity and operational intelligence solution for current and emerging naval systems. Work will occur at the company facilities in Arlington, Va., and at Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Md.

Tranche 0. The baseline designs and requirements for the 10 Tranche 0 satellites Lockheed Martin is building for the Space Development Agency (SDA) transport layer are complete, the company said on Jan. 13. Tranche 0 is the first stage of the National Defense Space Architecture (NDSA), a Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) constellation for military sensing and data transport. Tranche 0 will have 20 transport layer satellites–10 by Lockheed Martin and 10 by York Space Systems–and eight missile tracking Overhead Persistent Infrared Imaging (OPIR) satellites, four by SpaceX and four by L3Harris. NDSA is to be a system of 300 to 500 LEO satellites, and Tranche 0 is to be on orbit by March 31, 2023, SDA said. SpaceX is to launch the Tranche 0 satellites.

ASN-RDA. The last day for Assistant Secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition (ASN-RDA) James Geurts is Jan. 20, Inauguration Day for President-Elect Joe Biden, spokesman Capt. Danny Hernandez told Defense Daily. Hernandez said the Navy is “still working through a process” before announcing who will succeed him on an acting basis. Geurts is a retired Air Force officer who previously served as the top acquisition executive for Special Operations Command before serving in this role starting December 2017. Geurts’ possible successor is his deputy ASN-RDA, Frederick Stefany, who has been in the role since April 2018.

Middle Tier. U.S. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said the Digital Century Series is a perfect opportunity for middle-tier companies to compete with prime contractors to encourage innovation and bolster competition. Over the last five years, prime contractors have been buying middle tier suppliers, including Lockheed Martin’s announcement last month of a $4.4 billion bid for Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Companies have to have amazingly large and diverse portfolios as primes to compete against their competitors,” Roper told reporters last week. “They’re caution flags in the sense of our industrial base getting smaller. We are getting less specialization within industry partners and more generalization where primes do nearly every mission, not just in the Air Force and the Space Force but in the entire Department [of Defense].” Such generalization entails higher overhead, inefficiencies, and less competition, he said.

…Tactical Aviation. “As I look at the Air Force going forward, tactical aviation is a great focusing point for how dangerous our industrial base is vis-a-vis long-term competition,” Roper said. “We have so few people who can build an advanced tactical aircraft and without a change to how we design and build them, we could see that number of companies diminish further.” The Digital Century Series acquisition approach for Next Generation Air Dominance will allow “more competition than we can typically afford,” he said. “It allows the middle tiers, the mission system providers, to work more directly with the government, to have an egalitarian table to sit at where they are co-equal with the primes.”

Data Center RFP Out. The Department of Homeland Security on Jan. 14 released its long-awaited Request for Proposal for its Data Center and Cloud Optimization (DCCO) acquisition for which the department will acquire information technology services to manage and operate its hybrid computing environment. The DCCO acquisition includes the current DHS Data Center 1, which is operated by General Dynamics at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, will add infrastructure-as-a-service offered by Cloud Service Providers and colocation facilities. The additional facilities and cloud environments “will extend the capacity, scalability, and redundancy of DHS enterprise computing capacity by providing additional physical, virtual and cloud resources,” the RFP says. Phase I proposals are due by Jan. 21.

New Boeing Board Director. Boeing last Friday said it has elected Lynne Doughtie, 58, to its board of directors following the resignation of Caroline Kennedy after three years of service. Doughtie retired from the audit and consulting firm KPMG in 2020 after serving as U.S. chairman and CEO, the first woman to hold that position. “She will provide perspective reflecting her global leadership roles and experience advising clients on complex matters as well as significant risk management expertise,” Boeing Chairman Larry Kellner said. Doughtie will serve on the audit and finance committees.