Esper/JEDI. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper is not close to a decision on his review of the potential $10 billion JEDI cloud program, a top Pentagon spokesperson told reporters on September 9. Esper is currently getting caught up on the particulars of the program, according to DoD spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, as he assesses the controversial cloud effort which has faced criticism for its single-award competition and accusations of conflicts of interest. “He’s been taking a long look at it just to understand the program. He’s done a couple sessions. I think we have another one scheduled this week,” Hoffman said. “I don’t believe he’s close to making a decision. His goal on this is to get it right. It’s an important capability that we need, the ability to have a cloud-based system, as well as having the ability to develop AI. So he wants to get it right, but he hasn’t put a timeline on it.” Esper announced last month he would review the program which had been working towards a likely contract award at the end of August. 

Aid to Ukraine. The White House on Wednesday unlocked $250 million in military aid to Ukraine, Senate appropriators said in their Thursday markup of the FY ’20 defense and energy and water bills. The Trump administration had previously said it was reviewing the aid package, which has previously enjoyed strong bipartisan support. OMB also released $141.5 million in State Department funding to Ukraine, which would cover snipers, grenade launchers and other military equipment, the department’s Assistant Secretary of State for Political Affairs R. Clarke Cooper told reporters Thursday. The funding would expire Sept. 30 if it were not released.

SAC Reducing Air Force R&D Funds. The Air Force receive $169 million less in RDT&E funds under the Senate Appropriations Committee’s approved FY ’20 defense spending bill. The committee on Thursday agreed to pass the bill to the Senate floor, and included $45.4 million for research and development programs. The projects impacted included: a $105.8 million classified reduction to the B-21 long range strike bomber program; a $40 million reduction to Next-Generation Air Dominance; a $241.1 million reduction to Future Advanced Weapon Analysis and Programs; and a $270 million reduction to the Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP) to develop the next generation of turbine engine technology for fighter aircraft.

F130 Engine. Rolls-Royce announced Friday that it has completed early engine teste for the F130, a variant of the company’s BR275 commercial engine currently in competition for the Air Force’s B-52 Commercial Engine Replacement Program. Rolls-Royce completed full engine tests at its Indianapolis facilities, as well as 50,000 hours of digital engineering time, per a news release. Pratt & Whitney and GE Aviation are also competing for the Air Force’s B-52 re-engine program.

SAC-D Amendment. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) introduced an amendment to the SAC FY ’20 defense spending bill urging the Air Force to build an “advanced Early Vertical Take off and Landing Unmanned Aerial System.” The UAS would include a five-sensor detect-and-avoid system, along with a test range for demonstration of the system, and would be capable of operating in a GPS-denied environment. Murkowski’s amendment is intended to help the U.S. military increase its Arctic presence with new technologies “and to help meet Arctic defense strategies.”

Navy Learning. Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer announced John Kroger as the Department of the Navy’s first chief learning officer (CLO) on Sept. 10. In the role, Kroger will lead and unify Navy and Marine Corps formal education programs. Kroger will act as Spencer’s staff assistant for naval education, responsible for implementing big educational changes directed by Spencer earlier this year. The Changes seek to better prepare the services for great power competition and technological changes. The creation of this post was a key recommendation of the Education for Seapower study finished last year and chaired by Under Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly. Kroger previously served as a visiting professor at Harvard Law School and leader in residence at the kennedy School of Government.

7th Fleet. The U.S. 7th Fleet held a change of command ceremony with Vice Adm. William Merz becoming the new commander on Sept. 12 at Fleet Activities Yokosuka. Merz succeeds Vice Adm. Philip Sawyer in the role. Merz leads the forward-deployed fleet after serving as deputy chief of naval operations for Warfare Systems (OPNAV N9). Sawyer is now headed to become deputy chief of naval operations for Operation, Plans, and Strategy (OPNAV N3/N5) at the Pentagon. Merz said he plans to build on Sawyers successes and continue to expand the fleet’s effectiveness. “My longstanding motto is to play hard. It’s not fancy, it simply means to do what you can with what you have every day to be the most professional force, the most effective force, and also a compassionate force,” Merz said during the ceremony.

Swiss Expansion. Israel’s Elbit Systems has established a company in Switzerland as part of its long-term growth strategy in the country. Elbit Systems Switzerland AG is based in Bern and will focus on expanding existing technologies and capabilities into the market, expanding collaboration with Swiss high technology companies, developing local capabilities and establishing relationships with scientific and technology research positions. The initial focus will be developing a Technology Center of Excellence in command, control, communications, computing and cyber intelligence that will also leverage a recent joint venture with Swiss aerospace and defense company RUAG.

…Arkansas Expansion. Lockheed Martin has broken ground on a new 70,000-square foot production facility in Arkansas for its Long Range Fires, the first a number of planned expansions at its site in Camden. Lockheed Martin and Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) in June announced the company’s planned $142 million investment in its Camden location, which will add 326 new jobs by 2024, bringing the total to more than 900. The new facility will support increased demand for the Army Tactical Missile Systems, the Guided Launch Rocket System, the Low-Cost Reduced-Range Practice Rocket, and other work.

RTX CFO. Raytheon Chairman and CEO Tom Kennedy says that the company’s chief financial officer, Anthony “Toby” O’Brien, will become CFO of Raytheon Technologies once United Technologies Corp.’s acquisition of Raytheon is completed. Kennedy told investors at a Morgan Stanley conference the acquisition is on track to close in the first half of 2020. When the deal was first announced in June, the companies said that Greg Hayes, UTC’s chairman and CEO, will be CEO of Raytheon Technologies and that Kennedy will be executive chairman. Two years after the close, Hayes will become chairman and CEO. Raytheon Technologies’ shares will trade under the stock ticker symbol RTX.

Transatlantic Aviation Security. The Department of Homeland Security is establishing a new advisory committee to address aviation security issues for cross Atlantic travel. The Transatlantic Aviation Industry Roundtable, or TAIR, will consist of officials from DHS, the United Kingdom Home Office, the private sector and aviation stakeholders, DHS said in a Sept. 11 Federal Register notice. “Members of the TAIR will engage and collaborate on matters and issues affecting transatlantic aviation security including global security improvement, information sharing, insider threat and cybersecurity and may provide policy advance and recommendations on such matters,” the notice said.

Arctic EOD. An Explosive Ordnance Deposal unit, EOD Mobile Unit One (EODMU-1) successfully tested its ability to operate unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and conduct mine countermeasure (MCM) operations in shallow Arctic water this month. The unit was operating as Combined Task Group 35.1 and ran tests from Sept. 2-12 off Adak, Alaska in support of Arctic Edpeditionary Capabilities Exercise (AECE) 2019. This shallow depth ranged from 10-40 feet and limits underwater visibility. The unit worked with the Mk 18 Mod 1 Swordfish and MK 18 Mod 2 Knifefish UUVs for mine hunting, hydrographic surveys, and intelligence preparation for the operational environment before Navy and Marine Corps assets would operate n the region.

Navy Hacking. The Navy recently hosted “Hack the Machine 2019” with more than 600 participants from government, industry and academia to help the service solve complex problems. The event occurred at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in New York from Sept. 6-8. The fifth iteration of the event had three tracks: attempt to hack cyber physical systems of maritime vessels, use data science and machine learning to predict maintenance issues on F/A-18s, and design parts that could be remotely printed at sea to repair ships.

Norway Poseidon. Aircrew from the Royal Norwegian Air Force became the first crew to transition from a P-3C Orion to the P-8A Poseidon aircraft. The crew achieved this by graduating from Patrol Squadron (VP) Thirty’s Category 2 school on Sept. 11. VP-30s Foreign Military Sales Division facilitate the course with a Norwegian Air Force Squadron, starting in March. The Navy said the Norwegian’s Squadron’s earlier P-3C experience “ensured the crew hit the ground running in the course and will aid in a seamless transition of the P-8A for future Norway and allied operations.” Now some Norwegian crewmembers will continue to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, to support testing and development of future P-8A technologies. Meanwhile, others will stay with VP-30 to go through syllabus and training to qualify as instructors for the Norwegian P-8A force. Going forward, Norway plans to receive the Poseidon in 2021-23 and the Norwegian Air Force will continue transitioning 10 more aircrews for training in this way.

Army Night Vision. The Army will field the first unit with its new night vision system, the Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular, next week at Fort Riley in Kansas. Soldiers with the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st infantry will be the first to receive the upgraded devices, which the Army called “the first day/night-capable heads up display for the dismounted maneuver force.” The night vision device includes a fused display with an image intensifier and thermal imagery to offer better depth perception for soldiers. “ENVG-B will increase lethality, situational awareness, and mobility required to defeat combat threats in any environment,” officials wrote.

Adm. Mike Rogers. The former head of NSA and U.S. Cyber Command has joined NightDragon Security, a cyber security investment firm, as a “venture partner,” the group announced on September 12. Retired Adm. Mike Rogers, who led the two agencies from 2014 to 2018, oversaw NSA’s largest reorganization which included the elevation of Cyber Command to the unified combatant command level. NightDragon Security also announced Gen. Sir Chris Deverell, former commander of the U.K.’s Joint Forces Command, and Nadav Zafrir, CEO of Israeli cyber security company Team8, have also joined the firm as venture partners.

AI Amendment. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.) included an amendment in the Senate Appropriations Committee’s FY ’20 defense spending bill to push the Pentagon’s new Joint Artificial Intelligence Center to work with small businesses on its key initiatives. “Recent advances in commercially available technology have made it possible to develop, manufacture and deploy technologies that can process information more effectively and efficiently, and at much lower costs than legacy systems,” the senators wrote in their amendment. Two of JAIC’s current national mission initiatives are focused around AI-based solutions for disaster relief efforts and predictive maintenance. The amendment calls for DoD’s Defense Innovation Unit to identify commercial AI solutions for the initiatives, while also directing the defense secretary to enhance the ability of small businesses to compete for JAIC projects.