F-35 Sustainment. The report on the Senate Armed Services Committee’s (SASC) version of the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill recommends moving the responsibility of F-35 sustainment from the F-35 Joint Program Office at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., to the U.S. Air Force—for the F-35A—and the U.S. Navy for the F-35B and F-35C. “The provision would require the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, in consultation with the secretaries of the Air Force and the Navy, to provide a transition plan to the congressional defense committees not later than February 1, 2022, that would fully transition sustainment responsibilities to the respective services not later than October 1, 2027,” the report says.

 PPBE Commission.

The SASC report recommends the establishment of a Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) to change the PPBE process created by former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara six decades ago. “The committee has heard from a variety of experts and DoD officials who have suggested that aspects of the PPBE process need to be modernized to reflect the speed of 21st century programs and technologies that evolve faster than the current cycle of the PPBE process, as well as to respond to the complexity of threats DoD faces today,” per the SASC report on the bill. “To inform the committee and the department on those aspects in need of reform, this commission would assess the efficacy and efficiency of all phases of the PPBE process and provide its recommendations to the Secretary of Defense and to the Congress. The committee notes that there are obstacles in the programming and budgeting processes to the rapid development and integration of new war-fighting capabilities and directs the commission to analyze these obstacles and make recommendations to overcome them. The committee notes that these obstacles may involve acquisition policies and practices for emerging technologies; the inefficient use and sharing of data across DoD organizations; and DoD bureaucratic and programmatic risk tolerance and risk management practices.”

Space Junk. While the U.S. has tracked debris in space over the decades with radars and high-powered optical telescopes, the significant growth in the number of military and commercial satellites, such as Starlink, in low Earth orbit is a relatively new concern. “We track over 30,000 objects,” said U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond. “The thing that’s interesting about that number is, in history, the number of objects we tracked were largely debris. Worldwide, there were a very small number of active satellites. Today, what we’re seeing with this proliferation of smaller satellites and very large constellations, you see the number of active satellites growing. What just a couple of years ago was 1,500 active satellites, today that number is probably closer to 5,000…Historically, when the space domain was peaceful and benign, all you had to worry about was where it was and make sure two things don’t collide. Today, we have to do that, but on top of that, as other nations put capabilities into orbit, we need to understand what those capabilities are, the threat those capabilities may pose, and what we would do to protect and defend ourselves against that threat.”

C-17 Reset. The U.S. used more than half of the 222 Boeing C-17s in the Air Force fleet to help perform the Afghanistan withdrawal of military personnel and civilians in August, and the service is trying to give those C-17 crews a rest, as the service performs needed maintenance on the planes before returning them to flight operations. “It will take us about two to three months,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown. “Anytime we do a surge…we’ll defer some maintenance and take some time to do that [maintenance], doing deep cleaning of the aircraft. It’s not just the aircraft. It’s also the airmen that were executing these missions and working pretty hard. We want to make sure they get a chance to reset as well…Then we’ll get back into a series of our normal training and normal flow.”

…A-10 Questions. As the Air Force necks down its fighter types from seven to “four plus one,” the A-10—the “plus one”—will remain in service over the next decade, as the service plans to finish re-winging a planned A-10 fleet of 218. After that, however, the service plans to divest the A-10s and to entrust other aircraft, including the F-35, with the close air support mission. “As we retire the A-10s, some of those airmen that are operating and maintaining A-10s will transition to operating and maintaining F-35s,” Brown said. A-10 pilots have expressed an abiding devotion to the close air support mission and to the role the A-10 plays, and have said that they may leave the service, if the Air Force retires the plane. While the Pentagon has not released a comparison study of the F-35 and A-10 done by the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation in 2019, no A-10s were lost in the exercises that fed that study. Section 134 of the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act “required that the capabilities comparison be submitted with the report on initial operational test and evaluation (IOT&E) of the F-35,” per the SASC report on the committee’s version of the fiscal 2022 defense authorization bill. “However, IOT&E for the F-35 has been delayed for reasons unrelated to the comparison of capabilities, and the committee wants the department to release the report sooner than the F-35 IOT&E report would be available.”

New Truck Delivery. Mack Defense delivered the first production M917A3 Heavy Dump Truck to the Army on Sept. 27. The new truck, which is based on the commercial Mack Granite model, is being delivered under a seven-year deal awarded in May 2018 worth potentially $296.4 million. That contract covers up to 683 armored and non-armored versions of the M917A3 HDTs. “It’s an honor to write the next chapter in Mack’s rich history of producing vehicles for the U.S. armed forces on this dedicated line and deliver the first, new Heavy Tactical Wheeled Vehicle the U.S. Army has added to their portfolio in 12 years,” David Hartzell, president of Mack Defense, said in a statement. “We look forward to fulfilling our current contract and the needs of the U.S. Army, delivering vehicles that have earned the acceptance of the armed forces through successful rounds of rigorous testing.”

CH-47F Award. The Army awarded Boeing a $391 million contract on Sept. 30 for five modernized CH-47F heavy-lift aircraft. Work on the deal is expected to be completed by the end of September 2025. The ongoing work to put together the fiscal year 2022 defense budget has included the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee providing a $170 million increase to the Army’s CH-47F account to cover procurement of a full second set of five aircraft and long-lead funding for a third set.

People News. Boeing has appointed Kuljit Ghata-Aura, who most recently served as general counsel for the company’s Global Services segment, as president for Boeing Middle East, Turkey and Africa, responsible for leading the company’s activities and developing and implementing strategies related to its commercial, defense and services customers in the region. Ghata-Aura also served as Boeing’s regional counsel for India, Middle East, Turkey and Africa. He succeeds Bernie Dunn who is leaving the company. ManTech has named David Hathaway, who previously worked at IBM in executive roles within its Public Sector business, as executive vice president and general manager of its Defense Sector. Hathaway succeeds Andrew Twomey, who has led the sector since 2015 and is taking on a new strategic role within the company.

INTERPOL C-UAS Eval. The inter-governmental International Criminal Police Organization, better known as INTERPOL, last week completed a three-day counter-unmanned aircraft system (C-UAS) exercise with the Norwegian Police at Oslo Gardermoen Airport, testing and assessing 17 drone countermeasures for airport security to better understand the technology in an active airport environment. The testing included passive systems, radar, multi-sensor systems and countermeasures, and also whether the C-UAS systems interfered with airport communications equipment. INTERPOL said the evaluation, which airport owner Avinor billed as the largest drone exercise ever hosted on an operational airport, included law enforcement, academia and industry experts from Europe, Israel and the U.S.

Cyber Reporting Bill. A bipartisan group of House legislators last Friday introduced a cyber incident reporting bill that already was approved in September as an amendment to the House version of the fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act, essentially letting all concerned know that they are serious about the need to adopt mandatory reporting requirements. The Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2021 would require the Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency over a 270-day period to consult with and receive comments from stakeholders and then issue an interim final rule with reporting requirements for owners and operators of critical infrastructure to report cyber incidents to a new Cyber Incident Review Office within the agency. Industry officials have said they prefer 72 hours to report an incident after detecting an attack. The new office would analyze the incident data and publish quarterly reports with anonymous findings and also identify actionable threat intelligence that should be shared rapidly with stakeholders. The bill was introduced by Democrats Bennie Thompson (Miss.) and  Yvette Clarke (N.Y.) and Republicans John Katko (N.Y.) and Andrew Gabarino (N.Y.). A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate.

DDG-120. The Navy plans to christen the future USS Carl M. Levin (DDG-120) Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer on Oct. 2 at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works’ shipyard in Bath, Maine. The vessel is named for former Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), the longest-serving senator in Michigan history. The principal speaker will be chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.). 

Geurts New Gig. Former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts is joining Silicon Valley Defense Group’s (SVDG) Advisory Board, the non-profit group announced Sept. 29. This is his first private position announced since Geurts retired from government in August, the company said. Geurts served as the acquisition executive for U.S. Special Operations Command before being tapped to lead the Navy’s acquisition programs from 2017-2020. In February, he was appointed to serve as performing the duties of the Under Secretary of the Navy while the Biden administration put together its Pentagon team. “Ensuring we develop and grow the agile and resilient industrial base our Nation and our allies need to be successful for the decades ahead has been a key area of focus for me throughout my career. The SVDG has quickly gained a reputation for being a central convening force within the defense community to bring together all elements needed to create and grow the National Security Industrial Base of the future,” Geurts said in a statement. SVDG said it seeks “to engage and motivate dual-use innovators and venture capitalists to support the broad mandate for defense innovation” in order to “develop cross-cutting relationships between Silicon Valley startups, investors, and the defense ecosystem.”

HII Vaccination. Huntington Ingalls Industries’ Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Chris Kastner said in a Sept. 29 company memo that all employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Dec. 8. This is in line with the White House push to have all federal contractors with the federal government vaccinated by that date. Kastner said that “while we are discussing the effects of this mandate with our union partners, it will be a condition of continued employment for our workforce to be fully vaccinated by the above date.” He said fully vaccinated means two weeks past the last vaccine dose and first shots must be taken by Oct. 27 “or they risk missing the deadline,” given the four weeks between two-shot vaccines. 

Super Hornet Engines. The Navy awarded General Electric a $483 million contract on Sept. 29 for spare F414 engines and spare engine modules in support of F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler production aircraft. DoD did not disclose how many engines this contract covers. Work will largely be split among Lynn, Mass.(50%); Hooksett, N.H.(18 percent); Rutland, Vt. (12 percent); and Madisonville, Kent. (11 percent) and is expected to be finished by January 2026. No funds were obligated at the time of award but they will be obligated on individual orders as they are issued. The contract was not competitively procured pursuant to regulations.

JDAM Parts. The Navy awarded Boeing a $345 million modification on Sept. 28 to increase the contract ceiling to procure up to a maximum 24,000 additional Precision Laser Guidance Sets for  the Laser Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) program used by the Navy, Air Force and Foreign Military Sales customers. Work will mostly be split among Fort Worth, Texas (68 percent); Cincinnati, Ohio (10 percent); and St. Louis, Mo. (nine percent) and is expected to be finished by February 2025. No funds were obligated at the time of award but will be issued against individual orders as they are issued.

SIFOREX. The Peruvian-hosted international Silent Forces Exercise (SIFOREX) 2021 concluded on Sept. 24 after a week-long event. SIFOREX is a biannual anti-submarine warfare proficiency exercise that began in 2001. It also provides anti-surface warfare and submarine escape and rescue operations. Participating U.S. forces included the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Mustin (DDG-89) with two embarked MH-60R helicopters, the Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Columbia (SSN-771), one P-8A Poseidon aircraft from Patrol Squadron (VP) 9, and staff from U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command/U.S. 4th Fleet, Commander Submarine Force Atlantic, and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 40. Participating Peruvian forces included four ships, two submarines, two fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters. Also participants included Colombia and Mexico, with Australia, Ecuador, Germany, Italy and Spain sending observers.

…UNITAS. Separately, naval and marine forces from various nations started the annual UNITAS LXII exercise in Lima, Peru on Sept. 24. This year’s edition includes 29 vessels, four submarines and 20 aircraft conducting operations off the coast of Lima and in the jungles of Iquitos through Oct. 6. The UNITAS exercise has been occurring annually since 1960. The exercise includes combined and joint operations as a multi-national task force training in multiple warfare areas. The U.S. Navy said the military-to-military exchanges foster cooperation and understanding as well as improving the capacity of partners to achieve common objectives.

Ukraine Boats. The Navy awarded SAFE Boats International an $84 million modification on Sept. 30 for the detail design, construction, outfitting, reactivation, and training for six Mark VI (MK VI) patrol boats (PBs), with an option for two more. The DoD announcement said this aims to provide MK VI PBs to Ukraine toward fulfilling Building Partner Capacity (BPC) and Foreign Military Financing (FMF). Work will occur in Tacoma, Wash. (63 percent); Bremerton, Wash. (19 percent); and Freeland, Wash. (18 percent), and is expected to be finished by March 2025. If the option work is exercised, it will extend the completion date to March 2026.