ABMS Fielding. The Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS)—the Air Force component of the Joint All Domain Command and Control military internet of things—is closer to fielding after 18 months of effort, service officials said. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr. said in a statement on May 21 that “nearly two years of rigorous development and experimentation have shown beyond doubt the promise of ABMS” and that it is time for the Air Force “to move ABMS forward so we can realize and ultimately use the power and capability it will provide.” The service has tapped Brig. Gen. Jeffery Valenzia to lead the requirements and warfighter integration effort for ABMS. Under ABMS Capability Release 1, the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office is to design, buy, and install communications pods for ABMS on a limited number of Boeing KC-46 Pegasus tankers to allow Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II fighters to receive and transmit information rapidly—information previously unavailable or hard to receive, the Air Force said.

DoD Audit Bill.

A bipartisan group of senators introduced a bill on May 19 that would require the Pentagon to pass a full financial audit beginning in fiscal year 2022. The bill from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Mike Lee (R-Utah) includes a provision that each military branch or DoD entity that fails to obtain a clean opinion would have to return one percent of its budget back to the Treasury Department. “The Pentagon and the military industrial complex have been plagued by a massive amount of waste, fraud, and financial mismanagement for decades. That is absolutely unacceptable,” Sanders said in a statement. “If we are serious about spending taxpayer dollars wisely and effectively, we have got to end the absurdity of the Pentagon being the only agency in the federal government that has not passed an independent audit.” After the Pentagon failed its latest audit, senior officials said last fall that it would likely take until 2027 to reach a clean opinion across the department.

Spending Cut Proposal. A group of 23 House Democrats has sent a letter to President Biden urging him to adjust his upcoming fiscal year 2022 budget request with a cut to defense spending to align with the ongoing withdrawal from Afghanistan. While the White House has already stated plans to unveil a $715 billion Pentagon budget, the lawmakers call on Biden to lower the topline number to reflect the “peace dividend” in funds saved from exiting Afghanistan. “Estimates indicate that as much as $50 billion will be freed up by withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Reallocating that funding to domestic priorities and human needs would expand your Build Back Better agenda. It could end homelessness in the United States, provide increased health coverage to Americans in need, or contribute to the ongoing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawmakers, led by Reps. Mark Pocan (Wisc.) and Barbara Lee (Calif.), former chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, wrote in the May 21 letter.

SolarWinds and the DIB. Following the disclosure of the SolarWinds software supply chain hack last December, the Defense Department asked its Defense Cyber Crime Center about defense companies reporting in about incursions into their network via the compromised software and the answer came back that 37 companies had provided 44 different reports, Rear Adm. William Chase, deputy principal cyber advisor to the Secretary of Defense, told a Senate Panel last week. Chase told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Cybersecurity subcommittee that contractors doing DoD contract work must report any cyber breaches of their networks to the department.

Japan Bound Tritons. The Navy is temporarily deploying two Guam-based MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles to Japan. Japan’s Defense Ministry on May 7 said the deployment “is intended to demonstrate U.S. commitment to Japan’s Defense and will be beneficial to the security of Japan by strengthening the ability of maritime surveillance around Japan given the increasingly active maritime activities by surrounding countries.” At the same time, Japan said the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk would also go to Japan. The ministry said Global Hawks have temporarily been deployed to Japan since 2014. In April, Rear Adm. Brian Corey, program executive officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, said the next step will be for the Tritons to prove they can operate beyond Guam through the fall. The Tritons are designed to complement the Navy’s P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to help in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

New Ranking Members. The House Armed Services Committee on May 18 announced new ranking members on two of its subcommittees as a result of Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) taking over as chair of the House GOP conference. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) has replaced Stefanik as the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems and Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) has taken over Banks’ spot as the ranking member on the Military Personnel Subcommittee. “I am now honored to be asked to lead the Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems and look forward to advancing U.S. efforts on artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, emerging technologies, and other key technology issues to modernize the Department of Defense and equip the military for the future of warfare,” Banks said in a statement.

Peekaboo. The Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate this fall will host its annual Biometric Technology Rally and similar to last year, program officials will be evaluating easy-to-use systems that can reliably collect and or match images of individuals wearing face masks at high throughputs. DHS is seeking providers of face and multi-modal biometric capture systems and providers of biometric matching algorithms. In the previous tech rally last fall, the best facial recognition algorithms correctly matched individuals wearing masks 96 percent of the time. Without masks, the tests showed the best systems correctly identified people 100 percent of the time. “Now it’s time to see if further innovation and improvement can be achieved to further reduce errors and provide more consistent and equitable performance under challenging conditions,” says Arun Vemury, director of S&T’s Biometric and Identity Technology Center.

Corporate News. Northrop Grumman will increase its quarterly dividend by 8 percent to $1.57 per share payable June 16 as part of its balanced capital deployment strategy, the company said last week. Raytheon Technologies hosted an investor day last Tuesday and the company reaffirmed its outlook for 2021 and said it expects to achieve greater than $10 billion in annual free cash flow in 2025. The company also increased its post-merger shareholder capital return commitment to at least $20 billion by the second quarter of 2024. Finally, government information technology solutions provider Smartronix last week acquired C2S Consulting Group, a cloud solution provider specializing in the transformation of government customers in data intensive environments through automation and adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud solutions. Smartronix says the deal strengthens its cloud capabilities and mission support to the intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security and expands its base within the Defense Department and federal civilian agencies. C2S has more than 50 employees.

F-35 Radome. General Dynamics on May 19 announced it delivered the 500th wideband nose radome to Lockheed Martin for installation on all F-35 Joint Strike Fighter models. The radomes physically protect the aircraft’s Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and also aim to minimize radio frequency interference and reduce its susceptibility to detection by enemy radars. The radomes were first co-developed by both companies, with GD leading RF design while Lockheed Martin led the overall development effort. GD has designed and produced over 1,700 advanced wideband nose radomes to support AESA radars on various aircraft including the F-15, F-16, F/A-18 and now F-35.

B-52 Modernization. The U.S. Air Force has taken a Boeing B-52H bomber—tail number 61-0009—out of storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz. to be used as a testbed for B-52 research and modernization. The aircraft is to be towed to the Pima Air & Space Museum where the plane’s wings, fuselage, and horizontal stabilizer will be removed. The left wing and fuselage are to go to a Boeing plant in Oklahoma City, Okla. to serve as an integration model for B-52 modernization efforts, including the Commercial Engine Replacement Program, the Radar Modernization Program, and the addition of new weapons, pods, and antennas. The right wing and horizontal stabilizer will go to McFarland Research and Development in Wichita, Kans. to support structural integrity research under the B-52H Aircraft Structural Integrity Program on structural limitations and how long the parts can last, per Air Force Materiel Command.

M-Code. On May 6, BAE Systems received a more than $325 million contract from the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for advanced military code (M-Code) GPS modules to provide anti-jamming and anti-spoofing for secure positioning, navigation and timing for U.S. and allied forces in contested environments. Greg Wild, BAE Systems’ director of navigation and sensor systems, said that the multi-year DLA contract “will ensure the availability of M-Code module inventory to build advanced, next-generation GPS receivers.” The contract calls on BAE Systems to deliver Modernized GPS User Equipment Increment 1 Common GPS Modules compatible with the advanced M-Code signal through 2030. BAE Systems is to build and manage the modules for DLA and use them to build military-grade GPS receivers for ground and precision-guided munitions.

KC-135 Retirement. While the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act did not permit the U.S. Air Force to retire 13 Boeing KC-135s, as the service had wanted, lawmakers may amend the law to allow such a retirement before Oct. 1. Army Gen. Stephen Lyons, the head of U.S. Transportation Command, told a House Armed Services Committee panel on May 19 that he supports the requested retirements, given the recent progress that Boeing has made in its KC-46 Pegasus tanker and in working with the Air Force to give the KC-46 an interim operational capability to take some of the operational load off the venerable KC-135s. Lyons said that he has spoken with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown about retiring the 13 KC-135s and that “it’s the right decision to allow the Air Force to retire the KC-135s that they requested to retire.”

Greece FMS. The State Department on May 19 approved a possible $165 million Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Greece for U.S. government, technical and logistical support services supporting FMS Order II and Cooperative Logistics Supply Support Arrangement for stock replenishment, supply of standard spare parts, and repair/replace spare parts for the country’s air force’s aerial fleets. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said the sale would help Greece meet threats by “providing agile logistics support to active Foreign Military Sales support cases, including Greece’s defensive and transport aerial fleets, as well as other support equipment of U.S. origin that are currently in use with the Hellenic Air Force.” DSCA noted this ability to place blanket order requisitions will increase its interoperability with NATO forces and enhance its ability to secure its borders. DSCA notified Congress of the sale the same day.

LCS-26. The Navy plans to commission the 13th Independence-variant littoral combat ship (LCS) USS Mobile (LCS-26) on May 22 in a private ceremony. The event will have a limited audience with live streaming due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The ship was previously christened and then delivered to the Navy in early December 2019. The ship will later sail to its new homeport at Naval Base San Diego, Calif., with other Independence-variant LCSs.

Esper Joins C-UAS Company Board. Former Defense Secretary Mark Esper is joining the board of Epirus, a company making counter-drone technology, according to a company release. “Epirus stands at the vanguard of those accelerating military and homeland security applications of game-changing technology to disarm drones used to launch lethal attacks against our service members and civilians anytime, anywhere,” Esper said. “Addressing emerging threats and challenges was always a priority of mine at the Pentagon and will continue to be going forward. Epirus has proven itself able to rapidly innovate and adapt in ways that can make it a critical partner to the U.S. government and our allies.”