GPS III Operational Acceptance. The 2nd Space Operations Squadron at Schriever Space Force Base Colo. operationally accepted the Lockheed Martin GPS III Space Vehicle 06 on Jan. 31 after the satellite launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 on Jan. 18. U.S. Space Force’s Space Systems Command (SSC) said that the satellite was the first GPS III bird to receive Satellite Control Authority handover and operational acceptance on the same day–a simultaneity “allowing faster delivery to users” through the “elimination of redundant on-orbit verification steps.” SSC said that the first stage of the Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket that launched GPS III Space Vehicle 06 had propelled the NASA Crew 5 mission to the International Space Station last Oct. 5.

Coast Guard Space Collab.

The Coast Guard’s Research and Development Center and U.S. Space Force’s Chief of Technology and Research Directorate in January signed a memorandum of understanding to begin collaborating on space-based technology and operations. The new partnership will allow the two services to “prioritize shared equities” and bolster mutually beneficial research and information sharing, a Coast Guard spokeswoman told Defense Daily. “The partnership will benefit the Coast Guard by increasing synergy between the two commands as we investigate space-based technology that can help the Coast Guard enhance maritime domain awareness,” she said. “MDA is especially important for search and rescue, law enforcement, dark fleet/vessel detection and tracking, ice operations, pollution monitoring, cooperative vessel tracking and remote communications.”

Acting NCD. Kemba Walden, who had been the principal deputy National Cyber Director (NCD) until her boss Chris Inglis resigned last Wednesday, is now the acting NCD. Walden was assistant general counsel in Microsoft’s Digital Crimes unit before joining the Office of the NCD eight months ago. Walden will likely oversee the rollout in the coming days or weeks of a new National Cybersecurity Strategy. Before working with Microsoft, she was a lawyer at the Department of Homeland Security, including serving as the lead attorney for the DHS representative to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. and as cybersecurity attorney for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Leaky Technology Stuffer. The Departments of Commerce and Justice last week announced the Disruptive Technology Strike Force, whose goal is to prevent advanced technologies from being acquired by U.S. adversaries. “Using real-time intelligence and 21st Century data analytics, the Disruptive Technology Strike Force will bring together the Justice and Commerce Departments’ expertise to strike back against adversaries trying to siphon off our most advanced technology, and to attack tomorrows’ national security threats today,” Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco said in a statement. The task force will focus on enforcing U.S. export control laws and investigating and prosecuting violations of these laws, work with international partners to disrupt illicit export activities, use advanced data analytics and intelligence to build investigations, and strengthen relationships with the intelligence community.

DHS Expanding PACTS III. The Department of Homeland Security will expand its upcoming acquisition of non-information technology support services for the Program Management, Administrative, Clerical, and Technical Services (PACTS) contract vehicle to include not just a separate track for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses (SDVOSBs) but also women-owned, HUBZone, and 8(a) businesses as well. DHS plans to host an industry day in March to further discuss the PACTS III procurement. DHS Chief Procurement Officer Paul Courtney says the set-aside for SDVOSBs within PACTS has enabled the department to surpass its SDVOSB goals since fiscal year 2009.

KC-135 Inspections. The U.S. Air Force on Feb. 14 ordered inspections of its KC-135 tanker fleet for a non-conforming part in the vertical tail assembly.  The Time Compliance Technical Order (TCTO) restricts flight operations until the approximately 30-minute inspection is completed, Air Force Materiel Command said. While an earlier TCTO issued on Feb. 10 allowed 15 days to conduct the inspections, the Feb. 14 TCTO required inspections before the next flight. The KC-135 program office “determined that non-conforming vertical terminal fitting pins, which have not been confirmed to meet technical specifications, may have been installed on some KC-135, RC-135, and WC-135 jets,” AFMC said. As of Feb. 12, 90 aircraft had been inspected with 24 found to have non-conforming pins, per the command, adding that “although no mishaps have resulted, leaders elected to accelerate the inspection due to a lack of information to assess the risk of materiel failure in non-conforming parts.” AFMC said that pin replacement work, which takes a day, “will likely be accomplished at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, where the KC-135 fleet also undergoes depot maintenance.”

Fresh BACN. The U.S. Air Force activated the 18th Airborne Command and Control Squadron at Robins AFB, Ga., on Feb. 10 to fly the Northrop Grumman E-11A Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) out of Robins. The squadron is to receive its first E-11A BACN aircraft this spring, and the unit is expected be fully operational by fiscal year 2027. The squadron’s parent unit is the 319th Reconnaissance Wing at Grand Forks AFB, N.D.

DDG-102. The Navy awarded General Dynamics’ NASSCO-Bremerton facility a $43 million contract on Feb. 14 to perform a Chief of Naval Operations availability to conduct maintenance, modernization and repair on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102). The work will occur in Everett, Wash., and is expected to be finished by September 2023. This contract was not competitively procured in accordance with rules on industrial mobilization, engineering, developmental, research capability or expert services. The contracting activity here is the Northwest Regional Maintenance Center.

…And Then T-AKE 5. In similar news on the other side of the country, the Navy’s Military Sealift Command (MSC) awarded Alabama Shipyard a $21 million contract for a 91-day shipyard availability for the regular overhaul and dry docking of the dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5). This contract includes options that could raise the total value to over $21.5 million. Work will occur in Mobile, Ala., from March 21 to June 19, 2023. The announcement said this contract was competitively procured with three offers received, but as normal did not disclose the other competitors.

Pacific Facilities. The Navy awarded MDPAC JV a $100 million indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract on Feb. 13 covering architect-engineer services for structural, waterfront, and other projects at locations under Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC), Pacific. Work will occur at various Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and other government facilities within the NAVFAC Pacific area of responsibility. Notably, the work will largely be split among Guam and the Northern Marianas Islands (70 percent), Hawaii (15 percent) Japan (10 percent), and Australia (five percent). The contract term wil last up to 60 months and is expected to be completed by February 2028, or when all task orders are finished. This contract was competitively procured with three proposals received, but the Navy did not disclose the other offerors.

Close Proximity. Randolph Stone, the DoD assistant inspector general (IG) for evaluations, wrote in a Feb. 13 letter to DoD officials and the auditors general of the military services that the Pentagon IG plans to begin an evaluation this month “to determine the extent to which the DoD has developed plans, processes, and procedures to mitigate foreign influence when foreign investors acquire land or property in close proximity to U.S. military facilities.” Last month, U.S. Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter wrote in a letter to North Dakota’s senators that a proposal by China’s Fufeng Group–a leading maker of monosodium glutamate–to build a large corn mill processing plant about 12 miles from Grand Forks AFB, N.D., “presents a significant threat to national security with both near-and long-term risks of significant impacts to our operations in the area.” Section 2854 of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act requires a report by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “describing land held by covered [Chinese] entities within 25 miles of a military installation or military airspace in the United States.”

Army Aviation. Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen is the new director of Army Aviation, the service said on Feb. 17, and will take on the role after several years leading the Army’s Future Vertical Lift Cross Functional Team (FVL CFT). Rugen will succeed Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor, who will move from the lead aviation role to be the new commanding general of the 2nd Infantry Division, based in South Korea. Rugen has led the FVL CFT since July 2018, where he spearheaded the development of requirements for major modernization programs such as the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft. Brig. Gen. Phillip Baker, who is currently the deputy commanding general of the 25th Infantry Division in Hawaii, is set to be the new FVL CFT director. 

Ukraine Oversight. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chair of the House Armed Services Committee, led a congressional delegation (CODEL) this week to Romania and Poland focused on oversight of U.S. aid being provided to Ukraine. The CODEL also included Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Donald Norcross (D-N.J.), Lisa McClain (R-Mich.), Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.), Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) and Mark Alford (R-Mo.). “As a bipartisan congressional delegation, we traveled to Poland and Romania to conduct oversight of this process. We came away with a clear understanding of the various safeguards the U.S. government, in partnership with the Ukrainians and other nations, have put in place to ensure each article is accounted for and tracked to the frontline of the war,” the lawmakers wrote in a joint statement. The trip included traveling to the International Donation Collection Center in Poland to see accounting and tracking efforts for shipments to Ukraine. The lawmakers also met with Army Lt. Gen. Antonio Aguto, commander of Security Assistance Group–Ukraine, for a briefing on how the U.S. tracks security assistance donations to the frontlines in Ukraine. “We left that briefing confident in our ability to track U.S. equipment from the moment it leaves our possession and makes it into the hands of Ukrainian warfighters,” the lawmakers said. 

Kuwait FMS. The State Department on Feb. 14 approved a potential $250 million foreign military sale with Kuwait for “planning, integration, implementation, and maintenance” of a medical information system for the Kuwait Military Medical Command (KMMC). The new FMS case would consist of Health Information Systems Information Technology hardware and software, IT infrastructure, implementation of life-cycle management practices, training, maintenance, support and warranty services. “This proposed sale will improve Kuwait’s capability to provide greater health security for its KMMC infrastructure. Kuwait will use the enhanced capability to strengthen its medical services management,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement. The prime contractor for the FMS case would be Cerner Corporation.