Icebreaker Funding. So far, Congress has appropriated just over $1 billion in procurement funding for the Coast Guard’s new heavy polar icebreaker program, the Polar Security Cutter (PSC), enough, if not more, to design and build the first ship and fund related administrative expenses to this point, Ronald O’Rourke, a Naval analyst at the Congressional Research Service, said in a program update this month. The update takes account of the $675 million in new spending Congress provided for the PSC in the fiscal year 2019 homeland security bill. Funding to date also includes $20 million to acquire long-lead materials for the second of three planned PSCs. O’Rourke said the Coast Guard’s five-year budget plan submitted for FY ’19 shows it plans to seek $125 million in FY ’20 for the program, likely for the second ship.
GD News. General Dynamics is increasing its quarterly dividend by nearly 10 percent to $1.02 per share payable May 10. The increase marks 22 straight years of boosting the dividend. The company also elected Cecil Haney to its board of directors. Haney, 63, is a retired Navy admiral who led U.S. Strategic Command and the U.S. Pacific Fleet. Haney was a submariner in the Navy.
Accenture Hits Back. Roundly criticized for not delivering on a potential $297 million contract to help recruit and hire 7,500 front line border security personnel for Customs and Border Protection, an official with Accenture said so far the company has delivered a new hiring and recruitment platform, a marketing and advertising campaign targeting potential recruits, an applicant care program, and two call centers to support applicants. These efforts have led to a network of “more than 100,000 candidates, and a full recruitment and hiring capability that has processed 4,795 applicants through various hiring steps as of December 1, 2018,” John Goodman, the chief executive of Accenture’s U.S. government business, told a House Homeland Security panel. He pointed out that under the contract Accenture only gets 93 percent of its payments once new agents are hired and begin service. CBP issued a partial stop work order to Accenture late in 2018 for the work.
…IG Holds Steady. The 2017 contract with Accenture came under greater scrutiny last December when the Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General reported that Accenture had received nearly $14 million to start up the hiring program but had only processed two job offers that were accepted. John Kelly, the acting IG, on March 6 before a House Appropriations panel repeated the earlier findings and said in his prepared statement that the “CBP needs to address serious performance issues on the Accenture hiring contract.” He also said the agency has used a lot of its own personnel for work that Accenture is contracted to do.
Iron Dome. SASC Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) told reporters Tuesday he anticipates the Army will want to buy more Iron Dome weapons systems from Israel. The service reportedly plans to procure two of the air and missile defense systems, which have been used by Israel since 2011, to perform assessments and experiments as a potential candidate for the Indirect Fire Protection Capability program. Inhofe spoke with reporters in his office Tuesday following a visit to Israel and multiple other partner nations after the Munich Security Conference in February.
House Dems on Border Wall Funds. The House Appropriations and Armed Services Committees sent a letter Friday to Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan demanding he provide 25 categories of documents related to the use of DoD funds to build a border wall or barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border and Trump’s national emergency declaration. “Given the speed with which we believe the Department of Defense may be acting in response to the emergency proclamation, we request that you produce the requested documents and information no later than March 21, 2019,” the letter read. It was signed by HAC Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), HASC Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), HAC-D Chairman Peter J. Visclosky (D-Ind.), HAC Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and HASC Readiness Subcommittee Chairman John Garamendi (D-Calif.).
Name Change. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center announced March 2 that it has changed the program name of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle effort to the National Security Space Launch program. The name change was authorized in the 2019 NDAA “to reflect consideration of both reusable and expendable launch vehicles future solicitations,” the service said. The program is meant to develop a series of launch vehicles to handle medium to heavy payloads and leverage commercial technologies. Since 1994, the Air Force has launched 75 national security space missions via the program.
Air Force. The Air Force on Wednesday completed the first flight of its XQ-58A Valkyrie demonstrator, a long-range, high subsonic unmanned aerial vehicle developed by the Air Force Research Lab and Kratos. The aircraft, which is part of the research laboratory’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology portfolio, “behaved as expected” and completed 76 minutes of flight time, according to a service release. The XQ-58A has five planned test flights that are expected to all take place in 2019; this first flight occurred a little over 2.5 years after contract award. “XQ-58A is the first example of a class of UAV that is defined by low procurement and operating costs while providing game-changing combat capability,” said Doug Szczublewski, AFRL’s XQ-58A Program Manager.
ISR. The Air Force on Wednesday awarded GD’s Information Technology sector a not-to-exceed $217 million task order to provide technical operations support for the service’s Distributed Common Ground System network weapon system. Work will be performed at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia and Beale Air Force Base, California, and is expected to be complete by Jan. 31, 2027. Five offers were received for the task order. FY ‘19 O&M funds in the amount of $11.5 million are being obligated at the time of award.
Tankers. U.S. Transportation Command plans to defer the retirement of part of its KC-135 tanker fleet amid ongoing delays for the delivery of the new KC-46 aerial refueler from Boeing. TRANSCOM Commander Army Gen. Stephen Lyons said at a Tuesday SASC hearing that the current plan is to retain 28 KC-135s past their planned retirement date. The Air Force has paused KC-46 deliveries as Boeing addresses foreign object and debris (FOD) issues on the production line in Washington State.
KC-46 to Alaska? Despite the concerns with aircraft delivery delays, SASC member Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) took advantage of the Tuesday hearing to ask that his state be considered as a future base for the aerial refueler. Alaska is a strategic location with access to both Europe and Asia, he noted. Lyons agreed that the northern state would be a strategic location, but said the future basing plan was not yet complete.
F-22 Base. Air Combat Command Commander Gen. Mike Holmes said at AFA Orlando that the Air Force is in no rush to decide where to permanently base a F-22 formal training unit (FTU) displaced by Hurricane Michael from Tyndall AFB in 2018. “I think we’ll make that decision in the next couple of years at least,” he said at a media roundtable Feb. 28. While the F-22 FTU is temporarily stationed at Tyndall’s Florida neighbor Eglin AFB, Virginia lawmakers have petitioned for the unit to be permanently stationed at Joint-Base Langley-Eustis in Hampton Roads. Holmes said that base is “certainly” a candidate for permanent basing.
AFSOC. The White House said Thursday it has nominated Air Force Lt. Gen. James C. Slife to be the next commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. Slife currently serves as vice commander of U.S. Special Operations Command. Current AFSOC Commander Lt. Gen. Marshall “Brad” Webb began the role in July 2016.
AC-130J. Air Force Special Operations Command’s 44th Special Operations Squadron took delivery of the first Block 30 AC-130J Ghostrider gunship on Wednesday, the command said Thursday. The Block 30 model includes multiple software and avionics upgrades over the current Block 20 aircraft in the fleet. The Ghostrider is expected to fulfill the same mission as the 44th SOS’ current AJ-130U “Spooky” gunships, but with new avionics, navigation technologies and a precision strike package with trainable 30mm and 105mm weapons. The first Block 30 model will be in testing for one year before being operationally deployable, AFSOC said.
Munitions. SOCOM and AFSOC have successfully tested the Block I variant of Dynetics’ GBU-69/B Small Glide Munition and incorporated a two-way data link, the company said Thursday. Dynetics integrated Raytheon’s X-Net™ radio in 2017, and the test flights this past February achieved all test objectives, including sending “updated target coordinates via the datalink from the launch platform to the Small Glide Munition, redirecting the munition to a secondary target located more than a mile from the initial target location and transmitting an in-flight command to inhibit munition arming.” AFSOC plans to incorporate the munitions on the AC-130 gunship fleet.
Army Synthetic Environment. The Army on March 8 released a draft “Request for Solution” notice to gather industry interested in building its Common Synthetic Environment, the platform enabler for its Synthetic Training Environment program. CSE is intended to provide soldiers with the virtualized environment to “conduct realistic, multi echelon, collective training anywhere in the world.” A final request for solution is set to arrive by March 15. The Army announced in February it had accelerated the overall STE program by a month, with an OTA award for CSE scheduled to arrive in late May rather than June. Officials said they are asking industry to focus on CSE offerings that are software-centric and reconfigurable, to move away from current hardware-heavy stovepiped virtual training simulators. The Army is looking for the STE program to reach initial operational capability by fall 2021.
Army AI. Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the Army’s chief information officer, on March 5 detailed the service’s initial goals for artificial intelligence capabilities following the recent standup of its AI Task Force and research hub. Crawford told to attendees at an AUSA event that Brig. Gen. Matt Easley, director of Army AI, has identified enhanced automated target recognition for autonomous vehicles, improving personnel risk management, targeting in support of long-range precision fires, predictive maintenance and drone ballistic swarming as his top priorities. The Army’s new AI Task Force falls under the new modernization-focused Futures Command, and the new research hub is based out of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
Navy Resignation. Assistant Secretary of the Navy (ASN) for Energy, Installations & Environment (EI&E), Phyllis L. Bayer, resigned from her position, the Navy said March 8. The Department said she will retire and “pursue other opportunities” and “applauds her service and is grateful for her extraordinary efforts this past year.” The Navy noted while leadership has recently evaluated whether to maintain the office amid competing priorities, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer “remains fully committed to the role and responsibilities.” The announcement said the Department has started an “Active search for an equally qualified candidate” for the position. Bayer was only on the job for about a year, having previously served as chief of staff in the office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
SSN-790. The U.S. Navy awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat (GDEB) three cost-plus-fixed-fee completion undefinitized contract actions on March 4 for planning and execution efforts and support services during the Virginia-class submarine USS South Dakota’s post-delivery work period. One contract is $76 million for planning and execution efforts and alterations during the work period, another is $60 million for additional support and services, and the final action is $55 million to perform planning and execution efforts and installations of the Stern Area System during the SSN-790 post-delivery work period. All of the awards will be performed in Groton, Conn., and are expected to be finished by December 2020. The contracting activity is the Supervisor of Shipbuilding, Conversion and Repair in Groton.
MUOS. The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command awarded Lockheed Martin a $93 million modification for engineering services, interim logistics services, spares and associated material for the Mobile User Objective System (MUOS). MUOS is a narrowband satellite communication system using a new constellation of satellites to provide 10 times greater communications capacity over the legacy UHF system. MUOS supports a multiservice set of users and provides a “modern netcentric communications capabilities” while still supporting legacy terminals. Most of this new work will occur in Scottsdale, Ariz., and will be finished by October 2020. This contract was a sole source acquisition awarded on March 4, pursuant to U.S. Code authority with only one responsible source.
LSD-47 Drydock. Naval Sea Systems Command awarded Huntington Ingalls Industries’ San Diego Shipyard a $118 million firm-fixed-price contract to execute the USS Rushmore (LSD-47) FY ’19 long-term drydock selected restricted availability. The availability combines maintenance, modernization, and repair of the Rushmore. The contract also includes options that, if exercised, would raise the total value of the contract to $154 million. Work will occuri n San Diego and is expected to be finished by May 2020. The Navy said this was a full and open competition with three offers received, but did not disclose the other competitors. The other shipyards that generally compete on this kind of work are BAE Systems and General Dynamics-NASSCO.
More RAMs. Raytheon won another $92 million award option for FY ’19 Navy procurement of the Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM) Block 2 guided missile round pack and space replacement components. RAM is a co-development and co-production international cooperative program between the U.S. and Germany. It is designed to provide multiple naval platforms’ anti-ship missile defense. Most of the work will occur in Otoobrunn, Germany, and Tucson, Ariz., and is expected to be finished by November 2021.