The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense

Industry Muscle. Former HAC staffer William Greenwalt is the Aerospace Industries Association’s new vice president of acquisition policy, the trade group says Feb. 9. He previously was deputy director of the HAC’s surveys and investigations staff, which supports the committee’s oversight efforts. Greenwalt also has served as Lockheed Martin’s director of federal acquisition policy and the deputy undersecretary of defense for industrial policy. He held additional Capitol Hill positions in the past, including as a professional staff member for the Senate Armed Services and Senate Governmental Affairs Committees. "At a time when our industry is facing a major transition, Bill will be instrumental in helping us navigate some tough challenges,” says association President and Chief Executive Officer Marion Blakey.

Contract Critique. A lowest-price technically-acceptable contract results in “big risks” for the Pentagon “because it drives innovation off the table,” argues Allan Burman, president of the small firm Jefferson Solutions and a former U.S. administrator for federal procurement policy under Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton. “Competitors only show enough qualification to get by,” he tells the HASC’s Panel on Business Challenges within the Defense Industry on Feb. 6. “Evaluations start at prices, and if the low-cost offer is technically acceptable, then they win, and no one else’s proposal can be even seen, or is even seen. So small businesses that can’t offer incredibly low bids…forced out of the process.” The end result, he maintains, is the “government gets unrealistically low bids, and firms can’t do the work.”

Commercial NASA. NASA issues on Feb. 7 a call for industry to submit proposals for the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability Initiative, which is the third phase of the effort to help develop commercial spacecraft and rockets to carry astronauts to low-Earth orbit and the International Space Station. The space agency expects to award deals to multiple companies this summer worth from $300 million to $500 million. Proposals are due March 23, and NASA is planning a pre-proposal conference on these latest Space Act Agreements Feb. 14 in Cocoa Beach, Fla. NASA wants the agreements to run at least 21 months, through May 2014, and call for completing the design of the spacecraft, launch vehicle, ground operations, and mission control system.

CNAS On Sequester. A centrist think tank argues Congress should pass bipartisan legislation to repeal sequestration cuts to defense and non-defense spending as soon as possible. “The sudden and inflexible process for implementing cuts under sequestration will unnecessarily damage U.S. defense capabilities,” Center for a New American Security fellow Travis Sharp writes in a Feb. 10 policy brief. The document, titled Down Payment: Defense Guidance, 2013 Defense Budget and the Risks of Sequestration, argues sequestration is an “irresponsible way to reduce defense spending.” That’s because the cuts would make it difficult for the military to pursue global engagement, the process for implementing the cuts would damage U.S. defense capabilities, and sequestration already failed to compel Congress to compromise, he writes. The cuts could come next January because the Budget Control Act of 2011 says if lawmakers failed, as they did, to craft a plan to cut $1.2 trillion in deficit spending last year,  sequestration would bring $1.2 trillion in cuts, half of which would come from defense.

Steel Tussle. Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) unveil legislation Feb. 10 to require the Pentagon to buy steel made completely in America for armor plates. The senators, concerned about Nucor and Klein Steel in their state, want the Pentagon to reverse a 2009 decision to tweak a longstanding rule requiring that steel the military buys be melted and finished in this country. While Pentagon regulations say specialty metals procured for defense purposes must be produced in the United States, in 2009 the Pentagon published a rule defining “produced” in such cases to include simple finishing processes, which could allow for armor plate melted in foreign countries such as China, according to the senators. The American Steel and Security Act, written by Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), would require steel armor plate to be both melted and finished in the United States.

Allies And BA. Several officers representing coalition countries participating in Exercise Bold Alligator say in the initial stages of the drills the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps were slow to share operational and tactical information. During an interview aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) last week, Lt. Cmdr. Chris Nelson of the British Royal Navy says coalition nations struggled to get access to tactical information disseminated on communications networks at first made it more challenging to feel out their roles in the early days of Bold Alligator. “It started off quite bad,” he says. When the allies raised the issue with their American counterparts, the situation was resolved, he says. “We started out having to pull but now it’s getting pushed,” Nelson says. Similar sentiment was expressed by French, Italian and Canadian officers aboard the Wasp. Col. Bradley Weisz, deputy commander of U.S. Marine Expeditionary Strike Group Two stationed on the amphibious ship, says the issue did come up and that the Navy and Marine Corps have been trying to “keep this exercise unclassified as much as possible.” He says the problem has been longstanding and dates to the early days of NATO. “Each country comes in with their own classification of how you share information,” he says. The largest amphibious exercises on the East Coast in 10 years, Bold Alligator was to wrap up Sunday along the southeastern coast.

French Amphib. The French amphibious landing craft LCAT, which features a new catamaran design to improve speed from ship to shore, successfully landed and launched from two U.S. Marine Corps amphibious ships during Bold Alligator. Called the Engin de débarquement amphibie rapide (EDA-R) in French, the LCAT landed in the well decks of the USS San Antonio (LPD-17) and USS Wasp (LHD-1), demonstrating its interoperability with the American vessels. “We know we can load our LCATs with the amphibious well decks of American ships," Lt. Cmdr. Arnaud Tranchant, the French liaison officer to Wasp, said. Lt. j.g. James Race, who oversees well deck operations on the Wasp, tells visiting reporters there was some nervousness about dealing with a different type of craft, but in the end everything went smoothly. “A lot better than we thought,” he says.

USS Gabrielle Giffords. The 10th vessel  in the Littoral Combat Ship Class (LCS) will be named after the former Arizona congresswoman  who has made a remarkable recovery from a gunshot wound to the head in January 2011. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus announced during a Pentagon ceremony on Friday that the LCS-10 will be named the USS Gabrielle Giffords  in honor of her courage, inspiration and resiliency. “I am pleased to honor Gabrielle Giffords and the people of Arizona with the naming of this ship," Mabus said. The LCS-10 is the Independence variant of the Littoral Combat Ship built by Austal Shipbuilding. Mabus also announced the ship’s sponsor is Roxanna Green the mother of nine-year-old Christina Taylor Green, who was killed in the same shooting. Accompanying Giffords at the ceremony was her husband, Mark Kelly, a retired Navy captain and former astronaut.

Salami Slicing And Plumbers. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz says Feb. 9 at a CSIS lunch in downtown Washington that further automatic cuts to the defense budget as a result of sequestration are indefensible and will hurt effectiveness. “I think further reductions for example as a result of sequestration are, in my view, untenable,” Schwartz says. “As Secretary Panetta has been saying since he took office, any further salami slicing of the budget beyond the $500 billion in cuts which we’ve been planning will have severe impacts on our ability to maintain our force structure, our readiness and, ultimately, our combat effectiveness…My short hand for sequestration is surgery performed by a plumber. It’s extremely high risk.”

…‘Ain’t No More Money.’ Schwartz says Feb. 9 at a CSIS lunch in Washington that the service is committed to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, but in the new reality of today’s constrained budget environment, it will take work by both the service and industry to make it happen. “F-35, ladies and gentleman, is the future tactical aviation for the United States Air Force. We are committed to the F-35. At the same time, it’s not at any price. We clearly have expectations on the part of the manufacturer to help us in a budget constrained environment. If the airplanes are cheaper, we’ll buy more. If they are more expensive, we buy less. This is the reality: There ain’t no more money.”

…A Future For Manned Aircraft. Schwartz says Feb. 9 at a CSIS lunch in Washington that he believes there will be a place at the table for manned tactical aircraft for the next three decades. “To suggest that remotely piloted are any time, any place machines, they are not. Contested air space is a different place for remotely piloted aircraft. So, it is my conviction that while the balance is clearly shifting toward remotely piloted aircraft, there will continue to be, at least in my estimation, in the next 30 years, a place for manned tactical aircraft. And I ask you candidly: Would you be comfortable with a nuclear-laden, remotely piloted aircraft? I wouldn’t be.”

Recapitalizing C-130s. Deputy Director of Air Force Strategic Planning James Brooks says Feb. 7 at a NDIA conference in Washington that the service is focused on recapitalizing the C-130s and that the process could last another 13 years, or less, depending on budgets. “I can’t get into specific numbers, but suffice to say, the Air Force is preserving the recapitalization of the C-130. We’re preserving that capacity. We are focusing on ensuring that we are continuing down the path of recapitalizing all of the 130s. At the end of the day, in our view, recapitalization will continue into the mid-2020s or earlier, depending on where we go with the budgets.”

Pirate Offensive. The defense ministers of Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa have signed a tripartite pact to strengthen maritime security in the Indian Ocean and fight piracy, local media reports. At the MoU signing, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete says: “We are going to take all measures to keep our seas safe because more than 90 per cent of our trade use the ocean route…At first, we thought that the problem was confined only to the Horn of Africa, but now it has extended to the southern part of the Indian Ocean,” the Guardian newspaper says. Tanzania Defence and National Service Minister Hussein Mwinyi says the MoU will focus on joint military exercises, information sharing and conducting surveillance. “Maritime piracy is becoming a big security concern and if not thoroughly addressed it might have larger negative impacts in the social, political and economic areas,” he says.

…Military Costs. Oceans Beyond Piracy releases a report raising concerns about the cost of Somali piracy to the world economy. The report estimates the 2011 economic cost of piracy was nearly $7 billion. About 80 percent of the costs are paid for by the shipping industry, the rest by governments countering pirate attacks. Breaking down direct cost factors, report author Anna Bowden says notable costs include $1.3 billion for military operations and $1.1 billion for security equipment and armed guards.The report was released at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London.

Clandestine But Green. Quantum Fuel Systems Technologies Worldwide Inc., says Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) is sending the Quantum Clandestine Extended Range Vehicle (CERV) to the Chicago Auto Show that runs through Feb. 19 to showcase its latest energy-efficiency efforts that can save money and address environmental concerns. The Army labeled the CERV as one of the "greenest technologies" to demonstrate how its advanced diesel hybrid-electric powertrain developed by Quantum and TARDEC saves taxpayer dollars and saves soldiers’ lives. Two Quantum CERV are at the Chicago Army Recruiting Battalion display. CERVs are lightweight, diesel-electric hybrid prototypes with a top speed of 80 mph. They are designed for reconnaissance, targeting and rescue missions.