SASC Advances Noms. The Senate Armed Services Committee on July 27 advanced five nominations for Pentagon officials by voice vote. The group includes Carlos Del Toro to be Navy secretary, Gil Cisneros to be under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Kathleen Miller to be DoD comptroller, Mara Karlin to be assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities and Michael Connor to be assistant secretary of the Army for civil works. The nominations were reported to the floor for full Senate consideration.


Oshkosh Defense’s Joint Light Tactical Vehicle successfully conducted a live-fire demonstration with a Spike Non-Line-of-Sight (NLOS) missile, built by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, the companies said on July 27. The demo took place in Estonia and was hosted by the Estonian Navy with representatives from 14 countries in attendance. “Oshkosh Defense is proud to participate with partner Rafael Advanced Defense Systems in the successful integration, demonstration and live firing of Rafael’s SPIKE NLOS missile. The JLTV is more than a light tactical vehicle; it offers the ability to integrate a full spectrum of mission packages, including sensing, communications, fires, passive and active protection and more. This live fire demonstration further proves the modularity and multi-mission capability of the JLTV platform,” John Lazar, Oshkosh Defense’s vice president of International programs, said in a statement.

FVL Report. The House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee wants the Government Accountability Office to conduct a report on the Army’s Future Vertical Lift program. “The committee believes the magnitude of this program necessitates an independent baseline assessment against which to measure future progress, and that such an examination would assist the committee in conducting appropriate oversight,” the panel writes in its mark for the FY ‘22 NDAA, citing the Army’s plans to pursue both the FARA and FLRAA programs in parallel and each with a projected first unit equipped date by FY ‘30. The report would be expected to cover plans for replacing existing aircraft with FVL platforms, assessment of acquisition approaches and contracting strategies, estimated cost and schedule for both programs and an assessment of risk reduction efforts.

Cyber Range Award. The Army on July 27 awarded a potential $2.4 billion contract to 14 companies to support the National Cyber Range Complex. The firms will compete for orders to provide “site security services, range modernization and operations, event planning and execution, and information technology service management,” according to the Pentagon. The companies selected include Lockheed Martin, BAE Systems, Boeing, SRC, Sentar Inc., The MIL Corp., Ad Hoc Research, Axiologic Solutions, Command Post Technologies, DigiFlight, Dignitas Technologies, ISYS Technologies, Sealing Technologies and X Technologies. A total of 29 bids were received for the program. 

Museum Piece. Air Force Materiel Command said that it has transferred the first XQ-58A Valkyrie drone to the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio for future display. Developed by Kratos and the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), the aircraft was the first to be part of AFRL’s Low Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology demonstration. The Air Force has used the XQ-58A design as an example of what drones for its Skyborg Vanguard program may look like. Dave Hart, the chief engineer for the Autonomous Collaborative Platforms program, said that AFRL conducted four flight tests with the first aircraft. Steve Fendley, the president of Kratos’ unmanned systems division, said that the XQ-58A is the first DoD aircraft  “to break the historical cost-per-weight parametric, and it is the first UAV designed to operate with 4th and 5th generation manned aircraft.”

Team Tempest. The U.K. Ministry of Defense (MoD) has awarded BAE Systems a $348 million contract to continue development of Tempest–the future, sixth-generation fighter for the Royal Air Force. BAE Systems is teamed with Leonardo, MBDA, and Rolls-Royce on the program. BAE Systems said that “the concept and assessment phase contract will see the partners develop a range of digital concepts, embedding new tools and techniques to design, evaluate and shape the final design and capability requirements of Tempest.” The aircraft is to leverage artificial intelligence/machine learning and autonomous systems “to meet the capability requirements of future conflicts and be operational in the mid-2030s,” per BAE Systems. The company pointed to a PricewaterhouseCoopers analysis in May that said that Tempest would boost the U.K. economy by more than $36 billion between 2021 and 2050 and support 21,000 jobs yearly between 2026 and 2050–jobs with a Gross Value Added 78 percent higher than the U.K. average. Ben Wallace, the U.K. Secretary of Defense, said in a statement that Tempest “will provide a highly advanced and sophisticated air defense capability.”  The U.K. MoD award to BAE Systems comes as the U.S. Air Force and Navy are developing their Next Generation Air Dominance family of systems and as France and Germany develop their Future Combat Air System.

Small Business Grades. The Small Business Administration last week released its annual small business performance scorecards for federal departments, with the government receiving an overall grade of A for fiscal year 2020. The Department of Defense received an A for the seventh straight year due to awarding more than $80 billion in prime contract obligations directly to small businesses and another $55 billion that was awarded to small companies through subcontracts by large defense prime contractors. The Department of Homeland Security received an A+, marking 12 consecutive years of an A or better grade. DHS obligated more than $7.7 billion in prime contracts to small businesses.

New DHS Nominees. President Biden last week nominated William Valdez to be Under Secretary for Management at the Department of Homeland Security, a position currently being filled in an acting capacity by Randolph “Tex” Alles, who is the deputy of the directorate. Valdez is the co-founder and board president of the Alliance for Latinx Leadership & Policy, which works to develop a leadership pipeline for Latinx professionals seeking a career in public service. Valdez served in the Senior Executive Service at the Department of Energy between 1994 and 2014, including head of the Small Business Office, chief diversity officer, leading strategic planning, and heading a government-wide effort to improve research and development investment policies and planning. He is also a consultant to multinational corporations and an adjunct faculty at American University. Biden also nominated Erik Hooks to be deputy administrator for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Since January 2017, Hooks has been Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Adviser for North Carolina.

FRCs in Guam. The Coast Guard last week commissioned three of its 154-foot fast response cutters (FRC) in Guam in the Western Pacific where they will be homeported in support of maritime security and stability. The FRCs will work with Australia, Japan, the Republic of Palau and others to deter and prevent illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and other transnational criminal activity in the Pacific. “These FRCs are so capable that we bring expeditionary capability to the region that we haven’t had before,” said Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz.

LCS-2. The Navy officially decommissioned the Austal USA-built USS Independence Littoral Combat Ship (LCS-2) at a small ceremony at Naval Base San Diego on July 29 to free up resources and manpower to support higher end capabilities. LCS-2 acted as a test and training ship, working to develop operational concepts used on other LCSs. “The Independence crew shouldered a heavy responsibility. Since the ship’s introduction into the fleet we asked her to serve for a specific purpose; to test emerging equipment and concepts. The crew accomplished that and so much more. Without their efforts and experiences, the ship class would not be where it is today with six ships deployed throughout the world,” Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, Commander of Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said at the ceremony. LCS-2 was commissioned in January 2010 and maintained a crew of nine officers and 41 enlisted sailors. After the decommissioning, 22 other LCSs remain in service.

CNO Japan. Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Mike Gilday visited Japan on July 25 to meet with the leadership of the country’s Ministry of Defense and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). While in Tokyo, Gilday met with Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi, State Minister of Defense Yasuhide Nakayama, Chief of Staff of the Joint Staff Gen. Koji Yamazaki, and Chief of the Maritime Staff Adm. Hiroshi Yamamura.  “The discussion in the face-to-face meeting with ADM Gilday is of much significance in promoting Japan-U.S. naval cooperation and in enhancing alliance capabilities for deterrence and effective response. JMSDF and the U.S. Navy will continue to closely work together for a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” Yamamura said in a statement. This was Gilday’s second visit to Japan since becoming CNO in August 2019.

SSN-795. The Navy planned to christen the new Virginia-class attack submarine, the future USS Hyman G. Rickover (SSN-795), during a ceremony July 31 at the General Dynamics Electric Boat shipyard in Groton, Conn. The event’s principal speaker will be Adm. James Caldwell, director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, and James Geurts, performing the duties of Under Secretary of the Navy, will also deliver remarks. “The future USS Hyman G. Rickover will play an important role in defending our nation during this time of strategic competition. It stands as proof of what teamwork – from civilian to contractor to military – can accomplish,” Caldwell said in a statement. This will be the second nuclear-powered attack submarine named after Adm. Rickover, who led the team that designed and built the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus (SSN-571).