Mobility AI. Autonomy and artificial intelligence (AI) are top priorities for Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper, but Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, the head of Air Mobility Command (AMC), says mobility has lagged behind. “Air Mobility Command…we have got to enter the digital age,” she said. “We’ve got to understand the data that’s around us. We talk about logistics. Logistics is a very noisy business, meaning it’s all on the unclassified net, and there’s a lot of data out there, and we are not capitalizing on it. So we’re working the architecture to try and capitalize on that logistics data, which is absolutely part of the larger joint all domain command and control data because we have to understand what it takes not just to deploy the force, but to sustain the force–what’s the necessary tail, what’s the fuel, what’s the munitions necessary to make that work.”

…Better Decision Making

. The use of data analytics and AI will lead to better decision making, Van Ovost said. “We have to make better decisions,” she said. “We’re moving to a near peer fight. We’ve got to be able to analyze the situation and make decisions faster than our adversaries. One of the ways we do that, once we harness this data fully, when we understand where the data sets are and what we need to make better decisions, we’ll want to use data analytics and potentially artificial intelligence to help us speed up that decision cycle.”

Big Small Biz Contract. The Department of Homeland Security has released a draft solicitation for the FirstSource III program that will establish contracts with experienced small businesses that are information technology (IT) value-added resellers and software publishers. DHS spent around $6 billion combined on FirstSource and FirstSource II, which makes it likely that the next iteration of the IT contracting vehicle for small businesses will be rich as well. Under the multiple award contract vehicle, vendors will provide a variety of commercially available IT commodity products and services as well as commercially available software solutions in support of DHS and its components.

People. Science Applications International Corp. has appointed Prabu Natarajan as its new chief financial officer effective Jan. 4, 2021, succeeding Charlie Mathis, who is retiring. Natarajan joins SAIC from Northrop Grumman, where most recently he was vice president for Financial Strategy and Planning, vice president for Mergers and Acquisitions, and acting vice president of Tax. He also served as CFO of the company’s Information Systems business and as corporate vice president and treasurer. Peraton has named Kevin Meiners to its advisory board. Meiners is a former deputy director of National Intelligence for Enterprise Capacity with expertise in intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions and systems requirements. Sean Bond, the former president and CEO of HDT Global, has joined Elbit Systems of America as senior vice president in charge of the Airborne Solutions business unit. Bond has also worked in program management for Bell’s V-22 tiltrotor aircraft and Pratt & Whitney’s Joint Strike Fighter engine.

International Flavor. General Atomics’ business responsible for unmanned aircraft systems has opened a new customer service center in Dresden, Germany to provide sustainment capabilities for MQ-9 drone fleets in and near Europe. The center is part of the San Diego-based company’s European Regional Sustainment Network, which leverages its European supply base to create new repair capabilities and reduce repair times and support costs for the aircraft system. “With ESRN, we’ll deliver better support while creating jobs through industry partners,” said Linden Blue, CEO of General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. “We’re listening to our customers and acting on their desire to establish sustainment capability in Europe.”

…New Industry AI/ML Lab. Leonardo DRS, one of the U.S. based defense businesses of Italy’s Leonardo, said the parent company has chosen its Cypress, Calif., facility as an Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning (AI/ML) Center of Excellence (CoE), part of the network of Leonardo Labs. Leonardo established the network of laboratories to focus in six areas, including high-performance computing and AI, aircraft and rotorcraft technologies, materials and space technologies, and electronics and sensing. The new lab in California, the first Leonardo Labs center outside Italy, is co-located with the Leonardo DRS Electro-Optical & Infrared Systems business Advanced Engineering COE. The new AI/ML COE “will be future-focused, but there are practical and near-term applications for the work we expect will be coming from the researchers,” a company spokesman told Defense Daily.

LCS-25. The future USS Marinette (LCS-25), 13th Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship, was launched into the Menominee River at the Fincantieri Marinette Marine shipyard in Wisconsin on Oct. 31. This ship will be the second Navy ship named after the city where it was built. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for this LCS variant.

Romania FMS. The State Department approved a possible $175 million Foreign Military Sale (FMS) of F-16 modernization and logistics support equipment to Romania. The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notified Congress of the sale on Nov. 3. The FMS covers upgrades to the avionics, software, communication equipment, navigational aids, and cockpit of its Mid-Life Update (MLU) Block 15 F-16 aircraft fleet along with additional logistics support. Modernization includes eight LN-260 Global Positioning System and 19 Multifunctional Information Distribution System Joint Tactical Radio Systems (MIDS JTRS). The prime contractor is Lockheed Martin. DSCA said the sale will improve Romania’s capability to meet threats by upgrading its avionics to meet interoperability requirements for encrypted communications systems used by NATO forces. “This increased secure communications capability will assist Romania in the defense of its homeland and U.S. personnel stationed there.  Romania has demonstrated a significant financial commitment to modernizing its military, which will further enhance its interoperability with NATO,” DSCA said.

Knifefish RFI. The Navy posted a Request For Information (RFI) to conduct market research to determine if sources exist to satisfy anticipated program requirements for the Surface Mine Countermeasures Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (SMCM UUV), also known as the Knifefish. The notice said the RFI aims to “assess industry’s capability to fabricate, assemble, test and deliver Knifefish systems to the designs provided by the government.” The complete RFI includes technical data not posted to the official website and is only available to DoD contractors.

Esper’s Potential Resignation. Defense Secretary Mark Esper has drafted a potential letter of resignation, according to press reports. The news was first reported by NBC News, who noted the signal toward leaving his post could be to preempt the president’s imminent move to fire Esper. The report noted Esper has also taken steps to assist Congress in its effort to rename bases named Confederate leaders. Esper has been supportive of the initiative to address changing base names, a decision that has put him at odds with the president who has said he would veto the next defense policy bill if it includes language requiring the renaming.

Next DISA Director. The Senate on Oct. 26 confirmed Air Force Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner as the next director of the Defense Information Systems Agency. Skinner will succeed Navy Vice Adm. Nancy Norton, and also take on the concurrent role as commander of Joint Force Headquarters-Department of Defense Information Network. He previously served as DISA’s chief of staff, and most recently held the role of director of Indo-Pacific Command’s director of the J-6 Command, Control, Communications, and Cyber Directorate. Skinner has also spent time leading Air Forces Cyber and serving as deputy commander of Air Force Space Command. 

PNT Assessment. The Army this week wrapped up its second Positioning, Navigation and Timing Assessment Exercise (PNTAX), with successful demonstrations of technologies supporting the Assured PNT Cross-Functional Team’s (CFT) modernization efforts. Data collected from the event will be used to inform capability analysis and requirements development. PNTAX, which ran from Oct. 26 to Nov. 4, included running through a range of threat scenarios and assessed over 55 mounted, static and aerial platforms, fire systems/munitions and sensor systems, according to the Army. “PNTAX helps the Army inform requirements, validate and refine concepts, address capability gaps, and assess solutions for future Army Warfighting technologies. To do this, we provide a live-sky GPS challenged environment for military and industry to operate their own system capabilities, collect data, and support capability assessments,” Willie Nelson, director of the APNT CFT, said in a statement. 

SSN(X). Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition James Geurts told reporters on Nov. 5 it is premature to think about a SSN(X) future attack submarine hull form. Earlier this week, BWX Technologies CEO Rex Geveden said they expect the SSN(X) to be larger than the current Virginia-class, closer to the size of the Columbia-class. However, Geurts said that “any discussion of what does an SSN(X) look like, what hull form and all that’s premature. Our focus right now is get Columbia out of the gate, on track, and in a position to succeed. It is our number one priority.” Only after the newest SSBN is executed “then we will start looking at SSNX and working our way through what might that sub look like.” Geurts added the Navy is still on the technology and analyzing alternatives phase, “so to say it would be a Columbia hull would be a premature statement.”

Peters Reelection. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), the ranking member on both the SASC Emerging Threats Subcommittee and Senate Homeland Security Committee, was declared the winner of his reelection bid on Wednesday after an extremely tight contest with Republican John James. Peters ended up beating James by around 85,000 votes, in a race considered critical to Democrats’ chances of gaining control of the Senate. As of Friday afternoon, three SASC Republican races have not been called. Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) are leading, but are awaiting final vote counts. Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.) is likely headed to a runoff election in January with Democrat Jon Ossoff after both candidates failed to reach 50 percent of the state’s vote.