New Boeing DC Chief. Boeing has named Ziad Ojkali its new executive vice president of government operations in Washington, D.C., effective Oct. 1, succeeding Marc Allen who has served as the company’s acting chief lobbyist since June when Tim Keating abruptly departed the job that he had held for more than a decade. Ojakli most recently was a managing partner and senior vice president for SoftBank Group for two years until October 2020 and before that was a group vice president with Ford Motor Company for nearly 15 years, leading a global team that interacted with governments on behalf of the company’s objectives. He also worked in the White House on strategy and congressional efforts for former President George W. Bush during the first three years of the administration. Ojakli will report to Boeing President and CEO David Calhoun and serve on the company’s Executive Council.

CISA Staff Chief.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) has selected Kiersten Todt as its chief of staff, responsible for “planning, allocation of resources, and development of long-range objectives in support of CISA’s goals and provide strategic vision and direction to enable and empower CISA’s workforce.” Jen Easterly, director of CISA, said Todt will be her “close partner,” and highlighted Todt’s previous work with government and industry, particular the small business community. Before joining CISA, Todt was managing director of the Cyber Readiness Institute, which brings together senior executives of global companies to develop free software resources for small companies worldwide. Todt, a former professional staffer on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee working for then Sen. Joe Lieberman (I/D-Conn.), was also CEO of Liberty Group Ventures and led former President Obama’s bipartisan cybersecurity commission to develop recommendations for the next administration. Kate Nichols, the CISA’s deputy chief of staff, had been the acting chief since January.

Board News. Patrick Shanahan, former deputy defense secretary and acting defense secretary during part of the Trump administration, has been named to the board of Zanite Acquisition Corp., a special purpose acquisition company targeting companies in the aviation, aerospace and defense, urban mobility, and emerging technology sectors that have an enterprise value of at least $750 million. Shanahan, a Boeing executive before joining the Trump administration, is replacing Gerard DeMuro, the former chief of BAE Systems, Inc., who is stepping down to focus his efforts on another business opportunity. Epirus, a high-technology company using counter-electronics to defeat unmanned aircraft systems, and stop vehicles and vessels, has added two retired generals to its advisory board. Army Gen. John Abizaid most recently was the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle’s last assignment on active duty was as the Pentagon’s principal deputy director for cost assessment and program evaluation.

FirstSource Update. Following an unexpected high volume of proposals to its FirstSource III small business information technology solicitation, the Department of Homeland Security said it will take longer than planned to sort through them. Phase I evaluations are in progress and offerors will be notified in October of the downselect decision. Initial awards had been planned for September. Phase II proposals are due in November and awards are expected in February 2022. FirstSource III is potentially worth $10 billion over 10 years.

MQ-25. Boeing announced on Sept. 17 it will build the MQ-25 Stingray carrier-based unmanned tanker at a new 300,000 square-foot facility at the MidAmerica St. Louis Airport in Illinois. The facility is scheduled to be finished by 2024 and will employ about 150 mechanics, engineers and support staff to build the aircraft. Boeing said employment could rise to 300 if provided with additional orders. “The team and state-of-the-art technology we’re bringing to the Navy’s MQ-25 program is unprecedented, and we’re incredibly proud to be expanding both as we build the future of autonomous systems in Illinois,” Kristin Robertson, vice president and general manager of Autonomous Systems, Boeing Defense, Space & Security, said in a statement. The Navy plans to ultimately procure upward of 70 Stingrays to extend the carrier air wing. Boeing said the majority of them will be built in the new facility. The first seven aircraft and two ground test articles are being built at the current Boeing St. Louis facilities before being moved to MidAmerica airport for test flights.

Space Framework Agreement. U.S. and Australian officials are mulling a space framework agreement between the two nations. Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and U.S. Secretary of State Tony Blinken “discussed working together to enhance cooperation on innovation and critical technologies to advance the peaceful use of space through a space framework agreement, to counter malicious cyber activity…to combat dangerous disinformation,” among other topics, Payne said in an appearance with the other officials at the U.S. State Department on Sept. 16.

…Trilateral Cooperation. The new AUKUS agreement among the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom–an agreement that is to kick-off with U.S. and U.K. efforts to help Australia develop nuclear-powered submarines is not directed at China, Austin said. “This agreement, this relationship is not aimed at anything or anyone,” he said Sept. 16. “The intent here is to help improve our trilateral cooperation and capabilities across the board, and the first step is to focus on helping Australia acquire a nuclear-powered submarine capability, and we’re going to work on that going forward, and that’s pretty exciting because it will provide Australia additional flexibility and capability that I think will be very beneficial to all of us going forward.”

Raytheon/UK Laser. The U.K.’s Ministry of Defence has awarded Raytheon’s British business unit a contract to demonstrate a new High-Energy Laser Weapon System. Under the deal, announced at this week’s DSEI defense trade show in London, Raytheon will partner with the U.K. to further the technology and showcase its ability to protect against UAV threats. Raytheon will install the high-energy laser demonstrator on one of the British forces’ Wolfhound armored vehicles for further experimentation. “We are investing [$7.7] billion in research and development across defense over the next four years, reaffirming our commitment to provide the Armed Forces with truly advanced capabilities. Directed energy weapons are a key element of our future equipment programs and we intend to become a world-leader in the research, manufacture and implementation of this next-generation technology,” Jeremy Quin, the U.K.’s Minister for Defence Procurement, said at the DSEI show.

ENVG-B Order. The Army has placed a $100 million order with L3Harris to continue deliveries of the next-generation Enhanced Night Vision Goggle-Binocular (ENVG-B) devices. Last October, L3Harris and Elbit Systems of America each received production contracts worth potentially $442 million for the ENVG-B program of record. L3Harris’ latest deal, announced on Sept. 16, is the Army’s second delivery order under the production deal. L3Harris also previously received a $391 million ENVG-B Directed Requirement contract in 2018 for urgent fielding and has delivered more than 6,000 of the new night vision devices to date. “The advanced capabilities of the ENVG-B give soldiers the unmatched ability to identify, assess and engage a target with greater accuracy and speed. ENVG-B is today’s most advanced, combat-ready situational awareness goggle and delivers game changing technology to the Army’s close combat forces,” Lynn Bollengier, L3Harris’ president for integrated vision solutions, said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia FMS. The State Department on Sept. 16 approved a potential $500 million deal with Saudi Arabia to continue maintenance support services for the Royal Saudi Land Forces Aviation Command’s rotary wing fleet. Under the foreign military sale, Saudi Arabia would receive support work for its fleet of AH-64D/E, UH-60L, UH-60M, Schweizer 333, and Bell 406CS helicopters, as well as its future CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. “The proposed sale will improve Saudi Arabia’s capability to meet current and future threats by the continuation of…services that will aid in the maintenance support of Saudi Arabia’s rotary wing aircraft fleet, engines, avionics, weapons, and missile components,” U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency officials said in a statement.

DOT&E Nominee. President Biden has nominated Nickolas Guertin to serve as the Pentagon’s next director of operational test and evaluation. “Nickolas Guertin has an extensive four-decade combined military and civilian career in submarine operations, ship construction and maintenance, systems engineering, and the development and testing of weapons, sensors and combat management products,” the White House wrote in a statement. “Over his career, he has been in leadership of organizational transformation, improving competition, application of modular open system approaches, as well as prototyping and experimentation.” Guertin has most recently spent the past four years working on applied research into software-reliant and cyber-physical systems at Carnegie Mellon University’s Software Engineering Institute, the administration noted. Guertin, particularly during his stint as a senior civilian in the Navy before retiring from federal service, has been a huge proponent of open architecture systems.

DoD CIO Nominee. Biden has also nominated John Sherman to be the Pentagon’s chief information officer, a position he currently holds in an acting capacity. The White House noted Sherman has nearly 25 years of experience working in national security technology and innovation at both the DoD and with the Intelligence Community (IC). “At each assignment he led modernizations involving large-scale government enterprises with cloud computing, cybersecurity, and collaboration capabilities,” the White House wrote in a statement. In his current role as the Acting DoD CIO, Sherman has most recently led the rollout of the department’s new multi-vendor Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability program, the replacement for the canceled single-vendor JEDI enterprise cloud program. Previously, Sherman served as the principal deputy to the DoD CIO and as the IC’s CIO.

DDG-56. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) left Yokosuka, Japan on Sept. 17 as it shifts its homeport to Naval Station Everett, Wash., after being forward deployed for 24 years. DDG-56 arrived in the 7th Fleet in 1997. It is now set to join the 3rd Fleet. In 2017 the McCain collided with a commercial vessel off the coast of Singapore, causing the death of 10 sailors and requiring extensive repairs at Yokosuka. It finished nearly two years of repairs in 2019. Ahead of a congressional effort in the defense authorization bill in 2018, former Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson said the Navy had already decided to rotate forward deployed vessels every eight years and would transition longer lasting vessels, like DDG-56, back over several years. 

…And DDG-54. Likewise, on Sept. 16 the USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) arrived at its new homeport of Naval Base San Diego after serving as a forward-deployed vessel in Yokosuka, Japan, for 25 years. After routine repairs and upgrades, DDG-54 will join the 3rd Fleet as well.

100 Vipers. Naval Air Systems Command noted it received the 100th on-time delivery of the Marine Corps AH-1Z Viper from Bell Textron this month. PMA-276 program manager Col. Vasilios Pappas said that of all the domestic Vipers delivered thus far, 91 percent have been on time. “This is a feat only possible through the determination of our production team and the program’s strong relationship with our industry partners and suppliers,” he said in a statement. 34 more helicopters are scheduled for delivery through 2023. The aircraft provides close air support, armed escort/reconnaissance, anti-armor operations and anti-air warfare for the Marine Corps. It started replacing the AH-1W Super Cobra in 2011. The Navy noted earlier this summer a Viper established a two-way connection between a ground station and the helicopter’s Link 16 and Advanced Networking Wideband Waveform systems, a major step in testing and integrating digital interoperability to better share information across networks. Flight tests on the Viper will continue through the fall, with initial Marine Corps integration expected in 2022.