No More Paper Hearings. SASC has already decided to postpone future “paper hearings” as DoD officials focus on tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, the committee said Thursday. In an effort to continue congressional oversight while social distancing, the committee had planned to post leader opening remarks and witness testimonies on its website, and post answers to members’ questions online the following week. “Recognizing the additional burden on the Department of Defense at this critical time, Chairman Inhofe and Ranking Member Reed have agreed to postpone future paper hearings until the Committee has more clarity on the COVID-19 situation,” SASC said in a statement.
SASC NDAA Markup. The committee will continue to work toward its goal of completing its version of the NDAA markup by the end of May, but remains flexible “because of the uncertainty associated with the coronavirus in the weeks ahead,” spokeswoman Marta Hernandez said in the statement. “At this point, no decisions have been made, but as this crisis evolves, the committee will announce changes to the anticipated markup schedule,” she said. The timing and format for upcoming nomination hearings is being decided in the context of guidance from government health and local officials and congressional leadership.
Clean-Sheet Arsenal Plane? Air Force acquisition officials have floated the idea of turning an existing bomber aircraft into a munitions-packed “arsenal plane” in the past, equipping it with a large number of missiles or new-generation munitions. However, Air Force Global Strike Command Commander Gen. Timothy Ray told reporters on Thursday that he sees the arsenal plane concept as more of a “clean sheet approach.” Rather than equip an existing B-2 or B-52, he anticipates “a platform that can affordably and rapidly fil the gap for long range strike capabilities and to go down more innovative paths,” he said.
LRASM. The Air Force on Wednesday awarded Lockheed Martin a $167.4 million fixed price contract for 48 LRASM missiles and tooling and equipment. Work will be performed in Orlando, Florida, and is expected to be completed April 6, 2023. The award is the result of a sole source acquisition. FY ‘19 Air Force missile procurement funds in the amount of $52.3 million and FY ‘19 Navy weapon procurement funds in the amount of $115.1 million will be obligated at the time of award.
Drive Through Screening. Customs and Border Protection has issued a draft Request for Proposals for the planned acquisition of low-energy drive-through scanning systems for passenger and other vehicles on the southwest border. The low-energy systems are designed to screen vehicles with occupants still inside at safe exposure levels while obtaining a detailed image of the vehicle from the roof to the ground so that operators can quickly identify drugs, currency, explosives, high-density objects, weapons and stowaways. The systems will be used in primary and secondary inspection lanes. The agency also wants low-energy drive-through portals to screen buses, trucks and semi-trailers. The agency plans to acquire between 21 and 70 of the systems. Currently, CBP scans about 1 percent of passenger vehicles and plans to expand that to 40 percent over the next few years.
GPS Spoofing Test. This summer the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate plans to evaluate GPS equipment used by owners and operators of critical infrastructure against spoofing. The GPS Testing for Critical Infrastructure is aimed at increasing the resiliency of critical infrastructure to GPS vulnerabilities in the near-term future. “Accurate and precise position, navigation and timing information is vital to the nation’s critical infrastructure,” said Bill Bryan, acting under secretary for S&T. DHS said that for the upcoming event it will create a “live-sky GPS spoofing environment” for testing fixed infrastructure applications and also have limited support for ground-based mobile applications.
Boeing Face Shields. Boeing said it has delivered the first 2,300 face shields it manufactured using 3D printing to help protect healthcare workers treating patients with COVID-19. The face shields, which Boeing donated, were accepted by the Department of Health and Human Services and will be delivered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center in Dallas, which has been set up as an alternative care site for patients. Boeing will produce thousands of the face shields each week and gradually increase production to meet U.S. needs. The company is also offering its Dreamlifter cargo aircraft for transporting critical supplies to healthcare professionals.
Civic Challenge. Led by the National Science Foundation in partnerships with the Departments of Energy and Homeland Security, the federal government has launched the Civic Innovation Challenge (CIVIC), a national research competition aimed at fostering cross-sector collaboration and real-world pilot evaluations along two tracks. DHS is co-sponsoring a track on Resilience to Natural Disasters and DoE is leading the Communities and Mobility Track. Both tracks are based on inputs from cities and communities across the U.S. during the past year. Under CIVIC, community-led teams that include government, academia, industry, non-government organizations, and other entities will compete for awards of up to $1 million to support ready-to-go research-based pilots that can be scaled and sustained to address communities’ priorities.
Aegis CSEA. The Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $10.6 million modification to exercise an option for the Aegis Combat System Engineering Agent (CSEA) effort. This contract has the CSEA develop, integrate, test and deliver computer baseline Advanced Capability Builds (ACB) 20 and also supports technology insertions (TIs), a replacement or upgrade of combat system computing hardware and associated middleware/firmware. The mod will have the company start with ACB 16 and TI 16 and continue through future ACB/TI for the performance period of the contract. Work is expected to be finished by December 2020 with work occurring in Moorsetown, N.J.
Ford. The aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) recently finished testing vital combat systems while underway in the Atlantic Ocean during the ship’s post-delivery test and trials phase. The tests aim to stress the ship’s combat system capabilities and demonstration of successful integration of new technologies used by the crew to defend the ship. The first certification of integrated combat systems tested the Air Traffic Control Radar Beacon (ATCRB) and Identification of Friend or Foe (IFF) over several days. It evaluated ATCRB’s ability to track air and surface contacts and identify friendly and enemy aircraft. “The tests exercise the combat systems suite as a complete unit and ensure maximum availability to meet combat and self-defense mission requirements,” Cmdr. Ron McCallister, Ford’s combat systems officer, said in a statement.
…SBDT Too. The carrier also recently finished sea-based developmental testing (SBDT) of “vital combat systems.” That was the first full test of the integrated combat system against tactical adversaries. Testing used Kfir and Hawker Hunter jet aircraft from the Airborne Tactical Advantage Company. The Ford tracked the aircraft using the new Dual Band Radar system. In the SBDT trials, sailors in the ship’s combat systems development conducted an upload of simulated munitions for operations in the ship’s Combat Direction Center to simulate engaging the aircraft. “SBDT is a stepping stone toward Ford’s Combat Systems Ship Qualification Trial (CSSQT), and follow-on operational tests by the Navy. “Our SBDT operations ran very smoothly, which is a good indicator of future success on CSSQT,” Cmdr. William Buell, Ford’s combat direction center officer, said in a statement.
Acting Message. Newly appointed Acting Secretary of the Navy James McPherson sent out his first message to the Department of the Navy on April 9 after being moved from being the new Under Secretary of the Army. Along with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday and Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger “we will maximize the resources and capability of the Department of the Navy to faithfully execute the priorities established by Secretary Esper in response to the COVID-19 crisis: Protect our people, maintain warfighting readiness, and fully support the whole of government/whole of nation response to protect the American people,” he wrote. McPherson also said he will do everything in his power to support the Navy’s safety and well-being of department families as long as he serves as the Acting Secretary. “Working together and remaining ever vigilant of the rocks and shoals before us, I know we will help bring our Nation through the present challenge and all that may follow. It is what the Navy and Marine Corps have always done, and will always do, as long as there are people like you maintaining the watch.”
Army Reserve/Pandemic Response. The Army Reserve is mobilizing its Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces (UAMTF) to support the federal response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Eight UAMTF groups are in New York, Connecticut and New Jersey to assist FEMA and HHS at temporary medical sites, including four groups stationed at the Javits Convention Center in New York City. Each UAMTF is an 85-soldier team capable of offering medical providers, nurses, respiratory therapists and an infectious disease specialist. “The Army Reserve medical community is comprised of world-class doctors and medical professionals who bring critical expertise from the military and from communities and institutions across America. The Urban Augmentation Medical Task Forces will expand the medical community’s ability to tend to all patients, to include COVID-19 positive patients, as we work together to combat the spread of the virus, and care for those patients requiring supportive medical care,” Col. Mary Reed, Army Reserve Command Surgeon, said in a statement.
Army General Counsel. The White House announced it has nominated Michele Peace to serve as the Army’s next general counsel. Pearce is currently the Army’s deputy general counsel and previously served as the Pentagon’s deputy general counsel for legislation. The Army’s most recent general counsel was Jim McPherson, who had been serving as the service’s under secretary before stepping in as acting Navy secretary following Thomas Modly’s resignation.
Marines’ ARV. The Marine Corps is postponing its industry day for the Armored Reconnaissance Vehicle program due to the ongoing coronavirus impact and while the senior officials assess the program’s status following the release of a new force design plan. Officials noted the program office will focus on targeted RFI’s related to ARV in the interim as well as strategic small group engagements. Gen. David Berger, the Marine Corps commandant, included ARV as one of the force’s programs that will be evaluated as leadership sets out to redesign the force for 2030. “I remain unconvinced that additional wheeled, manned armored ground reconnaissance units are the best and only answer, especially in the Indo-Pacific region,” Berger wrote in his force design report.
CH-53K Refueling Test. Sikorsky’s CH-53K King Stallion, the Marine Corps’ future heavy-lift helicopter, completed a successful air-to-air refueling test this week with a KC-130J tanker. “The successful air-to-air refueling test reinforces the superior capabilities of the CH-53K heavy lift helicopter and its ability to carry more Marines, cargo and equipment over longer ranges and in more challenging environments than any other rotorcraft in the world. As the only fully marinized heavy lift helicopter, it will allow the Marines the operational flexibility and reach to fly over open waters to complete long-range missions in support of expeditionary advanced base operations,” Bill Falk, Sikorsky’s CH-53K program director, said in a statement. The CH-53K program is set to reach initial operational test and evaluation in 2021, with a goal of first fleet deployment by 2024.
Battlefield Tablet. The Marine Corps has begun fielding an upgraded version of its lightweight tactical tablet to improve battlefield situational awareness and communication. The enhanced version of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force Common Handheld (MCH) tablet was rebuilt with a new communication to increase interoperability, while also utilizing lower bandwidth requirements. “Reducing bandwidth frees up space for other tactical uses. It also allows for additional users on the network without clogging it,” Maj. Justin King, the Marines’ project officer for MCH, said in a statement. Marines and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina received the first updated MCH tablets in December and the corps is planning to continue fielding infantry units throughout the year.
Multi-Domain Programs. Persistent Systems has received a $25 million contract for Air Force Global Strike Command’s Wave Relay Tactical Assault Kit (WaRTAK), which provides service convoys in austere environments with reliable multi-domain communications and situational awareness. Started in 2016, the WaRTAK program is used by the 20th Air Force’s three ICBM wings: the 90th Missile Wing at F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; the 91st Missile Wing at Minot AFB, North Dakota; and the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom AFB, Montana.
First OSP-4 Task Order. The Space Force on Friday awarded a $35 million task order to Vox Space, for the Space Test Program-S28 (STP-S28) launch service, as the first task order under the Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4) IDIQ contract. Eight companies received IDIQ contracts for the OSP-4 effort in October 2019 including Space X; Xbow Launch Systems, Inc.; Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems; Firefly Aerospace; United Launch Alliance; Aevum Inc.; Vox Space; and Rocket Lab. The OSP-4 contracts include launch services for about 20 missions involving payloads greater than 400 pounds to take place over a nine-year period. It replaces the Air Force’s OSP-3 contract that expired last November.