GBSD Bids: Northrop Grumman Only. Northrop Grumman is the only company to bid on the potentially $25 billion contract to build and deploy the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent (GBSD). The company confirmed Friday, at the deadline to submit bids, that it put in an offer with the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center. Boeing, the only other company eligible to bid, confirmed that it did not. Boeing dropped out of the competition in July, claiming Northrop Grumman has an insurmountable price advantage because the company owns its own solid-rocket business: the former Orbital-ATK. GBSD is slated to replace Boeing-built Minuteman III missiles beginning in 2030 as the land-based leg of the U.S. nuclear triad. Boeing could still protest either the competition or the award.

Budget. Enacting the FY ’20 NDAA would increase the fiscal deficit by $5.6 billion over the next 10 years, according to a CBO study released Dec. 11. The increase comes primarily from three sources. Changes to the so-called “Widow’s Tax” increase direct spending by $4.7 billion by increasing the annuities that spouses of deceased military retirees receive under the Survivor Benefit Plan. A provision that increases the number of immigrant visas available to Afghan-native U.S. government workers boosts the deficit by about $500 million, and a provision that allows individuals to file claims against the U.S. government for damages related to medical malpractice in military treatment facilities boosts direct spending by about $300 million.

Space Fence. The Air Force has begun the trial period for Lockheed Martin’s Space Fence, after the radar system recently completed developmental and operational testing phases, AFSMC said in a Dec. 10 press release. Once the trial period is successfully completed, the Air Force will declare operational acceptance of the radar, which is currently on Kwajalein Atoll.

Columbia still has margin. The Navy still has margin to burn on the first Columbia ballistic missile submarine, despite some of that programmatic breathing room getting burned after BWX Technologies botched a dozen welds on Common Missile Compartment tubes intended for both Columbia– and Virginia-class subs. That’s according to Vice Adm. Johnny Wolfe, the service’s director of strategic systems programs. “They do have margin to get to that first [Columbia] delivery” in 2031, Wolfe said Thursday at an event hosted by the George Washington University and MITRE Corp. Wolfe wouldn’t say how much margin is left.

Navy Accepts EPF. The Navy on Dec. 10 accepted the delivery of its 11th Expeditionary Fast Transport Vessel, the future USNS Puerto Rico, from Austal USA. “We are excited to accept delivery of another versatile ship, further expanding the advantage of our civilian mariners at sea. Delivery of our 11th ship is a testament to the inherent flexibility of the EPF class,” Capt. Scot Searles, Program Executive Office Ships’ strategic and theater sealift program manager, said in a statement. Military Sealift Command will own and operate the EPF-11. The Navy noted that Austal USA is also currently building the 12th and 13th EPF vessels, USNS Newport and USNS Apalachicola respectively, and is also on contract for the 14th EPF vessel, the future USNS Cody.

Boeing Laser. Boeing announced on Dec. 12 the company recently completed a weeks-long demonstration of its high-energy five-kilowatt Compact Laser Weapon System for the Air Force and Army. The tests took place from Oct. 15 to Nov. 6 at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and included successfully taking down around 30 small UAVs over the course of several events. “We received great feedback on the ease of use and maturity of the CLWS system, and its seamless integration into the command and control network. In the past year, Boeing has demonstrated CLWS capabilities with first-time military operators at five test venues. They successfully engaged and defeated hundreds of UAVs with a very high success rate,” Kurt Sorenson, Boeing’s CLWS program manager, said in a statement. Boeing noted that it delivered multiple CLWS units to an undisclosed U.S. military customer in 2018, with the capability already deployed overseas for six months for a limited user evaluation.

NDAA/OMFV. Lawmakers are seeking greater oversight of the Army’s Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program, including a directive in the final version of the FY ’20 defense authorization for quarterly briefings to receive updates. The provision is likely included after the OMFV prototype period began with only one competitor, General Dynamics, after the Army did not accept a bid proposal from Germany’s Rheinmetall. Under the bill, the Army’s top acquisition official would be required to provide briefings once a quarter through Oct. 1, 2022. The bill details that briefings must include an overview of current and planned funding obligations for the program, an update on the program schedule, an assessment of technology maturity levels and the latest information on testing, delivery and program management. 

Schultz on CR. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz said one “palpable” impact of the ongoing continuing resolution (CR) for government spending on his service is the difficulty it causes in lining up commercial shipyard repair. The ship repair market is “pretty competitive right now and the shipyards make decisions on predictable, stable funding” but with the CRs “they can’t really anticipate what the budget certainty for the services is,” he told reporters last week after a Navy League breakfast. It was only 10 days out before the National Security Cutter Hamilton knew what commercial shipyard it was going to for maintenance, and this was partly due to the fiscal uncertainty, he said. Schultz didn’t know what the cost impacts from this are to the Coast Guard but said it creates uncertainty for the crew and makes it harder to line up government furnished equipment used in the repairs. Schultz said he’s “challenged my team” to look at the possibility of doing ship repair planning on two-year cycle instead of annually, highlighting the Navy is on a multi-year contract for shipyard repair.

…Enterprise IT Impact. The Coast Guard budgeted $14 million in fiscal year 2020 to initiate the modernization of its enterprise information technology platform, which is outdated, Schultz said at the breakfast. He told reporters it’s unclear whether this effort is a new start or not, which needs to be sorted out. New program starts are prohibited under CRs. The Coast Guard is watching what the Pentagon is doing with its new commercial cloud contract, the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI). “There’s the ability for the Coast Guard to kind of ride on those coat tails once they get through the protest.” Amazon, which lost out to Microsoft for JEDI, is challenging the Pentagon’s award decision in court.

Arctic Security Initiative. Amid increasing great power interest in the Arctic region, the U.S. should establish an Arctic Security Initiative (ASI) akin to the European Deterrence Initiative, to have a pool of dedicated security funding for things like more exercises and training, Heather Conley, an Arctic issues expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told a Senate panel last Thursday. Conley, a former State Department official, also told the Senate Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Security that the funds could also be used to develop a “layered homeland defense design” to include increased deployment of strategic forces such as bombers, infrastructure, unmanned undersea vehicles and anti-submarine warfare equipment, upgraded early warning missile defense radar, and more.

Cortese Retires. Steve Cortese, long-time defense insider who most recently served as Executive Vice President for Washington Operations at Leonardo DRS, retired earlier this month. From 1986-2003, he was a top Senate appropriations staffer for the DoD budget, rising to staff director for the defense subcommittee and the full appropriations committee. He left the Hill to join Lockheed Martin and later ATK before switching to DRS in 2013.

NRO Study. Hawkeye 360 has been awarded a study contract by the National Reconnaissance Office that will look into the integration of commercial radio frequency capabilities into the office’s geospatial intelligence structure. A Dec. 11 company release said the company will perform assessments, demonstrations and analysis to validate that commercial RF survey, ordering, cataloging and data products can integrate into the NRO architecture. The goal is to support the review and enhancement of commercial processes to ultimately develop an end-to-end management system.

IG Wall Audit. The Defense Department’s acting Inspector General will audit a $400 million award by the Army Corps of Engineers to Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. to design and build portions of a security wall along Arizona’s border with Mexico. The investigation was recently requested by Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, who said Fisher Sand and Gravel’s proposal didn’t meet operational requirements and was behind schedule and over cost on prototype wall projects.