Budget Delay. Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told reporters at the annual Surface Navy Association symposium this week that the President’s FY 2020 Defense Department budget release will probably be delayed a week due to the ongoing partial government shutdown. “It was supposed to be on the 4th of February, I think we’re going to kick it at least a week because of the government shutdown,” Moran said.
Polar Star on Station. The Coast Guard’s only heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, arrived in Antarctica on Jan. 17 along with a resupply vessel after cutting through 18 miles of seasonal and multi-year ice in support of U.S. interests in the Antarctic. The 150 unpaid Coasties aboard the 42-year-old Polar Star have had to perform their usual feats to keep the aging ship sailing. During this year’s Operation Deep Freeze deployment, an electrical system was damaged, leaving just one of the ship’s two evaporators working for making drinking water, the ship had to halt during icebreaking operations to repair a leak in the shaft that drives the propeller, and the crew endured ship-wide power outages during icebreaking forcing the power plant to be shut down and electrical system to be rebooted. Once the offload of supplies is completed, the Polar Star will break ice to get the resupply vessel out of McMurdo Sound. And as always the case now, once the icebreaker returns to the U.S. it will enter drydock for essential repairs before heading south again next winter.
…Icebreaker Delay. The Coast Guard this year plans to award a contract for the first of three new heavy polar icebreakers, with current plans to retire the Polar Star once a second ship is built, but that schedule may be jeopardized due to the ongoing lapse in appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security. Former Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft, who retired from the service last June, notes that with the shutdown, “this lapse in appropriation will further delay that effort when there was no time to spare from the outset.” Highlighting Russia’s fleet of 40-plus icebreakers, he writes in the January issue of the U.S. Naval Institute’s monthly magazine Proceedings that Russia “is turning the Northern Sea Route into its de facto Suez Canal during the ice-free season in defiance of the Law of the Sea Convention,” adding that “the United States is rapidly becoming an Arctic nation in name only.”
…Insulting. Zukunft also says that during most of his 45 years in uniform the Coast Guard was used to being called on to do “more with less.” Now, with the partial government shutdown, it is “doing all with nothing.” In addition to the “hardship” the shutdown is causing for Coast Guard personnel because they aren’t being paid, “Mission-essential training is being deferred with egregious implications for a service that has as its motto: Semper Paratus—Always Ready.” He notes that the planned Jan. 19 commissioning of the Coast Guard’s newest National Security Cutter, the USCGC Kimball, has been delayed due to the shutdown.
Budget Caps. Rep. Joe Courtney (D-Conn.), likely new chair of the House Armed Services Committee’s seapower subcommittee, expressed cautious optimism on Wednesday at the Surface Navy Association conference that the Budget Control Act caps will be lifted for the FY ’20 and FY ’21 budget cycles. But it may not be a smooth process, he noted, adding that the ongoing partial government shutdown has hindered Congress’ ability to discuss the BCA caps. “Whether it’s going to get done in a timely fashion, that’s really the question of the day,” he said. He called new House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) a “very pragmatic” and “experienced” committee member, and noted, “his approach is going to be to recognize that there’s going to have to be a way to lift the caps.”
Belgium MQ-9. GA-ASI announced Jan. 15 that it has teamed up with five Belgium-based businesses to support the sale of its MQ-9B Sky Guardian to Brussels. “Team Sky Guardian Belgium” includes Belgian aerospace conglomerate SABCA, Thales Belgium, technology manufacturer Esterline, DronePort, a manned-unmanned aviation business incubator; and satellite communication technology company Newtec.
LCS MM. The LCS Mission Modules program manager Ted Zobel said even though the FY 2019 defense appropriations bill zeroed out requests for additional module funding, he does not see it being a major impediment for finishing development of the Variable Depth Sonar (VDS) for the Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) module. Congress appropriated ASW no additional FY 2019 funds as requested because it was “ahead of need.” At the annual Surface Navy Association symposium, Zobel said that despite the funding cut, “I think we’re still on a good glide slope, I have the R&D [funding] to be able to take the ship to test” through developmental and operational testing. He said the system continues to perform well and “I can’t help but assume that support will follow”
March CHAMP. Capt. Scott Searles, program manager for strategic and theater sealift, last week said a new solicitation for a Common Hull Auxiliary Multi-Mission Platform (CHAMP) industry study will be awarded in March. The Navy recently released a solicitation for industry studies that focus on reducing costs of the CHAMP vessels that will replace existing auxiliary and sealift ships. Part of the cost-saving measures are plans to replace the current auxiliary vessels with two hulls that split auxiliary and sealift missions.
Waterline. The Commander of the 6th Fleet said there will be no specific line in the ocean dividing the area of responsibilities (AORs) between 6th Fleet and the newly reestablished 2nd Fleet. “Our idea is not to make a line in the water, because when you make lines, adversaries exploit them,” Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti said Jan. 16 during a keynote address to the annual Surface Navy Association symposium. Franchetti said she and 2nd Fleet commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis plan to work together to figure out how to flow forces and address any challenges that come their way.
L3 Appointment. L3 Technologies appointed David Johnson as senior vice president of strategy for the communications and networked systems business segment. In the position, Johnson will oversee the segment’s overall business strategy, to include business development, systems engineering, and key programs and systems. Johnson previously served for decades in the Navy, most recently as principal military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition (ASN-RDA). He earlier served as PEO Submarines and deputy commander of Naval Sea Systems Command for undersea technology. Johnson will report to his old ASN-RDA boss, L3 corporate senior vice president and president of the communications and networked systems segment, Sean Stackley. Stackley was the Navy acquisition chief during the Obama administration.
INSCOM Industry Day. Army Intelligence & Security Command (INSCOM) on Friday said it will host an industry day in April to discuss current capability gaps. The event will be held at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency office in Springfield, Va. INSCOM officials said the event will update industry on future projects, current acquisition requirements and upcoming contract opportunities.
Rheinmetall/Swedish Army. German manufacturer Rheinmetall said Thursday it has received a contract to deliver 40 supply vehicles for the Swedish Army to be used for transporting Raytheon’s Patriot missile defense systems. The order includes 24 transport vehicles and 16 tractor trucks. Deliveries are scheduled to begin the first quarter of 2021. Rheinmetall did not disclose the specific contract value, but added “the order is in the double-digit million euro range.”
New Sensor Group. Persistent Systems on Tuesday announced the Wave Relay Ecosystem, a new collaborative effort with several technology partners to bring together sensors used across a range of unmanned systems. The program currently has six industry partners, including Boeing’s Insitu, QinetiQ North America, Endeavor Robotics and MartinUAV. Wave Relay is intended to more easily integrate unmanned system sensors onto a single network rather than working on stove-piped platforms with unique datalinks. All sensors within the program will operate on the Wave Relay mobile ad hoc network, which Persistent Systems said is the only network capable of scaling beyond 320 nodes.
NCRC Draft RFP. The Army on Tuesday released a draft RFP for National Cyber Range Complex event planning, operations and support work. The RFP has dropped before a planned pre-solicitation conference with industry in Orlando on Jan. 23. Officials wrote in the draft RFP the Army expects to award three to seven contracts for the work, with two contracts reserved for small businesses. Respondents to the RFP are asked to detail how they would set up specific scenarios for cyber training. The upcoming conference will address industry’s comments on the draft RFP.
Congress. HASC Chairman Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) criticized President Trump’s attempt to deny support for congressional leaders, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), to travel to military bases during the ongoing partial government shutdown. Trump declared that he canceled Pelosi’s plans to use military transportation to visit servicemembers in Afghanistan in a letter issued Thursday. “President Trump’s attempt to deny members of Congress the ability to conduct oversight of military issues by refusing to support official travel is dangerous, and it is undemocratic,” Smith said in a Friday statement. He noted that U.S. elected officials must be able to gather information on the ground about military conditions. “If Congress is not knowledgeable … it cannot respond with appropriate resources and authorities to issues that affect our country’s security and the well-being of our servicemembers and their families,” he said. “Further, it would improperly prevent Congress from exercising its proper oversight role as a co-equal branch of government.”