Reed on ‘Belt Tightening.’ Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said last week the potential “belt tightening” of defense spending could provide the Pentagon an opportunity to prioritize around key technology areas and act as a catalyst for shedding older legacy systems. “Belt tightening in any department is always a challenge but it also provides an opportunity to evaluate what is necessary. This budget will present an opportunity to focus on the critical technologies we need to modernize our forces and maintain our competitive advantage, like AI, quantum computing and hypersonics. It should also push into finding ways to retire legacy systems and excess infrastructure that are using up limited resources without providing an added edge,” Reed said during a Reagan Institute discussion. Reed noted the delay in receiving the president’s budget could present challenges for ironing out complex issues on a compressed timeline. “The longer we’re delayed the less opportunity we have to work out very complicated issues. They’re more complicated because there’s not the same growth that we saw in the last few years.”

…PPBE Reform. Reed also discussed his interest in having SASC look at reforms to the Pentagon’s Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution (PPBE) for allocating resources, which he said has been largely unchanged since the 1960s. “If you can find a more boring topic, please contact me immediately,” Reed said. “Today, [PPBE] is likely too slow and cumbersome to meet many of DoD’s requirements to adopt new technologies in a rapid, agile manner and needs to be updated.” Reed said he would like to see the department embrace a “post-Industrial Age model” for doing business that prioritizes agility to match the speed of new software and hardware development. “Now, when you have a situation where computer technology and software is probably more decisive than hardware in many cases, we have to move to a new model,” Reed said. “That’s why we’re seriously looking at the PPBE. We want expert opinions. And we want to make sure that the changes we make are consistent with the new technology.”

Cyber Spending Plans. Acting Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Brandon Wales said last week that the $650 million appropriated by Congress in March in new funding for his agency as part of a COVID relief package will be split in four primary ways, including further building out its cyber defensive teams to do more threat hunting on federal civilian agency networks. Second, for deploying technologies, sensors, endpoint detection and response tools on federal networks to improve visibility for the agencies and CISA. Third is to pilot a secure, “threat hardened” private cloud for civilian agencies, ultimately leading to a more consistent cloud security environment for these agencies, he said. Finally, moving civilian agencies to “more defensible and secure architectures” and network configurations to include zero-trust, he said at a May 11 hearing hosted by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. On Thursday, during a virtual Defense Writers Group meeting, Wales said the funding is split “roughly” equal between the four buckets, with “maybe the first three a little bit bigger than the fourth.”

SBIRS Cyber Hardening. The U.S. Space Force is to initiate the first National Security Space Launch this year from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station (CCSFS), Fla. on May 17 with a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying Lockheed Martin’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-5 satellite into orbit. The SBIRS GEO-5 launch will be the first with Lockheed Martin’s LM2100 Combat Bus, which is to have greater resilience and cyber hardening against jamming and hacking threats, in addition to improved spacecraft power, propulsion and electronics. The satellite was encapsulated on April 30 at CCSFS within ULA’s payload fairing—the final major testing milestone before launch, per Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles AFB, Calif.

AMRAAM Test. The Navy’s Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) joint program office finished a second live fire test of the new AIM-120D-3 missile variant on May 12, the service said. The AMRAAM variant launched from an F/A-18F Super Hornet and flew on an expected flight path over the Point Mugu Sea Test Range in California. The Navy said preliminary analysis by prime contractor Raytheon Technologies indicates all primary and secondary objectives were met. The AIM-120D-3 aims to deliver advanced capabilities to improve missile effectiveness against advanced threats along with software upgrades. This second shot tested the missiles’ safe separation autopilot and free-flight navigation capabilities. The first shot occurred on Dec. 9, 2020. Deliveries of the new variant are set to start in 2023.

Full-Color Targeting. Northrop Grumman said this month that the U.S. Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard have fielded the company’s LITENING advanced targeting pod with full-color digital video capability. The new color video “gives pilots a clearer picture of the battlespace, making targeting faster and more accurate,” said James Conroy, Northrop Grumman’s vice president of navigation, targeting and survivability. The LITENING advanced targeting pod is able to display up to three different views simultaneously and allows operators to see color and infrared video side by side. The company said that it can upgrade any older LITENING pod to the new, color configuration, which also includes the ability to record simultaneous video feeds for post-mission analysis, automatic laser code display and an eye-safe mode that allows for more realistic training using the laser. Northrop Grumman said that it has delivered more than 900 LITENING pods to the U.S. military and to international partners and that the pods have an availability rate of more than 95 percent.

CVN-68 Work. The Navy’s Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility (PSNS and IMF) officially began a six-month Planned Incremental Availability (PIA) on the USS Nimitz 9CVN-68) aircraft carrier on May 10. The PIA is expected to include a laser alignment on catapults three and four, cleaning and inspecting about 60,000 tubes on the main engines and turbine generators’ condensers and other standard work. The project is expected to take about 330,000 man-days of work, divided between PSNS and IMF workers, private sector mechanics and the ship’s force. Steven Pugh, Fiscal Year 2021 Nimitz PIA deputy project superintendent, Code 312, Carrier Operations Department said the Nimitz project team has been in close contact with project teams from similar recent availabilities with the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) to ensure lessons learned are incorporated into the upcoming work. 

Virginia-class Challenge. The Chief of Naval Operations last week said reaching a rate of producing three Virginia-class attack submarines per year will be a challenge. “I do think that three a year is a challenge. I think that industry recognizes that three a year is a challenge,” Adm. Mike Gilday said May 13 during the annual McAleese defense conference. The Navy is facing a shortage of attack submarines set to deepen in the mid-2020s when submarine production will not exceed the retirement of Los Angeles-class submarines. At the same time, the Navy is moving forward with its top priority, the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine. The service has looked at extending some Los Angeles-class vessels and many in Congress support producing three new Virginia-class vessels per year. However, the newest Block 5 Virginia-class vessels will include the Virginia Payload Module, adding to the vessels’ cost. “So, it’s really a challenge to industry,” Gilday said. “Right now, the answer is we can’t produce three a year. We hope we get to a place where we could, but it’s also going to come down to affordability with respect to what the [budget] topline is, and how much money we have left for affordable growth with respect to capacity,” he added. 

Cutting Steel. Huntington Ingalls Industries last week began fabrication on the 11th Coast Guard Legend-class National Security Cutter, the Friedman (WMSL 760), signifying that the first 100 tons of steel have been cut. For now, the Friedman is the last of the planned 418-foot Legend-class high endurance cutters the Coast Guard is acquiring to replace 12 Hamilton-class cutters of which all have been retired. The Friedman is scheduled for delivery in 2024. There is interest from some members in Congress for a 12th NSC.

Teledyne FLIR. Teledyne Technologies last Friday said that it has complete $8.2 billion acquisition of FLIR Systems, adding that its new business will be included in the Digital Imaging segment and operate under the name Teledyne FLIR.  Teledyne also announced two executive promotions related to the deal. Edwin Roks, vice president of Teledyne president of the Digital Imaging segment, is now executive vice president of Teledyne and president of the segment. Todd Booth is now senior vice president and chief financial officer for Teledyne FLIR. FLIR adds new capabilities in electro-optic and infrared imaging, unmanned systems, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear detection.

Another Cyber Bill. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich.) last Friday said she is introducing the bipartisan CISA Cyber Exercise Act, which would establish a National Exercise Program to test U.S. response plans for major cyber incidents. The program would also have the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) create model exercises for state and local governments, and businesses to test the safety and security of their critical infrastructure. CISA would also be directed to help these governments and businesses design, implement and evaluate the exercises. Slotkin also wrote to pipeline owners and operators in her state asking them what additional steps they are taking to secure their systems following last week’s disclosure by East Coast pipeline operator Colonial Pipeline that it had been a victim of a ransomware attack, prompting the company to temporarily shut down operations, an action that led to fuel shortages in a number of states.