Space National Guard. Acting Secretary of the Air Force John Roth has signed a proposal on the integration of the Air National Guard and the Air Force Reserves into the U.S. Space Force, says Chief of Space Operations Gen. John “Jay” Raymond. The study recommends a two-component structure consisting of an active and Reserve combined component and a separate Space National Guard. “We’re awaiting to get on the calendar with [Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin,” Raymond told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee’s defense panel on May 7th. “I imagine that will happen in a matter of days. Once that report is blessed, it will be submitted through OMB to Congress.” Raymond said that Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units have supported space missions for 25 years and that those units “will remain critical to us in the future.”

Post-Afghanistan Funds. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the withdrawal from Afghanistan will likely free up funds that could be reallocated for new priorities in the department. “Certainly any time you stop doing something that’s this important and this big, it creates opportunities. We’ll look at what the possibilities are going forward as opportunities are created,” Austin said during a press briefing on May 6. When asked to detail where the potential billions of dollars in savings could be transferred, Austin responded “more to follow.” Austin also declined to comment on whether the upcoming FY ‘22 budget request would reflect the transfer of previously Afghanistan-related funds to other areas. “We’re in the final stages of outlining the budget for [FY] ‘22, and then we’ll get busy on the ‘23 budget and beyond,” Austin said. “I don’t want to try to get ahead of the budget process. I’m not making a budget announcement from the podium today.”

Sky Warden. L3Harris Technologies and Air Tractor said that they are teaming up to build the AT-802U Sky Warden—a low-cost aircraft for performing ISR and “other missions in extreme combat environments.” While the U.S. Air Force cut short its low-cost attack aircraft program, U.S. Special Operations Command has taken up the slack in its Armed Overwatch program. L3Harris and Air Tractor said that Sky Warden hosts L3Harris’ sensors and “is based on the rugged and capable Air Tractor AT-802, which features the largest payload capacity of any single engine turboprop aircraft.” The multi-mission Sky Warden “merges the capabilities of larger ISR and armed aircraft into one resilient package,” the companies said, and is able to take off and land on unimproved airstrips—the latter capability important for special forces. Luke Savoie, the president of L3Harris Aviation Services, said that L3Harris systems and personnel “have supported more than 1.3 million combat hours of special operations ISR and attack missions in the past 10 years.”  Sky Warden’s name derives from the A-1E Sky Raider—used for search and rescue air cover during the Vietnam War by Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC)–and the U-28A Draco, which has the call sign “Warden” during combat operations. AFSOC uses the U-28A, a modified Pilatus PC-12 aircraft, for ISR missions.

Big Time Cyber Hiring. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last Wednesday kicked off his department’s second cybersecurity sprint, this one aimed at recruiting and developing a diverse and talented cyber workforce. Moreover, he said a wave of hiring is about to take place. “It is at all levels and we take great pride and we’re extraordinarily energetic about this effort and we intend to execute the most significant hiring initiative that the Department of Homeland Security has undertaken in its history,” he said during a moderated discussion hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The first of six cyber sprints are already underway and is aimed at combating ransomware. Mayorkas says that DHS plans to recruit “talent that is already developed,” help develop “the talent that is just about to bloom, and we’re going to be investing in the seeds to grow the talent of the future.”

TCTS II Approval. Program Executive Officer for Aviation Common Systems and Commercial Services Gary Kurtz approved the Milestone C for the next-generation air combat training system, called the Tactical Combat Training System Increment II (TCTS II). This approval, on April 27, will now allow for the program to move into limited production with industry partner Collins Aerospace Systems. TCTS II is an open architecture system that allows secure air combat training across fourth and fifth-generation aviation and maritime platforms and will replace and advance current range training infrastructure, the Navy said. The Collins training pod is the first such piece to meet the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force’s requirements  and communicates with both airborne and ground equipment. Perfrmance and flight testing will be conducted by Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md.  on the F/A-18E Super Hornet.

Wormuth Confirmation Hearing. The Senate Armed Services Committee has scheduled a hearing to consider Christine Wormuth’s nomination to serve as the next Army secretary for the morning of May 13th. Wormuth, if confirmed, would be the service’s first female secretary. Wormuth previously served as DoD’s top policy official during the Obama administration and is currently director of the RAND Corporation’s International Security and Defense Policy Center. Lawmakers are likely to question Wormuth on her plans for navigating the Army’s massive modernization overhaul and her thoughts on the service’s “night court” process to cut legacy systems to fund higher priority programs.

Done Deals. Peraton and Leidos both closed important acquisitions last week, with Peraton buying Perspecta for $7.1 billion and Leidos picking up naval architects Gibbs & Cox for $380 million. The Perspecta deal vaults Peraton into the top ranks of federal information technology and professional services providers, with annual sales of about $7 billion, a backlog of $24.4 billion, and 22,000 employees, 7,500 of whom have a top-secret clearance. The Gibbs & Cox deal adds critical expertise in naval architecture, a relatively weak spot for Leidos as it pursues business in the Navy’s unmanned maritime systems space. Leidos last summer lost out to L3Harris Technologies to design and build a prototype for the Navy’s Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle. Leidos has said a lesson learned from the MUSV experience is the need to have tighter integration in-house between ship design and autonomous technology.

…New CFO. Speaking of Leidos, the company last week appointed Christopher Cage as its new chief financial officer effective July 5, which is when James Reagan, the current CFO, retires. Reagan will remain with the company as an advisor through the end of 2021. Cage is currently chief accounting officer for Leidos and has been with the company since 1999. Carly Kimball, associate corporate controller for Leidos, will succeed Cage as chief accounting officer. She has also worked as CFO for CACI Products Company and as senior manager in Ernst & Young’s Aerospace and Defense audit practice.

Penetrating ISR.The fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act allowed the U.S. Air Force to retire its four Block 20 RQ-4 Global Hawk drones by Northrop Grumman this year, but Congress did not permit the retirement of the 20 Block 30 RQ-4s. Under section 136 of the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, the service may seek a waiver for the retirement of the Block 30 aircraft if the secretary of defense determines that a greater capability is worth increased operating and sustainment costs. The new Air Force fiscal 2022 posture statement says that the Block 30 Global Hawk “cannot compete in a contested environment.” The posture statement says that the service will continue to pursue a DoD waiver to allow the Air Force to retire the 20 Block 30 RQ-4s in order to redirect the funds to the development of penetrating ISR drones. “Overall, intelligence collection will transition to a family of systems that includes non-traditional assets, sensors in all domains, commercial platforms, and a hybrid force of 5th- and 6th-generation capabilities,” per the posture statement. “A comprehensive investment strategy that the Air Force is bringing forward synchronizes divestment of legacy platforms, takes calculated risk in upgrading existing platforms, and introduces the next-generation ISR family of systems that will feed into ABMS [Advanced Battle Management System].”

ESB-5 Commissioning. The Navy plans to commission the future USS Miguel Keith (ESB-5) at Naval Station North Island in San Diego on May 8. The ceremony will be a private event with a limited audience due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but will be livestreamed. Adm. Craig Faller, commander of U.S. Southern Command, will deliver the ceremony’s principal address. ESB-5 was built by General Dynamics’ National Steel and Shipbuilding Co. in San Diego and was delivered to the Navy in November 2019. This will be the third Expeditionary Sea Base variant of the Expeditionary Transfer Dock platform and is designed to provide capabilities in aviation, berthing, equipment staging area, and command and control. ESB-5 is set to be part of the Forward Deployed Naval Force operating out of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Pacific Fleet. Adm. Samuel Paparo assumed command of the U.S. Pacific Fleet on May 5, relieving Adm. John Aquilino who is now commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. Paparo was appointed and assigned to this role in March. He previously served as commander of U.S. 5th Fleet/Naval Forces Central Command/Combined Maritime Forces at Manama, Bahrain. “The U.S. remains committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific that can only be achieved by the teamwork of like-minded partners, all working with a common commitment to upholding international law and the rules-based, international order,” Paparo said.

New ONI Chief. Rear Adm. Gene Price relieved Rear Adm. Kelly Aeschbach as commander of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) during a ceremony at the National Maritime Intelligence Center in Suitland, Md. on May 3. Aeschbach was confirmed by the Senate for a promotion to vice admiral on April 29 and is set to serve as the next commander of Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) in Suffolk, Va. In the new role, Price also assumed the role of director of the National Maritime Intelligence Office (NMIO) in a virtual change of directorship held before the ONI event. Price previously served as interim ONI commander and NMIO director from January to June 2019, when he was then re-assigned from NAVIFOR to fill a gap between active-duty assignments. Price is set to serve as the head of ONI and NMIO until Rear Adm. Curt Copley takes command this June.

Global-X Round 2. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global is launching a second round of its Global-X international science challenge to encourage new research, ONR said on April 26. This will be a nine-month challenge worth up to $500,000 focused particularly on polar science issues. ONR previously awarded four winners in the first Global-X,  which was worth $1.1 million total. Under the new round ONR Global is interested in white papers and proposals  covering alternate navigation at high latitude, high latitude high bandwidth communications and persistent polar perception. ONR Global expects but does not require that multi-national teams include at least two research entities outside the U.S. “Alongside an evaluation panel of experts from participant nations of the International Cooperative Engagement Program for Polar Research, we are interested in finding promising concepts that achieve innovative capability advances with both military and commercial value, specifically focused in polar science,” said ONR Global Executive Officer Capt. Matt Farr. Awards are expected by September 24.

VLS Sales. The Navy awarded BAE Systems a $76 million contract to exercise options to procure additional Mk 41 Vertical Launch System (VLS) canisters and ancillary hardware, the company said May 4. The contract was awarded on March 31. The canisters help store, transport and serve as launch tubes various offensive and defensive missiles fired from the deck of the U.S. Navy’s destroyers and cruisers. According to the contract notice, it combines purchases evenly into half for the U.S. and half for a set of Foreign Military Sales customers including South Korea, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Australia and Turkey. Work is expected to be finished by February 2024. BAE said adding this modification, the overall contract is now worth $306 million. The company confirmed the modification will have it produce canisters for the Mk 13, Mk 14, Mk 25, Mk 29 and other hardware. BAE said these VLS tubes also provide identification and firing support to missile types including the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, Standard Missile-2 (SM-2), SM-3, SM-6, the Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile, and the ASROC vertical launch anti-submarine rocket.   

Shipyard Grants.The Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) awarded over $7 million to nine members of the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) last week via the Small Shipyard Grant Program. Under the program, MARAD provides annual federal grants to support capital improvements and employee training projects at small American shipyards. The SCA members in the award include  Master Boat Builders, Inc. of Coden, Ala.; Eastern Shipbuilding Group, Inc. of Panama City, Fla.; Bollinger Marine Fabricators of Amelia, La.; Boston Ship Repair of Boston, Mass.; Philly Shipyard, Inc. of Philadelphia, Pa.; Lyon Shipyard of Norfolk, Va.; Marine Hydraulics International, LLC of Norfolk, Va.; Everett Ship Repair, LLC of Everett, Wash.; and Pacific Fisherman Shipyard and Electric, LLC of Seattle, Wash.

WWC RFP. The Coast Guard has issued a Request for Proposal for its Waterways Commerce Cutter (WWC), which will be the service’s new river buoy and inland construction tenders. The solicitation for the design and construction of the WWC is a small business set-aside. Winner of the WWC contract will design the river buoy and inland construction tenders to have 95 percent commonality. Bids are due by July 30 and an award is expected in early 2022. The current inland tender fleet of 35 boats has an average vessel age of over 55 years. The WWC program envisions a 27 boat buy.