SDA Director Out. Two key space officials in the DoD submitted their resignations last week. Fred Kennedy, who had been selected to lead the nascent Space Development Agency, will return to DARPA where he previously served as the Tactical Technology Office’s director, a Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed Friday. An acting SDA director will be announced “soon,” said Heather Babb, Pentagon public affairs officer.

…Air Force Space Departures. Meanwhile, John Stopher, principal assistant to the secretary of the Air Force for space, submitted his resignation effective July 19 to President Trump with plans to return to the private sector, according to a June 18 letter viewed by Defense Daily. Space News first reported the imminent space departures. The SASC markup of the FY ’20 NDAA, voted out of committee in May, proposed to redesignate Stopher’s role from a policy-oriented position to the “Principal Assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force for Space Acquisition and Integration” in an effort to address key acquisition concerns in the DoD’s space domain.

Orbs in the Sky. Over the past week, observers in the Midwest were mystified by white orbs appearing high in the sky, with confirmed sightings in Dayton, Ohio, and Kansas City, Missouri. DARPA announced June 18 that it had launched three balloons from Cumberland, Maryland, as part of its Adaptable Lighter-Than-Air (ALTA) program to assess the capability of wind-borne navigation for lighter-than-air platforms over extended ranges.

Fred Kennedy a program manager in TTO at DARPA took his official photo at DARPA headquarters on January 5, 2017 in Arlington, VA.
(DoD Photo By: Sun L. Vega)

Inmarsat Contracts. DISA awarded Inmarsat a competitive single-award blanket purchase agreement worth up to $246 million for commercial satellite communication services. Two quotations were received from 28 offerors solicited, according to a June 18 contract announcement. Work will take place for five years, including a one-year base period of June 19, 2019, through June 18, 2020, and four 12-month option periods.

3D Printing Metal Parts. The Air Force’s Lifecycle Management Center’s propulsion directorate is ready to start putting 3D-printed metallic parts in aircraft engines to replace components that are no longer in production, Rafael Garcia, the directorate’s leader, said June 19 at a service-led conference in Dayton, Ohio. “We’ve done some really cool things in no-metallics, it’s time to take the next big step and go into metallics… [for] parts that are going to fly,” he said. A team is developing a timeline for how quickly it would like to see additive manufactured metallic parts installed in Air Force engines, but Garcia said he “would love to see something going next year at the latest.”

Contracting Tips. The future new Air Force military deputy for acquisition Lt. Gen. Duke Richardson told industry members at the Dayton conference Wednesday that they should “push back” against requirements that they believe are unneeded or unnecessary for a program they want to compete for. The Air Force acts “like we have an infinite bag of money,” said Richardson, who most recently served as the PEO for presidential and executive airlift directorate at AFMC and has been nominated for the acquisition deputy position. “If you’re running a fixed-price contract, think about it as if it was cost plus. And if you’re running a cost-plus program, think of it as fixed price,” he added.

Government-led Foundry Time? Robert McMahon, the Pentagon’s number-two sustainment official, told reporters Thursday at the Dayton conference that he is focused on multiple solutions to address supply chain issues in the defense industry including rare Earth metal deficiencies, falsified parts in the chain or cyber issues. When asked whether a government-led foundry was on the table, he said, “I don’t think we should take anything off the table.” He added: “Each subject needs to be discussed individually. … We have to look at each of the challenges and see what they need to move forward.”

…Chinese-Owned Suppliers. McMahon – whose title is Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment – was reluctant to say whether U.K.-based company Exception PCB will continue to manufacture circuit boards for U.S.- and U.K.-bound F-35s after reports came out earlier this week that the company is owned by Chinese firm Shenzhen Fastprint. “We’re trying to understand – in a situation like that – what are the risks, how do we flag that and how do we respond,” he told reporters, adding the department is assessing whether there are “nefarious” actors at work in this particular situation.

Metal Shark Boats. The Navy awarded Metal Shark Boats a $13 million modification to exercise options to build Near Coastal Patrol Vessels for U.S. Southern Command partner countries and Foreign Military Sales. Work will occur at their facility in Jeanerette, La., and is expected to be finished by August 2021. However, no funding has been obligated yet.

DDG-118. The Navy plans to christen the newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118), during a ceremony on June 22 in Bath, Maine. DDG-118 was built by General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. The ship is named in honor of the former Hawaii senator who served from 1963 until his death in 2012. Inouye received a Medal of Honor in 2000 for heroism during combat in Italy in World War II. DDG-118 will be the 68th DDG-51 class ship and is a Flight IIA model.

Norfolk Sub Maintenance. The Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) dedicated a new Submarine Maintenance Facility on June 14, the Navy said June 18. This new two-story facility will consolidate 15 locations of submarine maintenance, production, and support shops into one facility next to the submarine drydocks. It features shops, storage, and support spaces on the ground floor and office and conferences rooms on the second floor. The new building took over three years and $9.9 million to build, but the Navy said it is now one of the safest and sturdies buildings in at NNSY, designed to withstand a category 4 hurricane and a 500-year flood. The building currently supports work on Los Angeles-class submarines and will also support future Virginia and Columbia-class vessels.

FSC AoA. A Navy official last week said a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) team plans to brief the Navy leadership on the results of an analysis of alternatives (AoA) for surface forces “at the end of the year.” Carey Filing, NAVSEA director of surface ship design and systems engineering, told an annual American Society of Naval Engineers event that the AoA is looking at what the future surface forces should look like for 2045. It is considering the right mix of large surface combatants, small surface combatants, unmanned capabilities, and combat systems to effectively counter what adversaries will have in 2045. The results will influence what the Navy’s surface warfare requirements office invests in going forward and be added in to the service’s larger Force Structure Assessment.

Remote Demining. The Navy said it is looking into the possibility of a remote demining vehicle (RDV) with flail capability. On June 14 Naval Sea Systems Command posted a sources sought/request for information notice to FedBizOpps conducting a survey of potential sources for the RDV. The Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division Unmanned Breacher Vehicle team is looking into the viability of this kind of vehicle. The Panama City Division office has a requirement to procure the RDV and flail, conduct functional testing, and prepare demonstrations and proof of concept exercises for the Marine Corps. Responses are due by June 27.

MDA Targets. The Missile Defense Agency on June 20 awarded Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Coleman Aerospace a $140 million modification option to provide six more medium-range ballistic missile targets and associated engineering. This increases the total contract value from over $366 million to nearly $507 million. Work will occur in Orlando, Fla., and the performance period lasts through December 2027. A total of $22.5 million in FY 2018 research, development, test and evaluation funds were obligated at award time. Only one offeror was solicited and received for this award.

Futures Command Updates. Army Under Secretary Ryan McCarthy met last week with Gen. Mike Murray, head of Futures Command, to discuss a timeline for the new command’s full operational capability (FOC) declaration as well as the rollout of the service’s updated modernization strategy. McCarthy told reporters the FOC announcement will likely be made in July, noting that the new modernization enterprise has all senior leadership positions in place and its Cross Functional Teams are at 90 percent of manning goals. “The timing is very important. [Futures Command] has a big rollout for full operational capability. They’re inviting in stakeholders from industry, academia. They’re going to take stock of where we’ve been and where we’re headed,” McCarthy said. The Army’s updated modernization strategy is expected to detail how the service will integrate its future weapon systems in the new Multi-Domain Operations concept.  

NDAA AI Amendment. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced on June 18 he has filed an amendment to include the Artificial Intelligence Initiative Act within the Senate’s proposal for the FY ’20 National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment includes language to provide $2.2 billion in federal investment toward AI over the next five years. It also calls for a new national AI strategy to establish ethical standards and designate research and development priorities. “We filed this amendment because we need to act with a sense of urgency and purpose. Artificial intelligence – and the opportunities and challenges it will bring – are becoming seemingly inevitable, and they will have national security implications,” Heinrich said in a statement. “If we defer AI development to other nations, important ethical, safety, and privacy principles will be at risk, which not only harms the United States, but also the international community as a whole.” Heinrich originally announced the legislation as a standalone bill in May.

Phishing Scam. Email notifications made to look like they came from the Department of Homeland Security but containing malicious attachments are being sent as part of a phishing campaign to get recipients to download the malware, the department’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) warns. CISA said in a June 18 release that the emails “look like legitimate Department of Homeland Security notifications,” National Cyber Awareness System (NCAS) alerts. The agency tells users attempt to verify web addresses independently of unsolicited emails and in particular authenticate the sender of emails that include links and attachments. “CISA will never send NCAS notifications that contain email attachments,” it said.

Counter Drone Task Force. The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Airports Council International North America have formed a task force examining ways to detect, track, identify and mitigate potential threats from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) around airports, Brian Wynne, the head of AUVSI, told a Senate panel. The establishment of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on UAS Mitigation at Airports follows drone sightings at airports in London and New Jersey that disrupted air traffic last year and this year. “The panel includes a cross-section of stakeholders representing the airport, UAS and manned aviation communities, and will provide recommendations to airports and the federal government to refine procedural practices in response to incursions and provide a policy framework to address this timely and critical issue,” Wynne said.

Gung-Ho on Biometrics. Biometric technology holds a lot of promise for the Transportation Security Administration, despite misgivings and concerns of a lot of people about the technology, because it will improve security and efficiencies and make life easier for travelers, according to the head of the agency’s requirements and technology evaluation office. “You’re looking at an analog man living in a digital world,” Austin Gould, assistant administrator of the Requirements and Capabilities Analysis office, said at a June 20 TSA Industry Day. A self-described “disaster” with using digital technology, Gould said he’s “excited about biometrics and identity management. And that is the truth.” Biometrics enhances the ability to positively identify people and will speed up processing at checkpoints, and “I think that it will be difficult to fool or spoof,” he said.

…Airport Pilots. Gould said TSA continues to pilot facial recognition technology at a checkpoint and bag drop location at Hartsfield Jackson International Airport in Atlanta to identify passengers. Later this year, the agency plans to pilot facial recognition technology at checkpoints at an airport in Las Vegas. In the upcoming evaluation, a camera will be used in conjunction with new Credential Authentication Technology (CAT). When a traveler puts his credential in the CAT reader, a separate camera will take a photo of the individual and the system will compare the captured photo with that on the credential and provide a match or no-match, he said. Both pilots will help generate requirements, he said. Eventually, Gould said his office will develop biometric requirements appropriate to TSA and suggested that airlines or airports can pay for the camera systems and gift them to the agency.