Spectrum Sharing. DoD must figure out how to share spectrum with the commercial sector if the U.S. is to be a leader in 5G network development, Griffin also said at the McAleese conference Wednesday. “There is no green field spectrum left,” he said. Earlier in the week, SASC members asked the Air Force if it would consider mid-band spectrum sharing to allow companies to develop 5G. Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Secretary Barbara Barrett said spectrum sharing could only happen so long as it did not impede the Air Force from conducting its critical missions.

Open Skies. The future of the Air Force’s program to replace aging RC-135 surveillance aircraft seems dim as Defense Secretary Mark Esper has “a lot of concerns” about the Open Skies Treaty, he told the SASC Wednesday. Esper said he is “not prepared to recapitalize aircraft” until a decision is made about the treaty’s future. The Air Force had been planning to procure two new aircraft.

U.K. 5G. U.K. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Thursday that he trusted his country’s technical experts when they tell him that the nation’s inclusion of Chinese company Huawei in their 5G standup would not put them at risk. “I have to believe that, they’re the professionals,” he said in an interview at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C. “Accepting their technical advice is part of” the job. Wallace added that Huawei hardware is not part of the country’s intelligence or defense networks, and is capped at 35 percent of the commercial sector’s network. There is a goal to cut the company out of the entire network at a later date, he noted.

F-35. The combat-coded F-35 fleet has reached a 73.2 percent mission capable rate, nearly 20 percent higher than it was in 2018, F-35 PEO Air Force Lt. Gen. Eric Fick said at the McAleese Conference Wednesday. Forward-deployed units ended 2019 with an 89 percent mission capable rate, he added. “This movement represents an amazing forward progress, but still we must do better,” Fick said.

Biotech Center. The Pentagon plans to open its 9th manufacturing innovation center – also dubbed ManTech centers – dedicated to biotechnology, Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Mike Griffin said Wednesday at the annual McAleese & Associates Conference in Washington, D.C. “This is a nascent technical area in the world, and especially in the United States,” Griffin said. “We want the national security community to be out in front on this.” Key focus areas include developing biotech weapons or fuel from synthetic biology methods.

POTUS Race. Former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and SASC Member Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) both suspended their campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination this week following Super Tuesday results. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are largely seen as the frontrunners now but Army National Guardswoman and HASC Member Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) also remains in the race. Bloomberg has endorsed Biden, while Warren has not yet endorsed a nominee. The next Democratic debate takes place March 15 in Phoenix.

Personnel. Air Force Air Mobility Command Deputy Commander Lt. Gen. Jon Thomas was nominated this week to become the next deputy commander of Pacific Air Forces. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategy, Integration and Requirements Lt. Gen. Timothy Fay was nominated to become the service’s next director of staff at the Pentagon.

New Coast Guard Cutter. The Coast Guard in late February christened its ninth National Security Cutter, the Stone, at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss. The 418-foot high-endurance cutter is scheduled for delivery this November. Congress has provided funding for 11 NSCs and long-lead funding for a 12th. Huntington Ingalls Industries is the shipbuilder.

Biometric Tech Rally. The Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate is moving forward with a new Biometric Technology Rally and is seeking submissions from industry for the evaluations this fall. The agency is seeking face and multi-modal biometric capture systems and biometric matching algorithms for the rally, which will “focus on the technical challenge of reliably identifying small, free-flowing groups of individuals in crowded environments, like airports or ports of entry.” This will be third rally in three years. “Past rallies were limited to testing technologies using individuals one at a time to help industry identify and address the challenges of processing people in high-throughput use cases,” said Arun Vemury, director of S&T’s Biometric and Identity Technology Center. “Now it’s time to take the training wheels off and see how well these systems deal with more realistic conditions, identifying groups of people that opt-in to using the system, while avoiding bystanders in a crowded environment who have not opted-in.”

Capital Deployment. General Dynamics will increase its quarterly dividend by 8 percent to $1.10 per share effective May 8, marking the 23rd consecutive annual dividend increase by the company. GD’s board also authorized the repurchase of an additional 10 million shares of the company’s stock.

Indicted. Charles Edwards, a former acting Inspector General (IG) at the Department of Homeland Security during a portion of the Obama administration, was indicted in federal court last Friday for an alleged scheme to defraud the government. Edwards, who resigned in 2013 from DHS after two years leading the IG’s office, was indicted for allegedly stealing proprietary software used by the office and government databases containing personal information of DHS and U.S. Postal Service employees, so that he could later resell an improved version of the software to the Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General. Edwards resigned from his DHS post due to various alleged misdeeds. After leaving the department, he allegedly leveraged his relationships with other DHS IG employees to steal the software and databases.

Maritime Strategy. The Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard are working together on a joint “tri-service maritime strategy” with the service leaders expecting to receive the strategy from staff this upcoming summer. “We are trying to bring things together from a top-down perspective in a more integrated way,” Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said March 2 during the AFCEA West 2020 conference in San Diego. Service staff have been working on the issue for upward of three months and it will be informed by the National Defense Strategy, Gilday added.

CSG Digital Twin. The Naval Information Warfare Systems Command (NAVWAR) said at the same conference that it was developing a first-of-its-kind digital twin of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (CSG). This encompasses 25 ships and shore sites. The Navy said once it’s fully mature it will provide “an adaptable digital simulation environment that mirrors the operations environment.” The digital twin effort aims to allow the ability to test and evaluate solutions in a virtual environment before delivery, increasing system reliability and cybersecurity while decreasing risk to the warfighter.

…Every Hull. Delores Washburn, Chief Engineer, at Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific, said she believes eventually every hull will get a digital twin. “That’s the power of the cloud…it’s that it’s so easy to spin up a copy of a ship and we should be able to replicate any ship out there in the fleet.” She noted before the effort for a digital Roosevelt CSG, NAVWAR completed a digital twin of the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). “So this is part of our journey of digital transformation…and now we’re just expanding that by doing the Theodore Roosevelt and ideally all the ships that are in the carrier strike group. So this will be instituted. This will be our new way of doing business.”

CSG-12. The Navy announced Carrier Strike Group 12 (CSG-12) assumed operational control of the USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) on March 2 as it begins flight deck certification off the coast of Norfolk, Va. CSG-12 is under the command of Rear Adm. Michael Boyle, who assumed operational command of CVN-78. CSG-12, basedi n Norfolk, previously operated aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). “We’re extremely excited to have Gerald R. Ford join Carrier Strike Group 12 as she prepares for Flight Deck Certification this month, an important milestone on her way to becoming a fully operational aircraft carrier,” Boyle said in a statement. The carrier finished Aircraft Compatability Testing on Jan. 31 after being underway for 16 days of launching aircraft and various tests. All of the aircraft types expected to be used on its first deployment are now certified to conduct flight operations on board the ship. Following flight deck certification, CVN-78 is set to serve as the primary carrier qualification on the East Coast for newly qualified naval aviators.

Elevator Update. The Navy also noted Lower Stage Elevator #5 Advanced Weapon Elevator (AWE) has moved to final testing and is on track to be turned over in April. This elevator provides aft magazine access. Lower Stage Elevator #1, which provides forward magazine access, is also on track to be turned over in the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2020, the service said. The other five elevators are on track to be turned over by the time of Full Ship Shock Trials, scheduled for FY 2021.

Two SSNs. Chief of Naval Operation Adm. Michael Gilday told senators on March 5 industry is ready for and able to build two Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) in FY 2021, while the administration’s budget request funded only one. The Navy is under a Block V multi-year procurement contract that covers nine vessels with an option for a 10th. During a hearing, Gilday told the Senate Armed Services Committee he visited General Dynamics Electric Boat’s facility in Groton, Conn., recently and “I left that shipyard confident about the capability of that yard to produce boats at the rate of two a year…and they are planning for the significant increase of the work when the Columbia build begins in earnest. But that is a passionate, well-trained workforce up there and I think that they can handle two boats per year based on what I’ve seen.”

…Move Workers? Under questioning from Sen. Richard Blumental (D-Conn.), Gilday said the Navy is looking at how it can help mitigate workforce losses at General Dynamics Electric Boat by moving workers to Navy shipyards. “With the lack of a submarine in the ’21 [budget], what we would do and are doing right now is take a look with Electric Boat at how we might be able to put some of their workforce that would otherwise potentially be furloughed to work whether that be at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and our facility up there or down in Newport News, Virginia.” Gilday called the defense industrial base’s work with ships and submarines as “absolutely the crown jewel in the defense industrial base, and so we want to work very closely to make sure that we don’t hit a trough that we can’t recover from quickly because that industry just is not very elastic.”

…Spanish DDGs. At the hearing, Gilday said he supports basing two more Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers in Rota, Spain. Currently, four destroyers are based there, initially sent as part of Phase 1 of the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) for missile defenses in Europe. “We support the two additional DDGs to Spain. Right now we’re working with U.S. European Command – they are putting together their strategic laydown of the theater, so when that is complete, you’ll be briefed up here in the Congress.” Gilday said in parallel the process will move through the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, coordinating with the State Department, and the government of Spain. “But we’re very supportive right now, our assessment is that the Spanish want us there in greater numbers and certainly the commander of U.S. European command does.”

DDG-126. Construction of the second DDG-51 Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the future USS Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG-126), officially started on March 3 at General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works (BIW) in Maine. The milestone was marked with a ceremony at the company’s structural fabrication facility in Brunswick, Maine. This will be the first Flight III DDG built by BIW, while the first overall Flight III, the future Jack H. Lucas, was awarded to Huntington Ingalls Industries, which started construction last November.

NGEN EUHW. The Navy awarded Perspecta a $62 million modification to extend the legacy Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) contract for various end user hardware (EUHW) services from a six-month to a 10-month ordering period in option year six. This extends the contract from lasting October 2019 to March 2020 to add through July 2020. This was not competitively procured because it is a sole-source acquisition. This award is the result of “a justification and approval that authorizes extending the ordering period by up to four months for end user hardware seat services through July 31, 2020,” the contract announcement said. No additional funds were placed on the contract or obligated at the time of the award modification.

Aegis Ashore Japan. The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) awarded Lockheed Martin a $26 million modification for additional planning work for the Aegis Ashore Japan. It specifically increases the total cumulative contract value from $3.184 billion to $3.21 billion. The contract release said under the modification the company will “perform engineering, design support services necessary for continuation of planning efforts and risk reduction efforts required to maintain the initial operational capability schedule to support the Aegis Ashore Japan Foreign Military Sales Main Case.” Work will occur in Moorestown, N.J., and is expected to be finished by July 31, 2020. Funds from Japan in the full $26 million amount were obligated at time of award.

Robotic Combat Vehicles. The Army will hold a series of tests with its new prototypes of the light and medium Robotic Combat Vehicle variants in either late March or early April at Ft. Carson in Colorado, the head of Futures Command said this week. Gen. Mike Murray told attendees at the McAleese Conference that the series of experimentation demonstrations is aimed at learning more about the prototype offerings and seeing how they may inform future formations. “One thing that’s coming that I think will fundamentally change the way that we fight in the future is the use of autonomous and robotic vehicles in our formations,” Murray said. In January, the Army selected QinetiQ North America to deliver RCV-Light prototypes and Textron for RCV-Medium.

UH-72 Order. The Army on March 3 awarded Airbus Helicopters a $122.7 million deal for 15 UH-72 Lakota helicopters. Work on the latest order for UH-72s is expected to be completed in August 2022. “The distribution of these appropriated funds will help fulfill an unfunded priority for the Army.  The talented workforce in the Golden Triangle Region will produce these UH-72 helicopters in a manner that reflects well on them and their commitment to our national security,” Rep. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement.

National Cyber Range. The Army will hold an industry meeting for the National Cyber Range program on March 17 in Orlando ahead of the release of a request for proposals. The pre-proposal conference is intended to inform industry on potential opportunities under the National Cyber Range Complex Event Planning, Operations, and Support. Officials are expected to discuss the program structure and source selection methodology. 

Military Aftermarket Deal. Aero Precision, a military aviation aftermarket distributor, has acquired Kellstrom Defense, a military aircraft aftermarket sustainment solutions company, creating one of the largest private military aftermarket distribution businesses. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. The California-based companies say the deal will allow them to streamline logistics management, adding value to their customers. Combined the companies provide solutions for a number of military aircraft programs, including the C-130, UH-60, and F-15, F-16 and F/A-18 fighters. The acquisition also gives Aero Precision access to legacy aircraft including the E-8 JSTARS, E-3, F-5 and P-3.