Icebreaker Needs. The U.S. Coast Guard needs more polar icebreakers and should evaluate ice strengthening for some of its high-endurance National Security Cutters and forthcoming medium-endurance Offshore Patrol Cutters, says a new analysis by Rand Corp. analysts. Given the rapidly changing nature of polar conditions, the likelihood that new icebreakers will be operating for decades, increasingly diverse mission sets, and unknown future requirements related to military competition, environmental protection, search and rescue, fishery enforcement, and other potential missions, new icebreakers will need to be designed with multi-mission capabilities in mind, the report says.

Private Equity Deal. The private equity firm J.F. Lehman and Company has acquired CodeMettle, a provider of custom software development and proprietary software solutions for the management of communications networks for defense and commercial applications. Terms of the deal, which includes an investment by Atlanta-based CodeMettle’s founders and management, were not disclosed. “CodeMettle is an excellent fit with our investment strategy given their unique, proprietary software solutions that address growing demand for software-enabled, cross-network command-and-control capabilities within the U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies,” says Alex Harman, a partner with J.F. Lehman. Mensura Capital served as CodeMettle’s financial advisor on the deal.

DHS Startup Gambit. Seeking a new way to quickly commercialize federally funded technologies to benefit homeland security missions, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate in January will launch the Homeland Security Startup Studio in partnership with FedTech, which works with government agencies, companies and entrepreneurs to transition federal research and development to solutions. “The goals of the Homeland Security Startup Studio are to build the foundational entrepreneurial knowledge and skillsets for teams to quickly assess the potential for DHS and commercial use cases and to build startups and spin off companies quickly so they can successfully license technology and directly impact the security posture of the U.S.,” says Megan Mahle, director of S&T’s Office of Industry Partnerships.

Handsome Buyback Program. Raytheon Technologies last week said its board authorized a new stock buyback program of up to $5 billion. The repurchase program replaces the previous one that was announced in October 2015. Repurchases may take place from time to time, the company said.

House Homeland Leads. House Republicans will have a new leader on the Homeland Security Committee, Rep. John Katko (N.Y.), who will succeed Rep. Mike Rogers (Ala.) as ranking member beginning with the 117th Congress next year. Rogers will become ranking member on the Armed Services Committee, succeeding Rep. Mac Thornberry (Texas), who is retiring from Congress. Katko is currently ranking member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Innovation. Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) will continue to serve as the chairman of the Homeland Security Committee. “Next year, our committee will also work on much needed reform for the Department of Homeland Security and ensure it is accountable and transparent to the American people,” he said earlier this month.

Progress Payments. Lockheed Martin CEO James Taiclet says that by the end of 2020 the company will have accelerated more than $1 billion in progress payments to nearly 10,000 of its suppliers to help them cope with impacts from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. To help protect the defense industrial base, the Pentagon earlier this year increased its progress payment rates to major defense contractors from 80 to 90 percent, allowing these companies to in turn to accelerate payments to their suppliers. Taiclet also says that since March the company has donated nearly $22 million in COVID relief to support front line workers, first responders, public school students’ access to technology, access to food and for local needs and military service members.

CMV-22B. Naval Air Systems Command awarded the Bell-Boeing Joint Program Office a $170 million modification to add scope for the production and delivery of one more CMV-22B Osprey and exercise options for V-22 Common Configuration Readiness and Modernization (CC-RAM) Lot 4 requirements. This award also provides for planned maintenance interval inspections, repairs, shipping and storage containers and tooling in support of the V-22 CC-RAM program. Work will mostly occur in Ridley Park, Pa., and is expected to be finished by September 2024.

French Carrier. French president Emmanuel Macron said on Dec. 8 the next aircraft carrier will be nuclear-powered, like the Charles de Gaulle, which is set to reach the end of its service life in 2038. Macron announced this while visiting the French nuclear power company Framatome, which designs and supplies nuclear steam systems and services. Macron said Framatome will produce major parts of the nuclear power plant in the future carrier.

BQM-177A Targets. Naval Air Systems awarded Kratos a $39 million modification exercising an option to procure 48 BQM-177A subsonic aerial targets for the Navy and associated technical and administrative data in support of full rate production Lot Two deliveries. Work will mostly be split between Sacramento, Calif. (56 percent); Dallas, Texas (17.6 percent); Fort Walton Beach, Fla. (4.6 percent), and is expected to be finished by February 2023. The full award amount is obligated at time of award in fiscal year 2021 Navy weapons procurement funds, with $806,000 obligated as Foreign Military Sales  to replace one target expended by Australia.

LCS-26. Austal USA delivered the future USS Mobile (LCS-26) to the Navy during a ceremony at Mobile, Ala., on Wednesday. This is the 13th Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) and the fourth ship Austal USA had delivered to the Navy in 2020. The Independence-variant LCSs are based in San Diego and are deployed to the Pacific Ocean. The company noted four other LCSs are under construction at their Mobile shipyard: the future USS Savannah (LCS-28) is preparing for sea trials, assembly is underway on the future USS Canberra (LCS-30) and USS Santa Barbara (LCS-32), and modules for the future USS Augusta (LCS-34) are under construction in the company’s module manufacturing facility. Separately, the future Kingsville (LCS-36) and USS Pierre (LCS-38) are under contract. “We’re especially excited for Mobile to join the fleet to pay tribute to a great community which has contributed to our success in so many ways over the years. Our team continues to impress, working through difficult conditions to maintain cost and schedule – neither the pandemic nor hurricanes impacted our ability to deliver the future USS Mobile on cost and schedule – a testament to the incredible fortitude and work ethic of these amazing people from her namesake city,” Austal USA President Craig Perciavalle said in a statement.

LHD-3. The Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) finished a fast cruise on Dec. 10 to prepare for contractor sea trials and operations at sea following a nearly one-year maintenance availability. The maintenance availability came after a seven-month deployment for the 27-year-old ship. The fast cruise is a crew simulation of being at sea to test critical systems, operations and personnel requirements to sustain a ship. During the cruise, sailors completed operational checks of LHD-3’s systems, tested communications, verified watchbills, ran fire and flooding drills, and prepared workspaces for going underway. The upcoming sea trials “will test the integrity of the work done during Kearsarge’s nearly one-year maintenance availability,” the Navy said.

London. The U.K. Royal Navy and U.S. Navy announced on Dec. 10 a new partnership to accelerate adopting new ideas and technologies, with the new NavalX London Tech Bridge serving as a “command post for innovation” as the countries work on increasing interchangeability in various spaces. The Navy announced the London location in November. The Navy said now the Tech Bridge will be a full partnership between countries, a first for a Tech Bridge. Initial focus areas will be unmanned and autonomy, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, space, and directed energy and lasers. “By innovating together across key strategic areas—from problem curation to solution development and fielding—we can truly reach the goal of being interchangeable throughout all we do,” ONR Global’s Cmdr. Albert Arnold said. Arnold will serve as the U.S. director for this effort. “Using ONR Global’s deep networks as the perfect foundation, we’re very excited to expand the breadth and reach with our Royal Navy partners to deliver capability for defense and beyond,” Arnold added.

Tomahawk. The U.S. Navy and Raytheon Technologies conduced the first two flight tests with the new Tomahawk Block V variant, the company said Dec. 10. The test had the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Chafee (DDG-90) launch two Block V missiles that impacted targets at ranges on San Nicholas Island and Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in California. The New Block V missiles have improved navigation and communications for the GPS-enabled missiles. The company noted during the tests the missiles were redirected in mid-flight to different targets using new communications architecture systems. “These tests keep the Navy on schedule to introduce Block V into the fleet next year. Our modernization and recertification efforts will also extend the missile’s service life by 15 years,” Kim Ernzen, vice president of Naval Power at Raytheon Missiles & Defense, said in a statement. The company underscored further Block V enhancements are in development for future deliveries. They include Block Va for a maritime strike capability and Block Vb for an expanded land attack capability.

Up and Away. After a series of scrubbed launches since August, the United Launch Alliance partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin finally got its Delta IV Heavy rocket up into space on Dec. 10 carrying the classified NROL-44 payload for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Weather events and technical glitches, including a hot fire and hydraulics problems, were responsible for the launch delays. In October, Tony Bruno, the president of ULA, said that the alliance was resolving swing arm hydraulics issues for the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Fla. and that the alliance had drained 2,000 gallons of oil and planned to replace a number of servos. In August, the U.S. Space Force Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) and the NRO awarded ULA a $337 million contract for two classified launches, likely with ULA Vulcan rockets, under the National Security Space Launch (NSSL)’s Phase 2 launch service procurement (LSP) program. SpaceX received a $316 million contract for one launch, likely with its Falcon series, under the program.

‘Use It Or Lose It’ Funds. Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), the House Armed Services Committee ranking member who is retiring from seat, told reporters this week he hopes Congress continues his push to address the Pentagon’s “use it or lose it spending” at the end of each fiscal year. “One thing I was struck by when I tried this in our [NDAA] markup was how many people on both sides of the aisle weighed in with support for doing something,” Thornberry said. Thornberry had floated the idea of allowing DoD to hold over 50 percent of unspent Operations & Maintenance funds for the following fiscal year, a similar authority that has been granted to several other federal agencies. “You’ve still got to convince the appropriators on it. Hopefully, my colleagues can do that and be more successful than I was. We’ve got to keep pushing to make better use of the taxpayer money,” Thornberry said. 

JLTV Industry Day. The Army will hold a virtual industry day on Dec. 17 for its follow-on JLTV production contract. While Oshkosh Defense currently manufactures the JLTV, the Army has previously said it plans to competitively award the follow-on production contract for JLTV and may consider splitting the award between vendors to drive down the program’s production costs. GM Defense has previously said it has “strong interest” in the JLTV program. 

SAC-D. Senate Democrats voted this week on a rule change that will force Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to give up his spot as the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee. The measure will allow Durbin to remain the Senate Democratic Whip, but make him give up his SAC-D leadership position to take over the number two role on the Judiciary Committee. Durbin has held the role as the top Democrat on SAC-D since 2012.

One-Week CR. The Senate approved a one-week stopgap funding bill by voice vote on Friday to keep the government open through Dec. 18. Funding under the current continuing resolution had been set to expire on Friday. The House first passed the measure on Wednesday. Lawmakers are aiming to use the additional time to pass a larger omnibus fiscal year 2021 appropriations package and a new coronavirus emergency relief bill.

330 Percent. A new report by Brown University Prof. Neta Crawford, the director of the Costs of War Project, says that since the U.S. loosening of rules of engagement (ROE) against targets in Afghanistan in 2017 by former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the number of civilian deaths from airstrikes in the country reached 700 last year—”more civilians than in any other year since the beginning of the war in 2001 and 2002.” The ROE relaxation in 2017 meant that U.S. forces did not have to be in direct contact with enemy forces to be able to make airstrikes; narcotics factories could be targeted; and Afghan forces could call in airstrikes.. “The number of [Afghan] civilians killed by international airstrikes increased about 330 percent from 2016, the last full year of the Obama Administration, to 2019, the most recent year for which there is complete data from the United Nations,” the report said. “When the United States tightens its rules of engagement and restricts air strikes where civilians are at risk, civilian casualties tend to go down; when it loosens those restrictions, civilians are injured and killed in greater numbers.”

Idiotic and Dangerous. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, tore into the semiautonomous Department of Energy agency charged with nuclear weapons upkeep in a virtual chat Friday with the D.C.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. Smith said he was skeptical of the level of competence in DoE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to manufacture new nuclear weapon cores for future nuclear-weapon refurbishments. The NNSA has proposed casting some of these cores, or plutonium pits, by converting a partially built facility at the Savannah river Site in Aiken, S.C., that was designed to turn weapons-plutonium into nuclear power-plant fuel. “It used to be a bowling ally, now it’s going to be a restaurant, Smith said,” calling the endeavor “idiotic” and “dangerous.”