Stand Down. The Navy is undergoing a navigational standdown after the USS Connecticut (SSN-22) collided with a uncharted seamount last month. The leadership triad of the vessel has already been relieved of duty. Speaking during the Naval Submarine League annual symposium on Nov. 17, commander of Naval Submarine Forces Vice Adm. William Houston said he and commander of the Pacific Fleet submarine force Rear Adm. Jeffrey Jablon “sent out today a joint message having a navigation stand down, and we will have that and we will go ahead and learn our lessons. While the safety investigation board for the incident is not yet complete, we know enough right now and as soon as this happened we shared it with the operational force such that they knew what happened. And now we know the details and are sharing that. And that goes back to the critique and oversight process that we have,” Houston continued. He also characterized the vessel’s leadership as falling short of the service’s standard “very rigorous navigation safety procedures.”

Wicker. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) submitted an amendment to the FY ‘22 defense authorization act on Nov. 15 that would add $25.35 billion for Navy and Coast Guard shipyard infrastructure. If passed, the bill would add $21 billion to “Navy public shipyard facilities, dock, dry dock, capital equipment improvements, and dredging efforts needed by such shipyards.” Another $2 billion would be directed to Navy private new construction shipyard facilities and improvements, $2 billion to Navy private shipyard repair facilities, and $350 million to the Department of Homeland Security for Coast Guard shipyard facilities. 

Austin On China/Hypersonics. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters this week he wouldn’t use the term “Sputnik moment” to describe China’s recent hypersonic weapon test, while noting the department continues to monitor Beijing’s technology developments. “We have concerns about the military capabilities that [China] continues to develop. I’ve highlighted [China] as our pacing challenge. And we continue to do everything that we can to develop the right capabilities and also the right concepts that we think will be necessary and effective in any kind of contest going forward, that includes China, Russia or any other country that would want to take us on,” Austin said during a press briefing. “We continue to move as fast we can to develop capabilities. And, again, we look at our full range of capabilities and not just one specific capability as we look at our adversaries. I believe we have robust capability across the board.”

That Possible CR… During his press briefing, Austin also discussed his outlook if the Pentagon has to operate under a year-long continuing resolution in the event a final appropriations bill does not come together. “A long-term continuing resolution is not helpful to anyone. It creates uncertainty and it limits our flexibility. When we have a long-term CR we can’t create a new start [program], so we can’t invest in the cutting-edge technologies and capabilities that we’re looking to bring onboard. And the reason for that, obviously, is we’re straddled with last year’s budget,” Austin said. Austin noted he is in contact regularly with lawmakers on the potential impacts of a CR. “I continue, as you would expect, to communicate with our congressional leadership on a routine basis. And, quite frankly, I think that they get it as well. They understand the concern, the severity of the impact. And I really believe they’re really working hard to help us in this regard. And we’ll continue to have those conversations,” Austin said. The current short-term CR is set to expire on Dec. 3.

LCS-25. The Navy planned to christen the future USS Marinette (LCS-25), the newest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship during a ceremony on Nov. 20 in Marinette, Wis. “The future USS Marinette will be the second U.S. Navy ship honoring the important naval heritage and shipbuilding history the city of Marinette is known for,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in a statement. The Freedom-variant LCSs are built by Fincantieri Marinette Marine under prime contractor Lockheed Martin. LCS-25 is the 13th Freedom-variant vessel and the 25th in the overall LCA class. 

PAC-3 MSE. Lockheed Martin said on Nov. 17 it recently completed production on the 1,000th Patriot Advanced Capability (PAC)-3 Missile Segment Enhancement (MSE) missile. The company said this was in response to a request from the U.S. government in 2020. Lockheed Martin noted it has gradually increased production of the PAC-3 MSE since reaching full-rate production in 2018. The company said it expects to increase production to 500 per year by 2024, using an 85,000 square foot building expansion at its Camden, Ark., facility. The expansion is expected to start production work starting in the second quarter of 2022.

NAVFAC. The Navy on Nov. 16 awarded D Square Construction LLC, Dawson Technical Inc., Environet Inc. Glen/Mar-Hensel Phelps JV,  Insight Pacific LLC, and Su-Mo Builders Inc. a joint maximum-combined-value $499 million indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity (IDIQ) multiple-award design-build/design-bid-build construction contract for projects located mostly in the Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVFAC) Hawaii area of responsibility. These six contractors will compete for task orders under the larger contract but task orders were not issued at the time of award. Work is expected to occur in Hawaii and be finished by November 2026. The term has a base period as well as four option periods that will max out at five years.  The contract was competitively procured with 14 proposals received, but the Navy did not reveal the other competitors. A Navy spokesperson told Defense Daily this is not a Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP)-related contract. The Navy said the work will include labor, supervision, tools, materials and equipment necessary to perform new construction, repair, alterations and related demolition of existing infrastructure based on a design-build or design-bid-build for infrastructure within Hawaii.

A Quantum Gift. Northrop Grumman last week gifted Virginia Tech $12.5 million for research and teaching in quantum information science and engineering, and sponsoring a new Center of Quantum Architecture and Software Development on the school’s Innovation Campus. Virginia Tech plans to invest another $15.8 million in the new center. Among the benefits of Northrop Grumman’s sponsorship, the funding will endow a faculty position to head the new center, create graduate fellowship positions, connect Northrop Grumman experts and Virginia Tech quantum engineering faculty, work with primary and secondary schools on STEM, and support master of engineering projects in computer science and computer engineering.

Playbooks for Cyber. Following the direction of President Biden’s executive order earlier this year to strengthen U.S. cybersecurity, including developing standard procedures for federal civilian agencies around vulnerability and incident response, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) last week issued playbooks with operational procedures for these agencies to plan and conduct cyber incident and vulnerability response activities. CISA said agencies should use the Federal Government Cybersecurity Incident and Vulnerability Response Playbooks to shape their defense cyber operations. The agency also encourages the private sector as well as state and local governments to use the playbooks to aide their own cybersecurity efforts.

…Cyber Applicants. Staying on the subject of cybersecurity, two days after launching its new system for hiring and retaining cybersecurity talent, CISA saw a nice wave of job applicants. Brandon Wales, executive director of the agency, told a House panel last Wednesday that as of that morning, there were more than 650 people that put in applications through the Cyber Talent Management System, which allows CISA to pay closer attention to market salaries, streamline hiring, and provide additional compensation for overtime and exemplary service. Wales and Ronald Silvers, the Department of Homeland Security’s head of policy, told the House Homeland Security Committee that within months CTMS will “show tangible results,” with Wales adding that it will be “a real powerful tool.”

Homeland Bills Passed. The House last week passed three bipartisan homeland security bills, including the DHS Acquisition Review Board Act of 2021 (H.R. 5652) that codifies existing responsibilities of the Department of Homeland Security’s Acquisition Review Board to ensure that procurement programs pass through key milestones in compliance with requirements. The Homeland Procurement Reform Act (H.R. 2915), which like the review board bill passed by voice vote, would encourage the purchase of uniforms and gear issued to department front line personnel from domestic sources. Finally, on a 369 to 49 vote, the TSA Reaching Across Nationalities, Societies, and Languages to Advance Traveler Education Act (H.R. 5574) would have the Transportation Security Administration create signs, videos, websites and other communications in various languages to help people navigate major U.S. airports.

Dragon Eye. Northrop Grumman said on Nov. 18 that an Air National Guard F-16 flew with the company’s AN/ASQ-236 Dragon Eye pod for the first time. The Dragon Eye is a Ku-band Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar pod that is to provide aircrews with all-weather, multi-target detection, track and engagement. The pod is operational on the F-15E Strike Eagle, and plans call for the pod’s integration on Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve F-16s, Northrop Grumman said. The company has also integrated the pod on an Air Force Special Operations Command AC-130 gunship and an Air Force Global Strike Command B-52 bomber for a proof of concept demonstration. Susan Bruce, Northrop Grumman’s vice president for advanced mission capabilities, said in a statement that the Dragon Eye will help F-16 pilots detect, track, identify and target more quickly and that the pod “is rapidly adaptable to new platforms” and has “advanced radar modes that can be shared across our fifth-generation radar portfolio.”

New Uses for the Reaper? Congress should study new uses for the U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper by General Atomics, according to a new study by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. The service now plans to retire its MQ-9 fleet between 2030 and 2035. Air Force leaders have said that a follow on, “MQ-Next” drone may be stealthy and have advanced connectivity to counter China and Russia. The Mitchell Institute study argues for upgrading the MQ-9 fleet until a follow-on drone is fielded. New uses for the Reaper “would help fill critical capability and capacity shortfalls” and a congressional examination “should include a cost-per effect assessment and consider the indirect costs of off-loading MQ-9 tasks on high-end aircraft,” the Mitchell Institute study said. In addition, the Air Force should expand the Air National Guard Ghost Reaper program to accelerate Joint All Domain Command and Control and the Advanced Battle Management System to reduce risk in future operations. “DoD should fund and integrate a self-protection capability on the MQ-9 to enable it to operate in contested environments,” the report said. “This action will afford commanders more employment options to balance risk with requirements.”

Speier To Retire. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, announced on Nov. 16 her plans to retire and not seek reelection in 2022. Speier, who was first elected to Congress in 2008, is the 15th Democrat in the House so far to announce plans to leave their seat at the end of this term. “As Chair of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Congresswoman Speier has advocated tirelessly for solutions to some of the biggest issues facing our country’s service members and their families, especially reforms to the Uniform Code of Military Justice to address the scourge of sexual assault in our military. Her work on improving safe and affordable military housing, expanding parental leave and child care across the military, and supporting LGBTQ+ service members and veterans has strengthened our national security while honoring our highest values as a country,” Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the HASC chair, said in a statement. 

Albright Leads Board. The Pentagon said on Nov. 17 that former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been sworn in as chair of the Defense Policy Board (DPB). In the role, Albright will lead the group in providing advice and guidance on defense policy matters to senior Pentagon leadership. “I am deeply honored to serve as Chair of the Defense Policy Board at a critical moment for the Department of Defense. Under Secretary Austin’s leadership, the Department is adapting to the changing nature of warfare and working to stay ahead of any potential adversaries. I look forward to partnering with my colleagues on the DPB to offer our independent advice on the full range of policy issues confronting the Department,” Albright said in a statement.

TSA Review Bill. To celebrate the 20th anniversary of the standup of the Transportation Security Administration, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) last Friday introduced a bill requiring an independent and comprehensive assessment of the agency, including how well it carries out its missions and what missions it should, and should not, continue. Other provisions of the seven-page Transportation Security Administration 20th Anniversary Review Act of 2021 include examining the agency’s organizational structure for improvements, its human resources management, the effectiveness of trusted traveler programs, threats to the transportation system and the agency’s performance in meeting these challenges, acquisition efforts and how quickly they result in product deliveries, and more.