Berger: Change COCOMS? Marine Commandant Gen. David Berger said he thinks it is time to look at changing the structure of combatant commands (COCOMS) given changes since the current structure was put in place by the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986. “For all the right reasons we’ve added where we needed, but there comes a point where there are so many combatant commanders and so many service chiefs, that I wonder at what point does the Secretary of Defense have a span of control where there’s getting to a decision, getting the right perspectives on the table becomes really difficult,” Berger said during a May 23 Brookings Institution event. He noted Goldwater-Nichols partially reframed things globally, which he admitted made sense when most conflicts were regional at the time, but now that might be increasingly outdated. “Not anymore. So we have a framework that has lines on maps that don’t really correspond to… they create seams, I guess, whether that’s vertical to space, cyber, you can’t even see it. Or even EUCOM to CENTCOM, these are now becoming really, I think, a challenge when you’re viewing global threats, global problems. How do you integrate that from a global perspective?”

Default Impact. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said a scenario where the U.S. defaults on its debt would have “absolutely clear, unambiguous implications to national security.” Milley offered the remarks during a press briefing on May 25 and as negotiations are ongoing to address the debt ceiling. “I’m not an economist, but I think if we defaulted that would have significant economic consequences which would then translate to national security consequences. Paying troops, the morale of troops, weapon systems, contracts, all of that would be impacted. Readiness clearly would be impacted. So our large-scale exercises that we do at various training centers would probably either slow down or come to a halt in many, many cases. So I think there’s no doubt whatsoever that there would be a very significant negative impact on the readiness, morale and capabilities of the United States military if we defaulted and didn’t reach a debt ceiling thing,” Milley said.

BAE Systems Board. Elaine Luria, a former Democratic U.S. representative for Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District, has been appointed to BAE Systems’ board of directors, the company said on May 24. “We are thrilled to have Elaine join our board,” Kelly Ayotte, former New Hampshire senator and current chair of BAE Systems’ board, said in a statement. “Her knowledge of national security and our industry is rooted in decades of experience serving on active duty in the U.S. Navy, as well as her time serving in Congress. We are fortunate to have her leadership to help position our company for the future.” Luria served in the House from 2019 to 2023 and was a member of the House Armed Services Committee, where she was a strong proponent of increased defense spending and growing the size of the Naval fleet. Prior to her political career, Luria served in the Navy as a nuclear-trained surface warfare officer.

Ukraine FMS. The State Department on May 24 approved a potential $285 million deal with Ukraine for the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS). Unlike the drawdown packages or capabilities procured using Ukraine Security Assistance Initiatives, this equipment will go through the traditional Foreign Military Sales process. “Ukraine has an urgent need to increase its capabilities to defend against Russian missile strikes and aircraft. Acquiring and effectively deploying this capability will enhance Ukraine’s ability to defend its people and protect critical national infrastructure,” the Defense Security Cooperation Agency said in a statement. Under the deal for Raytheon Technologies and Kongsberg’s NASAMS, which includes the AN/MPQ-64 Sentinel radar, Ukraine will also receive a Fire Distribution Center, canister launchers, secure communications and GPS receivers.

C-40A. Naval Air System Command’s Tactical Airlift Program Office (PMA-207) delivered the first of two C-40A aircraft to Marine Transport Squadron (VMR) 1, Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 41, in Fort Worth, Texas on May 19. These aircraft are especially equipped for agile tasking and “can be reconfigured on the spot to carry Marines, cargo, or a combination of both,” Col. Steve Puckett, PMA-207 program manager, said in a statement. The aircraft are meant to meet a “critical Marine Corps requirement” for organic long-range logistical airlift capability. The C-40As will replace the Marine Corps’ C-9B aircraft that was retired in 2018. The second C-40A is expected to be delivered by this fall. The C-40As were acquired from the secondary market and especially configured just for the Marine Corps, with a palletized seating design and “Combi” soft barrier allowing the aircraft to carry passengers and cargo together. It also includes new engines, winglets, and added power systems for electronic flight bags. The C-40A is a derivative of the Boeing 737-700C commercial airliner, which has been used by the Navy since 2001.

Another ME Task Force. The U.S.-led Combined Maritime Forces (CMF), international partnerships established a new task force, Combined Task Force (CTF) 154, on May 22 that aims to train partner navies and improve capabilities for maritime security in the Middle East. The Navy noted this is the CMF’s fifth task force after standing up CTF 153 in April 2022 covering security in the Red Sea. The new task force, which is supported and led by U.S. 5th Fleet, will be commanded by a U.S. Navy captain who will build a multinational staff, with another country assuming command potentially by the fall. CTF 154 aims to “frequently organize training events” focused on maritime awareness, maritime law, maritime interdiction, maritime search and rescue, and leadership development.

SSBN-735. The USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735) Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine entered Dry Dock 4 at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility on May 4 to begin an 18-month long Extended Refit Period. This is the first maintenance work being performed at that dry dock since it was modified with interim seismic mitigation efforts, whereupon it was tested and recertified.

…Seismic Work Continues.  While Dry Dock 4 gets back to normal work, the Navy said seismic mitigation work continues at PSNS & IMF’s Dry Dock 5 and at the Trident Refit Facility Delta Pier in Bangor, Wash. The service reiterated Dry Dock 6 does not need the same seismic mitigation based on future planned improvements and differences in ship design and aircraft carrier side. The Navy reiterated aircraft carrier maintenance at PSNS & IMF has and will stay unaffected by the seismic mitigation work.

MQ-9B. General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, Inc. (GA-ASI) said on May 18 it conducted Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) exercises using a company-owned MQ-9B Sea Guardian unmanned aerial system with the Navy’s Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadrons (HSM) 38, 49, 71, and 75 as part of the Integrated Battle Problem 2023 (IBP-23) exercise in May.  The HMSs flew MH-60R Seahawk helicopters out of Naval Station North Island on April 24-25 and worked with the MQ-9B on Manned-Unmanned Teaming exercises to relay information for detecting a simulated submarine target and simulated destroying it. 

Barrie Promoted. Maj. Gen. Robert Barrie, the Army program executive officer for aviation, has been promoted to deputy for acquisition and systems management in the Army’s acquisition office, the Pentagon said on May 23. Barrie in his most recent role leading PEO Aviation has helped shepherd the Army’s modernization of its existing helicopter fleet as well as its Future Vertical Lift programs, such as the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft and Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft. 

DPB Meeting. The Pentagon has announced the next meeting of its Defense Policy Board will be held on June 13 and 14. “During the session, members will explore and evaluate aggressive action and territorial dispute scenarios in the Indo-Pacific, exploring long-term impacts on regional and global strategic interests and implications for U.S. alliances around the world,” the department said in a statement. “The meeting will be closed to the public due to classified briefings and discussions.”

New DPB Member. The Pentagon also said Rexon Ryu, president of strategic advisory firm The Asia Group, has been appointed as the newest member of the Defense Policy Board. Ryu oversees The Asia Group’s efforts on aerospace and defense, South Korea and national security, according to the firm’s website. “Over his career, Mr. Ryu served three presidents at the highest levels, working extensively with Congress on foreign policy and national security challenges. Notably, he worked to expand strategic alliances and relationships, project influence globally, employ U.S. power against adversaries, prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and plan for future challenges and opportunities in Asia and the Middle East,” the Pentagon said in its announcement of Ryu’s appointment.

Leopard Tanks. Germany has awarded Krauss-Maffei Wegmann (KMW) a contract for production of 18 new Leopard 2A8 tanks, the company said on May 26. The new deal is intended to replace tanks that were provided to Ukraine in support of its fight against Russia’s ongoing invasion. Deliveries of the new tanks are expected to begin in 2025, according to KMW, which did not disclose the value of the new contract. KMW noted the framework agreement with the German government “includes options for the production of a further 105 Leopard 2A8s and a comprehensive service package.”

Increasing Insight. While a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report says that the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) informed GAO that Lockheed Martin lost track of over 1 million spare parts–worth more than $85 million—in the F-35 global spares pool at more than 50 domestic and international non-prime contractor sites between May, 2018 and October last year, Lockheed Martin said that it is managing the F-35 spare parts inventory “in compliance with contract requirements.” Lockheed Martin said that it is working with the F-35 JPO “to increase insight into spare part availability and support fleet readiness.” In August 2021, the F-35 JPO said that it was on track to establish an Accountable Property System of Record (APSR)—the Defense Property Accountability System—for the F-35 by the end of last year, but it appears that the program has yet to establish that APSR, which would be a federal government record of the global spares pool. “Of the 1 million total lost spare parts, the F-35 JPO has adjudicated less than 2 percent of total quantity and cost,” GAO said. Part of the delay in establishing the APSR may stem from a disagreement between Lockheed Martin and DoD over whether spare parts held at the non-prime contractor sites are accountable under the F-35 sustainment contract. On March 10, DoD proposed adding government-furnished property spare parts to the F-35 fiscal 2021-23 sustainment contract, but on March 23, Lockheed Martin rejected that offer. The company declined to comment on why.

EWS Prototype. The U.S. Space Force Space Systems Command’s small launch and targets division at Kirtland AFB, N.M., said it has awarded a more than $45 million contract to Northrop Grumman to build its Minotaur IV rocket for a launch into low Earth orbit of the Electro-Optical Infrared Weather System (EWS) prototype for Space Force mission USSF-261S-A in May 2025. EWS satellites are to replace four Lockheed Martin Defense Meteorological Satellite Program birds for the provision of global terrestrial cloud forecasts and theater weather imagery data to military forces. DMSP launches began in 1962, and the satellites are expected to retire by 2025 when EWS comes online.

Strategic Adviser. The Reston, Va.-based SOSi, a technology and language services company founded by a Bulgarian immigrant, Sosi Setian, in 1989, said on May 22nd that Preston Dunlap, the first chief technology officer for the Department of the Air Force, has joined the company as a strategic adviser. Last year, SOSi hired Kyle Fox, the U.S. Air Force’s “first chief software engineer, as the company’s first CTO [chief technology officer] to consolidate, guide, and oversee a range of software development, network engineering, and technology modernization programs,” the company said. As the Air Force’s chief software engineer, Fox “was responsible for more than 1,000 software engineers and spearheaded the development of the first cloud native nuclear weapon system program,” SOSi said. Fox said in a statement that Dunlap’s “insights and experience in artificial intelligence, data mesh, and data security will be invaluable as we continue to expand our technology capabilities and deliver innovative new solutions to address our customers’ needs.”