The Latest Word On Trends And Developments In Aerospace And Defense
Sequester Swap. A government watchdog group is calling for lawmakers to avoid “sequestration”–the $1.2 billion in longterm defense and non-defense spending reductions slated to start in January–through a $2 billion package of spending cuts and tax hikes. Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS), though, wants even-larger defense reductions: $672.5 billion instead of the $500 billion tied to sequestration. While the sequestration reductions would make across-the-board cuts of the same percentage to applicable defense accounts, TCS is proposing target cuts. It wants to kill the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s B and C variants, the V-22 tilt-rotor aircraft, the next-generation bomber, the M1 tank, one Littoral Combat Ship design, and four future SSBN(X) ballistic-missile submarines, among other weapon systems.
Romney’s Defense. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom pundits have panned for having somewhat-vague proposals for the military, planned late last week to deliver a major foreign-policy speech Monday, Oct. 8 at the Virginia Military Institute. “He will offer a stark contrast between his vision for a strong foreign policy and the failed record of President Obama,” the Romney campaign says, arguing: “Where President Obama has shown weakness, a Romney administration will demonstrate strength and resolve. Where President Obama has shown equivocation, a Romney administration will demonstrate clarity and never hesitate to speak out for American values. Where President Obama insists upon devastating defense cuts, a Romney administration will prioritize national defense and never leave our troops and military families without the resources they need to keep our nation safe.”
… Numbers. Romney has called for setting defense spending at 4 percent of the gross domestic production and rejected both the $500 billion in planned sequestration cuts to defense spending as well as the $487 billion in reductions already planned because of the Budget Control Act of 2011. During the Oct. 3 presidential debate in Denver, President Barack Obama slams Romney’s proposed defense boost, which the president pegs at $2 trillion, saying the Pentagon has not asked for it. Military matters were not discussed much at the Oct. 3 event, which was on domestic policy. But three upcoming debates are intended to delve into foreign policy: an Oct. 11 vice-presidential matchup in Danville, Ky., an Oct. 16 presidential debate in Hempstead, N.Y., and an Oct. 22 presidential showdown in Boca Raton, Fla. That final debate between Obama and Romney is slated to only cover foreign policy.
Corruption Cops. A British watchdog group reports that two-thirds of the world’s largest defense companies “do not provide enough public evidence that they adequately prevent corruption.” Transparency International UK’s Defence and Security Programme in an Oct. 4 report describes what 129 large defense firms, which are each worth at least $10 trillion, do or don’t do to prevent corruption. The group also concludes that 85 percent of defense company leaders do not regularly speak publically about corruption. “Despite the importance of a consistently strong ‘tone from the top,’ very few senior leaders actively engage both in public and within the company on corruption,” it says. “In order to ensure that corrupt opportunity does not lead to corrupt actions, Transparency International UK recommends that CEOs actively promote a values culture, through speaking out against corruption both within the company and publicly across the industry.”
MRAP Wrap. Production of Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles (MRAPs) has ended, after roughly 28,000 have been built over the past five years to protect troops in Iraq and Afghanistan from improvised explosive devices. Vice President Joe Biden hails the speed at which the Pentagon and industry planned, built, and fielded the Humvee replacements. It’s “not easy to push something this big through this system this fast,” Biden says Oct. 1 at a Pentagon ceremony. When he was a senator Biden pushed for Congress to fund MRAPs because of reports of deployed troops dying in less-armored vehicles. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter at the event reads a statement from former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, which hails the Pentagon’s MRAP team for “implementing the largest defense procurement program to go from decision to full industrial production in less than a year since World War II."
Fusion Centers. A Senate panel last week released its own investigative report that says the Department of Homeland Security has invested somewhere between $289 million and $1.4 billion in state and local fusion centers since 2003 and yet the value and quality of the intelligence the federal government obtains from these centers is questionable. The report says that DHS intelligence officers assigned to fusion centers have produced intelligence of “uneven quality–oftentimes shoddy, rarely timely, sometimes endangering citizens’ civil liberties and Privacy Act protections, occasionally taken from already-published public sources, and more often than not unrelated to terrorism.” Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which issued the report, says that “Fusion centers may provide valuable services in fields other than terrorism, such as contributions to traditional criminal investigations, public safety, or disaster response and recover efforts.” He says that Congress needs to “clarify the purpose of fusion centers and link their funding to their performance.”
Lieberman Sees Value. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I/D-Conn.), chairman of the full committee, disagrees with the reports “core assertion that ‘fusion centers have been unable to meaningfully contribute to federal counter-terrorism efforts.’” He says examples in the report as well as the existing public record show that “fusion centers have played a significant role in many recent terrorism cases and have helped generate hundreds of tips and leads that have led to current FBI investigations.” However, Lieberman agrees that the report is valuable for shining a light on the improper use of homeland security grant funds by the fusion centers.
King’s (Re)view. Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, agrees with Lieberman’s assessment of the Senate subcommittee’s report, saying it “paints with too broad a brush an incomplete picture that fails to recognize many of the important contributions that fusion centers have made in security our homeland.” King adds that his committee is concluding its own review of fusion centers “and will offer significant recommendations for improvement in the coming weeks.”
Honoring a Fallen SEAL. The Navy was to commission the newest Arleigh Burke-class (DDG-51) destroyer during a ceremony in New York on Saturday. The USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112) is named after Lt. Michael P. Murphy, the SEAL who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during Operation Red Wings in Afghanistan on June 28, 2005. The Navy says Murphy was leading a four-man team to find a key Taliban leader in near Asadabad when the unit came under fire from a much larger force and better tactical position. Murphy was mortally wounded but left his position of cover to get a clear signal to relay his unit’s location for immediate support while continuing to take fire. He returned to his cover position to continue the fight until succumbing to wounds. The DDG-112 is the last of the original buy of 62 Arleigh Burke destroyers. The Navy decided to restart the DDG-51 program after deciding to terminate plans for a next generation cruiser. The first ship under the restart, the John Finn (DDG-113), is scheduled to join the fleet in 2016.
Subwork. The Navy has awarded General Dynamics Electric Boat a $100.4 million contract modification to provide lead-yard services for Virginia-class nuclear-powered attack submarines. The contract calls for Electric Boat to develop, maintain and update design drawings and data, including technology insertions, for each Virginia-class submarine throughout its construction and post-shakedown availability periods. The contract has a potential cumulative value of $881 million through 2014 if all options are exercised and funded.
Launch Time. On Wednesday soldiers assigned to the Big Red One’s aviation brigade will take the final step in becoming the most modern aviation unit in the Army when they launch the Gray Eagle Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) for its inaugural flight from Fort Riley, Kan. Co. F, 1st Attack Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Aviation Regiment, 1st Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Div., is scheduled to launch the Gray Eagle at Marshall Army Airfield. Although the 1st Inf. Div. is the second unit to receive the Gray Eagle, it will be the first to fly it from a home base in the United States. Some of the capabilities the Gray Eagle will bring to the battlefield include longer reconnaissance time, weapon targeting of ground targets, and the ability of a new AH-64 Apache Block III to control the UAS.
Pack It Up. The Army is moving 290 military troops comprising the 61st Chemical Company, the 62nd Chemical Company, and Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, 23rd Chemical Battalion, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to South Korea. The companies will provide Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical reconnaissance, equipment decontamination and consequence management assistance to support military forces. This action supports Army initiatives for U.S. forces conducting sustainable pace of presence operations abroad, including rotating deployments and bilateral and multilateral training exercises. These activities reinforce deterrence, help to build the capacity and competence of U.S., allied, and partner forces. The move will be completed by Jan. 16.
New Radio. BAE Systems launches its Phoenix™ family of networking radios, responding to the Army’s request for a non-developmental Mid-tier Networking Vehicular Radio (MNVR) solution with its two-channel Phoenix-SC radio, which meets or exceeds all specifications. Phoenix radios offer secure, jam-resistant communications via modern networking waveforms, the Wideband Networking Waveform (WNW) and the Soldier Radio Waveform (SRW). Joseph Senftle, vice president and general manager of Communications and Control Solutions at BAE Systems, says: “With decades of experience in software-defined radio technology, BAE Systems developed the Phoenix radios with affordability, reduced size, weight, and power, as well as robust anti-jam capabilities, as top priorities, enabling multiple configurations and providing full anti-jam modes in WNW to protect communications in hostile environments.