In recent years, the US Department of Defense has moved civilians into positions of responsibility alongside DoD employees. Some work is straightforward – public relations, facility maintenance, et. al. Other work contains the potential for entanglement, such as developing contract requirements and advising on award fees for other contractors. The Congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) was asked to assess (1) how many contractor employees work in DOD offices and what type of mission-critical contracted services they perform, (2) what safeguards there are to prevent personal conflicts of interest for contractor employees when performing DOD’s tasks, and (3) whether government and defense contractor officials believe additional safeguards are necessary. GAO’s summary notes that:
“In contrast to federal employees, few government ethics laws and DOD-wide policies are in place to prevent personal conflicts of interest for defense contractor employees… Some DOD offices and defense contractor companies are voluntarily adopting safeguards… In general, government officials believed that current requirements are inadequate to prevent conflicts from arising for certain contractor employees influencing DOD decisions, especially financial conflicts of interest and impaired impartiality. Some program managers and defense contractor officials expressed concern that adding new safeguards will increase costs. But ethics officials and senior leaders countered that, given the risk associated with personal conflicts of interest and the expanding roles that contractor employees play, such safeguards are necessary.”
Royal Engineers LCpl Tom Glinn, Spr “Cookie” Cook and Spr Jay Coombes needed to cool Basra’s Cobra radar system when it began to fail in Iraq’s heat. The unit’s initial solution of placing the unit in an inflatable tent has a structural and thermal failure – but a crude sketch, some scrap wood, discarded plastic tubing and even cling film worked, drawing air from an air conditioning unit and feeding it to the radar via a set of insulated tubes. Cost GBP 20 (about $41). Winner, one Gems cash prize.
Nor are they alone. Royal Engineer Sgt Jim Randall designed a metal hook attached to an adjustable metal pole, that can be dragged along the ground to identify command wires leading to roadside IED land mines. It worked so well that explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) teams use them now. Craftsmen Steve Whiting and Phil Ashby noticed that ISO containers on the back of some of the Army’s larger trucks were snagging power lines and creating power outages. Locals not happy. Army not happy. Response? An angled metal frame that allows the cables to glide over the containers. Simple, effective little… Gems.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces recently ruled that a service member who received notice that she was required to undergo a random urinalysis test, and who e-mailed several other people to discuss her strategies for beating the tests to avoid discovery of her drug use, was not sufficiently informed of the DoD policy that employees have no right of privacy when using government computer systems. It set aside the findings, and her sentence.
In response, the US Department of Defense has replaced its decade-old banner warning with a new one. The banner notifies users that their systems may be monitored for “penetration testing, (communications security), monitoring, network defense, quality control, and employee misconduct, law enforcement and counterintelligence investigations,” adding that all security systems in place are there to provide security for the benefit of the government, not to provide personal privacy to employees. A related notice will appear on government BlackBerry devices and other personal digital assistants and personal electronic devices.
Members of the defense community sending emails to colleagues in the Pentagon, or otherwise working with DoD employees, need to keep these things in mind. USAF release.
Small business qualifier Halbert Construction Co., Inc. in El Cajon, Calif. won $5.6 million for firm-fixed price task order #0004 under a previously awarded $100 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity multiple award construction contract (N62473-07-D-2014) that was set aside for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. The delivery order covers design and construction of a Headquarters Battalion Armory at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, Twentynine Palms.
Work will be performed in Twentynine Palms, Calif., and is expected to be complete by March 2009. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command Southwest in San Diego, Calif. received 3 proposals for this task order.
The Spring 2007 issue of Crosslink Magazine focuses on the state of the US Aerospace industry’s technical workforce – but many of its articles’ topics and conclusions could easily apply to the defense industry as a whole:
“As aerospace systems grow in complexity and interdependence, there is an increasing need for engineering professionals who can successfully plan, develop, manage, and evolve these systems. Yet, the national security space community is facing a growing shortage of senior systems engineers, as the number of systems positions increase and older workers leave the workforce. Organizations commonly lure skilled systems engineers away from each other or try to fill these roles with junior personnel who lack the requisite skills and/or experience, but these efforts fail to address the underlying problem. The question is, how can the national security space community expedite the development of the next generation of senior systems engineers? The type of thinking required by systems professionals is sometimes referred to as “systems thinking…”
A recent study sheds light on what it takes to grow senior systems engineers – and suggests some ways to accelerate that process in today’s engineering population. Key takeaways include…
DID’s FOCUS Article covering the US Army’s RESET maintenance programs shone a light on an under-appreciated aspect of defense spending. Now a Congressional Budget Office report says the US Army has received $38 billion to date to replace, repair, and recondition equipment that has been lost, damaged, or used extensively in conducting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Using any vehicle heavily will lead to maintenance needs, and combat usage is always far higher than non-combat usage; unsurprisingly, RESET and replacement requests have increased steadily from 2005 to 2007. The US Army has also said that it will continue to need approximately $13 billion annually for that purpose for as long as operations continue at their current pace – and for at least 2 years after hostilities cease.
In short, RESET needs are a big deal, and they are getting high level attention. The recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) paper [PDF Format, 1.2 MB] was prepared at the request of the House Armed Services Committee. It examines the Army’s requirements and the Administration’s RESET/replacement funding requests, developing estimates of annual costs and comparing them with the Army’s estimated requirements and the Administration’s funding requests. Nevertheless: “In keeping with CBO’s mandate to provide objective, impartial analysis, the paper makes no recommendations.”
According to Federal Sources, Inc., registered service-disabled veteran-owned businesses have doubled from 3,200 to 6,400 since October 2004, when President Bush signed an executive order that required agencies to implement a strategy designed to reach the government-wide 3% goal for contract awards. Yet obstacles remain.
By 2005, Defense was awarding awards about $514 million a year to service-disabled veterans, or about 0.3% of total contracting dollars. While that value had more than doubled since 2003, and had doubled again to about $1 billion by July 2007, the 3% goal remains a long way away. In response, the General Service Administration (GSA) and Veteran’s affairs are using education, web-based directories, and outreach efforts to narrow the gap.
As a military becomes more professional, and the level of skill required to be a soldier rises, the issue of retention becomes extremely important to a military’s force structure and effectiveness. In the midst of a war, retaining soldiers who have experienced the lessons of combat becomes even more critical. Hence the significant bonuses offered to US soldiers who re-enlist. The US Army has done extremely well on the re-enlistment front, but the financial commitment involved is substantial – and so are the stakes. Could the Army do better?
As an operations manager for Procter and Gamble, Jack Stultz was responsible for recruitment, training, and retention. Now that the veteran of operations in Iraq, Panama, and Afghanistan is on a 4-year leave of absence as US Army Reserve Chief, Lt. Gen. Stultz is bringing some new thinking from his corporate job to the issue of troop retention. Stultz notes the importance of more predictability and reasonable deployment expectations per rotation, but he also adds concepts like taking a life-cycle approach. “At Proctor and Gamble, when you talked to an employee you were trying to retain, you looked at where they were in their life. And the same thing really does apply when you think about retaining a soldier.” His efforts could lead to better-tailored retention packages and changes to the way the Army Reserve operates on several fronts, from health-care benefits (currently a major future expense issue), to a different structure for retention bonuses, to changes in the retirement system. The DefenseLINK article “Army Reserve Chief Applies Business Lessons to Military Force” offers more details.
DID recently covered the statements of retired Australian Air Vice Marshal Peter Criss, who believes that Australia’s participation in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is a mistake given Australia’s strategic and operational needs; he favours the F-22A Raptor as part of an alternative force structure. That DID article also links to the wider Australian debate, including statements from the opposition Labor Party, Air Power Australia’s in-depth strategic report, and official statements and responses from Australia’s government and Department of Defense. The article below, which originally appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of Defender, the national journal of the Australia Defence Association, is reprinted here by author’s permission. If Australian government or DoD representatives wish to respond, DID will be happy to run those articles as well and host a serious debate.
Guest Author Air Vice-Marshal Peter Criss, ret.
(Posted with permission)
The imminent acquisition of a replacement fighter and strike aircraft comes at a time when many changes in global politics are occurring and when attempted reforms within our Defence organisation have been deliberately circumvented.
Several developments triggered this article: one in the recent past and two currently. The first influence comes from the deliberate circumvention of a damning Senate report into military justice and the latter two triggers are the nuclear test by North Korea, and the RAAF declaring they “won’t need [an] interim jet”, and announcing that the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) will be purchased. A broad canvas of issues, some may say; however, they are interlinked, which is perturbing. They involve:
Australia’s small national defence force struggling to sustain itself through conventional recruiting and retention techniques;
The degrading North-Asian strategic environment with its potential to destabilise the wider region and promote an arms race;
Already prolific numbers of late-generation Russian fighter aircraft in the near and wider regions; and
A declared decision to purchase the JSF regardless of risk.
The EU’s European Defence Agency recently released a “Long-Term Vision report” intended to serve as a compass for defence planners over the next twenty years. The report was the product of 11 months of study involving officials and experts from governments, defense bodies, academia and industry across Europe, and was debated by the EDA Steering Board which consists of the Defence Ministers of the Agency’s 24 participating Member States and the European Commission.EDA head Javier Solana:
“Given the lead times typically involved in developing defence capability, decisions we take, or fail to take, today will affect whether we have the right military capabilities, and the right capacities in Europe’s defence technological and industrial base, in the third decade of this century…”