“The Coast Guard’s March 14, 2007 statement RE: FRC-B’s removal from Integrated Coast Guard Systems’ purview was careful to note that “…this decision pertains only to the acquisition of patrol boats and does not impact ongoing negotiations with ICGS for other work to be done in the second performance period of the Deepwater contract, beginning June 2007.” Nevertheless, the Blueprint for Acquisition Reform that Adm. Allen discussed with Congress on February 8, 2007 definitely lays the groundwork for further shifts if performance does not improve…The one essential truth behind all of these maneuvers is the US Coast Guard’s serious and growing need to replace worn equipment. All else is ultimately variable; the Coast Guard must and will do whatever it takes to secure the confidence and funding it needs, in order to address that underlying truth.”
That assessment appears to be borne out by the April 17, 2007 announcement that the US Coast Guard is taking over the lead integrator role for the entire Deepwater suite of acquisitions. Admiral Thad Allen:
The AN/ALQ-161A Defensive Avionics System on the B-1B bomber is supposed to identify, acquire, and defeat enemy radars and missiles. It was to be a very sophisticated jamming system, with 360-degree receive and jamming coverage plus a Tail Warning Function (TWF) to check six. The Electronic Counter-Measures (ECM) system would sort threats by priority and react against them automatically, even recognizing when it might be dangerous to use ECM and limiting its jamming to specific directions for the minimum required time. The system had very serious technical problems during its development, however, resulting in 2 full-scale recovery programs, over $1 billion invested in fixes, and an acknowledgment that the ALQ-161 would never really meet its original performance specifications. The system was fielded in the mid-1980s in the Mod 0 hardware configuration, and several software modifications have improved system performance since then – most recently in the very successful B-1B Block C upgrades.
Of course, software and hardware are symbiotes. A series of recent contracts indicate that the AN/ALQ-161’s hardware may also be headed for some improvements:
The USA’s troubled Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program was meant to be a centerpiece of US military transformation that would enable units to communicate seamlessly via equipment that would use software-defined electronics to “translate” different communications waveforms. JTRS was scheduled to be part of many new US systems, from updated MIDS/Link 16 terminals in aircraft to remote control of the NETFIRES “missile in a box” to a key role in the $100+ billion Future Combat Systems program. Etc. Etc. Instead, the program went through many tribulations.
It seemed fairly straightforward: update a pair of old USMC standbys, creating a transport (UH-1Y Venom) and attack helicopter (AH-1Z Viper) backbone with maximum commonality. It has not worked out that way. The H-1 program has required substantial changes to both cost and schedule four times now, while addressing numerous technical issues. Last month, the Navy warned Bell that the H-1 program was in serious jeopardy because the Texas-based company has been failing to meet its needs, and reserved the option of killing the program. The memo demanded “fundamental changes” in Bell Helicopter’s management processes as well as its production processes. Recertification in Earned Value Management, used to track program performance, is high on the list of “to-dos.”
In a shocking illustration of the truism that more integrated databases make for larger and more lucrative honeypots/ disaster magnets, the data of approximately 26.5 million US veterans was stolen recently. A Veterans’ Affairs employee disregarded security protocols and took a laptop with sensitive data home, then the laptop was taken during a burglary at the employee’s residence. Information stolen included the veterans’ Social Security numbers, birthdates and in some cases a disability rating.
Using this information, sophisticated criminals could obtain credit reports, bank and credit card accounts and place of residence information to complete many or all of the requirements for identity theft. That in turn enables all kinds of fraud schemes that can do irreparable damage to individuals’ credit ratings and finances. Identity theft has become a serious problem in the USA, where there are far fewer limits concerning the collection, trade and custody of individuals’ personal data, and little apparent liability for its misuse.
This particular incident has been compounded by questionable official actions…
Back in DID’s article about the Transformation Satellite Network (T-SAT), we noted Iridium’s corporate fiasco as something of a cautionary example associated with ultra-complex, expensive communications architectures and changing assumptions. Motorola’s multi-billion dollar satellite network was eventually sold for pennies on the dollar, and now carries very low-bandwidth traffic for the US military. Along these lines, Iridium Government Services LLC in Tempe, AZ, was recently awarded a pair of sole-source estimated firm-fixed-price contracts by the Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization – National Capital Region.
DID covered the SpaceX’s Falcon-1 and its inaugural launch failure this Monday, as well as the programs impacted by its failure. Now SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has stepped up with a preliminary analysis of what happened:
“The good news is that all vehicle systems, including the main engine, thrust vector control, structures, avionics, software, guidance algorithm, etc. were picture perfect. However, at T+25s, a fuel leak of currently unknown origin caused a fire around the top of the main engine that cut into the first stage helium pneumatic system. On high resolution imagery, the fire is clearly visible within seconds after liftoff. Once the pneumatic pressure decayed below a critical value, the spring return safety function of the pre-valves forced them closed, shutting down the main engine at T+29s. It does not appear as though the first stage insulation played a negative role, nor are any other vehicle anomalies apparent from either the telemetry or imaging.”
Note that a formal, comprehensive investigation by SpaceX and the U.S. government will follow. Musk adds:
The inaugural flight of SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon-1 rocket ended in failure on Friday, as the rocket and its satellite payload was lost just after liftoff. SpaceX had launched the two-stage Falcon 1 rocket at 5:30 p.m. EST (2230 GMT) from the U.S. military’s Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site, located on Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific’s Marshall Islands. Webcast video from the rocket appeared to show a rolling motion before the feed was lost, but a precise analysis of the problem is not yet available. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk promised that “more information will be posted once we have had time to analyze the problem.”
The rocket was expected to deploy the small, $800,000 FalconSat-2 micro-satellite built by U.S. Air Force Academy. The little satellite cube was sponsored by the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and was designed to measure the effects of space plasma on communication and global positioning satellites.
The Space and Missile Systems Center at Los Angeles Air Force Base, CA has issued a pair of contracts to Lockheed Martin Space Systems Co. in Littleton, CO, related to the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. The EELV program was designed to reduce the cost of government space launches through greater vehicle modularity, component standardization, and contractor competition, with system requirements that emphasized simplicity, commonality, standardization, new applications of existing technology, streamlined manufacturing capabilities, and more efficient launch-site processing.
Because of the problems faced by the USA’s ASDS special forces mini-sub program, the need arose to extend and upgrade existing “wet delivery” SEAL Delivery Vehicles (SDV). Now Sonatech Inc in Santa Barbara, CA has received a $7.1 million indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity, firm-fixed-price contract to provide for life-cycle maintenance, spare parts and new obstacle avoidance sonar fabrication support of SDV. Sonatech will furnish five Obstacle Avoidance Sonar (OAS) systems, along with diagnostic evaluation, repair and upgrade, OAS spares, field support, and obsolescence studies.
Work will be performed in Santa Barbara, CA (98%) and various government sites (2%), and is expected to be complete by March 2011. This contract was a sole source effort issued by the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division in Panama City, FL.