In July 2008, Iraq submitted a slew of official requests to buy over $10 billion worth of American defense equipment, in order to equip its forces with tanks, armored cars, weapons, and even key infrastructure. In December 2008, additional requests reached the formal notification stage, while some of their July 2008 requests have been clarified or modified.
The volume of these announcements, and their content, strongly suggests an Iraqi military that is making significant strides in organization and responsibilities, and is beginning to order the equipment to match. Gen. David Petraeus’ December 2008 presentation in Washington [Transcript | Slideshow] regarding the less recognized aspects of “the surge,” and the current situation in Iraq, would appear to back that up. Time will tell.
One of the requests that was modified by the December announcements was Iraq’s request for LAVs, similar to the amphibious vehicles used by the US Marine Corps…
Wells Fargo bank originally made its name in the 1850s, running secure rapid delivery services during the California gold rush. The combination of banking services and their famous red-and-gold stagecoaches proved appealing and successful. Their branches remain a familiar site in California and throughout the American West.
The firm’s latest customer also seeks to combine those 2 services, albeit from a slightly greater distance. The Netherlands currently pays about EUR 200 million to the US government for services like helicopter and fighter pilot training, and the amount is currently booked in one lump sum. If the ministry could pay these costs over time as they were incurred, the additional interest earned while holding on to their money could be significant. To do that, they need a commercial banking agreement in the USA.
Hence a pair of recent agreements. One involves the Dutch MvD and finance ministries, and the USA’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which processes all foreign military sales requests. The other is with Wells Fargo Bank, who is still in the business of banking and rapid delivery – with a twist. NIS News.
Blood and drugs are life-savers on the battlefield. These products are also temperature sensitive, which poses a challenge: how can they be shipped and/or kept close to the front lines, in order to provide treatment for trauma patients during the critical first hour (“The Golden Hour”)?
Civilian agencies face this problem, too, with an additional focus on shipping such products less expensively. In Britain, the UK MoD’s Defence Equipment & Support branch turned to that expertise in order to solve its own problem. Enter Minnesota Thermal Sciences and their “Golden Hour Box,” which had already picked up a “Greatest Inventions” award from the US Army…
“When it comes to procurement, for the better part of five decades, the trend has gone toward lower numbers as technology gains have made each system more capable. In recent years, these platforms have grown ever more baroque, have become ever more costly, are taking longer to build, and are being fielded in ever-dwindling quantities. Given that resources are not unlimited, the dynamic of exchanging numbers for capability is perhaps reaching a point of diminishing returns.” (US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates)
Weapon projects are inherently difficult. Many are custom systems that use a wide array of new technologies, and have production runs that are incredibly small by civilian standards. Even commercial aerospace efforts tend to stumble under these pressures; as demonstrated by Airbus’ A380 super-jumbo and Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, a pair of top-priority “bet the company” planes. Both will finish about 2 years late, and well over budget. Faced with a continuous stream of similar experiences, military and political observers have tried various flavors of military acquisition reform over the past several decades, in the USA and abroad. Britain recently began moving forward on its Smart Procurement reform plan and its Defence Industrial Strategy. On the other side of the globe, Australia’s Kinnaird Review [PDF] has led to major reforms – though results have not always followed suit. The 2008 Mortimer Review aims to take the next step down under.
At the same time, the dynamics described by SecDef Gates have created a crisis in American defense procurement that has grown big enough to jeopardize its military status. DID has covered the defense procurement spiral and tendency of the US Defense Department to begin more programs than its budget can afford, as well as growing bi-partisan legislative concern at rising weapons costs. There are strong indications that both the Air Force and Navy’s long-term procurement plans are seriously flawed, the Future Combat Systems linchpin of the Army’s long-term modernization plan is under growing budgetary attack and criticized as conceptually wrong, the Marines have run into serious performance and affordability issues with their keystone MV-22 and EFV programs, and the Coast Guard’s future Deepwater acquisition strategy has been forced into a complete reorganization. Amidst these challenges, “political engineering,” less-than-credible initial program estimates, and Congressional interfere create a continuous churn of reallocation and cancellation that raises the cost of surviving programs.
The past few years have seen efforts at organizational defense transformation in the USA – including attempts to give combatant commanders more say in the acquisition process. On the eve of a new Presidential administration, the US military is launching another acquisition reform effort, with new guidelines for weapon procurement. The Secretary of Defense, who will be staying on under a Democrat administration, added himself to the mix with an article in the Jan/Feb 2009 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine…
Environmental Leader relays a Gannett’s Army Time article, which states that the US Army plans to order 400 electric vehicles from sources like Columbia ParCar Corp., Native American Biofuels International, and other manufacturers in 2009. Quantities are expected to rise to 4,000 in FY 2010, and may total 10,000 by the time the program ends. Deputy assistant Army secretary for energy and partnerships Paul Bollinger believes each vehicle would use an average of about $400 in electricity per year, and save about 2,875 gallons of fuel.
In many ways, this order fits the potential niche for what Clayton Christensen calls a “disruptive technology.” Find a niche for a radically new product where its limitations (50 mile range, about 900-1,000 pound capacity) matter less than its benefits (cost savings, lower greenhouse gas emissions). The second step is the tricky part, as the new technology must then put itself on a growth curve that allows it to match or overtake the existing technology’s capabilities over time, or come close enough to take significant markets away from its predecessor. If you’ve ever seen an hydraulic excavator that doesn’t use cables, you’ve seen a winner in this sort of techno-strategic process.
From the Army’s point of view, the buy comes with costs as well as benefits. Conventional jeeps, Hummers et. al. can be redeployed for front-line use if that’s deemed to be necessary. These electric cars cannot. On the other hand, if one accepts the thesis that the non-linear battlefield is sharply limiting the usefulness of quasi-combat vehicles like the Hummer, G-Wagen, and Land Rover, then a sharp division becomes the expected result. New vehicles are fielded for the front lines that are more expensive, but designed to handle a full range of combat threats. Hence the JLTV program, Iveco’s popular MLV, and others. At the low end, more unmodified civilian vehicles, base-only vehicles etc. would help save money in “safe” domestic areas. In between, some civilian vehicles may be modified into specialist protection vehicles, and leverage their commonality into orders under specific circumstances.
The Air Force is awarding a firm-fixed-price contract to Raytheon in Tucson, AZ for $16.3 million. This action will provide AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile Targeting Systems Contractor Logistics Support. Service will be provided for a basic year and 2 one-year options. At this time, $2.8 million has been obligated by the 693 ARSS/PK at Eglin Air Force Base, FL (FA8675-09-C-0003).
The AGM-88 HARM missile is designed to find enemy radar installations up to 150 km/ 90 miles away, and destroy them by homing in on their emissions. It was first introduced in 1983, and upgraded versions remain the mainstay of the SEAD(Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses) role among American and allied airpower. Radar shutdowns and clever tactics can allow enemy air defenses to survive, as a Serbian SA-3 battery proved with the 1999 destruction of a USAF F-117 stealth fighter. The sword of deception always cuts both ways, however – a RAND study reveals that during the 1991 Operation Desert Storm, aircraft targeted by Iraqi radars could sometimes convince the radars to power off and stop targeting them by issuing a simple “Magnum” (HARM launch) call on the radio.
Duke Realty Corp. in Indianapolis, IN won a $300 million firm-fixed-price contract to buy “complete and usable administrative office complex to be sold to the Army and developed on a turnkey basis by the contractor.” Work will be performed in Alexandria, VA with an estimated completion date of Sept. 15/11. Bids solicited were via the FedBizOpps and 2 bids were received. by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Baltimore, MD (DACA31-7-09-0067).
Duke Realty’s release is clearer. It has now completed the sale of 16 acres in its Mark Center business park in Alexandria, VA, to the US government for $105 million. That land will be used by the Department of the Army per the 2005 BRAC(Base Realignment and Closure commission) Recommendation #133, which will relocate various Department of Defense personnel from leased space around Northern Virginia. The land sale is part of an overall $950 million development agreement between Duke and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Science Applications International Corp. in San Diego, CA received $98 million firm-fixed-price contract for 50 Militarized Mobile Gamma-Ray Imaging Systems for non-intrusive inspection of vehicles and cargo, as well as maintenance of these systems. Work will be performed in San Diego, CA, with an estimated completion date of Dec 24/10. The US Army Research Development and Engineering Command (ARDEC) Acquisition Center at Aberdeen Proving, MD issued this contract (W91CRB-09-F-0003).
Gamma Ray Imaging is used in the biomedical field to yield specialized PET/ SPECT scans, but it has also begin to see use under the USA’s 2002 Container Security Initiative (CSI). SAIC makes the MobileVACIS system for this purpose, with the ability to scan a 40 foot container in under 6 seconds.
ASE’s popular Z-Backscatter technology is an X-Ray based alternative that uses specialized techniques to provide clear, high-resolution images, while highlighting organic materials and picking up radiation emissions.
In early December 2008, Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Procurement Greg Combet outlined A$ 25.5 million in initiatives targeted at Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the sector, as part of an A$ 61 million investment in defense industry skills. He also singled out Raytheon Australia in particular for its SME partnership program.
Government SME initiatives include Australia’s Defense Industry Innovation Centres, an A$ 21 million initiative that will help with local and global benchmarking and firm strategy, and facilitate access to technology innovations elsewhere in the sector. The A$ 2 million engineering Scholarships Program will provide up to 20 scholarships per year for engineering students in relevant areas, beginning in 2010, if they undertake a placement with a Defence SME. The package will also provide financial incentives to the firms that offer these placements.
The final piece is an A$ 2.5 million to make the DMO Institute’s materiel logistics training programs available to the Australian defense industry, as well as the DoD’s acquisition workforce. The DMO Institute is a partnership between Australia’s Defence Materiel Organization and Deakin University.
Having the right capabilities on hand isn’t always a matter of having high-tech, expensive items. A British base near Basra had been coming under attack by rockets fired from the marshes of the nearby Shatt-Al-Arab waterway. Many of the rockets use timers, so anything short of controlling the surrounding area was not going to suffice. In 2007, the attacks on the main Contingency Operating Base peaked at more than 15 each day.
Challenger tanks had defeated challenges aong the roads, but they weren’t the answer here. Nor were Britain’s UAVs, whose limited field of view is not a practical or effective way to cover so many square miles. Instead, small “Mark 6” boats that one might use for casual fishing expeditions did the trick, motoring in shallow areas where even the British combat support boat and rigid raider hesitate to cruise. Those larger boats patrol the main channels, while troops were pushed out to austere forward operating bases and used Mark 6 boats for patrols of the waterways and associated islands. Those patrols, and improved Iraqi control of Basra, have combined to drop the number of attacks sharply. UK MoD release.