In September 2012, BAE Systems Technology Solution and Services, Rockville, MD received a 6-year, $49.2 million contract modification to manage, operate, maintain and logistically support the Solid State Phased Array Radar Systems (SSPARS). This array is also known as BMEWS, the ballistic missile early warning system of large radar installations developed during the Cold War. The radars themselves are about 11 stories tall, and excel at searching large volumes of sky that extend into space. Each has several transmitter faces, in order to provide wide coverage. BAE has a history of handling these support contracts, alongside firms like ARCTEC. This overall maintenance and support contract is expected to be complete by Sept 30/18, with awards made each year. The 21st Space Wing at Peterson Air Force Base, CO, who provides missile warning and space control to NORAD and U.S. Strategic Command, manages this contract (FA2517-06-C-8001, PO 0312).
Work would be performed at Cape Cod Air Force Station, MA; Beale Air Force Base, CA+; Thule Air Base, Greenland+; Clear Air Force Station, AK, and Royal Air Force Fylingdales, United Kingdom+. Installations with a + sign have received UEWR upgrades, which also allow them to be used as low-grade targeting radars for ballistic missile defenses. Alaska’s Clear AFS is next. See also BAE’s November 2012 release.
The White House released its report [PDF] on the effects of sequestration, restating that sequestration is an indiscriminate instrument meant for threats, not actual use, and laying sole responsibility at the feet of Congress in general, and House Republicans in particular. Democrats at the House Budget Committee stuck to tying the fate of defense budgets with tax increases for the rich (what these two things have to do with each other we’ll never know) while HASC Republicans made procedural complaints. Exec summary: stuck until the election.
As he announced earlier this month, Admiral John C. Harvey is retiring from the US Navy. Here is his long parting message as the Old Salt since Adm. Mike Mullen retired last year. It is a worthwhile read on efficiency vs. effectiveness and readiness. Adm. Bill Gortney replaces him as Commander, US Fleet Forces (January announcement). Meanwhile Rear Adm. David Dunaway takes command of Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) as Vice Adm. David Architzel is also retiring.
The US House of Representatives passed another defense funding bill (in a continuing resolution package) that the Senate will just ignore. The White House said it would veto it [PDF] in any case. Its belated report to Congress on sequestration is expected today.
In an interview with the Guardian, British Ministry of Defence Philip Hammond said the UK had already closed 52 military bases in Afghanistan out of an initial 86, and will have a remaining 9,000 troops in the country at the end of the year. The pace of their drawdown could be accelerated next year.
The US Army War College’s SSI published a scathing perspective on Russian foreign policy. It notes that for many Russians animated by a strong anti-American sentiment, the Cold War never really ended. In the meantime, Putinism worked for a while until it didn’t:
In the aftermath of the 2006 war between Iran/Syria proxies Hezbollah and Israel, after action reviews and assessments began to trickle in. While war is inseparable in practice from political strategy, and the Olmert government’s interference in military planning & operations was significant and negative, DID has searched for analyses that offer more of a techno-tactical assessment. A picture has begun to emerge, as independent evaluations were made of the 2 forces’ effectiveness.
Hezbollah can safely be characterized as a state within a state and was aided by Iranian forces. Accordingly, this conflict featured most of the accoutrements of full state conflicts: Armed UAVs (apparently used by both sides), air and missile strikes with corresponding air defense activity, anti-ship cruise missiles, tanks vs. advanced anti-armor missiles (incl. AT-13s and Milans), etc. As such the performance of the two forces and their equipment is of serious interest to defense observers around the world. The fact that public assessments are still being published in 2012 is solid evidence of that interest.
The Viper Strike began life as the BAT – a canceled munition option for ground-fired ATACMS missiles. After USAF Predator UAVs armed with Hellfire missiles began to show promise in the Global War on Terror, however, US Army planners began to examine their options. Could they place a similar capability in the hands of Army ground commanders? In July 2002, these examinations led to the award of a 90-day contract to demonstrate the possibility of BAT deployment on a modified U.S. Army RQ-5 Hunter UAV.
Those tests went well, and Viper Strikes are currently carried by MQ-5B Hunter UAVs – see this video [MPG, 13.2 MB] of a Viper Strike in testing. The weapon’s small size (3 feet long, 44 pounds) and special advantages in urban fights, mountainous terrain, etc. give it a chance of spreading to other platforms. Special Operations Command has shown interest, but front-line deployment has been limited. Is the Viper Strike a case of “the right weapon at the right time”? Or a case of “caught betwixt and between”? That’s now an important question for Europe’s MBDA, who bought the weapon and manufacturing from Northrop Grumman.
The RAND Corporation has a few interesting maps in its review of the US overseas military presence and the related strategic choices.
The latest Crosstalk [PDF] covers how to build resilient cyber ecosystems.
Maintream media coverage of the Palantir vs. DCGS-A controversy continues with an NPR article quoting representative Duncan Hunter [R-CA] pushing back against the US Army’s procurement procedures as “bureaucratic baloney.” Congressman, the services are not the entities in charge of writing Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) and Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement (DFARS). The Army is compelled by law to follow rules set by Congress and the Department of Defense, and even urgent operational needs are anything but process-free. This does not excuse “stonewalling” if an inferior solution has indeed doggedly been pursued in-house, but they have to follow the rules.
The Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory serves as a U.S. Navy UARC (University Affiliated Research Center) in Defense science and technologies, with a focus in naval missions and related areas. In September 2012, they were awarded a 5-year, maximum $415 million cost-plus-fixed-fee indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity task order contract. in return, they’ll provide up to 2,060,076 staff hours for research, development, engineering, and test and evaluation. An option for an additional 5 years could bring the maximum value to $853.3 million, and the cumulative staff hours to 3,935,759.
PSU’s ARL will work on guidance, navigation and control of undersea systems; advanced thermal propulsion concepts and systems for undersea vehicles; advanced propulsors and other fluid machinery for marine systems; materials and manufacturing technology; atmosphere and defense communications systems; and other related technologies. Individual task orders will be issued as needs arise. Work is expected to be completed by September 2017, or September 2022 with all options exercised. This contract was not competitively procured by US Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, DC (N00024-12-D-6404).
The Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) on the rationale for Performance-Based Logistics (PBL):
There are 9 contracts among the services to support [the T700] aircraft engine, plus some DLA contracts. That sounds like someone put together a bunch of contracts without thinking it through, but nobody did it for nefarious reasons. Somebody saw a problem and put a contract in place to solve it. As long as there’s plenty of money to go around, industry is happy to do business that way. But now, they see the budget is coming down and they need to partner with us in creating efficiencies.”
Allied Minds, a private investment firm in Boston, MA, made an agreement with three DoD labs and research centers to establish public-private partnerships through the funding of up to 100 companies a year focused on technology transfers and commercial applications. This follows a template Allied Minds says it has been applying in its relationships with more than 40 universities since 2007.
SASC chairman Carl Levin [D-MI] doesn’t expect the Senate to take up the 2013 defense bill before the election. This is not a surprise when Senate majority leader Harry Reid [D-NV] seems more concerned with Paul Ryan’s marathon finishing times than getting to work on, well, anything of substance. Case in point: online gambling taking precedence over passing a defense bill. Reid came back from recess this week to announce a “very short and compact” fall session.
Tactical radios are one of the quiet lifelines of the battlefield. They can also be be a very quiet pain in the nether regions. After-action reviews by US troops in Iraq have cited lack of compatibility among available communications systems, creating pressure to modernize. Yet the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS) program that was intended to ensure this modernization has been plagued by inflated requirements, system delays, cost issues, and restructuring. What to do?
Fortunately, industry is providing interim answers that offer a bridge from the previous SINCGARS systems to the next-generation JTRS. Thales Communications’ AN/PRC-148 MBITR hand-held is the hand-held radio for USSOCOM, the most widely fielded multi-band portable radio in the US armed services, and is in use by many NATO Special Forces thanks to its small size, software-based structure, and excellent interoperability. The PRC-148 JEM version is JTRS-certified, and a vehicle-mounted VRC-111 component is also available as one of the radio’s expansion options. A recently-purchased JEM version even adds initial JTRS compatibility and software-based upgradeability. Rival Harris Corp. has not been idle; its larger Falcon III PRC-152-C/ VRC-110 system sports similar software-based JTRS upgradeability and certifications, and has received orders of its own.
In response, the US military is moving to consolidate its tactical radio purchases across participating services, in order to reduce unit costs. These 2 firms will now compete for delivery orders under the Consolidated Interim Single Channel Handheld Radio (CISCHR/ CSCHR) program – orders that could total nearly $10 billion by the time all is said and done.
With the US Congress back from recess this week, Senator John McCain [R-AZ] released selected quotes from the CEOs of the major primes pointing to the uncertainty and disruption associated with sequestration. Meanwhile the OMB is past its deadline on the report Congress mandated them to produce on the effect of sequestration on readiness.
The Pentagon told Congress back in May that corrosion costs the Department almost $21B a year, according to an assessment of that report by the GAO that otherwise finds it lacking. (The DoD FY13 corrosion report itself does not seem to be publicly available). The Senate Armed Services Committee voiced similar concerns earlier this year in its report 112-173.
The Partnership for Public Service nonprofit and the Washington Post published a fawning profile of Elliott Branch, the US Navy’s Deputy Assistant Secretary for acquisition. Pointing to LCS as a program where the Navy excelled in finding savings is, uh, bold.