With a 423-0 roll call, the US House of Representatives passed H.R. 3210, a bill making continuing appropriations for military pay in the event of a government shutdown. It looks likely to pass the Senate. Today is the final day for roundtrip(s) between the two chambers to agree on a continuing resolution before FY2014 indeed starts with a shutdown. Such a last-minute agreement does not seem very likely.
The White House gathered federal agency contingency plans in one place, while USA Today has a Q&A on government shutdowns. Somehow the country will survive, but the October 17 debt ceiling deadline is more serious.
Gordon Adams from the Stimson Center calls that “groundhog day on steroids” in the Defense News video below. (Side note to Vago Muradian: the US Navy says you can officially stop TALKING IN ALL CAPS.)
Peter Munson, a former US Marine Corps major who recently moved to civilian employement, offers a list of military transition pointers. He advises to start planning very early:
The U.S. Marine Corps sees the 120mm Expeditionary Fire Support System (EFSS) mortar as the 3rd leg of its expeditionary fire support triad. EFSS will be the short-range but easily transportable counterpart to the reduced-weight M777 155mm towed howitzer, and the truck-mounted M142 HIMARS rocket system.
Accompanying Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTFs) in expeditionary operations, EFSS will be the heliborne Ship-To-Objective Maneuver (STOM) force’s primary fire support, before the larger and longer range systems can move into position. As such, the EFSS launcher, its Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV) carrier, a portion of the basic load of ammunition, and a portion of its crew, must all be transportable by a single CH-53E Super Stallion or future CH-53K heavy lift helicopter, and/or a single MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. The program’s path has not been smooth, and its vehicle choice in particular has come in for criticism, as it heads toward full-rate production.
The US Senate is expected to send back to the House a “clean” continuing resolution (i.e. without Obamacare defunding) later today, but House Speaker Boehner said they will not accept it, though some Republicans seemed amenable to a short-term deal just a day ago. There is a fair amount of dissent and even publicly-aired acrimony within the Republican ranks, which makes it hard for anyone to suss out when and how a resolution to this fiscal showdown might happen. This showdown countdown is reaching silliness of Arrested Development proportions, so please someone tell Congress they’re not working for Netflix.
The UN’s security council has agreed to draft language that binds Syria to surrender its chemical weapons, but is otherwise rather toothless. According to intelligence assessments reported by the Washington Post, most of Syria’s stock of chemical weapons is stored as chemical precursors, which would make their destruction less daunting than initially thought. And there’s always burial.
Built since the 1920s, the reliable, powerful, air-cooled .50 caliber (12.7 mm) M2 Browning Machine Gun (aka. “Ma Deuce”) is still one of the world’s most effective heavy machine guns. It can be carried by a team of soldiers, or mounted on vehicles and aircraft. Despite its age, its combination of reliability, durability, and kick-butt firepower has made it one of the most requested weapons on America’s front lines, and it remains popular around the world. Modern alternatives like FN’s M3M/GAU-21 have been introduced, and so have R&D efforts like the XM307/312 and XM806, but the M2 remains, as one of our correspondents put it, “the mounted lance of the US cavalry.” The USA has even had to ramp up .50 cal ammunition production, in order to keep up.
This article covers the venerable, and valuable, M2 machine gun, and associated contracts. The US government is still buying more, using both a multi-year contract, and a small business secondary supplier contract. They’ve also broadened the product line.
House Republicans are considering postponing their attempt to decry/delay/derail/defang Obamacare to the soon-coming debt ceiling strong arm contest, which may ease the approval of a short-term continuing resolution in the meantime. The Senate has started consideration of H.J.RES.59, the continuing resolution already approved in the House that contains language to defund Obamacare, and will no doubt reverse the GOP’s attempted Obamacarectomy. It doesn’t mean the Senate and House will agree on a topline number for the CR, leaving the prospect of even a stopgap CR still uncertain.
Unmanned drones for aerial surveillance are routine now. UAV systems that can use weapons are also routine. What isn’t routine yet is cargo resupply, but the Marines were asking for it in Afghanistan. That’s no easy task, since the country’s geography really hates helicopters. Can a helicopter UAV handle Afghanistan’s high altitude terrain, and show that it has what it takes to get its cargo exactly where it needs to go? The Marines thought so. Adm. Bill Shannon, NAVAIR Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, says:
“We are trying to get this much needed capability to the warfighter as quickly as possible… By evaluating two different systems, we have the ability to accelerate development of technology and use it immediately to support the warfighter while maintaining competition.”
From its inception, the competition has been a battle between Lockheed Martin’s larger-capacity but shorter-endurance K-MAX, and Boeing’s quiet, ultra long-endurance A160T Hummingbird. K-MAX won, and the Marines’ cargo UAV experiment began. It’s still going.
Industry consultant Loren Thompson is convinced defense contractors need to start serious diversification efforts into commercial sectors:
“[E]very factor that moves military demand is signaling a prolonged downturn in the market for what defense companies make. The only reason that isn’t already obvious to everybody in the sector is it takes a long time for sequester-driven cuts in budget authority to turn into program outcomes.”
Harris won the US Army’s Mid-Tier Networking Vehicular Radio (MNVR) competition, worth up to $140.7M for more than 2,500 radio sets.
The Teal Group released an overview of the worldwide rotorcraft market at the opening of HeliTech 2013. The chart above looks at calculated shares for western manufacturers in the military market to 2022, based on concluded competitions. They see AgustaWestland making a significant marketshare gain while Boeing and Sikorsky yield some of their lead. For more information regarding the report, contact Teal.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sent a memo [PDF] to all DoD employees to provide guidance in case of a government shutdown.
The Stimson Institute advocates in a new report [PDF] a mix of management reforms, force structure changes and procurement reductions to meet Budget Control Act constraints without endangering national security. The think tank would cancel GCV and JTLV while slowing down F-35 purchases and freezing GMD.
As of 2002, the RAF had 19 of its 4-engined VC10 aerial tankers in service. These sleek aircraft with the unusual engine arrangement form the backbone of its aerial tanker fleet, and continued to do so for about another decade until the new Airbus A330 MRTTs began entering service as part of a pathbreaking private-public partnership deal.
VC10s also had an early role in the RAF’s pursuit of a “future contracting for availability” approach across its fleets, which aims to pay for available planes rather than for man-hours and spare parts. In September 2013, the British-designed VC10 fleet reached the end of its contributions to operations and to military contracting, and retired.
US Senator Ted Cruz [R-TX] told Fox News that department-specific continuing resolutions, starting with defense, should be considered by Congress to avoid a complete government shutdown, if it comes to that. Sen. Tom Coburn [R-OK] thinks the effort to defund Obamacare can’t be a successful tactic beyond raising awareness about the healthcare law’s shortcomings. Still, expect several days of procedural nonsense of the kind only the US Congress can conjure.