By Stew Magnuson
Former Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Frank Kendall, in one of his first public speeches since leaving the Pentagon, explained in further detail why he doesn't like the idea of busting up his former position into three separate jobs.
“I don’t think there is a problem being solved here,” he said March 23 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Robotic Capabilities conference in Springfield, Virginia.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 required the Defense Department to break up the AT&L position into three undersecretaries: research and engineering; acquisitions and sustainment; and management. The change came at the behest of Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who argued that the acquisition system had grown too large for any one person to manage.
“The department is in kind of damage limitation mode on what the NDAA did,” he said, noting that it was nice to speak freely now that he has left the job.
The first iteration of the AT&L job was created by similar legislation in 1986. It replaced the director of research and engineering. “Logistics” was added to the title in 1990.
The changes were made back then because the system was not working, Kendall said. Early research and development phases were under one undersecretary. Production and sustainment phases fell under somebody else. “That did not work,” he said.
The research and engineering undersecretary was all about technology. “It was not on cost controls. It was not on the business deals we got.”
There are benefits to having one person in the office of the secretary of defense having control over the complete lifecycle of a weapon system, he said. “The development phase, the production phase and the sustainment phase should all be under the same management.”
A fragmented organization will create more bureaucracy for the military services, he said. They will have to go to three different secretaries who will all have some degree of authority over them, he added.
“It’s not a good thing. The idea in my mind is to make it the least of a bad thing that we can manage,” he said. In that light, before leaving the Pentagon, he wrote a memo recommending that the research and engineering job focus on science and technology and experimental prototyping “end of the spectrum, but not on programs of record. The reorganization should be executed by personnel who “truly understand how the organizations work,” he said.
The system “was working effectively,” he said. “I think frankly people want to do something different, and they did. And now the department has to figure out how they are going to manage their way through that.”
Kendall didn’t think the reorganization will result in a new different acquisition regime. “There isn’t some other magic way to do it.” He maintained that the bureaucracy isn’t why acquisition programs are drawn out. “The reasons programs take so long is because they are hard to do.”
For example, the F-35 had a lot of hard software programs to write. The department could have managed the milestone timing decisions better, he acknowledged.
Despite his misgivings, Kendall said at the end of the day, it’s leadership that matters.
“You can still get innovation. It is more about who you have in the position than about the scope of the control,” he said. Former Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter had a physics degree and lots of policy experience. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work brought operational experience and a keen interest in science and technology to the table. The two, along with himself, were in lockstep when it came to policies and initiatives such as Better Buying Power, the shift to the Pacific and the third offset strategy, Kendall said.
“Breaking it up and not breaking it up doesn’t really affect that. It’s people and leadership at the end of the day that have a lot more to do with what gets done,” Kendall said.
The success of the future undersecretaries “depends entirely upon the degree of support that person has from the secretary,” Kendall said.
Photo: Frank Kendall (Stew Magnuson)
By Jon Harper
TRIANGLE, Va. — The Navy and Marine Corps are gearing up to host a major exercise that will bring together members of industry, scientists, engineers and war fighters to experiment with new technologies that could shape the future force.
The confab, known as advanced naval technology exercise 2017, or ANTX, will take place next month at Camp Pendleton, California.
“It’s going to be a very large technology exercise — large in scope and layout,” Navy Capt. Chris Mercer, director for rapid prototyping and experimentation in the office of the deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development, test and evaluation, told reporters March 23.
The rapid development of advanced anti-access/area denial capabilities by potential adversaries such as China and Russia is driving a push for new equipment, officials said.
“The peer competitor piece is the rub, and that’s really what we’re focused on” for the ANTX demonstration, said Marine Col. Daniel Sullivan, chief of staff at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory.
According to a draft document outlining the exercise, which was provided to reporters, the sea services are looking for equipment that facilitates: ship-to-shore maneuver; amphibious fire support and effects; clearing amphibious assault lanes; amphibious command and control, communications, computers; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; and amphibious information warfare.
“You’ll see sailors and Marines paired up with scientists and technologists pouring over these technologies,” Mercer said.
Key items on the Navy and Marine Corps’ wish lists are robotics and autonomy capabilities that would enable more sophisticated manned-unmanned teaming.
“We can take our manned elements and put them in certain areas while we have other unmanned elements being … decoys to complicate the enemy’s firing and targeting problem,” said Marine Maj. Jim Foley, a plans officer at the laboratory.
Swarms of autonomous unmanned systems could perform reconnaissance missions and probe enemy defenses, he noted.
“I might send a swarm someplace, either aerial or surface or subsurface vehicles, in order to cause the enemy to commit his resources to that swarm,” he said. “I can now using different ship-to-shore connectors … move my force into the area where he’s not looking.”
Deception enabled by information technology tools is also critical, said Doug King, director of The Ellis Group at the lab.
“There’s a fight that has to occur in reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance, meaning, I’ve got to corrupt what that enemy sees and knows,” he said. “What I need to do is figure out in this day of ISR how can I corrupt his picture … and how can I protect my information?”
About 100 vendors will display equipment at the ANTX demonstration.
“I haven’t seen anything like this where you’ve got this many things tied to what we’re trying to do,” King said.
The equipment that makes the cut will move on to the next evaluation phase, Sullivan said.
“Those technologies that prove to be the most valuable and the most ready for primetime, we’re going to go ahead and insert into an exercise in the fall,” Sullivan said.
They will most likely appear at Bold Alligator, which will be held at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, he said.
That process could be followed by rapid prototyping and an extended user evaluation by sailors and Marine, he noted.
“I think … a subset of these things will wind up for an extended user eval in the fleet,” Sullivan said.
ANTX could influence Navy and Marine Corps acquisitions in the years ahead.
“We’re going to bring all of our combat developers — the guys who actually do the programmatics that result in acquisitions — out there with us,” Sullivan said. “I see this as a very large-scale effort to inform requirements for future systems going forward.”
The chief of naval operations and the commandant of the Marine Corps are expected to attend.
A Marine Corps official from the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental is also slated to be there. The outfit, headquartered in Silicon Valley, was established to strengthen ties between the Pentagon and the nation’s technology hubs.
After ANTX concludes, “he goes back to Silicon Valley and articulates the technology challenges we had and what we’re looking at [and asks], ‘What can you do for us?’” Sullivan said.
Photo: Getty Images
By Sandra I. Erwin
Should you lease or buy? A question usually applicable to automobiles essentially describes the dilemma facing the Defense Department as it considers how to fill the U.S. military’s future demands for voice and data communications.
Officials hope to have answers within the next 12 to 18 months.
“DoD is working diligently to leverage the best ideas both from industry and abroad to affordably and reliably meet wideband communications requirements in anticipation of rapidly evolving challenges,” Air Force Col. George Nagy told reporters March 23. Nagy is a principal adviser on space issues at the office of the deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for space.
Nagy and a team of Air Force and Pentagon officials are overseeing a congressionally mandated study known as “Wideband Communications Services Analysis of Alternatives.” The so-called AOA was officially kicked off Dec. 23.
Congress directed the study in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, and approved a $7.8 million budget for the effort.
The issue of whether the Pentagon should move away from building its own customized and increasingly expensive satellites and rely more on commercial services has been the subject of contentious discussions for nearly two decades. Although the private sector provides reliable and relatively low-cost services, the Defense Department has been hesitant to become overly dependent on commercial providers. Doubts have increased in recent years as military leaders sound alarms about the vulnerability of satellites to hostile attacks such as electronic jamming and missiles designed to kill spacecraft.
The Pentagon’s primary satellite communications system today is a multinational Air Force-operated wideband global constellation known as WGS, and supplements it with short-term service contracts with commercial providers. For ultra-sensitive, classified communications, the Pentagon uses the Advanced Extremely High Frequency constellation, a system designed to operate even during a nuclear war. The Air Force Space Command operates the government-owned constellations and provides military satcom services to combatant commands around the world. Separately, the Defense Information Systems Agency oversees commercial satcom leases.
Commercial operators have a lot riding on the outcome of the wideband AOA. For years they have called on the Pentagon to change its approach from short-term agreements to long-term deals in order to incentivize private-sector investment and negotiate better prices.
The AOA presumably will shape future decisions on whether the Pentagon should buy more WGS satellites or increase commercial leases. The study also will look at available non-satellite communications alternatives such as aerial and ground-based networks. Analysts predict that more capacity will be needed over the next 20 years as the military increases its use of big-data systems and requires large pipes to send data around the globe. An information-centric military that also wants to work with allies needs flexible systems like those offered in the commercial industry. Private-sector operators recently have grown concerned that their military business is at risk because their systems are said to be less secure than government-owned networks.
Norman Yarbrough, a space adviser at the office of the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said cybersecurity is a paramount concern in military wideband communications. He participated in a recently concluded AOA study for “protected satellite communication services.”
During a joint media roundtable with Nagy, Yarbrough declined to discuss details of the protected satcom study, but noted that the results will influence the wideband AOA.
Nagy said the intent is to “leverage commercial innovation” in the space sector, and that more likely the future approach will be to have a mix of military-unique and commercial systems, which he described as a “flexible, affordable, resilient architecture that balances user demands and operates in contested environments.”
Ensuring access to wideband communications is essential, he said, as a shortage of bandwidth “would challenge DoD’s ability to operate as a joint force and project U.S. national interests abroad.” Adversaries understand this, he said, “and have been developing a wide range of capabilities to deny the United States the benefits that space capabilities provide.”
Government officials over the past 18 months have met with the chief executives of major space companies to discuss the AOA. “Participants at meetings made a very compelling case for the delivery of commercial services,” said Nagy. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center has launched a commercial satcom pilot program to gain a deeper understanding of what the industry has to offer.
“We are looking at options beyond the traditional short term leasing arrangements that have predominated since 9/11,” Nagy said. He pointed out that the United States has invited 16 nations to participate in the wideband communications AOA and 12 have accepted: Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain and the United Kingdom. Australia is expected to join as well.
The WGS constellation is jointly funded by five other nations and the U.S. Air Force.
“I think we’ve had a very robust dialogue with industry and international partners to understand their viewpoints on this issue,” said Nagy. “Now we're at an inflection point to a place where we can go ahead and deliberately look at the functional capabilities that the wideband enterprise requires.”
The industry has become impatient over the years with the Pentagon’s indecision on how to move forward with satcom procurements. Yarbrough said a plan is needed sooner rather than later. “Our current capability won’t last forever. We are going to have to replace it with something,” he said. “And we're certainly postured to try to take advantage of commercial capabilities.”
On the issue of cybersecurity, he said, “It's going to be our job to lay out to the decision makers the risks versus rewards of different alternatives, including those alternatives where the vendor might not choose to incorporate protection that may be cheaper versus the ones where they work with us to incorporate some of the protection features that we get today from our military satellite communications.” And he insisted that the government “will look at a range of options.”
PHOTO: Wideband Global SATCOM / Air Force
By Stew Magnuson
The upcoming budget proposal for fiscal year 2018 will include "significant" increases for counter-drone technology, a senior official from of the office of the secretary of defense said March 22.
The boost in funding will go hand-in-hand with better coordination between agencies on developing the relevant technologies needed to defeat robotic systems being used against U.S. forces, Chris O'Donnell, director of the joint rapid acquisition cell executive secretary in the warfighter integration group at OSD, said at the National Defense Industrial Association's Robotic Capabilities conference in Springfield, Virginia.
"How much money? A lot of money," he said, declining to state a figure. "It's a substantial amount of money that we are currently spending." The counter-drone budgets this year are coming from reprogrammed funding, he added.
"The bad guys have figured out that ... these remote systems work very well and they can do a lot of the same things we do: [intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance], whether that's directing fire or delivering explosives in a very precise manner. We in the department are very concerned about this right now," O'Donnell said.
He compared the current efforts to the fight in Iraq in 2003 when the Defense Department had to scramble to find ways to defeat improvised explosive devices and the services had different programs underway. Several disparate technology development programs now need to be better coordinated in order to avoid duplication for the counter-drone problem, and to better communicate to industry what technologies might be needed, he said.
"We need to understand from the manufacturers what the systems do in some cases so we can understand better how to counter them," he said.
All four services, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Joint Improvised-Device Defeat Agency are among those doing work on the problem, he said.
One of the major problems will be finding technologies that will work in the United States and other countries where shooting down drones with kinetic or non-kinetic means pose many legal issues. "It's very hard to shoot something down in the United States ... They are commercial aircraft and legally you can't shoot commercial aircraft down. It upsets people when you do that."
A lot has to be worked out, he said. "If someone is flying a UAS right outside our gate, there is not a whole lot we can do about that," he said. For example, someone has been flying a drone outside the Department of Homeland Security parking lot and taking pictures of license plates, and DHS is powerless to stop the operators, he said.
The problem extends to remote controlled cars and boats as well, he noted. Those technologies are advancing rapidly and they may be used against U.S. forces.
"There are lots of great hard-working folks inside the Department of Defense and outside the Department of Defense right now trying to answer these questions," he said. Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work is leading the coordination efforts, which shows the high level of concern, he noted.
Work is asking for a plan that will better coordinate efforts while not disrupting ongoing technology programs, he said. He will look at whether a new agency needs to be created. Meanwhile, joint urgent operational needs statements are being used to speed solutions to the field, he said.
A senior Army leader, who did not want to be named, said March 23 at the conference that insurgents in Iraq are using inexpensive, commercially available drones to drop chemical weapons and grenades on troops.
"It kills people. And it makes people blister, and all kinds of bad things," the officer said.
There are about 11 counter-drone technologies that have been sped into the field so far, the officer said. One he described as a "Ghostbuster looking gun" that took down enemy drones using radio frequencies to disrupt them, rather than kinetic ammunition. The first iteration of the gun operated in one frequency, but a 2.0 version has a dial with three different frequencies.
By Jon Harper
The United States military lacks clear rules of engagement as it seeks to defend the nation’s space assets, the deputy commander of Strategic Command said March 22.
Potential adversaries such as China and Russia are developing an “arsenal” of lasers, railguns and microwave weapons to neutralize U.S. satellites, said Navy Vice Adm. Charles Richard. These offensive capabilities could take out critical systems that the Pentagon relies on for command-and-control, communications, navigation, intelligence gathering and other purposes.
“We’ve created a domain that must be secured,” he said at a space security conference in Washington, D.C., hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Prague Security Studies Institute.
“The best way to prevent war is to be prepared for war. And we’re going to make sure that everyone knows we’re going to be prepared to fight and win wars in all domains to include space,” he added.
Nevertheless, multiple exercises have revealed that the U.S. military isn’t as prepared as it needs to be, he warned.
“One of the things these exercises have highlighted is we have difficulty determining the appropriate response at times due to a lack of rules of engagement in space,” Richard said. Policymakers are “still sorting out answers to the questions like, what constitutes an attack in space? What is the undisputable evidence required within the international community to assert violation of sovereign territory in space? What constitutes provocation in space?”
“If we’re going to act decisively in real time we have to address these issues both legally and operationally,” he added.
There’s also room for improvement when it comes to situational awareness, Richard said. Although the U.S. military is equipped with radars and other sensors, it still can’t see everything that is going on outside the atmosphere.
“Trying to figure out what’s happening on orbit is sort of like watching a tennis match in a darkened room with a strobe light flashing and you’re trying to figure out what’s going on,” he said.
The situation could be rapidly improved through greater information sharing with partners and allies that have space assets, he said.
As potential adversaries enhance their capabilities to attack other countries’ systems, the U.S. national security community should move toward more distributed and resilient space architectures, Richard argued. Allies and partners could help in this regard by sharing on-orbit and ground-based components of their systems in the event of conflict, he said.
If the space domain is uncontested “I can have a very small number of Death Stars up on orbit … that have all these capabilities,” he said using an analogy from Star Wars. But “I don’t think that’s the right way to go in a contested environment.”
That view is not universally shared among policymakers, he noted.
The military’s space components are looking to partner with the commercial sector as they pursue new capabilities. But red tape sometimes gets in the way, Richard said.
“There is a bit of bureaucracy that you have to dynamite through in order to go do this,” he said. “Sometimes that’s a bit of an uphill push.”
Investments in defense-related space capabilities could see a boost under President Donald Trump as other countries improve their anti-satellite technology.
Richard said it would be “premature” to assess whether more funding would be coming STRATCOM’s way in this regard, but he noted that the Trump administration is pursuing a broad military buildup.
“We know that in early meetings with senior military leadership our new president has shown a keen interest in space issues as we work towards a strategy of preparation without provocation in space,” he said.
Rep. Jim Bridenstine, R-Okla., a member of the House Armed Services Committee and a leading voice on space issues on Capitol Hill, said there is “without question” widespread support in Congress and at the White House for spending more in this area.
“If you look at the defense budget even during the Obama administration, they were very aggressive in plussing up the national security space budget,” he said. “Congress of course concurred. And now we’re going to, I think, see that continue.”
Image: Rendering of a defense satellite communication system satellite (Air Force)
By Stew Magnuson
The Army is eager to move ahead with robotic systems that can serve as mules for overloaded troops and with driverless trucks that can follow one another in convoys, but the prices companies are proposing are coming in too high, a service official said March 22.
Brig. Gen. John George, director of Force Development, Army G-8, said "one of the things that kind of hinders us is frankly the sticker shock of some of these systems that we expect to come in at a lower price."
A request for information from industry for the squad mission equipment transport vehicle came in at $80,000 to $240,000, he said at the National Defense Industrial Association's Ground Robotics Capabilities conference in Springfield, Virginia. The SMET is envisioned as an autonomous off-road vehicle capable of carrying soldier equipment in order to lighten troop loads.
"We are frankly unhappy with the cost and the timeline" of SMET and autonomous trucks, he said.
"How much is a Tesla?" He asked. The high SMET price means either the Army produced "gold-plated requirements" or industry is giving it premium prices, he said. "And we're living on a peanut butter salary right now."
If the Army is asking for a capability that is too expensive, it wants to know, he said. If one percent of the requirements being taken away results in 10 percent savings, "that would be very interesting to us. We have got to understand what the cost drivers are."
That is also true of the appliqué kits that convert tactical wheeled vehicles to autonomous trucks capable of doing leader-follower convoys.
The question with SMET and leader-follower is: "What is the right balance between requirements and cost and acquisition timeline?" He asked. Those questions are being posed at the Army Requirements Oversight Council, or AROC, he said.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley is reinvigorating the council, George said. It once only approved requirements, but it is now being used to synchronize the requirements with resources and the acquisition regime, George said. "Our chief is very engaged in driving the synchronization of those three critical processes and making decisions personally about our requirements."
The AROC held a meeting on whether to proceed with autonomous truck appliqué technology in February, but did not come to a decision on whether to proceed and make it a program of record, George said.
Meanwhile, Milley is demanding that requirements documents be completed in four weeks. "I don't know what it used to be ... But we are moving in an expedited manner to get requirements documents." The council needs to see the capabilities and the costs lined up before they approve a particular technology, George said.
The AROC sees robotic and autonomous systems as a technology that can make Army formations more effective, he said. They must make units more lethal and more protected before gaining approval. "Some people want to develop technology for technology's sake. We have to keep it pointed on what it does to our formations and how it enables them."
George said the double whammy of sequestration and continuing resolutions is causing the Army to protect readiness but at the expense of its modernization accounts. It is trying to maintain its science and technology programs "so when we do have an increase in resources we have the underpinnings of these technologies we can roll out into new systems."
"We are going slow to keep our options open ... We are keeping things warm so as we have opportunities to find resources [we can] either increase capability or increase production."
Despite the austere budget environment, the Army boosted its robotic research and development accounts 500 percent from the 2015 to the 2016 budget, he said, although he didn't want to reveal the exact dollar figures. It is a technology that touches on many of the service's top R&D priorities, which include increased lethality, force protection and assured communications. "I expect over the next 10 years as we see procurement and the actually fielding of capabilities we will see probably a 20 percent increase in investments in that portfolio," he added.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Brig. Gen. John George's title.
Photo: Lockheed Martin
By Sandra Erwin
Congress’ biggest proponents of massive increases to the defense budget concede that President Donald Trump's blueprint is unrealistic. Nonetheless they are determined to keep beating the drum about what they as deep financial holes in the U.S. military.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has recommended a $640 billion defense budget for fiscal year 2018 and steady increases over the next five years — a funding boost much larger than what the Trump administration has floated. McCain continues to support that goal, but acknowledges that the administration and Congress remain at sharp odds over fiscal priorities. And he believes that Trump's plan to increase defense at the expense of domestic agencies is doomed.
“It doesn’t matter what I think. It’s not going to happen,” McCain said March 22 during a joint media roundtable with Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.
McCain’s counterpart in the House, also an ardent defense hawk, shares that view, and has endorsed McCain's $640 billion target.
The numbers and the politics are stacked high against big defense spending increases, however. “Fiscal responsibility is of the utmost importance,” said McCain, “but I still believe national security ranks above that.”
Both McCain and Thornberry argue that Congress at large and the public remain unaware of the scope of the military’s fiscal troubles and their implications. “Combat readiness is at an all time low that I haven’t seen since the post Vietnam War era,” said McCain. He cited a classified Rand Corp. study on military readiness woes that was briefed to lawmakers. “I hope that study will be declassified, it will be an eye opener.”
Thornberry elaborated: “The closer you look, the deeper you see the damage done to our military over the past eight years." Traveling around U.S. and overseas military bases, “you see real evidence,” he said. “Some comes out in public hearings, although the military leadership is somewhat reluctant to talk about our vulnerabilities. The damage is deeper than most of us realize.”
The Pentagon has asked Congress to approve a $30 billion add-on for fiscal year 2017 to plug holes in military budgets across the board. The supplemental request includes $24.9 billion for the base budget and $5.1 billion for overseas operations. This would boost the 2017 base request from $524 billion to $549 billion. And OCO funding would grow from $65 billion to $70 billion.
This last minute addition technically would require Congress to break an existing bipartisan budget deal, an unrealistic prospect by most accounts. Thornberry suggested that he would support shifting the $30 billion entirely under the OCO account which is not subject to spending caps.
“Expect it to be in OCO so we can get it done quickly,” he said. “The supplemental is needed to begin the healing. I don’t care what label is on the money, I just want to get the money done.” The military cannot wait, he said. “Aircraft can’t fly. Brigades can’t train. The label on the money is not that relevant. The easiest way to get the supplemental done is through OCO.”
It is paramount that the Pentagon not be funded under a continuing resolution, Thornberry insisted. The current CR expires April 28 and defense officials have pleaded for a full-year appropriations bill.
Defense Secretary James Mattis, in a March 22 statement to the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee put it bluntly: “Only an FY 2017 appropriations bill can permit us to spend the American taxpayers’ money judiciously and start us on the long road back to military readiness to ensure we can fight effectively. The last six years of sequester’s effects, budget cuts, and repeated continuing resolutions have damaged our readiness to a degree that will take time to recover.”
Congress has acquired the habit of “playing games with the defense budget,” Thornberry lamented. “This is not something to negotiate; this is lives and deaths. Defense dollars should not be used as “leverage to get our favorite projects,” he said.
How to pay for defense growth is one among several issues that has kept congressional factions and the White House at loggerheads. Thornberry does not support President Trump’s proposed cuts to nondefense agencies such as the State Department, but he believes other cuts should be considered to pay for defense. “We need to grapple with mandatory spending, and curtail growth,” he said. “We cannot wait to fix airplanes and ships until we get the budget balanced. That would be wrong,” he added. “We have to get the budget in better shape. But to defend the country we have to repair the damage that’s been done to our military in the past eight years.”
Thornberry acknowledged that defense committees and military leaders could do better at explaining why more funding is needed. It can be difficult for most people to understand why the Pentagon can’t get by on $570 billion or $600 billion.
“I think the military, and we as well, need to do a better job of explaining readiness,” he said. “We have looked at readiness from too narrow a perspective, in red-yellow-green colored charts. What we have not done as we should is explaining that our pilots are not getting as many flying hours as the Chinese or Russian pilots or that low readiness causes aviation crashes,” he said. “We need to do a better job making readiness problems real. I’m not sure we’ve done that well enough in the armed services committees, much less with the public at large.”
Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, suggested that proponents of higher defense spending should consider options to increase taxes to pay for it.
"If you feel this strongly about increasing the Navy, the Army, nuclear weapons and readiness, then raise freaking taxes and pay for it," Smith said March 22 at the McAleese Credit Suisse defense industry conference in Washington, D.C.
"You have to bring in more money," he said. "If you’re not going to do that I suppose you could go the entitlement reform route." Smith also argued that if the nation decides it cannot afford to increase defense, the national defense strategy should be revised so the military is less strained. It is "completely unacceptable" to assign the military missions "we do not fund sufficiently. It's better to shrink those missions and make sure that forces are trained and equipped."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post was updated clarifying Sen. McCain's views on the administration's budget. And comments were added by HASC Ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Smith.
Photo: Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. (left) and Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas (Sandra Erwin, Staff)
By Vivienne Machi
As the competition for the U.S. Air Force’s new advanced pilot trainer system progresses, Lockheed Martin executives are confident that their T-50A jet trainer will be ready ahead of schedule and with cost savings that its competitors will be unable to beat.
But in the event it doesn’t win the T-X contract — or even if it does — the company is examining whether the aircraft would be a suitable fit for the service’s experiment to acquire a commercial-off-the-shelf aircraft to provide light attack and close-air support on a budget, also known as OA-X, Lockheed Martin's executive vice president of aeronautics said March 21.
“We are evaluating right now” whether to participate in the invitation, Rob Weiss told reporters at the company’s media day in Arlington, Virginia. “We’re having some initial conversations about that right now … if the T-50 or some other option might make sense.”
The Air Force March 17 released an invitation to industry to participate in the OA-X competition. The service will be looking for mission profiles, carriage requirements, mission duration, supportability, supply chains and manufacturing readiness, as well as the ability to operate off a 6,000-foot runway or shorter, service officials previously said.
Weiss said the company is looking into whether the T-50A could fit those requirements. “The way it currently is described, it looks like there are lower cost and much lower capability airplanes than the trainers” that could fit the bill, Weiss said.
But as it stands, the aircraft is “ready now” to win the end-to-end jet trainer system competition, Weiss said.
The company has “not really spent much time thinking about what happens” if it does not win the T-X competition, he noted. Lockheed partnered with Korea Aerospace Industries to modify its T-50 aircraft for T-X. The Air Force aims to buy up to 350 aircraft and associated ground-based systems to replace its aging T-38 fleet, It needs updated aircraft to train its pilots to fly fifth-generation aircraft including the F-22 fighter and the F-35 joint strike fighter.
“T-50A meets all of the requirements. .... We feel very positive about it,” Weiss said, noting that the two completed T-50A aircraft have been performing regular flight operations and testing in Greenville, South Carolina. Last week, the aircraft completed all of the pre-engineering and manufacturing development test points that the Air Force has required. That flight test data is due by June 28, and Lockheed plans to continue performing tests and analyzing the results before submitting the data on that date, Weiss said.
The test points are meant to demonstrate that the aircraft can achieve a high sustained G-force acceleration, a high angle of attack, and maneuver within those regimes, Weiss said, adding that the aircraft have received “very positive feedback” from Lockheed test pilots. “It confirms our decision to go with the off-the-shelf” product, he said.
Although the Air Force’s request for proposals — due March 30 — sets a desired initial operating capability date in 2024, the T-50A could be ready to deliver in 2022, years ahead of any clean-sheet design, Weiss said.
“I am convinced that it can be delivered six years earlier than a clean-sheet design,” he said. “Based on all the scheduling we’ve done ... it would be four years after 2024 before a clean sheet will actually be delivered.”
Lockheed had previously considered building a new aircraft before opting to work with KAI to produce the T-50A, but their analysis showed that a commercial-off-the-shelf product would be the best option, Weiss said. “One of the biggest challenges we foresaw … was meeting the 2024 initial operational capability requirement.”
The Air Force has not committed to wanting an earlier IOC date, but “perhaps post-competition, that would be a conversation that would occur,” he said. “If there is a desire for an earlier IOC, we will be ready.”
But there is still a broader international market for trainers and light attack aircraft that the T-50A “will compete in, either way,” he said.
Two teams of airframers are currently offering clean-sheet designs for the trainer competition: The Boeing Co. with Sweden-based Saab, and the Sierra Nevada Corp. with Turkish Aerospace Industries. Leonardo plans to compete with Alenia Aermacchi’s T-100, a variant of its M-346 trainer, after several attempts to partner with other companies.
Northrop Grumman previously planned a clean-sheet design before the company announced in February that it had pulled out of the competition.
Weiss did not claim to know why Northrop chose to withdraw, but noted “ when I think back to where we were two years ago in making that choice [whether to submit a clean-sheet design], I think we all envisioned that’s where we do not want to be in 2017.”
Photo: Lockheed Martin
By Jon Harper
Lockheed's miniature hit-to-kill interceptor
Lockheed Martin is moving forward with miniaturized defensive systems designed to counter enemy rockets, artillery and mortars, a company vice president said March 21.
One is an interceptor known as the miniature hit-to-kill system, a 30-inch missile that weighs only five pounds. Hit-to-kill technology thwarts incoming missiles, rockets, artillery, mortars or aircraft by directly colliding with them and destroying them.
Lockheed is well known for its ballistic missile defense systems such as the PAC-3 and terminal high-altitude area defense system, or THAAD. Now the company is developing new equipment to take out other types of incoming enemy fire.
“It is basically taking the capability of PAC-3 in terms of sensors …. to go after rockets, artillery and mortars — short range threats that still remain the bane of infantrymen and women around the world,” said Tim Cahill, Lockheed’s vice president for integrated air and missile defense, missiles and fire control.
The company is also developing a gun-launched variant of the technology that is about 20-inches long, he told reporters at a Lockheed-hosted media day in Arlington, Virginia.
Both are in the prototype and testing stages.
“The technologies are moving along rapidly,” he said. “We’re miniaturizing the systems. We’re figuring out ways to move into areas where hit-to-kill was far more difficult.”
The company is taking advantage of advances in commercial technology to move the projects forward, Cahill noted.
“Getting the cost down and getting the profile down of the systems to go for shorter-range targets is so very important with the emerging threats,” he said. “We’re putting a lot of money and time and focus into those electronics and those capabilities and … getting those ready for fielding as fast as we can.”
Most of the funding for the projects is coming from Lockheed’s internal research-and-development accounts, he said.
While the focus of the current effort is providing the miniaturized capability to land forces, the technology could potentially be used in other domains.
“There are opportunities I think — airborne, seaborne and land-based — for all of these smaller missiles that we’re talking about,” Cahill said.
“If you … can actually start fielding a missile that is 30 inches long and [weighs] 5 pounds, well you can imagine the potential for putting that on platforms where you can’t put 10, 15, 20-foot missiles,” he added.
But a number of technical challenges must be overcome to create effective, fieldable systems of that size, he said.
“Hit-to-kill systems [are] all about a highly capable sensor coupled with a highly capable, robust and agile airframe, and being able to tie that all together with a set of algorithms that can allow you to turn on a dime,” he explained. “It’s how do we miniaturize fundamentally the sensors? How do we build maneuverable airframes that can stand increasing Gs?”
Taking out a small, hardened mortar mid-flight requires a great deal of accuracy, he noted.
“There’s a lot of science to that,” he said. “It’s a combination of technology, it’s knowhow, it’s algorithms, it’s miniaturization, it’s robustness in airframe — all [of that] comes together to make it work”.
The technology will likely be ready for fielding in the early 2020s, Cahill told National Defense.
Photo Credit: Lockheed Martin
By Sandra I. Erwin
President Donald Trump’s promises of deregulation could extend to the defense industry, although the specifics are still unknown. The White House already has kicked off a deregulatory agenda in other sectors, and the CEOs of top Pentagon contractors expect the president to take action in the defense sector as well.
“I think there’s a healthy discussion going on between the industry and the administration around the issue of regulations, and what’s appropriate,” said Leo Mackay, senior vice president for internal audit, ethics and sustainability at Lockheed Martin Corp.
Lockheed CEO Marillyn Hewson has participated in several meetings with other industry executives and administration officials. Trump has asked defense CEOs to find ways to ramp up manufacturing operations in the United States and create jobs. “A big aid to that would be rightsizing regulations,” Mackay told National Defense in an interview.
He cautioned that companies are not asking for widespread deregulation but for a thorough review of regulations that add costs and that do not demonstrably serve a useful purpose. The industry does not want to be left to its own devices, he noted. “There’s a place for regulations. But it’s this administration’s view that industry may be overregulated,” Mackay said. “We’re engaging with the administration and other companies on how that could be changed to be more constructive.”
It has been widely documented that red tape makes up about 20 percent of the cost of Pentagon weapon systems, he said. So the idea is not only to help the industry create jobs but also to lower the cost of what the government buys. The administration has reached out to industry for suggestions on how to do this, although reforms will not happen overnight. “This is on their timing,” Mackay said.
Large government contractors like Lockheed have created huge organizations internally just to keep tabs on their own compliance with increasingly complex regulations.
Mackay, for instance, is responsible for what Lockheed calls “integrated assurance.” Companies are “backing into a realization that although they have a CFO who deals with the SEC, a general counsel who deals with legal issues, there is an internal governance and compliance area” that needed to be beefed up, he said. It’s one of Mackay’s jobs to “assure the CEO and the board that we are actively compliant with the laws and regulations that apply to our industry,” as well as internal audits, ethics, enterprise risk management and corporate social responsibility efforts. “If you don’t plan to meet all these obligations in a coordinated fashion, there’s a very good chance that you may not,” he said. “I think you’re going to see more firms starting to do something like this.”
Prime contractors such as Lockheed are especially challenged because they oversee a massive network of sub-tier suppliers and have to assure the government that everyone follows regulatory mandates such as screening systems for counterfeit parts, cracking down on human trafficking and preventing materials extracted from war-torn countries known as “conflict minerals” from getting into U.S. weapon systems.
“It’s a team sport,” said Mackay. Lockheed provides subcontractors with “supplier tool kits” and webinars that explain codes of conduct. The company participates in the Defense Industry Initiative, a consortium of 77 defense contractors focused on ethics and integrity in business dealings with the Defense Department.
The regulatory picture in Pentagon procurements will remain cloudy for several months, or until the administration completes a reorganization of the acquisitions office and fills high-level jobs. Mackay, like others in the defense industry, is hopeful that future reforms will not be a repeat of past efforts.
“There’s an unfortunate tendency when we get waves of acquisition reforms: We don’t do a very good job clearing out existing reviews and we generally add on, so the process gets lengthened,” he said. “We need to clear out existing underbrush before you put in a new structure.”
Mackay was especially critical of recent efforts to impose “fixed-price” contracting on new technology developments. Firm fixed-price deals make sense for production contracts, but “at other points in development other contracts like ‘cost plus’ are more advisable. It has a bad name, but is more appropriate for new technology.”
Proposals to use fixed-price contracting as the default option is an example of “bad ideas that have a long track record of not working and are advanced as innovative thinking,” he said. “If you’re developing new technology, fixed pricing is not a good idea. There’s a lot of evidence that says that’s the case.”
Critics who claim these rules are put forth to prevent contractors from overcharging the government should be reminded that the Defense Department closely scrutinizes companies’ internal cost data and audits every program. “They know our cost structure. We negotiate incentive fees, award fees, return on sales. None of it is hidden. They have all the data,” he said.
Mackay said the system works better when there is “healthy respect for both government and industry program managers’ discretion, and giving people the authority and responsibility and letting them do their jobs, and hold them accountable for the results.”