By Jon Harper
The outcome of the recent ‘Brexit’ referendum in the United Kingdom won’t affect the close partnership between U.S. and British nuclear forces, the U.S. Navy’s director of strategic systems programs said June 24.
His comments came the day after Britons shocked the world by voting to leave the European Union. The British exit, known as Brexit, roiled global financial markets and led to the political downfall of U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron, a strong U.S. ally who wanted Britain to remain in the EU. Analysts have warned about longer-term economic and political fallout.
“I think that was a decision based on [Britain’s] relationship with Europe in the EU, not its relationship with the United States and certainly not the nuclear deterrence programs that we have been true partners with for the last 50 years,” Vice Adm. Terry Benedict said of the referendum outcome during a conference at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C.
Benedict spoke with his British counterpart the morning after the polls closed, he noted.
“I have no concerns about that. I see … yesterday’s vote in the United Kingdom having no effect on our relationship in the nuclear world,” he said at the conference.
The U.S. and U.K. navies have been cooperating on nuclear issues for decades. The Polaris Sales Agreement enables the British to buy strategic systems from the United States for their ballistic missile submarines, which are capable of launching nuclear warheads.
The HMS Vengeance completed its midlife refueling and overhaul earlier this year and will soon receive strategic onload of nuclear weapons at Kings Bay, Georgia, Benedict said.
“We are tightly coupled both programmatically and technically to ensure that both nations provide the most cost-effective, technically capable nuclear strategic deterrent for our nations,” he said.
Both navies use the Trident II D-5 missile system and are co-developing a common missile compartment that will later be equipped on the U.S. Navy’s Ohio-class replacement and the U.K.’s Vanguard follow-on.
“This is truly unique as both nations will have the capability to build the CMS in their respective shipyards,” Benedict said.
The joint effort is shifting from design to construction, he said. Construction of the first 17 missile tubes began in 2015, and the contract for the next 36 tubes will be awarded “shortly” through program executive office submarines, he noted.
“We will continue to maintain this strong strategic relationship to ensure a credible and reliable strategic weapon system is deployed today on our Ohio-class and U.K. Vanguard-class as well as in the future on respective follow-on platforms,” he said.
The Navy is also seeking more cooperation with the U.S. Air Force when it comes to building the next generation of missile systems. The Air Force is planning to replace the Minuteman III, and the Navy is considering what might follow the D-5.
“With the budget pressures we face today, it is only prudent to assess areas where we the Navy and the Air Force should begin to seek intelligent commonality to reduce both the cost and the risk as both services modernize the ballistic missile legs of the triad,” Benedict said.
Last year the two services were directed to conduct detailed assessments of potential areas where commonality might be viable. A joint working group was set up that included senior technical and programmatic experts.
According to an unclassified PowerPoint slide provided to National Defense, areas of potential commonality that were examined include: avionics, post-boost system, ordnance, controls, booster, flight test and range, reentry system, structures, and ground/shipboard systems.
“The team concluded that subsystem and component-level commonality has the potential to reduce both cost and risk to the Air Force and the Navy future missile programs by leveraging the substantial resources already invested,” Benedict said.
The services need to start incorporating the results of the study into their respective acquisition strategies, particularly for the Minuteman III replacement in the near term, he added.
Benedict has advised the Air Force to take advantage of Navy program products and processes that were recently developed as part of the D-5 life-extension program. He also recommended criteria for commonality be included in the Air Force’s source-selection evaluation of industry responses to requests for proposals.
“Acquisition decisions will make or break the effective implementation of commonality,” he said.There are hurdles to overcome when it comes to Navy-Air Force cooperation on missile programs, Benedict noted.
“We have different cultures, and both [services] have long histories of success working largely independently,” he said.
The Air Force is preparing to replace the Minuteman III, but it could be awhile before the Navy develops its next-generation missile system. The Ohio-class replacement, which is slated to enter service in 2031, will initially be equipped with the D-5, he said.
“That’s still all in the process” of being worked out, Benedict told reporters after the conference when asked about timelines for a follow-on system. “That’s a fairly complicated equation in terms of aging, obsolescence, budgets, schedules, you name it.”
By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Laser Weapon System
The U.S. Navy, which has already developed a 30-kilowatt laser that has been used operationally, will soon test a new directed energy weapon that is five times more powerful, said the vice chief of naval operations July 23.
The Office of Naval Research “will perform a shipboard test of a 150-killowatt laser weapon system in the near future,” said Adm. Bill Moran during a speech at Booz Allen Hamilton’s Directed Energy Summit, which was held in Washington, D.C.
The Navy’s 30-kilowatt laser weapon is currently onboard the USS Ponce. The system, which has been used operationally in the Persian Gulf, offers military leaders precision accuracy at a low cost, Moran said.
The laser weapon system, or LaWs, "has an extremely low-cost per engagement ratio,” he said. “We’re spending pennies on the dollars … every time we use that capability.”
While the U.S. military is developing laser weapons that can be installed on platforms across the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps, military leaders must be cognizant that potential adversaries are as well, Moran said.
“These technologies are being developed and fielded by a growing number of countries all around the world, it’s not just us,” he said. “If we don’t get ahead of that capability by our adversaries, we’re going to find ourselves in a very difficult position in the future.”
As the Navy considers its future fleet design, laser weapons must be a part of the equation, Moran said.
“If we have to continue to rely on projectiles, propellant-driven projectiles, we will run out of our ability to defend ourselves over time,” he said. “This capability in directed energy is incredibly important."
Military engineers are turning science fiction into reality, but such technology needs to be pushed out to the services faster, he said. The Navy cannot afford to wait 20 years to advance directed energy weapons.
“Our future success as a service depends largely on the efficient and rapid development and acquisition and fielding of this game changing technology,” he said.
Advancements in laser technology fit in with the Pentagon’s current third offset strategy, said Gen. Ellen M. Pawlikowski, commander of Air Force Materiel Command.
“I think we are pretty well postured to be part of this third offset, to be able to be what I consider the pointy end of the third offset,” she said.
The strategy is a plan to maintain the United States’ military superiority through investments in emerging technology such as autonomy. For example, unmanned aerial vehicles could carry laser weapons, giving operators precision strike capabilities and reducing collateral damage, she said.
Pawlikowski urged developers to not repeat the mistakes that plagued previous efforts, such as the airborne laser program, which Pawlikowski once oversaw. The mega-watt laser program, which was canceled at the start of the decade, faced major cost overruns and schedule slippages.
“I want to make sure that we don’t have another five or eight year development program that we told everybody we were going to do in three to four,” she said. "It’s so vitally important that we continue this path of expectation management and we target for something that is achievable within the bounds of the state of technology as we see it today."
By Jon Harper
The Army’s top officer said he isn’t worried about the possibility that the A-10 will be retired in the coming years, expressing confidence that the Air Force will be able to deliver the close-air support that U.S. ground forces need.
Air Force leaders have been pushing to remove the Thunderbolt II from the fleet, citing the need to save money and invest in higher priority capabilities. Service leaders have said that other aircraft, such as the F-35 joint strike fighter, could perform the close-air support role.
Proposals to retire the A-10 have drawn criticism, including from members of Congress who have argued that taking the aircraft out of service would put soldiers at risk. But Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said he isn’t wringing his hands about it, and he has no preference for any particular aircraft when it comes to supporting troops on the battlefield.
“As a soldier and a guy who has been in my share of firefights, the only thing I care about is the effect on the target, and I don’t give a rat’s ass what platform brings it in,” he said June 23 at a conference hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
“I could care less if it’s a B-52, if it’s a B1 bomber, an F-16, an F-15, an A-10. I don’t care if the thing was delivered by carrier pigeon. I [just] want the enemy taken care of,” he added.
Citing a long history of operational successes, Milley said he would defer to the Air Force when it comes to assessments of which planes are needed to carry out close-air support missions.
“The fact of the matter is — when push comes to shove and bullets are actually flying and there are peoples' lives at stake — the United States Air Force never failed me and it doesn’t fail the Army,” he said. “I don’t care what the platform is, the Air Force delivers, they deliver on time and on target… and they’re very, very good at it. So I have enormous confidence that they will make the right decisions on the platform and it’s not really my place to say [whether they should use] this platform or that platform.”
Earlier this year, Defense Department leaders pushed back the planned retirement of the A-10 to 2022, citing the aircraft’s successes in the campaign against the Islamic State.
While praising the Air Force’s ability to support Army operations, Milley cautioned against overreliance on airpower on a strategic level.
“We love technology, we don’t want to needlessly spend the lives of our soldiers … but we have to be careful [not] to take that to the extreme,” he said. “An important myth to kind of avoid is that you can just win from afar.”
The Army chief said policymakers shouldn’t “lull ourselves” into thinking that armed conflicts can be won from the air and sea with smart bombs and standoff weapons.
“The whole purpose of a war is to impose your political will on your opponent by the use of violence,” he said. “To do that … land power is fundamental because politics is done amongst people on the land.”
Milley’s remarks came a time when the Army has been shrinking due to budget constraints and the withdrawal of most ground forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. Just a few years ago, during the height of counterinsurgency fighting, the active duty Army had 570,000 soldiers. It has since declined to about 475,000 and is on a path to be reduced even further.
Under the current plan, by 2018 the Army is slated to shrink to approximately 980,000 soldiers including the Guard and Reserve.
“History tells us that depending on the situation, you might have to have more than that,” Milley said.
To enable the Army to regenerate more quickly in the event of a national crisis requiring a larger force, service leaders hope to create “train/advise/assist brigades” over the course of the next four to five years.
“These would be structures that would look … similar to the existing chains of command” with sergeants and officers, Milley said.
The task of these troops on a normal day-to-day basis would be to deploy overseas to advise, assist and help train partners and allies in a manner similar to what U.S. forces have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, he said.
“If there was a national emergency … we could take [new volunteer] soldiers and put them through basic training … and then marry those soldiers up to those existing chains of command, and then run them through collective training to get them ready as a unit,” he said. “That would considerably shorten the length of time it would take” to beef up the force.
Photo: Air Force
By Yasmin Tadjdeh
After years of delays, the Federal Aviation Administration finalized its much-anticipated small unmanned aircraft system rule June 21.
The regulation — which goes into affect in late August — is critical to the commercial operation of drones. It is intended to minimize risks to other aircraft, people and property, FAA officials said.
“With this new rule, we are taking a careful and deliberate approach that balances the need to deploy this new technology with the FAA’s mission to protect public safety,” said FAA Administrator Michael Huerta in a statement. “But this is just our first step. We’re already working on additional rules that will expand the range of operations.”
Congress mandated in 2012 that the FAA fully integrate drones of all sizes into the domestic airspace by September 2015. However, potential commercial users have for years been hamstrung by FAA regulations as they awaited a small UAS rule, though the agency in 2014 began allowing regulatory exemptions for some organizations.
Under the new rule — known as Part 107 of the Federal Aviation Regulations — drones weighing less than 55 pounds may be flown at a maximum altitude of 400 feet at a groundspeed not exceeding 100 mph. Operators — who must obtain a remote pilot airman certificate or be under the direction of someone who holds such a certificate — are required to fly systems only within visual line of sight. Drones can only be operated during daylight or during twilight with anti-collision lights.
Additionally, unmanned aerial systems cannot be flown over anyone not participating in the operation. They cannot be operated out of a moving vehicle unless it is in a sparely populated area. Operators can only fly one system at a time, according to the rule. Systems cannot carry hazardous materials, and drones must always be flown responsibly.
“The FAA is offering a process to waive some restrictions if an operator proves the proposed flight will be conducted safely under a waiver,” the agency said in a statement. “The FAA will make an online portal available to apply for these waivers in the months ahead.”
Companies have for years said that the technology offers them new opportunities. Amazon wants to deliver packages to citizens via drone. Pizza restaurants have said unmanned aerial vehicles could carry a pie to a customer’s doorstep in a matter of minutes. The rule is bad news for such companies because of its requirement to allow only visual-line-of-sight operations.
However, associations representing drone manufacturers and users praised the ruling.
“Today’s release of the final small UAS rule by the FAA is a critical milestone in the integration process, and a long-awaited victory for American businesses and innovators,” said Brian Wynne, president and CEO of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. “It establishes a clear regulatory framework and helps to reduce many barriers to civil and commercial operations, allowing anyone who follows the rules to fly in the national airspace.”
An economic report released by AUVSI has previously estimated that the expansion of UAS technology will be a boon for the United States, creating more than 100,000 jobs and infusing the economy with $82 billion within the first 10 years of integration.
The association said it was looking forward to additional rulemaking that would enable more complex operations.
In a statement, Dave Mathewson, executive director of the Academy of Model Aeronautics, congratulated the FAA for releasing the regulation.
“The final rule will be highly beneficial to the industry overall, as it resolves many uncertainties in the law and creates an improved regulatory environment. We look forward to seeing widespread commercial and civil operations of unmanned aircraft take flight,” he said.
By Stew Magnuson
An on-orbit spare for the Navy’s new powerful Mobile User Objective System spacecraft is set to launch June 24, marking a milestone in the service’s long journey to field its next-generation communication satellites.
The four Lockheed Martin-built MUOS satellites, plus the spare slated to be launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, have been described as “cell towers in the sky” for their capacity to deliver smartphone-like services to troops, vehicles and aircraft in the field.
The Navy is responsible for developing the aircraft, the ground system and the software-defined radio waveform that connects terminals to the spacecraft and the four ground stations. Development of the latter has lagged, however, and the new fleet is operating under their capacity.
The Navy had difficulties developing the wideband code division multiple access waveform, which manufacturers needed to integrate into their radios. Capt. Joe Kan, MUOS program manager, said now that the waveform difficulties have been ironed out, tests and evaluations of terminals are ongoing.
The first spacecraft in the constellation was delivered to orbit in 2012, and global coverage achieved in 2015 when the last of the four main satellites became operational. Launching them prior to MUOS-compatible terminals being ready became necessary because of the degradation of the legacy UHF Follow-On (UFO) satellite fleet. MUOS has a legacy UFO payload that has allowed the old terminals to continue communicating.
“One of the reasons MUOS was put into orbit when it did was to mitigate the legacy gap. We have successfully done that,” Kan told reporters on a conference call June 21. “With respect to the WCDMA payload, our focus is now on delivering that full suite of end-to-end capability as well as supporting the terminal field tests and certification. And we’re doing just that.”
The fifth satellite will not be a typical spare waiting for another spacecraft to stop functioning, Kan added. Its legacy UFO payload will be operational. Each MUOS has the capacity equaling one UFO satellite, he added. The MUOS has 10 times the capacity of the legacy payload and can operate farther north than any other system. It has been tested in latitudes only 30 miles short of the North Pole.
As terminal development continues to catch up with the satellites, questions remain as to when MUOS will reach its full potential. Kan listed several terminals that are scheduled to enter service in the coming years including digital modular radios for Navy, Coast Guard and Army transport ships in 2018.
The Army has 5,326 manpack radios, Col. Jim Ross, project manager for tactical radios, told National Defense earlier this year. Roughly half of them will be able to connect to MUOS, he added.
Another bump in the road is the ground station based in Niscemi, Italy. It is currently shut down because of a court order from a nearby Sicilian municipality. Local opposition against the facility has risen up due to environmental and radiowave concerns on the part of local citizens.
Work on the ground station is complete and it is operational, Kan said. “It does put the system at risk of being able to conduct worldwide operations to its full capacity and redundancy if that station is not restored to operations,” he said. The next court hearing is in late July, he added.
Photo: Lockheed Martin's Test Radio Access Facility helps get MUOS satellite capabilities into warfighters' hands faster. (Lockheed Martin)
By Vivienne Machi
The leader of the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office doubled down June 21 on the service's refusal to release the overall contract value of the forthcoming B-21 stealth bomber program.
Amid questions of cost transparency, Randall Walden, the RCO's director and program executive officer, said that releasing the engineering, manufacturing and development (EMD) contract award value for the long-range strike bomber would give foreign adversaries too much information.
"I think it's too insightful for the adversaries to get a sense of what they can do, what the U.S. can do, in building that next-generation bomber," he said at a Mitchell Institute event in Arlington, Virginia.
"I don't think it helps the taxpayer; I don't think it helps … the warfighter. And we're showing our hand of what we believe this nation and, in this case, Northrop, can deliver on this particular weapon system," he continued.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter directed the Air Force to develop the new long-range strike bomber beginning in 2012, and a development contract for a family of systems, including the B-21 bomber, was issued to Northrop Grumman this past October. The Rapid Capabilities Office, created in 2003, expedites development and fielding of specific combat support and weapon systems across the Department of Defense, and conducts projects on accelerated timelines.
The Air Force plans to purchase 100 aircraft at a cost of $550 million each in 2010 dollars, or $606 million each in 2016 dollars. But Walden said that he believed "that we are going to be able to beat that 550" number based on an government independent cost estimate that showed the unit cost as closer to $511 million in 2010 dollars, or $564 million in 2016 dollars.
The Air Force anticipates fielding the B-21 at operational bases and to achieve initial operational capability by 2030, and to continue fielding the fleet and evolving the aircraft as new threats and technologies emerge through 2060, Walden said.
The independent cost estimate for the EMD phase is $23.5 billion, Walden said. But that number doesn't reveal how the contract is allocated, and detractors fear that separate features such as nuclear weapons capability or unmanned flight could be packaged under separate and classified contracts, and cause the price per plane to balloon.
This lack of transparency and fear of runaway costs was a main target for the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee while the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 was being drafted.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., introduced a provision to the bill that would require the public disclosure of the total contract award value for the EMD phase of the program, which was rejected during a committee markup vote. The Senate approved the annual defense bill on June 14 with a vote of 85-13.
McCain lambasted the service's refusal to release the EMD amount in an op-ed posted June 15 on the online publishing platform Medium. "The Air Force has already told our enemies what each plane costs, what it looks like, and who is making its most important components," he wrote. "All of this would seem to be more useful information for a foreign intelligence agency than the overall contract value," he wrote.
"There is simply no excuse for this unprecedented concealment of information about how American taxpayer dollars are being spent," he continued.
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said he agreed with McCain while testifying June 16 at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing to consider his nomination for chief of staff of the Air Force. Current chief of staff, Gen. Mark Welsh, retires in July.
"I believe that if we're not transparent with the American people on the cost of this weapon system through its elected leadership, then we have a good chance of losing this program," Goldfein said.
Along with the B-21, Walden also touched on two other programs coming out of the RCO at the Mitchell Institute: the first being the Common Mission Control Center, a weapons system operation that enables a variety of manned and unmanned platforms to communicate and operate together in support of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
"In some of the weapon systems that we were doing across the spectrum … each system out there … had its own stovepipe, and each stovepipe derived a set of services," Walden said. "And in most cases, they were creating their own version of those services. It was clear to us at the time that we were doing exactly the same thing."
The system, which will be headquartered at Beale Air Force Base in California, has already completed various stages of simulated and live-flying demonstrations over the past two years, ahead of expected production completion in 2017, Walden said.
He also spoke of the RCO's developments in open architecture to enable affordable capability and sustained competition by integrating and upgrading technologies onto an existing system to keep up with new capabilities or tech updates, rather than building a whole new system from scratch.
The Air Force's Open Mission Systems standard was adopted in 2014, and allows prime contractors to publish system architecture standards to help more companies develop technologies that work with the prime contractor's platform.
Walden said that the numbers the office was showing today "run anywhere from about 40 percent to about 90 percent, both reduction in timelines and in cost," via demonstrations and testing on a handful of programs, including the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and the B-52 Stratofortress.
Photo: Artistic rendering of the B-21 (Air Force)
By Yasmin Tadjdeh
Additional maneuver forces are needed in Europe as Russia continues to intimidate its neighbors, said the vice chief of staff of the Army June 21.
“There is a significant lack of maneuver forces in Eastern Europe,” said Gen. Daniel Allyn. “That’s something that we are helping address with our rotational presence that will be a sustained presence starting on the first of January … this coming year.”
Russia has been a continued source of worry for officials. Through the European Reassurance Initiative, the United States is increasing its footprint on the continent to counter Russia. The Obama administration requested $3.4 billion in the Defense Department's fiscal year 2017 budget for the effort. Funding will go toward increased presence, bilateral and multilateral exercises, enhanced prepositioning, improved infrastructure and partner capacity.
These measures “are a step in the right direction particularly in a constrained budget environment,” Allyn said during a breakfast meeting with defense reporters in Washington, D.C. “It’s a fairly significant resource investment in deterrence.”
U.S. contribution to short-range air defense and artillery will be particularly helpful for NATO, he said. Army Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander Europe, is currently reviewing what has been offered in the initiative, Allyn said.
“I expect that in the coming weeks we will probably hear from him on what isn’t in there that he needs,” he said.
Allyn said he was pleased with multinational collaboration he saw during recent exercises in Europe, such as Anakonda 2016. The exercise, which took place in Poland in June, was meant to “test the ability, readiness and interoperability of the Polish armed forces and allies and partners, while conducting a joint defensive operation on a large scale,” according to a U.S. Army Europe press kit. It brought together more than 31,000 service members from 24 nations.
“That’s pretty significant,” Allyn said. “The idea here is to exercise those muscles from national to multi-national to identify the interoperability gaps that still exist and then to work toward a more realistic deterrent posture.
“Are we where we need to be? No. Are they working toward that aggressively? I believe they are,” he said. “I think the results speak for themselves.”
With the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and Russia’s role in the war in Syria, countries in Eastern Europe are concerned. Russia was once expected “to be a teammate … not an aggressor,” Allyn said. “That truth has changed.”
Despite capability gaps, such as with maneuver forces, Allyn said he was confident that the United States and its allies could successfully deter Russia.
“Our belief is there are opportunities here for us to come together … so that in the near term we begin to close the gaps that exist and we provide a resilient and sustained deterrent presence that will prevent any further aggressive action,” he said.
During the upcoming Warsaw Summit, which takes place in July, Allyn said he hoped to see more NATO allies agree to allocate 2 percent of their GDP toward defense spending.
In June, NATO leaders announced that they would deploy four multinational battalions to Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland on a rotational basis.
Photo: U.S. Army and Polish Soldiers observe the Multinational Live Fire Exercise during Anakonda 2016 (Defense Dept.)
By Sandra I. Erwin
Amazon Web Services and nearly a hundred tech vendors descended this week on Washington, D.C., hoping to seal new deals in the rapidly growing federal cloud market.
The company made a name in the federal sector by securing lucrative contracts with three-letter agencies for its commercial cloud computing services. Amazon Web Services, or AWS, shook up the federal IT world in 2013 when it beat incumbent contractor IBM to win a $600 million CIA award to build and maintain a secure cloud for 17 intelligence agencies.
The push to sign up new customers across the government continues, said Brandee Daly, CEO and founder of the C2S Consulting Group.
Until about a year ago, Daly was a top AWS executive who helped the company bring commercial cloud services into the intelligence community. She left Amazon to start her own company. “I’m now helping customers move into the cloud,” she said June 20 at the AWS Public Sector Summit in Washington, D.C.
Daly advises government IT managers on how to “migrate” activities from traditional data centers to cloud-based operations. “First we start talking about how much money they are going to save. But we also focus on how the cloud will help them move to their technology future.”
The big concern tends to be security, she said. “It comes up in every conversation.” Agencies worry about compromising data but eventually learn how to increase security in the cloud in ways that would not be possible with traditional data centers, Daly said. “It’s a culture shift.” The cloud also changes the way government does business, she added. “From a technology perspective, they don’t have to invest in their own innovation, they can take it from the marketplace.” Also, agencies are using technology to become more efficient, Daly said.
Federal buyers are figuring out how to exploit the cloud in new ways, said Paul Wilkinson, president of cloud provider 1901 Group. Organizations that want to protect data like health records or law enforcement files — unclassified but still sensitive — are taking advantage of private clouds, he said. The government wants to take advantage of the economic benefits and agility of the public cloud while also maintaining control of data, said Wilkinson.
Companies such as 1901 are proliferating to fill a growing demand. “The agencies don’t have to buy hardware, software or hire someone to do design and testing,” he said. The firm was named 1901 after the year the first assembly line was built. “We’re trying to do the same: An IT factory built around automation, tools and quality.”
Like every company at the Amazon cloud computing trade show, 1901 is an AWS “partner.” Being a partner does not mean a vendor can’t work with other cloud providers but companies do see AWS as a ticket to entry into the tough federal market. “They are a giant freight train blazing the marketplace,” said Wilkinson. “They have brand awareness, lots of solutions in their portfolio.
Within the cloud sector, there is a burgeoning submarket for companies that help monitor cloud usage and costs. Cloud services are marketed as cost savers but sometimes they can drive up expenditures if the usage is not managed properly, said J.R. Storment, co-founder and chief customer officer of Cloudability.
Cost management is a big deal in the cloud business, Storment told National Defense. Agencies that used traditional data centers and have shifted to cloud models may not realize that they have to adjust their business processes, or they could end up spending more money than they did in the past, he said. “Pre cloud, a few people would make decisions about what servers to buy once or twice a year. It was very controlled.” With the cloud, managers or engineers can scale up or spin up computing power whenever they want, as much as they want, and may not be doing it in the most cost-effective way.
“That is the promise of cloud, that you don’t have to buy servers. But decentralized control means spending is also decentralized. Instead of having a sign-off process, you have dozens or hundreds of engineers spinning up resources whenever they want,” Storment said. In both the public and private sectors, “organizations want to have more control and more visibility into why costs go up.”
Cloudability offers software tools to help manage usage and take advantage of AWS pricing deals. “It’s very complicated to figure out the right amount,” he said. One client, for instance, was planning to spend $20,000 the first month on cloud services and ended up spending $300,000. Server usage is paid by the hour. “It’s very easy to get the servers you need, but you pay for everything you use. Sometimes people turn on too many, or use servers that are too big, he said. “In order to make it cost effective, you need to identify what is the right size server. Or decide when you can turn things off on weekends so you only pay for what you use.”
“Cloud can be cheaper but it’s not by default,” he said. “You need to manage it well.”
What really saves money is changing the processes and cutting unneeded overhead, he said. Cloud services could save organizations millions of dollars in cases, for example, when they need to conduct tests that require massive computing power like sequencing genomes. “With the cloud, you spin up a thousand servers for two hours and you’re done. It’s that type of innovation that makes cloud cost effective.”
Storment believes its relationship with AWS will help Cloudability get more government work as agencies seek to manage costs. “I think that’s why we’re all here.”
Photo: Tech vendors at an Amazon Web Services event in Washington, D.C. (Sandra Erwin/Staff)
By Jon Harper
Despite China’s massive investments in military modernization, U.S. armed forces will retain superiority over potential adversaries for decades to come, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said June 20.
His remarks came at a time when defense officials and analysts are sounding the alarm that U.S. technological superiority is eroding as Beijing continues to beef up its military capabilities.
While not directly naming China as a potential challenger, the Pentagon chief made it clear that he doesn’t foresee any rising powers overtaking Uncle Sam anytime soon.
“Thanks to the investments and planning we’re undertaking as part of President Obama’s rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, the United States will have the people, the platforms and the posture to remain the most powerful military and main underwriter of security in the region for decades,” Carter said at a conference hosted by the Center for a New American Security in Washington, D.C.
The Pentagon’s fiscal year 2017 budget request calls for $72 billion in research-and-development funding. The nation’s top defense official highlighted plans to invest in a range of systems across multiple domains, including high-end ships, undersea drones, missile payloads, the B-21 long-range strike bomber, swarming microdrones, an “arsenal plane,” advanced munitions, nuclear forces, cyber and electronic warfare capabilities, and preparations for conflict in space.
The United States has a big head start over potential adversaries who may be trying to catch up, Carter noted.
“The Defense Department maintains its world-leading capabilities because it has made incomparable investments in our military edge over the course of decades,” Carter said. “As a result, it will take decades or more for anyone to build the kind of comprehensive military capability the United States possesses.”
Simply writing large checks and buying new gear won’t enable other powers to achieve parity, he said.
U.S military superiority “is not simply about current and cumulative dollar figures,” he said. “Our military edge has been strengthened and honed in hard-earned operational experience over the last 15 years [of war]. No other military possesses this kind of skill and agility backed by this much experience.”
The Pentagon is making additional improvements to how it approaches potential fights, Carter noted.
“To prepare ourselves for the future we’re also updating our core contingency plans with innovative operational concepts,” he said. “We’ve revised every one of our war plans. Now I can’t tell you how exactly they’ve changed … but rest assured, they are up to date.”
Another factor that gives the United States a leg up on rivals is its global network of alliances and partnerships, Carter said.
In the Asia-Pacific, Washington is attempting to weave together bilateral, trilateral, and multilateral relationships into a larger, region-wide security web, Carter said. He highlighted ongoing U.S. efforts to strengthen its relationships with Japan, India and Vietnam — all historical foes of China.
These moves come at a time when a number of countries in the region are locked in bitter territorial disputes with Beijing.
“The United States has all the friends around the world, and our antagonists have few or none,” Carter said.
The head of the Pentagon said the U.S. effort to build and enhance a regional security network in Asia is “not aimed at any particular country” and “excludes no one.” But he singled out China as a source of concern.
“Although we have disagreements with China, especially over its destabilizing behavior in the South China Sea, we’re committed to working with them and to persuading them to avoid self-isolation,” he said.
Defense officials will continue to pursue stronger bilateral military-to-military relationships with their Chinese counterparts, Carter said.
Chinese forces will participate in the Rim of the Pacific exercise this summer in and around the Hawaiian Islands and California, he noted. This year’s version of the biennial exercise will involve about 25,000 personnel, 45 ships, five submarines and more than 200 aircraft from 27 nations, according to the U.S. Navy.
Photo: The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan transits the Pacific Ocean with ships assigned to Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2010 combined task force. (Navy)
By Kristen Torres
As maritime activity continues to increase at a record-setting pace, the United States will have to kick its naval efforts into high gear if the nation wants to keep up with other world powers, according to Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations. That is particularly true in the Asia-Pacific region, he added.
“We’ve been at sea for a millennia but maritime traffic has nearly quadrupled in the last 25 years alone,” said Richardson at a Center for a New American Security conference June 20. “The growing importance of the maritime arena puts increased demands on not just the Navy, but also the Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marines.”
The rise of technology has caused a boom in military activity on the world's seas, threatening the United States’ claim to maritime dominance for the first time in two decades, according to Richardson.
“The amount of information made available by IT advances the means that the Navy will have to move faster to meet" its goals, Richardson said. “We have the challenge of keeping up with our competitors with our flat — if not declining — stream of resources, and that challenge is consuming our leadership right now.”
Many U.S. missions in the Asia-Pacific region rely on the nation's allies. For example, while there may be political problems with Japan, the two nations' navies put those conversations aside and work together on problems they encounter, according to Richardson.
“Everyone is getting bigger and more capable,” said Patrick Cronin, Asia-Pacific security program director at CNAS. “The burden sharing is good, but the fact that other powers are now building up their defensive maritime plans means that our area partnerships are becoming increasingly important.”
“We realize that innovation is not driven just by us, but increasingly by other state actors” said Cronin. “There is no doubt that we may not always have the lead in these new technologies, and that will rekindle the ability to allow power projection around the world.”
A trilateral effort between the United States, Japan and South Korea is easing a growing fear of a nuclear North Korea and strengthening the alliance in the region to prevent conflict, according to Richardson.
“North Korea remains a threat, especially if they begin to deploy intermediate range nuclear missiles,” said Cronin. China is not yet a threat as much as it is a competitor and a challenge for cooperation in the region, he added.
“One thing we need to worry about is our own credibility as China chips away at the relevance of the rule of law by making their own” rules, Cronin said. “We have to realize that we’re putting everything we have into a rules-based system and China isn’t.”
U.S. relations with Taiwan are strengthening, which will be a growing source of tension with China, as will engagements with the Philippines, Cronin said.
“Taiwan will have to make a decision in terms of what best suits them and their long-term interests,” Richardson said. “We maintain a very professional routine type of interaction with all ships in the South China Sea…and we aim to coexist in productive ways.”
Photo: The USS George Washington steams in formation with a Japanese guided missile destroyer during a joint field training exercise. (Navy)