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May 25, 2023 | International, C4ISR

US Army receives mixed signals from industry on ‘radio as a service’

The Army has hundreds of thousands of radios — too many to quickly and cost-effectively modernize given security deadlines and international competition.

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  • With coronavirus on the loose, US shipyards make adjustments but keep building

    March 18, 2020 | International, Naval

    With coronavirus on the loose, US shipyards make adjustments but keep building

    By: David B. Larter and Courtney Mabeus WASHINGTON — U.S. shipyards are adjusting to meet the new coronavirus threat, but work continues across the country. In the wake of news that Fincantieri's shipyards in Italy has suspended operations for two weeks to help stem the spread of the illness, US shipyards have responded with more modest changes: suspending international travel, limiting domestic travel and suspending participation in conferences and trade shows for shipyard employees. Yards are also changing leave policies to allow workers time to adjust to restrictions that have closed schools and businesses across the country. While to date the changes have been minor, several company officials told Defense News that the situation was evolving and more could be coming down the pike as the government responds to the unfolding crisis that has rocked the country over the past week. Huntington Ingalls Industries' president and CEO Mike Petters addressed employees in a video message posted to the company's website Monday. Peters said he is meeting regularly with division leadership and the company has posted links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which he urged employees to check for the most accurate information. Employees who are experiencing symptoms or believe they may have been exposed should let the company know, he said. “Now more than ever we need to work as a team and look out for each other,” Petters said. Also on Monday, HII's Newport News Shipbuilding division president Jennifer Boykin extended "liberal leave" policies through second shift on March 20. In a post on the company's website, Boykin added that work would be "minimized" during the weekend and that with some exceptions, parking lots at the yard – the nation's only aircraft carrier manufacturer – would be open through Friday with no reserved spaces. Newport News Shipbuilding spokesperson Duane Bourne said the health and safety of workers remained the primary focus, calling it "premature to speculate on the impact of COVID-19 on our contracts." "We are having ongoing discussions with our customers and will continue that dialogue in preparing contingencies and future plans," Bourne wrote in an email. Fincantieri's Marinette shipyard in Wisconsin has suspended all international travel, all noncritical domestic travel and has suspended intracompany travel to prevent any potential spread between shipyards, said Eric Dent, the company's spokesperson. However, to date the company has seen no delays in operations. “So far, we have experienced no production delays,” Dent said. “Obviously like other businesses and shipyards, we have to balance force health protection and production as we work through this.” At General Dynamics' shipyards, both Bath Iron Works and submarine builder Electric Boat are continuing work, though they – like all the other yards – are allowing anyone who can work from home to do so, said Jeff Davis, a GD spokesperson. GD has likewise curtailed travel and ceased company participation in trade shows, Davis said. Electric Boat spokesperson, Liz Power, said the submarine builder is following all government recommendations. “Electric Boat remains open for business,” Power said. "Our ongoing mission is to provide our Navy with the high-quality submarines they require to complete their missions. “We have initiated all government-recommended measures to mitigate spread of the disease and continue to work closely with our employees, customers, suppliers, stakeholders and our community to keep them informed.” The ship repair industry is also taking precautions. Colonna's Shipyard Vice President Bob Boyd said the company is also asking its estimated 700 employees to follow the CDC's guidelines and advising anyone who feels sick to stay home. The company is doing additional screening with non-employees at its entrance, asking about recent travel and contacts, and talking with subcontractors about policies, Boyd said. With schools closed throughout Virginia, Colonna's "just taking it day-by-day." Dock landing ship Gunston Hall left Colonna's Shipyard in Norfolk last week and the company is currently working on Coast Guard vessel as well as Military Sealift Command's expeditionary fast transport ship Burlington, Boyd said. He said he couldn't speculate on what an order to stop work to counter the spread of the virus could mean for federal contracts. “Obviously, if they're shut down or we're ordered not to perform work, then you know, we'll follow those orders and resume work once we're cleared, but you know, it hasn't happened,” Boyd said. "We can't speculate that it will. So, we don't really know what will happen if and when those types of decisions are made, but so far they have not. "

  • Marines looking to integrate new information capabilities

    December 14, 2018 | International, C4ISR

    Marines looking to integrate new information capabilities

    By: Mark Pomerleau The Marine Corps has famously claimed that every Marine is a rifleman, but the Corps has moved 1,000 personnel in the last two years to focus on cyber, electronic warfare, signals intelligence and information operations. These moves have come at the cost of infantry, “a pretty big cost to go pay for the Marine Corps,” Kenneth Bible, deputy director of the C4 directorate and deputy chief information officer, said Dec. 6 at the Charleston Defense Contractors Association Defense Summit. "The commandant really had to go think about taking that out of the structure to create these [units] across the Marine Corps.” Now the Marines are looking to integrate these new units — called Marine Expeditionary Force Information Groups, or MIGs — with traditional formations. The deputy commandant for information, a new three-star position created in 2017 to oversee all aspects of information-related warfare, is overseeing efforts to further develop the groups and integrate them into battle plans. "How does he employ those capabilities as part of an integrated warfare plan? How does he implement a strike package in the information domain?” Bible said. “We really have to figure out how to go make that a relevant force and make it something that the MEF commanders can use.” Bible explained these forces will be able to provide traditional military information support operations, psychological operations, military deception, or cyber to fight in the information environment. An operational advisory group met earlier in December with all of the group commanders that focused a lot on how they were maturing capabilities, Bible said. Some of the key questions that still remain surround how to provide intelligence support to cyber, as well as how to incorporate information support capabilities for a more integrated force package, from shaping operations to when operations actually take place. Bible said that Lt. Gen. Lori Reynolds, the deputy commandant for information, has told the organization to start building out exercise plans to work more closely together, adding there will be more specifics to come in the near future. Trident Juncture, NATO-led Trident Juncture exercise in Norway that took place from Oct. 25 to Nov. 7, he said, was a good example of getting limited capability out to commanders to test. New tactical defensive cyber teams participated in the exercise and commanders saw their impact, Bible said.

  • These five items should top Biden’s defense priorities

    February 2, 2021 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land, C4ISR, Security

    These five items should top Biden’s defense priorities

    By: Sean Kennedy The Biden administration has the opportunity to institute reforms in several crucial areas at the Department of Defense. First and foremost, it should eliminate the overseas contingency operations account. The continued justification for the OCO has reached the stage of parody. Originally intended for emergency spending in response to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the account has transitioned into a slush fund designed to inflate spending at the DoD far above the baseline budget and for purposes unrelated to foreign wars. In fiscal 2015, approximately 50 percent of OCO funding was for nonemergency items. An August 2019 Congressional Budget Office report noted that approximately 85 percent of funding for the OCO in FY20 and FY21 “is designated for base-budget and ‘enduring' activities,” funding maintenance in support of foreign operations that will continue regardless of force size. OCO spending has long outpaced the military's presence in combat zones. In FY08, the U.S. deployed an average of 187,000 troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. OCO spending topped $187 billion that year, equating to $1 million per service member. The DoD currently has approximately 5,000 troops stationed in these countries, meaning the $70.7 billion in OCO spending in FY20 equates to $14.1 million in funding per service member — more than 14 times the amount in FY08. With President Joe Biden unlikely to substantially increase the military's footprint in Afghanistan and Iraq, outsized OCO spending will continue in FY21 and beyond, barring reform. The DoD has received approximately $2 trillion from the OCO since 2001. Were it considered to be a federal agency, the FY20 OCO funding would make it the fourth largest, dwarfing spending at all other agencies except the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Veterans Affairs. The incoming administration must also expand efforts to make DoD finances more transparent and accountable. The bookkeeping is so abysmal that areas within the DoD have been on the Government Accountability Office's list of programs at high risk for waste, fraud, abuse and mismanagement since 1995. The financial black hole is nowhere more evident than in the DoD's inability to pass a clean audit, unlike every other federal agency. On Nov. 16, 2020, the Pentagon announced that for the third straight year it failed its financial review. Progress has been incremental, with seven of 24 DoD agencies thus far producing clean audits. However, the DoD estimates that it will not be able to pass an audit before 2027, or 37 years after it was required to do so by law. The DoD must also determine the replacement mechanism for the chief management officer position, which was the No. 3 civilian slot until it was eliminated in the FY21 National Defense Authorization Act. Despite identifying $22.3 billion in savings between FY18 and FY21, legislators bowed to Pentagon pressure, distributing the duties and responsibilities of the role to various existing positions with far less authority. The acquisition side is also a mess, including several infamous procurement disasters that epitomize the Pentagon's systemic problems. The foremost example is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The program has been under continuous development since the contract was awarded in 2001, and has encountered innumerable delays and cost overruns. Total acquisition costs now exceed $428 billion, nearly double the initial estimate of $233 billion. The total costs for the F-35 are estimated to reach $1.727 trillion over the lifetime of the program. On Jan. 14, 2021, then-acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller labeled the Joint Strike Fighter a “piece of sh*t.” Enough said. Many of the problems with the F-35 program can be traced to the decision to develop and procure the Joint Strike Fighter simultaneously. Whenever problems have been identified, contractors needed to go back and make changes to aircraft that were already assembled, adding to overall costs. Of course none of this has stopped the Pentagon from asking for Joint Strike Fighter funding, and members of Congress from supplying it, oftentimes exceeding the request from the DoD. This trend continued in FY20, when legislators added $2.1 billion in earmarks to fund the acquisition of 22 Joint Strike Fighters beyond the amount requested by the Pentagon, bringing the total amount of earmarks for the program to $8.9 billion since FY01. Lastly, the Biden administration would do well to introduce some stability into Pentagon leadership. Every defense secretary brings to the job different priorities for the government's largest bureaucracy. President Donald Trump burned through two confirmed and four acting secretaries, the most for any administration. President Biden should endeavor to reverse this churn.

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