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January 31, 2023 | International, Aerospace, Naval, Land

U.S. military seeking international innovators specializing in advanced manufacturing and materials

The U.S. Army, in partnership with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy, is now accepting concept white papers for its xTechInternational Competition. The competition is open to international entities including small to medium businesses and academic and research institutions interested in tackling current challenges in the advanced manufacturing and materials space. Up to $530,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to eligible participants, which includes Canadian innovators. 

 In addition to the cash prizes, the xTechInternational competition will provide:

  • Direct access to Department of Defense and international stakeholders;
  • Transparent and detailed feedback from multi-disciplinary experts; and
  • Mentoring and educational opportunities through their accelerator programming.

The competition is open now and accepting concept white paper submissions until 13:00 GMT (8:00 a.m. EST) March 2, 2023.

For more information, visit the xTechInternational competition web page

On the same subject

  • 3 ways the Pentagon wants to make buying American weapons easier

    October 17, 2019 | International, Land

    3 ways the Pentagon wants to make buying American weapons easier

    By: Aaron Mehta WASHINGTON — America sold more than $55 billion in weapons abroad in fiscal 2019, but the man in charge of those efforts hopes to increase sales as he continues to tinker with the security cooperation system. Security cooperation has long been a foreign policy tool in America's pocket, but under the Trump administration, it “has been elevated to a tool of first resort for U.S. foreign policy,” Lt. Gen. Charles Hooper, the head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, said during a panel at the Association of the U.S. Army's annual conference. Since taking over at DSCA, Hooper has implemented a series of reforms aimed not only at speeding the process up, but shaving costs for potential buyers. He intends to keep that reform effort going in 2020. Here's how: Continue to cut surcharge costs. In June, DSCA dropped a surcharge on American defense goods sold abroad from 3.5 percent to 3.2 percent; later that year, the agency also cut a transportation administration fee. Both those charges are used to support DSCA operations, but some in the security cooperation process had argued the increased prices for customers would lead potential buyers to look to cheaper Russian or Chinese goods in the future. Hooper said that in 2020, DSCA plans to also cut the contract administration surcharge — applied to each FMS case to pay for contract quality assurance, management and audits — from 1.2 percent to 1 percent. “This will reduce the overall costs of FMS and could potentially save allies and partners 16.7 percent in CAS surcharges in this coming year,” Hooper said. Make it easier for customers to get custom weapon systems. The FMS system is set up to help sell weapons that are identical to systems already in use by the U.S. military. It's easier to move a package of Abrams tanks equipped with the same gear that multiple countries use than to push through a custom version with specific capabilities. But Hooper noted that partners are moving away from standard designs and are looking for systems “designed and tailored to meet their needs. Our system was not initially designed to process these types of systems, which increases time and cost in the U.S. response.” To help deal with that, DSCA established an “interagency non-program of record community of interest,” which involves all the agencies that have a say in the process, to figure out ways to make moving custom systems more plausible. The goal is to have a new pathway for moving those capabilities by 2020, which Hooper says will “reduce the time it takes to review request for non-program of record systems, to facilitate industry ability to compete in this global market.” Plan out commercial offsets. Many countries require offsets from industry for big foreign military sales. These offsets are essentially throw-in sweeteners for the buying country, put together from the industrial partner. In the past, these were often things like building a new library or school. But in the last two decades, some countries specifically requested high-end technologies or tech transfer to jump-start their domestic defense industries. Because offsets are negotiated between the industrial partner and the customer nation, the Pentagon, which serves as the in-between for an FMS case, often finds out about offsets only at the end of the process. But with offsets becoming more technological, those now require more review time, and so a deal can slow down while the relevant agencies approve the deal. Hooper hopes 2020 will see industry better inform DSCA of potential offsets early in the process so that last minute hangups can be avoided. “We continue to encourage our industry partners to inform the U.S. of potential offset requirements early on so that we can begin the necessary technology security foreign disclosure and policy reviews as early as possible,” Hooper said.

  • Pentagon Approves Two-Carrier Buy As Fixes Continue to Navy’s Most Expensive Ship

    January 7, 2019 | International, Naval

    Pentagon Approves Two-Carrier Buy As Fixes Continue to Navy’s Most Expensive Ship

    By PAUL MCLEARY Congress is evaluating the proposal to issue a $24 billion contract for the Navy's next two carriers, as the service looks at months of work to fix ongoing problems with the Ford-class's first ship. WASHINGTON: The Navy's coming request for the 2020 fiscal year is still under wraps, but one important piece of the Navy's future plans appears increasingly certain: the service will commit billions to buy two new Ford-class aircraft carriers under the same contract. While most of that money won't be spent in '20, it's still a tremendous long-term commitment that, advocates say, should save 5 to 10 percentover buying each carrier separately. The Navy says that the long-troubled Ford program has turned a corner, and it is pushing ahead with remaining fixes while planning to save up to $4 billion by buying the next two flattops on a single massive contract. That mega-deal would remove uncertainty for the builder, HII's Newport News Shipbuilding, and help keep production lines humming with no expensive stop-and-start in construction or ramping up and down of supply chains, which spreads across dozens of states. Congress first has to review the plan over the next 30 days before Navy can award the contract. News of the potential buy — which was expected by the end of the year — camefrom Virginia Senator Tim Kaine, who put out a statement on New Year's Eve saying he was “thrilled the Navy has decided to pursue a block buy for aircraft carriers, something I've been advocating to save billions in taxpayer dollars and offer more certainty to the Hampton Roads defense community.” Kaine, a longtime proponent of the block buy, also represents the state where the work will be done. “This smart move will save taxpayer dollars and help ensure the shipyards can maintain a skilled workforce to get the job done,” he said. Virginia Congressman Rob Wittman, outgoing chairman of the Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, said he's “thrilled” about the notification which will allow the Navy “to build to a fleet of 12 aircraft carriers and 355 ships.” Wittman attached an amendment to the FY 2019 DoD appropriations bill calling for the dual buy, which he says “will not only save the taxpayers $4 billion, it provides important certainty to our defense industrial base that build and maintain these ships.” Wittman was the author of the “Securing the Homeland by Increasing our Power on the Seas Act,” which transformed the Navy's goal of 355 ships into official government policy. President Trump signed the bill into law in 2017. Both senators said the contract will keep the ships at or under the construction cap set by Congress of $12.9 billion each. Last May, however, the first ship of the class, USS Gerald R. Ford, blew past that cap by $120 million thanks to a litany of fixes identified by shipbuilder Huntington Ingalls Industries., including replacing propulsion components damaged in a previous failure, extending the repair schedule to 12 months from the original eight, and correcting problems with the ship's eleven Advanced Weapons Elevators. The elevators, used to bring munitions from below deck up top for installation on aircraft, are powered by magnets as opposed to cables, and were supposed to be installed by the ship's delivery date in May 2017, but issues have delayed their completion. Navy spokesman Capt. Danny Hernandez told me that the eleven elevators remain “in varying levels of construction, testing and operations,” and the first one was turned over to the crew in December. The plan is to complete installation and testing of the elevators before the ship's scheduled “sail away date” in July. Hernandez added that “there will be some remaining certification documentation that will be performed for 5 of the 11 elevators after” July, and “a dedicated team is engaged on these efforts and will accelerate this certification work and schedule where feasible.” James Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition, promised a Congressional panel in November that the Ford would leave HII's Newport News shipyard with all systems in working order. “I would say of all of the technologies on the CVN 78, of which there were many we proved out on this lead ship, the weapons elevator is the last one that we need to get tied up and work our way through,” Geurts said. “We are making progress,” he said. The second ship of the class, CVN 79, USS John F. Kennedy, is currently under construction. Huntington spokesperson Beci Brenton said in a statement the company is “pleased to have come to an agreement with the Navy regarding a two-ship acquisition approach for CVN 80 and 81, a significant step toward building these ships more affordably. Although there is more work to be done it is important to note that the multi-ship purchase of aircraft carriers helps stabilize the Newport News Shipbuilding workforce, enables the purchase of material in quantity, and permits a fragile supplier base of more than 2,000 in 46 states to phase work more efficiently.” After decades of dominance however, the Ford-class carriers might be the last of the line for US nuclear-powered supercarriers, given the increasing threat being presented by land-based “ship-killer” standoff weapons being fielded by China and Russia. Speaking at a Heritage Foundation event last month, Bryan Clark, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said that optimistically, a carrier strike group could likely knock down 450 incoming missiles, but “that is not enough. You are looking at a threat that is at least 600, and maybe more weapons” that the Chinese can launch from their coast on short notice. Jerry Hendrix, vice president of the Telemus Group, added that the threat could be somewhat mitigated by keeping ships father from shore and putting more drones in the air both as scouts and attack aircraft. The “carrier air wing must increase its range by investing in an unmanned, air combat strike platform,” Hendrix said. Any moves to increase range must first fight for primacy with the navy's other massive investment in hulls, from new aircraft carriers to Columbia-class submarinesto a new frigate. When the 2020 budget comes out next month, we'll likely have a better idea of what the Navy is planning.

  • Navy to Update 2 Dry Docks to Accommodate Ford-Class Carriers

    September 3, 2019 | International, Naval

    Navy to Update 2 Dry Docks to Accommodate Ford-Class Carriers

    By: Ben Werner Only one of the Navy's 18 dry docks used for maintaining the nuclear-powered carrier fleet can support a Ford-class carrier, Navy officials told USNI News. Dry Dock 8 at the Norfolk Naval Shipyard can handle a Ford-class carrier, but only after a temporary cooling water systems is set up. A permanent cooling water system and other upgrades to Dry Dock 8 are scheduled to occur before USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN-78) enters its first planned dry dock availability, Anna Taylor, a Naval Sea Systems Command spokeswoman, told USNI News in an email. The Navy also plans to upgrade a West Coast dry dock to handle the future USS John F. Kennedy (CVN-79), Taylor added. Mike Petters, chief executive of Huntington Ingalls Industries, whose Newport News Shipbuilding yard is the sole builder of aircraft carriers for the U.S. Navy, said in a conference call with analysts earlier this month that the fixes required were not complicated. The hull size of the new class is roughly the same as the Nimitz-class carriers that make up the rest of the fleet, so Petters said the shipyards do not need to do many physical changes to piers and docks. “There are clearly differences between Ford and Nimitz,” Petters said of the carrier classes. “The power requirements, those kinds of things. I think those are all things that can be addressed and will be addressed by the government shipyards, so I don't really see a major fundamental change in the way the Ford-class is going to be supported from the industry.” The Navy is also planning improvements to the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility's dry dock infrastructure before the future USS Kennedy (CVN-79) is expected to enter its first availability, Taylor said. Doing so will give the Navy two dry docks – one on each coast – capable of supporting Ford-class carriers. Kennedy is expected to be christened later this year and is still years away from joining the fleet. The need to upgrade dry docks to support the new class of carriers comes amid both a push to modernize and optimize the four public shipyards that work on carriers and submarines, as well as a realization that the need for maintenance facilities is far greater than what's available at public and private yards. The Navy's long-range ship maintenance and modernization plan, released in March, details the mismatch and suggests some strategies to fix the problem. The Navy's Shipyard Infrastructure Optimization Program (SIOP) is a 20-year, $21-billion program to modernize the Navy's four public shipyards and is a major part of the solution laid out in the long-range plan, Taylor said. With a renewed focus on readiness, there's an opportunity for private shipyards willing to make investments in their facilities, too, to pick up some more Navy maintenance business, Petters told analysts during the conference call. The Navy's long-range ship maintenance and modernization plan also states that the Navy needs private sector help. “Sustaining the 355-ship fleet will require changes to both public and private industrial capability and capacity. Current infrastructure will require update and refurbishment to support modern classes of ships and repair. Likewise, additional dry docks will be needed to address the growing fleet size,” the plan states. Petters cited the Navy's work improving readiness among its aviation community as a good sign the Navy can translate this experience to the ship repair business. However, the Navy needs private shipyards to address its backlog of repair and maintenance work. “The Navy has taken a hard turn on how do you do readiness in a more efficient way, and that's being led from the secretary's office,” Petters said. “We've talked about readiness in my career for a long time. This is a no-kidding effort to go get it sorted out.” Predictability in contracting, though, is critical if the private sector is going to invest in upgrading its yards, Petters said. “I think we're on the front end of that to see whether we can actually create more efficiency there,” Petters said. “We certainly want to participate in that, and so far we've kind of got our toe in the water with the Virginia-class (submarine maintenance) support. And we'll see what other opportunities it presents. So little early for us to try to predict how that's all going to shake out.”

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