Air Force Research Laboratory, Textron Demonstrate Plug and Play ISR
Air Force Research Laboratory officials and Textron Aviation, in late December, mounted a service-developed ISR pod onto a Scorpion light attack aircraft in a matter of weeks to demonstrate possible plug-and-play capability for surveillance aircraft. The test follows the Air Force’s light attack experiment, which also used the Scorpion among other aircraft, to evaluate commercial, off-the-shelf aircraft to fly mission sets that are currently in demand. Read the full story by Brian Everstine.
Congress, Administration Begin Budget Talks as Deadline Looms
Congressional leaders met Wednesday with top Trump administration officials to discuss the budget impasse and plans to avoid a federal shutdown later this month. “The American people deserve a government that funds our great military, protects our borders, and leads to a more prosperous future for all,” according to a joint statement from the White House, the Senate Majority Leader’s Office, and House Speaker’s office released Wednesday evening. “It is important that we achieve a two-year agreement that funds our troops and provides for our national security and other critical functions of the Federal government. It also remains important that members of Congress do not hold funding for our troops hostage for immigration policy.” US defense officials have repeatedly said congressional budgetary inaction endangers the country. “Nothing has done more damage to the readiness of our armed forces than the continuing resolutions that stop us from taking initiative, than the lack of budgetary predictability, which means our industries will not change what they are doing, because they don’t know whether they are going to be able to get the funding next year to keep an effort going,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said during AFA’s 2017 Air, Space & Cyber Conference. The most recent continuing resolution expires on Jan. 19. —Steve Hirsch
Trump Nominates USAF, DOD Acquisition Heads
President Trump on Wednesday nominated William Roper to take over Air Force acquisition, and another senior industry leader to head up weapons buying for the Defense Department. If confirmed, Roper—the founding director of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office—would become the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, taking a position currently held by Darlene Costello in an acting capacity. Before SCO, Roper served as the acting chief architect at the Missile Defense Agency and analyzed national security at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. Trump also nominated Kevin Fahey, most recently the vice president of combat vehicles and armaments at Cypress International, to be the next assistant secretary of defense (acquisition). —Brian Everstine
RAND Report Details Spike in DOD Bid Protests
Defense contractors have doubled the amount of bid protests filed with the Government Accountability Office over eight years, though bid protests are still “exceedingly uncommon for DOD procurement,” a new RAND Report finds. The report, released to Bloomberg Government on Wednesday, focuses on contracts awarded between Fiscal 2008 and Fiscal 2016. Despite the increase, the overall proportion of Pentagon contracts that are protested is still less than 0.3 percent, the report states according to Bloomberg. The report, mandated by the Fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, was provided to Congress and Pentagon leadership last month and will be publicly posted later this month, the news agency reported. DOD personnel told RAND in the report they have a “general dissatisfaction” with the current bid protest system, which allows “excessive numbers of ‘weak’ allegations.”
DOD Announces Research Grants Aimed at Bringing Together Academia, Industry
The Pentagon on Wednesday announced a new competition aimed at supporting research collaboration between universities and private companies. The Defense Enterprise Science Initiative will help fund “use-inspired basic research, or a scientific study directed toward increasing fundamental knowledge and understanding in the context of end-use application,” according to a Defense Department release. Funding will focus on industry and university teams focused on “novel solutions” to national security problems. Specifically, the Pentagon wants research on a “new generation of sensing, mobility, and autonomy.” The initiative is sponsored by the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Basic Research Office, Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, and the Army Research Office. The maximum award for the initiative is $6 million, with an application deadline of Feb. 28.
—Another victim has filed suit against the Air Force and the Defense Department for USAF’s failure to report Texas shooter Devin Kelley’s criminal record to the FBI: Dallas News.
—North and South Korea reopened a long-dormant phone line so talks can resume regarding North Korea’s participation in the upcoming Winter Olympics, which will be held in Seoul. If the talks occur, it would be the first formal dialogue between the two nations since December 2015: Washington Post.
—USAF awarded Lockheed Martin a $33.6 million contract for extended support of South Korea’s tactical reconnaissance aircraft and mission support equipment: UPI.
—The Air Force has awarded Aurora Flight Sciences a $48 million contract for continued development of the Orion unmanned aircraft system—“a twin-engine high performance UAS that can stay aloft over 100 hours at a time with payloads in excess of 1,000 pounds:” Company release.