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27 Mar 20. Nearly 4 years after commissioning, the US Navy is about to get a fully working stealth destroyer. The U.S. Navy’s first stealth destroyer, the Zumwalt, is on track to have its combat system installation completed and delivered within days, a source with knowledge of the program told Defense News.
It’s the end of a long journey for the ship that was commissioned in 2016 without a working combat system but is finally preparing to fully enter service. The ship was slated to have its installation completed in March, and the service is still on track to deliver on time, the source said.
In November 2016, BAE Systems was awarded a $192m contract to deliver the combat system for Zumwalt and its sister ship the Michael Monsoor.
The DDG-1000 program has been beleaguered by cost overruns and changes over the years. The ship’s original raison d’être, the Advanced Gun System, has been all but abandoned by the Navy as it has changed from a naval gunfire support platform for landing Marines to now a surface strike platform.
As the Navy truncated the buy of Zumwalt-class destroyers from 28 ships, to seven, and finally to three, the rounds for the guns became steadily more expensive, making the projectile — Long Range Land Attack Projectile — too valuable to fire. The Navy has yet to identify a replacement.
Instead, the ship has been predesignated a ship killer, with Maritime Strike Tomahawk and SM-6 integrated into its combat system.
The Navy has stood up the Surface Development Squadron to help it integrate new technologies into the fleet, such as unmanned surface vessels and the DDG-1000.
The Michael Monsoor should have its combat system activation done by the second quarter of 2020, according to a Naval Sea Systems Command program brief from January. The third and final ship of the class, the Lyndon B. Johnson, is still under construction at Bath Iron Works in Maine and should be delivered by December 2020.
The ship will then transit to San Diego, California, and have its combat system installed like its sister ships. (Source: Defense News)
26 Mar 20. US Navy prepares for possible Columbia delay, GAO reports. While the US Navy (USN) still considers the timely acquisition of its Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) to be its priority programme to ensure there is no gap in strategic patrols, the service is hedging against a potential delay in the delivery of the new submarine, according to the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Despite GAO’s reported concerns, USN leadership remains optimistic about the Columbia programme schedule.
“The Columbia program remains the navy’s top acquisition programme and remains on track,” Captain Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for James Geurts, the assistant navy secretary for Research, Development, and Acquisition, told Jane’s.
The USN is also seeing what can be done to further sustain Ohio-class SSBN patrols, the GAO said in its report, ‘Defense Nuclear Enterprise: Systems Face Sustainment Challenges, and Actions Are Needed to Effectively Monitor Efforts to Improve the Enterprise’, released on 26 March.
“Navy officials … said that they are trying to gather the necessary data to lay the groundwork now to be able to make engineering decisions in 10 years about the feasibility of sustaining the Ohio-class SSBNs in the event that the Columbia-class is delayed,” the GAO reported.
“The navy continues to collect data as part of the Ohio programme as a natural course of business to ensure the Ohio SSBNs will meet their planned extended service life, as well as to ensure the navy is well-positioned to assess the risk of any additional service life extension should the future need arise,” Capt Hernandez said.
“This is prudent risk management and not in response to any known or expected delay in the Columbia program,” Capt Hernandez added.
However, the GAO reported, “Navy officials said that they are beginning to consider options in case the replacement programme, the Columbia-class SSBN, is delayed.” (Source: Jane’s)
26 Mar 20. Pentagon Bracing for Weapon-Delivery Delays Due to Coronavirus. Navy says it will “work out” the virus’ impact on projects with companies. Pentagon officials are bracing for companies being unable to deliver weapons on time as the coronavirus makes its way through company assembly lines and supply chains.
In separate briefings with reporters on Wednesday, the top weapons buyers for the Department of Defense and the Navy said that they are working with industry to assess the impact of the virus on their workforces, but that already some aircraft production has been halted.
“I do expect there will be some delay and disruption,” said James “Hondo” Geurts, the Navy’s top weapons buyer. on a Wednesday conference call. Navy officials have “real-time systems” to track disruptions when they arise, and already they have spotted changes.
“We’re seeing a tightening on the supply base as smaller shops deal with their local situations,” Guerts said.
As for larger sites run by major defense contractors, it depends on where they’re located.
Ellen Lord, defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, did not know how many defense contractors were unable to show up for work — either because they were sick, quarantined, or their job sites were closed.
“I will say that the bulk of the defense industry is working today,” she said during a briefing at the Pentagon. “We’ve had a few specific issues, such as Boeing, where they had to shut down an operation.”
Boeing on Wednesday began a 14-day shutdown of its airliner manufacturing plants in the Seattle area — a region heavily hit by the coronavirus. Assembly lines that build Air Force KC-46 tankers and Navy P-8 submarine hunting planes are among those closed.
Lord’s office has created a “heatmap” that overlays coronavirus positive tests, state and local shelter-in-place rules and guidelines and defense manufacturing locations.
“We are understanding the supply chain vulnerabilities associated with the virus,” Jennifer Santos, deputy assistant secretary of defense for industrial policy, said Wednesday. “We created … the supply chain heatmap for our leadership to understand the impacts of the supply chain overlaid with the CDC [coronavirus] data.
Lord, in a memo last week, said contractors building military weapons could show up for work even in cases where the state and local government told citizens to stay home to stop the spread of coronavirus. Lord said she had conversations with local officials in Pennsylvania and California to make sure defense contractors were issued summons for defying stay-at-home orders.
Guerts said that last week his staff checked the status of each Navy weapons project to know if project delays are due to coronavirus or other issues.
“So [then] we can clearly understand what’s a delaying disruption due to the unique challenges of this situation versus a delay that had already incurred and making sure we can clearly understand which is which,” he said.
Pentagon officials will figure out who’s culpable for the delays down the road.
“We will work out the [program] impacts based on the virus,” Guerts said. “One thing I do want to ensure though, as we come out of it, [that] we are well positioned to then recover as quickly as possible, because all these efforts are critical to our national security.”
Guerts said he wants to speed up contract awards to boost companies’ cash flows during the crisis.
“We are not delaying anything,” he said. “In fact, I am driving the team to accelerate.” (Source: Defense One)
27 Mar 20. At Lockheed Martin, we recognize that the rapid spread of COVID-19 and its wide-ranging impacts have caused severe disruption across society and tragic loss of life around the world. We also recognize that the global pandemic has created a need for urgent action by government, business, communities and citizens.
In response to this crisis, our company will be guided by and operate with three clear priorities. First, we will continue to protect the health and safety of our men and women on the job and their families. Second, we will continue to perform and deliver for our customers because what they do for our national security, global communications, and infrastructure is critical to our nation and our allies. Third, we will do our part to use our know-how, resources, and leadership as a company to assist our communities and our country during this period of national crisis.
In this regard, today I am announcing that Lockheed Martin will take the following steps as an initial contribution to the national COVID-19 relief and recovery effort:
- We will advance more than $50m to small- and medium-sized business partners in our supply chain to ensure they have the financial means to continue to operate, sustain jobs, and support the economy.
- We will donate $10m to non-profit organizations involved in COVID-19 related relief and assistance, with emphasis on veterans and military families.
- We have activated a $6.5m employee disaster relief fund to assist Lockheed Martin employees and retirees impacted with COVID-19.
These are our initial financial steps to help during this time of national need. In addition:
- We will offer Lockheed Martin’s engineering and technical capabilities to help solve the most pressing challenges faced by federal, state, and local officials.
- We will donate the use of our corporate aircraft and vehicle fleet for COVID-19 relief logistical support and medical supply delivery.
- We will donate the use of our facilities for crisis-related activities including critical medical supply storage, distribution, and COVID-19 testing, where needed and practical.
- Finally, during this time of economic uncertainty, we will continue our planned recruiting and hiring. Given the requirement for social distancing, Lockheed Martin will deploy virtual technology and other techniques to sustain our hiring activity during this crisis period.
Lockheed Martin understands that the shared effort to combat COVID-19 and recover from its effects will be a long-term one. We will continue to engage national, state, and local leaders to undertake additional measures as needed.
And, throughout this crisis, Lockheed Martin remains committed to continuing to deliver critical capabilities for our nation and our allies, supporting job creation and economic recovery, and helping those in need wherever we operate.
Chairman, President and CEO
Lockheed Martin Corporation
27 Mar 20. Angel investors, or demons? Pentagon warns struggling contractors against foreign support. As primes through to family-owned defence companies strain under the weight of the COVID-19 outbreak, US lawmakers and Defence officials have warned that foreign investment might come with strings attached.
Speaking at the Pentagon on Wednesday, the organisation’s top acquisition official Ellen Lord said that “foreign investment … is something that I’ve been tracking for the last couple of years. There’s no question that we have adversarial capital coming into our markets”.
She added that it “is critically important that we understand that during this crisis, the [defence-industrial base] is vulnerable to adversarial capital, so we need to ensure that companies can stay in business without losing their technology”.
With many prime contractors dipping to record lows on US exchanges, major companies are at risk of being gradually bought out by foreign investors; at the same time, the historically pro-business climate in the country has given rise to many small defence start-ups, which are struggling to weather the storm. For the latter, many relatively low-capital start-ups in the US produce unique or high-tech products relied on by higher-ups in the supply chain, which could lead to catastrophic results if they are to fail.
In this vein, US lawmakers have proposed a series of restrictions on foreign investment in the US, in a defence spending bill that is expected to be unveiled in coming days. The laws would expand the purview of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) over Defense and Defense-adjacent matters, such as the broader industrial supply chain. Though Lord did not name any names in her Pentagon press conference, the elephant in the room was clear.
Over the last few years, US Defense officials have provided increasingly lucid accounts of the risks of foreign investment – particularly from China – into Defense-critical start-ups. A good example came in 2019, when then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford, took Google’s AI division to task over its links to the Chinese state. Though Dunford didn’t point to specific examples of any collusion or indictable behaviour when asked in a Senate hearing in that year, he did make some suggestions at an Atlantic Council event more recently.
“Typically if a company does business in China, they are automatically going to be required to have a cell of the Communist Party in that company,” he said.
“And that is going to lead to that intellectual property from that company finding its way to the Chinese military. It is a distinction without a difference between the Chinese Communist Party, the government and the Chinese military.
“Ventures to help develop artificial intelligence in China are going to do one thing. They are going to help an authoritarian government to assert control [over] its own population. Again, our country exists for the individual. China exists for the Chinese Communist Party.”
If the American experience has anything to teach Defence, the ADF and the supporting industry back home in Australia, it is maybe a lesson limited to how to not do things. In countries marked by high degrees of economic freedom and innovation, contractors and innovators tend to respond to carrots better than sticks. Indeed, one could make the argument that maybe both are necessary in a defence capability context, but so long as the US government fails to extend government support to industries it ranks ‘critical’ to national security, even this argument is unlikely to hold traction.
Industry analysts have pointed out that the US government has a reputation for supporting primes first, and hoping that funding subsequently trickles down to SMEs and local operators. It is perhaps needless to say, however, that we are in an unprecedented economic climate, and if this tack is taken critical small businesses are likely to go bust long before that payday comes, if at all.
Though the Pentagon has indeed hinted that some of the US$9.4bn due to be allocated by Congress this week will be dished out to small business, it hasn’t really provided any sort of clarity or framework on how much support will be given. Indeed, this left Wes Hallman, senior VP at the National Defense Industrial Association, seemingly miffed.
“I’m not worried about our big companies,” he said. “But on the supply chain, that drills all the way down to mom-and-pops, where there are one or two suppliers of capabilities. Should they go away, they’re unlikely to come back.”
This runs counter to Lord’s assertion, where she said that “there is uncertainty especially with small businesses as to whether their contracts will continue … to basically mitigate that uncertainty, that’s why we’re being forward-leaning and over-communicating, probably, to say: ‘We are open’”.
Though the Australian defence industry operates in a markedly different environment than the US, we are perhaps just as vulnerable to the sorts of potential threats the Pentagon are citing – if not even more so. Writing in Defence Connect in mid-2019, former Rheinmetall Defence MD Adrian Smith put the number of Australian defence SMEs operating on a smaller-scale, transactional basis at roughly 1,500. In the wake of the continued economic downturn, government needs to identify critical small Australian businesses and extend financial assistance to prevent them from going under, or worse. If Australia is to learn from the US experience, we need to be forthcoming with our support to small business threatened at this time. Rather than dishing out vague overtures about financial aid to branches, we need to be clear on where, when, and in what amount this funding will come through to underlying industry.
On 27 March, a joint release from Defence Industry Minister Melissa Price and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds said that “Australian small businesses are the backbone of our defence industry and we will continue to do everything we can to relieve the current pressures they’re under”. The announcement made it clear that the government was in consultation with “major defence companies and industry groups” on what shape that assistance should take. Though laced with plenty of references to small businesses and operators, a cynic could interpret this as the style of “top-down” that has failed to deliver in the US.
We need to look to the coming months and years, articulating a plan beyond ‘day-to-day’ – which has been one of the main criticisms of the American approach. Rather than broad appeals to patriotism – such as that levelled against Google by Dunford last year – we need to properly assess the worth we place on Australian SMEs and the products they create, and extend corresponding levels of tangible support to help them traverse the biggest economic downturn of a generation. (Source: Defense News)
26 Mar 20. Army Leaders Detail Efforts Against Coronavirus. Army leaders detailed how the service is deploying field hospitals to New York and Seattle, and what the Army is doing to ensure its missions continue.
Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville and others briefed reporters at the Pentagon today on steps the service is taking in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. They spoke about force health protection, coronavirus testing and how the service maintains its combat effectiveness.
The Army has also reached out to retired personnel who have the qualifications to help in the fight against COVID-19.
The Army has 288 confirmed cases of COVID-19 — 100 are soldiers, 64 are civilian employees, 65 are dependents, nine are cadets and 50 are Army contractors.
McConville said that the service is rushing two field hospitals to the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City.
The 531st Army Hospital from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and the 9th Army Hospital from Fort Hood, Texas, received orders to deploy to New York City on March 23.
“The advance party is on the ground as I speak. The main body will arrive at Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst, tomorrow,” the chief said. They will set up at the Javits Center in New York this weekend, and they will be operational for non-COVID-19 patients beginning March 30.
This means around 600 soldiers will be deploying to New York. They bring enough equipment for 284 beds, but since the facilities are being provided by the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the number of beds will be much greater.
About 300 soldiers from the 627th Army Hospital from Fort Carson, Colorado, will deploy to Seattle. Soldiers are coordinating with state and local authorities and conducting a site survey of the CenturyLink Field and a state fairground. A location decision is pending, the general said.
The Army Corps of Engineers is operating in all states, territories and possessions, McConville said. The Corps is assisting FEMA and state authorities. The engineers are on the ground conducting site assessments for alternate care facilities.
More than 10,000 National Guard soldiers are supporting COVID-19 pandemic response efforts in communities in every state across the nation, the Army chief of staff said. Their missions are purely humanitarian and disaster relief — not policing.
“When we look at our soldiers across the 54 states, territories and District of Columbia, we are there to really protect our communities, not to police them, and we have no forecast or any planning taking place and we are not aware of any mission set to go down that way,” said Army Lt. Gen. Dan Hoskinson, the chief of the Army National Guard.
The Army directed commanders around the world to raise the health protection condition from Bravo to Charlie. This move gives commanders more authority to control access to bases. For immediate response forces, the health protection level was raised to Delta.
The Army also has to be ready to respond to global situations, even in the middle of a pandemic. “We’re continuing to train mission essential personnel,” McConville said. “But really, what we’re trying to do is we’re trying to balance protecting the force so we can protect the nation.”
Each Army commander is looking at their critical missions to determine what training they need, the chief said. “There are soldiers that need to perform critical functions around the world, and they will continue to do that based on the commander’s assessment of the threat to the force and the threat to the mission,” he said. (Source: US DoD)
26 Mar 20. Navy, Marine Corps Leaders Provide COVID-19 Update. The Navy and Marine Corps are taking actions across the force to prevent the spread of COVID-19, containing outbreaks and recovering the force as quickly as possible, acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly said.
Modly, commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David H. Berger and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Troy E. Black held a Pentagon news briefing today.
The sea services are also working to help American citizens, Modly said.
For instance, Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, has set aside a quarantine location for citizens returning from areas affected by the caronavirus, he said.
Currently there are 112 passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship at Miramar, according to today’s Pentagon media fact sheet update.
The Navy’s two hospital ships are or will be underway, he said.
The USNS Comfort will likely set sail from Norfolk, Virginia, to New York City this weekend and arrive by the early part of next week, he said.
The USNS Mercy is scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles tomorrow, according to today’s Pentagon media fact sheet update.
Within the Navy, there are currently 104 sailors, 23 civilians, 16 family members and 19 contractors who have tested positive for COVID-19, he said.
Several sailors who have tested positive are aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, he said. Those sailors are being flown off the ship to a Defense Department facility in Guam. All who tested positive show relatively mild symptoms and are recovering.
The Roosevelt is en route to Guam and testing aboard the ship is currently being conducted, he said. None of the crew will be allowed to leave pier-side, he said.
Modly added that despite this the Roosevelt is operationally capable to do its mission if required.
Of Marine Corps personnel testing positive thus far, there are 31 Marines, five civilians, five family members and three contractors, he said.
Total COVID-19 cases for the entire DOD are 280 military, 134 civilians, 98 family members and 62 contractors, according to today’s Pentagon media fact sheet update.
Modly outlined some steps the services are taking to reduce risk.
Commanders and supervisors are receiving guidance to help minimize risk to their people and families, he said.
Exercises have been scaled back or canceled, he said, including two in California at the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center and the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center, in Pickel Meadows.
The services are also practicing social distancing. For instance, public graduation ceremonies at recruit training facilities have been canceled and recruiting is being conducted virtually instead of meeting face-to-face with prospects.
Berger said that although training has been scaled back, it hasn’t been halted because the Navy, Marine Corps team “is your force in readiness that has to be ready to respond.”
Black said Marines are doing the best they can to minimize risk, including social distancing and practicing good hygiene. (Source: US DoD)
25 Mar 20. COVID-19 Relief Bill Adds $10.4bn For DoD; OKs Extending Gens. Goldfein, Lengyel & Raymond. The Defense Working Capital Fund — which allows DoD to make investments in things like depot maintenance, transportation, and supply management in the near term and recoup the costs through future year pricing deals — gets $1.5bn.
Congress is likely to approve almost $9.4bn for the Defense Department to use to attack COVID-19 — a sum that includes direct operations and maintenance funding to the services, the National Guard and reserves. There is an additional $1bn in the bill that may be made available for contracting under the TRICARE health care program — bringing the entire package to $10.4bn.
“The administration’s thinking about how to use the military has evolved substantially from the supplemental proposal the administration submitted just last week,” notes Mark Cancian, a defense budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “In that proposal, DoD’s funding consisted of an $8.3 bn transfer account. DoD would later decide where to put the money. In this bill, the amount has grown to $10.4 bn, and the destination accounts have been specified, though there is still a lot of uncertainty and slushy-ness.”
According to the draft bill obtained by Breaking Defense, the biggest chunk goes to the Defense Health Program “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.” The program is allocated $3.8 bn, of which $3.4bn is for operations and maintenance; $415m is for research, development, test and evaluation. The funds will remain available until Sept. 30, 2020. The TRICARE funds are provided in a separate section, but will be available until Sept. 30, 2021.
- The Defense Working Capital Fund — which allows DoD to make investments in things like depot maintenance, transportation, and supply management in the near term and recoup the costs through future year pricing deals — gets $1.5bn.
- The bill would add $160m in O&M funding to the Army budget; $360m to the Navy; $90m to the Marines; and $155m to the Air Force. Defense wide O&M funds would be pumped up by $828m.
- The Army National Guard is set to receive $187m in O&M dollars and the Army Reserve is allocated $48m; the Air National Guard would receive another $76m.
- The Army and Air National Guards also would receive a plus up of $750m and $480m respectively in military personnel funds.
Apart from new funds, the draft bill would allow President Donald Trump to extend the tenure of Air Force Chief Gen. David Goldfein, Space Force Chief Gen. Jay Raymond, and National Guard Bureau Chief Gen. Joseph Lengyel, among other military leaders set to retire — a move apparently made to avoid a change of hands during the current crisis. The extension can be for up to 270 days.
Goldfein currently is set to retire in June. Raymond is doubled-hatted as chief of the Space Force and head of Space Command, but only for a year as mandated by the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.
Further, while DoD is given wide latitude to move the new money around to where it is needed, it specifically bans any funds being moved to fund Trump’s southern border wall by preventing any transfer to DoD “drug interdiction or counter-drug activities.”
Finally, Cancian noted that the language gives DoD “flexibility on contracts and contract decision authority.” The bill would allow DoD Secretary Mark Esper able to delegate authorities for emergency transactions at his discretion. (Source: Breaking Defense.com)
25 Mar 20. DOD Establishes Task Force to Meet U.S. Medical Equipment Needs. The Defense Department has established a joint task force to deal with daily requests the department is receiving for medical and personal protective equipment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the departments of Health and Human Services and Homeland Security, and others.
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said she has established the Joint Acquisition Task Force to deal with the influx of requests.
“The task force will synchronize the DOD acquisition response to this crisis, working closely with all the services and defense agencies,” she explained. “The task force will leverage DOD authorities for maximum acquisition flexibility to provide resilient capability in the current health crisis.”
The task force will prioritize and direct the Defense Production Act authorities and funding in response to the immediate crisis, Lord added. It also is focused on reducing reliance on foreign supply sources, she said.
“I can’t stress enough the importance of the data repositories and portals we have in [Defense Contracting Management Agency] industrial policy and those we are establishing under the JATF,” she said. “These repositories allow us to bring in critical feedback from the contracting officer level all the way up to the Pentagon.”
DOD is also providing portals for good ideas from industry, so that there is one repository where all can go to see what is being offered in terms of technical assistance and manufacturing capability, Lord said.
Last week, DOD had four, productive “synch” calls with Defense Industry Association leaders and other key associations. The calls provided important feedback that allowed Pentagon leaders to make significant progress on matters such as the critical defense contractor workforce’s ability to continue working; ensuring cash flow to the defense industrial base; and getting standardized guidance out to industry, she said.
“I’m working closely with DHS. I issued a memo that defined essentiality in the defense industrial base workforce, ensuring that DIB’s critical employees can continue working,” Lord added.
“This was very important,” she said, “because industrial leaders told us that state and local government had different shelter-in-place rule guidelines, with some even issuing misdemeanor citations to workers trying to get to work.”
Lord said her memorandum will help ensure continuity of mission with a full commitment to the safety of the workforce and state and local governments.
Additionally, the director of the Defense Contracting Management Agency has worked closely with the contracting workforce and the Defense Finance and Accounting Service to ensure invoices are continuing to be paid in a timely manner, Lord said.
“Our office of small business programs within industrial policy reached out to industry small businesses and is working with the Small Business Administration and their small-business emergency loan program to help protect these companies,” she said.
“We know innovation comes in large part from small businesses, and we remain committed to supporting these small businesses,” Lord said.
Moving forward, DOD remains fully engaged with the interagency effort to leverage the Defense Production Act to help reinforce critical elements of the defense industrial base, Lord said.
“As we discussed with the Joint Acquisition Task Force, it’s important that everything we do has joint representation, a joint mindset and the joint warfighter in mind,” she emphasized. “It is critically important we understand that during this crisis, the DIB is vulnerable to adversarial capital, so we need to ensure companies can stay in business without losing their technology.”
Lord said DOD is working as smartly and quickly as possible — in close coordination with Congress, state governors, and the defense industrial base — to do everything it can to support military members, their families, defense contractors and U.S. citizens.
“We recognize how serious this pandemic and national emergency is,” she said. “And we will remain fully transparent and provide oversight and accountability in all we do.” (Source: US DoD)
25 Mar 20. Overseas Stop Movement Order in Response to COVID-19. Today, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper enacted a 60-day stop movement order for all DoD uniformed and civilian personnel and their sponsored family members overseas. This measure is taken to aid in further prevention of the spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), to protect U.S. personnel and preserve the operational readiness of our global force.
Building upon previously enacted movement restrictions governing foreign travel, permanent change of station moves, temporary duty and personal leave, this stop movement order will also impact exercises, deployments, redeployments and other global force management activities. Approximately 90,000 Service Members slated to deploy or redeploy over the next 60 days will likely be impacted by this stop movement order.
Embedded within the order are mechanisms by which exceptions can be granted. Authorized exceptions to the order include:
- Travel by patients and medical providers for the purposes of medical treatment for DoD personnel and their families.
- Scheduled deployments / redeployments of U.S. navy vessels and embarked units, provided they are in transit for 14 days and have met the restriction of movement (ROM) requirements associated with current force health protection guidance.
- Individuals who have already initiated travel.
- Individuals whose TDY ends while this order is in effect are authorized to return to their home station.
Additional exceptions may be granted on a case-by-case scenario where travel is deemed mission essential, humanitarian in nature or warranted due to extreme hardship. Such exceptions may be approved by Combatant Commanders, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or Secretaries of Military Departments.
Currently, this order is not expected to impact the continued drawdown of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, which is scheduled to be complete within 135 days following the signed agreement. All authorized DoD travelers must adhere to department force health protection requirements during travel. (Source: US DoD)
23 Mar 20. USMC to Reduce Force By 12,000, Decrease Artillery Units and Get Rid of Tanks In 10 Years. The USMC has decided it must eliminate its tank battalions and reduce its infantry and artillery units in 10 years as it converts its force to one more aligned with taking on potential adversaries such as China, the service announced Monday.
Gen. David Berger, the Marine commandant, said in October that the Marine Corps is “not optimized for great competition. It is not optimized to support a naval campaign.” The reality of the world has forced them to “throw out old assumptions and start fresh,” he said at the time.
Since summer, the Marine Corps has undergone a review of its personnel, units, and equipment to determine what type of forces the service will need to fight future battles.
The Pentagon’s 2018 National Defense Strategy puts China and Russia as the major world powers that the United States must be prepared to challenge as America’s military advantages decline. The economic policies of China and its militarization of the South China Sea and Russia’s efforts to undermine NATO and its nuclear arsenal are major concerns for the U.S. military, according to the National Defense Strategy.
“The Marine Corps is redesigning the 2030 force for naval expeditionary warfare in actively contested spaces, fully aligning the service with the direction of the [National Defense Strategy],” the service Combat Development Command said in a statement, adding it will continue to evaluate and adjust the force design.
The Marine unit categories that will see reductions in 10 years are:
- Infantry battalions will go down to 21 from 24
- Artillery batteries will go to five down from 21
- Amphibious vehicle companies will go down to four from six
- F-35B and F-35C Lightning II fighter squadrons will have less aircraft per unit, from 16 aircraft down to 10.
(defense-aerospace.com EDITOR’S NOTE: By reducing the number of F-35s per squadron from 16 to 10 aircraft, the Marine Corps will reduce the number of F-35s it will buy for its 18 fighter squadrons by 108 aircraft, or about one-quarter of the 420 F-35s the Marines originally planned to buy.
That is a significant reduction in the total number of F-35B STOVL variants, for which the Marine Corps is by far the largest customer.) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/Stars And Stripes)
25 Mar 20. F-35 testing at Edwards Air Force Base paused, impact to full rate production decision unknown. F-35 tests necessary to complete the jet’s operational test phase have been temporarily paused as Edwards Air Force Base in California shuts down to help slow the spread of coronavirus.
On Friday, Edwards AFB shut its gates to all except mission essential personnel and residents. Flight testing at the installation has been suspended, and tests of the F-35’s Joint Simulation Environment and its cyber protections may also have been been slowed or halted as a result.
“The F-35 Test Enterprise is experiencing impacts across most major verification venues as various organizations respond to federal, state, and local COVID-19 restrictions,” said Brandi Schiff, a spokesperson for the F-35 joint program office. “As of today, F-35 flight test organizations have ceased flight operations, but organizations that can continue verification activities via telework are continuing to do so. Additionally, select lab and ground test activities are ongoing, and aircraft limited maintenance activities are ongoing to maintain fleet readiness.”
Schiff added that the program office is taking steps so that test activities can resume quickly after COVID-19 restrictions are removed, but acknowledged that the situation could set back testing for certain aspects of the F-35 program.
“Although certain developmental and fielding activities will likely experience delays, the F-35 teams continue to assess ways of furthering efforts while protecting and preserving our workforce’s health and safety,” she said.
Lockheed Martin has seen the directive from the commander at Edwards Air Force Base and is working with base personnel to determine impacts on contractor-provided operations, said Lockheed spokesman Brett Ashworth.
The pause in testing could trigger a larger delay to the Joint Simulation Environment, which is already months late and has caused the Pentagon to put off a full rate production decision for the Lockheed Martin-produced F-35.
The JSE allows the Pentagon to conduct simulated evaluations of the F-35 in a range of high-threat scenarios, which makes it a critical technology for assessing whether the F-35 can beat actors like Russia and China without conducting live training that could provide an opportunity for espionage.
For that reason, Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer, decided to delay the full rate production decision set to occur in December 2019 until the F-35 is able to complete the JSE-enabled tests as part of its operational test phase.
The new full rate production decision, now set for January 2021, is viewed as a symbolic show of confidence in the program’s maturity and does not actually impact the rate that the Defense Department will buy F-35s. The U.S. military already purchases the F-35 in large numbers, and the yearly production rate is set to boom from in 2019 to upward of 160 by 2023, regardless of the production decision.
The F-35 program executive office has anticipated that the JSE would be ready this summer, and the latest report by the Pentagon’s independent weapons tester indicated that the technology was on track to meet that timeline.
Robert Behler, the director of operational test and evaluation, wrote in the January report that the “JSE team was consistently meeting most planned timelines and appeared to be on a path to provide” a simulator for operational tests this summer.
Although the team had been slower than anticipated in integrating the JSE with the Lockheed Martin-provided F-35 in a box software — which includes all the data necessary to replicate the F-35 air vehicle and its aerodynamic performance in the simulator — the work seemed likely to meeting requirements, Behler wrote. (Source: Defense News)
24 Mar 20. Esper Lists DOD’s Top Priorities During COVID-19 Pandemic. Protecting the Defense Department’s people, maintaining military readiness and supporting the whole-of-government interagency response are DOD’s top three priorities amid the coronavirus pandemic, Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper said.
Esper, joined by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Army Gen. Mark A. Milley and Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón ‘CZ’ Colón-López, conducted a virtual town hall meeting today to answer questions about DOD’s coronavirus response.
“I’ve made protecting our people our top priority,” Esper said, referring to service members, DOD’s civilian employees and contractors, and their families.
Meanwhile, the secretary said, maintaining mission readiness is important so DOD can be ready to fight and win if called upon to do so.
DOD is ‘all in’ on supporting the interagency effort to protect the American people, Esper said, noting that the department has deployed thousands of National Guardsmen in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and four territories.
The Army is deploying field hospitals to major U.S. cities, and the Navy has deployed the hospital ship USNS Mercy to Los Angeles, the secretary said, adding that the hospital ship USNS Comfort soon will deploy to New York City.
World-class researchers at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and other locations are working with researchers elsewhere to come up with vaccines, Esper said, while other DOD efforts include opening up strategic stockpiles of masks, ventilators and other equipment to help the American people.
Testing kits and personal protective equipment are available for DOD medical workers, he said, but he acknowledged that there will be shortages, just as in the civilian sector until the private sector can ramp up production.
Esper said the department is in close coordination with allies and partners and has even reached out to Iran to offer assistance in battling COVID-19.
The secretary also stressed preventive measures people should be taking to slow the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, wiping down surfaces that are touched and hand washing. The best and most trusted guidance can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which is updated regularly, he added.
“This is not the first challenge the United States has ever faced,” Milley said. “This is not the first war we’ve ever been in.” As they deal with the invisible coronavirus enemy, military leaders at all levels are expected to follow DOD guidance and to look after their soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, he added.
Combatant commanders and leaders at bases and installations have been delegated with a decision-making authority on matters such as determining when service members and their families can move to new duty assignments, the chairman said.
“We will get through this through solid leadership, caring for our troops and keeping focus on the mission,” Milley said.
Colón-López said the mission is clearly understood and that it’s “a no-fail mission.” The U.S. military will be flexible and adaptable to deal with this challenge, he said. (Source: US DoD)
22 Mar 20. Partnering with the U.S. Defense Industrial Base to Combat COVID-19. “The Department continues to aggressively partner with the defense industry to mitigate impacts from COVID-19. Under Secretary of Defense Ellen Lord’s Acquisition and Sustainment leaders in Industrial Policy, Defense Pricing and Contracting, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), and the Defense Contracting Management Agency (DCMA) have made significant progress this week in addressing specific concerns outlined by defense industry leaders.
During the 4 daily COVID-19 update calls with defense industry associations leaders this week, led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Policy Ms. Jennifer Santos, several key concerns identified by industry included 1) critical defense contractor workforce ability to continue working; 2) ensuring cash flow to the defense industrial base; and 3) getting standardized guidance out to industry.
On Friday the Department issued two memos that address all three concerns.
After working closely with the Hill and the Department of Homeland Security, Under Secretary Lord issued a Defense Industrial Base Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce memo that defined essentiality in the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) workforce, ensuring the defense industrial base’s critical employees can continue working. The memo also reiterated her commitment to the safety of the workforce and support of the national security mission.
In addition, on Friday Mr. Kim Herrington, Director of Defense Pricing and Contracting, issued a Deviation on Progress Payments memo, which stated that once in contracts, the progress payment rate that contracts can get paid for will increase from 80% of cost to 90% for large businesses and from 90% to 95% for small businesses.
This is an important avenue where industry cash flow can be improved. DCMA will work on mass modifications to contracts where applicable (vs one by one) using DCMA authorities. In addition, the Department is accelerating payments through several means to prime contracts and directing prime contracts to expedite payments to subcontractors.
Vice Admiral David Lewis, DCMA Director, has worked closely with the contracting workforce and the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) to ensure that invoices are continuing to be paid in a timely manner.
On Friday, the Acquisition and Sustainment Small Business Office reached out to defense industry small businesses, and is working with the Small Business Administration and their small business emergency loan program to help protect these companies.
The Department is fully engaged with the interagency to leverage the Defense Production Act to help reinforce critical elements of the DIB. It is especially important to understand that during this crisis the DIB is vulnerable to adversarial capital, we need to ensure companies stay in business without losing their technology. The Department will be discussing this in more detail next week.
Under Secretary Lord remains grateful for the productive discussions with the defense industry associations, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Hill and State leaders. She’s especially proud of the incredible efforts of Department leaders and contracting officers across the nation who are helping ensure a secure, reliable and resilient Defense Industrial Base.” (Statement attributed to Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, Department of Defense spokesman.) (Source: defense-aerospace.com/DoD)
23 Mar 20. The USMC is axing all of its tank battalions and cutting grunt units. Goodbye tank battalions and bridging companies, the Corps is making hefty cuts as the Marines plan to make a lighter and faster force to fight across the Pacific to confront a rising China.
As part of Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger’s plan to redesign the force to confront China and other peer adversaries by 2030, the Marines are axing all three of its tank battalions, and chucking out all law enforcement battalions and bridging companies, according to a news release from Marine Corps Combat Development Command.
The Corps is also cutting the number of grunt battalions from 24 to 21, artillery cannon batteries from 21 to five and amphibious vehicle companies from six to four, according to the release. Aviation is taking a hit too, the Marines plan to cut back on MV-22 Osprey, attack and heavy lift squadrons.
The Marines also plan to reduce the number of primary authorized F-35B and F-35C fifth generation stealth fighters per squadron from 16 to 10, according to MCCDC.
The Corps says overall, it expects a reduction of 12,000 personnel across the force over the next 10 years.
It’s unknown how cuts to the number of grunt battalions will impact the Corps’ experimentation with the 12-Marine and 15-Marine rifle squad configuration. The 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit was the first Marine unit to deploy and experiment with a 15-Marine squad model.
But the Corps says it wants its future infantry smaller.
“Infantry battalions will be smaller to support naval expeditionary warfare” and designed to support a fighting concept known as Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations — which will see Marines decentralized and distributed across the Pacific on Islands or floating barge bases.
The changes, expected to take place over the course of the next 10 years, were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.
As the Corp divests of legacy equipment and units, the Marines say they plan to invest in long-range precision fires, reconnaissance and unmanned systems.
The Corps wants to double the number of unmanned squadrons and “austere lethal unmanned air and ground systems, enhancing our ability to sense and strike,” MCCDC said in the release.
“The Marine Corps is not optimized to meet the demands of the National Defense Strategy,” MCCDC said in the news release. “Our force design initiatives are designed to create and maintain a competitive edge against tireless and continuously changing peer adversaries.”
The Marines says it wants a “300 percent increase in rocket artillery capacity” with anti-ship missiles. The Corps is eyeing a remotely operated rocket artillery HIMARS launcher that uses the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle paired with the Naval Strike Missile to sink ships at sea.
Defense News reported the Navy requested $64m for fiscal year 20201 for a program that pairs anti-ship missiles with existing vehicles known as the Ground-based Anti-ship Missile and Remotely Operated Ground Unit Expeditionary (ROGUE) Fires Vehicle.
Some grunt battalions will shift: 1st Battalion, 8th Marines will realign to 2d Marines, and 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines will fall under 6th Marines, MCCDC detailed. The Corps is also deactivating 8th Marine Regiment Headquarters Company and 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines.
A number of aviation and rotary wing squadrons are deactivating to include: Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 264, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 462, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 469, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 367 and Marine Wing Support Groups 27 and 37, MCCDC said in the release.
The Corps is also canceling the activation of a rocket artillery or HIMARS unit known as 5th Battalion, 10th Marines and folding the group and existing batteries under the 10th Marine Regiment.
The top Marine kicked off his force redesign initiative in the summer of 2019 to build a Corps capable of fighting and supporting the Navy in the Indo-Pacific area of operations and to confront rising peer adversaries across the globe.
“Moving forward, we will continue to judiciously evaluate, wargame, experiment, and refine our force design, improving service capabilities and lethality for deterrence, competition, and conflict,” MCCDC said in the release. (Source: Marine Times)
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