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20 Apr 22. Pentagon seeks reauthorization, expansion of small business funding. The Pentagon is pursuing the reauthorization and expansion for programs meant to boost small business participation in defense research, set to expire Sept. 30, a lead official said Wednesday.
Even as the Biden administration wants to boost small businesses in the defense-industrial base, as an economic and innovation engine, both the Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs are due to run out.
Among the Pentagon’s legislative proposals for the annual defense policy bill, it wants to raise the ceiling for SBIR Phase II awards from $1.5m to $5m, said the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, Heidi Shyu, who oversees SBIR.
“I have specifically requested that I have a higher dollar amount within SBIR so I can have the ability to fund multiple tranches of SBIR,” Shyu said Wednesday at an event hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association. “Right now, if you hit the $1.5m ceiling and you didn’t finish developing your prototype, you’re kind of screwed. That’s a stupid thing to do.”
SBIR has been extended and reauthorized several times since its initial enactment 40 years ago. In 2016, it and the STTR program were extended through Sept. 30, 2022, by the fiscal 2017 National Defense Authorization Act.
By and large, SBIR has three phases, but the Pentagon is asking Congress to authorize a pilot program for the Pentagon to award a third tranche of Phase II funding. That dovetails with Shyu’s previous public comments that, to help bring technologies to fruition, she would like Congress to form a Phase IIa, Phase IIb and Phase IIc.
Shyu’s comments Wednesday came after she hosted a roundtable with the CEOs of 11 small companies last week, part of a larger effort where she is “opening up my calendar to engage with more small business CEOs ― once again, to hear their perspectives and provide a Q&A session for them.”
Shyu also teased that she will announce a new coordinator for small businesses and said her office is revamping its website so it’s more user-friendly for companies seeking business with the Defense Department. The online changes are expected within days.
“One thing that drove me nuts, talking to small companies, I realized that DoD’s this giant fortress. They don’t know where the door is,” Shyu said. “I wanted to create this R&E website so that they’re able to navigate through this maze.”
Mike Brown, the director of the Defense Innovation Unit, which transitions commercial technologies to the Pentagon, said the department’s efforts to work with new entrants would be more successful if it stopped dictating contract requirements and instead issued problem statements, as DIU does. He said the push for Pentagon officials and Capitol Hill to embrace efforts at innovation are not met with the right amount of urgency.
“Honestly, we’re not seeing enough improvement. We are evangelizing. I think we’re raising awareness of the issues, but now we’re not seeing enough uptake,” Brown said Wednesday at the C4ISRNET Conference. “We’re in a tech race with China. And if we don’t fix this, our defense capabilities are going to be significantly eroded relative to how fast they’re moving.”
The comments come weeks after the Biden administration released a report aimed at promoting competition in the defense-industrial base. One recommendation was to lower barriers for small businesses, which shrunk in the defense-industrial base by more than 40% over the last decade.
The Pentagon’s Office of Small Business Programs is also readying the DoD’s first small business strategy since 2019.
The Pentagon’s incoming undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, Bill LaPlante, said during his confirmation hearing that the Pentagon needs to help small businesses, which could in turn spark competition and innovation within the large primes.
“We want the widest amount of competition possible,” LaPlante said last month. “If in fact there’s a new entrant, small business or a startup that can do your job, you will be competitive with them, and it’s going to drive better behavior.” (Source: Defense News)
20 Apr 22. Pentagon budget 2023: USAF secretary sheds light on F-35s procurement decisions. The US Air Force (USAF) cut its FY 2023 F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter procurement in exchange for other funding priorities, as the Block 4 updates remains delayed, according to the service’s top official.
However, the USAF is still asking Congress for more of the fighters.
“We had to make some difficult choices with this budget; when we looked at the attack air portfolio, we had a number of things that we needed to do,” USAF secretary Frank Kendall told reporters at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on 19 April. “We needed to fully fund the Next-Generation Air Dominance [NGAD] platform. We wanted to complete the buy of the F-15EX, which has a couple more years to go now. We need to get on with some of our advanced air-to-air missiles like [AIM‐260 Joint Advanced Tactical Missile] JATM.”
Among budget concerns, Kendall also said that the USAF needs the upgraded Block 4 software and hardware for the F-35A conventional variant to meet the “pacing challenge with China, for their advanced systems”.
15 Apr 22. Navy, USMC integrating expeditionary forces into traditional amphibious operations. The expeditionary warfare community is eyeing ways to use all its forces in future operations, with fleet experiments looping special operations forces, mine countermeasures sailors, Seabees and more into traditional naval operations.
Brig. Gen. David Odom, the director of expeditionary warfare on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N95), told Defense News in a March 31 interview there’s an ongoing sea services campaign of learning drawing from every training event, exercise and experiment the Navy and Marine Corps conduct.
Many of these events are beginning to combine forces that — in the last two decades, at least — haven’t traditionally operated together.
This was demonstrated in the February 2021 Dwight D. Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group pre-deployment certification event, which — through a combination of live forces and simulated forces piped into the training scenario on the carrier’s combat systems — allowed the carrier strike group admiral to command SEAL platoons, special boat detachments, and Marines conducting Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations focused on surface-to-air and surface-to-surface strike missions.
Odom said that event was just the beginning of these pairings.
In mid-March, the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group and elements of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command worked together on a Fleet Battle Problem that integrated Marines and Navy Special Warfare units — each able to conduct distributed operations in austere environments — with a single battle staff commanding both groups’ operations at sea and ashore.
Odom said the entire range of expeditionary forces would be affected by, and could contribute to the success of, the Distributed Maritime Operations concept that’s increasingly shaping Navy and Marine Corps acquisition, training and operations.
Odom, the lone Marine general serving on the chief of naval operations’ staff, told Defense News seamlessly integrated naval warfighting is a top goal for the sea services. Achieving that will require pairing Marines with all arms of the expeditionary navy: mine countermeasures sailors to assure maritime access in the littorals; naval special warfare sailors to prepare the battlefield; and NECC to ensure continued access to ports and beaches.
To that end, N95 is working to field not only the mine countermeasures mission package on littoral combat ships, but to integrate the mission package with the expeditionary sea base ship and other potential “vessels of opportunity.” It’s also growing the expeditionary mine countermeasures companies so the Navy is positioned to clear waterways and allow naval operations to resume quickly.
Elsewhere in NECC, he said, the Navy is eyeing an expeditionary reloading capability for vertical missile launchers — something typically done at the pier — to increase the Navy’s lethality forward under Distributed Maritime Operations. And the naval construction battalions, or Seabees, are bolstering their port and airfield damage repair capability, also in support of DMO in remote locations.
Odom noted the Marines’ Combat Development and Integration directorate is assessing NECC capabilities, which “would certainly have a key role in Force Design, Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations, [Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment], and fleet operations. So that’s ongoing” as the Navy and Marines continue to plan exercises that pair different communities and see how they integrate to support these new concepts.
“You see the synergies” in the fleet today, with Marines connecting to new types of ships at sea and with expeditionary sailors ashore to extend their ability to see and strike, Odom said.
Harkening back to the Swiss army knife nickname for amphibious warships, Odom said these exercises prove Marines on amphibs can provide “these multi-option capabilities that integrate together with our special ops or expeditionary forces.” (Source: Defense News)
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