11 Dec 15. Pentagon OKs next step in competition for Air Force spy planes. The Pentagon’s chief arms buyer has approved the next steps in a long-awaited multibillion-dollar competition to replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of E-8 JSTARS spy and battle management planes, according to two sources familiar with the decision.
Frank Kendall, undersecretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, this week signed a memorandum approving the start of the so-called Milestone A phase of the program, paving the way for funding of demonstrations of the new aircraft, said the sources, who were not authorized to speak publicly.
Three teams are competing for the work: Northrop Grumman Corp, which built the existing planes and is teamed up with General Dynamics Corp; Lockheed Martin Corp, which is working with Canada’s Bombardier ; and Boeing Co.
Additional details about the memorandum signed by Kendall were not immediately available, but one of the sources said the Pentagon’s fiscal 2017 budget request would include funding for the program. Kendall’s office had no immediate comment.
Representative Tom Graves, a Georgia Republican, welcomed the news, calling it a “significant step” toward replacing the aging fleet with next-generation aircraft.
“I am confident that the Defense Department understands JSTARS is a major priority for Congress and will complete the process of updating the JSTARS fleet in a timely manner,” Graves said.
One of the sources said the Pentagon had reviewed all alternatives and ruled out the possibility of using unmanned aircraft.
Kendall met earlier this week with Graves and other U.S. lawmakers, who have pressed the Pentagon to accelerate work on a replacement for the existing fleet of Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System aircraft, which has flown well over 100,000 combat hours and is rapidly approaching the end of its service life.
Graves and 59 other members of key defense-related committees in Congress told Defense Secretary Ash Carter in a letter dated on Nov. 20, that they were concerned about delays in the acquisition program since only half of the current fleet of 16 airplanes were ready for use in combat at any given time due to required maintenance.
“Replacing the existing fleet with next-generation aircraft is essential, which is why we want to ensure that the critical mission performed by the JSTARS team is not jeopardized by a lengthy acquisition process,” the lawmakers wrote in the letter. (Source: Reuters)
10 Dec 15. Carter: ISIL fight hindered by confirmation delays. Defense Secretary Ash Carter didn’t mince words in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee Dec. 9, admonishing lawmakers that by prolonging the confirmation process for key Pentagon positions, they are making it harder for the military to combat threats from the Islamic State group, also known as ISIL or ISIS.
“I have appeared before this committee, as noted, six times over the last 10 months, four times on the Middle East and twice in just the last six weeks on ISIL,” Carter said, noting that only three of the committee’s 58 hearings last year were to confirm civilian Defense Department leaders. “DoD currently has 16 nominees awaiting [confirmation, and] 12 of the 16 are still awaiting even a hearing, including our nominees to be secretary of the Army, the undersecretaries of each of our three military departments, Army, Navy and Air Force, and the undersecretaries of both intelligence and personnel and readiness. These positions should be filled by confirmed nominees, especially in a time of conflict.”
The committee did, later that did, hold hearings for four such nominees, including Marcel Lettre, nominated to be undersecretary for intelligence; Gabriel Camarillo, nominated as assistant secretary of Air Force for manpower and reserve affairs; Vice Adm. Kurt Tidd, nominated as commander of U.S. Southern Command; and John Sparks, nominated as a judge on the armed services court of appeals.
Prior to that, th