The Insider

By Justin Katz
March 23, 2020 at 10:57 AM

The Navy has shifted $335 million from an operations and maintenance account to the National Defense Sealift Fund for more than a dozen roll-on/roll-off cargo vessels as well as two hospital ships, according to a Pentagon document.

Most of the funds -- $248 million -- will be used for operations and maintenance of 10 large, medium-speed, RO/RO ships and five RO/RO container vessels, according to the March 19 reprogramming memo signed by acting Pentagon Comptroller Elaine McCusker.

The rest of the money -- $86 million -- will be used for two hospital ships, according to the document.

Separately, the Navy has been preparing both its hospital ships, Mercy (T-AH-19) and Comfort (T-AH-20), to aid in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mercy is scheduled to depart San Diego today with 800 Navy medical personnel and 70 civilian mariners aboard, according to a Pentagon statement.

President Trump announced yesterday during a White House briefing the ship would go to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the Comfort, which is expected to go to New York, is undergoing maintenance prior to its deployment.

By Courtney Albon
March 23, 2020 at 9:46 AM

The Space Force is seeking a consortium manager for a follow-on to its Space Enterprise Consortium contract -- an effort to rapidly develop new space technologies with a ceiling value of $12 billion.

In a March 18 notice, the Space and Missile Systems Center writes that it plans to award an other transaction agreement for the SpEC consortium manager in August.

The service contracted with Advanced Technology International to manage the original SpEC contract, which originally had a $100 million ceiling that has since grown to $1.4 billion due to unexpected demand. The contractor pool for that vehicle includes about 350 traditional and non-traditional companies.

Because of the interest from across the Defense Department in SpEC, which was originally designed with a five-year expiration, SMC decided to recompete the work, set a new $12 billion ceiling and give the new contract a 10-year service life.

The service expects to release the first prototyping solicitation in September and make an award in November.

By Marjorie Censer
March 23, 2020 at 5:15 AM

(This occasional feature highlights protests decided by the Government Accountability Office.)

Agency: Army

Awardee: DCS

Protester: NCI Information Systems

What GAO found: The Army last year issued a request for proposals through its Responsive Strategic Sourcing for Services contract vehicle for systems engineering and technical support services for the Army's program manager for soldier protection and individual equipment.

The service received three proposals, including those from DCS and NCI. DCS received better ratings on its technical and recruitment, retention and staffing factors. DCS's cost totaled $145 million, while NCI's totaled $137 million.

The Army selected DCS, and NCI subsequently filed a protest. The Army said it would take corrective action and then reaffirmed its award to DCS. NCI filed another protest.

NCI argued the Army failed to evaluate the compensation offered by bidders.

“In particular, the protester argues that DCS proposed to staff the task order primarily by hiring NCI's incumbent employees, but proposed compensation that is substantially lower than the employees' current earnings,” GAO said in its decision.

Additionally, NCI contended that DCS's proposal should have been found unacceptable because DCS didn't tell the Army during the corrective action period that a proposed key person is no longer available.

“NCI argues that it is evident, based on publicly available information, that DCS's proposed materials engineer III relocated from the Washington, D.C. area to Tucson, Arizona, and accepted a new position with another company in October 2019,” the GAO decision reads.

However, the Army said the corrective action did not include a reevaluation of key personnel.

NCI also challenged the evaluation of DCS's small business participation plan and its best-value tradeoff, but GAO said it found no basis to sustain the protest. The protest was denied.

Read the decision here.

By Tony Bertuca
March 23, 2020 at 5:00 AM

The week ahead is especially sparse because of the COVID-19 outbreak, though the Senate Armed Services Committee is slated to hold a hearing on the Army's budget.

Tuesday

Federal Computer Week hosts a virtual event on artificial intelligence.

Thursday

The Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Army budget. A staffer noted the format of the hearing may be adjusted.

Science Applications International Corp. executives are slated to discuss quarterly earnings.

By Mallory Shelbourne
March 20, 2020 at 4:30 PM

Lawmakers from Maine are pushing the defense secretary and acting Navy secretary to take steps to help the industrial base weather the effects of the coronavirus outbreak.

In a March 19 letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper and acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, the Maine delegation expressed concerns about how the COVID-10 pandemic could affect shipyards like Bath Iron Works. The lawmakers pressed officials to speed up "or advance payments or new contract obligations in order to provide immediate stability to the industrial base."

"First, we ask that you work to mitigate cash flow and other financial burdens that contractors and subcontractors may face during this time of crisis," the lawmakers wrote. "This includes providing clear guidance and relief from contract requirements that are uniquely impacted by COVID-19."

Sens. Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I), and Reps. Jared Golden (D) and Chellie Pingree (D) signed the letter.

The letter also calls on the Pentagon to explain its "planning and public guidance to ensure a stable industrial base while also ensuring the health and safety of the defense industrial base workforce."

By John Liang
March 20, 2020 at 2:07 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on nuclear warhead funding, Navy ship overhaul spending, the Joint Strike Fighter program and more.

The National Nuclear Security Administration's FY-21 funding proposal asks Congress to appropriate more than $540 million for the W87-1 warhead effort -- nearly $180 million more than what the agency projected requesting in its FY-20 budget documents:

New cost models show NNSA underfunded early phase of GBSD's W87-1 warhead program

The National Nuclear Security Administration didn't provide enough funding to support the initial portion of the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent's warhead modification program -- resulting in a larger fiscal year 2021 budget request than expected.

A new Pentagon legislative proposal would add "modernization, maintenance and repair" to the appropriations available under ship "overhaul":

Pentagon submits Navy legislative proposal to alter ship overhaul funding availability

The Pentagon earlier this year submitted several Navy legislative proposals to lawmakers, including one that would alter how the service could utilize funding for ship overhaul and maintenance.

Lawmakers are claiming it's "vitally important" to provide funding for 60 Air Force F-35As, 12 Marine Corps F-35Bs and 26 Navy F-35Cs:

Lawmakers express support for F-35 procurement boost

A group of 130 lawmakers is calling on congressional leadership to fund 98 F-35s in the fiscal year 2021 defense spending bill -- 19 more than the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps included in their budget requests and two more than they asked for in their unfunded requirements lists.

On March 19, the Navy's Strategic Systems Program office launched the common hypersonic glide body (C-HGB) from the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii toward the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands:

DOD conducts 'successful' long-range hypersonic flight test, declares event 'major milestone'

The Defense Department said today it conducted a successful long-range flight of a hypersonic glide body, an event it called a "major milestone" in advancing Army and Navy prototype weapons, flying an experimental payload more than 2,000 miles over the Pacific Ocean.

Inside Defense recently obtained a copy of the technical and conforming amendments the Defense Department sent to lawmakers earlier this month, which provide the language that solidifies the Space Force as a separate service:

Congress awaits substantive Space Force policy recommendations

The Defense Department has submitted the first of two Space Force legislative proposals due to Congress at the end of February, but the substantial policy recommendations are awaiting approval from the Office of the Secretary of Defense.

Vice Adm. Thomas Moore, the Naval Sea Systems Command chief, chatted with Inside Defense earlier this month at the West 2020 conference in San Diego:

Navy expecting naval shipyard sustainment effort to cost $25 million to $40 million per year

SAN DIEGO -- The Navy anticipates its naval sustainment initiative for shipyards to cost $25 million to $40 million each year, according to a top service official.

By Marjorie Censer
March 20, 2020 at 1:21 PM

The National Defense Industrial Association is calling on the leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees to address the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the defense industrial base.

In March 19 letters, Hawk Carlisle, NDIA's chief executive, said contractors are working without protections for loss of pay due to delays and without help if their supply chain is affected.

"Cashflow is the life blood of companies and is necessary for them to pay their workforce, which, in turn, protects the economy at large," he wrote. "COVID-19 is threatening industry in a way we have not seen since World War II, and relief is needed to ensure the defense industrial base -- made up of approximately 300,000 companies, the majority of which are small businesses -- is supported through this national crisis."

NDIA seeks protections for small businesses, which it says are at the greatest risk. These could include "implementing accelerated payments, tax breaks and credits, and zero interest loans in a timely fashion."

Additionally, NDIA seeks a federal exemption from state and local orders that block facility access for those companies doing needed national defense activities and protections for contractors and their employees if the government shuts down an organization's operations.

"If the government continues to pay its employees, it will also continue to pay contractors," NDIA said.

The association would also like contracting authorities to excuse delays, allow for equitable adjustments of contract prices and make timely payments.

"To minimize uncertainty, we need the assurance that Congress will act to ensure we have a robust defense industrial base on the other side of this crisis," the letter says.

By Marjorie Censer
March 19, 2020 at 8:10 PM

Ten trade organizations today sent a letter to congressional leaders seeking language in pending relief legislation that will help government contractors.

The letter says "there has been inconsistent federal agency guidance and direction as to the treatment of contractors" as the coronavirus outbreak continues.

"We urge you to include language in the pending relief legislation to encourage the use of flexible work solutions, including telework and virtual work environments, for contractors, as appropriate," the document reads. "Moreover, as state and local governments consider further restrictions on business operations, we urge an exemption when appropriate for employees performing work deemed essential for national security, including but not limited to defense, intelligence, and aerospace development and manufacturing."

Additionally, the letter calls on the legislation to require the Office of Management and Budget to provide guidance to federal contracting officers "to provide equitable adjustments to contractors who are unable to access the federal facility required to perform their duties."

The letter provides draft language for the legislation.

The document was signed by the American Council of Engineering Companies, Associated General Contractors of America, the Center for Procurement Advocacy, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, the CompTIA Information Technology Industry Council, the Intelligence and National Security Alliance, the National Defense Industrial Association and the Professional Services Council.

By Marjorie Censer
March 19, 2020 at 4:36 PM

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Professional Services Council is calling on the Office of Management and Budget to release guidance to federal contracting officers that addresses teleworking for contractors.

In a March 18 letter to Russell Vought, acting director of OMB, David Berteau, PSC's chief executive, says recent guidance from the Office of Personnel Management only addresses federal civilian employees and uniformed personnel -- not government contractors.

"We recognize that contractors are governed by the terms of each specific contract, under the purview of government contracting officers," Berteau writes. "However, too often for our member companies and other contractors, those contracting officers have responded to the direction to provide for maximum telework by doing the opposite of what is needed. When federal employees are sent home to telework, contractors are often also sent home as well but may not be given the authority to telework."

Berteau adds that sending "contractors home without authorizing telework effectively ends the important work being done for the government by those contractors and undermines the intent of guidance from the President and senior government officials."

"Companies are ready to work remotely to support their agency missions and functions, but if their contracting officers force them to cease supporting their government customers, this will jeopardize important agency missions," he continues. "Furthermore, companies may have to lay off workers at this perilous time for the overall economy."

Berteau says the solution is "to provide overarching guidance to federal contracting officers that integrates with the teleworking guidance provided to the rest of the government workforce, and it can be implemented quickly by a memorandum from the Office of Management and Budget."

By Jaspreet Gill
March 19, 2020 at 3:53 PM

The Army today announced 10 semifinalists for the fourth iteration of the Army Expeditionary Technology Search competition, or xTechSearch 4.0, that will compete for a $250,000 grand prize.

The technology pitch competition, originally scheduled to take place at the since-canceled AUSA Global Force Symposium, was live-streamed over two days this week due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The following companies have been selected for the semifinals: Bounce Imaging of Buffalo, NY; GeneCapture of Huntsville, AL; Inductive Ventures of Marietta, GA; oTAI of Fremont, CA; Kericure of Wesley Chapel, FL; Lynq Technologies of Brooklyn, NY; MEI Micro of Addison, TX; Multiscale Systems of Worcester, MA; Novaa Ltd. of Dublin, OH; and Vita Inclinata Technologies of Broomfield, CO, according to an Army press release.

The companies will receive $120,000 each and have been accepted into the Army xTechSearch-sponsored Accelerator, "which provides tailored mentorship with Army and industry professionals, unique business-development opportunities and exposure to venture capital and Army customers," the release says.

The xTechSearch 4.0 finals are scheduled to be held during the Association of the United States Army's annual exposition in October in Washington, DC.

The service also kicked off the fifth iteration of the competition, xTechSearch 5.0, earlier this month. An Army panel will select up to 60 companies that will receive $5,000 each and advance to the second phase of the competition, where they will present technology pitches, according to a separate release.

Final demonstrations will take place at next year's AUSA Global Force Symposium and Exhibition in Huntsville, AL, according to the release.

By Jaspreet Gill
March 19, 2020 at 3:06 PM

The Army has postponed an industry day for its $957 million Cyber Training, Readiness, Integration, Delivery and Enterprise effort due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the service announced this week.

A March 17 Army notice states the Cyber TRIDENT industry day, originally planned for April 2 in Orlando, FL, will be postponed to late April. The service is looking for alternative ways of hosting the conference, including one-on-one sessions versus face-to-face meetings.

The Army released draft statements of work for Cyber TRIDENT last November, which included three delivery orders for infrastructure and maintenance, integration factory and platform capability production for the Persistent Cyber Training Environment platform, which is a part of the system.

A draft solicitation dated March 10 says the PCTE will provide the Defense Department cyberspace workforce "the capability to conduct cyberspace training, exercises, mission rehearsals, experimentations, certifications, as well as the ability to assess and develop cyber tactics, techniques and procedures."

The Army plans to award a contract for Cyber TRIDENT in 2021, according to the solicitation.

By Marjorie Censer
March 19, 2020 at 2:44 PM

Northrop Grumman said today an employee in the company's Melbourne, FL, facility has tested positive for COVID-19 and the contractor is now disinfecting the workspaces used by that employee.

"As soon as we were aware of the possibility of our employee's exposure to COVID-19, we took actions, to include disinfecting the workspaces the employee visited," a Northrop spokesman said in a statement provided to Inside Defense. "The employee is in quarantine and receiving treatment and wellness support. We are asking those employees who had close contact with the individual to remain home to isolate as a precautionary measure."

"Out of an abundance of caution, we are performing additional sanitization at this facility and the employees who work in those workspaces have been sent home while the cleaning is underway," the spokesman added.

By Jaspreet Gill
March 19, 2020 at 1:36 PM

The Army is seeking information from industry on how 5G augmented and virtual reality prototypes can be integrated into technology to improve training and readiness operations.

A March 17 Army notice states the service, along with industry, will develop and mature technologies through an other transaction agreement to "enable improved cognizance of spectrum activity, protection of U.S. activity in the electromagnetic spectrum domain and the ability to relocate and/or share spectrum anytime, anywhere access is needed."

A third set of request for prototype proposals will be released following the notice for 5G prototype enhancements, a testbed and applications all as separate awards under the National Spectrum Consortium. The 5G experimentation will take place at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington.

"The objective of this effort is to demonstrate how 5G communications technologies can support realistic distributed training and develop deployable equipment and systems to integrate these technologies into ongoing training operations," the notice states. "Distributed training includes, but is not limited to, information transmitted to the trainee via augmented reality/virtual reality protocols . . . ground instrumentation data, distributed simulation computing environments and command and control replicated data."

Responses are due April 30.

By John Liang
March 19, 2020 at 1:31 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Small Diameter Bomb II program suffering a Nunn-McCurdy cost breach, the Air Force's NC3 modernization efforts and more.

The Air Force's Small Diameter Bomb II program has suffered a Nunn-McCurdy cost breach:

Small Diameter Bomb II unit cost growth caused 'significant' Nunn-McCurdy breach

The Small Diameter Bomb II's unit cost grew high enough to trigger a Nunn-McCurdy breach in the fall because, according to the Air Force's acquisition chief, the other military services and foreign partners have not bought as many as expected.

Document: Air Force letter on SDB II Nunn-McCurdy breach

Inside Defense recently interviewed Air Force Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, the service's deputy chief of staff for nuclear integration and strategic deterrence:

Air Force's NC3 modernization efforts focus on conventional-nuclear integration

The Defense Department is just getting started on its push for nuclear command, control and communications modernization, and according to one three-star Air Force general, a major focus is integration with conventional battle management.

A new RAND Corp. report released this week reviews the space-related operational, training, acquisition, major headquarters and support activities throughout DOD and considers the benefits of shifting those functions to the Space Force:

RAND report recommends plan to shift most DOD space programs, organizations to Space Force

A new report from RAND Corp. recommends the Defense Department transfer nearly all space-related organizations and acquisition programs from across the services and DOD agencies into the new Space Force to promote the service's independence and fulfill the department's stated goal of integrating space activities under a single service.

The House Armed Services Committee "Future of Defense" Task Force is plodding an uncertain path as the COVID-19 outbreak calls into question the timing of congressional defense legislation this year, task force Co-Chair Seth Moulton (D-MA) told Inside Defense:

Congressional task force eyes controversial recommendations on future of defense

A congressional task force studying how the Defense Department could better adapt for the future is preparing potentially controversial recommendations on issues like Pentagon spending priorities, U.S. efforts in Africa and the military's approach to pandemics like the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

Keep an eye out for a big hypersonic flight test taking place in the next few days:

DOD appears poised for major hypersonic flight test this week

The Defense Department appears set this week to conduct a flight experiment of a long-range hypersonic glide vehicle that -- if successful -- will advance Army and Navy plans to mature prototype designs for land- and sea-launched offensive strike weapons as soon as 2023 and 2025, respectively.

By Justin Katz
March 19, 2020 at 12:35 PM

Despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus and a wave of event cancellations across the military, the Navy's plans for Large Scale Exercise 2020 will continue, according to a service spokeswoman.

There are "no changes at this time; we continue to plan and coordinate," for LSE 2020, Lt. Cmdr. Tabitha Klingensmith, spokeswoman for U.S. Fleet Forces, told Inside Defense yesterday in a written statement.

"Obviously [we're] looking closely at LSE 2020 with respect to COVID-19," she added.

The purpose of the Navy's LSE 2020 is to test the service's newest concepts of operations. Former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson first mentioned LSE 2020, which is scheduled to begin this summer, in his 2018 maritime strategy.

"LSE 2020 must include a plan to incorporate feedback and advance concepts in follow-on wargames, experiments, and exercises, and demonstrate significant advances in subsequent LSE events," Richardson wrote in his 2018 document.

A spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet did not immediately respond to questions about plans for Rim of the Pacific, a biennial, multinational maritime exercise in which the Navy regularly participates.

The ongoing pandemic has already affected some of the military's major exercises. U.S. European Command and the Army altered its plans for the Defender 2020 exercise scheduled for April and May, Inside Defense reported this week. The event was expected to bring 37,000 personnel from 18 countries to various parts of Europe.

The Air Force canceled its Red Flag Alaska event, according to a fact sheet the Pentagon provided to reporters today. An Air Force website describes Red Flag as "a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces" that "provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment."

Meanwhile, U.S. Africa Command canceled its Phoenix Express exercise, which focuses on improving maritime law enforcement capacity and promoting security in northeastern Africa, according to a similar fact sheet.

Current CNO Adm. Michael Gilday expanded on the purpose of LSE in his first guidance to the fleet, writing that he expects the events to begin informing budget choices starting in the FY-23 request.