$1 Billion of Military Equipment Goes Missing from Assistance Packages in Iraq

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1 $Billion Equipment Missing

AP Photo/ APTV

“ARMY TIMES”

“Defense Department Inspector General report, reveals more than $1 billion in rifles, vehicles and ammunition were not properly tracked and accounted for.

Equipment transfers included tens of thousands of assault rifles, hundreds of mortar rounds and hundreds of armored Humvees destined for the Iraqi army and Kurdish peshmerga forces.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the U.S. Army’s flawed – and potentially dangerous – system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” said Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s arms control and human rights researcher.

According to Amnesty International, the military transfers came under the Iraq Train and Equip Fund, which is designed to facilitate the transfer of equipment to the Iraqis and is described by Amnesty as “a linchpin of U.S.-Iraqi security cooperation.”

The human rights organization released the report on Wednesday.

In response, Amnesty says, DoD officials have “pledged to tighten up its systems for tracking and monitoring future transfers to Iraq.”
But, Amnesty notes, military leaders made the same pledge following a 2007 U.S. Government Accountability Office report that had similar findings.
Among other items, the 26-page report highlights the following deficiencies:
  • A broken record-keeping system at installations in Iraq and Kuwait, pointing to equipment information in multiple spreadsheets, databases and hand-written notes.
  • Equipment information was manually entered into multiple spreadsheets, elevating the risk of human error.
  • Incomplete records resulting in equipment custodians who could not provide the status or location of the items.

The potential for missing equipment to land in the hands of adversaries is the main concern for Amnesty officials, Wilcken said.

“It makes for especially sobering reading given the long history of leakage of U.S. arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State,” he said.”

Defense Industry Execs Among Top-Paid Female CEOs

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IBM CEO Virginia Rometty Getty Images

IBM CEO Virginia Rometty (Getty Images Bloomberg)

“General Dynamics and Lockheed Martin are among the top-paid female CEOs, according to a report by The Associated Press.

The study notes that the highest paid female CEO was Virginia Rometty at International Business Machines Corp. With an increase in pay of 63 percent, she was paid $32.3 million last year.

General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic is fifth on the list. According to the study conducted by executive data firm Equilar and AP, she was paid $21.2 million last year — a 4 percent increase from 2015.

Companies who had filed proxy statements with federal regulators between Jan. 1 and April 30, 2016, were taken from the Standard & Poor’s 500 index for the study. Equilar and AP excluded any CEOs that were hired within the last two years, to exclude any sign-on bonuses, and added together their earnings including salary, bonuses, perks, stock option awards and any other compensations”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/defense-industry-execs-among-top-paid-female-ceos

 

 

 

 

 

Navy Will Lean on Drone Ships and Moularity to Expand Fleet Size

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An unmanned boat operates autonomously during a U.S. Navy demonstration. The future Navy may rely heavily on unmanned ships. John F. Williams/U.S. Navy

“DOD BUZZ”

“The Navy’s top officer said he’s looking for ways to build the service to a strength equivalent to 355 ships by the mid-2020s.

But it’s unlikely that all those ships will be traditionally manned and operated platforms.

In a nine-page document released Wednesday examining the future Navy, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson consolidated the findings of three recent studies examining the target future force. He agreed with the conclusion of all three that the Navy needs “on the order” of 350 ships, up from its current 275, and calls for an “exponential” pace to deliver the growth decades ahead of current projections.

“I will tell you that my sense is that we’re on the dawn of something very substantial in naval warfare,” Richardson told reporters in a conference call Monday evening. “Something as substantial as the transition from sail to steam … from wood to ironclad … as the advent of nuclear propulsion in terms of what  it means for our naval power.”

To reach the target fleet size by the 2020s, Richardson said the Navy plans to do a few traditional things, including extending the service life of existing platforms. The workhorse Arleigh Burke-class destroyer is one example of a platform likely to be extended for this purpose, he said.

This and other platforms will be evaluated individually to find ways to increase their power and capability, both by networking them with other assets around the fleet and by installing transformative emerging technologies to extend their reach, Richardson said. He mentioned technologies ranging from unmanned and autonomous enhancements; information warfare and directed energy; and 3D printing and robotics as candidates for this effort to boost capability.

“Platforms on an individual basis need to become informationalized, need to become more capable platform by platform,” he said. “In my gut, there’s a real urgency to move out on this as briskly as possible, prioritize achieving this future Navy much sooner than projections might have led some to believe.”

While capability enhancements will allow the Navy to do more with fewer ships, Richardson said the service nonetheless needs to amp up ship construction as a crucial part of its fleet growth plan.

“There is kind of a demand for presence at different parts around the world,” he said. “And this has been an important part of that body of studies. You really need to be there to provide credible options. You can’t be virtually present and provide that credible option.”

According to the new analysis, the Navy asserts that the current industrial base could build 29 more ships and nearly 300 more aircraft over the next seven years than the current shipbuilding plan calls for.

And these ships will be built differently than they have in the past, Richardson said. The future of Navy shipbuilding, he said, lies in modular platforms that could be easily upgraded with the most current warfighting technology, maximizing their effectiveness.

“In all, analysis shows that today’s industrial base has the capacity to construct 29 more ships and almost 300 more aircraft over the next seven years than our current plan,” the document states. “Those platforms are ones that we are confident will continue to be relevant in the coming decades, and can better incorporate the modular approach described above.”

“The hull and power plant will last, ostensibly, the life of the ship,” Richardson said. “But we’ll design the rest of it, use the very latest technology that we have right now, but it will also be built to step into the future faster, to modernize faster, really from the ground up … so part of the ship that’s built to last, if you will, part of the ship that’s built to grow and modernize.”

Unmanned platforms, both surface and undersea vessels and aircraft, will also play a larger role in the future fleet.

Richardson offered few details on how many of these unmanned platforms would be built into the target fleet size number or what roles they would take on. But the future Navy document says they will play a key role in driving down unit cost of construction and will network with manned platforms to maximize reach.

“There is no question that unmanned systems must also be an integral part of the future fleet,” the document states. “The advantages such systems offer are even greater when they incorporate autonomy and machine learning. And these platforms must be affordable enough to buy them in large numbers, and networked in order to expand our presence in key areas.”

Many decisions have yet to be made. Richardson said Navy analysis puts the cost of the planned ship buildup at far less than the $102 billion per year for 30 years that the Congressional Budget Office assessed in April. But it’s still more than the Navy has traditionally spent on annual shipbuilding, he said, and a final way forward in terms of cost and budgeting is still being determined.

“We have to be open to the fact that if we want a larger, more powerful Navy, that’s going to require some resources to get there,” he said. “But we have to do everything inside the Navy to make sure that we’re prioritizing the right thing, we put those resources to the thing that’s going to deliver more naval power per dollar.”

According to the document, the Navy will take the year 2018 to “consolidate readiness and achieve better balance” across the service.

“We need to determine the best way to get the most overall capability in relevant timeframes, which will result from a mix of new and modernized hulls,” the document states. “From that starting point, we must focus our intellectual energies on defining the optimal mix of platforms for the future, within a timeframe appropriate to the dynamic complexity we face now and that will only intensify in the future.”

The first steps of the Navy’s fleet growth plan will likely become clearer later this spring with the president’s fiscal 2018 defense budget request.”

https://www.dodbuzz.com/2017/05/17/navy-will-lean-drone-ships-modularity-expand-fleet-size/

Military Veterans Take to Twitter to Fight Discrimination

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(Photo Credit: Douglas E. Curran/AFP)

“MILITARY TIMES”

“A group of veterans are fighting anti-immigration messages one tweet at a time.

Vets Fight Hate has partnered with Southern Poverty Law Center with the goal of reminding people that they are all much more than just their looks or ancestry.

Their Twitter account  @VetsFightHate targets users who post hateful messages and possess a large number of followers. They reply to these hateful messages with personalized messages of their own — messages of immigrants who have served in the U.S. military.

“Veterans are one of the most respected and honored groups of Americans, and they have an important voice in fighting back against those spreading hatred,” SPLC spokeswoman Wendy Via told the Huffington Post.

The organization’s very first post introduces us to Roy who tells his story: “I joined the US Army at 17 to defend America. I’m from Germany, but I was willing to fight for this country because it accepted me. Immigrants are what make America great.”

Another veteran named Lawrence responded to a hateful message that said “immigrants are a disease to this country.”

“I’m an immigrant; I’m a citizen; and I’m a veteran. I served in the U.S. Air Force and fought for you, your family, and people I don’t even know. I risked my life for a free and inclusive country. This country was built by immigrants. Respect us. This is our home too,” Lawrence replied.

Approximately 11 percent of all U.S. veterans come from an immigrant background, whether they immigrated themselves, or their parents did. That’s the equivalent to nearly two million veterans, according to  migrationpolicy.org.”

http://www.militarytimes.com/articles/military-veterans-take-to-twitter-to-fight-discrimination-with-vetsfighthate

Special Operators Seek Lighter, More Flexible Technologies

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Image:  Air Force

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Special Operations Command is looking for equipment that weighs less, is more flexible and comes at an affordable price.

Realms of interest include: command, control, communications and computers, or C4, technology; weapons; body armor; biomedical and human performance; optical electronics; and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) products.

From optics to biomedical projects, from weapons and munition to ballistic armor protection, SOCOM S&T representatives May 18 shared key areas of interest for fiscal year 2018 at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Tampa, Florida.

For C4 technologies, special operators are seeking new products with improved line-of-sight or beyond-line-of-sight capabilities, higher bandwidth and the computing power to do data analytics and visualization, she said.

Major development goals include size, weight and power reduction, as well as the ability to triage large data sets, she said. The command is particularly looking for a scalable, mobile and over-the-horizon communications networks that should be interoperable with other joint or combined forces and headquarters.

The technology should be interoperable with enterprise computing, which is currently a mixed configuration of Windows platforms supporting Windows and Linux operating systems, she noted. The command is looking for products that are between technology readiness levels 3 to 6.

In terms of weapons and munition, the command is looking for lighter weight, lower cost of ownership and increased lethality, officials said in a video presentation.

The goal is to achieve firefight dominance for small SOF units by reducing the weight of weapons and ammunition by 20 percent and by applying computer-assisted design tools that could aid with increased reliability and performance.

SOCOM is also seeking new human performance technologies that could help with sleep restoration and rapid acclimatization to acute environmental extremes, as well as ways to assist with injury prevention and recovery from injury.

The command is also looking for enhanced sensors, lasers and radar for target engagement and ISR that could be developed in three to five years. Software that can process and disseminate imagery in real time is particularly needed.

Weight remains a major issue for body armor, said Conrad Lovell, protection technical development working group lead for SOCOM.

“The load burden on the operators is a problem [for] the big services and SOF, and that’s not just body armor, it’s all the rest of the kit that they wear,” he said.

SOCOM is seeking new protection technologies built with ceramics, optimized fibers such as spider silk and even 3D printed armor, he said. The material properties “aren’t quite there yet” to print ballistic armor, but the command is interested to see what industry can come up with, he said.

“3D printing is kind of the new wave of technology everyone’s looking at,” he said, noting that developers could potentially print more complex curvature pieces of armor than are currently available.

“You would be able to maybe even be able to make new armor in theater if you had a 3D printer out there,” he noted.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/5/16/socom-seeks-lighter-more-flexible-technologies-for-small-unit-dominance

 

 

First-ever Audit At The Department of Defense

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First Ever Audit at the Pentagon

“DEFENSE ONE”

“The Department of Defense is preparing for its first-ever audit.

The nation’s most sprawling and expensive bureaucracy and the world’s largest employer—has yet to undergo a formal, legally mandated review of its finances.

[It] has become a preoccupation for members of Congress intent on demonstrating their fiscal prudence even as they appropriate more than $600 billion annually to the Pentagon.

“Like Waiting for Godot,” one Democratic senator, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, quipped about the absent audit at a recent hearing. The lack of formal accountability has left unanswered basic questions about how the military spends taxpayer money, like the precise number of employees and contractors its various branches have hired. Cost overruns have become legendary, none more so than the F-35 fighter-jet program that has drawn the ire of President Trump. And partial reports suggest that the department has misspent or not accounted for anywhere from hundreds of billions to several trillion dollars.

After years of missed deadlines, the mounting political pressure and a renewed commitment from the Trump administration might finally result in an audit. For the first time last year, both major political parties called for auditing the Pentagon in their campaign platforms. That unites everyone from Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren to Ted Cruz and the House Freedom Caucus. And last week, Trump’s nominee to serve as comptroller for the Pentagon, David Norquist, testified at his Senate confirmation hearing that he would insist on one whether the department could pass it or not. “It is time to audit the Pentagon,” Norquist told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee in his opening statement.

As comptroller for the Homeland Security Department a decade ago, Norquist, the brother of the anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist, undertook the first successful audits of that much younger federal agency. The Defense Department is unlikely to meet a statutory deadline to be “audit-ready” by the end of September. But Norquist said he would begin the process even if the Pentagon’s financial statements were not fully in order, and he committed to having the report completed by March 2019.

What has prevented the Pentagon from being examined this way before? The answer lies somewhere “between lethargy and complexity,” said Gordon Adams, a distinguished fellow at the Stimson Center who was the top budget official for national security in the Clinton White House. “It hasn’t been done ever,” he told me, “partly because it’s incredibly complicated to do and also because there’s not a great, powerful will in the building to do it.”

The complexity of the project dates back to the Civil War, Adams said, when the Army and the Navy set up their own separate accounting systems. The Air Force also went its own way after its creation following World War II, and the military build-ups of the last four decades scrambled the department’s financial records many times over. The explosion of military contractors since 9/11 has made scrubbing the books harder still. Adams estimated that an audit would have to account for 15 million to 20 million contracting transactions each year. The Pentagon has spent several billion dollars over the last seven years just trying to consolidate its accounting systems in preparation for a potential audit.

Despite the ramp-up costs, the project has never risen to be a top priority; the Pentagon has simply been too busy fighting wars. “The military has repeatedly argued that they need to focus on the war effort and accountability can come later,” said Kori Schake, a fellow at the Hoover Institution who previously served in a variety of national-security positions in the government. That excuse carried more weight with lawmakers in the years when the United States had hundreds of thousands of troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Now, top Republicans like Senator John McCain of Arizona, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, are pressing for an audit with more urgency. “This has been a very public continuing failure for the Department of Defense, in large part due to the failure of senior management to make this a priority for the department and invest the necessary time and will to get it done,” McCain said at the outset of Norquist’s hearing. “This must end with you,” he told the president’s nominee.

Yet those fiscal hawks hoping that the long-awaited report will spur substantial reforms to defense spending are just as likely to be disappointed. An audit by itself won’t dismantle the “military industrial complex” that former President Dwight Eisenhower famously warned about, nor will it lead members of Congress to stop fighting to protect the bases and weapons systems that are manufactured in their districts—and the jobs that come with them. Several times in recent years, it has been congressional lobbying that has kept up production of weapons and equipment that the military no longer considers necessary.

“An audit does not raise the big issues,” Adams said. “It doesn’t tell you that we’re not getting the right bang for the buck. It doesn’t tell you anything about whether we’re getting the right forces for the threat. It doesn’t tell you how well the forces perform. It doesn’t tell you where we are wasting capability that we don’t need.”

“What it allows a member of Congress to do,” he continued, “is to look tough on defense and spend a lot on defense at the same time.”

Spending a lot on defense is what the Trump administration wants to do, even as it pledges its support for a Pentagon audit. The White House has asked Congress for a $54 billion increase in the military budget over the next year and secured about $15 billion of that in the recent spending deal. “It’s harder when there’s a big inflow of cash to focus on something like the audit,” said William Hartung, director of the arms and security project at the Center for International Policy. “There’s still that incentive to just push the money out the door.”

There’s some hope among audit advocates that the administration’s demand for more money will give congressional spending hawks leverage to insist on progress toward the accounting milestone in exchange for a budget increase. But they also don’t believe leverage should be necessary to demand that a department with a workforce pegged at more than 3 million people commit, at long last, to some basic bookkeeping. “We would never accept the argument that the Department of Education is too big and too complicated to be accountable,” Schake argued. “Why do we accept that for Defense?”

http://www.defenseone.com/politics/2017/05/white-house-vows-audit-pentagon-which-would-be-first/137928/?oref=d-channeltop

 

Fundamental Vulnerabilities in U.S. Computer Infrastructure

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Weak Link Security

“NEW YORK TIMES” By 

“Last week’s cyberattacks have laid bare some fundamental vulnerabilities in our computer infrastructure and serve as a harbinger.

There’s a lot of good research into robust solutions, but the economic incentives are all misaligned. We need government to step in to create the market forces that will get us out of this mess.

None of this is welcome news to a government that prides itself on minimal intervention and maximal market forces, but national security is often an exception to this rule.

As devastating as the latest widespread ransomware attacks have been, it’s a problem with a solution. If your copy of Windows is relatively current and you’ve kept it updated, your laptop is immune. It’s only older unpatched systems on your computer that are vulnerable.

Patching is how the computer industry maintains security in the face of rampant internet insecurity. Microsoft, Apple and Google have teams of engineers who quickly write, test and distribute these patches, updates to the codes that fix vulnerabilities in software. Most people have set up their computers and phones to automatically apply these patches, and the whole thing works seamlessly. It isn’t a perfect system, but it’s the best we have.

But it is a system that’s going to fail in the “internet of things”: everyday devices like smart speakers, household appliances, toys, lighting systems, even cars, that are connected to the web. Many of the embedded networked systems in these devices that will pervade our lives don’t have engineering teams on hand to write patches and may well last far longer than the companies that are supposed to keep the software safe from criminals. Some of them don’t even have the ability to be patched.

Fast forward five to 10 years, and the world is going to be filled with literally tens of billions of devices that hackers can attack. We’re going to see ransomware against our cars. Our digital video recorders and web cameras will be taken over by botnets. The data that these devices collect about us will be stolen and used to commit fraud. And we’re not going to be able to secure these devices.

Like every other instance of product safety, this problem will never be solved without considerable government involvement.

For years, I have been calling for more regulation to improve security in the face of this market failure. In the short term, the government can mandate that these devices have more secure default configurations and the ability to be patched. It can issue best-practice regulations for critical software and make software manufacturers liable for vulnerabilities. It’ll be expensive, but it will go a long way toward improved security.

But it won’t be enough to focus only on the devices, because these things are going to be around and on the internet much longer than the two to three years we use our phones and computers before we upgrade them. I expect to keep my car for 15 years, and my refrigerator for at least 20 years. Cities will expect the networks they’re putting in place to last at least that long. I don’t want to replace my digital thermostat ever again. Nor, if I ever need one, do I want a surgeon to ever have to go back in to replace my computerized heart defibrillator in order to fix a software bug.

No amount of regulation can force companies to maintain old products, and it certainly can’t prevent companies from going out of business. The future will contain billions of orphaned devices connected to the web that simply have no engineers able to patch them.

Imagine this: The company that made your internet-enabled door lock is long out of business. You have no way to secure yourself against the ransomware attack on that lock. Your only option, other than paying, and paying again when it’s reinfected, is to throw it away and buy a new one.

Ultimately, we will also need the network to block these attacks before they get to the devices, but there again the market will not fix the problem on its own. We need additional government intervention to mandate these sorts of solutions.”

Bruce Schneier, a fellow and lecturer at the Harvard Kennedy School, is the chief technology officer of the cybersecurity company Resilient. He blogs at Schneier on Security and is the author, most recently, of “Data and Goliath: The Hidden Battles to Collect Your Data and Control Your World.”

 

Special Operations “Iron Man” Suit Takes Shape

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“DEFENSE NEWS”

“It’s getting very real right now,” Col. James Miller, the director of the Joint Acquisition Task Force TALOS.

The team of around 35 vendors, labs and academic institutions are diving deeper on systems engineering, he said, adding, “We are going to start building parts and snapping them together” while testing for functionality and safety.

The informally named “Iron Man” suit that U.S. Special Operations has been developing will start to come together over the next 18 months with a first prototype expected to be fully built by the end of 2018.

Formally known as the Tactical Assault Light Operator Suit, or TALOS, Special Operations Command has spent the past four years tackling complicated technical hurdles to try to revolutionize the performance of a dismounted operator by developing the armored exoskeleton.

Some skeptics have said the project is moving too slowly or that it’s a waste of money to try to develop something only a reality in comic books and movies, akin to the Pentagon building a “Star Wars” Death Star. A few years ago, the suit even made its way into then-Sen. Tom Coburn’s, R-Okla., famous “wastebook” among 100 federal programs he called wasteful.

But for Miller, getting TALOS right would be a revolutionary leap ahead achievement for the future special operator, not meant to be fielded in just a few years. “We are trying to redefine in many respects science and engineering,” he said.

“We are putting a human inside of a robot,” Miller said, which “has to emulate the human itself.”

The program isn’t tackling how to give back capability to someone who is impaired; it’s trying to take an elite athlete and super empower someone with that capability, James “Hondo” Geurts, USSOCOM acquisition executive told Defense News in an interview at SOFIC.

While SOCOM is trying to push the bounds with a full suit, there have already been “great spin-offs both in technology and in business practices,” along the way, he said.

TALOS program officials sat down with industry representatives by appointment for nearly 12 non-consecutive hours over the course of three-and-a-half day conference.

Each layer of the suit presents complicated technical challenges, and integrating all the layers is yet another challenge. Miller sees it as a “system of systems,” like an aircraft or other major weapons platform.

Miller said the base layer of the suit needs to be capable of regulating the operator’s temperature and will have tubes incorporated into the layer delivering chilled water to keep an operator’s core from overheating. Also “junctional fragmentation” will be woven into the fabric to protect the operator where armor pieces won’t cover.

The exoskeleton’s purpose is to displace hundreds of pounds of weight and enhance body movement. It has to be perfectly form-fitting, “kinematically seamless with the body,” Miller said. The individual wearing it shouldn’t notice it’s there.

“If we get that right, then we are good,” he said, adding exoskeletons have been attempted in the past several decades, but some were so big they couldn’t fit through a door. That won’t work for special operators engaging in close-quarter combat, Miller added.

The 800-part exoskeleton is currently being built using carbon fiber plastics, which is strong enough to replicate and prove design, but not enough to be encumbering or too expensive, Miller said.

The program has used rapid 3-D prototyping as it refines the exoskeleton and has managed to cut what was expected to be a billion-dollar project “way back,” Miller said.

For now, the first prototype will be made of titanium, he said, which is lighter and stronger.

Building on the exoskeleton will be an electric actuation system to emulate muscles. The program will develop both upper- and lower-body actuation, Miler said, which is very hard to do, but both are needed.

The final layer of the suit is the armor. The military has mastered ballistic protection on the chest, back and head, but the legs, arms and face continue to lack appropriate protection, Miller said.

The suit can’t be completely armored head to toe because it would hinder movement too much, so positioning the armor is crucial. The current suit would likely have 26 pieces of armor.

The program is entertaining the idea of a removable mandible to cover the lower half of the face and is experimenting with ways to protect the entire face.

“The thing we haven’t gotten to yet is transparent ballistic material glass … that is not so thick you get [dizzy] and want to throw up all over the place,” Miller said.

The entire suit will be powered through a system on the back that is currently configured to use commercially available batteries. That method of power is limiting, but at least it’s not a suit that requires being plugged into the wall like experimental robotic suits of the past, Miller noted.

The power will not only control the suit but also a computer that processes a network of communications systems integrated into the helmet that feeds audio and imagery into some kind of head-up display, possibly at cheek-level, Miller said.

Much is left to be contemplated after the first prototype is built, and Miller stressed this is the first of many.

Questions have yet to be answered, such as how the suit could be employed operationally, how to get it to fit a variety of body types and how an operator would quickly get out of the suit if it broke down. Those would likely be answered once the science and technology piece ended and the program moved into an official program of record, according to Miller.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/its-getting-real-special-ops-iron-man-suit-takes-shape-amid-leap-ahead-tech-hurdles

Pentagon Contractor Performance Monitoring Lacks Timeliness and Content

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“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT (POGO)”

“Last week, the Department of Defense (DoD) Inspector General (IG) released a summary of a series of reports assessing how effectively the Pentagon tracks the performance of its contractors.

The DoD measures contractors’ past performance with performance assessment reports, or PARs, evaluations that provide a record—both positive and negative—of performance on a contract during a specific period of time.

The DoD IG audited 18 DoD divisions, including the main service branches—Navy, Air Force, and Army (POGO blogged about the IG’s report on the Army last year)—and the Defense Logistics Agency. The audit reviewed a total of 238 PARs on contracts worth a total of $18 billion.

PARs are compiled in a database called the Contractor Performance Assessment Reporting System (CPARS) and are shared government-wide via the Past Performance Information Retrieval System (PPIRS) database.

PARs are incredibly important because without access to timely, accurate, and complete past performance information, the government risks awarding taxpayer money to non-responsible contractors, which is a violation of the law, or allowing performance deficiencies to fester. The former happened several years ago with the botched rollout of the HealthCare.gov website, a fiasco that might have been avoided had the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services more thoroughly researched the performance history of the contractor it put in charge of designing and testing the site. An example of the latter was recently discovered on a US Marshals Service contract to manage the Leavenworth Detention Center in Kansas. The Department of Justice IG found the Marshals Service was not entering past performance evaluations of the contractor into CPARS. As a result, safety and security problems at the maximum-security prison caused by understaffing persisted for almost a year.

The IG found the information reported in CPARS and PPIRS “was not consistently useful” because contracting officials did not always comply with requirements for evaluating contractor performance. Although the IG found DoD agencies are preparing more PARs in a timely manner than ever before (74 percent in fiscal year 2016, almost 20 percentage points higher than the previous year), more than a third of the 238 PARs were still late by an average of 73 days. The agencies seem to have a bigger problem with completeness: 84 percent of the PARs contained performance ratings, written narratives, or contract descriptions that fell short of past performance reporting requirements. For example, officials gave contractors an “exceptional” or “very good” rating for required evaluation factors without adequately explaining why the rating was justified, or sometimes even failed to provide a rating at all.

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t use this opportunity to reiterate our call for publicly releasing contractor past performance evaluations. Bits of past performance information occasionally turn up in judicial opinions and bid protest decisions, but the government has long resistedpublicly releasing this data on a regular basis in a centralized location. Public availability of contractor past performance records would incentivize responsible business conduct, which would protect the government’s and taxpayers’ interests in the long run.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/05/watchdog-finds-dod-must-improve-contractor-performance-monitoring.html

 

 

 

Legislation Must Support US Military Reserve Component Personnel

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Images:  Army National Guard/Defense News

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“It’s time to be honest about the Guard and the Reserve.

It’s been a long time since serving as a member of the Reserve component, or RC, has truly consisted of one weekend a month and two weeks of training in the summer.

The RC has been a consistent source of boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, used to ameliorate the operational tempo and strain on the active-duty force. However, rhetoric surrounding the “total force” concept is only now catching up with reality, and there’s a moral imperative for legislation and policy to do the same. Congress should update the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, also know as USERRA, to reflect the increased training commitments of today’s force and consider additional tax benefits such as deductions for hiring reservists and tax exemptions for “differential pay.”

The role of the RC has shifted from “a strategic reserve to an operational force.” High-demand Army National Guard units are facing an increase of training days up to 60 a year over the course of four years, while the Air National Guard is trying to negotiate with employers, recognizing that airmen often work 60-80 days a year to meet necessary training demands. As training increases, leaders cite a focus on predictability to try and mitigate the impact on families and employers, yet this may not be enough.

Though the RC is more operational than ever, there has been no legislative action reflecting this change to ensure the men and women serving in the Guard have the necessary legal protections to do so effectively. A recent memo to the Massachusetts National Guard notes: “We will constantly be challenged by operational demand, the urgency of readiness requirements, and the constraint of time as a reserve component of the Army.”

his commitment places both employers and service members alike in a bind. Particularly for small businesses, there can be reticence to employ a person who may be gone for a significant portion of the year, with fears over staying open, the bottom line and the requirement to hold a job even if someone must be replaced due to a deployment. While substantial tax credits exist for employing veterans, it might be prudent to consider similar benefits for employers who endeavor to employ members of the RC. Though USERRA compliance is the law, efforts should be made to reward employers who go above and beyond current requirements.

Current tax credits for employing a veteran range from $1,200 to $9,600 and should be matched for hiring a member of the RC. Additionally, the government should consider providing incentives for employers who enact “differential pay” policies that help offset any salary difference when reservists are activated. This could include making those salaries tax-free or tax-deductible, as many states already do for active-duty military salaries. More than simply incentivizing the employment of our citizen soldiers, this could help further the bond between communities and those who serve, as well as offering additional economic benefits. No one is well-served by small businesses who suffer as a result of USERRA compliance, perhaps even leaving service members without a job to which they can return.

Though initially these efforts may seem costly, it could quickly prove cost-neutral to the government by improving recruiting, retention, and readiness. It’s critical to maintaining the total force that we ensure reservists are able to maintain their civilian careers and that businesses are not jeopardized by hiring reservists.

Just as the demand on the armed forces has continued to increase, so has the strain placed on those who bridge the civil-military divide by blending civilian careers with service to nation. It is incumbent upon both service leadership and Congress to more explicitly acknowledge the shift in mission, and accompany this shift with a broader plan as to how to enable personnel and businesses to continue to bridge this divide.

Members of the reserve component must grapple with the demands of both worlds — bearing the burdens of those who serve while also maintaining a civilian job, often working for employers with little understanding as to the commitments of military service. Congress needs to play its part in supporting reservists by updating USERRA and insisting on compliance.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/we-need-legislation-to-cover-the-us-guard-and-reserve-commentary