Category Archives: Global economy

Northrop Grumman Expanding Grand Forks, North Dakota Unmanned Aerial Systems Facility

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grand-sky1

Photo: Northrop Grumman

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Less than a year after Northrop Grumman opened the doors to its new unmanned aerial systems facility in North Dakota, the company will soon break ground on a new hangar to conduct testing and maintenance on its family of autonomous systems.

The company expects to employ 100 people by the end of 2017, with a mix of current Northrop employees coming from San Diego and other locations, and new hires from the North Dakota area.

The Grand Sky Park, for which Northrop Grumman is the anchor tenant, hosts several commercial tenants with ties to unmanned aerial systems, including General Atomics, Hambleton said. Northrop committed over $10 million to the initial Grand Sky project, and its initial 36,000 square-foot facility was completed in late 2016.

The company in April announced the opening of its new facility at the Grand Sky Unmanned Aerial Systems Business and Aviation Park near Grand Forks. The facility serves as a “nucleus” for research and development, pilot, operator and maintainer training, as well as operations and mission analysis and aircraft maintenance, according to Northrop.

Before the end of the summer, Northrop will start work on a new hangar that will allow it to take advantage of the proximity of Grand Forks Air Force Base’s remotely piloted aircraft squadron, David Hambleton, Grand Sky program manager and site lead, said in an interview with National Defense.

Northrop leased 10 acres of land from the Air Force to build the recently opened facility and the 35,000 square-foot hangar, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2018, he said. Flight testing and aircraft maintenance for the company’s family of autonomous systems will begin by the following year, he added.

The company’s facility in North Dakota will be an “offshoot” of its autonomous systems division in San Diego, California, he said. “In one place, we have access to both civil and restricted airspace [and] opportunities to collaborate with the universities nearby” such as the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, he said.

The Grand Sky team will have the ability to link different capabilities “through a modeling and simulation backbone,” he added. “We’ll be able to tie together system testing in a lab with monitoring mission data as it comes in, connecting to training simulators and linking them together in a technical way to enable new ways to doing what, in the past, we’ve done independently or separately.”

The FAA-designated Northern Plains unmanned aerial systems test site is also located in Grand Forks, and the Air Force’s fleet of RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned surveillance aircraft, produced by Northrop, is based next door, he noted.

“Having all of these capabilities and infrastructure concentrated here makes Grand Sky a desirable place for us to pursue flight testing and system demonstration,” he added.

Northrop expects to perform flight testing and maintenance for the Global Hawk fleet at Grand Sky, but also intends to support other unmanned systems such as the Navy’s forthcoming MQ-4C Triton surveillance aircraft or the MQ-8 Fire Scout reconnaissance helicopter, he added.

Northrop committed over $10 million to the initial Grand Sky project, and its initial 36,000 square-foot facility was completed in late 2016, he added.

The local community and the state of North Dakota were interested in developing the unmanned aerial systems industry in the Red River Valley region, he said. A group of local actors that included the University of North Dakota and Grand Forks County developed the Red River strategic alliance agreement.

“Northrop Grumman signed on to this agreement to promote the UAS industry,” he said. “That set the stage for the goal of creating… the Grand Sky aviation business park for UAS.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/8/3/northrop-prepares-for-new-hangar-construction-in-north-dakota

 

General Mattis and Special Inspector General Sopko Agree on “Spoils of War”

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Mattis and SIGAR

“THE PROJECT ON GOVERNMENT OVERSIGHT”

“When the head of an agency actually listens to the findings of an Inspector General (IG), great things can happen.

June 2017 report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) prompted Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to acknowledge and denounce the Department of Defense’s (DoD) dismissive attitude towards reigning in its overspending of taxpayer dollars, and to highlight the good work done by SIGAR.

The official memo to DoD leadership, dated July 21, discusses SIGAR’s report on camouflage uniform misspending in Afghanistan, while also pointing out and decrying DoD’s “complacent mode of thinking” when it comes to spending in general. Mattis found that SIGAR’s report highlighted two truths about DoD work:

1) Every action contributes to the larger missions of defending the country

2) Procurement decisions have a lasting impact on the larger defense budget

Mattis uses these truths to reinforce the importance of effective spending at DoD, and wants to use SIGAR’s report and the instances of misspending it found as a “catalyst to bring to light wasteful practices – and take aggressive steps to end waste in [DoD].”

While this is potentially great news and a marked shift in DoD rhetoric, it is important to note that stating a problem exists is not the same as taking concrete action to fix it. Just last year, DoD was working to discredit SIGAR over a report on a $43 million gas station in Afghanistan, rather than working to fix the problem. Moreover, the $28 million in misspending that this most recent SIGAR report focused on and that drew Mattis’s attention is nothing compared to the waste, fraud, and abuse occurring in the larger defense budget (over $300 billion of which was spent on goods and services in 2016). It is important to remember that DoD is not known for its willingness to proactively address its spending issues, but is rather known for actively resisting efforts to increase transparency and accountability. (See, for instance, POGO’s work on DoD’s reluctance to examine its contracts for improper payments & DoD still not being able to pass an audit.)

It will take more than this memo for DoD to change the way it spends taxpayer money, but publically acknowledging the truth of SIGAR’s findings and trying to leverage that work for change—rather than fighting against and resisting the IG at every turn—is an important first step.

It is even more important, however, that DoD truly works towards achieving effective spending on an agency-wide scale.”

http://www.pogo.org/blog/2017/07/secdef-mattis-commends-ig-efforts-highlights-dod-shortcomings.html

$9.29 Billion In F-35 Fighter Contract Awards to Lockheed in July 2017

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F-35 Award

F-35As at Luke Air Force Base

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

” [Friday, July 27 2017] – A $3.69 billion contract was awarded Lockheed Martin for 50 foreign F-35s and work on the Lot 11 LRIP.

Separately, Lockheed won an interim payment of $5.6 billion in early July to help pay for the 91 American F-35s jets in LRIP 11.”


“After the markets closed on a sleepy and rainy summer Friday afternoon, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus was ousted and DHS Secretary John Kelly named to take his place, and, oh, by the way, a $3.69 billion contract was awarded Lockheed Martin for 50 foreign F-35s and work on the Lot 11 LRIP.

What’s in play here?

Most of the money, $2.2 billion, goes to buy one British F-35B, one Italian F-35A, eight Australian F-35As, eight Dutch F-35As, four Turkish F-35As, six Norwegian F-35As aircraft, and 22 F-35As for Foreign Military Sales customers.

The F-35 Joint Program Office said the Pentagon would continue to negotiate the 11th low rate initial production contract with Lockheed Martin and expected an agreement by the end of 2017. The full contract should be finished by the end of the year, the JPO said in a statement. At the same time, they said they are negotiating a separate deal with Pratt & Whitney for the F135 engines, which should be done about the same time.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/07/one-big-f-35-contract-2-8b-of-3-7b-for-foreign-planes/

U.S. Wasted $28 Million on Afghan Uniforms – Color Does Match Terrain

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Afghanistan Uniforms

“MILITARY TIMES”

“The Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan selected the dark uniform  without determining whether it was right for Afghanistan.

DoD had purchased more than 1.3 million of these uniforms as of June.


Defense Secretary Jim Mattis scolded top defense officials for a “complacent” mode of thinking that allowed $28 million to be wasted on Afghan army uniforms that were inappropriate for fighting in Afghanistan.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction exposed the waste in June when it found that the Pentagon’s decision to procure a dark forest-patterned uniform for the Afghan army was incongruous with the country’s largely desert environment. Moreso, the SIGAR found, DoD bypassed its own digital patterns it owned and contracted a firm whose proprietary rights over the forest pattern significantly increased the cost of the shirt and pants purchases.

Mattis used SIGAR’s findings to highlight what he said he saw as wasteful complacency.

“Buying uniforms for our Afghan partners, and doing so in a way that may have wasted tens of millions of taxpayer dollars over a ten-year period, must not be seen as inconsequential,” Mattis said in his memo, addressed to the under secretaries for acquisition, policy and finance. Those departments head the Afghanistan Resource Oversight Council, a group responsible for decisions on procurement to support the Afghan National Security Forces.

“I highlight this report because it reveals two truths about our line of work. [First] our every action contributes to our larger mission,” Mattis said. Second, “our procurement decisions have a lasting impact on the larger defense budget.”

“Cavalier or casually acquiescent decisions to spend taxpayer dollars in an ineffective and wasteful manner are not to recur,” Mattis said.”

https://www.militarytimes.com/news/pentagon-congress/2017/07/24/mattis-28-million-wasted-on-afghan-uniforms-must-not-be-seen-as-inconsequential/

 

U.S. Government Writing Over $33 Billion in Blank Checks to Pentagon and Lockheed

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Blank Checks

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“In a sign of how strange the budget process has become, the House Appropriations Committee has approved a defense spending bill that basically gives Secretary Jim Mattis a $28.6 billion blank check.

Scattered across seven different accounts in the base and Overseas Contingency Operationsbudgets, it’s called the National Defense Restoration Fund, and it makes up 4.3 percent of the bill’s $658.1 billion Pentagon budget.

That percentage may seem small, but it’s more than any previous SecDef has had at his discretion. The only requirement? To “notify” Congress 15 days before dedicating the funds to a specific purpose. In theory, that gives legislators time to stop a transfer they dislike, but it would require new legislation, and the Hill just isn’t set up to pass bills on a two-week turnaround. That is, of course, why, historically, almost everything has to go through the annual budget process.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/07/house-appropriators-give-secdef-blank-check-for-28-6b/

“DOD BUZZ”

“The Defense Department has awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a $4.49 billion undefinitized contract action to continue production on the latest batch of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters even as it continues to negotiate a firm price for the fifth-generation jets.

The UCA — a type of contract in which bottom-line terms or prices have not been agreed upon before performance is begun — stipulates a max price of $5.6 billion for Lockheed to continue working on the Low Rate Initial Production, or LRIP, lot 11 jets, according to the F-35 Joint Program Office.”

https://www.dodbuzz.com/2017/07/07/pentagon-gives-lockheed-billions-to-keep-working-on-f-35s/

 

 

 

 

Cyber Training and Education Must Be Continuous

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Cyber Training

(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes/Air Force)

“C4ISRNET”

“Today, very few organizations have as a requirement for employees and contractors the upkeep of cyber security knowledge.

That must change immediately if we are to keep pace with the ever-changing cyber threat environment.

Times are certainly changing. Politics, regulation, threats, conflict and so much more are changing; but it can be difficult to adapt to all the new and emerging technologies and their applications. There is little doubt that the world’s reliance on computers and their use continue to increase rapidly. Arguably, digital transformation is the leading driver of change. All these are producing a significant amount of new data and data communication paths that are all potential targets for cyberattacks by our adversaries and criminals. The sum of all this equals changes to our knowledge base, education requirements and the cyberthreat environment. Let’s take a look at some of the stats.

Cyberattack surface area

In 2016, there were multiple numbers that clearly showed just how large the cyberattack surface area has become. It was estimated that in 2016, internet of things, or IoT, devices rose to 17.6 billion. In 2016, there were an estimated 12.5 million connected cars produced and put into operation. Also in 2016, an estimated 45 percent of Americans had either a smart home or invested in smart-home technology, according to a survey by Coldwell Banker.Now we should also include robots. In the forth quarter of 2016, robot orders in North America surged by 61 percent. The increases in robot sales has led analysts projecting that robots will take/occupy 6 percent of all U.S. jobs by 2021.

Here is something that provides a partially over-arching perspective: data storage. IDC projects data storage growth by 35 to 40 percent per year for external storage and 33 to 38 percent for internal storage. Finally, consider Gartner’s projection that “manufacturers, consumer goods companies, medical device providers and their supply chain vendors are expanding the use of 3-D printing.” Think of the data files flowing to those printers! Think about the value of those files. Theft of those files enables counterfeit products, for sure. Think about all the changes in technology and to the cyberattack surface area the above data represents.

Threats

Consider the following metrics as an indication of the current pace of change to the cyber environment. In just one quarter of 2016, Panda Labs stated there were 18 million new strains of malware identified/captured. That equates to about two and one-third new pieces of malware being identified every single second. That is what was found! It is anyone’s guess what was actually released. In 2016, ransomware continued to grow in number. In fact, some place the growth rate at approximately 300 percent. That means in 2016 there were on average approximately 4,000 ransomware attacks occurring every day. That equates to two and three-fourths ransomware attacks per minute. We shouldn’t forget about the growing use of cryptocurrencies for payment in ransomware attacks! At the time of writing this, there were more than 850 differentcryptocurrencies with a total market capitalization equal to or over $97 billion. Think about all the nefarious activities that cryptocurrencies could be used to fund. It’s proven to be so relevant that a recent cryptocurrency webinar had approximately 3,000 professional attendees.
Distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attacks in 2016 were up in frequency, intensity and the amount of flooding data. In fact, we saw the largest DDoS attack of its kind in history. One company reported DDoS traffic of 1.2 terabytes per second. But hold on. Think about the potential for a highly distributed IoT bot net. That is a distinct possibility evolving right before our eyes.

Impact on cyber training and education

The pace at which the cyberthreat environment is changing creates a huge challenge for our military and intelligence communities. Keeping up with these changes is a large and growing task. Considering the pace with which technology is advancing and implemented, it is easy to see just how essential continuous education has become. With all of the changes that have taken place and continue to take place, updating the curriculum must be an ongoing activity; the same goes for the knowledge and skill-set requirement of professionals in the cybersecurity field. Today, very few organizations have as a requirement for employees and contractors the upkeep of cybersecurity knowledge. That must change immediately if we are to keep pace with the ever-changing cyberthreat environment.”

 http://www.c4isrnet.com/articles/cyber-training-and-education-must-be-continuous

 

Kill The Open Internet and Wave Goodbye to Consumer Choice

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kill net neutrality

Image: Dan Wasserman Tribune Media Services “The Week”

“WIRED”

“By Terrell McSweeny (@TMcSweenyFTC) a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission and Jon Sallet (@jonsallet), the former general counsel of the Federal Communications Commission. Both are alumni of the antitrust division of the Department of Justice.”


“Since the Bush administration, both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs have emphasized that they would take action to protect the open internet, and they have done so.

An Open Internet has worked for America, creating a virtuous circle of innovation, trust, adoption, and further innovation. That circle should not be broken.

The Net Neutrality debate can seem complicated. But at its heart, the issue rests on two simple realities: First, for more than a decade, the status quo in the US has been an open internet that supports thriving innovation among websites, apps, and new digital services. Second, innovators and consumers are dependent on a few large broadband providers that serve as gatekeepers to the internet.

In 2015, the FCC adopted its Open Internet Order to guarantee that consumers aren’t blocked or manipulated when they use their broadband connections and ensure that competition from the internet isn’t artificially squelched. The two goals work hand in hand, because residential broadband connections are the pathways on which consumers travel to the modern world and through which the content and services of the internet reaches residential users.

Two years later the new majority at the FCC has announcedthat it intends to undo the 2015 order. That includes the prohibitions on blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization. But the FCC has also proposed eliminating the General Conduct rule, which protects competition.

The FCC would be mistaken to unravel a bipartisan approach that has worked. Since the Bush administration, both Republican and Democratic FCC chairs have emphasized that they would take action to protect the open internet, and they have done so. Like a police officer keeping a watchful eye at a busy intersection, the FCC’s presence has both stopped and deterred harm to consumers, competition, and innovation.

The threat to the open internet is real because competition in US broadband markets is limited, to the extent that it exists at all. About 90 million US households subscribe to the kind of broadband that runs on wires to their homes. The top four providers—two cable and two telecom—together claim three-quarters of all residential customers.

Of course, consumers can only choose among the broadband networks that reach them. Roughly 21 percent of US census blocs have no high-speed landline broadband provider, and 37 percent have only one option. This is no choice at all. For downloading data at 100 Mbps, 88 percent of the country has either no option or just one provider.

In rural America it’s much worse: More than half of rural census blocs have no choice of a high-speed broadband provider, which condemns them to slow speeds for any service they can get. Even where there are choices, the FCC has found that consumers face significant costs in switching between broadband providers. Moreover, broadband providers have the ability to target content creators selectively, making it harder for consumers to understand why they’re having trouble accessing certain content.

So it’s clear that most US consumers depend upon a few big players in order to access the internet. Therefore, the critical question is whether these companies have the incentive and ability to harm consumers and competition. That is, are they motivated to control what kinds of innovations come to consumers? And do they have the tools to do so? Both the FCC and the Department of Justice have recognized in recent proceedings that the answers are yes and yes.

Broadband providers have the power and the motivation to curb any competition that uses their networks in order to reach consumers. And we know that eliminating competition—via mergers, for example—risks consumers paying higher prices and receiving lower quality products and services. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the so-called new Golden Age of TV has flourished at a time when Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and other services are producing popular, award-winning shows in direct competition with more established players.

Here’s why there’s a problem: The big broadband companies also supply video programming, which means that those firms’ revenues are directly threatened when consumers use their broadband connections to access competing video providers. The incentive for broadband companies to discriminate against online video providers will only grow stronger as the market becomes more competitive, as it has recently with the arrival of services that carry live television channels just like traditional cable operators.

When reviewing the proposed (and ultimately failed) merger of Comcast and TimeWarner Cable, economists at the Department of Justice concluded that the merged firm’s power would likely reduce competition in the video and broadband markets, leaving consumers with fewer choices, higher prices, and lower quality. And when the Department of Justice considered a proposed (and ultimately successful) merger of Charter Communications and TimeWarner Cable, it recognized the ability of cable and telephone companies to take action against new video competition and limited the new company’s ability to seek terms in programming contracts that could harm online video providers.

The 2015 Open Internet Order set forth 16 pages of economic and technological analysis to support the conclusion that “broadband providers (including mobile broadband providers) have the economic incentives and technical ability to engage in practices that pose a threat to Internet openness by harming other network providers, edge providers, and end users.”

Some argue that using traditional antitrust rules can get the same job done, and just as well. While the two of us both believe strongly in the importance of antitrust enforcement, these laws cannot duplicate the kind of prospective, industry-wide rules contained in the 2015 Open Internet Order.

Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy faced precisely this argument when he wrote the majority opinion in the Supreme Court case upholding requirements that cable systems carry broadcast stations. He wrote that regulation could be preferred to antitrust because of “the considerable expense and delay inherent in antitrust litigation, and the great disparities in wealth and sophistication between [TV stations and cable systems],” as well as the burden of bringing a case, which would require “considerable expense and delay.” All of this is even more true in disputes between large broadband providers and their customers. That’s why open internet rules make sense: They let the industry know what is required while giving consumers an avenue of relief at the FCC that doesn’t require long and expensive antitrust litigation.

The economic facts are telling, but that’s not all. Consumers should be able to use their broadband connections to access the lawful content of their choosing. The FCC is reconsidering whether broadband providers should be given the new freedom to block or interfere with the ability of consumers to express their thoughts or to listen to the views they want to hear. And that threatens the kind of free speech on which America was built. In 1776, Thomas Paine didn’t need the permission of any other content creator or distributor to circulate Common Sense. But without rules prohibiting blocking, throttling, and the like, broadband providers would gain the power to limit what unpopular content flows over their networks—to the detriment of consumers and democracy. One challenger to the 2015 Open Internet Order argued exactly this to the DC Circuit: that the rules violated its right to block legal but unpopular content.

An Open Internet has worked for America, creating a virtuous circle of innovation, trust, adoption, and further innovation. That circle should not be broken.”

https://www.wired.com/story/kill-the-open-internet-and-wave-goodbye-to-consumer-choice/

 

 

 

 

Marketing to Achieve a Small Business Set-aside Government Contract

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Self marketing - storedge dot com

Image: Storedge.com

INTRODUCTION

Marketing is one of the greatest challenges for the small business federal government contractor. We have previously discussed the federal government marketing process at the following articles:

Insights to Succeed

Small Business Government Contract Marketing

Customer Relations

Techniques for Product Development

This posting will address sculpting a government contracting business opportunity to the point where it becomes a sole source or small business group-designated set aside procurement.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Small business group-designated procurements are far more frequent than sole source contract awards.  Agencies must prepare special justifications for sole sourcing and those most frequently approved are for Hub Zone and Small, Disadvantaged [8(a)] firms (see table below).

Small business group designations are beneficial to firms who hold them by enhancing the probability of an award through agency restrictions on prime contractor bidding to only those who hold the group designation. Others may bid as subcontractors to the prime but the prime small business contractor must be capable of performing at least 51% of the total effort in terms of work scope, hours and dollars.

In either sole source or group-designated marketing, an agency making the buy must be convinced that sufficient capability exists in a single company or in the small business designated group community to set a contract aside. The agency must be convinced early – before a formal procurement announcement is published on FEDBIZOPPS.

Marketing to achieve a limited competition under a small business group designation or eliminate competition under a sole source contract assumes the marketing enterprise has one or more of the following federal government set-aside designations:

DESIGNATION                                                         TARGET

Small Business                                           (Group Set Aside Potential)

Small Woman-Owned Business                 (Group Set Aside Potential)

Small Veteran-Owned Business                 (Group Set Aside Potential)

Small Disabled Veteran-Owned Business  (Group Designation Set Aside Potential)

Small Hub Zone Business                          (Sole Source and Group Set Aside Potential)

Small Disadvantaged Business 8(a)          (Sole Source and Group Set Aside Potential)

Federal government procurements are further classified under the SBA Small Business Size Standards in terms of North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS) Code, number of personnel and/or annual sales. To determine whether a firm qualifies for a given bid, note the NAICS for a given solicitation and download the SBA Small Business Size Standards the Box Net “References” Cube in the right margin of this site:

Small Business Federal Government Contracting

Part of the sole source or designated group set aside marketing task is to suggest to the agency the NAICS Code (hence the size standard) for a prospective procurement.

Registering to bid government contacts and establish sole source and group designations may be achieved using guidance in the below articles:
Small Business Set-aside Designations

Registering Your Business For Government Contracting

Hub Zone and Small Disadvantaged Business 8(a) designations are lengthy certification processes. The remaining designations in the above table are self-certifying at the above government contract registration web site, and are verified by site surveys and bid vetting for each solicitation prior to contract award.

EARLY REQUIREMENT TARGETING IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS IN SET ASIDE MARKETING
Effective set aside marketing reaches the agency decision makers with technical, budget and schedule authority before a synopsis of the requirement is posted on FEDBIZOPPS.

The objective of this form of targeted marketing is to get concurrence from the government to set the program aside sole source if the company has an 8(a), or Hub Zone Certification or reserve it by one of the above group designation classes to eliminate the prospect of full and open competition involving large business.

  • Become known to targeted agency personnel by visiting their program offices and meeting the decision makers.  Bring a capability statement:

Your Capability Statement for Government Contracting

  • Present your qualifications openly, objectively and specific to their needs.  You must determine what those needs are through market research, trade magazines, research on what they are buying on FEDBIZOPPS, as well as postings on their web site that are future-program oriented.
  • Subscribe to periodicals like “Washington Technology” and other trade magazines.  Observe agency trends and analysis that impact your market segment.  There have been set aside programs marketed by small companies through acquainting agency management and technical personnel with capabilities they were not aware existed in the small business community or fulfillment of needs they in fact did not know they had.
  • Pay particular attention to FEDBIZOPPS “Sources Sought” or “Requests for draft RFP Comment”  on programs that have yet to be formally solicited. Obtain an appointment to present your capabilities to the decision makers (not the gate keepers).  Be courteous to contracting officers but understand they are not the individuals who make source selections. Understand that once the requirement is formally published on FEDBIZOPPS the gate closes on informal visits to the customer and the competition begins in the form of proposals by competitors.  It is too late at that point to set the program aside for a sole source or a small business designation if it has not occurred by the publication stage.
  • Cultivate teaming relationships with other firms in your industry and look for early opportunities in agencies, not only to prime a program but to bring a team of qualified contractors in lesser roles to fulfill them with you or join a team being led by a more experienced firm:

Small Business Government Contract Teaming

  • Understand the small business start up past performance challenge and work to meet it:

Understanding the Past Performance Challenge

  • Attend small business outreach events by agencies and prime contractors.  Stay attuned to who is attending and research their needs and requirements.
  • Make a point to be present at bidders’ conferences for existing solicitations that you may not choose to bid but which may lend insight into the agency needs and prime contractor relationships in the future.

SUMMARY

As a small business becomes known in the federal government contracting community, successful marketing of sole source or group-designated business becomes easier, but it is always a challenge due to the need for taking early action in windows of opportunity.  Find those windows and communicate capabilities to the decision makers and industry team members who can help you.

If you are eligible for any of the designations discussed in this article, make small business set asides or sole source procurements key elements in your marketing plan.

Pentagon Declares Lockheed F-35 “Too Big to Fail”

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F-35 Too Big to Fail

(Photo Credit: Staff Sgt. Staci Miller/US Air Force)

“DEFENSE NEWS” By Michael P. Hughes

“Officially begun in 2001, with roots extending back to the late 1980s, the F-35 program is nearly a decade behind schedule, and has  failed to meet many of its original design requirements.

It’s also become the most expensive defense program in world history, at about $1.5 trillion before the fighter is  phased out in 2070.

The F-35 was billed as a fighter jet that could do almost everything the U.S. military desired, serving the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy — and even Britain’s Royal Air Force and Royal Navy — all in one aircraft design. It’s supposed to replace and improve upon several current — and aging — aircraft types with widely different missions. It’s marketed as a cost-effective, powerful multi-role fighter airplane significantly better than anything potential adversaries could build in the next two decades. But it’s turned out to be none of those things.

The unit cost per airplane, above $100 million, is roughly twice what was promised early on. Even after U.S. President Donald Trump lambasted the cost of the program in February, the price per plane dropped just $7 million — less than 7 percent.

And yet, the U.S. is still throwing huge sums of money at the project. Essentially, the Pentagon has declared the F-35 “ too big to fail.” As a retired member of the U.S. Air Force and current university professor of finance who has been involved in and studied military aviation and acquisitions, I find the F-35 to be one of the greatest boondoggles in recent military purchasing history.

Forget what’s already spent

The Pentagon is trying to argue that just because taxpayers have flushed more than $100 billion down the proverbial toilet so far, we must continue to throw billions more down that same toilet. That violates the most elementary financial principles of capital budgeting, which is the method companies and governments use to decide on investments. So-called sunk costs, the money already paid on a project, should never be a factor in investment decisions. Rather, spending should be based on how it will add value in the future.

Keeping the F-35 program alive is not only a gross waste in itself: Its funding could be spent on defense programs that are really useful and needed for national defense, such as  anti-drone systems to defend U.S. troops.

Part of the enormous cost has come as a result of an effort to share aircraft design and replacement parts across different branches of the military. In 2013, a study by the think tank Rand found that it would have been cheaper if the Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy had simply  designed and developed separate and more specialized aircraft to meet their specific operational requirements.

Not living up to top billing

The company building the F-35 has made grand claims. Lockheed Martin said the plane would be far better than current aircraft — “four times more effective” in air-to-air combat, “eight times more effective” in air-to-ground combat and “three times more effective” in recognizing and suppressing an enemy’s air defenses. It would, in fact, be “ second only to the F-22 in air superiority.” In addition, the F-35 was to have better range and require less logistics support than current military aircraft. The Pentagon is still calling the F-35 “ the most affordable, lethal, supportable, and survivable aircraft ever to be used.”

But that’s not how the plane has turned out. In January 2015, mock combat testing pitted the F-35 against an F-16, one of the fighters it is slated to replace. The F-35A was flown “clean” with empty weapon bays and without any drag-inducing and heavy, externally mounted weapons or fuel tanks. The F-16D, a heavier and somewhat less capable training version of the mainstay F-16C, was further encumbered with two 370-gallon external wing-mounted fuel tanks.

In spite of its significant advantages, the F-35A’s test pilot noted that the F-35A was less maneuverable and markedly inferior to the F-16D in a visual-range dogfight.

Stealth over power

One key reason the F-35 doesn’t possess the world-beating air-to-air prowess promised, and is likely not even adequate when compared with its current potential adversaries, is that it was designed first and foremost to be a stealthy airplane. This requirement has taken precedence over maneuverability, and likely above its overall air-to-air lethality. The Pentagon and especially the Air Force seem to be relying almost exclusively on the F-35’s stealth capabilities to succeed at its missions.

Like the F-117 and F-22, the F-35’s stealth capability greatly reduces, but does not eliminate, its radar cross-section, the signal that radar receivers see bouncing back off an airplane. The plane looks smaller on radar — perhaps like a bird rather than a plane — but is not invisible. The F-35 is designed to be stealthy primarily in the X-band, the radar frequency range most commonly used for targeting in air-to-air combat.

In other radar frequencies, the F-35 is not so stealthy, making it vulnerable to being tracked and shot down using current — and even obsolete — weapons. As far back as 1999 the same type of stealth technology was not able to prevent a U.S. Air Force F-117 flying over Kosovo from being located, tracked and shot down using an outdated Soviet radar and surface-to-air missile system. In the nearly two decades since, that incident has been studied in depth not only by the U.S., but also by potential adversaries seeking weaknesses in passive radar stealth aircraft.

Of course, radar is not the only way to locate and target an aircraft. One can also use an aircraft’s infrared emissions, which are created by friction-generated heat as it flies through the air, along with its hot engines. Several nations, particularly the Russians, have excellent passive infrared search and tracking systems that can locate and target enemy aircraft with great precision — sometimes using lasers to measure exact distances, but without needing radar.

It’s also very common in air-to-air battles for opposing planes to come close enough that their pilots can see each other. The F-35 is as visible as any other aircraft its size.

Analysts weigh in

Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon say the F-35’s superiority over its rivals lies in its ability to remain undetected, giving it “ first look, first shot, first kill.” Hugh Harkins, a highly respected author on military combat aircraft, called that claim “a marketing and publicity gimmick” in his book on Russia’s Sukhoi Su-35S, a potential opponent of the F-35. “In real terms an aircraft in the class of the F-35 cannot compete with the Su-35S for out and out performance such as speed, climb, altitude, and maneuverability,” he wrote.

Other critics have been even harsher. Pierre Sprey, a co-founding member of the so-called fighter mafia at the Pentagon and a co-designer of the F-16, calls the F-35 “inherently a terrible airplane” that is the product of “an exceptionally dumb piece of Air Force PR spin.” He has said the F-35 would likely lose a close-in combat encounter to a well-flown MiG-21, a 1950s Soviet fighter design. Robert Dorr, an Air Force veteran, career diplomat and military air combat historian, wrote in his book “Air Power Abandoned”: “The F-35 demonstrates repeatedly that it can’t live up to promises made for it. … It’s that bad.”

How did we get here?

How did the F-35 go from its conception as the most technologically advanced, do-it-all military aircraft in the world to a virtual turkey? Over the decades-long effort to meet a real military need for better aircraft, the F-35 program is the result of the merging or combination of several other separate and diverse projects into a set of requirements for an airplane that is trying to be everything to everybody.

In combat, the difference between winning and losing is often not very great. With second place all too often meaning death, the Pentagon seeks to provide warriors with the best possible equipment. The best tools are those that are tailor-made to address specific missions and types of combat. Seeking to accomplish more tasks with less money, defense planners looked for ways to economize.

For a fighter airplane, funding decisions become a balancing act of procuring not just the best aircraft possible, but enough of them to make an effective force. This has lead to the creation of so-called multi-role fighter aircraft, capable both in air-to-air combat and against ground targets. Where trade-offs have to happen, designers of most multi-role fighters emphasize aerial combat strength, reducing air-to-ground capabilities. With the F-35, it appears designers created an airplane that doesn’t do either mission exceptionally well. They have made the plane an inelegant jack-of-all-trades, but master of none — at great expense, both in the past and, apparently,  well into the future.

I believe the F-35 program should be immediately canceled; the technologies and systems developed for it should be used in more up-to-date and cost-effective aircraft designs. Specifically, the F-35 should be replaced with a series of new designs targeted toward the specific mission requirements of the individual branches of the armed forces, in lieu of a single aircraft design trying to be everything to everyone.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/what-went-wrong-with-lockheeds-f-35-commentary

This article was originally published on The Conversation .

About the Author

Image result for Michael P. Hughes is a professor of finance at Francis Marion University.

Michael P. Hughes is a professor of finance at Francis Marion University. He served more than 21 years in the U.S. Air Force. During that time, he spent more than 14 years in nuclear treaty monitoring and related activities, while the initial 7 years were in the aircraft maintenance and engineering (propulsion) arena with F-4 and F-15 aircraft.

http://departments.fmarion.edu/business/hughes-michael-p.html

National Geospatial Intelligence Agency (NGA) To Offer Data to Industry for Partnerships

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NGA Federal News Radio

NGA Headquarters – Image:  “Federal News Radio”

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“The idea: offer companies chunks of the “wonderland” of unclassified NGA data so they can use them to build new products or to test algorithms key to their products.

It’s a bold and rare move by a large and largely secretive government agency.

The top two leaders of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, Robert Cardillo and Susan Gordon, met with Anthony Vinci, now NGA’s director of plans and programs, to discuss ways to get more value from the agency’s incredibly valuable pools of data.

Using The Economist‘s description of data as the oil of today — the most valuable commodity in our economy — Vinci argued the agency must deploy it and help pay the American people back for the investment they have made in building the agency. If data is the new oil, Vinci said companies should “turn it into plastic,” adding value.

Cardillo told reporters would NGA would create a B corporation — in effect a non-profit government company — and hire an outsider to run it.

This, I think it’s fair to say, is not a slam dunk. Culturally, it will be challenging, Vinci admitted. “It’s straightforward, but it sort of breaks every rule we have in the IC (Intelligence Community).” The IC doesn’t share data and it doesn’t partner with outsiders, except for allied and friendly governments when needed.

This process may sidestep the whole process of generating a requirement for an intelligence system. “I don’t think that’s how problems can be solved any more,” Vinci said. The current system, which can be circumvented if an urgent need exists, is generally slow and restrictive, one that the Pentagon and the IC are increasingly trying to amend.

I spoke with three senior industry officials who listened to Vinci’s presentation and they were hopeful but cautious. All three said they thought the new effort could yield unexpected and useful returns on taxpayer’s investments in the data.

The biggest obstacle may be Congress. Although NGA would not be making money from the data sharing and it would not be releasing any data that could help our enemies, they would be sharing a government resource which voting taxpayers paid for and over which lawmakers have oversight. Whether the products resulting from the data would be licensed back to NGA, or allowed to generate profits for companies is all still to be determined.

“That’s part of what were trying to figure out Vinci told me,: “taxpayers paid for this data and how can we get that value back to them.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/06/nga-to-offer-data-to-industry-for-partnerships/