Category Archives: IoT

Modest Small Business Innovative Research Program (SBIR) Investments Bring Big Benefits

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Blackbox Biometrics’ Blast Gauge System

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program makes funding available to small companies to develop technologies to meet warfighting requirements and that can transition to a program of record and commercialization.

The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program is similar to SBIR, but requires the small business to formally collaborate with a research institution.

The defense industry is big, technologically complex and highly competitive. The bar for entry can be high. For small companies who think they have something new or different to offer, vying for a chance to compete can be daunting.

The cost and risk involved with science and technology and research and development to bring a new product or service to market can exceed the ability and resources of many small businesses. So special funding is available to help them develop their ideas and prove their technologies. Meanwhile, program managers and prime contractors have incentives to bring small companies to the table.

Then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Acquisition and Development Sean Stackley said in a 2015 memo that a competitive, healthy small business industrial base is vital to the long term success and affordability of the service. “Where affordability is paramount, a strategy that includes small business creates more affordable outcomes and promotes innovation and technical advancement,” he said.

Bob Smith, director of the Navy’s SBIR/STTR program, said in May 2016 that the service announces topics three times a year. It issued about 170 topics in its most recent cycle. From that it received about 2,800 proposals. It reviewed, evaluated and prioritized each one, and selected two proposals for each topic. One of the two is chosen to go forward as a Phase II project. The Navy looked at 252 Phase II proposals, and selected 137 Phase III awards to help those technologies transition.

“These might seem like low numbers, but if you talk to any venture capitalist, that’s a pretty good track record,” Smith said.

While SBIR can help small companies introduce and develop their new technologies, Smith said companies should not focus solely on winning these awards. “Do not make SBIR your only business model. It will not work.”

For Midé Technology Corp., a small business in Medford, Massachusetts, SBIR efforts have led to some surprising developments. From missile instrumentation to bulkhead shaft seals to smart wetsuits, Midé has seen SBIR grant activity evolve into further opportunities including the development of products for the military and commercial markets. One good idea has led to another.

“We know the cycles when the topics and solicitations come out from the different agencies and departments,” said Midé’s Vice President of Corporate Programs Rick Orlando. We have a process in our company that ties into their schedules. We look at the topics, and glean the ones where we have interest and are suited to submit a proposal.”

In general, Orlando said a high proportion of Midé’s R&D work is funded by SBIR funding. “It’s about 80 percent of our R&D expenditures, but that doesn’t count our product revenue.”

A small company in Melbourne, Florida, has used SBIR to match existing technology with a requirement to provide communications relay radios between unmanned systems and host platforms.

“We had the technology, but we had to find a way to militarize it. It had to handle the vibrations and temperatures, and be small enough to fit inside an unmanned aerial vehicle,” said Emilio Power of RSS Technology.

The RT 1944 U radio was developed by RSS using a Navy SBIR investment. Power says the RSS radio is now part of the littoral combat ship program, and the company’s equipment is on the ship and its off-board vehicles, such as the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aircraft.
SBIR and STTR projects require a technology transition plan, that specifies the “fiscal and transition commitment of participants in the transition stream to develop, deliver and integrate a technology/product into an acquisition program.”  It calls for a “seminal transition event,” to test the technology in a mission environment before it can be used by the warfighter.

“Our Phase III funding is allowing us to finish our software and conduct the seminal transition event, which is to do 80 MB at 30 miles. We’re getting ready to put that radio into production,” Power said.

RSS Technology is taking advantage of a related funding mechanism, the Rapid Innovation Fund, to further validate the concept. The Navy’s RIF enables participants to develop concepts and technologies to meet operational or national security needs, and invests in ways to reduce technical risk and cost.

“The SBIR program is fantastic,” Power said. “But one has to know how to work it. There is only a certain amount of money. But that investment can make the difference between an idea and a reality.”

Powers understands the importance and value of working with big companies. But being smaller is an advantage. “A lot of the big guys have tried doing some of these projects, but it takes a long time. A small company can act and react faster.”

Janet Hughes with Robotic Research of Gaithersburg, Maryland, said her company has participated in SBIRs for a number of agencies, such as the Army, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.

“We’ve had success moving to Phase II and III by working closely with the TPOCs (technical points of contact),” Hughes said. “We’ve taken technologies developed through one agency’s SBIR program and transitioned them into other agencies.

“Today we use SBIR funding almost exclusively for our research and development,” added Hughes.

Rochester, New York-based BlackBox Biometrics (B3), has been selling the Blast Gauge System, a small, wearable sensor that can detect and measure overpressure from explosions such as artillery or bombs, that can cause brain injuries. According to B3’s Scott Featherman, the Blast Gauge technology was first developed with DARPA, and was adopted by the Army. Now, because of a SBIR from the Marine Corps Systems Command, BlackBox has demonstrated the effectiveness of the technology to the service.

“We’re completing our Phase II now and getting ready to enter Phase III, and begin commercial sales,” Featherman said.

Once a company wins a Phase II SBIR award, the Navy SBIR program offers a course to the company to learn how to create a business plan and navigate the complex Defense Department business structure. This is called the SBIR/STTR Transition Program (STP).

A good percentage of NAVSEA’s SBIR companies participate in the program, Smith said. “We teach them how to be a success. That’s what STP does; we foster the relationship between the Navy and the company and teach these companies how to transition their technology.”

“Our naval acquisition community considers SBIR/STTR part of the solution for delivering quality innovation to our warfighters — quickly and cost-effectively,” said Smith. “The Navy cares about our small businesses, and we care about them succeeding.”

Tad Dickenson, Raytheon’s director of the company’s SPY-6(V) Air and Missile Defense Radar program, said Raytheon has some big reasons why it embraces small business. “Small companies offer more diverse input, and help us to think like a smaller company.”

Raytheon has developed the radar with open architecture to be flexible.  “There’s nothing proprietary, and any-sized company can be involved in the program. In fact, we can insert different algorithms for the same function next to each other to see which works best. We can select one, or both. And we can easily put in new functionality, or replace something with a better version.”

Raytheon’s SBIR teammates bring important attributes to a project, Dickenson said, because they are lean and agile, and can produce results quickly at a lower cost. “Their ideas evolve very quickly, and we can leverage that innovation. That adds up to better capability, performance and affordability for the Navy.”

Dickenson said the SBIR program creates win-win-win situations that benefit the Navy, Raytheon and the small businesses. “We look to nurture these relationships. We learn a lot from our small business partners, and we think we can offer them a mentorship relationship with our experience and expertise.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2017/4/5/modest-sbir-investments-bring-big-benefits

AI Chip Saved Google From Building a Dozen New Data Centers

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Image:  Google –  server racks loaded with TPU’s

“WIRED”

“GOOGLE OPERATES WHAT is surely the largest computer network on Earth, a system that comprises custom-built, warehouse-sized data centers spanning 15 locations in four continents.

Rather than double its data center footprint, Google instead built its own computer chip specifically for running deep neural networks, called the Tensor Processing Unit, or TPU.

“It makes sense to have a solution there that is much more energy efficient,” says Norm Jouppi, one of the more than 70 engineers who worked on the chip. In fact, the TPU outperforms standard processors by 30 to 80 times in the TOPS/Watt measure, a metric of efficiency.

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A Neural Network Niche

Google first revealed this custom processor last May, but gave few details. Now, Jouppi and the rest of his team have a released a paper detailing the project, explaining how the chip operates and the particular problems it solves. Google uses the chip solely for executing neural networks, running them the moment when, say, someone barks a command into their Android phone. It’s not used to train the neural network beforehand. But as Jouppi explains, even that still saves the company quite a bit. It didn’t have to build, say, an e

The chip also represents a much larger shift in the world of computer processors. As Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and other internet giants build more and more services using deep neural networks, they’ve all needed specialized chips both for training and executing these AI models. Most companies train their models using GPUs, chips that were originally designed for rendering graphics for games and other highly visual applications but are also suited to the kind of math at the heart of neural networks. And some, including Microsoft and Baidu, the Chinese internet giant, use alternative chips when executing these models as well, much as Google does with the TPU.

The difference is that Google built its own chip from scratch. As a way of reducing the cost and improving the efficiency of its vast online empire, the company builds much of its own data center hardware, including servers and networking gear. Now, it has pushed this work all the way down to individual processors.

In the process, it has also shifted the larger market for chips. Since Google designs its own, for instance, it’s not buying other processors to accommodate the extra load from neural networks. Google going in-house even for specialized tasks has wide implications; like Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft, it’s among the biggest chip buyers on Earth. Meanwhile the big chip makers—including, most notably, Intel—are building a new breed of processor in an effort to move the market back in their direction.

Focused But Versatile

Jouppi joined Google in late 2013 to work on what became the TPU, after serving as a hardware researcher at places like HP and DEC, a kind of breeding ground for many of Google’s top hardware designers. He says the company considered moving its neural networks onto FPGAs, the kind of programmable chip that Microsoft uses. That route wouldn’t have taken as long, and the adaptability of FPGAs means the company could reprogram the chips for other tasks as needed. But tests indicated that these chips wouldn’t provide the necessary speed boost. “There’s a lot overhead with programmable chips,” he explains. “Our analysis showed that an FPGA wouldn’t be any faster than a GPU.”

In the end, the team settled on an ASIC, a chip built from the ground up for a particular task. According to Jouppi, because Google designed the chip specifically for neural nets, it can run them 15 to 30 times faster than general purpose chips built with similar manufacturing techniques. That said, the chip is suited to any breed of neural network—at least as they exist today—including everything from the convolutional neural networks used in image recognition to the long-short-term-memory network used to recognize voice commands. “It’s not wired to one model,” he says.

Google has used the TPU for a good two years, applying it to everything from image recognition to machine translationto AlphaGo, the machine that cracked the ancient game of Go last spring. Not bad—especially considering all the data construction it helped avoid in the process.”

https://www.wired.com/2017/04/building-ai-chip-saved-google-building-dozen-new-data-centers/

 

 

 

Android Devices Can Be Fatally Hacked by Malicious Wi-Fi Networks

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Image: Samsung

“ARS TECHNICA”

“A broad array of Android phones are vulnerable to attacks that use booby-trapped Wi-Fi signals to achieve full device takeover, a researcher has demonstrated.

The vulnerability resides in a widely used Wi-Fi chipset manufactured by Broadcom and used in both iOS and Android devices.

Apple patched the vulnerability with Monday’s release of iOS 10.3.1. “An attacker within range may be able to execute arbitrary code on the Wi-Fi chip,” Apple’s accompanying advisory warned. In a highly detailed blog post published Tuesday, the Google Project Zero researcher who discovered the flaw said it allowed the execution of malicious code on a fully updated 6P “by Wi-Fi proximity alone, requiring no user interaction.”

Google is in the process of releasing an update in its April security bulletin. The fix is available only to a select number of device models, and even then it can take two weeks or more to be available as an over-the-air update to those who are eligible. Company representatives didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment for this post.

The proof-of-concept exploit developed by Project Zero researcher Gal Beniamini uses Wi-Fi frames that contain irregular values. The values, in turn, cause the firmware running on Broadcom’s wireless system-on-chip to overflow its stack. By using the frames to target timers responsible for carrying out regularly occurring events such as performing scans for adjacent networks, Beniamini managed to overwrite specific regions of device memory with arbitrary shellcode. Beniamini’s code does nothing more than write a benign value to a specific memory address. Attackers could obviously exploit the same series of flaws to surreptitiously execute malicious code on vulnerable devices within range of a rogue access point.

Basic mitigations missing

Besides the specific stack overflow bugs exploited by the proof-of-concept attack, Beniamini said a lack of security protections built into many software and hardware platforms made the Broadcom chipset a prime target.

“We’ve seen that while the firmware implementation on the Wi-Fi SoC is incredibly complex, it still lags behind in terms of security,” he wrote. “Specifically, it lacks all basic exploit mitigations—including stack cookies, safe unlinking and access permission protection (by means of [a memory protection unit.])”

The Broadcom chipset contains an MPU, but the researcher found that it’s implemented in a way that effectively makes all memory readable, writeable, and executable. “This saves us some hassle,” he wrote. “We can conveniently execute our code directly from the heap.” He said that Broadcom has informed him that newer versions of the chipset implement the MPU more effectively and also add unspecified additional security mechanisms.

Given the severity of the vulnerability, people with affected devices should install a patch as soon as it’s available. For those with vulnerable iPhones, that’s easy enough. As is all too often the case for Android users, there’s no easy way to get a fix immediately, if at all. That’s because Google continues to stagger the release of its monthly patch bundle for the minority of devices that are eligible to receive it.

At the moment, it’s not clear if there are effective workarounds available for vulnerable devices. Turning off Wi-Fi is one possibility, but as revealed in recent research into an unrelated Wi-Fi-related weakness involving Android phones, devices often relay Wi-Fi frames even when Wi-Fi is turned off. This post will be updated if word of a better workaround emerges.”

https://arstechnica.com/security/2017/04/wide-range-of-android-phones-vulnerable-to-device-hijacks-over-wi-fi/

 

Military Contract Manufacturing There When You Need It

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Electronic Contracting

“MILITARY AND AEROSPACE ELECTRONICS”

“The nation’s prime defense contractors often find themselves with too many orders to handle with in-house expertise.

That’s where electronics contract manufacturing comes in.

With the rapid expansion of high-tech military equipment and componentry, thousands of small specialty manufacturers have come into being, with the initial big boost during with the Space Race of the 1960s.

Throughout that period – and with even greater frequency since the turn of the century – contract manufacturing of military electronics grew into a major industry in its own right. Working primarily for systems integrators, contract manufacturers typically focus on specific areas, such as machining; mechanical and electrical assemblies; power systems; lasers; optics; sensors; robotics; vehicular controls; RF systems; satellite instrumentation; environmental stress screening; G-force testing; and electronic circuit card assembly.

“In the last 10 years, if you look at industry consolidation, that tends to support systems integration, which intuitively should mean more contract manufacturing,” says Matt Turpin, CEO of contract manufacturer Zentech Manufacturing Inc. in Windsor Mill, Md. “Given the peaks and troughs of the mil-aero business, any company that tried to stay vertically integrated would probably die. Given the rate of technology change, vertical integration would not, in general, be able to keep up.”

The role of industry consolidation

This is the primary reason that big systems integrators like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and L-3 rely on best-in-breed contract manufacturing,” Turpin says. “The economics don’t really support them trying to do it all in-house. If you try to bring in that capability for just your stuff, you can’t even out the troughs in mil-aero the way an independent contract manufacturer can.”

Contract manufacturing of military electronics is significantly different from the model in use in many other industries, where the contract manufacturer produces complete products under the contractor’s brand.

In the military market, the contract manufacturer may produce unique components designed by the contractor or provide its own designs, developments, prototyping and modeling, assemblies, fabrication, tooling, manufacturing, qualification testing, procurement, and logistics services to meet the contractor’s requirements.

Representative of that is Jabil Circuit Inc. in St. Petersburg, Fla. With $18 billion in annual revenues, Jabil is the third largest contract manufacturer in the world – behind Taiwan’s Hon Hai Precision Industry (Foxconn) and Singapore’s Flextronics International Ltd.

Trailing closely behind Jabil in size are U.S. contract manufacturers Sanmina Corp. in San Jose, Calif.; Benchmark Electronics Inc. in Angleton, Texas; and Plexus Corp. in Neenah, Wis.

Jabil promotes its second largest division, Defense and Aerospace, as providing a skilled workforce for aerospace and defense manufacturing, design, and supply chain management for high-mix, low- to medium-volume products and electronic and mechanical solutions to complement original equipment manufacturers’ core competencies and reduce program costs.

“Systems integrators are still doing a lot of work in-house, but are outsourcing more each year, although the increase is not that great,” says Mike Matthes, president of the Jabil Aerospace and Defense division.

Demonstrating Value

“We have to provide a value proposition to show it is more advantageous to outsource electronics manufacturing than to keep it in-house, which allows them to focus more on their strategic plans and not worry about the actual manufacturing,” Matthes says. “Jabil is moving into a new capability – aerospace machining – and entering into agreements to provide that to defense and civilian companies.” Contract manufacturers also have to grow their capabilities to retain that value, he points out.

“We do electronic manufacturing and systems integration, but not the machining portion,” Matthes continues. “At Jabil Green Point, our largest division, we do machining, mostly in China, but not for aerospace. It’s not an easy capability to master and we’re working with our customers to develop and launch that. Some of that will be based in the U.S., other parts in Asia. Military contracting would have to be done in the U.S., including a new facility. Almost everything we have at this time is commercial aerospace, but we will be working toward that.”

Jabil’s high volume of non-military contract manufacturing is fairly common among the larger contract manufacturers, much of it for overseas customers, although many of the smaller companies have focused their efforts tightly on items in demand by U.S. military contractors. While the vast majority of such contracts are with industry, some contract manufacturers do have direct contracts with the military services and the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD).

“It’s a combination,” says Zentech’s Turpin. “We have two divisions, one with a long history of direct contracts, primarily with the Navy. The other does fewer direct contacts, but in the last five years contracts with the Army at Aberdeen Proving Ground and a blanket purchase agreement with the Navy have increased. But most are with industry,” he says.

“For us, the U.S. government – and certainly DOD – are huge customers with lots of opportunity, predominantly subcontract work for primes, especially as we come out of sequestration, where defense dollars really did shrink a lot,” adds Jabil’s Matthes. “As we move forward under the new administration, there certainly are possibilities for increased defense spending.”

Prime defense contractors are reluctant to surrender their manufacturing capabilities to contract manufacturers.

“The primes have their own manufacturing and to move it out they would have to cut jobs and close factories, which is never palatable for anyone,” Matthes says. “And moving jobs and changing the labor landscape is never popular, even if the work remains in the U.S. It does become popular when the benefits outweigh concerns, so our job is to show where that value is.”

Industry diversity

U.S. military electronics contract manufacturers come in all sizes, representing the full gamut of needs from systems prime contractors and, to a lesser extent, the military services themselves. By focusing their efforts and investments in specialty technologies and workers, they can make themselves too valuable to the defense industry at large to be taken in-house by individual companies.

Representatives of that diversity include: NEO Tech in Chatsworth, Calif., with a focus on advanced IP protections systems, anti-counterfeit protection, and upgrading or replacing out-of-date legacy systems for its aerospace and defense customers.

“The obsolescence of electronic components is a serious challenge in the aerospace and defense markets. Many of the ICs designed into systems have shorter life cycles than the end products in these markets,” according to a company document. “NEO Tech has implemented a supply- chain design for the industry that can support long product life cycles. NEO Tech Obsolescence Mitigation helps customers through the obsolescence process so disruption to ongoing programs is mitigated.”

Many contract manufacturers also are prime contractors themselves, typically on smaller systems for the military services.

One such is Sparton Corp. in De Leon Springs, Fla., which focuses on specialized technologies like embedded systems, RF, lasers, optics, sensors, and robotics for uses as varied as undersea warfare to cockpit controls to satellite communications, as well as aerospace and military printed circuit board assemblies.

Sypris Electronics in Tampa, Fla., a division of Sypris Solutions in Louisville, Ky., offers complete electronic manufacturing services (EMS) from circuit card assemblies to complex box builds and systems integration. Their approach is based on a Lean/Six Sigma, continuous improvement culture cultivated through internal investments.

TeligentEMS LLC in Havana, Fla., another ITAR and ISO 9001 registered contract manufacturer, offers product manufacturing services in a wide range of technologies, including unattended ground sensors, GPS tracking devices, spread spectrum transceivers, and handheld communication devices. The company promotes its capabilities in “technically complex defense projects, combined with strong configuration management capabilities and organizational flexibility.”

Specializing in electronic, electro-mechanical, and electro-optical equipment, the engineering group at TRICOR Systems Inc. in Elgin, Ill., develops complete packages for their customers, from concept to operating manuals. That has included a broad array of products, under contract and for sale directly by TRICOR, from extremely complex to simple test equipment, hardware and software simulators, illuminator systems, and airborne black boxes.

Steady work flow

Commercial and non-military government contracts provide the ability to “even-out the troughs” as defense spending changes from year to year and administration to administration. Homeland security, for example, has grown significantly as a market in which contract manufacturers can find customers and is expected to continue to grow for the foreseeable future. That also applies – primarily in the U.S. – to investments in cyber-related hardware and chem/bio-detection equipment. Globally, industry experts say there has been a stated focus on improving commercial air fleets.

The resulting increased demand for contract manufacturers has led not only to growing competition but also to closer industry oversight.

“For existing EMS companies, if there is more demand for military equipment, most U.S.-built, there will be an uptick of military assembly work in the U.S., but it also is likely to incentivize people to get into the market, either through acquisitions or expansion,” says Zentech’s Turpin. “To an outsider looking in, military electronics may seem pretty simple, but hiring and maintaining a skilled workforce, and maintaining a balance through the peaks and troughs is a different story.”

About three years ago, industry standards group IPC – Association Connecting Electronics Industries in Bannockburn, Ill., came up with a list of trusted sources. “Competition to receive that is brutal,” Turpin says.

IPC describes its origin and purpose on its website: “IPC Validation Services was created to answer a recognized need identified in an industry survey – 75 percent of responding engineers and executive management from OEMs, EMS providers, and industry suppliers viewed a supplier qualification program as vital to their business. For EMS providers and industry suppliers, IPC Validation Services provides the opportunity to become part of a network of trusted sources that industry will look to first and foremost when evaluating existing and potential business partners.

“Participating EMS providers and supplier companies will be audited by IPC Validation Services – the authoritative, objective source for quality conformance and data reporting – to earn certification through the Qualified Products List (QPL) and Qualified Manufacturers List (QML) programs. Once certification is achieved, EMS companies and industry suppliers earn the right to a high level of visibility throughout the industry,” the IPC description reads.

Disruptive technologies

Industry leaders largely agree that coming disruptive technologies, including further advances in miniaturization and evolution of the Internet of Things, also will change the world of electronics contract manufacturing.

“There are many disruptive technologies being developed right now, but nobody knows which ones will actually displace an existing technology in a way that is efficient and effective in meeting military SWaP [size, weight and power] requirements or commercial requirements for quality. Everything active will be disrupted by such things as nanotech, nanostructures, new fabrication techniques other than 3D printing – which itself is changing so fast, making prototyping faster and less expensive, for example,” Zentech’s Turpin says.

“Quantum computing is another that will change everything in the future, if and when they get it nailed down – how manufacturing and product development are done,” Turpin continues. “As relates to EMS companies, all that further underscores and exacerbates the issues surrounding capital investment. These technologies are not cheap and it doesn’t make sense for a prime to invest in such technologies with only relatively small production requirements.”

As more new and disruptive technologies come out, it will be incumbent on the primes to determine which EMS companies have the right people and equipment to build their products and properly use those technologies. Those in charge of contracting complex, high-reliability, military and aerospace assemblies will have to place even more emphasis on who is building those components by fully understanding the problems, challenges, and risks involved.

“If you use the wrong electronics contract manufacturer, no matter how good they may be, if they don’t have the right people or equipment, you could end up killing your own business,” Turpin warns.

Jabil’s Matthes agrees, but does not believe such new developments constitute an immediate concern for military electronics contract manufacturing.

“I see disruptive technologies that will take hold, but not in the short term,” Turpin says. “When you have a force out there fighting, if you are going to change the equipment they are using, you will have to do a lot of testing before making that move, which could take years. It could be a long time before it finds its way into the field to any large extent,” he predicts.

“So in the next few years, I don’t think disruptive tech will be a big changer; it will be more policy, funding, and outsourcing strategies from the primes,” Turpin says. “The big technology trends are going to make their way in, but will require a lot of time to mature and meet pretty stringent reliability and operating requirements. So while those will slowly become part of it, they will be slower to adoption than on the commercial side.”

Government and industry policies

For the military, then, technology changes will not be as important to contract manufacturing as new government policies, especially given the anticipated changes of the new Trump Administration. That also applies to changes in how the military does business, moving more toward autonomous systems, major improvements in battery technology, and overall energy requirements and technologies, with the commercial sector leading the way. Continuing advances in materials science also will shape that future.

Regardless of how quickly new technologies and new demands on contract manufacturing develop, they are on the horizon and primes and contract manufacturers will have to prepare themselves for them.

“Wherever there is change, there is opportunity; it just depends on how well you are positioned to take advantage of it, especially in areas in which you are investing,” says Jabil’s Matthes. “The trick is to invest in the right technologies at the right time.” Jabil’s size will be an advantage that will enable company executives to make strategic decisions rather than betting the company. “The more resources you have, the easier it is to fund that type of research and development.

“We are a Fortune 150 company, about $18 billion in annual revenue and 180,000 employees worldwide,” Matthes says. “That can be an advantage in having a breadth of resources and capabilities, but it can be a disadvantage if a customer fears we’re so large, their work might get lost. But divisionalizing our business units and keeping each customer with its own business unit manager makes the connection much more intimate and gives the feel of a smaller, more nimble company.”

For the next decade, Zentech’s Turpin sees a future depending on increased investment in manufacturing technologies for the military electronics market, in the U.S. and abroad.

“I would love to say increased profitability will mark the decade, but I say that tongue-in-cheek due to the continuing peaks and troughs in mil-aero. Nevertheless, the promise of increased military spending should be good for business,” Turpin says. “Other changes for contract manufacturing to stay in business, especially on the mil-aero side, will mean more new investments in capital equipment. When new technology comes out, you need equipment to work it and inspect it in order to compete.”

While all military electronics contract manufacturing must be done by U.S. companies at plants in the United States, successful competition for customers – primarily commercial – around the world is important to the ability of contract manufacturers to maintain a steady level of business and invest in the appropriate technologies and expertise.

Domestic manufacturing

In one of the first efforts to support advanced domestic manufacturing technologies, the U.S. Congress approved the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act in 2014. It was designed to use federal and private matching funds to create an initial network of as many as 15 institutes around the country, pursuing areas of greatest interest to industry.

The resulting National Network for Manufacturing Innovation, renamed Manufacturing USA in 2016, established nine institutes in its first years of operation, with another six planned for 2017. The long-term goal is for as many as 45 public-private partnerships, each with its own technology focus area, but working toward a common goal, to secure America’s technological future through manufacturing innovation, education, and collaboration.

Seen as a major boost for prime and contract manufacturers, the Manufacturing USA network is operated by the inter-agency Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office (AMNPO), headquartered in the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the Department of Commerce. The office is staffed by representatives from federal agencies with manufacturing-related missions, as well as fellows from manufacturing companies and universities, all working with DOD, NASA, the National Science Foundation, and the departments of Energy, Education, and Agriculture.

As it has grown and adjusted to continuing rapid changes in technologies, manufacturing processes, and market demand, but the organization says it has not changed its overarching mission:

  • “to convene and enable industry-led, private-public partnerships focused on manufacturing innovation and engaging U.S. universities; and
  • “to design and implement an integrated whole-of-government advanced manufacturing initiative to facilitate collaboration and information sharing across federal agencies.

“By coordinating federal resources and programs, the AMNPO enhances technology transfer in U.S. manufacturing industries and helps companies overcome technical obstacles to scale up new technologies and products.”

Turpin describes it as the best effort to date to help contract manufacturers, primes, and the military maintain the nation’s technological lead.

Manufacturing goals

“At a macro level, the U.S. does a lot of things extremely well, but one thing it has not done well is have a national manufacturing strategy. Other countries have a very defined national strategy to embrace, enhance, and grow advanced manufacturing in their nations,” Turpin explains.

“The IPC was very active in lobbying Congress to set up the RAMI Act. The advanced manufacturing centers being created throughout the country to focus on building up the next generation of manufacturing in the U.S. should help the military and commercial worlds.”

In a strategic plan for Manufac-turing USA issued in February 2016, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker noted that manufacturing “innovation is the lifeblood of our economy, supporting one-third of our economic growth,” from the largest defense and commercial companies to the smallest contract manufacturers and suppliers. “Having a cutting-edge manufacturing sector that remains a step ahead of the global competition is not simply nice to have, it is a ‘must have’ for our country to thrive, now and in the future,” she wrote. “In today’s advanced manufacturing industries – those that make the highest-value goods, pay the highest wages, and export all over the world – product and process innovation are two sides of the same coin. Inventing, designing, making, and improving happen in concert, which requires a collaborative environment that brings together researchers and companies throughout the supply chain.

“America has all the essential ingredients to form innovation ecosystems, including universities and government labs that excel at basic science and technology research, top-flight original equipment manufacturers, capable suppliers, enterprising start-ups, and a new generation of workers,” Pritzker wrote. “The NNMI Program assembles our diverse competitive assets – the people, organizations, and resources – necessary for the United States to stay at the head of the pack in the global race to out-innovate – and out-produce – the competition… [laying] the foundation for American manufacturing competitiveness for generations to come.”

http://www.militaryaerospace.com/search.html?q=Contract+manufacturing%253A+there+when+you+need+it&x=13&y=1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pentagon Networks of Expendable Platforms

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Photo: DARPA’s swarming concept (DARPA)

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“Teams of lower-cost, unmanned systems that don’t need to return from battle will be critical for future warfighting, the head of the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office said March 28.

Potential adversaries are developing new military technologies that are putting expensive U.S. military platforms and personnel at greater risk, William Roper noted at an Air Force Association conference in Arlington, Virginia.

“Increasingly we’re going to ask our designers, including those in industry, to help us shift all of the dangerous jobs in combat — as many of them as we can do in an ethical way — to machines that can take the brunt of at least that initial edge of conflict so that … we have the maximum number of our operators returning home safely,” he said.

Much of the technology required already exists, he said.

The Strategic Capabilities Office, also known as the SCO, has partnered with Defense Department research laboratories and other organizations on a number of projects along these lines.

One, called Perdix, demonstrated the ability of a fighter jet to launch a swarm of autonomous drones capable of performing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Another, called Avatar, is a robotic “wingman” concept that would pair unmanned aircraft with a manned fighter. Doing so would reduce the number of pilots in harm’s way. The SCO is working on a similar concept for the Army, Roper said.

The office also has a program aimed at creating “a ghost fleet of expendable boats” that could team with U.S. Navy vessels, he said.

These types of systems offer an advantage over most of today’s platforms, he noted.

“All the things we build are expensive, and if they take off it’s our expectation that they come home and land,” he said. “That hasn’t been an issue until now” when there is greater concern about fighting advanced adversaries.

Requiring a high level of survivability is a huge constraint for system designers and operational planners, Roper said. Manned platforms have to be protected and refueled. They also require more maintenance and sustainment. That translates to higher costs for the Defense Department, he added.

Using relatively low-priced robotic systems to perform high-risk missions would provide greater operational flexibility and lower the costs of a loss or mishap, he said.

“There’s a reason why we don’t take fine china and crystal to have picnics anymore,” he said. “Once you’ve used paper plates and Dixie cups, you’re not coming back from that. It makes it a completely different experience. We haven’t had that equivalent in the military.”

Advances in autonomy, teaming technologies, artificial intelligence and machine learning are enabling a greater reliance on robots, Roper noted.

“I think you’re going to see that more and more,” he said.  “Making a team of things perform a function that only an expensive thing would have done in the past.”

Despite these advances, humans will not be completely cut out of the loop. Nor will the Pentagon cease to buy high-ticket equipment, Roper said. But the role of high-priced, manned platforms could change.

“What I think … our high-end tactical systems will become is less weapon-slingers and they’ll become more like command hubs,” he said.

Roper likened the human warfighter of the future to an NFL quarterback running an offense. “They’re the ones that call the audibles … and it’s the team [of robots] that runs the play that has been picked,” he said.

This manned-unmanned teaming concept is driving much of what the Strategic Capabilities Office is working on, he said.

While machines are becoming smarter and more capable, they still have limitations, he noted. “Autonomy is very good at making brute force elegant,” Roper said. “But it’s very difficult for it to make strategic choices especially outside of the data set on which it’s built.”

Machines are more likely to fail when presented with a decision that they haven’t been programmed to make, he said.

“What that tells me is that I’m going to need people connected to the machine to help make choices when it’s that thing that hasn’t been seen before,” he said. “People are great at …  quickly being able to think strategically [and] get down to action in a way that’s cognizant of the risks that are being taken.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2465

Veterans Administration Wants Veteran-Owned Businesses Offering Cyber Security Services

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“FIFTH DOMAIN CYBER”

“The Department of Veterans Affairs is exploring the availability of verified service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses and veteran-owned small businesses that are capable of providing enterprise network defense support

The VA Technology Acquisition Center seeks interested parties that could perform key functions to support overall VA information security and privacy.

In a request for information posted to FedBizOpps on March 22, the VA Technology Acquisition Center seeks interested parties that could perform key functions to support overall VA information security and privacy postures; align VA security and privacy policies with federal guidelines and best practices; enable VA business processes through security integration; and promote a secure environment for employees and contractors.

Services expected would include project management, reporting and data calls, threat intelligence, security analysis, deep dive analysis, forensic analysis, security configuration services and research and development. 

Responses are due to George Govich at George.govich@va.gov no later than 12 p.m. EST on Friday, March 31.

The entire RFI (and the required summaries and performance of work statement for interested contractors) can be found on FBO.gov.”

http://fifthdomain.com/2017/03/27/va-wants-info-on-vets-offering-cybersecurity-services/

 

How Russian Hackers Will Attack the US Next

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Russia Hack the hackers

RZOZE19/SHUTTERSTOCK.COM

DEFENSE ONE”

“The U.S. needs to be planning now how it will respond.

The question is not if Russia will conduct another major cyberattack on the U.S., but when.

Russia has been the subject of much American press speculation this spring, as questions and suspicions swirl regarding its involvement in alleged hacks during the U.S. presidential election. While the details of these specific attacks remain unclear, what is clear is the danger posed by the superpower’s well-established hacking prowess.

As such, America needs to be planning now how it will respond. In 2015, cyberthreat firm FireEye alleged Russian nexus-hackers had caused power and energy outages across Ukraine, impacting thousands of citizens. No other country has been so publicly accused of conducting a cyber-to-conventional attack (a cyberattack with visible, physical consequences). Russia leadership has also publicly prioritized its information warfare and cyberweapons. “Information is now a species of weapon,” wrote Russian major general Ivan Vorobvev in 2013.

As proven by the alleged hacking activities this U.S. presidential election, the fear of information warfare is very real. However, the US must also remain vigilant about cyber-to-conventional attacks; many of our critical infrastructure networks are littered with vulnerabilities, and consumer technology is moving more and more citizens into the line of battle.

Because cybertools have become so accessible, it’s unlikely even a limitless defense budget could stop every attack. With this in mind, response must be the key priority. Based on my qualitative analysis of Russia’s previous military motives, strategies and tools, any Russian attempt to exploit US cybervulnerabilities will most likely target the US’s communications and IT critical infrastructure.

Intensifying the Fog of War

Russia is unlikely to target other industries for a number of reasons. Historically, it has avoided attacks that could trigger a full-scale military response, preferring to intensify the fog of war and cause maximum confusion. Within this strategy, Russia is unlikely to target such important U.S. sectors as chemical, nuclear, public health, energy, or defense industries. Russia is also unlikely to seriously attack the U.S. financial, agriculture, or manufacturing industries, which could anger U.S. allies and damage Russia’s growing role in the global economy.

But attacks on communications and IT infrastructure could take several forms.

Targeting alert systems would prevent U.S. monitoring systems from catching intrusions fast enough. This could in turn precede tactics with more immediate conventional consequences. As an example, conducting denial-of-service attacks against central IT networks could cripple government operations, disrupting service for thousands of phone customers or severing internet access for millions of consumers. If timed well, a communications attack during wartime could disrupt national emergency alert services. This includes 911 networks and emergency broadcast stations. During a national disaster, this would have devastating consequences.

Russia could also target physical parts of national infrastructure managed (and defended) by private companies, including fuel centers, power sources, and trucks that transport IT components. These industries also rely heavily on the internet of things, with vulnerabilities in cloud and mobile computing.

The U.S. is certainly aware of these risks. Following the 2013 National Infrastructure Protection Plan, national leaders assessed all critical infrastructure for vulnerabilities, and proposed defensive plans. As a result, industry departments have started performing a number of routine checks, including information sharing, monitoring, and backing up essential information.

However, budgetary gaps remain a huge problem. The Obama administration asked for only $19 billion (yet to be received) for its 2017 Cyber Security Budget. While the Trump administration has included huge proposed increases for cybersecurity investment in its 2017 budget (including $61 million for the FBI to combat criminal encryption tools), the private sector spent approximately $80 billion on cybersecurity five years ago. Of note, none of these federal government cybersecurity budgets were, or have been, approved.

Hacking the Hackers

As a result of these budget constraints and realities, it’s crucial the U.S. focus its efforts strategically. As a minimal option, the U.S. could respond to a Russian cyberattack by conducting simple cyberintrusions against Russian internet networks, government websites, and communications services, causing disruptions and damaging Russia’s security credibility. For example, using National Security Agency’s TreasureMap tool, which tracks all global connections to the internet, the U.S. could also place malware in these networks for future intelligence gathering.

A more aggressive response would involve conducting operations against Russia’s own critical infrastructure networks. By inserting logic bombs into Russian networks (tools that self-destruct once within systems), the U.S. could potentially damage the Russian economy. These same tools can be leveraged to cause even more damage if used to target dams, air traffic control towers or other infrastructure. Such actions would send a grave message, but the risk of escalation would be higher as well.

The most aggressive response would involve directly attacking Russian military targets by shutting off power at a nuclear facility or an airfield. Many Russian industrial networks run on Windows XP, a very old system, while remaining connected to the internet. Not only are these systems extremely vulnerable to attack, the U.S. has already shown it has the ability to do so. In November 2016, the U.S. reportedly penetrated Russian military systems and left behind malware, to be activated in the case of Russian interference of U.S. elections.

The problem with these cyberattacks is that the potential for counter attacks is infinite. Russia attacks the U.S. communications grid. The U.S. does the same. And on it would go, potentially until a physical war was started.

In 2016, Christopher Painter, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for cyber issues, said “cyber activities may in certain circumstances constitute an armed attack that triggers our inherent right to self-defense as recognized by Article 51 of the UN Charter.” This means the U.S. could legally respond to a Russian cyberattack with conventional military forces, in an effort to deter Russia from escalating further.

But ultimately, there’s a reason the Obama administration referred to the plethora of powerful U.S. and Russian cybercapabilities as a digital arms race. The cycle is perhaps best described as an endless series of advantages, with Russia and the U.S. continuing to make each other more and more uncomfortable. And now Trump’s administration will need to figure out just how uncomfortable he is willing to get.”

http://www.defenseone.com/threats/2017/03/how-russian-hackers-will-attack-us-next/136469/?oref=d-river&&&utm_term=Editorial%20-%20Early%20Bird%20Brief

New Army Unit -The Multi-Domain Task Force

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Army Multiple Domain Master Sgt Baumgartner, Air Force

Image: Master Sgt Baumgartner, Air Force

“The Army is creating an experimental combat unit to develop new tactics for lethally fast-paced future battlefields.

While small, it will have capabilities not found in the building block of today’s Army, the 4,000-strong brigade.

The Multi-Domain Task Force will be “a relatively small organization…1,500 or so troops,” the Army Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley, told the Future of Warfare conference here this morning.  “That organization will be capable of space, cyber, maritime, air, and ground warfare,” he said, extending its reach into all domains of military operations to support the Air Force, Navy, and Marines.

“It’s got a bunch of capabilities, and that’s what we’re going to play with to figure out what’s the right mix,” Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, the deputy chief of staff for operations (G-3/5/7), told reporters at last week’s Association of the US Army conference. “It’s got some aviation. It’s got some maneuver. It’s got signal. It’s got cyber.” In English, that means it has helicopters, infantry and/or tanks, communications troops, and technical troops to protect (and perhaps attack) computer networks. By contrast, a typical Army brigade today, a much larger formation, has maneuver and signal, but no helicopters or hackers.

The eventual goal of this experimentation may be permanent units that are so self-sufficient. The old Cold War-era Armored Cavalry Regiments had their own in-house helicopters, as well as tanks, signallers and supply to conduct reconnaissance at high speeds over large areas in the face of armed opposition. Army reformers from Doug MacGregor to H.R. McMaster, both veterans of ACRs, have seen these self-sufficient units as a potential model for future forces. The Army recently explored reviving them, but “we don’t have the stuff to build it,” in particular the helicopters, Anderson said.

“There’s still not consensus about what this thing” — the revived ACR or Reconnaissance-Strike Group — “should look like, how big it should be,” said Anderson. “That doesn’t mean we’re not going to keep striving to build that kind of capability….I think in the meantime this Multi-Domain Task Force may provide pieces, parts, of what that RSG was going to be.”

Why the drive for smaller units with a wider range of capabilities? The Army increasingly worries that big units will just be big targets. Russia and China, in particular, have developed their own smart missiles, plus the sensors to find targets and the networks to coordinate strikes. These Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) systems have the range and accuracy to potentially make wide areas of Europe and Asia — including the territory of allies like the Baltics, Poland, and South Korea — a deadly no-go zone for conventional US forces.

“There are several nations around the world who have developed very complex, very sophisticated Anti-Access/Area Denial sort of capabilities,” Milley said. “Obviously Russia and China, to a lesser extent Iran and North Korea…. That A2/AD structure is highly lethal and operating inside that structure, in large formations, will also get you killed.”

“So smaller dispersed, very agile, very nimble organizations — that are networked into other lethal systems that delivered by either air or maritime forces — will be essential to rip apart the A2/AD networks,” Milley said. “These organizations would be highly lethal, very fast, very difficult to pin down on a battlefield.”

The Army can’t maneuver this way today, emphasized Maj. Gen. Duane Gamble, the logistician heading the Europe-based 21st Theater Sustainment Command. “We don’t have the mission command capabilities that can do that. We don’t have the sustainment capabilities,” he told me at AUSA. “But where we’re getting the reps in is widely dispersed operations at the company level, sometimes at the platoon level, training with our allies, and we’re learning the vulnerabilities of our heavy formations (i.e. tank units). Their internal logistics are designed to operate in battalion sectors… So all that is informing what we need to do in the future.”

Not everyone is excited. At the AUSA conference in Huntsville, an analyst, historian and top aide to Milley’s predecessor, retired Col. David Johnson, warns we may have already overloaded Brigade Combat Team commanders with too many capabilities that once were managed by divisions or even corps. “The BCT has become the division… the focal point of just about everything. We ought to challenge that assertion,” Johnson said. “Should we keep pushing capabilities down to the BCT or relook the role of divisions and corps, and focus the brigade on the close fight?”

The head of Training & Doctrine Command (TRADOC), Gen. David Perkins answers: “You’re (still) going to have to have echelons of command that synchronize and deconflict. That won’t change — but how those responsibilities and authorities are divided may have to. A whole generation of Army leaders grew up with Airland Battle doctrine’s clear demarcations between the close fight, conducted by short-range weapons; the deep fight, conducted by Air Force strikes, attack helicopters, and ATACMS missiles; and the supposedly safe rear area.

“A lot of it was determined by range of weapons. It was determined by physics, it was determined by geography, (e.g.) here’s a bridge crossing, who’s in charge of it?” Perkins told me at AUSA. “What we’re finding with multi-domain battle (is) that construct doesn’t work…. What’s the range of cyber?…You can’t define the battlefield framework by the range and/or limit of your weapons.”

“What we tried to do with a two-dimensional construct, AirLand Battle, was impose some order on the chaos that is battle(:) I own this part of chaos, you own this part of chaos,” Perkins said. “Now… instead of trying to control chaos, we have to thrive in it.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/03/new-army-unit-to-test-tactics-meet-the-multi-domain-task-force/

 

Federal Contractors Seek Edge in Specialized Services

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Competive Edge Virtual Elves dot com

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“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”
“In the cutthroat world of government services contracting, the lowest bid generally wins the project.
That trend has driven a cadre of technically specialized firms to reposition themselves in the market so they can compete less on price and more on the value of particular skills and knowledge. 
 
This shift is especially apparent in sectors like defense, space and intelligence that depend on contractors for highly complex missions. Companies that have the technical expertise are carving out niches where they can dominate and be less vulnerable to price wars. 
 
Lynn Dugle, CEO of government services contractor Engility Inc., said the company has been moving in that direction for the past couple of years, and the plan going forward is to focus more acutely on projects that are awarded based on “best value.”
 
“We are positioning our defense business to be more like our space and intelligence businesses, where we can differentiate the work we do in higher end services and engineering,” Dugle told National Defense. 
 
Dugle is finishing up her first year as CEO of $2.1 billion Engility. The company was spun off nearly five years ago from top defense contractor L-3. In 2015 it acquired the services contractor TASC and doubled its size.
 
Engility initially sought to compete in broader categories of federal support services that are awarded to the lowest bidder in so called “lowest price technically acceptable” contracting. Over the past eight months, only 5 percent of Engility’s bids have been for LPTA contracts, Dugle said. Now almost all the company’s proposals are “best value.”
 
LPTA is widely despised by companies in the defense industry and viewed as a race to the bottom. There is now a growing consensus that LPTA contracting works for nontechnical services like maintaining government facilities or staffing mess halls. Dugle has seen the Defense Department walk back from LPTA for engineering support and other “mission support.” Defense agencies frequently found that companies selected based on LPTA were technically unqualified.
 
“The market has shifted,” Dugle said. “Customers got burned on those higher end contracts with LPTA. Competitors bid really low and then they couldn’t staff the jobs.”
 
Engility is moving to hire specialized talent to shore up its defense expertise. “We are close to naming a senior VP for defense,” she said. “We need a certain percentage of our leadership to have operated and been successful at pursuing big programs, and at best value proposal writing. That’s a different skill than competing on price for smaller projects.”
 
The shift to higher end services appears to paying off. Engility reported an $11 million loss in 2016, but that was an improvement over $235 million of red ink in 2015. The numbers are “encouraging,” said Dugle. “Four contracts we won were over $200 million. That requires getting the right people with the right experience.” Engility has submitted at least 10 bids worth over $100 million that are still in source selection.
 
“We want to be primes in large jobs,” said Dugle. The company’s government work today is 40 percent defense. Dugle predicts that share will increase. “The market itself in DoD continues to get more attractive,” she said. 
 
Like other industry executives, Dugle is bullish but cautious about the anticipated spending boost to defense and veterans programs projected by the Trump administration. Even if the increase materializes, every agency in the federal government including the Defense Department will be squeezed. A new Trump executive order requires agencies to conduct a “thorough examination” of its operations and to recommend “where money can be saved and services improved,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters. That could result in layoffs of government workers but also in cutbacks in the use of contractors.
 
The message for contractors is that “we have to be prepared to respond,” said Dugle. “We do a lot of thinking about scenarios and how we can be prepared. Services is always a challenging business. It’s not a technology play, it’s a people business.”
 
Dugle is especially optimistic about the possible privatization of parts of the Federal Aviation Administration. “We just won the largest contract with the FAA, the largest we’ve ever won, to help them modernize their systems.”
 
Trump’s budget has been widely rejected on Capitol Hill and many specifics remain unknown so Engility, like other defense firms, has been conservative in its future earnings and sales guidance to Wall Street. “It’s premature until we know the program details of the FY18 budget,” she said. “We believe we are more advantaged than disadvantaged in a Trump administration but we did not want to put that in a plan.”
 
The industry also will be watching congressional action led by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas. The committee is drafting a procurement reform bill to accompany the 2018 national defense authorization act. On the list of Thornberry’s targets are services contracts. 
 
The 2017 NDAA sets limits to the use of LPTA in defense procurements. Thornberry has pushed Pentagon officials over the years to more precisely articulate the military’s needs for contracted services and how services vendors are selected.
“One of the big challenges is the definition of requirements,” Dugle said. That is partly the reason DoD has had to re-evaluate its use of LPTA contracts, she noted. “If you just write a requirement that you need five people with 10 years of experience with a particular degree, that is when people default to price.” Conversely, the government could make the requirement to accomplish a desired mission, and leave it up to the bidders to decide how to staff the job. “If you are relying on systems engineering, you have to write good requirements.” 

NATO Agency Seeking Bids for IT Modernization Program

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Photo: NATO officials discuss future cyber initiatives at the NATO Communications and Information Agency. (NATO)

“NATIONAL DEFENSE MAGAZINE”

“The program will span at least four contracts and be worth up to $537 million, and is expected to be completed by mid-2018.

NATO’s communication and information technology arm is seeking industry partnerships as it takes on a multi-year modernization effort for its information-technology systems, according to the organization’s acquisition director.

The NATO Communications and Information Agency — which runs the information technology, communications and command and control for the multinational organization — has opportunities for defense and IT companies in various stages of the modernization program, Peter Scaruppe told National Defense in February.

“The IT modernization program is a very important one because it basically replaces all of the IT in all the NATO locations, and for all the NATO forces,” he said.

The program entails: streamlining NATO’s IT service offerings to increase efficiency and effectiveness; using a customer-funded delivery system to increase the flexibility and scalability of IT services; delivering services from a centralized set of locations; and implementing increased cyber security measures, according to the agency.

Next on the priorities list is introducing a cloud-based services enterprise design by this summer, which Scaruppe called a major part of the modernization program.

“Storage is an important issue for all current and future IT programs, because with big data and the availability of big data, it is increasingly important,” he said. “We are anxious to see what companies will provide.”

NCIA Agency also plans to develop new data centers in Mons, Belgium, and Lago Patria, Italy, by early 2018, Scaruppe said. A third site has not yet been publicly revealed, but is being considered as an option “if and when we need it,” he said.

“This is for the IT support and operational support for NATO locations and operations,” he said.

NCI Agency has made concerted efforts in recent years to work more closely with industry to beef up its cyber defense capabilities. The agency contracts out about 80 percent of its work to the defense and security industries of NATO’s 28 current member-nations, Scaruppe said.

This year, the agency will host its annual industry conference in North America for the first time since it kicked off six years ago, rather than in a European country, “to note the transatlantic alliance,” he said.

The theme of the NCIA Agency Industry Conference and AFCEA TechNet International — which will be held in late April in Ottawa, Canada — is “Sharpening NATO’s Technological Edge: Adaptive Partnerships and the Innovative Power of Alliance Industry.” The conference builds upon last year’s theme of why innovation is important to NATO’s technological needs, Scaruppe said.

“Especially in the IT and cyber world, we know that there are a lot of innovators out there … not exactly keen on working with an 800-pound gorilla like NATO,” he said. “Some are not familiar with the process, [so] we need to catch the right innovators.”

One major part of the conference is dedicated to innovation challenges where agency officials and industry will discuss pre-determined areas of study, he said. “We did this last year, very successfully, and we got lots of proposals, many more than we thought we would get.”

Conference attendees will learn of upcoming business opportunities with an overall budget of about $3.2 billion over the next two to three years, Scaruppe said.

Businesses also have the change to speak with agency experts ahead of potentially bidding on a project.

“We do this every year, but we’re dedicating a lot more time to this part than usual [this year],” he said, adding that the agency hopes to attract more U.S. and Canadian industry members as a result.

Attendance rates at previous conferences have been about 70 percent European-based, Scaruppe said.

The agency is also looking to attract more cyber experts through the conference by running a next-generation skills exercise and innovators program, he said.

“We have a lot more work than we have staff for — and the same is true with the private companies — [and] we want to find innovative ways of how to attract these people, how to retain these people and also keep us current in the cyber exercise.”

http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/blog/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=2448