Category Archives: Us Economy

DIU(X) Pentagon Outreach Program To Tech Startups Is Here to Stay

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DIU(X) Web Site:   https://www.diux.mil/portfolio

“BREAKING DEFENSE”

“DIU(X) has spent $100 million on projects from 45 companies. These are not traditional defense contractors but commercial tech companies, mostly small ones, backed by about $1.8 billion in venture capital.

The whole idea is to reach beyond the often stodgy military-industrial complex to the thriving, innovative tech sector, especially to start-ups that lack the time, connections, or specialized manpower to penetrate the defense procurement labyrinth.


How does Trump’s Defense Secretary feel about one of the Obama Pentagon’s more controversial aus, the outreach to tech start-ups known as DIU(X)?

“I don’t embrace it,” Jim Mattis told reporters en route to Silicon Valley yesterday. “I enthusiastically embrace it, and I’m grateful that Secretary Carter (Ash Carter, Obama’s last SecDef) had the foresight to put something in place to anchor the Department of Defense out there.”

“I want to see results. I want to see what they’re doing with their location and the ideas that they’re bringing, they’re harvesting — what are we getting out of it?” Mattis continued when pressed by a skeptical press. “Absolutely, I want to see them in their mission. I’m not coming out here questioning the mission.” (Emphasis ours).

Mattis’s embrace of this Obama-era idea is just the latest sign that there’s a lot more continuity at the Pentagon in some policy areas than President Trump’s Twitter barrages would suggest. Trump blasted the F-35 stealth fighterMattis committed to continued production. Trump called NATO “obsolete” and said South Korea should pay for US missile defenses; Mattis reached out to allies. Trump campaigned on pledges of a Reaganesque defense buildup; his actual budget proposal has been modest. Trump promised new Navy ships and Army units; Mattis has prioritized better training and maintenance for the forces we already have. Trump said he’d made US nuclear forces stronger but they’re actually still shrinking under Obama-era arms control treaties. All modernization to nuclear delivery systems was started under Obama.

In this context, Mattis keeping his predecessor’s Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) isn’t so surprising. Congressional Republicans have been ambivalent about DIU(X), which has offices in three strongholds of Democrat-leaning techies: Palo AltoAustin and Boston. (Note the persistent attacks by the far right on Google and other tech companies.) House Armed Services chairman Mac Thornberry has worried aloud that DIU(X) duplicates longstanding high-tech efforts such as DARPA.

One of Work’s last acts, on July 14, was to give DIU(X) new legal authorities. One of the most significant is rapid hiring authorities that let DIU(X) bypass cumbersome federal regulations and bring tech expert onboard in as little as a day. (Similar authorities have been proposed in Congress) Another expanded the unit’s ability to set up Cooperative Research & Development Agreements (CRADAs) with private companies. Still other authorities gave DIU(X) new abilities to advertise, run prize competitions, host conferences, all methods of getting geniuses’ attention for its projects.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/08/diux-is-here-to-stay-mattis-embraces-obama-tech-outreach/

What has DIU(X) done to deserve more money and power? The unit’s signature achievement so far is new planning software for Air Force flight operations previously run with Microsoft Excel and markers on whiteboards. The new software cost $1.5 million, but by scheduling sorties more efficiently, it will save an estimated $131 million year in fuel and maintenance for tanker aircraft, DIU(X) says. The DIU(X) project also delivered in 120 days what a multi-year, $745 million dollar Air Force program could not.

Other DIU(X) contracts range from robotic sailboats (“saildrones”) to collect data on the ocean – vital for naval planning – to military simulations derived from commercial games.

All told, after a rough start which prompted Carter to reboot the unit, DIU(X) has spent $100 million on projects from 45 companies. These are not traditional defense contractors but commercial tech companies, mostly small ones, backed by about $1.8 billion in venture capital. The whole idea is to reach beyond the often stodgy military-industrial complex to the thriving, innovative tech sector, especially to start-ups that lack the time, connections, or specialized manpower to penetrate the defense procurement labyrinth. [UPDATE: Mattis also visited Google on Friday, but the tech giant has been leery of military contracts.] This strategy lets the military ride a train whose locomotive is massive private investment the Pentagon doesn’t have to pay for.

Now Mattis is publicly embracing this approach. In the words of a press release the Defense Innovation Unit (Experimental) put out to celebrate the secretary’s visit, it looks like “DIU(X) is here to stay.”

http://breakingdefense.com/2017/08/diux-is-here-to-stay-mattis-embraces-obama-tech-outreach/

 

 

 

 

Your Questions Answered About the New Veterans Online Shopping Benefit

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“MILITARY TIMES”
“More than 95,000 people visited the military exchanges’ VetVerify.org website in its first month, seeking to register for the new veterans online shopping benefit that starts Nov. 11, officials said.

All honorably discharged veterans will have access to the online exchanges as of that date. VetVerify is the first step in the eligibility process.

Some veterans will be chosen as “beta testers” and will have access to the online stores before Nov. 11; the earlier veterans complete the verification process, the better their chances of becoming beta testers, according to officials with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which administers the verification for all the military exchange services.
Veterans who register through VetVerify.org will receive notification of their acceptance as eligible online shoppers or, if their records are incomplete, will receive guidance on the steps they can take to update those records.
Officials were not able to provide information about how many of the 95,000 verification attempts have been successful. About 13 percent of the site’s visitors have been chosen as beta testers, AAFES spokesman Chris Ward said, and others who registered for verification already were eligible to shop.
Officials started the verification process early in preparation for at least 13 million people who will be newly eligible to shop online at the exchange. Until now, online military exchange shopping was available only to active-duty, reserve and National Guard members; retirees; 100 percent disabled veterans; the dependent family members of those individuals; and certain others.

Online pricing can be seen only by those who are authorized to shop at the exchange websites: www.shopmyexchange.comwww.shopcgx.com;www.mymcx.com; andwww.mynavyexchange.com.
Military Times and the exchanges continue to get questions about the VetVerify website and the new shopping benefit. Here are a few frequently asked questions, and some answers, supplied by AAFES.

Q. Is this site a phishingscam?
A. No. VetVerify.org is a shared service for all the military exchanges with the sole purpose of supporting the newly approved veterans online shopping benefit. VetVerify.org uses data from Defense Manpower Data Center, which holds the most comprehensive dataset on veterans, to verify eligibility.

Q. Do I qualify if I served for four years, or if I was in the reserves, or if I’m on disability?
A. All honorably discharged veterans and those with a general (under honorable) discharge can shop their military exchanges, through the veterans online shopping benefit, beginning on Veterans Day.
Q. Can my spouse (or other family member) shop? 

A. No. The new benefit is specific to veterans with honorable and general (under honorable conditions) discharges.
Q. Does the veterans online shopping benefit extend to shopping at the commissary? 
A. No.
Q. What if my service can’t be verified? 

A. There may be further information needed, so you will need to submit a digital copy of your discharge paperwork to be reviewed for eligibility. After you submit your verification form through VetVerify.org, you will be prompted to upload the necessary paperwork.
Q. Who should I call if I have problems with the verification process? 

A. The VetVerify.org customer call center, toll-free, at 844-868-8672.
Q. Why does VetVerify ask for my entire Social Security number? 

A. VetVerify is required to obtain the last four digits of your Social Security number, date of birth and last name in order to validate and authenticate shoppers. If a match is not found with the minimum information, then the Social Security number is requested for a more detailed search. Social Security number is the unique identifier by Defense Manpower Data Center data. When customers visit the website of their favorite online exchanges for the first time, however, they will create a new username to be used as the unique identifier with the exchange. VetVerify has taken appropriate measures to safeguard your personal information.”

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/

 

The Business of National Cybersecurity

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Business of Cyber Security

 

“FIFTH DOMAIN CYBER”

“With all the attention this subject is now receiving, one would think the business of national cyber security (commercial, government and defense) would be very robust.

Small and medium-sized businesses are not singing a happy, carefree tune. Delays in contracts, budget cuts and delayed payments seem to be the most common complaints.

It is hard to open a browser, look at a newspaper, or watch or listen to a news show without the topic of cybersecurity coming up. In mid-June, Microsoft received a lot of attention from headlines about the company’s warning of an elevated risk of cyberattacks. Another attention-grabbing headline came from Chris Childers, the CEO of the National Defense Group located in Germantown, Maryland, who shined light on the fact that many satellites in use today are dated and use old technology that was made before cyberthreats were a real issue and prior to when cyber defenses were readily available.

With all of the headlines about cyberattacks, viruses, ransomware attacks (WannaCry) and so on, you would think cybersecurity business is booming. Odds are it is not as robust as many people think. Let’s not forget when the Department of Homeland Security said 20-plus states faced major hacking attempts during the 2016 presidential election.

Today, basic cybersecurity understanding and skills need to reach into every profession and every level of the workforce. Updating the skills of the workforce must be continuous, and this takes time and money.

Another interesting point was brought up during a recent cyber strategy thinking session: Could our adversaries be leveraging inexpensive cyberattacks and threats as economic warfare, knowing full well that we will move to identify, analyze and address the emerging threats — something that would cost us money? After all, what choice do we have?”

http://fifthdomain.com/2017/07/07/the-business-of-national-cybersecurity-commentary/

 

 

 

 

 

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/

 

 

 

 

Fixing Military Readiness Does Not Require a Spending Boost

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Military-Spending Boost SaultOnline dot com

Image:  SaultOnline.com

“WASHINGTON TIMES” By 

“Military spending choices are mostly about what to be ready for, not how to be ready for everything.

The military does have readiness problems, but they could be addressed without raising total military budget. Those lamenting the state of military readiness ignore those solutions because they are using it to argue for a higher top line.

In principle, U.S. military readiness refers to the force’s ability to perform its key missions. That means having units that are well-equipped, manned and trained. Two internal Pentagon tracking systems rate readiness on that score. That sounds simpler, but readiness’ definition makes it tough to assess.

One reason is that its definition complicates assessment. The force’s ability to accomplish its missions depends partly on future enemy actions, which are inherently uncertain.

There’s also ambiguity as to what missions matter. Is a Marine unit that is prepared to strike at desert insurgents — but ill-equipped to land on contested Chinese beaches — unready?

Another complexity is that military readiness isn’t an absolute good. Given limited resources, one cannot be fully prepared for everything all the time. Readiness should rise and fall as U.S. forces prepare for and exit conflicts.

These ambiguities mean that debates that appear to concern readiness are actually about other issues, like what to buy and what wars to expect. A telling example came last summer when former CIA Director David Petraeus and foreign policy scholar Michael O’Hanlon published two articles calling the “readiness crisis” a myth. They argued that while readiness is hardly perfect, vehicles are generally well-maintained and combat units well-trained and equipped for current wars.

Their argument produced a bevy of criticism from hawkish analysts. But these responses oddly accepted the basic point of contention — that readiness for current missions is hardly in crisis — before complaining about some other matter, like the force’s size, funding or preparation for future rivals.

Likewise, the service chiefs frequently complain about readiness in asking for budget increases. But they don’t put today’s readiness challenges in historical context or define what deviation from ideal is acceptable. They avoid claiming that readiness is in crisis and resent contentions that U.S. forces are enfeebled.

The U.S. military’s readiness problems are largely the fault of those that most loudly bemoan them. That includes Pentagon bosses and especially congressional leaders. They routinely reject three fixes that require no budget boost.

The first and best option is to ask less of the military. A defense strategy that prioritized among dangers, rather than trying to stabilize most corners of the earth, would leave the force less strained and allow cuts to force structure. The savings could fund the operational accounts that pay for the readiness of the force.

Second, even without a strategic shift, Congress could cancel complex platforms, like the Littoral Combat Ship or F-35, which suck up operational funding, and replace them with simpler alternatives — or do with less in some areas.

A third solution is to eventually free up funds for operational accounts by cutting spending on excess bases and by slowing the growth in personnel costs.

Congressional defense committees dismiss the first solution because they see U.S. military efforts as indispensable to world order, perhaps because of the spending indispensability requires in their districts. They reject the second option for similar reasons. Indeed, they reject it so thoroughly that they often do the opposite — shifting funds from operational accounts to acquisition at the expense of readiness.

The third option falls prey to concerns about cuts to local jobs and potential calumny about not supporting the troops.

Congressional Republicans aren’t especially motivated to fix the readiness crisis because they use it to pressure Democrats to increase defense spending. In that sense, they care less about readiness for current wars than readiness for the array of imagined future wars.

In Washington, readiness now seems to mean whatever the speaker wants from the military. We should discard the term in recognition of the fact that military spending choices are mostly about what to be ready for, not how to be ready for everything.”

http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/14/fixing-readiness-doesnt-require-a-spending-boost/

Benjamin H. Friedman is a research fellow in Defense and Homeland Security Studies at the Cato Institute.

 

 

Big Industry Winners in the Saudi Weapons Offer

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SAUDI-DEFENCE

(Photo Credit: FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP/Getty Images)

“DEFENSE NEWS”

“The big winner, at least on the platform side, is Lockheed Martin, with an estimated $29.1 billion in potential sales.

That includes seven THAAD missile defense batteries ($13.5 billion), and three KC-130J and 20 C-130J aircraft ($5.8 billion), as well as four multi-mission surface combatant ships ($6 billion)

Now that details of the $110 billion arms package offered to Saudi Arabia are known, Lockheed Martin appears to be the clear winner among American defense firms.

First, a caveat: Defense News broke the details of the roughly $84 billion in unknown weapons offerings that President Donald Trump brought with him on a May 20 visit to the Kingdom. But by the nature of how foreign military sales are completed, dollar totals are best-guess estimations and likely represent the ceiling for what could be spent. The figures listed may well come down, and the timeframes listed may well change, based on final negotiations around the equipment.

the company’s Sikorsky arm also benefited, with two types of Black Hawk variants: 14 MH-60R Seahawk rotorcraft ($2 billion) and 30 UH-60 rescue helicopters ($1.8 billion). That could potentially grow. A statement from Lockheed, released after the visit to Saudi Arabia, claimed that a deal was being reached with Saudi company Taqnia to “support final assembly and completion of an estimated 150 S-70 Black Hawk utility helicopters for the Saudi government.”

A few other companies also fared well.

Boeing cashed in with an eight-year sustainment deal ($6.25 billion) for their F-15 aircraft, along with a relatively small $20 million deal to run a study on recapitalizing Saudi’s older fleet of F-15 C/D aircraft.

Raytheon’s big win came from an unknown type of enhancement for the Patriot missile system ($6.65 billion). BAE, meanwhile, hopes to bring in $3.7 billion worth of work on its Bradley vehicle, with a pair of contracts – one to modify 400 existing vehicles, and another to produce 213 new ones. (The company may also cash out on an order for 180 Howitzers, worth $1.5 billion.)

There is also a $2 billion order for an unknown number of Mk-VI patrol boats, produced by SAFE Boats International.

The previously unreported list includes roughly 104,000 air to surface weapons, including 27,000 GBU-38 designs ($1.24 billion, Boeing), 9,000 GBU-31v3 designs ($690 million, Boeing), 9,000 GBU-31v1 designs ($490 million, Boeing), 50,000 GBU-12 designs ($1.67 billion, Lockheed and Raytheon) and 9,000 GBU-10 designs ($370 million, Lockheed and Raytheon.)

Known unknowns
But there is a chance for more growth, based on a set of unspecified aircraft and satellite programs. The list includes $2 billion for a light air support aircraft, type and quantity to be decided later. It also includes another $2 billion for four new aircraft to replace the Kingdom’s Tactical Airborne Surveillance System, which serves a similar role to the U.S. Air Force JSTARS.

The light air support seems to have a fairly small list of options: either Textron with it’s AT-6 (or, perhaps, its Scorpion jet, still in search of a first customer) or the Embraer/Sierra Nevada team’s A-29 Super Tucano. Both the UAE and Jordan have ordered the A-29, so buying the Super Tucano would give the Kingdom commonality with two of its closest allies.

The wildcard may be the U.S. Air Force’s OA-X experiment, which is holding a flyoff between the Scorpion, AT-6 and A-29 this summer. In theory, the Air Force is looking at replacing the A-10 with one of the three planes, but the service has been careful to stress this summer’s action is more of a fact-finding exercise than a downselect. At the same time, if the USAF shows a preference for one of the jets, the Saudis may look in the same direction.

As to the TASS replacement, the first question is whether the Saudis look to glom onto the JSTARS recapitalization, which should be awarded sometime in fiscal year 2018. If so, Boeing, a Northrop Grumman/L-3/General Dynamics team and a Lockheed Martin/ Bombardier team would benefit here.

However, the TASS and JSTARS setups are somewhat different, and it may be the Saudis would look for a custom solution.

Meanwhile, the Kingdom has been offered a clutch of satellites, with as-yet-unknown designs: two “Remote Sensing Satellites” estimated at $800 million and two satellite communications & space based early warning systems estimated at $4 billion.

Given the focus on missile defense, the space based early warning systems could well be a derivative of Lockheed’s Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) missile defense satellite. If so, the U.S. may be able to seek an arrangement with the Kingdom on information sharing, which would widen the overall capability of the missile tracking system.

How quickly these contracts can be pushed through the system is an open question. Roman Schweizer, an analyst with Cowen Washington Research Group, wrote in a note to investors Friday that “precision munitions and missile defense remain top priorities for the Kingdom.”

“We think the elements of the package will probably go through as individual items, which could reduce opposition. We think some of the more easily defined items that have been either sold to Saudi before or to other countries could proceed quickly (such as THAAD, Patriot, precision munitions, helicopters, F-15, C-130Js, etc.),” he wrote.”

Defense Companies Are Here To Stay

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“DEFENSE NEWS” By Charles Mahoney

“Like it or not, government agencies responsible for national security are dependent on private defense firms.

These companies are primarily responsible to shareholders rather than the American people. How can they be held accountable to the nation’s interests?

What is certain is that for-profit military and intelligence firms will remain an integral part of U.S. national defense. My research focuses on the changing nature of the private defense industry. Military contracting is still big business, although media coverage of private military firms has diminished since the withdrawal of the U.S. from Iraq in 2011. Today, contractors’ work ranges from assisting in drone missions to analyzing signals intelligence to training police forces in fragile countries like Afghanistan.”

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Image: “Defense News”

“New frontiers

In recent years, private military companies have adapted to changing demands from U.S. defense agencies. During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. military relied heavily on contractors to support counterinsurgency operations. However, high-profile incidents of alleged human rights abuses by the company CACI at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and Blackwater at Nisour Square, Iraq brought to light the difficulty the American military faces monitoring private defense companies.

At the same time, Americans have since become averse to nation-building campaigns in failing states. So, private defense firms have shifted away from supporting “boots on the ground.” Instead, they are increasingly assisting military and intelligence agencies with counterterrorism and cybersecurity.

While the American people generally want to avoid deploying troops to conflict zones, they still demand protection from terrorism. The Pentagon, CIA and other defense agencies receive assistance in these areas from private companies with expertise in drone warfare, special forces operations and analysis of electronic surveillance of potential terrorist threats. These traditionally were duties of public employees.

Cybersecurity is another area in which private military companies see increasing demand. Information gleaned from hacking government agencies, world leaders and political campaigns can be used by rogue states like Russia and nonstate actors like WikiLeaks to harm American interests.

Serving the public interest?

Most defense analysts now acknowledge that the question is not whether to privatize, but where to draw the line. If the U.S. government is going to work extensively with contractors, it requires a more robust oversight system. Government agencies and courts also need assurances they can hold defense firms accountable if they break the law overseas.

During the Iraq War, this was a point of serious contention. It was unclear what legal jurisdiction applied to employees of private defense firms. The uncertain legal status of contractors caused significant tension between the U.S. and the government of Iraq and hampered American counterinsurgency efforts.

Here are three ways Congress could increase accountability for private defense firms as the industry becomes more enmeshed in national security.

  • Congress could create an independent regulatory agency to report on contractors’ performance. While major firms in the industry insist they can regulate themselves, an independent oversight agency could more adequately assess how defense contractors perform.
  • As things stand now, the U.S. government often overlooks bad behavior and renews contracts with companies that have less than stellar records. Instead, the government could more severely penalize firms that do not fulfill the terms of their agreements.
  • Government employees often transition from public service into lucrative positions at billion-dollar defense corporations. Stricter rules to limit this “revolving door” would make government employees more willing to penalize firms.

Private defense contractors will likely be a major part of U.S. national defense for the foreseeable future. Diligent oversight and regulation of companies in this rapidly evolving industry, I believe, are necessary to ensure that these firms advance the public good of American security.”

http://www.defensenews.com/articles/private-defense-companies-are-here-to-stay-what-does-that-mean-for-national-security

Charles Mahoney is a professor of political science at California State University, Long Beach. His commentary was originally published on The Conversation .

 

 

 

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

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AP Photo/ APTV

“ARMY TIMES”

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

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

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

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

The human rights organization released the report on Wednesday.

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

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

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

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