Paul McLeary (@paulmcleary), Defense News. It’s so rare to hear a new vehicle contract being awarded these days that you almost expect a SyFy movie about it to come out soon. Last week Special Operations Command awarded General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems a contract for $562 million for the Ground Mobility Vehicle 1.1 program. SOCOM says it plans on buying 1,297 GMVs to replace their current GMVs based on modified Humvees. It was previously announced that they would spend $24 million in 2014 to buy the first 101 vehicles at $245,000 a piece. GD beat out AM General, Navistar International, and OshKosh for the special vehicles designed to weigh less than 7,000 pounds and be transportable by M/CH-47 Chinook helicopters with a passenger load of 7. The announcement included plans to spend about $14 million in already allocated 2012 and 2013 funds for research, testing, and evaluation on the GMV and the delivery of all of the vehicles will be complete by September of 2020. SOCOM is also working on an even smaller vehicle for transport by V-22 Ospreys after issuing an RFP in April. The buys are small with SOCOM but they keep factories and production lines open for increasingly contract starved American vehicle builders.
Tony Capaccio (@acapaccio), Bloomberg. Meanwhile the program that will never die continues its inevitable march towards full production. In a surprising turn of events, the DoD announced last week that it lowered the long-term operating costs of the F-35 fleet by a remarkable 22%, bringing it under the previous estimate of $1 trillion. The new numbers come after years of pressure on the Pentagon by both defense industry and military leaders to take a harder look at the assumptions and estimates that were used to come up with the numbers for maintaining over 2,000 aircraft across three services over 55 years. The new estimate is $857 billion and comes as the Pentagon revised its numbers based on over 7,000 hours of test flights and new looks at how the aircraft will be used and maintained. The new numbers had gone to the Senate Armed Services Committee last month in written answers to questions from the program office, but were only made public to Bloomberg last week. Remarkably, in a huge coincidence of timing, Lockheed Martin also announced last week that they are close to an agreement cutting the cost of the planned operating and logistics system that controls the F-35s in the field by a whopping 40%. Sequestration still looms over the program like other efforts in the military and could impact how many aircraft can be purchased next year. Right now the U.S. plans to buy 29 of the aircraft.
Paul McLeary (@paulmcleary), Defense News. Paul clearly didn’t take the summer off like so many do in Washington D.C. and comes in with another big story this week as he got hold of a document called the “2013 Focus Areas” that told subordinate units in no uncertain terms that aggregate reductions in staffs “WILL TAKE PLACE” and goes on to say that money is simply gone and gives commands just until September 11 to find and recommend places to cut 25% of funding and manning levels at all Army 2-star and above headquarters elements. It lays out a host of organizations and missions that will have to be cut and then gives just two weeks to accomplish the mission that has been designated to take priority over all other tasks. The timing comes as a new survey from the Center for Army Leadership shows that 47% of active-duty troops and 43% of reservists agreed “the Army no longer demonstrates that it is committed to me as much as it expects me to be committed.” This is a 6% increase since 2011 and just gets worse when broken down by rank. We have heard directly from junior officers and NCOs who are dismayed watching senior leaders fight against pay raises, battle Congress to raise Tricare fees, reduce housing allowances and seek to alter the retirement programs while also cutting training, promotions, and on base programs for their families. All of this adds up to a disaster unfolding in the Army that will continue far beyond today’s budget battles and could mean fewer quality experienced leaders ten and twenty years from now. It’s a troubling time.
Stave Vogel (@steve_vogel), The Washington Post
Nearly two months after his suicide note detailing his struggles with PTSD and the VA went viral on Gawker, Daniel Somers’ parents are carrying on his fight. They have taken Daniel’s story to Capitol Hill and the VA to express frustration at the system they say failed their son. After two trips to Iraq, one as an MP and the other as a contractor, Daniel battled depression, nightmares, and paranoia back home. He sought care from the local VA, but received only a 30 percent disability rating on his initial claim. He applied for vocational rehab where a VA psychologist told him his PTSD made him unemployable despite his rating. Daniel appealed his rating in October 2011 where he became another number in the VA backlog. At the time of his death, his appeal had still not been adjudicated. Through all of this, he attempted to access VA mental health care with varying success—at one point his psychiatrist retired and a shortage of doctors left him without a new one. Having met with VA, Daniel’s parents say they see the agency trying to do right by its clients, but worry without tougher oversight, there is no accountability. The Somers’ say they will be that accountability, if necessary, as they continue to tell Daniel’s story.
Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Stars and Stripes. Like all Medal of Honor recipients whose stories we’ve had the fortune to hear first hand, SSG Ty Carter is humble about his actions. He describes his actions on the battlefield not with pride, but with a sense of loss. The actions for which he is being awarded the nation’s highest honor—rescuing his comrade bleeding out in the kill zone—did not save the man’s life. Spc. Mace’s parents do not see it the same way. For them, Carter gave their son extra hours with his brothers in arms and the chance to go in peace. Carter is very open about his struggles with PTSD since the battle of COP Keating that took the life of Mace and many others. He wants to use his platform as a Medal of Honor recipient to encourage others who are struggling with the traumas of war to seek care. He recognizes that stigma prevents too many from reaching out for help, but Carter is determined to make that feat of strength the focus of his post-MOH career. Carter will receive his award today at the White House. For more information on Carter’s heroic actions at COP Keating, visit the Army’s interactive site.
Molly Hennessy-Fiske (@mollyhf), Los Angeles Times. Three major cases made headlines this week: SSG Robert Bales was handed a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for murdering 16 Afghan civilians, PFC (now PVT) Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents, and MAJ Nidal Hasan was found guilty on all charges in the rampage that killed 13 people. The Hasan verdict ends a years long saga of pre-trial arguments that eventually culminated in a two-week trial. Hasan represented himself, admitted to carrying out the shootings, and presented nearly no defense. Many of the wounded victims testified at the court martial and expressed joy upon news of the verdict. But for many, the verdict is only the beginning on the path the justice as victims are suing the government to classify the attacks as terrorism. For Hasan, the next step is sentencing as the death penalty remains on the table. Also making headlines: as Manning prepares to spend the next 35 years in prison (though she’ll be eligible for parole in 7 years), her announcement that she is a transgender woman is making some questions tougher to answer.
Jackie Calmes, The Washington Post. Like his predecessor George W. Bush, President Obama makes many unpublicized visits with wounded service members and their family. One such service member has met the president three times now. When SFC Cory Remsberg first met Obama, it was on a beach in Normandy as the Ranger and his unit participated in a commemoration of the D-Day landings. Their next meeting was not on such a joyous occasion. A roadside bomb in Afghanistan had put Remsberg through physical hell that included a three-month coma, shrapnel in his brain and eye, and the need for multiple surgeries. It was after one of those surgeries at Bethesda that Remsberg and the president were reunited. Remsberg couldn’t speak, but he gave the commander in chief a thumbs up. After two and a half years in hospitals and rehab centers, Remsberg recently moved home to Arizona. On a recent swing through the state, the president’s staff sought out Remsberg for another meeting. Showing the true heart of a soldier, Remsberg greeted the president this time with a crisp salute and an always true, “Rangers lead the way!”
Tradeshows & Conferences
American Legion National Convention (Fri-Thu, 23-29 August); Houston, TX
Our website has a full list of upcoming tradeshows
Congress is in recess. They will return September 9.
Think Tanks & Other Events
Stimson Center: Environmental Stress and Middle East Instability Who: Joseph Hewitt, Technical Leadership Team Leader at USAID’s Office of Conflict Management and Mitigation, Erika Weinthal, Associate Professor of Environmental Policy, Duke University When: 1:00 PM, Monday, August 26, 2013 Where: 1111 19th Street NW Washington DC 20036
Fred Wellman, President ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of defense industry news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. You can follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms.