David Alexander, Reuters. In what is likely the next phase of robotic vehicles, the military and industry are experimenting heavily with autonomous vehicles of varying sizes to allow delivery supplies without human guidance. While true autonomy is likely far off, it is increasingly likely that systems such as convoy vehicles, or the currently being tested Squad Mobile Support System, will see service in coming years. These systems mean there are fewer soldiers and Marines on the road and at risk, while increasing logistics capacity.
Amber Corrin, Federal Computer Week. There are certain contracts that are worth so much that every player in the industry is waiting for the Request for Proposals with their breath held for years. The Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network (NGEN) is one of those contracts. With a potential $10 billion at stake to build the Navy’s next computer network, it will be hotly contested. The system aims to take the entire enterprise in-house to the Navy with a contractor only operating the system, instead of owning it. All the major players in the defense IT sector are jumping to get some, if not all of the contract, which closes July 18th.
Zachary Fryer-Biggs, Defense News. A joint Homeland Security and DoD program that allows intelligence agencies to share cyber threat information with participating companies has been formally expanded from an initial group of 20 firms, to any companies in the defense industrial base who meet certain requirements. The program is not without criticism as companies have been reluctant to share information with DoD, while participants have said the intel they have gotten hasn’t been terribly useful. As is typical in government, things have been improving between DoD and the industry participants recently…so they transferred the whole thing to HLS to manage and everyone is back to square one in trust building.
Michael Fabey, Aviation Week. AW is out with a pretty tough report on the Lockheed Martin-built LCS-1 USS Freedom, and the challenges the ship is having in testing surrounding corrosion, design and manufacturing issues, that don’t seem to find resolution. The Navy was forceful and direct in responding to the article calling it speculation, third party and dated information. But the fact is there are a lot of folks asking what is wrong with this ship design that will make up half the LCS fleet when all is said and done. Congress is getting very tired of hearing it’s all going to be okay, as the next ship in the class prepares for its sea trials shortly.
Michelle Tan, Army Times. As the Army is facing a reduction in size, a group called the Human Dimensions Task Force is taking a look at how the service recruits and trains the future leaders of the service. Currently there is little measurement of how a recruit will succeed in the military. The existing Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery or ASVAB test is actually some 60 years old, and has little measurement of how a soldier will actually perform in the Army. The task force aims to find better ways to match recruit aptitudes with the right jobs and ways to train those recruits most effectively for the future. It’s an interesting mission that is long overdue.
The week ahead
Themes: The Senate is gearing up for their NDAA markup session next week so this week promises to be a lot of maneuvering as everyone digests the results of the House Armed Services Committee markup last week and what it all means. The Senate will be looking at the transition from DoD to VA for disability ratings of service members and that promises to be a tough one for both departments. After years of attempting to meld their health record and personnel systems, they still struggle with the handover.
NDIA 2012 Joint Armaments Conference (Mon-Thurs, 14-17 May) Seattle, Washington. The Joint Armaments Conference, Exhibition and Firing demonstration theme this year is “21st Century Weapons Systems-Providing the Right Response” and along with its typical focus on small arms systems and gun and missile systems will also include unconventional and emerging armaments.
AFCEA and USNI Joint Warfighting Conference 2012 (Tue-Thurs, 15-17 May) Virginia Beach, VA. The theme this year is “Joint Forces Inflection Point: What to Hold and What to Fold?” and boasts a star studded line up of panels and speakers including keynotes from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Martin Dempsey and a VTC speech from ISAF Commander General John Allen. This free event will surely include a lot of discussion on the new defense strategy released two months ago and its implications on the military. To follow along on Twitter the conference hashtag is #JWC12.
Congress: The full Congress is in session this week.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee – Hearing (10:00 AM, Wed, 16 May) Full committee hearing on “Seamless Transition: Review of the Integrated Disability Evaluation System.” Witnesses: TBD Location: 216 Hart Senate Office Building
House of Representatives:
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee – Hearing (2:00 PM, Mon, 14 May) Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs Subcommittee field hearing on “Honoring our Nation’s Veterans: Examining the Veterans Cemetery Grants Program.” Witnesses: TBD Location: Fillmore County Courthouse, 101 Fillmore Street West, Board Room, Preston, Minn.
House Rules Committee – Meeting (10:00 AM, Tues, 15 May) Full committee meets to formulate a rule on H.R.4310, the “National Defense Authorization Act for FY2013.” Witnesses: N/A Location: H-313, U.S. Capitol
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee – Hearing (10:00 AM, Wed, 16 May) Health Subcommittee hearing on “Optimizing Care for Veterans with Prosthetics.” Witnesses: TBD Location: 334 Cannon House Office Building
House Veterans’ Affairs Committee – Hearing (2:00 PM, Wed, 16 May) Economic Opportunity Subcommittee hearing on “Examining Executive Order #13607 and Its Impact and Schools and Veterans.” Witnesses: TBD Location: 340 Cannon House Office Building
Think tanks and other news events:
Homeland Security Policy Institute: A Conversation on Cyber Strategy with General James E. Cartwright, Washington, D.C. (5:00 PM, Mon 14 May) Description: This event features General James E. Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Cartwright will offer an assessment of U.S. cybersecurity, and share his thoughts on how he hopes it will evolve moving forward — with a focus on effective deterrence strategies, and a discussion of offensive capabilities. His remarks will place cyber issues and challenges into context, and convey insights relating to cyber strategy. RSVP online. Participants: General James E. Cartwright, USMC (Ret.), former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Location: Elliott School of International Affairs, Seventh Floor, City View Room, 1957 E Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20052
AEI, CNAS, and the New America Foundation: The U.S. National Security Budget, Washington, D.C. (1:00 PM, Tues 15 May) Description: The American Enterprise Institute, the Center for a New American Security and the New America Foundation panelists will discuss an issue sure to face the next administration: U.S. defense spending in light of American grand strategy. With the “sequestration” mechanism set to cut at least $500 billion from the Department of Defense, on top of budget reductions in recent years, discussants will consider how these cuts could affect defense policy. RSVP online. Participants: Michèle Flournoy, Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, David Barno, Senior Advisor and Senior Fellow at Center for a New American Security, Thomas Donnelly, Resident Fellow and Co-Director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Waltz, Senior National Security Fellow, New America Foundation and Former Advisor on South Asia to Vice President Cheney Location: American Enterprise Institute, 1150 17th St. NW, 11th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20036
Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: Digital Diplomacy: A New Era of Advancing Policy, Washington, D.C. (9:00 AM, Thu 17 May) Description: In a world of likes and hashtags, governments are using social media tools to reach beyond traditional diplomacy. Ministries and embassies are adopting new strategies for the digital age and exploring innovative ways to reach and engage domestic and foreign constituencies. Join leading thinkers in diplomacy and communications for a discussion on the evolution of public diplomacy and the ways visionary diplomats are using these powerful new tools to connect cultures, increase awareness, and advocate policy positions. RSVP online. Participants: Amb. Arturo Sarukhan, Amb. Harold Forsyth, Alec Ross, Sarah Wynn-Williams, Martha Boudreau, Tom Carver Location: 1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20036
Center for Strategic and International Studies: Challenges to Access and the U.S. Response: The Joint Operational Access Concept, Washington, D.C. (1:00 PM, Fri 18 May) Description: A Military Strategy Forum event with Lieutenant General George J. Flynn, Director, J-7, Joint Staff speaking about Challenges to Access and the U.S. Response: The Joint Operational Access Concept followed by a panel discussion. RSVP online. Participants: Lieutenant General George J. Flynn, Director, J-7, Joint Staff Location: The St. Regis Hotel, 923 16th & K Streets NW, Washington, D.C. 20006
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.