Covering the House Armed Services Committee’s annual National Defense Authorization Act markup is a right of passage for defense reporters. Before video streaming allowed us to monitor it live from anywhere with an Internet connection, reporters had to camp out all day and night (and usually into the next morning) to listen to lawmakers debate amendments and cast votes on the bill. Some still do; Defense One’s Caroline Houck was among them. This year, the House finished Wednesday night just before the clock struck midnight.
The Senate Armed Services Committee announced it finished marking up its version of the bill earlier in the day. (FYI, the Senate marks its bill in a closed session, without cameras or reporters or taxpayers allowed in).
Here’s how the two bills stack up side by side:
Base Budget Request: $603 billion
- House: $621 billion
- Senate: $632 billion
Overseas Contingency Operations Request: $65 billion
- House: $75 billion
- Senate: $60 billion
The only number that matters: $549 billion. That’s the spending cap for the base budget, which is law under the Budget Control Act of 2011. If the budget busts the caps, sequestration kicks in and an equal percentage of cuts are made across the accounts.
We’ve debated ad nauseam the challenges of raising the budget and, if Congress increases it, where the additional funds would go. Now with committee-approved versions of the House and Senate National Defense Authorization Acts, we’re starting to get a better picture of what the 2018 budget will look like, but we still have a ways to go. Next up, Congress’ two appropriations committees will attack the budget.
Hold on, folks. We’re still in the very early rounds, but to use an Air Force term, fight’s on.
Here are some differences between the House and Senate versions of the NDAA: The committees both added F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, but at different levels. The Pentagon requested 70, the SASC approved 94 and the HASC 87. The House funded three Littoral Combat Ships, while the Senate made cuts (we don’t know how many yet, as full details of the bill have not been released). Lastly, the Senate funded 10 additional F/A-18 Super Hornets, for a total of 24 jets. The House added eight additional jets.
What the committees agreed on: Both committees put funding toward new wings for the A-10 attack jet. They each added six Navy P-8 maritime patrol planes. The Senate and House added two Air Force KC-46 tankers to the Trump administration’s request for a total of 17 aircraft.
You’ve reached the Defense One Global Business Brief by Marcus Weisgerber. Back in D.C. where the weather is surprisingly much more pleasant than last week’s 100-degree heat in Paris. As always, send you tips, feedback and random thoughts to email@example.com or on Twitter @MarcusReports. Check out the Global Business Brief archive here, and tell your friends to subscribe!
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Lord to Get Nod for Top Pentagon Arms Buyer
President Donald Trump on Tuesday said he would nominate Ellen Lord, the CEO of Textron Systems, to serve as the undersecretary of acquisition technology and logistics. Remember, next year that position gets divided into two undersecretary roles. If confirmed, Lord would become undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment on Feb. 1, 2018.
Lord has been a champion for the defense industry and is a member of the Center for a New American Security’s Task Force on Strategy, Technology and the Global Defense Industry. Here’s a video of her talking about the defense industrial base with Leonardo DRS CEO Bill Lynn and me at the 2014 Defense One Summit.
With Lord likely heading to the Pentagon, pending Senate confirmation of course, Lisa Atherton has been named president & CEO of Textron Systems. She was previously the executive vice president of Bell Helicopter’s military business.
Raytheon’s Pitch for More Missile Interceptors
The Pentagon grabbed headlines in late May when it used a massive missile interceptor to take down a mock ICBM. It was an important test at a key time — amid repeated threats from North Korea and as the U.S. expands the number of its Ground-Based Midcourse Defense interceptors, or GBIs, in Alaska and California to 44.
Boeing is the lead contractor for the interceptor project, but Raytheon makes a critical component — the kill vehicle, a device that steers the interceptor into the missile.
Last week at the Paris Air Show, I chatted with Mitch Stevison, vice president of air and missile systems at Raytheon Missile Systems, about the prospect of adding more interceptors.
“I’m in the camp, quite frankly, that sometimes there is quality in numbers. More would be good, but you have to balance that across the entire spectrum of what we do in the missile defense world and the Department of Defense world,” Stevison said. “What is the right balance? You’re not going to get any one person I don’t believe to ever agree exactly what that balance is. But, I would tell you that the capabilities that we have today need to grow in quantity. That’s my opinion. From a GBI standpoint, we would like to see more GBIs.”
Raytheon, Stevison said, has the factory space and parts to build more kill vehicles.
“We have not lost the capacity nor the ability to do that,” he said. “We believe that we have the ability to — if the [Missile Defense] Agency would like us to — we could go build a few … two to five [Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicles] using residual material, materials that are left over from our original production programs to go build an additional grouping of EKVs.”
The Missile Defense Agency is working on a new kill vehicle called the RKV, or redesigned kill vehicle. Lockheed Martin and Boeing are competing against Raytheon for that project.
Stevison also made a pitch for more SM-3 interceptors. At a June 7 House Armed Services Committee hearing, Vice Adm. James Syring, the Missile Defense Agency director, threw his support behind a multiyear contract for SM-3 and SM-6 interceptors. (Syring retired a few weeks ago.)
“So quantities, we certainly believe across the board in missile defense need to be looked at, need to be balanced across what we need to do in the development area to go against the new advancing threats,” Stevison said. “We support more quantities across the board.”
Another busy year for missile defense.
Last week we told you about the latest SM-3 test, which failed, but there are plenty of other tests on the docket. There’s an “at-sea demonstration” in Europe and an SM-6 test in the Pacific. “SM-6 is going to be doing a really important engagement in the Pacific to demonstrate its sea-based, terminal capability against an advanced threat,” Stevison said. “That’s all I can say.”
Then next year there will be another SM-3 test and a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense interceptor test.
What else is Raytheon working on?
“Most of the things we’re doing now for the future, we can’t talk about,” Stevison said. “The threat is advancing quickly, the intel is coming very quickly. It may look like the United States is not directly addressing them, but we are. It’s things that we don’t want to get out and talk about and we can’t get out and talk about it. We are doing a lot of things to really focus our efforts, both internal dollars that we’re investing [and] dollars that the government is investing with us to look at addressing these advanced threats that are coming. That’s where a lot of my effort is being spent right now.”
How India Will Get a New C-17
This week, perfectly timed to India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington, the State Department approved the sale of a single C-17 cargo plane to New Delhi. You might be saying to yourself: “How the heck is India going to buy a new C-17 when Boeing closed its Long Beach, California, production line in 2015?” I’ll admit that was my first thought as well. But then I remembered that the company built some extra planes, 10 to be exact, for anticipated orders. Turns out, this is the last unclaimed aircraft, a Boeing spokeswoman said. The plane has been in storage at a Boeing factory in San Antonio, Texas, where it does C-17 maintenance work.
Making a Old Planes Seem Like New
The military’s new F-35s and F-22 fighter jets are technologically leaps and bounds above the older jets they battle in stateside wargames. In fact, the Navy still uses F-5s, which were designed in the 1950s, to simulate bad guys. While the planes might be high performance, they don’t have the advanced electronics that say modern Russian and Chinese jets have. So how do you make these old planes seem like new?
Give ‘em a tablet. San Diego-based Cubic touted its Bandit Board — a device that straps to a pilot’s knee — at the Paris Air Show last week.
“The challenge is how do you make your adversary force representative of a [fourth or fifth-generation fighter jet] threat without having to recapitalize your entire adversary fleet,” Dave Buss, senior vice president and president of Cubic Global Defense, said in an interview.
Here’s how the Bandit Board works. The tablet connects to a special missile-shaped pod on the plane’s wing. That pod connects the plane to the cloud and allows it to see all the planes in the mock battle.
“Just by adding situational awareness of where everybody else is, it allows the adversary to be more threat representative because he’s got the same kind of awareness that an adversary fighter would have from his datalink capability,” Buss said.
Cubic has been working on upgrades to the pod itself, allowing the old planes to simulate many other functions of a modern fighter jet.
“[It’s a] very inexpensive way of giving situational awareness, sensor and weapon capability to an adversary and essentially taking a second- or third-generation aircraft and upgrading it to something that’s more threat representative,” Buss said.
Leonardo DRS Acquires Daylight Solutions
Leonardo DRS — the American arm of the Italian aerospace and defense firm formerly know and Finmeccanica — closed its acquisition of Daylight Solutions, a company that makes quantum cascade laser based products and technology.