DOD: Big companies move too slowly; SOCOM’s shopping list; 2020 budget reveal slips to March and more.

By Marcus Weisgerber

February 7, 2019

The defense industry is never shy about urging the Pentagon to move faster when buying everything from equipment to weapons. But this week, two top Pentagon acquisition officials turned the tables, saying that defense firms are moving too slowly themselves.

First came James Smith, the acquisition executive for U.S. Special Operations Command.

As I get all sorts of great authorities from Congress and from [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] to move faster, we’re seeing some of our industry partners that are not moving as fast,” Smith said Wednesday at the National Defense Industrial Association SO/LIC conference. “If I’m going to move faster, I need you to move faster as well.”

He alluded to bureaucratic delays at larger firms.

Some of you in the room, I’m moving faster than you are, as you tell me ‘Yeah, I gotta get this through my contracting layers,’” he said. “And I’m not talking to the smalls. We’ll just leave it at that. You gotta help me move faster. This next generation of acquisition is going to be all about speed.”

SOCOM acquisition moves quickly because it’s typically working to field equipment urgently needed by troops on the battlefield. But these days, it seems acquisition officials everywhere are working to speed up the buying process — and the already speedy SOCOM wants to move even faster.

Also weighing in on the subject: Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch, the U.S. Air Force military deputy for acquisition. (Bunch has been nominated to get his fourth star and lead Air Force Materiel Command.)

When we talk about faster and smarter, and we talk about our bureaucracy, we talk about what we’re doing to try to streamline things, I think you probably have a little of your own bureaucracy in the way you’ve done business as well,” Bunch said Feb. 1 at an Air Force Association breakfast. “ I was always told the grass is greener on the other side and my response to that is, quit spending so much time looking over the fence. Why don’t you take care of your own garden and be a little bit better gardener and get your grass a little greener.”

Bunch continued: “We’re working on what we can do internal to our bureaucracy. I’m sure you are doing the same because we’ve all gotta work together if we’re going to make this happen so that we’re getting capabilities out there quicker.”

Seems like we have a trend brewing. Let’s see if and how industry responds.


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From Defense One

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The Pentagon's First AI Strategy Will Focus on Near-Term Operations — and Safety // Patrick Tucker

The document is intended to make commander think through the implications of their new artificial-intelligence tools.

US Navy Places First 2-Carrier Order in Three Decades // Marcus Weisgerber

Despite cost overruns on lead Ford-class ship, officials say dual buy will save $4 billion.

Expect 2020 Budget Proposal on March 12

That’s what Rep. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., said Thursday morning at an Amphibious Warship Industrial Base Coalition event on Capitol Hill. “What we’re hearing from [the White House Office of Management and Budget] is we’re not going to get the president’s budget until March 12,” he said. “That’s about seven weeks later than the normal regular order.” Usually the president’s budget proposal is sent to lawmakers the first Tuesday in February, but it has been delayed by the partial government shutdown in December and January. (Kudos to Politico, which reported the budget would be released the week of March 11, and National Defense Magazine, which reported the March 12 release date on Monday.)

SOCOM’s Shopping List

After nearly 18 years of counterterrorism ops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and beyond, U.S. Special Operations Command is looking toward a future that also includes the great power competition with Russia and China described in the National Defense Strategy.

In a near-peer environment, big platforms are going to have  tough go at it, but a small team could very well be the survivable element that can influence the battle space for our nation,” SOCOM acquisition executive James Smith said Wednesday. “So how do you make those small teams more lethal?”

Here’s the stuff SOCOM is looking to buy as it re-tools for great power competition:

Oh, and SOCOM wants to own its data: Smith was pretty blunt about not wanting to be beholden to a third party for access to SOCOM information. “I want to own the data, I want to have access to the data, data is the new oil and if we’re generating data off one of our products, I want it,” he said. He stressed that he is not looking for design data rights, data being generated by platforms, like small drones. “I don’t think I’m talking about necessarily [intellectual property], I’m talking about the data that flows in and out of your box,” he said. “You can give me a black box and I don’t necessarily need to know what’s going on inside that black box,” he said. “I owe you the data architecture that your black box can plug into, but I do want to have access to every single bit of data that goes in or out of that box at the interface.” But defense companies have not wanted to give that data up so easily.

GE Scores Helicopter Engine Deal

The Army has selected the firm for the next phase of a mammoth effort to put more powerful engines in Black Hawk and Apache helicopters. GE Aviation beat out a team of Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney. While the initial deal, awarded last Friday, is worth $517 million, analysts estimate it could ultimately be valued between $5 billion and $10 billion depending on how many helicopters the Army chooses to upgrade. The Army also plans to use the engine on its next-generation attack/reconnaissance helicopters. (I wrote about the “engine war” then brewing between General Electric and the Honeywell-Pratt & Whitney team just after joining the Defense One team in 2014.)

Army to Buy Iron Dome

The U.S. Army will buy a “limited number” of Iron Dome missile defense systems to “fill its short-term need for an interim Indirect Fire Protection Capability.” The system, which has been used by Israel to shoot down incoming missiles “will be assessed and experimented as a system that is currently available to protect deployed U.S. military service members against a wide variety of indirect fire threats and aerial threats,” Col. Patrick Seiber, an Army Futures Command spokesman, said in an emailed statement.

BAE Opens EW Factory in NH

As an alumnus of a New Hampshire college (and a cub reporter there afterward), I always have room in the newsletter for New England happenings that don’t involve the Patriots. To wit: BAE Systems has leased a 200,000 square-foot campus in Manchester, where some 800 employees will focus on electronic warfare projects. All-in-all, the company will have more than 6,000 people in the Granite State, counting nearby sites in Nashua and Hudson. FWIW, BAE’s new digs are just a quick 90-minute drive from Loon Mountain, which appears to have some decent ski conditions this winter. Oops, thought I said I was getting back to work.

LMI Acquires Tauri Group

LMI acquired The Tauri Group, “a government contracting firm confronting national and homeland security challenges.” Terms of the deal were not disclosed. “The acquisition expands LMI’s service offerings within the national defense and homeland security communities while continuing its focus on delivering innovative, mission-critical services to the federal government,” LMI said in an emailed statement.

Making Moves

Dan Hedstrom has been named vice president and chief information officer of Cubic, where he will “lead a broad range of information technology initiatives. He previously worked as vice president of system solutions and services for the Cubic Transportation Systems business division.

By Marcus Weisgerber // Marcus Weisgerber is the global business editor for Defense One, where he writes about the intersection of business and national security. He has been covering defense and national security issues for more than a decade, previously as Pentagon correspondent for Defense News and chief editor of Inside the Air Force. He has reported from Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia, and often travels with the defense secretary and other senior military officials.

February 7, 2019