Navy suppliers returning to work; USAF’s engine reversal; Drive-through job interviews; and more…

By Marcus Weisgerber

May 21, 2020

The first shots in the annual defense-budget battle arrived  just two weeks into the year, in the form of a blunt statement by Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations: “We need more money.”

Now a group of progressive lawmakers say defense spending should be cut, and the money put toward the coronavirus response.

The 29 Democrats call on the leaders of the House Armed Services Committee to enact defense spending “below last year’s authorized level.”

Congress approved $738 billion in defense spending in fiscal 2020; the Trump administration has asked lawmakers for $740.5 billion in fiscal 2021. The Pentagon’s share of the 2021 budget proposal is $705.4 billion, so it’s already lower than this year’s $713 billion budget. It’s also worth noting that Congress gave the Pentagon an additional $10 billion in March as part of its $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus, and that lawmakers have agreed to cap 2021 defense funds at $741 billion.

Still, that hasn’t stopped some lawmakers, such as Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., from calling for more Pentagon money. Cotton is pushing legislation that would put $43 billion toward countering China.

We see this as a preemptive negotiation,” Cowen & Company analyst Roman Schweizer wrote in a May 20 note to investors of the progressive’s call to cut defense spending. “Passage of the final defense authorization & appropriations bills won't be along party lines; both will … need to be bipartisan. We still question timing & leverage: passage before/after the election.”

Schweizer writes that the group of lawmakers “would cut defense under any circumstance.”

Not surprisingly, the military leaders don’t want their budget cut.

To me it’s the wrong time to be making defense cuts because I want to be able to deter any type of great power conflict,” Gen. Stephen Wilson, the U.S. Air Force vice chief of staff, said Wednesday at a Mitchell Institute event.

Today the force is old and the force is too small. We would argue this is not a time to be advocating for defense cuts and we need to stay the course,” Wilson said. “We have a good plan to build the Air Force we need and we need to continue on that plan to do just that.”

Dave Deptula, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who is dean of the Mitchell Institute, argues the Pentagon’s should align with the military’s duties outlined in the National Security Strategy. 

If we’re going to meet the demands of the National Security Strategy, we need to resource it to be able to do that,” Deptula said. “Or, the other choice is, you change and lower the demands of the National Security Strategy.”

Welcome

You’ve reached the Defense One Global Business Brief by Marcus Weisgerber. Send along your tips and feedback to mweisgerber@defenseone.com or @MarcusReports. Check out the Global Business Brief archive here, and tell your friends to subscribe!


From Defense One

Air Force Leaders Fret As Another Satellite Maker Declares Bankruptcy // Patrick Tucker

Service leaders are asking for Congressional help in shoring up the defense industrial base.

What Google's New Contract Reveals About the Pentagon's Evolving Clouds // Patrick Tucker

For one thing, it disproves fears that the massive JEDI contract meant one company would get all the work.

Coronavirus Hampering Defense Contractor Operations, Reader Survey Finds // Marcus Weisgerber

It's harder to win business amid a pandemic, said one-third of industry respondents in a Defense One reader survey.


Coronavirus Still Delaying Weapons Work, But Some Bright Spots

The U.S. Navy is awarding fewer than usual contracts, but spending faster than usual to speed funds to contractors, James “Hondo” Geurts, the head of Navy acquisition, said Wednesday. So far this fiscal year, the service has obligated $104 billion, 26 percent more than at this point in May of last year. By month’s end, Geurts expects that to tick up to 33 percent. That’s despite awarding about 14 percent contracts fewer than at this point last year and 20% fewer than at this point in 2018.

We're doing our part to make sure we've got the workloads present for the workforce to work as we continue to work through any delayed disruption, and that we are being good partners in terms of rapidly paying out the bills,” Geurts said. “This is all about creating stability, both for the defense workforce and as a foundation to help the country as it rebounds economically.”

Supplier watch: Of the 10,000 companies tracked by Geurts’ office, 250 closed temporarily for coronavirus-related reasons over the past two-plus months, he said. All but 35 are open again.

Lockheed Martin expects to deliver fewer F-35s this yearbetween 18 and 24 less than the 141 planned, the company said this week. Executives have been warning of coronavirus-related F-35 production delays as suppliers have faced workforce challenges in recent months.

HII Tries Drive-in Job Interviews

While job interviews over video calls are getting a lot of attention in our new socially distanced world, Huntington Ingalls Industries is trying something else: meeting prospective employees in their cars. On Friday, the shipbuilder will host a drive-in job fair at its Ingalls Shipbuilding site in Pascagoula, Mississippi. “Event attendees will have the opportunity to apply for open positions and speak to Ingalls recruiters and shipbuilders in person without having to exit their vehicle,” the company said. Attendees will drive around a loop with specific shipbuilding crafts set up along the way. “This event allows us to efficiently interface with interested applicants while practicing safe social distancing,” Edmond Hughes, vice president of human resources and administration at Ingalls, said in a statement. 

In Reversal, Air Force to Compete F-15EX Engines 

The revelation came in a notice posted on a government contracting website. The Air Force had planned to buy General Electric-made engines for its new Boeing F-15EX twin-engine fighters. The Air Force uses Pratt & Whitney engines in all of its F-15C/D and F-15E jets, however allies use GE-made engines in their F-15s. Qatar uses GE engines on its F-15QA, on which the F-15EX is based, leading the U.S. Air Force to follow suit, Janes reported in March. Pratt protested the Air Force’s decision to the Government Accountability Office, however that protest was dismissed. The Air Force plans to buy up to 461 engines with deliveries anticipated to begin in June 2023. 

Air Force Launches B-52 Engine Competition

This week, the Air Force released a proposal request for new B-52 bomber engines that would keep the Boeing-made eight-engine aircraft “viable through 2050.” In all, the Air Force plans to buy 608 engines, plus spares. For years, the service leaders have wanted to replace the B-52s engines with commercially available power plants. GE, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney are expected to place bids.

Northrop Scores $2.37B Missile Warning Satellite Deal

The two satellites are expected to fly in polar orbits. As Space News reports, Northrop and Lockheed Martin are each building new missile warning satellites, called Next-Generation Overhead Persistent Infrared, or Next-Gen OPIR. Lockheed has received $2.9 billion for the three satellites it’s building.

Teams to Build Rapid Tunnel-Digging Machine for Military

When we discuss tunnels, it’s usually about what the U.S. military is doing to find them or  whoever is hiding inside. Now, the Pentagon wants to use tunnels to support its own operations. “The Underminer program aims to develop and demonstrate tactical uses for rapidly created underground infrastructure in contested environments,” Andrew Nuss, the Underminer program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office, said in a statement announcing three teams would build tunneling technology. “The ability to quickly bore tactical tunnels could benefit contingency operations such as rapid ammunition resupply, rescue missions, or other immediate needs.” The teams include GE — which has posted a video of an earthworm-like tunneling robot — Colorado School of Mines and Sandia National Laboratories. 

L3Harris Finishes Divestitures to Adaptas

L3Harris Technologies completed its divestiture of its Applied Kilovolts and Analytical Instrumentation business to Massachusetts-based Adaptas Solutions. “This acquisition further enhances Adaptas' manufacturing and engineering resources, allowing Adaptas to accelerate OEM client development projects while offering the industry's broadest range of next generation mass spectrometer detection solutions.”

Every State Invited to Bid For Space Command HQ

The thoroughly political process of choosing a headquarters location for the U.S. Space Command, the military’s newest combatant command is wide open. A year ago, the short list included four Air Force bases in Colorado, one in California and an Army base in Alabama. All of the bases currently host space units. Florida had been under consideration, then it was dropped, then it was back in the running, until it wasn’t. Now every state will get to place a bid (assuming they meet the Air Force’s criteria) to host the command’s headquarters and the thousands of workers likely to come with it. Air Force leaders “anticipate selecting a preferred U.S. Space Command location early next calendar year,” but it’s an election year, so who knows what could happen before then.

Making Moves

Jennifer Santos, the recently fired deputy assistant defense secretary for industrial policy, is now working for Navy acquisition chief Guerts. “She'll be helping me specifically in this R&D transformation as we really continue to look at both our processes and our priorities and get that whole system aligned to operate at the speed we need to to be relevant and effective, executing the National Defense Strategy,” Geurts said Wednesday. Politico reported that Santos was fired amid questions about the Pentagon’s efforts to obtain coronavirus-related gear. Scott Baum, the principal director for industrial policy, is filling Santos’ prior position in an acting role.


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.

May 21, 2020

https://www.defenseone.com/business/2020/05/global-business-brief-may-21-2020/165567/