NAVAIR Engineers Win 2017 DOD Maintenance Innovation Challenge

Materials engineers Andrea Boxell and Justin Massey, right, are joined by Deputy Commander Fleet Readiness Centers Martin Ahmad as they receive the 2017 DOD Maintenance Innovation Challenge award during the DOD Maintenance Symposium Dec. 5 in Salt Lake City. Massey and Boxell, along with NAVAIR materials engineer Rob Thompson, won the award for their work with the Diffuse Reflectance Infared Fourier Transform (DRIFT) portable spectrometer, a Non-destructive Inspection (NDI) tool that detects chemical changes to composite materials that have been exposed to excessive heat.

FRCSW HRO Attends Artisan Recruiting Drive

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest human resources specialists Jeanette Cortez, left, and Hannah Nickless attend an artisan recruiting drive Nov. 30 at the Scottish Rite Center in San Diego. The drive is part of Naval Air Systems Command’s efforts to replenish its workforce throughout the Fleet Readiness Center domain.

FRCSW Earns FY 2017 SECNAV Platinum Level Energy Award

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) has earned the Secretary of the Navy’s (SECNAV) Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 Energy and Water Management Platinum Level Award for FY 2016 environmental accomplishments.

Presented annually and divided into 15 major categories (10 shore and five ship) the SECNAV award is the highest level of recognition within the Navy’s energy programs.

FRCSW’s efforts recognized by the “Platinum” level category designate “… an outstanding energy program and an exceptional year for energy project execution.”

Three shore-based commands, including Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, and four ships joined FRCSW in the “Platinum” level of accomplishment.

One measure of a successful energy conservation program is by meeting compliance with executive order 13423 (EO 13423). Signed in January 2007, EO 13423 directs federal agencies to improve energy efficiencies by reducing water consumption, electricity usage and greenhouse gases by three percent per year.

The new executive order 13693, Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, started in the beginning of FY16 which created the new baseline of FY15 and a yearly energy reduction of 2.5% moving forward to FY2025.

Investing more than $42 million in energy reduction projects since FY 2012 to FY 2016, FRCSW managed a 28 percent reduction in energy consumption, and a drop in energy intensity by 32.91 British Thermal Units (MMBTU)/thousand square feet (KSF) MMBTU/KSF.

MMBTU is an energy measurement for steam, electricity or natural gas.

During the same fiscal four-year period, water consumption was reduced by 21.7 percent, and water intensity by 2.48 thousand gallons (KGAL/KSF).

FRCSW uses an index of energy consumption called “energy intensity,” which is based on BTUs, vice industrial floor space.

A similar index, called “water intensity” is used to measure thousands of gallons of water instead of industrial square feet.

The command’s Building Energy Monitor (BEM) Program promotes energy awareness not only on the work floor, but throughout all levels of management.

FRCSW has 12 BEMs who monitor energy systems in their respective buildings.

Metering data is graphed and distributed to FRCSW managers and BEMs monthly.

Funding for FRCSW’s energy programs originate through various sources including utility Energy Service Contracts (UESC) and Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPC).

Authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, UESCs are a limited-source contract between a federal agency and its serving utility for energy and water efficiency improvements and demand-reduction services.

An ESPC enables federal agencies to partnership with energy service companies to achieve reduction goals or create improvements to existing energy systems.

FRCSW has a current $24 million ESPC that targeted LED lighting retrofits in nine buildings, decentralization of compressed air, HVAC retrofits to two different calibrations labs, zero-bleed cooling towers, and water conservation steam mixing valves at multiple wash racks.

The contract also includes operations and maintenance of the equipment installed for 14 years which will help sustain the equipment to its maximum lifespan.

Furthermore, the command is forming a second ESPC to decentralize all buildings from base steam. Steam boilers will be used for industrial process buildings, while the remaining buildings will be converted from steam to heating hot water boilers, gas fired unit heaters, or heat pumps.

Natural gas will be supplied by a new Navy-owned gas main.

In other cost saving initiatives, FRCSW disabled steam to roof top air handlers in Building 472 resulting in approximately $500,000 in annual savings, and by reducing winter irrigation at Building C-100 more than $6,800 will be saved annually.







FRCSW Selects Hollie Shaw for Nov 2017 Golden Wrench Award

                                                                                   Fleet Readiness Center Southwest Commanding Officer Capt. Craig Owen presents the November 2017 Golden Wrench Award to technical data writer Hollie Shaw. Shaw was recognized with the award for her work within the F/A-18 and EA-18G Technical Data Team where she identified all technical publication deficiency reports on more than 1,200 Naval Air Technical manuals, including their status within the process and the required engineering. She completed the task in days — well ahead of the anticipated schedule —- enabling the technical data team to formally incorporate hundreds of backlogged technical publication deficiency reports which are currently being delivered to the Fleet.

DRIFT NDI Method Used to Evaluate MV-22 Wing

Materials engineer technician Steve Pacheco uses the DRIFT portable spectrometer to determine if the wing of a legacy F/A-18 sustained any heat damage. DRIFT is a Non-destructive Inspection (NDI) tool that detects chemical changes to composite materials that have been exposed to excessive heat. Photo by Jim Markle


An assignment to access the integrity of an MV-22 Osprey wing at Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina earlier this year resulted in the validation of a non-destructive inspection (NDI) method that stands to save the Navy and Marine Corps millions of dollars in maintenance and repairs to the primarily composite-based airframe.
“The Diffuse Reflectance Infrared Fourier Transform (DRIFT) is a portable spectrometer that can determine if a composite is heat damaged. We developed it to serve that purpose,” said Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) materials engineer Justin Massey.
“It was originally invented for geological surveys, then we (modified) it with the help of Boeing to determine chemical changes in composite materials to find out if they are heat damaged or not.”
The handheld DRIFT detects chemical changes, such as those induced by heat, to composites on a molecular level. Weaken or damaged composites typically result in cracks or de-laminates to the component.
“Boeing initially developed DRIFT for its 787 platform. Our team lead, Ed Harris, came up with the idea of developing it for the F/A-18. The development period was from 2012-2015, and it was officially adopted as an inspection method by NAVAIR in 2015 where it has been used on the F/A-18,” Massey said.
The DRIFT NDI procedure was qualified by Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) in 2015 to detect heat damage in F/A-18 composites using an Agilent Flexscan 4200 spectrometer.
The following year, a national team that included staff from FRCSW, FRC Southeast, FRC East, and Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) was assembled to modify the DRIFT NDI for use on other airframes, including the V-22 Osprey.
“With the national team, we took this technology and developed it for the V-22. It usually takes about two to three years to do something like this, but we got it done in two months to be able to inspect the V-22 wing (at MCAS New River),” Massey said.
“The wing was thermally damaged from an engine fire, and there was no inspection technique to determine if it could be saved or not.”
Massey and NAVAIR materials engineer technician Steve Pacheco were joined by FRC East materials engineers Rob Thompson and Andrea Boxell, and with the help of the materials group and Fleet Support Team at Cherry Point, completed inspections and assessments on the V-22 wing after two days.
“This was a onetime deal in that we got authorized through their program office,” Pacheco said. “It was an emergency because the aircraft was taking up an entire hangar bay, so they needed to know if they could fix it and fly it again, or part it out.”
The wing was recoverable, saving approximately $10-$12 million in replacement costs.
“We’ve already saved about $20 million in aircraft parts over the past few years,” Pacheco said.
The DRIFT spectrometer cost about $60,000, and development costs were approximately $400,000.
“Composites are high value assets, and the return on investment is relatively quick on this kind of technology,” Massey noted.
“Prior to the development of DRIFT, visual inspections and standard NDI methods were used on composite parts. Generally, if the paint showed any discoloration, it was the removal and replacement of the part under analysis. Which is what would have happened on this V-22,” Massey said.
“We’re currently the only branch in the military that can detect heat damage on composites,” he said. “We see this use expanding to every aircraft that has composites. People have reached out to us from the Air Force, to the Army and the prime contractors. Everyone has caught wind of this and wants to know how to get this for their aircraft.”
A joint project by Massey, Thompson and Boxell entitled “The Use of DRIFT for Composite Heat Damage Evaluation of the V-22 Wing,” was submitted to the 2017 DOD Maintenance Innovation Challenge. It is one of six finalists from a field of 77 submissions. A winner will be selected at the DOD Maintenance Symposium in Salt Lake City Dec. 5.




FRCSW Employee earns Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW) Commanding Officer Capt. Craig Owen presents the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award to FRCSW Director of Human Resources Ashley Smith Oct. 27 in the boards area of Building 94. Smith was recognized for her leadership in implementing the Special Salary Rate program which targeted recruitment remedies of occupational series difficult to fill and retain in the San Diego area. Further, she was instrumental in leading the support and implementation of Advanced Skills Management, a web-based application designed to enhance the quality and efficiency of the command’s training programs. Photo by Scott Janes

FRCSW Teammates Recognized for Quick Actions

Fleet Readiness Center Southwest Commanding Officer Capt. Craig Owen presents Special Act Awards Oct. 27 to Manuel Perez-Preve (top) and Richard Daoedsjah for their swift actions Oct. 19 in administering the Heimlich maneuver to co-worker Louis Lonero, who was choking. Lonero was transported to Sharp Hospital in Coronado where he was evaluated and later released. Photo by Scott Janes


FRCSW/COMFRC News Clips for the week of June 10


Lawmakers Could OK Block Buys For V-22, F-35 Parts

Lawmakers Want More Troops, New Criminal Penalties In Defense Budget Proposal

Trump’s Pick For No. 2 Pentagon Job Faces Tough Questions During Confirmation Hearing

Policy Experts Urge Congress To Back New Round Of Base Realignments And Closures

Hypoxia Worries ‘Top Issue’ For Boeing Defense CEO; Cobham Tech Unveiled

Dunford Touts F-35 as ‘Not Just a Better F-18 or Bomb Truck’

PARIS: NAVAIR Exploring Shorter Test Schedule For CH-53K

Republican Lawmakers Set To Introduce Legislation Calling For A 355-Ship Navy

Lockheed grows closer to F-35 block buy deal with US, international customers

Navy Integrates New F-18 Infrared Sensor




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Ready, Set, Innovate: NAVAIR leaders launch Industrial Innovation Challenge



MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – Innovators at Fleet Readiness Center East are off to the races now that the 2017 FRC East Industrial Innovation Challenge is underway to harvest ideas, strategies and products to improve Navy Enterprise readiness.


Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers Deputy Martin Ahmad and Naval Air Systems Command Aviation Readiness and Resource Analysis Director Roy Harris made the official launch June 14 during a whistle stop tour here, challenging visionaries to develop and deliver ideas that enable the Navy to outpace its competitors.


“The Innovation Challenge is about giving you the opportunity to come with ideas to help change the game,” said Ahmad to the FRC East workforce during the visit. “Whether it’s about improving quality . ensuring safety . or improving turnaround time or cost efficiency. Any of those things will have an impact on getting aircraft out the door and systems in the field.”


According to Ahmad, comments delivered by the Chief of Naval Operations and the Commandant of the Marine Corps to leaders earlier in the year are the impetus for such a challenge. That commentary expressed the urgency for a force more innovative that will increase Navy and Marine Corps readiness, warfighting capabilities and America’s resolve.


“We can’t rest assured that we are number one,” said Ahmad. “In the end, whoever wins the conflict is the country that can get the equipment on the field and aircraft in the air, and that’s what we’re challenged to do.”


The COMFRC leader acknowledged some of the issues the workforce encounters in getting good ideas to the enterprise. “In many cases you’re handicapped by policy, systems, processes, tools,” Ahmad said, encouraging the workforce to leverage the competition as a permitted departure from traditional methods. “We want to do what we can to break out of that.”


“Innovation doesn’t come out of the leadership telling the workforce what it will do,” Ahmad added, “innovation comes from the workforce . ideas that percolate up to the top.”


Harris extended the official invitation to FRC East employees.


“We want to give you all time to do some things. To figure out a better way of doing things,” he said, highlighting the use of the mobile fabrication lab as a resource to be used.


He took an informal survey of the audiences to learn: “How many of you have ever had an idea that seemed to hit the stops or died on the vine . or asked ‘why do we do it this way?’ ” The resulting show of hands validated the NAVAIR leader’s concerns.


Harris laid out the format for the challenge. He said teams, of no more than eight individuals, could start submitting ideas immediately. By Sept. 1, ideas will be validated and the top five teams selected. Between September and December, the selected teams will be given a few hours during the work week to further develop ideas and prove concepts. The contest will culminate in December when awards are presented.


Harris also explained the new NAVAIR crowdsourcing tool, Spark! would be incorporated in the challenge. It is designed to accelerate innovation through collaboration. It will enable participants to collaborate, shape and vote on ideas until concepts reach a required threshold for implementation.


Col. Clarence Harper, FRC East commanding officer, further encouraged participation from the workforce answering the question of would be participants: “What’s in it for me?”


“You get to take your idea or concept . use the tools that NAVAIR and FRC East make available to you – the Fab Lab, the digital technology – and you get a voice,” he said. “You get a chance to get your voice out there. And we’re carving out a couple or three hours a week, maybe more, maybe less. You’re going to get paid to go flesh out your idea. How cool is that?”


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Navy to Recognize FRCSE Scientists, Engineers with Award at Pentagon



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A trio of triumphs by a team of Fleet Readiness Center Southeast scientists and engineers has earned them a trip to the Pentagon, where they will be presented with the Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers Award for 2016 next month.


The team saw the culmination of years of hard work in 2016 that will result in better quality products being delivered to warfighters more quickly.


“The award is for the group category, so I think it symbolizes how well we all work together,” Lead Materials Engineer Jack Benfer said. “We really stress and challenge the team to work as a group and not as individuals, because we’re more effective that way.”


The award, established in 2006 in honor of the former Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisitions), is bestowed to the Navy’s top scientists and engineers for outstanding achievements in their fields.


The award recognizes the group of five, including Benfer, Senior Chemist Ruben Prado, Engineer Technician Rodney Williamson, Materials Engineer Peter Sheridan and Chemical Engineer Luzmarie Youngers, for three outstanding achievements in 2016.


The first accomplishment to be implemented was a new chemical milling line. For many aircraft parts, removing material with chemicals instead of traditional mechanical milling is faster and more precise.


“Before we had the chemical milling capability, many components couldn’t be fabricated here at the plant,” Benfer said. “They had to go to outside sources with a lengthy turnaround time.


“Now with chemical milling we’re able to get that work performed here, and get it completed much faster.”


Chemical milling “eats” away metal until the affected areas reach a desired thickness. However, two of the team’s biggest accomplishments were in new ways to prevent the environment from doing the same thing through corrosion.


“With our new anodize line, we’re going to see a three-fold improvement in corrosion resistance,” Prado said. “That means a more durable metal for the guys out flying and maintaining these aircraft.”


Though the new anodizing process will better protect aircraft aluminum, the process was sparked 12 years ago by a quest to find an alternative to the hazardous materials involved with the old process.


“This all began by looking for environmental benefits,” Prado said. “We’re always looking for ways to eliminate any processes that use harmful materials, and it really paid off this time.”


Third and finally, the team also introduced a new zinc-nickel plating line for steel aircraft components.


The “active” coating works by releasing electrons in the event a steel part is scratched or nicked, to keep the component from corroding. Parts outfitted with the new coating are currently deployed on a Navy aircraft carrier to confirm its durability.


“We think that, not only will it be safer than cadmium plating, it will also be more durable,” Prado said.


Chemical milling, advanced anodizing and zinc-nickel plating will not only benefit FRCSE. The work done here can now be used to benefit commands across the Navy.


Benfer said the team has been effective because of its alignment with the needs of the fleet: improving the availability of aircraft and components, and delivering them with greater speed.


“We’re aligning our goals with the top priorities that NAVAIR has expressed to us through policies and command initiatives – we focus the team on those,” he said.


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Lawmakers Could OK Block Buys For V-22, F-35 Parts

(DEFENSE DAILY 20 JUN 17) … Dan Parsons


The House Armed Services subcommittee on tactical air and land forces wants to authorize the Pentagon to buy aircraft and spare parts in bulk to save money on future purchases of both the V-22 Osprey and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.


In its draft mark of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the subcommittee provides authorization for the secretary of the Navy to enter multi-year contracts of up to seven years when purchasing Bell/Boeing V-22s for the Navy and Marine Corps. It also provides for common configuration-readiness and modernization (CCRAM) upgrades for the aircraft. Bell is division of Textron.


A recent Independent Range Review (IRR) of the MV-22 program showed that heightened demand for the aircraft required on-the-fly modifications to the design as they came off the production line, resulting in 77 different configurations of the aircraft being rushed into combat zones. When every fourth aircraft is substantially different from the previous three, maintenance and support logistics are complicated, so the Marine Corps is working through CCRAM to bring all of its 263-plus V-22s to a common configuration.


As the aircraft – oldest to youngest – proceed through scheduled depot maintenance, they will be reconfigured into a common variant by Marine Corps, Bell and Boeing maintainers. The work will be done during incremental preventive maintenance prescheduled for each aircraft.


“The committee encourages the Department of the Navy to execute a procurement profile for this multiyear in order to acquire the aircraft at economic order quantity levels that most efficiently acquire the aircraft and fully procures the programmed acquisition objective aircraft for the Department of the Navy,” the subcommittee’s draft, released June 20, reads.


Bill language does not authorize multi-year procurement of Lockheed Martin [LMT] F-35 aircraft, but would allow economic order quantities (EOQs) for long-lead-time materials for the jets. The materials and equipment must have completed hardware qualification testing and used in fiscal years 2019 and 2020, according to the mark. That would involve F-35 low-rate initial production lots 12, 13 and 14, through which international program partners are paying up front for multiple production years, according to subcommittee aides.


The U.S. government is not authorized to enter multi-year contracts with Lockheed for the F-35, though the idea has been floated by the program office as a cost-reduction measure. Congress has been unwilling to authorize the Defense Department to make such a move, but the subcommittee mark would allow the Pentagon to piggyback on the international multi-year by buying certified parts in bulk.


The subcommittee also would limit the value of such contracts for fiscal year 2018, or any year thereafter, to $661 million. The secretary of defense also would have to notify Congress that an impending EOQ buy meets certain conditions and then wait 15 days before initiating the purchase.


The fiscal year 2018 Defense Department budget submission includes $10.8 billion for a total of 70 F-35s for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.


The subcommittee is scheduled to meet at 4 p.m., Wednesday to markup its section of the House version of the NDAA.


Lawmakers Could OK Block Buys For V-22, F-35 Parts


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Lawmakers Want More Troops, New Criminal Penalties In Defense Budget Proposal

(MILITARY TIMES 20 JUN 17) … Leo Shane III


WASHINGTON – House lawmakers in their annual defense authorization bill will push for a boost in military end strength, new punishment for troops who share nude photos, and more lenient consideration for troops dismissed from the ranks because of underlying health problems.


The measure, part of Congress’s annual budget plan for the military, still does not yet have a total price tag, leaving a host of questions about whether all the policy and strategy changes can become law. House Armed Services Committee officials are expected to release additional funding details on the legislation next week.


But in a preview of key portions of the measure released Tuesday, members of the committee’s military personnel panel unveiled plans for a 2.4 percent pay raise for troops and an end strength boost of nearly 28,000 servicemembers.


President Trump had already requested a boost of about 4,000 sailors for the Navy and another 4,100 airmen for the Air Force in his budget request last month.


Lawmakers have agreed to aim for those same end strength levels, and to boost the Air Force Reserves and Air National Guard by 1,700 personnel and the Naval Reserve by another 1,000 sailors.


But the House panel goes further. After a 16,000-soldier jump in Army personnel last year, White House officials were content to leave the service’s end strength at fiscal 2017 levels. The House panel, citing requests in the Army’s unfunded requirements list, will look to fund another 10,000 active-duty soldiers, 4,000 guardsmen and 3,000 Army Reservists.


Combined with the higher pay raise, the extra personnel costs are likely to drive the military budget for fiscal 2018 well above the president’s proposed $603 billion level, which already sits well above spending caps mandated by law.


Committee officials declined to offer specifics on the exact price of the measure.


The bill also includes a host of specialty pays and bonus reauthorizations, and the second year of an extensive overhaul of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.


Among the biggest changes to that initiative is the inclusion of new language that specifically prohibits the non-consensual sharing of nude photos, in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal in the Marine Corps earlier this year. The language is based on a measure sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., that the full House passed last month.


Lawmakers also have drafted language to allow troops with other-than-honorable discharges to submit outside medical documents (from the Department of Veterans Affairs or private physicians) as evidence in reconsidering their dismissal status.


The move comes after years of lobbying from advocates who say tens of thousands of troops may have been improperly kicked out of the military because of undiagnosed medical issues like post-traumatic stress disorder or traumatic brain injury. The new rules would require review boards to give “liberal consideration” to the outside medical evidence when weighing a discharge upgrade.


House members are proposing a $500 stipend for spouses of troops to cover credentialing and licensing fees associated with interstate moves, in response to concerns about the difficulties those military assignments can have on family members’ careers.


And the authorization bill clarifies that service academy graduates must complete their full military commitment prior to participating in professional sports. The issue has become national news in recent years, with a spate of academy standouts being considered by professional sports teams immediately upon graduation.


The authorization bill draft is scheduled to be marked up by the full committee next week, and considered by the full House before the end of July. The Senate must also pass its own version before lawmakers can reconcile the two and send it to Trump to become law, a process that is expected to take until sometime this fall.


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Trump’s Pick For No. 2 Pentagon Job Faces Tough Questions During Confirmation Hearing

(WASHINGTON POST 20 JUN 17) … Dan Lamothe


WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump’s choice to take the No. 2 job at the Pentagon had a rocky confirmation hearing Tuesday, with Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., at one point threatening to withhold his nomination from a vote and other lawmakers questioning how he will overcome his lack of experience in the Defense Department.


Patrick Shanahan, a vice president at the aerospace company and defense contractor Boeing, who was nominated in March to be deputy defense secretary, also faced questions about how he will manage day-to-day operations in the Pentagon while recusing himself from all decisions with a tie to Boeing. Shanahan has worked for the defense behemoth since 1986, with stints overseeing civilian airliner programs and military equipment.


McCain needled Shanahan early in the hearing about his prepared answer to a question about the U.S. potentially supplying weapons to Ukraine to face Russian-backed separatists. Shanahan wrote that he would have to look at the issue.


“In your questions that were submitted to you, one of the questions was providing the Ukrainians with legal, lethal defense weaponry with which to defend themselves,” McCain said. “Inexplicably, you responded by saying you have to look at the issue. It’s not satisfactory, Mr. Shanahan.”


The nominee, asked whether he wanted to amend his answer, quickly responded that he supported the idea. But McCain continued his line of questioning, saying he found Shanahan’s answer “very disappointing to me,” especially considering his years of work on weapons programs with Boeing.


“That’s not good enough, Mr. Shanahan,” McCain said. “I’m glad to hear you changed your opinion from what was submitted, but it’s still disturbing to me. It’s still disturbing to me after all these years that you would say that you would have to look at the issue. Have you not been aware of the issue? Have you not been aware of the actions of the Senate Armed Services Committee? Have you not been aware of the thousands of people that have been killed by [Russian President] Vladimir Putin?”


McCain said that if Shanahan chose not to respond directly to a question again, he would not bring his nomination to the committee for a vote. Shanahan responded that he was “very clear” about that.


“I think the Russians are adversarial,” Shanahan said. “I think through the whole of government, we need to deal with their [actions] – whether we call it aggression or their disruption to our interests. I, at this point, don’t have any specific recommendations. If confirmed, I will spend a significant amount of time dealing with Russia.”

On his lack of experience in the Defense Department, Shanahan said he has worked in a variety of organizations and thinks his technical and management experience “will prepare me to be able to quickly assimilate the knowledge and expertise to properly interface.”


Shanahan answered questions in greater detail about weapons acquisition and procurement, saying that “this is an area where I’ve had some fairly good success” and that rather than try to overhaul the entire system, he would focus on specific problem areas. By scrutinizing how technology prototypes perform in testing, “we could demonstrate what works” and then replicate the process, he said.


“It’s in doing those prototypes that you can get a quick win,” he said. “And then you also find out where the real limitations in the system are.”


Shanahan was introduced by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., whose state is home to numerous Boeing facilities.


She lauded his past efforts to drive change at Boeing and said his attention to detail will prove invaluable in the Pentagon.


“He is also fearless,” she said. “He understands what our country is up against when it comes to the Russians and the Chinese and the North Koreans, and it won’t faze him. He focuses on big, game-changing innovation in science and technology and won’t be deterred by the bureaucracy of DOD.”


Shanahan said his experience in industry and innovation has prepared him to contribute as deputy defense secretary and will help him complement Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whom he called a “master strategist with deep military and foreign policy experience.”


Added Shanahan: “I bring with me a formula for leadership that has a record of delivering affordable high-performing business systems and operations under adverse conditions. Leadership casts a long shadow, and strong leadership can create teams that achieve ambitious change of scale.”


If confirmed, Shanahan will replace Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work, a retired Marine colonel who held the position under former president Barack Obama and was asked by Mattis to stay on for several months in the new administration.


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Policy Experts Urge Congress To Back New Round Of Base Realignments And Closures

(STARS AND STRIPES 19 JUN 17) … Dianna Cahn


WASHINGTON – A bipartisan group of policy experts issued an open letter Monday urging members of Congress to drop their opposition to what would be the first round of base realignments and closures in more than a decade, saying it could save billions of Pentagon dollars and offset spending on other military needs.


The call comes just weeks after President Donald Trump released his 2018 proposed spending plan that called for a new round of base or facility shutdowns to trim excess overhead. The document urges Congressional approval for a base realignment and closure, or BRAC, in fiscal year 2021.


No BRAC has been enacted since 2005. A new round is currently barred by law, with lawmakers fearing potential economic harm to their communities.


“It is understandable that discussions about closing military facilities can be controversial,” said the letter, signed by 45 experts from think tanks including Cato Institute, Center for American Progress, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Center for a New American Security, Brookings Institution and Concerned Veterans for America.


“To be sure, the closing of a military base is disruptive to surrounding communities,” it said. “Evidence shows, however, that most communities recover and some do quite rapidly.”


The Pentagon has been insistent that another round of BRAC is necessary, and says it will have more than 22 percent excess infrastructure by 2019. The Army carries the greatest excess overhead at 33 percent, and the Air Force has 32 percent, according to a recent Pentagon review. The Navy and Marine Corps overage is at 7 percent.


In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 13, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said a “properly focused base closure effort” could generate $2 billion or more annually – enough, over a five-year period, to buy 300 Apache attack helicopters, 120 F/A-18 Super Hornets or four Virginia-class submarines.

“I recognize the careful deliberation that members must exercise in considering this,” Mattis said. “But BRAC is one of the most successful and significant efficiency programs we have.”


The letter noted that the surplus projections are not based on military personnel cuts that Trump appears to be reversing, and said that even if Trump builds up personnel to levels he stated during the campaign, the Pentagon will have more overhead than it needs “well into the 2020s.”


The biggest obstacle is political will, and the letter’s authors say they perceive a melting of hardline posture on the issue. Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jack Reed, D-R.I., the chairman and ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in January that they were amenable to examining the potential savings of a BRAC round. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., the top Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, has reintroduced legislation to allow the Pentagon to close excess bases.


That new will, combined with the Pentagon’s struggle to keep its forces trained and ready and its equipment well-maintained under budget shortfalls and increased global demand, gave the authors impetus to issue the call, said Chris Preble, vice president for defense and foreign policy at the Cato Institute, a Libertarian think tank in Washington. Preble co-authored the letter with Todd Harrison, director of defense budget analysis at the centrist Center for Strategic and International Studies and Mackenzie Eaglen at the conservative American Enterprise Institute.


“They are shifting resources and are forced to spend on excess overhead which is frustrating to them,” he said. “Congress is compelling the military to allocate resources in places where the military says are not needed. It’s a problem and I think a number of members of Congress are troubled by that.”


Still, BRAC is not a popular action among many lawmakers – particularly in military regions. In a hearing of Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and Management Support in February, chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), said he supported added spending for defense but remained opposed to another BRAC round.


“Our first priority must be rebuilding the force and its readiness,” Inhofe said. “This will require additional funding that we cannot afford to spend on another BRAC. We must also understand what our future force structure will look like-its size and composition, how it will train, and the infrastructure required to sustain it-before we consider another BRAC round.”


Preble urged lawmakers to look at how communities that underwent BRACs have fared.


There have been five rounds of BRAC since 1998, the most recent and most costly in 2005. The letter stated that the initial Pentagon costs of BRAC are high, but those are offset by savings that last for years. In 1990, the first year of implementation, the Pentagon saved $72 million, but by 1995, the savings had reached $1.5 billion annually. The second round climbed to $3.4 billion annually and the others followed suit, the letter said.


“Today, the first four BRAC rounds together are producing annual recurring savings of around $7 billion,” the letter said, noting that even the last BRAC, which was the costliest and focused more on realignment of functions than on closing bases, is producing $5 billion in annual savings.


“Congress has blocked closures here at home for over a decade,” the letter said. “The military has been forced to allocate resources away from the training and equipping of our soldiers and toward maintaining unneeded and unwanted infrastructure.


“Meanwhile, many tens of billions of taxpayer dollars have been wasted,” the letter added. “The time to act is now.”


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Hypoxia Worries ‘Top Issue’ For Boeing Defense CEO; Cobham Tech Unveiled

(BREAKING DEFENSE 18 JUN 17) … Colin Clark


PARIS – Boeing Defense’s new CEO, Leanne Caret, told me this afternoon that investigating suspected hypoxia cases is “a top priority for Boeing,” and she is receiving weekly briefings on the issue.


Pilots are supposed to be tough physical specimens who can handle 9 Gs and still think fast. But flying at altitude – often in a pressurized flight suit – and breathing cleaned-up air from the engine intake sometimes leave pilots wondering what hit them. The number of such cases has been climbing rapidly in some aircraft recently, especially in the Boeing-built Navy and Marine Corps F-18 fighters and the Navy’s T-45 trainers. Combine that with the recent stand-down of Air Force F-35As at Luke Air Force Base after a rash of five possible hypoxia incidents, and you’ve either got a new systemic problem, a rash of pilots who are experiencing new symptoms or something new and unexpected.


Caret says Boeing is “really focused on a root cause” and is taking a rigorous systemic approach to study the issue. They’ve brought in medical personnel and others – whom she wouldn’t describe in detail except as experts – to advise the company. She really started getting involved in June last year.


Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, pilot instructor at Luke and commander of the 56th Fighter Wing, told reporters Friday that commanders at Luke hope they’ll have a path to flight ready Monday afternoon, with the earliest return to flight possible by Tuesday afternoon. But he cautioned that was dependent on pilots demonstrating confidence in the plan for return. The Air Force remembers all too well when two F-22 Air National Guard pilots appeared on the TV show 60 Minutes to announce they were not willing to fly the Raptor because of suspected hypoxia incidents.


Leonard said there was a specific altitude at which the symptoms manifested themselves in the F-35A but he was not willing to say what it was to avoid tilting the investigation one way or another. To make sure the pilot community knows what’s happening and has confidence in how the Air Force is handling the issue, Leonard said they held a town hall meeting for pilots’ spouses.


He said one of the things the Air Force is considering is monitoring pilot’s blood oxygen levels in flight so they can combined that with the “exquisite data” already available about the plane’s performance. That might allow the service to make decisions with greater confidence.


Also, Leonard did not sound very impressed with the F-35’s On Board Oxygen Generation System (OBOGS), which skims air off the engine intake – an unlimited supply as long as the aircraft keeps flying – then purifies, cools and concentrates it for the pilots to breathe.


“We do think the OBOGS system is not as robust as it could be, but it does meet the minimum standard,” he said, without elaborating.


Meanwhile, at the Paris Air Show, Cobham will be unveiling a new testing system tomorrow for these so-called physiological events.


They’ve already delivered the first Inhalation Gas Sensor to the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, the company says in a release. It’s the first part of a two-stage system that will include an exhalation sensor block. They will capture environmental, oxygen system performance, and pilot physiological data “to help discern root cause of debilitating physiological events that continue to plague aircrew safety and mission readiness.”


“To unravel the mystery of root cause, we will start by creating a comprehensive mosaic of information that will simultaneously zero in on how the oxygen source equipment is performing, what the cockpit environmental conditions are around the pilot, and monitor the pilot’s physiological data captured in exhaled breath. This data will then be analyzed for correlations to physiological episodes and hypoxia-like symptoms that may have occurred during flight to ultimately help determine root cause,” Stuart Buckley, VP for business development and sales at Cobham Mission Systems, says in a statement. Perhaps this is the system Leonard mentioned, but I’m not sure.


The F-35 Joint Program Office is leading the investigation into the root causes of the suspected hypoxia incidents and is supporting the folks at Luke. The two F-35As slated to perform at the Paris Air Show have arrived safely.


Hypoxia Worries ‘Top Issue’ For Boeing Defense CEO; Cobham Tech Unveiled


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Dunford Touts F-35 as ‘Not Just a Better F-18 or Bomb Truck’

(DOD BUZZ 20 JUN 17) . Richard Sisk


Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford said Monday that the F-35 is “not just a better F-18” but a “transformational” aircraft that will change the way the U.S. conducts war.


“The short answer is it’s a critical program,” Dunford said of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in response to questions at a National Press Club lunch.


“I believe it is not just a better F-18 [Super Hornet] or a better bomb truck,” he said, but rather a transformational platform “both in its ability to deliver its ordnance as well as its ability to serve literally as a server in the sky.”


“It is going to transform the way we fight,” Dunford said, despite well-documented continuing cost overruns and engineering problems that have slowed its deployment.


The general said the cost overruns are less of a problem than they had been.


“Frankly, the cost overruns – a bit of that is history because over the past 18-24 months, I think people would agree, and Congress certainly, I think, supports this perspective – that the program manager has done a great job of getting a lot of those cost overruns back in control,” he said.


He noted that the vertical takeoff Marine F-35B variant was declared operationally capable in July 2015 on his watch in his previous post as Marine Corps commandant. It was the first F-35 squadron declared “capable of worldwide deployment, and it has subsequently since deployed,” he said.


The F-35 will be a main feature for the U.S. at the Paris Air Show this week, as the U.S. attempts to give NATO allies confidence in the aircraft’s future role in the defense of the alliance.


Two of the Air Force’s F-35A version are part of the U.S. contingent at the biennial air show, along with a CV-22 Osprey, a C-130J Super Hercules, a P-8 Poseidon, a CH-47 Chinook, an AH-64 Apache, two F-16 Fighting Falcons, and a KC-135R Stratotanker.


“The impact of air superiority provided by our F-35s is integral to supporting our warfighters and NATO allies,” Air Force Gen. Tod Wolters, commander of U.S. Air Forces in Europe, said in a statement. “Showcasing our cutting-edge aircraft technology is one of many ways we ensure ready forces while deterring threats from the outset.”


Dunford Touts F-35 as ‘Not Just a Better F-18 or Bomb Truck’


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PARIS: NAVAIR Exploring Shorter Test Schedule For CH-53K

(FLIGHT GLOBAL 21 JUN 17) … Leigh Giangreco


US Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) is mulling a shorter test schedule for its Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion helicopter programme in an effort to save money, Sikorsky’s president said this week.


With the CH-53K now in production, Sikorsky believes it could save time going forward by skipping some test points, Dan Schulz tells reporters this week at the Paris air show. Sikorsky will not know how much time skipping test points will save until after testing finishes.


The USMC is set to replace its ageing fleet of CH-53E heavy lift helicopters with 200 King Stallions, with four early production aircraft scheduled for delivery this year and initial operational capability slated for 2019. The US Navy estimates the cost at about $87 million per example.


The navy laid out the scope of flight tests at the very beginning of the programme and built in areas where testing could be eliminated, says US Marine Corps Lt Col Jonathan Morel, the government’s chief test pilot for the CH-53K. The USMC looks for clues in performance, structures, propulsion and avionics to assess whether the service could skip some test points.


The navy is working closely with the Pentagon’s top weapons tester will work closely on analysing the shorter schedule.


“If certain testing was performing as expected over a certain period of time then there would be a chunk of test points that would be considered contingent testing,” he says. “If test points one through seven trend as expected, then we can skip eight, nine and 10.”


However, Sikorsky is aware that Lockheed’s decisions to accelerate testing timelines have not always yielded positive results. The F-35’s former programme executive officer Lt Gen Chris Bogdan once called Lockheed’s decision to conduct concurrent production and development “acquisition malpractice”.


Schulz emphasises that the CH-53K achieved its milestone C full production approval in April by combining some testing, not by conducting concurrent testing. During normal testing, a service and contractor pilot will conduct flight tests. Combined testing allows one pilot to conduct flight tests where common test points exist, he says.


Schulz also used combined testing during his time on the V-22 Osprey programme, which he says worked well.


“In order to be more efficient, we’ve been integrating operational test, along with developmental test and contractor testing from the beginning,” Morel says. “In many cases one checkpoint will check three different boxes, so that was the original going in concept of the integrated test.”


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Republican Lawmakers Set To Introduce Legislation Calling For A 355-Ship Navy

(DEFENSE NEWS 21 JUN 17) … David B. Larter


WASHINGTON – Two key Republican lawmakers are set to unveil legislation Thursday that will make it national policy to maintain a 355-ship Navy, according to a draft of the legislation obtained by Defense News.


Sen. Roger Wicker, of Mississippi, who chairs the Senate Seapower Subcommittee, and his House counterpart, Rep. Rob Wittman, of Virginia, are expected to roll out a brief, one-page bill on June 22 that aims for 355 ships “as soon as practicable,” the legislation reads.


The fleet goal is subject to Congress appropriating the money for all the new hulls; today’s U.S. Navy stands at 276 ships, according to its status on the website.


Both lawmakers have been calling for the buildup, which mirrors the Navy’s recent force-structure assessment that said it needed 355 ships to meet the demands on its forces.


In a statement, Wittman said he and Wicker wanted to set the right tone going into the markup of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act.


“My objective as Seapower chairman in this year’s NDAA is to send a strong signal that we intend to grow our Fleet to 355 ships,” Wittman said. “I believe industry is ready to ramp up production to get us there and Congress must do its part and provide the necessary funding for shipbuilding accounts so we get on the proper glide path to 355.


“This bill, which I am pleased to have worked on with my counterpart Senator Roger Wicker, sends that strong signal as we head into NDAA mark-up. A fleet of 355 ships will allow us to deter our adversaries, support our allies, and respond to threats and humanitarian challenges around the globe.”


Getting to 355


In a hearing Wednesday, Wicker pressed the Navy’s top weapon’s buyer, Allison Stiller, and the head of the Navy’s integration of capabilities and resources office, Vice Adm. William Lescher, on how the Navy planned to speed up the timeline to getting almost 80 new ships.


Lescher said the Navy was examining taking ships out of mothballs to help move the needle, and was looking at extending the service life of current ships by updating the hulls and the combat systems for longer use.


In early June, Naval Sea Systems Command head Vice. Adm. Thomas Moore seemed to cast some doubt on how much impact the mothball fleet could have on a fleet buildup in an interview with Defense & Aerospace Report.


Moore said the three cruisers that are sitting in the Philadelphia naval shipyard were probably off the table because they’ve been used as parts lockers. But he added that retired Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates might be of some use, and the conventional carrier Kitty Hawk is still a viable option.


“We’ll go look at the [frigates], see if there is utility there,” Moore said. “We’ll look at the combat logistics force, see if there’s utility there. Of the carriers that are in inactive force, probably Kitty Hawk is the one that you could think about. But we studied that when we decommissioned Enterprise, and the carriers are pretty old. So, there is limited opportunity in the inactive fleet, but we’ll look at it ship-by-ship.”


Getting to 355 ships is a monumental task that so far seems to have limited support even inside the Pentagon. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has prioritized short-term readiness holes in his 2018 budget, which has aggravated many who wanted to see a much bigger push to grow the fleet – especially since growing to a 350-ship Navy was one of President Donald Trump’s core defense promises on the campaign trail.


The job of scrapping it out inside the Pentagon will fall to Navy Secretary nominee Richard Spencer, who faces a confirmation hearing Thursday.


Spencer, a former Marine Corps pilot and career investment banker, should resist the pressure to focus too heavily on readiness in the near term at the expense of a larger, more powerful fleet in the long run, said Bryan McGrath, a retired destroyer skipper and defense consultant with the Ferrybridge Group.


“[Spencer] should remember who he serves: He is the president’s man,” McGrath said. “The president campaigned on building a larger Navy, and his job is to build that larger Navy. . Trump did not get elected saying he wanted to fill readiness holes; those were Secretary Mattis’ priorities. And so far the Pentagon is off to a slow start in building a larger Navy.”


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Lockheed grows closer to F-35 block buy deal with US, international customers

(DEFENSE NEWS 19 JUNE 17) . Valerie Insinna


LE BOURGET, France – Lockheed Martin is hammering out the details on a F-35 block buy proposal that could shave $2 billion off the total cost of the purchase, the company’s F-35 program manager said.


The deal, which could be worth anywhere from $35 billion to $40 billion, would include about 440 aircraft in low-rate production lots 12, 13 and 14, Jeff Babione, executive vice president and general manager, said Monday at the Paris Air Show. The F-35 joint program office has said the United States would pursue an economic order quantity, or EOQ, agreement – which would allow the U.S. military to buy spare parts over multiple years, but not entire aircraft – instead of a block buy.


Eleven countries, including the United States, are interested in participating and are nearing a decision, Reuters reported Monday morning. The average price of an A-model would drop to an estimated $85 million as a result.


A block buy deal would basically double the total number of F-35s under contract and allow the company to be more efficient in ordering from its suppliers, Babione said during a briefing with reporters. He also acknowledged that the package would include more than just planes, and that he expected a dramatic reduction in price per unit if the deal goes through.


“It’s more than just airplanes. You get the spares; you get training. There will be a lot of things that go with that contract, but it will be in that scale,” he said. “This supports the ramp of staff that we have been talking about for some time, growing from about 150,000 worldwide to closer to 200,000.”


The block buy idea has been met with some skepticism. In April, the Government Accountability Office cautioned lawmakers about a potential EOQ agreement, saying that it would be premature to approve it as final terms between Lockheed and the government had not been finalized. Project on Government Oversight, a watchdog organization, also condemned a possible buy on the grounds that the F-35 program was not stable enough to meet the criteria for EOQ approval in statute.


Arizona Republican John McCain, who heads the Senate Armed Services Committee, has also been a harsh critic.


However, Lockheed may have found a powerful ally in Rep. Kay Granger, a Republican and head of the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, who represents the Fort Worth, Texas-area, where F-35s are produced. Babione noted that he had not spoken to Granger about the issue.


However, “I have spoken to her staff, and they seem to be very, very supportive of it,” he said. “Again, if you’re going to buy the airplanes, why wouldn’t you put in a construct or an angle to produce and offer those airplanes at the lowest possible price? So we’re encouraged by the support, and I think it’s something that will go forward.”


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Navy Integrates New F-18 Infrared Sensor

(DEFENSE SYSTEMS 20 JUN 17) … Katherine Owens


Development and procurement of Block II of the Infrared Search and Track (IRST) system for the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet fighter jet will now move forward under a $89 million Navy contract with Boeing, according to the Department of Defense (DOD).


The IRST system’s passive long-wave infrared receiver (IRR) gives it the unique ability to detect and lock-in targets in situations where electronic warfare measures may be inhibiting to radar activity, according to a report on FY16 Navy Programs. ISRT Block II is specifically intended to provide engineering upgrades, improving the passive long-wave infrared receiver and updating the built-in processors. As such, Boeing is tasked with designing and developing potential new hardware and general technical product support, according to the DOD press release.


The IRR is immune to anti-radar electronic warfare because it can sense the electromagnetic, infrared thermal energy signatures of other aircraft. Specifically, those generated by the heat of an aircraft’s engines and sky-on-skin friction. The sensor can rely on its own telemetry, rather than radio signals, to transmit the information to the pilot, according to the FY16 Navy Programs report. Once the IRR fixates on the acquired target, the fighter jet pilot can engage it.


As a whole, the IRST system is designed to identify and destroy enemy targets or forces that are beyond visual contract or exist in a radar-denied environment. Aside from the passive long-wave infrared receiver, the system includes an inertial measurement unit and an environmental control unit, all contained within a sensor assembly structure, states a Boeing publication.


The sensor assembly structure is attached to the bomb rack of the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, via the fighter jet’s fuel tank. It provides the twin-engine, supersonic jet with enhanced situational awareness of both ground and air threats and targets, reports Boeing.


The Block II preliminary design review was scheduled to begin last month, and with this new contract award, Block II of the IRST system is scheduled for completion in April 2020.


FRCSW/COMFRC Top News Clips – Week of May 29, 2017

Trump Budget To Cap Next Raise, Hike Retiree TRICARE Fees, Slam ‘IU’ Vets



President Trump’s first budget request embraces many Obama administration ideas to dampen military compensation growth. It would cap the next military pay raise; hike healthcare fees “modestly” for working-age military retirees, and increase co-payments on pharmacy drugs for TRICARE beneficiaries, including retirees of any age, though prescriptions filled on base would still be free.


But the new administration has fresh cost-cutting plans. Many target federal civilian employees but one that would hit 208,000 seriously disabled older veterans particularly hard. These “IU” veterans have disability ratings from the Department of Veterans Affairs of 60 to 90 percent, but because they aren’t able to work they receive VA compensation as if 100-percent disabled.


Individual Unemployability or IU status provides, on average, an additional $1300 a month in VA disability pay. The administration wants Congress to end IU eligibility next year for any veteran 62 and older who qualifies for at least minimum Social Security payments. Their VA compensation would be rolled back to amounts payable based on their actual disability ratings of 60 to 90 percent.


The “IU modernization” plan would save $3.2 billion annually, which VA would use to expand the Choice program, making private sector healthcare more available when veterans can’t get timely or appropriate care at VA medical facilities.


Rollback of IU payments hasn’t gotten a serious look from Congress for more than a decade ago. The Government Accountability Office in 2006 released a report criticizing VA for lax oversight of the program. One criticism by auditors was that VA compensation for being “unemployable” continued into old age. (Read more about the proposed VA budget on


Veteran service groups can be expected to resist the rollback vigorously. At the Pentagon, meanwhile, Defense officials presented familiar plans for modifying compensation programs starting in fiscal 2018 to save a total of $7.1 billion over the next five years. Here are details:


Military Pay Raise Cap – By law, active duty and reserve component personnel are due a 2.4 percent raise Jan. 1, 2018, to match recent wage growth in the private sector. The budget proposed would cap that raise at 2.1 percent, matching the 2017 raise but staying higher than the 1.9 percent projected for 2018 by Obama budgets. Shaving the raise by .3 percent would free up $200 million next year, and $1.4 billion through 2022, to spend on other readiness-related priorities.


Working-Age Retiree TRICARE Fees – Last year, Congress embraced the Defense plan to raise TRICARE fees, deductibles and co-payments on working-age retirees (those younger than 65). But lawmakers disappointed TRICARE officials by applying the fees only to future force members. This will delay any serious tamp down in healthcare costs through higher beneficiary cost shares for 20 years and create inequities in benefits between generations of future retirees.


The Trump administration wants that “grandfather” protection shelved and current working-age retirees exposed to higher TRICARE fees starting in 2018, to save the department $3.6 billion in just the next five years.

In an interview, Jon Rychalski, acting principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, said the more important reason to repeal the grandfather protection is “make things equitable” across year groups of working-age retirees.


Without repeal, he said, “you’re going to have a situation where you have two people potentially working side by side with very different benefits. One grandfathered and one who is not. So, our overarching interest this year is to have one equitable benefit for everybody.”


If Congress agrees, many retirees are likely to view higher TRICARE fees as a broken promise and not restored equality. Only the elderly, those who qualify for TRICARE for Life (TFL) and Medicare, would be spared higher fees. This budget drops the idea of imposing a new enrollment fee on newly-eligible TFL retirees.


It does propose for TRICARE Prime, the military’s managed care option, that the enrollment fee be renamed a “participation” fee and be raised from $282.60 to $350 for single coverage and from $565.20 to $700 for family coverage.


A participation fee would be set too for TRICARE Standard and Extra, which are to be merged and renamed TRICARE Select on Jan. 1. Retirees using Select would have to pay $450 a year for single coverage and $900 for family coverage.


Though new to TRICARE Standard users, Rychalski said, a participation fee is a “best practice” of industry to ensure a healthcare system knows year to year “who it’s treating. It is our belief that having people buy into the system, to know what our population is, we can better serve that population through disease management service or things like that. And frankly maybe keep costs lower.”


Annual deductibles also would climb. For family coverage under TRICARE Select, deductibles would be reset at $300 to access network providers and $600 to be able to use non-network providers. The deductible for single coverage would be $150 for network coverage and $300 for out-of-network providers.


Co-pays for primary and specialty care also would rise. Catastrophic caps on total out-of-pocket health costs would increase to $3500 from $3000 per family, with annual participation fees not counted against the cap. TRICARE fees, deductibles and co-pays would be adjusted yearly to keep pace with inflation.


Overall, officials estimate, out-of-pocket costs for a non-Medicare-eligible retiree family of three would climb from an average of $1517 a year to $1986, assuming a weighted mixed use of network and non-network providers. The proportion of health costs borne by working-age retirees would climb from 8.6 percent to 11.3 percent. Officials argue that retirees had paid an average of 27 percent out-of-pocket in 1996, the year of TRICARE was fully implemented.


Higher costs will be accompanied by improved services, Rychalski said.


“We want to have a sustainable benefit, for the beneficiary and for the government,” he said. While older retirees will still cite recruiter promises of free lifetime healthcare, generations of younger retirees should weigh TRICARE coverage and “realize this is actually really a great benefit. And not only is it a great benefit, [they] get great service, great access,” said the interim healthcare chief.


TRICARE Pharmacy Co-Pays – Congress last year rejected the department’s call to raise beneficiary co-pays for prescription drugs filled at retail outlets or through TRICARE Mail Order. The new administration seeks higher co-pays again, projecting savings of $400 million in 2018 and $2.1 billion through 2022 if adopted.


Prescriptions on the military formulary would continue to be filled for free on base. Co-pays for prescriptions filled off base would rise gradually for generic, brand names and non-formulary drugs. The slope the increases planned over the next five years would be more gradual than under last year’s proposal.


For example, the co-pay for a 30-day supply of a brand drugs at retail would increase from $24 to $31 by 2022. The co-pay for a 90-day supply of a brand drug by mail order would rise from $20 to $31. The co-pay for generic drugs at retail would stay at $10 until rising to $11 in 2022.


Last year The Military Coalition, comprised of 32 organizations representing members of the uniformed services and their families, opposed any TRICARE fee increases until access and quality of care improved. The coalition called the higher fees, then targeted only at new entrants, “disproportionately high” and rejected the notion of a participation fee for TRICARE Select (Standard) users.


Rychalski said quality of care remains high, and TRICARE users should be seeing improved access to care, the results of multiple reform initiatives.


“We have had about a 43 percent increase in access to primary care appointments” and “a 29 percent increase in access to specialty care,” he said.


“While it’s not 100 percent free, our hope is that [beneficiaries] still think this is really a great value,” he said, compared to private sector health insurance plans.


Trump Budget to Cap Next Raise, Hike Retiree TRICARE Fees, Slam ‘IU’ Vets


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Naval Officer Takes Over F-35 Program As Bogdan Retires

(DEFENSE NEWS 25 MAY 17) … Valerie Insinna


WASHINGTON – Leadership of the F-35 program passed from the Air Force to the Navy on Thursday, as the joint program office looks toward wrapping up the F-35 development program and the Navy’s initial operational capability declaration in 2018.


Vice Adm. Mat Winter, a naval officer who had served as deputy program executive office for six months, took the reins from current PEO Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan during a ceremony in Fort Meyer, Virginia, the JPO announced.


“The F-35 program is more than a program; it is truly a global enterprise built upon a broad spectrum of stakeholders joined together by a common goal – to support the warfighter,” Winter said, according to a news release.


“Our warfighters, stakeholders and JPO teammates have my commitment to provide timely continuous communications, make prudent transparent decisions, and deliver on our commitments through crisp, accountable execution,” he continued. “These core tenets of my commander’s intent will focus our thinking as we transition to the follow on development phase, ramp up to full rate production and expand global sustainment operations for the growing F-35 fleets and forces.”


Winter joined the JPO after serving as chief of naval operations. Before that, he spent years managing weapons programs acquisition, including as commander of the Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, assistant commander for test and evaluation at Naval Air Systems Command, and PEO for the Navy’s unmanned aviation and strike weapons portfolio.


After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1984 with a degree in mechanical engineering, Winter was commissioned as a naval flight officer in 1985. He conducted several tours as an A-6E Intruder Bombardier/Navigator with Attack Squadrons 42, 85 and 34 before moving onto the acquisition world.


Bogdan will retire from the Air Force in June after more than four years of directing the F-35 program, which was in in danger of cancellation in 2012 when he took over. In his first public comments as F-35 JPO, Bogdan said the relationship between joint strike fighter manufacturer Lockheed Martin and the Pentagon was “the worst I’ve ever seen.”


Bogdan’s tone eventually softened as Lockheed’s performance improved and costs decreased, but he acknowledged that the JPO’s interests and the company’s were not always in line. The program hit several key milestones under his watch, including the Marine Corps and Air Force IOCs, but he also hit Lockheed with a unilateral contract in 2016 after the firm refused to bend.


“It’s been an honor to serve alongside so many great leaders and support our nation and allies,” said Bogdan.


“The F-35 weapon system is now operational and forward deployed. The size of the fleet continues to grow and we are rapidly expanding its capability. The F-35 will form the backbone of United States air combat superiority for decades to come and I know the program is in good hands as we transition leadership today to Vice Admiral Winter.”


Winter commended Bogdan during the ceremony, saying the latter’s leadership set the program on a course for success.


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Navy, Marine Aviation See Funding Boost For Spares, Depots, Logistics Contracts

(USNI NEWS 30 MAY 17) … Megan Eckstein


After more than a year of talk from Navy and Marine Corps aviation leaders about needing to fund “aviation enablers” to boost readiness, the Fiscal Year 2018 budget request shows exactly the investments that are needed to get more planes ready to fly.


A number of conditions have led to naval aviators having a shortfall of ready-to-fly aircraft – everything from a backlog at maintenance depots, to not enough contractor support, to a lack of spare parts – and no amount of investment in flying hours accounts will help the aviation readiness issue unless these enabler accounts are properly funded as well, leaders have said. Some of these enablers are seeing historic levels of funding in the 2018 request, a sign of the seriousness of the Navy and Marine Corps’ effort to dig out of this readiness hole.


Deputy Commandant of the Marine Corps for Aviation Lt. Gen. Jon Davis has said many times that the service couldn’t reduce its “not mission capable- supply” rates – when aircraft cannot be fixed due to lack of spare parts, which at times has reached a quarter of the fleet for older airplanes like the AV-8B Harrier – if it didn’t increase spending on spares. This spring he told lawmakers that the lack of spares was “the number-one readiness degrader” aside from the sheer age of some of the aircraft.


In the 2018 request, “the Marine Corps has increased funding for spares to $606 million – 93 percent of the total Marine Corps requirement,” Marine Corps spokeswoman Capt. Sarah Burns told USNI News this week.


“Increased funding for spare parts will not impact readiness for 18 to 24 months,” she added, but without this investment the readiness trajectory would never change.


For the Department of the Navy as a whole, spares are funded at 91 percent of the requirement, which is a 14-year high.


For comparison, in March Davis testified to lawmakers and said that the 2017 budget request only funded spares at two-thirds of the service’s need, though the supplemental spending request that the administration released earlier that month would have boosted spares funding.


“We’re funded at about 67 percent of our spares requirements in ’17. Some of that additional money in ’17 (in the supplemental request) would go to get us up to the max executable amount of spare parts, certainly for the Marine Corps, 88 percent – as much money as I can spend in ’17 – to go get those spare parts,” he said. At the time he wouldn’t talk about the upcoming 2018 request, but he said “I think you’ll see a very different profile from the United States Marine Corps as far as what we’re doing for our enabler accounts.”


Outside of the day-in, day-out maintenance that takes place at the squadrons, some types of aircraft make use of performance-based logistics contracts with industry and others’ readiness is the responsibility of the military.


Both strategies are addressed through increased funding in the 2018 request.


For aircraft types with PBL contracts with industry – the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, KC-130J Hercules and MV-22 Osprey among them – the Navy and Marine Corps made a historic investment: $826.6 million for the aviation logistics account, compared to about $661 million in 2017.


“The aviation logistics support has increased six percent to a high of 87 percent of the requirement. These logistics contracts for the F-35, KC-130, MV-22 and E-6B are funded at an all-time high, and we anticipate future growth as more F-35s enter the fleet,” Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. Brian Luther told reporters during a May 23 budget briefing.


Other types of aircraft are kept ready through Navy- and Marine Corps-led maintenance efforts at Fleet Readiness Centers, with the services responsible for their own engineering, logistics and supplies associated with repairs and overhauls. For those aircraft, more money is on the way too.


“Aircraft depot maintenance is funded to capacity, which is 89 percent of the requirement. This is an increase from last year where we funded the air depot maintenance to 85 percent,” Luther said in his briefing.


“Capacity is limited for different reasons at our fleet readiness centers. Some are limited by the hiring of civilian personnel, others by physical space and aging tools and materials. In all cases, we are investing to correct these limitations.


“Aviation support, primarily program-related engineering and logistics, is funded higher than ’17, but not to a hundred percent,” Luther added.


“This account also funds critical chain initiatives to improve depot throughput and increase hiring of planning, engineering and maintenance support manpower to align the workforce to the projected workload.”


As a result of the additional aviation enabler spending, the services should be able to fly more.


“The FY ’18 budget calls for $8.6 billion for flying hour operations for Navy and Marine Corps aircraft, compared with $7.5 billion in FY ’17. This increase equates to more than 100,000 flight hours across all models,” Burns told USNI News.


Overall, the Navy and Marine Corps requested $11.1 billion for air operations, compared to $9.9 billion in 2017.


Navy, Marine Aviation See Funding Boost for Spares, Depots, Logistics Contracts


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Chief Of Naval Research Issues Challenge For Innovation And The Future Force



ARLINGTON, Va. – The Chief of Naval Research (CNR) has issued a historic call for innovative ideas to support the Navy and Marine Corps of the future, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) said in a May 31 release.


Leap-ahead technologies and cutting-edge concepts are the focus of the new CNR Concept Challenge, with finalists to be announced at the Naval Future Force S&T Expo at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington July 20-21. The Expo is co-sponsored by the American Society of Naval Engineers.


“I am looking for visionary ideas that really get out in front of the rapid, ever-accelerating technology development and deployment cycle,” said CNR Rear Adm. David J. Hahn. “With new advances taking place at breakneck speeds, across multiple domains, the truth is that the ‘Navy and Marine Corps After Next’ is being created right now.


“I need people to think big, and then imagine even more,” he said.


The concepts in the CNR Challenge need to keep naval ships, aircraft and personnel always at an advantage and help Sailors and Marines either deter conflict or win decisively and return safely.


“We want our men and women on the front lines to have such a dominant technological edge that potential adversaries don’t even try to challenge us,” Hahn said.


All idea submissions will be reviewed by a team of subject matter experts within the ONR. Finalists must be registered for the Expo to be selected and will be announced at the event by the CNR during his opening remarks.


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Trump breaks with Pentagon on climate change

(CNN 31 MAY 17) . Barbara Starr


(CNN) – As President Donald Trump contemplates withdrawing the US from the landmark Paris climate accord, he may be turning his back on some crucial national security views, starting with the opinion of his own Defense Secretary, James Mattis.


During his confirmation process in January, Mattis responded to a question from the Senate Armed Services Committee about whether climate change is a security threat, writing: “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”


Mattis went on to say, “climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of-government response,” adding that he would “ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.”


For those who follow Mattis’ views on environmental challenges, it wasn’t a surprise. In 2010, while still on active duty, his command issued a report on future trends facing the military. That report noted: “The impact of climate change, specifically global warming and its potential to cause natural disasters and other harmful phenomena such as rising sea levels, has become a concern.”



A CNN military analyst, retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, said climate change is a vital national security issue.


“You have seen war games where there have been indicators that in the future there could be fights, wars, over water supplies,” he said. “You have seen the potential for cities along the shore to be submerged and cause multiple problems.”


Challenges ahead


Those concerns have also been stated by the intelligence community, at least during the Obama administration.


A September 2016 report on the national security implications of climate change noted: “Many countries will encounter climate-induced disruptions — such as weather-related disasters, drought, famine, or damage to infrastructure — that stress their capacity to respond, cope with, or adapt. Climate-related impacts will also contribute to increased migration, which can be particularly disruptive if, for example, demand for food and shelter outstrips the resources available to assist those in need.”


The report includes a stark warning: “When climate-related effects overwhelm a state’s capacity to respond or recover, its authority can be so undermined as to lead to large-scale political instability. Countries with weak political institutions, poor economic conditions or where other risk factors for political strife are already present will be the most vulnerable to climate-linked instability. In the most dramatic cases, state authority may collapse partially or entirely. ”


For the US, there are challenges ahead. The US Navy has analyzed the impact of rising sea levels on its coastal naval bases. And there are strategic concerns that melting Arctic ice could give Russia new navigable waterways to expand their naval and commercial maritime operations.


“It just gives them a wider berth in terms of naval forces. I mean, there’s all sorts of things, some of which are classified, in terms of what the Russians might do in the North Sea,” Hertling said.


New warm water ports and wider sea lanes mean Russian submarines and warships have great freedom to operate year-round.


The intelligence community’s stance on climate change has been criticized by Republicans in Congress who question whether it should be part of their portfolio. In fact former Congressman Mike Pompeo, during his confirmation hearing to become CIA director largely demurred on answering any questions about it. In a recent hearing on Capitol Hill on worldwide threats, the Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats showed a little more public flexibility.


When asked if climate change risks should be part of national security strategy, Coats said: “We should be assessing what the consequences of changes that are relevant to security issues — that should be part of the assessment, and it is.”


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Pratt & Whitney pitches souped up version of the F-35 engine

(DEFENSE NEWS 31 MAY 17) .Valerie Insinna


WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Pratt & Whitney is pitching a souped up version of the F-35’s engine that would add thrust and cut down fuel consumption, company officials disclosed on Wednesday.


The upgrade, which the company is calling the F135 Growth Option 1.0, could be cut into the existing production line by the early 2020s, said Matthew Bromberg, president of Pratt & Whitney military engines. Pratt manufactures the F135 for all three F-35 models as well as aircraft purchased by international customers.


“It’s very attractive to the JSF [joint strike fighter] program for several reasons,” Bromberg told journalists during a media day in West Palm Beach, Florida. “It’s very common, so we could drop this upgrade into any one of the three variants. It would be compliant with the partner requirements and go to foreign partner countries. It would be cost neutral, so the upgraded JSF motor with Growth Option 1.0 would be the same price as the existing motor.”


Pratt & Whitney recently completed performance tests of an early version of the system, called the fuel burn reduction demonstrator engine, which proved that the upgrade could improve thrust by up to 10 percent and reduce fuel consumption by up to 6 percent, he said. Reporters got to see the prototype in action during a May 30 demonstration at the company’s test rigs.


Afterwards, Steve Burd, the company’s chief engineer for advanced programs and technology, explained that the company funneled capabilities from two technology development programs – the Navy’s fuel burn reduction effort and the Air Force’s Component and Engine Structural Assessment Research (CAESAR) program –  into the Growth Option 1.0 configuration.


To upgrade the F135, only the power module would need to be swapped out for a new one with a more efficient compressor and improved turbine, including changes to the system’s cooling, he said.


The new configuration is not funded through current joint strike fighter program of record, but if the F-35 joint program office approves it, the engine could be ready for the second round of upgrades under the Block 4 modernization effort, Bromberg said. The cost of the enhanced engine would be roughly the same as the current F135, but the Pentagon would have to pay for further development and validation of the technology.


“The technologies that we’re developing on the rig you saw yesterday, those are some of the critical technologies that prove that we can actually execute the program,” he said. “If we’re given the green light to go, we would launch a relatively short engineering and manufacturing development program. We have to go through all of that validation. But we view that as low risk.”


The Pentagon could opt to skip the growth option and wait for the results of the Adaptive Engine Transition Program, an ongoing Air Force effort to advance engine technology by adding a third stream of air, which helps optimize the propulsion system’s fuel consumption and performance. Last year, the service awarded Pratt and General Electric Aviation a $1 billion contract each for further work on their engines.


Pratt’s entry for AETP, the XA1010, has been hitting its developmental milestones on time, said Bromberg, noting the company might be able to move faster on the program if directed by the Air Force.


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Fear Of DoD Struggles Grow, Amid Vacancy Levels Not Seen For 50 Years

(DEFENSE NEWS 27 MAY 17) … Joe Gould


WASHINGTON – Pro-defense lawmakers have grown frustrated at how slowly the White House is moving to fill dozens of top-tier posts at the Pentagon, warning that vacancies are hamstringing efforts to advance the president’s national security agenda.


The administration has advanced 13 of U.S. President Donald Trump’s picks for the Pentagon’s civilian leadership to the Senate, which has 53 key jobs requiring Senate confirmation. The Senate has confirmed five – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson had been confirmed by the Senate and three mid-tier nominees – had been confirmed by the Senate as of May 25.


Trump’s total for civilian DoD nominees sent to the Senate is just over half the number President Barack Obama had sent by this point in his first term, according to data compiled by Defense News. By this time in their first terms, President George W. Bush had sent 17, President Bill Clinton had sent 16, President George H.W. Bush had sent 10 and President Ronald Reagan had sent 15.


This mirrors a larger trend for Trump. Of more than 500 key executive branch positions, Trump has only formally nominated 98 candidates, of which 36 were confirmed, according to data compiled by the Partnership for Public Policy. By this time, Obama had nominated 225, W. had 202, Clinton 205 and H.W. had 144.


“It’s hard to start a game when your whole team isn’t on the field, and each of the positions in these agencies have different roles,” said Mallory Barg Bulman, vice president of research and evaluation at the partnership.


“DoD has announced a deputy secretary, and a lot of agencies don’t have somebody in that role. That’s somebody who’s going to serve as the chief operating officer for the agency. These people are managing very large and complex agencies.”


The White House Transition Project has also dinged Trump for the fewest nominations and fewest confirmations in a president’s first 100 days in 50 years. Of 72 critical national security positions, Trump had 14 filled, whereas Obama had 24 in the same period.


Arnold Punaro, a retired U.S. Marine general and former staff director on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Trump administration is not to be faulted. Growing scrutiny and red tape for key nominees has fueled growth in the time to confirmation – from three and a half months under President John F. Kennedy to nine months under Obama.


“I don’t buy that what we’re seeing with this administration is much different from the past two administrations,” Punaro said. “The overall trend is it takes longer.”


Behind the scenes, Punaro argues, the White House is much, much further along in its vetting than it can publicly acknowledge. “There’s a substantial, larger number in the pipeline, moving through at a normal pace, and that to me is encouraging,” he said.


It’s unclear when Trump will have his service secretaries confirmed. Clinton in 1993 saw his Navy secretary clear the Senate on July 1, his Air Force secretary July 22 and his Army secretary on Nov. 22.


The more senior Bush moved slowly at first, but he brought in a Pentagon staffer to expedite nomination paperwork full-time, worked closely with the SASC and used judge advocates to assist the White House counsel’s office – a natural chokepoint given the breadth of issues it encounters.


“Administrations who will take the extra help, it tends to move faster, while administrations that don’t, it goes at the same glacial pace,” Punaro said. “[The SASC] set a hearing day every Wednesday morning, so if they could get a guy done, he’s got a hearing date.”


Fast-forward to the present day, where SASC Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, have both lamented that Mattis cannot steer the gargantuan Department of Defense appropriately without a full crew of Trump picks approved by the Senate.


McCain, who joined the Senate in 1987, affirmed Trump “has been more slow” than past administrations in offering nominees to the committee. The problem is not only having the people in the Pentagon for SASC staffers and lawmakers to talk to, but without Senate confirmation, acting officials simply lack authority to do their jobs.


“We’re not getting people to implement the new administration’s policies and strategies,” McCain told Defense News on May 17. “That’s the problem. You hire a team who is with you philosophically and to actively pursue the agenda. If someone is in an acting position, no matter how great their integrity, they just don’t have the same kind of influence the way a regularly appointed member of the team does.”


Thornberry months ago made the case that holdovers from the Obama administration, which underfunded military readiness, cannot be relied upon to bring new urgency. But as the process has dragged out, he suggested at a press conference earlier this month that the nation’s security is at risk.


“We need to have good nominees and we need to have them in place because, just to emphasize, the world is not waiting on us to get our act together, and the Pentagon is the most complex, the largest government agency, it needs leadership,” Thornberry said.


There are some signs of a thaw. On May 25, several of Trump’s nominees received Senate confirmation by unanimous consent: David Norquist to be comptroller; Kari Bingen to be principal deputy undersecretary of defense for intelligence; and Robert Karem to be assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs.


There has been a notable delay for Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan, Trump’s pick for deputy secretary of defense, the No. 2 spot in the Pentagon. Two months after Trump announced Shanahan, his name has not formally advanced to the SASC. McCain, earlier this month, suggested Shanahan’s industry ties may be slowing the process. “We’d certainly like to move forward with him, he’s got an excellent reputation,” McCain said.


Ethics rules meant to safeguard against self-dealing are particularly relevant at the DoD, which stewards billions of taxpayer dollars. DoD and the SASC have strict rules that bar presidential picks from owning stocks and bonds in companies that have Defense Department contracts.


Army secretary nominee Vincent Viola and Navy secretary nominee Philip Bilden, both financiers, withdrew their names from consideration over business entanglements. The second Army secretary nominee Mark Green withdrew amid accusations he’d made anti-gay and anti-Muslim remarks.


To Punaro’s reckoning, the bar set by the Office of Government Ethics is too high, and should be updated to reflect modern compensation patterns, like deferred income and restricted stocks. The SASC and Pentagon should be more flexible about letting officials recuse themselves from potential conflicts – instead of letting them disqualify candidates.


“A lot of the standards were put in, in the 1970s,” Punaro said. “It makes no sense.”


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Trump’s Defense Spending Boom That Wasn’t

(THE HILL 29 MAY 17) … Ellen Mitchell


President Trump’s long touted promises for more robust military spending fell short in his first government-wide budget, which disappointed Democrats and Republicans alike, according to defense analysts and consultants.


The fiscal 2018 budget, released Tuesday, calls for $603 billion in the base budget for defense and national security issues, about $54 billion above a ceiling set by the 2011 Budget Control Act, but only $18 billion more than was planned for this year by President Obama.


Vice President Mike Pence touted the plan at the U.S. Naval Academy commencement ceremony on Friday, boasting that Trump “laid out one of the largest increases in defense spending since the days of President Ronald Reagan.”


“President Donald Trump and I will not rest, we will not relent until we rebuild our military, restore the arsenal of democracy, and ensure that our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and Coast Guard have all the resources that you need to accomplish your mission and come home safe,” Pence said. “That is our pledge to each of you.”


Not everyone views the defense spending plan so positively. Experts say the $18 billion extra will do little to help bolster Trump’s campaign trail promises to “avoid and prevent conflict through our unquestioned military strength.”


Among his pledges, Trump included a 350-ship Navy, a 540,000 active duty Army force, and dozens of new fighter aircraft for the Air Force. Such new military spending requires roughly $80 billion to $90 billion a year, according to experts.


In comparison, Trump’s budget only promises funds to keep the Army at 476,000 active duty soldiers, plans for eight new ships – the same number Obama forecast – and also falls short on extra equipment.


“It was mildly surprising that the Defense Department didn’t buy any new equipment. They chose to put it all in operations and personnel and maintenance,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr of the conservative Heritage Foundation. “I thought there would be more of a mix, honestly.”


Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) slammed the budget as inadequate and “dead on arrival” after its release.


McCain, along with his House counterpart Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas), has vocalized the need for $640 billion in spending for fiscal year 2018.


And House Armed Services Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said that “despite having extra time to prepare because he delivered the budget some three months later than legally required, the president has not given us a solid document on which one can plan for the national defense.”


Defense industry insiders have said Trump’s “historic” increase looks just like another Obama defense budget request. If passed, the budget would only represent the ninth largest increase for the Pentagon in the past 40 years, according to Todd Harrison, a defense expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.


There is also wide speculation the defense plan is the work of White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who defended the budget to reporters Monday as one that would help meet Trump’s vision.


Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, said it’s unlikely Trump even knows the details of his defense request or the ways it does not follow through on his promises.


“To be fair, $54 billion is a lot of money relatively speaking. But in defense today, the priorities are readiness, people and facilities. And that money goes fast. It does not yield the kind of kick-the-tire results as investments in equipment,” Eaglen said.


One industry consultant echoed that sentiment.


“Trump isn’t doing what he said he would because he doesn’t know any better,” the consultant told The Hill.


“He thinks he’s providing a big defense increase when he’s not. The people in his inner circle don’t understand the mechanics and the numbers, and Mick Mulvaney is totally pulling the wool over his eyes.”


A good or bad perspective on the budget, another defense consultant said, lies in where the defense spending baseline is set. When viewed as an increase over 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) spending caps, the numbers seem significant. But when compared with previous administration plans, the numbers add up to only three percent more, which is not nearly as impressive.


“I truly believe Mulvaney sold this to Trump as a huge increase,” he said. “Fifty-four billion over the BCA numbers would in itself be a big increase, but it’s all where you start your baseline.”


The consultant added that the defense industry is “very disappointed,” while fiscal conservatives and the anti-defense crowd “are looking at this as a very big increase.”


Spoehr added that it’s likely people near Trump “probably were persuasive that they thought it was maybe at least as important to balance the budget [as] it was to build up defense.”


“My guess is – and speculation is he didn’t get much influence on setting the $603 billion number – given that he’s only going to get $18 billion more than President Obama had planned for, he probably chose within that $18 billion to focus on immediate readiness which includes paying the personnel, the spare parts the training, etc.,” Spoehr said.


Eaglen added that Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress behind closed doors that the $54 billion over BCA caps doesn’t buy a rebuild of the military, only a repair.


“Why $54 billion and not $100 billion, then – closer to the McCain/Thornberry levels? That is all Mulvaney,” she told The Hill. “He told President Trump, essentially, that was all the nation could afford. Secretary Mattis will have to personally go to the mat in fiscal year 2019 debates if he wants to reverse this trend.”


Pentagon officials, meanwhile, defended the budget as “not inconsequential.” More money would show up in the fiscal year 2019 request, according to John Roth, acting undersecretary of Defense comptroller and CFO.


“We’re not going to solve the readiness problem in one year. We’re not going to modernize in one night,” Roth said. “All of this is a multi-year commitment to defense spending, more than anything else.”


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Navy: Ford Clears Acceptance Trials. Delivery ‘Close At Hand’



The future USS Gerald R. Ford has successfully completed its final round of sea trials and the delivery to the Navy is up next, according to Naval Sea Systems Command.


The ship was at sea from Wednesday through Friday on acceptance trials, during which the crew demonstrates its ability to operate at sea and show that the ship was built according to contract specifications, NAVSEA said in a news release Friday.


The first-in-class nuclear-powered carrier was built at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington Ingalls Industries.


Rear Adm. Brian Antonio, the Navy’s program executive officer for aircraft carriers, congratulated the crew and shipbuilders and said delivery is “close at hand.”


A commissioning ceremony will be held sometime this summer.


Acceptance trials were conducted by the Navy’s Board of Inspection and Survey. Prior to getting underway, INSURV conducted a set of pierside trials. The at-sea period included more than 500 demonstrations of the ship’s hull, mechanical and electrical systems, NAVSEA said.


When it joins the fleet, the Ford will replace the former USS Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. It will bring the carrier fleet from 10 ships to the required 11.

FRCSW / COMFRC Clips for Week of May 22


FRCSE Artisan Finds Family Link to Fallen Soldier in Dusty Shoebox

Capped: Head injuries to zero since implementing PPE wear policy

Innovation Challenge to kick off at FRC East

H-53 Super Stallions Get Super Service at FRCSW



New Defense Budget Poised To Meet Lower Expectations

HASC Chair Thornberry Introduces Latest Defense Acquisition Reform Plan

Expect A Lot Of Modernization Spending In The Next Few Years: Gen. Dunford

Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Set To Answer Lingering Navy Acquisition Questions

Trump Budget Fails To Live Up To ‘Historic’ Defense Promises, Analysts Say

Navy’s 2018 Budget Addresses Readiness Through Maintenance, Spares, Infrastructure Improvements

Amid $52 Billion Plus-Up, DoD Looks To Trim Spending On Service Contracts, Health Care





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FRCSE Artisan Finds Family Link to Fallen Soldier in Dusty Shoebox



JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – As dawn stretched its fingers across the frozen banks of the Sûre River near the town of Gilsdorf, Luxembourg, the idyllic landscape was exploded by the crash of German 88mm artillery rounds.


It was Jan. 18, 1945, and the German army’s last-gasp attempt – known to history as the Battle of the Bulge – to throw back the allies’ inexorable march to their homeland, was in its death throes.


Gen. George Patton’s Third Army had broken through the German lines to relieve the 101st Airborne at Bastogne, and was now headed north to cut off any Wehrmacht soldiers remaining in the bulge the German’s advance had created in allied lines. To do that he had to cross the Sûre River, just five miles west of the German border.


Among the group of U.S. Army combat engineers on the south bank was Pfc. Leroy Thomas.


“I never knew who Leroy Thomas was,” said Fleet Readiness Center Southeast sheet metal worker Dale Holt. “But my mom, whose health is failing, told me the other day ‘I have something that was my mom’s that I want you to have.’


“She broke out this little box, and here was this little letter she handed me.”


The box contained two yellowed, faded letters and a photo of a grinning, auburn-haired young soldier in his class-B uniform.


“The letters were from her stepbrother Leroy Thomas, when she was about 10 years old,” Holt said. “She told me she wanted me to have them because my grandmother kept them until she passed away, so they obviously meant something to her.”


All that his mother knew, Holt said, was that Thomas had been killed in the war. The details were fuzzy – if ever known completely – but involved a boat, and what the family thought was an underwater mine.


“The body never came home,” Holt said. “My mom told me they had a few friends come by with food and condolences, but they never had a funeral.”


Holt wanted to know more about the family member he’d never known, and immediately began to examine the letters.


The first was dated March 31st, 1944. The 7th Combat Engineer Battalion, to which Thomas belonged, was still in Northern Ireland for training. In the letter to his father, Thomas sent the photo of him in uniform, and asked for candy, gum, magazines and a lighter. He also noted the fact he was engaged to be married.


He mentions the Japanese, perhaps believing they would be his future opponent, with the bravado characteristic of soldiers before they see combat.


In closing, he also had a special request for his stepmother, Holt’s grandmother, to send some makeup.


“Tell Mable to put a tube of lipstick, rouge and a box of powder in it,” Thomas wrote. “I would like to doll my girlfriend up a little to see how she looks.”


The contrast in the second letter is striking.


After fighting his way across France for the last six months, his mood was melancholy. Written using the Victory Mail or “V-Mail” system, Thomas’ longing for home bleeds through in the letter to his parents that is post-marked Jan. 10, 1945.


“I haven’t heard from you in quite a while, it can’t be you have forgotten your son all the way over here,” he wrote. “It seems that nobody writes me any more, not even my best girlfriend.”


Whether his lack of mail was due to a failure in the postal system to keep up with Patton’s blistering pace during those months is unknown. Yet Thomas clearly noticed, like any service member, the decrease in mail. He also acknowledged his own failure to write home.


“I know I hardly ever write, but that can be explained,” he wrote. “Not now, but when I come home.


“Seems like I’m getting tired of being over here.”


From the letters and photo, Holt now had a starting point to look for more. He knew Thomas’ name, unit and that he served in Europe. Armed with that information, he brought the heirlooms to show his coworkers – one of whom is Todd Taylor.


Taylor, a Gold Star father himself, is familiar with digging into military records, and immediately went to work on his home computer.


There, he found a website dedicated to the 7th Engineers created by George Baldwin, who served in the unit in Vietnam. The site featured first-hand accounts of 7th Engineer soldiers.


Astonishingly, one of the men who contributed an account, Tom Tucker, was there that freezing January morning in 1945 on the banks of the Sûre River.


“At daylight the Germans started shelling the crossing site,” Tucker wrote of that morning. “The ground was frozen so it was impossible to dig in.”


The engineers had moved elements of the 5th Infantry Division across the river in boats in the pre-dawn hours. Several of them had been instructed to stay with the boats in case reinforcements or supplies were needed.


“There were large trees at the edge of the river so we were getting some tree bursts,” Tucker said. “There was a small stone building at the edge of the river that we used for cover.”


As the shells rained down fatal shrapnel, Tucker made a dash for the building and saw Thomas.


“I was almost in the door of the building but looking in his direction,” Tucker said. “He had hit the ground, there was a tree burst, he stood up and shouted ‘I’ve been hit,’ ran about three steps dragging one leg, then collapsed.


“The shelling lasted only a few minutes, but when we reached Thomas he was dead.”


Holt’s mother was right. Leroy Thomas never made it home to tell his parents about what he’d seen and what he endured.


Holt learned Thomas was buried, along with more than 5,000 of his fellow soldiers, in the Luxembourg American Cemetery in Luxembourg City. Eleven months later, he would be joined by his commanding officer, Gen. George Patton, when he succumbed to injuries suffered in a car crash in Heidelberg, Germany.


“It means a lot to me to know what happened to him,” he said. “If my mother hadn’t given me those letters, I’d have never known she lost a brother in the war.


“I think it’s important to remember these guys. Otherwise, their sacrifice is lost to history.”


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Capped: Head injuries to zero since implementing PPE wear policy



MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – Fleet Readiness Center East has noticed a significant drop in head injuries since directing artisans to wear caps when performing work in its aircraft production spaces.


Safety officials are crediting the wearing of bump caps with the report of zero head injuries since implementing the bump cap mandatory-wear policy Dec. 20, 2016.


“They’re actually working,” said Luc Desilets, FRC East Safety director. “There have been about 15 to 20 incidents of people bumping their heads reported to the safety specialists in the application areas, but no injuries have resulted. Supervisors and work leaders are taking note that the bump caps are working.”


The organization recorded 45 head injuries from Oct. 1, 2014 to Oct. 6, 2016. In 2016, alone, the organization recorded 17 – 37.8 percent – of the head injuries in the safety application areas pertaining to its F-35 production line. The reported injuries resulted in a variety of work restrictions, which translated to production time lost. The significant amount of head injuries reported among the F-35 production line led safety officials to do a trial with the bump cap in 2016. The results of the trial drove the command to implement the wear of bump caps on all production lines.


According to Desilets, wear of the bump cap is preventing injuries such as cuts or lacerations, scraps, bruises, and nicks that were resulting from the various incidents of artisans bumping their heads in the workplace.


“It’s expected that there are going to be instances of people bumping their heads when they’re going in and out of the aircraft and putting their heads into tight spaces,” said Desilets. “Wear of the bump cap is intended to stop artisans from suffering those injuries that come as a result of banging one’s head into aircraft structures, sharp surfaces and other equipment common to those areas.”


The policy is consistent with the tenet of the commander’s operating policy and pledge to cultivate an atmosphere of total health consciousness by providing a safe workplace for all employees and visitors.


“I can’t make you be safe, but I can create conditions for you to work in that gives you the greatest chance to be safe,” said Col. Clarence Harper, FRC East commanding officer, speaking to members of the workforce on various occasions during the first quarter of the fiscal year while addressing matters that were hindering the organization’s throughput rates. “Our mission is to return quality aircraft, components, and engines back to the fleet, and injuries potentially harm personnel, disrupt families, and disrupt production. Safety, just because it’s the right thing to do, will always be my highest priority.”


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Innovation Challenge to kick off at FRC East



MARINE CORPS AIR STATION CHERRY POINT, N.C. – An Innovation Challenge event will kick off at Fleet Readiness Center East June 14.


FRC East has been selected to participate in this first industrial Innovation Challenge in Commander Fleet Readiness Centers. FRC East has a history of successful implementation of innovative ideas with many of those ideas coming from the artisan community. The challenge is being sponsored by Martin Ahmad, deputy COMFRC and Roy Harris, Naval Air Systems Command, Aviation Readiness and Resource Analysis director.


This event is aimed to challenge the workforce to develop innovative ideas that can help improve production within the facility. These ideas could involve changes to a process, or the manufacturing of a tool, device, or even a part. All command personnel can participate, and organizers are looking for workforce members with ideas that can be tried out during the challenge event, or anyone who would like to be a member of an innovation team.


The Innovation Challenge will run from mid-June until mid-December when the winning team will be crowned. Innovation teams will have until the middle of July to submit their idea as well as a roster of team members into the new online tool called Spark!.


Spark! is a new SharePoint site using discussion board thread functionality – permitting online discussions of proposed ideas. It is designed to help drive innovative thinking by leveraging crowdsourcing to improve collaboration amongst team members, FRC employees, as well as, the COMFRC enterprise. The resource is being developed by NAVAIR and is being rolled out for the first time with the Innovation Challenge.


From July through August the teams will develop their ideas which will then be discussed and evaluated via Spark! online. Any employee can go online to Spark! and rate an idea.


Sponsors and organizers hope that if more people are evaluating and discussing ideas during an idea formation phase that better idea concepts will be generated for implementation.


The teams will be using judging criteria that has been developed and approved to help them understand how their idea will be evaluated by a review panel. The online ratings are part of the judgment criteria that will be used during the Down Select, a point in the competition where the field is reduced to five finalist teams, which will happen in September.


After the Down Select each of the teams will focus on further design development and (or) prototyping of their idea into a working concept from September through November. During this final phase of the competition, the teams will assess the overall impact of their ideas and design their presentations to explain their idea and the associated benefits to a panel of judges. The winner will be announced in mid-December with awards presented.


Sponsors and organizers encourage members of the workforce to come forward with ideas one thinks will help improve the performance of FRC East and build a brighter future. Individuals who wish to participate, but do not plan to lead a team, should let the organizers know.



For more information, contact Darren Carpenter, Innovation Challenge site lead, at 464-5816 or


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H-53 Super Stallions Get Super Service at FRCSW



NAVAL AIR STATION NORTH ISLAND, Calif. – From its use in the evacuation of the U.S. embassy during the Somalian Civil War in 1991, to the Persian Gulf War and its role today in supporting the war on terror in Afghanistan and elsewhere, the CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter is a staple in the logistics toolbox of Navy and Marine Corps operations.


For more than 30 years the Sikorsky-built aircraft has moved personnel and equipment, and it remains the largest helicopter ever built by the Defense Department.


Today, about 150 of the helicopters are still in service. Super Stallions are found in naval squadrons on the East and West Coast, and those assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar (MCAS) are maintained and repaired by the artisans of Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW).


The FRCSW CH-53 program is comprised of approximately 104 employees including production control personnel and planners.


“About 60 to 70 of those employees are the artisans on the floor. They include the primary trades of sheet metal mechanics which is the largest group, electricians, and mechanics,” said John Santos, CH-53 production manager.


The program operates in two buildings: 333, where fiberglass and component work is done, and 378 where the remaining airframe work is completed.


The maintenance schedule of the Super Stallions is based upon a 54-month cycle called the Integrated Maintenance Program (IMP).


The IMP targets structural repairs to the fuselage, and includes replacing the skin, transition bulkhead, cockpit floorboard, any KAPTON electrical wiring upgrades and corrosion repair throughout the aircraft.


The IMP workload standard requires about 16,000 manhours per aircraft.


After induction, FRCSW artisans disassemble the aircraft and begin the IMP inspection specifications.


“We’ll typically do a lot of metal repairs that require us to disassemble electronic and mechanical components so we can access specific areas to rebuild the aircraft,” Santos noted.


The program is a combination of organizational level (O-level), or work handled by the Marine Corps squadrons, and depot-level work.


“We’ll also do a lot of troubleshooting,” Santos said. “If our spec says `test the landing gear operation,’ for example, and when we test it the landing gear doesn’t respond, we’re supposed to call the Marines because the landing gear system is maintained by the O-level maintainers. The spec only tells us to test it.”


However, the Marines have the option to turn an O-level repair over to the depot.


“An In-service Repair (ISR) may get to the type commander (TYCOM) who would grant the hours for the repair. The ISR request still goes through the squadron because they need to cut the planner and estimator request to get it submitted to the TYCOM,” Santos said.


Like other aging airframes, recurring areas of the Super Stallion are beginning to show signs of failure.


“A fitting toward the back of the aircraft near the base of the ramp have been cracking and we’ve seen issues on both West and East Coast aircraft,” Santos said. “This is a repair that requires the input of mechanics, sheet metal, machinists and non-destructive inspection (NDI) personnel.”


To better align the tail drive shaft, Santos said that a new tooling kit was added to the IMP specification.


“It’s a surface interim change notice that adds this as a spec, and this procedure will suffice on an interim basis while the aircraft is here,” he said.


“When the tail of the aircraft folds, and when it spreads back out, there’s a coupling that connects the tail to the fuselage that has teeth. We’ve been finding that sometimes they are clocked different, so the alignment makes them flush to each other so the power can transfer efficiently and safely from the gear box to the tail rotor.”


FRCSW is scheduled to induct 10 CH-53s during fiscal year 2017.


Fleet Readiness Center Southwest is commanded by CAPT Craig Owen.


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New Defense Budget Poised To Meet Lower Expectations

(DEFENSE NEWS 19 MAY 17) … Joe Gould and Aaron Mehta


WASHINGTON – Pro-military U.S. lawmakers believe the Pentagon needs a major boost above U.S. President Donald Trump’s budget, but it’s unlikely Congress will oblige this year.


Trump’s 2018 budget request is itself a placeholder at $603 billion – $18.5 billion more than the Obama administration projected for 2018. On the high end is the $640 billion target advanced by the House and Senate armed services committee chairmen, which they say is needed to repair a military readiness crisis Obama left behind.


But powerful House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger, R-Texas, said Thursday that $603 billion for the 2018 defense appropriations bill is “reasonable” and that $640 billion – which exceeds statutory budget caps by roughly $90 billion – won’t be reached “unless something drops from heaven.”


“I don’t see how we get to that number this year, though we can get as close as we can this year, and the next year and the next year,” Granger said at a Bloomberg Government event in Washington.


Asked for his reaction later on Thursday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, told reporters that $640 billion is what’s needed to repair underfunded readiness accounts and “keep the president’s promises.”


“These numbers have real-world consequences,” Thornberry said. “Too often we just split the difference. . You have to look at the world and say: ‘What are we willing to live without?’ ”


The White House’s $603 billion base budget proposal for national defense, expected to be released May 23, would exceed spending caps by $54 billion and is about $18.5 billion more than the Obama administration projections for 2018. Much of that increase is expected to be eaten up by personnel costs connected to troop pay raises and recent end-strength growth, leaving little headroom to plus-up procurement programs.


Comparing Trump’s budget with the early years of the Reagan administration buildup, and others, Katherine Blakeley, a defense budget expert with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said: “This is not a historic increase.”


“The political characterization is that we are at the early part, and we should expect an upward drive,” Blakeley said. “We won’t see a lot of that in [the president’s 2018 budget], but they are clearly laying the groundwork for that.


“In this budget, you see some trial balloons, like: Can we have an accelerated path to Navy shipbuilding?”

Insiders agree the 2018 numbers are merely planting seeds for future growth, focusing on Defense Secretary James Mattis’ plans to rebuild readiness in the near term, as he described in a January memo. That focus is expected to translate into more training, depot maintenance and flying hours.


In other words, it’s a long way from Trump’s campaign promise to build a 355-ship Navy, grow the Army and Marine Corps by 60,000 and 12,000 troops, respectively, and add at least 100 combat planes to the Air Force.


And if defense watchers are looking to the 2018 budget submission for Trump’s plan to get there, they may be disappointed. A source familiar with the 2018 Pentagon budget said it’s likely Trump would skip the tradition of including be top-line numbers for the next five years, as those numbers hinge on ongoing internal studies like the Nuclear Posture Review and the National Security Strategy.


There was “largely good work” done by the team that started assembling this last year, but this budget reflects awareness that strategic shifts may be coming and seeks to leave some wiggle room for the administration and the Pentagon’s new leadership to color within the lines, the source said.


Yet the president’s budget faces a tough path through Congress. Democrats are needed to reach the 60 vote threshold to ease budget caps, and they and others are already objecting to Trump’s plans to pay for defense increases with non-defense cuts.


“How in the world can [Republicans] justify the spending – the spending increase for the Department of Defense?” Sen. Richard Durbin, the Senate’s No. 2 Democrat and the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee, said Wednesday. “They’ll tell you behind closed doors they’re going to take it out of Medicare and Social Security. Try it, just try it.”


High-level congressional Republicans have also expressed skepticism about Trump’s budget plans. Granger, who opposes the administration’s proposal to cut 28 percent of the State Department’s budget, including many foreign aid programs, suggested Congress will reject this part of Trump’s budget.


“That’s the president’s budget, not Congress’ budget, I say with a smile, because we do control the purse,” she said.


On defense, observers expect Congress will reach a budget deal by meeting somewhere between the Obama and Trump numbers on defense, likely by moving some funds into the emergency overseas contingency operations account, or OCO, which is exempt from budget caps.


Though Trump is seeking $54 billion above spending caps, Congress has on average added about $18.5 billion for defense each year, according to Blakeley. “I don’t see an easy path to getting thrice as much,” she noted.


“I don’t think there will be as much defense buildup in practice as the budget might lay out,” Blakeley said. “It’s just not there . and the politics are just collapsing more and more every day.”


One possibility for more defense spending is that the House Armed Services Committee, with approval from its Senate counterpart John McCain, R-Ariz., drives for a major plus-up in OCO – in defiance of fiscal hawks, and with cooperation from some Democrats, Blakeley said.


“There is the space for the defense hawks, who are not only Republicans,” Blakeley said. “It will be substantively difficult for any Democrat to cooperate with the administration, [but] there might be a path to cooperate with Sen. McCain and Rep. Thornberry to say: ‘We the Congress are cooperating on a budget. We’re going to throw out the [president’s budget] when it arrives and keep this in the legislative branch.’ ”


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HASC Chair Thornberry Introduces Latest Defense Acquisition Reform Plan

(U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE NEWS 18 MAY 17) … Otto Kreisher


WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Armed Services Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) unveiled his latest attempt to modernize the defense acquisition process, focusing this time not on the way the military buys its big, expensive weapons but on helping the Defense Department “run more like a business.”


The draft legislation, released on Thursday, emphasizes better use of technology to speed up and improve decision making, adopting “E-Commerce” to aid use of commercial off-the-shelf products, and sharpening the auditing of contractor charges. It also seeks to reduce the life-cycle cost of weapons by emphasizing reliability and maintainability early in the development process, requiring early decisions on who controls the intellectual property, or technical data, in proposed systems and strengthening the quality of the acquisition work force.


But it does go after one of the chronic causes of weapon systems soaring over budget and falling behind schedule by requiring more developmental testing early in the acquisition of large, complex weapons.


“The big lesson we all learned with the F-35 and the [Gerald R.] Ford carrier was we were inventing it as we built it,” Thornberry told reporters in a committee office.


This will be the third attempt Thornberry has made to modernize and streamline the notoriously cumbersome defense procurement system, usually in close cooperation with Senate Armed Services Chairman Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).


Thornberry said one of the reasons he has put such a priority on acquisition reform was to get better value for the taxpayers’ money and “to be more agile in the face of technology that changes so fast and threats that change so fast.”


But the biggest reason, he said, is that “it is wrong for us to send men and women out on missions unless we provide them the very best equipment, the very best training, the very best support that this nation can produce. And if for some reason there is bureaucracy or outdated technology that prevents us from doing that, I think that’s morally wrong.”


He noted that their previous reform efforts focused mainly on the procurement of the major weapon programs.

“This year, we’re not as much going for the bright shiny objects, like aircraft carriers and fighters,” but “to make the Department run more like a business,” he said.


One of the key efforts was to promote the use of on-line shopping services, such as Amazon, to enable officials to buy commercial products instead of using the complicated and slow General Services Administration process, which usually has extensive detailed requirements and is more expensive, he said.


The items would have to be commercial off-the-shelf such as office electronics and supplies, subject to “a number of safeguards.” It was not clear whether there would be a dollar limit to the buys.


The bill also would promote use of technology to improve the ability for department and outside auditors to ensure that the prices contractors charge are fair and to make better business decisions.


It also would go after the frequently criticized contracting for services, which consume more of the defense budget than buying the big weapon systems, by forcing the department to collect and analyze data to evaluate and plan for contracted services.


Moving to the acquisition of weapons and major equipment, the bill would require greater focus at the beginning of the procurement process on reliability and sustainability, which historically makes up 80 percent of the life-cycle cost of equipment. It also would require program managers to make decisions with the contractors early in the process on what intellectual property the government could own, with the view of allowing the services to either upgrade or repair the equipment themselves or hold a competition for that work.


And it would require much more developmental testing to determine whether a proposed major weapon would meet the requirements and could be produced within the projected time and cost. Although such early testing could result in termination of programs after considerable investment, Thornberry said it could prevent moving a complex weapon system into production before the technology was proven, which can result in major changes to equipment already under construction.


Production before adequate testing was a major reason the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Ford, the first in a new class of radically different carriers, both ran years behind schedule and far over the predicted cost.


Another attempt to improve the acquisition process from the inside would require new programs to improve the training and the career path for acquisition professionals. Attempting to expand and improve the acquisition workforce would be a reversal of congressional actions a decade ago that forced out hundreds of experienced workers, which forced the services to allow the contractors to design their own products and supervise the production.


Unlike his previous reform efforts, Thornberry did not ask ranking member Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) to cosponsor this bill. But he said he was introducing the measure a month before the committee would seek to approve it, to allow members and others to review it and make suggestions.


In a release, Smith said, “while I support some of the proposals it puts forward, I have concerns about others. I look forward to continuing to work with him on these important issues.”


HASC Chair Thornberry Introduces Latest Defense Acquisition Reform Plan


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Expect A Lot Of Modernization Spending In The Next Few Years: Gen. Dunford

The 2018-21 budgets will be crucial in setting up the U.S. military for the future, says the Joint Chiefs chairman.

(DEFENSE ONE 18 MAY 17) … Marcus Weisgerber


The Joint Chiefs have been particularly focused on military readiness of late, so with the Pentagon’s 2018 budget request set to come out next week, I asked Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford about it as we flew home from a NATO meeting in Brussels.


“What we began last year, and what I think you’ll see continue next year, is a recognition that we’ve got to start to look to the future as well as meeting our current operational requirements, Dunford said. “I think it’s fair to say that when we went through a period of unstable budgets, particularly starting in 2010, we delayed a lot of modernization that now has to be addressed.”


Areas that particularly need investment, he said, include electronic warfare, cyber, space, modernizing the nuclear triad, and maritime requirements.


Dunford alluded to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ three-step approach to repairing readiness: first, fill equipment and training holes, then increase the capacity of the military, and finally, grow its lethality.


“Readiness is not only getting the equipment that you have ready, not only providing training to the troops, getting the right number of people there, but it’s also recapitalizing and modernizing,” the chairman said. “Now you’re not buying yesterday’s vehicle, yesterday’s aircraft.”


Filling equipment gaps does not necessarily mean refurbishing battle-worn weapons. For example, if a fighter jet reaches the end of its life or is destroyed in battle, expect the Pentagon to buy a newer, more modern plane.


“I think in ’18, we’ll start to get a little bit closer to that, and really, as we go into ’19, ’20 and ’21, in my judgment, that’s really when we need to make sure that we’re attentive to our modernization requirements because not only then are we talking about readiness, we’re talking about modern capabilities that preserve a competitive advantage for those key areas,” Dunford said.


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Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Set To Answer Lingering Navy Acquisition Questions

(U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE NEWS 22 MAY 17) … Megan Eckstein


Since the last Pentagon budget request 15 months ago there’s been a presidential election, a seven-month continuing resolution, a supplemental spending bill, promises from the new administration for a military spending spree, vows from inside the Pentagon to rebuild readiness and multiple studies looking at what a future naval fleet should look like.


In the churn leading up to this week’s release of the Fiscal Year 2018 budget request to Congress, questions still remain on the Navy’s acquisition and readiness plans. The following is a list of important policy and acquisition issues that Navy officials have declined to comment on but have assured USNI News and the public that answers would be found in the budget request.


Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy


President Donald Trump called for a 350-ship fleet as early as last summer – a specific promise at the time, which was later backed up by the Navy’s Force Structure Assessment that called for 355 ships, as well as three separate Future Fleet Architecture studies that generally supported fleets of around that size.


With the general consensus being that the Navy needs more ships, the question now is, how will the service achieve that? The Congressional Budget Office looked at various rates of shipbuilding to analyze how much it would cost, and House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee chairman Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) told USNI News he believes the Navy should aim for 355 ships in the next 25 to 30 years.


Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bill Moran told USNI News the Navy may need as $150 billion over the current shipbuilding plan to “jump-start” shipbuilding and get on a trajectory to 355 – helping shipyards make the investments in their workforce and facility needed to build today’s ships faster, and to prepare for new classes of ships that will be central to that 355-ship fleet. And Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson told reporters last week that the industrial base could handle 29 additional ships over the next seven years beyond what the current shipbuilding plan calls for. But the question remains, will the Navy actually seek the money it needs to get on that trajectory to 355 as fast as the service and the shipbuilders can handle? And if the Navy does look for a quick buildup, will it focus on the massive “USS” warships already under construction – aircraft carriers, attack submarines, destroyers and amphibious transport docks – or will it rely on some less expensive “USNS” ships, such as the expeditionary mobile base (formerly called the Afloat Forward Staging Base) to help bolster the fleet buildup numbers?


While FY 2018 itself isn’t likely to include major investments in shipbuilding – Defense Secretary James Mattis made clear in a Jan. 31 memo that 2018 would focus on wholeness, with acquisition to support a force buildup starting in 2019 – there may be some investments to help shipyards train new employees, build additional indoor work facilities and more to support an upcoming surge in work. And with the 2018 budget submission will come an outline of spending plans for the Future Years Defense Plan that runs through FY 2022, so much about the Navy’s buildup should be revealed this week.


Littoral Combat Ship


The Navy has planned to transition from its Littoral Combat Ship to a frigate since 2014, but in recent months it has totally revamped its plan for doing so, starting over with its frigate requirements development process and moving from a faceoff between the two LCS builders to an open competition for shipbuilders around the globe.

Program and surface warfare officials vowed in a recent hearing that more details about the new transition plan would be included in the 2018 budget submission.


Questions that remain are: how many LCSs will be purchased before the frigate transition takes place? In its 2017 budget request, the Navy outlined a plan to buy two in 2017; one a year in 2018, 2019 and 2020; and then two in 2021. However, Program Executive Officer for LCS Rear Adm. John Neagley said at the recent hearing that the two builders, Austal USA and Marinette Marine, needed the Navy to buy three ships a year to sustain their yards and allow them to compete for the frigate. Lawmakers forced the Navy to buy three in the recent 2017 spending bill, but at the hearing Neagley declined to comment on how many ships the Navy would actually buy in 2018 and beyond, only noting that the industrial base required three a year.


As for the frigate, when will the Navy complete its requirements development and begin to compete design contracts to industry? When does it believe it can award construction contracts? How much will the frigate cost? Some or all of these questions may be answered in the Navy’s outline of the FYDP.


Attack Submarines


Perhaps the number-one thing the Navy wants to do if more funding is available for a fleet buildup is to buy more Virginia-class submarines. The Navy is facing a massive submarine shortfall in the next decade, at the same time it is facing an increase in work for the two submarine shipbuilding yards due to the introduction of the Columbia-class ballistic-missile submarine and the Virginia Payload Module addition to the SSNs. The Navy originally intended to buy two SSNs in years without a SSBN, and one of each during SSBN acquisition years. In 2015 then-acquisition chief Sean Stackley said the Navy was looking at industrial base capacity to build two SSNs every year, regardless of the Columbia subs. Then perhaps each SSN would have a Virginia Payload Module built in, to give it extra missile-carrying capacity, rather than just one VPM a year. And then some lawmakers wondered if perhaps industry could build three SSNs a year. This budget submission should reveal how the Navy intends on handling the massive workload for General Dynamics Electric Boat and Huntington Ingalls’ Newport News Shipbuilding through FY 2022.


LPD to LX(R) Transition


Budgeting plans surrounding the LX(R) amphibious dock landing ship replacement program, and the LPD amphibious transport dock the LX(R) is based on, have changed multiple times in the last couple years. Previous budgets had the final LPD bought in FY 2016 and LX(R) beginning in FY 2020, which would have left a production gap at Ingalls Shipbuilding and may have risked the yard having to lay off workers, only to try to rehire them again. So in FY 2016 lawmakers cobbled together funds for an LPD-28, a 12th ship in the class, as a bridge from LPD to LX(R), as well as a small sum of money to begin accelerating the LX(R) design.


This year’s final FY 2017 spending bill, just passed by Congress this month, both adds nearly $1.8 billion for a 13th ship, LPD-29 – the production line is moving so efficiently at Ingalls that even LPD-28 was now expected to leave a production gap – and more than $25 million funding to accelerate LX(R) development. The 2018 budget should reveal new details about the updated transition schedule, as well as whether the LX(R) will be included in the Navy’s fleet buildup or whether the service will allow the program some time to prove itself ahead of looking at speeding up production.


Aircraft Carriers


The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier may take the longest of all the Navy’s ships to build, but service leadership hopes to include the carriers in the fleet buildup effort as well. The Navy currently buys carriers one every five years, a rate that is less efficient for sole builder Newport News Shipbuilding and has led the service to dip below the congressionally mandated 11-carrier fleet. Industry has long been pushing for three- or four-year centers on the aircraft carriers, and CNO Richardson said last week that his shipbuilding acceleration would include a quicker carrier construction rate. This budget document is likely to reveal just how fast the Navy thinks it and its industry partners can build a carrier.


Cruiser Modernization


The Navy and Congress have been at odds over how to approach the modernization and life extension of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers. The Navy in 2013 suggested decommissioning half the fleet to deal with sequestration, arguing it didn’t have the money to man and operate them, let alone modernize the full class of ships. Congress in FY 2015 mandated that two cruisers a year be inducted into the modernization program, which led to the 2/4/6 plan – in which two ships a year would be inducted into the modernization program, for no longer than four years each, with no more than six ships laid up at any given time. The Navy has continued to push back against that, including in both its FY 2016 and 2017 budget requests, arguing it could save billions of dollars if it laid up all the remaining cruisers and modernized them only as older cruisers begin to decommission. This week’s budget will show whether the Navy will this year go along with the 2/4/6 plan or push back again to save money on the remaining five or so cruisers yet to be inducted into the modernization program.


Super Hornets v. Joint Strike Fighter


The Navy’s plans for its future air wing have long centered around having the fourth-generation F/A-18E-F Super Hornet and fifth-generation F-35C Joint Strike Fighter operating side-by-side. One a stealthy battle management tool and the other a lethal bomb truck, the Navy never intended to compete them against one another, until President Donald Trump on Dec. 22, 2016, suggested in a tweet that Boeing could develop a Super Hornet variant “comparable” to the JSF for a lower cost. As a result, Defense Secretary Mattis ordered a review of the two aircraft in a Jan. 26 memo. The budget should indicate how the Navy intends to move forward.


Hypoxia Concerns


The Navy has a growing problem with breathing-related issues for fighter jet pilots – both hypoxia, in which pilots cannot get enough oxygen or receive contaminated oxygen from their masks, and cabin pressure issues that can lead to decompression sickness. The number of so-called physiological episodes is increasing at an increasing rate and affecting all the Navy’s jets: legacy F/A-18 Hornets, F/A-18E-F Super Hornets, EA-18G Growlers and T-45C Goshawk trainers. Navy leadership has vowed to address this in a resource-unconstrained manner, taking whatever steps are necessary to find the root of the problem, so this budget could give some indication of how the Navy intends to do that.


Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Set to Answer Lingering Navy Acquisition Questions


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Trump Budget Fails To Live Up To ‘Historic’ Defense Promises, Analysts Say

(DEFENSE NEWS 22 MAY 17) … Aaron Mehta


WASHINGTON – The first Trump administration budget plan fails to live up to the president’s claims of a “historic” defense increase, and will likely meet stiff resistance on the Hill for what analysts say are unrealistic plans for cuts to non-defense spending.


Details of the fiscal year 2018 budget, released to reporters Monday evening, also confirm an increase in nuclear weapons funding and changes to foreign military aid, as previously reported by Defense News.


The budget – which includes $603 billion earmarked for national security issues, including defense – certainly reflects a major attempt at reshaping the social safety net. But when it comes to defense, the planned increase is fairly pedestrian, or as House Armed Services Committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said Monday, “basically the Obama approach.”


Todd Harrison, a budgetary expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, wrote Monday that the real numbers don’t match up to the rhetoric from President Donald Trump that his spending plan will rebuild the military.


Harrison notes that the budget plan represents only the ninth-largest increase in the past four decades for defense spending, While the budget request features $54 billion for defense above the Budget Control Act (BCA) caps in place for FY18, that’s only $19 billion more than was planned for this year by the Obama administration.


Mackenzie Eaglen, a defense analyst with the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called the defense plan “middle of the road, vanilla stuff. It’s a budget that is in line with recent historical precedent and is nothing extraordinary or historical.”


The budget documentation notes in a footnote that defense spending in the future will be based on the results of several major strategic reviews now underway, including the National Security Strategy and the Nuclear Posture Review. That was echoed by a source familiar with the defense budgeting process, who told Defense News that the budget is largely a placeholder until those decisions can be made.


There was “largely good work” done by the team that started assembling this last year, the source said, but this budget reflects awareness that strategic shifts are coming and was designed to leave wiggle room for the administration and DoD’s incoming leadership to color within the lines.


Instead, this budget focuses on doing repairs where needed – something that leaves Eaglen skeptical about major shifts coming in the future.


“They’re going to try and spin it that they will get the rebuild next year. I’ve seen that movie. Anytime you try to do things the next year, it just becomes the next year,” she said.


DOA On The Hill


Eaglen sees the fingerprints of White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney all over the document, even more so than Trump.


“This budget is Mick Mulvaney’s dream. He had a lot of discretion in terms of what choices were made. There is some Trump stuff here – no cuts to Social Security, new paid parental leave – but this is a Mulvany budget through and through,” Eaglen said.


And like Mulvaney’s budget plans when he was a member of the House Freedom Caucus, this plan will likely be dead on arrival on the Hill, due to the budgetary tradeoffs it relies on.


In the budget documentation, the administration expresses plans for an annual 2.1 percent growth for defense discretionary spending, accompanied by an annual 2 percent reduction in non-defense discretionary spending – not just for FY18, but for the next decade.


“As we’ll see with the ’18 budget, the one defense dollar up and one non-defense dollar down trade will never, ever have enough votes to pass, period,” Eaglen said, noting that Democrats will never agree to such a tradeoff. “So this notion that for the next 10 years it will happen is kind of crazy.”


Asked about the budget’s chances on the Hill, Harrison said, “Dead on arrival is an understatement. The cuts to non-defense discretionary spending in the out years may even spook some fiscal conservatives.”


Interestingly, the documentation also calls for keeping budget caps in place through 2027, despite the caps associated with the BCA set to expire in 2021. Aside from a few members of Mulvaney’s Freedom Caucus, there is zero appetite on the Hill for continuing mandatory budget caps after they expire, Eaglen said.


Speaking to reporters Monday, Mulvaney acknowledged that Congress will have its say, but defended the budget plan as one required to meet the vision laid out by the president.


“Do I expect them to adopt this 100 percent whole-heartedly, without any change? Absolutely not. Do I expect them to work with the administration on trying to figure out places where we’re on the same pages?


Absolutely,” Mulvaney said. “I don’t think it invalidates the importance, the credibility of the president’s budget, just because they’re not going to fund it wholeheartedly.”


OCO’s End?


As a House member, Mulvaney made targeting the use of overseas contingency operations (OCO) a signature issue. At first glance, that appears to be reflected in the budget, as the 10-year plan calls for the dialing down of OCO funding to almost nothing.


Harrison isn’t impressed, noting that a footnote in the budget document says the OCO numbers are based on several assumptions that simply may not happen.


“The Obama admin used to do this, too. It’s just a placeholder and not a proposal,” Harrison said. “Obama’s OMB had talked about phasing out OCO, as well. Nothing happened.”


OCO remains popular on the Hill, where it has served as a useful vehicle for supporting DoD despite the BCA-imposed restrictions on spending. The wartime fund is exempt from the budget BCA caps.


Speaking Monday at the Brookings Institution, Thornberry reiterated a call for defense spending to reach $640 billion in base dollars, with an additional $60 billion in OCO. The chairman told the crowd he was not trying this year to change the longstanding practice of parking base budget costs in OCO – but it was something he was open to.


“It does not accomplish that goal,” he said. “I think that is a worthwhile conversation to have. What concerns me is if there are transfers from OCO to the base budget and people call it a defense increase, it will not be accurate. It will not tell you the facts, which is you have not really increased anything at all. You’ve just changed the label on the money.”


Putting base requirements into OCO, Thornberry said, “makes it very difficult to plan and that that we are not spending it as efficient as it could be, and yet, we have become very dependent on that.”


Foreign Financing Changes


Mulvaney confirmed that changes would be coming to the State Department’s Foreign Military Financing programs, including details, first revealed by Defense News, that Pakistan’s military aid will be slashed compared with previous levels.


The OMB director also confirmed that several countries would have their FMF financing changed from grants to loans, although he noted Israel and Egypt would be exempt from such changes.


“Our argument is instead of giving somebody $100 million, we can give them a smaller number with a loan guarantee so they can actually buy more stuff,” he said. “State still has some flexibility to come up with the final plan on that, but writ large, we have proposed to move several countries from a direct grant program to a loan guarantee program.”


Foreign Military Financing has largely taken the role of a grant given to U.S. allies to allow them to buy defense equipment. With the exception of Israel, all countries that receive FMF have to spend it on goods made in the United States, a boost for the domestic defense industry.


Analysts have questioned whether countries which receive FMF grants now will be able to take on the costs of a loan program, and whether those nations may instead look to buy cheaper goods from competitor nations such as Russia or China.


Nuclear Plus-Up


According to the budget materials, the National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) will receive a $1.4 billion increase from 2017 levels, a roughly 11 percent increase on the agencies budget. That will certainly be welcome from NNSA head Frank Klotz, a retired Air Force general who has expressed a desperate need for funding to help balance out a backlog of maintenance projects at nuclear facilities.


However, the funding is expected to largely come in the form of NNSA’s weapons accounts, according to a budget leak from the Third Way group revealed last week. A recent Government Accountability Office report warned that NNSA’s weapons development funding was too small to meet requirements for the coming decade.


Andrew Webber, who served from 2009 to 2014 as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical & Biological Defense Programs, believes that plus-up to NNSA accounts reflects that Trump is following through on his stated desire to modernize America’s nuclear weapons.


“The big spike in weapons activities must mean that Trump is accelerating his new nuclear weapons like the LRSO,” Webber said, referring to the new nuclear cruise missile project that some Democrats on the Hill have tried to delay.


Joe Gould in Washington contributed to this report.


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Navy’s 2018 Budget Addresses Readiness Through Maintenance, Spares, Infrastructure Improvements

(U.S. NAVAL INSTITUTE NEWS 23 MAY 17) … Megan Eckstein


THE PENTAGON – 2018 may be the Navy’s opportunity to dig out of a massive readiness hole found in its aviation enterprise and at the public shipyards, with the Pentagon’s budget request focusing on maintenance and readiness spending.


Though acquisition spending is down compared to last year, the service is requesting $51.3 billion for its operations and maintenance budget, compared to $48.2 billion in 2017 and $46.9 billion in 2016. That 6.5 percent increase includes $2.5 billion more for air operations and $4 billion more for ship operations.


On the ship side, the Navy is looking to increase is public shipyard workforce from 33,850 full-time equivalent workers to 34,988, or a 3.4 percent increase, “to increase shipyard throughput,” the Navy’s budget highlights book notes.


“Additionally, to help reduce [naval shipyard] workload and better align workload to capacity, FY 2018 funds planning for private sector submarine maintenance to reduce the impact to follow-on maintenance work. These efforts minimize the more expensive future execution of deferred maintenance work, maximize utilization of private and public maintenance capacity, and support [the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan],” the book reads, referring to persistent backlogs of work at the public yards that have left multiple attack submarines unable to get into the yards for work.


This increase in shipyard personnel and assistance from the private sector will contribute to the Navy being able to conduct 71 ship maintenance availabilities, or 10 more than last year, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Budget Rear Adm. Brian Luther told reporters during a budget rollout briefing today. Those availabilities will help chip away at the $3.5 billion in deferred maintenance the Navy faces, he added.


Ship maintenance is funded at 100 percent of required levels through both base budget and Overseas Contingency Operations funding, for a total of $11.8 billion.


On aviation, the Navy and Marine Corps looked to address support accounts that contribute to ongoing readiness challenges – spare parts, logistics and other flight line readiness enablers.


“FY 2018 funding supports the maximum executable requirements of deployed units, units training in preparation to deploy, and of non-deployed units for sustainment and maintenance readiness levels,” according to the Navy budget highlights book.


“The primary driver of the increases in FY 2018 funding in comparison to FY 2017 is the increase in cost-per-flight hour for various Type/Model/Series in repairable parts, consumables, and maintenance contracts.”

Luther expanded on the topic of aviation readiness, noting that “aircraft depot maintenance is funded to capacity, which is 89 percent of the requirement. This is an increase from last year, where we funded the air depot maintenance to 85 percent. Capacity is limited for different reasons at our fleet readiness centers. Some are limited by the hiring of civilian personnel, others by physical space and aging tools and materials. In all cases, we are investing to correct those limitations.”


Despite those limitations, “aviation spares is funded to the highest level in the last 14 years, at 91 percent,” Luther said.


“The aviation logistics support has increased 6 percent to a high of 87 percent of the requirement. These logistics contracts for the F-35, KC-130J and MV-22 and E-6B are funded at an all-time high,” he added, making clear that “executing the training and deployed flight hours requires more than just the flying and depot maintenance funding; it requires sufficient funding for enabling accounts such as aviation logistics, aviation support and . aviation spares.”


The Pentagon also sought to address readiness through weapons procurement, which U.S. Pacific Command Commander Adm. Harry Harris discussed last month in congressional hearings. Harris told lawmakers that “we’re short on things like small-diameter bombs. These are not exciting kinds of weapons, these are mundane sort of weapons, but they’re absolutely critical to what we’re trying to do not only against North Korea but also in the fights in the Middle East. So we have a shortage of the small-diameter bombs throughout the inventory, so the stockpile of the small-diameter bombs that PACOM has, for example, we send them, and rightfully so, to CENTCOM, Central Command, and AFRICOM. That’s a fight we’re in and they need them, so we send them there and they use them.”


As a result, Defense Secretary James Mattis created a “preferred weapon” status within the FY 2018 budget request, John Roth, acting as the Pentagon comptroller, told reporters today.


“As we closed out this budget over the last two or three weeks in particular, a great deal of concern was being raised with current inventory levels and, particularly given some of the [weapons] expenditures in the CENTCOM area of operations as we talk, and so the secretary mandated and insisted that we fully fund to the maximum extent possible the full production capability for certain selected preferred munitions – things like the Hellfire, things like the JDAM and the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System,” Roth said.


Preferred weapons include the Hellfire air-to-surface missile, Tomahawk Land Attack Missile, small-diameter bomb, Advanced Precision-Kill Weapon System, Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System and Joint Direct Attack Munition.


Though still taking risk in shore infrastructure to help pay for operational fleet readiness, the Navy and Marine Corps are making some major investments in military construction that directly help the readiness rebuilding effort. These MILCON projects – $73 million for the Ship Repair Training Facility at Naval Support Activity Norfolk; $62 million to improve the Paint, Blast and Rubber Facility at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard; $61 million for an F/A-18 Avionics Repair Facility replacement at Naval Air Station Lemoore; and more – pushed the services to a 13-percent higher “major construction” budget request than last year, and 11.6 percent higher MILCON budget overall.


Despite the emphasis on restoring readiness – with 100 percent of the ship readiness requirement being funded and about 90 percent of the aviation readiness requirement being funded, which are higher than historical averages, the Marine Corps is only funding its ground equipment depot maintenance at 79 percent of the requirement.


Overall, Luther said of the Navy and Marine Corps budget request, “it is important to note, however, the effects of multiple years of insufficient resources cannot be corrected by the increases of one budget year. The department will require stable, predictable funding over multiple years to achieve sustained and positive results.”


Navy’s 2018 Budget Addresses Readiness Through Maintenance, Spares, Infrastructure Improvements


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Amid $52 Billion Plus-Up, DoD Looks To Trim Spending On Service Contracts, Health Care



As expected, the final 2018 Defense budget the Trump administration submitted to Congress Tuesday calls for $640 billion in military spending, $52 billion more than the current year and breaking the current budget caps by the same amount.


But even amid a healthy plus-up in the top-line amount, the Pentagon says it’s found some modest ways to produce “efficiency” savings in 2018. Officials billed the budget as a fulfillment of two commitments Defense Secretary James Mattis made when he took office in January: rebuilding the military’s readiness and reforming its business operations.


“There are a number of ongoing activities that we continue to pursue,” said John Roth, the career senior executive who’s currently performing the duties of DoD comptroller. “We’re continuing to look at the major headquarters and to reduce them by 25 percent. We continue with acquisition reform, particularly with Better Buying Power 3.0. We continue to take a hard look at our service support contracts and make sure that they’re appropriate.”


The department said the largest chunk of the savings – $1.2 billion – will come from changes to business processes in the headquarters of the military services and the Office of the Secretary of Defense.


Its budget document does not identify all of the ways in which DoD expects to reach that total, but offers a few examples:

.               From now on, the Pentagon’s deputy chief management officer will have to sign off on any new business IT investments that cost more than $1 million over five years. DoD expects that change to save $77 million in 2018 alone.

.               The department says it will save $120 million with a change to travel policy, using the “lowest acceptable” airfare in GSA’s City Pair program as the default option for domestic flights.

.               DoD expects to save $382 million by eliminating “redundant” service contracts. That process will be led by the department’s Service Requirement Review Boards, a process DoD set up last year to begin forcing Defense organizations to justify their use of support contractors.

.               The budget proposes modest increases in staffing levels at the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Defense Contract Management Agency and the DoD Inspector General’s office to increase oversight over contracts.


The Pentagon also hopes to glean some savings from military compensation.


The 2018 budget proposes a 1.9 percent pay raise for civilians and 2.1 percent raise for military members, lower than the 2.4 percent increase federal employees would otherwise receive based on the Employment Cost Index. The department projects the lower raise would save about $200 million in 2018.


The spending plan would also require some of DoD’s health care beneficiaries to pay more for their own treatment. While active-duty service members would continue to be cared for at no charge, the budget would introduce enrollment fees and deductibles for family members and retirees.


Congress already allowed for those fees in the 2017 Defense authorization bill, but only applied them prospectively – to service members who join the military after January 2018.


“What that did, in effect, is pretty much wipe out any to near-term savings and created what we think is an awkward two-tier system. Some people will be under one system and some people will be under another for the next 50 years,” Roth said. “We’re going to ask the Congress if they would consider eliminating the grandfathering. We’d like to exempt the medically retired and family members of those who die on active duty.


We think that’s just a tweak in a law that perhaps the Hill has overlooked. And we continue to look at efforts to rely on telehealth, nurse advice lines, those kinds of things to try to improve the beneficiary’s experience with the process.”


The cost-share changes would be most impactful for retirees and their families. Within that group, the department estimates an average family of three’s out-of-pocket medical costs would rise from about $1,500 a year to $2,000 if the proposal is approved.


The department also pressed for what it said would be a “simplification” of the TRICARE health insurance system. Currently, beneficiaries can choose between TRICARE Prime, a managed-care option with low-to-no co-pays and TRICARE Standard, a more flexible plan that does not require enrollment but involves more out-of-pocket costs. The budget proposal would merge the two into a single plan that more closely mirrors private-sector health plans, with “in-network” providers costing beneficiaries less than out-of-network providers.


Another new element: beneficiaries would have to take active steps to take part in the health system during an annual open enrollment period, similar to what’s required for civilian employees in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. As of now, under TRICARE Standard, beneficiaries need only show their DoD ID card at a health care provider’s office to get TRICARE coverage.


Apart from the $2 billion in efficiency savings in 2018, the Trump administration believes DoD could save another $2 billion per year in perpetuity if Congress allows it to conduct another round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), a request DoD has made in every budget proposal since 2012, but which Congress has rejected each year.


The latest proposal would initiate a BRAC round in 2021, making it the first since 2005. The Pentagon’s rough calculations show it’s currently paying to maintain 22 percent more base capacity than what’s militarily useful.

“The sum-total of the five rounds we’ve had since the 1990s has resulted in approximately $12 billion a year in savings. It’s a gift that keeps on giving,” Roth said. “All we’re asking for at this stage is the authority: we can’t even do the detailed analysis under current law. What we have is a parametric estimate. If that number is anywhere near correct, we are forgoing a very significant opportunity to get some savings. [BRAC] is a very structured, systematic, rigorous process that ultimately, Congress has the final say on. We think we’re getting some signals from at least a couple of committees that are more amenable to it and so we will be pushing that pretty hard.”


At the same time, the budget proposes to spend more on improvements to existing infrastructure than DoD has put forward in the last several years.


A multi-year maintenance backlog has led to one out of every five Defense facilities falling into “failing” condition; the 2017 budget provided only enough funding to conduct 74 percent of the military’s needed facility upkeep. The 2018 version would add several billion dollars to preventative maintenance and military construction accounts – about 25 percent more than last year.


“This is an area where when you get constrained budgets and you have lower top-lines, you tend to take risk and you tend to defer. You’re going to wait to fix that window until the next year as long as the roof’s not leaking,” Roth said. “We’ve had pretty anemic military construction facilities budgets over the last four-or-five years, but there’s a readiness nexus with this. So we’re investing in operational and training facilities and maintenance and production facilities in particular.”


Roth said getting the Defense Department in a position to pass a financial statement audit is also one of Secretary Mattis’ top reform priorities.


Per a congressional mandate, DoD is supposed to declare itself “audit-ready” by September. Roth said that means the department will continue with its previous plan to begin subjecting itself to full-scale audits in 2018, but that no one should expect a passing score in the first year.


“One of the reasons we are where we are is for about 20 years, no one really cared. That’s why we didn’t move the ball,” Roth said. “In the last six or seven years, it became a high priority for the entire department. This isn’t something that only a comptroller and financial manager can do, it needs a buy-in from the entire enterprise.


We’ve made an enormous amount of progress getting, quote ‘ready,’ but we’re not going to get to a clean audit in one year. But we won’t know until we start the audit. We’ll get some good audit opinions and frankly, we’ll get some bad audit opinions. Those will lead to remediation efforts in terms of either changing business processes or changing accounting processes and the like. But we have to start, and that’s the importance of 2018.”


Amid $52 billion plus-up, DoD looks to trim spending on service contracts, health care