Secret Projects and Global Attack Top Air Force Acquisition Spending Request in FY’19

In a first-ever “how we’re doing” report on USAF’s acquisition efforts, the service reported that it will spend the most on secret programs, which are slated to receive more than $10 billion in Fiscal 2019 alone. It also said it’s on time in about half of its acquisition programs, and that most of its projects are on or under budget. Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, in a brief covering message, said the service is “improving” on cost, schedule, and performance, but “we still have a lot of work to do.” Read the full story by John A. Tirpak for a complete breakdown on where the service is spending its money.

House Hearing Yields no Details on Trump “Space Force”

Despite President Trump’s apparent endorsement earlier this week of the establishment of a “Space Force,” the Defense Department Thursday declined to commit to the idea during a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing. Speaking at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar Tuesday, Trump said he had started with the idea as a joke. “I said, ‘maybe we need a new force, we’ll call it the Space Force,’ and I was not really serious. Then I said, ‘what a great idea,’ maybe we’ll have to do that,” he said, according to CNBC. Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, tried to draw Kenneth Rapuano, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and global security, out on the proposal during the brief public session of a hearing on the administration’s Fiscal 2019 budget request for national security space programs, but had no luck. Rapuano told the subcommittee that Trump has prioritized space and recognized it as a warfighting domain, but noted that Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan is now leading an organizational and management review for the department. “Assessment of the Space Corps is one of those options that is getting close attention, among others, and he is going to be recommending that set of options that best ensures lasting US leadership and success in space,” he said. —Steve Hirsch

USAF Hopes to Retire Three JSTARS in FY19

The Air Force hopes to retire three JSTARS in Fiscal 2019 and one more in Fiscal 2021, as it transitions to a new open architecture system that is based on a family of systems rather than a specific aircraft. The remaining 12 JSTARS are projected to continue flying until the mid-2020s, wrote Lt. Gen. Jerry Harris, USAF deputy chief of staff for plans and requirements, and Susan Thornton, USAF director of information dominance programs, in prepared testimony before the House Armed Services Tactical and Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. The service in December 2017 asked the Joint Requirements Oversight Council to re-allocate JSTARS recap funding to accelerate fielding of this new network of systems known as Advanced Battle Management System. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

US Sanctions Russia for Cyber Activities Against US Election, Infrastructure

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas) said Russia is threatening the interests of the United States and its allies with “increasing belligerence,” and the US must respond to “these challenges with clear-eyed objectivity and not allow domestic politics to color our view or affect our actions.” His comments came during a full committee hearing on Thursday on the security challenges in Europe and inter-state competition with Russia, which took place just after the US Treasury Department announced its was imposing sanctions against five Russian entities and 19 individuals for “malign Russian cyber activities,” including their “attempted interference in US elections, destructive cyber-attacks, and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure,” said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in a statement. Read the full story by Amy McCullough.

China Has Global Aspirations, PACOM Chief Testifies

China aspires to be a world, not simply regional, military power, and the United States will struggle to compete with it if it does not keep up with it, the head of the US Pacific Command said Thursday. Adm. Harry Harris told the Senate Armed Services Committee the People’s Liberation Army’s evolution into a “modern, high-tech fighting force” remains “both impressive and concerning.” Harris said he believes the US has air superiority in the region, but “I can see a path where it might not be, unless we continue to resource it.” Read the full story by Steve Hirsch.

SpaceX, ULA Awarded EELV Contracts

The Air Force late Wednesday announced the results of the fourth competition under the Phase 1A Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle procurement strategy. SpaceX has been awarded a $290.6 million contract for launch services to deliver three GPS III missions into orbit, the Defense Department said Wednesday. The GPS III satellites are slated for launch between 2019 and 2020, according to a USAF release. Under the firm-fixed-price contract the company is to provide “launch vehicle production, mission integration/launch operations/spaceflight worthiness and mission unique activities” for one GPS III mission, with options for two more GPS III launch services. Work is to be done in Hawthorne, Calif., where the company is located, as well as Cape Canaveral Air Force Space Station in Florida, and McGregor, Texas, and is expected to be completed by March 2020. The service also awarded United Launch Alliance a $351.8 million contract to deliver Air Force Space Command-eight and AFSPC-12 satellites into orbit. The AFSPC-8 mission, which includes the fifth and sixth Geosynchronous Space Situational Program (GSSAP) satellites, is planned to launch in 2020. AFSPC-12, which also is slated to launch in 2020, comprises one wide field of view test bed space vehicle and another EELV secondary payload adaptor that hosts auxiliary payloads. —Steve Hirsch



—NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg released a 120-page annual report on Thursday, which highlights how the alliance is adapting to respond to the most “complex security environment in a generation,” including bolstering its presence on its Eastern flank, integrating cyber defense into planning and operations, and revamping its command structure: NATO.

—Two USAF bases are testing to see how lasers can help remove paint and corrosion from aircraft, significantly reducing waste created by sanding: Travis release.

—Air Force Under Secretary Matthew Donovan encouraged Boeing to “double down on providing the necessary resources and engineering talent” to push the KC-46A tanker over the “goal line.” His comments came during a visit to Boeing’s production and modification facility in Everett, Wash., after it was announced the program would be delayed again: USAF release.

—The annual trilateral exercise Cope Tiger between the United States, Thailand, and Singapore, began on March 12 and runs through March 23. The exercise will take place in Thailand and test the nations’ combat readiness and interoperability: PACAF release.

—Speakers at DOD’s Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure Cloud acquisition industry day said a department-wide cloud infrastructure that can provide information to troops in real-time “could mean the difference between mission success or mission failure:” DOD release.