Roll Call: The News Source of Capitol Hill Since 1955
November 27, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving to U.S. Military!

We want to wish all U.S. military personnel stationed here at home and around the world a Happy Thanksgiving. We know what we’re grateful for. Thank you for everything that you do.

Outgoing USAF Official Addresses Cost ‘Myths’

National Defense Magazine reports that “few Washington policy makers truly understand how the Pentagon develops and acquires weapon systems, and they tend to throw barbs at the Defense Department based on innuendo rather than hard data, said Air Force Assistant Secretary William LaPlante, who leaves office this week after three years as the service’s top weapons buyer.”

“’That’s what surprised me when I got into this job,’ he told reporters Nov. 24.”

“There is an abundance of data that show a sharp drop in cost overruns and improved performance in Air Force big-ticket programs in recent years, but the widespread conviction on Capitol Hill and among the general public is that military procurement is broken. LaPlante believes there is a wide gap between perception and reality, and that has been a constant source of frustration. He announced last week he would leave his post to join The Mitre Corporation. He had planned to leave sooner, over this summer, but decided to stick around until the completion of the contract award for the Air Force long-range strike bomber, the service’s largest procurement in decades. Richard Lombardi, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, is expected to take over as acting assistant secretary.”

“’The situation in Air Force acquisition is pretty good right now,’ LaPlante said. ‘Our net costs continue to come down. I have all the data.'”

DARPA Works to Make Cities Less Vulnerable

Government Executive reports that “the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, announced a new research initiative into the ways important things can break at once. Called the Complex Adaptive System Composition and Design Environment, or CASCADE, the project is meant to help planners make cities, towns, bases, power grids, etc. less vulnerable to devastation.”

“’It is difficult to model and currently impossible to systematically design such complex systems using state of the art tools, leading to inferior performance, unexpected problems, and weak resilience,’ the agency wrote in a release.”

“Resilience is the key part. You can prevent terror attacks and you can prevent some disasters, but you can’t prevent all of them. However, if you can decrease the cost of the disaster in terms of lives disrupted, time lost, pain or the level inconvenience imposed on citizens, then disasters become less … disastrous. That’s what’s called building in resilience.”

Flying Ground Surveillance

The U.S. Air Force is poised to replace 17 Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS) aircraft with a new platform and improved technology. JSTARS aircraft are designed to provide command and control and the ability to survey ground moving targets to support attack operations. Boeing was selected as one of three potential providers for the new JSTARS fleet.

Based on the 737-700 platform, the Boeing JSTARS recapitalization leverages decades of expertise transforming commercial platforms for military use. It will provide the right size platform coupled with aerial refueling capability to execute the long range JSTARS missions. A 737 modified into JSTARS aircraft offers a best platform-to-mission match, in terms of low acquisition cost, fielded capability and long term total ownership affordability. At the same time, it meets the current USAF requirements for ground surveillance and targeting missions.

The size of the aircraft and the ability of the crew to perform the mission over long on-station times was factored into the evaluation of the size of the aircraft. And if we know one thing about platforms that have a planned life expectancy of 30 years or more, there is going to be a need to grow the capabilities. This affects not only the sensor, but communications, and computing capabilities, which tend to add weight, require more power, and need more cooling. Smaller platforms just don’t have that kind of growth potential.

With a set of virtual reality goggles, military personnel can tour the JSTARS offering from nose to tail. Stepping inside the virtual plane and pointing a joystick control at the interior reveals various configurations for work stations, additional cargo and equipment. The virtual mockup tool provides a collaborative approach to explore options for the best combination of technology and talent to meet the USAF needs.

The Boeing JSTARS aircraft will incorporate open mission architecture based on proven battle management command and control software from the fielded technologies of the P-8A, Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) and Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) Block 40/45 mission system.  Additionally, the worldwide footprint of 8,000 737s will provide the most cost-effective and competitive environment for support and sustainability throughout the life of the program.

DoD: No U.S. Military Involved in Russian Aircraft Downing

The U.S. Department of Defense states that “the United States and NATO support Turkey’s right to defend its airspace and sovereignty, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook told reporters today following the downing of a Russian military aircraft by the Turkish military.”

“No U.S. military forces were involved, Cook said, when the Russian aircraft reportedly crossed over the Turkish-Syrian border and into Turkey’s airspace, Cook said.”

Video: Slow-motion Replay of Heavy US Military Guns

Business Insider reports that “a new video from Vickers Tactical gives a high-definition, slow-motion look at the US military’s heavy weapons in action.”

“This video features RPGs, grenade launchers, Carl Gustav Recoilless Rifles, Javelins, and more. The slow motion brilliantly captures the slightest detail of these deadly weapons.”


Afghan Hospital Bombing Resulted From Human Error: US Military

The Wall Street Journal reports that “a combination of errors contributed to a U.S. warplane inadvertently bombing a hospital in Afghanistan last month, resulting in the deaths of at least 30 people, including doctors and patients, a U.S. military report concludes.”

“The military’s investigation finds that the hospital in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province wasn’t struck intentionally, according to U.S. officials who have seen a draft of the report.”

“Instead, U.S. forces were attempting to target a nearby building that was known to be a Taliban position, they said, but a combination of mistakes—including in targeting information that was relayed verbally instead of by computer—resulted in the accidental bombing of the hospital, rather than the building in which the Taliban were hiding, according to those officials.”

The New York Times reports that “the top American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Campbell, said Wednesday that several service members had been suspended from duty after an internal military investigation of the American airstrike on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz last month.”

Rethink Business and Beat the Best-Case Cost Estimate for the U.S. Navy

Boeing photo 1“You want me to take it over there, chop it up and then rebuild it?”

Seems backwards…even time-consuming and costly, doesn’t it?  And yet, that was the conversation in years past when military capabilities were added to a non-military aircraft.

Until now.  Enter the P-8A Poseidon, a military aircraft built for the U.S. Navy.  When that product was designed, Boeing asked the question:  “How can we do this better and cheaper?”  The answer:  In-line production.  Make the military version part of the commercial production line.

Seems simple, but it was an industry-first.

For the P-8A, based on the 737-800 platform, it all begins in Wichita, KS where the fuselage is built by Spirit AeroSystems on their commercial line, just using materials and adding structural changes specifically engineered for the P-8A. Work continues in Renton, Washington in the same Boeing Commercial Airplanes 737 production facility where the company builds 42 airplanes per month.  And then the military systems specialists add the Boeing Photo 2final pieces. The result?  Faster production, dramatic cost savings, a customer who receives their aircraft when they need it.

In-line production for the P-8A has been so successful – reducing production time from the first jet to the current jet by 50 percent and reducing cost by more than 30 percent – that Boeing is moving even more work from the final “mission equipment installation” phase back into the commercial production line.  And they plan to use the power of in-line production on other commercial derivative programs too.

How has this helped the U.S. Navy?  Check out Capt. Dillon’s comments here.

Assembling the Force of the Future

“As it wrestles with how best to attack yet another unconventional enemy—one that is without a recognized state, driven by extreme ideology and willing to kill innocents on civilian territory—the Pentagon has largely stuck to a conventional strategy: bombs away,” the Washington Post reports.

“The U.S.’s war against the Islamic State has largely been fought from the air, with old reliables of the U.S. arsenal, such as the B-1 bomber and the Tomahawk cruise missile.”

“But while the force the Pentagon has deployed may be similar to the force that opened the Iraq War’s “shock and awe” campaign more than a dozen years ago, military leaders are at the same time scrambling to assemble a new force, equipped with the most advanced technology for the wars of the future.”

Obama Asks Pentagon to Investigate Intelligence Claims

“President Obama said Sunday he has told top military officials to ‘get to the bottom’ of reports that intelligence assessments have been altered to give a rosier assessment of progress in turning back the Islamic State,” USA Today reports.

“Obama was responding to a report in The New York Times that the Pentagon’s inspector general has expanded its probe of intelligence reports from Central Command, or CENTCOM, and that congressional committees were seeking answers about whether that intelligence had been shaded to make it appear more progress is being made. The Times reported that the Pentagon has added more investigators who have seized documents related to intelligence reports.”

Will the Pentagon Buy Rocket Engines from Russia?

“With just weeks before a critical deadline to fund the federal government looms, a fight is brewing on Capitol Hill over the kind of rocket engine the Defense Department can use to send its military satellites into space,” according to the Fiscal Times.

“Last week, United Launch Alliance, a Lockheed Martin-Boeing joint venture, dropped out of the competition to launch the Pentagon’s next-generation Global Positioning System satellite in 2018. They surrendered a long-held industry monopoly and put Elon Musk’s SpaceX on track to win its first military contract.”

Setting the Stage for the Next Generation of GPS

Whether it’s mapping a trip to a business meeting across town, or providing U.S. warfighters with navigation and timing information to enable critical missions around the world, the Global Positioning System (GPS) has become key to daily life for billions of people.

The 11th of 12 planned Boeing-built GPS IIF satellites was launched from Cape Canaveral on October 31. All 11 have achieved 100 percent mission success to-date. The IIF satellites offer greater accuracy, a longer design life, increased signal power for civil applications, a more robust military M-code signal, and variable power for better jamming resistance.

And the next chapter in GPS development promises to get even better, with new innovation and improved technologies for the next generation GPS III satellite.

This summer, Boeing successfully demonstrated a digital version of the GPS III navigation signals – building on a record of more than 40 other satellites launches with digital payloads – that overcomes limitations of current GPS III analog payloads in combining multiple signals and accommodating future requirements. It also weighs less, costs less and has fewer components.

In addition, Boeing notes that its recent advancements in amplifier technology will boost signal power and can lead to even smaller and lower-cost GPS satellites. These developments, coupled with other improvements, add up to meeting GPS needs today and stretching into the next generation.

Check out highlights of the recent launch of GPS IIF-11:

Study: Young Adults in U.S. Military ‘More Vulnerable to Suicide’

News Medical reports that “in the last 10 years, the U.S. military has experienced an unprecedented increase in suicides among personnel. While many researchers have largely focused on risk factors among individual soldiers, in a new study, researchers contend that the increase in suicide may also indicate increased vulnerability among more recent generations of young adults. Evidence supporting this perspective is out today in Armed Services and Society (a SAGE journal).”

“James Griffith and Craig Bryan from the National Center for Veterans Studies at The University of Utah build on research suggesting that increased young adult suicide rates reflect generational declines in social integration (such as access to predictable, stable, and enduring relationships for support and relief) and behavioral regulation (norms that determine the acceptability of certain behaviors).”

Defense Secretary Ash Discusses Security, Budget, Tech Talent

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter discusses the next generation of security, budget sequestration and drawing tech talent at the Pentagon.

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