Archive for the ‘Government and Industry…Together!’ Category

SAIC has delivered an infrared sensor for Air Force use that will be integrated into and hosted on the commercial SES-2 satellite.  The SES-2 satellite is being built by Orbital Sciences and will provide commercial communications services.

The short and medium wave infrared sensor gets a lower-cost ride to space than a dedicated IR satellite and could be on orbit as early as around this time in 2011.

Called CHIRP (the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload), the sensor assembly will provide wide field-of-view persistent infrared capabilities.

When the sensor is on-orbit, it will have a secure, two-way communication channel to the Air Force through a standard commercial telecommunication transponder.

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Boeing's Delta IV

Well, this will be interesting. Stand by for some alphabet soup.

First, the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) says Boeing needs to reimburse $72 million it has already received.

Next, DCAA says the Defense Contract Management Agency (DCMA, not to be confused with DCAA) should notify the joint Boeing-Lockheed Martin venture called the United Launch Alliance (ULA) that there are another $199 million in unallowable costs (that are pending reimbursement) that the government won’t pay.  Got all that?

The work in question was done was for the Air Force as far back as 1998.

Given the complexity of monster-sized programs like EELV, the two main contractors, the joint venture, the who-knows-how-many subs, and the multi-year time frame, unpacking this all had to be–to say the least–a challenging audit to close on.

DCMA is now reviewing DCAA’s audit recommendation and a final decision is planned for November.

How do you ‘right size’ the solid rocket motor industry, which has some facilities operating at 10 percent of capacity?

Consolidate and close up to 90 percent of capacity it would appear.

The excess capacity regarding solids likely also reflects space in general and space launch in particular.

In November 2009, USA Today took up the banner of shining some light into the whole ‘senior mentor’ thing.  You know, senior mentors: the retired flag and general officers who support (in a big-fee-for-service sort of way) the services and unified commands, often in wargaming.

After that kerfuffle, the Pentagon has now actually weakened the reporting requirements for senior mentors.

BTW, it’s likely there are plenty of former DoD officials who senior mentor as well.

While USA Today approached the issue from a conflict-of-interest point of view (80% of the senior mentors have connections to industry), the idea of senior mentors always tortured me in a different way.  Some senior mentors are actually advising on issues they themselves didn’t effectively work/couldn’t fix when they were on active duty.

Somebody got some ‘splainin’ to do.

The WSJ reports $100 billion in defense cuts–about 90 percent in the years beyond FY12 for the purpose of getting the budget under better control.

Concurrently, $50 billion of current year non-defense spending is proposed.

Is it me?

Regarding the proposed cuts to the defense industry, a dilemma remains excess global capacity. That’s why Airbus is considering the USAF tanker deal anew.  But excess capacity almost by definitional means consolidation can (or should) be pursued in order to achieve greater efficiencies.

Then, consolidation leads to a loss of competition.  A loss of competition leads to higher costs.  That’s what happened with EELV, where dreamy assumptions melted in the face of global reality (that is, global reality versus global warming).

The traditional take is for governments, U.S. included, to subsidize industry.

Using the automotive industry, consider the relatively recent cash for clunkers and the GM and Chrysler bailouts.

Commercial space haters conveniently ignore the fact the U.S. government creates virtually none of the space capability our nation enjoys.

Who does?  Commercial companies, as epitomized by Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, and the like, and now, by SpaceX.

I suppose the students in culminating astro classes at USAFA, Cal Poly, Utah State, John Hopkins, or MIT might actually build a mirco sat that is hosted on something else from time to time, but let’s get real: we are effectively totally dependent on industry to deliver space capabilities.

So why all the angst over “commercial” versus “government” space?  I’m really not sure except that it probably has to do with power, ego, and money.

The article at Danger Room regarding $400M of DoD cyber war business could perhaps be better titled “Cyber Chicken Little Wins Conflict Cash” or “There’s No Business in Saying ‘All is Well’.”  There is much to agree with on Danger Room’s take on the subject.

Fundamental issues cyber war contractors should address:

  1. If we are fighting a cyber war today and losing, as has been asserted, can we please define cyber war, define the metrics for winning and losing, and then explain how we’re losing?  Please don’t hide behind hand waves like “It’s complicated” or “Its classified.”
  2. Does anyone really believe “The cyber-war mirrors the nuclear challenge in terms of the potential economic and psychological effects”?  If so, how?  Nuclear weapons could rearrange–in the worst way possible–life on earth as we know it.  A reasonable person–me for example–might think the impact of the cyber threat is being hyped.
  3. It is unclear how a contractor can provide combat-ready forces to secure cyber operations.  Again, define what is a combat-ready cyber force is and then explain how a contractor performs that mission.  I come from an ops background and would be interested in initial and recurring training, standardization and evaluation, and certification processes traditionally encompassed within the phrase ‘combat-ready.’

I am not attempting to dismiss the cyber threat but am more inclined to think are holding our own.  I’m just not sure how building a culture of ‘learned helplessness’ by having contractors performing cyber war work will help the military develop competencies in this area.