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Defense Roundup: Brigade Cuts Start Big Shifts, Contractors Still in the News for Wrong Reasons

Posted by Fred Wellman

Hewlett-Packard Beats CSC for $3.5 Billion Navy Contract

Nick Taborek and Tony Capaccio (@acapaccio), Bloomberg. Hewlett-Packard has won the long awaited award for the Navy’s Next Generation Enterprise Network over a team led by Computer Sciences Corporation valued at up to $3.5 billion through 2018. The contract is the largest single information-technology project in the federal government and will manage the service’s 800,000-user intranet. HP teamed with Lockheed Martin, IBM, AT&T and Northrop Grumman on the effort which allows it to continue running the Navy’s IT backbone as it has since 2008. The contract has gone through several modifications through the process as budget cuts and competition have seen the price of the award drop. In a bit of irony, orders for HP will actually fall 37% compared to their existing contract with the NextGen contract kicking off. CSC doesn’t sound like they intend to fight the loss. One twist to this tale is the recent firing of the Navy officer in charge of the program for an “inappropriate relationship” that was reportedly with a female contractor. Navy sources say the relationship didn’t involve a conflict of interest with the contract award but these things have a way of getting complicated these days. Contract awards that involve dollar amounts with “B’s” in them aren’t likely to go smoothly in this budget environment.

Watchdog Warns of Waste in Afghan Aircraft Buy

Richard Lardner, Associated Press. One of the keys to success in wrapping up our decade plus long war in Afghanistan will be the Afghan military forces being able to secure the country themselves. By far one of the biggest gaps in their capability lies in aviation assets with only the weakest of Air Forces and few helicopter assets available. The U.S. military decided to buy the Afghans Russian aircraft much like we did in Iraq because of their familiarity with the systems from decades of prior use and the relatively low cost compared to western systems. It was announced recently that Russian defense company Rosoboronexport had been awarded a $554 million contract for 30 Mi-17 transport helicopters and supporting parts and equipment. Unfortunately, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction is calling the contract a huge mistake as the Afghans lack even the basic capability, troops, and funds to maintain the aircraft themselves and will amount to a massive waste of money. This has already set off ripples on Capitol Hill where Congress was already looking warily at awarding millions of dollars to a Russian company that is also selling weapons to the Syrian regime.  It’s yet another example of how nothing with getting out of Afghanistan is going to be easy—or cheap.

White House Requests $70 Billion for New Intelligence Programs, Operations

Carlo Munoz (@CMunozTheHill), The Hill. The Obama Administration has requested a total of $70 billion for the intelligence community for the next Fiscal Year, representing a drop of $400 million from the 2013 request. Most of those funds will go towards national intelligence programs such as the CIA and its 16 sister agencies with some $52.2 billion dedicated to their efforts. Approximately $4 billion will cover overseas contingency operations and $18.2 billion will reportedly go to efforts that fall under the Department of Defense such as the National Security Agency and other military intelligence programs including the fledgling Defense Clandestine Service that will build undercover agents for the DoD. The details of the intelligence budget are kept classified but there is little doubt with the recent leaks from Booz Allen Hamilton contractor Edward Snowden the Congressional oversight committees will be digging deeper into where the funds are going.

Army Announces Big Brigade Cuts, Small Bases to Bear the Brunt

John Grady, ScoutComms special correspondent. The big announcement from the Army this week is the planned disbanding of 11 brigades—and that’s before sequestration comes into play. Our John Grady looks at how these cuts will affect local communities. Because brigade headquarters will be disbanding, some subunits will be shuffling, but the cuts this week only make up half of the planned 80,000 personnel to be downsized. The next cuts, and especially those forced by sequestration, are expected to more heavily impact combat units. So far, it hasn’t been the “tip of the spear” seeing real cuts in personnel but if Odierno’s warnings are to be taken seriously, fiscal years 2015 through 2019 could get ugly. That’s not even to mention the loss some veterans are feeling as the brigades they went to war with are disbanded and a sense of camaraderie and belonging is lost.

Veterans and Military Issues:

Ruling Could Mean Benefits for Thousands of Troops

Kate Brannen (@k8brannen) and Austin Wright (@abwrig), Politico. This week’s Supreme Court ruling striking down parts of the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional means a slew of new benefits will be made available to married same-sex military couples and veterans. DoD announced all benefits currently available to opposite-sex married couples will be made available to their same-sex counterparts, but the timeline is only “as soon as possible”. At least one Republican, Senator Inhofe, the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says he has no plans to challenge DoD on same-sex couples’ benefits. While there will be fiscal costs incurred because of these new benefits, it’s the “moral” costs critics like Elaine Donnelly are raising the alarm about, but equal rights advocates say the biggest gains are in having a fairer benefits system.

In Debate Over Military Sexual Assault, Men Are Overlooked Victims

James Dao (@jimdao), New York Times. In a week of important stories and news, it’s important not to miss Dao’s piece on the military’s sexual assault crisis and the quiet majority: men. Women make up the majority of reported sexual assault claims, but the majority of abuse victims are thought to be men who are too worried about stigma, shame, or retaliation to report abuse. Before the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” some male service members say they feared being discharged for reporting male-on-male sexual assault. At least some male service members say the abuse they suffered should indicate that the issue of sexual assault isn’t about letting women or gays into the military; it’s about an endemic American culture that must be addressed. DoD for its part says that forthcoming sexual assault prevention and response programming will have a focus on supporting and assisting male survivors.

Fresh from War, Veterans Need Interpreters to Land Jobs

Alex Horton (@AlexHortonTX) writing at TIME’s Battleland blog. These days it seems as if there are a thousand military skills translators out there and a thousand more veteran-focused job websites. Despite all of these resources, there is still that need for the hands-on, personal touch like the one Google recently provided for veterans across the country in 12 different cities. The advice is somewhat different from using civilian words for military tasks and instead suggests using numbers like total people managed, budgets tightened, and other responsibilities most 22-year-olds would never have outside the military. But as a story this week in the San Jose Mercury News points out, the stigma and stereotypes surrounding PTSD may be hurting veterans’ job chances more than a few missed keywords in a resume.

An Officer on the Brink

Megan McCloskey (@MegMcCloskey), Stars and Stripes. This is one of those stories we recommend that has to be read to be fully appreciated. A top officer reaches out for help with depression and other issues, is diagnosed with PTSD, tells his supervisors he doesn’t think he is up to the challenge of a deployed leadership position, and ends up being punished for PTSD-related behavior in the field. The Army ignored red flags the officer himself sent up and those subsequently sent up by fellow Soldiers until it was too late. It’s almost an unspoken agreement among the brass that officers don’t get PTSD, that they are “stronger” than that. Another story of an officer’s struggle with PTSD this week sadly recounted one psychologist telling him, “officer’s don’t ‘get’ PTSD.” It’s a mindset that needs to change as officers, especially younger ones, face many of the same combat situations as enlisted service members. Just as officers are expected to lead on the battlefield, a shift in mentality would mean officers could lead their soldiers to seek better mental health care, as well.

Duckworth Scorches Witness at House Hearing 

Sean Sullivan, Washington Post. In your heartwarming entertainment of the week, Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth, former Assistant Secretary of Public Affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, tears into a “disabled veteran” for his dubious claims that won him preferential government contracts. At issue is Strong Castle Inc. CEO Braulio Castillo’s 1984 USMA Preparatory School ankle injury. While Castillo suffered the military-career ending injury during football practice, he later went on to play college football at the University of San Diego. Twenty-seven years later he filed for disability for the injury and was granted a 30% rating reportedly heavily based on his own declarations of near constant pain associated with the ankle. Now, his “service-connected disability” is earning him over $500 million in government contracts specifically set aside for businesses run by service-connected disabled veterans at the IRS in apparent collusion with a friend at the contracting office. Of course, it’s never a good idea to tell a combat-wounded double-amputee that your ankle hurts from a prep school injury. Things kind of went south from there.

USA Today Debuts New Blog

A new blog over at USA Today called Military Intelligence looks to aggregate the paper’s news about the industry, military, and veterans issues under one banner with some snark thrown in for good measure. USA Today reporter Tom Vanden Brook takes point on most stories, but colleagues Kelly Kennedy and Jim Michaels show up as well. Will be interesting to see if the blog grows like TIME’s Battleland or looks more to compete with newsy Politico and upcoming Defense One.

Tradeshows  & Conferences

No tradeshows or conferences this week. On the horizon: NDIA’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Symposium and AUVSI.

Our website has a full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings

Congress is in recess for the holiday week.

Think Tanks & Other Events

No relevant think tank events this week.

Fred Wellman, President ScoutComms, brings us his weekly review of defense industry news via The Scout Report. Fred served over twenty years as an Army officer in both aviation and public affairs. You can follow Fred on Twitter @ScoutComms.

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This entry was posted on Monday, July 01, 2013 10:35 am

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