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Defense Roundup: Furlough Fridays and Furlough Futures, Danger Zone for Pilots as Drone Lands on Carrier, VA Supporting More Homeless Vets

Posted by Fred Wellman

Ex-Army Corps Official Sentenced in Contracting Scheme of ‘Historic Proportions’

Ann Marimow (@amarimow), Washington Post. The leader of what has been described as one of the most egregious government contracting fraud schemes in history was sentenced to nearly two decades in jail after stealing over $30 million from the Army Corps of Engineers over four years. Kerry Kahn worked with a ring of fellow government contracting officials and contractors to rig bids, inflate invoices, and orchestrate kickbacks. The money fueled a multi-continent network of mistresses and purchases that defied logic when it was exposed. Federal authorities say the investigation is still ongoing with over a dozen individuals ensnared in the scheme. The Corps of Engineers has implemented a host of controls since the revelations but with the recent revelations of a cozy relationship between an IRS IT official and small businessman who claimed service disability from his time at the USMA Prep School that lead to $500 million in contracts, there is clearly a lot more looking to be done at contracting fraud at the federal level.

X-47B Successfully Lands on Aircraft Carrier

Christopher Cavas (@CavasShips), Navy Times. In what seemed a fairly anti-climactic moment, the first arrested landing of an unmanned aircraft under computer control occurred Wednesday off the coast of Virginia as the Northrop Grumman-built X-47B touched down on the USS George H.W. Bush. Witnessed by dozens of officials and journalists, the event is the climax of a series of tests aimed at proving the capability of operating fleets of UAVs right alongside manned aircraft on the Navy’s carriers. The X-47B launched off a catapult and came around for another successful landing before a third landing was aborted when a computer anomaly was discovered by the aircraft’s own systems. Navy Secretary Ray Mabus called the landings a view “of the future today.” Basing drones on aircraft carriers will eliminate the need for controversial bases in countries like Pakistan and give the U.S. an unparalleled strategic advantage that no other country in the world is yet to match. The Navy expects to end the experimental X-47 program in the next few months and begin work on building an operational UAV for the future. This is all yet another step in rapidly transforming military aviation as fewer manned aircraft fill the fleets leading to massive cultural shifts in the Air Force and Navy aviation ranks.

Pentagon’s Top Buyer Targets Cost Growth

Marcus Weisgerber (@MarcusReports), Defense News. A recently completed data-driven review of some 20 years of Defense Department acquisition programs revealed that no matter the platform or contract vehicle, the majority of efforts exceeded their planned budgets by nearly 30 percent consistently. The 126-page report called the “Performance of the Defense Acquisition System” was detailed in an interview with top Pentagon acquisition leader Frank Kendall last week and is the first deep look at decades of program data. It’s actually a remarkable and important step as for years repeated attempts at acquisition reform of relied on incomplete data and lack of context to make changes. Kendall himself has championed fixed-price contracts as a way to save money and better manage programs and seemed surprised that they performed nearly identically to cost-plus based efforts. DoD intends to dig deeper into the data but initial analysis leads to the common sense discovery that programs with good management both on the government and industry teams is what leads to successful outcomes. Bad management equals bad outcomes. This comes as just about zero surprise to anyone who has worked on a government contract in his or her life, but now there’s data to prove it! The report will be updated annually and released each spring.

Pentagon Workers from Pennsylvania to Ghana Hit by Cuts

Tony Capaccio (@ACapaccio) and Gopal Ratnam (@g_ratnam), Bloomberg. The long feared furloughs of Department of Defense employees began last week leaving 651,542 employees with 11 less days of pay through September 30, saving the government around $1.8 billion. The rolling days off are happening around the world but Pentagon figures show Virginia taking the biggest impact with over 72,000 defense civilians in the state that is home to the Pentagon and the world’s largest naval base, among other installations. Unlike when FAA furloughs started and led to delayed flights and a miraculous four-day fix from Congress, DoD’s furloughs made for “good” news about the advantages like less traffic and shorter lines on the Metro system. Those paying attention understand that the $1.8 billion saved means that the money isn’t going into the local economies where those workers live and will likely cut their spending to cover the sudden 20% cut in pay. It also ignores the wave of retiring federal workers that will be even harder to replace with younger generations when all of the inspiring tales of government service have to be caveated “oh…if Congress can’t get their crap together you might get a sudden cut in your pay while they call it a success.” Like most of the sequester debacle the second and third order effects of this ridiculous move are still far from realized.

Job Market for Vets is Promising, Though Far from Perfect

Rick Maze (@RmazeTns), Military Times. The latest job’s report shows veterans’ unemployment at 6.3 percent, more than a full percentage point lower than overall unemployment at 7.6 percent. Even post-9/11 veterans’ unemployment is only 7.2 percent, far from a crisis, but still too high say some lawmakers and veterans advocates. A deeper analysis of the numbers shows industries like manufacturing and construction, ones where veterans typically find jobs, suffered the most during the recession. Unemployment also varies by state meaning matching veterans to jobs by geography may be the next step in meeting the need of industry and veterans. Young veterans, those under 24 years old, are still struggling the most with an unemployment rate of 20.5 percent thanks to “persistent gaps” between transferring military skills to the civilian workforce and being able to attain new skills.

VA Triples Spending on Homelessness Program          

Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Stars and Stripes. With only two years left in the president’s five-year plan to end veteran homelessness, the VA this week announced $300 million in grants to shelters and facilities for homeless veterans. To put it in perspective, that’s triple what the agency spent on these programs last year. The program, called Supportive Services for Veteran Families, has proved to be a great success at getting veterans and their families into permanent, stable housing. SSVF funding helps get veterans off the streets, but also helps prevent veterans from becoming homeless by allowing community providers to give emergency financial assistance. The flexibility of SSVF funding has been a key to its success in driving homelessness numbers down.

Freeze Possible on All Promotions, Recruiting, PCS Moves

Tom Philpott, Stars and Stripes. In a letter to Congress, SecDef Hagel paints a gruesome picture of fiscal year 2014 if sequestration isn’t stopped. That’s closer than you might imagine as the new budget year starts October 1, 2013. The civilian hiring freeze would remain in place, furloughs could be replaced with layoffs, weapons systems would see deeper cuts, facilities’ maintenance would stay on the backburner, and military personnel would see a freeze in promotions, PCS moves, and bonuses. That doesn’t mean ending sequestration leaves a sweet taste in anyone’s mouth as Hagel wrote to Congress that a budget deal would require tough choices on military pay raises, base closures, Tricare fees, and the retirement of older weapons systems. The bigger problem is that ending sequestration and making tough decisions requires Congress to do something it hates to do: act.

What’s Next?

Brian Williams for Got Your 6. Take 90 seconds to watch Got Your 6’s video that seeks to change the narrative about veterans not as victims, but as assets. It’s a hot topic, one Chairman Dempsey brought up last week on CNN’s “State of the Union” and one many non-profits are trying to embody through service. Love the video or hate it? Let us know on Twitter by shouting out to @ScoutComms.

Tradeshows & Conferences

No major tradeshows this week, but the National Veterans Small Business Conference and AUVSI are on the horizon.

Our website has a full list of upcoming tradeshows.

Congressional Hearings

House:

Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies: Evaluating Privacy, Security, and Fraud Concerns with ObamaCare’s Information Sharing Apparatus When: 9:30 AM, Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Where: 2154 Rayburn House Office Building

Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security: Stakeholder Perspectives on TSA Acquisition Reform When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Where: 311 Cannon House Office Building

Armed Services Committee: The Security Situation in the Syrian Arab Republic – Implications for U.S. National Security and U.S. Policy Options When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Where: 2118 Rayburn House Office Building

Veterans’ Affairs Committee: Legislative Hearing on H.R. 813; H.R. 806; and a discussion draft bill “To amend title 38, United States Code, to direct the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to submit to Congress a Future-Years Veterans Program and a quadrennial veterans review, to establish in the Department of Veterans Affairs a Chief Strategy Officer, and for other purposes.” When: 10:15 AM, Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Where: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Disability Assistance and Memorial Affairs: Markup of Pending Legislation When: 2:30 PM Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Where: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity: Markup of Pending Legislation When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, July 18, 2013 Where: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Homeland Security Subcommittee on Cybersecurity, Infrastructure Protection, and Security Technologies: Oversight of Executive Order 13636 and Development of the Cybersecurity Framework When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, July 18, 2013 Where: 311 Cannon House Office Building

Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Health: Safety for Survivors: Care and Treatment for Military Sexual Trauma When: 10:00 AM, Friday, July 19, 2013 Where: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Senate

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: Strategic Sourcing: Leveraging the Government’s Buying Power to Save Billions Who: The Honorable Joseph G. Jordan, Administrator, Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Office of Management and Budget, The Honorable Daniel M. Tangherlini, Administrator, US General Services Administration, Cristina T. Chaplain, Director, Acquisition and Sourcing Management, US Government When: 10:00 AM, Monday, July 15, 2013 Where: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Foreign Relations: A Hearing on S.980, The Embassy Security and Personnel Protection Act of 2013 Who: Gregory Starr, Acting Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diplomatic Security, and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service U.S. Department of State, The Honorable Bill A. Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for High-Threat Posts, U.S. Department of State When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, July 16, 2013 Where: 419 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight: Implementation of Wartime Contracting Reforms Who: Richard “Dick” Ginman, Director, Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy, U.S. Department of Defense, The Honorable  Patrick Kennedy, Under Secretary of State for Management, U.S. Department of State, Aman Djahanbani, Senior Procurement Executive and Director, Office of Acquisition and Assistance, U.S. Agency for International Development When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, July 16, 2013 Where: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Appropriations Subcommittee on Department of Defense: Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Request for the Missile Defense Agency When: 9:00 AM, Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Where: 192 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs: The Department of Homeland Security at 10 Years: Harnessing Science and Technology to Protect National Security and Enhance Government Efficiency Who: The Honorable Tara J. O’Toole, Under Secretary for Science and Technology, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, David C. Maurer, Director, Homeland Security and Justice Issues, U.S. Government Accountability Office When: 10:00 AM, Wednesday, July 17, 2013 Where: 342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

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 15, 2013 2:26 pm

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