Defense Roundup: UAVs and JLTVs, Boeing has a bad week, #VAEndedTheBacklog nigh, TIME Magazine misses an opportunity to put Jake Wood on its cover

Posted by Fred Wellman

U.S. Probes Firm That Vetted NSA Leaker

Dion Nissenbaum, (@dionnissenbaum) Wall Street Journal. The hits just keep on coming with the continuing saga of former Booz Allen Hamilton contractor Edward Snowden and his massive theft and subsequent leaking of NSA secret programs. Among the twists this week is the revelation that the federal contractor that conducts 45% of all of the background checks for security clearances, Falls Church, Va. based USIS, has been under investigation for a year for contracting fraud. The company that was formerly part of the US government before spinning off in 1996 and is now owned by private equity firm Providence is accused having a number of their investigators falsify records to process as many as possible. The background check program is plagued by a long and growing backlog and is fraught with paperwork including a 127-page application that is daunting and many feel does little to actually filter out security risks. Snowden just had his last clearance update in 2011 and there are questions about many investigations in a system with little oversight. Meanwhile, Snowden himself has left Hong Kong via Moscow and possibly Cuba and Venezuela, which makes many wonder the true nature of his altruistic claims. This story is a long way from having run its course.

Unmanned Aircraft Struggle to Shed Drone Image

Sarah Dilorenzo (@sdilorenzo), Associated Press. One of the major themes at last week’s Paris Air Show was a focus on civil uses for unmanned aerial vehicles as the industry continues to struggle to shed its “drone” image. While many UAVs are being used around the world for tasks like finding lost hikers and guiding ships through iceberg laden shipping lanes, most of the public only knows the drones that are conducting air strikes overseas. The Association of Unmanned Vehicles Systems International predicts that integrating unmanned aircraft into the U.S. aviation system will create some 70,000 jobs in the first three years and $13.6 billion of revenue. Regulations remain dated and privacy concerns continue to dominate the conversation politically but there is little doubt that expanding the use of unmanned systems will make huge impacts for farmers, rescue agencies, and even cargo carriers in the coming years. They just have to get past the robotic killers image that continues to dominate the media and public conversation.

Boeing Told to Repay After Charging $2,286 for $10 Part

Tony Capaccio (@ACapaccio), Bloomberg. The Defense Logistics Agency is “seeking a refund” from Boeing for $13.7 million in overcharges for spare parts through two contracts with the Corpus Christi Army Depot for aircraft and missile parts. It was found in an audit that Boeing had overcharged DLA on 1,469 delivery orders after government contract officers failed to negotiate “fair and reasonable prices.” One of the most egregious examples involved a $10 “bearing sleeve” assembly for aircraft landing-gear doors, which were bought at $2,286 instead. Audits found that regulations don’t require Boeing to notify the government when subcontractors reduce the costs of their supplies and thus reduce the cost of the part for the government. This led to several situations where the company was making thousands on parts when their costs fell. The DoD is looking to save money so increased audits are going to be the norm. It would be wise for defense contractors to take a peak at their books before DLA does.

JLTV on Track Despite Sequestration

Kris Osborn, DoDBuzz. The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program for the Army and Marine Corps has quietly been moving along on pace and on budget since the selection of three manufacturers to progress to the Engineering and Manufacturing Development phase last August. Last week, the three EMD competitors Oshkosh Defense, AM General, and Lockheed Martin demonstrated their vehicles at Quantico Marine Corps Base in Virginia before each delivers 22 prototypes of their versions in August. The military’s program managers are reporting that it hasn’t been affected yet by budget cuts or sequestration although if it continues into next year there will be tough choices to make. The services meanwhile are moving forward with plans to discard many of the existing MRAPs in the force as they face nearly insurmountable costs to ship the vehicles home from Afghanistan. As part of that effort the Army is shredding over $7 billion of equipment including MRAPs in Afghanistan. There is certainly an “all in” feeling to the efforts to get the JLTV built at this point…it remains to be seen if Congress does its part as well.

Changes in Defense Media:

Stephanie Gaskell to Defense One

Stephanie Gaskell, seasoned war reporter lately of Politico, is headed to Atlantic Media’s new Defense One publication as an Associate Editor/Senior Reporter. This is the first Defense One staffing announcement since Atlantic Media unveiled the new pub with Kevin Baron at the helm.

Veterans and Military Issues:

Progress on Veterans Affairs’ Backlog

Kevin Freking (@APfreking), Associated Press. This week, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced it has cleared 97 percent of its disability claims backlogged for more than two years. This follows the recent trend of announcements that the backlog has been going down for over three months. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are temporarily ceasing calls for VA officials’ resignation but are still pressing VA on its long-term plans to handle the backlog now and in the future. While supporting our nation’s veterans is a bipartisan effort, both parties have different idea about how to get there. Republicans favor a commission to keep an eye on VA while Democrats (and an Independent) are looking at increasing VA’s reporting requirements instead. The backlog will remain a political issue as long as either side sees points to be scored in casting blame or taking credit.

Shinseki’s Style: Determined, Quiet

Leo Shane (@LeoShane), Stars and Stripes. Staying out of partisan politics, VA Secretary Shinseki has avoided a lot of the posturing favored in DC and stayed on mission in the midst of seeming chaos. This profile of the Secretary by Leo Shane gives about as personal a look at the retired general as one could hope to get from the notoriously private man. While one could look at what the Administration promised from Shinseki’s VA and call the agency and its leader a failure, the real story is much more nuanced. Changes at VA have meant more veterans are served, younger veterans are engaged, and long-term projects like electronic health records are finally in the works. Shinseki hasn’t been a highly visible leader, but he has been leading.

Can Service Save Us?

Joe Klein, TIME Magazine. Veterans are on the cover of TIME Magazine again this week as Joe Klein looks at a different kind of veteran service organization—the kind where veterans are serving. Team Rubicon and The Mission Continues are highlighted for their work bringing veterans together to continue their service through community projects and disaster response. This service to others is seen both anecdotally and scientifically to have a therapeutic benefit for veterans reintegrating into civilian society. Service also allows veterans another opportunity to demonstrate their worth as civic assets to a civilian population largely isolated from war and its veterans. We hope to see more focus on organizations like these that are giving veterans a renewed sense of purpose and giving the nation a new generation of leaders.

The week ahead:

Tradeshows and Conferences:

IDGA Cyber Defense and Network Security Summit (Mon-Wed, 24-26 June); Waterview Conference Center, Arlington, VA With cyber security all the rage these days, IDGA brings together speakers from CYBERCOM, DoD. DHS, and the services to discuss the latest cyber challenges and present strategies for cyber intelligence sharing and real-time response to threats. The conference doesn’t draw the highest ranking speakers, but it might have more buzz this year in the wake of the NSA leaks and ongoing disclosures about Chinese hacking.

Congress: Both chambers are in session this week.


Veterans Affairs: Assessing VA’s Capital Investment Options to Provide Veterans’ Care When: 10:00 AM, Thursday, June 27, 2013 Where: 334 Cannon House Office Building

Armed Services Subcommittee on Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities: Past, Present, and Future Irregular Warfare Challenges: Private Sector Perspectives Witnesses: Mr. Mark Cohn  Vice President, Engineering and Chief Technology Officer, Unisys Federal Systems, Mr. Barry Costa  Director, Technology Transfer, The MITRE Corporation, Mr. Scott E. Jacobs  President, New Century, U.S. When: 10:00 AM, Friday, June 28, 2013 Where: 2118 Rayburn House Office Building


Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Emergency Management, Intergovernmental Relations, and the District of Columbia When: 10:00 AM, Tuesday, June 25, 2013 Where: SD-342 Dirksen Senate Office Building

Armed Services: CLOSED Defense Science Board Task Force Report: “Resilient Military Systems and the Advanced Cyber Threat” Witnesses: Mr. Lewis A. Von Thaer, Co-Chair, Defense Science Board Task Force on Resilient Military Systems, Honorable Madelyn R. Creedon, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Global Strategic Affairs, Department of Defense, Ms. Kristen J. Baldwin, Principal Deputy, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Systems Engineering Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Department of Defense, Mr. Richard A. Hale, Deputy Chief Information Officer for Cybersecurity Office of the Chief Information Officer, Department of DefensevWhen: 2:30 PM, Wednesday, June 26, 2013vWhere: SVC-217, The Office of Senate Security in the Capitol Visitor Center

Think tanks and other news events: 

Newseum: Special Program: NSA Surveillance Leaks: Facts and Fiction What: The National Security Agency’s clandestine surveillance program, PRISM, has emerged from the shadows as a result of recent disclosures made by NSA contractor Edward Snowden.  National security and protecting privacy are becoming the central interests of the emerging technological revolution. How do democracies and emerging democracies create frameworks for these vital interests?vWho: M.E. Spike Bowman, professorial lecturer, George Washington University; former deputy national counterintelligence executive, Joel Brenner, principal, Joel Brenner LLC; former inspector general, National Security Agency, Kate Martin, director, Center for National Security Studies, Gene Policinski, executive director, Newseum’s First Amendment Center, Ellen Shearer, William F. Thomas professor; co-director, National Security Journalism Initiative, Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern UniversityvWhen: 4:00 PM, Tuesday, June 25, 2013vWhere: Knight TV Studio, 555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC

Center for Strategic and International Studies: Schieffer Series: A Discussion of Data Surveillance, PRISM and the NSA What: A panel discussion to explore how the disclosure of Internet surveillance initiatives, most notably those undertaken by the NSA, could impact global discussion around national and international institutions that govern the flow of data around the world.vWho: David Sanger, Chief Washington Correspondent, New York Times, Barton Gellman, Senior Fellow, Century Foundation, Contributor, TIME Magazine & The Washington Post, James A. Lewis, Director and Senior Fellow Technology and Public Policy Program, CSIS When: 5:30 PM, Tuesday, June 25, 2013vWhere: 1800 K Street, NW, Washington DC

Brookings Institution: Defending the Nation at Network Speed What: Brookings hosts General Martin E. Dempsey for keynote remarks and a discussion of the military’s role in cyberspace and the threat that cyber-attacks pose to the US. Who: General Martin E. Dempsey, USA, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff When: 10:30 AM, Thursday, June 27, 2013 Where: 1775 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington DC 

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.


This entry was posted on Monday, June 24, 2013 8:51 am

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