Military News

Friday, February 16, 2018

Northcom Ready to Defend North America, Support Civil Authorities



By Jim Garamone DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2018 — The commander of U.S. Northern Command told the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday that her command is ready to defend the United States today.

Air Force Gen. Lori J. Robinson, who also commands the North American Aerospace Defense Command, told the Senate panel she can defend against the North Korean missile and nuclear threat, but “it is critical that we continue to improve the ballistic missile defense enterprise, with emphasis on the development of improved sensor networks combined with interceptor capability and capacity and reliability.”

The past year was a challenging one for Northcom, she said. Threats from North Korea, China and Russia required constant watch, and there was an unprecedented series of natural disasters, which fell to the defense support side of the command’s mission.

The military handled all the calls absolutely professionally, Robinson said, adding that she was honored to represent the men and women of Northcom before the committee.

Adversaries Developing New Capabilities

“Looking forward, I see no reason to believe that the threats to our homeland will decrease,” she said. “Our adversaries continue to extend their operational reach, and are developing new capabilities to range targets in North America. Our preparations for these threats depend on a predictable budget.”

The general thanked the committee for all it did to pass the two-year budget agreement.

“The 2018 National Defense Strategy recognizes a return to great power competition and lays out a long-term strategy for addressing provocative behavior by China and Russia,” Robinson said. “In NORAD and Northcom, we understand the urgency of keeping pace with these evolving threats. We also recognize that North Korea represents the most immediate threat to our homeland and therefore remains Northcom’s highest priority.”

In the past year, North Korea has detonated its largest nuclear warhead and conducted several successful intercontinental ballistic missile tests. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un’s rhetoric is aimed at the United States, and defense officials do not know if he has mated a warhead with a missile, but they must assume North Korea has done this and defend accordingly, she said. NORAD and Northcom continue to watch developments closely and are prepared to defend North America, Robinson added.

The command continues to work with the Missile Defense Agency and other combatant commands to ensure the United States can outpace the North Korean threat, the general said.

Russia, Other Threats

Russia continues to modernize its long-range bomber fleet and submarines and has developed new cruise missiles that “hold targets at risk at ranges that we haven't seen before,” Robinson said. “To defend against advanced cruise missiles, it's important that we continue to make prudent and savvy investments in advanced sensors and defensive weapon systems.”

The modernization of the Russian submarine fleet will threaten North America for years to come, she said.

The command also must be vigilant and prepared to meet other threats, including dealing with terrorism and the effects of natural or manmade disasters.

“As we review the 2017 hurricane response and prepare for the 2018 season, we are working with our mission partners, to include the active, guard [and] reserve forces, to incorporate the lessons learned to ensure that we provide our best support to lead federal agencies,” she said. “With respect to Canada, we are building interoperability across domains, with a tri-command framework that's comprised of Northcom, NORAD and Canadian Joint Operations Command. This arrangement allows further planning, integration, while preserving our ability to conduct unilateral missions.”
The military-to-military relationship with Mexico is “unbelievably strong,” Robinson said. “We focus on illuminating the pathways used to transit illicit goods,” she said. “Theater security cooperation is -- essential part of strengthening continental defense, and builds relationships essential for future cooperation.”

Pentagon Releases New Policy on Nondeployable Members



By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2018 — The Defense Department has released a new policy on military retention for nondeployable service members as it seeks to provide more ready and lethal forces, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness told Congress yesterday.
Ships sail in formation in the Persian Gulf.

"The situation we face today is really unlike anything that we have faced, certainly in the post-World War II era," Robert Wilkie told the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel subcommittee.

On any given day, about 286,000 service members -- 13 to 14 percent of the total force – are nondeployable, Wilkie said at a hearing on military and civilian personnel programs and military family readiness.

Defense Secretary James N. Mattis in July tasked the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness with developing policies to ensure everyone who enters the military and those who remain in the military are worldwide deployable, he explained.

Service members who have been nondeployable for more than 12 consecutive months will be processed for administrative separation or referred to the disability evaluation system, he said.

"This new policy is a 12-month ‘deploy-or-be-removed’ policy," he said, noting there are exceptions, such as pregnancy and postpartum conditions. Medical boards will review the medical status of those who have been wounded, he said.

“We need to look at the force holistically,” he said. “We have to ensure given the climate that this country faces that everyone who signs up can be deployed to any corner of the world at any given time, and that is the reason for the change in policy."

Focus on Readiness, Lethality

The new policy is effective immediately. Military services have until Oct. 1 to begin mandatory processing of nondeployable service members, Patricia Mulcahy, the director of DoD’s officer and enlisted personnel management office, said.

Service members could be nondeployable for any number of reasons, she said, such as falling behind on annual medical exams or due to combat or training injuries. Only a small percentage of those who are nondeployable have been in that status for more than 12 months, Mulcahy said.

Each service member’s case will be individually reviewed, she said, and the secretaries of the military departments are authorized to grant waivers to retain members.

The purpose of the policy is not to separate members, but rather is to get members back into a deployable status if possible, she emphasized.

"I think it's important to know that there is the balance between readiness and helping our members who are not going to be able to heal adequately to be deployable to help them with the next phase of their lives as well," she said.

The policy is meant to improve readiness and ensure members are deployable worldwide to carry out the mission of safeguarding the nation and fighting and winning the nation’s wars, she said.

"Since Secretary Mattis has been on board, readiness and lethality of the forces has been [the] absolutely No. 1 priority for him, and thus for the department," she said.

DoD Honors Best in Acquisition With Packard Award



By Lisa Ferdinando DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, Feb. 16, 2018 — The winners of the premiere Defense Department acquisition honor -- the David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award -- made exceptional contributions in support of the National Defense Strategy, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan said today.

"Today is really about taking some time out to acknowledge some really spectacular accomplishments," Shanahan said at the Pentagon ceremony honoring the four teams that received the award, which is named after former Deputy Defense Secretary David Packard.

Shanahan commended the teams for their hard work, innovation and creative ideas. He described their work as inspirational, saying their efforts support performance, affordability and increasing lethality.

"Your work embodies what we want to accomplish with the National Defense Strategy," he said. "The type of work that the teams have done is exemplary of what the NDS is all about."

The undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, Ellen M. Lord, said the teams epitomize the best in acquisition.

"We value acquisition because we are the people who need to take care of the taxpayers’ dollars,” she said. “We have roughly $1.9 trillion in programs of record over the next 10 years so it is significant that we take care of those dollars and spend them well."

Award Honors Exemplary Innovation, Best Innovation

The David Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award recognizes organizations, groups, and teams that have demonstrated exemplary innovation using best acquisition practices that achieve acquisition excellence in DoD.

It was first awarded in 1997, in honor of Packard, a deputy secretary of defense in the Nixon administration.

Packard was co-founder and chairman of the Hewlett-Packard Company and chairman of the President’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Defense Management, chartered by President Ronald Reagan in 1985.

He founded the Defense Systems Management College in 1971 and was a strong advocate of excellence in the defense acquisition practices and a revolutionary founder in how the department acquires products, according to defense officials.

2017 Packard Award Recipients

-- The Navy’s Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft Program Office for use of innovative contracting incentives and procurement approaches to manage their large and diverse portfolio of airborne platforms, including the P-8A Poseidon and P-3 Orion series anti-submarine aircraft and other special mission aircraft for the United States Navy and international customers and allies. They developed and implemented groundbreaking agreements and contracts with prime contractors and small businesses that lowered cost and delivered improved warfighting capability to the fleet 30-40 days ahead of contract schedule, while also leading plans to assume lead capability integrator for future P-8A incremental upgrade programs. Specifically, they procured 49 P-8A aircraft at unit costs almost $60 million lower than earlier production average costs and identified cost-saving opportunities to acquire two additional aircraft under congressional authority to “buy to budget.” In addition, the PMA-290 team quickly secured and fielded advanced airborne signals intelligence and classified special mission reconnaissance capability systems to support combatant commanders in theater and ensure the highest level of aircraft and mission readiness within the MPRA fleet;

-- The Defense Contract Management Agency’s Special Programs Quick Closeout Team for innovation and creativity in the area of contract closeout. Previously, the rate of physically complete contracts coming due for closeout exceeded the number actually being closed, resulting in a 31.1 percent increase in overage contracts, further exacerbating the problem. The special programs team piloted new, quick closeout techniques that standardized risk factors and changed the paradigm in how contracts could be closed. This resulted in 4,805 contracts being closed using quick closeout alone and enabled a 32.8 percent improvement in overage contract reduction, creating a positive contract closeout rate and reducing the overage contract backlog. In doing so, they reduced the administrative burden to both industry and the government and limited the Department’s exposure to certain financial risks, ensuring the use of unliquidated funds from completed contracts before the funds could be canceled and returned to the Department of the Treasury. The team continued to innovate by expanding application to subcontractors, opening up an additional 10 percent of contracts to quick closeout. They also deployed multiple initiatives to encourage the practice beyond DCMA and across the Department of Defense, as well as other federal agencies, with potential significant improvements to the acquisition community at large in contract closeout records;

-- The National Reconnaissance Office’s Signals Intelligence Systems Acquisition Directorate, Low Earth Orbit System Program Office for executing a successful campaign and launching the final Block 2 LEO SIGINT spacecraft in the face of significant obstacles. A catastrophe at the launch base and launch vehicle upper stage problems resulted in a lengthy delay and put the health of the batteries at risk. This forced a rare spacecraft de-encapsulation to allow for battery reconditioning. Once this reconditioning was completed, the launch proceeded without a single fault or out-of-tolerance condition. Simultaneously with the launch activity, the NRO LEO team completed the critical resign review for Block 3, leveraging cutting-edge technology to meet evolving threats in a manner that focuses on affordability. They achieved a reduction of over one billion dollars in recurring costs by distilling the mission needs to a core set and reducing the number of spacecraft requirements by 57 percent. The team’s actions ensure the newest addition to the NRO LEO SIGINT architecture will provide unmatched intelligence to the intelligence community and the warfighter while affordably meeting the tough new intelligence challenges of the future, and;

-- The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s Agile Web Presence Program Management Office for proactive approach and data-driven decision making efforts in addressing and satisfying external and internal user requirements within the intelligence community, Defense Department and NGA. The AWP PMO fundamentally changed the way users access, search for, and discover geospatial intelligence through NGA’s primary online web presence -- the Globe. The AWP PMO took the NGA strategy to heart and made significant changes to the Globe, allowing customers from across the National System for Geospatial Intelligence to discover GEOINT content, expertise, and services. Additionally, the AWP team used agile methodology to deploy software releases with minimal downtime or risk that consequently resulted in an increased capacity to integrate more than 10 data sources with more than 5 million products. This increased authoritative content creation, service, and catalogs, as well as advanced search functions with location, topic, and event fields. Metrics collected showed these newest capabilities are driving more customers to the Globe and enhancing their experience with faster access to the GEOINT data and services, greatly enhancing intelligence-based decision making in support of the warfighter.