DoD Reporter’s Notebook

jared_notebook_notext“DoD Reporter’s Notebook” is a biweekly feature focused on news about the Defense Department and defense contractors, as gathered by Federal News Network DoD Reporter Jared Serbu.

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DoD puts down serious money on 5G experimentation

The DoD Reporter’s Notebook is a weekly summary of personnel, acquisition, technology and management stories that may have fallen below your radar during the past week, but are nonetheless important. It’s compiled and published each Monday by Federal News Network DoD reporters Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione.

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DoD expanding 5G experimentation with $600 million contract

The Pentagon is continuing its push to bring 5G to military installations and use them as testing grounds for new technologies.

The Defense Department announced $600 million 5G contracts for five new bases: Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington, Hill Air Force Base in Utah, Naval Base San Diego, Marine Corps Logistics Base in Georgia and Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

“Working in close concert with industry, we’re using these test sites to accelerate U.S. 5G leadership and ensure the department benefits the new applications enabled by this technology,” said Michael Kratsios, acting undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. “Moving forward, the department will continue to focus on large scale experimentation prototyping of dual use 5G technology for military and commercial purposes. The sandboxing activities on military bases harness the department’s unique authorities to pursue bold innovations in game changing technologies.”

DoD plans to begin testing at seven more bases next year.

Each base will have its own specialty. For example, Joint Base Lewis-McChord will “rapidly field a scalable, resilient, and secure 5G network to provide a test bed for experimentation with a 5G-enabled augmented reality/virtual reality capability for mission planning, distributed training, and operational use,” according to a DoD press release.

Other projects include building smart warehouses to improve naval logistics efficiency and improving command and control capabilities.

Industry partners range from AT&T and KPMG to GE Research and Booz-Allen Hamilton.

The bases will join 12 other installations where DoD is already fielding 5G.

“5G is going to be a game changer,” said Fred Moorefield, DoD deputy chief information officer for command control and communications. “One underpinning aspect of that is spectrum and how we share the airwaves with 5G and 6G and 7G what’s coming. In the department we will want more access. I think 5G will require an overarching overhaul of how we do business.”

The government is still wrapping its arms around 5G and its integration.

Back in March, the White House put out a strategy for the future of 5G in the nation. It outlined vulnerabilities and lines of effort to address risks.

However, a new report from the Government Accountability Office said the 5G strategy is lacking and that the Trump administration should have the National Security Council and the National Economic Council convene to remediate some of the issues.

GAO enumerated six desirable characteristics that the 5G strategy should have and found the White House only partially addressed each of them.

The characteristics include things like defining problems, goals and objectives, risk management and implementation.

GAO officials stated that the strategy does not properly manage the risk facing 5G in the United States.

“Strategy does not include a risk assessment or complete information on 5G risks and does not include information on the quality (constraints or deficiencies) of the data,” the authors wrote. “The strategy narrowly focuses on cybersecurity and supply chain risks to 5G infrastructure and does not include the full breadth of 5G risks.”

The report also stated that the national strategy does not discuss what the cost implementing the strategy will be or any estimates on what it will cost to achieve the goals outlined in it.— SM

New perks coming for moving service members

U.S. Transportation Command is no stranger to complaints from service members about the process of moving to a new home.

In fact, the combatant command is in the process of completely revamping its business structure for hiring movers to truck service members’ household goods.

But until that is settled, TRANSCOM is making some customer service adjustments it hopes will make moves a little easier for troops and their families.

The first is ensuring that the Defense Department protects its employees’ personal identifying information (PII).

Since this summer, TRANSCOM has been working with Customs and Border Protection and other DoD agencies to reduce the use of PII.

“Our primary goal is to eliminate the use of customers social security numbers, and then also reduce the potential exposure of other PII outside of government controlled systems,” Col. William Schoen, transition division chief at TRANSCOM, said last week. “We’re mapping the process to pinpoint exactly where PII is required. We’re also identifying the underlying policies and/or directives that drive the use of PII, and specifically looking for ways to modify or eliminate social security numbers.”

While that may save some potential headaches, TRANSCOM is working on more direct customer support as well.

TRANSCOM is in the process of establishing joint standards for counseling, meaning helping troops prepare for a move. That will be implemented in 2021. Later this month TRANSCOM will standardize the procedures for companies to follow.

Another topic service members may be happy to hear about is that TRANSCOM is expanding its personal property call centers.

“Each service has or will soon have a dedicated call center for customers that are seeking answers to personal property related questions or issues,” Schoen said. TRANSCOM also has its own number for assistance as well. “In order to improve the customers experience, and simplify the process, our offices are working on expanding the capability and capacity of 833-MIL-MOVE by increasing the quality of first contact with the customer, and then looking to add more hours of coverage.”

Other 2021 initiatives include better communication by providing additional time and notification before a shipment is delivered.

“We’ve asked the moving companies to document two unsuccessful attempts to contact the customers before putting goods into storage,” said Col. Marshanna Gipson, deputy director for operations at TRANSCOM’s Defense Personal Property Management Office. “We’ve has situations where the family is still in transit and not able to sign off.”

TRANSCOM is requiring movers provide residential protections against property damage like putting down floor coverings. Also, if items are destroyed, lost or damaged then customers will be able to choose if they want the item replaced or repaired. They can choose just to get payment for the repair cost so they don’t have to hang on to damaged items.

“A lot of customers are holding on to things like a broken washing machine,” Gipson said.

TRANSOM is also requiring companies to put tamper-proof seals on all containers. — SM

5000 series cybersecurity policy to come soon

The Defense Department has been releasing its overhaul of the 5000 acquisition series by piece mail during Pentagon procurement chief Ellen Lord’s tenure.

Now that most of it is available to the public — including the most recent broad overview, which Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist signed last month — DoD is putting out a broad policy on cybersecurity that will touch every part of defense acquisition.

“This new policy, which we expect to be signed out later this month, ensures cyber hardening is designed in at the beginning of a program, and ties in closely to our Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC),” Lord said last week.

Cybersecurity is supposed to be baked into acquisition programs and considered in all aspects of procurement and development.

The CMMC is a guideline companies must follow to work with DoD that include cybersecurity standards and supply chain requirements.

The new cybersecurity policy will be spread throughout the whole 5000 series, touching everything from major acquisitions to mid-tier acquisition to software to rapid development.

The 5000 series overhaul has six tracks, all moving at different speeds with different requirements and oversight. The hope is that each track will be tailored to the needs of each product. For example, software needs to be updated much faster than a tank and therefore the procurement process is different.

Courtesy of Defense Acquisition University. The different pathways of the 5000 series.

As for the future of the 5000 series, Lord said it is a work in progress.

“From the onset, the series was designed to be a living document to provide our defense acquisition system with an adaptable responsive foundation capable of satisfying emerging requirements,” Lord said. “We are focused on ensuring we provide the right tools to deliver end to end operations, operational capability and we are exploring the creation of additional acquisition pathways to address unique systems. For example, the department is working with the Space Force to determine whether there are any tools missing and is committed to developing a tailored space vehicle pathway, if needed.” — SM

Pentagon says it’s working now to make sure JEDI hits the ground running

The DoD Reporter’s Notebook is a weekly summary of personnel, acquisition, technology and management stories that may have fallen below your radar during the past week, but are nonetheless important. It’s compiled and published each Monday by Federal News Network DoD reporters Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione.

DoD CIO says officials have been finding homes for systems that have been waiting for JEDI

By the time all is said and done, investigations and lawsuits will have set the Defense Department’s JEDI Cloud program back by more than two years. But that doesn’t mean JEDI-related work has been at a standstill this entire time.

Dana Deasy, DoD’s chief information officer told reporters last week that work on at least some of the 14 pathfinder projects the department initially targeted for JEDI has moved ahead — it’s just that they’ve had to begin their lives in alternative cloud environments, such as the Air Force’s Cloud One/Platform One.

“I’m seeing more and more evidence that the cloud is nothing more than a facilitated environment that allows us to do what really matters, and that’s going to be DevOps and agile development,” he said. “When you read about [CloudOne,] they are learning to build software in very different ways that the cloud very much enables you to do. So what are we doing right now, we are doing a lot of work with the services on getting them prepared to move their development processes and cycles to DevOps so that when JEDI finally does [move ahead], we’re not starting at day one.”

But Deasy acknowledged that starting development in a different cloud environment has the potential to create integration challenges down the road, when it’s time to move those systems and applications to JEDI. Because of that, he said his office has been prioritizing the cloud development work that reflects urgent warfighter needs, particularly in tactical environments.

“When we all got together after JEDI was put on hold, we sat down with the team and said, ‘Okay, what are some of the principles we want to live by?’ First, we said, do no harm to the warfighter, and second, find homes for [cloud applications],” he said. “And in finding homes, I used the expression: we also need to help them find their way back home. Whatever platforms we were putting them on, whatever technologies and tools they were going to use, we needed to do our darndest to try to make sure that pivoting them back — if moving them back to JEDI was the right thing — would not be a Herculean task.”

Meanwhile, some aspects of the work that will eventually be needed to transition the department’s systems and applications onto JEDI have proceeded apace, because they’re not technically part of the JEDI contract, and consequently, aren’t subject to the Court of Federal Claims’ preliminary injunction.

“There’s tools that have to be identified, there’s integration environments to be identified there’s directories that have to be set up that allow people to connect into these worlds. That’s all work that we can continue to do, because it sits inside of our ownership already,” Deasy said.

The JEDI timeline is still highly uncertain.

According to a joint status report DoD and Amazon Web Services presented to the court last month, the government and AWS would not wrap up their written legal arguments until next February, and Judge Patricia E. Campbell-Smith would need additional time to consider the evidence and decide the case.

But that schedule could be extended by weeks or months if the judge grants Amazon’s request to add more evidence to the case’s administrative record or to conduct depositions. The company has asked permission to depose President Donald Trump, Deasy, former Defense Secretary James Mattis and others to help bolster its contention that the October 2019 contract award to Microsoft was colored by improper political influence. —JS

Future Defense Task Force gets praise and questions from military analysts

Experts from diverse ideological perspectives are praising the Congressional Future of Defense Task Force’s findings, but actually implementing the recommendations will take serious effort and funding from multiple government institutions.

The report, which was released last week, calls for Manhattan Project levels of attention to AI, divesting from legacy systems, increased research spending and further revamps to the acquisition system.

“The report’s recommendations align with many in the think tank community that also focus on building a force for great power conflicts,” Mark Cancian, senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“Just like the wedding rhyme, in this report you can find ‘something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue,’” said Thomas Spoehr, director of national defense at the Heritage Foundation. “Some ideas, like establishing a Manhattan Project for Artificial Intelligence, or a global treaty on the use of AI, are old. There are some new items proposed, like a National Supply Chain Intelligence Center and ‘exponentially’ expanding the size of the State Department’s budget.”

Kea Matory, legislative director at the National Defense Industrial Association, said the report “combines what many experts have said in various arenas into a cohesive overview. Many of these topics are being looked at from a strategic standpoint by the DoD, intelligence agencies, and think tanks, but this was a bipartisan deep dive by Congress and we applaud their efforts.”

One looming question is how the Defense Department will divest from legacy systems. It has already started looking at what it can cut and reinvest. DoD is in the process of a defense-wide review and the Army conducts it’s night court process yearly. The other military services are also looking at their programs.

“What are ‘legacy’ systems?” Cancian said. “There is disagreement about that definition. Strategists argue that aircraft carriers, manned aircraft, and armored vehicles are legacy and that the military services should move towards unmanned, distributed, and long-range precision strike systems.”

But Cancian said the definition changes depending who you are asking.

“The military services see legacy systems as old systems and would replace them with new versions of this same kind,” he said. “Thus, the Air Force would retire A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s and buy more F 35s. Strategists would reduce the number of F 35s and invest in unmanned platforms and long-range missiles. This report hints at the strategists’ definition, specifically questioning aircraft carriers, but never fully comes out and says what legacy systems are. Instead, it punts the question to a future study.”

Another question is how DoD will pay for some of the reports recommendations. Task Force Co-Chair Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) admitted the report would be expensive when talking about creating an AI Manhattan Project.

“That’s a lot of money,” he said. “That’s a big shift. That’s saying that we need to dramatically change course of the Department of Defense with the structure and the amount in our budget.”

While freeing up funds from legacy systems would pay for some of it, Matory said DoD may need more money.

“The feasibility of many of the recommendations will be highly dependent on appropriations,” she said. “The flattening of the topline budget for defense does not support the modernization needed for the National Defense Strategy which was cited by Gen. Joseph Dunford, while serving as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as a 3% to 5% base budget growth above inflation from 2019 to 2023.”

That kind of increase is seeming unlikely as Congress looks to invest more in the recovery from coronavirus.

The analysts said the report was mostly comprehensive, however, some areas were left out.

Spoehr said the “report does not provide many findings on DoD equipment or force or strategy. I would have liked to see more discussion on the sufficiency of the U.S. armed forces to counter threats such as China and Russia. Are our forces sized correctly? Should the U.S. devote more resources to defense funding? Questions like those are largely left largely unanswered.”

Matory was concerned by the lack of focus on foreign hardware being used by the military and its impact on business.

“The report did not mention the concern of Huawei and ZTE that led to Sec. 889 of the 2019 [National] Defense Authorization Act, which bans Huawei/ZTE and other covered equipment from government and contractor use,” she said. “Given the extent this impacts industry it is surprising it was not detailed in the report as it has been cited as necessary for national security.” — SM

DoD still refusing to reimburse contractors for COVID expenses unless Congress appropriates funds

The Pentagon still shows no signs of changing course on its position that it can’t reimburse contractors for their COVID-related workforce expenses until it gets billions of dollars in new funding from Congress.

Section 3610 of the CARES Act gave DoD the authority to pay any costs vendors incurred to “maintain a ready workforce” when their employees couldn’t do their jobs because of worksite closures. The biggest expense most companies faced — and that would be reimbursable — is the unexpected paid leave costs they incurred.

DoD has created a process to aggregate those bills and pay each company a lump sum for costs they incurred between March 15 and Sept. 30. But Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment, indicated that no payments have gone out yet, and the department doesn’t intend to make them until Congress appropriates specific dollars for that purpose.

“If we move forward right now we would be taking dollars directly out of programs, which would instantaneously affect readiness, and then shortly affect modernization,” she told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday. “We are going to break programs and affect national security if we do those reimbursements out of programs.”

Some lawmakers have previously balked at DoD’s assertion that it can only make the payments if it’s given specific additional appropriations. Rep. Adam Smith, the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee said in June that believed the department could find ways to fund the reimbursements out of its existing budget.

“We don’t need to give them any more money,” Smith said at the time. “Gosh, everybody, every state, every locality, every federal agency, certainly every business has had to adjust in light of COVID-19 and the impact that it has had. I have yet to see evidence that DoD cannot adjust within their existing budget string.”

In Thursday’s hearing, Lord also suggested the department would use the funds to reimburse companies for COVID-related costs that weren’t directly connected to paid employee leave, such as reconfiguring their own workspaces to allow for social distancing. —JS

Army missing important lessons from OTAs

The military has been using other transaction authorities as a way of attracting new businesses to the Defense Department and to move fast on innovative projects, but a new study says the way the Army isn’t paying attention to what works when it uses the contracting method.

The Government Accountability Office said Army Futures Command, which is in charge of modernizing the service, lacked “consistent, coordinated practices to identify and share lessons learned from entering into alternative agreements or executing alternative approaches.”

While the Army has this new other transaction authority (OTA) tool that allows it to circumvent the Federal Acquisition Regulations, it seems to be reinventing the wheel every time it uses one. Not only that, but it may be keeping the Army from using OTAs in a way that is most effective for attracting new, innovative businesses to the service.

“The use of consistent, coordinated lessons learned practices for alternative agreements can improve the processes leading up to an agreement by including more diverse perspectives and ensuring that lessons learned are not confined to a subset of organizations or officials involved in decision-making,” the authors of the study state. “Improvements to the lessons learned practices used for the Army’s alternative approaches would provide its personnel with increased access to what has worked well and what has not when interacting with industry and academia.”

The Army and other military service say they want to act more like Silicon Valley companies when it comes to failing fast and using best practices, however, GAO states that leading practices emphasize the type of analysis the Army is skipping.

GAO is recommending Futures Command regularly analyze information on the use of OTAs. It also wants Army Contracting Command to establish consistent practices to collect, archive and share lessons learned on OTAs and other alternative methods. — SM

Making the doctor less frightening for children of service members

COVID-19 is scary enough for adults. Imagine being a child and seeing the pandemic unfold.

No other show on earth, except perhaps “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” could calm children and help them understand health impacts quite like “Sesame Street,” and that’s exactly what the show is trying to do.

“Sesame Street” teamed up with the Defense Health Agency this year to help children of service members understand the importance of health care and to destigmatize doctors for those feeling scared especially during a relocation.

“These resources help service members before they even relocate how to plan and maintain that transition with a health care provider, especially meeting new dentists and doctors and nurses, as well as during the move as and then after you actually make the move,” Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for U.S. social impact at Sesame Street told Federal News Network.

The new program helps families teach children what to expect from doctors, not just during coronavirus, but any time.

“My last doctor had a tremendous fish tank, and I used to love to watch the fishy,” Rosita, a teal, 5-year-old Muppet said. “Now, I’m wondering what the new doctor’s stuff is going look like. But, you know what? I do feel nervous. I do a few things that help me to go through that and the most important one is my mommy or daddy tell me what is going to happen. They tell me before I go to a doctor or a dentist, you know what to expect, like ‘Today, they’re probably going to listen to your heart and look into your ears and eyes and my breath, your belly, and you’re going have to open your mouth like a lion.”

The online program offers many resources for military parents like articles for parents and a visiting the doctor game with videos, coloring pages and activity sheets.

“We definitely listen to the experts when developing the materials, particularly those in military life,” Betancourt said. “We held an advisory where we had experts in child development, pediatricians and other types of health care providers who work with military families. Those people hear their sort of needs and what they hope to hear from a from a family making a visit to their office and their children, and also encouraging well child visit.”  — SM

Industry holds its breath on impact of Trump diversity training order

The DoD Reporter’s Notebook is a weekly summary of personnel, acquisition, technology and management stories that may have fallen below your radar during the past week, but are nonetheless important. It’s compiled and published each Monday by Federal News Network DoD reporters Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione.

How will Trump administration’s new restrictions on diversity and inclusion training affect contractors? Unsure

The executive order President Donald Trump signed last week to ban certain types of diversity training carries enormous potential penalties for federal contractors. But at least for the time being, the vendor community appears to be holding its breath while it figures out exactly what the EO means.

Starting Nov. 21, with few exceptions, every federal contract will include a clause that bars companies from conducting training that runs afoul of a list of criteria the White House objects to (see below for the list). Companies who are deemed to have violated the restrictions also face cancellation of all their existing contracts, plus suspension or debarment from future awards. Similar restrictions apply to federal grantees.

Firms who do business with the government will also have to impose the same training restrictions on their subcontractors, and the rules apply whether a company has thousands of government contracts or it’s filling a single order. To spot violators, the EO also orders the Labor Department to set up a special hotline to gather complaints and investigate companies with suspect training programs.

Three large industry associations Federal News Network contacted for this story declined to comment or did not respond. The Aerospace Industries Association said it was still studying the issue.

The one association that has weighed in, the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI), issued a strong denunciation of the order last week, mostly on policy grounds.

But even ITI says it’s impossible, for now, to know the extent to which the prohibitions laid out in the EO will have an impact on companies’ training programs in the real world, considering the way the order was drafted.

“And that’s part of the reason that we’ve raised concerns about this executive order. It could be the case that hundreds of thousands of federal government contractors will have to submit their training and education programs to the federal government for review,” Jason Oxman, ITI’s president and CEO said in an interview. “What we have here is an executive order that imposes — without any congressional input, without any input from agencies, without any rulemaking processes or procedures — a brand new requirement on all federal contracts that says you have to do a training program in a particular way. And if you do a training program in a different way, you’re going to lose your federal contracts. That’s unheard of.”

The order doesn’t offer any indication as to whether the Trump administration believes the “race and sex stereotyping” training it objects to is widespread among government contractors. It’s also not clear whether the White House has gathered any data on the subject thus far; indeed, the EO includes a provision telling the Office of Management and Budget to send vendors a request for information on their diversity and inclusion training within the next 30 days.

Oxman said it’s too early to predict whether industry groups will launch a lobbying effort to block the new requirements in Congress or challenge them in court. But he said the order presented serious legal and constitutional questions.

In a note to clients on Friday, the law firm Venable also said the order could violate companies’ First Amendment rights and create “tension” with existing federal laws that encourage diverse workforces among federal contractors.

“The EO is no doubt a reaction by the administration to quell perceived anxieties over various training and communication/discussion programs implemented by many companies and organizations as a result of recent social and racial justice concerns sweeping the country,” attorneys Dismas Locaria and Krista A. Nunez wrote. “The legal underpinnings of the EO raise serious questions and may be subject to challenge, but, as implemented in its current form, it imposes broad restrictions with dire consequences on how companies and organizations conduct themselves in relation to these important issues, even with their own private funding.”

But Larry Allen, the president of Allen Federal Business Partners, said he believes the overall impact of the executive order will be fairly minor.

“I think the executive order points out that in the United States we have a slew of anti-discrimination rules — you’re not allowed to discriminate against somebody’s race or gender — and to the extent you have training materials that are inconsistent with those protections, they’re going to have to be modified,” he said. “But I don’t believe that’s a real significant number.”

Indeed, the order frames the training the White House finds objectionable in anti-discrimination language — alleging that “many people” are advocating a “pernicious and false belief that America is an irredeemably racist and sexist country; that some people, simply on account of their race or sex, are oppressors.” It adds that no training materials should cause people to “feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex.”

For contractors, it forbids training that “inculcates” in their employees the concepts that:

  • One race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex
  • An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously
  • An individual should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment solely or partly because of his or her race or sex
  • Members of one race or sex cannot and should not attempt to treat others without respect due to race or sex
  • An individual’s moral character is necessarily determined by his or her race or sex
  • An individual, by virtue of his or her race or sex, bears responsibility for actions committed in the past by other members of the same race or sex
  • Any individual should feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress on account of his or her race or sex
  • Meritocracy or traits such as a hard work ethic are racist or sexist, or were created by a particular race to oppress another race

And although the administration has not yet provided examples of contractor training programs that it believes would violate those rules, they’re written broadly enough that they could be interpreted to apply to a wide variety of existing programs in and outside the government, said Lynne Bernabei, an employment discrimination and civil rights attorney with the firm Bernabei & Kabat.

“They’re forbidding certain kinds of training that have been used to eradicate discrimination in the federal government, and that’s largely discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity and gender. What they’re saying here is that you can’t do that anymore,” she said. “You have to assume everybody’s equal, and we’re going to withdraw federal contracts or punish you if you try train people on how not to discriminate. Basically they’re saying the assumption is nobody ever discriminates, and if you have any training that tries to teach people that there are ways, overt and subtle, in which people discriminate … then you’re going to get your federal funds or your grants or job taken away.”

Allen’s interpretation was much narrower.

“This is probably going to affect only a handful of companies, but now that they know what the rules are, I think they’re going to have an opportunity to amend their training,” he said. “It doesn’t say you can’t teach diversity training — you can still do that. I’m sure most companies will do some due diligence and review their training materials and their slides, but I’m not sure this going to cause a wave of updates of things. I think it’s going to be at the margins.”

But whether the impact is marginal or implicates hundreds of thousands of firms, as Oxman fears, the ways in which the order attempts to regulate private businesses by executive fiat is a major cause for concern in and of itself, he said.

“We have an executive order that essentially says you probably shouldn’t do any training that addresses racial disparities and a history of oppression of minorities in the United States. We don’t want you to do that training, and if you do, we will suspend or debar you in 60 days. And the question is, is that something as a matter of policy and process that should be done in an executive order? Our answer is definitively no,” Oxman said. “That’s not to say that government can’t coerce behavior by companies through the contracting process. It can. But that’s not something that’s ever done by executive order, it’s not something the law would allow to be done by executive order, and why we’re raising some concerns here.” —JS

Schism brewing in Congress over CMO position

Thirteen senators and representatives are calling on the Congressional armed services committees to reconsider getting rid of the Defense Department’s third highest position.

In a letter signed by Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), the legislators make the case that the Pentagon’s chief management officer position deserves a second shot.

“Alarmingly, both the House-and Senate-passed 2021 defense authorization bills would abruptly terminate the CMO position and transfer those responsibilities back to the deputy secretary of defense. We already tried that in 2007. It did not work,” the lawmakers wrote. “The fundamental problem plaguing the CMO position is a lack of authority and resources. Rather than further eroding the limited authority that currently exists, we should come together to demonstrate the broad, bipartisan support that exists for this important position.”

The senators noted the current CMO, Lisa Hershman, has only been in the job since last December and that a Government Accountability Office report suggested a tenure of five to seven years.

The CMO is tasked with saving the department money and helping streamline practices to help DoD run better.

“Let us at least give Ms. Hershman a fighting chance, and come together to adopt the changes needed to make this position work. The U.S. taxpayers that we represent deserve that,” they wrote.

Congress started considering getting rid of the CMO position back in May when a Defense Business Board report found the CMO didn’t deliver on its mission of business transformation, not because of the failings of any of its leaders but because it lacked the authority to drive change.

The board offered a few other alternatives to the CMO, which the NDAA seems to support. — SM

After e-planes, are e-satellites next?

The Air Force is starting to design its future aircraft with digital engineering, a process that uses digital models instead of prototypes to save money. But what about satellites?

The Air Force and Space Force are heavily invested in technology orbiting the Earth. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said the service is embarking on two classified programs that may be the first digitally designed satellites.

However, they won’t follow the same trajectory as aircraft.

“It’s going to take a little longer than where we are with aviation, because it’s just at the beginning,” Roper told reporters last week. “What I encountered with digital engineering is a lot of people saying ‘We’re already doing it.’ But, using a computer to design something and equating it to digital engineering and the magic I’ve seen from it would be like presuming that all sculptures that are made with hammers and chisels would all turn out to be Michelangelos.”

Roper said there are a number of barriers keeping e-satellites from getting in the air as fast as e-planes.

“The supply base isn’t there,” Roper said. When you go to digital engineering, I have wonderful models that integrate design and assembly, and even operations. If my supply base doesn’t build parts that align with those models, especially their tolerances, then I actually don’t have a digital thread, because I cut it at the beginning. Step one is programs building up their digital thread and then working with vendors to tighten up their supply base to meet those tolerances.”

Roper said that process will take a couple of years.

From there, the Air Force and Space Force need to change the way they look at design. Roper said the point of a digital thread moving through the process is to fundamentally change how satellites are built and how they operate.

Roper is asking his e-satellite programs to cut out difficult and expensive processes.

“Let’s get rid of the high tolerance cleanrooms the expensive tooling, the highly experienced workforce, the rigging and harnessing the things that makes satellites expensive,” Roper said. “Let’s see if we can design them out and get something that’s more like a Toyota SAP.”

Toyota SAP is the data platform the car company uses to share information and analyze data. — SM

Air Force’s AFWERX gets bumped to major leagues

The Air Force’s innovation hub, AFWERX, is getting a promotion and will be reporting directly to the service’s leadership at the Pentagon, much like a program executive office.

“Given the daunting challenges we face against peer competitors, the operative question is: ‘What are we doing to tip the scales?’” Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper wrote a Sept. 1 memo. “One answer is relaunching AFWERX with expanded authority. “With so much of the battlefield — over 80% — in commercial markets having a frontline organization bridge back to our PEOs, research labs and major commands can lower our fence line, multiply our partnerships and provide a plain-speaking menu for defense work where the first course isn’t acronym soup.”

The memo breaks AFWERX into three different branches: AFVentures, Spark and Prime.

AFVentures will focus on courting commercial markets to solve military problems by partnering with startups and increasing the service’s awareness of technologies in the private sector.

“The fact that the AFVEntures process connects to the big ‘A’ acquisition system is what’s making private investors continue to raise their hands and want to determine how they bring more companies through it,” Roper told reporters last week. “I do more engagements with venture capitalists and private investors than any other group. I cannot fill my calendar up enough with it because they all want to understand how they tap this emerging market for them that a market that’s been here a long time that has a very different ruleset.”

The Spark branch is focused on empowering innovation at the operational edge.

“Spark connects amazing airmen and space professionals to commercial innovators using virtual collaboration, immersive training and networking opportunities that inspire ideas and cultivate creative forces,” the memo states. “By connecting operators closer to acquisition, Spark provides both a voice and conduit to turn powerful ideas into powerful operational realities.”

The branch will also continue to run AFWERX’s Spark Cells, Tanks and Challenges, which challenge airmen to innovation and offer prizes.

The Prime branch will leverage other unique government resources by working with other agencies, programs and emerging markets. The Air Force’s Agility Prime program, which is trying to develop flying cars, falls under this branch.

Roper said Prime will have another project by the end of the year.

In the memo, Roper also left room for more branches as AFWERX grows. — SM

DoD wants new joint requirements for data

The Defense Department is planning on publishing new joint requirements for data next year that will allow the Pentagon to manage it from a top capabilities and attributes level.

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten said DoD wants to change the way it manages data so that by 2030 the loads of information the Pentagon collects will be easily digestible.

The requirements will come from the Joint Requirements Oversight Council and be pushed down to the services.

“They’re not going to be the traditional requirements and capability description documents and capability production documents that you’ve looked at for years,” Hyten said. “They’re going to be capability attributes that programs have to have. If you don’t meet those, you don’t meet the job requirements, and therefore you don’t get through the gate and you don’t get money.”

The requirements will not just be for data, they will also reach to software, contested logistics, all domain command and control and joint fires.

Hyten said this is different from how JROC acts now.

“The way that process has worked is a service develops a capability, it comes up through the various coordination boards, eventually getting to the JROC,” he said. “We validate a service concept and make sure it meets the joint interoperability requirements.”

Hyten said the hardest part of creating the top down approach will be wording the requirements to ensure they hold up and achieve the goals DoD is working on for the next 10 years. — SM

White House objects to Senate security clearance reforms

The DoD Reporter’s Notebook is a weekly summary of personnel, acquisition, technology and management stories that may have fallen below your radar during the past week, but are nonetheless important. It’s compiled and published each Monday by Federal News Network DoD reporters Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione.

Trump Administration pushes back on new appeals process for security clearance denials

The White House is raising new opposition to Senate-passed legislation that aims to add transparency and due process to the government’s security clearance process.

In a letter, the Trump administration said it “strongly objects” to a portion of the 2021 intelligence authorization bill that would, among other things, give federal employees and contractors new appeal rights when an agency denies them a clearance.

The provision would require each agency to set up a review panel to let clearance seekers challenge a government decision to deny a clearance — including when agencies deny requests for reciprocity for people who already have a clearance. As part of that process, agencies would have to turn over all the documents they used to make their decision, and clearance seekers would have the right to be represented by attorneys and to cross-examine witnesses.

The White House said the provision risks exposing sensitive information and making the clearance adjudication process more cumbersome and time consuming.

“The security clearance appeals process is already well-established, understood, and practiced across the executive branch, and its elements are readily available to the public via various mechanisms,” Russell Vaught, the director of the Office of Management and Budget wrote in a letter last week. “This provision would require significant changes to current processes, as it includes trial-like provisions that may be difficult or inappropriate for agencies to implement and that would place the protection of sensitive or classified information at unnecessary risk.”

Senators seemed to recognize there would be cases when the appeals process could risk exposing classified information. The legislation does allow agency heads to refuse to allow appeals in “exceptional” cases where an appeal could create national security risks.

But agencies would also have to disclose how often they’re using that waiver provision, and notify Congress within 30 days of refusing to allow an appeal. The government’s Security Executive Agent would also have to publish annual reports detailing how often agencies are denying clearances, and the results of their appeals.

The Senate passed the legislation in July as a single package alongside its version of the Defense authorization bill. The overall package is now being negotiated in a House-Senate conference committee. —JS

Army preparing for future climate change impacts

Hurricanes have been battering the Gulf Coast this year, wildfires are ravishing the west and superstorms seem to be a new norm in natural disasters. With climate change likely to affect the world’s weather patterns more in the future, the Army is taking precautions to protect its installations.

Last week, the service issued a directive to prepare against disasters resulting from climate change that requires planners and managers to establish resilience measures to safeguard valuable assets and minimize readiness impacts.

“Climate change has already had a big impact on Army installation infrastructure and threatens to degrade mission readiness. I think it’s going to continue to have an increasingly large impact going forward,” said Stephen Dornbos, science and technology policy fellow in the office of the assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment said in a release last week. “There are a lot of concerns about wildfires in California and energy supply being threatened. There are adaptation strategies that installations could use to better prepare themselves.”

Effective immediately, commanders of installations “will assess, plan for and adapt to the projected impacts of changing climate and extreme weather by adding related plans, policies and procedures,” the memo, signed by Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, states.

Read more: Defense news

“This practice will enhance installation readiness and safety because it informs the installation master planning process and facility design requirements,” said Alex Beehler, assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy and environment. “In the event of a climate-related event, our Army installations will be better prepared to provide the critical capabilities essential to the Army’s ability to deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars.”

The Army will use a web-based Army Climate Assessment Tool to give installations the ability to assess exposure to weather-related threats and projections.

Last month, the Army released its Climate Resistance Handbook. The 69-page document addresses risk-informed planning and choosing climate preparedness and resilience measures.

The changes stem from House Armed Services Emerging Threats Subcommittee Chairman Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) who pushed a provision a few years ago to assess climate change in the military.

“The loss from climate change is not only in dollar terms, but in lost training or lost capabilities. If a base is underwater or out of commission there are readiness costs to that, and preparedness costs as well as physical costs,” Langevin told Federal News Network last year. “I want us to be realistic, as well as cognizant, of the threats and challenges we face and then do our best to protect against those losses.” — SM

Even the intelligence community is finding ways to ramp up telework

It’s no surprise that the intelligence community hasn’t quite achieved the level of work-from-home capabilities that much of the rest of the government has during the COVID-19 pandemic. But even the three-letter agencies that deal with some of the government’s most sensitive information are finding ways to let at least some of their employees telework.

One example is in the development of new software capabilities at the National Security Agency. Even before the pandemic, NSA realized it would be more efficient to do as much development work as possible in unclassified cloud environments, said Greg Smithberger, the director of the agency’s capabilities directorate and its CIO.

“For the last three or four years, we’ve been thinking very hard about the unique development we do for our classified environment, and we’ve determined that a lot of those foundational technologies can actually be started in a highly protected unclassified environment,” he said at an annual conference hosted by the Intelligence and National Security Alliance and AFCEA. “They can then be pushed up to the high side and finished with those very exotic bits of classified technology, and then rolled into our classified environment.”

But even if it’s possible for NSA’s own employees to do some types of unclassified work at home, NSA quickly discovered a problem when the pandemic struck: its contractors couldn’t.

“In many cases we found that we needed to modify our contracts, because although some of the work was allowed to be done in an unclassified space, it was specified to be done on a network that was certified and accredited by NSA, and we explicitly prohibited telework,” Smithberger said. “We really regretted that, so we quickly scrambled to modify some contracts to allow also our contractors to participate with us in these protected low-side environments that were built for these specific needs.”

Doug Cossa, the deputy CIO at the Defense Intelligence Agency said DIA is even looking at ways to conduct actual intelligence analysis work in a telework environment – provided that analysts are working only on unclassified open-source intelligence (OSINT).

“The preponderance of our collection and analysis is going to remain on the top secret fabric. But with OSINT, we’ve certainly accelerated the concept and have developed pilot to look at what functions we could do at home in a telework state,” he said. “So while it’s not an operational implementation, we have pilots out to look at what is the art of the possible – which we’d never done before COVID existed.”

And like many other agencies, DIA realized it needed to move quickly once the pandemic hit to improve its VPN infrastructure so that at least its employees who deal with only unclassified information could work from home.

“In the past, we made separate investments in really stovepiped capabilities for email, voice, video, etcetera. What we discovered on the unclassified environment is we were able to partner with industry and other entities to quite quickly stand up an unclassified integrated environment of all those capabilities,” he said. “When we first started this, our email architecture was designed to support really only a couple hundred users concurrently. Within a matter of days, we were up to multi-thousand more people connecting into email concurrently, which we were not designed for at all. Luckily, we were successful. I think under normal circumstances, that would have probably been a multi-month or multi-year endeavor. For us, it was a matter of days. —JS

Air Force implementing diversity targets

The Air Force is rethinking race in the wake of a summer filled with tension. Air Force Recruiting Service will begin working toward monthly diversity targets in hopes of bringing in the best and the brightest from all areas.

Air Recruiting Service Commander Maj. Gen. Edward Thomas said last week that the service needs to look past its traditional recruiting demographics, including geographic areas.

The targets will begin in 2021, Thomas did not speculate on what the targets may be. He stated the new monthly standards are not quotas, but rather targets to work toward.

The Army has already started working on widening its aperture for recruiting a couple years ago after it fell short of meeting its recruitment goals in 2018.

Read more: Army news

The Army changed its tactics by reaching out to 22 cities that traditionally didn’t bring in a lot of recruits like Boston and Seattle.

The Air Force, like the other military services, has been looking at its policy through a racial lens since the death of George Floyd.

Former Chief Master Sgt. Kaleth Wright announced in June that the Air Force will conduct a full, independent review of its military justice system.

However, the Air Force’s history with race is complicated. In May, documents  surfaced alleging that the Air Force did not address issues and recommendations about racial disparities highlighted in reports from the organization and from the Government Accountability Office. — SM

Lawmakers propose monumental change to military sexual assault and harassment prosecution

A rash of high profile sexual assault incidents in the Army have led to congressional inquiries, internal reviews and now new legislation that will completely revamp the way the military handles sexual assault and harassment.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would take prosecution decisions on sexual assault and harassment cases outside the chain of command to an office of the chief prosecutor within each military service.

The move is one sexual assault victim organizations have been pushing for years.

“In the regular justice system a victim would go to the police, the police would investigate, that investigation would be turned over to a prosecutor, and they would make the decision based on the laws and facts whether or not to pursue that case,” Protect Our Defenders President Don Christensen told Federal News Network earlier this year.

In the military, the service does the investigation.

Read more: Fort Hood news

“The investigation is turned over to a commander who knows the accused,” Christensen said. “The commander makes the decision whether or not to go forward. Then the higher-up commander will make the decision if it goes to trial. None of those commanders are attorneys. They might be a pilot, an artillery officer or a surface warfare officer and they are making very complex legal decisions.”

A 2014 military report by the Response Systems to Adult Sexual Assault Crimes Panel advocated for keeping prosecutorial authority in the chain of command.

“Commanders must retain convening authority to remain credible leaders with the ability to administer justice and enforce values,” members of the panel stated in the report. “Commanders need prosecutorial discretion in order to create a command environment in which victims feel comfortable reporting crimes.”

More than 100 Democrats and Republicans in the House sponsor the bill. It also establishes a process where service members can make claims for negligence and seek compensatory damages against the Defense Department in the case of sexual assault or harassment.

DoD saw sexual assault in the military rise from nearly 15,000 in 2016, to 20,500 service members in 2018.

DoD’s 2019 annual report shows an overall increase of 3% in the number of reports filed by or about military members during 2019. That percentage is much smaller than the previous year’s jump of 13%, according to The Associated Press.

Part of the push for change has come from the death of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen, whose body was found outside Fort Hood, Texas. Before she was killed she was a victim of sexual harassment. Since then lawmakers have been investigating sexual assault and harassment, and questioning the culture of Ft. Hood.

In July, the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee held a hearing on sexual harassment in Ft. Hood.

Command Inspector General Col. Patrick Wempe said soldiers told the office they trusted senior leaders to take sexual harassment seriously, but “the junior leaders may not have the life experience or the military experience to deal with the situation as it was presented to them.”

Most of industry’s R&D spending doesn’t match DoD’s priorities, report says

The DoD Reporter’s Notebook is a weekly summary of personnel, acquisition, technology and management stories that may have fallen below your radar during the past week, but are nonetheless important. It’s compiled and published each Monday by Federal News Network DoD reporters Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione.

DoD is not getting what it wants from subsidized industry research

Most of the $4 billion to $5 billion the Defense Department gives to corporations each year to subsidize their research is not used in ways that work toward the Pentagon’s goals, a report from the Government Accountability Office found.

The study may be further ammo for DoD’s previous effort to have more control over the way corporations use their independent research and development (IRAD) money; something the companies have strongly fought against.

“DoD does not know how contractors’ IRAD projects fit into the department’s technology goals,” the authors of the report wrote. “As a result, DoD risks making decisions about its multi-billion dollar science and tech investments that could duplicate work or miss opportunities to fill in gaps that the contributions of private industry do not cover.”

In 2018, only 38% of corporations’ IRAD money went to the 10 topics DoD has outlined as its most important modernization priorities like cyber, artificial intelligence, microelectronics and biotechnology.

Corporations spent about 80% of their IRAD month on short-term investments intended to maintain near-term profitability, according to the report. Only 20% went to long-range research investments meant to disrupt current technologies. Those longer-term investments are the ones DoD has been telegraphing a need for since the middle of the Obama administration when the Pentagon shifted its focus to near-peer competitors like China and Russia. One of the first big pushes for renewed radical innovation came from the Third Offset Strategy, headed by former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, which sought to keep the United States technologically superior to its adversaries.

“The unique business environment in which many defense contractors operate — DoD is often their primary or only customer — incentivizes them to pursue IRAD projects that they anticipate will be of interest to DoD and offer potential future business opportunities,” according to the report. “This dynamic contributes to a natural feedback loop that exists between DoD and the defense industry regarding IRAD. Essentially, contractors rely on DoD to communicate its modernization needs as a key input to the IRAD projects they choose to undertake, and DoD relies on contractors to share information about these projects to inform DOD of industry’s progress in advancing technology.”

Read more: Defense news

However, according to Dan Grazier, a fellow at the government watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, the IRAD process has been disjointed for years.

“IRAD has long been a way for the defense industry to get the government to pay them to develop products that aren’t likely needed,” he told Federal News Network. “If the contractors can convince someone in the government to sign off on a program, they will get paid again to develop the product further before selling the product through a cost-plus program.”

Grazier also cast doubt on the concept as a whole.

“The services should already have a solid operational concept. In other words, they should know how to fight. Based on that knowledge, service leaders should develop the necessary requirements for a particular weapon or piece of equipment then approach industry to build them the simplest possible tools to carry out their missions. IRAD, as this report shows, is used to conduct expensive technological fishing expeditions that rarely produce more than marginal improvements to existing products.”

GAO found that DoD did not do itself any favors in trying to get insight into companies’ research to Grazier’s point.

“DoD acknowledged in a 2010 memorandum that it lacked sufficient insight into industry IR&D projects and the extent to which these reimbursements have helped DoD improve its military capabilities,” the GAO authors wrote. “Such information gaps bring into question the benefits DoD has obtained from the tens of billions of dollars it has reimbursed defense contractors over the past decade for expenses incurred for IRAD.”

In 2014, DoD changed its policy on IRAD by lowering its oversight of the programs. The 2014 policy makes no mention of considering the work and accomplishments of contractor IR&D programs when planning, programming, and budgeting for research and development.

It also removed requirements to review summary reports on contractor IRAD efforts including research goals, progress, results, and actual and planned expenditures from projects conducted as IRAD.

Nevertheless, defense contractor representatives contend IRAD brings value to the military.

“From advanced composite structures to tactical electronic counter-countermeasures communications capabilities, the technology generated through IRAD has strengthened our nation’s ability to deter, detect, and respond to threats,” John Luddy, vice president for national security policy at the Aerospace Industries Association, told Federal News Network. “Existing IR&D policies provide sufficient incentive for the aerospace and defense industry to align their investments in support of current DoD modernization priorities, while advancing long-term American technological leadership.”

Read more: Technology news

Luddy said he does not think DoD does enough to leverage private investments like IRAD through developing technology roadmaps or program requirements.

The National Defense Industrial Association and the Professional Services Council were also contacted for this story, but did not chose to comment.

GAO suggested that DoD review projects annually as part of its strategic planning process for IRAD, however the report may give the Pentagon more fuel to revisit an IRAD rule change it proposed in 2016.

The rule would require companies to describe in detail the nature and value of prospective IRAD projects on which the company would rely to perform a contract.

The rule stemmed from DoD’s concern that companies were using IRAD money when calculating a bid for a contract to make it look like the they could do a job for less. Basically, using IRAD to subsidize their contract rather than using it to explore innovations.

Defense industry groups fought against the rule and it eventually faded away. Now DoD can turn to the GAO study to show that IRAD funds are not being used in the way the Pentagon hoped they would. — SM

More huge single-vendor IT awards in the DoD contracting pipeline

The Defense Department is still fending off court challenges from two major instances in which it decided to take a winner-take-all approach to information technology contracting. But that evidently hasn’t deterred officials from continuing to structure high-dollar-value contracts as single-award.

In two upcoming contracts, DoD plans to consolidate several smaller existing awards into a single large one, while building new capabilities at the same time.

In the first, the Defense Health Agency is preparing a final solicitation for a single integrator to manage what it calls the Enterprise IT Services Environment. The EITSI blanket purchase agreement, which DHA plans to issue under GSA’s IT Schedule 70, will last up to 10 years; it’s estimated to be worth $662 million over that timeframe.

DHA said the EITSI contractor will handle overarching tasks like general IT management and service management, while specific functions like cloud hosting and end user hardware will be handled by other contractors, which the EITSI vendor will help oversee.

“This strategy optimizes centralized control by awarding coordination, integration, and management activities to a contractor that specializes in these capabilities,” officials wrote in a draft performance of work statement issued Friday. “It enables reduction of site-specific solutions and increases in centrally managed IT services because separate contracts … can be awarded for new or modernized services while the [EITSI contractor] provides continuity.”

But to award the EITSI BPA, DHA will have to bundle together six of its existing contracts – four of which are with small businesses.

Read more: Contracting news

“Currently, several tools purchased by the government are being utilized at a fraction of their potential due to ineffective and fragmented deployment of the tools across the six separate contractors,” officials wrote in a legally-required bundling justification document earlier this year. “Having one contractor properly deploy the tools across the enterprise with the integrated staffing necessary to use all of the tools’ capabilities will bring those efficiencies and resultant cost savings to fruition. Additionally, bundling the six into one contract will eliminate the duplication of administrative management efforts on the government side.”

DHA estimates consolidating those contracts into one will save $162 million over the 10 year period. The agency says it’s also a necessary part of its new responsibilities to manage the IT for the military’s entire network of hospitals and clinics, and that it fits in with DoD’s Fourth Estate Network Optimization (4ENO) initiative.

And that brings us to our next big single-award contract. Under 4ENO, the Defense Information Systems Agency is supposed to take over “common use” IT for 22 Defense agencies, while the agencies themselves continue to deliver mission-specific IT services.

To build and maintain that common-use network, DISA is planning an even bigger single-award indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contract, called Defense Enclave Services. The agency expects it to be worth $11.7 billion over 10 years.

According to a draft RFP DISA issued earlier this month, the contractor is expected to use the “DoDNET” architecture DISA is already building for 4ENO as the technical baseline, and migrate 11 DoD agencies to the new common network by 2025; nine more are expected to follow in 2026.

“DES will provide all required transition, infrastructure, network operations and management engineering and innovation, cybersecurity, and technical refresh support services for a [single service provider] network environment with all 4th Estate users,” officials wrote in the draft solicitation. “DES will also support the legacy operations and sustainment requirements of Defense Agency and Field Activities mission partners as separate task orders until such time that the DAFA is ready to fully implement standardized DES operations and management.”

Like DHA, DISA said one of the primary goals of the single-award approach is to reduce the costs and complexity of multiple contracts managing its enterprise IT environment.

In this month’s draft solicitation, the agency said it wants to “provid[e] singular Command and Control focus across DAFAs for Common Use IT operations, decreasing redundant costs and enhancing cybersecurity,” “reduce contract overhead through the consolidation of multiple support contracts,” and “generate and identify opportunities for new technology insertion to enhance the cybersecurity posture of DISA and its mission partners.” —JS

New leaders picked for DISA, JAIC

The Pentagon on Friday announced selections for two of the most important positions in its IT leadership structure.

Maj. Gen. Robert Skinner has been nominated to be the next director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, the department said. Skinner is currently the chief information officer/J6 at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. He’ll replace Vice Adm. Nancy Norton.

It’s unclear exactly when the leadership transition will happen, but February would be a reasonable estimate: the position is a three-year tour, and Norton assumed the post in Feb. 2018.

On the same day, DoD announced the nomination of Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Michael Groen to lead the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center. He would be the second director of the organization DoD created in 2018 to synchronize AI activities across the military services.

Its first director, Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, retired earlier this year. Nand Mulchandani has been leading the JAIC on an acting basis since then. —JS


Air Force’s top acquisition command plans for telework beyond COVID-19

The DoD Reporter’s Notebook is a weekly summary of personnel, acquisition, technology and management stories that may have fallen below your radar during the past week, but are nonetheless important. It’s compiled and published each Monday by Federal News Network DoD reporters Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione.


Air Force Materiel Command thinking now about post-pandemic telework

Defense leaders far and wide have acknowledged that the productivity of their workforces in an almost-all telework situation has taken them by surprise. And though some of them have hinted at the idea that they’ll be more open to telework after the pandemic is over, at least one large command is actually laying the groundwork for that.

Gen. Arnold Bunch, the commander of Air Force Materiel Command said he’s directed a review of position descriptions across his 80,000-person command to decide if they’re more telework-compatible than what was imagined when those descriptions were written.

“I’m also going to look at how we set up our facilities. Do I need all those cubes? Can we create an environment where we have hot desks where people come into, they clean, and then then leave,” he said.” That may save us money as to how we go out and build facilities. It may create areas where we don’t need to lease as much space.”

Bunch acknowledged he was among the telework skeptics in the military leadership ranks prior to the pandemic. And even though the experience of the past several months has diminished that skepticism, he also sounded some notes of caution.

For one, he said, for telework to operate sustainably, and at scale, he said the emergency IT capabilities DISA and the Air Force created within a few weeks time frame — like Commercial Virtual Remote and various software licenses – need to stick around for the long-term to support a large-scale remote workforce.

Bunch also expressed concern about keeping airmen connected to the service’s “core values” when they’re not physically present in a government facility.

“It’s got to mean something to be part of the Air Force, and we have to look at how we acculturate airmen in and how we keep them connected to our core values. We also have to continue to focus on resiliency and connectedness. We can be physically distanced, but we have to be socially connected. This is a very trying time, and as we continue in telework status, we’ve got to have that linkage into the team,” he said “Our airmen have done a great job … but we have to continue to keep a focus on that as we go forward.”

Space Force boss says his service will need to stay small to succeed

The Space Force began its life late last year as the smallest of the six military services. That’s not likely to change anytime soon if its current leader has anything to say about it.

The Space Force’s relative smallness (it will still only have about 6,400 personnel by this time next year, according to budget documents), is a feature, not a temporary bug, said Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations.

He said a large proportion of the work he and his staff have been doing to stand up the new service over the last several months has been to cut out traditional military bureaucracies and build a structure that’s much flatter than the other services.

“A war that extends into space, or begins or extends into space, is going to be fought over great distances and at tremendous speeds. Big organizations are slow, and big organizations won’t be able to move fast enough to do what we need to do in space,” he said Saturday at the annual conference of the National Guard Association of the United States. “I am convinced that we have to go fast, we must be small, we must be agile. And over the first seven months or so of business, we have been in the business of slashing bureaucracy.”

As part of that planning, Raymond said the Space Force has cut its initial estimates of the headquarters personnel it will need from more than 1,000 to fewer than 600. For context, the next-smallest DoD service, the Marine Corps, had 2,500 headquarters staff as of 2015, according to the Government Accountability Office.

In its field commands, the Space Force now plans to have two fewer layers of command structure than its main predecessor, the Air Force, traditionally has had.

“And we think by doing that, we’re going to empower people, we’re going to shorten the space between decision makers and folks doing the work,” he said.

Building a new service somewhat from scratch also lets leaders think in different ways about other aspects of how to run a military organization, including its personnel system. There too, Raymond says planners are putting an emphasis on “agility.”

“The National Defense Authorization Act [which created the Space Force] gives us a clean sheet of paper about how are we going to develop our people,” he said. “I think when somebody comes in, we’re looking to develop a model that allows them to be in the Space Force full time, transition over, maybe do a job at NASA, do a job with industry, transition to part time with the reserve component, and have much more portability between those different segments.”

The 2020 NDAA directed DoD officials to study how the Space Force should use National Guard and reserve forces, since many of the functions the new service is inheriting are performed by reserve forces today. Raymond said that study is underway now.

Space Force establishing its own cybersecuity provider — with limited ambitions

One reason the Space Force might be able to continue to operate over the long term as a relatively lean organization, by DoD standards anyway, is that it plans to lean heavily on the Air Force for most of its “enabling” capabilities.

Roughly 75 percent of those functions — from logistics and IT to civilian personnel management and auditing — will be something of a shared service across the Department of the Air Force, which contains both the Air Force and Space Force.

One example where the Space Force is building its own capabilities only where it thinks it needs to is in the area of cybersecurity service providers (CSSPs). For the most part, it intends to use the CSSPs the Air Force already has up and running, but there are some cyber missions that need a space-specific focus, said Col. Hewett Wells, the deputy director for space and cyberspace operations.

“While we continue to leverage Air Force CCSP services for NIPRNet and SIPRNet, the Space Force will focus our efforts on a select number of space mission systems like GPS, a system embedded into the fabric of our everyday lives at home, at work and across DoD operations,” Wells said last week at the annual Air Force Information Technology Conference.

The Space Force plans to submit a full certification package to the Joint Force Headquarters-DoD Information Networks next year, and hopes to have its own fully-certified DoD CSSP by the end of 2021. As of now, CSSP services for space systems are being handled by the 16th Air Force, the new Air Force command charge of cyber warfare.

DISA working on improvements to telework, ensuring it’s here to stay

The Defense Information Systems Agency helped the Defense Department pivot to telework at breakneck speeds at the dawn of the coronavirus pandemic, but now government officials are planning for the world that comes after.

What they are expecting is more employee freedom, integration between services and virtual business card exchanges.

Within 30 days of the pandemic taking hold, DISA increased its storage capacity by 400%. It provisioned circuits that increased network capacity by nearly 500 gigabits per second, and increased virtual private network access by more than 1,000% to about 122,000 telework connections a day.

DoD leadership has been converted to the gospel of telework, and even once coronavirus goes away, it’s safe to say work will never look the same again.

“Telework certainly removes distractions,” Chief of Navy Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell said recently. “Teleworking has helped us be very efficient and very productive, and I think it’s true for the entire Navy that what we look like on the tail end of this as we come out of it and how we manage and lead our workforce will be different than pre-COVID.”

Some of DISA’s top managers of the telework system say in the next six months to a year that DoD will need to figure out how to continue making telework easier and cost effective for the department and workers.

“Right now we’ve got Zoom and all these other capabilities,” Lt. Col. Nikolaus Ziegler, senior innovations officer at DISA, said. “If you do have a government furnished piece of equipment, you don’t have cameras turned on, you don’t have the ability to download certain apps that aren’t approved and you don’t have all these other things.”

Ziegler said DISA will be working on bringing down the cost of bring-your-own-device so those apps can be used more effectively.

“Right now if you have a NIPR device at work and a SIPR device at work and now you’re getting NIPR and SIPR-deployable devices that are mobile then you are costing the government thousands of dollars just to get access from multiple locations,” Ziegler said.

However, the future could be different.

“If you’re paying for your own data, and you’re paying for your own transport, and the DoD is willing to make sure that it’s secure enough for you to access all of that data from a personal device, then we’re talking about cost savings and we’re talking about speed,” he said. “We’re also talking about the ability to bring younger generations into the DoD where they’re used to a mobile endpoint in their hand and using In the same way that they do at home, as well as on the job.”

DISA is also working within its own limits when it comes to keeping the telework boat afloat.

“There’s so many tools out there that have been available, but haven’t had a high adoption rate because a lot of folks are just comfortable sticking with what they’re used to,” Carissa Landymore, program manager for cloud storage at DISA, said Tuesday during an AFCEA DC event. “COVID kind of gave us all that push that said we’ve got to start adopting. We quickly realized this is this is a marathon. This is not a sprint.”

DISA wants to improve its virtual environment that teleworkers use by adopting a Microsoft Office 365 and weaving in better security and cloud features.

“What we want to look at is how do we do this emerging technology review and provide education to all of the DoD on what we’re looking at in the future,” Ziegler said. “Then we can provide that base capability for this COVID or post-COVID environment. And then the services can spend their dollars on their tactical requirements, because this collaboration solutions that we’re looking at right now for at home doesn’t translate into a forward leaning tactical environment all the time.”

DISA also needs to keep its foot on the pedal after its initial push without tiring its workers out.

“I quickly had to let the team know ‘Hey, we were doing 24/7 operations, but we have families at home,” Landymore said. “I have little kids and it became really difficult to have a good work-life balance. We quickly had to say ‘Try really hard to work your normal core hours, but have a better quality of life, try to work that work-life balance, and understand that sometimes your family is going to take you away.’”

There are advantages DoD is feeling department-wide as well. Multiple officials have talked about increased productivity. Carlen Capenos, director of DISA’s small business office, said her office has seen a “huge uptick” in small business contracting.

“We’re already $1.2 billion ahead of the spend[ing] from last year, that’s 20%. faster where we haven’t had that much more income or more money to spend,” she said. “I think the fact that not only did we just throw the audible to go to telework, but we work faster, better and more efficiently. When we look at the extra COVID dollars we received, that was a big uptick. We had over 500 single actions of contracts for COVID and a good part, 70%, of those were executed for small businesses.”

Capenos said keeping up with industry is easier in some ways through telework as well. While the advantage of face-to-face communication is gone, the exhaustion of it is decreased.

“We did one event with the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and we were able to meet with 19 different women-owned small businesses in one day,” Capenos said. “Normally when you do it, you’re so physically and mentally exhausted. Then you have to get home from D.C. or wherever. Whereas here, I could sit at my desk and at the end of the day, I’m actually a little more energized because I met a whole bunch of companies that we didn’t know about.”

DISA is now working on setting up a virtual matchmaking event with the Ft. Meade Alliance.

The agency and other DoD components are also seeing some advantages in hiring. Usually, an employer would need to recruit talent in its local area or entice people to move there.

Now, DoD has an opportunity to recruit talent without geographic constrictions.

“We happen to have a headquarters located in the National Capital Region, but there’s really no reason we couldn’t take advantage of talent that’s in Kansas, frankly,” Brian Herman, director of services development at DISA, said. “If we can get great people and they can live where, where they can be productive, and be near family and do all the things that they need to do to support themselves, we’re likely to have happier, more productive folks.” — SM

Acquisition knowledge for future emergencies

The interagency rapid acquisition task force set up to help procure medical supplies for the government during the coronavirus pandemic is making it easier for future officials to respond to emergencies.

The Defense Department’s Joint Acquisition Task Force (JATF) is creating a playbook for DoD’s acquisition and sustainment joint rapid acquisition cell.

JATF worked with the Department of Health and Human Services and FEMA to quickly supply N95 masks and respirators to hospitals around the country.

“It could support another pandemic, but it could respond to other types of federal disasters as well,” Ellen Lord, DoD undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment said. “What we are looking to do is to have that core group be ready to stand up and support federal emergencies, augmented as we have augmented the JATF.”

DoD is planning on transferring JATF operations to HHS and FEMA later this fall so they have the enduring capability to take care of the medical supply chain.

“We will be dispersing those individuals that have specifically been working on the JATF to other functions later this fall, but we will maintain the capability to rapidly reconstitute the capability if needed,” Lord said.

So far, DoD has teamed up with HHS to award nearly $630 million in expanding the domestic industrial base for medical research suppliers.

Those include contracts to deliver vaccines and syringes once the United States tests and approves a shot to stop coronavirus. — SM

Wanted: Military child care solutions

A bipartisan, cross-committee group of legislators are calling on the Defense Department to come up with more creative ways to address its child care shortage in the face of COVID-19.

“The waitlist for child care are getting longer in every city across the country,” Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) told Federal News Network. “What I’d like to see is DoD working with local child care facilities in their respective areas, because those are already entities that are certified and in some cases need the help. Some of them have sadly lost a lot of clients, because of the COVID-19 pandemic. I’d like to see the military support them.”

In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, 35 members of the House Armed Services Committee and House Appropriations Committee asked DoD to work with community leaders, veteran service member organizations and state and local governments to provide more child care for service members and their families.

Due to coronavirus-related school closures about 1.2 million children under the age of 13 in military families will now require child care.

“While the DoD has an extensive network of Child Development Centers that provide low cost and subsidized options for military families, approximately 18,000 military children remain on waitlists nationwide — a number which does not account for the surge of school-aged children that will require child care this fall,” lawmakers state in the letter.

Haaland said she has heard from service members in her district who live on Kirkland Air Force Base, and have had a hard time adjusting to the pandemic.

“They absolutely face added challenges given their essential roles within their job, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic that has changed so many things,” she said. “We feel that if we are able to help make this issue a little easier on military families, that it will protect our national security, quite frankly.” — SM

Space acquisition proposals held up amid DoD-OMB negotiations

The DoD Reporter’s Notebook is a weekly summary of personnel, acquisition, technology and management stories that may have fallen below your radar during the past week, but are nonetheless important. It’s compiled and published each Monday by Federal News Network DoD reporters Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione.

Space acquisition reforms still on hold

Part of the reason for creating a Space Force was to simplify the complex and leaderless acquisition process for space systems. However, the Department of the Air Force’s legislative proposals to help make that process happen keep hitting snags.

Air Force Deputy Assistant Secretary for Space Acquisition Shawn Barnes told reporters the report lawmakers have been waiting for is held up with the Office of Management and Budget.

“We’ve got this old acquisition report, and we started drafting that from day one,” Barnes said. “It’s still not on the Hill. I’m a little frustrated by that, but I think we’re very close with OMB at this point. I think that we’re just about there.”

The proposals are part of a larger acquisition report the Air Force released in May that outline nine recommendations to improve space procurement.

Some of the proposals are pretty obvious, and can be conducted within the Defense Department and Air Force. For example, creating a separate topline budget for the Space Force or consolidating budget items by portfolio instead of by program.

Barnes said the Air Force and DoD are still working on those.

Three of the nine proposals require congressional help and lawmakers have been waiting for those details since the preliminary report came out.

Those include things like creating a space-specific major acquisition process with its own thresholds, definitions and milestone decision authorities.

Outside of legislative proposals, Barnes is keeping a close eye on the space industrial base as the coronavirus continues to impact businesses.

In June, Barnes said out of the 388 companies DoD polled, “About half have adjusted their business strategies for the next couple of years. More than a third have had schedule impacts, over half have seen supply chain workforce impacts, less than a third have seen supply chain materiel impacts.”

Barnes said he’s continuing discussions with companies, especially on an industry association level.

“I find that the discussions at the association level ended up being some of the most impactful because each company has their own business strategy and sometimes they don’t want any help because it might undermine the perception of them having a strong position,” Barnes said. “Others very much are in need of assistance. Working at the industry association level I think has been more fruitful to better understand kind of the broad challenges that are there.”

One thing Barnes recognized is that there was not enough information on the challenges third and fourth tier suppliers are facing.

“We just don’t have a real good sense of the challenges that they face,” Barnes said. “We’ve asked our tier one and tier two folks to go out and pulse the system down there to better understand what’s underlying all this. Are we going to have more fundamental challenges moving forward?” — SM

Contractors left out of DoD climate change plans

A yearlong Government Accountability Office review of potential climate change threats finds the Defense Department is underprepared when it comes to protecting contractors.

The report found DoD has “not routinely assessed climate-related risks faced by its contractors as part of its acquisition and supply processes, through which DoD obtains contracted goods and services.”

GAO said DoD’s climate change guidance is inherently flawed because it does not require the Pentagon to take into account extreme weather or climate change in regards to acquisition and supply, despite it being required in DoD’s climate change policy.

“Until DoD and the military departments include these considerations in their guidance on acquisition and supply chain processes, they risk continuing to develop acquisition strategies and managing supply chains without building climate resilience into these processes and potentially jeopardizing their missions,” the authors of the study state.

The department also has not assessed climate-related risks to commercially-owned facilities as part of mission assurance.

“We recognize that incorporating climate risk analysis into the DoD’s contracting processes in a systematic way is a challenging task, but the potential risks to DoD operations and mission-critical assets are significant,” Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote in a joint press release. “If DoD fails to identify and address the impacts of climate change to its contracts and supply chains, it could jeopardize DoD’s ability to carry out its missions.”

GAO suggested six executive actions to better the situation, which involve DoD and the military services fully implementing DoD’s climate change directive by updating guidance.

“In doing so, DoD and the military services should consider providing guidance as to how departmental officials may leverage already existing information regarding private companies,” the authors recommended.

Reed and Warren asked DoD for an update on the departments progress by Sept. 15. — SM

Military telehealth is on the rise

Coronavirus is forcing the Army to do things differently and it’s no surprise that telemedicine is making a meteoric rise in the health community.

Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. R. Scott Dingle said the service has increased its virtual health by 70%.

“It has been a phenomenal occurrence of increase in virtual health and the virtual medicine platforms,” Dingle said.

It’s likely that coronavirus will change the way medicine is delivered. Just as COVID-19 has put telework to the test and shown, in some cases, caused higher productivity, telemedicine may be a bigger part of the future than originally thought.

“It has been so successful that we are throwing a lot behind the continuation, the improvement and the expansion of telemedicine,” Dingle said. “We’ve funded out of our own pockets to support and reinforce and expand virtual health across the Army medical treatment facilities to include behavioral health too.”

The Military Health System (MHS) as a whole is seeing revolutions in medicine, much like ones caused by new forms of conflict.

“During the long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the MHS adapted rapidly to develop new medical products, new systems of care and did so in order to achieve historic rates of survival from combat,” Dr. Simon Pincus, chief of Connected Health at DHA, told reporters. “In 2019, the same system, the MHS, really pivoted quickly to use those same attributes to support the national and international response to stop COVID.” — SM

NDAA would create National Cyber Director position in White House

The DoD Reporter’s Notebook is a weekly summary of personnel, acquisition, technology and management stories that may have fallen below your radar during the past week, but are nonetheless important. It’s compiled and published each Monday by Federal News Network DoD reporters Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione.

A new top cybersecurity position may be forthcoming

The United States may have a new top cybersecurity position within the White House as Jim Langevin, chairman of the House Armed Services Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee, got an amendment to the House version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that will create a National Cyber Director within the executive office of the president.

The position would serve as the principal advisor to the president on cybersecurity strategy and policy. The role would also consult with federal departments to develop the U.S. national cyber strategy and supervise its implementation.

Langevin told Federal News Network that he pushed for the role because the Trump administration got rid of the cybersecurity coordinator position on the National Security Council, and because cybersecurity needs a leadership position in the White House.

“The position would be really be heavily involved in coordinating all the defensive cyber policy for the country,” Langevin said. “They would be the person that is coordinating defensive cyber policy to protect the country from cyber incidents of significant consequence. In order to do that, you really need somebody at the top and helping to coordinate that to begin with, and that has both policy and budgetary authority to reach across government, see across government, understand where the cyber vulnerabilities exist in the first place.”

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle co-sponsored Langevin’s amendment. The provision also creates two deputies — one for strategy, capabilities and budgets, and another for plans and operations.

“We’re trying to prevent the next Office of Personnel Management hack from happening with this role,” Langevin said. “That OPM hack was probably one of our worst intelligence failures and pulled off likely by China. It stole valuable security clearance data of people applying for security clearances in very, very sensitive positions. That data being stolen, and what the Chinese can now do with it, is going to damage our national security for decades to come.” — SM

Esper orders new OPSEC training for all DoD employees, contractors

Defense employees, both in and out of uniform, are no strangers to computer-based training requirements. But another big one just landed on their plates.

It’s big in the sense that it applies to every single military member, civilian employee and contractor working for the Defense Department. It’s made up of four mandatory courses, all focusing on operational security.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper announced the OPSEC campaign in a memo last week.

“Unfortunately, poor OPSEC practices within DoD in the past have resulted in the unauthorized disclosure or ‘leaks’ of controlled unclassified information (CUI),” he wrote. “Unauthorized disclosures jeopardize our DoD personnel, operations, strategies, and policies to the benefit of our adversaries. Unauthorized disclosures also distract from mission priorities by redirecting the attention and resources of military commanders.”

DoD employees and contractors have until Sept. 18 to finish the training, which was developed by the Center for the Development of Security Excellence, part of the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency.

Esper first foreshadowed the OPSEC campaign when he testified before the House Armed Services Committee earlier this month, calling leaks “terrible,” and saying DoD would also be launching investigations to determine who’d provided unauthorized information to news outlets.

He did not specify which leaks or which types of leaks had prompted the new concern, but the comments came in the context of questions from House members about news coverage of alleged bounties paid by the Russian government to the Taliban to target U.S. servicemembers in Afghanistan.

However, Esper and other DoD officials have said the intelligence about the bounties did not originate with any of DoD’s intelligence agencies, and that the department has no information to corroborate it. —JS

Controversy brewing over military use of Esports

Esports have been a boon for recruiting in the military, especially for the Army. However, that could potentially come to an end. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) introduced an amendment to the House defense appropriations bill that will ban the use of funds for the armed forces to maintain a presence on Twitch or any other video game, Esports or live-streaming platform.

The Army said Esports have helped it reach people who would have never thought of joining, and helps bring in people with diverse skills. The military services each have teams that compete in Esports tournaments and attend conferences.

However, there have been controversies surrounding the teams.

The Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University sent a letter to the leaders of the Navy and Army recruiting commands stating that the military is violating free speech. The Army and Navy banned viewers of its Esports live stream after they questioned military misconduct on the stream’s comments, specifically war crimes.

“The Army and Navy Esports teams’ banning of users based on their speech about war crimes is unconstitutional,” the letter states. “When the government intentionally opens a space to the public at large for expressive activity, it has created a ‘public forum’ under the first amendment, and it cannot constitutionally bar speakers from that forum based on viewpoint.”

The argument has precedent. Last year, a federal appeals court ruled that President Donald Trump cannot block someone on Twitter because they criticize or mock him. The court stated that the account is used to conduct government business and therefore he cannot exclude Americans from reading his posts.

The Army contends that the users violated the terms of service of the streaming platforms.

The Nation also reported that the Army was linking to fake giveaway contests, which Twitch has since put an end to.

The House Rules Committee will decide if the amendment can go forward on Monday. — SM

COVID creates new challenges for DoD’s financial audit

Among the numerous other ways the COVID-19 pandemic has affected DoD’s operations this year, it’s also created roadblocks along the department’s path toward earning a clean opinion on its financial audit.

Officials said the main problem has been travel restrictions. Among other things, they’ve prevented the thousands of independent accountants working on the audit from making site visits to military installations, where they uncover financial management weaknesses but also verify whether previous problems have been fixed.

Douglas Glenn, DoD’s assistant deputy chief financial officer, said that’s meant DoD hasn’t been able to close as many of its outstanding notices of findings and recommendations as it hoped.

It also will likely mean that the department won’t be able to eliminate a key material weakness from its financial statement, known as funds balance with Treasury. That weakness essentially indicates DoD is unable to balance its checkbook with the Treasury Department. It’s only one of 25 material weaknesses DoD still has, but officials had made it a priority for this year.

“Unfortunately I think COVID thwarted our chance of knocking down that material weakness this year,” he said during an event hosted by the Association of Government Accountants. “But if I was in Vegas, I’d be betting — and I literally have said this to Congressional staff — that we will close that material weakness next year.”

The pandemic may also delay the first clean audit for a military service. For years, DoD has been hoping the Marine Corps would be the first service to gain a clean opinion, and before COVID, officials had anticipated it would finally happen this year. —JS

Military services get next-generation joint operations assignments

The Joint Chiefs of Staff are meting out responsibilities to each of the military services to better joint operations for air, sea, land, space and cyber so the Pentagon can have a full picture of the battlefield and deliver strikes across domains in short periods of time.

“Each of the services have has been given a line of effort that we were responsible for leading. Ours is Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2),” outgoing Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said.

The Congressional Research Service gave a good account of what JADC2 looks like:

“DoD makes an analogy with the ridesharing service Uber. The Uber application calculates a user’s geographic position and the position of available drivers. It transmits information over a cellular or Wi-Fi network and matches the customer to the ride through artificial intelligence and machine learning,” the report states. “The user’s screen provides situational awareness of his or her position, identifies features in the vicinity, the location of the driver, supports data exchanges, and can coordinate multiple responses and riders in the same car. The military services contend that enhancing old processes and capabilities is insufficient. Each service is advocating for this type of advanced technology to support operations in a highly contested fight, ensuring not just cars, but aircraft, munitions, satellites, ships, submarines, tanks, and people are at the right place at the right time prosecuting the right target with the right effects, in seconds.”

Of course, just seeing the battlefield is only part of the total picture. Goldfein said the “Navy is looking at global and joint fires, the Army is looking at logistics and how we deal with logistics under attack.”

The services are doing something called “prisoner exchange” to facilitate connection between the branches.

“I’m going to give my best colonels,” Goldfein said. “One to the Army, one of the Navy, one of the Marine Corps, and they’re going to work on that chief’s team, on that common house team, to be able to ensure that we drive forward on joint solutions.” — SM

Among DoD leadership, eyes are now wide open to value of telework

The DoD Reporter’s Notebook is a weekly summary of personnel, acquisition, technology and management stories that may have fallen below your radar during the past week, but are nonetheless important. It’s compiled and published each Monday by Federal News Network DoD reporters Jared Serbu and Scott Maucione.

The telework results are in and they’re changing DoD

The Defense Department may never look the same when it comes to working remotely. The coronavirus opened leadership’s eyes to the possibilities of telework, and last week top officials let the public know about it.

“We really shattered the myth that you can’t do any work at DoD via a telework situation,” Lisa Hershman, DoD’s chief management officer said.

The Pentagon’s old excuse for restricting telework was that people needed access to classified information and those people need to be on secure networks to tap into it.

“What we learned very quickly was that not everyone works with classified information, and even those that do, it’s not 100% of the time,” Hershman said. “We have started to relook at what is the mix, if we look at certain positions and the position descriptions, how much of it is feasible to do in a telework situation?”

Hershman has experts on her team examining how often people need to be in the office and talking to employees to see what their prime balance of telework and in-person work entails.

“We found in some situations, especially highly transactional work, employees were more productive,” she said. “In one instance, in Washington Headquarters Services, we had an individual that was 30% more productive. When we asked why they indicated a lot fewer interruptions and a lot fewer meetings that they have to attend. We’re learning from that and capturing that information.”

Chief of Navy Personnel Vice Adm. John Nowell agreed.

“It certainly removes distractions,” he said. “Teleworking has helped us be very efficient and very productive, and I think it’s true for the entire Navy that what we look like on the tail end of this as we come out of it and how we manage and lead our workforce will be different than pre-COVID.”

Almost all of Nowell’s workforce is teleworking, more than 700 people. Before coronavirus, his office only had about 5% of employees teleworking.

Nowell said in a post-COVID world that he imagines a hybrid situation where people work from home a few days, and then come into the office for some events or for access to classified information.

He added that the money the Navy can save in office space by doing that can go into runways and harbors.

Rebecca Weirick, the executive director of the Services Acquisition Office of the deputy assistant Army secretary for procurement, said teleworking is saving money for both the Army, its employees and contractors.

She wants to entrench some of the teleworking habits.

“I’ve asked my team to write some policy ahead of necessity to allow contractors to telework into the future,” Weirick said. “We’ll see where that goes. It’s got to get through a little bit of rulemaking here in the Army to make sure that everybody’s comfortable with that. But the cost savings, the savings on commuting, the savings on employing people from all over the world really opens up a big diverse workforce opportunity for us where we’re not just employing people in the state.”

Officials said teleworking may be a recruiting tool as well. Commands can recruit people who aren’t willing to move to where headquarters are, and people may be more open to working for DoD if it can offer a more flexible working environment.

Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord commended Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy for keeping the bandwidth open to allow so many people to start teleworking at once during the beginning of the pandemic.

“During calls people are in their dining rooms and living rooms and home offices and we all just kind of go with the flow,” she said. — SM

Morrison picked to lead part of Army’s revamped IT leadership structure

We now know who will lead the Army’s newly-redesigned IT governance structure when it takes effect later this year. Well, half of it anyway.

The Pentagon has nominated Maj. Gen. John Morrison to become the “G-6” half of the Army CIO/G-6 when the Army separates the two roles this fall. Since the early 2000s, both functions have been performed by a single three-star general, but that’s changing under a restructuring officials announced last month.

Morrison is currently the chief of staff at U.S. Cyber Command; before that has was the commanding general of the Army’s Cyber Center of Excellence at Fort Gordon Ga., and has also served as commander of the Army’s Network Enterprise Technology Command at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

Morrison’s G-6 nomination would come with a promotion to lieutenant general, the same rank held by the rest of the Army’s deputy chiefs of staff.

Morrison’s nomination was first reported by C4ISRNET.

The Army has not yet announced who will become the CIO once that role becomes an independent position, but it’s likely to be a senior civilian official. Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the current and final CIO/G-6 told reporters last month that the CIO is likely to focus mainly in developing the Army’s IT budget and policy, while the G-6 will focus mainly on execution. But the changes are likely to take three to four years to fully come into effect. —JS

Slow goings on continued 5000 series updates

The Pentagon has been working on rewriting it acquisition policy for a while now, and with the help of Congress, it’s reformed a large part of how it procures systems.

However, coronavirus threw a wrench in that progress. The Defense Department was consistently putting out new guidance updating its 5000 series, the bible of procurement policy. In the past it released new guidance on buying major weapons systems, hiring services and general overarching guidelines.

Now, says Assistant Defense Secretary for Acquisition Kevin Fahey, those updates are coming to a standstill.

“Because of COVID we are traveling a lot and we don’t have big group meetings,” he said. “The 5000 series update is probably one of those areas that is not progressing as much as we’d like to this year.”

Some of the things DoD wanted to focus on were incorporating mission engineering into procurement. It also wanted better portfolio management across the department and focus on more data driven acquisition.

DoD was using the Defense Acquisition University as a way of building out some of its ideas.

DoD used DAU to flesh out questions and case studies about other transaction authorities and mid-tier acquisition. — SM

Army set to expand new talent management-focused approach to command selection

The Army has been testing out a new approach that tries to take a more holistic look at its military officers before they’re chosen for command — and it likes what it’s seen so far — so much so that officials are getting ready to expand it.

In January and February, the Army ran the first iteration of its new Battalion Commanders Assessment Program (BCAP). Instead of having selection boards pick officers for command based solely on their paper records, the Army sent 750 candidates through a more rigorous five day screening program at Fort Knox.

Each officer went through a blind interview, psychometric testing, verbal and written communication tests, and the Army’s new physical fitness tests. Out of the 436 officers picked for command through the BCAP process, 36% never would have made it under the traditional board-based system, said Maj. Gen. J.P. McGee, the director of the Army Talent Management Task Force.

“There are 150 different names of officers going into command based on this new process, and then attendant to that, we have all of this new information we were able to gather on the 750 candidates that came forward,” McGee said at an online conference hosted by AFCEA International last week. “Over time, we think that information is going to be transformative in terms of the insights we have about our officer corps, where their strengths and weakness lie, and how they can move forward.”

The Army is planning another round of BCAP in October and November, but based on the first year’s results, it’s already planning to expand the concept. In September, it will use a similar process to pick its next crop of colonels to be brigade commanders. —JS

Acquisition getting back on track

Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord predicted a three-month delay for major acquisition systems after the coronavirus took hold of the nation.

As it turns out, things weren’t so bad.

“We have made amazing inroads in coming back up to close to the prior productivity levels,” she said.

There are still areas where DoD is cautious though. Aircraft suppliers are taking a particularly hard hit, especially ones that dabble in both the defense and commercial sectors.

“Sometimes that’s helpful to us because they’ve been able to shift critical resources over to our programs,” Lord said. “We do have to make sure that they are right sizing because obviously we can’t adjust all the overhead costs that would go with a full up dual use operation. A lot of work is going on and tough decisions being made, but we are pushing through it.”

The Army reported at the end of May that very few of its major acquisition systems would miss initial deliver dates. Some programs will have adjustments to milestones and benchmarks.

One of the major programs that will see delays is the Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, a command and control weapon that shows a single view of the battlespace.

“The date we promised the solider they’d have that ability has not slipped, but we will adjust within the schedule,” Futures Command leader Gen. Mike Murray said. “We just added the checks to this event coming up.” — SM

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