DoD to gather feedback on new military tech acquisition guidance

The Pentagon’s top weapons buyer formally released a draft of his proposed new guidance for acquisition reform last week, calling for a renewed focus on research and innovation to maintain the increasingly tenuous lead that the US holds in military technology over its adversaries.

Administration officials — including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel — have been telegraphing elements of the strategy for weeks, even though the final plan won’t be finished for months.

Speaking with a handful of reporters at the Pentagon on Sept. 16, the man leading the charge — Frank Kendall, undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics —said that the white paper he released on Friday is only the first full public airing of the proposed strategy.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defensenews.com/article/20140919/DEFREG02/309190019/Pentagon-Unveils-Draft-New-R-D-Strategy-Waits-Industry-Hill-Weigh-In

China hacks U.S. military transport contractors

Chinese military hackers successfully breached the systems of several transportation companies that do important work for the military, according to a new Senate Armed Services Committee report released last Wednesday, September 17, 2014.

U.S. Transportation Command, or TRANSCOM, is the outfit that moves troops and equipment. The command relies on a network of private companies large and small.

The heavily-redacted report outlines more than 20 successful intrusions on behalf of the Chinese government. “These are just those intrusions of which TRANSCOM is aware,” the report states.

The hacks outlined occurred between 2008 and 2013, but most occurred in 2012. The Chinese hackers stole emails, documents, compromised “multiple systems” of ships, obtained credentials, personal identification numbers and passwords for encrypted email and, through a phishing scam, convinced someone working at a TRANSCOM contracting air company to download an email with malware onto the airline’s network.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.defenseone.com/technology/2014/09/china-hacks-us-military-transport-contractors/94445/

 

The case for experimenting on federal buildings

The government wants to try out new and potentially “transformational” green technologies on its buildings through a program that could give private sector participants a leg up in the future.

The idea is to evaluate emerging green technologies and use the findings to “inform decision-making within GSA, other federal agencies and the real estate industry in deploying the technologies studied,” the General Services Administration said in a call for information.

Qualifying technologies must be “sufficiently mature that all required laboratory or other proof-of-concept work has been completed,” but not “already broadly in use and readily available in the marketplace,” the solicitation document said.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.nextgov.com/emerging-tech/2014/09/case-experimenting-federal-buildings/94238/

GTRI successfully commands multiple UAVs to perform autonomous formation flight

These days, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) typically fly alone with a team of ground operators controlling their activities through teleoperation or waypoint-based routing. But one aircraft can only carry so many sensors, limiting its capabilities. That’s one reason why a fleet of autonomous aircraft can be better than one flying alone.

In one of the first autonomous demonstrations, the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has successfully commanded three fully autonomous, collaborating UAVs. The machines flew in close formation at the same altitude, separated by approximately 50 meters as they executed  figure-eight patterns. The research is part of GTRI’s efforts to improve the capabilities for autonomous systems collaborating as teams, thereby reducing the load on human operators.

“For autonomous systems to scale effectively, future systems will need the ability to perform with a higher level of autonomy,” said GTRI Chief Scientist Lora Weiss, who leads GTRI’s UAV research. “Human operators must be able to provide high-level task descriptions, allowing the systems to figure out for themselves how to dynamically form teams and autonomously collaborate to complete tasks.”

GTRI operated the three UAVs over the skies of Fort Benning near Columbus, Ga. A single plane was initially designated as the leader and commanded to fly autonomous orbits. The two “follower” UAVs joined the orbits, flying with rotational offsets of 15 and 30 degrees, respectively, from the leader.

“There are logistical challenges with quickly getting multiple planes in the air,” said Charles Pippin, a GTRI senior research scientist who led development of the autonomy algorithms.

The lead UAV shared its current position with the follower UAVs several times per second, allowing the followers to calculate the control changes necessary to reach the desired position. The followers also used the leader’s information to send commands to their on-board autopilots, which adjusted the controls and throttle for each aircraft. GTRI’s autonomous algorithms and applications are general enough that they can be used with different UAVs and autopilot systems.

The aircraft in the Fort Benning demonstration were quarter-scale Piper Cub airframes with a wingspan of approximately eight feet. They are able to carry a mission computer, autopilot system, and sensor payloads.

Autonomous systems working in teams have numerous future applications designed to improve lives and reduce costs. For example, multiple UAVs could provide several different camera angles while searching for a missing person. While surveying hurricanes, one plane could carry a sensor to check wind speed in one area while another UAV measures energy in another. The same is true for wildfires. One vehicle could determine the size of the blaze while another uses different sensors to measure the heat or direction of the inferno.

“Multiple planes working together also provides flexibility if one aircraft fails or is diverted somewhere else during a mission,” explained Pippin.

As the use of unmanned systems becomes more prevalent, increasing levels of autonomy will become necessary to improve the safety, robustness, and quality of these systems. GTRI’s unmanned systems research has the potential to positively impact many different industries, including crop inspection and spraying, delivery of goods, wildlife management and utility inspection

“GTRI’s ongoing research in these areas will make UAVs safer, and cheaper to operate,” said Weiss.

GTRI currently conducts collaborative UAV research using a collection of different airframes. GTRI has modified these aircraft in different ways, including equipping them with RF modems and cameras. The aircraft can also be equipped with pods to carry customer-specific payloads. The aircraft have been invaluable for research on collaborative control of multiple UAVs and have enabled development of algorithms to support more sophisticated collaborative missions.

The recent UAV tests follow a 2010 GTRI demonstration at Fort Benning that featured two small-scale aircraft and a full-size self-driving automobile completing a mission without human interaction. The two projects are part of a Memorandum of Understanding GTRI has with the Army post to conduct tests of advanced technologies.

Source: http://gtri.gatech.edu/casestudy/gtri-multiple-uavs-perform-autonomous-formation-fl

Pentagon’s sole-source contracts continue to dwindle, says GAO

The Defense Department is doing its part to curb the number of sole-source contracts awarded without competition and is properly justifying—in most instances—their use to help develop small, disadvantaged businesses, an audit found.

The Government Accountability Office’s Sept. 9 report to the House and Senate Armed Services committees evaluated sole-source contracts worth more than $20 million under the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) program and found that the Pentagon in fiscal 2013 continued a “significant decrease” in such contracts. It awarded five in 2013, each worth $20 million, compared with 27 contracts valued at $2 billion in 2009.

All five of the recent contracts were justified as being “in the best interest of the government,” though three of them failed to fully meet Federal Acquisition Regulation requirements that relevant officials sign off on them in a timely manner.

Fifty-five sole-source contracts were awarded under the 8(a) program over the past four years, the report found, led by the Army with 37, the Navy with 13, the Air Force with two, and three elsewhere in the department.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.govexec.com/defense/2014/09/pentagons-sole-source-contracts-continue-dwindle-says-gao/93899/

GAO says federal agencies need better oversight of contractor-operated systems

Congressional investigators found that several federal agencies are not consistently overseeing security and privacy measures for information systems operated by contractors.

In reviewing six selected agencies, the Government Accountability Office said the agencies generally established security and privacy requirements and had plans to assess the effectiveness of contractor-operated systems. But five of the agencies were inconsistent in such reviews.

For example, the GAO report  released Sept. 9, 2014 said Transportation Department officials responsible for system testing didn’t evaluate whether seven contractor employees had the required background investigation.

“When they did so in response to our audit, they found that three of them did not,” GAO investigators said. “Officials stated that they subsequently removed system access rights for the three contractor employees until their background investigations had been completed.”

Besides DOT, GAO also reviewed the Energy, Homeland Security, and State departments as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and Office of Personnel Management.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.fiercegovernmentit.com/story/gao-says-federal-agencies-need-better-oversight-contractor-operated-systems/2014-09-10 

 

‘Change in direction’ for Better Buying Power 3.0, says AT&L chief

Defense Department officials are preparing to roll out a third iteration of its Better Buying Power initiative aimed at reforming defense acquisition, and the new version will focus on products, innovation and engineering.

Better Buying Power (BBP) 3.0 is expected to be introduced in the coming weeks–possibly as soon as Sept. 12—according to Frank Kendall, deputy Defense secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics, who spoke Sept. 4 at an industry event in Newport, Rhode Island.

The first BBP focused on rules and business practices, and the second emphasized critical thinking and the acquisition workforce. Kendall said that the latest version is “a change in emphasis – it’s not a fundamental change in direction.”

Keep reading this article at: http://www.c4isrnet.com/article/20140905/C4ISRNET14/309050004/Kendall-Change-direction-Better-Buying-Power-3-0

Anne Rung confirmed as OFPP administrator

The Senate confirmed Anne Rung to be the next administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) on Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014.

Rung, who was nominated in July and has been working as a senior advisor in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) since late May, received approval by voice vote in the Senate.

“Please join me in congratulating Anne Rung who was just confirmed by the Senate to be the Administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. Thanks to the Legislative Affairs team and OFPP for all of their work on her confirmation!,” wrote Shaun Donovan, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, in an email to staff, which was obtained by Federal News Radio. “And thanks especially to Lesley Field who has done a wonderful job leading the team over the past several months. Anne has already been a great addition to OMB — and we look forward to working with her in this new role.”
Rung replaces Joe Jordan as the top federal procurement official. Jordan left to be president of FedBid public sector group in January. Lesley Field has been acting OFPP administrator since January.

Stop order against contractor could significantly slow down background checks

The recent stop-work order that has prevented a major U.S. contractor from conducting background investigations could significantly impact the security clearance process, especially if it lasts for an extended period, industry officials said.

The stop-work order was issued Aug. 6 after USIS, the Falls Church, Va.-based company that does the bulk of the federal government’s contracted investigations, was hacked, potentially exposing the records of thousands of government employees.

Since then, the two agencies that suspended the work have been trying to shift the investigations to other contractors, or do them in-house, the Office of Personnel Management said in a statement.

But cases that had been assigned to USIS are “pending completion,” the OPM said. And the stop-work order can remain in place for up to 90 days.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/stop-order-against-usis-could-significantly-slow-down-background-checks/2014/09/01/755d2678-2f88-11e4-994d-202962a9150c_story.html

Pentagon considers spliting Air Force One contract to gain more competition

The U.S. Air Force will decide by December whether Boeing will have to share a multibillion-dollar project to provide the next Air Force One jetliner for the president, the service said.

The Air Force has budgeted $1.6 billion for research through 2019 and is “working toward release” of a request for proposals early next year with a schedule to purchase the first aircraft in fiscal 2016, according to spokesman Charles Gulick.

The military hasn’t ruled out buying 747-8 passenger planes from Chicago-based Boeing and then using other contractors to outfit them for the special needs of the presidential fleet. Airbus Group NV, the European aircraft company, said last year that it wouldn’t challenge Boeing to build the plane.

“The Air Force does not yet have an approved acquisition strategy,” and intends to present one “in fall 2014” for review by the Pentagon’s Defense Acquisition Board, Gulick said in an e-mailed statement.

Keep reading this article at: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140828/BIZ/140829035/Air-Force-may-make-Boeing-share-work-on-presidential-planes