Navy Plans To Defuel Red Hill By End of 2024, Leak Result of Human Error

The Navy will not finish defueling Red Hill until Dec. 31, 2024, at the earliest, according to the Navy’s defueling plan for the Hawaii fuel storage facility. The defueling plan, as well as the Navy’s investigation into leaks at Red Hill – which led to decontamination of the drinking water used by Hawaii residents and […]

Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro is shown some of the items highlighted in the third-party assessment of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii on June 13, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The Navy will not finish defueling Red Hill until Dec. 31, 2024, at the earliest, according to the Navy’s defueling plan for the Hawaii fuel storage facility.
The defueling plan, as well as the Navy’s investigation into leaks at Red Hill – which led to decontamination of the drinking water used by Hawaii residents and the Navy community – were released Thursday night by the Hawaii Department of Health. The documents were embargoed by the Navy until Friday morning.

“We are releasing these documents in the interest of transparency,” Deputy Director of Environmental Health Kathleen Ho said in a news release. “Red Hill needs to be shut down as quickly as possible and we fully expect that the Navy will marshal all possible available resources to defuel and decommission the facility. However, with the extensive repairs needed and the Navy’s history of spills from unsafe pipelines, our first priority continues to be ensuring that all defueling activities are performed safely for the sake of the people and environment of Hawai‘i.”

While the Navy’s defueling plan sets Dec. 31, 2024 as the earliest date that the defueling process will finish, it mentions that there are potential delays that could cause it to take longer. It will take four to eight months to defuel the storage facility, according to the Navy’s defueling plan.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who ordered the defueling, has called for the creation of a Joint Task Force Red Hill to oversee the defueling process. A senior Navy official, who has not yet been announced, will lead the process.

The Navy will conduct the plan in five phases, with the first phase already completed and second expected to be finished by the end of August. The first phase was the review of the third-party assessment followed by identification of actions necessary for defueling. The Navy will then implement necessary actions for making Red Hill safe to defuel with executing actions for final preparedness as the fourth step.

In defueling Red Hill, the Navy will first have to repair some of the pipes it will later use. This requires the removal of 1,159,000 gallons of fuel from those lines. That fuel will be stored in a surge tank, according to the plan.

The longest phase is the third one, which is slated to start in September 2022 and finish in January 2024. This phase includes hiring contractors to complete work at Red Hill as well as the infrastructure repairs necessary to defuel the facility.

The last step is the defueling and relocation of the fuel. The Navy needs to remove fuel from 20 tanks, four surge tanks and any relative pipes.

It is not clear where the fuel is expected to go. Adm. John Aquilino, who leads U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, declined to tell reporters where the fuel will be distributed, citing classification during a Thursday roundtable.

“I can tell you that those facilities, around the globe and at sea, that fuel exists,” Aquilino said. “It’s being also monitored and maintained and supported by either commercial activities, through the requirements as are determined by the regulators, and all those facilities have specific requirements for maintenance and for storage and those will be met as we always do.”

There are currently 57 Navy defense fueling support points, Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, told reporters. The Navy has been examining each of them to make sure there is not another Red Hill incident, he said.

The marine ship diesel fuel, which is about 12.5 million gallons, and 63 million gallons of aviation jet fuel, will be used on Hawaii, according to the defueling plan. It will be moved using a commercial tanker or pipeline.

The remaining 30 million gallons of aviation jet fuel will head to the West Coast. Planning is also underway for alternative or supplemental storage sights, including floating storage.
The Navy’s plan is slated to change, with the sea service predicting an updated version in September.

“DoD is focused on the safe and expeditious defueling of Red Hill. DoD’s commitment to protect the population of Hawaii, the environment, and the security of the nation will guide all of our actions in implementing this defueling plan,” according to the plan.

Human Error

The Navy is taking responsibility for the May 6, 2021 and Nov. 20, 2021, spills that led to water contamination, Paparo said during the roundtable with reporters.

“As members of this community, we have a solemn obligation to be good stewards of the environment and good neighbors to one another,” Paparo said. “The contamination of the Navy water systems severely disrupted their lives, their livelihood and their well being and the well being of our workforce, our families and our communities.”

The spills were the result of human error, poor system knowledge and inadequate maintenance practices, Paparo said.

The initial spill on May 6 was handled incorrectly, leading to 20,000 gallons of fuel being held in an overhead fire suppression system retention line, which was not known at the time. Workers at Red Hill used incorrect assumptions and believed they had accounted for all of the fuel from the spill.

In November, the retention line, sagging under the weight of the fuel, was struck, resulting in a leak. It was initially reported as a water leak because workers did not know there was fuel in the retention line, Paparo said.

The responders were not trained to stop the fuel leak. While personnel checked to make sure that the above ground well was not contaminated, a lack of understanding led them to not realize that fuel could reach below ground wells, Paparo said.

The contaminated water was discovered on Nov. 28 after a report of a chemical smell.

The Navy declined to tell reporters how many people were reassigned due to loss of confidence as a result of the Red Hill fuel leak. The Navy is looking at administrative and disciplinary actions consistent with the Uniformed Code of Military Justice.

Vet Coalition Aims to Get Veterans, Family Members to Sign Up As Poll Workers

A veterans-led coalition launched a national campaign Tuesday to recruit 100,000 veterans and military family members to sign up as election poll workers in their communities. The Vet The Vote coalition’s campaign is intended to help address a “critical” shortage of poll workers across the country ahead of the fall 2022 national and local elections, […]

Spc. Grace Hayes, an intelligence analyst assigned to 3rd Infantry Division, reads a Federal Voting Assistance Program brochure at Fort Stewart, Georgia, May 31, 2022. U.S. Army Photo

A veterans-led coalition launched a national campaign Tuesday to recruit 100,000 veterans and military family members to sign up as election poll workers in their communities.

The Vet The Vote coalition’s campaign is intended to help address a “critical” shortage of poll workers across the country ahead of the fall 2022 national and local elections, according to organizers. Shortages have prompted some states and counties to shutter polling sites due to lack of staffing. In 2020, Wisconsin’s and New Jersey’s governors ordered the activation of their state national guard members.

“Election boards across the country have struggled to recruit enough volunteers to efficiently and effectively run elections. America needs to recruit more than one million volunteers annually to administer election polling sites,” the coalition said in a news release announcing the nonpartisan, pro-democracy effort organized by We the Veterans. “We believe our community is up to the task and ideally positioned to help solve this national shortage of poll workers,” it added.

Organizers say they hope to encourage some of the more than 17 million military veterans, along with millions more military family members, to sign up and help at the polls.

“We think it’s a great way for the veteran to connect with their community,” Joe Plenzler, retired Marine officer, combat veteran and board member of We the Veterans Society for American Democracy, told USNI News. “It supports democracy, down to the deckplates, below the level of politics.”

“Whatever we can do, we’re going to try to help,” Plenzler said. “It’s part of being a citizen-soldier,” he added.

The group set up a website – https://vetthe.vote/ – where veterans and family members can sign up to be a poll worker. The job is typically one paid hourly or by stipend, depending on the jurisdiction, although in some places, workers may be unpaid volunteers. The online application process is done through a web-enabled infrastructure developed by the nonpartisan Power the Polls, a coalition partner.

“America is facing a looming poll worker crisis for the 2022 midterms. We must act on this challenge now or risk a vicious cycle of decreasing confidence in our democracy,” We the Veterans said on its website. “There are more than 17 million veterans and millions of military family members committed to serving the country who can help break that cycle. We the Veterans is working with veteran and military family service organizations and other partners to mobilize our community.”

We the Veterans Foundation – a nonpartisan, 501(3)(c) nonprofit organization formed in 2021 to “empower the veteran and military family community to strengthen American democracy” – is part of the coalition of 20 organizations, including Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, AMVETS, National Military Family Association, Military Officers Association of America, Student Veterans of America, Minority Veterans of America and PsychArmor. The National Football League and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce are also part of the coalition.

National elections are decentralized, with each state’s election offices having their system and processes to run polling stations responsible for local and national elections, according to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. But many states and communities have reported having too few people applying to staff polling places, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing into the upcoming midterm elections this fall. Increasing reports of intimidation and threats against poll workers are believed to be dampening interest from people to commit their time to help support elections.

“What we know is that veterans and our community are really well-dispersed across the country, and we are hoping that by doing a national push, we can engage as many veterans as possible,” said Ellen Gustafson, a Navy spouse and cofounder of We the Veterans, Military.com reported. “But then if we do need to get more local in terms of areas where the need is exceptionally great, we hope that through incredible partner organizations, we can target some of those communities.”

Report to Congress on Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program

The following is the June 23, 2022 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program. From the report According to the Air Force, the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program is intended to develop “a portfolio of technologies enabling air superiority.” The Air Force intends for NGAD to replace the F-22 fighter […]

The following is the June 23, 2022 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program.

From the report

According to the Air Force, the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program is intended to develop “a portfolio of technologies enabling air superiority.” The Air Force intends for NGAD to replace the F-22 fighter jet beginning in 2030, possibly including a combination of crewed and uncrewed aircraft, with other systems and sensors. NGAD began as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project. Since 2015, Congress has appropriated approximately $4.2 billion for NGAD.

NGAD is a classified aircraft development program, but the Air Force has released a few details. On September 15, 2020, then-U.S. Air Force acquisition executive Dr. Will Roper announced that the Air Force had flown a full-scale flight demonstrator as part of the NGAD program. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall announced on June 1, 2022 that NGAD program technologies have matured enough to allow the program to move to the engineering, manufacture, and design phase of development.

Is the Goal of NGAD a New Fighter? 

While a stated aim of the NGAD program is to replace the F-22 fighter jet, the aircraft that come out of the NGAD program may or may not look like a traditional fighter. The Air Force is developing technologies involved in NGAD to provide air dominance. Part of the program’s goal is to determine how to achieve that end, independent of traditional U.S. military approaches to air dominance. NGAD could take the form of a single aircraft and/or a number of complementary systems—manned, unmanned, optionally manned, cyber, electronic—forms that would not resemble the traditional “fighter.”

For example, a larger aircraft the size of a B-21 may not maneuver like a fighter. But that large an aircraft carrying a directed energy weapon, with multiple engines making substantial electrical power for that weapon, could ensure that no enemy flies in a large amount of airspace. That would achieve air dominance. There appears to be little reason to assume that NGAD is going to yield a plane the size that one person sits in, and that goes out and dogfights kinetically, trying to outturn another plane—or that sensors and weapons have to be on the same aircraft.

Download the document here.

GAO Report on Hypersonic Missile Defense

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development. What GAO Found The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued […]

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development.

What GAO Found

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued to fall short of its goals for asset deliveries and testing. For example, MDA successfully delivered many of the planned interceptors and conducted developmental and operational cybersecurity testing for MDS elements; however, MDA did not conduct any planned system-level cybersecurity tests—leaving MDA without knowledge of its systems’ vulnerabilities and contributing to programmatic delays. The shortfalls to planned system-level tests were partially attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MDA’s efforts to address hypersonic threats include the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) and Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS). These efforts represent technologies that have considerable risks, but MDA has not taken necessary steps to reduce risks and ensure appropriate oversight from the Department of Defense (DOD) or stakeholder involvement.

  • GPI is a missile designed to shoot down a hypersonic weapon in the middle
    (or glide phase) of its flight. Contrary to a DOD directive with which MDA has
    aligned its effort, at the time of our review, MDA did not plan to obtain an
    independent technological risk assessment to determine the maturity of the
    technologies before proceeding with development. In addition, MDA did not
    plan to obtain an independent cost estimate.
  • HBTSS is a concept of space-based sensors to track the unique flight path of
    a hypersonic weapon. However, MDA has not adequately coordinated the
    HBTSS effort with DOD’s Space Development Agency and Space Force.

Increased DOD oversight and involvement would reduce risk. In addition, more clearly delineated roles and responsibilities would help avoid duplication, overlap, or fragmented capabilities among MDA and other View GAO-22-105075. For more information, DOD space agencies.

Download the document here.

China Launches Third Aircraft Carrier as U.S. Wraps Major Pacific Exercise

China launched its third aircraft carrier on Friday, as the United States wrapped up its Valiant Shield 2022 exercise. Meanwhile, Chinese and Russian ships have been operating around Japanese waters this week, the Japan Ministry of Defense said in news releases. On Friday morning, China launched its third aircraft carrier, named Fujian (18), carrying hull […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Fujian on June 17, 2022. Xinhua Photo

China launched its third aircraft carrier on Friday, as the United States wrapped up its Valiant Shield 2022 exercise.

Meanwhile, Chinese and Russian ships have been operating around Japanese waters this week, the Japan Ministry of Defense said in news releases.

On Friday morning, China launched its third aircraft carrier, named Fujian (18), carrying hull number 18, at Jiangnan Shipyard of China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation in Shanghai, reported the People’s Liberation Army’s official media channel, China Military Online.

The 80,000-ton carrier is China’s first flat deck carrier and uses Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS)-powered catapults to launch its aircraft, in contrast to the ski jump of its other two carriers. The EMALS system can launch heavier aircraft, such as the J-35 fighter and airborne early warning aircraft, to operate off its flight deck.

Fujian is named after the closest Chinese province to Taiwan, which lies east of the province and is separated by the Taiwan Strait. China has been steadily building its carrier capabilities, with carrier CNS Liaoning (16) conducting an extensive training period in May that lasted more than two weeks in the Pacific Ocean. Fujian, once fully operational, with its greater capacity and capabilities, will further enhance the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) power capabilities and allow the PLAN to field a total of three carrier strike groups, matching the normal two to three U.S. CSG presence in the Asia Pacific. The PLAN is expected to build additional carriers for service as well.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense announced on Tuesday that two PLAN destroyers, along with a replenishment ship, were sighted 200 kilometers west of Fukue Island, Nagasaki Prefecture at noon on Monday at noon. Hull numbers and images in the release correspond to destroyers CNS Lhasa (102) and CNS Chengdu (120) and replenishment ship CNS Dongpinghu (902). The three ships then proceeded northeast, through the Tsushima Strait, and sailed into the Sea of Japan. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) multipurpose support ship JS Amakusa (AMS-4303), fast attack crafts JS Hayabusa (PG-824) and JS Shirataka (PG-829), along with a JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, monitored the passage of the PLAN ships, according to the release.

Dongpinghu, together with a Dongdiao-class surveillance ship carrying the hull number 794, were sighted sailing northeast in the waters about 130 kilometers south-west of Tappizaki, Aomori Prefecture at 9 a.m. on Thursday, a JSO release said. The two ships subsequently sailed through the Tsugaru Strait and were the same ones sighted earlier on Monday and Sunday respectively, the release added. JMSDF multipurpose support ship JS Suo (AMS-4302) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA from Fleet Air Wing 2 based at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base monitored the PLAN ships.

The JSO issued a second news release on Thursday that said seven Russian Navy ships were sighted 280 kilometers southeast of Cape Nedelin (Hokkaido) at noon on Wednesday. The Japanese government identified the ships by hull numbers and class types corresponding to destroyers RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543) and RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548); corvettes RFS Sovershennyy (333), RFS Gromkiy (335), RFS Gremyashchiy (337); RFS Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339) and missile range instrumentation ship RFS Marshal Krylov. The ships were then 180 kilometers southeast of Inubosaki, Chiba Prefecture at 9 a.m. on Thursday. JMSDF destroyers JS Yudachi (DD-103) and JS Kongo (DDG-173) monitored the Russian ships, the news release said.

The Russian ships are all assigned to the Russian Pacific Fleet and the Russian Ministry of Defense has previously announced that the Russian Pacific Fleet would conduct a large-scale exercise, starting June 3, involving more than 40 ships and about 20 aircraft in the Pacific Ocean and the waters around the Kuril Islands.

Meanwhile, U.S. forces on Friday completed the 12-day Valiant Shield 2022 exercise, which included joint operations across the sea, land, air and cyber domains sea, according to a Defense Department news release. The biennial exercise included drills throughout the Joint Region Marianas in Guam, with some parts of the exercise happening on the Northern Mariana Islands.

“This exercise was the perfect opportunity to conduct integrated deterrence, which was the cornerstone of our approach,” Rear Adm. Robb Chadwick, the Valiant Shield 22 Joint Exercise Control Group Director, said in the news release. “We combined our efforts across all warfighting domains and the spectrum of conflict to ensure that the United States, alongside our allies and partners, could dissuade or defeat aggression in any form or domain.”

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121, sits aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on June 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan carrier strike groups, along with amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) participating in Valiant Shield, USNI News previously reported.

The exercise included the U.S. Marine Corps’ Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which conducted a HIMARS Rapid Infiltration (HI-RAIN) with a C-130 Hercules from the Air Force National Guard, according to the Pentagon news release.

“The inclusion of the HI-RAIN mission significantly increases the lethality of precision fires and survivability of the HIMARS launcher, crew, and aircraft due to the reduced exposure to hostile fires,” the release said.

The drills culminated with a sinking exericse, or SINKEX, with the ex-USS Vandegrift (FFG-48).

“SINKEX participants included Carrier Air Wing 5 embarked aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), who conducted long-range maritime strikes from fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. Seventh Fleet, embarked aboard the USS Tripoli (LHA 7), directed the task forces in the execution of a complete live-fire process,” the news release reads. “USS Benfold (DDG 65) launched a targeted surface-to-surface missile, which was a significant impact in the sinking of the Vandegrift. USS Key West (SSN 722), along with B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing, and F-18s & F-35Bs from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons (VMFA-533 and VMFA-121) also participated in the SINKEX.”

A number of non-U.S. naval ships have arrived in Guam to rest and replenish before continuing their voyage to Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 exercise, set to begin in Hawaii on June 29 and continue through Aug. 4. The ships include Indian Navy frigate INS Satpura (F48), Philippine Navy frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), Indonesian Navy frigate KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332) and Royal Malaysian Navy corvette KD Lekir (FSG26).

GAO Report: Navy, Air Force Declining Aircraft Mission Capable Rates

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Air Force and Navy Aviation: Actions Needed to Address Persistent Sustainment Risks. From the report What GAO Found  Mission capable rates—a metric used to assess the health and readiness of an aircraft fleet—and other related maintenance metrics trends have worsened since fiscal year 2015 for eight […]

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Air Force and Navy Aviation: Actions Needed to Address Persistent Sustainment Risks.

From the report

What GAO Found 

Mission capable rates—a metric used to assess the health and readiness of an aircraft fleet—and other related maintenance metrics trends have worsened since fiscal year 2015 for eight selected aircraft.

While the Air Force and Navy have initiatives to address unit-level maintenance challenges, neither service has mitigated persistent fixed-wing aircraft sustainment risks. A statute enacted in 2016 requires the services to conduct sustainment reviews for major weapon systems to assess their product support strategy and performance, among other things. GAO found, however, that the Air Force and Navy have not completed these sustainment reviews for all aircraft (see figure). Both the Air Force and Navy have plans to complete the required sustainment reviews by the end of fiscal years 2025 and 2035, respectively.

Without the Air Force and Navy prioritizing the completion of required sustainment reviews and updating their schedules to complete the reviews in a timelier manner, the services are missing opportunities to identify maintenance and other risks to aircraft availability. Further, neither the Air Force nor the Navy have completed mitigation plans to remedy maintenance challenges, risks, or related impacts identified in any sustainment reviews. As a result, the Air Force and Navy cannot fully address unit-level aviation maintenance challenges affecting aircraft availability required for training and operations. If Congress required the Air Force and Navy to submit mitigation plans to Congress related to maintenance challenges and risks to aircraft availability found in sustainment reviews, it would enhance the services’ accountability for taking the necessary and appropriate actions to address persistent challenges to aircraft availability.

Download the document here.

Navy Continues COVID-19 Vaccine Separations as Fourth Vaccine Eyes Conditional FDA Approval

Some sailors have received a COVID-19 vaccine that is developed differently from existing vaccines and could overcome religious objections that have been fought over in federal court. A small percentage of sailors received Novavax COVID-19 while overseas, where the shot is considered approved, said Ed Gulick, a spokesperson for Navy medicine. Novavax is seeking emergency […]

Hospital Corpsman 2nd Class Gregzon Fontanilla, from Guam, prepares a COVID-19 vaccine aboard the America-class amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on May 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

Some sailors have received a COVID-19 vaccine that is developed differently from existing vaccines and could overcome religious objections that have been fought over in federal court.

A small percentage of sailors received Novavax COVID-19 while overseas, where the shot is considered approved, said Ed Gulick, a spokesperson for Navy medicine.

Novavax is seeking emergency use authorization from the FDAA for its version of a COVID-19 vaccine. However, that approval could be delayed, according to Axios. Novavax developed a protein-based vaccine, which is a common method for vaccines, against COVID-19. Some have theorized that those uncomfortable with the mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna due to their reliance on a certain line of fetal cells and idea that the mRNA changes their bodies may be more willing to get the Novavax option, according to science journal Nature.

The Navy is continuing to issue separations for sailors who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. As of June 8, the sea service separated 103 sailors, most of whom were the reserve members.

The Navy has so far separated 996 active-duty sailors – 16 between June 2 and June 8 – and 184 reservists – 86 in that week. The Navy also has 22 entry-level separations.

There are 3,866 active-duty sailors and 3,258 reservists who are not fully vaccinated, as of June 8. Some of these sailors are those with approved exemptions or pending ones. The Navy cannot currently separate anyone who filed a request for a religious exemption.

The Navy approved 14 permanent and 206 temporary medical exemptions for active-duty sailors and one permanent and 70 temporary medical waivers for reservists.

The sea service has approved 13 religious exemptions for members of the individual ready reserve on the condition that they get vaccinated if called to reserve or active-duty status.

The Marine Corps leads the services with 2,715 separations, about 1.5 percent of the service’s end strength, according to its June 2 COVID-19 update. The Marines have seven religious exemptions approved, as well as 742 medical and administrative ones.

The Army now has 882 separations, according to its June 10 update. The Air Force has separated 543 service members, according to its June 7 update.

GAO’s 2022 Weapons Systems Annual Assessment

The following is the June 8, 2022, Government Accountability Office report Weapon Systems Annual Assessment: Challenges to Fielding Capabilities Faster Persist. From the report What GAO Found For over 20 years, GAO has assessed the Department of Defense’s (DOD) weapon programs and noted significant changes in its acquisition policies and practices. GAO’s first assessment in […]

The following is the June 8, 2022, Government Accountability Office report Weapon Systems Annual Assessment: Challenges to Fielding Capabilities Faster Persist.

From the report

What GAO Found

For over 20 years, GAO has assessed the Department of Defense’s (DOD)
weapon programs and noted significant changes in its acquisition policies and
practices. GAO’s first assessment in 2003 highlighted challenges, such as
committing billions of taxpayer dollars before obtaining key information, including
reliable cost estimates and proven designs. Yet these challenges still hinder
many programs. And they slow the department’s current emphasis on delivering
capabilities to the warfighter faster.

This year’s report analyzed 63 of DOD’s costliest weapon system acquisition
programs. These programs include:

  • 40 major defense acquisition programs (MDAP);
  • four future major weapon acquisitions; and
  • 19 programs using the middle tier of acquisition (MTA) pathway, used for
    rapid prototyping and rapid fielding efforts.

GAO found that MDAPs continue to struggle with schedule delays. Over half of
the 29 MDAPs that GAO reviewed that had yet to deliver capability reported
delays during the past year (see figure). The lack of future year funding data in
the fiscal year 2022 budget request precluded GAO from assessing the MDAP
portfolio’s cost performance this year.

GAO observed a correlation between programs that obtained certain knowledge
at key points and better cost and schedule outcomes. Knowledge-based
acquisitions attain crucial information about topics such as technology maturity
before proceeding beyond key points. But the majority of MDAPs GAO reviewed
continue to not fully achieve knowledge that informs key investment decisions.
This finding is consistent with GAO’s reporting over the last 20 years.

DOD continues to leverage MTA rapid prototyping and rapid fielding efforts, with
the aim of delivering capabilities faster. MTA programs do not have comparable
milestones to facilitate consistent schedule analysis. However, three MTA
programs GAO reviewed reported challenges that may threaten the planned
program completion dates. These challenges may also hinder the programs’
ability to rapidly deliver capabilities as initially envisioned.

Further, MTA programs’ approaches to obtaining knowledge pose potential risks.
DOD is increasing its use of the MTA pathway. Yet, GAO observed that these
programs generally do not plan to attain sufficient product knowledge before
starting follow-on efforts, falling short of leading acquisition practices. This
approach increases the risk that these follow-on efforts may encounter cost,
schedule, or technical challenges during development or production.

Additionally, GAO’s past work has emphasized the importance of modernizing
DOD’s software development efforts. The department built on ongoing
modernization initiatives over the past year. For example, DOD leadership has
emphasized key practices, such as iterative development. However, most of the
39 programs that reported using a modern software development approach
deliver working software for user feedback more slowly than recommended by
industry’s Agile practices, which call for rapid, frequent delivery of software and
fast feedback cycles (see figure). As a result, these programs may lose out on
some of the benefits of using a modern approach.

Download the document here.

Overview of U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine

The following is the June 6, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine. From the report The United States has been a leading provider of security assistance to Ukraine, both before and after Russia renewed its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. From 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, […]

The following is the June 6, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, U.S. Security Assistance to Ukraine.

From the report

The United States has been a leading provider of security assistance to Ukraine, both before and after Russia renewed its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. From 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine, through June 1, 2022, the United States has provided more than $7.3 billion in security assistance “to help Ukraine preserve its territorial integrity, secure its borders, and improve interoperability with NATO.” Since the start of the 2022 war, the Biden Administration has committed a total of more than $4.6 billion in security assistance to “provide Ukraine the equipment it needs to defend itself.”

FY2022 security assistance packages are being funded via more than $23 billion in regular and supplemental appropriations, including the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 (P.L. 117-103, Division N), and the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2022 (P.L. 117-128). In total, FY2022 appropriations include $12.55 billion to replenish Department of Defense (DOD) equipment stocks sent to Ukraine via presidential drawdown authority; $6.3 billion for DOD’s Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI); and $4.65 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Ukraine and “countries impacted by the situation in Ukraine.” FY2022 supplemental appropriations also have included funds to support an increased U.S. military presence in Europe to bolster NATO deterrence efforts.

Overview of Programs Since 2014 

The United States has used a variety of security assistance programs and authorities to help build the defensive capacity of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) through train, equip, and advise efforts across multiple spending accounts. Prior to the 2022 war, the two primary accounts were the State Department’s FMF (22 U.S.C. §2763) and DOD’s USAI (P.L. 114-92, §1250).

USAI packages have included training, equipment, and advisory efforts to enhance Ukraine’s defensive capabilities. FY2022 appropriations also directed that USAI funds be provided for logistics support, supplies, and services; salaries and stipends; sustainment; weapons replacement; and intelligence support. Prior to FY2022, a portion of annual USAI funds was contingent on DOD and State certifying Ukraine’s progress on key defense reforms.

The United States also has been providing defense items to Ukraine via Presidential Drawdown Authority (PDA), by which the President can authorize the immediate transfer of articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval in response to an “unforeseen emergency” (22 U.S.C. §2318(a)(1)). Since August 2021, the Biden Administration has authorized 11 drawdowns valued at $4.26 billion

Ukraine also has received assistance pursuant to DOD’s security cooperation authorities, notably Building Partner Capacity (10 U.S.C. §333) and Defense Institution Building (10 U.S.C. §332), and International Military Education and Training (IMET), which has provided professional military education at U.S. defense institutions for Ukrainian military officers. Other State Department- and DOD-funded security assistance has supported conventional weapons destruction, border security, law enforcement training, and counter-weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

Through the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, established in 2015, the U.S. Army and National Guard, together with military trainers from U.S. allied states, provided training, mentoring, and doctrinal assistance to the UAF before the war (at a training facility in western Ukraine that was targeted by a Russian missile strike in March 2022). This training mission was suspended at the outset of Russia’s invasion. In April 2022, DOD announced it would resume training Ukrainian personnel, outside Ukraine, specifically to operate U.S. and allied systems. Separately, U.S. Special Operations Forces have trained and advised Ukrainian special forces.

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Report to Congress on Anti-Drone Weapons

The following is the May 31, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Department of Defense Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems. From the report Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, have proliferated rapidly and are available to nation states and to nonstate actors and individuals. These systems could provide U.S. adversaries with a low-cost means of conducting […]

The following is the May 31, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Department of Defense Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

From the report

Unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly called drones, have proliferated rapidly and are available to nation states and to nonstate actors and individuals. These systems could provide U.S. adversaries with a low-cost means of conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions against—or attacking—U.S. forces. Furthermore, many smaller UASs cannot be detected by traditional air defense systems due to their size, construction material, and flight altitude. As a result, in FY2023, the Department of Defense (DOD) plans to spend at least $668 million on counter-UAS (C-UAS) research and development and at least $78 million on C-UAS procurement. As DOD continues to develop, procure, and deploy these systems, congressional oversight of their use may increase, and Congress may have to make decisions about future authorizations, appropriations, and other legislative actions.

C-UAS Technology 

C-UAS can employ a number of methods to detect the presence of hostile or unauthorized UAS. The first is using electro-optical, infrared, or acoustic sensors to detect a target by its visual, heat, or sound signatures, respectively. A second method is to use radar systems. However, these methods are not always capable of detecting small UAS due to the limited signatures and size of such UAS. A third method is identifying the wireless signals used to control the UAS, commonly using radio frequency sensors. These methods can be—and often are—combined to provide a more effective, layered detection capability.

Once detected, the UAS may be engaged or disabled. Electronic warfare “jamming” can interfere with a UAS’s communications link to its operator. Jamming devices can be as light as 5 to 10 pounds and therefore man-portable, or as heavy as several hundred pounds and in fixed locations or mounted on vehicles. UAS can also be neutralized or destroyed using guns, nets, directed energy, traditional air defense systems, or even trained animals such as eagles. DOD is developing and procuring a number of different C-UAS technologies to try to ensure a robust defensive capability.

Download the document here.