Just in case you've been under a rock somewhere until now:
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will resign over what Obama administration officials are saying is a fresh approach to fighting Islamic extremists in Iraq.
In a White House briefing this morning, Hagel said he would stay on as defense secretary until the Senate confirms his successor.
Hagel said "after much discussion, the president and I agreed that now was the right time for new leadership here at the Pentagon."
Posted over the weekend:
A task force established to develop alternatives to the embattled Littoral Combat Ship is awaiting a decision at the Office of the Secretary of Defense level, Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work said Nov. 23.
The Navy and the office of the secretary of defense have conducted an overall thoughtful review of the future small surface combatant, Work said on a Sunday morning news program.
The task force evaluated 192 options and of those eight were strongly considered, he said.
A new Joint Strike Fighter contract has been awarded:
The Defense Department has awarded F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin its eighth low-rate initial production contract, valued at $4.7 billion for 43 airframes, according to a Nov. 21 press release from the joint program office.
The contract includes 29 U.S. jets -- 19 F-35As, six F-35Bs and four F-35Cs. The remaining 14 aircraft will be delivered to international partners: two F-35As to Israel, four to Japan, two to Italy and four F-35Bs to the United Kingdom.
"Lockheed Martin will begin delivering LRIP 8 aircraft in early spring 2016," the release states. "Once production of LRIP-8 aircraft is completed, more than 200 F-35s will be in operation by eight nations."
Inside the Army's top story this week is on the Future Vertical Lift helicopter program:
The Defense Department and industry alike are worried the planned Future Vertical Lift helicopter program may fall victim to defense-spending reductions, according to an Army official.
"My read of the industrial base would say that industry is very concerned, as is DOD, that our Future Vertical Lift is on a ledge," said Dan Bailey, the program director of the Joint Multi-Role science and technology effort, a precursor program. "Future Vertical Lift is not a given at this point, but honestly it's, in my mind, the most efficient and the most affordable path forward."
Bailey, who spoke at a Nov. 18 panel discussion hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said the Army has been focused on major upgrades instead of creating new aircraft for the fleet "for some time," and "all of us need to spin ourselves back up on that."
Continuing our coverage of the Army's aviation reform plan:
Army officials are closely watching negotiations in Congress over defense-policy legislation for the current fiscal year, as they envision initial elements of a set of controversial aviation reforms to begin next summer.
As of press time (Nov. 21), House and Senate lawmakers had yet to unveil a compromise version of the fiscal year 2015 defense authorization bill. What is clear so far is that the legislation would in some way address Army plans to transfer Apache helicopters from National Guard units to the active service, providing Black Hawks in return. Lawmakers likely will create a commission on the future of the Army to explore that and other topics.
Unknown, however, is whether lawmakers will also choose to interfere more immediately with portions of the Army's plans that are slated to begin as early as June or July, roughly three quarters through the fiscal year governed by the pending bill. Also possible is that congressional conferees could equip an Army commission with a fast-tracked mandate to review the service's restructuring plan within a matter of months, providing a recommendation before any Apaches are traded.
Look for the Army to include money in FY-16 for an aviation variant of its Joint Tactical Radio System:
The Army is looking to introduce an aviation variant of its Joint Tactical Radio System back into the service's budget in fiscal year 2016, after deciding to hold off procurement of the radio in FY-15 and focus on funding voice-only communications for helicopters.
The service expects to release a request for proposals for the Small Airborne Networking Radio in FY-16 and award a single contract with a one-year base and four one-year options, according to a Nov. 19 "Advanced Planning Briefing to Industry" document posted online by the Army. The estimated cost of the program is $850 million to $920 million, the document states.
Deltek, which provides software and market research to government contractors and other businesses, estimated that the industry solicitation could come as soon as October 2015. An Army official confirmed the service's projections are geared toward 2015 actions and that "the SANR capability need is still valid."
Defense contractors still aren't sure about certain aspects of the GMD system's exoatmospheric kill vehicle:
Some industry officials are still unsure about the extent to which the Missile Defense Agency plans to redesign the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system's exoatmospheric kill vehicle.
"If you were just going to just do a more modest upgrade, you might be able to do something more quickly than if you were doing a more fundamental redesign," Eric Thoemmes, vice president for space and missile defense programs at Lockheed Martin's Washington operations, said during a Nov. 19 panel discussion at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. "So a little bit of this is the philosophy: What does the Missile Defense Agency desire to achieve here? A more fundamental redesign of the kill vehicle or a more, if you will, modest upgrade to the existing kill vehicle? I think that's still a bit up in the air," Thoemmes said.
Lockheed Martin is among the companies hoping to get picked for the program.
-- John Liang