News on the UCLASS program:
The Navy this week will seek permission from the Pentagon's acquisition executive to launch a four-way competition for the Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike air vehicle and issue a classified request for proposals as the service moves forward with its plan to integrate unprecedented capabilities into its aircraft carrier strike groups, according to a senior official.
Assuming the Navy's plan passes muster with Pentagon brass -- including the deputy defense secretary, who has requested a "precursor" meeting to assess the latest UCLASS plans in advance of a Defense Acquisition Board review -- the competition for a final design will begin in earnest among four eligible bidders: Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and General Atomics.
Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, principal military deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisitions, told lawmakers on July 16 that two high-level Pentagon meetings this week are expected to result in the service's commencement of the competitive phase of the UCLASS program.
Senate appropriations committee members are concerned the Navy will proceed with the development of the Unmanned Carrier Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike program before establishing 'stable requirements,' a position that is reflected in the panel's recent mark of the fiscal year 2015 spending bill.
On July 17 the full committee approved the FY-15 defense bill. That bill points to the release of a second draft request for proposals for the air segment of the UCLASS program which included changes to the key performance parameters from the original draft RFP.
"The changes in requirements forced industry to significantly change their air vehicle designs to better meet the amended parameters," the report accompanying the FY-15 defense spending bill reads.
Lawmakers want to slow down the proposed transfer of Apache helos from the Army National Guard into the active force:
The Senate Appropriations Committee, pushing back against Army plans to transfer AH-64 Apache helicopters from the National Guard into the active force and retire the OH-58 Kiowa, has approved a defense spending bill that would delay the sale of any divested aircraft until the completion of a cost analysis of the Army's proposed aviation restructure.
The committee's proposed fiscal year 2015 defense appropriations bill -- approved by the panel on July 17 -- would also pump $144 million in unrequested funds into the service's budget for additional National Guard Apaches.
The Senate committee states in a report accompanying the bill that it believes the Army has "not considered the full fiscal implications" of its present plans. Accordingly, the panel "directs Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) to do an independent cost analysis of both the [Army aviation restructure initiative] and the alternate Army National Guard estimates to complete the proposed transfer and associated out-years costs." The CAPE director would be required to provide a report to the congressional defense committees 120 days after the enactment of the bill.
Related Army helo news:
Senate appropriators hope to plus-up several Army aviation modernization efforts with funds the service has not requested, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee's fiscal year 2015 defense spending bill.
An Inside the Army front-pager on combat vehicle funding:
The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved a fiscal year 2015 spending bill that includes a number of unrequested increases to the Army's combat vehicle accounts.
Contractors General Dynamics Land Systems and BAE Systems have consistently told Congress that there is a dearth of spending in the combat vehicle sector that threatens the industry's skilled workforce.
The Abrams tank, manufactured by GDLS, could get a $120 million boost from the Senate panel. A report accompanying the defense spending bill said the plus-up would "maintain the industrial base." GDLS' Stryker program is in line for a $25 million procurement spending increase on top of the Army's $385 million FY-15 request to help fund a fourth brigade combat team purchase of Stryker Double-Hull Vehicles.
BAE's Bradley Fighting Vehicle program saw a $37 million procurement increase over the Army's $107 million request, and the company's M88 Hercules Improved Recovery Vehicle received a $75 million boost over the service's $50 million request.
Senate appropriators want the Army to look at how it budgets its priorities:
Concerned that the Army's plan to cease buying trucks from the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles in fiscal year 2015, only to resume procurement two years later, is shortsighted, Senate appropriators want the service to launch an investigation into how it budgets its priorities.
The Senate Appropriations Committee's report accompanying the FY-15 defense spending bill states that the Army will stop buying FMTVs in fiscal years 2015 and 2016, then resume production in FY-17 and FY-18. The panel contends that the resulting shutdown to the Oshkosh Defense FMTV production line will negatively impact the tactical wheeled vehicle industrial base.
Shuttering the line for two years will result in "higher acquisition costs when the Army re-starts procurement in fiscal year 2017 as planned," the report states.
Army network modernization stands to take a budgetary hit if Senate appropriators have their say:
The Senate Appropriations Committee last week approved a fiscal year 2015 spending bill that would slash hundreds of millions of dollars from Army network modernization accounts, including more than 75 percent of the service's request for Joint Tactical Radio System radios.
The JTRS Handheld, Manpack and Small, Form-Fit (HMS) radios is in line for the biggest hit, with $135 million -- including $21 million from the handheld Rifleman radio and $114 from the Manpack radio -- shaved from the Army's FY-15 request of $175.7 million. The report accompanying the bill said the cut was "due to contract award delays" following the recent implementation of the service's new JTRS acquisition strategy.
"The Committee commends the Army on implementing an acquisition strategy for Manpack and Rifleman radio procurement that ensures technical and price competition over the next 5 years," the appropriators writes. "However, this strategy revision has taken a significant amount of time to implement and has left [$438 million] of previously appropriated funds unobligated, of which [$67 million] was offered by the Department of Defense (DOD) for rescission."
The Army wants congressional permission to move more than $130 million out of its budget accounts for top network modernization programs, including $82 million from the Joint Tactical Radio System, according to the fiscal year 2014 omnibus reprogramming request.
-- John Liang