Starting off this week's final INSIDER update (we'll return to our regular programming on Monday) with a story posted this morning on the Apache Guardian:
The Army's newest iteration of its Apache attack helicopter -- the AH-64E Guardian -- achieved initial operational capability last month as scheduled and is expected to deploy overseas in early 2014, the Army said today.
The helicopters were issued to the 1-299th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA -- known as the Tigersharks -- in January, according to an Army statement.
The battalion, designated as the first unit equipped with the AH-64Es, completed fielding and individual training in May. The unit finished rotations at the National Training Center at Ft. Irwin, CA, underwent high-altitude mountainous environment training in Idaho and participated in Operation Rising Thunder, an exercise with Japanese AH-64Ds at Yakima Training Center, WA, according to the statement.
A couple other stories posted this morning:
The Pentagon has established a 15-day response time to award a contract for any capability the defense secretary designates as urgently needed to fill a capability gap that "has or is likely to result" in combat casualties. This policy is designed to clarify and strengthen Defense Department procedures for rapidly fulfilling urgent warfighter needs.
Frank Kendall, the Pentagon's acquisition executive, outlined the new objective in a Nov. 22 memo on procedures for how to use rapid acquisition authorities, which allow DOD to sidestep regulations that might interfere with the expedited procurement and fielding of capabilities requested by warfighters that cost no more than $200 million annually.
At issue are authorities Congress granted the defense secretary in 2003 to waive nearly any provision of law, policy directive or regulation that might impede the military's ability to research, develop, test and contract for urgently needed goods or services. Last summer, the deputy defense secretary invested the director of the Joint Requirements Acquisition Cell (JRAC) with responsibility for making recommendations to the defense secretary on use of this rapid acquisition authority.
The Navy's Standard Missile-6 has achieved initiative operational capability, a key acquisition milestone that the service originally expected to clear more than two years ago.
Naval Sea Systems Command, in a Nov. 26 statement, said the SM-6 tactical missile -- an extended-range, active weapon designed to improve ship self-defense and theater air defense for both sea and littoral forces -- reached IOC with SM-6s loaded onboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Kidd (DDG-100) in San Diego, CA.
"We're very pleased to achieve IOC on schedule," said Capt. Mike Ladner, surface ship weapons program manager who is responsible for SM-6, said in a statement. "The SM-6, with its ability to extend the battle space, truly improves shipboard air defense capability. I'm very proud of the entire Standard Missile team on this historic achievement."
An early look at this week's Inside the Pentagon:
The Pentagon's pricing directorate aims to complete most of its Better Buying Power mandates by year's end, according to the office's director, Shay Assad.
Assad has been tasked with creating new guidance and laying out more concise ways to identify when different contract types should be used in the defense acquisition process. In addition, Assad's office is examining recent guidance documents to see if policy modifications are needed, and officials are reviewing the pricing organization at the Defense Contract Management Agency.
The goal of these efforts is to ensure defense officials are using contract types that best incentivize industry to achieve what the department wants, whether that is obtaining the best price, getting items delivered the quickest or performing to the highest technical ability.
Assad's office is updating existing policy to give contracting officers the techniques needed to identify what specific type of contract would be best in different situations. Some of this information is codified in guidance already, but in other cases it may need to be refreshed, Assad said.
He maintained that efforts have been yielding results. "I'm dead serious about this: We're getting a much better deal for the taxpayers today than we were getting three or four years ago," Assad said of Better Buying Power efforts. "And this is not an attack on the profitability of the defense industry. This is an attack on what we pay for the goods and services that we buy. And we understand that in order to be successful we need a healthy industrial base that needs to be financially strong."
News on the QDR and the budget:
Pentagon leaders will soon brief President Obama on the Quadrennial Defense Review and seek his approval of key elements, InsideDefense.com has learned.
The upcoming session, tentatively slated for December, will allow Defense Department officials to request final approval of proposed QDR themes and initiatives, according to DOD documents. The meeting will build on the QDR and budget talks that Obama and Vice President Biden held with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, the service chiefs and the combatant commanders on Nov. 12.
"They went over to inform the president . . . on where they are -- what I would call an in-progress review," Lt. Gen. Terry Wolff, the Joint Staff's director of strategic plans and policy, said of the Nov. 12 meeting. "There are some more things that have to be pulled together -- and there's a push to try to get this completed in the next month or so," he told InsideDefense.com in a Nov. 14 interview, citing Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter's push to tie up loose ends before stepping down on Dec. 4.
White House spokesman Jonathan Lalley declined to comment on the upcoming meeting. "The president routinely meets with Secretary Hagel, Chairman Dempsey, and other senior defense officials, but we don't have anything to announce with respect to the president's schedule at this time," he said.
An updated version of the AMPV story we posted yesterday:
The Defense Department has officially approved the Army's plans to launch the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle program, according to an internal Pentagon memo obtained by InsideDefense.com.
Frank Kendall, the Defense Department's acquisition chief, signed an acquisition decision memorandum today clearing the Army to launch a competitive effort to replace nearly 3,000 Vietnam-era M113 infantry carriers with non-developmental AMPVs.
"The Army will conduct source selection activities on responsive offerors and be prepared for down select to a single prime contractor contingent upon a successful [milestone B] decision," the ADM states.
Kendall also included language in the ADM directing the Army to manage program costs by imposing an "Average Procurement Unit Cost less than or equal to $3.2 million at a production rate of not less than 180 vehicles per year," along with "operations and sustainment cost less than or equal to [$400,000] per vehicle per year," according to the ADM.
The Army released a formal request for proposals shortly after Kendall's memo was signed.
Document: AMPV Acquisition Decision Memo (FOUO)
Document: AMPV Request For Proposals
Another Inside the Pentagon front-pager on performance-based logistics contracts:
Pentagon leaders have issued guidance they hope will foster greater adoption of so-called performance-based logistics contracts, with the goal of improving the readiness of weapon systems while bringing down maintenance costs.
The four-page "comprehensive guidance" for PBL, issued on Nov. 22 and signed by acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness Paul Peters, represents one of a flurry of moves associated with the Pentagon's Better Buying Power 2.0 initiative. That effort put the relatively new PBL contracting strategy front and center as officials attack life-cycle costs.
Compared with traditional maintenance strategies, which include repairs at certain intervals, performance-based logistics deals pay companies to keep systems running at specified levels. How to achieve this is largely left up to the contractors. Advocates of the approach hope that the government will be able to pocket savings from process improvements that companies put in place over time to streamline their operations.
Thin on details, the new guidance lays out "attributes" of effective PBL constructs, which include "objective, measurable work description;" "appropriate contract length;" and incentives to meet performance targets while reducing cost. "For PBL arrangements to be effective, the government must clearly understand the program requirements, cost and technical characteristics, along with associated tradeoffs and alternatives," the guidance states.
The Air Force last month approved the second next-generation U.S. missile warning satellite -- part of the $17.5 billion Spaced Based Infrared System (SBIRS) constellation -- for operational use earlier than planned, the service announced this week.
The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center in El Segundo, CA, today announced that the second SBIRS Geosynchronous Earth Orbit satellite (GEO-2) "achieved Air Force Space Command Operational Acceptance" on Oct. 21.
Launched into orbit on March 19, GEO-2 was originally scheduled for a 12-month operational trial period before being deemed operational. However, SBIRS program officials were able to accelerate the schedule by implementing "a number of efficiencies" learned from GEO-1, according to the service.
Some new documents of note:
Document: DOD's FIAR Plan Status Report
In its November 2013 biannual Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness Plan Status report to Congress, the Pentagon states it will mostly clear its upcoming major audit-readiness deadline.
The Sept. 24, 2013, memo signed by Principal Deputy Comptroller Mike McCord outlines the reprogramming process for Joint Urgent Operational Needs and Joint Emergent Operational Needs.
In a Nov. 8, 2013, reprogramming memo, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale approves the internal transfer of $522.5 million in funding among various Defense Department counter-drug activities.
In a Nov. 21, 2013, reprogramming memo, Pentagon Comptroller Robert Hale approves the internal transfer of nearly $427 million among various service environmental restoration accounts.
-- John Liang