The Defense Department's top acquisition official yesterday made his third visit to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, home to U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command, or NAVAIR.
Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology Frank Kendall spoke to members of the base’s civilian and military workforce, many of whom conduct acquisition, testing and development work for several next-generation aircraft and weapons systems, including the Navy and Marine Corps variants of the F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighter and the MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicle.
Kendall outlined the importance of developing the next generation of engineers, scientists and acquisition professionals to ensuring that the nation maintains its technological superiority.
"Science, technology and math education ... I think is hugely important to the future of the country, not just the Department of Defense," he said. "I'm encouraging people to be engaged in that world and do whatever you can to encourage young people to go into science, engineering and math because of the service they can provide to society, and because it's fun."
Kendall said the single-most important decision in his career was one he made in junior high school, when he elected to take honors math and science instead of honors English and history. That decision put him on a technical track that he's stayed on ever since, the undersecretary said.
Mid-career professionals in the defense workforce are outnumbered on either side by the very capable senior professionals who are close to retirement and personnel just starting their careers, Kendall said.
"We've really got a challenge to transfer the knowledge from those senior people to those younger people and develop them as quickly as possible," he said. "I'm a big fan of exchanges with industry ... [and] developmental assignments for people. I think you get an awful lot out of that. You can learn a great deal in a year or even six months in a different environment."
To do this, the department is investigating adding flexibility to its hiring authorities, Kendall said. Defense Secretary Ash Carter also wants to attract young workers from fields that don't traditionally join the defense department, particularly tech workers, he said.
The quest to maintain American technological superiority is the driving force behind the third Better Buying Power initiative, the undersecretary said.
Kendall said that when he returned to government after a stint in private industry it became apparent that there were "some people out there who were challenging our technological superiority, and they're doing it very effectively." These challengers are making smart investments, particularly in anti-access/area-denial capabilities, he said.
The first Gulf War was a "dramatic demonstration of [U.S.] military power," the undersecretary said. No one was watching those events more carefully than the Chinese, Kendall noted, and the Russians weren't far behind. But, he said, "People have had over 20 years now to watch and learn from how the U.S. organizes, equips and fights."
Better Buying Power 3.0
The three versions of Better Buying Power should be considered three legs of the same stool, Kendall said. "The third edition of Better Buying Power ... is much more continuity than change," he added.
The emphasis of the first Better Buying Power was on efficiency and productivity, BBP 2.0 emphasized the importance of professionalism, the undersecretary said, and BBP 3.0 focuses on technical excellence and innovation.
"A lot of the things from the earlier versions we're still going to do, some of them I regard as core parts of Better Buying Power," Kendall said, noting that NAVAIR and other agencies have embraced these principles and are making significant progress toward achieving them.
One addition to BBP 3.0 is an emphasis on cybersecurity, the undersecretary said. "If we're giving away our designs we're giving up whatever advantage that they give to us. We're giving up money and we're giving up time and we're giving up capability," he said.
The nation's civilian and military networks are under cyberattack every day, Kendall said.
"We have lost, in particular, a lot of unclassified technical information through, basically, cyber espionage and we have paid a price for that," the undersecretary said. "We have paid a price in terms of technical lead and in terms of cost differentials that we were able to achieve. We have got to do a better job than this."
Cybersecurity is "a constant problem" in every phase of the acquisition and fielding process -- from design to production to deployment -- he said. Giving the problem the attention it needs will cost the nation some money, Kendall said, "but if we don't do it we're going to have new problems and we're going to find out about those problems at a very inconvenient time."
(Follow Claudette Roulo on Twitter: @roulododnews)
U.S. and coalition military forces have continued to attack Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant terrorists in Syria and Iraq, Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve officials reported today.
Officials reported details of the latest strikes, which took place between 8 a.m. yesterday and 8 a.m. today, local time, noting that assessments of results are based on initial reports.
Airstrikes in Syria
Fighter aircraft conducted an airstrike near Kobani, Syria, which struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL vehicle.
Airstrikes in Iraq
Attack, fighter, bomber and remotely piloted aircraft conducted 14 airstrikes against ISIL terrorists in Iraq, approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense:
-- Near Bayji, an airstrike struck an ISIL tactical unit and destroyed an ISIL fighting position.
-- Near Fallujah, an airstrike destroyed an ISIL excavator.
-- Near Mosul, three airstrikes struck two ISIL tactical units and destroyed two ISIL fighting positions, two ISIL vehicles, two ISIL heavy machine guns and an ISIL building.
-- Near Tal Afar, three airstrikes struck an ISIL large tactical unit, an ISIL storage facility, an ISIL fighting position and destroyed an ISIL building and an ISIL heavy machine gun; and
-- Near Tikrit, six airstrikes struck six ISIL tactical units and destroyed an ISIL fighting position and an ISIL anti-aircraft artillery weapon.
All aircraft returned to base safely.
Part of Operation Inherent Resolve
The strikes were conducted as part of Operation Inherent Resolve, the operation to eliminate the ISIL terrorist group and the threat they pose to Iraq, Syria, the region, and the wider international community. The destruction of ISIL targets in Syria and Iraq further limits the terrorist group's ability to project terror and conduct operations.
Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Iraq include the United States, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Jordan, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. Coalition nations conducting airstrikes in Syria include the United States, Bahrain, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
Crisp winds snapped across the sprawling grounds here today as members of the National Basketball Association’s Houston Rockets visited gravesites of fallen service members, met with an Army widow, and laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The Rockets face off against the Washington Wizards tomorrow. But the Houston team members opted to tour the cemetery and Pentagon today as part of “Commitment to Service,” the Defense Department’s partnership with the NBA.
Jane Horton, whose husband, Army National Guard sniper Spc. Chris Horton, was killed in action in Afghanistan Sept. 9, 2011, led Rockets Head Coach Kevin McHale and his team throughout Arlington’s grounds, including her husband’s gravesite and the Memorial Amphitheater.
Widow Recalls Husband’s Service, Sacrifice
Horton, 28, told the team her husband was only 26 when he succumbed to enemy fire in Paktia province while supporting Operation Enduring Freedom.
“Even though my husband died at such a young age, he still had eight more years than so many buried here who died at age 18,” she said. “There was nothing more that Chris wanted to do than serve his country during wartime and unfortunately he was one of 2,215 that were killed in Afghanistan.”
The significance of the setting seemed to resonate with the basketball team members who read gravestones belonging to service members close in age to the athletes.
Former Boston Celtic McHale joined Rockets shooting guard James Harden and center Dwight Howard in the wreath-laying ceremony.
“I think we’re all here because of the sacrifices people made not only over in the Middle East, but starting with World War I and World War II,” McHale said. “My father fought in World War II and so did my uncle so I’m very proud of their service.”
‘It’s a Great Honor and a Blessing to be Here’
Harden described his participation in the ceremony as “an amazing experience.”
“I got to do something that the President does every year,” he said. “It’s a great honor and a blessing to be here.”
Howard shared Harden’s sentiment, calling his visit an honor and humbling.
“I’ve never experienced anything like this,” Howard said. “To be in the presence of these great people is amazing and it’s something I’ll never forget for the rest of my life.”
Army Maj. Gen. Jeffrey S. Buchanan, commanding general, Joint Force Headquarters-National Capital Region/U.S. Army Military District of Washington, noted the precision and significance of the changing of the guard ritual that ensures the tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, in any weather.
Tomb Guard sentinels, all volunteers, are elite members of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) headquartered at Fort Myer, Virginia.
(Follow Amaani Lyle on Twitter: @LyleDoDNews)