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Kendall: Workforce Development Needed to Sustain Tech Superiority

Wed, 2015-04-01 00:00

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.

Workforce Development

"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.

Technological Superiority

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.

Cybersecurity

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)
 

Airstrikes Hit ISIL in Syria, Iraq

Sun, 2015-03-29 00:00

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.
 

NBA’s Houston Rockets Visit Arlington Cemetery, Pentagon

Sat, 2015-03-28 00:00

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)
 

U.S. Added Speed, Scale to West Africa Ebola Fight

Fri, 2015-02-27 00:00

Since Sept. 2014, when U.S. Army Africa leadership arrived in Liberia to help contain the historic outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa, the United States is transitioning its contributions to civilian and nongovernmental organizations there as the World Health Organization reports a drop in confirmed cases.

Last month, Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby described how the whole-of-government approach led by the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, and the Defense Department had mobilized and adapted its resources in an austere environment while supporting a critical mission.

“Our rapid deployment of personnel, from engineers to logisticians, provided for the international civilian response by NGOs, USAID and the United Nations to grow their capability and capacity on the ground,” Kirby said.

The United States has backed more than 10,000 civilian responders on the ground in Ebola-affected areas, Kirby added, providing direct and indirect health care support and other functions handled by the military Operation United Assistance in Liberia.

DoD Critical Support

The Defense Department has critically supported the U.S. government Ebola response, he added, “bringing our unique capabilities, specifically speed and scale, to support the civilian-led response in West Africa.”

For the first time since the week ending June 29, 2014, fewer than 100 new confirmed cases have been reported in a week in the three most-affected countries, WHO officials wrote in an Ebola Situation Report.

“Together with our international partners, and the people of the three nations themselves, we have bent the curve of the epidemic and placed it on a much improved trajectory,” White House officials said in a Feb. 11 fact sheet.

DoD Accomplishments in West Africa

Accomplishments in West Africa are many –- the work performed by U.S. service members, DoD civilians, scientists from the U.S. Army Military Research Institute on Infectious Diseases, the Navy and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, with partners from USAID, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institutes of Health, the Public Health Service and many others.

For DoD, according to the White House fact sheet, $112 million will be allocated for Ebola vaccines and diagnostics.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will receive $33 million for phase I clinical trials of experimental vaccines and therapeutics. Diagnostic efforts will receive $12 million.

The Chemical and Biological Defense Program will receive $50 million to continue work on vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic systems for mitigating the spread of Ebola. And $17 million will go to procure detection and diagnostic systems, mortuary supplies, and isolation transport units.

Adding Capability and Infrastructure in Liberia

In Liberia, U.S. civilian and military personnel trained more than 1,500 health care workers, helping them provide safe and direct medical care to Ebola patients.

In the region, the United States helped facilitate the building of 15 Ebola treatment units in the region, 10 of them built by DoD personnel. The facilities have made possible the testing and isolation of hundreds of patients.

DoD also provided to the region 1.4 million sets of personal protective equipment.

DoD personnel built the Monrovia Medical Unit to treat Ebola-infected health care workers, with staffing by members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. DoD is now transitioning nonclinical management to USAID.

DoD Medical Contributions

DoD also provided seven mobile laboratories to the region, reducing the time to diagnosis from days to hours. The labs have tested more than 4,000 samples since September.

The Defense Department also has made significant contributions to vaccine and drug development for Ebola virus disease.

USAMRIID and DTRA made medical countermeasure, funding and other major contributions to two vaccine candidates -- ChAd3 and VSV-ZEBOV –- that have completed phase 1 human clinical trials.

The First Ebola Therapeutics

USAMRIID and DTRA also have contributed to developing and funding several candidate drugs -– including ZMapp and TKM Ebola -- to treat patients infected with the disease. Some already have been used in patients under compassionate use in the United States, Western Europe and Africa.

TKM-Ebola was tested in nonhuman primates and has shown evidence of activity against Ebola. This candidate drug is produced by the Canadian company Tekmira Inc. under a contract from the DoD Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical and Biological Defense.

Transitioning Operation United Assistance

On Jan. 25, President Barack Obama approved a plan formulated by USAID, the U.S. government lead in West Africa, and the Defense Department to transition the Liberia-based Operation United Assistance to civilians and international organizations working there.

The plan includes follow-on activities and supporting staffs for a modified headquarters in Liberia and augmentation for Operation Onward Liberty, a State Department-funded U.S. Africa Command program aimed at building partnership capacity with the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The plan also outlines a defense preparedness program and other security-cooperation activities.

“DoD personnel are coming home but the United States is not leaving West Africa,” defense officials said. “The U.S. government civilian-led response will grow in size and number in the weeks ahead, and continue the fight against Ebola.”

Of the 2,800 troops deployed, about 1,500 are already back in the United States, and nearly all of those remaining will return home by April 30.

U.S.-Liberia Partnership

After April 30, a transition element of approximately 100 DoD personnel will remain in Liberia to respond to Ebola-related contingences and expand security cooperation efforts.

On March 2, military personnel will make the Operation United Assistance intermediate staging base in Dakar, Senegal, a cooperative security location, where it will be available to support a range of missions.

The Cooperative Threat Reduction, or CTR, Program plans to increase its biosurveillance capacity, including related biosecurity and biosafety capabilities in West Africa. Over time the program will expand its capacity, augmenting partner-country capability to detect and report outbreaks of dangerous infectious diseases.

As DoD draws down its presence in Liberia, the United States will continue to support the regional governments alongside the international humanitarian and public health community, defense officials said.

(Follow Cheryl Pellerin on Twitter: @PellerinDoDNews)
 

Army Approves Purple Hearts for Fort Hood Shooting Victims

Fri, 2015-02-06 00:00

Army Secretary John M. McHugh announced today that he has approved awarding the Purple Heart and its civilian counterpart, the Secretary of Defense Medal for the Defense of Freedom, to victims of a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, following a change in the medals' eligibility criteria mandated by Congress.

Thirteen people were killed and more than 30 were wounded in the attack by Army Maj. Nidal Hasan, who was convicted in August 2013, of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder.

"The Purple Heart's strict eligibility criteria had prevented us from awarding it to victims of the horrific attack at Fort Hood," McHugh explained. "Now that Congress has changed the criteria, we believe there is sufficient reason to allow these men and women to be awarded and recognized with either the Purple Heart or, in the case of civilians, the Defense of Freedom Medal. It's an appropriate recognition of their service and sacrifice."

Law Expanded Eligibility

Under a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015, Congress expanded the eligibility for the Purple Heart by redefining what should be considered an attack by a "foreign terrorist organization" for purposes of determining eligibility for the Purple Heart. The legislation states that an event should now be considered an attack by a foreign terrorist organization if the perpetrator of the attack "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack" and "the attack was inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization."

In a review of the Fort Hood incident and the new provisions of law, the Army determined that there was sufficient evidence to conclude Hasan "was in communication with the foreign terrorist organization before the attack," and that his radicalization and subsequent acts could reasonably be considered to have been "inspired or motivated by the foreign terrorist organization."

Previous criteria required a finding that Hasan had been acting at the direction of a foreign terrorist organization.

Identifying and Notifying Those Now Eligible

McHugh directed Army officials to identify soldiers and civilians now eligible for the awards as soon as possible, and to contact them about presentation of the awards. Soldiers receiving the Purple Heart automatically qualify for combat-related special compensation upon retirement. Recipients also are eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Following his 2013 conviction, Hasan was sentenced to death by a general court-martial. He is incarcerated at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, while post-trial and appellate processes continue.