Politico l Cyberthreats turn into megabucks for defense companies

May 31, 2012 § Leave a comment

Will a 'cyber-industrial complex' make a pretty penny for some defense contractors? | AP Photo

As Congress boosts spending on cybersecurity and mulls over new data safety requirements on private industry, some companies stand to get rich.

Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and other defense and tech companies have been lobbying Capitol Hill about the growing cyberthreats to national security and corporate America, but they also make millions of dollars each year selling a variety of cybersecurity programs, tools and solutions to government and business.

Some lawmakers say the legislative push has spawned a “cyber-industrial complex.”

“I believe these bills will encourage the development of an industry that profits from fear and whose currency is Americans’ private data,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), speaking on the Senate floor last week in opposition to pending cybersecurity legislation. “These bills create a cyber-industrial complex that has an interest in preserving the problem to which it is the solution.”

The online threats of the digital age — stolen state secrets, hacked personal computers and more — may pose serious, real and novel challenges to the federal government and private sector alike.

But the reaction to those threats has been far more old school: Companies in several different industries are aggressively playing the legislative lobbying game as part of their larger market strategy.

And it’s paying off in millions of dollars of federal contracts alone.

Lockheed Martin earlier this month won a key contract to assist with the Pentagon’s Cyber Crime Center for more than $400 million. In March, Northrop Grumman landed a $189 million cybersecurity contract to strengthen cyberprotections across the Department of Defense and the intelligence community over three years. Meanwhile, Booz Allen Hamilton last year was awarded a cybercontract with the Navy that stands to bring in $189.4 million over five years.

In the past few months, Congress has hit the gas pedal on efforts to set down new security rules that could govern critical infrastructure maintained by private industry, like power plants and water systems, as well as federal computer systems. Lawmakers are also weighing the ways in which industry and the federal government can more easily share classified and unclassified information about emerging threats ahead of a crippling attack.

It isn’t clear what shape — if any — a cybersecurity reform law may take. But the uncertainty is in part driving companies to throw considerable resources at their Washington operations, hoping to shape a final measure in a way that benefits their businesses while avoiding costly mandates and strict new regulations.

Utilities are engaging members of Congress on the security requirements that could fall on so-called critical infrastructure, while tech companies like Google, Microsoft, Intel and Amazon are mostly plugged into the debate over information shared about cyberthreats. Even Facebook is an ardent supporter of the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, the controversial House information-sharing bill. They all have a stake and represent different sides in the debate, as potential subjects of any new regulation.

But a prominent group lobbying lawmakers is contracting companies and others that work in defense and infrastructure. And some of those players would very likely be called on to work with the federal government and other entities on improving the security of computer systems.

Federal lobbying disclosures show a number of companies — including Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing — are devoting some of their big Beltway resources to talking up regulators about cybersecurity funding for the Defense and Homeland Security departments.

Those agencies’ appropriations bills touch on a number of elements that matter to the companies but they also contain key funds for cyber and IT programs. And each company boasts growing, billion-dollar businesses in the areas of information technology and system security, and services a number of federal clients.

Deltek, a government consulting firm, predicted at the end of last year that federal spending on cybercontracts could surge, from roughly $9.2 billion to $14 billion from fiscal years 2011 to 2016.

A spokeswoman for Lockheed Martin said the company “is supportive of overall cybersecurity legislation and has been particularly supportive of CISPA due to the fact that information sharing is critical to improved security for our nation.” The representative declined further comment.

Boeing was not available to comment on its work, and Raytheon declined to comment on its lobbying activities. Northrop Grumman also did not comment.

There’s a clear business rationale for this sort of power play: Computer attacks on federal systems are on the rise, with attacks on government data in particular up 650 percent over the past five years, a Government Accountability Office report found in 2011.

At the same time, federal cybersecurity spending is one of the few budget areas expected to see increases over the next few years. The Obama administration hoped to boost DHS cybersecurity spending by more than $300 million in 2013, bringing it to more than $769 million, and both the House and Senate appropriation committees are in line to deliver an amount close to that mark. The Pentagon, meanwhile, is requesting bumping 2013 funding to $3.4 billion for the U.S. Cyber Command, which coordinates cyberdefenses for the U.S. and its allies. Cybercom funding is forecast to total $18 billion from 2013 to 2017.

Those trends have galvanized the market for cybersecurity services, even as the federal government aims to slash IT spending in the coming years. John Slye, Deltek’s senior principal research analyst, said companies are looking “where there’s opportunity to sustain themselves” — and that area could be cybersecurity.

Others are taking their message directly to lawmakers and their staffs.

Symantec, the security software firm, plans to hold a briefing in the coming days on Capitol Hill, where it will tout its new report on an uptick in cybersecurity threats while highlighting the work the company does to block bad code, phishing attacks and more.

The company is a critical provider of cybersecurity services to federal and enterprise users and it has testified on the Hill in support of some information-sharing legislation. The company hasn’t weighed in individually on the Senate bills. It is a member of the Information Technology Industry Council, however, which made favorable statements on both of the upper chamber’s measures.

Symantec did not respond to requests for comment on this story.

Certainly, “the cyber-industrial complex” didn’t emerge overnight. As tracked in a 2011 report by Jerry Brito and Tate Watkins, both at the Mercatus Center at the George Mason University School of Law, the community has been particularly active over the past two years.

That’s especially evident in the case of Booz Allen Hamilton. While it may not devote millions to lobbying, the firm does have Mike McConnell, the former director of national intelligence under President George W. Bush, on its leadership team.

Booz Allen Hamilton last year announced it was awarded a contract to support the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific with cyberscience, research, engineering and technology integration. The contract has a value of $71.5 million over two years and a potential value of $189.4 million over five years.

“With thousands of experienced cyberprofessionals, Booz Allen Hamilton continues to provide integrated, multidisciplinary solutions to the complex challenge that is cybersecurity,” said Bob Noonan, senior vice president of Booz Allen Hamilton, in the company’s news release.

Booz Allen Hamilton did not respond to a request for comment.

The possibility of new regulation or funding allocated to federal cybersecurity initiatives could only create more potential profits. New mandates on federal computer systems could translate into a new interest in purchasing contracts on cybersecurity and IT, for example. And any effort to facilitate information sharing could lead to a rush to build the infrastructure that allows for data to be circulated on a secure basis.

Some cybersecurity experts say the influence of industry is overstated, given the serious threats to computer systems today.

“You can’t escape the implication of self-interest” of companies that are lobbying both for and against stepped-up cybersecurity rules, said Jim Lewis, a cybersecurity specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But, he added, “there is a real threat. How much more evidence do we want?”

By Tony Romm and Jennifer Martinez

May 30th, 2012

Politico l Cyberthreats turn into megabucks for defense companies

Military & Aerospace l First Lady of Defense

May 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

As the space shuttle Discovery took its farewell ride over Washington on the back of a Boeing jet in April, Linda Hudson watched from a VIP viewing area at the National Air and Space Museum’s Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles. The shuttle now rests at the museum-where Hudson is a board member-a relic of the bygone era of manned space flight.

Hudson, president and CEO of the defense contractor BAE Systems Inc., grew up an hour from Cape Canaveral in central Florida. She lived so close to the NASA launch complex that on a clear day she could see the rockets take off. By the time she was 16, she was taking flight lessons and dreaming of becoming a pilot or an astronaut.

Seeing the shuttle make its final lap was a bittersweet moment for Hudson, now 61. But a lot of things are coming to an end these days.

Not a month before Discovery’s retirement, another vehicle significant to Hudson had its swan song: The last US military Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected Vehicle in Iraq was sent to a museum in Fort Hood, Texas.

The combat vehicles, called MRAPs, became icons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops traveling in outdated trucks and Humvees were vulnerable to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). In 2007, the Army finally ordered the MRAP, designed specifically to withstand IEDs.

BAE produced three of the five MRAP models used in the wars. That program, coupled with another popular BAE product, the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, propelled earnings in BAE’s land-and-armaments sector-the part of the company that manufactures combat vehicles and weapons systems-from $4 billion to nearly $12 billion between 2007 and 2010.

Those products also boosted BAE’s presence in the United States. BAE Systems Inc.-headquartered in Arlington with more than 40,000 employees nationally and 6,500 in the Washington area-is the US subsidiary of the United Kingdom’s BAE Systems. Within the company, the US half is known simply as “Inc.” Because it’s foreign-based, BAE is less well known in the American market than such competitors as Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, two of the region’s largest employers. But it’s one of the ten largest defense contractors in the US, typically hovering around number six. Its UK-based parent is the second-biggest defense company in the world, reporting $30.7 billion in revenue last year, about $16 billion behind Lockheed, the largest.

London headquarters or not, by the peak of the wars more than half of BAE’s earnings were generated by its American subsidiary. Today, Inc.’s business accounts for about half of total BAE revenue.

Though BAE’s combat-vehicle business remains the world’s largest, the spending boom is over. With the end of the Iraq War and with the war in Afghanistan winding down, revenue in the land-and-armaments sector has slid back to $6 billion. BAE Inc.’s overall revenues in 2011 were $14.4 billion, compared with $17.9 billion in 2010 and $19.4 billion in 2009.

The future of the entire defense industry is uncertain. In January, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced $487 billion in defense-budget cuts over the next decade, and there could be $500 billion of additional cuts if so-called sequestration kicks in. That will be triggered if Congress can’t agree on a plan to reduce the federal deficit by next January-and these days it doesn’t seem as if Congress can compromise on anything.

This changing environment puts Hudson at the helm of a contractor-and an industry-at a crossroads. On a spring afternoon, she sits in a conference room adjoining her 21st-floor office in Rosslyn, overlooking the Pentagon and the Potomac River. She has close-cropped blond hair, a pink manicure, and sparkly baubles on her fingers. She’s surprisingly petite, yet her presence is commanding.

On the wall behind her is one of several artworks, which she commissioned, made of recycled combat-vehicle parts. Those vehicles, after all, have been Hudson’s biggest focus for the last several years. But as major weapons and vehicles programs become less affordable for the Department of Defense, Hudson is working to diversify BAE’s offerings further to ride out the downturn.

This isn’t the first time she has found herself in a tight spot. In fact, she has challenged the odds throughout her career.

Before joining BAE in 2007 to lead the land-and-armaments division, Hudson was head of General Dynamics’ armament-and-technical-products division. When she took over that business, it was floundering. Hudson’s mandate from then-company executive vice president Gordon England was either to improve division performance enough to make it attractive to a buyer or to figure out a way to make it a profitable piece of General Dynamics.

Hudson didn’t want to sell off the division. She overhauled its business model, laid off a third of its employees, and shut down its internal factory, outsourcing all manufacturing instead. Under her watch, the division quadrupled its revenues and became a driver of General Dynamics’ growth.

“She was financially very astute,” says England, now president of the consulting firm E6 Partners. “Not all executives are really good at making decisions, but she’s very good.”

Her performance caught the attention of BAE, which recruited her in January 2007, a key moment, as it would turn out, for the contractor and the Pentagon.

The same month, President George W. Bush announced the Iraq War surge, in which 30,000 additional troops would be deployed to the country by the following summer. Annual war casualties had consistently hovered around 900; the American public’s support was waning. The Department of Defense needed to curb the death toll-meaning the moment was ripe for a company that made combat machines.

“It’s easy to forget how close we were in Iraq to pulling the plug on the whole thing,” says Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution focusing on national-security and defense policy. “The MRAP helped make the wars politically viable.”

When Hudson took over as president of land and armaments, BAE’s MRAP was in its infancy. Hudson pushed full steam ahead-even though the Defense Department had yet to actually place an order for the new vehicles. The company invested nearly $100 million of its own money before the Pentagon put in an order.

“We made a decision that we were going to do everything we could to get systems available to the warfighter as quickly as possible and to move out on our own money in advance of when the customer was ready,” Hudson says.

During the same period, BAE Systems Inc. acquired Armor Holdings, a maker of tactical military vehicles and vehicle armor, for $4.5 billion. That company was folded into Hudson’s land-and-armaments group, and it, too, had a design for an MRAP.

The investment paid off many times over. Because of the advance work Hudson’s group had done, once the Defense Department put out the call, BAE delivered the first vehicles within 43 days-an effort that significantly raised the company’s profile in Washington power corridors.

BAE became one of the Army’s largest suppliers of armored vehicles, building and upgrading 9,686 MRAPs. The contracts brought in more than $5.3 billion for the company.

Though she doesn’t come from a military family, Hudson developed a love of fighter jets in elementary school. She says she can’t really explain it-she simply liked fast airplanes. Her aptitude for numbers garnered special attention from her junior-high math teacher, who first told her about engineering. By the end of high school, when Hudson realized that becoming a pilot or astronaut was a nearly impossible goal for a woman in the 1960s, she had set her sights on engineering.

“I decided if I couldn’t fly airplanes, if I couldn’t participate in the space program, I could design those things,” she says.

Hudson was one of two women in the engineering program at the University of Florida. By the time she graduated in 1972, her exceptional grades had earned her several job offers. She went with the highest bidder, Harris Corporation, where she designed B-1 bombers and classified satellite programs.

Asked to describe the professional environment for women in those days, she answers succinctly: “Very ugly.” She recalls sitting in meetings and feeling invisible.”You went into every situation with people assuming you didn’t deserve to be there.”

When Hudson and her then-husband applied for a mortgage, they were turned down. Hudson made more than he did, but the lender refused to count her salary because he assumed she’d get pregnant and quit her job. Today, Hudson owns three homes-one in Arlington; one in North Carolina, where she plans to retire; and a historic island house an hour outside of Gainesville.

The lender was right about one thing-Hudson did become a mom. She has one daughter, but she never gave up work: “I always had full-time help. I don’t know how I would’ve done it if I hadn’t.” And though she’s now divorced, her husband of 25 years worked for himself, which made him the parent with the more flexible schedule.

Hudson is as candid about her struggles as a parent as she is about her professional successes. “I’m trying to be a better grandmother than I was a mother,” she says. “My daughter will tell you I didn’t always do it really well.”

As adults, the two have grown closer. Hudson shares her passion for travel with her daughter and three grandchildren. They’re taking an Alaskan cruise this summer, followed by a ranch vacation in Montana.

Hudson has come a long way, but she credits those early experiences as a woman in a male-dominated field with making her more determined: “I learned that if I was better than anyone else in the job that I did, people would have to pay attention to me.”

Now that she’s head of Inc., a role she assumed in October 2009, more than 40,000 employees pay close attention to her every move.

when she became CEO, Hudson began a drastic restructuring of the business. “We saw the downturn in defense spending coming,” she says. “So we made the decision some time ago that we had to reposition ourselves before the cuts hit.”

She started by stripping out an entire layer of senior managers between her and the lower-level heads of the various parts of BAE’s business.

John Gannon, president of BAE’s intelligence-and-security sector, says the extra layer of management blunted communication: “I call Linda and she will respond. I never had anything approaching that kind of contact with her predecessor.”

BAE’s British parent company had built up the American side of the business through acquisitions, and those formerly separate companies had never been truly integrated. As a result, Inc. had 40-some payroll systems and dozens of benefit plans. “Imagine the cost of running all these different systems,” Hudson says.

She integrated Inc.’s payroll and benefits and set up a single facility in Charlotte to handle all human-resources and finance functions, all part of creating more than $100 million in savings.

But it will take more than that to stay competitive. Hudson knows firsthand that the competition for vehicle contracts has gotten stiffer. In 2010, BAE lost a contract it had held for 17 years to build military-transport trucks when a smaller company, Oshkosh Defense, significantly underbid BAE. Hudson says that to beat Oshkosh’s price, BAE would have lost money making the trucks. Oshkosh also beat out BAE for a $3-billion-plus contract to make a lighter, off-road version of the MRAP.

As her land-and-armaments business declines, Hudson is focusing resources elsewhere. In keeping with the trend across the industry, an increasing amount of BAE’s business comes from providing services to customers in addition to building new products for them.

For instance, to give BAE the facilities to service and repair ships at the Navy’s main home ports, Hudson bought Atlantic Marine in 2010. The services side of Inc. now accounts for 32 percent of revenue, up from 22 percent when Hudson became CEO in 2009.

She’s working to expand BAE’s electronics offerings, too. Since 2010, Hudson has bought Fairchild Imaging and Oasys Technology, firms that specialize in night-vision products, thermal-imaging systems, and other electronic gear used in defense and aerospace. As the military balks at buying new vehicles, the idea is to offer a cheaper alternative: services and smaller-scale products that can enhance or expand the lives of their existing vehicles.

Hudson is also focused on strengthening BAE’s relationships within the intelligence community. As areas such as cybersecurity continue to grow, she has been meeting with top-level officials including the heads of the National Security Agency and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Gannon, head of BAE’s intelligence-and-security business, has been making the introductions. The former deputy director for intelligence at the CIA has valuable connections in that world, but he’s set to retire from BAE this summer, making it even more urgent for Hudson to build her own inroads.

Loren Thompson, a defense-industry consultant at the Lexington Institute who counts BAE and some of its biggest competitors as clients, says Hudson has positioned the company favorably: “What’s striking about BAE is how it is no longer just about military hardware. That change happened most decisively under Linda.”

That’s not to say BAE doesn’t want to build big trucks anymore. It’s currently competing for two major contracts.

The first, the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), is intended to replace the iconic Humvee. The contract could be worth more than $15 billion.

The second, the Ground Combat Vehicle, will replace BAE’s Bradley fighter in the next 20 years or so. The Army plans to buy 1,800 GCVs, yielding as much as $30 billion. It’s also possible the Army will seek a cheaper alternative, such as an upgrade to the old Bradleys.

The contract could reshape the defense industry, particularly for the two biggest armored-vehicle builders-BAE and General Dynamics. “The question is if BAE or General Dynamics doesn’t win the next tank contract, do they stay in the tank business?” says Eric Lindsey, a defense analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments.

Hudson says she feels good about BAE’s odds in both competitions. Despite its more diverse mix of businesses, BAE is, at its core, a builder of trucks and tanks.

But as Hudson witnessed just a few weeks ago as the shuttle circled overhead, nothing lasts forever. As a little girl, she says, those rockets she could see from her house captured her heart and mind, starting her on the path that led to this perch 20 floors above the Potomac. That’s all over now.

“It is what it is,” she says with a shrug.

May 29, 2012

By Marisa M. Kashino

Military & Aerospace l First Lady of Defense

Dod Buzz l NIE saves Army $6 billion

May 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

The Army estimates it has already saved $6 billion by canceling under performing programs through soldier feed back during the Network Integration Evaluation.

Army officials have trotted out that figure since Capitol Hill has raised questions about how much the Army is spending to running the NIE that Army leadership says is vital to the stand up of its next generation Network — the service’s top modernization priority.

Army Lt. Gen. William Phillips, military deputy to the Army’s acquisition executive, has said the Army “can’t afford not to run the Network Integration Evaluation.” But the price tag to stand up and operate the NIE has totaled $600 million. Facing a half a trillion dollar cut to the defense budget, Congress is asking what it’s getting for its money.

Col. Dan Hughes, director of Systems of Systems Integration, said Congress is receiving a ten-to-0ne return on its investment. He highlighted the decisions to strip out portions of the Early-Infantry Brigade Combat Team program such as the Unattended Ground Sensors and the Class 1 Unmanned Air System, which he said saved the Army $4 billion. The service saved another $800 million when it cut Nett Warrior down from the unwieldy 12-pound wearable computer to the smartphones soldiers are currently testing.

“We’re better shoppers now,” Hughes said.

That’s not to say the Army isn’t working to cut the NIE’s operating budget. The Army will cut the NIE’s operating budget by 10 percent next year. Hughes said cutting costs shouldn’t be a problem.

NIE officials have picked out specific areas that can be run more efficiently. For example, the Army had to hire more data collectors because they were tabulating exercise results on paper. Since moving to electronic tablets that input the results directly into databases, the Army can pay fewer collectors.

“We keep learning ways in which we can make this more affordable but still get the same result,” Hughes said.

Army officials expect to find more savings from the feedback from the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry division soldiers running the NIE over the past five weeks. Hughes doesn’t expect the Army to ax another major program, but he said the service will find savings by trimming and integrating technological advances to current systems.

“We will see more savings to drive down the cost of the systems,” Hughes said.

By Michael Hoffman

May 23rd, 2012

Dod Buzz l NIE saves Army $6 billion

CNN l Probe finds 'flood' of fake military parts from China in U.S. equipment

May 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

The results of a more-than-year-long Senate investigation into counterfeit parts being used in U.S. military equipment were released Monday and – as they had from the start – investigators are putting most of the blame on China.

“Our report outlines how this flood of counterfeit parts, overwhelmingly from China, threatens national security, the safety of our troops and American jobs,” said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Michigan, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which launched the investigation.

The probe began in March of 2011. But it was not easy for the committee staffers to conduct because the Chinese government refused to grant visas to committee staff to travel to mainland China as part of the investigation.

Last year, as the committee was still pushing for the visas, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, the committee’s rankling Republican, said, “It should be in Chinese interest not to have counterfeiting of these electronic parts going on because it would harm legitimate Chinese companies as well.”

The committee reviewed in detail approximately 1,800 cases of suspect counterfeit parts. All told, the 1,800 cases involved more than 1 million counterfeit parts.

The investigators dug through the supply chain for three types of suspected counterfeit parts on U.S. military aircraft:

– The SH-60B is a Navy helicopter that hunts for enemy submarines and assists with surface warfare. The investigation found that a part that compromised the copter’s night-vision system contained counterfeit parts that investigators traced back to China.
– The probe found counterfeit parts in the systems that tell pilots of the C-130 and C-27 cargo planes about the aircraft’s performances. The part could have caused those systems to go blank. Again the part in question was traced back to China.
– The P8-A is a Navy version of the Boeing 737 used for anti-submarine warfare and other duties. The Navy is testing the aircraft now and intends to buy more than 100 of them. But the test planes contained a reworked part that never should have been on the airplane. The part was used but made to look new. The part, investigators found, originally came from China.

But the committee didn’t reserve all its blame for China; some of it was directed right at the Pentagon itself.

The report said in each of the three cases that the committee investigated in depth, the Department of Defense was unaware that counterfeit electronic parts had been installed on certain defense systems until the committee’s investigation.

Even though the report just came out, the committee has already taken action to deal with the problem. Levin and McCain offered an amendment to the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act to address weaknesses in the defense supply chain and to promote the adoption of aggressive counterfeit avoidance practices by DOD and the defense industry.

The amendment was adopted in the final bill signed by President Barack Obama on December 31, 2011.

Part of that law will mean that when a contractor finds bad parts on a weapons system, the contractor or the parts supplier will pay to fix the problem. In the past, those costs were often borne by the DOD.

Pentagon spokeswoman Col. Melinda Morgan gave CNN this response to the report: “We are aware (the Senate Armed Services Committee) has issued their report on counterfeit parts and look forward to reviewing it. The Department takes very seriously the issue about counterfeit parts. We are working aggressively to address this issue to include implementing section 8.18 of the FY12 NDAA.”

Levin and McCain hope this aggressive push against fake electronic parts will help beyond the American military.

According to the committee, the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) says, “counterfeits cost U.S. semiconductor companies more than $7.5 billion annually in lost revenue, a figure SIA says results in the loss of nearly 11,000 American jobs.”

CNN reached out to the Chinese embassy in Washington for reaction but did not immediately receive a response.

By Larry Shaughnessy

May 22nd, 2012

CNN l Probe finds ‘flood’ of fake military parts from China in U.S. equipment

NY Times l Private Cargo Rocket Heads to Space Station

May 22, 2012 § Leave a comment

A private cargo rocket bound for the International Space Station blasted off early Tuesday morning in what NASA hopes will mark an important step in handing routine space missions over to the private sector.

The Falcon 9 rocket seen in a time-exposure photograph during liftoff.

With the brilliant glare of nine engines spewing out 1 million pounds of thrust, the rocket, a Falcon 9 built by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation of Hawthorne, Calif., or SpaceX, rose slowly off the launching pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station here, then arced upward into the night sky.

“What a spectacular start,” the NASA administrator, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Bolden Jr., told reporters afterward. “It was a picture-perfect launch.”

The payload is only about 1,000 pounds of cargo, and nothing of great value. The importance is instead technical and symbolic.

If the cargo capsule makes it all the way to the space station, it would be the first commercial, rather than government-operated, spacecraft to dock at the space station. A successful mission would reinforce NASA’s efforts to turn over basic transportation to low-Earth orbit to private companies.

“We’re really at the dawn of a new era of space exploration and one where there’s a much bigger role for commercial companies,” Elon Musk, SpaceX’s chief executive, said during a news conference after the launching.

With success of this flight, SpaceX would begin a $1.6 billion contract to fly 12 cargo missions to the space station. SpaceX is also among the companies aiming to win NASA business for taking astronauts to the space station.

Tuesday’s launching was the third for the Falcon 9 rocket and it followed the same pattern of two earlier ones in 2010, in which a last-minute glitch halted the first attempt before the rocket went off without a hitch on the next try.

In an aborted liftoff on Saturday morning, the engines of the 157-foot tall Falcon 9 rocket had already ignited before computers shut them down because of high pressure in the combustion chamber of the center engine. By the end of the day, technicians had found a faulty valve and replaced it.

For its second attempt, SpaceX had to wait until Tuesday at 3:44 a.m. for the space station’s orbit to line up with the launching pad, enabling the capsule to be launched on a trajectory trailing the station.

This time as the countdown clock hit zero, the engines remained ignited. Less than 10 minutes later, the cargo capsule, known as the Dragon, was in orbit. Several other early tasks were also successful including deployment of its solar arrays and navigational sensors and testing of the global positioning system.

“Anything could have gone wrong, and everything went right, fortunately,” Mr. Musk said.

At the news conference, Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, confirmed that the second stage of the Falcon 9 contained a payload from Celestis of Houston that carried to orbit the ashes of 300 people, including the actor James Doohan, who played the chief engineer Scotty in the original “Star Trek” television series and Gordon Cooper, one of the original Mercury astronauts.

The hard part of the SpaceX mission is still to come. It has to catch up to the space station, which circles the Earth at 17,000 miles per hour. On Thursday, it is to fly about 1.5 miles underneath the space station to demonstrate its communication and navigation systems. If it passes all of those tests, it will circle around and begin a final approach toward the space station until it is about 10 meters away.

A robotic arm on the space station, operated by one of the astronauts aboard, will grab onto the Dragon and swing it to a docking port.

Once there, the Dragon would remain attached to the station until the end of the month as astronauts unpack its cargo and pack in items to bring back to Earth. Undocking on May 31, the Dragon would land in the Pacific Ocean off California.

If SpaceX does not reach all of the goals on this flight, it may have to fly another demonstration flight before beginning the cargo contract.

By Kenneth Chang

May 22, 2012

NY Times l Private Cargo Rocket Heads to Space Station

Def Pro l NATO, Northrop Grumman sign $1.7bn contract on purchase of five Global Hawk UAS

May 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

Contract marks first international signing for Block 40 Global Hawks.

Northrop Grumman Corporation has announced it has signed a $1.7 billion (€1.2 billion) contract for NATO’s Alliance Ground Surveillance (AGS) system. Operating under NATO command, AGS is expected to be the major data source for NATO’s system for Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (JISR).

The contract is intended to provide for the purchase and initial operation and maintenance of five Block 40 Global Hawk unmanned aircraft equipped with an advanced ground surveillance radar sensor — the Multi-Platform Radar Technology Insertion Program (MP-RTIP). Under the contract, European industry contributors will be responsible for development and delivery of the transportable ground stations suitable for in-theatre support directly to commanders of deployed forces, mobile ground stations for close support to moving operations, and remote workstations for higher echelon commands.

Northrop Grumman and its industrial partners joined NATO leadership and 28 ministers of defense from NATO member countries for the signing today in Chicago.

Signed by the NATO Alliance Ground Surveillance Management Agency (NAGSMA) during the NATO 2012 Summit, the trans-Atlantic multinational contract supports NATO’s intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance requirements for multinational theater operations, peacekeeping missions and disaster relief efforts.

“This Alliance Ground Surveillance program has been a major acquisition priority for NATO. This is an historic moment and we are honored to be bringing this vital, leading edge capability to all NATO member nations,” said Otfried Wohlleben, NAGSMA Program Manager. “The real-time long-endurance intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance that this will provide will be invaluable to NATO forces around the world and the success of their missions.”

The 13 nations, including Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and the United States, are expected to participate in the system’s acquisition, and all 28 alliance nations are to participate in the long-term support of the program.

“Northrop Grumman and our entire trans-Atlantic industry team are proud to be bringing this strategic capability to NATO and its member nations,” said Wes Bush, chairman, chief executive officer and president, Northrop Grumman. “It was our collective goal from the start to ensure an affordable and robust capability that will meet the alliance’s need for persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to ground, maritime and air commanders, anytime and anywhere in the world. Our team is focused on meeting that commitment.”

Northrop Grumman will be the prime contractor for the NATO AGS program, and build the Global Hawk air vehicle, supporting systems and payloads including the MP-RTIP radar, which is capable of detecting and tracking moving objects as well as providing radar imagery of target locations and stationary objects.

The company’s primary industrial team from the 13 nations will include Cassidian, Selex Galileo and KONGSBERG, as well as leading European defense firms ICZ, A.S., ComTrade d.o.o, BIANOR, Technologica, Zavod Za Telefonna Aparatura Ad (ZTA AD), SELEX ELSAG, Elettra Communications, UTI Systems and SES. The ground element, which provides real-time data, intelligence and target identification to commanders within and beyond line of sight, will be wholly produced by European industry, offering direct work in the program for the participating nations.

NAGSMA was chartered in September 2009 to acquire the AGS core capability and is responsible for the procurement until it has reached full operational capability. The NATO-owned and operated AGS system is intended to support a broad range of missions, including protecting ground forces, border and maritime security, counter- and anti-terrorism, crisis management, peacekeeping and enforcement, and humanitarian assistance and natural disaster relief.

With its main operating base at Sigonella, Italy, NATO AGS will be co-located with the U.S. Air Force Global Hawks and the U.S. Navy Broad Area Maritime Surveillance unmanned aircraft systems, further advancing synergies across the three programs in operational capability, life cycle logistics and sustainment.

May 21, 2012

Def Pro l NATO, Northrop Grumman sign $1.7bn contract on purchase of five Global Hawk UAS

American Forces Press Service l ‘Inclusion’ Helps Asians, Islanders Land High-Level Jobs

May 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Roger M. Natsuhara is the principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment and deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for installations and facilities. U.S. Navy photo (Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

As a senior Navy official, Roger Natsuhara says part of his role is to support Asian-Americans and Pacific islanders who want to enter senior government service.

President Barack Obama proclaimed May as Asian-American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This year’s theme is “Striving for Excellence in Leadership, Diversity and Inclusion.”

Natsuhara — principal deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment and deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for installations and facilities – said avoiding inclusion into U.S. culture is a barrier for members of the Asian community.

“Sometimes, we as Asians forget we have to include ourselves on the other side,” he said. “It’s very important to be proud of your heritage, but you also have to include yourself in the culture.”

Natsuhara has known about exclusion since he was a boy. His parents and grandparents were in internment camps for U.S. residents of Japanese descent during World War II. When released, his father took a job with Southern Pacific Railroad and lived with his mother and brother in the only housing available: a railroad boxcar.

His father went on to become one of two Asian railroad executives in the nation. But the internment camps were a taboo subject among Japanese-Americans while he was growing up in Stockton, Calif., Natsuhara said.

“Our parents didn’t want us to speak Japanese just after World War II, because being Japanese was not a cool thing to be,” he said.

Natsuhara served a 25-year career in the Navy, retiring as a captain. His wife is a retired Navy lieutenant commander. Navy culture, he said, was quite different from his Japanese-American heritage.

“I think you have to be able to straddle both [cultures],” he said. “Sometimes it’s too easy to say, ‘I’m not being included, rather than, ‘How do I include myself in that group?’” He said including himself in gatherings of fellow service members helped him feel he was part of the U.S. military community while overseas and away from family and friends.

Natsuhara said he tells other Asian-Americans it’s important to take challenges and professional risks outside their comfort zone.

“Once you reach the professional world in your first job, you can work hard, but still not get that promotion,” he said. “There’s a certain amount of relationship and trust you have to build.”

Natsuhara is no stranger to taking risks and applying for jobs cold, without networks or contacts. He was a career Senior Executive Service employee when he filed a resume for the White House appointment to his current Navy position, he said, and got it without knowing anyone in the administration. The same was true for his previous SES job at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

His appointment with the Navy is both a dream job and a challenge he never expected, Natsuhara said. He recently worked with Defense and State department officials and their Japanese counterparts to develop the new Pacific posture for the Marine Corps.

“It was a very meaningful and big initiative,” he said, adding that the multi-billion dollar program will span many years once it clears Congress. “It was an amazing thing to be a part of. That’s something I could never have imagined when I was growing up.”

Now, he encourages other Asian-Americans to challenge themselves and reach for high-level positions with the government and to never give up.

“If you want to be an SES, you might try 20 to 30 times,” he said he tells them, “but you might get it the 26th time.”

While Asian-Americans might fear some prejudice, Natsuhara said he was never confronted with discrimination during his career, except for a few minor incidents he remembers with a laugh.

While on active duty, he was often mistaken for a Japanese naval officer. And once while shopping in a Navy exchange dressed in civilian clothes, he said, a security guard told him and his wife the exchange was only for “authorized patrons.”

“We said, ‘Yes, we knew that,’ and showed him our IDs,” Natsuhara said. “He thought we were Japanese tourists who were lost.”

Even today, Natsuhara said, he is sometimes assumed to be a staffer when he’s in his own office or seated at the head of his conference table, he said.

“I recognize that I’m fairly unique, and there haven’t been that many Asians in these positions, so a lot of people assume I’m just part of the staff,” he said, recalling several times when visiting officials mistakenly briefed a staff member instead of him.

One was a local elected official who approached Natsuhara’s captain instead. “She began to brief him, and he told her, ‘You really need to brief Mr. Natsuhara, because he’s my boss,’” he said, laughing.

“I tell people it just takes time,” he said. “It’s educating folks and getting people used to others, whether female, black, Hispanic or Asian.”

Natsuhara said he tells junior Asian officers that the military is one of the nation’s fairest organizations. “It’s on merit,” he said. “The system works very well if you work hard and do the right things. The military looks at how you did your job.”

His chain of command always treated him like anyone else, Natsuhara said. “I was fortunate that I always had very fair, open-minded leaders and mentors in the Navy.” Still, he added, being Asian-American has its challenges.

“Asians haven’t gotten to the point where we don’t get a second look,” he said. “It takes time, and I don’t see that as a negative. I do think more Asians need to take advantage of the military, because it’s a great opportunity.”

By Terri Moon Cronk

May 9, 2012

American Forces Press Service l ‘Inclusion’ Helps Asians, Islanders Land High-Level Jobs

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