By Debbie Gregory.

Faced with criticism over how it awarded a contract to move computer systems to the Internet cloud, the Pentagon has slashed a nearly $1 billion contract down to no more than $65 million, while also scaling back the scope of the work. The revision will limit its use to only U.S. Transportation Command rather than the entire Defense Department.

The contract awarded to Herndon, Virginia-based REAN Cloud—an Amazon Web Services partner, has come under scrutiny by those who feel that the procurement wasn’t handled properly, charges that Pentagon officials strongly denied.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Robert Manning said that after reviewing the contract, the Defense Department decided that “the agreement should be more narrowly tailored” so that Rean would build a prototype service for a single agency, the U.S. Transportation Command, instead of many agencies within the military.

Oracle filed a bid protest with the Government Accountability Office last month that called the procurement “an egregious abuse” of the procurement process for a contract that it charged was “shrouded in secrecy.”

Additionally, the Pentagon was criticized because the original contract was awarded by the Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx ) which was created to procure the technology of Silicon Valley-type companies that mostly shy away from Pentagon work. DIUx is fast-moving to provide non-dilutive capital to companies to solve national defense problems, usually in under 90 days.

The procurement, a follow-on to a smaller competed contract, was awarded under an “other transaction authority,” a way for the Pentagon to procure goods and services quickly without being subject to the bureaucratic federal acquisitions process.

Critics of the “other transaction authority” process say such arrangements are not competitive and insufficiently transparent.

By Debbie Gregory.

We previously wrote about the deal for two new Air Force One airplanes that President Trump was trying to negotiate with Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg. After talks stalled, the president stepped in to push through a fixed-price deal that would require Boeing to buy the planes at an agreed price. Boeing would then be responsible to absorb any cost overruns.

The list price for one of Boeing’s 747-8s is $351.4 million, but the stock jumbo jets require significant and timely modifications before they will be ready to transport a president.

The president asked for the new planes to be done by 2021, the beginning of what would be a second term, which is three years sooner than the original plan of 2024. The two 747s are in California now, and although Boeing will be done upgrading the planes by then, but the Air Force testing requirements could take an additional three years.

And upon closer investigation, it now looks like that “informal” $3.9 billion deal for the two planes may not be such a deal.

It appears that a “fixed-price contract” is not the same thing as a “firm, fixed-price” contract. And that could be a problem.

Boeing officials have always been and remain adamantly opposed to a firm, fixed-price deal. Given that Boeing has had to absorb more than $2 billion in cost overruns while developing the Air Force’s new refueling tanker, it is no wonder that the company is trying to avoid the same situation with refitting the two commercial 747s for presidential use.

The current Air Force One planes began service in 1990 under former President George H.W. Bush and they are reaching near the end of their planned life.

By Debbie Gregory.

In 2016, the U.S. Army awarded Heckler & Koch a $44.5 million contract to build a variant of the G28 7.63mm as their new Compact Semi-Automatic Sniper System (CSASS). Now the service branch may actually be able to pay for it via a fiscal 2019 budget request.

The contract will buy up to 3,643 rifles.

Army leaders are also looking to upgrade infantry squads with a new 7.62mm Squad Designated Marksman rifle this year.

Last year, Gen. Mark Milley testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the service’s current M855A1 Enhanced Performance Round will not defeat enemy body armor plates used by countries such as Russia and China.

For several years the Army has had to choose to prioritize funding to meet its force readiness requirements over funding the development of capabilities needed to build a future force. The situation will only get worse from here, said Lt. Gen. John Murray at a February 7th  Senate Armed Services Airland Subcommittee hearing on Army modernization.

“The Army has reached an inflection point,” Murray, Army G-8, told senators at the hearing. “It is the same thing I told you last year, we can no longer afford to choose between near-term readiness and modernization. Specific to modernization, we can no longer afford to choose between incremental upgrades of existing equipment and developing new capabilities, we have definitely reached a point where we’ve got to be able to do both.”

Gen. Murray also said that the Army has accelerated efforts to start fielding the new 7.62mm SDM to squads this year.

By Debbie Gregory.

The first time a U.S. president flew in an airplane, it was a Boeing airplane. That was in January, 1943, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt flew to Casablanca aboard a Boeing model 314 Clipper.

Boeing airplanes have transported U.S. presidents, from Roosevelt to Trump, around the world. The U.S. Air Force wants to continue the Boeing tradition with the 747-8, which will replace the two 747-200s that serve as the presidential Air Force One fleet. That is, if they can negotiate a deal with Boeing.

President Trump and Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg are working together to try to re-kick-start the stalled multibillion-dollar deal for two new Air Force One airplanes which will fly future presidents for decades to come.

The two planes were initially built for a Russian airline that has since gone bankrupt. Air Force leaders and Boeing have been negotiating the terms of the modifications since last summer, but keep getting stuck at the type of contract that will be signed.

The Air Force wants to sign a fixed-price deal that would require Boeing to buy the planes at an agreed price. Boeing would then be responsible to absorb any cost overruns.

The project made headlines when before taking office, then president-elect Trump attacked Boeing for the $4 billion price tag, calling the costs “out of control” and demanded the order be canceled.  But Trump changed his tune last year after visiting a Boeing 787 Dreamliner factory in South Carolina. His parting words were: “God bless Boeing.”

As one of the largest defense contractors in the world, Boeing does a lot of business with the U.S. government.

The newer airplanes are larger than the current 747-200 airliners that were put into presidential service in the early 1990s.

The new planes will need to be modified with conference rooms, a presidential office, and secure military communications

By Debbie Gregory.

In today’s battlefield environment, it is critical for soldiers to be able to quickly locate and identify targets, especially during nighttime operations or when visibility is poor.

Currently soldiers use two different devices – basic night-vision PVS-14, and Enhanced Night Vision Goggle (ENVG.)  Both are single-tube, monocular style NVGs.

The Army began fielding the first generation of the ENVG in 2009 and has since fielded about 20,000 of the slightly improved ENVG II. The new ENVG III weighs about two pounds and features a wireless video interface between the weapon sight and goggle, so imagery from the weapon sight can be transmitted to the goggle and viewed via the goggle display in real time.

Now the U.S. Army is looking to develop new, double-tubed night vision goggles.

Maj. Gen. Paul Chamberlain, Director of the Army Budget office said that the double-tubed goggles will mean enhanced performance for soldiers.

“Primarily what it does is it provides additional granularity; it allows for quicker, easier movement when it’s being worn,” Chamberlain said. “It is just going to provide that ability to really speed up soldier movements and actions and it does help with depth perception.”

It’s still early days in the development process.

Currently, Infra-Red and thermal, or a combination of both can be used at the same time for night moves or anytime visibility is reduced.

The funds for the project will come out of the Army’s Army’s $10.2 billion Research, Development, Technology and Engineering account.

The first military night vision devices were introduced by the German Army as early as 1939, and were used in World War II.