Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Register for "Structural Characterization of Emerging Synthetic Drugs by Mass Spectrometry"


Webinar Date: March 5, 2021, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm ET

The main focus of this webinar is on the use of isotope labeling, multi-stage mass spectrometry (MSn), ion spectroscopy, and accurate mass measurements with high resolution mass spectrometry to demonstrate some important—but previously unidentified—rearrangement mechanisms in the spectra of cathinones and fentanyl analogs. Although many of these techniques are not available to practitioners, the results provide compelling evidence to support the fragmentation mechanisms and pathways observed every day by practitioners.

We demonstrate two important intermediates in the fragmentation spectra of cathinones like alpha-PVP, both of which are based on a phthalane core. These intermediates are important in understanding the mass spectra of a wide variety of cathinones. We also demonstrate common pathways for the fragmentation of fentanyl analogs and evidence for at least three different structures for the major fragmentation product at m/z 188 in the tandem mass spectra or protonated fentanyl analogs.

Finally, we present a novel algorithm for the comparison of mass spectra, which takes advantage of the fact that the variance in ion abundances of replicate spectra are not independently variable, as has long been assumed. The algorithm uses a general linear regression model (GLM) to predict the ion abundances of each of the 15 most abundant ions in a mass spectrum of a questioned sample. A binary classifier then uses the correctness of the predicted ion abundances to decide whether or not to identity the questioned sample as a particular drug. Using external validation spectra of hundreds of replicate spectra, the algorithm predicts abundances with a precision that is typically five times better than models that assume a fixed exemplar.


DOD Announces $14 Million Agreement With Draper in Support of Computer Chips Advanced Packaging Solutions

 March 2, 2021

The Department of Defense (DOD) entered into a $14 million agreement with Draper to enhance the U.S.’s ability for volume production of advanced packaging solutions for computer chips embedded within defense systems. 

Draper received a $10 million contract from the Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III office. The company also received a $4 million contract from the DOD Industrial Base Analysis and Sustainment (IBAS) office. Draper intends to expand existing domestic supplier production capabilities to produce three dimensional (3D), ultra-high-density microelectronics modules for use in mission critical applications.  Draper’s integrated ultra-high-density technology is in high-volume production at i3 Microsystems’ fabrication facility in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Access to secure state-of-the-art microelectronics used by military systems like DoD aircraft, ground vehicles and complex weapons systems is critical to ensuring our nation’s technological advantage.

DOD Announces $9.98 Million Defense Production Act Title III Agreement With Hardwick Tactical Corporation to Strengthen the Domestic Clothing and Textile Industrial Base

 March 2, 2021

As part of the national response to COVID-19, the Department of Defense (DOD) entered into a $9.98 million agreement with Hardwick Tactical Corporation to sustain critical industrial base production of US Military dress uniforms.

Hardwick Tactical Corporation intends to purchase and install equipment to increase manufacturing automation. The new equipment will increase the company’s production capacity to meet current and future requirements, as well as realize cost savings for the DOD.  The increased production capacity will ensure the U.S. Government continues to have access to this domestic supplier of Berry Amendment compliant dress uniforms.

Using funds authorized and appropriated under the CARES Act, this DPA Title III investment will offset financial distress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and enable Hardwick Tactical Corporation to retain current staff and create new jobs.

Hardwick Tactical Corporation’s headquarters and the principal place of performance for the contract is Cleveland, Tennessee.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Pentagon's Logistics Agency Utilizes Software Bots to Improve Accuracy, Efficiency

 March 1, 2021 | BY Michael Molinaro , Defense Logistics Agency

The Defense Logistics Agency is improving accuracy, cycle time and productivity in supply chain management practices through robotic process automation, which uses software bots to execute tasks and interact with systems.

"The metric we pay the most attention to is the hours contributed back to the mission. Our highly skilled workforce can use their talents in more strategic, value-added activities and address more complex work they will now have the time to complete," said Frank Wood, RPA program manager.

A Defense Logistics Agency graphic.

Since 2018, DLA has incorporated bots into 109 processes with 86 needing no human interaction. RPA bots support DLA acquisition's post award requests process by identifying COVID-19 PARs, collecting supplier notes and comments, and reporting them to contracting officials for review and subsequent action. Bots are also used to redact sensitive information from Freedom of Information Office requests and in inventory management.

Another bot is used by DLA information operations' equipment management solutions team as it processes lease and purchase requests for more than 53,000 devices like printers and scanners used by DLA employees and military and federal customers. Errors such as lack of funding and contractual issues are often reflected during monthly billing transactions, resulting in missing bills that must be corrected by EMS billing staff, said Terra Nguyen, EMS division chief.

"Our personnel will research any missing billing that occurs due to errors on the debit memo report, which generates sales orders for all assets in our inventory," she continued. "Once a list of missing bills has been generated, our EMS billing personnel then have to generate a sales order for each missing bill — a long process that can be manually intensive."

A Defense Logistics Agency Information Operations staff graphic.

Since implementation in December 2020, the team has billed more than $1.5 million using the bot.

"Thanks to the integration of the bot, our EMS billing specialists have additional time to communicate with customers, research other billing issues and concentrate on additional work-related tasking," Nguyen said.

RPA also makes the agency more audit-ready by reducing errors and maintaining measurable, documented processes.

A woman and a man read documents as they stand at a table in a crowded warehouse.

"The return on investment for DLA comes not only in hours, but in readiness and accountability to the Department of Defense and taxpayers," Wood said.

The enterprise RPA team has requests for 27 additional automations. Process or business owners wanting to integrate bots into their functional areas must first quantify potential cost, savings and workload restructuring. The data is used by DLA's RPA steering committee, made up of leaders from across the agency, to prioritize resources and projects. New automations take about 8 weeks to implement after approval.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Defense Officials Outline Hypersonics Development Strategy

 Feb. 27, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The Defense Department has identified hypersonics as one of the highest priority modernization areas, as Russia and China develop their own capable systems.

Hypersonic systems are able to travel on extended flights within the upper atmosphere — 80,000 to 200,000 feet — at speeds near and above Mach 5, and they're able to maneuver in ways that are hard for defenders to predict.

A graphic shows a jet streaking through the sky.

The high-altitude range creates a gap between air defenses and ballistic missile defenses, Mike White, principal director for hypersonics in the office of the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering, said.

White told attendees of the Air Force Association's virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium that to address these challenges, the department has developed a hypersonics modernization strategy that accelerates the development and delivery of transformational warfighting capabilities. He said the strategy consists of:

  • Developing air-, land-, and sea-launched, conventionally-armed hypersonic strike weapons for highly-survivable, long-range, time-critical defeat of maritime, coastal and inland targets of critical importance on the tactical battlefield.
  • Using comprehensive, layered-defeat of an adversary's tactical hypersonic strike missile capability.
  • Utilizing reusable, hypersonic systems for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and strike, as well as the first stage of a two stage vehicle for rapid access to space.

White said DOD's strategy has four major phases of implementation:

  • Phase 1 is technology development and concept demonstration.
  • Phase 2 is weapon system concept prototype development and demonstration.
  • Phase 3 is the accelerated fielding of prototype weapon system capability.
  • Phase 4 is the creation of acquisition programs and capability phasing plans. 

The hypersonic strategy is being implemented in a highly coordinated set of programs across the military services and agencies and with critical, enabling investments in the industrial base and organic laboratories, as well as working collaboratively with our allies, where appropriate.

"We will deliver strike capability to the warfighter in the early-mid 2020s and a layered hypersonic defense capability — first terminal and then glide phase — in the mid-late 2020s. For reusable systems, our goal is to deliver capability in the early to mid-2030s," White said.

An airman works on an aircraft.
An engineer works on a hypersonic vehicle.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Heath A. Collins, program executive officer for weapons and director of the armament directorate at the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center in the Air Force Materiel Command, said his organization is developing a rapid prototyping program for the AGM-183A air-launched rapid response weapon, dubbed ARRW.

The ARRW program is a boost-glide based hypersonic weapon. Collins said his team is getting ready for the first booster flight test next week. "We're also getting ready to transition into production within about a year on that program, so it will be the first air-launch hypersonic weapon that the Air Force has.

"We're really proud to be in the hypersonics weapon enterprise at this point in this exciting time, and we're just on the cusp of an operational capability," Collins added.

James Weber, senior scientist for hypersonics at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said the lab has a long history in hypersonic science and technology development, beginning in the early 1960s.

Over the last 25 years, DOD has invested some $1.7 billion in hypersonics, he said.

"We have a wide technology portfolio for hypersonics with competencies in test capabilities and thermal propulsion — such as scramjet propulsion and solid rocket motors and liquid rockets, materials, high-temperature materials and structures, manufacturing, guidance control systems and also basic research," Weber said, adding that AFRL works closely with other military services and agencies.

A jet streaks through a wind tunnel.

For instance, Weber said the research laboratory is partnering with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency on the hypersonic, air-breathing weapon concept program, as well as the tactical boost glider programs. "We are partnered with them to develop and demonstrate critical technologies for launch of hypersonic weapons by FY22."

Weber added that his team is also collaborating with Collins' ARRW project.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Andrew J. Gebara, director of strategic plans, programs and requirements at the Air Force Global Strike Command, said that developing new hypersonics capabilities requires accelerated acquisition strategies once the most promising programs are narrowed down.

Gebara said that over the years, the department has done some amazing testing with hypersonics, but has not followed through to production. What's different this time is that there's a national will to accelerate these programs and get them fielded quickly.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

U.S. Access to Space Is a Vital National Interest

 Feb. 25, 2021 | BY Terri Moon Cronk , DOD News

The United States' freedom to maneuver in space is a vital national interest that underpins national security, intelligence efforts, treaty verification and the economy, Chief of Space Operations, Space Force Gen. John W. "Jay" Raymond said.

A man in a military uniform speaks.

The general talked about the advantages of U.S. presence in space during a fireside chat today at the Air Force Association's 2021 virtual Aerospace Warfare Symposium.

"There's a significantly growing economy in space between here and the lunar surface [with] estimates of over $1 trillion over the next handful of years. It underpins every instrument of national power," Raymond said.

The U.S. is concerned with cyberthreats that China and Russia are continuing to develop, Raymond noted. "It's something that we have to protect against today. That's why the establishment of the U.S. Space Force is so important. We are purposely built to stay ahead of that growth" from other countries.

If the nation can deter conflict from beginning, or extending into space, space can deter conflict from spilling over into other domains, the general added.

A C-17 military cargo aircraft.

"Space is a huge force multiplier [that] enables us to do things the other services can do with smaller force structures because they have integrated space to their advantage," he explained. "We cannot afford as a nation to lose. … we're the best in the world of space. We are running fast — the guardians are running fast — to be able to stay ahead of that threat to deter from a position of strength." 

The general said the nation can't just launch a satellite and assume it's going to be there forever; we have to be able to protect and defend it.

"That's the new missionary," he said. "That's why the United States made the decision to stand up both the U.S. Space Command — the operational arm, the warfighting arm — and the Space Force, which is the organized training equipment [arm]."

The National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy outline a very complex strategic environment in space, one that has global challenges, multidomain challenges, and challenges that move very fast at great speeds and across great distances, he explained, adding that space is a warfighting domain, just like air, land and sea.

And as a warfighting domain, the nation now has a service focused on protecting and defending that domain, he added.

The Space Force tapes and service branch patch.

With space, the U.S. has an opportunity with its allied partners, Raymond pointed out. In the first year of standing up an independent Space Force, partnerships have also been established. 

"We want to build this coalition [as] friendly from the beginning to allow our international partners to invest," Raymond said. "And we think that partnership is key to deterrence and key to our strength."

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Secretary of Defense Video to the Force on COVID-19 Vaccinations

 Feb. 24, 2021

The Department of Defense released a video today of the Secretary of Defense addressing the entire workforce to encourage informed decision-making with regards to coronavirus-19 vaccination.

Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III addressed the men and women of the Department directly in a video posted to Defense.gov.  

The video can be viewed here.

The text of Secretary Austin’s address follows: 

Hello there, I’m Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense.

I wanted to speak with you today about the coronavirus … and about how we can all chip in to defeat this pandemic once and for all.  As you have probably seen, we are going to be sending teams of active-duty professionals to assist FEMA in administering vaccines at select locations around the country.  This, of course, comes on top of the more than 20,000 National Guardsmen and women assisting state and local authorities across the country, as part of the whole-of-government response.

In other words, we’re pitching in to help our fellow citizens as quickly and safely as possible.  We’re part of a larger team of federal and state agencies, and we are working hard – leaning in – to be productive members of that team.  We’re also working hard to make vaccines available to every member of the DoD family who wants one.

You know we’ve approached this effort deliberately and in phases, making sure that we prioritized our frontline health care workers, and our deploying troops and those most vulnerable… but as we continue to advance through these phases, we want to make sure that all of you have the information that you need to make the best decisions for your families.  And so I encourage you to visit the CDC website for more information about the vaccines, as well as our own site at Defense.gov.

And when you do, you’ll see that these vaccines have undergone intensive safety monitoring.  You’ll see that they are safe and they are effective.  And you’ll see that millions of your fellow citizens have already taken them with little to no side effects.

You know, I’ve taken it myself.  After talking with my doctor, I believed it was the right thing to do -- not only for my health -- but also for my ability to do the job and to contribute to our readiness.

Of course, I also still practice social distancing, and I’ll still wear a mask while I’m here in the Pentagon and everywhere else I go.  And so we’ll need your continued support in that regard.  But I encourage you to have a discussion with your primary care physician about taking the vaccine.  And if you believe, as I did, that it’s the right thing for you … I hope that you’ll consider accepting it when it’s offered to you.

And finally, thank you for all you and your families do … each and every day … to keep our country safe.  

I’d ask that you please take care of yourselves and your teammates.  And please do what you can to keep each other safe. Thank you.