Friday, October 30, 2020

Medical Professionals Discuss COVID-19 Best Practices


Brooke Army Medical Center and Argentine Army's Central Military Medical Hospital medical professionals did not let 5,600 miles of separation keep them from discussing best practices against COVID-19 on Oct. 21 at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas. 

A man in a military uniform is shown on the left side of the picture and a civilian and an officer from a foreign country are shown on the screen to his left.

U.S. Army South facilitated the virtual subject matter expert exchange, or SMEE, between BAMC and CMMH, which is located in Buenos Aires, touching on numerous topics and providing lessons learned for the participants. The SMEE is an avenue allowing doctors from both countries to discuss critical aspects of combating COVID-19 that help protect the force and enhance readiness while strengthening and building partnerships.

The exchange of COVID-19 best practices focused not only on readiness, but how to treat both COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients, staff protection, research and development and testing protocols. A total of 17 medical practitioners (six from BAMC; 11 from CMMH) participated in the virtual SMEE.

Although they practice their craft in different countries, both find the importance of reducing risk to staff as paramount to providing safe, quality care to service members and the communities they serve.

At the beginning of the pandemic, BAMC started with a deliberate operations order to assess staff, logistics and bed expansion capacity. "We have many simultaneous missions to conduct," U.S. Army Col. Michael Wirt, BAMC deputy commanding officer, said. "Not just the mission to provide health care within our hospital; we also deploy some of our staff to respond to local, regional and national requirements to support the [pandemic]."

A civilian and a woman officer from a foreign army appear on a teleconference screen. Two flags from foreign entities are in the background.

BAMC reduced its inpatient census, tightly managed personal protective equipment until the supply line became more predictable, limited the number of entrances to the hospital, conducted screening of everyone coming into the building and began drive-through testing in order to reduce the chance of infection in the hospital.

Both BAMC and CMMH indicated that COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients are treated in separate areas. The CMMH team stated that COVID-19 areas follow strict protocols, requiring personal protective equipment at all entrance points.

COVID-19 wards are routinely disinfected and CMMH employs a security committee that ensures the non-COVID-19 area stays free of COVID-19.

Supply and demand, particularly with personal protection equipment and COVID-19 testing material was a concern for BAMC and CMMH. There are over 14 million people in the metropolitan area of Buenos Aires, and CMMH provides care to the military and general population. Even with PPE being such a prime commodity, CMMH manages to test its hospital staff of over 2,400 every 15 days. They test about 5,000 for COVID-19 on a daily basis.

BAMC continues its partnership with University Health System and the Southwest Texas Regional Advisory Council to provide Level I Trauma care for 22 counties that encompasses 2.2 million people, even in the face of unprecedented healthcare system stress across the region.

"That allowed for discussions on resources, testing and policies on managing the pandemic from a regional standpoint," Air Force Col. Patrick Osborn, BAMC deputy commander for surgical services, said. 

A man in a uniform is working on a laptop at a conference table. Screens in the background indicate that others are participating virtually.

The Air Force Secretarial Designee program allows BAMC to transport and accept extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, patients for complex critical care when hospital capacity allows. The ECMO program provided significant community support for the sickest COVID-19 patients while furthering the readiness of numerous critical care personnel. 

"Through the infectious disease and public health communities, we have been working with public health in the state," U.S. Air Force Col. Heather Yun, BAMC deputy commander for medical services, said. "We're one of many military health system hospitals in the United States, and all of our subject matter experts have been passing best practices back and forth and actually developing clinical practice guidelines. We're on the sixth version [of the COVID-19 guidelines]."

Because of the fluid nature and constant learning surrounding COVID-19, protocols have been continually changing for healthcare professionals. "We've had to write a lot of things in pencil, and rewrite them in pencil again two weeks later," Yun explained. "We certainly follow CDC guidelines when it comes to things like infection prevention and control. When it comes to treatment protocols, we follow the science. Current protocols involve Dexamethasone and Remdesivir for hospitalized patients on oxygen."

CMMH is experiencing the ebb and flow of changing protocols as well. Treatments of mild (symptomatic) and critical (low oxygen reactions) patients appear to be similar for both organizations. CMMH stated their mild patients quarantine in their homes and are monitored remotely (virtually), while protocols for critical patients are changing.

A woman in a military uniform and wearing a face mask participates in a discussion. Two other participants are in the background.

There are challenges unique to each organization. Because of the trainee population at Joint Base San Antonio, units had to develop isolation plans for trainees in those settings. Argentina is in the Southern Hemisphere, requiring CMMH to handle the pandemic simultaneously with the influenza season. Fortunately, according to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, influenza has been low this season. It is attributed to measures implemented worldwide to mitigate the transmission of COVID-19.

Practices and procedures that require high exposure are-obstacles medical treatment facilities have to negotiate in order to maintain a safe environment during the pandemic.

When community transmissions are high, many non-emergency procedures are postponed until conditions are favorable. "We haven't been doing a lot of elective surgeries or aerosol-generating procedures when we have a lot of community transmission," Yun said. All patients are treated as a potential COVID-19 patient, guarding against the risk of transmission.

Communicating as a staff during the pandemic also offered challenges. CMMH and BAMC have had to rely on off-the-shelf technology to conduct meetings that otherwise would have been face-to-face.

A man in a uniform and a face mask gestures while speaking.

BAMC is one of the participating sites of the clinical trials for Remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 infected patients. BAMC is also involved in trials with convalescent antibodies/convalescent plasma. 

As part of the Operation Warp Speed goal to deliver safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics by January 2021, five DoD locations, including BAMC, have been identified to participate in the Phase III trial evaluating the vaccine candidate AZD1222 under development by AstraZeneca.

The COVID-19 pandemic has created new partnerships and revitalized existing relationships within the medical community. "These types of exchanges provide military physicians in both countries a serious retrospection on sustainable practices," Wirt explained. "At the same time, we learn and share information that can lead to improving efficiencies as we deal with COVID[-19], and that makes us better prepared for the next challenge."

Rewrite of Acquisition Regulation Helps U.S. Build Hypersonic Arsenal More Quickly

Oct. 30, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

With both Russia and China developing and building hypersonic weapons, the U.S. military must get in the game or risk being left behind. In the past, regulations have slowed acquisition of advanced technology. But the Defense Department has rewritten the rules for acquisition — the 5000-series of policy — to make it easier to more quickly deliver hypersonic weapons.

"We need to build a more lethal force and speed delivery of capability to the warfighter," said Ellen M. Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, during an address today at the Institute for Defense and Government Advancement's Hypersonic Weapons Summit. "In other words, DOD acquisition needs to move at the speed of relevance."

Hypersonic model vehicle flies in a wind tunnel.

One way that goal has been advanced, Lord said, is with the recent publication of a rewrite of the DOD's acquisition policy.

"One of my team's most significant accomplishments has been rewriting the DOD 5000 series, the overarching acquisition policies that focus on what I call creative compliance, so that acquisition professionals can design acquisition strategies that minimize risk."

That renaissance in DOD policy is going to help the department get on board with hypersonics more quickly. One area the new policy focuses on is an early consideration of sustainment of weapons systems.

"Our biggest sustainment concerns with hypersonics are ensuring that subcomponents have a resilient supply chain with secure microelectronic components and that the services, the military services, have a strategy for spares and repairables that provide sufficient annual quantities to ensure predictability for suppliers and readiness for the warfighter," Lord said. "The 5000 rewrite, specifically the product support and sustainment functional policy, places more emphasis on designing and contracting for sustainment."

The face of a man, wearing protective glasses, is seen through windows in a large metal tube. Inside the tube is a pointed metallic object.

Lord said changes in the acquisition policy can reduce sustainment costs by up to 20%.

"We can achieve real savings that can be used for our future investments, instead of unnecessarily paying to disassemble systems to replace parts, for example, because the maintainer cannot get their hand inside of an enclosure to remove and replace a component — something we often see," Lord said.

The "Adaptive Acquisition Framework" in the newly modified 5000 series includes six acquisition pathways: urgent capability acquisition, middle tier of acquisition, major capability acquisition, software acquisition, defense business systems, and acquisition of services.

We need to build a more lethal force and speed delivery of capability to the warfighter. In other words, DOD acquisition needs to move at the speed of relevance.''
Ellen M. Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment

"These pathways implement the six main tenets of the Defense Acquisition System: to simplify policy, tailor in approaches, and empower program managers, facilitate data-driven analysis, actively manage risk and emphasize sustainment," Lord said.

The AAF provides program managers with a way to more quickly and affordably field capability, Lord said. And that includes important developments in hypersonic weapons systems.

"It's paramount that we drive affordability into hypersonic weapons manufacturing to ensure that we can procure sufficient quantities," Lord said. "Previous efforts reduce technical risk by designing and producing developmental flight test demonstration vehicles. Now, we will prioritize manufacturability and producibility with hypersonic prototype development programs."

Hypersonics War Room

Hypersonic weapons systems require special consideration to account for, among other things, their high speeds, Lord said. And the industrial base that is helping the department grow its hypersonics capability is working to meet those unique challenges.

A white rocket launches at night.

Hypersonic weapons also require effective sensors, mission planning, command and control and launching platforms, Lord said.

To ensure the department and industry can most effectively work together to meet the unique challenges of hypersonic weapons development, Lord said the department has created a "hypersonics war room" to help the department better understand the constraints that might exist in industry right now that could hamper development of hypersonics.

"The war room will help both DOD and industry understand the total demand on the industrial base as the department is ramping up production for hypersonic weapons," Lord said.

DOD and HHS Partner to Award $119 Million Contract to Hologic, Inc. to Increase Domestic Production Capacity of COVID-19 Diagnostic Tests

 Oct. 30, 2020

On October 30, 2020, the Department of Defense (DOD), in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, awarded Hologic, Inc. a $119 million contract to expand domestic production, increasing testing for COVID-19.

This industrial base expansion effort will enable Hologic, Inc. to expand production capacity for COVID-19 tests and test consumables in supplier’s facilities in Wisconsin, Maine, and California, increasing capacity to 13 million tests per month by January 2022. 

Hologic, with support from BARDA funding, developed the Panther Fusion SARS-CoV-2 Assay and the Aptima SARS-CoV-2 Assay, both of which were granted Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization earlier this year. Over 1,000 tests per day, taking approximately three hours each, can be performed on over 1,100 of Hologic’s Panther and Panther Fusion diagnostic platforms distributed across the U.S.

The DOD’s Defense Assisted Acquisition (DA2) Cell led this effort in coordination with the Department of the Air Force’s Acquisition COVID-19 Task Force (DAF ACT) and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) within HHS. This effort was funded through the Health Care Enhancement Act (HCEA), to support domestic industrial base expansion for critical medical resources.

DOD Awards $12.67 Million Contract Action to InBios International, Inc. to Increase Domestic Production Capacity of Rapid Point of Care COVID-19 Infection and Serological Response Tests

 Oct. 30, 2020

On October 30, 2020, the Department of Defense (DOD), in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), awarded a contract action with a not-to-exceed value of $12.67 million to InBios International, Inc.  This effort will expand US based industrial production capacity of two point of care, rapid COVID-19 tests: SCoV-2 Ag Detect™ Kit, an antigen COVID-19 test, and SCoV-2 Detect™ IgM/IgG Kit, a serological COVID-19 response test.

This industrial base expansion effort will allow InBios International, Inc.  to increase their production capacity to 400,000 units per week by May 2021, a capacity increase of 20 times their current output.

The DOD’s Defense Assisted Acquisition (DA2) Cell led this effort in coordination with the Department of the Air Force’s Acquisition COVID-19 Task Force (DAF ACT).  The Biomedical Advanced Research and Developmental Authority (BARDA) within the HHS funded this award through the Health Care Enactment Act (HCEA) in support of domestic industrial base expansion for critical medical resources.

This Week in Operation Warp Speed - Oct. 30, 2020

 Oct. 30, 2020

Below is a compilation of initiatives, actions and accomplishments across Operation Warp Speed (OWS)’s primary efforts in the past week. To learn more about OWS, visit the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website and Department of Defense (DOD) website


Pfizer announced more than 42,000 participants are enrolled in its late stage trial for a COVID-19 vaccine, with nearly 36,000 having received their second dose as of Oct. 26. Pfizer expects to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization with the Food and Drug Administration next month.

AstraZeneca announced clinical trials on its AZD1222 coronavirus vaccine resumed after the FDA and an independent safety review board completed an examination of safety data. The company voluntarily paused its trial Sept. 6, as part of the standard review process for clinical trial safety events. AstraZeneca will continue to provide information to regulators, study investigators and participants according to clinical trial and regulatory standards.

Novavax, announced plans to begin Phase 3 clinical trials in the United States and Mexico by the end of November. The trials could enroll up to 30,000 people. It also reported it made significant progress in large-scale manufacturing with some delay from the original timeline. The company already has more than 5,500 participants enrolled in the United Kingdom trial, which it expanded to 15,000 volunteers. 

HHS and DOD announced an agreement with Eli Lilly to purchase up to nearly a million doses of the company’s investigational monoclonal antibody therapeutic bamlanivimab. An initial agreement would supply the government with 300,000 doses within the first two months following a potential FDA Emergency Use Authorization for the therapeutic. The government could purchase up to 650,000 additional doses through the end of June 2021. The New England Journal of Medicine provided an interim analysis of the Phase 2 trial for the company’s monoclonal antibody treatment.

Regeneron announced positive prospective results from ongoing Phase 2/3 trials in the COVID-19 outpatient setting. The company reports it has shared results with the FDA, which is reviewing an Emergency Use Authorization for the REGN-COV2 low dose in adults with mild to moderate COVID-19, who are at high risk for poor outcomes.  


The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released a plan to remove regulatory barriers and ensure consistent coverage and payment for eventual COVID-19 vaccines. CMS released a set of toolkits for providers, states and insurers to help prepare to swiftly administer the vaccine when it is available. CMS is also taking action to increase reimbursement for any new COVID-19 treatments that are approved and authorized by the FDA. 

In support of OWS, the Administration is preparing to provide ancillary supply kits to help healthcare workers who will be administering COVID-19 vaccines. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently contracted with McKesson Corporation to produce, store and distribute these vaccine ancillary supply kits on behalf of the Strategic National Stockpile.

Maj. Gen. Chris Sharpsten, deputy director of Supply, Production and Distribution, detailed logistics plans in a column published by American Shipper. 


Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gus Perna and Vaccine Development Lead Dr. Matt Hepburn participated in a discussion Oct. 27 with The Heritage Foundation on “The Fight to get a COVID-19 Vaccine.” In case you missed it, the video is located here:

Deputy U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Eric Hargan and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams visited University Hospitals (UH) of Cleveland to meet with their leadership for a discussion about the COVID-19 response and to provide an update on Operation Warp Speed. This week, UH announced they will take part in conducting Phase 3 clinical trials for AstraZeneca’s COVID—19 vaccine candidate. 


“It would just be shameful if we get a vaccine out to the American people - and people don’t take it because there is doubt or concern. What we stand behind is the safety and the efficacy of the vaccine that will be delivered to the American people.” ~GEN Gus Perna, Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer

“While the pandemic stresses both people and systems, the expertise and technology tools provide a disciplined and deliberate approach to prioritize vaccine delivery and ease the burden of public health officials throughout the nation.” ~Deacon Maddox, Operation Warp Speed Chief of Plans, Operations and Analytics

Operation Warp Speed is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, engaging with private firms and other federal agencies, and coordinating among existing HHS-wide efforts to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics. 

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy Released

 Oct. 29, 2020

Today the Department of Defense announced the release of the DOD Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy.

“The rise of mobile systems and digital technology across the globe has placed enormous strain on the available spectrum for DOD’s command, control, and communication needs. This strategy will help set the conditions needed to ensure our warfighters have freedom of action within the electromagnetic spectrum to successfully conduct operations and training in congested, contested and constrained multi-domain environments across the globe,” said Hon. Dana Deasy, DOD chief information officer. 

The purpose of the strategy is to align DOD electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) activities with the objectives of the 2017 National Security Strategy, the 2018 National Defense Strategy, and national economic and technology policy goals.

“This Strategy addresses how DOD will: develop superior EMS capabilities; evolve to an agile, fully integrated EMS infrastructure; pursue total force EMS readiness; secure enduring partnerships for EMS advantage; and establish effective EMS governance to support strategic and operational objectives. Investment in these areas will speed decision-quality information to the warfighter, establish effective electromagnetic battle management, enable EMS sharing with commercial partners, advance EMS warfighting capabilities, and ensure our forces maintain EMS superiority,” Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, wrote in the forward of the document.

The strategy attests to the need for freedom of action in the electromagnetic spectrum, at the time, place, and parameters of DOD’s choosing as a required precursor to the successful conduct of operations in all domains.

"The Department is dedicated to a unified, holistic electromagnetic spectrum operations (EMSO) approach which ensures our Freedom of Action in the EMS at the time and place of our choosing,” said, Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We cannot expect military success in any domain if we fail to take bold action to ensure that the United States and its Allies have freedom to act in the spectrum. Implementing the EMS Superiority Strategy enables us to take that bold action so we are able to dominate the spectrum in all domains and, if challenged, win against our enemies."

The Strategy builds upon existing joint and Service doctrine and operational concepts that incorporate the full range of military activities in the EMS.

The modern electromagnetic operational environment (EMOE) is increasingly complex and is congested, contested, and constrained. This Strategy addresses the complexity by advancing EMS sharing and maneuver to ensure continued spectrum access, as emphasized in the NSS and the 2018 Presidential Memorandum on Developing a Sustainable Spectrum Strategy for America’s Future. The Strategy supports the full range of activities DOD must conduct in the EMS across the competition continuum. It recognizes that the same technology used to enable the maneuverability required in the highly contested near-peer environments can also be used to enhance access in highly regulated peacetime environments. It incorporates an EMS enterprise focus on superiority in congested and contested EMOEs of conflict as well as the need to test, train, and operate in congested and constrained peacetime EMOEs.

Great Power Competition

The strategy highlights the tremendous advantage afforded to the competitor that gains and maintains EMS superiority across the competition continuum and that “by developing innovative asymmetric EMS capabilities, DOD can protect expensive friendly capabilities from disruption or attrition, while simultaneously denying or degrading the effectiveness of adversaries’ high-priced systems.”

Strategic Goals

DOD will focus on five interdependent goals: develop superior EMS capabilities; evolve to an agile, and fully integrated, EMS infrastructure; pursue total force readiness in the EMS; secure enduring partnerships for EMS advantage; and establish effective EMS governance.

“The Department’s evolution in the EMS is necessary for the U.S. military's ability to effectively sense, command, control, communicate, test, train, protect, and project force,” said the Hon. Ellen Lord, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. “Modernizing to maintain competitive advantage over near-peer adversaries will enable DOD to assert EMS superiority and mitigate risks to U.S. national and economic security.”

Additional Resources:

Electromagnetic Spectrum Superiority Strategy 

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Trump Administration Announces Agreement to Purchase Eli Lilly COVID-19 Investigational Therapeutic

 Oct. 28, 2020

As part of the Trump Administration’s goal of delivering life-saving vaccines and therapeutics in record time through Operation Warp Speed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Defense (DOD) today announced an agreement with Eli Lilly and Company to purchase the first doses of the company’s COVID-19 investigational antibody therapeutic bamlanivimab, also known as LY-CoV555. These doses will be available for patient care if the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes use of the therapeutic, as outlined in agency guidance.

“This agreement with Eli Lilly is part of Operation Warp Speed’s efforts to position the federal government to distribute potential therapeutics, allowing faster distribution if trials are successful,” said HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “More good news about COVID-19 therapeutics is constantly emerging, and the Trump Administration’s commitment to supporting potentially lifesaving therapeutics will help deliver these products to American patients without a day’s delay.”

The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, collaborated with the DoD Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense and Army Contracting Command to provide $375 million for an initial purchase of 300,000 doses of bamlanivimab 700 mg from Lilly over the next two months. Under the agreement, the federal government can purchase up to 650,000 additional doses through the end of June 2021 for up to an additional $812.5 million.

If the FDA authorizes use of the drug, the federal government will allocate the doses to state and territorial health departments which, in turn, will determine which healthcare facilities receive the intravenous (IV) infusion drug for use in outpatient care. These government-purchased doses would become available to the American people at no cost, although as is customary with such government-purchased products, healthcare professionals could charge for administering the medicine.

Bamlanivimab currently is being evaluated in phase 3 clinical trials funded by the company in addition to clinical trials as part of the Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines (ACTIV) public-private partnership led by the National Institutes of Health with funding and other support from BARDA. ACTIV is part of a coordinated research strategy to prioritize and speed development of the most promising treatments and vaccines.

FDA is reviewing bamlanivimab as a possible treatment for COVID-19 in outpatients. The monoclonal antibody used in the drug were identified from a blood sample taken from one of the first U.S. patients who recovered from COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies, which mimic the human immune system, are produced outside of the body by a single clone of cells or a cell line with identical antibody molecules and then delivered to patients by injection or infusion. The antibodies bind to certain proteins of a virus, reducing the ability of the virus to infect human cells.

About Operation Warp Speed (OWS):

OWS is a partnership among components of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense, engaging with private firms and other federal agencies, and coordinating among existing HHS-wide efforts to accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics.

About HHS, ASPR, and BARDA:

HHS works to enhance and protect the health and well-being of all Americans, providing for effective health and human services and fostering advances in medicine, public health, and social services. The mission of ASPR is to save lives and protect Americans from 21st century health security threats. Within ASPR, BARDA invests in the innovation, advanced research and development, acquisition, and manufacturing of medical countermeasures – vaccines, drugs, therapeutics, diagnostic tools, and non-pharmaceutical products needed to combat health security threats. To date, 56 BARDA-supported products have achieved FDA approval, licensure or clearance. For more on BARDA’s portfolio for COVID-19 diagnostics, vaccines and treatments and about partnering with BARDA, visit To learn more about federal support for the all-of-America COVID-19 response, visit

About the JPEO-CBRND:

The Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND) protects the Joint Force by providing medical countermeasures and defense equipment against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) threats. JPEO-CBRND’s goal is to enable the Joint Force to fight and win unencumbered by a CBRN environment. JPEO-CBRND facilitates the rapid response, advanced development, manufacturing and acquisition of medical solutions, such as vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics, to combat CBRN and emerging threats such as COVID-19. To learn more about JPEO-CBRND’s COVID-19 response, visit or follow JPEO-CBRND on social media at @JPEOCBRND.

DOD Looks for More Robust, Enduring Telework Capacity

 Oct. 28, 2020 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, many Defense Department employees began teleworking. The department brought on board the "commercial virtual remote" environment in March to enable that telework. The department's principal deputy chief information officer said the CVR effort has paid off well.

"This has been nothing short of amazing the way the Department of Defense responded to the COVID crisis, particularly from a teleworking perspective, deploying the commercial virtual remote, or CVR, capability in March in just mere weeks," John Sherman said today at C4ISRNET's Cybercon 2020 conference.

Over a million users are now making use of the CVR environment to do telework, teaming, calls and video conferences, Sherman said.

"This required a lot of leadership," Sherman said. "It required a lot of backbone sort of things like increasing our internet access points, and increasing our network capability, and also being on our toes from a cybersecurity perspective. And we're moving out with that. And this is something we've been very proud of. ... I think this is a gold standard for the government, what we've been able to do here in DOD."

Sherman said the department is looking to the future now for telework. The CVR capability has been extended to June 2021, for instance. 

"We are currently working on a more enduring Office 365-based capability," he said. "CVR is what we call 'impact level two' or IL2. ... We're moving to an IL5 solution. IL2 was fine for where we [are] in telework. But we know we need a more enduring solution that keeps the same functionality of CVR, which allows us to talk to people at IL2, talk to people not on the Department of Defense Information Network."

According to the Defense Information Systems Agency, "impact levels" describe the sensitivity of information to be stored or processed in the cloud and also the potential impact of an event that results in the loss of confidentiality, integrity or availability of that information.

A woman works on a laptop.

Currently, CVR operates only with impact level 2, or IL2 data. That kind of information includes public or non-critical mission information. Impact level 5, or IL5, information includes higher sensitivity, controlled unclassified information and mission critical information, as well.  

Right now, with CVR users can use their own authorized device, something Sherman called "BYOAD," or "bring your own approved device." That's something that will be considered in the future, as well, he said.

"We're working to bake that into an enduring solution in the run up to June of 21, when we hand the baton off from CVR to the more enduring solution," he said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

DOD Research & Engineering Leaders Brief Reporters on the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics

 Oct. 26, 2020

Dr. Mark Lewis, Director Of Defense Research And Engineering For Modernization; Dr. Gillian Bussey, Director, Joint Hypersonics Transition Office

Cmdr. Frey: All right. Okay. So we will close the roll call for now. And if we have enough time at the end, I'll come back to anybody who I didn't call. And we'll get started here in just a few minutes with an opening statement from Dr. Lewis.

For those of you who haven't -- who I haven't talked to yet, my name is Commander Josh Frey, I’m with OSC Public Affairs. I'll be facilitating this call this afternoon. And thank you for joining us.

This afternoon, Dr. Mark Lewis, the Acting Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, will provide a brief opening statement on the Department of Defense hypersonics program and the establishment of the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics.

He will then be joined by Dr. Gillian Bussey, the Director of the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office, for an overview of the consortium. And then we will go into a brief question and answer session.

We'll have about 30 minutes for this event today. And this is on the record and for attribution. If you have any follow-on questions or I don't get to you by the end of the questions, then follow up with me and we can try to have your question answered at a later time.

And with that, Dr. Lewis will now provide an opening statement.

DR. MARK LEWIS: Great, well, hey, let me start off by thanking everyone for joining us. Really appreciate your time this afternoon. We called you all together to make an announcement of a program that we're really quite excited about. I hope -- I hope you will be as well. So -- if I -- if I can provide the context, I've heard a lot of familiar names on the line so I know many of you have reported on our work in the past on -- on high-speed flight, but to kind of set where we are, I think all -- all of you know that one of our very top modern day priorities at the Department of Defense is hypersonics. And our goals are pretty straight forward. We want to deliver high-speed weapons at scale, and by at scale we mean large numbers, into the hands of our warfighters, and we also, by the way, want to develop defenses against weapons that some of our peer competitors are in the process of developing or deploying as well. So it's both offense and defense. And to this, we've significantly accelerated research and testings. We have a number of prototype efforts underway in the Department. And all these have the goal of rapidly transition to programs of record, again, to get high-speed weapons in the hands of our warfighters. So as part of doing this, we developed a detailed road map. And that road map was -- was developed in concert with the services and the various agencies, including DARPA, Missile Defense Agency, Space Development Agency, but we've taken a truly whole Department approach. And this approach isn't just focused on research and development, but also on such issues as supply chain and workforce and including education as you're going to hear today. So an important element of this has been pushed for the creation of what we call the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office, the JHTO, and that's within the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering. As -- was mentioned, I'm currently the Acting Deputy Undersecretary in that office. We've done that with tremendous support from friends in Congress, those who recognize the importance of investments in this area. So today, it's my pleasure to help announce an important milestone coming out of the JHTO, the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office. That is the formal kickoff of the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics. It's going to be led by Texas A&M under the guidance of Dr. Rodney Bowersox in the College of Engineering. And – and Dr. Bowersox and his colleagues have assembled a multi-university team that will truly be our partners in exploring hypersonics.

So -- without further adieu, I want to introduce the head of our Joint Hypersonics Transition Office, Dr. Gillian Bussey. She's been the person who led the effort to create, to define, and will ultimately be the person to help guide and partner with this team of universities under the consortium.

So, Gillian, turning it over to you.

DIRECTOR GILLIAN BUSSEY: All right. Thank you, Dr. Lewis. It's been a pleasure working with you and the R&E Hypersonics Team getting this consortium off the ground.

So establishing the University Consortium for Applied Hypersonics has been my top priority since being appointed director of the JHTO in April. When Congress provided funding and direction to establish this consortium, they highlighted the important role that our country's academic institutions play in national security-related technology development. While we've always turned to our colleges and universities to advance important technologies, this consortium is unique in its diversity and scope. So hypersonics in particular requires integrating advanced technologies from across a wide variety of disciplines. So this consortium will bring together under one umbrella universities from across the country. I think we've -- we've heard from almost every state as a part of this initiative expressing an interest in joining. So we'll bring in universities from across the country and researchers with expertise, ranging from aerospace, chemistry, thermodynamics, materials, artificial intelligence, possibly quantum, and more. So our job is really to leverage this broadly scoped consortium to break down the functional stovepipes and good ideas from research to operationally useful capabilities and then perhaps most importantly, develop the hypersonics workforce we need. You'll note that this is a consortium for applied hypersonics. The Department is funding a good amount of basic research in hypersonics, but we're finding that that's leading to some of the more applied areas are not quite as healthy and not bringing fresh blood into our workforce, into our industry. So this consortium is going to -- is really based on something kind of new. We're focusing on budget areas 6-2, 6-3, so more applied areas, and having universities work on more sensitive technologies. That could include ITAR, classified, things that are a little bit more closely connected to our programs, to really help transition that workforce and to get students and professors kind of working in more applied areas, working more multidisciplinary and really treating them as a member of our team. So this effort is consistent with the JHTO's larger purpose, which is to synchronize and align the wide variety of cross-disciplinary research, technology, transition development, and test efforts needed to successfully produce hypersonic systems. We need to coordinate and align to meet the warfighters' needs, to avoid redundancy, to focus our resources on the most important and most promising technology development areas. We work closely with Mike White, the Principal Director for Hypersonics, on our activities, particularly our hypersonics S&T roadmap, and the consortium activities that derive from it, along with the larger view of the hypersonic vision. While I've largely been speaking to technology development, an equally important purpose of my office and the university consortium is to better development the workforce. The symmetry of purpose between the JHTO and the consortium in research and workforce development will carry us far, and we couldn't have a better partner in this effort than the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station. When we solicited whitepapers from universities, non-profits, and small businesses to establish and oversee this consortium, we received many high-quality responses. Two stood out in particular with their expertise in running consortiums, they're broadly inclusive in cross-cutting government structures (inaudible), and a wide range of supports that they will provide to the consortium and its members, is really quite amazing. They also presented a plan to maximize opportunities for effective engagement between a government and academic community beyond research projects. I will say by choosing Texas A&M, I didn't -- I felt like we weren't choosing just -- we weren't choosing a contractor. We ended up getting a partner and a valuable member of our team. They really presented a great proposal that shows that they really understand what the hypersonic community needs and how the university systems can, you know, affect that. The governance board that they empaneled includes many of the top minds in hypersonic related research from across multiple universities. Their plan includes integration of industry in an advisory capacity, which is essential to ensuring how we can best transition technologies to operational capabilities, and develop our workforce; tease outreach efforts, which have garnered in over 500 faculty members from, I think the number's up to 45 now, different universities so far, ensuring that we have not only the diversity we need, but that we will hit the ground running. Our intent is to release an initial tranche of 26 project solicitations through the consortium to its members next month, and we expect to award 20 million in funding to those proposals that best meet our needs and will connect an initial virtual industry day associated with that call. To wrap up, today is an exciting day for the hypersonic enterprise and our partnership with Texas A&M will be of great benefit to the nation. At this time, I'd be happy to take any questions you might have.

DR. LEWIS: Thanks a lot, Gillian.

Cmdr. Frey: Okay. Now we'll go over to Steve Tremble from Aviation Week.

DR. LEWIS: Hey, Steve, how you doing?

Q: Great. Great, great to hear from you again. So I know it's difficult to elaborate in this subject area, but can -- can you go into any depth on an example or two of a -- of a problem that you think you can solve or -- or at least address by going through this structure of a consortium versus the other way DOD would handle basic research with the universities?

DR. LEWIS: Well, actually, Steve, if I can jump in-- so, you know--there's no -- when you say other way, I mean, we have many, many different paths to work with the universities, everything from the single investigated grants to the MURIs -- What are you looking to contrast against?

Q: I mean, this consortium approach with sort of a central manager at Texas A&M with the JHTO. That sort of coordinated process and -- and given things like aerothermal chemistry and all these other very complex, interactive issues with hypersonics.

DR. LEWIS: So -- Gillian, let me take -- if it's okay, let me try to jump in on that one and then feel free to chime in as well. So, let me -- start by saying, look, Steve, I spent most of my own career as a faculty member doing research in hypersonics. And the one thing I can tell you is hypersonics is perhaps the most interdisciplinary subfield that I know in aerospace engineering. A good hypersonic vehicle is a fully integrated system. The engines and the airframes are more closely coupled, more closely integrated than almost any other aerospace system that I can think of. And so this is a -- this is an area that just is crying out for multidisciplinary investigations. And that's what a consortium like this allows us to do, all right? Instead of funding a fluid dynamicist who's been working boundary layer transitions, and a material scientist who's done work on (inaudible) materials, this consortium allows us to get teams of faculty members together, in some cases large teams, tackling these really complex, major problems. And that's the beauty of this. Gillian, do you want to -- do you want to fill in? You want to elaborate?

DR. BUSSEY: Yeah, so -- I think one thing I've noticed overseas, in China, I've seen some of the research papers and they -- you look at kind of the research papers coming out of some of these schools and it's like you -- as a student, you could be exposed to every aspect of a hypersonic vehicle design and we've seen from some of the press reporting that some of these universities are actually designing and flying vehicles. And so I -- have to think that that's done amazing things to their workforce and might be part of the reason why that they've had a lot of success with their programs and we're hearing about it in the press. So I think, like, for example, one paper I saw, they had a university team was designing a vehicle and they were taking into consideration rate of cross-section and survivability, as well as aerothermal dynamics. They would then take that vehicle into the wind tunnel and verify the performance. I could imagine a project like that. You might also have another university working on the sensors that go -- new types of sensors that go into the wind tunnel to help characterize the important elements of the flow that you need to know about. One thing that we're doing with our consortium is we're trying to replicate projects, multidisciplinary projects like that and -- that are more applied. Ultimately, the gold standard would be to have this team develop a vehicle and fly it. That really depends on our -- our budget and kind of how things go, but for at least in your term, we plan on having these things we call challenge projects. There'll be a couple of them. They're multidisciplinary. They require teaming across universities. They're similar to the MURIs that are in the 6-1 world that -- folks like ONR and NASA and (inaudible) funds. I guess kind of one idea might be, like, let's say you have a scram-jet engine and you are trying to figure out how to provide better active engine control. And so there's things going on with the inlet that affect that, there's algorithms that need to be developed, there's sensors that need to be developed, you've put in the wind tunnels to understand what's going on. You're bringing in people who -- engine experts, you're bringing in aerodynamics people, you're bringing in someone to develop algorithms, you're bringing in G&C folks, you're bringing in the (inaudible). It's a big team of people all working together and then students, when they're part of these projects, when they graduate, they've had experience beyond just their small -- beyond just their discipline, they've actually had to do systems engineering and think about problems within their area.

DR. LEWIS: Yeah. And Steve, I guess I -- let me emphasize to your point that Gillian already made, but to really emphasize this, that as part of this consortium, the university's going to be directly partnered with us. They're going to be working on our actual real-world problems. So they're going to be fully integrated in some of the things that we do in this department. That's really kind of exciting. We already had some universities that are kind of on our critical path, but this will expand that relationship.

Q: That's great. Thank you.

Cmdr. Frey: Okay. And now we'll go to Kara Carlson with the Austin American-Statesman.

Q: Hi. So Texas as a whole, including Austin, has become kind of a hub for both public and private defense tech research. And I was just hoping to get some more information on how Texas A&M and just the state university system as a whole might fit into the DOD's future priorities and a road map as far as their own development of defense technology.

DR. LEWIS: Oh, I love that question, because our universities across the country are integral to the things that we're doing in modernization priorities. So if I can step back, we've got a portfolio of technology priority areas, including hypersonics, but also including such things as artificial intelligence and microelectronics and directed energy. And we're investing heavily across the department, but a large part of that is the investment that -- and starting at the university level. And when we looked to states such as Texas, we see incredible support. They understand the importance of these technology areas for our warfighters, for the Department, -- and frankly, they've risen to the challenge. In Texas, University of Texas Austin, I look at their engineering program and they've done some -- they've grown tremendously. They've built some incredible capabilities that touch directly on our modernization priorities, especially artificial intelligence and autonomy. Texas A&M is also doing some really, really incredibly impressive research across our list of priorities, not just in hypersonics. My close friend and colleague, Dr. James Hubbard, is a faculty member at Texas A&M. He has been doing some incredible work on autonomy, looking at the future of unmanned aerial systems, is just one example. Other investments being made across the board, again, addressing our priorities. So I will tell you that we also -- when we looked at Texas, we see -- I think a special appreciation for the importance of research that is dedicated to the defense of our nation. And we in the Department truly appreciate that.

Q: Okay, thank you.

Cmdr. Frey: Okay, Brittany Britto with Houston Chronicle.

Q: Thanks so much. I think my question kind of piggybacks on the first question asked. When you're talking about developing weapons and vehicles and doing real-world research, for our readers who might not know much about hypersonic technology, are there any other kind of relatable, I guess technology or inventions or projects that you're looking to focus on within the next five years?

DR. LEWIS: So, you mean within -- you mean out beyond hypersonics or within hypersonics? Can you -- I want to make sure I understand the question.

Q: Yeah, within hypersonics, but if there's -- you mentioned it's, like, multidisciplined. 

DR. LEWIS: Of course.

Q: I guess it doesn't relate to hypersonics, then just anything that you're focusing on and the initiatives.

DR. LEWIS: Sure. So -- let me -- I guess, let me take a step back. So, as you probably know, hypersonic flight refers to flight in excess of about five times the speed of sound. And there's a set of special challenges in designing a vehicle that can travel at those speeds. We look at hypersonics as being an enabling ability. It's not just one thing. It's a range of systems. It's everything from cruise missiles to longer range weapons, to basically high-speed airplanes, and maybe even high-speed spacecraft, all right? The special challenges have to do with when you're traveling at those sorts of speeds, it's difficult to propel the craft through the atmosphere. But then you also have to deal with the intense environment and incredible speed that is generated in association with flight at those speeds. So, we've got a -- we've got a whole range of subcategories and Dr. Bussey can go into more detail, but everything from propulsion systems, what are the engines that we use, to the high temperature materials that can handle the incredible heat loads that you experience from traveling at those speeds. Also, the special aerodynamics. So how do -- how do you shape a vehicle that operates most efficiently at those sorts of speeds? So all those kind of come together, and then the ability to control the vehicle. How do you make sure it points in the direction you want it to point in? How do you maneuver? How do you pitch? How do you yaw? How do you control it? How do you build sensors that can operate in those sorts of environments? But a long list of challenges that we've identified that this consortium will be able to participate in. So, Gillian, did I miss anything on that list?

DR. BUSSEY: No, but we do have a formal list that we've prioritized. So we have six overarching technology areas that are priority. Materials and manufacturing; guidance, navigation, and control; propulsion, primarily air breathing propulsion; environments; phenomenologies, which kind of refers to what is the vehicle experiencing, the high-temperature gas dynamic around the vehicle, and the vehicle in the atmosphere, your weather effects; applied aerodynamics and system engineering, and then the sixth area is lethality and energetics. So I don't believe you mentioned warheads. So that's -- we're looking at issues related to warheads, blast effects, in that sixth area. But pretty much every aspect of the hypersonic vehicle, we're going to be looking at it, but from a more applied nature.

Q: Thank you.

Cmdr. Frey: Great. Thank you. Patrick Tucker with Defense One.

Q: Sorry, can you hear me?

Cmdr. Frey: Yeah, we can hear you.

Q: Okay, thanks. So it might be a little bit redundant, but if not, (inaudible). The 26 project solicitations, can you tell us some of the first ones or some of the biggest ones that are coming up next month? Some more about them?

DR. BUSSEY: So we're still formulating them. And we're actually trying to keep them a little bit close hold because this is going to be a competitive solicitation, so we don't want to give anyone an unfair head start. But they're focused in the six areas and they're generally going to be -- we generally hope to have more projects in the first three areas I mentioned as opposed to the last three because they are prioritized. But you'll see a healthy spread across the different disciplines.

Q: Okay. And earlier you mentioned that there are schools in China where you have these multidisciplinary teams that are actually beginning to, like, build aircraft. I mean, the Defense Department already has formal hypersonics programs to build platforms. Is a (inaudible) fielded craft. Is that an objective or will you be (inaudible) by way of testing the hypersonics research environment that exists in China versus the United States?

DR. BUSSEY: So it was brought up as an example, kind of the environment they have. I think it would be our goal. Again, this is funding dependent and depending on how things are going with the consortium to have a flight test vehicle. I think some of you might be familiar with the AFOSR-led BOLT program, which essentially is -- was ATL and it's led actually by Texas A&M. And it's brought together several in the hypersonics community working on a particular problem. And they're flight testing a vehicle and they're going to get the results and they're going to compare against their data. That's done wonders for invigorating the workforce and it seems excited. They're giving people relevant experience when they're in college beyond just the lab and their classes. So it is my hope that we can replicate something like that, but have it be more multi-disciplinary and a more applied area, but we're just not there yet.

DR. LEWIS: If I can jump in, I do want to tell you, I'm often asked, -- it's the story has been well-told about how much the Chinese have imitated us, how they've duplicated some of our work, they've read all of our papers, they've followed all of our research, in some cases they've just stolen things hook, line, and sinker. And I'm often asked, well, gee, should we be learning lessons from the Chinese? Yeah, we can take the best of their ideas as well, and so I'm kind of -- I'm pleased in this case that we've looked -- in this case, it's something that they've done, and we said, yeah, we can do that, and in fact, we can do it better.

Q: Thanks.

Cmdr. Frey: All right. Jason Sherman with Inside Defense.

Q: Great, thanks. I just want to follow up on the point you made, Dr. Lewis, there. So you're talking about with the -- with this university consortium, that's the idea that you're taking and doing better here?

DR. LEWIS: Well, yeah. Okay, so, we've worked with universities. Obviously, we've worked with universities for decades and decades. So, but, we looked at, in particular, hypersonics, the degree to which China will integrate their students working on their various projects. We thought, huh, that's a pretty good idea. So, yeah.

Q: Great. Thanks. So, Gillian, I wanted to ask if you could just sort of give us an update, this announcement in the context of other things your office has done since it was set up in April and in general terms, sort of explain how Congress gave you $100 million for fiscal year '20, and it looks like this contract, this 20-year contract, is over five years, so that's -- that accounts for a small portion of that. So if you could sort of just walk us through what your main lines of efforts are in executing those funds that Congress appropriated for fiscal year '20, and then after that, a question about getting these graduate students and professors involved in, and integrating them in with these programs that are classified, what are the implications for foreign students who might be interested and even involved in some of the disciplines at these universities? Thanks.

DR. BUSSEY: All right, so I'll address your second question first.

Q: Okay.

DR. BUSSEY: So part of this effort is to train the workforce that would go into our industrial base, that would work on our programs. So we are limiting our projects to U.S. citizens and those from -- citizens of -- and universities from Australia, Great Britain, Canada. We actually -- I think we have three international universities that we're bringing into the effort. That's a little challenging how we do that, but Texas A&M has experience doing that. We also -- part of the reason why we chose Texas A&M is because they really understood the security aspect and are actually really proactive in making sure that those who shouldn't have access to defense university work don't get that access. They are proactive in looking for counterintelligence threats, to essentially make sure that we're not training Chinese scientists who are going to go help their programs, for example. So that's very much on the top of our minds and we're certainly looking for ways to ensure that these efforts stay out of the hands of folks who are going to use it against us in a future conflict. Let's see, remind me of your first question.

Q: It had to do with $100 million and you guys have been six months -- you've had six months to spend it and what are the other efforts that are accounting for those resources?

DR. BUSSEY: Yeah, sure. So our primary lines of effort, the first is advanced concept development. So we have a contract with Boeing to mature a dual nose scramjet design. They're working with Air Jet. Air (inaudible) is our program manager on this effort, and we're doing this so that we can have a option for the Navy that is compatible with their F-18 based on -- that are based off of a carrier. We hope to have that testing wrapped up in time to support any decisions that either the Air Force or the Navy will end up making in terms of future hypersonic cruise missile capabilities. Our second effort, what we're talking about today, the university consortium. Right before -- about two months ago, we announced eight grants that we handed out to eight different universities. Those were in the technology areas that I mentioned, as well as a workforce development grant to look at developing curriculum for folks in the workforce so that they can get smarter in hypersonics. So we had a press release about that Monday after September 11th. And that was just to kind of show that we're still committed to this effort. But as many people know, we have contracting. Takes a long time. So we wanted to get something out the door quickly. The third major effort is our S&T roadmap and strategy. So we have a roadmap that connects technology need to products, to capabilities, to timelines on when we need to have those products available to go into programs. And then also, we appreciate that Congress recognized that it doesn't do much good to determine what your gaps and your needs are and come up with a roadmap and then not actually be able to do anything about those gaps and needs because you don't have funding. So about half of our budget is going towards 27 S&T acceleration projects. Those are one or perhaps up to three-year projects that are going to accelerate some our biggest S&T needs. And so they're spread kind of across the disciplines. That money's going pretty evenly to the Air Force, DARPA, Army, Navy, and there's some going to NASA. There's money going to FFRDC. There's money going to ATL. It's spread pretty -- money going to (inaudible). It's spread pretty easily across the community. And then our -- our fourth major line of effort is the system engineering field activities at NSWC Crane. That was announced last week. And that is about ensuring that what we're doing has systems engineering rigor behind it and that the projects for funding, including with the consortium, they have a pathway and a plan to transition, and a schedule to transition into block upgrades, to get on flight tests so that can get matured, and then be in those block upgrades. And then also, we're responsible for allied engagement in hypersonics. So we have a number of efforts there with other countries.

Q: And those 27 acceleration projects are separate from the more than 2,000 contracts you plan to award to -- okay, great. All right.


Q: All right. Fantastic. Thank you.

DR. LEWIS: As you can tell, it has been a very, very busy six months for the JHTO. And shout out to our colleagues in session in the services and Navy and NSWC Crane, as Gillian mentioned, has just done a wonderful job with stepping up and working with us as we develop this portfolio. So we're really proud of the work at JHTO. They've done a phenomenal job in a very short period of time.

Cmdr. Frey: All right. And then going back to Vago Muradian, did you have a question?

Q: Yes, I -- I did. Thanks very much. So just two -- two questions really. The -- the first is what's the quantifiable acceleration by doing this? And if you look at it, while hypersonics may be somewhat more interdisciplinary than other fields, there are a lot of other fields that you could apply such an interdisciplinary approach to, right? So does this make you 50 percent faster? Does this allow you to have those hypersonics at scale and mass that you're looking for in two years instead of 12 or one year instead of three? Like, what -- how -- how do we need to think about this in terms of its accelerated capacities?

DR. LEWIS: So Vago, I got to be honest, I don't know how to quantify -- I don't know how to give you a quantifiable measure for the question you're asking. What I can tell you is we want to go as quickly as we possibly can. So in all of our modernization priorities, we have as a target date, we kind of think in terms of 2028, the delivery of new capabilities. Well, why 2028? Because it's ten years after the release of the National Defense Strategy. It's a line in the sand, if you will. So across the hypersonics portfolio, we're looking to deliver real capabilities in just a handful of years. We don't say exactly when because we've got peer competitors who are carefully monitoring what we're doing. We do believe that we are in a bit of a race right now. But -- so the best I can tell you is I -- this is an important part of the -- when we say acceleration, we mean, basically, every -- we had previously a number of prototype efforts. Now we're looking to those prototypes efforts, especially the ones that are most successful, going -- transitioning directly to programs of record. And so, accelerating the acquisition process to get us out of the lab and literally in the hands of the warfighter as quickly as possible. You know, it's just one example. I'll point to the program in the U.S. Army under -- under Lieutenant General Neil Thurgood. They are moving at a very, very aggressive pace to develop the Army component to our hypersonic portfolio. But, yeah, it's hard to -- I can't tell you that we're actually 43 percent faster than we were. I don't know how to do that metric. I can tell you, though, that the whole theme of this is moving as quickly as we possibly can.

Q: Let me -- let me ask one other follow-up question, if I may. Do you guys have to do anything differently in terms of security, right? You were looking for a distributed approach to something that's very highly classified. Obviously, we do that in a lot of other ways. But is there anything special that you're doing to maintain security, given the distributed nature of what you're doing?

DR. LEWIS: I think you mean specifically for the university consortium. So, Gillian, do you want to talk a little bit about the security issues? You mentioned them briefly, but --

DR. BUSSEY: So, we literally signed the contract today. So we don't have the security mechanism set in place. But of the teams we looked at, this was one of the best and arguably the best in terms of security. So I can't really say right now if we're doing anything different because we haven't started doing it yet.

DR. LEWIS: Vago, let me point out, you know, the first step in security is acknowledging a problem and being sensitive to it. And we were essentially impressed by the Texas A&M team, that they're -- it kind of gets back to a question that I was asked earlier. There are other universities, obviously, that do work in national and international security. Other universities, other teams at universities that will do ITAR, will do some levels of classifications. But I think it was the recognition of the importance in this area, the -- frankly, the seriousness of the -- of the competition that we face, that we recognized in this team that -- that was particularly noteworthy. Again, we had other proposals from other groups that also, and I'm not taking away from any -- any other proposers. But certainly one -- one of the winning attributes was starting with the recognition that maybe there's some special considerations in this case.

Q: Great. Thanks very much, guys. Really appreciate it and congratulations on the agreement.

DR. LEWIS: Thank you.

Cmdr. Frey: All right. With that, we have time for one more question from someone I didn't call on. And if not, we'll go into closing statements.

Q: May I ask a very, very quick question.

Cmdr. Frey: Sure. Can you please identify yourself?

Q: Yes, Peter Loewi with the Asahi Shimbun.

Cmdr. Frey: Okay, go ahead, Peter.

Q: Dr. Bussey, you mentioned a sixth -- a formal list of priorities, but you rambled them off too quickly for me to get them all down. Can you repeat those six in order please?

DR. BUSSEY: Sure. Materials and manufacturing.

Q: Yep.

DR. BUSSEY: Guidance, navigation, and control; propulsion with an emphasis on air-breathing propulsion; environments and phenomenologies; applied aerodynamics and systems engineering; and lethality and energetics.

Q: Wonderful. Got those. Thanks so much.


Cmdr. Frey: Thank you. All right, Dr. Lewis and Dr. Bussey, we'll go into your closing remarks if you have any.

DR. LEWIS: Sure, well, I just want to thank everyone for joining us. Obviously, we're incredibly excited about this announcement. One of the main reasons I came back to the Pentagon was to help enable our national efforts in hypersonics. And this is such an important step. I want to thank the whole team, the team led by, on the government side, led by Gillian, our partners in the services and the agencies that helped us do the selection. And most importantly the university members who responded to the call, who worked so hard to put this consortium together and has -- and have been so open as we've moved forward, as we developed this effort, and we -- again, this -- we truly are looking at this as a government/university partnership. This will not be a situation where we just send funding over the transom and then call up a year later and say, how's it going? This is going to be a -- a hand-in-glove partnership between our government folks and industry partners and our university colleagues. And we are just so excited about this. And I will give Dr. Bussey the last word.

DR. BUSSEY: Yeah, thank you. So as he just said, we've gained a partner today, another member of the JHTO team. They're going to be helping us formulate our S&T strategy. We're gonna be sharing with them what the Department needs. I remember earlier there was a discussion about security clearances and classification issues. The government's for it. There are going to be individuals who we can talk to frankly about what our needs are. And so I think that this partnership is gonna make DOD research stronger. It's gonna make it more -- more in tune with the latest and the greatest that's going out in the academic community. And at the same time, it's going to make what the university community is doing more relevant to what DOD needs and it's going to ease the transition of both technology and workforce into our programs. Industry is very excited about this. For the last couple of months, I keep getting questions from our --

Q: (Inaudible) two minor (inaudible) questions to do on this call (inaudible), does that work?

DR. BUSSEY: -- about how they can be involved and when the consortium's going to come online.

Q: (Inaudible). I don't think I need anything --

DR. BUSSEY: Somebody's -- your phone --

Q: There are a couple of things we could use, but nothing (inaudible), see what I mean?


Cmdr. Frey: Please put your -- your phone on mute if you're not speaking.

Q: Well, I mean, I have the codes. I can get it. But let's talk about it another time. I know.

DR. LEWIS: All right.

DR. BUSSEY: Okay. Did you also hear what I -- what I was saying?

DR. LEWIS: Yeah. Hey, once again, everyone, thanks for your time.

Anti-inflammatory Molecules That Treat Cystic Fibrosis May Fight COVID-19

Oct. 27, 2020 | BY Sarah Marshall , Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences

Efforts are underway at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences to support the fight against the pandemic, including some that apply existing research and knowledge to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

USU's Dr. Roopa Biswas, associate professor of anatomy, physiology and genetics, and biochemistry, and her colleagues have long studied ribonucleic acids, or RNAs, as well as short segments of RNAs, known as microRNAs or miRNAs. These molecules regulate the expression of genes — the process by which the instructions in our DNA are converted into a functional product, such as a protein. RNAs have recently emerged as an important therapeutic target for COVID-19 and are being used to develop COVID-19 vaccines.

This illustration reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses.

Over the years, Biswas and her colleagues have sought to understand how abnormal levels of RNAs can lead to inflammation in pulmonary disorders, such as cystic fibrosis in which the inflammatory response damages the lung and its airways. Through their previous research, the scientists identified certain miRNA-derivatives that have anti-inflammatory properties, which mitigate this lung destruction. Today, they're looking to see whether those anti-inflammatory miRNAs could be used to mitigate lung damage caused by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Biswas explained that she and her USU associates, in collaboration with Dr. Samarjit Das and Dr. Elizabeth Tucker at Johns Hopkins University, are focusing on how short segments of non-coding RNAs can interfere with protein formation, which in turn could reduce inflammation and ultimately suppress the virus. Some of these RNAs are designed to directly target the virus itself.

''Our goal is to suppress inflammatory proteins, like Interleukins (IL-6, IL-8, IL-1-), which play a major role in the damage caused by SARS-CoV-2,'' Biswas said.

I feel fortunate to have an opportunity to work on COVID-19 related research. I'm also hopeful that our endeavors will lead to a potential therapy for COVID-19, which, in turn, could ultimately help save lives.''
Dr. Roopa Biswas, associate professor at Uniformed Services University

So far, their initial tests to determine how well these anti-inflammatory non-coding RNAs reduce lung damage caused by SARS-CoV-2 are seeing promising results, she said.

In addition, USU researchers in Bethesda, Md., are working with scientists, under a material transfer agreement, at the regenerative medicine biotech company NellOne Therapeutics on a study that's looking at a protein called NELL1 to treat the severe tissue damage from viral infections.

This protein has been previously shown to restore injured bone, cartilage, skeletal and heart muscle tissues via mechanisms (for example, regulation of over-inflammation, stem cell recruitment, blood vessel formation and balancing cell growth and maturation) that are also necessary to mitigate respiratory tissue damage caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection. The biotech company has a proprietary composition of the NELL1 protein that Biswas is now testing at USU to treat SARS-CoV-2 infected mice.

''As a scientist, I have always wanted to make a contribution to science,'' Biswas said. ''I feel fortunate to have an opportunity to work on COVID-19 related research. I'm also hopeful that our endeavors will lead to a potential therapy for COVID-19, which, in turn, could ultimately help save lives.''