Wednesday, March 31, 2021

DOD Awards $53.7 Million Contract to Ortho Clinical Diagnostics

March 31, 2021

On March 31, 2021, the Department of Defense (DOD), on behalf of and in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), awarded a $53.7 million contract to Ortho Clinical Diagnostics to increase production capacity of COVID-19 antigen and antibody test kits and associated VITROS® Systems test analyzers. The VITROS® Systems test analyzers can be installed in laboratories across the nation to process tests and provide same-day results. 

This is an industrial base expansion effort which will allow Ortho Clinical to establish domestic production capability of its COVID-19 antigen and antibody test kits and VITROS® Systems test analyzers at its Rochester, New York facility.  This effort will allow the company to increase production capacity from 1.8 million to 6.7 million tests per month and establish production capacity of 25 test analyzers per month by April 2022.    

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). HHS’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Developmental Authority (BARDA) funded this effort through the Health Care Enhancement Act (HCEA) to support domestic industrial base expansion for critical medical resources.

Monday, March 29, 2021

DOD Awards $146.77 Million Contract to Puritan Medical Products to Increase Domestic Production Capacity of Foam Tip Swabs

March 29, 2021

On March 26, 2021, the Department of Defense (DOD), on behalf of and in coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, awarded a contract with a not-to-exceed value of $146.77 million to Puritan Medical Products to increase domestic production capability of foam tip swabs used in critical COVID-19 diagnostic tests.

The global increase in COVID-19 cases continues to impact diagnostic test manufacturers and the supply chains that support specimen collection and testing performance. This industrial base expansion effort serves as a modification to the previous Puritan contract.  This award will allow Puritan to conduct renovations to the facility and prepare the space for equipment that will increase the company’s total production capacity to 250 million foam tip swabs per month in Orlinda, Tennessee by February 2022.

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).  This effort was funded through the Health Care Enhancement Act (HCEA) to support domestic industrial base expansion for essential medical resources.

Thursday, March 25, 2021

Register for "ASCLD Emerging Issues: COVID 19 – Wellness and Operations"


Webinar Date: March 29, 2021, 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm Eastern

COVID-19 has had an enormous effect on the workforce, and not just in the areas of operations and logistics. Workplace schedules have been completely rearranged, work-life balance has been turned on its head from telework, and reduced “in lab” hours have caused strain on an already stressed workforce. In this webinar, you will hear from three experts in workplace wellness, particularly in forensic science. They will discuss the various stresses in forensic laboratories, including issues like vicarious trauma, and present strategies that leaders can use to mitigate the negative effects of stress on their employees and improve the overall wellness of their lab.


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

If DOD Wants AI In Its Future, It Must Start Now

 March 23, 2021 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

Now is the time for decision makers, commanders and policymakers within the Defense Department to get on board with fully implementing artificial intelligence, the director of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center said.

A man in a military uniform stands in front of a laptop computer.

Right now, said Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, AI is being used in many places across the department — but not at scale.

"I think you know you can see 1,000 flowers blooming across the Department of Defense and that's really powerful — it's a step in the right direction," he said, speaking at the National Defense Industrial Association. "But we need to start building on it. This is a truism that I think bears repeating again and again: If we want artificial intelligence to be our future, then we have to start building it in the present."

Accomplishing that will mean a lot of change and work within the department, he said.

"We have to do this comprehensively," he said. "Transformation has to be wholesale if it's going to be effective. The magic really starts happening when you connect automated processes. So if you have a data-driven process and it can drive another data-driven process — now you're starting to execute at scale."

Silhouetted people stand near each other.  A computer-generated face is superimposed over them.

Groen said the entire warfighting enterprise must be modernized to accommodate full integration of AI.

"We have to think about enterprise effects, decision tools that derive from massive data flows and integrated infrastructure that allows any sensor to inform any decision maker or any sensor to inform any system," he said.

It's not just warfighting that has to evolve — the systems that support the warfighting effort must as well, he said.

"[When] you think about the Department of Defense, there's the warfighting end of the Department of Defense, but there's the large gears that turn underneath the department that make warfighting possible and make warfighting successful," he said, citing agencies like the Defense Health Agency, the Defense Logistics Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

A computer-generated face is rendered in blue lines.

"Think about all of these activities that occur that are really the gears that the department rides on for effective warfighting," he said. "These enterprises are sitting on massive amounts of data. It's a natural target for AI implementation to create more efficiencies and economies and effectiveness in those large scale enterprises."

Modernizing business processes within the department is also important, he said, in part to help the department become more compliant with auditability requirements.

"The department has historically been challenged from an audibility perspective, being able to account for where all of our dollars are ... it's a natural playground or natural implementation ground for artificial intelligence right in our business practices," he said.

A graphic depicting a human hand touching a computer-generated image of a hand.

The JAIC, he said, is aiming to help the Defense Department achieve the efficiency and effectiveness seen in commercial enterprise.

"We believe that's possible, and we think that's necessary," he said.

Achieving national security objectives with AI can't be accomplished by the DOD alone, Goren said. Industry must be a part of that, he said.

"I don't want you to underestimate the key role that you play in underpinning national security," he said. "Your participation in this dialogue, and your participation in this transformation, is going to be absolutely critical."

Monday, March 22, 2021

IT Contractor Sentenced to Two Years for Deleting Carlsbad Company’s Microsoft User Accounts

SAN DIEGO – Deepanshu Kher was sentenced today in federal court to two years in prison for accessing the server of a Carlsbad Company and deleting over 1,200 over the company’s 1,500 Microsoft User Accounts.

According to court documents, Kher was employed by an information technology consulting firm from 2017 through May 2018. In 2017, the consulting firm was hired by the Carlsbad Company to assist with its migration to a Microsoft Office 365 (MS O365) environment. In response, the consulting firm sent its employee, Kher, to the company’s Carlsbad headquarters to assist with the migration.

The company was dissatisfied with Kher’s work and relayed their dissatisfaction to the consulting firm soon after Kher’s arrival. In January 2018, the consulting firm pulled Kher from the company’s headquarters.  A few months later, on May 4, 2018, the firm fired Kher, and a month after that, in June 2018, Kher returned to Delhi, India.

On August 8, 2018, two months after his return to India, Kher hacked into the Carlsbad Company’s server and deleted over 1,200 of its 1,500 MS O365 user accounts.  The attack affected the bulk of the company’s employees and completely shut down the company for two days. As the company’s Vice President of Information Technology (IT) explained, the impact was felt inside and outside the company. Employees’ accounts were deleted – they could not access their email, their contacts lists, their meeting calendars, their documents, corporate directories, video and audio conferences, and Virtual Teams environment necessary for them to perform their jobs. Outside the company, customers, vendors and consumers were unable to reach company employees (and the employees were unable to reach them). No one could inform these buyers what was going on or when the company would be operational again.

Unfortunately, even after those two days, the problems remained. Employees were not receiving meeting invites or cancellations, employees’ contacts lists could not be completely rebuilt, and affected employees could no longer access folders to which they previously had access. The Carlsbad Company repeatedly handled multitudes of IT problems for three months. The Vice President of IT closed by saying, “[i]n my 30-plus years as an IT professional, I have never been a part of a more difficult and trying work situation.”

In pronouncing the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Marilyn L. Huff noted that Kher perpetrated a significant and sophisticated attack on the company, an attack which was planned and clearly intended as revenge. In addition to the two years in custody, Judge Huff sentenced Kher to three years’ supervised release and restitution to the Company of $567,084, the amount that the Company paid to fix the problems which Kher caused.

Kher, an Indian national, was arrested when he flew from India to the United States on January 11, 2021, unaware of the outstanding warrant for his arrest.

“This act of sabotage was destructive for this company,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Randy Grossman. “Fortunately, the defendant’s revenge was short-lived and justice has been delivered.” Grossman commended the excellent work of Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra F. Foster and the FBI agents on this case.

“The FBI was able to identify, arrest, and prosecute Deepanshu Kher, despite the fact that he committed this harmful hack while outside the United States.  This case shows the commitment, expertise, and reach of the FBI in working cyber intrusion cases,” said Suzanne Turner, Special Agent in Charge of FBI's San Diego Field Office. “We encourage companies to develop a relationship with the FBI and local law enforcement prior to a cyber security incident and incorporate us into incident response plans.  In this case, the victim company’s swift notification and cooperation with the FBI contributed greatly to the successful outcome.  Living in a digital world, it is important to get ahead of the threats, be proactive and predictive in the way we approach cybersecurity.”

If victimized in a cyber security incident, the FBI encourages companies to immediately contact the FBI.  Specialized cyber agents will work with companies to protect company information and the personal data of its customers. Please contact the FBI San Diego's cyber program by calling our field office at (858) 320-1800 or submitting tips at Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

DEFENDANTS                                            Case Number 19cr4643-H                                    

Deepanshu Kher                                       Age:     32                             Delhi, India


Intentional Damage to a Protected Computer (18 U.S.C. § 1030(a)(5)(A) and (c)(4)(B)(i))

Maximum Penalty: Ten years in prison; $250,000 fine.



Strategic Capabilities Office Selects Two Mobile Microreactor Concepts to Proceed to Final Design

March 22, 2021

The Department of Defense (DOD) exercised contract options for two teams— led by BWXT Advanced Technologies, LLC, Lynchburg, Virginia; and X-energy, LLC, Greenbelt, Maryland—to proceed with development of a final design for a transportable advanced nuclear microreactor prototype. The two teams were selected from a preliminary design competition, and will each continue development independently under a Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) initiative called Project Pele.

After a final design review in early 2022 and completion of environmental analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act, one of the two companies may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype. This selection follows an April 2019 request for solutions through which three companies were awarded competitively other transaction agreements for prototyping to develop preliminary designs.

“We are thrilled with the progress our industrial partners have made on their designs,” said Dr. Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager. “We are confident that by early 2022 we will have two engineering designs matured to a sufficient state that we will be able to determine suitability for possible construction and testing.”

The DOD uses approximately 30 Terawatt-hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day—levels that are only expected to increase due to anticipated electrification of the vehicle fleet and maturation of future energy-intensive capabilities. A safe, small, transportable nuclear reactor would address this growing demand with a resilient, carbon-free energy source that does not add to the DOD’s fuel needs, while supporting mission-critical operations in remote and austere environments. Project Pele is a fourth-generation nuclear reactor, which, once prototyped, could serve as a pathfinder for commercial adoption of such technologies, thereby reducing the Nation’s carbon emissions and providing new tools for disaster relief and critical infrastructure support.

The prototype reactor will be designed to deliver one to five Megawatts of electrical power for at least three years of operation at full power. To enable rapid transport and use, it will be designed to operate within three days of delivery and to be safely removed in as few as seven days.

Project Pele is a whole-of-government effort, with critical expertise provided by the United States Army, the Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

“Production of a full-scale Fourth Generation nuclear reactor will have significant geopolitical implications for the United States,” said Mr. Jay Dryer, SCO director. “The DOD has led American innovation many times in the past, and with Project Pele, has the opportunity to help us advance on both energy resiliency and carbon emission reductions.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Defense Department Successfully Transitions New Technology to Programs of Record

 March 16, 2021

The Department of Defense announced today that the multi-year Low-Cost Cruise Missile (LCCM) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) project successfully transitioned three primary technologies to programs of record or development projects.  The LCCM JCTD was initiated to advance a decentralized autonomy module for low-cost, conventional, collaborative cruise missiles; the integrated management team developed a new air vehicle and launcher, an autonomy software module, and a jam-resistant datalink. 

The air vehicle, the Coyote Block III, was improved and the launcher was developed with Raytheon Missiles & Defense; the autonomy software module with the Georgia Tech Research Institute; and the datalink with L-3 Harris. 

“This successful transition shows the great value of the JCTD program,” said Jon Lazar, acting director of prototypes & experiments.  “By working closely with our industry partners and combatant command operators, we delivered needed capabilities that will enhance the warfighter’s ability to accomplish their missions.”

The Coyote Block III air vehicle is the baseline for numerous follow-on activities and programs within the Navy, Air Force, and Army.  The autonomy module transitioned to the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) Vanguard Program, Golden Horde, and will transition to the Marine Corps Long-Range Unmanned Surface Vehicle Program of Record and MITRE’s Simulation Experiments along with several Air Force and Navy spiral development programs.  The jam-resistant datalink also transitioned to the Golden Horde program, along with several spiral development programs.

The JCTD office provided project oversight, and Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate (AFRL/RW) provided technical management and overall technology integration. Flight tests and operational demonstrations were flown in 2018 and 2019 at the Yuma Test Proving Grounds, Arizona. In the final operational demonstration in 2020, multiple cruise missiles were pneumatically launched in a matter of minutes. The swarm of LCCM vehicles then dynamically reacted to a prioritized threat environment while conducting collaborative target identification and allocation along with synchronized attacks. The LCCM project also enabled significant improvement in understanding the relationship between communications and autonomy in collaborative vehicles. 

About OUSD(R&E) 

The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering is responsible for the research, development, and prototyping activities across the Department of Defense.  OUSD(R&E) fosters technological dominance across the DoD ensuring the unquestioned superiority of the American joint force.  Learn more at or follow us on Twitter:  @DoDCTO.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Four-Part Series Explores Use the of Artificial Intelligence in the Criminal Justice System

 Title: Artificial Intelligence in the Criminal Justice System: Demystifying Artificial Intelligence, its Applications, and Potential Risks
Authors: James Redden, Molly O'Donovan Dix
Links: Summary, Full Document (pdf, 10 pages)

Title: Artificial Intelligence Applications in Law Enforcement: An Overview of Artificial Intelligence Applications and Considerations for State and Local Law Enforcement
Authors: James Redden, Brian Aagaard, Travis Taniguchi
Links: Summary, Full Document (pdf, 10 pages)

Title: Artificial Intelligence Applications for Criminal Courts: An Overview of Artificial Intelligence Applications for Prosecutors and Associated Considerations for the Criminal Court System
Authors: James Redden, Duren Banks
Links: Summary, Full Document (pdf, 11 pages)

Title: Artificial Intelligence in Corrections: An Overview of AI Applications and Considerations for Systems Administrators a Policy Makers
Authors: James Redden, Christopher Inkpen Ph.D., Matthew DeMichele Ph.D.
Links: Summary, Full Document (pdf, 8 pages)

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

New Infusion Clinic Offers Treatment Option For COVID-19

 March 10, 2021 | BY Lori Newman , Brooke Army Medical Center

Brooke Army Medical Center opened a new infusion clinic to help high risk COVID-19 patients with moderate to mild symptoms at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston, Texas.

The treatment involves IV infusion of investigational antibody medications that are not Food and Drug Administration approved but are authorized under an FDA emergency use authorization.

"The goal of this treatment is to halt the progression of COVID and to hopefully prevent inpatient admission," said Air Force Maj. (Dr.) Joseph Yabes Jr., Infectious Disease Clinic officer in charge. "Overall, people have had good responses to this therapy."

Soldiers watch an instructor interact with a medical simulation dummy.

The infusion therapy can be given to patients 12 years and older who weigh at least 88 lbs. However, patients who are more than 65 years old and those with a body mass index over 35 have benefited the most from the treatment. 

"People who are immunocompromised, diabetic, or people who are age 55 with hypertension or COPD [chronic obstructive pulmonary disease] may also benefit from this therapy," Yabes explained. 

A primary care manager must refer the patient to the COVID-19 Infusion Clinic. If the patient meets the criteria, someone from the infusion clinic will contact them to schedule the appointment. Once the patient arrives at BAMC, they have a designated parking space and are instructed to call the clinic.

"We don't want to bring someone who is acutely sick with COVID and infectious to sit next to someone who is immunocompromised," Yabes said. "The clinic was opened to provide a safe and monitored environment to facilitate antibody infusion and to prevent potential exposures to others."

After the patient calls the clinic, a technician goes to meet the patient and escorts them from the entrance to the clinic to ensure they don't get lost. Once in the clinic, a nurse takes their vital signs to ensure they don't need to be admitted to the hospital for treatment. 

"The goal of this is to prevent hospital admission," Yabes said. "If you are at the point where you need to be admitted to the hospital, the best course of action is to be admitted and receive alternative therapies not a monoclonal antibody."

Once the patient reviews the disclosure documents and agrees to the treatment, the pharmacy begins to prepare the medications. The technician retrieves the medication from the pharmacy and starts the infusion process. The patient is continually monitored during the infusion process, which takes about an hour. After the infusion is complete, the patient is monitored for another hour before leaving the clinic.

"During the treatment, the patient can watch TV, read, listen to music or just relax," Yabes said. "We do ask that they keep their masks on at all times and not eat or drink while they are here."

Currently, the COVID-19 Infusion Clinic can support up to four patients per day. Prior to the clinic opening, patients were able to receive the antibody infusion therapy in the emergency department. 

Three female soldiers practice a medical simulation.

Retired Army Command Sgt. Maj. Paul Cardona, 69, and his wife, retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Marie Cardona, 66, tested positive for COVID-19 and fit the criteria for the monoclonal antibody therapy.

"I was provided literature about the treatment, and the clinic called me to see if I would be interested in receiving the treatment," Paul Cardona said. "Before I received the treatment, I was feeling pretty bad."

He had a sore throat, headache, chills and body aches.

"I was hurting all over," he said. "As soon as I received the antibody treatment, within days, my symptoms started to calm down and went away. I started feeling 100 times better."

Marie Cardona's COVID-19 symptoms included extreme fatigue, body aches, cramps and an intense headache. 

"I would walk into the living room and pass out on the couch," she said. "The body aches and cramping would wake me up in the middle of the night. I wasn't able to sleep because I was in so much pain."

A person inserts a medical device through the nostril of a simulation dummy.

"I had seen the reaction Paul had to the treatment, so I went in and did it," she said. "The first night after the treatment I didn't see a difference, but the next day the cramps, body aches and the headache were better."

People who have already received their COVID-19 vaccination are not eligible for this treatment, and patients who receive the infusion therapy should wait at least 90 days before getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

So far, BAMC has provided the antibody therapy treatment to 59 patients. Of those, only five required hospital admission.

The Cardona's were thankful they were able to receive the monoclonal antibody infusion therapy.

"They have a bunch of professionals in that clinic," Paul Cardona said. "The nurses constantly monitored me throughout the treatment and told me exactly what was happening."

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

DOD Announces $8 Million Defense Production Act Title III Agreement With GLOBALFOUNDRIES to Strengthen the Domestic Microelectronics Industrial Base

March 9, 2021

As part of the nation's effort to ensure the U.S. sustains the microelectronics manufacturing capability necessary for national and economic security, the Department of Defense (DoD) has made an $8 million award to GLOBALFOUNDRIES (GF). 

GF will conduct initial engineering baseline activities to move a key 45 nanometer (nm) semiconductor manufacturing processes from the East Fishkill, New York facility to the Malta, New York facility. This effort is the first step required to preserve the availability of the process for future use by DoD programs, as the process is slated to be discontinued upon the sale of the East Fish Kill facility.  

This will also serve as a precursor to major efforts contemplated by the recently passed CHIPS for America Act, championed by Senator Charles Schumer, which will allow for the sustainment and on-shoring of U.S. microelectronics capability. 

This $8 million award is the latest collaboration in the longstanding partnership between the DoD and GF to provide semiconductors for defense, aerospace, and other sensitive applications.

DOD Officials Discuss Quantum Science, 5G and Directed Energy

March 9, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

Three of the Defense Department's 11 principal directors of modernization within the Office of Defense Research and Engineering, discussed quantum science, 5G and directed energy.

The three are responsible for informing senior DOD leaders about science and technology investments that will provide warfighters the greatest return on investment.

They spoke yesterday at the National Defense Industrial Association's virtual Pacific Operational Science and Technology Conference.

Quantum Science

Paul Lopata, principal director for quantum science, said the DOD has been doing quantum science research for the last 20 or 30 years.

A woman works in a laboratory.

Although quantum science is often thought of as a distant future capability, it is actually having an impact on DOD operations today in four areas, he said.

The first and probably most important, he said, are atomic clocks. The department has historically used high-performance timekeeping for such things as position, navigation and timing, and GPS.

The enemy is aware of the advantage GPS gives to the department so they have developed techniques like spoofing and jamming to disrupt the DOD's time synchronization and the ability to incorporate signals from sensors. Spoofing and jamming also disrupts the department’s ability to encrypt communications, Lopata said.

To respond to that threat, the department is developing higher performance atomic clocks, he said.

The second category, he said, is made up of quantum sensors of different types, used for gyros, accelerometers, magnetometers and gravitational sensors, all of which are used for position, navigation and timing. Research is being done to improve quantum sensors as well.

Quantum computing is the third category, Lopata said. That's a future development that will enable computers to attain extraordinarily high performance.

The fourth category uses quantum science for communications networks, he said. That capability will also mature further down the road.

Although quantum science for computing and networks is not yet fully developed, a lot of good basic research is being done in those categories to ensure that those capabilities will eventually yield results.


Joe Evans, principal director for 5G, said that the goal is to get to the point where 5G invigorates the U.S. telecommunications network, the same network that the DOD relies on.

A drone flies past a satellite dish.

The development of 5G is transformational, Evans said. It's not just transformational for cell phones, it's also so for unmanned aerial and ground vehicles, remote sensors and the Internet of Things. 

"This is the same technology that's going to connect our warfighters and our weapons systems," he said. "Our specific objectives are first to win at the 5G technology race by accelerating our 5G capabilities and innovating."

He added that securely developing 5G is also critical.

The department is using prototyping and experimentation to develop 5G, he said, noting that there are a lot of opportunities for commercial vendors to help push this along and work with the DOD. International partners bring valuable ideas to the table as well.

A Marine stands in front of a cell tower.

"DOD 5G projects are starting to become a reality," he said, mentioning work being done with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and SpaceX's Starlink.

Directed Energy

James Trebes, principal director for directed energy, said there's been a lot of good development in directed energy after a number of years when there were some false starts.

"The technology provided by solid-state electric lasers, in particular, is really opening up a lot of opportunities. The industry is developing nicely. They're expanding their capability and investing their own money. We're funding a major effort in industry to build high-power lasers, Trebes said. 

There's a multiphase approach now underway with four companies under contract to make 300-kilowatt lasers, he said. The first will start arriving in 18 months and the last in about 24 months from now. 

A man tests a laser.

Those laser systems will be transitioned to the services for test and evaluation demonstrations, Trebes said. "These are not laboratory lasers. These are transportable lasers intended to demonstrate real military capability."

He added: "These are not systems operated by PhD scientists in the lab. They're out there being run by enlisted personnel in the real world across different combatant commands. We're finding out what  does work. How do you integrate these things? How do you maintain them? What doesn't work? This is where we learn what we really have to do. That's a critical part of what we do."

As soon as those lasers are produced, the department will begin developing 500-kilowatt lasers, [which] will take 24 to 36 months. Then the department will immediately start developing megawatt lasers, he said. 

"There's a clear, well-defined path to get to a very substantial laser capability," he said. "There's a smaller effort in microwave [technology] area going on."

Some other focus areas include missile defense, he said.  "We are closely tracking our adversaries' missile capabilities: cruise missiles, hypersonic missiles, ballistic missiles, and we're looking at near-term counter missile capability. We're also looking at offensive strikes again."

Thursday, March 4, 2021

'Warfighter Council' Guides Capability Development for Space Development Agency

 March 4, 2021 | BY C. Todd Lopez , DOD News

As the Space Development Agency builds out the National Defense Space Architecture, it looks to a biannual 'warfighter council' to provide guidance about what is actually important to those who will use the systems, the agency's director said today.

"We want to make sure that we address our customers," Derek Tournear said. "The customers, in this case, are the combatant commanders."

A man sits behind a laptop computer and a television screen. The television screen says "2021 SDA Forum."  In the background are a U.S. flag and a sign that says "The Pentagon - Washington."

The warfighter council meets twice a year to ensure the agency is aligned with upcoming exercises that will provide SDA a chance to demonstrate its capabilities, he said.

"And then, most importantly ... to make sure that everyone is aligned with what is included in our minimum viable product for the next tranche," Tournear said.

National Defense Space Architecture

The National Defense Space Architecture will include hundreds of Earth-orbiting satellites that gather targeting and tracking information and instantly transmit it to warfighters and weapons systems. The architecture involves seven layers: transport, tracking, custody, deterrence, navigation, battle management and support. 

As part of the SDA's focus on proliferation of satellites and spiral development of the NDSA, officials have said, new tranches of satellites with improved capabilities are expected to be launched every two years.

Illustrated satellites appear over Earth.

Tournear said the NDSA will provide two capabilities to warfighters. The first, he said, is beyond-line-of-sight targeting for time-sensitive ground and maritime targets.

"We want to be able to detect, track and target anything that is a mobile missile launcher or ship and be able to send those targeting solutions directly down to a weapons platform," he said.

The second capability is similar to the first, but it focuses on a different target: enemy missiles already in flight, such as cruise missiles or hypersonic glide vehicles.

"Everything we do is focused on these two capabilities," he said. "How can we get these capabilities in the hands of the warfighter as rapidly as possible?"

Warfighter Immersion

Satellites for Tranche 0 of the NDSA are expected to launch in fiscal year 2022, Tournear said. For that, the "minimum viable product," he said, is warfighter immersion.

A soldier in a wooded area talks on a radio.

"The whole goal there is to allow people — allow the warfighters — to see what the data are, to start to use those data in their exercises and have familiarity so that they can include that in their operational plans moving forward," he said.

The warfighter council is tasked with ensuring that SDA is on target with what the minimum viable product should be for each tranche, Tournear said.

"We have a warfighter council coming up on March 31," he said. "That warfighter council will essentially decide what the minimum viable product is for Tranche 1."

"That's how SDA works to ensure that we meet the needs of the warfighter," Tournear added. 

Two soldiers work with communications equipment.

The Tranche 1 request for proposals will be released to industry in August, he said, and the plan is to have those satellites on contract for by the end of the calendar year.

"In other words, we are developing these products on the spiral mindset," Tournear said. "And the product is then going to be used by the customer, which is the [combatant commanders]. So, we want to make sure that whatever we are doing aligns with their needs and [that] we can address those without following the standard requirements-based products that get you into that incremental innovation approach."