Defense Business Brief: Congress’ to-do list; Tradeshow season; Record number of foreign deals approved; and a bit more.

by Braxton Taylor

The early morning traffic jam of commuters slowly making their way across the 14th Street Bridge was a not-so-welcome reminder of what I feel is one of Washington’s busiest weeks of the year.

Now begins the four-week sprint to see if Congress can pass a spending measure to keep the government open past Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. If a full-year spending bill or a continuing resolution isn’t passed by then, the government shuts down—something that hasn’t happened since January 2019. And of course, there are also the annual defense spending and policy bills, which lawmakers still haven’t passed and delivered to the White House.

Of course, lawmakers also still haven’t passed the annual defense spending and policy bills. And there is a Biden administration supplemental spending request in limbo that includes billions of dollars for weapons for Ukraine and the replenishment of U.S. weapons already given to Ukraine.

Congress also must confirm the military heads of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, as well as a new Joint Chiefs chairman—which they have not yet been able to do because Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., placed a hold on the Biden administration’s senior military nominations, because he doesn’t agree with the Pentagon’s abortion policy. More than 300 senior military officers are in limbo right now. 

September and October are also dominated by numerous conferences: the Air & Space Forces Association’s national convention kicks off next week at National Harbor, just outside of Washington; DSEI in London (Defense One’s Sam Skove will be there) is next week as well, and the Association of the U.S. Army’s annual meeting in Washington is in early October. 

Add to that a bevy of smaller events—like the one I’m hosting at AFA next week, where we’ll be discussing the Air Force’s adoption of commercial technology. And this week, on Wednesday,, Defense News has its annual conference, and the Center for Strategic and International Studies has an event with Radha Iyengar Plumb, the deputy undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. 

Something else to keep an eye on in the coming weeks: political appointee departures. With a presidential election looming next year, political appointees who don’t intend to ride it out until after the elections generally leave by Thanksgiving, allowing time for the administration to appoint or nominate a replacement.

Welcome

You’ve reached the Defense Business Brief by Marcus Weisgerber. I’ll be at the aforementioned AFA conference next week, so make sure to say hello if you’re there too. Send along your tips, and feedback to mweisgerber@defenseone.com or @MarcusReports. Check out the Defense Business Brief archive here, and tell your friends to subscribe!

Since the newsletter has been in an August hiatus, let’s do a quick catch up of what’s happened over the past month, shall we?

The U.S. State Department is poised to approve a record amount of foreign arms sales in fiscal 2023. TD Cowen analyst Roman Schweizer puts the current total value of the sales at $96 billion. The Pentagon’s Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which oversees arms sales, approved five deals in August alone worth $14 billion. 

The largest deal approved last month: 96 Apache attack helicopters worth $12 billion. In recent years, Poland has been updating and bolstering its military—predominantly due to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. Warsaw is poised to increase defense spending by more than 16 percent, Forecast International’s Dan Darling writes.

BAE Systems has entered an agreement to buy Ball Aerospace for $5.5 billion. “The Ball Aerospace legacy of achieving advances in national security space architecture, mission-enabling technologies, and scientific discoveries are complementary to BAE Systems’ portfolio and culture,” BAE said in a statement. “The proposed acquisition of Ball Aerospace represents an exceptional opportunity to acquire a high quality, technology-based business with market leading space and defense capabilities to solve our customers’ greatest challenges.” The next step: Getting regulators to approve the deal.

Bonus: Deltek completed its May-announced acquisition of Replicon on Aug. 22. 

Major announcements:

  • Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks announced the Pentagon has launched the Replicator initiative. Its goal is “to create cheap drones across the air, sea, and land in the ‘multiple thousands’ within the next two years,” my colleague Patrick Tucker writes. Read his story about Replicator here.
  • The Air Force has chosen startup JetZero to build a blended-wing body prototype aircraft. My colleague Audrey Decker has the details here.
  • Doug Beck, the former Apple executive who is now in charge of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit, wants to extend the cell’s reach into the military’s combatant commands. My colleague Lauren Williams has the story here.
  • The congressionally chartered Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Execution Reform released its interim report. Audrey has more details here.
  • The Space Development Agency last week successfully launched 13 or 28 Tranche 0 Transport and Tracking Layer satellites “that will demonstrate low-latency tactical data links to deliver space-based capabilities to the warfighter, including tracking of advanced missile threats, through a resilient constellation in low-Earth orbit.” Audrey has more here.

Big contracts:

  • The U.S. Navy awarded Sikorsky a $2.8 billion contract for 35 CH-53K heavy lift helicopters.
  • The U.S. Army awarded Leidos a $7.9 billion contract for “hardware systems, system management solutions, components, customizable sustainment strategies, non-personal services and continuous technology upgrades.”

Making Moves

Northrop Grumman named Krzysztof Krystowski country lead executive in Poland.



Read the full article here

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