Defense Business Brief: Shutdown watch; New F-35 missile; ‘Unsustainable’ repair scheme; and more…

by Braxton Taylor

The U.S. government is barreling towards its first shutdown since 2018. 

Last week, the House failed to advance its spending bill for fiscal year 2024, putting the U.S. government on path toward a shutdown unless Congress passes a stopgap spending bill by Sept. 30. While the House is gridlocked, the Senate seems poised to move forward with a continuing resolution. 

If they don’t reach an agreement in time, many troops will have to report to work without pay—and about half of the Defense Department’s civilian workers will be furloughed. A shutdown could also mean military training delays and disruptions in supplying weapons and equipment to Ukraine. 

Defense contractors could see delayed payments, or no pay at all, depending on their contract funding. And government contractors are not guaranteed back pay. But the Pentagon may enter new contracts or ask for work to be done on existing contracts to fill mission needs where a delay in contracting would be an “imminent risk” to human life or national security, per recent guidance. 

Aerospace and defense companies boast more than 2 million employees, and the industry’s lead trade group, AIA, wants Congress to “act now to fund the federal government…especially for the Department of Defense, as well as the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA” in the name of national security and aviation safety. 

The National Defense Industrial Association, which represents nearly 2,000 companies and 65,000 members, urged Congress and the White House to work on “sufficient, stable, and on-time funding” to prevent “disruption and costly delays in the defense industrial base” in a statement.

“Our warfighters deserve stability and predictability, as do workers and companies spread across the entire country working hard to support them,” said David Norquist, the association’s president and Pentagon’s former deputy secretary of defense.

Welcome

You’ve reached the Defense Business Brief. Audrey Decker and Lauren C. Williams are filling in for Marcus Weisgerber this week. Send along your tips and feedback to adecker@defenseone.com or lwilliams@defenseone.com. Check out the Defense Business Brief archive here, and tell your friends to subscribe!

Northrop gets $705M for new F-35 missile

The Air Force has picked Northrop Grumman to build the Stand-in Attack Weapon, or SiAW, a new air-to-ground weapon for the F-35. Last year, the service awarded Northrop, Lockheed Martin, and L3Harris three short-term prototyping contracts. Up to two of the primes could have continued into this next phase of development, but Northrop confirmed that it is the sole winner of the $705 million contract.

“The SiAW is an advanced air-to-surface missile providing stand-in platforms the ability to rapidly strike a wide variety of targets,” the Air Force said Monday. The service wants the missile to reach initial operational capability by 2026.

Air Force’s new electric taxi

Edwards Air Force Base has received its first electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft from Joby Aviation. The service will use it to test how battery-powered planes might transport cargo and personnel. Typical missions for the plane will remain around 25 to 50 miles, but it can fly up to 100 miles on a single charge. The Joby aircraft could be useful to travel short distances in some of the island clusters in the Pacific, Col. Tom Meagher, AFWERX Prime Division Chief, told Defense One. This delivery is part of the company’s $131 million contract with AFWERX.

DOD: Current F-35 repair scheme is “unsustainable.” The Pentagon has been buying new F-35 parts in lieu of repairs—a system that has become unsustainable, defense officials tell the Government Accountability Office. And the extra money spent on those new parts could further hobble plans to build up a service depot that can alleviate the repair backlog. D1’s Audrey Decker has more, here. 

Army to spend $8 billion on tactical IT. Leidos snagged the indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract which aims to provide the Army a “one-stop shop” for IT hardware over the course of four years with two three-year option periods.

Pentagon to pay GlobalFoundries $3.1 billion for chips. The 10-year contract will give DOD and other federal agencies access to the latest microelectronics and processes.

3D-printed submarine parts. General Dynamics Electric Boat and HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding division are using additive manufacturing, or 3D-printing technology, to produce deck drains made from a copper-nickel alloy for nuclear-powered submarines. “We are aggressively looking for opportunities to find ways to incorporate this technology into mainstream shipbuilding,” Dave Bolcar, Newport News’ vice president of engineering and design, said in a statement. “This collaborative project leverages authorizations made by the Navy that streamline requirements for low-risk additive manufacturing parts.”

Making moves

  • Julie Berry is General Dynamics Bath Iron Works’ newest vice president and chief information officer, the company announced Monday. Berry, who previously worked for healthcare organizations, will oversee Bath’s IT, “cybersecurity, and associated vendors.”
  • The Senate Armed Services Committee will consider two key Pentagon nominations this week: Derek H. Chollet to be defense undersecretary for policy and Cara L. Abercrombie to be assistant defense secretary for acquisition. But their nominations may get hung up by a GOP senator’s hold.



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