AF forecasts industry opportunities at New Horizons

  • Published
  • By Benjamin Newell
  • 66th Air Base Group Public Affairs

NEWTON, Mass. -- Hanscom acquisition leaders laid out their priorities for 2017 during presentations at the New Horizons conference March 14-15 here.

Senior personnel presented business opportunities to defense industry in the context of Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein’s imperative to create an integrated family of systems that can overcome rapidly developing adversary capabilities, while being resilient enough to withstand attacks.

“A lot of effort has gone into strengthening our communications systems against adversary cyber-attack, but that’s not necessarily baked into our weapons systems,” said Dennis Miller, Cyber Resiliency Office for Weapons Systems director, and Engineering and Technical Management director for Hanscom Air Force Base.

Miller spoke on behalf of Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center commander, who was unable to attend due to the weather.

“We’re focused on ensuring that the acquisition enterprise is baking cyber security and resiliency into our weapon systems to improve mission assurance,” he said.   

To achieve mission success in a cyber-contested environment, Miller said the Air Force developed a campaign plan consisting of seven lines of actions. This plan will “aid the Air Force in acquiring systems resilient to attack and ensure our daily operations are conducted in a way that protects our resources from cyber-attack, while creating an educated, cyber-savvy workforce and conducting high confidence missions

Speakers responsible for maintaining and upgrading everything from unclassified email systems to weapons systems, like the E-8C Joint STARS, identified upcoming business opportunities.

“One trend we’re seeing, and it’s a trend that I think will continue to build, is the urgent need for capabilities to respond to a rapidly evolving adversary,” said Steve Wert, Battle Management program executive officer. “While it’s hard to predict what those urgent needs will be, we’re going to need to get used to, in acquisition, working on a much faster timeline.”

The annual conference overcame blizzard conditions in the Northeast that decreased attendance and speaker opportunities. However presenters from several programs throughout AFLCMC and from Hanscom AFB were still able to address industry representatives.

“The weapons system we are in charge of covers every stage of life cycle, from ideas, to acquisition programs, to sustainment and updates, through decommissioning,” said Scott Hardiman, deputy director of the Nuclear Command, Control and Communications Integration Directorate at Hanscom. “So we have more than a few opportunities for small businesses, to include Very Low Frequency communication systems upgrades for multiple platforms, Global ASNT Increment 2 for our wing commanders and sustainment of some legacy systems.”

NC3I works to modernize and sustain communications systems needed to deter attack and, in the event of nuclear attack, preserve assurance of counterstrike capability. 

“The Air Force gave us flashlights to go down into the deep, dark basement to look at systems that may have been neglected for a while,” said Hardiman. “What we’re finding is that after the cold war, much of our investment in capability stayed the same, but technology, and the threat, moved on. It’s our job to close that gap.”

Each speaker addressed the fact that in today’s battlespace, acquisition projects affect every domain where the Air Force operates, because no domain operates without support from every other core Air Force capability.

“To continue to maintain technological superiority in all domains, the Air Force needs to field and sustain resilient capabilities that provide mission assurance against constantly evolving near-competitor threats,” said Miller.

In the near future, Hanscom will be releasing opportunities for businesses of all sizes to positively impact long-range radars, create fifth-to-fourth generation communication gateways, improve Air Force Distributed Common Ground System software and respond to classified needs generated by the latest adversary capabilities.

From fiscal years 2017 to 2018, small business opportunities within one portfolio – Command, Control, Communications, Intelligence and Networks – are projected to increase from 20 to 25 percent of total contracts issued.  There are more than $700 million in contracts within the C3I&N portfolio, making approximately $175 million potentially available for small businesses of various types.

“These opportunities represent our need to bring high-tech, commercial solutions to our most complicated tactical systems,” said Maj. Gen. Dwyer Dennis, C3I and Networks PEO. “The warfighter needs those capabilities today and into the future, so we’re going to keep that in the forefront of our actions.”   

The event is sponsored by the Lexington-Concord Chapter of the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association.