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Sequestration’s Budget Ax Could Fall on San Diego in 2018

Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned against the possible return of sequestration in 2018, saying the program of federal budget cuts would cause uncertainty for the Pentagon. He made his remarks March 22 during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee.

San Diego’s economy would feel such cuts, since Defense Department spending makes a sizable impact locally. The Pentagon spent $24.8 billion in the region in fiscal 2015 and supported 328,000 jobs, according to data from the San Diego Military Advisory Council.

Carter made his comments while briefing the congressional committee about the fiscal 2017 Pentagon budget request unveiled in February. The request calls for $583 billion in total spending, up from $580 billion in 2016. The budget proposal, which still needs congressional approval, will work to increase the size of the Navy fleet and spend $34 billion globally on cybersecurity, electronic warfare and space, Carter said.

A bipartisan budget deal called off sequestration — which is a 10-year program of budget cuts — for fiscal 2016 and 2017 and gave the Pentagon some stability.

After laying out spending priorities for 2017, Carter closed his statement before the committee with this: “Our greatest risk, DoD’s greatest risk, is losing that stability this year, and having uncertainty and sequester return in future years. That’s why going forward, the biggest budget priority for us strategically is Congress averting the return of sequestration — to prevent what would be $100 billion in looming automatic cuts — so that we can maintain stability and sustain all these critical investments I’ve been speaking of.”

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Protest Percentage: Companies that lost their bids for defense contracts and formally protested the way the Pentagon handled a contract award were not as successful in getting the government to take their sides in 2015 as they were in previous years. That is according to year-end statistics from the Government Accountability Office, which handles Pentagon bid protests.

The GAO sustained 12 percent of protests in 2015, down from 13 percent in 2014, 17 percent in 2013 and 18.6 percent in 2012.

Some 45 percent of companies got some sort of relief from filing a protest, the GAO said, up from 43 percent in 2014.

The GAO received 2,639 bid protests in fiscal 2015, up 3 percent from the previous year.

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Of Ships and Simulators: Maryland-based LB&B Associates Inc. has a new task order to provide services for the simulators that train sailors to operate the Navy’s littoral combat ships. Existing locations are the dry side of Naval Base San Diego (aka the 32nd Street naval station) and Point Loma’s antisubmarine warfare base. Before the fiscal year ends in October, LB&B will have to transport the simulators to the wet side of the 32nd Street base (Harbor Drive and the trolley tracks divide the base in half like a spine, to “wet” and “dry” sides. LB&B also has a broader task order to provide services (operation and maintenance) for those simulators. Financial terms of the task order, announced March 21, were not immediately

available.

In other simulation news, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is getting an onboard air traffic control simulator in its carrier air traffic control center. The simulator is the first to be installed on a Navy flattop. “Normally we don’t have any flight operations we can simulate while we’re in port,” crew member Keith Thompson said in a statement sent out by the Navy. “Now that we have this simulator, we can come here and simulate flight operations any given day.” The Carl Vinson is in a period of heavy repairs, maintenance and upgrades at Naval Air Station North Island. The Navy said it plans to put simulators on the rest of its aircraft carrier fleet.

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Simulation Talk Reaches SXSW: Speaking of simulation, Cubic Global Defense Chief Technology Officer Amy Kruse spoke as part of a panel discussion in mid-March at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. The topic was using virtual and augmented reality for training.

Amy Kruse

The Cubic Corp. unit applies virtual reality to military training — though the technology also has applications in serious sports training. Part of Kruse’s talk was on issues and limitations that the military faces when using the technologies. Kruse holds a doctorate in neuroscience and formerly worked for the Pentagon’s R&D arm, DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Augmented reality is when technology lays a computer-generated image into video of an actual scene.

• • •

In Closing: While not a San Diego story, this could be a technology worth watching. Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) is doing some intriguing things with MEMS, or microelectromechanical systems. Its Mission Systems office in Woodland Hills has a contract with DARPA to develop next-generation microchip-size navigation systems. The inertial measurement unit would navigate by sensing acceleration and angular motion, possibly directing munitions. The DoD might need such a capability in an environment where GPS is knocked out. Might such technology eventually go into consumer items? It’s an intriguing question. Many defense technologies eventually wind up with civilian uses.

Send San Diego defense contracting news to bradg@sdbj.com.

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