Military News

Monday, April 27, 2009

Defense Acquisition Chief Cites Successes, Challenges

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

April 27, 2009 - The Defense Department directorate that procures warfighters' weapons systems has achieved much success in recent years, the organization's departing chief said here today. For example, the mine-resistant, ambush-protected vehicle program, known by the acronym MRAP, is an important achievement that saves servicemembers' lives, John J. Young Jr., undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, told Pentagon reporters.

The V-shaped hulls of heavy-duty MRAPs protect U.S. servicemembers against roadside bombs.

"I always had every dollar I needed to go do the things that needed to be done to make the MRAP program successful," Young told reporters. He has served as the Pentagon's top acquisition official since November 2007.

Additionally, Young said, remote-controlled aerial surveillance and attack drones procured in recent years have greatly enhanced military missions in overseas combat zones.

The MRAP and aerial-drone programs, Young said, are elements of Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates' acquisition priorities benefitting warfighters that were carried over during the transition from the Bush administration to the Obama administration.

Gates' dedication to acquisition reform and his willingness to confront programs that produce cost-overruns or simply don't perform, Young said, highlight the secretary's desire to ensure that weapons and equipment programs meet requirements without wasting taxpayer dollars.

Yet, although the acquisitions community continues to provide the best weapons and equipment for warfighters, Young said, factors outside the procurement realm pose challenges for future success.

For example, the defense acquisition effort is hampered by an annual budget-construction process, said Young, who recommends going to a five-year budget cycle. More often than not, funding provided through the one-year budget cycle "is accurate and executable," while funding for follow-on years in the one-year budgets "are estimates, at best," he said.

"There are just so many benefits of having a true multi-year budget," Young said.

Young said he'd like to bolster the department's government-civilian acquisition ranks, but, for various reasons, including a higher private-industry pay scale for such experts, it's been difficult to do so.

The acquisition system also is slowed down by time-consuming internal reviews and an excessive regulatory-oversight process, Young said.

"I need more time for program managers to run their programs," Young said. Acquisition officials, he said, likely spend a third or more of their time defending budgets and answering "what if" questions posed by multiple organizations inside and outside the Pentagon.

"Something about that has got to change to a degree that lets them go spend a vast majority of their time running their program on a daily basis," Young said.

Young's successor, Ashton B. Carter, received U.S. Senate confirmation April 23 to become the next undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics.

Tuskegee Airmen Use Social Media to Share Experiences

By Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 27, 2009 - As the Defense Department ventures into social media, even the famed Tuskegee Airmen are using popular social media tools to engage others and inform the world about their service to their country. When four Tuskegee Airmen participated in a trip to Southwest Asia to visit with U.S., joint and coalition forces and thank them for their service, an Air Force public affairs officer accompanying the airmen reported about their trip through Facebook and Twitter.

"Troops are following this journey on Facebook," Maj. Andra Higgs, director of public affairs for 4th Air Force and assigned to Air Forces Central Command for this trip, said during a "DoD Live" bloggers roundtable April 24. "We've got this capacity now to communicate by way of satellite around the world in real time."

Higgs said he used Twitter to provide instant updates on the Tuskegee Airmen's activities.

"I'm taken aback by the technology of the young people, the technological expertise. ... It's mind boggling," said retired Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson, one of four airmen participating in the trip. Jefferson served during World War II as a P-51 fighter pilot with the 332nd Fighter Group's 301st Fighter Squadron in Ramitelli, Italy, and said his experience in uniform provided many opportunities for him.

"Coming through the Tuskegee Airmen experience in World War II was the greatest thing that ever happened to me," he said. "It opened up vistas, opened up windows. It opened up doors to succeed in later life."

Jefferson flew 18 long-range escort missions for B-17 and B-24 bombers, providing protection from enemy aircraft. On Aug. 12, 1944, three days prior to the invasion of Southern France, Jefferson was shot down by ground fire. He was captured by German troops and spent nine months as a prisoner of war, but was liberated by American forces on April 29, 1945.

Jefferson said his visit with troops was a great way to see how "they're carrying on the traditions of our country."

"It was an inspiration to see these young people carrying on the tradition of the 332nd Fighter Group and the Expeditionary Wing," Jefferson said.

The airmen of the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing in today's combat theater share a piece of history with the Tuskegee Airmen; they fight under the same designator that the airmen used in World War II.

Jefferson was discharged from active duty in 1947 and retired from the reserves in 1969 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the war, he became an elementary school science teacher in Detroit, and he retired as an assistant principal in 1979.

(Navy Lt. Jennifer Cragg serves in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)

Missing Soldier's Family Receives His Distinguished Service Cross

By Benjamin Abel
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 27, 2009 - The history of the U.S. Army Special Forces Regiment is short in relation to that of the rest of the Army, but it's long enough for fierce battles to become old war stories and for training missions to be lost to the vagueness of time and personal recollection. But for the men who have worn the Green Beret, the memories of their Special Forces brothers, especially those missing in action and killed in combat, will never fade.

And so, though it took 42 years to happen, Special Forces senior leaders were asked to stand during the second annual Special Forces Symposium here April 22 as the Army officially awarded the Distinguished Service Cross to the family of Army Maj. Jack T. Stewart, 5th Special Forces Group, who went missing during a ferocious engagement in Vietnam.

On March 24, 1967, two American Green Berets joined with South Vietnamese soldiers to conduct a helicopter assault near the Cambodian border. The combined unit, a mobile strike force company, included then-Capt. Jack Stewart and Staff Sgt. Roger Hallberg. After landing near Bu Dop in Phuoc Long province, their patrol was greeted by enemy automatic weapons fire, requiring Hallberg to return to the rear area to report on the contact with the North Vietnamese army force.

During the firefight, Stewart rallied his men to secure a helicopter landing zone against an advancing enemy force later estimated to be two heavily armed battalions, greatly outnumbering Stewart's men. Stewart was last seen by American forces as he and Hallberg provided cover to retreating members of their company.

Diane Hasner, Stewart's former wife; son Troy Stewart and daughter Karen Kelly; Barbara Stewart Pratt, his sister; and Kermit Stewart, his cousin, represented the Stewart family at the ceremony and accepted the Distinguished Service Cross on behalf of the missing Green Beret.

Speaking on behalf of the family during the ceremony, Kermit Stewart recounted the Stewart family's uniformed service to the nation during the Revolutionary War, through the Civil War, both world wars, Korea and Vietnam.

In a brief humorous moment, Kermit paralleled the 55 years required for Ezekiel Stewart to receive a pension for his service with the New Jersey State Volunteers during the American Revolution to the 42 years between the disappearance of Maj. Jack Stewart and the awarding of the Distinguished Service Cross.

"I don't know why it takes the Stewarts so long to be recognized for their service," Kermit said, "but we finally get there."

Wearing a red, white and blue scarf embroidered with Major Stewart's name, unit and date of his disappearance, Hasner spoke of the importance of the award and ceremony to give closure the missing Green Beret.

"This has been a long time coming," Hasner said. "It's time for closure for family, friends and the men involved in the situation that day."

One of the men involved in the action that day was John M. Throckmorton, the lone survivor of the firefight. In the days following the fateful mission, then-2nd Lieutenant Throckmorton submitted Stewart and Hallberg for valor awards. After meeting the Hallberg family four years ago and learning that neither man had been awarded for their heroism in 1967, Throckmorton resubmitted paperwork that led to Hallberg being awarded the Silver Star and the eventual awarding of the Distinguished Service Cross to Stewart.

The Distinguished Service Cross is the second-highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the Army, and it is awarded for extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force.

(Benjamin Abel is deputy public affairs officer for the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School at Fort Bragg, N.C.)

MILITARY CONTRACTS April 27, 2009

DEFENSE ADVANCED RESEARCH PROJECTS AGENCY
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Co., Palmdale, Calif., is being awarded a $100,000,000 increment of a $399,898,219 cost plus fixed fee contract for phase three of the Integrated Sensor is Structure program. Work will be performed in Palmdale, Calif., (33 percent); El Segundo, Calif., (37 percent); Akron, Ohio, (3 percent); Denver, Colo., (14 percent); Sunnyvale, Calif., (1 percent); Litchfield Park, Ariz., (3 percent); Monrovia, Calif., (2 percent); Frederica, Del., (2 percent); Mesa, Ariz., (3 percent); Huntsville, Ala., (2 percent), and is expected to be completed in March 2013. Of the funds being obligated at time of award, $24,000,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was procured under a limited source competition with two bids solicited and two bids received. The contracting activity is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va. (HR0011-09-C-0036).

NAVY
Saab Training USA, Orlando, Fla., is being awarded a ceiling value $28,803,086 firm price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for the Instrumented -Tactical Engagement Simulation System (I-TESS) which will be used to support direct force-on-force tactical engagement training. The I-TESS system will consist of no less than the following type components: Small Arms Transmitter (SAT), Man-worn Detection System (MDS), Command and Control (C2 - mobile & portable versions), and Military Operations in Urban Terrain (MOUT) Building Instrumentation, and Simulated Battlefield Weapons. The SAT will be used on the M4 and M16 type rifles and the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). The MDS and range equipment will be used to instrument the individual Marine for direct force-on-force engagement adjudication and to include the ability to support instrumentation functions such as Position Location Information (PLI) reporting. The I-TESS system will be used in MOUT Facilities and Non-Live Fire Maneuver Ranges located at various Marine Corp bases and installations, provides the setting for the USMC Pre-deployment Training Program (PTP) and other type individual and company level training support. Work will be performed in Orlando, Fla., and the expected completion date is April 2011. Contract funds in the amount of $9,869,000 will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured as a full and open com! petition , with three offers received. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Orlando, Fla., is the contracting activity (M67854-09-D-8061).

Northrop Grumman Corp. Integrated Systems, Bethpage, N.Y., is being awarded a $22,414,639 modification to a previously awarded cost plus award fee System Development and Demonstration (SDD) contract (N00019-08-C-0023) for the Broad Area Maritime Surveillance (BAMS) Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). This modification provides for incorporation of wing static and load testing for the BAMS UAS. Work will be performed in San Diego, Calif., (90 percent) and Bethpage, N.Y., (10 percent), and is expected to be completed in December 2012. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

Navistar Defense LLC, Warrenville, Ill., is being awarded a $16,514,885 firm fixed priced modification to a previously awarded contract (M67854-07-D-5032), delivery order #0004, for field service representatives for the Mine Resistance Ambush Protected vehicles in theater, Contract Data Requirement Lists (CDRLs) and Engineer Change Proposals. Work will be performed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the final deliveries associated with this delivery order are expected to be completed by Aug. 16, 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured. The Marine Corps Systems Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

MACTEC Engineering and Consulting, Inc., Rummel, Klepper & Kahl, LLP, a Joint Venture, Raleigh, N.C., is being awarded a $13,335,804 firm fixed price architect and engineering contract for design of a new base entry point at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune. The work to be performed provides for plans, studies, surveys, permitting, specifications and project planning documents. The contract also contains several options, which if exercised would increase cumulative contract value to $14,530,082. Work will be performed in Jacksonville, N.C., and is expected to be completed by July 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was competitively procured via the NAVFAC e-solicitation website with 20 proposals received. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, Norfolk, Va., is the contracting activity (N40085-09-C-3217).

Ocean Systems Engineering Corporation, Oceanside, Calif., is being awarded $11,715,465 for task order #0056 under previously awarded firm fixed price contract (M67854-02-A-9020) to provide Marine Corps Systems Command's System Engineering, Interoperability, Architectures and Technology (SIAT) staff the detailed technical and analytical support required to define, integrate, certify, plan and oversee the development and delivery of Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) systems. This effort consists of four domain areas: MAGTF Systems Engineering and Integration; Systems Engineering and Technology; Joint Certification; and Architecture Design and Development. SIAT is responsible for ensuring that material solutions developed or acquired by MARCORSYSCOM and Program Executive Office Land Systems (PEO-LS) are system engineered, integrated, interoperable and certified. To do that, SIAT conducts the detailed systems engineering, establishes technical policies and guidance across the commands, and manages the technical analysis and distributed planning required to deliver world class MAGTF systems capabilities to the warfighter. Work will be performed in Quantico, Va., and work is expected to be completed in April 2010. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Marine Corps System Command, Quantico, Va., is the contracting activity.

Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co., Inc., Honolulu, Hawaii, is being awarded at $11,344,500 for firm fixed price task order #0010 under a multiple award construction contract (N62742-04-D-1302) for repairs to Pier B4 and Wharf B5 at Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Work will be performed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and is expected to be completed by May 2010. Funds provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. Three proposals were received for this task order. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Hawaii is the contracting activity.

Lockheed Martin-MS2, Liverpool, N.Y., is being awarded a $10,937,164 modification to previously awarded contract (N00024-08-C-6283) for Low Cost Conformal Array Production units (LCCA), test equipment, 3D mock-up devices, engineering and technical services, retrofit kits, refurbishments, and spare LCCA modules. The LCCA is a passive planar array mounted on the aft submarine sail structure that is integrated with the Acoustic Rapid COTS Insertion (A-RCI) AN/BQQ-10 system to provide situational awareness and collision avoidance for improved tactical control in high density environments. Work will be performed in Syracuse, N.Y., (97.5 percent), Walpole, Mass., (1 percent), Forrest Hill, Md., (1 percent), and Millersville, Md., (0.5 percent), and is expected to be complete by June 2013. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., is the contracting activity (N00024-08-C-6283).

Orbital Sciences Corp., Chandler Ariz., is being awarded a $9,992,000 cost plus fixed fee, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract for procurement of research and development technical services in support of the Missile Defense Agency Life Cycle Engineering Division's Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GMD). GMD Technical R&D Services required for the purpose of life accelerated environmental testing, parametric testing critical for the identification of current failure mechanisms, analysis of root cause failures, potential refinements or upgrades, mitigations of risk, sustainment, storage, and service life involving unique items of the currently deployed GMD System. Work will be performed in Chandler, Ariz., and is expected to be completed by April 2014. Contract funds will expire at the end of the current fiscal year. This contract was not competitively procured. The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division, Crane, Ind., is the contracting activity (N00164-09-D-GP07).

BAE Systems, Electronics & Integrated Solutions, Nashua, N.H., is being awarded a $5,547,746 modification to a previously awarded firm fixed price contract (N00019-08-C-0003) to exercise an option for the procurement of 3 OE-120A Antenna Groups and 1 OE-120 Antenna Group. The OE-120A and the OE-120 antenna groups are part of the AN/UPX-29(V) Identification Friend or Foe Interrogator sets, and will be used on U.S. Navy ships DDG-113 and LPD-26. Work will be performed in Nashua, N.H., and is expected to be completed in June 2011. Contract funds will not expire at the end of the current fiscal year. The Naval Air Systems Command, Patuxent River, Md., is the contracting activity.

ARMY
Sig Sauer Inc, Exeter, N.H., was awarded on Apr. 23, 2009 a $ 26,207,659 three year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity type contract for 55,890 9MM Pistols and one contractor-furnished spare parts kit. Work is to be performed in Exeter, N.H., with an estimated completion date of Apr. 25, 2010. One bid was solicited and one bid received. Tank-Automotive Armaments Command, Rock Island, Ill, is the contracting activity (W52H09-09-D-0158).

General Dynamics Land Systems, Inc., Sterling Heights, Mich., was awarded on Apr. 22, 2009 a $ 36,968,000 cost plus fixed fee contract for Systems Technical Support (STS) for the Abrams tank program to continue the engineering in support of the production effort. Work is to be performed in Sterling Heights, Mich., with an estimated completion date of Dec. 31, 2011. One bid was solicited and one bid received. TACOM Warren, AMSTA-AQ-AHLC, Warren, Mich., is the contracting activity (W56HZV-07-C-0046).

Raytheon Co., Andover, Mass., was awarded in Apr. 22, 2009 a $ 14,756,989 cost plus fixed fee and cost reimbursable contract for an on-site depot level diagnostic, fault isolation, clean up and repair capability for PATRIOT Weapons System major items. This service is beyond the capability of the battery, battalion, and intermediate support units. This procurement includes depot level clean-up, repair, and maintenance on all PATRIOT major items; including services required to return, and maintain, PATRIOT major items deploy in Southwest Asia (SWA), Germany, Korea, and CONUS to maximum operations readiness. Work is to be performed in Korea, Qatar, El Paso, Texas, Germany, Killeen, Texas, Fayetteville, N.C., Lawton, Okla, Andover, Mass, Japan, Kuwait, with an estimated completion date of Jun. 16, 2010. One bid was solicited and one bid received. U.S. Army Aviation & missile Command, Redstone Arsenal, Ala., is the contracting activity (W32P4Q-06-C-0352).

AIR FORCE
The Air Force is awarding an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract to CaZador LLC of Anchorage, Alaska for a maximum of $10,000,000. This contract action will provide Healthcare Equipment and Furniture for the USAF Academy and Continental United States locations. At this time, $885,505 has been obligated. 10th Contracting Division, United States Air Force Academy, Colo., is the contracting activity (FA7000-09-D-0017).

Worldwide Military Screening Program Prompts Fast Swine Flu Identification

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 27, 2009 - The Defense Department's worldwide influenza monitoring program and decisive action by the medical staff at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, is being credited with helping to identify two cases of swine flu early to help prevent a potential spread. Two 16-year-old boys, both military family members and students at Steele High School in Cibolo, Texas, reported to the Randolph Military Clinic in mid-April suffering from fever, coughs and chills. Air Force Lt. Col. Gregory York, deputy commander of the 12th Medical Group, said both exhibited "classic flu-like symptoms."

Rather than simply sending the boys home to rest and hydrate, their doctors took the extra step of harvesting "nasal washes" and submitting them for testing through the Defense Department's Worldwide Influenza Surveillance Program, York explained.

The Air Force established the lab-based influenza surveillance program in 1976 at what is now Brooks City-Base, also in San Antonio. The lab routinely monitors suspected flu cases from military bases around the world, as well as from targeted "sentinel sites" to detect local respiratory outbreaks and emerging strains.

The lab identified both boys' cultures as "Influenza A," but couldn't pin down the specific influenza sub-type. That automatically triggered staffers there to fly the cultures to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for additional testing. Those tests confirmed late last week that the cultures were swine flu.

As the testing was conducted, both boys were at their homes, getting bed rest and drinking fluids as their doctors had advised. But even more importantly, York said, they minimized contact with other people – critical to "breaking that chain" of spreading the contagious flu virus.

Both boys have made full recoveries, and no additional cases have been identified at the Randolph clinic, York said.

But that's not stopping the staff at Randolph from taking a strong, pro-active approach to preventing further infections, York added. In addition to an aggressive base education program being conducted in cooperation with the CDC and Texas Department of Health, the clinic is screening all incoming patients who exhibit flu-like symptoms.

Patients with fevers of 100.5 degrees or higher or sore throats and coughs are issued protective masks and isolated from other patients to be evaluated for influenza, York said.

While emphasizing that Randolph is at no higher risk than anywhere else, York said the staff has become especially vigilant in trying to identify those with possible symptoms as early as possible. "Our antennas are up a bit higher," he said.

"Surveillance and infection control are the keys to avoiding contact and the spread of the virus," York said. "It all falls on prevention and being on top of this to identify individuals up front as fast as possible to break the chain."

Navy Sponsors Whale Behavioral Response Study

By Bob Freeman
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 27, 2009 - A Navy-sponsored study on the behavioral response of toothed whales to various sounds in the ocean has provided fresh insights into these little-understood mammals. Of particular interest to the Navy is the whales' reaction to the sound of mid-frequency active sonar, an issue that has stirred some controversy and resulted in five lawsuits against Navy training practices.

"Our goal was to develop and safely test responses of whales to sound, particularly beaked whales, which we know seem to be more affected by mid-frequency active sonar than other species," said Navy Rear Adm. Lawrence S. Rice, director of the Chief of Naval Operations Environmental Readiness Division, during an interview on Pentagon Web Radio's "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military" audio webcast, April 22.

Rice said the focus on beaked whales is due to several incidents in which groups of beaked whales stranded themselves near naval exercises using mid-frequency sonar. The first such incident to attract national attention was in the Bahamas in 2000, where 17 whales stranded themselves. In the ensuing debate, sonar frequently has been depicted by concerned citizens and media reports as injurious to all whales.

The admiral pointed out, however, that sonar exercises on the Navy's Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center range, 40 miles south of the site of the Bahamas stranding location, consistently are conducted in the presence of a resident population of beaked whales, apparently without negative effects.

"There's a lot of scientific uncertainty regarding the conditions that lead to these strandings," said Rice, noting that whales do not beach themselves every time active sonar is turned on.

For the Navy, the problem is not purely academic. Multi-million-dollar training exercises, which the Navy maintains are critical for national defense, have been hampered by lawsuits. Rice said a lack of verifiable knowledge in this area means the debate is not informed by science, and that proposed restrictions on training are based primarily on conjecture.

The behavioral response study is designed to expand understanding of whale response to acoustic sound, Rice said. Although sponsored in part by the Navy, the study is conducted under the auspices of the National Marine Fisheries Service, with participation by scientists and engineers from some of the top research organizations, including Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Scripps Institute of Oceanography, Duke University, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and the Scottish Oceans Institute at the University of St. Andrews.

The study, the first of its kind, began in 2007. Rice said it has been conducted at the Navy's AUTEC range because the area has listening devices mounted on the sea floor that can monitor the movement of marine mammals, and because of the range's resident population of beaked whales.

The study began by attaching digital recording tags to the whales with suction cups and following their dive patterns. Researchers then introduced sound into the water and observed changes in the whales' behavior. The sounds included synthesized mid-frequency sonar pings, the call of a predatory killer whale, and random sound samples.

Initial results showed that all three sounds caused the beaked whales to slow their ascent to the surface and to move deliberately away from the sound source, but in none of the cases did they seem panicked, Rice said.

The researchers also tagged a pilot whale, a melon-headed whale and a false killer whale and exposed them to the same sound sources. They didn't seem to respond to the sounds, Rice said.

"Their dive profiles look almost exactly the same whether they're receiving sound or not," the admiral said. "And again, that was above 150 decibels. They were just kind of milling around out there."

Rice said forthcoming research will be conducted this year in the Mediterranean Sea with beaked whale stocks that are not as routinely exposed to sonar as those in the AUTEC.

"Everyone agrees," the admiral said, "that the best available science, frankly, isn't really good. Unfortunately, it's all we have right now, and we're hoping that the results of the [behavioral response study] will plug into this."

(Bob Freeman works in the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy.)

U.S. to Continue Congo Security Assistance, Africom Commander Says

By Kenneth Fidler
Special to American Forces Press Service

April 27, 2009 - The United States military will continue working with the Congolese armed forces in training, advising and capacity building to support security assistance cooperation activities, but has no plans to put combat troops in the central-African nation, the commander of U.S. Africa Command said here April 24. "Our activities here will be limited, ... involving small numbers of U.S. military from different services to help the host nation build capacity to more effectively conduct its military operations and provide for its own security," Army Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward said during a news conference.

Ward's trip here was the final leg of a three-country, five-day trip to Africa. He led a small Africom delegation to Rwanda and Kenya earlier in the week.

This marked the first time in anyone's memory that the commander of a U.S. geographic combatant command has visited the country, Africom officials said.

Ward discussed cooperation activities with Defense Minister Charles Mwando Nsimba and Chief of Defense Lt. Gen. Didier Etumba Longila. He also toured classrooms and visited students in the "Centre Superieur Militaire" military school.

Under a U.S. State Department-run program, the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa has a seven-member mobile training team teaching Congolese military officers ranging from captains to colonels at the school. The instruction includes military leadership, preparation of plans and orders, the military decision-making process and staff functions.

Plans are under way to hold a major medical exercise with the Congolese military in summer 2010, said Army Col. (Dr.) Schuyler Geller, Africom's command surgeon, who accompanied Ward on the trip. The Medflag exercise is a premier annual training event conducted bilaterally with African nations, focused on medical training and building the skills of their military medical personnel.

The exercise is one example of how the U.S. Africa Command works with African militaries "to help them help build their capacity, strengthen our partnership, and promote long-term security and stability," Geller said.

Ward emphasized that all U.S. military activities here and in all other African nations are coordinated with the host-nation government and U.S. embassy officials.

"We only go where we are invited, and where it will add value and complement other programs taking place," Ward said.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo's history has been plagued with instability, military coups and rebel violence from within its borders and from neighboring countries. The United Nations Organization Mission to the country began operations in 2001 to implement the provisions of a 1999 ceasefire accord signed by six African governments to end a six-year civil and regional war.

Unrest has continued, even since democratic, multi-party elections in 2006, the first in more than 40 years.

The U.N. mission began with a few thousand peacekeepers and has grown into the organization's largest peacekeeping operation worldwide. Nearly 50 nations from four continents supply military and police personnel to the Congo mission, now about 17,000 strong. Its troops are deployed into eastern Congo to help to protect vulnerable civilian populations affected by the civil strife.

Ward met with the U.N. secretary general's special representative, Alan Doss, and Senegalese Lt. Gen. Babacar Gaye, the top military commander in the U.N. mission.

The United States does not have military troops in the U.N. mission here, but does provide funding support.

"To restore the peace and stability that the Congolese people deserve talks to the reason for my being here," Ward said at the news conference. "It is how we can conduct our military activities to support the training and to support the increased professionalization of the Congolese armed forces as best we can as they work to bring security and stability here in the Congo."

Earlier in the week, Ward, leading a small Africom delegation, visited Rwanda to discuss security assistance activities with Rwandan Defense Force officials. He met with commanders who recently served in Darfur peacekeeping operations and toured the infantry school.

Before visiting Congo, Ward attended the final sessions of the Land Forces Symposium in Mombasa, Kenya. The symposium, organized by the Kenyan army and the U.S. Army Central Command, is an annual forum that brings together international military leaders to discuss common challenges, exchange views and foster security cooperation throughout the Horn of Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

(Kenneth Fidler works at the U.S. Africa Command public affairs office.)

Military Monitors Swine Flu With Focus on Protecting Force

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 27, 2009 - The Defense Department is monitoring the swine flu situation closely, with its primary focus on protecting the military population, a senior Pentagon official said today. As the Department of Health and Human Services leads the U.S. effort, the military is posturing itself to respond if required, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters today.

"We certainly have a number of contingency plans for dealing with health incidences like this, because our primary goal is preservation of the fighting force," he said. "So we obviously have plans and take measures to ensure that we can preserve the fighting strength of the military in the event that there should be a greater crisis with respect to a health situation like this."

Two prescription anti-viral drugs, relenza and tamiflu, already are standard stock at U.S. military treatment facilities, and larger quantities are stockpiled at several sites in the United States and overseas, Whitman said.

President Barack Obama told the National Academy of Sciences today the emerging incidence of swine flu in the United States "is obviously a cause for concern and requires a heightened state of alert, but it's not a cause for alarm."

The Centers for Disease Control has confirmed 20 cases of swine flu virus infection in the United States in California, Kansas, New York City, Ohio and Texas. None have involved members of the military or their families.
Greater cases of infections have been reported internationally, particularly in Mexico.

Obama said HHS has declared a public health emergency only "as a precautionary tool to ensure that we have the resources we need at our disposal to respond quickly and effectively." HHS, the CDC and the Department of Homeland Security will provide the American people regular updates about steps being taken and precautions that may be required, he said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry distributed CDC guidelines for preventing the spread of swine flu to the federal work force. Berry also distributed guidance for federal agencies to protect their work forces and the public and to ensure continuity of operations in the event that they must institute their already-prepared pandemic influenza preparedness plans.

CDC recommends the following actions people can take to stay healthy:

-- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

-- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners also are effective.

-- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.

CDC also recommends avoiding close contact with sick people, particularly if they are coughing or sneezing, and to stay home if you're sick to avoid infecting others.

Program to Introduce New Threat Detection, Countermeasure Capabilities

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

April 27, 2009 - A lot of questions are likely to rush through your head when you're out on the battlefield and the enemy projectiles come flying. The Defense Advanced Research Project Agency is making big strides on a program to respond with life-saving speed and accuracy. The goal of DARPA's CROSSHAIRS – or Counter Rocket-Propelled Grenade and Shooter System with Highly Accurate Immediate Responses -- program is to develop a threat detection and countermeasure system for light tactical vehicles, program manager Karen Wood explained.

As envisioned, Wood said, CROSSHAIRS will be able to detect and locate enemy shooters firing threats ranging from bullets to rocket-propelled grenades to anti-tank guided missiles to direct-fired mortars. In addition, it will engage the shooters and notify other friendly forces of the threat.

"In an engagement, what am I worried about?" Wood asked. "The first thing I have got to know is what is coming at me. So the CROSSHAIRS system has to be able to identify the threat coming in."

Next, Wood said, "I need to know, 'Is it going to hit me or not?' So CROSSHAIRS has to be able to track whatever is coming in."

"The third thing you want is to know where that shooter is so you can retaliate or put down suppressive fire" or take some other action, she said. "Then lastly, if something like an RPG is coming in, can I have self-protection?" she asked. "Do I have an active protection system to help me with vehicle survivability?"

CROSSHAIRS aims to do all this, then share details about the attack and the enemy's precise location with other friendly forces.

"I can seamlessly network that information to other vehicles in my convoy and let them know there is a shooter here," Wood said. "That way, if I am busy with survivability, they can do the retaliatory fire or respond to the shooter."

The CROSSHAIRS program builds on another DARPA effort: the Boomerang II acoustic gunshot detection system. This vehicle-mounted anti-sniper system "listens" for a bullet's shockwave and muzzle blast and transmits the shooter's location to the vehicle crew – all in less than a second.

The Army ordered about 8,000 Boomerang systems, and about half of them already have been deployed to the combat theater, Wood said.

But test results during earlier stages of the CROSSHAIRS program determined that radars are the best way to detect larger projectiles. The contractor ultimately selected came up with a system Wood said was "head and shoulders above the rest" in successfully identifying the type and source of incoming fire.

The "Cross-Cue" sensor system combines low-cost radar and acoustics technology with signal processing.

The CROSSHAIRS system marries the two sensor technologies to respond to a full array of threats. "Now we have the Boomerang for gunshots and the Cross-Cue radar solution for everything else." Wood said.

The CROSSHAIRS program got a shot in the arm when the Army's Rapid Equipping Force agreed to team with DARPA to apply the technology to the Vanguard vehicle it was developing. In December, DARPA engineers took CROSSHAIRS' dual detection systems, along with its networking piece, and automatic weapon "slew-to-cue" capability and put the system through the paces at the Redstone Technical Test Center in northern Alabama.

"We don't make it easy for these contractors," Wood said. CROSSHAIRS had to stand up to gunshots, RPG rounds and machine-gun fire, all coming from different sources and often all at once. And as it responded, it simultaneously networked the information to another vehicle, which demonstrated an automatic weapon slew-to-cue to the shooter location based on the information received from the vehicle under fire.

Even Wood was surprised at the results. "The system really kind of hit a home run," she said. "Very rarely do you get to go before your director and say, 'We met all the objectives we were going after in this phase of the program.'"

The program, now in its final phase, then turned to developing an active protection system for CROSSHAIRS. The engineers faced two major challenges, Wood said. The system had to be affordable enough to deploy on light, tactical vehicles, and deployable in a way that didn't cause additional collateral damage.

"We are not gong to be spraying shrapnel or blowing something up at a distance, because innocents could get killed," she said.

After exploring numerous options, the DARPA team ultimately settled on another system their agency had initiated: the Iron Curtain. This system, mounted on the roof of a Humvee, defeats incoming projectiles using a shoot-down system to dud the round before it strikes the vehicle.

Because Iron Curtain shoots directly down from the rooftop and engages the incoming round just inches away from the vehicle, it causes little or no collateral damage, Wood said.

Wood explained how the integrated CROSSHAIRS system works. The radar detects and tracks the incoming round. An embedded optical sensor gives a profile of the round. "Based on a lot of shots, we know exactly where to hit that RPG to make it dud," she said.

Meanwhile, the vehicle crew is able to monitor the process, seamlessly networking the shooter's location and threat type to other friendly forces.

"It's quite amazing what we have done," Wood said of the system. "We are just marching on, developing these capabilities and hoping it is going to save soldiers' and Marines' lives."

If the program gets adopted by the services, as Wood said she fully expects, she said it will bring tremendous additional capabilities to warfighters.

"I've got the best job in the whole world," she said. "It's incredibly rewarding to have things go out that you know are going to protect our men and women."

With two nephews in the military, one who has seen combat in Iraq and a niece who will be deployed at the end of the year, Wood takes the mission personally.

"If there's anything I can do to help the warfighter, I'm all about it," she said. "It's very rewarding, and it's very satisfying."