COVID-19

June 1, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which sits atop the federal contracting process, often has rules allowing flexibility in contracts that can be of assistance to small businesses confronting challenges during the COVID-19 shutdown.

The COVID-19 coronavirus has been a mixed bag for small business contractors working with the federal government. Some are facing unique challenges as they try to fulfill their contractual obligations amid site shutdowns, while others are able to meet their obligations relatively seamlessly under contracts designed for telework.

Small business problems range from workers’ compensation details to meeting contractual specifications when not allowed to work on government sites. These problems may be the tip of the iceberg as the government moves forward in the post-COVID-19 era, experts say.

June 5, 2020
 

Novavax Inc.,* Gaithersburg, Maryland, was awarded a $21,952,384 cost-no-fee contract for the development and production of the Novavax nanoparticle vaccine against COVID-19. Bids were solicited via the internet with one received. Work will be performed in Gaithersburg, Maryland, with an estimated completion date of June 3, 2021. Fiscal 2020 Defense Health Agency Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds in the amount of $21,952,384 were obligated at the time of award. U.S. Army Contracting Command, Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, is the contracting activity (W911QY-20-C-0077). *Small Business

June 5, 2020
Posted by Kimberly Underwood
A F-15E Strike Eagle from the 492nd Fighter Squadron takes off from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England on May 27 during a large force exercise. The U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa and airmen from the 48th Fighter Wing conducted the dissimilar air combat training to advance combat readiness and increase tactical proficiency to help strengthen the NATO alliance. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Air Force Senior Airman Christopher Sparks

The Air Force recently hosted a large exercise in the United Kingdom’s North Sea airspace, the Defense Department reported on June 5. The service’s 48th Fighter Wing held the exercise to continue the advanced training of U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Africa and NATO partners given the persistent and growing near-peer threats in the region. 

June 3, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency put in place a cyber situational awareness room on Tuesday to support state and local governments' voting primaries. Credit: Shutterstock/Melinda Nagy

Ten states and Washington, D.C., held primaries on June 2 as part of this year’s presidential and local election cycle. Along with other federal stakeholders, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, known as CISA, has the role of helping to protect American’s confidence in the voting process by providing cybersecurity and a secure voting infrastructure.

May 20, 2020
By Julianne Simpson
Credit: Shutterstock/deepadesigns

The implications of 5G for the U.S. Defense Department are profound. Among the plethora of capabilities it will provide—enabling the Internet of Things, low latency, higher bandwidth—5G could be used to run a multilevel secure coalition communications system.

May 20, 2020
By George I. Seffers
Network data gains value for the Defense Department amidst an increase in attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Credit: solarseven/Shutterstock

The COVID-19 pandemic presents a unique challenge for the Defense Department. More people are working remotely, networks are busier than ever and hackers from around the world seek to take advantage, driving up demand for more situational awareness data to keep those networks safe. And the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) continues to deliver that data under the most unusual of circumstances.

May 14, 2020
By Shaun Waterman
Czech military personnel load PPE supplies. Military personnel are conducting widespread testing in the Czech system of Smart Quarantine. Photo courtesy of NATO

Experts agree that reopening the United States requires contact tracing—working out, when someone has tested positive for COVID-19, who they might have infected already. Contact tracing, like any kind of detective work, is ultimately a very human undertaking. It’s a labor intensive, empathetic process of walking people back through the last few days of their lives and helping them remember who they might have been in close enough contact with to infect.

You can’t do that with an app—especially one that’s not downloaded by 80 percent of smartphone users, and uses Bluetooth location data that might list someone in an adjacent apartment as a “close contact.”

May 12, 2020
 

On May 12, the Defense Department and the Health and Human Services Department issued a $138 million contract to ApiJect Systems America to coordinate the production of prefilled syringes in anticipation of a future COVID-19 vaccine, DOD announced.​

"Today the Department of Defense and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, announce a $138 million contract with ApiJect Systems America for 'Project Jumpstart' and 'RAPID USA,' which together will dramatically expand U.S. production capability for domestically manufactured, medical-grade injection devices starting by October 2020," said Lt. Col. Mike Andrews, USAF, DOD spokesman.

May 7, 2020
By Robert K. Ackerman
Credit: Shutterstock/metamorworks

(Third of a three-part series)

The United States must amass a global intelligence capability built around an all-of-nation approach to threat detection and action, says a national security analyst. This includes increasing human intelligence, but it also would entail the intelligence community utilizing the tools it has and then developing a better “brothernet” further out in terms of forecasting.

May 7, 2020
 

Under a $126 million contract, the Department of Defense selected St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M to increase production of N95 medical-grade masks to aid in the COVID-19 pandemic, DOD reported on May 7. In coordination with the Department of Health and Human Services, the company will produce 26 million N95 medical-grade masks per month, starting in October 2020.  

"Spearheaded by the Department’s Joint Acquisition Task Force, and funded through the CARES Act, this increased production/industrial capacity will continue to ensure a sustainable supply chain of N95 respirators and resupply the Strategic National Stockpile in response to the increased national demand caused by the COVID 19 pandemic," a DOD spokeman said.

April 30, 2020
By George I. Seffers
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has revealed weaknesses in the medical industrial base, including a dependency on China, indicates Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment. Credit: Tumisu/Pixabay

The United States is overly dependent on foreign sources, especially China, for personal protective equipment such as the gear required during pandemics, including the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, according to Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment.

Lord made the comments during an press April 30 press briefing that was streamed online.

May 1, 2020
By George I. Seffers
Ellen Lord, the undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, outlines concerns for the defense industrial base stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting economic downtown.

Ellen Lord, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment suggested today that foreign adversaries may take advantage of the ongoing pandemic to conduct economic warfare against the United States, that industry could see a three-month “slow down” and that smaller businesses that provide critical components could suffer.

Lord made the comments during a press conference that streamed online.  

April 29, 2019
By Robert K. Ackerman
Health care providers adjust personal protective equipment as they prepare to enter a facility treating the Ebola virus in Liberia. Future pandemics could come from natural viruses or biological weapons developed by sophisticated nations; but whichever the source, opportunistic foes will take advantage of their effects to wreak further havoc on victim nations. (U.S. Army photo)

(Part two of a three-part series)

As the world watches the COVID-19 coronavirus wreak havoc, the potential of a man-made pandemic is offering its own allure to bad actors, ranging from nation-states to rogue organizations. Even if an organization lacks the wherewithal to develop or deploy a biological weapon, lessons already learned are demonstrating that a pandemic offers great opportunities for mayhem and profit, a national security expert says.

April 30, 2020
Posted by Julianne Simpson
LLNL mechanical engineer Ken Enstrom (l) and technicians Greg Norton (c) and Aaron Sperry test and validate simple ventilator prototypes that could be easily assembled from readily available parts. Photo by Julie Russell/LLNL

A self-assembled “skunk works” team at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has worked tirelessly to prototype a simple ventilator design for quick and easy assembly from available parts. The effort is in response to a potential surge in demand for ventilators due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dubbed the “Novel Emergency Response Ventilator” (NERVe), the design comes from proven concepts and contains parts that are not being used by commercial ventilator manufacturers to prevent disrupting already thin supply chains.

April 24, 2020
 
The U.S. Army has selected the first two companies to provide two prototypical medical ventilators capable of operating in austere environments. The awards are the first under the service's xTech COVID-19 Ventilator Challenge launched earlier this month. Credit: Nhemz/Shutterstock

Spiro Devices LLC, and AirMid Critical Care Products Inc., have been awarded $100,000 prizes for their emergency ventilator designs as part of the ongoing U.S. Army’s xTech COVID-19 Ventilator Challenge launched earlier this month.

On April 5, the Army called for ideas for a low-cost, easily manufactured, deployable ventilator that could operate in austere and rural environments. In just 10 days, 150 American companies, academic institutions and individuals submitted their concepts, with a chance at winning $5,000 if invited to present their ideas. The goal of the Army xTech COVID-19 Ventilator Challenge is to produce 10,000 ventilator units within eight weeks.

April 23, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, USAF, speaks to airmen at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, in June 2018. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen. Goldfein is taking steps as part of a second retooling effort for the service to operate over the next year under the "new abnormal" environment. Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by A1C Sara Hoerichs

The U.S. Air Force has initially adjusted to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and is now shifting to operate under a new paradigm for the foreseeable future, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force Gen. David Goldfein, USAF, stated. The service has examined how to sustain its critical Defense Department mission areas despite the prominence of the virus. The Air Force has adjusted its methods to ensure operation of its nuclear defense; space; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; air mobility and cyber missions, the core functions needed to defend the nation. “We still have a hot fight going on,” Gen. Goldfein stated. “So, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and air mobility are critical.”

April 22, 2020
Posted by Julianne Simpson
Credit: U.S. Army

An agile and nontraditional partnership between the Solider Lethality Cross-Functional Team (SL CFT) and Microsoft is keeping the development of the Integrated Visual Augmentation System (IVAS) on schedule despite the outbreak of COVID-19.

Though the Army implemented strict measures to reduce the spread of the virus, Team IVAS has kept the soldiers and civilians working on the program safe without sacrificing time on the pursuit of critical next generation modernization technology.

IVAS is an augmented and virtual reality goggle system based on Microsoft’s HoloLens, and the SL CFT’s signature modernization effort. The concept was introduced when the Army partnered with Microsoft in November 2018.

April 22, 2020
By Kimberly Underwood
Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, USAF, reports that the 16th Air Force reached full operational capability on April 21, during a virtual AFCEA Alamo luncheon event the same day. The general also spoke at the chapter’s ACE event in November.

The U.S. Air Force’s new information warfare Numbered Air Force (NAF), the 16th Air Force, stood up in October, reached full operating capability yesterday, reported its commander, Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh, USAF. The 16th Air Force (Air Forces Cyber), which includes 10 wings, is the center of the Air Force’s cyber operations; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities; electronic warfare and information operations.

April 21, 2020
Posted by Julianne Simpson
LLNL, Penguin Computing and AMD have reached an agreement to upgrade the lab’s unclassified, Penguin Computing-built Corona high performance computing cluster. Credit: LLNL

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and its industry partners are committed to applying the nation’s most powerful supercomputers and knowledge in computational modeling and data science to fighting the deadly disease.

To assist in this effort, LLNL, Penguin Computing and AMD have reached an agreement to upgrade the lab’s unclassified, Penguin Computing-built Corona high performance computing (HPC) cluster with an in-kind contribution of cutting-edge AMD Instinct accelerators, which is expected to nearly double the peak performance of the machine.

April 20, 2019
By Robert K. Ackerman
Shutterstock/Khakimullin Aleksandr

(Part one of a three-part series)

The nation must realign its strategic objectives to build out its future readiness in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, says an analyst specializing in anticipatory developments. Intelligence analysts, with the aid of new technologies, must be able to combine data from a variety of inputs both to foresee emerging crises and to anticipate future threats before they become a full-fledged menace. The intelligence community and national decision makers must be prepared to view multiple problems as part of a whole in which they enhance one another to generate more severe challenges.

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