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A new stay on proceedings was ordered by U.S. Court of Federal Claims Senior Judge Eric Bruggink I in the legal battle between Oracle and the Pentagon over its $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud contract.  New information about conflicts of interest surfaced.  The Pentagon will review during the stay whether conflicts had impacts on the integrity of the procurement.  The government’s unopposed motion was granted to stay this case.

Judge Bruggink’s order suggests that the Defense Department could thoroughly re-review whether two people Oracle alleges shaped the procurement in AWS’ favor actually did so.  Oracle alleges AWS created a conflict of interest when it rehired employee Deap Ubhi in November 2017 after Ubhi spent close to two years working for the Pentagon—including on the JEDI contract—within its Defense Digital Service. Oracle alleges that Ubhi, who publicly described himself on Twitter as an “Amazonian” while still working for the Pentagon in January 2017, had significant influence in shaping the JEDI acquisition.

The Pentagon acknowledged Ubhi worked on the JEDI contract for seven weeks, but stated his role was limited and that the key acquisition decisions were made after Ubhi left. Ubhi recused himself from JEDI-related work in October 2017, one month before he was rehired at AWS, according to legal filings. The filings indicate the Pentagon called Oracle’s allegations a “broad fishing expedition” and said its contracting officer found no conflicts of interest regarding Ubhi during her investigation.

The Army Is Looking for a Few Good Robots

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By Debbie Gregory.

Robotics manufacturers are scrambling for more than a half billion dollars in Pentagon contracts for compact battlefield robots that will defuse bombs and scout ahead for soldiers on the battlefield. The Army’s immediate plans envision a new fleet of 5,000 ground robots of varying sizes and levels of autonomy.

The fight to win the contract shines a light on the need to stay competitive in the merging of technology and national defense, as international adversaries could come to dominate battlefield robotics.

During a Senate hearing last May, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley warned that China and Russia “are investing heavily and very quickly” in air, sea, and ground bots.

“My personal estimate is that robots will play a significant role in combat inside of a decade or a decade and a half,” Milley added.

The intention of the project is to someday help troops “look around the corner, over the next hillside and let the robot be in harm’s way and let the robot get shot,” said Paul Scharre, a military technology expert at the Center for a New American Security.

Concerns that popular commercial drones made by Chinese company DJI could be vulnerable to spying led the Army to ban their use by soldiers in 2017.

The biggest contract, worth $429 million, calls for mass producing robots that are light, easily maneuverable and can be “carried by infantry for long distances without taxing the soldier,” said Bryan McVeigh, project manager for force projection at the Army’s research and contracting center in Warren, Michigan.

A $100 million contract for a mid-sized reconnaissance and bomb-disabling robot was won in late 2017 by Endeavor, a spinoff of iRobot which makes Roomba vacuum cleaners.

Unlike the efforts by China and Russia to design artificially intelligent war-fighting arsenals, the U.S. Defense Department is cautious about developing battlefield machines that make their own decisions.

A report from the Congressional Research Service in November stated that despite the Pentagon’s “insistence” that a human must always be in the loop, the military could soon feel compelled to develop fully autonomous systems if rivals do the same.

Pentagon Former Top Negotiator Removed From Job

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By Debbie Gregory.

Shay Assad, the Director of Defense Pricing and Contracting Initiatives (DPC), in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been removed from his position.

Trump administration officials have reassigned the Pentagon’s former top weapons-buying negotiator after he racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel costs and pushed a controversial plan to slow payments to defense contractors.

Assad has been reassigned to a post unconnected to the contract negotiating team he has led for the last seven years. The move comes after he pushed to have contractor payments tied to their performance instead of to production milestones. Additionally, Assad had a special arrangement that allowed him to live in the Boston area and commute regularly to Washington, which cost over half a million dollars since 2012.

Officials also say Assad’s reassignment is, in part, due to a sweeping reorganization of the Defense Department’s acquisition directorate in which leaders determined they wanted the head of pricing to be located inside the Pentagon.

Pentagon officials describe Assad as a shrewd negotiator who has saved taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars by getting better deals with major defense contractors. But some current and former officials also describe him as a bully who needed to be monitored by his superiors out of fear he would overstep his authorities.

Prior to his government service, Mr. Assad had a 22-year private sector career in the defense industry. From 1978 to 2000, Mr. Assad worked for the Raytheon Company, holding positions including Vice President – Director of Contracts; Senior Vice President, Contracts; Executive Vice President; and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Raytheon’s Engineering and Construction (RE&C) business with eleven offices world-wide, revenue of $2.7 Billion, and 15,000 employees. In his contracting positions at Raytheon, he was responsible for over $20 Billion in contract negotiation and administration activities in all of Raytheon’s businesses – both government and commercial.

Patrick Shanahan – The New Acting Secretary of Defense

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By Debbie Gregory.

Patrick M. Shanahan became the 33rd Deputy Secretary of Defense on July 19, 2017.

Mr. Shanahan most recently served as Boeing senior vice presidento, Supply Chain & Operations. A Washington state native, Mr. Shanahan joined Boeing in 1986 and spent over three decades with the company. He previously worked as senior vice president of Commercial Airplane Programs, managing profit and loss for the 737, 747, 767, 777 and 787 programs and the operations at Boeing’s principal manufacturing sites; as vice president and general manager of the 787 Dreamliner, leading the program during a critical development period; as vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems, overseeing the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, Airborne Laser and Advanced Tactical Laser; and as vice president and general manager of Boeing Rotorcraft Systems, overseeing the Apache, Chinook and Osprey. He previously held leadership positions on the 757 program, 767 program and in the fabrication division.

Mr. Shanahan is a Royal Aeronautical Society Fellow, Society of Manufacturing Engineers Fellow and American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Associate Fellow. He served as a regent at the University of Washington for over five years.

Mr. Shanahan holds a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Washington and two advanced degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering, and an MBA from MIT’s Sloan School of Management.

On January 2nd, former Boeing executive Patrick Shanahan became the acting Secretary of Defense of the United States, replacing General James Mattis.

Mattis resigned in protest, stating that his views on pulling troops out of Syria and other national security issues were not “aligned” with those of President Trump.

Shanahan, 56, is a native of Seattle, Washington and graduated from Bishop Blanchet High School in 1980. He attended the University of Washington where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in mechanical engineering. He then earned a Master of Science degree in mechanical engineering from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a Master of Business Administration from the MIT Sloan School of Management.

Shanahan’s career at Boeing began in 1986 with the 777 program. He remained there until 2017 when President Trump announced his intent to nominate Shanahan as the 33rd Deputy Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon’s second-highest civilian position.

As Deputy Secretary of Defense, Shanahan spoke of renewed “great-power competition” with China and Russia. His message on his first day was largely focused on China during a special meeting of all the military service secretaries and the undersecretaries of defense.

His decision to urge the Pentagon’s leadership to focus on the threat posed by China came just hours before he attended a Cabinet meeting at the White House.

Shanahan, who has no military experience and very little government experience, has yet to detail his thoughts on the way forward in Syria, where the Pentagon plans a gradual withdrawal of U.S. troops over the coming months.

During the president’s visit with U.S. soldiers in Iraq over Christmas, Trump praised Shanahan as a “good buyer” of military equipment, not some master strategist. “I’m in no rush” to replace him, the president declared.

Shanahan plans to remain hands-on in formulating a proposal to establish a new military branch for space. The Space Working Group was established last year by Shanahan to hash out the details of standing up the new service branch. The group includes representatives from across the Defense Department.

By Debbie Gregory.

Three former executives linked to one of the largest U.S. wartime contractors were charged with scheming to defraud the Pentagon and engage in illicit trade by routing supplies for a multi-billion dollar contract through Iran, a country currently under sanctions by the U.S. government.

The indictment alleges that Abul Huda Farouki, Mazen Farouki and Salah Maarouf conspired to shave costs off the construction of two warehouses at Bagram Airfield by shipping steel through Iran.

The three men, all in their 70s, appeared in federal court in the District of Columbia and pleaded not guilty to the charges of major fraud, conspiracy, international money laundering and other violations.

Abul Farouki, of McLean, VA., and his younger brother, Mazen Farouki, of Boyce, VA., headed Anham, LLC, which had bid for an $8 billion contract in 2011 to build warehouses at Bagram Air Field to store food for troops, according to the indictment. Maarouf operated one of Anham’s suppliers.

The company won the contract with promises to build two warehouses by December 2011, but as the deadline approached, the warehouses were nowhere close to being finishedAnham denied all charges, saying it had saved the U.S. government $1.4 billion by offering lower prices than its competitors. It said the company was confident all the defendants would be exonerated at the end of the judicial process.

“ANHAM continues to cooperate with the Justice Department. Nevertheless, the company continues to believe that the purported violations are without legal merit,” the company said in a statement on its website.

Anham’s contract to supply food and water to the U.S. military had a $30 billion ceiling in the unlikely event the war ramped up again. At the time, the Obama administration was focused on rapidly withdrawing troops and equipment from Afghanistan to reduce the military’s presence to fewer than 10,000 troops by 2014.