By Debbie Gregory.

Beginning in boot camp, servicemembers learn how to navigate unknown terrain and make things happen with limited time and resources. The transition from military service to entrepreneur is a path that many veterans take. In fact, nearly 10 percent of U.S. small businesses (approximately 2.4 million) are veteran-owned and employ about 5.8 million individuals.

Veteran-owned small businesses contribute approximately $1.4 trillion to the nation’s total sales/receipts per year. But military and veteran entrepreneurs face many of the same challenges as their civilian counterparts run into: funding, financial management, regulation and compliance, and marketing strategy.

Linda McMahon, the Administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), is a rock star who is currently on the Ignite Tour. No, it’s not a musical event, but rather a spreading of awareness of the SBA’s programs and services that assist veteran entrepreneurs.

One of McMahon’s missions is letting veterans and active-duty servicemembers know that aside from loans, the SBA offers a variety of mentoring and network opportunities, with more than 20 specialized veteran outreach centers and a numerous training programs.

At the veteran outreach centers, veterans can access business plan workshops, concept assessments, mentorship, and training.

Aptly named Boots to Business, one SBA program is part of the Department of Defense’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and is offered at participating military installations and online. The program works with veterans (and their spouses) as they prepare to leave the military and transition into the private workforce.  Last year alone, about 17,000 people went through the program

As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start and grow their businesses. For more information the SBA’s veteran programs, go to

By Debbie Gregory.

The U.S. Army has narrowed the field to build prototypes of the Next Generation Squad Automatic Rifle to five gun makers.

Contracts to build the replacement for the M249 squad automatic weapon were awarded to AAI Corporation/Textron Systems, FN America LLC, General Dynamics-OTS Inc., PCP Tactical LLC and Sig Sauer Inc.

The contract awards are the result of a Prototype Opportunity Notice the Army released in March, and each firm will submit one weapon, a fire-control system and 2,000 rounds of ammunition within 12 months.

The weapon must combine the firepower and range of a machine gun with the precision and ergonomics of a rifle, yielding capability improvements in accuracy, range, and lethality. The weapon can’t weigh more than 12 pounds, including sling, bipod and suppressor, and the fire-control system must weigh less than three pounds. The maximum length of the weapon is 35 inches, two pounds less and five inched shorter than its predecessor.

Textron may have a leg-up on the competition due to its long term work on next-generation light machine guns that fire case-telescoped ammunition in its Lightweight Small Arms Technology program.

“We are leveraging and building upon our lineage of lightweight squad weapon technologies that we have been working on over the last 14 years,” said Wayne Prender, vice president of Applied Technologies & Advanced Programs at Textron Systems.

The Army also wants ammunition to weigh 20 percent less than the current brass-cased ammo. Textron has invested a large amount of research into its case-telescoped ammunition technology. Futuristic cartridges that utilize a plastic case rather than a brass one to hold the propellant and the projectile offer significant weight reductions compared to conventional ammo.

Despite Textron’s expertise, Prender admits it will still be a challenge to deliver what the Army wants.

By Debbie Gregory.

The Bell V-280 Valor helicopter will soon be equipped a sensor system that will give pilots an early warning when enemy activity is approaching.

Manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the Pilotage Distributed Aperture Sensor (PDAS) system provides “360-degree awareness around your aircraft via sensors,” said retired Army Maj. Gen. Jeff Schloesser, executive vice president for strategic pursuits at Bell.

The head-tracked helmet-mounted display feeds pilots video from the 360-degree sensor devices.

The  V-280 Valor provides warfighters strategic options, operational reach, tactical agility and overmatch at the point of decision. The design supports ground maneuvers and is purpose built for the squad plus enablers.

With more than twice the speed and range of current helicopter platforms, the V-280 Valor is designed to fly an infantry squad on a 200-mile air assault mission and return to base without the need to refuel.

Safe and survivable, the design features integrated cabin armor, fly-by-wire component redundancy, state of the art countermeasures and performance.

Beyond the increased functionality, it should be more comfortable, too. Because the V-280’s wing doesn’t tilt like a V-22, a necessity for shipboard operations, fast-ropers leaving the aircraft’s side-door avoid “the hot air from the engine going out backwards,” Schloesser said.

“If you’ve got a new car, you’ve probably got a TV camera in the back so when you back up you don’t back into something,” Schloesser said.

But this new technology expands that view to 360 degrees.

The V-280 isn’t designed for ship launches, but in a pinch, takeoff from the deck of a carrier would be possible.

Bell is working to finalize its V-280 Valor, making sure it can meet its performance goals.

The Valor has demonstrated that it can fly at 195 knots, but it will soon be able to reach a max speed of 280 knots, Schloesser said.

By Debbie Gregory.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) concluded that the U.S. Army got a good deal on its new Modular Handgun System (MHS), but the actual cost is not really known.

CRS, the public policy research arm of Congress,  provides vital analytical support to address the most complex public policy issues facing the nation.

The Army MHS is a weapon system produced by Sig Sauer that is set to replace the Beretta M9/11 pistol, used by the Army since 1986.

The 10-year, firm-fixed-price, indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract has a cap of $580 million. A firm-fixed-price contract provides a unit price that is not subject to any adjustments based on the contractor’s costs in meeting the contract requirements. Indefinite quantity means the Army can order as many or as few units as it requires, up to the $580 million contract cap. To date, the Army has obligated approximately $8 million.

While cost data for the Army contract is not publicly available, the cost of similar weapons, accessories, and ammunition can be found at major firearm sellers. For example, CRS compared the MHS contract to a similar purchase at Cabela’s, a gun retailer mentioned by Army Chief of Staff General Mark Milley in a March 10, 2015, address. The comment was in regards to Milley’s frustration with the extended length of time the procurement of the handgun had required.

With that said, based on the final cost of the weapon program, the CRS report concluded that the Army appears to be procuring the weapon at a competitive cost, particularly if the value of the intellectual property is included.

CRS did not examine the capability of the weapon system or whether it fulfilled Army requirements.

By Debbie Gregory.

British defense contractor BAE Systems has been awarded a $198 million contract to deliver an initial 30 Amphibious Combat Vehicles (ACV), with options for a total of 204 vehicles. The total contract could be worth up to $1.2 billion.

The vehicles will replace the current fleet, which has been in service since the 1970s.

BAE was chosen over Virginia-based SAIC, which had teamed up with Singapore Technologies Kinetics.

“We are well positioned and ready to build the future of amphibious fighting vehicles for the Marine Corps, having already produced 16 prototypes,” said Dean Medland, vice president and general manager of Combat Vehicles Amphibious and International at BAE Systems. “Through this award, we are proud to continue our partnership with the Marine Corps by providing a best-in-class vehicle to support its mission through mobility, survivability and lethality.”

ACV1.1 provides exceptional mobility in all terrains, and blast mitigation protection for all three crew and 13 embarked Marines, along with other improvements over currently fielded systems.

BAE conducted its own extensive risk mitigation testing and evaluation for land mobility, survivability, and swim capabilities that proved its vehicle’s performance prior to delivering the first 16 prototypes to the Marine Corps in 2017.

The initial production vehicles will be delivered to the Marine Corps by the fall of 2019, with the Marines conducting initial operational test and evaluation in late 2020.

The 3rd Amphibious Assault Battalion on the West Coast will be the first unit equipped with the ACV 1.1, Marine Corps officials said.

After purchasing the 204 vehicles in the initial phase, the next phase will see BAE’s development of the ACV 1.2, an upgraded platform that will hopefully be a replacement for the fleet of 870 amphibious assault vehicles.

Work on the program will be performed at the company’s facilities in Aiken, South Carolina; Sterling Heights, Michigan; Minneapolis; Stafford; San Jose, California; and York, Pennsylvania.