NewsBrief February 5, 2021

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Cost Estimating NewsBrief: February 5, 2021

We hold these Space Truths to be self-evident

(C4ISRNET) WASHINGTON — In a new strategic vision, Gen. James Dickinson outlines the truths and tasks U.S. Space Command must adopt in order to maintain American space supremacy. The breezy eight-page document reaffirms the incredible value space provides to the nation’s economy and military, but warns of the growing threat posed by anti-satellite weapons being developed by China and Russia. Throughout the Trump administration’s term, officials frequently cited the development and testing of anti-satellite weapons as a justification for the establishment of both Space Command and the U.S. Space Force, blaming China and Russia for bringing to space the potential for conflict and war. Read More

Industry Group Gives Defense Contractors ‘C’ Health Grade in Annual Report

(Nextgov) The defense industrial base faced an uptick in cyber vulnerabilities in 2020, contributing to a slight decline overall in the health of the defense contracting community, according to a new report from the National Defense Industrial Association. In its annual “Vital Signs” report, NDIA and data company Govini found defense contractors entered the coronavirus pandemic in a “weakened state,” and around 71% of companies surveyed reported the pandemic negatively affected business. Data included in the report comes from before the onset of the pandemic, while survey responses were gathered in August 2020. The report gave the health of the base a “C” grade overall. Read More

Enthusiasm Growing at Pentagon for OTAs

(National Defense) The Pentagon is using special contracting mechanisms to try to promote innovation and bring nontraditional partners into the acquisition fold. The use of one of them — other transaction authority agreements — has skyrocketed in recent years. Meanwhile, spending on the more established Small Business Innovation Research program has remained flat, according to data presented in the National Defense Industrial Association’s “Vital Signs 2021” report. Other transaction authority agreements, or OTAs, are intended to cut through bureaucratic red tape and speed prototyping and delivery of new capabilities to the military. Read More

As mission-capable rates languish, Pentagon should embrace digital engineering

(C4ISRNET) While many Pentagon initiatives face a change of course under new Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, its digital engineering strategy deserves a push forward. The strategy, issued in 2018 by then-Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin, aimed to help military services harness modern sustainment methods like additive manufacturing, digital twin and augmented reality. For the Department of Defense, enterprisewide implementation of these techniques would lower costs, increase weapon systems’ mission-capable rates and afford flexibility in fleet modernization. Read More

Military Eyes AI, Cloud Computing in Space in a Decade

(Nextgov) Machine learning in space may one day revolutionize how the U.S. military tracks enemy forces and moves data around the world. But physics makes training an AI far harder in orbit than on Earth, so that dream is likely a decade away, the director of the Pentagon’s lead satellite agency said Wednesday. Computers get smaller and more powerful every year, but there are physical limits to what you can do in a small, airtight box, said Derek Tournear, who leads the Space Development Agency. “On the ground, I can tie myself to a hydroelectric dam and a river to cool my processing center. But in space, you’re always going to be limited by how much heat you can dump and power you can collect,” Tournear said Wednesday during a Defense One webinar. Read More

How do you measure success in digital? Five metrics for CEOs

(McKinsey) In a time of seemingly nonstop digital disruptions, which have only accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic, the business imperative to embrace digital, data, and analytics is widely understood. The link to business value, however, is not. When we ask CEOs how their transition to digital is progressing, they often respond with a list of initiatives under way across the business—building a new tech platform, launching new products, or investing in infrastructure, to name a few. But when we ask them to quantify the impact on the bottom line, there’s usually a long silence. Read More

AI Seen Helping to Reduce Pollution, Save Fuel, Ease Traffic

(AItrends) Vehicles stopping for red lights, idling as they wait for the signal lights to change and accelerating to get back up to speed wastes fuel and adds pollutants to the air. Idling vehicles waste more than 6 billion gallons of gasoline and diesel combined every year, according to Department of Energy (DOE) estimates. Seeking a better way, the DOE last year awarded $1.89 million to researchers at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, the University of Pittsburgh, Georgia Institute of Technology, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the City of Chattanooga to create a new model for traffic intersections that reduces energy consumption and improves the flow of traffic. Read More

A 2021 risk agenda for boards of directors at US banks

(McKinsey) As bank boards of directors prepare their 2021 agendas, they face a set of risks and governing responsibilities both old and new. Some are standing issues familiar to all well-functioning boards: relentless monitoring and managing of credit, market, and operational risks—which can affect the bank’s profitability and basic safety and soundness—as well as financial crime. Also, of course, the impacts of the global pandemic will continue to demand attention until COVID-19 is controlled around the world. Along with these issues, three evolving themes deserve fresh attention: climate change, cyberrisk, and social justice. While these themes are by no means new, they have become more prominent and pressing, and some have been intensified by the COVID-19 crisis. Read More

Twisted light from the beginning of time could reveal brand-new physics

( A twist in the universe’s first light could hint that scientists need to rethink physics. A pair of Japanese scientists looked at the polarization or orientation of light from the cosmic microwave background radiation, some of the earliest light emitted after the universe’s birth. They found the polarization of photons, or light particles, might be slightly rotated from their original orientation when the light was first produced. And dark energy or dark matter may have been responsible for that rotation. Read More

Army-Funded Engineers Grow Kombucha-Inspired ‘Living Materials’ that Sense Threats

(Nextgov) Army-backed researchers in the U.S. and U.K. recently puzzled out a way to produce “living materials” that seem straight out of science fiction—and their main source of inspiration was Kombucha, the hip and fizzy fermented drink often associated with health enthusiasts. The fresh effort presents a promising means for generating innovative, tough and functional matter that can be used to detect pollutants, self-heal, purify water and more, according to a release published by the Army Research Laboratory this week. Read More