Today’s Tidbits: November 21, 2019

Today’s Tidbits: November 21, 2019

Here are’s tidbits for November 21, 2019:  Hyten moves to JCS, Richard takes over USSTRATCOM; Myers withdraws nomination for NOAA; AF to modify launch RFP per GAO.  Be sure to check our website for feature stories and follow us on Twitter (@SpcPlcyOnline) for more news and live tweeting of events.

Hyten Moves to Joint Chiefs of Staff, Richard Takes Over USSTRATCOM

Gen. John Hyten officially is now Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hyten has been serving as Commander of U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) after a long career in Air Force space, including two years as Commander of Air Force Space Command.

Hyten was confirmed by the Senate on September 26 after most members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) and of the Senate itself rejected accusations of sexual misconduct by a subordinate.  Hyten also was cleared by an Air Force investigation and former Secretary of the Air Force (SecAF) Heather Wilson, who ordered the investigation which she was SecAF, appeared at his confirmation hearing to firmly assert her conviction that he was “falsely accused.” SASC member Sen. Martha McSally (R-AZ), a retired Air Force Colonel and herself a victim of sexual abuse when she was in the Air Force, led the committee’s inquiry into the allegations for the Republicans and also concluded that Hyten “is innocent of these charges.”

His successor at USSTRATCOM is Admiral Charles “Chas” Richard, who took on his new job earlier this week.

Deputy Secretary of Defense David Norquist presided over the USSTRATCOM change of command.

This is Richard’s third tour of duty at USSTRATCOM.  Most recently he was Deputy Commander from 2016-2018.  Since then he has been serving as commander of Submarine Forces, commander of Submarine Forces Atlantic, and commander of Allied Submarine Command at Naval Station Norfolk, VA.  He was confirmed by the Senate on October 31.

Barry Myers Asks to Withdraw from NOAA Nomination

Barry Myers from his LinkdIn page.

The Washington Times reported today that Barry Myers has asked to withdraw his nomination to be Under  Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and Administrator of NOAA for health reasons.

His nomination has languished in the Senate since October 2017.  The Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee approved his nomination three times — in December 2017 after a confrontational nomination hearing a month earlier, January 2018, and April 2019 — on party-line votes, but it never reached the Senate floor.

A nomination is only valid for one year, so he had to be renominated in 2018 and 2019.

The first two times he was nominated, he and his brother owned AccuWeather, which was seen as a conflict of interest especially since Myers had tried to get legislation passed to prevent the National Weather Service from offering a product or service that could be provided by the private sector. Sen. Bill Nelson, who was the top Democrat on the committee in 2017 and 2018, said that move “would have directly benefited AccuWeather” while putting Americans’ access to “free and potentially life-saving government weather forecasts” at risk.  The National Weather Services is part of NOAA.  Myers severed his financial ties to AccuWeather effective January 1, 2019, but it did not speed his nomination.

The Washington Times said Myers, 76, is being treated for cancer, hence his decision to withdraw. It said Myers notified the White House by letter this week, but President Trump has not officially sent a withdrawal message to the Senate yet.

Air Force to Modify Launch Procurement

Illustration of Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket. Credit: Blue Origin

In response to GAO’s decision on Monday in favor of Blue Origin, multiple media sources report that the Air Force will modify its ongoing procurement of national security space launch (NSSL) services.

Blue Origin protested the Air Force’s Request for Proposals (RFP) for what is called the “Phase 2 Launch Service Procurement.”  Contracts will be signed in 2020-2024 for launches that take place through 2027.

GAO, the Government Accountability Office, is the decision-making authority on protests of government procurement actions. It agreed with one of Blue Origin’s complaints — that the RFP had “unclear and ambiguous selection criteria.” According to GAO, the RFP said the Air Force would award contracts to two companies “by deciding which combination of two independently developed proposals offers the best value to the government.”  GAO concluded that methodology “does not provide a reasonable, common basis on which offerors will be expected to compete and have their proposals evaluated.”

Will Roper, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, said today the words “when combined” will be removed.

CNBC ‘s Michael Sheetz reports that Jeffries analyst Greg Konrad does not think the change will be all that helpful for Blue Origin’s chances of getting one of the Phase 2 awards, however.  Founded by Jeff Bezos, Blue Origin is developing the New Glenn rocket and is competing for DOD launches against Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, and the United Launch Alliance (ULA), a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.

GAO did not sustain two other Blue Origin complaints — that the RFP discriminates against new competitors and unnecessarily restricts competition.

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