Here are five news stories and events to start your week:
Rear Adm. Tim Szymanski, the commander of all Navy special operations units, is looking for companies to develop and demonstrate technologies that offer "cognitive enhancement" capabilities to boost his elite forces' mental and physical performance. "We plan on using that in mission enhancement," he said. "The performance piece is really critical to the life of our operators." Szymanski later expanded on his remarks, saying he has his eye on a number of technologies, including pharmaceutical aids. But the results of one breakthrough involving the direct application of electrical stimulation to the brain have particularly caught his eye.
Speaking of the naval community, the Navy League's annual Sea-Air-Space conference runs from today through Wednesday at the Gaylord National Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, just south of Washington, D.C. Military.com will have a team of journalists on the floor to cover the show. The Navy's top officer, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, isn't on the agenda, but the show will feature updates from a number of potential newsmakers, including Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William F. Moran; Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Glenn M. Walters; and Coast Guard Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Michel. See our full coverage here.
Army equipment officials said the service's newest combat helmet will feel significantly lighter to soldiers while providing the same protection. The Advanced Combat Helmet Gen II will replace the legacy Advanced Combat Helmet, fielded about 15 years ago. The service in March awarded Revision Military, based in Essex Junction, Vermont, a contract worth about $98 million to make 293,870 of the new helmets. Made of high-density polyethylene instead of the current helmet's Kevlar, the ACH Gen II weighs about 2.5 pounds in size large -- about a 24-percent weight reduction, officials from Program Executive Office Soldier said at Fort Belvoir in Virginia.
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Dentists in several states are warning reimbursement rates in the new Tricare dental contract are so low that many providers will be forced to stop participating in the plans and pass on higher out-of-pocket costs to military families. The $2.9 billion Tricare Dental Plan (TDP) contract for the families of active-duty, Guard and reserve troops is set to move from MetLife to United Concordia on May 1. About 1.8 million beneficiaries are enrolled in the program. Military retirees are not impacted by the new contract. Although the change comes with several expansions to care for users, it also includes a decrease to the in-network rates paid to dentists for their services.
The U.S. Coast Guard is happy to be part of the Homeland Security Department and doesn't see a need to reorganize under the Defense Department, an official said. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul F. Zukunft has said "the best place for us is the Department of Homeland Security and I agree with him," Vice Commandant Adm. Charles Michel said Friday. The service is the smallest branch of the U.S. armed forces and the only one that falls under the Homeland Security Department rather than the Pentagon -- an organizational structure recently questioned by a lawmaker. The service is also considering acquiring its own fleet of drones, Michel said.
-- Brendan McGarry can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
-- Hope Hodge Seck, Matthew Cox and Amy Bushatz contributed to this report.