The Insider

By Sara Sirota
April 1, 2020 at 5:29 PM

The Air Force has awarded Lockheed Martin an $818 million contract to produce 790 extended-range variants of the Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM-ER), according to a notice the Defense Department released today.

Under the agreement, Lockheed will provide 360 missiles in Lot 17 and 390 missiles in Lot 18 to the service, along with 40 missiles to support foreign military sales programs. Work will be performed in Orlando, FL, and is scheduled to be finished before November 2024.

The contract marks the third to solely account for the upgraded weapon, which offers more than twice the range of JASSM. Next year's award for 400 missiles is expected to be the first one to pay for Lockheed’s new "D" JASSM-ER variant that enhances the weapon's lethality and survivability even further.

The Air Force revealed in the fall the program is looking to scale up production to a maximum of 10,000 JASSMs and wants to eventually reach a rate of 500 missiles per lot. Lockheed is opening a new facility in Troy, AL, to accommodate the higher manufacturing levels.

By Marjorie Censer
April 1, 2020 at 4:41 PM

Booz Allen Hamilton said today it will devote more than $100 million to support its 27,000 employees and their communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The program includes major benefit program enhancements to support employees dealing with health, childcare, and COVID-related issues; a pledge of job security at least through July 1; and a commitment to provide funding, assistance, and technology expertise to aid vulnerable populations, military families, veterans and frontline healthcare workers," the company said.

"These initiatives will be financed by reprioritizing planned spending and investment and will help to enable employees to continue to work with government and commercial clients as they face unprecedented challenges," Booz Allen added.

The contractor said it will alter its budget accordingly, including by eliminating many events and putting in place a hiring freeze in non-billable departments.

Additionally, Booz Allen said it is working with the independent Booz Allen Foundation to offer philanthropic support.

"Throughout the coming year, Booz Allen plans to contribute its technology and consulting expertise to combat the effects of the virus, pledging to contribute pro-bono projects, in-kind contributions and volunteer time to organizations and communities helping the neediest on the front lines," the company added. Booz Allen "will provide strategic planning, digital modernization, analytics and cyber capabilities, among other services."

By Tony Bertuca
April 1, 2020 at 2:50 PM

Several Ohio lawmakers, led by Rep. Mike Turner (R), have sent a letter to the Pentagon requesting better COVID-19 guidance be provided to the defense industrial base, especially those working at the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

The lawmakers say they have been contacted by 13 small businesses in Ohio that have research and development contracts with AFRL.

"They have raised concerns about the ongoing spread of COVID-19 and an absence of sufficient guidance on how they may continue to meet their contractual obligations to DOD during this crisis," the lawmakers wrote.

"One of their key concerns," according to the letter, "is the lack of uniform guidance from local leadership and contracting officers on which tasks and personnel are deemed 'mission essential' and the rules on which contractors can continue to work remotely."

The lawmakers want DOD to release "clear, top-down" guidance that would allow contractors to work remotely as much as possible; allow on-site work when required; provide contractors with "maximum flexibility" to meet their contractual obligations; and take action to avoid reductions in force.

Though the lawmakers acknowledge DOD has released some guidance already, they say they’re concerned the message "remains ambiguous and lacks uniformity in application."

"Thus far, the DOD policy of delegating key decision-making authorities to the lowest levels has caused the contractor workforce great concern because of uncertain, and often conflicting, guidance," the letter states. "The defense contractor community needs stability and continuity in this time of crisis and those steps will enable contractors to meet their obligations while protecting their workforce."

By Jaspreet Gill
April 1, 2020 at 2:31 PM

The Army's Artificial Intelligence Task Force is working on a new threat recognition project that involves an AI-enabled system of air and ground vehicles.

Brig. Gen. Matt Easley, director of the AI Task Force, told Inside Defense in an interview last week he is looking at several different ways autonomous systems can work in a battlefield environment to collect data on potential threats and locate adversaries through the "Aided Threat Recognition from Mobile Cooperative and Autonomous Sensors" project.

"The key research problem that we're looking at is how to get those autonomous systems to work to create a [common] operating picture," Easley said.

One of the goals with the ATR project is to conduct aerial reconnaissance missions with both unmanned ground and air vehicles to reduce the load on soldiers.

"Right now, we typically send soldiers either via helicopter or ground vehicle," he said. "We want to be able to do that with a system of unmanned vehicles. We'll send out ground vehicles and air vehicles to maneuver through [different] areas [and] build up an operating picture."

He said the task force is currently conducting an activity with its commercial truck fleet where "instead of having one truck driver in every vehicle, you have one truck driver in every third or fourth" vehicle.

The task force in January completed a data collection event at Ft. Hunter Liggett, CA, with Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center and is working with the University of Texas and Texas A&M University on the ATR project.

Easley said the service was going to conduct an initial "network pieces" check for the project this month, but it has been moved to June due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The service still plans to conduct an initial demonstration in September, but the systems won't actually be able to work at scale for a "number of years," according to Easley.

"There's a big difference between getting this to work through ground vehicles and [unmanned aerieal vehicles] and [scaling it up] to work for every squad or every platoon in a division having these systems," he said. "How they share information on a much bigger level are harder problems, and we know those are going to take longer to solve."

By Courtney Albon
April 1, 2020 at 1:56 PM

The Space and Missile Systems Center announced this week it has awarded Raytheon and L3Harris contracts worth up to $500 million each to develop and produce modems for its Protected Tactical Satellite Communications program.

The March 27 contract award was more than 120 days earlier than expected, SMC's Program Executive Officer for Space Development Col. Dennis Bythewood said in a March 30 press release. The Space Force teamed with the Army for the effort, dubbed the Air Force and Army Anti-Jam Modem (A3M) program, which supports Protected Tactical SATCOM, and will help improve anti-jam and communications capabilities for warfighters operating in contested environments.

"Not only did the A3M team complete this source selection and contract award via telework, they beat their plan by over 120 days, continuing SMC's commitment to epic speed," Bythewood said.

Raytheon's initial task order is worth $37.6 million and L3 Harris' award is for $30.6 million. The funds will cover design, development and testing of the first iteration of modems for the program.

By John Liang
April 1, 2020 at 1:47 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on defense contracting amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program and more.

We start off with Pentagon acquisition officials' recent actions to make sure the Defense Department can award contracts quickly to combat the COVID-19 pandemic:

DOD loosens reins on commercial procurements to fight COVID-19

Defense Department acquisition officials have issued new guidance to allow "maximum flexibility" to award emergency contracts for commercial products and services in preparation for a "significant number of new awards" to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a pair of new Pentagon memos.

The Pentagon's effort to implement its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program soldiers on:

Pentagon to give companies credit for existing certifications under new contractor cybersecurity program

The Pentagon plans to give companies credit for existing cybersecurity qualifications as part of a new contractor cyber certification program, after the tech industry lobbied for the reciprocity, according to a defense official.

Pentagon's CMMC accreditation body seeks industry input on certification compliance

The industry-based accreditation body tasked with implementing the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program is reaching out to the broader contracting community for advice on how to determine whether a company has complied with the new requirements, a move that comes days after the group signed a legally binding agreement with the Defense Department on training and certifying cyber auditors.

The Air Force has canceled a hypersonic missile program:

HCSW program officially canceled after key milestone completed this month

The Hypersonic Conventional Strike Weapon, one of two Air Force programs intended to create a prototype that can travel faster than Mach 5 to boost the military's strategic assets for near-peer competition, has officially been canceled.

The Missile Defense Agency wants to extend the range of the Standard Missile-3 Block IB interceptor:

After MDA demonstrates 7x increase in defended area, Raytheon pitching EOR for older SM-3s

Raytheon and the Missile Defense Agency are exploring options to extend the range of the Standard Missile-3 Block IB -- pushing the ballistic missile interceptor to dramatically expand a defended area by allowing the weapon to communicate with off-board radars -- a move that would require enhancing one of the Aegis ballistic missile defense system's newest features: Engage-on-Remote.

A report on an alternative acquisition system for the Space Force is due out soon:

Air Force 'very close' to finalizing Space Force alternative acquisition system report

The Air Force is nearly finished with a key report that will recommend a plan for establishing an alternative Space Force acquisition system that draws successful practices from organizations like the National Reconnaissance Office and the Rapid Capabilities Office to improve the way space capabilities are developed and procured.

By Mallory Shelbourne
April 1, 2020 at 12:05 PM

The Marine Corps is looking for information from industry about an "aircraft defeat capability" it could incorporate with the Marine Air Defense Integrated System.

According to a March 26 request for information, the Marine Corps wants to outfit the system, which should include both a launcher and a payload, on the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle heavy guns carrier.

The "[program manager for ground based air defense] is seeking to identify interested vendors capable of providing a [fixed wing]/[rotary wing] aircraft defeat capability (launcher and payload), turret mounted, onto the MK1 JLTV," the RFI reads.

"The vendor-identified capability shall allow for integration within the size, weight, and power parameters of the JLTV HGC to include all electrical and mechanical interfaces," it continues. "The vendor solution shall be compatible with the MADIS Inc 1 command and control software baseline."

The RFI says the system should not "require new development," but should be prepared "to support delivery of (2) Engineering Development Models during 3QFY21, and production of 13 Low Rate Production Units during 3QFY22."

According to the most recent budget justification books, the Marine Corps is seeking $18.9 million in fiscal year 2021 for the Ground Based Air Defense line item. The future years defense program projects the Marines seeking 236.8 million in FY-22 and $238.6 million in FY-23 for GBAD.

"With the proliferation of both military and commercial [Unmanned Aircraft System] platforms, the program is pursuing and acquiring more lethal and survivable GBAD Marine Air Defense Integrated System (MADIS) platforms; such as JLTV's with armored protection and better maneuverability than a High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), providing increased Counter-UAS capabilities now and continually spiraling out increasing capability for the foreseeable future," the budget documents read.

Responses to the RFI are due by April 10.

By Courtney Albon
April 1, 2020 at 11:07 AM

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein will meet today with the service's major command leadership to identify mission-essential tasks and determine what resources might be needed to support MAJCOMs and their readiness requirements in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Goldfein told reporters during a Mitchell Institute briefing the service has started to feel readiness impacts as it adjusts to a "new normal" as a result of the coronavirus crisis, which is why he's convening MAJCOM commanders today to better understand their assessment of mission-essential tasks and what is required to maintain those tasks. The service will use that information to assure the commands have the funding and personnel they need to successfully "reset" to a new, and continually evolving, way of operating.

"As I look at this virus and the way it's projected to go forward, I don't see us getting much better for the next couple months," Goldfein said. "So, if April and May are going to continue to get worse, as is projected, before we start leveling off the virus, how do I keep operating on those mission-essential tasks during that timeline, especially if I've got to start doubling up on people because I’m having to split shifts and keep people separated?"

Decisions like that don't happen "at the flip of a switch," but require a "broader reset across the Air Force" to make sure the work the service is doing is supporting its essential missions, he said.

By Ashley Tressel
March 31, 2020 at 3:36 PM

Oshkosh has been awarded a total of $346.4 million in delivery orders to recapitalize Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Trucks and Palletized Load System trucks, as well as manufacture new PLS trailers, the company announced Friday.

The HEMTT and PLS are part of the Army's and Reserve's Family of Heavy Tactical Vehicle fleets.

The vehicles support multidomain operations by hauling rocket launchers and missile defense systems and transporting mission-critical equipment.

"As the military pivots its focus to near-peer adversaries, they can be confident that the FHTV fleet will continue to serve as a key enabler for combat missions," Pat Williams, vice president and general manager of U.S. Army and Marine Corps programs for Oshkosh Defense, said in a statement. "We look forward to supporting the Army's modernization priorities now and well into the future."

Since 1995, Oshkosh Defense has recapitalized more than 13,700 HEMTTs and 3,400 PLS vehicles, according to the release.

By Ashley Tressel
March 31, 2020 at 3:06 PM

The Army has halted all experimentation for the Robotic Combat Vehicle program following guidance on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross-Functional Team and Ground Vehicle Systems Center were planning soldier operational experiments in April "to observe, collect and analyze feedback from soldiers to assess the feasibility of integrating unmanned vehicles into ground combat formations," according to a press release sent this month.

This was to be the first in a series of soldier experiments the Army plans to conduct to see if robotic combat vehicles will increase the lethality of ground combat units. For the initial experiment at Ft. Carson, CO, the Army was going to equip a platoon-sized element of 4th Infantry Division soldiers with "Mission Enabling Technologies Demonstrators (MET-D)," the press release said.

However, the service has paused the event in light of COVID-19 restrictions on travel and contact, leaving equipment at Ft. Carson so the team can pick up where it left off when personnel are allowed to return.

Jeff Langhout, GVSC director, told Inside Defense in an interview that once the restrictions are lifted, "we're looking at a couple of weeks before we can be back in the middle of things and back on this critically important experiment and demonstration."

At this time, there is no set time for when things will be back to normal.

"Clearly, this [testing] will be delayed some amount of time . . . but it will still give us the data that we need to learn and then to move into the next phase," he said. "So, if this doesn't go on but for just a couple of months, I think the longer-term efforts will be able to hold. When I say longer term efforts, [that means] the Phase 2 and potential Phase 3 efforts for this Robotic Combat Vehicle experimentation activities."

However, if the current conditions stretch longer than that, the program's schedule will be affected, he added.

Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the NGCV CFT, said the team has already made some progress, having done five virtual experiments with soldiers using a computer simulation and awarding some other transaction agreements.

Meanwhile, the Phase 2 effort is continuing, according to Coffman.

Pratt & Miller, partnered with QinetiQ North America, and Textron "are receiving money and moving out on the vehicles they’re creating for us," he said.

Pratt & Miller-QinetiQ will build four vehicles for the RCV Light variant, while Textron will build four RCV Mediums, and all will participate in a company-level experiment in 2021, the Army announced in January.

By John Liang
March 31, 2020 at 2:00 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has a lot of Air Force news, including a deep dive into the service's foreign military sales efforts, the KC-46 tanker and more.

We start off with a deep dive into the Air Force's foreign military sales efforts:

Air Force speeds up foreign military sales, but DOD says the service isn't moving fast enough

After a major uptick in foreign military sales last year, the Air Force expects to make even more deals moving forward, in large part driven by increased demand for fourth-generation aircraft.

The Air Force's KC-46 airborne refueling tanker program has a new problem:

Air Force reveals new KC-46 Category 1 deficiency involving 'excessive fuel leaks'

The Boeing-built KC-46 has a new Category 1 deficiency involving excessive fuel leaks, which was first identified during an air refueling test last July.

Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper told reporters during a recent briefing that he has directed the Skyborg vanguard program to accelerate a rapid solicitation, though he didn't indicate when it will be released:

USAF to accelerate Skyborg solicitation, delay some AFRL testing amid COVID-19

The Skyborg vanguard program is ready to move beyond experimentation and release a solicitation to industry, according to the Air Force's acquisition executive.

The Pentagon wants to make sure the defense industrial base stays healthy while the COVID-19 pandemic rages on:

Pentagon memo advises acquisition officials to use 'regulatory tools' to keep industrial base strong

A memo signed yesterday by a top Defense Department acquisition official says DOD agencies and the services should act to ensure the defense industrial base remains healthy despite the coronavirus outbreak.

Document: DOD memo on defense industrial base and COVID-19

More COVID-19 coverage:

Pentagon takes key role on medical supply shortfalls, but timing remains in question

The Pentagon has taken on a key role aiding civilian agencies working to shore up key medical supply shortfalls amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, but it's unclear whether the timing of those actions will move fast enough to help mitigate the rapidly spreading virus in the coming weeks.

(For full coverage of the Defense Department's response to COVID-19, click here.)

By Courtney Albon
March 31, 2020 at 1:16 PM

The Air Force today announced it has identified 23 missions it plans to shift to the Space Force over the next six months.

In a press release, the service said Air Force Secretary Barbara Barrett and Space Force Chief of Space Operations Gen. John Raymond have directed the identified space missions and their associated 1,840 Air Force billets to formally shift to the new service.

"The goal is to have each of the 23 space missions formally transferred from the Air Force into the Space Force within the next three to six months based on timing and conditions specific to each organization and mission," the release states.

The transfer plan does not dictate any physical movement of units or personnel to a new location, the release states, noting "the missions and billets will simply be transferred to the Space Force and remain in place to leverage the talent, infrastructure and key capabilities at their current location."

The space missions that will shift are located at bases in Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, Maryland, California and New Mexico. The release notes that the service may identify new missions to transfer as the Space Force stand-up continues.

By Courtney Albon
March 31, 2020 at 12:51 PM

The head of U.S. Transportation Command said today he's optimistic about the progress being made with the Air Force to develop a strategy to mitigate the tanker capacity gap until the KC-46 is combat-ready.

Gen. Stephen Lyons declined to comment on ongoing negotiations between the Air Force and prime contractor Boeing on open KC-46 deficiencies, despite the service's announcement Monday that it had elevated a fourth Category 1 deficiency involving excessive fuel leaks.

Lyons said the prospect of developing a sound strategy for maintaining aerial refueling capacity until the new tanker is ready for its full operational slate has been "much more optimistic here of late."

"We're working with the Air Force on that, and I think we have a good agreement on a strategy at this particular point," he said.

The Air Force continues to negotiate with Boeing on a plan to address one of the Category 1 deficiencies -- the tanker's remote visual system. The service had expected to reach an agreement by the end of March, but service spokeswoman Capt. Cara Bousie confirmed today the discussions are ongoing, though an agreement is near.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein told lawmakers earlier this month the KC-46 is not expected to be ready for combat until the 2023 or 2024 timeframe.

By Marjorie Censer
March 31, 2020 at 12:41 PM

General Dynamics' Bath Iron Works said this week it is increasing the number of crews disinfecting and cleaning work areas as about half of its production workforce uses time-off policies.

The company said that beginning this week, "additional subcontractors will focus on more frequent disinfecting of workspaces and basic housekeeping, allowing BIW production employees to remain dedicated to necessary shipbuilding work."

"The company is actively encouraging employees to take full use of the range of benefits and options including paid vacation and sick time to pursue what they believe are best for themselves and their families," Bath Iron Works added. "About half of the production workforce has availed themselves of the company's time-off policies during this time."

In a letter to employees last week, Dirk Lesko, the president of Bath Iron Works, said the company has "added a range of extra safeguards, expanded benefits and added resources to ensure you have what you need to work safe and be well."

Lesko said an information packet was mailed to workers' homes.

"Unemployment creates incredible challenges that can be impossible to overcome which redoubles my commitment to help keep those who are able to work working safely through this time," he wrote.

The company said it remains aware of only one confirmed coronavirus case at the facility.

By Justin Katz
March 31, 2020 at 10:14 AM

A new unmanned surface vessel effort stemming from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will begin in earnest next month as the Pentagon begins collecting industry proposals.

The vessel, called "No Manning Required, Ship" or NOMARS, will be designed to operate for up to a year without human intervention. The deadline to submit a "declaration letter" -- a document outlining the prime contractor, team members and other basic information -- is April 2, according to a broad agency announcement published in February. Technical volumes are due later in April.

The project will "design, build, and field test an unmanned surface ship that can operate autonomously for long durations at sea with no human interventions or underway maintenance," the BAA said.

"NOMARS will challenge the traditional naval architecture paradigm by starting with a clean-sheet ship design process that eliminates design considerations associated with crew," according to the BAA.

The two-phased effort will consider the design space from conceptual design review through preliminary design review and system definition. DARPA expects to award up to $41 million in contracts to multiple teams.

While the Navy has pursued unmanned technology in recent years, its vessels have often contained minimal requirements to allow for occasional crewing. DARPA's announcement cites the Navy's efforts for distributed maritime operations, one of the service's main operating concepts, as part of the need for NOMARS.

"Prior efforts at naval distributed lethality (e.g. Pegasus class) were not operationally successful primarily due to their limited endurance and lack of survivability. Both issues were largely driven by the presence of a human crew," according to the BAA.

The project's objectives are to build a 100-ton class unmanned vessel that both takes full advantage of removing habitation requirements and has maintenance and logistics systems that can operate for a yearlong deployment without human intervention.

DARPA wrote that because traditional naval architectures have not explored the NOMARS concept, it cannot offer detailed performance specifications. Instead, the BAA offers a "notional distributed lethality Design Reference Mission."

The DRM envisions multiple vessels transiting for at least 2,000 miles from a deployment station and maintaining positions for days or weeks. The ships must also be capable of rapidly repositioning to avoid an enemy force.

"NOMARS vessels are envisioned to conduct these operations continuously for months at sea, being refueled at-sea as necessary. When the mission is completed, NOMARS vessels would conduct a return trip (2000+ nmi) back to their depot location," according to the BAA.