The Insider

March 27, 2017 -- 4:05 PM

Today's daily digest includes news from a morning breakfast with Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, chief of U.S. Africa Command as well as the latest from a ground robotics conference.

He told reporters that Camp Lemonnier, located in the Horn of Africa, is a “significantly important base vis-a-vis its geography”:

Waldhauser: AFRICOM has 'significant' concerns about Chinese base in Djibouti

U.S. Africa Command has “very significant operational concerns” about the Chinese opening up a military base several miles from the U.S. military's Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, according to the command's chief.

We also have news on the Army after a reporter attended the National Defense Industrial Association's Ground Robotics Capabilities conference last week:

Army to use Autonomous Ground Resupply program for Leader Follower

As the Army works to improve its autonomous capabilities, the service intends to base development of the Leader Follower system capability on the Autonomous Ground Resupply program, according to Bryan McVeigh, project manager for force projection.

Robotic 'rodeo' considered for Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport

After discussion among Army leaders, the service might hold a competition for Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport prototypes to inform future program decisions, according to Bryan McVeigh, project manager for force projection.

Additionally, the director of the Army Rapid Capabilities Office chatted with an Inside the Army reporter:

RCO director: 'Velocity is dictated by funding'

Army leaders will have the requisite information to make a fielding decision on electronic warfare capability for Europe by the end of 2017, according to the director of the Army Rapid Capabilities Office.

We'll wrap up today's INSIDER with Navy news:

Navy, Marines looking for alternative ways to send forces ashore

The Navy and Marine Corps are gearing up for an advanced naval technology exercise next month in California to look at various ways to get combat troops ashore, according to officials.

Lockheed: F-35, Aegis combat system link will be tested at sea in 2018

The Navy will continue experimenting with its nascent distributed battle network by pairing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with the Aegis combat system at sea in the summer of 2018, according to a Lockheed Martin official.

March 27, 2017 -- 3:56 PM

Air Force Global Strike Command will host its inaugural nuclear deterrence operations innovation summit this summer to find ways to advance the service's national leadership command capabilities and nuclear command, control and communications enterprise in 2035 and beyond, according to a Federal Business Opportunities notice posted last week.

“The Air Force NC3 weapon system consists of various components operated as stand-alone systems and/or embedded within terrestrial, airborne, and space-borne systems,” the March 20 announcement states. “It must provide extremely robust, resilient, highly secure, highly reliable, rapid, trusted, and unambiguous connectivity in both the benign operational environment as well as the highly contested warfighting environment which is characterized by possible chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, electronic warfare, advanced weapons and offensive cyber threats.”

The event is tentatively scheduled for July 25 to 27 at Barksdale Air Force Base, LA.

Stakeholders are invited to submit white papers describing how their program or technology will help the Air Force starting in 2035, including key milestones and other technologies needed to make the proposal possible. White papers are due April 27.

The time frame under consideration will come less than a decade after the Air Force and Navy begin to replace the nuclear arsenal in the 2020s, an initiative expected to last about 50 years. The white papers could indicate to the Pentagon how best to control those networked assets and build on their capabilities.

Air Force Chief Scientist Greg Zacharias and leaders from U.S. Strategic Command, the Navy, Air Force headquarters, Global Strike Command, Air Force Space Command, Air Combat Command, Air Mobility Command, Air Education and Training Command, Air Force Materiel Command, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the Missile Defense Agency will attend the summit, the notice states.

March 27, 2017 -- 10:19 AM

Some must-reads from this week's edition of Inside the Navy:

1. The Navy and Marine Corps are gearing up for an advanced naval technology exercise in California next month to look at various ways to get combat troops ashore.

Full Story: Navy, Marines looking for alternative ways to send forces ashore

2. The Navy will continue experimenting with its nascent distributed battle network by pairing the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with the Aegis combat system at sea in the summer of 2018.

Full Story: Lockheed exec: F-35, Aegis Combat System link will be tested at sea in 2018

3. Seeking lower prices, the official in charge of the government's Joint Strike Fighter program is calling on prime contractor Lockheed Martin to take a hard look at lower-tier suppliers.

Full Story: Focusing on lower-tier suppliers, Bogdan pushes for F-35 cost-cutting

March 27, 2017 -- 9:59 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee will consider Heather Wilson, President Trump's pick for Air Force secretary, at a confirmation hearing Thursday morning, according to the committee's website. Wilson will be the administration's first service secretary nominee to appear before Congress.

If confirmed, Wilson will replace acting Secretary Lisa Disbrow, who took the post upon Deborah Lee James's departure in January.

Wilson is a former congresswoman from New Mexico, defense lobbyist and current president of the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

Read Wilson's letter and public financial disclosure report.

March 27, 2017 -- 9:51 AM

Some must-reads from this week's edition of Inside the Army:

1. Army leaders will have the requisite information to make a fielding decision on electronic warfare capability for Europe by the end of 2017, according to the director of the Army Rapid Capabilities Office.

Full story:RCO director: 'velocity is dictated by funding'

2. As the Army works to improve its autonomous capabilities, the service intends to base development of the Leader Follower system capability on the Autonomous Ground Resupply program, according to Bryan McVeigh, project manager for force projection.

Full story: Army to use Autonomous Ground Resupply program for Leader Follower

3. So long as budget constraints persist, modernization of the Army's aging platforms will continue taking a back seat to other service priorities, several senior leaders concede.

Full story: Modernization projected to continue as 'bill payer' for Army

4. After discussion among Army leaders, the service might hold a competition for Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport prototypes to inform future program decisions, according to Bryan McVeigh, project manager for force projection.

Full story: Robotic 'rodeo' considered for Squad Multipurpose Equipment Transport

March 27, 2017 -- 9:50 AM

Engility said today it has named Scott Whatmough senior vice president of the company's defense group.

Whatmough joins from Raytheon, where he has worked for 30 years, most recently leading its military electronics systems business. He also previously worked at RCA Government Systems and Sequoia Systems.

Engility is reshaping as it moves from lowest-priced, technically acceptable work to a best-value approach. 

March 27, 2017 -- 5:00 AM

(Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the Association of the United States Army breakfast would be held Thursday. It will be held Tuesday.)

The week ahead is filled with several high-profile congressional hearings, though some of the most interesting will be held behind closed doors.

Tuesday

Lt. Gen. Edward Cardon, director of the Army's office of business transformation, will speak at a breakfast hosted by the Association of the United States Army.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will have a closed briefing on the fiscal year 2017 budget with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Joseph Dunford.

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing on U.S. European Command.

The House Armed Services tactical air and land subcommittee will hold a hearing on naval strike fighters.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee will hold a closed hearing with U.S. Central Command.

Wednesday

The Senate Armed Services readiness and management support subcommittee will hold a hearing on the health of the defense industrial base.

The House Armed Services Committee will hold a hearing with U.S. Central Command on challenges in the Middle East.

The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee holds a hearing on threats to space assets.

The House Armed Services personnel subcommittee holds a hearing on military pilot shortages.

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee has a closed hearing with U.S. European Command.

The Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee will hold a hearing to review the funding of the defense health program and military medicine.

Thursday

The Senate Armed Services airland subcommittee will hold a hearing on Air Force modernization.

The House Armed Services readiness subcommittee holds a hearing on U.S. Transportation Command.

The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee holds a hearing on Russia's violations of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

Science Applications International Corp. executives are set to discuss the company's earnings.

March 24, 2017 -- 3:14 PM

In today's digest, Boeing cuts the government a little slack to find money for the V-22 program, the Air Force moves forward with a key modernization project for the B-52 bomber fleet, the GAO serves up its latest report on the KC-46A program and much more.

First up, news on three big-ticket weapons programs:

Bell-Boeing grants DOD another extension to find money for two must-fund V-22s

The Bell-Boeing Joint Program Office, prime contractor for the V-22 Osprey, has again granted the Navy more time to figure out how to come up with funds to buy aircraft the government is contractually obligated to purchase in fiscal year 2017 -- or risk abrogating a $6.5 billion multiyear deal that originally promised $850 million worth of savings.

Air Force taps Boeing to be sole-source integrator for B-52 Radar Modernization Program

The Air Force has formally selected Boeing to be the integrator for the B-52 Radar Modernization Program, a key early step in moving forward with a planned major improvement that aims to swap out 1960s radar technology -- upgraded in the 1980s -- with modern capabilities to allow the Global Strike Command to fully utilize the capabilities and payload of the legacy bomber fleet.

GAO finds continuing schedule risk for KC-46A, declining program cost estimate

The Air Force's KC-46A aerial refueling tanker, a developmental program buffeted by repeated schedule delays and cost growth for prime contractor Boeing, continues to face risk of meeting the current delivery schedule, according to a new report by congressional auditors.

Air Force considering options to increase F-35 buy in the near term

The Air Force is analyzing its options for ramping up F-35 production beyond what is currently programmed over the next five years, but the service's top uniformed acquisition officer said this week that a steep incline to an annual 60-jet buy is unlikely under existing budget constraints.

Air Force to field Block 5 Reapers in May

The Air Force confirmed this week it plans to field MQ-9 Block 5 aircraft for combat in May, after the Pentagon's former director of operational test and evaluation called those Reapers operationally ineffective in his fiscal year 2016 report to Congress published Jan. 10.

Some space news:

Analysts, industry see challenges in using commercial approach for launch

As the Air Force works toward full and open competition in the national security space launch market, analysts and industry executives say the service may find it a challenge to loosen its grip on oversight as it weighs the risks and benefits of a more commercial approach.

Updated SBSS FO strategy will address Air Force, NRO requirements

The Air Force confirmed this week it is working with the National Reconnaissance Office to jointly address indication and warning and space situational awareness requirements through its Space-Based Space Surveillance follow-on program.

Lastly, a forecast on future Army spending.

Modernization projected to continue as 'bill payer' for Army

So long as budget constraints persist, modernization of the Army’s aging platforms will continue taking a back seat to other service priorities, several senior leaders concede.

March 24, 2017 -- 1:19 PM

Afghan troops received another four fixed-wing A-29 aircraft March 20, the Defense Department said this week, bringing their in-country Super Tucano fleet to 12 total. The Afghan Air Force flies A-29s for close-air attack, air interdiction, escort and armed reconnaissance missions.

The Air Force previously said the program was expected to reach full operational capability by April once the four aircraft were delivered. Eight more A-29s are slated to move from Moody Air Force Base, GA, to Afghanistan in December 2018.

In October 2016, the Air Force also issued a sources-sought notice on Federal Business Opportunities seeking companies to produce four more A-29 within 18 months after award, to be shipped to the Afghan training site at Moody AFB. Super Tucanos are built by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, a subcontractor to Embraer, the original manufacturer.

The new A-29s will be reconfigured for combat operations in 2017, the Pentagon said in a March 22 release. Super Tucanos can be equipped with infrared target sensors, .50-caliber machine guns, 2.75-inch rockets and 250- and 500-pound laser-guided bombs.

Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of the Resolute Support mission and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, in February called that fight a “stalemate” and asked the Senate Armed Services Committee to approve additional funds for the Afghan Air Force.

More money is needed to grow aircraft operations as soon as possible, Nicholson said without specifying an amount. About 20 Afghan pilots had flown more than 800 A-29 missions so far, he added.

President Trump's fiscal year 2017 defense budget amendment submitted March 16 includes $1.1 billion for Operation Freedom's Sentinel in Afghanistan, the United States mission backing NATO's Resolute Support effort. Those funds address joint urgent operational needs, “increased intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and force protection capabilities for U.S. forces and its coalition allies and partners in support of training, advising, and assisting the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces,” according to a Pentagon overview.

March 24, 2017 -- 10:59 AM

Highlights from this week's Inside the Air Force:

1. Lockheed Martin's Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program chief is anticipating a technology-maturation and risk-reduction contract announcement in August to meet the Air Force's September deadline, and says companies are prepared to handle any changes directed by the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review.

Full story: Lockheed GBSD chief expects August award, awaits nuclear review results

2. General Atomics and Dynetics officials outlined their approaches going into phase two of the Gremlins program -- including adding small UAS technology to the MQ-9 and flying on C-130 pylons -- following the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's March 15 announcement that the two teams would advance.

Full story: General Atomics, Dynetics outline Gremlins approaches as phase two begins

3. The Air Force's current operations director told House Armed Services Committee members this week choosing to retire Boeing's F-15C/D in the late 2020s and recapitalize Lockheed Martin's F-16 with improved radar to serve in the Eagle's role is "predecisional."

Full story: F-15C/D retirement is predecisional, Air Force operations director says

March 24, 2017 -- 10:37 AM

Chris Sorenson has been named interim chief operating officer of stability operations company Janus Global Operations, succeeding Alan Weakley.

Sorenson, a retired Army colonel, has served as COO at Triple Canopy, as chief of staff at Constellis Group and as president of ACADEMI.

Weakley, a former Computer Sciences Corp. executive, spent three years at Janus. Last year, the company rebranded after making several acquisitions, including Janus Security International and SNE Special Projects.

March 23, 2017 -- 2:00 PM

In today's digest, another Capitol Hill leader is expressing concern about the Trump administration's fiscal year 2018 budget, a top Pentagon official wants to further cut the cost of the F-35 and lawmakers are transferring money to a key Air Force effort.

Inside Defense spent much of Wednesday at a conference sponsored by McAleese and Associates and Credit Suisse, where officials from Capitol Hill, the services and the Pentagon gathered. House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith discussed the problems associated with cutting the non-defense discretionary budget:

HASC ranking member anticipates challenges in passing Trump's proposed budget

House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-WA) has joined the growing chorus saying the Trump administration will run into trouble with securing its proposed budget.

At the same conference, Shay Assad talked about the Pentagon's effort to lower the F-35's price tag:

Assad promises continued focus on cutting cost of Joint Strike Fighter

The Defense Department's effort to cut the price of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is far from over, Shay Assad, the Pentagon's director of defense pricing, made clear Wednesday.

And Lt. Gen. Arnold Bunch shared news about the Air Force's Compass Call program.

Air Force wants L3 to lead Compass Call platform change

The Air Force's top uniformed acquisition officer said this week the service will choose L3 Technologies to lead the Compass Call cross-deck effort, after the Government Accountability Office dismissed a bid protest from Bombardier March 10.

In other Air Force news, the Pentagon is transferring money to the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System and the service is weighing its option for retiring the F-15C/D:

JSTARS Recap avoids schedule stoppage, 'significant risk' to EMD schedule

p>Lawmakers have tossed a lifeline to the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System Recapitalization program -- a $3.1 billion development project that can't freely execute its fiscal year 2017 plans due to concerns raised by Congress last year -- granting the Air Force permission to shift an additional $15 million into JSTARS Recap to keep the program on track.

 

F-15C/D retirement is predecisional, Air Force operations director says

The Air Force is exploring its options to retire Boeing's F-15C/D in the late 2020s and recapitalize Lockheed Martin's F-16 with improved radar to serve in the Eagle's role, service officials told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday.

Lastly, an Army official is expressing concern about how the Abrams tank stacks up against the tanks of foreign nations:

Murray: Other nations have reached ‘parity’ with Abrams tank

The Army’s main battle tank “is still toward the top of its class” in the short term, but some foreign armies -- notably, Russia -- have caught up, according to the service’s deputy chief of staff (G-8).

March 23, 2017 -- 1:11 PM

Air Force Air Combat Command will host an industry day April 12 to discuss joint aspects of airborne networking, according to a Federal Business Opportunities notice posted last week.

“The meeting will include briefings and panels by high-level ACC and Air Force Life Cycle Management Center leadership as well as representatives from governmental scientific organizations and Defense Innovation Unit Experimental,” the March 14 notice stated.

Participants will cover distributed computing, net management, information transport and cybersecurity as they relate to airborne networking, as well as industry's role in efforts including Navy Tactical Edge integration, air-to-ground integration, improved battle management command-and-control, multidomain fusion and agile communications, according to the notice.

ACC aims to improve and foster relationships with non-traditional companies, discuss its technological and materiel needs and improve military-industry communication.

ACC did not provide more details by press time (March 23).

March 23, 2017 -- 10:20 AM

Here's a few must-reads from this week's edition of Inside the Pentagon:

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Senate appropriators Wednesday that failing to add $30 billion to the Pentagon's coffers in fiscal year 2017 would further risk military readiness.

1. Full story: Mattis makes case for $30 billion increase to repair readiness gaps

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and his House counterpart Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) expect President Trump's fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which would make steep cuts in domestic spending to boost defense funding, to fail in Congress.

2. Full story: McCain and Thornberry grappling with Trump's defense budget proposals

House Armed Services Committee ranking member Adam Smith (D-WA) has joined the growing chorus saying the Trump administration will run into trouble with securing its proposed budget.

3. Full story: HASC ranking member anticipates challenges in passing Trump's budget

A panel of House lawmakers on Tuesday debated how much could be saved by streamlining Pentagon business practices and, though they differed along partisan lines on what to do with the savings, a bipartisan consensus emerged that billions in waste could be slashed at a time when President Trump has proposed steep cuts to domestic spending to increase the Defense Department's budget.

4. Full story: Oversight panel eyes waste as Trump proposes domestic cuts to boost defense

March 22, 2017 -- 3:20 PM

Today's digest is packed: the Army locks in fewer than planned AH-64E buys; F-35; all sorts of budget news and more.

The Apache attack helicopter executes its first-ever multiyear procurement contract, and it looks a bit different than the service initially proposed:

Army executes five-year contract for AH-64E that locks in fewer aircraft than planned

The Army last week backed off its original plan to commit to buying 275 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters from Boeing in a five-year contract, instead executing a deal to buy 244 aircraft -- a more than 10 percent drop -- and offset these reductions by folding foreign purchases by Saudi Arabia into the deal to increase the multiyear package to 268 rotorcraft.

Lockheed Martin officials at the company’s annual media day weighed in on the Joint Strike Fighter:

Lockheed optimistic F-35 SDD will close this year, despite delay projections

F-35 prime contractor Lockheed Martin is still aiming to complete the Joint Strike Fighter program's development phase by the end of the year, telling reporters this week that key milestones this summer will offer a good indicator of whether it is executing to its aggressive testing schedule.

Lockheed exec: Navy will test F-35C nose gear, helmet-mounted display fixes at sea this summer, fall

The Navy will most likely begin testing fixes for the F-35C nose gear and the helmet-mounted display on a ship this summer or fall, according to a Lockheed Martin executive.

On the Hill and around town, lots of budget news:

Mattis makes case for $30B defense increase

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told Senate appropriators today that failing to add $30 billion to the Pentagon's coffers in fiscal year 2017 would further risk military readiness.

McCain and Thornberry grappling with Trump's defense budget proposals

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) and his House counterpart Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX) expect President Trump's fiscal year 2018 budget proposal, which would make steep cuts in domestic spending to boost defense funding, to fail in Congress.

Budget amendment would plus up anti-ship missile, other developments

Despite pitching the fiscal year 2017 budget amendment as a military readiness supplement, the Defense Department is also seeking billions more for research and development, including more money for the Navy's new anti-ship missile.

Administration eyes further boost to Army aviation in FY-17

A fiscal year 2017 budget amendment released March 16 by the White House would provide a $1.65 billion boost to the Army's aircraft procurement account, but the measure faces an uncertain future in Congress.

G-8: Army may have to curb vehicle upgrades if BCA caps return in FY-18

The Army may need to adjust vehicle modernization programs if Budget Control Act spending caps return in fiscal year 2018, according to the deputy chief of staff (G-8).

Army generals outline readiness, modernization challenges

A pair of Army senior leaders last week detailed for lawmakers the adverse impacts on the service of years of unstable funding, as well as the risks to key modernization priorities posed by the potential return of Budget Control Act spending caps.

House oversight committee eyes Pentagon waste as Trump proposes domestic cuts to boost defense

A panel of House lawmakers on Tuesday debated how much could be saved by streamlining Pentagon business practices and, though they differed along partisan lines on what to do with the savings, a bipartisan consensus emerged that billions in waste could be slashed at a time when President Trump has proposed steep cuts to domestic spending to increase the Defense Department's budget.

Wittman: Congress anticipates CBO 355-ship analysis before marking FY-18 budget

Congress anticipates receiving analysis from an oversight organization within the next two to three weeks on building a 355-ship fleet, analysis that will inform the fiscal year 2018 House authorization mark, according to an influential lawmaker.

Lastly:

Wilson says Air Force will seek 'different acquisition strategies for different programs'

The Air Force won't limit itself to a particular acquisition strategy in future procurement efforts, Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson told an industry conference Wednesday.

Air Force, Lockheed to wrap up propulsion review in May

Lockheed Martin expects an investigation into the A2100 propulsion system carried by four key military space constellations to wrap up in May.

Schmidt: Defense Innovation Board to tackle big data next month

The Defense Innovation Board intends to tackle the issue of big data during a meeting early next month, the board’s chairman said during a question-and-answer session Tuesday.

Milley: Army will have to 'optimize' for future war in urban environments

The Army may need smaller operational formations to adjust to future fighting in urban environments, according to the service's chief of staff.