The Insider

By Sara Sirota
January 25, 2021 at 12:25 PM

A Parsons-led industry team has submitted a proposal for a $953 million contract to strengthen U.S. Air Force base defense in Europe and Africa over 10 years, according to a press statement the company released today.

The winner of the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity vehicle, which the government expects to award by May, will enhance security against airborne threats.

According to a solicitation the Air Force released last month, the contractor will develop an expansive command-and-control capability featuring a network of distributed sensors and communications systems. Starting with Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany, this capability will be deployed throughout multiple air bases in the U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command areas of responsibility.

"As asymmetric threats from emerging technologies continue to proliferate, we're focused on developing a flexible, responsive, all-domain air base defense system to rapidly detect, alert, deny or defeat threats ranging from low-cost irregular attacks to hypersonic weapons," Shaun McGrath, Parsons' program manager for air base air defense, said in today's release.

The company's team includes Leidos, SAIC and SRC. They will bring together a variety of commercial and government-off-the-shelf software and hardware technologies under an integrated, open architecture design. 

The deadline to bid on the contract was Jan. 22. It's unclear if any other industry providers have submitted proposals.

By Tony Bertuca
January 25, 2021 at 12:15 PM

President Biden will sign an executive order today seeking to "reset" the U.S. government's approach to "domestic preferences" when it comes to manufacturing, according to a White House announcement.

"The president's executive order establishes the goals and standards necessary to use federal purchasing, and other forms of federal assistance with domestic preference requirements, as a way to proactively invest in American industry so it can continue to lead in the global marketplace," the White House said.

The order, which is expected to be released today, will close loopholes that allow companies to offshore production and jobs while still qualifying for domestic preferences, according to the White House.

"Existing Buy American rules establish a domestic content threshold -- the amount of a product that must be made in the U.S. for a purchase to qualify under Buy American law," the White House said. "This executive order directs an increase in both the threshold and the price preferences for domestic goods -- the difference in price over which government can by a product from a non-US supplier.  It also updates how government decides if a product was sufficiently made in America."

Additionally, the order appoints a new senior leader at the White House Office of Management and Budget in charge of the government's Made-in-America policy. The new official will oversee implementation of the executive order.

The order also directs a cross-agency review of all domestic preferences.

"The order requires agencies to report on their implementation of current Made in America laws and make recommendations for achieving the President's Made in America goals, and to continue to do so on a bi-annual basis," the White House said.

Agencies will be required to submit recommendations for ways to ensure "items offered to the general public on federal property are Made in America -- to the fullest extent possible -- and to consider service industries in addition to manufacturing."

The order also creates a central review of agency waivers of Buy American requirements "to crack down on unnecessary waivers."

The General Services Administration is also being directed to publish "relevant waivers" on a publicly available website.

The National Defense Industrial Association released a statement backing Biden's new executive order.

NDIA said it "endorses the stated goals of supporting American manufacturing capabilities and technology, strengthening our national security and giving American companies and their workforces the tools needed to compete and win globally."

The association highlighted the establishment of an OMB director of Made-in-America policy and the instituting of cross-agency reviews as "good first steps."

By Tony Bertuca
January 25, 2021 at 5:00 AM

This will be Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's first full week on the job. Meanwhile, senior defense officials and business executives are scheduled to speak at different virtual events.

Monday

Gen. John Murray, chief of Army Futures Command, discusses modernization at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Tuesday

The Air Force Association hosts a discussion with the commander of the 36th Wing, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.

Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies executives are slated to discuss quarterly earnings.

Wednesday

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown speaks at a virtual Association of Old Crows event.

Boeing, General Dynamics, Oshkosh and Textron executives are scheduled to discuss quarterly earnings.

Space Development Agency Director Derek Tournear and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Deputy Director Stacey Dixon speak at a Defense One event on "Changing Space Access Through Emerging Technologies."

The Heritage Foundation hosts a discussion on the U.S. defense industrial base.

Thursday

CACI International and Northrop Grumman executives are set to review quarterly earnings.

Friday

Booz Allen Hamilton and L3Harris Technologies are scheduled to discuss quarterly earnings.

By Courtney Albon
January 22, 2021 at 2:36 PM

The Pentagon's delay in publishing the first iteration of a new Joint Warfighting Concept by the end of 2020 is due largely to COVID-19 restrictions that limited the ability to conduct effective, large-scale exercises needed to mature the concept, according to a top Defense Department official.

The department says the document, which will lay out joint requirements for four major areas, is now expected in the spring. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten said today during a National Security Space Association event the services have only conducted one of the four wargames and exercises they had intended to run to help shape which concepts work and which do not.

"By this time, we were supposed to have already done three major wargames and a globally integrated exercise, and we've only done one of them and the one was less than satisfactory because of all the restrictions we had to put in place for COVID," Hyten said.

Hyten said the plan is to "continue to exercise it, wargame it, drive it out," and publish the concept in the spring.

The four concepts underpinning the document are: joint global fires, Joint All-Domain Command and Control, contested logistics and information advantage.

Speaking earlier this month during an Association of Old Crows event, Hyten said the Joint Requirements Oversight Council expects to publish a draft version of the information advantage concept requirements by the end of January.

By Tony Bertuca
January 22, 2021 at 2:10 PM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived at the Pentagon today shortly after being confirmed by the Senate and issued his first message to the Defense Department.

"The way I see it, my job as Secretary of Defense is to make you more effective at doing yours," Austin said. "That means ensuring you have the tools, technology, weapons, and training to deter and defeat our enemies. It means establishing sound policy and strategy and assigning you clear missions. It means putting a premium on cooperation with our allies and partners. And it means living up to our core values, the same ones our fellow citizens expect of us."

During his confirmation hearing this week, Austin, a retired four-star Army general, pledged to conduct multiple DOD reviews to inform the 2022 National Defense Strategy.

Austin, in his message to DOD, said his first job is help the nation "get control" of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 400,000 Americans.

"You have already come to the aid of our nation's health care professionals," Austin said. "You can expect that mission to continue."

Austin said DOD must help the federal government "move further and faster" to eradicate the disease.

"To that end, we will also do everything we can to vaccinate and care for our workforce and to look for meaningful ways to alleviate the pressure this pandemic has exerted on you and your families," he said.

By John Liang
January 22, 2021 at 1:52 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Army's nascent digital strategy, the Conventional Prompt Strike program, problems with the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program and more.

Army Chief Information Officer Raj Iyer this week outlined his service's proposed digital strategy:

New Army CIO to establish digital strategy, budget reform mandates

The Army's new chief information officer plans to put together a digital strategy and establish several mandates related to budget reform, among other initiatives starting this year.

Funding cuts don't appear to be affecting the Army and Navy's Conventional Prompt Strike program:

SSP director: CPS program remains 'on track' despite FY-21 funding cuts

The Conventional Prompt Strike program -- the Navy and Army project to field an intermediate-range offensive hypersonic weapon by 2025 and 2023 respectively -- remains "on track" despite a nearly 40% funding cut imposed a few weeks ago to the Navy's $1 billion request in the fiscal year 2021 defense appropriations bill, according to a senior Navy official.

The Navy won't be getting new Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships until a faulty component is fixed:

Navy stopping delivery of Freedom-class LCS after combining gear issue

The Navy has stopped receipt of Freedom-class Littoral Combat Ships from shipbuilder Lockheed Martin after identifying a "material defect" with the ship's combining gear.

President Biden said this week he is rolling back the emergency declaration his predecessor used to redirect DOD funds to the southern border wall without the consent of Congress:

Billions could be returned to DOD following Biden's 60-day border wall review

The Defense Department has only obligated around 40% of the $3.6 billion in military construction funds former President Trump seized to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a government document, raising questions about how the new Biden administration, which has halted the wall project, could return the money to the Pentagon.

Document: Southern border wall funding tables

Inside Defense recently interviewed Amentum CEO John Vollmer:

Following DynCorp acquisition, Amentum preparing for reorganization in coming months

With the acquisition of DynCorp International under its belt, Amentum is now assessing the two companies' business systems, technology and processes as it prepares for a reorganization, according to Amentum's chief executive.

The Air Force wants Anduril's protest of an Advanced Battle Management System contract thrown out:

Air Force calls on GAO to dismiss Anduril's ABMS protest, citing jurisdictional issue

The Air Force is arguing Anduril Industries' Nov. 16 protest with the Government Accountability Office against an Advanced Battle Management System contract task order falls outside the watchdog's jurisdiction and should thus be dismissed, according to a source familiar with the procurement.

By Sara Sirota
January 22, 2021 at 11:52 AM

The Air Force has awarded Northrop Grumman a $3.6 billion contract for Battlefield Airborne Communications Node research, operations and sustainment, according to a Defense Department notice released Thursday.

Under the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity vehicle, Northrop will develop payloads for the BACN capability, as well as associated ground stations, support equipment and system integration laboratories.

This work will occur in San Diego and overseas locations until January 2026. The Air Force has obligated $23.7 million for the initial task order using fiscal year 2021 operation and maintenance funds.

By Tony Bertuca
January 22, 2021 at 11:05 AM

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin has been confirmed as the next defense secretary by the Senate with an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 93-2.

Austin, who becomes the first black U.S. defense secretary, received a waiver from Congress yesterday allowing him to serve. The waiver was required because he has been retired from the military for fewer than seven years.

A similar waiver was granted for retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis in 2017. Prior to Mattis, the waiver had only been granted once since 1950.

The Senate vote to approve Austin's waiver was 69-27, far closer than his confirmation vote, while the House voted 326-78 for the waiver.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said "valid concerns were raised about providing another waiver so soon."

But Reed said Austin, at his confirmation hearing this week, committed to protecting civilian leadership at the Pentagon.

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he could not "think of a better person to take the helm."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said he would support Austin in the hopes the retired general would play "an active role in the inherently political budget process to get our forces what they need."

Mattis was criticized in the past for being too lightly involved in the budget process and many progressive Democrats say they want to significantly cut defense spending.

During his confirmation hearing this week, Austin promised to surround himself with "experienced, capable civilians."

He also promised to "rebalance collaboration and coordination" between the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense "to ensure civilian input is integrated at every level of the process."

Austin is expected to arrive at the Pentagon as early as today.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
January 22, 2021 at 10:58 AM

The Army resumed production verification testing Jan. 11 on the newest version of the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles after an eight-month delay, according to Wolfgang Petermann, project manager for transportation systems in the Program Executive Office for Combat Support & Combat Service Support.

Testing was halted last May due to reliability concerns with the newest version of the vehicle, the FMTV A2. The Army plans to buy as many as 2,400 FMTV A2s, Inside Defense reported at the time.

The vehicle made it 50,000 miles into the 170,000-mile production verification test in May before reliability issues led to the stoppage, Petermann said in a statement released by the PEO.

"Shakedown" testing resumed in November after Oshkosh Defense, the contractor on the A2, fixed the reliability problems, Petermann said. Oshkosh paid for 19,000 miles of testing before government-funded testing restarted.

"We anticipate no additional schedule and/or budget impacts due to items identified when testing was initially paused," Petermann wrote.

Oshkosh redesigned the A2's hydraulic system and made "design changes" to the high-pressure gas pump, which allows the suspension to change its height more quickly, according to Petermann. Additional changes included upgraded suspension leveling software, a new hose material to prevent coolant leaks and a new door handle.

"Most of the test incidents and operator feedback relate to the desire for automatic suspension leveling and faster suspension height adjustment," he wrote.

The next round of testing, follow-on test and evaluation, is scheduled for Jan. 2022, according to Petermann.

A recent report from the Pentagon's top weapons tester, released Jan. 13, warned of the potential for additional delays. Follow-on test and evaluation was delayed by six months once the reliability problems were revealed.

"This delay may not provide sufficient time for the program to fix FMTV A2 failures, complete performance testing, and verify the FMTV A2 variants met reliability requirements prior to the FOT&E," the report warned.

By Tony Bertuca
January 21, 2021 at 5:41 PM

The Senate has voted 69-27 to approve a waiver for retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as defense secretary.

A final confirmation vote is expected tomorrow.

The waiver, which the House voted 326-78 to grant Austin earlier today, is required because Austin has been retired from the military for fewer than seven years.

A similar waiver was given to retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis when he became former President Trump's first defense secretary. Prior to that, the waiver has only been provided once in U.S. history -- to Army Gen. George Marshall in 1950.

Austin, the first black U.S. defense secretary, said during a nomination hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee this week he would conduct numerous Pentagon reviews in advance of publishing the 2022 National Defense Strategy.

President Biden's choice of Austin raised concerns among some lawmakers about civilian control of the military.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, supported a waiver for Mattis and, at the time, said he would not do it again. Reed changed his mind, however, and voted to back Austin.

"I backed the waiver for General Mattis in large part because of Donald Trump's inexperience and temperament and had no intention of supporting another waiver so soon," Reed said. "That rationale seems almost quaint now considering the seismic forces we are currently facing."

Reed said he believes Austin is "the right person to lead the Pentagon through a unique, complex, and unprecedented set of challenges."

Biden has said he picked Austin because he believes the retired general is the best person for the job as the United States tries to end the COVID-19 pandemic. Austin's nomination was also championed by the Black Congressional Caucus.

At his nomination hearing this week, Austin pledged his support for the Pentagon's civilian leadership.

"I intend to surround myself with and empower experienced, capable civilians who will enable healthy civil-military relations, grounded in meaningful oversight," he said.

Austin also promised to "rebalance collaboration and coordination" between the Joint Staff and the Office of the Secretary of Defense “to ensure civilian input is integrated at every level of the process.”

By Tony Bertuca
January 21, 2021 at 4:12 PM

The House has voted 326-78 to grant a waiver for retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to serve as defense secretary.

The waiver is required by law because Austin has been retired from the military for fewer than seven years.

The Senate is expected to vote on the waiver this evening and confirm Austin.

A similar waiver was given to retired Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis when he became former President Trump's first defense secretary. Prior to that, the waiver has only been provided once in U.S. history -- to Army Gen. George Marshall in 1950.

If confirmed, Austin will be the first black U.S. defense secretary.

By John Liang
January 21, 2021 at 1:18 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Space Force, the Navy's Zumwalt-class destroyer fleet, Pentagon cybersecurity and more.

The Space Force expects to award a contract to L3Harris in March for operations center infrastructure and core services to support National Space Test and Training Range development:

Space Force crafting requirements for National Space Test and Training Range

With a five-year plan in place, the Space Force is working with the acquisition community and industry to develop requirements for a future National Space Test and Training Range.

Don't expect delivery of the Zumwalt-class destroyer Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) anytime soon:

Final delivery of Zumwalt-class destroyer Monsoor delayed

The final delivery of the Zumwalt-class destroyer Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) has been delayed two years, a Navy spokesman told Inside Defense.

Retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, whose nomination for defense secretary could be approved as soon as today, recently answered lawmakers' questions about cybersecurity:

Austin details military's supporting role in protecting U.S. networks

Defense Secretary-nominee Lloyd Austin emphasized the department's supporting role in helping secure commercial networks from cyberattack, and stressed the need for partnerships across government and with the private sector, echoing a common refrain of President Biden's nominees when it comes to cybersecurity.

Document: Austin's nomination hearing testimony

More cyber news:

Pentagon to release memo on CMMC reciprocity after getting input from Biden administration

The Defense Department is planning to issue a memo outlining how the maturity levels of its new cyber certification program align with FedRAMP and other standards used by industry.

Some Global Positioning System news:

DOD estimates OCX follow-on cost at $223M, works to mitigate delays to GPS MGUE program

The Defense Department estimates the cost of the GPS Operational Control Segment follow-on program at $223 million, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office.

A Navy unmanned surface vehicle recently completed a rather long transit:

Navy's Overlord unmanned surface vessel completes test trial

The Navy's Ghost Fleet Overlord unmanned surface vessel traveled 4,700 nautical miles "almost entirely autonomously" from the Gulf Coast to California as part of its test trial, the service announced last week.

Former Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord held an exit interview with the news media earlier this week:

Lord exits Pentagon after tenure focused on reform

Pentagon acquisition chief Ellen Lord departs the Pentagon as one of the few senior defense officials to remain at her post over the past four years, bucking the high-level personnel churn characteristic of the Trump administration.

By Courtney Albon
January 21, 2021 at 12:53 PM

The Air Force announced this week it has awarded Boeing a $2.1 billion contract modification to deliver an additional 15 tankers.

According to the Jan. 20 contract announcement, the aircraft are expected to be delivered by May of 2024.

The company has delivered 42 tankers to date. This week's award follows a Jan. 12 contract modification valued at $1.6 billion for 12 tankers to be delivered by April of 2023.

By Tony Bertuca
January 21, 2021 at 12:21 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee has voted to send the nomination of retired Army Gen. Lloyd Austin to the full Senate.

The committee approved Austin's nomination by voice vote. The full Senate could vote to confirm Austin as early as today.

Austin still requires a waiver from the full Congress to serve as defense secretary, though that matter is moving quickly through Congress as well.

The House is expected to pass the waiver today, while Austin is slated to have a closed-door meeting with the House Armed Services Committee.

The Senate, meanwhile, is also expected to act on the waiver today.

By Sara Sirota
January 21, 2021 at 11:46 AM

The Air Force Research Laboratory recently demonstrated an emerging digital twin capability that uses artificial intelligence and the Advanced Battle Management System network to update weapons' software and improve their performance mid-flight.

AFRL testers conducted a virtual flight of the experimental Gray Wolf swarming cruise missile system to showcase the capability, according to a press release issued today. They combined data from the simulation with data from a battlefield environment and sent the information through ABMS back to digital twins.

"This demonstration is just the first of many that will come as we move the weapons enterprise into an era of digital engineering, accelerating weapons development and improvement at the speed of relevance," Craig Ewing, senior scientist for AFRL's weapons modeling and simulation directorate, said in the notice.

The digital twins use high-performance computing systems bolstered by AI and machine learning to assess possible software upgrades. This information then returns to the weapons nearly in real-time or for the next air tasking order.

Testers will continue to develop the capability this year to enable them to bi-directionally share data with the virtual twins' physical counterparts, the release states.

Separately, AFRL's Gray Wolf program is testing low-cost, collaborative cruise missiles using an airframe built by Northrop Grumman and first-of-its-kind TDI-J85 turbojet engine built by Kratos-owned Technical Directions. In the absence of continued funding, the Air Force plans to cancel Gray Wolf once testing finishes but is continuing to develop a swarming munitions capability under the Golden Horde program.