The Insider

By John Liang
May 24, 2024 at 1:53 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has coverage of a new cost estimate the Pentagon is doing on the multibillion-dollar Next Generation Interceptor, plus the fielding of the secretive Replicator drones and more.

The Pentagon's cost assessment and program evaluation office earlier this year initiated a new independent cost estimate to more accurately tally financials associated with the NGI program following the decision to curtail planned competitive development -- which knocked Northrop Grumman from the contest and selected Lockheed Martin:

DOD spikes $17 billion NGI tab, working up new cost estimate to reflect single contractor

The Defense Department is conducting a new cost estimate for the Next Generation Interceptor, spiking the $17 billion price tag calculated more than three years ago to reflect the accelerated source selection last month and deliver findings to support a major acquisition milestone for the homeland missile defense program later this year.

The Pentagon's secretive Replicator drones have been deployed:

DOD says Replicator drones have been fielded

The Defense Department began delivering autonomous, attritable Replicator drones to U.S. troops earlier this month, according to a statement released today from Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

An amendment included in the House Armed Services Committee's defense policy bill would codify and update sealift capacity-focused National Security Directive 28:

Lawmakers aim focus on sealift readiness in new amendment

An amendment included in yesterday’s House defense policy bill urges prioritization of sealift readiness and would require updates from top defense and transportation officials on vessel capacity and transportation infrastructure.

Production delays and design maturity issues within the frigate program prompted authorizers to temporarily pump the brakes on procurement, according to the top Democrat on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee:

Courtney: House's frigate cut was prompted by program issues, not spending limits

The House proposal to zero out fiscal year 2025 procurement funding for the Constellation-class frigate program would have occurred even if lawmakers were not looking to free up funds for a second Virginia-class submarine, according to a senior Armed Services Committee member.

Last but by no means least, some cyber defense news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

NSA provides steps to secure applications, workloads under DOD zero-trust model

The National Security Agency has published guidance on how to protect applications and workloads from unauthorized access, as part of a series focused on supporting adoption of the Pentagon's zero-trust model across national security systems, the Defense Department and the defense industrial base.

House defense policy bill advances with measures addressing vulnerability disclosure, critical infrastructure

The House Armed Services Committee added amendments to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill in a mark-up session requiring federal contractors to have a vulnerability disclosure policy and ordering studies from the Pentagon on critical infrastructure threats.

By Nickolai Sukharev
May 24, 2024 at 1:24 PM

Seeking battlefield projectiles with greater ranges than what is currently in service, the Army is looking to industry to produce a 155mm projectile that can increase the lethality of brigade combat teams, according to a public notice.

Issued as a market survey, interested manufacturers will produce the Extended Range Artillery Projectile (ERAP) munition, a 155mm artillery projectile that “must be target seeking, be able to operate in GPS heavily degraded environments, and include a mode of operation that does not use GPS,” the May 24 announcement reads.

The ERAP will have a minimum 65km range when fired from current 39 caliber howitzers and 70km or greater when fired from 52 caliber howitzers.

“It will support both current and future weapon systems and defeat infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), air defense targets, main battle tanks (MBT) and maritime targets of interest,” the announcement reads.

The round will also need to be compatible with current howitzers in service as well as the Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding, an international agreement that sets 155mm howitzer compatibility standards among NATO members.

Restricted to manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada, the Army plans on low-rate production to begin by the second quarter of fiscal year 2029 and initial operational capability fielding by FY-30.

Production will begin with 300 projectiles per month the first production year before ramping up to 1500 projectiles per month by the sixth production year, the notice adds.

Speaking earlier this week at an event hosted by the Association of the United States Army in Arlington, VA, Lt. Gen. Karl Gingrich, the deputy chief of staff for programs (G-8), said the Army can achieve greater artillery ranges by improving the 155mm round, without having to develop an entirely new howitzer.

“Rather than get a longer gun tube, there [are] technologies out there and many of your companies represent those technologies that allow us existing cannon configurations, whether it's 39 caliber, 52 caliber or whatever, 52 being the NATO kind of standard these days,” he said.

Stemming from a currently unreleased tactical fires study -- which stressed the need to increase artillery ranges to match potential adversaries -- the Army looked at developing a new howitzer with a longer gun tube and improving the 155 rounds.

The Army has tested the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, a tracked self-propelled howitzer armed with a 30ft gun tube that could engage targets at 70km with standard rounds and 110km with rocket-assisted rounds, greater than the current 40km range of the Paladin with a 19ft gun tube.

While Army officials stressed that the unreleased tactical fires study validated the need to extend artillery ranges, the service cancelled the howitzer portion of the ERCA program and instead opted to continue improving the 155mm round while also looking at capabilities of current commercially available self-propelled howitzers.

Speaking at the Fires Symposium in Lawton, OK, earlier this month, Brig. Gen. Rory Crooks, who heads the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional team, said the ERCA tests revealed that higher pressure rounds being fired from shorter barrels can reach the greater ranges requirements set by the unreleased tactical fires study.

By Nick Wilson
May 24, 2024 at 10:53 AM

The Navy has awarded shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine a $1 billion contract option to build the fifth and sixth vessels in the Constellation-class frigate program, according to a Pentagon announcement.

The company began construction of the lead ship in this new class of small surface combatants in 2022 with a fiscal year 2026 delivery target. However, the program is facing schedule challenges driven by design maturity issues and labor shortages at the shipyard.

A recent Navy evaluation of shipbuilding programs found that the lead vessel is running about three years behind schedule.

The Navy’s latest budget request includes an additional $1.2 billion to procure another frigate in FY-25, but House authorizers have moved to eliminate this funding in their version of the defense policy bill.

Given spending constraints imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, zeroing out frigate funding frees up money that lawmakers can channel into other areas of the budget, including $1 billion to support the purchase of a second Virginia-class submarine.

But yesterday, seapower and projection forces subcommittee Ranking Member Joe Courtney (D-CT) told reporters the frigate funding reduction was driven by program issues rather than spending constraints and indicated a temporary procurement pause is not expected to seriously impact the program.

By Vanessa Montalbano
May 23, 2024 at 5:05 PM

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Melissa Dalton by a 56-39 vote to be the new Air Force under secretary, filling a role that hasn't had a permanent successor in over a year.

President Biden tapped Dalton in September to take over the office from Gina Ortiz Jones, who held the position from July 2021 to March 2023. Since then, Air Force Comptroller Kristyn Jones has been performing the duties of the under secretary.

Dalton has until now been performing the duties of the deputy under secretary of defense for policy. She received Senate confirmation in 2022 to serve as assistant secretary of defense for homeland security and hemispheric affairs.

The Senate Armed Services Committee in March voted 14-10 to advance her nomination after several Republican lawmakers criticized her resume during a contentious January hearing over the administration's delayed response in identifying the Chinese surveillance balloon last year and her office's alleged mishandling of stored southern border wall materials.

“We’re at a serious, critical time right now in this country. And we need the best and the brightest,” Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) said at the time. “Are you the best to be the under secretary of the Air Force? I don’t see it. . . . I just don’t think you are the best person for the job right now.”

In her new role, Dalton will help mold the service’s annual budget requests and be a point person in implementing several of the organizational changes related to the Air Force’s “Reoptimization for Great Power Competition,” among other tasks.

By John Liang
May 23, 2024 at 3:25 PM

The bulk of this Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest deals with the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill.

We start off with what lawmakers are thinking about the Pentagon's largest-ever acquisition program:

Lawmakers eye future of F-35 in House authorization bill mark-up

The struggling F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is at the top of mind for several House Armed Services Committee members, who have introduced a number of amendments meant to check rising aircraft sustainment costs and accelerate long-delayed software modernization.

Followed by authorizers' concerns about Russia:

House authorizers want to know effects of leak on Russia's nuclear satellite

Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee argued yesterday over whether there was a leak of classified information relating to Russia's development of a satellite that could detonate a nuclear weapon in space.

House committee seeks DOD force-sizing strategy on Russian-Chinese military cooperation

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) successfully introduced an amendment last night to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill directing the Pentagon to report U.S. force structure planning to account for Russian and Chinese military cooperation.

There's also shipbuilding language in the bill:

House authorizers aim to raise requirements for ship design maturity

An amendment to the House defense policy bill, passed in committee today, would require the Navy to complete 100% of a new shipbuilding program's design before beginning construction of the first vessel.

Amendment would allow foreign shipyard repairs on Navy ships

An amendment included in the House defense policy bill -- passed by the House Armed Services Committee in a 57-1 vote late last night -- would allow foreign shipyard repairs on U.S. Navy ships, an issue also recently brought forward by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro.

Along with a cybersecurity provision:

House authorizers want study on creating a 'Cyber Force'

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine would evaluate whether the U.S. should create a Cyber Force, should the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill be enacted.

Plus Army ground vehicles:

Lawmakers approve defense authorization bill amendments on ground vehicle programs

The House Armed Services committee is asking the Army to provide briefings on numerous ground vehicle programs in amendments to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill.

And Army helicopters:

House authorizers ask Army for briefings on UH-60, CH-47 in mark-up amendments

House authorizers are asking Army officials to provide a series of briefings on various aircraft programs, including efforts to modernize the Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, in amendments to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill.

Along with authorizers weighing in on whether Air National Guardsmen should be absorbed into the Space Force:

Governors' approval would be required for transferring guardsmen to Space Force

An amendment to the House Armed Services Committee's defense policy bill would require the Space Force to secure gubernatorial approval before absorbing any Air National Guard space-related units into the service.

By Nickolai Sukharev
May 23, 2024 at 2:59 PM

House lawmakers approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill that will ban electric vehicles produced by foreign adversaries from entering military bases.

Proposed by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and approved by the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, the amendment asks the defense secretary to establish a list of prohibited electric vehicles “that pose an undue or unacceptable risk to national security.”

The amendment includes any vehicle that, “integrates onboard networked hardware with automotive software systems to communicate via dedicated short-range communication, cellular telecommunications connectivity, satellite communication, or other wireless spectrum connectivity with any other network or device,” the amendment reads.

The defense secretary would also need to annually review and update the list.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing last month, Slotkin raised the issue with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth.

“What I would pose is that we are about to have a big moment of inflection here with the possibility of the saturation of Chinese electric vehicles being sold in the United States,” Slotkin said during the April 17 hearing.

By Vanessa Montalbano
May 23, 2024 at 1:34 PM

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday quietly approved an amendment to the defense policy bill to buy two more C-130J Super Hercules via a voice vote on a package of amendments.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), would boost fiscal year 2025 procurement funds for the C-130J transport aircraft by $220 million for two additional aircraft by reducing the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s fund for operation and maintenance by $170 million and the Air Force’s O&M allowance by $50 million.

The Lockheed Martin-made Super Hercules, which is mostly used for airlift in tactical zones, can airdrop loads of roughly 42,000 pounds and carry a variety of oversized cargo, including armored vehicles. Variations of the aircraft have recently been used to deliver aid and other humanitarian operations into Gaza amid conflict in the Middle East.

“The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas,” the service has said. It is meant to replace aging C-130Es and some C-130Hs with a newer, more energy efficient model that has extended range capabilities and can take off or land in shorter distances, among other improvements. There are several variations of the C-130J platform, including one with an extended fuselage, another for weather reconnaissance and others for special operations, combat search and rescue and close air support.

In its FY-25 budget request, the Air Force is asking to divest six C-130H Hercules. It would make no purchases of any variation of C-130 aircraft.

By Tony Bertuca
May 22, 2024 at 10:45 PM

The House Armed Services Committee has passed its version of the fiscal year defense authorization bill by a vote of 57-1.

Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) released a statement applauding the bill’s bipartisan passage, highlighting new “quality of life” measures for U.S. servicemembers.

“Strengthening our military and investing in our defense is how we send our adversaries a message that we will not be intimidated,” he said. “The most important investment we can make is in the foundation of our military: our people. No servicemember should have to worry about making ends meet, putting food on the table or having safe housing. The FY-25 [National Defense Authorization Act] will boost compensation, improve housing, expand access to medical care, increase access to childcare and provide support for the spouses of servicemembers. To strengthen our defense, the FY-25 [defense authorization bill] will support the continued modernization of our nuclear deterrent, invest in our naval fleet, boost innovation and revitalize our defense industrial base to ensure our warfighters have the capabilities they need to win on future battlefields.”

The only committee member to vote against the $895 billion authorization bill was Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who released a statement saying he voted against the it because he would rather spend federal money elsewhere, but noted he was able to secure various protections for U.S. servicemembers in the legislation, including a provision related to traumatic brain injuries.

“I was the lone no vote on the [defense policy bill] out of the House Armed Services Committee because I believe we should use this money to invest in a modern national security strategy that will actually keep us safe and domestic priorities instead of further enriching defense contractors,” he said.

The bill will now advance to the House floor for amendments.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to take up its version of the bill on June 12.

By John Liang
May 22, 2024 at 4:25 PM

Lockheed Martin today announced that former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson had been elected to the company's board of directors.

Wilson served as Air Force secretary from 2017 to 2019 and is president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

From 1998 to 2009, Wilson represented New Mexico as a House lawmaker, serving on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

An Air Force Academy graduate and former Rhodes Scholar, she is a member of the National Science Board that oversees the National Science Foundation, is inaugural chair of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities and serves on the board of directors of Google Public Sector, a subsidiary of Google LLC.

By John Liang
May 22, 2024 at 2:04 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news from the House Armed Services Committee's mark-up of the FY-25 defense policy bill and more.

We start off with coverage of the House Armed Services Committee marking up its fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill:

House authorizers concerned about F-35 IP issues

Legislation approved by the House Armed Services Committee for the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill is taking aim at the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's acquisition strategy, which has for decades given Lockheed Martin complete control over the system's technological intellectual property and mechanical parts.

House authorizers call for more Sentinel oversight in mark-up

Amendments to the defense policy bill passed in committee today would require further Defense Department reporting on the Sentinel nuclear missile program and more government oversight of the effort.

House authorizers consider defense policy bill with measures on mobile device security, AI

The House Armed Services Committee kicks off the process today of marking up the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill, with proposals on the table to secure mobile devices used within the Defense Department, bring on voluntary cyber experts and address concerns over artificial intelligence costs.

Gen. C.Q. Brown, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has directed the formation of a "Joint Future Steering Group," a new body that will include all three-star Joint Staff directors:

New Joint Staff Steering Group to be 'one of the most important' bodies shaping investment

The Joint Staff has established a new high-level panel to sharpen thinking about force design -- a group the Pentagon's No. 2 military officer predicts will become "one of the most important" Defense Department bodies -- with an aim to influence future weapon system investment plans.

Space Force and Army officials were on Capitol Hill this week, testifying about their respective FY-25 budget requests:

Space Force officials: Funding constraints limiting space domain awareness improvements

The Space Force needs more money if it's going to improve its space domain awareness capabilities, top service officials told lawmakers.

Document: National security space program testimony

Baldwin concerned about 'inadequate' funding for Army tactical wheeled vehicles

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) told top Army officials in a Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee hearing today that she is worried the service is routinely submitting budget requests for tactical wheeled vehicles at levels "substantially below industry's minimum sustaining rate."

Document: Army's FY-25 posture statement

By Nickolai Sukharev
May 22, 2024 at 1:31 PM

The Army is on track to resolve the issues that caused a two-year delay in flight tests for the Extended Range Guided Multiple Launch Rocket system, according to a service spokesperson.

Initially planned for fiscal year 2023, the Army pushed back flight tests for the ER-GMLRS to FY-24 and then FY-25 “due to technical issues on the Side Mounted Proximity Sensor,” according to service budget documents.

“The test was postponed from FY-23 to FY-24 to allow mitigation of a Side Mounted Proximity Sensor anomaly,” Darrell Ames, a spokesperson at the program executive office for missile and space programs, wrote in an email to Inside Defense.

Fitted to the ER-GMLRS, a variant with a 150km range, the Side Mounted Proximity Sensor is designed to enable higher height-of-burst when engaging targets spread across an area, according to a 2020 DOT&E report.

“Mitigation and resolution efforts are on track to support planned flight testing,” Ames added.

The Army needed more time to better understand adjustments to the missile, which delayed the critical design review for the GMLRS, Ames' email reads.

Launched from the ground-based Multiple Launch Rocket System and High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, the GMLRS is a guided missile designed to hit ground targets.

The GMLRS Enhanced Alternative Warhead variant includes a warhead designed to hit area targets with cluster-like effects while staying in compliance with Defense Department policies and international laws on the use of cluster munitions.

Last month, the Army announced a multiyear contract award for the GMLRS, a move estimated to save $67.6 million, according to a service spokesperson.

The Army plans to spend approximately $20.5 million on the program between FY-25 and FY-27 before increasing the funding to about $42 million by FY-29, the service budget documents add.

Since February 2022, the U.S. has included the GMLRS as part of military aid for Ukraine as the country counters an invasion from Russia.

By John Liang
May 22, 2024 at 1:23 PM

Former National Reconnaissance Office Director Betty Sapp has joined BAE Systems' board of directors, the company announced today.

Sapp joined NRO in 1997, and in 2012 was named the first woman to serve as director of the agency. After serving as the 18th Director of the NRO for seven years and as a CIA officer for more than 20 years, she retired in 2019.

Additionally, Sapp served as deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence from 2007-2009. She began her career as an Air Force officer, serving 17 years in various roles.

In addition to BAE Systems, Sapp is a board member of Systems Planning & Analysis, the Charles Stark Draper Lab and Ball Corp. She has also served on the board of cybersecurity and defense company Perspecta.

By John Liang
May 22, 2024 at 1:10 PM

The Defense Department's Office of Industrial Base Resilience announced it is seeking public comment "on actions it can take to enable the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) to continue to adopt artificial intelligence (AI) for defense applications," according to a notice published this morning.

"Feedback from the public will guide the DOD in developing policies, initiatives and resource distribution to ensure support for the DIB in integrating AI into defense systems," the notice states. "Public comments will also be used to formulate [the policy, analysis and transition office's] Trusted AI Defense Industrial Base Roadmap."

Responses are due by July 22, 2024.

By Tony Bertuca
May 22, 2024 at 11:07 AM

The House Armed Services Committee has begun its marathon mark-up of the annual defense authorization bill.

The committee decided against regular subcommittee mark-ups this year and is instead considering those portions of the bill at the full committee hearing today.

The proposed bill would, among numerous other things, stick to the $895 billion topline for national defense mandated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, add $1 billion to partially construct a second Virginia-class submarine, and cut $1 billion from the procurement of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter so that it can reinvested it in the mitigation of ongoing production issues.

As in the past, today’s hearing is expected to stretch deep into the night or the wee hours of tomorrow morning.

Senate authorizers, meanwhile, are slated to mark up their version of the bill on June 12.

It is important to note that, while the bill authorizes funding for the Defense Department, it falls to congressional appropriators to actually provide that funding in separate legislation.

Watch Inside Defense for additional coverage of the authorization mark-up process.

By Nickolai Sukharev
May 21, 2024 at 5:05 PM

The Army can work to improve artillery rounds to meet its required ranges -- rather than procure a new weapon system -- when considering its future cannon capabilities, according to the deputy chief of staff.

“We can get ranges and lethality that are required in division lethality by innovating at the round as opposed to going and procuring an entirely new system,” Lt. Gen. Karl Gingrich, the deputy chief of staff for programs (G-8), said Tuesday morning at an event hosted by the Association of the United States Army.

Speaking about an unreleased tactical fires study, which evaluated cannon capability needs, Gingrich stressed that the Army could meet future range requirements by improving the 155mm rounds fired from the service’s howitzers.

“Rather than get a longer gun tube, there [are] technologies out there and many of your companies represent those technologies that allow us existing cannon configurations, whether it's 39 caliber, 52 caliber or whatever, 52 being the NATO kind of standard these days,” Gingrich said.

As part of the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) program, which sought to develop a now cancelled tracked self-propelled 155mm howitzer to replace a portion of the current M109A7 Paladins, the Army also researched 155mm artillery rounds.

Seeking to increase the firing range of the rounds, the Army first tested and doubled the firing range of its M777 towed howitzer with rocket-assisted projectiles in 2018.

Following the M777 tests, the Army began the ERCA program, a howitzer with a 30ft gun tube fitted on to a Paladin wheelbase, with the aim of increasing the range from from 30km to 70km.

Speaking at the Fires Symposium in Lawton, OK earlier this month, Brig. Gen. Rory Crooks said the unreleased tactical fires study indicated that the Army could achieve the 70km range with a shorter barrel.

Last week, Gen. James Rainey, the commanding general of Army Futures Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that one of the big findings from the ERCA effort was being able to “innovate” at the round.

“Let's work with industry and see what kind of range we can get without having to redo the barrels, which makes you redo the turret, which remakes the platform,” he said.