The Insider

By Tony Bertuca
March 4, 2024 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to speak at several events this week in advance of the scheduled May 11 release of the fiscal year 2025 budget request.

Tuesday

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on defense industrial cooperation between the United States and Australia.

Wednesday

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee holds a hearing on the Army’s aviation rebalancing plan.

The Planning, Programming, Budget, and Execution Reform Commission releases its final report. Watch Inside Defensefor coverage.

Thursday

Senior defense officials speak at the McAleese Defense Programs Conference.

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on U.S. Central Command and U.S. Africa Command.

The Atlantic Council hosts a discussion on special operations forces in an era of strategic competition.

Friday

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion with the Planning, Programming, Budget and Execution Reform Commission.

By Shelley K. Mesch
March 1, 2024 at 4:32 PM

The Defense Department inspector general has opened an investigation into last year's decision to keep U.S. Space Command based in Colorado Springs, CO, which Republican lawmakers have blasted as a politically motivated choice.

As ordered by the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, the IG will evaluate the “roles and processes of DOD leadership prior to the decision” to keep SPACECOM in place, the office announced yesterday.

SPACECOM’s headquarters has been a contentious and partisan subject since the Air Force announced in 2021 -- during the last days of then-President Trump’s term -- that the command would relocate to Huntsville, AL. Since then, Democrats and some Colorado lawmakers have claimed Trump was moving the base only to show favoritism for a state that voted for his reelection.

President Biden announced last summer that he would keep the HQ in place -- which, in part, enabled SPACECOM to reach full operational capability in December. Republicans and Alabama lawmakers -- including House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) -- have since pushed for further investigation, claiming Biden was playing politics in his own decision-making.

The FY-24 NDAA fenced funding for building new headquarters buildings until June, pending reviews by both the Government Accountability Office and the IG.

The Government Accountability Office in August announced its investigation into the HQ choice after receiving a request from Rogers.

The IG and GAO have in previous reports from 2022 found Trump’s decision to be lawful. The IG recommended the Air Force create standard guidance for future for basing decisions, and GAO found “significant shortfalls in the transparency and credibility” of the Air Force’s search process while also calling for standard guidance.

By John Liang
March 1, 2024 at 2:33 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on an Air Force unmanned aircraft system that was flown for the first time this week, plus coverage of a hearing that featured the head of U.S. Strategic Command and more.

A new unmanned aircraft system was flown this week:

Air Force flew XQ-67A combat sensing drone for first time

The Air Force Research Laboratory on Wednesday flew General Atomics Aeronautical Systems' XQ-67A autonomous sensing aircraft for the first time, paving the way for "other aircraft 'species' to be rapidly replicated," the service said in a news release.

Gen. Anthony Cotton, head of U.S. Strategic Command, testified this week before the Senate Armed Services Committee:

STRATCOM eyes re-MIRVing current ICBM, 'uploading' as hedge against modernization delays

The head of the U.S. military's nuclear strike forces believes the time has come to consider re-outfitting Minuteman III missiles with more than one warhead, a move that could roll back arms control measures that removed two of the three multiple independent targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV)s that were originally emplaced across the ICBM fleet.

Cotton: Independent analysis of Sentinel overruns could delay program

An independent analysis of the cost overruns tied to the intercontinental ballistic missile modernization program could delay an effort the Defense Department sees as vital to nuclear deterrence, U.S. Strategic Command Commander Gen. Anthony Cotton warned senators this week.

Document: Senate hearing on STRATCOM, SPACECOM FY-25 budgets

The Defense Department needs to make digital transformation a top priority:

DBB says Pentagon not ready for a 'digital ecosystem'

A new Defense Business Board study released today asserts that the establishment of a Pentagon "digital ecosystem" should be a national security imperative.

One Nation Innovation, a non-profit organization comprised of former Defense Department acquisition and intelligence community professionals, this week posted an open call for solutions on the C-UAS Solutions Marketplace focused on procuring electro-optical/infrared technologies:

Pentagon's C-UAS Solutions Marketplace seeking innovative counter-drone tech

The Counter Unmanned Aircraft Systems Solutions Marketplace, a digital acquisition platform for C-UAS innovation between government, industry and academia, is seeking hardware or software solutions to advance electro-optical/infrared technologies.

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have continuing coverage of industry reaction to the Pentagon's proposed Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

Industry groups raise concerns over CMMC compliance costs, program capacity needs

A coalition of industry groups led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is seeking flexibility when it comes to implementing requirements in the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, arguing that it is needed to address compliance costs as work to finalize regulations gets underway.

By Dan Schere
March 1, 2024 at 1:03 PM

The Army is seeking solutions for small uncrewed aircraft systems and turreted gun-based counter UAS capabilities, according to two separate government notices posted today.

One sources-sought notice from the Program Executive Office for Aviation states the Army wants to assess “viable company level” SUAS candidates for a “follow-on demonstration” supporting Army maneuver elements, which will “fulfill a directed requirement initiative or future urgent capability acquisition.”

The SUAS system must have a “rapidly reconfigurable, modular payload capability to execute mission changes across the primary reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition mission,” the notice states. Capabilities must include target identification, communications and kinetic missions.

The SUAS system must consist of at least two air vehicles with a “modular mission” payload capability, a ground-control station and equipment that can operate in all conditions. Responses to the SUAS notice are due by March 31.

A second sources-sought notice posted Friday states that Army Aviation and Missile Command anticipates a requirement for a turreted gun-based counter UAS capability. The Army aims to eventually award a “hybrid-type contract with fixed price and cost reimbursable requirements,” the notice states.

The Army’s requirements for the gun-based CUAS system include a cannon that can destroy UAS with rapid fire, automatic aiming controlled by an operator and Electro-Optical and Infrared detection. The system would be focused on defeating Group 3 UAS, which the Pentagon defines as those weighing between 55 and 1,320 pounds, and that operate at flight level. 

Responses to the CUAS sources-sought notice are due March 22. 

The two notices come at a time when the service continues to pivot toward increasing its drone capability portfolio, drawing upon lessons learned from conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said this week during a Defense Writer’s Group roundtable that more investment is still needed in UAS and counter UAS.

“What we’ve seen in Ukraine underscores that we in the Army have got to do more and more and more on UAS, counter UAS in terms of investing in those systems. We as a service are investing more than any other service in those areas already, but I think when you look at the threats to our soldiers in [Central Command] for example, we have got to do more,” she said.

Top Army officials have also recently expressed concern about the difficulty in procuring counter UAS capabilities without a fiscal year 2024 appropriation.

By Abby Shepherd
March 1, 2024 at 11:33 AM

The Navy has awarded Boeing a $3.4 billion contract for the manufacture of 17 P-8A Poseidon aircraft -- with 14 going to the Royal Canadian Air Force and three to the German Navy.

“We are proud to add Canada to the list of international P-8 partners as well as to Germany’s fleet of maritime patrol aircraft,” P-8A Program Manager and Vice President Philip June said in a Boeing news release. “The Poseidon is a proven aircraft, with more than 600,000 flight hours, that will serve Canada and Germany well in today’s challenging security environment and for decades to come.”

Canada is aiming to replace its current fleet of CP-140 Auroras with the Poseidon, with the first aircraft scheduled for delivery in 2026. Meanwhile, Germany will replace its fleet of P-3 Orions, with the first Poseidon expected to be delivered in 2025, according to the release.

“Our global customers require proven advanced capabilities to protect their countries -- the P-8 provides that defense,” said Vince Logsdon, vice president of International Business Development for Boeing Defense, Space and Security and Global Services. “Together with our partners, we look forward to delivering this unmatched capability in addition to significant industrial benefits for Canada’s and Germany’s aerospace and defense industries.”

By Tony Bertuca
March 1, 2024 at 10:43 AM

The Senate voted last night to confirm Douglas Schmidt to be the Defense Department's next director of operational test and evaluation.

Schmidt, who was confirmed by voice vote, will succeed Nickolas Guertin, who was confirmed in December as the Navy’s assistant secretary for research, development and acquisition.

By Tony Bertuca
March 1, 2024 at 9:43 AM

The Senate voted 77-13 last night to approve a short-term continuing resolution to avert a partial shutdown and keep the government open through the new deadlines of March 8 and March 22.

The measure, which also passed in the House yesterday, will now be sent to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

The Defense Department’s funding, under the new CR, is extended through March 22. 

Senior Democratic and Republican lawmakers say the extension is needed to hash out a final fiscal year 2024 spending agreement that -- “in principle” -- has already been made between the leaders of both parties.

Biden, meanwhile, intends to submit his FY-25 budget request on March 11.

By Tony Bertuca
February 29, 2024 at 6:27 PM

The Senate voted last night to confirm Adm. Samuel Paparo as the next chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Paparo, who was previously commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, will succeed Adm. John Aquilino, who has served as INDOPACOM commander since April 2021.

Senators confirmed Paparo Wednesday night via voice vote.

Aprille Joy Ericsson was also confirmed as assistant secretary of defense for science and technology.

By Nickolai Sukharev
February 29, 2024 at 4:22 PM

The Army is asking industry to provide information on a network that would combine existing video sensors into a common system to support "persistent surveillance," according to a public notice.

The Persistent Surveillance Dissemination System of Systems (PSDS2) “receives inputs from multiple sensors to provide situational awareness for forward operating bases, brigade-level technical operation centers and Joint Operation Centers.”

“PSDS2 disseminates real-time streaming video, autosensing available bandwidth and provides video in context for SA on terrain maps for common operational picture situational display,” the Feb. 28 announcement reads.

Responsibilities for operating the PSDS2 include “monitoring, analyzing overhead and aerial/terrestrial imagery, FMV and photographic data.”

“The Imagery Analyst(s) shall have previous experience as an Imagery Analyst and understand the capabilities and limitations of multiple platforms and sensors, use of aerial imagery, FMV, Synthetic Aperture Radar, Ground Moving Target Indicator and other electronic monitoring devices used to collect and analyze information in support of military operations,” the announcement adds.

During a Feb. 14 Defense Innovation Unit summit, the presumptive chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Adm. Samuel Paparo said it was the command’s goal to begin using autonomous systems to deter China from attacking Taiwan through “constant stare,” Inside Defense reported.

The Army first fielded the PSDS2 in 2005, according to the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors.

By Tony Bertuca
February 29, 2024 at 2:56 PM

The House voted 320-99 to pass another stopgap continuing resolution that averts a partial government shutdown Friday night and extends funding deadlines to March 8 and March 22.

The CR, which would extend funding for the Defense Department through March 22 from the previous March 8 deadline, is expected to be considered by the Senate later today.

Two Democrats voted against the House CR, while 97 Republicans voted against it.

Lawmakers said the short-term CR extension is needed to give them more time to finalize a fiscal year 2024 appropriations agreement, which party leaders have said has been made “in principle.”

By John Liang
February 29, 2024 at 2:24 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest features several stories on how the Pentagon and defense agencies are dealing with the increasingly possible prospect of a yearlong continuing resolution, plus Global Hawk drones getting a new mission as well as the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program.

We start off with several looks at how the Pentagon is dealing with the prospect of a full-year continuing resolution:

Military officials provide new details on how yearlong CR would hit modernization programs

The under secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force said today that weapons procurement and modernization programs would be hit hardest should Congress, which remains mired in partisan debate over spending, take the unprecedented step of passing a yearlong, stopgap continuing resolution, rather than agreeing to a full-year appropriations deal.

Army officials worried about CR's impact on counter UAS procurement

Army officials are concerned about the inability of the service to procure counter UAS systems in the event of a yearlong continuing resolution.

Allvin: Some of the Air Force's restructuring plan depends on FY-24 budget

The Air Force is hinging a majority of its future readiness and capability development around a recently announced organizational shakeup to better prepare for conflict in the Indo-Pacific. But a large swath of the modernization efforts tied to the new schema could be compromised if Congress puts forward a yearlong continuing resolution, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin said today during a Brookings Institution event.

Global Hawk reconnaissance drones are being converted into hypersonic missile test monitoring aircraft:

Northrop to turn over first Range Hawk drones to DOD testing center this year

The Air Force's plan to retrofit its RQ-4 Global Hawk intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting drones for hypersonic missile testing is on track for initial fielding in 2025, Doug Shaffer, vice president for airborne ISR&T programs at Northrop Grumman, told Inside Defense.

Last but by no means least, our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity are closely following how industry is reacting to the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program's progress:

Defense group raises concerns to Pentagon over flow-down requirements for CMMC program

The Aerospace Industries Association is asking the Defense Department to provide information on how it will address flow-down requirements and the roles and responsibilities for primes and subcontractors, in response to the first proposed rule for the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program.

Major industry coalition seeks clarity from DOD on CUI, addressing assessment gaps for CMMC program

A coalition representing large defense and tech groups is asking the Defense Department to provide clarity on marking controlled unclassified information, defining responsibilities in contracts and flexibility on addressing assessment gaps, in formal comments on the first proposed rule for the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program.

By Nickolai Sukharev
February 29, 2024 at 12:01 AM

Anduril Industries and Hanwha Defense will partner for the second increment of the Army's unmanned Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport vehicle (S-MET), according to a company press release.

“By combining Anduril’s mission software integration expertise with Hanwha’s proven hardware platform and Forterra’s mature autonomy stack, the partnership will deliver a differentiated UGV designed to bring capability far beyond equipment transport to a range of missions,” the release reads.

Serving as the prime contractor, Anduril will submit an unmanned vehicle based on Hanwha’s Arion wheeled robotic vehicle. In January, the Marine Corps and Army conducted Foreign Comparative Tests on the Anrion in Hawaii.

Based in the U.S., Anduril specializes in autonomous systems while South Korea-based Hanwha specializes in unmanned combat systems. Forterra, a Maryland-based autonomous vehicle company, also joins the bid.

“Equipped with significant load-carrying and power generation capacity, as well as a modular architecture that ensures the vehicle can integrate and power a vast range of payloads, the new, upgraded vehicle brings both advanced capability and a reduced sustainment burden to dismounted infantry operations,” the release adds.

Designed to support a nine-soldier dismounted infantry unit without resupply, the S-MET is an unmanned robotic vehicle that can carry up to 1,000-pound payloads of equipment. The vehicle has exportable power, can operate on batteries for up to 72 hours and can drive in silent mode for up to 20 miles.

The Army conducted tests for the first increment of the program in 2019 before awarding a $249 million contract for General Dynamics Land Systems’ Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) in July 2020.

In December 2023, the Army conducted low-velocity airdrop tests on the MUTT.

The Army is also currently prototyping the Robotic Combat Vehicle, a vehicle designed to carry lethal payloads and accompany infantry units in combat environments.

By Tony Bertuca
February 28, 2024 at 6:40 PM

Congressional leaders have put forth a bipartisan proposal to extend funding deadlines to avert a partial government shutdown, saying more time is needed to craft a final deal on a fiscal year 2024 appropriations package that is within reach.

The proposal is a stopgap continuing resolution that would stop a partial government shutdown on Friday night by extending funding for several government agencies through March 8.

The proposal would also extend government funding for the Defense Department through March 22. Under the current CR, funding for DOD only runs through March 8.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a statement saying the CR extensions are needed to give Congress time to flesh out an FY-24 appropriations agreement that has -- “in principle” -- been struck.

“Negotiators have come to an agreement on six bills: Agriculture-[Food and Drug Administration], Commerce-Justice and Science, Energy and Water Development, Interior, Military Construction-[Veterans Affairs], and Transportation-[Housing and Urban Development],” he said. "After preparing final text, this package of six full-year appropriations bills will be voted on and enacted prior to March 8. These bills will adhere to the Fiscal Responsibility Act discretionary spending limits and January’s topline spending agreement.”

The remaining six bills, which includes funding for DOD, “will be finalized, voted on and enacted prior to March 22," McConnell said.

Meanwhile, President Biden is scheduled to send his FY-25 request to Congress on March 11.

By John Liang
February 28, 2024 at 1:28 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Lockheed Martin passing a major milestone in its Next Generation Interceptor prototype effort, the Space Development Agency's Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture program, plus DOD's work on integrating AI into military systems and more.

Lockheed Martin has been cleared by the Missile Defense Agency to publicly announce the company has passed a major acquisition milestone for its Next Generation Interceptor prototype:

Lockheed clears major milestone review in NGI competition; now executing detailed design

Lockheed Martin today announced its Next Generation Interceptor prototype has formally cleared the first of six major acquisition hurdles established for the homeland defense guided missile program, the culmination of more than two years' work that a company executive said was marked by "unprecedented" technical rigor.

The head of the Space Development Agency spoke this week at the Defense and Intelligence Space Conference:

Tournear: Nuclear ASAT attack would be a 'black swan event'

The Space Development Agency won't change its approach to creating the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture in response to reports of a Russian space-based nuclear weapon, according to Director Derek Tournear.

Tournear also talked about the ongoing stopgap spending measure wreaking havoc on various SDA acquisition programs:

Two SDA programs put on hold during CR

Two of the Space Development Agency's programs are on hold until Congress can pass a fiscal year 2024 budget, threatening the outfit's timeline for satellite launches, according to Director Derek Tournear.

Dave McKeown, DOD’s chief information officer for cybersecurity and the senior information security officer, spoke this week at the 2024 Cybersecurity Summit:

DOD cyber chief emphasizes AI monitoring moving toward zero-trust policy

The Defense Department's cybersecurity chief said this week that integrating artificial intelligence into military systems is the only way to keep pace with foreign adversaries as DOD moves toward its zero-trust security policy.

The Army's top uniformed and civilian officials spoke this week at a Defense Writers Group breakfast:

Army making thousands of force structure cuts to support modernization

The Army is cutting 24,000 authorizations, or spaces, to make way for 7,500 new spaces that will support a series of new capabilities the service aims to implement, service leaders announced this week.

By Nick Wilson
February 28, 2024 at 10:07 AM

The Navy this week selected technology company Sigma Defense to serve as its "autonomy baseline manager," a role that will help guide the integration of software for autonomous systems across the service, according to a Feb. 26 Pentagon contract announcement.

The $19 million award goes to SOLUTE, a subsidiary of Sigma Defense, which is expected to complete work in February 2025 for this initial one-year base period. The total contract value could reach $59 million with work stretching into 2029 if four additional option years are exercised.

As the autonomy baseline manager, or ABM, the company will support the Navy’s unmanned maritime systems office (PMS 406), performing “oversight and management of autonomous systems development and the associated central software repository for unmanned autonomy artifacts, processes and procedures,” the notice states.

Sigma Defense was one of two companies to bid for the contract, the Pentagon notice states. In a separate company announcement, Sigma Defense describes its new role as supporting the Navy’s development of a network of unmanned platforms by integrating the autonomy software employed by these systems.

“Leveraging its extensive expertise in DevSecOps, Sigma Defense will deliver tools and processes to manage pipelines and integrate autonomous capabilities among unmanned vehicles (UxVs),” the company announcement states. “Specifically, Sigma Defense will employ DevSecOps and agile methodologies using the Rapid Autonomy Integration Lab (RAIL) process, which includes a software factory for continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) of software to UxVs.”

In 2021, Inside Defense reported that the ABM role would be established in conjunction with the Navy’s Rapid Autonomy Integration Lab efforts to help advance the development of a network of autonomous platforms. The Navy hosted two ABM industry days in 2021 before releasing a preselection in September 2022 and an official solicitation in January 2023.

“The Sigma Defense mission is to autonomously connect people, systems and data, and we accomplish that through the development and delivery of software via a proven DevSecOps platform,” said Sigma Defense CEO Matt Jones in a statement included in the company’s release. “Providing integration services for autonomy software for unmanned vehicles under the Autonomy Baseline Manager (ABM) contract is further delivering on our commitment of ensuring decision dominance for NAVSEA.”