The Insider

By John Liang
September 12, 2023 at 9:58 AM

The Defense Department announced today it has set up separate commercial agreements to increase domestic nickel and lithium production.

The Pentagon's industrial base policy office "entered an agreement with Albemarle Corp. to support the expansion of domestic mining and production of lithium," a DOD statement reads.

The $90 million agreement will use funds appropriated by the Inflation Reduction Act and will help support Albemarle's planned re-opening of their Kings Mountain, NC lithium mine to increase domestic production of lithium for the nation's battery supply chain, according to DOD. Albemarle estimates that Kings Mountain will be operational between 2025 and 2030.

"The agreement with Albemarle demonstrates the DOD's ongoing commitment to meeting the needs of our warfighter, today and in the future," said Anthony Di Stasio, director of DOD's Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization office. "This investment directly supports President Biden's April 2022 Presidential Determination for Critical Materials in Large-Capacity Batteries."

In a separate announcement, DOD said it had set up a $20.6 million agreement with Talon Nickel LLC to increase domestic nickel production.

The deal will "advance nickel exploration and mineral resource definition of the Tamarack Intrusive Complex (TIC)," DOD said.

Nickel is essential to make high-temperature aerospace alloys, stainless steel and chemicals for lithium-ion batteries, according to the department. The United States has only one operating nickel-cobalt mine currently meant to last through 2026.

Talon has developed a proprietary suite of geophysical mapping tools, called its Advanced Exploration System (AES), which allows it to rapidly identify and demonstrate economically recoverable nickel minerals, according to DOD. In 2022, the company "deployed the AES at a pilot-scale and they were able to delineate new mineral resources within two additional zones of the TIC in less than one year."

"This award exemplifies the DOD's commitment to strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains and lessening our reliance on foreign sources of vital materials," Di Stasio said in the statement.

By Tony Bertuca
September 11, 2023 at 6:04 PM

The State Department has approved a $4 billion foreign military sale to Poland for an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notice.

The sale includes 93 IAMD Battle Command System Engagement Operation Centers, 175 IBCS Integrated Fire Control Network relays and other equipment.

The potential buy will be “phase two of a two-phase program for an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS) enabled PATRIOT Configuration-3+ with modernized sensors and components,” DSCA said.

The sale, DSCA said, will bolster Poland as a key NATO ally.

“The proposed sale will improve Poland’s missile defense capability and contribute to Poland’s goal of updating its military capability while further enhancing interoperability with the United States and other allies,” DSCA said.

Northrop Grumman will be the principal contractor, which, according to DSCA, will need to negotiate an offset agreement with the Polish government.

By Linda Hersey
September 11, 2023 at 3:05 PM

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro will swear in new members at a Navy Science and Technology Board meeting Sept. 22 that will also include a discussion on the service's science and technology priorities and challenges.

The board will hold the partially closed meeting from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Pentagon, according to a Federal Register announcement published Monday.

The meeting will include a classified discussion by the Navy secretary with strategy briefings to follow.

Del Toro will “be tasking the board with topics to study so the Board can make their recommendations to the department and provide guidance on the department's priorities and key operational problems regarding science and technology. There will then be classified discussions on the topics that are tasked by SECNAV and strategy briefings to follow,” the announcement stated.

By John Liang
September 11, 2023 at 2:28 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has coverage of a speech by the Air Force's top civilian official, Guam missile defense, Pentagon services contracts and more.

We start off with coverage from this year's Air and Space Forces Association's annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference:

Kendall calls out Tuberville holds, urges passage of budget

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall used his keynote speech at an Air and Space Forces Association conference Monday to call on Congress to pass a budget and for Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) to lift his blockade of military nominations.

Lt. Gen. Dan Karbler, head of Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Joint Functional Component Commander for Integrated Missile Defense at U.S. Space Command, is moving to mobilize public opinion to shape ongoing discussion about the architecture for a new 360-degree air and missile defense system for Guam:

Key Army general calls for JLENS-like system for Guam defense, wants very high elevated sensor

The U.S. military should resuscitate a 2004 requirement for a high-flying, stationary radar to bolster defense of Guam, a top Army official argued, noting capabilities demonstrated by the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System before its 2018 termination are now urgently needed.

A new Service Acquisition Executive Steering Committee was established in June to focus on services contracts, which, according to the Government Accountability Office, require stronger management, especially if needless spending is to be detected and cut:

DOD working to tighten oversight of services contracts, per GAO audit

The Defense Department has created a special working group charged with increasing oversight of Pentagon services contracts, which account for about $200 billion in annual spending, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Document: GAO report on DOD service contracts

While the initiation of Constellation-class frigate construction is pushed back, delivery of the ship is still expected to occur on-schedule in September 2027:

Construction of second Constellation-class frigate postponed to FY-24

Construction of the Navy's second Constellation-class frigate, Congress (FFG-63), has been pushed into early fiscal year 2024 -- a delay of at least six months from the April 2023 start date outlined in Navy budget books.

Deputy Defense Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Radha Iyengar Plumb explained at a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies event that the department seeks to combat fragility in the U.S. industrial base that the war in Ukraine has exposed:

DOD procurement official highlights push for multiyear contracts to supply Ukraine

A senior Pentagon acquisition official said this week that multiyear contracts are key to the long-term effort to support Ukraine against an ongoing Russian invasion and will serve as a "demand signal" for industry to replenish U.S. weapons that have been transferred there.

By Tony Bertuca
September 11, 2023 at 5:00 AM

The Air and Space Forces Association hosts its annual Air, Space, Cyber Conference this week, while senior defense officials are scheduled to appear before the Senate for confirmation hearings.


The Air and Space Forces Association hosts its annual Air, Space, Cyber Conference this week. The event runs through Wednesday.


The Senate Armed Services Committee meets to consider the nomination of Gen. David Allvin to be the next Air Force chief of staff.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on the Army's Open Source Intelligence Strategy.

CSIS hosts a discussion on cyber war games and exercises.

The Atlantic Council hosts a discussion on Navy financial management.


The Center for a New American Security hosts a discussion on the Defense Department’s 2023 Cyber Strategy.


The Senate Armed Services Committee meets to consider the nomination of Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be the next chief of naval operations.

CSIS hosts a discussion on integration of the U.S. missile defense enterprise.


CNAS hosts a virtual discussion with Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante.

By John Liang
September 8, 2023 at 2:16 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Defense Department artificial intelligence efforts, AUKUS legislation and more.

Joseph Larson, the deputy chief digital and artificial intelligence officer for algorithmic warfare, and Schuyler Moore, chief technology officer at U.S. Central Command, said this week that they are concerned about the Defense Department's lack of proper testing environments for AI and autonomy:

Defense tech officials see AI, autonomy testing challenges amid 'Replicator' announcements

Top defense officials driving the Pentagon's shift toward artificial intelligence and autonomy said Wednesday that obstacles remain concerning accurate testing and simulation.

The Aerospace Industries Association has released a new report examining House and Senate proposals that may be included in the upcoming FY-24 defense authorization bill, with the group endorsing proposals to enable the sale of Virginia-class submarines to Australia and other legislative language:

Industry urges simplicity and speed in AUKUS legislation

The AUKUS security partnership presents a massive opportunity for the United States and its industrial base but delivering on the agreement will require quick action in Congress and a "clean and simple" regulatory framework, according to an assessment of pending AUKUS legislation published by a U.S. industry group.

The Army has released plans for a new main battle tank:

Army unveils plans for all-new M1A3 Abrams tank for the 2040 battlefield, multidomain ops

Army leaders have determined -- five decades after launching the Abrams program and following five years of closely held analysis -- that the time has come for a clean-sheet tank design to invent a new combat vehicle optimized for machine-speed warfare, armed not only with a big gun but artificial intelligence, new components to significantly reduce weight and more.

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have defense-related coverage from the Billington Cybersecurity Conference:

Space Force official calls public-private partnerships necessary for supply chain security

The Space Force is looking to enhance its supply chain security efforts by growing public-private partnerships, according to cyber official Col. Erica Mitchell.

Pentagon small business office plans pilot with companies on protecting CUI

The Pentagon Office of Small Business Programs will launch a pilot with 25 to 50 companies to explore how to help smaller organizations comply with National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-171 using a cloud environment provided by the Defense Department, according to Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification leader Stacy Bostjanick.

The Space Force has awarded a new satellite services contract:

Space Force awards IDIQ contract to Hughes Defense for LEO satellite services

The Space Force awarded a five-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract to Hughes Defense to provide low Earth orbit satellite services, according to an Aug. 22 announcement.

By Tony Bertuca
September 7, 2023 at 3:03 PM

The Defense Department today announced a $600 million military aid package intended to support Ukraine's long-term security needs, including additional ammunition, air defense equipment and electronic warfare systems.

The package is being funded via the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which makes arrangements directly with defense contractors for weapons that won’t arrive for months or years. It is different from presidential “drawdown” authority, which DOD used Wednesday to transfer $175 million in weapons to Ukraine directly from U.S. stocks.

Today’s USAI package includes:

  • Equipment to sustain and integrate Ukraine's air defense systems;
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • 105mm artillery rounds;
  • Electronic warfare and counter-electronic warfare equipment;
  • Demolition munitions for obstacle clearing;
  • Mine clearing equipment; and
  • Support and equipment for training, maintenance, and sustainment activities.

“This USAI package highlights the continued U.S. commitment to meeting Ukraine's pressing requirements by committing critical near-term capabilities, while also building the enduring capacity of Ukraine's Armed Forces to defend its territory and deter Russian aggression over the mid and long term,” DOD said. “This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional priority capabilities to Ukraine.”

By Apurva Minchekar
September 7, 2023 at 3:02 PM

To echo the Guardians' function of defending America's interest in space, the Space Force announced Sept. 6 a new mission statement -- "secure our Nation's interest in, from and to space."

“We did not hire a corporate marketing team to develop a catch phrase. Nor did generals sit around a table in the Pentagon debating what the statement should be,” Gen. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operation, said in the announcement.

“Our mission statement was sourced from a Guardian-driven process,” he said.

The service received 135 responses within two weeks after Saltzman asked Guardians to “choose the words that describe their shared mission” in May, the announcement states.

In July, the service hosted eight focus groups that included participation from officer, enlisted and civilian Guardians from four field commands and significant commands to provide feedback and pull together a new phrase -- the new mission statement.

According to the announcement, each word chosen represents a vital aspect of the Space Force mission.

The “secure” in the statement refers to the service’s functions to contest and control the space domain on behalf of the nation and joint force if directed. “Our Nation’s interests” reflects the Guardian’s focus on defending the security of the U.S. in space as well as reflects on the importance of space activities.

The service said the “in, from and to space” represents the service’s functions -- “in space” refers to securing the nation’s interest by performing space activities to protect from enemies and counter space threats, “from space” by delivering global mission operations and “to space” by having assured access to space via vehicle launch.

“Our mission statement is a call that concisely encapsulates our purpose and identity as Guardians and members of the profession of arms,” Saltzman said.

By John Liang
September 7, 2023 at 2:19 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Navy amphibious ships, the U.S.-U.K.-Australia submarine pact, autonomous drones and more.

We start off with Navy amphibious ship coverage:

Smith: Lethal and ready amphib fleet is 'vital'

Combatant commanders need mobile, lethal and low-signature credible deterrent forces to meet new and evolving challenges globally, according to acting Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith.

Medium landing ships advance as prototypes

Five competitive prototypes for the Landing Ship Medium (LSM) are under development with the focus on getting requirements "right," said Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, chief of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for combat development and integration.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing this week on AUKUS:

Lawmakers press Defense Department for AUKUS implementation plans

Senate lawmakers today pressed Defense and State department officials for a plan to boost domestic submarine production and requested an estimate of how much additional funding the U.S. government will need to invest in order to deliver on its commitments under the AUKUS security partnership.

Document: Senate hearing on AUKUS

The Defense Department's No. 2 civilian official spoke this week about a new autonomous drone program:

Hicks sketches ambitious vision for new autonomous drone program without 'new money'

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said today that the Pentagon's new program to buy thousands of small autonomous drones, recently dubbed "Replicator," will be implemented in the next 18 to 24 months without asking Congress for additional funding in the coming fiscal year.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is seeing delays in getting software upgrades:

F-35 TR-3 deliveries slip later into 2024

The delivery of Technology Refresh 3-equipped F-35 Joint Strike Fighters may not begin until June, accounting for an even further slip in the hardware and software upgrade's schedule.

Keep an eye out this month for a meeting with DOD's new Office of Strategic Capital:

Pentagon's OSC team to meet this month on investment strategy

The head of the Pentagon's new Office of Strategic Capital is scheduled to meet with senior defense officials this month to finalize an investment strategy intended to bolster innovative companies offering emerging technologies to the U.S. military.

By Dan Schere
September 7, 2023 at 11:55 AM

Bell has chosen GE Aerospace to work on the development of digital systems for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft, Bell announced today.

The Army selected Bell to produce FLRAA, the eventual replacement for the UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, last December. However, a protest from competing bidder Sikorsky temporarily halted the program until April when the Government Accountability Office denied the protest.

According to Bell, GEO Aerospace will work to develop a Common Open Architecture Digital Backbone, as well as a voice and data recorder and health awareness system. GE Aerospace’s role will involve creating an “open, scalable, high-speed data infrastructure” that is compatible with the Army’s Modular Open Systems Approach.

The voice and data recorder analyzes flight and voice data, while the health awareness system facilitates predictive maintenance, according to Bell. The digital backbone builds on a previous Army Mission System Architecture Demonstration that “demonstrated the capability to rapidly integrate multiple operationally relevant sensors and equipment packages aligned to government-defined use cases.”

Ryan Ehinger, the Bell’s senior vice president and program director for FLRAA, said in a statement that the addition of GE Aerospace is a “foundational effort to improve weapon system capability and affordability for the Army by ensuring architectural alignment for integration of new technology.”

Army officials have said that even after FLRAA aircraft go into service in 2030, Black Hawks will continue to operate until around 2060. FLRAA is expected to enter milestone B in the third quarter of fiscal year 2024.

By Apurva Minchekar
September 7, 2023 at 11:52 AM

Firefly Aerospace announced Sept. 5 its collaboration with L3Harris Technologies for three satellite launches on Firefly's Alpha vehicle in 2026 from the SLC-2 launch site at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

Under this multilaunch agreement, Firefly will assist L3Harris with rapid launch capabilities that will result in direct access to low Earth orbit at a lower cost and aid the space needs of the U.S. military, according to the announcement.

According to media reports, L3Harris won a $225 million contract to design and build three satellites to support the national security space mission.

“Firefly is honored to support the ongoing mission needs of L3Harris as they continue to deliver satellite systems that advance our national security,” Bill Weber, Firefly Aerospace's chief executive officer, said in the announcement.

Highlighting features of the Alpha vehicle, the company said it has the capability to launch more than 1000 kg to LEO and “provides affordable, responsive and reliable launch service for small satellites and spacecraft.”

Additionally, Firefly has doubled the size of its facilities to assist its ongoing contract with Northrop Grumman to build a medium launch vehicle to lift off in 2025 “to serve the commercial, civil and national security space launch market.”

The company is currently focused on increasing Alpha production from its rocket manufacturing and test site in Briggs, TX, to contribute to multiple government and commercial launches, the announcement states.

By John Liang
September 7, 2023 at 10:56 AM

Leidos this week announced the promotion of Amy Smith to lead the company's lobbying efforts on Capitol Hill.

Smith joined Leidos as vice president of government affairs in 2020. Before that, she worked for Boeing for seven years as chief of staff and senior director of international operations and policy.

Prior to that, Smith spent 17 years working for various House lawmakers, including a six-year stint as policy director for the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

By John Liang
September 7, 2023 at 10:43 AM

Saab announced today it has bought Silicon Valley, CA-based artificial intelligence/machine learning company CrowdAI.

Financial terms of the deal weren't disclosed, and the acquisition "is part of Saab's technology leadership in this new era for the defense industry," the company said in a statement.

Future operations will be carried out primarily in San Diego, according to Saab.

Erik Smith, president and CEO of Saab in the U.S., said the acquisition "brings a new capability as well as deeply rooted relationships with new customers to Saab, underscoring our commitment to innovation and growth in the United States."

By Tony Bertuca
September 7, 2023 at 10:20 AM

Anduril, a non-traditional defense startup based in California, has acquired drone maker Blue Force Technologies amid a flurry of announcements from senior Pentagon officials in the past few weeks that fleets of autonomous weapon systems must be fast-tracked to compete with China.

Neither company has disclosed the terms of the deal.

Chris Brose, Anduril’s chief strategy officer and a former chief of staff on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview with Inside Defense that the company intends to “pour investment” into Blue Force, especially its unmanned Fury aircraft, which, when paired with Anduril’s “Lattice for Mission Autonomy” could compete to be the kind of “collaborative combat aircraft” sought by the Air Force.

“We want to catalyze and accelerate that progress,” he said. “This is something we are seeking to build an alternative industrial base to produce.”

The announcement of Anduril’s acquisition of North Carolina-based Blue Force comes amid the Pentagon’s unveiling of its new Replicator program, which aims to purchase thousands of small, autonomous and “attritable” drones to counter China’s enormous military presence.

“The Replicator initiative is music to my ears,” Brose said. “I think it is what the department has needed, what industry has needed for years now, which is moving beyond innovation and experimentation and getting to real large-scale production and autonomous capabilities.”

But, he said, “the devil is in the details.”

“Will there be money for this? Why will this work when other large defense initiatives have worked less well?” Brose said. “All of those challenges are surmountable. It really comes down to whether the government has the will to complete the swing.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, meanwhile, said at a Defense News conference Wednesday that DOD does not intend to make Replicator a program of record or seek new funding for it in fiscal year 2024.

“We're not creating a new bureaucracy and we will not be asking for new money in FY-24,” she said. “Not all problems need new money. We are problem solvers and we intend to self-solve. So, Replicator will use existing funding, existing programming lines and existing authorities to accelerate production and deliver at scale.”

Hicks said DOD envisions “flocks of systems, flying at all sorts of altitudes, doing a range of missions” to compete with China’s No. 1 advantage in the Indo-Pacific: size.

“They could be deployed by larger aircraft, launched by troops on land or sea, or take off themselves,” she said.

Brose said Anduril, which purchased autonomous underwater vehicle maker Dive Technologies in 2022 and rocket firm Adranos in June, is positioning itself to bring “affordable mass” to DOD.

“The pacing threat that everyone is focused on rightly is China,” he said. “As a company that is the problem we are helping and seeking to help the DOD solve. That is where we want to be relevant, that is where we want to add value and that is where we want to change the game.”

By Dan Schere
September 6, 2023 at 4:29 PM

Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo said Wednesday that the service's ability to procure quantities for programs with requested multiyear authorities set to begin in fiscal year 2024, such as the PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, would be impacted by a stopgap continuing resolution lawmakers are preparing to consider.

Congress must pass a CR by the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1 to avert a government shutdown. Under a CR, new-start contracts are not allowed and programs transitioning from development to production would also be impacted, Camarillo said at a Defense News conference in Arlington, VA.

The Army had requested multiyear authorities from Congress for PAC-3 MSE and the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System starting in FY-24. The service has estimated multiyear contracts for PAC-3 MSE and GMLRS could save more than the initially projected $147 million.

“Without that authority, it will affect how much quantity we’re going to be able to buy,” Camarillo said Wednesday in reference to PAC-3 MSE.

Another program that could be impacted by a CR is the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, the Army’s replacement for the M113 armored personnel carrier. The service recently announced the transition of that program from low-rate initial production to full-rate production and subsequently awarded the full-rate production contract to manufacturer BAE Systems. Mid-range capability, one of the Army’s long range fires priorities that is scheduled to transition to a program of record, could also be delayed, Camarillo said.

However, he said, much of the United States’ support for Ukraine during its war with Russia has been funded through supplemental appropriations from Congress.

“Nothing would impact our ability to support Ukraine,” he said. “We’re in this as long as it takes.”

The White House, meanwhile, is seeking a $40 billion supplemental spending package for Ukraine, with nearly $10 billion pegged for military aid, which is contingent on support from Congress.