The Insider

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.

By Tony Bertuca
May 21, 2024 at 4:09 PM

The Pentagon says Russia launched a counter-space weapon on May 16 into the same orbit as a U.S. government satellite.

“Russia launched a satellite into low-earth orbit that we assess is likely a counter-space weapon presumably capable of attacking other satellites in low-earth orbit,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said today during a press conference.

When pressed on whether the Russian system could take down a U.S. satellite, Ryder responded: “It's a counter-space weapon in the same orbit as a U.S. government satellite.”

Russia, meanwhile, denies that it has put a weapon in space.

But Ryder said the weapon resembles previously deployed counter-space payloads the Pentagon reviewed in 2019 and 2022.

“Obviously, that's something that we'll continue to monitor,” he said. “We have a responsibility to be ready to protect and defend the space domain and ensure continuous and uninterrupted support to the joint combined force and we’ll continue to balance the need to protect our interests in space with our desire to preserve a stable and sustainable space environment.”

By Abby Shepherd
May 21, 2024 at 4:06 PM

This year's biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise will kick off in late June, the Navy announced Tuesday.

RIMPAC 2024 will be the 29th exercise since the practice began in 1971, with approximately 29 countries taking part in this year’s event between June 26 and August 2 in and around the Hawaiian Islands. About 40 surface ships, three submarines, 14 national land forces, over 150 aircraft and over 25,000 personnel will also be present, according to a press release.

The exercise promotes “a free and open Indo-Pacific,” leveraging multinational partnerships and interoperability methods, the press release adds.

“For the first time in RIMPAC history, a member of the Chilean Navy, Commodore Alberto Guerrero, will serve as deputy commander of the CTF,” according to the Navy’s press release. “Rear Adm. Kazushi Yokota of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will serve as vice commander. Other key leaders of the multinational force will include Commodore Kristjan Monaghan of Canada, who will command the maritime component, and Air Commodore Louise Desjardins of Australia, who will command the air component.”

The exercise comes during a time of heightened Chinese military aggression in the Pacific, a threat also discussed in 2022’s RIMPAC exercise. Regular communication and cooperation between allies are important for this reason, Third Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Michael Boyle said in 2022 following that year’s RIMPAC.

“We’ve already shown the world that we are really like-minded and we’re willing to work together to get better, to work at this partnership and send a signal globally,” Boyle said at the time. “With everything else going on, it’s still important to come together and build these relationships.”

By Dan Schere
May 21, 2024 at 2:47 PM

The Army released a digital engineering policy today that directs the service to more broadly adopt digital engineering capabilities and best practices, with a particular emphasis on ground vehicles, aviation and sensors as "focus areas."

Digital engineering “leverages applications, modeling and simulation, and data to create digital models in place of the legacy paper-based approaches,” according to the Army policy. The digital models provide information about a system’s maturation as part of a “model-analyze-build" approach, instead of a “design-build-test" method.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said earlier Tuesday during a congressional hearing that the goal of the policy is to ensure the Army adopts digital engineering approaches at scale to improve efficiency and reduce costs.

The Army policy released Tuesday states the service plans to incorporate lessons learned from companies in the private sector that are already employing digital engineering techniques, particularly companies that test automobiles, aircraft and other vehicles. Initially the Army’s digital engineering areas of focus will be ground vehicles, aviation and sensors -- areas that industry has started using these practices, the policy notes.

The policy also specifies multiple Army acquisition programs as being “pathfinder programs” that will “illustrate digital engineering’s potential contributions, highlight existing policies and processes that may hinder a program’s ability to implement [digital engineering] and identify how to advance [digital engineering] in various contexts.” These programs include:

  • The XM30 Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle
  • The Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft
  • Integrated Fires Mission Command
  • Joint Targeting Integrated Command and Control Suite
  • M113 Armored Personnel Carrier
  • The Black Hawk, Apache and Chinook helicopter programs that are all in sustainment.

Defense Scoop reported earlier Tuesday on the impending release of the policy.

By John Liang
May 21, 2024 at 1:43 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on an Army loitering munition program, a PAC-3 missile being fired from a Navy launch tube and more.

The Army has contracted with AeroVironment for its Switchblade 600 system in the initial stages of a new loitering munition program:

Army using supplemental, reprogrammed funds to bolster LASSO

As the Army looks to bolster its Low Altitude Stalking and Strike Ordinance (LASSO) program going forward, it plans to use a combination of reprogrammed funds from two previous fiscal years as well as the recently passed Ukrainian supplemental security package to do so.

During a flight test at White Sands Missile Range, NM, a PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement launched from an MK-70 containerized launch platform, chased down and hit a cruise missile target, Lockheed Martin announced this week:

DOD, Lockheed fire PAC-3 from Navy launch tube, new demonstration with implications for ship defense

The U.S. military and Lockheed Martin fired an Army air-defense missile from a Navy vertical launch tube in an on-land demonstration of a new capability that could allow the U.S. military to arm ships with the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 family of missiles, an event funded by a classified Defense Department customer.

More missile defense news:

MDA cancels source selection for C2BMC collaborative planning upgrade for combatant commanders

The Missile Defense Agency has pulled the plug on a planned upgrade of a key part of the Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications system, advising companies that prepared and submitted bids for a project called CODDS -- C2BMC Operational Defense Design System -- that funds previously slated for the effort have been shifted to higher-priority needs and the source selection is cancelled.

The latest CMMC news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

CMMC proposed rule with changes to defense acquisition regulations enters OMB review process

A proposed rule to amend the Defense Department’s acquisition policies for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program has entered the Office of Management and Budget review process.

The Defense Department inspector general is running several reviews related to U.S. assistance in Ukraine:

Pentagon IG to review weapons pricing for Ukraine

The Defense Department inspector general intends to review the process by which DOD contracting officers have negotiated prices with contractors to provide weapons and other assistance to Ukraine, according to a new IG letter.

Document: DOD IG memo on weapons policy for Ukraine

By Nick Wilson
May 21, 2024 at 11:56 AM

The Navy stood up a new unmanned surface vessel squadron last week that will oversee a fleet of small uncrewed vessels called Global Autonomous Reconnaissance Craft (GARC), according to a May 17 service announcement.

Located at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, CA, and staffed by approximately 400 personnel, USVRON Three will help advance the integration of uncrewed surface platforms into operations through experimentation and the development of operational concepts.

“The mission of USVRON Three is to deliver the most formidable, unmanned platforms in the maritime domain,” the announcement states. “The squadron will be a cornerstone in building the foundational knowledge required to operate and maintain sUSV and will spearhead the development of [tactics, techniques and procedures] for sUSV operations and sustainment.”

GARCs are 16-foot USVs produced by naval technology company Maritime Applied Physics Corp. The vessels are intended to enable research, testing and operations.

“USVs, including the GARCs, will provide additional warfighting capability and capacity to augment the Navy’s traditional combatant force, providing commanders with a greater range of capabilities and employment options to increase the fleet’s tactical and strategic advantages,” the announcement adds.

The new unit is U.S. Pacific Fleet’s second USV squadron, following the establishment of USVRON One in 2022. The older unit has been experimenting with medium and large USVs including Sea Hunter, Sea Hawk and Overload vessels to inform the Navy’s decision-making process ahead of platform acquisitions.

Earlier this year, incoming head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Adm. Samuel Paparo said the new USVRON Three will continue these efforts to validate unmanned tech and operational concepts.

“Here in May in U.S. Pacific Fleet, we will be standing up our second USV squadron,” Paparo said in February. “This is not a contractor-owned, contractor-operated capability. This is a uniformed capability that will be able to own [and] operate unmanned capabilities that can be employed within particular spaces."

Paparo previously said INDOPACOM aims to use autonomous, unmanned systems to generate a “constant stare” to deter China from attacking Taiwan, while Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti has indicated the Navy is on track to begin operationalizing a hybrid manned-unmanned fleet as early as fiscal year 2029.

By Abby Shepherd
May 21, 2024 at 11:16 AM

The Navy's Program Executive Office for Unmanned and Small Combatants will brief industry members on how the Large Unmanned Surface Vessel program will impact surface warfare during an upcoming industry day.

The industry day, planned for June 10, will allow feedback from potential contractors on the development and procurement of future vessels. The program will highlight “the LUSV program vision and objectives; the program schedule; and the engineering/technical requirements and objectives,” according to a Monday notice.

No contract or award will be granted based on this announcement, the Navy clarified. The event will be in the Washington, DC metro area, with access only allowed for Defense Department contractors.

In March, the Navy slowed the LUSV program’s pace -- with the fiscal year 2025 funding request postponing planned procurement of the lead vessel by two years. The LUSV’s research and development funding request was also reduced by $74 million, bringing it to $54 million.

Service officials cited technical challenges within LUSV, as well as funding caps imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act.

“Where we have one or two unmanned systems that we’re experiencing technical difficulty with, we’re working to ‘re-phase’ those across the ‘future years defense program.’ So LUSV, for example, we are moving that from FY-25 to FY-27,” Rear Adm. Ben Reynolds, the Navy’s deputy assistant secretary for budget and the service’s fiscal management division director, told reporters in early March.

Following this cut from the Navy, Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Bryan Clark told Inside Defense that LUSV could eventually be cut definitively, despite the service’s need for unmanned platforms.

“LUSV was always kind of a questionable use case,” Clark told Inside Defense in March. “And it was expensive: you’re looking at a couple-hundred-plus-million-dollar-ship. So, I think it’s likely to go away.”

By John Liang
May 20, 2024 at 12:53 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on missile defense, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and more.

We start off with some missile defense news:

MDA cancels source selection for C2BMC collaborative planning upgrade for combatant commanders

The Missile Defense Agency has pulled the plug on a planned upgrade of a key part of the Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications system, advising companies that prepared and submitted bids for a project called CODDS -- C2BMC Operational Defense Design System -- that funds previously slated for the effort have been shifted to higher-priority needs and the source selection is cancelled.

DOD would be required to update notional plan to acquire 64 NGIs under draft legislation

The Defense Department would be required to revise a draft plan to triple the size of the Next Generation Interceptor inventory -- from 20 to 64 guided missiles – under a move proposed in draft legislation in the wake of last month's earlier-than-planned decision to select a prime contractor.

The Government Accountability Office recently released a report on the Pentagon's most expensive acquisition program:

New F-35 baseline expected in July

The Joint Program Office for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter will release a new Acquisition Program Baseline and Selected Acquisition Report for the fifth-generation fighter in July, the Government Accountability Office said Thursday, suggesting the Pentagon’s largest acquisition program yet is getting even costlier.

Document: GAO report on the F-35 program

The chairman of the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee recently spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations:

Wittman: Lawmakers may approve aircraft divestment but still want Air Force to show game plan

Congress is slowly becoming comfortable with retirements of legacy aircraft, especially the A-10 Warthog, but first it wants the Air Force to consider ways it can use "existing aircraft to a greater advantage," Rep. Rob Wittman (R-VA) told Inside Defense Thursday evening.

The U.S. needs to make sure allies and not "potential enemies" supply the components used in ammunition production, according to a senior Army official:

Bush says 'potential enemies' can be out of the U.S. ammunition supply chain by 2028 if Congress invests

The Army can remove "unfriendly" countries from its ammunition supply chain by 2028 but getting there will require investment from Congress, service acquisition chief Doug Bush told lawmakers Wednesday.

The Army's No. 2 civilian official spoke recently at an event in Washington Friday hosted by the Center for a New American Security:

Army under secretary says drone corps would run counter to UAS experimentation goals

Army Under Secretary Gabe Camarillo said today that a recent proposal from congressional authorizers to establish a drone corps within the service could run counter to the service's goals when it comes to experimenting with unmanned systems.

Eric Fanning, the president and CEO of AIA who served as Army secretary and in other senior Pentagon civilian roles during the Obama administration, told a gathering of reporters that the military and Congress should view the defense industrial base as a strategic national security asset whose health should be fostered by policy and oversight:

Top defense industry group unveils legislative priorities, warns of possible inflation 'bow wave'

The Aerospace Industries Association has put forth a list of legislative priorities as congressional committees begin crafting their versions of the annual defense authorization and appropriations bills, with the group's leader emphasizing the need to lift international trade barriers and prepare for what could be a "bow wave" of inflation consequences.

A new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance digital architecture will be designed to share data across the joint force that comes from the services, intelligence community or even commercial sources:

Air Force looking to fund ISR digital infrastructure

The fiscal year 2025 budget request includes for the first time funding for an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance digital architecture for data sharing, according to a top Air Force official.

The FY-24 National Defense Authorization Act directed the establishment of an official SLCM-N program of record and congressional appropriators provided $90 million for the effort despite opposition from the White House and many congressional Democrats:

SLCM-N is in the works, though lawmakers and Navy officials remain split on use case

The Navy is standing up a nuclear sea-launched cruise missile program office, though the service requested no funding for the initiative in fiscal year 2025, and some lawmakers and naval officials remain skeptical of its use case.

House appropriators won't go above a congressionally mandated defense spending cap:

House appropriators sticking to defense cap

The House Appropriations Committee intends to honor the $895 billion defense spending cap mandated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, according to an announcement by the panel's chairman.