The INSIDER Daily digest -- March 21, 2024

By John Liang / March 21, 2024 at 2:59 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the fiscal year 2024 defense spending bill, U.S. Southern Command's FY-25 unfunded priorities list and lots more.

House and Senate appropriators have at long last released the fiscal year 2024 defense spending bill:

Spending deal approves $320B in defense modernization; includes $1B DIU boost and Replicator money

After months of partisan haggling, Congress has released a final fiscal year 2024 appropriations package that would provide $320 billion for defense modernization, funds some aid to Ukraine, backs multiyear buys for several critical munitions and injects nearly $1 billion into the Defense Innovation Unit, according to documents released by lawmakers.

Document: FY-24 defense spending bill

U.S. Southern Command has submitted its FY-25 unfunded priorities list:

SOUTHCOM sends Congress $322M unfunded priorities request

U.S. Southern Command has sent Congress a list identifying $322 million in unfunded priorities for fiscal year 2025, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

Document: SOUTHCOM's FY-25 unfunded priorities list

Unmanned systems news:

ULTRA aims to upend UAS procurement paradigm, be long-endurance eyes over Pacific

The Defense Department is looking to acquire a handful of new high-flying, ultra-long endurance aircraft -- uncrewed systems with "point-and-click" command and control features that can fly up to seven days -- packed with sensors to provide commanders a flavor of intelligence that is crucial in modern conflict: high-quality, pattern-of-life behavior.

Hicks says she knows her reputation is 'on the line' with Replicator

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said today that she is comfortable being the senior-most visible Pentagon official charged with bringing the department's new Replicator program across the finish line, even if it means her own reputation is at stake.

Army will incorporate 'Blue UAS' into training and development

The Army will incorporate commercial-off-the-shelf unmanned systems, also known as Blue UAS, into future training and development initiatives, according to fiscal year 2025 budget documents.

Several senior defense officials spoke at the Ronald Reagan Institute's National Security Innovation Base Summit this week:

Next round of APFIT awards waiting on budget from Congress

A senior Pentagon official said today that the next round of awards through DOD’s Accelerate the Procurement and Fielding of Innovative Technologies, known as APFIT, is ready to be released, pending congressional budget approval.

Strategic capital chief says first funds for new DOD loan program to be issued in coming months

The head of the Defense Department's strategic capital office said the department, for the first time ever, now has a loan program that can help small companies, predicting the first funds could be licensed in the coming months.

The E-6 TACAMO Recapitalization Program (E-XX) is seeking to replace the current, aging E-6B aircraft used for the mission, which allows communication from almost every radio frequency:

Navy TACAMO receives big boost in FY-25 budget to start EMD phase

Funding to bolster communication systems for a Navy class of aircraft meant to survive nuclear warfare received a large push in the service's recently released fiscal year 2025 budget request, anticipating the program will move into the engineering and manufacturing development phase.

Using the Defense Department's Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) program, a $64 million Army request will fund four projects that include communications, fires, sensors and expeditionary logistics to improve joint operations with the other services:

Army seeking $64M to fund RDER sensing, targeting and communications prototypes

The Army will seek $64 million in fiscal year 2025 to prototype communications, sensing and logistics capabilities under an accelerated Defense Department program, according to service budget documents released last week.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command chief Adm. John Aquilino said his independent assessment of INDOPACOM resourcing needed to deter China -- an annual assessment required of the organization's commander by the National Defense Authorization Act -- identified a requirement for a roughly $26.5 billion appropriation in FY-25:

Aquilino points to $11 billion shortfall in Pentagon budget compared to his independent assessment of INDOPACOM needs

A day after submitting an $11 billion unfunded priority list to Congress, the outgoing chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command recommended additional appropriations beyond the Pentagon's fiscal year 2025 budget request to bolster Guam missile defense and support "blind, see, kill" capabilities.

The Air Force revealed in its proposed fiscal year 2025 budget last week that it wants to all but kill the Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon program, with zero procurement or research and development dollars being requested for the weapon:

Air Force conducts last ARRW test, likely to shift focus to another kind of hypersonic missile

The Air Force on Sunday completed its final planned test for Lockheed Martin's AGM-183A Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon but hasn't said whether the test was successful, according to a statement the service sent to Inside Defense Wednesday.

The Army's FY-25 budget request seeks $5.5 million for an advanced technology project called Integrated Beam Control Systems Demo for C-CM, a new project in the service’s air and missile defense advanced technology portfolio:

Army eyes FY-25 new-start to extend range of IFPC laser against cruise missiles

The Army is looking to launch a new-start project in fiscal year 2025 to extend the effective range of directed-energy weapons -- seeking a capability to sharpen the aim of speed-of-light systems in general and specifically to give the laser-armed Indirect Fire Protection Capability a longer reach against cruise missiles.

In a memo issued late last month, Pentagon research and engineering chief Heidi Shyu directs the Defense Science Board to "identify options for mission defeat of difficult targets to ensure U.S. operational dominance for various scenarios":

DOD sets its sights on a new bomb to tackle deeply buried adversary targets

The Pentagon is calling on the Defense Science Board to investigate the nation's ability to locate and attack deeply buried adversary targets, such as bunker and tunnel facilities, according to a recent memo from Heidi Shyu, the defense under secretary for research and engineering.

Document: DSB terms of reference memo for study on capabilities for difficult target defeat