The Insider

By John Liang
July 15, 2024 at 1:34 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on missile defense in the Middle East, Army munitions supply chain chokepoints and more.

The Senate Armed Services Committee in its proposed fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill includes a provision that is intended to strengthen air and missile defense in the Missile East against Iran and its proxies across the region:

Lawmakers would authorize DOD to forge new air and missile defense ties with Jordan

Draft legislation would authorize the Defense Department to spearhead efforts to cooperate with Jordan on air and missile defense capabilities, a move that comes after the Hashemite Kingdom in April defended its airspace against Iranian threats launched toward Israel.

The committee is also calling on the Army secretary to submit a plan that would provide "options to establish secondary domestic production sources at existing arsenals, depots and ammunition plants of the Army to address munitions supply chain chokepoints":

Senate authorizers want Army to address munitions supply chain chokepoints

Senate authorizers want the Army to provide options to establish secondary domestic production sources within the service's manufacturing base to address chokepoints in the ammunition supply chain.

Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies: annual South China Sea conference:

U.S. to continue strengthening involvement in Indo-Pacific in coming months, says defense official

The past year was "transformative" for the United States' force posture in the Indo-Pacific, with the Defense Department set to deliver more action in the coming months, a DOD official said this week.

F-35 Program Executive Officer Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt foresaw in April that the earliest an initial, incomplete yet training-capable variation of TR-3 software for the fifth-generation aircraft may arrive is "July of this summer":

JPO expects first delivery of F-35 enabled with truncated TR-3 software to begin soon

Deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter enabled with a truncated version of the Technology Refresh-3 software upgrade will soon resume, putting an end to a temporary pause in aircraft deliveries until Lockheed Martin fixed a series of developmental issues, according to a statement issued today by the F-35 Joint Program Office.

A Naval Strike Missile multiyear procurement contract is due out next month:

Navy anticipates NSM multiyear award in August, but is unable to advance similar SM-6 deal

The Navy is preparing to award Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace a five-year, multiyear procurement contract for the Naval Strike Missile in August, after receiving authority and funding from Congress' fiscal year 2024 defense legislation, a Navy spokesperson told Inside Defense.

By John Liang
July 15, 2024 at 11:13 AM

Oshkosh Corp. announced today that Angela Ambrose has been hired as the company's new vice president of government operations.

Ambrose most recently worked as vice president for government relations and communications at General Motors Defense, according to the Oshkosh announcement. Prior to that, she was the defense portfolio government relations lead within Accenture's federal practice.

Ambrose has also served as the chief congressional strategist for Northrop Grumman's aerospace business.

Additionally, she worked on the senior legislative liaison teams in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and Defense Department's Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization.

By John Liang
July 15, 2024 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are slated to speak at various security conferences this week.

Monday

Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Strategic Deterrence and Nuclear Integration Lt. Gen. Andrew Gebara speaks at a Mitchell Institute event.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies holds a conversation on "AI Transformation at the DOD."

Wednesday

The Defense Innovation Board holds a public meeting.

Senior defense officials speak at the Aspen Security Forum, which runs through Sunday.

Friday

Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Space Policy Vipin Narang speaks at a Center for a New American Security virtual event on "Adapting NATO's Nuclear Posture to Current Threats."

By John Liang
July 12, 2024 at 1:36 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, an imminent Naval Strike Missile multiyear procurement contract and more.

We start off with some big F-35 Joint Strike Fighter news:

JPO expects first delivery of F-35 enabled with truncated TR-3 software to begin soon

Deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter enabled with a truncated version of the Technology Refresh-3 software upgrade will soon resume, putting an end to a temporary pause in aircraft deliveries until Lockheed Martin fixed a series of developmental issues, according to a statement issued today by the F-35 Joint Program Office.

A Naval Strike Missile multiyear procurement contract is due out next month:

Navy anticipates NSM multiyear award in August, but is unable to advance similar SM-6 deal

The Navy is preparing to award Kongsberg Defense and Aerospace a five-year, multiyear procurement contract for the Naval Strike Missile in August, after receiving authority and funding from Congress' fiscal year 2024 defense legislation, a Navy spokesperson told Inside Defense.

The Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing this week to consider the nominations of Tonya Wilkerson to be under secretary of defense for intelligence and security and Michael Sulmeyer to be assistant secretary of defense for cyber policy:

Senate Armed Services Committee holds confirmation hearing for intelligence and cyber positions

Tonya Wilkerson, the nominee to become the new under secretary of defense for intelligence and security, said at a Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing today that China remains the U.S.’s main challenge, a threat that, if confirmed, she would focus on.

Document: Senate hearing on intel, cyber nominations

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have the latest on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

Pentagon final rule to establish CMMC program remains on track for November release

The Defense Department plans to finalize in November its first final rule for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program amending Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations, according to the latest unified agenda and regulatory plan.

The head of the Air Force's Air Combat Command spoke at a Mitchell Institution event this week:

ACC chief wants to keep aging F-22s, says NGAD down select will happen this year

Air Force Air Combat Command boss Gen. Ken Wilsbach today said the service has no official plan to replace its fleet of F-22 Raptors, despite leaders for years saying a replacement would be the Next Generation Air Dominance system.

By Dan Schere
July 12, 2024 at 11:54 AM

The Army is asking for industry responses to a request for information published last month that seeks to identify potential sources for manufacturing the M284 155mm cannon tube.

The June 10 notice asks vendors to describe their ability to manufacture rifled, 155mm artillery cannon tubes as well as information about their facility location, manufacturing square footage, infrastructure age and number of workers. The notice asks companies to respond by July 17.

The Army produces cannons for the M109 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, M1 Abrams tank M777 lightweight howitzer and the Air Force’s AC-130 gunship at Watervliet Arsenal, NY -- a service-owned and operated facility that dates back to the War of 1812.

With the RFI released last month, the government is “surveying the market for secondary sources,” and there is no intent to move production away from Watervliet, Army contract specialist Brianna Davis wrote in an email to Inside Defense this week.

“The government would evaluate sources who respond to assist in developing an acquisition strategy, determine market capability and identify commercial practices,” she wrote.

An award made to industry would “likely be binding by way of a government-to-private industry contract,” according to Davis.

By Nick Wilson
July 12, 2024 at 11:48 AM

Shipbuilder Austal USA broke ground this week on a new final steel assembly facility at its Mobile, AL yard that is scheduled to be complete and fully operational by the summer of 2026, according to a July 9 company announcement.

The project will include a new 192,000-square-foot, three-bay assembly building and a shiplift system capable of launching and docking vessels weighing over 18,000 long tons, including Independence-class Littoral Combat Ships, TAGOS-25 Ocean Surveillance Ships and Constellation-class frigates, the notice states.

Although the Mobile shipyard was initially designed to build aluminum vessels like the trimaran-hulled Independence-variant LCS and Spearhead-class Expeditionary Fast Transport, Austal began expanding the yard to accommodate steel production in 2021 when it broke ground on a steel panel line.

In addition to building surface ships, Austal has partnered with drone company Saildrone to produce autonomous unmanned surface vehicles at the shipyard as well as building submarine components for both the Columbia- and Virginia-class programs.

When the new final assembly facility is complete, the yard will encompass “a 117,000-square-foot steel panel line, two module manufacturing facilities totaling over one million square feet of covered manufacturing space optimized for serial production, and seven assembly bays providing over 400,000 square feet of indoor erection space,” the announcement continues.

By Dan Schere
July 12, 2024 at 10:23 AM

The Army has awarded a $251 million contract to Sikorsky for UH-60M Black Hawk aircraft that will be used for foreign military sales to Croatia and Jordan, according to a notice from the Pentagon posted Thursday.

The contract has an estimated completion date of June 30, 2027, according to the notice.

Sikorsky, part of Lockheed Martin, noted in an announcement today that the foreign military sale will buy eight of the aircraft for Croatia, which will bring the country’s fleet to 12.

The deal includes aircraft, organizational equipment, spare and repair parts as well as associated support equipment, according to Sikorsky. The aircraft can support “troop lift, border security, counterterrorism, medical evacuation, search-and-rescue, resupply or external lift and combat support.”

Hamid Salim, Sikorsky’s vice president for Army and Air Force systems, said in a statement that “Croatia’s decision to acquire eight more of the latest generation UH-60M Black Hawks for its armed forces, tripling its fleet, will support ongoing modernization efforts and strengthen the Balkan region’s ability to deter current and future threats.”

By John Liang
July 11, 2024 at 2:15 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Sentinel nuclear missile program's cost, the Air Force pondering whether to keep older F-22 fighter aircraft and more.

We start off with more coverage of the Sentinel ICBM system's ballooning costs:

Lawmakers criticize Sentinel's ballooning cost

Lawmakers overseeing the Defense Department are criticizing the management of the Sentinel nuclear missile program as the price tag has jumped to $140.9 billion, but many still support the Pentagon's decision to continue the acquisition effort.

The head of the Air Force's Air Combat Command spoke at a Mitchell Institution event this week:

ACC chief wants to keep aging F-22s, says NGAD down select will happen this year

Air Force Air Combat Command boss Gen. Ken Wilsbach says the service has no official plan to replace its fleet of F-22 Raptors, despite leaders for years saying a replacement would be the Next Generation Air Dominance system.

More coverage of the Senate Armed Services Committee's fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill, including language on missile defense, Navy autonomous systems and the nuclear-armed, sea-launched missile program:

Draft bill eyes 'comprehensive integrated' domestic air and missile defense architecture

Draft legislation would require the Pentagon to develop a "comprehensive" integrated architecture to defend the United States against all missile types -- ballistic, cruise and hypersonic -- and assign an official responsibility for identifying the collection of radar, command and control and guided missiles or non-kinetic systems.

Senate policy bill pushes Navy to develop 'dual-modality' autonomous systems

The Senate version of the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill directs the Navy to invest in developing "dual-modality" autonomous systems, authorizing an $18 million addition to the service's research and development budget to experiment with up to seven uncrewed vehicles.

Senate authorizers signal strong support for nuclear-armed, sea-launched missile

Senate authorizers are pushing the nuclear-armed, sea-launched cruise missile program forward, with a new provision that would limit the Navy secretary's travel if certain steps are not taken to further establish the program.

Last but by no means least, the latest on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

Pentagon final rule to establish CMMC program remains on track for November release

The Defense Department plans to finalize in November its first final rule for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program amending Title 32 of the Code of Federal Regulations, according to the latest unified agenda and regulatory plan.

By Georgina DiNardo
July 11, 2024 at 2:14 PM

The Defense Department today announced an additional security assistance package for Ukraine, including air defense systems, munitions and anti-tank weapons worth an estimated $225 million, with the announcement coming on the heels of the NATO summit in Washington.

This marks the 61st tranche of equipment the Biden administration has provided Ukraine, totaling more than $54.4 billion in security assistance, DOD said today.

At the NATO summit earlier this week, President Biden announced the U.S. is working together with Germany, Romania, the Netherlands and Italy to bolster Ukraine’s air defenses by supplying five strategic air defense systems, like Patriot batteries and SAMP/T systems.

The package announced today after a meeting between Biden and Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy includes supplying one additional Patriot battery. A previous Pentagon fact sheet noted that the U.S. has already supplied Ukraine with one Patriot battery since the beginning of Russia’s invasion.

However, a February Defense Department I.G. report found that there was no lifecycle sustainment strategy for the Patriot air defense systems the Pentagon delivered to Ukraine, although the department was working on sustainment efforts.

Today’s package also includes munitions for national advanced surface-to-air missile systems; stinger anti-aircraft missiles; ammunition for high mobility artillery rocket systems; 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds; tube-launched, optically tracked, wire-guided equipment and missiles; Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems; demolitions munitions; and spare parts for maintenance.

“The United States will continue to work together with some 50 Allies and partners to ensure Ukraine's brave defenders receive the critical capabilities needed to fight Russian aggression,” DOD said.

By Georgina DiNardo
July 11, 2024 at 12:27 PM

The Office of Management and Budget director and the national cyber director said that fiscal year 2026 agency budget submissions for cybersecurity investment priorities should align with the five pillars outlined in the National Cybersecurity Strategy.

The five pillars outlined in the strategy, which aims to advance the U.S.’s cybersecurity posture, are defending critical infrastructure, disrupting and dismantling threat actors, shaping market forces to drive security and resilience, investing in a resilient future and forging international partnerships to pursue shared goals.

“Sustained investments across these five pillars are critical to mitigate cybersecurity risks and should be addressed within the FY 2026 Budget guidance levels provided by OMB,” Shalanda Young, OMB director, and Harry Coker, national cyber director, said in a memo released yesterday detailing budget submission details.

Across the pillars, budget submissions should look towards modernizing federal defenses, scaling public-private collaboration, improving baseline cybersecurity requirements, improving open source software security and sustainability, countering cybercrime to defeat adversaries, securing software development and leveraging federal procurement to improve accountability, leveraging federal grants and other incentives to build in security, strengthening the cyber workforce, preparing for the post-quantum future and securing the technical foundation of the internet.

“The administration is committed to data-driven decision-making and departments and agencies are expected to incorporate performance measurement strategies into resource requests in order to build visibility in requested activities and allow effective measurement of investments,” the memo, which was sent to all executive department and agency heads, said.

During FY-26 budget submissions, OMB and the Office of the National Cyber Director will review agency responses regarding these priorities together and then identify possible gaps and find solutions to said gaps.

“OMB, in coordination with ONCD, will provide feedback to agencies on whether their submissions adequately address and are consistent with overall cybersecurity strategy and policy, aiding agencies’ multiyear planning through the regular budget process,” the memo said.

By Dan Schere
July 11, 2024 at 5:00 AM

The Army's Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office is seeking to develop a high-energy laser that can defeat groups 1 through 3 unmanned systems, according to a government notice posted Wednesday asking vendors to submit white papers.

RCCTO is aiming to leverage industry in accelerating the “development and field testing of a producible and sustainable laser weapon system,” according to the Army. The weapon system will be designed to meet a counter UAS force protection requirement from the Army and will be compatible with existing air and missile defense architecture.

According to the notice, the laser will be able to deliver lethal effects against groups 1 through 3 UAS, which the Defense Department defines as those weighing less than 1,320 pounds.

The laser weapon system should be capable of “fixed site defense and/or integration onto an existing Army platform, such as a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle,” according to the Army. And it also must be interoperable with the service’s Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control.

RCCTO plans to issue a prototype award early in fiscal year 2025 and will choose a prime contractor in FY-26 for production following the development and demonstration effort, according to the notice. Once the program transitions to the Army’s Program Executive Office for Missiles and Space, it could use a middle tier acquisition rapid fielding approach to produce up to 20 laser weapon systems.

The government will give preference to vendors’ systems that are assessed at Technology Readiness Level 7 by the third quarter of FY-26 -- meaning that the prototype has been demonstrated in an operational environment.

Interested vendors are invited to an industry day at Redstone Arsenal, AL July 18, and white papers are due Aug. 7.

In a report accompanying the Senate Armed Services Committee’s version of the FY-25 defense authorization bill, released earlier this week, lawmakers noted the threat posed by “Group 1 to Group 3+ unmanned aerial systems and UAS swarms, both to the Homeland and to U.S. military operations, installations, and personnel worldwide."

Senate authorizers stated in the legislation that the Pentagon must test directed-energy capabilities and servicemembers must be trained to operate directed-energy weapons before they can be deployed against UAS.

The committee has included a provision directing the defense secretary to brief the congressional defense committees by March 31, 2025 on the capability of the Pentagon to test directed-energy systems, and its plans to increase that capability. The briefing is to include a list of DOD test ranges that currently conduct directed-energy testing, along with information on any impacts the tests may have on the National Airspace System and the electromagnetic spectrum as well as a plan to “expand range support for DE testing and operations.”

By John Liang
July 10, 2024 at 1:59 PM

The bulk of this Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest centers on coverage of the Senate Armed Services Committee's fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill.

Before we get to the bill though, we have coverage of the NATO summit being held this week in Washington:

Hicks calls for multinational procurement efforts at NATO summit

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks called for a multinational surge in defense industrial capacity procurement at a NATO summit today amid officials' discussions of Ukrainian aid pledges.

Moving on to the authorization bill, let's start off with the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

Senate authorizers raise concerns over DOD's CMMC program

The Senate Armed Services Committee outlined its concerns over the implementation of the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program and the upcoming launch of version 2.0 in the report accompanying its version of the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill.

The bill also has ground vehicle provisions:

Senate authorizers want to know when Army will field protection systems for combat vehicles

Senate authorizers want to know when the Army plans to field active protection systems that would make combat vehicles more survivable against threats on the future battlefield.

Senate authorizers want Army to finish humvee rollover prevention program five years early

Senate authorizers are asking the Army to speed up a program that retrofits humvees with kits designed to prevent rollovers and increase the survivability five years ahead of schedule.

. . . Along with unmanned systems language:

Senate defense authorization bill seeks proposal for UAS budget line 'consolidation'

Senate authorizers are asking the Army secretary to submit a proposal for "consolidating" funding lines related to small unmanned systems, according to the Senate version of the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill.

MQ-25 early manufacturing effort needs nearly $50 million capital injection

The Navy's MQ-25 Stingray needs an immediate $50 million cash infusion to prop up early engineering and manufacturing development efforts, a 22% increase compared to service plans for the Boeing-led project to deliver a first-ever operational uncrewed aircraft to the aircraft carrier fleet.

. . . Plus Navy shipbuilding provisions:

Senate authorizers take aim at frigate and LSM design maturity standards

Senate authorizers aim to raise shipbuilding design maturity standards with their version of the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill, which would fence procurement funding for the Navy’s Landing Ship Medium and Constellation-class frigate until ship designs satisfy heightened maturity requirements.

. . . As well as Army night vision gear:

Senate authorizers propose steep cuts to embattled Army night vision program

Senate authorizers, in their version of the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill, have proposed cutting most of the procurement funding requested by the Army in the upcoming fiscal year for its Integrated Visual Augmentation System.

By Nickolai Sukharev
July 10, 2024 at 12:44 PM

(Editor’s note: Kongsberg reported their quarterly financial information in Norwegian Krone. This story uses the conversion rate to the U.S. dollar as of July 10, 2024.)

Kongsberg defense revenue increased by 28% for the second quarter of 2024 driven in part by U.S. air defense and remotely operated weapon systems, company executives reported during a quarterly earnings presentation today.

With defense segment revenues at $413 million, President and CEO Geir Håøy said programs with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Army “were an important milestone” in the Norwegian company’s defense profits for the second quarter of this year.

Kongsberg’s defense segment is currently contracted to produce the Joint Strike Missile (JSM) for the U.S. Air Force and the Common Remotely Operated Weapon Station (CROWS) for the U.S. Army.

In total, the company reported an approximate $1.08 billion in revenue with growth ranging from 8% to 28% across all segments, which include maritime, aerospace and digital design.

Based off the Navy’s Strike Missile, the JSM is an air-launched cruise missile with a 345-mile range designed to be fired from an F-35.

“The U.S. Air Force is by far the largest purchaser of F-35s and represent a huge potential for our missile going forward,” Håøy said during the presentation. “We expect more countries to order the missile in the next years.”

Kongsberg also opened a new factory associated with the JASM, which Håøy added would contribute to further growth.

The CROWS is a remotely operated machine gun that allows soldiers the fire on targets from inside combat vehicles without having to expose themselves to enemy fire. The Army is currently fitting the system to the Stryker combat vehicle, according to service budget documents.

Mette Toft Bjørgen, the company’s financial officer, noted that CROWS was the “largest contributor” to growth in the defense segment.

Partnering with Textron, Kongsberg is also designing lethal payloads for the U.S. Army’s Robotic Combat Vehicle program, an unmanned vehicle designed to operate alongside manned units.

By Shelley K. Mesch
July 10, 2024 at 12:21 PM

Ukraine's military will begin flying operational F-16 fighter jets later this summer, according to a joint statement from the White House, Denmark and the Netherlands.

The Danish and Dutch governments are giving the country the jets with support from the United States, according to the statement, and Belgium and Norway have committed to supplying more aircraft.

President Joe Biden, Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and Dutch Prime Minister Dick Schoof are co-leaders of the Air Force Capability Coalition for Ukraine.

“We are committed to further enhancing Ukraine’s air capabilities, which will include squadrons of modern fourth-generation F-16 multirole aircraft,” the co-leaders said. “The coalition intends to support their sustainment and armament as well as further associated training for pilots to enhance operational effectiveness.”

Military support for Ukraine as it continues its more than two-year battle against Russia’s invasion is a key issue for NATO leaders as they meet this week in Washington, DC.

Ukrainian pilots began training on F-16s in the U.S. last year.

Many lawmakers last year urged DOD to send U.S. F-16s to Ukraine, but the Biden administration and allied countries hesitated to provide the jets.

Last week, the Defense Department announced the most recent aid package to Ukraine: $2.3 billion for air defense interceptors and other capabilities.

By Shelley K. Mesch
July 9, 2024 at 4:46 PM

Assistant Air Force Secretary for Financial Management and Comptroller Kristyn Jones, who performed the duties of the service under secretary for more than a year, will retire from the government tomorrow, the service announced today.

Jones began her role as assistant secretary in May 2022, and from March 2023 until May of this year, she acted as the Air Force under secretary. During this time, she helped shape the service’s “Reoptimization for Great Power Competition” plan to meet the potential threat posed by near peer adversaries, particularly China.

“I want to express my gratitude to Kristyn Jones for her dedicated service while serving as under secretary,” Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in May. “Her leadership and focus was invaluable as we advanced our modernization priorities and efforts to reoptimize the department for an era of great power competition.”

Melissa Dalton took over as under secretary in May following her Senate confirmation, more than a year after former Under Secretary Gina Ortiz Jones left the position.

Jones previously served in the Army and worked in financial management for both the Navy and Army.