The Insider

By Tony Bertuca
December 17, 2021 at 8:53 AM

The Senate voted last night to confirm Adm. Christopher Grady as the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Grady, whose term will last four years, will succeed Gen. John Hyten, who retired in November.

During his confirmation hearing, Grady pledged to work to accelerate the Pentagon's notoriously slow acquisition process, while also guarding against military "parochialism."

Grady, who will now become chairman of the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, also said he would stand against “mission creep” whenever possible.

“We do have a tendency to Christmas tree things a little too much,” he said during his hearing. “Simplicity can be sublime in many perspectives and from a technology perspective we should look for that.”

By Ethan Sterenfeld
December 16, 2021 at 2:57 PM

The Army announced today upcoming rotations of three brigades to South Korea, Europe and the Middle East.

All three brigades come from the service’s active-duty component, and they will deploy in the second quarter of fiscal year 2022.

The 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division, from Ft. Bliss, TX, will replace that division’s 3rd ABCT in South Korea, according to the Army’s announcement.

The 3rd ABCT, 4th Infantry Division, from Ft. Carson, CO, will replace the 1st ABCT, 1st Infantry Division in Europe. There, it will support NATO allies.

The 1st Infantry BCT, 10th Mountain Division, from Ft. Drum, NY, will replace the 1st Stryker BCT, 4th Infantry Division, on a deployment to the Middle East. The infantry brigade will support Operation Inherent Resolve, the campaign against ISIS.

Each deployment was described as “part of a regular rotation of forces” in the Army announcement.

By John Liang
December 16, 2021 at 1:54 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on defense industry microelectronics, the possibility of space-based biomanufacturing and more.

Inside Defense recently interviewed Will Marsh, president of the Printed Circuit Board Association of America, a consortium formed in April consisting of U.S.-based companies that advocate for legislation to bolster domestic production of printed circuit boards:

Industry group calls for holistic approach to microelectronics 'ecosystem'

An industry group formed earlier this year is calling for a holistic approach to the microelectronics "ecosystem" that includes increasing federal investment in the printed circuit board industry to build a resilient supply chain and domestic manufacturing base.

We also chatted with Anne Cheever, program manager for DARPA's Biomanufacturing: Survival, Utility and Reliability beyond Earth (B-SURE) effort:

DARPA exploring in-space biomanufacturing under new B-SURE program

A new program from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency will consider the feasibility and economic viability for space-based biomanufacturing.

Boeing executives spoke this week about various aircraft being built at the company's facility in St. Louis:

Boeing ramping up Navy's Super Hornet Block III conversion

ST. LOUIS -- Boeing is converting the Navy's F/A-18E/F Super Hornets to the most advanced version of the fighter jet -- at a much faster pace than before.

Boeing 'keenly interested' in USAF tactical trainer requirements

ST. LOUIS -- Boeing's T-7 program manager said the company is "keenly interested" in the Air Force's new requirements surrounding a future advanced tactical trainer and expressed confidence the platform set to replace the aging T-38 could meet those needs.

Don't expect the Marine Corps' Assault Amphibious Vehicle to go back into the water anytime soon:

Marine Corps announces AAVs will no longer deploy or train in water

The Marine Corps' Assault Amphibious Vehicle will no longer take part in regularly scheduled deployments or participate in water training exercises, the service announced Wednesday.

By Courtney Albon
December 16, 2021 at 12:49 PM

The Space Development Agency plans to launch a competition in the next year or two for an application factory to support its on-orbit and ground-based battle management assets, but has yet to answer a key question: Should it develop its own environment or leverage existing Defense Department and industry capabilities?

In a new request for information, the agency poses that question to industry, requesting feedback on the three options it’s considering: establishing its own application factory modeled on the Air Force’s Platform One; use an existing DOD or non-DOD environment that has a continuous authorization to operate (cATO) in place; or use a commercially available application factory that features DevSecOps principles and has, or could attain, a cATO.

The RFI notes the responses will inform a forthcoming solicitation slated for release in fiscal year 2022 or FY-23 and will be shared with DOD’s Fully Networked Command, Control and Communications directorate.

The application factory is meant to support SDA’s battle management command, control and communications (BMC3) layer, which will provide the hardware and software for mission processing, algorithms and applications across the agency’s proliferated low-Earth-orbit National Defense Space Architecture.

The BMC3 layer will include a satellite module, a secure interoperability middleware layer (SIL), the application factory and the eventual applications. The factory would provide continuous software updates to the other elements of the layer and the vendor would be responsible for delivering the SIL.

By Courtney Albon
December 15, 2021 at 5:44 PM

The White House today announced its intent to nominate Booz Allen Hamilton executive Frank Calvelli to serve as assistant Air Force secretary for space acquisition -- a key post for the Space Force as it seeks to reform the way it develops and buys space capabilities.

Calvelli, a senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, previously served for eight years as the principal deputy director of the National Reconnaissance Office. According to a White House press release, Calvelli oversaw a significant space portfolio that included “satellite and ground system acquisition, systems engineering and satellite mission operations.”

The designation of a senior procurement executive for space acquisition programs is a significant step for the service, which was required to create the position as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act.

By Aidan Quigley
December 15, 2021 at 3:40 PM

The Navy conducted a high-energy laser weapons system demonstration from an amphibious transport dock ship Tuesday, the service announced.

The Portland (LPD-27) used the Solid State Laser-Technology Maturation Laser Weapons System Demonstrator (LWSD) Mark 2 MOD 0 P to engage a static surface training target while sailing in the Gulf of Aden.

“Portland previously tested the LWSD in May 2020 when it successfully disabled a small unmanned aerial system while operating in the Pacific Ocean,” the service said in a statement.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said on Twitter that “directed energy is the future of our Navy” following the test.

By Courtney Albon
December 15, 2021 at 2:30 PM

As the Space Force approaches the beginning of its third year as an independent military service, Staff Director Lt. Gen. Nina Armagno said today she hopes the service begins to deliver results from the new processes and structure it’s been designing the past two years.

“I hope I’m able to say that in year three, you’ll see us really putting our tires on the track and just really moving out and delivering the things that we’ve been thinking about and working on and designing,” Armagno said during a virtual Washington Space Business Roundtable event.

More specifically, Armagno indicated the service may publicly unveil the missile warning and tracking force design it developed this year through the Space Warfighting Analysis Center, adding that the SWAC would continue its evaluation for other mission areas.

The service will also likely take steps toward growing, Armagno said, noting that the 300 personnel working as headquarters staff is less than half what the service needs.

“We’re going to stay lean, agile and mission-focused, but we need more than 300 people to do it on the headquarters staff,” Armagno said. “You’ll see us grow not necessarily in terms of volume, but in terms of capability.”

Armagno noted she would also like to see the service and the Biden administration make more progress transitioning the space traffic management mission from the Defense Department to the Commerce Department, saying the slowed momentum on the effort is counter to the Space Force’s “go fast” mantra.

“I think we all need to be demanding customers. . . . And I think the American people should be demanding customers as well,” Armagno said. “We’re not necessarily satisfied with the pace, understanding there are a lot of things to consider and work out.”

Highlighting plans to transfer the Space Development Agency into the Space Force next fall, Armagno said that transition will help the service better work with commercial companies both to leverage capability and to build better processes for moving quickly to develop and field capabilities.

“I call it . . . hacking commercial -- basically trying to figure out what commercial companies, how they can move so quickly and trying to capitalize on some of their innovation and inventiveness and bring it to the hands of operational warfighters.”

By John Liang
December 15, 2021 at 2:02 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a DARPA drone program, a possible increased Army presence in the Indo-Pacific region and more.

The three contractors involved in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's LongShot drone program are progressing with performer trade studies and analyses:

DARPA aims to finish first phase of LongShot drone program next summer

The head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's LongShot drone program hopes to wrap up the preliminary design work tied to the effort's initial phase by the close of this coming summer, as officials continue to look toward fiscal year 2024 for the first potential flight test.

Adm. John Aquilino, head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, is interested in an increased Army presence across the region to enhance deterrence by demonstrating the service's ability to work with partner nations:

DOD eyes stepping up Army presence in Pacific, 'Get the Chinese's attention'

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- The Defense Department is eyeing increased Army deployments across the Indo-Pacific in a gambit to put boots on the ground -- rotating in and out of different countries -- for as many as six months a year to demonstrate a commitment to the region and create conditions for increased access in the event of a crisis with China.

The FY-22 defense policy bill, passed by the full House last week and the Senate today, includes a measure that provides the Army with additional funding for the development of Chinook Block II technologies:

Authorizers prioritize Chinook upgrades in bill

House and Senate Armed Services committee members boosted funding for CH-47 Chinook helicopter improvements in the fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill, noting the unique role the aircraft plays for the Army.

More cyber defense news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

DOD releases self-assessment guide for CMMC level one compliance

The Defense Department has published a revised guide for level one of its Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, detailing practices companies must achieve to reach compliance through conducting a self-assessment of their security measures.

Document: DOD's self-assessment guide for CMMC level one compliance

Inside Defense recently interviewed the head of the Army's ground combat systems programs:

Not all Abrams to be upgraded to SEPv3 before SEPv4 production begins

The Army does not plan to upgrade all of its M1A2 Abrams tanks to the SEPv3 standard before it begins production of the SEPv4, Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, the program executive officer for ground combat systems, said in a Dec. 9 interview.

By Tony Bertuca
December 15, 2021 at 12:27 PM

The Senate voted 89-10 today to send the annual defense authorization bill to President Biden for his signature.

The bill is now set to be signed into law for the 61st consecutive year.

The bill includes $740 billion specifically for the Pentagon, which is $25 billion more than Biden requested earlier this year. The bill also authorizes about $28 billion for the Energy Department's nuclear weapons programs.

The bill does not include an additional $10 billion outside of the legislation's jurisdiction that is set to be appropriated elsewhere, bringing total U. S. defense spending to about $778 billion for FY-22.

However, Congress, which is operating under a stopgap continuing resolution that expires Feb. 18, has yet to agree to a spending package that would actually appropriate the money.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) warned of a full-year CR in the event Congress cannot reach an agreement.

“A full-year CR would not only reduce defense spending by $35 billion compared with the levels set forth in the [defense authorization bill] that [Republicans] claim to support, it would actually cut defense spending below last year’s levels,” he said.

He urged Democrats and Republicans to find a bipartisan solution.

“We are 10 weeks into the fiscal year,” he said. “Let’s get to work negotiating full-year appropriations bills that address our country’s many needs, including our country’s national defense.”

By Aidan Quigley
December 15, 2021 at 11:34 AM

The Navy announced its plan to procure Block II of its Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) airborne mine detection system and released a statement of work for the program Tuesday.

COBRA detects minefields and obstacles when flown over a beach zone and can be integrated with the Navy’s unmanned MQ-8 Fire Scout. The program reached initial operational capability in 2017, according to a Navy press release.

The Navy issued Arete Associates a $40.4 million contract, with options for up to $93 million, in Sept. 2018 for COBRA Block 1 systems, COBRA systems support and spares.

The Navy plans on releasing the request for proposals for the program in the second quarter of fiscal year 2022. The service is seeking to issue a contract for the development of three engineering and manufacturing development models and up to five low-rate initial production units.

COBRA Block II will conduct aerial tactical reconnaissance in littorals for detection and localization of mines and obstacles in the surf zone, the service’s announcement states.

The Navy issued a sources-sought notice for COBRA Block II in July, and “identified broad interest from numerous responsible industry partners.”

“Based on this research, the government has decided there is a potential for two or more small business concerns capable of competing for the requirement as a Small Business Set-Aside,” the Navy’s announcement states. “As a result, the government intends to release Solicitation N00024-22-R-6402 for limited competition and on a Small Business Set-Aside basis.”

By Courtney Albon
December 15, 2021 at 10:57 AM

General Electric announced today it has finished the first phase of testing on its second XA100 adaptive cycle engine and is eyeing the start of Phase Two tests in early 2022 at the Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Complex.

“Phase 1 testing allowed us to further characterize the operation of the engine and puts us in a great position to begin Phase 2 testing at AEDC,” David Tweedie, general manager for advanced combat engines at GE Edison Works, said in a press release today. “We continue to burn down risk with full-scale engine testing, which is why the XA100 is the lowest-risk, most capable, and fastest approach to keep the F-35 a preeminent fighter platform for the long term.”

GE developed the XA100 as part of the Air Force’s Adaptive Engine Transition Program -- a research and development effort to mature propulsion technology. Pratt & Whitney is also participating in the program.

As both companies’ prototypes -- which were designed to fit into an F-35 -- progress through testing, the Defense Department is considering how the F-35 program, in particular, could benefit from the improved propulsion capability.

The joint program office is working with the Air Force and Navy to develop options to either upgrade the existing Pratt & Whitney-made F135 engine or replace it with a more advanced system and expects to have a modernization plan in place sometime next year.

By Tony Bertuca
December 15, 2021 at 10:28 AM

The Senate has voted to confirm a new Defense Department chief weapons tester, a new DOD chief information officer and a new Army general counsel.

Nickolas Guertin was confirmed to be director of operational test and evaluation, John Sherman to be Pentagon CIO and Carrie Ricci to be Army general counsel.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee has advanced nine other nominations that have yet to receive confirmation votes.

By Aidan Quigley
December 14, 2021 at 3:36 PM

The Marine Corps is looking to adjust its training to ensure Marines are ready and able to operate under the new concepts established in the service's force design work, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger said Tuesday.

Berger, speaking at a Center for a New American Security event Tuesday, said the service is rapidly changing how it trains and manages its personnel.

“Otherwise, all the concepts and capabilities in the world aren’t going to work with the current systems that we have for how we manage our people, develop them, and how we train ourselves,” he said. “Now my shoulder is into those two parts, the training part and the human part, to match the velocity with how we are adjusting our organization.”

The Marine Corps is in the midst of Force Design 2030, Berger’s effort to transition the service from a ground-based Middle East focus to a more maritime focus in the Pacific. The service recently released a guidance calling for forming low-signature but lethal and mobile stand-in forces.

Berger said the Marine Corps is currently experimenting with the operating concepts laid out in the force design work and said new capabilities will start to come onboard starting in 2023.

“Beginning in 2023 really, we’ll have the capabilities in the hands of the commanders they need,” he said.

Berger said he foresees the service fielding ground-based, anti-ship missiles in 2023, with the Light Amphibious Warship joining the fleet as fast as possible. Advancements to radars are also on the horizon, he said.

“All of these things are coming pretty rapidly,” he said.

The Marine Corps wants more funding in upcoming budgets for the LAW in order to support the stand-in forces concept, Berger said earlier this month at the Reagan National Defense Forum.

By John Liang
December 14, 2021 at 2:19 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has coverage of a Naval Audit Service report on the Marine Corps' CH-53K helicopter program and more.

Inside Defense recently obtained a Naval Audit Service report on the Marine Corps' CH-53K helicopter program:

CH-53K program failed to properly implement IP strategy, Naval Audit Service finds

The Marine Corps' CH-53K program did not properly implement its intellectual property strategy, which will limit competition during the sustainment phase of the program, a recent Naval Audit Service report found.

Document: Naval Audit Service report on the CH-53K IP strategy implementation

A Pentagon inspector general's report released this week is the result of an audit lawmakers requested the IG conduct of TransDigm's business model, which has come under fire in the past for alleged price gouging:

Watchdog wants DOD to make TransDigm repay more 'excess profit'

The Defense Department inspector general recommends the Pentagon seek at least a $20.8 million refund from TransDigm Inc., stating in a recent report that the company took the money as "excess profit" on 150 contracts.

Document: DOD IG audit of Transdigm's impact on spare parts pricing

Inside Defense recently interviewed the head of the Army's ground combat systems programs:

Not all Abrams to be upgraded to SEPv3 before SEPv4 production begins

The Army does not plan to upgrade all of its M1A2 Abrams tanks to the SEPv3 standard before it begins production of the SEPv4, Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, the program executive officer for ground combat systems, said in a Dec. 9 interview.

This year's combatant commanders' priority lists are being assessed as the Pentagon primes the pump on a new prototyping process that aims to roll out waves of new technology experiments:

DOD vetting 2021 capability gaps; FY-23 POM funds two new experimentation 'sprints' annually

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- Pentagon leaders are vetting combatant command high-priority, 2021 capability shortfalls as part of an annual plea for new -- and sometimes novel -- technology to address gaps in the current weapons inventory that put at risk their respective war plans.

Six contractors have received the go-ahead to sell Platform One's Big Bang -- an infrastructure-as-code or configuration-as-code package that facilitates the deployment of a custom software factory -- and container registry Iron Bank:

With Platform One resell agreement comes 'a new model for how government does business'

Leveraging "a new model for how government does business," Platform One officials are hoping their recent agreement allowing six companies to resell two products core to the Air Force's software development effort will bolster availability, spur more DevSecOps environments and help inform whether and how other services are commercialized in the future.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
December 14, 2021 at 1:45 PM

The brigade that conducts operational testing next year on the Army's new armored personnel carrier will be the first to have the most recent versions of all of the service's ground combat vehicles.

A brigade at Ft. Stewart, GA, will begin training in January to use and maintain the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle, Brig. Gen. Glenn Dean, program executive officer for ground combat systems, said in a Dec. 9 interview with Inside Defense. Initial operational testing will begin in March.

But in addition to the AMPV that it will test, the brigade has the M1A2 SEPv3 Abrams, Bradley A4 infantry fighting vehicle and M109A7 Paladin self-propelled howitzer, Dean said.

“That will be the first armored brigade with all the latest generations of platforms,” he said. “So that’s a decade of modernization behind us that is now delivering.”

The AMPV will replace the Vietnam-era M113 in armored brigades. After production delays, the vehicle has reached low-rate initial production levels at BAE Systems’ York, PA, plant.