The Insider

By Nickolai Sukharev
February 29, 2024 at 12:01 AM

Anduril Industries and Hanwha Defense will partner for the second increment of the Army's unmanned Small Multipurpose Equipment Transport vehicle (S-MET), according to a company press release.

“By combining Anduril’s mission software integration expertise with Hanwha’s proven hardware platform and Forterra’s mature autonomy stack, the partnership will deliver a differentiated UGV designed to bring capability far beyond equipment transport to a range of missions,” the release reads.

Serving as the prime contractor, Anduril will submit an unmanned vehicle based on Hanwha’s Arion wheeled robotic vehicle. In January, the Marine Corps and Army conducted Foreign Comparative Tests on the Anrion in Hawaii.

Based in the U.S., Anduril specializes in autonomous systems while South Korea-based Hanwha specializes in unmanned combat systems. Forterra, a Maryland-based autonomous vehicle company, also joins the bid.

“Equipped with significant load-carrying and power generation capacity, as well as a modular architecture that ensures the vehicle can integrate and power a vast range of payloads, the new, upgraded vehicle brings both advanced capability and a reduced sustainment burden to dismounted infantry operations,” the release adds.

Designed to support a nine-soldier dismounted infantry unit without resupply, the S-MET is an unmanned robotic vehicle that can carry up to 1,000-pound payloads of equipment. The vehicle has exportable power, can operate on batteries for up to 72 hours and can drive in silent mode for up to 20 miles.

The Army conducted tests for the first increment of the program in 2019 before awarding a $249 million contract for General Dynamics Land Systems’ Multi-Utility Tactical Transport (MUTT) in July 2020.

In December 2023, the Army conducted low-velocity airdrop tests on the MUTT.

The Army is also currently prototyping the Robotic Combat Vehicle, a vehicle designed to carry lethal payloads and accompany infantry units in combat environments.

By Tony Bertuca
February 28, 2024 at 6:40 PM

Congressional leaders have put forth a bipartisan proposal to extend funding deadlines to avert a partial government shutdown, saying more time is needed to craft a final deal on a fiscal year 2024 appropriations package that is within reach.

The proposal is a stopgap continuing resolution that would stop a partial government shutdown on Friday night by extending funding for several government agencies through March 8.

The proposal would also extend government funding for the Defense Department through March 22. Under the current CR, funding for DOD only runs through March 8.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a statement saying the CR extensions are needed to give Congress time to flesh out an FY-24 appropriations agreement that has -- “in principle” -- been struck.

“Negotiators have come to an agreement on six bills: Agriculture-[Food and Drug Administration], Commerce-Justice and Science, Energy and Water Development, Interior, Military Construction-[Veterans Affairs], and Transportation-[Housing and Urban Development],” he said. "After preparing final text, this package of six full-year appropriations bills will be voted on and enacted prior to March 8. These bills will adhere to the Fiscal Responsibility Act discretionary spending limits and January’s topline spending agreement.”

The remaining six bills, which includes funding for DOD, “will be finalized, voted on and enacted prior to March 22," McConnell said.

Meanwhile, President Biden is scheduled to send his FY-25 request to Congress on March 11.

By John Liang
February 28, 2024 at 1:28 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Lockheed Martin passing a major milestone in its Next Generation Interceptor prototype effort, the Space Development Agency's Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture program, plus DOD's work on integrating AI into military systems and more.

Lockheed Martin has been cleared by the Missile Defense Agency to publicly announce the company has passed a major acquisition milestone for its Next Generation Interceptor prototype:

Lockheed clears major milestone review in NGI competition; now executing detailed design

Lockheed Martin today announced its Next Generation Interceptor prototype has formally cleared the first of six major acquisition hurdles established for the homeland defense guided missile program, the culmination of more than two years' work that a company executive said was marked by "unprecedented" technical rigor.

The head of the Space Development Agency spoke this week at the Defense and Intelligence Space Conference:

Tournear: Nuclear ASAT attack would be a 'black swan event'

The Space Development Agency won't change its approach to creating the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture in response to reports of a Russian space-based nuclear weapon, according to Director Derek Tournear.

Tournear also talked about the ongoing stopgap spending measure wreaking havoc on various SDA acquisition programs:

Two SDA programs put on hold during CR

Two of the Space Development Agency's programs are on hold until Congress can pass a fiscal year 2024 budget, threatening the outfit's timeline for satellite launches, according to Director Derek Tournear.

Dave McKeown, DOD’s chief information officer for cybersecurity and the senior information security officer, spoke this week at the 2024 Cybersecurity Summit:

DOD cyber chief emphasizes AI monitoring moving toward zero-trust policy

The Defense Department's cybersecurity chief said this week that integrating artificial intelligence into military systems is the only way to keep pace with foreign adversaries as DOD moves toward its zero-trust security policy.

The Army's top uniformed and civilian officials spoke this week at a Defense Writers Group breakfast:

Army making thousands of force structure cuts to support modernization

The Army is cutting 24,000 authorizations, or spaces, to make way for 7,500 new spaces that will support a series of new capabilities the service aims to implement, service leaders announced this week.

By Nick Wilson
February 28, 2024 at 10:07 AM

The Navy this week selected technology company Sigma Defense to serve as its "autonomy baseline manager," a role that will help guide the integration of software for autonomous systems across the service, according to a Feb. 26 Pentagon contract announcement.

The $19 million award goes to SOLUTE, a subsidiary of Sigma Defense, which is expected to complete work in February 2025 for this initial one-year base period. The total contract value could reach $59 million with work stretching into 2029 if four additional option years are exercised.

As the autonomy baseline manager, or ABM, the company will support the Navy’s unmanned maritime systems office (PMS 406), performing “oversight and management of autonomous systems development and the associated central software repository for unmanned autonomy artifacts, processes and procedures,” the notice states.

Sigma Defense was one of two companies to bid for the contract, the Pentagon notice states. In a separate company announcement, Sigma Defense describes its new role as supporting the Navy’s development of a network of unmanned platforms by integrating the autonomy software employed by these systems.

“Leveraging its extensive expertise in DevSecOps, Sigma Defense will deliver tools and processes to manage pipelines and integrate autonomous capabilities among unmanned vehicles (UxVs),” the company announcement states. “Specifically, Sigma Defense will employ DevSecOps and agile methodologies using the Rapid Autonomy Integration Lab (RAIL) process, which includes a software factory for continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) of software to UxVs.”

In 2021, Inside Defense reported that the ABM role would be established in conjunction with the Navy’s Rapid Autonomy Integration Lab efforts to help advance the development of a network of autonomous platforms. The Navy hosted two ABM industry days in 2021 before releasing a preselection in September 2022 and an official solicitation in January 2023.

“The Sigma Defense mission is to autonomously connect people, systems and data, and we accomplish that through the development and delivery of software via a proven DevSecOps platform,” said Sigma Defense CEO Matt Jones in a statement included in the company’s release. “Providing integration services for autonomy software for unmanned vehicles under the Autonomy Baseline Manager (ABM) contract is further delivering on our commitment of ensuring decision dominance for NAVSEA.”

By Georgina DiNardo
February 28, 2024 at 9:00 AM

U.S. Special Operations Command has awarded a $6.9 million contract to drone technology company PDW today for delivery of a radio system that can overcome contested radio-frequency environments.

The radio system, called Blackwave, “is a secure, digital link that is resistant to intentional and unintentional interference,” a PDW press release said.

"The war in Ukraine has made it clear that drone systems must complete missions in highly contested environments where radio interference and unreliable GPS are the rule rather than the exception,” company CEO Ryan Gury said in the release.

Blackwave, which allows communications and small robotics to operate in jammed environments, was tested by the Joint Vulnerability Assessment Branch, proving “to be a durable, tactical wireless link,” according to the company.

“The partnership between PDW and USSOCOM furthers their commitments to military innovation by solving problems in an evolving battlefield and arming the future warfighter with state-of-the-art technology,” the company said.

By Dan Schere
February 27, 2024 at 4:32 PM

Lockheed Martin's Sikorsky will build a tiltwing, hybrid-electric vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) demonstrator, the company announced today.

The initiative seeks to achieve “greater than a 500-nautical-mile range at high speed, fewer mechanical systems to reduce complexity and lower maintenance costs,” according to Sikorsky.

Sikorsky Innovations and GE Aerospace are also working on a hybrid-electric power systems testbed with a 600-kilowatt electric motor. The testbed will be used to evaluate the demonstrator, which will weigh a maximum of 9,000 pounds and have a 1.2-megawatt class turbogenerator.

This will be the first in a series of next-generation VTOL aircraft, which will feature “varying degrees of electrification and an advanced autonomy system for optionally piloted flight,” according to Sikorsky.

Sikorsky President Paul Lemmo said in a statement Tuesday that “autonomy and electrification will bring transformational change to flight safety and operational efficiency of large VTOL aircraft.”

“Our HEX demonstrator program will provide valuable insights as we look to a future family of aircraft built to the scale and preferred configurations relevant to commercial and military customers,” he said.

Tuesday’s announcement comes a few weeks after the Army canceled the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program as part of an aviation portfolio restructure, in which Sikorsky had been one of two finalists with competing bids. Sikorsky, which manufactures the Black Hawk, will also see production end for the UH-60V version of that aircraft, the Army announced Feb. 8 as part of the restructure. However, the Army also plans to invest in the newer UH-60M model of the aircraft.

By Abby Shepherd
February 27, 2024 at 4:26 PM

Defense contractor Leonardo DRS announced today it has signed a ground lease for a naval propulsion manufacturing facility in Charleston, SC, with initial occupancy targeted for 2026.

“When complete there will be over 140,000 square feet of purpose-built advanced manufacturing, assembly and testing space representing an approximate net investment of $120 million by DRS,” the company said in a news release. “The new capabilities made possible by this investment will play a key role in the continued expansion of propulsion system integration and testing for the company.”

Large components for advanced naval electric propulsion systems will be manufactured, integrated and tested at the new facility, including solid-state drives, control systems and cooling equipment. With the facility located near a local waterway, there will be direct access to shipbuilding customers, the company added.

“We are proud to be building the next-generation electric propulsion system components for the new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine,” Leonardo DRS CEO Bill Lynn said in the release. “This new facility in South Carolina expands our capability to support our U.S. Navy customers on this and other critical programs that enhance the nation’s submarine industrial base.”

By Dan Schere
February 27, 2024 at 4:22 PM

Lt. Gen. Jon Jensen, director of the Army National Guard, ordered an aviation stand down of all Guard helicopter units Feb. 26 following two Apache helicopter crashes this month, the Guard announced today.

AH-64D Apache helicopters crashed in Utah Feb. 12, and Mississippi Feb. 23, the latter of which killed two pilots. The two crashes led the Guard to ground all helicopters “for safety reasons,” according to the service. The stand down will allow the units to review safety policies and procedures.

Jensen said in a statement Tuesday that “safety is always at the top of our minds. We will stand down to ensure all of our crews are prepared as well as possible for whatever they’re asked to do.”

In April 2023, then-Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville ordered a 24-hour aviation stand down following two helicopter crashes that killed 12 soldiers.

By Tony Bertuca
February 27, 2024 at 3:54 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee today voted to advance the nomination of Adm. Samuel Paparo to be chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, sending the matter to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Paparo, who was first nominated in July, currently serves as the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet. If confirmed, he will succeed Adm. John Aquilino as INDOPACOM commander.

Paparo has recently discussed the need for autonomous systems to provide “persistent stare” over his area of responsibility to better deter China from possible military action against Taiwan.

He has also raised alarm over congressional budgetary dysfunction and the negative impact it is having on the Navy’s buying power.

By John Liang
February 27, 2024 at 2:07 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Army force structure cuts, the Space Development Agency's struggles with the continuing resolution, Army arctic units and more.

The Army's top uniformed and civilian officials spoke this morning at a Defense Writers Group breakfast:

Army making thousands of force structure cuts to support modernization

The Army is cutting 24,000 authorizations, or spaces, to make way for 7,500 new spaces that will support a series of new capabilities the service aims to implement, service leaders announced today.

The ongoing stopgap spending measure continues to wreak havoc on various defense acquisition programs, most recently affecting the Space Development Agency:

Two SDA programs put on hold during CR

Two of the Space Development Agency's programs are on hold until Congress can pass a fiscal year 2024 budget, threatening the outfit's timeline for satellite launches, Director Derek Tournear said today.

Army Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commanding general of the 11th Airborne Division, based in Alaska, spoke with reporters this week:

Arctic units ready as fighting force and provide 'credible deterrent,' general says

Exercises show that the Army's arctic units are a "credible deterrent" and ready for large-scale conflicts in winter conditions, according to the unit's commanding general.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin recently spoke about the restructuring he has planned for his service:

Air Force wants to send whole units into combat, not just individual airmen

DENVER -- The Air Force is changing the way it presents units to the Defense Department's 11 combatant commands as part of a massive structural overhaul announced earlier this month at the Air and Space Forces Association's Warfare Symposium.

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

Comment period closes for proposed rule to implement Pentagon's CMMC program

The Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program enters a new stage this week with the end of the public comment period for a massive, proposed rulemaking that sets up parameters to implement the long-awaited initiative.

By Georgina DiNardo
February 27, 2024 at 1:24 PM

The Defense Policy Board will hold two closed meetings on March 5 and 6 to discuss classified information pertaining to how the nation's Defense Critical Infrastructure would be affected by an attack from China, according to a notice published in the Federal Register today.

Sasha Baker, acting under secretary of defense for policy, and Madeline Mortelmans, acting assistant defense secretary for strategy, plans and capabilities, are scheduled to provide the board with a strategic overview.

Thomas Sisk, defense intelligence officer for China, will then discuss what challenges China poses to the DCI and U.S. homeland. Teresa Whelan, director of defense intelligence collections and special programs, and Lauren Murphy, from the office of cost assessment and program evaluation, will lay out the potential impacts of a possible Chinese attack.

Rebecca Zimmerman, who is performing the duties of the assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs, is also slated to brief the group.

Then Zimmerman, with help from Caitlin Durkovich, special assistant to the president and deputy homeland security advisor for resilience and response on the national security council, and Iranga Kahangama, assistant secretary for cyber, infrastructure, risk and resilience at the Homeland Security Department, will speak about interagency views on China’s wartime threat to DCI.

Gen. Gregory Guillot, commander of U.S. Northern Command, and Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, commander of U.S. Transportation Command, will both discuss how their commands view the challenge.

Discussion will continue March 6 with the board scheduled to provide its recommendations to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in the future.

By Tony Bertuca
February 26, 2024 at 3:12 PM

The Pentagon has concluded in an internal review that there was no "ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate" in how senior officials and staff handled the secrecy surrounding Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's hospitalization last month, releasing an unclassified summary today of key events and observations intended to improve the department's "transfer of authorities" and notification processes.

The classified review covers the period between Jan. 1 and Jan. 5 in which Austin was hospitalized for complications following surgery to treat prostate cancer. A key focus of the review was to evaluate the processes and procedures through which Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was notified that she would be assuming Austin’s duties due to his medical absence.

The review found that Hicks was “at all times positioned” to perform Austin’s duties while he was hospitalized.

Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, told reporters today that “there was no gap in terms of when the transfer of authorities occurred.”

“There was never any gap in authorities of command and control,” he said.

Additionally, the 30-day review “focused on understanding the facts and evaluating the processes and procedures in place at the time to inform recommendations on process improvements, including relating to notifications,” the unclassified summary states.

Austin has been the target of significant criticism, especially from congressional Republicans, following news of his hospitalization as he did not notify President Biden, the White House National Security Council or Congress.

The internal review, which is separate from an ongoing Pentagon inspector general investigation, is unlikely to end the political controversy around the matter as Austin, who has apologized for how he handled the situation, is scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday. Some lawmakers on the committee have called for his resignation over the incident.

The internal review itself has also been criticized by congressional Republicans as it was directed by Austin’s chief of staff Kelly Magsamen, who herself has been criticized by lawmakers for not notifying the White House and congressional defense committees.

The full review, which is classified, makes eight specific recommendations, while the unclassified summary attempts to provide “context” for the incident, noting Austin’s staff was “limited in three significant ways” when it came to notifying the White House and the public about his condition.

“First, medical privacy laws prohibited medical providers from candid sharing of medical information with the secretary’s staff,” the summary states. “Second, for privacy reasons, his staff were hesitant to pry or share any information that they did learn. Third, the secretary’s medical situation remained in flux and as long as he remained in the Critical Care Unit, timely secured communications could not be assured.”

The review summary states that in “hindsight” the department’s “process for making decisions to transfer the secretary’s authority could and should be improved.”

The summary states that “nothing examined during this review demonstrated any indication of ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate.”

By John Liang
February 26, 2024 at 2:10 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the continuing dysfunction on Capitol Hill over not having a full-year spending bill passed, plus the Marine Corps being the first military service branch to achieve a clean audit and more.

The continuing dysfunction on Capitol Hill over the lack of an enacted full-year spending bill has affected a variety of defense programs. Here are two examples:

Counter-drone programs in spotlight as Congress stalls $560M in supplemental funding

Ongoing congressional dysfunction is blocking $560 million in supplemental spending intended to help U.S. Central Command counter drone attacks against U.S. troops in the Middle East.

MQ-25 reprogramming hung up by continuing resolution

The Navy's MQ-25 Stingray uncrewed aircraft system program has been slowed awaiting congressional approval of a reprogramming request, from which money will go toward remedying obsolescence issues tied to the MQ-25's design.

The Marine Corps has accomplished a goal it has been working towards for almost two decades and becomes the first service branch to achieve a clean audit:

Marine Corps passes audit, becoming first service branch to do so

The Marine Corps passed its fiscal year 2023 audit, according to senior officials, who today announced they received an "unmodified audit opinion" from an independent public accountant after a two-year review of the service's equipment and its financial and information control systems.

Autonomous aircraft operator Xwing wants to be included in the Air Force's first large-scale multicombatant command exercise scheduled to take place in the Indo-Pacific in 2025:

Xwing eyes exercises in Indo-Pacific to demonstrate autonomous capability

After receiving approval to perform critical cargo missions for the Air Force, autonomous aircraft operator Xwing said their "phones started ringing" from other "partners in the military" interested in working with the company, including Pacific Air Forces.

Inside Defense recently interviewed the top Republican on the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee about the Army's termination of a multibillion-dollar helicopter program:

Wittman believes hearing on Army aviation restructure will help bring clarity

House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee Chairman Rob Wittman (R-VA) still has unanswered questions about the Army's announcement earlier this month that it would be canceling the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft program, as part of a reorganization of the service's aviation portfolio.

By Nick Wilson
February 26, 2024 at 12:13 PM

The Navy has awarded shipbuilder HII a contract modification worth approximately $1.2 billion for the engineering overhaul of the Los Angeles-class submarine Boise (SSN-764), according to a Pentagon contract announcement.

Boise has been sidelined since 2017, with the fast-attack submarine awaiting its overhaul while the Navy worked to dig its way out of a maintenance backlog. A series of delays prevented Boise from beginning its maintenance availability at Naval Station Norfolk, a public shipyard.

The Feb. 23 award clears the way for HII’s Newport News Shipbuilding to begin work on the submarine, with the overhaul expected to be finished by September 2029.

In March 2023, a Navy spokesperson told Inside Defense the vessel was undergoing early production work at Newport News to support the overhaul.

During an October hearing, then-Naval Submarine Forces Commander Adm. William Houston told lawmakers that maintenance backlogs pose the greatest challenge to submarine fleet readiness.

The Navy improved submarine operational availability from a rate of 60% to 66% within the past year, Houston said at the time, and is leveraging ongoing investments in both public and private infrastructure to achieve further improvements. The service is on track to reach an 80% operational availability rate for its attack submarines by late 2027 or early 2028, he said.

By Tony Bertuca
February 26, 2024 at 5:00 AM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to testify before the House Armed Services Committee this week to discuss his unannounced medical absence, while senior defense officials are slated to speak at a variety of other public events.


The National Security Space Association hosts the Defense and Intelligence Space Conference in Reston, VA. The event runs through Wednesday.


The Cybersecurity Summit 2024 is held in Washington.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds a hearing on security issues in Yemen and the Red Sea.


The Brookings Institute hosts a discussion with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin.

The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on Ukraine with the Joint Staff director for logistics.

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on workforce challenges related to the U.S. defense industrial base.


The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on his unannounced medical absence.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion with Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Christopher Grady.

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a budget posture hearing with the heads of U.S. Space Command and U.S. Strategic Command.