The Insider

By Tony Bertuca
December 14, 2021 at 1:29 PM

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted today to advance the nomination of Adm. Christopher Grady to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Grady’s nomination now moves to the full Senate for a confirmation vote.

Grady is currently commander of U.S. Fleet Forces. If confirmed, he would succeed retired Gen. John Hyten as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and serve a four-year term.

During his Dec. 8 confirmation hearing, Grady said he intends to insert speed wherever he can in the Pentagon's labyrinthine acquisition process, while also guarding against military "parochialism."

By Tony Bertuca
December 14, 2021 at 12:35 PM

The Senate voted 86-13 to end debate today on the annual defense authorization bill, signaling the bill will likely pass this week with a lopsided majority and be sent to President Biden soon after.

The House has already voted to pass the compromise version of the bill, clearing the way for it to be signed into law for the 61st consecutive year.

The bill authorizes $768 billion in national defense spending. It does not include an additional $10 billion outside of the legislation's jurisdiction that is set to be appropriated elsewhere, which would bring total defense spending to about $778 billion for fiscal year 2022.

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

By Jaspreet Gill
December 14, 2021 at 12:22 PM

House and Senate lawmakers are directing the Pentagon's Strategic Capabilities Office to establish a pilot program oriented around broad missions to close significant capability gaps in "high-priority theaters" with funding sourced from private investment resources.

The SCO would act as the mission manager “to integrate any commercially provided mission capabilities with existing programs, systems, capabilities and processes necessary to implement mission solutions,” according to the compromise fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill.

The SCO would also develop metrics to assess the progress of the program and frequently report to Congress about whether to continue or expand the pilot program.

According to the joint explanatory statement, the pilot program would be oriented around broad missions or operational challenges like “maintaining the ability to conduct air operations from Guam or to conduct joint logistics and resupply missions, all amid rapidly worsening threats.”

The provision directs that funding for the pilot program would be sourced through private investment resources, like equity of venture capital, “and such capabilities should be used to integrate existing Department of Defense platforms and capabilities.”

“The pilot should be structured to accommodate and balance risks and rewards for both the government and the private sector,” according to the joint explanatory statement. “The private sector investors and performers would assume the risk of up-front investment in capability development and realizing substantial profit by solving hard problems at far less expense than the government could achieve by traditional program management processes.”

Additionally, the pilot program’s proof of efficacy must be demonstrated within three years “such that an operational capability can be delivered within [five] years.”

By Briana Reilly
December 14, 2021 at 11:08 AM

Northrop Grumman is working with the Defense Department's Test Resource Management Center to reconfigure a handful of retired Global Hawks to support ongoing hypersonics system testing efforts through the SkyRange program, the company announced this week.

The four RQ-4 Block 20 unmanned aircraft, which had been converted to the Battlefield Airborne Communications Node variant, were transferred to the center in fiscal year 2021 by the Air Force, according to the report accompanying the Senate Appropriations Committee's mark of the FY-22 defense spending bill.

Northrop's press release announcing receipt of the DOD task order noted modifications of the four aircraft would include adding "sensors to demonstrate an alternative data collection support system," with work expected to occur at the company's Grand Sky facility in North Dakota.

The company is beginning engineering and planning work, the release added, but didn't include details on the effort or the timeline for completing it.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) said in a press release today the contract marks "an important step" for advancing the SkyRange effort in his state.

"With divestment of the Global Hawk Block 20s, we've worked to secure a real opportunity to leverage the expertise we've built at Grand Sky and repurpose these aircraft to support hypersonic missile testing," Hoeven said.

The Air Force's FY-22 budget request included plans to retire the Block 20 and Block 30 RQ-4s, leaving the Block 40 airframes for high-altitude intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Hoeven this fall had called on the Air Force to transfer all 20 of the Block 30s, once divested, to North Dakota's Grand Sky business and aviation park, and to base the SkyRange effort there.

The goal of SkyRange, according to the Senate Appropriations Committee's report, is to use "unmanned aerial systems-based range sensors to support hypersonic flight tests." The push leverages high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles to bolster or replace the fleet of ships used for hypersonic flight testing and other traditional data collection assets, according to an Arnold Engineering Development Complex press release from last fall.

By Tony Bertuca
December 14, 2021 at 10:11 AM

President Biden has announced nominees for Navy under secretary and Air Force comptroller, according to a White House announcement.

Biden intends to nominate Erik Raven for Navy under secretary. Raven is currently majority clerk of the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee.

“Prior to joining the appropriations committee in 2007, he served as national security adviser and legislative director to Senator Robert C. Byrd, fellow to Senator Ted Kennedy, in several positions for Senator Dianne Feinstein, and as an English teacher in China,” the White House said.

Biden also intends to nominate Kristyn Jones to be assistant secretary of the Air Force for financial management and comptroller.

Jones is currently a managing director in KPMG’s federal advisory practice.

“Prior to her current role, she served as the deputy assistant secretary of the Army for financial information management,” the White House said. “Previously, Jones held a variety of positions in DOD and in industry. From June 2007 to 2008, Jones was special assistant to the assistant secretary of the Army (financial management and comptroller) for cost management transformation.”

By John Liang
December 13, 2021 at 4:20 PM

Here is the third portion of our coverage from last week's Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, CA, now available to all.

DOD contemplating revised spending plan that strips nearly $40 billion from FY-22 expectation

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- Political dysfunction in Congress is driving Pentagon leaders to contemplate a major internal budget drill to craft a second, parallel plan for fiscal year 2022 that would wring nearly $40 billion from expected spending plans and prepare for major setbacks across the weapon system modernization portfolio.

Senior DOD official: Additional Patriot force structure may be needed to meet demand

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- Pentagon leaders are concerned about the health of the Army's Patriot force, particularly the stress that high operational tempo and limited deployment predictability is having on readiness, driving soldiers to leave units that provide the cornerstone of air and missile defense for deployed forces and allies.

New amphibs face budget shortfall; big decks now eyed as unmanned 'motherships

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- The Marine Corps needs more money in fiscal years 2023 and 2024 to buy Light Amphibious Warships, critical to service plans to establish new littoral units that can nimbly move shore-to-shore inside China's striking range, while contemplating a radical new use for its big-deck combatants: "Motherships" to unleash unmanned air and undersea systems.

By John Liang
December 13, 2021 at 2:19 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on defense budget planning and more.

The U.S. military is looking to draw from the playbook of the early years of the sequester provision of the 2011 Budget Control Act when gridlock forced the Obama administration to prepare budget plans embedded with two parallel -- and dramatically different -- resource scenarios:

DOD contemplating revised spending plan that strips nearly $40 billion from FY-22 expectation

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- Political dysfunction in Congress is driving Pentagon leaders to contemplate a major internal budget drill to craft a second, parallel plan for fiscal year 2022 that would wring nearly $40 billion from expected spending plans and prepare for major setbacks across the weapon system modernization portfolio.

Resellers Booz Allen Hamilton, BrainGu, IndraSoft, Novetta, RevaComm and Seed Innovations 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.

Keep an eye out early next year for a draft request for proposals for the next phase of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program:

Draft OMFV RFP going to industry next month

The Army will send a draft request for proposals to industry next month for the next phase of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle competition, according to Maj. Gen. Ross Coffman, director of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.

Northrop Grumman is back in the running for the Air Force's Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar program:

Northrop reveals 3DELRR offering based on new radar design

More than a year after demonstrating its offering for the Air Force's Three-Dimensional Expeditionary Long-Range Radar competition, Northrop Grumman has revealed details about its proposal, a software-defined, hardware-enabled radar system the company has dubbed 3D Advantage.

Establishing the 1st Fleet and re-naming Fleet Forces Command were put on hold while the Global Posture Review was underway, according to a Navy spokeswoman:

Navy sidelines Trump-era plans to launch Indo-Pacific 1st Fleet, rename Fleet Forces Command following Global Posture Review

The Navy is not moving forward with Trump-era plans to re-launch the 1st Fleet in the Indian and Pacific Oceans and rename Fleet Forces Command as the Atlantic Fleet following the conclusion of the Global Posture Review, according to a service spokeswoman.

Industry will be able to build a simulator for the Navy's proposed Light Amphibious Warship:

Navy confirms industry ability to build Light Amphibious Warship simulator

The Navy received five submittals in response to its request for information for a Light Amphibious Warship simulator, according to a service spokesman.

By Audrey Decker
December 13, 2021 at 12:28 PM

The Navy's 5th Fleet has begun operationally testing the Saildrone unmanned surface vessel in the northern Red Sea as part of exercise Digital Horizon.

Saildrones use machine learning and artificial intelligence to enhance maritime domain awareness, according to today's press release.

The USV is used to collect three types of data: weather forecasting, ocean mapping and MDA intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, Saildrone CEO Richard Jenkins told Inside Defense in an interview earlier this month.

The Navy has not purchased any vessels from Saildrone because the company operates vehicles for customers and provides data in real time, Jenkins said.

"Ongoing evaluations of new unmanned systems in U.S. 5th Fleet help drive discovery, innovation and fleet integration. The U.S. Navy is learning important lessons that will inform future operational employment," the press release states.

The Navy's 5th Fleet launched Task Force 59 in September to integrate unmanned systems and artificial intelligence.

Saildrone is a part of a larger Navy effort to bring more unmanned systems into the U.S. Central Command arena after the establishment of Task Force 59, which was funded with $6.5 million in fiscal year 2021.

By Tony Bertuca
December 13, 2021 at 5:00 AM

The Senate returns to Washington this week to vote on a final defense authorization bill. Meanwhile, senior defense officials are slated to speak at several events.

Monday

The Air Force Association hosts a discussion with the commander of U.S. Air Forces, Europe, Africa and Allied Air Command.

AFA also hosts a discussion on the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The Association of the United States Army hosts a webinar on "growing the force for tomorrow's Reserve."

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on modernizing intelligence in the gray zone.

Tuesday

The Center for a New American Security hosts a conversation with Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger.

Wednesday

The Washington Space Business Roundtable hosts a discussion with the director of staff headquarters for the Space Force.

Thursday

CSIS hosts a discussion with Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro and other senior defense officials.

The Heritage Foundation hosts a discussion on vaccine mandates and the defense industrial base.

By John Liang
December 10, 2021 at 2:20 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Army's network modernization effort, the Naval Aviation Fleet Infrastructure Optimization Plan and more.

Four capability sets are intended to gradually modernize the Army’s network capabilities:

Army's network modernization moves forward with pilot program

The Army will conduct a pilot of new technological capabilities for its armor brigade units early next year, as the service continues to move forward with its network modernization efforts, according to a service spokesman.

Operating under continuing resolutions isn't helping to advance Army modernization priorities:

Budget delay slows upgrades to AMPV industrial base, other Army modernization priorities at risk

Production line upgrades in support of one of the Army's priority modernization programs have already been delayed by the lack of a fiscal year 2022 defense appropriations bill, and more delays will come if continuing resolutions extend far into the second quarter, according to the Army.

News on the Naval Aviation Fleet Infrastructure Optimization Plan:

Beginning results of FIOP look promising for Navy aviation depots

The Navy's new Fleet Infrastructure Optimization Plan to modernize aviation depots has started to reach the service's bases.

The Air Force's top civilian spoke this week during an online Defense One forum:

Kendall: USAF's plans for combat drones demonstrate commitment to leveraging UAV technology

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says in-the-works efforts to develop a program pairing combat drones and B-21 bombers showcase officials' commitment to leveraging unmanned aerial vehicles and partially serve as an answer to past criticism the service has received "for not moving fast enough and for not being innovative enough."

More coverage from this past weekend's Reagan National Defense Forum in California:

Senior DOD official: Additional Patriot force structure may be needed to meet demand

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- Pentagon leaders are concerned about the health of the Army's Patriot force, particularly the stress that high operational tempo and limited deployment predictability is having on readiness, driving soldiers to leave units that provide the cornerstone of air and missile defense for deployed forces and allies.

(Read our full coverage.)

Requirements for the Army's new water tank include a 500-gallon threshold and a 600-gallon objective:

Army selects four companies to prototype new water trailer

Oshkosh Defense, Navistar Defense, Isometrics and Schutt Industries have been selected to build prototypes of a new water tank and trailer that the Army will use to support company-sized units.

By Courtney Albon
December 10, 2021 at 1:52 PM

Air Mobility Command has approved the KC-46 Pegasus for an additional mission set, a move that makes the new tanker available to refuel the AC-130J, HC-130J, MC-130J, C-5M and E-3G for U.S. Transportation Command missions.

To date, the KC-46 has been approved for four interim capability releases to allow TRANSCOM to leverage the aerial refueler before it is officially designated as combat-ready -- a milestone that has been pushed to 2024.

According to an AMC press release this week, the Pegasus can now support almost 70% of all receiver aircraft that rely on TRANSCOM refueling support.

The newest ICR follows a decision in October to allow the tanker to refuel F-15 and F-16 fighter aircraft.

By John Liang
December 9, 2021 at 1:17 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon's establishment of a chief digital and artificial intelligence officer and more.

A new chief digital and artificial intelligence officer, who will serve under the deputy defense secretary, will aim to meet the pacing threat of China in areas like AI “in a way that drives capabilities to the warfighters as fast as we can,” according to a senior defense official:

Pentagon stands up new chief data and AI officer

The Pentagon is creating a new centralized office responsible for accelerating and strengthening the integration of artificial intelligence and data functions, a senior defense official told reporters today.

Document: DOD memo on CDAO establishment

The compromise defense policy bill requires the Army secretary to report on "system reliability, network adequacy, power duration, terrain data sufficiency, and plans for iterative improvements" related to the service's new virtual-reality system:

Congress will withhold IVAS funding until Army submits report on functionality

Congress will seek to withhold 25% of funds for the Army's virtual reality headsets until the service secretary submits to the congressional defense committees a report on the program after operational testing, according to the compromise fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill.

The bill does, however, include approval for Army multiyear procurement contracts for certain helicopter programs:

Compromise policy bill includes Army legislative proposals on helicopters, IFPC

Army proposals to award multiyear helicopter procurement contracts and delay a cruise missile defense system were included in a compromise fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill, which the House approved Tuesday night.

The Senate Armed Services Committee this week held a hearing on the nomination of Adm. Christopher Grady to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Grady pledges JROC 'discipline' to counter military 'parochialism'

Adm. Christopher Grady, nominated to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told senators today that, if confirmed, he intends to insert speed wherever he can in the Pentagon's labyrinthine acquisition process, while also guarding against military "parochialism."

Document: Grady answers to advance policy questions

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger spoke this past weekend about his service's need for new amphibious warships:

New amphibs face budget shortfall; big decks now eyed as unmanned 'motherships'

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- The Marine Corps needs more money in fiscal years 2023 and 2024 to buy Light Amphibious Warships, critical to service plans to establish new littoral units that can nimbly move shore-to-shore inside China's striking range, while contemplating a radical new use for its big-deck combatants: "Motherships" to unleash unmanned air and undersea systems.

By Briana Reilly
December 9, 2021 at 5:00 AM

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems unveiled today a new unmanned aerial system based on the MQ-9 Reaper and MQ-1C Gray Eagle and capable of carrying up to 16 Hellfire missiles.

Called the “Mojave,” the aircraft is designed to focus on short-takeoff-and-landing capabilities and bolstered firepower, according to a company news release. Breaking Defense first reported news of the drone last month.

A prototype of the UAS first flew over the summer, the release noted. Thus far, General Atomics has invested “more than $20 million in company research dollars on building out this prototype,” company spokesman C. Mark Brinkley told Inside Defense in an email.

Though it didn’t name potential military or international customers, the release said the aircraft’s capabilities make it suitable for performing “armed overwatch, attack and armed reconnaissance missions.”

“STOL capability increases the number of employment options available to Mojave, potentially including aircraft carrier-based options, unlocking naval missions or sea-based support for special operations forces,” the release states.

Brinkley said officials have shown the UAS “to various customers privately” while “discussing the potential it offers in expeditionary environments.” Though he cautioned discussing particulars of those conversations would be premature, he touted Mojave’s flexibility and capability as key assets that have “drawn a lot of interest.”

The new UAS sports a 3,600-pound payload capacity, the release notes, and can carry up to 16 AGM-114 Hellfire or equivalent missiles. The MQ-9 Reaper traditionally can only fly with four Hellfire weapons across two stations, though the Air Force last September conducted its first flight test of the aircraft carrying eight.

By John Liang
December 8, 2021 at 4:55 PM

Here is the second portion of our coverage from this past weekend's Reagan National Defense Forum in Simi Valley, CA, now available to all.

Marine Corps open to hypersonic strike weapon if the size is right

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- The Marine Corps is open to one day adopting a hypersonic strike weapon if its size is not too cumbersome for new front-line units being designed to operate in contested areas, said the service's top general, who allowed the service "could be" interested in a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency effort called OpFires.

Lawmakers look to workforce development to strengthen defense industrial base

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- A lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee is urging the development of a collaborative initiative focused on workforce development to strengthen U.S. manufacturing.

Continuing resolution may delay DOD's rapid technology experimentation plans

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- The Pentagon's chief technology officer is aiming to address four critical capability gaps through a planned set of joint technology experiments starting in fiscal year 2023, but an appropriations delay on Capitol Hill could hold up the department's schedule.

Poland seeking 250 Abrams tanks, DOD viewing request favorably

SIMI VALLEY, CA -- The Defense Department is considering a request from Poland to buy as many as 250 Abrams tanks, a deal likely worth more than $3 billion that would provide stability for the heavy armor production line and deliver an important capability to a European ally near Russia -- a package a senior DOD official involved in the process views very favorably.

By Evan Ochsner
December 8, 2021 at 4:45 PM

The Army plans to host a virtual industry day in February to discuss potential future contract opportunities related to its modernization efforts, according to a Dec. 8 notice to industry.

The event will be hosted by the Army’s Command, Control, Computers, Communications, Cyber, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Center, Research and Technology Integration Directorate. C5ISR RTI focuses on the research and development of many of the Army’s modernization priorities, including cyber, infrared, radio frequency and network technologies.

Officials at the Feb. 23-24 event will provide details on contract opportunities anticipated for the next one to two years, the notice states.

Officials are also interested in learning about current state-of-the-art technologies that are being developed within industry related to C5ISR, according to the notice, and will provide opportunities for one-on-one sessions with interested industry partners.