The Insider

By Thomas Duffy
June 27, 2022 at 2:02 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest starts off with a look at Taiwan’s missile defense capabilities, and we have news on the Pentagon’s efforts to work with commercial companies, Navy carrier news, some legislative news addressing cyber issues, and a House committee looking at defense nuclear programs.

House lawmakers want to know what options are available for defending Taiwan from ballistic missiles:

Lawmakers want DOD to draft options for upgrading Taiwan’s missile defense capabilities

The Defense Department may soon be required to draft options for Taiwan to expedite acquisition of improved air and missile defense capabilities -- an assessment that could build a case for future sales of new guided missile interceptors, radar and more to the self-governing island that Beijing regards a breakaway province.

The Defense Department is trying to make it easier to work with commercial technology companies:

DIU’s new training effort seeks to ease commercial tech transition

A new immersive commercial acquisition program from the Defense Innovation Unit seeks to reduce barriers to transitioning new technologies from nontraditional vendors to military components by teaching service contracting professionals about the process.

The Navy is shifting some money around for carrier overhaul work:

Budgetary reprogramming for Navy’s CVN-73 overhaul reduced

The Navy is shifting $122.6 million in funding for the refueling and complex overhaul of aircraft carrier George Washington (CVN-73) -- an over-budget refueling program.

A House committee is trying to shore up cyber incident response:

House committee advances bill with provisions on joint collaborative environment, incident reporting

The House Armed Services Committee has approved its version of the fiscal 2023 defense authorization bill, including provisions to create an “information collaboration environment” at CISA and directing DHS and CISA to provide details to Congress on cyber incident response responsibilities.

House authorizers want to know more about the Pentagon’s nuclear weapons programs:

House Armed Services Committee calls for studies, limitations on nuclear program decisions

The House Armed Services Committee has passed a fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill that would order several studies on and limitations of Defense Department efforts to modernize the nuclear triad.

By Shelley K. Mesch
June 27, 2022 at 12:05 PM

BAE Systems received an 18-year, $12 billion contract to continue supporting the Air Force’s Intercontinental Ballistic Missile inventory, the company announced Monday.

It will provide systems engineering, integration and test support for the Minuteman III and Sentinel, formerly known as Ground Based Strategic Deterrent. BAE will also provide program management, acquisition, research and administrative support for the integrated life cycle acquisition and sustainment of current and next-generation ICBMs.

BAE has worked on sustainment of Minuteman III and acquisition for Sentinel for the past eight years.

By Shelley K. Mesch
June 27, 2022 at 11:28 AM

The Air Force demonstrated its new beyond line-of-sight communication system for the B-52 bomber last week, moving one step forward in an upgrade officials say is vital.

The test paired the capability, called IRIS, with an Iridium Certus terminal on a bomber at Barksdale Air Force Base, LA, the service announced in a news release.

The system uses a Low Earth Orbit constellation of satellites, which provides global coverage and a greater broadband capacity than the previous communications capability.

“In a wartime scenario, the single point of failure often lies in our ability to communicate,” said Capt. Richard Brown, 49th TES Conventional test flight commander. “If we can’t send and receive mission critical data from our aircraft reliably and efficiently, then we will lose.”

The Air Force Global Strike Command used an AFWERX Small Business Innovation Research contract to assess the feasibility of tying a commercial, off-the-shelf system to the B-52 global satellite architecture to provide unimpeded communications coverage.

AFGSC will continue to work through AFWERX to secure an SBIR Strategic Finance contract to support the IRIS system, the service said.

By Tony Bertuca
June 27, 2022 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials will speak about national security issues around Washington this week.

Tuesday

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on national security and artificial intelligence.

The Center for a New American Security hosts a discussion on securing America's global supply chains.

Wednesday

The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on DOD's electromagnetic spectrum.

By Thomas Duffy
June 24, 2022 at 11:48 AM

Our end of the week INSIDER Daily Digest starts off with some missile defense news, an update on the Defense Department’s artificial intelligence approach, action by the House Armed Services Committee, and some space sensor news.

A robust plan for a South Korean missile defense program was scaled back:

DOD pared back, spiked most ambitious elements of JEON for South Korean missile defense

The Defense Department quietly scaled back the most ambitious parts of a 2017 plan to improve missile defenses in South Korea, delaying until 2030 plans for full integration of upper- and lower-tier Army programs and completely removing plans to integrate Navy Aegis from the improved architecture.

The Defense Department has a plan for responsibly working with artificial intelligence:

DOD lays out pathway for responsible AI adoption

The Defense Department has released its framework for advancing responsible artificial intelligence throughout the military, outlining a series of action items surrounding implementing test and evaluation requirements for the technology, establishing acquisition tools for related capabilities and bolstering staffing levels to ensure appropriate oversight.

The House Armed Services Committee has weighed in on whether the Air Force should hold a competition for another aerial tanker:

House Armed Services Committee defeats amendment that would mandate KC-Y competition

Shortly after midnight on June 23 during the House Armed Services Committee’s marathon session to fashion the fiscal year 2023 defense policy bill, a bipartisan group of lawmakers voted down an amendment that would prohibit the Air Force from awarding the contract for the KC-Y “bridge tanker” unless the service conducted a competition.

The GAO has taken a look at a Missile Defense Agency space sensor effort:

MDA eyes 10-satellite constellation to assess HBTSS; GAO says duplicates new SDA sensors

The Missile Defense Agency, which has declined to publicly reveal its near-term acquisition plan for the Hypersonic and Ballistic Space Tracking Sensor program, wants to add an additional six satellites by 2025 -- raising the total number in orbit to 10 and after that proceed to a production decision.

By Michael Marrow
June 24, 2022 at 10:59 AM

Space Systems Command has added some $54 million to a contract Palantir first won in 2021 to enlist the company’s data-as-a-service platform, the company announced in a recent news release.

Modified by SSC on May 24, the increase to the original $121.5 million deal reflects six months of additional work on the contract, which is composed of three main efforts for three different customers, a senior Palantir executive involved in the project told Inside Defense.

The primary service that the three customers use is Warp Core, the “operational data-as-a-service layer.” Warp Core forms the “tissue” that ties data from disparate sources together, the executive explained, which informs space command and control capabilities for SSC.

Exigent needs that formed during the Covid crisis prompted new work under the same contract for two additional customers, the executive said, who requested anonymity to discuss work on the contract.

One is an Air Force-wide initiative called Project Brown Heron, which focuses on readiness and operates under the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff to support service-wide decision making.

Using complex data sets, the project can inform readiness decisions ranging from how many service members are required for a mission to getting shots in the arms of airmen quickly, according to the executive, which supplied critical tools for Covid-19 analysis.

It also provides an enhanced guide for personnel decisions. For example, the program can take a “data-driven approach” toward officer placement, promotion and career pathing, the executive said.

The other project is a joint North American Aerospace Defense Command-Northern Command initiative called North Star. That project focuses on information dominance, the executive said, which is constructing foundational data sets to support joint all domain command and control functions, as well as space domain awareness and C2 capabilities.

The three customers are using the same core service for each project. Palantir’s data-as-a-service platform, called Foundry, is the commercial baseline that gets a customer “75-85%” of the way to their objective, according to the executive.

The remaining work is configuration to fit a particular need, which is why the platform can fulfill three different functions like C2, readiness and information dominance for three separate customers.

Warp Core is an operationally accepted Category A capability by the Space Force, the executive observed, meaning the core capability will remain for some time.

The underlying software will continue to evolve, the executive noted, saying that “We’ve just scratched the tip of the iceberg across all three efforts.”

The contract runs through March 2023.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
June 24, 2022 at 10:47 AM

The House Armed Services Committee wants the Army to explain the requirements process that preceded a $942 million program to add 30 mm cannons to Stryker combat vehicles.

“Questions have been raised about the Army’s requirements for the system related to lethality and survivability during the acquisition process,” states a provision that the committee added to its annual defense policy bill during a June 22 mark up.

The provision directs the Government Accountability Office to complete a report by April 2023 on the 30 mm cannon program, which is known as the Medium Caliber Weapon System. Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX) filed the amendment that includes the provision.

Oshkosh Defense beat General Dynamics Land Systems, the Stryker’s original equipment manufacturer, in a competition last year to supply the cannon to up to six Stryker brigades. General Dynamics had previously integrated one brigade’s worth of cannons for the Europe-based 2nd Cavalry Regiment.

The report would include “an assessment of the requirements determination and acquisition process throughout technology research, development, testing, and procurement of the MCWS,” according to the provision. It would look at the requests from operational units that would have created the requirements, as well as the cost of the program compared to similar capabilities.

Involvement of an Army Futures Command cross-functional team in the “requirements determination and acquisition process” should be included in the report, according to the provision.

It should also include “an assessment of lessons learned, if any, by acquisition program and Cross Functional Team officials,” according to the provision.

Jackson’s office did not respond to a question from Inside Defense seeking clarification on what actions by a cross-functional team this refers to, as the 30 mm cannon program has not previously been named as part of any team’s portfolio. The cross-functional teams do not typically have a role in defining requirements for programs that are outside their portfolio.

By Tony Bertuca
June 23, 2022 at 4:53 PM

The Defense Department today announced plans to transfer $450 million in military equipment to Ukraine, including four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems.

The package, according to DOD, also includes 36,000 rounds of 105 mm ammunition, 18 tactical vehicles to tow 155 mm artillery, 1,200 grenade launchers, 2,000 machine guns, and 18 coastal and riverine patrol boats.

The United States has already sent Ukraine four HIMARS units so the country can continue to defend itself against an ongoing Russian invasion.

This most recent transfer is the 13th package sent to Ukraine under the president’s “drawdown” authority.

“The United States has now committed approximately $6.8 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden Administration, including approximately $6.1 billion since the beginning of Russia’s unprovoked invasion on February 24,” according to DOD.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
June 23, 2022 at 2:09 PM

The Army wants to hear what replacement options for the Tube-launched, Optically tracked, Wire-guided antitank missile contractors could demonstrate as early as the third quarter of fiscal year 2024, according to a June 21 request for information.

A “U.S. government sponsored capability demonstration” could be held between that quarter and the third quarter of FY-25, according to the request.

Interested companies can also detail in their responses which of the service’s desired characteristics could be included in the TOW replacement, the Close Combat Missile System-Heavy.

Bradley Fighting Vehicles, an antitank Stryker variant and some humvees fire the TOW, which is larger than the Javelin that is mounted on other Strykers and has been sent to Ukraine in large numbers.

Requirements for the TOW replacement’s survivability, sustainment, lethality and form factor will not be negotiable, according to the request. The replacement must fit within the legacy TOW launcher, and it cannot weigh more than the legacy missile.

But other characteristics, including range, guidance and target recognition, will be “tradeable,” according to the request. The Army will lay out its desired specifications, but it will acknowledge that there might not be a missile that can check every box.

The missile should have a direct fire range of at least 4.5 kilometers, and a “cooperative engagement enabled range” of 8 km, according to the request. Its minimum range should be 65 meters.

An Army requirements writer said last year that the service wanted a TOW replacement to have a range greater than 10 km.

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee noted in its mark of a draft defense policy bill that the Army appears to have two simultaneous TOW replacement programs. The subcommittee asked whether TOW launchers could support future short-range air defense or counter-drone weapons.

Technical responses to the request for information can be up to 50 pages long, with another 50 pages available for detailed test data. Responses are due July 29.

By Thomas Duffy
June 23, 2022 at 11:21 AM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news from both the House authorization and appropriations marks, a conversation with the top Air Force officer, a check-in with the head of the Defense Innovation Unit, and more.

House authorizers are pumping the brakes on Air Force plans to jettison some aircraft:

House Armed Services Committee cools Air Force divestment plans

As lawmakers debate provisions of the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill, amendments passed by the House Armed Services Committee today impose limits on the Air Force’s goal of rapidly divesting platforms.

The amendments, proposed in an en bloc package by the tactical air and land forces subcommittee and approved by a voice vote, add provisions to the service’s strategy of shifting away from the HH-60W Combat Rescue Helicopter and A-10 aircraft.

The Defense Innovation Unit has a new strategy to develop major weapon programs:

Head of DIU says new ‘hedge strategy’ would pack ‘surprise’ into capability development

The leader of the Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit hopes that a recently created “hedge strategy” he helped craft in coordination with the Office of Naval Research will pack “surprise” into DOD’s development of large weapons platforms.

The top Air Force official this week laid out how the service needs to move forward over the next number of years:

Brown: Air Force needs to ‘break out’ of bureaucracy, rethink readiness to adapt

The Air Force will need to undergo cultural changes, overcome bureaucratic constraints and re-evaluate how it measures readiness to evolve, the service’s top uniformed officer said today.

Speaking at an event at the Hudson Institute this morning on the future of the Air Force, Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown said that emerging technologies have run up against cultural barriers.

The Pentagon’s budget got a big boost from House authorizors:

House Armed Services Committee increases defense topline by $37B

The House Armed Services Committee voted 42-17 today to authorize a $37 billion increase to the amount President Biden has requested for national defense.

The increase comes via an amendment offered today by Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME), who cited concerns over inflation and the ongoing war in Ukraine during the committee’s debate on the annual defense authorization bill.

The Navy is taking severe weather events very seriously:

Navy to hold climate wargame next week

The Navy is holding an exercise next week that will simulate operating in a climate-impacted environment.

The event will include participants from the Pentagon, industry, Capitol Hill and academia for an “immersive, educational experience,” according to Meredith Berger, the Navy’s assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment.

House appropriators have closely scrutinized nuclear weapons spending:

House appropriators won’t ‘rubber stamp’ nuclear modernization spending

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee won’t “rubber stamp” nuclear modernization spending proposed by the Air Force, according to a report accompanying the subcommittee’s fiscal year 2023 defense spending bill.

By Audrey Decker
June 23, 2022 at 11:00 AM

The House Armed Services Committee passed an amendment in its version of the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill that would set a statuary floor of 31 L-class amphibious ships.

The amendment was introduced by House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee Ranking Member Rob Wittman (R-VA).

Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger stated during a House Armed Services Committee hearing last month that every study has proved that 31 is the floor for amphibs.

Wittman’s amendment follows one from Rep. Jared Golden (D-ME) that added billions of dollars to the annual defense authorization bill for the Navy and Marine Corps -- including $1.2 billion for incremental funding for one additional Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, $923.8 million for another Constellation-class frigate, $746 million for another John Lewis-class oiler and $695 million for two Expeditionary Medical Ships.

The amendment also included $318 million for the costs to restore five Littoral Combat Ships, plus $59 million to restore two Expeditionary Transfer Docks.

In total, the defense policy bill saves 12 out of the 24 ships the Navy proposed to decommission -- five LCS, four LSDs, two ESDs and one cruiser.

“As proposed by the Biden administration, building eight ships and retiring 24 ships does not pace with China’s expansionist policies and places our national security at risk. This markup reverses a dangerous divest to invest strategy and expands the overall fleet by authorizing 13 ships and allowing 12 vessels to retire,” Wittman said in a statement after the bill was passed around 2:15 a.m.

By Tony Bertuca
June 23, 2022 at 8:01 AM

The House Armed Services Committee has voted 57-1 to pass its version of the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill.

Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA), who adjourned the committee’s mark up around 2:15 a.m., released a statement praising the bill’s bipartisan support. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) was the only dissenting vote.

“This year’s defense bill builds on the committee’s six-decade-long tradition of investing in the people, programs, and technologies that strengthen our common defense,” Smith said. “At a time when democracies around the world face enormous challenges and unprecedented threats, we have sent a powerful, bipartisan message to our allies and partners, global competitors, and the American people: democracy still works -- and it can deliver real results.”

Smith highlighted some elements of the bill, though the final product ended up being $37 billion larger than he would have preferred.

“The bill supports the largest service member pay raise in decades, expands the talent pipeline, and partners with research institutions to accelerate the development of cutting-edge technologies that will support those in uniform,” he said. “I am particularly proud that this year’s [bill] includes a package of bold reforms that will help mitigate and prevent civilian harm in the course of military operations.”

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the committee’s ranking member, released a statement applauding the bill.

“This is the first step in the process -- the House and Congress have a number of issues to address as we move forward,” he said. “The committee was able to blunt the impacts of inflation on the military, accelerated the recapitalization of our nuclear triad, and invest in capabilities and platforms to deter and, if necessary, defeat China and other enemies. I will continue to push for these efforts and to remove extraneous provisions as we move the [bill] through the legislative process.”

By Tony Bertuca
June 22, 2022 at 4:30 PM

The House Armed Services Committee has voted to approve an amendment to its version of the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill that would save the nuclear sea-launched cruise missile program from termination.

The committee, via an amendment from Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN), chair of the panel’s strategic forces subcommittee, would authorize $45 million for the Defense Department to continue developing the weapon, known as SLCM-N, which garnered controversy for being a low-yield nuclear weapon begun during the Trump administration.

Cooper acknowledged the “pros and cons” of deploying such a weapon on an attack submarine, but said he was offering the amendment to keep the option available for senior military leaders, many of whom have voiced support for the program.

“No one can tell in an uncertain world what we will need, but it’s important to keep this option available,” he said.

Though the Senate Armed Services Committee authorized $25 million for the program in its version of the FY-23 defense authorization bill, the House Appropriations Committee has passed a spending bill that does not provide any funding for the SLCM-N.

The SLCM-N is supported by military leaders like Adm. Charles Richard, chief of U.S. Strategic Command, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley.

“My position on SLCM-N has not changed,” Milley told the committee April 5. “My general view is that this president or any president deserves multiple options to deal with nation security situations.”

By Evan Ochsner
June 22, 2022 at 4:28 PM

The Army has selected SMX to provide program services for the Future Long-Range Assault Aircraft, the company announced Tuesday.

The five-year, $84.5 million contract requires SMX to provide engineering, logistics, acquisition and strategic planning services related to the FLRAA program for the Army acquisition chief and the program executive office for aviation.

“With this award, SMX has the opportunity to extend their support of this key Future Vertical Lift program through 2027, paving the way for long term support to one of the Army’s Big 6 modernization priorities,” according to the announcement.

Bell and a joint proposal between Sikorsky and Boeing are competing to provide the aircraft for the Army.

By Tony Bertuca
June 22, 2022 at 3:48 PM

The House Appropriations Committee has passed a fiscal year 2023 defense spending bill that is in line with the amount requested by President Biden, despite efforts elsewhere on Capitol Hill to boost the defense topline anywhere between $37 billion and $45 billion.

The committee passed the bill by a vote of 32-26.

Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), chair of the defense appropriations subcommittee, said the bill is $33 billion above what Congress enacted for defense in FY-22, also noting that lawmakers have approved an additional $26 billion in emergency supplemental funding for the U.S. response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I suspect many of my friends on the other side of the aisle will say that the allocation is insufficient. I respectfully disagree,” she said. “In March, we passed an omnibus, which increased defense spending under the jurisdiction of our subcommittee by nearly $33 billion. That does not include the more than $26 billion we have provided in emergency funds related to Russian’s illegal invasion of Ukraine through two supplementals. This bill adds another $33 billion to the Pentagon’s side of the ledger.”

The committee’s bill funds DOD at $762 billion and is aligned with the $813 billion Biden seeks for total national defense spending in FY-23.

The bill would cut Pentagon procurement by $1 billion below the level enacted in FY-22 and would boost research and development funding by $12.5 billion above the FY-22 enacted level.

But congressional Republicans want to see increases of tens of billions of dollars for FY-23, similar to the $45 billion boost the Senate Armed Services Committee authorized last week.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), the ranking Republican on the defense appropriations subcommittee, said that with historical inflation, which the Consumer Price Index places at 8.6%, the current topline would amount to a defense cut.

“Failing to increase the topline will directly result in a loss of combat capability and readiness,” he said. “Without additional funding, we cannot procure additional fifth-generation fighters, more ships for our naval fleet, or more training that our warfighters need to be ready in any conflict.”

Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), however, said inflation has “much broader context” and impacts more than just the Pentagon, which, in some cases, is not tied to consumer price analysis.

“I think it’s important to note that inflation does not depreciate the value of defense spending on a dollar-for-dollar basis,” she said. “In many cases, DOD’s contractual arrangements actually insulate the Pentagon from the effects of inflation.”

Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX), the committee’s ranking Republican, today characterized the FY-23 defense topline as “completely misguided.”

“I hope we can find common ground over the months ahead,” she said, acknowledging the upcoming partisan spending debate.

The bill also contains other provisions Republicans oppose, such as the closure of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay Cuba and a repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force.

Meanwhile, the House Armed Services Committee voted 42-17 to increase the defense topline by $37 billion. Last week, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to increase the topline by $45 billion.