The Insider

By John Liang
July 29, 2021 at 1:55 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill and more.

Before we get to the House authorization bill, we take a quick look at the Senate Armed Services Committee's plussing up next year's defense budget by $25 billion:

Senate committee's proposed $25B defense increase disrupts budget debate

The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 25-1 last week on a proposal to authorize a $25 billion increase in defense spending for fiscal year 2022, a strongly bipartisan vote that congressional staffers say suggests Senate appropriators might also be along for the ride.

Now on to our continuing coverage of House authorizers' work on the FY-22 policy bill:

House subcommittee wants continued study of layered homeland defense

House lawmakers are directing the Pentagon to continue exploring the potential for the Standard Missile-3 Block IIA to be used for homeland defense, tasking the Missile Defense Agency to spearhead a new report on options for development and deployment of the new guided missile to protect the continental United States.

House panel worried about pace of electronic warfare capability development

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee is concerned about the pace of adaptive and cognitive electronic warfare capability development, according to its mark of the fiscal year 2022 defense bill.

House panel directs comptroller general to review armed overwatch

Lawmakers on the House Armed Services intelligence and special operations subcommittee are calling on the comptroller general to review U.S. Special Operations Command's armed overwatch program as part of their fiscal year 2022 defense policy proposal.

Wittman amendment extends by one year Navy's option for amphib block buy

A House panel has approved legislation that would extend by one year the Navy's option for entering a block buy agreement for amphibious ships.

Vice Chief of Space Operations Gen. David Thompson said this week the Space Force is working closely with the intelligence community and the other services to determine the best options for providing tactical ISR:

FY-23 budget may offer clarity of responsibilities for space-based tactical ISR

The Defense Department's fiscal year 2023 budget may provide some insight into who will be responsible for the tactical intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission in the future.

Gen. Glen VanHerck, the dual-hatted commander of U.S. Northern Command and bi-national North American Aerospace Defense Command, spoke to reporters this week:

NORTHCOM to brief DOD No. 2 official on new 'ready-to-field' JADC2 capability

The head of U.S. Northern Command will brief Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks tomorrow on a new command and control capability demonstrated in three experiments that promise to give leaders improved situational awareness by using commercial cloud computing capabilities, artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to better understand data the U.S. military already owns.

By Briana Reilly
July 29, 2021 at 1:27 PM

Coming off a quarter that logged a 34% jump in space sales, driven in large part by Northrop Grumman's role in the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent program, company officials anticipate that growth will "modulate" heading into 2022.

Still, CEO Kathy Warden said she expects GBSD will continue to grow over the next two years.

“It has a long ramp, if you will,” she told investors during the company’s second-quarter earnings call today.

Fueled in part by higher launch and strategic mission sales, the space-sector growth was “primarily due to ramp-up on GBSD,” as well as the Missile Defense Agency’s Next-Generation Interceptor program and higher volume on hypersonics programs, per today’s press release.

The quarter ended June 30. Over the first three months of the year, space sales grew 29%.

This year, the Minuteman III replacement program makes up nearly $1 billion in incremental revenue, Warden said. But she noted that some 60% of the growth is from non-GBSD efforts, representing “healthy growth across the entire space portfolio."

While Warden cautioned the space segment would “modulate from this year,” she expects it will continue to be Northrop’s fastest growing area.

“There just aren’t the same number of opportunities going into 2022 as there are in 2021,” she said, adding: “We do see that modulating a bit but [there are] still plenty of growth drivers for 2022.”

By Courtney Albon
July 29, 2021 at 12:47 PM

The Space Development Agency now plans to use the Space Force's National Security Space Launch Phase 2 contract to carry the next tranche of satellites for its transport layer.

SDA announced the change this week in a revision to its Transport Layer Tranche 1 draft request for proposals. The brief update notes that language in the draft RFP around contractor-procured launch services will not appear in the final solicitation, which is expected later this year.

Tranche 1 will include up to 150 satellites, and the agency had previously intended to allow the satellite developers to procure launches under separate contracts.

The Space Force in 2020 selected United Launch Alliance and SpaceX to provide launch services under its NSSL Phase 2 contract.

It’s unclear what drove SDA’s decision, but some lawmakers have questioned the agency’s decision not to use the NSSL contract for the 28 satellites it will launch as part of Tranche 0, though SDA ultimately chose SpaceX for the mission. The Fiscal Year 2021 Defense Appropriations Act directed DOD and intelligence community agencies to use the contract for NSSL-class missions.

SDA Director Derek Tournear said as recently as April the agency was considering alternatives to NSSL Phase 2 for Tranche 1, adding that NSSL-class launch vehicles may not be able to meet the agency’s future needs, especially if it wants to launch missions in multiple planes.

"That sets us up into a different class of launch vehicle -- and one that, frankly, there's not a lot of launch vehicles in that class right now," he said. "That's kind of what I see as the future way that we will sustain these orbits. How we actually get that in Tranche 1, whether we go with six commercial procurements or whether we actually work with NSSL, that's still being debated."

By Briana Reilly
July 29, 2021 at 12:36 PM

The first-built XQ-58A Valkyrie is heading to the Air Force Museum after officials opted to retire the drone and clear the way for new production aircraft that a Kratos spokeswoman said would "be better suited for future representative flight testing and operations."

The Air Force Research Laboratory this week announced the planned transfer of the Kratos-built, attritable aircraft, though the timeline for the move and subsequent display of the drone wasn’t included in the release.

Flight-tested four times, the drone featured “several mods for data collection systems and multiple payloads used for the first few engineering flights,” the Kratos spokeswoman noted.  

“These mods are not needed for the current and near-term flights which are more focused on operational capability rather than basic aircraft performance verification,” she said. 

Dave Hart, the chief engineer for the Autonomous Collaborative Platforms program, said in the release that transferring the drone to the museum “helps to show the world what AFRL is capable of, and it truly tells the AFRL story.”

The Valkyrie in the spring completed its sixth overall flight test, during which AFRL demonstrated the first release of an ALTIUS-600 small drone from the Valkyrie’s internal weapons bay.

By John Liang
July 29, 2021 at 5:00 AM

Anduril Industries said today it has hired Shane Arnott to be the company's chief engineer.

Arnott comes to Anduril from Boeing, where he served in executive engineering and project management roles.

"Dr. Arnott will draw on his globally recognized technical expertise in autonomy, simulation, and new concept development to advance Anduril's mission of rapidly modernizing the defense capabilities of the U.S. and its allies," the company said in a statement.

Arnott earned his PhD in systems engineering from the University of Queensland in Australia.

By John Liang
July 28, 2021 at 4:02 PM

Shield AI announced today it has acquired Martin UAV, an aerospace company that makes the V-BAT unmanned aircraft.

San Diego-based Shield AI specializes in using a self-driving software known as Hivemind to allow unmanned systems to operate in GPS- and communications-denied environments. The company said today it would integrate Hivemind into the V-BAT.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

This is the second acquisition in as many weeks for Shield AI. Last week, the company announced it had bought Heron Systems.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
July 28, 2021 at 3:39 PM

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee's mark of the fiscal year 2022 defense bill, released today, would approve requests by the Army to sign multiyear procurement contracts for some of its helicopters.

The Army would be allowed to "enter into one or more multiyear contracts" for AH-64E Apache and UH/HH-60M Black Hawk helicopters beginning in FY-22, according to the subcommittee mark.

In June, the service sent legislative proposals to Congress requesting permission to use multiyear procurement contracts for the helicopters. Over five years, multiyear contracts could save $362 million on Black Hawk procurement and $213 million on Apache procurement compared to single-year contracts, according to the Army.

By Aidan Quigley
July 28, 2021 at 1:50 PM

The House Armed Services readiness subcommittee is concerned about the Navy's implementation of its Optimized Fleet Response Plan, which aims to address long-standing readiness issues.

The subcommittee’s mark of the fiscal year 2022 defense bill, released today, states the Navy launched the OFRP in 2014 to address increased ship deployment lengths, maintenance issues, decreased predictability for the industrial base and declining ship conditions.

“The Navy has faced persistent challenges in implementing OFRP since its inception and Navy readiness declined between 2017 and 2019,” the subcommittee's bill states. “In addition, the Navy has experienced continued difficulties with ship maintenance timeliness, implementing training for the high-end fight, limiting deployment lengths, maintaining ship readiness after deployment to provide for surge capacity, meeting ‘fit and fill’ crewing goals across the fleet, and maintaining carrier air wing readiness.”

The service updated the OFRP in October 2020 to implement additional changes, but the subcommittee stated in its mark that it remains concerned about OFRP implementation.

The subcommittee’s bill instructs the comptroller general to evaluate the extent to which the Navy has achieved OFRP goals for “maintenance completion, timeliness, training certifications, personnel fit/fill rates, operational availability, and others.”

The subcommittee also wants the comptroller to evaluate the extent to which OFRP has affected carrier wing maintenance, training and readiness and the extent to which the Navy has worked to improve the OFRP.

By John Liang
July 28, 2021 at 1:31 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has more news from the House Armed Services Committee's subcommittee mark-ups of the fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill.

We start off with coverage of the tactical air and land forces subcommittee:

House authorizers seek details on increasing organic F-35 sustainment

House lawmakers want more information on the implications of shifting some contractor-led F-35 maintenance requirements to the government and are proposing a Comptroller General study on the topic.

House authorizers want Air Force to 'prioritize modernized data links' for RC-135

Citing concerns about data sharing between intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft and tactical platforms, the House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee is asking the Air Force to take steps to boost interoperability between the RC-135 and key weapons systems in its fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill draft.

House panel requests ground vehicle electrification briefings

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee wants to require the Army to brief the full committee on ground vehicle electrification research.

House panel proposes GAO lead DOD-wide tacair portfolio review

In parallel with a slew of tactical aircraft portfolio deep-dives the Defense Department and the Air Force have undertaken in the last year, House lawmakers propose directing the Government Accountability Office to conduct its own review of the services’ fighter force structure and inventory requirements to identify gaps and future requirements.

. . . Followed by the seapower and projection forces subcommittee:

House seapower subcommittee adds second destroyer, upset about omission

The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee is recommending funding a second destroyer after the Navy omitted the ship from its budget request.

Lawmakers look to restrict C-130H retirements, propose 287-aircraft inventory floor

House lawmakers want to place limits on the Air Force's plan to retire 45 C-130 airlifters over the next several years, proposing a 287-aircraft floor on the inventory that would remain in place through fiscal year 2026.

Seapower subcommittee Chairman Joe Courtney (D-CT) and cyber subcommittee Chairman Jim Langevin (D-RI) both spoke this week at the AUSVI Unmanned Systems Defense 2021 conference:

Courtney, Langevin still cautious on Navy unmanned plans

Lawmakers and unmanned system experts discussed the future of, and hesitancy toward, Navy unmanned systems during an industry event on Tuesday.

Last but certainly not least, we have a look at the Air Force's Arctic strategy:

One year into Arctic strategy, Air Force officials tout progress

In the year after the Air Force unveiled its Arctic strategy, high-ranking service officials say they've worked to leverage ties with allies and partners and used wargaming to get a better grasp on the strategic threats facing the region, leading to "a major shift" in those exercises.

By Jaspreet Gill
July 28, 2021 at 12:37 PM

A lawmaker on the House Armed Services Committee is proposing a mission-based pilot program that would restructure funding so that it's tied to specific missions, instead of specific hardware.

Speaking at a virtual Hudson Institute event last week, Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) said he wants to include this pilot in this year's defense policy bill.

"We can't just change what we buy, we also have to change how we buy it," Moulton said. "Software is going to win wars, so we need to change our buying habits. . . . And that means we have to have more flexible, quick funding that directly addresses the operational challenges our troops are facing . . . so that's why I'm working to establish what we're calling a mission-based pilot which would experiment with a new way of budgeting to fix these issues."

Instead of buying a single piece of hardware to address multiple missions over years and spending "billions of dollars fixing it, only deploying it decades after we wrote requirements for it," Moulton said the pilot would instead define an operational challenge troops are currently facing, assign funding to it and buy a flexible range of solutions that might help address it.

He added that's the approach China is taking, whereas "we just always buy gadgets."

"The F-35 is to me one of the best examples here," he said. "I mean, we've spent years and . . . billions of dollars developing the most expensive aircraft in world history to fight China and it can’t reach China. . . . What’s the point of buying one super-expensive piece of hardware to address a problem if it literally takes a year to get it out into the field?"

Moulton said he'd work with the Pentagon's Strategic Capabilities Office to develop the pilot.

By Audrey Decker
July 28, 2021 at 12:23 PM

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee is skeptical of the Navy's analysis that shows the service will close its strike fighter shortfall within five years, according to a House staffer.

In its mark of the fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill, the subcommittee is asking the Government Accountability Office to review the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps tactical aircraft portfolio.

A committee aide said this morning the subcommittee is particularly interested in how the Navy thinks it can eliminate the shortfall in five years.

"We are kind of scratching our heads on how the Navy moved up their analysis in terms of eliminating the shortfall by about five years. One, they didn't reinstate the 36 aircraft Super Hornets that they were going to procure in '22, '23, '24," the aide said.

The Navy took out about 104 aircraft out of a service modification program, the aide noted.

"With us not being able to see their [future years defense program] numbers, we're kind of skeptical to understand how the Navy manipulated the data and their analysis to bring the shortfall to resolve five years earlier, 2025," the aide said.

By Ethan Sterenfeld
July 27, 2021 at 2:49 PM

The Army has invited industry to apply for the Extended Range Soft Recoil Technologies program, which will develop a soft recoil system for next-generation towed 155 mm howitzer projects, according to a July 20 Army notice.

"The primary program objective is the design, manufacture, test, and delivery of Extended Range Soft Recoil System Vehicle Demonstrators," an attachment to the notice stated.

Program Manager Towed Artillery Systems will lead the program, which is related to an overarching goal of creating more mobile and lethal artillery systems.

“Exploring current soft recoil technology is directly aligned with modernizing cannon artillery,” the notice stated. “Soft recoil has the potential to improve the range and mobility of the U.S. Army’s Mobile Artillery fleet by reducing carriage loads during firing as well as create the opportunity to utilize lighter weight structures.”

Simulation and live fire testing during the program would compare the performance of the soft recoil system on various combinations of the XM351 Extended Range cannon and the Next Generation Cannon with different vehicles and stands, according to the notice.

Some tests would also include parts from the M777 Extended Range howitzer program, which modified the M777 towed howitzer with a longer barrel and other improvements from the Extended Range Cannon Artillery self-propelled howitzer.

ERCA, which is scheduled to begin fielding in 2023, is a modified version of the M109A7 Paladin self-propelled howitzer that is designed to hit targets at 70 kilometers. ERCA’s barrel is nearly 30 feet long, roughly 50% longer than the Paladin’s barrel.

The Extended Range Soft Recoil Technologies program would take place over two phases, a two-year design, simulation and manufacturing phase and an 18-month live fire and mobility testing phase at Yuma Proving Ground, AZ, according to the notice. The two phases can overlap.

Interested companies need to submit a white paper to the Army by August 4. The Army will then issue a request for prototype proposals to some of the companies that submitted a white paper, and one of those companies will win an Other Transaction Agreement for the program.

By Tony Bertuca
July 27, 2021 at 1:23 PM

Several nominees for senior Pentagon positions, including Navy secretary, are advancing to the full Senate for confirmation votes.

The Senate Armed Services Committee today voted to approve the nominations of Carlos Del Toro to be Navy secretary, Gilbert Cisneros to be under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, Kathleen Miller to be deputy Pentagon comptroller, Mara Karlin to be assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans, and capabilities, and Michael Connor to be assistant secretary of the Army for Civil Works.

Connor's nomination has been forwarded to the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, where lawmakers will have 20 days to address his nomination or it will be placed on the calendar for a vote.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) is also advancing Caral Spangler, nominated to be assistant secretary of the Army for financial management and comptroller, as a "privileged nomination."

"The nomination has been placed on the Executive Calendar under the heading 'Privileged Nomination -- Information Received' and will remain there for 10 session days," the committee said. "During this period, any senator may request the nomination be referred to the appropriate committee of jurisdiction, otherwise following the 10 session days the nomination will move to the 'Nominations' section of the Executive Calendar, allowing for confirmation of the nomination by the full Senate."

By John Liang
July 27, 2021 at 1:18 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the House Armed Services strategic forces and cyber subcommittees' portions of the fiscal year 2022 defense policy bill and more.

We start off with the subcommittee marks of the House Armed Services Committee's version of the fiscal year 2022 defense authorization bill:

House panel recommends provision to reinstate MDA laser projects

A House panel is looking to reinstate the Missile Defense Agency's authority to develop lasers -- particularly research and development of a pair of technologies with potential for knocking down ballistic and hypersonic threats -- a move that aims to roll back an internal Pentagon decision two years ago that effectively took such projects away from the agency.

House authorizers seek details on weapons testing infrastructure needed for GBSD, LRSO

The House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee wants more information on the infrastructure needed to test the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, Long-Range Standoff weapon and others across the Defense Department as part of the panel's fiscal year 2022 mark of the defense policy bill.

Cyber subcommittee proposes pilot programs, flexible funding for DOD tech

The House Armed Services cyber, innovative technologies and information systems subcommittee wants the Defense Department to carry out a five-year pilot program focused on improving the transition of science and technology programs and consider if "flexible funding" would help move technologies into full implementation.

House authorizers direct Air Force to review IT systems, share Agility Prime updates

Lawmakers on the House Armed Services cyber subcommittee are calling on the Air Force to undertake its own effort to review the service's technology systems and identify those that could be sunset.

While we're on the subject of cyber, here's the latest from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

CMMC rulemaking faces delay at DOD, while accreditation body's efforts move forward

The Defense Department's work to complete the final rule for its cyber certification program has hit a snag in the review process, as officials work to provide a draft report to a key DOD regulations council.

We also have a follow-up to the Army's recent award of multimillion-dollar contracts for the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program:

First increment of OMFV concept design worth $26.6 million

The first increment of the concept design phase of the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program will be worth $26.6 million for each of the five selected companies, a higher figure than the Army had previously advertised, according to July 26 contract announcements.

Last but by no means least, the Air Force has a new top civilian:

Kendall confirmed after Peters lifts hold

The Senate has confirmed former Pentagon acquisition chief Frank Kendall as the next Air Force secretary.

By Tony Bertuca
July 27, 2021 at 12:45 PM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin today called on U.S. allies in the Indo-Pacific region to align under a new policy of "integrated deterrence" to address Chinese military activities.

“Integrated deterrence is about using existing capabilities, and building new ones, and deploying them all in new and networked ways, all tailored to a region’s security landscape, and in growing partnership with our friends,” he said during a speech in a Singapore.

“We’re aiming to coordinate better, to network tighter and to innovate faster,” he continued. “And we’re working to ensure that our allies and partners have the capabilities, the capacities and the information that they need.”

Austin cited U.S. cooperation with Japan that resulted in that country’s first-ever firing of a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. He also said Japan and the United States are partnering to deploy new space sensors to “better detect potentially threatening behaviors.”

Austin said the United States is working with Singapore to “enter a new phase in cyber defense cooperation” and extolled that country’s purchase of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters.

“That’s going to boost our collective capabilities and open up new opportunities for high-end combined training,” he said.

Austin said the United States is also “working with Taiwan to enhance its own capabilities and to increase its readiness to deter threats and coercion” from China.

The defense secretary also criticized China, saying “Beijing’s claim to the vast majority of the South China Sea has no basis in international law.”

Austin also said China’s “unwillingness to resolve disputes peacefully and respect the rule of law isn’t just occurring on the water,” citing Beijing’s “genocide and crimes against humanity” regarding Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang.

Still, Austin said the United States does not seek confrontation with China.

“Let me be clear: As secretary, I am committed to pursuing a constructive, stable relationship with China including stronger crisis communications with the People’s Liberation Army,” he said “You know, big powers need to model transparency and communication. And we hope that we can work together with Beijing on common challenges, especially the threat of climate change.”