The Insider

By John Liang
May 29, 2024 at 1:46 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a senior GOP senator wanting to shatter the congressionally mandated defense spending cap, plus a Government Accountability Office report on the Navy's Constellation-class frigate program and more.

The top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee today released a report that his office said "is both consistent with historical defense spending during periods of great power rivalry, as well as crucial to maintaining a technical edge over adversaries in multiple theaters":

Wicker unveils blueprint to inject $55B into FY-25 defense budget

Senate Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Roger Wicker (R-MS) released a proposal today that would shatter the defense spending cap mandated by the Fiscal Responsibility Act by $55 billion, arguing U.S. military spending needs to skyrocket to deter China, Russia and other potential adversaries.

Document: Wicker 'peace through strength' report

The Government Accountability Office released a report today that finds the Navy's decision to begin construction on the Constellation-class frigate program "before the design was complete is inconsistent with leading ship design practices and jeopardized this approach":

GAO: Mismanagement of frigate design is the cause of program delays

A new report from government auditors points to a lack of design stability, stemming from critical mismanagement by the Navy, as the key factor responsible for years of delays now expected for the $22 billion Constellation-class frigate program.

Document: GAO report on the Navy's frigate program

The House Armed Services Committee's Chairman's mark of the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill would authorize the creation of a new line in the budget for Army Integrated Air and Missile Defense Family of System Components and approve procurement for one unit of the initial project called "Uplinker":

Army wins support for new-start RIG-360 production launch in draft legislation

A key House lawmaker has endorsed a small but significant new-start request by the Army in fiscal year 2025 that promises outsized improvements in the U.S. military's ability to conduct air and missile defense and potentially more by authorizing first-ever procurement funding for the Remote Interceptor Guidance-360.

The Defense Department is seeking "autonomous solutions capable of passively detecting and gathering data primarily against wideband, high bandwidth, electromagnetic spectrum while also storing this data securely":

DIU seeking autonomous systems to detect electromagnetic spectrum signatures

The Defense Innovation Unit posted a new solicitation today seeking autonomous systems that can discover, group and securely store data that can capture wideband, high bandwidth and electromagnetic spectrum signatures.

The Defense Department is in the final stages of drafting an updated missile defense management policy:

New MDA charter being finalized as statutory deadline to rescind 2020 DTM approaches

The Pentagon is finalizing a new update of seminal missile defense governance policy mandated by law to replace a controversial memorandum advanced during the Trump administration that curtailed the Missile Defense Agency's autonomy by elevating approval authority for key activities to senior Defense Department officials.

Document: Integration of missile defense report

Document: DOD directive on missile defense system policies

By John Liang
May 28, 2024 at 2:24 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the drafting of an updated missile defense management policy, defense contractor M&A legislation, the tribulations of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program and more.

The Defense Department is in the final stages of drafting an updated missile defense management policy:

New MDA charter being finalized as statutory deadline to rescind 2020 DTM approaches

The Pentagon is finalizing a new update of seminal missile defense governance policy mandated by law to replace a controversial memorandum advanced during the Trump administration that curtailed the Missile Defense Agency's autonomy by elevating approval authority for key activities to senior Defense Department officials.

A House lawmaker last week tried to include several military contractor mergers and acquisitions-related amendments in the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill:

Lawmaker targets defense company mergers and acquisitions

Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-PA) successfully included an amendment in the House Armed Services Committee's version of the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill that would require the Pentagon to provide lawmakers a report outlining its goals to increase oversight of defense company mergers and acquisitions, though he tried to do more.

Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle slammed Lockheed Martin last week for allegedly allowing the more than $2 trillion Joint Strike Fighter program to go off track and, ultimately, hamstringing the operational capabilities of the warfighter:

Lawmakers are fed up with Lockheed Martin's handling of F-35

The House Armed Services Committee is willing to "impose consequences" on Lockheed Martin if the company isn't able to swiftly remedy compounding issues causing delays in software development and deliveries of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a senior congressional aide told Inside Defense on Thursday.

New zero-trust policy guidance has been released by the National Security Agency:

NSA provides steps to secure applications, workloads under DOD zero-trust model

The National Security Agency has published guidance on how to protect applications and workloads from unauthorized access, as part of a series focused on supporting adoption of the Pentagon's zero-trust model across national security systems, the Defense Department and the defense industrial base.

House authorizers last week adopted proposals on improving the cybersecurity of mobile devices used within DOD and allowing the military services "to accept voluntary and uncompensated services from civilian cybersecurity experts to train servicemembers on technical matters":

House defense policy bill advances with measures addressing vulnerability disclosure, critical infrastructure

The House Armed Services Committee added amendments to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill in a mark-up session requiring federal contractors to have a vulnerability disclosure policy and ordering studies from the Pentagon on critical infrastructure threats.

By Shelley K. Mesch
May 28, 2024 at 1:43 PM

The Space Force may create a proliferated network of communication satellites in geostationary orbit as part of its Protected Tactical Satellite Communications Global (PTS-G) initiative, according to a recent post from the service.

Space Systems Command is researching “commercial solutions for inexpensive, quick-to-launch small GEO communications satellites” that can connect warfighters as needed, the post states.

The Space Force is requesting $248 million in fiscal year 2025 for the assured communications PTS-G would provide, according to justification documents submitted with the budget request. It is intended to “bridge the gap” between the focused PTS-Resilient capabilities and the broad but less assured MILSATCOM and commercial capabilities.

The initial plan for the program would include four space vehicles, Maj. Gen. Michael Greiner, Air Force deputy assistant secretary for budget, said during the budget rollout in March. He added that the plan could change, since the program was in the early stages.

SSC will host industry days June 14 and 15 for businesses that have experience with and interest in supporting the service’s SATCOM requirements. Topics of the industry days will include maturity of the Ka- and X-band waveform satellite and ground designs, cybersecurity, commercial operations concepts, payload constraints and more.

By Nickolai Sukharev
May 28, 2024 at 11:53 AM

Oshkosh has received a $108.9 million contract to build medium tactical trucks for the Army, the Defense Department announced Friday.

Issued as a firm-fixed-price contract, the Wisconsin-based company will build the family of medium tactical vehicles (FMTV) by an estimated completion date of Sept. 30, 2026, with funding and work locations being determined with each order, the May 24 announcement reads.

Performing 55% of the Army’s haul and resupply missions, the FMTV includes cargo, recovery and tractor variants on a six-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive chassis, according to Army budget documents.

In January, the Army announced an order of 1,343 FMTV A2s, an upgraded variant with a more powerful engine, and increased armor that can carry heavier payloads when compared to the earlier A1 variant.

Earlier variants of the FMTV can carry the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which the Army is also testing on the A2 variant, according to service research and development documents.

In its 2023 report, the Director for Operational Test and Evaluation concluded the FMTV is effective and survivable but recommended the Army eliminate secondary hazards after finding that crew members experienced strain, discomfort and blunt force injuries.

The Army intends to procure 208 trucks in fiscal year 2025 for $134 million and 695 trucks by FY-29 for an approximate $446 million, the budget documents add.

Earlier this month, the House Armed Services Committee approved the Army’s $134 million request to fund the FMTV program for FY-25.

Oshkosh also manufactures the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, the Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck and the M1070 tank transporter.

By Tony Bertuca
May 24, 2024 at 3:56 PM

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is scheduled to undergo an "elective and minimally invasive follow-up non-surgical procedure" related to a previous bladder ailment at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland later this evening, according to Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder.

“The secretary has determined he will be temporarily unable to perform his functions and duties during the procedure, so Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks will assume the functions and duties of the secretary of defense and serve as the acting secretary of defense,” Ryder said.

Ryder noted that Austin’s bladder issue, first disclosed on Feb. 13, is not related to his prostate cancer diagnosis and “has had no effect on his excellent cancer prognosis.”

“White House and congressional notifications have occurred,” Ryder said. “We will provide an update on Secretary Austin’s status following his medical procedure.”

Austin was criticized by Congress and White House officials earlier this year over the secrecy surrounding his emergency hospitalization and cancer diagnosis.

Meanwhile, Austin is scheduled to depart next week for the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore.

By Tony Bertuca
May 24, 2024 at 3:00 PM

The Defense Department announced the transfer of $275 million in U.S. weapons to Ukraine today, highlighting the provision of additional precision-strike rockets for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems and other munitions.

Along with the additional HIMARS rockets, the package includes:

  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • 60mm mortar rounds;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided missiles;
  • Javelin and AT-4 anti-armor systems;
  • Precision aerial munitions;
  • Small arms and additional rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades;
  • Demolitions munitions;
  • Anti-armor mines;
  • Tactical vehicles to recover equipment;
  • Helmets, body armor, and Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear protective equipment; and
  • Spare parts, maintenance, and other ancillary equipment.

The announcement accounts for the 58th transfer of U.S. weapons to Ukraine via Presidential Drawdown Authority since August 2021.

“It is the fifth security assistance package the president has authorized since signing the national security supplemental last month, and the third package the president has using Presidential Drawdown Authorities,” DOD said.

By John Liang
May 24, 2024 at 1:53 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has coverage of a new cost estimate the Pentagon is doing on the multibillion-dollar Next Generation Interceptor, plus the fielding of the secretive Replicator drones and more.

The Pentagon's cost assessment and program evaluation office earlier this year initiated a new independent cost estimate to more accurately tally financials associated with the NGI program following the decision to curtail planned competitive development -- which knocked Northrop Grumman from the contest and selected Lockheed Martin:

DOD spikes $17 billion NGI tab, working up new cost estimate to reflect single contractor

The Defense Department is conducting a new cost estimate for the Next Generation Interceptor, spiking the $17 billion price tag calculated more than three years ago to reflect the accelerated source selection last month and deliver findings to support a major acquisition milestone for the homeland missile defense program later this year.

The Pentagon's secretive Replicator drones have been deployed:

DOD says Replicator drones have been fielded

The Defense Department began delivering autonomous, attritable Replicator drones to U.S. troops earlier this month, according to a statement released today from Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

An amendment included in the House Armed Services Committee's defense policy bill would codify and update sealift capacity-focused National Security Directive 28:

Lawmakers aim focus on sealift readiness in new amendment

An amendment included in yesterday’s House defense policy bill urges prioritization of sealift readiness and would require updates from top defense and transportation officials on vessel capacity and transportation infrastructure.

Production delays and design maturity issues within the frigate program prompted authorizers to temporarily pump the brakes on procurement, according to the top Democrat on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee:

Courtney: House's frigate cut was prompted by program issues, not spending limits

The House proposal to zero out fiscal year 2025 procurement funding for the Constellation-class frigate program would have occurred even if lawmakers were not looking to free up funds for a second Virginia-class submarine, according to a senior Armed Services Committee member.

Last but by no means least, some cyber defense news from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

NSA provides steps to secure applications, workloads under DOD zero-trust model

The National Security Agency has published guidance on how to protect applications and workloads from unauthorized access, as part of a series focused on supporting adoption of the Pentagon's zero-trust model across national security systems, the Defense Department and the defense industrial base.

House defense policy bill advances with measures addressing vulnerability disclosure, critical infrastructure

The House Armed Services Committee added amendments to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill in a mark-up session requiring federal contractors to have a vulnerability disclosure policy and ordering studies from the Pentagon on critical infrastructure threats.

By Nickolai Sukharev
May 24, 2024 at 1:24 PM

Seeking battlefield projectiles with greater ranges than what is currently in service, the Army is looking to industry to produce a 155mm projectile that can increase the lethality of brigade combat teams, according to a public notice.

Issued as a market survey, interested manufacturers will produce the Extended Range Artillery Projectile (ERAP) munition, a 155mm artillery projectile that “must be target seeking, be able to operate in GPS heavily degraded environments, and include a mode of operation that does not use GPS,” the May 24 announcement reads.

The ERAP will have a minimum 65km range when fired from current 39 caliber howitzers and 70km or greater when fired from 52 caliber howitzers.

“It will support both current and future weapon systems and defeat infantry fighting vehicles, self-propelled howitzers, multiple rocket launchers (MRLs), air defense targets, main battle tanks (MBT) and maritime targets of interest,” the announcement reads.

The round will also need to be compatible with current howitzers in service as well as the Joint Ballistic Memorandum of Understanding, an international agreement that sets 155mm howitzer compatibility standards among NATO members.

Restricted to manufacturers in the U.S. and Canada, the Army plans on low-rate production to begin by the second quarter of fiscal year 2029 and initial operational capability fielding by FY-30.

Production will begin with 300 projectiles per month the first production year before ramping up to 1500 projectiles per month by the sixth production year, the notice adds.

Speaking earlier this week at an event hosted by the Association of the United States Army in Arlington, VA, Lt. Gen. Karl Gingrich, the deputy chief of staff for programs (G-8), said the Army can achieve greater artillery ranges by improving the 155mm round, without having to develop an entirely new howitzer.

“Rather than get a longer gun tube, there [are] technologies out there and many of your companies represent those technologies that allow us existing cannon configurations, whether it's 39 caliber, 52 caliber or whatever, 52 being the NATO kind of standard these days,” he said.

Stemming from a currently unreleased tactical fires study -- which stressed the need to increase artillery ranges to match potential adversaries -- the Army looked at developing a new howitzer with a longer gun tube and improving the 155 rounds.

The Army has tested the Extended Range Cannon Artillery program, a tracked self-propelled howitzer armed with a 30ft gun tube that could engage targets at 70km with standard rounds and 110km with rocket-assisted rounds, greater than the current 40km range of the Paladin with a 19ft gun tube.

While Army officials stressed that the unreleased tactical fires study validated the need to extend artillery ranges, the service cancelled the howitzer portion of the ERCA program and instead opted to continue improving the 155mm round while also looking at capabilities of current commercially available self-propelled howitzers.

Speaking at the Fires Symposium in Lawton, OK, earlier this month, Brig. Gen. Rory Crooks, who heads the Army’s Long Range Precision Fires Cross-Functional team, said the ERCA tests revealed that higher pressure rounds being fired from shorter barrels can reach the greater ranges requirements set by the unreleased tactical fires study.

By Nick Wilson
May 24, 2024 at 10:53 AM

The Navy has awarded shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine a $1 billion contract option to build the fifth and sixth vessels in the Constellation-class frigate program, according to a Pentagon announcement.

The company began construction of the lead ship in this new class of small surface combatants in 2022 with a fiscal year 2026 delivery target. However, the program is facing schedule challenges driven by design maturity issues and labor shortages at the shipyard.

A recent Navy evaluation of shipbuilding programs found that the lead vessel is running about three years behind schedule.

The Navy’s latest budget request includes an additional $1.2 billion to procure another frigate in FY-25, but House authorizers have moved to eliminate this funding in their version of the defense policy bill.

Given spending constraints imposed by the Fiscal Responsibility Act, zeroing out frigate funding frees up money that lawmakers can channel into other areas of the budget, including $1 billion to support the purchase of a second Virginia-class submarine.

But yesterday, seapower and projection forces subcommittee Ranking Member Joe Courtney (D-CT) told reporters the frigate funding reduction was driven by program issues rather than spending constraints and indicated a temporary procurement pause is not expected to seriously impact the program.

By Vanessa Montalbano
May 23, 2024 at 5:05 PM

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Melissa Dalton by a 56-39 vote to be the new Air Force under secretary, filling a role that hasn't had a permanent successor in over a year.

President Biden tapped Dalton in September to take over the office from Gina Ortiz Jones, who held the position from July 2021 to March 2023. Since then, Air Force Comptroller Kristyn Jones has been performing the duties of the under secretary.

Dalton has until now been performing the duties of the deputy under secretary of defense for policy. She received Senate confirmation in 2022 to serve as assistant secretary of defense for homeland security and hemispheric affairs.

The Senate Armed Services Committee in March voted 14-10 to advance her nomination after several Republican lawmakers criticized her resume during a contentious January hearing over the administration's delayed response in identifying the Chinese surveillance balloon last year and her office's alleged mishandling of stored southern border wall materials.

“We’re at a serious, critical time right now in this country. And we need the best and the brightest,” Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) said at the time. “Are you the best to be the under secretary of the Air Force? I don’t see it. . . . I just don’t think you are the best person for the job right now.”

In her new role, Dalton will help mold the service’s annual budget requests and be a point person in implementing several of the organizational changes related to the Air Force’s “Reoptimization for Great Power Competition,” among other tasks.

By John Liang
May 23, 2024 at 3:25 PM

The bulk of this Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest deals with the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill.

We start off with what lawmakers are thinking about the Pentagon's largest-ever acquisition program:

Lawmakers eye future of F-35 in House authorization bill mark-up

The struggling F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is at the top of mind for several House Armed Services Committee members, who have introduced a number of amendments meant to check rising aircraft sustainment costs and accelerate long-delayed software modernization.

Followed by authorizers' concerns about Russia:

House authorizers want to know effects of leak on Russia's nuclear satellite

Lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee argued yesterday over whether there was a leak of classified information relating to Russia's development of a satellite that could detonate a nuclear weapon in space.

House committee seeks DOD force-sizing strategy on Russian-Chinese military cooperation

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) successfully introduced an amendment last night to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill directing the Pentagon to report U.S. force structure planning to account for Russian and Chinese military cooperation.

There's also shipbuilding language in the bill:

House authorizers aim to raise requirements for ship design maturity

An amendment to the House defense policy bill, passed in committee today, would require the Navy to complete 100% of a new shipbuilding program's design before beginning construction of the first vessel.

Amendment would allow foreign shipyard repairs on Navy ships

An amendment included in the House defense policy bill -- passed by the House Armed Services Committee in a 57-1 vote late last night -- would allow foreign shipyard repairs on U.S. Navy ships, an issue also recently brought forward by Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro.

Along with a cybersecurity provision:

House authorizers want study on creating a 'Cyber Force'

The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine would evaluate whether the U.S. should create a Cyber Force, should the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the fiscal year 2025 defense policy bill be enacted.

Plus Army ground vehicles:

Lawmakers approve defense authorization bill amendments on ground vehicle programs

The House Armed Services committee is asking the Army to provide briefings on numerous ground vehicle programs in amendments to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill.

And Army helicopters:

House authorizers ask Army for briefings on UH-60, CH-47 in mark-up amendments

House authorizers are asking Army officials to provide a series of briefings on various aircraft programs, including efforts to modernize the Black Hawk and Chinook helicopters, in amendments to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill.

Along with authorizers weighing in on whether Air National Guardsmen should be absorbed into the Space Force:

Governors' approval would be required for transferring guardsmen to Space Force

An amendment to the House Armed Services Committee's defense policy bill would require the Space Force to secure gubernatorial approval before absorbing any Air National Guard space-related units into the service.

By Nickolai Sukharev
May 23, 2024 at 2:59 PM

House lawmakers approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill that will ban electric vehicles produced by foreign adversaries from entering military bases.

Proposed by Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and approved by the House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday, the amendment asks the defense secretary to establish a list of prohibited electric vehicles “that pose an undue or unacceptable risk to national security.”

The amendment includes any vehicle that, “integrates onboard networked hardware with automotive software systems to communicate via dedicated short-range communication, cellular telecommunications connectivity, satellite communication, or other wireless spectrum connectivity with any other network or device,” the amendment reads.

The defense secretary would also need to annually review and update the list.

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing last month, Slotkin raised the issue with Army Secretary Christine Wormuth.

“What I would pose is that we are about to have a big moment of inflection here with the possibility of the saturation of Chinese electric vehicles being sold in the United States,” Slotkin said during the April 17 hearing.

By Vanessa Montalbano
May 23, 2024 at 1:34 PM

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday quietly approved an amendment to the defense policy bill to buy two more C-130J Super Hercules via a voice vote on a package of amendments.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO), would boost fiscal year 2025 procurement funds for the C-130J transport aircraft by $220 million for two additional aircraft by reducing the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s fund for operation and maintenance by $170 million and the Air Force’s O&M allowance by $50 million.

The Lockheed Martin-made Super Hercules, which is mostly used for airlift in tactical zones, can airdrop loads of roughly 42,000 pounds and carry a variety of oversized cargo, including armored vehicles. Variations of the aircraft have recently been used to deliver aid and other humanitarian operations into Gaza amid conflict in the Middle East.

“The aircraft is capable of operating from rough, dirt strips and is the prime transport for airdropping troops and equipment into hostile areas,” the service has said. It is meant to replace aging C-130Es and some C-130Hs with a newer, more energy efficient model that has extended range capabilities and can take off or land in shorter distances, among other improvements. There are several variations of the C-130J platform, including one with an extended fuselage, another for weather reconnaissance and others for special operations, combat search and rescue and close air support.

In its FY-25 budget request, the Air Force is asking to divest six C-130H Hercules. It would make no purchases of any variation of C-130 aircraft.

By Tony Bertuca
May 22, 2024 at 10:45 PM

The House Armed Services Committee has passed its version of the fiscal year defense authorization bill by a vote of 57-1.

Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) released a statement applauding the bill’s bipartisan passage, highlighting new “quality of life” measures for U.S. servicemembers.

“Strengthening our military and investing in our defense is how we send our adversaries a message that we will not be intimidated,” he said. “The most important investment we can make is in the foundation of our military: our people. No servicemember should have to worry about making ends meet, putting food on the table or having safe housing. The FY-25 [National Defense Authorization Act] will boost compensation, improve housing, expand access to medical care, increase access to childcare and provide support for the spouses of servicemembers. To strengthen our defense, the FY-25 [defense authorization bill] will support the continued modernization of our nuclear deterrent, invest in our naval fleet, boost innovation and revitalize our defense industrial base to ensure our warfighters have the capabilities they need to win on future battlefields.”

The only committee member to vote against the $895 billion authorization bill was Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), who released a statement saying he voted against the it because he would rather spend federal money elsewhere, but noted he was able to secure various protections for U.S. servicemembers in the legislation, including a provision related to traumatic brain injuries.

“I was the lone no vote on the [defense policy bill] out of the House Armed Services Committee because I believe we should use this money to invest in a modern national security strategy that will actually keep us safe and domestic priorities instead of further enriching defense contractors,” he said.

The bill will now advance to the House floor for amendments.

Meanwhile, the Senate Armed Services Committee is scheduled to take up its version of the bill on June 12.

By John Liang
May 22, 2024 at 4:25 PM

Lockheed Martin today announced that former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson had been elected to the company's board of directors.

Wilson served as Air Force secretary from 2017 to 2019 and is president of the University of Texas at El Paso.

From 1998 to 2009, Wilson represented New Mexico as a House lawmaker, serving on the House Armed Services Committee, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

An Air Force Academy graduate and former Rhodes Scholar, she is a member of the National Science Board that oversees the National Science Foundation, is inaugural chair of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities and serves on the board of directors of Google Public Sector, a subsidiary of Google LLC.