The Insider

By Nick Wilson
June 13, 2024 at 4:14 PM

The Navy has learned a lot in the eight months since it began intercepting missiles in the Red Sea, but the service is only able to leverage a fraction of the sensor data its warships are collecting due to limitations in shipboard data storage.

According to Lt. Artem Sherbinin, the chief technology officer for the Navy’s Task Force Hopper -- which was established in 2021 to integrate artificial intelligence and machine learning across the surface fleet -- each Navy warship produces about 150 terabytes of raw sensor data each day.

Across a fleet of 258 ships and 11 aircraft carriers, “that is more data than any vessel or any physical piece of hardware in the Department of Defense,” Sherbinin said today at the Nexus 2024 symposium in Washington.

“We are capturing miniscule percentages of that data, which means we're not able to apply that to train any sort of model,” he said.

Though the Navy is investing in expanding shipboard storage, it has a long way to go, Sherbinin continued, saying it is difficult to convince the Pentagon to spend large sums of money on storage and computing for ships.

However, the Navy has learned to extract this data faster since its ships began engaging anti-ship cruise missiles launched by Houthi rebels in October.

At the time, it took weeks or even months to extract sensor data from vessels, Sherbinin said. Now, the service has significantly reduced this timespan and is pushing to collect the data in as little as 24 hours, he continued.

Sherbinin also said software is the Navy’s best bet for improving fleet capabilities before 2027 -- the year by which the Defense Department believes it must be prepared to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion.

If this countdown is accurate, “that means the cycle time we have to deploy software technology is much shorter and we also know that new hardware isn’t coming,” he said. “Ships take years to make. Sensors for those ships take years to make. Software is all we have.”

By Vanessa Montalbano
June 13, 2024 at 3:36 PM

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has selected software company EpiSci in partnership with PhysicsAI to develop the first version of “tactical artificial intelligence algorithms for missionized, team-based air combat,” the company announced on Wednesday.

The contract will span 18 months and is worth $6 million, according to a news release from EpiSci.

Under DARPA’s Artificial Intelligence Reinforcements program, the team will be tasked with creating sophisticated multi-agent unmanned products that can be used in contested environments and during “beyond visual range air combat missions.”

The combat drones will undergo the same training and evaluation tests as human pilots, the company said, in an effort to build operator trust within the systems, expand the abilities of airmen and free service members up to focus on higher-level responsibilities.

“Autonomy solutions will initially be developed and demonstrated on human-on-the-loop F-16 testbeds and then transferred to an uncrewed combat aerial vehicle,” the company added.

Software from EpiSci was also used in DARPA's AlphaDogfight Trials and the Air Combat Evolution program, which recently modified an F-16 Fighting Falcon with combat coded machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities. In May, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall flew aboard the platform, dubbed X-62A VISTA, as the aircraft maneuvered through a series of warfighting scenarios against a manned F-16.

EpiSci on Thursday also said the company has agreed to the terms of a future merger with Merlin, which develops AI flight technology for fixed-wing aircraft.

“With the acquisition of EpiSci, we are uniquely positioned to lead the charge in autonomous aviation, which demands adaptable solutions that work across multiple platforms,” Matt George, Merlin CEO, said in a statement. “We look forward to the final steps in this acquisition so that we can begin the real work of combining our efforts towards a versatile, trusted autonomy solution that unlocks human potential and delivers unparalleled value to our customers and stakeholders.”

By Thomas Duffy
June 13, 2024 at 2:32 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest is all about the House Appropriations Committee’s fiscal year 2025 defense spending bill. Our coverage looks at Air Force spending, Army trucks, the Defense Department’s Replicator program, and more.

House appropriators want more information on DOD’s plans for the Replicator effort:

House appropriators want Replicator tranche 2 investment plans, push DIU funding

House appropriators are seeking a detailed plan of Replicator's tranche 2 requirements and want to funnel millions into the Defense Innovation Unit to better transition developmental technology into the field, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

We took a look at how House lawmakers have reviewed the Air Force’s FY-25 budget request:

Air Force sees small hits in House appropriators' draft spending bill report

The Air Force may be allowed to pursue planned divestments of legacy aircraft to boost funds for innovation, but the service should "better balance near-term readiness with modernization for the future" in upcoming budget requests through at least 2028, according to a draft version of the fiscal year 2025 defense spending bill from the House Appropriations defense subcommittee.

House appropriators see the need for more Black Hawk helicopters for the Army National Guard:

House appropriators propose increasing Black Hawk procurement for Army National Guard

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee, in the report accompanying its draft defense spending bill, has included an additional $60 million for the UH-60 M model Black Hawk helicopter above the Army's fiscal year 2025 request.

The Space Force’s plan for a new GPS constellation is being questioned by House lawmakers:

House appropriators question Resilient GPS quick-start program

The House Appropriations defense subcommittee is skeptical of the Space Force's decision to pursue a constellation of GPS satellites as a means for maintaining positioning, navigation and timing, according to a draft report accompanying the fiscal year 2025 defense spending bill.

The subcommittee’s report would deny the service’s request -- which was not part of the official budget request -- to realign $77 million for Resilient GPS, a program that would place 20 small GPS satellites on orbit.

And House appropriators are scrutinizing the Army’s plan for buying heavy tactical trucks:

Appropriators concerned Army tactical truck program could reduce competition and increase costs

House appropriators want the Army to analyze its heavy tactical truck program after expressing concern the current acquisition approach could reduce competition and increase costs.

In the report accompanying the fiscal year 2025 defense appropriations bill obtained by Inside Defense Wednesday, the House Appropriations defense subcommittee requests the Army acquisition secretary to submit an analysis of alternatives to the Common Tactical Truck (CTT) within 120 days following enactment of the bill.

By Dan Schere
June 13, 2024 at 12:19 PM

A modification to a contract for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System will procure up to 215 additional launchers through fiscal year 2028, according to the Army.

On May 8 the Army awarded Lockheed Martin an $861 million firm-fixed-price contract for 96 HIMARS launcher. That contract represented the “authorized base year funding value” for FY-24, according to Lockheed.

The Army awarded Lockheed a $1.9 billion modification on June 3 for additional HIMARS systems with a completion date of May 31, 2028 according to a Pentagon notice.

With the contract modification, the government’s “approved contract ceiling” of $2.79 billion for FY-24 through FY-28 procures a total of up to 311 HIMARS, according to a statement from the Army provided to Inside Defense June 12. That total consists of the 96 systems from the May 8 award, and the remaining $1.93 billion, which procures up to 215 additional systems from FY-25 through FY-28.

“The current and planned contract awards support US and international customer requirements,” the Army said in the statement.

HIMARS are among the weapon systems the United States has been sending to Ukraine as part of the security assistance packages to aid the country in its conflict with Russia. A $225 million weapons package announced by the Defense Department on June 7 included HIMARS ammunition.

HIMARS quantities awarded under the recent contract “will be based on future demand over the coming years,” according to a statement from Lockheed. The procurement “expands the U.S. Army’s fleet of launchers and will fulfill orders for global partners.”

By John Liang
June 12, 2024 at 4:19 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization and appropriations bills.

The House Rules Committee has sent the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill to the full chamber:

House Rules Committee sends defense policy bill to the floor with new amendments

The House Rules Committee voted 9-4 to advance the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill, with 350 amendments slated to receive votes on the House floor.

Coverage of the House Appropriations Committee's FY-25 defense spending bill:

House appropriators poised to cut procurement, boost R&D

The House Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider a defense spending bill on Thursday that would cut procurement in fiscal year 2025 by about $1.4 billion below the Pentagon's request but would increase research and development funding by about $2.8 billion, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

House appropriators cut shipbuilding, citing delays and design issues

House appropriators' decision to fund only one Virginia-class submarine while slashing procurement in two surface ship programs was driven by concern over production delays and design maturity issues within the programs, according to a draft House Appropriations Committee report on its fiscal year 2025 defense spending bill obtained by Inside Defense.

The Navy now has a new solid-rocket motor supplier:

Anduril wins $19M SM-6 rocket motor contract, launches $75 million investment to boost SRM output

Anduril Industries has secured a $19 million Navy contract to design, build and test solid-rocket motors for the Standard Missile-6 in an award that closely follows the company's announcement of a new $75 million investment plan intended to dramatically increase rocket motor output at its McHenry, MS facility.

The Missile Defense Agency is in discussions with other U.S. defense agencies and industry to identify candidate technologies that were not originally designed to defeat maneuvering hypersonic targets but could potentially -- with modifications -- be effective against the new class of threats:

MDA exploring repurposing existing U.S. weapons for near-term hypersonic defense

The Missile Defense Agency is exploring options to re-tool existing weapons in the U.S. inventory to counter ultra-fast maneuvering threats as an interim hypersonic defense capability in the next five years while developing an objective weapon system -- the Glide Phase Interceptor -- that will not be ready before 2035 at the soonest.

By Georgina DiNardo
June 12, 2024 at 3:22 PM

The Pentagon established the Cyber Academic Engagement Office (CAEO) today to function as the "consolidated focal point" for cyber-related activities between the Defense Department and academia.

The Office of the Chief Information Officer established CAEO today in compliance with a mandate in the Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act.

Mark Gorak, the principal director for resources and analysis, was appointed as CAEO director on top of his current duties.

“Mark's responsibilities will include coordinating and funding academic engagement programs for the Department, conducting ongoing analysis of the performance for cyber-related educational efforts, establishing requirements, policies, and procedures to collect date on and evaluating the performance of covered academic engagement programs,” DOD said.

By Dan Schere
June 12, 2024 at 10:31 AM

The Army Science Board will present its findings and recommendations for multiple studies at its summer voting session in Irvine, CA next month, including a study on "Future Human Machine Integration in the Army," according to a Federal Register notice posted today.

Human-machine integration is among the major initiatives of Army modernization top officials, including Army Futures Command Commanding Gen. James Rainey, have championed in recent years.

On July 12, the ASB will review, deliberate and vote on the fiscal year 2024 study, which is unclassified and will be presented in open session.

The board will also review and deliberate an FY-24 study on “Transformation of Intelligence Processing, Exploitation, Dissemination” that focuses on Army warfighting requirements. That study is classified and will be presented in closed session, according to the notice.

Also at the meeting, the ASB will discuss an unclassified FY-24 study on “Enhancing Beneficial Use of Dredged Materials via US Army Corps of Engineers Programs and Projects.”

By Tony Bertuca
June 11, 2024 at 6:27 PM

Inside Defense has obtained a draft copy of the House Appropriations Committee’s report on the fiscal year 2025 defense spending bill.

A searchable version of the document is available for subscribers here.

By John Liang
June 11, 2024 at 2:31 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a major labor union lobbying for two Virginia-class submarines per year, plus OMB's latest statement of administration policy on the FY-25 defense authorization bill and more.

In a recent letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House Appropriations Committee and defense subcommittee, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers argues that steady two-per-year Virginia submarine procurement is needed to support the Navy's fleet and industrial base companies and workers:

Defense union calls on House appropriators to fund two Virginia subs ahead of committee mark-up

A large defense labor union is calling on Congress to fund two Virginia-class submarines in its fiscal year 2025 spending legislation in a June 4 letter addressed to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee, which is set to mark up its version of the bill Thursday.

Document: IAMAW letter to appropriators on Virginia-class funding

In a statement of administration policy sent to Congress today, the Office of Management and Budget opposes certain provisions in the House Armed Services Committee's fiscal year 2024 defense authorization bill but not to the level of threatening a presidential veto:

Biden administration backs House committee's defense policy bill with some objections

The White House "strongly supports" the House Armed Services Committee's version of the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill but notes opposition to several provisions related to shipbuilding, missile defense, contractor pricing data and other areas, according to a new statement of administration policy released by the Office of Management and Budget.

Document: OMB statement of administration policy on House's FY-25 defense authorization bill

RTX has received a multimillion-dollar SPY-6 radar contract:

RTX secures $678 million option for seven more SPY-6 radars, bringing total contract up to 38 units

The Navy has awarded RTX a $678 million option for SPY-6 radar production, covering the procurement of seven additional AN/SPY-6(V) units and bringing the total contract value up to 38 of the radars.

The Defense Department's research and engineering chief joined several former Pentagon officials at a recent Center for a New American Security event:

Senior Pentagon official calls on Congress to grant DOD more flexible funding

A senior Pentagon official is calling for more flexibility in the Defense Department's budget so threats can be tackled as they emerge, comments coming a week before the House Armed Services Committee is expected to vote on the fiscal year 2025 defense spending bill.

We have news on the latest tranche of military equipment sent to Ukraine:

DOD announces $225M military package for Ukraine

The Defense Department announced a $225 million weapons package for Ukraine today, including air defense interceptors, artillery systems and munitions, armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons.

By Abby Shepherd
June 11, 2024 at 11:54 AM

The Navy is seeking industry support for development of the DDG(X) large surface combatant's power and propulsion system and will provide updates on DDG(X) development plans at a July 15 industry day.

Electric power and propulsion equipment engineers, academia and others are encouraged to attend the industry day, where the Navy will also provide updates on its Land-Based Test Site in Philadelphia, a critical facility for developing the DDG(X) propulsion system. Prior to procuring a power and propulsion system, the test site is used for system demonstration and risk reduction.

Modeling and simulation and test site activities for DDG(X) propulsion will seek to de-risk the system, develop and validate system operations and interfaces, test and mature control systems, and overall inform capabilities and limitations for the concepts of operation of DDG(X), according to the notice.

In fiscal year 2024, the Navy’s budget proposed over $113 million for the program’s propulsion and power system development, and $74.5 million in FY-25.

Registration for the industry day, held in Washington, D.C., must be complete by July 1.

By John Liang
June 10, 2024 at 1:44 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the latest weapons package sent to Ukraine plus a senior Pentagon official speaking at the Center for a New American Security event, the Air Force Research Laboratory's work on artificial intelligence and more.

The latest U.S. shipment of weapons to Ukraine will transfer weapons directly from U.S. stocks and is the 59th such action since August 2021:

DOD announces $225M military package for Ukraine

The Defense Department announced a $225 million weapons package for Ukraine today, including air defense interceptors, artillery systems and munitions, armored vehicles and anti-tank weapons.

Defense Under Secretary for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu spoke at a recent Center for a New American Security event:

Senior Pentagon official calls on Congress to grant DOD more flexible funding

A senior Pentagon official today called for more flexibility in the Defense Department's budget so threats can be tackled as they emerge, comments coming a week before the House Armed Services Committee is expected to vote on the fiscal year 2025 defense spending bill.

The AI algorithms the Air Force Research Laboratory is developing can scour data points "way faster than any human can" to identify the types of errors or at least flag potential errors for a human to then check and correct, according to AFRL architecture lead for cyber and AI Roselyn Richardson:

AFRL using AI to clean up data sets, tag data as it comes in

The Air Force Research Laboratory is running experiments to bring artificial intelligence into the field and bring data to the warfighter, but first it’s using AI to clean up the existing mounds of data.

The Pentagon wants to take another crack at developing an airborne laser:

MDA plans 'tracking,' 'characterization' projects in initial exploration of new airborne laser

The Missile Defense Agency plans to begin work on tracking technology as a first step in a potential project that could build the case for arming uncrewed aircraft with a next-generation airborne laser powerful enough to defeat long-range ballistic missiles, according to a senior official.

The Navy is looking to develop a long-endurance small, unmanned surface vessel that would ideally be operational for seven days at a minimum and able to maintain a cruising speed of 1 knot:

Navy seeks industry input on small, long-endurance USVs

The Navy is seeking to expand its unmanned surface vessel portfolio -- specifically small, long-endurance vessels -- according to a request for information posted Thursday.

By Tony Bertuca
June 10, 2024 at 5:00 AM

Three congressional committees will meet to consider fiscal year 2025 defense authorization and appropriations bills this week.

Tuesday

The House Rules Committee meets to consider amendments to the House Armed Services Committee's version of the fiscal year 2025 defense authorization bill.

The Senate Armed Services Committee begins marking up its version of the FY-25 defense authorization bill, with most subcommittees convening in closed session.

The Atlantic Council hosts a discussion on integrating defense capabilities with U.S. allies.

Wednesday

The Senate Armed Services seapower subcommittee meets to mark up its portion of the FY-25 defense authorization bill.

The Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee marks up its portion of the FY-25 defense authorization bill.

The full Senate Armed Services Committee begins meeting to mark up its FY-25 defense authorization bill. The full committee is expected to meet through Thursday and will convene on Friday if required.

The House Oversight and Accountability national security, border and foreign affairs subcommittee holds a hearing on the V-22 Osprey program.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on integrating military space in the joint fight.

The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on “achieving adaptability and scale in defense acquisition.”

Thursday

The House Appropriations Committee meets to mark up its version of the FY-25 defense spending bill.

The Air and Space Forces Association hosts a discussion with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin.

By John Liang
June 7, 2024 at 1:53 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon seeking more funding flexibility, plus the latest on an effort to develop a next-generation airborne laser and more.

Heidi Shyu, defense under secretary for research and engineering, said this week that DOD lacks the amount of funding needed and the ability to maneuver that funding to deal with emergent threats as they appear:

Senior Pentagon official calls on Congress to grant DOD more flexible funding

A senior Pentagon official is calling for more flexibility in the Defense Department's budget so threats can be tackled as they emerge, comments coming a week before the House Armed Services Committee is expected to vote on the fiscal year 2025 defense spending bill.

Missile Defense Agency Director Lt. Gen. Heath Collins added new details to the agency’s plan for a new directed-energy project -- first reported earlier this week -- during remarks at a June 6 event hosted by a Washington think tank:

MDA plans 'tracking,' 'characterization' projects in initial exploration of new airborne laser

The Missile Defense Agency plans to begin work on tracking technology as a first step in a potential project that could build the case for arming uncrewed aircraft with a next-generation airborne laser powerful enough to defeat long-range ballistic missiles, according to a senior official.

Unmanned systems news from the Navy and Army:

Navy seeks industry input on small, long-endurance USVs

The Navy is seeking to expand its unmanned surface vessel portfolio -- specifically small, long-endurance vessels -- according to a request for information posted Thursday.

Army issues notice with intent to field larger, multipurpose drones

The Army is formulating a plan to field larger classes of unmanned systems that can perform a variety of mission roles such as surveillance, reconnaissance, security, attack, precision strike, intelligence collection and command and control.

Last but by no means least, some artificial intelligence news:

AFRL using AI to clean up data sets, tag data as it comes in

The Air Force Research Laboratory is running experiments to bring artificial intelligence into the field and bring data to the warfighter, but first it’s using AI to clean up the existing mounds of data.

By John Liang
June 6, 2024 at 2:45 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Army developing larger-sized drones, the Pentagon's Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control (CJADC2) effort and more.

The Army has released a sources-sought notice that asks industry for information on designs for Group 4 and 5 drones -- those classified by the government as weighing more than 1,320 pounds:

Army issues notice with intent to field larger, multipurpose drones

The Army is formulating a plan to field larger classes of unmanned systems that can perform a variety of mission roles such as surveillance, reconnaissance, security, attack, precision strike, intelligence collection and command and control.

Last week, the Army awarded Palantir a $480 million contract to produce MSS prototypes, falling under a wider berth of contracts all aimed at mission command applications for combatant commands:

CDAO official reports witnessing Palantir demonstrations regarding CJADC2 effort

Palantir has already demonstrated improvements regarding the Pentagon's Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control (CJADC2) effort in line with the department's new Open DAGIR approach, according to a Chief Digital Artificial Intelligence Office official.

The Pentagon's acquisition chief will conduct the first U.S.-Japan Defense Industrial Cooperation, Acquisition and Sustainment Forum (DICAS) alongside his Japanese counterpart:

DOD acquisition chief heading to Japan to cement defense industrial cooperation

Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante is departing for a weeklong trip to Japan to reinforce defense industrial cooperation between Washington and Tokyo.

The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center wants to take out the risks from adversarial high-altitude balloons:

Air Force assessing ways to deal with high-altitude balloons one year after Chinese spy balloon debacle

More than a year after an alleged Chinese spy balloon broke into U.S. airspace simply by floating slowly at a high altitude, the Air Force is seeking ways to "mitigate, neutralize or eliminate" similar adversarial balloons, according to a recent request for information.

The head of the Missile Defense Agency this week said his agency is working to create a new deputy director position:

MDA moving to meet requirement for two-star deputy director billet

The Missile Defense Agency is taking steps to re-establish a deputy director position occupied by a two-star general or flag officer, a new statutory requirement for the organization that oversees 9,000 government and contractor personnel as well as a $10 billion annual budget.

By John Liang
June 6, 2024 at 2:17 PM

General Dynamics announced today that Elizabeth Schmid has been promoted to be the company's senior vice president for government relations and communications.

Schmid joined General Dynamics in 2015 and has served as vice president for government relations since 2018, according to a company press release.

She previously served as vice president for national security and acquisition policy at the Aerospace Industries Association, as a professional staff member and staff director for the Senate Appropriations defense subcommittee and as a Presidential Management Fellow in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.