The Insider

By Tony Bertuca
September 13, 2023 at 2:08 PM

House GOP leadership has delayed a vote on the fiscal year 2024 defense appropriations bill amid in-fighting over government spending and a looming federal shutdown.

House committee staffers said the first procedural vote on the bill, which is aligned with President Biden’s request for $886 billion in national defense spending, was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today but has been delayed.

Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the staffers said, has not been able to secure the 218 votes needed for the bill to proceed.

The vote would be for the rule governing debate on the bill, which was passed last night by the House Rules Committee by an 8-5 vote. The bill has been criticized by Democrats and has drawn a veto threat from the White House for its inclusion of controversial “culture war” provisions targeting diversity initiatives, climate change mitigation and the Pentagon’s leave and travel policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

The delay in the defense appropriations vote is part of a larger spending battle that has pit the GOP-led House against the Democrat-led Senate and some Republicans against one another.

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), who joined Rules Committee Democrats in voting against the rule, said he is ready to support a government shutdown if federal spending continues to increase.

“It's time to call a halt to spending and if the government shuts down, then let's shut it down,” he said. “This government shut us down during COVID. This government is being weaponized.”

The rule adopted by the committee, meanwhile, includes 184 amendments, 103 of which were offered by Republicans, 45 from Democrats and 36 were bipartisan.

Several politically controversial amendments were championed by members of the GOP’s Freedom Caucus. For example, one amendment would prohibit the transfer of U.S. weapons to Ukraine, while another would cut the annual salary of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to $1.

Staffers said a vote on the bill could be quickly rescheduled if House GOP leaders are able to whip enough votes to reach 218.

By Georgina DiNardo
September 13, 2023 at 1:17 PM

The Defense Department has awarded Rockville, MD-based X-energy a contract to develop an enhanced engineering design for a transportable micro nuclear reactor in an effort to inject competition into the Project Pele initiative being run by the Strategic Capabilities Office.

Project Pele has been an ongoing DOD initiative to address the growing demand for a safe and portable nuclear reactor.

In 2022, SCO chose Lynchburg, VA-based BWX Technologies to construct a prototype micro reactor for Project Pele. With that work currently underway, they are now looking to X-energy to create a design that meets the technical requirements of Project Pele so it can be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for both commercial ventures and military uses.

However, the contract awarded to X-energy is not to physically build anything; instead, it is for one year of work to create a fully fleshed-out Preliminary Engineering Design that will allow the SCO to initiate a regulatory reapplication process and create competition in the niche field.

"The Strategic Capabilities Office specializes in adapting commercial technology for military purposes," SCO Director Jay Dryer said in a DOD release announcing the contract.

"By nurturing and developing multiple micro reactor designs,” he said, “SCO will not just provide options for the military services but will also help jumpstart a truly competitive commercial marketplace for micro reactors."

According to DOD, the department uses approximately 30 Terawatt-hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day, though this number is expected to increase.

"Due to their extraordinary energy density, nuclear reactors have the potential to serve multiple critical functions for meeting resiliency needs in contested logistical environments," Project Pele program manager Jeff Waksman said. "By developing two unique designs, we will provide the services with a broad range of options as they consider potential uses of nuclear power for both Installation and operational energy applications in the near future."

By Georgina DiNardo
September 13, 2023 at 11:46 AM

One of the top defense industry associations released a report today detailing its key priorities for emerging technologies and international cooperation.

A new report from the Aerospace Industries Association prioritizes artificial intelligence, space systems, cyber, hypersonic capabilities, unmanned aerial systems and electronic warfare.

The report cites these areas as “essential” since “the advancement of such technologies and capabilities in the coming decades will have a profound impact on the economies, national security landscape and defense postures of the United States and its allies and partners.”

“Emerging and advanced technologies are fundamentally reshaping the 21st century battlefield, and the United States, alongside its allies and partners, must work closely with the aerospace and defense industry to win the escalating technology race,” said AIA President and CEO Eric Fanning. “AIA’s new agenda provides a roadmap for a more competitive regulatory and trade environment for these new technologies that will help the United States maintain our strategic advantage over potential adversaries.”

The agenda emphasizes the importance of allies and partners maintaining relationships with the A&D industry, specifically with rising global tensions due to the war in Ukraine and the challenges posed in the Indo-Pacific, something the unclassified DOD 2023 Cyber Strategy summary cited as a major framing issue as well.

“In policy and practice for both the United States and our allies and partners, sharing and cooperating on emerging and advanced capabilities is complex,” the AIA report stated.

Specifically, the agenda wants to excel U.S. leadership in emerging and advanced capabilities cooperation amongst allies and partners, encourage exports and that U.S. policy regulations ensure American industry global leadership in emerging capabilities, tackle issues with cooperation between allies and partners, continue U.S. norm setting and invest and strengthen the resilience of the A&D supply chain through policy.

By Tony Bertuca
September 13, 2023 at 11:14 AM

The Defense Department has issued guidance to help military personnel and Pentagon civilians prepare for a possible government shutdown on Oct. 1.

While military personnel who are on active or reserve duty will continue to report for work, only “the minimum number of civilian employees necessary to carry out excepted activities will be excepted from furlough,” according to the “lapse in appropriations” guidance the Pentagon issued today.

If Congress does not pass a stopgap continuing resolution before the beginning of the fiscal year on Oct. 1, the federal government will shut down. Some hard-right Republicans, meanwhile, have said they will not support a CR unless it meets specific demands of the Freedom Caucus.

The Pentagon, meanwhile, “will continue to defend the nation and conduct ongoing military operations,” the guidance document states. “It will continue activities funded with any available budgetary resources that have not lapsed, as well as excepted activities such as those necessary for the safety of human life and the protection of property.”

Any defense contractor performing under a contract that awarded prior to the lapse in appropriations will be allowed to continue working but “new contracts (including contract renewals or extensions, issuance of task orders, exercise of options) may not be executed, nor may increments of funding be placed on incrementally funded contracts or to cover cost overruns, unless the contractor is supporting an excepted activity,” according to DOD.

By Jason Sherman
September 12, 2023 at 5:31 PM

Now outside the paywall: our story on the public push to put new teeth into a nearly 20-year-old validated -- but still unfulfilled -- joint requirement for an elevated sensor to counter cruise missiles:

Key Army general calls for JLENS-like system for Guam defense, wants very high elevated sensor

The U.S. military should resuscitate a 2004 requirement for a high-flying, stationary radar to bolster defense of Guam, a top Army official argued, noting capabilities demonstrated by the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System before its 2018 termination are now urgently needed.

By John Liang
September 12, 2023 at 1:38 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Navy electromagnetic warfare capabilities, the Landing Ship Medium program, the Army's artificial intelligence and machine learning efforts and more.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division issued a request for submissions late last week for private industry and government agencies to take part in the Silent Swarm 2024 Experimentation Event:

Silent Swarm 2024 to advance Navy's electromagnetic warfare capabilities

The Navy will continue a series of experiments on early stage unmanned systems capable of electromagnetic warfare with the third annual Silent Swarm planned for two weeks in July 2024.

The Navy's Program Executive Office for Ships recently hosted an industry day that was attended by shipbuilders, material experts and equipment manufacturers and integrators:

Navy to open LSM competition within calendar year 2023

Naval Sea Systems Command will seek industry proposals for the design and construction of the future Landing Ship Medium before the end of calendar year 2023, opening a contract competition for a vessel deemed critical for the Marine Corps' Indo-Pacific operations.

Document: Navy LSM industry day brochure

Project Linchpin is the Army's first initiative to create an artificial intelligence and machine learning pipeline, and will initially focus on sensor systems such as satellites and optics:

Army using 'agile' acquisition strategy as it moves forward on Project Linchpin

As the Army begins to develop a pipeline for artificial intelligence and machine learning, service officials have described what they view as an "agile" acquisition process that aims to take advantage of an already-interested private sector.

On Sept. 8, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced Boeing the winner of the Glide Breaker Phase 2 program -- moving forward a project launched in 2019 that aims to enable a divert and attitude control system (DACS) propelled kill vehicle capable of intercepting hypersonic threats during glide phase:

Boeing nabs hypersonic defense contract, potential technology key to GPI program

Boeing has elbowed its way into the hypersonic defense game, winning the second phase of the Glide Breaker program, an important advanced technology development contract that aims to provide a foundation for U.S. and Japanese efforts to jointly develop a hit-to-kill interceptor capable of chasing down and defeating ultra-fast maneuvering warheads.

The House Rules Committee is scheduled to consider the fiscal year 2024 defense spending bill today and the full House is expected to vote on it sometime this week:

Biden threatens to veto House defense spending bill, citing need for multiyear munitions deals

President Biden intends to veto the House's defense appropriations bill if, in the unlikely event, that is the final version he is presented by Congress, according to a statement from the White House Office of Management and Budget.

Document: Statement of administration policy on the FY-24 defense spending bill

The Air Force's top civilian spoke this week at the Air and Space Forces Association's annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference:

Kendall calls out Tuberville holds, urges passage of budget

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall used his keynote speech at an Air and Space Forces Association conference Monday to call on Congress to pass a budget and for Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) to lift his blockade of military nominations.

By John Liang
September 12, 2023 at 9:58 AM

The Defense Department announced today it has set up separate commercial agreements to increase domestic nickel and lithium production.

The Pentagon's industrial base policy office "entered an agreement with Albemarle Corp. to support the expansion of domestic mining and production of lithium," a DOD statement reads.

The $90 million agreement will use funds appropriated by the Inflation Reduction Act and will help support Albemarle's planned re-opening of their Kings Mountain, NC lithium mine to increase domestic production of lithium for the nation's battery supply chain, according to DOD. Albemarle estimates that Kings Mountain will be operational between 2025 and 2030.

"The agreement with Albemarle demonstrates the DOD's ongoing commitment to meeting the needs of our warfighter, today and in the future," said Anthony Di Stasio, director of DOD's Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization office. "This investment directly supports President Biden's April 2022 Presidential Determination for Critical Materials in Large-Capacity Batteries."

In a separate announcement, DOD said it had set up a $20.6 million agreement with Talon Nickel LLC to increase domestic nickel production.

The deal will "advance nickel exploration and mineral resource definition of the Tamarack Intrusive Complex (TIC)," DOD said.

Nickel is essential to make high-temperature aerospace alloys, stainless steel and chemicals for lithium-ion batteries, according to the department. The United States has only one operating nickel-cobalt mine currently meant to last through 2026.

Talon has developed a proprietary suite of geophysical mapping tools, called its Advanced Exploration System (AES), which allows it to rapidly identify and demonstrate economically recoverable nickel minerals, according to DOD. In 2022, the company "deployed the AES at a pilot-scale and they were able to delineate new mineral resources within two additional zones of the TIC in less than one year."

"This award exemplifies the DOD's commitment to strengthening the resilience of critical supply chains and lessening our reliance on foreign sources of vital materials," Di Stasio said in the statement.

By Tony Bertuca
September 11, 2023 at 6:04 PM

The State Department has approved a $4 billion foreign military sale to Poland for an Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency notice.

The sale includes 93 IAMD Battle Command System Engagement Operation Centers, 175 IBCS Integrated Fire Control Network relays and other equipment.

The potential buy will be “phase two of a two-phase program for an Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) Battle Command System (IBCS) enabled PATRIOT Configuration-3+ with modernized sensors and components,” DSCA said.

The sale, DSCA said, will bolster Poland as a key NATO ally.

“The proposed sale will improve Poland’s missile defense capability and contribute to Poland’s goal of updating its military capability while further enhancing interoperability with the United States and other allies,” DSCA said.

Northrop Grumman will be the principal contractor, which, according to DSCA, will need to negotiate an offset agreement with the Polish government.

By Linda Hersey
September 11, 2023 at 3:05 PM

Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro will swear in new members at a Navy Science and Technology Board meeting Sept. 22 that will also include a discussion on the service's science and technology priorities and challenges.

The board will hold the partially closed meeting from 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Pentagon, according to a Federal Register announcement published Monday.

The meeting will include a classified discussion by the Navy secretary with strategy briefings to follow.

Del Toro will “be tasking the board with topics to study so the Board can make their recommendations to the department and provide guidance on the department's priorities and key operational problems regarding science and technology. There will then be classified discussions on the topics that are tasked by SECNAV and strategy briefings to follow,” the announcement stated.

By John Liang
September 11, 2023 at 2:28 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has coverage of a speech by the Air Force's top civilian official, Guam missile defense, Pentagon services contracts and more.

We start off with coverage from this year's Air and Space Forces Association's annual Air, Space and Cyber Conference:

Kendall calls out Tuberville holds, urges passage of budget

NATIONAL HARBOR, MD -- Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall used his keynote speech at an Air and Space Forces Association conference Monday to call on Congress to pass a budget and for Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) to lift his blockade of military nominations.

Lt. Gen. Dan Karbler, head of Army Space and Missile Defense Command and the Joint Functional Component Commander for Integrated Missile Defense at U.S. Space Command, is moving to mobilize public opinion to shape ongoing discussion about the architecture for a new 360-degree air and missile defense system for Guam:

Key Army general calls for JLENS-like system for Guam defense, wants very high elevated sensor

The U.S. military should resuscitate a 2004 requirement for a high-flying, stationary radar to bolster defense of Guam, a top Army official argued, noting capabilities demonstrated by the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System before its 2018 termination are now urgently needed.

A new Service Acquisition Executive Steering Committee was established in June to focus on services contracts, which, according to the Government Accountability Office, require stronger management, especially if needless spending is to be detected and cut:

DOD working to tighten oversight of services contracts, per GAO audit

The Defense Department has created a special working group charged with increasing oversight of Pentagon services contracts, which account for about $200 billion in annual spending, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Document: GAO report on DOD service contracts

While the initiation of Constellation-class frigate construction is pushed back, delivery of the ship is still expected to occur on-schedule in September 2027:

Construction of second Constellation-class frigate postponed to FY-24

Construction of the Navy's second Constellation-class frigate, Congress (FFG-63), has been pushed into early fiscal year 2024 -- a delay of at least six months from the April 2023 start date outlined in Navy budget books.

Deputy Defense Secretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Radha Iyengar Plumb explained at a recent Center for Strategic and International Studies event that the department seeks to combat fragility in the U.S. industrial base that the war in Ukraine has exposed:

DOD procurement official highlights push for multiyear contracts to supply Ukraine

A senior Pentagon acquisition official said this week that multiyear contracts are key to the long-term effort to support Ukraine against an ongoing Russian invasion and will serve as a "demand signal" for industry to replenish U.S. weapons that have been transferred there.

By Tony Bertuca
September 11, 2023 at 5:00 AM

The Air and Space Forces Association hosts its annual Air, Space, Cyber Conference this week, while senior defense officials are scheduled to appear before the Senate for confirmation hearings.


The Air and Space Forces Association hosts its annual Air, Space, Cyber Conference this week. The event runs through Wednesday.


The Senate Armed Services Committee meets to consider the nomination of Gen. David Allvin to be the next Air Force chief of staff.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on the Army's Open Source Intelligence Strategy.

CSIS hosts a discussion on cyber war games and exercises.

The Atlantic Council hosts a discussion on Navy financial management.


The Center for a New American Security hosts a discussion on the Defense Department’s 2023 Cyber Strategy.


The Senate Armed Services Committee meets to consider the nomination of Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be the next chief of naval operations.

CSIS hosts a discussion on integration of the U.S. missile defense enterprise.


CNAS hosts a virtual discussion with Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante.

By John Liang
September 8, 2023 at 2:16 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Defense Department artificial intelligence efforts, AUKUS legislation and more.

Joseph Larson, the deputy chief digital and artificial intelligence officer for algorithmic warfare, and Schuyler Moore, chief technology officer at U.S. Central Command, said this week that they are concerned about the Defense Department's lack of proper testing environments for AI and autonomy:

Defense tech officials see AI, autonomy testing challenges amid 'Replicator' announcements

Top defense officials driving the Pentagon's shift toward artificial intelligence and autonomy said Wednesday that obstacles remain concerning accurate testing and simulation.

The Aerospace Industries Association has released a new report examining House and Senate proposals that may be included in the upcoming FY-24 defense authorization bill, with the group endorsing proposals to enable the sale of Virginia-class submarines to Australia and other legislative language:

Industry urges simplicity and speed in AUKUS legislation

The AUKUS security partnership presents a massive opportunity for the United States and its industrial base but delivering on the agreement will require quick action in Congress and a "clean and simple" regulatory framework, according to an assessment of pending AUKUS legislation published by a U.S. industry group.

The Army has released plans for a new main battle tank:

Army unveils plans for all-new M1A3 Abrams tank for the 2040 battlefield, multidomain ops

Army leaders have determined -- five decades after launching the Abrams program and following five years of closely held analysis -- that the time has come for a clean-sheet tank design to invent a new combat vehicle optimized for machine-speed warfare, armed not only with a big gun but artificial intelligence, new components to significantly reduce weight and more.

Our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity have defense-related coverage from the Billington Cybersecurity Conference:

Space Force official calls public-private partnerships necessary for supply chain security

The Space Force is looking to enhance its supply chain security efforts by growing public-private partnerships, according to cyber official Col. Erica Mitchell.

Pentagon small business office plans pilot with companies on protecting CUI

The Pentagon Office of Small Business Programs will launch a pilot with 25 to 50 companies to explore how to help smaller organizations comply with National Institute of Standards and Technology Special Publication 800-171 using a cloud environment provided by the Defense Department, according to Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification leader Stacy Bostjanick.

The Space Force has awarded a new satellite services contract:

Space Force awards IDIQ contract to Hughes Defense for LEO satellite services

The Space Force awarded a five-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract to Hughes Defense to provide low Earth orbit satellite services, according to an Aug. 22 announcement.

By Tony Bertuca
September 7, 2023 at 3:03 PM

The Defense Department today announced a $600 million military aid package intended to support Ukraine's long-term security needs, including additional ammunition, air defense equipment and electronic warfare systems.

The package is being funded via the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which makes arrangements directly with defense contractors for weapons that won’t arrive for months or years. It is different from presidential “drawdown” authority, which DOD used Wednesday to transfer $175 million in weapons to Ukraine directly from U.S. stocks.

Today’s USAI package includes:

  • Equipment to sustain and integrate Ukraine's air defense systems;
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • 105mm artillery rounds;
  • Electronic warfare and counter-electronic warfare equipment;
  • Demolition munitions for obstacle clearing;
  • Mine clearing equipment; and
  • Support and equipment for training, maintenance, and sustainment activities.

“This USAI package highlights the continued U.S. commitment to meeting Ukraine's pressing requirements by committing critical near-term capabilities, while also building the enduring capacity of Ukraine's Armed Forces to defend its territory and deter Russian aggression over the mid and long term,” DOD said. “This announcement represents the beginning of a contracting process to provide additional priority capabilities to Ukraine.”

By Apurva Minchekar
September 7, 2023 at 3:02 PM

To echo the Guardians' function of defending America's interest in space, the Space Force announced Sept. 6 a new mission statement -- "secure our Nation's interest in, from and to space."

“We did not hire a corporate marketing team to develop a catch phrase. Nor did generals sit around a table in the Pentagon debating what the statement should be,” Gen. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operation, said in the announcement.

“Our mission statement was sourced from a Guardian-driven process,” he said.

The service received 135 responses within two weeks after Saltzman asked Guardians to “choose the words that describe their shared mission” in May, the announcement states.

In July, the service hosted eight focus groups that included participation from officer, enlisted and civilian Guardians from four field commands and significant commands to provide feedback and pull together a new phrase -- the new mission statement.

According to the announcement, each word chosen represents a vital aspect of the Space Force mission.

The “secure” in the statement refers to the service’s functions to contest and control the space domain on behalf of the nation and joint force if directed. “Our Nation’s interests” reflects the Guardian’s focus on defending the security of the U.S. in space as well as reflects on the importance of space activities.

The service said the “in, from and to space” represents the service’s functions -- “in space” refers to securing the nation’s interest by performing space activities to protect from enemies and counter space threats, “from space” by delivering global mission operations and “to space” by having assured access to space via vehicle launch.

“Our mission statement is a call that concisely encapsulates our purpose and identity as Guardians and members of the profession of arms,” Saltzman said.

By John Liang
September 7, 2023 at 2:19 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on Navy amphibious ships, the U.S.-U.K.-Australia submarine pact, autonomous drones and more.

We start off with Navy amphibious ship coverage:

Smith: Lethal and ready amphib fleet is 'vital'

Combatant commanders need mobile, lethal and low-signature credible deterrent forces to meet new and evolving challenges globally, according to acting Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith.

Medium landing ships advance as prototypes

Five competitive prototypes for the Landing Ship Medium (LSM) are under development with the focus on getting requirements "right," said Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, chief of Marine Corps Combat Development Command and deputy commandant for combat development and integration.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing this week on AUKUS:

Lawmakers press Defense Department for AUKUS implementation plans

Senate lawmakers today pressed Defense and State department officials for a plan to boost domestic submarine production and requested an estimate of how much additional funding the U.S. government will need to invest in order to deliver on its commitments under the AUKUS security partnership.

Document: Senate hearing on AUKUS

The Defense Department's No. 2 civilian official spoke this week about a new autonomous drone program:

Hicks sketches ambitious vision for new autonomous drone program without 'new money'

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said today that the Pentagon's new program to buy thousands of small autonomous drones, recently dubbed "Replicator," will be implemented in the next 18 to 24 months without asking Congress for additional funding in the coming fiscal year.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program is seeing delays in getting software upgrades:

F-35 TR-3 deliveries slip later into 2024

The delivery of Technology Refresh 3-equipped F-35 Joint Strike Fighters may not begin until June, accounting for an even further slip in the hardware and software upgrade's schedule.

Keep an eye out this month for a meeting with DOD's new Office of Strategic Capital:

Pentagon's OSC team to meet this month on investment strategy

The head of the Pentagon's new Office of Strategic Capital is scheduled to meet with senior defense officials this month to finalize an investment strategy intended to bolster innovative companies offering emerging technologies to the U.S. military.