The Insider

By Dan Schere
July 26, 2023 at 2:31 PM

The Army has issued a sources-sought notice for the procurement of a tabletop Advanced Gunnery Training System platoon set used for training Ukrainian troops on the M1A1 Abrams tanks, as well as associated equipment, new equipment training and spare parts.

The Advanced Gunnery Training System is a simulator that allows soldiers to train on procedures, basic skills, crew coordination and crew drills, according to manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Soldiers can practice tasks such as target recognition, fire control and distribution and asset deployment.

There are multiple variants of the training system, including the tabletop trainers, which use a desktop computer and touchscreen display with a gunner or commander handle, according to Lockheed.

After the United States committed 31 Abrams tanks to Ukraine earlier this year, the Pentagon announced May 15 that they had arrived in Germany for U.S.-led training of Ukrainian forces. Those tanks are scheduled to arrive in Ukraine some time this fall, according to officials from the Defense Department.

The notice, posted Tuesday, is to determine the method of a procurement in the event a “requirement materializes.” It states there may be multiple awards made and “small business set-aside categories will be considered.”

Responses to the notice are due July 31.

By Apurva Minchekar
July 26, 2023 at 2:06 PM

Space technology company Maxar Technologies announced it has completed the first critical design review of the Maxar 300 series for the Space Force's Tranche 1 Tracking Layer.

In collaboration with L3Harris Technologies, the Maxar 300 series is designed to carry a minimum of eight space vehicles per launch with low jitter demand and high power required for the missile defense mission, the company said.

“We designed the Maxar 300 series platform to be quickly scalable,” Chris Johnson, Maxar Space senior vice president and general manager, said in the announcement July 24.

Johnson noted the series' critical design review was completed within 10 months of the contract award and is scheduled to begin production of the series later this year, with initial deliveries in early 2024.

Maxar is responsible for building 16 platforms for the Space Development Agency’s T1TRK program, each about the width of a conventional oven. According to the announcement, unlike traditional missile tracking systems, these new dimensions will assist SDA to accomplish its goals to “reduce the size, weight, power and cost.”

The agency also plans to adapt and extend Maxar’s deep commercial communications satellite experience for new uses, the announcement reads.

The Defense Department in July 2022 said the T1TRK would build upon the Tranche 0 Tracking Layer capabilities, featuring enhanced targeted technologies, expanded coverage, increased integration, calibration processes and greater production efficiencies.

By John Liang
July 26, 2023 at 10:55 AM

The Defense and Commerce departments have signed a memorandum of agreement to expand collaboration to strengthen the U.S. semiconductor defense industrial base.

"The agreement will increase information sharing between the departments to facilitate close coordination on the CHIPS for America's incentives program, ensuring that their respective investments position the U.S. to produce semiconductor chips essential to national security and defense programs," a joint statement issued today reads.

"This agreement is an important step forward in increasing the capacity and resiliency of our domestic semiconductor industrial base," Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base Policy Laura Taylor-Kale, who signed the MOA on behalf of DOD, said in the statement. "It is essential for DOD and DOC to consult one another to ensure we are making complementary investments that support a robust semiconductor industrial base. Both departments are working together to expand domestic semiconductor production capacity in a coordinated fashion."

By aligning priorities and decision-making, the MOA "will enable a more synchronized approach to promoting a robust and resilient semiconductor supply chain," according to DOD. "Specific areas of consultation identified in the MOA include sharing information on the semiconductor needs of the Defense Industrial Base, the investment priorities of DOD and each military service, the existing and planned investments to sustain mature and legacy chip capabilities for current defense programs, and funding to support emerging technologies that are critical to future U.S. national security programs."

By Shelley K. Mesch
July 26, 2023 at 10:51 AM

The Biden administration has nominated Gen. David Allvin to be the next Air Force chief of staff, according to a Tuesday announcement.

Allvin would succeed Gen. Charles Brown, who has been nominated for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Allvin has served as the Air Force vice chief of staff since 2020 and has served as director of strategy, concepts and assessments for the Air Force deputy chief of staff; director of strategy and policy at U.S. European Command, and director of strategy, plans and policy for the joint staff.

Military nominations have been held up by a blockade from Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) as a protest to Defense Department policies for leave and travel reimbursement for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

By Nick Wilson
July 26, 2023 at 10:20 AM

The Biden administration has nominated Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney to serve as the next assistant Marine Corps commandant, according to a Tuesday announcement.

If confirmed, Mahoney, who currently serves as the deputy commandant for programs and resources, would succeed Gen. Eric Smith as the Marine Corps’ No. 2 officer.

Mahoney is a graduate of the Naval Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) and has served as the deputy commander of Marine Forces Pacific, the director of strategy and plans at Headquarters Marine Corps, the deputy commander of United States Forces, Japan and the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, according to his official biography.

In the Senate, Mahoney’s nomination faces a blockade by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) who is holding up all Defense Department nominations and promotions over opposition to the Pentagon’s leave and travel reimbursement policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

Following the retirement of the Marine Corps’ previous commandant, Gen. David Berger, Smith is serving as "acting commandant" while his nomination awaits official Senate approval.

By Linda Hersey
July 25, 2023 at 8:40 PM

The U.S. needs to secure the emerging artificial intelligence supply chain and fund countermeasures to defend against potentially rogue AI systems, a panel of AI leaders told lawmakers Tuesday.

From manufacturing to computer modeling, AI systems need to be kept “out of the hands of bad actors,” Anthropic CEO Dario Amodei said in opening remarks to the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law.

Amodei raised specific concerns about AI and misuse of biological weapons, noting that rapid advances in AI could enable “many more actors to carry out large-scale biological attacks. We believe this represents a grave threat to U.S. national security.”

Amodei said his company recently conducted a study with biosecurity experts on the risks posed by AI and biological weapons.

While information on biological weapons production is classified by the U.S. and other governments, “today's AI tools can fill in some of these steps, albeit unreliably,” Amodei said. “In other words, they are showing the first signs of danger.”

The two-hour congressional hearing touched on potential threats posed by AI technology and opportunities for oversight through federal regulation and global agreements.

Subcommittee Ranking Member Josh Hawley (R-MO) raised concern about Taiwan’s computer chip industry, security and the global economy if it came under attack by China. Taiwan produces more than 60% of semiconductors worldwide.

AI leaders said early work is underway to diversify the supply chain, with plans for developing manufacturing facilities in the U.S. and Germany.

Amodei was joined by hearing witnesses Stuart Russell, University of California computer science professor; and Yoshua Bengio, founder of Mila-Quebec AI Institute, another AI startup.

Bengio recommended Congress jumpstart the process of creating an AI framework for regulations.

“Advancements have led many top AI researchers, including myself, to revise our estimates of when human level intelligence could be achieved,” Bengio said. “Previously it was thought to be decades or even centuries away; we now believe it could be within a few years or decades.”

By Apurva Minchekar
July 25, 2023 at 3:42 PM

On July 18, the Space Force awarded 16 indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contracts for proliferated low earth orbit satellite-based services, Space Systems Command announced yesterday.

Proliferating satellite communication services in LEO is part of an overall DOD strategy to leverage resilience by diversifying orbits, the command noted.

“The face value of this action is $32,000 (a $2000 minimum guarantee to each contractor) funded by no year defense working capital funds, with a total cumulative face value of $900 million,” the announcement reads.

Unlike having a traditional one contract per mission, awarding multiple partners/multiple award contracts model is the “transformational strategy,” according to Clare Hopper, chief of SSC’s commercial satellite communications office.

While this strategy is a first for government SATCOM procurement, it guarantees to deliver capabilities to the warfighter faster at low cost and also enables the government and industry to collaborate easily and take advantage of rapid innovation in the commercial SATCOM sector.

“We continue to see game-changing advances in commercial SATCOM,” Col. Richard Kniseley, senior material leader of SSC’s commercial space office, said.

The contracts awarded by the Defense Information Systems Agency will cover the scope of service capability development based on satellites in LEO, not limited to high-speed broadband, synthetic aperture radar imaging, space domain awareness and alternative positioning, navigation and timing, the command said.

The contracts were awarded by DISA through the Commercial Satellite Communications Office, a central marketplace for SATCOM services operated by SSC, a field command of the U.S. Space Force, according to the announcement.

The command said 25 proposals were received from this full and open competition notified on, out of which 16 were selected.

By Linda Hersey
July 25, 2023 at 2:38 PM

Robert Miller has been named chief executive officer of Future Technologies after serving at EverWatch as president, defense missions and support.

Miller succeeds FTI founder Ram Gupta, who becomes executive chairman of the board, the company said in an announcement Tuesday. Gupta served as FTI president for more than 30 years.

FTI provides engineering, computer operations, program management and IT services and solutions for federal agencies.

Its overall mission is to supply critical technology and support to intelligence and defense industry customers globally, in both the private and public sector.

Gupta noted Miller’s knowledge of federal technology and contracting, as well as his background in “facilitating growth,” in a formal announcement about the leadership change.

Miller previously served as president at EverWatch from 2018-2023. The company is a subsidiary of Booz Allen Hamilton.

He also was president of IEA from 2015-2023. The company supplies strategic, technical and analytic support to federal customers.

Before that, he was a senior manager at PRO-telligent, an information technology services company.

By John Liang
July 25, 2023 at 2:15 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on an upcoming Navy-Marine Corps exercise, upgrades to the Missile Defense Agency's Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) system and more.

We start off with coverage of a major upcoming Navy-Marine Corps exercise:

Navy, Marine Corps practice global coordination with LSE 2023

The Navy and Marine Corps are gearing up for a large-scale exercise that will test their ability to synchronize global operations, from fleetwide maneuvers down to the individual actions of sailors and Marines, through a mix of live and virtual training.

The Missile Defense Agency is rolling out a new upgrade of the Command and Control, Battle Management and Communications (C2BMC) system:

Select missile defense radars beginning additional new mission: tracking space objects

Next month, the U.S. military will begin bringing online enhanced, dynamic space capabilities that allow select sea- and land-based radars originally designed for ballistic missile defense missions to simultaneously conduct the new task of tracking orbiting objects to help fill gaps in the Space Force's Space Surveillance Network.

More cyber defense coverage from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

DOD, agencies raise concerns over tailored controls in proposed NIST CUI publication update

The program office behind the Pentagon's cyber certification program and civilian agencies are identifying issues over the use of "organization-defined parameters" in the latest draft update to NIST Special Publication 800-171, a foundational document on the handling of controlled unclassified information.

Lawmakers attempt to add FISMA reform, open-source software measures into defense policy bill

Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-MI) and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) have offered a package of cyber bills for inclusion in the fiscal year 2024 defense authorization bill, including legislation to reform the Federal Information Security Modernization Act and address other cyber priorities, as work continues this week to pass the Senate's version of the major defense policy bill.

PSC seeks closer alignment of NIST CUI publication with other cyber procurement requirements

The Professional Services Council wants the National Institute of Standards and Technology to consider how to align NIST's foundational guidance on handling controlled unclassified information with other cyber procurement requirements, including the Pentagon's cyber certification program.

By Tony Bertuca
July 25, 2023 at 1:32 PM

President Biden intends to nominate State Department counselor Derek Chollet to be the Pentagon's next under secretary of defense for policy, according to a White House announcement.

Chollet, who has served as State Department counselor since January 2021, has previously held positions at State, the White House and Defense Department, including as assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, special assistant to the president and senior director for strategic planning on the National Security Council, as well as other roles.

Outside of government, Chollet has also held a number of positions at think tanks and research institutions including the Center for a New American Security, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Brookings Institution.

If confirmed, Chollet would succeed outgoing USD-P Colin Kahl.

However, Chollet, along with hundreds of other DOD nominees, is poised to run into Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) monthslong nomination blockade over his opposition to the Pentagon’s travel and leave policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

By Tony Bertuca
July 25, 2023 at 1:15 PM

The Defense Department today announced a $400 million rapid transfer of U.S. weapons to Ukraine.

The package, funded via presidential “drawdown” authority, includes:

  • Additional munitions for Patriot air defense systems and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS);
  • Stinger anti-aircraft systems;
  • Additional ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS);
  • 155mm and 105mm artillery rounds;
  • 120mm and 60mm mortar rounds;
  • 32 Stryker Armored Personnel Carriers;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
  • Javelin and other anti-armor systems and rockets;
  • Hornet Unmanned Aerial Systems;
  • Hydra-70 aircraft rockets;
  • Tactical air navigation systems;
  • Demolitions munitions for obstacle clearing;
  • Over 28 million rounds of small arms ammunition and grenades;
  • Night vision devices and thermal imagery systems; and
  • Spare parts, training munitions, and other field equipment.

The action is the 43rd drawdown of U.S. equipment for Ukraine since August 2021.

The weapons shipment comes as Ukraine continues to deploy forces in a counteroffensive against Russia.

By Dan Schere
July 25, 2023 at 10:46 AM

The Army is asking for technical information to inform the medical evacuation risk-reduction capabilities for the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft, according to a request for information posted Tuesday.

Following a lengthy downselect process, the Army awarded Textron’s Bell the $1.3 billion FLRAA contract last December. The service conducted more than 20 soldier touchpoints with infantry and MEDEVAC soldiers and pilots to help inform the requirements, the Army said at the time.

FLRAA will gradually replace the UH-60 Black Hawk starting in 2030. However, the Army’s top officials have said that the future aircraft is not a one-for-one replacement of the UH-60, and they expect the legacy fleet to continue flying for another 40 to 50 years.

The RFI posted Tuesday states the Program Executive Office for Aviation is seeking information to “inform FLRAA MEDEVAC risk-reduction activities for FLRAA MEDEVAC.”

Among the types of capabilities the Army is interested in, according to the notice, are aircraft hoist systems that can lift 800 pounds, a MEDEVAC Enhanced Modular Patient Handling System that can fit in the cabin of the aircraft and a MEDEVAC mission sensor that can locate and remove patients in many types of conditions.

The RFI also states that there will be a subsequent industry day and follow-on government and industry sessions. The information collected will be used for information and planning, but is not a solicitation, the notice states.

FLRAA is scheduled to enter milestone B, the transition to the engineering and manufacturing development stage, in the third quarter of fiscal year 2024, service officials said in April at the Army Aviation Association of America conference in Nashville.

By Apurva Minchekar
July 24, 2023 at 2:16 PM

The Space Force plans to launch at least 80 missions --30 missions for Lane 1 and 56 missions for Lane 2 -- under space launch acquisitions Phase III from fiscal year 2025 to FY-29, according to a recent industry day briefing.

On July 20-21, the Defense Department hosted an industry day to provide updates on National Security Space Launch’s first draft request for proposals for Lane 1 and Lane 2.

U.S. Space Systems Command stated that the Lane 1 missions would be more risk-tolerant while Lane 2 missions will require full mission assurance, including five Global Positioning System missions and additional National Reconnaissance Office missions.

“[For Lane 2] mission estimate increased from 39 to approx. 58 missions over the FY25-FY29,” the command noted in the briefing.

Further, to increase resiliency and assured access to space, the service has also added a third-launch provider to Lane 2 in the event of a debacle with the Lane 2 provider. The third launch provider will also be awarded seven missions, a move to widen the scope of competition and control cost.

According to the briefing, each launch service provider of Lane 2 will be allotted a cap of $100 million annually for launch service support.

Expanding on the Lane 2 updates to the second draft request for proposals, the briefing noted that from FY-27 DOD will evaluate the system readiness to ensure the NSSL requirements are met.

“Government may find advantageous the use of demonstrated flight data of the proposed system, flight heritage for major subsystems, operationally ready launch facilities and associated infrastructure and other evidence of readiness to meet NSSL requirement,” the briefing states.

Additionally, according to the second draft RFP, Lane 1 would consist of a multiple-award, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract that will have a five-year basic ordering period and a five-year option ordering period.

Adding to it, the command noted that Lane 1 provider can propose multiple launches to meet the 15,000 lbs to low earth orbit minimum requirement and a plan to achieve 1 successful flight within one year of the IDIQ proposal due date.

Inside Defense recently reported that Senate lawmakers have approved an amendment to establish Lane 2A, an additional lane two years into Phase III to increase the competition within the field.

Explaining the advantages of introducing Lane 2A in the briefing, the service said it will provide annual on-ramp opportunities, ensure capability for hard missions and provide additional resiliency through new launch systems.

Space Systems Command is expecting to award a contract for Lane 1 and 2 in the fourth quarter of FY-23.

By Tony Bertuca
July 24, 2023 at 1:38 PM

The Defense Department today announced the establishment of three new assistant secretary of defense positions, along with eight deputy assistant secretaries of defense.

The three ASD positions are intended to replace the DOD deputy chief technology officer. All of the new roles, along with the eight DASDS, will be housed under the office of the under secretary for research and engineering.

“The establishment of these roles within research & engineering better positions our team to execute upon our mission of preserving our nation’s technological edge, now and into the future,” Under Secretary of Defense for Research & Engineering Heidi Shyu said in a statement. “We thank our partners in Congress and across the DOD for getting us to this point.”

The three new ASDs include:

  • The assistant secretary of defense for science and technology, which will be performed by Steven Wax until an individual is appointed to the position and confirmed by the Senate. Wax will also remain the principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for science and technology.
  • The assistant secretary of defense for mission capabilities, which will be performed by Thomas Browning until an individual is confirmed.
  • The assistant secretary of defense for critical technologies, which will be performed by Maynard Holliday until an individual can be confirmed.

The eight DASD positions being established include:

  • DASD science and technology foundations, to be filled by Jagadeesh Pamulapati
  • DASD Science and technology futures, to be filled by Kevin Geiss
  • DASD science and technology Program Protection, to be filled by Robert Irie
  • DASD applied technology, to be filled by Michael Holthe (acting)
  • DASD enabling technology, to be filled by Michael Holthe
  • DASD multi-domain joint operations, to be filled by Paul Zablocky
  • DASD prototypes and experiments, to be filled by Alex Lovett
  • DASD mission Integration, to be filled by Elmer Roman
By John Liang
July 24, 2023 at 12:54 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program, lawmakers wanting more warship components to be domestically sourced and more.

We start off with our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity reporting on the relationship between controlled unclassified information and the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program:

PSC seeks closer alignment of NIST CUI publication with other cyber procurement requirements

The Professional Services Council wants the National Institute of Standards and Technology to consider how to align NIST's foundational guidance on handling controlled unclassified information with other cyber procurement requirements, including the Pentagon's cyber certification program.

Lawmakers have approved a provision in the annual defense policy bill that would mandate more warship components be domestically sourced:

Senate advances provision mandating domestic production of ship parts

The Senate approved an amendment to its defense policy bill aiming to boost “Buy America” requirements for Navy shipbuilding by mandating that certain components of naval vessels and auxiliary ships be produced by the United States technology and industrial base.

Along those same lines, the Defense Department is limiting which countries can produce engines for the Navy's auxiliary ships:

DOD limits auxiliary ship engine purchases to five-nation industrial base

Navy auxiliary ship engines must be made in countries that are part of a five-nation industrial and technology base, as outlined in a final rule the Defense Department issued Thursday.

A new Government Accountability Office report finds that "the iterative and fast-paced nature of Agile software development relies on flexible requirements, regular user engagement, and an understanding of the value of what has been delivered. DOD, however, has not incorporated these principles across all of its acquisition paths":

DOD to consider agile software updates after critical GAO findings

The Defense Department has told the Government Accountability Office it will consider tailoring some of its acquisition pathways to account for "agile" software development after a GAO report found that DOD lacks policy guidance in that area.

Document: GAO report on DOD software acquisition

The Army's top civilian official sees Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s nomination blockade having long-term effects:

Wormuth warns of 'brain and talent drain' caused by Tuberville blockade

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told an audience in Colorado Thursday that she worries that a "brain and talent drain" on the Army is one of the most severe consequences arising from Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) blockade of more than 250 military nominees due to his objection to the Pentagon's leave and travel reimbursement policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.