The Insider

By Tony Bertuca
July 24, 2023 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials, lawmakers and think tank analysts are scheduled to speak at several events around Washington this week, while various defense contractors discuss their quarterly earnings.


RTX holds its quarterly earnings call.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on national security and 5G networking.

The Brookings Institute hosts a discussion with Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) on his latest book containing reflections on mental health, health care and the U.S. armed forces.


The Senate Armed Services Committee meets to consider several senior defense nominations.

The Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee holds a hearing on budgetary efficiencies related to the Defense Department personnel programs.

Boeing and General Dynamics hold their quarterly earnings calls.

The Hudson Institute hosts a discussion on space and U.S. national security.

The Brookings Institution hosts a discussion on U.S.-China proximate military operations in the air, sea and space domains.


The Senate Appropriations Committee meets to mark up its version of the fiscal year 2024 defense spending bill.

Northrop Grumman, L3Harris Technologies and Textron hold their quarterly earnings calls.

By Dan Schere
July 21, 2023 at 3:11 PM

U.S. European Command has issued a request for proposals to procure air and missile defense equipment for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in an effort to strengthen partnerships with NATO allies.

The RFP, issued July 20, states that the government anticipates awarding a sole source contract to Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation for the acquisition of the Forward Area Air Defense Command and Control (FAAD C2), Air and Missile Defense Workstation (AMDWS) and communications network systems. The equipment will help those nations integrate into NATO architecture for both air defense and counter-UAS to support homeland defense, it states.

Northrop Grumman, rather than the government, owns the technical data package for both FAAD C2 and AMDWS, the RFP notes. The company has also been the only source to provide the communications architecture, engineering, integration, installation, rocket artillery mortar warning hardware or logistics support for the counter-rocket, artillery and mortar network.

Offers are due July 31 and the award will be a definitive contract that will end Sept. 30, 2024, the notice states.

The RFP comes as the United States continues to send military aid to support Ukraine in its war with Russia. The latest package, announced earlier this week, includes counter-UAS and electronic warfare detection equipment.

By Tony Bertuca
July 21, 2023 at 2:32 PM

President Biden announced his intent to nominate several top Navy officials today, including Adm. Lisa Franchetti to be the first woman to serve as chief of naval operations. She currently serves as the vice chief.

Biden also intends to nominate Vice Adm. James Kilby to serve as vice CNO, Adm. Samuel Paparo to be chief of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler to be commander of the Pacific Fleet.

Franchetti, according to a White House announcement, previously served as the director for strategy, plans, and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and as commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

Kilby, currently serves as the deputy commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, “which trains, equips, certifies, and provides combat-ready Navy forces to combatant commands around the world,” the White House said.

Paparo currently serves as the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

“He previously served as commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. 5th Fleet/Combined Maritime Forces,” the White House said.

Koehler currently serves as the director for strategy, plans, and policy for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“A naval aviator, he previously served as the commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, director of Fleet Training at U.S. Fleet Forces Command, deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet, and director for operations at U.S. Indo-Pacific Command,” the White House said.

All nominees, however, remain subject to a monthslong, blanket hold in place by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) over his objections to the Pentagon’s leave and travel reimbursement policies for U.S. servicemembers seeking abortion services.

By Tony Bertuca
July 21, 2023 at 12:26 PM

Today’s INSIDER Daily Digest starts off with a Pentagon move to restrict auxiliary ship equipment purchases, a warning from the Army secretary, a hold on DOD reprogrammings that is causing headaches, and aircraft news involving the Navy’s F-18 and the Joint Strike Fighter program.

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.

The Army secretary 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.

Another congressional holding action is also causing problems:

Congressional reprogramming 'hold' puts at risk priority modernization, INDOPACOM needs

A House lawmaker is effectively blockading Pentagon requests to shift funds between accounts -- denying the U.S. military the ability to use budgetary maneuvers routinely used to finance last-minute, high-priority needs -- in a move that could cripple critical modernization efforts, rotations essential to integrated deterrence strategy in the Indo-Pacific region and more.

A California congressman sees trouble for smaller contractors if the Navy pushes to obtain data rights from industry:

Garcia: Navy contractors could lose their 'seed corn' in data rights dispute

The business supply chain that supports repair and maintenance of F/A-18E/F Super Hornets will be put at risk if Boeing provides the Navy with intellectual data for the aircraft, Rep. Mike Garcia (R-CA) told Inside Defense.

Lockheed may take a hit to its wallet if F-35 deliveries are delayed:

Lockheed Martin could lose millions this year in delayed F-35 deliveries

Though it reported generally positive results during its second quarter earnings call this week, Lockheed Martin executives said the company will see a loss upwards of $200 million this year from expected late deliveries of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets.

By Dan Schere
July 21, 2023 at 10:18 AM

The Army has awarded Lockheed Martin Aculight Corp. an other transaction authority agreement worth as much as $220 million to develop, integrate, manufacture and test the Indirect Fire Protection Capability high-energy laser prototype weapon systems, according to a July 19 contract notice from the Pentagon.

The notice states that $154 million in research, development, test and evaluation funding for fiscal year 2023 was obligated at the time of the award.

The IFPC high-energy laser prototype is “intended to protect fixed and semi-fixed sites” from threats such as rockets, artillery, mortars, unmanned systems, rotary and fixed-wing threats, according to the Army.

Lockheed is teaming with Dynetics on the IFPC high-energy laser Demonstrator project, the predecessor to the recently awarded prototype project, with Dynetics providing the power and thermal management system mounted on the back of a trailer. The power is used to produce photons in a 300-kilowatt laser made by Lockheed, and the beam director is on the front of the trailer. Lockheed delivered the prototype weapon last year to support the Army’s IFPC-High Energy Laser Demonstrator effort, Inside Defense reported at the time.

The Army is planning to mount four of the 300-kilowatt, high-energy laser prototypes onto tactical vehicles by FY-24, according to a Congressional Research Service report from last month. The laser will then transition to a program of record in FY-25 if testing is successful.

The OTA has an estimated completion date of Oct. 18, 2025, according to the notice.

By Nickolai Sukharev
July 20, 2023 at 3:54 PM

The Army will hold a briefing on follow-on contracts for its missile defense development program on Aug. 15 at the Redstone Arsenal in Alabama, according to a public notice.

The contracts will allow the Space and Missile Defense Command’s Design, Development, Demonstration and Integration program to develop a “broad range” of high-altitude, space and missile defense solutions, the notice said.

Performance requirements include identifying technology gaps and development of numerous systems and subsystems.

Solicitations will be categorized based on business type and focus area.

The first category is open to any type of business and includes all aspects of military, space operations and missile defense. Current contractors include BAE Systems, Dynetics, KBRWyle, Peraton, QWK, RTX, SAIC and TBE.

The second category is restricted to small businesses and includes enhancing warfighting capabilities, addressing capability gaps and data and information systems. Current contractors include COLSA, Cybex Serco, MEIT, Sentar and Torch.

The ordering period is five to 10 years with an option for an additional five-year period. The contract value has not yet been established but is estimated to range from $1.9 billion to $2.5 billion for the first category and $1.5 billion to $2.05 billion for the second category.

By John Liang
July 20, 2023 at 2:23 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Senate debating the FY-24 defense policy bill, a House hearing on artificial intelligence, BAE Systems declining to protest an Army combat vehicle contract and more.

Looks like General Dynamics Land Systems and American Rheinmetall Vehicles will be able to move on with their work on the Army's XM30 combat vehicle program:

BAE will not protest Army's XM30 award

BAE Systems has decided not to protest the XM30 Mechanized Infantry Combat Vehicle award after receiving a debriefing from the Army, the company told Inside Defense on Wednesday.

We also have coverage of the Senate debate on its version of the fiscal year 2024 defense policy bill:

Senate adopts new weapons amendments in defense bill

The Senate voted to adopt more than 50 non-controversial amendments in its version of the fiscal year 2024 defense authorization bill, including one that would give military service secretaries greater authority to kick-start prototype weapon systems.

The House Armed Services cyber, information technologies and innovation subcommittee held a hearing this week on artificial intelligence:

Witnesses stress DOD's leadership role on data integrity for AI development

Witnesses at a July 18 House Armed Services subcommittee hearing said the Defense Department must expand and accelerate its efforts to ensure the useability of massive amounts of data routinely generated by the military for the development and use of artificial intelligence technologies.

Document: House hearing on AI

Gen. James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command, spoke this week at the Aspen Security Forum:

Commercial space entities unveiled mega-constellations benefits during Ukraine-Russia conflict

A senior space official today said U.S. Space Command has seen advantages of mega-constellations for the first time via commercial space entities' contribution to the Ukraine-Russia war.

Navy Adm. John Aquilino spoke about China's growing arsenal during a national security forum this week:

INDOPACOM commander stresses urgency in delivery of deterrent capabilities

The head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is calling for an "increased sense of urgency" in the delivery of deterrent capabilities to the Pacific theater to counter China's buildup of military capabilities, including hypersonic and nuclear weapons.

By Nick Wilson
July 20, 2023 at 1:33 PM

A senior Pentagon official is pushing back on the categorization of delayed weapons deliveries to Taiwan as a "backlog," instead saying the roughly $19 billion list of undelivered military aid is the result of systemic problems within the U.S. defense industrial base.

“What we are facing is not a backlog as is sometimes described, but rather concerns and slowdowns within all of our industrial base that is affecting our military production and our defense industrial base systematically, not individually as it relates to Taiwan,” Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Ely Ratner said today during a hearing held by the House Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party.

The Defense Department is working to fulfill its commitments under the Taiwan Relations Act as soon as possible, Ratner continued, saying the Biden administration is working through the foreign military sales process while also utilizing presidential drawdown authority and potentially foreign military financing (FMF).

Ratner also encouraged lawmakers to “put appropriations against the authorities that Congress itself has granted the [Defense] Department.”

“That would go a long way in expediting capability for Taiwan far faster, far sooner, and with more significant value than would adjustments to the pace of our foreign military sales,” he added.

The select committee has advocated for arming Taiwan to deter a potential invasion or blockade by China and called for the Defense and State departments to drive down FMS delays.

In May, the committee released a bipartisan plan to arm Taiwan, calling for a boost in production of long-range missiles and unmanned vehicles. The plan also proposes the exercise of greater congressional oversight of the FMS process and backing up FMF authorizations with appropriation dollars targeting the most urgently needed capabilities.

During a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing earlier this year, a State Department official discussed efforts to work with U.S. contractors to accelerate delivery of items marked for Taiwan.

The State Department recently produced a 10-point plan to streamline the FMS process, acknowledging challenges posed by domestic industrial capacity and global supply chain disruptions.

By Apurva Minchekar
July 20, 2023 at 12:06 PM

United Launch Alliance's Vulcan Centaur rocket is expected to lift off late this year, said ULA CEO Salvatore Bruno, after an explosion delayed the first launch of the rocket scheduled in May.

“Exquisite technology but not an exquisite root cause,” Bruno said at the Aspen Security Forum yesterday.

In April, the company conducted structural qualification testing at the Marshall Space Flight Center, where the top structure of the rocket caught fire.

“This was the very last test I needed to do before flying the rocket that was sitting down on the pad at Cape Canaveral,” Bruno continued.

Bruno explained a stainless-steel tank, measuring 40 feet by 18 feet at the top of the structure, was “paper thin” -- which can lose its shape if not pressurized -- leaked hydrogen leading to an explosion.

Every kilogram added to the vehicle is another kilogram of payload launched into high orbit, according to Bruno.

“There was a local stress riser that missed the first analysis, it leaked, hydrogen got out and hydrogen will always find an ignition source and it caught fire,” he said.

To fix the structural complication, Bruno said the company plans to increase the thickness and weld a plate over the new forward dome and is looking to complete the final testing before the rocket is launched.

By Tony Bertuca
July 20, 2023 at 11:10 AM

The Senate Armed Services Committee today approved the nominations of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Brown, who has been picked to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Army Vice Chief Gen. Randy George, who has been selected to be the service's next chief of staff.

The nominees, however, will now be put in limbo as Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) continues his blanket hold on all military nominations and promotions over his opposition to the Defense Department’s leave and travel reimbursement policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

The committee was recently briefed by DOD officials on the legality of the policies, leading Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) to declare any further opposition to be the product of either “willful ignorance or stubborn hubris.”

Tuberville and other Republicans, however, said after the briefing that they remain unconvinced that DOD’s policies are not an end-run around the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the spending of federal money on abortions.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a press conference yesterday that Democrats were willing to offer Tuberville a floor vote on a standalone amendment to the annual defense authorization bill currently under consideration -- a vote he would likely lose.

“Tuberville said he wanted a vote, we’ll see what happens,” Schumer said.

By Linda Hersey
July 19, 2023 at 10:03 PM

The future "data-centric" joint warfighting environment needs to be able to store information independently of applications and accessible from various locations across the globe, Rear Adm. Susan Bryer-Joyner said at the close of a joint warfighting conference Wednesday.

“If we cannot figure out a way for our legacy systems to expose and share the data and exchange the data within our data-centric environments, we will not be able to achieve the improvement and decision advantage that we need,” said Bryer-Joyner, deputy director for command, control, communications and computer/cyber systems, J-6, Joint Staff.

Addressing industry developers at the JADC2 Symposium, Bryer-Joyner underscored the need for developing and integrating data-centric capabilities in the warfighting environment for the combined joint force.

While current practice is to silo information, data centricity involves having information in a shared virtual space where users who meet security protocols access it.

The data-centric system envisioned needs to be “backwards-compatible,” she said. Users must be able to access information from legacy systems.

“The majority of inventory -- whether you’re talking about the Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Space Corps -- is going to be what we have today,” she said.

Bryer-Joyner said she “personally favors” the sliding scale approach to security offered through zero-trust architecture.

By contrast, she noted a binary approach might offer a gold-plated solution for the tactical environment that would be an obstacle for the warfighter.

“Industry can help us start to explore what that sliding continuum is and what the minimum essential attributes of zero trust are in all the different environments,” she said.

By Tony Bertuca
July 19, 2023 at 4:14 PM

The Senate has begun voting on its version of the annual defense authorization bill, beginning today with the consideration of various amendments.

The bill, among a host of other things, authorizes $886 billion in defense spending and a 5.2% military pay increase. The measure isn't a spending bill, however, and doesn't actually allocate funding, which still requires the passage of a separate appropriations bill.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said on the chamber floor that the bill also authorizes resources for military modernization programs and cutting-edge technologies.

He noted the bill was advanced out of committee by a vote of 24-1, the most bipartisan margin in years.

The Senate, Reed said, will consider 51 amendments to the bill -- 21 Democratic, 21 Republican and nine bipartisan.

Among the first amendments being considered is one from Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) that requires congressional approval if a U.S. president wants to withdraw from NATO.

Another amendment offered by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) would clarify the term “aggregate value” as it relates to presidential “drawdown” authority following a $6 billion Pentagon accounting error in aid provided to Ukraine.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said during a GOP leadership press conference today that he believed the bill would pass with bipartisan support, though the voting would likely be stretched into next week.

“I would think at the end of the process the [bill] would pass on a pretty strong bipartisan basis,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a press conference today that the process is playing out smoothly thus far.

“The bottom line is that we want to get this done without amendments that don't undo the bill, are dilatory in any way and so far our Republican colleagues are cooperating,” he said.

The House passed its version of the bill in a tight vote last week and included several politically controversial measures backed by conservative Republicans taking aim at Pentagon policies related to diversity initiatives, abortion and climate change. The bill advanced out of committee by a vote of 58-1 but only four Democrats ended up supporting the amended version when it came to the House floor.

The Democrat-led Senate’s bill is expected to forgo the House’s politically charged provisions -- though some will receive floor votes -- and many lawmakers say they will be stripped out of the final product when the legislation goes into conference committee negotiations.

By John Liang
July 19, 2023 at 3:16 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on deterring China, the Air Force's E-3 Wedgetail aircraft and more.

Navy Adm. John Aquilino spoke about China's growing arsenal during a national security forum this week:

INDOPACOM commander stresses urgency in delivery of deterrent capabilities

The head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command is calling for an "increased sense of urgency" in the delivery of deterrent capabilities to the Pacific theater to counter China's buildup of military capabilities, including hypersonic and nuclear weapons.

The latest on the Air Force's acquisition of the E-7 Wedgetail early warning aircraft:

Hunter: E-7 Wedgetail looking like a 'good news story'

Despite a recent report from the United Kingdom decrying its problems acquiring E-7 Wedgetail aircraft, Air Force acquisition chief Andrew Hunter doesn't foresee significant hurdles in procuring the U.S. version.

In a recently issued draft solicitation for the "Fire-control On Orbit-support-to-the war Fighter Program," the agency said it is planning to purchase and deploy eight F2 space vehicles featuring electro-optical and infrared sensors:

SDA Director says FOO Fighter will aim to address specific unidentified threats

The FOO Fighter, a new classified initiative of the Space Development Agency, will track specific threats that are not addressed by the existing tracking constellation, SDA Director Derek Tournear said Tuesday.

More coverage of the Pentagon's latest omnibus reprogramming request:

NGJ-LB source selection in $5 billion do-over between NOC and L3Harris set for September

The Navy estimates a key contract to launch the Next Generation Jammer-Low Band into engineering and manufacturing development -- a milestone originally reached in December 2020 but delayed by a series of protests and legal wrangling -- will now be awarded in September.

Document: DOD's FY-23 omnibus reprogramming request

The Defense Innovation Board met this week:

Defense Innovation Board calls out 'culture of obstruction' in new reform recommendations

The Defense Innovation Board met today and reached the unanimous conclusion that the Pentagon suffers from a "culture of obstruction" that is blocking the adoption of cutting-edge technologies needed to compete with China.

Coverage from this week's All Domain Warfare Symposium:

JADC2 panel assesses tech performance for the warfighter

The MQ-9 Reaper and other unmanned systems that use a robust suite of sensors and cameras to stream target images are an example of the "tremendous information flow" that warfighters obtain from recent technologies, Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Stephen Lightfoot, director for capabilities development directorate, said today.

Grady: Real-time digital information is key to gaining 'decisive decision advantage'

Defense leaders have a "path-breaking opportunity to transform how we fight" by prioritizing informational advantages in defense strategy, Adm. Christopher Grady, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a joint warfighting conference Tuesday.

By Tony Bertuca
July 19, 2023 at 1:02 PM

The Defense Department intends to fund a $1.3 billion military aid package that will procure weapons from defense contractors to be sent to Ukraine, including air defense systems and critical munitions.

The package, funded via the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, includes:

  • Four National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS) and munitions;
  • 152mm artillery rounds;
  • Mine clearing equipment;
  • Tube-Launched, Optically Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) missiles;
  • Phoenix Ghost and Switchblade Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS);
  • Precision aerial munitions;
  • Counter-UAS and electronic warfare detection equipment;
  • 150 fuel trucks;
  • 115 tactical vehicles to tow and haul equipment;
  • 50 tactical vehicles to recover equipment;
  • Port and harbor security equipment;
  • Tactical secure communications systems;
  • Support for training, maintenance, and sustainment activities.

Unlike presidential “drawdown” authority that directly transfers U.S. equipment to Ukraine, the USAI fund procures weapons from defense contractors that are sometimes not scheduled for delivery for months or even years.

“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 Tony Bertuca
July 19, 2023 at 12:19 PM

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said today the panel has been briefed by the Defense Department on the legality of its policies that provide paid leave and reimbursed travel expenses for U.S. servicemembers seeking abortions, a matter at the center of Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) ongoing blockade of hundreds of DOD nominees and promotions.

“After today’s briefing, there can be no doubt in my colleagues’ minds about the legality of the department’s policy,” Reed said in a statement. “I am even more convinced of the necessity and appropriateness of this policy, which is critical for the health of our military women, men and their families.”

Though Reed doesn't name Tuberville in his statement, he notes that anyone who continues to claim DOD’s policy is illegal is acting in “willful ignorance or stubborn hubris.”

Reed said DOD “laid out clear, plain facts to the committee.”

“The Department of Justice has examined the Pentagon’s policy and found it to be entirely legal, consistent with 40 years of precedent through both Republican and Democratic administrations,” he said. “The Department of Defense General Counsel has also examined the policy and found it to be entirely legal. The secretary of defense and every uniformed, apolitical member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have endorsed this policy. The Senate Armed Services Committee has even considered legislation to repeal the department’s policy, and has rejected that legislation.”

The briefing comes as Tuberville has placed a blanket hold on all DOD nominations and promotions, saying he opposes the department’s abortion policies because he believes they violate the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal dollars to pay for abortions.

Tuberville, quoted in Politico today, said he thinks a compromise is possible.

“We’re going to work this out,” he said. “There’s got to be some give and take here.”

Later, however, multiple news outlets later reported that the briefing did not yield a compromise.

Tuberville’s months-long blockade has impacted the highest levels of the U.S. military, with the Marine Corps being without a Senate-confirmed commandant for the first time since 1859.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuberville’s blanket hold has threatened “every domain” of national security.

The issue is also playing out on the Senate floor as lawmakers this week debate the annual defense authorization bill. The House passed a version of the bill last week that would abolish DOD’s current policy on providing leave and travel benefits to servicemembers seeking abortions.