The Insider

By John Liang
March 27, 2024 at 2:31 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on artificial intelligence, military modernization and more.

DARPA launched its AI Cyber Challenge last August, calling on industry and AI experts to aid in development of innovative AI capabilities that work toward creating stronger cybersecurity:

DARPA official outlines what a winning AI Cyber Challenge system could look like

A top innovation official at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency said today that a winning system for DARPA's Artificial Intelligence Cyber Challenge will leverage the statistics in cutting-edge large language models, while also using traditional "cyber reasoning systems that are more symbolic."

More DARPA news:

DARPA director cites U.S. advantages in AI race with China, describes government role

The U.S. and China each have advantages in the race to develop and deploy artificial intelligence technologies, but that dispersed roles and responsibilities for government and the private sector is a U.S. strength that matches this country's values, according to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Stefanie Tompkins.

Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA) and Pat Ryan (D-NY) recently announced they would co-chair a new military modernization caucus, which aims to integrate innovative technologies to bolster national security:

New Defense Modernization Caucus working on legislative agenda, focused on Replicator

The co-chairs of the newly established Defense Modernization Caucus told Inside Defense today that they are working on a bipartisan legislative agenda to advance U.S. military capabilities, noting they will focus on accelerating various Defense Department innovation efforts, like the Replicator initiative.

More coverage from the AUSA Global Force Symposium:

Army buying one system for first round of Replicator, Bush says

HUNTSVILLE, AL -- The Army will procure one system for the first round of the Defense Department's new Replicator initiative, according to service acquisition chief Doug Bush.

Army's new 'All-Domain Sensing' CFT will be fully operational by October

HUNTSVILLE, AL -- The Army will fully stand up its new All-Domain Sensing Cross-Functional Team by October, Gen. James Rainey, commanding general of Army Futures Command, announced today during the Association of the United States Army's Global Force Symposium here.

(Full AUSA Global Force Symposium coverage.)

By Shelley K. Mesch
March 27, 2024 at 1:46 PM

The Space Development Agency posted the solicitation for the next stage of its Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture yesterday, less than one week after Congress finally passed its fiscal year 2024 appropriations bill.

The Tranche 2 Transport Layer Gamma variant will include about 20 satellites with four optical communication terminals and the Warlock mission payload. It will join the T2TL Alpha and Beta variants in having Ka-band mission payloads, notworking and data routing subsystems, navigation subsystems and S-band telemetry, tracking and control subsystems.

Unlike several other SDA solicitations, the agency only plans on awarding one contract for the Gamma variant.

SDA had been waiting for Congress to pass an FY-24 appropriation before it could post the solicitation, Director Derek Tournear said at various events over the past few months. Because the government was operating under a continuing resolution for nearly six months, SDA hadn’t been able to post the Gamma solicitation or award the Fire-control On Orbit-support-to-the-war Fighter, or FOO Fighter, program.

FOO Fighter had been in source selection at the time of Tournear’s remarks at the Defense and Intelligence Space Conference at the end of February.

SDA plans to award the contract for Gamma in August, according to the solicitation, and the satellites are scheduled to launch by July 2027.

By Shelley K. Mesch
March 27, 2024 at 10:26 AM

The Space Development Agency is looking for information on services to pull down Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture satellites as needed.

The broad agency announcement released this week asks for studies and concepts for “commercial on-orbit servicing to provide assisted disposal operations.” Responses should include commercial offerings, concepts of operations, potential satellite design considerations, timelines for operational services, pricing and technical, policy and contractual considerations.

The solicitation comes a week after Director Derek Tournear said using such on-demand deorbiting services could save the agency money by allowing more risk in the design process as it could plan and be ready for a certain failure rate.

SDA plans to cyclically launch hundreds of satellites into low-Earth orbit with five-year service lifespans. To meet space debris mitigation standards, those satellites will be deorbited, requiring each satellite to have sufficient propulsion capabilities to come back to Earth.

“Even though current plans are adequate to exceed these goals, SDA is also interested in commercially available options for assisted disposal services as a contingency, should they be required,” the solicitation states.

Without an on-demand service as a backup, satellites would need to be built with redundant propulsion capacity to ensure they can deorbit, Tournear has said.

By John Liang
March 26, 2024 at 2:44 PM

This Tuesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the latest unfunded priorities lists, the Army's Integrated Battle Command System and more.

We start off with the latest unfunded priorities lists:

Air Force submits $3.5 billion unfunded priorities list to Congress

The Air Force is asking Congress for $3.5 billion to cover unfunded priorities mostly related to the service's recently announced structural shakeup to better prepare for conflict with a near-peer adversary, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

Navy sends $3.7 billion unfunded priority list to Congress

The Navy submitted a $3.7 billion list of "unfunded priorities" to Congress today, including $403 million in additional funding for the submarine industrial base workforce and supplier development as its top item, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

DOD tech chief submits $81.5M unfunded priorities list

Pentagon technology chief Heidi Shyu has sent Congress an $81.5 million unfunded priorities list for fiscal year 2025, keying two programs that would provide additional capabilities to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

. . . Followed by coverage of the AUSA Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, AL:

Army targeting mid-2025 for fielding IBCS to initial battalions

HUNTSVILLE, AL -- The Army will field the Integrated Battle Command System to the first couple of Patriot battalions starting in mid-2025, according to the program manager.

(Full AUSA Global Force Symposium coverage.)

Some unmanned systems news:

Navy postpones LUSV procurement and clips R&D in a sign it may be rethinking strategy

The Navy is pumping the brakes on the development and fielding of the Large Unmanned Surface Vessel, reducing the fiscal year 2025 funding request for LUSV research and development by approximately $74 million while postponing planned procurement of the lead vessel by two years, budget documents state.

Last but by no means least, our colleagues at Inside AI Policy have news from the head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency:

DARPA director cites U.S. advantages in AI race with China, describes government role

The U.S. and China each have advantages in the race to develop and deploy artificial intelligence technologies, but that dispersed roles and responsibilities for government and the private sector is a U.S. strength that matches this country's values, according to Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Stefanie Tompkins.

By Georgina DiNardo
March 26, 2024 at 1:59 PM

Amid news of Congress allotting $200 million to the secretive Replicator program in a new spending deal, senior defense officials told Inside Defense in an exclusive interview that an inaccuracy was made in Replicator's published -- and later corrected -- fiscal year 2025 budget request, leading to an inside look at the Pentagon's internal decision-making process.

This story is now available to all.

By Abby Shepherd
March 26, 2024 at 1:46 PM

Energetics manufacturing is set to increase at Allegany Ballistics Laboratory’s Naval Industrial Reserve Ordnance Plant, thanks to a $178 million contract awarded to Northrop Grumman by Naval Sea Systems Command.

A focus within the contract award is the construction of a new modular energetics facility.

“The investment will increase rocket motor energetics and inert processing and builds on Northrop Grumman’s proven performance to quickly scale using advanced manufacturing techniques and digital transformation,” according to a Northrop Grumman news release.

Northrop was awarded part of the $178 million in late September, according to company spokesperson Jarrod Krull.

Additional proposals for further plant expansion efforts will follow in the next couple of years, Krull added.

“The expansion will add to Northrop Grumman’s own investment in rocket motors and increase resiliency by doubling the capacity of the defense supply chain and ensure production capacity to meet the growing demand of solid-rocket motors and warheads on time and at affordable scale,” the news release said.

By Tony Bertuca
March 26, 2024 at 11:38 AM

Sweden-based Saab announced today it intends to build a new munitions manufacturing facility in the United States focused on the development and production of missiles and components for weapon systems like the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb.

Final site selection and groundbreaking is planned for 2024, with production to begin in 2026.

“Saab is growing its business in the United States and delivering on our promise to increase and modernize domestic production of our close combat and missile weapon systems, which will extend our defense capabilities and ensure the safety and security of military personnel around the globe,” Erik Smith, head of the company’s U.S. division, said in a statement.

“With capacity for advanced manufacturing and engineering, this new site will be a world-class asset to the American industrial base,” he continued.

Saab’s announcement comes as senior defense officials, including Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante, have increased their focus on bolstering munitions production to continue military aid to Ukraine, replenish U.S. stocks and prepare to provide weapons to Taiwan to deter China.

By Georgina DiNardo
March 26, 2024 at 11:28 AM

The Defense Innovation Unit announced the launch of a trilateral prize challenge run through AUKUS Pillar II today which will focus on determining electromagnetic spectrum technologies that give the Defense Department a "strategic edge in targeting."

The EMS technologies DIU is searching for should also be able to “provide protection against adversarial electromagnetic-targeting capabilities,” a DOD release today said.

Each country in AUKUS has nominated an organization to head this prize challenge and each will run separate competitions synchronously, with DIU leading the U.S. challenge, the Advanced Strategic Capabilities Accelerator leading the Australian challenge and the Defence and Security Accelerator leading the U.K. challenge.

“A team of subject-matter experts will evaluate applicants and select winning companies from the three countries in July 2024,” DOD said.

This challenge is run through AUKUS Pillar II, which aims to develop advanced military capabilities.

"There is enormous potential in collaborating with our allies and partners, and our AUKUS electromagnetic warfare (EW) Challenge is an example of this," DIU Director Doug Beck said in the release. "A strong international community of defense innovation entities can help nurture and harness these new capabilities."

By Dan Schere
March 26, 2024 at 10:00 AM

Leonardo DRS is among the companies that are competing for the Army's CMOSS Mounted Form Factor program for combat vehicles, the company announced Tuesday.

C5ISR/EW Modular Open Suite of Standards (CMOSS) is an effort by the Army to embed networked capabilities such as Position, Navigation and Timing, mission command application or radio waveforms into a “common ruggedized chassis” inside a tactical vehicle by inserting a card.

CMOSS Mounted Form Factor is the implementation of CMOSS that involves using a kit to “provide platforms with one or more standard chassis that are already plumbed for power, networks and radio frequency distribution.” It will serve as an upgrade to the Army’s combat vehicle-mounted battle management system, providing a “plug-and-play” capability that improves situational awareness.

Leonardo DRS announced Tuesday morning, ahead of the AUSA Global Force Symposium in Huntsville, AL, that it would be competing for the CMOSS Mounted Form Factor program. About 30 companies have started showing interest to compete, the company stated in a press release.

By Tony Bertuca
March 25, 2024 at 5:56 PM

U.S. Transportation Command has again sent an empty unfunded priorities list to Congress, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

The command also sent Congress an empty UPL for FY-24.

The regular fiscal year 2025 budget request is enough to “support the USTRANSCOM mission and invests in areas to ensure we maintain key strategic advantages,” according to a letter from Air Force Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost, the chief of TRANSCOM, to the congressional defense committees.

By Georgina DiNardo
March 25, 2024 at 5:26 PM

Sasha Baker, acting under secretary of defense for policy, plans to resign at the end of April, according to a Pentagon announcement.

Amanda Dory, currently the director of the Africa Center of Strategic Studies at National Defense University, will replace Baker in the position, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in DOD statement today.

Austin said that Baker is stepping down to move onto “her next chapter.”

“Under her leadership, our Policy team has helped the Department navigate a range of complex global challenges, including major crises in Ukraine and the Middle East,” Austin wrote. “Her strategic acumen and steadfast commitment to our national security have helped her play a pivotal role in shaping our defense policies, tackling emerging threats, and strengthening interagency relationships and international alliances.”

Dory will resume the role as acting under secretary when Baker leaves in April as Derek Chollet, who has been nominated for the post, has yet to be confirmed.

Chollet was nominated in July 2023 but he faced GOP opposition during a contentious Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in September about his involvement in the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Austin today urged the Senate to confirm Chollet.

“At this crucial moment for U.S. defense policy, the Department needs a confirmed principal adviser in this critical role,” Austin wrote.

Meanwhile, Melissa Dalton, who took over for Mara Karlin’s position performing the duties of the deputy defense under secretary for policy in December, is set to leave that role as she was confirmed by the Senate last week to be under secretary of the Air Force.

By Tony Bertuca
March 25, 2024 at 5:18 PM

U.S. Cyber Command has sent Congress an empty unfunded priorities list, noting that the $2.9 billion request for fiscal year 2025 is sufficient, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

In a letter to the congressional defense committees, Air Force Gen. Timothy Haugh, the chief of CYBERCOM, asked lawmakers for their support in FY-25 and noted the command is “postured to implement the service-like authority for budget in FY2024 with an appropriation.”

Watch Inside Defense for further coverage of the military’s FY-25 unfunded priorities lists here.

By Abby Shepherd
March 25, 2024 at 4:57 PM

The Navy is seeking to rapidly field Middle Tier Acquisition for short endurance, small, unmanned surface vessel technology and is asking for industry input.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center seeks information related to these vessels, which are less than 14 feet long and weigh less than 1,000 pounds.

“There is a possibility of two variants, a short variant less than six feet and a larger variant with a maximum length of 14 feet,” according to a request for information posted Monday.

The USV should be operable for four hours, maintain a speed of four knots for two hours, able to execute a preplanned mission and make changes via integrated sensors and should be compatible with the U.S. Special Operations Command Modular Payload A-Kit.

A technology description, benefits, operational description and an estimated Technical Readiness Level should be included in the industry response, according to the RFI.

Responses to the RFI are due 30 days after the notice’s posting.

By John Liang
March 25, 2024 at 1:13 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Space Force's fiscal year 2025 unfunded priorities list, the Pentagon's Replicator initiative and more.

We start off with coverage of the Space Force's unfunded priorities list:

Space Force submits $1.15B list of mostly classified unfunded priorities

The Space Force has sent Congress a $1.15 billion unfunded priorities list for fiscal year 2025 highlighting unmet needs for mostly classified programs, according to a document obtained by Inside Defense.

Document: Space Force's FY-25 unfunded priorities list

(Read our coverage of all the UPLs we've obtained so far.)

. . . Moving on to the Pentagon's Replicator initiative:

DOD corrects Replicator inaccuracy, providing rare glimpse into budget decision process

Amid news of Congress allotting $200 million to the secretive Replicator program in a new spending deal, senior defense officials told Inside Defense in an exclusive interview that an inaccuracy was made in Replicator's published -- and later corrected -- fiscal year 2025 budget request, leading to an inside look at the Pentagon's internal decision-making process.

DOD AI chief announces Replicator 'sandbox' to test industry software

The Pentagon's chief digital and artificial intelligence officer said today that CDAO has created a "Replicator sandbox" to test industry drone software.

"AI Superteams" is a collaborative effort between the Office of the Director of Operational Test and Evaluation and the Test and Evaluation Threat Resources Activity, better known as TETRA, which together have researched how "human autonomous teaming" can support "DOD performance improvement initiatives," according to a Pentagon spokesman:

New AI 'Superteams' in the works for DOD testing community

The Defense Department is working on developing the first "AI Superteams" for the testing and evaluation community over the next two years, the first of which Inside Defense has learned will be based at Redstone Arsenal, AL.

The Defense Department has submitted its first package of fiscal year 2025 legislative proposals:

Air Force eyes 107-plane reduction in combat-ready aircraft

The Air Force is again asking Congress to retire legacy aircraft the service deems no longer fit for combat with a near-peer adversary, including China, according to an initial package of legislative proposals sent to Congress last week.

DOD asks Congress to loosen spending restrictions on Ukraine aid

The Defense Department is asking Congress to modify the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to allow for an additional two years of funding flexibility, according to a new legislative proposal.

Document: DOD's first package of FY-25 legislative proposals

Coverage of the FY-24 defense appropriations bill, which was finally signed into law late last week:

Appropriators allocate $3.72 billion for ground vehicles in 2024 Army budget

The Army would receive approximately $3.72 billion to fund ground vehicle programs in fiscal year 2024, $431 million more than what the service originally requested, according to congressional appropriation documents released Thursday.

Appropriations bill directs submarine program reviews, indicates cost and schedule concerns

Congress' final fiscal year 2024 appropriations package directs the Government Accountability Office to conduct a comprehensive review of the Virginia-class submarine program, citing concern over cost and schedule performance for both Virginia- and Columbia-class submarine production.

Last but by no means least, some counter unmanned aerial vehicles news:

JCO plans to spend $120 million on RDT&E in FY-25

The Pentagon's Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office (JCO), of which the Army is the executive agent, plans to spend $120 million on research, development, test and evaluation in fiscal year 2025 along with another $12 million on operations and maintenance.

By Georgina DiNardo
March 25, 2024 at 10:41 AM

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) named Rep. John Moolenaar (R-MI) as the next chairman of the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party following the announcement of Rep. Mike Gallagher's (R-WI) planned departure from Congress.

“John Moolenaar will be an exceptional chairman for the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party,” Johnson said in a press statement released by Moolenaar. “His leadership experience in the private and public sectors, his academic background and his principled service in Congress have earned John the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

Along with leaving a vacant chairmanship on the CCP committee, Gallagher, who is set to resign April 19, is leaving an open chairmanship on the House Armed Services cyber, information technologies and innovation subcommittee. He is also leaving Johnson with a one-seat GOP majority in the House.

Moolenaar, meanwhile, said he is looking forward to his new job.

“Together, we can help our country prepare for the challenges we face from the Chinese Communist Party and win the competition against the CCP,” he said.

The CCP committee, which was created in January 2023, aims to find bipartisan solutions through defensive action plans related to threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party.