The Insider

By Briana Reilly
April 25, 2022 at 4:07 PM

The Pentagon today announced it’s bringing on Craig Martell, formerly the head of machine learning for rideshare company Lyft, to serve as the new chief digital and artificial intelligence officer.

Martell is the first permanent CDAO since the post’s establishment in late 2021, taking the reins from John Sherman, the Defense Department's chief information officer, who had been filling the CDAO post temporarily.

Martell will report to the deputy defense secretary and command the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, the Defense Digital Service and DOD’s chief data officer in an attempt to bolster alignment across the department and spotlight the importance of the military’s data, analytics and AI efforts.

In a press release announcing the news today, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks touted Martell’s “cutting-edge industry experience” derived from Lyft and a previous role as the head of machine learning at Dropbox.

“Advances in AI and machine learning are critical to delivering the capabilities we need to address key challenges both today and into the future,” Hicks said. “With Craig’s appointment, we hope to see the department increase the speed at which we develop and field advances in AI, data analytics, and machine-learning technology.”

The CDAO reached initial operating capability earlier this year.

By Tony Bertuca
April 25, 2022 at 2:10 PM

The Pentagon has released a request for information to the defense industry seeking ideas for weapon systems that can be rapidly delivered to Ukraine, with the fastest proposed timeline being “30 days or less” and the longest being “more than 180 days.”

The RFI, released April 22, follows the Defense Department’s delivery to Ukraine of more than 120 Phoenix Ghost unmanned aerial systems, which have loitering munition capabilities similar to the Switchblade UAS.

The RFI specifically seeks the defense industry’s ideas on anti-armor, air defense, counter-artillery, network communications, and UAS for Ukraine, which is defending itself from an ongoing Russian invasion.

Byron Callan, a defense analyst with Capital Alpha Partners, told clients in a note that he is struck by the RFI’s focus on speed.

“We don’t recall seeing anything like this during wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, though there were quick cycle programs to address IED (improvised explosive device) threats,” he wrote.

The Pentagon noted last week that the United States has now committed more than $4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including approximately $3.4 billion since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

Some lawmakers, however, are pushing for more supplemental funding for Ukrainian military assistance.

Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken traveled to the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv yesterday and pledged another $713 million in military financing for Ukraine and other regional partners, including assistance for Ukraine to transition from Soviet-era weapons to systems currently used by NATO nation.

By Thomas Duffy
April 25, 2022 at 1:42 PM

This Monday INSIDER Daily Digest starts with a report on the Army’s new night vision system, cyber news, a senior DOD official wants the services to focus more on energy reduction, and the Navy is canceling an unmanned program.

The Defense Department inspector general says the Army needs more soldier feedback on one of its main acquisition efforts:

DOD IG: Army needs clear standard of soldier acceptance of IVAS

Army officials have failed to gauge soldiers' willingness to use the Integrated Visual Augmentation System, which could severely limit the technology when it is fielded, according to a new report by the Defense Department inspector general.

The Pentagon’s top cyber official made some news last week:

Pentagon cyber chief aims to achieve full zero-trust implementation across DOD by 2027

The Defense Department is moving aggressively to implement zero-trust architectures across the services and agencies by the end of 2027, according to Pentagon cyber chief David McKeown, who says the move has been accelerated by President Biden's cyber executive order.

The No. 2 official at DOD wants more emphasis on cutting energy consumption:

Hicks cracking down on operational energy requirements

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks is directing the military departments to put more effort into energy reduction, especially when it comes to acquiring and sustaining new and existing weapon systems, according to a recent memo.

The Navy is halting development of one of its unmanned seagoing vessels:

Navy's large unmanned undersea program eliminated in FY-23 budget

The Navy's Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle program -- known as Snakehead -- will be eliminated after just recently becoming available for fleet use.

Snakehead is the Navy’s largest submarine-launched UUV, intended to provide increased endurance, depth capability and payload capacity beyond small and medium UUVs.

By Audrey Decker
April 25, 2022 at 11:53 AM

The Marine Corps’ new CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter has reached initial operational capability, according to a Marine Corps press release.

The King Stallion will provide nearly three times the lift capability of the legacy CH-53E helicopter and can transport the vertical Marine Air-Ground Task Force, the press release states.

Lockheed Martin subsidiary Sikorsky is the program’s prime contractor.

“The most notable attribute of the King Stallion is its ability to maintain increased performance margins in a degraded aeronautical environment, for example at higher altitudes, hotter climates and carrying up to 27,000 lbs. out to 110 nautical miles; whereas the CH-53E would be limited to a 9,628-pound external load in the same environment,” the press release states.

The Marine Corps will deploy the first CH-53K Marine Expeditionary Unit detachment in fiscal year 2024, according to the service.

The Defense Department’s legislative proposal package for the FY-23 defense authorization bill requests that the Navy enter a block-buy contract in FY-23 and FY-24 for 30 CH-53Ks.

The Marine Corps unfunded priorities list included $250 million for two King Stallion helicopters. The service requested 10 CH-53Ks in the FY-23 budget request.

By Tony Bertuca
April 25, 2022 at 5:00 AM

Senior defense officials are scheduled to speak at a slew of public events this week, mostly on Capitol Hill to justify the fiscal year 2023 budget request.

Tuesday

The Senate Armed Services Committee holds a hearing with former Pentagon officials on the health of the defense industrial base.

The Senate Appropriations Committee holds a closed hearing with the Missile Defense Agency.

Wednesday

The House Armed Services Committee holds a hearing on the Air Force budget.

The House Armed Services tactical air and land forces subcommittee holds a hearing on the budget for tactical fixed-wing aircraft.

The House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee holds a hearing on the Navy budget.

The Senate Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee holds a hearing on the readiness of U.S. Special Operations Command.

The Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee holds a hearing on the Energy Department’s nuclear weapons activities.

The House Budget Committee holds a hearing with Pentagon Comptroller Mike McCord.

Thursday

The House Armed Services Committee holds its annual Members Day.

The House Armed Services readiness subcommittee holds a hearing on F-35 Joint Strike Fighter sustainment.

The House Armed Services intelligence and special operations subcommittee holds a hearing on the budget for U.S. Special Operations Command.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a discussion on the future of the Navy with Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday.

The Brookings Institute hosts a discussion on defense spending “in the states.”

Friday

The House Armed Services cyber, innovative technologies and information systems subcommittee holds a hearing on defense information technology and cybersecurity.

The Atlantic Council hosts a discussion with the chief executive of Lockheed Martin.

By Tony Bertuca
April 22, 2022 at 2:59 PM

The Pentagon's chief technology officer has launched a new "Innovation Pathways" website partly intended to connect interested defense contractors to various prototyping and development opportunities available throughout the Defense Department.

“The site serves as a gateway to the department’s efforts to bring in new ideas and technology, with a special focus on students, universities, and businesses,” according to a DOD announcement.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks and Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu both teased the launching of the website in recent days.

“The Innovation Pathways website is one part of our on-going efforts to make it easier for those across the innovation ecosystem, including small businesses, new entrants to the defense markets, universities, and traditional defense suppliers, to find ways to collaborate with the DOD and each other,” Hicks said in a statement. “For the first time, the department has a website that puts the range of these different opportunities across the department in one place.”

The website pathway is focused on the academic community so students and faculty can search available DOD internships, grants, scholarships, and research opportunities.

A second pathway exists for commercial companies seeking business opportunities with the DOD.

The last pathway is designed for military personnel and DOD civilians looking to “leverage existing projects, participate in workshops, or collaborate,” DOD said.

The website also features an option to explore all DOD’s various innovation organizations.

“All users, both inside and outside the DOD, can apply filtering criteria based on their unique interests to find relevant DOD innovation organizations,” the department said.

By John Liang
April 22, 2022 at 2:12 PM

This Friday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Pentagon's upcoming omnibus reprogramming request to Congress, Army robotic combat vehicles, congressional skepticism over the Navy's latest shipbuilding plan and more.

The Army, Navy and Air Force are all required to submit their FY-22 reprogramming plans by May 13 for potential inclusion in the Defense Department’s annual omnibus reprogramming request to Congress:

OSD wants $1B from military departments to cover border security and counter small drones

The military services have been notified by the Pentagon comptroller that they must submit plans to reprogram $600 million in fiscal year 2022 funds to support the Department of Homeland Security's southwest border security mission, as well as another $480 million to cover U.S. Central Command's need to counter small unmanned aerial systems.

Document: McCord memo on FY-22 omnibus reprogramming

News on the Army's plans to expand its robotic vehicle fleet:

Combat robot prototyping makes it into Army's FY-23 budget

The Army wants to spend $698 million over the next five years to expand its fleet of the smallest Robotic Combat Vehicle variant and continue developing autonomy software for the unmanned ground platforms, according to the service's fiscal year 2023 budget request.

The top Republican on the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee is skeptical about the Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan:

Wittman: Savings in Navy's long-range shipbuilding plan won't deliver immediate capability

The Navy's latest 30-year shipbuilding plan gives away "massive amounts" of capability with no promise of getting it back anytime soon, according to a prominent House lawmaker.

Document: Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan

Competition was built into the design of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle program, with the goal of reducing long-term costs:

JLTV costs could rise under follow-on contract

The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle could become more expensive under a follow-on production contract that the Army plans to award through an open competition, according to the service's fiscal year 2023 budget request.

The Defense Department this week released a fiscal year 2023 budget justification book on "Meeting the Climate Challenge":

DOD details $3B proposal to deal with climate change

The Defense Department is requesting $3 billion in fiscal year 2023 for "meeting the climate challenge," with most of the proposed funding going toward military installation resiliency and investments in science and technology, according to a new budget document released by the Pentagon.

Document: DOD's FY-23 climate challenge budget justification book

Brett Vaughan, the Navy’s chief artificial intelligence officer, spoke at an industry event this week:

Navy official outlines three 'buckets' for how the service is using AI

The Navy has three "buckets" where it is utilizing artificial intelligence: rudimental tasks, autonomous systems and decision aids, according to a service official.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Director Stefanie Tompkins spoke this week at an online National Defense Industrial Association event:

Microelectronics among drivers of DARPA's $4.1B FY-23 budget request

A proposed nearly $900 million investment in microelectronics is among the drivers of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's $4.1 billion fiscal year 2023 budget request, the agency's director said this week.

By Briana Reilly
April 21, 2022 at 2:14 PM

The head of the Pentagon's Silicon Valley outreach arm is poised to brief the Defense Business Board on transitioning commercial capabilities to the military in a closed-door meeting next month.

The May 11 classified session, part of a two-day meeting announced in the Federal Register today, comes as Defense Innovation Unit Director Michael Brown has sought to beat the drum on his so-called “fast follower” strategy aiming to inject speed into the process for getting a hold of and regularly refreshing current commercially advanced tech.

Today’s notice says Brown’s briefing will center “on rapid access and adoption of commercial technologies for the DOD that strengthen the national security innovation base.”

During the May 12 sessions, the board will hear classified remarks from Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks surrounding the National Defense Strategy, DOD Chief Information Officer John Sherman on the IT landscape, and the Pentagon's Office of Net Assessment Director James Baker tied to “ONA’s current assessment of global competition and strategic challenges for DOD.”

Board members will then receive presentations in open session before adjourning, per the notice.

By Audrey Decker
April 21, 2022 at 1:43 PM

The Navy is asking to enter into one or more block-buy contracts for the CH-53K heavy-lift helicopter.

The Defense Department’s legislative proposal package for the fiscal year 2023 defense authorization bill would permit the Navy to enter a block-buy contract in FY-23 and FY-24 for 30 CH-53Ks.

The legislative proposal would also permit the Navy to enter a block-buy contract for 90 CH-53K aircraft engines in support of 30 aircraft, according to the document.

“These block-buy contract strategies will provide industrial base stability, incentivize prime/ supplier investment, improve production efficiency, reduce administration burden of annual contracts, and take advantage of airframes and engine procurement volume resulting in significant cost avoidance when compared to an annual procurement cost estimate,” according to the document.

The Marine Corps’ unfunded priorities list included $250 million for two CH-53K helicopters.

Last month, the CH-53K program completed initial operational test and evaluation and the service said it is on track to be operational this year.

By John Liang
April 21, 2022 at 1:25 PM

This Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on a Space Force anti-jam satellite communications program, the Army's newest rifle, artificial intelligence and more.

Inside Defense recently spoke with Boeing executives about a Space Force anti-jam satellite communications program:

Space Force Protected Anti-jam Tactical SATCOM program advances with ground-based technology

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO -- As adversaries develop new technology to prevent communication, the Space Force saw progress in one of its Protected Anti-jam Tactical Satellite Communications programs that contractor Boeing says will be able to help provide secure and assured transmissions.

The Army's newest rifle will use a different size of ammunition:

Ammunition production will set the pace for NGSW fielding

The Army's ability to produce its first new caliber of small arms ammunition in more than half a century will determine how it fields the Next Generation Squad Weapon, the director of the Soldier Lethality Cross-Functional Team said April 20.

Some military artificial intelligence news:

JAIC head looks toward future of shared platform environments amid DOD AI integration work

The director of the Defense Department's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center worries that the military services' stovepipes could stand in the way of ongoing efforts to integrate AI capabilities across the Pentagon's components.

The Navy this week released its latest 30-year shipbuilding plan:

Navy offers rationale for multiscenario shipbuilding plan

The Navy has sent Congress a 30-year shipbuilding plan with three potential procurement profiles, with officials citing the continued proliferation of unmanned systems, future budget uncertainty and the modernization of peer adversaries as the prime drivers for presenting multiple strategies.

Document: Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan

The Pentagon's research and engineering chief spoke this week during a webinar hosted by the National Defense Industrial Association:

Shyu tallies 'significant' S&T growth in latest Pentagon budget

Pentagon technology chief Heidi Shyu said today the Defense Department's proposed $130 billion research and development budget is the largest in history, but specifically highlighted the increased investment in emerging science and technology programs.

Document: Shyu's R&E budget briefing slides

The head of the Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit spoke this week at an online C4ISRNet event:

As DIU pushes 'fast follower' strategy, Brown says 'sense of urgency' is lacking

As the head of the Defense Innovation Unit calls for a new process to quickly adopt commercial technology and ensure capabilities are addressing emerging threats, he says his attempts to raise awareness among military stakeholders aren't being met with "enough sense of urgency."

Last but by no means least, we have the latest on the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program from our colleagues at Inside Cybersecurity:

Pentagon considers using cloud service offerings to help contractors reach CMMC compliance

The Defense Department is in the early stages of determining whether it can work with industry partners to develop cloud service offerings that can help contractors meet Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification requirements, according to Pentagon cyber chief David McKeown.

DOD's work with international partners on CMMC reciprocity to follow initial rulemakings

Two rulemakings to implement the Pentagon's Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program are expected in May 2023, according to CMMC Director Stacy Bostjanick, who says they could be followed by an additional rule to establish how reciprocity will work with international partners.

By Tony Bertuca
April 21, 2022 at 11:19 AM

(Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a clarification made at a Pentagon press conference.)

President Biden and the Pentagon have announced the latest $800 million aid package to Ukraine will include dozens of howitzers and more than 120 new unmanned aerial systems rapidly developed by the Air Force.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby released a statement saying the aid package includes 72 howitzers with more than 140,000 rounds of ammunition, 72 tactical vehicles to tow the 155mm howitzers, and more than 120 Phoenix Ghost tactical unmanned aerial systems.

Kirby, in a phone call with reporters today, said the Phoenix Ghost, manufactured by Solana Beach, CA-based Aevex Aerospace, was rapidly developed by the Air Force to have capabilities similar to the Switchblade UAS, which acts as a loitering munition.

Though Kirby said during the call the UAS was "rapidly developed by the Air Force in response specifically to Ukrainian requirements,” he later clarified at a press conference that the UAS had already been in development prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

“I don’t have an exact start date,” he said. “We see the benefit for Ukraine to use it, so we’re going to provide some of them.”

Kirby also said the Phoenix Ghost is currently in the Air Force's arsenal. He declined to provide additional information about the system, other than to say, "its principal focus is attack."

“It was developed for a set of requirements that very closely match what the Ukrainians need right now in Donbas," Kirby said, referring the region in Eastern Ukraine where Russian forces have increased their attacks.

The Pentagon noted that the United States has now committed more than $4 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since the beginning of the Biden administration, including approximately $3.4 billion since the beginning of the Russian invasion.

By Briana Reilly
April 21, 2022 at 10:30 AM

The Pentagon's Defense Innovation Unit has officially opened its new satellite office in Chicago, marking the organization's fifth outpost and first in the Midwest.

First announced in fall 2021, the office’s opening today marks DIU’s shift toward a more regional outreach focus aiming to connect innovative companies with the Defense Department.

“DIU is excited to add Chicago to deepen the DOD's reach to identify new solutions, companies and talent to solve our national security challenges,” Michael Brown, DIU’s director, said in a press release today. “Leveraging the innovation of entrepreneurs across the Midwest will enable DIU to provide new capabilities to our servicemembers.”

After beginning with an experimental office in Silicon Valley under then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter in 2016, DIU has set up shop in Austin, TX, Boston, MA, and Washington, DC. The new Chicago office will serve 12 states across the unit’s Midwest region, according to today’s release, and is co-located with the Discovery Partners Institute.

The opening precedes a planned online regional roadshow event DIU is hosting this afternoon with Midwest-based companies and organizations, and those interested can register here.

In all since its creation, Brown wrote in testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee’s emerging threats and capabilities panel in early April that the unit has seen companies from 47 states and DC, as well as more than a dozen countries, vie for contract awards.

In the last fiscal year, DIU awarded 31% more prototype other transaction contracts compared to FY-20 and transitioned eight programs to DOD users, according to its annual report. Over the first five months of FY-22, Brown wrote that the unit has already “facilitated the successful transition of an additional four capabilities.”

By Evan Ochsner
April 20, 2022 at 3:13 PM

The Army's first set of modernized network capabilities is more than 70% fielded, the program executive officer for command, control and communications-tactical said on Wednesday.

The Army is almost finished equipping its seventh brigade combat team with Capability Set 21 technologies, Maj. Gen. Rob Collins said during a conference hosted by C4ISRNET. The Army plans to outfit nine brigade combat teams with the capabilities, Collins said.

Capability Set 21 prioritized fielding “expeditionary” capabilities with a focus on tactical brigades, he added.

The capability set was 50% fielded in February, Collins said at the time.

The Army’s next set, Capability Set 23, is scheduled for a critical design review next week. That set seeks to extend new technology to Stryker formations while increasing overall network capacity, resiliency and convergence, the Army has said.

The Army will discuss Capability Sets 25 and 27 with industry at a meeting next month. “We’re really starting to set our design goals” for those sets, Collins said.

By John Liang
April 20, 2022 at 1:49 PM

This Wednesday INSIDER Daily Digest has news on the Air Force's airborne refueling tanker fleet, the Pentagon's Joint All-Domain Command and Control effort, the Navy's latest 30-year shipbuilding plan and more.

House and Senate lawmakers have differing ideas of how to go about replacing the KC-46 airborne refueling tanker:

Lawmakers push for competition for KC-Y contract

As the Air Force formalizes plans for the KC-Y program that will field a bridge tanker to continue recapitalization of the air refueling fleet, lawmakers in interviews with Inside Defense are calling for the service to release more information about the program's plans, with some calling for a competition for the aircraft's contract.

News on the Pentagon's Joint All-Domain Command and Control effort:

DOD leaders lay groundwork for investing in JADC2 implementation plan

Top Pentagon officials are working to overlay their recently completed Joint All-Domain Command and Control implementation plan with their fiscal year 2023 budget request as they prepare to make investments heading into the next funding cycle.

Inside Defense this week got an early look at the Navy's congressionally required, 30-year shipbuilding plan:

Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan calls for 51 battleforce ships over FYDP

The Navy plans to build 51 manned battleforce ships over the next five years, according to the Biden administration's latest 30-year shipbuilding plan, a copy of which was obtained by Inside Defense.

Document: Navy's 30-year shipbuilding plan

The Army's newest rifle contractor was unveiled this week:

Sig Sauer wins Next Generation Squad Weapon contract

Sig Sauer will provide thousands of new rifles to the Army over the coming years after it won a Next Generation Squad Weapon contract, the service announced Tuesday.

The Army this week revealed its spending plans for the Armored Multi-Purpose Vehicle:

Future AMPV procurement would slow under Army's FY-23 request

The Army would end a two-year break on buying its new armored personnel carrier under the fiscal year 2023 budget request, but its future spending plans for the system now include fewer annual purchases than before.

Document: Army's FY-23 procurement budget justification books

One of the Navy's biggest challenges is "time to market" for its 5G-enabled, "smart" warehouse project:

Navy's 'smart' warehouse pilot to start production in two years

The Navy's "smart" warehouses are on track for transitioning to production in two years, but the service is still moving at a much slower pace than industry, according to a service official.

Performance on Technology Refresh 3, an F-35 hardware upgrade needed to pave the way for Block 4's full combat capability and weapons suite, "has not been what we wanted," according to an Air Force official:

Air Force sees need for extra F-35s if TR-3 included

Though the Air Force's unfunded priorities list cites a need for seven additional F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, a service spokeswoman noted officials' interest in extra procurement hinges on whether a critical enabler of the program's advanced Block 4 capabilities is included in those jets.

By Briana Reilly
April 20, 2022 at 10:56 AM

The senior adviser to the Defense Department's chief data officer says the military is beginning to increasingly embrace data sharing as officials work toward a goal of faster information transfers to help enable Joint All-Domain Command and Control.

Speaking at a C4ISRNet event today, John Turner attributed the shift partially to the creation of data leadership and CDO roles across DOD components, saying those efforts were “really helping bolster that change.”

“I think the culture of data hoarding is absolutely on the way out, and we’re seeing incredible responsiveness as increasingly data is being shared across components for various use cases,” he said.

In a recent top-level reorganization, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks announced the creation of a new chief digital and artificial intelligence officer to bolster alignment across the department and spotlight the importance of the military’s data, analytics and AI efforts.

The office’s standup and the subsequent melding of previously segmented organizations within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Turner said, allows for alignment across DOD’s practices and boosts the speed at which officials can act.

Beyond that, he said the process has taught DOD “that we’ve got an opportunity to align our strategy on how to drive change across the department, how to lead and oversee the adoption of data analytics and AI.”

In particular, he said the effort has led officials to reflect on which pieces need to be centrally managed and invested in “versus where do we need to accept that there should rightfully be a healthy amount of diversity in our capabilities and approaches.”

“The opportunity to have the coherent architecture and explanation of that across the force is really the potential we have now,” Turner noted.

The moves come as DOD continues working toward the creation of a military internet of things in JADC2. One key measure of success for that effort, Turner said, is the speed of data sharing across components.

Still, he cited the complexities of data sharing, ranging from security and privacy issues to “whether the data is actually fit for purpose for the [customer’s] intended use.”

“I don’t think that success in JADC2 is going to be the realization of a perfect architecture that is predetermined, fixed in stone and then delivered,” Turner said. “The success from the data perspective is the speed at which we can close the loop between the producer and consumer and share data faster.”