The Insider

July 10, 2018 at 11:30 AM | Tony Bertuca

House and Senate conferees will meet Wednesday to discuss the fiscal year 2019 defense authorization bill, according to an announcement from the House Armed Services Committee.

"Known as the 'pass the gavel' meeting, the event is the first meeting of [defense authorization bill] conferees, who work together to resolve differences between the defense authorization bills passed separately by the House and the Senate," the committee said.

The House finalized its list of conferees earlier this month and the Senate is expected to do so soon.

The conference committee will be chaired by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK). Inhofe is sitting in for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who is being treated for brain cancer.

Other conference leaders include House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry (R-TX), as well as Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the top Democrats on their respective committees.

Inhofe and Thornberry have said they would like to complete the final bill by the end of the month and send it to President Trump for his signature.

Though both bills passed with overwhelming support and adhere to funding levels set by a bipartsan spending agreement, there are several areas where lawmakers will need to compromise, with military end-strength being one of the most high-profile.

The House's defense bill authorizes end-strength increases sought by the military services in their FY-19 budget request, but the Senate version restricts the increases, though it allows for growth beyond FY-18 levels.

The Senate's version of the bill also requires the Pentagon to conduct a massive "roles and missions" review that could ensnare a host of top-tier acquisition programs. The House bill has no such provision.

Meanwhile, both the Senate and House versions of the defense authorization bills would ban Chinese companies ZTE and Huawei, but the Trump administration favors the House's version if some flexibility can be included.

July 10, 2018 at 10:59 AM | Ashley Tressel

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley announced July 9 that Brig. Gen. Robert Rasch has been appointed to serve as program executive officer for missiles and space at Redstone Arsenal, AL.

Rasch, replacing Barry Pike as PEO, previously served as Pike's deputy. 

July 10, 2018 at 10:12 AM | Tony Bertuca

House Democrats are urging President Trump to respect and defend NATO this week as he meets with America's key allies and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"President Trump must not seek to undo the work that generations of American men and women have done to help defend and uphold democratic values throughout the transatlantic region," the 44 lawmakers said in a statement.

"The signals regarding potential outcomes that are coming from this administration in advance of the President’s upcoming trip to Europe are deeply concerning," the lawmakers said.

On Monday, Trump tweeted that the United States is "spending far more on NATO than any other country" and that the situation "is not fair, nor is it acceptable." Trump also said the alliance "benefits Europe far more than it does the U.S."

Trump will arrive in Brussels today for the NATO summit.

Meanwhile, Trump is scheduled to meet with Putin on July 16 in Helsinki.

The House Democrats said that "without question, in his upcoming meetings with NATO and President Putin, President Trump must continue to affirm America's commitments to our allies, especially Article V of the Atlantic Treaty. He must not praise, condone, or abet any Russian efforts to undermine the sovereignty or democracy of any of our allies and partners. He must take a genuine stand against Russia's cyber campaigns and its efforts to interfere in our elections."

The lawmakers also urge Trump to recognize the importance of U.S. forward military presence in Europe and joint exercises with allies when it comes to deterring Russia.

"He must not weaken this posture or suspend or cancel these crucial activities, nor emulate Russian propaganda attempting to discredit them," the lawmakers said.

Trump alarmed some lawmakers when he ordered the suspension of joint military exercises with South Korea after his meeting with North Korea leader Kim Jong Un.

The Democrats also said Trump should remain aware of the fact that Russia continues to violate Ukrainian sovereignty in its occupation of Crimea.

"He must follow the law passed every year through the National Defense Authorization Act prohibiting military-to-military cooperation with President Putin," the lawmakers said. "And he must continue to stand by NATO's open door policy on the admittance of new members. The substance and symbolism of these upcoming meetings will matter. The future of the Atlantic alliance and the international order, which has helped make the world safer and more prosperous is at stake."

July 10, 2018 at 9:44 AM | Justin Katz

A test and evaluation squadron completed the first "comprehensive" initial operational test and evaluation on the MQ-8C Fire Scout last month, according to a July 9 Navy statement.

Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 1 (VX-1) used the Fire Scout to perform several mission scenarios off the coast of California onboard the Littoral Combat Ship Coronado (LCS-4).

The squadron "conducted simulated engagements to evaluate Fire Scout's role in target identification, intelligence gathering and surface warfare operations," according to the Navy statement. The testing also focused on practices for simultaneously maintaining both the Fire Scout and the MH-60S Seahawk.

The Navy plans to continue pierside testing onboard the Coronado throughout July.

Northrop Grumman's MQ-8C swaps out all the hardware and software from its predecessor, the MQ-8B, into a larger Textron-Bell 407 helicopter. The program's first variant, the RQ-8A, is no longer in service.

July 9, 2018 at 3:54 PM | Justin Doubleday

The Defense Information Systems Agency announced today it has awarded an other transaction agreement to prototype a case management platform for the National Background Investigations System.

DISA awarded the $49 million OTA to Herndon, VA-based Enterprise, LLC on June 22, according to an agency statement. The company is tasked with developing a prototype of the National Background Investigation Services (NBIS) Investigation Management (IM) shared service, DISA said.

"The NBIS IM platform is the integrated case management solution that will bring together the core functions of the systems and provide the interface for investigative users," the statement continues. "The system will expedite the time to process investigations by automating and optimizing key processes from request initiation through investigation completion."

Enterprise, LLC is partnered with Pegasystems, Inc. of Cambridge, MA; Accenture Federal Services, LLC of Arlington, VA; Torch Research LLC of Leawood, KS; and Next Tier Concepts, Inc. of Vienna, VA on the prototype project, according to DISA.

In 2016, the Obama administration tasked the Defense Department with developing a new background investigations system in the wake of a damaging hack into the Office of Personnel Management's legacy system that exposed the records of as many as four million individuals.

The Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act approved the transfer of the background investigations function from OPM to DOD's Defense Security Service for military-specific investigations. The Pentagon plans to rely on automated record checks and other "continuous evaluation" technologies to accelerate the investigative process and reduce the backlog of delayed investigations.

Meanwhile, the White House's government reform plan released last month proposes shifting the entire background investigations process to DOD, since military-specific cases make up 70 percent of the federal government's background investigations workload already.

However, DOD has yet to task a senior leader with overseeing the transfer of the background investigations mission to the department.

July 9, 2018 at 2:28 PM | John Liang

Unmanned systems news highlights this Monday INSIDER Daily Digest.

The Air Force will be buying more Reaper unmanned aircraft than originally projected:

Air Force doubles MQ-9 procurement expectations for next five years

The Air Force last week revealed plans to buy about 100 MQ-9 Reapers in the next five fiscal years, nearly double the number it projected in budget documents published earlier this year.

Related recent Reaper coverage:

MQ-9 capability study expected to move forward this summer as ACC mulls fleet balance

A team analyzing the future of the MQ-9 Reaper will present its final results to the Air Force Capability Development Working Group in July, according to a service spokeswoman.

House lawmakers urge Air Force to rethink Reaper procurement plan

House appropriators are pushing back on the Air Force's request to buy 29 MQ-9 Reapers in fiscal year 2019, arguing the service's procurement plans don't properly address its future aircraft needs.

AFSOC to stand up new MQ-9 squadron as Shaw AFB ramps up Reaper operations

Hurlburt Field, FL, is expanding its active-duty MQ-9 Reaper pilot workforce to allow for a second combat line under Air Force Special Operations Command.

Pilot Training Next initiative to inform enlisted pilot pipeline for MQ-9

Air Force Air Education and Training Command is gathering data that will shape whether and how the service allows enlisted airmen to fly MQ-9 Reapers, according to the command's top general.

House's defense policy bill would add two MQ-9s, require briefing on using Reaper for missile defense

House lawmakers propose giving the Air Force money to buy two more MQ-9 Reapers in their version of the fiscal year 2019 defense policy bill, which passed to the full chamber May 10.

The Navy will stick with two contractors for its XLUUV program:

Senate appropriators: Navy will retain both contractors for XLUUV phase 2

The Navy appears to have quietly decided to retain both contractors for the second phase of a large unmanned underwater vehicle program, according to Senate appropriators.

Related XLUUV coverage over the past year:

Navy will use Orca XLUUV acquisition strategy as model for future programs

The Navy will use a rapid acquisition strategy for the Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle as a model for other acquisition programs.

Navy awards two contracts for Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle

The Navy awarded contracts worth $42 million and $43 million respectively to a Boeing-Huntington Ingalls team and Lockheed Martin for the next stage of the Orca Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle program.

Boeing, HII team up for Navy XLUUV competition

Boeing and Huntington Ingalls Industries recently announced they are teaming on design and production of an offering for the Navy's Extra Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicle competition.

DARPA releases BAA for program that would deliver payloads from XLUUV

The Pentagon's advanced research arm is seeking industry's input for a program designed to deliver undersea payloads from a large unmanned underwater vehicle.

The immigration policy debate has now reached the Pentagon:

Pentagon to be reimbursed for housing undocumented immigrants

The Pentagon is working with the Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments to begin housing thousands of undocumented immigrants at two Texas military bases in the coming weeks and expects to be reimbursed for the cost.

July 9, 2018 at 5:10 AM | Tony Bertuca

(Editor's note: This post has been updated to include additional information.)

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is traveling to the NATO summit in Brussels this week, while Congress returns from recess.

Tuesday

The Air Force Association hosts an event on manned-unmanned teaming.

The Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance hosts a command and control event featuring senior Pentagon officials.

Wednesday

The Defense Systems Summit begins in Arlington, VA, and features several senior Pentagon officials.

The Navy League hosts a breakfast in Arlington, VA, with the program executive officer for ships.

The Center for Strategic and International Security hosts a discussion on the future of America's alliances.

The House Armed Services emerging threats and capabilities subcommittee holds a hearing on foreign assistance.

Thursday

The National Defense Industrial Association hosts its annual Integrated Air and Missile Defense Symposium in Laurel, MD.

Friday

The Air Force Association hosts a breakfast with the commander of the 45th Space Wing.

July 9, 2018 at 5:05 AM | John Liang

Some must-reads from this week's issue of Inside the Navy:

1. The Navy appears to have quietly decided to retain both contractors for the second phase of a large unmanned underwater vehicle program, according to Senate appropriators.

Full story: Senate appropriators: Navy will retain both contractors for XLUUV phase 2

2. A Defense Acquisition Board scheduled in June to review the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's follow-on development plan has been delayed as the program office continues to gather cost and time line data for the effort.

Full story: F-35 follow-on development DAB delayed as JPO refines cost, schedule estimates

3. The joint force is looking for institutional and operational reform in a new approach to information warfare, according to a draft joint concept obtained by Inside Defense.

Full story: Draft joint concept rethinking approach to information warfare

4. The Navy's Tomahawk missile program, which House lawmakers called "mismanaged," is now being scrutinized by Senate appropriators who want the Navy secretary to conduct a "full review" of the program in the wake of the service attempting to repurpose a large fiscal year 2018 funding increase.

Full story: Senate appropriators add to Navy Tomahawk missile scrutiny

July 9, 2018 at 5:00 AM | John Liang

Some must-reads from this week's edition of Inside the Army:

1. The joint force is looking for institutional and operational reform in a new approach to information warfare, according to a draft joint concept obtained by Inside Defense.

Full story: Draft joint concept rethinking approach to information warfare

2. Army Secretary Mark Esper says the service will take a more decentralized and commercial approach to its acquisition strategy for network modernization going forward, eyeing "compatible and scalable" systems.

Full story: Esper eyes 'decentralized' approach to network acquisition

3. "Burden sharing" will be a key theme at the upcoming NATO summit in Brussels this week, though President Trump will not explicitly threaten to withdraw American troops if European nations fail to pledge to increase military spending, according to senior U.S. officials who briefed reporters July 5.

Full story: New NATO readiness 'hubs' signal cooperation amid spending debate

4. The Army now plans to announce its decision on the location of Futures Command in the next few weeks, as its previous end-of-June deadline has passed.

Full story: Army Futures Command HQ decision expected mid-July

July 6, 2018 at 4:46 PM | John Liang

The Defense Department this week submitted its latest report to Congress on "Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan."

The new report "describes efforts to enhance security and stability in Afghanistan from December 1, 2017, through May 31, 2018," according to the introduction. In addition, it includes "a current and anticipated threat assessment and a description and assessment of the size, structure, strategy, budget, and financing of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces."

Read the full report.

July 6, 2018 at 1:59 PM | John Liang

A draft joint concept that examines operating in the information environment leads off this Friday INSIDER Daily Digest.

Inside Defense obtained a draft joint concept that examines operating in the information environment:

Draft joint concept rethinking approach to information warfare

The joint force is looking for institutional and operational reform in a new approach to information warfare, according to a draft joint concept obtained by Inside Defense.

Document: Draft joint concept for operating in the information environment

News on the Navy's Long Range Anti-Ship Cruise Missile program:

Senate lawmakers would fence LRASM funds for unplanned DOT&E-approved tests

Senate appropriators want to fence $20 million of funding for a Navy anti-surface warfare missile to conduct operational testing the service had not budgeted money to complete.

Neither House nor Senate lawmakers like how the Navy is managing its Tomahawk missile program:

Senate appropriators add to scrutiny of Navy Tomahawk missile, joining House lawmakers

The Navy's Tomahawk missile program, which House lawmakers called "mismanaged," is now being scrutinized by Senate appropriators who want the Navy secretary to conduct a "full review" of the program in the wake of the service attempting to repurpose a large fiscal year 2018 funding increase.

More of our recent coverage on the Tomahawk missile program:

Citing 'mismanagement,' House appropriators rescind $115 million in Tomahawk funding

Concerned by the Navy's "mismanagement," the House Appropriations Committee is recommending rescinding $115 million of fiscal year 2018 funds from the Tomahawk missile program, according to the report accompanying the panel's FY-19 defense spending bill.

DOT&E: Navy lacks anti-ship Tomahawk missile plans beyond IOC

The Navy intends to field an upgraded Tomahawk missile in fiscal year 2022, but has not provided plans to assess that weapon's lethality against its intended target set, according to a report from the Pentagon's top weapons tester.

Document: DOT&E's 2017 report

Navy extending effort to define potential Tomahawk follow-on program

Following a year of exploring potential options for a next-generation cruise missile for its ships and submarines, the Navy is not ready to commit to a new acquisition program and instead plans to extend its Next-Generation Land Attack Weapon analysis of alternatives.

July 6, 2018 at 8:23 AM | Justin Katz

The Evolved Seasparrow Missile Block II successfully intercepted an aerial target in a recent flight test, according to a July 5 Navy statement.

"The test is the first ESSM flight test to utilize the new Block II active guidance seeker-head. ESSM Block II will employ both semi-active and active guidance to meet current and anticipated future threats," the statement said. The NATO Seasparrow Project Office conducted the test.

Evolved Seasparrow Missile is an international program with several NATO partners designed to provide "crucial defense battlespace and fire power against the fast, low altitude, highly maneuverable Anti-Ship Cruise Missile (ASCM) threat," according to Navy budget documents.

ESSM prime contractor Raytheon in May received a $77 million contract to prepare the program for low-rate initial production, Inside the Navy previously reported. Brian Burton, senior program director for intermediate area defense systems at Raytheon, told ITN at the time the company anticipates receiving a Block II LRIP contract later this year.

July 6, 2018 at 5:00 AM | John Liang

Some must-reads from this week's issue of Inside the Air Force:

1. The Air Force's secretive Common Mission Control Center -- viewed as a key piece of the service's multidomain command-and-control push -- is on track to reach early operational capability next year and initial operational capability in 2020, a service official tells Inside Defense.

Full story: Secretive next-generation BMC2 system expected to reach IOC in 2020

2. A Defense Acquisition Board scheduled in June to review the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's follow-on development plan has been delayed as the program office continues to gather cost and time line data for the effort.

Full story: F-35 follow-on development DAB delayed as JPO refines cost, schedule estimates

3. The Air Force has canceled the flying portion of the second phase of its light-attack experiment at Holloman Air Force Base, NM, after an A-29 Super Tucano crashed during a June 22 experimentation flight that killed the jet's pilot.

Full story: USAF cancels flight portion of light-attack experiments after fatal A-29 crash

4. The Air Force expects all of its certified space launch providers to transition to a new Automated Flight Safety System by the end of 2023, according to a new report, and the service is working with missile test programs to overcome challenges associated with adopting the new system.

Full story: AFSPC eyes automated flight safety implementation in 2023

July 5, 2018 at 2:37 PM | Justin Doubleday

The Pentagon's chief technologist has signed out a new document guiding how the Defense Department should leverage digital engineering to better deliver future defense systems.

Michael Griffin, under secretary of defense for research and engineering, signed out DOD's Digital Engineering Strategy in June, according to a DOD statement released today. The practice "promotes the use of digital representations of systems and components and the use of digital artifacts to design and sustain national defense systems," the department said.

In his foreword to the strategy, Griffin writes DOD can modernize its systems and prioritize speed of delivery by "incorporating the use of digital computing, analytical capabilities, and new technologies to conduct engineering in more integrated virtual environments to increase customer and vendor engagement, improve threat response timelines, foster infusion of technology, reduce cost of documentation, and impact sustainment affordability."

The document lays out five strategic goals for digital engineering:

  • Formalize the development, integration, and use of models to inform enterprise and program decision-making;
  • Provide an enduring, authoritative source of truth;
  • Incorporate technological innovation to improve the engineering practice;
  • Establish a supporting infrastructure and environment to perform activities, collaborate and communicate across stakeholders;
  • Transform the culture and workforce to adopt and support digital engineering across the lifecycle.

Military service leaders should take note of Griffin's expectation, written in his foreword, that "the services should develop corresponding digital engineering implementation plans during 2018 to ensure the department advances this timely and imperative effort."

July 5, 2018 at 2:21 PM | John Liang

The Air Force's secretive Common Mission Control Center and more highlight this Thursday INSIDER Daily Digest.

An in-depth look at the Air Force's secretive Common Mission Control Center:

Secretive next-generation BMC2 system expected to reach IOC in 2020

The Air Force's secretive Common Mission Control Center -- viewed as a key piece of the service's multidomain command-and-control push -- is on track to reach early operational capability next year and initial operational capability in 2020, a service official tells Inside Defense.

A new report from the Defense Department inspector general's office is out:

DOD IG: Army mismanaged maintenance of vehicles, weapons in Kuwait and Qatar

The Defense Department inspector general has determined the Army failed to properly oversee the maintenance schedules of its prepositioned stock equipment in Kuwait and Qatar after switching contractors, according to a new report.

The Office of Naval Research has been seeking information on industry's ability to improve shipbuilding manufacturing processes through the establishment of a "ManTech Center of Excellence":

Navy RFI sought industry ability to improve manufacturing costs on shipbuilding

The Navy is examining industry's capabilities to improve manufacturing processes surrounding the service's highest-profile shipbuilding programs such as Virginia-class submarines, Littoral Combat Ships and the aircraft carrier Gerald Ford (CVN-78).

The Air Force could be getting more money for its next-generation Space-Based Infrared System:

Senate appropriators propose $100 million plus-up for SBIRS advanced sensors

In its mark of fiscal year 2019 defense spending legislation, the Senate Appropriations Committee is recommending an additional $100 million to speed advanced sensor development for the Air Force's Space-Based Infrared System follow-on effort.

More Air Force space news:

AFSPC eyes automated flight safety implementation in 2023; missile testers struggle to comply

The Air Force expects all of its certified space launch providers to transition to a new Automated Flight Safety System by the end of 2023, according to a new report, and the service is working with missile test programs to overcome challenges associated with adopting the new system.

Joint Strike Fighter news:

F-35 follow-on development DAB delayed as JPO refines cost, schedule estimates

A Defense Acquisition Board scheduled in June to review the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter's follow-on development plan has been delayed as the program office continues to gather cost and time line data for the effort.

The Office of Management and Budget still doesn't like portions of legislation on offensive cyber policy:

White House opposes Senate bill's offensive cyber policy, setting up potential conference battle

The White House is yet again at odds with the Senate over a provision in the annual defense authorization bill laying out a policy for offensive cyber operations, after the same language was stripped out of last year's legislation during conference negotiations.